MOUNTAIN VIEW -- As the Internet increasingly connects people in more parts of the world, parents around the globe will find themselves bracing for a difficult talk with their kids, Google's Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen told a Silicon Valley audience Monday.

It's not "the talk" about having babies and unprotected sex, but a serious conversation about the permanence of online information, the co-authors said during an event to promote their recent book, "The New Digital Age," at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. They cited the consequences of posting something that might later haunt a young job seeker, or potentially bring dishonor -- or even violent retaliation -- to family members in societies dominated by religious conservatives.

On the other hand, Schmidt half-joked, ambitious young parents who really want their child to stand out from the crowd should consider giving their new baby an unusual first name, like "Brunhilde," to increase the chances she will turn up first in an online search.

There is good and bad in the many ways online technology is changing life around the globe, according to Schmidt, the former Google CEO who is now executive chairman of the giant Internet company, and Cohen, a former State Department policy expert who runs the Google Ideas corporate think tank. Their talk, which came the day before the book is scheduled to come out in paperback, was moderated by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.


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Facebook and Google are fierce competitors, but the conversation was more than friendly, as Sandberg, herself a former Google executive, introduced Schmidt as "my good friend and mentor."

Sandberg was returning the favor after Schmidt appeared with her in a similar event last year to promote her own book, "Lean In," about issues faced by working women. Some of the conversation Monday focused on what Schmidt characterized as the empowering effect that Internet technology and access to information can have for women in developing economies.

But he and Cohen also acknowledged that technology doesn't solve all problems. In Syria, Cohen said, a wave of online videos couldn't immediately stop repeated chemical weapons attacks on civilians. He also said troops have operated armed checkpoints where they forced people to turn over their cellphones for review and then shot individuals whose devices contained material the soldiers didn't like.

In their book, Schmidt and Cohen say they tried to provide a balanced assessment of both positive and negative changes wrought by technology -- from the much vaunted role that social media has played in democratic uprisings to new tools like facial recognition software that dictators are using to suppress dissent.

For the paperback edition, the pair added a new "afterword" to address a number of events, including the wave of revelations about government spying on Internet users, that played out after the book was first published in April 2013. The new section also responds to criticism from Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who accused the co-authors of uncritically embracing U.S. foreign policy and of glossing over the threat that vast centralized databases pose to individual privacy and freedom.

In their response, Schmidt and Cohen note that the book acknowledges some downsides to "big data," but they argue it's better to focus on ways to protect individual privacy rather than "bemoaning the inevitable increase in the size and reach of the technology sector."

They also say technology has made it easier for people like Assange and former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden to turn government secrets into public controversies. That's not always desirable, the authors say, arguing that governments need to keep some secrets for national security.

Despite their position as Google executives, the pair offered little new information about the company's response to the NSA's data gathering. Dismissing critics who say the tech industry should push back harder against government surveillance, the authors argue that tech companies are already motivated to do just that because they want to maintain users' trust.

But they conceded the criticism stems in part "from a general unease about the age of data collection that we live in."

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