Cooling pipes and servers at Google Data Center in Dallas. Photo by Burning7 Chrome.
You know who has barely complained about Snowden or said a thing about Snowden?
The New York times did a story "Angry Over US Surveillance, Tech Giants Bolster Defenses" but it had no substance. The story has basically only two sources. One is part of the Snowden Brotherhood:
“The companies, some more than others, are taking steps to make sure that surveillance without their consent is difficult,” said Christopher Soghoian, a senior analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union. “But what they can’t do is design services that truly keep the government out because of their ad-supported business model, and they’re not willing to give up that business model.”
Soghoian is a former Soros fellow and now at the ACLU, he's the most quoted "progressive" "privacy expert" in all these stories, and only represents one school of thought -- absolute encryption for the hackers, maximum transparency for the government. Oh, and hatred of capitalism -- as you can see from the sneer at the business model.
Oh, I complain about this business model, too, but it exists not because of techno-libertarians and techno-neo-liberalism of the sort Evgeny Morozov loathes. It exists because of technocommunism, and the unwillingness of people like Soghoian to couple private property and privacy -- and indeed the entire hackers' support movement spawned by John Perry Barlow and Electronic Frontier Foundation, which mainly disavows intellectual property and commerce online.
The other source is:
A tech industry executive who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivities around the surveillance, said, “Just based on the revelations yesterday, it’s outright theft,” adding, “These are discussions the tech companies are not even aware of, and we find out from a newspaper.”
Oh, and there's this PR flog:
Even before June, Google executives worried about infiltration of their networks. The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the N.S.A. was tapping into the links between data centers, the beating heart of tech companies housing user information, confirming that their suspicions were not just paranoia.
In response, David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, issued a statement that went further than any tech company had publicly gone in condemning government spying. “We have long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping,” he said. “We are outraged at the lengths to which the government seems to have gone.”
That doesn't count. (Because it's just transcribing a press release, not really scouting out real Googlers to get the story.)
The reality is, Google started hiding key word information long before Snowden. I've been noticing for ages that on my blog's list of the referring addresses, there is only "google.com" and no key words when you hover over the URL -- there's only the blog's URL itself. It used to be that I could tell that when somebody typed "Jacob Appelbaum" and "unaccountable" -- that's what brought them to my blog -- many of my hits were precisely from that combination and I presume still are because those stories are among the most popular on this site. But like other bloggers, I can't tell what the key words are anymore. I don't care, because I can more or less figure the subject matter, and I'm uninterested in tying any writing to what those key words are, I write simply what concerns me at the time.
But there is a whole science of search-engine optimization where people try to divine what those key word searches mean, and then fashion blog posts to fit them and get more traffic. These are empty calories to me. I know if I post to Reddit there will be gadzillion hits. And certain subjects get huge hits. But those aren't people to talk to and think along with -- they are drive-bys, gawkers, and they don't interact on Twitter or leave comments. What's the point? Even so, I think Google shouldn't have hidden those key words. I can't possibly see how this relates to privacy because when we saw those referring addresses and words, we didn't see WHO was making those searches. Some URL addresses will refer back to some specific blogger or news article that linked you, but Google searches don't show you anything but the country of search. Why can't they show those words? Isn't more information better?
Perhaps the mechanics of it are that when people's search terms become known even in aggregate or even disconnected to their identity, there's still some kind of leakage that eventually does trace back to them -- well, at least Google knows! And it's not as if Google is stopping itself from knowing this!
There can only be one reason really behind this, and that's the desire of Google to sell this information that before came free. So if I want to be an SEO guru, I have to pay. Little blogs like mine then wouldn't pay, but some giant site with lots of traffic would, as they would for the ads themselves. I feel Google is lying about this, and using Snowden as a cover. Maybe they had to invent Snowden...
Seriously..There's this entirely false impression that Google is "angry" or "has spoken out repeatedly" -- but that's not true. They aren't. The Washington Post reported that two Google engineers contacted informally by a reporter swore when they saw a drawing of the NSA stripping away the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) of their server traffic. But that's not Google being angry. I asked a Google engineer what was up and got...silence (that's Brian Fitzpatrick, no relation, on G+, who posted the Washington Post story without comment -- he's someone who works on the soi-disant "transparency report".) Shouldn't the real response be laughter? Because the real question is "how". The little smiley face doesn't say.
Trust me, when Google is mad, it can do a lot more than amount to a couple of swearing engineers. When it wants to, it knocks laws out of Congress completely -- like SOPA, and CISPA. With a single post on its big front page under "take action," it can produce 7 million petition-signers and more. Google has paid for a lot of Congressional campaigns.
So for Google and the other Big IT folks to write this ridiculously wimpy letter, you have to wonder what's up.
I mean, look how short that thing is, and how lame:
Recent disclosures regarding surveillance activity raise important concerns both in the UnitedStates and abroad. The volume and complexity of the information that has been disclosed inrecent months has created significant confusion here and around the world, making it moredifficult to identify appropriatepolicy prescriptions.
Our companies have consistently madeclear that we only respond to legal demands for customer and userinformation that are targeted and specific. Allowing companies to be transparent about the number and nature of requests will help the public better understand the facts about the government’s authority to compel technology companies to disclose user data and how technology companies respond to the targeted legal demands we receive.
We look forward to working with you, the co-sponsors of your bills, and other members on legislation that takes into account the need of governments to keep individuals around the worlds afe as well as the legitimate privacy interests of our users around the world.
This is all so fake.
“The NSA has finally done something so egregious that the U.S. Internet industry can do nothing but respond with demands for reform of the law to protect their systems and their users,” said Kevin Bankston, who’s helped spearhead the Valley’s message to D.C. while at the Center for Democracy and Technology and is now headed to the New America Foundation.
The disclosure of U.S. spying on allies may temporarily undercut efforts by American companies to sell technology overseas, according to a former official with the Department of Homeland Security.
“We are going to go through a period of substantial skepticism abroad about any technology we’re selling people,” Stewart Baker, a Washington lawyer who headed the department’s policy directorate, said today at a forum on cybersecurity hosted by Bloomberg Government and Symantec Corp. (SYMC)
Then there's Gen. Alexander:
Alexander said government must work with private industry to find ways to improve cybersecurity. President Barack Obama met with chief executives of consumer, utility and defense companies yesterday to discuss proposed voluntary security standards for computer networks.
But you know, we had this in CISPA, and the geek goons inside and outside of government lobbied the president to veto CISPA -- and he did. In fact, I always argue that they should have passed CISPA which would have put those dinner relations under the rule of law.
Look, guys. Who forced the click-ad model on us? Tim Berners-Lee and his architecture choices. That Internet he made which is anti-privacy (to be "collaborative") and resists intellectual property and commerce online as counter to such collaboration. He did not want the commodification of information or knowledge -- which means any form of code to these people - and here we are all with digital goods having a tough time getting paid.
Still, the human marketplace routes around the Cathedral -- to borrow a set of metaphors that the open source cult wanted to be about something else entirely LOL. So a lot of buying and selling does get done on the Internet.
I'd like to think we will move out of the click age, and DRM in HTML5 is maybe one sign of that, but there will have to be a complete rethinking. Or rather, a concerted battle because it is a war -- and it means a war against Bruce Schneier.
Basically, Google already encrypts stuff on their servers, but if this is true, then the NSA just got at the pipes between where vast amounts of data is routed. So, it's like the way Turkmen shepherds who are dirt poor in gas-rich Turkmenistan poke holes in pipelines to get some for free because only a certain amount is rationed by the state.
There's a lot of this story we are just not getting and what is being passed off as barking is not that at all. Stay tuned to the next post.
Here's an interesting statement from a Googler posted on G+. Hat tip Nuno Maia.
Oct 31, 2013
"I can categorically state that nothing resembling the mass surveillance of individuals by governments within our systems has ever crossed my plate.
If it had, even if I couldn't talk about it, in all likelihood I would no longer be working at Google.
Whatever the NSA was doing involving the mass harvesting of information, it did not involve being on the inside of Google. And I, personally, am by now disgusted with their conduct: the national security apparatus has convinced itself and the rest of the government that the only way it can do its job is to know everything about everyone. That's not how you protect a country. We didn't fight the Cold War just so we could rebuild the Stasi ourselves." -- +Yonatan Zunger
+Nuno Maia Thanks. But then the question is, if he didn't see anything like that, why is he disgusted with a government that wasn't doing that, as far as he knows? See, that's what's so weird about all this. Either he's right and the government didn't do this, in which case he should join the effort to expose Greenwald and Snowden as manipulating perceptions for their own agenda. Or he should find proof of what he know believes the government is doing. But he's trying to have it both ways.