Google chairman Eric Schmidt and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange secretly met in 2011 and held a lengthy interview, according to a transcript published on the whistleblowing site. The leak is surprisingly timely — Schmidt was apparently conducting research with Jared Cohen for the pair's book The New Digital Age, which is set to be released on Tuesday. Assange was under house arrest in England at the time the five-hour conversation took place.
Schmidt is "obviously sympathetic" to WikiLeaks
The conversation is a fascinating look into the minds of the two men, both of whom have had immeasurable impact on issues surrounding technology over recent years. Topics move from the fairly light-hearted, such as Assange explaining the concept of Bitcoin, Schmidt's bad experiences with Delta Air Lines, and Assange's endless stream of "crazed" female visitors, to the heavier — Schmidt asks Assange to answer criticism that WikiLeaks has caused damage with its releases, while saying that "we are obviously sympathetic to" his side of the story. Assange later compares WikiLeaks' flow of unfiltered information to YouTube, where Google is unable to review every submission made to the site before publishing.
Schmidt is also interested in why WikiLeaks publishes more information on Western democracies than more oppressive regimes, asking "Why are you not getting enormous numbers of anonymous USB drives about the bad documents in African countries that are run by these evil dictator types?" Assange replies that "we have gotten some decent African stuff," but makes the point that a lot of these countries don't use English for government business or "are not as networked."
"We wouldn't mind a leak from Google."
Later, Assange says that he "wouldn't mind a leak from Google" on all data requests made under the Patriot Act. Schmidt replies that he has criticized the acts in the past, calling them "non-transparent," but says that any such leak would be illegal. The Google chairman then says he will "certainly pass on your request to our general counsel;" that Google make the legal argument that WikiLeaks should be informed in the result of any such demands from the government. It may not have been quite what Assange was hoping for, but Google has moved in that direction of late — it's published limited information on controversial data requests from the government, and is fighting a National Security Letter in court.
You can read the full transcript of the conversation at WikiLeaks.