Google’s Unlimited Secrecy and Unaccountability Grow Unchecked

Fascism occurs when a society loses control of Government and Corporations are not accountable for their actions.

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | MAY 24, 2012

Someone once said there would come a time when people would be made to enjoy a state of affairs they would not normally enjoy, a time when people would beg for it and then a time when they would kneel down and beg for more, even if that state of affairs meant the start of a painful experience, because the pain wouldn’t be felt; pain would be diluted by incentives to continue feeling it until people found enjoyment in pain.

The current state of affairs, where government shows no intention of curbing corporate greed and corporations do as they please without finding much opposition is exactly that state of affairs spoken of before. Banks loot their customers’ accounts, as it happened with MF Global, Pharmaceutical companies such as Merck explicitly intend to turn patients into lab rats who will consume their products for life and Biotechnology corporations like Monsanto use people as guinea pigs in worldwide open air experiments with its genetically modified organisms.

But even Monsanto and Merck felt the anger of the people once or twice, losing lawsuits here and there. They were embarrassed most of the time as consumers found out and denounced their schemes. In some cases, these corporations even paid fines. In the case of Google, however, it’s been a completely different story. Google has managed to deny all requests for access to its secretive operational model, even to authorities who directly requested to be shown how the company used the information it collected, legally or otherwise. In response to such negative, the only thing regulators do is recognize that the technology giant simply operates outside the law when it comes to information collection and management. They even admit it publicly, saying that this is just the way it is. “The industry has gotten more powerful, the technology has gotten more pervasive and it’s getting to the point where we can’t do too much about it,” says Michael Copps, a former FCC commissioner.

Technology experts such as Christian Sandvig, a researcher in communications technology says that “We don’t have much choice but to trust Google.” Is his statement an example of learned helplessness? I would say so. A common follow-up to the apparent legal impotence government regulators have is the talking point that the legal framework has not kept up with Google’s ‘evolution’. This is a convenient although not useful excuse to give since the company has been around for a long time. Perhaps the regulation that protect privacy, the stickiest aspect of Google’s continuous infringements around the world were left to decay. But even if one buys that premise. it is amazing that in an era where technology companies pop out on every corner, industry regulators and watch men did not envision the need for clear rules for this new era. What were they doing? Sleeping while driving?

The most unreasonable of Google’s sins that continues to go unchallenged is its Street View program, through which the company collected uncountable amounts of private information from wireless networks. The company attributed this behavior to human error saying that an engineer who works for Google Street View had accidentally included software that just happened to collect information from those networks. Google also said the information collected was of no use to the company. The technology company has committed the same error in several countries, where those whose privacy was violated have seen little or no action taken by authorities to hold Google accountable for their recurring error.

In Germany data protection regulators got the door shut in their faces after attempting to force Google to show the in side of the Street View program. “It was one of the biggest violations of data protection laws that we had ever seen,” said Johannes Caspar, a data protection official. Most of the legal actions taken by regulators have so far been limited to warnings and ultimatums Google simply brushes off. In Australia, a recent attempt to try holding Google accountable after the company’s latest breach of privacy resulted in the same: nothing. Australian Communication Minister, Stephen Conroy described Google’s violation of privacy as “probably the single greatest breach in the history of privacy.”

A fact that seems to be the most abhorrent about Google’s successful avoidance to comply with minimum standards of privacy in many countries is that its customers and users are the biggest supporters of such violations. “People willingly, at times eagerly, surrender this information. But there is a price: the loss of control, or even knowledge, of where that personal information is going and how it is being reshaped into an online identity that may resemble the real you or may not,” says Peter Streitfeld in his article Google Privacy Inquiries Get Little Cooperation. Remember that scenario where people don’t mind the pain anymore? This situation is not limited to Google of course. It happens with other data mining giants like Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft and every single communications company out there that knowingly or not serves corporate plans to learn everything about everyone everywhere.

Under everybody’s eyes, Google has become extremely successful at what it does, collecting information while keeping its records off the eyes and hands of regulators and the public in part by offering rather unimportant Privacy Policy that no one reads and that is not reflective of the company’s long reaching operations. Despite continuous unwarranted access to people’s personal information, which is a direct violation of their right to privacy, in the United States the FCC found in one case that Google had not infringed any American law and the result of its investigation was a mere $25,000 fine for what the agency labeled as an obstruction of its inquiry.  In Europe, regulators have been a bit more emphatic about Google’s violations, condemning programs like Street View for their resemblance with the Nazi massive collection of information which later served as the main tool to round-up Jews and other people deemed as undesirable by the government.

If Nazi Germany had the capacity — with IBM’s help — to effectively gather citizens’ information and use it against them to kill 6 million Jews and millions of others it found repugnant, what could be the result of a company having the power to outdo the Nazi government’s work on a global scale while remaining unaccountable to established governments? Suddenly the cries about the existence of a Shadow Government don’t seem far-fetched at all. Google is today exponentially more powerful than the Nazis ever were when it comes to collecting, keeping and disseminating information. The company in fact explains its wrong doing by saying their Street View cars gather information with the purpose of improving location-based services, which is why they illegally spy on people through wireless internet technology without their consent.

For Google there seems to be no problem with spying. Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counselor, said the company failed to tell anyone about Street View’s information mining because they didn’t think it was necessary. It is now well-known that Google collected not only technical information about the wireless networks themselves, but also the content of e-mails, names of users, addresses, and so on. During a review process in Germany, Google accepted that revealing their information collection program could compromise the company due to its violation of telecommunication laws. The company, however, shows no remorse or accepts any wrongdoing when representatives respond to questions about illegal practices.

As of today, most cases against Google have been dismissed. The only hopeful effort to curb the tech giant is an investigation to be completed and acted upon come summer in Europe. It is an anti-trust case against Google which some experts believe could be the beginning of tough times for the company. As for most people worried about their privacy, it is unlikely Google will be held back in its attempt to gather massive amounts of information. The suspicion arises from the fact that the meetings to be held in Brussels will  occur behind closed doors, which will prevent the people from learning about the real details of the anti-trust case.

Facebook IPO Financing NSA Data Mining Front

INFOWARS.COM | MAY 18, 2012

Facebook has become a new icon of elite dominance over the web, and increasingly the tech-driven economy as well. Technocrats are busy building stock market credibility via the IPO for their Facebook spy front, while Bilderberg attendees select politicians, steer social movements and spy on the masses to harvest data. Aaron Dykes has a special report on Mark Zuckerberg and his intel ring of social media kingpins and financiers. Bilderberg 2012 is set to convene on Chantilly, Virginia during May 31-June 3. Stayed tuned at Infowars.com for full spectrum coverage of the secretive meeting.

U.S., Europe to keep data on travelers for 15 years

Guardian
May 25, 2011

The personal data of millions of passengers who fly between the US and Europe, including credit card details, phone numbers and home addresses, may be stored by the US department of homeland security for 15 years, according to a draft agreement between Washington and Brussels leaked to the Guardian.

The “restricted” draft, which emerged from negotiations between the US and EU, opens the way for passenger data provided to airlines on check-in to be analysed by US automated data-mining and profiling programmes in the name of fighting terrorism, crime and illegal migration. The Americans want to require airlines to supply passenger lists as near complete as possible 96 hours before takeoff, so names can be checked against terrorist and immigration watchlists.

The agreement acknowledges that there will be occasions when people are delayed or prevented from flying because they are wrongly identified as a threat, and gives them the right to petition for judicial review in the US federal court. It also outlines procedures in the event of anticipated data losses or other unauthorised disclosure. The text includes provisions under which “sensitive personal data” – such as ethnic origin, political opinions, and details of health or sex life – can be used in exceptional circumstances where an individual’s life could be imperilled.

The 15-year retention period is likely to prove highly controversial as it is three times the five years allowed for in the EU’s PNR (passenger name record) regime to cover flights into, out of and within Europe. A period of five and a half years has just been negotiated in a similar agreement with Australia. Germany and France raised concerns this week about the agreement and the unproven necessity for the measure.

Britain has already announced its intention to opt in to the European PNR plan, in which the home secretary, Theresa May, played a key role, and is expected to join the US agreement this summer.

The Home Office minister Damian Green has said: “The power of PNR lies in the fact that by using an automated system and interrogating it intelligently, we are able to sift data quickly and in such a way that it reveals patterns and makes links that would otherwise not be readily apparent.”  Read Full Article…

Invasive Cyber Technologies and Internet Privacy

By Tom Burghardt

What do Google, the CIA and a host of so-called “predictive behavior” start-ups have in common?

They’re interested in you, or more specifically, whether your online interests–from Facebook to Twitter posts, and from Flickr photos to YouTube and blog entries–can be exploited by powerful computer algorithms and subsequently transformed into “actionable intelligence.”

And whether the knowledge gleaned from an IP address is geared towards selling useless junk or entering a name into a law enforcement database matters not a whit. It’s all “just data” and “buzz” goes the mantra, along what little is left of our privacy and our rights.

Increasingly, secret state agencies ranging from the CIA to the National Security Agency are pouring millions of dollars into data-mining firms which claim they have a handle on who you are or what you might do in the future.

And to top it off, the latest trend in weeding-out dissenters and nonconformists from the social landscape will soon be invading a workplace near you; in fact, it already has.

Welcome to the sinister world of “Precrime” where capitalist grifters, drug- and torture-tainted spy shops are all laboring mightily to stamp out every last vestige of free thought here in the heimat.

The CIA Enters the Frame

In July, security journalist Noah Shachtman revealed in Wired that “the investment arms of the CIA and Google are both backing a company that monitors the web in real time–and says it uses that information to predict the future.”

Shachtman reported that the CIA’s semi-private investment company, In-Q-Tel, and Google Ventures, the search giant’s business division had partnered-up with a dodgy outfit called Recorded Future pouring, according to some estimates, $20 million dollars into the fledgling firm.

blurb on In-Q-Tel’s web site informs us that “Recorded Future extracts time and event information from the web. The company offers users new ways to analyze the past, present, and the predicted future.”

Who those ubiquitous though nameless “users” are or what they might do with that information once they “extract” it from the web is left unsaid. However, judging from the interest that a CIA-connected entity has expressed in funding the company, privacy will not figure prominently in the “new ways” such tools will be used.

Wired reported that the company, founded by former Swedish Army Ranger Christopher Ahlberg, “scours tens of thousands of websites, blogs and Twitter accounts to find the relationships between people, organizations, actions and incidents–both present and still-to-come.”

“The cool thing is” Ahlberg said, “you can actually predict the curve, in many cases.”

And as for the search giant’s interest in “predicting the future” for the secret state, it wouldn’t be the first time that Google Ventures sold equipment and expertise to America’s shadow warriors.

While the firm may pride itself on the corporate slogan, “don’t be evil,” data is a valuable commodity. And where’s there value, there’s money to be made. Whether it comes in the form of “increasing share value” through the sale of private information to marketeers or state intelligence agencies eager to increase “situational awareness” of the “battlespace” is a matter of complete indifference to corporate bean counters.

After all, as Google CEO Eric Schmidt told CNBC last year, “if you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

But that standard, “only bad people have something to hide,” is infinitely mutable and can be stretched–or manipulated as has so often been the case in the United States–to encompass everything from “Papist” conspiracies, “illegal” migrants, homosexuality, communism, drug use, or America’s latest bête noire: the “Muslim threat.”

Schmidt went on to say that “the reality is that search engines, including Google, do retain this information for some time. And we’re all subject, in the U.S., to the Patriot Act, and it is possible that that information could be made available to the authorities.”

In February, The Washington Post reported that “the world’s largest Internet search company and the world’s most powerful electronic surveillance organization are teaming up in the name of cybersecurity.”

“The alliance” between Google and NSA “is being designed to allow the two organizations to share critical information without violating Google’s policies or laws that protect the privacy of Americans’ online communications,” the Post alleged.

An anonymous source told the Post that “the deal does not mean the NSA will be viewing users’ searches or e-mail accounts or that Google will be sharing proprietary data.”

Really?

Last spring it was revealed that Google’s Street View cars had been secretly vacuuming up terabytes of private wi-fi data for more than three years across Europe and the United States.

The Sunday Times reported that the firm had “been scooping up snippets of people’s online activities broadcast over unprotected home and business wi-fi networks.”

In July, The Washington Post’s “Top Secret America” investigation disclosed that Google supplies mapping and search products to the U.S. secret state and that their employees, outsourced intelligence contractors for the Defense Department, may have filched their customers’ wi-fi data as part of an NSA surveillance project.

And what about email and web searches? Last year, The New York Times revealed that NSA intercepts of “private telephone calls and e-mail messages of Americans are broader than previously acknowledged.” In fact, a former NSA analyst described how he was trained-up fierce in 2005 “for a program in which the agency routinely examined large volumes of Americans’ e-mail messages without court warrants.”

That program, code-named PINWALE, and the NSA’s meta-data-mining spy op STELLAR WIND, continue under Obama. Indeed, The Atlantic told us at the time that PINWALE “is actually an unclassified proprietary term used to refer to advanced data-mining software that the government uses.”

But the seamless relationships amongst communications’ giants such as Google and the secret state doesn’t stop there.

Even before Google sought an assist from the National Security Agency to secure its networks after an alleged breech by China last year, in 2004 the firm had acquired Keyhole, Inc., an In-Q-Tel funded start-up that developed 3-D-spy-in-the-sky images; Keyhole became the backbone for what later evolved into Google Earth.

At the time of their initial investment, In-Q-Tel said that Keyhole’s “strategic relationship … means that the Intelligence Community can now benefit from the massive scalability and high performance of the Keyhole enterprise solution.”

In-Q-Tel’s then-CEO, Gilman Louie, said that spy shop venture capitalists invested in the firm “because it offers government and commercial users a new capability to radically enhance critical decision making. Through its ability to stream very large geospatial datasets over the Internet and private networks, Keyhole has created an entirely new way to interact with earth imagery and feature data.”

Or, as seen on a daily basis in the AfPak “theatre” deliver exciting new ways to kill people. Now that’s innovation!

That was then, now the search giant and the CIA’s investment arm are banking on products that will take privacy intrusions to a whole new level.

A promotional offering by the up-and-comers in the predictive behavior marketplace, Recorded Future–A White Paper on Temporal Analytics asserts that “unlike traditional search engines which focus on text retrieval and leaves the analysis to the user, we strive to provide tools which assist in identifying and understanding historical developments, and which can also help formulate hypotheses about and give clues to likely future events. We have decided on the term ‘temporal analytics’ to describe the time oriented analysis tasks supported by our systems.”

Big in the hyperbole department, Recorded Future claims to have developed an “analytics engine, which goes beyond search, explicit link analysis and adds implicit link analysis, by looking at the ‘invisible links’ between documents that talk about the same, or related, entities and events. We do this by separating the documents and their content from what they talk about.”

According to the would-be Big Brother enablers, “Recorded Future also analyzes the ‘time and space dimension’ of documents–references to when and where an event has taken place, or even when and where it will take place–since many documents actually refer to events expected to take place in the future.”

Adding to the unadulterated creep factor, the technocratic grifters aver they’re “adding more components, e.g. sentiment analyses, which determine what attitude an author has towards his/her topic, and how strong that attitude is–the affective state of the author.”

Strongly oppose America’s imperial project to steal other people’s resources in Afghanistan and Iraq, or, crime of crimes, have the temerity to write or organize against it? Step right this way, Recorded Future has their eye on you and will sell that information to the highest bidder!

After all, as Mike Van Winkle, a California Anti-Terrorism Information Center shill infamously told the Oakland Tribune back in 2003 after Oakland cops wounded scores of peacenik longshoremen at an antiwar rally at the port: “You can make an easy kind of a link that, if you have a protest group protesting a war where the cause that’s being fought against is international terrorism, you might have terrorism at that (protest). You can almost argue that a protest against that is a terrorist act.”

And with Recorded Future’s “sentiment analyses” such “links” will be even easier to fabricate.

Never mind that the prestigious National Academy of Science’s National Research Council issued a scathing 2008 report, Protecting Individual Privacy in the Struggle Against Terrorists: A Framework for Assessment, that debunked the utility of data-ming and link analysis as effective counterterrorism tools.

“Far more problematic,” the NRC informs us, “are automated data-mining techniques that search databases for unusual patterns of activity not already known to be associated with terrorists.” Since “so little is known about what patterns indicate terrorist activity” the report avers, dodgy techniques such as link analysis “are likely to generate huge numbers of false leads.”

As for Recorded Future’s over-hyped “sentiment analyses,” the NRC debunked, one might even say preemptively, the dodgy claims of our would-be precrime mavens. “The committee also examined behavioral surveillance techniques, which try to identify terrorists by observing behavior or measuring physiological states.”

Their conclusion? “There is no scientific consensus on whether these techniques are ready for use at all in counterterrorism.” Damningly, the NRC asserted that such techniques “have enormous potential for privacy violations because they will inevitably force targeted individuals to explain and justify their mental and emotional states.”

Not that such inconvenient facts matter to Recorded Future or their paymasters in the so-called intelligence community who after all, are in the driver’s seat when the firm’s knowledge products “make predictions about the future.”

After all, as Ahlberg and his merry band of privacy invaders inform us: “Our mission is not to help our customers find documents, but to enable them to understand what is happening in the world.”

The better to get a leg up on the competition or know who to target.

The “Real You”

Not to be outdone by black world spy agencies, their outsourced corporate partners or the futurist gurus who do their bidding, the high-tech publication Datamation, told us last month that the precrime concept “is coming very soon to the world of Human Resources (HR) and employee management.”

Reporter Mike Elgan revealed that a “Santa Barbara, Calif., startup called Social Intelligence data-mines the social networks to help companies decide if they really want to hire you.”

Elgan averred that while background checks have historically searched for evidence of criminal behavior on the part of prospective employees, “Social Intelligence is the first company that I’m aware of that systematically trolls social networks for evidence of bad character.”

Similar to Recorded Future and dozens of other “predictive behavior” companies such as Attensity and Visible Technologies, Social Intelligence deploys “automation software that slogs through Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, LinkedIn, blogs, and ‘thousands of other sources,’ the company develops a report on the ‘real you’–not the carefully crafted you in your resume.”

According to Datamation, “the company also offers a separate Social Intelligence Monitoring service to watch the personal activity of existing employees on an ongoing basis.” Such intrusive monitoring transforms the “workplace” into a 24/7 Orwellian panopticon from which there is no hope of escape.

The service is sold as an exemplary means to “enforce company social media policies.” However, since “criteria are company-defined, it’s not clear whether it’s possible to monitor personal activity.” Fear not, it is.

Social Intelligence, according to Elgan, “provides reporting that deemphasizes specific actions and emphasizes character. It’s less about ‘what did the employee do’ and more about ‘what kind of person is this employee?'”

In other words, it’s all about the future; specifically, the grim world order that fear-mongering corporations are rapidly bringing to fruition.

Datamation reports that “following the current trend lines,” rooted in the flawed logic of information derived from data-mining and link analysis, “social networking spiders and predictive analytics engines will be working night and day scanning the Internet and using that data to predict what every employee is likely to do in the future. This capability will simply be baked right in to HR software suites.”

As with other aspects of daily life in post-constitutional America, executive decisions, ranging from whether or not to hire or fire someone, cast them into a lawless gulag without trial, or even kill them solely on the say-so of our War-Criminal-in-Chief, are the new house rules.

Like our faux progressive president, some HR bureaucrat will act as judge, jury and executioner, making decisions that can–and have–wrecked lives.

Elgan tells us that unlike a criminal proceeding where you stand before the law accused of wrongdoing and get to face your accuser, “you can’t legally be thrown in jail for bad character, poor judgment, or expectations of what you might do in the future. You have to actually break the law, and they have to prove it.”

“Personnel actions aren’t anything like this.” You aren’t afforded the means to “face your accuser.” In fact, based on whether or not you sucked-up to the boss, pissed-off some corporate toady, or moved into the “suspect” category based on an algorithm, you don’t have to actually violate comapny rules in order to be fired “and they don’t have to prove it.”

Datamation tells us, “if the social network scanning, predictive analytics software of the future decides that you are going to do something in future that’s inconsistent with the company’s interests, you’re fired.”

And, Elgan avers, now that “the tools are becoming monstrously sophisticated, efficient, powerful, far-reaching and invasive,” the precrime “concept is coming to HR.”

Big Brother is only a “ping” or mouse click away…

Facebook & Social Media: A Convenient Cover For Spying

By Ralph Forbes
October 6, 2011

Longtime AMERICAN FREE PRESS readers may recall that DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has some creepy tentacles: the Information Awareness Office (IAO); TIA (Total Information Awareness, renamed Terrorism Information Program); and TIPS (Terrorism Information and Prevention System). By 2003, an irate American people forced the government to drop these spooky command-and-control police state operations—or did they?

The “vampire coven” was seemingly dead and buried—but was the stake actually driven through its evil heart?

In 2002, Divya Narendra had an idea for a social network site. By the fall of 2003, she and twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss were looking for a web developer who could bring their idea to life. On Nov. 30, 2003 they hired Mark Zuckerberg to finish their program’s codes. Little did they know what a monster Zuckerberg would hatch.

Zuckerberg bragged about taking their money so he could make his own social networking site. He boasted that his creation, which became the popular “Facebook” online social network, would naturally succeed. While pretending to work on college projects, he was sabotaging his clients by stalling. He claimed he was backed by the “Brazilian Mafia”—but AFP’s revelations will show, it is dangerous to believe anything Zuckerberg says.

Notably, The Social Network, is a new movie based on Zuckerberg and the pre-CIA founding years of Facebook, starring Jesse Eisenberg as Zuckerberg. Check upcoming issues of AFP to see how closely the script depicts the shocking facts.

But as bad as the beginning of Facebook is, the parallels between the CIA’s backing of Google’s dream of becoming “the mind of God,” and the CIA’s funding of Facebook’s goal of knowing everything about everybody are spookier.

Congress stopped the IAO from gathering as much information as possible about everyone in a centralized nexus for easy spying by the United States government, including internet activity, credit card purchase histories, airline ticket purchases, car rentals, medical records, educational transcripts, driver’s licenses, utility bills, tax returns, and all other available data. The government’s plan was to emulate Communist East Germany’s STASI police state by getting mailmen, boy scouts, teachers, students and others to spy on everyone else. Children would be urged to spy on parents.

Facebook, however, does what no dictator ever dreamed of—it has a half billion people willingly doing a form of spy work on all their friends, family, neighbors, etc.—while enthusiastically revealing information on themselves.

The huge database on these half a billion members (and non-members who are written about) is too much power for any private entity—but what if it is part of, or is accessed by, the military-industrial-national security-police state complex?

We all know that “he who pays the piper, calls the tune,” therefore, whoever controls the purse strings controls the whole project. When it had less than a million or so participants, Facebook demonstrated the potential to do even more than IAO, TIA and TIPS combined. Facebook really exploded after its second round of funding—$12.7 million from the venture capital firm Accel Partners. Its manager, James Breyer, was formerly chairman of the National Venture Capital Association and served on the board with Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel, a venture capital front established by the CIA in 1999. In-Q-Tel is the same outfit that funds Google and other technological powerhouses. One of its specialties is “data mining technologies.”

Dr. Anita Jones, who joined the firm, also came from Gilman Louie and served on In-Q-Tel’s board. She had been director of Defense Research and Engineering for the U.S. Department of Defense. This link goes full circle because she was also an adviser to the secretary of defense, overseeing DARPA, which is responsible for high-tech, high-end development.

Furthermore, the CIA uses a Facebook group to recruit staff for its National Clandestine Service.