"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Google’

STORMBREW, Shifting Shadow, Flying Pig, QUANTUM: NSA/GCHQ Programs “degrade/deny/disrupt Tor Network access”, Major Email Providers, Petrobas, SWiFT, Huawei Corp, Riyad Bank; Targeted For Surveillance

In Uncategorized on October 8, 2013 at 3:05 pm

https://i2.wp.com/htmlimg3.scribdassets.com/14kqsxcu2o2ts0gn/images/1-31eec3cee3.jpgOldspeak: “The above slide perfectly illustrates the true face of the corporatocracy. Government agencies, working in lockstep with “”key corporate partners” to achieve “total information awareness” and act as “thought police”.  Storing, analysing and evaluating all digital communications and information. The Cyberwarriors over at NSA/GCHQ are busy canibalizing.   Feeding on the information of presidents, banking corporations, energy corporations, information corporations, and you. While talking heads blabber about manufactured crises, Big Brother is Watching. Searching for new sources of toxic energy to burn to sustain itself…  Sacrificing, barrel by barrel, the world it’s slowly destroying . Developing detailed dossiers on all persons connected to anything digital. To watch everything, always, until our all but certain demise…” –OSJ

There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized. -George Orwell

Related Stories:

Attacking Tor: How The NSA Targets Users Online Anonymity

Brazilian TV show says U.S. spied on state-run Petrobras oil firm, cites NSA documents

XKeyscore Is Watching You: NSA Tool Collects Nearly Everything A Internet User Does

UPSTREAM, They Know Much More About You Than You Think

By Ryan Gallager @  Slate:

The National Security Agency is keen to portray its surveillance efforts as primarily focused on detecting and preventing possible terror attacks. But a new trove of freshly leaked secret documents suggests that the agency also uses its powerful spying apparatus to infiltrate and monitor multinational companies.

On Sunday, Brazilian TV show Fantastico published previously undisclosed details based on documents obtained by Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The 13-minute news segment focused on the revelation that, according to the leaked files, the NSA apparently targeted Brazil’s state-run Petrobras oil producer for surveillance—undermining a recent statement by the agency that it “does not engage in economic espionage in any domain.” The Petrobras detail has been picked up internationally, and is likely to cause a serious stir in Brazil. (The country is still reeling from the revelation last week that the NSA spied on its president.) But Fantastico delivered several other highly significant nuggets that deserve equal attention.

Aside from targeting Petrobras, Fantastico revealed that in a May 2012 presentation reportedly used by the agency to train new recruits how to infiltrate private computer networks, Google is listed as a target. So are the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and SWIFT, a financial cooperative that connects thousands of banks and is supposed to help “securely” facilitate banking transactions made between more than 200 countries. Other documents show that the NSA’s so-called STORMBREW program—which involves sifting Internet traffic directly off of cables as it is flowing past—is being operated with the help of a “key corporate partner” at about eight key locations across the United States where there is access to “international cables, routers, and switches.” According to a leaked NSA map, this surveillance appears to be taking place at network junction points in Washington, Florida, Texas, at two places in California, and at three further locations in or around Virginia, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Further afield, the NSA has apparently targeted the computer networks of Saudi Arabia’s Riyad Bank and Chinese technology company Huawei for surveillance, the documents show. The agency also operates a program called SHIFTINGSHADOW that appears to collect communications and location data from two major cellphone providers in Afghanistan through what it describes as a “foreign access point.” The targeting of China’s Huawei and phone operators in Afghanistan is perhaps unsurprising, given fears about Huawei’s links to the Chinese government and potential terror attacks on U.S. interests emanating from Afghanistan. But the potential infiltration of Google, in particular, is a controversial development, and the Internet giant will no doubt be demanding answers from the U.S. government.

(Google declined a request for comment. James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, has put out a statement not directly addressing any of the latest revelations but saying that the United States “collects foreign intelligence—just as many other governments do—to enhance the security of our citizens and protect our interests and those of our allies around the world.”)

Equally notable, Fantastico displayed a number of leaked secret documents that help shed light on recent reports about efforts made by the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ to break encryption. In a joint scoop last week, the New York Times, ProPublica, and the Guardian claimed that the spy agencies had “cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people” to protect their online data. However, it was not clear from the reports exactly what encryption protocols had been “cracked” and the tone of the scoops, as I noted at the time, seemed excessively alarmist.

Now, documents published by Fantastico appear to show that, far from “cracking” SSL encryption—a commonly used protocol that shows up in your browser as HTTPS—the spy agencies have been forced to resort to so-called “man-in-the-middle” attacks to circumvent the encryption by impersonating security certificates in order to intercept data.

Prior to the increased adoption of SSL in recent years, government spies would have been able to covertly siphon emails and other data in unencrypted format straight off of Internet cables with little difficulty. SSL encryption seriously dented that capability and was likely a factor in why the NSA started the PRISM Internet surveillance program, which involves obtaining data from Internet companies directly.

However, in some cases GCHQ and the NSA appear to have taken a more aggressive and controversial route—on at least one occasion bypassing the need to approach Google directly by performing a man-in-the-middle attack to impersonate Google security certificates. One document published by Fantastico, apparently taken from an NSA presentation that also contains some GCHQ slides, describes “how the attack was done” to apparently snoop on SSL traffic. The document illustrates with a diagram how one of the agencies appears to have hacked into a target’s Internet router and covertly redirected targeted Google traffic using a fake security certificate so it could intercept the information in unencrypted format.

Documents from GCHQ’s “network exploitation” unit show that it operates a program called “FLYING PIG” that was started up in response to an increasing use of SSL encryption by email providers like Yahoo, Google, and Hotmail. The FLYING PIG system appears to allow it to identify information related to use of the anonymity browser Tor (it has the option to query “Tor events”) and also allows spies to collect information about specific SSL encryption certificates. GCHQ’s network exploitation unit boasts in one document that it is able to collect traffic not only from foreign government networks—but  from airlines, energy companies, and financial organizations, too.

Ryan Gallagher is a journalist who reports from the intersection of surveillance, national security, and privacy for Slate‘s Future Tense blog. He is also a Future Tense fellow at the New America Foundation.

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Edward Snowden’s Not The Story. The Fate Of The Internet Is.

In Uncategorized on August 6, 2013 at 3:08 pm
Edward Snowden

While the press concentrates on the furore surrounding Edward Snowden’s search for political asylum, it has forgotten the importance of his revelations. Photograph: Tatyana Lokshina/AP

Oldspeak: “Here are some of the things we should be thinking about as a result of what we have learned so far.  The first is that the days of the internet as a truly global network are numbered… Second, the issue of internet governance is about to become very contentious…. Third… the Obama administration’s “internet freedom agenda” has been exposed as patronising cant…. (Fourth) No US-based internet company can be trusted to protect our privacy or data. The fact is that Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft are all integral components of the US cyber-surveillance system. Nothing, but nothing, that is stored in their “cloud” services can be guaranteed to be safe from surveillance or from illicit downloading by employees of the consultancies employed by the NSA.” –John Naughton

“Look past the “Where’s Waldo” narrative that been propagandized by state media outlets. The last free and open source of communication and distribution of free information and truthful knowledge is fast becoming a thing of the past. It’s being turned into a global surveillance network. You no longer should have any reasonable expectation for privacy of any activities you engage in digitally. The Stasi couldn’t have dreamed of doing it better.” –OSJ

By John Naughton @ The U.K. Guardian:

Repeat after me: Edward Snowden is not the story. The story is what he has revealed about the hidden wiring of our networked world. This insight seems to have escaped most of the world’s mainstream media, for reasons that escape me but would not have surprised Evelyn Waugh, whose contempt for journalists was one of his few endearing characteristics. The obvious explanations are: incorrigible ignorance; the imperative to personalise stories; or gullibility in swallowing US government spin, which brands Snowden as a spy rather than a whistleblower.

In a way, it doesn’t matter why the media lost the scent. What matters is that they did. So as a public service, let us summarise what Snowden has achieved thus far.

Without him, we would not know how the National Security Agency (NSA) had been able to access the emails, Facebook accounts and videos of citizens across the world; or how it had secretly acquired the phone records of millions of Americans; or how, through a secret court, it has been able to bend nine US internet companies to its demands for access to their users’ data.

Similarly, without Snowden, we would not be debating whether the US government should have turned surveillance into a huge, privatised business, offering data-mining contracts to private contractors such as Booz Allen Hamilton and, in the process, high-level security clearance to thousands of people who shouldn’t have it. Nor would there be – finally – a serious debate between Europe (excluding the UK, which in these matters is just an overseas franchise of the US) and the United States about where the proper balance between freedom and security lies.

These are pretty significant outcomes and they’re just the first-order consequences of Snowden’s activities. As far as most of our mass media are concerned, though, they have gone largely unremarked. Instead, we have been fed a constant stream of journalistic pap – speculation about Snowden’s travel plans, asylum requests, state of mind, physical appearance, etc. The “human interest” angle has trumped the real story, which is what the NSA revelations tell us about how our networked world actually works and the direction in which it is heading.

As an antidote, here are some of the things we should be thinking about as a result of what we have learned so far.

The first is that the days of the internet as a truly global network are numbered. It was always a possibility that the system would eventually be Balkanised, ie divided into a number of geographical or jurisdiction-determined subnets as societies such as China, Russia, Iran and other Islamic states decided that they needed to control how their citizens communicated. Now, Balkanisation is a certainty.

Second, the issue of internet governance is about to become very contentious. Given what we now know about how the US and its satraps have been abusing their privileged position in the global infrastructure, the idea that the western powers can be allowed to continue to control it has become untenable.

Third, as Evgeny Morozov has pointed out, the Obama administration’s “internet freedom agenda” has been exposed as patronising cant. “Today,” he writes, “the rhetoric of the ‘internet freedom agenda’ looks as trustworthy as George Bush’s ‘freedom agenda’ after Abu Ghraib.”

That’s all at nation-state level. But the Snowden revelations also have implications for you and me.

They tell us, for example, that no US-based internet company can be trusted to protect our privacy or data. The fact is that Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft are all integral components of the US cyber-surveillance system. Nothing, but nothing, that is stored in their “cloud” services can be guaranteed to be safe from surveillance or from illicit downloading by employees of the consultancies employed by the NSA. That means that if you’re thinking of outsourcing your troublesome IT operations to, say, Google or Microsoft, then think again.

And if you think that that sounds like the paranoid fantasising of a newspaper columnist, then consider what Neelie Kroes, vice-president of the European Commission, had to say on the matter recently. “If businesses or governments think they might be spied on,” she said, “they will have less reason to trust the cloud, and it will be cloud providers who ultimately miss out. Why would you pay someone else to hold your commercial or other secrets, if you suspect or know they are being shared against your wishes? Front or back door – it doesn’t matter – any smart person doesn’t want the information shared at all. Customers will act rationally and providers will miss out on a great opportunity.”

Spot on. So when your chief information officer proposes to use the Amazon or Google cloud as a data-store for your company’s confidential documents, tell him where to file the proposal. In the shredder

 

 

UPSTREAM, They Know Much More About You Than You Think

In Uncategorized on August 1, 2013 at 8:18 pm
bamford_1-081513.jpg

The headquarters of the National Security Agency, Fort Meade, Maryland

Oldspeak: “Within days of Snowden’s documents appearing in The Guardian and The Washington Post, revealing several of the National Security Agency’s extensive domestic surveillance programs, bookstores reported a sudden spike in the sales of George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984. On Amazon.com, the book made the “Movers & Shakers” list and skyrocketed 6,021 percent in a single day. Written sixty-five years ago, it described a fictitious totalitarian society where a shadowy leader known as “Big Brother” controls his population through invasive surveillance. “The telescreens,” Orwell wrote, “have hidden microphones and cameras. These devices, alongside informers, permit the Thought Police to spy upon everyone….” –James Bamford

“The most awesome and near omniscient surveillance network ever created by man has been revealed in much of its grotesquely invasive corptalitarian horror. And what was American’s response? CONSUME.  Sales of the script to the horror show we are currently living Orwell’s “1984” exploded 6,000 PERCENT. No critical thoughts given to the personal telescreens/tracking device/listening device/thought recorder/microwave radiation emitter a.k.a. smart phones. Sheeple literally responded to news that all their actions on the internet are being watched, stored and analyzed, by buying a dystopian novel on the internet. All those people should consider themselves a “selector”. 🙂  More and more I’m seeing all these hip sexy cool invitations to “share everything” via your telescreen. Incessant exhortations to use your telescreen to buy everything, check things, secure things, pay things, scan things, tweet things, like things, post things, photograph things, record things, ask things, watch things, play things, listen to things, control devices, read, get medical advice, report crime, inform on others, etc, etc, etc…. Never mind that your ever expanding constellation of ever more convenient and personalizable apps are watching youSoon, your televisions, dvr’s and video games will watch you too. Keep consuming, keep providing free content, that make it ever easier to target more marketing at you to buy more shit you don’t need. When will we wake from our hyperconsumptive soma coma?. I’ll tell you one thing though, somebody is making an ass ton of money collecting and analyzing this exponentially expanding flow of digital content. ” –OSJ

By James Bamford @ The New York Review Of Books:

In mid-May, Edward Snowden, an American in his late twenties, walked through the onyx entrance of the Mira Hotel on Nathan Road in Hong Kong and checked in. He was pulling a small black travel bag and had a number of laptop cases draped over his shoulders. Inside those cases were four computers packed with some of his country’s most closely held secrets.

Within days of Snowden’s documents appearing in The Guardian and The Washington Post, revealing several of the National Security Agency’s extensive domestic surveillance programs, bookstores reported a sudden spike in the sales of George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984. On Amazon.com, the book made the “Movers & Shakers” list and skyrocketed 6,021 percent in a single day. Written sixty-five years ago, it described a fictitious totalitarian society where a shadowy leader known as “Big Brother” controls his population through invasive surveillance. “The telescreens,” Orwell wrote, “have hidden microphones and cameras. These devices, alongside informers, permit the Thought Police to spy upon everyone….”

Today, as the Snowden documents make clear, it is the NSA that keeps track of phone calls, monitors communications, and analyzes people’s thoughts through data mining of Google searches and other online activity. “Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it,” Orwell wrote about his protagonist, Winston Smith.

There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.

Of course the US is not a totalitarian society, and no equivalent of Big Brother runs it, as the widespread reporting of Snowden’s information shows. We know little about what uses the NSA makes of most information available to it—it claims to have exposed a number of terrorist plots—and it has yet to be shown what effects its activities may have on the lives of most American citizens. Congressional committees and a special federal court are charged with overseeing its work, although they are committed to secrecy, and the court can hear appeals only from the government.

Still, the US intelligence agencies also seem to have adopted Orwell’s idea of doublethink—“to be conscious of complete truthfulness,” he wrote, “while telling carefully constructed lies.” For example, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, was asked at a Senate hearing in March whether “the NSA collect[s] any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.” Clapper’s answer: “No, sir…. Not wittingly.”

Three months later, following the revelations of the phone-log program in which the NSA collects telephone data—the numbers of both callers and the length of the calls—on hundreds of millions of Americans, Clapper switched to doublethink. He said that his previous answer was not a lie; he just chose to respond in the “least untruthful manner.” With such an Orwellian concept of the truth now being used, it is useful to take a look at what the government has been telling the public about its surveillance activities over the years, and compare it with what we know now as a result of the top secret documents and other information released by, among others, the former NSA contract employee Edward Snowden.

Looking back, the NSA and its predecessors have been gaining secret, illegal access to the communications of Americans for nearly a century. On July 1, 1920, a slim balding man in his early thirties moved into a four-story townhouse at 141 East 37th Street in Manhattan. This was the birth of the Black Chamber, the NSA’s earliest predecessor, and it would be hidden in the nondescript brownstone. But its chief, Herbert O. Yardley, had a problem. To gather intelligence for Woodrow Wilson’s government, he needed access to the telegrams entering, leaving, and passing through the country, but because of an early version of the Radio Communications Act, such access was illegal. With the shake of a hand, however, Yardley convinced Newcomb Carlton, the president of Western Union, to grant the Black Chamber secret access on a daily basis to the private messages passing over his wires—the Internet of the day.

For much of the next century, the solution would be the same: the NSA and its predecessors would enter into secret illegal agreements with the telecom companies to gain access to communications. Eventually codenamed Project Shamrock, the program finally came to a crashing halt in 1975 when a Senate committee that was investigating intelligence agency abuses discovered it. Senator Frank Church, the committee chairman, labeled the NSA program “probably the largest governmental interception program affecting Americans ever undertaken.”

As a result of the decades of illegal surveillance by the NSA, in 1978 the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was signed into law and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) came into existence. Its purpose was, for the first time, to require the NSA to get judicial approval for eavesdropping on Americans. Although the court seldom turned down a request for a warrant, or an order as it’s called, it nevertheless served as a reasonable safeguard, protecting the American public from an agency with a troubling past and a tendency to push the bounds of spying unless checked.

For a quarter of a century, the rules were followed and the NSA stayed out of trouble, but following the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration decided to illegally bypass the court and began its program of warrantless wiretapping. “Basically all rules were thrown out the window and they would use any excuse to justify a waiver to spy on Americans,” I was told by Adrienne J. Kinne, who in 2001 was a twenty-four-year-old voice intercept operator who conducted some of the eavesdropping. She or her superiors did not have to get a warrant for each interception. “It was incredibly uncomfortable to be listening to private personal conversations of Americans,” she said. “And it’s almost like going through and stumbling and finding somebody’s diary and reading it.”

All during this time, however, the Bush administration was telling the American public the opposite: that a warrant was obtained whenever an American was targeted. “Anytime you hear the United States government talking about a wiretap, it requires—a wiretap requires a court order,” President George W. Bush told a crowd in 2004. “Nothing has changed, by the way. When we’re talking about chasing down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so.” After exposure of the operation by The New York Times in 2005, however, rather than strengthen the controls governing the NSA’s spying, Congress instead voted to weaken them, largely by codifying into the amendment to FISA what had previously been illegal.

At the same time, rather than calling for prosecution of the telecom officials for their role in illegally cooperating in the eavesdropping program, or at least a clear public accounting, Congress simply granted them immunity not only from prosecution but also from civil suits. Thus, for nearly a century, telecom companies have been allowed to violate the privacy of millions of Americans with impunity.

With the arrival of the Obama administration, the NSA’s powers continued to expand at the same time that administration officials and the NSA continued to deceive the American public on the extent of the spying. In addition to the denial I have mentioned by James Clapper, General Keith Alexander, the NSA director, also blatantly denied that his agency was keeping records on millions of Americans. In March 2012, Wired magazine published a cover story I wrote on the new one-million-square-foot NSA data center being built in Bluffdale, Utah. In the article, I interviewed William Binney, a former high-ranking NSA official who was largely responsible for automating the agency’s worldwide eavesdropping network. He quit the agency in 2001 in protest after he saw the system designed mainly for intelligence about foreign threats turned inward on the American public. In the interview, he told how the agency was tapping into the country’s communications and Internet networks. He revealed that it also was secretly obtaining warrantless access to billions of phone records of Americans, including those of both AT&T and Verizon. “They’re storing everything they gather,” he said.

In the months afterward, General Alexander repeatedly denied Binney’s charges. “No…we don’t hold data on US citizens,” he told Fox News, and at an Aspen Institute conference he said, “To think we’re collecting on every US person…that would be against the law.” He added, “The fact is we’re a foreign intelligence agency.”

But the documents released by Edward Snowden show that the NSA does have a large-scale program to gather the telephone records of every Verizon customer, including local calls, and presumably a similar agreement with AT&T and other companies. These are records of who called whom and when, not of the content of the conversations, although the NSA has, by other methods, access to the content of conversations as well. But the NSA has, on a daily basis, access to virtually everyone’s phone records, whether cell or landline, and can store, data-mine, and keep them indefinitely. Snowden’s documents describing the PRISM program show that the agency is also accessing the Internet data of the nine major Internet companies in the US, including Google and Yahoo.

Snowden’s documents and statements add greatly to an understanding of just how the NSA goes about conducting its eavesdropping and data-mining programs, and just how deceptive the NSA and the Obama administration have been in describing the agency’s activities to the American public. In a video interview conducted in his room in the Mira Hotel, Snowden elaborated on the extent of the NSA’s capabilities. “Any analyst at any time can target anyone, any selector, anywhere,” he said.

Where those communications will be picked up depends on the range of the sensor networks and the authorities that that analyst is empowered with. Not all analysts have the ability to target everything. But I sitting at my desk certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president, if I had a personal e-mail [address].

What Snowden was discussing was the way in which analysts at the NSA can place such things as names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses on target lists, thus causing communications containing those “selectors” to be intercepted. He seemed to be indicating—although this remains to be officially confirmed—that while under FISA, a court order would be required to enter an American on a target list, analysts have the capability to unilaterally bypass the procedure by simply listing a name or e-mail address on the target list. To understand what Snowden is saying, it is necessary to elaborate a bit on the way the NSA conducts its eavesdropping.

Bamford_2-081513.jpgEdward Gorey Charitable Trust

Drawing by Edward Gorey

During the past decade, the NSA has secretly worked to gain access to virtually all communications entering, leaving, or going through the country. A key reason, according to the draft of a top secret NSA inspector general’s report leaked by Snowden, is that approximately one third of all international telephone calls in the world enter, leave, or transit the United States. “Most international telephone calls are routed through a small number of switches or ‘chokepoints’ in the international telephone switching system en route to their final destination,” says the report. “The United States is a major crossroads for international switched telephone traffic.” At the same time, according to the 2009 report, virtually all Internet communications in the world pass through the US. For example, the report notes that during 2002, less than one percent of worldwide Internet bandwidth—i.e., the international link between the Internet and computers—“was between two regions that did not include the United States.”

Accessing this data is possible through a combination of techniques. Through the most effective of them, the NSA can gain direct access to the fiber-optic cables that now carry most kinds of communications data. According to a slide released by Snowden, the cable-tapping operation is codenamed “UPSTREAM” and it is described as the “collection of communications on fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past.” It also appears to be both far more secret and far more invasive than the PRISM program revealed by Snowden. Although PRISM gives the NSA access to data from the individual Internet companies, such as Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft, the companies claim that they don’t give the agency direct access to their servers. Through UPSTREAM, however, the agency does get direct access to fiber-optic cables and the supporting infrastructure that carries nearly all the Internet and telephone traffic in the country.

As part of its cable-tapping program, the NSA has secretly installed what amount to computerized filters on the telecommunications infrastructure throughout the country. According to the leaked inspector general’s report, the agency has secret cooperative agreements with the top three telephone companies in the country. Although the report disguises their names, they are likely AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint:

NSA determined that under the Authorization it could gain access to approximately 81% of the international calls into and out of the United States through three corporate partners: Company A had access to 39%, Company B 28%, and Company C 14%.

The filters are placed at key junction points known as switches. For example, much of the communications—telephone and Internet—to and from the northwestern United States pass through a nearly windowless nine-story building at 611 Folsom Street in San Francisco. This is AT&T’s regional switching center. In 2003, the NSA built a secret room in the facility and filled it with computers and software from a company called Narus. Established in Israel by Israelis, and now owned by Boeing, Narus specializes in spyware, equipment that examines both the metadata—the names and addresses of people communicating on the Internet—and the content of digital traffic such as e-mail as it zooms past at the speed of light.

The agency also has access to the telephone metadata—the numbers called and calling and other details—of all Americans. Phone calls from telephone numbers that have been selected as targets can be routed directly to the agency and recorded. According to William Binney, the former NSA senior official, the NSA has established between ten and twenty of these secret rooms at telecom company switches around the country.

It is this daily access to the telephone metadata of all Americans without FISA warrants that the NSA and the Office of National Intelligence tried to hide when they falsely denied that the agency had surveillance records on millions of Americans. For years, the agency also had a nationwide bulk e-mail and Internet metadata collection and storage program, although that was ended in 2011 for “operational and resource reasons,” according to the director of national intelligence.

But according to a joint statement issued on July 2 by senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, the real reason the program was shut down was that the NSA was “unable” to prove the usefulness of the operation. “We were very concerned about this program’s impact on Americans’ civil liberties and privacy rights,” they said, “and we spent a significant portion of 2011 pressing intelligence officials to provide evidence of its effectiveness. They were unable to do so, and the program was shut down that year.” The senators added, “It is also important to note that intelligence agencies made statements to both Congress and the [FISA court] that significantly exaggerated this program’s effectiveness. This experience demonstrates to us that intelligence agencies’ assessment of the usefulness of particular collection program—even significant ones—are not always accurate.”

Speaking on Meet the Press, Glenn Greenwald, a lawyer and journalist who wrote the story about the NSA’s collection of phone data for The Guardian, also mentioned a still-secret eighty-page FISA court opinion that, he said, criticized the NSA for violation of both the Fourth Amendment and the FISA statute. According to Greenwald, “it specifically said that they are collecting bulk transmissions, multiple conversations from millions of Americans…and that this is illegal.” The NSA, he said, “planned to try to accommodate that ruling.” On the same program, Representative Mike Rogers, Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, confirmed that the FISA court had issued a critical opinion and said that the NSA had “figured out how to correct that.”

According to The Economist of June 29, “the NSA provided congressional intelligence committees with what it said were over 50 cases in which the programmes disclosed by Mr. Snowden had contributed to the ‘understanding and, in many cases, disruption’ of terrorist plots in America, and over 20 other countries.” In a recent New York Review blog post, Kenneth Roth, director of Human Rights Watch and a former federal prosecutor, commented that “upon scrutiny” many of the plots referred to by the NSA

appear in fact to have been uncovered not because of the mass collection of our metadata but through more traditional surveillance of particular phone numbers or e-mail addresses—the kinds of targeted inquiries that easily would have justified a judicial order allowing review of records kept by communications companies or even monitoring the content of those communications.

At the AT&T facility on Folsom Street and the other locations, fiber-optic cables containing millions of communications enter the building and go into what’s known as a beam-splitter. This is a prism-type device that produces a duplicate, mirror image of the original communications. The original beams, containing Internet data, continue on to wherever they were originally destined. The duplicate beam goes into Room 641A, the NSA’s secret room one floor below, a discovery made by another whistleblower, AT&T technician Mark Klein. There the Narus equipment scans all the Internet traffic for “selectors”—names, e-mail address, words, phrases, or other indicators that the NSA wants to know about. Any message containing a selector is then retransmitted in full to the NSA for further analysis, as are the contents of phone calls selected. With regard to targeted phone numbers, the agency supplies them to the company, which then gives the NSA access to monitor them.

The selectors are inserted by remote control into the Narus equipment by NSA analysts sitting at their desks at the agency’s headquarters at Fort Meade in Maryland or at dozens of locations around the world. What Snowden seemed to be saying in his interview is that as long as certain analysts have an e-mail address, for example, they can simply enter that information into the system and retrieve the content of the e-mails sent from and to that address. There are, by his account, no judicial checks and balances to assure that the targeting of an American has been approved by a FISA court order and not just by NSA employees. These claims by Snowden, and other revelations from the documents he released, should be investigated by either a select committee of Congress, such as the Church Committee, or an independent body, like the 9/11 Commission.

While UPSTREAM captures most of the telecommunications—about 80 percent according to Binney—there are still gaps in the coverage. That is where the PRISM program comes in. With PRISM, the NSA is able to go directly to the communications industry, including the major Internet companies, to get whatever they miss from UPSTREAM. According to the top secret inspector general’s report, the “NSA maintains relationships with over 100 US companies,” adding that the US has the “home field advantage as the primary hub for worldwide telecommunications.”

According to a recent slide released by Snowden, the NSA on April 5, 2013, had 117,675 active surveillance targets in the program and was able to access real-time data on live voice, text, e-mail, or Internet chat services, in addition to analyzing stored data.

In the end, both UPSTREAM and PRISM may be only the tips of a much larger system. Another new document released by Snowden says that on New Year’s Eve, 2012, SHELLTRUMPET, a metadata program targeting international communications, had just “processed its One Trillionth metadata record.” Started five years ago, it noted that half of that trillion was added in 2012. It also noted that two more new programs, MOONLIGHTPATH and SPINNERET, “are planned to be added by September 2013.”

One man who was prescient enough to see what was coming was Senator Frank Church, the first outsider to peer into the dark recesses of the NSA. In 1975, when the NSA posed merely a fraction of the threat to privacy it poses today with UPSTREAM, PRISM, and thousands of other collection and data-mining programs, Church issued a stark warning:

That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left, such [is] the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology…. I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.

Church sounds as if he had absorbed the lessons of 1984. From the recent evidence, they are still to be learned.

—July 12, 2013

Big Brother Is Prism: NSA Is Watching All Communications Over Phones, Facebook Google, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft, Skype, Pal Talk, AOL & You Tube

In Uncategorized on June 7, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Prism Oldspeak:”It is a massive surveillance state of exactly the kind that the Church Committee warned was being constructed 35 years ago… the idea that the PATRIOT Act enables bulk collection, mass collection of the records of hundreds of millions of Americans, so that the government can store that and know what it is that we’re doing at all times, even when there’s no reason to believe that we’ve done anything wrong, that is ludicrous“. –Glenn Grunwald

If Someone want’s to know why their government has decided to go on fishing expedition through every personal record or private document – through library books they’ve read and phone calls they’ve made – this legislation gives people no rights to appeal the need for such a search in a court of law. No judge will hear their plea, no jury will hear their case. This is just plain wrong.” –Senator Barack Obama, 2005, On The USA Patriot Act.

I came in with a healthy skeptcism about these programs. My team evaluated them, we scrubbed them thoroughly, we actually expanded the oversight. But my assessment… was that they help us prevent terrorist attacks. And the modest encroachment… on privacy in getting phone numbers and durations without a name attached, and looking at content that – [I decided] net, it was worth us doing. Some other folks may have a different assessment. I think it’s important to recognize you can’t have 100 percent security and also 100 percent privacy, and also zero inconvenience. We’re going to have to make some choices as a society….In the abstract you can complain about Big Brother and how this is a program run amok, but when you actually look at the details, I think we’ve struck the right balance.” –President Barack Obama, 2013 

AHAHA! HA! My man went from “This is just plain wrong.” to “we scrubbed them throughly” and…decided it was worth doing.” My people Big Brother is OFFICIALLY watching you.  Obama was nice enough to scrub it down and balance it out for you, placing some of the burdens for surveillance on government and some on oligarchical collectivist corporations. We are living in the age of the painless concentration camp. Assume all your digital communications are insecure. I wonder though, when was it that society made these choices? When did “society” choose to be systematically surveilled during an endless war? To do away with, privacy safeguards, transparency, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom from unlawful search & seizure, summary execution and indefinite detention? I think when Obama said “society” he meant the elites and the imperial institutions they control. If you look at what he said that way, it makes a lot more sense, as I’m fairly certain most of the people who live and suffer in this society did not make those “tough choices”.  The good news about this though is there are more and more leaks springing in the secret U.S. Government. This is the third whisleblower to speak the truth about Big Brother. Thomas Drake and Willam Binney preceded him. Hopefully, conscientious patriots will continue to expose the lies, illegality and anti-democratic actions of the Secret Corporatocracy. ”

Related Stories:

A Massive Surveillance State”: Glenn Greenwald Exposes Covert NSA Program Collecting Calls, Emails

We Don’t Live in a Free Country”: Jacob Appelbaum on Being Target of Widespread Gov’t Surveillance”

By Glenn Grunwald @ The U.K. Guardian:

Prism

A slide depicting the top-secret PRISM program.

The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian.

The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called Prism, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, the document says.

The Guardian has verified the authenticity of the document, a 41-slide PowerPoint presentation – classified as top secret with no distribution to foreign allies – which was apparently used to train intelligence operatives on the capabilities of the program. The document claims “collection directly from the servers” of major US service providers.

Although the presentation claims the program is run with the assistance of the companies, all those who responded to a Guardian request for comment on Thursday denied knowledge of any such program.

In a statement, Google said: “Google cares deeply about the security of our users’ data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government ‘back door’ into our systems, but Google does not have a back door for the government to access private user data.”

Several senior tech executives insisted that they had no knowledge of Prism or of any similar scheme. They said they would never have been involved in such a program. “If they are doing this, they are doing it without our knowledge,” one said.

An Apple spokesman said it had “never heard” of Prism.

The NSA access was enabled by changes to US surveillance law introduced under President Bush and renewed under Obama in December 2012.

The program facilitates extensive, in-depth surveillance on live communications and stored information. The law allows for the targeting of any customers of participating firms who live outside the US, or those Americans whose communications include people outside the US.It also opens the possibility of communications made entirely within the US being collected without warrants.

Disclosure of the Prism program follows a leak to the Guardian on Wednesday of a top-secret court order compelling telecoms provider Verizon to turn over the telephone records of millions of US customers.

The participation of the internet companies in Prism will add to the debate, ignited by the Verizon revelation, about the scale of surveillance by the intelligence services. Unlike the collection of those call records, this surveillance can include the content of communications and not just the metadata.

Some of the world’s largest internet brands are claimed to be part of the information-sharing program since its introduction in 2007. Microsoft – which is currently running an advertising campaign with the slogan “Your privacy is our priority” – was the first, with collection beginning in December 2007.

It was followed by Yahoo in 2008; Google, Facebook and PalTalk in 2009; YouTube in 2010; Skype and AOL in 2011; and finally Apple, which joined the program in 2012. The program is continuing to expand, with other providers due to come online.

Collectively, the companies cover the vast majority of online email, search, video and communications networks.

Prism

The extent and nature of the data collected from each company varies.

Companies are legally obliged to comply with requests for users’ communications under US law, but the Prism program allows the intelligence services direct access to the companies’ servers. The NSA document notes the operations have “assistance of communications providers in the US”.

The revelation also supports concerns raised by several US senators during the renewal of the Fisa Amendments Act in December 2012, who warned about the scale of surveillance the law might enable, and shortcomings in the safeguards it introduces.

When the FAA was first enacted, defenders of the statute argued that a significant check on abuse would be the NSA’s inability to obtain electronic communications without the consent of the telecom and internet companies that control the data. But the Prism program renders that consent unnecessary, as it allows the agency to directly and unilaterally seize the communications off the companies’ servers.

A chart prepared by the NSA, contained within the top-secret document obtained by the Guardian, underscores the breadth of the data it is able to obtain: email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice-over-IP (Skype, for example) chats, file transfers, social networking details, and more.

PRISM slide crop
The document is recent, dating to April 2013. Such a leak is extremely rare in the history of the NSA, which prides itself on maintaining a high level of secrecy.

The Prism program allows the NSA, the world’s largest surveillance organisation, to obtain targeted communications without having to request them from the service providers and without having to obtain individual court orders.

With this program, the NSA is able to reach directly into the servers of the participating companies and obtain both stored communications as well as perform real-time collection on targeted users.

The presentation claims Prism was introduced to overcome what the NSA regarded as shortcomings of Fisa warrants in tracking suspected foreign terrorists. It noted that the US has a “home-field advantage” due to housing much of the internet’s architecture. But the presentation claimed “Fisa constraints restricted our home-field advantage” because Fisa required individual warrants and confirmations that both the sender and receiver of a communication were outside the US.

“Fisa was broken because it provided privacy protections to people who were not entitled to them,” the presentation claimed. “It took a Fisa court order to collect on foreigners overseas who were communicating with other foreigners overseas simply because the government was collecting off a wire in the United States. There were too many email accounts to be practical to seek Fisas for all.”

The new measures introduced in the FAA redefines “electronic surveillance” to exclude anyone “reasonably believed” to be outside the USA – a technical change which reduces the bar to initiating surveillance.

The act also gives the director of national intelligence and the attorney general power to permit obtaining intelligence information, and indemnifies internet companies against any actions arising as a result of co-operating with authorities’ requests.

In short, where previously the NSA needed individual authorisations, and confirmation that all parties were outside the USA, they now need only reasonable suspicion that one of the parties was outside the country at the time of the records were collected by the NSA.

The document also shows the FBI acts as an intermediary between other agencies and the tech companies, and stresses its reliance on the participation of US internet firms, claiming “access is 100% dependent on ISP provisioning”.

In the document, the NSA hails the Prism program as “one of the most valuable, unique and productive accesses for NSA”.

It boasts of what it calls “strong growth” in its use of the Prism program to obtain communications. The document highlights the number of obtained communications increased in 2012 by 248% for Skype – leading the notes to remark there was “exponential growth in Skype reporting; looks like the word is getting out about our capability against Skype”. There was also a 131% increase in requests for Facebook data, and 63% for Google.

The NSA document indicates that it is planning to add Dropbox as a PRISM provider. The agency also seeks, in its words, to “expand collection services from existing providers”.

The revelations echo fears raised on the Senate floor last year during the expedited debate on the renewal of the FAA powers which underpin the PRISM program, which occurred just days before the act expired.

Senator Christopher Coons of Delaware specifically warned that the secrecy surrounding the various surveillance programs meant there was no way to know if safeguards within the act were working.

“The problem is: we here in the Senate and the citizens we represent don’t know how well any of these safeguards actually work,” he said.

“The law doesn’t forbid purely domestic information from being collected. We know that at least one Fisa court has ruled that the surveillance program violated the law. Why? Those who know can’t say and average Americans can’t know.”

Other senators also raised concerns. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon attempted, without success, to find out any information on how many phone calls or emails had been intercepted under the program.

When the law was enacted, defenders of the FAA argued that a significant check on abuse would be the NSA’s inability to obtain electronic communications without the consent of the telecom and internet companies that control the data. But the Prism program renders that consent unnecessary, as it allows the agency to directly and unilaterally seize the communications off the companies’ servers.

When the NSA reviews a communication it believes merits further investigation, it issues what it calls a “report”. According to the NSA, “over 2,000 Prism-based reports” are now issued every month. There were 24,005 in 2012, a 27% increase on the previous year.

In total, more than 77,000 intelligence reports have cited the PRISM program.

Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s Center for Democracy, that it was astonishing the NSA would even ask technology companies to grant direct access to user data.

“It’s shocking enough just that the NSA is asking companies to do this,” he said. “The NSA is part of the military. The military has been granted unprecedented access to civilian communications.

“This is unprecedented militarisation of domestic communications infrastructure. That’s profoundly troubling to anyone who is concerned about that separation.”

A senior administration official said in a statement: “The Guardian and Washington Post articles refer to collection of communications pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This law does not allow the targeting of any US citizen or of any person located within the United States.

“The program is subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Executive Branch, and Congress. It involves extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to ensure that only non-US persons outside the US are targeted, and that minimize the acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about US persons.

“This program was recently reauthorized by Congress after extensive hearings and debate.

“Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats.

“The Government may only use Section 702 to acquire foreign intelligence information, which is specifically, and narrowly, defined in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This requirement applies across the board, regardless of the nationality of the target.”

Additional reporting by James Ball and Dominic Rushe

Google Transparency Report Shows U.S. Gov’t Surveillance, Requests For Removal Of Information From Internet On The Rise In 2012

In Uncategorized on November 15, 2012 at 9:43 am

Oldspeak:”Totalitarianism is not only hell, but all the dream of paradise– the age-old dream of a world where everybody would live in harmony, united by a single common will and faith, without secrets from one another. Andre Breton, too, dreamed of this paradise when he talked about the glass house in which he longed to live. If totalitarianism did not exploit these archetypes, which are deep inside us all and rooted deep in all religions, it could never attract so many people, especially during the early phases of its existence. Once the dream of paradise starts to turn into reality, however, here and there people begin to crop up who stand in its way. and so the rulers of paradise must build a little gulag on the side of Eden. In the course of time this gulag grows ever bigger and more perfect, while the adjoining paradise gets even smaller and poorer.” –Milan Kundera In a totalitarian state, there is ever more surveillance, ever more restriction of acceptable thought, ever more disappearance of  ‘undesirable’ information. And people (like Samir Khan, Anwar-Al Awlaki and his 16 year old son). Lies become truth. Ignorance is seen as a strength. War masquerades as peace, pervading ever aspect of out language and culture.  The free and open internet is fast becoming a thing of the past; incrementally being ever more censored, edited, surveilled and controlled. It is the way of the world in the turnkey totalitarian police state the U.S. has morphed into.

By Brittany Fitzgerald @ The Huffington Post:

The internet is becoming an increasingly monitored sphere.

According to Google’s sixth bi-annual Transparency Report, released on Nov. 13, the number of government requests to remove or survey content from the search engine’s services steadily increased in 2012.

Google’s report on the rise in digital interference from Big Brother comes amid furor over a sex scandal involving former CIA Director General David Petraeus, who resigned from his position last Friday and admitted to an affair. Sources said Petraeus had a relationship with Paula Broadwell, who in 2012 published a fawning biography on the general. In this couple’s case, the affair was uncovered using Gmail metadata buried in email exchanges.

“Broadwell will now become part of the statistics that Gmail reports in its next semi-annual transparency report on government data requests,” Wired deftly noted after reporting on methods the FBI used to uncover the affair.

In a blog post explaining the most recent Transparency Report, Google writes that from January to June of 2012, government officials made 20,938 inquiries about 34,614 specific accounts. These figures were higher than those reported in the previous report.

Take a look at the graph below to see how government requests to Google have increased since the company began releasing this information in 2009:

google transparency report

The amount of content that governments want completely removed from Google’s services is a number that also saw a sharp increase throughout the last six months. While this statistic has remained relatively steady in previous reports, the company received 1,791 requests to remove 17,746 pieces of content in 2012. Check out the numbers in the graph below:

google transparency report

“Government surveillance is on the rise,” Senior Policy Analyst Dorothy Chou states in Google’s blog post. “[G]overnment demands for user data have increased steadily since we first launched the Transparency Report.”

But The Atlantic is quick to point out that Google doesn’t comply with all of these requests. In fact, since 2010, the company has been less compliant with governments’ requests for removal of content from Google services. In the United States, Google said it recently complied with less than 50 percent of these government requests.

But governments’ requests for user data is another story. According to the Transparency Report, Google still complies with 90 percent of these orders in the U.S.

So should you be worried about your personal email accounts? Most people probably shouldn’t be, according to Stewart Baker, former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security. “The government can’t just wander through your emails just because they’d like to know what you’re thinking or doing,” Baker recently told the AP. “But if the government is investigating a crime, it has a lot of authority to review people’s emails.”

FCC report: Google Engineer Told Officials Street View Cars Collected Private Data Without Permission

In Uncategorized on April 30, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Oldspeak:The report showed an engineer, identified in the report as “Engineer Doe,” appeared to conceive of the Wi-Fi collection software to collect sensitive information that he thought might be useful to the firm for other services.” I wonder what “other services” involve collecting millions of people’s email addresses, email passwords, text messages, from residential and business network, without permission or knowledge of people? What does Google need people’s private information and communications for? And if they needed it, wouldn’t it have been nice to ask, not just steal it, and do god knows what with it?  Google is a key intelligence asset. It has supplied the core search technology for Intellipedia, a highly-secured online CIA system and has shared a close relationship with both the CIA, NSA, and government national security officials. So think of Google as an intelligence gathering platform, where every search is recorded for analysis by the surveillance state. Think about limiting your use of Google and using alternative search engines that don’t collect your private information. I use http://duckduckgo.com/. Also think about the Tor Network, to increase your privacy online and avoid network surveillance of your movements.

Related Stories:

The Web’s New Gold Mine: Your Secrets

Google’s Wi-Spying And Intelligence Ties To CIA, NSA Prompt Call For Congressional Hearing

Tor Network Cloaks Your Browsing From Prying Eyes

FTC brings in prosecutor to dig deeper into Google antitrust

Google announces privacy changes across its products

FCC gives light penalty for Street Views privacy flap

By Cecilia Kang @ The Washington Post:

A Google engineer knowingly created software that would collect sensitive personal information about people without their knowledge, according to an un-redacted version of a federal investigative report.

In a full version of a Federal Communications Commission report, an engineer shared e-mails with other Google officials indicating the company could collect “payload data,” including e-mail addresses and text messages through a program to collect location-based software from residential and business Wi-Fi networks. The company released the full contents of the report, which was heavily redacted by the FCC, except for the names of its employees.

(READ: A timeline of developments related to Google and privacy)

The report, supplied by Google, concluded that the company’s actions do not violate FCC or federal eavesdropping rules. The agency recently fined the company $25,000, however, for being uncooperative in a two-years-long investigation. A separate investigation by the FTC resulted in no fines and was closed in 2010.

With both investigations closed, Google released the full report by the FCC upon the request of reporters. The report showed an engineer, identified in the report as “Engineer Doe,” appeared to conceive of the Wi-Fi collection software to collect sensitive information that he thought might be useful to the firm for other services.

“We decided to voluntarily make the entire document available except for the names of individuals,” a Google spokeswomen said in an e-mailed statement. “While we disagree with some of the statements made in the document, we agree with the FCC’s conclusion that we did not break the law. We hope that we can now put this matter behind us”.

And inconsistent with public remarks, the report showed knowledge within the company that Google officials knowingly collected the payload data with its crews of Street View cars roaming the world for its mapping and location-based services.

(READ: FCC points to rogue Google engineer)

“On at least two occasions Engineer Doe specifically informed colleagues that Street View cars were collecting payload data,” the FCC report said.

So besides e-mail addresses, what could Google derive from its data collection?

In the report, the FCC cited an analysis by French regulators over a sample of Google’s data collection: 72 e-mail passwords, 774 distinct e-mail addresses and, for example, “an exchange of e-mails between a married woman and man, both seeking an extra-marital relationship with first names, e-mail addresses and physical addresses.”

Who Are You? How Google & Facebook Dictate Identity

In Uncategorized on October 22, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Oldspeak:Facebook and Google have tried to drive this one size fits all, fast-food approach to identity. They’re consolidating identity, to make us more simple than we truly are. Over time, our options and ability to be creative and expressive are being eroded. Identity is prismatic, there are many lenses through which people view you, and we’re all multifaceted people. Google and Facebook would have you believe that you are a mirror, that there is one reflection that you have, one idea of self, that the reflection that you see in that mirror is what everyone else sees. But in fact we’re more like diamonds, you can look at people from any angle and see something totally different and yet they’re still the same.” –Chris Poole, founder of about.me and Canvas Social control, 21st century style. Indispensable and ubiquitous. Much of what you think, feel, see, hear, read, wear, create and express is being manipulated and controlled by a small group of highly interconnected education, social, media and entertainment corporations. All the while making you less human, less empathetic, atomized. It is (coupled with hyper-militarization/perpetual and global “War On Terror”) the expression of the “Ultimate In Malevolent Revolution” described by Aldous Huxley in 1962 when he said -“If you are going to control any population for any length of time you must have some measure of consent. It’s exceedingly difficult to see how pure terrorism can function indefinitely. It can function for a fairly long time, but sooner or later you have to bring in an element of persuasion. An element of getting people to consent to what is happening to them. The nature of the Ultimate Revolution with which we are now faced is precisely this: that we are in process of developing a whole series of techniques which will enable the controlling oligarchy who have always existed and presumably always will exist, to get people actually to love their servitude! This is the, it seems to me the ultimate in malevolent revolution shall we say” “Ignorance is Strength.

By Chris Poole @ Web 2.o Summit:

Federal Regulators Likely To Let Google Buy Motorola Mobility For “Superpower” Status

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2011 at 11:46 am

Oldspeak: We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Your technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile.” Corporate media consolidation and control of your means of communications continues unabated, while the illusion of choice is perpetuated.”

By Susan Decker and Ian King @ Bloomberg:

Google Inc. (GOOG) is relying on its planned $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. to forestall patent litigation and force settlements with Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) over smartphone technology.

Google cited patent disputes as key to its agreement to buy Motorola Mobility, announced yesterday. Apple, maker of the iPhone, and Microsoft, developer of Windows Phone software, have targeted phones that run on Google’s best-selling Android system, including handsets built by Motorola Mobility, Samsung Electronics Co. and HTC Corp. (2498), in lawsuits worldwide.

Lacking its own trove of patents to vie with Apple, Microsoft and other companies, Google and its hardware partners were targeted by suits aimed at slowing the adoption of Android smartphones. Adding the 17,000 patents of Motorola Mobility, which has been inventing mobile-phone technology since the industry began, may help Google stanch the onslaught.

“The analogy to a nuclear arms race and mutually assured destruction is compelling,” said Ron Laurie, managing director of Inflexion Point Strategy LLC, which counsels companies on purchasing intellectual property. Google and its rivals “look pretty evenly matched at the moment. Google may have become a patent superpower.”

The goal of Google’s new patent clout is also to act as protection for the handset makers that have been bearing the brunt of the litigation, the company said yesterday.

Patent Weaponry

Competition for dominance in the smartphone market has heated up since Google introduced Android in 2008. Patents, which grant exclusive rights to use a specific invention, have become a way to fight for market share and inhibit rivals from introducing new features.

Apple stepped up the patent feud by suing Android manufacturers, claiming Google-powered devices copy the iPhone and iPad. Microsoft has sued Motorola Mobility and Barnes & Noble Inc., whose Nook reader runs Android software.

Apple and Microsoft have focused on the devices that run on Android, while Oracle Corp. (ORCL), which has sued Mountain View, California-based Google directly, contends Android was developed using its Java programming language. Oracle is seeking billions of dollars in damages for patent- and copyright-infringement, and Google’s response has been limited to challenging the validity of Oracle’s patents.

Heightening the dispute, a group led by Apple and Microsoft won an auction of patents owned by Nortel Networks Corp. in June after bidding up the price to $4.5 billion, beating out Google in the largest-ever patent auction.

Google Shops Around

Before agreeing to buy Motorola Mobility, Google had few patents on mobile-phone technology. The company’s research had focused largely on its main search-engine business.

Google, seeking to tilt the balance, has actively sought patents that it said could be used as a deterrent to litigation, culminating in the purchase of Motorola Mobility. Google bought more than 1,000 patents in July from International Business Machines Corp.

“Yesterday you could sue Google and you weren’t taking any risks because they didn’t have any patents,” said Pierre Ferragu, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein inLondon. “Today it’s the same as suing Motorola.”

The purchase of Motorola Mobility lessens the likelihood of future bidding wars, Ferragu said.

“You have very, very few transactions that would make sense today,” he said. “You possibly have some smaller transactions as Google continues to shop around for quality.”

‘Level Playing Ground’

Motorola Mobility traces its roots to the 1928 founding of Galvin Manufacturing Corp. in Chicago. The company, renamed Motorola, was a pioneer of early televisions and two-way radio in World War II. It helped lay the foundation for the mobile- phone industry, demonstrating its first handset in 1973.

“Motorola was a pioneer in this business,” said Will Strauss, an analyst at Tempe, Arizona-based Forward Concepts Co. “They certainly have a lot of intellectual property. It will certainly level the playing ground quite a bit. It’s going to give them an awful lot to defend Android with.”

The purchase would directly embroil Google in litigation, where its partners have until now been the main targets. Motorola Mobility has its own pending lawsuits against Apple and Microsoft. A case Microsoft brought against Motorola Mobility is due to begin trial Aug. 22 at the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, and a victory may mean a ban on imports of Motorola phones. Motorola Mobility retaliated with a bid to ban U.S. imports of Microsoft’s Xbox video-game systems, with a trial scheduled for October.

Protecting the Ecosystem

Motorola Mobility’s case against Cupertino, California- based Apple also was scheduled to begin Aug. 22, though it’s been postponed. Apple’s case against Motorola begins in September at the ITC. Samsung and HTC also have each filed separate suits against Apple.

“We believe we’ll be in a very good position to protect the Android ecosystem for all of the partners,” Google Chief Executive Officer Larry Page said in a conference call with analysts yesterday. Motorola will manage the litigation until the acquisition is completed, expected by the end of this year or early next year, he said.

Kevin Kutz, a spokesman for Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft, declined to comment on what Google’s purchase of Motorola Mobility might mean for the litigation. Kristin Huguet, an Apple spokeswoman, also declined to comment.

Nokia Agreement

Apple has been winning so far, with an ITC judge’s finding that, if upheld, could lead to a ban on imports of HTC phones into the U.S. and a court order that prevents Samsung from introducing its new Galaxy Tablet in most of the European Union. As yet, nothing has stopped sales of Motorola’s phones or Xoom tablet.

Google may be hoping that an agreement can be reached with Apple that mirrors one the computer maker struck with another phone pioneer, Nokia Oyj (NOK1V), said Bernstein’s Ferragu.

The Finnish phone maker in June said it won an almost two- year patent dispute with Apple in a settlement that provided it with a one-time payment plus royalties.

“From that, you could infer that in the end it’s going to be Apple paying Motorola, paying Google,” Ferragu said.

While there will continue to be patent purchases in the mobile-phone market, litigation may slow if Google is successful in its strategy of using patents as leverage to strike settlements and keep further lawsuits at bay.

“It may not be the end, but you can see it from here,” said Inflexion Point Strategy’s Laurie. Google “was such an obvious target, and now they’re not,” he said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Susan Decker in Washington atsdecker1@bloomberg.net; Ian King in San Francisco at ianking@bloomberg.net

Censorship, Capitalism & “Personalization” The Filter Bubble: What The Internet Is Hiding From You

In Uncategorized on May 27, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Oldspeak:”WOW. So much for Net Neutrality. At least in Communist China, people are fully aware the internet and online social media is being censored.  :- | Here in the land of the free U.S.A., internet censorship is practiced without your knowledge, in much more subtle, insidious, and invasive ways. Cyber gatekeepers like Google, Yahoo, Facebook and the other top 50 websites collect an average of 64 bits of personal information each time we visit and then custom-designs their sites to conform to our perceived preferences. Marketed as sexy and convenient sounding “Personalization”, the dominant search engines and social media sites that control much of what you see and read, in their voracious desire for generating ad revenue, actively edit out information that is contrary to what you are perceived to prefer or believe via data collected on your viewing habits. So a Google search for “Egypt” on your computer will be different from an identical search I make on my machine. You only see what you’re most likely to click on and thus generate revenue for them. Net Neutrality is functionally a thing of the past. The 21st century “Ministry of Truth” is invisible, omnipotent and making obscene amounts of money from mining and manipulating your personal preferences and information. The internet, originally thought as a tool to exchange, free and unencumbered, information and ideas from all point of view has been privatized. The only ideas and information you’re likely to see are those much like your own. These conditions increase polarization, societal atomization, isolation, apathy, the gap between the public and private sphere and a general ignorance of the full world around us. While reducing actual interpersonal relations/face to face contact, social ties, and concern for a “greater good”. “Personalization” is nothing more than a cybernetic and irresistible tool meant to divide and conquer the people. Folks are far easier to control and manipulate when they’re disconnected physically and psychologically balkanized. And far worse, making people feel happy and excited to participate in their own enslavement to the modern-day gods of consumption and self-interest. ‘Ignorance is Strength’ and Profit is Paramount. Could the personal computer have morphed into the 21st century version ‘Telescreen‘? ”

Related Video: Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles”

By Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:

The internet is increasingly becoming an echo chamber in which websites tailor information according to the preferences they detect in each viewer. When some users search the word “Egypt,” they may get the latest news about the revolution, others might only see search results about Egyptian vacations. The top 50 websites collect an average of 64 bits of personal information each time we visit—and then custom-design their sites to conform to our perceived preferences. What impact will this online filtering have on the future of democracy? We speak to Eli Pariser, author of The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. “Take news about the war in Afghanistan. When you talk to people who run news websites, they’ll tell you stories about the war in Afghanistan don’t perform very well. They don’t get a lot of clicks. People don’t flock to them. And yet, this is arguably one of the most important issues facing the country,” says Pariser. “But it will never make it through these filters. And especially on Facebook this is a problem, because the way that information is transmitted on Facebook is with the ‘like’ button. And the ‘like’ button, it has a very particular valence. It’s easy to click ‘like’ on ‘I just ran a marathon’ or ‘I baked a really awesome cake.’ It’s very hard to click ‘like’ on ‘war in Afghanistan enters its 10th year.'”

Guest:

Eli Pariser, author of the new book, ‘The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You’. He is also the board president and former executive director of MoveOn.org, which at five million members is one of the largest citizens’ organizations in American politics.

JUAN GONZALEZ: When you follow your friends on Facebook or run a search on Google, what information comes up, and what gets left out? That’s the subject of a new book by Eli Pariser called The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. According to Pariser, the internet is increasingly becoming an echo chamber in which websites tailor information according to the preferences they detect in each viewer. Yahoo! News tracks which articles we read. Zappos registers the type of shoes we wear, we prefer. And Netflix stores data on each movie we select.

AMY GOODMAN: The top 50 websites collect an average of 64 bits of personal information each time we visit and then custom-designs their sites to conform to our perceived preferences. While these websites profit from tailoring their advertisements to specific visitors, users pay a big price for living in an information bubble outside of their control. Instead of gaining wide exposure to diverse information, we’re subjected to narrow online filters.

Eli Pariser is the author of The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. He is also the board president and former executive director of the groupMoveOn.org. Eli joins us in the New York studio right now after a whirlwind tour through the United States.

Welcome, Eli.

ELI PARISER: Thanks for having me on.

AMY GOODMAN: So, this may surprise people. Two of us sitting here, me and Juan, if we went online, the two of us, and put into Google “Eli Pariser”—

ELI PARISER: Right.

AMY GOODMAN:—we actually might come up with a wholly different set of finds, a totally different set of links, of search results.

ELI PARISER: That’s right. I was surprised. I didn’t know that that was, you know, how it was working, until I stumbled across a little blog post on Google’s blog that said “personalized search for everyone.” And as it turns out, for the last several years, there is no standard Google. There’s no sort of “this is the link that is the best link.” It’s the best link for you. And the definition of what the best link for you is, is the thing that you’re the most likely to click. So, it’s not necessarily what you need to know; it’s what you want to know, what you’re most likely to click.

JUAN GONZALEZ: But isn’t that counter to the original thing that brought so many people to Google, that the algorithms that Google had developed really were reaching out to the best available information that was out there on the web?

ELI PARISER: Yeah. You know, if you look at how they talked about the original Google algorithm, they actually talked about it in these explicitly democratic terms, that the web was kind of voting—each page was voting on each other page in how credible it was. And this is really a departure from that. This is moving more toward, you know, something where each person can get very different results based on what they click on.

And when I did this recently with Egypt—I had two friends google “Egypt”—one person gets search results that are full of information about the protests there, about what’s going on politically; the other person, literally nothing about the protests, only sort of travel to see the Pyramids websites.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, wait, explain that again. I mean, that is astounding. So you go in. The uprising is happening in Egypt.

ELI PARISER: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, today there’s a mass protest in Tahrir Square. They’re protesting the military council and other issues. So, if I look, and someone who likes to travel look, they may not even see a reference to the uprising?

ELI PARISER: That’s right. I mean, there was nothing in the top 10 links. And, you know, actually, the way that people use Google, most people use just those top three links. So, if Google isn’t showing you sort of the information that you need to know pretty quickly, you can really miss it. And this isn’t just happening at Google; it’s happening all across the web, when I started looking into this. You know, it’s happening on most major websites, and increasingly on news websites. So, Yahoo! News does the exact same thing, tailoring what you see on Yahoo! News to which articles it thinks you might be interested in. And, you know, what’s concerning about this is that it’s really happening invisibly. You know, we don’t see this at work. You can’t tell how different the internet that you see is from the internet that anyone else sees is, but it’s getting increasingly different.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, what about the responses of those who run these search engines, that they’re merely responding to the interests and needs of the people who use the system?

ELI PARISER: Well, you know, I think—they say, “We’re just giving people what we want.” And I say, “Well, what do you mean by ‘what we want’?” Because I think, actually, all of us want a lot of different things. And there’s a short-term sort of compulsive self that clicks on the celebrity gossip and the more trivial articles, and there’s a longer-term self that wants to be informed about the world and be a good citizen. And those things are intentional all the time. You know, we have those two forces inside us. And the best media helps us sort of—helps the long-term self get an edge a little bit. It gives us some sort of information vegetables and some information dessert, and you get a balanced information diet. This is like you’re just surrounded by empty calories, by information junk food.

AMY GOODMAN: Eli, talk about your experience going on your own Facebook page.

ELI PARISER: So, this was actually the starting point for looking into this phenomenon. And basically, after 2008 and after I had transitioned out of being the executive director of MoveOn, I went on this little campaign to meet and befriend people who thought differently from me. I really wanted to hear what conservatives were thinking about, what they were talking about, you know, and learn a few things. And so, I had added these people as Facebook friends. And I logged on one morning and noticed that they weren’t there. They had disappeared. And it was very mysterious. You know, where did they go? And as it turned out, Facebook was tracking my behavior on the site. It was looking at every click. It was looking at every, you know, Facebook “like.” And it was saying, “Well, Eli, you say that you’re interested in these people, but actually, we can tell your clicking more on the progressive links than on the conservative links, so we’re going to edit it out, edit these folks out.” And they disappeared. And this gets to some of the danger of this stuff, which is that, you know, we have—

JUAN GONZALEZ: But Facebook edited out your friends?

ELI PARISER: Yeah, no. I really—you know, I miss them. And—

AMY GOODMAN: Your conservative friends.

ELI PARISER: My conservative friends, the friends that—you know, that I might—and what the play here is, is there’s this thing called confirmation bias, which is basically our tendency to feel good about information that confirms what we already believe. And, you know, you can actually see this in the brain. People get a little dopamine hit when they’re told that they’re right, essentially. And so, you know, if you were able to construct an algorithm that could show people whatever you wanted, and if the only purpose was actually to get people to click more and to view more pages, why would you ever show them something that makes them feel uncomfortable, makes them feel like they may not be right, makes them feel like there’s more to the world than our own little narrow ideas?

JUAN GONZALEZ: And doesn’t that, in effect, reinforce polarization within the society, in terms of people not being exposed to and listening to the viewpoints of others that they may disagree with?

ELI PARISER: Right. I mean, you know, democracy really requires this idea of discourse, of people hearing different ideas and responding to them and thinking about them. And, you know, I come back to this famous Daniel Patrick Moynihan quote where he says, you know, “Everybody is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.” It’s increasingly possible to live in an online world in which you do have your own facts. And you google “climate change,” and you get the climate change links for you, and you don’t actually get exposed necessarily—you don’t even know what the alternate arguments are.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Now, what about the implications for this, as all of these—especially Google, Yahoo!, developed their own news sites? What are the implications in terms of the news that they put out then and the news that people receive?

ELI PARISER: Well, this is where it gets even more worrisome, because when you’re just basically trying to get people to click things more and view more pages, there’s a lot of things that just isn’t going to meet that threshold. So, you know, take news about the war in Afghanistan. When you talk to people who run news websites, they’ll tell you stories about the war in Afghanistan don’t perform very well. They don’t get a lot of clicks. People don’t flock to them. And yet, this is arguably one of the most important issues facing the country. We owe it to the people who there, at the very least, to understand what’s going on. But it will never make it through these filters. And especially on Facebook this is a problem, because the way that information is transmitted on Facebook is with the “like” button. And the “like” button, it has a very particular valence. It’s easy to click “like” on, you know, “I just ran a marathon” or “I baked a really awesome cake.” It’s very hard to click “like” on, you know, “war in Afghanistan enters its sixth year”—or “10th year,” sorry. You know, so information that is likable gets transmitted; information that’s not likable falls out.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Eli Pariser, who has written the book The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. Now, Google knows not only what you’re asking to search, right? They know where you are. They know the kind of computer you’re using. Tell us how much information they’re gathering from us.

ELI PARISER: Well, it’s really striking. I mean, even if you’re not—if you’re logged in to Google, then Google obviously has access to all of your email, all of your documents that you’ve uploaded, a lot of information. But even if you’re logged out, an engineer told me that there are 57 signals that Google tracks—”signals” is sort of their word for variables that they look at—everything from your computer’s IP address—that’s basically its address on the internet—what kind of laptop you’re using or computer you’re using, what kind of software you’re using, even things like the font size or how long you’re hovering over a particular link. And they use that to develop a profile of you, a sense of what kind of person is this. And then they use that to tailor the information that they show you.

And this is happening in a whole bunch of places, you know, not just sort of the main Google search, but also on Google News. And the plan for Google News is that once they sort of perfect this personalization algorithm, that they’re going to offer it to other news websites, so that all of that data can be brought to bear for any given news website, that it can tailor itself to you. You know, there are really important things that are going to fall out if those algorithms aren’t really good.

And what this raises is a sort of larger problem with how we tend to think about the internet, which is that we tend to think about the internet as this sort of medium where anybody can connect to anyone, it’s this very democratic medium, it’s a free-for-all, and it’s so much better than that old society with the gatekeepers that were controlling the flows of information. Really, that’s not how it’s panning out. And what we’re seeing is that a couple big companies are really—you know, most of the information is flowing through a couple big companies that are acting as the new gatekeepers. These algorithms do the same thing that the human editors do. They just do it much less visibly and with much less accountability.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And what are the options, the opt-out options, if there are any, for those who use, whether it’s Google or Yahoo! or Facebook? Their ability to control and keep their personal information?

ELI PARISER: Well, you know, there aren’t perfect opt-out options, because even if you take a new laptop out of the box, already it says something about you, that you bought a Mac and not a PC. I mean, it’s very hard to get entirely out of this. There’s no way to turn it off entirely at Google. But certainly, you can open a private browsing window. That helps.

I think, in the long run, you know, there’s sort of two things that need to happen here. One is, we need, ourselves, to understand better what’s happening, because it’s very dangerous when you have these kinds of filters operating and you don’t know what they’re ruling out that you’re not even seeing. That’s sort of a—that’s where people make bad decisions, is, you know, what Donald Rumsfeld called the “unknown unknowns,” right? And this creates a lot of unknown unknowns. You don’t know how your experience of the world is being edited.

But it’s also a matter of pushing these companies to sort of—you know, these companies say that they want to be good. “Don’t be evil” is Google’s motto. They want to change the world. I think we have to push them to sort of live up to their best values as companies and incorporate into these algorithms more than just this very narrow idea of what is important.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what are they saying, the leaders of Google, Facebook, Yahoo!? I mean, are you talking to them?

ELI PARISER: Well, I tried to. You know, I had a brief conversation with Larry Page, in which he said, “Well, I don’t think this is a very interesting problem.” And that was about that. But, you know, further down in Google, there are a bunch of people who are wrestling with this. I think the challenge is—I talked to one Facebook engineer who sort of summed it up quite well, and he said, “Look, what we love doing is sitting around and coming up with new clever ways of getting people to spend more minutes on Facebook, and we’re very good at that. And this is a much more complicated thing that you’re asking us to do, where you’re asking us to think about sort of our social responsibility and our civic responsibility, what kind of information is important. This is a much more complicated problem. We just want to do the easy stuff.” And, you know, I think that’s what’s sort of led us to this current place. I think there are also people who see the flipside of that and say this is one of the big, juicy problems in front of us, is how do we actually take the best of sort of 20th century editorial values and import them into these new systems that are deciding what people see and what people don’t see.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about how much money is being made off of this. And I mean, just this neutral term of “personalization”—

ELI PARISER: Right.

AMY GOODMAN:—it sounds so benign. In fact, it sounds attractive.

ELI PARISER: It sounds great, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s geared and tailored for you. What could be better?

ELI PARISER: Right. And it does rely on the sense of a sort of cozy, familiar world online, where your favorite website greets you and goes, “Oh, hey, Eli, we’ve teed up all of these articles for you. Welcome.” It feels very good.

But, you know, what’s driving this is—you know, in some ways, this is the driving struggle on the internet right now between all of these different companies, to accumulate the biggest amounts of data on each of us. And Facebook has its strategy, which is basically ask people to tell Facebook about themselves. Google has its strategy, which is to watch your clicks. Microsoft and Yahoo! have their strategies. And all of this feeds into a database, which can then be used to do three things. It can target ads better, so you get better targeted ads, which honestly, I think, you know, sometimes is fine, if you know that it’s happening. It can target content, which I think is much more problematic. You start to get content that just reflects what it thinks you want to see. And then the third thing is, and it can make decisions about you.

So, one of the sort of more surprising findings in the book was that banks are beginning to look at people’s Facebook friends and their credit ratings in order to decide to whom to give—to offer credit. And this is based on this fact that, you know, if you look at the credit ratings of people, you can make predictions about the credit ratings of their friends. It’s very creepy, though, because really what you’re saying then is that it would be better not to be Facebook friends with people who have lower credit ratings. It’s not really the kind of society that we want to be building, particularly.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, even more frightening, obviously, is once all of this information, personal information, is gathered, it saves the government, in its ability to surveil its population, a lot of work, because basically the private companies can gather the information, and all the government has to do is issue the subpoena or make the call that “for national security, we need this information.” So, in essence, it doesn’t have to do the actual surveillance. It just has to be able to use it when it needs to.

ELI PARISER: There’s a funny Onion article that has the headline “CIA Rules Out Very Successful New Facebook Program,” implying that the CIA started Facebook to gather data. And it’s funny, but there is sort of some truth there, which is that these companies do have these massive databases, and the protections that we have for our data that live on these servers are far—you know, far less protection than if it’s on your home computer. The FBI needs to do much less paperwork in order to ask Google for your data than it does to, you know, come into your home and look at your computer. And so, increasingly—so this is sort of the downside of cloud computing, is that it allows more and more of our data and everything that we do to be available to the government and, you know, for their purposes.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And not only in a democracy, but in an authoritarian state, as well.

ELI PARISER: That’s right. I mean, it’s a natural byproduct of consolidating so much of what we do online in a few big companies that really don’t have a whole lot of accountability, you know, that aren’t being pushed very hard by governments to do this right or do it responsibly. It will naturally lead to abuses.

AMY GOODMAN: Google Inc. announced yesterday that they have launched a bid to dominate a world in which the smartphone replaces the wallet as the container for credit cards, coupons and receipts. The mobile app is called Google Wallet. How does this fit into this picture?

ELI PARISER: Well, it’s just another—I mean, the way that Google thinks is, how can we design products that people will use that allow us to accumulate even more data about them? So, obviously, once you start to have a sense of everything that people are buying flowing through Google’s servers, then you have way more data on which to target ads and target content and do this kind of personalization. You know exactly how to slice and dice people. And again, you know, in some contexts, that’s fine, actually. I don’t mind when I go on Amazon, and it recommends books. They’re obviously not very good recommendations sometimes, but it’s fine. But when it’s happening invisibly and when it’s shaping not just what you buy but what you know about the world, I think, you know, is more of a problem. And if this is going to be sort of the way that the future of the internet looks, then we need to make sure that it’s much more transparent when this is happening, so that we know when things are being targeted to us. And we have to make sure that we have some control as consumers over this, that it’s not just in the hands of these big companies that have very different interests.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you have a powerful force, Eli Pariser. You were the head of MoveOn.org. Now you’re what? The chair of the board—

ELI PARISER: I’m on the board, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN:—of MoveOn.org. So, this, MoveOn, has millions of people it reaches all over the country. What will MoveOn do about this?

ELI PARISER: Well, you know, there’s sort of this dance here, because basically MoveOn takes on the issues that its members want to take up. So I’ve been very—you know, I don’t want to sort of impose by fiat that I wrote a book, and here’s—now we’re going to campaign about this. But, you know, there are campaigns that we’re starting to look at. One of them, I think, that’s very simple but actually would go a significant way is just to, you know, have a basic—have a way of signaling on Facebook that something is important, even if it’s not likable. Obviously this is sort of just one small piece, but actually, if you did have an “important” button, you would start having a lot of different information propagating across Facebook. You’d have people exposed to things that maybe aren’t as smile-inducing, but we really need to know. And Facebook is actually considering adding some new verbs. So, this could be a winnable thing. It’s not—it won’t solve the whole problem, but it would start to indicate—it would start to remind these companies that there are ways that they can start to build in, you know, some more kind of civic values into what they’re doing.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And any sense that in Congress any of the politicians are paying attention to some of these issues?

AMY GOODMAN: Or understand this?

ELI PARISER: Yeah, there are a few that have been really attentive to this. Al Franken, in particular, has been very good on these data and privacy issues and really pushing forward. It’s obviously challenging because a lot of the Democratic congressmen and women are—get a lot of money from these companies, Silicon Valley. You know, certainly the Obama administration and Obama got a lot of support from Silicon Valley. So, they don’t totally want to get on the wrong side of these companies. And they feel like the companies are on the side of good and on the side of sort of pushing the world in the direction that they want it to. It means that we don’t have as good congressional watchdogs as you would hope, but there are a few good ones. And Franken, in particular, has been great on this.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Eli Pariser, I want to thank you for your work and for writing The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You, board president and former executive director of MoveOn.org, which at five million members is one of the largest citizens’ organizations in American politics. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. Back in a minute.

ELI PARISER: Thank you.

 

Assange: Facebook, Yahoo, Google, ‘Most Appalling Spying Machine EVER’

In Uncategorized on May 7, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Julian Assange. Founder, Wikileaks.

Oldspeak: “Orwell’s ‘Ministry Of Love’ has a much kinder and down right irresistible face in the real world.’ Facebook in particular is the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented. Here we have the world’s most comprehensive database about people—their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations, their communications with each other, their relatives—all sitting within the United States, all accessible to U.S. intelligence….Everyone should understand that when they add their friends to Facebook, they are doing free work for United States intelligence agencies in building this database for them.’ –Julian Assange.

By Truthdig: In a recent interview with Russia Today, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had harsh words for Facebook, denouncing the company for enabling the U.S. government to keep close tabs on the behavior, relationships and personal details of its citizens. —ARK