E-totalitarianism at Google

By Scott Cleland
The Washington Times
May 9, 2011

Google Inc.’s “Don’t Be Evil” slogan is seductive but misleading. It is the lowest business ethics standard ever devised, excusing everything Google does short of evil. Google isn’t evil – but neither is it ethical.

While perceptions of the world’s erstwhile No. 1 brand remain exceptionally strong, Google’s ethical blind spots regarding privacy and property rights are beginning to erode the public’s trust and eventually could threaten the company’s market domination. Anyone who follows Google closely knows that the company is a serial scandal machine. One of the world’s most powerful companies, with its vainglorious mission to “organize the world’s information,” has proved itself to be unethical, shockingly political and untrustworthy.

Google’s privacy record is shameful. In 2004, Google sparked a privacy outcry by scanning Gmail users’ private emails for advertising keywords. The next year, Google Earth put sites, including the White House’s roof and a Trident submarine base, on public display; a leader of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade terrorist group said he was thrilled. In 2006, Google refused to comply with a California privacy law. Two years later, Street View exposed people’s homes and license plates to anyone who cared to look; a member of the British Parliament described the service as “invading our privacy on an industrial scale.” In 2009, Google began tracking the books people searched (via Google Books) and visitors to WhiteHouse.gov. Last year, Google Buzz exposed users’ private email lists to the public while Google’s Street View cars were caught eavesdropping on millions of users’ wireless networks. No wonder Privacy International cited Google for its “entrenched hostility to privacy.” But it’s easy to understand why Google has no respect for privacy. Just consider Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s own words: “If you have something you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.”

Google’s recordfor respecting others’ property is no better. In 2004, Google paid $250 million in stock to settle a lawsuit alleging the firm had violated GoTo.com’s patent for the keyword auction process on which Google’s business model is based. A year later, the Authors Guild sued Google for copying millions of books without permission; Google continues to copy books illegally despite the fact that a federal court rejected the proposed Google Books settlement as unlawful. In 2007, Viacom sued Google for $1 billion for infringing hundreds of thousands of copyrights on videos; court documents revealed Google knew YouTube derived its traffic from illegal video uploads but bought the company anyway. In 2010, Oracle charged that Google “knowingly, directly and repeatedly infringed Oracle’s Java-related intellectual property” in its Android mobile-phone platform. Google also has been accused of facilitating trademark infringement and aiding online piracy.

When Mr. Schmidt was asked if people should trust Google as much as they do, he deflected the question with a question of his own: “That depends on what you think of our company and our values. Do you think we have good values?” Perhaps out of politeness, no one wants to tell him the truth: Google’s actions and business practices over time make it clear that Google’s values are not what most people would consider good values.

Google repeatedly says one thing but does another. The company says serving users is its top priority, but Google does not offer users customer service. Google exhorts others to be transparent, but it runs one of the world’s most opaque operations. Google urges everyone else to adopt open systems, but Google’s search engine and AdWords auction system are closed. Google tramples the most fundamental ethical standard, the golden rule, by routinely treating others the way Google does not want to be treated.

Earlier this year, Google put a defiant public exclamation point on its contempt for private information and property by announcing it had decided to make all of the secret, confidential and private information leaked by WikiLeaks universally accessible and useful to the world’s bad actors via Google search.

It all comes back to Google’s uber-ambitious mission “to organize the world’s information.” That may sound like a good thing, but do we really want one unethical, unaccountable entity organizing all of the world’s information? Google’s unprecedented centralization of power over the world’s information is corrupting the Internet. It is leading us to a future in which there is little competition, privacy and incentive for creativity and innovation. Allowing one company to organize the world’s information is a terrible idea that can only lead to a soft totalitarianism.

Information is power. Google is rapidly evolving from an information servant to master, from working for users to making users work for the Internet behemoth. Make no mistake, if Google succeeds at taking away people’s online privacy and intellectual property rights through tracking and digital redistribution, we become Google’s serfs. This digital road to serfdom is not paved with good intentions.

Scott Cleland is author of the new book “Search & Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc.” (Telescope Books, 2011).

CIA utiliza Redes Sociales para Publicar Propaganda

Abril 18, 2011
Adaptación Luis R. Miranda

Wayne Madsen ha escrito acerca de las agencias de inteligencia en Estados Unidos por décadas, después de ser oficial naval y convertirse en la periodista, especializado en periodismo de investigación.

En el pasado ha escrito sobre el programa carnívoro del FBI para vigilar Internet, pero ahora, dice, el gobierno no solo está espiando lo que hacemos en línea, sino que además está utilizando la web, para decirnos como hacerlo.

El uso de medios de comunicación con fines propagandísticos y para realizar operaciones psicológicas no es nada nuevo para la CIA, dice Madsen. Cita la década de 1960 con la estación de radio pirata Swan, como un ejemplo del intento del gobierno de Estados Unidos para influir “discretamente” al público hace más de 50 años, transmitiendo mensajes a favor de la invasión de la Bahía de Cochinos. Ahora, dice Madsen, el gobierno está usando Twitter y Facebook para comunicar sus mensajes, pero no está claro siendo tan claro en la forma en que lo está haciendo.

Lo que está ocurriendo hoy en día, dice Madsen, es sólo el ejemplo más reciente de las operaciones psicológicas perpetradas por el gobierno para influir al público. Madsen confirma que los mensajes en línea identificados como grupos de oposición al los gobiernos en el exterior son en realidad frentes norteamericanos y no de Libia, y sus vecinos, por ejemplo, lo cual es lo que nos quieren hacer creer a través de sus mensajes en Twitter.

“Creo que los EE.UU. está, probablemente, detrás de estos mensajes de Twitter. No sabemos si provienen de Libia “, dice. Madsen sugiere incluso que los mensajes de microblogging fácilmente podrían construirse a partir de bases militares en Estados Unidos por funcionarios libios gringos de origen libio que no han sido afectados por la guerra y que no han sido descubiertos por los rebeldes or el gobierno.

Madsen señala que la disponibilidad de Internet en Libia apenas ha saturado el país, con sólo cinco por ciento de la población con acceso a la web. Tendría sentido, entonces, que los tweets, blogs y actualizaciones relatando el drama de África del Norte están siendo orquestadas por el gobierno de EE.UU. como un medio de hacer que su mensaje sea escuchado, incluso si se hace por medios subrepticios.

Si bien estas acciones podrían poner en peligro la ética de la CIA, la organización ha sido astuta antes de su uso de la web. La Agencia planta historias en los periódicos extranjeros, que luego se recogen en el extranjero y, desde allí, de manera indirecta son relanzados por los medios de EE.UU..

Madsen también cita las relaciones entre el gobierno de los EE.UU. y gigantescas corporaciones tecnológicas de comunicación, tales como AT&T y Google (fundado por el Pentágono), como un hecho muy conocido para quienes investigan las acciones que los gobiernos y las corporaciones llevan a cabo conjuntamente.

Independientemente de si la CIA está secretamente lanzando estos tweets, Madsen dice que la participación de EE.UU. y la OTAN en Libia ha llevado la situación a un punto muerto y por lo tanto este es un programa de propaganda que ha fallado miserablemente.

Intelligence Thugs using social networks to influence masses

April 2011

Wayne Madsen has written about intelligence in America for decades, having transitioned from a Naval officer to journalist, specializing in investigative reporting.

In the past he’s written about the FBI’s Carnivore Internet monitoring program, but now, he says, the government isn’t watching what we do online, but is using the web, rather, to tell us how to do it.

Using the media for propaganda purposes is nothing new for the CIA, says Madsen. He cites the 1960s pirate station Radio Swan as an example of the American government’s attempt to discretely influence the public over 50 years ago, broadcasting messages in favor of the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Now, says Madsen, the government is taking to Twitter and Facebook to get their point across—but isn’t being clear at all on how it’s doing it.

What is happening today, says Madsen, is just the latest example of psychological operations perpetrated by the government to influence the public. Madsen attests that online messages claiming to be from US fronts overseas are actually from Americans—not the Libyans and their neighbors who we are led to believe are sending the tweets.

“I think the US is probably behind these Twitter feeds. We don’t know if they came from Libya,” he says. Madsen even suggest that the microblog messages could easily be constructed from military bases in America by our own officials—not war-ravaged and rebellious Libyans.

Madsen notes that Internet availability in Libya has barely saturated the country, with only five percent of the population having access to the web. It would make sense, then, that the tweets, blogs and status updates chronicling the drama in North Africa are being orchestrated by the US government as a means of making their message heard, even if it’s done through surreptitious means.

While these actions would jeopardize the ethics of the CIA, the organization has been sneaky before in its usage of conduits. The Agency would plant stories in foreign newspapers, which would then be picked up overseas and, from there, indirectly carried by US outlets.

Madsen also sites that relationships between the US government and major technology and communication corporations, such as AT&T and Google, as long-standing and apparent across the board.

Regardless of whether or not the CIA is covertly casting these tweets, Madsen says that US and NATO involvement in Libya has brought the situation to a stalemate and is thus one propaganda program that has furiously failed.

Google Chrome apresenta opção para bloquear conteúdo

Em uma tentativa direta para facilitar o bloqueio de determinados conteúdos, Google oferece uma opção em seu navegador Chrome que permite aos usuários censurar conteúdos considerados “indesejáveis”.

Adaptação Luis R. Miranda

Google tem enfrentado críticas sobre a qualidade dos seus resultados de busca, porque eles normalmente incluem links para sites como eHow, que os críticos identificam depreciativamente como “fazendas de conteúdo” ou content farms.

Agora, o Google está dando aos seus usuários a possibilidade de bloquear sites em seus resultados de busca – e ‘ajudar’ para determinar quais sites são menos úteis para eles. Com essas informações Google pode modificar o seu algoritmo de modo que estes sites sejam listados em partes mais baixas nos resultados da pesquisa.

“Os usuários do navegador Google Chrome podem instalar uma extensão que permite que eles escolham bloquear determinados sites. Google vai considerar esses sites para ver o não perturbem ao usuário,” Matt Cutts, líder da equipe para combater o spam do Google, escreveu em um blog da empresa.

Quando os críticos se referem às fazendas de conteúdo, geralmente descrevem sites como eHow e Associated Content do Yahoo que publicam artigos sobre temas que as pessoas pesquisam no Google. Os artigos, o Google diz, oferecem conteúdo inútil.

Em uma recente entrevista antes do anúncio de segunda-feira, o Sr. Cutts disse que o Google está tentando determinar se um usuário está satisfeito ou não ao acessar uma página depois de uma pesquisa, e está trabalhando em algoritmos para a colocação de links que eliminem o acesso a

“fazendas de conteúdo ” nos resultados. A nova extensão pede aos usuários para informar o Google sobre os sites que eles não consideram não merecedores de seu tempo.

Blekko, um site de busca, já tomou medidas semelhantes. Apenas mostra os resultados de uma seleção de sites que os usuários do Blekko determinam como de alta qualidade, e esta página recentemente criou uma lista negra de sites, incluindo eHow e Answerbag, a partir de seus resultados.

Quando perguntado se o Google poderia bloquear sites inteiramente, o Sr. Cutts disse: “Ainda não chegámos a esta posição porque o nosso primeiro instinto é escrever algoritmos que tem limitem a aparição de ” fazendas de conteúdo “.

Google Chrome presenta opción para bloquear contenido

En un intento directo para facilitar el bloqueo de determinados contenidos, Google ofrece una opción en su navegador Chrome que permite a los usuarios censurar contenido que considere “indeseable”.

Adaptación Luis R. Miranda

Google ha enfrentado críticas sobre la calidad de sus resultados de búsqueda, ya que suelen incluir vínculos a sitios como eHow, que los críticos se refieren despectivamente como ‘granjas de contenido’ o content farms.

Ahora Google está dando a sus usuarios la oportunidad de bloquear sitios de Internet en sus resultados de búsqueda – y ‘ayudar’ a determinar cuales sitios son menos útiles para ellos. Con esa información se puede modificar su algoritmo para que esos sitios sean listados en partes inferiores en los resultados de búsqueda.

Los usuarios del navegador de Google Chrome pueden instalar una extensión que les permite optar por bloquear ciertos sitios. Google estudiará esos sitios para averiguar cuáles molestan al usuario, Matt Cutts, jefe del equipo de lucha contra el spam de Google, escribió en un blog de la compañía.

Cuando los críticos se refieren a las granjas de contenido, por lo general describen sitios como eHow y Associated Content de Yahoo que publican artículos sobre temas que la gente busca en Google. Los artículos, dice Google, proporciona información cuentionable.

En una reciente entrevista, antes del anuncio del lunes, el señor Cutts dijo que Google intenta determinar si un usuario se siente satisfecho o no al accesar una determinada página después de hacer una búsqueda, y está trabajando en algoritmos para colocar links que lleven omitan ‘granjas de contenido’ en los resultados. La nueva extensión pide directamente a los usuarios que informen a Google sobre los sitios que consideren que no son dignos de su tiempo.

Blekko, una pagina de búsqueda, ha tomado medidas similares. Solamente muestra resultados de una selección de sitios que Blekko y sus usuarios determinan ser de alta calidad, y recientemente esta página creo una lista negra sitios, incluyendo eHow y Answerbag, a partir de sus resultados.

Al ser consultado sobre si Google podría bloquear sitios en su totalidad, el Sr. Cutts dijo: “No hemos llegado a esa posición porque nuestro primer instinto es escribir algoritmos que tienen que ver con las ‘granjas de contenido’.”

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