Dark Google: more reasons the world needs SAFEnetwork

This analysis of Google lays out some of the dangers facing the “old” internet, and gives much weight to the arguments for SAFEnetwork (and why I think measures for rapid mass adoption such as this - plug - are so important! :slightly_smiling:) :

See also Dark Facebook: more reasons we need SAFEnetwork

Well worth reading, but here are some extracts

Schmidt warns that were the E.U. to oppose Google’s practices, Europe risks becoming „an innovation desert.” Just the opposite is more likely true. Thanks in part to Google’s exquisite genius in the science of surveillance, the audacity with which it has expropriated users’ rights to privacy, and the aggressive tactics of the NSA, people are losing trust in the entire digital medium. It is this loss of trust that stands to kill innovation. To make some sense of our predicament, let’s take a fresh look at how we got here, the nature of the threats we face, and the stakes for the future.

Google and other companies rushed into the new space too, and for a while it seemed that they were aligned with the popular expectations of trust and collaboration. But as pressures for profit increased, Google, Facebook, and others shifted to an advertising model that required the covert capture of user data as the currency for ad sales. Profits rapidly materialized and motivated ever more ruthless and determined data collection. The new science of data mining exploded, driven in part by Google’s spectacular success.

The outcome was the elaboration of a new commercial logic based on hidden surveillance. Most people did not understand that they and their friends were being tracked, parsed, and mined without their knowledge or consent.

A steady stream of eruptions from the new zone provides evidence of this new logic of operations. For example, Google faces a series of contentious lawsuits over its secret scanning of all Gmail, including mail from non-Gmail accounts. It first tried to conceal the scanning procedures in 2010 and only fully acknowledged them after four years of public outcry. In one „potentially explosive” lawsuit Google acknowledged that it unilaterally scans millions of email messages sent or received by the 30 million student users of the the company’s Apps for Education tools. In 2012 Google face more outrage and lawsuits when it announced that it would consolidate data about its users from all its services without any mechanism of consent.

Google Street View launched in 2007 is another example of the company’s absolutism. It didn’t ask if it could photograph homes for public consumption, it just took what it wanted and waited for any resistance to exhaust itself in defeat. Ultimately Street View would face protests and restrictions in many countries across the EU as well as Japan, Greece, and Canada.
The Shared Interest of NSA and Google

By 2010 the German Federal Commissioner for Data Protection announced that Google’s Street View operation also camouflaged a covert data sweep from users of private Wi-Fi networks. He called for an immediate halt to Street View in Germany and erasure of all illegally captured data. Other countries followed with their own investigations and prosecutions.

The Electronic Privacy and Information Center has consistently pressed the case. It maintains a detailed overview of the worldwide outrage, protests, investigations, litigation, and settlements in response to Google Street View and its secret data gathering tactics.

In 2010, Google established a partnership with the NSA that added to the complexity and opacity of operations in the new zone. The ostensible trigger for this public-private alliance was Google’s discovery that the Chinese had hacked its infrastructure. However, the NSA already had a keen interest in all things Google. It struggled with the demands of tracking objects and discerning patterns in Internet time. The NSA was actively developing the same tools and capabilities that allowed Google to search and analyze masses of data at warp speed.

A New Business Model

The U.S. Justice Department kept the partnership secret, but news reports, court documents, and eventually the Snowden leaks reveals a picture of interdependence and collaboration. As former director of the NSA Mike McConnell put it, “ Recent reports of possible partnership between Google and the government point to the kind of joint efforts – and shared challenges – that we are likely to see in the future…Cyberspace knows no borders, and our defensive efforts must be similarly seamless.” The NSA developed its own software to mimic the Google infrastructure, uses Google “cookies” to identify targets for hacking, and widely accesses emails and other data through the PRISM program, the costs of which it covered for Google and other Internet firms.

Google and Facebook had led the way in colonizing the new zone with a commercial logic based on surveillance. Now the Google-NSA alliance added new layers and capabilities, as well as a complex public-private dimension that remains poorly understood. Whatever the details might be, the new logic spread to other companies and applications, driving the growth and success of operations in the new zone.

Despite this growth, it’s been difficult to grasp the changing social relations that are produced in the new zone. associated withi Google’s new commercial logic. There are two reasons for this. First, the companies move faster than individuals or democratic public institutions can follow. Second, its operations are designed to be undetectable. It’s this later point that I want to focus on for a moment.

Google’s Radical Politics

I find I’m now quoting the entire article! If you’ve read this far, maybe go read it from here on. :slightly_smiling:

Update, form the concluding paragraphs…

We are beyond the realm of economics here. This is not merely a conversation about free markets; it’s a conversation about free people.

It’s an urgent new public conversation that can’t be reduced to 20th century technical debates about Google’s monopoly status or competitive practices. We tend to revert to these old categories in the absence of ready language and law that can help us discern the full implications of what is taking shape. But such specialized professional arguments shift the Google debate from the realm of everyday life and ordinary people to the arcane interests of economists and bureaucrats. They obscure the fact that the issues have shifted from monopolies of products or services to monopolies of rights: rights to privacy and rights to reality. These new forms of power, poorly understood except by their own practitioners, threaten the sovereignty of the democratic social contract.

We are powerful too. Our demands for self-determination are not easily extinguished. We made Google, perhaps by loving it too much. We can unmake it, if we must. The challenge is to understand what is at stake and how quickly things are moving. The need is to come together in our diversity to preserve a future in which many visions can thrive, not just one –– Where many rights can flourish, not just some.

@nicklambert I think this author is someone to reach out to when the network is ready, or maybe sooner, so she’s aware of this aspect of the “double movement”:

Shoshana Zuboff is the author of The Summons: Our Fight for the Soul of an Information Civilization (forthcoming, 2015). She is the Charles Edward Wilson Professor of Business Administration (retired) at the Harvard Business School and a Faculty Associate at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at the Harvard Law School. http://twitter.com/shoshanazuboff

EDIT: Only just noticed this was from April 2014, but it’s still must read dynamite IMO. I leaned a lot from this article.