The Google that Can Say No

NEW YORK – Usually, disclosure statements go at the end of an article, but let me start with mine.

I sit on the board of Yandex, a Russian search company with a roughly 60% market share in Russia, compared to Google’s 20% or so. I am also an investor in and advisor to AnchorFree, the company that offers Hotspot Shield, a publicly accessible virtual private network (VPN) that allows users to keep their browsing private, whether they are concerned about thieves stealing their banking details or about governments monitoring where they surf. We have about one million users monthly in China (out of seven million worldwide).

And I sit on the board of 23andMe, a company co-founded by the wife of Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google. So I have a variety of interests in the topic of Google’s recent moves in China.

In the beginning, I supported Google’s presence in China. My fundamental belief is that every time a user gets information, it reinforces a little part of the brain that says: “It’s good to know things. It’s my right to have information, whether it’s about train schedules, movie stars, or the activities of the politicians who make decisions that affect my life.”