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Sarkozy's e-G8 Summit Draws Skepticism

GigaOM blogger thinks France is trying to kill the free Internet
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France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy's plans to host the e-G8 Forum, a sub-summit of the upcoming G8 economic summit focusing on the Internet and technology, have generated suspicion on at least one prominent tech blog. The e-G8 will include heads of state as well as key tech figures, with Eric Schmidt of Google, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg all expected to attend. It will be chaired by Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Lévy. Invitees will discuss the topics like the Internet’s impact on economic growth, future of technology, mobile web, and online privacy.

But GigaOM’s Bobbie Johnson fears that rather than an attempt at “accelerating growth” (which is the forum’s theme), the e-G8 might really end up a “closed shop of governments and corporations discussing how best to carve up the online world for us,” led by France. Meetings such as the e-G8 aren’t always in the public’s best interest, Johnson writes, and the participating governments and companies are all trying to infringe on user privacy and gain access to personal information. And Johnson points out that France has already introduced rules requiring that sites keep a record of each visitor’s data for one year, to be made available to government agencies.

Johnson puts Sarkozy’s involvement in the e-G8 under especially close scrutiny. In the past, the French president has had an “aggressive attitude toward the online world,” she said, and cites Sarkozy's support of the controversial “Hadopi” laws, which revoke Internet access to people who illegally copy music and movies, as well as his proposed tax on Internet access and mobile device use. If the e-G8 succeeds in endorsing any of the things Sarkozy wants, Johnson warns, large corporations might soon be turning the Internet into an oligopolyand the free Internet could wind up a thing of the past.