mfioretti: google* + surveillance*

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  1. Similarly, GOOG in 2014 started reorganizing itself to focus on artificial intelligence only. In January 2014, GOOG bought DeepMind, and in September they shutdown Orkut (one of their few social products which had momentary success in some countries) forever. The Alphabet Inc restructuring was announced in August 2015 but it likely took many months of meetings and bureaucracy. The restructuring was important to focus the web-oriented departments at GOOG towards a simple mission. GOOG sees no future in the simple Search market, and announces to be migrating “From Search to Suggest” (in Eric Schmidt’s own words) and being an “AI first company” (in Sundar Pichai’s own words). GOOG is currently slightly behind FB in terms of how fast it is growing its dominance of the web, but due to their technical expertise, vast budget, influence and vision, in the long run its AI assets will play a massive role on the internet. They know what they are doing.

    These are no longer the same companies as 4 years ago. GOOG is not anymore an internet company, it’s the knowledge internet company. FB is not an internet company, it’s the social internet company. They used to attempt to compete, and this competition kept the internet market diverse. Today, however, they seem mostly satisfied with their orthogonal dominance of parts of the Web, and we are losing diversity of choices. Which leads us to another part of the internet: e-commerce and AMZN.

    AMZN does not focus on making profit.
    https://staltz.com/the-web-began-dying-in-2014-heres-how.html
    Voting 0
  2. Running TPM absent Google’s various services is almost unthinkable. Like I literally would need to give it a lot of thought how we’d do without all of them. Some of them are critical and I wouldn’t know where to start for replacing them. In many cases, alternatives don’t exist because no business can get a footing with a product Google lets people use for free.

    But here’s where the rubber really meets the road. The publishers use DoubleClick. The big advertisers use DoubleClick. The big global advertising holding companies use Doubleclick. Everybody at every point in the industry is wired into DoubleClick. Here’s how they all play together. The adserving (Doubleclick) is like the road. (Adexchange) is the biggest car on the road. But only AdExchange gets full visibility into what’s available. (There’s lot of details here and argument about just what Google does and doesn’t know. But trust me on this. They keep the key information to themselves. This isn’t a suspicion. It’s the model.) So Google owns the road and gets first look at what’s on the road. Not only does Google own the road and makes the rules for the road, it has special privileges on the road. One of the ways it has special privileges is that it has all the data it gets from search, Google Analytics and Gmail. It also gets to make the first bid on every bit of inventory. Of course that’s critical. First dibs with more information than anyone else has access to. (Some exceptions to this. But that’s the big picture.) It’s good to be the king. It’s good to be a Google.

    There’s more I’ll get to in a moment but the interplay between DoubleClick and Adexchange is so vastly important to the entirety of the web, digital publishing and the entire ad industry that it is almost impossible to overstate. Again. They own the road. They make the rules for the road. They get special privileges on the road with every new iteration of rules.


    ow Google can say – and they are absolutely right – that every month they send checks for thousands and millions of dollars to countless publishers that make their journalism possible. And in general Google tends to be a relatively benign overlord. But as someone who a) knows the industry inside and out – down to the most nuts and bolts mechanics – b) someone who understands at least the rudiments of anti-trust law and monopoly economics and c) can write for a sizable audience, I can tell you this.: Google’s monopoly control is almost comically great. It’s a monopoly at every conceivable turn and consistently uses that market power to deepen its hold and increase its profits. Just the interplay between DoubleClick and Adexchange is textbook anti-competitive practices.

    There’s one way that Google is better than Facebook. When Facebook is getting a bigger and bigger share of the advertising pie, that money is almost all going to Facebook. There are some small exceptions but that’s basically the case. When Google is making insane amounts of money on advertising, it’s not really the same since a huge amount of that advertising is running on websites which are getting a cut. Still, the big story is that Google and Facebook now have a dominant position in the entirety of the advertising ecosystem and are using their monopoly power to take more and more of the money for themselves.

    We’re basically too small for Google to care about. So I wouldn’t say we’ve had any bad experiences with Google in the sense of Google trying to injure us or use its power against us. What we’ve experienced is a little different. Google is so big and so powerful that even when it’s trying to do something good, it can be dangerous and frightening.


    Now in practice all this meant was that two or three old stories about Dylann Roof could no longer run ads purchased through Google. I’d say it’s unlikely that loss to TPM amounted to even a cent a month. Totally meaningless. But here’s the catch. The way these warnings work and the way these particular warnings were worded, you get penalized enough times and then you’re blacklisted.

    Now, certainly you’re figuring we could contact someone at Google and explain that we’re not publishing hate speech and racist violence. We’re reporting on it. Not really. We tried that. We got back a message from our rep not really understanding the distinction and cheerily telling us to try to operate within the no hate speech rules. And how many warnings until we’re blacklisted? Who knows?

    If we were cut off, would that be Adexchange (the ads) or DoubleClick for Publishers (the road) or both? Who knows?

    If the first stopped we’d lose a big chunk of money that wouldn’t put us out of business but would likely force us to retrench. If we were kicked off the road more than half of our total revenue would disappear instantly and would stay disappeared until we found a new road – i.e., a new ad serving service or technology. At a minimum that would be a devastating blow that would require us to find a totally different ad serving system, make major technical changes to the site to accommodate the new system and likely not be able to make as much from ads ever again. That’s not including some unknown period of time – certainly weeks at least – in which we went with literally no ad revenue.

    Needless to say, the impact of this would be cataclysmic and could easily drive us out of business.

    Now, that’s never happened. And this whole scenario stems from what is at least a well-intentioned effort not to subsidize hate speech and racist groups. Again, it hasn’t happened. So in some sense the cataclysmic scenario I’m describing is as much a product of my paranoia as something Google could or might do. But when an outside player has that much power, often acts arbitrarily (even when well-intentioned) and is almost impossible to communicate with, a significant amount of paranoia is healthy and inevitable.
    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/a-serf-on-googles-farm
    Voting 0
  3. The FT reports on Wednesday that “Facebook and Google have announced they will restrict advertising on online platforms with fake news, after a furore over the role of such stories in last week’s US presidential election.”

    The following is a personal view and thus not representative of the wider views of the FT, so no doubt biased to whatever cultural norms impacted my formative years — among them being of Polish descent, being brought up Catholic, having staunchly anti-communist parents, experiencing a youthful rebellion against that framework and later moderating to a middle ground. With that out of the way…

    Surely having Facebook and Google restrict advertising on subjective grounds is the worst possible outcome of this entire affair?

    The idea all-powerful platforms like Google and Facebook should be charged with the responsibility of strategically filtering and determining what constitutes fake news is not just questionable but frightening in the Orwellian Newspeak sense of the word.


    Habermas’ most profound observation is that the formation of the public news arena is intimately connected to the rise of the coffee houses and stock exchanges. This is because it is only on the stock exchange that the full range of conflicting views collide to forge a clearing price. Repression or manipulation of information flow, meanwhile, only ensures that the clearing price will be off to someone’s advantage and to someone else’s disadvantage.

    Interestingly, back in the 90s and noughties, when the internet was first becoming a thing, media academics would often ponder whether this new form of information exchange represented the reconstitution of a public sphere in a digital form (especially in light of Herman/Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent critique, which argued the advertising funding model had skewed the public debate and turned the industry into a corporate propaganda outlet). Mostly, they erred towards the notion it did not precisely because it captured a small slice of the population and had a tendency to compartmentalise discussion rather than broaden it.

    Based on all that, if Facebook and Google moves to filter “fake news” it will only exacerbate the problem because these institutions will always be governed by commercial interest not public duty. That as a whole makes them inequipped to judge what news is fit for publication and which is not. What it does do in the long run is open the door to an even more sinister advertising propaganda model than that which inspired Herman/Chomsky’s Manufacture of Consent.

    In that light, here’s some commentary from Habermas about what aspects of salon and coffee-house culture constituted a public sphere (and which I’d argue are lacking today):

    However exclusive the public might be in any given instance, it could never close itself off entirely and become consolidated as a clique; for it always understood and found itself immersed within a more inclusive public of all private people, persons who- insofar as they were propertied and educated — as readers, listeners, and spectators could avail themselves via the market of the objects that were subject to discussion. The issues discussed became “general” not merely in their significance, but also in their accessibility; everyone had to be able to participate.

    What of the uneducated and unpropertied or too poor to engage in the market for objects, you ask? According to Habermas, they were brought into the public sphere by way of festival gatherings, theatre performances and the music halls, all of which spurred public debate.

    In a highly atomised and compartmentalised culture, however — where even workplace gatherings don’t bring people together because everyone is being encouraged to “work for himself” in the gig economy or from home — there seem to be ever fewer occurrences where we, the public, have no choice but to interact with those who disagree with us.

    This in turn encourages the cultivation of safe spaces, which in turn twists our perception of reality into something it simply is not.
    https://ftalphaville.ft.com/2016/11/1...cebook-and-the-manufacture-of-consent
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  4. Nel 2007 Google ha acquisito DoubleClick, società che raccoglieva dati di navigazione web, assicurando che mai avrebbe incrociato tali risultati con le informazioni personali possedute grazie all'utilizzo dei propri servizi. Tuttavia, a distanza di quasi 10 anni ha aggiornato le proprie condizioni per l'uso dell'account Google, informando che adesso avrà la possibilità di effettuare tale incrocio. Nel documento si legge adesso: "A seconda delle impostazioni dell'account utente, la sua attività su altri siti e app potrebbe essere associata alle relative informazioni personali allo scopo di migliorare i servizi Google e gli annunci pubblicati da Google". La modifica alle impostazioni deve essere approvata, ed infatti Google richiede specificatamente, una volta effettuato l'accesso al proprio account via browser web, di accettare tali nuove condizioni. L'utente ha la possibilità di mantenere le impostazioni attuali e continuare ad utilizzare i servizi Google allo stesso modo, mentre per i nuovi account invece le nuove opzioni sono abilitate di default. Coi nuovi termini, se accettati, Google potrà unire i dati di navigazione acquisiti tramite i servizi di analisi o tracking alle informazioni già ottenute dal profilo utente. Tutto ciò permetterà alla casa di Mountain View di comporre un ritratto completo dei propri utenti composto dai dati personali, da ciò che viene scritto nelle email, dai siti web visitati e dalle ricerche effettuate, facendo cadere definitivamente il principio di anonimato del tracciamento web.
    http://www.saggiamente.com/2016/10/ad...ource=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
    Voting 0
  5. It's undeniable that companies like Google and Facebook have made the web much easier to use and helped bring billions online. They've provided a forum for people to connect and share information, and they've had a huge impact on human rights and civil liberties. These are many things for which we should applaud them.

    But their scale is also concerning. For example, Chinese messaging service Wechat (which is somewhat like Twitter) recently used its popularity to limit market choice. The company banned access to Uber to drive more business to their own ride-hailing service. Meanwhile, Facebook engineered limited web access in developing economies with its Free Basics service. Touted in India and other emerging markets as a solution to help underserved citizens come online, Free Basics allows viewers access to only a handful of pre-approved websites (including, of course, Facebook). India recently banned Free Basics and similar services, claiming that these restricted web offerings violated the essential rules of net neutrality.
    Algorithmic oversight

    Beyond market control, the algorithms powering these platforms can wade into murky waters. According to a recent study from the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, information displayed in Google could shift voting preferences for undecided voters by 20 percent or more -- all without their knowledge. Considering how narrow the results of many elections can become, this margin is significant. In many ways, Google controls what information people see, and any bias, intentional or not, has a potential impact on society.

    In the future, data and algorithms will power even more grave decisions. For example, code will decide whether a self-driving car stops for an oncoming bus or runs into pedestrians.

    It's possible that we're reaching the point where we need oversight for consumer-facing
    http://buytaert.net/can-we-save-the-o...ource=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
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  6. Have you guys heard of The Next Five Billion? Yeah? They’re really excited about this in Silicon Valley. The Next Five Billion are these poor souls in parts of the world where they can’t connect to the internet; they don’t have the resources, and there’s nobody locally who could fix this problem of course, so the white man has to bring the fire, right? With things like balloons with Google Loon, or Internet.org which is already working, where they’re giving free internet, but it’s not the full internet; it’s only Facebook and a few other services.

    So in the future, there might be a whole nation whose notion of the internet is something you sign into with your Google username or password, or your Facebook username and password, and that’s quite a bleak future to look forward to. And it’s also what I call digital imperialism. It is a new form of colonialism.

    So that’s data about you. But there’s more data in the world, right? And Google needs that data as well, so how do they get it? They’ve got satellites of course, they’ve got maps; beautiful Google Street View. Who’s seen the Google Street View Car here? Who’s done something funny while it was going by? Yeah. But there’s some places they can’t go with a car and they need the data. So there’s the Google Street View Trike for places you can’t go with a car but you need the data, right? And if you can’t go there with a trike, there’s the Google Street View Snowmobile. You can use that. And if you can’t go there with a snowmobile, maybe it’s indoors, there’s the Google Street View Trolley for that. And if you can’t go there with a trolley but you need the data, there is the Google Street View Backpack. And I saw this the other day; I shit you not!

    Now. Do you kinda get the feeling they need the data? Do you? Talk about Apple; they’ve got a different business model my friend; they sell products. They don’t sell your data, but we can talk about them. They’re not great; they’re closed, but they are a very different company. So that’s why I’m not talking about Apple, but thank you for bringing it up.

    So, what is the end-game? What are we trying to do? What does all of this combine into? Data about the world, data about all of us. What do we get if we combine all of that? Well we get what I would call the Camera Panopticon. And you might say Aral, OK, so they’re building this Camera Panopticon that knows everything about the world and everything about us. And that’s probably a useful tool for manipulating behaviour, for even, depending on how good your lens is, in predicting the future and creating it. But at least they don’t share it with governments, right? Well, wrong, of course. Since 9/11 things have changed. In the US, they’ve formed this, the Information Awareness Office, with the publicly stated goal of attaining total information awareness, knowing everything about everyone and everything. Now, if you’re going to do that, this was their real logo. Don’t make this your logo! Really! People get scared with a pyramid with an all-seeing eye shooting laser beams at the world. So, people got scared, and they were like, we were kidding, we’re just going to shut it down, right? That was a joke, ha-ha!

    And of course, they didn’t shut it down, as Edward Snowden’s revelations showed last year and we’ll be hearing from him tonight. The NSA really needs to hire a PowerPoint designer! But apart from that, all of these companies that we trusted with our most personal data, we realised were sharing it with the Government, all of this data that we thought was private. Why? Well easy; because data that you have volunteered to a third party is not under the same protections under the law. It’s so much easier for them to go to one place and to ask them for information you have volunteered. It’s like a drive-through MacDonald’s or something, you know, if you’re an agency, it’s just like all this data in one place and I just have to ask; it’s beautiful, right?

    privacy is not about whether or not you have something to hide; it’s about having the right to choose what you want to keep to yourself and what you want to share with others. It’s a fundamental human right that we have seen fit to enshrine in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Article 12 specifically. So, when these companies that need your data, that don’t respect your privacy, tell you, oh my gosh, we are fighting for your privacy, right, and if they build things like reform government surveillance and say, “We’re fighting for your privacy; the government is evil.” There’s a term for that. It is “bullshit”. Right?

    It is bullshit and it is misdirection. This is a cornerstone of magic.

    here’s the problem. If you want the problem at its core, this is the problem: in order to share something with your friend, you shouldn’t also have to share it with a stranger. You should be able to share it directly with them. This is not a complicated problem, and it doesn’t require a complicated solution. And if anyone tells you it’s a complicated problem, they probably have a vested interested in it appearing to be complicated. If we can do this, then we can start people off in their own homes, not in the home of a known abuser. We can start them off somewhere that is safe, not start them off somewhere that’s unsafe and say, “Protect yourself”. And if we can do this, then we can build products that actually protect our human rights, that protect our fundamental freedoms, that protect democracy.
    https://ind.ie/the-camera-panopticon
    Voting 0
  7. The intimate secret meetings between senior Enron executives and high-level US government officials via the Pentagon Highlands Forum, from November 2000 to June 2001, played a central role in establishing and cementing the increasingly symbiotic link between Enron and Pentagon planning. The Forum’s role was, as O’Neill has always said, to function as an ideas lab to explore the mutual interests of industry and government.
    Enron and Pentagon war planning

    In February 2001, when Enron executives including Kenneth Lay began participating concertedly in the Cheney Energy Task Force, a classified National Security Council document instructed NSC staffers to work with the task force in “melding” previously separate issues: “operational policies towards rogue states” and “actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields.”

    According to Bush’s treasury secretary Paul O’Neill, as quoted by Ron Suskind in The Price of Loyalty (2004), cabinet officials discussed an invasion of Iraq in their first NSC meeting, and had even prepared a map for a post-war occupation marking the carve-up of Iraq’s oil fields. The message at that time from President Bush was that officials must “find a way to do this.”


    in June 2001, the same month that Enron’s executive vice president Steve Kean attended the Pentagon Highlands Forum, the company’s hopes for the Dabhol project were dashed when the Trans-Afghan pipeline failed to materialize, and as a consequence, construction on the Dabhol power plant was shut down. The failure of the $3 billion project contributed to Enron’s bankruptcy in December. That month, Enron officials met with Bush’s commerce secretary, Donald Evans, about the plant, and Cheney lobbied India’s main opposition party about the Dhabol project. Ken Lay had also reportedly contacted the Bush administration around this time to inform officials about the firm’s financial troubles.

    By August, desperate to pull off the deal, US officials threatened Taliban representatives with war if they refused to accept American terms: namely, to cease fighting and join in a federal alliance with the opposition Northern Alliance; and to give up demands for local consumption of the gas. On the 15th of that month, Enron lobbyist Pat Shortridge told then White House economic advisor Robert McNally that Enron was heading for a financial meltdown that could cripple the country’s energy markets.

    So the Pentagon had:

    1. contracted Rendon, a propaganda firm;

    2. given Rendon access to the intelligence community’s most classified information including data from NSA surveillance;

    3. tasked Rendon to facilitating the DoD’s development of information operations strategy by running the Highlands Forum process;

    4. and further, tasked Rendon with overseeing the concrete execution of this strategy developed through the Highlands Forum process, in actual information operations around the world in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond.

    The Pentagon Highlands Forum’s intimate link, via Rendon, to the propaganda operations pursued under Bush and Obama in support of the ‘Long War,’ demonstrate the integral role of mass surveillance in both irregular warfare and ‘strategic communications.’

    Arquilla went on to advocate that western intelligence services should use the British case as a model for creating new “pseudo gang” terrorist groups, as a way of undermining “real” terror networks:

    “What worked in Kenya a half-century ago has a wonderful chance of undermining trust and recruitment among today’s terror networks. Forming new pseudo gangs should not be difficult.”

    Essentially, Arquilla’s argument was that as only networks can fight networks, the only way to defeat enemies conducting irregular warfare is to use techniques of irregular warfare against them.

    It is this sort of closed-door networking that has rendered the American vote pointless. Far from protecting the public interest or helping to combat terrorism, the comprehensive monitoring of electronic communications has been systematically abused to empower vested interests in the energy, defense, and IT industries.
    https://medium.com/@NafeezAhmed/why-google-made-the-nsa-2a80584c9c1
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  8. Thuraisingham writes that she and “Dr. Rick Steinheiser of the CIA, began discussions with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency on applying data-mining for counter-terrorism,” an idea that resulted directly from the MDDS program which partly funded Google. “These discussions eventually developed into the current EELD (Evidence Extraction and Link Detection) program at DARPA.”

    So the very same senior CIA official and CIA-NSA contractor involved in providing the seed-funding for Google were simultaneously contemplating the role of data-mining for counter-terrorism purposes, and were developing ideas for tools actually advanced by DARPA.

    From inception, in other words, Google was incubated, nurtured and financed by interests that were directly affiliated or closely aligned with the US military intelligence community: many of whom were embedded in the Pentagon Highlands Forum.

    In sum, many of Google’s most senior executives are affiliated with the Pentagon Highlands Forum, which throughout the period of Google’s growth over the last decade, has surfaced repeatedly as a connecting and convening force. The US intelligence community’s incubation of Google from inception occurred through a combination of direct sponsorship and informal networks of financial influence, themselves closely aligned with Pentagon interests.

    In December 2001, O’Neill confirmed that strategic discussions at the Highlands Forum were feeding directly into Andrew Marshall’s DoD-wide strategic review ordered by President Bush and Donald Rumsfeld to upgrade the military, including the Quadrennial Defense Review — and that some of the earliest Forum meetings “resulted in the writing of a group of DoD policies, strategies, and doctrine for the services on information warfare.” That process of “writing” the Pentagon’s information warfare policies “was done in conjunction with people who understood the environment differently — not only US citizens, but also foreign citizens, and people who were developing corporate IT.”

    The Pentagon’s post-9/11 information warfare doctrines were, then, written not just by national security officials from the US and abroad: but also by powerful corporate entities in the defense and technology sectors.

    In sum, the investment firm responsible for creating the billion dollar fortunes of the tech sensations of the 21st century, from Google to Facebook, is intimately linked to the US military intelligence community; with Venables, Lee and Friedman either directly connected to the Pentagon Highlands Forum, or to senior members of the Forum.
    https://medium.com/@NafeezAhmed/how-the-cia-made-google-e836451a959e
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  9. 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
    Voting 0
  10. Google routinely uses software to scan the contents of e-mails, including images, to feed its advertising and to identify malware. But many may not have been aware that the company is also scanning users' accounts looking for illegal activity -- namely, matching images in e-mails against its known database of illegal and pornographic images of children.

    That bit of Google policy came to light last week, when a Houston man was arrested on charges of having and promoting child pornography after Google told the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that he had the images in his Gmail account. The tipoff, according to a report from Houston television channel KHOU, led to the man's arrest.

    While it's hard to argue with the outcome of this particular case, the news did raise some alarm bells among researchers at the security firm Sophos, who questioned whether Google was stepping outside its place as a company and into the role of a pseudo law enforcement agency.

    Chester Wisniewski, a senior security researcher at Sophos, said that Google's "proactive" decision to tip off law enforcement makes "some of us wonder if they're crossing the line."
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/t...e-really-reading-your-e-mail/?hpid=z4
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