Tag Archives: Google

Big Tech firms march to the beat of Pentagon, CIA despite dissension, by Tim Johnson

As SLL said in “The Friendly Faces of Fascism,” Big Tech has crawled into bed with the government. From Tim Johnson at mcclatchydc.com:

A funny thing has happened to Google and Amazon on their path toward high-tech success: They have become crucial cogs in the U.S. national security establishment.

Both companies are expanding teams of employees with security clearances to work on projects that include deploying artificial intelligence and building digital “clouds” to offering law enforcement facial recognition tools that can even read the mood of people caught on camera.

The security establishment’s embrace of Big Tech has ruffled the feathers of traditional defense contractors and roiled employee ranks, in Google’s case, over whether the company is being drawn into what disguntled employees called “the business of war.”

Defense industry analysts say the Pentagon views Big Tech, and particularly Google with its deep bench of artificial intelligence researchers, as vital to the nation’s future safety.

In some ways, the evolution of companies born to disrupt the status quo into business giants with a broad array of clients, including the security establishment, is a result of the profits to be made doing business with the federal government.

The Pentagon currently is testing a customized Google AI surveillance engine that sifts through massive amounts of footage from tactical drones to produce what it calls “actionable intelligence and insights at speed.” The tests are under way at six locations in Africa and the Middle East. Such drone footage has been used in the past to target and kill ISIS extremists.

The pilot, known as Project Maven, spurred nearly 4,000 of Google’s 88,000 employees to sign a petition in April demanding that the project be cancelled because it would “irreparably damage Google’s brand.” The petition added: “Building this technology to assist the U.S. government in military surveillance – and potentially lethal outcomes – is not acceptable.”

The internal protest about Project Maven appeared to be taking a toll. The tech website Gizmodo, citing three unnamed sources, reported Friday afternoon that a Google executive told employees earlier in the day that the backlash over Project Maven had been severe and that the company would not pursue further artificial intelligence work with the Pentagon.

Google declined to answer questions about Project Maven, and a spokeswoman for the Mountain View, Calif., company did not answer broader queries about the company’s activities in the national security sphere.

To continue reading: Big Tech firms march to the beat of Pentagon, CIA despite dissension

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The Blowback Against Facebook, Google and Amazon Is Just Beginning, by Charles Hugh Smith

Don’t tell the stock market, but the pendulum may swing against the internet giants for a while. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwonminds.com:

This is how we end up with a neofeudal society that benefits the Protected Few at the expense of the powerless, exploited Many.

Blow-out earnings from Facebook and Amazon have cheered Wall Street, but institutional owners might want to focus not just on blow-out earnings but rising blowbackagainst the tech superpowers (Facebook, Google and Amazon).

The blowback is social and political: people are starting to question the social and political costs of these tech darlings’ dominance and the billions in profits they reap.

The typical corporation can buy political influence, but Facebook and Google are manipulating the machinery of democracy itself. That’s a much more dangerous type of power than buying political influence or manipulating public opinion by openly publishing biased “news.”

We all understand how Corporate Media undermines democracy: recall how every time Bernie Sanders won a Democratic primary in 2016, The New York Times and The Washington Post “reported” the news in small typeface in a sidebar, while every Hillary Clinton primary win was trumpeted in large headlines at the top of page one.

But this sort of manipulation is visible; what Google and Facebook do is invisible. I recently addressed these invisible (but oh-so profitable) mechanisms in a series of essays:

How Far Down the Big Data/’Psychographic Microtargeting’ Rabbit Hole Do You Want to Go?

Is Profit-Maximizing Data-Mining Undermining Democracy?

Should Facebook, Google and Twitter Be Public Utilities?

Should Facebook and Google Pay Users When They Sell Data Collected from Users?

Here’s a selection of recent articles on related topics:

Research Shows Google’s Search Manipulations Tried To Rig Election For Hillary

Google’s File On You Is 10 Times Bigger Than Facebook’s – Here’s How To View It

Don’t Fix Facebook. Replace It. (New York Times)

The Infuriating Innocence of Mark Zuckerberg (The New Yorker)

Amazon is the embodiment of numerous destructive dynamics:

1. Zero-sum cannibalism being passed off as “growth.” Amazon is growing its sales by cannibalizing the retail, distribution, transport, computer services and advertising sectors. How many jobs have been lost as Amazon has consumed its victims? Shall we guess that Amazon’s 560,000 employees replaced 1,000,000+ retail/distribution employees who lost their jobs?

To continue reading: The Blowback Against Facebook, Google and Amazon Is Just Beginning

Google’s File on You Is 10 Times Bigger Than Facebook’s — Here’s How to View It, by Jake Anderson

If you look it up, you’ll probably be amazed at how much data Google has on you. There are ways to limit its data collection. From Jake Anderson at theantimedia.org:

With all the attention paid to Facebook in recent weeks over ‘data breaches’ and privacy violations (even though what happened with Cambridge Analytica is part of their standard business model), it’s easy to forget that there are four other Big Tech corporations collecting just as much — if not more — of our personal info. Google, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft are all central players in “surveillance capitalism” and prey on our data. New reports suggest that Google may actually harvest ten times as much as Facebook.

Curious about just how much of his data Google had, web developer Dylan Curran says he downloaded his Google data file, which is offered by the company in a hub called “My Account.” This hub was created in 2015, along with a tool called “My Activity.” The report issued is similar to the one Facebook delivers to its users upon request. Whether or not these reports are comprehensive is still up in the air, but Curran says his was 5.5 GB, which is almost ten times larger than the one Facebook offered him. The amount and type of data in his file, Mr. Curran says, suggests Google is not only constantly tracking our online movements but may also be monitoring our physical locations.

Curran’s Google report contained an incredible amount documentation on his web activity, going back over a decade. But perhaps more importantly, Google had also been tracking his real-life movements via his smartphone device or tablet. This included fairly random places he’d frequented, many of the foreign countries and cities he visited, the bars and restaurants he went to while in these countries, the amount of time he spent there, and even the path he took to get there and back.

This, of course, is not new. It has been well-known for some time that Google silently tracks you everywhere you go and creates a map of your physical movements through its Location History feature. You can deactivate it by going to your timeline and adjusting the preferences.

To continue reading: Google’s File on You Is 10 Times Bigger Than Facebook’s — Here’s How to View It

What Makes AI Dangerous? The State, by Per Bylund

As with most new technologies that have both benefits and dangers, the dangers are most pronounced when the technology gets in the hands of governments. From Per Bylund at mises.org:

So I watched “Do you trust this computer?”, a film that “explores the promises and perils” of artificial intelligence. While it notes both the good and the bad, it has an obvious focus on how AI might bring about “the end of the world as we know it” (TEOTWAWKI.) That is, if it is left unregulated.

It’s strange, however, that the examples of TEOTWAWKI AI were “autonomous weapons” and “fake news,” the latter because of how it can provide a path for a minority-supported dictator to “take over.” While I understand (and fear) both, the examples have one thing in common – but it is not AI.

That one thing is the State. Only States’ militaries and groups looking to take over a State have any interest in “killer robots.” They’re also developed by/for those groups. The fake news and “undue influence” issue is also about the power over the State. Neither weapons nor fake news require AI. Yet, in some strange twist, the film makers make it an AI problem. Worse: they end the film indicating that the main problem is that AI is “unregulated.”

But this is completely illogical: with the State as the problem’s common denominator *and* the solution?

Instead, we’re led to believe that it is problematic that Google tracks our web searches and Facebook knows our friends and beliefs (“because autonomous weapons”?). While I agree that it is ugly, neither company is making a claim over life and death. In fact, they operate under the harshest regulation there is: the market. Because they are making investments to make money, and money can only be made in one of two ways: through offering something that people want and are willing to pay for (Oppenheimer’s “economic” means), or through simply taking it from people against their will (“political” means). Companies operate according to the former, which means they are subject to the mercy of consumers. The State operate according to the latter.

 

To continue reading: What Makes AI Dangerous? The State

The Big Tech Backlash of 2018, by Raúl Ilargi Meijer

There’s a revolt brewing against the tech titans that have been stock market darlings the last few years. From Raúl Ilargi Meijer at theautomaticearth.com:

Something must be terribly wrong with the world. A few days ago Elizabeth Warren agreed with Trump on China, now Bernie Sanders agrees with him about Amazon. What’s happening?

Bernie Sanders Agrees With Trump: Amazon Has Too Much Power

Independent Vermont senator and 2016 presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders echoed President Donald Trump in expressing concern about retail giant Amazon. Sanders said that he felt Amazon had gotten too big on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, and added that Amazon’s place in society should be examined.

“And I think this is, look, this is an issue that has got to be looked at. What we are seeing all over this country is the decline in retail. We’re seeing this incredibly large company getting involved in almost every area of commerce. And I think it is important to take a look at the power and influence that Amazon has,” said Sanders.

A backlash against Facebook, a backlash against Amazon. Are these things connected? Actually, yes, they are connected. But not in a way that either Trump or Sanders has clued in to. Someone who has, a for now lone voice, is David Stockman. Here’s what he wrote last week.

The Donald’s Blind Squirrel Nails An Acorn

It is said that even a blind squirrel occasionally finds an acorn, and so it goes with the Donald. Banging on his Twitter keyboard in the morning darkness, he drilled Jeff Bezos a new one – or at least that’s what most people would call having their net worth lightened by about $2 billion:

“I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the Election. Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!” You can’t get more accurate than that. Amazon is a monstrous predator enabled by the state, but Amazon’s outrageous postal subsidy – a $1.46 gift card from the USPS stabled on each box – isn’t the half of it.

To continue reading: The Big Tech Backlash of 2018

Never mind Facebook, Google is the all-seeing ‘big brother’ you should know about, by RT News

When it comes to collecting data, Facebook is an amateur compared to pros at Google. From RT news at rt.com:

The Cambridge Analytica scandal put Facebook through the wringer in recent weeks, losing the company $100 billion in stock value and prompting a global debate on internet privacy.

The social media giant was forced to apologize and overhaul its privacy and data sharing practices, but it still remains in the media spotlight and in the crosshairs of the Federal Trade Commission, which says it may be liable for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of fines.

But amid all the furor, one monolithic entity has continued to harvest data from billions of people worldwide. The data gathered includes a precise log of your every move and every internet search you’ve ever made, every email you’ve ever sent, your workout routine, your favourite food, and every photo you’ve ever taken. And you have allowed it to happen to yourself, for the sake of better service and more relevant advertising.

Google is a ‘Big Brother’ with capabilities beyond George Orwell’s wildest nightmares. These capabilities are all the more chilling after Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., cut its famous “don’t be evil” line from its code of conduct in 2015.

Everything you’ve ever searched for on any of your devices is recorded and stored by Google. It’s done to better predict your future searches and speed up and streamline your browsing. You can clear your search history, but it only works for that particular device. Google still keeps a record of everything. Click here to see everything you’ve ever searched on a Google device.

The same goes for every app and extension you use. If it’s connected to Google, your data is stored. That means that your Facebook messages are not only farmed out to companies like Cambridge Analytica, Google also has them from the Facebook app you use.

YouTube, which is a Google subsidiary, also stores a history of every video you watch. It will know if you’ve listened to Linkin Park’s ‘In the End’ 3,569 times, or watched hours of flat-earth conspiracy theory videos.

To continue reading: Never mind Facebook, Google is the all-seeing ‘big brother’ you should know about

Should Facebook and Google Pay Users When They Sell Data Collected from Users? by Charles Hugh Smith

The mechanics of the social media companies paying users for their data are daunting, but it’s an intriguing idea. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

Let’s imagine a model in which the marketers of data distribute some of their immense profits to the users who created and thus “own” the data being sold for a premium.
It’s not exactly news that Facebook, Google and other “free” services reap billions of dollars in profits by selling data mined/collected from their millions of users. As we know, If you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold, also phrased as if the service is free, you are the product.
Correspondent GFB recently asked, why aren’t Facebook et al. sharing a slice of the profits reaped from users’ data with the users who create the data?Given the enormous data processing capabilities of these tech giants, it’s certainly not a technical issue to credit each user a micro-payment when the data they create and thus “own” (since the creator of any digital product is by rights the owner of that product, including data sold to marketers) is sold.
Is the presumption that the collector of users’ data “own” that data via the collection process false, legally and ethically? Teams of attorneys may well be employed to support this claim on legal grounds, but what about the ethics of this data-mining of the many to profit the few with the means to collect and sell the data harvested from users?
Now that the ethical foundation of all these tech giants has been revealed to be nothing but shifting sand, it’s a line of inquiry worth pursuing. In some ways it parallels the situation in biomedicine: if a private-sector corporation harvests a particular genetic variation from an individual, do they “own” the variation because they detected it, or does the individual whose tissue/blood was harvested retain some ownership?
We need to differentiate sites and services that 1) do not collect data from users and 2) sell display advertising seen equally by all users (i.e. the traditional media model) and sites and services that 1) collect data from users as their “business model” / reason to exist and 2) sell marketing/advertising for a premium because it’s targeted to individual users.
The difference between these two models is obvious: one is “broadcast” available equally to users and advertisers alike. The other is “targeted marketing” based on data harvested from individual users.