Why The Google And Facebook Election Manipulations Matter To You
Permissionless data slurping: Why Google's latest bombshell matters
Are you in control?
Comment According to an old Chinese proverb: "When a wise man points at the Moon, an idiot looks at his finger." Google may have been hoping that you were examining a finger, not reading a Quartz storyyesterday, which reveals how Android phones send location data to Google without you even knowing it.
Google received the data even if you didn't have a SIM card in your phone, and everything else was turned off.
It's such an old story, you'll fall asleep reading it, so please don't, urgedone blue-ticked tweeter. Nobody suspected Google did this practice – and Google has now vowed to stop.
But you may want to consider two questions about a story that goes to the heart of the human relationship with technology: "Who is in control, here?" Firstly, can you turn it off? If you can't turn it off then obviously you are not in control. Secondly, do you know it's happening? If you don't know it's happening, you're not even in a position to turn it off. This entirely changes the terms of that human-machine relationship.
What Google did is also illegal here because consent is the key to data protection in the EU. This is what motivated a student, Max Schrems, to look into Facebook's cookies in 2011. An Austrian studying law in California, Schrems was curious how Facebook could track you across the web, even though you hadn't given it permission to do so. Europe's data protection laws had been introduced in the mid-1990s, with memories of East Germany's Stasi fresh in the memory. Schrems investigated, and discovered that Facebook didn't delete the data even after you asked it to. Four years later the "safe harbour" provisions governing data flows from Europe to the USA lay in tatters.
The paparazzi in your pocket
Some of Silicon Valley's vanguardistas are fond of a phrase "permissionless innovation", a propaganda expression which implies that somehow progress won't take place if it respects human boundaries. For obvious reasons, the phrase is coming back to haunt them.
This is "permissionless", too, it just wasn't very innovative. As Charles Arthur notes, Google's response is similar to another piece of permissionless data collection. "Very reminiscent of the collection of Wi-Fi network data by Google Street View in 2010. That was blamed on a rogue engineer, even though the system had to be approved by a manager," he writes.
Indeed, Google advanced the theory that it was the work of a lone gunman: one rogue slurper, acting alone. The FCC demolished the theory. Google had intercepted the data "for business purposes", privacy group EPIC concluded.
If Google was a person, it would have had a restraining order for stalking slapped on it by now.
There's an obsessive quality to Google's collection of location data, and its insistence that it alone should have it. When in 2010 Motorola decided to go with Skyhook for its location data based on triangulating against a database of Wi-Fi access points – something Skyhook had invented – Larry Page went ballistic, threatening to close down Motorola's production lines. Skyhook was "contaminating" Google's own data collection, Page fumed.
Google went further in the dog days of the Obama administration, with the FCC being run by one of Obama's biggest fundraisers, Tom Wheeler. Although the FTC has traditionally handled data protection, the FCC drove over its lawn and introduced a regulation attempting to stop ISPs doing what was central to Google's business model – data collection. The regulation meant you could opt out of your network's data collection, but never opt out of Google or Facebook. It was a brazen attempt to wrestle the issue of privacy away from a watchdog that was obliged to treat everyone equally, to Google-friendly regulators. The regulation was never implemented.
If Google was a person, it would have had a restraining order for stalking slapped on it by now. Google argues that it needs this data to bring you lovely services for free, and that users happily consent to the data collection. But the Street View and the Quartz story blow away the argument: consent didn't come into it.
It's worth examining exactly why Oracle brought the issue of data collection to the attention of the European Commission – and it's not out of direct self-interest. Having promised both users and regulators that it would never combine data from its advertising silos into one giant "super profile", Google went ahead and did it anyway. Everything is now co-mingled with everything else.
The European Commission is examining the complaint because data is key to effective behavioural advertising, and the super profile (like Facebook's Graph) presents an insurmountable barrier to entry for competition. The super profile is like Napoleon crowning himself Emperor. It's intended to ensure Google retains its part of a dominant advertising duopoly forever.
You can accuse Oracle of many things, but it isn't an ad-slinger, and has no interest in becoming one either. Quartz is to be commended for... hey, look over there! A finger! ®
Eric Schmidt has made news with his latest announcement that Google is working on ways to “derank” Russian media in the search engine’s results.
At this weekend’s Halifax International Security Forum in Canada, Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google and current executive Chairman of Alphabet Inc., discussed Google’s efforts to deal with the apparent rise of fake news. Specifically, Schmidt was talking about how the search engine giant might limit the spread of “Russian Propaganda.” Mr. Schmidt said Google might “derank” fake news stories, going as far as mentioning Russian news stations Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik.
“We are working on detecting and deranking those kinds of sites – it’s basically RT and Sputnik,” Schmidt said. “We are well of aware of it, and we are trying to engineer the systems to prevent that [the content being delivered to wide audiences]. But we don’t want to ban the sites – that’s not how we operate.”
PLENARY 6: SATELLITE ARMIES: THE RACE IN SPACE and HALIFAX CHAT – featuring Ms. Theresa Hitchens, Gen. John Hyten, Ms. Julie Perkins The Boeing Company, Dr. Rajeswari Rajagopalan, Ms. Jeanne Meserve (Moderator) and also featuring Alphabet CEO Dr. Eric Schmidt and Mr. Jonathan Tepperman (Moderator)
Posted by Halifax International Security Forum on Saturday, November 18, 2017
Schmidt said Google was not in favor of censorship, but would rather focus on ranking. “I am very strongly in favor of ranking. It’s what we do,” he stated. “It’s a very legitimate question as to how we rank, A or B, right? And we do the best we can in millions and millions of rankings every day.”
The comments about Russian state-owned media broadcasting in English to Americans are the latest consequence of the continued propaganda about Russians “hacking” or “interfering” with the 2016 election. The media claims Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and used WikiLeaks to disseminate the information to the American public. Even if the DNC was hacked by a hacker originating in Russia there has never been any evidence that “the Russians” forced Americans to vote one way or the other.
The corporate media continues to push the narrative despite the biggest bombshell being that Russian intelligence agencies MAY have created FB accounts for the purpose of creating ads aimed at influencing Americans’ election choices. Releasing factual information barely counts as “interference” and does not qualify as hacking by any stretch of the imagination. Regardless, the American politicians and compliant media push forth with the narrative that the Russians stole the election from the American people. As part of this blame game, Twitter recently announced they would no longer accept ads from RT and Sputnik. Just last week RT had to register as a “foreign agent” with the US Department of Justice or face fines and confiscation of property.
Interestingly, Schmidt stated that the 2016 election shows that American audiences are incapable of distinguishing between fake news and real news. Instead, Schmidt believes it is up to tech-giants and their buddies in the government to decide what stories the people are allowed to see and read.
“We started with the default American view that ‘bad’ speech would be replaced with ‘good’ speech, but the problem found in the last year is that this may not be true in certain situations, especially when you have a well-funded opponent who is trying to actively spread this information,” Schmidt stated at the forum.
The idea that both Trump and Clinton were not backed by powerful, wealthy interests is laughable. Both the Democratic and Republican corporate parties are beholden to forces with power and connections beyond the imagination of the average American. Schmidt himself is one of the wealthiest people on the planet worth an estimated $12 billion. In 2012 he was an adviser on digital operations for the Obama campaign and, according to John Podesta’s emails, Schmidt offered the same services to Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2015.
Sputnik and RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan responded to Eric Schmidt’s comments with the following statement:
Good to have Google on record as defying all logic and reason: facts aren’t allowed if they come from RT, ‘because Russia’ – even if we have Google on Congressional record saying they’ve found no manipulation of their platform or policy violations by RT.
In reality, the comments by Eric Schmidt and the fake news meme have always been about controlling or limiting the reach of the independent and alternative media which offers a contrary perspective to the statist, corporatist deadstream media. If Americans stand by and do nothing as the Russian alt media comes under attack you better be prepared for the day that Eric Schmidt and/or the American political class announce the “deranking” of alternative views about 9/11, vaccinations, the weather, the food, the water, the environment, the wars, or the Surveillance/Police State. Google, YouTube, FB, and Twitter are the establishment social media tools. If we centralize all of our efforts through these platforms we are setting ourselves up for failure.
Google will ‘de-rank’ lefty articles to make them harder to find – Eric Schmidt
© Global Look Press
Eric Schmidt, the Executive Chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, says the company will “engineer” specific algorithms for RT and Sputnik to make their articles less prominent on the search engine’s news delivery services.
“We are working on detecting and de-ranking those kinds of sites – it’s basically RT and Sputnik,” Schmidt said during a Q & A session at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada on Saturday, when asked about whether Google facilitates “Russian propaganda.”
Schmidt appearance begins at 1:07:00 mark, relevant question at 1:33:00
“We are well of aware of it, and we are trying to engineer the systems to prevent that [the content being delivered to wide audiences]. But we don’t want to ban the sites – that’s not how we operate.”
The discussion focused on the company’s popular Google News service, which clusters the news by stories, then ranks the various media outlets depending on their reach, article length and veracity, and Google Alerts, which proactively informs subscribers of new publications.
RT has criticized the proposed move – whose timescale has not been publicized – as arbitrary and a form of censorship.
“Good to have Google on record as defying all logic and reason: facts aren’t allowed if they come from RT, ‘because Russia’ – even if we have Google on Congressional record saying they've found no manipulation of their platform or policy violations by RT,” Sputnik and RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan said in a statement.
During the discussion, Schmidt claimed that he was “very strongly not in favor of censorship,” but said that he has faith in “ranking” without acknowledging if the system might serve the same function. Schmidt, who joined Google in 2001, said that the company’s algorithm was capable of detecting “repetitive, exploitative, false, and weaponized” info, but did not elaborate on how these qualities were determined.
The Alphabet chief, who has been referred to by Hillary Clinton as a “longtime friend,” added that the experience of “the last year” showed that audiences could not be trusted to distinguish fake and real news for themselves.
“We started with the default American view that ‘bad’ speech would be replaced with ‘good’ speech, but the problem found in the last year is that this may not be true in certain situations, especially when you have a well-funded opponent who is trying to actively spread this information,” he told the audience.
Schmidt advised Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign on digital operations, and offered the same services to Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2015, according to several emails from campaign chairman John Podesta’s private account, published by WikiLeaks last October.
On election night 2016, Schmidt was spotted at the Clinton campaign headquarters with a “staff” badge, according to a photo submitted to Politico.
RT America registered under FARA earlier this month, after being threatened by the US Department of Justice with arrests and confiscations of property if it failed to comply. The broadcaster is fighting the order in court.