mfioretti: google* + data ownership*

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  1. There was nothing politically hapless about Eric Schmidt. I had been too eager to see a politically unambitious Silicon Valley engineer, a relic of the good old days of computer science graduate culture on the West Coast. But that is not the sort of person who attends the Bilderberg conference four years running, who pays regular visits to the White House, or who delivers “fireside chats” at the World Economic Forum in Davos.43 Schmidt’s emergence as Google’s “foreign minister”—making pomp and ceremony state visits across geopolitical fault lines—had not come out of nowhere; it had been presaged by years of assimilation within US establishment networks of reputation and influence.

    On a personal level, Schmidt and Cohen are perfectly likable people. But Google's chairman is a classic “head of industry” player, with all of the ideological baggage that comes with that role.44 Schmidt fits exactly where he is: the point where the centrist, liberal, and imperialist tendencies meet in American political life. By all appearances, Google's bosses genuinely believe in the civilizing power of enlightened multinational corporations, and they see this mission as continuous with the shaping of the world according to the better judgment of the “benevolent superpower.” They will tell you that open-mindedness is a virtue, but all perspectives that challenge the exceptionalist drive at the heart of American foreign policy will remain invisible to them. This is the impenetrable banality of “don’t be evil.” They believe that they are doing good. And that is a problem.


    Google is "different". Google is "visionary". Google is "the future". Google is "more than just a company". Google "gives back to the community". Google is "a force for good".
    Even when Google airs its corporate ambivalence publicly, it does little to dislodge these items of faith.45 The company’s reputation is seemingly unassailable. Google’s colorful, playful logo is imprinted on human retinas just under six billion times each day, 2.1 trillion times a year—an opportunity for respondent conditioning enjoyed by no other company in history.46 Caught red-handed last year making petabytes of personal data available to the US intelligence community through the PRISM program, Google nevertheless continues to coast on the goodwill generated by its “don’t be evil” doublespeak. A few symbolic open letters to the White House later and it seems all is forgiven. Even anti-surveillance campaigners cannot help themselves, at once condemning government spying but trying to alter Google’s invasive surveillance practices using appeasement strategies.47
    Nobody wants to acknowledge that Google has grown big and bad. But it has. Schmidt’s tenure as CEO saw Google integrate with the shadiest of US power structures as it expanded into a geographically invasive megacorporation. But Google has always been comfortable with this proximity. Long before company founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin hired Schmidt in 2001, their initial research upon which Google was based had been partly funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).48 And even as Schmidt’s Google developed an image as the overly friendly giant of global tech, it was building a close relationship with the intelligence community.
    https://wikileaks.org/google-is-not-what-it-seems
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  2. Cook was characteristically passionate about all three topics. A theme that has persisted following his appearance on Charlie Rose late last year to define how Apple handled encryption, his public letter on Apple’s new security page in the wake of the celebrity nude hacking incidents and his speech earlier this year at President Obama’s Summit on Cybersecurity at Stanford — an event which was notably not attended by other Silicon Valley CEOs like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer and Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt.

    Cook lost no time in directing comments at companies (obviously, though not explicitly) like Facebook and Google, which rely on advertising to users based on the data they collect from them for a portion, if not a majority, of their income.

    “I’m speaking to you from Silicon Valley, where some of the most prominent and successful companies have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information,” said Cook. “They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that’s wrong. And it’s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be.”

    Cook went on to state, as he has before when talking about products like Apple Pay, that Apple ‘doesn’t want your data.’

    They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that’s wrong.

    — Tim Cook

    “We don’t think you should ever have to trade it for a service you think is free but actually comes at a very high cost. This is especially true now that we’re storing data about our health, our finances and our homes on our devices,” Cook went on, getting even more explicit when talking about user privacy.

    “We believe the customer should be in control of their own information. You might like these so-called free services, but we don’t think they’re worth having your email, your search history and now even your family photos data mined and sold off for god knows what advertising purpose. And we think some day, customers will see this for what it is.”

    That, in case you missed it, is an epic subtweet of Google’s Photos product, which was just rolled out at I/O.The fact that Photos is free of charge, and Apple’s products are not likely spurred the talk about “very high costs.”

    That product uploads all of your photos, with unlimited storage, to Google’s cloud, organizing, improving and giving you access to a deep history of your images. By many accounts, Photos is a fantastic product, but even early on people have begun to point out the obvious tradeoff that you’re making when you sign up.

    Encryption

    Cook then switched gears to talk about encryption — directly addressing the efforts by policy makers to force Apple to offer a ‘master key’ that would allow government agencies access to consumer devices.

    “There’s another attack on our civil liberties that we see heating up every day — it’s the battle over encryption. Some in Washington are hoping to undermine the ability of ordinary citizens to encrypt their data,” said Cook.

    “We think this is incredibly dangerous. We’ve been offering encryption tools in our products for years, and we’re going to stay on that path. We think it’s a critical feature for our customers who want to keep their data secure. For years we’ve offered encryption services like iMessage and FaceTime because we believe the contents of your text messages and your video chats is none of our business.”

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been waging a war on “pervasive encryption,” painting it as an enabler of terrorism. Every security researcher and logical human being on the planet understands that this is ridiculous. And Cook is one of them.

    “If you put a key under the mat for the cops, a burglar can find it, too. Criminals are using every technology tool at their disposal to hack into people’s accounts. If they know there’s a key hidden somewhere, they won’t stop until they find it,” Cook continued.

    “Removing encryption tools from our products altogether, as some in Washington would like us to do, would only hurt law-abiding citizens who rely on us to protect their data. The bad guys will still encrypt; it’s easy to do and readily available.”

    Cook then took it a step further, noting that weakening encryption could have a ‘chilling effect’ on our First Amendment rights.

    The bad guys will still encrypt; it’s easy to do and readily available.

    — Tim Cook

    “Now, we have a deep respect for law enforcement, and we work together with them in many areas, but on this issue we disagree. So let me be crystal clear — weakening encryption, or taking it away, harms good people that are using it for the right reasons. And ultimately, I believe it has a chilling effect on our First Amendment rights and undermines our country’s founding principles.”
    http://techcrunch.com/2015/06/02/appl...hcrunch+%28TechCrunch%29#.ph1qij:nbrA
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  3. we know for a fact that companies like Google are giving corporate advertisers access to users based on the personal data they control -- and many of those advertisers are targeting individuals with the express intent to rip them off, sell them deadly products, and financially impoverish them.

    Some advertisers are just trying to help customers find a product they might like, but the dark version of online marketing is that it can facilitate what economists call "price discrimination," selling the same exact good at a variety of prices in ways unknown to the buyers. Researchers Rosa-Branc Esteves and Joana Resende highlight how with the low costs of online advertising, such online price discrimination systematically shifts wealth from consumers to corporate profits. One implication of their models is that "average prices with mass advertising i.e. without the discrimination allowed by targeting individual users online » are below those with targeted advertising," which follows the idea that firms will target certain consumers with promotions while enjoying higher prices paid by consumers kept ignorant of lower prices offered to others.

    Early Internet visionary Jaron Lanier, who pioneered ideas like "virtual reality" two decades ago, has noted that such access to behavioral targeting has even more appeal to the "tawdry" kinds of firms than the "dignified side of capitalism", since "ambulance chasers and snake oil salesmen" among the capitalist class thrive on such targeted access to their victims.

    Google isn't usually identified as a big player in the subprime mortgage debacle and its aftermath, but a significant portion of Google's profits in the mid-2000s were coming straight from subprime mortgage lenders advertising on its site. As Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy said back in 2007, "Many online companies depend for a disproportionate amount of their income on financial services advertising, with subprime in some cases accounting for a large part of it."

    Companies enticed customers with unrealistic "teaser rates" -- heavily advertised online -- that burdened borrowers with toxic terms and unmanageable obligations that exploded in later years. And as the racial and exploitive aspect of the mortgage meltdown was endemic with what some scholars described as reverse redlining, "the practice of targeting borrowers of color for loans on unfavorable terms." This offering of differential rates based on the characteristics of the borrower constitutes the most damaging price discrimination inflicting consumer harm in American history, for which Google played an integral (and profitable) role as an advertising intermediary where it was earning billions of dollars a year in that role.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-...ource=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
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  4. Retargeting is another recent trend in ads. Rather than just targeting ads based on what you do on a service, sites can track the cookies left by other sites you’ve visited around the web. That means if you almost bought a flight to Hawaii on some travel site, Hawaiian Air might pay Google, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn to show you an ad for a discount on that same flight in hopes that you’ll pull the trigger.

    But now, it’s not just your data being invisibly used to target ads. Your content and identity are being used as ads.

    Screenshot 2013-10-11 at 12.10.17 PMGoogle is doing it in the most respectful and responsible way. You can completely opt out of having your content used as ads. Facebook lets you opt out of being used in “social ads” that display your name next to ads, but you can’t opt out of Sponsored Stories that use your content as ads. Twitter doesn’t offer any way to opt out of your name being used in ads (though you can opt out of being shown personalized follow recommendations and retargeted ads).

    Companies have to choose between the health of their business and the freedom of their users. If they let people opt out easily, their ads will be less effective, and they’ll make less money to spend on building their products.

    So in some ways, by not opting out of being used as social ads, you’re being generous. You’re saving your friends from irrelevant ads for things they don’t care about.

    Maybe everyone should follow Google’s lead and give you the freedom to opt out of having your name, face, and activity turned into ads — even if it hurts the companies providing free services and your friends who use them. If you want to utilize the opt outs offered, go right ahead. Update: It’s your right to say you won’t have your identity leveraged and that these companies can find another way to make money. Maybe they should. »

    But before you opt out, remember, you can choose to make ads better for everyone else.
    http://techcrunch.com/2013/10/11/you-make-ads-better
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  5. I switched from using a BlackBerry to an Android phone a few years ago it really irked me that the only way to keep my contacts info on the phone was to also let Google sync them into their cloud. This may not be true universally (I think some samsung phones will let you store contacts to the SD card) but it was true for phone I was using then and is true on the Nexus 4 I'm using now. It took a lot of painful digging through Android source and googling, but I successfully ended up writing a bunch of code to get around this.

    I've been meaning to put up the code and post this for a while, but kept procrastinating because the code wasn't generic/pretty enough to publish. It still isn't but it's better to post it anyway in case somebody finds it useful, so that's what I'm doing.

    In a nutshell, what I wrote is an Android app that includes (a) an account authenticator, (b) a contacts sync adapter and (c) a calendar sync adapter. On a stock Android phone this will allow you to create an "account" on the device and add contacts/calendar entries to it.

    Note that I wrote this to interface with the way I already have my data stored, so the account creation process actually tries to validate the entered credentials against a webhost, and the the contacts sync adapter is actually a working one-way sync adapter that will download contact info from a remote server in vcard format and update the local database. The calendar sync adapter, though, is just a dummy. You're encouraged to rip out the parts that you don't want and use the rest as you see fit. It's mostly meant to be a working example of how this can be accomplished.

    The net effect is that you can store contacts and calendar entries on the device so they don't get synced to Google, but you can still use the built-in contacts and calendar apps to manipulate them. This benefits from much better integration with the rest of the OS than if you were to use a third-party contacts or calendar app.
    https://staktrace.com/spout/entry.php?id=827
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  6. In any case, the Court’s conclusion on the right to be forgotten will no doubt reverberate across the world. Indeed, it forces the creation of a more forgetful internet.

    From a privacy perspective this must be seen as a victory. But at the same time, privacy interests must always be balanced against competing interest such as freedom of information
    http://theconversation.com/google-cou...onversationedu+%28The+Conversation%29
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  7. Due to my principles I would much rather delete all data Google has collected about its users which consists of myself, my family, my friends, my co-workers and everybody that they know that connects to and uses popular services on the public Internet. I would not be able to sleep at night knowing that I worked for a company which was directly threatening and targeting the people that I love.

    I would never be able to develop the tyrannical tools required to keep the Google wheels spinning. I am on the opposite side of the spectra. The project which you acknowledged, panic_bcast, I wrote to make it harder for law enforcement officers to gather evidence on political activists through cold boot attacks. Other projects I am mainly involved in because I believe in a free unregulated stream of information on the public Internet.

    I am one of those lucky individuals who can afford to work only on projects which I choose, and I choose to only involve myself in projects that I believe contribute something positive to the planet’s population. Google is not very high on that list, therefor I must respectfully decline your job offer.
    http://qnrq.se/why-i-wont-work-for-google
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  8. Mr. Schmidt’s open letter to Europe shows evidence of such absolutism. Democratic oversight is characterized as „heavy-handed regulation.” The „Internet”, „Web”, and „Google” are referenced interchangeably, as if Goggle’s interests stand for the entire Web and Internet. That’s a magician’s sleight of hand intended to distract from the real issue. Google’s absolutist pursuit of its interests is now regarded by many as responsible for the Web’s fading prospects as an open information platform in which participants can agree on rules, rights, and choice.

    Schmidt warns that were the E.U. to oppose Google’s practices, Europe risks becoming „an innovation desert.” Just the opposite is more likely true. Thanks in part to Google’s exquisite genius in the science of surveillance, the audacity with which it has expropriated users’ rights to privacy, and the aggressive tactics of the NSA, people are losing trust in the entire digital medium. It is this loss of trust that stands to kill innovation. To make some sense of our predicament, let’s take a fresh look at how we got here, the nature of the threats we face, and the stakes for the future.
    http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton...-12916679.html?printPagedArticle=true
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  9. echnology giant Google has ended its practice of scanning its users' Apps for Education accounts for advertising purposes after being sued by students and other Gmail users last year, the company announced Wednesday.

    The Google Apps for Education tool suite is a service the company provides for free to more than 30 million students, teachers, and administrators globally. The service includes access to Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, and cloud storage.

    Users of the Apps for Education tools suite and other Gmail users have alleged that the company’s data scanning practices violated federal and state anti-wiretapping and privacy laws, according to the suit filed in a California federal court.
    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/20...tice-of-scanning-gmail-education-apps
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  10. I nostri profili sui social network sopravvivono alla nostra morte. Una riflessione un po' macabra su cui si può scatenare l'ironia o l'indifferenza di persone impegnate di questi tempi in problemi ben più grandi. Sta di fatto che nei nostri account sono immagazzinate una serie di informazioni personali e ricordi di cui sarebbe opportuno decidere il destino. Se su Facebook e su Twitter esistono delle pagine ad hoc per segnalare i profili di una persona deceduta, con Google ora è possibile per gli utenti fare un vero e proprio 'testamento digitalè, quando si è in vita.
    http://www.ilmessaggero.it/tecnologia...digitale_account/notizie/264968.shtml
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