Tag Archives: Google

Silicon Valley’s War Against ‘White, Male Conservatives’ Is a War Against America, by Robert Bridge

It remains to be seen if Silicon Valley’s war against white male conservatives will be good or bad business. There are, after all, a lot of white male conservative engineers and physicists. From Robert Bridge at strategic-culture.org:

With the termination of a YouTube account, or simple tweak of an algorithm, the tech company monsters – Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter – are able to deprive millions of Americans of conservative news sources, undermining both the Constitution and the spirit of democracy.

In a perfectly wired world, the gatekeepers of the Internet would limit themselves specifically to the technical aspects of their job, ensuring that a well-oiled matrix runs smoothly and effectively for the end user. But alas, we do not inhabit a perfect world.

Political bias runs far and deep inside of Silicon Valley, and following the defeat of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, the tech giants are now poised to make life very difficult for conservatives. That much was plain to see in a shocking video of a Google meeting, chaired by the company’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, just days after U.S. voters sent Donald Trump to the White House.

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Google Suppresses Memo Revealing Plans to Closely Track Search Users in China, by Ryan Gallagher and Lee Fang

It’s hard to believe that Google’s motto once was “Do No Evil.” From Ryan Gallagher and Lee Fang at theintercept.com:

GOOGLE BOSSES HAVE forced employees to delete a confidential memo circulating inside the company that revealed explosive details about a plan to launch a censored search engine in China, The Intercept has learned.

The memo, authored by a Google engineer who was asked to work on the project, disclosed that the search system, codenamed Dragonfly, would require users to log in to perform searches, track their location — and share the resulting history with a Chinese partner who would have “unilateral access” to the data.

The memo was shared earlier this month among a group of Google employees who have been organizing internal protests over the censored search system, which has been designed to remove content that China’s authoritarian Communist Party regime views as sensitive, such as information about democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest.

According to three sources familiar with the incident, Google leadership discovered the memo and were furious that secret details about the China censorship were being passed between employees who were not supposed to have any knowledge about it. Subsequently, Google human resources personnel emailed employees who were believed to have accessed or saved copies of the memo and ordered them to immediately delete it from their computers. Emails demanding deletion of the memo contained “pixel trackers” that notified human resource managers when their messages had been read, recipients determined.

The Dragonfly memo reveals that a prototype of the censored search engine was being developed as an app for both Android and iOS devices, and would force users to sign in so they could use the service. The memo confirms, as The Intercept first reported last week, that users’ searches would be associated with their personal phone number. The memo adds that Chinese users’ movements would also be stored, along with the IP address of their device and links they clicked on. It accuses developers working on the project of creating “spying tools” for the Chinese government to monitor its citizens.

People’s search histories, location information, and other private data would be sent out of China to a database in Taiwan, the memo states. But the data would also be provided to employees of a Chinese company who would be granted “unilateral access” to the system.

To launch the censored search engine, Google set up a “joint venture” partnership with an unnamed Chinese company. The search engine will “blacklist sensitive queries” so that “no results will be shown” at all when people enter certain words or phrases, according to documents seen by The Intercept. Blacklisted search terms on a prototype of the search engine include “human rights,” “student protest,” and “Nobel Prize” in Mandarin, said sources familiar with the project.

According to the memo, aside from being able to access users’ search data, the Chinese partner company could add to the censorship blacklists: It would be able to “selectively edit search result pages … unilaterally, and with few controls seemingly in place.”

That a Chinese company would maintain a copy of users’ search data means that, by extension, the data would be accessible to Chinese authorities, who have broad powers to obtain information that is held or processed on the country’s mainland. A central concern human rights groups have expressed about Dragonfly is that it could place users at risk of Chinese government surveillance — and any person in China searching for blacklisted words or phrases could find themselves interrogated or detained. Chinese authorities are well-known for routinely targeting critics, activists, and journalists.

“It’s alarming to hear that such information will be stored and, potentially, easily shared with the Chinese authorities,” said Patrick Poon, a Hong Kong-based researcher with the human rights group Amnesty International. “It will completely put users’ privacy and safety at risk. Google needs to immediately explain if the app will involve such arrangements. It’s time to give the public full transparency of the project.”

ON AUGUST 16, two weeks after The Intercept revealed the Dragonfly plan, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told the company’s employees that the China plan was in its “early stages” and “exploratory.” However, employees working on the censored search engine were instructed in late July, days before the project was publicly exposed, that they should prepare to get it into a “launch-ready state” to roll out within weeks, pending approval from officials in Beijing.

The memo raises new questions about Pichai’s claim that the project was not well-developed. Information stored on the company’s internal networks about Dragonfly “paints a very different picture,” it says. “The statement from our high-level leadership that Dragonfly is just an experiment seems wrong.”

The memo identifies at least 215 employees who appear to have been tasked with working full-time on Dragonfly, a number it says is “larger than many Google projects.” It says that source code associated with the project dates back to May 2017, and “many infrastructure parts predate” that. Moreover, screenshots of the app “show a project in a pretty advanced state,” the memo declares.

Most of the details about the project “have been secret from the start,” the memo says, adding that “after the existence of Dragonfly leaked, engineers working on the project were also quick to hide all of their code.”

The author of the memo said in the document that they were opposed to the China censorship. However, they added, “more than the project itself, I hate the culture of secrecy that has been built around it.”

The memo was first posted September 5 on an internal messaging list set up for Google employees to raise ethical concerns. But the memo was soon scrubbed from the list and individuals who had opened or saved the document were contacted by Google’s human resources department to discuss the matter. The employees were instructed not to share the memo.

Google reportedly maintains an aggressive security and investigation team known as “stopleaks,” which is dedicated to preventing unauthorized disclosures. The team is also said to monitor internal discussions.

Internal security efforts at Google have ramped up this year as employees have raised ethical concerns around a range of new company projects. Following the revelation by Gizmodo and The Intercept that Google had quietly begun work on a contract with the military last year, known as Project Maven, to develop automated image recognition systems for drone warfare, the communications team moved swiftly to monitor employee activity.

The “stopleaks” team, which coordinates with the internal Google communications department, even began monitoring an internal image board used to post messages based on internet memes, according to one former Google employee, for signs of employee sentiment around the Project Maven contract.

Google’s internal security team consists of a number of former military and law enforcement officials. For example, LinkedIn lists as Google’s head of global investigations Joseph Vincent, whose resume includes work as a high-ranking agent at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s Homeland Security Investigations unit. The head of security at Google is Chris Rackow, who has described himself as a former member of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s hostage rescue team and as a former U.S. Navy SEAL.

For some Google employees, the culture of secrecy at the company clashes directly with its public image around fostering transparency, creating an intolerable work environment.

“Leadership misled engineers working on [Dragonfly] about the nature of their work, depriving them of moral agency,” said a Google employee who read the memo.

Google did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

 

“Panic And Dismay”: Leaked Video Reveals Distraught Google Execs Grappling With Hillary Clinton’s Loss, by Tyler Durden

It is not too difficult to determine where the executives and most of the employees’ political sympathies lie. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

Days after Google was exposed trying to help Hillary Clinton win the 2016 election, a leaked “internal only” video published by Breitbart Senior Tech correspondent Allum Bokhari reveals a panel of Google executives who are absolutely beside themselves following Hillary Clinton’s historic loss.

The video is a full recording of Google’s first all-hands meeting following the 2016 election (these weekly meetings are known inside the company as “TGIF” or “Thank God It’s Friday” meetings). Sent to Breitbart News by an anonymous source, it features co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, VPs Kent Walker and Eileen Naughton, CFO Ruth Porat, and CEO Sundar Pichai. –Breitbart

In the video, Brin can be heard comparing Trump supporters to fascists and extremists – arguing that like other extremists, Trump voters suffered from “boredom” which has, he claims, historically led to fascism and communism.

He then asks his company what they can do to ensure a “better quality of governance and decision-making.”

And according to Kent Walker, VP for Global Affairs, those who support populist causes like the MAGA movement are motivated by “fear, xenophobia, hatred and a desire for answers that may or may not be there.”  Continue reading

EU Enters “Final Stage” of Crafting Bill Forcing Big Tech Censorship, by Joseph Jankowski

The EU continues it’s slippery slide down the road to censorship. From Joseph Jankowski at planetfreewill.com:

The European Union is in the final stages of crafting legislation that will force big tech and internet companies to censor “extremist” content and cooperate with law enforcement, Reuters reports.

The bill is expected to be released by the end of the month and will absolutely require companies such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter to swiftly remove any content considered terroristic from their platforms.

EU Commissioner in charge of Justice, Consumers and gender equality, Věra Jourová , speaks at a news conference on a second monitoring of the illegal online hate speech code of conduct in Brussels, Belgium, 1 June 2017. [Olivier Hoslet/EPA]

In March, the European Commission told such companies that they had three months to show they were removing “extremist” content more rapidly or face legislation forcing them to do so.

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“Code Yellow”: Google Employees Revolt Over Clandestine China Project, by Tyler Durden

The company whose motto was once “Do No Evil” will apparently do the evil bidding of a host government if the market is large enough. To their credit, some of the Google’s employees are pushing back. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

Google employees have issued a “code yellow” alert to company executives over brewing opposition to a planned censored search engine in China, citing “urgent moral and ethical issues” in a letter circulated internally, reports The Intercept.

Staff inside the internet giant’s offices have agreed that the censorship project raises “urgent moral and ethical issues” and have circulated a letter saying so, and calling on bosses to disclose more about the company’s work in China, which they say is shrouded in too much secrecy, according to three sources with knowledge of the matter. –The Intercept

The last time Google employees revolted, the company abandoned its controversial AI-drone initiative known as “Project Maven” after around a dozen employees quit and close to 4,000 signed a petition. Many of the same people who led the last effort are now involved in the China protest.

The China search engine project, revealed earlier this month by The Intercept from leaked documents, would “blacklist sensitive queries” so that “no results will be shown” when people enter certain words or phrases. Code-named “Dragonfly,” the censorship plan was not widely known within Google – relegated to just a few hundred of the Mountain View, CA company’s 88,000 employees. After The Intercept‘s August 1 article, however, angry employees were triggered into an uproar, leading to the “code yellow” situation.

Now, a letter has been circulated among staff calling for Google’s leadership to recognize that there is a “code yellow” situation – a kind of internal alert that signifies a crisis is unfolding. The letter suggests that the Dragonfly initiative violates an internal Google artificial intelligence ethical code, which says that the company will not build or deploy technologies “whose purpose contravenes widely accepted principles of international law and human rights.” –The Intercept

The letter reads in part: “Currently we do not have the information required to make ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects, and our employment. That the decision to build Dragonfly was made in secret, and progressed with the [artificial intelligence] Principles in place, makes clear that the Principles alone are not enough. We urgently need more transparency, a seat at the table, and a commitment to clear and open processes: Google employees need to know what we’re building.”

To continue reading: “Code Yellow”: Google Employees Revolt Over Clandestine China Project

U.S. Tech Giants Are Too Big, Too Powerful and Now Are Running Into Serious Trouble, by Michael Krieger

Google and Facebook are running into backlash from their growth-at-all-costs policies and their maladroit political moves. From Michael Krieger at libertyblitzkrieg.com:

Within Google, knowledge about Dragonfly has been restricted to just a few hundred members of the internet giant’s 88,000-strong workforce, said a source with knowledge of the project. The source spoke to The Intercept on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorized to contact the media. The source said that they had moral and ethical concerns about Google’s role in the censorship, which is being planned by a handful of top executives and managers at the company with no public scrutiny.

“I’m against large companies and governments collaborating in the oppression of their people, and feel like transparency around what’s being done is in the public interest,” the source said, adding that they feared “what is done in China will become a template for many other nations.”

From The Intercept article: Google Plans to Launch Censored Search Engine in China, Leaked Documents Reveal

Today’s post will explain why I think the U.S. tech giants are in the early stages of destroying themselves. It will focus on two of the biggest names in the space, Facebook and Google. Both face serious issues that are only now truly coming to a head and rooted in two primary factors, size and politics.

Facebook is further along in the process of being in serious trouble, so let’s start there. The social media company currently has 2.2 billion active users worldwide, which amounts to well over half of all human beings online at the moment (estimated at 3-4 billion). In other words, the company already has a tremendous share of global potential users. Since everybody already knows what Facebook is, you have to assume those who aren’t using it (like me), aren’t using it for a reason. Thus, you have to ask whether or not meaningful growth in active users is remotely realistic for Facebook. I would argue not.

There are many reasons to bet against Facebook significantly growing active users in the years ahead, but the main hurdle seems to be keeping the users it already has actively engaged. Specifically, I think there are two types of users Facebook risks losing going forward. These people might not “delete Facebook” per se, but their engagement with the platform may drop meaningfully.

To continue reading: U.S. Tech Giants Are Too Big, Too Powerful and Now Are Running Into Serious Trouble

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