"[C]omplete privacy does not exist."
~ Google's lawyers
(in Boring v. Google, Inc., 598 F.Supp.2d 695 [W.D. Pa. 2009].)
(in Boring v. Google, Inc., 598 F.Supp.2d 695 [W.D. Pa. 2009].)
Recently, the technology giant, Google, successfully defended itself in court against an "invasion of privacy." Google's lawyers accomplished this by arguing, in part, that "...complete privacy does not exist." Hence, whatever Google's public relations representatives might tell the people in order to save their lucrative brand name from disrepute, Google's legal position is that "privacy" is obsolete. On pain of contradiction, it is difficult to conjoin a denial of the existence of "privacy" with any sort of "protection" of it.
(As reported by Hasani Gittens, "Google: Forget Privacy - 'Spying' Suit Defense," New York Post, July 31, 2008, p. 19, <http://www.nypost.com/p/news/national/item_4pw7XzwDeiNYpCzP2u4CaN>. Cf. Judi Hasson, "Google wins privacy lawsuit," FierceCIO, February 18, 2009; Steven Musil, "Google wins Street View privacy suit," CNET, February 18, 2009;
Eric Zeman, "Google Says Privacy Doesn't Exist, Get Used To Everyone Knowing Everything About You," July 31, 2008,
http://www.informationweek.com/blog/main/archives/2008/07/google_says_pri.html; et alia.)
Google's statement on privacy isn't merely so much rhetoric or a detached and abstract legal strategy. The behemoth corporation is practicing what it preaches, joining with the likes of Facebook and Microsoft to become the National Security Agency's (NSA) partner in a massive project of spying on Americans. This much is now well-known. See here, here, and here.
Once upon a time, though: "Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg hacked the Harvard databases of student IDs to create Facemash, the predecessor to his current multibillion-dollar site. As a teenager, Apple founder Steve Jobs sold boxes built by his friend Steve Wozniak to fool the phone company and make free long-distance calls. Microsoft's Bill Gates hacked the accounts of an early computer company to avoid having to pay to use it."
(Michael Scherer, "The Geeks Who Leak," Time, June 24, 2013, pp. 26-27.)
Elsewhere, a Time journalist opines: "The truth is that those with the most power over who can speak and who can be heard in the internet age aren't judges or prosecutors or even the President. They're officials at Internet and telecom companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Verizon, and AT&T."
(Jeffrey Rosen, "The Deciders," Time, June 24, 2013, p. 28.)
In fact, Google may be quite ambitious in terms of its aspirations to become an intelligence hub. "OSS.Net CEO Robert David Steele Vivas envisages Google displacing the CIA as the national information processing and sharing model of choice."
(John C. K. Daly, "UPI Intelligence Watch," UPI, November 21, 2005.)
Google retains (at least for eighteen months) information on searches made via its famous engine. Unsurprisingly, the CIA has been found using persistent "cookies" to track online behavior.
(Amber Brinker, "Google. Saves. Every. Word.: Even a low profile won't guarantee anonymity on the Web," Vox, June 28, 2007, http://www.voxmagazine.com/stories/2007/06/28/google-saves-every-word/. Lloyd de Vries, "CIA Caught Sneaking Cookies, CBS, February 11, 2009, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/03/20/tech/main504131.shtml.)
The public is sometimes less than enthusiastic about these measures.
"European privacy regulators and advocates reacted angrily Saturday to the disclosure by Google, the world’s largest search engine, that it had systematically collected personal data since 2006 while compiling its Street View photo archive.
"After being pressed by European officials about the kind of data the company compiled in creating the archive — and what it did with that information — Google acknowledged on Friday that it had collected personal data on people around the world. In a blog post on its website, the company said information had been recorded as it was sent over unencrypted residential wireless networks as Google’s Street View cars with mounted recording equipment passed by.
"The data collection, which Google said was inadvertent and the result of a programming error, took place in all the countries where Street View has been catalogued, including the United States and parts of Europe. Google apologized and said it had not used the information, which it plans to delete in conjunction with regulators. But in Germany, Google’s collection of the data — which the company said could include the websites viewed by individuals or the content of their e-mail — is a violation of privacy law, said Ilse Aigner, the German minister for food, agriculture and consumer protection.
"In a statement Saturday, her ministry demanded a full accounting. 'Based on the information we have before us, it appears that Google has illegally tapped into private networks in violation of German law,' Aigner said. 'This is alarming and further evidence that privacy law is a foreign concept to Google.' ...But in its review, Oberbeck said the company learned that its data collection performed by roving Street View vehicles was much more extensive, including a record of sites viewed by the user and potentially the contents of messages if users did not secure their WLANS with a password. ..."
(Kevin J. O'Brien, "Google's data collection angers Europeans," New York Times via St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 16, 2010, http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/nation/story/BDE3CA727A0244BB86257724007DEB3D)
Yet, Google's data mining efforts are not necessarily undertaken solely on its own initiative. There is growing evidence that, as the title of one San Francisco Chronicle article put it, "Google has lots to do with intelligence".
"When the nation's intelligence agencies wanted a computer network to better share information about everything from al Qaeda to North Korea, they turned to a big name in the technology industry to supply some of the equipment: Google Inc.
"The Mountain View company sold the agencies servers for searching documents, marking a small victory for the company and its little-known effort to do business with the government. ...
"Federal, state and local agencies, along with corporations and schools, are increasingly seen by the company as lucrative sources of extra revenue. ...Spy agencies are using Google equipment as the backbone of Intellipedia, a network aimed at helping agents share intelligence. Rather than hoarding information, spies and analysts are being encouraged to post what they learn on a secure online forum where colleagues can read it and add comments. ..."
(Verne Kopytoff, San Francisco Chronicle, March 30, 2008, p. C1, http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/03/29/BUQLUAP8L.DTL.)
"If there is a company out there doing intelligence research, it's likely that In-Q-Tel, the CIA's personal investor, either looked them up or made a check out to them. It's all to ensure that the Agency remains on the forefront of tech. Not long ago, In-Q-Tel invested heavily in a company called Keyhole. Never heard of them? Maybe you know their work, a little project eventually known as Google Maps. ..."
("25 Cutting Edge Firms Funded By The CIA," Business Insider, August 11, 2012. Other of the firms listed include the following: 3VR, Adaptx, Basis Technology, Biomatrica, DSSP, FireEye, Gainspan, GATR, Ember, Infinite Power Solutions, Infinite Z, Looxcie, MiserWare, MotionDSP, Oculis Labs, OpenSpan, Palantir, Perceptive Pixel, Recorded Future, Seventh Sense, Sonitus Medical, Spotter RF, Visible Technologies, and Walleye. Cf. Michael Liedtke, "Google Buys Digital Mapping Company," Associated Press, October 28, 2004 and Michael Liedtke, "Google incorporates satellite maps into search engine," Associated Press, April 4, 2005..)
"...Google Maps sprang out of Google's acquisition last October of the Keyhole company that owns a huge library of satellite imagery and has also developed 3-D picture display services (EarthViewer). Several American government departments, and particularly the Pentagon, are customers of Keyhole. ...the National Geospatiale-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is using technology developed by Keyhole in Iraq."
("Google and CIA Connection," Intelligence Online, April 15, 2005, n. 498.)
"...In-Q-Tel is the venture-capital arm of the CIA. ...In-Q-Tel, set up in 1999, invests about $ 35 million a year in young companies creating technology that might improve the ability of the United States to spy on its nemeses. ...it has been so successful that the CIA wants to extend In-Q-Tel's charter. ... The Defense Department even wants to duplicate the In-Q-Tel model for the military. ...
"...In-Q-Tel isn't run by a CIA operative. ...Gilman Louie... runs In-Q-Tel. ... Louie previously founded a couple of video game companies. ...The board of directors is a mix of famous maverick capitalists and political operatives, including James Barksdale, the one-time CEO of Netscape Communications; Norm Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin; and William Perry, who was secretary of Defense under President Clinton. ...
"In-Q-Tel exists because the CIA knew it was losing its edge in information technology. In December 1998, CIA Director George Tenet and his executive director, Buzzy Krongard, called on Augustine, the respected builder of Lockheed Martin. As Augustine recalls, Tenet explained that the CIA and government labs had always been on the leading edge of tech.
"But the Internet boom poured so much money into tech start-ups, the start-ups leapt ahead of the CIA. And scientists and technologists who had innovative ideas went off to be entrepreneurs and get rich -- they didn't want government salaries at the CIA. ...Why do that instead of just buying the latest technology?
"[T]he VC [venture capitalist] route lets the CIA use the whole technology industry as a lab. ...To lead this new entity, the CIA found Louie. He had built the popular flight simulation game Falcon F-16, and in the 1980s imported the wildly successful game Tetris from, of all places, the Soviet Union, then a Cold War enemy.
"At the time, Louie was head of Hasbro's video game group. Tenet appealed to his patriotism. ...In-Q-Tel is not inside the CIA -- it's more like an appendage. ...
"'We are extremely pleased and satisfied,' Krongard says. ' can't get into specifics, but In-Q-Tel has made significant contributions.' Louie offers this rundown: In-Q-Tel has invested $ 150 million, and the result is 22 new technologies inserted into 40 government programs. That's as detailed as he'll get. ...
(Kevin Maney, "CIA invests in start-ups. The dividend? Technology," USA Today, March 3, 2004, p. 1A. Other start-ups explicitly named in the article include: an image search engine called PiXlogic; a "nano-tech" company named Nanosys; a translation utility, Language Weaver; the advanced information "structuring" program, Stratify; information routing software termed Tacit; and the aforementioned Keyhole, forerunner to Google's mapping function.)
Gilman Louie's video game background is presented as entirely innocuous. There is some reason to doubt this, however. For example, in 1994, it was reported that the video game company, "Activision, ...was teaming up with William Colby, the former head of the Central Intelligence Agency, to develop and publish espionage thriller video games". Given the CIA's history of experimentation with "mind-control" technologies of various sorts, one might justifiably wonder whether Colby's function vis-à-vis Activision was to be limited merely to being something like a color commentator.
("Activision Spy Games," New York Times, January 06, 1994, <http://www.nytimes.com/1994/01/06/business/activision-spy-games.html>.)
Additionally, Mr. Krongard has been in news before. One of the firms used to buy pre-9/11 "Put" stock options was once headed by man who would later become executive director of CIA. Care to guess who?
"Share speculators have failed to collect $ 2.5m (pounds 1.7m) in profits made from the fall in the share price of United Airlines after the 11 September World Trade Centre attacks. The fact that the money is unclaimed more than a month later has re- awakened investigators' interest in a story dismissed as coincidence. …
"The authorities are examining the possibility that if they knew what was coming, traders were intent on taking their profits immediately, before regulators had woken up to any possible scam. ...
"To the embarrassment of investigators, it has also emerged that the firm used to buy many of the 'put' options - where a trader, in effect, bets on a share price fall - on United Airlines stock was headed until 1998 by 'Buzzy' Krongard, now executive director of the CIA. Until 1997, Mr Krongard was chairman of Alex Brown Inc, America's oldest investment banking firm. Alex Brown was acquired by Bankers Trust, which in turn was bought by Deutsche Bank. His last post before resigning to take his senior role in the CIA was to head Bankers Trust - Alex Brown's private client business, dealing with the accounts and investments of wealthy customers around the world. …"
(Chris Blackhurst, “Attack on Afghanistan: Mystery of Terror 'Insider Dealers'," Independent [U.K.], October 14, 2001, p. 8.)
According to an ex-CIA agent, early in its corporate development, the Central Intelligence Agency actually bankrolled Google itself.
"...Robert David Steele, a 20-year Marine Corps infantry and intelligence officer and a former clandestine services case officer with the Central Intelligence Agency...[said:] http://oss.net/ 'I think Google took money from the CIA when it was poor and it was starting up and unfortunately our system right now floods money into spying and other illegal and largely unethical activities...' citing "trusted individuals" as his sources for the claim.
"'Let me say very explicitly - their contact at the CIA is named Dr. Rick Steinheiser, he's in the Office of Research and Development,' said Steele. ...
(Paul Joseph Watson, "Ex-Agent: CIA Seed Money Helped Launch Google: Steele goes further than before in detailing ties, names Google's CIA liaison," Prison Planet, December 6, 2006, http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/december2006/061206seedmoney.htm. Cf. Marcus Yam, "Former Agent Says Google and CIA in Partnership," Daily Tech [weblog], October 31, 2006, http://www.dailytech.com/Former+Agent+Says+Google+and+CIA+in+Partnership/article4774.htm
What is known, however, is that the CIA and Google have a number of shared projects. In another development: "The investment arms of the CIA and Google are both backing a company that monitors the web in real time — and says it uses that information to predict the future. The company is called Recorded Future, and it scours tens of thousands of websites, blogs and Twitter accounts to find the relationships between people, organizations, actions and incidents — both present and still-to-come. In a white paper, the company says its temporal analytics engine 'goes beyond search' by 'looking at the *invisible links* between documents that talk about the same, or related, entities and events.'"
(Noah Shachtman, "Exclusive: Google, CIA Invest in ‘Future’ of Web Monitoring," Wired, July 28, 2010, http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/07/exclusive-google-cia/.)
Besides these little financing (ad)ventures, Google is also getting involved with behavior profiling and analysis.
"Internet giant Google has drawn up plans to compile psychological profiles of millions of web users by covertly monitoring the way they play online games. The company thinks it can glean information about an individual's preferences and personality type by tracking their online behaviour, which could then be sold to advertisers. Details such as whether a person is more likely to be aggressive, hostile or dishonest could be obtained and stored for future use, it says. ...
"It says people playing online role playing games such as Second Life and World of Warcraft would be particularly good to target, because they interact with other players and make decisions that probably reflect their behaviour in real life. ...Google could also monitor people playing on any game console that hooks up to the internet, including the Sony PlayStation, Nintendo Wii and Microsoft's Xbox. ...[I]nformation could be retrieved from previous game details saved on memory cards..."
(David Adam and Bobbie Johnson, "Google may use games to analyse net users, Guardian [U.K.], May 12, 2007, http://technology.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,,2078061,00.html.)
''We are moving to a Google that knows more about you."
~Eric Schmidt, Google chief executive
(Quoted by Saul Hansell, "Google's Chef Speaks, but Not Its Finance Officer," New York Times, February 10, 2005, p. C8; cf. Saul Hansell, International Herald Tribune, February 11, 2005, p. 20.)
For more information, see HERE.