Net pioneer Vint Cerf warns of digital info dark age


BENGALURU: Internet pioneer Vint Cerf has warned of a digital dark age as information being created online right now may not be readable by machines and software programs of the future.

Computer and data scientists globally have worried that all data – this century’s digital history — is at risk of never being recoverable.

The vice president and chief internet evangelist at Google gave the example of floppy disks which are no longer readable by current machines.

“There is a serious problem with digital content,” Cerf, one of the fathers of the internet, said during a webinar organized by Synergia Foundation, a Bengaluru-based think tank, on Wednesday.

“There are horror stories of people’s wedding photos which were lost because they were digitised. The hard drive crashed or account online expired. We are losing data all the time. We have no time left,” he said.

During the lecture, Cerf said future historians would not be able to find information on the twenty-first century as all digital correspondence and content would have evaporated and would not be accessible.

He said nations should allow free flow of information for preserving data, and that a recent trend of isolating digital transfer interferes with archival preservation.

Cerf’s statement came in response to a question by Ajay Prakash Sawhney, secretary in the Ministry of Electronics and IT, who sought to know what legal frameworks nations needed to adopt to ensure preservation.

“Regulations are required to ensure preservation of information deemed to be important,” Cerf said. “We will have to transcend competitiveness among nations so all information can be stored anywhere and can be accessed by everyone.”

Preservation of scientific data is essential for research, he added.

India is pushing for data localisation wherein companies collecting critical data about consumers must store and process such data within the country’s borders. The move has faced resistance from global technology companies, including Google, and banking institutions.

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