Google's Sergey Brin says internet freedom faces its biggest ever threat from 'powerful forces,' including governments, corporations and tech companies like Facebook and Apple.
The co-founder of the search giant says the walled gardens erected by Facebook and Apple have restricted innovation, while countries like China have, to some extent, been successful in throttling the free flow of information online.
Brin told The Guardian that: "very powerful forces that have lined up against the open internet on all sides and around the world. I am more worried than I have been in the past. It's scary.
Speaking of oppressive governments in China (from which Google withdrew in 2010), Saudi Arabia and Iran, where they have been able to restrict free access to the internet, Brin added: "I thought there was no way to put the genie back in the bottle, but now it seems in certain areas the genie has been put back in the bottle."
However, beyond the suppression of free speech, Brin says the way Apple and Facebook control access to their users through tough software restrictions makes it difficult for the next Google-like company to emerge, largely because the the data is not searchable.
"You have to play by their rules, which are really restrictive," he said. "The kind of environment that we developed Google in, the reason that we were able to develop a search engine, is the web was so open. Once you get too many rules, that will stifle innovation."
Brin also criticised Facebook for making it difficult for users to transfer their data to new service, alleging it to be a one-way street where the social network brings in information from users' other accounts. "Facebook has been sucking down Gmail contacts for many years," he said.