Google, the CIA and the US State Department
The world press has recently been full of reports of Google having 'accidentally' (and illegally) collected much personal information by penetrating wifi networks under the guise of collecting Street View information. Google collected IP addresses, internet activity, email content, and no one knows how much more - all under the guise of looking for 'wifi hot spots'.|
One would have to be hopelessly naive to believe that Google's collection of the personal data was an accident, that they'd been collecting this data since 2002, but didn't know what was on their hard drives until the German government demanded to see them. It simply is not conceivable that Google never looked at their own hard drives to see what data they were collecting.
When this activity was first discovered, Google denied collecting anything other than photos. When repeatedly pressed, Google said it was recording only wifi network names and addresses (MAC and SSID). Repeated questions about whether the company was gathering even more data remained unanswered. The government said Google at first denied collecting more information, then "was silent on the issues."
When Google delivered a Street-View van to the German government for inspection, they found that the hard drives had been removed. When asked for the hard drives, Google said the Germans couldn’t read the information anyway because it was encrypted. It was only when the Germans insisted on seeing the hard drives and their data, that Google, 'discovered' that they'd 'accidentally' been recording private information for 9 years.
The German government and the EU Privacy Commission said it was not believable that Google didn't know the content of its own hard drives or the kind of data it had been collecting for all those years.
Google still has not agreed to let anyone examine the hard drives to determine exactly what kind of data, and how much data, has actually been collected.
“I think this is going to damage the company irreparably,” said Simon Davies, the director of Privacy International, a London-based group of privacy advocates from 40 countries. “Three years ago the company was wearing a halo. But over the past year it has moved substantially in the direction of being perceived as Big Brother.”|
The company’s confession, which contradicted a very recent denial on the same point late last month, has angered European privacy regulators. After a flood of demands from the European Union, Google said in March that it might abandon plans to map more of Europe with its Street View fleet.
Johannes Caspar, the data protection supervisor for Hamburg, said, “This is a data scandal of a much larger magnitude,” Mr. Caspar said. “We are talking here about the large-scale collection of private data on individuals.” He declined to speculate what action European officials might take.
German Consumer Affairs Minister Ilse Aigner said, "This incident is alarming and is further evidence that data privacy is still an alien concept for Google." She said it was paramount that "Private information must remain private."
She said Google's actions are "nothing less than a million-fold violation of the private sphere. "I reject this form of exposure. There is not a secret service in existence that would collect photos so unabashedly," she told the magazine.
She said further that the data companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Apple and Google collect could keep you from getting a loan or even a job.
"According to the information available to us so far, Google has for years penetrated private networks, apparently illegally," her office said in a statement Saturday. The ministry also accuses Google of withholding information requested by German regulators.
The governments of Germany, Switzerland, Spain, France, Italy and the Czech Republic, have suspended many of Google's activities in those countries, pending an investigation. The German government plans to fine Google 50,000 euros for each time it fails to remove the personal property of a citizen who requested to be exempted from Street View.|
In April, data protection regulators from eight European countries and Israel and New Zealand sent a joint letter to Google’s chief executive, Eric E. Schmidt, criticizing the company’s Buzz social networking service, which unwittingly publicized the connections of some users without their permission.
But there is already another larger storm brewing about Google's face-recognition technology and their determination to develop and implement it. I believe we are far from the end of these revelations, and the potential for misuse can only be imagined.
German Consumer Affairs Minister Ilse Aigner warned in a recent interview that Internet giants like Google and Microsoft hold extensive amounts of personal data. "Some inventions such as face recognition software for mobile phone cameras to identify people on the street send cold shivers down my back. Even George Orwell wouldn't' have dreamt of that."
Put this together with Google's close ties to the CIA, the US military and the US State Department, and one must suspect there is a lot more going on than Google cares to admit.
For one, the wifi 'hot spots' can have significant military value if a goal is to 'disrupt, disable or destroy' wireless and internet communication networks. For another, the US military is fond of boasting that it can send a cruise missile up any street and right into the front door of any building it wants to destroy. Google's Street-View data is an essential part of that capability.
Google is, in fact, is a key participant in U.S. military and CIA intelligence operations. Google is the supplier of the core search technology for Intellipedia, a highly-secured online system where 37,000 U.S. spies and related personnel share information and collaborate.
In addition, Google is linked to the U.S. spy and military systems through its Google Earth software venture. The technology behind this software was originally developed by Keyhole Inc., a company funded by Q-Tel (http://www.iqt.org/), a venture capital firm which is in turn openly funded and operated on behalf of the CIA. Google acquired Keyhole Inc. in 2004.
The same base technology is currently employed by U.S. military and intelligence systems in their quest, in their own words, for "full-spectrum dominance" of the planet.
It is not a secret that Google has very close documented ties with many sections of the US military, the CIA, the Department of Defense and the State Department. The CIA has recently 'transferred' staff to Google. For example, Rob Painter, the Director of Technology Assessment at In-Q-Tel, moved from his old job directly serving the CIA to become 'Senior Federal Manager' at Google. There are documented meetings and relations between Google and the State Department and other US government and military groups. As Robert Steele, a former CIA case officer has put it: Google is "in bed with" the CIA.
While many of the company's new workers are hired fresh from prestigious universities, Painter has a background that includes stints with U.S. Special Operations and the intelligence community. He's also well removed from the company's Silicon Valley headquarters, working out of Washington, D.C. and Virginia.
"The government is excited about innovation and excited about Google for sure," Painter said.
Google acquired a direct line into selling the product to U.S. intelligence agencies when it bought a startup in 2004 called Keyhole Inc. Keyhole was funded by In-Q-Tel, a venture-capital fund administered by the CIA, and its technology was rebranded as Google Earth.
"We're not only interested, we're the government agency that developed Google's technology and spun it off into the private sector," the NGA spokesman said. "We've had that stuff embedded in us since day one."
Painter, who served as director of technology assessment with In-Q-Tel, pointed out that connections developed during his years in government can be of use now, with his unit growing at brisk pace: "We're functionally more than tripling the team each year."
As well, other ex-Google employees are on the White House staff. The US government's Deputy Chief Technology Officer, Andrew McLaughlin, is a former Google staff member, and was recently reprimanded by the White House for improperly corresponding with former Google colleagues.
Other former Google staff who are now working in the administration are Sonal Shah, who heads the White House Domestic Policy Council’s Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, and Kate Stanton, who is now at the State Department, worked at the White House.
Google's friends at In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA, are now investing in Visible Technologies, a software firm specialized in 'monitoring social media'. They apparently monitor millions of transactions each day and have the ability to generate millions of fake accounts and use them as part of their 'foreign policy' activities to destabilise governments in other countries.
Google is being sued by multiple countries, author's associations and various other groups because of its illegal scanning of books under copyright - which Google simply chose to ignore. The EU is fining Google 10,000 Euros per day, for every day that Google refuses to remove all books from its online library.
Much of this information has never been exposed in the American press, so many North Americans have no idea of the scope of these actions. The US government has proposed a settlement that the rest of the world strongly rejects, and the battles are far from over.
There is so much material on this issue that we haven't bothered to catalogue all of it. But here is a link to a website of Canadian authors calling for a ban on Google's book project: Click Here
And here is a link to a website that has many links to News Articles from around the world on this one issue. Click Here
It was only after that meeting, at which we can assume Google was given advice as to how to respond in 'the US best interests', that Google made the public fuss about censorship, and threatened to leave China. It was already public knowledge that Google's income in China was inconsequential and that Google was making no significant progress in the market - other that being used for free searches.|
So it would seem that Google was used as a foreign-policy tool of the US government, bailing out for personal reasons while doing their best to embarrass China. It's to the credit of China's government that the entire story wasn't made public. The Chinese were content to just let Google leave, because it accomplished their own objective which was to stop Google's 'undercover' activities.
However, in the light of that recent fuss about Google leaving China because of censorship demands, it is enlightening to read some of the text of an interview that Playboy Magazine had with Sergei Brin of Google. In the interview, he clearly states that the Chinese government made NO demands upon Google.
From the September 2004 issue of Playboy
Playboy: Did you negotiate with the Chinese government to unblock your site?
Brin: No. There was enough popular demand in China for our services -- information, commerce and so forth -- that the government re-enabled us.
Playboy: Have you ever agreed to conditions set by the Chinese government?
Brin: No, and China never demanded such things. However, other search engines have established local presences there and, as a price of doing so, offer severely restricted information. We have no sales team in China. Regardless, many Chinese Internet users rely on Google.
Brin: "To be fair to China, it never made any explicit demands regarding censoring material. That's not to say I'm happy about the policies of other portals that have established a presence there."
Do we want Google to save (and make available to others) every search term and every clicked link we make for the next 30 years? Who will use this information, and HOW will they use it? Google refuses to provide reasonable explanations for the extensiveness of its data retention, and it is unsettling that that Google makes this information freely available to various (and unknown) third parties without our knowledge or permission.
Even more, do we want US government agencies to collect photos of us and our friends from anonymous sites and use Google's face-recognition software to identify all of us by name and location, and then cross-reference that information with all of our internet searches and browsing activity over a 30-year period? Do we want a US government agency to have access to our Skype conversations, our Tweets, our wifi emails? If you are an American, your answer might be different from that of a citizen of Canada or Germany or China.
We know that Google freely transmits this information to various government and law enforcement agencies - as do the other social media. Now, this may not be all bad. If you do a search for "How can I make a bomb big enough to destroy the Pentagon", then it's a good idea to send that item to the nearest police station. But there are many more uses where the morality is not so clear, where the information is being collected on people who are not US citizens, and all of this information becomes a tempting tool to serve US foreign policy. Policy with which many of us may not agree.......
Readers should note that Google isn't the only Internet service within the CIA/Government/State Dept. orbit. Facebook and Twitter fall into this category as well. These 'private businesses' are a part of the US Military/Industrial Complex that often cooperates in helping to achieve US foreign policy objectives.
It has been authoritatively reported that the CIA has software that lets it automatically generate twitter accounts and use them to broadcast propaganda, as recently used to help destabilise Iran during that country's recent election.
There are also credible reports that the CIA made Skype 'an offer they couldn't refuse', and now has a back door that can record and transmit the content of any phone calls made using that medium. Facebook suffers the same fate. The fact is that the ability to tap into such large worldwide networks in other countries is overwhelmingly tempting for the CIA.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation revealed recently that the FBI and other federal agencies work undercover on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites to shadow suspects and gather evidence in crime investigations.
In its recently updated privacy agreement, Facebook stated that it would begin providing general information about users to third sites -- "previously vetted operators of Web sites and applications."
The company wrote: "In order to provide you with useful social experiences off of Facebook, we occasionally need to provide General Information about you to pre-approved third party Web sites and applications that use Platform at the time you visit them (if you are still logged in to Facebook)."
Among the pieces of data the company is considering sharing is a person's name, gender, profile picture or current location. The data would be shared automatically, and users would not be asked for their permission ....
Last month, four United States Senators sent a letter to Facebook, the world's largest Internet social network, expressing concern about recent changes to the service and the company's privacy practices.