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Is Google evil ?

Google is just one of several "Information vampires". But maniacal desire to track each your move on Internet is starting to backfire.

News Privacy is Dead – Get Over It Recommended Links Big Uncle is Watching You eMail Security Google secret redirects in search results
"Everything in the Cloud" Utopia Issues of security and trust in "cloud" env Google Toolbar spyware Search engines privacy How to collect and analyze your own Web activity metadata Squid as privacy enhancing tool
Google and copyright law What Surveillance Valley knows about you 75% of Internet traffic is intercepted Cyberstalking Nephophobia: avoiding clouds to reclaim bits of your privacy Facebook as Giant Database about Users
Total control: keywords in your posts that might trigger surveillance  Interception of "in-transit" traffic as violation of human rights What Surveillance Valley knows about you Pitfalls of Google as a Search Engine Humor Etc

“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

-- Eric Schmidt

...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”? ... Letting Google organize all of the world’s information makes as much sense as letting Halliburton organize all of the world’s oil.

The Internet Ideology by Evgeny Morozov

On a macro level, 'we need to track everyone everywhere for advertising' translates into 'the government being able to track everyone everywhere,'

Chris Hoofnagle

"By allowing themselves to be tracked for analytic or advertising at least some users are making themselves more vulnerable to exploitation."

Ed Felten, a computer scientist at Princeton University


Introduction

Like any large and successful company Google is a complex organism full of contradictions. It has tremendous, global positive value as the systematizer of Web knowledge. Google search engine is standard de-facto in this field. And it keeps the competitors such as Bing honest. Despite competition getting closer it still have some amazing capabilities. For example it has no equals in finding a source of a given quote.

It gave us such important innovations as Google Maps with it unique "real view". It enhanced and sustained YouTube after its acquisition, creating probably the largest archive of video knowledge in the world. Here quantity turned in quality.  And it made some interesting experiment with Google Voice. While I really do not like Gmail it became that largest such service in the world.

It gave the world several nice web applications such as Google translate, and make important inroads into smartphone market previously dominated by Apple. And while Android as a smartphone system has well known drawbacks it is probably one of the most democratic offerings. You can buy decent quality android smartphone for less then $100  With all its shortcoming and inherent insecurity Android proved to be more open, more flexible, more democratic smartphone OS.

It also enhanced and sustained the development of Python, one of the most important scripting language in existence.  Actually making it probably the most prominent scripting language and pushing Perl to the side road.

At the same time it created degree of over-centralization of search and email unheard before. Becoming kind of private (and we actually do not know how private) Big Brother, just out of capabilities of modern Internet, enhanced by it share of smartphone market.  Please remember that like Facebook, Google have blanket surveillance as important part of its business model. Frantic (and failed) attempt to create Google++ demonstrate this pretty clearly.

It's appetitive for data-collection looks unsaturable. If you think about Google advertizing as a Web activity tracking tool, this is pretty menacing but is not the whole story. The whole story is much worse.  Due to vast net of advertisements Google essentially collects proxy log of large part of Internet traffic. By tracking activities on many smaller web sites Google can easily tell what you looked at the Web for the last ten years or so, even if you never used its search engine.   So the fact is that like STASI before (but for slightly different purposes) Google  tracks all your activity on the Web. If you use Javascript enabled browser, you literally can't hide from Google. When you switch from one computer to another the adds relevant to your previous activity pop instantly and that is extremely annoying.  This ability to track on multiple devices is a pretty dangerous capability that voids your privacy. And it no longer depends on cookies. It still depends on Javascript so disabling Javascript or using not a Javascript enabled browser still stops Google tracking. 

Google also relentlessly pushed all activities toward cloud, and against interests of the users. It was done with the pure goal to make collection of all this information more comprehensive. For example if you use Gmail, then you web browsing and searching activity can be correlated with your emails. 

And Gmail and Google search (which at least initially was ahead of competition; now less so) were not enough for Google brass. They tried to corner users into Google++ and did stupid things with Android (in)security and collection of information from Android users.

Like Microsoft before, it attracted a lot of  "best and brightest" but made many, if not most of them a well paid deadeners,  assigned to tasks in which they are forced to replicate dull systems just to make Google dominant in yet another area.

Gold age for Google ended with Snowden revelations. Now most users (or at least the most intelligent part of users ;-) consider it as a great threat to their privacy (Google data collection worries Americans more than NSA)

Survey participants responded to these questions by choosing a number between one to 10, with one meaning they would not care and 10 meaning they would be “extremely upset.”

In response to the idea that Google would gain access to their data, the average score was 7.39. For comparison, the average score regarding the NSA was 7.06.

Meanwhile, in the event that their boss gained access to their data, respondents scored the possibility with a 6.85. The prospect of the participants' parents snooping on their digital life received a 5.93.

Excessive zeal in collecting user information can undermine any brand name. People don't like relentless snooping on them, especially keeping records which were not authorized. And that's what happened with Google. Here is a typical comment (Google Knows Too Much )

I was mildly shocked today to discover the Google Dashboard, a summary of all a Google account's subscribed services and what data each service holds.

I used to be a staunch privacy advocate, not sharing any info on any third-party service. But I have come to terms with it being OK to volunteer personal information for a worthwhile service, especially when others reciprocate. It is OK because I choose what information is shared. During the formative years of the web, it felt like exposing yourself to post any personal information at all online. Now, post-web-2.0, it is part of the normal social landscape to share, and actually a hindrance not to, lest you miss an important and rewarding connection.

On the dashboard, I saw my Gmail account, my Google Contacts address book, my Blogger account, etc. But of particular interest was the ENTIRE SEARCH HISTORY. I am also able to see my contacts' contacts aka Social Circle and Content: Secondary connections, Google's foray into social-based search.

Seeing all of this info presented on one page is unnerving...

Many people just stopped using Google search engine out of concerns for their privacy. And this essentially completely contradict state Google policy "do no evil". At the beginning it looked like Google might be able to provide a foundation for the democratization of search and ease access to information already stored on the Web. But after they went public they took a sharp turn in the opposite direction entering the race to generate web based services for rent extraction and to set up an environment – the cloud – in such a way that people increasingly have to use them. Most of Google web services users were seduced by convenience, but did not realize that it comes at a huge hidden cost including systematic violations of privacy. Until recent revelations most people simply were not aware of what is going on, of how deep and intrusive this invasion of privacy is.

Two faces of Google

Now Google like any large corporation has two faces. On a positive, constructive side, as we already mentioned,  Google achieved quite a bit. For example Google Maps were a step forward in an important way. With some real innovation. YouTube provides to be a valuable video repository too, where quantity turns into quality. Google scholar is weak and inconsistent, but still valuable attempt to provide a window toward knowledge on the Web. Despite clear proprietary edge, but it is better than many alternatives. Actually this is one thing were government, especially Library of Congress should step in and take the leadership.

Google employs a lot of talented peoples, although in many cases it is misusing them forcing then to reinvent the bicycle (typical for a large corporation misuse of talent). For example, I hate Gmail and consider it very badly architecture product with horrible, convoluted interface which make simple things difficult and complex things impossible, but this is just personal antipathy (and I especially hate attempts to bind it with Google+).

Although to lesser extent then Facebook, Google by the virtue of its business model is another powerful information collection machine about users. In a way it's more dangerous then Facebook as it wants to be your sole provider of Internet content and your sole window into Internet via its search engine. For those people who use Google exclusively, if a site in not in Google it is not exist at all. That's a dangerous power that we should resists.

And it has insatiable appetite for your personal information. Which means that all your data collected by Google can easily flow to other parties including, but not limited to, the three letter agencies.

Internet solutionism

Smart technologies and “big data” supposedly will some day allow us to make large-scale and sophisticated improvements in politics, culture, and everyday life. Technology will allow us to solve problems in highly original ways and create new incentives to get more people to do the right thing. But there is also a dangerous trend of “Internet solutionism” in which complex, controversial political or moral dilemmas are oversimplified and recast as uncontroversial and easily manageable matters of technological efficiency.

What if some Google services are simply vices in disguise? It can well be that some level of friction in communications is productive or even necessary and after certain level centralization of services under one umbrella is invitation to totalitarism. What if some of those imperfections of classical decentralized Internet that Google tries to remove are actually a good design. Is not “Internet solutionism” related to Decisionism which:

Very closely related to irrationalism is “decisionism” in which action is seen as a value in itself. This is an existential element in fascism that elevates action over thought. Action is a sign of unambiguous power, and thought is associated with weakness and indecision. Carl Schmitt, a Nazi Law constitutional jurist, wrote that a decision is “(an actual historical event) and not within that of a norm (an ahistoric and transcendent idea).” The a priori is overshadowed by the posteriori. Actions over abstract principles, Fact over Idea, Power over pure thought, Certainty over ambiguity are the values and ideological norms that are primary in a totalitarian state.

In a current Snowden NSA revelations inspired debate about the moral consequences of digital technologies, we stated to realize that seamless integration of services under Google umbrella, where everyone is forced to wear Google's digital straitjacket can be a bad thing. It essentially invites snooping.

We must fight against this strange "self-exposure" tendency under which people have become enslaved to and endangered by the tools they use. But there is other aspect of this problem other then unhealthy self-revelation zeal that large part of Facebook population demonstrates on the Net. It is corruption of Internet by large Internet Oligopolies such as Google, Yahoo, Facebook, etc. As Eugeny Morozov argued in The Net Delusion The Dark Side of Internet Freedom Internet solutionism” exemplified by Google, is the 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.”

One definition of evil

There are many definitions of evil that aren't specific to a time or culture. One such definition of evil is treating others as a means or impediment to an end instead of ends in themselves. By this definition, much of what Google (and Facebook, and many others) does for living probably is evil.

Google's code of conduct is so "broad" that it isn't a code of conduct at all. In this sense Google can't be accused in violating of "code of conduct", because at least as it is being presented, Google has no code of conduct, unless "find new ways to make money" is considered to be a new kind of "Randian ethic". And actually the first ethic requirement for corporations like Google should be "Don't snoop".

the first ethic requirement for corporations like Google should be "Don't snoop".

Eric Scmidt quote above say it all, if you know who utter it before him (you can Google that ;-). In other words if you are using Google, you should have no expectations of privacy. But if people you that they are watched they start restraining themselves. Overall, Edward Snowden’s revelations have been a tipping point where people have gone from resignation to anger.

On one end, the population is strangled by consumerism and popular goods. And on the other, it is strangled by an invasive bureaucracy that is reading mail and tapping phone calls. Our writers shows that this is likely to be a false dichotomy and that some elements of both can be mixed. A regime can keep people so busy watching TV that they don't have time to know what is going on (and I have witnessed this) but then censor the internet and block blogs that might distract them from watching TV.

All data the you sent to Google should be considered public. In other words if you put non-public data you should be considered stupid. Previously those of us who have been warning the danger of "overexposure" on "cloud sites" often have been discounted as tinfoil-hat wearing folk. But this delusion abruptly changed when everybody learned the real facts.

Similarly in no way you should use Google as the only search engine. Never put all eggs in one basket is good rule in this situation. Diversify and rotate search engine in your browser on a regular basis. Each search engine has strong and weak points and using several actually helps to understand strong and weak points by each.

As simple as that.

But again, first of all you should not have any expectations of privacy in Gmail and other Google services. It's OK for public information. It's good as a repository of advertizing spam, which is side effect of many registration of products.

And if you have such expectations, then something is probably wrong with you.

Like a bug under microscope

In other words by using Google, or android phone,  you deliberately put yourselves under the microscope. And you do not need to be logged in to be tracked. Look how advertisements that Google show you incorporates your browsing history on other devices despite the fact that you never was logged to Google. And it does not matter that laptop that you are using was just bought. Something like "Google identifier" soon associate you and this laptop.

Like in many cases of excessive zeal this is counterproductive and as soon as I noticed that I stopped paying any attention to Google advertisements. Which probably was not an intended effect ;-).

To understand why try to search some random paragraph from this or other page and see how exact is the result. That means that your typical pattern of browsing the Web is probably enough to uniquely identify you.

Now change your computer to a tablet, or cell phone and try some other search in Google. You will see that ads travel to new pages. They track you across devices and whether you was logged to Goggle or not does not make any difference. This Google practice should be stopped.

Internet dominated by well-connected elite oligopolies is structurally unable (and unwilling) to provide true information and knowledge. Internet on which your every move is recorded for five years or more is a really totalitarian instrument. The dream of KGB and STASI which came true.

As Professor McChesney noted in his Rich Media, Poor Democracy Communication Politics in Dubious Times)

"The logical consequence of a commercial media system is less to instill adherence to any ruling powers that be -- though that can and of course does happen -- than to promote a general belief that politics is unimportant and there is little hope for organized social change."

"As Milton Friedman put it in his seminal CAPITALISM AND FREEDOM, 'because profit making is the essence of democracy, and government that pursues antimarket policies is being anti-democratic, not matter how much informed popular support they might enjoy. Therefore it is best to restrict governments to the job of protecting private property and enforcing contracts, and to limit political debate to minor issues.'"

And what is Google's role vis-a-vis government? If corporations and governments collaborate (which is the essence of corporatism) what does that mean for society? And how does targeted advertising and the analytics cross and become nearly identical to national security monitoring goals? What does it mean when countries collect and share information on each other's citizens bypassing this way their own laws?

And culture is very important. Technology can only be an enabler. Google like intelligence and defense industries evidence too much technology zeal.

The problem that Google faces is the problem of trust. To that end, the  Google connections to the US government should be open and not perceived as manipulative. Being manipulative can result in blowback that undermines the trust. People distrust such organizations. 

Especially if the are led by people who wrote such books as The New Digital Age Transforming Nations, Businesses, and Our Lives

Clint Schnekloth "Clint S." (Fayetteville, AR) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)

Utopian wish fulfillment by authors who get to create reality, May 20, 2013

Start reading this book, and the breathless descriptions of what will happen in the future will catch you off guard. This book sounds like two men describing the new digital age as utopia, everything better and brighter and more beautiful. At first, it's almost relentless. I caught myself saying over and over, "Yeah, right... like all of this is every going to come true, or be as wonderful as the authors seems to be arguing it will be."

But then you keep reading. And you realize this isn't wish fulfillment per se (although in a certain sense all futuristic prognostications are wish fulfillment), but rather an amazing brainstorming session describing what the future in all likelihood really will look like, envisioned by two authors who know more about the impact of digital media on geopolitics and culture than almost anyone else.

I'm reminded of that notorious quote by an aide of Karl Rove's. The aide said that guys like [the reporter interviewing him] were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off.

 "That's not the way the world really works anymore." He continued "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.

And while you're studying that reality--judiciously, as you will--we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out.

We're history's actors ... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

Well, if anyone is an empire, Google is an empire...


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Old News ;-)

[Jul 17, 2017] CIA sought to hack Apple iPhones from earliest days

Notable quotes:
"... Efforts to break into Apple products by government security researchers started as early as 2006, a year before Apple introduced its first iPhone and continued through the launch of the iPad in 2010 and beyond, The Intercept said. ..."
Mar 10, 2015 | The Intercept/Reuters

CIA researchers have worked for nearly a decade to break the security protecting Apple (AAPL.O) phones and tablets, investigative news site The Intercept reported on Tuesday, citing documents obtained from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The report cites top-secret U.S. documents that suggest U.S. government researchers had created a version of XCode, Apple's software application development tool, to create surveillance backdoors into programs distributed on Apple's App Store.

The Intercept has in the past published a number of reports from documents released by whistleblower Snowden. The site's editors include Glenn Greenwald, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his work in reporting on Snowden's revelations, and by Oscar-winning documentary maker Laura Poitras.

It said the latest documents, which covered a period from 2006 to 2013, stop short of proving whether U.S. intelligence researchers had succeeded in breaking Apple's encryption coding, which secures user data and communications.

Efforts to break into Apple products by government security researchers started as early as 2006, a year before Apple introduced its first iPhone and continued through the launch of the iPad in 2010 and beyond, The Intercept said.

Breeching Apple security was part of a top-secret program by the U.S. government, aided by British intelligence researchers, to hack "secure communications products, both foreign and domestic" including Google Android phones, it said.

Silicon Valley technology companies have in recent months sought to restore trust among consumers around the world that their products have not become tools for widespread government surveillance of citizens.

Last September, Apple strengthened encryption methods for data stored on iPhones, saying the changes meant the company no longer had any way to extract customer data on the devices, even if a government ordered it to with a search warrant. Silicon Valley rival Google Inc (GOOGL.O) said shortly afterward that it also planned to increase the use of stronger encryption tools.

Both companies said the moves were aimed at protecting the privacy of users of their products and that this was partly a response to wide scale U.S. government spying on Internet users revealed by Snowden in 2013.

An Apple spokesman pointed to public statements by Chief Executive Tim Cook on privacy, but declined to comment further.

"I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services," Cook wrote in a statement on privacy and security published last year. "We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will."

Leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have expressed concern that turning such privacy-enhancing tools into mass market features could prevent governments from tracking militants planning attacks. The CIA did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

[Dec 09, 2015] Is Google the New Microsoft by Christine Hall

June 29, 2015 | fossforce.com

My guess is that the company poised to win the most-hated-in-free-tech prize is Google.

Yeah, Google. The company that's popularized two Linux distributions - or at least, two operating systems using the Linux kernel. The company that's given consumers free use of Docs and Drive, and which owns and operates the servers where tens of millions of people store their photos and music - and for free unless they like music too much and need extra storage. Google, which through its browser gave Linux users the gift of Netflix - something of a trojan gift, to be sure, but a valuable gift just the same.

Free search, free Android, the free Chrome browser and free Chrome OS.

The trouble is that none of it's free. We just don't pay for it with cash.

Android and Chrome OS are open source, but locked into Google's cloud services with the tightness of proprietary software. Their combined installed bases have turned free users into sizable market shares, both for Google's core advertising business and it's burgeoning cloud services.

The company currently controls the smart phone market in a way that would've done the Microsoft of old proud, and it's cloud services are already pretty much essential to many consumers and businesses - and that's only going to grow as cloud-based Chrome OS takes increasingly larger slices of the PC market pie, which it's poised to do.

Chromebooks, of course, dominated the sales of laptops last Christmas, a trend that's sure to continue as the devices have caught on in education in a way not seen since the days when Apple owned the academic market. And we're now starting to see Chrome getting a big push on the desktop, in the all-in-one (AIO) desktop market, with Forbes reporting on Friday on Acer's release of two AIOs under the name "Acer Chromebase."

"The Google Chromebase comes in two varieties, one with a 10-point 21.5-inch touchscreen priced at $429 and one with a standard display of the same size that will carry a $329 price tag. Both will hit retailers this month. Acer also sees these units being used in a variety of business applications, particularly where space is at a premium.

"The AIOs were originally introduced on April 1, but this is the first time they will be available to U.S. customers."

There's little doubt that we're going to see many more desktop Chrome machines, and by this time next year we'll probably be reading stories about Chrome's amazing rise on desktops as well as laptops. When that happens, when Google's market share on the desktop rises to, say, ten percent, then we'll know that the Microsoft era has finally ended.

Welcome to the age of Google: brought to you by a company that does amazing good on one hand, and which is a self serving monopolist on the other. A company that most of us kind of like, but with very deep reservations.

Google isn't Microsoft and never will be, the difference being that Google truly tries to do the right thing and follow it's self given mandate to "not do evil." The trouble is, it rationalizes - which probably can't be helped. At heart, Google is an advertising company, and advertising people are infamous for believing their own sales pitches.

Mixed in with all of the questionable things Google does are the things it does right, like its Summer of Code, its fight for Net Neutrality, its awesome support of FOSS projects, and Google Fiber's bringing of high speed Internet to the masses. And Google will never have the type of market share on PCs that Microsoft once enjoyed, because desktop Linux is also poised to take a larger slice of the pie in this age when consumers are no longer afraid to try something other than Windows.

But as Google's fortunes on the PC rise, it's inevitable that we'll see more anti-Google sentiment coming from the free tech crowd. While much of that sentiment will be deserved, much of it will be simply because we love to hate the big shots.

[Dec 05, 2015] Is Google spying on students who use Chromebooks by Jim Lynch

Chromebooks have proven to be incredibly popular devices, with many getting high star ratings and reviews from customers on Amazon. But a recent report by the Electronic Frontier Foundation suggests that Google is tracking the Internet browsing of students who use Chromebooks.

I'll share my thoughts about Google's behavior later in this post, but I'll start with what the EFF had to say and then you can see the response from Google that appeared on its education blog.

The EFF site has details on Google's behavior:

The campaign was created to raise awareness about the privacy risks of school-supplied electronic devices and software. EFF examined Google's Chromebook and Google Apps for Education (GAFE), a suite of educational cloud-based software programs used in many schools across the country by students as young as seven years old.

While Google does not use student data for targeted advertising within a subset of Google sites, EFF found that Google's "Sync" feature for the Chrome browser is enabled by default on Chromebooks sold to schools. This allows Google to track, store on its servers, and data mine for non-advertising purposes, records of every Internet site students visit, every search term they use, the results they click on, videos they look for and watch on YouTube, and their saved passwords. Google doesn't first obtain permission from students or their parents and since some schools require students to use Chromebooks, many parents are unable to prevent Google's data collection.

Google's practices fly in the face of commitments made when it signed the Student Privacy Pledge, a legally enforceable document whereby companies promise to refrain from collecting, using, or sharing students' personal information except when needed for legitimate educational purposes or if parents provide permission.

More at the Electronic Frontier Foundation

Google responds to the EFF's report

Google wasted no time in responding to the EFF's report, with a long blog post on its education site:

On December 1st, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) published a complaint regarding Google Apps for Education (GAFE) and other products and services especially Chrome Sync. While we appreciate the EFF's focus on student data privacy, we are confident that our tools comply with both the law and our promises, including the Student Privacy Pledge, which we signed earlier this year. The co-authors of the Student Privacy Pledge, The Future of Privacy Forum and The Software and Information Industry Association have both criticized EFF's interpretation of the Pledge and their complaint.

Chrome Sync enables Google Account holders to log into any Chromebook or Chrome browser and find all their apps, extensions, bookmarks, and frequently visited web pages. For students, this means that they can get to work, right away. That's one of the reasons Chromebooks have become so popular in classrooms, especially for schools that can't afford a device for every child. With Chromebooks and Chrome Sync, students can have a personalized experience on any device they share with their classmates.

Personally-identifiable Chrome Sync data in GAFE accounts is only used to power features in Chrome for that person, for example allowing students to access their own browsing data and settings, securely, across devices. In addition, our systems compile data aggregated from millions of users of Chrome Sync and, after completely removing information about individual users, we use this data to holistically improve the services we provide. For example if data shows that millions of people are visiting a webpage that is broken, that site would be moved lower in the search results. This is not connected to any specific person nor is it used to analyze student behaviors. If they choose to, educators, students and administrators can disable Chrome Sync or choose what information to sync in settings whenever they choose. GAFE users' Chrome Sync data is not used to target ads to individual students.

More at Google Education Blog

I'll let you make up your own mind about Google's response. To me it doesn't carry much weight, but I've become somewhat cynical regarding Google's motives and behavior over the years. So you'll have to decide for yourself if the company's explanation trumps the EFF's report.

[Jun 25, 2015] Google was downloading audio listeners onto computers without consent, say Chromium users

Uncle $cam | Jun 22, 2015 6:54:48 PM | 17

Debian Bug report logs
Security:

Google was downloading audio listeners onto computers without consent, say Chromium users - "We don't know and can't know what this black box does. But we see reports that the microphone ...

[May 25, 2015] Wayne Masden - Five Eyes and Color Revolutions

May 26, 2015 | Strategic Culture Foundation
A recent release of Edward Snowden-provided classified PowerPoint presentation from the National Security Agency (NSA) provides a rather detailed description of how the FIVE EYES signals intelligence alliance of the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand has conspired with the promoters of social media-based revolutions, such as the "Arab Spring", to bring about the collapse of democratically-elected or otherwise stable governments. However, the PowerPoint slides were partially redacted in key areas by the dubious censors of First Look Media, financed by e-Bay founder and multi-billionaire Pierre Omidyar.

The PowerPoint slides illustrate how, in November 2011, the NSA; Canada's Communications Security Establishment (CSE), now Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), the Defense Signals Directorate (DSD) of Australia, now the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD); New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB); and Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) developed a method for not only monitoring but taking control of cell phone and social media networks used for socio-political uprisings. The program, known as "Synergizing Network Analysis Tradecraft", was developed by the FIVE EYES's Network Tradecraft Advancement Team or "NTAT".

... ... ...

The slides show that among the countries where mobile application servers were targeted by the FIVE EYES were France, Cuba, Senegal, Morocco, Switzerland, Bahamas, and Russia. The information targeted by the Western signals intelligence partners included "geolocation and network ownership information for each IP address" that consisted of "network owner name, carrier name, ASN (advanced service network), continent, country, region, city, latitude and longitude, and any other related details". Not of interest to FIVE EYES were such applications as Google, mobile banking, and iTunes.

[Apr 12, 2015] The Banality of 'Don't Be Evil' by Julian Assange By JULIAN ASSANGE

NYTimes.com

"THE New Digital Age" is a startlingly clear and provocative blueprint for technocratic imperialism, from two of its leading witch doctors, Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, who construct a new idiom for United States global power in the 21st century. This idiom reflects the ever closer union between the State Department and Silicon Valley, as personified by Mr. Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, and Mr. Cohen, a former adviser to Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton who is now director of Google Ideas.

The authors met in occupied Baghdad in 2009, when the book was conceived. Strolling among the ruins, the two became excited that consumer technology was transforming a society flattened by United States military occupation. They decided the tech industry could be a powerful agent of American foreign policy.

The book proselytizes the role of technology in reshaping the world's people and nations into likenesses of the world's dominant superpower, whether they want to be reshaped or not. The prose is terse, the argument confident and the wisdom - banal. But this isn't a book designed to be read. It is a major declaration designed to foster alliances.

"The New Digital Age" is, beyond anything else, an attempt by Google to position itself as America's geopolitical visionary - the one company that can answer the question "Where should America go?" It is not surprising that a respectable cast of the world's most famous warmongers has been trotted out to give its stamp of approval to this enticement to Western soft power. The acknowledgments give pride of place to Henry Kissinger, who along with Tony Blair and the former C.I.A. director Michael Hayden provided advance praise for the book.

In the book the authors happily take up the white geek's burden. A liberal sprinkling of convenient, hypothetical dark-skinned worthies appear: Congolese fisherwomen, graphic designers in Botswana, anticorruption activists in San Salvador and illiterate Masai cattle herders in the Serengeti are all obediently summoned to demonstrate the progressive properties of Google phones jacked into the informational supply chain of the Western empire.

The authors offer an expertly banalized version of tomorrow's world: the gadgetry of decades hence is predicted to be much like what we have right now - only cooler. "Progress" is driven by the inexorable spread of American consumer technology over the surface of the earth. Already, every day, another million or so Google-run mobile devices are activated. Google will interpose itself, and hence the United States government, between the communications of every human being not in China (naughty China). Commodities just become more marvelous; young, urban professionals sleep, work and shop with greater ease and comfort; democracy is insidiously subverted by technologies of surveillance, and control is enthusiastically rebranded as "participation"; and our present world order of systematized domination, intimidation and oppression continues, unmentioned, unafflicted or only faintly perturbed.

The authors are sour about the Egyptian triumph of 2011. They dismiss the Egyptian youth witheringly, claiming that "the mix of activism and arrogance in young people is universal." Digitally inspired mobs mean revolutions will be "easier to start" but "harder to finish." Because of the absence of strong leaders, the result, or so Mr. Kissinger tells the authors, will be coalition governments that descend into autocracies. They say there will be "no more springs" (but China is on the ropes).

The authors fantasize about the future of "well resourced" revolutionary groups. A new "crop of consultants" will "use data to build and fine-tune a political figure."

"His" speeches (the future isn't all that different) and writing will be fed "through complex feature-extraction and trend-analysis software suites" while "mapping his brain function," and other "sophisticated diagnostics" will be used to "assess the weak parts of his political repertoire."

The book mirrors State Department institutional taboos and obsessions. It avoids meaningful criticism of Israel and Saudi Arabia. It pretends, quite extraordinarily, that the Latin American sovereignty movement, which has liberated so many from United States-backed plutocracies and dictatorships over the last 30 years, never happened. Referring instead to the region's "aging leaders," the book can't see Latin America for Cuba. And, of course, the book frets theatrically over Washington's favorite boogeymen: North Korea and Iran.

Google, which started out as an expression of independent Californian graduate student culture - a decent, humane and playful culture - has, as it encountered the big, bad world, thrown its lot in with traditional Washington power elements, from the State Department to the National Security Agency.

Despite accounting for an infinitesimal fraction of violent deaths globally, terrorism is a favorite brand in United States policy circles. This is a fetish that must also be catered to, and so "The Future of Terrorism" gets a whole chapter. The future of terrorism, we learn, is cyberterrorism. A session of indulgent scaremongering follows, including a breathless disaster-movie scenario, wherein cyberterrorists take control of American air-traffic control systems and send planes crashing into buildings, shutting down power grids and launching nuclear weapons. The authors then tar activists who engage in digital sit-ins with the same brush.

I have a very different perspective. The advance of information technology epitomized by Google heralds the death of privacy for most people and shifts the world toward authoritarianism. This is the principal thesis in my book, "Cypherpunks." But while Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Cohen tell us that the death of privacy will aid governments in "repressive autocracies" in "targeting their citizens," they also say governments in "open" democracies will see it as "a gift" enabling them to "better respond to citizen and customer concerns." In reality, the erosion of individual privacy in the West and the attendant centralization of power make abuses inevitable, moving the "good" societies closer to the "bad" ones.

The section on "repressive autocracies" describes, disapprovingly, various repressive surveillance measures: legislation to insert back doors into software to enable spying on citizens, monitoring of social networks and the collection of intelligence on entire populations. All of these are already in widespread use in the United States. In fact, some of those measures - like the push to require every social-network profile to be linked to a real name - were spearheaded by Google itself.

THE writing is on the wall, but the authors cannot see it. They borrow from William Dobson the idea that the media, in an autocracy, "allows for an opposition press as long as regime opponents understand where the unspoken limits are." But these trends are beginning to emerge in the United States. No one doubts the chilling effects of the investigations into The Associated Press and Fox's James Rosen. But there has been little analysis of Google's role in complying with the Rosen subpoena. I have personal experience of these trends.

The Department of Justice admitted in March that it was in its third year of a continuing criminal investigation of WikiLeaks. Court testimony states that its targets include "the founders, owners, or managers of WikiLeaks." One alleged source, Bradley Manning, faces a 12-week trial beginning tomorrow, with 24 prosecution witnesses expected to testify in secret.

This book is a balefully seminal work in which neither author has the language to see, much less to express, the titanic centralizing evil they are constructing. "What Lockheed Martin was to the 20th century," they tell us, "technology and cybersecurity companies will be to the 21st." Without even understanding how, they have updated and seamlessly implemented George Orwell's prophecy. If you want a vision of the future, imagine Washington-backed Google Glasses strapped onto vacant human faces - forever.

Zealots of the cult of consumer technology will find little to inspire them here, not that they ever seem to need it. But this is essential reading for anyone caught up in the struggle for the future, in view of one simple imperative: Know your enemy.

Julian Assange is the editor in chief of WikiLeaks and author of "Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet."

[Apr 11, 2015] Surveillance Valley Rise of the Google-Military Complex

Apr 11, 2015 | Politics in the Zeros
Yasha Levine has launched a Kickstarter campaign for his upcoming book, Surveillance Valley, which will detail the deep ties between supposedly libertarian, freedom-loving Silicon Valley companies and the national security apparatus. In truth, these companies are way too cozy with NSA et al, watch us constantly, are seriously not our friends, engage in seriously sleazy if not criminal behavior, and more.

Not surprisingly, Levine, an experienced investigative reporter, has found traditional book publishers show interest at first, then back off. That's why he's self-funding. I just contributed to his Kickstarter campaign. If you care about freedom, you should too.

Because what is going on is murky and scary indeed.

I have exposed Google's deep ties to US intelligence agencies and investigated Google's role as a global for-profit intelligence agency - an entity that aims to capture and monetize as much of our activity in the real and online world as possible. I reported on the murky and criminal world of digital data brokers, and investigated the detailed dossiers that big tech companies compile on all of us. I have looked at Silicon Valley's conflicted connections to tech watchdogs like EFF and privacy activists - people and organizations that are supposed to be fighting for our interests, not those of global tech. I have also revealed how the Pentagon and other US intel agencies are heavily involved in funding grassroots privacy activists and encryption technology - including just about every privacy tool endorsed by Edward Snowden.

EFF, including Tor, has always been heavily financed by the government. This should give anyone pause and indeed needs to be investigated in depth. Especially considering recent revelations show Tor to be not secure.

The book will…

Blow the lid off the Google-Military Surveillance Complex: It will investigate Google's close relationship with US National Security State.

Explore the Silicon Valley arms race: It will look at how other Silicon Valley companies - Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Microsoft - are in a race to dominate the lucrative military and intelligence contracting market.

Detail exactly what Silicon Valley knows about us: Companies like Google and Facebook aggressively mine user data to compile complex and detailed dossiers.

Examine how Internet giants make money off invading our privacy:

Reveal how Silicon Valley polices our lives: There is a common misconception that no matter how much Silicon Valley companies spy on us, at least they don't have the power to arrest and jail us. Truth is, they can and do.

[Apr 11, 2015] Surveillance Valley: The Rise of the Google-Military Complex

[Apr 03, 2015] Search engines like Google or Yahoo make people think they are smarter than they actually are

marknesop.wordpress.com
et Al, April 3, 2015 at 3:02 pm

Slashdot: Google 'Makes People Think They Are Smarter Than They Are
http://search.slashdot.org/story/15/04/02/178220/google-makes-people-think-they-are-smarter-than-they-are

Karen Knapton reports at The Telegraph that according to a study at Yale University, because they have the world's knowledge at their fingertips, search engines like Google or Yahoo make people think they are smarter than they actually are giving people a 'widely inaccurate' view of their own intelligence that can lead to over-confidence when making decisions. In a series of experiments, participants who had searched for information on the internet believed they were far more knowledgeable about a subject that those who had learned by normal routes, such as reading a book or talking to a tutor. Internet users also believed their brains were sharper….
####

This is none more obvious that in the retarded comments you read in the Pork Pie News Networks. It is one thing to look up a 'fact', but to understand it within context, its limitations and not stretch it way beyond reasonable interpretations to fit your argument takes it in to altogether different territory.

I think the good news is that as the Internet is still quite young and people are learning that a) the first answer you find may not be true; b) it helps to do more research if you could be bothered. It's not hard to differentiate between the political bs'ers and the properly curious.

The best thing I think is that we are also learning to ask the right questions in the right way. Most of us can now spot obfuscation through deliberately complicated answers (as is technique often used by people who think they are clever) and are starting to spot what isn't there, or what isn't said simply through logic and following the process or the steps that should lead to a logical conclusion. If that is not done, followed or points to some other conclusion, then the red flags (I don't mean communist ones!) should go up that something is not quite kosher and should be treated with care. Still, it's early days.

kirill, April 3, 2015 at 3:06 pm

People are brainwashed from birth to believe that knowledge of facts is the same as intelligence. I have seen this trope in numerous TV shows and movies. It is total rubbish. People spend years at university and in post-doctoral studies engaged in problem solving. No amount of Google searches is going to teach internet Einsteins that skill.

et Al, April 3, 2015 at 3:23 pm

I can't be as pessimistic as you. Yes, brainwashing does start very early, but this is just the beginning of a brave new world (if we don't become nuclear toast first) and the new industrial revolution has only just started. The field is wide open and old actors will be turfed out or overturned by the new and hungry.

If the turdification of higher education continues in certain countries, then those countries are simply hollowing out themselves from the inside. They simply will not be able to find sufficient numbers of competent people to maintain what they have.

It is one of the many reasons that I am for free education and unlimited free (or at least heavily subsidized) return to education and retraining until you pop your clogs. In fact, I think it is essential if we are going to live longer and more productive lives. If the state (us) fund it, then we all benefit from it over the long term. So far Western countries have been able to attract some of the best foreign talent from other countries and benefit from it, but the rest of the world is catching up fast.

[Mar 30, 2015] Big Brother Is Here Facebook Reveals Its Master Plan - Control All News Flow

This attack on RT is another skirmish in the war for your minds, http://rt.com/shows/crosstalk/244401-media-eu-nato-us/ , maybe lesser known sites will just be disappeared.
Mar 29, 2015 | Zero Hedge
Submitted by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

In recent months, Facebook has been quietly holding talks with at least half a dozen media companies about hosting their content inside Facebook rather than making users tap a link to go to an external site.

The new proposal by Facebook carries another risk for publishers: the loss of valuable consumer data. When readers click on an article, an array of tracking tools allow the host site to collect valuable information on who they are, how often they visit and what else they have done on the web.

And if Facebook pushes beyond the experimental stage and makes content hosted on the site commonplace, those who do not participate in the program could lose substantial traffic - a factor that has played into the thinking of some publishers. Their articles might load more slowly than their competitors', and over time readers might avoid those sites.

- From the New York Times article: Facebook May Host News Sites' Content

Last week, I came across an incredibly important article from the New York Times, which described Facebook's plan to provide direct access to other websites' content in exchange for some sort of advertising partnership. The implications of this are so huge that at this point I have far more questions than answers.

Let's start with a few excerpts from the article:

With 1.4 billion users, the social media site has become a vital source of traffic for publishers looking to reach an increasingly fragmented audience glued to smartphones. In recent months, Facebook has been quietly holding talks with at least half a dozen media companies about hosting their content inside Facebook rather than making users tap a link to go to an external site.

Such a plan would represent a leap of faith for news organizations accustomed to keeping their readers within their own ecosystems, as well as accumulating valuable data on them. Facebook has been trying to allay their fears, according to several of the people briefed on the talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were bound by nondisclosure agreements.

Facebook intends to begin testing the new format in the next several months, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions. The initial partners are expected to be The New York Times, BuzzFeed and National Geographic, although others may be added since discussions are continuing. The Times and Facebook are moving closer to a firm deal, one person said.

Facebook has said publicly that it wants to make the experience of consuming content online more seamless. News articles on Facebook are currently linked to the publisher's own website, and open in a web browser, typically taking about eight seconds to load. Facebook thinks that this is too much time, especially on a mobile device, and that when it comes to catching the roving eyeballs of readers, milliseconds matter.

The Huffington Post and the business and economics website Quartz were also approached. Both also declined to discuss their involvement.

Facebook declined to comment on its specific discussions with publishers. But the company noted that it had provided features to help publishers get better traction on Facebook, including tools unveiled in December that let them target their articles to specific groups of Facebook users, such as young women living in New York who like to travel.

The new proposal by Facebook carries another risk for publishers: the loss of valuable consumer data. When readers click on an article, an array of tracking tools allow the host site to collect valuable information on who they are, how often they visit and what else they have done on the web.

And if Facebook pushes beyond the experimental stage and makes content hosted on the site commonplace, those who do not participate in the program could lose substantial traffic - a factor that has played into the thinking of some publishers. Their articles might load more slowly than their competitors', and over time readers might avoid those sites.

And just as Facebook has changed its news feed to automatically play videos hosted directly on the site, giving them an advantage compared with videos hosted on YouTube, it could change the feed to give priority to articles hosted directly on its site.

Let me try to address this the best I can from several different angles. First off, what's the big picture plan here? As the number two ranked website in the world with 1.4 billion users, Facebook itself is already something like an alternative internet where a disturbing number of individuals spend a disproportionate amount of their time. The only thing that seems to make many of its users click away is content hosted on other people's websites linked to from Facebook users. Other than this outside content, many FB users might never leave the site.

While this is scary to someone like me, to Facebook it is an abomination. The company doesn't want people to leave their site ever - for any reason. Hence the aggressive push to carry outside news content, and create a better positioned alternative web centrally controlled by it. This is a huge power play move.

Second, the New York Times righty asks the question concerning what will publishers get from Facebook for allowing their content to appear on the site seamlessly. Some sort of revenue share from advertisers seems to be an obvious angle, but perhaps there's more.

While Facebook isn't a huge traffic driver for Liberty Blitzkrieg, it isn't totally irrelevant either. For example, FB provided about 3% of the site's traffic over the past 12 months. This is despite the fact that LBK doesn't even have a Facebook page, and I've never shared a link through it. Even more impressive, Facebook drove more traffic to LBK over the same time period than Twitter, and I am very active on that platform. So I can only imagine how important FB is to website editors who actually use it.

This brings me to a key point about leverage. It seems to me that Facebook has all the leverage in negotiations with content providers. If you're a news website that refuses to join in this program, over time you might see your traffic evaporate compared to your competitors whose content will load seamlessly and be promoted by the FB algorithm. If a large percentage of your traffic is being generated by Facebook, can you really afford to lose this?

One thing that FB might be willing to offer publishers in return other than advertising dollars, is increased access to their fan base. For example, when I try to figure out through Google analytics who specifically (or what page) on Facebook is sharing my work, I can't easily do so. Clearly this information could prove very useful for networking purposes and could be quite valuable.

Looking for some additional insight and words of wisdom, I asked the smartest tech/internet person I know for his opinion. It was more optimistic than I thought:

This could be a huge shaper of news on the internet. or it could turn out to be nothing.

Other than saying that I don't really know how to predict what might or might not happen, and I sort of don't care much because it is in the realm (for now at least) of stuff that I don't read (mainstream news), on a site that I never see (Facebook). However, the one thing I wonder in terms of the viability of this is whether in the end it may drive people away from FB.

Back in the day, probably when you weren't so aware of the nascent net, there were two giant "services" on the Internet called Compuserve and America Online. They were each what you are thinking that Facebook is heading toward; exclusive, centralized portals to the whole net. They were also giant and successful at the time. Then people outside of them started doing things that were so much more creative and interesting. At the same time, in order to make everything fit inside their proprietary boxes and categories, they were making everything ever more standardized and boring. Then they just abruptly died.

Given the enormity of what Facebook is trying to achieve, I have some obvious concerns. First, since all of the leverage seems to reside with Facebook, I fear they are likely to get the better part of any deal by wide margin. Second, if they succeed in this push, this single company's ability to control access to news and what is trending and deemed important by a huge section of humanity will be extraordinary.

balolalo
I think this shows how desperate both parties are. The MSM is dying. Facebook has plateued. However the risk is great to both parties. What happens when users hijack the message? And how do they control feedback? I think this will shoot both of them in the foot in the end. BLOWBACK BITCHEZ.

Macchendra

Do you see any of your code on Facebook?

Did I use any of your code?

What? Match.com for Harvard guys?

You know, you really don't need a forensics team to get to the bottom of this.

If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you'd have invented Facebook.

Macchendra

And honestly, the "goy" version of this, classmates.com, had been around for ages stinking up your spam folder. Thank God the MBAs didn't win this battle. They would have monetized it to death. And YOUR opinion has benefited. YOU have been given a voice.

GetZeeGold

The master plan is nothing new.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ForvEyNABs8

fudge

What happens when users hijack the message?

Yes, this is all about control of the 'message'. They are loosing control, this is one option they've chosen and they'll attempt to vilify any and all alternate sources.

This attack on RT is another skirmish in the war for your minds , http://rt.com/shows/crosstalk/244401-media-eu-nato-us/ , maybe lesser known sites will just be disappeared.

WordSmith2013
Who REALLY Controls The Mainstream Media?

Taint Boil

Imagine FaceFuck controlling all the information delivered to the sheep on say ….hmmm, Russia for example.

doctor10

"they" have lost control of the narrative. Can't even get a good game of cowboys and indians going anywhere in the world any longer.

When despite all their insane raving about him, even Putin comes off looking more of a statesman than anybody in the West, its obvious the stories no longer hold together into a believable story

Burt Gummer
I'm gonna twitter this shit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBCUCJNWimo
Paveway IV
"...With 1.4 billion users..."

Yeah, and I account for a dozen of those. I can't remember the username or password or email account that I made up the last time I was forced to use it so I just make up another one. Which I promptly forget again because I never use it.

When you hear your teenage kids say, "Facebook?? Facebook SUCKS" you know it's over for them.

MSM want's to funnel their feces through FB? Hey - I'm all for it. More power to them. I would rather have ALL the knuckle-draggers self-confined to their own little cage somewhere on the periphery of the internet than wandering around loose and showing up on worthwhile sites. Like I would ever even bother to make up yet another fake account on Facebook to read somethign like the NYT, WSJ, WaPo, Bussiness Insider, etc., etc., etc.

bag holder

This sounds exactly like America Online back in the 90s. They tried to create their own self-contained Internet, too. It didn't exactly end well.

in4mayshun

Half the people I know already ditched FB for Instagram. The other half were smart enough never to join FB..

[Mar 27, 2015] Leave Facebook if you don't want to be spied on, warns EU by Samuel Gibb

March 26, 2015 | The Guardian
The European Commission has warned EU citizens that they should close their Facebook accounts if they want to keep information private from US security services, finding that current Safe Harbour legislation does not protect citizen's data.

The comments were made by EC attorney Bernhard Schima in a case brought by privacy campaigner Maximilian Schrems, looking at whether the data of EU citizens should be considered safe if sent to the US in a post-Snowden revelation landscape.

"You might consider closing your Facebook account, if you have one," Schima told attorney general Yves Bot in a hearing of the case at the European court of justice in Luxembourg.

... ... ...

Schrems maintains that companies operating inside the EU should not be allowed to transfer data to the US under Safe Harbour protections – which state that US data protection rules are adequate if information is passed by companies on a "self-certify" basis – because the US no longer qualifies for such a status.

The case argues that the US government's Prism data collection programme, revealed by Edward Snowden in the NSA files, which sees EU citizens' data held by US companies passed on to US intelligence agencies, breaches the EU's Data Protection Directive "adequacy" standard for privacy protection, meaning that the Safe Harbour framework no longer applies.

Poland and a few other member states as well as advocacy group Digital Rights Ireland joined Schrems in arguing that the Safe Harbour framework cannot ensure the protection of EU citizens' data and therefore is in violation of the two articles of the Data Protection Directive.

... ... ...

Facebook declined to comment.


techcafe CompleteBullShit 27 Mar 2015 21:16

read this: NSA poised to control the internet, by Julian Assange, 1996

techcafe, 7 Mar 2015 21:08

The European Commission has warned EU citizens that they should close their Facebook accounts if they want to keep information private from US security services…

unfortunately, facebook only allows you to 'deactivate' your account-but not delete it. in other words, with farcebook, you may check-out anytime you like, but you can never leave.

i 'deactivated' my facebook account a few years ago, and asked to have my account permanently removed, but facebook won't even respond to my repeated requests.

Loquito 27 Mar 2015 20:16

Facebook is the ultimate expression of the infantile, shallow and narcissistic approach a lot of people take to their lives nowadays. People who like to be watched and spied. People who thoroughly enjoy being stupid.

Raytrek 27 Mar 2015 19:53

I want to be spied on, the spies may learn a thing or two.

Joseph Jessup 27 Mar 2015 19:48

The EU is just a vassal for the US anyway, not sure why everybody is complaining here. The EU is pretty much controlled by the US in all aspects. "If the US says Bark, roll over", the EU does it faithfully, and demonstrates it daily in every sphere of foreign and domestic policy.

EU citizens have no right to complain until they start showing a little pride and independence, because now, it is is just a marionette.

CaptCrash -> BlancoDiabloMagico 27 Mar 2015 19:36

Oh... I filled in a form to close the account, with a reason of "duplicate account". Gone within 48 hours I think.

Zooni_Bubba 27 Mar 2015 19:16

This is the most of course story ever. The US government is breaking all sorts of laws, why would anyone put their information under in their domain. People should also not use any US based software products or email servers.

It is illegal to look through someones mail and therefore should be illegal to look through email, phone records, cookies etc.

GiovannidiPietro0714 27 Mar 2015 19:09

Leave Facebook . . .

more like leave planet earth, right?

That "Collect it All", "Process it All", "Exploit it All", "Partner it All", "Sniff it All" (tm) mindset, which by the way was started by U.S. IT companies, won't ever be abandoned by "freedom-loving" politicians and police.

... ... ....

Scott Gordon Scott Gordon 27 Mar 2015 17:39

www.businessinsider.com/25-cutting-edge-companies-funded-by-the-central-intelligence-agency-2012-8

Scott Gordon 27 Mar 2015 17:36

there is a story from a few years ago stating a cia agent helped fund facebook

ChristopherPrice Bob Howie 27 Mar 2015 16:23

There's a difference between secrecy and privacy. Having "nothing to hide" is good (which means you are likely a non-secretive, law abiding citizen), and it goes under the category of being transparent with regards to the rule of law. However, your ethical right to privacy is an entirely different discussion. Would you mind if the gov authorities placed a camera inside of your home and took pictures of your unclothed wife?

robertthebruce2014 27 Mar 2015 13:56

The corporate State considers that private enterprise in the sphere of production is the most effective and useful instrument in the interest of the nation. In view of the fact that private organisation of production is a function of national concern, the organiser of the enterprise is responsible to the State for the direction given to production.

State intervention in economic production arises only when private initiative is lacking or insufficient, or when the political interests of the State are involved. This intervention may take the form of control, assistance or direct management
.
(Benito Mussolini, 1935, Fascism: Doctrine and Institutions, pp. 135 / 136)

egbertnosausage -> SusanTorveldtt 27 Mar 2015 13:51

You're being spied upon all the time.

Turn off location services and use on an as needed basis then turn off again.

You're phone is a walking microphone telling companies like Google where you go and who you meet.

Dunnyveg 27 Mar 2015 12:50

Europeans should be just as concerned with keeping their private information away from EU authorities. Both Washington and Brussels are controlled by the same liberals who have declared war on their own citizens.

Alan Tasman 27 Mar 2015 12:20

I agree with this assessment 100%

Loveable Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg called his first few thousand users "dumb fucks" for trusting him with their data, published IM (Instant Message) transcripts show. Zuckerberg has since admitted he made the comments.

Zuckerberg was chatting with an unnamed friend, apparently in early 2004. Business Insider, which has a series of quite juicy anecdotes about Facebook's early days, takes the credit for this one.

The exchange apparently ran like this:

Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard

Zuck: Just ask.

Zuck: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS

[Redacted Friend's Name]: What? How'd you manage that one?

Zuck: People just submitted it.

Zuck: I don't know why.

Zuck: They "trust me"

Zuck: Dumb fucks

leveut2 27 Mar 2015 12:04

This is almost funny. More correctly put: "EU citizens that they should close their Facebook accounts if they want to keep information private".

Facebook's business plan is:

  1. get people to put as much as their personal information as possible on Facebook,
  2. figure out out to screw them over but good using that personal information, and
  3. screw them over but good.

By putting your information on Facebook you lose any right to complain about snooping by anyone.

uzzername 27 Mar 2015 10:48

Why don't the EU make Facebook put its server farms for European users within the territory of EU.

This way traffic from EU citizens won't leave its borders.

Kelly Trujillo 27 Mar 2015 10:48

So European nations have figured out that they don't want to be part of the U.S. nazification of the whole world. How long before the so called American "intellectual property" companies like Facebook become irrelevant?


BaffledFromBalham -> SirDemilo Brewer 27 Mar 2015 09:02

Who cares if FB is spying on you; if you don't have anything to hide what's the problem?

What if you do have something to hide? What if you were a member of some protest group in your student youth but now wanted to go on holiday to the US ... maybe you might want not want the US government to see all of your old posts of "down with this sort of thing" in case they got touchy and banned you from entering the country.

BaffledFromBalham -> Mike Kelligan 27 Mar 2015 08:52

just look at the contract and what it stipulates

It's not just what's in the contract; the NSA were using the data sent over the wire to by these apps.

BaffledFromBalham -> amberjack 27 Mar 2015 08:48

If the spooks can just suck your data out of the wires, it doesn't really matter which social network you're on.

Indeed, that's why GCHQ were tapping into the undersea internet cables. I guess the only defence then is https.

ID8246338 27 Mar 2015 08:40

One would have to be very stupid to think that any on-line communication is 'safe' or 'private' unless one takes specific steps.

Security has been a concern since the internet started to develop. From the beginning hackers were beavering away to find ways of accessing government systems - many of them very successfully. Many of them became employees of the governments who they were once hacking.

Combine this with the resources available to governments around the world nowadays and the cooperation of social media giants and other providers and its not hard to understand the risks one takes by using the internet.

Although we may think that we are doing nothing that the authorities would be interested in, the fact is that those authorities like data. They can analyse it and do all kinds of projections and discover trends in society which may be a threat to their power. That is the reason - not as much of that analysis is related to crime as they say it is.

Its common sense not to put anything on the internet you do not want others to see - no matter how private you think it is.

Wharfat9 27 Mar 2015 08:05

The idea of spying, snooping, entering into ... is rather against the idea of ´private´. Of course, if a phenotype puts a photo of self, 3/4´s naked, and then starts to blab his/her intimacies ... considering the platform, he/she has somewhat unlatched the locks, cut the barbed wire and otherwise ´invited the world on in.´

We are, aren´t we? .. pretty exhibitionist creatures.

Where we want to ´be seen´ ´heard´ ... offers the silly putty of our little ego´s up for those who want to snoop.

The people at Bluffdale, NSA, FBI, CIA have never had it so good. The kind of data collection they get as freebie, swooping it up by the ton - from willing bedmates throughout the social networks - is the kind of data collection they could only have dreamed of .. if Hoxha could have had this, Albania might be poised to take on the world!

What happens if there comes a day when we just simply turn these things off? What would be gained? What would be lost? The ´puter .. as someone in the U.S. said to me, "can´t live with ´em, can´t live without ´em." Is that really the way it is?

There is lingering curiosity, too: why in the world do governments want to snoop so badly? Beyond simple, grade ´b´ perversity, what is it? The United States, my country, has had as close to zero-success in snooping as has any country in the world, free, unfree, or oblong.

What´s the deal?

.. millions of bucks, snooping .. failure after failure .. what´s the deal?

Everything that could have gone wrong vis-a-vis terrorism, has.

Maybe U.S. officials want to talk about the ´ones they thwarted.´

"Oh, if only you knew!"

.. that, children, would require a leap of faith that he who writes here is not willing to take-make.

Reading the great Malinowski, his investigation of the Trobriand Islanders, one notes a complete, integral society, at work, at play, celebrating, mourning, living. Less than a hundred years ago. The stunning clarity of his writing portrays an integral society. If the society is whole, the community - as sub-strata, is whole, as well. Or, at least, can be ...

One can´t get over the fact that the ones who took the flying lessons before whacking the WTC´s (if this is really how it went) went into small town ´flying schools´ .. being very foreign, and .. ? .. ! .. and, the terrible serial killer who lived next door, ´was such a quiet boy.´

If we have lost it, the integrity, the integral part .. the rest is left-overs, bits ´n pieces, bacon bits, halal. And spying is the least of us. Lord help us.

david wright 27 Mar 2015 05:33

The 'right to be forgotten' legislation, however well-mening, was drafted in fairly complete ignorance of various technical realities. It provides very litle - if any - meaningful protection, beyond a comforting illusion. Would you care to be protected in shipwreck by an illusory life-jacket? Thought not.

General point being that absent accurate, timely and clear technical briefing of lawyers and parliamentary draughters, such laws will be effective purely by chance.

Dave Butler 27 Mar 2015 05:05

As a UK citizen who is already spied on more than any other country in the world what can the Americans find out that GCHQ , the thousands of camera's and the tracking of my phone, plus following my fancy new bank cards purchases is not already in the public domain.

Of course if you have something worth hiding you may feel different......

dralion 27 Mar 2015 04:54

Never joined, it or any other of the anti social networks.

Still can't understand this need to spread its life all over the net to thousands of so called friends. Croaks (as opposed to tweets) are reliable news for many and decision are based on rumours, false information...

There is no need for any of this. People are no more than cattle for those companies, milked out of their money, their time, their liberty of thinking; drone consumers...

ID3547814 -> Khoryos 27 Mar 2015 04:51

Not even FB deleting your account removes everything, from that FB help page;
"Some of the things you do on Facebook aren't stored in your account. For example, a friend may still have messages from you even after you delete your account. That information remains after you delete your account."

This means some incriminating posts you may have made will be stored on your FB friends accounts. Better still, you'll need to get all your friends to make a request to delete their FB accounts too, and their friends as well. Ad infinitum until the only account still using FB is Mark Zuckerburg's.

Денис Панкратов -> Khoryos 27 Mar 2015 04:44

Unfortunately, this is not quite true. By these actions, you can close your page for users, but not for US intelligence. But if you do not intelligence agent, not a politician, not a businessman, but simply communicate on the network, no need to worry. Special services are not interested in you. By the way, not only the "Facebook" is watching you. It is actively engaged in "Google", almost all social networks, file sharing, porn sites and sites for storing files.

The principle is the same: you want to keep confidential information, do not spread it to the network.

amberjack -> BaffledFromBalham 27 Mar 2015 03:54

Would you really trust a social media site set up by a governing organisation? Surely it would be way too tempting for them to fit backdoors for EuroPol to log in and search through all data, public and private.

That could be addressed by using a free open-source product like Diaspora. If everyone can see the code, back doors are easily detected and publicised. And it's a distributed system, so if you're really paranoid, you can install it on your own server and operate it on a peer-to-peer (pod to pod, in Diaspora jargon) basis.

The drawback is, of course, that as sdkeller72 and others have pointed out, once the information is transmitted between different pods/countries, it becomes vulnerable to third parties. If the spooks can just suck your data out of the wires, it doesn't really matter which social network you're on.

If you just don't like Facebook using your private information to pump you full of ads, though, a distributed, democratic system like Diaspora is the way to go.

monostatos 27 Mar 2015 03:44

has anyone found a way to delete a FB account in the real sense of 'delete' and not just abandon. I couldnt find a definitive answer in the comments. The offcial procedure on FB has very little effect on your data.

Its probably best to assume that anything ever uploaded to FB will exist forever right?

Khoryos NoahDiff 27 Mar 2015 03:39

You can delete it, they just make it as hard as possible to find -
https://en-gb.facebook.com/help/224562897555674

NoahDiff 27 Mar 2015 02:57

So the EU is urging people to close their Facebook accounts if they are concerned with possible privacy breaches. Sounds reasonable enough. I agree.

There's just one gotcha. Currently, it seems, there is NO way to actually close your Facebook account. You can deactivate it, but that doesn't actually delete it. All deactivating does is makes your account invisible; all your data is still there.

The closest you can get is to delete every last bit of data in your Facebook account -- and that means sitting there and deleting perhaps years worth of posts to your wall and the like, contacts, and any other services you have used on Facebook. The deactivate it and hope you and no one else trips over it in the future.

If there is anything the EU could demand, it would be to require that FB provide a means to truly delete an account. I mean, it is ridiculous that this is not available, given that this is doable on virtually every other site on the web. Not just ridiculous, outright lazy and irresponsible.

ramacaida58 27 Mar 2015 02:49

Are people naive?

"Face Book" National security project made by National security agencies.

We all applauded well done you clever boy how did you come out with such clever ideas.

But this is democracy we do have the choice to "shut it down or keep it open". We, who are the peaceful ordinary citizens of this word. Have nothing to worry about. May be even it is good for our security. At the end most of us we have nothing to hide.

orag -> Cumming madeiranlotuseater 27 Mar 2015 02:48

No, Facebook is where people post news that the mainstream media are reluctant to publish. It was the first place, for example, where people were extensively warning about NHS privatisation, or about the terrible effects of benefit sanctions.

It's also great for finding links to really interesting science sites, or culture that you may be interest ted in.

argonauta -> madeiranlotuseater 27 Mar 2015 02:46

My dog has 12 friends on FB. She's popular among my friends. I have no FB but my dog loves me anyway. And I love her friends, because the friends of my dog are my friends, chiefly when they were my friends in the first place. It's a win-win-woof situation

Brian -> Haughan Ellenrocr 27 Mar 2015 02:44

We all need to use an instant messaging solution like Cribble where messages can only be decrypted by the intended recipient. That way it doesn't matter where the servers are located because the governments can't read your messages anyway.

John MacKenzie -> tempodulu 27 Mar 2015 02:43

One of Edward Snowdons revelations was never to use Dropbox, ever. Continously monitored apparently.

John MacKenzie 27 Mar 2015 02:40

Can I suggest that, if you want your privacy protected, download Ghostery and ZenMate. Ghostery blocks 'trackers,' essentially online ads and tracking apps that run in the background mining data. For example, at the moment, on the Guardian site, Ghostery is blocking the following -

Audience Science
Criteo (ads)
Double Click (ads)
Facebook Social Graph
Google Ads
Krux Digital (ads)
Net Ratings (analytics)
Outbrain (tracker)
Scorecard Research

Zenmate is a VPN.

Ghostery does make the internet so much better as the pages load faster. They don't need to load ads and trackers all the time.

Just a thought.

[Mar 27, 2015]Big Data Is Watching You

In reality the state took an active role in creating such companies as Google and Facebook. So I would not call their excessive zeal for surveillance of the users accidental. Quote: "Headlines have always been composed to grab attention, but now they can gather intelligence too. Your decision to click-and even the amount of time you spend reading or watching-is a piece of data for which the advertiser will pay good money. As Silverman describes it, the urge to gather endless data about all of us-from our spending habits to the pace of our heartbeats-is a huge, lucrative industry, driven by the fantasy that correlation is causation, that because you did X activity, you'll buy Y product."
March 12, 2015 | In These Times
The hidden price of Google, Twitter and Facebook.

Your decision to click-and even the amount of time you spend reading or watching-is a piece of data for which the advertiser will pay good money.

What are we prepared to give up in the name of convenience? Throughout Jacob Silverman's capacious study of the world we're in and the world we're making-or rather, allowing tech companies to make for us-it's demonstrated repeatedly that billions of us are happy to surrender our privacy to save a few keystrokes. Why not log in to that other website with your Facebook or Twitter or Google ID? Why not use your real identity and photograph, with a record of your movements, all across the web? You have it on Google's word that they're not "evil"; what could be the harm?

Silverman's new book, Terms of Service: Social Media and the Price of Constant Connection, does a thorough, if sometimes long-winded, job of explaining what the harm is and what it could become. He begins with an analysis of the philosophy, variously termed "techno-utopianism" or "cyber-libertarianism," that drives the major social media companies. The ideology should be familiar in essence, if not in name-we've been soaking in it for the past decade. Media theorists, long before the advent of Facebook, were calling it "the Californian ideology." It's what happens when youthful rebelliousness and a countercultural, anti-authoritarian spirit meets gobs of cash and untrammeled power. It's the myth-tirelessly peddled by optimistic tech, business and culture reporters and embraced by the customers who line up for new gadgets-that a corporation that calls its headquarters a "campus" and equips its offices with slides, snacks and free daycare is something other than a capitalist entity, with motives other than profit.

To be fair, the big tech companies-Google and Facebook are the stars here, with Twitter, Tumblr and LinkedIn singing backup - do have goals beyond their bottom line. They want to do the kinds of things that beauty-pageant contestants want to do: cure diseases, end terrorism, go to the moon. They share a disdain for government - Mark Zuckerberg is committed to the idea of "companies over countries" - but also share a zeal for surveillance.

For Silverman, the harm of social media is both specific and philosophical. It turns journalism into a clickbait race, for instance, but it also radically changes our concepts of privacy and identity. He considers the fate of those who are chewed up and spat out by the Internet's nano-fame cycle (nobody gets 15 minutes anymore), whose embarrassing or self-aggrandizing antics, captured on video, do the rounds and attract a quick, overwhelming torrent of derision or rage. But while we might shrug our shoulders at the fate of an Antoine Dodson or a Taylor Chapman (respectively a viral hero and villain), Silverman argues that we should be aware of the numbing and alienating consequences of the viral instinct. Not only does it frequently make clowns of those who are seriously disadvantaged, and destroy reputations and careers, it also molds the larger media world in its own image. Hate-watching a two-minute video of a reality show contestant's racist rant is a sign that you'll give attention to this kind of content-and the site that hosts the video, beholden to its advertisers, traffics in your attention, not your intelligence or humanity.

Headlines have always been composed to grab attention, but now they can gather intelligence too. Your decision to click - and even the amount of time you spend reading or watching-is a piece of data for which the advertiser will pay good money. As Silverman describes it, the urge to gather endless data about all of us - from our spending habits to the pace of our heartbeats - is a huge, lucrative industry, driven by the fantasy that correlation is causation, that because you did X activity, you'll buy Y product.

It may be foolhardy to make predictions about the fast-evolving tech world, but Silverman offers some chilling evidence that the world of "big data" is beginning to affect the choices available to us. Some healthcare companies will lower your premiums if you use a fitness-tracking app (and share that data, of course). Data about what you eat and buy is increasingly being used like your credit score, to determine if you are worthy of that job, that car or that home.

So what? A good citizen who eats her greens and pays her bills has nothing to fear! And if she worries that some misstep-glancing at an unsavory website, running a red light, suffering a computer hack-will damage her, she can just pay protection money to one of several companies that exist to safeguard their clients' online reputations. Silverman has no solution to these linked problems, of course, since there is far too much money driving this brave new world and far too little government will to resist. Mass surveillance is the present and the future. But if information-meaning data points-is corporate power, then knowledge and critical thinking may be citizen power.

Silverman is too cautious and self-conscious a thinker to inspire a revolution. Instead, he advocates a kind of lowlevel "social-media rebellion" - messing with, rather than rejecting, the digitally networked world in which we live. Putting up a cartoon monkey as your online avatar might not feel like much of a blow to the Facebook assault on privacy, but it's an annoyance to the booming facial- recognition industry-and perhaps a few million determined annoyances can disrupt the techno-utopia in favor of the common good.

Joanna Scutts is a freelance writer based in Queens, NY, and a board member of the National Book Critics Circle. Her book reviews and essays have appeared in the Washington Post, the New Yorker Online, The Nation, The Wall Street Journal and several other publications. You can follow her on Twitter @life_savour.

[Mar 14, 2015] Google murders Google Code, orders everyone out to GitHub by Neil McAllister

Mar 12, 2015 | The Register

Shutdown begins now, completely dead by January 2016

Google killing off its own software projects is nothing new, but the Mountain View goliath will soon kill your software projects, too, if you host them on Google Code.

The online advertising titan said on Thursday that it is shutting down its code collaboration service, which was launched in 2006, effective immediately. The service hosts many projects including research produced by Google's own Project Zero security experts.

The reason for the cancelation is said to be because most developers prefer superior options, including GitHub and Bitbucket, and that as a result, maintaining Google Code was too much work for the actual return.

"As developers migrated away from Google Code, a growing share of the remaining projects were spam or abuse," said Google's Chris DiBona in a Thursday blog post. "Lately, the administrative load has consisted almost exclusively of abuse management."

Your humble Reg hack will leave it to you, dear reader, to come up with as many witty retorts as you deem appropriate. The important thing is that Google Code is no longer accepting any new projects, beginning on Thursday.

Come August 24, you won't be able to commit any code changes to existing projects, either, because that's when the site goes read-only.

Finally, on January 26, 2016, Google Code will be officially closed. You'll still be able to download tarballs of all your project's files through the end of the year – including source code, issues, and wikis – but after the end of 2016, all bets are off.

Google points out that there are already numerous easy ways to migrate your projects to alternative code hosting services. Google Code itself provides a tool that can export projects to GitHub, for example. SourceForge, similarly, has an import service, and Google provides standalone tools for exporting to GitHub and Bitbucket.

"We will also make ourselves available over the next three months to those projects that need help migrating from Google Code to other hosts," DiBona said.

While the public Google Code service will shut down, however, Google plans to continue to host its own high-profile projects, such as Chrome and Android, and it will still maintain mirrors of other key open source projects, such as the Linux kernel and Eclipse.

"We know this decision will cause some pain for those of you still using Google Code and we're sorry for that," DiBona said. "We'll continue to do our best to make the migration process easy for you." ®

[Mar 14, 2015] Silicon Valley's Web of Lies by Christine Rosen

"Instead of a win-win, the Internet is, in fact, more akin to a negative feedback loop in which we network users are its victims rather than beneficiaries,"
February 26, 2015 | The National Interest

Andrew Keen, The Internet Is Not the Answer (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2015), 288 pp., $25.00.

DURING THE past few years, if you were one of the many people trawling the dating website OkCupid in search of love, you might have received a notice letting you know it had found someone who was an "exceptionally good" match for you. You might have contacted this match and even gone on dates with this person, comfortable in the knowledge that a sophisticated algorithm had done the difficult work of sorting through millions of profiles to find someone with just the right balance of appealing quirks and concupiscent charms to match your own delightful attributes.

What you didn't know is that OkCupid was experimenting on you. Engineers programmed the site to send its users matches that it claimed were "exceptional" but that were in fact bogus-all for the purpose of finding out if you would believe the assessment and pursue the match. Not surprisingly, most users did. We are nothing if not suggestible when it comes to love, even if Cupid's arrow has been replaced by OkCupid's algorithm.

This past summer, Christian Rudder, the founder of OkCupid, was prompted to publicize his company's manipulation of its users in response to the furor created by Facebook's acknowledgement that it, too, often uses the social network as a massive online behavioral-science experiment. In January 2012, more than half a million Facebook users became unwitting lab rats when the company deliberately massaged its users' news feeds by putting either more or less positive information in them, ostensibly to determine if emotions are "contagious." (Short answer: yes, but behavioral science had already proven this; Facebook, by contrast, was not doing this for science. The company wanted to show advertisers that it could manipulate its users.)

For a brief moment, as news of these experiments became public, we caught a glimpse of the chasm that has developed between what technology companies like Facebook and OkCupid assume about their users and how those users actually feel. Some OkCupid devotees were horrified to learn that the site keeps not only every single message sent to a potential date, but also bits of messages erased while trying to craft a perfectly pitched response. The users felt, well, used. Rudder was unmoved. As one of his OkCupid blog posts boasted, "We Experiment On Human Beings!"

Both the public's brief outrage and the hubris of the technology companies would come as no surprise to Andrew Keen, whose new book, The Internet Is Not the Answer, offers a critical narrative of the various ways Silicon Valley is reshaping the world's economy and values-and not for the better. "Instead of a win-win, the Internet is, in fact, more akin to a negative feedback loop in which we network users are its victims rather than beneficiaries," Keen writes. "Rather than the answer, the Internet is actually the central question about our connected twenty-first-century world."

Keen states outright that his book is a synthesis, and it contains both the benefits and drawbacks of one-repetitive and larded with quotations, it mainly advances arguments that have been made already (and in greater depth) by technology critics such as Jaron Lanier, Sherry Turkle and Nicholas Carr. Withal, he provides a timely and necessary overview of how the Internet arrived at its present state and a bracing polemic about where it's headed. If, as MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito once said, "The Internet is not a technology; it's a belief system," then Andrew Keen is one of its more compelling heretics.

SOMETIME AROUND 1989, Keen argues, when computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee sketched the early outline for the World Wide Web, the world changed. This new world, defined by the Internet's expansion, is one that has "created new values, new wealth, new debates, new elites, new scarcities, new markets, and above all, a new kind of economy." It is a world where, as a recent United Nations report noted, more people have cell phones than access to functioning toilets.

Many early Internet champions believed that the Web they were building would connect people in a way that would inaugurate an era of creative, cooperative economic and technological development. Technologists such as Berners-Lee and Robert Kahn had backgrounds in research science and academia; they were not focused on the potential profitability of their enterprise. Once the U.S. government opened up the Internet to commercial use in the early 1990s, however, Keen shows how it "triggered the rush by a new class of technological oligarchs in the United States to acquire prime online real estate."

In Keen's telling, the story of the Internet can be "summarized in a single word: money." One of the creators of the early Web browser Netscape captured the mood well when he said, "The hell with the commune. This was business."

But it is business that, for all of its rhetoric about innovation and disruption, has taken a traditional form. The online world is now dominated by a small group of big companies-Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook foremost among them-that function like the monopolies of old. One technology investor whom Keen cites puts it this way: "The Internet, in its current form, has simply replaced the old boss with a new boss and these new bosses have market power that, in time, will be vastly larger than that of the old boss."

[Mar 07, 2015] Under the Radar, Big Media Internet Giants Get Massive Access to Everything About You By Jeffrey Chester

March 5, 2015 | alternet.org

A White House-backed bill would give the corporate elite control over how our data is used.

Editor's note: The following is the latest in a new series of articles on AlterNet called Fear in America that launched this March. Read the introduction to the series.

The Internet and our digital media are quietly becoming a pervasive and manipulative interactive surveillance system. Leading U.S. online companies, while claiming to be strong supporters of an open and democratic Internet, are working behind the scenes to ensure that they have unlimited and unchecked power to "shadow" each of us online. They have allied with global advertisers to transform the Internet into a medium whose true ambition is to track, influence and sell, in anever-ending cycle, their products and political ideas. While Google, Facebook and other digital giants claim to strongly support a "democratic" Internet, their real goal is to use all the "screens"we use to empower a highly commercialized and corporatized digital media culture.

Last Thursday was widely viewed as a victory for "Internet Freedom" and a blow to a "corporatized" Internet as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) endorsed a historic public utility framework for Network Neutrality (NN). It took the intervention of President Obama last year, who called for "the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality," to dramatically transform the FCC's plans. Its chairman, Thomas Wheeler, a former cable and telecom lobbyist, had previously been ambivalent about endorsing strong utility-like regulations. But feeling the pressure, especially from the president, he became a "born again" NN champion, leading the agency to endorse "strong, sustainable rules to protect the Open Internet."

But the next day, the Obama White House took another approach to Internet Freedom, handing the leading online companies, including Google, Facebook, and their Fortune-type advertising clients, a major political victory. The administration released its long-awaited "Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights" legislation. The bill enables the most powerful corporations and their trade associations to greatly determine what American privacy rights will be. By giving further control over how data are gathered and used online, the administration basically ceded more clout to a corporate elite that will be able to effectively decide how the Internet and digital applications operate, today and in the near future.

How do privacy rules impact the openness of the Internet, and the ability to promote and sustain progressive and alternative perspectives? While much of the public debate on pervasive data mining has focused on the role of the NSA and other intelligence agencies that were exposed by Edward Snowden, there has not been as much discussion on the impact of the commercial data system that is at the core of the Internet today. Google, Facebook, and others use our data as the basis of an ever-expanding global system of commercial surveillance. This information is gathered from our mobile devices, PCs, apps, social networks, and increasingly even TVs-and stored in digital profiles. These far-reaching dossiers-which can be accessed and updated in milliseconds-can include information on our race/ethnicity, financial status, health concerns, location, online behavior, what our children do, whom we communicate with on social media, and much more.

The major online companies are continually expanding their commercial data gathering practices. They now merge and use our online and offline data (what we do online and information collected from store loyalty cards, etc.); track us across all the devices we use (PCs, mobile, etc.); and amass even more data about us supplied by a vast network of data broker alliances and partnerships (such asFacebook with its myriad of data partners, including Acxiom and Epsilon). A U.S. digital data industry "arms race," with companies vying to own the most complete set of records on every consumer, has also led to a wave of mergers and acquisitions, where companies that have already compiled huge datasets on Americans (and global consumers) being swallowed up by even larger ones.

Leading corporations are investing vast sums to harvest and, in their own words, make "actionable" information we now generate nearly 24/7. So-called "Big Data" technologies enable companies to quickly analyze and take advantage of all this information, including understanding how each of us uses online media and mobile phones. A score of "Math Men and Women"-led advertising-technology companies have pioneered the use of super fast computers that track where we are online and, in milliseconds, crunch through lots of our data to decide whether to target us with advertising and marketing (regardless of whether we use a PC or mobile device and, increasingly, using our geolocation information).

These machines are used to "auction" us off individually to the highest bidder, so we can be instantly delivered some form of marketing (or even political) message. Increasingly, the largest brands and ad agencies are using all this data and new tactics to sell us junk food, insurance, cars, and political candidates. For example, these anonymous machines can determine whether to offer us a high-interest pay day loan or a lower interest credit card; or an ad from one political group versus another.

But it's not just the ability to harvest data that's the source of increased corporate clout on the Internet. Our profiles are tied to a system of micro-persuasion, the 21st century updating of traditional "Madison Avenue" advertising tactics that relied on "subliminal" and cultural influence. Today, online ads are constructed by connecting our information to a highly sophisticated digital marketing apparatus. At places like Google's BrandLab, AT&T's Adworks Lab, or through research efforts such as Facebook IQ, leading companies help their well-heeled clients take advantage of the latest insights from neuromarketing (to deliberately influence our emotions and subconscious), social media monitoring, new forms of corporate product placement, and the most effective ways to use all of our digital platforms.

The online marketing industry is helping determine the dimensions of our digital world. Much of the Internet and our mobile communications are being purposely developed as a highly commercialized marketplace, where the revenues that help fund content go to a select, and largely ad-supported, few. With Google, Facebook, major advertisers and agencies all working closely together throughout the world to further commercialize our relationship to digital media, and given their ownership over the leading search engines, social networks, online video channels, and how "monetization" of content operates, these forces pose a serious obstacle to a more democratic and diverse online environment.

One of the few barriers standing in the way of their digital dominance is the growing public concern about our commercial privacy. U.S. companies have largely bitterly opposed proposed privacy legislation-in the U.S. and also in the European Union (where data protection, as it is called, is considered a fundamental right). Effective regulations for privacy in the U.S. would restore our control of the information that has been collected about us, versus the system now in place that, for the most part, enables companies to freely use it. But under the proposed Obama plan, Google, Facebook and other data-gathering companies would be allowed to determine the rules. Through a scheme the White House calls a "multi-stakeholder" process, industry-dominated meetings-with consumer and privacy groups vastly outnumbered and out-resourced-would develop so-called self-regulatory "codes of conduct" to govern how the U.S. treats data collection and privacy. Codes would be developed to address, for example, how companies can track and use our location information; how they compile dossiers about us based on what we do at the local grocery store and read online; how health data can be collected and used from devices like Fitbit; and more. This process is designed to protect the bottom line of the data companies, which the Obama White House views as important to the economy and job growth. (Stealing other people's data, in other words, is one of America's most successful industries). Like similar self-regulatory efforts, stakeholder codes are really designed to sanction existing business practices and enable companies to continue to accumulate and use vast data assets unencumbered. The administration claims that such a stakeholder process can operate more effectively than legislation, operating quickly in "Internet time." Dominated by industry as they are, stakeholder bodies are incapable of doing anything that would adversely impact their own future-which currently depends on the ability to gather and use all our data.

The administration's bill also strips away the power of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which now acts as the leading federal watchdog on privacy. Instead of empowering the FTC to develop national rules that enable individuals to make their own privacy decisions, the bill forces the agency to quickly review (in as little as 90 days) the proposed stakeholder codes-with little effective power to reject them. Companies become largely immune to FTC oversight and enforcement when they agree to abide by the self-regulatory policies their lobbyists basically wrote. In a rare rebuke to the administration, the FTC, leading Congressional Democrats, and the majority of consumer and privacy organizations rejected the White House's privacy plan. But the administration does not appear to be willing, for now, to change its support for the data companies; and as we know, Silicon Valley and their business allies have strong support in Congress that will prevent any privacy law from passing for now.

To see how the online lobby has different views on Internet Freedom, compare, for example the statements of the "Internet Association"-the lobbying trade organization that represents Google, Facebook, Amazon and dozens of other major online data-gathering companies-on last week's two developments. It praised the FCC NN decision for creating "strong, enforceable net neutrality rules … banning paid prioritization, blocking, and discrimination online." But the group rejected the Administration's privacy proposal, as weak as it was, explaining that "today's wide-ranging legislative proposal outlined by the Commerce Department casts a needlessly imprecise net." At stake, as the Internet Association knows, is the ability of its members to expand their businesses throughout the world unencumbered. For example, high on the agenda for the Internet Association members are new U.S. brokered global trade deals, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which will free our digital giants from having to worry about strong privacy laws abroad.

While the NN battle correctly viewed Comcast, Verizon, and other cable and phone giants as major opponents to a more democratic digital media environment, many of the online companies were seen as supporters and allies. But an "open" network free from control of our cable/telco monopolies is just one essential part for a more diverse and public interest-minded online system. Freedom must also prevent powerful interests from determining the very structure of communications in the digital age. Those companies that can collect and most effectively use our information are also gatekeepers and shapers of our Internet Future.

The NN victory is only one key step for a public-interest agenda for digital media. We also must place limits on today's digital media conglomerates, especially their ability to use all our data. The U.S is one of the only "developed" countries that still doesn't have a national law protecting our privacy. For those concerned about the environment, we must also address how U.S. companies are using the Internet to encourage the global public to engage in a never-ending consumption spree that has consequences for sustainability and a more equitable future.

There is ultimately an alignment of interests between the so-called "old" media of cable and the telephone industry with the "new" online media. They share similar values when it comes to ensuring the media they control brings eyeballs and our bank accounts to serve them and their advertising clients. While progressive and public interest voices today find the Internet accessible for organizing and promoting alternative views, to keep it so will require much more work.

Jeffrey Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy ( www.democraticmedia.org).

[Mar 07, 2015] What Surveillance Valley knows about you Crooks and Liars By Yasha Levine

I think that most data Google compile to increase its advertizing revenue is useless, wasted effort. Moreover in many people such "snooping" and silly attempt to suggest "relevant" ad based on observation of your browsing behaviors and other data create a strong allergic reaction to anything connected with Google including Android phones. In a way Google is its own greatest enemy. Moreover after google efforts of creation on cookies independent "unique user id" it lost remnants of credibility.
December 22, 2013 | crooksandliars.com

"In 2012, the data broker industry generated 150 billion in revenue that's twice the size of the entire intelligence budget of the United States government-all generated by the effort to detail and sell information about our private lives."
- Senator Jay Rockefeller IV

"Quite simply, in the digital age, data-driven marketing has become the fuel on which America's free market engine runs."

- Direct Marketing Association

Google is very secretive about the exact nature of its for-profit Intelligence operation and how it uses the petabytes of data it collects on us every single day for financial gain. Fortunately, though, we can get a sense of the kind of info that Google and other Surveillance Valley megacorps compile on us, and the ways in which that intel might be used and abused, by looking at the business practices of the "data broker" industry.

Thanks to a series of Senate hearings, the business of data brokerage is finally being understood by consumers, but the industry got its start back in the 1970s as a direct outgrowth of the failure of telemarketing. In its early days, telemarketing had an abysmal success rate: only 2 percent of people contacted would become customers. In his book, "The Digital Perso," Daniel J. Solove explains what happened next:

To increase the low response rate, marketers sought to sharpen their targeting techniques, which required more consumer research and an effective way to collect, store, and analyze information about consumers. The advent of the computer database gave marketers this long sought-after ability - and it launched a revolution in targeting technology.

Data brokers rushed in to fill the void. These operations pulled in information from any source they could get their hands on - voter registration, credit card transactions, product warranty information, donations to political campaigns and non-profits, court records - storing it in master databases and then analyzing it in all sorts of ways that could be useful to direct-mailing and telemarketing outfits. It wasn't long before data brokers realized that this information could be used beyond telemarketing, and quickly evolved into a global for-profit intelligence business that serves every conceivable data and intelligence need.

Today, the industry churns somewhere around $200 billion in revenue annually. There are up to 4,000 data broker companies - some of the biggest are publicly traded - and together, they have detailed information on just about every adult in the western world.

No source of information is sacred: transaction records are bought in bulk from stores, retailers and merchants; magazine subscriptions are recorded; food and restaurant preferences are noted; public records and social networks are scoured and scraped. What kind of prescription drugs did you buy? What kind of books are you interested in? Are you a registered voter? To what non-profits do you donate? What movies do you watch? Political documentaries? Hunting reality TV shows?

That info is combined and kept up to date with address, payroll information, phone numbers, email accounts, social security numbers, vehicle registration and financial history. And all that is sliced, isolated, analyzed and mined for data about you and your habits in a million different ways.

The dossiers are not restricted to generic market segmenting categories like "Young Literati" or "Shotguns and Pickups" or "Kids & Cul-de-Sacs," but often contain the most private and intimate details about a person's life, all of it packaged and sold over and over again to anyone willing to pay.

Take MEDbase200, a boutique for-profit intel outfit that specializes in selling health-related consumer data. Well, until last week, the company offered its clients a list of rape victims (or "rape sufferers," as the company calls them) at the low price of $79.00 per thousand. The company claims to have segmented this data set into hundreds of different categories, including stuff like the ailments they suffer, prescription drugs they take and their ethnicity:

These rape sufferers are family members who have reported, or have been identified as individuals affected by specific illnesses, conditions or ailments relating to rape. Medbase200 is the owner of this list. Select from families affected by over 500 different ailments, and/or who are consumers of over 200 different Rx medications. Lists can be further selected on the basis of lifestyle, ethnicity, geo, gender, and much more. Inquire today for more information.

MEDbase promptly took its "rape sufferers" list off line last week after its existence was revealed in a Senate investigation into the activities of the data-broker industry. The company pretended like the list was a huge mistake. A MEDbase rep tried convincing a Wall Street Journal reporter that its rape dossiers were just a "hypothetical list of health conditions/ailments." The rep promised it was never sold to anyone. Yep, it was a big mistake. We can all rest easy now. Thankfully, MEDbase has hundreds of other similar dossier collections, hawking the most private and sensitive medical information.

For instance, if lists of rape victims aren't your thing, MEDbase can sell dossiers on people suffering from anorexia, substance abuse, AIDS and HIV, Alzheimer's Disease, Asperger Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Bedwetting (Enuresis), Binge Eating Disorder, Depression, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Genital Herpes, Genital Warts, Gonorrhea, Homelessness, Infertility, Syphilis… the list goes on and on and on and on.

Normally, such detailed health information would fall under federal law and could not be disclosed or sold without consent. But because these data harvesters rely on indirect sources of information instead of medical records, they're able to sidestep regulations put in place to protect the privacy of people's health data.

MEBbase isn't the only company exploiting these loopholes. By the industry's own estimates, there are something like 4,000 for-profit intel companies operating in the United States. Many of them sell information that would normally be restricted under federal law. They offer all sorts of targeted dossier collections on every population segments of our society, from the affluent to the extremely vulnerable:

If you want to see how this kind of profile data can be used to scam unsuspecting individuals, look no further than a Richard Guthrie, an Iowa retiree who had his life savings siphoned out of his bank account. Their weapon of choice: databases bought from large for-profit data brokers listing retirees who entered sweepstakes and bought lottery tickets.

Here's a 2007 New York Times story describing the racket:

Mr. Guthrie, who lives in Iowa, had entered a few sweepstakes that caused his name to appear in a database advertised by infoUSA, one of the largest compilers of consumer information. InfoUSA sold his name, and data on scores of other elderly Americans, to known lawbreakers, regulators say.

InfoUSA advertised lists of "Elderly Opportunity Seekers," 3.3 million older people "looking for ways to make money," and "Suffering Seniors," 4.7 million people with cancer or Alzheimer's disease. "Oldies but Goodies" contained 500,000 gamblers over 55 years old, for 8.5 cents apiece. One list said: "These people are gullible. They want to believe that their luck can change."

Data brokers argue that cases like Guthrie are an anomaly - a once-in-a-blue-moon tragedy in an industry that takes privacy and legal conduct seriously. But cases of identity thieves and sophistical con-rings obtaining data from for-profit intel businesses abound. Scammers are a lucrative source of revenue. Their money is just as good as anyone else's. And some of the profile "products" offered by the industry seem tailored specifically to fraud use.

As Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sergeant Yves Leblanc told the New York Times: "Only one kind of customer wants to buy lists of seniors interested in lotteries and sweepstakes: criminals. If someone advertises a list by saying it contains gullible or elderly people, it's like putting out a sign saying 'Thieves welcome here.'"

So what is InfoUSA, exactly? What kind of company would create and sell lists customized for use by scammers and cons?

As it turns out, InfoUSA is not some fringe or shady outfit, but a hugely profitable politically connected company. InfoUSA was started by Vin Gupta in the 1970s as a basement operation hawking detailed lists of RV and mobile home dealers. The company quickly expanded into other areas and began providing business intel services to thousands of businesses. By 2000, the company raised more than $30 million in venture capital funding from major Silicon Valley venture capital firms.

By then, InfoUSA boasted of having information on 230 million consumers. A few years later, InfoUSA counted the biggest Valley companies as its clients, including Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL. It got involved not only in raw data and dossiers, but moved into payroll and financial, conducted polling and opinion research, partnered with CNN, vetted employees and provided customized services for law enforcement and all sorts of federal and government agencies: processing government payments, helping states locate tax cheats and even administrating President Bill Clinton "Welfare to Work" program. Which is not surprising, as Vin Gupta is a major and close political supporter of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

In 2008, Gupta was sued by InfoUSA shareholders for inappropriately using corporate funds. Shareholders accused of Gupta of illegally funneling corporate money to fund an extravagant lifestyle and curry political favor. According to the Associated Press, the lawsuit questioned why Gupta used private corporate jets to fly the Clintons on personal and campaign trips, and why Gupta awarded Bill Clinton a $3.3 million consulting gig.

As a result of the scandal, InfoUSA was threatened with delisting from Nasdaq, Gupta was forced out and the company was snapped up for half a billion dollars by CCMP Capital Advisors, a major private equity firm spun off from JP Morgan in 2006. Today, InfoUSA continues to do business under the name Infogroup, and has nearly 4,000 employees working in nine countries.

As big as Infogroup is, there are dozens of other for-profit intelligence businesses that are even bigger: massive multi-national intel conglomerates with revenues in the billions of dollars. Some of them, like Lexis-Nexis and Experian, are well known, but mostly these are outfits that few Americans have heard of, with names like Epsilon, Altegrity and Acxiom.

These for-profit intel behemoths are involved in everything from debt collection to credit reports to consumer tracking to healthcare analysis, and provide all manner of tailored services to government and law enforcement around the world. For instance, Acxiom has done business with most major corporations, and boasts of intel on "500 million active consumers worldwide, with about 1,500 data points per person. That includes a majority of adults in the United States," according to the New York Times.

This data is analyzed and sliced in increasingly sophisticated and intrusive ways to profile and predict behavior. Merchants are using it customize shopping experience- Target launched a program to figure out if a woman shopper was pregnant and when the baby would be born, "even if she didn't want us to know." Life insurance companies are experimenting with predictive consumer intel to estimate life expectancy and determine eligibility for life insurance policies. Meanwhile, health insurance companies are raking over this data in order to deny and challenge the medical claims of their policyholders.

Even more alarming, large employers are turning to for-profit intelligence to mine and monitor the lifestyles and habits of their workers outside the workplace. Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal described how employers have partnered with health insurance companies to monitor workers for "health-adverse" behavior that could lead to higher medical expenses down the line:

Your company already knows whether you have been taking your meds, getting your teeth cleaned and going for regular medical checkups. Now some employers or their insurance companies are tracking what staffers eat, where they shop and how much weight they are putting on - and taking action to keep them in line.

But companies also have started scrutinizing employees' other behavior more discreetly. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina recently began buying spending data on more than 3 million people in its employer group plans. If someone, say, purchases plus-size clothing, the health plan could flag him for potential obesity - and then call or send mailings offering weight-loss solutions.

…"Everybody is using these databases to sell you stuff," says Daryl Wansink, director of health economics for the Blue Cross unit. "We happen to be trying to sell you something that can get you healthier."

"As an employer, I want you on that medication that you need to be on," says Julie Stone, a HR expert at Towers Watson told the Wall Street Journal.

Companies might try to frame it as a health issue. I mean, what kind of asshole could be against employers caring about the wellbeing of their workers? But their ultimate concern has nothing to do with the employee health. It's all about the brutal bottom line: keeping costs down.

An employer monitoring and controlling your activity outside of work? You don't have to be union agitator to see the problems with this kind of mindset and where it could lead. Because there are lots of things that some employers might want to know about your personal life, and not only to "keep costs down." It could be anything: to weed out people based on undesirable habits or discriminate against workers based on sexual orientation, regulation and political beliefs.

It's not difficult to imagine that a large corporation facing a labor unrest or a unionization drive would be interested in proactively flagging potential troublemakers by pinpointing employees that might be sympathetic to the cause. But the technology and data is already here for wide and easy application: did a worker watch certain political documentaries, donate to environmental non-profits, join an animal rights Facebook group, tweet out support for Occupy Wall Street, subscribe to the Nation or Jacobin, buy Naomi Klein's "Shock Doctrine"? Or maybe the worker simply rented one of Michael Moore's films? Run your payroll through one of the massive consumer intel databases and look if there is any matchup. Bound to be plenty of unpleasant surprises for HR!

This has happened in the past, although in a cruder and more limited way. In the 1950s, for instance, some lefty intellectuals had their lefty newspapers and mags delivered to P.O. boxes instead of their home address, worrying that otherwise they'd get tagged as Commie symps. That might have worked in the past. But with the power of private intel companies, today there's nowhere to hide.

FTC Commissioner Julie Brill has repeatedly voiced concern that unregulated data being amassed by for-profit intel companies would be used to discriminate and deny employment, and to determine consumer access to everything from credit to insurance to housing. "As Big Data algorithms become more accurate and powerful, consumers need to know a lot more about the ways in which their data is used," she told the Wall Street Journal.

Pam Dixon, executive director of the Privacy World Forum, agrees. Dixon frequently testifies on Capitol Hill to warn about the growing danger to privacy and civil liberties posed by big data and for-profit intelligence. In Congressional testimony back in 2009, Dixon called this growing mountain of data the "modern permanent record" and explained that users of these new intel capabilities will inevitably expand to include not just marketers and law enforcement, but insurance companies, employers, landlords, schools, parents, scammers and stalkers. "The information – like credit reports – will be used to make basic decisions about the ability of individual to travel, participate in the economy, find opportunities, find places to live, purchase goods and services, and make judgments about the importance, worthiness, and interests of individuals."

* *

For the past year, Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV has been conducting a Senate Commerce Committee investigation of the data broker industry and how it affects consumers. The committee finished its investigation last week without reaching any real conclusions, but issued a report warning about the dangers posed by the for-profit intel industry and the need for further action by lawmakers. The report noted with concern that many of these firms failed to cooperate with the investigation into their business practices:

Data brokers operate behind a veil of secrecy. Three of the largest companies – Acxiom, Experian, and Epsilon – to date have been similarly secretive with the Committee with respect to their practices, refusing to identify the specific sources of their data or the customers who purchase it. … The refusal by several major data broker companies to provide the Committee complete responses regarding data sources and customers only reinforces the aura of secrecy surrounding the industry.

Rockefeller's investigation was an important first step breaking open this secretive industry, but it was missing one notable element. Despite its focus on companies that feed on people's personal data, the investigation did not include Google or the other big Surveillance Valley data munchers. And that's too bad. Because if anything, the investigation into data brokers only highlighted the danger posed by the consumer-facing data companies like Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Apple.

As intrusive as data brokers are, the level of detail in the information they compile on Americans pales to what can be vacuumed up by a company like Google. To compile their dossiers, traditional data brokers rely on mostly indirect intel: what people buy, where they vacation, what websites they visit. Google, on the other hand, has access to the raw uncensored contents of your inner life: personal emails, chats, the diary entries and medical records that we store in the cloud, our personal communication with doctors, lawyers, psychologists, friends. Data brokers know us through our spending habits. Google accesses the unfiltered details of our personal lives.

A recent study showed that Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to having their online activity tracked and analyzed. Seventy-three percent of people polled for the Pew Internet & American Life Project viewed the tracking of their search history as an invasion of privacy, while 68 percent were against targeted advertising, replying: "I don't like having my online behavior tracked and analyzed."

This isn't news to companies like Google, which last year warned shareholders: "Privacy concerns relating to our technology could damage our reputation and deter current and potential users from using our products and services."

Little wonder then that Google, and the rest of Surveillance Valley, is terrified that the conversation about surveillance could soon broaden to include not only government espionage, but for-profit spying as well.

[Feb 23, 2015] Google and tech's elite are living in a parallel universe by John Naughton

In a fundamental Google is a well equipped cemetery for programming talent. Way too many top programmers, seduced by high salaries, are working on junk projects directed on just increasing Google dominance, not pushing the envelope.
Feb 23, 2015 | The Guardian

Someone once observed that the difference between Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher was that whereas Thatcher believed that she was always right, Blair believed not only that he was right but also that he was good. Visitors to the big technology companies in California come away with the feeling that they have been talking to tech-savvy analogues of Blair. They are fired with a zealous conviction that they are doing great stuff for the world, and proud of the fact that they work insanely hard in the furtherance of that goal. The fact that they are richly rewarded for their dedication is, one is given to believe, incidental.

The guys (and they are mostly guys) who manage these good folk are properly respectful of their high-IQ charges. Chief among them is Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, and a man who takes his responsibilities seriously. So seriously, in fact, that he co-authored a book with his colleague Jonathan Rosenberg on the care and maintenance of these precious beings. Dr Schmidt objects to the demeaning term – "knowledge workers" – that economists have devised for them. Google employees, he tells us, are much, much more impressive than mere knowledge workers: they are "smart creatives".

In the opinion of their chairman, these wunderkinder are very special indeed. They are "not averse to taking risks", for example. Nor are they "punished or held back when those risky initiatives fail". They are "not hemmed in by role definitions or organisational structures". And "they don't keep quiet when they disagree with something". And so on. Altogether, they are an admirable body of men and women – mostly men (70%), admittedly, but, hey, what's a little gender imbalance in a brave new world.

Dr Schmidt's smart creatives work all the hours that God sends, and then some. They are, to use his term, "overworked in a good way". The concept of work-life balance can, he thinks, "be insulting to smart, dedicated employees", for whom work is an important part of life, not something to be separated. The best corporate cultures, he thinks, "invite and enable people to be overworked in a good way, with too many interesting things to do both at work and at home".

All of which no doubt makes perfect sense if you're running an outfit like Google. But it also highlights the extent to which our world is bifurcating into parallel universes. In one – that populated by technology companies, investment banks, hedge funds and other elite institutions – people are over-stimulated, appreciated, overworked (but in a "good way", of course) and richly rewarded. Meanwhile, in the other universe, people are under-stimulated, overworked and poorly rewarded. And the gap between the two universes appears to be widening, not narrowing every time Moore's Law ratchets up another notch in computing power.

Which is why we need to make a connection between what those smart creatives in California and elsewhere are creating and what is happening in the real world. In that domain, the level of economic inequality has attained staggering proportions for reasons that Thomas Piketty set out in his celebrated book Capital in the 21st Century.

Although there have been lots of detailed arguments about Piketty's work, his central proposition – that in the absence of special circumstances such as war or redistributive taxation, the rate of return to capital exceeds the rate of return to labour – is both simple and obvious. What it means is that if your wealth involves ownership of capital assets (like company shares), then you will inexorably get richer at compound rates.

One of the oddest things about the furore surrounding Piketty's book was that almost nobody talked about the role of technology in all this. Specifically, there was little discussion of the strange coincidence that the recent catastrophic rise in levels of inequality has coincided neatly with the digital revolution.

When you think about it, it's clear that this isn't just a random correlation. The digital revolution is driving inequality, not reducing it. That's because the technology has certain characteristics (zero marginal returns, network effects and technological lock-in, to name just three) which confer colossal power on corporations that have mastered the technology. In the process it confers vast wealth on those who own them.

But that wealth isn't shared with the users of the platforms operated by those corporations: most of the work that generates revenues for Facebook or Google is done by unpaid workers – you and me. And folks who work in paid occupations powered by those platforms – Uber drivers, Amazon warehouse workers, to name just two – are not sharing in the wealth it generates for their owners either. Like Google's smart creatives, these people are also overworked. But not in that "good way" advocated by Dr Schmidt.

CautiousOptimist -> Scurra 23 Feb 2015 06:37

Years ago, Florida passed the Sunshine Law, which was meant to ensure that all political dealings are public and open. While not perfect, it has certainly helped.

Regulation can be a two edged sword. As we see with Uber, entrenched interests use government regulation to preserve their position.

High Tech is different, in that a company can go from complete dominance to nothing so quickly. I remember when Novell was the dominant company in networking. Where are they today? I remember Bill Gates saying at one point that Microsoft was always about 2 years from being out of business, if a better competitor comes along. So yes, an earned monopoly can be lost very quickly and easily, so long as outside powers are not used to preserve it.

The underlying problem with micro-regulation is that the regulators are rarely as smart or motivated as the ones trying to circumvent regulation. The financial industry is a perfect example.

Scurra -> CautiousOptimist 23 Feb 2015 06:29

Didn't see that coming, did you? :)

:) No. We can agree about that subject at least. And we probably agree about crony capitalism too, but I think that's a flaw in our systems of democracy rather than with politicians per se. There is no reason why politics should not be completely open and transparent, with all income, meetings, decisions etc. being in public and all papers etc. published. Our responsibility as citizens is not just to elect representatives to act on our behalf, but to hold them to account, which is very difficult to do when so much is hidden. And, of course, it's also hard work, which is why we pretend that democracy is just about the former and not the latter, and then act surprised when it breaks.
As to the other point, I am not sure that there is any such thing as an "earned" monopoly - too often, it's simply being in the right place at the right time (often combined with canny marketing), rather than anything especially exceptional or innovative. It's just that (as with earlier cases of railroads, oil companies, telecoms etc.), the market exploded far faster than regulation was able to handle it. Which does indeed then lead to crony capitalism.

1nn1t -> WurzelGummidge 23 Feb 2015 03:53

The other may have a very IQ ,be great at programming and move to California and have a massive income in their mid twenties.This could not have happened in 30 years ago.

It happens where a single production facility can export its product globally at, as JN points out above, negligible marginal cost.

Newspapers, sound recordings, and films are earlier examples of industries where a few talented twenty-somethings could become fabulously rich producing content for national or global saleable distribution systems.

"Tech" is doing now what record companies and DJs did to dance-hall orchestras seventy years ago.

KarlHMarx -> LeCochon 23 Feb 2015 02:05

Not easy to fix: when you do not own the capital, you have no bargaining power. And no one owns his intellectual capital: it's value depends on the company that exploits it. You're done: even if handsomely paid, it will represent a small portion of it's actual value.

NoSuchThingAs 23 Feb 2015 01:35

The separation of the capital (material or intellectual) and labour is fatal to the worker. Competence is a special resource, or capital. Those well paid little "geniuses" think they own it. But they don't. They are endoctrinated, will get older and replaced - or exhausted. Whereas you can refurbish a machine, you can't refurbish an over exploited body or brain. When you realize it's too late, you lost your precious capital - modern stakhanovism. Value added is difficult to assess in innovative work, but it can be huge. It's also called Mehrwert or surplus value. It leads to capital accumulation - we ain't see nothing yet... Intellectual strength of a bunch of motivated (and endoctrinated, thus not really owning and controlling their own intellectual capital ) young brains can be breathtaking. Who will win ?

the real owner of the capital and a few super managers like this Eric Schmidt. What is vital to the system is to make employees think they are on the capital side, thus high, " handsome" wages. But they are not and will learn it sooner or later. The solution is not to tax more capital and high wages (Piketty is wrong there) but to better share surplus value among all workers: from the superstar scientist (life last longer than a few years of hard productive work) to the humble Amazon warehouse worker.

Bilbobanks 23 Feb 2015 01:11

Google,Facebook et al are Dark Satanic Mills in Silicon Valley and we consumers in the rest of the world are their unpaid workers.

cswanson420 23 Feb 2015 01:00

I am a peon in the high tech world of Silicon Valley. I am handsomely compensated for my contributions and I base the rewards largely on my willingness when I was younger to learn computer science. Presently I spend a good amount of my free time studying mathematics so I may be better able to solve more complicated problems.

To be frank, growing up in San Francisco - my home town - I know a lot of people that choose not to spend their time learning. That's their choice. They are not handsomely rewarded and they bitch about it. If the inequity between those that have and those that do not is caused by technology, then we must have a discussion about whether a person's capability to contribute to make contributions to technology is actually a large limiting factor in a person's wages.

nineteensixty 23 Feb 2015 00:19

Ironically, digital innovation means that left-leaning UK publications can be cost-effectively published in US and Australian markets.

More importantly, while the tech sector is reducing the value of unskilled and semi-skilled labor in developed countries, it has been a key driver of the massive income growth in developing countries over the past two decades.

MissionIncredible -> LeCochon,

I know from working in the industry that for all the hype, only a small number of people in the pyramid are making very good money.

Well, hype is hype, but my experience has been quite different, both from the perspective of working inside the industry and from running my own websites.

I've also observed Google to be quite helpful: organising seminars, providing APIs or just by building Android, for example.

I'd say I'm pretty close to the bottom of the pyramid and I'm happy with the earnings.

MissionIncredible,

Specifically, there was little discussion of the strange coincidence that the recent catastrophic rise in levels of inequality has coincided neatly with the digital revolution.

In the link, given (http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/jan/19/global-wealth-oxfam-inequality-davos-economic-summit-switzerland), the graph shows the change occuring circa 2010.

nac -> rodmclaughlin 22 Feb 2015 23:04

Yeah, I remember when Gates used to hold people at gunpoint to buy his shitty OS...sour fucking grapes eh?!

malaca 22 Feb 2015 23:02

Those who can't, whine.

techn0phobe -> nac 22 Feb 2015 22:59

Google and Facebook are notorious for paying under the market rate due to simple supply and demand - people are lining up to work there. You need an MBA to clean the toilets at Google.

[Feb 20, 2015] Google: FBI's Plan To Expand Hacking Power a "Monumental" Constitutional Threat

Pot calling kettle black ?
February 18, 2015 | slashdot.org

schwit1 writes with news about Google's reservations to a Justice Department proposal on warrants for electronic data. "Any change in accessing computer data should go through Congress, the search giant said. The search giant submitted public comments earlier this week opposing a Justice Department proposal that would grant judges more leeway in how they can approve search warrants for electronic data.

The push to change an arcane federal rule "raises a number of monumental and highly complex constitutional, legal, and geopolitical concerns that should be left to Congress to decide," wrote Richard Salgado, Google's director for law enforcement and information security. The provision, known as Rule 41 of the federal rules of criminal procedure, generally permits judges to grant search warrants only within the bounds of their judicial district.

Last year, the Justice Department petitioned a judicial advisory committee to amend the rule to allow judges to approve warrants outside their jurisdictions or in cases where authorities are unsure where a computer is located. Google, in its comments, blasted the desired rule change as overly vague, saying the proposal could authorize remote searches on the data of millions of Americans simultaneously-particularly those who share a network or router-and cautioned it rested on shaky legal footing."

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday February 18, 2015 @09:02PM (#49084007) Journal

Re:Google don't care about you (Score:5, Insightful)

You don't have to like or trust Google (and you shouldn't) to agree that

"Hey, let's quietly change rule 41 so that all you need to 'remote search' (by means tactfully unspecified) a computer anywhere is the approval of a judge, doesn't much matter which, from one of the 94 federal districts, rather than one at least vaguely related to the matter at hand!"

is...perhaps...a bad move.

gstoddart
the proposal could authorize remote searches on the data of millions of Americans simultaneouslyâ"particularly those who share a network or routerâ"and cautioned it rested on shaky legal footing

1) Of course it is
2) That's the frickin' point

See, the people advocating unlimited surveillance couldn't possibly be stupid enough to not know this.

They just don't give a fuck.

This is "Yarg! We need security by any means, and if we shit on your rights, too fucking bad, because we're the good guys".

These clowns might actually believe they're "doing this for the greater good" -- but so does every fascist and dictator who decides they will do it anyway and we'll thank them later.

Unfortunately, since these people have sworn to uphold the Constitution, I think they should be hanged or shot. Because whatever they think they're protecting, they're doing more damage to our liberties than they are solving problems. In fact, they've become the problem.

Once they get over their illusion they're doing it for our own good, then the fun really begins, and the fascism really goes into effect.

Law enforcement have basically said "fuck the law, the law is what we say it is". And they feel entitled to do anything they want to. Which means law enforcement is more or less deeming themselves in charge of everything.

davydagger (2566757) on Thursday February 19, 2015 @09:13AM (#49086887)

god help you if you ask them what security they provide.

First you'll find that the powers you gave them "only to fight terrorism" are being used to drug cases and other petty crime

Next you'll find that drug cases and other petty crime are only against personal enemies, and done with such dubious methods you cannot be sure of their guilt, and their powers aren't being used to find bad guys, but to frame people.

What the three letter soup wants is power to frame people and not have the framing questioned, by framing anyone who questions them.

You see we've been tacitly complicit in giving up our rights to fight "the war on drugs", but instead of stomping out drug use, drug use has soared, and our rights have been abandonded. They have no intention of protecting you from drugs or terrorism, and don't mind the occational terrorist or drug lord from causing a muckety muck to expand their powers.

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday February 18, 2015 @09:04PM (#49084019) Journal

"Parallel Construction"... What good is a cool, powerful, sinister toy if you don't have a cover story that allows you to lie about the origins of evidence that would otherwise be inadmissible?

Re:

Memex isn't sinister at all. It's a very old idea, and it allows indexing of every possible URL out to some length, in real time. For those who have the resources to run it, that's a pretty nifty device. If they can see every criminal website, then they can obtain warrants for the sites based on their content. At that point, they can seize servers to catch the sites' clients.

Parallel construction is automatically built into that. While they're building a database of website clients, they have probab

Re:

I should have thought to type this rather than reply for an addendum. Being able to figure out their strategy with Memex, one might hesitate to post it. We wouldn't want to encourage criminals to try to circumvent it, after all.

Thing is, you can't. That kind of indexing power can even overcome the character limit I mentioned just by doing different checks every n cycles of the program. It's perfectly scalable too. There's no evading it. If a site exists, they will see it, period. And not only site

Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2015 @09:09PM (#49084047)

Jurisdictional reach around (Score:5, Insightful)

Suppose you let judges authorize surveillance where the location cannot be determined. Five things would happen:

1) FBI would not try to determine the location, because they might find it is an unfriendly location with an unfriendly judge
2) FBI would shop for jurisdiction. Just as patent trolls all go to Marshall Texas, the troll rubber stamping capital of the world, so the FBI will go to whatever district will rubber stamp their requests.
3) Fail to get the warrant? There's no cross linkage between districts, judges won't spot they're being asked again for the same warrant, so FBI can simply keep hawking the request around till the get it.
4) Target will be listed as 'terrorist', actual target device will be router through which millions of peoples data passes, but then why would a judge in Aspen care about people in Newyork. They're not his family and his friends.
5) The FBI contracts this out to NSA, who accidentally store all the info while processing the warrants in these giant data centers they accidentally built, and accidentally data mine it.

[Feb 04, 2015] Buyer beware: US is biggest creator of malicious mobile apps

Google did a bad job with android security, although the mere fact that applications from Google Store can be installed created a danger. In other words any smartphone is an unsecure smartphone.
RT USA
The US creates nearly half of the malicious mobile applications offered through Google Play or the Apple App Store, according to a mobile security company. The finding upends conventional wisdom that Asia is the top developer of such apps.

Over 42 percent of the dangerous apps were published in the United States, according to the report by Marble Security. The company, which offers a mobile security cloud service, analyzed more than one million apps available on the North American versions of the Apple App Store or Google Play that do not require a jailbroken or rooted device ‒ meaning they were not designed for modified devices.

"This came as a surprise to Marble's analysts, who before examining the data would have bet that most malicious apps originated from publishers in Eastern Europe or Asia," the security company said in its report. "While China, Korea, India and Taiwan generate a great number of malicious and risky apps, their combined total doesn't amount to that of the United States."

[Feb 01, 2015] 'YOUTUBE is EVIL' Somebody had a tape running, Google... by Andrew Orlowski

The Register

... ... ...
Last week the cellist re-opened last year's controversy of the treatment of independent musicians and small operators by Google's YouTube service by asking her fans for advice. If she refused to sign the new terms, Google would stop paying her, but could continue to use her music on YouTube, she reported. If she signed, she'd lose control of her work. The contract would tie her down for five years. We reported her concerns here on Friday.

Over the weekend, Google disputed her account. Her claims were "patently false", it fumed to industry blog Digital Music News.

The transcript

However, Keating appears to have kept verbatim notes – strongly indicating that a tape was running – and she's now published the transcript of the conversation she said she'd had with the YouTube rep she'd been negotiating with for a year.

The transcript is available here. Keating wants to continue her current deal with Google as it stands – but that's not an option, as the rep makes clear in the transcript. She must sign the new contract and opt in to the Key music service. She can't run videos without monetisation. Google will "block" her (in the Google rep's words) if she refuses to sign, "but the commercial terms no longer apply".

"Yeah, it's harsh," the rep agrees in the transcript, before helpfully pointing out "a loophole". She can disassociate herself from her material and settle for the peanuts YouTube offers, "if you're not so concerned about revenue". The kind of revenue a successful artist might hope pays the rent.

What's at stake? Experts have contributed several excellent pieces on the spat. The core issue, as David Lowery points out in a must-read post, Google wants exclusive control over when and where an author's work appears on the internet.

He writes:

In other words by saying "no" to Music Key, [you allow] YouTube [to] still feature user generated videos on their service AND you won't get any money. Think about it. This is like saying "no" to a record deal but result[ing] in the label having your songs forever and paying you nothing! YouTube is EVIL.

That seizure of control hurts, explains writer David Newhoff, because it strikes the very reason Keating wanted independence as an artist. It's why she doesn't have a record label. (We're not sure if she has a publisher – her work is widely used in TV, film, theatrical productions and ads, and a publisher helps here).

Weaker copyright laws

Newhoff, too, agrees that The New Man seems very similar to the Old Man, the music industry we were told would die out.

"The new boss wears a new uniform, but he's just another boss. Only this time he has a worse deal in one pocket and a rock in the other."

Industry analyst Mark Mulligan, a strong supporter of music streaming services, thinks Google has become corrupted by absolute power. Google's actions wouldn't go very far in the marketplace if it had not been for the weakening of copyright, he argues.

+Comment

A familiar argument over the past 15 years is that copyright is a regulatory-style impediment wielded by large old companies to impede progress.

...New Man could get away with such actions as YouTube has attempted here: assuming control of global digital distribution against the artist's consent.

... ... ...

VinceH

"Surely the uploader is violating her copyright? not Google."

Yes, but Google currently provides the Content ID system which allows such uploads to be identified (although not perfectly) and the artist can then either earn a little money from it, or block it.

What the guy in Zoe's transcript said is that if she doesn't agree to the new terms so her stuff's available on Music Key, she can't just carry on with the current system. Her own uploads will be blocked, and content ID will no longer be available - she will no longer receive any earnings from existing uploads by others that are recognised as containing her music, and she won't be able to use it to identify such uploads.

So although it's the uploader who is technically violating her copyright, Google are making it considerably harder for her to identify such violations - and when she does, the only option will be a DMCA take down, rather than allow the upload to earn her money.

Agreeing to the Music Key terms obviously solves that problem - but there are pitfalls with doing that, as explained in the David Lowery post Andrew linked, such as not being able to release anything online anywhere else initially, which they may want to do for exclusive promotions etc.

Badvok

@Anon Coward: "Do try to read what is writ, @Badvok."

I did, you obviously didn't. See the bit about "content owner attached to the agreement" which can be changed (as mentioned in the transcript) and if it was changed then nothing would be blocked.

She is still entitled to issue take downs for any Copyright infringements, Google will not automatically pay her when someone uses her stuff, they'll just tell her that someone is doing so instead.

Badvok

@VinceH: "Her own uploads will be blocked, and content ID will no longer be available - she will no longer receive any earnings from existing uploads by others that are recognised as containing her music, and she won't be able to use it to identify such uploads."

Re-read that transcript, Content ID would still be available and she would still be able to use the anti-piracy tracking for free.

Badvok

Yeah, totally evil that is, wanting to continue to pay an artist for their music even when someone else uses it in their upload.

The only thing they are actually saying is that unless the artist signs up to the new service terms then they'll stop paying the artist when someone else uses their content in an upload.

DavCrav

"unless the artist signs up to the new service terms then they'll stop paying the artist when someone else uses their content in an upload."

You mean, violate her copyright with commercial infringement? OK, so glad you have confirmed that Gootube is extorting her with threats of commercial copyright infringement if she doesn't sign. Exactly the same as "nice little place you have here, shame if anything happened to it".

Anonymous Coward

Bullshit. From the transcript:

"...the content that you directly upload from accounts that you own under the content owner attached to the agreement, we'll have to block that content."

So UNLESS SHE AGREES TO THESE NEW TERMS, Google not just stop giving her monies but also block her access. But others, in clear breach of copyright, using her music is fine and dandy by Google (again, not monetised back to the artist).

Do try to read what is writ, @Badvok.

h4rm0ny

>>"The only thing they are actually saying is that unless the artist signs up to the new service terms then they'll stop paying the artist when someone else uses their content in an upload."

Isn't that thing actually quite a big thing? The artist in this case certainly seems to think so and should Google be able to force people to accept their terms or let them do what they want anyway?

keithpeter

Re: "Don't be evil"

"According to her website her husband is sick with lung cancer.

Dealing with that and the Google corporation must be horrific."

Hence the comment on the transcript I imagine ("Youtube is not at the top of my priority list right now").

So I just bought her most recent work as a 320 Kb/s mp3 download from the efficient and well organised bandcamp Web shop. I suggest we all do the same.

cap'n

The new man

It always surprises me how enthusiastically the new 'man' in the shape of Google is greeted in comparison to the virtual monopolies we had in the 90s and early 2000s. Google is far worse. It used to just be you had one choice what OS to put on your computer, but nobody then really did much about what you actually did with it after that. Google wants to control your phone, your computer, where you find information and gradually virtually everything you do with a computer. The fact they use a variety of open source software is not necessarily a positive, as shown here, appropriating the work of others for free and then monetizing it is their primarily business model, they've just moved on from just doing it with software, they now want to do the same with music and video rights.

auburnman

Re: The new man

The thing about Google at the minute is it's a dominant force in search - but it has very low lock-in for the average guy in the street. If they keep on this path of screwing content creators and burning goodwill they could be in for a massive disruptive shock.

To take Youtube as an example, there is nothing stopping a rival video service gaining massive traction overnight. If my favourite Youtubers were to rebel en masse and defect to some new service started by Amazon or NetFlix for example I'd follow them in a heartbeat - beyond the content it hosts there is nothing keeping me loyal to Youtube.*

*And even a fair few reasons that would push me to switch - the video player itself is good, but the rest of Youtube's layout can be a confusing PITA.

BillG

Re: The new man

Not just music & video rights. Images, documents, personal information and your first born.

And more than that. Ever read the book 1984? Google wants control for control's sake. Power for the sale of power. People that think like that are the ultimate evil....

veti

Re: The new man

To the AC who believes that Google doesn't massage search results in its own favour: try the following experiment.

Pick up a book by a well known author who died more than 75 years ago. (Charles Dickens is my go-to choice for this purpose, but there are plenty more.) Open the book at random. Find a phrase that's distinctive enough to be unique, but not profound enough to appear in anyone's collection of favourite quotes. (From Dickens:

"'What a mooney godmother you are, after all!"

"wiped his corrugated forehead from left to right several times"

"Suddenly a very little counsel with a terrific bass voice arises")

Then Google that phrase.

For the above 3 examples, there are lots of complete, easily-readable texts on the web. Yet the second result, in each case (as tried by me just now), is the Google Books hit - which is ugly and unreadable, and doesn't even link to a complete version of the text. (For the last of these, nine of the top 10 results point to books.google.com, despite the fact that it's far and away the least useful and accessible version on the web.)

ppawel

Re: The new man

The scariest thing in all of this is the fact that even though there are stories like this one, when you discuss with most of the "regular people" about Google, their opinion is always the same - it's the best thing ever. People love Google for GMail, Maps, Drive and you-name-whatever-service-they-provide-for-"free". Businesses love Google for Google Apps for Business. Because it all "just works" and is pretty and up-to-date etc. Hell, some people even donate their time and effort FOR FREE to Google - see Google Map Maker. Why the hell would you do that instead of contributing to OpenStreetMap, I will never know...

Looks like we all have a love affair with Google. Nothing left but a happy ending, right?

Boy, are we all in for a very very rude awakening some day.

shaolin cookie

Re: About that 'low lock-in'

@The obvious

Right you are. I was just in China recently and to my surprise they had blocked Google entirely, rather than just YouTube like earlier. I've already weaned my way out from Gmail and use StartPage for search so thought it wouldn't matter much. But the likes of StartPage and DuckDuckGo use Google results and are therefore also blocked, and no Play store on Android and no Google Maps were troublesome, and while Baidu works well in Chinese, in English it's even worse than Bing, and that's saying a lot. However, the main issue came from the many not Google-related sites including things like a small Google map to find them, as such pages then took forever and a day to open. Felt relieved returning and having Google back. Who would've thought?

mittfh

Re: The new man

Warner Music Group once blocked anything on YouTube containing its music (or music published by its publishing arm Warner/Chappell Music) in a dispute over copyright / royalty payments, and even threatened to not license its work to any free streaming site or to any video game as they were getting peanuts.

However, because no credible alternative streaming site exists (at least partially because in order to get up and running they'd need to implement something akin to Content ID to avoid annoying major record labels), they eventually brokered a deal with YouTube.

It wouldn't surprise me if this new Google Music thingy is designed to keep the major record labels sweet and negotiated on their terms and conditions, which favour them and disfavour independent / unsigned artists.

[Jan 27, 2015] Secret 'BADASS' Intelligence Program Spied on Smartphones By Micah Lee

Android has very weak security and is an easy target for security breaches. Any three latter agency goes through android security like knife through the block of butter. Advertisement agencies with their advertizing frameworks are the Trojan horse installed on PC, smartphones and most Websites. Essentially they are mini-three letter agencies on thier own. And Google is the largest of them. Blocking Javascript and wiping cookies on daily basis is the only way to ensure some minimum level of privacy, but even this is not enough
The Intercept

British and Canadian spy agencies accumulated sensitive data on smartphone users, including location, app preferences, and unique device identifiers, by piggybacking on ubiquitous software from advertising and analytics companies, according to a document obtained by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The document, included in a trove of Snowden material released by Der Spiegel on January 17, outlines a secret program run by the intelligence agencies called BADASS. The German newsweekly did not write about the BADASS document, attaching it to a broader article on cyberwarfare. According to The Intercept's analysis of the document, intelligence agents applied BADASS software filters to streams of intercepted internet traffic, plucking from that traffic unencrypted uploads from smartphones to servers run by advertising and analytics companies.

Programmers frequently embed code from a handful of such companies into their smartphone apps because it helps them answer a variety of questions: How often does a particular user open the app, and at what time of day? Where does the user live? Where does the user work? Where is the user right now? What's the phone's unique identifier? What version of Android or iOS is the device running? What's the user's IP address? Answers to those questions guide app upgrades and help target advertisements, benefits that help explain why tracking users is not only routine in the tech industry but also considered a best practice.

For users, however, the smartphone data routinely provided to ad and analytics companies represents a major privacy threat. When combined together, the information fragments can be used to identify specific users, and when concentrated in the hands of a small number of companies, they have proven to be irresistibly convenient targets for those engaged in mass surveillance. Although the BADASS presentation appears to be roughly four years old, at least one player in the mobile advertising and analytics space, Google, acknowledges that its servers still routinely receive unencrypted uploads from Google code embedded in apps.

For spy agencies, this smartphone monitoring data represented a new, convenient way of learning more about surveillance targets, including information about their physical movements and digital activities. It also would have made it possible to design more focused cyberattacks against those people, for example by exploiting a weakness in a particular app known to be used by a particular person. Such scenarios are strongly hinted at in a 2010 NSA presentation, provided by agency whistleblower Edward Snowden and published last year in The New York Times, Pro Publica, and The Guardian. That presentation stated that smartphone monitoring would be useful because it could lead to "additional exploitation" and the unearthing of "target knowledge/leads, location, [and] target technology."

The 2010 presentation, along with additional documents from Britain's intelligence service Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, showed that the intelligence agencies were aggressively ramping up their efforts to see into the world of mobile apps. But the specifics of how they might distill useful information from the torrent of internet packets to and from smartphones remained unclear.

Encrypting Data in Transit

The BADASS slides fill in some of these blanks. They appear to have been presented in 2011 at the highly secretive SIGDEV intelligence community conference. The presentation states that "analytics firm Flurry estimates that 250,000 Motorola Droid phones were sold in the United States during the phone's first week in stores," and asks, "how do they know that?"

The answer is that during the week in question, Flurry uploaded to its own servers analytics from Droid phones on behalf of app developers, one phone at a time, and stored the analytics in their own databases. Analytics includes any information that is available to the app and that can conceivably help improve it, including, in certain instances with Flurry, the user's age and gender, physical location, how long they left the app open, and a unique identifier for the phone, according to Flurry materials included in the BADASS document.

By searching these databases, the company was able to get a count of Droid phones running Flurry-enabled apps and, by extrapolating, estimate the total number of Droids in circulation. The company can find similar information about any smartphone that their analytics product supports.

Not only was Flurry vacuuming sensitive data up to its servers, it was doing so insecurely. When a smartphone app collects data about the device it's running on and sends it back to a tracking company, it generally uses the HTTP protocol, and Flurry-enabled apps were no exception. But HTTP is inherently insecure-eavesdroppers can easily spy on the entire digital conversation.

If the tracking data was always phoned home using the HTTPS protocol-the same as the HTTP protocol, except that the stream of traffic between the phone and the server is encrypted-then the ability for spy agencies to collect tracking data with programs like BADASS would be severely impeded.

Yahoo, which acquired the analytics firm Flurry in late 2014, says that since acquiring the company they have "implemented default encryption between Flurry-enabled applications and Flurry servers. The 2010 report in question does not apply to current versions of Flurry's analytics product." Given that Yahoo acquired Flurry so recently, it's unclear how many apps still use Flurry's older tracking code that sends unencrypted data back to Yahoo's servers. (Yahoo declined to elaborate specifically on that topic.)

The BADASS slides also use Google's advertisement network AdMob as an example of intercepted, unencrypted data. Free smartphone apps are often supported by ads, and if the app uses AdMob then it sends some identifying information to AdMob's servers while loading the ad. Google currently supports the ability for app developers to turn on HTTPS for ad requests, however it's clear that only some AdMob users actually do this.

When asked about HTTPS support for AdMob, a Google spokesperson said, "We continue our ongoing efforts to encrypt all Google products and services."

In addition to Yahoo's Flurry and Google's AdMob, the BADASS presentation also shows that British and Canadian intelligence were targeting Mobclix, Mydas, Medialets, and MSN Mobile Advertising. But it's clear that any mobile-related plaintext traffic from any company is a potential target. While the BADASS presentation focuses on traffic from analytics and ad companies, it also shows spying on Google Maps heartbeat traffic, and capturing "beacons" sent out when apps are first opened (listing Qriously, Com2Us, Fluentmobile, and Papayamobile as examples). The BADASS presentation also mentions capturing GPS coordinates that get leaked when opening BlackBerry's app store.

In a boilerplate statement, GCHQ said, "It is longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters. Furthermore, all of GCHQ's work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework, which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight." Its Canadian counterpart, Communications Security Establishment Canada, or CSEC, responded with a statement that read, in part, "For reasons of national security, CSE cannot comment on its methods, techniques or capabilities. CSE conducts foreign intelligence and cyber defence activities in compliance with Canadian law."

Julia Angwin, who has doggedly investigated online privacy issues as a journalist and author, most recently of the book "Dragnet Nation," explains that "every type of unique identifier that passes [over the internet] unencrypted is giving away information about users to anyone who wants it," and that "the evidence is clear that it's very risky to be throwing unique identifiers out there in the clear. Anyone can grab them. This is more evidence that no one should be doing that."

Building Haystacks to Search for Needles

The BADASS program was created not merely to track advertising and analytic data but to solve a much bigger problem: There is an overwhelming amount of smartphone tracking data being collected by intelligence agencies, and it's difficult to make sense of.

First there are the major platforms: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry. On each platform, a range of hardware and platform versions are in use. Additionally, app stores are overflowing; new apps that track people get released every day. Old apps constantly get updated to track people in different ways, and people use different versions of apps for different platforms all at once. Adding to the diversity, there are several different ad and analytics companies that app developers use, and when those companies send tracking data back to their servers, they use a wide variety of formats.

With such an unwieldy haystack of data, GCHQ and CSEC, started the BADASS program, according to the presentation, to find the needles: information that can uniquely identify people and their devices, such as smartphone identifiers, tracking cookies, and other unique strings, as well as personally identifying information like GPS coordinates and email addresses.

BADASS is an an acryonym that stands for BEGAL Automated Deployment And Survey System. (It is not clear what "BEGAL" stands for, in turn.) The slideshow presentation is called "Mobile apps doubleheader: BADASS Angry Birds," and promises "protocols exploitation in a rapidly changing world."

Exploiting Protocols in a Rapidly Changing World

Analysts are able to write BADASS "rules" that look for specific types of tracking information as it travels across the internet.

For example, when someone opens an app that loads an ad, their phone normally sends an unencrypted web request (called an HTTP request) to the ad network's servers. If this request gets intercepted by spy agencies and fed into the BADASS program, it then gets filtered through each rule to see if one applies to the request. If it finds a match, BADASS can then automatically pull out the juicy information.

In the following slide, the information that is potentially available in a single HTTP request to load an ad includes which platform the ad is being loaded on (Android, iOS, etc.), the unique identifier of the device, the IMEI number which cell towers use to identify phones that try to connect to them, the name and version of the operating system that's running, the model of the device, and latitude and longitude location data.

Similar information is sent across the internet in HTTP requests in several different formats depending on what company it's being sent to, what device it's running on, and what version of the ad or analytics software is being used. Because this is constantly changing, analysts can write their own BADASS rules to capture all of the permutations they can find.

The following slide shows part of the BADASS user interface, and a partial list of rules.

The slideshow includes a section called "Abusing BADASS for Fun and Profit" which goes into detail about the methodology analysts use to write new BADASS rules.

By looking at intercepted HTTP traffic and writing rules to parse it, analysts can quickly gather as much information as possibly from leaky smartphone apps. One slide states: "Creativity, iterative testing, domain knowledge, and the right tools can help us target multiple platforms in a very short time period."

Privacy Policies That Don't Deliver

The slides also appear to mock the privacy promises of ad and analytics companies.

Companies that collect usage statistics about software often insist that the data is anonymous because they don't include identifying information such as names, phone numbers, and email addresses of the users that they're tracking. But in reality, sending unique device identifiers, IP addresses, IMEI numbers, and GPS coordinates of devices is far from anonymous.

In one slide, the phrase "anonymous usage statistics" appears in conspicuous quotation marks. The spies are well aware that despite not including specific types of information, the data they collect from leaky smartphone apps is enough for them to uniquely identify their targets.

The following slides show a chunk of Flurry's privacy policy (at this point it has been replaced by Yahoo's privacy policy), which states what information it collects from devices and how it believes this is anonymous.

The red box, which is present in the original slides, highlights this part: "None of this information can identify the individual. No names, phone numbers, email addresses, or anything else considered personally identifiable information is ever collected."

Clearly the intelligence services disagree.

"Commercial surveillance often appears very benign," Angwin says. "The reason Flurry exists is not to 'spy on people' but to help people learn who's using their apps. But what we've also seen through Snowden revelations is that spy agencies seek to use that for their own purposes."

The Web has the Exact Same Problems

While the BADASS program is specifically designed to target smartphone traffic, websites suffer from these exact same problems, and in many cases they're even worse.

Websites routinely include bits of tracking code from several different companies for ads, analytics, and other behavioral tracking. This, combined with the lack of HTTPS, turns your web browser into a surveillance device that follows you around, even if you switch networks or use proxy servers.

In other words, while the BADASS presentation may be four years old, and while it's been a year and a half since Snowden's leaks began educating technology companies and users about the massive privacy threats they face, the big privacy holes exploited by BADASS remain a huge problem.

[Dec 29, 2014] Google's Gmail was blocked in China after months of disruptions to the world's biggest email service,

Dec 29, 2014 | The Guardian

Google's Gmail was blocked in China after months of disruptions to the world's biggest email service, with an anti-censorship advocate suggesting the country's "great firewall" was to blame.

Large numbers of Gmail web addresses were cut off in China on Friday, according to GreatFire.org, a China-based freedom of speech advocacy group. Users said the service was still down on Monday.

"I think the government is just trying to further eliminate Google's presence in China and even weaken its market overseas," said a member of the group who uses a pseudonym. "Imagine if Gmail users might not get through to Chinese clients. Many people outside China might be forced to switch away from Gmail."

[Dec 26, 2014] In wake of restrictive data law in Russia, Google pulls its engineers

So "information vampire" does not want to comply with the local laws.

In wake of restrictive data law in Russia, Google pulls its engineers from the country that brought you an "Information Security Doctrine."

By Cyrus Farivar
Dec 12 2014
<http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/12/in-wake-of-restrictive-data-law-in-russia-google-pulls-its-engineers/>

Google is set to shut down its Russia-based engineering team, pulling its team of more than 50 engineers, who will be able to transfer to Google offices elsewhere.

"We are deeply committed to our Russian users and customers, and we have a dedicated team in Russia working to support them," Aaron Stein, a Google spokesman wrote to Ars in an e-mailed statement.

Stein confirmed the move, which was first reported by The Information.

On Thursday, Google pulled the plug on Google News in Spain rather than pay Spanish publishers a licensing fee.

The move comes a few months after Russia passed a new law, taking effect in September 2016, that will require data held on Russian citizens to be kept in-country.

[Dec 24, 2014] EU Google-bashing is making us look really bad, say Google bashers

The Register

...the European Parliament weighing in and asking the Commission to consider forcing Google to unbundle search from its other services in order to resolve the competition case.

... ... ...

The competition case against the search giant has been dragging on for more than three years now, as the previous Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia repeatedly tried and failed to find a compromise amid claims that Google was unfairly favouring its own services in search results.

[Dec 24, 2014] Blind justice Google lawsuit silences elected state prosecutor by drew Orlowski

Andrew Orlovski sensationalism is well know, Take the info with grain of salt.
23 Dec 2014 The Register
Mountain View moneybags tip the scales

Google's success in "assassinating" a democratically-elected legal opponent last week raises troubling questions about corporate power and accountability. The feisty attorney for the USA's poorest state is now trying to make peace, after being on the receiving end of a highly unusual lawsuit from Google.

Even if you will have no truck with the pigopolists of Hollywood, you should know the facts. A global corporation which is expected to bank $60bn in revenue this year and which is worth $382bn, has silenced an elected prosecutor.

Google's income is 30 times that of the General Fund in Mississippi; its market valuation is four times the entire state's GDP. What did Jim Hood do to make himself Google's enemy? You may be surprised by the answer, which, it turns out, has nothing to do with Hollywood.

Let's examine what happened to him - and what questions it raises.

How did Jim Hood become Google's Public Enemy No.1?

In the US, citizens vote for their state prosecutors – they're elected representatives, not nominees. They answer to the people. Google, obviously, is not democratically accountable; it's a multinational corporation. The nature of its work means it is constantly pushing the boundaries of the law, particularly wherever the ownership or use of data is in dispute. And Google pushes hard.

So hard, in fact, that earlier this year it was accused of running "a floating kingdom undisturbed by any and all nation-states and their laws". German newspaper the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (pdf, 24 pages, English) added: "Expropriation and exploitation of the data of a continually monitored society is the first rule of informational capitalism. Google is in the process of creating a supra-state."

In the UK, for example, Google has argued the UK has no jurisdiction over the company.

But shouldn't such global information processing corporations, of which Google is the largest and most famous, be held to account by the people? In the US, state prosecutors have a feisty tradition. Twenty of them pursued Microsoft – then went after the federal government for making what they considered an overly cosy settlement. The state attorneys thought the DoJ had sold out.

New York's attorney Eliot Spitzer went after ten of the USA's largest corporations, including Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and CSFB for their role in creating the dotcom bubble: publishing fraudulent "research" that hyped worthless internet stocks. The ten contributed over $1.4bn in "relief" and agreed to a range of new regulations. Again, it was the states' attorneys tackling corporate power; the George W Bush administration wasn't interested.

Ten years ago the good citizens of Mississippi voted in a Democrat state attorney general called Jim Hood. Hood is certainly in the combative tradition: he's a well-liked Democrat in a Republican state, and had shown himself to be a fearless prosecutor. Hood had gone after the KKK and he'd gone after Big Pharma. That took him into new territory. Hood was appalled at what he saw.

For years, Google had profited from the advertising of rogue pharmacies, many of which were selling dangerous fake drugs. It did so despite being warned to stop. And promising to stop. Only a joint FBI-FDA sting busted the operation, and the bust, alleged the prosecutors, showed that the operation went far beyond a handful of sales staff, as one state AG says.

"Larry Page knew what was going on," state AG Peter Neronha claimed to the Wall Street Journal. The settlement saw Google pay out $500m in forfeiture in return for a non-prosecution agreement.

Hood became engaged when he looked at the settlement itself. Google continued to profit from rogue sites. For example, Google helpfully completed the query "buy oxycodone" into "buy oxycodone online no prescription cod". Hood asked why, if Google could amend its results in response to governments around the world, it couldn't amend them to protect Mississippians? In June last year his department issued subpoenas. Hood also went after Google over privacy issues, including the Safari data slurp, winning the attorneys general $17m, and collected a payout over its WiFi sniffing. He also mentioned other rogue sites.

And that tiny part of his work would become big news – in really disturbing circumstances, last week.

... ... ...

Bear in mind that Google has overtaken Goldman Sachs as a political campaign contributor: it is in the real big leagues of politico-financial muscle in the USA. Google now spends more on lobbying, according to Think Progress, than any other US company.

... ... ...

What Hood wants to know is how Google is complying with a legally-binding settlement. And he's curious to know whether advertisers are being skimmed - as whistleblowers have long alleged. This is certainly of interest to small businesses, typically "mom and pop" shops, that use Google's Adsense. That's the only area where one can argue Hood "opens up a new front" against Google - and he's seeking more than compliance. And, given the economic interests of poor Missippians and the fact the USA is reluctant to apply fraud or consumer protection laws against Google, it's hard to see why he shouldn't.

... ... ...

Google's strategy appears intimidatory: any attempt to attack its economic interests in the Age of Google will be met with innuendo, smears and ultimately lawsuits that nobody can afford to fight. That's some "chilling effect".

... ... ...

Google and Facebook are increasingly resembling "suprastates" to whom national - and perhaps international - law doesn't apply. But if you think that replacing laws with a free-for-all leads to anything other than the strong crushing the weak, then I have a bridge to sell you.

[Nov 06, 2014] Why Google wants to replace Gmail

Computerworld
Selected Comments

David Pybus MSc LLB MInstISP CISSP

Nice theory but I don't buy it. Gmail is the thing that gets us to creates the user accounts that give Google some means to link our activities to a person and that encourages us to log in, think of it as the loss leaders. We sell our soul to Google for their shiny web email.

In return for which they can link gchat, web searches, google circles, youtube and whatever else crosses their path to track us, understand us and help market to us. With Google we are the commodity not the customer.

They don't make money out of us, they use us to make money. If I didn't have Gmail, I wouldn't log into google cause I don't care about being identifiable to all those other services... but once I am in they can tie it all together across all my devices. Good use of a loss leader in my book.

Charles Moone, MBA, PMP

David, Your comments are very insightful.

During Google's startup one of the creators openly said that Google's purpose was to know everything possible about the people using the service. Google is not about enhancing communication between people. It is about gathering indicators of behavior and determining how this individual behavior and the associated links to people, places, and things can be used to create a commercial giant.

[Nov 04, 2014] Google offers USB security key to make bad passwords moot

See Using Security Key for 2-Step Verification - Accounts Help. To use Security Key, you'll need a computer running Google Chrome version 38 or newer on ChromeOS, Windows, Mac OS, or Linux.

Ars Technica

A new security feature for Google's services will help users better protect their data by requiring that they insert a USB security key to log in to their account.

Announced on Tuesday, the optional Security Key technology requires that a Chrome user take two additional steps to sign in to their Google account: plug a small key into the USB port on their computer and tap a button. The process is a simpler and more secure version of the 2-Step Verification process that Google offers to security-conscious users. With 2-Step Verification, users receive a code from Google on their phone or in e-mail that they must enter into Google's site to complete the login process.

Users that opt for the Security Key technology will have to purchase a special USB key, which typically costs less than $20.

"Rather than typing a code, just insert Security Key into your computer's USB port and tap it when prompted in Chrome," Nishit Shah, product manager for Google Security, wrote in a blog post on the new technology. "When you sign into your Google Account using Chrome and Security Key, you can be sure that the cryptographic signature cannot be phished."

Google's Security Key is one of the first public applications of the Fast Identity Online (FIDO) Alliance's universal second-factor experience, or U2F. The FIDO Alliance is a group of nearly 120 companies, including Microsoft and Google but not Apple, that supports better online security through open technologies. A user of the technology can use the same key to help secure the login process with any supporting service provider.

The FIDO Alliance cheered Google's announcement on Tuesday. "There is no doubt that a new era has arrived," Michael Barrett, president of the FIDO Alliance, said in a statement. "We are starting to move users and providers alike beyond single-factor passwords to more secure, private, easy-to-use FIDO authentication."

The hardware key-a thin slice of plastic containing a chip for handling encryption keys and contacts to slide into a computer's USB slot-costs less than $20 and can be used in other applications that support U2F security, according to the FIDO Alliance. The key contains a chip known as the "secure element"-a hardware component commonly used in smart-card applications and designed to securely hold and process encryption keys. During the initial registration of the key to the service provider, a pair of encryption keys are created: a public key sent to the provider and a private key held by the Security Key. When using a supporting browser, the website sends an encrypted challenge, which the key decrypts and then responds with an encrypted reply.

In many ways, the key is similar to the chip-and-PIN technology that is starting to be adopted by banks and merchants to defeat credit card fraud.

By using the key along with a supporting browser and service, phishing attacks, keylogging, and man-in-the-middle attacks become nearly impossible, Jerrod Chong, vice president of solutions engineering for access-technology provider Yubico, told Ars.

"Any attacker will not be able to get information useful for logging into an account," Chong said.

"If the system is compromised, this will not protect against (data leakage)," he added. "Instead, what it is designed to prevent is the most widely seen attack against users: phishing-tricking the users into doing something that they do not want to do."

The Security Key works with Google Chrome and Google's service to verify the identity of the website, which sends an encrypted challenge. After receiving and decrypting the challenge, it responds with a signed authentication token.

Google acknowledged that until there is wider support for U2F, users may want to stick with Google's 2-Step Verification, especially if they typically use Web services from their mobile devices or use a browser other than Chrome.

[Nov 03, 2014] Does your phone company track you? by Julia Angwin and Jeff Larson

Nov 3 2014 | Ars Technica

Twitter's mobile ad arm lets clients use a hidden tracking number created by Verizon.

Wired and Forbes reported earlier this week that the two largest cell phone carriers in the United States, Verizon and AT&T, are adding the tracking number to their subscribers' Internet activity, even when users opt out. The data can be used by any site-even those with no relationship to the telecoms-to build a dossier about a person's behavior on mobile devices, including which apps they use, what sites they visit, and how long. MoPub, acquired by Twitter in 2013, bills itself as the "world's largest mobile ad exchange." It uses Verizon's tag to track and target cellphone users for ads, according to instructions for software developers posted on its website.

Nilt

Quote:

Google has proposed a new Internet protocol called SPDY that would prevent these types of header injections, much to the dismay of many telecom companies who are lobbying against it. In May, a Verizon executive made a presentation describing how Google's proposal could "limit value-add services that are based on access to header" information.


I remember that talk back in May. At the time I wondered how long until we learned more about that. I guess we now know.

S_T_RArs

For those not aware, Google's SPDY is the basis of HTTP/2 (formerly HTTP 2.0). It's not identical, but will keep the "fixed" header from SPDY that these ISPs have been abusing. It's due for adoption in the next year, so this avenue of data mining is going to close quicker than DeviceID did the last time around.

Ad Blocker

Quote:

Wired and Forbes reported earlier this week that the two largest cell phone carriers in the United States, Verizon and AT&T, are adding the tracking number to their subscribers' Internet activity, even when users opt out.

This sentence probably would have made more sense if you had not omitted the preceding sentence from the original article:

Quote:

Twitter's mobile advertising arm enables its clients to use a hidden, undeletable tracking number created by Verizon to track user behavior on smartphones and tablets.

[Nov 01, 2014] Google data collection worries Americans more than NSA

RT USA
Americans may not like the fact that the National Security Agency is collecting data on their phone calls and emails, but it turns out they are even more concerned over another surveillance threat: Google.

In a survey conducted by the consumer feedback service Survata, the company asked internet users just how angry they would be if they discovered various groups or individuals had gained access to essentially all of their personal data online.

"To evaluate this, we polled over 2,500 respondents with two surveys - one gauging concern with the NSA and a corporation like Google gaining access to personal data, and one with bosses, significant others, and parents," the company wrote online. "Overall, the results show respondents were most concerned by a company like Google gaining this access, as shown by the average level of concern."

Survey participants responded to these questions by choosing a number between one to 10, with one meaning they would not care and 10 meaning they would be "extremely upset."

In response to the idea that Google would gain access to their data, the average score was 7.39. For comparison, the average score regarding the NSA was 7.06.

Meanwhile, in the event that their boss gained access to their data, respondents scored the possibility with a 6.85. The prospect of the participants' parents snooping on their digital life received a 5.93.

In a statement to CNET, Survata co-founder Chris Kelly said the company did not expect to see the results it did.

"Survata was surprised to see respondents said they'd be more upset with a company like Google seeing their personal data than the NSA," he said. "We did not ask respondents for the reasons or motivations behind their answers; so we can only conjecture based on our previous research. One guess is that respondents assume the NSA is only looking for 'guilty' persons when scouring personal data, whereas a company like Google would use personal data to serve ads or improve their own products."

Still, CNET's Chris Matyszczyk noted that most of the survey takers were between the ages of 13 and 44, a group that has typically been the most willing to give up its personal data to social media giants and other digital application developers.

"If these results are to be believed, then humanity is rife with those who speak out of several sides of their mouth," he wrote. "On the one hand, we claim to fear Google most, yet we allow it, Facebook and the like to crawl over our daily routines and information like summer flies enjoying a rancid grapefruit."

That sentiment has been echoed by other prominent voices, notably NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Earlier this month, Snowden called networks like Facebook and Google "dangerous" for being hostile to privacy and not allowing encrypted messages.

In September, meanwhile, Assange compared Google to the NSA, saying it generates revenue by gathering and selling individuals' data.

"Google's business model is the spy. It makes more than 80 percent of its money by collecting information about people, pooling it together, storing it, indexing it, building profiles of people to predict their interests and behavior, and then selling those profiles principally to advertisers, but also others," he said.

"So the result is that Google, in terms of how it works, its actual practice, is almost identical to the National Security Agency or GCHQ."

See also:

[Oct 25, 2014] Assange: Google Is Not What It Seems By Julian Assange

Oct 23, 2014 | newsweek.com
...

Schmidt arrived first, accompanied by his then partner, Lisa Shields. When he introduced her as a vice president of the Council on Foreign Relations-a U.S. foreign-policy think tank with close ties to the State Department - I thought little more of it. Shields herself was straight out of Camelot, having been spotted by John Kennedy Jr.'s side back in the early 1990s.

They sat with me and we exchanged pleasantries. They said they had forgotten their Dictaphone, so we used mine. We made an agreement that I would forward them the recording and in exchange they would forward me the transcript, to be corrected for accuracy and clarity. We began. Schmidt plunged in at the deep end, straightaway quizzing me on the organizational and technological underpinnings of WikiLeaks.

* * *

Some time later Jared Cohen arrived. With him was Scott Malcomson, introduced as the book's editor. Three months after the meeting Malcomson would enter the State Department as the lead speechwriter and principal advisor to Susan Rice (then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, now national security advisor).

At this point, the delegation was one part Google, three parts U.S. foreign-policy establishment, but I was still none the wiser. Handshakes out of the way, we got down to business.

Schmidt was a good foil. A late-fiftysomething, squint-eyed behind owlish spectacles, managerially dressed-Schmidt's dour appearance concealed a machinelike analyticity. His questions often skipped to the heart of the matter, betraying a powerful nonverbal structural intelligence.

It was the same intellect that had abstracted software-engineering principles to scale Google into a megacorp, ensuring that the corporate infrastructure always met the rate of growth. This was a person who understood how to build and maintain systems: systems of information and systems of people. My world was new to him, but it was also a world of unfolding human processes, scale and information flows.

For a man of systematic intelligence, Schmidt's politics-such as I could hear from our discussion-were surprisingly conventional, even banal. He grasped structural relationships quickly, but struggled to verbalize many of them, often shoehorning geopolitical subtleties into Silicon Valley marketese or the ossified State Department micro-language of his companions. He was at his best when he was speaking (perhaps without realizing it) as an engineer, breaking down complexities into their orthogonal components.

I found Cohen a good listener, but a less interesting thinker, possessed of that relentless conviviality that routinely afflicts career generalists and Rhodes Scholars. As you would expect from his foreign-policy background, Cohen had a knowledge of international flash points and conflicts and moved rapidly between them, detailing different scenarios to test my assertions. But it sometimes felt as if he was riffing on orthodoxies in a way that was designed to impress his former colleagues in official Washington.

Malcomson, older, was more pensive, his input thoughtful and generous. Shields was quiet for much of the conversation, taking notes, humoring the bigger egos around the table while she got on with the real work.

As the interviewee, I was expected to do most of the talking. I sought to guide them into my worldview. To their credit, I consider the interview perhaps the best I have given. I was out of my comfort zone and I liked it.

We ate and then took a walk in the grounds, all the while on the record. I asked Eric Schmidt to leak U.S. government information requests to WikiLeaks, and he refused, suddenly nervous, citing the illegality of disclosing Patriot Act requests. And then, as the evening came on, it was done and they were gone, back to the unreal, remote halls of information empire, and I was left to get back to my work.

That was the end of it, or so I thought.

* * *

Two months later, WikiLeaks' release of State Department cables was coming to an abrupt end. For three-quarters of a year we had painstakingly managed the publication, pulling in over a hundred global media partners, distributing documents in their regions of influence and overseeing a worldwide, systematic publication and redaction system, fighting for maximum impact for our sources.

But The Guardian newspaper-our former partner-had published the confidential decryption password to all 251,000 cables in a chapter heading in its book, rushed out hastily in February 2011.

By mid-August we discovered that a former German employee-whom I had suspended in 2010-was cultivating business relationships with a variety of organizations and individuals by shopping around the location of the encrypted file, paired with the password's whereabouts in the book. At the rate the information was spreading, we estimated that within two weeks most intelligence agencies, contractors and middlemen would have all the cables, but the public would not.

I decided it was necessary to bring forward our publication schedule by four months and contact the State Department to get it on record that we had given them advance warning. The situation would then be harder to spin into another legal or political assault.

Unable to raise Louis Susman, then U.S. ambassador to the U.K., we tried the front door. WikiLeaks investigations editor Sarah Harrison called the State Department front desk and informed the operator that "Julian Assange" wanted to have a conversation with Hillary Clinton. Predictably, this statement was initially greeted with bureaucratic disbelief.

We soon found ourselves in a reenactment of that scene in Dr. Strangelove, where Peter Sellers cold-calls the White House to warn of an impending nuclear war and is immediately put on hold. As in the film, we climbed the hierarchy, speaking to incrementally more superior officials until we reached Clinton's senior legal advisor. He told us he would call us back. We hung up, and waited.

When the phone rang half an hour later, it was not the State Department on the other end of the line. Instead, it was Joseph Farrell, the WikiLeaks staffer who had set up the meeting with Google. He had just received an email from Lisa Shields seeking to confirm that it was indeed WikiLeaks calling the State Department.

It was at this point that I realized Eric Schmidt might not have been an emissary of Google alone. Whether officially or not, he had been keeping some company that placed him very close to Washington, D.C., including a well-documented relationship with President Obama. Not only had Hillary Clinton's people known that Eric Schmidt's partner had visited me, but they had also elected to use her as a back channel.

While WikiLeaks had been deeply involved in publishing the inner archive of the U.S. State Department, the U.S. State Department had, in effect, snuck into the WikiLeaks command center and hit me up for a free lunch. Two years later, in the wake of his early 2013 visits to China, North Korea and Burma, it would come to be appreciated that the chairman of Google might be conducting, in one way or another, "back-channel diplomacy" for Washington. But at the time it was a novel thought.

[Sep 23, 2014] Julian Assange Google è diventato malvagio

Sept 15, 2014 | repubblica.it

Let's start with your meeting with Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen. In your book, you write that on a personal level those people are very nice, but if the future of the Internet will be controlled by Google, then everyone should worry. Why you came to this conclusion?

"Over the last 15 years, Google has grown inside the internet as a parasite. Internet browsing, social networking, maps, satellites, drones -- Google on your phone, on your desktop, it is invading every aspect of our lives: all relations from personal to commercial.

At this point, we can say that Google has a real power over anyone who uses the Internet, and that means pretty much anyone in the modern world. As Google becoming bigger and bigger, it became more and more dangerous. In my book I explained now it is aligned with American foreign policy. This means for example that Google may intervene in the interests of the United States, may end up compromising the privacy of selected people, can use the power of advertising for the purposes of propaganda.

Countries such as Russia and China - and this can be seen by reading the cables from US embassies that we have released are now looking at Google as an instrument of the United States government. This attitude goes as far back as 2009. Unfortunately their solution (Russia and China, ed) is to create local monopolies. Google sucks the personal data of every single person is building an endless pool of information that is of great interest to the American government.

Accordingly, the government has entered in alliance with Google to access this database. And Google will never change the way it operates, because its business model is to collect as much data as possible about the people and centralize and process the data in such a way as to find effective model for targeted advertising. Which is almost exactly what NSA does.

You describe Eric Schmidt as a character "for whom centrist and liberal imperialist inclinations feet perfectly well into the US foreign policy." What kind of world Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen are building for us?

"Schmidt and Cohen have published a book that has been largely ignored, but which is extremely revealing. It's called "The New Digital Age" and this book outlines their vision of the future: a world of endless consumerism and escapism, where the ideal consumer goes around with Google Gadgets, "by swiping your finger" and "sharing" and everything is wonderful. Schmidt and Cohen believe that in the Western world there is no more need for privacy, because governments are inherently "good", responsible for collecting and using the information to better manage their citizens. "

She writes that Google was born as an expression of independent culture of Graduates of Universities of California, a culture which is decent, humane, funny, but eventually became "the empire of do no harm." What has caused Google to become so evil?

"Google started out as an expression of student culture that hovered around the universities of Stanford and Berkeley. Decent, funny and politically naive but because, in the final analysis, the fact that it has become the second largest company in the United States, Google has become evil. Like so many other American companies, Google has been trying to expand into foreign markets, and at this point it became dependent on the advice and lobbying capacities of the State Department and other U.S. government entities. That dependence has led to extensive contacts and personal alliances between the management of Google, Eric Schmidt included, and American government."

Do you believe that China and Russia will fight strenuously against the empire of Google?

"Yes, they are slow, but the locals are shocked when they realize what is happening, because there is no need to physically subdue a nation (to control it, ed) when you dominates the information sphere and you can influence the laws of that nation through international treaties. Google's dominance is seen by countries such as China and Russia as a matter of national sovereignty. In China you can see how they are building local internet services. You may think that Russia and China are wicked nations, but they are the only with a power to prevent extreme abuses that we have seen in case of the NSA. The interaction between Google, the American foreign policy establishment and the intelligence is largely based on understanding each other and is carried out through the use of force, coercion, when you can not rely on voluntary cooperation, as it has been revealed recently with Yahoo, which in 2008 was put under pressure by the NSA that would give access to the data of its customers under the threat of a fine of $250,000 a day."

What you can reply to those who claim that Google still is "the empire of do no harm", but China and Russia are not exactly the champions of freedom of the Net

"China was the first nation to censor WikiLeaks: It happened in 2007. This is a highly politicized nation and is afraid of what his people think. But in a sense, this is the optimistic view, because China believes that what Chinese people think is important, however, in many Western nations freedom of speech is the result of the fact that what people think does not matter at all: the ruling elites do not need to be worried about what people think because any internal change will not affect the elite or their companies. The problems with China and Russia are completely internal.

What you can reply to those who argues that we need mass surveillance that the NSA has set up through collaboration with Google, because the fanatics of the ISIS are the perfect demonstration of how our democracies can come under the mortal danger?

"Our democracies are in mortal danger to the totalitarianism that is upon them because of mass surveillance: a power that be able to control every significant social and economic interaction."

Among other things, despite intercept of messages from billions of people, they seem to have been unable to prevent any important attack, or predict the rise of the ISIS...

"The primary purpose of mass surveillance is a strategic advantage (which the nation that practice it obtains, ed) and, in fact, this practice internally is called "strategic oversight ". The NSA intercepts entire continents exactly as for the same purpose as the last 70 years -- this is the same great game to control the oil and the countries involved in its production: you can see this with the events in Ukraine."

The United States will never give up mass surveillance. But the man who has exposed the global espionage also does not give up. It explains his struggle against the power that be to save democracy. You and your staff you have been able to withstand all kinds of pressure: death threats, investigations and block of financial transactions by the court. In your book you tell how Wikileaks was able to ease the pressure of the blocking of financial transactions through a strategic investment in Bitcoin. And even while confined to the embassy, was able to assist Edward Snowden, sending in Hong Kong Sarah Harrison, who helped Snowden to obtain asylum. Yet, you are still confined to the embassy, Sarah Harrison is in exile, Chelsea Manning in prison and Edward Snowden has no place to hide except Russia. Do you think we will have new Manning and Snowden, given the high prices paid by past whistleblowers, you and your staff?

Yes, I'm virtually certain. We have intervened and we organized an operation to assist Snowden, bringing him safely to Hong Kong because we wanted to make a case to send the message that it is possible to reveal this kind of information, yet retain much personal freedom intact. And certainly this message encourages and motivates other whistleblowers.

[Jul 22, 2014] Online 'fingerprinting' stalking web users, nearly impossible to block

RT USA

At least five percent of the internet's top 100,000 websites are using a new kind of online tracking system – one which essentially takes a "fingerprint" of your computer via its web browser.

What's more, the software – known as canvas fingerprinting – is nearly impossible to block using conventional privacy tools.

According to a new report by ProPublica, the curtains over canvas fingerprinting will officially be lifted in a forthcoming paper authored by researchers at Princeton University and Belgium's KU Leuven University.

Here's how it works: When you visit a website that features such tracking technology, the site asks your browser to "draw a hidden image." Since every computer renders the image in a different way, that drawing is used to label your device with a unique number that allows trackers to keep an eye on your browsing activity across the internet.

Although there is more than one type of canvas fingerprinting, the most widely used software is developed by AddThis, and is reportedly used on popular websites like Whitehouse.gov, online dating site PlentyOfFish, CBS, and even YouPorn (a list of known sites using the software can be found here).

An AddThis spokesperson also said that it did not inform the websites in question when it put its tracking technology in place. After ProPublica's original article was published, a YouPorn spokesperson said the website was unaware the app was tracking users and has removed AddThis functionality.

AddThis chief executive Rich Harris stressed that the company does not use canvas fingerprinting for anything other than ad targeting and personalization, and that users can stop their data from being used for advertising or marketing by installing a specific opt-out cookie on their computers. This would not stop AddThis from collecting data, however; it would simply stop them from using it to custom-tailor ads for you.

The company also said it does not use any data it gathers from government websites. So far, it claims to have only used data for "internal research and development."

Still, the fact that all users have to rely on is a promise from AddThis "is not the best privacy assurance," said Princeton computer science professor Arvind Narayanan, who helped lead the research team responsible for uncovering the system.

If opting out is not a satisfactory option on its own, you're left with a few different possibilities. You could download the Tor browser, which helps users avoid numerous types of online tracking, or you could block JavaScript from loading in your browser, which ProPublica notes could make many websites not work properly.

There's also a browser in the works called Chameleon, which is specifically designed to block fingerprinting, but at this stage is only recommended for "tech-savvy users."

AddThis is reportedly contemplating ending its test of the tracking tech soon because "it's not uniquely identifying enough."

[Jul 19, 2014] Look at what happened after Snowden spilled the beans

vineyardsaker.blogspot.com
burack, 19 July, 2014 05:07
@Daniel Rich 19 July, 2014 01:27
"Look at what happened after Snowden spilled the beans... Zilch."
I beg to disagree. For american tech companies it was devastating blow, especially for companies serving enterprise solutions - IBM, Cisco, Microsoft and others (Google, Facebook et al to lesser extent as ordinary people don't bother much and even if they do, they find it difficult to change their habits). They've been kicked out from huge markets in many countries with big economies (China, Russia, to some extent Germany).
I also think that latest spy scandal in Germany (and subsequent limits regarding US technologies used in German security apparatus) wouldn't happen without Snowden revelations. It would swept under the rug.
This was huge enough to have huge repercussions to American hegemony. Maybe because of sheer size of this thing changes are slow - at least from human point of view. In other words, cogs are grinding slowly but surely. Expect Snowden revelations to haunt the Hegemon for years to come.

[Jul 18, 2014] Mass surveillance 'dangerous habit', says UN rights body

"The constant stream of new revelations shows how disturbingly little we really know about the precise nature of surveillance..."
BBC News

The document was written by the office of Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who said it revealed a "disturbing" lack of transparency about the reasons governments approve or start large-scale monitoring of what people do online.

Mass surveillance, said Ms Pillay, was becoming a "dangerous habit rather than an exceptional measure" for governments.

'Constant stream'

These programmes necessarily interfered with privacy, and governments must do more to ensure that this curbing of freedoms was "neither arbitrary nor unlawful".

The further that governments went in scooping up information about citizens, the harder they needed to work to justify the snooping and monitor it to guard against excess, said Ms Pillay.

The report said laws that set out how surveillance could be carried out must be publicly available and demonstrate specific reasons why the monitoring was taking place.

It said measures to force net companies, mobile operators and others to retain data on what people did online and whom they talked to had little justification.

Simply gathering data, even if it was never consulted, could potentially curb privacy because too few states put good limits on who could look at the data and what it could be used for.

"The constant stream of new revelations shows how disturbingly little we really know about the precise nature of surveillance," said Ms Pillay.

[Jul 18, 2014] Psst! Your phone is snooping on you. What you need to know and how to stop it – video

The Guardian

Revelations about the detailed location records stored on smartphones indicates just how much information companies including Apple and Google are able to gather. \

But it's not just the phone-makers – apps on your phone are hungry for your personal info too. So is your phone snooping on you?

Here, we reveal what you need to know – and whether you can do anything about it

Dogoodnow, 16 July 2014 12:04pm

Another problem with Android (as far as I can see, as implemented on an early Samsung Note) is that it keeps turning on apps that you have or think you have turned off or force closed.

Especially true of all the Google related material?

StockBet -> Dogoodnow, 16 July 2014 1:16pm

Watch the PBS documentary called "United States of Secrets" and what they said about Google.

fragilegorilla -> StockBet, 16 July 2014 1:23pm

There's also a very good documentary available on Netflix right now called "terms and conditions may apply".

It covers this constant snooping and what we actually sign away when we tick those little 'I accept' boxes.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2084953/

dourscot -> Dogoodnow, 16 July 2014 1:36pm

You can't stop or de-install Google's core apps on any mainstream Android device.

The only way around this is to use an open install like CyanogenMod.

tr1ck5t3r -> dourscot, 16 July 2014 2:04pm

CyanogenMod has had its own bugs will facilitate snooping though. However as the Play store app is not installed by default, its worth checking the terms and conditions when a CyanogenMod user install it.

supermarine -> fragilegorilla, 16 July 2014 7:37pm

I've watched it…I was tickled by the revelation that a number of people had signed their souls to the devil.

Fred1, 16 July 2014 12:09pm

I really can't see the point of most Apps.

Sure WhatsApp and Viber are useful but the vast majority are just websites made for phones. And they're free so there's a catch.

I hate using WhatsApp and Viber because I know they're as about as secure as using a microphone on a busy high street and the people behind it our mining the shit out of my data. However I use them because they're a useful.

I just wish you could choose. Whore your data or pay for the service. The internet should be about getting £1 from billions of people but instead nowadays its just about whoring data. It's most likely all bull shit like investing in sub-prime mortgages but hey lets pretend this data has any value.

My approach is to download very few apps, never give my location, never use social media (because I don't understand why it exists) and never say anything vaguely interesting on WhatsApp, Viber or indeed CIF. If you don't believe me read this comment.

Westmorlandia -> KatyEB, 16 July 2014 12:12pm

Yes, and so many pre-installed, that you can't delete. Still I prefer it to my old iPhone.

This is easily the worst thing about Android - endless unwanted apps that take up storage space, use memory, and can't be removed. It's incredibly annoying - it's like they're stealing part of the phone I paid for.

Westmorlandia, 16 July 2014 12:11pm

Because of the opacity of the system, it's crying out for consumer protection regulation.

Unfortunately governments like collecting our data too, so are actually quite keen for this sort of data collection to go on.

pretendname -> Westmorlandia, 16 July 2014 12:24pm

Any reasonable left or right centre government, would move to ban Google Glass immediately. But our government has tipped into fascism.

There is a reasonable argument that banning these devices would not be 'progressive'. By which they mean, you can't put a genie back in the bottle. But this is simply rationalising away fascism.

We ban or blacklist new technologies all the time, it's just that we've chosen not to deal with this one because it helps our government suppress anything they might see as seditious.

This wholesale surveillance of citizens is simply wrong. Just like secret trials and detention without charge.. is simply wrong.

afinch -> pretendname, 16 July 2014 1:23pm

Any reasonable left or right centre government, would move to ban Google Glass immediately.

Eh? Do you think concealed cameras should be illegal? Telephoto lenses? Small microphones? Spy equipment far more covert, and far cheaper, than Google glass has been available for decades.

What's liberal about banning an underpowered wearable camera that costs too much?

pretendname -> afinch, 16 July 2014 1:29pm

It's not the camera that's the problem with Google glass.. It's that it's a network enabled camera which is permanently switched on and recording, and is reporting your location and everything you see and hear to the government, and worse, a company.

Now if you restricted yourself to looking at members of your own family that's ok.. but if you're going to wear it on a bus, it's going to record not just your movement, but through facial recognition, the moments of everyone you see.

Can't you see any danger in that?

fallenrider -> pretendname , 16 July 2014 3:09pm

But it doesn't actually do that though does it?!

It records when you tell it to record, not constantly. But don't let facts get in the way or your paranoia hey.

pretendname -> fallenrider, 16 July 2014 3:35pm

Have you been asleep for the last 2 years. Google, have been actively working with the NSA to provide every single piece of information about you that they can.

But of course... I'll have to take your word for it because you are clearly a Google Employee on the Glass project.

Otherwise.. how would you know what it does or doesn't do?

LegoRemix -> pretendname, 16 July 2014 4:21pm

As has been repeated over, and over again. No tech company is actively working with the NSA. What happened is they got served National Security Letters that *force* their cooperation with government demands. If they don't comply, their businiess is shut down.

You can moan about a lot of other things tech companies do, but this is literally a 'gun to the back of the head' scenario for them

pretendname -> LegoRemix , 16 July 2014 4:26pm

I'm not sure...
Eric Schmidt has been attending Bilderberg for the last few years.
From that I surmise that he is fully on board.

But.. even if tech companies are forced into this, the result is the same. It is a bizarre situation in which, given full details and facts, people still deny reality.. even while it's happening.
You couldn't make it up.

Google glass has a camera which is potentially permantently switched on.
That camera can be picking out faces, mapping those faces to some sort of engram, and http posting them off to gootle with a location and date stamp, or storing that list of information locally for later upload.

If it can do it... Recently revelations seem to suggest, it is doing it.

MtnClimber -> afinch, 16 July 2014 5:47pm

It's far worse now than before "smart phones" Before, spying was done on an individual basis. One person wanted to spy on another.

Now, with smartphones, everyone is under surveillance. Google glass is an extension of the spy phones that we all carry. It is getting worse by the day.

robinaldlowrise -> LegoRemix, 16 July 2014 10:18pm

No tech company is actively working with the NSA.

Of course they aren't (cough). Nobody is working with the NSA. The NSA is an evil unto itself alone (cough).

Bluecloud, 16 July 2014 12:14pm

My Android tablet came with Google Maps, which requires permission to access all my contacts, all my WLAN info as well as my location (of course, it's satnav device) and lots of other personal info. Their demand for ever greater intrusion into my life increases with every update.

This is a high price to pay for such apps. Beware!

swishy -> Bluecloud , 16 July 2014 12:25pm

I can see a future not too far ahead where these phones will be the only available option which will basically trap people in the system. Permission to access personal info may not necessarily be requested and ability to turn off GPS might not be possible. There's a gloomy picture to be going on with.

beedoubleyou -> Bluecloud , 16 July 2014 12:29pm

I don't understand the price. Nobody has anything to gain by knowing any of my contacts, especially me.

Nialler, 16 July 2014 12:14pm

My experience with the Galaxy was that in order to use a lot of the functionality I had to register with Google. This gives them my e-mail, my network, my location (if using the GPS) my buying preferences etc.

Sod that.

My wife used the GPS to find an address and when we arrived a photo of the house popped up on the screen. I find all this terribly intrusive.

If someone stopped you on the street and asked you those questions you'd tell them to fling their hook.

tilw -> Nialler, 16 July 2014 12:44pm

My way of handling Google and similar accounts is to give Google my email address at another on-line "everything including the kitchen sink" service and vice versa.

Both the email addresses are eminently disposable and neither of them point to any of my actual "real" email addresses. It can be a bit of a pain keeping track of which service has which disposable address, but it's worth it.

This technique also pretty quickly reveals which "services" have passed email addresses on to spammers either knowingly or otherwise.

blipvert -> tilw, 16 July 2014 12:55pm

Google started to get a bit sniffy about this kind thing a while ago, and Boss Man Schmidt declared Google+ to be an identity service, and only real names would do.

Fortunately, they have recently abandoned this Big Brother approach in a desperate attempt to actually get customers to use Google+.

MasterPale -> Nialler, 16 July 2014 1:35pm

Registering with Google is only necessary in order to buy apps from Google's app market.

There are other sources of apps such as Samsung, Amazon, app developers websites, app review websites. Of course you have to register with these sources too but the process is generally less intrusive.

You can disable and uninstall Google apps such as Gmail, Google search, Maps etc.

And install alternatives which do not gather your data such as Hotmail, Hushmail, Firefox browser with ad-blockers and anti-trackers, DuckDuckGo or StartPage search engines, and Bing maps or TomTom (if there is no app use your phone browser to access the websites - create a bookmark and you have instant map service).

People are often afraid to edit their phone/tablet, a fear promoted by the dire pop-up warnings that if you turn off x it will melt your phone. No it wont!

Do not install junk apps. You can expect them to be infested with spyware and to involve 'in-app purchases'. Choose quality apps, recommended by reliable reviews. When installing an app, buy the paid version and save money on data long-term.

'Free' apps invade your privacy, keep data turned on to feed you a stream of adverts. You pay in lots of ways. It costs 69p for an app or maybe £2.99 for the expensive apps? And how much is privacy worth to you? How much do you pay for data?

If you have not seen an Adam Curtis documentary nor watched the BBC's current documentary series 'Meet the Men Who Made Us Spend' (on iPlayer) then I recommend them. They are light and fluffy, not overly intellectual, but they review the history of the last fifty years and the growth of consumption and offer an explanation of why so many people are obese, we spend too much time and money on pointless consumption, and are politically oppressed. It might make you decide you don't need so many gadgets or that you don't need so many apps on your gadgets. It will certainly make you reject 'smart things' and the continuing infantilisation and passification of the population.

dourscot -> Nialler, 16 July 2014 1:41pm

But you can log out of Google. This doesn't solve your problem with other apps but it's not as bad as you suggest.

ConanOB -> Nialler , 16 July 2014 4:48pm

You buy an iPhone, apple asks for you credit card number, expiration date and you need to create and email account and use a back up email account if you are imperfect and might someday forget your password.

Everything comes at a price, the more secured and locked down you want your smartphone to be, expect to pay a premium price for it.

It is not difficult for phone companies to retrieve text messages etc and time, date and duration of calls you made every day.

Just stay away from apps like the flashlight app that needs access to your microphone or any app that request access to your contacts.

NotANumbers -> MasterPale, 18 July 2014 1:05am

I use F-Droid. It is a repository of free and open source applications. If you don't trust one, you can just have a look at the source code, providing you can understand it, and heck, even if you can't, you could still download, safe in the knowledge that there will inevitably be more eyes viewing the code and therefore less chance you'll have a malicious or snooping application.

swishy, 16 July 2014 12:18pm

I have one of those Samsung Galaxy Note phones. It's a work phone so doesn't actually belong to me. I just switch off the WIFI and GPS which is hopefully enough to stop my location being tracked.

ThisFieldIsBlank -> swishy , 16 July 2014 12:26pm

No it isn't! You will still be tracked as the phone continuously send signals to the network to check for signals. Even Brick phones do it, it is an inherent feature of mobile or cellular phones.

bargepoled2, 16 July 2014 12:19pm

With android kit kat 4.4 you can activate or deactivate each apps location settings.

dont want an app to use your location or know it?

turn of its ability to do that in app settings.

[Jul 12, 2014] Whistleblower: NSA stores 80% of all phone calls, not just metadata - full audio by Pawel Kopczynski

July 12, 2014 | rt/ Reuters

At least 80 percent of all audio calls are gathered and stored by the NSA, whistleblower William Binney has revealed. The former code-breaker says the spy agency's ultimate aim is no less than total population control.

The National Security Agency lies about what it stores, said William Binney, one of the highest profile whistleblowers to ever emerge from the NSA, at a conference in London organized by the Center for Investigative Journalism on July 5. Binney left the agency shortly after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center because he was disgusted at the organizations move towards public surveillance.

"At least 80 percent of fiber-optic cables globally go via the US," Binney said. "This is no accident and allows the US to view all communication coming in. At least 80 percent of all audio calls, not just metadata, are recorded and stored in the US. The NSA lies about what it stores."

Binney has no evidence to substantiate his claims as he did not take any documents with him when he left the NSA. However, he insists the organization is untruthful about its intelligence gathering practices and their ultimate aim. He says that recent Supreme Court decisions have led him to believe the NSA won't stop until it has complete control over the population.

"The ultimate goal of the NSA is total population control," Binney said, "but I'm a little optimistic with some recent Supreme Court decisions, such as law enforcement mostly now needing a warrant before searching a smartphone."

During his speech at the conference, Binney praised spy-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden for disseminating the classified documents that revealed the NSA's global spy programs. The latest revelations showed that contrary to the NSA's claims, the majority of information the agency gathers is from ordinary citizens with no connection to terrorism.

NSA gathered 'startlingly intimate' data on ordinary citizens, Snowden data reveals

Washington has defended its spy programs, claiming that the NSA targets individuals with connections to known terrorist groups to thwart attacks. Binney said this was a lie and the NSA had stopped "zero attacks" with its intelligence gathering programs.

One of the main factors that has allowed the NSA to increase its spy programs is the lack of oversight in the US, argues Binney. In particular, he took issue with the Foreign Surveillance Court (FISA), which oversees the issue of search warrants against people suspected of terrorism. Binney believes the court is meaningless and always sides with the US government.

"The Fisa court has only the government's point of view," he said. "There are no other views for the judges to consider. There have been at least 15-20 trillion constitutional violations for US domestic audiences and you can double that globally."

Revelations about US global spy programs have sparked mass indignation, with one American judge saying the surveillance was almost Orwellian in nature. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also compared US intelligence policy to the antics of the Stasi secret police in the former East Germany.

See also: Federal judge says NSA's phone surveillance program is likely unconstitutional


Selected Comments


jeff strehlow 13.07.2014 00:48

Toni Lehto 12.07.2014 17:02

I'm as against NSA surveillance as the next guy, but I say BS.
Why? Consider a 1 minute phone call at 50 kbps would require storage of 3MB. Further assume an "average" phone call is 3 mins and there are 12.4 BILLION phone calls per day worldwide, capturing 80% of that traffic for 365 would require 33 MILLION terabytes of storage PER YEAR.

Your calculation is much higher than the actual requirements for 2 reasons:

1. 50 kbps isn't needed for voice communications. 5-6 kbps is enough.

2. You didn't take data compression into account.

Sunshine 12.07.2014 20:31

The current security/intelligence services are a vile stain on the memories and sacrifices of those who fought and died in the hope of preserving the freedoms that this country was founded upon and we cherish(ed) in our hearts.

Its the height of irony....you want to pull out all the stops to defend our country and way of life by destroying it....

Remember, the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist.....we did not know (for sure) the devil was walking amongst, and destroying our way of life, until Snowden, Drake and Binney opened our eyes and minds.....

Otto Moser 12.07.2014 19:31

SUPER !

So that Austrian radio comedian, who phoned the US Embassy, asking for a back-up of his daughter's birthday party video, because he claimed to have inadvertently deleted it, was absolutely within reality !

Naturally, the Embassy was not amused !

Fábio O. Ribeiro 12.07.2014 14:47

iPhone deserves a new name: iNSAmike. Ha, ha, ha... I will not have one.

Emmett 12.07.2014 14:23

NSA is doing what Hoover did as the long time US FBI director. He spied on and blackmailed US presidents and other politicians so they could never oust and with all the dirt he had on those politicians masquerading as pillars of the community he forced them to do what he wanted them to do.
We see proof on a massive scale the NSA uses the Hoover blueprint to blackmail politicians but have take it a step further with technology to gather information on even more people.

Kenneth T. Tellis 12.07.2014 12:35

What the NSA is now doing, was what the U.S. government accused the Soviets of doing. If that be the case how is it legal? Which means that Obama Regime is in violation of both the U.S. Constitution and Civil Rights. No nation can ever trust the good intentions of the present U.S. government. So much for Democracy in America, an absolute FARCE!

[May 03, 2014] Ask Slashdot What To Do With Misdirected Email

The fact that gmail ignores dot in email address treating joe.doer@gmail.com and joedoer@gmail.com has interesting security implications. The same for treating joedoer+at_nj@gmail.com and joedoer@gmail.com as identical. As one commenter noted "Oh and Google needs to admit they fucked up and fix it, I'm pretty sure that guys info I got could lead to some sort of lawsuit."
Jan 13, 2014 | Slashdot

An anonymous reader writes "My Gmail account is of the form (first initial).(middle initial).(common last name)@gmail.com. I routinely receive emails clearly intended for someone else. These range from newsletters to personal and business emails. I've received email with various people's addresses, phone numbers and even financial information.

A few years ago I started saving the more interesting ones, and now have an archive of hundreds of emails directed at no less than eight distinct individuals. I used to try replying to the personal ones with a form response, but it didn't seem to help.

To make matters worse, I frequently find I can't use my email to create a new account at various sites because it's already been registered. Does anyone else have this problem? Is there any good way to handle this?"

Animats

Get a real mail account (5, Insightful)

Get a real mail account and get off Gmail/Hotmail/other free service. You get what you pay for.

MarioMax

Re: Get a real mail account (4, Informative)

This. Domains are cheap, and hosting/forwarding is cheap. Plus you get some level of personalization.

Also easier to remember. bobsmith@bobsmith.com is catchy while bobsmith@gmail.com is generic and easily forgotten.

Nerdfest

Re: Get a real mail account (4, Insightful)

Exactly. This also covers the case where your ISP or Microsoft or Google does something that you can't abide by. It decouples you from your provider.

You can move to a different email hosting service or even run your own without much inconvenience. It also looks a little more professional than having a HotMail account.

Anonymous Coward

Re: Get a real mail account

Absolutely. I must have avoided the melee since I domained back in '95. Gmail was interesting for porn accounts and whatnot, but now mailinator is better.

Gmail isn't good for anything anymore except privacy violations.

MarioMax

Re: Get a real mail account (1)

I've used my own domain for 9 years with paid hosting thru a major host. Personally I can't stand webmail and stick to traditional POP3 email and for that purpose it suits me. But it is easy enough to set up domain forwarding to services like gmail if you choose (most likely for a fee).

The nice thing about buying a domain is you can pretty much set up unlimited email addresses under the domain for any purpose you choose, or use a single email address as a "catch-all" for said domain. Web services like Facebook won't know and won't care.

As for specific hosting recommendations, they are all about the same in terms of terrible service and support, but I encourage you to research and decide for yourself.

Anonymous Coward

Re: The only plausible solution... (0)

Is to change your name

You'd be surprised at the amount of misaddressed email I get at Montague.Cornelius.Blunderbuss@gmail.com. It's rather astonishing, I do say.

aardvarkjoe

Re:Abandon Your Real Name (1)

As for the rest of your problem, just set up a second Gmail address with a nonsensical middle name (first initial).turnip.(common last name)@gmail.com and have it forward to your "real" gmail address. Problem solved.

This is actually a good idea even if you don't have the problem that the original poster had. I created a new gmail account with that general idea a little while back which I use for things like online retailers. It makes it really easy to filter those emails out of my personal inbox, which can be a pain sometimes otherwise.

The name+extension@gmail.com addresses would let you do something similar, but they've got a couple serious drawbacks -- many (in my experience, probably "most") websites will reject an email address with a + sign, and also it exposes your actual personal address. Using a separate gmail address solves those.

I do wish that Google would come up with a proper disposable email address solution.

mvar

Re:Name? (1)

This. As for misdirected email, i had a similar problem a couple of years back when someone decided to use my email (no real name) for his facebook account. As it seems email confirmation is optional and the guy made a full profile, added friends etc xD

watermark

gmail plus sign postfix

Well, I have a solution to your "email has already been registered" issue.

Gmail will treat yourname+blah@gmail.com as the same address as yourname@gmail.com, both will go into the yourname@gmail.com account.

Give the site an email address with a plus sign postfix like that and it should detect it as a new unique address.

Some sites don't allow the plus symbol in email addresses (even though it's a valid character), so mileage may vary.

whoever57

Re:gmail plus sign postfix (2)

MANY sites don't allow the plus symbol in email addresses (even though it's a valid character), so mileage may vary.

FTFY.

Seriously, having used "plus-addressing" for many years, I can attest to the fact that many websites won't accept it.

I know of one site where I did register years ago, but their de-registration page won't accept the "plus-address" that I used to register (rakuten.com, I'm looking at you).

chill

Yes (4, Funny)

Yes, I have this exact same problem. However, I do not keep other people's e-mail.

I have been able to track down the correct people to whom the e-mails belong. In two cases, the people are lawyers and the e-mails contained either personal or confidential information.

Another case is a general contractor, and I've received quotes from subcontractors, blueprints and general correspondence.

In one case it was a confirmation of tickets for a theme park. (I debated showing up as soon as the park opened and claiming the tickets, but ethics got the better of me.)

These people now reside in my address book. I forward the e-mail in question over to them, and CC a copy to the sender.

Anonymous Coward

What is the problem?

To make matters worse, I frequently find I can't use my email to create a new account at various sites because it's already been registered.

Why not make a password reset for them (unless they have "security questions") and change the email? Then you can create your own account. It is not your problem that some hobo can't enter their own e-mail address when registering accounts.

As for the unwanted email, tell the sender politely that they have sent personal/confidential information to you, an unsuspecting third party with a similar address. Then throw any future mail from them away. I have gotten some mail like this, but they all rectified their mistake and stopped sending to me. If they wouldn't, it isn't my problem (apart from pressing the "junk email" button in my MUA).

Anonymous Coward

Even worse: Facebook does not validate e-mails (0)

So I got somebody else's Facebook notifications. From time to time, I get some e-mail from Facebook stating the e-mail address has not been verified (with no description on what to do if you are not the intended recipient). I hoped this situation would die with time, but it is already five months since I got the first e-mail.

At some stage in the past, I also got some e-mails from ebay about a seller and a buyer discussing transaction e-mails. These ones did actually die.

In both cases, the e-mail account the messages should go was not the one I tend to give out. Google allows for different spellings on the same account. Your e-mail account may be achieved by following permutations:
JOHN.DOE@gmail.com
john.doe@gmail.com
johndoe@gmail.com
john.D.O.E@gmail.com
And this is not a bug, it is a feature.

hawguy

I have the same problem (4, Funny)

I use my first initial+last name as my email address and get mail destined for a half dozen people. One person is an elderly gentleman in the midwest, I've given up any hope of getting him to stop giving out my email address. I only get a half dozen or so a month so it's not too bad.

I usually send a form letter to emails where it looks like a person might read the response (as opposed to newsletters, etc). For those emails where I don't think a human will read the response, I usually just hit the Spam button, unless there's a quick and easy to find unsubscribe link.

Sometimes when an email has a signature that says that if I receive a copy of the email in error I must delete all copies, in my reply, I ask whether they want to work on a time and materials basis or a fixed price $500 contract for me to track down and delete the email from all devices that it may have been delivered to (having emails go to a phone, tablet, several computers, imap download + backup means a fair amount of work to find and delete it everywhere). So far none have been willing to pay. I wonder if I could accept their demand to delete all copies of the email as implicit authorization to do the work and then bill them for the work.

Anonymous Coward

I like mail redirectors. Everyone but true spammers will respond to you redirecting all the mail from their domain back to the support address for that domain. Preface it with, "you must have lost this, I am helping., HERE" And resend the email. Maybe twice to make sure it isn't lost. Works every time.

Anonymous Coward

me too (0)

my gmail is commonfirstname.psuedocommonlastname@gmail.com and i have this problem all the time. i have on occasion looked up the person using my email by searching the phone book for people with my name around the address of the local businesses and people that frequently email me... usually it appears the people are 60+ but when someone used my email to start a twitter account it was someone in his 30s based on the picture he used on the account. i did like someone above said and used email based password reset and posted on the account that the person was using the wrong email address and that the account should be removed from their friend list or whatever twitter does.

in general i am really annoyed by the email i constantly get, though the other week i did get some tickets to an indoor trampoline place that sounded fun... sadly the place was 2500 miles away. most the people using my account i think are leaving off the random number or swapping out a _ for an inconsequential . that leads me to getting their emails.

Anonymous Coward

I have the same issue (0)

I have had several emails from job applications to registrations on shopping sites to my gmail. I reply telling the person that they have contacted the wrong person, and advise them to contact the intended recipient by another means.

I once got a schedule for a church rota for somewhere in the states, and when I replied saying I wasn't the person in question they asked me to forward it to them! I'm not quite sure how they expected me to do this.

This misaddressing of emails is probably really confusing the NSA email contact database though.

Anonymous Coward

Had this issue (0)

Someone was registering for sites using my GMail address without the dot I use. They registered for a site and an email came through confirming their details, including phone number.

I phoned up and asked him politely to not use my email address.
He accused me of hacking his account he has used for 2 years.
I explained I have had the account since GMail was 'invite only'.

Got swore at loads, so hung up and set up a rule so that mail without the dot is ignored and trashed. Problem solved!

mdenham

Re: Had this issue

For what it's worth, GMail treats all e-mail addresses that are identical other than dots as the same e-mail address internally, so j.dunce@gmail.com, jdunce@gmail.com, jd.unce@gmail.com, and j.d.u.n.c.e@gmail.com are all going to be the same account.

I've noticed that forum spammers like to use that trick to get around "each account must have a unique e-mail" settings on certain types of forum software.

hism

Unsubscribe or filter (1)

I have the same problem. There's at least two dozens distinct individuals who have had emails erroneously addressed to my inbox.

For automated emails that offer an easy link to unsubscribe or dissociate my email address from that account, I use the provided link. Those are pretty easy.

Sometimes people register for paid services that send a monthly bill and it comes to my email address. They may or may not be of English origin. For these, I just add a filter or rule to my email provider or client to just delete them or move them. Communicating with someone, possibly in another language, possibly requiring lots of bureaucratic red tape, is not really worth it. If they care about it enough, it's their responsibility to fix it.

The most annoying case is when a large group of friends start an email thread with a whole bunch of different people in the "to" or "cc" field. Asking them to correct the email address is pretty much an exercise in futility, since all it takes is one person to hit 'reply to all' and your email address is back on the thread. For these, I just block every recipient on the thread.

I've never had the problem of someone already having registered my email. One way around it would be to set up another email address that just forwards to your actual email address.

Anonymous Coward

Yep, I have this issue

1) If I can track down the person, I try to contact them and let them know they have they're using the wrong email
2) If it's a real person sending the email (like when one person have out my email for his house refinance stuff), I email the person back asking them to contact via phone or whatever the person and tell them they have the wrong email address
3) If a person in #2 does so and i keep receiving new emails because the person doesn't learn, I ask someone again like in #2, though this time I recommend they they stop doing business with, or throw out the job application, or whatever because the person is so stupid that they can't even figure out their own address
4) I've been know to find the person via their relatives and ask them to inform the person that they're using the wrong email
5) For sites where registrations were done, I simply go to the site, click Forgot Password, get a reset, go in, and change the information so it's no longer to my email address. Often I change the address to STOP+USING+[MY+ADDRESS]@gmail.com. Sometimes logging in to the account has the benefits of getting me their address and/or phone number to contact, which I've done.
6) In cases where I've changed the email address and they've had tech support change it back to mine, I go back in to the account and change ALL the info to mine, so now it become my account and they can no longer use it or get any access to it.

xrayspx

I've just been dealing with this (1)

I use a personal domain for my actual mail, but have accounts at all the major free mail sites too, just for spam or whatever.

I started getting mail to my Yahoo account which wasn't spam, but clearly not for me, as part of a group of people participating in a medical imaging conference. For a while I just blew it off, but eventually the organizer mailed my actual non-yahoo address by mistake as well. So I decided to be swell about it and let her know that I'm not the person she's trying to reach. She said "Oh, I'm sorry, I meant to do (yourname)@yahoo.com, thanks!", and so I told her "well no, that's also me, sorry". I proceeded to tell her an address which would work for her intended recipient (work email for the person she was trying to mail, who isn't me).

Basically she refused to believe she has been sending to the wrong address, and said "I had no idea two people could have the same email address, I guess Yahoo must allow it or something". At that point, I gave up and just let it go again. It's not high-volume enough to matter.

koan

Me too (1)

They can't reply or get your reply because they can't log in, I went so far as to track one person down via an ad sent to them, I have also received someone's complete information, SSN, etc. In the end I just drag them to the trash.

Oh and Google needs to admit they fucked up and fix it, I'm pretty sure that guys info I got could lead to some sort of lawsuit.

weave

Happens to me a lot with my own domain (4, Insightful)

I own a very short domain name where the first part of the name is the same as many organization's name.

e.g., if it was example.com then others have example.co.uk or exampleinc.com etc and I get a LOT of their email because I wildcard my domain for email and people just assume that example.com will work

As I get them, I add a postfix rule to reject that specific username but I still get stuff, including very confidential stuff.

I haven't advised these organizations because I fear they'll just turn around and try to dispute to get my domain or accuse me of criminal interception or whatever. So I just delete them and they can wonder why they never got a reply.

Rule #1: "Email is not a guaranteed service."

Rule #2: "Email is not secure. Stop sending confidential stuff through it"

kiick

Get your own domain name (1)

I had various problems with email address collisions as well. Then when I had to change ISPs, I decided to get my own domain name. It's a little different when you own your own email address. If you register a domain, you can be firstname@lastname-variation.net or such. Then you just forward from your actual email host to the registered email address. It's only a few dollars a year. Then YOU decide who gets an email address for your domain, and you can have whatever policy you want to avoid collisions.

Garin

bah, you guys are no fun (2)

Y'all are missing out on a good time.

I have a gmail account with the first name dot last name set up. As you can imagine I get quite a few messages for people who forget to tell their friends about their middle initial. However from context, I can often tell which of my name-sharing buddies the email was intended for. Over the years I have actually gotten to know a couple of them, which is fun.

I don't bother trying to tell the senders about the mistakes, they usually do nothing, oddly. The recipient, however, tends to get on it effectively.

It's quite interesting do talk to them. What's in a name?

Anonymous Coward

Worst is Barnes and noble, nook

They won't take your email address off if some uses it by mistake, you are stuck getting perpetual updates

ShaunC

This happens to me a lot, too

A few months back, I received an email on my Gmail from the agent of an NFL player. The agent was apparently looking to help his client negotiate a contract, and conveniently attached a draft of said contract. I went and updated the NFL player's Wikipedia entry stating that he was going into free agency and looking for a gig. Hey, I could have done a lot worse, like placing bets using inside info or something.

Many, many years ago, I had the screen name "File" on AOL. There was some sort of ancient productivity suite (maybe Notes, or 123, or something) where you would cc a message to "file" in order to keep a local copy, and many AOL users presumed their email service worked the same way. Oh sweet Christ, the things that landed in my inbox there over the years..

lamber45

Haven't had this issue with GMail, but with other (2)

My GMail (and Yahoo! as well) username is (first name)(middle name)(last name), all fairly common [in fact at my current employer there are multiple matches of (first name)(last name), and my father has the same (first name)(last name) as well], and I have not had this problem with either service. Perhaps using initials instead of full names is part of it; or your last-name may have different demographic connotations.

I did, however, recently have that problem with a Comcast account. When the tech visited our home for installation, he created an account (first name)(last name) @comcast.net . I didn't actually give it out anywhere, yet within a few months it was filled with a hundred or so messages for someone in another state. I did try responding to one item that seemed moderately important, and whoever got the response [the help-desk of some organization] didn't seem to grasp that I had no connection with the intended recipient. Since I hadn't advertised it anywhere, it was easy to change the username, to (my first initial)(wife's first initial)(my last initial)(wife's last initial)(string of digits) @comcast.net. While this address appears to have been reused, apparently Comcast no longer allows address reuse; I tried using a previous ID that I had used a long time ago, and it was not available.

Since you ask for advice, I recommend two courses of action:

1. As long as you still have access to that address, when you receive anything that is clearly misdirected and potentially of high value, deal with it politely. Don't use a "form response", instead personalize the response to the content of the message. CC the intended recipient on the response, if you are able to divine who it is. Once you've dealt with the matter, delete the whole thread. For newsletters, try following an "unsubscribe" action, if that's not available mark as spam.

2. Consider an exit strategy from your current e-mail address, no matter how much is attached to it. See the Google help posting "Change your username". For the new address, try a long nickname or full first name instead of first initial; or maybe add a string of numbers, a city your contacts will recognize, or a title. Give your important contacts plenty of advance notice, post the new address with the reasons you're switching [perhaps with a list of the confusing other identities as well] on your "old" Google+ profile. After a reasonable time (say six months or a year), delete your old account. Make sure you change your address at all the "various sites" you've registered at before doing so, in case you need to use a password reset function.

Anonymous Coward

Periods don't count (0)

Also, note that the periods in your name don't make any difference. Email addressed to Something.Else@gmail.com, Some.ThingElse@gmail.com and SomethingElse@gmail.com go to the same mailbox.

... If you are certain that everyone will use the periods just as you specified then it is pretty easy to add a filter which separates the mail into different folders based on the position of the periods. That can automatically filter email addresses that aren't formatted to your liking.

[Apr 21, 2014] Google Aids Scientology-Linked Group CCHR With Pay-Per-Click Ads

Slashdot

An anonymous reader writes "The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), a Scientology front group, has received a 'grant from Google in the amount of $10,000 per month worth of Pay Per Click Advertising to be used in our Orange County anti-psych campaigns.' CCHR believes that ALL psychiatrists are evil. They believe that psychiatrists were behind the holocaust, and these shadow men were never brought to justice. CCHR also believes that psychiatrists were behind the 911 attacks. Scientologists believe that psychiatrists have always been evil, and their treachery goes back 75 million years when the psychiatrists assisted XENU in killing countless alien life forms. Thanks Google! We may be able to stop these evil Psychs once and for all!"

Anonymous Coward

Messed up organizations with happy names.

Just based on their name, you would think that it is a good group of people. They might as well be called the 'Children's Safety Council', while they barbecue infants.

A commenter on the linked blog sums up how, even if this is true, it's not news in the way the headline makes it seem.

FOTF2012 says
April 18, 2014 at 11:26 am

The Boris letter is misleading. Makes it sound like CCHR applied for and got a grant from Google in the sense of a monetary gift.

Pretty much anyone can set up a Google ad words account (https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/1704354?hl=en) and then learn how to manage the details (https://www.google.com/grants/details.html). Here are the basic qualifications: https://www.google.com/grants/... [google.com].

One requirement is to be a 501(c)3, which CCHR is. You can search for them on GuideStar (http://www.guidestar.org/?gclid=CKDF0e2q6r0CFVKFfgodPrMAHA) and you get 38 results. Apparently CCHR sets up separate entities in each state - maybe they have to as a charity.

One of the Google Ads program restrictions is that you can only link to one legitimate website. So I imagine they will link to http://www.cchr.org/ [cchr.org].

Anyway, this "grant" is something that any "non-profit" can use. It is nothing significant Google has given CCHR specifically.

It is part of a program that no doubt profits Google while they can say they are helping non-profits. Further, given the eligibility criteria (which CCHR meet), if Google were to deny CCHR use of the program, they would be in a lawsuit and would probably lose.

SubtleArray


CCHR has made some valid points... (Score:1)
by (2633093) on Sunday April 20, 2014 @02:19PM (#46800483) Homepage
If you can look past the weird conspiracy theories and Xenu stuff. Late last year I saw a documentary called "The Marketing of Madness." It makes a compelling case about how over-medicated we're becoming, and how simple quirks are now being labeled as illnesses to turn a profit. There might be some truth to this. CCHR might not be an entirely awful group.

[Jan 11, 2014] The Googlization of Everything: (And Why We Should Worry)

Frank A. Pasquale III

... ... ...

Public Failure

Progressives often cite "market failure" as a reason for regulation. But the term itself has a hidden laissez-faire bias, implying that markets generally succeed and that intervention is extraordinary. Vaidhyanathan balances the playing field by introducing the idea of the "public failure," which itself is parasitic on a larger vision of endeavors naturally performed or sponsored by government or civil society. As he explains,

[N]eoliberalism. . . .had its roots in two prominent ideologies: techno-fundamentalism, an optimistic belief in the power of technology to solve problems . . . and market fundamentalism, the notion that most problems are better (at least more efficiently) solved by the actions of private parties rather than by state oversight or investment.

Neoliberalism [included] . . . substantial state subsidy and support for firms that promulgated the neoliberal model and supported its political champions. But in the end the private sector calls the shots and apportions (or hoards) resources, as the instruments once used to rein in the excesses of firms have been systematically dismantled. . . . .

Google has deftly capitalized on a thirty-year tradition of "public failure," chiefly in the United States but in much of the rest of the world as well. Public failure, in contrast, occurs when instruments of the state cannot satisfy public needs and deliver services effectively. This failure occurs not necessarily because the state is the inappropriate agent to solve a particular problem (although there are plenty of areas in which state service is inefficient and counterproductive); it may occur when the public sector has been intentionally dismantled, degraded, or underfunded, while expectations for its performance remain high.

Vaidhyanathan's call for a "Human Knowledge Project" in response to this trend is one of the few tech policy proposals that is bold, ambitious, and comprehensive enough to address the challenges posed by privatized knowledge systems.

Matthew P. Ciszek

... The idea of "techno-fundamentalism" resonated deeply with me as I have struggled with efforts in my profession to abandon tried and true methods of librarianship and information science in the rush to embrace the latest gadget or newest technology. Indeed, American culture (and it could be argued Western culture as well) has become fascinated with all things tech to the point of techno-fundamentalism, or a blind faith in technology and its ability to solve all the world's problems. Technology has done great things for the human race, but has also had weighty consequences as well.

Riparchivist

"...we are not Google's customers: we are its product", March 27, 2011

From the observation that "...we are not Google's customers: we are its product" (p.3) through the suggestion of a Human Knowledge Project I found this book to be a well-written and informative read. Mr. Vaidhyanathan gives good detail regarding the many fingers that Google has in so much of the Internet's tools and products while always reminding us that Google is an advertising company, an advertising company that does its work through seemingly free tools that they make. These product's default settings are designed to collect the maximum data about our personal use of the Web. So, if you use Google's products (or any other product) look at the default settings and change them to something that you can live with, or do without.

J. C. Jeanty "Jeanty-Mang" (Haiti)

An interesting view of google., June 11, 2012

... ... ...

For certain, I agree with the fact that google has incredible power upon all of us. A scary amount of power that in retrospect, I don't think any of us would willingly handover to a shareholder owned, profit driven multi-national corporation, which core widget product is the information it collects on us to sell to other just as big corporations. In that sense, I am now infinitely more cognizant of this new big brother we now have burgeoned into existence through our collective seed of trust. This was the author's goal truly. To open our eyes to this world we were now in. We aren't necessarily living in a open free world, but rather one owned by a corporation that in the future, could exercise its power over us and it all.

[Dec 31, 2013] Google needs heavier tax, regulation, poll finds by Philip Dorling

"There is overwhelming support, 79 per cent, for government legislation to force Google to pay tax at the same level as Australian companies..."
Dec 31, 2013 | The Age

Most Australians are opposed to Google handing over Australian data to American spy agencies and want greater privacy protection following the revelations of US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden. There is also strong support for greater government regulation to force the internet giant to pay more tax in Australia.

... ... ...

Two-thirds of Australians also oppose Google giving their user data to US intelligence and law-enforcement agencies such as the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Google has publicly reported that US authorities' requests for user data increased by 85 per cent between 2010 and 2012 (from 8888 in 2010 to 16,407 in 2012). Most data access requests were from law-enforcement agencies seeking information about drug trafficking and other criminal activity. The number of formal requests relating to foreign intelligence and terrorist targets has not been disclosed.

... ... ..

The UMR survey also reveals increasing Australian disquiet about Google's integrity, with 44 per cent of people agreeing with a suggestion the company manipulates its search results for its own benefit. This is a 12 per cent rise since the 2011 survey.

The latest survey also shows a large majority, 70 per cent, disapprove of Google's use of offshore tax structures to minimise the amount of tax it pays in Australia. There is overwhelming support, 79 per cent, for government legislation to force Google to pay tax at the same level as Australian companies.

Google has attracted widespread criticism for avoiding billions of dollars in worldwide income taxes by shifting revenue into shell companies registered in tax havens such as Bermuda.

The company's Australian arm paid just $781,741 in tax in 2011, despite revenues exceeding $201 million. It paid $6.16 million in tax in 2012, with revenue rising to just under $269 million. However, the published accounts do not include all revenue earned from its dominant search business, which is estimated to generate between $1 billion and $1.5 billion annually in Australia.

UMR managing director John Utting said: ''Google has such a high degree of influence on our media and advertising that it is time it was subjected to close scrutiny.

''I employ 15 people in my business and I paid more tax than Google does with its billion-dollar-and-growing revenue stream.''

[Dec 27, 2013] What Surveillance Valley knows about you By Yasha Levine

December 22, 2013 Crooks and Liars

"In 2012, the data broker industry generated 150 billion in revenue that's twice the size of the entire intelligence budget of the United States government-all generated by the effort to detail and sell information about our private lives."
- Senator Jay Rockefeller IV

"Quite simply, in the digital age, data-driven marketing has become the fuel on which America's free market engine runs."

- Direct Marketing Association

* * *

Google is very secretive about the exact nature of its for-profit intel operation and how it uses the petabytes of data it collects on us every single day for financial gain. Fortunately, though, we can get a sense of the kind of info that Google and other Surveillance Valley megacorps compile on us, and the ways in which that intel might be used and abused, by looking at the business practices of the "data broker" industry.

Thanks to a series of Senate hearings, the business of data brokerage is finally being understood by consumers, but the industry got its start back in the 1970s as a direct outgrowth of the failure of telemarketing. In its early days, telemarketing had an abysmal success rate: only 2 percent of people contacted would become customers. In his book, "The Digital Perso," Daniel J. Solove explains what happened next:

To increase the low response rate, marketers sought to sharpen their targeting techniques, which required more consumer research and an effective way to collect, store, and analyze information about consumers. The advent of the computer database gave marketers this long sought-after ability - and it launched a revolution in targeting technology.

Data brokers rushed in to fill the void. These operations pulled in information from any source they could get their hands on - voter registration, credit card transactions, product warranty information, donations to political campaigns and non-profits, court records - storing it in master databases and then analyzing it in all sorts of ways that could be useful to direct-mailing and telemarketing outfits. It wasn't long before data brokers realized that this information could be used beyond telemarketing, and quickly evolved into a global for-profit intelligence business that serves every conceivable data and intelligence need.

Today, the industry churns somewhere around $200 billion in revenue annually. There are up to 4,000 data broker companies - some of the biggest are publicly traded - and together, they have detailed information on just about every adult in the western world.

No source of information is sacred: transaction records are bought in bulk from stores, retailers and merchants; magazine subscriptions are recorded; food and restaurant preferences are noted; public records and social networks are scoured and scraped. What kind of prescription drugs did you buy? What kind of books are you interested in? Are you a registered voter? To what non-profits do you donate? What movies do you watch? Political documentaries? Hunting reality TV shows?

That info is combined and kept up to date with address, payroll information, phone numbers, email accounts, social security numbers, vehicle registration and financial history. And all that is sliced, isolated, analyzed and mined for data about you and your habits in a million different ways.

The dossiers are not restricted to generic market segmenting categories like "Young Literati" or "Shotguns and Pickups" or "Kids & Cul-de-Sacs," but often contain the most private and intimate details about a person's life, all of it packaged and sold over and over again to anyone willing to pay.

Take MEDbase200, a boutique for-profit intel outfit that specializes in selling health-related consumer data. Well, until last week, the company offered its clients a list of rape victims (or "rape sufferers," as the company calls them) at the low price of $79.00 per thousand. The company claims to have segmented this data set into hundreds of different categories, including stuff like the ailments they suffer, prescription drugs they take and their ethnicity:

These rape sufferers are family members who have reported, or have been identified as individuals affected by specific illnesses, conditions or ailments relating to rape. Medbase200 is the owner of this list. Select from families affected by over 500 different ailments, and/or who are consumers of over 200 different Rx medications. Lists can be further selected on the basis of lifestyle, ethnicity, geo, gender, and much more. Inquire today for more information.

MEDbase promptly took its "rape sufferers" list off line last week after its existence was revealed in a Senate investigation into the activities of the data-broker industry. The company pretended like the list was a huge mistake. A MEDbase rep tried convincing a Wall Street Journal reporter that its rape dossiers were just a "hypothetical list of health conditions/ailments." The rep promised it was never sold to anyone. Yep, it was a big mistake. We can all rest easy now. Thankfully, MEDbase has hundreds of other similar dossier collections, hawking the most private and sensitive medical information.

For instance, if lists of rape victims aren't your thing, MEDbase can sell dossiers on people suffering from anorexia, substance abuse, AIDS and HIV, Alzheimer's Disease, Asperger Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Bedwetting (Enuresis), Binge Eating Disorder, Depression, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Genital Herpes, Genital Warts, Gonorrhea, Homelessness, Infertility, Syphilis… the list goes on and on and on and on.

Normally, such detailed health information would fall under federal law and could not be disclosed or sold without consent. But because these data harvesters rely on indirect sources of information instead of medical records, they're able to sidestep regulations put in place to protect the privacy of people's health data.

MEBbase isn't the only company exploiting these loopholes. By the industry's own estimates, there are something like 4,000 for-profit intel companies operating in the United States. Many of them sell information that would normally be restricted under federal law. They offer all sorts of targeted dossier collections on every population segments of our society, from the affluent to the extremely vulnerable:

If you want to see how this kind of profile data can be used to scam unsuspecting individuals, look no further than a Richard Guthrie, an Iowa retiree who had his life savings siphoned out of his bank account. Their weapon of choice: databases bought from large for-profit data brokers listing retirees who entered sweepstakes and bought lottery tickets.

Here's a 2007 New York Times story describing the racket:

Mr. Guthrie, who lives in Iowa, had entered a few sweepstakes that caused his name to appear in a database advertised by infoUSA, one of the largest compilers of consumer information. InfoUSA sold his name, and data on scores of other elderly Americans, to known lawbreakers, regulators say.

InfoUSA advertised lists of "Elderly Opportunity Seekers," 3.3 million older people "looking for ways to make money," and "Suffering Seniors," 4.7 million people with cancer or Alzheimer's disease. "Oldies but Goodies" contained 500,000 gamblers over 55 years old, for 8.5 cents apiece. One list said: "These people are gullible. They want to believe that their luck can change."

Data brokers argue that cases like Guthrie are an anomaly - a once-in-a-blue-moon tragedy in an industry that takes privacy and legal conduct seriously. But cases of identity thieves and sophistical con-rings obtaining data from for-profit intel businesses abound. Scammers are a lucrative source of revenue. Their money is just as good as anyone else's. And some of the profile "products" offered by the industry seem tailored specifically to fraud use.

As Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sergeant Yves Leblanc told the New York Times: "Only one kind of customer wants to buy lists of seniors interested in lotteries and sweepstakes: criminals. If someone advertises a list by saying it contains gullible or elderly people, it's like putting out a sign saying 'Thieves welcome here.'"

So what is InfoUSA, exactly? What kind of company would create and sell lists customized for use by scammers and cons?

As it turns out, InfoUSA is not some fringe or shady outfit, but a hugely profitable politically connected company. InfoUSA was started by Vin Gupta in the 1970s as a basement operation hawking detailed lists of RV and mobile home dealers. The company quickly expanded into other areas and began providing business intel services to thousands of businesses. By 2000, the company raised more than $30 million in venture capital funding from major Silicon Valley venture capital firms.

By then, InfoUSA boasted of having information on 230 million consumers. A few years later, InfoUSA counted the biggest Valley companies as its clients, including Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL. It got involved not only in raw data and dossiers, but moved into payroll and financial, conducted polling and opinion research, partnered with CNN, vetted employees and provided customized services for law enforcement and all sorts of federal and government agencies: processing government payments, helping states locate tax cheats and even administrating President Bill Clinton "Welfare to Work" program. Which is not surprising, as Vin Gupta is a major and close political supporter of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

In 2008, Gupta was sued by InfoUSA shareholders for inappropriately using corporate funds. Shareholders accused of Gupta of illegally funneling corporate money to fund an extravagant lifestyle and curry political favor. According to the Associated Press, the lawsuit questioned why Gupta used private corporate jets to fly the Clintons on personal and campaign trips, and why Gupta awarded Bill Clinton a $3.3 million consulting gig.

As a result of the scandal, InfoUSA was threatened with delisting from Nasdaq, Gupta was forced out and the company was snapped up for half a billion dollars by CCMP Capital Advisors, a major private equity firm spun off from JP Morgan in 2006. Today, InfoUSA continues to do business under the name Infogroup, and has nearly 4,000 employees working in nine countries.

As big as Infogroup is, there are dozens of other for-profit intelligence businesses that are even bigger: massive multi-national intel conglomerates with revenues in the billions of dollars. Some of them, like Lexis-Nexis and Experian, are well known, but mostly these are outfits that few Americans have heard of, with names like Epsilon, Altegrity and Acxiom.

These for-profit intel behemoths are involved in everything from debt collection to credit reports to consumer tracking to healthcare analysis, and provide all manner of tailored services to government and law enforcement around the world. For instance, Acxiom has done business with most major corporations, and boasts of intel on "500 million active consumers worldwide, with about 1,500 data points per person. That includes a majority of adults in the United States," according to the New York Times.

This data is analyzed and sliced in increasingly sophisticated and intrusive ways to profile and predict behavior. Merchants are using it customize shopping experience- Target launched a program to figure out if a woman shopper was pregnant and when the baby would be born, "even if she didn't want us to know." Life insurance companies are experimenting with predictive consumer intel to estimate life expectancy and determine eligibility for life insurance policies. Meanwhile, health insurance companies are raking over this data in order to deny and challenge the medical claims of their policyholders.

Even more alarming, large employers are turning to for-profit intelligence to mine and monitor the lifestyles and habits of their workers outside the workplace. Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal described how employers have partnered with health insurance companies to monitor workers for "health-adverse" behavior that could lead to higher medical expenses down the line:

Your company already knows whether you have been taking your meds, getting your teeth cleaned and going for regular medical checkups. Now some employers or their insurance companies are tracking what staffers eat, where they shop and how much weight they are putting on - and taking action to keep them in line.

But companies also have started scrutinizing employees' other behavior more discreetly. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina recently began buying spending data on more than 3 million people in its employer group plans. If someone, say, purchases plus-size clothing, the health plan could flag him for potential obesity - and then call or send mailings offering weight-loss solutions.

…"Everybody is using these databases to sell you stuff," says Daryl Wansink, director of health economics for the Blue Cross unit. "We happen to be trying to sell you something that can get you healthier."

"As an employer, I want you on that medication that you need to be on," says Julie Stone, a HR expert at Towers Watson told the Wall Street Journal.

Companies might try to frame it as a health issue. I mean, what kind of asshole could be against employers caring about the wellbeing of their workers? But their ultimate concern has nothing to do with the employee health. It's all about the brutal bottom line: keeping costs down.

An employer monitoring and controlling your activity outside of work? You don't have to be union agitator to see the problems with this kind of mindset and where it could lead. Because there are lots of things that some employers might want to know about your personal life, and not only to "keep costs down." It could be anything: to weed out people based on undesirable habits or discriminate against workers based on sexual orientation, regulation and political beliefs.

It's not difficult to imagine that a large corporation facing a labor unrest or a unionization drive would be interested in proactively flagging potential troublemakers by pinpointing employees that might be sympathetic to the cause. But the technology and data is already here for wide and easy application: did a worker watch certain political documentaries, donate to environmental non-profits, join an animal rights Facebook group, tweet out support for Occupy Wall Street, subscribe to the Nation or Jacobin, buy Naomi Klein's "Shock Doctrine"? Or maybe the worker simply rented one of Michael Moore's films? Run your payroll through one of the massive consumer intel databases and look if there is any matchup. Bound to be plenty of unpleasant surprises for HR!

This has happened in the past, although in a cruder and more limited way. In the 1950s, for instance, some lefty intellectuals had their lefty newspapers and mags delivered to P.O. boxes instead of their home address, worrying that otherwise they'd get tagged as Commie symps. That might have worked in the past. But with the power of private intel companies, today there's nowhere to hide.

FTC Commissioner Julie Brill has repeatedly voiced concern that unregulated data being amassed by for-profit intel companies would be used to discriminate and deny employment, and to determine consumer access to everything from credit to insurance to housing. "As Big Data algorithms become more accurate and powerful, consumers need to know a lot more about the ways in which their data is used," she told the Wall Street Journal.

Pam Dixon, executive director of the Privacy World Forum, agrees. Dixon frequently testifies on Capitol Hill to warn about the growing danger to privacy and civil liberties posed by big data and for-profit intelligence. In Congressional testimony back in 2009, Dixon called this growing mountain of data the "modern permanent record" and explained that users of these new intel capabilities will inevitably expand to include not just marketers and law enforcement, but insurance companies, employers, landlords, schools, parents, scammers and stalkers. "The information – like credit reports – will be used to make basic decisions about the ability of individual to travel, participate in the economy, find opportunities, find places to live, purchase goods and services, and make judgments about the importance, worthiness, and interests of individuals."

* * *

For the past year, Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV has been conducting a Senate Commerce Committee investigation of the data broker industry and how it affects consumers. The committee finished its investigation last week without reaching any real conclusions, but issued a report warning about the dangers posed by the for-profit intel industry and the need for further action by lawmakers. The report noted with concern that many of these firms failed to cooperate with the investigation into their business practices:

Data brokers operate behind a veil of secrecy. Three of the largest companies – Acxiom, Experian, and Epsilon – to date have been similarly secretive with the Committee with respect to their practices, refusing to identify the specific sources of their data or the customers who purchase it. … The refusal by several major data broker companies to provide the Committee complete responses regarding data sources and customers only reinforces the aura of secrecy surrounding the industry.

Rockefeller's investigation was an important first step breaking open this secretive industry, but it was missing one notable element. Despite its focus on companies that feed on people's personal data, the investigation did not include Google or the other big Surveillance Valley data munchers. And that's too bad. Because if anything, the investigation into data brokers only highlighted the danger posed by the consumer-facing data companies like Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Apple.

As intrusive as data brokers are, the level of detail in the information they compile on Americans pales to what can be vacuumed up by a company like Google. To compile their dossiers, traditional data brokers rely on mostly indirect intel: what people buy, where they vacation, what websites they visit. Google, on the other hand, has access to the raw uncensored contents of your inner life: personal emails, chats, the diary entries and medical records that we store in the cloud, our personal communication with doctors, lawyers, psychologists, friends. Data brokers know us through our spending habits. Google accesses the unfiltered details of our personal lives.

A recent study showed that Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to having their online activity tracked and analyzed. Seventy-three percent of people polled for the Pew Internet & American Life Project viewed the tracking of their search history as an invasion of privacy, while 68 percent were against targeted advertising, replying: "I don't like having my online behavior tracked and analyzed."

This isn't news to companies like Google, which last year warned shareholders: "Privacy concerns relating to our technology could damage our reputation and deter current and potential users from using our products and services."

Little wonder then that Google, and the rest of Surveillance Valley, is terrified that the conversation about surveillance could soon broaden to include not only government espionage, but for-profit spying as well.

[Dec 27, 2013] Google removes privacy feature from Android mobile software

In November Google agreed to pay a $17 million fine to settle allegations that it secretly tracked Web users by placing special digital files on the Web browsers of their smartphones.
Reuters

(Reuters) - Google Inc has removed an experimental privacy feature from its Android mobile software that had allowed users to block apps from collecting personal information such as address book data and a user's location.

The change means that owners of smartphones using Android 4.4.2, the latest version of the world's most popular operating system for mobile devices released this week, must provide access to their personal data in order to use certain apps.

A company spokesman said the feature had been included by accident in Android 4.3, the version released last summer.

"We are suspicious of this explanation, and do not think that it in any way justifies removing the feature rather than improving it," said Peter Eckersley, technology projects director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The digital rights website first publicized the change in a blog post on Friday.

Android users who wish to retain the privacy controls by not upgrading to Android 4.4.2 could be vulnerable to security risks, Eckersley said. "For the time being, users will need to chose between either privacy or security on the Android devices, but not both."

Many third-party apps for Android devices, such as music-identifying service Shazam and popular smartphone flashlight apps, require access to personal information that does not always have an obvious connection to the app's functionality, such as phone call information and location data.

The privacy feature allowed users to pick and choose which personal data a third-party app can collect, Eckersley said. Users had to install a special Apps Ops Launcher software, which was created by another company, in order to access the hidden privacy controls.

Android software was loaded on 81 percent of all smartphones shipped worldwide in the third quarter, according to industry research firm IDC. Apple Inc's iOS, the software used on the iPhone, had 12.9 percent market share.

Privacy has become an increasingly important issue as smartphones, which are loaded with consumers' personal information, become the primary computing device for many consumers. In November Google agreed to pay a $17 million fine to settle allegations that it secretly tracked Web users by placing special digital files on the Web browsers of their smartphones.

(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Richard Chang)

[Dec 19, 2013] Tech Leaders and Obama Find Shared Problem: Fading Public Trust

Dec 18, 2013 | NYT

For months, leading technology companies have been buffeted by revelations about government spying on their customers' data, which they believe are undermining confidence in their services.

"Both sides are saying, 'My biggest issue right now is trust,' " said Matthew Prince, co-founder and chief executive of CloudFlare, an Internet start-up. "If you're on the White House side, the issue is they're getting beaten up because they're seen as technically incompetent. On the other side, the tech industry needs the White House right now to give a stern rebuke to the N.S.A. and put in real procedures to rein in a program that feels like it's out of control."

The meeting of Mr. Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and 15 executives from the likes of Apple, Google, Facebook and Yahoo came a week after those companies and other giants, usually archrivals, united in a public campaign calling for reform in government surveillance practices.

On Monday, a federal district judge ruled that the N.S.A. sweep of data from all Americans' phone calls was unconstitutional, a ruling that added import to the discussions.

...Several executives, including Ms. Mayer, the chief executive of Yahoo, expressed concerned that foreign countries may now decide to prevent all the user data generated by users in a foreign country from flowing to the United States, the people said. One such law has been proposed in Brazil. The executives said these laws would significantly hurt their businesses and America's start-up economy.

...The meeting reflected a shift in the tech sector's once-close relationship with Mr. Obama, whose 2008 election many industry executives generously supported.

Chuck Woods, ID

I don't see how there can be any trust restored until the administration changes it's outlook on Edward Snowden. Without the revelations about wholesale spying and illegal data collection by Snowden we would not even be having this national discussion. President Obama will be on the wrong side of history if he doesn't recognize the value of this issue. It would be sad if he is remembered as the president of drones and spying on citizens. Perhaps healthcare will save him from that. But isn't about time he stood up to the spooks and hawks who pull many of the levers.

Deregulate_This, Oregon

President Obama meets with these particular tech CEOs? The same ones who claim there are no CS graduates in America? The same ones who abuse the H-1B visa program and undercut American wages? The same ones who happily signed on to sell information to the C.I.A. and N.S.A.? (Our tax dollars pay for access to their data - see previous NYT articles about payouts to tech companies)

I've worked in the tech industry for 15 years and have seen massive layoffs of Americans while they send jobs overseas. Now, they are being used as Obama's advisers? What could they possibly advise? "Lower Wages" "Allow us to outsource more" "Allow us to have permanent unpaid interns" "keep paying us for private user information"?

eric glen
Hopkinton, NH

"The Adminstration told executives that government action related to NSA surveillance would happen in the new year. . . "

Yeah, and if you like your plan you can keep your plan, period.

This article to some degree depicts our President as somehow an outsider to the NSA workings.

He's the commander in chief. He could have changed the system five years ago if he wanted to.

Our President has authorized the spying that has gone on and seeks to prosecute Snowden to the fulll extent of the law. Why, because President Obama believes the government should spy on us.

If only Snowden were an "undocumented worker", he would be safe from prosecution whatever his crimes.

AdamOnDemand, Bloomingdale, NJ

Unchecked power to spy is like any other unchecked power: it corrupts, and while it may be intended for only the best reasons, it won't be used only or even primarily for them for long...

senatordl
new jersey

"The president made clear his belief in an open, free and innovative Internet ". Anyone who believes that is delusional! this president and his congressional co=conspirators are the worst thing that has ever happened to the US. the last thing they believe in is something that is open let alone free. we are no longer free because they take our freedom of choice away on virtually everything. The worst part is people on the government dole don't see it or don't care. if we have not lost what we fought for during several wars then this war is even more insidious because most people are not even aware that it's being waged against them.

Brooklyn Song, Brooklyn
NYT Pick

Facebook and Google are 1) speaking with Obama about how bad the NSA spying is for business, and b) buying fiber optic cables to evade government spying out their customers (us).

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2525732/Facebook-Google-b...

In other words, giant corporations are the good guys now. Brave new world.

rcrogers6, Durham, NC

It's a little late to install a competent IT professional to run the website development contract - or should I say contracts. The mismanagement began when President Obama eschewed competent advice and turned the ACA implementation over to the White House staffers who shepherded it through Congress. This concrete demonstration of the President's lack of any managerial background and unwillingness to accept expert advice has permeated his presidency and led to the disappointment of those of us who voted for him - twice.

I cannot imagine anything concerning either of the meeting's subjects that would warrant that grin or the reciprocating smiles of the apparent sycophants. We will soon see what impact this president's ignorance and arrogance has had on the fortunes of the Democratic Party in the 2014 elections. Next time, I will try not to be influenced by a charismatic candidate and look for one who brings some experience to the table. I honestly had looked forward to change and a new era in politics. Well, in regard to the Legislative Branch, that's what I got - in the form of a disaster. The Executive, in lieu of change, has just delivered more of the same with a soupcon of additional incompetence.

alan, United States

Since it is obvious to even a blind man that the government has no real desire to protect Americans from illegal spying< I hope Brazil and other nations will pass laws that forces tech companies to keep their citizens data in their respective countries.

This will costs the tech industries billions of dollars. That is the only way they will get out of bed with the government. They can cry foul all they want to but it sounds hollows. After all, AT&T and the other phone companies turned over call records to the government after 911 without a whimper.

Maybe when enough people stop using their services or go with a company that is serious about users' privacy, Microsoft and the rest will do the right thing.

Nathan an Expat, China

The Internet companies' real concern is loss of overseas markets due to revelations they were providing voluntary and/or unwitting back door access to their customer data to US intelligence services. If their overseas clientele and their governments wake up this might lead to a "balkanisation!" of the Internet -- that translates into loss of market share for the major players. Most amusing is that major telecommunication companies like CISCO, Juniper and Alcatel who by definition have to be major players in this activity have managed with the collusion of mainstream media to keep a low profile on this. No visits to the White House for them because they are fully in line with these programs and have been for decades. Meanwhile, the US senators advise/warn foreigners not to buy telecommunication systems from China's Huawei because you know . . .

Jerry, New York

It's nice when the families get together to decide how to divide control over citizens and their money. God bless them.

Trenton, Washington, D.C.

The tech moguls are creating the devices and application that track the 99 percent's every move, thought and action--technology they sell to the federal government. They lobby for privatizing of public services so they can exert even greater control.

And, yeah, if they're not Libertarians feeding at the public trough, they're Democrats.

All it will take is one well-coordinated nationwide terrorist attack and we'll all be in virtual lock-down via technology created and peddled by these children.

Watch for the false flag.

Jim Michie, Bethesda, Maryland

What amazes me is how and why Barack Obama keeps flashing those toothy smiles. Here is a man who "gave us hope" and "promised" us so much, but delivered so little, continuing many of the ugly, dark policies of the Bush regime and adding his own. Among so many betrayals, Obama has failed to close his gulag, Guantanamo, failed to bring all of our troops home, expanded his war capabilities, failed to prosecute his felon friends on Wall Street and in the too-big-to-jail banks, launched a war on both whistleblowers and journalists, worked closely with the for-profit "health insurance industry" to create a "Frankenstein health care plan" and I could go on and on and on and on. "Fading trust," you say, New York Times? Shouldn't your headline read, "Tech Leaders and Obama Find Shared Problem: Lost Public Trust"!

John, Hartford

Reflects a shift? It actually reflects the closeness and interdependence of the relationship between government the tech industry. At times I wonder who writes these articles, 28 year old techno whizzes who may know all about IT but very little about the realities of power?

66hawk, Gainesville, VA

This article feel like empty calories to me. The characterization of the meeting is mostly critical when it seems that the fact that the meeting was held and that an exchange of viewpoints was accomplished made the meeting a success. I have no doubt that Obama will address some of the concerns that the tech industry has while still maintaining the ability to protect our nation from terrorists. The problem of getting people to trust that social media and the internet are totally secure is probably unsolvable. If you don't want someone to have access to your information, you certainly don't want to use Facebook.

Pat Choate, Washington, Va.

The expose of the NSA excesses and that Agency's linkages with these corporations is taking a heavy tool on these companies' foreign-derived bottom line and global reputation. What citizen or company in any foreign country wants to do business with a corporation that is secretly funneling their clients' data to US spy agencies.

Big Tech's concern for their profits will result in more pressures for "reforms" at NSA than anything the Congress, Courts or Administration would ever do on their own.

Steve Fankuchen, Oakland CA

The information Americans gladly give to private companies is more of a threat to individual well-being and collective democracy than the egregious data collecting of the government. The real danger is that Apple is much more popular than the government, because people understand what their iPod does for them but not what the government does for them.

The workings of the government are, compared to that of the big tech corporations, quite transparent. You may or may not like the influence of the Koch brothers money on politics, but at least it all plays out in a relatively public arena. Google not so much. And, while our electoral process is very far from perfect, you have more of an influence on that than you do on corporate policy. Have you tried voting Tim Cook or Mark Zuckerberg out of office?

What the government is doing now it has done for decades, spying with whatever tools were available. They may have new tools, but so do those they want to spy on. What is different now is that there are huge, wealthy corporations whose profit largely come from spying and espionage i.e. the collection of your info with or without your permission. And to the extent that you may have become dependent on the internet and these companies, they simply make you an offer you can't refuse.

Dean Charles Marshall, California

Steve your comment is "spot on". Our deification of technology is beyond absurd. At the end of the day the Internet has become a vast "sink hole" of distraction where tech companies rake in billions covertly pimping off our private information in exchange for bits and bits of superfluous and dubious information we crave, but for reasons we can't explain. Thanks to companies like Google, Apple and Facebook we've become a nation of techno zombies enamored with the trivial pursuit.

ronco, San Francisco

Those private companies don't intentionally weaken security and encryption standards in order to make breaking into encrypted data streams easier. Those companies make a living by ensuring the integrity of the data that you host with them. One has choices whether to give data to those companies in order to get services from them or to pay in a more traditional model. When a company is found to play loosely with data they are sussed out very quickly and very publicly. We don't have a recourse against the NSA - voting is a very slow process.

While researchers have known about the weaknesses introduced into data encryption standard algorithms by the NSA, none of them spoke up about it because of the chilling effect it would have on getting grants for their research.

It is a vicious circle that is not only strengthened by criminal prosecution but also character assassination and black listing at government levels. There's nothing inherently good or evil about corporations or their motives but I usually have a choice about where I purchase goods and services or even build my own company to compete. The fact that we can't trust our government to do the right thing and haven't been able to have that trust since 9/11 is a problem because one either has to wait for the voting process to eventually work (a generation?) or just vote with their feet.

Scientella, palo alto

Spying by the NSA is unconstitutional.
Silicon Valley has changed from a benevolent geek town to run by ruthless, parasitic, dishonest, money crazed functionaries of the policed state.

Jack O'Hanlon
San Juan Islands

Where was Cisco? If you want to ask some deep questions about a technology company that has sold billions of dollars worth of IP routing and switching equipment worldwide that now seems to have engineered back door access for the NSA, Cisco would be the banner carrier.

No subsea system, no terrestrial network can function without Cisco equipment in line somewhere. When Cisco claims it drives the Internet, it is not kidding.

Ironic in this is the fact that Cisco has lobbied to keep Huawei out of U.S. carrier networks based on "security issues" that have been discussed in general terms, ie, backdoors that would allow the Chinese to compromise U.S. communications.

It now seems that Cisco had some direct experience in understanding this sort of activity.

You can't pick off photonic transmissions (the fiber optic cable hacks revealed in the Snowden documents) unless you can hack the IP routers that send the traffic across the cables. A pure photonic hack is a futuristic endeavour, one that can be conducted so long as the producer of all optic routing has built in back door access at the laser level. Not so easy. All optic routing is called O-O-O, for optical-optical-optical transmission and destination routing of Internet Protocol traffic.

Bill Appledorf, British Columbia

Give me a break.

Corporate America spies on everyone to personalize the limits of the cognitive sandbox each consumer wanders in.

The NSA's job is to make sure no one extricates themselves from virtual reality, discovers the planet Earth, and finds out what global capitalism has been doing to it and the people who live here.

Information technology and covert intelligence are the public and secret sides of one and the same coin.

Cisco, Juniper, Alcatel, Huawei and a scant few others build what are called - O-E-O routers, for optical-electrical-optical transmission. The NSA is hacking the E part of this, with the vendors' potential help, obviously.

Bruce, San Diego, CA

I believe I have a way to regain the public trust: Give Mr. Snowden permission to re-enter the US, give him a Presidential pardon and award him the Congressional Gold Metal. Mr. Snowden maybe labeled a traitor by some in government; if so he is in fine company: Mr. King, Mr. Gandhi, Mr. Mandela, Mr. Patrick Henry. All of whom have been called "Traitor" and all of whom like Mr. Snowden shook up the established order for the betterment of society. Some like Mr. King, Gandhi & Henry paid the ultimate price for their beliefs.

Mr. Snowden has done more to advance the cause of freedom in the US and around the world than anyone for a long, long time. In the process he has made the "Powers That Be" very uncomfortable. Well done Sir!

borntorun45, NY

Do you feel that Snowden should be granted a Presidential pardon for cheating on the exam to obtain employment as a contractor for the NSA in Hawaii with the specific intent of mining data that he should not have had access to in the first place? Maybe you feel that Snowden should be pardoned for absconding to Hong Kong with his stolen files - do you find his fleeing the country of his own accord particularly heroic, proper, or necessary? Or, should he receive a pardon for then making that intelligence available to people who have profited by the purloined intelligence by publishing it for all the world to see, jeopardizing America's security and causing a strain on foreign relations?

Snowden carefully planned his mission, he didn't simply come upon the "leaked files" through his work in Hawaii - he has admitted to taking the job with Booz Allen specifically to obtain the files he stole. He was so much more than a whistleblower - he broke into and entered areas of the NSA he had no legal access to, and he download millions of files. Imagine anyone working in private business doing such a thing, let alone someone who took an oath of secrecy.

How exactly has "Mr. Snowden... done more to advance the cause of freedom in the US and around the world"? We are all being watched whenever we use our computers, cell phones, debit cards - it's the digital age, my friend, and the US government's surveillance of you should be the least of your worries.

Che Beauchard, Manhattan

Can't the photo shown with this article be used as evidence in a trial for a RICO violation? Surely the government has become a Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization in collusion with these corporations.

infinityON, NJ

Sorry, I am having a hard time believing that Google and Facebook are concerned about their users privacy. They are more worried about their bottom lines due to the Snowden revelations. And we can add in the Obama Administration not being concerned about Americans privacy.

Patrick Dugan, Berkeley, CA

Google's entire business is built on respecting the privacy of their users. Sure they've misstepped in the past, usually not on purpose, but the presumption that they blatantly disrespect users and their privacy is uninformed.

Colenso, Cairns

'Try working part time at WalMart for awhile and then tell me that the NSA is your biggest problem.' ~ paul, CA

I sympathise. Nevertheless, if you are a resident of a US town where there's a Walmart or some such, you can choose whether or not to work for Wal-Mart Stores Inc or for some other exploitative US employer. If you don't like it, then you can improve your qualifications or skills, move to another town or even another country. That's always been the American way.

No one, however, US citizen or non-citizen, resident or non-resident in the USA, has any direct say whatsoever in what the US National Security Agency decides to do to you. Even the so-called 'courts' that oversee the NSA admit no litigant to the proceedings.

To take up your challenge, therefore, with the exception of those who live in North Korea and similar jurisdictions, I say yes - the NSA *is* everyone's biggest problem.

[Dec 11, 2013] NSA uses Google cookies to pinpoint targets for hacking By Ashkan Soltani, Andrea Peterson, and Barton Gellman

A slide from an internal NSA presentation indicating that the agency uses at least one Google cookie as a way to identify targets for exploitation. (Washington Post)

The National Security Agency is secretly piggybacking on the tools that enable Internet advertisers to track consumers, using "cookies" and location data to pinpoint targets for government hacking and to bolster surveillance.

The agency's internal presentation slides, provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, show that when companies follow consumers on the Internet to better serve them advertising, the technique opens the door for similar tracking by the government. The slides also suggest that the agency is using these tracking techniques to help identify targets for offensive hacking operations.

For years, privacy advocates have raised concerns about the use of commercial tracking tools to identify and target consumers with advertisements. The online ad industry has said its practices are innocuous and benefit consumers by serving them ads that are more likely to be of interest to them.

The revelation that the NSA is piggybacking on these commercial technologies could shift that debate, handing privacy advocates a new argument for reining in commercial surveillance.

According to the documents, the NSA and its British counterpart, GCHQ, are using the small tracking files or "cookies" that advertising networks place on computers to identify people browsing the Internet. The intelligence agencies have found particular use for a part of a Google-specific tracking mechanism known as the "PREF" cookie. These cookies typically don't contain personal information, such as someone's name or e-mail address, but they do contain numeric codes that enable Web sites to uniquely identify a person's browser.

In addition to tracking Web visits, this cookie allows NSA to single out an individual's communications among the sea of Internet data in order to send out software that can hack that person's computer. The slides say the cookies are used to "enable remote exploitation," although the specific attacks used by the NSA against targets are not addressed in these documents.

The NSA's use of cookies isn't a technique for sifting through vast amounts of information to find suspicious behavior; rather, it lets NSA home in on someone already under suspicion - akin to when soldiers shine laser pointers on a target to identify it for laser-guided bombs.

Separately, the NSA is also using commercially gathered information to help it locate mobile devices around the world, the documents show. Many smartphone apps running on iPhones and Android devices, and the Apple and Google operating systems themselves, track the location of each device, often without a clear warning to the phone's owner. This information is more specific than the broader location data the government is collecting from cellular phone networks, as reported by the Post last week.

"On a macro level, 'we need to track everyone everywhere for advertising' translates into 'the government being able to track everyone everywhere,'" says Chris Hoofnagle, a lecturer in residence at UC Berkeley Law. "It's hard to avoid."

These specific slides do not indicate how the NSA obtains Google PREF cookies or whether the company cooperates in these programs, but other documents reviewed by the Post indicate that cookie information is among the data NSA can obtain with a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act order. If the NSA gets the data that way, the companies know and are legally compelled to assist.

The NSA declined to comment on the specific tactics outlined in this story, but an NSA spokesman sent the Post a statement: "As we've said before, NSA, within its lawful mission to collect foreign intelligence to protect the United States, uses intelligence tools to understand the intent of foreign adversaries and prevent them from bringing harm to innocent Americans."

Google declined to comment for this article, but chief executive Larry Page joined the leaders of other technology companies earlier this week in calling for an end to bulk collection of user data and for new limits on court-approved surveillance requests. "The security of users' data is critical, which is why we've invested so much in encryption and fight for transparency around government requests for information," Page said in a statement on the coalition's Web site. "This is undermined by
the apparent wholesale collection of data, in secret and without independent oversight, by many governments around the world."

How consumers are tracked online

Internet companies store small files called cookies on users' computers to uniquely identify them for ad-targeting and other purposes across many different Web sites. This advertising-driven business model pays for many of the services, like e-mail accounts, that consumers have come to expect to have for free. Yet few are aware of the full extent to which advertisers, services and Web sites track their activities across the Web and mobile devices. These data collection mechanisms are invisible to all but the most sophisticated users -- and the tools to opt-out or block them have limited effectiveness.

Privacy advocates have pushed to create a "Do Not Track" system allowing consumers to opt out of such tracking. But Jonathan Mayer of Stanford's Center for Internet and Society, who has been active in that push, says "Do Not Track efforts are stalled out." They ground to a halt when the Digital Advertising Alliance, a trade group representing online ad companies, abandoned the effort in September after clashes over the proposed policy. One of the primary issues of contention was whether consumers would be able to opt out of all tracking, or just not be served advertisements based on tracking.

Some browsers, such as Apple's Safari, automatically block a type of code known as "third-party cookies," which are often placed by companies that advertise on the site being visited. Other browsers such as Mozilla's Firefox are also experimenting with that idea. But such settings won't prevent users from receiving cookies directly from the primary sites they visit or services they use.

Google's PREF Cookie

Google assigns a unique PREF cookie anytime someone's browser makes a connection to any of the company's Web properties or services. This can occur when consumers directly use Google services such as Search or Maps, or when they visit Web sites that contain embedded "widgets" for the company's social media platform Google Plus. That cookie contains a code that allows Google to uniquely track users to "personalize ads" and measure how they use other Google products.

Given the widespread use of Google services and widgets, most Web users are likely to have a Google PREF cookie even if they've never visited a Google property directly.

That PREF cookie is specifically mentioned in an internal NSA slide, which reference the NSA using GooglePREFID, their shorthand for the unique numeric identifier contained within Google's PREF cookie. Special Source Operations (SSO) is an NSA division that works with private companies to scoop up data as it flows over the Internet's backbone and from technology companies' own systems. The slide indicates that SSO was sharing information containing "logins, cookies, and GooglePREFID" with another NSA division called Tailored Access Operations, which engages in offensive hacking operations. SSO also shares the information with the British intelligence agency GCHQ.

"This shows a link between the sort of tracking that's done by Web sites for analytics and advertising and NSA exploitation activities," says Ed Felten, a computer scientist at Princeton University. "By allowing themselves to be tracked for analytic or advertising at least some users are making themselves more vulnerable to exploitation."

This isn't the first time Google cookies have been highlighted in the NSA's attempts to identify targets to hack. A presentation released in October by the Guardian called "Tor Stinks" indicates that the agency was using cookies for DoubleClick.net, Google's third-party advertising service, in an attempt to identify users of the Internet anonymization tool Tor when they switched to regular browsing. "It's similar in the sense that you see the use of an unique ID in the cookie to allow an eavesdropper to connect the activities of a user over time," says Felten.

[Nov 20, 2013] Dear WSJ To Avoid Google Disease, Please Put A Condom On Your Content by Danny Sullivan

October 22, 2009 | Daggle

Google's goal, Thompson said, isn't really to send people from its site to other places. In reality, Google seems to have a nefarious plan to keep everyone on its own site:

Google wants to be the home page or wants to be the front page, and Marissa unintentionally encourages promiscuity. It's about digital, the whole Google model is based on digital disloyalty. It's about disloyalty to creators.

[Nov 20, 2013] Digital Disconnect How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy by Robert W. McChesney

Amazon.com

David L. Ross

A Digital Canary Sings Out Against The Dangers of Internet Monopolies, February 20, 2013

If we knew better, we'd all be suspicious, if not fearful of unregulated, concentrated power. In commerce and business theory, when just a few companies come to dominate a given field -- energy, media, air transportation, you name it -- it's called an oligopoly. We should always be on high alert when governments allow such circumstances to come about, let alone thrive. In Robert W. McChesney's "Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism Is Turning The Internet Against Democracy", the author ably, and eloquently, dissects all the disturbing history about how the internet, and the digital powers that be (read oligopoly), are undermining the free, frequent and varied expression we think our democracy should celebrate and protect.

Like the proverbial canary in a mineshaft, McChesney's latest book analyzes and underlines all the dangers, now and into the future, when oligopolistic forces threaten, via technology and sustained lobbying, the basic tenets and rights of our democracy, not to mention offering a poor example to far less scrupulous foreign governments bent on 24-7-365 digital control.

Maria M. Cadwallader (Valparaiso, NE United States) See all my reviews

Digital Disconnect by Robert W. McChesney: MUST READ, November 17, 2013

I don't often highlight passage after passage in any of my Kindle books – and I rarely buy one after reading most of a print copy – but I bought Robert W. McChesney's Digital Disconnect after reading most of it, and my copied highlights in 11 point are 21 pages long.

Why? Because I've been making one or another form of McChesney's argument – which is also Michael Moore's and Chris Hayes' argument and that of numerous others – all of my adult life – except I never focused on digital technology, my arguments are less polite, and I go farther left in my conclusions. I wouldn't spend time assuring readers/listeners that I only want to reform capitalism and protect those things, such as education and journalism, which exist for the public good. I'm a socialist, strongly in favor of emulating Denmark's "lopping off the top." Like Moore, I would replace capitalism with democracy.

I certainly agree that capitalism undermines democracy, that capitalism in the U.S. and internationally is now monopolistic corporatism, that the U.S. economy is built to sustain the institutions and people at the top, and that the internet and digital technologies can be potent weapons in the hands of either the 1% or the rest of us. I'm probably less optimistic about the future than McChesney, even though he concludes:

Left on their current course and driven by the needs of capital, digital technologies can be deployed in ways that are extraordinarily inimical to freedom, democracy, and anything remotely connected to the good life. Therefore battles over the Internet are of central importance for all those seeking to build a better society. When the dust clears on this critical juncture, if our societies have not been fundamentally transformed for the better, if democracy has not triumphed over capital, the digital revolution may prove to have been a revolution in name only, an ironic, tragic reminder of the growing gap between the potential and the reality of human society. (Kindle Locations 4936-4941).

Throughout the book, McChesney emphasizes the need to resist both the "ritualized chant to the genius of the free market" and the idea that "the internet will necessarily lead to democratic political revolutions worldwide."

Acknowledging that publicness does threaten "institutions whose power is invested in the control of information and audience," McChesney cites studies which show that "garbage in, garbage out" remains true. The internet promotes ignorance as much as knowledge; creates a false sense of community and increased loneliness and unhappiness; "routinely generates bogus information, violates people's privacy and civil rights, and facilitates various forms of harassment."

Internet searching has become less a tool for discovery and more a way to be locked in a "bubble" which prevents discovery and innovation. Using the internet/digital devices may be decreasing our linear thought process so that we cannot think deeply or creatively, and corroding our ability to remember, which is dangerous because "the art of remembering is the art of thinking." As Arianna Huffington wrote, "All these new social tools can help us bear witness more powerfully or they can help us be distracted more obsessively."

To combat the "ritualized chant to the genius of the free market," McChesney begins by describing the development of capitalism in terms of society's economic evolution from hunter gatherer, to agricultural society, to mercantile society, to industrial society and the concomitant increase in surplus, which became not just the amount produced above that needed for survival, but capital to invest in order to generate more capital: profit. This makes surplus something not to be consumed, even by the wealthy. "How the surplus is generated and distributed becomes the portfolio of political economy," he writes.

Capitalism thus tends to increase income inequality exponentially. It also "tends to evolve into monopolistic competition, or oligopoly" and "as a rule the digital era has seen a continued, arguably accelerating, rate of monopoly in the economy." Capitalism also tends toward an "endless drive to develop new technologies," whether or not that is rational for the system as a whole, and much of this technology is funded by and for the military and the growing military-digital complex. As McChesney notes, "in addition to inequality, founders saw militarism as contributor to inequality and enemy of democracy.….. 'No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.'-Madison."

McChesney also discusses the roles of advertising and public relations in expanding contemporary capitalism's monopolistic, oligarchical power over and through the media and into the government, at the expense of both privacy and a free press which supports robust investigative journalism. Tax structures and numerous rules and regulations increase and cement corporate power. Copyright law and patent law are especially insidious; instead of protecting the rights of creators for a reasonable amount of time, they protect the ability of corporations to keep information locked away or used only for corporate profit. And the internet giants are now among the most powerful of all corporations.

McChesney concludes that "efforts to reform or replace capitalism but leave the Internet giants riding high will not reform or replace really existing capitalism" because "the Internet giants are not a progressive force. Their massive profits are the result of monopoly privileges, network effects, commercialism, exploited labor, and a number of government policies and subsidies." He proposes a long list of policies and reforms (Kindle Locations 4609-4622) that "would put the Internet and our society on a very different trajectory" but says that "none of these reforms has a chance" because of political corruption. It's going to take a political movement, he says, designed to replace capitalism.

Norman Solomon on April 11, 2013
Cutting-Edge and Superb

If your daily routine took you from one homegrown organic garden to another, bypassing vast fields choked with pesticides, you might feel pretty good about the current state of agriculture.

If your daily routine takes you from one noncommercial progressive website to another, you might feel pretty good about the current state of the Internet.

But while mass media have supplied endless raptures about a digital revolution, corporate power has seized the Internet -- and the anti-democratic grip is tightening every day.

"Most assessments of the Internet fail to ground it in political economy; they fail to understand the importance of capitalism in shaping and, for lack of a better term, domesticating the Internet," says Robert W. McChesney in his illuminating new book, Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy.

Plenty of commentators loudly celebrate the Internet. Some are vocal skeptics. "Both camps, with a few exceptions, have a single, deep, and often fatal flaw that severely compromises the value of their work," McChesney writes. "That flaw, simply put, is ignorance about really existing capitalism and an underappreciation of how capitalism dominates social life. . . . Both camps miss the way capitalism defines our times and sets the terms for understanding not only the Internet, but most everything else of a social nature, including politics, in our society."

And he adds: "The profit motive, commercialism, public relations, marketing, and advertising -- all defining features of contemporary corporate capitalism -- are foundational to any assessment of how the Internet has developed and is likely to develop."

Concerns about the online world often fixate on cutting-edge digital tech. But, as McChesney points out, "the criticism of out-of-control technology is in large part a critique of out-of-control commercialism. The loneliness, alienation, and unhappiness sometimes ascribed to the Internet are also associated with a marketplace gone wild."

Discourse about the Internet often proceeds as if digital technology has some kind of mind or will of its own. It does not.

For the most part, what has gone terribly wrong in digital realms is not about the technology. I often think of what Herbert Marcuse wrote in his 1964 book One-Dimensional Man: "The traditional notion of the `neutrality' of technology can no longer be maintained. Technology as such cannot be isolated from the use to which it is put; the technological society is a system of domination which operates already in the concept and construction of techniques."

Marcuse saw the technological as fully enmeshed with the political in advanced industrial society, "the latest stage in the realization of a specific historical project -- namely, the experience, transformation, and organization of nature as the mere stuff of domination." He warned that the system's productivity and growth potential contained "technical progress within the framework of domination."

Fifty years later, McChesney's book points out: "The Internet and the broader digital revolution are not inexorably determined by technology; they are shaped by how society elects to develop them. . . . In really existing capitalism, the kind Americans actually experience, wealthy individuals and large corporations have immense political power that undermines the principles of democracy. Nowhere is this truer than in communication policy making."

Huge corporations are now running roughshod over the Internet. At the illusion-shattering core of Digital Disconnect are a pair of chapters on what corporate power has already done to the Internet -- the relentless commercialism that stalks every human online, gathering massive amounts of information to target people with ads; the decimation of privacy; the data mining and surveillance; the direct cooperation of Internet service providers, search engine companies, telecomm firms and other money-driven behemoths with the U.S. military and "national security" state; the ruthless insatiable drive, led by Apple, Google, Microsoft and other digital giants, to maximize profits.

In his new book, McChesney cogently lays out grim Internet realities. (Full disclosure: he's on the board of directors of an organization I founded, the Institute for Public Accuracy.) Compared to Digital Disconnect, the standard media critiques of the Internet are fairy tales.

[Nov 16, 2013] The Internet Ideology Why We Are Allowed to Hate Silicon Valley by Evgeny Morozov

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"?
FAZ

If Ronald Reagan was the first Teflon President, then Silicon Valley is the first Teflon Industry: no matter how much dirt one throws at it, nothing seems to stick. While "Big Pharma," "Big Food" and "Big Oil" are derogatory terms used to describe the greediness that reigns supreme in those industries, this is not the case with "Big Data." This innocent term is never used to refer to the shared agendas of technology companies. What shared agendas? Aren't these guys simply improving the world, one line of code at a time?

Something odd is going on here. While we understand that the interests of pharmaceutical, food and oil companies naturally diverge from our own, we rarely approach Silicon Valley with the requisite suspicion. Instead, we continue to treat data as if it were a special, magical commodity that could single-handedly defend itself against any evil genius who dares to exploit it.

Earlier this year, a tiny scratch appeared on the rhetorical Teflon of Silicon Valley. The Snowden affair helped – but so did other events. The world seems to have finally realized that "disruption" – the favorite word of the digital elites –describes a rather ugly, painful phenomenon. ...

...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."

How do you spot "the digital debate"? Look for arguments that appeal to the essences of things – of technology, information, knowledge and, of course, the Internet itself. Thus, whenever you hear someone say "this law is bad because it will break the Internet" or "this new gadget is good because that's what technology wants," you know that you have left the realm of the political – where arguments are usually framed around the common good – and have entered the realm of bad metaphysics. In that realm, what you are being asked to defend is the well-being of phantom digital gods that function as convenient stand-ins for corporate interests. Why does anything that might "break the Internet" also risk breaking Google? This can't be a coincidence, can it ?

Perhaps, we should ditch the technology/progress dialectic altogether. "Is it O.K. to be a Luddite?" ran the title of a fabulous 1984 essay by Thomas Pynchon – a question that he answered, by and large, in the affirmative. This question feels outdated today. "Is it okay not to be a Luddite but still hate Silicon Valley?" is a much better question, for the real enemy is not technology but the present political and economic regime – a wild combination of the military-industrial complex and the out-of-control banking and advertising – that deploys latest technologies to achieve its ugly (even if lucrative and occasionally pleasant) ends. Silicon Valley represents the most visible, the most discussed, and the most naive part of this assemblage. In short, it's okay to hate Silicon Valley – we just need to do it for the right reasons. Below are three of them – but this is hardly an exhaustive list.

The rhetoric is as lofty as it is revolutionary

Reason number one: Silicon Valley firms are building what I call "invisible barbed wire" around our lives. We are promised more freedom, more openness, more mobility; we are told we can roam wherever and whenever we want. But the kind of emancipation that we actually get is fake emancipation; it's the emancipation of a just-released criminal wearing an ankle bracelet.

Yes, a self-driving car could make our commute less dreadful. But a self-driving car operated by Google would not just be a self-driving car: it would be a shrine to surveillance – on wheels! It would track everywhere we go. It might even prevent us from going to certain places if we our mood – measured through facial expression analysis – suggests that we are too angry or tired or emotional. Yes, there are exceptions – at times, GPS does feel liberating – but the trend is clear: every new Google sensor in that car would introduce a new lever of control. That lever doesn't even have to be exercised to produce changes in our behavior – our knowledge of its presence will suffice.

Or take MOOCs. They would undoubtedly produce many shifts in power relations. We know of all the visible, positive shifts: students getting more, cheaper opportunities to learn; kids in Africa finally taking best courses on offer in America, and so on. But what about the invisible shifts? Take Coursera, a company that was started by a senior Google engineer and that has quickly become one of the leaders in the field. It now uses biometrics -- facial recognition and typing speed analysis – to verify student identity. (This comes in handy when they issue diplomas!) How did we go from universities with open-door policies to universities that check their students with biometrics? As Gilles Deleuze put in a 1990 conversation with Tony Negri, "compared with the approaching forms of ceaseless control in open sites, we may come to see the harshest confinement as part of a wonderful happy past." This connection between the seeming openness of our technological infrastructures and the intensifying degree of control remains poorly understood

... ... ...

The data-centric model of Silicon Valley capitalism seeks to convert every aspect of our everyday existence – what used to be our only respite from the vagaries of work and the anxieties of the marketplace – into a productive asset. This is done not just by blurring the distinction between work and non-work but also by making us tacitly accept the idea that our reputation is a work-in-progress – something that we could and should be honing 24/7. Therefore, everything is turned into a productive asset: our relationships, our family life, our vacations, our sleep (you are now invited to "hack" it so that you can get most of your sleep in the shortest amount of time).

The rhetoric attached to such "breakthroughs" is as lofty as it is revolutionary, especially when mixed with subjects like "the sharing economy." „This is the first stage of something more profound, which is the ability of people to structure their lives around doing multiple sharing economy activities as a choice in lieu of a 9-to-5, five-day-a-week job," said Arun Sundararajan, a professor at New York University and a big fan of "the sharing economy," in a recent interview. „This is technology-driven progress. This is what it's all about," he added. Oh yes, "progress" has never felt so good: who doesn't like working 24-7 instead of 9-5?

When privacy is becoming expensive

Reason number two: Silicon Valley has destroyed our ability to imagine other models for running and organizing our communication infrastructure. Forget about models that aren't based on advertising and that do not contribute to the centralization of data on private servers located in America. To suggest that we need to look into other – perhaps, even publicly-provided alternatives –is to risk being accused of wanting to "break the Internet." We have succumbed to what the Brazilian social theorist Roberto Unger calls "the dictatorship of no alternatives": we are asked to accept that Gmail is the best and only possible way to do email, and that Facebook is the best and only possible way to do social networking.

But consider just how weird our current arrangement is. Imagine I told you that the post office could run on a different, innovation-friendly business model. Forget stamps. They cost money – and why pay money when there's a way to send letters for free? Just think about the world-changing potential: the poor kids in Africa can finally reach you with their pleas for more laptops! So, instead of stamps, we would switch to an advertising-backed system: we'd open every letter that you send, scan its contents, insert a relevant ad, seal it, and then forward it to the recipient.

Sounds crazy? It does. But this is how we have chosen to run our email. In the wake of the NSA scandal and the debacle that is Healthcare.gov, trust in public institutions runs so low that any alternative arrangement – especially the one that would give public institutions a greater role – seems unthinkable. But this is only part of the problem. What would happen when some of our long cherished and privately-run digital infrastructure begins to crumble, as companies evolve and change their business models?

Five years ago, one could still publish silly little books with titles like "What Would Google Do?" on the assumption that the company had a coherent and mostly benevolent philosophy, eager to subsidize unprofitable services just because it could. After Google shut down Google Reader and many other popular services, this benevolence can no longer be taken for granted. In the next two-three years, there would come a day when Google would announce that it's shutting down Google Scholar – a free but completely unprofitable service – that abets millions of academics worldwide. Why aren't we preparing for this eventuality by building a robust publicly-run infrastructure? Doesn't it sound ridiculous that Europe can produce a project like CERN but seems incapable of producing an online service to keep track of papers written about CERN? Could it be because Silicon Valley has convinced us that they are in the magic industry?

Now that our communication networks are in the hands of the private sector, we should avoid making the same mistake with privacy. We shouldn't reduce this complex problem to market-based solutions. Alas, thanks to Silicon Valley's entrepreneurial zeal, privatization is already creeping in. Privacy is becoming a commodity. How does one get privacy these days? Just ask any hacker: only by studying how the right tools work. Privacy is no longer something to be taken for granted or enjoyed for free: you have to expend some resources to master the tools. Those resources could be money, patience, attention – you might even hire a consultant to do all this for you – but the point is that privacy is becoming expensive.

And what of those who can't afford tools and consultants? How do their lives change? When the founder of a prominent lending start-up – the former CIO of Google, no less – proclaims that "all data is credit data, we just don't know how to use it yet" I can't help but fear the worst. If "all data is credit data" and poor people cannot afford privacy, they are in for some dark times. How can they not be anxious when their every move, their every click, their every phone call could be analyzed to predict if they deserve credit and at what rates? If the burden of debt wasn't agonizing enough, now we'll have to live with the fact that, for the poor people, anxiety begins well before they get the actual loan. Once again, one doesn't have to hate or fear technology to worry about the future of equality, mobility and the quality of life. The "digital debate," with its inevitable detours into cultural pessimism, simply has no intellectual resources to tackle these issues.

Where are the apps to fight poverty or racial discrimination?

...The trouble with Silicon Valley is not just that it enables the NSA –it also encourages, even emboldens them. It inspires the NSA to keep searching for connections in a world of meaningless links, to record every click, to ensure that no interaction goes unnoticed, undocumented and unanalyzed. Like Silicon Valley, NSA assumes that everything is interconnected: if we can't yet link two pieces of data, it's because we haven't looked deep enough – or we need a third piece of data, to be collected in the future, to make sense of it all.

There's something delusional about this practice – and I don't use "delusional" metaphorically. For the Italian philosopher Remo Bodei, delusion does not stem from too little psychic activity, as some psychoanalytic theories would have it, but, rather, from too much of it. Delirium, he notes, is "the incapacity to filter an enormous quantity of data." While a sane, rational person "has learned that ignorance is vaster than knowledge and that one must resist the temptation to find more coherence than can currently be achieved," the man suffering from delusion cannot stop finding coherence among inherently incoherent phenomena. He generalizes too much, which results in what Bodei calls "hyper-inclusion."

"Hyper-inclusion" is exactly what plagues America's military-industrial complex today. And they don't even hide this: thus, Gus Hunt, the chief technology officer of the CIA, confesses that "since you can't connect dots you don't have …we fundamentally try to collect everything and hang on to it forever." Such hyper-inclusion, according to Bodei, is the prerogative of the deluded. For them, he writes, "the accidental, which most certainly exists in the external world, has no right of citizenship in the psychic one, where it is 'curved' to a certain explanation." For example, "a madman might find it significant that three people in a larger group are wearing a red tie, and might believe that this implies some form of persecution." Likewise, the delirious person believes that "the concept of St. Joseph includes not only the individual person but also a wooden table since St. Joseph was a carpenter." Well, it might be "delusion' for Bodei but as far as Silicon Valley and Washington are concerned, we are talking bout "the semantic Web" and "Big Data"!

Silicon Valley doesn't care that some of these connections are spurious. When Google or Facebook mess up and show us an irrelevant ad based on their misconceived view of who we are, it results in minor discomfort– and little else. When NSA or CIA mess up, it results in a loud drone strike (if you are lucky, you might qualify for an all-expenses-paid, one-way trip to Guantanamo).

The other problem with Silicon Valley's epistemology is that its view of the world is heavily distorted by its business model. Silicon Valley has two responses to any problem: it can produce more "computation" (or code) or it can process more "information" (or data). Most likely, it will be a combination of the two, giving us yet another app to track calories, weather and traffic. Such small successes allow Silicon Valley to redefine "progress" as something that naturally follows from their business plans. But while "more computation" or "more information" could be lucrative private responses to some problems, it doesn't follow that they are also most effective responses to the unwieldy, messy public problems have deep institutional and structural causes.

... ... ...

Sociologists have coined a term for this phenomenon: "problem closure." To use one recent definition, it refers to "the situation when a specific definition of a problem is used to frame subsequent study of the problem's causes and consequences in ways that preclude alternative conceptualizations of the problem." Once the causes and consequences have been narrowly defined, it's no wonder that particular solutions get most attention. This is where we are today: inspired by Silicon Valley, policy-makers are beginning to redefine problems as essentially stemming from incomplete information while envisioning solutions that only do one thing: deliver more information through apps. But where are the apps to fight poverty or racial discrimination? We are building apps to fix the problems that our apps can fix – instead of tackling problems that actually need fixing.


About the author: Evgeny Morozov's homepage

In 2010-2012 I was a visiting scholar at Stanford University and a Schwartz fellow at the New America Foundation. In 2009-2010 I was a fellow at Georgetown University and in 2008-2009 I was a fellow at the Open Society Foundations (where I also sat on the board of the Information Program between 2008 and 2012). Between 2006 and 2008 I was Director of New Media at Transitions Online.... Some of my journalism, essays and reviews are here.

[Nov 12, 2013] How Google paved the way for NSA's intercepts - just as The Register predicted 9 YEARS AGO

The Register

Flashback Much hilarity has greeted Eric Schmidt's deeply sincere "outrage" at his "discovery" that the NSA was spying on Google. For example, Vanity Fair pointed Mr Schmidt to some helpful Google searches.

But the NSA is merely treading in some well-worn footsteps – some of which were made by Google itself. Let us refresh your memory of one of the most prescient and chilling pieces of prediction in the last decade. For all this was forecast here at The Register in early 2004 – nine years ago.

In early 2004, Google launched Gmail. Gmail performed an automated interception of your email, and – having scanned the contents and guessed at its meaning – ran contextual advertising alongside it.

Former security advisor Mark Rasch, an attorney who had worked in the Department of Justice's cyberfraud department during the Clinton administration, and was writing for Security Focus, raised a very interesting problem. If Google could search through and read your email without explicit legal authorisation, then surely the security agencies could do the same.

Rasch argued that Google had redefined the words "read" ("learn the meaning") and "search", which protect citizens, when it unveiled its new contextual ads service. It had removed explicit human agency from the picture. An automated search wasn't really a search, and its computers weren't really "reading".

"This is a dangerous legal precedent which both law enforcement and intelligence agencies will undoubtedly seize upon and extend, to the detriment of our privacy," forecast Rasch, here, in June 2004.

"Google will likely argue that its computers are not 'people' and therefore the company does not 'learn the meaning' of the communication. That's where we need to be careful. We should nip this nonsensical argument in the bud before it's taken too far, and the federal government follows."

Remarkably, Rasch even suggested where the security services might most effectively put this into practice.

"Imagine if the government were to put an Echelon-style content filter on routers and ISPs, where it examines billions of communications and 'flags' only a small fraction (based upon, say, indicia of terrorist activity). Even if the filters are perfect and point the finger only completely guilty people, this activity still invades the privacy rights of the billions of innocent individuals whose communications pass the filter," he wrote. "Simply put, if a computer programmed by people learns the contents of a communication, and takes action based on what it learns, it invades privacy."

Well, fancy that.

Rasch returned to the subject several times over the years – for example here, where he discussed the implications of cloud computing.

But very few people wanted to know. Examining the ethics of internet giants is apparently vulgar. Free email, free cloud services, and bringing freedom to oppressed regimes - who wants to look a gift horse in the mouth? Through a network of think-tanks and "internet freedom" groups – it's a substantial donor to Public Knowledge, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and many others – Google even maintained the illusion that it was on your side.

Yet after pioneering an ethical loophole in the public imagination that government agencies jumped through, it spent the following decade lobbying furiously to weaken citizens' property rights. It's extraordinary what a small amount of money can buy.

Pundits and punters and politicians love to hear how Google is creating clever machines - but they seem loathe to accept that there's a Wizard behind the curtain, or that said Wizard may have a ruthless focus on its own self-interest.

"It's just bad public policy ... and perhaps illegal," fretted Schmidt to the WSJ. "There clearly are cases where evil people exist, but you don't have to violate the privacy of every single citizen of America to find them."

It's too late, Eric. Google not only made that bed, it set up the bed store

Anonymous Coward

Re: The past really is prologue!

I have never been very fond of Google's collection and retention of this-and-that from it's users.

Yes, but try avoid it. They collect direct data, meta data and atmospherics, about the only company in the world that can do this, apparently without any real legal problems (unless the EU does not give in to the relentless lobbying and US blackmail behind the scenes). When it comes to tax, they live abroad, as soon as legal problems arise, they're all of a sudden a US company.

"It's just bad public policy ... and perhaps illegal," fretted Schmidt to the WSJ. "There clearly are cases where evil people exist, but you don't have to violate the privacy of every single citizen of America to find them."

Bad people are just the pretext. The whole "bad people" thing is way overblown to start with, and what is happening is so far in excess of what is required that you can assume with a high degree of certainty that that wasn't the goal at all. It's a pork fest on the back of the tax payer, the tax payer who is already bleeding from another pork fest gone wrong at Wall Street. The genius lies in the fact that they managed to export the costs beyond the borders.

</soapbox>

Phil Atkin

Thank you for writing this

When people claim to me that Google are somehow kinder, nicer, less oppressive than Apple I shall think of this and smile.

SuccessCase

Re: Thank you for writing this

I like a company that offers good service and charges a good price for doing so. It is a straightforward transaction, you know where you stand, it is business as old as civilisation and there is a simply honesty about what is being transacted. With Google on the other hand, you are the product, you are the food on the table that Google are putting on sale in the Google restaurant.

I prefer the relationship where I pay upfront for what I use and consume. I think it results in a healthier relationship where the supplier works hard to ensure they justify their supplies to me, their customer.

People often talk about Apple without actually checking for themselves. Compare Apple's privacy policy with Google's. Really read it and think about what each company is committing to. The difference is night and day. Google use obscure language that is far from upfront and which hides what they really are reserving the right to do from the unwary. The differences provide an example of the different forces at play in the two business models.

[Nov 12, 2013] Netflix, Youtube Surpass 50% Mark of Internet Traffic

Looks like interception of traffic is now more complex then it ever was. Multimedia and bittorrent traffic dominates and it is difficult to analyze it automatically.
Slashdot

First time accepted submitter sqorbit writes

"Netflix and Youtube are gaining ground not only on the competition, such as Amazon, but also over peer-to-peer file sharing. Netflix claims more than 30 million customers and believes it could double that number in the future. Traffic from Netflix and Youtube amounted to over 50% of Internet traffic in September. Meanwhile Bittorrent traffic is down slightly (7.4% from 10%) in Internet traffic compared to last year. Could more people be satisfied with current video offerings or are less people finding useful things to download via file sharing?"

Powercntrl

Thanks Google (Score:4, Interesting)

I was indifferent about YouTube until it inexplicably linked itself to my Gmail account and now wants me to create a Google+ page in order to comment on videos. Now, I'd like nothing more to see it go up in flames, like a Tesla that hit some road debris.

Forever Wondering

Re:Thanks Google

Logout [of gmail] first [possibly clearing some cookies] and you'll have no problem. I have a gmail account [but I only access it through POP3/IMAP from thunderbird--thus, it's never logged in] and I don't have the same problem. I did have the same problem one time when I was logged into gmail.

If you'd rather not logout/login on gmail repeatedly, you can create a separate browser profile [Firefox, at least] for youtube, etc.

Solandri

Re:Thanks Google

If you'd rather not logout/login on gmail repeatedly, you can create a separate browser profile [Firefox, at least] for youtube, etc.

Or easier yet, use one browser just for logging into gmail, another browser for other stuff.

lgw

Re:Thanks Google (Score:2)

Or easier yet, cut the cord to the gmail mothership! There are other webmail products (I'm in the midst of switching to outlook.com). Yahoo and MS may have serve ads, but it's vastly less intrusive than googles omni-present tracking...

[Nov 12, 2013] Google knows too much about you

February 9, 2012 | CNN.com

Editor's note: Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review. A former CNN producer/correspondent, she is the author of "The End of Revolution: A Changing World in the Age of Live Television."

(CNN) -- If you use Google, and I know you do, you may have noticed a little banner popping up at the top of the page announcing: "We're changing our privacy policy and terms." It gives you the choice to "Learn More" or, another option, the one I'm betting most people followed, to "Dismiss."

Who wants to read about what Google plans to do with all that information it has about us?

I, too, clicked "Dismiss." That's because the very idea of considering what Google knows about me can give me heartburn. And if that happens, I may want to Google "heartburn," and then I'll wonder if my insurance company will find out that I was searching "heartburn," or, worse, that one day I will apply for a new insurance company and the side effects of having considered what Google knows will result in a denial of coverage. But I digress.

When Google announced its new policy, lovingly explaining its reason as "our desire to create one beautifully simple and intuitive experience across Google," the authorities in Europe immediately told the Internet leviathan to put off its March 1 start date until European Union officials had a chance to review Google's new quest for beauty and simplicity.

Europeans, it turns out, are much less trusting of invasions of our electronic privacy than Americans are. Americans have an intense aversion to government intrusion. If the FBI wanted to examine Google searches, the left and the right would come together -- the ACLU, Tea Party, liberals and libertarians would raise their fists together to fight for freedom of privacy. The Supreme Court would join in, as it did in the case of GPS surveillance, and conclude the people have a right to privacy, a right against any "unreasonable search," as the Constitution says.

But in the case of Google's latest move to consolidate user's data, however, most Americans paid little attention.

MacKinnon: We're losing control of our digital privacy

If Americans -- or people anywhere -- decided to take up Google's offer to check out its new policy, they would discover something so troubling, so frightening, really, that it would override the national tendency to leave companies alone to make money how they see fit. At least in the case of companies such as Google -- and now Facebook -- which know more about us than even our closest friends.

Here's what Google knows about you, what it stores right there on its servers, waiting for a hacker:

Google gets new privacy policy Google has every e-mail you ever sent or received on Gmail. It has every search you ever made, the contents of every chat you ever had over Google Talk. It holds a record of every telephone conversation you had using Google Voice, it knows every Google Alert you've set up. It has your Google Calendar with all content going back as far as you've used it, including everything you've done every day since then. It knows your contact list with all the information you may have included about yourself and the people you know. It has your Picasa pictures, your news page configuration, indicating what topics you're most interested in. And so on.

If you ever used Google while logged in to your account to search for a person, a symptom, a medical side effect, a political idea; if you ever gossiped using one of Google's services, all of this is on Google's servers. And thanks to the magic of Google's algorithms, it is easy to sift through the information because Google search works like a charm. Google can even track searches on your computer when you're not logged in for up to six months.

Facebook has even more interesting stuff: your pictures, your comments, your likes, your friends, your un-friends.

Andrew Keen: We must avoid Facebook's 'creepy' cult of transparency

You've done it, said it, clicked it, searched it, Googled it. You can never undo it or unclick it. It stays there forever. Unless the people demand that government order a stop to it.

The European Commission has a new privacy proposal known as the "Right to be forgotten." It would allow Internet users in 27 countries of the European Union to demand Internet companies delete their personal data.

Google's famous motto is "do no evil." I won't accuse Google of deliberately doing evil. It has done much to improve our lives. It makes no secret of the fact that it seeks to make profits, which it richly deserves. I do believe, however, that it deliberately tries to deceive us when it claims the new privacy policy seeks "to provide you with as much transparency and choice as possible."

I followed the instructions and with some difficulty eventually downloaded pages upon pages of personal material about myself from Google. What I was looking for was a simple, shall we say beautiful, button telling Google not to save anything I don't explicitly want it to save. But there was no such button.

Google, like Facebook, owns trillions if not quadrillions-plus bits of information. They mine it, use it to sell ads, algorithm it. But my real fear is not Google. My real fear is that computer technology has turned into an arms race between good guys and bad guys. Google may see itself as a jaunty white hat wearer, valiantly protecting all our information. And it may be doing it to the best of its ability. But hackers are hard at work all the time.

Google and Facebook are profiting from our private information in ways most of us don't quite understand or would approve. But hackers may do even worse, as we have already seen in many cases around the world. Hackers have already unlocked and put on the Web reams of credit card information, private documents and all sorts of personal e-mails. Imagine your e-mails and chats on the Web for anyone to read.

Online hoarding of our private information is not something we can afford to "dismiss." The only effective way to change the ways of these giant corporations -- and the smaller ones following the same practices -- is by pushing the government to make those practices illegal. We can start by following Europe's example.

The obvious, ethical, default setting should affirm that our private information belongs to us and nobody else -- not to Google, not to Facebook. We should call for laws that require them to change their terms of service so users have the option of giving or denying permission to them on holding personal data in storage.

[Nov 05, 2013] How to Stop Google, Yahoo & Bing from Tracking Your Clicks

See also http://www.googlesharing.net/. Cnet rates DoNotTrackMe "Spectacular".

Whenever you click a link in Google Search, your click is redirected through a secret URL. If the site you're going to is http://www.cybernetnews.com/, Google will do a secret redirect through a URL that looks similar to http://www.google.com/url?url=http://www.cybernetnews.com/. In some cases, you can reveal the secret redirect by right-clicking on a linked search result. If that doesn't work, your last resort is an HTTP sniffer.

There are several Firefox add-ons that claim to get rid of Google Search's click tracking. CustomizeGoogle is one of them. Among other tweaks, it promises to remove click tracking and disable Google Analytics cookies. If you just want the anti-tracking feature without the bells and whistles, there's a Greasemonkey script you can download called Google Tracking B-Gone. To use Greasemonkey scripts, you need to install the Greasemonkey add-on for Firefox. Also, if you use an international version of Google such as google.co.uk, you have to change the script's URL range from http://*.google.com/* to http://*.google.*/* to ensure that the script is allowed to operate on your local Google site.

[Nov 05, 2013] WAPO New Docs Show NSA Infiltration of Google and Yahoo Accounts Worldwide

Nov 04, 2013 | Daily Kos
DartagnanFollow

http://www.washingtonpost.com/...

Documents released by Edward Snowden show how the NSA broke into the main communication links connecting Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, enabling it to collect pretty much everything you've ever done on the Internet. Assuming you're a "foreigner" (wink, wink!).

By tapping those links, the agency has positioned itself to collect at will from among hundreds of millions of user accounts, many of them belonging to Americans. The NSA does not keep everything it collects, but it keeps a lot.
In fact, your data ("data" includes both metadata and content, presumably everything you've ever written, every video and picture you've viewed, every search you've made, for starters) is already stored away, waiting to be scrutinized at any time by an enterprising young NSA fellow if they should take an interest in you, for whatever reason. As is the case with most of these Snowden revelations, the collection of private data is a process already well underway:
According to a top secret accounting dated Jan. 9, 2013, NSA's acquisitions directorate sends millions of records every day from Yahoo and Google internal networks to data warehouses at the agency's Fort Meade headquarters.
As USA Today observes, this newly revealed spying "appears to give government snoops access to not just contact lists and address books – last week's Snowden revelation – but all e-mail and business documents, including Google docs which is used by hundreds of thousands of companies."

The tool they are using to steal and collect your private data for future use is known as MUSCULAR. This tool enables them to dispense with the PRISM infiltration, which requires Court approval under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The infiltration is especially striking because the NSA, under a separate program known as PRISM, has front-door access to Google and Yahoo user accounts through a court-approved process.

The MUSCULAR project appears to be an unusually aggressive use of NSA tradecraft against flagship American companies. The agency is built for high-tech spying, with a wide range of digital tools, but it has not been known to use them routinely against U.S. companies.

MUSCULAR is purportedly only in use "overseas," which is of course an immense relief, since nothing we have seen thus far from the NSA would remotely suggest they'd use such a tool domestically.
Intercepting communications overseas has clear advantages for the NSA, with looser restrictions and less oversight. NSA documents about the effort refer directly to "full take," "bulk access" and "high volume" operations on Yahoo and Google networks. Such large-scale collection of Internet content would be illegal in the United States, but the operations take place overseas, where the NSA is allowed to presume that anyone using a foreign data link is a foreigner.
No one from the "Directorate" appears ready to discuss this yet. Coming just one day after the head of the Agency dismissed stories of sweeping up the phone records of millions of Europeans as "completely false," that's quite understandable.
White House officials and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA, declined to confirm, deny or explain why the agency infiltrates Google and Yahoo networks overseas.
One of the more striking documents revealed today is what appears to be a little post-it tab (actually a slide from an internal NSA presentation, presumably held over coffee and donuts) where some bored NSA staffer drew a smiley-face to celebrate the NSA's infiltration of Google's cloud.
In hand-printed letters, the drawing notes that encryption is "added and removed here!" The artist adds a smiley face, a cheeky celebration of victory over Google security.
This Agency is completely out of control.

FoodChillinMFr

BREAKING: NSA spied on the Vatican. (33+ / 0-)

http://www.businessinsider.com/...

So we have control over the money flow, taps on everyone using the internet, taps on on world leaders, taps on all business and corps,

and now evidence of taps on Religious Leaders.

If they tapped the Vatican, they sure as hell tapped every other religious organization.

What the hell is going on here? This is global takeover kinda stuff, or at least the potential is there.

"So what if a guy threw a shoe at me!"

gjohnsit

Love it or leave it

The spying that is.

None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. -Johann von Goethe

mimi

My muscles had a spontaneous reaction

to wanting to punch the MUSCULAR Program's initiators, supporters, developers and founding fathers in the face.

This comes from a foreigner in the US and a foreigner in Germany and an altogether stupid idiot like me.

Not that I didn't expect that to be the case anyhow. So, how are foreign correspondence news and images searches via google collected ... we are all darn foreigners who report on American affairs to them foreigners in Europe.

F'n unacceptable.

JML9999

So the NSA is good spending Billions/year

so that they can Cyberstalk, downloading porn, spying on our allies but can't stop two morons with "Grannie's" pressure cooker when one of the morons is already in "The system"......

Got it

James Hepburn

Too busy spying on progressives and protesters

When the same contractors the NSA uses to spy on us are also working for Bank of America, Hunton & Williams, and the Chamber of Commerce to attack labor unions, independent, progressive journalists, and any "left-leaning critics" of Wall Street, it's perfectly clear what the real agenda is here.

Two years ago, a batch of stolen e-mails revealed a plot by a set of three defense contractors (Palantir Technologies, Berico Technologies and HBGary Federal) to target activists, reporters, labor unions and political organizations. The plans- one concocted in concert with lawyers for the US Chamber of Commerce to sabotage left-leaning critics, like the Center for American Progress and the SEIU, and a separate proposal to "combat" WikiLeaks and its supporters, including Glenn Greenwald, on behalf of Bank of America - fell apart after reports of their existence were published online.

But the episode serves as a reminder that the expanding spy industry could use its government-backed cybertools to harm ordinary Americans and political dissident groups.

Stwriley

And not intelligent.

I could almost believe in the benevolent oversight of a non-human AI that was designed from the ground up to "protect and defend". But the NSA's system, even once they figure out all the problems associated with sifting that much data, isn't an AI or anything like it. It's just a dumb tool and will likely stay that way for a long time. The real intelligence in action belongs to the NSA staffers and contractors who are running that tool and making all the decisions, every one of them human to the core.

And that's what's really scary.

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. Sun Tzu The Art of War

snoopydawg

Why the HELL isn't Congress

Bitching about that excessive abuse of funds? M

Hell no, they have to gut SNAP, WIC, and other programs that he the poor. God, has there been a less useless Congress then the current crop? Both sides.

How many BA contractors are getting insider trading info when they listen to corporstions?

Would Congress please do their fucking jobs?

Holder, SEC?

Passing a law that the Constitution doesn't allow does not negate the Constitution, it negates the law that was passed. Secret courts can't make up secret laws. SORRY FOR THE TYPOS :)

Selphinea

You think they're not doing their jobs?

They're doing exactly what they were paid to do!

Patriotism is another word for nationalism. Nationalism is another word for bigotry.

snoopydawg

Paid by whom?

When we pay their salary, they are supposed to work for us. I get that most ofbthem are owned by the corporations. But I want them to do the job we elected them to do.

Passing a law that the Constitution doesn't allow does not negate the Constitution, it negates the law that was passed. Secret courts can't make up secret laws. SORRY FOR THE TYPOS :)

Selphinea

"We"? Who's "we"?

Oh, the poor. Ha ha, you think you're people, how cute.

Patriotism is another word for nationalism. Nationalism is another word for bigotry.

ewhac

"Safe from Terrorism"

So: The NSA has built for itself the ability to comprehensively monitor pretty much the entire unencrypted Internet, and probably a fair amount of the encrypted traffic as well.

Meanwhile, malware authors and spammers run free because it's "too difficult" for law enforcement to go after them. Compromised Windows system remain so because it's "too difficult" to identify the compromised machines and notify their owners to clean them out.

The economic meltdown of 2008, and the economic meltdown of yet-to-come, can't be investigated much less prosecuted because it's "too difficult" to obtain the necessary evidence to proceed, even though there was almost certainly collusion across international boundaries. Over phone lines. Which are all tapped.

But not to worry because TERERIZM!!

koNko

Fix: echo off

Um .... Inside the NSA's Ultra-Secret China Hacking Group

All of the Senate and White House duping and fear mongering about China the past couple of years hasn't worked out so great.

There's a really good article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs you should read, The End of Hypocrisy, By Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore (paywall).

Daniel W. Drezner provides a poor man's version here with a response from Farrell here.

stevemb

Another Way The NSA Enables Spammers

If the e-mail infrastructure had strong encryption built into it (as should have been done long ago, but was prevented by NSA-driven obstructionism), the extra computational load of sending millions of e-mails would be prohibitive for the typical chicken-boner spamhaus. (Legitimate e-mail lists wouldn't be much affected; even large ones are typically a couple orders of magnitude smaller than a spam run.)

On the Internet, nobody knows if you're a dog... but everybody knows if you're a jackass.

ewhac

Not the Entire Story

The NSA's influence was certainly part of the equation, but relatively minor at the time in light of other factors.

One was that there was a strong civil libertarian streak in the people who designed the net and its protocols. Making the email infrastructure spam-proof would require an authorization infrastructure ("You have permission"), which would require an authentication infrastructure ("And just who are you, anyway?"). There was widespread sentiment that the authentication component -- traceably proving to an authority who you were -- would undermine anonymity, which was seen as valuable.

Another problem is that, at the time, RSA held a patent on public key cryptography, and were charging usurious amounts for licenses. Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), a public key cryptography package for end users, had been independently developed and was available, but nobody wanted to incorporate it commercially because they didn't want to risk a ruinous patent lawsuit from RSA. The only widespread alternative at the time was 56-bit DES, a symmetric cipher which became trivially crackable in the late 1990's.

As for the increased computational load that strong crypto would require, modern spamming doesn't use its own resources, as rogue domains are blacklisted fairly quickly. Rather, they steal resources by distributing the spam through millions of compromised Windows systems.

bluicebank

I want some results from my loss of civil rights!

Damnit.

Damn you, NSA. If you're going to go all 1984 on us, at least have the competence to ferret out the spammers and catch the occasional bomb thrower.

I swear to our Simulated Universe Overlords, this is incompetence, pure and simple. Fuckers.

Slightly Wobbly

It looks like a roomful of lawyers

During the SCO-IBM trial someone referred to the IBM legal team as the Nazgul. Pretty apt: these are not people you want coming after you.

IndyCasella

I don't know where the NSA stops and Google

begins or vice versa.

I doubt they're shocked. They knew about this connection before we did. I think they're all playing ignorant and outraged for the cameras.

Information is the currency of democracy. ~Thomas Jefferson

CIndyCasella

Google is the NSA dressed up as Grandma from the

looks of things here.

Grandma, what big ears you have! The better to record you, my dear.

Oh, Grandma, what big eyes you have! The better to film you with my dear!

Information is the currency of democracy. ~Thomas Jefferson

lalo456987

The Google business...

of "Cloud computing" is one of the major drivers of their revenue going forward.

This is a big f***ing deal to them, and it pretty much throws the business out the window if security is meaningless because of unwarranted (and I mean that literally) eavesdropping.

It used to be that emails were like postcards, it now seems that all cloud-based computing will have to be imagined in the same way: everything stored in a "cloud" is subject to interception and interpretation by the "postmaster" known as the NSA (and others).

My avatar moves.

koNko

Was. I can tell you they are not real happy

Could be this:

How Much Will PRISM Cost the U.S. Cloud Computing Industry? (www2.itif.org)

And this:

THE COST OF PRISM WILL BE LARGER THAN ITIF PROJECTS

koNko

They are late to the part on that

Microsoft and SGI have been building containerized data centers for years. SGI even has solar powered ones.

And it's not really certain what, exactly that thingy is, some people think it will be a Google Glass store. That would be pretty funny, great publicity stunt.

Thomas Twinnings

I don't quite understand

If the NSA has access to internet traffic though the "front door", with PRISM, why do they need a "back door" with MUSCULAR? What do they get with one that they do not get with the other?

An illusion can never be destroyed directly... SK.

Yoshimi

Redundancy

Redundancy

It's an industry standard

Deep Harm

And, surely, that was the intent

of releasing documents a few at a time. Give officials an opportunity to explain. When they lie, provide the damning evidence. Wait for officials to respond to that, and follow up with more damning evidence.

Even if the government does nothing to cut back surveillance, Snowden's disclosures have altered the way Americans view their government.

lotlizard

There's always been people who argue that

… states / governments / countries should not be judged by the same moral standards as apply to individuals.

Basically, the idea seems to boil down to a notion that countries who aren't willing to act like murderous paranoid psychopaths won't survive, or something.

The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war. ♥ ♥ ♥ Forget Neo - The One is Minori Urakawa

Deep Harm

The agency issued a nondenial denial

White House officials and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA, declined to confirm, deny or explain why the agency infiltrates Google and Yahoo networks overseas, the Post reported. http://www.latimes.com/...

That's not a non-denial denial

Sandino

That's a 'no comment'. A non-denial-denial is a denial of something that was not the question:

The DNI denied that the NSA has agents reading American's google searches in real time.

[Nov 05, 2013] The Morning Download: Google's Schmidt Ramps Up Pressure to Rein in Eavesdropping By Steve Rosenbush

November 4, 2013 | blogs.wsj.com

Google Inc. Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt has slammed the Obama administration and the NSA in a way that could recast the debate over IT surveillance. His withering critique moves the center of the debate and ramps up the pressure to rein in eavesdropping. And no wonder–the extent of government snooping undermines the trust that customers place in Internet companies, and threatens GOOG -0.10% business model and that of all U.S.-based cloud providers.

He bristled at reports that the U.S. government allegedly spied on the company's data centers. "It's really outrageous that the National Security Agency was looking between the Google data centers, if that's true. The steps that the organization was willing to do without good judgment to pursue its mission and potentially violate people's privacy, it's not OK," Mr. Schmidt told The Wall Street Journal in an interview. "The Snowden revelations have assisted us in understanding that it's perfectly possible that there are more revelations to come."

Mr. Schmidt said Google had registered complaints with the NSA, as well as President Barack Obama and members of Congress. Separately, Mr. Schmidt said Google is in no hurry to expand in China, given the extent of censorship there. "China's censorship regime has gotten significantly worse since we left so something would have to change before we come back," he said.

NSA Chief wrote:

And despite Schmidt's tantrums, the surveillance will continue.

Get used to the Brave New World Order. No one has any expectation of privacy. Just ask the SCOTUS.

Ian Michael Gumby wrote:

"Good morning. Google Inc. Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt has slammed the Obama administration and the NSA in a way that could recast the debate over IT surveillance. His withering critique moves the center of the debate and ramps up the pressure to rein in eavesdropping. And no wonder–the extent of government snooping undermines the trust that customers place in Internet companies, and threatens Google'sGOOG -0.24% business model and that of all U.S.-based cloud providers."

Translation… Schmidt to Obama… Shh! You're shining a flashlight on our business model and when the shills catch on, we're going to face more legal scrutiny.

[Nov 04, 2013] Google vs NSA

Oct 31, 2013 | www.androidpit.com

Amy R

K9 email cleint has a very useful encryption add-on which can encrypt down to the actual email account source itself. I'll be honest, I have it but don't use it but when I use it, it works. There are paid encrypted and privacy email services (Reagancom and others) but like Kris said earlier, they often get shut down for not weakening encryption or refusing to hand over data all together. Kris is right, this has happened to me with the last email service I was using.

For web I use Firefox with DuckDuckGo search (add-on) as default. As far as HTTP vs. SSL and VPN web service goes- Don't bother, they have all been cracked. Along with Firefox with DDG as default, I use security add-ons which include: Ghostery in conjunction with Self-Destructing Cookies (Ghostery for ALL trackers, web beacons, analytics, etc & Self-Destructing Cookies for everything else) when set up that way they work remarkably well. Your always best off to have your cookie preferences set to allow NO third party cookies. For flash cookies, unless it is absolutely necessary for the site I'm on, I usually go to flash player and turn flash cookie function off.

These are the easiest and most common ways your information gets collected then handed over. I'm a bit of a paranoid freak but only because I been through this first hand. Your concern really shouldn't be about the NSA but rather the integrity of the providers and services you use. Google uses an UNBELIEVABLE amount of cookies and trackers for data collecting. Not all services are that way.....................

Mato Snek

Well, it is fine to have that options for encrypting data and these technical stuff. And I in a way also understand the struggle of authorities and institutions such a NSA. But what fascinates me most is the feeling of ignorance or lethargy of the most users (which I know, I don´t want to generalize).

In other words, my feeling is that most of the people just don´t care. I don´t mean that everybody has to be some kind of "paranoid freak" (no offense Amy :) ), but at least some kind of basic knowledge or interest should be expected...

[Oct 31, 2013] RANT Let's Just Admit That Google Is Evil Now, Okay by Owen Thomas

May 31, 2012 | Business Insider

There's a lot of handwringing about Google's move to present paid listings-oh, heck, let's just call them advertisements-in places where it used to provide pure, unpaid search results.

It's understandable that people are making a big deal about this.

Google wasn't the first search engine, but it aimed to be the best. Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin believed that other search engines' practice of charging companies to be included in search listings was, well, evil.

That's where the whole "don't be evil" thing came from.

Then again, Page and Brin weren't exactly big fans of advertising at the beginning. (They thought Google could make more money by licensing search technology to enterprises. Ha!)

Nowadays, Page is in charge as CEO.

Brin, when he had an active executive role as co-president, was Google's moral compass.

"Evil is what Sergey says is evil," then-CEO Eric Schmidt told Wired back in 2003, before the company had even gone public.

That compass is now off wearing augmented-reality glasses while riding in a self-driving car with the president of Turkey. (And good for him! Being a moral compass is exhausting!)

When Google went public, it warned shareholders very specifically about its aversion to evil. It specifically highlighted paid shopping listings as an example of something it would not do.

Nowadays, it's getting paid to sell airline tickets and hotel rooms and, yes, products in the space it used to reserve for unpaid search results.

It might make as much as $250 million a year from its recent changes-pocket change compared to its $40 billion a year in annual revenues.

Similarly evil: Google's attempt to put results from its Google+ social network in search. That wasn't evil so much as a waste of space. Google has largely replaced those results with its new "Knowledge Graph" summaries. But that move wasn't motivated by providing great search results: It was motivated by wanting to screw over Facebook and Twitter.

Evil!

And you know what? It may be healthy for Google to get over the whole "don't be evil" thing. It's not like anyone was buying it.

Even Googlers. Especially Googlers.

All the free-speech advocates have decamped to Twitter, where former Googler Dick Costolo now runs "the free-speech wing of the free-speech party."

The open-sourcerers have joined startups like Cloudera or HortonWorks.

The get-rich-quick crowd-sorry, people who want to make the world a more open and transparent place!-left long ago for Facebook.

Google's a nice place to work if you like the free food, predictable hours, and humongous gobs of data. But it's not like anyone's naive enough to think that joining Google these days is some kind of statement against evil, are they?

If you believe that, I've got a paid listing for a bridge to sell you.

[Oct 31, 2013] Google's Broken Promise The End of Don't Be Evil by Mat Honan

Jan 12, 2012 | Gismodo

In a privacy policy shift, Google announced today that it will begin tracking users universally across all its services-Gmail, Search, YouTube and more-and sharing data on user activity across all of them. So much for the Google we signed up for.

The change was announced in a blog post today, and will go into effect March 1. After that, if you are signed into your Google Account to use any service at all, the company can use that information on other services as well. As Google puts it:

Our new Privacy Policy makes clear that, if you're signed in, we may combine information you've provided from one service with information from other services. In short, we'll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.

This has been long coming. Google's privacy policies have been shifting towards sharing data across services, and away from data compartmentalization for some time. It's been consistently de-anonymizing you, initially requiring real names with Plus, for example, and then tying your Plus account to your Gmail account. But this is an entirely new level of sharing. And given all of the negative feedback that it had with Google+ privacy issues, it's especially troubling that it would take actions that further erode users' privacy.

What this means for you is that data from the things you search for, the emails you send, the places you look up on Google Maps, the videos you watch in YouTube, the discussions you have on Google+ will all be collected in one place. It seems like it will particularly affect Android users, whose real-time location (if they are Latitude users), Google Wallet data and much more will be up for grabs. And if you have signed up for Google+, odds are the company even knows your real name, as it still places hurdles in front of using a pseudonym (although it no longer explicitly requires users to go by their real names).

All of that data history will now be explicitly cross-referenced. Although it refers to providing users a better experience (read: more highly tailored results), presumably it is so that Google can deliver more highly targeted ads. (There has, incidentally, never been a better time to familiarize yourself with Google's Ad Preferences.)

So why are we calling this evil? Because Google changed the rules that it defined itself. Google built its reputation, and its multi-billion dollar business, on the promise of its "don't be evil" philosophy. That's been largely interpreted as meaning that Google will always put its users first, an interpretation that Google has cultivated and encouraged. Google has built a very lucrative company on the reputation of user respect. It has made billions of dollars in that effort to get us all under its feel-good tent. And now it's pulling the stakes out, collapsing it. It gives you a few weeks to pull your data out, using its data-liberation service, but if you want to use Google services, you have to agree to these rules.

Google's philosophy speaks directly to making money without doing evil. And it is very explicit in calling out advertising in the section on "evil." But while it emphasizes that ads should be relevant, obvious, and "not flashy," what seems to have been forgotten is a respect for its users privacy, and established practices.

Among its privacy principles, number four notes:

People have different privacy concerns and needs. To best serve the full range of our users, Google strives to offer them meaningful and fine-grained choices over the use of their personal information. We believe personal information should not be held hostage and we are committed to building products that let users export their personal information to other services. We don't sell users' personal information.

This crosses that line. It eliminates that fine-grained control, and means that things you could do in relative anonymity today, will be explicitly associated with your name, your face, your phone number come March 1st. If you use Google's services, you have to agree to this new privacy policy. Yet a real concern for various privacy concerns would recognize that I might not want Google associating two pieces of personal information.

And much worse, it is an explicit reversal of its previous policies. As Google noted in 2009:

Previously, we only offered Personalized Search for signed-in users, and only when they had Web History enabled on their Google Accounts. What we're doing today is expanding Personalized Search so that we can provide it to signed-out users as well. This addition enables us to customize search results for you based upon 180 days of search activity linked to an anonymous cookie in your browser. It's completely separate from your Google Account and Web History (which are only available to signed-in users).

You'll know when we customize results because a "View customizations" link will appear on the top right of the search results page. Clicking the link will let you see how we've customized your results and also let you turn off this type of customization.

Google Just Made Bing the Best Search Engine

The changes come shortly after Google revamped its search results to include social results it called Search plus Your World. Although that move has drawn heavy criticism from all over the Web, at least it gives users the option to not participate.

wonderkrispU -> Mat Honan

So.... Google is going to take information from your online escapades (Chrome, Google Search, Gmail, G+, etc.) and is going to cross-reference them.

Not sell the information, or distribute it... But just use it to deliver a better user experience?

It doesn't sound all that bad, unless I'm missing something... Am I missing something? 1/24/12 7:04pm

[Oct 31, 2013] Who's more evil – Facebook or Google? by Holly Baxter

October 25, 2013 | The Guardian

Who is most evil on the internet? If we're to believe the latest coverage surrounding Facebook, then we'd probably have to say Mark Zuckerberg and associates, who have decided that graphic video footage of beheadings on the social network are AOK with them, so long as they come with content warnings. Bet you're missing that wanton youthful abandon of Myspace now.

Facebook's explanation for allowing executions galore on your timeline seems to be that the site has morphed over the years from mere social network into noble protector of freedom of information, no matter how disturbing the content. That's right: it's basically WikiLeaks, but with a constant stream of updates about what your old school frenemies' babies weigh. Get rid of all those boundary-pushing, controversial beheadings, and it's a slippery slope to an endlessly banal stream of boring people who spend hours carefully constructing online facades in order to convince "friends" they don't even know in real life that they go to better parties than them. Oh wait.

If you think that it's only Facebook fiddling with the parameters of morality in today's cyberworld, then you might be interested to know that Google is evil too. For those who know Google's motto, "Don't be evil", and have taken it at face value, this could come as something of a surprise. But for those of you who, like me, have a Gmail account and feel ethically torn about it but way too lazy to delete, it might not be such a shocker.

Gmail has been accused of "automatically scanning" the private contents of emails to and from your e-buddies for a while now, and using the information to tailor the advertisements it places in the corners of your screen. From 11 November, it will be widening its remit and taking "names, photos and reviews" from connected sites like YouTube to use in marketing. In other words, don't be surprised if your face and words start appearing in the online adverts that presently irritate you on a daily basis.

What all of this essentially means is that by signing up to a service run by Google, you are no longer just part of the system: you are the system. You are the advertised-to and the advertisement, the customer and the marketer, the instrument of your own drowning in commercial fodder.

But is that evil? In a recent Atlantic article titled What is "evil" to Google?, Ian Bogost argued that Google's wrongs were "evil insofar as they prevent a program from being effectively created and maintained, not because they make that program run wickedly". The company's position on not being evil essentially means a commitment to technological progression, not a commitment to morality (Bogost also points out that Wiktionary has already redefined evil in the case of computing/programming as something that is "undesirable; harmful; bad practice", far removed from what most of us might understand "evil" to mean.) Perhaps, then, not evil at all.

But if turning a blind eye is more your kind of evil, then we shouldn't let accusations levied against Ask.fm this year pass us by. The site, whose audience is mainly teenagers, was linked with the suicides of a number of users last year after they apparently suffered a campaign of vicious cyberbullying facilitated by its anonymous questioning set-up. Ask.fm's failure to monitor and protect its young users was seen at the time as the ultimate online evil: developers had built a platform that could be easily used for harassment, and then failed to take responsibility for creating such a platform seriously. It eventually changed its safety policy, but anonymous questions remain, with a company disclaimer that it "strongly encourages" users to turn the option off.

We saw the same problem with Twitter, where a particular fever pitch of vilification directed at Caroline Criado-Perez drew attention to a situation that had been going on for a long time. Twitter eventually bowed to public pressure and introduced a report abuse button for individual tweets in August, but not before arguing long and hard for its right not to do so based upon the practicalities of sifting through so much material. It wasn't the most sympathetic argument in the world: our lucrative website makes it so easy for people to abuse each other that the volume of reported material after the introduction of a "report abuse" button would make its creation horrendously inconvenient. So why not keep things the way they are?

Unsurprisingly, it didn't fly. It suffered the consequences of its own tweetstorm.

With friends like these in the cybersphere, it's hard to believe that any of us need enemies. And with your data now standing as the most valuable asset you have, there is cause to worry about exactly how evil your email account is versus your networking outlet. You might not see a beheading on Google+, but your music taste may well be gathered, analysed and sold as you type. You might applaud Twitter's new position on abuse, but be less enamoured with the idea of someone policing what you write.

Ultimately, the worldwide web is a scary playground populated with a lot of powerful bullies. The only way to navigate it safely is to scrutinise terms and conditions, monitor your privacy policies and, if in any doubt, opt out. It's a time-consuming inconvenience they're hoping you won't undergo, but it's worth it. In other words, it's a necessary evil.

Dunnyboy

October 25, 2013

It's a funny old thing. Up until very recently I had been the archetypal "I've got nothing to hide, so I don't care if the government reads my emails" kind of guy, but it is really starting to piss me off now. As a result, over the past couple of weeks I've written three letters to friends - real letters, fountain pen and paper letters - and I hadn't written a letter for about a decade. From now on I'm only going to use IM and email for business. Personal stuff is going to go in a letter.

MattVauxhall -> Dunnyboy

Its not that these brands are "Evil" but more that we seem to be in the middle of a giant experiment where all previous norms of privacy have been thrown away in a rush to a brave new world

We need to put the onus of any damage from this back on the companies...it would fix things up quite quickly

LesterJones -> Dunnyboy

...and yet if you sent 30 a day and stuffed them full of photos of yourself and your lunch with accompanying short messages about your success and general happiness people would think your absolutely insane...

...which is strange considering that is all Facebook does...

permafail

Gmail has been accused of "automatically scanning" the private contents of emails to and from your e-buddies for a while now, and using the information to tailor the advertisements it places in the corners of your screen

I don't get adverts on my gmail. Am I doing something wrong, or does it just take installing adblock to cut them out?

TheTrueGeek permafail

I agree. I don't see any adverts when browsing the web. AdBlock is excellent. It tidies up the Guardian site nicely too!

I wont stop the content of emails etc. being trawled to generate ads that might appear elsewhere, and seen by others though.

NB. Ghostery is another plug-in I recommend people use! (to stop/limit your internet movements being tracked)

Zakelius

I recently closed my facebook account and feel great about it. I do have a gmail account, but I only use it for instances where I might get spam and would rather not use my personal email address. So far I'm happy about it but in the long run I'd rather not use any of their products, including youtube (which is owned by Google) which makes things a bit more difficult.

peopleisstupid Zakelius

I don't have any social media accounts. I use Goggles and Tubes because it's helpful, but haven't signed up.

Occasionally you'll find yourself the odd one out in a conversation down the pub, or not quite getting the point of a particular article/story/news item, but it really doesn't make a blind bit of difference.

This isn't a 'look-how-retro-cool' I am comment, it's just a confirmation that you really don't need these things to live a normal, happy, engaged life

Toyin

If people have to make a conscious choice to use Facebook or Google is it right to define the services we subscribe to as evil? Do we not have any role in the decisions we make?

If these businesses offered a life giving or compulsory commodity like water then yes, but they don't. They offer efficient access to on-line information and social networks. Yes their long term ambitions are ethically dubious but to call these networks "a necessary evil" is a stretch, they are more a morally compromised convenience.

James Hudson -> Toyin

Excellent remark, It seems that more and more in our society people are looking to shirk their personal responsibilities and seek someone else to make the moral decisions for them. If Google or Facebook make you uncomfortable, don't use them. They'll soon change when the traffic drops.

Toyin -> James Hudson

They'll soon change when the traffic drops.

Exactly. It's important that users remember that the traffic they generate for these companies through donating their IP for free is utilised to generate advertising revenue. If you can get something useful out of the deal then great, if not then log off.

dogfondler

Social media moguls are wankers, the spooks are bastards. It's an important distinction.

JohnBroggio dogfondler

Absolutely. And as both FB & G hand over our data to the NSA, GCHQ et al, they both fall a long way short of "don't be evil" (I can't speak for their other "talents").

Apresmoiledeluge

It's like hating petrol or fast food.

We use them all the time. Petrol is destroying the climate. Fast food is causing obesity. But we still drive cars and still eat fast food.

I think what we should be doing is looking at battlegrounds. In Facebook and Google the US empire has already one. They keep tabs on everyone.

But Wikipedia is a battle.

NeverMindTheBollocks

Neither.

Sorry to ruin the fun here of "who can we call evil today?".

Reasonable and informed Guardian readers realise that the world is not as simplistic and black-and-white (or black-and-blacker) as portrayed here.

EllisWyatt NeverMindTheBollocks

Oh come on, where's the fun in that. If we believed that actually the world was a complex place of people bumping into each other, acting in a haphazard way and generally being fallible then 90% of CiF contributions would die up overnight!

Where we be without politicians, tories, immigrants, greens, Osborne, bankers, oil companies, lefties, labour, tony blair etc for all the troubles in our lives?

PollitoIngles

[Google/Facebook] Pick your playmates carefully in the internet playground

They're the big kids on the block, controlled by the grand-daddy bully of them all. Choice is: there is no choice.

Tacgnol

Now that Google has decided that I need to 'add an account' to an inescapable front page to be remembered every time I just want to check my fucking e-mail, I'm going with Google. They've also linked (my previously deleted Google Plus) account to Youtube and every time I click to disconnect the two so I can delete Google Plus, it takes me to a page where the disconnect link simply doesn't exist -- and yes, I've taken it to the Google forums, where people were as baffled as I was.

They've made some awful, intrusive changes lately and as soon as I find a good alternative to Gmail, I'm jumping ship. (Any recommendations welcome, by the way.)

BawbagMcWimoweh

Who's more evil – Facebook or Google?

There are lots of different search engines that can be used. Google is simply the most well-known.

Facebook exploits people's own sense of vanity and desire to invade other people's privacy. There is no requirement to plaster your life all over the internet.

[Oct 31, 2013] Is Google Evil by Adam L. Penenberg

Oct. 10, 2006 | Mother Jones

Google Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the two former Stanford geeks who founded the company that has become synonymous with Internet searching, and you'll find more than a million entries each. But amid the inevitable dump of press clippings, corporate bios, and conference appearances, there's very little about Page's and Brin's personal lives; it's as if the pair had known all along that Google would change the way we acquire information, and had carefully insulated their lives-putting their homes under other people's names, choosing unlisted numbers, abstaining from posting anything personal on web pages.

That obsession with privacy may explain Google's puzzling reaction last year, when Elinor Mills, a reporter with the tech news service Cnet, ran a search on Google CEO Eric Schmidt and published the results: Schmidt lived with his wife in Atherton, California, was worth about $1.5 billion, had dumped about $140 million in Google shares that year, was an amateur pilot, and had been to the Burning Man festival. Google threw a fit, claimed that the information was a security threat, and announced it was blacklisting cnet's reporters for a year. (The company eventually backed down.) It was a peculiar response, especially given that the information Mills published was far less intimate than the details easily found online on every one of us. But then, this is something of a pattern with Google: When it comes to information, it knows what's best.

From the start, Google's informal motto has been "Don't Be Evil," and the company earned cred early on by going toe-to-toe with Microsoft over desktop software and other issues. But make no mistake. Faced with doing the right thing or doing what is in its best interests, Google has almost always chosen expediency. In 2002, it removed links to an anti-Scientology site after the Church of Scientology claimed copyright infringement. Scores of website operators have complained that Google pulls ads if it discovers words on a page that it apparently has flagged, although it will not say what those words are. In September, Google handed over the records of some users of its social-networking service, Orkut, to the Brazilian government, which was investigating alleged racist, homophobic, and pornographic content.

Google's stated mission may be to provide "unbiased, accurate, and free access to information," but that didn't stop it from censoring its Chinese search engine to gain access to a lucrative market (prompting Bill Gates to crack that perhaps the motto should be "Do Less Evil"). Now that the company is publicly traded, it has a legal responsibility to its shareholders and bottom line that overrides any higher calling.

So the question is not whether Google will always do the right thing-it hasn't, and it won't. It's whether Google, with its insatiable thirst for your personal data, has become the greatest threat to privacy ever known, a vast informational honey pot that attracts hackers, crackers, online thieves, and-perhaps most worrisome of all-a government intent on finding convenient ways to spy on its own citizenry.

It doesn't take a conspiracy theorist to worry about such a threat. "I always thought it was fertile ground for the government to snoop," CEO Schmidt told a search engine conference in San Jose, California, in August. While Google earned praise from civil libertarians earlier this year when it resisted a Justice Department subpoena for millions of search queries in connection with a child pornography case, don't expect it will stand up to the government every time: On its website, Google asserts that it "does comply with valid legal process, such as search warrants, court orders, or subpoenas seeking personal information."

What's at stake? Over the years, Google has collected a staggering amount of data, and the company cheerfully admits that in nine years of operation, it has never knowingly erased a single search query. It's the biggest data pack rat west of the NSA, and for good reason: 99 percent of its revenue comes from selling ads that are specifically targeted to a user's interests. "Google's entire value proposition is to figure out what people want," says Eric Goldman, a professor at Silicon Valley's Santa Clara School of Law and director of the High Tech Law Institute. "But to read our minds, they need to know a lot about us."

Every search engine gathers information about its users-primarily by sending us "cookies," or text files that track our online movements. Most cookies expire within a few months or years. Google's, though, don't expire until 2038. Until then, when you use the company's search engine or visit any of myriad affiliated sites, it will record what you search for and when, which links you click on, which ads you access. Google's cookies can't identify you by name, but they log your computer's IP address; by way of metaphor, Google doesn't have your driver's license number, but it knows the license plate number of the car you are driving. And search queries are windows into our souls, as 658,000 AOL users learned when their search profiles were mistakenly posted on the Internet: Would user 1997374 have searched for information on better erections or cunnilingus if he'd known that AOL was recording every keystroke? Would user 22155378 have keyed in "marijuana detox" over and over knowing someone could play it all back for the world to see? If you've ever been seized by a morbid curiosity after a night of hard drinking, a search engine knows-and chances are it's Google, which owns roughly half of the entire search market and processes more than 3 billion queries a month.

And Google knows far more than that. If you are a Gmail user, Google stashes copies of every email you send and receive. If you use any of its other products-Google Maps, Froogle, Google Book Search, Google Earth, Google Scholar, Talk, Images, Video, and News-it will keep track of which directions you seek, which products you shop for, which phrases you research in a book, which satellite photos and news stories you view, and on and on. Served up à la carte, this is probably no big deal. Many websites stow snippets of your data. The problem is that there's nothing to prevent Google from combining all of this information to create detailed dossiers on its customers, something the company admits is possible in principle. Soon Google may even be able to keep track of users in the real world: Its latest move is into free wifi, which will require it to know your whereabouts (i.e., which router you are closest to).

Google insists that it uses individual data only to provide targeted advertising. But history shows that information seldom remains limited to the purpose for which it was collected. Accordingly, some privacy advocates suggest that Google and other search companies should stop hoarding user queries altogether: Internet searches, argues Lillie Coney of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, are part of your protected personal space just like your physical home. In February, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) introduced legislation to this effect, but Republicans have kept it stalled in committee. Google, which only recently retained a lobbying firm in Washington, is among the tech companies fighting the measure.

When I first contacted Google for this story, a company publicist insisted I provide a list of detailed questions, in writing; when I said that I had a problem with a source dictating the terms for an interview, he claimed that everyone who covers Google-including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal-submits advance questions. (A Times spokeswoman told me the paper sees no ethical problems with such a procedure, though individual reporters' decisions may vary; an editor in charge of editorial standards at the Journal said the same thing.) The Google flack assured me that this was so he could find the best person for me to talk to-more information for Google, so that Google could better serve me.

Eventually he agreed to put me in touch, sans scripted questions, with Nicole Wong, Google's associate corporate counsel. I asked her if the company had ever been subpoenaed for user records, and whether it had complied. She said yes, but wouldn't comment on how many times. Google's website says that as a matter of policy the company does "not publicly discuss the nature, number or specifics of law enforcement requests."

So can you trust Google only as far as you can trust the Bush administration? "I don't know," Wong replied. "I've never been asked that question before."

[Aug 17, 2013] Internet Traffic Plunges By 40% As Google Goes Dark For Five Minutes

Zero Hedge

Want to throw the world into sheer URL panic and outright informational chaos? Then just take out Google.

At least that is what a brief five minute outage of the world's favorite search engine on Friday night shows, when after all of Google's services were hit with unprecedented downtime from 3:52 pm until 3:57 pm Pacific Dauylight Time, some 40% of global internet traffic was lobbed off.

As the DailyNews reports, based on web analytics company GoSquared, there was a massive dip in internet traffic during the brief blackout as users struggled to find what it was they were looking for on the worldwide web.

Yet instead of other web-based search engines benefitting from GOOG's downtime (apparently nobody has heard of Yahoo, despite its attractive CEO gracing the cover of Vogue and engaging in such other serious CEO activities), it was Twitter that saw the surge in traffic:

According to Topsy analytics, tweets per minute skyrocketed around the point that Google went black, from an average of 200 tweets per minute about Google to more than 1,000.

"For five freakin' minutes!" one Twitter user complained. Another wrote, "Google was down for five minutes… Is it a sign that the END OF THE WORLD has started?"

SkyNews has more:

The tech company said all of its services from Google Search to Gmail to YouTube to Google Drive went down for between one and five minutes last night.

The reason for the outage is not yet known, and Google refused to provide any further information when contacted by Sky News Online.

"That's huge," said GoSquared developer Simon Tabor. "As internet users, our reliance on Google.com being up is huge.

"It's also of note that pageviews spiked shortly afterwards, as users managed to get to their destination."

A message on the Google Apps Dashboard showed all of its services were hit.

surf0766

Hooking in the new NSA equipment...

CheapBastard

When the Midget porn sites went dark, the SEC panicked ... thinking they were caught ... and shut off ... again.

ebworthen

People might actually understand their serfdom if they didn't have stuff to distract them.

LetThemEatRand

It was already clear. They had to plug in a new system because they are afraid public outrage (there actually is a little, surprisingly) will make them pretend to stop doing it.

This way, they can curtail the old spy network and switch over to the new one, and it will be the least untruthful testimony to say "we shut it down."

GMadScientist

DNS == Domain NSA Service

Surveillance Valley

A book by Yasha Levine about how Silicon Valley turned the Internet into the greatest surveillance apparatus in the history of mankind.

Paulo Sa Elias on March 2

And remember: "Those who spies doesn't need to tell you they do, unless they are just looking to spread the fear of exposure."

Installing Tails Live Linux Operating System For Preserving Privacy and Anonymity On The Net

October 1, 2014 | nixCraft

in Open Source, Security

Nowadays, privacy does not hold much value when it comes to the privacy of our data on our digital devices or on the internet. In the past few weeks, we learned that everyone who tries to maintain privacy on the net is under suspicion which is all the more reason to try to keep our data, contacts, communications, and whereabouts on the internet anonymous and hidden from prying eyes as much as possible. This holds true even more for people that are more exposed like human rights activists, journalists, lawyers, and even doctors. Some of the distributions that try to assist us with this build on the Tor network.

One of these distributions is Tails, based on Debian Testing. It had a formidable boost when whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed, that he used Tails to stay anonymous. The latest release is Tails 1.1 which was released on July 22. We are going to show you how to set it up on a device like a USB memory stick or a SD card. The term 'installing' is used by the Tails project in this context, but technically this is only partially correct. The easiest way of using Tails is to just copy the bootable image to the device using the linux command dd as opposed to real installations to USB devices. If you want a read-only device for anonymously surfing the internet, that will suffice. If you need a setup that you can also write to and save your work on, the setup is a little bit more complicated, as the Tails installer only works from inside Tails.

We will test both ways of 'installing' Tails.

Spying and storing Assange says 'Google works like NSA'

September 20, 2014 | RT News
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange equated Google with the National Security Agency and GCHQ, saying the tech giant has become "a privatized version of the NSA," as it collects, stores, and indexes people's data. He made his remarks to BBC and Sky News.

"Google's business model is the spy. It makes more than 80 percent of its money by collecting information about people, pooling it together, storing it, indexing it, building profiles of people to predict their interests and behavior, and then selling those profiles principally to advertisers, but also others," Assange told BBC.

"So the result is that Google, in terms of how it works, its actual practice, is almost identical to the National Security Agency or GCHQ," the whistleblower argued.

'Google deeply involved in US foreign policy'

Google has been working with the NSA "in terms of contracts since at least 2002," Assange told Sky News.

"They are formally listed as part of the defense industrial base since 2009. They have been engaged with the Prism system, where nearly all information collected by Google is available to the NSA," Assange said. "At the institutional level, Google is deeply involved in US foreign policy."

Google has tricked people into believing that it is "a playful, humane organization" and not a "big, bad US corporation," Assange told BBC. "But in fact it has become just that...it is now arguably the most influential commercial organization."

"Google has now spread to every country, every single person, who has access to the internet," he reminded.

PeoplesParadigm

Google IS the NSA. It benefits from contracts and subsidies to build out infrastructure that makes both agencies the same, as part of the larger picture of NWO. It is not desirable or in The People's interest and will be very hard to dismantle once upon us.

Quit Google now and you'll slow it down. Teach your children right from wrong and to develop new humanist technologies that don't fall into military or corprotocratic hands and we may succeed in getting rid of this filth.

johnny

Anyone who uses google for anything, other than an occasional search from a public computer, needs to get their head examined.

And anyone who believes that two young jews from a university came up with an idea how to make billions and did so with no government involvement, also needs a brain scan.

johnny

We used to have feudalism and to a large extend we still have it - only this time it is "voluntary" and involves ownership of things other than land. We also had capitalism, but that's now old fashioned.
Communism - meh, only in N. korea and they won't last forever.

Finally, we advanced to the last stage before the totalitarian self-destruction: Corporatism.
All of the above have one thing in common: illusion of equality of opportunity. It goes like this:
Big fish meets a small one:

- Hi small fish, we are now all equal, so try to eat me.
- ... (small fish opens its tiny mouth, but can't even bite the big fish)
- OK, now, let me try to eat you... gulp.

Durandus von Meissen

The attack upon Society, which the 'war on terror' represents, speaks to the fear which can be instilled in the leading intellectuals and political/religious leaders of civilization across the globe. Of course, it's NOT about security; but about the suppression of Dissent across the whole gamut of Society.

In the end, if you can make The People fearful of speaking their own minds and banding together thereby against the common Treachery, THEY will be the chiefest threat against the Authority of ANY State. This is what the PTB fear most, and why the likes of RT can join with the likes of the CIA to suppress Free Speech. Yes, WE are watching.

Pick your poison.

Beetlekuese Zrolka

Google is currently a multinational conglomerate, not an American company that provides a service world wide, the corporation was started in the US and grew to the trust of folks surfing the web almost since the beginning of the internet. Not a spy agency but, just as Microsoft and apple do, not to mention Facebook, so will Google.

What's the point of Assange? He leaks information that is readily researchable, meaning it's not that important. The grocery store does the same thing, so long as I'm not being limited to what, and how much I buy, I just don't care.

This article sounds more like Microsoft propaganda to discredit one of its primary competitors in a new media effort to corner the software market as supreme software overlord.

Google and Facebook: Unelected Superpowers?

Posted by timothy
from the but-if-by-elect-you-mean-choose dept.

theodp (442580) writes "'The government is not the only American power whose motivations need to be rigourously examined,' writes The Telegraph's Katherine Rushton. 'Some 2,400 miles away from Washington, in Silicon Valley, Google is aggressively gaining power with little to keep it in check. It has cosied up to governments around the world so effectively that its chairman, Eric Schmidt, is a White House advisor. In Britain, its executives meet with ministers more than almost any other corporation. Google can't be blamed for this: one of its jobs is to lobby for laws that benefit its shareholders, but it is up to governments to push back. As things stand, Google - and to a lesser extent, Facebook - are in danger of becoming the architects of the law.' Schmidt, by the way, is apparently interested in influencing at least two current hot-button White House issues. Joined by execs from Apple, Oracle, and Facebook, the Google Chairman asserted in a March letter to Secretary of State John Kerry that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is not in the economic interests of the U.S.; the Obama administration on Friday extended the review period on the pipeline, perhaps until after the Nov. 4 congressional elections.

And as a 'Major Contributor' to Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC, Schmidt is also helping to shape public opinion on the White House's call for immigration reform; FWD.us just launched new attack ads (videos) and a petition aimed at immigration reform opponent Rep. Steve King. In Dave Eggers' The Circle, politicians who impede the company execs' agenda are immediately brought down. But that's fiction, right?"

Google We scan all Gmail messages -

RT USA

... Google has adamantly defended this practice by saying data handed from any person to a third-party is no longer private.

"Just as a sender of a letter to a business colleague cannot be surprised that the recipient's assistant opens the letter, people who use Web-based email today cannot be surprised if their emails are processed by the recipient's [email provider] in the course of delivery," Googled argued in a motion filed last July. "Indeed, 'a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.'"

Last September, the presiding judge in the case authorized a motion that said that the "critical question with respect to implied consent is whether the parties whose communications were intercepted had adequate notice of the interception."

"That the person communicating knows that the interception has the capacity to monitor the communication is insufficient to establish implied consent. Moreover, consent is not an all-or-nothing proposition," Judge Lucy Koh wrote for the United States District Court in the Northern District of California.

Google's terms and condition then, Koh said, "cannot conclude that any party – Gmail users or non-Gmail users- has consented to Google's reading of email for the purposes of creating user profiles or providing targeted advertising." In turn, Google uses that "customized" experience to generate around $50 billion a year in targeted advertising profits.

As Casey Johnston of Ars Technica noted on Tuesday, however, Google's updated TOS doesn't alleviate all of the problems produced for Judge Koh. Indeed, non-Gmail users who are opposed to having the outgoing messages they send to customers of Google scanned wouldn't necessarily know that their correspondence is subject to such scrutiny unless they were Gmail users themselves who accepted the newest terms.

"The specific mention of 'received' content suggests Google may not want the burden of warning non-Gmail users that emails sent to Gmail will be scanned," Johnston wrote.

The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry) Siva Vaidhyanathan 9780520258822 Amazon.com Books

Matthew P. Ciszek on March 24, 2011
reading for anyone interested in the effects of technology on our lives

I was first introduced to Siva Vaidhyanathan's work a few years ago when he gave a presentation on the Google Books Project, a project in which my institution was set to participate with full force. As a librarian with a love of technology but a hearty skepticism about its effects on society, I expected the presentation to be a love letter to Google. Instead the presentation turned out to be a love letter to libraries and librarians, and I have been a fan of his ever since.

I found the same his latest book, the "Googlization of Everything". The idea of "techno-fundamentalism" resonated deeply with me as I have struggled with efforts in my profession to abandon tried and true methods of librarianship and information science in the rush to embrace the latest gadget or newest technology. Indeed, American culture (and it could be argued Western culture as well) has become fascinated with all things tech to the point of techno-fundamentalism, or a blind faith in technology and its ability to solve all the world's problems. Technology has done great things for the human race, but has also had weighty consequences as well.

The author does not seek to destroy Google or even hope for its demise. Instead he argues that we need to take back the objects of our culture from Google and others who, in the name of technology, progress, faster search and access, would seek to monopolize them and make money from them. I appreciate Dr. Vaidhyanathan's vision for a Human Knowledge Project, and hope to assist him and others in making that a reality. True change will only come about through deliberation, debate, and collaboration. It will not be handed down from a "benevolent giant" like Google.

Frank A. Pasquale III on March 12, 2011

A Must-Read on Where "Knowing" is Going

Google's been in the news a lot the past week. Concerned about the quality of their search results, they're imposing new penalties on "content farms" and certain firms, including JC Penney and Overstock.com. Accusations are flying fast and furious; the "antichrist of Silicon Valley" has flatly told the Googlers to "stop cheating."

As the debate heats up and accelerates in internet time, it's a pleasure to turn to Siva Vaidhyanathan's The Googlization of Everything, a carefully considered take on the company composed over the past five years. After this week is over, no one is going to really care whether Google properly punished JC Penney for scheming its way to the top non-paid search slot for "grommet top curtains." But our culture will be influenced in ways large and small by Google's years of dominance, whatever happens in coming years. I don't have time to write a full review now, but I do want to highlight some key concepts in Googlization, since they will have lasting relevance for studies of technology, law, and media for years to come.

Cryptopicon

Dan Solove helped shift the privacy conversation from "Orwell to Kafka" in a number of works over the past decade. Other scholars of surveillance have first used, and then criticized, the concept of the "Panopticon" as a master metaphor for the conformity-inducing pressures of ubiquitous monitoring. Vaidhyanathan observes that monitoring is now so ubiquitous, most people have given up trying to conform. As he observes,

[T]he forces at work in Europe, North America, and much of the rest of the world are the opposite of a Panopticon: they involve not the subjection of the individual to the gaze of a single, centralized authority, but the surveillance of the individual, potentially by all, always by many. We have a "cryptopticon" (for lack of a better word). Unlike Bentham's prisoners, we don't know all the ways in which we are being watched or profiled--we simply know that we are. And we don't regulate our behavior under the gaze of surveillance: instead, we don't seem to care.

Of course, that final "we" is a bit overinclusive, for as Vaidhyanathan later shows in a wonderful section on the diverging cultural repsonses to Google Street View, there are bastions of resistance to the technology:

One search engine professional, Osamu Higuchi, posted an open letter to Google staff in Japan on his blog in August 2008. The letter urged Google staff to explain to their partners in the United States that Street View demonstrates a lack of understanding of some important aspects of daily life in Japan. Osamu urged Google to remove largely residential roads from Street View. "The residential roads of Japan's urban areas are part of people's living space, and it is impolite to photograph other people's living spaces," Osamu wrote. . . .

A person walking down the street peering into residents' yards would be watched right back by offended residents, who would consider calling the police to report such dangerous and antisocial behavior. But with Google Street View, the residents can't see or know who is peeping.39 Osamu's pleas and concerns were shared by enough others in Japan that by May 2009, Google announced it would reshoot its Street View images of Japanese cities with the cameras mounted lower, to avoid peering over hedges and fences.

There are a number of other examples in the book of technology being modified to adopt to cultural norms. But the dominant story is of cultural norms being reshaped by deployment of new technologies.

Public Failure

Progressives often cite "market failure" as a reason for regulation. But the term itself has a hidden laissez-faire bias, implying that markets generally succeed and that intervention is extraordinary. Vaidhyanathan balances the playing field by introducing the idea of the "public failure," which itself is parasitic on a larger vision of endeavors naturally performed or sponsored by government or civil society. As he explains,

[N]eoliberalism. . . .had its roots in two prominent ideologies: techno-fundamentalism, an optimistic belief in the power of technology to solve problems . . . and market fundamentalism, the notion that most problems are better (at least more efficiently) solved by the actions of private parties rather than by state oversight or investment.

Neoliberalism [included] . . . substantial state subsidy and support for firms that promulgated the neoliberal model and supported its political champions. But in the end the private sector calls the shots and apportions (or hoards) resources, as the instruments once used to rein in the excesses of firms have been systematically dismantled. . . . .

Google has deftly capitalized on a thirty-year tradition of "public failure," chiefly in the United States but in much of the rest of the world as well. Public failure, in contrast, occurs when instruments of the state cannot satisfy public needs and deliver services effectively. This failure occurs not necessarily because the state is the inappropriate agent to solve a particular problem (although there are plenty of areas in which state service is inefficient and counterproductive); it may occur when the public sector has been intentionally dismantled, degraded, or underfunded, while expectations for its performance remain high.

Vaidhyanathan's call for a "Human Knowledge Project" in response to this trend is one of the few tech policy proposals that is bold, ambitious, and comprehensive enough to address the challenges posed by privatized knowledge systems.

Riparchivist

"...we are not Google's customers: we are its product", March 27, 2011

From the observation that "...we are not Google's customers: we are its product" (p.3) through the suggestion of a Human Knowledge Project I found this book to be a well-written and informative read.

Mr. Vaidhyanathan gives good detail regarding the many fingers that Google has in so much of the Internet's tools and products while always reminding us that Google is an advertising company, an advertising company that does its work through seemingly free tools that they make.

These product's default settings are designed to collect the maximum data about our personal use of the Web. So, if you use Google's products (or any other product) look at the default settings and change them to something that you can live with, or do without.

Jonathan Zittrain "JZ" (Cambridge, MA, USA)

Provocative and timely, March 15, 2011

The Googlization of Everything offers a crisp vision for what kind of information society we should be building. That one might not agree with it is a feature -- this is a book that doesn't state the obvious. Rather, it pushes us to rethink what we take for granted, noticing the medium in which we swim, instead of just moving right along.

The book is an impressive synthesis of the current thinking on and around Google -- much of it applicable to any contemporary dot-com with runaway success. One of Siva's objections to the "googlization" of the online knowledge space is that while institutions like libraries and universities typically plan to be around in a hundred years, companies like Google do not necessarily have, or plan for, such staying power. This is a nicely contestable sentiment -- that, as a corporate entity, Google is inherently shorter lived then, say, the University of Virginia, or at least its values are less consistent over time. It sets up a deeper question of what mix of institutions ought to contribute to the world and serve as gateways to our accumulated knowledge, and with what ethos (ethoi?).

In the last section, Siva proposes a Human Knowledge Project. The name is derived from the Human Genome Project. It is intended to be a "global information ecosystem," essentially a Google by and for the public sphere: "The Human Knowledge Project should [be] open, public, global, multilingual, and focused. It should be sensitive to the particular needs of communities of potential knowledge users around the world, yet it should be committed to building a global system that can erase the gaps in knowledge that current exist between a child growing up in a poor village in South Africa and another growing up in a wealthy city in Canada." The Human Knowledge Project also builds on the criticism that Google's rise to such extreme prominence is due in part to the failure of the public sector; thus Siva's proposal is a straight argument for a transfer of power back from private to public hands.

A major difference between this idealized project and the internet (or Google) as it exists now is its central focus on existing libraries as knowledge hubs. One of Siva's central concerns about Google, which emerges in the sections on Google Books and Google Scholar, is its pre-emption of librarians as organizers of knowledge. In his other work -- see The Anarchist in the Library: How the Clash Between Freedom and Control Is Hacking the Real World and Crashing the System -- Siva has sought to articulate a central role for librarians that some in the information studies community have yet to grasp. The Googlization of Everything is in some ways a sequel: a welcome contribution to our debates over the future of access to knowledge, one blending intimate knowledge of what librarians (and their digital corporate counterparts) actually do with a strong sense of what differences between them matter -- why the library remains of crucial importance as a mediating institution in a society awash in information.

Avoid Google How To Eliminate Google From Your Life (VIDEO)

07/03/10 | www.huffingtonpost.com

Google has gone far beyond search: it's offering up everything from email to video (via YouTube); driving directions to online shopping; book browsing to social networking, and much, much more.

While Google's expansion has made our lives easier, it has also sparked no shortage of privacy concerns and complaints. Ten nations recently teamed up to demand Google improve its privacy protections; a member of the FTC ripped into Google, saying it needed to "step up" its privacy safeguards; and Microsoft produced an ad knocking Google's browser for "stealing" user privacy.

If all this criticism has got you concerned, here are some tips for how you can avoid Google--and come close to eliminating it from your online life.

Jillian C. York - Google+ - I'm not going to re-post, because the original author…

I'm not going to re-post, because the original author posted in a limited circle, but I feel compelled to anonymously quote this statement, from a friend who is leaving Google+:

"I never wanted to join an 'identity service' as Google likes to call this website. I don't know what does an identity service mean when it is disguised as a social network. Google is collecting more and more data about users. Search history, email, contacts, phone, etc.. This is not good for the internet, which is designed to be a decentralised service. The resistance by Google to allow people the freedom to select the names they want has also had an effect on my decision. Hate it when people in position of control refuse to listen. Hopes that G+ will create new exciting innovations in social networking quickly faded."

M Monica - Google+ - How can Google's Real Name Policy actually hurt me...

How can Google's "Real Name" Policy actually hurt me? I don't care who knows my stuff.

A lot of people can't see how sharing your data online under your real name and being completely open can hurt you. I have some horrific experiences that illustrate how bad it can be.

These details I'll post below were some of the worst experiences of my life. But if I don't speak up, this is going to happen again and again to other people. Take this as a warning. It could happen to you.

If you share personal data under your real name, and Facebook or Google sells this info to advertisers, it's not hard for health insurance companies to find and discriminate based on the info they find. Yes, it's illegal. But they do it anyway. Because it's profitable. And there's no one out there who cares to stop them. The law is essentially structured to protect this sort of discrimination.

Example 1:

When I was with my ex, he had a job with a small company. Small companies pay a lot for insurance; and when there is a severely sick person covered under their insurance, they pay more. The company my ex was working for realized their healthcare bills were going up because someone in their company (or covered by their company's insurance) was sick. But they didn't know who, and they were desperate to keep costs down. They had to find out who the sick person was who was running up their company healthcare costs. I suspect that they searched his blog/profile till they found a mention of my severe illness- because, a week later, they fired him without cause. It was just two weeks after he'd gotten a promotion and positive performance report. He asked another friend in the company to try and find out why they'd fired him. The friend reported back that the word in the company was it was because of my illness. He saw a lawyer immediately afterward, trying to sue for wrongful termination, but the lawyer said he wouldn't take it. It was too hard to prove in court. The company would simply claim they fired him for another cause- and what solid proof was there? Only word of mouth. The lawyer wouldn't take the case, not without thousands of dollars upfront, which he suspected we would never recoup.

Federal law stipulates that you can only win awards of the amount of money you would have earned if you worked there since the time of your firing, which is usually a small amount. No personal damages can be awarded. So no one who's been discriminated against because of health care usually sues; it costs more to sue than you'd gain in the end.

Health insurance companies are out for profit; and unfortunately, if they're able to discriminate because of info you give them, they can and will. And your hands are tied as a result. How do you expect to prove you were fired because of your illness instead of what they'll claim? And even if you beat the odds and win, you won't win enough to pay your court costs.

Example 2:

I have a severe case of systemic lupus. 2 years ago, I had a very bad flare, had a blood clot in my retina as a result. Suddenly, I was half blind, and in danger of losing the rest of my sight. My rheumatologist hospitalized me so he could give me high dose chemotherapy to control my immune system.

After two days at the hospital, the health insurer decided I had been hospitalized long enough, and it was going to cost them too much. They talked to the doctors and tried to get them to discharge me, but were told they couldn't do that; I was far too sick. I had just received the chemo that morning. I wasn't able to stand or walk safely. Unable to convince the hospital to discharge me, instead, the health insurance company tried a different tactic. They called my personal cell phone to tell me that if I didn't leave the hospital immediately, they would not cover any of my treatment. I'll repeat that: they called my cell phone to deliver the threat. But I'd never given the insurance company my cell phone number.

I was so upset by their threat that I agreed to leave the hospital, against doctor's orders. The threat of bankruptcy outweighed all other concerns for me. If I'd gone bankrupt, I would not be able to afford my medicines, and I would die.

As I was leaving the hospital, I suddenly collapsed and passed out. They got a crash cart and got me on it; hooked me up to a heart monitor. My heart rate had dipped so low the doctors feared I'd die. They rehospitalized me in the cardiac unit. The hospital itself had to call the insurance company and threaten to sue them on my behalf if they did not stop harassing me.

If that's not enough to illustrate what can happen when companies know your real name and phone number, I'm not sure what can convince you. I never gave the insurer my cell phone number. It's a mystery as to how they got it. I suspect they may have gotten off of Facebook, or an online ID search. I removed my phone number from my Facebook and changed the number so it could never happen again.

To summarize:

Whether you are sick or not, sharing data can hurt you. If you ever get sick, and Google finds they can make a profit by selling your data, you are in trouble. Worst case scenario, your employer might fire you for having a disabled child, spouse, or getting sick yourself.

If you think you're healthy and don't have to worry about this, well, anyone of any age can be diagnosed with cancer. It could hit you tomorrow. And if you mention it on your G+ profile, your gmail account, your facebook page, Google or Facebook knows.

Google does not have your best interests in mind; they have their company's profits in mind. Facebook does too. They will sell your data if it is in their best interest. The "real name" policy is driven by advertising and data selling revenue.

If you're self employed, that's great. Maybe you don't have to worry about this aspect. But the odds are you know someone or are related to someone who does.

Here are a few good steps to take if you're concerned. Empower yourself. Fight back.

1. Hit the "send feedback" button on Google plus in the lower right corner. Let them know that you're angry about the Real Names Policy.

2. Read this article if you want further, more technologically complicated steps: http://news.techeye.net/internet/how-to-stop-facebook-and-google-trampling-on-your-privacy-rights

3. Contact the FTC. Ask them to investigate privacy violations as a result of using real names on social networks. Go here and file a complaint about Google: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/FTC_Wizard.aspx?Lang=en

The FTC recently investigated Google because of privacy violations with their former social network, Buzz. It's time they started investigating the real names policy on Plus. These sort of privacy violations are already illegal in Germany.

4. Contact the government. Call the White House. They have publicly supported using real names online. The number for the White House is: 202 456 1111. Advocate for the right to use names other than your legal name and let the government know you want them to step in. You should have the right to protest, to have free and protected speech on the internet. And not to lose your job as a result, or your health insurance. I nearly died from what I went through. I hope it never happens to you.

Google zeal breeds more identity theft risks ZDNet

April 30, 2007 | Zdnet

Summary: Google CEO Eric Schmidt continues on his never ending quest to "organize" ALL of the world's information, including ALL of the world's citizens' personal information.Google proudly announces today: "partnerships with the states of Arizona, California, Utah and Virginia to make it easier to search for hard-to-find public information on state government websites.

By Donna Bogatin for Digital Markets | April 30, 2007

Google CEO Eric Schmidt continues on his never ending quest to "organize" ALL of the world's information, including ALL of the world's citizens' personal information.

Google proudly announces today: "partnerships with the states of Arizona, California, Utah and Virginia to make it easier to search for hard-to-find public information on state government websites."

Hard to find no more. Thanks? to Google.

What "hard-to-find" information about the citizens of the states of Arizona, California, Utah and Virginia will no longer be hard to find at Google.com as well?

Individuals' Social Security numbers, for starters.

According to Google:

These partnerships developed as both Google and officials with the four state governments recognized that the public is increasingly turning to search engines like Google to access government services, but that a significant share of the information on state agency websites is not included in its index of information sources on the web. As a result, many online government services can be difficult for the public to find.

In January 2007 comments to the Identity Theft Task Force of the Federal Trade Commission, The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) stated:

Government and private agencies that collect and store excessive amounts of often unnecessary personal information in systems that lack adequate privacy and security safeguards. The best long-term approach to the problem of identity theft is to minimize the collection of personal information and to develop alternative technologies and organizational practices.

Minimize the collection of personal information by the government? That is NOT search engine music to Google's ears:

J.L. Needham, who manages Google's public-sector content partnerships, said at least 70% of visitors to government websites get there by using commercial search engines. But too often, he said, Web searches do not turn up the information people are looking for simply because government computer systems aren't programmed in a way that allows commercial search engines to access their databases.

Still, if users can't get the information they're looking for, they blame the search engine, not the government, Needham lamented. The remedy, which Google has been working on with state technology officers for roughly six months, is to create virtual roadmaps by which search engines can find the databases that store public records.

"We have a vested interest in ensuring that the results we provide in every area, including government services, are high-quality, authoritative and trustworthy," he said (as cited by the Associated Press).

Vested Google interest in the personal records of state residents indeed.

Marc Rotenberg, EPIC executive director though said many public health and financial records shouldn't necessarily be widely available because they often contain citizens' Social Security numbers.

Among much other personal, private, NO need for Google's spiders to know data.

NSA collects millions of e-mail address books globally - The Washington Post

During a single day last year, the NSA's Special Source Operations branch collected 444,743 e-mail address books from Yahoo, 105,068 from Hotmail, 82,857 from Facebook, 33,697 from Gmail and 22,881 from unspecified other providers, according to an internal NSA PowerPoint presentation. Those figures, described as a typical daily intake in the document, correspond to a rate of more than 250 million a year.

Each day, the presentation said, the NSA collects contacts from an estimated 500,000 buddy lists on live-chat services as well as from the inbox displays of Web-based e-mail accounts.

The collection depends on secret arrangements with foreign telecommunications companies or allied intelligence services in control of facilities that direct traffic along the Internet's main data routes.

Furious Tech Giants Fight Back Against NSA Surveillance

By Justin Maiman | Daily Ticker7 hours ago

It's a million dollar tech headache...caused by the U.S. government.

The New York Times today writes about how companies like Google (GOOG) are spending millions to beef up encryption of their own internal data. Why? To keep the National Security Agency (NSA) from hacking "their systems without their knowledge or cooperation." Those first reports about NSA spying surfaced last June but the fallout continues.

Related: Did Obama Just Destroy the Internet?

And The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task points out the irony. "This is the government essentially circumventing whatever agreements they had with these companies and finding a loophole. And you could argue that they've done these companies a favor by saying you guys are vulnerable here... the folks at Google have come out publicly and said 'we are outraged at the lengths to which the government seems to have gone.'"

And that leads us to the paradox of all this private information collection. Tech companies like Google, Facebook (FB) and Yahoo (YHOO) -- our parent company -- are now working harder than ever to protect their data from hackers and the government so they can make money off that same data to sell personalized ads.

The New York Times details some of the new efforts by big tech:

More than anything, tech company executives are mad. Here's Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg talking to TechCrunch in September:

"The government blew it," he said. "The government's comment was, 'Oh, don't worry, basically we're not spying on any Americans.' Right, and it's like, 'Oh, wonderful, yeah, it's like that's really helpful to companies that are really trying to serve people around the world and really going to inspire confidence in American Internet companies.' "

The Daily Ticker's Henry Blodget points out: "If nothing else, [Edward] Snowden has succeeded in just completely embarrassing the United States government."

Has Google Crossed Over Into True Evil

TechNewsWorld

What is clear over time is that while people often intend to do good, the concept of the end justifying the means can work into any organization. Google is the living example of a firm that seems to have solidly crossed the line. Its chairman was on Apple's board while Steve Jobs was dying, and while Jobs was also mentoring Google's founders, they decided to move from search and create products that competed with Apple. This upset Jobs so much he pledged all of Apple's resources to kill Android. To me, that is evil. To attack someone who has put you in a position of trust and used his own time to help you has to be evil. It doesn't matter that Jobs wasn't exactly and angel himself.

But taking kids out of college and destroying them, that is something that just sits in the back of your head and festers. Apparently Google is not alone in this, though many of the other companies outsource these duties to folks in places like India. Hey, out of sight out of mind, and at least they aren't doing it to Americans, right? Personally I don't care where it is done; this practice of destroying people should be regulated so that the people aren't destroyed.

So, do you agree this is evil? And what do you think should be done about it? The job is necessary, but shouldn't firms be required to assure that the people doing it aren't destroyed?

NSA Spying Denials Prove That Google is Truly Evil SiliconANGLE

Google has finally been exposed as the deceitful, two-faced entity it really is, and now it's desperately trying to spin the revelations of the NSA' s pervasive spying program to its advantage. The company that loves to portray itself as the defender of the internet, espousing its "Don't be Evil" propaganda whilst appearing to fight for internet freedoms, has been left scrambling to defend its so-called 'reputation' as a company worthy of our trust

Hot on the heels of reports from The Guardian and the Washington Post, Google was among the first of the nine tech firms involved to deny any knowledge of PRISM. In a carefully worded statement, it vehemently denied that it had given the government "direct access" to its servers, adding that it had "never even heard of a program called PRISM until yesterday".

But Google's denials are riddled with holes that have been ripped even further apart by the government's own admissions. Just hours after Google's statement was issued, senior intelligence officials and later, President Obama himself, admitted that PRISM was genuine. Could it be that the NSA was acting without Google's knowledge?

Highly unlikely, for a closer look at Google's statement shows us that in actual fact, it isn't denying anything at all. Rather, it looks as though Google is trying to conjure up a far more subtle PR strategy than simply denying any involvement whatsoever.

Google makes three key points in its statement that demand closer examination; firstly, that it didn't provide the NSA with "direct access" to its servers, that there is no "back door" for the NSA, and that user data is only provided to the government "in accordance with the law".

With regards to "direct access", in the IT world this generally implies that one is given full and unrestricted access to a company's servers. But in order to run something like PRISM, the NSA wouldn't actually need "direct access". Instead, some kind of 'indirect access' (such as Google transferring data to the NSA's servers when requested) would more than likely suffice. Therefore, when Google says that "direct access" was not provided, it isn't saying that it hasn't participated in the program.

We can apply a similar logic to Google's denial that the NSA has "back door" access to its servers. When we talk about 'back door' access, generally what we're describing is a way to access a server that is neither documented, nor known about by the owner of the server. Simply denying that a back door exists is not the same as denying that it put some kind of system in place through which the NSA could access its data.

But what kind of system be in place – one that doesn't constitute either direct access or a back door? Simple. Something like an API – the tool that company's use to give developers limited access to their servers – would suffice. Now, to be sure, Google has covered its tracks here too, denying that an API was used, but that doesn't rule out the possibility that it came up with some other, similar tool that the NSA could use.

As a further insurance policy, Google's statement also notes that it only provides "user data to governments in accordance with the law." But as outrageous as PRISM is, it is in all likelihood quite lawful, thanks to the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 and the Protect America Act of 2007.

But what about Google's insistence that it had never heard of PRISM? Well, that one's simple enough – would the NSA actually tell Google what the program is called? Of course not, so its denial is certainly plausible.

What we can't be certain of is what Google is trying to achieve with its denials. It could be that it was hoping the government would also try to deny PRISM existed, as Google made its statement before any officials confirmed the program's existence. If so, it's been left looking rather foolish now. Alternatively, it may just be trying to come up with a clever way of protesting its innocence – maybe it will later try to portray itself as a victim, claiming that it never knew how much access the NSA really had, or which agency would be accessing the data, or what it would be used for.

Certainly, Google isn't the only one trying to spin PRISM's existence to its advantage. Just hours after the news broke, officials told Reuters how data collected from the program had helped law enforcement agencies to apprehend terrorists intent on blowing up the New York City subway. No doubt in the coming days and weeks we'll hear about other examples of how vital PRISM is to national security.

Google's Flight Search do no evil, but kill everything in your path by Emory Kale

October 29, 2013 | TG Daily

What the heck is happening with Google?? They've put banner ads on the main search page even though they promised never to do so. They are supposed to provide us with the best search experience possible, and it looks like they are pretty much looking to kill Expedia and the rest of the travel sites out there. Pretty soon there won't be anyone out there to channel you deals, or price comparisons, or bookings options. Just Google. That's spooky.

You can try Flight Search yourself, which has a convenient tab for Hotel Search so, why I would want to spend anytime going through sites like Hipmunk or Travelocity beats me. It's clean, simple, and unless you like the n00b feel of those other sites, it serves its function real well.

It's hard to not to feel a little tinge of regret for having given Google so much power because, frankly, I really don't want one company being such a fierce sentinel at the gates of the Web. Between Google and Facebook you'd think that there was no other way to break through into the mainstream of online experiences.

And who gets the most love from these guys: the big brands who have the money to get the visibility. No wonder Reddit gets so much traffic. At least its anarchic flow of data and links has some merit in allowing the out of the ordinary and niche to rise to the surface, but even so, it's owned by a brand name company, too so, how long will it last?

Our web experiences are becoming increasingly more controlled. The joy of random search and time wasting on the Web has been replaced by targeting and profiling of your movements across sites.

I know, it's only Flight Search, but this is a continuous modification of services that essentially end up killing the very businesses that Google helped to grow.

You know who else did that? Microsoft. They had Windows and there was an ecosphere of applications and services around it. Slowly, much slower than Google, Microsoft started to integrate applications and services into its OS killing off its satellites of adoration. It was a necessity to justify every Windows upgrade and to improve the user experiences. Why pay for stuff when it was already going to be in the next version of Windows.

Google's doing kind of, exactly, the same thing. It's just taking stuff that people were doing through third parties and sucking it in for itself. Anyone who was arbitrating paid for clicks or impressions is being hurt by Google. Remember price comparison sites like PriceGrabber and Shopzilla? Waste of time now. Pretty soon, that's what's going to happen to the travel sites, too.

Collating data from suppliers and then just comparing the data in search results is not a value added proposition anymore. Airbnb, Uber, OpenTable, and even Spotify come to mind as services that can be easily absorbed by Google's search engine and offered nonchalantly.

If I was a new business trying to break through on the web, I'd be extremely concerned because, I have very few options to raise my visibility and get noticed. And frankly, this all lends credence to the notion that Google is reshaping itself for mobile because, frankly, Google's Flight Search is a damn site easier to access on a mobile device than any app from the other travel sites..

Shame on you Google By Pat Pilcher

Oct 18, 2013 | NZ Herald News

It is somewhat ironic that "Don't be evil" is the corporate mantra of Google and that this was coined by a Google exec as an unsubtle sideswipe at competitors, many of whom Google felt were exploiting their users.

I say this is ironic because Google are about to update their Terms of Service. This will result in users of the Google+ service having their profile name and photo plastered over adverts by the search giant as unpaid user endorsements.

If making these endorsements opt-out only and not providing even a smidgeon of the massive revenues Google are bound to be collecting for these endorsements isn't exploitative, I'd like to know what is.

So how does it work? In layperson speak, if you're a Google+ user and you've liked (or in Google parlance +1'd), followed, or even commented on a particular product or service, your Google+ connections could start to see your profile picture and Google+ name on Google adverts for that product or service.

Googles response to criticisms of this is likely to involve its PR team to putting some positive spin on the situation by stating that Google+ users can opt out.

I'd like to point out that it'd be far more ethical to provide an "opt-in" choice rather than making each and every google+ user a revenue generating product endorser by default. Additionally Googles also claim that an endorsement will only ever happen when you +1, comment, share or follow.

But hang on isn't that just weasel speak for doing just about anything on Google+?

Taking that into account then using Google+ could become a lot like tip-toeing through a minefield as users seek to being linked to avoid unsavoury endorsements.

Worse still, this move represents a new low for a company whose corporate catch-phrase is "don't be evil".

The spin has already started. According to the Google shared endorsements page "You're in control: Your content is only shared when you choose, and shared endorsements don't impact who can see your content or activity". The reality however is that Google+ users are only ever going to be in control if Google educates them about how to opt-out when an opt-choice in would have been far more ethical.

Then there's the not so small issue of money. If I endorse something and Google are creaming revenues off my endorsement, why don't I get a share? After all, isn't it my profile, mugshot and name that is being put out there?

Worryingly, there's also plenty of scope for endorsement related gaffes. Imagine if for instance you ended up following, sharing, +1ing or even commenting about something you don't actually like, or even find totally offensive.

Imagine if you followed, shared or even commented about a seemingly legitimate organisation, only to later find out it was actually a front financed by a neo Nazi movement advocating some pretty horrific stuff.

Imagine your horror as you found out that all your Google+ connections are now seeing your face and name associated with this stuff. Sadly this sort of thing is not only theoretically possible, but also probable.

So how worried should Google users be? Evil is a strong word, and equally important, a relative term in that there are varying degrees of being evil. In this day and age when governments can snoop on us with little to no oversight or accountability, worrying about being used as an advertising stooge by an online service looks a whole lot like very small beer indeed.

So at the end of the day, the million dollar question is this - is Google evil? It is arguable that they have made some effort to be up front about the looming changes to their terms and conditions, in that they've said what they will do, and soon they'll actually be doing it. Compared to the governments of New Zealand and other western democracies ..... that's arguably saint-like given the lack of integrity shown by our own law makers.

Before the howls of disapproval start and mail bags of hate mail begin to pile up, the good news is that google have given Google+ users the ability to do something about it.

Simply head to the 'Google shared endorsements page' and un-check the "Based upon my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads" then click the blue save button.

If enough of us do this, Google may hopefully reconsider their actions. Here's hoping they choose not to be evil because this move really stinks.

What Is 'Evil' to Google - Ian Bogost - The Atlantic

As happens every time the search giant does something unseemly, Google's plan to turn its users into unwitting endorsers has inspired a new round of jabs at Google's famous slogan "Don't be evil." While Google has deemphasized the motto over time, it remains prominent in the company's corporate code of conduct, and, as a cornerstone of its 2004 Founder's IPO Letter, the motto has become an inescapable component of the company's legacy.

Famous though the slogan might be, its meaning has never been clear. In the 2004 IPO letter, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin clarify that Google will be "a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short term gains." But what counts as "good things," and who constitutes "the world?" The slogan's significance has likely changed over time, but today it seems clear that we're misunderstanding what "evil" means to the company. For today's Google, evil isn't tied to malevolence or moral corruption, the customary senses of the term. Rather, it's better to understand Google's sense of evil as the disruption of its brand of (computational) progress.

Of course, Google doesn't say so in as many words; the company never defines "evil" directly. But when its executives talk about evil, they leave us clues. In a 2003 Wired profile of the company, Josh McHugh noted that while other large companies maintain lengthy corporate codes of conduct, Google's entire policy was summarized by just those three words, "Don't be evil." While there's some disagreement about its origins, Gmail creator Paul Buchheit reportedly conceived of the slogan, calling it "kind of funny" and "a bit of a jab at a lot of the other companies, especially our competitors, who at the time, in our opinion, were kind of exploiting the users to some extent."

In rejoinders of Google's dubious fidelity to the motto, most assume that the company was once virtuous and has either fallen from grace, or that it has been forced to compromise its values for the market. Even ten years ago, McHugh explained the situation as a side-effect of growth, explaining how difficult it was for Google to maintain a Tron-style "fight for the users" ideal in an enormously influential global information company. Others see it as a foil. In his book The Googlization of Everything, Siva Vaidhyanathan observes that the "Don't be evil" slogan "distracts us from carefully examining the effects of Google's presence and activity in our lives." True, but the slogan itself also counts as one such activity. Understanding what evil means to Google might be central to grasping its role in contemporary culture.

In an NPR interview earlier this year, former CEO and executive chairman Eric Schmidt justified the policy with a paradigmatic example:

So what happens is, I'm sitting in this meeting, and we're having this debate about an advertising product. And one of the engineers pounds his fists on the table and says, that's evil. And then the whole conversation stops, everyone goes into conniptions, and eventually we stopped the project. So it did work.

Schmidt admits that he thought it was "the stupidest rule ever" upon his arrival at the company, "because there's no book about evil except maybe, you know, the Bible or something." The contrast between the holy scripture and the engineer's fist is almost allegorical: in place of a broadly construed set of sociocultural values, Google relies instead on the edict of the engineer. That Schmidt doesn't bother describing the purportedly evil project in question only further emphasizes the matter: Whatever the product did or didn't do is irrelevant; all that matters is that Google passed judgement upon it. The system worked. But on whose behalf? Buchheit had explained that early Googlers felt that their competitors were exploiting users, but, exploitation is relative. Even back in the pre-IPO salad days of 2003, Schmidt explained "Don't be evil" via its founders' whim: "Evil is what Sergey says is evil."

All moral codes are grounded in something: a religious tradition, a philosophical doctrine, a cultural practice. Google's take on virtue doesn't reject such grounds so much as create a new one: the process of googlization itself. If anything, Google's motto seems to have largely succeeded at reframing "evil" to exclude all actions performed by Google.

There is a persistent idea that Internet technology companies embody an innocent populism. That the rational engineer is an earnest problem-solver, his fists striking tables instead of noses. But there's something treacherous in believing that virtue and vice can be negotiated in the engineering of an email client or the creation of a spreadsheet-that evil is just another problem to overcome, like usability or scalability.

Companies like Google actually embody a particular notion of progress rather than populism, one that involves advancing their technology solutions as universal ones. Evil is vicious because it inhibits this progress. If Google has made a contribution to moral philosophy, it amounts to a devout faith in its own ability to preside over virtue and vice through engineering. The unwitting result: We've not only outsourced our email hosting and office suite provisioning to Google, but also our information ethics. Practically speaking, isn't it just easier to let Google manage right and wrong?

We can already find signs of the spread of this lesser-known, engineer's sense of evil in Wiktionary, a crowdsourced dictionary run by the group that operates Wikipedia. There, the word "evil" is revealed to have acquired a domain specific meaning in computing:

evil (computing, programming, slang) undesirable; harmful; bad practice Global variables are evil; storing processing context in object member variables allows those objects to be reused in a much more flexible way.

Wiktionary's entry is but one specimen, but it is exemplary of Google's seemingly incongruous moral behavior. Understood in the programmer's sense, "evil" practices are just counter-indicated ones. Things that might seem reasonable in the moment but which will create headaches down the line. This kind of evil is internally-focused, selfish even: it's perpetrated against the actor rather than the public. Insofar as "bad practice" evils have victims, those victims are always members of the community of its perpetrators. Like the programmer's stock rejoinder "considered harmful", a phrase originally used to rejoin uses of GOTO in BASIC, a computational evil is one committed against engineering custom or convention.

This, perhaps, is the most helpful way to understand what Google means when it vows not to be evil. As both users of its products and citizens of the world it increasingly influences and alters, we would be wise to see Google's concern for evil as a pragmatic matter rather than an ethical one. It's a self-referential pragmatism, too: "Evils" like GOTO are evil insofar as they prevent a program from being effectively created and maintained, not because they make that program act wickedly. Under this understanding of evil, the virtuous actor is one who does not hinder future action.

It is a subtly different wickedness than the kind the political theorist Hannah Arendt famously called "the banality of evil." For Arendt, evildoers like Adolph Eichmann carry out heinous acts because they accept the premises of their enterprise without question. Banal evil is an evil of bureaucracy rather than fanaticism or sociopathy.

Admittedly, there's probably some bureaucratic banality at work in the Googleplex. No large organization can avoid it. And, contra Arendt, bureaucratic evil can still be individually sociopathic; just think of the stories we've recently read about NSA agents abusing the access to information granted by the government's surveillance system to spy on love interests.

But when you consider Google's bad behavior, the choices that strike many as low are neither banal evils nor sociopathic ones. They are conducted in plain sight, as official service offerings. They are presented through magnanimity rather than savagery. When those choices seem underhanded to us, at odds with the motto "Don't be evil," they do so not because of the policies they entail, such as using your activity on the web as unauthorized endorsements for paid advertising. Those acts are par for the course, alas. All companies, particularly public ones, exist to maximize their own benefit. Google never claimed otherwise; even in 2004 "Don't be evil" mostly clarified that the company wouldn't sprint to short-term gains.

Rather, our discomfort is an expression of the dissonance between ours and Google's understandings of evil. Google has managed to pass off the pragmatic pursuit of its own ends as if it were the general avoidance of wickedness. It has invested those ends with virtue, and it has publicized the fact that anything good for Google is also good for society. This is a brazen move, and it's no wonder it takes us by surprise.

The dissonance arises from our failure to understand "evil" as a colloquialism rather than a moral harm. An evil is just a thing that will cause you trouble later on-an engineering impediment. These practical evils are also private ones. Google doesn't make immoral choices because moral choices are just choices made by Google. This conclusion is already anticipated in the 2004 IPO document, which glosses evil as the failure to do "good things." At least we're used to hearing "good" as an ambiguous term that can refer to capacity and validity as much as-and more often than-virtue.

Products and infrastructures eventually degrade, but ideas linger. This verbal frame shift might turn out to be one of Google's lasting legacies. Google Evil, you might call it: evil as counter-pragmatism, and as an official public policy. As a replacement for a moral compass.

This is what makes the whole matter seem so insidious: It's not that Google has announced its intention not to be vicious and failed to meet the bar. Nor is Google, Arendt-style, just manning its station, doing what's expected. No, through its motto Google has effectively redefined evil as a matter of unserviceability in general, and unserviceability among corporatized information services in particular. As for virtue, it's a non-issue: Google's acts are by their very nature righteous, a consequence of Google having done them. The company doesn't need to exercise any moral judgement other than whatever it will have done. The biggest risk-the greatest evil-lies in failing to engineer an effective implementation of its own vision. Don't be evil is the Silicon Valley version of Be true to yourself. It is both tautology and narcissism.

In specific matters like using your name and likeness to surreptitiously improve the company's advertising services, you can take comfort in the fact that Google has considered the matter carefully and adopted a solution on your behalf. Google already knows what's best for you more than you know anyway-it's got all your data to tell it so. And how do you thank Google for this service? By complaining about it like an ingrate, unable to see the bigger picture, even though a multitude of engineers have struck fists against tables in Mountain View to deliver desires so intimate that you can't even recognize them.

As deviant as this logic might seem, perhaps we should thank Google for being so frank about it. At least now we can ponder this strange new evil, roll it around in our heads rather than just Googling for its meaning. And after all, Google's logic is no different from that of other technology companies banging the techo-libertarian drum of freedom and progress through leveraged, privatized Internet services. The Internet industry is committed only to itself, to the belief that its principles should apply to everyone. "Don't be evil" is just another way of saying so.

The Google Question of Evil by Michael Schulson

October 21, 2013

Google's slogan, famously, is "Don't be evil." Cute, right? Except when Google starts, for example, to intergrate your name and picture into advertisements without permission, and then things get uncomfortable. After all, that certainly feels creepy, dishonest, and socially harmful-even, perhaps, a bit evil.

Over at the Atlantic last week, Ian Bogost asked the important, obvious questions: what the hell does Google mean by evil? And how will Googlers know when Google has overstepped Google's Google-imposed boundaries?

Silicon Valley is not known for excessive concern about moral dilemmas (Bogost, a writer and video game designer, lives in the South, where moral angst is de rigueur). Still, Google has tried to answer these Big Questions. In a passage that will be illuminating for the religiously-inclined, Bogost discusses how Google chairman Eric Schmidt grapples with the problem of evil:

In an NPR interview earlier this year…Schmidt admits that he thought it was "the stupidest rule ever" upon his arrival at the company, "because there's no book about evil except maybe, you know, the Bible or something." The contrast between the holy scripture and the engineer's fist is almost allegorical: in place of a broadly construed set of sociocultural values, Google relies instead on the edict of the engineer….Even back in the pre-IPO salad days of 2003, Schmidt explained "Don't be evil" via its founders' whim: "Evil is what Sergey says is evil."

I'm no philosopher, but I'm pretty sure there are books about evil other than the Bible. And I'm not a right-wing religious pundit, but I'm also pretty sure that Google has finally confirmed the religious right's worst fears about secularization: that, in the absence of some guiding moral authority, we'll all slide into a self-imposed set of moral regulations that will gradually draw us into a morass of oppression and debauchery. Google may not be the Whore of Babylon, but Schmidt isn't exactly inspiring confidence in its capacities for moral self-policing.

Still, it's worth asking: what could the Bible say about topics such as user privacy? Sure, the Book of Job might help us understand the relationship between incomprehensibly huge authorities and the individuals who must engage with them. And Leviticus might remind us that, sometimes, you just have to ban things. But, with all due respect to Ecclesiastes, digital technology is something new under the sun. Laws about stealing, and lying, and loving one's neighbor aren't so easy to apply to issues of global connectedness and digital privacy.

Back in June, writing about the NSA surveillance scandal, Daniel Schultz pointed out in Christian Century that:

there has been minimal reaction by religious groups. A quick survey of eight denominations found that only one-the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)-had a statement on government surveillance, dating from 2006. [A subsequent correction found one more statement, from the United Methodist Church].

Schultz wasn't especially surprised. These are new, slippery issues. But he was concerned, understandably, by the propsect of religious groups being unequipped to respond, in any substantive way, to an issue of obvious moral import.

I'm not saying that Google should add some priests to its board and start requiring employees to read the Sermon on the Mount. Nor am I saying that you need God to be moral. But Bogost is right: the moral "edict of the [Google] engineer" may not be enough regulation for what is, arguably, the world's most influential corporation. Google's slogan does a service, in that it reminds us that digital technology is not neutral-that is has the capacity to become morally charged. To this, let's hope that Google doesn't add a corollary lesson: that moral self-policing, without something or someone to keep you accountable, will always become corrupt.

WIRED Wired Business by Rory O'Connor

It's bad enough when you run a search company in an increasingly social world. It's worse when anti-trust regulators say you have unfairly and illegally used your dominance in search to promote your own products over those of competitors. Now Google executives, who like to boast of their company's informal motto, "Don't Be Evil," also stand accused of being just that - and rightly so. What other interpretation is possible in light of persistent allegations that the internet titan deliberately engaged in "the s ?"

Google's history of anti-social social networks and anti-trust trust relations that deceptively breach online consumer privacy and trust has already begun to threaten its longstanding web hegemony and its vaunted brand. Now the company's repeatedly defensive and dishonest responses to charges that its specially equipped Street View cars surreptitiously collected private internet communications - including emails, photographs, passwords, chat messages, and postings on websites and social networks - could signal a tipping point.

With the phenomenally successful and profitable internet giant being newly scrutinized by consumers, competitors, regulators and elected officials alike, all concerned about basic issues of privacy, trust and anti-trust, the question must be raised: Is Google facing an existential threat? With government regulators nipping at its heels on both sides of the Atlantic, Facebook leading in the race for attention and prestige, and "social" beginning to replace "search" as a focus of online activity, the company that revolutionized our means of finding information just a decade ago now finds itself increasingly under siege and in danger of fading from prominence to become, in essence, the "next Microsoft."

Who gave these new media companies the right to invade our privacy without our permission or knowledge and then secretly store the data until they can figure out how to profit from it in the future?

That possibility came into sharper focus recently when fed-up European regulators gave the company an ultimatum - change your lying ways about your anticompetitive practices in search, online advertising and smartphone software or face the consequences. Regulators in the United States are poised to follow suit.

Meanwhile, the secret Street View data collection has already led to inquiries in at least a dozen countries. Yet Google still refuses to 'fess up and supply an adequate explanation of what it was up to, why the data was collected and who knew about it. To date, no domestic regulator has even seen the information that Google gathered from American citizens. Instead, Google chose first to deny everything, then blamed a programming mistake involving experimental software, claimed that no use of the illicit data in Google products was foreseen, and said that a single "rogue" programmer was responsible for the whole imbroglio. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) determined instead that the data collection was no accident, that supervisors knew all about it and that Google in fact "intended to collect, store and review" the data "for possible use in other Google products," and fined Google for obstructing the investigation.

Google's response to the FCC was not unusual. At every step of the way, the company has delayed, denied and obstructed investigations into its data collection. It has consistently resisted providing information to both European and American regulators and made them wait months for it - as well as for answers as to why it was collected. Company executives even had the temerity to tell regulators they could not show them the collected data, because to do so might be breaking privacy and wiretapping laws! As Bradford L. Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, told The New York Times while citing Google's stated mission to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful," it seems "Google's practice is to prevent others from doing the same thing."

Given its record, and with so little accountability, how can any of us trust Google - or other Internet giants like Facebook, which now faces its own privacy and anti-trust concerns? Who gave these new media companies the right to invade our privacy without our permission or knowledge and then secretly store the data until they can figure out how to profit from it in the future?

No one, obviously … and as a direct result of their arrogant behavior, both Google and Facebook now face the possibility of eventual showdowns with regulators, the biggest to hit Silicon Valley since the US government went after Microsoft more than a decade ago. Their constant privacy controversies have also caused politicians to begin taking notice. Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, for example, who is in charge of a subcommittee on privacy, noted in a recent speech that companies such as Google and Facebook accumulated data on users because "it's their whole business model. And you are not their client; you are their product."

Small wonder that Google co-founder Larry Page is feeling "paranoid", as the Associated Press recently reported. Why? As I detail in my new book Friends, Followers and the Future: How Social Media are Changing Politics, Threatening Big Brands and Killing Traditional Media, as the new "contextual web" takes the place of the data-driven web of the early 21st century, it will mean further bad news for Google - even though the company still sold $36.5 billion in advertising last year. Couple Google's paranoia about Facebook and the evident failure of its latest social network, Google Plus, with its problems about privacy, trust and anti-trust, and it's no surprise that executives are feeling paranoid.

After all, they are facing the very real prospect of waging a defensive war on many fronts - social, privacy, and trust - simultaneously. Despite its incredible reach, power and profit, it's a war that Google - the 21st century equivalent of the still-powerful but increasingly irrelevant Microsoft - may well be destined to lose, along with the trust its users have long extended to one of the world's most powerful brands.

How Google Makes Its Money

For a company that for the longest time was touted to "not have a product," Google is doing plenty well, and is poised to bring us all into the new age of connectivity.

- Google made $33.3 billion last year

With 97% ($32.2 bil) coming from online ads

Making Google Ads more valuable than Panama (GDP)[3]

And the 31 poorest countries in the world combined

- 70% of this revenue is from adwords, which allows business to advertise by popular keywords

Most expensive keywords

1. Insurance: $54.31 per click

2. Mortgage:$47.12 per click

3. Attorney $47.07 per click

4. Loans:$44.28 per click

5. Credit $36.06 per click

6. Lawyer

7. Donate

8. Degree

9. hosting

10. Claim

11. Conference Call

12. Trading

13. Software

14. Recovery

15. Transfer

16. Gas/Electricity

17. Classes

18. Rehab

19. Treatment

20. Cord Blood

- And 30% is from adsense

which allows business to advertise on particular sites

Some of the most expensive ad placements

  1. CBS March Madness on Demand $70 cost per thousand views
  2. Hulu $35 cost per thousand views
  3. Aol homepage takeover $500,000-$700,000

Chances are, you'll click on a link at some point. Google wants you to stay online as long as possible.

Both Google and other acquisitions are furthering Google's cause.

Google

Google is the lab where future projects are developed. There, several ways in which to keep you online have been developed:

Driverless cars

300,000 miles have been logged in Google's driverless cars, which use sensors and Google map technology to keep you on the road

If you don't have to pay attention to the road, you can be online, for work, play, Google, etc.

Google Glass

A form of augmented reality glasses, allow you to be online all the time with an unobtrusive display within your upper visual field

The "web of things"

Involves embedding many ordinary devices with internet connectivity.

Televisions, thermostats, refrigerators

Google Fiber

Is busy hooking up Kansas City, Missouri, Provo, Utah, and Austin Texas, with lighting fast fiber optic internet access

Including: 1 terabyte of Google drive storage

and, 2 terabyte DVR service for subscribers

That can record up to 8 tv shows at once

Time Magazine has noted that Google does not want to enter the ISP business, but rather wants to shame existing ISPs into improving service so searches can be done more quickly

Plans for an elevator to space...

Because what would you do out there without Google maps?

Other acquisitions by Google Include:

Youtube

Purchased for a--then--astounding $1.65 billion in 2006

Youtube has proved to be plenty worth it

As it is now the third most popular site online, with billions of ads shown yearly

Motorola Mobility

Purchased in 2011 for $12.5 billion.

Motorola is one of 39 Android handset producers

Was bought primarily to "supercharge the Android ecosystem."

Other Acquisitions include

$676 mil for ITA software, a company merged into Google Flights

$450 mil for Wildfire Interactive, a social network marketing engine

$400 mil for AdMeld, an online advertising service

$1.3 bil for Waze, a socially driven mapping technology to merge with Google Maps

And $228 mil for slide.com, a social gaming site

With 83.18% of searches worldwide occurring on Google, and the right people thinking about how to funnel that for the collective, and profitable, good, Google's not going anywhere. Just buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Sources

1. http://most-expensive.com/adword-keywords

2. http://www.wordstream.com/articles/most-expensive-keywords

3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(nominal)

4. http://www.cio.com/article/694854/Google_Future_Tech_10_Coolest_Google_R_D_Projects?page=11#slideshow

5. http://soshable.com/what-does-Google-own/

6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Fiber

7. https://www.netmarketshare.com/search-engine-market-share.aspx?qprid=4&qpcustomd=0/

The Decline of '20% Time' at Google

Slashdot
Posted by Soulskill from the focusing-on-the-bottom-line dept.

One of the things Google is known for is giving their employees so-called '20% time' - that is, the freedom to use a fifth of their working hours to pursue their own projects. Many of these projects have directly improved Google's existing products, and some have spawned new products entirely. An article at Quartz on Friday made that claim that 20% time was all but dead at Google, largely due to interference from upper management. Some Google engineers responded, and said that it has essentially turned into 120% time - they're still free to undertake their own projects, but they typically need their whole normal work week to meet productivity goals. "What 20% time really means is that you- as a Google eng- have access to, and can use, Google's compute infrastructure to experiment and build new systems. The infrastructure, and the associated software tools, can be leveraged in 20% time to make an eng far more productive than they normally would be."

An article at Ars makes the case that this is not necessarily a bad thing, because Google has enough good products that simply need iteration now, making the more innovative 20% time less useful.

"Google wasn't hurting for successful products when it started to tout its 20 percent time: off the backs of its pre-IPO services, it earned a market cap of over $23 billion. But if it was a company that wanted to grow and diversify beyond products that were either related to search or derivative of what already existed, it needed more ideas, better ideas, as quickly as possible. Hence, liberal use of 20 percent time made a lot of sense.

Now, Google is not only an enormous company of nearly 45,000 employees with a market cap twelve times that of its first IPO ($286 billion), it has a lot of big products that it wants to make work. More than it needs more ideas, it needs to make the ideas it has great."

Anonymous Coward

Object lesson (Score:5, Insightful)

The stock market kills companies.

Cryacin

Re: Object lesson (Score:2)

This comes down to the discovery that ideas are an expense. Until the execution of the idea has been implemented, an idea just burns money. Ideas are plenty, especially in Google since for quite some time now, there has been a surplus generated by financial and cultural encouragement.

Google has realised that now it needs to focus in on execution rather than get more expenses. It is the unfortunate reality of making a profit, rather than an endless and inefficient reinvestment cycle.

EvanED

Re:Object lesson (Score:4, Informative)

There are laws and rules that require publicly traded companies to maximize stockholder profit.

No [truthonthemarket.com] no [latimes.com] no [wikipedia.org] no [yahoo.com]!

It's not really true. It's not completely false to talk about the need of public companies to take into consideration , but there are significant problems with the argument most of the time you see someone trot out that line. Shareholder wealth maximization is a consideration, but is by far need not be be-all, end-all goal from a legal perspective. This is particularly true in this scenario of 20% time, because if the board thought that 20% time was a good thing to have from the company's perspective, they would be completely allowed to implement it.

"While the duty to maximize shareholder value may be a useful shorthand for a corporate manager to think about how to act on a day to day basis, this is not legally required or enforceable. The only constraint on board decision making is a pair of duties â" the âoeduty of careâ and the âoeduty of loyalty.â The duty of care requires boards to be well informed and to make deliberate decisions after careful consideration of the issues. Importantly, board members are entitled to rely on experts and corporate officers for their information, can easily comply with duty of care obligations by spending shareholder money on lawyers and process, and, in any event, are routinely indemnified against damages for any breaches of this duty. The duty of loyalty self evidently requires board members to put the interests of the corporation ahead of their own personal interest."

"But if shareholder value thinking is counterproductive, how did it become so prevalent? Non-experts often assume the approach is rooted in law, and that public companies are legally required to maximize profits and shareholder returns. This is pure myth. Thanks to a legal doctrine called the business judgment rule, corporate directors who refrain from using corporate funds to line their own pockets remain legally free to pursue almost any other objective, including providing secure jobs to employees, quality products for consumers and research and tax revenues to benefit society."

"[Dodge vs. Ford Motor Company] is frequently cited as support for the idea that "corporate law requires boards of directors to maximize shareholder wealth." The following articles attempt to refute that interpretation. ... In that context, the Dodge decision is viewed as a mixed result for both sides of the dispute. Ford was denied the ability to arbitrarily undermine the profitability of the firm, and thereby eliminate future dividends. Under the upheld business judgment rule, however, Ford was given considerable leeway via control of his board about what investments he could make. That left him with considerable influence over dividends, but not as complete control as he wished."

"Many of us have heard that corporations are legally required to maximize shareholder value. Guess what, they are not. The law in the United States does not require management to maximize shareholder value (except under rare circumstances such as when the company gets put up for sale). This may surprise you because you've also probably also heard that shareholders own the corporation. That's not true either."

And finally, to make things ever more interesting [innov8social.com]:

"In case law speak, judicial commentary articulating an opinion and not decisive to the case is known as "dicta" and is not binding in the court of law. The comments that have made Dodge v. Ford the single-most known case for defining a corporation's duty to maximize shareholder growth...comes in, well, dicta."

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/googles_spymasters_are_now_worried_about_your_secrets_20130429/ By Robert Scheer

Google's Spymasters Are Now Worried About Your Secrets Apr 29, 2013

"A recent article in The Wall Street Journal by Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, "The Dark Side of the Digital Revolution," makes for very scary reading. It is not so much because of what he and co-author Jared Cohen, the director of Google Ideas, have to say about how dictators can use new information technology to suppress dissent; we know those guys are evil.

What is truly frightening is that the techniques of the totalitarian state are the same ones pioneered by so-called democracies where commercial companies, like Google, have made a hash of the individual's constitutionally guaranteed right to be secure in his or her private space.

The dictators, mired in more technologically primitive societies, didn't develop the fearsome new implements of control of the National Security State. Google and other leaders in this field of massively mined and shared information did. As the authors concede and expand on in their new book:

(read more…)

The Banality of 'Don't Be Evil' by Julian Assange By JULIAN ASSANGE

NYTimes.com

"THE New Digital Age" is a startlingly clear and provocative blueprint for technocratic imperialism, from two of its leading witch doctors, Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, who construct a new idiom for United States global power in the 21st century. This idiom reflects the ever closer union between the State Department and Silicon Valley, as personified by Mr. Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, and Mr. Cohen, a former adviser to Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton who is now director of Google Ideas.

The authors met in occupied Baghdad in 2009, when the book was conceived. Strolling among the ruins, the two became excited that consumer technology was transforming a society flattened by United States military occupation. They decided the tech industry could be a powerful agent of American foreign policy.

The book proselytizes the role of technology in reshaping the world's people and nations into likenesses of the world's dominant superpower, whether they want to be reshaped or not. The prose is terse, the argument confident and the wisdom - banal. But this isn't a book designed to be read. It is a major declaration designed to foster alliances.

"The New Digital Age" is, beyond anything else, an attempt by Google to position itself as America's geopolitical visionary - the one company that can answer the question "Where should America go?" It is not surprising that a respectable cast of the world's most famous warmongers has been trotted out to give its stamp of approval to this enticement to Western soft power. The acknowledgments give pride of place to Henry Kissinger, who along with Tony Blair and the former C.I.A. director Michael Hayden provided advance praise for the book.

In the book the authors happily take up the white geek's burden. A liberal sprinkling of convenient, hypothetical dark-skinned worthies appear: Congolese fisherwomen, graphic designers in Botswana, anticorruption activists in San Salvador and illiterate Masai cattle herders in the Serengeti are all obediently summoned to demonstrate the progressive properties of Google phones jacked into the informational supply chain of the Western empire.

The authors offer an expertly banalized version of tomorrow's world: the gadgetry of decades hence is predicted to be much like what we have right now - only cooler. "Progress" is driven by the inexorable spread of American consumer technology over the surface of the earth. Already, every day, another million or so Google-run mobile devices are activated. Google will interpose itself, and hence the United States government, between the communications of every human being not in China (naughty China). Commodities just become more marvelous; young, urban professionals sleep, work and shop with greater ease and comfort; democracy is insidiously subverted by technologies of surveillance, and control is enthusiastically rebranded as "participation"; and our present world order of systematized domination, intimidation and oppression continues, unmentioned, unafflicted or only faintly perturbed.

The authors are sour about the Egyptian triumph of 2011. They dismiss the Egyptian youth witheringly, claiming that "the mix of activism and arrogance in young people is universal." Digitally inspired mobs mean revolutions will be "easier to start" but "harder to finish." Because of the absence of strong leaders, the result, or so Mr. Kissinger tells the authors, will be coalition governments that descend into autocracies. They say there will be "no more springs" (but China is on the ropes).

The authors fantasize about the future of "well resourced" revolutionary groups. A new "crop of consultants" will "use data to build and fine-tune a political figure."

"His" speeches (the future isn't all that different) and writing will be fed "through complex feature-extraction and trend-analysis software suites" while "mapping his brain function," and other "sophisticated diagnostics" will be used to "assess the weak parts of his political repertoire."

The book mirrors State Department institutional taboos and obsessions. It avoids meaningful criticism of Israel and Saudi Arabia. It pretends, quite extraordinarily, that the Latin American sovereignty movement, which has liberated so many from United States-backed plutocracies and dictatorships over the last 30 years, never happened. Referring instead to the region's "aging leaders," the book can't see Latin America for Cuba. And, of course, the book frets theatrically over Washington's favorite boogeymen: North Korea and Iran.

Google, which started out as an expression of independent Californian graduate student culture - a decent, humane and playful culture - has, as it encountered the big, bad world, thrown its lot in with traditional Washington power elements, from the State Department to the National Security Agency.

Despite accounting for an infinitesimal fraction of violent deaths globally, terrorism is a favorite brand in United States policy circles. This is a fetish that must also be catered to, and so "The Future of Terrorism" gets a whole chapter. The future of terrorism, we learn, is cyberterrorism. A session of indulgent scaremongering follows, including a breathless disaster-movie scenario, wherein cyberterrorists take control of American air-traffic control systems and send planes crashing into buildings, shutting down power grids and launching nuclear weapons. The authors then tar activists who engage in digital sit-ins with the same brush.

I have a very different perspective. The advance of information technology epitomized by Google heralds the death of privacy for most people and shifts the world toward authoritarianism. This is the principal thesis in my book, "Cypherpunks." But while Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Cohen tell us that the death of privacy will aid governments in "repressive autocracies" in "targeting their citizens," they also say governments in "open" democracies will see it as "a gift" enabling them to "better respond to citizen and customer concerns." In reality, the erosion of individual privacy in the West and the attendant centralization of power make abuses inevitable, moving the "good" societies closer to the "bad" ones.

The section on "repressive autocracies" describes, disapprovingly, various repressive surveillance measures: legislation to insert back doors into software to enable spying on citizens, monitoring of social networks and the collection of intelligence on entire populations. All of these are already in widespread use in the United States. In fact, some of those measures - like the push to require every social-network profile to be linked to a real name - were spearheaded by Google itself.

THE writing is on the wall, but the authors cannot see it. They borrow from William Dobson the idea that the media, in an autocracy, "allows for an opposition press as long as regime opponents understand where the unspoken limits are." But these trends are beginning to emerge in the United States. No one doubts the chilling effects of the investigations into The Associated Press and Fox's James Rosen. But there has been little analysis of Google's role in complying with the Rosen subpoena. I have personal experience of these trends.

The Department of Justice admitted in March that it was in its third year of a continuing criminal investigation of WikiLeaks. Court testimony states that its targets include "the founders, owners, or managers of WikiLeaks." One alleged source, Bradley Manning, faces a 12-week trial beginning tomorrow, with 24 prosecution witnesses expected to testify in secret.

This book is a balefully seminal work in which neither author has the language to see, much less to express, the titanic centralizing evil they are constructing. "What Lockheed Martin was to the 20th century," they tell us, "technology and cybersecurity companies will be to the 21st." Without even understanding how, they have updated and seamlessly implemented George Orwell's prophecy. If you want a vision of the future, imagine Washington-backed Google Glasses strapped onto vacant human faces - forever. Zealots of the cult of consumer technology will find little to inspire them here, not that they ever seem to need it. But this is essential reading for anyone caught up in the struggle for the future, in view of one simple imperative: Know your enemy.

Julian Assange is the editor in chief of WikiLeaks and author of "Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet."

y ROY FURCHGOTT

It used to be that every new phone was heralded as "the iPhone killer." Now the preoccupation is with "the Siri killer," the app that will replace the sometimes frustrating Siri personal assistant on the iPhone.

The latest and most notable entry is Google Now, an app that anticipates what information you might want and puts it on your phone screen before you ask for it. Google Now has been on Android phones since June of last year, and it was added to the iPhone Google Search app last month.

It can seem wonderfully prescient or intrusively creepy, but there is an easy adjustment if you don't like the feeling that Google is watching your every move.

Google Now guesses what you will want based on your Google searches, your Google calendar, where you are and things like travel confirmation messages in your Gmail account, among other things.

When I first went to Google Now on an iPhone, it showed me stock quotes for a company I recently looked up on my computer, gave me the local weather and recommended nearby restaurants. Curiously, it also showed me a map with directions that said it would take me 16 minutes to get home, even though I was already home.

It is no replacement for Siri, but it is something you might use in addition to Siri - if you aren't creeped out knowing that Google Now is looking over your shoulder at everything you do online.

You can reduce that feeling, though.

To do so, go to the Google Search app and swipe your finger up from the bottom of the screen. That puts you in Google Now. Scroll to the last box and at the bottom you will see a little gear icon on the right. Touch it and you will see a list of Google Now categories, like weather, traffic, Gmail and sports. Those categories let you further manage what information it will give you.

For instance, touch "Sports" and it gives you the option of seeing posts before a game, during a game or after a game, or you can turn sports off entirely. You can also touch "Teams" and only get news of specific teams.

If managing the app seems like too much work, you can always just turn Google Now off entirely.

Of course, just because the app doesn't tell you what it's looking at anymore doesn't mean it's not looking.

US-based surveillance and data collection New UN report provides guidance on PRISM By Shawna Finnegan and Carly Nyst

Jun 13, 2013 | Association for Progressive Communication

At the 23rd session of the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, released his latest report – an analysis of the implications of States' surveillance of communications on the exercise of the human rights to privacy and to freedom of opinion and expression. The report covers a number of important issues, including lack of judicial oversight, unregulated access to communications data, mandatory data retention, exceptions for national security, identity disclosure laws, restrictions on encryption and key disclosure laws, extra territorial application of surveillance laws and extra-legal surveillance.

This report by the Special Rapporteur comes at an important time, as leaked classified documents detailing surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA) reveal consistent violations of international human rights obligations. According to these leaked documents surveillance is performed by the NSA program 'PRISM', which allows for the collection of personal data including the content of search history, email, and online chats. Targeted at non-US communications, the programme raises serious concern over extra-territorial application of surveillance laws, and unregulated access to communications data.

If the US government – bound by the world's most well-tested constitutional protections, reinforced by rigorous congressional oversight, buttressed by an independent judiciary – is secretly spying on its citizens, what can we expect from any other government? What does that say about the veracity and accountability of public figures if the head of the National Security Agency during testimony to Congress avoids mentioning this significant data gathering exercise and then lies to the press? It was only few weeks ago when General Keith Alexander, head of the NSA, told Reuters that "the great irony is we're the only ones not spying on the American people".

Sadly, this is not new or isolated. Worse, it is now legitimized. The discovery is part of a growing tide of surveillance measures, in both democratic and repressive states, that will ultimately have the effect of creating all-seeing, all-knowing governments, removing any pretense of a private space free from State interference. In just the past few months, we've seen reports of the US Department of Justice spying on journalists, the French and Spanish governments trying to legalise trojan software for the use of law enforcement, a UK Communications Data Bill that would essentially replicate and enhance the tactics being used by the NSA, and studies that show the presence of invasive surveillance technologies in countries like Australia, Germany, Singapore, and Malaysia.

If they turn to the law for protection, individuals will find little recourse. In many countries, laws have not kept up with technological changes, and are obsolete. In others, tangential references to terrorism and paedophilia have been used to justify the weakening of legal standards, the removal of judicial oversight, the expansion of national security exceptions, and the purported extension of domestic powers to foreign jurisdictions. Laws mandating the collection and retention of extra forms of data, laws requiring the provision of identification at cybercafés or the use of real names online, and laws compelling the provision of decryption assistance all proliferate.

This widespread and invasive surveillance is has the effect of instilling fear in the citizenry; fear that our thoughts, words and relationships will be the subject of interception and analysis; fear that the content we access on the internet will be exposed. This fear can cause us to withdraw from public spaces, censor our communications, refrain from accessing certain services.

It is still unclear what role internet intermediaries, such as Google, Facebook, and Apple, played in providing access to data used by the NSA. According to the leaked document, surveillance relies on participation of US-based online intermediaries, reporting that "access is 100% dependent on ISP provisioning". The Special Rapporteur addresses intermediary liability in his report, stating that the private sector "played a key role in facilitating State surveillance of individuals" and in the most serious cases have "been complicit in developing technologies that enable mass or invasive surveillance in contravention of existing legal standards".

While Google denies having knowledge of the NSA PRISM scheme it recently confirmed that it's Transparency Report does not include data on NSA surveillance. Examining the roles and responsibilities of the private sector, the Special Rapporteur stated "States must ensure that the private sector is able to carry out its functions independently in a manner that promotes individuals' human rights."

On Tuesday June 4th, Privacy International, with support from APC and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign affairs, held a side-event at the HRC to discuss issues raised by the Special Rapporteur is his report – the first explicit statement by a UN body about the dangerous effects of State Surveillance since 2009. Importantly, the report emphasised that surveillance must be subjected to the oversight of independent mechanisms before it is conducted. Without safeguards protecting private communications from the intrusion of State actors, the important democratic tenets of individual autonomy, free speech and political participation cannot be realised.

Judicial authorization by independent and impartial tribunals is an essential prerequisite to surveillance. Courts must be accessible and their decisions open to the scrutiny of the public. In this sense, secret courts are completely deficient and incapable of playing an effective oversight role and fail to provide a fair and open administration of justice. If the way governments interpret the law, and the manner in which they execute it, is secret, then the law in effect is secret.

For too long governments have exploited advances in surveillance technology that have far outpaced national laws regulating their use. No surveillance should be conducted unless it is explicitly authorised by a law that citizens can access and understand. Individuals must be able to forsee that they may be subjected to surveillance, and as a result, laws should be precise and clear.

Further, blanket and indiscriminate surveillance should never be legal. International human rights standards demand that each violation of human rights be considered on a case by case basis in which a court weighs the proportionality of the benefit to be gained against the harm to be done. Mass surveillance can never satisfy this critical requirement.

APC and Privacy International, as part of a coalition of more than 90 civil society organizations and individuals, presented a joint statement to the Human Rights Council on June 10th, addressing the PRISM/NSA case and calling on the HRC to act swiftly to prevent the creation of a global Internet based surveillance system by:

  1. convening a special session to examine this case
  2. supporting a multistakeholder process to implement the recommendation of Mr La Rue that the Human Rights Committee develop a new General Comment 16 on the right to privacy in light of technological advancements; and
  3. requesting the High Commissioner to prepare a report that:
    1. formally asks states to report on practices and laws in place on surveillance and what corrective steps will they will take to meet human rights standards, and,
    2. examines the implications of this case in in the light of the Human Rights Council endorsed United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the "Protect, Respect and Remedy" Framework of A/HRC/RES/17/4.

Recalling statements made by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, the civil society coalition statement calls on States to protect whistleblowers involved in the PRISM case and to support their efforts to combat violations of the fundamental human rights of all global citizens.

Recent revelation compels us to update our understandings about what information is valuable and of interest to our governments, and to demand that greater protection be accorded to such information. As surveillance technologies and methods advance, communications traffic data – traditionally treated as "less private" by law and as such subjected to lower authorization thresholds – becomes a treasure trove from which the State can derive vast amounts of information. This includes who we talk to and for how long; where we go and who we meet; who we bank with, shop with and receive a variety of other services from – creating a detailed profile of our associations, movements, relationships, and activities.

Privacy is the fundamental barrier that stands in the way of complete State control and domination. And it is gradually being dismantled by laws and technologies that enable government intrusion into our emails, internet activities, phone calls, movements, interactions and relationship. A citizenry unable to form or communicate private thoughts without the interference of the State will not only be deprived of their right to privacy, they will be deprived of their human dignity. For the ability to freely think and impart ideas is essential to who we are as human beings.

Watch this space for further updates and information on internet-related issues at the Human Rights Council and related mechanisms.

Photo by Faheem Hussain

Privacy International Privacy International

Is Google Invading Your Privacy? by Cade Metz

February 26, 2003 | PCMag

Every year, Chris Hoofnagle organizes the US Big Brother Awards under the auspices of a public interest group called Privacy International. "These are awards we give out to government institutions and businesses who've done the most to invade our privacy," says Hoofnagle, who also serves as deputy counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), another public-interest group concerned with maintaining civil rights on the Internet.

The awards won't be announced until March, but Hoofnagle recently received a nomination that he found particularly worthy of investigation. Representatives of a Web site called Google Watch sent him an e-mail complaining about privacy infringements by none other than the Web's most popular search engine. Basically, the e-mail accused Google of disseminating spyware. Google, the message said, was using its Toolbar application to collect reams of information about the surfing habits of the world's PC users.

To most users, the Google Toolbar, available for download at Google.com, is simply a convenient means of searching the Web. When you install the app on your PC, it integrates with your Web browser, giving you an unobtrusive command bar with a text-entry box you can use to quickly and easily send a query to Google's online search engine. You type a query into the box, and your browser, jumping to Google.com, immediately displays the results.

Google collects a good deal of information about your query. It records not only what you searched for (when you activate the advanced Toolbar features), but several other pieces of information as well, including the time of day, the type of browser you're running, the language your browser uses, and your IP address. Many times, after giving you a list of Web sites that match your search, Google will also record which sites you actually visited. "Google may choose to exhibit its search results in the form of a 'URL redirecter,'" reads Google's main privacy policy. "When Google uses a URL redirecter, if you click on a URL from a search result, information about the click is sent to Google."

Of course, the company collects all this information if you enter a query directly into Google.com without using the Toolbar. The problem with the Toolbar is that, if the app's advanced features are running, Google also keeps a record of every single site you visit-whether you're using the app to search the Web or not.

One of the advanced Toolbar features is a service called PageRank. With this activated, when you visit a Web site, a small PageRank icon in the toolbar gives you a rough indication of how popular the site is. If the site is particularly popular, you'll see a long green line. If not, you'll see a short green line. When this service is turned on, Google keeps a complete record of every Web site you visit. "If you choose to enable the Google Toolbar's advanced features (e.g., viewing the PageRank of web pages)," says the Toolbar privacy policy, "the URLs of the sites you visit will automatically be forwarded to Google." The only way Google can provide the PageRank service is by collecting this information.

The presence of software that collects information about users' online behavior has become extremely common on the world's online PCs. WebRoot, makers of an application called Spy Sweeper that helps users remove spyware from their systems, says that there are over 6,000 forms of spyware loose on the Internet today. This includes not only cookies and browser aids like the Google Toolbar, but also adware that tracks your behavior to target you for pop-up advertisements; keystroke loggers and other system monitors that let others lift extremely personal information like e-mail from your system; and Trojan horses that give hackers complete access to your PC, letting them not only track your behavior but also control your system, changing settings and deleting files. According to research firm Gartner, adware alone has found its way into over 20 million PCs across the world.

What makes Google practices particularly worrisome is that its services are used by such a wide audience. The company collects 150 million queries a day from more than 100 different countries. But on the upside, because Google has such a high profile, the company is under pressure to inform Internet users about its practices. Before you install the Google Toolbar, the company explicitly warns you that, in using PageRank, "you may be sending information about the sites you visit to Google" and gives you the opportunity to disable the service. The Toolbar privacy policy explains how to disable PageRank after you've installed the app. And, through both the main Google privacy policy and the Toolbar privacy policy, the company gives a complete description of the information it collects and how it uses that information.

Generally, when the company records your surfing habits, it does not link this data to your name or any other "personally identifiable" information. "Google does not collect any unique information about you (such as your name, email address, etc.) except when you specifically and knowingly provide such information," reads the main privacy policy. And when it does collect this sort of information, the company does not rent or sell it to other businesses or organizations.

"Google strives to uphold the highest level of integrity and respect for our users' information," says Google vice president of Corporate Development, David Drummond. "Google does not share non-aggregate user information with third parties and we treat the integrity and security of user information seriously."

The company does, however, share records of users' surfing habits with people outside the company: "Google may share information about you with advertisers, business partners, sponsors, and other third parties." And, as is the case with any business, the company "will release specific personal information about you if required to do so in order to comply with any valid legal process such as a search warrant, subpoena, statute, or court order."

Should you be worried about information Google is collecting? Chris Hoofnagle is. "I thought [the Google Toolbar] was something that let you use the Web more easily, not something that let the company track you," he says. "I'm rather astounded."

Discuss this article in the forums.

http://www.google-watch.org

Google's toolbar is spyware:

With the advanced features enabled, Google's free toolbar for Explorer phones home with every page you surf, and yes, it reads your cookie too. Their privacy policy confesses this, but that's only because Alexa lost a class-action lawsuit when their toolbar did the same thing, and their privacy policy failed to explain this. Worse yet, Google's toolbar updates to new versions quietly, and without asking. This means that if you have the toolbar installed, Google essentially has complete access to your hard disk every time you connect to Google (which is many times a day). Most software vendors, and even Microsoft, ask if you'd like an updated version. But not Google.

Any software that updates automatically presents a massive security risk.

Google hires spooks:

Matt Cutts, a key Google engineer, used to work for the National Security Agency. Google wants to hire more people with security clearances, so that they can peddle their corporate assets to the spooks in Washington.

Google bar as spyware at DuckDuckGo

Google Toolbar is Spyware

Sep 17 2007

I see many discussions on SEO boards each month with people debating whether Google should hide PagerRank on their toolbar. As usual, everyone is missing the point when it comes to Google's grand strategy. First you need to ask this question – Who installs the toolbar?

Well you can bet everyday searchers are not installing the Google toolbar and and most don't even know it exists.. Go ahead and ask your non-techy friends if they installed the Google toolbar and watch their eyes glaze over. Don't even bother asking them if they know what Pagerank is – they don't and you don't have time to explain it to them. So that leaves two groups of Google Toolbar users. SEOs and Link buyers and sellers. Well one group, since SEOs are buying 90% of all paid links.

Most SEOs have the toolbar installed so they can do a quick check of a their clients and other page's Pagerank. What they don't realize is the toolbar is basically spyware to track SEOs – Google's biggest enemy. If Pagerank goes away, SEOs would uninstall the toolbar and Google would lose all that juicy information on SEOs. Information like what sites SEOs visit, where their paid links are, what links they are checking, what searches they are performing and who they are doing SEO for would all be lost if they eliminate Pagerank from the toolbar.

Google has the horsepower to track these things and their toolbar is the greatest piece of spyware ever invented. Think about it, the people Google wants watch the closest, are the ones that are voluntarily installing this chunk of spyware called the "Google Toolbar" so they can see that little green PageRank bar.

Take my advice. If you buy or sell links or are an SEO, uninstall the toolbar NOW so Google can't track your web behavior. There are plenty of websites out there that can give you a webpage's PR – USE THEM.

Sure it's an extra few clicks to get pagerank, but it sure is better than giving Google and open invitation into your business. Don't be lazy, be smart.

-Jazz

Google Toolbar - spyware

Google Toolbar - spyware? Aug 2003

Anyone who thinks google toolbar ISNT spyware needs to look at this.... I was just doing some work on some sites I just moved to a new server a few hours ago. I was working on a cgi script linkback.pl, note, cgi-sys has never been used on any of my servers till literally just now, while doing it googlebot mediapartner crawls the exact link.... Again this link does not exist on my site, it is a link that I just made to test the linkback..., and this server has only been used today. Check out the logs... of course I removed the actual hosts and replaced them

.bellsouth.net - - [31/Dec/2003:22:22:39 -0600] "GET /cgi-sys/linkback.pl?http://www.HOST.com HTTP/1.1" 200 219 "-" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; Alexa Toolbar; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)" .bellsouth.net - - [31/Dec/2003:22:22:39 -0600] "GET /cgi-sys/linkback.pl?links; HTTP/1.1" 200 127 "http://www.HOST.com/cgi-sys/linkback.pl?http://www.HOST.com" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; Alexa Toolbar; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)" crawler4.googlebot.com - - [31/Dec/2003:22:22:47 -0600] "GET /cgi-sys/linkback.pl?http://www.HOST.com HTTP/1.0" 200 207 "-" "Mediapartners-Google/2.1 (+http://www.googlebot.com/bot.html)" .bellsouth.net - - [31/Dec/2003:22:24:18 -0600] "GET /cgi-bin/linkback.pl?http://www.HOST.com HTTP/1.1" 500 - "-" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; Alexa Toolbar; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)" Happy New Year!

12-31-2003, 11:45 PM #2

cbp

The toolbar reports the URL's you visit, so doing this means it could be considered spyware.

But you clearly agreed when you installed the toolbar at installation time to this, so its not spyware.

Google give you the option to turn this feature off.

CBP

Does the Google tool bar have spyware

Answer from ~3critters1nheavn~

2 people found this helpful

And then there were four

Google is one of about four search engines that matter. There are many more than four engines, but only about four have the technology to crawl much of the web on a regular basis. As of July 2003, Yahoo owned Overture, Alltheweb, AltaVista, and Inktomi, and finally dumped Google in February 2004. Everything needed to turn Yahoo into a major search engine was now under Yahoo's roof.

It is still possible that Yahoo will shoot themselves in the foot with all of this firepower -- their desire to monetize everything appears to be high on their agenda. But so far, after only a year, Yahoo has shown that their main index search results are on a par with Google's. This is true despite the fact that Yahoo has has infiltrated some pay-per-click links into the main index. One reason for Yahoo's success is that Google's main index, though free from paid results, has declined considerably since early 2003. Amazingly, there is on average only a 20 percent overlap between Yahoo's first 100 results and Google's first 100 results for the same search -- and still, Yahoo is just as good as Google. These days there is so little room at the top of the search results heap, that any combination of algorithms will produce acceptable results. The main difference now is in the depth of the crawl.

Microsoft recently developed their own engine because they found themselves squeezed between the advertising engine of Overture and the search engine Inktomi -- both of which became Yahoo property. In 2003 Microsoft began experimenting with their own crawler. Their new engine was launched in early 2005. If Microsoft puts their greed on a back burner for a few years, by doing deep crawls and presenting a clean interface, they could do to Google what they did to Netscape. There is no "secret sauce" at Google -- we now believe it was all hype from the very beginning. (To the extent that there ever was a secret sauce, the recipe is now known by countless ecommerce spammers, which makes it a liability rather than an asset.) Thousands of engineers in hundreds of companies know how to design search engines. The only real questions are whether you can commit the resources for a deep, consistent crawl of the web, and how aggressively you want to use your search engine to make money.

That gives us Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft. The last one worth watching is Teoma/AskJeeves. Their search technology is good, and they seem serious about expanding their crawl. It remains to be seen how deeply and consistently they will be able to crawl websites with thousands of pages.

Google is easily top dog. They provide about 75 percent of the external referrals for most websites. There is no point in putting up a website apart from Google. It's do or die with Google. If we're all very lucky, one of the other three will soon offer some serious competition. If we're not lucky, we will be uploading our websites to Google's servers by then, much like the bloggers do at blogger.com (which was bought by Google in 2003). It would mean the end of the web as we know it.

It is worthwhile to understand the pressures that the average, independent webmaster is under. And given that Google is so dominant, it's important to understand the pressures that are being brought to bear on Google, Inc. It does not take too much imagination to recognize that there's a struggle going on for the soul of the web, and the focal point of this struggle is Google itself.

At one level, it's a struggle for advertising revenue. The pundits look at only this level, and are unanimous that the only advertising model on the web with any sort of future is one where little ads appear after being triggered by keyword searches, or by the non-ad content of a web page. For example, a search for Google Watch may show some ads on the right side of the screen for wrist watches. While the technique doesn't work for this example, often it serves its purpose. There is only so much pixeled real estate that the average user can be expected to survey for a given search. Today up to half of each screen is dedicated to paid ads on Google, as compared to the ad-free original Google. Everyone wants a piece of this new wave in web advertising, and Google is making a lot of money.

Unfortunately, early evidence suggests that Yahoo is less interested in pure search algorithms, than in acquiring market share in a pay-for-placement and/or pay-for-inclusion revenue stream. The same may be true for Microsoft. Even Google, dazzled by the sudden income from advertising, must be wondering why they go to all that trouble and expense to crawl the noncommercial sector. Those public-sector sites, such as the org, edu and gov domains, do not provide direct income, even though the web would be unattractive without them. All the excitement over a revived online ad market, pushed by pundits hoping for another dot-com gold rush, is beginning to look like the days when AltaVista decided that portals were the Next Big Thing. That notion caused AltaVista to lose interest in improving their crawling and searching -- which is how Google succeeded in the first place.

There has been almost no interest in establishing search engines that specialize in public-sector websites. Where is the Library of Congress? Where are the millions of dollars doled out by the Ford Foundation? How about the United Nations? Why can't some enlightened European entity pick up the slack? Everyone is asleep, while the Internet is getting spammed to death.

At another level, it's a struggle over who will have the predominant influence over the massive amounts of user data that Google collects. In the past, discussions about privacy issues and the web have been about consumer protection. That continues to be of interest, but since 9/11 there is a new threat to privacy -- the federal government. Google has not shown any inclination to declare for the rights of its users across the globe, as opposed to the rights of the spies in Washington who would love to have access to Google's user data.

Much of the struggle at this new level is unarticulated. For one thing, the spies in Washington don't talk about it. Congress has given them new powers, without debating the issues. Google, Inc. itself never comments about things that matter. The struggle recognized by Google Watch has to do with the clash of real forces, but right now all we can say is that potentially this struggle could manifest itself in Google's boardroom.

The privacy struggle, which includes both the old issue of consumer protection and this new issue of government surveillance, means that the question of how Google treats the data it collects from users becomes critical. Given that Google is so central to the web, whatever attitude it takes toward privacy has massive implications for the rest of the web in general, and for other search engines in particular.

Call it class warfare, if you like. Because that brings up the other major gripe that Google Watch has with Google. That's the PageRank problem -- the fact that Google's primary ranking algorithm has less to do with the quality of web pages, than it has to do with the "power popularity" of web pages. Their approach to ranking is anti-democratic, in that already-powerful pages are mathematically granted extra power to anoint other pages as powerful.

It's not that we believe Google is evil. What we believe is that Google, Inc. is at a fork in the road, and they have some big decisions to make. This Google Watch site is trying to articulate and publicize the situation at Google, and encourage more scrutiny of their operations. By doing this, we hope to play a small part in maintaining the web as an information tool that is more useful for the masses, than it is for the elites.

That's why we and over 500 others nominated Google for a Big Brother award in 2003. The nine points we raised in connection with this nomination necessarily focused on privacy issues:

1. Google's immortal cookie:

Google was the first search engine to use a cookie that expires in 2038. This was at a time when federal websites were prohibited from using persistent cookies altogether. Now it's years later, and immortal cookies are commonplace among search engines; Google set the standard because no one bothered to challenge them. This cookie places a unique ID number on your hard disk. Anytime you land on a Google page, you get a Google cookie if you don't already have one. If you have one, they read and record your unique ID number.

2. Google records everything they can:

For all searches they record the cookie ID, your Internet IP address, the time and date, your search terms, and your browser configuration. Increasingly, Google is customizing results based on your IP number. This is referred to in the industry as "IP delivery based on geolocation."

3. Google retains all data indefinitely:

Google has no data retention policies. There is evidence that they are able to easily access all the user information they collect and save.

4. Google won't say why they need this data:

Inquiries to Google about their privacy policies are ignored. When the New York Times (2002-11-28) asked Sergey Brin about whether Google ever gets subpoenaed for this information, he had no comment.

5. Google hires spooks:

Matt Cutts, a key Google engineer, used to work for the National Security Agency. Google wants to hire more people with security clearances, so that they can peddle their corporate assets to the spooks in Washington.

6. Google's toolbar is spyware:

With the advanced features enabled, Google's free toolbar for Explorer phones home with every page you surf, and yes, it reads your cookie too. Their privacy policy confesses this, but that's only because Alexa lost a class-action lawsuit when their toolbar did the same thing, and their privacy policy failed to explain this. Worse yet, Google's toolbar updates to new versions quietly, and without asking. This means that if you have the toolbar installed, Google essentially has complete access to your hard disk every time you connect to Google (which is many times a day). Most software vendors, and even Microsoft, ask if you'd like an updated version. But not Google. Any software that updates automatically presents a massive security risk.

7. Google's cache copy is illegal:

Judging from Ninth Circuit precedent on the application of U.S. copyright laws to the Internet, Google's cache copy appears to be illegal. The only way a webmaster can avoid having his site cached on Google is to put a "noarchive" meta in the header of every page on his site. Surfers like the cache, but webmasters don't. Many webmasters have deleted questionable material from their sites, only to discover later that the problem pages live merrily on in Google's cache. The cache copy should be "opt-in" for webmasters, not "opt-out."

8. Google is not your friend:

By now Google enjoys a 75 percent monopoly for all external referrals to most websites. Webmasters cannot avoid seeking Google's approval these days, assuming they want to increase traffic to their site. If they try to take advantage of some of the known weaknesses in Google's semi-secret algorithms, they may find themselves penalized by Google, and their traffic disappears. There are no detailed, published standards issued by Google, and there is no appeal process for penalized sites. Google is completely unaccountable. Most of the time Google doesn't even answer email from webmasters.

9. Google is a privacy time bomb:

With 200 million searches per day, most from outside the U.S., Google amounts to a privacy disaster waiting to happen. Those newly-commissioned data-mining bureaucrats in Washington can only dream about the sort of slick efficiency that Google has already achieved.

Google as a privacy threat

June 28, 2004 | CNET News

By Stefanie Olsen Staff Writer, CNET News

For Google users like Tim Yu, the threat of spyware isn't so easy to stare down.

Yu, a Stanford University student, recently found that one of his family's computers was infected with a program called "BrowserAid/Featured Results," which was delivering additional and unwanted pop-up ads atop Google results. He managed to rid the computer of that application, but a similar, unidentifiable program could not be eliminated.

"I removed it from the registry, but this one heals itself," Yu said. Spyware makers, he said, are getting more sophisticated.

News.context

What's new: Google is an attractive target for spyware makers out to hitch a ride to ad-related profits.

Bottom line: Spyware installs itself on a PC without consumers' knowledge and tracks computer usage. Why? Google alone is set to bring in $1 billion from advertising this year.

More stories on this topic

And that's a problem for Google, as new strains of spyware attempt to profit from the highly popular search engine and its lucrative pay-per-click advertising program by altering search results pages or delivering pop-up windows with their own lists of text ads.

Spyware is a catchall term for software that installs itself on a PC without consumers' knowledge and that tracks computer usage, sometimes with criminal intent. A related breed of software, adware, is designed for less invasive, but more annoying, delivery of advertisements.

An entire industry of spyware and adware has sprouted up to take advantage of search engine ads, which are the most lucrative and fast-growing sector of online advertising. Sales from search advertising are expected to reach about $3.2 billion this year, up from $2.5 billion last year and just less than $1 billion in 2002, according to research firm eMarketer. Google alone is expected to rake in more than $1 billion from advertising this year.

The problem shows no signs of abating. A recent survey reported that nearly one out of every three computers scanned for Trojan horse programs or monitoring software like spyware was infected, according to security software maker Webroot Software. For some in the U.S. Congress, the threat is serious enough to warrant legislation designed to protect consumers.

Google in particular has drawn the attention of interlopers. Researchers for Lavasoft, which sells the popular spyware detection software Ad-aware, have identified one application that targets Google by altering the display of search results. The spyware, known as "Gloggle.Shing," carries a high threat level, according to Lavasoft, because the software installs itself in stealth mode when people visit certain Web sites, which the company did not name.

PestPatrol, another spyware fighter, has named "BrowserAid," along with many of its variants, as an application that affects search results. According to PestPatrol, the software installs itself via downloads from partner sites and delivers pop-up windows displaying ad links when a person searches at Google.

A hard look from LookSmart And at least one publicly traded Internet company is trying to distance itself from yet another spyware maker preying on Google and other major search providers.

LookSmart, an online search and directory service, said it recently investigated its business partners in an attempt to discover which company had disseminated its text ads over those of Google. The partner had apparently linked it to a Web site called Clickthrutracking.com without permission, allowing that site to display LookSmart text ads over the sponsored results of Yahoo and Microsoft's MSN, as well as those of Google.

"You would not believe the size and scope of the gray market in this arena."

--Elliot Noss, president, Tucows

The San Francisco-based company sent a letter in June to all of its partners, aiming to bar them from working with Clickthrutracking.com. The company would not disclose the name of the offending business partner, which apparently owns the domain Clicktrutracking.com. According to Whois domain name records, the company is called Search Request and is based in Phoenix. Calls to business license authorities in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Ariz., do not reflect a company of that name or address operating in the state. The company's Web site is intermittently out of service.

"We have a blacklist of sites that (our partners) won't allow traffic from, and that list includes Clickthrutracking.com," LookSmart spokesman Dakota Sullivan said. "They will screen that traffic out, and if it slips through, we won't pay for the traffic."

LookSmart's temporary link to this distribution partner highlights the reach of spyware across the Internet industry. Untangling from spyware is becoming as hard for Internet businesses as it is for unsuspecting Web surfers.

The ranks of spyware and adware makers are on the rise, because the technology makes it relatively easy for someone to make money. Google, Yahoo and others collect fees from marketers each time people click on sponsored text ads. Marketers buy into the programs and bid for keywords in hope of reaching people who are searching for a particular product or service.

Major search engines and second-tier search providers distribute those text ads to third-party publishers and split the fees with them when people click. So if a spyware maker can arrange to place text ads over popular search engines, it is set to cash in.

"You would not believe the size and scope of the gray market in this arena," said Elliot Noss, president of Tucows, a downloads site. "It runs the gamut from light gray to dark gray."

The complexity of the ad distribution partnerships is illustrated in Yahoo's recent move to provide Web surfers with a tool to block spyware and viruses on the browser.

Yet the toolbar application does not block advertising software like that from controversial company Claria, formerly known as Gator and one of the largest providers of adware. Through its own tool called Search Scout, Claria delivers text ads from Yahoo's Overture Services in a pop-up window when people search on Google. As much as 30 percent of Claria's revenue is derived from Overture.

In another example of the cottage industry, Internet service provider 550Access.com introduced a toolbar in March that blocks certain ads from search results and replaces them with others.

Google's role Google also distributes its text ads to questionable areas of the Web through Applied Semantics, a company it bought last year. When Web site visitors type in a misspelled domain name, they might find a page of related sponsored ads from Google.

Google limited its comments for this story, citing its upcoming $2.7 billion initial public offering. But the company pointed to recent guidelines it published on its Web site regarding downloadable PC software and best practices for the industry to notify consumers of their tactics and give them a way to opt out.

Google has a stake in the business as a destination site that can be affected by third parties out to profit from control of the browser. It's also an application provider that could be affected by legislation meant to ban types of spyware or adware. It develops the Google Toolbar and Deskbar, which help people access search results from a central point on the browser and desktop, respectively. The applications also "phone home" usage data to the company's server if consumers agree to let Google monitor their habits for the sake of improving the service.

Utah and Massachusetts have already enacted laws to restrict types of downloadable software from tracking users and delivering ads. But adware maker WhenU recently contested the Utah law and won a temporary reprieve.

"Google's goal is to provide users with the best search experience," according to a statement on the company's Web site. "We have recently published a set of software principles designed to foster discussion about defining and fighting spyware, and ultimately to contribute to a better user experience online."

Yet Google's IPO prospectus acknowledges--if briefly--the threat facing the company: "New technologies could block our ads, which would harm our business."

Technology experts urge consumers to scan their machines with security or anti-spyware software regularly. Programs they suggest include PestPatrol, Ad-aware, and Spybot Search & Destroy.

"Consumers should be aware of the applications and files residing and running on their machines," said Matt Cobb, vice president of core applications at Internet service provider EarthLink.

Danny Sullivan, editor of industry newsletter Search Engine Watch, said he's had several reports of adware that obstructed Google results over the last six to eight months, and he suspects that there are several different strains.

"The bigger issue is that for advertisers, your paid listings can be distributed in all sorts of ways you don't know about," Sullivan said, "and you may not have a way to discover where they're going."

Google and Spyware

On February 1, 2005, Google announced record revenues of $1.032 billion and profits of $303 million. Just like everyone else in the world, I was blown away. What a great company! The stock market seemed to agree since Google's stock price hit a record high after their earnings announcement.

But there's something that has been bothering me and many others in the antispyware community about the search engine juggernaut. And that's Google's ties to spyware.

Spyware companies are making lots of money sneaking onto your PC's. They are spending lots of money too–on phony anti-spyware review sites and enticing free software like screen savers or even security software. Their goal is to trick you to download their payload of spyware.

But they're not the only ones in the act. Antispyware companies are making lots of dough too. More and more less than ethical companies are spending tons of money trying to get you to use their antispyware solution. Frankly, some of these products are horrible. In the worst cases, they will install even MORE spyware on your system.

Can you trust these companies just because Google's name is on top?

What do all of these companies have in common? They do business with Google. We are experiencing this problem first hand at PC Pitstop, since our site tends to attract people with inexplicable PC problems like spyware. Notice the Google ads on the right of many of our pages. We were getting so many complaints that we had to take the Google Ad Bar off of our pages strictly centered around spyware. We lost a LOT Of money removing the ad bar from our spyware pages, but we just could not afford for our visitors to end up with more spyware and no solution to their problems.

Notice on the Google Ad Bar that it says on top Ads By Goooooogle. Over a year ago, it did not say that, but they added their name on the ad bar. Why? Because people trust Google. They have a sterling reputation. But now they are using this sterling reputation to subtly endorse every spyware dirtball out there.

Google's profits are being made at the expense of PC Pitstop's reputation. Last week, we received this email from one of our users:

Try Different Keywords By EVGENY MOROZOV

January 15, 2010

Print

"If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

A sound piece of advice or a quirky Chinese proverb? It's neither. In fact, the phrase has a much more intriguing provenance: Those very words were uttered by Eric Schmidt, the always earnest CEO of Google, in a recent interview with the business channel CNBC.

Back in early December when Mr. Schmidt shared this insight with the wider audience, Google was forcefully marching toward world domination. Fast forward just a few weeks - and Google's seemingly unstoppable quest has been unexpectedly stalled in what appears to be the most promising advertising market in the world: China.

How did this come about? Google's own version of events sounds like an overwrought case study from Harvard Business School: A series of devastating cyberattacks on email accounts of critics of the Chinese government made Google executives painfully aware of the risks of operating in China.

The executives were nothing but furious - so furious that they awoke from their ethical coma, broke their earlier agreement with the Chinese government and stopped censoring search results for controversial political queries.

If Google's explanations and actions seem to be lacking in logic and coherence, it's because they are.

By pulling out of China - a prospect that now looks inevitable, as Chinese authorities are not likely to change their laws to acquiesce a foreign company - Google would not make itself any safer from future cyberattacks.

Short of purging its servers of all email accounts of Chinese human rights activists - or folks who talk and look like them - Google would continue bearing many of the costs of operating in China even if it is no longer there physically.

So if the sudden change of mind on the issue of censorship was not driven by cybersecurity, what could explain Google's appetite for self-destruction?

The most plausible explanation seems to be that this is Google's own, uber-geeky way of doing penance for the evil bargain that it struck with the Chinese government in 2005.

In retrospect, it's easy to see where Google's purely utilitarian calculations went wrong. In addition to their "do no evil" motto, Googlers have always been guided by another, much less explicit philosophy: "computational arrogance."

A company started by talented computer scientists and engineers, Google carefully applied its scientific, heavily quantitative methods to every single business decision and quandary, from book digitization to freedom of expression. This is how they came to reason that having more books online - even if distributed under an inferior copyright regime - is better than having none. Similarly, this is how they reasoned that having more information online in China - even if some of it is mediocre or censored - is better than none.

Reasoning by common sense or intuition is not really an option here: Googlers seem to check all hunches, no matter how good, by their cubicles, for spreadsheets never lie.

But China, too, has plenty of engineers - especially in the leadership of its Communist Party. The Chinese leaders may lag behind Google in matters of computer science, but they are surely ahead in the art of Machiavellian politics.

It wouldn't be surprising if they followed a very similar thought process: Having mediocre information about human rights activists is better than no information. And who would be better suited to organize it all - to be hacked by China's own hackers at some point in the future - than the overly ambitious Google engineers?

Guided mostly by its spreadsheets - not historical analysis - Google took the bait and struck a deal with the Chinese government, a deal of which very little is known. We do know that Google agreed to censor certain search results. But was there also something else - perhaps some data-mining feature thrown in to placate the Chinese censors - that Google never told us about? The presence of such a backdoor to user data - which may have been abused by the third-parties - could explain Google's near certainty that Chinese authorities are behind the cyberattacks.

Of course, had Googlers paused to look up from their monitors and learn more about China and its leaders, they would have discovered that the government's demands for more censorship - not to mention cyberattacks on Google's own users - would only be getting stronger and more frequent. But Google was too arrogant to notice that. What, after all, could have possibly gone wrong?

At worst, it was expecting the new censorship regime to produce a harmless Baby Frankenstein. Instead, it is now dealing with an out-of-control full-fledged cybermonster that only obeys its Chinese overlords.

Still, the truth remains that Google failed to do due diligence on China and should bear full responsibility for it. It is unlikely to succeed in whitewashing its business blunders by trumpeting its newly acquired respect for human rights and freedom of expression.

The lesson that other Internet companies should draw from Google's painful and mysterious compromises with authoritarian governments is rather simple: If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place. Now, if only someone would tell that to Eric Schmidt.

Evgeny Morozov is a fellow at Georgetown University and a contributing editor to Foreign Policy. His book on the Internet and democracy will be published later this year.

Don't boycott Google because it's evil. Boycott it because it's terrible by Alex Hern

Dec 13, 2012 | New Statesman

Google's Eric Schmidt went all out yesterday, saying he was "very proud" of his company's tax "structure", and that "it's called capitalism."

Inevitably, this had led to calls for a boycott of Google until it starts to pay its fair share of corporation tax.

Of course, these calls have also marked out part of the folly of such boycotts. It's easy to boycott Starbucks: within 30 seconds walk of most UK branches you'll find more coffee. We are basically a nation of people selling coffee to each other with a bit of banking on the side.

Google is… harder. If you use any of its web services, you are likely to feel locked in (everyone knows your gmail address! Think how much work it would be to change your address books!); if you have an Android phone, you are probably contracted in without even a choice to leave; and if you use their web search, you'll probably have finished the search and clicked on a link before you even remember that you were supposed to be boycotting in the first place.

On top of that, of course, a boycott doesn't look like it would be as effective for Google as it was for Starbucks. Within days of the first allegations about the coffee company coming out, it had posted an open letter on its website; and then even before the big UK Uncut protests, it had already agreed to radically restructure the way it declares its taxes. Comparing that to Schmidt's bombastic comments, we can infer that Google might put up a bit more of a fight.

The thing is, people ought to be boycotting Google, especially their main cash cow, web search. Not because of tax avoidance, but because it makes a terrible product used only through exactly the same inertia which will kill any political action.

Once upon a time, Google search was the unambiguous best. Its page-rank system, which replaced manually editing search results with an ingenious methodology which used links to a site as guarantors of that site's quality, meant that it gave more accurate results than many of its now-defunct (or nearly so) competitors like Alta Vista or Yahoo! Search; its simple UI made it easier to use, as did its massive step up in speed, a fact reflected in its show-off display of how many hundredths of a second the search took.

Most importantly, Google refused to offer paid placement, a relatively common practice at the time which mixed advertising with editorial content: companies would literally pay to appear in the search results for a given keyword.

Those principles lasted a long time; even when Google started "personalising" searches, it was still aimed at reducing bad results. Someone who always clicks on cars after searching for "golf" probably wants different results than someone who clicks on sports sites.

Then came Google+. Terrified by Facebook, the company launched a rival social network, and in an attempt to catch up, decided to leverage its existing businesses. Personalised searches are no longer based just on what you have previously searched for. They're also based on your Google+ contacts, and what they've posted about and discussed. A piece written by someone "big on Google+" – a dubious accolade – can get boosted up the results based just on that; and strangers' faces have started popping up in results, like this:

It's not just the failed attempt at cross-promotion which has damaged Google; it's also been hit by the falling value of web advertising as surely as every other web business. It's responded by increasing the amount of page space devoted to selling things – and correspondingly decreasing the space devoted to it's actual product.

Compare, for example, this from 2005 with this from June this year. Although it's looking at Google US, don't doubt that it's coming your way as well.

There are alternatives. I like DuckDuckGo, which consciously strives to replicate the experience of Google circa 2005 (albeit with a number of powerful below-the-hood improvements). I'm not the only one; the site has shot from an average of 80,000 searches a day in December 2010 to around 1.7m a day this month. But really, it doesn't matter where you go – even if it's to Bing – so long as Google gets the message.

Where's the full-blown inquiry into your snooping chums at Google, Mr Cameron By Stephen Glover

27 May 2012 | Mail Online

Where's the full-blown inquiry into your snooping chums at Google, Mr Cameron?

Were Google a newspaper group rather than an internet search engine, it would be subject to the most comprehensive inquiry imaginable. It would be investigated for harvesting the private data of millions of Britons, for helping to disseminate pornography to children, and for various monopolistic practices.

MPs would be blowing fuses, and the BBC would be unleashing its most forensic journalists. We would have an official inquiry into Google, followed by recommendations designed to regulate its behaviour.

But no Lord Justice Leveson is looking into its ethics. This indulgence may seem doubly odd given that Google is much larger than all British newspaper publishers put together. One might have thought the authorities would have felt it worth investigating the abuses of such an enormous and powerful company.

The latest shocking revelation is that Google secretly harvested the personal data of millions of Britons using its fleet of Street View cars which photographed almost every home in the country between 2008 and 2010.

That seemed a questionable exercise at the time since a few people were pictured in compromising situations.

Far more disturbingly, though, these Street View cars were fitted with a snooping software which could capture emails, documents, text messages and photographs from unsecured wi-fi networks. A quarter of computer users in Britain who don't have a password on their wi-fi networks could have had their personal information intercepted.

Google initially told the Information Commissioner that it had not collected any such information. Then it conceded it might have done so inadvertently, and equally unintentionally transferred it to hard discs uploaded to servers in America. Its denials were accepted by the Information Commissioner in his 2010 report.

Deliberate

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has now revealed that Google was warned of the privacy implications of its software by one of its own engineers. Some suggest that what was represented by the company as a simple mistake was, in fact, a deliberate attempt to acquire private information that could have had enormous commercial applications.

There is no evidence that any use was ever made of personal details obtained by Google in this country. However, investigations in France, Holland and Canada have discovered that Street View software harvested private information concerning people's sex lives, banking details and medical histories.

Needless to say, if a newspaper had acquired sensitive details in this way, even without publishing them, there would have been uproar. Not so with Google. Yet its widespread and highly sophisticated eavesdropping techniques make phone hacking by journalists at the News of the World look primitive and limited in scope

Equally, if the security services had picked up and stored the emails or private documents of innocent individuals, even without making any use of them, there would have been a major scandal, and rightly so.

For some reason Google is judged much more leniently by most people. Is it because we think a search engine indispensable to many of us can't have any malign intentions? If so, we would do well to think again.

Google is huge, increasingly dominant and endlessly ambitious. A company launched only 12 years ago is estimated to control more than 80 per cent of the worldwide search engine market, about 30 per cent of the European smart phones market, 40 per cent of the global online video market, and over 40 per cent of the global online advertisement market

Every time you use the Google search engine or visit Google-owned YouTube, the company builds up more information about you and your preferences, or at any rate those of the person using your computer, which enables it to personalise search results and target advertising. If you use a mobile phone with an Android operating system, Google will know even more about you, such as the numbers you call, when, and for how long.

Exploit Knowledge is power, and Google is trying to amass as much knowledge as possible about you in order to exploit it commercially. It may have been this motivation that led it to putting surveillance software in its Street View vehicles.

Here, at the very least, is a massively arrogant company that sometimes seems to have shaky ethical foundations. One other example is the way it makes millions of pounds out of pornography. It carries paid for-advertising alongside search results after a user keys in a word such as 'porn' on its British site.

Is it a very nice company? Not on this evidence. Even its executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, does not make lofty claims. He has said that one of its aims is 'to get up to the creepy line and not to cross it'. What kind of self-promotion is that?

All the more dismaying, then, that it should be David Cameron's, and the Conservative Party's, favourite communications company. There have been 23 meetings between Tory ministers and Google executives since the general election, an average of one a month.

A well-trodden bridge between the two has been Steve Hilton, the Prime Minister's guru, whose wife Rachel Whetstone is global Head of Communications at Google HQ in California. For members of the so-called 'Notting Hill set' such as Mr Hilton and Mr Cameron, Google is the 'hippest' of companies.

Since May 2010, Mr Cameron has met its executives three times, and the Chancellor George Osborne has met them four times. Before becoming Prime Minister Mr Cameron spoke to the annual Google Zeitgeist conference in 2006 and 2007. In a spirit of excessive zeal around that time, he even suggested it might be a good idea if Google were to store our private medical records!

Last week, the Science Minister David Willetts addressed an annual Google media event in England which ironically - given that it doesn't seem to care much about anyone else's privacy - took place in place in conditions of some secrecy.

Behemoth In fact, meetings between senior Tories and senior Google executives seem to rival in frequency those they have had with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. What do they discuss - knitting? Google is frightened of greater regulation, and seeks out sympathetic politicians who it thinks will fight its corner.

No one would deny that it has been a very enterprising company whose search engine is in many ways a marvellous tool. But its sheer brilliance is as much of a problem as it has been a boon. It has fostered an overweening behemoth that sometimes looks as though it wants to take over the world.

Google deliberately stole information but executives 'covered it up' for years Mail Online

Tories have held cosy meetings with Google every month since election Mail Online

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