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Google's Annual Zeitgeist Conference Kicks Off

Google's annual invite-only "Zeitgeist" conference began at the Grove hotel in Hertfordshire yesterday. The two-day event assembles the "greatest minds of our time" to discuss issues in technology, the arts and politics as they relate to this year's theme of "Beyond".

The secretive event, closed off from the public and media, was attended by public figures like Gwyneth Paltrow and the presenters Jon Snow, Kirsty Wark and Clare Balding, according to reports. This year's list of speakers is said to include Bill Clinton, Annie Lennox and the model Lily Cole.

Now in its seventh iteration, past years of the conference have seen speakers like the screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, economist Nouriel Roubini and Chancellor George Osborne, who spoke last year about the ways in which the Internet has affected business and government.

But it wouldn't be a Google event if it were controversy-free. Civil liberty activists like the privacy awareness group Big Brother Watch have raised concerns about the closed-door interactions between Google and high-level decision-makers at the conference.

"At a time when Google is under intense scrutiny for disregarding concerns about its privacy policy and the exploitation of user data, it is wholly inappropriate for Google to use their market dominance to influence decision-makers behind closed doors", Big Brother Watch director Nick Pickles told the Daily Mail.

Source: Daily Mail