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Cloud providers as intelligence collection hubs

Silicon Valley now can be renamed to Surveillance Valley
Mass surveillance is equal to totalitarism with the classic slogan of Third Reich
"if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear"

The slide above is courtesy of The Guardian

News National Security State Recommended Links Big Uncle is Watching You Nephophobia: avoiding clouds to reclaim bits of your privacy Search engines privacy Is Google evil? "Everything in the Cloud" Utopia
Reconciling Human Rights With Total Surveillance Issues of security and trust in "cloud" env Facebook as Giant Database about Users Blocking Facebook Email security MTA Log Analyzers HTTP Servers Log Analyses Cookie Cutting
Potemkin Villages of Computer Security Privacy is Dead – Get Over It Total control: keywords in your posts that might trigger surveillance Cyberstalking How to collect and analyze your own Web activity metadata Steganography Anomaly detection Notes on Search Engines and Google
Malware Cyberwarfare Data Stealing Trojans Flame Duqu Trojan Magic Lantern CIPAV Google Toolbar
Nation under attack meme Is national security state in the USA gone rogue ? Search engines privacy Totalitarian Decisionism & Human Rights: The Re-emergence of Nazi Law Nineteen Eighty-Four Edward Snowden as Symbol of Resistance to National Security State Prizm-related humor Etc
Version 1.2, November 20, 2013


"As a totalitarian society, the Soviet Union valued eavesdropping and thus developed ingenious methods to accomplish it."

This NSA document

Americans live in Russia, but think they live in Sweden

Chrystia Freeland

You have nothing to fear, if you have nothing to hide

--Joseph Goebbels

I was always suspicious about the success of "cloud" Web mail services starting with Hotmail. There was something fishy here including the purchase of Hotmail by Microsoft. The problem is that if your emails are being stored "in the cloud" each single email is exposed as if it permanently "in transit". Moreover the collection of email in your Inbox and your email address book are a more valuable set of information than any single email and tells much more about you that any intercepted email can.

Just the set of headers (and your address book) constitute something much more dangerous then a single email.  All this talk about NSA or CIA ability to listen to your smartphone microphone or via microphones in your laptop, TV or other  devices looks like grossly exaggerated threat. Collection of just headers which can be done automatically and "for the duration of your life"  provides much more revealing information. And set of emails voluntarily stored by you on "cloud" provider (is not this stupid ?) is the place over which you've absolutely no control (and as such you should have no expectation of privacy) . 

The same is true about your phone calls. The ability to listen to your phone calls in most cases is immaterial. The list of your connections is enough to tell everything about you, may be even better then the content of your conversations via phone.  And I doubt that they are doing it without serious reasons and transcribing and analyzing your calls cost serious money.

Typically those guys who suspect that their phones are listened behave more carefully. Putting a cell  phone into a metal and metal mesh box completely disables the communication with the tower.  Ii such a box has a foam lining it pretty much disables sound too. Both those materials are cheap and widely available. 

The same is true about your usage of internet, but here situation is a little bit more complex because there is no guarantee that after Snowden revelation people do not try to distort their browsing provide, It is pretty easy to do using any programmable keyboard, or a scripting language and Expect-like module. 

I can see why Brazil and Germany are now concerned about NSA activities. I can't understand why they are not concerned about stupidity of their citizens opening accounts and putting confidential information on the Webmail systems such as Hotmail, Yahoo mail and Gmail (all three are mentioned in Prism slide above ;-). Is not this a new mass form of masochism?  Accounts in Hotmail or Gmail has their value, but they are primary useful as spam folders. You can direct all emails from you subscriptions on newspapers, sites and magazines to it.  Your real account should always be the account on one of small ISP on your own domain, and possibly using special DNS server.  Or, at least, POP3 account on your laptop, which does not store any emails on the server.

As we have all found out, that trust in cloud providers is misplaced, as "cloud" services were systematically abused.  So when I read that some high level honcho emails were exfiltrated (directly via  broken password, or indirectly or special interface in software) and published  the only reaction is -- Ohh God, yet another  idiot was caught in  this net and now will pay for his  transgressions. 

If publishing of your email box can cause you embarrassment or more serious harm the only place to keep this mailbox (may be outside the recent week or two) in encrypted thumb drive that is inserted in your laptop/desktop strictly for the period of your working with your email.

If publishing of your email box can cause you embarrassment or more serious harm the only place to keep this mailbox (may be outside the recent week or two) in encrypted thumb drive that is inserted in your laptop/desktop strictly for the period of your working with your email.

In a way after Snowden revelations we all now need to learn Aesop language (slang is actually almost in-penetratable to computer analysis, unless they are specifically programmed for the particular one) and be more careful.  Many people now understand why Facebook users should be very concerned. Facebook is nothing but an intelligence database about their users. That's their primary business model. So it is users data is what Facebook actually sells.  But we now need to understand that Yahoo, Microsoft and Google are no different. But after Snowden revelations the usage of Facebook/Yahoo/Gmail accounts was not affected. Several high profile email leaks happened after Snowden revelations. So it looks like in cyberspace a large number of people is more reckless then they behave in a "normal" environment.  In one  such profile case -- Podesta emails leak John Podesta even failed to purchase $15 key for two factor authentication for Gmail.  Podesta also made a very common and stupid mistake -- clicking on the links in email, especially emails with security alerts is really reckless.  It is undesirable even if you can verify that the URL used is not spoofed. And this was the person who was Bill Clinton Chief of Staff (1998-2001) -- so the person as close to trained in computer security professional as one can get. Who at one time has access to highest level of US security clearness and all respective briefing and DNS signing that it entails.  As a result of this  blunder on October 7, 2016, WikiLeaks started to publish thousands of emails reportedly retrieved from Podesta's private Gmail account, some of which contained controversial material regarding Clinton's positions or campaign strategy.

Social site promote "exhibitionism orgy"

Social sites, especially "Fecebook" skillfully promote what can be called "exhibitionism orgy"  People affected generally get what they deserve, but some teenagers paid with their life for this blunder. Not to say that feeling like each and every your "wall" post is like scrolled on NYC Times square is not very comfortable feeling for anybody except status hungry adolescent girls.  To say nothing that due to ubiquity of electronic communications all your life is watched anyway, as if East Germany STASI now became a universal world-wide phenomenon. Actually some details now available via electronic communications (your relocation data via your smartphone) were unavailable to STASI. It’s the digital equivalent of tailing a suspect, See Big Uncle is Watching You.

In a current NSA-inspired debate about the moral consequences of digital technologies, it is important to realize the danger of  seamless integration of services under Google (especially within Android) as well as other Internet Oligopolies (I doubt that Microsoft with its Windows 10 is much better).  When everyone using an Android smartphone is forced to wear Google's digital straitjacket. This  can be a very bad thing, and it make combination of a "regular phone" and a 7 inch tablet much more attractive then smartphone (and available a fraction of the cost).

Smartphones  essentially invites snooping on you, especially government snooping as the less type of devices the government need to deal with, the cheaper is such mass collection of information on each citizen.  Whether this is done in the name of fighting terrorism, communist agents, or infiltration of Martians does not matter. As long as access to such data is extremely cheap, as is the case with both Android and Apple smartphones,  it will be abused by the government and some activities will be done without any court orders. In other words if technical means of snooping are cheap they will be  abused. It is a duty of concerned citizens who object this practice to make them more expensive and less effective.

If technical means of snooping are cheap they will be  abused. It is a duty of concerned citizens who object this practice to make them more expensive and less effective.

First of all we must fight against this strange "self-exposure" mania under which people have become enslaved to and endangered by the "cloud" sites they use. Again this nothing more nothing less then digital masochism.

First of all we must fight against this strange "self-exposure" mania under which people have become enslaved to and endangered by the "cloud" sites they use. Again this nothing more nothing less then digital masochism. But there is another important aspect of this problem which is different from the problem of unhealthy self-revelation zeal that large part of Facebook users demonstrates on the Net.

This second problem is often discussed under the meme Is Google evil ? and it is connected with inevitable corruption of Internet by large Internet oligopolies such as Google, Yahoo, Facebook, etc. And they become oligopolies because we agree to use them as primary sources, for example Google for search, independently whether it is good for all types of searches or not.  Actually if you compare the quality of retuned results Google is not good for all searches. Bing often beats Google on searches connected with Windows (and even some pure Linux topics) and while not bad in most categories really excels if you search information about Eastern Europe, as well on several political themes (I suspect some searches in Google are censored). In any case after Snowden revelations it does not make sense to use a single search engine. You need  to spread your searches over several

After Snowden revelations it does not make sense to use a single search engine. You need  to spread your searches over several  with your primary/default search engine being anything but Google. The diversification (including diversification of search engines) is now a duty of concerned Internet users.

 IMHO if you did not put several search providers like say, in your browser and don't rotate them periodically, you are making a mistake. First of all you deprive yourself from the possibility to learn strong and weak point of different search engines. The second Google stores all searches, possibly indefinitely despite your ability to delete them from you personal history, so you potentially expose yourself to a larger extent by using a single provider.

And according to PRISM NSA is only one of possibly several agencies that can access your data.  Using three engines you create the need to merge and correlate for example three sets of your activities (if you separates searches between different engine by topic), which represent not an easy task. Also if you use VPN there is no guarantee that those activities represent actions of a single person or a group of persons (especially, if you use a local proxy).  See Alternative Search Engines to Google

“Internet solutionism” exemplified by Google and push to the cloud services is the dangerous romantic utopia of our age. Google-style "cloud uber alles" push is often counter-productive, even dangerous

As Eugeny Morozov argued in The Net Delusion The Dark Side of Internet Freedom Internet solutionism” exemplified by Google, is the dangerous romantic utopia of our age. He regards Google-style "cloud uber alles" push as counter-productive, even dangerous:

...Wouldn’t it be nice if one day, told that Google’s mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” we would finally read between the lines and discover its true meaning: “to monetize all of the world’s information and make it universally inaccessible and profitable”? With this act of subversive interpretation, we might eventually hit upon the greatest emancipatory insight of all: Letting Google organize all of the world’s information makes as much sense as letting Halliburton organize all of the world’s oil.

The reason why the digital debate feels so empty and toothless is simple: framed as a debate over “the digital” rather than “the political” and “the economic,” it’s conducted on terms that are already beneficial to technology companies. Unbeknownst to most of us, the seemingly exceptional nature of commodities in question – from “information” to “networks” to “the Internet” – is coded into our language.

 It’s this hidden exceptionalism that allows Silicon Valley to dismiss its critics as Luddites who, by opposing “technology,” “information” or “the Internet”-- they don’t do plurals in Silicon Valley, for the nuance risks overwhelming their brains – must also be opposed to “progress.”

Internet started as a network of decentralized servers, able to withstand a nuclear attack. Now it probably will eventually return to a similar model on a new level as the danger of cloud providers exceed their usefulness. In any case now it looks like anybody who is greedy enough to use "free" (as in "The only free cheese is in the mouse trap") Gmail instead of getting webmail account via ISP with your own (let it call vanity, but it's your own :-) website is playing with fire. Even if they are nothing to hide, if they use Hotmail of Gmail for anything but spam (aka registrations, newsletters, etc) they are entering a dangerous virtual room with multiple hidden camera that record and store information including all their emails and address book forever. Important email should probably now be limited to regular SMTP accounts with client like Thunderbird (which actually is tremendously better then Gmail Web mail client with its Google+ perversions).

For personal, private information, you need to have your own servers and keep nothing in the "cloud". The network was originally designed to be "peer-to-peer" and the only hold back has been the cost of local infrastructure to do it and the availability of local technical talent to keep those services running. Now cost of hardware is trivial and services are so well known that running them is not a big problem even at home, especially a pre-configured virtual machines with "business" cable ISP account ( $29 per month from Cablevision).

Maybe the huge centralized services like Google and Yahoo have really been temporary anomalies of the adolescence of the Internet and given the breach of trust by governments and by these large corporations the next step will be return on a new level to Internet decentralized roots. Maybe local services can still be no less viable then cloud services. Even email, one of the most popular "in the cloud" services can be split into a small part of pure SMTP delivery (important mails) and bulk mail which can stay on Webmail (but preferably you private ISP, not those monsters like Google, Yahoo or Microsoft). That does not exclude using "free" emails of this troika for storing spam :-). In short we actually don't have to be on Gmail to send or read email. Google search is not the best search engine for everything. Moreover it is not wise to put all eggs in one basket. Microsoft might be as bad, but spreading your searches makes perfect sense. TCP connection to small ISP is as good and if you do not trust ISP you can use you home server with cable provider ISP account.

Where I have concern is if the network itself got partitioned along national borders as a result of NSA snooping, large portions of the net can become unreachable. That would be a balkanization we would end up regretting. It would be far better if we take a preemptive action against this abuse and limit the use of our Gmail, hotmail, Yahoo accounts for "non essential" correspondence, if we spread our search activities among multiple search engines and have our web pages, if any on personal ISP account. We need to enforce some level of privacy ourselves and don't behave like lemmings. Years ago there was similar situation with telephones wiretaps, and before laws preventing abuse of this capability were eventually passed people often used public phones for important calls they wanted to keep private.

If you join Google or Facebook you should have no expectations of privacy for any information you share on those sites

In Australia any expectations of privacy isn't legally recognized by the Supreme Court once people voluntarily offered data to the third party. And I think Australians are right. Here is a relevant Slashdot post:

General Counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence Robert S. Litt explained that our expectation of privacy isn't legally recognized by the Supreme Court once we've offered it to a third party.

Thus, sifting through third party data doesn't qualify 'on a constitutional level' as invasive to our personal privacy. This he brought to an interesting point about volunteered personal data, and social media habits. Our willingness to give our information to companies and social networking websites is baffling to the ODNI.

'Why is it that people are willing to expose large quantities of information to private parties but don't want the Government to have the same information?,' he asked."

... ... ...

While Snowden's leaks have provoked Jimmy Carter into labeling this government a sham, and void of a functioning democracy, Litt presented how these wide data collection programs are in fact valued by our government, have legal justification, and all the necessary parameters.

Litt, echoing the president and his boss James Clapper, explained thusly:

"We do not use our foreign intelligence collection capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies in order to give American companies a competitive advantage. We do not indiscriminately sweep up and store the contents of the communications of Americans, or of the citizenry of any country. We do not use our intelligence collection for the purpose of repressing the citizens of any country because of their political, religious or other beliefs. We collect metadata—information about communications—more broadly than we collect the actual content of communications, because it is less intrusive than collecting content and in fact can provide us information that helps us more narrowly focus our collection of content on appropriate targets. But it simply is not true that the United States Government is listening to everything said by every citizen of any country."

It's great that the U.S. government behaves better than corporations on privacy—too bad it trusts/subcontracts corporations to deal with that privacy—but it's an uncomfortable thing to even be in a position of having to compare the two. This is the point Litt misses, and it's not a fine one.

Loss of privacy as a side effect of cloud-based Internet technologies

“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

Maybe Dante had some serious vision.

The Guardian

Technology development create new types of communications as well as new types of government surveillance mechanisms (you can call them "externalities" of new methods of communication). Those externalities, especially low cost of mass surveillance (Wikipedia), unfortunately, bring us closer to the Electronic police state (Wikipedia) or National Security State whether we want it or not. A crucial element of such a state is that its data gathering, sorting and correlation are continuous, cover a large number of citizens and all foreigners and those activities are seldom exposed.

Cloud computing as a technology that presuppose storing the data "offsite" on third party servers have several security problems, and one of them is that it is way too much "surveillance friendly" (Misunderstanding of issues of security and trust). With cloud computing powers that be do not need to do complex job of recreating TCP/IP conversations on router level to capture, say, all the emails or all your SMS. You can access Web-based email mailbox directly with all mails in appropriate mailboxes and spam filtered. Your address book is a bonus ;-). This is huge saving of computational efforts.

It means two things:

Not only the USA government with its Prism program is involved in this activity. British security services are probably even more intrusive. Most governments probably try to do some subset of the above. Two important conclusions we can get are:

It puts you essentially in a situation of a bug under microscope on Big Brother. And please understand that modern storage capabilities are such that it is easy to store several years of at least some of your communications, especially emails.

The same is true about your phone calls metadata, credit card transactions and your activities on major shopping sites such as Amazon, and eBay. But here you can do almost nothing. Still I think our support of "brick" merchants is long overdue. Phones are traditional target of government three letter agencies (WSJ) since the WWII. Smartphones with GPS in addition to land line metadata also provide your current geo location. I do not think you can do much here.

I think our support of "brick" merchants is long overdue. And paying cash in the store in not something that you should try to avoid because credit card returns you 1% of the cost of the purchase. This 1% is actually a privacy tax ;-)

The centralization of searches on Google (and to lesser extent on Bing) are also serious threats to your privacy. Here diversification between three or more search engines might help a bit. Other then that and generally limited your time behind the computer I do not think much can be done. Growth of popularity of Duckduckgo suggests that people are vary of Google monopolizing the search, but it is unclear how big are the advantages. You can also save searches as many searches are recurrent and generally you can benefit from using your personal Web proxy with private cashing DNS server. This way to can "shrink" your radar picture, but that's about it. Search engines are now an integral part of our civilization whether we want it or not.

Collection of your searches for the last several years can pretty precisely outline sphere of your interests. And again technical constrains on storage of data no longer exists: how we can talk about privacy at the age of 3 TB harddrives for $99. There are approximately 314 million of the US citizens and residents, so storing one gigabyte of information for each citizen requires just 400 petabytes. For comparison

Adding insult to injury: Self-profiling

Facebook has nothing without people
silly enough to exchange privacy for photosharing

The key problem with social sites is that many people voluntarily post excessive amount of personal data about themselves, including keeping their photo archives online, etc. So while East Germany analog of the Department of Homeland Security called Ministry for State Security (Stasi) needed to recruit people to spy about you, now you yourself serves as a informer voluntarily providing all the tracking information about your activities ;-).

Scientella, palo alto

...Facebook always had a very low opinion of peoples intelligence - and rightly so!

I can tell you Silicon Valley is scared. Facebook's very existence depends upon trusting young persons, their celebrity wannabee parents and other inconsequential people being prepared to give up their private information to Facebook.

Google, now that SOCIAL IS DEAD, at least has their day job also, of paid referral advertising where someone can without divulging their "social" identity, and not linking their accounts, can look for a product on line and see next to it some useful ads.

But Facebook has nothing without people silly enough to exchange privacy for photosharing.

... ... ...

Steve Fankuchen, Oakland CA

Cook, Brin, Gates, Zuckerberg, et al most certainly have lawyers and public relations hacks that have taught them the role of "plausible deniability."

Just as in the government, eventually some low or mid-level flunkie will likely be hung out to dry, when it becomes evident that the institution knew exactly what was going on and did nothing to oppose it. To believe any of these companies care about their users as anything other than cash cows is to believe in the tooth fairy.

The amount of personal data which users of site like Facebook put voluntarily on the Web is truly astonishing. Now anybody using just Google search can get quit substantial information about anybody who actively using social sites and post messages in discussion he/she particulates under his/her own name instead of a nickname. Just try to see what is available about you and most probably your jaw would drop...

Google Toolbar in advanced mode is another common snooping tool about your activities. It send each URL you visit to Google and you can be sure that from Google several three letter agencies get this information as well. After all Google has links to them from the very beginning:

This is probably right time for the users of social sites like Facebook, Google search, and Amazon (that means most of us ;-) to think a little bit more about the risks we are exposing ourselves. We all should became more aware about the risks involved as well as real implications of the catch phase Privacy is Dead – Get Over It.

This is probably right time for the users of social sites like Facebook, Google search, and Amazon (that means most of us ;-) to think a little bit more about the risks we are exposing ourselves.

As Peter Ludlow noted in NYT (The Real War on Reality):

If there is one thing we can take away from the news of recent weeks it is this: the modern American surveillance state is not really the stuff of paranoid fantasies; it has arrived.

Citizens of foreign countries have accounts at Facebook and mail accounts in Gmail, hotmail and Yahoo mail are even in less enviable position then the US citizens. They are legitimate prey. No legal protection for them exists, if they use those services. That means that they voluntarily open all the information they posted about themselves to the US government in addition to their own government. And the net is probably more wide then information leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden suggests. For any large company, especially a telecom corporation, operating is the USA it might be dangerous to refuse to cooperate (Qwest case).

Former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio, convicted of insider trading in April 2007, alleged in appeal documents that the NSA requested that Qwest participate in its wiretapping program more than six months before September 11, 2001. Nacchio recalls the meeting as occurring on February 27, 2001. Nacchio further claims that the NSA cancelled a lucrative contract with Qwest as a result of Qwest's refusal to participate in the wiretapping program.[13] Nacchio surrendered April 14, 2009 to a federal prison camp in Schuylkill, Pennsylvania to begin serving a six-year sentence for the insider trading conviction. The United States Supreme Court denied bail pending appeal the same day.[15]

It is not the case of some special evilness of the US government. It simply is more agile to understand and capitalize on those new technical opportunities. It is also conveniently located at the center of Internet universe with most traffic is flowing via US owned or controlled routers (67% or more). But it goes without saying that several other national governments and a bunch of large corporations also try to mine this new gold throve of private information on citizens. Probably with less sophistication and having less financial resources.

In many cases corporations themselves are interested in partnership with the government. Here is one telling comment:

jrs says on June 8, 2013

Yea in my experience that’s how “public/private partnerships” really work:

  1. Companies DO need protection FROM the government. An ill-conceived piece of legislation can put a perfectly decent out of business. Building ties with the government is protection.
  2. Government represents a huge market and eventually becomes one of the top customers for I think most businesses (of course the very fact that a government agency is a main customer is often kept hush hush even within the company and something you are not supposed to speak of as an employee even though you are aware of it)
  3. Of course not every company proceeds to step 3 -- being basically an arm of the government but ..

That means that not only Chinese citizens already operate on the Internet without any real sense of privacy. Even if you live outside the USA the chances are high that you automatically profiled by the USA instead of or in addition to your own government. Kind of neoliberalism in overdrive mode: looks like we all are already citizens of a global empire (Let's call it " Empire of Peace" ) with the capital in Washington.

It is reasonable to assume that a massive eavesdropping apparatus now tracks at least an "envelope" of every electronic communication you made during your lifetime. No need for somebody reporting about you like in "old" totalitarian state like East Germany with its analog of the Department of Homeland Security called the Ministry for State Security (Stasi). So in this new environment, you are like Russians used to say about dissidents who got under KGB surveillance is always "under the dome". In this sense this is just an old vine in a new bottles. But the global scope and lifetime storage of huge amount of personal information for each and every citizen is something new and was made possible the first time in world history by new technologies.

It goes without saying that records about time, sender and receiver of all your phone calls, emails, Amazon purchases, credit card transactions, and Web activities for the last decade are stored somewhere in a database and not necessary only government computers. And that means that your social circle (the set of people you associate with), books and films that you bought, your favorite websites, etc can be easily deducted from those records.

That brings us to an important question about whether we as consumers should support such ventures as Facebook and Google++ which profile you and after several years have a huge amount of pretty private and pretty damaging information about you, information which can get into wrong hands.

Recent discoveries about Prism program highlight
what Google and Facebook can do with our data

The most constructive approach to NSA is to view it as a large government bureaucracy that expanded to the extent that "quantity turned into quality."

Any large bureaucracy is a political coalition with the primary goal of preserving and enhancing of its own power (and, closely related to power, the level of financing), no matter what are official declarations. And if breaching your privacy helps with this noble goal, they will do it.

Which is what Bush government did after 9/11. The question is how much bureaucratic bloat resulting in classic dynamics of organizational self-aggrandizement and expansionism happened in NSA is open to review. We don't know how much we got in exchange for undermining internet security and the US constitution. But we do know the intelligence establishment happily appropriated billions of dollars, had grown by thousand of employees and got substantial "face lift" and additional power within the executive branch of government. To the extent that sometimes it really looks like a shadow government (with three branches NSA, CIA and FBI). And now they will fight tooth-and nail to protect the fruits of a decade long bureaucratic expansion. It is an Intelligence Church of sorts and like any religious organization they do not need facts to support their doctrine and influence.

Typically there is a high level of infighting and many factions within any large hierarchical organization, typically with cards hold close the west and limited or not awareness about those turf battles of the outsiders. Basically any hierarchical institution corporate, religious, or military will abuse available resources for internal political infighting. And with NSA "big data" push this is either happening or just waiting to happen. This is a danger of any warrantless wiretapping program: it naturally convert itself into a saga of eroding checks and disappearing balances. And this already happened in the past, so in a way it is just act two of the same drama (WhoWhatWhy):

After media revelations of intelligence abuses by the Nixon administration began to mount in the wake of Watergate, NSA became the subject of Congressional ire in the form of the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities—commonly known as the “Church Committee” after its chair, Senator Frank Church (D-ID)—established on January 17, 1975. This ad-hoc investigative body found itself unearthing troves of classified records from the FBI, NSA, CIA and Pentagon that detailed the murky pursuits of each during the first decades of the Cold War. Under the mantle of defeating communism, internal documents confirmed the executive branch’s use of said agencies in some of the most fiendish acts of human imagination (including refined psychological torture techniques), particularly by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Cold War mindset had incurably infected the nation’s security apparatus, establishing extralegal subversion efforts at home and brutish control abroad. It was revealed that the FBI undertook a war to destroy homegrown movements such as the Black Liberation Movement (including Martin Luther King, Jr.), and that NSA had indiscriminately intercepted the communications of Americans without warrant, even without the President’s knowledge. When confronted with such nefarious enterprises, Congress sought to rein in the excesses of the intelligence community, notably those directed at the American public.

The committee chair, Senator Frank Church, then issued this warning about NSA’s power:

That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything. Telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology. I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capability that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.

The reforms that followed, as enshrined in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978, included the establishment of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC): a specially-designated panel of judges who are allowed to review evidence before giving NSA a warrant to spy on Americans (only in the case of overseas communication). Hardly a contentious check or balance, FISC rejected zero warrant requests between its inception in 1979 and 2000, only asking that two warrants be “modified” out of an estimated 13,000.

In spite of FISC’s rubberstamping, following 9/11 the Bush administration began deliberately bypassing the court, because even its minimal evidentiary standard was too high a burden of proof for the blanket surveillance they wanted. So began the dragnet monitoring of the American public by tapping the country’s major electronic communication chokepoints in collusion with the nation’s largest telecommunications companies.

When confronted with the criminal conspiracy undertaken by the Bush administration and telecoms, Congress confirmed why it retains the lowest approval rating of any major American institution by “reforming” the statute to accommodate the massive law breaking. The 2008 FISA Amendments Act [FAA] entrenched the policy of mass eavesdropping and granted the telecoms retroactive immunity for their criminality, withdrawing even the negligible individual protections in effect since 1979. Despite initial opposition, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama voted for the act as one of his last deeds in the Senate. A few brave (and unsuccessful) lawsuits later, this policy remains the status quo.

Similarly we should naturally expect that the notion of "terrorist" is very flexible and in certain cases can be equal to "any opponent of regime" (any "dissident" n soviet terms). While I sympathize NYT readers reaction to this incident (see below), I think it is somewhat naive. They forget that they are living under neoliberal regime which like any rule of top 0.01% is afraid of and does not trust its own citizens. So massive surveillance program is a self-preservation measure which allow the neoliberal elite to crush or subvert the opposition at early stages. This is the same situation as existed with Soviet nomenklatura, with the only difference that Soviet nomenklatura was more modest in pushing the USSR as a beacon of progress and bright hope for establishing democratic governance for all mankind ;-). As Ron Paul noted:

Many of us are not so surprised.

Some of us were arguing back in 2001 with the introduction of the so-called PATRIOT Act that it would pave the way for massive US government surveillance—not targeting terrorists but rather aimed against American citizens. We were told we must accept this temporary measure to provide government the tools to catch those responsible for 9/11. That was nearly twelve years and at least four wars ago.

We should know by now that when it comes to government power-grabs, we never go back to the status quo even when the “crisis” has passed. That part of our freedom and civil liberties once lost is never regained. How many times did the PATRIOT Act need renewed? How many times did FISA authority need expanded? Why did we have to pass a law to grant immunity to companies who hand over our personal information to the government?

And while revealed sources of NSA Prism program include Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and others major Internet players, that's probably just a tip of the iceberg. Ask yourself a question, why Amazon and VISA and MasterCard are not on the list? According to The Guardian:

The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian.

The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called Prism, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, the document says.

... ... ...

Microsoft – which is currently running an advertising campaign with the slogan "Your privacy is our priority" – was the first, with collection beginning in December 2007. It was followed by Yahoo in 2008; Google, Facebook and PalTalk in 2009; YouTube in 2010; Skype and AOL in 2011; and finally Apple, which joined the program in 2012. The program is continuing to expand, with other providers due to come online.

Collectively, the companies cover the vast majority of online email, search, video and communications networks

... ... ...

A chart prepared by the NSA, contained within the top-secret document obtained by the Guardian, underscores the breadth of the data it is able to obtain: email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice-over-IP (Skype, for example) chats, file transfers, social networking details, and more.

So while the document does not list Amazon, but I would keep fingers crossed.

Questions that arise

To be aware about a situation you need to be able to formulate and answer key questions about it. The first and the most important question is whether the government is engaged in cyberstalking of law abiding citizens. Unfortunately the answer is definite yes, as oligarchy needs total control of prols. As a result National Security State rise to prominence as a dominant social organization of neoliberal societies, the societies which characterized by very high level of inequality.

But there are some additional, albeit less important questions. The answers to them determine utility or futility of small changes of our own behavior in view of uncovered evidence. Among possible set of such question I would list the following:

There are also some minor questions about efficiency of "total surveillance approach". Among them:

The other part of understand the threat is understanding is what data are collected. The short answer is all your phone records and Internet activity (RT USA):

The National Security Agency is collecting information on the Internet habits of millions of innocent Americans never suspected of criminal involvement, new NSA documents leaked by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden suggest.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported Monday that top-secret documents included in the trove of files supplied by the NSA contractor-turned-leaker Edward Snowden reveal that the US intelligence community obtains and keeps information on American citizens accumulated off the Internet without ever issuing a search warrant or opening an investigation into that person.

The information is obtained using a program codenamed Marina, the documents suggest, and is kept by the government for up to a full year without investigators ever having to explain why the subject is being surveilled.

“Marina has the ability to look back on the last 365 days' worth of DNI metadata seen by the Sigint collection system, regardless whether or not it was tasked for collection,” the Guardian’s James Ball quotes from the documents.

According to a guide for intelligence analysts supplied by Mr. Snowden, “The Marina metadata application tracks a user's browser experience, gathers contact information/content and develops summaries of target.”

"This tool offers the ability to export the data in a variety of formats, as well as create various charts to assist in pattern-of-life development,” it continues.

Ball writes that the program collects “almost anything” a Web user does online, “from browsing history – such as map searches and websites visited – to account details, email activity, and even some account passwords.”

Only days earlier, separate disclosures attributed to Snowden revealed that the NSA was using a massive collection of metadata to create complex graphs of social connections for foreign intelligence purposes, although that program had pulled in intelligence about Americans as well.

After the New York Times broke news of that program, a NSA spokesperson said that “All data queries must include a foreign intelligence justification, period.” As Snowden documents continue to surface, however, it’s becoming clear that personal information pertaining to millions of US citizens is routinely raked in by the NSA and other agencies as the intelligence community collects as much data as possible.

In June, a top-secret document also attributed to Mr. Snowden revealed that the NSA was collecting the telephony metadata for millions of Americans from their telecom providers. The government has defended this practice by saying that the metadata — rough information that does not include the content of communications — is not protected by the US Constitution’s prohibition against unlawful search and seizure.

“Metadata can be very revealing,” George Washington University law professor Orin S. Kerr told the Times this week. “Knowing things like the number someone just dialed or the location of the person’s cellphone is going to allow them to assemble a picture of what someone is up to. It’s the digital equivalent of tailing a suspect.”

According to the Guardian’s Ball, Internet metadata picked up by the NSA is routed to the Marina database, which is kept separate from the servers where telephony metadata is stored.

Only moments after the Guardian wrote of its latest leak on Monday, Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project read a statement before the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs penned by none other than Snowden himself.

When I began my work, it was with the sole intention of making possible the debate we see occurring here in this body,” Snowden said.

Snowden, who has been granted temporary asylum in Russia after being charged with espionage in the US, said through Raddack that “The cost for one in my position of returning public knowledge to public hands has been persecution and exile.”

Infoglut and the limits to spying via data collected about you

If the NSA's mining of data traffic is so effective, why weren't Tsarnaev's family's overseas calls predictive of a bombing at the Boston Marathon?

-Helen Corey

There are limits of this "powerful analytical software" used. First of all Snowden revelations constitute a blow (but not a knockout) for all NSA activities against really serious opponents. Now they are forewarned and that mean forearmed. That simply means that they might start feeding NSA disinformation and that's a tremendous danger for NSA that far outweigh the value of any real information collected.

The main danger for NSA is the deliberate feeding of false information into the collection scream

There is another side of this story. As we mentioned above, even if NSA algorithms are incredibly clever they can't avoid producing large number of false positives taking into account that they are drinking from a fire hose. Especially now when people will try to bury useful signal in noise. And it is not that difficult to replay somebody else Web logs on a periodic basis -- that means that the task of analysis of web logs became not only more complex. It changed. The assumption that that the set of visited sites represents real activity of a particular user is now just a plausible hypothesis. Not  more then that. 

Inefficiency is another problem. After two year investigation into the post 9/11 intelligence agencies, the Washington Post came to conclusion that they were collecting far more information than anyone can comprehend (aka "drowning is a sea of data"):

Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billions e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications. The NSA sorts a fraction of those into 70 separate databases"

Such volume along creates a classic problem of "signal vs. noise" (infoglut).  And this is insolvable problem, which became only worse with the availability of more information. In this  sense Prism program which deals with already filtered by user information is a great help to NSA (and that  means that Goggle, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and fiends are very valuable for NSA partners and will remain partners despite all claims of their top honchos).

Unless special care is exercised by collection everything from the "line" NSA is like drinking from  the firehose:  

...Infoglut raises disturbing questions regarding new operations of power and control in a world of algorithms." —Jodi Dean, author of Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies

...Andrejevic argues that people prioritize correlation over comprehension - "what" and facts are more important than "why" and reasons.

As Washington Post noted:

Analysts who make sense of document and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year -- a volume so large that many are routinely ignored

In plain English that means that analysts produce reports, lion share of which is never read. The enormity of the database exacerbate the problems. That's why NSA is hunting for email on cloud providers, where they are already filtered from spam, and where processing required is so much less than for the same information intercepted from the wire. Still even with the direct access to user accounts, the volume of data, especially graphic info (pictures), sound and video data, is really huge and that stress the limits of processing capabilities and storage.

Which means that  switch to hieroglyphs in communication theoretically creates serious problems in intercepting the data stream.  Deciphering a meaning of pictograms used is not that easy. Classic captcha methods can be used to make direct conversion to text impossible. This method was actually widely used in letters in the past (when some words were deliberately replaced by hand written pictures. ). For one thing  that approach make it more  difficult "keyword-based" searches for relevant information in email as "trigger-words" can  be replaced by pictograms.  Add to this that the meaning of pictograms can be individualized and you can see that this is an approach close to stenography.

Presence of noise in the channel also makes signal much more difficult to detect. Now you can be sure that any serious opponent will try to disguise the traffic by all means available. So getting a "clean" steam of data for a given IP is now a pipe dream.

Problems typical for large bureaucracies also place limits of effective large scale data collection

Existence of Snowden saga when a single analyst was able to penetrate the system and extract considerable amount information with impunity suggests that the whole Agency is a mess with a lot of incompetents at the helm. Which is typical for large government agencies and large corporations. Still the level of logs collection and monitoring proved to be surprisingly weak, and those are indirect signs of other rot. It looks like the agency does not even know what reports Snowden get into his hands. Unless this is a very clever insider operation, we need to assume that Edward Snowden stole thousands of documents, abused his sysadmin position in the NSA, and was never caught. The fact that he was able to bypass logs tells that the whole place is a complete  mess. In other words "The shoemaker’s children go barefoot."

the level of logs collection and monitoring proved to be surprisingly weak, and those are indirect signs of other rot. It looks like the agency does not even know what reports Snowden get into his hands.

 Here is one relevant comment from The Guardian


Oh NSA......that´s fine that you cannot find something......what did you tell us, the World and the US Congress about the "intelligence" of Edward Snowden and the low access he had?


WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. government's efforts to determine which highly classified materials leaker Edward Snowden took from the National Security Agency have been frustrated by Snowden's sophisticated efforts to cover his digital trail by deleting or bypassing electronic logs, government officials told The Associated Press. Such logs would have showed what information Snowden viewed or downloaded.

The government's forensic investigation is wrestling with Snowden's apparent ability to defeat safeguards established to monitor and deter people looking at information without proper permission, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the sensitive developments publicly.

On the other hand government agencies were never too good in making huge and complex software projects work. And any large software project is a very difficult undertaking in any case, which require talented and dedicated manager at the helm. In large bureaucracies such people are filtered out long before that get to the necessary position. Mostly sycophants, "yes men", or people who can well mask their real identities,  prosper. 

Even in industry 50% of software projects fail, and anybody who works in the industry knows, that the more complex the project is the higher are chances that it will be mismanaged and its functionality crippled due to architectural defects ("a camel is a horse designed by a committee"). The Conway law also suggest that the structure of software product reflect communication channels in the organization.

With pretty bizarre communication channels in a large hierarchical organization like NSA you can expect huge problems on architectural level. There are also counterexamples to that. Google Earth was initially a project of three letter agencies, which was "donated" to Google.  And this is a very good software product. Still it is given that large projects will be over budget. Possibly several times over. But if money is not a problem such system will eventually be completed ("with enough thrust pigs can fly").

Any large software project is a very difficult undertaking in any case, which require talented and dedicated manager at the helm. In large bureaucracies such people are filtered out long before that get to the necessary position. Mostly sycophants, "yes men", or people who can well mask their real identities,  prosper.

Still there’s no particular reason to think that corruption (major work was probably outsourced) and incompetence (on higher management levels and, especially on architectural level as in "camel is a horse designed by a committee") don't affect the design and functionality of such government project. Now when this activity come under fire some "ad hoc" adjustments might be especially badly thought out and could potentially cripple even the existing functionality. As J. Kirk Wiebe, a NSA insider, noted

"The way the government was going about those digital data flows was poor formed, uninformed. There seen to be more of a desire to contract out and capture money flow then there was a [desire} to actually perform the mission".

See the interview of a trio of former National Security Agency whistle-blowers to USA TODAY ( J. Kirk Wiebe remarks starts at 2:06 and the second half of it continues from 6:10):

In military organizations the problem is seldom with the talent (or lack of thereof) of individual contributors. The problem is with the bureaucracy that is very effective in preventing people from exercising their talents at the service of their country. Such system is deformed in such a way that it hamstrings the men who are serving in it. As a results, more often then not the talents are squandered or misused by patching holes created by incompetence of higher-up or or just pushed aside in the interdepartmental warfare.

In a way, incompetence can be defined as the inability to avoid mistakes which, in a "normal" course of project development could and should be avoided. And that's the nature of military bureaucracy with its strict hierarchy, multiple layer of command and compete lack of accountability on higher levels.

In addition, despite the respectable name of the organization many members of technical staff are amateurs. They never managed to sharpen their technical skills, while at the same time acquiring the skills necessary to survive the bureaucracy. Many do not have basic academic education and are self-taught hackers and/or "grow on the job" type of personnel. Such people often have difficulties seeing "the bigger picture".  Typically people at higher level of hierarchy, are simply not experts in software engineering, but more like typical corporate "PowerPoint warriors." They can be very shred managers and accomplished political fighters, but that's it.  Death by PowerPoint  of good ideas in large bureaucracies is a fact of life.

This is the same situation that exists in security departments of large multinationals, so we can extrapolate from that. The word of Admiral Nelson "If the enemy would know what officer corps will confront them, it will be trembling, like I am". Here is Bill Gross recollection of his service as a naval officer (The Tipping Point) that illustrate the problems:

A few years ago I wrote about the time that our ship (on my watch) was almost cut in half by an auto-piloted tanker at midnight, but never have I divulged the day that the USS Diachenko came within one degree of heeling over during a typhoon in the South China Sea. “Engage emergency ballast,” the Captain roared at yours truly – the one and only chief engineer.

Little did he know that Ensign Gross had slept through his classes at Philadelphia’s damage control school and had no idea what he was talking about. I could hardly find the oil dipstick on my car back in San Diego, let alone conceive of emergency ballast procedures in 50 foot seas.

And so…the ship rolled to starboard, the ship rolled to port, the ship heeled at the extreme to 36 degrees (within 1 degree, as I later read in the ship’s manual, of the ultimate tipping point). One hundred sailors at risk, because of one twenty-three-year-old mechanically challenged officer, and a Captain who should have known better than to trust him.

Huge part of this work is outsourced to various contractors and this is where corruption really creeps in. So the system might be not as powerful as many people automatically assume when they hear the abbreviation of NSA. So in a way when news about such system reaches public it might serve not weakening but strengthening of the capabilities of the system. Moreover, nobody would question the ability of such system to store huge amount of raw or semi-processed data including all metadata for your transactions on the Internet.

Also while it is a large agency with a lot of top mathematic talent, NSA is not NASA and motivation of the people (and probably quality of architectural thinking about software projects involved) is different despite much better financing. While they do have high quality people, like most US agencies in general, large bureaucracies usually are unable to utilize their talent. Mediocrities with sharp elbows, political talent, as well as sociopaths typically rule the show.

That means two things:

So even with huge amount of subcontractors they can chase mostly "big fish". Although one nasty question is why with all those treasure trove of data organized crime is so hard to defeat. Having dataset like this should generally expose all the members of any gang. Or, say, network of blue collar insider traders. So in an indirect way the fact that organized crime not only exists and in some cities even flourish can suggest one of two things:

There is also a question of complexity of analysis:

Possibility of abuses of collected data

Mass collection of data represent dangers outside activities of three latter agencies. Data collected about you by Google, Facebook, etc are also very dangerous. And they are for sell. Errors in algorithms and bugs in data mining programs can bite some people in a different way then branding them as "terrorists". Such people have no way of knowing why all of a sudden, for example, they are paying a more for insurance, why their credit score is so low no matter what they do, etc.

In no way government in the only one who are using the mass of data collected via Google / Facebook / Yahoo / Microsoft / Verizon / Optonline / AT&T / Comcast, etc. It also can lead to certain subtle types of bias if not error. And there are always problems of intentional misuse of data sets having extremely intimate knowledge about you such as your medical history.

Corporate corruption can lead to those data that are shared with the government can also be shared for money with private actors. Inept use of this unconstitutionally obtained data is a threat to all of us.

Then there can be cases when you can be targeted just because you are critical to the particular area of government policy, for example the US foreign policy. This is "Back in the USSR" situation in full swing, with its prosecution of dissidents. Labeling you as a "disloyal/suspicious element" in one of government "terrorism tracking" databases can have drastic result to your career and you never even realize whats happened. Kind of Internet era McCarthyism .

Obama claims that the government is aware about this danger and tried not to overstep, but he is an interested party in this discussion. In a way all governments over the world are pushed into this shady area by the new technologies that open tremendous opportunities for collecting data and making correlations.

That's why even if you are doing nothing wrong, it is still important to know your enemy, as well as avoid getting into some traps. As we already mentioned several times before, one typical trap is excessive centralization of your email on social sites, including using a single Webmail provider. It is much safer to have mail delivery to your computer via POP3 and to use Thunderbird or other email client. If your computer is a laptop, you achieve, say, 80% of portability that Web-based email providers like Google Gmail offers. That does not mean that you should close your Gmail or Yahoo account. More important is separating email accounts into "important" and "everything else". "Junk mail" can be stored on Web-based email providers without any problems. Personal emails is completely another matter.

Email privacy

I do not like when stranger is reading my mail,
overlooking over my shoulder

Famous Russian bard Vladimir Vissotsky,
Also on YouTube

Email security is a large and complex subject. It is a typical "bullet vs. armor" type of topic. In this respect the fact the US government were highly alarmed by Snowden revelations is understandable as this shift the balance from dominance of "bullet" by stimulating the development of various "armor" style methods to enhance email privacy. It also undermines/discredits cloud-based email services, especially large one such as Hotmail, Gmail, and Yahoo mail, which are the most important providers of emails.

You can't hide your correspondents so recreation of network of your email correspondents is a fact of life that you can do nothing about. But you can make searching emails for keywords and snooping of the text of your email considerably more difficult. And those methods not necessary means using PGP (actually from NSA point of view using PGP is warning sign that you has something to hide and that increase interest to your mailbox; and this is a pretty logical assumption).

First of all using traditional POP3 account now makes much more sense (although on most ISPs undelivered mail is available via Web interface). In case of email security those who know Linux/Unix have a distinct advantage. Those OSes provide the ability to have a home server that performs most functions of the cloud services at a very moderate cost (essentially the cost of web connection, or an ISP Web account; sometime you need to convert you cable Internet account to "business" to open ports). Open source software for running Webmail on your own server is readily available and while it has its security holes at least they are not as evident as those in Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo mail. And what is the most important you escape aggregation of your emails on a large provider.

IMHO putting content in attachment, be it gif of a handwritten letter in DOC document, or MP3 file presents serious technical problems for snoopers. First of all any multimedia attachment, such a gif of your handwriting (plus a jpeg of your favorite cat ;-), dramatically increase the necessary storage and thus processing time. Samsung Note 10.1 and Microsoft Surface PRO tablets provide opportunity to add both audio and handwriting files to your letter with minimal effort. If you have those device, use them. Actually this is one of few areas when tablets are really useful. Sending content as a multimedia file makes snooping more difficult for several reasons:

Another important privacy enhancing feature of emails is related to a classic "noise vs. useful signal" problem. In this respect the existence of spam looks like a blessing. In case of mimicry filtering "signal from noise" became a complex problem. That's why NSA prefers accessing mail at final destination as we saw from slides published in Guardian. But using local delivery and Thunderbird or any other mail client make this avenue of snooping easily defeatable. Intercepted on the router, spam can clog arteries of automatic processing really fast. It also might slightly distort your "network of contacts" So if you switch off ISP provided spam filter and filter spam locally on your computer, the problem of "useful sig   le border="2" width="90%" bgcolor="#FFFF00">   " is offloaded to those who try to snoop your mail. And there are ways to ensure that they will filter out wrong emails ;-). Here is a one day sample of spam:

Subject: Hello!
Subject: Gold Watches
Subject: Cufflinks
Subject: Join us and Lose 8-12 lbs. in Only 7-10 Days!
Subject: New private social network for Ukrainian available ladies and foreign men.
Subject: Fresh closed social network for Russian attractive girls and foreigners.
Subject: hoy!
Subject: Daily Market Movers Digest
h=Content-Transfer-Encoding:Content-Type:MIME-Version:Subject:To:Message-ID:From:Date; bh=rabQUxPZjHIp1RwoC7c+cj41NudW37VFkMlmNcq4yig=;
Subject: =?utf-8?Q?=E1=B9=BD=E2=80=8D=C7=8F=E2=80=8D=E1=BE=B6=E2=80=8D=C4=A0=E2=80=8D=E1=B9=99=E2=80=8D=E1=BE=B6?=
Subject: IMPORTANT - WellsFargo
Subject: =?Windows-1251?B?z29j8nBv5e3o5SBj6GPyZez7IO7v62Hy+yDvbyBwZefz6/zy4PLz?=
Subject: New private social network for beautiful Ukrainian women and foreign men.
Subject: Fresh closed social network for Russian sexy women and foreign men.
Subject: Cufflinks
Subject: (SECURE)Electronic Account Statement 0558932870_06112013
Subject: (SECURE)Electronic Account Statement 0690671601_06112013
Subject: Returned mail: see transcript for details
Subject: Bothered with censorship restrictions on Social networks?
Subject: Delivery Status Notification (Failure) - [AKO Content Violation - SPAM]Are
Subject: (SECURE)Electronic Account Statement 0355009837_06112013
Subject: You need Ukrainian with large breasts that Madame ready to correspond to intimate topics?
Subject: =?Windows-1251?B?wfPy/CDjb/Lu4iDqIO/wb+Ll8Org7A==?=
Subject: You need a Russian woman with beautiful eyes is ready to correspond to private theme?
Subject: Mail delivery failed: returning message to sender
Subject: Are you bored with censorship limits at Social networks?
Subject: =?windows-1254?B?U0VSVN1G3UtBTEkgWUFOR0lOIEXQ3VTdTd0gSEVNRU4gQkHeVlVSVU4=?=
Subject: Join us and Lose 8-12 lbs. in Only 7-10 Days!
Subject: Important Activation needed
Subject: Hi!
Subject: WebSayt Sadece 35 Azn
Subject: Join us and Lose 8-12 lbs. in Only 7-10 Days!

Note the line "Subject: Mail delivery failed: returning message to sender". That means that in the spam filter you need to fight with the impersonalization (fake sender) as well. While typically this is easy based on content of "Received:" headers, there are some complex cases, especially with bounced mails and "onetime" identities (when the sender each time assumes a different identity at the same large provider). See also Using “impersonalization” in your email campaigns.

BTW fake erotic spam provides tremendous steganography opportunities. Here is a very simplistic example.

Subject: Do you want a Ukrainian girl with large breasts ready to chat with you on intimate topics?

New closed social network with hot Ukrainian ladies is open. If you want to talk on erotic themes, with sweet women then this is for you!

I dropped my previous girlfriend. Things deteriorates dramatically here and all my plans are now on hold.

So I decided to find a lady friend for regular erotic conversations! And I am now completely satisfied customer.

Give it is try. "" Free Registration and first three sessions !!!

Does the second paragraph starting with the phrase "I dropped my previous girlfriend..." in the email below contain real information masked in erotic spam, or the message is a regular junk?

Typical spam filter would filter this message out as spam, especially with such a subject line ;-).

You can also play a practical joke imitating spammer activity. Inform a couple of your friends about it and then send similar letter from one of your Gmail account to your friends. Enjoy change in advertisements ;-).

In many cases what you want to send via email, can be done more securely using phone. Avoid unnecessary emails like a plague. And not only because of NSA existence. Snooping into your mailbox is not limited to three-letter agencies.

Facebook Problem

I always wondered why Facebook -- a cluelessly designed site which imitates AOL, the hack written in PHP which provide no, or very little value to users, other then a poorly integrated environment for personal Web page (simple "vanity fair" pages), blog and email. It is definitely oriented on the most clueless or at least less sophisticated users and that's probably why it has such a level of popularity. They boast almost billion customers, although I suspect that half of those customers check their account only once a month or so. Kind of electronic tombstone to people's vanity...

The interface is second rate and just attests a very mediocre level of software engineering. It is difficult to imagine that serious guys are using Facebook. And those who do use it, usually are of no interest to three letter agencies. Due to this ability of the government to mine Facebook might be a less of a problem then people assume, much less of a problem than mining Hotmail or Gmail.

But that does not mean that Facebook does not have value. Just those entities for whom it provides tremendous value are not users ;-) Like WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange stated Facebook, Google, and Yahoo are actually extremely powerful tools for centralized information gathering that can used by advertisers, merchants, government, financial institutions and other powerful/wealthy players.

Such sites are also very valuable tools for advertisers who try to capitalize of the information about your Facebook or Google profile, Gmail messages content, network of fiends and activities. And this is pretty deep pool of information.

"Facebook in particular is the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented," Assange said in the interview, which was videotaped and published on the site. "Here we have the world's most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations and the communications with each other, their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible ..."

That's why Google, who also lives and dies by advertising revenue put so much efforts at Google+. And promotes so heavily +1 button. They sense the opportunity for additional advertising revenue due to more precise targeting and try to replicate Facebook success on a better technological platform (Facebook is a hack written in PHP -- and writing in PHP tells a lot about real technological level of Mark Zuckerberg and friends).

But government is one think, advertisers is another. The magnitude of online information Facebook has available about each of us for targeted marketing is stunning. In Europe, laws give people the right to know what data companies have about them, but that is not the case in the United States. Here is what Wikipedia writes about Facebook data mining efforts:

There have been some concerns expressed regarding the use of Facebook as a means of surveillance and data mining. The Facebook privacy policy once stated,

"We may use information about you that we collect from other sources, including but not limited to newspapers and Internet sources such as blogs, instant messaging services and other users of Facebook, to supplement your profile."[23]

However, the policy was later updated and now states: "We may use information about you that we collect from other Facebook users to supplement your profile (such as when you are tagged in a photo or mentioned in a status update). In such cases we generally give you the ability to remove the content (such as allowing you to remove a photo tag of you) or limit its visibility on your profile."[23] The terminology regarding the use of collecting information from other sources, such as newspapers, blogs, and instant messaging services, has been removed.

The possibility of data mining by private individuals unaffiliated with Facebook has been a concern, as evidenced by the fact that two Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) students were able to download, using an automated script, over 70,000 Facebook profiles from four schools (MIT, NYU, the University of Oklahoma, and Harvard University) as part of a research project on Facebook privacy published on December 14, 2005.[24] Since then, Facebook has bolstered security protection for users, responding: "We’ve built numerous defenses to combat phishing and malware, including complex automated systems that work behind the scenes to detect and flag Facebook accounts that are likely to be compromised (based on anomalous activity like lots of messages sent in a short period of time, or messages with links that are known to be bad)."[25]

A second clause that brought criticism from some users allowed Facebook the right to sell users' data to private companies, stating "We may share your information with third parties, including responsible companies with which we have a relationship." This concern was addressed by spokesman Chris Hughes, who said "Simply put, we have never provided our users' information to third party companies, nor do we intend to."[26] Facebook eventually removed this clause from its privacy policy.[27]

Previously, third party applications had access to almost all user information. Facebook's privacy policy previously stated: "Facebook does not screen or approve Platform Developers and cannot control how such Platform Developers use any personal information."[28] However, that language has since been removed. Regarding use of user data by third party applications, the ‘Pre-Approved Third-Party Websites and Applications’ section of the Facebook privacy policy now states:

In order to provide you with useful social experiences off of Facebook, we occasionally need to provide General Information about you to pre-approved third party websites and applications that use Platform at the time you visit them (if you are still logged in to Facebook). Similarly, when one of your friends visits a pre-approved website or application, it will receive General Information about you so you and your friend can be connected on that website as well (if you also have an account with that website). In these cases we require these websites and applications to go through an approval process, and to enter into separate agreements designed to protect your privacy…You can disable instant personalization on all pre-approved websites and applications using your Applications and Websites privacy setting. You can also block a particular pre-approved website or application by clicking "No Thanks" in the blue bar when you visit that application or website. In addition, if you log out of Facebook before visiting a pre-approved application or website, it will not be able to access your information.

In the United Kingdom, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has encouraged employers to allow their staff to access Facebook and other social-networking sites from work, provided they proceed with caution.[29]

In September 2007, Facebook drew a fresh round of criticism after it began allowing non-members to search for users, with the intent of opening limited "public profiles" up to search engines such as Google in the following months.[30] Facebook's privacy settings, however, allow users to block their profiles from search engines.

Concerns were also raised on the BBC's Watchdog programme in October 2007 when Facebook was shown to be an easy way in which to collect an individual's personal information in order to facilitate identity theft.[31] However, there is barely any personal information presented to non-friends - if users leave the privacy controls on their default settings, the only personal information visible to a non-friend is the user's name, gender, profile picture, networks, and user name.[32]

In addition, a New York Times article in February 2008 pointed out that Facebook does not actually provide a mechanism for users to close their accounts, and thus raised the concern that private user data would remain indefinitely on Facebook's servers.[33] However, Facebook now gives users the options to deactivate or delete their accounts, according to the Facebook Privacy Policy. "When you deactivate an account, no user will be able to see it, but it will not be deleted. We save your profile information (connections, photos, etc.) in case you later decide to reactivate your account." The policy further states: "When you delete an account, it is permanently deleted from Facebook."[23]

A third party site, USocial, was involved in a controversy surrounding the sale of fans and friends. USocial received a cease-and-desist letter from Facebook and has stopped selling friends.[34]

Inability to voluntarily terminate accounts

Facebook had allowed users to deactivate their accounts but not actually remove account content from its servers. A Facebook representative explained to a student from the University of British Columbia that users had to clear their own accounts by manually deleting all of the content including wall posts, friends, and groups. A New York Times article noted the issue, and also raised a concern that emails and other private user data remain indefinitely on Facebook's servers.[35]

Facebook subsequently began allowing users to permanently delete their accounts in 2010. Facebook's Privacy Policy now states: "When you delete an account, it is permanently deleted from Facebook."[23]

... ... ...

Quit Facebook Day

Quit Facebook Day was an online event which took place on May 31, 2010 (coinciding with Memorial Day), in which Facebook users stated that they would quit the social network, due to privacy concerns.[54] It was estimated that 2% of Facebook users coming from the United States would delete their accounts.[55] However, only 33,000 users quit the site.[56]

... ... ...

Tracking cookies

Facebook has been criticized heavily for 'tracking' users, even when logged out of the site. Australian technologist Nik Cubrilovic discovered that when a user logs out of Facebook, the cookies from that login are still kept in the browser, allowing Facebook to track users on websites that include "social widgets" distributed by the social network. Facebook has denied the claims, saying they have 'no interest' in tracking users or their activity. They also promised after the discovery of the cookies that they would remove them, saying they will no longer have them on the site. A group of users in the United States have sued Facebook for breaching privacy laws.[citation needed]

Read more at Facebook as Giant Database about Users

Google search monopoly

Google wants to be a sole intermediary between you and Internet. As Rebecca Solnit pointed out (Google eats the world):

Google, the company with the motto "Don't be evil", is rapidly becoming an empire. Not an empire of territory, as was Rome or the Soviet Union, but an empire controlling our access to data and our data itself. Antitrust lawsuits proliferating around the company demonstrate its quest for monopoly control over information in the information age.

Its search engine has become indispensable for most of us, and as Google critic and media professor Siva Vaidhyanathan puts it in his 2012 book The Googlization of Everything,

"[W]e now allow Google to determine what is important, relevant, and true on the Web and in the world. We trust and believe that Google acts in our best interest. But we have surrendered control over the values, methods, and processes that make sense of our information ecosystem."

And that's just the search engine. About three-quarters of a billion people use Gmail, which conveniently gives Google access to the content of their communications (scanned in such a way that they can target ads at you).

Now with Prism-related revelations, those guys are on the defensive as they sense a threat to their franchise. And the threat is quite real: if Google, Microsoft, Yahoo all work for NSA, why not feed them only a proportionate amount of your searches. And why not feed them with "search spam"?

Now with Prism-related revelations, those guys are on the defensive as they sense a threat to their franchise. And the threat is quite real: if Google, Microsoft, Yahoo all work for NSA, why not feed them only a proportionate amount of your searches. And why not feed them with "search spam"?

One third to Google and one third to Bing with the rest to (Yahoo uses Bing internally). You can rotate days and hope that the level of integration of searches from multiple providers is a weak point of the program ;-). After all while Google is still better on some searches, Bing comes close on typical searches and is superior in searches about Microsoft Windows and similar Microsoft related themes. It is only fair to diversify providers.

Here is one take from Is Google a threat to privacy from Digital Freedoms

Google’s motto may be ‘don’t be evil’ but people are increasingly unconvinced that it is as good as it says it is. The Guardian is currently running a poll asking users ‘Does Google ‘do evil’?’ and currently the Guardian reading public seems to think yes it does. This is partially about Google's attempt to minimize taxes in the UK but there are other concerns that are much more integral to what Google is about. At its core Google is an information business, so accusations that it is a threat to privacy strike at what it does rather than just its profits.

Google recently got a slap on the wrist by Germany for its intrusion of privacy through its street view and received a $189,225 fine. This was followed in April with several European privacy regulators criticizing the company for how it changed its privacy policy in 2012. Google attempted to simplify its privacy policy by having one that would operate across its services rather than the 70 different ones it had. Unfortunately it was not transparent in how it implemented the changes bringing the ire of the European regulators. This was followed by not implementing their suggested changes leading to the regulators considering more fines.

Facebook’s inventory of data and its revenue from advertising are small potatoes compared to Google. Google took in more than 10 times as much, with an estimated $36.5 billion in advertising revenue in 2011, by analyzing what people sent over Gmail and what they searched on the Web, and then using that data to sell ads. Hundreds of other companies (Yahoo, Microsoft, Amazon to name a few) have also staked claims on people’s online data by depositing cookies or other tracking mechanisms on people’s browsers. If you’ve mentioned anxiety in an e-mail, done a Google search for “stress” or started using an online medical diary that lets you monitor your mood, expect ads for medications and services to treat your anxiety.

In other words stereotyping rules in data aggregation. Your application for credit could be declined not on the basis of your own finances or credit history, but on the basis of aggregate data — what other people whose likes and dislikes are similar to yours have done. If guitar players or divorcing couples are more likely to renege on their credit-card bills, then the fact that you’ve looked at guitar ads or sent an e-mail to a divorce lawyer might cause a data aggregator to classify you as less credit-worthy. When an Atlanta man returned from his honeymoon, he found that his credit limit had been lowered to $3,800 from $10,800. The switch was not based on anything he had done but on aggregate data. A letter from the company told him, “Other customers who have used their card at establishments where you recently shopped have a poor repayment history with American Express.”

Even though laws allow people to challenge false information in credit reports, there are no laws that require data aggregators to reveal what they know about you. If I’ve Googled “diabetes” for my mother or “date rape drugs” for a mystery I’m writing, data aggregators assume those searches reflect my own health and proclivities. Because no laws regulate what types of data these aggregators can collect, they make their own rules.

In another post Frank Schaeffer (Google, Microsoft and Facebook Are More of a Threat to Privacy Than the US Government, June 7, 2013) thinks the Google and other companies actually represent a different threat then the government due to viewing themselves as a special privileged caste:

It’s amazing that there are naive people who worry about government intrusion into our privacy when we already gave away our civil rights to the billionaires in Silicon Valley. The NSA is taking note of our calls and emails, but anyone – me included! — who uses the internet and social media has already sold out our privacy rights to the trillion dollar multinational companies now dominating our lives and – literally – buying and selling us.

The NSA isn’t our biggest worry when it comes to who is using our calls, emails and records for purposes we didn’t intend. We are going to pay forever for trusting Google, Facebook. Microsoft, AOL and all the rest. They and the companies that follow them are the real threat to liberty and privacy.

The government may be wrong in how it is trying to protect us but at least it isn’t literally selling us. Google’s and Facebook’s et al highest purpose is to control our lives, what we buy, sell, like and do for money. Broken as our democracy is we citizens at least still have a voice and ultimately decide on who runs Congress. Google and company answer to no one. They see themselves as an elite and superior to everyone else.

In fact they are part of a business culture that sees itself not only above the law but believes it’s run by superior beings. Google even has its own bus line, closed to the public, so its “genius” employees don’t have to be bothered mingling with us regular folk. A top internet exec just ruined the America’s Cup race by making it so exclusive that so far only four groups have been able to sign up for the next race to be held in San Francisco because all but billionaires are now excluded because this internet genius changed the rules to favor his kind of elite.

Google and Facebook have done little-to-nothing to curb human trafficking pleading free speech as the reason their search engines and social networks have become the new slave ships “carrying” child rape victims to their new masters internationally. That’s just who and what these internet profiteers are.

Face it: the big tech companies aren’t run by nice people even if they do make it pleasant for their workers by letting them skateboard in the hallways and offering them free sushi. They aren’t smarter than anyone else, just lucky to be riding a new tech wave. That wave is cresting.

Lots of us lesser mortals are wondering just what we get from people storing all our private data. For a start we have a generation hooked on a mediated reality. They look at the world through a screen.

In other words these profiteers are selling reality back to us, packaged by them into entertainment. And they want to put a computer on every desk to make sure that no child ever develops an attention span long enough so that they might actually read a book or look up from whatever tech device they are holding. These are the billionaires determined to make real life so boring that you won’t be able to concentrate long enough pee without using an app that makes bodily functions more entertaining.

These guys are also the world’s biggest hypocrites. The New York Times published a story about how some of the top executives in Silicon Valley send their own children to a school that does not allow computers. In “A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute” (October 22, 2011) the Times revealed that the leaders who run the computer business demand a computer-free, hands-on approach to education for their own children.

Usage of home Web Proxy is a must

This new situation makes usage of Web proxy at home a must. Not to protect yourself ( this is still impossible ), but to control what information you release and to whom. See Squid. It provides powerful means to analyze your Web traffic as well as Web site blocking techniques:

In my experience, Squid’s built-in blocking mechanism or access control is the easiest method to use for implementing web site blocking policy. All you need to do is modify the Squid configuration file.

Before you can implement web site blocking policy, you have to make sure that you have already installed Squid and that it works. You can consult the Squid web site to get the latest version of Squid and a guide for installing it.

To deploy the web-site blocking mechanism in Squid, add the following entries to your Squid configuration file (in my system, it’s called squid.conf and it’s located in the /etc/squid directory):

acl bad url_regex "/etc/squid/squid-block.acl"
http_access deny bad

The file /etc/squid/squid-block.acl contains web sites or words you want to block. You can name the file whatever you like. If a site has the URL or word listed in squid-block.acl file, it won’t be accessible to your users. The entries below are found in squid-block.acl file used by my clients:

With the squid-block.acl file in action, internet users cannot access the following sites:

You should beware that by blocking sites containing the word “sex”, you will also block sites such as Middlesex University, Sussex University, etc. To resolve this problem, you can put those sites in a special file called squid-noblock.acl:


You must also put the “no-block” rule before the “block” rule in the Squid configuration file:

acl special_urls url_regex "/etc/squid/squid-noblock.acl"
http_access allow admin_ips special_urls

acl bad url_regex "/etc/squid/squid-block.acl"
http_access deny bad

Sometimes you also need to add a no-block file to allow access to useful sites

After editing the ACL files (squid-block.acl and squid-noblock.acl), you need to restart Squid. If you install the RPM version, usually there is a script in the /etc/rc.d/init.d directory to help you manage Squid:

# /etc/rc.d/init.d/squid reload

To test to see if your Squid blocking mechanism has worked, you can use your browser. Just enter a site whose address is listed on the squid-block.acl file in the URL address.

In the example above, I block, and when I try to access, the browser returns an error page.

Limiting your activity on social sites

Vanity fair posting should probably now be severely limited. Self-exposure entails dangers that can became evident only in retrospect. The key problem is that nothing that you post is ever erased. Ever. Limiting your activity in social network to few things that are of real value, or what is necessary for business or professional development, not just vanity fair staff or, God forbid, shady activities is now a must.

And remember that those days information about your searches, books that you bought on Amazon, your friends in Facebook, your connections in LinkedIn, etc are public. If you want to buy a used book without it getting into your database, go to the major city and buy with cash.

Also getting you own email address and simple web site at any hosting site is easy and does not require extraordinary technical sophistication. Prices are starting from $3 per month. Storing your data on Facebook servers might cost you more. See Guide for selecting Web hosting provider with SSH access for some ideas for programmers and system administrators.

Conclusions: Death of Privacy

In a way the situation with cloud sites providing feeds to spy on the users is a version of autoimmune disease: defense systems are attacking other critical systems instead of rogue agents.

As we mentioned before, technological development has their set of externalities. One side effect of internet technologies and, especially, cloud technologies as well as wide proliferation of smartphones is that they greatly simplify "total surveillance." Previously total surveillance was a very expensive proposition, now it became vey cheap. In a way technological genie is out of the bottle. And it is impossible to put him back. Youtube (funny, it's another site targeted by NSA) contains several informative talks about this issue. From the talk:

“This is the current state of affairs. There is no more sense of privacy. Not because it’s been ripped away from you in some Orwellian way, but because you flushed it down the toilet”.

All-in-all on Internet on one hand provides excellent, unique capability of searching information (and search sites are really amplifiers of human intelligence) , but on the other put you like a bug under microscope. Of course, as so many Internet users exists, the time to store all the information about you is probably less then your lifespan, but considerable part of it can be stored for a long time (measured in years, not months, or days) and some part is stored forever. In other words both government and several large companies and first of all Facebook and Google are constantly profiling you. That's why we can talk about death of privacy.

Add to this a real possibility that malware is installed on your PC (and Google Bar and similar applications are as close to spyware as one can get) and situation became really interesting.

Looking at the headlines about the government’s documents on how to use social networking and it’s surprising that anyone thinks this is a big deal. Undercover Feds on Facebook? Gasp! IRS using social networking to piece together a few facts that illustrate you lied about your taxes? Oooh.

Give me a break. Why wouldn’t the Feds use these tools? They’d be idiots if they didn’t. Repeat after me:

Let’s face it; folks are broadcasting everything from the breakfast they eat to their bowel movements to when and where they are on vacation. They use services that track every movement they make (willingly!) on Foursquare and Google Latitude. Why wouldn’t an FBI agent chasing a perp get into some idiot’s network so he can track him everywhere? It’s called efficiency people.

Here are some simple measures that might help, although they can't change the situation:

Again, none of those measures change the situation dramatically, but each of them slightly increase the level of your privacy.

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For details of NSA collection of Internet traffic and major cloud provider data see Big Brother is Watching You

[Aug 15, 2018] Facebook Taps Militarist Think Tank Atlantic Council to Police its content

Russiagate has deepened the partnership between Washington and Silicon Valley, and leftist websites are among the first casualties.
Notable quotes:
"... America has a real problem here with accomplishing its goals – which it is obviously achieving, the silencing of legitimate dissent and the prioritization of the national-security narrative – while simultaneously advertising itself as the center of what the evildoers hate for its freedoms. ..."
"... Americans, and everyone who uses their services, are increasingly regulated in everything they do and say, extending now to what you are allowed to see and hear. Actual freedom is dwindling away to a pinpoint, and what the government wants every election cycle is more cops, more law and order and more security. ..."
Aug 15, 2018 |

Warren , August 11, 2018 at 8:18 pm

Published on 11 Aug 2018
From Alex Jones to alleged Russian trolls, major internet companies are increasingly policing content on their platforms. Max Blumenthal of the Grayzone Project says the partnership between Facebook and the Atlantic Council highlights "the merger of the national security state and Silicon Valley."

TheRealNews, Published on 11 Aug 2018

Russiagate has deepened the partnership between Washington and Silicon Valley, and leftist websites are among the first casualties. After falsely accusing an anti-white supremacist rally event page of being a fake, Facebook shut down the page of for several hours without explanation. We speak to VA founder and TRNN host Greg Wilpert, as well as the Grayzone Project's Max Blumenthal

kirill says: August 11, 2018 at 8:59 pm
Western "freedom" of expression in action. I find it interesting how the voices of a few heretics are supposedly some big threat to NATzO. That would indicate that NATzO is not quite the bastion of democracy it paints itself to be. It is unstable because it is based on lies and heretics can initiate the crashing of the facade. But if this is indeed the case, then NATzO is on its way out since no amount of repression of dissidents will change the fundamental inconsistency of its existence.

Mark Chapman says: August 12, 2018 at 9:41 am

America has a real problem here with accomplishing its goals – which it is obviously achieving, the silencing of legitimate dissent and the prioritization of the national-security narrative – while simultaneously advertising itself as the center of what the evildoers hate for its freedoms.

Americans, and everyone who uses their services, are increasingly regulated in everything they do and say, extending now to what you are allowed to see and hear. Actual freedom is dwindling away to a pinpoint, and what the government wants every election cycle is more cops, more law and order and more security.

[Aug 14, 2018] Try track me after that, google.

Aug 14, 2018 |

Automatic Choke -> johngaltfla Mon, 08/13/2018 - 19:01 Permalink

1) remove the smartphone battery

2) smash the smartphone with a hammer

3) burn the pieces of the smartphone

4) leave the ashes at home when you are out and about

Try and track THAT, google.

[Aug 14, 2018] I am sure the tracking your movements all the time it s just a harmless oversight on the part of Google.

Aug 14, 2018 |

spanish inquisition Mon, 08/13/2018 - 17:28 Permalink

I am sure it's just a harmless oversight.

Kefeer -> Clock Crasher Mon, 08/13/2018 - 17:38 Permalink

Hammer it and remove all EMF's. An old microwave over works as a Faraday cage. Also; if you take a cell phone and wrap it in just a layer or two of aluminum foil; it will not make or receive calls.

beemasters -> Kefeer Mon, 08/13/2018 - 17:42 Permalink

Or just carry a dummy phone to make yourself look important. In today's world, perception is it.

Giant Meteor -> beemasters Mon, 08/13/2018 - 17:52 Permalink

Good point. Save alot of shekkels too. Why just the other day I was standing in grocery line having an imaginary conversation with my imaginary broker, on my fake phone! The conversation became quite heated. It was all going swell until I ran into the door on my way out, fell over backwards, spilt the milk carton, and crushed a dozen eggs. No one even noticed ..

cougar_w -> beemasters Mon, 08/13/2018 - 17:42 Permalink

They don't need GPS to know where you are, cell towers report the same information to good enough accuracy for most uses. When Google is tracking you, that is how they are doing it usually.

JoeTurner Mon, 08/13/2018 - 17:30 Permalink

The East German Stasi only wish they could be like Google...

Socratic Dog -> Grandad Grumps Mon, 08/13/2018 - 18:13 Permalink

OSMand replaces google maps very nicely, and works perfectly fine completely off line (by GPS). It also doesn't have to allow google to update its maps every 30 days to keep it working, download maps for anywhere in the world and just use them.

Lineage OS is a replacement for Android OS. I've had it in 2 phones so far, quite content with it. Open source, so lots of eyes on it to make sure this sort of shit isn't happening. You can minimize or completely eliminate the google presence, your choice.

Whether some deep-down shit is tracking me, I have no idea. I assume it is, and act accordingly.

Oldguy05 -> Socratic Dog Mon, 08/13/2018 - 18:19 Permalink

Deep-down, it's all shit!

valjoux7750 -> Socratic Dog Mon, 08/13/2018 - 18:26 Permalink

Love to try lineage but I'm on Verizon and their phones since the note 5 are locked down good. Rooting, jailbreaking, or what ever you call it is the way to go if your concerned about privacy.

Socratic Dog -> valjoux7750 Mon, 08/13/2018 - 18:31 Permalink

Rooting isn't difficult. That's why they try so hard to stop you doing it.

[Aug 14, 2018] Paranoia as a natural condition of people living in the national security state: Faraday Cages for sale! Get yours today -- or they'll get you tomorrow!

** This story brought to you by the Divorce Lawyers of America **
Aug 14, 2018 |

toady -> hedgeless_horseman Mon, 08/13/2018 - 17:41 Permalink

Duh. Who didn't know this?

Even taking the battery out doesn't work anymore... they've built in transistors that will hold enough juice to keep the tracking capabilities enabled for several hours after the battery is removed.

NidStyles -> toady Mon, 08/13/2018 - 17:44 Permalink

Are you kidding me Gracie? I assume it was you sending the nutcase

johngaltfla -> NidStyles Mon, 08/13/2018 - 17:45 Permalink

Man are those geeks going to be bored as fucking hell tracking me.

Alananda -> johngaltfla Mon, 08/13/2018 - 17:59 Permalink

I dindu nuffin. I never do nothing. What -- me worry? I have nothing to hide. Idiot.

johngaltfla -> Alananda Mon, 08/13/2018 - 18:57 Permalink

Humor and sarcasm. Try Googling it.

Automatic Choke -> johngaltfla Mon, 08/13/2018 - 19:01 Permalink

1) remove the smartphone battery

2) smash the smartphone with a hammer

3) burn the pieces of the smartphone

4) leave the ashes at home when you are out and about

Try and track THAT, google.

[Aug 13, 2018] Google Is Constantly Tracking, Even If You Turn Off Device Location History

You do not need to keep you phone on when you driving, do you ?
Aug 13, 2018 |

by Tyler Durden Mon, 08/13/2018 - 17:25 74 SHARES

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Google is actually tracking you even when you switch your device settings to Location History "off" .

As journalist Mark Ames comments in response to a new Associated Press story exposing Google's ability to track people at all times even when they explicitly tell Google not to via iPhone and Android settings, "The Pentagon invented the internet to be the perfect global surveillance/counterinsurgency machine. Surveillance is baked into the internet's DNA."

In but the latest in a continuing saga of big tech tracking and surveillance stories which should serve to convince us all we are living in the beginning phases of a Minority Report style tracking and pansophical "pre-crime" system, it's now confirmed that the world's most powerful tech company and search tool will always find a way to keep your location data .

The Associated Press sought the help of Princeton researchers to prove that while Google is clear and upfront about giving App users the ability to turn off or "pause" Location History on their devices, there are other hidden means through which it retains the data .

According to the AP report :

Google says that will prevent the company from remembering where you've been. Google's support page on the subject states: "You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored."

That isn't true. Even with Location History paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking.

For example, Google stores a snapshot of where you are when you merely open its Maps app. Automatic daily weather updates on Android phones pinpoint roughly where you are .

And some searches that have nothing to do with location, like "chocolate chip cookies," or "kids science kits," pinpoint your precise latitude and longitude -- accurate to the square foot -- and save it to your Google account .

The issue directly affects around two billion people using Google's Android operating software and iPhone users relying on Google maps or a simple search.

Among the computer science researchers at Princeton conducting the tests is Jonathan Mayer, who told the AP , "If you're going to allow users to turn off something called 'Location History,' then all the places where you maintain location history should be turned off," and added, "That seems like a pretty straightforward position to have."

Google, for its part, is defending the software and privacy tracking settings , saying the company has been perfectly clear and has not violated privacy ethics.

"There are a number of different ways that Google may use location to improve people's experience, including: Location History, Web and App Activity, and through device-level Location Services," a Google statement to the AP reads. "We provide clear descriptions of these tools, and robust controls so people can turn them on or off, and delete their histories at any time."

According to the AP, there is a way to prevent Google from storing the various location marker and metadata collection possibilities, but it's somewhat hidden and painstaking.

Google's own description on how to do this as a result of the AP inquiry is as follows :

To stop Google from saving these location markers, the company says, users can turn off another setting, one that does not specifically reference location information. Called "Web and App Activity" and enabled by default, that setting stores a variety of information from Google apps and websites to your Google account.

When paused, it will prevent activity on any device from being saved to your account. But leaving "Web & App Activity" on and turning "Location History" off only prevents Google from adding your movements to the "timeline," its visualization of your daily travels. It does not stop Google's collection of other location markers.

You can delete these location markers by hand, but it's a painstaking process since you have to select them individually , unless you want to delete all of your stored activity.

Of course, the more constant location data obviously means more advertising profits and further revenue possibilities for Google and its clients, so we fully expect future hidden tracking loopholes to possibly come to light.

Beginning in 2014, Google has utilized user location histories to allow advertisers to track the effectiveness of online ads at driving foot traffic . With the continued possibility of real-time tracking to generate billions of dollars, it should come as no surprise that Google would seek to make it as difficult (or perhaps impossible?) as it can for users to ensure they aren't tracked.

As for the government, we can only imagine the creative surveillance "fun" Washington's 16+ intelligence agencies are having with such a powerful tool right now.

[Aug 11, 2018] The Week In Tech Infowars and China's Great Firewall

Aug 11, 2018 |

I was surprised by the reactions (good and bad) to the column. Some readers were sarcastic. Not having access to Google, Facebook or Twitter? "Lucky them!" wrote one Facebook user. "They have not missed anything important!" said another.

... ... ...

In other news this week:

Li Yuan is the Asia tech columnist for The Times. She previously reported on China technology for The Wall Street Journal. You can follow her on Twitter here: @LiYuan6.

[Aug 07, 2018] Hit piece on Tulsi Gabbard in the Intercept, attacking her anti-war politics.

Aug 07, 2018 |

scarno , August 3, 2018 at 8:10 pm

Hit piece on Tulsi Gabbard in the Intercept, attacking her anti-war politics. I guess "real progressives" want to bomb the villages to save them.

Lambert Strether Post author , August 4, 2018 at 12:02 am

The Intercept is a pretty serious venue. By "hit piece," do you mean a piece that doesn't support your favorite candidate?

The Rev Kev , August 4, 2018 at 12:33 am

I think that scarno may have a point. Take a look at the image at the beginning of the article of Gabbard and then compare it with the one of one of her opponents – Shay Chan Hodges. That is a tell right there. Gabbard has her faults but the willingness to go to Syria and see for herself what the actual situation itself was not one of them.
I note too that that OPCW report on the chemical attack was used against Gabbard in this article. I remember that "attack" which got discredited six ways to Sunday. That was the one where Jihadists in flip-flops were standing in a crater full of "toxic" chemical weapon residue taking samples for the OPCW. And the OPCW believed their chain of custody claims.
The Intercept may be a serious publication but I note that it was a newly-minted journalist ( ) that wrote this story and you certainly wouldn't trust the Intercept to protect you if you came to them with a hot story – as Reality Winner found out to her cost.

scarno , August 4, 2018 at 12:55 am

The Intercept is a venue that prints what dot-com scam-billionaire Omidyar asks of it, or without such instructions, what it's editors' positions happen to be. I think some of their pieces are well-reasoned and others quite specious, and often enough they are willing to print what I think is propaganda. Like you, I try to take arguments and evidence as they come, adjust my analytical framework when necessary, and seek out truth. The process isn't so different with WaPo or NYT then it is with the Intercept, is it?

The article I linked discusses a primary challenge to Congresswoman Gabbard, who has been endorsed by Our Revolution, PP; who resigned her vicechair of DNC in 2015 in protest of what she saw as the sidelining of left interests in the presidential race. Hardly someone who is likely to face a primary challenge from the left. The article admits, in fact, that she has no serious primary challengers, yet the article highlights the her un-serious "progressive" challenger, who is upset that Tulsi has the temerity to oppose US intervention in Syria and elsewhere. It's typical blob logic: if you oppose murderous war in wherever, you despise human rights.

Read it. It's a hit piece. And why is it published at all? Omidyar is Hawaii's richest resident. But perhaps that has nothing to do with it.

FluffytheObeseCat , August 4, 2018 at 1:04 am

It's a well written piece, containing what appear to be accurate assessments of the 2 candidates' stances on a few issues. The author pointed out early on that the opponent is native Hawaiian, and that Gabbard is not.

It drips with implications about Gabbard's foreign policy views; the only coverage of her representation of her district is in a quote from her opponent, who claims she spoke to constituents and "found" they couldn't point to anything Gabbard had done for them. Gabbard's whiteness was used very skillfully against her, along with a few dog whistles about her military background and anti-jihadist views.

It was a skillful, Identitarian hit piece. The haute doyens of left coast "leftist" propriety do not like Gabbard.

Matt , August 4, 2018 at 9:36 am

"Outside of cultivating her image as an anti-interventionist, however, Gabbard has urged a continuation of the so-called war on terror. She's also won the approval of some conservatives and members of the far right. Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon reportedly arranged her November 2016 meeting with President Donald Trump, and former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke has praised some of her foreign policy positions."

The first sentence is a sensible criticism. The rest is innuendo, guilt by association. Is that serious?

[Aug 07, 2018] Live Mark Zuckerberg testifies before Congress

Zuckerberg states that Facebook will have a huge "counterterrorism" team. Any counterterrorism team doubles as anti-dissidents team.
Notable quotes:
"... The team is comprised of 200 people, who he said are just focused on counterterrorism. Zuckerberg said content reviewers also go over flagged information. ..."
"... "I think we have capacity in 30 languages that we are working on and in addition to that, we have a number of AI tools that we are developing like the one's that I mentioned that can proactively go flag the content," he said in response to a question from Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana. ..."
Aug 07, 2018 |

Actually there were a couple of moments in this dog and pony show where truth surfaced ;-)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told lawmakers today that his company has a counterterrorism team.

The team is comprised of 200 people, who he said are just focused on counterterrorism. Zuckerberg said content reviewers also go over flagged information.

"I think we have capacity in 30 languages that we are working on and in addition to that, we have a number of AI tools that we are developing like the one's that I mentioned that can proactively go flag the content," he said in response to a question from Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana.

She asked Zuckerberg how the team stops terrorist groups from recruiting and communicating.

He said the team first identifies those groups' patterns of communicating. They then design systems that proactively flag the messaging, so those accounts could be removed.

The company outlined its counterterrorism approach in 2017 in a blog post , where it said that the team included "academic experts on counterterrorism, former prosecutors, former law enforcement agents and analysts, and engineers."

[Aug 06, 2018] Krieger Stop Complaining And Just Delete Facebook by Mike Krieger

To a certain extent Facebook success is the success of narcissism and herd mentality. There is not much of value in Facebook and the level programming at least several years ago was really primitive (although implementation was not -- due to giant scale they faced all king of complex problems)
In a way people who use Facebook for email are idiots. People who post all kind of personal information on their Facebook pages are sick (ersatz collectivism at one time popular among adolescents).
Who help Zuckerberg to grow the company to this level is a very interesting question indeed. If definitely is a part of Prism like Google, Yahoo and Hotmail?
His testimony before the Congress raises certain questions. Mark Zuckerberg testifies before Congress - watch live is very educational listering to any Facebook user. It is essentially intelligence company masking as a social site with advertizing as the core business model.
Aug 06, 2018 |

Authored by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

I wrote just one post last week and it centered around the dangers posed to society by U.S. tech giants . I specifically called out Facebook, pointing out how company executives are currently groveling to politicians in order to prevent legislation that might deem it a monopoly and curtail its power.

I explained how U.S. politicians prefer to use the power and reach of tech giants for their own ends rather than take them down a notch. Politicians aren't at all concerned about the outsized influence of centralized tech behemoths engineering society using secret algorithms, they just want to be in control of how this power is abused.

Meanwhile, today's biggest news is the uniform move by three U.S. tech giants to de-platform Alex Jones and his Infowars website. The main companies involved are Apple, Facebook and Google (via YouTube), as reported in The Guardian :

All but one of the major content platforms have banned the American conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, as the companies raced to act in the wake of Apple's decision to remove five podcasts by Jones and his Infowars website.

Facebook unpublished four pages run by Jones for "repeated violations of community standards", the company said on Monday. YouTube terminated Jones's account over him repeatedly appearing in videos despite being subject to a 90-day ban from the website, and Spotify removed the entirety of one of Jones's podcasts for "hate content"

Facebook's and YouTube's enforcement action against Jones came hours after Apple removed Jones from its podcast directory. The timing of Facebook's announcement was unusual, with the company confirming the ban at 3am local time.

Put aside what you think of Alex Jones for a moment. If they can do this to him and not fear the repercussions, they can do it to anybody. This is about power, and these platforms together account for a massive share of content distribution in the U.S. Ultimately, this is just a particularly muscular and in your face example of what's known as Silicon Valley's cultural imperialism .

I know a lot of people think the answer is to get Congress to do something, as if those monumentally corrupt donor puppets have any interest in helping the public.

... ... ...

I'd also like to point out that Facebook's stock was up over 4% today, completely shrugging off any potential backlash from users. Executives assume its users are all addled junkies unwilling to give up convenience and their addiction no matter what the company does. Are they right?

Speaking of which, on the same day the move against Jones was announced we learn Facebook is in talks with mega banks to get your financial information.

From The Wall Street Journal :

Facebook Inc.wants your financial data.

The social media giant has asked large U.S. banks to share detailed financial information about their customers, including card transactions and checking account balances, as part of an effort to offer new services to users.

Facebook increasingly wants to be a platform where people buy and sell goods and services, besides connecting with friends. The company over the past year asked JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co., Citigroup Inc. and U.S. Bancorp to discuss potential offerings it could host for bank customers on Facebook Messenger, said people familiar with the matter.

Facebook executives don't actually care about anything besides their profits and power, so the only way you can take any individual action against the company is to delete your account. I haven't engaged with Facebook since 2012, so permanently deleting it wasn't a personal sacrifice, but I did it anyway earlier today.

... ... ...

Don't wait for other people to change things for you, stop whining and take some individual responsibility. If you agree that Facebook's primarily a nefarious narcissism-factory wasteland masquerading as a platform just delete it... before it deletes you.

* * *

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[Aug 04, 2018] Edward Snowden 5 years in Russia and still relevant as ever

Aug 04, 2018 |

TASS reported that August 1 was the five year anniversary of Edward Snowden's being granted temporary asylum in the Russian Federation. This happened after his release of an enormous trove of information showing clandestine and illegal practices being carried out by the US intelligence agencies to gather information on just about anyone in the world, for any – or no – reason at all.

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Edward Snowden, 35, is a computer security expert. In 2005-2008, he worked at the University of Maryland's Center for Advanced Study of Language sponsored by the National Security Agency (NSA) and at the global communications division at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. In 2007, Snowden was stationed with diplomatic cover at the US mission to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. In 2009, he resigned from the CIA to join the Dell company that sent him to Hawaii to work for the NSA's information-sharing office. He was particularly employed with the Booz Allen Hamilton consulting firm.

In June 2013, Snowden leaked classified information to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, which revealed global surveillance programs run by US and British intelligence agencies. He explained the move by saying that he wanted to tell the world the truth because he believed such large-scale surveillance on innocent citizens was unacceptable and the public needed to know about it.

The Guardian and The Washington Post published the first documents concerning the US intelligence agencies' spying on Internet users on June 6, 2013. According to the documents, major phone companies, including Verizon, AT&T and Sprint Nextel, handed records of their customers' phone conversations over to the NSA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), who also had direct access to the servers of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Skype, YouTube, Paltalk, AOL and Apple. In addition, Snowden's revelations showed that a secret program named PRISM was aimed at collecting audio and video recordings, photos, emails and information about users' connections to various websites.

The next portion of revelations , which was published by the leading newspapers such as The Guardian, Brazil's O Globo, Italy's L'Espresso, Germany's Der Spiegel and Suddeutsche Zeitung, concerned the US spying on politicians. In particular, it became known that the NSA and Great Britain's Government Communications Headquarters intercepted the phone calls that foreign politicians and officials made during the G20 summit in London in 2009. British intelligence agencies particularly tried to intercept then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's phone calls. US intelligence monitored the phone calls of 35 world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

According to the disclosed information, the NSA regularly gathered intelligence at the New York and Washington offices of the European Union's mission. The agency also achieved access to the United Nations' internal video conferences and considers the Vienna headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as one of its major targets for spying.

The leaks also uncovered details about the Blarney and Rampart-T secret surveillance programs. Blarney, which started in 1978, is used to collect information related to counter-terrorism, foreign diplomats and governments, as well as economic and military targets. Rampart-T has been used since 1991 to spy on foreign leaders. The program is focused on 20 countries, including Russia and China.

Snowden also let the world know that Germany's Federal Intelligence Service and Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution used the NSA's XKeyScore secret computer system to spy on Internet users, monitoring their web activities. In addition, the NSA and Great Britain's Government Communications Headquarters developed methods that allowed them to hack almost all the encryption systems currently used on the Internet. Besides, the leaked documents said that the NSA had secretly installed special software on about 100,000 computers around the globe that provided access to them and made cyber attacks easier. In particular, the NSA used a secret technology that made it possible to hack computers not connected to the Internet.

Portions of the information Snowden handed over to Greenwald and Poitras continue to be published on The Intercept website . According to – a website commissioned by the Courage foundation (dedicated to building support for Snowden), a total of 2,176 documents from the archive have been published so far.

The NSA and the Pentagon claim that Snowden stole about 1.7 mln classified documents concerning the activities of US intelligence services and US military operations. He is charged with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person. He is facing up to ten years in prison on each charge.

As can be seen, Mr. Snowden's work is of extreme importance now in the connected Internet age. But how is his life in Russia now?

According to Sputnik News, his life goes on . Reports say that he is continuing to learn the Russian language and to travel about the country:

Anatoly Kucherena, Edward Snowden's lawyer, has revealed some details of the renowned whistleblower's life to Sputnik. According to him, Snowden has found a job, is actively traveling around Russia and is continuing to learn the language.

Kucherena added that Snowden receives visits from his girlfriend, Lindsey Mills, and his parents. When asked about the whistleblower's favorite place in Russia, his lawyer said that he likes St Petersburg "a lot."

"He is doing alright: his girlfriend visits him, he has a good job and he's continuing to study Russian. His parents visit him occasionally. [They] have no problems with visas. At least they have never complained about having any trouble," the lawyer said.

After Snowden released classified NSA documents, he fled first to Hong Kong, then, on June 23, 2013, arrived in Moscow from Hong Kong. The whistleblower remained in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo Airport until he was granted temporary asylum in Russia, which was later prolonged to 2020.

[Aug 03, 2018] The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity The Bizarre Facebook Path to Corporate Fascism

Notable quotes:
"... Reprinted with permission from the Black Agenda Report . ..."
Aug 03, 2018 |

The Bizarre Facebook Path to Corporate Fascism Written by Glen Ford Friday August 3, 2018

"The Facebook intervention is a qualitative escalation of the McCarthyite offensive."

Facebook has assumed additional political police powers, disrupting a planned counter-demonstration against white supremacists, set for August 12th in Washington, on the grounds that it was initiated and inspired by "Russians" as part of a Kremlin campaign to "sow dissention" in the US. The Facebook intervention is a qualitative escalation of the McCarthyite offensive launched by the Democrat Party and elements of the national security state, and backed by most of the corporate media, initially to blame Hillary Clinton's 2016 defeat on "collusion" between Wikileaks, "the Russians" and the Trump campaign to steal and publicize embarrassing Clinton campaign emails.

After failing to produce one shred of hard evidence to support their conspiracy theory, the anti-Russia hysteria mongers switched gears, focusing on the alleged purchase of about $100,000 in Facebook ads by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a St. Petersburg-based Russian company, over a multi-year period. The problem was, most of the ads had no direct connection to the presidential contest, or were posted after the election was over, and many had no political content, at all. The messages were all over the place, politically, with the alleged Russian operatives posing as Christian activists, pro- and anti-immigration activists, and supporters of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Special prosecutor Robert Mueller was forced to flip the script, indicting 13 Russians for promoting general "discord" and undermining "public confidence in democracy" in the United States – thus creating a political crime that has not previously been codified in the United States.

"Mueller was forced to flip the script."

In doubling down on an unraveling conspiracy tale, the Mueller probe empowered itself to tar and feather all controversial speech that can be associated with utterances by "Russians," even if the alleged "Russians" are, in fact, mimicking the normal speech of left- or right-wing Americans -- a descent, not into Orwell's world, but that of Kafka (Beyond the Law) and Heller (Catch-22).

Facebook this week announced that it had taken down 32 pages and accounts that had engaged in "coordinated and inauthentic behavior" in promoting the August 12 counter-demonstration against the same white supremacists that staged the fatal "Unite the Right" demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, a year ago. Hundreds of anti-racists had indicated their intention to rally against "Unite the Right 2.0" under the banner of Shut It Down DC, which includes D.C. Antifascist Collective, Black Lives Matter D.C., Hoods4Justice, Resist This, and other local groups.

Facebook did not contend that these anti-racists' behavior was "inauthentic," but that the first ad for the event was purchased by a group calling itself "Resisters" that Facebook believes were behaving much like the Internet Research Agency. "At this point in our investigation, we do not have enough technical evidence to state definitively who is behind it," said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy . "But we can say that these accounts engaged in some similar activity and have connected with known I.R.A accounts."

"The Mueller probe empowered itself to tar and feather all controversial speech that can be associated with utterances by 'Russians,' even if the alleged 'Russians' are, in fact, mimicking the normal speech of left- or right-wing Americans."

Chelsea Manning, whose prison sentence for sending secret documents to Wikileaks was commuted by President Obama, said the counter-protest was "organic and authentic"and that activists had begun organizing several months ago. "Folks from D.C. and Charlottesville have been talking about this since at least February," Manning told The New York Times.

"This was a legitimate Facebook event that was being organized by Washington, DC locals," says Dylan Petrohilos , of Resist This. Petrohilos was one of the defendants in the Trump inauguration "riot" prosecutions. He protested Facebook's disruption of legitimate free speech and assembly. "DC organizers had controlled the messaging on the no UTR fb page and now FB made it harder for grassroots people to organize," he tweeted. The organizers insist the August 12 counter-demonstration -- "No Unite the Right 2 – DC" -- is still a go, as is the white supremacist rally.

Whoever was first to buy a Facebook ad – the suspected Russian "Resisters," or Workers Against Racism, who told the Daily Beast they decided to host their own anti-"Unite the Right 2.0" event because they thought "Resisters" was an "inexperienced liberal organizer" – there was no doubt whatsoever that the white supremacists would be confronted by much larger numbers of counter-demonstrators, in Washington. Nobody in Russia needed to tell US anti-racists to shut the white supremacists down, or vice versa. The Russians didn't invent American white supremacy, or the native opposition to it. Even if Mueller, Facebook, the Democratic Party and the howling corporate media mob are to be believed, the "Russians" are simply mimicking US political rhetoric and sloganeering – and weakly, at that. The Workers Against Racism thought the "Resisters" weren't worth partnering with, but that the racist rally must be countered. The Shut It Down DC coalition didn't need the "Resisters" to crystallize their thinking on white supremacism.

"Chelsea Manning said the counter-protest was 'organic and authentic."

The Democratic Party and corporate media, speaking for most of the US ruling class – and actually bullying one of its top oligarchs, Mark Zuckerberg – is on its own bizarre and twisted road to fascism. (Donald Trump's proto-fascism is the old fashioned, all-American type that the white supremacists want to celebrate on August 12.) With former FBI Director Robert Mueller at the head of the pack, they have created a pseudo legal doctrine whereby "Russians" (or US spooks pretending to be Russians) can be indicted for launching a #MeToo campaign of mimicry, echoing the rhetoric and memes indigenous to US political struggles, while the genuine, "authentic" American political voices – the people who are being mimicked – are labeled co-conspirators in a foreign-based "plot," and their rights to speech and assembly are trashed.

That's truly crazy, but devilishly clever, too. If "Russian" mimics (or cloaked spooks) can reproduce the vocabulary and political program of US dissent, then all of us actual US lefties can be dismissed as "dupes of the Russians" or "co-conspirators" in the speech crimes of our mimics -- for sounding like ourselves.

Reprinted with permission from the Black Agenda Report .

[Aug 03, 2018] A Threat to Global Democracy How Facebook Surveillance Capitalism Empower Authoritarianism

Notable quotes:
"... Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy ..."
"... The War and Peace Report ..."
"... Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy ..."
"... Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy ..."
"... If you want to organize a protest out of the eyes of the government, the worst thing you can do is use Facebook or Twitter in that effort, right? ..."
"... Look, any police department, any state security service anywhere in the world that doesn't infiltrate protest groups or, you know, activist groups that way is foolish, right? It's so easy. Facebook makes surveillance so easy. ..."
"... It's great for motivating people to get into the street, but don't be surprised if there are a couple guys with crew cuts in the crowd with you. ..."
Aug 01, 2018 |

...We speak with Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of "Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy." He is a professor of media studies and director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia.

AMY GOODMAN : Facebook has been at the center of a number of controversies in the United States and abroad. Earlier this year, Facebook removed more than 270 accounts it determined to be created by the Russia-controlled Internet Research Agency. Facebook made that move in early April, just days before founder and CEO Mark Zuckeberg was question on Capitol Hill about how the voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica harvested data from more than 87 million Facebook users without their permission in efforts to sway voters to support President Donald Trump. Zuckerberg repeatedly apologized for his company's actions then.

MARK ZUCKERBERG : We didn't take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. And it was my mistake, and I'm sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I'm responsible for what happens here.

AMY GOODMAN : Today we spend the hour with a leading critic of Facebook, Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy . He's professor of media studies and director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia. We're speaking to him in Charlottesville.

Professor, welcome to Democracy Now!

SIVA VAIDHYANATHAN : Oh, thanks. It's good to be here.

AMY GOODMAN : Well, let's begin with this latest news. There are hearings today that the Senate Intelligence Committee is holding, and yesterday Facebook removed these -- well, a bunch of pages, saying they don't know if it's Russian trolls, but they think they are inauthentic. Talk about these pages, what they mean, what research is being done and your concerns.

... ... ...

SIVA VAIDHYANATHAN : Yeah. Look, Cambridge Analytica was a great story, right? It finally brought to public attention the fact that for more than five years Facebook had encouraged application developers to get maximal access to Facebook data, to personal data and activity, not just from the people who volunteered to be watched by these app developers, but all of their friends -- right? -- which nobody really understood except Facebook itself and the application developers. So, thousands of application developers got almost full access to millions of Facebook users for five years. This was basic Facebook policy. This line was lost in the storm over Cambridge Analytica.

...You know, Steve Bannon helped run the company for a while. It's paid for by Robert Mercer, you know, one of the more evil hedge fund managers in the United States. You know, it had worked for Cruz, for Ted Cruz's campaign, and then for the Brexit campaign and also for Donald Trump's campaign in 2016. So it's really easy to look at Cambridge Analytica and think of it as this dramatic story, this one-off. But the fact is, Cambridge Analytica is kind of a joke. It didn't actually accomplish anything. It pushed this weird psychometric model for voter behavior prediction, which no one believes works.

And the fact is, the Trump campaign, the Ted Cruz campaign, and, before that, the Duterte campaign in the Philippines, the Modi campaign in India, they all used Facebook itself to target voters, either to persuade them to vote or dissuade them from voting. Right? This was the basic campaign, because the Facebook advertising platform allows you to target people quite precisely, in groups as small as 20. You can base it on ethnicity and on gender, on interest, on education level, on ZIP code or other location markers. You can base it on people who are interested in certain hobbies, who read certain kinds of books, who have certain professional backgrounds. You can slice and dice an audience so precisely. It's the reason that Facebook makes as much money as it does, because if you're selling shoes, you would be a fool not to buy an ad on Facebook, right? And that's drawing all of this money away from commercially based media and journalism. At the same time, it's enriching Facebook. But political actors have figured out how to use this quite deftly.

AMY GOODMAN : "Every Breath You Take" by The Police. This is Democracy Now! ,, The War and Peace Report . We're spending the hour with professor Siva Vaidhyanathan, who is author of Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy . He's speaking to us from Charlottesville, from the University of Virginia, professor of media studies and head of the Center for Media and Citizenship at UVA . Your book, Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy .

I want to go back to the beginning of this interview, where we talked about Facebook taking down more than 30 pages, saying that they are not authentic. We immediately got responses from all over saying the protest against the Unite the Right rally in Washington, D.C., in August, around the anniversary of the attacks at your university, University of Virginia, are real. These protests against Unite the Right are real. So, this goes to a very important issue, Professor, that you now have Facebook, this corporation, deciding what we see and what we don't see. It's almost as if they run the telephone company and they're listening to what we say and deciding what to edit, even if some of the stuff is absolutely heinous that people are talking to each other about -- the idea of this multinational corporation becoming the publisher and seen as that and determining what gets out. So, yes, there's a protest against Unite the Right. That is very real. They've taken down one page, that might not have been real, organizing the protest against Unite the Right. And the Unite the Right rally is supposed to be happening. What, for example, would happen if there was a protest against Facebook, Siva?

SIVA VAIDHYANATHAN : Yeah, you can't use Facebook to protest against Facebook, by the way. You can't even use Facebook to advertise a book about Facebook, for actually one --

AMY GOODMAN : What do you mean?

SIVA VAIDHYANATHAN : Well, they will not allow a group or a page or an advertisement to contain the word "Facebook." And it's not just to insulate themselves from criticism. That is a nice bonus for them. But it's really because they don't want any sort of implication that the company itself is endorsing any group or page or product. So, the use of the word -- look, the only way Facebook operates is algorithmically, right? It has machines make very blunt decisions. So the very presence of the word "Facebook" will knock a group down or knock a page down. And so you can't use Facebook to criticize Facebook, not very effectively.

AMY GOODMAN : So what about your book, which has the word "Facebook" in it?

SIVA VAIDHYANATHAN : Right. I can't -- I can't buy ads on Facebook about it. But that's OK. I think I'll do OK.

... ... ...

But in addition, Facebook has the ability to get hijacked, because what it promotes mostly are items that generate strong emotions. What generates strong emotions? Well, content that is cute or lovely, like puppies and baby goats, but also content that is extreme, content that is angry, content that is hateful, content that feeds conspiracy theories. And this hateful, angry conspiracy theory collection doesn't just spread because people like it. In fact, it, more often than not, spreads because people have problems with it. If I were to post some wacky conspiracy theory on my Facebook page today, nine out of 10 of the comments that would follow it would be friends of mine arguing against me, telling me how stupid I was for posting this. The very act of commenting on that post amplifies its reach, puts it on more people's news feeds, makes it last longer, sit higher. Right? So the very act of arguing against the crazy amplifies the crazy. It's one of the reasons that Facebook is a terrible place to deliberate about the world. It's a really effective place if you want to motivate people toward all sorts of ends, like getting out to a rally. But it's terrible if you actually want to think and discuss and deliberate about the problems in the world. And what the world needs now more than anything are more opportunities to deliberate calmly and effectively and with real information. And Facebook is working completely against that goal.

by around 2002, Google figured out how to target ads quite effectively based on the search terms that you had used. By about 2007, Facebook was starting to build ads into its platform, as well. And because it had so much more rich information on our interests and our connections and our habits, and even, once we put Facebook on our mobile phones, our location -- it could trace us to whatever store we went into, whatever church or synagogue or mosque we went into; it could know everything about us -- at that point, targeting ads became incredibly efficient and effective. That's what drove the massive revenues for both Facebook and Google. That's why Facebook and Google have all the advertising money these days, right? It's why the traditional public sphere is so impoverished, why it's so hard to pay reporters a living wage these days, because Facebook and Google is taking all that money -- are taking all that money, because they developed something better than the display ad of a newspaper or magazine, frankly. But there was just no holding back on that. As a result, once Facebook goes big, once Twitter emerges around 2009, you start seeing --

... ... ...

Right now, there are 220 million Americans who regularly use Facebook. That's pretty flat. But there are 250 million people in India who regularly use Facebook, so more than in the United States. And that's only a quarter of the population of India. So, not only is the future of Facebook in India, the present of Facebook is in India. So let's keep that in mind. This is a global phenomenon. The United States matters less and less every day.

Yet the United States Congress has inordinate power over Facebook. The fact that its headquarters is here, for one thing. The fact that the major stock markets of the world pay strong attention to what goes on in our country, right? So we have the ability, if we cared to, to break up Facebook. We would have to revive an older vision of antitrust, one that takes the overall health of the body politic seriously, not just the price to consumers seriously. But we could and should break up Facebook. We never should have -- excuse me -- allowed Facebook to purchase WhatsApp. We should never have allowed Facebook to purchase Instagram. Those are two of the potential competitors to Facebook. If those two companies existed separately from Facebook and the data were not shared among the user files with Facebook, there might be a chance that market forces could curb the excesses of Facebook. That didn't happen. We really should sever those parts. We should also sever the virtual reality project of Facebook, which is called Oculus Rift. Virtual reality has the potential to work its way into all sorts of areas of life, from pilot training to surgeon training to pornography. In all of these ways -- to shopping -- right? -- to tourism. In all of these ways, we should be very concerned that Facebook itself is likely to control all of the data about one of the more successful and leading virtual reality companies in the world. That's a problem. Again, we should spin that off. But we should also limit what Facebook can do with its data. We should have strong data protection laws in this country, in Canada, in Australia, in Brazil, in India, to allow users to know when their data is being used and misused and sold.

Those are necessary but, I'm afraid, insufficient legislative and regulatory interventions. Ultimately, we are going to have to put Facebook in its place and in a box. We are going to have to recognize, first of all, that Facebook brings real value to people around the world. Right? There are not 2.2 billion fools using Facebook. There are 2.2 billion people using Facebook because it brings something of value to their lives, often those puppy pictures or news of a cousin's kid graduating from high school, right? Those are important things. They are not to be dismissed. There are also places in the world where Facebook is the entire media system, or at least the entire internet, places like sub-Saharan Africa, places like Myanmar, places like Sri Lanka, and increasingly in India, Facebook is everything. And we can't dismiss that, as well. And so, we are -- AMY GOODMAN : Well, I mean, the government works with Facebook. For example, you talk about --


AMY GOODMAN : -- Myanmar, Burma. It's more expensive to get internet on your phone if you're trying to access a site outside of Facebook.


AMY GOODMAN : It's free to use Facebook services on your phone.

SIVA VAIDHYANATHAN : Right, Facebook -- use of Facebook does not count against your data cap in Myanmar and in about 40 other countries around the world, the poorest countries in the world. So, the poorest places in the world are becoming Facebook-dependent at a rapid rate. This was -- Facebook put this plan forward as a philanthropic arm. And one could look at it cynically and say, "Well, you were just trying to build Facebook customers." But the people who run Facebook are true believers that the more people use Facebook for more hours a day, the better humanity will be. I think we've shown otherwise. I know my book shows otherwise. And I think we've built -- we've allowed Facebook to build this terrible monster that is taking great advantage of the people who are most vulnerable. And it's one reason I think we should pay less attention to what's going on.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, but, Professor Vaidhyanathan, I think also, though, the importance of your book is that while you concentrate on Facebook, you make the point over and over again that it's not just Facebook. I think in the conclusion to your book -- I want to read a section where you talk about technopoly. And you say, "Between Google and Facebook we have witnessed a global concentration of wealth and power not seen since the British and Dutch East India Companies ruled vast territories, millions of people, and the most valuable trade routes." And then you go on to say, "Like the East India Companies, they excuse their zeal and umbrage around the world by appealing to the missionary spirit: they are, after all, making the world better, right? They did all this by inviting us in, tricking us into allowing them to make us their means to wealth and power, distilling our activities and identities into data, and launching a major ideological movement" -- what Neil Postman, the famous NYU critic, called technopoly. And then you go on to say, "'Technopoly is a state of culture. It is also a state of mind. It consists of the deification of technology, which means that the culture seeks its authorization in technology, finds its satisfactions in technology, and takes its orders from technology.'" You could say this about Uber, about Airbnb, about all these folks that are saying that data and technology will save the world.

SIVA VAIDHYANATHAN : That's right. It's a false religion. And what we really need is to rehumanize ourselves. That is the long, hard work. So, I can propose a few regulatory interventions, and they would make a difference, but not enough of a difference. Fundamentally, we have to break ourselves out of this habit of techno-fundamentalism -- trying to come up with a technological solution to make up for the damage done by the previous technology. It's a very bad habit. It doesn't get us anywhere. If we really want to limit the damage that Facebook has done, we have to invest our time and our money in institutions that help us think, that help us think clearly, that can certify truth, that can host debate -- right? -- institutions like journalism, institutions like universities, public libraries, schools, other forms of public forums, town halls. We need to put our time and our energy into face-to-face politics, so we can look our opponents in the eye and recognize them as humans, and perhaps achieve some sort of rapprochement or mutual understanding and respect. Without that, we have no hope. If we're engaging with people only through the smallest of screens, we have no ability to recognize the humanity in each other and no ability to think clearly. We cannot think collectively. We cannot think truthfully. We can't think. We need to build -- rebuild, if we ever had it, our ability to think. That's ultimately the takeaway of my book. I hope we can figure out better, richer ways to think. We're not getting rid of Facebook. We're going to be with it -- we're going to have it for a long time. We might even learn to use it better, and we might rein it in a little better. But, ultimately, the big job is to train ourselves to think better.

AMY GOODMAN : So, Siva, let me ask you about WeChat in China. I mean, WeChat is everything there. It's Yelp, PayPal, Google, Instagram, Facebook, all rolled into one. You write, "With almost a billion users, WeChat has infused itself into their lives in ways Facebook wishes it could."

... ... ...

SIVA VAIDHYANATHAN : The other part of their long-term strategy is, Mark Zuckerberg wants to get into the Chinese market. That is the one place in the world where he can't do business effectively. He would love to take on WeChat directly. But here's the big difference. WeChat, like every other application or software platform in the People's Republic of China answers to the People's Republic of China. There is constant, full surveillance by the government. WeChat cannot operate without that. Facebook seems to be willing to negotiate on that point. If Facebook became more like WeChat, it's very likely that around the world it would have to cut very strong agreements with governments around the world that would allow for maybe not Chinese level of surveillance, but certainly a dangerous level of surveillance and licensing. And so, again, we might not sweat that in the United States or in Western Europe, where we still have some basic civil liberties -- at least most of us do -- but people in Turkey, people in Egypt, people in India should be very worried about that trend.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: What about the issue, that's been much publicized, of the role of Facebook and Twitter and other social media in protest movements, in dissident movements around the world, whether it's in Egypt during the Tahrir Square protests or other parts of the world?

SIVA VAIDHYANATHAN : I think one of the great tragedies of this story is that we were misled into thinking that social media played a direct and motivating role in the uprisings in 2011. In fact, almost nobody in Egypt used Twitter at the time. The handful of people who did were cosmopolitans who lived in Cairo. And what they did, they used Twitter to inform the rest of the world, especially journalists, what was going on in Egypt. That was an important function, but it wasn't used to organize protests. Neither was Facebook, really, for the simple reason that the government watches Facebook, right? The government watches Twitter. If you want to organize a protest out of the eyes of the government, the worst thing you can do is use Facebook or Twitter in that effort, right? In addition, when we think about the Arab Spring, the alleged Arab Spring, we often focus on --

... ... ...

AMY GOODMAN : The Guardian reports today, quote, "A trove of documents released by the city of Memphis late last week appear to show that its police department has been systematically using fake social media profiles to surveil local Black Lives Matter activists, and that it kept dossiers and detailed power point presentations on dozens of Memphis-area activists along with lists of their known associates." The report reveals a fake Memphis Police Department Facebook profile named "Bob Smith" was used to join private groups and pose as an activist. We have just 30 seconds, Siva.

SIVA VAIDHYANATHAN : Yeah. Look, any police department, any state security service anywhere in the world that doesn't infiltrate protest groups or, you know, activist groups that way is foolish, right? It's so easy. Facebook makes surveillance so easy.

My friends who do activism, especially human rights activism, in parts of the world that are authoritarian, the first thing they tell people is get off of Facebook. Use other services to coordinate your activities. Right? Use analog services and technologies. Right? Facebook is the worst possible way to stay out of the gaze of the state. It's great for motivating people to get into the street, but don't be surprised if there are a couple guys with crew cuts in the crowd with you.

[Jul 28, 2018] What Does Google Know About You An (Auto)Complete Guide by John Mason

Jul 27, 2018 |
Authored by John Mason via,

How much does Google really know about you? We did a deep-dive into the data the company collects to find out...

Google might just know you better than anyone.

Thanks to the data the tech giant collects in order to sell ads, Google has a wealth of information on you -- from what you look like to where you live and where you've traveled. The corporation may even be able to guess your favorite food.

Just how does Google know all of this? Jump to our infographic for a quick overview of everything Google knows about you, or check out our full guide by clicking on the icons below.

Although "Google it" has officially entered the cultural lexicon, the mega-corporation is much more than a search engine. It's through its apps, internet-related services, acquired companies and more that the technology company collects data on you. Below, we've broken down the most common app, product or service Google uses to track data, as well as an overview of the specific data collected.

From what you've searched online and the websites you've visited to who your contacts are and what you talk about, Google knows a lot about you. The company is then able to take this information and make informed decisions regarding what you might be interested in, which they show you in the form of ads.

Google's apps give the company a wealth of information on you, from the personal details that make up who you are to your interests, your past travels and your future goals.

Who You Are

From facial recognition to audio recordings and intuitive search, Google is able to create a comprehensive -- and unnervingly correct -- profile about what makes you, you.

Your appearance
Thanks to facial recognition in Google Photos, the search engine probably has a pretty good idea of what you look like. In fact, you can create a "label" within Google Photos that's essentially a tag for each person in your images, and Google is able to separate out that person from every photo you upload -- even if the photo only includes a partial picture or is obscured.

Your voice
If you've ever used voice commands with Google Home, an Android device, or any other Google product or device, the site has a log of it. In fact, not only can you view your past voice commands in the " Voice and Audio " section of Google's My Activity section, you can hear them as well. The site keeps a full history of your audio commands, including voice recordings.

Your religious/political beliefs
Have you searched Google for how to donate to a political campaign? Visited a candidate's website? Watched a sermon on YouTube? Google uses all of this information to build a comprehensive profile that covers everything from whether you're more religious or spiritual to who you're probably voting for in the next election.

Your health status
If you use Google Fit, the company probably has a pretty good overview of your health, from how active you are to the calories you burn a day to your fitness goals. But even if you don't use this Google app, the site probably has a pretty good understanding of the state of your immune system -- or at least how you view it -- from your Google searches. In fact, compiling search engine data and cross-referencing it against patterns may even allow Google to tell if you're getting sick or dealing with a medical issue.

Your personal details
Searched Google for the best lactose-free milk? For what to expect when you're expecting? For how to learn Spanish fast? Everything you search is tracked by Google, which can be used to better understand personal details about your life, from whether you have dietary restrictions to what languages you speak.

Everywhere You've Ever Been

Location tracking is one of the areas Google excels in -- thanks to advanced location recognition technology, the company knows everything from where you went on vacation two summers ago to what restaurant you eat at most often.

Your home and office
Android phones, which run off of Google's services, and Pixel, Google's own phone, track and record your location through several means, including Wi-Fi, GPS and cellular networks. This means that the phone knows everywhere you are, every day, and how long you're there for.

Google is able to interpret that data and draw conclusions from it -- for example, where you live is probably where your phone is for the majority of nights and weekends. In fact, it may only take Google Now three days to determine where you live. For those on Apple devices or other operating systems, Google Maps works in a similar way.

Places you visit
In addition to collecting information about where you live and work, Google is able to track the other places you visit most often. Do you have a favorite coffee shop? A running route? A daycare center you use every weekday? Google probably knows about it.

Places you've traveled
Google doesn't just know the ins and outs of your everyday life. The tech company knows where you've traveled too, be it a weekend getaway or a month-long trip to a different country.

Not only can Google track the places you've traveled to, it can see what you did while you were there. If you visited a museum in Paris or went line-dancing in Texas, Google knows -- down to the exact time you arrived, how long you stayed, and how long it took you to get from one destination to another. The location tracking can even tell the method of transportation you used, like if you walked or took a train.

Additionally, Google's acquisition of Waze means the site can collect data on where you've been even if you're not connected to Maps or on a Google device.

Who Your Friends Are

Between your contacts and conversations in Gmail and Hangouts and the appointments you make in Google Calendar, the company knows everything from who you're talking with to when and where you're seeing them.

Who you talk to
If you use Gmail for your personal or work email, Google has a list of all your contacts, including who you talk to the most: navigate to Google's " Frequently contacted " section to see which of your Gmail contacts you spend the most time conversing with (and to check if Google's assessment of who you like the most aligns with your own). Android and Pixel users also give Google access to their phone contacts and text messages.

Where you meet
Meeting a friend for coffee later? If it's on your Google Calendar, the company knows about it -- and, thanks to location tracking, can map your trip from your house to the coffee shop and back. If you take a picture with your friend at the shop and upload it to Google Photos, Google can use facial recognition to add them to their own specific photo album. You can also tag the location the photo was taken as well.

If, years later, you're trying to remember who you grabbed coffee with that day, Google can help you remember.

What you talk about
Does Google keep track of what you talk about over Gmail? It's an issue up for debate -- the company announced in 2017 that they would stop reading emails for the purposes of creating targeted advertisements. Whether they've actually stopped reading them altogether is another matter.

What You Like and Dislike

Google is in the business of knowing what you're into -- it's how the search engine creates and sells such a personalized advertising experience. From your favorite movie genre to your favorite type of food, Google knows your preferences.

Food, books and movies
Google can use search engine data, like recipes you've researched or book titles you've searched for, to form an idea of what you like and dislike. Certain apps like Google Books, which keeps tracks of the books you've searched and read, deepen this knowledge. Additionally, Google owns YouTube, which means they know which movie trailers you've been seeking out.

Google uses this information, as well as the websites you've visited and the ads you've clicked on, to create a profile of the subjects they think you're interested in. You can see a full list of who they think you are -- down to what shows you watch and what hobbies you pursue in your free time -- in their ads dashboard .

Where you shop and what you buy
If you've ever used Google Shopping to compare the prices of online vendors, Google knows about it. They also know what products you've searched and clicked on through Google Search and can track your website visits and what products you've viewed on retailer websites through Google Chrome.

Your Future Plans

Google's knowledge isn't limited to what you've done in the past or are doing in the present. The company can also use data from their applications and search engine to make predictions about what you'll be doing in the future.

What you're interested in buying, seeing or eating
Interested in seeing a new movie? Checking out a new restaurant or taking a weekend trip to a new city? If you've used Google Search to look up the movie times, make an online reservation or scout out the best tourist activity, Google knows.

Upcoming trips and reservations
Have you searched restaurants to eat at and shows to go to in the city you're visiting? Have you created an itinerary in Google Calendar? Google can collect that data in order to assess your upcoming trips. Google also scans your emails to see what flights you have coming up and can automatically add restaurant reservations to your schedule based on confirmations that have been sent to Gmail.

Future life plans
Have you been searching about homeownership? About when the best age to have children is? About tips for travelling to China? Google uses this information to understand more about you and what you want in the future, to better tailor online advertisements to your needs.

Your Online Life

At its most basic, Google is a search engine and internet services company. So, it's no surprise that in addition to knowing a wealth of your personal details, the site also knows everything there is to know about what you do online.

Websites you've visited
Google keeps a comprehensive list of every site you've visited on Chrome, from any device. The site also keeps a running tab of every search you've run, every ad you've clicked on and every YouTube video you've watched.

Your browsing habits
From how many sites you have bookmarked to how many passwords Chrome auto-fills, Google has a comprehensive understanding of your browser habits, including:

If you're unnerved by the amount of information Google has on you, there are several steps you can take to get around the company's relentless tracking.

1. Use a VPN

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a secure option to keep Google from tracking you while you're online. Although virtual private networks can't completely keep the company from accessing your data, they do hide your IP address , encrypt your internet traffic and make your browsing history private, keeping your online actions much more secure.

2. Use private browsing

Use Google's Incognito Mode to ensure that the pages you access won't show up in your browsing history or search history. Be aware, however, that other websites can still collect and share information about you, even when you're using private browsing.

3. Adjust your privacy settings

Check out Google's Activity Controls to change what data is stored about you and visit your Activity Page to delete stored history and activity.

4. Turn off location reporting

In Google Maps -- as well as in your Android and Pixel device settings, if you use those products -- disable location reporting to keep Google from tracking where you are and where you go. If you use Google Maps or Waze for directions, though, the company can still collect location data on you when you're using those apps.

5. Use a different browser and search engine

To stop Google from tracking your searches and website visits, you can use another browser and search engine, like Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Bing. However, this will only stop Google from tracking you -- Microsoft (or whatever company owns the browser you switch to) will get your data instead.

6. Delete your Google accounts

To truly stop the tech giant from tracking you, you'll need to take drastic measures -- namely, disavowing the use of any of the company's products. That means deleting any apps linked to the company, including Gmail, Google Drive and any Android devices, and moving to a different browser and search engine.

Google has made life a lot simpler in many ways. Google Search has made answers just a click away. Google Maps has made directions easy to find and understand. Google Drive has made working across multiple platforms seamless.

This convenience comes with a price: privacy. If you're concerned about how Google is tracking you -- and what they're doing with the data -- follow the steps above to keep yourself safe, and visit Google's Privacy Site for a more comprehensive overview of what data Google is tracking and how they use it.

[Jul 28, 2018] Google, Facebook, MSN, and Twitter are all highly suspect

Notable quotes:
"... When monopolies are allowed flourish, giants develops. Giants tend to covet the source of their monopolies. In the case of Information monopolies, removing available information and omitting it from search engine searches and public indexes, often start as a means to offer access in exchange for money , but soon evolves into using technology to control the entire information environment . ..."
"... Gating access to information and controlling one's information environment allows to engineer a persons culture, sense of self, and level of satisfaction (as in pacification) this is done much the same way a psychiatrist might do to a rat caged in a research lab. ..."
Aug 24, 2017 |

fudmier , Aug 24, 2017 5:27:02 AM | 65

re: 37 .. get Tor Browswer use which I believe is free from tracking .

Google Facebook MSN, and Twitter are all highly suspect.. as is email that is secretly maintained by our largest communications giant. IMHO.
the biggest danger to democracy I see is not trade corruption between leaders of nation states, but on-going removal of available information from view of the common ordinary people (denial of access is one thing, but denial of awareness that certain information might exist is quite another ).

At the moment the American Disabilities act is forcing colleges and educational institutions to remove educational materials from public access and denying the public the use of such educational materials.

When monopolies are allowed flourish, giants develops. Giants tend to covet the source of their monopolies. In the case of Information monopolies, removing available information and omitting it from search engine searches and public indexes, often start as a means to offer access in exchange for money , but soon evolves into using technology to control the entire information environment .

Gating access to information and controlling one's information environment allows to engineer a persons culture, sense of self, and level of satisfaction (as in pacification) this is done much the same way a psychiatrist might do to a rat caged in a research lab. .

[Jul 28, 2018] Alphabet's Eric Schmidt Steps Down From Executive Chairman Role

There are two faces of Google: evil (systematic collection of user data, collision with the intelligence agencies( Snowden revelations about PRISM, Gmail) and good (Googlemap (rumored to be a present from the US military), Youtube, Google translator, Google scholar, and several other projects).
Jul 28, 2018 |

It documents that Eric Emerson Schmidt , the Executive Chairman of Alphabet – an American multinational conglomerate that owns a lot and among them Google – is working on "de-ranking" alleged propaganda outlets such as Russia Today, RT – the world's third largest television network – and Sputnik.

Who is Eric Schmidt?

On the Wikipedia link you can read more about Mr. Schmidt , one of the richest person on earth, an advocate of net neutrality, a corporate manager and owner of a lot, a collector of modern art, etc. And you can read about his heavy involvement with Hillary Clinton's recent campaign and the Obama administration and about Schmidt's involvement with Pentagon, too.

Eric Emerson Schmidt's name is associated with the world's largest and most systematic data collecting search engine , Google, that millions upon millions use. School children, teachers, parents, media people, politicians and you and I all daily "google" what we need to know.

While we do that, Google tracks everything about us and if you are searching for a thing to buy, say a camera, be sure that camera ads will shortly after turn up on your screen. And they know everything we are interested in through our "googling" including political interests and hobbies.

Playing God

This very powerful corporate leader with a open political orientation has decided - as will be seen 58 seconds into the video – that the Internet and his hugely dominating search engine a) shall cave in to political pressure, b) de-rank at least these two Russian media organizations because c) he knows they are "propaganda outlets" (it isn't discussed at all or compared with US or other countries' media) and d) in the name of political correctness it is OK to limit the freedom of opinion-formation.

In fact, he says in a few words that he – well, not he himself but a computer program and mechanism called an algorithm – shall decide what you are I shall be able to find. Google as Good, Google as God.

Conspicuously, his de-ranking – read censorship – policy shall not hit media (as far as we can understand from this clip at least and not from this backgrounder either) that have, for instance, been using fake news and planted stories, omitted facts and perspectives and sources and told us propaganda and worse about, say, US wars around the world.

It's Russia's media. And naturally you ask: Whose next? And where does that end? ("Wherever they burn books, in the end will also burn human beings." – Heinrich Heine).

Obvious human rights violation

This type of political paternalism is not only totally unethical and foolish, it's a violation of human rights. It cannot be defended with the argument that other countries and media outlets also use propaganda. The Western world – the U.S. in particular – calls itself 'the free world" and gladly, without the slightest doubts, fights and kills to spread that freedom around the world and has done so for decades.

We humans have right to information without interference – at least if international law counts. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states states that "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

You abuse power, Mr. Schmidt

Mr Schmidt, you are blatantly and clearly interfering in the rights of millions, if not billions, to know. To seek information. To shape their opinions.

With your few words you abuse your almost unlimited digital, political, economic and 'defence' power – much much worse than if you had sexually abused just one woman for which older men today are fired or choose to resign.

This has to be stated irrespective of whether we like or dislike Russia and its media. That is not the issue here. This has to be fought against because it is slippery slope, Mr Schmidt.

You ought to stand up and use your powers with principles and vision: To protect the Internet against every and each reduction of freedom. Freedom for all, also the fake news-makers however we define them. Yes, there is another solution for that problem and it is not your paternalism.

It just cannot be for you to decide what is good for others and collect data about us all which is only good for you.

Has the West really become so insecure about itself?

Censorship – de-ranking – and information warfare is not the solution to anything. A strong society or culture that believes in its own moral value and vitality does not censor. Dictatorships – "regimes" – do.

Mr. Schmidt has much more power than many state leaders but he is not up to it and how would he be able to re-rank themes and media again in the future.

Has the West, the US and Western culture become so weak, so trembling at the sight of the global future and so morally deranged that it cannot live with – does not believe it can compete factually and intelligently with – other views? With fake? With propaganda by others? If so, that is where the Soviet Union was in the early 1980s. And if so, watch the writing of the Western walls!

Education and trust

There are much better solutions – if you think. Mr. Schmidt may also google them

It's education – education of young and old to learn to identify what is trustworthy and what is not. Learning to learn on the Internet. It is dialogue and it is dignity – instead of succumbing to the lowest of levels that he accuses others of being at.

And there is more solutions.

Making democracy, freedom and human rights stronger – by believing in human beings, their intelligence and solidarity. When Google de-ranks, it de-humanises. It offends the intelligence of the world's users of the Google search engine.

It sinks to the low level where fakers and liars are – devoid of morals but passionate about selling a particular message even if totally unfounded.

What are you so afraid of, Mr. Schmidt?

If I were Eric Schmidt, I think I would be afraid of being perceived as a "useful idiot" or an an evil operator on behalf of US militarism – since he is targeting Russia in a the new Cold War atmosphere.

After all is/was a member also of various US government security and Pentagon related boards. And after all, he spoke at the Halifax Security Forum filled with military defence people and hardliners who see only Russia, North Korea and Iran as problems, never the US itself. One of the panels deals with the "Post-Putin Prep"!

Regime change in Russia too in the future and with truthful news from Google?

Mr. Schmidt and his corporate fellows should also be afraid that millions will become more sympathetic to Russia Today, Sputnik and even Russia itself precisely because of his words.

There are no wars on the ground without information war. If Schmidt's Google fights political wars with de-ranking, many of us will be de-parting to more peaceful, rights-respecting and ethical search engines than his. ...

Thought Processor , Dec 21, 2017 5:17 PM

I would imagine that the CIA will still have key oversight even if Schmidt steps down.

Pinto Currency -> bamawatson , Dec 21, 2017 5:30 PM

Just because he used the company to interfere in the US election siding with Clinton?

Surely In-Q-Tel would appove, no?

Yes We Can. But... -> HowdyDoody , Dec 21, 2017 5:49 PM

Perhaps this sheds a bit of light on the matter...

Cutter -> Yes We Can. But Lets Not. , Dec 21, 2017 5:51 PM

Yup. I was thinking it. Didn't want to say it.

Laughing.Man -> Yes We Can. But Lets Not. , Dec 21, 2017 6:01 PM

Never would have guessed that he's a serial womanizer. I was expect something more disgusting.

Yes We Can. But... -> Laughing.Man , Dec 21, 2017 7:11 PM

Well, he does have the serial love-nest soundproofed.

topspinslicer , Dec 21, 2017 5:38 PM

About time. He did plenty of evil . Why be such an arrogant bastard when you are a mere mortal?

Tachyon5321 , Dec 21, 2017 5:39 PM

Right, considering Schmidt is known to have hung out at the Playboy manor and has loved up more than his share of the babes... No proof, but this sounds like damage control.

DipshitMiddleCl... , Dec 21, 2017 5:53 PM

Googles dragnet is scary good. They have 1984 levels of power via manipulation of data and information.

I wouldnt be surprised if they have secretive hedge funds internally or "partners" in which they share data with to trade on.

Avichi , Dec 21, 2017 6:04 PM

38 Million Home in Montecito CA ...may be burnt down by recent Thomas Fire ? Need Money for Alimony and Insurance ?

Here is his home

Mena Arkansas , Dec 21, 2017 6:05 PM

So will he go back to his day job at the NSA or just retire to banging young women not his wife on his megayacht?

pitz , Dec 21, 2017 6:22 PM

Never understood why Google went anywhere. It wasn't superior to anything search-wise until the mid 2000s and earlier in the decade was little more than a joke with a curious name. "PageRank" was nothing particularly interesting, and was generally too computationally complex to implement anyways. Almost nothing was uniquely invented at Google, a company that mostly leveraged open source software created elsewhere. So what is Google really? And why do they have such a cult following?

ThanksIwillHave... -> pitz , Dec 21, 2017 6:50 PM

Yahoo atrophied in the face on millions of websites, Alta Vista conquered that but the user still had read thru wads of results, then Google came along and it was a breath of fresh air, then Google accrued too much power and became Goolag.

GreatUncle -> ThanksIwillHaveAnother , Dec 21, 2017 8:55 PM

+1 Alta Vista was good, but the CIA / US government did not back them.

But if they had they would be in the same position as google.

[Jul 28, 2018] Ex-Amazon workers talk of 'horrendous' conditions

Aug 01, 2013 |

Hundreds of employees of online store Amazon on zero hours contracts are subjected to a regime described as "horrendous" and "exhausting", it is claimed.

Shaun Dobbie , 2 years ago

The place is full of favoritism and you MUST hit target at all times regardless of what barriers you face. Mostly I have enjoyed my job there but I am starting to be picked on.

Adoon Q , 1 year ago

This is the worst place to ever work. They say you have two 15 minute breaks but it's actually a lot less. The amount of people waiting to go through 2 metal detector doors is unreal. It's more like a 7 minute break if you're lucky, same with the lunch. So glad that I'm not working at this company anymore, I now have a much better job with better hours and pay.

spidermandan2k7 , 1 year ago

I worked for amazon in 2014, the interview was via an agency where a group of us has to do a couple of written tests and then urinate into pots. I applied for the picker and packer team and when I got started I was put on the heavy lifting section.

Once I got my first shift/training the "team leaders" were useless and anytime you asked a question it was like an issue to them. One female team leader tried to ignore me for as long as she could until i finally got her attention and she answered with a nasty attitude.

On my second day which was my first time doing the heavy lifting, "team leaders" walking across a skywalk just above our heads and constantly monitoring what everything was doing even going as far as to smack a stick on the railing to stop a conversation.

They would occasionally be walking behind you aswell. It felt more like work in a prison being watched by guards.

The security staff were the biggest bunch of overly macho idiots I've ever seen, walking around with the chests pushed out and shouting silly jokes at the workers expense. You're not allowed nothing in your pockets while in the warehouse and I was told a lighter would be fine by one of the team leaders, but once I went to leave through the metal detectors one of the said macho bunch came over and spoke to me like dirt demanding my name and when I tried to explain it to him his attitude become more hostile to me.

Needless to say after my 2nd shift I quit as I was not about to put myself through something like that.

When I went into hand my ID card in 2 team leaders and 2 security were at reception and even giving that back consisted of a nasty attitude and asking what I was doing and why I was leaving. I simply smiled and said better job offer and left without giving them a chance to talk. It truly is a horrible place to work for and could be advertised as a prison job experience!

No Hope For Humanity , 1 year ago

My sister worked for Amazon for about a month before they sacked her.

She said they followed her everywhere from the bathroom to the break room, and she wasn't allowed to take more than one five minute break a day.

She had one friend there who she talked to, and they fired him as well. Amazon is garbage.

whoami , 1 year ago

Bezos is yet another disgusting immoral man driven by his mortal greed - with proof. if every amazon user that is aware of this reality decided to not buy from amazon again, this would be the fairest punishment. I wish everyone has an alternative choice for work and never has to choose to work for this greedy and inhumane corporation called amazon. absolutely revolting.

[Jul 28, 2018] Surveillance Valley by Yasha Levine Hachette Book Group PublicAffairs

Notable quotes:
"... NBC Evening News ..."
"... Surveillance Valley ..."
"... Surveillance Valley ..."
Jul 28, 2018 |

The Secret Military History of the Internet

by Yasha Levine The internet is the most effective weapon the government has ever built.

In this fascinating book, investigative reporter Yasha Levine uncovers the secret origins of the internet, tracing it back to a Pentagon... Read More

Genre: Nonfiction / Political Science / Privacy & Surveillance

On Sale: February 6th 2018

Price: $16.99 / $21.99 (CDN)

Page Count: 384

ISBN-13: 9781610398039

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By clicking 'Sign Up,' I acknowledge that I have read and agree to Hachette Book Group's Privacy Policy and Terms of Use What's Inside Prologue Oakland, California

I t was February 18, 2014, and already dark when I crossed the Bay Bridge from San Francisco and parked my car in downtown Oakland. The streets were deserted, save for a couple of homeless men slumped in a heap against a closed storefront. Two police cruisers raced through a red light, sirens blaring.

I approached Oakland's city hall on foot. Even from a distance, I could see that something unusual was going on. A line of parked police cars ran down the block, and news anchors and TV camera crews scampered about, jockeying for position. A large group of people milled near the entrance, a few of them setting up what looked like a giant papier-mâché rat, presumably intended as a symbol for snitching. But the real action was inside. Several hundred people packed Oakland's ornate high-domed city council chamber. Many of them carried signs. It was an angry crowd, and police officers flanked the sides of the room, ready to push everyone out if things got out of hand.

The commotion was tied to the main agenda item of the night: the city council was scheduled to vote on an ambitious $11 million project to create a citywide police surveillance hub. Its official name was the "Domain Awareness Center" -- but everyone called it "the DAC." Design specs called for linking real-time video feeds from thousands of cameras across the city and funneling them into a unified control hub. Police would be able to punch in a location and watch it in real time or wind back the clock. They could turn on face recognition and vehicle tracking systems, plug in social media feeds, and enhance their view with data coming in from other law enforcement agencies -- both local and federal. 1

Plans for this surveillance center had been roiling city politics for months, and the outrage was now making its presence felt. Residents, religious leaders, labor activists, retired politicians, masked "black bloc" anarchists, and reps from the American Civil Liberties Union -- they were all in attendance, rubbing shoulder to shoulder with a group of dedicated local activists who had banded together to stop the DAC. A nervous, bespectacled city official in a tan suit took the podium to reassure the agitated crowd that the Domain Awareness Center was designed to protect them -- not spy on them. "This is not a fusion center. We have no agreements with the NSA or the CIA or the FBI to access our databases," he said.

The hall blew up in pandemonium. The crowd wasn't buying it. People booed and hissed. "This is all about monitoring protesters," someone screamed from the balcony. A young man, his face obscured by a mask, stalked to the front of the room and menacingly jammed his smartphone in the city official's face and snapped photos. "How does that feel? How do you like that -- being surveilled all the time!" he yelled. A middle-aged man -- bald, wearing glasses and crumpled khakis -- took the podium and tore into the city's political leaders. "You council members somehow believe that the Oakland Police Department, which has an unparalleled history of violating the civil rights of Oaklanders and which cannot even follow its own policies, be it a crowd control policy or a body camera policy, can somehow be trusted to use the DAC?" He left with a bang, yelling: "The only good DAC is a dead DAC!" Wild applause erupted.

Oakland is one of the most diverse cities in the country. It's also home to a violent, often unaccountable police department, which has been operating under federal oversight for over a decade. The police abuse has been playing out against a backdrop of increasing gentrification fueled by the area's Internet boom and the spike in real estate prices that goes along with it. In San Francisco, neighborhoods like the Mission District, historically home to a vibrant Latino community, have turned into condos and lofts and upscale gastro pubs. Teachers, artists, older adults, and anyone else not making a six-figure salary are having a tough time making ends meet. Oakland, which for a time was spared this fate, was now feeling the crush as well. But locals were not going down without a fight. And a lot of their anger was focused on Silicon Valley.

The people gathered at city hall that night saw Oakland's DAC as an extension of the tech-fueled gentrification that was pushing poorer longtime residents out of the city. "We're not stupid. We know that the purpose is to monitor Muslims, black and brown communities and protesters," said a young woman in a headscarf. "This center comes at a time when you're trying to develop Oakland into a playground and bedroom community for San Francisco professionals. These efforts require you to make Oakland quieter, whiter, less scary and wealthier -- and that means getting rid of Muslims, black and brown people and protesters. You know this and so do developers. We heard them at meetings. They are scared. They verbally admit it."

She had a point. A few months earlier, a pair of Oakland investigative journalists had obtained a cache of internal city-planning documents dealing with the DAC and found that city officials seemed to be interested more in using the proposed surveillance center to monitor political protests and labor union activity at the Oakland docks than in fighting crime. 2

There was another wrinkle. Oakland had initially contracted out development of the DAC to the Science Applications International Corporation, a massive California-based military contractor that does so much work for the National Security Agency that it is known in the intelligence business as "NSA West." The company is also a major CIA contractor, involved in everything from monitoring agency employees as part of the agency's "insider threat" programs to running the CIA's drone assassination fleet. Multiple Oakland residents came up to blast the city's decision to partner with a company that was such an integral part of the US military and intelligence apparatus. "SAIC facilitates the telecommunications for the drone program in Afghanistan that's murdered over a thousand innocent civilians, including children," said a man in a black sweater. "And this is the company you chose?"

I looked around the room in amazement. This was the heart of a supposedly progressive San Francisco Bay Area, and yet the city planned on partnering with a powerful intelligence contractor to build a police surveillance center that, if press reports were correct, officials wanted to use to spy on and monitor locals. Something made that scene even stranger to me that night. Thanks to a tip from a local activist, I had gotten wind that Oakland had been in talks with Google about demoing products in what appeared to be an attempt by the company to get a part of the DAC contract.

Google possibly helping Oakland spy on its residents? If true, it would be particularly damning. Many Oaklanders saw Silicon Valley companies such as Google as being the prime drivers of the skyrocketing housing prices, gentrification, and aggressive policing that was making life miserable for poor and low-income residents. Indeed, just a few weeks earlier protesters had picketed outside the local home of a wealthy Google manager who was personally involved in a nearby luxury real estate development.

Google's name never came up during the tumultuous city council meeting that night, but I did manage to get my hands on a brief email exchange between a Google "strategic partnership manager" and an Oakland official spearheading the DAC project that hinted at something in the works. 3

In the weeks after the city council meeting, I attempted to clarify this relationship. What kinds of services did Google offer Oakland's police surveillance center? How far did the talks progress? Were they fruitful? My requests to Oakland were ignored and Google wasn't talking either -- trying to get answers from the company was like talking to a giant rock. My investigation stalled further when Oakland residents temporarily succeeded in getting the city to halt its plans for the DAC.

Though Oakland's police surveillance center was put on hold, the question remained: What could Google, a company obsessed with its progressive "Don't Be Evil" image, offer a controversial police surveillance center?

At the time, I was a reporter for Pando , a small but fearless San Francisco magazine that covered the politics and business of Silicon Valley. I knew that Google made most of its money through a sophisticated targeted advertising system that tracked its users and built predictive models of their behavior and interests. The company had a glimpse into the lives of close to two billion people who used its platforms -- from email to video to mobile phones -- and it performed a strange kind of alchemy, turning people's data into gold: nearly $100 billion in annual revenue and a market capitalization of $600 billion; its cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin had a combined personal wealth estimated to be $90 billion.

Google is one of the wealthiest and most powerful corporations in the world, yet it presents itself as one of the good guys: a company on a mission to make the world a better place and a bulwark against corrupt and intrusive governments all around the globe. And yet, as I traced the story and dug into the details of Google's government contracting business, I discovered that the company was already a full-fledged military contractor, selling versions of its consumer data mining and analysis technology to police departments, city governments, and just about every major US intelligence and military agency. Over the years, it had supplied mapping technology used by the US Army in Iraq, hosted data for the Central Intelligence Agency, indexed the National Security Agency's vast intelligence databases, built military robots, colaunched a spy satellite with the Pentagon, and leased its cloud computing platform to help police departments predict crime. And Google is not alone. From Amazon to eBay to Facebook -- most of the Internet companies we use every day have also grown into powerful corporations that track and profile their users while pursuing partnerships and business relationships with major US military and intelligence agencies. Some parts of these companies are so thoroughly intertwined with America's security services that it is hard to tell where they end and the US government begins.

Since the start of the personal computer and Internet revolution in the 1990s, we've been told again and again that we are in the grips of a liberating technology, a tool that decentralizes power, topples entrenched bureaucracies, and brings more democracy and equality to the world. Personal computers and information networks were supposed to be the new frontier of freedom -- a techno-utopia where authoritarian and repressive structures lost their power, and where the creation of a better world was still possible. And all that we, global netizens, had to do for this new and better world to flower and bloom was to get out of the way and let Internet companies innovate and the market work its magic. This narrative has been planted deep into our culture's collective subconscious and holds a powerful sway over the way we view the Internet today.

But spend time looking at the nitty-gritty business details of the Internet and the story gets darker, less optimistic. If the Internet is truly such a revolutionary break from the past, why are companies like Google in bed with cops and spies?

I tried to answer this seemingly simple question after visiting Oakland that night in February. Little did I know then that this would take me on a deep dive into the history of the Internet and ultimately lead me to write this book. Now, after three years of investigative work, interviews, travel across two continents, and countless hours of correlating and researching historical and declassified records, I know the answer.

Pick up any popular history of the Internet and you will generally find a combination of two narratives describing where this computer networking technology came from. The first narrative is that it emerged out of the military's need for a communication network that could survive a nuclear blast. That led to the development of the early Internet, first known as ARPANET, built by the Pentagon's Advanced Research Projects Agency (known today as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA). The network went live in the late 1960s and featured a decentralized design that could route messages even if parts of the network were destroyed by a nuclear blast. The second narrative, which is the most dominant, contends that there was no military application of the early Internet at all. In this version, the ARPANET was built by radical young computer engineers and playful hackers deeply influenced by the acid-drenched counterculture of the San Francisco Bay Area. They cared not a damn about war or surveillance or anything of the sort, but dreamed of computer-mediated utopias that would make militaries obsolete. They built a civilian network to bring this future into reality, and it is this version of the ARPANET that then grew into the Internet we use today. For years, a conflict has raged between these historical interpretations. These days, most histories offer a mix of the two -- acknowledging the first, yet leaning much more heavily on the second.

My research reveals a third historical strand in the creation of the early Internet -- a strand that has all but disappeared from the history books. Here, the impetus was rooted not so much in the need to survive a nuclear attack but in the dark military arts of counterinsurgency and America's fight against the perceived global spread of communism. In the 1960s, America was a global power overseeing an increasingly volatile world: conflicts and regional insurgencies against US-allied governments from South America to Southeast Asia and the Middle East. These were not traditional wars that involved big armies but guerrilla campaigns and local rebellions, frequently fought in regions where Americans had little previous experience. Who were these people? Why were they rebelling? What could be done to stop them? In military circles, it was believed that these questions were of vital importance to America's pacification efforts, and some argued that the only effective way to answer them was to develop and leverage computer-aided information technology.

The Internet came out of this effort: an attempt to build computer systems that could collect and share intelligence, watch the world in real time, and study and analyze people and political movements with the ultimate goal of predicting and preventing social upheaval. Some even dreamed of creating a sort of early warning radar for human societies: a networked computer system that watched for social and political threats and intercepted them in much the same way that traditional radar did for hostile aircraft. In other words, the Internet was hardwired to be a surveillance tool from the start. No matter what we use the network for today -- dating, directions, encrypted chat, email, or just reading the news -- it always had a dual-use nature rooted in intelligence gathering and war.

As I traced this forgotten history, I found that I was not so much discovering something new but uncovering something that was plainly obvious to a lot of people not so long ago. Starting in the early 1960s in the United States, a big fear about the proliferation of computer database and networking technologies arose. People worried that these systems would be used by both corporations and governments for surveillance and control. Indeed, the dominant cultural view at the time was that computers and computing technology -- including the ARPANET, the military research network that would grow into the Internet we use today -- were tools of repression, not liberation.

In the course of my investigation, I was genuinely shocked to discover that as early as 1969, the first year that the ARPANET came online, a group of students at MIT and Harvard attempted to shut down research taking place at their universities under the ARPANET umbrella. They saw this computer network as the start of a hybrid private-public system of surveillance and control -- "computerized people-manipulation" they called it -- and warned that it would be used to spy on Americans and wage war on progressive political movements. They understood this technology better than we do today. More importantly, they were right. In 1972, almost as soon as the ARPANET was rolled out on a national level, the network was used to help the CIA, the NSA, and the US Army spy on tens of thousands of antiwar and civil rights activists. It was a big scandal at the time, and the ARPANET's role in it was discussed at length on American television, including NBC Evening News .

This episode, which took place forty-five years ago, is a vital part of the historical record, important to anyone who wants to understand the network that mediates so much of our lives today. Yet you won't find it mentioned in any recent book or documentary on the origins of the Internet -- at least not any that I could find, and I read and watched just about all of them.

Surveillance Valley is an attempt to recover part of this lost history. But it is more than that. The book starts in the past, going back to the development of what we now call the Internet during the Vietnam War. But it quickly moves into the present, looking at the private surveillance business that powers much of Silicon Valley, investigating the ongoing overlap between the Internet and the military-industrial complex that spawned it half a century ago, and uncovering the close ties that exist between US intelligence agencies and the antigovernment privacy movement that has sprung up in the wake of Edward Snowden's leaks. Surveillance Valley shows that little has changed over the years: the Internet was developed as a weapon and remains a weapon today. American military interests continue to dominate all parts of the network, even those that supposedly stand in opposition.

Yasha Levine

New York

December 2017

[Jul 18, 2018] Why I Hate Google, Twitter, and Facebook

Notable quotes:
"... By Lambert Strether of Corrente . ..."
"... twelve (12) days old ..."
"... carefully curated ..."
"... have innovated the paragraph ..."
"... Amen to the part about Google. Once upon a time I could start a Google search with a high probability of finding something useful. These days I have to darned near know the result before I'll find anything. ..."
"... I agree that Google search is not as good as it once was but it could be that the web itself has changed with far more commercial and bubble gum content. There was a time long ago when only nerds used computers. ..."
"... I find Google regularly overriding specific search terms, particularly when I put in a short phrase in quotes, which means Google is supposed to deliver results that match that exact phrase. First page, even the very first result, regularly violate the search criteria. Never happened before ~ 2 years ago. ..."
"... "Isikoff checked the facts for his new book so hard, they were carried off unconscious, and remain in a coma" ..."
Jul 18, 2018 |

Posted on July 17, 2018 by Lambert Strether By Lambert Strether of Corrente .

I am a blogger. It is my job to blog, which I've been doing on a daily basis since 2003. Reading and writing is what I do all day. I'm lucky to be able to survive doing it, and I'm happy to be doing it[1]. I hate Google because it tries to make me a stupid reader. I hate Twitter and Facebook because they make me a stupid writer. I've been wanting to get this off my chest for some time, so allow me to explain.

Let's where I start, with reading. As a blogger, I need to process and filter enormous amounts of newsworthy content hours a day, every day (as does Yves). I am like an enormous baleen whale nourished by krill. So here is how the insanely stupid and wasteful Google News helps me -- and you, dear readers! -- do this:

(I've erased the Weather box at top right, which is Google's little way of letting me know it's tracking my location even though cookies are off.) First, look at the page, which is a complete screenful on a laptop (i.e., on the screen of professional content creator who values his time, not a teensy little cellphone screen). In the news links column at left, there are a grand total of nine (9) stories. Please, can we get the steam-era list of blue links back, where we could scan 30 or 40 headlines in a single second's saccade? And note the sources: CNN, HuffPost, Fox, WaPo, NBC News, NPR, CNN, and the WSJ. This is an ecoystem about as barren as my neighbor's lawn! (And if you click on the laughingly named "View full coverage" link, you'll see a page just as empty and vacuous though slightly less barren, with more obcure sources, like Reuters. Or Salon.) You will also note the obvious way in which the page has been gamed by gaslighters and moral panic engineers, who can drive every other story off the front page through sheer volume Finally, you'll note that the fact checkers include organs of state security , in the form of , "a fact-checking website produced by Voice of America (VOA)​ and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty."

Now let's try to use Google News for search. (I find Google proper, though still crapified, better for news, especially if I limit the search by time.) I chose "start treaty," for obvious reasons. Here is the results page:

Yes, on a complete, entire laptop page, there are in total five (5) hits, 3 from the impoverished ecosytem noted above, and one from an organ of state security (RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty). The last hit, from Vox, is twelve (12) days old . Surely there's something more current? Note also the random ordering of the hits: Today, yesterday, 6 days ago, 2 days ago, 12 days ago. (There is, of course, no way to change the ordering.) A news feed that doesn't organize stories chronologically? That doesn't surface current content? What horrible virus has rotted the brain matter of the Google engineers who created this monstrosity? And one more thing:

Famously, the normal Google search page ends with "1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next." Crapified though Google search results are, if you spend some time clicking and scanning, you'll generally be able to come up with something useful five or ten pages in, maybe (if you're lucky) from a source you don't already know exists. Not so with Google "News." When the page ends, it just ends. When the algo has coughed up whatever hairball it's coughed up, it's done. No more. Again, this is news? What about the same story a week ago? A month ago? What does "our democracy" have a free press for, if Google gets in the way of being able to find anything?

So, the Google News experience is so vile and degrading in its stupidity and insolence that I use another tool for reading the news: Twitter. And despite its well-deserved reputation as a hell-site, Twitter -- carefully curated -- does the job, as long as you don't ask too much of it, like news that's more than a month or so old. My beef with Twitter is not as a reader, but as a writer. Here is how you create a tweet in Twitter:

I'll have a sidebar on those miserably inadequate writing tools, at left, in a moment. For now, look at the bottom right: Those disruptive Silicon Valley engineers have innovated the paragraph :

When you click that plus sign, you get A second Tweet, connected to the first, in an easy-to-close-accidentally modal dialog box!

Here, I remind you of the steam age of Blogger, where you could -- hold onto your hats, here, folks -- create a post, composed of paragraphs -- or, if you were a poet, lines; or an artist, images and captions; or an accountant, tables -- all with at least some degree of "flow" and ease. You could even have subheads, to divide your content into sections! The billionaire brainiacs at Twitter have managed to create that first, minimal functionality -- the paragraph -- but without the ability to re-arrange, or even to edit your paragraphs after posting! Does Jack laugh alone at night?[2].

... ... ...

Zachary Smith , July 17, 2018 at 3:53 pm

Amen to the part about Google. Once upon a time I could start a Google search with a high probability of finding something useful. These days I have to darned near know the result before I'll find anything. Google News used to have a dense list of news stories. I don't have a bookmark to the place anymore, relying instead on blog headlines and the like.

Since I've heard nothing good about Facebook I'm agreeable to the notion the site isn't something for me. Never tried "tweeting" and have no plans to do so.

Carolinian , July 17, 2018 at 4:22 pm

I agree that Google search is not as good as it once was but it could be that the web itself has changed with far more commercial and bubble gum content. There was a time long ago when only nerds used computers.

But I don't agree that Google News was ever very useful. Google always admitted that it was edited by algo and it seemed to be a kind of Headline News news summary–the opposite of what a hard core news junkie would want.

RSS is still around and IMO the most useful tool for keeping track of a large number of websites. For off the beaten path links that may not show up on a favorite site there are websites like this one (thanks Yves and Lambert and Jerri-Lynn).

Yves Smith , July 18, 2018 at 1:21 pm

To your first point, no.

I find Google regularly overriding specific search terms, particularly when I put in a short phrase in quotes, which means Google is supposed to deliver results that match that exact phrase. First page, even the very first result, regularly violate the search criteria. Never happened before ~ 2 years ago.

Google in recent years has optimized for:

  1. Shopping
  2. Recency
  3. "Authoritativeness" of sites. The latter criterion, as interpreted by Google = MSM above all. Academic sites get downranked too.
David May , July 17, 2018 at 3:53 pm

So much truth here. Similar story with YouTube: even though Jimmy Dore Is my most watched YouTuber by a long shot, notifications for new vids NEVER, ever, ever appear in my notification thingy or at the top of the page. Never. Google engineers are braniac math scientists (as Jimmy Dore might say), so this is a feature, not a bug. This is deliberate suppression. Inverted totalitarianism.

Arizona Slim , July 17, 2018 at 3:55 pm

I've noticed the same thing. I have to go to Jimmy's channel in order to learn what's new.

ambrit , July 17, 2018 at 5:30 pm

Same here with my "Tinfoil Hatt" sites.

David Carl Grimes , July 17, 2018 at 10:48 pm

I can attest to the same thing. And when I type jimmy on the search box, I always get jimmy Fallon as the first option even though I constantly search for Jimmy Dore.

Jeff W , July 17, 2018 at 6:38 pm

YouTube, for whatever reason, splits the functionality into two parts: subscribing and notifications. If you "just" subscribe, you will not get a number badge indicating a notification at the top right of your YouTube page -- you have to click the "notifications bell" in order to get notifications.

On the YouTube Settings | Notifications page you can also choose to get email messages regarding notifications and choose some other options regarding notifications for YouTube activity. On that same page, if you click Manage all subscriptions (which is buried in the text under Channel subscriptions ), you can see all your subscriptions and which ones have the bell clicked or not.

If you click the hamburger (three bar) icon on the upper left, next to the YouTube logo, that toggles a pane where you can see your history, your subscriptions, your settings and some other things. Even if you haven't clicked the notifications bell, you can see, under Subscriptions , the number of not-yet-watched videos you have, listed by individual channel you've subscribed to. (That's how I generally know that there is a new Jimmy Dore video since I am subscribed to the channel but I don't have notifications turned on.)

All of this is such poorly implemented usability that I hesitate to call it deliberate anything but I won't discount it, either.

Jim Haygood , July 17, 2018 at 3:55 pm

As of September 28th, Alphabet (a/k/a Google), Facebook and Twitter will join an all-new Communications Services sector. Its core is the old Telecommunications Services sector, which has shrunk to but three companies in the S&P 500 (Verizon, AT&T and CenturyLink).

Also joining Communications Services will be media and cable companies -- a full roster of corporate villainy, as it were. The complete list of 22 constituents appears here:

A Communications Services ETF is already trading in advance of the sector's official debut in September. Owing to the exit of seven current Information Technology stocks (including Alphabet, Facebook and Twitter, the targets of Lambert's ire) and 16 Consumer Discretionary stocks (including Comcast, Disney and Netflix), these sectors will change in composition on Sep 28th.

In this exclusive chart, the new post-Sep 28th sectors are backcast as if they all existed today:

Communications Services had been lagging the S&P 500 until last month, when government approval of AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner set off a frenzy in other media stocks which might be bought or merged. With Alphabet and Facebook making up 44.3% of Communications Services by weight, these two giants will tend to dominate its performance.

s , July 17, 2018 at 4:00 pm

Narrow markets with volume, stock buy backs are so yesterday .

diptherio , July 17, 2018 at 4:01 pm

The future is federated. Individual instances, hosted by whoever wants to set one up, that can link to each other, for a fully customizable experience. I like Mastodon (a bird-site replacement), and my particular instance at, even though it doesn't have any of your writerly tools either. But it's open source, so the ability to add them is there:

PeerTube also seems to be taking off, as a federated video sharing platform.

LDK , July 17, 2018 at 4:16 pm

Lambert, you can get back your Old Google News format (pre-AI change) by using this link instead as follows:
It doesn't take away Google's attempt at controlling our information flow with its new AI Gnews format But it should help you get your blue links & sections back ;) – with the caveat that you can't click on said headlines/sections' "see real time coverage" (in which case you go back to our Ministry of Information's AI approved interface). However you can expand on the little down arrow next to each headlines and click on the working links.

Kurt Sperry , July 17, 2018 at 10:39 pm

That's excellent, thank you. Noticeably decrapifies from the new default format.

Lambert Strether Post author , July 18, 2018 at 12:29 am

That's less insane, though all the other issues remain.

Funny to think all this crap is just larded on top of good ol' RSS. It's like one of Clive's banking systems

Fred , July 17, 2018 at 4:19 pm

If you are letting algorithms decide what you watch or read, you are basically giving up. At least use a search engine like Duck Duck Go and never read the news on FB or Twit.

False Solace , July 17, 2018 at 7:29 pm

Duck Duck Go has its own news section which I've used a few times, and it seemed to have way more links than Lambert's screenshot of Google News. Don't know what sites DDG includes but maybe it could be an alternative.

BoulderMike , July 17, 2018 at 7:45 pm

Sadly though I find the same problem with DuckDuckGo. Meaning, it returns the results it wants, rather than what I asked for. Even if I ask for results from the past week I get stuff from 8 years ago. And if I ask for something like Stereo Speakers I get things like "speakers at this years conference ..", etc. Just pure garbage. And the key complaint I have is that Amazon shows up every other result for page after page. If I search for "how to best fertilize tomatoes in Colorado", I get a result showing tomatoes available on And at the top of every search is a "ribbon" of results from Amazon almost exclusively and with "Prime" in the results box. I hate Amazon and wish I could never see that word again, or the words Jeff Bezos. Sigh.

Richard , July 17, 2018 at 10:04 pm

I have the same issue with DDG. My understanding is that it is not different from Google in terms of search results, but simply that it won't surveil you:
Their ad campaign: "Same s*&$ results as Google, but no one will know you're looking!"

Hepativore , July 17, 2018 at 11:14 pm

What about Qwant? I do not like how it feels it has to open links and images in a separate tab automatically, and it takes forever to load images, but I have heard good things about the search engine.

Nlowhim , July 18, 2018 at 3:50 am

I've been using other methods like or to find papers etc on a topic. For geopolitics I try to find a human rights group nearby to see what they say. News is hard to sift through

Procopius , July 18, 2018 at 12:58 am

I don't do Twitter, thank you, but Facebook has News? Hoocoodanode? It's not something I would ever think of using, but one of my friends (who is always threatening to unfriend me) once ranted that she knew the Russians interfered with our election because she saw the bots and memes. When I asked her how she knew a bot she never answered. She's a solid Russiagate cult believer. I suspect she must get her news from FB.

FlashFlud , July 17, 2018 at 4:29 pm

I've noticed it's really, really tough now to find via Google any serious, longform blogs on investing, energy, etc. Almost everything that comes up when I search a topic is a listicle/clickbait, a Salon article, some horrible startup platform with only 10-50 active users, or something locked behind a paywall.

I always thought the best metaphor for this is the end of the "Old West" – all the territory is fenced off and none of the owners want you trespassing on their land. I actually do think the best internet tools were all de-centralized – "federated" as one of your commenters put it.

For instance, wasn't it great when you could make an RSS feed out of literally any series of sites and just click on what you find interesting? Granted, I still think that's possible but I don't see nearly as many websites pushing that compatibility anymore. Instead it's all SEO and racing to be "discoverable" by the big platforms. Information, writing, and the exchange of ideas have suffered as a result.

Dave , July 17, 2018 at 4:40 pm

I've been very happy since switching to Duck Duck Go. Occasionally I can't find something and think, "I'm going to actually go into and see if it runs a better search" and it almost never does.

To me the more interesting point here is Lambert's second/third one, which is that, although both Twitter and Facebook decry the rise of fake news, their format is an especially hard one to write a nuanced critique in. It's difficult (if not impossible) to put a string of URLs in a Facebook post without actually putting the whole jumbled up 200-character strings of the URLs in – instead of just hotlinking a word! – and you can't format headings, sections, and subsections easily – so any discussion just basically devolves into "No, read this!" "Well, read this!" "What about this!", etc. And they don't always post comments chronologically, or in an order I can make sense of anyway, so you can't follow the ongoing discussion clearly anyway.

Lambert Strether Post author , July 18, 2018 at 12:30 am

> they don't always post comments chronologically, or in an order I can make sense of anyway

It's almost like they're trying to destroy any possibility of a decent discussion.

bob mcmanus , July 17, 2018 at 4:53 pm

Interestingly, as apparently the default, Firefox gives me a drop down list of "Latest News" headlines (? at least 50) which are I think entirely from the Guardian and BBC. Not great, too much human interest and soccer scores, and the articles are too often small or video, but god knows better than NYT and WaPo, and I can and do go on from there to the rest of the Guardian site. I don't know if that is configurable, if I could replace it with al-jazerra, Asia Times or RT

But I also have Jacobin Naked Capitalism and Counterpunch in quick buttons and I spend my time there. Should nuclear war start, I would want analysis before headlines. I am content with being a few days or week behind.

GERMO , July 17, 2018 at 5:09 pm

Gahd yes -- thanks for this post.

When Google News changed to whatever it is now I stopped using it entirely. It's not an aggregator in any sense at all, to me. I used to use Google as the home page and hit up the news page and felt like I had a newspaper to go with my morning coffee. It's ludicrous now. I just go directly to NC links and watercooler actually, and find my way around from there and from my local online paper. "Sad!"

JCC , July 17, 2018 at 11:48 pm

Google News has been slipping for a couple of years now, and has gotten exceptionally bad since it deployed the new layout. I now check it once or twice a week at the most and mainly just to read the headlines in order to find out what I'm supposed to believe.

The first site I open every morning is this site, read the articles of the titles that catch my interest (most) and then settle in with a cup of coffee or two and the Links Page.

The only serious problem I have with Naked Capitalism and its Links Section is that I'm often late for work as a direct result of opening the Links page (which reminds me, It's getting near my semi-annual donation :-)

Tinky , July 17, 2018 at 5:24 pm

This is a good opportunity for me to get something off of my chest, something that infuriates me.

I don't know what entity is responsible for designing the auto-correct function in (most, if not all) internet comment fields, but the result is shockingly bad.

First, it is fundamentally flawed. When the system offers a possible correction, it should allow the user to ignore the suggestion and continue typing. Instead, having implemented the tool completely backwards, it forces the user to close the suggestion, resulting in an obvious waste of time. The arrogance of assuming that the program is likely to be correct is compounded tremendously by the fact that – unbelievably – it does the exactly same thing for words that are capitalized!

I am dumfounded that anyone could be so stupid as to implement a program that attempts to correct proper names.

The fact that those involved in the initial design haven't yet discerned these obvious flaws, and there hasn't been widespread outrage over this issue, reflects very poorly on all involved.

ambrit , July 17, 2018 at 5:44 pm

I can attest that I usually run into spell check functions with abysmally poor vocabularies. (I just noticed that 'spell check' has connotations of Ye Darke Artes.) I have become inured to leaving those wavy red underlines in place when I 'post' a comment.
As for stupidity .

Tinky , July 17, 2018 at 5:54 pm

Yes, those which simply underline words in red are fine. It is the auto-correct versions to which I refer.

Amfortas the Hippie , July 17, 2018 at 7:04 pm

I knew something was up when every embedded(i guess) spellcheck i ran across couldn't spell Nietzsche and insisted that i always capitalise walmart(and cease using cambridge spelling immediately!).
i usually ignore the red squiggly, too
the worst was a samsung phone my wireless company gave me as an "upgrade". the text function had a "learning" spellcheck/autocorrect that you were supposed to just keep using so that it could eventually figure out what you were trying to say so at the beginning, every single word opened up a sort of square flower thing of unrelated(as a rule) words.
it was impossible I gather more so due to my habit of using archaic and obscure language and after you disabled it, it turned itself back on.
as a convenience.

Ur-Blintz , July 17, 2018 at 6:19 pm


but you have to admit that sometimes it's funny. today my phone kept correcting "detente" into "dead aunt".

Disturbed Vote , July 17, 2018 at 7:06 pm

It all goes back to Unix days, and DWIM. Do what I mean. According to the Hacker's Dictionary, the guy who invented DWIM has a permanent death sentence on assigned to him ;-)

Lambert Strether Post author , July 18, 2018 at 12:32 am

Nice to see the Hacker's Dictionary quoted. It's a wonderful resource, and a reminder that not all programmers suck (just the ones riding scooters to their regulatory arbitrage start-ups in Silicon Valley).

rfdawn , July 17, 2018 at 9:16 pm

Agree entirely. Alas, it is often not the "program" doing this. My ipad has a popup touchscreen keyboard (courtesy of iOS) that tries to enforce English spellings in every text-entry situation including non-English webpages. As Lambert says, hilarity ensues.

Gregorio , July 18, 2018 at 8:13 am

Spell check creates a whole new world of problems when one routinely types in more than one language.

barefoot charley , July 18, 2018 at 10:23 am

My smartypants phone has detected me reading Voltaire (copyright-free Kindle for sitting and waiting) and decided when I stammer texts to communicate with under-50s that I must be speaking French. So my word-salads are bi-lingual. But the youth of today don't think I'm erudite, they think I'm crazy. Dunno why, monolingual stammering isn't much better. But unless I get a Trump-style thumb job, I can't type on my telephone (which is as it should be, but I'm so old I remember when people answered their phones).

Mark Gisleson , July 17, 2018 at 5:43 pm

I did a C-list version of what Lambert does during that golden period of blogging he mentions. He doesn't really give enough shrift to the amount of time he spends reading each day, and it would be impossible to know how much effort goes into his interpretive remarks that all too often spare me the bother of reading establishment tripe.

This is the gold standard for aggregation blogging: ample links, clarifying remarks, snark. Reading this blog turned my old blog into a watered down version of this blog. I stole a lot from Lambert Strether because he does this better than anyone else. (Pro tip: don't steal from crappy writers)

I suspect Robot Wisdom as a prior influence, but now we're talking super old-timey stuff.

ambrit , July 17, 2018 at 5:48 pm

I detect the 'Cold Dead Hands' of Addison and Steele. Also somewhat an influence arising from the Spectre of an old dead Scot.

Lambert Strether Post author , July 18, 2018 at 12:35 am

[lambert blushes modestly].

Never read Robot Wisdom! I came in after that point. I first encountered the blogosphere when Paul Krugman mentioned Atrios in one of his columns and I went to look. And that was that. I was unemployed at the time, and spent most of my time reading blogs instead of looking for work

Richard , July 17, 2018 at 5:48 pm

Thanks for including labeled screen shots in your critique of FB, Goog, Twit. For those of us who don't use those sites, it really helped comprehension.
Great post. I guess there really are a million ways to discourage people from thinking clearly, including bs silicon valley editing tools.

Hayek's Heelbiter , July 17, 2018 at 5:50 pm

Amen! Amen! Amen!

I'm re-writing a historical romantic drama that i first completed in 1985, set mostly in Paris and Vienna in the 1870s. I did major rewrites in the 1990s for a major star, who soon got a contract to earn tens (or maybe hundreds of times) what a low-budget art house film would have paid and promptly walked the project. As soon as your star is gone, your project isn't one of the walking dead, it's totally graveyard dead.

The Internet was just coming into its own in the mid-1990s, and I have dozens of pages of incredibly useful research material I downloaded from the web.

Fast forward to 2018, and a studio is again interested in the project. But it wants the script rewritten from the female protagonist's viewpoint.

I again turned to the Internet to research the era.

Guess what?

No matter what set of keywords I use, no matter how I structure my Boolean searches, I get hundreds and hundreds of links to commercial sights, advertisements for Viennese and Parisian stores popping up left right and center.

Out of 100 links, maybe one has useful information.

Fortunately, not yet having had an intervention on an episode of HOARDERS, I managed to locate in a mislabeled several thousand pages I photocopied from out-of-print books on the subject.

God bless the Brooklyn Public Library and their hard-working Reference Desk librarians. There's a special place in Heaven for them.

Lambert Strether Post author , July 18, 2018 at 12:36 am


Synoia , July 17, 2018 at 6:24 pm

The engineers who butchered Twitter and Facebook's edit tools probably thought that way.

Engineers do what management tells them to do.

Lambert Strether Post author , July 18, 2018 at 12:37 am

But their worldview already inclined them in the direction management wished them to go. (And sometimes management doesn't even know what it wants anyhow.)

lakecabs , July 17, 2018 at 6:25 pm

I noticed when I looked up Elon Musk Mars trip. I went through page after page of links to how great it was that he launched a car into outer space with no reference that he actually missed Mars.

Then again on this submarine fiasco.

none , July 17, 2018 at 7:25 pm

I look at if I want a quick scan of headlines (CNN only of course). is sort of similar but from NPR.

Milton , July 17, 2018 at 7:44 pm

I do things the old-fashioned way by compiling feeds from a list of 15, or so, sites into a js reader on my website. I don't use Google at all and have no use for any corporate website. What I will do, however, is browse the yahoo news stream just so I can get a feel of the day's mood but I never follow a link. The only site that I visit not via my news reader is NC.

Steve , July 17, 2018 at 9:18 pm

After Google messed up, I tried several possibles and ended up with Memeorandum.

JCC , July 17, 2018 at 11:36 pm

Never heard of that one before now. I just checked it out all the news promoting Cold War 2.0 right at your fingertips at least that's the way it looks tonight.

MsExPat , July 17, 2018 at 9:32 pm

I'm deep in the pit of learning about SEO optimization, and I can tell you that Google's search algorithms–together with Google AdWords–are to blame for the lousy quality of Google searches these days.

Google gives priority to websites based on:
t1) site speed (which means that unless you pay extra $$$ for superior hosting and upgraded cloud services, your site will drop in the rankings. And hey, guess who owns one of the fastest worldwide cloud hosting services? Google.)
2) Rules that force you to write "stupid" (or at least with zero flair and style) in order to get your website onto the first page of a search. The keyword has to be right up top, the header and meta-text have to be written just so, and within a character limit. You can't be arch or subtle or creative. Break a rule and you get no mercy from Google's ranking algorithm. You're just buried in the back.
3) Speaking of back, Google prioritizes sites and pages for backlinks, that is, for other sites that link back to your website or article. While that may seem to be a way of pushing quality websites to the top of a search, in actual practice this backlink thing is a game. My site has backlinks from the New York Times, CNN, National Geographic, Conde Nast Traveler, and a host of other very authoritative high quality sites. However my competitor has a greater NUMBER of backlinks from more domains, and that counts for more, even though the links are from unknown travel bloggers.
4) Finally, the biggest drag on Google Search is the ads, which can take up the first half of the page before you get to a "real" search result.

It occurred to me the other day that scrapping or saving Net Neutrality may not really matter all that much. Google is so powerful that effectively they function like a commerce gateway, keeping out small businesses and websites that can't afford to hire the expensive software engineers and experts that you need nowadays to tweak and craft your site's backend so that it will show up in a Google search. Not to mention the added cost of fast hosting servers.

And the time suck of having to become familiar with all this stuff just so I can stay alive as a business!

Lambert Strether Post author , July 18, 2018 at 12:39 am

> And the time suck of having to become familiar with all this stuff just so I can stay alive as a business!

It's almost like the relations of production are holding back the forces of production

NJroute22 , July 18, 2018 at 12:46 am

For real – it's gone down the crapper almost entirely.

One blog we started in 2005 was a gold mine for five to eight years. Then the revenue tumbled – for no logical reason to us. We were dissed. Maybe we didn't change the keywords or whatever to "keep up with the times," but good original content that wasn't pop culture or groupthink was shunned.

Fast forward to 2018, as we try to start up another new blog (this time promoting on the top four major "social media" sites), it's been tough going.

It seems that people don't want to find interesting, common sense oriented, critical thinking based content anymore.

If you're not talking about some utterly useless celebrity or bone-headed politician or dreadful sad story – no one cares to exercise those wonderful abilities they have to contemplate and reflect anymore. Deep thinkers are a dying breed.

Even searching for simple things on Google has gotten horrific.

I'm with others here. RSS reader (we use InoReader – awesome). When you stumble on a quality site – instantly subscribe. Your own curated "timeline" or "newsfeed."

Read all the articles on those sites you subscribe to, because they often link to other quality sites you can add to your museum of good publications.

Even if they're not exactly your ball of wax – keep them anyway. Not every post has to be up your alley.

The independent publisher with unique thoughts is an endangered species. Not because we're dying off – but because they're trying to kill us off via financial starvation.

There has to be a change of the tide eventually. Hopefully before it's too late.

Crosley Bendix , July 17, 2018 at 9:59 pm

I would appreciate hearing how you use Twitter in a way that is productive for you.

Lambert Strether Post author , July 18, 2018 at 12:41 am

My Twitter feed is extremely carefully curated. I do not subscribe directly to the usual sources (like CNN, etc.)

So I hear about a story only when someone I trust brings it to my attention, not when they do.

In addition I have a large number of quirky people with a wide skillset.

I originally joined Twitter to follow Black Lives Matter. It was invaluable, and not only because I got news and images I could get nowhere else, but because Black Twitter is really neat.

The Rev Kev , July 17, 2018 at 10:13 pm

And this is what happens when we let billionaires control what we see and do on the net. I have been a newshound for years and use to go through Google News and then a few favoured sites. These days I have reversed it around as Google News has become so crappified, so stripped of content and so cumbersome to use that I have switched it around.
As for Facebook and Twitter – not on your nelly though I know lots of people have to use it for professional reasons or for staying in contact with groups that do not have a presence elsewhere. The past several years I have found that I visit a lot of Russian sites as I tend to find more news of interest there which five years ago I would have found weird. The times they are a changin'.
Want to know what the future will be like. Take a look at the following clip from the film "Rollerball" – the first one – and you will see. The main character goes to visit the world computer for information as all of it is stored there. Upon arrival he finds that the computer has "lost" all the information on the 13th century in talking to the lead scientist. Here is that clip of our future-

polecat , July 17, 2018 at 10:36 pm

Haven't EVER used twits or bloodfunnelbook, and quit bevil when I saw the devil's pitchfork get way too lucky !

Procopius , July 18, 2018 at 12:44 am

I hate the "editor" in Facebook, too, but because there's no way to format anything. That big type you call their default? That goes away when you type three lines or so. It's only been there a couple of years and I don't know what they were thinking of when they added it. Why can't I choose my type size? Why can't I make text bold or italic? NC at least has those options. Other blogs let me enter most HTML formatting tags. Those "disruptive" engineers must be pretty weird people. Why would I want my post to be in HUGE type if I'm only posting one or two lines?

Thing I wanted to ask, how do you make google search time periods. Is that something they've added? A few years ago, after many people entered "I have the same question" they admitted they had no way to do so. Is it something you have to use advanced search for? Because I think I remember seeing something there, but I haven't used it for many years.

hunkerdown , July 18, 2018 at 1:21 am

That feature can be found under Tools → Any time, in the toolbar on the results page under the search query.

JBird , July 18, 2018 at 2:35 am

I just checked Google. I could be missing it. What I do see is simpler, less precise, and not as useful as the previous time period search. I use to use to be to chop off precisely the exact dates I wanted searched. For example any articles, websites, or just news on the Humbolt Squid from 1/1/1984 to 1/2/1986.

If I missed that option please tell me as it was useful.

JBird , July 18, 2018 at 2:14 am

Yes, your memory is fine as Google did make it fairly easy to search periods of time and to use Boolean search terms. Brief tutorials and instructions easy to find. Googleborg has been getting less useful for using the interwebs but it is easier to find stuff to buy. Strange is it not?

When I think about the crapification of Google et al I also think about the siloing of economics, political science, history and other fields, which are stripped of anything considered extraneous, and reduced to dry misinformative stats, formulae, and over simplied stories. Going from the broad interconnected field of anthropology to what is misleading labeled "economics" is like going from a real forest full of life to a museum diorama consisting of some ratty stuff animals, plastic plants, and some awfully painted background and being told both are comparable.

I think what used to be political economics, but now just economics, was still not broad enough but the current field of economics had everything not describing and validating neoliberal capitalist free market economics removed. Adam Smith's own complete writings would get him labeled a socialist. I cannot think that the deliberate, and it was deliberate, to simplify away all inconvenient facts, ideas, and theories from what is laughing called economics so that only a few pre-approved answers to the approved narrative is like Google, Twitter, and Facebook's near uselessness.

Dave , July 18, 2018 at 9:45 am

I was actually working with FB (as a vendor) when they implemented that big-type "feature". They were concerned that it was becoming almost mandatory to include a picture with your posts – essentially every ad on the site has a picture, links to articles and most any URLs automatically include a picture, and users were including more and more pictures themselves as most people switched their Facebook time to smartphones. As a result, if you posted a short, tweet-length text only message, it was easy to miss. So they inflated the font size to make short messages take up a similar amount of space as longer ones or ones with pictures.

It's not my preference at all, stylistically (especially with those hideous colored backgrounds) but, well A/B testing told them it resulted in increased eyeballs on those short posts.

Tomi , July 18, 2018 at 2:54 am

Facebook demanding you to enable cookies is not only for the advertisers, but it's required by the server so that it can do some essential things that are required to deliver an interactive web page. For example when you try to post a message on Facebook your browser will send a request to Facebook server. That request must be accompanied by the cookie so that server knows that the request came from you and not from someone else.

If you don't want cookies tracking you, you can still enable them, but you can delete all cookies before you close your browser. Many browsers will allow you to automatically delete cookies when you close the browser.

Temporarily Sane , July 18, 2018 at 3:07 am

Have you tried Feedly ? Until 2013 it was owned by Google (where it was known as Google Reader) but it was actually a decent piece of software so of course they had to get rid of it. IMNSHO it leaves the competition in the dust and is still, by far, the best news aggregator available.

NJroute22 , July 18, 2018 at 3:30 am

I tried Feedly in the past – didn't rub me the right way. As I said in a previous comment – InoReader works for us perfectly.

Why Google got rid of their Reader is a good sign they are evil.

Skip Intro , July 18, 2018 at 5:57 am

I am officially adopting the policy of understanding the word "check" in "fact check", to have the same meaning as when it is used in the context of ice hockey, i.e. "Isikoff checked the facts for his new book so hard, they were carried off unconscious, and remain in a coma"

barefoot charley , July 18, 2018 at 10:44 am

It's a lol!

SubjectivObject , July 18, 2018 at 8:14 am

for me, anyway
"What horrible virus has rotted the brain matter of the Google engineers who created this monstrosity?"

all such anomalous characteristics are intentioned features

William Hunter Duncan , July 18, 2018 at 9:15 am

I blogged on blogger for 5 years, after which I had maybe 200 hits a day, most of which were bots. Unless you googled my full name, the blog would never be listed.

Facebook was never meant to be anything but a ghetto, to put people in pens to make a few people rich rich rich.

Twitter was always about making people twits. See: Trump, Hillary-bots, the sports/movie/tv complex .

These days I write long poems by hand, lol.

ObjectiveFunction , July 18, 2018 at 9:15 am

Great piece, it reminds me of Edward Tufte's classic "The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint".

Of course, in spite of ET's popularity as a corporate tent revivalist, packing hotel ballrooms at $250 a seat, there's been no interruption in the steady dumbing down of communication, both written and graphic.

Scott1 , July 18, 2018 at 2:02 pm

Damnit. My comment disappeared.
I ended it asking if Naked Capitalism would become financially secure were it to own its own Servers that operated for profit regardless of content supported?
IT professionals Serve the Servers.
Drug dealers don't have to advertise.
Servers don't have to advertise, is what I thought.
I read the article. I read the comments. An idea appears above my eyes
between my eyebrows. 'Am I right or am I wrong?'
I love Naked Capitalism. Thanks

[Jun 28, 2018] Technology giants hold censorship meeting with US intelligence agencies by Will Morrow

Notable quotes:
"... Washington Post ..."
Jun 27, 2018 |

The New York Times and Washington Post this week published reports of a private meeting last month between eight major technology and social media corporations and the US intelligence agencies, to discuss their censorship operations in the lead-up to the November 2018 mid-term elections.

The meeting was convened at Facebook's Menlo Park, California, headquarters on May 23, and was attended by representatives from Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Snap, Twitter and Oath, owner of Yahoo! and a subsidiary of the telecommunications giant Verizon, along with agents from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

The Post described the meeting, organized at the request of Facebook, as a "new overture by the technology industry to develop closer ties to law enforcement." Both articles were based on anonymous statements by individuals who attended. One attendee told the Post that the conversation was a "back-and-forth, with both sides talking about how they were thinking about the problem and how we were looking for opportunities to work together."

The meeting is yet another testament to the increasing integration of the technology giants with the US military/intelligence apparatus. These companies, which provide a growing share of the technical infrastructure for the repressive apparatus of the state, increasingly see the censorship of left-wing, anti-war, and progressive viewpoints as an integral part of their business strategy.

... ... ...

[Jun 28, 2018] Did Senator Warner and Comey 'Collude' on Russia-gate by Ray McGovern

Notable quotes:
"... The U.S. was in talks for a deal with Julian Assange but then FBI Director James Comey ordered an end to negotiations after Assange offered to prove Russia was not involved in the DNC leak, as Ray McGovern explains. ..."
"... Special to Consortium News ..."
"... The report does not say what led Comey to intervene to ruin the talks with Assange. But it came after Assange had offered to "provide technical evidence and discussion regarding who did not engage in the DNC releases," Solomon quotes WikiLeaks' intermediary with the government as saying. It would be a safe assumption that Assange was offering to prove that Russia was not WikiLeaks' source of the DNC emails. ..."
"... If that was the reason Comey and Warner ruined the talks, as is likely, it would reveal a cynical decision to put U.S. intelligence agents and highly sophisticated cybertools at risk, rather than allow Assange to at least attempt to prove that Russia was not behind the DNC leak. ..."
"... On March 31, 2017, though, WikiLeaks released the most damaging disclosure up to that point from what it called "Vault 7" -- a treasure trove of CIA cybertools leaked from CIA files. This disclosure featured the tool "Marble Framework," which enabled the CIA to hack into computers, disguise who hacked in, and falsely attribute the hack to someone else by leaving so-called tell-tale signs -- like Cyrillic, for example. The CIA documents also showed that the "Marble" tool had been employed in 2016. ..."
"... In fact, VIPS and independent forensic investigators, have performed what former FBI Director Comey -- at first inexplicably, now not so inexplicably -- failed to do when the so-called "Russian hack" of the DNC was first reported. In July 2017 VIPS published its key findings with supporting data. ..."
"... Why did then FBI Director Comey fail to insist on getting direct access to the DNC computers in order to follow best-practice forensics to discover who intruded into the DNC computers? (Recall, at the time Sen. John McCain and others were calling the "Russian hack" no less than an "act of war.") A 7th grader can now figure that out. ..."
Jun 27, 2018 |

Did Sen. Warner and Comey 'Collude' on Russia-gate? June 27, 2018 • 68 Comments

The U.S. was in talks for a deal with Julian Assange but then FBI Director James Comey ordered an end to negotiations after Assange offered to prove Russia was not involved in the DNC leak, as Ray McGovern explains.

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

An explosive report by investigative journalist John Solomon on the opinion page of Monday's edition of The Hill sheds a bright light on how Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and then-FBI Director James Comey collaborated to prevent WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange from discussing "technical evidence ruling out certain parties [read Russia]" in the controversial leak of Democratic Party emails to WikiLeaks during the 2016 election.

A deal that was being discussed last year between Assange and U.S. government officials would have given Assange "limited immunity" to allow him to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been exiled for six years. In exchange, Assange would agree to limit through redactions "some classified CIA information he might release in the future," according to Solomon, who cited "interviews and a trove of internal DOJ documents turned over to Senate investigators." Solomon even provided a copy of the draft immunity deal with Assange.

But Comey's intervention to stop the negotiations with Assange ultimately ruined the deal, Solomon says, quoting "multiple sources." With the prospective agreement thrown into serious doubt, Assange "unleashed a series of leaks that U.S. officials say damaged their cyber warfare capabilities for a long time to come." These were the Vault 7 releases, which led then CIA Director Mike Pompeo to call WikiLeaks "a hostile intelligence service."

Solomon's report provides reasons why Official Washington has now put so much pressure on Ecuador to keep Assange incommunicado in its embassy in London.

Assange: Came close to a deal with the U.S. (Photo credit: New Media Days / Peter Erichsen)

The report does not say what led Comey to intervene to ruin the talks with Assange. But it came after Assange had offered to "provide technical evidence and discussion regarding who did not engage in the DNC releases," Solomon quotes WikiLeaks' intermediary with the government as saying. It would be a safe assumption that Assange was offering to prove that Russia was not WikiLeaks' source of the DNC emails.

If that was the reason Comey and Warner ruined the talks, as is likely, it would reveal a cynical decision to put U.S. intelligence agents and highly sophisticated cybertools at risk, rather than allow Assange to at least attempt to prove that Russia was not behind the DNC leak.

The greater risk to Warner and Comey apparently would have been if Assange provided evidence that Russia played no role in the 2016 leaks of DNC documents.

Missteps and Stand Down

In mid-February 2017, in a remarkable display of naiveté, Adam Waldman, Assange's pro bono attorney who acted as the intermediary in the talks, asked Warner if the Senate Intelligence Committee staff would like any contact with Assange to ask about Russia or other issues. Waldman was apparently oblivious to Sen. Warner's stoking of Russia-gate.

Warner contacted Comey and, invoking his name, instructed Waldman to "stand down and end the discussions with Assange," Waldman told Solomon. The "stand down" instruction "did happen," according to another of Solomon's sources with good access to Warner. However, Waldman's counterpart attorney David Laufman , an accomplished federal prosecutor picked by the Justice Departent to work the government side of the CIA-Assange fledgling deal, told Waldman, "That's B.S. You're not standing down, and neither am I."

But the damage had been done. When word of the original stand-down order reached WikiLeaks, trust evaporated, putting an end to two months of what Waldman called "constructive, principled discussions that included the Department of Justice."

The two sides had come within inches of sealing the deal. Writing to Laufman on March 28, 2017, Waldman gave him Assange's offer to discuss "risk mitigation approaches relating to CIA documents in WikiLeaks' possession or control, such as the redaction of Agency personnel in hostile jurisdictions," in return for "an acceptable immunity and safe passage agreement."

On March 31, 2017, though, WikiLeaks released the most damaging disclosure up to that point from what it called "Vault 7" -- a treasure trove of CIA cybertools leaked from CIA files. This disclosure featured the tool "Marble Framework," which enabled the CIA to hack into computers, disguise who hacked in, and falsely attribute the hack to someone else by leaving so-called tell-tale signs -- like Cyrillic, for example. The CIA documents also showed that the "Marble" tool had been employed in 2016.

Misfeasance or Malfeasance

Comey: Ordered an end to talks with Assange.

Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, which includes among our members two former Technical Directors of the National Security Agency, has repeatedly called attention to its conclusion that the DNC emails were leaked -- not "hacked" by Russia or anyone else (and, later, our suspicion that someone may have been playing Marbles, so to speak).

In fact, VIPS and independent forensic investigators, have performed what former FBI Director Comey -- at first inexplicably, now not so inexplicably -- failed to do when the so-called "Russian hack" of the DNC was first reported. In July 2017 VIPS published its key findings with supporting data.

Two month later , VIPS published the results of follow-up experiments conducted to test the conclusions reached in July.

Why did then FBI Director Comey fail to insist on getting direct access to the DNC computers in order to follow best-practice forensics to discover who intruded into the DNC computers? (Recall, at the time Sen. John McCain and others were calling the "Russian hack" no less than an "act of war.") A 7th grader can now figure that out.

Asked on January 10, 2017 by Senate Intelligence Committee chair Richard Burr (R-NC) whether direct access to the servers and devices would have helped the FBI in their investigation, Comey replied : "Our forensics folks would always prefer to get access to the original device or server that's involved, so it's the best evidence."

At that point, Burr and Warner let Comey down easy. Hence, it should come as no surprise that, according to one of John Solomon's sources, Sen. Warner (who is co-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee) kept Sen. Burr apprised of his intervention into the negotiation with Assange, leading to its collapse.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army Infantry/Intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for a total of 30 years and prepared and briefed, one-on-one, the President's Daily Brief from 1981 to 1985.

If you enjoyed this original article please consider making a donation to Consortium News so we can bring you more stories like this one.

[Jun 24, 2018] annamaria

Jun 24, 2018 |

says: May 21, 2017 at 2:30 am GMT 200 Words While the "progressives" badmouth bad-bad russkies for "destroying our democracy," an obscene spectacle of persecution of the most important whistleblower of our times continues.
"Getting Assange: the Untold Story," by JOHN PILGER

"Hillary Clinton, the destroyer of Libya and, as WikiLeaks revealed last year, the secret supporter and personal beneficiary of forces underwriting ISIS, proposed, "Can't we just drone this guy." According to Australian diplomatic cables, Washington's bid to get Assange is "unprecedented in scale and nature." In Alexandria, Virginia, a secret grand jury has sought for almost seven years to contrive a crime for which Assange can be prosecuted. Assange's ability to defend himself in such a Kafkaesque world has been severely limited by the US declaring his case a state secret. In 2015, a federal court in Washington blocked the release of all information about the "national security" investigation against WikiLeaks, because it was "active and ongoing" and would harm the "pending prosecution" of Assange. The judge, Barbara J. Rothstein, said it was necessary to show "appropriate deference to the executive in matters of national security." This is a kangaroo court."

[Jun 23, 2018] Sic Semper Tyrannis Laura Bush and Michael Hayden, No Fixing Stupid by Publius Tacitus

Jun 23, 2018 |

[Jun 19, 2018] DOJ Indicts Vault 7 Leak Suspect; WikiLeaks Release Was Largest Breach In CIA History Zero Hedge

Jun 19, 2018 |

A 29-year-old former CIA computer engineer, Joshua Adam Schulte, was indicted Monday by the Department of Justice on charges of masterminding the largest leak of classified information in the spy agency's history .

Schulte, who created malware for the U.S. Government to break into adversaries computers, has been sitting in jail since his August 24, 2017 arrest on unrelated charges of posessing and transporting child pornography - which was discovered in a search of his New York apartment after Schulte was named as the prime suspect in the cyber-breach one week after WikiLeaks published the "Vault 7" series of classified files. Schulte was arrested and jailed on the child porn charges while the DOJ ostensibly built their case leading to Monday's additional charges.

[I]nstead of charging Mr. Schulte in the breach, referred to as the Vault 7 leak, prosecutors charged him last August with possessing child pornography, saying agents had found 10,000 illicit images on a server he created as a business in 2009 while studying at the University of Texas at Austin.

Court papers quote messages from Mr. Schulte that suggest he was aware of the encrypted images of children being molested by adults on his computer, though he advised one user, "Just don't put anything too illegal on there." - New York Times

Monday's DOJ announcement adds new charges related to stealing classified national defense information from the Central Intelligence Agency in 2016 and transmitting it to WikiLeaks ("Organization-1").

The Vault 7 release - a series of 24 documents which began to publish on March 7, 2017 - reveal that the CIA had a wide variety of tools to use against adversaries, including the ability to "spoof" its malware to appear as though it was created by a foreign intelligence agency , as well as the ability to take control of Samsung Smart TV's and surveil a target using a "Fake Off" mode in which they appear to be powered down while eavesdropping.

The CIA's hand crafted hacking techniques pose a problem for the agency. Each technique it has created forms a "fingerprint" that can be used by forensic investigators to attribute multiple different attacks to the same entity .


The CIA's Remote Devices Branch's UMBRAGE group collects and maintains a substantial library of attack techniques 'stolen' from malware produced in other states including the Russian Federation.

With UMBRAGE and related projects the CIA cannot only increase its total number of attack types but also misdirect attribution by leaving behind the "fingerprints" of the groups that the attack techniques were stolen from .

UMBRAGE components cover keyloggers, password collection, webcam capture, data destruction, persistence, privilege escalation, stealth, anti-virus (PSP) avoidance and survey techniques . - WikiLeaks

Schulte previously worked for the NSA before joining the CIA, then "left the intelligence community in 2016 and took a job in the private sector," according to a statement reviewed in May by The Washington Post .

Schulte also claimed that he reported "incompetent management and bureaucracy" at the CIA to that agency's inspector general as well as a congressional oversight committee. That painted him as a disgruntled employee, he said, and when he left the CIA in 2016, suspicion fell upon him as "the only one to have recently departed [the CIA engineering group] on poor terms," Schulte wrote. - WaPo

Part of that investigation, reported WaPo, has been analyzing whether the Tor network - which allows internet users to hide their location (in theory) "was used in transmitting classified information."

In other hearings in Schulte's case, prosecutors have alleged that he used Tor at his New York apartment, but they have provided no evidence that he did so to disclose classified information. Schulte's attorneys have said that Tor is used for all kinds of communications and have maintained that he played no role in the Vault 7 leaks. - WaPo

Schulte says he's innocent: " Due to these unfortunate coincidences the FBI ultimately made the snap judgment that I was guilty of the leaks and targeted me," Schulte said. He launched Facebook and GoFundMe pages to raise money for his defense, which despite a $50 million goal, has yet to r eceive a single donation.

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The Post noted in May, the Vault 7 release was one of the most significant leaks in the CIA's history , "exposing secret cyberweapons and spying techniques that might be used against the United States, according to current and former intelligence officials."

The CIA's toy chest includes:

"The source code shows that Marble has test examples not just in English but also in Chinese, Russian, Korean, Arabic and Farsi. This would permit a forensic attribution double game, for example by pretending that the spoken language of the malware creator was not American English, but Chinese, but then showing attempts to conceal the use of Chinese, drawing forensic investigators even more strongly to the wrong conclusion, --- but there are other possibilities, such as hiding fake error messages."

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"Year Zero" documents show that the CIA breached the Obama administration's commitments. Many of the vulnerabilities used in the CIA's cyber arsenal are pervasive and some may already have been found by rival intelligence agencies or cyber criminals.

In addition to its operations in Langley, Virginia the CIA also uses the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt as a covert base for its hackers covering Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

CIA hackers operating out of the Frankfurt consulate ( "Center for Cyber Intelligence Europe" or CCIE) are given diplomatic ("black") passports and State Department cover.

These techniques permit the CIA to bypass the encryption of WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Wiebo, Confide and Cloackman by hacking the "smart" phones that they run on and collecting audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.

CIA hackers developed successful attacks against most well known anti-virus programs. These are documented in AV defeats , Personal Security Products , Detecting and defeating PSPs and PSP/Debugger/RE Avoidance . For example, Comodo was defeated by CIA malware placing itself in the Window's "Recycle Bin" . While Comodo 6.x has a "Gaping Hole of DOOM" .

You can see the entire Vault7 release here .

A DOJ statement involving the Vault7 charges reads:

"Joshua Schulte, a former employee of the CIA, allegedly used his access at the agency to transmit classified material to an outside organization . During the course of this investigation, federal agents also discovered alleged child pornography in Schulte's New York City residence ," said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman.

On March 7, 2017, Organization-1 released on the Internet classified national defense material belonging to the CIA (the "Classified Information"). In 2016, SCHULTE, who was then employed by the CIA, stole the Classified Information from a computer network at the CIA and later transmitted it to Organization-1. SCHULTE also intentionally caused damage without authorization to a CIA computer system by granting himself unauthorized access to the system, deleting records of his activities, and denying others access to the system . SCHULTE subsequently made material false statements to FBI agents concerning his conduct at the CIA.

Schulte faces 135 years in prison if convicted on all 13 charges:

  1. Illegal Gathering of National Defense Information, 18 U.S.C. §§ 793(b) and 2
  2. Illegal Transmission of Lawfully Possessed National Defense Information, 18 U.S.C. §§ 793(d) and 2
  3. Illegal Transmission of Unlawfully Possessed National Defense Information, 18 U.S.C. §§ 793(e) and 2
  4. Unauthorized Access to a Computer To Obtain Classified Information, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1030(a)(1) and 2
  5. Theft of Government Property, 18 U.S.C. §§ 641 and 2
  6. Unauthorized Access of a Computer to Obtain Information from a Department or Agency of the United States, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1030(a)(2) and 2
  7. Causing Transmission of a Harmful Computer Program, Information, Code, or Command, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1030(a)(5) and 2
  8. Making False Statements, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1001 and 2
  9. Obstruction of Justice, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1503 and 2
  10. Receipt of Child Pornography, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2252A(a)(2)(B), (b)(1), and 2
  11. Possession of Child Pornography, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2252A(a)(5)(B), (b)(2), and 2
  12. Transportation of Child Pornography, 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(1)
  13. Criminal Copyright Infringement, 17 U.S.C. § 506(a)(1)(A) and 18 U.S.C. § 2319(b)(1)

Billy the Poet -> Anarchyteez Mon, 06/18/2018 - 22:50 Permalink

So Schulte was framed for kiddie porn because he released information about how the CIA can frame innocent people for computer crime.

A Sentinel -> Billy the Poet Mon, 06/18/2018 - 22:59 Permalink

That seems very likely.

Seems like everyone has kiddy porn magically appear and get discovered after they piss off the deep state bastards.

And the best part is that it's probably just the deep state operatives' own private pedo collections that they use to frame anyone who they don't like.

A Sentinel -> CrabbyR Mon, 06/18/2018 - 23:46 Permalink

I was thinking about the advancement of the technology necessary for that. They can do perfect fake stills already.

My thought is that you will soon need to film yourself 24/7 (with timestamps, shared with a blockchain-like verifiably) so that you can disprove fake video evidence by having a filmed alibi.

CrabbyR -> A Sentinel Tue, 06/19/2018 - 00:07 Permalink

good point but creepy to think it can get that bad

peopledontwanttruth -> Anarchyteez Mon, 06/18/2018 - 22:50 Permalink

Funny how all these whistleblowers are being held for child pornography until trial.

But we have evidence of government officials and Hollyweird being involved in this perversion and they walk among us

secretargentman -> peopledontwanttruth Mon, 06/18/2018 - 22:51 Permalink

Those kiddy porn charges are extremely suspect, IMO.

chunga -> secretargentman Mon, 06/18/2018 - 23:12 Permalink

It's so utterly predictable.

The funny* thing is I believe gov, particularly upper levels, is chock full of pedophiles.

* It isn't funny, my contempt for the US gov grows practically by the hour.

A Sentinel -> chunga Mon, 06/18/2018 - 23:42 Permalink

I said pretty much the same. I further speculated that it was their own porn that they use for framing operations.

SybilDefense -> A Sentinel Tue, 06/19/2018 - 00:33 Permalink

Ironically, every single ex gov whistle blower (/pedophile) has the exact same kiddie porn data on their secret server (hidden in plane view at the apartment). Joe CIA probably has a zip drive preloaded with titled data sets like "Podesta's Greatest Hits", "Hillary's Honey bunnies" or "Willy go to the zoo". Like the mix tapes you used to make for a new gal you were trying to date. Depending upon the mood of the agent in charge, 10,000 images of Weiner's "Warm Pizza" playlist magically appear on the server in 3-2-1... Gotcha!

These false fingerprint tactics were all over the trump accusations which started the whole Russia Russia Russia ordeal. And the Russia ordeal was conceptualized in a paid report to Podesta by the Bensenson Group called the Salvage Program when it was appearant that Trump could possible win and the DNC needed ideas on how to throw the voters off at the polls. Russia is coming /Red dawn was #1 or #2 on the list of 7 recommended ploys. The final one was crazy.. If Trump appeared to win the election, imagery of Jesus and an Alien Invasion was to be projected into the skies to cause mass panic and create a demand for free zanex to be handed out to the panic stricken.

Don't forget Black Lives Matters. That was idea #4 of this Bensenson report, to create civil unrest and a race war. Notice how BLM and Antifa manically disappeared after Nov 4. All a ploy by the Dems & the deep state to remain in control of the countrys power.

Back to the topic at hand. Its a wonder he didn't get Seth Riched. Too many porn servers and we will begin to question the legitimacy. Oh wait...

You won't find any kiddie porn on Hillary's or DeNiros laptop. Oh its there. You just will never ever hear about it.

cankles' server -> holdbuysell Mon, 06/18/2018 - 22:57 Permalink

The Vault 7 release - a series of 24 documents which began to publish on March 7, 2017 - reveal that the CIA had a wide variety of tools to use against adversaries, including the ability to "spoof" its malware to appear as though it was created by a foreign intelligence agency ....

It probably can spoof child porn as well.

Is he charged with copyright infringement for pirating child porn?

BGO Mon, 06/18/2018 - 22:43 Permalink

The intel community sure has a knack for sussing out purveyors of child pornography. It's probably just a coincidence govt agencies and child pornography are inextricably linked.

Never One Roach -> BGO Mon, 06/18/2018 - 22:44 Permalink

Sounds like he may be a friend of Uncle Joe Biden whom we know is "very, very friendly" with the children.

NotBuyingIt -> BGO Mon, 06/18/2018 - 23:09 Permalink

It's very easy for a criminal spook to plant child porn on some poor slob's machine - especially when they want to keep him on the hook to sink his ass for something bigger in the future. Who knows... this guy may have done some shit but I'm willing to bet he was entirely targeted by these IC assholes. Facing 135 years in prison... yet that baggy ass cunt Hillary walks free...

DoctorFix -> BGO Mon, 06/18/2018 - 23:18 Permalink

Funny how they always seem to have a "sting" operation in progress when there's anyone the DC rats want to destroy but strangely, or not, silent as the grave when one of the special people are fingered.

MadHatt Mon, 06/18/2018 - 22:43 Permalink

Transportation of Child Pornography, 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(1)

Uhh... what? He stole CIA child porn?

navy62802 -> MadHatt Mon, 06/18/2018 - 23:30 Permalink

Nah ... that's the shit they planted on him for an excuse to make an arrest.

MadHatt -> navy62802 Tue, 06/19/2018 - 00:29 Permalink

If he stole all their hacking apps, wouldn't that be enough to arrest him?

Never One Roach Mon, 06/18/2018 - 22:44 Permalink

That list of federal crimes is almost as long as Comey's list of Hillary Clinton's federal crimes.

_triplesix_ Mon, 06/18/2018 - 22:46 Permalink

Of all these things the C_A can do, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to realize that planting CP on a computer of someone you don't like would be a piece of cake, comparatively speaking.

_triplesix_ Mon, 06/18/2018 - 22:46 Permalink

Of all these things the C_A can do, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to realize that planting CP on a computer of someone you don't like would be a piece of cake, comparatively speaking.

Giant Meteor -> _triplesix_ Mon, 06/18/2018 - 22:51 Permalink

It probably comes standard now buried within systems, like a sleeper cell. Just waiting for the right infraction and trigger to be pulled ..

PigMan Mon, 06/18/2018 - 22:50 Permalink

Did he also leak that the CIA's favorite tactic is to plant kiddie porn on their targets computer?

ConnectingTheDots Mon, 06/18/2018 - 22:56 Permalink

The alphabet agencies would never hack someone's computer.

The alphabet agencies would never spy on US citizens (at least not wittingly)

The alphabet agencies would never plant physical evidence.

The alphabet agencies would never lie under oath.

The alphabet agencies would never have an agenda.

The alphabet agencies would never provide the media with false information.


Chupacabra-322 Mon, 06/18/2018 - 23:14 Permalink

The "Spoofing" or Digital Finger Print & Parallel Construction tools that can be used against Governments, Individuals, enemies & adversaries are Chilling.

The CIA can not only hack into anything -- they can download any "evidence" they want onto your phone or computer. Child pornography, national secrets, you name it. Then they can blackmail you, threatening prosecution for whatever crap they have planted, then "found" on your computer. They can also "spoof" the source of such downloads -- for instance, if they want to "prove" that something on your computer (or Donald Trump's computer) came from a "Russian source" -- they can spoof the IP address of a Russian source.

The take-away: no digital evidence the CIA or NSA produces on any subject whatsoever can be trusted. No digital evidence should be acceptable in any case where the government has an interest, because they have the complete ability to fabricate and implant any evidence on any iphone or computer. And worse: they have intentionally created these digital vulnerabilities and pushed them onto the whole world via Microsoft and Google. Government has long been at war with liberty, claiming that we need to give up liberty to be secure. Now we learn that they have been deliberately sabotaging our security, in order to augment their own power. Time to shut down the CIA and all the other spy agencies. They're not keeping us free OR secure, and they're doing it deliberately. Their main function nowadays seems to be lying us into wars against countries that never attacked us, and had no plans to do so.

The Echelon Computer System Catch Everything

The Flagging goes to Notify the Appropriate Alphabet,,,...Key Words Phrases...Algorithms,...It all gets sucked up and chewed on and spat out to the surmised computed correct departments...That simple.

Effective immediately defund, Eliminate & Supeona it's Agents, Officials & Dept. Heads in regard to the Mass Surveillance, Global Espionage Spying network & monitoring of a President Elect by aforementioned Agencies & former President Obama, AG Lynch & DIA James Clapper, CIA John Breanan.




ZIRPdiggler -> Chupacabra-322 Tue, 06/19/2018 - 00:29 Permalink

Since 911, they've been "protecting" the shit out of us. "protecting" away every last fiber of liberty. Was watching some fact-based media about the CIA's failed plan to install Yeltsin's successor via a Wallstreet banking cartel bet (see, LTCM implosion). The ultimate objectives were to rape and loot post-Soviet Russian resources and enforce regime change. It's such a tired playbook at this point. Who DOESNT know about this sort of affront? Apparently even nobel prize economists cant prevent a nation from failing lol. The ultimate in vanity; our gubmint and its' shadow controllers.

moobra Mon, 06/18/2018 - 23:45 Permalink

This is because people who are smart enough to write walware for the CIA send messages in the clear about child porn and are too dumb to encrypt images with a key that would take the lifetime of the universe to break.

Next his mother will be found to have a tax problem and his brother's credit rating zeroed out.

Meanwhile Comey will be found to have been "careless".

ZIRPdiggler Tue, 06/19/2018 - 00:05 Permalink

Yeah I don't believe for a second that this guy had anything to do with child porn. Not like Obama and his hotdogs or Clintons at pedo island, or how bout uncle pervie podesta? go after them, goons and spooks. They (intelligence agencies) falsely accuse people of exactly what they are ass-deep in. loses credibility with me when the CIA clowns or NSA fuck ups accuse anyone of child porn; especially one of their former employees who is 'disgruntled'. LOL. another spook railroad job done on a whistleblower. fuck the CIA and all 17 alphabet agencies who spy on us 24/7. Just ask, if you want to snoop on me. I may even tell you what I'm up to because I have nothing that I would hide since, I don't give a shit about you or whether you approve of what I am doing.

AGuy -> ZIRPdiggler Tue, 06/19/2018 - 00:36 Permalink

"Yeah I don't believe for a second that this guy had anything to do with child porn."

Speculation by my part: He was running a Tor server, and the porn originated from other Tor users. If that is the case ( it would be easy for law enforcement to just assume it was his) law enforcement enjoys a quick and easy case.

rgraf Tue, 06/19/2018 - 00:05 Permalink

They shouldn't be spying, and they shouldn't keep any secrets from the populace. If they weren't doing anything wrong, they have nothing to hide.

ZIRPdiggler -> rgraf Tue, 06/19/2018 - 00:09 Permalink

It really doesn't matter if someone wants to hide. That is their right. Only Nazi's like our spy agencies would use the old Gestapo line, "If you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to worry about. Or better yet, you should let me turn your life upside down if you have nothing to hide. " Bullshit! It's none of their fucking business. How bout that? Spooks and secret clowns CAN and DO frame anybody for whatever or murder whomever they wish. So why WOULDNT people be afraid when government goons start sticking their big snouts into their lives??? They can ruin your life for the sake of convenience. Zee Furor is not pleased with your attitude, comrade.

Blue Steel 309 Tue, 06/19/2018 - 00:53 Permalink

Vault 7 proves that most digital evidence should be inadmissible in court, yet I don't see anyone publishing articles about this problem.

[Jun 02, 2018] Obama used NSA FBI to spy on Trump veteran CIA officer

Notable quotes:
"... Let me just say this: the President used the word "wiretapping" but I think it was very clear to us that have been in the intelligence business, that this was a synonym for "surveillance". ..."
"... When I was in senior position in CIA's counterterrorism center, I had a deputy who was an FBI officer. An office in FBI HQ down in Washington had an FBI lead with a CIA deputy. There's a lot more cooperation than one would think. There are individuals that do assignments in each other's organisations to help foster levels of cooperation. I had members of NSA in my staff when I was at CIA, members of diplomatic security, members of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and it was run like a task force, so, there's a lot more cooperation than the media presents, they always think that there are these huge major battles between the organisations and that's rarely true. ..."
"... John Brennan is acting more like a political operative than a former director of CIA. ..."
Mar 20, 2017 |

The mighty CIA has fallen victim to a major breach, with WikiLeaks revealing the true scope of the Agency's ability for cyber-espionage. Its tools seem to be aimed at ordinary citizens – your phone, your car, your TV, even your fridge can become an instrument of surveillance in the hands of the CIA. How does the CIA use these tools, and why do they need them in the first place?

And as WikiLeaks promises even more revelations, how is all of this going to shape the already tense relationship between new president and the intelligence community?

A man who has spent over two decades in the CIA's clandestine service – Gary Berntsen is on SophieCo.

Follow @SophieCo_RT


Sophie Shevardnadze: Gary Berntsen, former CIA official, welcome to the show, great to have you with us. Now, Vault 7, a major batch of CIA docs revealed by Wikileaks uncovers the agency's cyber tools. We're talking about world's most powerful intelligence agency - how exactly did the CIA lose control of its arsenal of hacking weapons?

Gary Berntsen: First off, I'd like to say that the world has changed a lot in the last several decades, and people are communicating in many different ways and intelligence services, whether they be American or Russian, are covering these communications and their coverage of those communications has evolved. Without commenting on the specific validity of those tools, it was clear that the CIA was surely using contractors to be involved in this process, not just staff officers, and that individuals decided that they had problems with U.S. policy, and have leaked these things to Wikileaks. This is a large problem, for the U.S. community, but just as the U.S. is having problems, the Russia face similar problems. Just this week you had multiple members of the FSB charged with hacking as well, and they have been charged by the U.S. government. So both services who are competitors, face challenges as we've entered a new era of mass communications.

SS: So like you're saying, the leaker or leakers of the CIA docs is presumably a CIA contractor - should the agency be spending more effort on vetting its own officers? Is the process rigorous enough?

GB: Clearly. Look There have been individuals since the dawn of history. Espionage is the second oldest occupation, have conducted spying and espionage operations, and there have been people who have turned against their own side and worked for competitors and worked for those opposing the country or the group that they're working with. It's been a problem from the beginning, and it continues to be a problem, and the U.S. clearly is going to have to do a much better job at vetting those individuals who are given security clearances, without a doubt.

SS: The CIA studied the flaws in the software of devices like iPhones, Androids, Smart TVs, apps like Whatsapp that left them exposed to hacking, but didn't care about patching those up - so, in essence the agency chose to leave Americans vulnerable to cyberattacks, rather than protect them?

GB: I think you have to understand, in this world that we're operating and the number one target of our intelligence community are terrorists. Since the attacks of 9\11, 16 years ago, the obsession of the American intelligence community is to identify those planning terrorist attacks, collecting information on them and being able to defeat them. These individuals are using all these means of communication. I have spoken with many security services around the world, since my retirement back in 2005-2006, a lot of them have had problems covering the communications of somebody's very devices and programs that you've talked about - whether they be narcotraffickers or salafist jihadists, they are all piggybacking off of commercial communications. Therefore the need for modern intelligence services to sort of provide coverage of all means of communications. And there's a price that you pay for that.

SS: One of the most disturbing parts of the leaks is the "Weeping Angel" program - CIA hacking into Samsung Smart TVs to record what's going on even when the TV appears to be turned off. Why are the CIA's tools designed to penetrate devices used by ordinary Western citizens at home?

GB: Look, I wouldn't say it has anything to do with Western homes, because the CIA doesn't do technical operations against American citizens - that's prohibited by the law. If the CIA does anything in the U.S., it does it side-by-side with the FBI, and it does it according to FISA - the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act laws. It's gotta go to the judge to do those things. Those tools are used primarily against the individuals and terrorists that are targeting the U.S. or other foreign entities that we see as a significant threat to the U.S. national security, which is the normal functioning of any intelligence service.

SS: Just like you say, the CIA insists it never uses its investigative tools on American citizens in the US, but, we're wondering, exactly how many terrorist camps in the Middle East have Samsung Smart TVs to watch their favorite shows on? Does it seem like the CIA lost its direction?

GB: Plenty of them.

SS: Plenty?...

GB: I've travelled in the Middle East, Samsungs are sold everywhere. Sophie, Samsung TVs are sold all over the world. I've spent a lot of time in the Middle East, I've seen them in Afghanistan, I've seen them everywhere. So, any kind of devices that you can imagine, people are using everywhere. We're in a global economy now.

SS: The CIA has tools to hack iPhones - but they make up only around 15 % of the world's smartphone market. IPhones are not popular among terrorists, but they are among business and political elites - so are they the real target here?

GB: No. The CIA in relative terms to the size of the world is a small organisation. It is an organisation that has roughly 20 or more thousand people - it's not that large in terms of covering a planet with 7 billion people. We have significant threats to the U.S. and to the Western world. We live in an age of super-terrorism, we live in an age when individuals, small groups of people, can leverage technology at a lethal effect. The greatest threats to this planet are not just nuclear, they are bio. The U.S. needs to have as many tools as possible to defend itself against these threats, as does Russia want to have similar types of tools to defend itself. You too, Russian people have suffered from a number of terrible terrorist acts.

SS: Wikileaks suggest the CIA copied the hacking habits of other nations to create a fake electronic trace - why would the CIA need that?

GB: The CIA, as any intelligence service, would look to conduct coverage in the most unobtrusive fashion as possible. It is going to do its operations so that they can collect and collect again and again against terrorist organisations, where and whenever it can, because sometimes threats are not just static, they are continuous.

SS: You know this better, so enlighten me: does the he CIA have the authorisation to create the surveillance tools it had in the first place? Who gives it such authorisation?

GB: The CIA was created in 1947 by the National Security Act of the U.S. and does two different things - it does FI (foreign intelligence) collection and it does CA - covert action. Its rules for collection of intelligence were enshrined in the law that created it, the CIA Act 110, in 1949, but the covert action part of this, where it does active measures, when it gets involved in things - all of those are covered by law. The Presidential finding had to be written, it had to be presented to the President. The President's signs off on those things. Those things are then briefed to members of Congress, or the House Permanent Subcommittee for Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee for Intelligence. We have a very rigorous process of review of the activities of our intelligence communities in the U.S.

SS: But you're talking about the activities in terms of operations. I'm just asking - does CIA need any authorisation or permission to create the tools it has in its arsenal? Or it can just go ahead

GB: Those tools and the creation of collection tools falls under the same laws that allowed the CIA to be established. And that was the 1949 Intelligence Act. And also, subsequently, the laws in 1975. Yes.

SS: So, the CIA programme names are quite colourful, sometimes wacky - "Weeping Angel", "Swamp Monkey", "Brutal Kangaroo" - is there a point to these, is there any logic, or are they completely random? I always wondered...

GB: There's absolutely no point to that, and it's random.

SS:Okay, so how do you come up with those names? Who like, one says: "Monkey" and another one says: "Kangaroo"?...

GB: I'm sure they are computer-generated.

SS: Trump accused Obama of wiretapping him during the campaign Could the CIA have actually spied on the president? It seems like the agency doesn't have the best relationship with Donald Trump - how far can they go?

GB: Let me just say this: the President used the word "wiretapping" but I think it was very clear to us that have been in the intelligence business, that this was a synonym for "surveillance". Because most people are on cellphones, people aren't using landlines anymore, so there's no "wiretapping", okay. These all fall under the Intelligence Surveillance Act, as I stated earlier, this thing existing in the U.S.. It was clear to President Trump and to those in his campaign, after they were elected, and they did a review back that the Obama Administration sought FISA authorisation to do surveillance of the Trump campaign in July and then in October. They were denied in July, they were given approval in October, and in October they did some types of surveillance of the Trump campaign. This is why the President, of course, tweeted, that he had been "wiretapped" - of course "wiretapping" being a synonym for the surveillance against his campaign, which was never heard of in the U.S. political history that I can remember, I can't recall any way of this being done. It's an outrage, and at the same time, Congressional hearings are going to be held and they are going to review all of these things, and they are going to find out exactly what happened and what was done. It's unclear right now, but all we do know - and it has been broken in the media that there were two efforts, and at the second one, the authorisation was given. That would never have been done by the CIA, because they don't do that sort of coverage in the U.S.. That would either be the FBI or the NSA, with legal authorities and those authorities the problem that the Trump administration had is they believed that the information from these things was distributed incorrectly. Any time an American - and this is according to the U.S. law - any time an American is on the wire in the U.S., their names got to be minimized from this and it clearly wasn't done and the Trump administration was put in a bad light because of this.

SS: If what you're saying is true, how does that fall under foreign intelligence? Is that more of the FBI-NSA expertise?

GB: It was FBI and NSA - it was clearly the FBI and the NSA that were involved, it would never have been the CIA doing that, they don't listen to telephones in the U.S., they read the product of other agencies that would provide those things, but clearly, there were individuals on those phone calls that they believed were foreign and were targeting those with potential communications with the Trump campaign. Let's be clear here - General Clapper, the DNI for President Obama, stated before he left office, that there was no, I repeat, no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. This has been something that has been dragged out again, and again, and again, by the media. This is a continuing drumbeat of the mainstream, left-wing media of the U.S., to paint the President in the poorest light, to attempt to discredit Donald Trump.

SS: With the intelligence agencies bringing down Trump's advisors like Michael Flynn - and you said the people behind that were Obama's loyalists - can we talk about the intelligence agencies being too independent from the White House, playing their own politics?

GB: I think part of the problem that we've seen during the handover of power from President Obama to President Trump was that there was a number of holdovers that went from political appointee to career status that had been placed in the NatSec apparatus and certain parts of the intelligence organisations. It is clear that President Trump and his team are determined to remove those people to make sure that there's a continuity of purpose and people aren't leaking information that would put the Administration into a negative light. That's the goal of the administration, to conduct itself consistent with the goals of securing the country from terrorism and other potential threats - whether they be counter-narcotics, or intelligence agencies trying to breach our you know, the information that we hold secure.

SS: Here's a bit of conspiracy theories - could it be that the domestic surveillance agencies like the NSA or the FBI orchestrated the Vault 7 leaks - to damage CIA, stop it from infringing on their turf?

GB :I really don't think so and that is conspiracy thinking. You have to understand something, in the intelligence communities in the U.S., whether it be the CIA and FBI, we've done a lot of cross-fertilizations. When I was in senior position in CIA's counterterrorism center, I had a deputy who was an FBI officer. An office in FBI HQ down in Washington had an FBI lead with a CIA deputy. There's a lot more cooperation than one would think. There are individuals that do assignments in each other's organisations to help foster levels of cooperation. I had members of NSA in my staff when I was at CIA, members of diplomatic security, members of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and it was run like a task force, so, there's a lot more cooperation than the media presents, they always think that there are these huge major battles between the organisations and that's rarely true.

SS: Generally speaking - is there rivalry between American intel agencies at all? Competition for resources, maybe?

GB: I think, sometimes, between the Bureau and the CIA - the CIA is the dominant agency abroad, and the FBI is the dominant agency in the U.S. What they do abroad, they frequently have to get cleared by us, what we do domestically, we have to get cleared by them, and sometimes there's some friction, but usually, we're able to work this out. It makes for great news, the CIA fighting FBI, but the reality is that there's a lot more cooperation than confrontation. We are all in the business of trying to secure the American homeland and American interests globally.

SS: I'm still thinking a lot about the whole point of having this hacking arsenal for the CIA since you talk on their behalf - the possibility to hack phones, computers, TVs and cars - if the actual terrorist attacks on US soil, like San Bernardino, Orlando are still missed?

GB: Look. There are hundreds of individuals, if not thousands, planning efforts against the U.S. at any time. It can be many-many things. And the U.S. security services, there's the CIA, the FBI, NSA - block many-many of these things, but it is impossible to stop them all. Remember, this is an open society here, in America, with 320 million people, here. We try to foster open economic system, we allow more immigration to America than all countries in the world combined. This is a great political experiment here, but it's also very difficult to police. There are times that the U.S. security services are going to fail. It's inevitable. We just have to try the best we can, do the best job that we can, while protecting the values that attract so many people to the U.S.

SS:The former CIA director John Brennan is saying Trump's order to temporarily ban travel from some Muslim states is not going to help fight terrorism in 'any significant way'. And the countries where the terrorists have previously come from - like Saudi Arabia, or Afghanistan, it's true - aren't on the list. So does he maybe have a point?

GB: John Brennan is acting more like a political operative than a former director of CIA. The countries that Mr. Trump had banned initially, or at least had put a partial, sort of a delay - where states like Somalia, Libya, the Sudan, Iran - places where we couldn't trust local vetting. Remember something, when someone immigrates to the U.S., we have what's called an "immigration packet": they may have to get a chest X-ray to make sure they don't bring any diseases with them, they have to have background check on any place they've ever lived, and in most of these places there are no security forces to do background checks on people that came from Damascus, because parts of Damascus are totally destroyed - there's been warfare. It is actually a very reasonable thing for President Trump to ask for delay in these areas. Look, the Crown-Prince, the Deputy Crown-Prince of Saudi Arabia was just in the United States and met with Donald Trump, and he said he didn't believe it was a "ban on Muslims". This was not a "ban on Muslims", it was an effort to slow down and to create more opportunity to vet those individuals coming from states where there's a preponderance of terrorist organisations operating. A reasonable step by President Trump, something he promised during the campaign, something he's fulfilling. But again, I repeat - America allows more immigration into the U.S., than all countries combined. So, we really don't need to be lectured on who we let in and who we don't let in.

SS: But I still wonder if the Crown-Prince would've had the same comment had Saudi Arabia been on that ban list. Anyways, Michael Hayden, ex-CIA

GB: Wait a second, Sophie - the Saudis have a reasonable form to police their society, and they provide accurate police checks. If they didn't create accurate police checks, we would've given the delay to them as well.

SS: Ok, I got your point. Now, Michael Hayden, ex-CIA and NSA chief, pointed out that the US intelligence enlists agents in the Muslim world with the promise of eventual emigration to America - is Trump's travel ban order going to hurt American intelligence gathering efforts in the Middle East?

GB: No, the question here - there were individuals that worked as translators for us in Afghanistan and Iraq and serving in such roles as translators, they were promised the ability to immigrate to the United States. Unfortunately, some of them were blocked in the first ban that was put down, because individuals who wrote that, didn't consider that. That has been considered in the re-write, that the Trump administration had submitted, which is now being attacked by a judge in Hawaii, and so it was taken into consideration, but the objective here was to help those that helped U.S. forces on the ground, especially those who were translators, in ground combat operations, where they risked their lives alongside American soldiers.

SS: You worked in Afghanistan - you were close to capturing Bin Laden back in 2001 - what kind of spying tools are actually used on the ground by the CIA to catch terrorists?

GB: The CIA as does any intelligence service in the world, is a human business. It's a business where we work with local security forces to strengthen their police and intelligence forces, we attempt to leverage them, we have our own people on the ground that speak the language, we're trying to help build transportation there. There's no "secret sauce" here. There's no super-technology that changes the country's ability to conduct intelligence collections or operations. In Afghanistan the greatest thing that the U.S. has is broad support and assistance to Afghan men and women across the country. We liberated half of the population, and for women were providing education, and when the people see what we were doing: trying to build schools, providing USAID projects - all of these things - this makes the population willing to work with and support the United States. Frequently, members of the insurgence groups will see this and sometimes they do actually cross the lines and cooperate with us. So, it's a full range of American political power, whether it's hard or soft, that is the strength of the American intelligence services - because people in the world actually believe - and correctly so - that American more than generally a force of good in the world.

SS: Gary, thank you so much for this interesting interview and insight into the world of the CIA. We've been talking to Gary Berntsen, former top CIA officer, veteran of the agency, talking about the politics of American intelligence in the Trump era. That's it for this edition of SophieCo, I will see you next time.


Just thinking here in the light of how things are unfolding with the CIA I am wondering since Federal crimes are committed can the FBI investigate the CIA acting as America Federal Law Enforcement.

RedBlowDryer -> GreenPin

I think the US intelligent agencies are harming their country more than any enemy of the US.


There is a reason why JFK wanted to dismantle the CIA. This guy is lying.


CIA needs hacking tools to make it look like it was carried out by another state simply for plausible deniability.

Carl Zaisser

a "force for good in the world"?...sounds like the American white hat-black hat Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism". This is a detailed litany of America's various kinds of interventions in multiple countries that cold hardly be described as "a force for good in the world"...a force for "America's values" (read with ironically), perhaps

Carl Zaisser

WHO is responsible for the outbreak of chaotic warfare in Libya and Syria?

Should we trust the Saudi vetting services...think of who the September 11 bombers were? Was there another reason they were not on Trump's banned countries list? Too big to mess with, i.e., oil and weapons sales?


Amazing how they justify their destructive behaviour in a way as they are serving America people and doing good around the wold. You can sugar count your crimes against humanity as much as you can, but the reality of today' human misery speaks for itself.


since the United States was founded in 1776, she has been at war during 214 out of her 235 calendar years of existence


interesting, but begs the question "Can we really trust what this guy tells us?" If not, what parts can we trust, and what parts can't we?


You'd have to deconstruct his talking points and I don't know how that is done. Intelligence probably knows how to do that. I noticed he was becoming more zealous on hegemony and exceptionalism as the interview neared the end.

I agree. Bernsten is almost like-ably energetic, but he is, in the end, an uncompromising warrior of the empire.


if Trump is to be controlled--they gotta have some dirt--or threat against his family --it's how they operate---


Mr. Berntsen left out the very important NSC10/2 legislation, which gave the CIA free reign with deniability as the cover. This needs to be repealed. With this legislation, the CIA answers to no one, and goes around the world wrecking havoc with the governments and people where they like. We will never have peace until that legislation is repealed.


This is why interesting books to read about the history of the CIA.


I applaud former CIA and FBI Gary Bernstein for speaking out on the most powerful intelligence networks on the planet regarding their surveillance activities. Every nation needs intelligence to safeguard but if we go beyond the call of duty and get exposed .this leaves Pres Trump and his Adm with no option but to consider corrective measures with a visit to Langley etc.. Here again the failures of Liberalism are coming up in the wash for cleaning up.


Liberalism has not been running the country for the last 54 years. We have been under a coup government and just got used to it.

[Jun 01, 2018] Google Abandons Pentagon's AI-Drone 'Project Maven' After Employee Revolt Zero Hedge

Jun 01, 2018 |

Just two weeks after around a dozen Google employees quit and close to 4,000 signed a petition over the company's involvement in a controversial military pilot program known as "Project Maven" - which will use artificial intelligence to speed up analysis of drone footage - Buzzfeed reports that Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene told employees during an internal meeting that the tech company was "not following through" on Maven .

As a reminder, Project Maven was to use machine learning to identify vehicles and other objects from drone footage - with the ultimate goal of enabling the automated detection and identification of objects in up to 38 categories - including the ability to track individuals as they come and go from different locations.

Project Maven's objective, according to Air Force Lt. Gen. John N.T. "Jack" Shanahan, director for Defense Intelligence for Warfighter Support in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, " is to turn the enormous volume of data available to DoD into actionable intelligence and insights. " - DoD

greenskeeper carl -> vato poco Fri, 06/01/2018 - 18:50 Permalink

Well, good for those employees. An computer program figuring out targets to kill? No thanks, I've seen that movie before, several of them.

This does make sense from the pentagon's point of view, though. Drone pilots constantly burning out and having substance abuse problems because of the things they do from the air is bad for business. Just put a computer program in charge, solves that problem. Plus, you don't have to worry about the computer program talking to the media or giving remorseful interviews about the kids they've killed, etc.

toady -> greenskeeper carl Fri, 06/01/2018 - 18:50 Permalink

Remember "don't be evil"?

Neither do they.

Rapunzal -> toady Fri, 06/01/2018 - 18:57 Permalink

Just a joke, they never quit. It's just a whitewash by the MSM. So we can believe in an honest system.

ClickNLook -> ACP Fri, 06/01/2018 - 19:43 Permalink

How exactly have they "revolted"?

Did they throw their custom coffee drinks on the floor, talked in squeaky voices to each other, raised their hands in anger, made some incoherent threats toward management in their private conversations, scotched a few more Dilbert cartoons on the outer walls of their cubicles? This kind of revolt?

beemasters -> greenskeeper carl Fri, 06/01/2018 - 18:50 Permalink

Google employees rock.
I doubt the management will risk it by doing it secretly. But the military might find ways to reverse engineer whatever Google produces. If they get caught and have to pay damages...hey, it's taxpayers' money anyway they use against the people/humanity. They don't care.

ScratInTheHat -> beemasters Fri, 06/01/2018 - 18:53 Permalink

Or Google hires third party to finish the project and doesn't tell their open employees what they are working on.

dietrolldietroll Fri, 06/01/2018 - 22:06 Permalink

Correction: Google just created a secret project. Govt money doesn't take "no" for an answer.

[May 29, 2018] Amazon's Relentless Pursuit of Largesse The American Conservative

Notable quotes:
"... Follow him on Twitter: @DanielMKishi . ..."
May 29, 2018 |

Powerful is the man who, with a short series of tweets, can single-handedly send the bluest of the blue-chip stocks into a headlong tumble. For better or for worse, the current occupant of the Oval Office is one such man, tapping into his power with the following missive that crossed the Twitter transom on the morning of March 29:

I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the Election. Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!

Over the next few trading days, with four subsequent tweets peppered in, Amazon's stock dropped by more than $75 a share, losing a market value of nearly $40 billion. Card carrying-members of the Resistance and Never Trump brigade quickly portrayed the president's scorn as the latest evidence of his "soft totalitarianism" and general disdain for the First Amendment and the free press. They noted that Amazon's CEO and founder, Jeff Bezos, owns the Washington Post -- a leading "perpetrator" of what Trump has called the "opposition party" and "fake news."

Concerns of politically motivated impropriety are not without merit. Trump has repeatedly proven himself unworthy of the benefit of the doubt. As presidential candidate and commander in chief, he has demonstrated an eagerness to use his Twitter account as a bully pulpit in his petty brawls with lawmakers, media personalities, and anyone else who might draw his ire.

And yet, ulterior motives though there may be, knee-jerk dismissals of the president's attack are short-sighted. The president's bluster in this instance is rooted in reality.

Indeed, contra the libertarian ethos that Amazon and its leader purport to embody, the company has not emerged as one of history's preeminent corporate juggernauts through thrift and elbow grease alone. Although the company's harshest critics must concede that Amazon is the world's most consistently competent corporation -- replete with innovation and ingenuity -- the company's unprecedented growth would not be possible without two key ingredients: corporate welfare and tax avoidance.

Amazon has long benefitted from the procurement of taxpayer-funded subsidies, emerging in recent years as the leading recipient of corporate welfare. According to Good Jobs First, a Washington, D.C., organization dedicated to corporate and government accountability, Amazon has, since 2000, received more than $1.39 billion in state and local tax breaks and subsidies for construction of its vast network of warehouses and data centers.

These private-public "partnership" deals are perhaps best illustrated by the sweepstakes for Amazon's second headquarters. Touted as the economic development opportunity of the century, the chosen destination will reap the benefits of 50,000 "high-paying" jobs and $5 billion in construction spending. The possibility of securing an economic development package of this magnitude elicited proposals from 238 North American cities and regions, fomenting what some have called a "bidding war" between mayors, governors, and county executives desperate for economic invigoration.

After a first round deadline of October 19, the pool of applicants was, in mid-January, whittled down to a list of 20. As expected, each finalist offered incentive packages worth more than a billion dollars, with Montgomery County, Maryland, ($8.5 billion) and Newark, New Jersey, ($7 billion) offering the most eye-popping bundles. Proposals utilized a wide array of state and local economic development programs: property tax discounts, infrastructure subsidies, and, in the case of Chicago's proposal, an incentive known as a "personal income-tax diversion." Worth up to $1.32 billion, Amazon employees would still pay their income taxes in full -- but instead of Illinois receiving the money, the tax payments would be funneled directly into the pockets of Amazon itself.

While critics condemn the ostentatious bids of Maryland and New Jersey and decry the "creative" gimmicks of cities such as Chicago, they are equally worried about the details -- or lack thereof -- of the proposals from the other finalists. Despite demands for transparency from local community leaders and journalists, only a handful of cities have released the details of their bids in full, while six finalists -- Indianapolis, Dallas, Northern Virginia, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Raleigh, North Carolina -- have refused to release any of the details from their first-round bids. Viewing themselves as players in a zero-sum game of high-stakes poker, they claim that there is little to gain, but a lot to lose, in making their proposals public.

Such secrecy has, in the second round of bidding, become the rule more than the exception. Although he owns a newspaper with the slogan "Democracy Dies in Darkness," Bezos has required state and local officials involved in negotiations to sign non-disclosure agreements. With the opportunity to revisit and revise their bids (i.e., increase their dollar value), the transition from public spectacle to backroom dealing introduces yet another cause for concern. If the finalists don't apprise citizens of their bids' details, the citizens can't weigh the costs and benefits and determine whether inviting the company into their midst will be a net positive or net negative.

Amazon's pursuit of public tithes and offerings is matched by its relentless obsession with avoiding taxes. Employing a legion of accountants and lawyers, the company has become a master at navigating the tax code and exploiting every loophole. Illegality is not the issue here but rather a tax system that allows mammoth corporations to operate with huge tax advantages not available to mom-and-pop shops on Main Street.

Of course Amazon isn't unique in its desire to avoid the taxman. It is, however, unrivaled in its ability to do so. Last fall's debate concerning the merits of lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent was, for Amazon, a moot point. In the five years from 2012 to 2016, Amazon paid an effective federal income tax rate of only 11.4 percent.

The company fared even better in 2017. Despite posting a $5.6 billion profit, Amazon didn't pay a single cent in federal taxes, according to a recent report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. What's more, Amazon projects it will receive an additional $789 million in kickbacks from last year's tax reform bill.

Even by the standards of mammoth corporations, this is impressive. By way of comparison, Walmart -- no stranger to corporate welfare and tax avoidance -- has paid $64 billion in corporate income tax since 2008. Amazon? Just $1.4 billion.

Amazon's tax-avoidance success can be attributed to two things: avoiding the collection of sales taxes and stashing profits in overseas tax havens. The IRS estimates that Amazon has dodged more than $1.5 billion in taxes by funneling the patents of its intellectual property behind the walls of its European headquarters city, Luxembourg -- a widely used corporate tax haven. Again, nothing illegal here, but there's something wrong with a tax system that allows it.

From day one, Amazon's business model involved legally avoiding any obligation to collect sales taxes, and then using the subsequent pricing advantage to gain market share. It did this by first locating its warehouses in very few states, most of which did not have a sales tax. It then shipped its goods to customers that resided in other states that did have sales tax. This game plan allowed Amazon to avoid what is known as "nexus" in sales-tax states, meaning that those states could not compel it to collect the tax -- a two to 10 percent competitive advantage over its brick-and-mortar counterparts.

Amazon exploited this tax advantage for years until state legislatures -- realizing how much revenue they were losing -- gradually began passing legislation requiring Internet retailers to collect sales taxes for items purchased by their citizens. In 2012, having already benefited from this competitive advantage for more than a decade and a half, Bezos -- under the pretense of a "level playing field" -- began advocating for federal legislation that would require Internet retailers to collect sales tax. No such legislation has been passed.

And despite Bezos's carefully calculated public relations posturing, Amazon's advantage over brick-and-mortar retailers persists: not only does Amazon not collect city and county sales taxes (where applicable) but it also doesn't, with few exceptions, collect sales tax on items sold by third-party distributors on Amazon Marketplace -- sales that account for more than half of Amazon's sales.

It is difficult to overstate how instrumental tax breaks and tax avoidance have been in Amazon's unprecedented growth. As Bezos made clear in his first letter to shareholders in 1997, Amazon's business plan is predicated on amassing long-term market share in lieu of short-term profits. As a result, the company operates on razor-thin margins in some retail categories, while actually taking losses in others.

Amazon has not squandered these competitive advantages. Half of online retail purchases are made through Amazon, and more than half of American households are enrolled in the Amazon Prime program -- a subscription service that engenders platform loyalty and leads to increases in consumer spending.

In fact, Amazon's ascent and tactics have led an increasing number of public policy experts to call for a renewed enforcement of America's antitrust laws. The concern is that Amazon has used its market power to crush smaller competitors with a swath of anti-competitive practices, including predatory pricing and market power advantages stemming from Amazon Marketplace -- Amazon's vast sales platform for third-party retailers.

Such practices may be a boon for consumers and Amazon stockholders, the reasoning goes, but they are only possible because Amazon uses economic power to squeeze its retail partners on pricing at various points in the production line, which harms the health of many other businesses. In fact, some suggest this bullying tendency calls to mind the actions of John D. Rockefeller in his dealings with railroad companies at the turn of the last century.

These monopolistic practices have squeezed local, state, and federal revenue streams in two ways. Not only do these governments forego the collection of needed tax revenue but Amazon's rise has also knocked out many brick-and-mortar competitors that previously had provided streams of tax revenue. By wooing Amazon with taxpayer-funded subsidies and other giveaways, government leaders are, in a very real sense, funding the destruction of their own tax base. There is little evidence that such taxpayer-funded inducements have resulted in a net positive to the states and localities doling out the subsidies.

By forsaking the tenets of free market orthodoxy, forgoing the collection of much-needed tax revenue, and giving big businesses major competitive advantages, state and local governments have generated increasing controversy and political enmity from both ends of the political spectrum. And yet, though bipartisan accusations of crony capitalism and corporate welfare abound, such opposition does little to dissuade state and local governments from loosening the public purse strings in their efforts to woo big corporations such as Amazon.

Daniel Kishi is associate editor of The American Conservative. Follow him on Twitter: @DanielMKishi .

[May 23, 2018] Facebook partners with hawkish Atlantic Council, a NATO lobby group, to "protect Demo

May 23, 2018 |

Facebook is hoping that a new alliance with the Atlantic Council -- a leading geopolitical strategy think-tank seen as a de facto PR agency for the U.S. government and NATO military alliance – will not only solve its "fake news" and "disinformation" controversy, but will also help the social media monolith play "a positive role" in ensuring democracy on a global level.
The new partnership will effectively ensure that Atlantic Council will serve as Facebook's "eyes and ears," according to a company press statement. With its leadership comprised of retired military officers, former policymakers, and top figures from the U.S. National Security State and Western business elites, the Atlantic Council's role policing the social network should be viewed as a virtual takeover of Facebook by the imperialist state and the council's extensive list of ultra-wealthy and corporate donors.
The partnership is only the latest in a steady stream of announced plans by the Menlo Park, California-based company to address controversy surrounding its role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The company has been mired in scandal stemming from the allegations of "election interference" carried out through the social network – usually pinned on the Russian government and ranging from the use of independent media to the theft of Facebook user data by political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica.
The announcement should sound alarm bells when one considers the Atlantic Council's list of sponsors – including, but not limited to, war-profiteering defense contractors; agencies aligned with Washington and the Pentagon; Gulf Arab tyrants; major transnational corporations; and such well-loved Western philanthropic brands as Carnegie, Koch, Rockefeller, and Soros. Even the name of the group itself is meant to evoke the North Atlantic Council, the highest political decision-making body of North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Full report:

[May 15, 2018] Suspect Identified in C.I.A. Leak Was Charged, but Not for the Breach - The New York Times

May 15, 2018 |

... ... ...

[Vault 7] was the largest loss of classified documents in the agency's history and a huge embarrassment for C.I.A. officials.

Now, the prime suspect in the breach has been identified: a 29-year-old former C.I.A. software engineer who had designed malware used to break into the computers of terrorism suspects and other targets, The New York Times has learned.

Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation searched the Manhattan apartment of the suspect, Joshua A. Schulte, one week after WikiLeaks released the first of the C.I.A. documents in March last year, and then stopped him from flying to Mexico on vacation, taking his passport, according to court records and relatives. The search warrant application said Mr. Schulte was suspected of "distribution of national defense information," and agents told the court they had retrieved "N.S.A. and C.I.A. paperwork" in addition to a computer, tablet, phone and other electronics.

But instead of charging Mr. Schulte in the breach, referred to as the Vault 7 leak, prosecutors charged him last August with possessing child pornography, saying agents had found 10,000 illicit images on a server he created as a business in 2009 while studying at the University of Texas at Austin.

Court papers quote messages from Mr. Schulte that suggest he was aware of the encrypted images of children being molested by adults on his computer, though he advised one user, "Just don't put anything too illegal on there."

In September, Mr. Schulte was released on the condition that he not leave New York City, where he lived with a cousin, and keep off computers. He was jailed in December after prosecutors found evidence that he had violated those rules, and he has been held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan since then. He has posted on Facebook under a pseudonym a series of essays critical of the criminal justice system.

It is unclear why, more than a year after he was arrested, he has not been charged or cleared in connection with Vault 7. Leak investigators have had access to electronic audit trails inside the C.I.A. that may indicate who accessed the files that were stolen, and they have had possession of Mr. Schulte's personal data for many months.

... ... ...

According to his family and his LinkedIn page , Mr. Schulte did an internship at the National Security Agency while working on a bachelor's degree in computer engineering. He worked in the C.I.A.'s Engineering Development Group, which designed the hacking tools used by its Center for Cyber Intelligence. He left the agency in November 2016 and moved to New York to work for Bloomberg L.P. as a software engineer.

Most of the government's cyberespionage is carried out by the N.S.A., but the C.I.A. also employs hackers. The leaked Vault 7 documents came from the agency's Engineering Development Group and included descriptions and instructions for the use of agency hacking tools, but only a small amount of the actual computer code for the tools.

.... ... ...

[Apr 11, 2018] Another step closer to the totalitarian state

Apr 11, 2018 |

Bill Jones , April 10, 2018 at 9:57 pm GMT

Another step closer to the totalitarian state

The Department of Homeland Security wants to track the comings and goings of journalists, bloggers and other "media influencers" through a database.

[Apr 02, 2018] The Guardian

Notable quotes:
"... every single Google search ..."
"... Dylan Curran is a data consultant and web developer, who does extensive research into spreading technical awareness and improving digital etiquette ..."
Apr 02, 2018 |

Are you ready? Here is all the data Facebook and Google have on you Dylan Curran The harvesting of our personal details goes far beyond what many of us could imagine. So I braced myself and had a look

Fri 30 Mar 2018 03.17 EDT First published on Wed 28 Mar 2018 06.00 EDT Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via Email View more sharing options Share on LinkedIn Share on Pinterest Share on Google+ Share on WhatsApp Share on Messenger Close A slice of the data that Facebook keeps on the author: 'This information has millions of nefarious uses.' Photograph: Dylan Curran W ant to freak yourself out? I'm going to show just how much of your information the likes of Facebook and Google store about you without you even realising it. Google knows where you've been

Google stores your location (if you have location tracking turned on) every time you turn on your phone. You can see a timeline of where you've been from the very first day you started using Google on your phone.

Click on this link to see your own data:

Here is every place I have been in the last 12 months in Ireland. You can see the time of day that I was in the location and how long it took me to get to that location from my previous one.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest 'A Google map of every place I've been in Ireland this year.' Photograph: Dylan Curran Google knows everything you've ever searched – and deleted

Google stores search history across all your devices. That can mean that, even if you delete your search history and phone history on one device, it may still have data saved from other devices .

Click on this link to see your own data:

ss="rich-link"> Why have we given up our privacy to Facebook and other sites so willingly? Read more Google has an advertisement profile of you

Google creates an advertisement profile based on your information, including your location, gender, age, hobbies, career, interests, relationship status, possible weight (need to lose 10lb in one day?) and income.

Click on this link to see your own data:

Google knows all the apps you use

Google stores information on every app and extension you use. They know how often you use them, where you use them, and who you use them to interact with. That means they know who you talk to on Facebook, what countries are you speaking with, what time you go to sleep.

Click on this link to see your own data:

Google has all of your YouTube history

Google stores all of your YouTube history, so they probably know whether you're going to be a parent soon, if you're a conservative, if you're a progressive, if you're Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, if you're feeling depressed or suicidal, if you're anorexic

Click on this link to see your own data:

The data Google has on you can fill millions of Word documents

Google offers an option to download all of the data it stores about you. I've requested to download it and the file is 5.5GB big , which is roughly 3m Word documents.

ass="inline-garnett-quote inline-icon ">

Manage to gain access to someone's Google account? Perfect, you have a diary of everything that person has done

This link includes your bookmarks, emails, contacts, your Google Drive files, all of the above information, your YouTube videos, the photos you've taken on your phone, the businesses you've bought from, the products you've bought through Google

They also have data from your calendar, your Google hangout sessions, your location history, the music you listen to, the Google books you've purchased, the Google groups you're in, the websites you've created, the phones you've owned, the pages you've shared, how many steps you walk in a day

Click on this link to see your own data:

Facebook has reams and reams of data on you, too

Facebook offers a similar option to download all your information. Mine was roughly 600MB, which is roughly 400,000 Word documents.

This includes every message you've ever sent or been sent, every file you've ever sent or been sent, all the contacts in your phone, and all the audio messages you've ever sent or been sent.

Click here to see your data:

Facebook Twitter Pinterest 'A snapshot of the data Facebook has saved on me.' Photograph: Dylan Curran Facebook stores everything from your stickers to your login location

Facebook also stores what it thinks you might be interested in based off the things you've liked and what you and your friends talk about (I apparently like the topic "girl").

Somewhat pointlessly, they also store all the stickers you've ever sent on Facebook (I have no idea why they do this. It's just a joke at this stage).

They also store every time you log in to Facebook, where you logged in from, what time, and from what device.

And they store all the applications you've ever had connected to your Facebook account, so they can guess I'm interested in politics and web and graphic design, that I was single between X and Y period with the installation of Tinder, and I got a HTC phone in November.

(Side note, if you have Windows 10 installed, this is a picture of just the privacy options with 16 different sub-menus, which have all of the options enabled by default when you install Windows 10)

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Privacy options in Windows 10. Photograph: Dylan Curran They can access your webcam and microphone

The data they collect includes tracking where you are, what applications you have installed, when you use them, what you use them for, access to your webcam and microphone at any time, your contacts, your emails, your calendar, your call history, the messages you send and receive, the files you download, the games you play, your photos and videos, your music, your search history, your browsing history, even what radio stations you listen to.

ss="rich-link"> Facebook told me it would act swiftly on data misuse – in 2015 | Harry Davies Read more Here are some of the different ways Google gets your data

I got the Google Takeout document with all my information, and this is a breakdown of all the different ways they get your information.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest 'My Google Takeout document.' Photograph: Dylan Curran

Here's the search history document, which has 90,000 different entries, even showing the images I downloaded and the websites I accessed (I showed the Pirate Bay section to show how much damage this information can do).

Facebook Twitter Pinterest 'My search history document has 90,000 different entries.' Photograph: Dylan Curran Google knows which events you attended, and when

Here's my Google Calendar broken down, showing all the events I've ever added, whether I actually attended them, and what time I attended them at (this part is when I went for an interview for a marketing job, and what time I arrived).

Facebook Twitter Pinterest 'Here is my Google calendar showing a job interview I attended.' Photograph: Dylan Curran And Google has information you deleted

This is my Google Drive, which includes files I explicitly deleted including my résumé, my monthly budget, and all the code, files and websites I've ever made, and even my PGP private key, which I deleted, that I use to encrypt emails.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Google can know your workout routine

This is my Google Fit, which shows all of the steps I've ever taken, any time I walked anywhere, and all the times I've recorded any meditation/yoga/workouts I've done (I deleted this information and revoked Google Fit's permissions).

Facebook Twitter Pinterest And they have years' worth of photos

This is all the photos ever taken with my phone, broken down by year, and includes metadata of when and where I took the photos

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Google has every email you ever sent

Every email I've ever sent, that's been sent to me, including the ones I deleted or were categorised as spam.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest And there is more

I'll just do a short summary of what's in the thousands of files I received under my Google Activity.

First, every Google Ad I've ever viewed or clicked on, every app I've ever launched or used and when I did it, every website I've ever visited and what time I did it at, and every app I've ever installed or searched for.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest 'They have every single Google search I've made since 2009.'

They also have every image I've ever searched for and saved, every location I've ever searched for or clicked on, every news article I've ever searched for or read, and every single Google search I've made since 2009. And then finally, every YouTube video I've ever searched for or viewed, since 2008.

This information has millions of nefarious uses. You say you're not a terrorist. Then how come you were googling Isis? Work at Google and you're suspicious of your wife? Perfect, just look up her location and search history for the last 10 years. Manage to gain access to someone's Google account? Perfect, you have a chronological diary of everything that person has done for the last 10 years.

This is one of the craziest things about the modern age. We would never let the government or a corporation put cameras/microphones in our homes or location trackers on us. But we just went ahead and did it ourselves because – to hell with it! – I want to watch cute dog videos.

• A caption was corrected on 28 March 2018 to replace "privacy options in Facebook" with "privacy options in Windows 10".

Dylan Curran is a data consultant and web developer, who does extensive research into spreading technical awareness and improving digital etiquette

[Apr 02, 2018] Should I Buy A 'Smart' Phone

Apr 02, 2018 |

The obvious question came up: Should I buy a smartphone to replace my trusted Ericsson?

I tested several of the current top-of-the-line smartphones - Motorola, Samsung, Apple. They were in the same relative price range as my old Ericsson was at its time. But they lack in usability. They either have a too small screen for their multitude of functions or they are bricks that require an extra pocket.

I do not want to give all my data into the hands of some unaccountable billionaires and unknown third parties. I do not want my privacy destroyed.

So no - I decided not to buy a smartphone as replacement for my trusted Ericsson companion.

Here is my new phone:


It is a Chinese product sold in Germany under the Olympia brand. It is a GSM quad-band 'dumb' phone with FM radio and a flashlight. The standby time is 140 hours and talk-time is 3+ hours. The battery is a standardized model and future replacements will be easy to find.

Size and weight are nearly the same as the old Ericsson. The keys are much bigger, illuminated and easier to handle, especially in the dark. It is a robust construction and the sound quality is good.

It cost me €22.00 ($26.40).

Posted by b on April 2, 2018 at 03:28 PM | Permalink

Tian , Apr 2, 2018 3:48:53 PM | 2

I'm not convinced the new generation of retro dumb phones aka feature phones do not also have all the same surveillance capabilities as their smart brethren - even though they don't expose those capabilities as features to the end user.
John Zelnicker , Apr 2, 2018 4:05:54 PM | 7
b - I only scanned your post, but my answer is: NO!

Don't buy a "smart" phone (or anything else labeled "smart"). They are nothing more than data collectors, part of the Internet of Things that, IMNSHO, is an existential threat to our civilization.

I just decided to look back at the end of the post. and I see that you took my advice. ;-)

Alan Reid , Apr 2, 2018 4:16:20 PM | 9
Well you have to ask yourself, Do i want to participate in a mass surveillance system for one, Then you have to ask Is their any reason i would accept constant audio recordings being made of my environment, then you have the camera angle to contend... Then your GPS location is a major issue, add the ultrasonic beacon thing and the cell tower triangulation aspect to consider.... the phone you have from 2001 is not anywhere near as proficient at many of these tasks being built well before the 2006 legislation regarding this series of systems... If it were me and i knew all about this stuff, i would pay a hell of a lot more than a new phone is worth to keep the old unit in service for as long as you could... Any new phone is going to do all the above to your privacy and then some the old one is very limited, so how concerned are you with being an open book to who ever has access to your phone from the hidden parts and functions you never get to use? Me? I have seen a ton of serious problems with the uses of the tech being built into the modern smartphones, some models give you lots of functions to use, some give you a basic lite experience, But ALL new devices give the state running the system a HEFTY pack of features you will never know about until it's damage has been done. Take my advice Keep the 2000 model going for as long as you can if you must have a mobile phone. If you WANT to be the target of every nasty thing the state does with this new tech investigator/spy then by all means get one of the smart type, Any new one is just as bad as any other after 2006 legislation changes went into effect. 2001 was a very bad event for this topic... I will not have one after the events that befell me. A high performance radio computer with many types of real world sensors, using a wide spread and near unavoidable network of up link stations is the states most useful weapon. Everyone chooses to have what they have, You can also choose to NOT have, but few choose NOT, many choose the worst option on old values of this sort of choice and never think about the loss they incur to have the NEW gadget for whatever reason they rationalize it.
Whorin Piece , Apr 2, 2018 4:21:54 PM | 12
Smart phones are destroyers of information sovereignty. With a PC one can save a copy of every page you visit whereas with the smart phone all you can practically do is view things. It pisses me off.

Has anyone noticed how shallow the so called world wide web has gotten these days.,? Search terms which would in the psst throw up hundreds if not thousands of webpages on the subject matter now result in sometimes no more than 3 or 4 entries. Google has stolen the internet of us all. The web is dead. Cunts like zuckerberg should be drop kicked into the long grass.

nervos belli , Apr 2, 2018 4:23:24 PM | 13
The main espionage equipment in a smartphone or dumbphone is not the application processor and the programs that run on it. It's the GSM/3G/UMTS/LTE/5G chipset which every single one of them obviously has. "We kill with metadata" is the most important aphorism about phones, no matter which kind, ever.

However, a smartphone gives you lots of convenience which your 22$ chinaphone doesn't give you. A browser when on the road, a book reader, a map device.
You have to take a few precautions, e.g. use LineageOS, install AFWall and XPrivacy. Nothing different from using a PC basically. And you certainly shouldn't shell out 500$ for one. Every dollar/euro above ca. 100 has to be very well justified.

Sure, you can live in the 80s, nothing wrong with that. We lived fine back in those days too, but why not take advantage of some of the improvements since then?

psychohistorian | Apr 2, 2018 4:23:43 PM | 15

Nice post b. Expresses my sentiments exactly.

I had to take my Nokia X2 out of the plastic bag I keep it in so it doesn't get wet to see what model it was....I keep the battery out and pay T Mobile $10/year to have emergency minutes when I need them....I maintain and use a land line for all my calls.

It is not like these devices couldn't be useful but like the desktop OS world, bloatware is a standard now. I have programmed handheld devices since 1985 and my latest was a MS Windoze10/C# inventory management application with barcodes and such.

Prior to the Nokia I have now I was nursing along a Palm 720p until I couldn't get a carrier to support it anymore. So since the Palm I have consciously gone back to a Weekly Minder type of pocket calendar which I had to use before the online capability came along.

If our world were to change like I want it to by making the tools finance a public utility I might learn to trust more of my life to be held by technology than the 5 eyes already know......Everyone has seen the movie SNOWDEN , correct? Mac laptop had tape over the camera as soon as I brought it home.....I have a nice Nikon Coolpix camera with the GPS turned off and the battery out......grin

visitor , Apr 2, 2018 4:41:50 PM | 18

I understand your choice, but you should have looked for a basic phone not just with GSM (2G), but also at least with UMTS (3G).

GSM is being wound down, and the frequencies reallocated to LTE (4G).

Many operators in several countries have already switched off their GSM networks (Australia, USA...) This means that in about 3-4 years, you will have real difficulties using your new mobile phone, at least in developed countries; in the Third World, GSM will probably last a bit longer.

Stephane , Apr 2, 2018 4:49:37 PM | 20
I have a cheapo Nokia 100 for calls and a YotaPhone 2 as a tablet. The Yota is Russian but I don't mind the FSB 😃 Aldo it has two screens, one being a passive black and white for use in full bright sun light.
xor , Apr 2, 2018 4:50:34 PM | 21
I think b made a wise decision. Up till now I've also not needed a smart phone and the continious "connection" or being hooked to the "matrix" would not only eat my valuable time away but would also make me feel more bound.

"Another disadvantage of smartphones is enormous amount of personal data they inevitably steal for uncontrolled use by third parties. The technical consultant Dylan Curran studied this:

As soon as an Android smartphone is switched on Google will collect ALL data on every location change and on anything done on the phone. Apple does likewise with its iPhones."

That's the basic privacy nullification. There is also what can be described as the invasive potential. Certain companies, next to intelligence agencies, have made it their business to switch a victims own smart phone into a full blown active spy device. Obviously the victims are particular persons of interests like Dilma Roussef. Whenever a person is having a conversation, talks to himself out loud, has a meeting or is intimate, all sounds and conversations can be recorded next to video when the phone is positioned well. As we know, most people will not or can't part from their beloved smart phone.

aquadraht , Apr 2, 2018 5:19:24 PM | 25
I can not tell what to do. In fact, when buying a "smartphone", you have to get used that the phone will be discharged during 1 or 1.5 days, you will become dependent to next USB source, or a battery pack (which is somewhat heavy, 1 pound ca. but not too bulky.

Personally, I am using such a device since 5 yrs ca., first a 4.7" HTC one of my daughters gave me. I soon installed Cyanogenmod (now LineageOS) and threw away all the bloat and especially the Google and Facebook dirt and spyware. I do not have an email account on the brick, rather a browser over which I may access the Web representation of my email account, which is NOT gmail or similar. I do not use Google playstore.

The "killer apps" for me are mainly FBReader, a free ebook reader, VLC for audio and video, and OSMand, an OpenStreetMap client. Some simple calendar, picture etc. apps are on as well. My recent phone is a Samsung S4 mini, bought used for 50€.

This is a minimalistic setup, but makes tracking and spying other than by government agencies difficult. LineageOS is updated nearly every week, so fairly safe against Android malware.

With a "regular" smartphone, you will lack updates after a few years, have a lot of bloat on board you cannot get rid of, be forced to have a Google account for access of the software repository Google playstore, which is deeply integrated into Android. If one does not care to be spied and sniffed not only by the FBI and NSA, but by Brin and Zuckerberg in addition, ok.

Greetings, a^2

Jay , Apr 2, 2018 5:59:47 PM | 29
Provided one has access to good public WiFi: It seems to me that Wifi and a tablet, or laptop (with a good battery) + the use of a virtual proxy network, VPN, which are almost always encrypted, is better than a smartphone. (Of course if the tablet is Android don't use the Chrome web browser.)

Then just buy a 25 euro Samsung or LG flip phone for the talking part of phone use. It won't last 17 years, but one can still get batteries for them.

Of course this approach doesn't work if you don't have solid public WiFi where you'd normally use a smartphone in public.

xor , Apr 2, 2018 6:17:31 PM | 30
@mh505 #27 Even with a SIM card not linked to your personal ID card it's fairly easy to automatically tie your smartphone to your person whereby you end up in the drag net you try to escape. Not in the least thanks to your close ones whom probably have you listed with your full name + phone number (thus SIM) in their smartphone. And that's even besides you connecting to all kinds of services offered by Google and the likes that know where you personally hang out because of WIFI access points, GPS location (if enabled), connected IP address where someone else connected to who has GPS enabled etc.

Unfortunately your list of EU countries that don't require personal ID to purchase a SIM card is incorrect.

Piotr Berman , Apr 2, 2018 6:35:20 PM | 32
It depends on the prices in your phone market.

In USA it pays to be stupid. The choice I have is to use a smart phone with a monthly charge ca. 100 dollars or a stupid phone with a monthly charge of 8 dollars (or is it 15? and the phone for 8). And if you are old enough you can bear with hardships like memorizing the map of the area were you live, having to check stuff on your own desktop computer before you leave home etc. And the difference in costs can be spent on cigarettes, beer, donations to OxPham, it is your pick.

Concerning surveilance, a stupid phone is used sparingly, so it definitely provides less tracking info.

Dee Wrench , Apr 2, 2018 9:08:38 PM | 42
I'm a 53 year old dog and try to keep things simple for myself. Being paranoid about being tracked and watched isn't my thing. I use my smart phone as a phone when I need to talk to an asswipe at work or my only friend to schedule a meetup or the wife unit when she calls. I have limited data so I usually wait until I'm home to view porn and news websites on the pc. I don't do any financial tasks on the phone, rarely text anyone, rarely use the camera, have only a few apps for things like weather and writing myself a note to remember to pick up milk or dog food on the way home from work. My life is so boring and my bank account so empty I'm not worth a bother to "them".

[Apr 02, 2018] Is It Time to Delete Facebook? by Lambert Strether

Notable quotes:
"... voting is not the same as buying stuff ..."
"... By Marshall Auerback, a market analyst and commentator. Originally published at Alternet . ..."
"... The Hidden Persuaders ..."
Apr 01, 2018 |

Lambert here: Readers will notice that Auerback seems to assume that Cambridge Analytica's shenanigans with Facebook data shifted votes in 2016 (as do the links to which he cites)*. His post summarizes the political and analytical state of play, but may be usefully read in conjunction with this 2017 post at NC by Marina Bart, who cautioned :

There is no question that modern social media facilitates highly segmented marketing. There is no question that political campaigns can benefit from this. Figuring out who might be receptive to your candidate and their policies, where they vote, and motivating them to go to the polls is fundamental campaign work. But that is not at all the same thing as manipulating people into voting against their interests, which is presumably what is feared (and possibly secretly hoped for) by the fretful Democrats. There is no evidence Cambridge Analytica did any psychological manipulations for Trump.

I'm not saying it's impossible for Big Data highly segmented psychological manipulation to ever work. But it isn't happening now; there's no evidence it will work in the near future; there are many, many obstacles to overcome; and there are two very basic reasons why it cannot be the secret weapon I suspect the Democrats long for.

The most basic one is that voting is not the same as buying stuff . There is no direct connection between casting a vote and getting anything in return, not even the momentary pleasure of buying a candy bar.

(In other words, the current Cambridge Analytical scare is based on a category error.) Of course, from a Wall Street "beauty contest" perspective, what Facebook can actually do may matter less than what people think it can do. From my own perspective, I don't want Facebook's filthy data-gathering proboscis nuzzling my personal affairs at all , regardless of any effect it may have, and that goes for Google, too. Whether I'm an outlier in my revulsion remains to be seen.

NOTE * Indeed, were evidence for this assumption to exist, one would assume it would already have been produced. If it has been, I've missed it, and I do try to keep track.

By Marshall Auerback, a market analyst and commentator. Originally published at Alternet .

Cambridge Analytica's systematic harvesting of Facebook user preferences to create detailed models of voter emotions appears to have played a significant role in the election of Donald Trump and the victory of the "Brexiters" on the referendum on whether the United Kingdom should leave the European Union or not. There is shock and anxiety at the revelations about how a few right-wing ideologues were able to exploit Facebook's database and then use it to justify populist campaigns fronted by publicity hounds of dubious moral and financial principles (Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and Nigel Farage immediately spring to mind).

Whether the Facebook fiasco conclusively proves either Russian involvement in the 2016 election (or the UK's Brexit referendum), or simply highlights the violation of campaign finance laws, is yet to be determined. But what is certainly beyond dispute from the apparently unauthorized use of Facebook's database of some 50 million users is that longstanding Madison Avenue advertising techniques worked equally well when applied to majority voting instead of employee practices or consumer spending. One possible outcome is that centralized repositories like Facebook -- or Google, or Amazon -- could become a ripe target for regulation and/or anti-trust action. Another possibility is that the voluntary participation on which Facebook is built will collapse spontaneously via consumer rejection.

That course of action is currently being advocated by WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton, who is spearheading a #DeleteFacebook campaign .

In one sense, there is nothing new in what Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have done. Way back in 1957, author Vance Packard's The Hidden Persuaders described how :

"Large-scale efforts are being made, often with impressive success, to channel our unthinking habits, our purchasing decisions, and our thought processes by the use of insights gleaned from psychiatry and the social sciences. Typically these efforts take place beneath our level of awareness, so that the appeals which move us are often, in a sense, 'hidden.'"

But in a world in which we have all become reliant on the internet for our information, our searches and declared preferences are constantly recorded. Therefore an uncanny amount about us can be learned in a manner that is far more centralized and prone to manipulation than traditional forms of advertising. A wave of shrinkage in traditional advertising firms has correspondingly occurred as the robotic, targeted advertising has become the new norm, largely because it is both cheaper and more effective.

Facebook in particular is a social media way of harnessing interpersonal linkages through the net. Its model must be using those links and the information they generate to create value for advertisers. Any user of Facebook (or Amazon) can easily see how fast browsers insert ads related to one's most recent searches. So it becomes manifestly clear that these companies are tracking us for common advertising purposes.

Politics has always looked into the underlying motivations of voters to manage them. But using the data as documented by the Guardian , this went to a new level of political detail in 2016 that fueled the faster cycle of hard-hitting Trump campaigning. Facebook, Google, Amazon, Twitter, etc., have all become huge aggregators of this information. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's recent apologies notwithstanding , the companies are either being naïve in proclaiming shock that their data can be misused or, more likely, have been so obsessed with building market share and watching their company market caps explode into the hundreds of billions of dollars that they willfully ignored the scope for abuse. Either way, the information seems to have reached a threshold of importance where governments will step in and disrupt the existing mode, especially now that the full power of this database has been recognized and exploited by a successful political candidate, whether via regulation or antitrust measures. Otherwise, the demands will rise for Facebook to give the data to all, because it cannot guarantee that it has been erased everywhere, which has disturbing implications for our privacy (as well as threatening to destroy Facebook's business model, the success of which is predicated on the exclusive use of the data aggregated from the user base).

However much someone like Brian Acton, who was made a billionaire courtesy of Facebook's purchase of his company, might like others to embrace his #DeleteFacebook campaign, that appears problematic, given how successfully the use of Facebook's model operated in the political context. But there is growing international political momentum to strip the " social network " and its targeted advertising model of much of its abilities to record and use customer data. Former President Barack Obama hinted at this at a recent speech at MIT :

"I do think the large platforms -- Google and Facebook being the most obvious, Twitter and others as well, are part of that ecosystem -- have to have a conversation about their business model that recognizes they are a public good as well as a commercial enterprise. They're not just an invisible platform, they're shaping our culture in powerful ways."

Obama did not explicitly state what he had in mind for these companies, but he did suggest that at a minimum, "the government should have 'rules of the road' to create a level playing field." Even if users find they can't do without their daily Facebook fix, Google search, or Amazon shopping spree, the former president is right. A price will be paid as these companies' activities are increasingly scrutinized.

There are defenses that have been mounted in favor of an unregulated market for Big Data, notably by People Analytics, an organization run by Alex Pentland and his colleagues at MIT's Media Lab. Pentland feels the very centralized nature of the aggregated data is what makes these companies such excellent research targets:

"With the advent of big data and machine learning, researchers actually have enough data and sufficient mathematical tools to build predictive mathematical models. If you talk to other people and see what they are doing, you can improve your own performance, and as you talk to more and more people, you continue to do better and better."

What is not to like? Better decision-making, higher productivity, more efficient communication networks: It looks like a win-win all around. Of course, it was under the guise of research that Cambridge Analytica allegedly got the Facebook data in the first place. It can be used as cover for less benign purposes.

Going further, Pentland cleverly invokes a "New Deal on Data" that allows for the "rebalancing of the ownership of data in favor of the individual whose data is collected. People would have the same rights they now have over their physical bodies and their money."

In theory, this allows the individual discretion as to how much he/she will share with corporations and government regulators. Pentland goes on to suggest that, "the economy will be healthier if the relationship between companies and consumers is more respectful, more balanced. I think that's much more sustainable and will prevent disasters."

Pentland's optimism sounds somewhat naïve in the wake of Edward Snowden's revelations, as well as the current Facebook controversy. Of course, anything that further legitimizes this intrusion on our privacy will be welcomed by these entities. How much do we, the owners of our own personal data, actually control it? As far as the government goes, not much, Snowden's revelations (or those of WikiLeaks) illustrated. And surely the current Facebook and Cambridge Analytica imbroglio undercuts this benign picture that Pentland describes of a happy, informed consumer who autonomously shares his data with various companies, with a view toward building a more "balanced" relationship.

On the contrary, the Facebook fiasco highlights that there exists a thoroughly unequal partnership between the aggregators of information and the information owners, making abuse almost inevitable. Indeed, it is highly doubtful that most consumers and users are even aware of the extent to which their habits, thoughts, and overall private space are monitored by these companies (to say nothing of the more obvious government and law enforcement agencies, even if we're not terrorists).

In general, the notion of a level playing field of information or data that the market can freely and efficiently price has been debunked successfully by Nobel Laureates George Akerlof and Joseph Stiglitz. Both have challenged the " efficient market hypothesis ," which holds that market prices or odds reflect all known information, mitigating the need for intrusive government intervention/regulation. If information asymmetry exists, the obvious implication is that there is a need for some form of overriding regulation to rectify this imbalance. This would also seem to apply to Pentland's New Deal on Data.

Edward Snowden has made us question whether the data and corresponding privacy can be adequately safeguarded from more scrutiny by governments. The more relevant question from the point of view of, say, Silicon Valley and its high tech moguls is whether governments will move more aggressively to control the aggregators themselves, and whether the revelations of their abuses will provoke a backlash, which will impact their companies' growth and profitability.

Already, as Reuters reported, " Nordea, the Nordic region's biggest bank, will not let its sustainable funds buy more Facebook shares for the time being." The European Union has fined Facebook €110m "for 'incorrect or misleading' information regarding data sharing between Facebook and WhatsApp" (even though Facebook acquired the latter). And the EU has also proposed that "companies with significant digital revenues in Europe will pay a 3 percent tax on their turnover on various online services in the European Union," legislation that will cover Facebook (as well as Amazon and Google). Although the tax doesn't actually address the issue of the database abuse itself, the Cambridge Analytica scandal has dissipated valuable political capital for these companies, which will make it harder for them to stop these attacks on their business model and underlying profitability.

Indeed, the focus on taxing turnover, as opposed to profits, is telling, because sales records are far more difficult to doctor and conceal via accounting subterfuge than profits. In effect, this is tantamount to the EU stating to these tech giants, "Don't even think about making a transfer payment to Ireland and leaving yourself with an operating loss in our jurisdiction so you can pay no tax."

As the Brexit referendum illustrates, the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal itself goes well beyond the U.S. Consequently, we can expect an attack on all fronts -- the U.S., the EU, and likely Asia as well. At this point it is too early to judge if this will have any impact on the ongoing Mueller investigation, but the economic implications already seem evident. The U.S. equity boom has been partly in reaction to deregulation in banking and elsewhere. The tech industry has largely escaped any kind of regulatory or antitrust scrutiny and has benefited accordingly. As Edward Harrison of the site Credit Writedowns has observed :

"Some of the best performing stocks in the US are the large Internet-centric technology stocks like Facebook. There is even an acronym, FANG, to describe Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google. Add Apple and, together, these five stocks account for one quarter of the Nasdaq's total market capitalization. They are huge. And Facebook's data breach represents a threat to them."

Could it be that public indignation at the Facebook profile harvesting scandal will lead to new regulation that could impede the value of some tech-based advertising models? Will it lead to a consumer backlash that slows the growth of the companies themselves? Certainly, it is easier to attack a wealthy and powerful company, if and when it becomes Public Enemy #1, even though many of these politicos will find themselves attacking the instruments of their own political success (or fundraising sources). Facebook or Google would no doubt argue that their platforms are just a facilitation of the communities inherent in the internet and that they have benefited by exploiting first mover advantage . But a centralized, monopolistic exploitation of these interpersonal links is inviting public intervention, especially as the technology can also survive on a distributed, competitive basis. In the eyes of many, these companies are unlikely to escape the opprobrium of helping to allow the Trump disaster to descend upon us. Overseas, they could well be scapegoated if the British economy falters as a result of leaving the European Union. On a broader scale, this scandal may well destroy any last vestiges of "techno-optimism," seeing how it has highlighted the misuses of technology and the human damage it can continue to inflict on us far more profoundly than ever before.

[Apr 01, 2018] Facebook In Turmoil Employees In Uproar Over Executive's Leaked Memo Zero Hedge

Apr 01, 2018 |

Facebook In Turmoil: Employees In Uproar Over Executive's Leaked Memo

by Tyler Durden Sat, 03/31/2018 - 08:50 858 SHARES

Facebook's problems are just getting worse, and now investors can add worker morale to the (bucket) list of problems as the New York Times reports that employees furious over a leaked 2016 memo from a top executive seeking to justify the company's relentless growth and "questionable" data harvesting - even if it led to terrorists attacks organized on the platform.

VP Andrew "Boz" Bosworth - one of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's most trusted executives, wrote that connecting people is the greater good even if it " costs someone a life by exposing someone to bullies.

"Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools."

On Friday, the fallout from Bosworth's leaked memo - following several weeks of outrage over the company's data harvesting practices, has Facebook employees in an uproar , according to The Times .

According to two Facebook employees, workers have been calling on internal message boards for a hunt to find those who leak to the media . Some have questioned whether Facebook has been transparent enough with its users and with journalists, said the employees, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation. Many are also concerned over what might leak next and are deleting old comments or messages that might come across as controversial or newsworthy , they said. - NYT

One former Facebook employee, Alex Muffett, wrote on Twitter that Bosworth's memo was a "significant" part of his decision to leave the company.

"Between overwork and leadership direction evidenced thusly, I could never stay," wrote Muffett.

"There are some amazing engineers working at Facebook, folks who care deeply about user privacy, security, and how people will use the code that they write," Mr. Muffett said later in a message. "Alas this episode may not help" to achieve more transparent internal product discussion, he said.

Buzzfeed article suppressed?

Following Buzzfeed's Thursday's publication of the "growth at any cost" leak, BuzzFeed reporter Ryan Mac suggested Facebook was censoring the article - tweeting "Interesting that only about 14k views (about 2% of total) for our story have come through Facebook referrals. Facebook's users should be aware of this, so feel free to share it on Facebook."

When Vox 's Matthew Yglesias chimed in to corroborate Mac's observation, Facebook head of news feed Adam Mosseri chimed in to say that the social media giant " 100% do not take any action on stories for being critical of us. "

Mark Zuckerberg responded to Bosworth's letter in a statement essentially disavowing the Boz, while also noting that Facebook changed their entire corporate focus to connect people and "bring them together"...

Boz is a talented leader who says many provocative things. This was one that most people at Facebook including myself disagreed with strongly. We've never believed the ends justify the means .

We recognize that connecting people isn't enough by itself. We also need to work to bring people closer together. We changed our whole mission and company focus to reflect this last year .

Meanwhile, Facebook is rapidly becoming radioactive, inside and out.

The question is when will investors - and especially hedge funds, for whom FB was the second most popular stock as of Dec. 31 - agree, and do what Mark Zuckerberg has been aggressively doing in recent weeks : dump it.


DillyDilly Sat, 03/31/2018 - 08:52 Permalink

What a waste of fucking lives.

Cognitive Dissonance -> Leakanthrophy Sat, 03/31/2018 - 09:00 Permalink

This is not a coordinated and concerted effort by Facebook execs to 'grow' the company at any and all costs because stock options must be vested 'in the money' and obscene amounts of 'compensation' are their god given right.

Nope, this is the work of a lone wolf exec VP who was drunk on power and out of control.

<Well, it works for the CIA to explain away their latest domestic terrorism operation or Presidential assassination attempt.>

Jumanji1959 -> johngaltfla Sat, 03/31/2018 - 09:26 Permalink

Goebbels would be proud of Zuckerberg

gregga777 -> Jumanji1959 Sat, 03/31/2018 - 09:42 Permalink

Goebbels would be proud of Zuckerberg

Press Statement for Immediate Release:

Today Mark Zuckerberg announced the official name change of FaceBook to GoëbbelsBook.

"Today marks the official change of our corporate name from FaceBook to GoëbbelsBook in honor of the German NSDAP (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) Reich Minister of Propaganda (1933-1945) Dr. Joseph Goëbbels (29 October 1897 – 1 May 1945). Dr. Goëbbels revolutionary and visionary dream was that of the total surveillance state. We have successfully implemented his concept of the total surveillance state."

"When a client downloads the GoëbbelsBook application it vacuums up everything from their computer and mobile devices. It gobbles up everything they write, all their contacts, their "likes"; in short every action they perform. The application also digitizes all telephone conversations for upload. The application then uploads everything to our corporate servers. We then upload all user data to the "Five Eyes" Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei) agencies that are our true original investors and beneficial owners."

"It is truly a proud day for me and all of my servants here at GoëbbelsBook that we have implemented the revolutionary total surveillance state vision of Dr. Joseph Goëbbels. I'm sure that he would be justifiably proud of our accomplishment."

glenlloyd -> ThanksChump Sat, 03/31/2018 - 11:16 Permalink

It's a little more complex than just Gramma giving up some data that she volunteers via a form. It's sucking in everything that a user does or says and selling that...everything. Same as Google.

In many cases you will find people who weren't aware that FB was selling user data, it's not really clear, unless you read the TOS fine print it's not clear. Even in the fine print what they do is obscured by the way they write it.

If the announcement of what they do with the data was in big bold letters at the top of FB every time you logged in the participation would be different.

This is one reason that although I've got a FB account I've never provided anything more than the de minimus information to have that account, and I don't spend much if any time on it. It's been weeks since I've logged in to FB.

Ex-Oligarch -> ThanksChump Sat, 03/31/2018 - 14:05 Permalink

You may be enjoying the mockery of FB users, but your line of argument ignores reality.

FB users indeed knew that the company was "selling something": advertising. Advertising in the form of "sponsored posts," newsfeed videos, solicitations to "like" an advertiser's page, notifications that someone in your network had liked an advertiser's page, and on and on and on. Every user viewed such advertising while using the service.

And indeed, selling targeted advertising is the dominant business model for providers of free content, messaging, email, webhosting, and a host of other internet services. It is exactly what a reasonable person would expect FB to be doing, based on its public disclosures and statements to the business community, and consistent with privacy laws. Even educated users would not expect the company to be selling its user data to third parties, let alone to government three-letter agencies. No one would expect the phone app to illegally log or record phone and message data for communications outside the app.

pigpen -> Jumanji1959 Sat, 03/31/2018 - 21:51 Permalink

Jumanji, I live in heart of silicon valley and the goobook employees are so self important and associate working for the goobook surveillance tracking digtal advertising monopolies as a virtuous thing.

Let's call goobook what they are a surveillance tracking company that doesn't share any of the profits from your data with the owner: you.

My solution to these corporate pricks is to cut off their oxygen: digtal advertising and refuse to let them monetize me and others promoting using adblocking on mobile.

My solution is for everybody to immediately download brave browser or equivalent adblocker solution (depending on your tech knowledge).

Brave blocks advertising malware and tracking by DEFAULT on any device and operating system rendering digital advertising model useless.

Whoever controls the browser controls the money.

I use YouTube daily but run it out of brave browser. Zero ads and you can listen with screen off or while browsing other content.

We can destroy the value of digtal advertising by mass adoption of brave browser.

What is digtal advertising worth if ads can't be sent, viewed or tracked?

Let's take down the goobook surveillance tracking censorship monopolies. Install brave or equivalent mobile adblocker immediately.



Cognitive Dissonance -> City_Of_Champyinz Sat, 03/31/2018 - 09:34 Permalink

I created a fake FB account, then 'deleted' it when FB demanded I prove who I wasn't.


Does anyone wonder why FB only wants 'real' accounts? Data mining is so much more profitable when you can assure the purchaser the 'data' are grade A number one bleeders/spenders.

ThirteenthFloor -> Cognitive Dissonance Sat, 03/31/2018 - 10:28 Permalink

Facebook = Dillusional Narcissism

Problem is one day you may in fact be targeted for having no 'digital footprint', by the F's running the place. Read "The Circle".

OverTheHedge -> JoeSoMD Sat, 03/31/2018 - 11:38 Permalink

Which ties in nicely with the US demanding social media account details with visa applications. You haven't said whether your work is us government based, but it would be pleasingly ironic if it were.

I'm still confused by that, actually: allegedly the NSA has all data, from everywhere, so why ask for the visa applicant's data? Is it too hard to connect physical and digital people, or are they just seeing if you will admit to your online indiscretions?

snblitz -> Cognitive Dissonance Sat, 03/31/2018 - 15:15 Permalink

14 day waiting period on facebook account deletes.

Some years ago I created a facebook account and then deleted it. Deleting it was not easy. When I did the final delete, it stated that all my data would be deleted, and would not be recoverable ever. I was also told I would have to **not** log into my account for 14 days after which everything would be gone. If I did log in during that period the account delete would not occur.

It has been some years and I still live in fear that if I was to "check" if my account still exists by attempting to log into it I will get a "Welcome back" message.

I suppose there are worse things. The account could be active and "owned" by someone else.

chumbawamba -> KJWqonfo7 Sat, 03/31/2018 - 10:27 Permalink

The CIA put way too much time, money and effort into Facebook to just let it fade away. Hell no, they will double down and figure out a way to keep the concern going, if under a different guise.


nmewn -> Cognitive Dissonance Sat, 03/31/2018 - 09:09 Permalink

But but but...they are listening! They even reformatted so their victims can moar easily delete private information themselves instead of having to dig down through twenty two screens to find it!

And Fuckerberg has a mansion. In Hawaii. With a wall. Because he cares!

Cognitive Dissonance -> nmewn Sat, 03/31/2018 - 09:29 Permalink

They even reformatted so their victims can moar easily delete private information themselves.....

The funniest part of your comment is the fact people will actually believe their information was 'deleted' because they push a button that said doing so would delete the information.

Riiiiiight. And I have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale that you can get for a steal.

Philthy_Stacker -> Cognitive Dissonance Sat, 03/31/2018 - 09:51 Permalink

"people will actually believe their information was 'deleted' "

Well, aside from birth and school records, most data will become 'stale' and worthless to advertisers and agencies. I suspect that your 'old' data will eventually become 'archived' in a storage array somewhere, essentially, statistically more worthless as time goes by. Perhaps, adding to a historical perspective on some future Documentary, about the collapse of Facebook.

Info on your birth, school, medical, jobs, driving record ... the authorities already have all that. Facebook is essentially worthless, other than as a phone book with pictures.

GunnerySgtHartman -> DillyDilly Sat, 03/31/2018 - 09:01 Permalink

It's amazing that FB employees were THIS NAIVE about what was going on in that company, thinking it was just about "connecting people." Anyone on the street with half a brain could see what was going on. Grow up and see the world for what it is, people.

JoeSoMD -> GunnerySgtHartman Sat, 03/31/2018 - 11:40 Permalink

I think it is more "being ignorant". To me, being naive implies being "an innocent". These people are hard core coders, computer scientists, network engineers, etc. What they do is figure out how to do outrageously complex technical things, and they are very successful at it. Like most scientists and engineers however, they never stop to ask "should we be doing these things". They stand on the shoulders of the scientist and engineers who came before them and continue to progress the state of their art, but never consider the ethics. I see it all the time at work. Can we develop this new thing? Sure. Should we develop this new thing? That's not my problem - management wants this new thing. They are no different than the guards at a concentration camp herding people to the ovens. I was only following orders.

the_river_fish -> DillyDilly Sat, 03/31/2018 - 11:33 Permalink

Alphabet (the parent company of Google) spent the most as a company on Lobbying. Facebook's spend on lobbying increased 5500% since 2009. They spent most lobbying on changes to data privacy.

dark fiber Sat, 03/31/2018 - 09:02 Permalink

Have Zuckerberg and the rest of the asseclowns over there realized how fuccked they really are? It is only a matter of time before class action and individual lawsuits are filed not only against Facebook (fuck that) but them personally, for intentionally and willfully creating a data mining operation disguised as a social network. They will get sued for every penny they have and will be lucky if they don't end up doing time.

notfeelinthebern Sat, 03/31/2018 - 09:07 Permalink

The people who use this tripe are addicts, and like all addicts need rehab. They couldn't say how many articles are in the US Constitution yet practically know what Oprah eats for breakfast - and it ain't a Weight Watchers diet!

tedstr Sat, 03/31/2018 - 09:19 Permalink

I got into the dotcom world in 97 got out in '11. Worked for a bunch of big and small dotcoms. They are all so badly run its hard to describe. rampant greed zero morality.. The VCs just want their 100:1 return. VCs are idiots. some are just stupid many are just illegal accounting fraud capitalizing expenses accelerating revenue recognition over stating audience. People forget that Fb has already had a bunch of exposed numbers "mistakes". Hope it goes to zero.

Byrond Sat, 03/31/2018 - 09:39 Permalink

From an evolutionary standpoint, humans are extemely adapted to hiding feelings, thoughts, plans, motivations, and intentions. This has enabled our survival for millenia. Our ears don't move toward what or who we're listening to, and we don't have tails or bristling fur or feathers that would display our emotions. Facebook causes us to post all this stuff, then takes ownership and uses it to make a profit any way they can. Social media is not something that we are adapted to, and we're getting stomped on by the companies that engineer it.

JTPatroit Sat, 03/31/2018 - 09:48 Permalink

To me, what is really sad about this whole story is that there is nobody at Facebook - now or previously - who doesn't know that their company makes its money by harvesting data and selling it to anyone with a few bucks in their hand. I believe these employees are all lying when they deny this plain fact.

I believe the same to be true of Google, but of course, Google at least has never denied it, like Facebook is trying to do now that someone in the MSM has bothered to report about it.

Nesbiteme Sat, 03/31/2018 - 09:50 Permalink

Anyone here ever work with chickens...the henhouse/chicken analogy is often used with the facebook...when you walk into the henhouse sometimes the hens they aren't expecting visitors and they get all fussy and show their agitation through clucking and squawking and fussing about...but then after a few moments they go back to what they were doing as if nothing ever happened. That about what is going on here. Facebook users and employees will go back to work for their owners in a few more days and it will have been all forgotten.

Smerf Sat, 03/31/2018 - 09:54 Permalink

Since most users of Facebook are gossiping women and deeply closeted homosexuals, I don't see this having a material impact on user growth. It may even suck more of them in.

SirBarksAlot Sat, 03/31/2018 - 10:11 Permalink

According to Thomas Paine, all the Facebook, Amazon, Google and Tesla are products of the DOD and are losing their hidden government support. That is the real reason that people like Zuckerberg and Soros are divesting.

MusicIsYou Sat, 03/31/2018 - 10:13 Permalink

People will forget about any Facebook scandal after another scandal surfaces elsewhere in 3, 2, 1 and....... There goes the school of ADHD zombie fish-head people onto another hook, the scandal of the next week. The next scandal will hit the top of the pond and sink, and the fish-head school of people-fish will swim over to it and stare at the scandal to see if it moves. People are grotesquely simple minded.

Last of the Mi Sat, 03/31/2018 - 10:52 Permalink

fb will not recover from massive spying vs people will once again log on to say something snarky, see another picture of their neighbor's cat and above all else get a "like". OMG I'm important!

Soros has billions to funnel through the resistance that is fb for the furtherance of his global agenda. They may be down, but certainly not out.

Nuclear Winter Sat, 03/31/2018 - 10:54 Permalink

So now the FB employees finally see what the bloodsucking Vampire Zuckerberg and Frankenstein Bosworth really are: the enemy of the people. Time for a mass revolt, pitchforks and torches to burn down the platform.

Koba the Dread Sat, 03/31/2018 - 18:59 Permalink

The Facebook Wall photograph is Photoshoped. While everyone else has written in freehand in chalk, the "Maybe someone dies!?". "Why We Spy So Much?" and "WTF?" posts are set in perfect computer type.

Facebook is a monster of deceit. Why does this article need to lie with Photoshopped photographs? If Facebook thinks we're rubes and yokels, so does this article.

Perhaps they're right.

Trogdor Sat, 03/31/2018 - 20:13 Permalink

"We've never believed the ends justify the means ." ~ Zuckerfucker


The Liberal Credo is "THE ENDS JUSTIFY THE MEANS" I can't tell you how many Liberals I've asked this very question and they will flat out tell you that if you have to throw babies into a branch chipper to get what you want, YOU DO IT . Lefties/Communists have always believed in mass murder to get what they want - so - spying on a few million people certainly doesn't give the pause.

[Apr 01, 2018] Goodbye Facebook, and Screw You Too by Christopher Ketcham

Notable quotes:
"... Like Google, Facebook is ambiguous in its privacy policies as to how it will share information with third parties. A former CIA officer, speaking anonymously, confirmed the CIA's interest in Facebook as an intelligence and communications tool, noting that the agency's use of Facebook for operations is "classified." ..."
"... Christopher Ketcham is a freelance writer. You can write him at or see more of his work at . ..."
Apr 01, 2018 |
... ... ...

Users with at least half a brain have long known that Facebook exploits their privacy and was probably from the start a vehicle for full-blown surveillance by our spy agencies. I certainly suspected the latter. In 2009, I wrote up a pitch for an investigative piece about Google, Facebook and their connections to the CIA. I published a piece in Counterpunch about the Google angle, but was never able to report out fully what I suspected about Facebook. In the pitch, I wrote:

If personal data could be collected in more concentrated, focused form, with the additional advantage of efficiently collating social networks, complete with personal photos, habits, activities and itineraries freely provided in a centralized system by the users themselves well, that would be Facebook. The intelligence services' hand in Facebook is not direct, but publicly available records suggest that venture capital was pumped into Facebook from investment firms whose board members cross-pollinate with a company called In-Q-Tel.

Founded in 1999 to research and invest in new digital technologies focused on intelligence gathering, In-Q-Tel was part of the push for the privatization of national security operations that would become endemic under the Bush Administration. Some $25 million in seed money during Google's start-up in 1999 arrived in part from the equity firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which works with In-Q-Tel to develop spy technology. In-Q-Tel-funded companies produced the eye-in-the-sky image database that would become Google Earth. In mid-2005, In-Q-Tel's former director of technology assessment, Rob Painter, joined Google as "senior federal manager," further cementing Google's bond with the intelligence community.

Like Google, Facebook is ambiguous in its privacy policies as to how it will share information with third parties. A former CIA officer, speaking anonymously, confirmed the CIA's interest in Facebook as an intelligence and communications tool, noting that the agency's use of Facebook for operations is "classified." The former CIA officer only went so far as to suggest the CIA may be using the site for communications. "It's a perfect place to hide communications," says the former CIA officer. "You don't need secret, expensive satellite systems anymore when you can hide in plain sight with millions of idiots sending photos and inane messages to each other." When pressed on the subject, the source reiterated: "How it's employed by [the CIA] is classified, and you shouldn't write about it." The Facebook angle for the proposed piece will require further reporting. What's widely known is that the CIA has been using Facebook since 2006 as a recruiting tool for the clandestine services, which marks the first time the CIA has employed online social networking for the hiring of personnel.

Ah, but denial is a powerful drug, one that produces amnesia, and I soon forgot my own reporting and marched as a guinea pig into the Facebook surveillance system. We now know exactly how Facebook shares information with third parties.

Deleting my account, I join an exodus that requires no explanation given the Cambridge Analytica disclosures. Hopefully this is the start of a movement that will drive the company's stock price down where we'll find greasy Mark Zuckerberg begging for a quarter on the corner. Perhaps sooner, someone skilled with demolitions and with access inside the company can blow up the Facebook servers, and we can be done with this menace altogether. More articles by: Christopher Ketcham

Christopher Ketcham is a freelance writer. You can write him at or see more of his work at .

[Apr 01, 2018] Trouble for big tech as consumers sour on Amazon, Facebook and co

Those companies are way too connected with intelligence agencies (some of then are essentially an extension of intelligence agencies) and as such they will be saved in any case. That means that chances that it will be dot com bubble burst No.2 exist. but how high they are is unclear.
Apr 01, 2018 |

Trump is after Amazon, Congress is after Facebook, and Apple and Google have their problems too. Should the world's top tech firms be worried?

rump is going after Amazon; Congress is after Facebook; Google is too big, and Apple is short of new products. Is it any surprise that sentiment toward the tech industry giants is turning sour? The consequences of such a readjustment, however, may be dire.

Trump lashes out at Amazon and sends stocks tumbling

Read more

The past two weeks have been difficult for the tech sector by every measure. Tech stocks have largely driven the year's stock market decline, the largest quarterly drop since 2015.

Facebook saw more than $50bn shaved off its value after the Observer revealed that Cambridge Analytica had harvested millions of people's user data for political profiling. Now users are deleting accounts, and regulators may seek to limit how the company monetizes data, threatening Facebook's business model.

On Monday, the Federal Trade Commission confirmed it was investigating the company's data practices. Additionally, Facebook said it would send a top executive to London to appear in front of UK lawmakers, but it would not send the chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, who is increasingly seen as isolated and aloof.

Shares of Facebook have declined more than 17% from the close on Friday 16 March to the close on Thursday before the Easter break.

Amazon, meanwhile, long the target of President Trump's ire, saw more than $30bn, or 5%, shaved off its $693bn market capitalization after it was reported that the president was "obsessed" with the company and that he "wondered aloud if there may be any way to go after Amazon with antitrust or competition law".

Shares of Apple, and Google's parent company Alphabet, are also down, dropping on concerns that tech firms now face tighter regulation across the board.

For Apple, there's an additional concern that following poor sales of its $1,000 iPhone X. For Google, there's the prospect not only of tighter regulation on how it sells user date to advertisers, but also the fear of losing an important Android software patent case with the Oracle.

Big tech's critics may be forgiven a moment of schadenfreude. But for shareholders and pension plans, the tarnishing of tech could have serious consequences.

Apple, Amazon and Alphabet make up 10% of the S&P 500 with a combined market capitalization market cap of $2.3tn. Add Microsoft and Facebook, with a combined market value of $1.1tn, and the big five make up 15% of the index.

Overall, technology makes up 25% of the S&P. If tech pops, the thinking goes, so pops the market.

"We're one week into a sell-off after a multi-year run-up," says Eric Kuby of North Star Investment Management. "The big picture is that over the past five years a group of mega cap tech stocks like Nvidia, Netflix, Facebook have gone up anywhere from 260% to 1,800%."

Confess -> Nedward Marbletoe , 1 Apr 2018 16:12

The post office is a service for citizens. It operates at a loss. Being able to send a letter across the country in two days for fifty cents is a service our government provides. Amazon is abusing that service. It's whole business model requires government support.
Byron Delaney , 1 Apr 2018 15:59
Amazon's spending power is garnered simply from its massively overalued stock price. If that falls, down goes Amazon. Facebook is entirely dependent on the postive opinion of active users. If users stop using, down goes Facebook's stock price, and so goes the company. It's extremely fragile. Apple has a short product cycle. If people lose interest in its newest versions, its stock price can tank in one year or so. Google and Microsoft seem quite solid, but are likely overvalued. (Tesla will most likwly go bankrupt, along with many others.) If these stocks continue to lose value, rwtirement funds will get scary, and we could enter recession again almost immediately. Since companies such as Amazon have already degraded the eatablished infrastructure of the economy, there may be no actual recovery. We will need to change drastically in some way. It seems that thw wheels are already turning, and this is where we are going now - with Trump as our leader.
lennbob , 1 Apr 2018 15:58
'Deutsche Bank analyst Lloyd Walmsley said: "We do not think attacking Amazon will be popular."'

Lloyd Walmsley hasn't spent much time in Seattle, apparently. The activities of Amazon and Google (but especially Amazon) have all contributed to traffic problems, rising rents and property prices, and gentrification (among other things) that are all making Seattle a less affordable, less attractive place to live. That's why Amazon is looking to establish a 'second headquarters' in another city: they've upset too many people here to be able to expand further in this area without at least encountering significant resistance. People here used to refer to Microsoft as 'the evil empire'; now we use it to refer to Amazon. And when it comes to their original business, books, I and most people I know actively avoid buying from Amazon, choosing instead to shop at the area's many independent book stores.

PardelLux , 1 Apr 2018 15:54
Dear Guardian,
why do you still sport the FB, Twitter, Google+, Instagramm, Pinterest etc. buttons below every single article? Why do you have to do their dirty work? I don't do that on my webpages, you don't need to do neither. Please stop it.
Alexander Dunnett , 1 Apr 2018 15:42
Not being a Trump supporter, however there is a lot of sense in some of the comments coming from Trump,. Whether he carries through with them , is another subject.

His comment on Amazon:- " Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state or local governments, use our postal system as their delivery boy (causing tremendous loss to the US) and putting many thousands of retailers out of business."

Who can argue against that? Furthermore, the retailers would have paid some tax!

Talk about elephants in the room. What about the elephants who were let out of the room to run amuck ? Should it not have been the case of being wise before the event , rather than after the event?

Neovercingetorix , 1 Apr 2018 15:20
A quasi-battle of the billionaires. With Bezos, there's the immediate political element in Bezos' ownership of the clearly anti-Trump Washington Post, which has gone so far as to become lax in editorial oversight (eg, misspelling and even occasional incomplete articles published in an obvious rush to be first to trash POTUS), but there are other issues. Amazon's impact on physical retail is well-documented, and not so long ago (ie, before Trump "attacked" Amazon"), it was sometimes lamented by those on the American left, and Trump is correct in that critique, provided one believes it is valid in the first place. Amazon does have a lot of data on its customers, including immense expenditure information on huge numbers of people. What kinds of constraints are there in place to protect this data, aside from lawyer-enriching class action suits? Beyond that, there's also online defense procurement, worth hundreds of billions in revenue to Amazon in the years to come, that was included in the modified NDAA last year. Maybe that is on Trump's mind, maybe not, but it should probably be on everyone's mind. Maybe the Sherman Antitrust Act needs to be reinvigorated. It would seem that even Trump's foes should be willing to admit that he gets some things right, but that now seems unacceptable. I mean, look at the almost knee-jerk defense of NAFTA, which way back when used to be criticized by Democrats and unions, but now must be lionized.
Byron Delaney , 1 Apr 2018 14:46
If Amazon can get cheaper shipping than anyone else and enable manufactuers to sell direct, they can sell more than anyone else as long as consumers only buy according to total price. This means two things. One, all retailers as well as distributors may be put out of business. Two, the success of Amazon may rely almost entirely on shipping costs. American consumers also will need to forego the shopping experience, but if they may do so if they're sarisfied with remaining in their residences, workplaces, and cars most of the time. This is the case in many places. People visit Starbucks drive thrus and eat and drink in their cars. If Amazon owns the food stores such as Whole Foods and Starbucks, it's a done deal. Except for one thing. If this happens, the economy will collapse. That may have already happened. Bezos is no rocket scientist.

[Apr 01, 2018] About the only proven use of Facebook

Apr 01, 2018 |

Maybe it did expand my audience. I have no idea. About the only proven use I found was being able to get on Tinder to get laid, as you cannot have a Tinder account without a Facebook account. Thereafter I called it Fuckbook.

[Mar 29, 2018] Using Gmail as a spam mail storage and for all useless registration that require email address

Mar 29, 2018 |

aliasboy -> ChomskyReader , 28 Mar 2018 08:45

When a friend invited me to join Googlemail over a decade ago, I accepted and used it as an address for any organisation who might store or misuse my data.

Little was I to know that Android would rely on a Gmail address...

Having said that, my AdSense adverts still show me ads that are no way based on my online activity so I wonder if the same people are behind the algorithms here as were predicting the world economy in 2007.

[Mar 29, 2018] Not all social sites are created equal

Usage of Facebook is of cause a big mistake. It is simply stupid in most cases. But usage of Wikipedia is not. Althouth probably NSA also gets information about pages you visited directly or indirectly.
Notable quotes:
"... consider the "internet of things" (IdiOT) directly intrusive ..."
"... how long will it remain technically feasible to opt out of the idiot stuff? ..."
Mar 29, 2018 |
bobbo123 , 28 Mar 2018 08:54
While I love Wikipedia as a wonderful, creative application of social media, I've always been spooked by Facebook and the like, and consider the "internet of things" (IdiOT) directly intrusive ...

Does my resistance to the big-bro-data invasion classify me as a Luddite? And how long will it remain technically feasible to opt out of the idiot stuff?

Massaniello , 28 Mar 2018 08:46
I recall a time some 20 or so years ago when many of us thought about and wondered how in the world the Internet could survive if info and interactions were without monetary cost. It seemed like a space within which we could freely move and think and engage. I recall driving down the NJ Turnpike in 1993 Listening intently to a radio news report about the wonders of the upcoming information super highway that was about to bring us all together and overcome violence and racism and sexism and without any tolls. Al Gore himself was encouraging this wondrous new world. We were about to be a part of World Wide Web love fest reminiscent of a 1967 Summer of Love Be-In.

Now we know how the Internet survived. Call it innovation. I call it a police state, engineered by right-wing jerks at Stanford with a little help from their friends at Cal Tech, MIT, and Harvard, and based in Silicon Valley. If that's the way you want it, well that's the way you'll get it.

[Mar 29, 2018] We need to take ownership of our information and data back again and regulate the internet as a utility

Neoliberalism and spying are connected at birth. anybody who think that Google or Facebook shenanigans are anomaly needs to think again... Survellance Valley is the product of neoliberalism. As simple as that.
Notable quotes:
"... We need to take ownership of our information and data back again and regulate the internet as a utility. ..."
"... It may not have much affect on who knows what about those of us who have already given away our privacy, but it could protect future generations ..."
Mar 29, 2018 |
laerteg -> hellopixel , 28 Mar 2018 10:13
Actually, it's wonderful (though it's also full of lies, propaganda and bs).

But like all too many wonderful things, the greedy and the power hungry despoil it, manipulate it to their own advantage, and use it to exploit others - often under the guise of "security."

A new technology is developed, people start using it, and before they know it, they can't live, work, or perform many daily tasks without it.

Oh, sure, all of us here could stop commenting online. We could abandon social networks. But what about everything else that involves giving up our personal information to a corporation and/or the government that has become part of how things get done in our world?

That's a heck of a lot harder.

Add to that our collective intention since 1980 to weaken government regulation of business' ability to do whatever it wants with our personal information, while increasing government's ability to surveil us and invade our privacy, as well, and you have an internet that is getting less and less wonderful by the day.

Oh, and don't forget those in business and government trying to destroy net neutrality, so some (those who can pay for it) will be more equal than others in their ability to use the internet.

We need to take ownership of our information and data back again and regulate the internet as a utility.

It may not have much affect on who knows what about those of us who have already given away our privacy, but it could protect future generations .

[Mar 29, 2018] We should not glamorize the past iether

Mar 29, 2018 |

Bradther , 28 Mar 2018 10:14

... Remember to look at the back of the your envelopes containing your personal mail - when it's being scanned by your State it will have it's rear various pencilled initials. At one time the departments in sorting offices were only allowed to deviate mail for twenty minutes but now given that standards have dropped not such constraints exist. That's progress.

[Mar 29, 2018] You might wish to consider the new Brave browser for a part of your internet access

Actually the idea of usage of several browsers each tunes to specific purposes is a good idea
Notable quotes:
"... It was created by the former CEO of Mozilla (Firefox) and employs at least one engineer involved in the development of the Tor browser ..."
"... Its snappy performance is also a pleasant surprise. ..."
Mar 29, 2018 |

vedvek -> wascallywabbit , 28 Mar 2018 10:06

I recommend the new 'Brave' browser - it's primary focus is on privacy. It was created by the former CEO of Mozilla (Firefox) and employs at least one engineer involved in the development of the Tor browser (the one used for super-secure browsing on the dark web). Its snappy performance is also a pleasant surprise.
wascallywabbit , 28 Mar 2018 09:41
19. One way to limit the amount of data that you are providing is to stop using Google Chrome. It is a browser created by an advertising company specifically to harvest your personal information. If you are logged in to gmail, using google for your searches, watching Youtube and browsing on chrome, then you're making it easy for them. Try Firefox or one of the other browsers out there, use a different search engine, and don't leave your account logged in to google all day.
dg000000 -> fishtail75 , 28 Mar 2018 09:30
With every financial transaction, banks know the location, value and can estimate the goods I buy. They could run AI algorithms to determine everything about my habits and preferences to spend and sell this insight to shops and websites who could use this it to get me to part with my money easier...but they don't.

Mobile operators poll my mobile phone constantly so always know my location, they know the numbers I call and text so know my social network. They could run AI algorithms to determine where I'll be when, and who I'll likely be with...but they don't.

[Mar 29, 2018] Deception can help, in right dose at right time

Mar 29, 2018 |

Battleweary -> LestWeNeverForget , 28 Mar 2018 11:19

Make their day, write something outlandish.
Decades ago, long before mobile phones were invented, we used to get crossed lines on our landline regularly. We could hear other people in the background, and one day a nosy woman listening to our conversation was relaying what we were talking about to her husband, oblivious to the fact we could hear her, so we spiced up the conversation.
I started it by saying, "OK, but down to business, lets talk about next week". We made it sound as if we were planning a heist. She was totally taken in, to the point of asking her husband if she should tell the police! After a few minutes of leading her on, I said," Do you think the nosy bitch listening in on the crossed line got all that? ".
She slammed her phone down.

[Mar 29, 2018] 18 tips for surviving the surveillance age by Alex Hern and Arwa Mahdawi

Be a pioneer – delete Facebook ~Jaron Lanier
Notable quotes:
"... If you wipe your phone every year, you learn which apps you need and which are just sitting in the background hoovering up data ..."
"... 14. Have as many social-media-free days in the week as you have alcohol-free days ..."
"... 16. Don't let the algorithms pick what you do ..."
"... 18. Finally, remember your privacy is worth protecting ..."
"... Increasingly, our inner lives are being reduced to a series of data points; every little thing we do is for sale. As we're starting to see, this nonstop surveillance changes us. It influences the things we buy and the ideas we buy into ..."
"... Being more mindful of our online behaviour, then, isn't just important when it comes to protecting our information, it's essential to protecting our individuality. ..."
"... It seems sensible to take steps to 'protect' ourselves from the data hoover that is google or Facebook. ..."
"... Our data is ours, and not theirs to sell onto or allow political freak shows to 'target' us for the suckers benefit, and not the suckees welfare. Who knows how many abusers have been able to hit on vulnerable family's with children! ..."
"... The internet is a colourful addictive place that most users have only a limited grasp of its potential, as nicely illustrated by our politicians being dumb to these recent events impact. Capitalist thinking, we know, is incapable of self regulation. ..."
Mar 29, 2018 |

1. Download all the information Google has on you

You may well have downloaded your Facebook data already; it has become something of a trend in recent days. Now take a look at what Google has on you. Go to Google's "Takeout" tool and download your data from the multiple Google products you probably use, such as Gmail, Maps, Search and Drive. You'll get sent a few enormous files that contain information about everything from the YouTube videos you have watched, your search history, your location history and so on. Once you've seen just how much information about you is in the cloud, you may want to go about deleting it. I highly recommend deleting your Google Maps history, for a start, unless you are particularly eager to have a detailed online record of everywhere you have ever been. You may also want to stop Google from tracking your location history. Sign in to Google, open Maps, then click on "timeline" in the menu. At the bottom, there's an option to manage your location history.

... ... ...

10. Never put your kids on the public internet

Maybe it's fine to upload pics to a shared (private) photo album, or mention their day in a group DM. But if it's public, Google can find it. And if Google can find it, it's never going away. How are you going to tell your child in 16 years' time that they can't get a drivers' licence because Daddy put a high-res photo of their iris online when they were two and now they trip alarms from here to Mars?

12. Sometimes it's worth just wiping everything and starting over

Your phone, your tweets, your Facebook account: all of these things are temporary. They will pass. Free yourself from an obsession with digital hoarding.

If you wipe your phone every year, you learn which apps you need and which are just sitting in the background hoovering up data .

If you wipe your Facebook account every year, you learn which friends you actually like and which are just hanging on to your social life like a barnacle.

14. Have as many social-media-free days in the week as you have alcohol-free days

This can be zero if you want, but know that we're judging you.

15. Retrain your brain to focus

Save up your longreads using Instapaper or Pocket and read them without distraction. Don't dip in and out of that 4,000-word article on turtles: read it in one go. Or maybe even try a book!

16. Don't let the algorithms pick what you do

You are not a robot, you are a human being, and exercising your own free will is the greatest strength you have. When that YouTube video ends, don't watch the next one that autoplays. When you pick up your phone in the morning, don't just click on the stories at the top of Apple News or Google Now. Exercise choice! Exercise freedom! Exercise humanity!

17. Do what you want with your data, but guard your friends' info with your life

Yes, you should think twice before granting that fun app you downloaded access to your location or your photo library. Do you trust it not to do weird things with your pictures? Do you know it won't track your every movement? But ultimately, those are your decisions, and they are for you to make. But your friends' data isn't yours, it's theirs, and you are a trusted custodian. Don't think twice before authorising access to your address book, or your friends' profiles: think five or six times, and then don't do it.

18. Finally, remember your privacy is worth protecting

You might not have anything to hide (except your embarrassing Netflix history) but that doesn't mean you should be blase about your privacy.

Increasingly, our inner lives are being reduced to a series of data points; every little thing we do is for sale. As we're starting to see, this nonstop surveillance changes us. It influences the things we buy and the ideas we buy into .

Being more mindful of our online behaviour, then, isn't just important when it comes to protecting our information, it's essential to protecting our individuality.

Frenske 28 Mar 2018 23:58

I always use the wrong birthday when registering for accounts unless it is for financial services and utility which may do credit check or are used in credit checks. If my real name is not required I use a variation on my last name.

Jack Harrison 28 Mar 2018 22:33

Astounding that people are surprised about all this data hoarding and selling.

There's a reason Facebook, Google etc are worth BILLIONS. It ain't because of the ads you ignore or are blocked.

FooBar21 -> cachito11 28 Mar 2018 21:31

"There billions of species on our own very planet that show us daily how life is not about money."

In their case daily life is a constant struggle to evade an endless supply of predators who are always looking to tear them limb to limb or swallow them whole, find whatever scraps of food they can find to avoid starving to death, and compete with conspecifics for the right to procreate. On a good day.

wascallywabbit -> Davinci Woohoo 28 Mar 2018 19:34

Thanks Davinci for the reasoned and balanced response.

I appreciate that it's not necessarily your view, but that there is a lot of history behind it. However, to a European living in a modern democracy, it just seems to be a strange and counter-productive attitude. For example, rather than paying taxes for pooled and equitable public services, many of those services are run as profit-making businesses, thus removing money from the system. It also reinforces class divisions, as the rich can pay, but the poor cannot. As a result, many people cannot pay for medical care, cannot send their children to university, and are forced to buy a car to move around.

Again, I'm not criticising you personally, just the mindset that you mentioned.

fatkevin 28 Mar 2018 19:25

It seems sensible to take steps to 'protect' ourselves from the data hoover that is google or Facebook.

But should it be that way round? These cyborg organisations should frame their technology and services that automatically displays social responsibilities towards those they are currently sucking dry of personal information.

Our data is ours, and not theirs to sell onto or allow political freak shows to 'target' us for the suckers benefit, and not the suckees welfare. Who knows how many abusers have been able to hit on vulnerable family's with children!

The internet is a colourful addictive place that most users have only a limited grasp of its potential, as nicely illustrated by our politicians being dumb to these recent events impact. Capitalist thinking, we know, is incapable of self regulation. Internet orgs therefore need steep guidelines that imposes tight operating practices that ensures the vulnerable (that's you and me) don't have to encounter the likes of these recent catastrophes.

Putting lead into food a century ago was deadly until food standards were criminalised; the same applies to the cyborgian world of the internet.

[Mar 29, 2018] Fakebook On Its Way To Zero

Mar 29, 2018 |


Finally, Facebook ( FB ) has been exposed for the fraud that it is. There has never been such an inflated market cap based on nothingness, just hype. Steve Jobs successfully hyped up Apple ( AAPL ) but unlike Fakebook, Apple actually makes products, and they have a huge following. Here we will elaborate on several key points that we've been saying for years, but now maybe the market is listening:

Based on the above, we believe the real value of Facebook ( FB ) is about $10 - $20 per share. Let's use the 'toplist' format as promoted by Facebook ( FB ) itself:

"Top Reasons Facebook ( FB ) is going down fast"

So if this trend continues - what should investors do? Sell , that's for starters. Contact an attorney who knows Securities if you are a shareholder. That's the good news. Finally, unless you like being tracked in your every move, delete your Facebook ( FB ) account. Because that's the only real remedy. You can't block Zuck:

Remember one thing, Facebook ( FB ) users - you use FB with your consent. This author deleted FB years ago, as have millions of others. If you really like the idea of social network there are hundreds of others. Or set one up yourself for sharing family photos with Grandma. JomSocial can turn any Joomla site into a social media site.

What do the FTC, German government, Cook County Illinois and many others have in common? They are all looking into the abuses of Facebook ( FB ).

Lawsuits are nothing new, one could say that Facebook ( FB ) itself was born out of a lawsuit (with Winkelvoss).

The point here is investors that this is the beginning of a crap storm that has been brewing for years but it didn't metastasize until now.

Facebook is going to zero. If you're long get out now before it drops further. There's nothing supporting the stock except hopers and hot air.

One last thing, Fake News started on Facebook ( FB ) see articles here , here , and here . Since the Trump election there has been a backlash on 'Fake News' sites, which Facebook is #1 . It's a platform for Fake News!

News existed before Fakebook and will continue to exist. Facebook is to the internet was the Laser Disc was to the home movie industry. It's outdated, it's bloated, it's hype - there's nothing there. Move on, drones. Nothing to see here.

Get more Alpha in your portfolio from Alpha Z Advisors . Order Online @

[Mar 29, 2018] He is not your dad ;-)

CIA-Facebook sucks. But this is not news. FB is service. The web has changed a great deal since it started. It was always overpriced and overhyped but this is not at all unique. It reflects more on how pathetic, misguided and sick most the average neoliberal "consumer" is.
As long as there are attention whores, there will be some type of facebook
Mar 29, 2018 |

Smi1ey, Wed, 03/28/2018 - 23:42 Permalink

He's not your dad.

Love it.

Buck Shot Wed, 03/28/2018 - 23:19 Permalink

As long as there are attention whores, there will be some type of facebook. I tried it for a while until my page was hijacked and someone put a picture of some black girl naked with a big booty under a waterfall as my profile photo. No shit, this really happened. I went from 13 friends to hundreds of friend requests overnight.

People were emailing my wife and asking her if we split up or something. Now I am glad I quit that shit. To some people it is like crack. My neighbor used to post pictures of himself pulling worms out of his garden or when he was in yoga class. I wanted to tell him that no one really gives a fuck.

[Mar 29, 2018] Facebook Condom - Mozilla Launches Firefox Extension To Avoid Zuck s Spying Eyes

Mar 28, 2018 |

In response to the Facebook data harvesting scandal, Mozilla has launched an extension for its Firefox Browser which helps you segregate your web activity from Facebook's prying eyes by isolating your identity into a separate "container." This makes it far more difficult for Facebook to track your activity on other websites using third-party cookies.

You can get the extension here .

Upon installation, the extension deletes your Facebook cookies and logs you out of Facebook. The next time you visit the social media giant, it will open in a special blue browser "container" tab - which you can use to safely log in to Facebook and use it like you normally would. If you then click on a link that takes you outside of Facebook, it will load outside of the container.

Should you click on any Facebook Share buttons on other browser tabs it will load them within the Facebook container. You should know that when you're using these buttons information will be sent to Facebook about the website that you shared from .

If you use your Facebook credentials to create an account or log in using your Facebook credentials, it may not work properly and you may not be able to login. Also, because you're logged into Facebook in the container tab, embedded Facebook comments and Like buttons in tabs outside the Facebook container tab will not work. This prevents Facebook from associating information about your activity on websites outside of Facebook to your Facebook identity. So it may look different than what you are used to seeing. -

Think of it as a condom for Facebook.

Mozilla notes that it "does not collect data from your use of the Facebook Container extension," adding "We only know the number of times the extension is installed or removed."

One Reddit user asks "why not just make every tab an isolated container? "There should be NO REASON for one tab to know or read what another tab (aka cookies) are doing from another domain," states /u/Pro2U

Lo and behold, the Mozilla programmer who created the extension popped into the thread and answered the question:

What you describe is actually possible in Firefox. It's called "First Party Isolation":

When we studied various privacy protections, FPI had a higher amount of website breakage reported by users: -/u/groovecoder

So there you have it - if you don't want Facebook harvesting most of your data and tracking you around the web, strap on the Firefox extension and go to town.

boostedhorse Wed, 03/28/2018 - 14:14 Permalink

Firefox is finally fast enough to use as a main browser.

Temporalist -> boostedhorse Wed, 03/28/2018 - 14:17 Permalink

I've been switching between Brave and FF and they are similarly fast because they don't get ad overload.

Buckaroo Banzai -> Temporalist Wed, 03/28/2018 - 14:20 Permalink

Condoms fail. Best way to not catch STDs is to not fuck disease-ridden skanks.

Consuelo -> Buckaroo Banzai Wed, 03/28/2018 - 14:31 Permalink

Well, if given the choice between McDougal and Stormy I'd probably go with the former - just a tad less skanky, don't you think...?

macholatte -> Ignatius Wed, 03/28/2018 - 14:56 Permalink

In Firefox Options - Privacy section you can setup to delete cookies and clear history at every browser exit. Same with Internet explorer. Not sure about Chrome.
You can also accept or deny third party cookies.
Ghostery is a must, especially for ZH
C Cleaner is a nice utility for getting rid of excess crap.

[Mar 28, 2018] Want To Freak Yourself Out Here Is All The Personal Data That Facebook-Google Collect

Notable quotes:
"... As Curran points out, people would be outraged if they discovered the government was monitoring them to this extent. But when Google does it? People hardly bat an eye. ..."
"... Need to ditch Microsoft operating system soon also. Something about giving away Windows 10 felt like Microsoft's in bed with government spying. The automatic updates blow. ..."
"... I've done a lot of hardening, and extensive work on the registry, services and task manager for windows 10. I also use "Windows Firewall Control". Nice program. Catches all connection attempts to internet and a log file so you can see what is connecting and what address and port. The program is an interface for the system firewall. Cortana, explorer, all microsoft office applications, error reporting, back ground task host are the busiest trying to connect. Some exe files that I've deleted, show up again, so now I just block the connection for the. ..."
"... Windows 7 has telemetry and also patches that install telemetry during updates. ..."
"... The real problem is with the smartphone. Unless you are going to go flip phone, you are freaking screwed. Those things suck up your whole life, and if you have an android phone, google play services is basically big brothering all your apps. I'd be highly surprised if our phones aren't logging EVERYTHING that is typed into the virtual keyboard. ..."
Mar 28, 2018 |
"Want To Freak Yourself Out?" Here Is All The Personal Data That Facebook/Google Collect

by Tyler Durden Tue, 03/27/2018 - 13:10 2.8K SHARES

The Cambridge Analytica scandal was never really about Cambridge Analytica.

As we've pointed out, neither Facebook nor Cambridge Analytica have been accused of doing anything explicitly illegal (though one could be forgiven for believing they had, based on the number of lawsuits and official investigations that have been announced).

Instead, the backlash to these revelations - which has been justifiably focused on Facebook - is so severe because the public has been forced to confront for the first time something that many had previously written off as an immutable certainty : That Facebook, Google and the rest of the tech behemoths store reams of personal data, essentially logging everything we do.

In response to demands for more transparency surrounding user data, Facebook and Google are offering users the option to view all of the metadata that Google and Facebook collect.

And as Twitter user Dylan Curran pointed out in a comprehensive twitter thread examining his own data cache, the extent and bulk of the data collected and sorted by both companies is staggering.

Google, Curran said, collected 5.5 gigabytes of data on him - equivalent to some 3 million Microsoft Word documents. Facebook, meanwhile, collected only 600 megabytes - equivalent to roughly 400,000 documents.

Another shocking revelation made by Curran: Even after deleting data like search history and revoking permissions for Google and Facebook applications, Curran still found a comprehensive log of his documents and other files stored on Google drive, his search history, chat logs and other sensitive data about his movements that he had expressly deleted.

What's worse, everything shown is the data cache of one individual. Just imagine how much data these companies hold in total.

... ... ...

Google even saves a log of every log a user has ever viewed or clicked on, every app they've every opened and every image they've every searched for - and every news article they've ever read.

... ... ...

Curran, who joked that he's "probably on an FBI watchlist" following his twitter thread, explained that the data he highlighted - while some of it might seem obscure - could have thousands of potentially compromising applications, including blackmailing a rival or spying on a spouse.

... ... ...

The question now is: Will this transparency actually change user's behavior? Or will Facebook's hollow promises to change be enough to lull its legions of users back into a passive ignorance. As Curran points out, people would be outraged if they discovered the government was monitoring them to this extent. But when Google does it? People hardly bat an eye.

Tags Technology Internet Mobile Application Software Phones & Handheld Devices - NEC Social Media & Networking

CaptainMoonlight Tue, 03/27/2018 - 13:11 Permalink

Pitchforks out for Zuck.

Honestly though, aside from a well deserved arresting of Zuck and dragging him through the streets for treason, you people using FB have only yourselves to blame if this privacy-attack thing of Facebook's is a surprise to you. It's like suing a cigarette company for the holes in your cheeks and throat.

OK, final edit: I should not have said "you people", I should have said "those people", since most of you ZHers are probably way too smart to have ever been on FB.

J S Bach -> CaptainMoonlight Tue, 03/27/2018 - 13:13 Permalink

I ain't freaked out because I don't use these voyeuristic platforms. Boycotts work, folks. Starve the beasts. It's the only effective weapon we have at this time. Other weapons will come into our hands as our power increases.

Adolph.H. -> J S Bach Tue, 03/27/2018 - 13:18 Permalink

Dude discovered the moon. I would advocate NOT deleting anything from now on. Just put fake information on your accounts. Just poison the well . Destroy their data quality .

Hippocratic Oaf -> Adolph.H. Tue, 03/27/2018 - 13:22 Permalink

Aaaaaaaaaaaaannnnd porn. THEY WANT TO SEE OUR PORN!!!

macholatte -> Hippocratic Oaf Tue, 03/27/2018 - 13:29 Permalink

Isn't selling advertising their business model? Don't they collect personal data so they can target market advertising? Don't they bury "opt-in consent" deep inside their user agreements that nobody reads? Haven't they published their methods which have been known for years?
Why is all this such a surprise?

Oh! I get it now. All that was perfectly fine until Trump became POTUS.

It is the absolute right of the State to supervise the formation of public opinion.
- Joseph Goebbels

tmosley -> Stan522 Tue, 03/27/2018 - 14:08 Permalink

Really amazing to see it all laid out in front of you like that. Wonder if my "deletions" actually got rid of the data?

yrad -> tmosley Tue, 03/27/2018 - 14:10 Permalink

I'm gonna tape my cell phone to a donkey's nutsack in Afghanistan and let Google run wild!

Automatic Choke -> Leakanthrophy Tue, 03/27/2018 - 14:52 Permalink

All right - I'm gonna fess up....I use facebook. I know we all bash on it, and everybody here claims to have never used it, but probably half of you are lying. I have never loaded the facebook ap on my android, and don't play games. (I also don't post pictures of my breakfast....I use it for a few very good groups that share information about hiking and such, and I post a lot of photos of my hikes, sort of like in the old days when you'd invite friends over to show slides).

I downloaded the info zipfile. Yes, it was huge, yes it had every photo and every comment I've ever made on facebook, and yes, they even stored all the messages I send and receive through facebook. But so what, I wasn't surprised by that.... No, they did not have records of my phone calls or phone-text-messages, or any other information that I hadn't given them. So - if you are judicious in what you share, and expect that everything you put on line is fully public (in spite of promises), you are likely ok.


Wow - even split on up/down votes. I didn't think I actually said anything controversial, not sure what the downvotes are for....

I'll add a bit more. In my opinion, facebook is like a fairly boring 24/7 cocktail party. Everybody is jabbering and only half-aware, and it goes on far too long. The best thing to do in a cocktail party is to find somebody who i've been wanting to talk to anyhow, and sit and talk with them. Facebook can serve the same purpose. ALSO - I avoid all the political ranting on facebook....I find it to be inappropriate...leave that My daddy taught me long ago that you don't discuss religion or politics at a cocktail party, and he was right, so I don't discuss either on facebook.

californiagirl -> SilverDOG Tue, 03/27/2018 - 15:07 Permalink

You forgot to mention Apple. Pretty sure they are doing the same. FB has info on everyone unless you have never communicated with a FB user. Same with Google.

Delving Eye -> californiagirl Tue, 03/27/2018 - 15:15 Permalink

Why the fuck anybody is on Facebook is beyond me. I value my privacy, which is why I use an avatar and phony name for my relatively small online footprint. Most people don't do that. They seem to want to spill their guts to any and all, as if that gives their life meaning. Idiotic.

thisandthat -> Delving Eye Tue, 03/27/2018 - 17:09 Permalink

Newsflash, geniuses:

1. This is known for YEARS;

2. My google "archive" (24 "products", because 'services' is so passé now...) amounts to the grand total of...


...a "whooping" less than 1 MB -- 604 kB (uncompressed), tbe! Lol

Tarzan -> thisandthat Tue, 03/27/2018 - 19:24 Permalink

When Google does it, the Government is doing it

Creative_Destruct -> Tarzan Tue, 03/27/2018 - 22:18 Permalink

All this such a surprise? NO. Shouldn't be. It's part of their business model and has been since inception. It's been staring everyone in the face all along.

Most of the sheeple have played right into it. I can remember when a typical American's attitude toward attempts to get even the most benign personal info was "none of your damn business." Now everyone shares all of their private lives in massive public view, hoping for a "hit" of attention to satisfy cravings brought on by their Social Validation Addiction.

Crawdaddy -> Tarzan Tue, 03/27/2018 - 22:34 Permalink

zactly - same goes for the rest of the social media top dogs which are really just shadow guv front companies. That is how they got to be top dogs - playin ball with da man.

Da Man: "You job is to be our front man and we'll fund you until we bust our all the legit competition. Then we'll tell our 98% owned media to endlessly tout you as a genius. "

Da bitches : "Der...Ok"

Proof? All those "titans" of industry that magically survived years of burning cash somehow managed to avoid "the hidden hand of the market." Now the fuckers stand atop the "capitalist" system and lecture us about how to run a company. Yeah right. Fuckem.

Lorca's Novena -> thisandthat Tue, 03/27/2018 - 22:07 Permalink

Easy kiddo....30 products.... Im sure theres a few here with much less than us.

bitzager -> Delving Eye Tue, 03/27/2018 - 17:30 Permalink

" Why the fuck anybody is on Facebook is beyond me"

Wrong conclusion, I would rather say:

"Why is the fuck anybody would use real info anywhere online is beyond me." unless it's really necessary: like for banking or trading accounts..

Yogizuna -> Delving Eye Tue, 03/27/2018 - 19:10 Permalink

It can help people though. For example, when my friends go through the passing of a loved one, human or pet, the feedback can help ease the pain, and I have seen that numerous times in the last 8 years. Since 2010 I have had 6 pets pass away, and "spilling my guts" and getting feedback did help ease the pain. So there are positive aspects to it also. And like with most things in life, moderate usage is best.

Black-Man -> Delving Eye Tue, 03/27/2018 - 20:57 Permalink

It's the younger generation who completely trusts the FBI, CIA and NSA along w/ Google and FB. Like there is any difference.

RabbitOne -> californiagirl Tue, 03/27/2018 - 21:29 Permalink

Facebook is Santa Claus!

It sees you when you're sleeping,
It knows when you're awake
It set you up to be data-mined
And it knows just what to take!

You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why
Zuckerberg will harvest your town!

He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good,
So jail Zuck 'fore it's too late!

Spitball -> Automatic Choke Tue, 03/27/2018 - 15:31 Permalink

Used the wife"s account a couple of times for the marketplace part of it. As for anything else, NO I don't have an account, nor plan on every making one.

Google, that's a different story. Used it quite extensively, although I'm starting to move away from it slowly.

As far as search engines, google is king. is my alternative with Firefox as the browser.

Need to ditch Microsoft operating system soon also. Something about giving away Windows 10 felt like Microsoft's in bed with government spying. The automatic updates blow.

Justin Case -> Spitball Tue, 03/27/2018 - 16:18 Permalink

I've done a lot of hardening, and extensive work on the registry, services and task manager for windows 10. I also use "Windows Firewall Control". Nice program. Catches all connection attempts to internet and a log file so you can see what is connecting and what address and port. The program is an interface for the system firewall. Cortana, explorer, all microsoft office applications, error reporting, back ground task host are the busiest trying to connect. Some exe files that I've deleted, show up again, so now I just block the connection for the.

Windows 7 has telemetry and also patches that install telemetry during updates.

Got Google Chrome? Get rid of it. FireFox is better and Tor Browser even better.

HilbertSpace -> Spitball Tue, 03/27/2018 - 16:42 Permalink

I second your comments. I've never used Facebook, but Google has invaded everything. I'm working on getting de-googled, particularly after their recent youtube BS, but that is a tough.

In some cases the alternatives are good. Protonmail is excellent and affordable. Signal is a great messenger app.

Opera with scriptsafe and ghostery works well. On a home PC you can use install a good linux distro in a virtual PC and browse through a VPN (Torguard takes crypto as does Primary Internet Access). But I'm still using gdrive (gestapo drive as I like to call all google stuff) because alternatives aren't as good and probably have the same privacy issues.

The real problem is with the smartphone. Unless you are going to go flip phone, you are freaking screwed. Those things suck up your whole life, and if you have an android phone, google play services is basically big brothering all your apps. I'd be highly surprised if our phones aren't logging EVERYTHING that is typed into the virtual keyboard.

Bigly -> HilbertSpace Tue, 03/27/2018 - 17:46 Permalink

Going back to the old clamshell. Smartphones will just get worse, if that's possible....

ZD1 -> HilbertSpace Tue, 03/27/2018 - 17:58 Permalink

Brave browser blocks ads and trackers

Justin Case -> HilbertSpace Tue, 03/27/2018 - 18:24 Permalink

A co-worker went on vacation and I showed him a site where he could see his trail in DC, places he went. He acknowledged that is exactly the places he visited. Red lines on a map with his travels.Too funny.

Brazen Heist -> HilbertSpace Tue, 03/27/2018 - 19:11 Permalink

Take my advice and delete ghostery. It is compromised. And Adblock Plus is too memory intensive. Get uBlock instead and adguard and customize the filters. Much more lightweight and gets the job done.

Yogizuna -> HilbertSpace Tue, 03/27/2018 - 19:18 Permalink

Nothing but "flip phones" for me since 2008.

Laowei Gweilo -> Automatic Choke Tue, 03/27/2018 - 16:13 Permalink

pretty much. i used it, and I'm OK with the risk of this. it's a free website that needs to make money.

use it at your own risk. (e.g. have never used my real name associated with any of those accounts; I never use them to instant message; I have a rule that I never ever use an 'app within an app' if an app interests me I'll download the direct .exe for a different laptop or device (that doesn't have any Google or FB account on it). other small things, that -- sure i'm sure they probably suspect my name and track some info -- but it's mostly pointless shit. especially no app or chat histories tho.

the real idiots are the people mad about this. not Zuck. of course Zuck is gonna Zuck or Google is gonna Google.

p.s. the fact that Twitter thread is 'news' (despite being known for years) shows just how blind and stupid people are.

p.s.s. and to be fair there are some benefits to some of those features. the geo-location stuff can be nefarious, but it also makes searching for local businesses a lot easier, and provides security (e.g. it's helpful that Google knows you always log-in from a certain State cuz then it can block a log-in attempt from Nigeria). again. not saying it's WORTH IT (Don't like it, don't use it) but there is a practical reason for it too.

GeoffreyT -> Automatic Choke Tue, 03/27/2018 - 16:49 Permalink

You are ignoring the venality of the sorts of people who will attempt to exploit this information (governments, insurers, real estate agents, HR fucktards - the whole shebang of parasites and ticket-clippers... who are almost entirely made up of C-students).

And you're ignoring Richelieu's maxim:

Give me six lines written by the most honest man: in them, I will find something with which to hang him

valjoux7750 -> Automatic Choke Tue, 03/27/2018 - 17:26 Permalink

I have an account that I mainly use for finding parts for my car of which there are less than 33k of here in the US. It's Australian.

DaBard51 -> Automatic Choke Tue, 03/27/2018 - 18:56 Permalink

Look up who invented "cookies". Andreesen & James Clark, Netscape.

When nine hundred years old you become, look this good you will not.

Flatchestynerdette -> Automatic Choke Tue, 03/27/2018 - 22:46 Permalink

I still have my flip phone so I can't received texts, can't google to find anything & have to call 411 to get a number.

I too have Facebook but its on an old windows 7 computer that I also go to just for a group, similar to you but I've never posted a personal picture. Even my kittykat that I had at one time as my icon is one that I've got from images. Its close enough.

As for Google? They're a search engine. They have your IP address. Of course they're going to keep track of everything you do from that IP address/phone number if you use it. And before outsourced their search to Google they were a Microsoft search engine. Guess they got lazy. When they did so I went to DuckDuckGo and Yahoo. I know you can't do that on the android phone because its almost hardwired in for Google so the only advice I can give is go back to the flip phone if you want any privacy because sadly....

Google will go out of business selling your information before it never sells your information & then the government will come in and declare Google too big to fail with all that info & sweep it into the NSA late one Friday night while everyone is watching a version of Stormy & her 2 sisters

californiagirl -> Leakanthrophy Tue, 03/27/2018 - 14:53 Permalink

Some of you don't get it. If you communicated with a Facebook or Google user, they got all your communications as well. And they probably have Hillary's deleted emails. And if you have a Smart TV, they can watch and listen to you and your kids.

ThanksChump -> californiagirl Tue, 03/27/2018 - 16:13 Permalink

No. If you communicate with a Facebook user, then FB has your email address or your phone number . That's not "all your communications". Not your contacts, not your other email addresses, not your other phone numbers.

Don't get me wrong: that's more than I want them to have, but it ain't much in the grand scheme of things.

californiagirl -> ThanksChump Tue, 03/27/2018 - 16:21 Permalink

You forgot to mention that they have the text of your communications. I never said they had everything if you did not have an account. I don't have Facebook, but family members and family do. They have posted photos and I have communicated via text, email and phone. They have those text messages and emails, and any photos I texted and emailed, even though I never clicked a little box to consent to their terms.

zvzzt -> californiagirl Tue, 03/27/2018 - 16:59 Permalink

just did some digging here myself. What I found: minimally 8 Gb of data of all sorts. As a footnote:

I don't have/use: android phone, smart tv, whatsapp/other messenger, almost always use hooktube instead of youtube, VPN, mostly protonmail (especially for personal info), no 'social' media hardly ever login via 'social/google account (hand full of exceptions).

I was a bit surprised they had this much (and kept that much (even though have been a long time skeptic of them)).

Joe Davola -> tmosley Tue, 03/27/2018 - 14:14 Permalink

tmosley - I'm gonna guess "deletion" doesn't really get rid of the data. Should have asked for it to be wiped with a cloth. Posting all the stuff facebook collected about one's self on twitter - did he do that just to be sure everyone everywhere had seen his laundry.

ejmoosa -> Joe Davola Tue, 03/27/2018 - 14:22 Permalink

Deletion just means YOU no longer have access to it.

tmosley -> ejmoosa Tue, 03/27/2018 - 14:31 Permalink

I'm sure they will find backups "on accident" when it is convenient. But such a day may not come. I don't think either company is long for this world.

[Mar 28, 2018] Should You Delete Your Facebook Page

Mar 27, 2018 |
Authored by Mark Jeftovich via,

In 1994, Wired magazine ran a short story entitled "Hack the spew" . This was back when Wired was actually cutting edge and not the insufferable Silicon Valley stroke job it became after Conde Naste acquired it. In it our antihero "Stark" finds himself inexplicably recruited as a kind of data scout, looking for viable consumer trends emerging from the fully immersive, all encompassing data field known as "The Spew".

"When a schmo buys something on the I-way it goes into his Profile, and if it happens to be something that he recently saw advertised there, we call that interesting, and when he uses the I-way to phone his friends and family, we Profile Auditors can navigate his social web out to a gazillion fractal iterations, the friends of his friends of his friends of his friends, what they buy and what they watch and if there's a correlation."

The Spew of course, was the near future analogy of where the internet was headed, and when I went looking to link to it for this post, the piece turned out to be written by none other than Neal Stephenson. That means I read "Hack The Spew" and it made an impression on me before I even knew who Stephenson was or perhaps was on his way to becoming. Few would argue that Stephenson has a gift for seeing the general ambience of our oncoming future. Cryptonomicon uncannily anticipated the impetus toward crypto-currencies; the current systemic dysfunction of national sovereignty worldwide was foretold in Snow Crash; so it follows that all this will likely culminate in something that resembles The Diamond Age .

Today, "The Spew" is not equivalent to the Internet itself, but it is more accurately analogous to say the social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, especially when combined with the twin monopolies of Google and Amazon, collectively are: The Spew.

It is like a global garbage pile of digital flotsam and jetsam, over which peasants scurry around and scour, looking for some morsel here, a crumb there, which can be monetized. If a trend or a trait is detected, even better. Those can be aggregated, syndicated, federated, even rehypothecated and at scale that can yield staggering financial payoffs and perhaps, even steer the course the history.

At least that's the narrative since the Cambridge Analytica scandal blew up in Facebook's face. After a long string of successive privacy fails (a.k.a a pattern of abuse?) this time feels different, as if the chickens are finally coming home to roost for Facebook.

Cambridge Analytica is not unique Ever heard of Kareem Serageldin? Probably not.

To date, he is the only banker to have been sent to prison in connection with the 2008–2009 Global Financial Crisis for his role in issuing fraudulent mortgage-backed securities (at least outside of Iceland ). To be sure, he was a fall guy, a token sacrifice to demonstrate contrition for what was a systemic, institutionalized effort to inflate a bubble whose implosion nearly crashed the entire global financial system.

In this case while Facebook attempted to throw water on this crisis by ceremonially banishing Cambridge Analytica from its system, the longstanding pattern of abuse remains, and is perhaps now, finally, awareness of that is reaching critical mass with the public:

Mark Zuckerberg has issued yet another "Mea Culpa" on CNN, and Facebook will take out full page ads in newspapers to apologize to the public. Yet, by now, "Groveling Zuckerberg apologies" are just part of the Facebook playbook, as Liz Gannes observed back in 2011, after Facebook had just settled with the US Federal Trade Commission over still more privacy violations:

"At this point, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's pattern on privacy is clear. Launch new stuff that pushes the boundaries of what people consider comfortable. Apologize and assure users that they control their information, but rarely pull back entirely, and usually reintroduce similar features at a later date when people seem more ready for it."

It becomes clear, as Futurist (and easyDNS member) Jesse Hirsh made this point on Steve Pakin's "The Agenda" over the weekend: "Facebook ships with all privacy enhanced settings disabled"  --  further, my personal findings are that they use obfuscation to make it harder to disable data sharing settings. You have to jump through hoops to do it.

Should you #deleteFacebook?

WhatsApp founder Brian Acton, who became a billionaire when Facebook bought his company hasn't let that dissuade him from telling the world what he thinks of all this:

Should you? Should easyDNS? Here's my take on it:

If you are a business: keep your page but don't be reliant on it

There is a difference between a business who uses Facebook as an antennae to provide additional ways to stay in touch with customers and those whose business model is completely dependent on Facebook. We started our Facebook page when we were pulled into the Wikileaks Crisis as a way to stay in touch with our customers while that entire fiasco played out. We maintain it today for the same reason, and people do frequently contact us through that page looking for support.

But some businesses are completely reliant on Facebook to survive. I subscribe to James Schramko's Superfast Business Podcast . A recent episode had the founder of Dogtington Pos t on it, a site I frequented myself in my early days of being a dog owner (our family Husky).

You have to credit the guy with dominating his niche but I couldn't help wondering what would happen to his business if something substantial changed at Facebook, or if some of his readers would feel "used" if they understood some of the myriad tactics some of these sites routinely use, via Facebook, to drive their own affiliate revenues.

It brings to mind 2 things:

  1. My late friend and one of the original easyDNS customers Atul Chitnis who was among the first to observe "if you're not paying for the product, you are the product"
  2. My own maxim, which I introduced in the Guerrilla Capitalism Overview that there are two kinds of companies, those that feed on customer ignorance compared to those who prosper via customer savvy . I think it is obvious to all, at least now, that Facebook needs customer ignorance to survive.

(Or as Zuck eloquently observed it back in his dormroom days)

YMMV on your personal pages

I read a long time ago "don't put anything on the internet that you wouldn't want to read in the newspapers the next day", and that has served me well as a guide over the years.

My basic assumption is that everything I post to Facebook, including "private" messages are wide open, being harvested, data mined, aggregated, used to target and retarget ads to me, build a profile and otherwise compile a comprehensive dossier, even stuff I've "deleted". (If you've ever watched "Terms and Conditions May Apply" you'll know that Facebook actually keeps the stuff you "delete").

So I never say anything on