NSA staff and private contractors have unfettered access to this information. I have a hard
time believing that not one of them has used that access to information for personal or political
gain. This system makes insider trading, industrial espionage, blackmail, and extortion an almost
inevitable outcome. --
The Guardian (from comments).
A new round of debates about the dominance of military industrial complex and the level of control
it exerts over the US civil society was caused by recent revelations about NSA activities in the USA.
It might well be the Rubicon was crossed around JFK assassination time. On August 17, 1975 Senator
Frank Church stated on NBC's Meet the Press without
mentioning the name of the NSA (Church
Committee - Wikipedia ):
In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government
has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through
the air. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or
potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned
around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability
to monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no
place to hide.
If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the
technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to
impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort
to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within
the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology.
I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there
to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess
this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that
abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.
In other words expansionism and mission creep are immanent qualities, the second nature of large bureaucracies, and
unless there is countervailing force. In the absence of countervailing forces they tend to escape from civil control and form a state within a state.
In a way any state with powerful three-letter agencies stand with one leg in a tyranny, even if it
itself a democracy. And that fact was already known to everybody in 1975 (Church
Committee). Actually just after president
Kennedy assassination, which, no matter which version of events you adopt, in all cases indirectly pointed
out that three letter agencies jumped out of control of civil government. As one Guardian reader commented
"The pernicious thing is that it is in the nature of bureaucracies in general and spy agencies in particular
to expand beyond reason unless there is effective oversight."
The nature of bureaucracies in general and spy agencies in particular to expand beyond
reason unless there is effective oversight. In the case of intelligence agencies it has proven
impossible for civil authorities to control them. Recent stories about CIA spying on the US
Senate Intelligence Committee just prove this.
A statement issued Thursday morning by a C.I.A. spokesman said that John O. Brennan, the
agency’s director, had apologized to Ms. Feinstein and the committee’s ranking Republican,
Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and would set up an internal accountability board to review
the issue. The statement said that the board, which will be led by a former Democratic senator,
Evan Bayh of Indiana, could recommend “potential disciplinary measures” and “steps to address
But anger among lawmakers grew throughout the day. Leaving a nearly three-hour briefing about the
report in a Senate conference room, members of both parties called for the C.I.A. officers to be
held accountable, and some said they had lost confidence in Mr. Brennan’s leadership. “This is a
serious situation and there are serious violations,” said Mr. Chambliss, generally a staunch ally
of the intelligence community. He called for the C.I.A. employees to be “dealt with very
Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado and another member of the Intelligence Committee,
demanded Mr. Brennan’s resignation. “The C.I.A. unconstitutionally spied on Congress by hacking
into the Senate Intelligence Committee computers,” he said in a written statement. “This grave
misconduct not only is illegal but it violates the U.S. Constitution’s requirement of separation
You can't get a more solid proof of total surveillance... Please note that Brennan
continued his tenure as the head of CIA; attempts to depose him after the incident by some Senators
failed. That suggest who was the winner in this skirmish.
That also means that contrary to common perception intelligence agencies are political players
and as such are quite capable to defend their staffing and resource consumption levels, despite inefficient waist of resources
as typical for large bureaucracies. In other words they are no longer technocratic, but tend to
emerge as political bodies, the core of the "deep
a Political Coalition). The story of John Brennan the former head of CIA in Obama administration
tell volumes about such tendencies. During and after 2016 Presidential elections he emerged as a
powerful political broker, later aligning with Hillary Clinton in efforts to form a political
coalition capable of deposing President Trump.
We can admire the immortal foresight and moral courage of Secretary of State Henry Stimson's who closed the Cipher
Bureau in 1929. But this highly ethical, moral and courageous act deprived the US of the capacity
to read foreign diplomatic cables as world-wide threats grew. So it was quickly reversed.
In a way technology dictates the level of government surveillance in the society and in "Internet
society" it looks like this level is permanently set on "high". That does not mean that we can't
fight it. Yes, we can and one factor that played into the hands of defenders of personal privacy is
the you can't drink from a fire hose: as soon as you connect too much information it devalues
itself. Also methods of "injecting" false metadata into your profile are reality available. for
example for Internet browsing anybody with programmable keyboard can do that. That means that you
the set of sites you visited no longer can be considered authentic in "Post-Snowden" world. That
dooms effort to assign you a level of "loyalty" based on your browsing history, which is very
temping for three letter agencies to do. Recent failed attempt to create a site that claffies
some sites are "Russian propaganda" sites belong to this category (Washington
Post Disgracefully Promotes a McCarthyite Blacklist From a New, Hidden, and Very Shady Group.)
But such attempts were just shifted to another domain -- "leak prevention" training:
Part of the
“Unauthorized Disclosure” training includes watching a
Fox News clip on the crackdown on leaks and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ statement
announcing an increase in criminal leak investigations. A
student guide from the Insider Threat Awareness training includes the McCarthyesque request
that employees report on each other for “general suspicious behaviors,” including “Questionable
national loyalty” such as “Displaying questionable loyalty to US government or company” or
“Making anti-U.S. comments.” Never mind that the only oath government employees take is to the US
Constitution, not to any government official or the US government itself and certainly not to a
This also opens people to browsing blackmail.
In this sense post-snowmen world is inherently more difficult for three-letter agencies to navigate.
Technology changes can really change the society. And not always in a beneficial for the society way.
There is such thing as "blowback" in technologies. We can view recent NSA activities revealed by Snowden
as a classic example of such blowback connected with the spread of Internet and cloud based
technologies. In a way Internet begets surveillance. And you can do nothing about it. As
former Sun CEO Scott McNealy (born November 13, 1954) said "You have zero privacy
anyway. Getoverit." (see also Privacy is
Dead – Get Over It).
I think that the first attempt to create a comprehensive nation-wide intelligence network that monitors
sentiments of the citizens and hunt enemies of the state goes as far back as Napoleon and his famous
minister of police Joseph Fouché.
Or may be it even goes as far back as to
Byzantine Empire with its first in history organized network of spies. As for recording of mail
envelopes, we can even claim that this function for international mail (in a form of "black chambers")
is as old as states are. In the USA it started in full force in August 1919 when
J. Edgar Hoover became head
of the Bureau of Investigation's
new General Intelligence Division—also known as the Radical Division because its explicit
goal was to monitor and disrupt the work of domestic radicals.
Recording of all email envelopes started long before email was
invented and became established practice since the WWII for all regular mail entering or leaving the
country. It just got a new name now -- collection of metadata and the technology that allow
correlation of multiple sets of metadata exposing hidden "networks".
Recording metadata of phone calls and often the calls themselves first started before WWII and technology
was first polished on international calls, which for obvious reasons are of great interest to all governments.
As intelligence agencies were one of the first to deploy computers after WWII it would be naive to
assume that IBM/360 mainframes were not used to analyze collection of metadata of international calls
as early as in
Hoover and his chosen assistant, George Ruch monitored a variety of U.S. radicals with the intent
to punish, arrest, or deport them. Targets during this period included Marcus Garvey; Rose Pastor Stokes
and Cyril Briggs; Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman; and future Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter,
whom Hoover nicknamed as "the most dangerous man in the United States". So those
radicals served a guinea pigs for polishing methods of collection of communications using electronic
means of surveillance.
So it would be a mistake
to assume that such activities started with 9/11 events and that Bush II was totally responsible
for converting the USA into national-security state. The technology was ready at least 15
years before 9/11 (explosive growth of internet in the USA started in 1996) and new methods of
collection of information that are technically available are always adopted and used by clandestine agencies. They tend to adopt technology
as soon as it is available, being, in a pervert way, classic "early adopters" of any communication
or computer technology.
And this happens not only in the USA, although the USA as the technological leader was
probably most profoundly
The creation and use of databases of personal information and the systematic records (archives) of
communications of citizens started simultaneously with NSA creation. The first targets were mail and
telegraph. Some of this experience came from specialists of Third Reich who were brought to the
country after the WWII. At the height of the Cold War
in the 1950s, law enforcement and intelligence leaders like J. Edgar Hoover at the FBI. and Allen
Dulles at the CIA. aggressively recruited former Nazis of all ranks as secret, anti-Soviet “assets,”
declassified records show. They believed the ex-Nazis’ intelligence value against the Russians outweighed
what one official called “moral lapses” in their service to the Third Reich. The agency hired one former
SS officer as a spy in the 1950s, for instance, even after concluding he was probably guilty of “minor
war crimes.” And in 1994, a lawyer with the CIA pressured prosecutors to drop an investigation into
an ex-spy outside Boston implicated in the Nazis’ massacre of tens of thousands of Jews in Lithuania,
according to a government official (In Cold War, U.S.
Spy Agencies Used 1,000 Nazis - NYTimes.com).
We don't know when it was extended on domestic calls, but from purely technical perspective this was
a trivial extension of already existing and polished capacity and probably abuse was stated
gradually as soon as power of computers allow that.
But what is true is that after 9/11 and the passage of the USA Patriot Act, the USA government got all the pre-conditions
necessary for installing a regime of aggressive total surveillance. Which actually was a hidden intent
and 9/11 was just a convenient pretext much like Tonkin incident in Vietnam war. And in this respect
Ed Snowden, whatever is his motivation (which might be
not as simple as most people assume), did the right thing, when he with the risk to his life informed
the US public and the world about those activities. You may approve those revelations, you may disapprove
them (and they did damage the USA as a state and devalue many methods which were extremely effective
before the revelations), but keeping them secret from the US public is a crime.
NSA technically is a data collection agency. While it has legitimate function to monitor information
that is crossing the national border as well as intercept communication of the US adversaries (which
is a very flexible category those days ;-), we need to understand that the abuse of this function is
inevitable. That actually the nature of the beast -- like any bureaucratic
organizations they tend to expand their sphere of activities and escape form control -- and in this
sense existence of powerful state intelligence agencies is incompatible with the democracy. In
this sense the appointment of
Allan Dulles (who paradoxically was appointed the director under
Eisenhower administration in 1952; Eisenhower warnings about the danger of military-industrial
complex notwithstanding) was really unfortunate.
But the capacities to do this
type of work had grown dramatically over last four decades. In a way NSA became a victim of growing
power of computers as well inherent tendency of bureaucracies, especially government bureaucracies
to expand and self-justify their expansion. The classic case was the USSR where KGB was a real "state
within the state" and sometimes it was not completely clear whether the Party controls KGB or KGB controls
But the capacities to do this
type of work had grown dramatically over last four decades. In a way NSA became a victim of growing
power of computers and as well inherent tendency of bureaucracies, especially government bureaucracies
to expand and self-justify their expansion. The classic case was the USSR where KGB was a real "state
within the state" and sometimes it was not completely clear whether the Party controls KGB or KGB controls
There is deep analogy between financial services and intelligence services. Both try to escape
from the control of democratic society. Both try to control the society instead of serve it. As they
operate with large and uncontrolled amount of money soon after their creation inevitably the "the
tail wagging the dog" (Merriam-Webster):
the tail wagging the dog —used to describe
a situation in which an important or powerful person, organization, etc., is being controlled by
someone or something that is much less important or powerful
At some point the permanent
unelected bureaucracy, became the shadow government instead of facilitating the decisions of elected
officials. This process proceeds quicker if a sociopath manage to slip to the role of the head of
such an organization. That's what the term "deep state" is about. Some authors such as
Douglas Horne view JFK assassination as a political coup d'état launched from the highest
levels of US leadership (JFK’s
War with the National Security Establishment Why Kennedy Was Assassinated). Here is a quote from
the foreword by Jacob G. Hornberger:
By the end of November 1961, profoundly dissatisfied with his own national security advisory
apparatus, President Kennedy had firmly pushed back against the national security establishment
(in this case the NSC, the State Department, and the CIA) by purging and/or reshuffling many of
the civilian hawks in his own administration into other positions, and by placing officials more
in line with his own views into key positions. [A change in the top leadership at the Pentagon
was to come later, in 1962.] Throughout 1961, the new President had painfully but quickly learned
to be quite skeptical of the advice he was receiving, pertaining to matters of war and peace,
from his hawkish advisors; and as 1961 progressed, John F. Kennedy repeatedly demonstrated what
the hawks in government (the majority) no doubt considered a disturbingly independent (and
increasingly all-too-predictable) frame of mind in regard to the national security
recommendations he was receiving from the “sacred cows” and “wise men” in Washington, D.C. As I
shall demonstrate in these essays, by the end of 1962, the national security establishment in
Washington D.C., which had quickly come to know JFK as a skeptic during
1961, had come to view him as a heretic; and by November of 1963, the
month he was assassinated, they no doubt considered him an apostate,
for he no longer supported most of the so-called “orthodox” views of the Cold War priesthood.
Increasingly alone in his foreign policy judgments as 1963 progressed, JFK was nevertheless
proceeding boldly to end our “Holy
War” against Communism, instead of trying to win
it. In retrospect it is clear that the national security establishment wanted to
win our own particular “jihad” of the
post-WW II era by turning the Cold War against the USSR into a “hot war,” so that we could
inflict punishing and fatal blows upon our Communist adversaries (and any other forces we equated
with them) on the battlefield. It was this desire for “hot war” by so
many within the establishment — their belief that conventional “proxy wars” with the Soviet Bloc
were an urgent necessity, and that nuclear war with the USSR was probably inevitable — to which
President Kennedy was so adamantly opposed. And it was JFK’s profound determination to avoid
nuclear war by miscalculation, and to eschew combat with conventional arms unless it was truly
necessary, that separated him from almost everyone else in his administration from 1961
throughout 1963, as events have shown us.
Total surveillance is not so much about terrorism. It's also and mainly about the control of
the society by unelected elite. Terrorism is a false pretext
-- a smoke screen, if you like. Let's state clearly -- the main goal of total surveillance was the same
since it was introduced in Nazi Germany: "Let them be afraid". It's the same as in former German Democratic Republic (with
its famous Stasi). In all cases it is to prevent any challenge to the ruling elite or in the
terminology of neoliberal "color revolutions" prevent "regime
change", unless it is initiated by more powerful foreign three letter agencies and
significantly higher level of financial resources (that's why three letter agencies of newly minted
xUSSR state in several cases were unable to prevent color revolutions of their territories).
In other words surveillance and intelligence agencies are part and parcel of the totalitarian state.
And Sheldon Volin actually created a term for such "pseudo-democratic" regime --
Unlike classic totalitarism it generally tend to avoid using violence to crush the
dissidents and opposition to the current elite. More "soft" subversive methods are enough. In this
sense the story of crushing "of "Occupy Wall Street" movement is a testament of their
State actors and well funded terrorist organization are a difficult nut to crack. Any
"custom" encrypted communication is far more difficult for intercepting party to decode, then
"standard" encryption methods. Some encryption methods virtually guarantee that it is
impossible without stealing the key. Even detecting the fact of communication for such parties
nowadays is very difficult as it can be hidden in some "carrier" transmission (steganography)
or split into multiple channels. Those who have access
to technology and to "know how" including the most recent exploits are well armed to
resist attempt to intercept their communication. That includes most powerful foreign states.
That means that NSA has great difficulties intercepting and decoding traffic
that is intended to be hidden from state actors. Modern encryption systems such
One-Time-Pad virtually guarantee
that you get the "insider information" of the pad used (typically from a mole) they are
impenetrable. Even regular encryption methods can be enhanced by additional step of compressing the
files transmitted (which by and large eliminates redundancy if done properly and do not leave "tell"
sign of the method encryption used) . Decoding is easier when standard algorithms with
possible backdoors are used but even in this case I have doubts
(Triple DEC). That's why attempts to compensate this deficiency are being developed and one
obvious path is intercepting regular citizen communication of foreign countries which are
considered to be unfriendly or adversarial to current the US foreign policy goals (which is the
expansion and maintenance of global the Us-led neoliberal empire).
But the situation with "open" traffic is completely different. Million of people
outside the USA use Facebook, Amazon, Gmail and similar platforms. Which makes them a low
hanging fruit and here NSA is the king of the hill. Government officials also sometimes use
regular email and social sites (see
Hillary Clinton email scandal).
So intelligence agencies were provided with an important opening (and it might well be that the
dramatic growth of Webmail has something to do with their interests)
At the same time the abundance of information, as Biney mentioned, creates another problem -- the problem
of "drinking from a fire hose" -- they tend to collect too much information and are swamped with the volume. Of cause correlation of open traffic
of "suspicious persons" can reveal some hidden information, but this is a pretty expensive
undertaking, because by definition (unless this is Hillary Clinton ;-) those persons are aware that they are watched,
trained to avoid surveillance (including electronic) and behave accordingly. for example
General Petraeus used an interesting method to communicate with his
biographer and mistress (The
Washington Post) :
They wrote their "intimate messages" as
draft e-mails in a shared Gmail account,
according to the AP, allowing them to see one anothers' messages while leaving a
much fainter data trail. When messages are sent and received, both accounts record the
transmission as well as such metadata as the IP addresses on either end, something the
two seemed to be seeking to avoid.
Petraeus and Broadwell apparently used a trick, known to terrorists and teen-agers
alike, to conceal their email traffic, one of the law enforcement officials said.
Rather than transmitting emails to the other's inbox, they composed at least some
messages and instead of transmitting them, left them in a draft folder or in an
electronic "dropbox," the official said. Then the other person could log onto the
same account and read the draft emails there. This avoids creating an email trail
that is easier to trace.
With the power of modern computers,
decoys and steganography offer almost unlimited possibility to obscure the traffic.
Concern about the NSA assault on our privacy is no paranoid fantasy. In the
words of an agency PowerPoint slide released by Snowden, the goal is to "collect it all", "process
it all" and "know it all". The massive surveillance program is a clear violation of the Forth
amendment prohibiting "unreasonable searches" of "persons, houses, papers, and effects" without
- Gene Epstein. "In defence of Snowden",
review of "No Place to Hide" Barrons, Jan 5, 2015, p 17
UN Human Right Council Report (17 April 2013) innovations in technology not only have increased
the possibilities for communication and protections of free expression and opinion, enabling anonymity,
rapid information-sharing and cross-cultural dialogues. They also simultaneously increased opportunities
for State surveillance and interventions into individuals’ private communications facilitating to transformation
of the state into National Security State, a form of corporatism characterized
by continued and encompassing all forms of electronic communication electronic surveillance of all citizens.
Now every Internet or smartphone users probably understand that since probably 2003 or even earlier that that he/she is watched 24
by 7, or as Soviet dissidents called it "Was placed under the [surveillance] dome". Some question that we need to ask ourselves
When the quantity of collected data turns into quality. At some point the amount of collected
information about the person, no matter how trivial, allows things that are drastically different
then simple monitoring of traffic for suspicious elements. It is essentially step up from STASI-style dossier mechanism on most
adult citizens of the USA (and not only USA). Accidentally STASI was created exactly the same year
as NSA, in 1950 and now some of their activities look more and more like identical twins.
And with the level on Internet communications many people have, such "per person" dossier quickly
reaches to the "critical mass" of facts
In a way
You really already
live in a virtual prison watched 24 by 7 by unknown to you guards. For example, just tracking metadata of all
the calls from your cell phone along with GPS information is almost equivalent hiring a private detective to watch
you. Add to this all your credit card records, Amazon orders and browsing records, your emails and SMS and you can beat capability of
a regular private "gum shoes" watching you, by a wide margin spending just cents of a
And this is only a start as I did not mention your own "self-revelation"
activities on social sites like Facebook. And if you add to this your web logs (which, by the way, record every
site you visited and every page you browsed) and your posts at Web forums (if any), photo sharing and
your files at cloud storage sites (if you participate)
along with the ability to store collected information for, say, 20 years or your lifetime electronically, and STASI efforts in
human surveillance looks like an expensive and amateurish overkill. Using Internet and
smartphone surveillance you can get much better
information on an individual for much less money/effort using modern technology alone, without any
gum shoes and/or informers.
Back in June, when the contents of Edward Snowden's cache of NSA documents were
just starting to be revealed and we learned about the NSA collecting phone
metadata of every American, many people -- including President Obama -- discounted
the seriousness of the NSA's actions by saying that it's just metadata.
Imagine you hired a detective to eavesdrop on someone. He might plant a bug in
their office. He might tap their phone. He might open their mail. The result would
be the details of that person's communications. That's the "data."
Now imagine you hired that same detective to surveil that person. The result
would be details of what he did: where he went, who he talked to, what he looked
at, what he purchased -- how he spent his day. That's all metadata.
When the government collects metadata on people, the government puts them under
surveillance. When the government collects metadata on the entire country, they
put everyone under surveillance. When Google does it, they do the same thing.
Metadata equals surveillance; it's that simple.
Metadata proved to be an extremely powerful way to reveals the person lifestyle and views.
Actually no less clearly then the direct interception
of the content of emails and phone calls. Systematic, total analysis of metadata of cell phone
calls was first used against Iraq insurgents as knowledge of Arabic language is not a strong point
of US military, or three letter agencies. And it proved to be a great success, as it allows to narrow the set of suspects
quickly and cheaply (the USA controlled all cell networks in the country). But later this initial
success was extended and became a universal surveillance tool within the USA, which is more powerful
then in Iraq as you can also analyze the content of messages such as emails or instant messages.
And as you add to phone calls Internet communications logs and metadata such as emails and web logs
and top it with credit card transactions, any person is actually like a bug under extremely powerful
and very cheap microscope.
Should you think twice about what are you sharing with others via your Web communications?
to some extent you should. Pointless relevation of information about yourself but also about your family and friends
is dangerious. The sad truth is that just by
the fact of using all those modern gargets and social networks you already is sharing a lot more personal
information than you intend to share... This self-exposure is actually a build-in feature
of sites such as Facebook. And taken as a whole for a considerable period of time your online activities
create a personal cloud of information about you. Which can along with the state be used by
criminals or other parties. It is not that NSA knows about you more then your
spouse, but it knows enough. And as you can see from the picture below is not a good thing. Look at the picture attentively,
it really deserves your uninterrupted attention:
Even if we assume that data collection is passive and never used, it is like a ticking
bomb or "skeleton in the closet" and as such is a powerful method of control of population. Not
the different from what was used by KGB in the USSR or STASI in East Germany. And probably
more effective as quick dissipation of Occupy Wall Street crowds had shown us.
So it does not really matter much what the data are collected for and what is the official justification
of such a collection. The mere fact of collection changes the situation to the worse, making the opposition
to the system practically impossible and personally costly. The net result is what is matter. And the net result definitely
resembles a move in the direction of a tyranny of the top 1%. As Senator Frank Church said in 1975:
"I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to
it that this agency [the National Security Agency] and all agencies that possess this technology
operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That
is the abyss from which there is no return.".
Today his words sound even more true then in 1975 when computers were still in their infancy and
mainframes dominated the computer landscape. With the proliferation of cheap electronic devices such
as PCs and laptops, tablets and cell phones this really became "the abyss from which there is
So the real, the key goal is not what is officially declared (Orwell style permanent war on terrorism).
It is control of population like in was in the USSR and Eastern Germany. In a way we are all Eastern
Germans now, but in a completely different sense then Kennedy meant when he proposed his famous
(Ich bin ein Berliner)
Convenience of access to information has a side effect that it makes collection of information about
you trivial and at the same time comprehensive. It is to keep the elite safe from common folks, not
all those lies about national security. It is all about the security of the elite.
The story of J. Edgar
Hoover suggests that "knowledge is power" and the top brass of intelligence agencies routinely
and consistently develops a pathological addiction to collecting "skeletons in the closet" for the
people in power. This is a part of more complex trend due to which intelligence agencies often
are called as "shadow government". Often such people actually derive pleasure from having power over
nation politicians due to knowing some secret and embarrassing information on them.It is
in this sense (and also die to capability to conduct clandestine operations) troika of NSA, CIA and
FBI represent real, although shadow government of the country. This is the danger Senator Church
warned us, but the horse probably left the barn at the time of assignation of President Kennedy.
Please note that none of presidents was able to fire
J. Edgar Hoover He died
in his position of the head of FBI. The ability to manipulate other, even very powerful people is
very tempting. As Kissinger used to say "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac." A related questions
Whether NSA spied and "collected dirt" on members of Congress? Some information suggests
that they did:
Is executive branch interested in continuation of this practice? The answer is yes.
As Conor Friedersdorf noted on Feb 5, 2014 in
The Atlantic magazine "The phone dragnet gives the executive branch all the information
it needs to blackmail or discredit multiple legislators. It's a temptation to abuse."
Does NSA directly or indirectly has ties to the financial sector especially related to
the providing them with the information on the flow of funds of the foreign competitors ?
Times, Dec 18, 2013). As
"Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the
common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do
not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic
Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political
power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they
may keep the common man in eternal subjection.
They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the
They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time
of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead. "
..."If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power
ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States.”
It the situation irreversible? In other words did 1984 dystopia materialized in slightly
different, slightly more gentle form? Probably yes. Cutting funds to three letter agencies would
be a small step in right direction. But the main value of 9/11 for the US establishment was that
it made such moves impossible. Also the elite as a whole is not interesting in dismantling the tool
that serve its interests so well even if it has some side effects on the elite members themselves
(looks at the discussion of surveillance over Trump and members of his team).
A related question is:
Is transformation of USA into USSA (United Secret Services of America) compete or just
started. The answer is that it is almost complete. This is just another confirmation of
The Iron Law of Oligarchy
All-in-all it's a good time to smell the coffee and talk about the rise of a new mutation of totalitarism
(or may be even neofascism -- as it is, essentially, the merger of corporate and state interests) in the
US after 9/11. That's exactly what this "Internet-inspired" flavor of total surveillance due to modern
technical capabilities means. There is also distinct shadow of STASI in all those activities. And some
countries got into similar trap before, so nothing is new under the sun. As Reinhold Niebuhr noted:
"Communism is a vivid object lesson in the monstrous consequences of moral complacency about
the relation of dubious means to supposedly good ends."
There is actually little difference between total surveillance as practiced by NSA and what was practiced
by three letters agencies of Eastern block dictatorships such as STASI and KGB. The key goal in both
cases is protection and preservation of power of existing elite against the will of common people. So
this is more about oppression of 99.9% from top 0.1% then surveillance per see.
We should view Snowden revelations in a larger context. Much of what he revealed about militarization
of cyberspace was already known at the time when
Stuxnet worms were discovered in 2011. He just dot the i's and cross the t's , so speak. As a result
of his revelations, as
National Interest noted:
An increasing number of adversaries and even allies are coming to believe that the United
States is militarizing cyberspace — and that impression of hubris and irresponsibility is beginning
to have a real-world impact.
...The Snowden leaks have brought Stuxnet, the U.S.-Israeli program allegedly used to attack Iranian
computer systems, back into public debate — and reminded us that the real damage of the Snowden
revelations will be international.
...the perception that the United States has become a danger to the global internet is a cause
for concern. In their understandable anger at the considerable damage Snowden has done (in the
near term at the very least) to the operations of NSA and their allies, U.S. security officials should
not lose sight of this fact.
Snowden’s claims build on the Stuxnet revelations. In doing so, they reinforce an impression
of overbearing U.S. cyberpower (military and commercial) being used irresponsibly. That is strikingly
at odds with the U.S. self-image as a standard bearer of internet freedom and “borderless” exchange,
but it is a view that resonates around the world.
In fact the USA policies are stimulating economic and political rivals around the globe to organize
and present unified front against this new and dangerous form of total surveillance. As well as
implement similar domestic systems. In other words a new arm race started.
As methods and infrastructure of those activities are now revealed, the genie is out of the bottle
and can't be put back -- the US now should expect the same or worse treatment from other nations.
Which can be no less inventive, or even more inventive the USA specialists in this area. And in
this new arm race economically weaker nations actually has some leverage. Blowback, a CIA term for
unintended consequences of foreign, military, or clandestine policies, can be similar to the blowback
of politically organizing Islamic radicals to fight Soviets in Afghanistan in the past.
Nemesis, the goddess of retribution and vengeance, the punisher of pride and hubris, probably already
waits patiently for her meeting with the NSA brass.
Blowback can irreparably damage the ability of the United States to obtain crucial information
in foreign environments that are poorly understood in Washington. The cultural divide that exists
when operating away from home means that CIA and NSA frequently work overseas through a network of
liaison contacts. This in theory limits their activity, but it broadens their ability to collect
information that can only be plausibly obtained by a local organization with local capabilities.
Though nearly everyone also operates clandestinely outside the parameters of the established relationships
insofar as it is possible or expedient to do so, there is an awareness that being caught can
cause grave damage to the liaison relationship. Because being exposed is nearly always very
painful, such operations are normally limited to collection of critical information that the liaison
partner would be unwilling to reveal.
So while it might be comforting to claim that “everyone does it” at least some of the time,
and it may even be true that local spy agencies sometimes collaborated with NSA, the United States
has a great deal to lose by spying on its friends. This is particularly true as Washington,
uniquely, spies on everyone, all the time, even when there is no good reason for doing so.
Centralization of user activities on sites like Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, LinkedIn,
with email account mainly at Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo mail along with many positive aspects has tremendous
negative side effects. The most significant is that it created a way too easy opportunity both for those
organizations as well as government agencies and large corporations to data mine email and Web communications
of millions of Americans critical about government (see
keywords in your posts that might trigger surveillance) and all foreigners who use those
services (and that includes a significant part of European population and Russia, who have Gmail, Facebook
or Yahoo accounts). The history of "total surveillance" suggests that it tends to be abused. It is also
huge, irreparable breach on trust in relation to allies. Closely resembles the situation in family when
wife or husband learn that the other hired detective to snoop on you.
The analogy with KGB surveillance of dissidents (the Soviet term for total surveillance was "to be
under the 'dome' ") and, especially, Stasi
(viewing the film "The Lives of Others" might help to understand the phenomenon of "total surveillance")
are way too close. At the same time there is an important difference: while such regime does mean indirect
(and pretty effective) intimidation of dissidents, cases of prosecution on the base of the those data
are either few or non existent, which is a big difference with KGB or
Stasi practice. The latter aggressively
pursued those who got in their net trying either to convert them into informers or charge them with
the some suitable article of Criminal Code. In some cases that practice lead to suicides. So here we
can talk more properly talk about total surveillance an instrument of
Inverted Totalitarism, or totalitarism in velvet
We are talking about "passive total surveillance" and temporary (which might be several years or
your lifetime) storage of all intercepted data. But in a way, Senator McCartney was probably right about
"Communists sympathizers" and communist infiltration, he just was completely wrong about who they are
The famous The Police hit Every
Breath You Take should probably be the theme song for the NSA. As Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us
in his famous speech:
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence,
whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous
rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
Snowden revelations are not something new. The only real revelation was how much of it was going
on domestically and gory details of such activities. Before 9/11 the NSA was basically prohibited from
operating domestically. Of course it violates those prohibitions, but there were no systematic internal,
all encompassing technical surveillance infrastructure in place. Now it is build and is deployed nation-wide.
And that's a big change, big difference. Due to "novel" interpretation of a few provisions in the Patriot
Act they created domestic dragnet which encompass most types of Internet communications. In addition
to intercepting more then 70% of Internet traffic they also enjoy direct access to major cloud providers.
Total continued surveillance even without taking any action on collected data is totalitarian by
its nature as it put severe restrictions of the freedom of expression. And like in the USSR, it does
change people behavior on the Web. People start thinking about consequences and this page is one of
attempts to collect information that might help you to see "bigger picture".
The key mechanism here, well known to those who used to live in the USSR before its dissolution is
that people do react on the fact that everything they email, visit, buy on Amazon, etc is registered
in giant database outside of their control. Internet will never be the same for most people after Snowden
The key mechanism here, well known to those who used to live in the USSR before its dissolution
is that people do react on the fact that everything they email, visit, buy on Amazon, etc is registered
in giant database outside of their control. Internet will never be the same for most people after
For example, no one in sound mind can now trust "cloud services" provided by Facebook, Google, Yahoo,
Microsoft, etc. So attractiveness of Gmail, Hotmail and such are now different, then it was before.
And separation of mail accounts between "junk mail" account and important mail account is something
to think about. With the latter never in the cloud. In a way excessive using cloud services from a fashionable
trend now became kind of indication of a person stupidity.
In a way excessive using of cloud services from a fashionable trend now became an indication
of a person stupidity. There is no real justification of providing all your emails and address
book to strangers who can abuse this information without your knowledge.
At the same time it is stupid to dramatize the situation. Still, what is really striking is the grotesque
disproportionally of all this NSA surveillance "superdome" to the task of keeping the country safe from
foreign enemies (NSA statute is about watching foreign communications), begging obvious questions of
institutional sanity and competence. They turned all their super powerful collection mechanisms inside
the country and now they drink from a firehouse. That means that the results and possibilities of abuse
are pretty much predictable. Too many false positives create real danger of not to picking up weak signal.
So the other question is "Who the hell made these decisions?" That's a lot of taxpayers money and I
am not sure that they are well spend.
As for breach of privacy anyone with connected to Internet PC, the first thing to understand
that if somebody stores data in the cloud they should not expect any privacy, unless they encrypt them.
Expecting that your unencrypted data are private is a sign of personal stupidity, no more no less. If
somebody, who is keeping his address book in Google assumes that it remains private, that his own illusion.
That has nothing to do with the reality.
And it not that only NSA threatens our privacy. After all there are millions of PC users that have
computer(s) infected by spyware, which turns them into zombies, externally controlled monitoring devices.
And such software BTW can pick up and offload, or
encrypt for ransom all your data. I do not see much protest over this situation iether. Microsoft
greed and stupidity is one reason for this dismal situation, but essentially any OS is vulnerable if
enough money is invested in finding exploits. And NSA actually created a market for such exploits.
Now there are multiple "security firms" that do nothing then find "zero day" exploits and sell them
to the highest bidder (which is of course government agencies). Does not this reminds you 'war
In a way, any networked computer is an unsecure computer and should be treated as such.
See Privacy is
Dead – Get Over It. The same thing can be mentioned about a cell phone that is outside some metal
box. That's two basic "laws of security" in the current environment.
But more important problem here is not snooping per se, but its interaction with self-profiling that
you provide via social sites. If you are too enthusiastic about Facebook or Google++ or any similar
site and engage regularly and indiscriminately in this "vanity fair" activity that simply means Privacy is Dead
– Get Over It. You killed it yourself. The essence of the situation was exposed well in a humorous
form in the following
Amazon review of Orwell's
Note to US Congress and house of representatives: This is a fictional book, not an
Now we know what would a perfect prototype of Bid Brother ;-). The song (Every
Breath You Take ) should probably be the theme song for the NSA. And not only NSA, but its counterparts
in other parts of the globe; I think, other things equal, citizens of some other countries would greatly
prefer NSA to their domestic counterparts.
Cell phones, laptops, Facebook, Skype, chat-rooms: all allow the NSA and other similar agencies to
build a dossier, a detailed profile of a target and anyone associated with him/her. And the number of
people caught up in this dragnet can be huge. The NSA say it needs all this data to help prevent another
terrorist attack like 9/11. They lie. In order to find the needle in the haystack, they argue, they
need access to the whole haystack. But one interesting side effect is that now they are drinking from
the fire hose, so to speak.
Another interesting side-effect of the Snowden disclosures that the term ‘metadata’ became a common
word in English language. With the growing understanding that metadata includes enough personal information
to built a detailed profile of a person without even listening into content of communications. This
technology was invented in Iraq war for fighting insurgents (were phone companies were controlled by
US) and now is applied at home. In fact, by just using electronic communications, you are sharing a
lot more personal information than you think. It's a reflection of a fact that it is very cheap to collect
and analyses information about your electronic communications. The digital revolution which led to an
explosion in cell phone and internet use, also led to an explosion of snooping after you by the governments.
We need to distinguish "total collection" of data from "total analysis" (or creation of dossiers
on everybody as was practiced by STASI and friends). Raw data contain both "signal" and "noise". Analysis
or data mining of those raw data is the process of extraction of useful signal from the noise. Of course
we should be so naive that to assume that "signal" is related to purely terrorist activities. As recently
published documents had shown, the NSA interests are much wider ;-). In bald terms, it sets out its
“Leverage unique key corporate partnerships to gain access to high-capacity international fiber-optic
cables, switches and/or routes throughout the world.”
Along with major fiber-optic cables in the US, the NSA has access to data gathered by close intelligence
partners such as Britain’s GCHQ.
Sometimes it appear to me that like Uncle Sam got "red disease" and now is trying to imitate "total
surveillance" mantra of KGB, STASI and similar agencies on a new technological level. And the key lesson
from Soviet experience is fully applicable to the current situation in the USA: when government consider
everybody as a potential enemy you better watch your back. And having a cyberstooge following your every
step more closely that it was possible for STASI spooks and informers is something you need to react
to. Reading your address book, mail, list of books that you bought or borrowed from the library, analyzing
your circuit of friends is what STASI was really good at. And it might well be that some unemployed
specialists have found a new territory to apply their substantial talents.
The Snowden documents show that the NSA runs these surveillance programs through “partnerships” with
major US telecom and internet companies. That means that if you are customer of those major telecom
and Internet companies you are like a bug under the microscope.
It is important to understand that metadata of your communications will always be exposed (it other
words you are always walking "naked" on the Internet) because those new surveillance capabilities are
immanent properties of Internet protocols, as we known it. There is no way to encrypt connection metadata:
this is technically impossible unless you owns a vast private VPN network (some large corporations do),
but even in this case I have doubts. Even snail-mail metadata are collected (and from 50th to 80th letters
were opened and selectively copied by CIA). Diplomatic mail might still be secure, but that's about
Like with any new development there are countervailing trends that after Snowden revelation went
in overdrive and can seriously affect NSA capabilities.
One is switching to encrypting communication with most websites such as YouTube. That prevent simple
harvesting of video that you watched from HTTP logs (but does not prevent harvesting -- it can be done
using other methods)
The second is usage of software like Tor, although I think all connection to Tor sites are closely
monitored by NSA.
The third is usage of your own cashing DNS proxy to limit number of DNS requests you make.
I also think that all those development might give steganography a huge boost.
The other areas of technology that might get huge boost due to Snowden revelations is "Browsing imitating
internet robots" technology which permit to drown NSA collection devices in spam -- fake accesses to
web sites that is very difficult to distinguish from real browsing, but that make all statistical metrics
applied to your Web traffic useless. For example top visited pages became completely bogus.
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely".
As Lord Acton(1834–1902) noted long before NSA started collecting all Internet communications
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely". The history of "total surveillance"
suggests that this is unavoidable side effect on the very institution that conducts: such an institution
tends to escape the control of civil society and became a shadow power, the element of "deep state".
The first grave consequence of total surveillance is that it tends to be abused. The history
of "total surveillance" suggests that this is unavoidable side effect on the very institution
that conducts: such an institution tends to escape the control of civil society and became a shadow
power, the element of "deep state".
And the ability to intercept electronic communications gives those who are in charge of such collection
tremendous political power. Please remember that
J. Edgar Hoover was director
of FBI very long time partially because he dug a lot of dirt on politicians of his time including both
Kennedys. According to President
Harry S Truman, Hoover
transformed the FBI into his private secret police force. He used the FBI to harass political dissenters
and activists, to amass secret files on political leaders, and to collect evidence using illegal methods.
Essentially for half of the century he and his organization were out of control "state within the state"
and nobody could do anything about it. Only after his death some measures were taken.
It's not that expanding bureaucracy per se is a problem. I doubt that those in the bureaucracy of
those agencies do not think about larger consequences for societies of their attempts to expand their
sphere of influence. It is much worse: they definitely knew about possible consequences, but go "full
forward' anyway preferring job promotions and expansion of their influence. Like bureaucrats often do,
they betrayed their nations like nomenklatura betrayed the people of the USSR (with a similar
fig leaf of nice slogans about freedom as a smoke screen for pretty nefarious activities).
In case of NSA, this data on you, or particular political or social movement (for example "Occupy
Wall Street") can be mined at any time, and what is even worse can be used to destroy any new political
movement. And please remember that NSA is a just part of military-industrial complex, an entity that
has some interesting political characteristics related to the term "the acquisition of unwarranted
influence" . As Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us in his famous farewell speech (which introduced
the term "military-industrial complex"):
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence,
whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous
rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
People seldom understand that all three letter agencies are not just part of military industrial complex,
but are the key parts. While ability of weapon manufactures to buy or just simply control Congress members
matters, three-letter agencies is where "unwarranted influence" fully materialize. By definition they
are out of control and as any bureaucracy they want to grow. That was clear to Senator Frank Church
who stated on August 17, 1975 NBC's
Meet the Press:
In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States
government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that
go through the air. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at
enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be
turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the
capability to monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would
be no place to hide.
If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the
technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to
impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to
combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within
the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology.
I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there
to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess
this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that
abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.
...let us be realistic and not fall for the usual story of this being a discrete event (all the
latest surveillance, that is).
This dates back to the founding of the Financial-Intelligence-Complex during and in the aftermath
of World War II, by the Wall Streeters for their super-rich bosses, the Rockefellers, Morgans, du
Ponts, Mellons, Harrimans (now Mortimers), etc.
The most important factor that needs to be taken into account is the total surveillance make organized
opposition to the regime impossible. So welcome to nicer, gentler, but no less totalitarian world of
1984 (aka "Back in USSR"). The key equation is very simple:
total surveillance = total control
That simple fact was well understood by various dictators and totalitarian regimes long ago, but
none of them has had even a tiny fraction of technical capabilities NSA has now. I think one
of the reason that Occupy movement completely dissipated so fast was that they were like
a bug under microscope of the government. And government want them to stop harassing Wall Street sharks
for their 2008 crisis misdeeds.
Another important effect of "total surveillance" is instilling fear in the citizenry; fear that our
thoughts, words and relationships are subject of interception and analysis; fear that all the content
we access on the internet will be exposed. This fear can cause us to withdraw from public spaces like
producing this website, censor our communications, refrain from accessing certain sites, buying certain
An important effect of "total surveillance" is instilling fear in the citizenry; fear
that our thoughts, words and relationships are subject of interception and analysis; fear that
all the content we access on the internet will be exposed. This fear can cause us to withdraw
from public spaces like producing this website, censor our communications, refrain from accessing
certain sites, buying certain books, etc.
In other words understanding that you are watched on 24 x 7 basis modifies behavior and makes self-censorship
your second nature exactly the same way as in any totalitarian state, but without any physical coercion.
Here is one telling comment from
Secret to Prism program Even bigger data seizure
Indeed: The intentions and motivations of the agencies in question; the degree of oversight
and so on; is almost irrelevant. To a certain extent, I am content to believe that the intentions
of the perpetrators is good; and that the oversight and abuse prevention systems that they have
in place are strong.
However, none of that matters if people self-censor; if people worry, not about what the
government of today will find objectionable, but what the government of tomorrow will not like.
In effect, we end up censoring ourselves from a hypothetical worst-case future government.
We will concentrate on technical side of the this operation, trying to understand how much information
can be stored about a regular "Joe Doer" based on technical capabilities that are available. Let's assume
that we deal with mostly "passive surveillance": collection and storage of vast amount of Internet traffic
on special computers using either mirrored ports on the key routers or special access to key providers
of cloud services.
We can probably assume that several layers of storage of those data exist:
Running buffer (contains all data for all users, probably just for a couple of weeks or
a month). By definition it contains "everything". All you activity, be it email, web browsing, instant
messaging of ftp transfers.
Temporary storage (which might be several years, but probably is between five and ten
years). Some of this permanent storage cloud provider users create themselves. A good example is
the Send folder they maintain on cloud email provider. This temporary storage might also include
all your Web logs and Web searches. Temporary storage of Weblogs are probably limited to metadata (proxy logs) because of large volume.
Permanent, which is invoked if you got under active surveillance or belong to some kind
of group, which is classified as treat to the state and as such is monitored. We can only guess what it involves and how much information is
stored in this case, but installation of some malware on your computer is not out of question. This
permanent storage includes but is not limited to
Your address book (several generations)
All you searches on major search engines
All your text email (not sure about graphic files)
Twits and SMS messages.
Phone conversations metadata.
Technology development creates new types of communications as well as new types of government surveillance
mechanisms (you can call them "externalities" of new methods of communication). Those externalities,
especially low cost of mass
surveillance (Wikipedia), unfortunately, bring us closer to the
Electronic police state
(Wikipedia) or National Security State whether we want it or not. A
crucial element of such a state is that its data gathering, sorting and correlation on individual
citizens are continuous,
cover a large number of citizens and all foreigners, and those activities are seldom exposed.
Cloud computing as a technology that presuppose storing the data "offsite" have several security
problems, and one of them is that it is way too much "surveillance friendly" (Misunderstanding
of issues of security and trust). With cloud computing powers that be do not need
to do complex job of recreating TCP/IP conversations on router level to capture, say, all the emails.
You can access Web-based email mailbox directly with all mails in appropriate mailboxes and spam filtered.
This is a huge saving of computational efforts ;-).
Metadata for your phone calls. This metadata is extremely revealing; investigators
mining it might be able to infer whether we have an illness or an addiction, what our religious
affiliations and political activities are, and so on.
Actual content (mp3 file or similar format) of all your Skype phone calls (the saying
is that "there is no free lunch" has now a new meaning here ). This is less important as getting
those calls transcribed is a difficult undertaking.
Metadata of pages that you assessed (visited websites). For a considerable period of
time (over a year) those data in a standard
HTTP log format are extremely revealing as for your political and social views, as well as
well as general interests. Sophisticated log analysis programs are available (so called proxy
log analyzers). This reveals all your downloads, software that you are using and many, many other
things. Essentially now you like a bug under the microscope.
Your purchases on major Internet sites (Amazon, eBay) and all purchases using major credit
cards. This is even more revealing then you web activity, as you put money were your interests
are. Buy books that interest you, and so on. Also extremely revealing as for your political and
social views, as well as well as general interests.
All the content you put on social sites such as Facebook. Here people usually reveal quite
a bit about themselves. As many people have presence simultaneously in Google, Facebook and
LinkedIn, total information includes your education, current qualification and possibly resume.
Address book and calendar on sides such Gmail, Hotmail or
It puts you essentially in a situation of a bug under microscope on Big Brother. And please understand
that modern storage capabilities are such that it is easy to store several years of at least some of
your communications, especially emails.
The same is true about your
phone calls metadata,
credit card transactions and your activities on major shopping sites such as Amazon, and eBay. But here
you can do almost nothing. Still I think our support of "brick" merchants is long overdue. Phones are
traditional target of government three letter agencies (WSJ)
since the WWII. Smartphones with GPS in addition to land line metadata also provide your current geo
location. Some point out that using basic phone slightly preferable to smartphone (both in a sense
of absence of geodata and the possibility to install spyware on it -- there is simply no RAM to do
anything sophisticated). But I do not think you can do much here
I think our support of "brick" merchants is long overdue. And paying cash in the store
in not something that you should try to avoid because credit card returns you 1% of the cost of
the purchase. This 1% is actually a privacy tax ;-)
Total continued surveillance even without taking any action on collected data is totalitarian by
its nature as it put severe restrictions of the freedom of expression and it changes people behavior
on the Web. In this sense, Senator McCartney was probably right about "Communists sympathizers" and
"KGB infiltration", he just was completely wrong about who they are ;-).
The centralization of searches on Google (and to a lesser extent on Bing -- the latter is
standard with new Windows installation) are also serious threats
to your privacy. Here diversification between three or more search engines might help a bit.
But limited your time behind the computer is probably more efficient. Generally here I do not think much can be done. Growth of
popularity of Duckduckgo suggests that people are
vary of Google monopolizing the search, but it is unclear how big are the advantages. You can also save
searches as many searches are recurrent and generally you can benefit from using your personal Web proxy
with private cashing DNS server. This way to can "shrink" your radar picture, but that's about it.
If you are conserved with you "search" profile, you can replay some searches to distort it. In any
engines are now an integral part of our civilization, whether we want it or not.
Collection of your searches for the last several years can pretty precisely outline sphere of your
interests. And again technical constrains on storage of data no longer exists: how we can talk about
privacy at the age of 3 TB harddrives for $99. There are approximately
of the US citizens and residents, so storing one gigabyte of information for each citizen requires just
400 petabytes. Which is clearly within the current capabilities of storage technology. For comparison
In July 2012 it was revealed that
CERN amassed about 200 petabytes
of data from the more than 800 trillion collisions
In August 2012, Facebook's
Hadoop clusters include the largest single
HDFS cluster known, with more than
100 PB physical disk space in a single HDFS filesystem
By some estimates, storage capabilities of the US government are around 5 zeta bytes.
The analogy with KGB surveillance of dissidents (the term was "to be under the "kolpak" (dome) ")
and, especially, Stasi (viewing the
film "The Lives of Others" might help to understand the phenomenon of "total surveillance") are way
too close. And psychological effects of anticipating that you are under total surveillance are well
depicted in the final of the film The Conversation (1974)
directed by famous Francis Ford Coppola
At the same time there is an important difference: while both regimes creates implicit intimidation
and squash dissent, cases of prosecution on the base of the those data are either few or non existent.
Which is a big difference with KGB or
Stasi practice, which aggressively pursued those dissidents who got in their net, trying either
to convert them into informers, or prosecute them using the existing articles of Criminal Code. In some
cases that led to suicides. So here we can talk more about
Inverted Totalitarism, a velvet gloves mode
of suppressing of dissent.
Still it is now dramatically more clear then before that centralization of email accounts and user
activities on sites like Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, LinkedIn, with email accounts mainly
at Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo mail is far from being a positive development. Along with many positive
aspects has tremendous negative side effects. Essentially it turns users into spies on themselves in
a way that would be a dream by Stasi. The most significant is that it created an easy opportunities
to data mine email databases both for those organizations as well as various government agencies and,
possibly (in a limited way for special payment) by large corporations.
Those tendencies probably should be at least resisted, but we do not have means to reverse them.
Attempts to data mine email and Web communications of millions of Americans critical about government
control: keywords in your posts that might trigger surveillance) and all foreigners who use
those services (and that includes a significant part of European population and xUSSR area, who often
use Gmail, Facebook or Yahoo accounts) means that the country became a National Security State. With
all relevant consequences of such a transformation.
And interest in content of your "cloud based" email is not limited to the government:
A sweeping Wall Street Journal investigation in 2010 found that the biggest U.S.
websites have technologies tracking people who visit their pages, sometimes upwards of 100 tools
per site. One intrusive string of code even recorded users’ keystrokes and transmitted them
to a data-gathering firm for analysis.
“A digital dossier over time is built up about you by that site or third-party service or
data brokers,” says Adam Thierer, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center’s Technology
Policy Program at George Mason University. “They collect these data profiles and utilize them to
sell you or market you better services or goods.”
This is what powers the free Internet we know and love; users pay nothing or next to nothing
for services — and give up pieces of personal information for advertisers in exchange. If you search
for a Mini Cooper on one website, you’re likely to see ads elsewhere for lightweight, fuel-efficient
cars. Companies robotically categorize users with descriptions such as “urban upscale” to “rural
NASCAR” to tailor the advertising experience, says Jim Harper of the libertarian Cato Institute.
“They’ll use ZIP codes and census data to figure out what their lifestyle profile is.”
Most of the site you visit those days was found via search engine, often Google. But Google is interested
in more then search terms you use and sometimes plays with you a nasty trick: "Google may choose
That means that any time it wishes Google can spy on your Web activity:
"When Google uses a URL redirector, if you click on a URL from a search result, information
about the click is sent to Google."
Few people check the URL before clicking on Google search results, so in a way this is perfect spying
But there is another powerful spying tool in Google arsenal -- Google toolbar, and I am not sure
that all those trick were not reused in Google browser. Google Toolbar sends all user clicks to
Google, if advanced mode is enabled (and many people do enable it because they want to have spelling
correction available which, conveniently for Google, belongs to the set of advanced features).
This way you voluntarily subscribe to a 24x7 monitoring of your web activity using spyware that is installed
on your computer with your consent. For the same reason recent smartphones fashion looks greatly misguided.
It is better to use regular phone, then smartphone, and the last thing you probably want on your smartphone
is Android OS or iOS, or windows 8 OS. In some deep way unlocked Nokia 1280 looks now much more attractive
(and is way cheaper ;-).
Google Toolbar in advanced mode is another common snooping tool about your activities. It
send each URL you visit to Google and you can be sure that from Google several three letter agencies
get this information as well. After all Google has links to them from the very beginning:
As soon as they realize that they are watched, people start thinking about consequences and this
article is a pretty telling (albeit slightly paranoid ;-) illustration of the effect. The key mechanism
here, well known to those who used to live in the USSR before its dissolution is that people preemptively
change their behavior, if they know or suspect that they got "under the dome" of government surveillance,
that all their emails are intercepted, all web site visits recorded, anything they buy on Amazon, etc
is registered in giant database outside of their control.
The angle under which will we try to cover the story is: the situation is such and such, now
what? What are the most appropriate actions and strategy of behavior of people who are concerned
about their privacy and no longer trust "cloud services" provided by Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft,
etc ( and those who trust those providers should probably stop reading at this point). It is impossible
to close all those accounts. But some can and should be closed; for example POP3 mail can replace web
mail for all "important" mail; this way you avoid "cloud storage" of all your important correspondence.
It is impossible not to use search engines, but you can chose which search language to use. It is impractical
not to use smartphone and for Android phone you can't avoid registration -- that's the only way to get
updates from Google, but you can root the phone, remove some snooping components and use Firefox instead
of Chrome. But not it is clear that if mobile web browsing and checking email on your phone is not your
thing you are better off with a very simple phone such as Nokia 1280.
The first and the most obvious "change we can believe in" is that we need to change our attitude
toward cloud services and especially cloud services from large providers. Now the most reasonable assumption
is that most national cloud providers including major retailers are in bed with the government three
letter agencies. So you need to be careful what you browse for on Amazon, similarly to what you write
from Gmail and Hotmail.
In a way, excessive usage of cloud services from a fashionable trend now became kind of indication
of a person stupidity. It is important to understand that for anybody more or less competent with
computers (or willing to learn), anything Facebook or Gmail or Hotmail can offer, regular
small ISP account with Cpanel can offer with less risk for your privacy for, say, $5 a month or less.
And your privacy definitely cost more then $60 a year.
In a way excessive using of cloud services from a fashionable trend now became an indication
of a person stupidity. For anybody more or less competent with computers (or willing to learn),
anything Facebook or Gmail can offer, regular ISP account with Cpanel can offer too with less
risk for your privacy.
At the same time it is also stupid to over-dramatize the situation and isolate yourself by abandoning
Internet communications and restricting usage of cell-phone. The reasonable hypothesis is that today’s
surveillance is a side effect of new technological developments and it is a new fact of life. It is
just a new level of information gathering, which has been going on since the Byzantine Empire. And it
is still limited by technological capabilities of sifting through mass of communications. But at the
same time, quantity does at one point turns into quality, so the danger is real and as such could providers
are suspect by definition. In no way they are new level of technological development. In sense they
are one step forward, two sets back.
Also being engages in foreign wars has an interesting side effect that technologies invented come
home and used against citizens (naked
capitalism). That's actually the origin of indiscriminant collection of metadata used now.
But at the same time we need to understand that there are millions of PC users that have computer(s)
infected by spyware, which can make your computer a zombie. And world did not perished due to that.
Still the key lesson is unmistakable: from now on, any networked computer is an unsecure computer
that can't be trusted really confidential information, unless it is isolated by firewall and proxy.
And if we assume that it is unsecured computer, them it should be treated it as such. The first step
is that all confidential data should be deleted and moved to removable storage. In case you need to
work with it as much as possible should be done on non-networked computers, limiting the exposure of
your data to bare minimum. And the less powerful computer you use for processing you confidential data,
the best; the less powerful OS you use, the best (what about using Windows 98 or DOS for those who can
still remember it ? ;-). From now on "retro-computing" movement now is inherently linked with the issues
of security and privacy and might get a new life.
This retro-computing idea might create a new life for abandoned computers that are in excess in almost
every family ;-) See
Privacy is Dead
– Get Over It. The same thing can be mentioned about a cell phone, which should be as simple as
possible. Not all people really benefit from browsing the Web from their smartphones. If you are really
paranoid you can think storing you cell phone at home in a metal box ;-).
In other words there are two new "laws of computer security":
secure computer is non-networked computer
secure cell-phone is a cell-hone in a metal box or without a battery.
But more important problem here is not snooping per se, but voluntarily self-profiling that you provide
via social sites. If you are way too enthusiastic about Facebook or Google++ or any similar site and
engage regularly and indiscriminately in this "vanity fair" activity you put yourselves voluntarily
under surveillance. So not only
Privacy is Dead
– Get Over It. You killed it yourself. The essence of the situation was exposed well
in a humorous form in the following
Amazon review of Orwell's
Note to US Congress and house of representatives: This is a fictional book, not an
BTW just after Prism program was revealed in June 2013,
Nineteen Eighty-Four became a bestseller on Amazon. As of June 15, 2013 it was #87 in Fiction. If
you never have a chance to read it, please do it now. and again, if you think that this revelation of
Prism program is a big news, you probably are mistaken. Many people understood that as soon new technical
capabilities of surveillance are available they are instantly put to use. As John H. Summers noted in
his review (The
Deciders - New York Times) of John Mill "Power
...official secrecy steadily expanded its reach.
"For the first time in American history, men in authority are talking about an 'emergency'
without a foreseeable end,"
Mills wrote in a sentence that remains as powerful and unsettling as it was 50 years ago.
"Such men as these are crackpot realists: in the name of realism they have constructed
a paranoid reality all their own."
Facebook has nothing without people
silly enough to exchange privacy for photosharing
The key problem with social sites is that many people voluntarily post excessive amount of personal
data about themselves, including keeping their photo archives online, etc. So while East Germany analog
of the Department of Homeland Security called Ministry for State Security (Stasi)
needed to recruit people to spy about you, now you yourself serves as a informer voluntarily providing
all the tracking information about your activities ;-).
Scientella, palo alto
...Facebook always had a very low opinion of peoples intelligence - and rightly so!
I can tell you Silicon Valley is scared. Facebook's very existence depends upon trusting young
persons, their celebrity wannabee parents and other inconsequential people being prepared to give
up their private information to Facebook.
Google, now that SOCIAL IS DEAD, at least has their day job also, of paid referral advertising
where someone can without divulging their "social" identity, and not linking their accounts, can
look for a product on line and see next to it some useful ads.
But Facebook has nothing without people silly enough to exchange privacy for photosharing.
... ... ...
Steve Fankuchen, Oakland CA
Cook, Brin, Gates, Zuckerberg, et al most certainly have lawyers and public relations hacks
that have taught them the role of "plausible deniability."
Just as in the government, eventually some low or mid-level flunkie will likely be hung out
to dry, when it becomes evident that the institution knew exactly what was going on and did nothing
to oppose it. To believe any of these companies care about their users as anything other than
cash cows is to believe in the tooth fairy.
The amount of personal data which users of site like Facebook put voluntarily on the Web is truly
astonishing. Now anybody using just Google search can get quit substantial information about anybody
who actively using social sites and post messages in discussion he/she particulates under his/her own
name instead of a nickname. Just try to see what is available about you and most probably your jaw would
This is probably right time for the users of social sites like Facebook, Google search, and Amazon
(that means most of us ;-) to think a little bit more about the risks we are exposing ourselves. We
all should became more aware about the risks involved as well as real implications of the catch phase
Privacy is Dead
– Get Over It.
This is probably right time for the users of social sites like Facebook, Google search,
and Amazon (that means most of us ;-) to think a little bit more about the risks we are exposing
If there is one thing we can take away from the news of recent weeks it is this: the modern
American surveillance state is not really the stuff of paranoid fantasies; it has arrived.
Citizens of foreign countries have accounts at Facebook and mail accounts in Gmail, hotmail and Yahoo
mail are even in less enviable position then the US citizens. They are legitimate prey. No legal protection
for them exists, if they use those services. That means that they voluntarily open all the information
they posted about themselves to the US government in addition to their own government. And the net is
probably more wide then information leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden suggests. For any large
company, especially a telecom corporation, operating is the USA it might be dangerous to refuse to cooperate
Former Qwest CEO Joseph
Nacchio, convicted of insider trading in April 2007, alleged in appeal documents that the NSA
requested that Qwest participate in its wiretapping program more than six months before September
11, 2001. Nacchio recalls the meeting as occurring on February 27, 2001. Nacchio further claims that
the NSA cancelled a lucrative contract with Qwest as a result of Qwest's refusal to participate in
the wiretapping program.
Nacchio surrendered April 14, 2009 to a federal prison camp in Schuylkill, Pennsylvania to begin
serving a six-year sentence for the insider trading conviction. The United States Supreme Court denied
bail pending appeal the same day.
It is not the case of some special evilness of the US government. It simply is more agile to understand
and capitalize on those new technical opportunities. It is also conveniently located at the center of
Internet universe with most traffic is flowing via US owned or controlled routers (67% or more). But
it goes without saying that several other national governments and a bunch of large corporations also
try to mine this new gold throve of private information on citizens. Probably with less sophistication
and having less financial resources.
In many cases corporations themselves are interested in partnership with the government. Here is
one telling comment:
jrs says on June 8, 2013
Yea in my experience that’s how “public/private partnerships” really work:
Companies DO need protection FROM the government. An ill-conceived piece of legislation
can put a perfectly decent out of business. Building ties with the government is protection.
Government represents a huge market and eventually becomes one of the top customers
for I think most businesses (of course the very fact that a government agency is a main
customer is often kept hush hush even within the company and something you are not supposed
to speak of as an employee even though you are aware of it)
Of course not every company proceeds to step 3 -- being basically an arm of the government
That means that not only Chinese citizens already operate on the Internet without any real sense
of privacy. Even if you live outside the USA the chances are high that you automatically profiled by
the USA instead of or in addition to your own government. Kind of
neoliberalism in overdrive mode: looks like we all
are already citizens of a global empire (Let's call it " Empire of Peace" ) with the capital in Washington.
It is reasonable to assume that a massive eavesdropping apparatus now tracks at least an "envelope"
of every electronic communication you made during your lifetime. No need for somebody reporting about
you like in "old" totalitarian state like East Germany with its analog of the Department of Homeland
Security called the Ministry for State Security (Stasi).
So in this new environment, you are like Russians used to say about dissidents who got under KGB surveillance
is always "under the dome". In this sense this is just an old vine in a new bottles. But the global
scope and lifetime storage of huge amount of personal information for each and every citizen is something
new and was made possible the first time in world history by new technologies.
It goes without saying that records about time, sender and receiver of all your phone calls, emails,
Amazon purchases, credit card transactions, and Web activities for the last decade are stored somewhere
in a database and not necessary only government computers. And that means that your social circle (the
set of people you associate with), books and films that you bought, your favorite websites, etc can
be easily deducted from those records.
That brings us to an important question about whether we as consumers should support such ventures
as Facebook and Google++ which profile you and after several years have a huge amount of pretty private
and pretty damaging information about you, information which can get into wrong hands.
The most constructive approach to NSA is to view is a large government bureaucracy that expanded
to the extent that quantity turned into quality.
bureaucracy is a political coalition with the primary goal of preserving and enhancing of its own
power, no matter what are official declarations. And if breaching your privacy helps they will do it.
Which is what Bush government did after 9/11. The question is how much bureaucratic bloat resulting
in classic dynamics of organizational self-aggrandizement and expansionism happened in NSA. We don't
know how much we got in exchange for undermining internet security and US constitution. But we do know
the intelligence establishment happily appropriated billions of dollars, had grown by thousand of employees
and got substantial "face lift" and additional power within the executive branch of government. To the
extent that something it looks like a shadow government. And now they will fight tooth-and nail to protect
the fruits of a decade long bureaucratic expansion. Now it is an Intelligence Church and like any religious
organization they do not need fact to support their doctrine and influence.
Typically there is an infighting and many factions within any large hierarchical organization, some
with and some without factual awareness of the rest. Basically any hierarchical institution corporate,
religious, military will abuse available resources for internal political infighting. And with NSA "big
data" push this is either happening or just waiting to happen. This is a danger of any warrantless wiretapping
program: it naturally convert itself into a saga of eroding checks and disappearing balance. And this
already happened in the past, so in a way it is just act two of the same drama (WhoWhatWhy):
revelations of intelligence abuses by the Nixon administration began to mount in the wake of
Watergate, NSA became the subject of Congressional ire in the form of the United States Senate Select
Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities—commonly
known as the “Church Committee” after its chair, Senator Frank Church (D-ID)—established on January
17, 1975. This ad-hoc investigative body found itself unearthing troves of classified records from
the FBI, NSA, CIA and Pentagon that detailed the murky pursuits of each during the first decades
of the Cold War. Under the mantle of defeating communism, internal documents confirmed the executive
branch’s use of said agencies in
some of the most fiendish acts of human imagination (including refined psychological torture
techniques), particularly by
the Central Intelligence Agency.
That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American
would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything. Telephone conversations,
telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. If this government ever became a tyranny,
if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence
community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no
way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government,
no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability
of this technology. I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capability
that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies
that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never
cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.
The reforms that followed, as enshrined in the
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance
Act (FISA) of 1978, included the establishment of the
Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC): a specially-designated panel of judges who are allowed
to review evidence before giving NSA a warrant to spy on Americans (only in the case of overseas
communication). Hardly a contentious check or balance, FISC
zero warrant requests between its inception in 1979 and 2000, only asking that two warrants
be “modified” out of an estimated 13,000.
In spite of FISC’s rubberstamping, following 9/11 the Bush administration began deliberately bypassing
the court, because even its minimal evidentiary standard was too high a burden of proof for the blanket
surveillance they wanted. So began the dragnet monitoring of the American public by
tapping the country’s major
electronic communication chokepoints in collusion with the nation’s largest telecommunications
Similarly we should naturally expect that the notion of "terrorist" is flexible and in certain cases
can be equal to "any opponent of regime". While I sympathize NYT readers reaction to this incident (see
below), I think it is somewhat naive. They forget that they are living
under neoliberal regime which like any rule of top
0.01% is afraid of and does not trust its own citizens. So massive surveillance program is a self-preservation
measure which allow to crush or subvert the opposition at early stages. This is the same situation as
existed with Soviet nomenklatura, with the only difference that Soviet nomenklatura was more modest
pushing the USSR as a beacon of progress and bright hope of all mankind ;-). As
Ron Paul noted:
Many of us are not so surprised.
Some of us were arguing back in 2001 with the introduction of the so-called PATRIOT Act that it
would pave the way for massive US government surveillance—not targeting terrorists but rather
aimed against American citizens. We were told we must accept this temporary measure to provide
government the tools to catch those responsible for 9/11. That was nearly twelve years and at least
four wars ago.
We should know by now that when it comes to government power-grabs, we never go back to the
status quo even when the “crisis” has passed. That part of our freedom and civil liberties once
lost is never regained. How many times did the PATRIOT Act need renewed? How many times did FISA
authority need expanded? Why did we have to pass a law to grant immunity to companies who hand
over our personal information to the government?
And while revealed sources of NSA
include Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and others major Internet players, that's probably
just a tip of the iceberg. Ask yourself a question, why Amazon and VISA and MasterCard are not on the
list? According to
The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook,
Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian.
The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called Prism, which allows
officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and
live chats, the document says.
... ... ...
Microsoft – which is currently running an advertising campaign with the slogan "Your privacy is
our priority" – was the first, with collection beginning in December 2007. It was followed by Yahoo
in 2008; Google, Facebook and PalTalk in 2009; YouTube in 2010; Skype and AOL in 2011; and finally
Apple, which joined the program in 2012. The program is continuing to expand, with other providers
due to come online.
Collectively, the companies cover the vast majority of online email, search, video and communications
... ... ...
A chart prepared by the NSA, contained within the top-secret document obtained by the Guardian,
underscores the breadth of the data it is able to obtain: email, video and voice chat, videos,
photos, voice-over-IP (Skype, for example) chats, file transfers, social networking details, and
So while the document does not list Amazon, but I would keep fingers crossed.
To be aware about a situation you need to be able to formulate and answer key questions about it.
The first and the most important question is whether the government is engaged in
cyberstalking of law abiding
citizens. Unfortunately the answer is definite yes, as oligarchy needs total control of prols. As a
result National Security State rise to prominence as a dominant
social organization of neoliberal societies, the societies
which characterized by very high level of inequality.
But there are some additional, albeit less important questions. The answers to them determine utility
or futility of small changes of our own behavior in view of uncovered evidence. Among possible set of
such question I would list the following:
Is the only way to have reasonable privacy with computer is to be physically disconnected
with the network?
Is limiting the usage of large providers like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft and usage of small
ISP for your email and personal Web pages makes you any more secure? After all it is much easier
to collect data from large providers then from hundreds of smaller providers. At the same time your
data are allowing via big routers in major telecom companies no matter whether you are using large
or small ISP.
Should you switch from Webmail back top POP3 account and deliver at the least most important
mail to your PC instead of keeping it stored on the web servers ? Please note that FBI developed
the computer programs "Magic
Lantern" and CIPAV, which they
can remotely install on a computer system (for example, using Microsoft Windows updates program),
in order to monitor a person's computer activity. But here you probably need a court order to install
Is Facebook and similar social sites provides any real value to you and your family? Is
your visibility of the Web is more important to you then your privacy, because two are generally
incompatible. Is all this vanity fair activity worth possible negative consequences (including stalking
of minors by criminals) that you and your family can face?
Should some group of specialists, for example psychiatrists resort back to handwriting on
paper and/or now write client notes in code as an attempt to reassert some level of confidentiality?
Note the PGP is not a panacea; it can be safely used only on non-network connected computers due
to existence of programs like
which can retrieve private keys directly from your computer. But transferring files via "air link"
is very inconvenient.
There are also some minor questions about efficiency of "total surveillance approach". Among them:
More people die daily from (1) car accidents and (2) gang violence in one day then people who
died due to 9-11 accident. Should not billions or dollars spent by NSA be utilized by different agencies
for preventing death toll mentioned above?
Even if NSA algorithms are incredibly clever they can't avoid producing large number of false
positives. The question arise how many innocent people are monitored as the result of this externality.
The other part of understand the threat is understanding is what data are collected. The short answer
is all your phone records and Internet activity (RT
The National Security Agency is collecting information on the Internet habits of millions of innocent
Americans never suspected of criminal involvement, new NSA documents leaked by former intelligence
contractor Edward Snowden suggest.
Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported Monday that
included in the trove of files supplied by the NSA contractor-turned-leaker Edward Snowden reveal
that the US intelligence community obtains and keeps information on American citizens accumulated
off the Internet without ever issuing a search warrant or opening an investigation into that person.
The information is obtained using a program codenamed Marina, the documents suggest, and is kept
by the government for up to a full year without investigators ever having to explain why the subject
is being surveilled.
“Marina has the ability to look back on the last 365 days' worth of DNI metadata seen by the
Sigint collection system, regardless whether or not it was tasked for collection,” the Guardian’s
James Ball quotes from the documents.
According to a guide for intelligence analysts supplied by Mr. Snowden, “The Marina metadata
application tracks a user's browser experience, gathers contact information/content and develops
summaries of target.”
"This tool offers the ability to export the data in a variety of formats, as well as create
various charts to assist in pattern-of-life development,” it continues.
Ball writes that the program collects “almost anything” a Web user does online, “from
browsing history – such as map searches and websites visited – to account details, email activity,
and even some account passwords.”
Only days earlier,
attributed to Snowden revealed that the NSA was using a massive collection of metadata to create
complex graphs of social connections for foreign intelligence purposes, although that program
had pulled in intelligence about Americans as well.
After the New York Times broke news of that program, a NSA spokesperson said that “All data
queries must include a foreign intelligence justification, period.” As Snowden documents continue
to surface, however, it’s becoming clear that personal information pertaining to millions of US citizens
is routinely raked in by the NSA and other agencies as the intelligence community collects as much
data as possible.
In June, a top-secret document also attributed to Mr. Snowden revealed that the NSA was collecting
the telephony metadata for millions of Americans from their telecom providers. The government has
defended this practice by saying that the metadata — rough information that does not include the
content of communications — is not protected by the US Constitution’s prohibition against unlawful
search and seizure.
“Metadata can be very revealing,” George Washington University law professor Orin S. Kerr
told the Times this week. “Knowing things like the number someone just dialed or the location
of the person’s cellphone is going to allow them to assemble a picture of what someone is up to.
It’s the digital equivalent of tailing a suspect.”
According to the Guardian’s Ball, Internet metadata picked up by the NSA is routed to the Marina
database, which is kept separate from the servers where telephony metadata is stored.
Only moments after the Guardian wrote of its latest leak on Monday, Jesselyn Radack of the Government
Accountability Project read a statement before the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties,
Justice and Home Affairs penned by none other than Snowden himself.
“When I began my work, it was with the sole intention of making possible the debate we see
occurring here in this body,” Snowden said.
Snowden, who has been granted temporary asylum in Russia after being charged with espionage in
the US, said through Raddack that “The cost for one in my position of returning public knowledge
to public hands has been persecution and exile.”
There are limits of this "powerful analytical software" as it currently used. As we mentioned above, even if NSA
algorithms are incredibly clever they can't avoid producing large number of false positives. After two
year investigation into the post 9/11 intelligence agencies, the Washington Post came to conclusion
that they are collecting more information than anyone can comprehend ("drinking from a firehose" or
"drowning is a sea of data"):
Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billions
e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications. The NSA sorts a fraction of those into
70 separate databases"
First of all there is a classic problem of "signal vs. noise" (infoglut) in any large scale data
collection and presence of noise in the channel makes signal much more difficult to detect.
Analysts who make sense of document and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying
share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year -- a volume so large
that many are routinely ignored
The enormity of the database exacerbate the problem. That's why NSA is hunting for email on cloud
providers, where they are already filtered from spam, and processing required is much less then
for emails intercepted from the wire data. Still even with the direct access to user accounts, the volume of
data, especially graphic (pictures) and video data, is really huge and that stress the limits of processing
capabilities and storage.
Existence of Snowden saga when a single analyst was able to penetrate the system and extract considerable
amount information with impunity suggests that the whole Agency is mess, probably like is
typical for any large organization with a lot of incompetents or, worse, careerists and psychopaths at
the helm (see Toxic Managers). Which is typical for government agencies and large corporations.
Still the level of logs collection
and internal monitoring in NSA proved to be surprisingly weak, as there are indirect signs that the agency does not
even know what reports Snowden get into his hands. In any case we, unless this is a very clever inside
operation, we need to assume that Edward Snowden stole thousands of documents, abused his sysadmin position
in the NSA, and was never caught. Here is one relevant comment from
Oh NSA......that´s fine that you cannot find something......what did you tell us, the World
and the US Congress about the "intelligence" of Edward Snowden and the low access he had?
SNOWDEN SUSPECTED OF BYPASSING ELECTRONIC LOGS
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. government's efforts to determine which highly classified materials
leaker Edward Snowden took from the National Security Agency have been frustrated by Snowden's
sophisticated efforts to cover his digital trail by deleting or bypassing electronic logs,
government officials told The Associated Press. Such logs would have showed what information
Snowden viewed or downloaded.
The government's forensic investigation is wrestling with Snowden's apparent ability
to defeat safeguards established to monitor and deter people looking at information without
proper permission, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they
weren't authorized to discuss the sensitive developments publicly.
On the other hand government agencies were never good in making huge and complex software projects
work. And large software projects are a very difficult undertaking in any case. Even in industry 50%
of software projects fail, and anybody who works in the industry knows, that the more complex the project
is the higher are chances that it will be mismanaged and its functionality crippled due to architectural
defects ("a camel is a horse designed by a committee"). It is given that such project will be
over budget. Possibly several times over...
But if money is not a problem such system will eventually be completed ("with enough thrust pigs
can fly"). Still there’s no particular reason to think that corruption (major work was probably
outsourced) and incompetence (on higher management levels and, especially on architectural level as
in "camel is a horse designed by a committee") don't affect the design and functionality of
projects. Now when this activity come under fire some adjustments might be especially badly thought out
and potentially cripple the existing functionality.
As J. Kirk Wiebe, a NSA insider, noted
"The way the government was going about those digital data flows was poor formed, uninformed.
There seen to be more of a desire to contract out and capture money flow then there was a [desire}
to actually perform the mission".
See the interview of a trio of former National Security Agency whistle-blowers to USA TODAY ( J.
Kirk Wiebe remarks starts at 2:06 and the second half of it continues from 6:10):
In military organizations the problem is seldom with the talent (or lack of thereof) of individual
contributors. The problem is with the bureaucracy that is very effective in preventing people from exercising
their talents at the service of their country. Such system is deformed in such a way that it hamstrings
the men who are serving in it. As a results, more often then not the talents are squandered or misused
by patching holes created by incompetence of higher-up or or just pushed aside in the interdepartmental
In a way, incompetence can be defined as the inability to avoid mistakes which, in a "normal"
course of project development could and should be avoided. And that's the nature of military bureaucracy
with its multiple layer of command and compete lack of accountability on higher levels.
In addition, despite the respectable name of the organization many members of technical staff are
amateurs. They never managed to sharpen their technical skills, while at the same time acquiring the
skills necessary to survive the bureaucracy. Many do not have basic academic education and are self-taught
hackers and/or "grow on the job". Typically people at higher level of hierarchy, are simply not experts
in software engineering, but more like typical corporate "PowerPoint" warriors. They can be very shred
managers and accomplished political fighters, but that's it.
This is the same situation that exists in security departments of large multinationals, so we can
extrapolate from that. The word of Admiral Nelson "If the enemy would know what officer corps will confront
them, it will be trembling, like I am". Here is Bill Gross apt recollection of his service as naval
Tipping Point) that illustrate the problems:
A few years ago I wrote about the time that our ship (on my watch) was almost cut in half by an
auto-piloted tanker at midnight, but never have I divulged the day that the USS Diachenko came within
one degree of heeling over during a typhoon in the South China Sea. “Engage emergency ballast,” the
Captain roared at yours truly – the one and only chief engineer. Little did he know that Ensign Gross
had slept through his classes at Philadelphia’s damage control school and had no idea what he was
talking about. I could hardly find the oil dipstick on my car back in San Diego, let alone conceive
of emergency ballast procedures in 50 foot seas. And so…the ship rolled to starboard, the ship rolled
to port, the ship heeled at the extreme to 36 degrees (within 1 degree, as I later read in the ship’s
manual, of the ultimate tipping point). One hundred sailors at risk, because of one twenty-three-year-old
mechanically challenged officer, and a Captain who should have known better than to trust him.
Huge part of this work is outsourced to various contractors and this is where corruption really creeps
in. So the system might be not as powerful as many people automatically assume when they hear the abbreviation
of NSA. So in a way when news about such system reaches public it might serve not weakening but strengthening
of the capabilities of the system. Moreover, nobody would question the ability of such system to store
huge amount of raw or semi-processed data including all metadata for your transactions on the Internet.
Also while it is a large agency with a lot of top mathematic talent, NSA is not NASA and motivation
of the people (and probably quality of architectural thinking about software projects involved) is different
despite much better financing. While they do have high quality people, like most US agencies in general,
large bureaucracies usually are unable to utilize their talent. Mediocrities with sharp elbows, political
talent, as well as sociopaths typically rule the show.
That means two things:
The easy part of this is the "total surveillance of electronic communications" project: to
store the "envelope" of each phone message, email, credit card transaction, etc. Analyze and correlated
the set of this envelopes to discover daily activity patterns, their change over time, social circle,
etc. That collection will contain some junk, but generally completely gives up your social circle
and your interests. Such records are pretty compact so the lifespan of your communications stored
is at least five and probably for more then ten years. So assumption of a lifespan storage is the
most realistic one. You can introduce some noise into some of those collection channels (for example,
by using a robot visiting certain sites such as Sport Illustrated, and Washington Post will distort
the picture of your Internet activities) but it is much more difficult to introduce noise into phone
call records and emails.
Several other nations have access to the metadata for the USA originated phone calls (for
providers they serve) via outsourcers of phone billing, such as Israel's Amdocs, the largest phone-billing
services company in the world:
The difficult part is the analysis of the messages body. For example:
Automatic transcribing of phone messages is a very difficult problem. Even the slightest
noise is deadly as we can see from the experience with Dragon (let's say that NSA solved the problem
of adapting to a new voice which Dragon can't solve). Dragon 12 running of dual core 3.8GHz PC
demonstrates the difficulties very well. Even a small amount of noise kills the quality of automatic
Analysis of email body for certain keywords easily can be perform automatically, but to
understand the context of usage of "trigger" words is extremely difficult. This task is still
on the cutting edge of modern computer science. From the public document that exists (see
control: keywords in your posts that might trigger surveillance) I have impression that they
try to overreach (which is standard bureaucratic tendency in such cases). That means that such
an extraction might produces too many false positives, and needs to be manually correlated with
Recognition of faces from street and security cameras is even more difficult problem.
Data mining of blogs is difficult for a different reason: not only detecting who is
who requires getting IP from particular provider (this is an easy part), just the total volume
is enormous. Many people create dozens of messages a day. There is a special category of graphomans,
that specialize on participating in various forums and those are people who have high change to
trigger "blind" keyword search. The USA government can afford to have, say, several zetabytes
of storage capacity in NSA-controlled datacenters, but its capabilities are still limited. It
can't replicate all the Internet over time. Videos are especially problematic and are more difficult
to analyze then text or HTML, or XML documents. Even low quality voice (with reverberation for
example) is very difficult to analyze automatically.
Video streams are huge and probably impossible to store. In a way the fact that most
modern computer have face camera is not only creating problem for NSA, it actually create the
problem for Internet as a whole ;-). Indiscriminate interception and storage are out of question:
lovers of "here is what my dog is doing" clips are able to saturate all available storage in no
So even with huge amount of subcontractors that can chase mostly "big fish". Although one open question
is why with all those treasure trove of data organized crime is so hard to defeat. Having dataset like
this should generally expose all the members of any gang. Or, say, network of blue collar insider traders.
So in an indirect way the fact that organized crime not only exists and in some cities even flourish
can suggest one of two things:
NSA generally limits availability of those "integrated" data sets to terrorism networks, political
protest, foreign organizations and "suspicious nationals" activities. It is difficult and inefficient
"to cover the whole field" although spying after activities of a foreign corporation can be more
lucrative them spying after a member of terrorist networks ;-). Some sources mention the current
capabilities as around 100K-200K people who can be "electronically followed" simultaneously. It is
reasonably to expect high level of secrecy and that means that data are not shared unless absolutely
The presentation claims Prism was introduced to overcome what the NSA regarded as shortcomings
of Fisa warrants in tracking suspected foreign terrorists. It noted that the US has a "home-field
advantage" due to housing much of the internet's architecture. But the presentation claimed "Fisa
constraints restricted our home-field advantage" because Fisa required individual warrants and
confirmations that both the sender and receiver of a communication were outside the US. "Fisa
was broken because it provided privacy protections to people who were not entitled to them," the
presentation claimed. "
It took a Fisa court order to collect on foreigners overseas who were communicating with other
foreigners overseas simply because the government was collecting off a wire in the United States.
There were too many email accounts to be practical to seek Fisas for all."
... ... ...
A senior administration official said in a statement: "The Guardian and Washington Post articles
refer to collection of communications pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance
Act. This law does not allow the targeting of any US citizen or of any person located within the
"The program is subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Executive
Branch, and Congress. It involves extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to
ensure that only non-US persons outside the US are targeted, and that minimize the acquisition,
retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about US persons.
Methods based on "beyond the envelope" analysis are not efficient against reasonably sophisticated
opponents, who understand the fact that the communication will be intercepted and possibly
(superficially) analyzed. In a typical "bullet-armor" competition, that opens new impetus for
"bad guys" inventing new and improving old steganography methods. As with interception of talk between
Soviet fighter pilots and their command posts had shown, usage of slang makes the voice data almost
inpenetratable. Another example would be calling Goldman Sacks "a vampire squid", which implies that
your counterpart read
Matt Taibby article or related financial blogs, or to call Facebook "lichiko" which implies knowing
Russian. Person without this context can't make a connection. With such substitutions you need a
huge amount of ( rapidly shifting ) cultural context to understand the meaning of even simple phases.
This context is missing on the other side of the pond. And even specialists can represent certain
problems. For example Jargon
File (and more) is needed to understand the talk of hackers. Fenia,
the language of the thieves is Russia was so distinct from ordinary Russian that it almost qualifies
as a separate language which makes it foreign for outsiders. The same it true about criminal subculture
in other countries (see
Police and criminal
Storage of actual data involves certain technical difficulties and first on all physical limitations
of available storage. We probably can talk about several thousand
Petabytes that government can
store. In comparison:
Google processed about
24 petabytes of data per day in 2009
AT&T transfers about
30 petabytes of data through its networks each day
The Internet Archive
contains about 10 petabytes in cultural material as of October 2012
In August 2011, IBM was reported to have built the largest storage array ever, with a capacity
of 120 petabytes
In July 2012 it was revealed that
CERN amassed about 200
petabytes of data from the more than 800 trillion collisions
In August 2012, Facebook's
Hadoop clusters include the largest single
HDFS cluster known, with more
than 100 PB physical disk space in a single HDFS filesystem
In May 2013, Microsoft
announce that as part of their migration of Hotmail accounts to the new Outlook.com email system,
they'd migrated over 150 Petabytes of user data in six weeks.
There is also a question of complexity of analysis:
We can assume that simple things are extracted correctly. But more complex things might be
not. There is no question that a map of your phone calls, your Amazon and eBay purchases, credit
card transactions and other straightforward things can be recreated "exactly". Also can be recreated
data that can tell approximately where you were and what you was doings on any particular day. The
map of your phone contacts (people who called you and people who you call) and your emails gives
a pretty good estimate of your social circle. With multiple data sources any individual posting
in blogs can be identified with 90% or better accuracy, no matter what nicknames he/she uses
and whether he/she avoids registration and provide truthful information during it. So in a way there
is no need to do something complex as simple methods provide treasure trove of data.
There are also “junk in, junk out” issues including spam in email, telemarketers calling
your land line, there are always "strange" sites you accidentally visit during your browsing. While
they can be filtered, signal can be filtered with them (why bad guys can not disguise themselves
as telemarketers or porno sites owners?) and then system became useless against bad guys. If not
that noise subtly corrupts the data, noise and data can be really undistinguishable. BTW closed source
security-related software will always be somewhat more problematical then open source, since algorithms
used may be far from perfect and are result more of a "trading horses" between power groups involved
in development, then honest scientific research. Open source software such as CPU emulators can be
used as steganography engine that requires particular processor on the other side for recreation
of the message. And you can chose some really exotic CPU like Knuth Mix.
Errors in algorithms and bugs in those programs can bite some people in a different way then branding
them as "terrorists". Such people have no way of knowing why all of a sudden, for example, they
are paying a more for insurance, why their credit score is so low no matter what they do, etc. In no
way government in the only one who are using the mass of data collected via Google / Facebook / Yahoo
/ Microsoft / Verizon / Optonline / AT&T / Comcast, etc. It also can lead to certain subtle types of
bias if not error. And there are always problems of intentional misuse of data sets having extremely
intimate knowledge about you.
Corporate corruption can lead to those data that are shared with the government can also be shared
for money with private actors. Inept use of this unconstitutionally obtained data is a threat to all
Then there can be cases when you can be targeted just because you are critical to the particular
area of government policy, for example the US foreign policy. This is "Back in the USSR" situation in
full swing, with its prosecution of dissidents. Labeling you as a "disloyal/suspicious element"
in one of government "terrorism tracking" databases can have drastic result to your career and you never
even realize whats happened. Kind of Internet era
Obama claims that the government is aware about this danger and tried not to overstep, but he is
an interested party in this discussion. In a way government is pushed in this area by the new technologies
that open tremendous opportunities for collecting data and making some correlations.
That's why even if you are doing nothing wrong, it is still important to know your enemy, as well
as avoid getting into some traps. One typical trap is excessive centralization of your email on social
sites, including using a single Webmail provider. It is much safer to have mail delivery to your computer
via POP3 and to use Thunderbird or other email client. If your computer is a laptop, you achieve, say,
80% of portability that Web-based email providers like Google Gmail offers. That does not mean that
you should close your Gmail or Yahoo account. More important is separating email accounts into "important"
and "everything else". "Junk mail" can be stored on Web-based email providers without any problems.
Personal emails is completely another matter.
Technology development create new types of communications as well as new types of government surveillance
mechanisms (you can call them "externalities" of new methods of communication). Those externalities,
especially low cost of mass
surveillance (Wikipedia), unfortunately, bring us closer to the
Electronic police state
(Wikipedia) or National Security State whether we want it or not. A
crucial element of such a state is that its data gathering, sorting and correlation are continuous,
cover a large number of citizens and all foreigners and those activities are seldom exposed.
Cloud computing as a technology that presuppose storing the data "offsite" on third party servers
have several security problems, and one of them is that it is way too much "surveillance friendly"
of issues of security and trust). With cloud computing powers that be do not need to do complex
job of recreating TCP/IP conversations on router level to capture, say, all the emails. You can access
Web-based email mailbox directly with all mails in appropriate mailboxes and spam filtered. Your address
book is a bonus ;-). This is huge saving of computational efforts.
"... Amen to the part about Google. Once upon a time I could start a Google search with a high probability of finding something useful. These days I have to darned near know the result before I'll find anything. ..."
"... I agree that Google search is not as good as it once was but it could be that the web itself has changed with far more commercial and bubble gum content. There was a time long ago when only nerds used computers. ..."
"... I find Google regularly overriding specific search terms, particularly when I put in a short phrase in quotes, which means Google is supposed to deliver results that match that exact phrase. First page, even the very first result, regularly violate the search criteria. Never happened before ~ 2 years ago. ..."
"... "Isikoff checked the facts for his new book so hard, they were carried off unconscious, and remain in a coma" ..."
I am a blogger. It is my job to blog, which I've been doing on a daily basis since 2003.
Reading and writing is what I do all day. I'm lucky to be able to survive doing it, and I'm
happy to be doing it. I hate Google because it tries to make me a stupid reader. I hate
Twitter and Facebook because they make me a stupid writer. I've been wanting to get this off my
chest for some time, so allow me to explain.
Let's where I start, with reading. As a blogger, I need to process and filter enormous
amounts of newsworthy content hours a day, every day (as does Yves). I am like an enormous
baleen whale nourished by krill. So here is how the insanely stupid and wasteful Google News
helps me -- and you, dear readers! -- do this:
(I've erased the Weather box at top right, which is Google's little way of letting me know
it's tracking my location even though cookies are off.) First, look at the page, which is a
complete screenful on a laptop (i.e., on the screen of professional content creator who values
his time, not a teensy little cellphone screen). In the news links column at left, there are a
grand total of nine (9) stories. Please, can we get the steam-era list of blue links back,
where we could scan 30 or 40 headlines in a single second's saccade? And note the sources: CNN,
HuffPost, Fox, WaPo, NBC News, NPR, CNN, and the WSJ. This is an ecoystem about as barren as my
neighbor's lawn! (And if you click on the laughingly named "View full coverage" link, you'll
see a page just as empty and vacuous though slightly less barren, with more obcure sources,
like Reuters. Or Salon.) You will also note the obvious way in which the page has been gamed by
gaslighters and moral panic engineers, who can drive every other story off the front page
through sheer volume Finally, you'll note that the fact checkers include organs
of state security , in the form of polygraph.info , "a fact-checking website produced
by Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty."
Now let's try to use Google News for search. (I find Google proper, though still crapified,
better for news, especially if I limit the search by time.) I chose "start treaty," for
obvious reasons. Here is the results page:
Yes, on a complete, entire laptop page, there are in total five (5) hits, 3 from the
impoverished ecosytem noted above, and one from an organ of state security
(RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty). The last hit, from Vox, is twelve (12) days old .
Surely there's something more current? Note also the random ordering of the hits: Today,
yesterday, 6 days ago, 2 days ago, 12 days ago. (There is, of course, no way to change the
ordering.) A news feed that doesn't organize stories chronologically? That doesn't surface
current content? What horrible virus has rotted the brain matter of the Google engineers who
created this monstrosity? And one more thing:
Famously, the normal Google search page ends with "1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next." Crapified
though Google search results are, if you spend some time clicking and scanning, you'll
generally be able to come up with something useful five or ten pages in, maybe (if you're
lucky) from a source you don't already know exists. Not so with Google "News." When the page
ends, it just ends. When the algo has coughed up whatever hairball it's coughed up, it's done.
No more. Again, this is news? What about the same story a week ago? A month ago? What does "our
democracy" have a free press for, if Google gets in the way of being able to find anything?
So, the Google News experience is so vile and degrading in its stupidity and insolence that
I use another tool for reading the news: Twitter. And despite its well-deserved reputation as a
hell-site, Twitter -- carefully curated -- does the job, as long as you don't ask too
much of it, like news that's more than a month or so old. My beef with Twitter is not as a
reader, but as a writer. Here is how you create a tweet in Twitter:
I'll have a sidebar on those miserably inadequate writing tools, at left, in a moment. For
now, look at the bottom right: Those disruptive Silicon Valley engineers have innovated the
When you click that plus sign, you get A second Tweet, connected to the first, in an
easy-to-close-accidentally modal dialog box!
Here, I remind you of the steam age of Blogger, where you could -- hold onto your hats,
here, folks -- create a post, composed of paragraphs -- or, if you were a poet, lines; or an
artist, images and captions; or an accountant, tables -- all with at least some degree of
"flow" and ease. You could even have subheads, to divide your content into sections! The
billionaire brainiacs at Twitter have managed to create that first, minimal functionality --
the paragraph -- but without the ability to re-arrange, or even to edit your paragraphs after
posting! Does Jack laugh alone at night?.
Amen to the part about Google. Once upon a time I could start a Google search with a high
probability of finding something useful. These days I have to darned near know the result
before I'll find anything. Google News used to have a dense list of news stories. I don't
have a bookmark to the place anymore, relying instead on blog headlines and the like.
Since I've heard nothing good about Facebook I'm agreeable to the notion the site isn't
something for me. Never tried "tweeting" and have no plans to do so.
I agree that Google search is not as good as it once was but it could be that the web
itself has changed with far more commercial and bubble gum content. There was a time long ago
when only nerds used computers.
But I don't agree that Google News was ever very useful. Google always admitted that it
was edited by algo and it seemed to be a kind of Headline News news summary–the
opposite of what a hard core news junkie would want.
RSS is still around and IMO the most useful tool for keeping track of a large number of
websites. For off the beaten path links that may not show up on a favorite site there are
websites like this one (thanks Yves and Lambert and Jerri-Lynn).
I find Google regularly overriding specific search terms, particularly when I put in a
short phrase in quotes, which means Google is supposed to deliver results that match that
exact phrase. First page, even the very first result, regularly violate the search criteria.
Never happened before ~ 2 years ago.
Google in recent years has optimized for:
"Authoritativeness" of sites. The latter criterion, as interpreted by Google = MSM
above all. Academic sites get downranked too.
So much truth here. Similar story with YouTube: even though Jimmy Dore Is my most watched
YouTuber by a long shot, notifications for new vids NEVER, ever, ever appear in my
notification thingy or at the top of the page. Never. Google engineers are braniac math
scientists (as Jimmy Dore might say), so this is a feature, not a bug. This is deliberate
suppression. Inverted totalitarianism.
YouTube, for whatever reason, splits the functionality into two parts: subscribing and
notifications. If you "just" subscribe, you will not get a number badge indicating a
notification at the top right of your YouTube page -- you have to click the "notifications
bell" in order to get notifications.
On the YouTube Settings | Notifications page you can also choose to get email messages
regarding notifications and choose some other options regarding notifications for YouTube
activity. On that same page, if you click Manage all subscriptions (which is buried in the
text under Channel subscriptions ), you can see all your subscriptions and which ones have
the bell clicked or not.
If you click the hamburger (three bar) icon on the upper left, next to the YouTube logo,
that toggles a pane where you can see your history, your subscriptions, your settings and
some other things. Even if you haven't clicked the notifications bell, you can see, under
Subscriptions , the number of not-yet-watched videos you have, listed by individual channel
you've subscribed to. (That's how I generally know that there is a new Jimmy Dore video since
I am subscribed to the channel but I don't have notifications turned on.)
All of this is such poorly implemented usability that I hesitate to call it deliberate
anything but I won't discount it, either.
As of September 28th, Alphabet (a/k/a Google), Facebook and Twitter will join an all-new
Communications Services sector. Its core is the old Telecommunications Services sector, which
has shrunk to but three companies in the S&P 500 (Verizon, AT&T and CenturyLink).
Also joining Communications Services will be media and cable companies -- a full roster of
corporate villainy, as it were. The complete list of 22 constituents appears here:
A Communications Services ETF is already trading in advance of the sector's official debut
in September. Owing to the exit of seven current Information Technology stocks (including
Alphabet, Facebook and Twitter, the targets of Lambert's ire) and 16 Consumer Discretionary
stocks (including Comcast, Disney and Netflix), these sectors will change in composition on
In this exclusive chart, the new post-Sep 28th sectors are backcast as if they all existed
Communications Services had been lagging the S&P 500 until last month, when government
approval of AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner set off a frenzy in other media stocks
which might be bought or merged. With Alphabet and Facebook making up 44.3% of Communications
Services by weight, these two giants will tend to dominate its performance.
The future is federated. Individual instances, hosted by whoever wants to set one up, that
can link to each other, for a fully customizable experience. I like Mastodon (a bird-site
replacement), and my particular instance at social.coop, even though it doesn't have any of
your writerly tools either. But it's open source, so the ability to add them is there:
Lambert, you can get back your Old Google News format (pre-AI change) by using this link
instead as follows: https://news.google.com/news/feeds?output=rss&q=%
It doesn't take away Google's attempt at controlling our information flow with its new AI
Gnews format But it should help you get your blue links & sections back ;) – with
the caveat that you can't click on said headlines/sections' "see real time coverage" (in
which case you go back to our Ministry of Information's AI approved interface). However you
can expand on the little down arrow next to each headlines and click on the working
Duck Duck Go has its own news section which I've used a few times, and it seemed to have
way more links than Lambert's screenshot of Google News. Don't know what sites DDG includes
but maybe it could be an alternative.
Sadly though I find the same problem with DuckDuckGo. Meaning, it returns the results it
wants, rather than what I asked for. Even if I ask for results from the past week I get stuff
from 8 years ago. And if I ask for something like Stereo Speakers I get things like "speakers
at this years conference ..", etc. Just pure garbage. And the key complaint I have is that
Amazon shows up every other result for page after page. If I search for "how to best
fertilize tomatoes in Colorado", I get a result showing tomatoes available on Amazon.com. And
at the top of every search is a "ribbon" of results from Amazon almost exclusively and with
"Prime" in the results box. I hate Amazon and wish I could never see that word again, or the
words Jeff Bezos. Sigh.
I have the same issue with DDG. My understanding is that it is not different from Google
in terms of search results, but simply that it won't surveil you:
Their ad campaign: "Same s*&$ results as Google, but no one will know you're
I've been using other methods like -siteihate.com or site:.edu to find papers etc on a
topic. For geopolitics I try to find a human rights group nearby to see what they say. News
is hard to sift through
I don't do Twitter, thank you, but Facebook has News? Hoocoodanode? It's not something I
would ever think of using, but one of my friends (who is always threatening to unfriend me)
once ranted that she knew the Russians interfered with our election because she saw the bots
and memes. When I asked her how she knew a bot she never answered. She's a solid Russiagate
cult believer. I suspect she must get her news from FB.
I've noticed it's really, really tough now to find via Google any serious, longform blogs
on investing, energy, etc. Almost everything that comes up when I search a topic is a
listicle/clickbait, a Salon article, some horrible startup platform with only 10-50 active
users, or something locked behind a paywall.
I always thought the best metaphor for this is the end of the "Old West" – all the
territory is fenced off and none of the owners want you trespassing on their land. I actually
do think the best internet tools were all de-centralized – "federated" as one of your
commenters put it.
For instance, wasn't it great when you could make an RSS feed out of literally any series
of sites and just click on what you find interesting? Granted, I still think that's possible
but I don't see nearly as many websites pushing that compatibility anymore. Instead it's all
SEO and racing to be "discoverable" by the big platforms. Information, writing, and the
exchange of ideas have suffered as a result.
I've been very happy since switching to Duck Duck Go. Occasionally I can't find something
and think, "I'm going to actually go into google.com and see if it runs a better search" and
it almost never does.
To me the more interesting point here is Lambert's second/third one, which is that,
although both Twitter and Facebook decry the rise of fake news, their format is an especially
hard one to write a nuanced critique in. It's difficult (if not impossible) to put a string
of URLs in a Facebook post without actually putting the whole jumbled up 200-character
strings of the URLs in – instead of just hotlinking a word! – and you can't
format headings, sections, and subsections easily – so any discussion just basically
devolves into "No, read this!" "Well, read this!" "What about this!", etc. And they don't
always post comments chronologically, or in an order I can make sense of anyway, so you can't
follow the ongoing discussion clearly anyway.
Interestingly, as apparently the default, Firefox gives me a drop down list of "Latest
News" headlines (? at least 50) which are I think entirely from the Guardian and BBC. Not
great, too much human interest and soccer scores, and the articles are too often small or
video, but god knows better than NYT and WaPo, and I can and do go on from there to the rest
of the Guardian site. I don't know if that is configurable, if I could replace it with
al-jazerra, Asia Times or RT
But I also have Jacobin Naked Capitalism and Counterpunch in quick buttons and I spend my
time there. Should nuclear war start, I would want analysis before headlines. I am content
with being a few days or week behind.
When Google News changed to whatever it is now I stopped using it entirely. It's not an
aggregator in any sense at all, to me. I used to use Google as the home page and hit up the
news page and felt like I had a newspaper to go with my morning coffee. It's ludicrous now. I
just go directly to NC links and watercooler actually, and find my way around from there and
from my local online paper. "Sad!"
Google News has been slipping for a couple of years now, and has gotten exceptionally bad
since it deployed the new layout. I now check it once or twice a week at the most and mainly
just to read the headlines in order to find out what I'm supposed to believe.
The first site I open every morning is this site, read the articles of the titles that
catch my interest (most) and then settle in with a cup of coffee or two and the Links
The only serious problem I have with Naked Capitalism and its Links Section is that I'm
often late for work as a direct result of opening the Links page (which reminds me, It's
getting near my semi-annual donation :-)
This is a good opportunity for me to get something off of my chest, something that
I don't know what entity is responsible for designing the auto-correct function in (most,
if not all) internet comment fields, but the result is shockingly bad.
First, it is fundamentally flawed. When the system offers a possible correction, it should
allow the user to ignore the suggestion and continue typing. Instead, having implemented the
tool completely backwards, it forces the user to close the suggestion, resulting in an
obvious waste of time. The arrogance of assuming that the program is likely to be correct is
compounded tremendously by the fact that – unbelievably – it does the exactly
same thing for words that are capitalized!
I am dumfounded that anyone could be so stupid as to implement a program that attempts to
correct proper names.
The fact that those involved in the initial design haven't yet discerned these obvious
flaws, and there hasn't been widespread outrage over this issue, reflects very poorly on all
I can attest that I usually run into spell check functions with abysmally poor
vocabularies. (I just noticed that 'spell check' has connotations of Ye Darke Artes.) I have
become inured to leaving those wavy red underlines in place when I 'post' a comment.
As for stupidity .
I knew something was up when every embedded(i guess) spellcheck i ran across couldn't
spell Nietzsche and insisted that i always capitalise walmart(and cease using cambridge
i usually ignore the red squiggly, too
the worst was a samsung phone my wireless company gave me as an "upgrade". the text function
had a "learning" spellcheck/autocorrect that you were supposed to just keep using so that it
could eventually figure out what you were trying to say so at the beginning, every single
word opened up a sort of square flower thing of unrelated(as a rule) words.
it was impossible I gather more so due to my habit of using archaic and obscure language and
after you disabled it, it turned itself back on.
as a convenience.
Nice to see the Hacker's Dictionary quoted. It's a wonderful resource, and a reminder that
not all programmers suck (just the ones riding scooters to their regulatory arbitrage
start-ups in Silicon Valley).
Agree entirely. Alas, it is often not the "program" doing this. My ipad has a popup
touchscreen keyboard (courtesy of iOS) that tries to enforce English spellings in every
text-entry situation including non-English webpages. As Lambert says, hilarity ensues.
My smartypants phone has detected me reading Voltaire (copyright-free Kindle for sitting
and waiting) and decided when I stammer texts to communicate with under-50s that I must be
speaking French. So my word-salads are bi-lingual. But the youth of today don't think I'm
erudite, they think I'm crazy. Dunno why, monolingual stammering isn't much better. But
unless I get a Trump-style thumb job, I can't type on my telephone (which is as it should be,
but I'm so old I remember when people answered their phones).
I did a C-list version of what Lambert does during that golden period of blogging he
mentions. He doesn't really give enough shrift to the amount of time he spends reading each
day, and it would be impossible to know how much effort goes into his interpretive remarks
that all too often spare me the bother of reading establishment tripe.
This is the gold standard for aggregation blogging: ample links, clarifying remarks,
snark. Reading this blog turned my old blog into a watered down version of this blog. I stole
a lot from Lambert Strether because he does this better than anyone else. (Pro tip: don't
steal from crappy writers)
I suspect Robot Wisdom as a prior influence, but now we're talking super old-timey
Never read Robot Wisdom! I came in after that point. I first encountered the blogosphere
when Paul Krugman mentioned Atrios in one of his columns and I went to look. And that was
that. I was unemployed at the time, and spent most of my time reading blogs instead of
looking for work
Thanks for including labeled screen shots in your critique of FB, Goog, Twit. For those of
us who don't use those sites, it really helped comprehension.
Great post. I guess there really are a million ways to discourage people from thinking
clearly, including bs silicon valley editing tools.
I'm re-writing a historical romantic drama that i first completed in 1985, set mostly in
Paris and Vienna in the 1870s. I did major rewrites in the 1990s for a major star, who soon
got a contract to earn tens (or maybe hundreds of times) what a low-budget art house film
would have paid and promptly walked the project. As soon as your star is gone, your project
isn't one of the walking dead, it's totally graveyard dead.
The Internet was just coming into its own in the mid-1990s, and I have dozens of pages of
incredibly useful research material I downloaded from the web.
Fast forward to 2018, and a studio is again interested in the project. But it wants the
script rewritten from the female protagonist's viewpoint.
I again turned to the Internet to research the era.
No matter what set of keywords I use, no matter how I structure my Boolean searches, I get
hundreds and hundreds of links to commercial sights, advertisements for Viennese and Parisian
stores popping up left right and center.
Out of 100 links, maybe one has useful information.
Fortunately, not yet having had an intervention on an episode of HOARDERS, I managed to
locate in a mislabeled several thousand pages I photocopied from out-of-print books on the
God bless the Brooklyn Public Library and their hard-working Reference Desk librarians.
There's a special place in Heaven for them.
I do things the old-fashioned way by compiling feeds from a list of 15, or so, sites into
a js reader on my website. I don't use Google at all and have no use for any corporate
website. What I will do, however, is browse the yahoo news stream just so I can get a feel of
the day's mood but I never follow a link. The only site that I visit not via my news reader
I'm deep in the pit of learning about SEO optimization, and I can tell you that Google's
search algorithms–together with Google AdWords–are to blame for the lousy quality
of Google searches these days.
Google gives priority to websites based on:
t1) site speed (which means that unless you pay extra $$$ for superior hosting and upgraded
cloud services, your site will drop in the rankings. And hey, guess who owns one of the
fastest worldwide cloud hosting services? Google.)
2) Rules that force you to write "stupid" (or at least with zero flair and style) in order to
get your website onto the first page of a search. The keyword has to be right up top, the
header and meta-text have to be written just so, and within a character limit. You can't be
arch or subtle or creative. Break a rule and you get no mercy from Google's ranking
algorithm. You're just buried in the back.
3) Speaking of back, Google prioritizes sites and pages for backlinks, that is, for other
sites that link back to your website or article. While that may seem to be a way of pushing
quality websites to the top of a search, in actual practice this backlink thing is a game. My
site has backlinks from the New York Times, CNN, National Geographic, Conde Nast Traveler,
and a host of other very authoritative high quality sites. However my competitor has a
greater NUMBER of backlinks from more domains, and that counts for more, even though the
links are from unknown travel bloggers.
4) Finally, the biggest drag on Google Search is the ads, which can take up the first half of
the page before you get to a "real" search result.
It occurred to me the other day that scrapping or saving Net Neutrality may not really
matter all that much. Google is so powerful that effectively they function like a commerce
gateway, keeping out small businesses and websites that can't afford to hire the expensive
software engineers and experts that you need nowadays to tweak and craft your site's backend
so that it will show up in a Google search. Not to mention the added cost of fast hosting
And the time suck of having to become familiar with all this stuff just so I can stay
alive as a business!
For real – it's gone down the crapper almost entirely.
One blog we started in 2005 was a gold mine for five to eight years. Then the revenue
tumbled – for no logical reason to us. We were dissed. Maybe we didn't change the
keywords or whatever to "keep up with the times," but good original content that wasn't pop
culture or groupthink was shunned.
Fast forward to 2018, as we try to start up another new blog (this time promoting on the
top four major "social media" sites), it's been tough going.
It seems that people don't want to find interesting, common sense oriented, critical
thinking based content anymore.
If you're not talking about some utterly useless celebrity or bone-headed politician or
dreadful sad story – no one cares to exercise those wonderful abilities they have to
contemplate and reflect anymore. Deep thinkers are a dying breed.
Even searching for simple things on Google has gotten horrific.
I'm with others here. RSS reader (we use InoReader – awesome). When you stumble on a
quality site – instantly subscribe. Your own curated "timeline" or "newsfeed."
Read all the articles on those sites you subscribe to, because they often link to other
quality sites you can add to your museum of good publications.
Even if they're not exactly your ball of wax – keep them anyway. Not every post has
to be up your alley.
The independent publisher with unique thoughts is an endangered species. Not because we're
dying off – but because they're trying to kill us off via financial starvation.
There has to be a change of the tide eventually. Hopefully before it's too late.
And this is what happens when we let billionaires control what we see and do on the net. I
have been a newshound for years and use to go through Google News and then a few favoured
sites. These days I have reversed it around as Google News has become so crappified, so
stripped of content and so cumbersome to use that I have switched it around.
As for Facebook and Twitter – not on your nelly though I know lots of people have to
use it for professional reasons or for staying in contact with groups that do not have a
presence elsewhere. The past several years I have found that I visit a lot of Russian sites
as I tend to find more news of interest there which five years ago I would have found weird.
The times they are a changin'.
Want to know what the future will be like. Take a look at the following clip from the film
"Rollerball" – the first one – and you will see. The main character goes to visit
the world computer for information as all of it is stored there. Upon arrival he finds that
the computer has "lost" all the information on the 13th century in talking to the lead
scientist. Here is that clip of our future-
I hate the "editor" in Facebook, too, but because there's no way to format anything. That
big type you call their default? That goes away when you type three lines or so. It's only
been there a couple of years and I don't know what they were thinking of when they added it.
Why can't I choose my type size? Why can't I make text bold or italic? NC at least has those
options. Other blogs let me enter most HTML formatting tags. Those "disruptive" engineers
must be pretty weird people. Why would I want my post to be in HUGE type if I'm only posting
one or two lines?
Thing I wanted to ask, how do you make google search time periods. Is that something
they've added? A few years ago, after many people entered "I have the same question" they
admitted they had no way to do so. Is it something you have to use advanced search for?
Because I think I remember seeing something there, but I haven't used it for many years.
I just checked Google. I could be missing it. What I do see is simpler, less precise, and
not as useful as the previous time period search. I use to use to be to chop off precisely
the exact dates I wanted searched. For example any articles, websites, or just news on the
Humbolt Squid from 1/1/1984 to 1/2/1986.
If I missed that option please tell me as it was useful.
Yes, your memory is fine as Google did make it fairly easy to search periods of time and to
use Boolean search terms. Brief tutorials and instructions easy to find. Googleborg has been
getting less useful for using the interwebs but it is easier to find stuff to buy. Strange is
When I think about the crapification of Google et al I also think about the siloing of
economics, political science, history and other fields, which are stripped of anything
considered extraneous, and reduced to dry misinformative stats, formulae, and over simplied
stories. Going from the broad interconnected field of anthropology to what is misleading
labeled "economics" is like going from a real forest full of life to a museum diorama
consisting of some ratty stuff animals, plastic plants, and some awfully painted background
and being told both are comparable.
I think what used to be political economics, but now just economics, was still not broad
enough but the current field of economics had everything not describing and validating
neoliberal capitalist free market economics removed. Adam Smith's own complete writings would
get him labeled a socialist. I cannot think that the deliberate, and it was deliberate, to
simplify away all inconvenient facts, ideas, and theories from what is laughing called
economics so that only a few pre-approved answers to the approved narrative is like Google,
Twitter, and Facebook's near uselessness.
I was actually working with FB (as a vendor) when they implemented that big-type
"feature". They were concerned that it was becoming almost mandatory to include a picture
with your posts – essentially every ad on the site has a picture, links to articles and
most any URLs automatically include a picture, and users were including more and more
pictures themselves as most people switched their Facebook time to smartphones. As a result,
if you posted a short, tweet-length text only message, it was easy to miss. So they inflated
the font size to make short messages take up a similar amount of space as longer ones or ones
It's not my preference at all, stylistically (especially with those hideous colored
backgrounds) but, well A/B testing told them it resulted in increased eyeballs on those short
Facebook demanding you to enable cookies is not only for the advertisers, but it's
required by the server so that it can do some essential things that are required to deliver
an interactive web page. For example when you try to post a message on Facebook your browser
will send a request to Facebook server. That request must be accompanied by the cookie so
that server knows that the request came from you and not from someone else.
If you don't want cookies tracking you, you can still enable them, but you can delete all
cookies before you close your browser. Many browsers will allow you to automatically delete
cookies when you close the browser.
Have you tried Feedly ? Until 2013 it
was owned by Google (where it was known as Google Reader) but it was actually a decent piece
of software so of course they had to get rid of it. IMNSHO it leaves the competition in the
dust and is still, by far, the best news aggregator available.
I am officially adopting the policy of understanding the word "check" in "fact check", to
have the same meaning as when it is used in the context of ice hockey, i.e. "Isikoff
checked the facts for his new book so hard, they were carried off unconscious, and remain in
Great piece, it reminds me of Edward Tufte's classic "The Cognitive Style of
Of course, in spite of ET's popularity as a corporate tent revivalist, packing hotel
ballrooms at $250 a seat, there's been no interruption in the steady dumbing down of
communication, both written and graphic.
Damnit. My comment disappeared.
I ended it asking if Naked Capitalism would become financially secure were it to own its own
Servers that operated for profit regardless of content supported?
IT professionals Serve the Servers.
Drug dealers don't have to advertise.
Servers don't have to advertise, is what I thought.
I read the article. I read the comments. An idea appears above my eyes
between my eyebrows. 'Am I right or am I wrong?'
I love Naked Capitalism. Thanks
The New York Times and Washington Post this week published reports of a
private meeting last month between eight major technology and social media corporations and the
US intelligence agencies, to discuss their censorship operations in the lead-up to the November
2018 mid-term elections.
The meeting was convened at Facebook's Menlo Park, California, headquarters on May 23, and
was attended by representatives from Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Snap, Twitter and Oath,
owner of Yahoo! and a subsidiary of the telecommunications giant Verizon, along with agents
from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.
The Post described the meeting, organized at the request of Facebook, as a "new
overture by the technology industry to develop closer ties to law enforcement." Both articles
were based on anonymous statements by individuals who attended. One attendee told the
Post that the conversation was a "back-and-forth, with both sides talking about how
they were thinking about the problem and how we were looking for opportunities to work
The meeting is yet another testament to the increasing integration of the technology giants
with the US military/intelligence apparatus. These companies, which provide a growing share of
the technical infrastructure for the repressive apparatus of the state, increasingly see the
censorship of left-wing, anti-war, and progressive viewpoints as an integral part of their
"... The U.S. was in talks for a deal with Julian Assange but then FBI Director James Comey ordered an end to negotiations after Assange offered to prove Russia was not involved in the DNC leak, as Ray McGovern explains. ..."
"... Special to Consortium News ..."
"... The report does not say what led Comey to intervene to ruin the talks with Assange. But it came after Assange had offered to "provide technical evidence and discussion regarding who did not engage in the DNC releases," Solomon quotes WikiLeaks' intermediary with the government as saying. It would be a safe assumption that Assange was offering to prove that Russia was not WikiLeaks' source of the DNC emails. ..."
"... If that was the reason Comey and Warner ruined the talks, as is likely, it would reveal a cynical decision to put U.S. intelligence agents and highly sophisticated cybertools at risk, rather than allow Assange to at least attempt to prove that Russia was not behind the DNC leak. ..."
"... On March 31, 2017, though, WikiLeaks released the most damaging disclosure up to that point from what it called "Vault 7" -- a treasure trove of CIA cybertools leaked from CIA files. This disclosure featured the tool "Marble Framework," which enabled the CIA to hack into computers, disguise who hacked in, and falsely attribute the hack to someone else by leaving so-called tell-tale signs -- like Cyrillic, for example. The CIA documents also showed that the "Marble" tool had been employed in 2016. ..."
"... In fact, VIPS and independent forensic investigators, have performed what former FBI Director Comey -- at first inexplicably, now not so inexplicably -- failed to do when the so-called "Russian hack" of the DNC was first reported. In July 2017 VIPS published its key findings with supporting data. ..."
"... Why did then FBI Director Comey fail to insist on getting direct access to the DNC computers in order to follow best-practice forensics to discover who intruded into the DNC computers? (Recall, at the time Sen. John McCain and others were calling the "Russian hack" no less than an "act of war.") A 7th grader can now figure that out. ..."
Did Sen. Warner and Comey 'Collude' on Russia-gate? June 27, 2018 •
The U.S. was in talks for a deal with Julian Assange but then FBI Director James Comey
ordered an end to negotiations after Assange offered to prove Russia was not involved in the
DNC leak, as Ray McGovern explains.
By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News
report by investigative journalist John Solomon on the opinion page of Monday's edition of
The Hill sheds a bright light on how Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and then-FBI Director
James Comey collaborated to prevent WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange from discussing "technical
evidence ruling out certain parties [read Russia]" in the controversial leak of Democratic
Party emails to WikiLeaks during the 2016 election.
A deal that was being discussed last year between Assange and U.S. government officials
would have given Assange "limited immunity" to allow him to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy in
London, where he has been exiled for six years. In exchange, Assange would agree to limit
through redactions "some classified CIA information he might release in the future," according
to Solomon, who cited "interviews and a trove of internal DOJ documents turned over to Senate
investigators." Solomon even provided a
copy of the draft immunity deal with Assange.
But Comey's intervention to stop the negotiations with Assange ultimately ruined the deal,
Solomon says, quoting "multiple sources." With the prospective agreement thrown into serious
doubt, Assange "unleashed a series of leaks that U.S. officials say damaged their cyber warfare
capabilities for a long time to come." These were the Vault 7 releases, which led then CIA
Director Mike Pompeo to call WikiLeaks "a hostile intelligence service."
Solomon's report provides reasons why Official Washington has now put so much pressure on
Ecuador to keep Assange incommunicado in its embassy in London.
Assange: Came close to a deal with the U.S. (Photo credit: New Media Days / Peter
The report does not say what led Comey to intervene to ruin the talks with Assange. But it
came after Assange had offered to "provide technical evidence and discussion regarding who did
not engage in the DNC releases," Solomon quotes WikiLeaks' intermediary with the government as
saying. It would be a safe assumption that Assange was offering to prove that Russia was not
WikiLeaks' source of the DNC emails.
If that was the reason Comey and Warner ruined the talks, as is likely, it would reveal a
cynical decision to put U.S. intelligence agents and highly sophisticated cybertools at risk,
rather than allow Assange to at least attempt to prove that Russia was not behind the DNC
The greater risk to Warner and Comey apparently would have been if Assange provided evidence
that Russia played no role in the 2016 leaks of DNC documents.
Missteps and Stand Down
In mid-February 2017, in a remarkable display of naiveté, Adam Waldman, Assange's pro
bono attorney who acted as the intermediary in the talks, asked Warner if the Senate
Intelligence Committee staff would like any contact with Assange to ask about Russia or other
issues. Waldman was apparently oblivious to Sen. Warner's stoking of Russia-gate.
Warner contacted Comey and, invoking his name, instructed Waldman to "stand down and end the
discussions with Assange," Waldman told Solomon. The "stand down" instruction "did happen,"
according to another of Solomon's sources with good access to Warner. However, Waldman's
counterpart attorney David Laufman , an accomplished federal prosecutor picked by the
Justice Departent to work the government side of the CIA-Assange fledgling deal, told Waldman,
"That's B.S. You're not standing down, and neither am I."
But the damage had been done. When word of the original stand-down order reached WikiLeaks,
trust evaporated, putting an end to two months of what Waldman called "constructive, principled
discussions that included the Department of Justice."
The two sides had come within inches of sealing the deal. Writing to Laufman on March 28,
2017, Waldman gave him Assange's offer to discuss "risk mitigation approaches relating to CIA
documents in WikiLeaks' possession or control, such as the redaction of Agency personnel in
hostile jurisdictions," in return for "an acceptable immunity and safe passage agreement."
On March 31, 2017, though, WikiLeaks released the most damaging disclosure up to that
point from what it called "Vault 7" -- a treasure trove of CIA cybertools leaked from CIA
files. This disclosure featured the tool "Marble Framework," which enabled the CIA to hack into
computers, disguise who hacked in, and falsely attribute the hack to someone else by leaving
so-called tell-tale signs -- like Cyrillic, for example. The CIA documents also showed that the
"Marble" tool had been employed in 2016.
Misfeasance or Malfeasance
Comey: Ordered an end to talks with Assange.
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, which includes among our members two former
Technical Directors of the National Security Agency, has repeatedly called
attention to its conclusion that the DNC emails were leaked -- not "hacked" by Russia or
anyone else (and, later, our suspicion that someone may have been playing Marbles, so to
In fact, VIPS and independent forensic investigators, have performed what former FBI
Director Comey -- at first inexplicably, now not so inexplicably -- failed to do when the
so-called "Russian hack" of the DNC was first reported. In July 2017 VIPS published its
findings with supporting data.
Two month later , VIPS published the results of
follow-up experiments conducted to test the conclusions reached in July.
Why did then FBI Director Comey fail to insist on getting direct access to the DNC computers
in order to follow best-practice forensics to discover who intruded into the DNC computers?
(Recall, at the time Sen. John McCain and others were calling the "Russian hack" no less than
an "act of war.") A 7th grader can now figure that out.
Asked on January 10, 2017 by Senate Intelligence Committee chair Richard Burr (R-NC) whether
direct access to the servers and devices would have helped the FBI in their investigation,
: "Our forensics folks would always prefer to get access to the original device or server
that's involved, so it's the best evidence."
At that point, Burr and Warner let Comey down easy. Hence, it should come as no surprise
that, according to one of John Solomon's sources, Sen. Warner (who is co-chairman of the Senate
Intelligence Committee) kept Sen. Burr apprised of his intervention into the negotiation with
Assange, leading to its collapse.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the
Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army Infantry/Intelligence officer and then a CIA
analyst for a total of 30 years and prepared and briefed, one-on-one, the President's Daily
Brief from 1981 to 1985.
If you enjoyed this original article please consider
making a donation to Consortium News so we can bring you more stories like this
May 21, 2017 at 2:30 am GMT 200 Words While the "progressives" badmouth bad-bad russkies
for "destroying our democracy," an obscene spectacle of persecution of the most important
whistleblower of our times continues.
"Getting Assange: the Untold Story," by JOHN PILGER
"Hillary Clinton, the destroyer of Libya and, as WikiLeaks revealed last year, the secret
supporter and personal beneficiary of forces underwriting ISIS, proposed, "Can't we just drone
this guy." According to Australian diplomatic cables, Washington's bid to get Assange is
"unprecedented in scale and nature." In Alexandria, Virginia, a secret grand jury has sought
for almost seven years to contrive a crime for which Assange can be prosecuted. Assange's
ability to defend himself in such a Kafkaesque world has been severely limited by the US
declaring his case a state secret. In 2015, a federal court in Washington blocked the release
of all information about the "national security" investigation against WikiLeaks, because it
was "active and ongoing" and would harm the "pending prosecution" of Assange. The judge,
Barbara J. Rothstein, said it was necessary to show "appropriate deference to the executive in
matters of national security." This is a kangaroo court."
[Hayden] is another legacy of George W. Bush, who appointed this buffoon to the CIA and
Actually, Hayden was initially a Bill Clinton appointee (in 1999), before his
reappointment by Bush.
Further, he was not merely appointed, but appointed out of order. Hayden was the second
consecutive USAF DIRNSA.
the list of DIRNSA's (I have attempted to show some sort of pattern in the
USA (Canine), USAF (Samford), USN (Frost),
USAF (Blake), USA (Carter), USN (Gayler),
USAF (Phillips), USAF (Allen (Phillips only served 2 years before he got kicked upstairs
to run the USAF Systems Command)), USN (Inman),
USAF (Faurer), USA (Odom),
USN (Studeman), USN (McConnell),
USAF (Minihan), USAF (Hayden),
USA (Alexander), USN (Rogers), USA (Nakasone).
So the question is: Why did Clinton pick Hayden in 1999, rather than an Army
I read a profile of Hayden in WaPo where he was depicted as doing the cooking in
Maybe that endeared him to the Clinton administration decision-makers.
And, if I recall correctly, in his memoir Playing to the Edge , he writes of his work to advance the careers of
No doubt a real plus in some administrations.
As a point of information, WaPo has a pretty extensive profile of Hayden (but not
the one I remember) here:
"Test of Strength"
by Vernon Loeb (who IMO was a quite good reporter on the IC), WaPo , 2001-07-29 (i.e, before 9/11)
It goes into some detail on why and how Hayden transformed the NSA.
BTW, back in the 1970s NSA was divided into groups, A, B, G, S, R, T, ....
Some were mission-specific, some were function-specific.
Somewhat of a matrix organization.
Evidently that organization was deemed inadequate.
Let me bring up another issue here:
Compartmentation versus information-sharing.
In those days compartmentation was quite strict.
People walked around with metal tags attached to their lanyards,
showing which compartments they had been read into,
and thus which parts of the building they could enter.
The 9/11 report faulted such compartmentalization, calling it "stovepipes".
So now we Snowden, say, having access to a vast area of information.
I wonder if it was a bad decision to break down the compartments,
and if the old days of compartmentation should be restored.
Among the array of nasty USAF intelligence generals I dealt with as an SES in DIA I don't
remember Haydon at all. They tended to be filled with animus against the Army and
determined to take over all joint organizations. Maybe he cooked at backyard parties?
Hayden transformed the NSA when he was there. He moved it from just sucking signals out
of the air to vacuuming up all manner of digital information. It was a needed and
successful transformation. Of course it also led to the excessive collection of US
A 29-year-old former CIA computer engineer, Joshua Adam Schulte, was indicted Monday by the
Department of Justice on charges of masterminding the largest leak of classified information in the spy agency's history .
Schulte, who created malware for the U.S. Government to break into adversaries computers, has been sitting in jail since his August
24, 2017 arrest on unrelated charges of posessing and transporting child pornography - which was discovered in a search of his New
York apartment after Schulte was named as the prime suspect in the cyber-breach one week after WikiLeaks published the "Vault 7"
series of classified files. Schulte was arrested and jailed on the child porn charges while the DOJ ostensibly built their case leading
to Monday's additional charges.
[I]nstead of charging Mr. Schulte in the breach, referred to as the Vault 7 leak, prosecutors charged him last August with
possessing child pornography, saying agents had found 10,000 illicit images on a server he created as a business in 2009 while
studying at the University of Texas at Austin.
Court papers quote messages from Mr. Schulte that suggest he was aware of the encrypted images of children being molested by
adults on his computer, though he advised one user, "Just don't put anything too illegal on there." -
New York Times
Monday's DOJ announcement adds new charges related to stealing classified national defense information from the Central Intelligence
Agency in 2016 and transmitting it to WikiLeaks ("Organization-1").
The Vault 7 release - a series of 24 documents which began to publish on March 7, 2017 - reveal that the CIA had a wide variety
of tools to use against adversaries, including the
ability to "spoof" its malware to appear as though it was created by a foreign intelligence agency , as well as the ability to
take control of Samsung Smart TV's and surveil a target using a "Fake Off" mode in which they appear to be powered down while eavesdropping.
The CIA's hand crafted hacking techniques pose a problem for the agency. Each technique it has created forms a "fingerprint"
that can be used by forensic investigators to attribute multiple different attacks to the same entity .
The CIA's Remote Devices Branch's UMBRAGE group collects and maintains a substantial library of attack techniques 'stolen'
from malware produced in other states including the Russian Federation.
With UMBRAGE and related projects the CIA cannot only increase its total number of attack types but also misdirect attribution
by leaving behind the "fingerprints" of the groups that the attack techniques were stolen from .
Schulte previously worked for the NSA before joining the CIA, then "left the intelligence community in 2016 and took a job in
the private sector," according to a statement reviewed in May by
The Washington Post .
Schulte also claimed that he reported "incompetent management and bureaucracy" at the CIA to that agency's inspector general
as well as a congressional oversight committee. That painted him as a disgruntled employee, he said, and when he left the CIA
in 2016, suspicion fell upon him as "the only one to have recently departed [the CIA engineering group] on poor terms," Schulte
wrote. - WaPo
Part of that investigation, reported WaPo, has been analyzing whether the Tor network - which allows internet users to hide their
location (in theory) "was used in transmitting classified information."
In other hearings in Schulte's case, prosecutors have alleged that he used Tor at his New York apartment, but they have provided
no evidence that he did so to disclose classified information. Schulte's attorneys have said that Tor is used for all kinds of
communications and have maintained that he played no role in the Vault 7 leaks. - WaPo
Schulte says he's innocent: " Due to these unfortunate coincidences the FBI ultimately made the snap judgment that I was guilty
of the leaks and targeted me," Schulte said. He launched
Facebook and GoFundMe pages
to raise money for his defense, which despite a $50 million goal,
has yet to r eceive a single donation.
The Post noted in May, the Vault 7 release was one of the most significant leaks in the CIA's history , "exposing secret cyberweapons
and spying techniques that might be used against the United States, according to current and former intelligence officials."
The CIA's toy chest includes:
Tools code named " Marble " can misdirect forensic investigators from attributing viruses, trojans and hacking attacks to
their agency by inserted code fragments in foreign languages. The tool was in use as recently as 2016. Per the
"The source code shows that Marble has test examples not just in English but also in Chinese, Russian, Korean, Arabic and Farsi.
This would permit a forensic attribution double game, for example by pretending that the spoken language of the malware creator
was not American English, but Chinese, but then showing attempts to conceal the use of Chinese, drawing forensic investigators
even more strongly to the wrong conclusion, --- but there are other possibilities, such as hiding fake error messages."
iPads / iPhones / Android devices and Smart TV's are all susceptible to hacks and malware. The agency's "Dark Matter" project
reveals that the CIA has been bugging "factory fresh" iPhones since at least 2008 through suppliers. Another, " Sonic Screwdriver
" allows the CIA to execute code on a Mac laptop or desktop while it's booting up.
The increasing sophistication of surveillance techniques has drawn comparisons with George Orwell's 1984, but "Weeping Angel",
developed by the CIA's Embedded Devices Branch (EDB)
, which infests smart TVs, transforming them into covert microphones, is surely its most emblematic realization.
The Obama administration promised to disclose all serious vulnerabilities they found to Apple, Google, Microsoft, and other
US-based manufacturers. The US Government broke that commitment.
"Year Zero" documents show that the CIA breached the Obama administration's commitments. Many of the vulnerabilities used in
the CIA's cyber arsenal are pervasive and some may already have been found by rival intelligence agencies or cyber criminals.
These techniques permit the CIA to bypass the encryption of WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Wiebo, Confide and Cloackman by hacking
the "smart" phones that they run on and collecting audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.
The CIA laughs at Anti-Virus / Anti-Malware programs.
"Joshua Schulte, a former employee of the CIA, allegedly used his access at the agency to transmit classified material to an outside
organization . During the course of this investigation, federal agents also discovered alleged child pornography in Schulte's New
York City residence ," said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman.
On March 7, 2017, Organization-1 released on the Internet classified national defense material belonging to the CIA (the "Classified
Information"). In 2016, SCHULTE, who was then employed by the CIA, stole the Classified Information from a computer network at
the CIA and later transmitted it to Organization-1. SCHULTE also intentionally caused damage without authorization to a CIA computer
system by granting himself unauthorized access to the system, deleting records of his activities, and denying others access to
the system . SCHULTE subsequently made material false statements to FBI agents concerning his conduct at the CIA.
Schulte faces 135 years in prison if convicted on all 13 charges:
Illegal Gathering of National Defense Information, 18 U.S.C. §§ 793(b) and 2
Illegal Transmission of Lawfully Possessed National Defense Information, 18 U.S.C. §§ 793(d) and 2
Illegal Transmission of Unlawfully Possessed National Defense Information, 18 U.S.C. §§ 793(e) and 2
Unauthorized Access to a Computer To Obtain Classified Information, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1030(a)(1) and 2
Theft of Government Property, 18 U.S.C. §§ 641 and 2
Unauthorized Access of a Computer to Obtain Information from a Department or Agency of the United States, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1030(a)(2)
Causing Transmission of a Harmful Computer Program, Information, Code, or Command, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1030(a)(5) and 2
Making False Statements, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1001 and 2
Obstruction of Justice, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1503 and 2
Receipt of Child Pornography, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2252A(a)(2)(B), (b)(1), and 2
Possession of Child Pornography, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2252A(a)(5)(B), (b)(2), and 2
Transportation of Child Pornography, 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(1)
Ironically, every single ex gov whistle blower (/pedophile) has the exact same kiddie porn data on their secret server (hidden
in plane view at the apartment). Joe CIA probably has a zip drive preloaded with titled data sets like "Podesta's Greatest Hits",
"Hillary's Honey bunnies" or "Willy go to the zoo". Like the mix tapes you used to make for a new gal you were trying to date.
Depending upon the mood of the agent in charge, 10,000 images of Weiner's "Warm Pizza" playlist magically appear on the server
in 3-2-1... Gotcha!
These false fingerprint tactics were all over the trump accusations which started the whole Russia Russia Russia ordeal. And
the Russia ordeal was conceptualized in a paid report to Podesta by the Bensenson Group called the Salvage Program when it was
appearant that Trump could possible win and the DNC needed ideas on how to throw the voters off at the polls. Russia is coming
/Red dawn was #1 or #2 on the list of 7 recommended ploys. The final one was crazy.. If Trump appeared to win the election, imagery
of Jesus and an Alien Invasion was to be projected into the skies to cause mass panic and create a demand for free zanex to be
handed out to the panic stricken.
Don't forget Black Lives Matters. That was idea #4 of this Bensenson report, to create civil unrest and a race war. Notice
how BLM and Antifa manically disappeared after Nov 4. All a ploy by the Dems & the deep state to remain in control of the countrys
Back to the topic at hand. Its a wonder he didn't get Seth Riched. Too many porn servers and we will begin to question the
legitimacy. Oh wait...
You won't find any kiddie porn on Hillary's or DeNiros laptop. Oh its there. You just will never ever hear about it.
The Vault 7 release - a series of 24 documents which began to publish on March 7, 2017 - reveal that the CIA had a wide
variety of tools to use against adversaries, including
the ability to "spoof" its malware to appear
as though it was created by a foreign intelligence agency ....
It probably can spoof child porn as well.
Is he charged with copyright infringement for pirating child porn?
It's very easy for a criminal spook to plant child porn on some poor slob's machine - especially when they want to keep him
on the hook to sink his ass for something bigger in the future. Who knows... this guy may have done some shit but I'm willing
to bet he was entirely targeted by these IC assholes. Facing 135 years in prison... yet that baggy ass cunt Hillary walks free...
Funny how they always seem to have a "sting" operation in progress when there's anyone the DC rats want to destroy but strangely,
or not, silent as the grave when one of the special people are fingered.
The "Spoofing" or Digital Finger Print & Parallel Construction tools that can be used against Governments, Individuals, enemies
& adversaries are Chilling.
The CIA can not only hack into anything -- they can download any "evidence" they want onto your phone or computer. Child pornography,
national secrets, you name it. Then they can blackmail you, threatening prosecution for whatever crap they have planted, then
"found" on your computer. They can also "spoof" the source of such downloads -- for instance, if they want to "prove" that something
on your computer (or Donald Trump's computer) came from a "Russian source" -- they can spoof the IP address of a Russian source.
The take-away: no digital evidence the CIA or NSA produces on any subject whatsoever can be trusted. No digital evidence should
be acceptable in any case where the government has an interest, because they have the complete ability to fabricate and implant
any evidence on any iphone or computer. And worse: they have intentionally created these digital vulnerabilities and pushed them
onto the whole world via Microsoft and Google. Government has long been at war with liberty, claiming that we need to give up
liberty to be secure. Now we learn that they have been deliberately sabotaging our security, in order to augment their own power.
Time to shut down the CIA and all the other spy agencies. They're not keeping us free OR secure, and they're doing it deliberately.
Their main function nowadays seems to be lying us into wars against countries that never attacked us, and had no plans to do so.
The Echelon Computer System Catch Everything
The Flagging goes to Notify the Appropriate Alphabet,,,...Key Words Phrases...Algorithms,...It all gets sucked up and chewed
on and spat out to the surmised computed correct departments...That simple.
Effective immediately defund, Eliminate & Supeona it's Agents, Officials & Dept. Heads in regard to the Mass Surveillance,
Global Espionage Spying network & monitoring of a President Elect by aforementioned Agencies & former President Obama, AG Lynch
& DIA James Clapper, CIA John Breanan.
Since 911, they've been "protecting" the shit out of us. "protecting" away every last fiber of liberty. Was watching some fact-based
media about the CIA's failed plan to install Yeltsin's successor via a Wallstreet banking cartel bet (see, LTCM implosion). The
ultimate objectives were to rape and loot post-Soviet Russian resources and enforce regime change. It's such a tired playbook
at this point. Who DOESNT know about this sort of affront? Apparently even nobel prize economists cant prevent a nation from failing
lol. The ultimate in vanity; our gubmint and its' shadow controllers.
This is because people who are smart enough to write walware for the CIA send messages in the clear about child porn and are
too dumb to encrypt images with a key that would take the lifetime of the universe to break.
Next his mother will be found to have a tax problem and his brother's credit rating zeroed out.
Meanwhile Comey will be found to have been "careless".
Yeah I don't believe for a second that this guy had anything to do with child porn. Not like Obama and his hotdogs or Clintons
at pedo island, or how bout uncle pervie podesta? go after them, goons and spooks. They (intelligence agencies) falsely accuse
people of exactly what they are ass-deep in. loses credibility with me when the CIA clowns or NSA fuck ups accuse anyone of child
porn; especially one of their former employees who is 'disgruntled'. LOL. another spook railroad job done on a whistleblower.
fuck the CIA and all 17 alphabet agencies who spy on us 24/7. Just ask, if you want to snoop on me. I may even tell you what I'm
up to because I have nothing that I would hide since, I don't give a shit about you or whether you approve of what I am doing.
"Yeah I don't believe for a second that this guy had anything to do with child porn."
Speculation by my part: He was running a Tor server, and the porn originated from other Tor users. If that is the case ( it
would be easy for law enforcement to just assume it was his) law enforcement enjoys a quick and easy case.
It really doesn't matter if someone wants to hide. That is their right. Only Nazi's like our spy agencies would use the old
Gestapo line, "If you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to worry about. Or better yet, you should let me turn your life
upside down if you have nothing to hide. " Bullshit! It's none of their fucking business. How bout that? Spooks and secret clowns
CAN and DO frame anybody for whatever or murder whomever they wish. So why WOULDNT people be afraid when government goons start
sticking their big snouts into their lives??? They can ruin your life for the sake of convenience. Zee Furor is not pleased with
your attitude, comrade.
"... Let me just say this: the President used the word "wiretapping" but I think it was very clear to us that have been in the intelligence business, that this was a synonym for "surveillance". ..."
"... When I was in senior position in CIA's counterterrorism center, I had a deputy who was an FBI officer. An office in FBI HQ down in Washington had an FBI lead with a CIA deputy. There's a lot more cooperation than one would think. There are individuals that do assignments in each other's organisations to help foster levels of cooperation. I had members of NSA in my staff when I was at CIA, members of diplomatic security, members of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and it was run like a task force, so, there's a lot more cooperation than the media presents, they always think that there are these huge major battles between the organisations and that's rarely true. ..."
"... John Brennan is acting more like a political operative than a former director of CIA. ..."
The mighty CIA has fallen victim to a major breach, with WikiLeaks revealing the true scope of the Agency's ability for cyber-espionage.
Its tools seem to be aimed at ordinary citizens – your phone, your car, your TV, even your fridge can become an instrument of surveillance
in the hands of the CIA. How does the CIA use these tools, and why do they need them in the first place?
And as WikiLeaks promises even more revelations, how is all of this going to shape the already tense relationship between new
president and the intelligence community?
A man who has spent over two decades in the CIA's clandestine service – Gary Berntsen is on SophieCo.
Sophie Shevardnadze: Gary Berntsen, former CIA official, welcome to the show, great to have you with us.
Now, Vault 7, a major batch of CIA docs revealed by Wikileaks uncovers the agency's cyber tools. We're talking about world's most
powerful intelligence agency - how exactly did the CIA lose control of its arsenal of hacking weapons?
First off, I'd like to say that the world has changed a lot in the last several decades, and people are communicating in
many different ways and intelligence services, whether they be American or Russian, are covering these communications and their coverage
of those communications has evolved. Without commenting on the specific validity of those tools, it was clear that the CIA was surely
using contractors to be involved in this process, not just staff officers, and that individuals decided that they had problems with
U.S. policy, and have leaked these things to Wikileaks. This is a large problem, for the U.S. community, but just as the U.S. is
having problems, the Russia face similar problems. Just this week you had multiple members of the FSB charged with hacking as well,
and they have been charged by the U.S. government. So both services who are competitors, face challenges as we've entered a new era
of mass communications.
SS: So like you're saying, the leaker or leakers of the CIA docs is presumably a CIA contractor - should
the agency be spending more effort on vetting its own officers? Is the process rigorous enough?
Look There have been individuals since the dawn of history. Espionage is the second oldest occupation, have conducted spying
and espionage operations, and there have been people who have turned against their own side and worked for competitors and worked
for those opposing the country or the group that they're working with. It's been a problem from the beginning, and it continues
to be a problem, and the U.S. clearly is going to have to do a much better job at vetting those individuals who are given security
clearances, without a doubt.
SS: The CIA studied the flaws in the software of devices like iPhones, Androids, Smart TVs, apps
like Whatsapp that left them exposed to hacking, but didn't care about patching those up - so, in essence the agency chose
to leave Americans vulnerable to cyberattacks, rather than protect them?
GB: I think you have to understand, in this world that we're operating and the number one target of our intelligence
community are terrorists. Since the attacks of 9\11, 16 years ago, the obsession of the American intelligence community is to
identify those planning terrorist attacks, collecting information on them and being able to defeat them. These individuals are
using all these means of communication. I have spoken with many security services around the world, since my retirement back in
2005-2006, a lot of them have had problems covering the communications of somebody's very devices and programs that you've talked
about - whether they be narcotraffickers or salafist jihadists, they are all piggybacking off of commercial communications. Therefore
the need for modern intelligence services to sort of provide coverage of all means of communications. And there's a price that
you pay for that.
SS: One of the most disturbing parts of the leaks is the "Weeping Angel" program - CIA hacking into
Samsung Smart TVs to record what's going on even when the TV appears to be turned off. Why are the CIA's tools designed to penetrate
devices used by ordinary Western citizens at home?
GB: Look, I wouldn't say it has anything to do with Western homes, because the CIA doesn't do technical operations
against American citizens - that's prohibited by the law. If the CIA does anything in the U.S., it does it side-by-side with the
FBI, and it does it according to FISA - the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act laws. It's gotta go to the judge to do those
things. Those tools are used primarily against the individuals and terrorists that are targeting the U.S. or other foreign entities
that we see as a significant threat to the U.S. national security, which is the normal functioning of any intelligence service.
SS: Just like you say, the CIA insists it never uses its investigative tools on American citizens
in the US, but, we're wondering, exactly how many terrorist camps in the Middle East have Samsung Smart TVs to watch their favorite
shows on? Does it seem like the CIA lost its direction?
GB: Plenty of them.
GB: I've travelled in the Middle East, Samsungs are sold everywhere. Sophie, Samsung TVs are sold all over
the world. I've spent a lot of time in the Middle East, I've seen them in Afghanistan, I've seen them everywhere. So, any kind
of devices that you can imagine, people are using everywhere. We're in a global economy now.
SS: The CIA has tools to hack iPhones - but they make up only around 15 % of the world's smartphone
market. IPhones are not popular among terrorists, but they are among business and political elites - so are they the real target
GB: No. The CIA in relative terms to the size of the world is a small organisation. It is an organisation
that has roughly 20 or more thousand people - it's not that large in terms of covering a planet with 7 billion people. We have
significant threats to the U.S. and to the Western world. We live in an age of super-terrorism, we live in an age when individuals,
small groups of people, can leverage technology at a lethal effect. The greatest threats to this planet are not just nuclear,
they are bio. The U.S. needs to have as many tools as possible to defend itself against these threats, as does Russia want to
have similar types of tools to defend itself. You too, Russian people have suffered from a number of terrible terrorist acts.
SS: Wikileaks suggest the CIA copied the hacking habits of other nations to create a fake electronic
trace - why would the CIA need that?
GB: The CIA, as any intelligence service, would look to conduct coverage in the most unobtrusive fashion as
possible. It is going to do its operations so that they can collect and collect again and again against terrorist organisations,
where and whenever it can, because sometimes threats are not just static, they are continuous.
SS: You know this better, so enlighten me: does the he CIA have the authorisation to create the
surveillance tools it had in the first place? Who gives it such authorisation?
GB: The CIA was created in 1947 by the National Security Act of the U.S. and does two different things - it
does FI (foreign intelligence) collection and it does CA - covert action. Its rules for collection of intelligence were enshrined
in the law that created it, the CIA Act 110, in 1949, but the covert action part of this, where it does active measures, when
it gets involved in things - all of those are covered by law. The Presidential finding had to be written, it had to be presented
to the President. The President's signs off on those things. Those things are then briefed to members of Congress, or the House
Permanent Subcommittee for Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee for Intelligence. We have a very rigorous process of review
of the activities of our intelligence communities in the U.S.
SS: But you're talking about the activities in terms of operations. I'm just asking - does CIA need
any authorisation or permission to create the tools it has in its arsenal? Or it can just go ahead
GB: Those tools and the creation of collection tools falls
under the same laws that allowed the CIA to be established. And that was the 1949 Intelligence Act. And also, subsequently, the
laws in 1975. Yes.
SS: So, the CIA programme names are quite colourful, sometimes wacky - "Weeping Angel", "Swamp
Monkey", "Brutal Kangaroo" - is there a point to these, is there any logic, or are they completely random? I always wondered...
GB: There's absolutely no point to that, and it's random.
SS:Okay, so how do you come up with those names? Who like, one says: "Monkey" and another one says: "Kangaroo"?...
GB: I'm sure they are computer-generated.
SS: Trump accused Obama of wiretapping him during the campaign Could the CIA have actually spied
on the president? It seems like the agency doesn't have the best relationship with Donald Trump - how far can they go?
GB: Let me just say this: the President used the word "wiretapping" but I think it was very clear to us that
have been in the intelligence business, that this was a synonym for "surveillance". Because most people are on cellphones, people
aren't using landlines anymore, so there's no "wiretapping", okay. These all fall under the Intelligence Surveillance Act, as
I stated earlier, this thing existing in the U.S.. It was clear to President Trump and to those in his campaign, after they were
elected, and they did a review back that the Obama Administration sought FISA authorisation to do surveillance of the Trump campaign
in July and then in October. They were denied in July, they were given approval in October, and in October they did some types
of surveillance of the Trump campaign. This is why the President, of course, tweeted, that he had been "wiretapped" - of course
"wiretapping" being a synonym for the surveillance against his campaign, which was never heard of in the U.S. political history
that I can remember, I can't recall any way of this being done. It's an outrage, and at the same time, Congressional hearings
are going to be held and they are going to review all of these things, and they are going to find out exactly what happened and
what was done. It's unclear right now, but all we do know - and it has been broken in the media that there were two efforts, and
at the second one, the authorisation was given. That would never have been done by the CIA, because they don't do that sort of
coverage in the U.S.. That would either be the FBI or the NSA, with legal authorities and those authorities the problem that
the Trump administration had is they believed that the information from these things was distributed incorrectly. Any time an
American - and this is according to the U.S. law - any time an American is on the wire in the U.S., their names got to be
minimized from this and it clearly wasn't done and the Trump administration was put in a bad light because of this.
SS: If what you're saying is true, how does that fall under foreign intelligence? Is that more of
the FBI-NSA expertise?
GB: It was FBI and NSA - it was clearly the FBI and the NSA that were involved, it would never have been the
CIA doing that, they don't listen to telephones in the U.S., they read the product of other agencies that would provide those
things, but clearly, there were individuals on those phone calls that they believed were foreign and were targeting those with
potential communications with the Trump campaign. Let's be clear here - General Clapper, the DNI for President Obama, stated before
he left office, that there was no, I repeat, no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. This has been something
that has been dragged out again, and again, and again, by the media. This is a continuing drumbeat of the mainstream, left-wing
media of the U.S., to paint the President in the poorest light, to attempt to discredit Donald Trump.
SS: With the intelligence agencies bringing down Trump's advisors like Michael Flynn - and you said
the people behind that were Obama's loyalists - can we talk about the intelligence agencies being too independent from the White
House, playing their own politics?
GB: I think part of the problem that we've seen during the handover of power from President Obama to President
Trump was that there was a number of holdovers that went from political appointee to career status that had been placed in the
NatSec apparatus and certain parts of the intelligence organisations. It is clear that President Trump and his team are determined
to remove those people to make sure that there's a continuity of purpose and people aren't leaking information that would put
the Administration into a negative light. That's the goal of the administration, to conduct itself consistent with the goals of
securing the country from terrorism and other potential threats - whether they be counter-narcotics, or intelligence agencies
trying to breach our you know, the information that we hold secure.
SS: Here's a bit of conspiracy theories - could it be that the domestic surveillance agencies like
the NSA or the FBI orchestrated the Vault 7 leaks - to damage CIA, stop it from infringing on their turf?
GB :I really don't think so and that is conspiracy thinking. You have to understand something, in the
intelligence communities in the U.S., whether it be the CIA and FBI, we've done a lot of cross-fertilizations. When I was in senior
position in CIA's counterterrorism center, I had a deputy who was an FBI officer. An office in FBI HQ down in Washington had an
FBI lead with a CIA deputy. There's a lot more cooperation than one would think. There are individuals that do assignments in
each other's organisations to help foster levels of cooperation. I had members of NSA in my staff when I was at CIA, members of
diplomatic security, members of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and it was run like a task force, so, there's a lot more cooperation
than the media presents, they always think that there are these huge major battles between the organisations and that's rarely
SS: Generally speaking - is there rivalry between American intel agencies at all? Competition for
GB: I think, sometimes, between the Bureau and the CIA - the CIA is the dominant agency abroad, and the FBI
is the dominant agency in the U.S. What they do abroad, they frequently have to get cleared by us, what we do domestically, we
have to get cleared by them, and sometimes there's some friction, but usually, we're able to work this out. It makes for great
news, the CIA fighting FBI, but the reality is that there's a lot more cooperation than confrontation. We are all in the business
of trying to secure the American homeland and American interests globally.
SS: I'm still thinking a lot about the whole point of having this hacking arsenal for the CIA since
you talk on their behalf - the possibility to hack phones, computers, TVs and cars - if the actual terrorist attacks on US soil,
like San Bernardino, Orlando are still missed?
GB: Look. There are hundreds of individuals, if not thousands, planning efforts against the U.S. at any
time. It can be many-many things. And the U.S. security services, there's the CIA, the FBI, NSA - block many-many of these things,
but it is impossible to stop them all. Remember, this is an open society here, in America, with 320 million people, here. We try
to foster open economic system, we allow more immigration to America than all countries in the world combined. This is a great
political experiment here, but it's also very difficult to police. There are times that the U.S. security services are going to
fail. It's inevitable. We just have to try the best we can, do the best job that we can, while protecting the values that attract
so many people to the U.S.
SS:The former CIA director John Brennan is saying Trump's order to temporarily ban travel from some
Muslim states is not going to help fight terrorism in 'any significant way'. And the countries where the terrorists have previously
come from - like Saudi Arabia, or Afghanistan, it's true - aren't on the list. So does he maybe have a point?
GB: John Brennan is acting more like a political operative than a former director of CIA. The countries that
Mr. Trump had banned initially, or at least had put a partial, sort of a delay - where states like Somalia, Libya, the Sudan,
Iran - places where we couldn't trust local vetting. Remember something, when someone immigrates to the U.S., we have what's called
an "immigration packet": they may have to get a chest X-ray to make sure they don't bring any diseases with them, they have to
have background check on any place they've ever lived, and in most of these places there are no security forces to do background
checks on people that came from Damascus, because parts of Damascus are totally destroyed - there's been warfare. It is actually
a very reasonable thing for President Trump to ask for delay in these areas. Look, the Crown-Prince, the Deputy Crown-Prince of
Saudi Arabia was just in the United States and met with Donald Trump, and he said he didn't believe it was a "ban on Muslims".
This was not a "ban on Muslims", it was an effort to slow down and to create more opportunity to vet those individuals coming
from states where there's a preponderance of terrorist organisations operating. A reasonable step by President Trump, something
he promised during the campaign, something he's fulfilling. But again, I repeat - America allows more immigration into the U.S.,
than all countries combined. So, we really don't need to be lectured on who we let in and who we don't let in.
SS: But I still wonder if the Crown-Prince would've had the same comment had Saudi Arabia been on
that ban list. Anyways, Michael Hayden, ex-CIA
GB: Wait a second, Sophie - the Saudis have a reasonable form to police their society, and they provide accurate
police checks. If they didn't create accurate police checks, we would've given the delay to them as well.
SS: Ok, I got your point. Now, Michael Hayden, ex-CIA and NSA chief, pointed out that the US intelligence
enlists agents in the Muslim world with the promise of eventual emigration to America - is Trump's travel ban order going to hurt
American intelligence gathering efforts in the Middle East?
GB: No, the question here - there were individuals that worked as translators for us in Afghanistan and Iraq
and serving in such roles as translators, they were promised the ability to immigrate to the United States. Unfortunately, some
of them were blocked in the first ban that was put down, because individuals who wrote that, didn't consider that. That has been
considered in the re-write, that the Trump administration had submitted, which is now being attacked by a judge in Hawaii, and
so it was taken into consideration, but the objective here was to help those that helped U.S. forces on the ground, especially
those who were translators, in ground combat operations, where they risked their lives alongside American soldiers.
SS: You worked in Afghanistan - you were close to capturing Bin Laden back in 2001 - what kind of
spying tools are actually used on the ground by the CIA to catch terrorists?
GB: The CIA as does any intelligence service in the world, is a human business. It's a business where we work
with local security forces to strengthen their police and intelligence forces, we attempt to leverage them, we have our own people
on the ground that speak the language, we're trying to help build transportation there. There's no "secret sauce" here. There's
no super-technology that changes the country's ability to conduct intelligence collections or operations. In Afghanistan the greatest
thing that the U.S. has is broad support and assistance to Afghan men and women across the country. We liberated half of the population,
and for women were providing education, and when the people see what we were doing: trying to build schools, providing USAID projects
- all of these things - this makes the population willing to work with and support the United States. Frequently, members of the
insurgence groups will see this and sometimes they do actually cross the lines and cooperate with us. So, it's a full range of
American political power, whether it's hard or soft, that is the strength of the American intelligence services - because
people in the world actually believe - and correctly so - that American more than generally a force of good in the world.
SS: Gary, thank you so much for this interesting interview and insight into the world of the CIA.
We've been talking to Gary Berntsen, former top CIA officer, veteran of the agency, talking about the politics of American intelligence
in the Trump era. That's it for this edition of SophieCo, I will see you next time.
Just thinking here in the light of how things are unfolding with the CIA I am wondering since Federal crimes are committed
can the FBI investigate the CIA acting as America Federal Law Enforcement.
RedBlowDryer -> GreenPin
I think the US intelligent agencies are harming their country more than any enemy of the US.
There is a reason why JFK wanted to dismantle the CIA. This guy is lying.
CIA needs hacking tools to make it look like it was carried out by another state simply for plausible deniability.
a "force for good in the world"?...sounds like the American white hat-black hat myth...read Naomi Klein's "The Shock
Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism". This is a detailed litany of America's various kinds of interventions in multiple
countries that cold hardly be described as "a force for good in the world"...a force for "America's values" (read with
WHO is responsible for the outbreak of chaotic warfare in Libya and Syria?
Should we trust the Saudi vetting services...think of who the September 11 bombers were? Was there another reason they were
not on Trump's banned countries list? Too big to mess with, i.e., oil and weapons sales?
Amazing how they justify their destructive behaviour in a way as they are serving America people and doing good around the
wold. You can sugar count your crimes against humanity as much as you can, but the reality of today' human misery speaks for
since the United States was founded in 1776, she has been at war during 214 out of her 235 calendar years of existence
interesting, but begs the question "Can we really trust what this guy tells us?" If not, what parts can we trust, and what
parts can't we?
You'd have to deconstruct his talking points and I don't know how that is done. Intelligence probably knows how to do that. I
noticed he was becoming more zealous on hegemony and exceptionalism as the interview neared the end.
I agree. Bernsten is almost like-ably energetic, but he is, in the end, an uncompromising warrior of the empire.
if Trump is to be controlled--they gotta have some dirt--or threat against his family --it's how they operate---
Mr. Berntsen left out the very important NSC10/2 legislation, which gave the CIA free reign with deniability as the cover.
This needs to be repealed. With this legislation, the CIA answers to no one, and goes around the world wrecking havoc with the
governments and people where they like. We will never have peace until that legislation is repealed.
This is why interesting books to read about the history of the CIA.
The Dulles brothers,
David Talbot: The Devil's Chessboard,
Fletcher Prouty: The Secret Team.
I applaud former CIA and FBI Gary Bernstein for speaking out on the most powerful intelligence networks on the planet
regarding their surveillance activities. Every nation needs intelligence to safeguard but if we go beyond the call of duty and
get exposed .this leaves Pres Trump and his Adm with no option but to consider corrective measures with a visit to Langley
etc.. Here again the failures of Liberalism are coming up in the wash for cleaning up.
Liberalism has not been running the country for the last 54 years. We have been under a coup government and just got used
As a reminder, Project
Maven was to use machine learning to identify vehicles and other objects from drone footage -
with the ultimate goal of enabling the automated detection and identification of objects in up
to 38 categories - including the ability to track individuals as they come and go from
Project Maven's objective, according to Air Force Lt. Gen. John N.T. "Jack" Shanahan,
director for Defense Intelligence for Warfighter Support in the Office of the Undersecretary
of Defense for Intelligence, " is to turn the enormous volume of data available to DoD into
actionable intelligence and insights. " -
Well, good for those employees. An computer program figuring out targets to kill? No
thanks, I've seen that movie before, several of them.
This does make sense from the pentagon's point of view, though. Drone pilots constantly
burning out and having substance abuse problems because of the things they do from the air is
bad for business. Just put a computer program in charge, solves that problem. Plus, you don't
have to worry about the computer program talking to the media or giving remorseful interviews
about the kids they've killed, etc.
Did they throw their custom coffee drinks on the floor, talked in squeaky voices to each
other, raised their hands in anger, made some incoherent threats toward management in their
private conversations, scotched a few more Dilbert cartoons on the outer walls of their
cubicles? This kind of revolt?
Google employees rock.
I doubt the management will risk it by doing it secretly. But the military might find ways to
reverse engineer whatever Google produces. If they get caught and have to pay damages...hey,
it's taxpayers' money anyway they use against the people/humanity. They don't care.
Powerful is the man who, with a short series of tweets, can single-handedly send the bluest
of the blue-chip stocks into a headlong tumble. For better or for worse, the current occupant
of the Oval Office is one such man, tapping into his power with the following missive that
crossed the Twitter transom on the morning of March 29:
I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the Election. Unlike others, they pay
little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery
Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of
Over the next few trading days, with four subsequent tweets peppered in, Amazon's stock
dropped by more than $75 a share, losing a market value of nearly $40 billion. Card
carrying-members of the Resistance and Never Trump brigade quickly portrayed the president's
scorn as the latest evidence of his "soft totalitarianism" and general disdain for the First
Amendment and the free press. They noted that Amazon's CEO and founder, Jeff Bezos, owns the
Washington Post -- a leading "perpetrator" of what Trump has called the "opposition
party" and "fake news."
Concerns of politically motivated impropriety are not without merit. Trump has repeatedly
proven himself unworthy of the benefit of the doubt. As presidential candidate and commander in
chief, he has demonstrated an eagerness to use his Twitter account as a bully pulpit in his
petty brawls with lawmakers, media personalities, and anyone else who might draw his ire.
And yet, ulterior motives though there may be, knee-jerk dismissals of the president's
attack are short-sighted. The president's bluster in this instance is rooted in reality.
Indeed, contra the libertarian ethos that Amazon and its leader purport to embody, the
company has not emerged as one of history's preeminent corporate juggernauts through thrift and
elbow grease alone. Although the company's harshest critics must concede that Amazon is the
world's most consistently competent corporation -- replete with innovation and ingenuity -- the
company's unprecedented growth would not be possible without two key ingredients: corporate
welfare and tax avoidance.
Amazon has long benefitted from the procurement of taxpayer-funded subsidies, emerging in
recent years as the leading recipient of corporate welfare. According to Good Jobs First, a
Washington, D.C., organization dedicated to corporate and government accountability, Amazon
has, since 2000, received more than $1.39 billion in state and local tax breaks and subsidies
for construction of its vast network of warehouses and data centers.
These private-public "partnership" deals are perhaps best illustrated by the sweepstakes for
Amazon's second headquarters. Touted as the economic development opportunity of the century,
the chosen destination will reap the benefits of 50,000 "high-paying" jobs and $5 billion in
construction spending. The possibility of securing an economic development package of this
magnitude elicited proposals from 238 North American cities and regions, fomenting what some
have called a "bidding war" between mayors, governors, and county executives desperate for
After a first round deadline of October 19, the pool of applicants was, in mid-January,
whittled down to a list of 20. As expected, each finalist offered incentive packages worth more
than a billion dollars, with Montgomery County, Maryland, ($8.5 billion) and Newark, New
Jersey, ($7 billion) offering the most eye-popping bundles. Proposals utilized a wide array of
state and local economic development programs: property tax discounts, infrastructure
subsidies, and, in the case of Chicago's proposal, an incentive known as a "personal income-tax
diversion." Worth up to $1.32 billion, Amazon employees would still pay their income taxes in
full -- but instead of Illinois receiving the money, the tax payments would be funneled
directly into the pockets of Amazon itself.
While critics condemn the ostentatious bids of Maryland and New Jersey and decry the
"creative" gimmicks of cities such as Chicago, they are equally worried about the details -- or
lack thereof -- of the proposals from the other finalists. Despite demands for transparency
from local community leaders and journalists, only a handful of cities have released the
details of their bids in full, while six finalists -- Indianapolis, Dallas, Northern Virginia,
Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Raleigh, North Carolina -- have refused to release any of
the details from their first-round bids. Viewing themselves as players in a zero-sum game of
high-stakes poker, they claim that there is little to gain, but a lot to lose, in making their
Such secrecy has, in the second round of bidding, become the rule more than the exception.
Although he owns a newspaper with the slogan "Democracy Dies in Darkness," Bezos has required
state and local officials involved in negotiations to sign non-disclosure agreements. With the
opportunity to revisit and revise their bids (i.e., increase their dollar value), the
transition from public spectacle to backroom dealing introduces yet another cause for concern.
If the finalists don't apprise citizens of their bids' details, the citizens can't weigh the
costs and benefits and determine whether inviting the company into their midst will be a net
positive or net negative.
Amazon's pursuit of public tithes and offerings is matched by its relentless obsession with
avoiding taxes. Employing a legion of accountants and lawyers, the company has become a master
at navigating the tax code and exploiting every loophole. Illegality is not the issue here but
rather a tax system that allows mammoth corporations to operate with huge tax advantages not
available to mom-and-pop shops on Main Street.
Of course Amazon isn't unique in its desire to avoid the taxman. It is, however, unrivaled
in its ability to do so. Last fall's debate concerning the merits of lowering the corporate tax
rate from 35 percent to 20 percent was, for Amazon, a moot point. In the five years from 2012
to 2016, Amazon paid an effective federal income tax rate of only 11.4 percent.
The company fared even better in 2017. Despite posting a $5.6 billion profit, Amazon didn't
pay a single cent in federal taxes, according to a recent report from the Institute on Taxation
and Economic Policy. What's more, Amazon projects it will receive an additional $789 million in
kickbacks from last year's tax reform bill.
Even by the standards of mammoth corporations, this is impressive. By way of comparison,
Walmart -- no stranger to corporate welfare and tax avoidance -- has paid $64 billion in
corporate income tax since 2008. Amazon? Just $1.4 billion.
Amazon's tax-avoidance success can be attributed to two things: avoiding the collection of
sales taxes and stashing profits in overseas tax havens. The IRS estimates that Amazon has
dodged more than $1.5 billion in taxes by funneling the patents of its intellectual property
behind the walls of its European headquarters city, Luxembourg -- a widely used corporate tax
haven. Again, nothing illegal here, but there's something wrong with a tax system that allows
From day one, Amazon's business model involved legally avoiding any obligation to collect
sales taxes, and then using the subsequent pricing advantage to gain market share. It did this
by first locating its warehouses in very few states, most of which did not have a sales tax. It
then shipped its goods to customers that resided in other states that did have sales tax. This
game plan allowed Amazon to avoid what is known as "nexus" in sales-tax states, meaning that
those states could not compel it to collect the tax -- a two to 10 percent competitive
advantage over its brick-and-mortar counterparts.
Amazon exploited this tax advantage for years until state legislatures -- realizing how much
revenue they were losing -- gradually began passing legislation requiring Internet retailers to
collect sales taxes for items purchased by their citizens. In 2012, having already benefited
from this competitive advantage for more than a decade and a half, Bezos -- under the pretense
of a "level playing field" -- began advocating for federal legislation that would require
Internet retailers to collect sales tax. No such legislation has been passed.
And despite Bezos's carefully calculated public relations posturing, Amazon's advantage over
brick-and-mortar retailers persists: not only does Amazon not collect city and county sales
taxes (where applicable) but it also doesn't, with few exceptions, collect sales tax on items
sold by third-party distributors on Amazon Marketplace -- sales that account for more than half
of Amazon's sales.
It is difficult to overstate how instrumental tax breaks and tax avoidance have been in
Amazon's unprecedented growth. As Bezos made clear in his first letter to shareholders in 1997,
Amazon's business plan is predicated on amassing long-term market share in lieu of short-term
profits. As a result, the company operates on razor-thin margins in some retail categories,
while actually taking losses in others.
Amazon has not squandered these competitive advantages. Half of online retail purchases are
made through Amazon, and more than half of American households are enrolled in the Amazon Prime
program -- a subscription service that engenders platform loyalty and leads to increases in
In fact, Amazon's ascent and tactics have led an increasing number of public policy experts
to call for a renewed enforcement of America's antitrust laws. The concern is that Amazon has
used its market power to crush smaller competitors with a swath of anti-competitive practices,
including predatory pricing and market power advantages stemming from Amazon Marketplace --
Amazon's vast sales platform for third-party retailers.
Such practices may be a boon for consumers and Amazon stockholders, the reasoning goes, but
they are only possible because Amazon uses economic power to squeeze its retail partners on
pricing at various points in the production line, which harms the health of many other
businesses. In fact, some suggest this bullying tendency calls to mind the actions of John D.
Rockefeller in his dealings with railroad companies at the turn of the last century.
These monopolistic practices have squeezed local, state, and federal revenue streams in two
ways. Not only do these governments forego the collection of needed tax revenue but Amazon's
rise has also knocked out many brick-and-mortar competitors that previously had provided
streams of tax revenue. By wooing Amazon with taxpayer-funded subsidies and other giveaways,
government leaders are, in a very real sense, funding the destruction of their own tax base.
There is little evidence that such taxpayer-funded inducements have resulted in a net positive
to the states and localities doling out the subsidies.
By forsaking the tenets of free market orthodoxy, forgoing the collection of much-needed tax
revenue, and giving big businesses major competitive advantages, state and local governments
have generated increasing controversy and political enmity from both ends of the political
spectrum. And yet, though bipartisan accusations of crony capitalism and corporate welfare
abound, such opposition does little to dissuade state and local governments from loosening the
public purse strings in their efforts to woo big corporations such as Amazon.
Daniel Kishi is associate editor of The American Conservative. Follow him on
Facebook is hoping that a new alliance with the Atlantic Council -- a leading geopolitical
strategy think-tank seen as a de facto PR agency for the U.S. government and NATO military
alliance – will not only solve its "fake news" and "disinformation" controversy, but will
also help the social media monolith play "a positive role" in ensuring democracy on a global
The new partnership will effectively ensure that Atlantic Council will serve as Facebook's
"eyes and ears," according to a company press statement. With its leadership comprised of
retired military officers, former policymakers, and top figures from the U.S. National Security
State and Western business elites, the Atlantic Council's role policing the social network
should be viewed as a virtual takeover of Facebook by the imperialist state and the council's
extensive list of ultra-wealthy and corporate donors.
The partnership is only the latest in a steady stream of announced plans by the Menlo Park,
California-based company to address controversy surrounding its role in the 2016 U.S.
presidential election. The company has been mired in scandal stemming from the allegations of
"election interference" carried out through the social network – usually pinned on the
Russian government and ranging from the use of independent media to the theft of Facebook user
data by political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica.
The announcement should sound alarm bells when one considers the Atlantic Council's list of
sponsors – including, but not limited to, war-profiteering defense contractors; agencies
aligned with Washington and the Pentagon; Gulf Arab tyrants; major transnational corporations;
and such well-loved Western philanthropic brands as Carnegie, Koch, Rockefeller, and Soros.
Even the name of the group itself is meant to evoke the North Atlantic Council, the highest
political decision-making body of North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Full report: https://www.mintpressnews.com/facebook-partners-hawkish-atlantic-council-nato-lobby-group-protect-democracy/242289/
Now, the prime suspect in the breach has been identified: a 29-year-old
former C.I.A. software engineer who had designed malware used to break into the computers of terrorism
suspects and other targets, The New York Times has learned.
Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation searched the Manhattan
apartment of the suspect, Joshua A. Schulte, one week after WikiLeaks released the first of the C.I.A.
documents in March last year, and then stopped him from flying to Mexico on vacation, taking his passport,
according to court records and relatives. The search warrant application said Mr. Schulte was suspected of
"distribution of national defense information," and agents told the court they had retrieved "N.S.A. and
C.I.A. paperwork" in addition to a computer, tablet, phone and other electronics.
But instead of charging Mr. Schulte in the breach, referred to as the Vault
7 leak, prosecutors charged him last August with possessing child pornography, saying agents had found
10,000 illicit images on a server he created as a business in 2009 while studying at the University of Texas
Court papers quote messages from Mr. Schulte that suggest he was aware of
the encrypted images of children being molested by adults on his computer, though he advised one user, "Just
don't put anything too illegal on there."
In September, Mr. Schulte was released on the condition that he not leave
New York City, where he lived with a cousin, and keep off computers. He was jailed in December after
prosecutors found evidence that he had violated those rules, and he has been held at the Metropolitan
Correctional Center in Manhattan since then. He has
posted on Facebook under a pseudonym a series of essays
critical of the criminal justice system.
It is unclear why, more than a year after he was arrested, he has not been
charged or cleared in connection with Vault 7. Leak investigators have had access to electronic audit trails
inside the C.I.A. that may indicate who accessed the files that were stolen, and they have had possession of
Mr. Schulte's personal data for many months.
... ... ...
According to his family and
, Mr. Schulte did an internship at the National Security Agency while working on a bachelor's degree in computer
engineering. He worked in the C.I.A.'s Engineering Development Group, which designed the hacking tools used by its Center for
Cyber Intelligence. He left the agency in November 2016 and moved to New York to work for Bloomberg L.P. as a software engineer.
Most of the government's cyberespionage is carried out by the N.S.A., but the C.I.A. also employs hackers. The leaked Vault 7
documents came from the agency's Engineering Development Group and included descriptions and instructions for the use of agency
hacking tools, but only a small amount of the actual computer code for the tools.
Google stores your location (if you have location tracking turned on) every time you turn on your phone. You
can see a timeline of where you've been from the very first day you started using
on your phone.
Why have we given up our privacy to Facebook and other sites so willingly?
Google has an advertisement profile of you
Google creates an advertisement profile based on your information, including your location, gender, age,
hobbies, career, interests, relationship status, possible weight (need to lose 10lb in one day?) and income.
Google stores information on every app and extension you use. They know how often you use them, where you use
them, and who you use them to interact with. That means they know who you talk to on Facebook, what countries are
you speaking with, what time you go to sleep.
of your YouTube history, so they probably know whether you're going to be a parent
soon, if you're a conservative, if you're a progressive, if you're Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, if you're feeling
depressed or suicidal, if you're anorexic
The data Google has on you can fill millions of Word documents
Google offers an option to download all of the data it stores about you. I've requested to download it and the
file is 5.5GB
, which is roughly 3m Word documents.
ass="inline-garnett-quote inline-icon ">
Manage to gain access to someone's Google account? Perfect, you have a diary of
everything that person has done
This link includes your bookmarks, emails, contacts, your Google Drive files, all of the above information,
your YouTube videos, the photos you've taken on your phone, the businesses you've bought from, the products you've
bought through Google
They also have data from your calendar, your Google hangout sessions, your location history, the music you
listen to, the Google books you've purchased, the Google groups you're in, the websites you've created, the phones
you've owned, the pages you've shared, how many steps you walk in a day
'A snapshot of the data Facebook has saved on me.' Photograph: Dylan Curran
Facebook stores everything from your stickers to your login location
Facebook also stores what it thinks you might be interested in based off the things you've liked and what you
and your friends talk about (I apparently like the topic "girl").
Somewhat pointlessly, they also store all the stickers you've ever sent on Facebook (I have no idea why they do
this. It's just a joke at this stage).
They also store every time you log in to Facebook, where you logged in from, what time, and from what device.
And they store all the applications you've ever had connected to your Facebook account, so they can guess I'm
interested in politics and web and graphic design, that I was single between X and Y period with the installation
of Tinder, and I got a HTC phone in November.
(Side note, if you have Windows 10 installed, this is a picture of
the privacy options with 16
different sub-menus, which have all of the options enabled by default when you install Windows 10)
The data they collect includes tracking where you are, what applications you have installed, when you use them,
what you use them for, access to your webcam and microphone at any time, your contacts, your emails, your
calendar, your call history, the messages you send and receive, the files you download, the games you play, your
photos and videos, your music, your search history, your browsing history, even what radio stations you listen to.
Facebook told me it would act swiftly on data misuse – in 2015 | Harry
Here are some of the different ways Google gets your data
I got the Google Takeout document with all my information, and this is a breakdown of all the different ways
they get your information.
Here's the search history document, which has 90,000 different entries, even showing the images I downloaded
and the websites I accessed (I showed the Pirate Bay section to show how much damage this information can do).
'My search history document has 90,000 different entries.' Photograph: Dylan Curran
Google knows which events you attended, and when
Here's my Google Calendar broken down, showing all the events I've ever added, whether I actually attended
them, and what time I attended them at (this part is when I went for an interview for a marketing job, and what
time I arrived).
'Here is my Google calendar showing a job interview I attended.' Photograph: Dylan Curran
And Google has information you deleted
This is my Google Drive, which includes files I
deleted including my résumé, my monthly
budget, and all the code, files and websites I've ever made, and even my PGP private key, which I deleted, that I
use to encrypt emails.
This is my Google Fit, which shows all of the steps I've ever taken, any time I walked anywhere, and all the
times I've recorded any meditation/yoga/workouts I've done (I deleted this information and revoked Google Fit's
I'll just do a short summary of what's in the thousands of files I received under my Google Activity.
First, every Google Ad I've ever viewed or clicked on, every app I've ever launched or used and when I did it,
every website I've ever visited and what time I did it at, and every app I've ever installed or searched for.
They also have every image I've ever searched for and saved, every location I've ever searched for or clicked
on, every news article I've ever searched for or read, and
every single Google search
I've made since
2009. And then finally, every YouTube video I've ever searched for or viewed, since 2008.
This information has millions of nefarious uses. You say you're not a terrorist. Then how come you were
googling Isis? Work at Google and you're suspicious of your wife? Perfect, just look up her location and search
history for the last 10 years. Manage to gain access to someone's Google account? Perfect, you have a
chronological diary of everything that person has done for the last 10 years.
This is one of the craziest things about the modern age. We would never let the government or a corporation put
cameras/microphones in our homes or location trackers on us. But we just went ahead and did it ourselves because –
to hell with it! – I want to watch cute dog videos.
A caption was corrected on 28 March 2018 to replace "privacy options in Facebook"
with "privacy options in Windows 10".
Dylan Curran is a data consultant and web developer, who does extensive research into spreading
technical awareness and improving digital etiquette
The obvious question came up: Should I buy a smartphone to replace my trusted Ericsson?
I tested several of the current top-of-the-line smartphones - Motorola, Samsung, Apple. They
were in the same relative price range as my old Ericsson was at its time. But they lack in
usability. They either have a too small screen for their multitude of functions or they are
bricks that require an extra pocket.
I do not want to give all my data into the hands of
some unaccountable billionaires and unknown third parties. I do not want my privacy destroyed.
So no - I decided not to buy a smartphone as replacement for my trusted Ericsson
It is a Chinese product sold in Germany under the Olympia
brand. It is a GSM quad-band 'dumb' phone with FM radio and a flashlight. The standby time is
140 hours and talk-time is 3+ hours. The battery is a standardized model and future
replacements will be easy to find.
Size and weight are nearly the same as the old Ericsson. The keys are much bigger,
illuminated and easier to handle, especially in the dark. It is a robust construction and the
sound quality is good.
It cost me €22.00 ($26.40).
Posted by b on April 2, 2018 at 03:28 PM | Permalink
I'm not convinced the new generation of retro dumb phones aka feature phones do not also have
all the same surveillance capabilities as their smart brethren - even though they don't
expose those capabilities as features to the end user.
Well you have to ask yourself, Do i want to participate in a mass surveillance system for
one, Then you have to ask Is their any reason i would accept constant audio recordings being
made of my environment, then you have the camera angle to contend... Then your GPS location
is a major issue, add the ultrasonic beacon thing and the cell tower triangulation aspect to
consider.... the phone you have from 2001 is not anywhere near as proficient at many of these
tasks being built well before the 2006 legislation regarding this series of systems... If it
were me and i knew all about this stuff, i would pay a hell of a lot more than a new phone is
worth to keep the old unit in service for as long as you could... Any new phone is going to
do all the above to your privacy and then some the old one is very limited, so how concerned
are you with being an open book to who ever has access to your phone from the hidden parts
and functions you never get to use? Me? I have seen a ton of serious problems with the uses
of the tech being built into the modern smartphones, some models give you lots of functions
to use, some give you a basic lite experience, But ALL new devices give the state running the
system a HEFTY pack of features you will never know about until it's damage has been done.
Take my advice Keep the 2000 model going for as long as you can if you must have a mobile
phone. If you WANT to be the target of every nasty thing the state does with this new tech
investigator/spy then by all means get one of the smart type, Any new one is just as bad as
any other after 2006 legislation changes went into effect. 2001 was a very bad event for this
topic... I will not have one after the events that befell me. A high performance radio
computer with many types of real world sensors, using a wide spread and near unavoidable
network of up link stations is the states most useful weapon. Everyone chooses to have what
they have, You can also choose to NOT have, but few choose NOT, many choose the worst option
on old values of this sort of choice and never think about the loss they incur to have the
NEW gadget for whatever reason they rationalize it.
Smart phones are destroyers of information sovereignty. With a PC one can save a copy of
every page you visit whereas with the smart phone all you can practically do is view things.
It pisses me off.
Has anyone noticed how shallow the so called world wide web has gotten these days.,?
Search terms which would in the psst throw up hundreds if not thousands of webpages on the
subject matter now result in sometimes no more than 3 or 4 entries. Google has stolen the
internet of us all. The web is dead. Cunts like zuckerberg should be drop kicked into the
The main espionage equipment in a smartphone or dumbphone is not the application processor
and the programs that run on it. It's the GSM/3G/UMTS/LTE/5G chipset which every single one
of them obviously has. "We kill with metadata" is the most important aphorism about phones,
no matter which kind, ever.
However, a smartphone gives you lots of convenience which your 22$ chinaphone doesn't give
you. A browser when on the road, a book reader, a map device.
You have to take a few precautions, e.g. use LineageOS, install AFWall and XPrivacy. Nothing
different from using a PC basically. And you certainly shouldn't shell out 500$ for one.
Every dollar/euro above ca. 100 has to be very well justified.
Sure, you can live in the 80s, nothing wrong with that. We lived fine back in those days
too, but why not take advantage of some of the improvements since then?
psychohistorian | Apr 2, 2018 4:23:43 PM | 15
Nice post b. Expresses my sentiments exactly.
I had to take my Nokia X2 out of the plastic bag I keep it in so it doesn't get wet to see what model it was....I keep the
battery out and pay T Mobile $10/year to have emergency minutes when I need them....I maintain and use a land line for all my
It is not like these devices couldn't be useful but like the desktop OS world, bloatware is a standard now. I have programmed
handheld devices since 1985 and my latest was a MS Windoze10/C# inventory management application with barcodes and such.
Prior to the Nokia I have now I was nursing along a Palm 720p until I couldn't get a carrier to support it anymore. So since
the Palm I have consciously gone back to a Weekly Minder type of pocket calendar which I had to use before the online
capability came along.
If our world were to change like I want it to by making the tools finance a public utility I might learn to trust more of my
life to be held by technology than the 5 eyes already know......Everyone has seen the movie SNOWDEN , correct?.....my Mac
laptop had tape over the camera as soon as I brought it home.....I have a nice Nikon Coolpix camera with the GPS turned off
and the battery out......grin
I understand your choice, but you should have looked for a basic phone not just with GSM
(2G), but also at least with UMTS (3G).
GSM is being wound down, and the frequencies reallocated to LTE (4G).
Many operators in several countries have already switched off their GSM networks
(Australia, USA...) This means that in about 3-4 years, you will have real difficulties using
your new mobile phone, at least in developed countries; in the Third World, GSM will probably
last a bit longer.
I have a cheapo Nokia 100 for calls and a YotaPhone 2 as a tablet. The Yota is Russian but I
don't mind the FSB 😃 Aldo it has two screens, one being a passive black and white for
use in full bright sun light.
I think b made a wise decision. Up till now I've also not needed a smart phone and the
continious "connection" or being hooked to the "matrix" would not only eat my valuable time
away but would also make me feel more bound.
"Another disadvantage of smartphones is enormous amount of personal data they
inevitably steal for uncontrolled use by third parties. The technical consultant Dylan Curran
As soon as an Android smartphone is switched on Google will collect ALL data on every
location change and on anything done on the phone. Apple does likewise with its
That's the basic privacy nullification. There is also what can be described as the
invasive potential. Certain companies, next to intelligence agencies, have made it their
business to switch a victims own smart phone into a full blown active spy device. Obviously
the victims are particular persons of interests like Dilma Roussef. Whenever a person is
having a conversation, talks to himself out loud, has a meeting or is intimate, all sounds
and conversations can be recorded next to video when the phone is positioned well. As we
know, most people will not or can't part from their beloved smart phone.
I can not tell what to do. In fact, when buying a "smartphone", you have to get used that the
phone will be discharged during 1 or 1.5 days, you will become dependent to next USB source,
or a battery pack (which is somewhat heavy, 1 pound ca. but not too bulky.
Personally, I am using such a device since 5 yrs ca., first a 4.7" HTC one of my daughters
gave me. I soon installed Cyanogenmod (now LineageOS) and threw away all the bloat and
especially the Google and Facebook dirt and spyware. I do not have an email account on the
brick, rather a browser over which I may access the Web representation of my email account,
which is NOT gmail or similar. I do not use Google playstore.
The "killer apps" for me are mainly FBReader, a free ebook reader, VLC for audio and
video, and OSMand, an OpenStreetMap client. Some simple calendar, picture etc. apps are on as
well. My recent phone is a Samsung S4 mini, bought used for 50€.
This is a minimalistic setup, but makes tracking and spying other than by government
agencies difficult. LineageOS is updated nearly every week, so fairly safe against Android
With a "regular" smartphone, you will lack updates after a few years, have a lot of bloat
on board you cannot get rid of, be forced to have a Google account for access of the software
repository Google playstore, which is deeply integrated into Android. If one does not care to
be spied and sniffed not only by the FBI and NSA, but by Brin and Zuckerberg in addition,
Provided one has access to good public WiFi: It seems to me that Wifi and a tablet, or laptop
(with a good battery) + the use of a virtual proxy network, VPN, which are almost always
encrypted, is better than a smartphone. (Of course if the tablet is Android don't use the
Chrome web browser.)
Then just buy a 25 euro Samsung or LG flip phone for the talking part of phone use. It
won't last 17 years, but one can still get batteries for them.
Of course this approach doesn't work if you don't have solid public WiFi where you'd
normally use a smartphone in public.
@mh505 #27 Even with a SIM card not linked to your personal ID card it's fairly easy to
automatically tie your smartphone to your person whereby you end up in the drag net you try
to escape. Not in the least thanks to your close ones whom probably have you listed with your
full name + phone number (thus SIM) in their smartphone. And that's even besides you
connecting to all kinds of services offered by Google and the likes that know where you
personally hang out because of WIFI access points, GPS location (if enabled), connected IP
address where someone else connected to who has GPS enabled etc.
Unfortunately your list of EU countries that don't require personal ID to purchase a SIM
card is incorrect.
In USA it pays to be stupid. The choice I have is to use a smart phone with a monthly
charge ca. 100 dollars or a stupid phone with a monthly charge of 8 dollars (or is it 15? and
the phone for 8). And if you are old enough you can bear with hardships like memorizing the
map of the area were you live, having to check stuff on your own desktop computer before you
leave home etc. And the difference in costs can be spent on cigarettes, beer, donations to
OxPham, it is your pick.
Concerning surveilance, a stupid phone is used sparingly, so it definitely provides less
I'm a 53 year old dog and try to keep things simple for myself. Being paranoid about being
tracked and watched isn't my thing. I use my smart phone as a phone when I need to talk to an
asswipe at work or my only friend to schedule a meetup or the wife unit when she calls. I
have limited data so I usually wait until I'm home to view porn and news websites on the pc.
I don't do any financial tasks on the phone, rarely text anyone, rarely use the camera, have
only a few apps for things like weather and writing myself a note to remember to pick up milk
or dog food on the way home from work. My life is so boring and my bank account so empty I'm
not worth a bother to "them".
Lambert here: Readers will notice that Auerback seems to assume that Cambridge
Analytica's shenanigans with Facebook data shifted votes in 2016 (as do the links to which he
cites)*. His post summarizes the political and analytical state of play, but may be usefully
read in conjunction with
this 2017 post at NC by Marina Bart, who cautioned :
There is no question that modern social media facilitates highly segmented marketing.
There is no question that political campaigns can benefit from this. Figuring out who might
be receptive to your candidate and their policies, where they vote, and motivating them to go
to the polls is fundamental campaign work. But that is not at all the same thing as
manipulating people into voting against their interests, which is presumably what is feared
(and possibly secretly hoped for) by the fretful Democrats. There is no evidence Cambridge
Analytica did any psychological manipulations for Trump.
I'm not saying it's impossible for Big Data highly segmented psychological manipulation to
ever work. But it isn't happening now; there's no evidence it will work in the near future;
there are many, many obstacles to overcome; and there are two very basic reasons why it
cannot be the secret weapon I suspect the Democrats long for.
The most basic one is that voting is not the same as buying stuff . There is no
direct connection between casting a vote and getting anything in return, not even the
momentary pleasure of buying a candy bar.
(In other words, the current Cambridge Analytical scare is based on a category error.) Of
course, from a Wall Street "beauty contest" perspective, what Facebook can actually do may
matter less than what people think it can do. From my own perspective, I don't want Facebook's
filthy data-gathering proboscis nuzzling my personal affairs at all , regardless of
any effect it may have, and that goes for Google, too. Whether I'm an outlier in my revulsion
remains to be seen.
NOTE * Indeed, were evidence for this assumption to exist, one would assume it would already
have been produced. If it has been, I've missed it, and I do try to keep track.
Cambridge Analytica's systematic harvesting of Facebook user preferences to create detailed
models of voter emotions appears to have played a significant role in the election of Donald
Trump and the victory of the "Brexiters" on the referendum on whether the United Kingdom should
leave the European Union or not. There is shock and anxiety
at the revelations about how a few right-wing ideologues were able to exploit Facebook's
database and then use it to justify populist campaigns fronted by publicity hounds of dubious
moral and financial principles (Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and Nigel Farage immediately spring
Whether the Facebook fiasco conclusively proves either Russian involvement in the 2016
election (or the UK's Brexit referendum), or simply highlights the violation of campaign
finance laws, is yet to be determined. But what is certainly beyond dispute from the apparently
unauthorized use of Facebook's database
of some 50 million users is that longstanding Madison Avenue advertising techniques worked
equally well when applied to majority voting instead of employee practices or consumer
spending. One possible outcome is that centralized repositories like Facebook -- or Google, or
Amazon -- could become a ripe target for regulation and/or anti-trust action. Another
possibility is that the voluntary participation on which Facebook is built will collapse
spontaneously via consumer rejection.
In one sense, there is nothing new in what Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have done. Way
back in 1957, author Vance Packard's The
Hidden Persuaders described
"Large-scale efforts are being made, often with impressive success, to channel our
unthinking habits, our purchasing decisions, and our thought processes by the use of insights
gleaned from psychiatry and the social sciences. Typically these efforts take place beneath
our level of awareness, so that the appeals which move us are often, in a sense,
But in a world in which we have all become reliant on the internet for our information, our
searches and declared preferences are constantly recorded. Therefore an uncanny amount about us
can be learned in a manner that is far more centralized and prone to manipulation than
traditional forms of advertising. A wave of shrinkage in traditional advertising firms has
correspondingly occurred as the robotic, targeted advertising has become the new norm, largely
because it is both cheaper and more effective.
Facebook in particular is a social media way of harnessing interpersonal linkages through
the net. Its model must be using those links and the information they generate to create value
for advertisers. Any user of Facebook (or Amazon) can easily see how fast browsers insert ads
related to one's most recent searches. So it becomes manifestly clear that these companies are
tracking us for common advertising purposes.
Politics has always looked into the underlying motivations of voters to manage them. But
using the data as documented
by the Guardian , this went to a new level of political detail in 2016 that fueled the
faster cycle of hard-hitting Trump campaigning. Facebook, Google, Amazon, Twitter, etc., have
all become huge aggregators of this information. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's recent
apologies notwithstanding , the companies are either being naïve in proclaiming shock
that their data can be misused or, more likely, have been so obsessed with building market
share and watching their company market caps explode into the hundreds of billions of dollars
that they willfully ignored the scope for abuse. Either way, the information seems to have
reached a threshold of importance where governments will step in and disrupt the existing mode,
especially now that the full power of this database has been recognized and exploited by a
successful political candidate, whether via regulation or antitrust measures. Otherwise, the
demands will rise for Facebook to give the data to all, because it cannot guarantee that it has
been erased everywhere, which has disturbing implications for our privacy (as well as
threatening to destroy Facebook's business model, the success of which is predicated on the
exclusive use of the data aggregated from the user base).
However much someone like Brian Acton, who was made a billionaire courtesy of Facebook's
purchase of his company, might like others to embrace his #DeleteFacebook campaign, that
appears problematic, given how successfully the use of Facebook's model operated in the
political context. But there is growing international political momentum to strip the "
social network " and its
targeted advertising model of much of its abilities to record and use customer data. Former
President Barack Obama hinted at
this at a recent speech at MIT :
"I do think the large platforms -- Google and Facebook being the most obvious, Twitter and
others as well, are part of that ecosystem -- have to have a conversation about their
business model that recognizes they are a public good as well as a commercial enterprise.
They're not just an invisible platform, they're shaping our culture in powerful ways."
Obama did not explicitly state what he had in mind for these companies, but he did
that at a minimum, "the government should have 'rules of the road' to create a level playing
field." Even if users find they can't do without their daily Facebook fix, Google search, or
Amazon shopping spree, the former president is right. A price will be paid as these companies'
activities are increasingly scrutinized.
There are defenses that have been mounted in favor of an unregulated market for Big Data,
notably by People Analytics, an organization run by Alex Pentland and his colleagues at MIT's
Pentland feels the very centralized nature of the aggregated data is what makes these
companies such excellent research targets:
"With the advent of big data and machine learning, researchers actually have enough data
and sufficient mathematical tools to build predictive mathematical models. If you talk to
other people and see what they are doing, you can improve your own performance, and as you
talk to more and more people, you continue to do better and better."
What is not to like? Better decision-making, higher productivity, more efficient
communication networks: It looks like a win-win all around. Of course, it was under the guise
of research that Cambridge Analytica allegedly got the Facebook data in the first place. It can
be used as cover for less benign purposes.
Going further, Pentland cleverly invokes a "New Deal on
Data" that allows for the "rebalancing of the ownership of data in favor of the individual
whose data is collected. People would have the same rights they now have over their physical
bodies and their money."
In theory, this allows the individual discretion as to how much he/she will share with
corporations and government regulators. Pentland goes on to suggest that, "the economy will be
healthier if the relationship between companies and consumers is more respectful, more
balanced. I think that's much more sustainable and will prevent disasters."
Pentland's optimism sounds somewhat naïve in the wake of Edward Snowden's revelations,
as well as the current Facebook controversy. Of course, anything that further legitimizes this
intrusion on our privacy will be welcomed by these entities. How much do we, the owners of our
own personal data, actually control it? As far as the government goes, not much, Snowden's revelations (or
those of WikiLeaks) illustrated. And surely the current Facebook and Cambridge Analytica
imbroglio undercuts this benign picture that Pentland describes of a happy, informed consumer
who autonomously shares his data with various companies, with a view toward building a more
On the contrary, the Facebook fiasco highlights that there exists a thoroughly unequal
partnership between the aggregators of information and the information owners, making abuse
almost inevitable. Indeed, it is highly doubtful that most consumers and users are even aware
of the extent to which their habits, thoughts, and overall private space are monitored by these
companies (to say nothing of the more obvious government and law enforcement agencies, even if
we're not terrorists).
In general, the notion of a level playing field of information or data that the market can
freely and efficiently price has been debunked successfully by Nobel Laureates George Akerlof
and Joseph Stiglitz. Both have challenged the " efficient market hypothesis ,"
which holds that market prices or odds reflect all known information, mitigating the need for
intrusive government intervention/regulation. If information asymmetry exists, the obvious
implication is that there is a need for some form of overriding regulation to rectify this
imbalance. This would also seem to apply to Pentland's New Deal on Data.
Edward Snowden has made us question whether the data and corresponding privacy can be
adequately safeguarded from more scrutiny by governments. The more relevant question from the
point of view of, say, Silicon Valley and its high tech moguls is whether governments will move
more aggressively to control the aggregators themselves, and whether the revelations of their
abuses will provoke a backlash, which will impact their companies' growth and
Already, as Reuters reported, "
Nordea, the Nordic region's biggest bank, will not let its sustainable funds buy more Facebook
shares for the time being." The European Union
has fined Facebook €110m "for 'incorrect or misleading' information regarding data
sharing between Facebook and WhatsApp" (even though Facebook acquired the latter). And the EU
has also proposed that "companies with significant digital revenues in Europe will pay a 3
percent tax on their turnover on various online services in the European Union," legislation
that will cover Facebook (as well as Amazon and Google). Although the tax doesn't actually
address the issue of the database abuse itself, the Cambridge Analytica scandal has dissipated
valuable political capital for these companies, which will make it harder for them to stop
these attacks on their business model and underlying profitability.
Indeed, the focus on taxing turnover, as opposed to profits, is telling, because sales
records are far more difficult to doctor and conceal via accounting subterfuge than profits. In
effect, this is tantamount to the EU stating to these tech giants, "Don't even think about
making a transfer payment to Ireland and leaving yourself with an operating loss in our
jurisdiction so you can pay no tax."
As the Brexit referendum illustrates, the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal itself
goes well beyond the U.S. Consequently, we can expect an attack on all fronts -- the U.S., the
EU, and likely Asia as well. At this point it is too early to judge if this will have any
impact on the ongoing Mueller investigation, but the economic implications already seem
evident. The U.S. equity boom has been partly in reaction to deregulation in banking and
elsewhere. The tech industry has largely escaped any kind of regulatory or antitrust scrutiny
and has benefited accordingly. As Edward Harrison of the site Credit Writedowns
has observed :
"Some of the best performing stocks in the US are the large Internet-centric technology
stocks like Facebook. There is even an acronym, FANG, to describe Facebook, Amazon, Netflix
and Google. Add Apple and, together, these five stocks account for one quarter of the
Nasdaq's total market capitalization. They are huge. And Facebook's data breach represents a
threat to them."
Could it be that public indignation at the Facebook profile harvesting scandal will lead to
new regulation that could impede the value of some tech-based advertising models? Will it lead
to a consumer backlash that slows the growth of the companies themselves? Certainly, it is
easier to attack a wealthy and powerful company, if and when it becomes Public Enemy #1, even
though many of these politicos will find themselves attacking the instruments of their own
political success (or fundraising sources). Facebook or Google would no doubt argue that their
platforms are just a facilitation of the communities inherent in the internet and that they
have benefited by exploiting first mover advantage . But a
centralized, monopolistic exploitation of these interpersonal links is inviting public
intervention, especially as the technology can also survive on a distributed, competitive
basis. In the eyes of many, these companies are unlikely to escape the opprobrium of helping to
allow the Trump disaster to descend upon us. Overseas, they could well be scapegoated if the
British economy falters as a result of leaving the European Union. On a broader scale, this
scandal may well destroy any last vestiges of "techno-optimism," seeing how it has highlighted
the misuses of technology and the human damage it can continue to inflict on us far more
profoundly than ever before.
Facebook's problems are just getting worse, and now investors can add worker morale to the (bucket)
list of problems as the
New York Times
reports that employees furious over a
leaked 2016 memo
from a top executive seeking to justify the company's relentless growth and
"questionable" data harvesting - even if it led to terrorists attacks organized on the platform.
VP Andrew "Boz" Bosworth - one of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's most trusted executives, wrote that
connecting people is the greater good even if it "
costs someone a life
someone to bullies.
"Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools."
On Friday, the fallout from Bosworth's leaked memo - following several weeks of outrage over the
company's data harvesting practices,
has Facebook employees in an uproar
, according to
According to two Facebook employees,
workers have been calling on internal message boards
for a hunt to find those who leak to the media
. Some have questioned whether Facebook has
been transparent enough with its users and with journalists, said the employees, who asked not to be
identified for fear of retaliation.
Many are also concerned over what might leak next and are
deleting old comments or messages that might come across as controversial or newsworthy
One former Facebook employee, Alex Muffett, wrote on Twitter that Bosworth's memo was a "significant"
part of his decision to leave the company.
"Between overwork and leadership direction evidenced thusly, I could never stay,"
"There are some amazing engineers working at Facebook, folks who care deeply about user privacy,
security, and how people will use the code that they write," Mr. Muffett said later in a message. "Alas
this episode may not help" to achieve more transparent internal product discussion, he said.
Buzzfeed article suppressed?
Following Buzzfeed's Thursday's publication of the "growth at any cost" leak, BuzzFeed reporter Ryan
Mac suggested Facebook was censoring the article - tweeting "Interesting that only about 14k views (about
2% of total) for our story have come through Facebook referrals. Facebook's users should be aware of
this, so feel free to share it on Facebook."
's Matthew Yglesias chimed in to corroborate Mac's observation, Facebook head of news
feed Adam Mosseri chimed in to say that the social media giant "
100% do not take any action on
stories for being critical of us.
Mark Zuckerberg responded to Bosworth's letter in a statement essentially disavowing the Boz, while
also noting that Facebook
changed their entire corporate focus
to connect people
Boz is a talented leader who says many provocative things. This was one that most people at
Facebook including myself disagreed with strongly.
We've never believed the ends justify the
We recognize that connecting people isn't enough by itself. We also need to work to bring people
We changed our whole mission and company focus to reflect this last year
Meanwhile, Facebook is rapidly becoming radioactive, inside and out.
The question is when will investors - and especially hedge funds, for whom FB was the second most
popular stock as of Dec. 31 - agree, and do what Mark Zuckerberg has
been aggressively doing in recent weeks
: dump it.
This is not a coordinated and concerted effort by Facebook execs to 'grow' the
company at any and all costs because stock options must be vested 'in the
money' and obscene amounts of 'compensation' are their god given right.
Nope, this is the work of a lone wolf exec VP who was drunk on power and out
<Well, it works for the CIA to explain away their latest domestic
terrorism operation or Presidential assassination attempt.>
Today Mark Zuckerberg announced the official name change of
FaceBook to GoëbbelsBook.
"Today marks the official change of our corporate name from
FaceBook to GoëbbelsBook in honor of the German NSDAP (Nationalsozialistische
Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) Reich Minister of Propaganda
(1933-1945) Dr. Joseph Goëbbels (29 October 1897 – 1 May 1945).
Dr. Goëbbels revolutionary and visionary dream was that of the
total surveillance state. We have successfully implemented his
concept of the total surveillance state."
"When a client downloads the GoëbbelsBook application it
vacuums up everything from their computer and mobile devices.
It gobbles up everything they write, all their contacts, their
"likes"; in short every action they perform. The application
also digitizes all telephone conversations for upload. The
application then uploads everything to our corporate servers.
We then upload all user data to the "Five Eyes" Gestapo (Geheime
Staatspolizei) agencies that are our true original investors
and beneficial owners."
"It is truly a proud day for me and all of my servants here
at GoëbbelsBook that we have implemented the revolutionary
total surveillance state vision of Dr. Joseph Goëbbels. I'm
sure that he would be justifiably proud of our accomplishment."
It's a little more complex than just Gramma giving
up some data that she volunteers via a form. It's
sucking in everything that a user does or says and
selling that...everything. Same as Google.
many cases you will find people who weren't aware
that FB was selling user data, it's not really
clear, unless you read the TOS fine print it's not
clear. Even in the fine print what they do is
obscured by the way they write it.
If the announcement of what they do with the
data was in big bold letters at the top of FB every
time you logged in the participation would be
This is one reason that although I've got a FB
account I've never provided anything more than the
de minimus information to have that account, and I
don't spend much if any time on it. It's been weeks
since I've logged in to FB.
You may be enjoying the mockery of FB users, but
your line of argument ignores reality.
indeed knew that the company was "selling
something": advertising. Advertising in the form
of "sponsored posts," newsfeed videos,
solicitations to "like" an advertiser's page,
notifications that someone in your network had
liked an advertiser's page, and on and on and on.
Every user viewed such advertising while using the
And indeed, selling targeted advertising is the
dominant business model for providers of free
content, messaging, email, webhosting, and a host
of other internet services. It is exactly what a
reasonable person would expect FB to be doing,
based on its public disclosures and statements to
the business community, and consistent with privacy
laws. Even educated users would not expect the
company to be selling its user data to third
parties, let alone to government three-letter
agencies. No one would expect the phone app to
illegally log or record phone and message data for
communications outside the app.
Jumanji, I live in heart of silicon valley and the goobook
employees are so self important and associate working for the
goobook surveillance tracking digtal advertising monopolies as
a virtuous thing.
Let's call goobook what they are a
surveillance tracking company that doesn't share any of the
profits from your data with the owner: you.
My solution to these corporate pricks is to cut off their
oxygen: digtal advertising and refuse to let them monetize me
and others promoting using adblocking on mobile.
My solution is for everybody to immediately download brave
browser or equivalent adblocker solution (depending on your
Brave blocks advertising malware and tracking by DEFAULT on
any device and operating system rendering digital advertising
Whoever controls the browser controls the money.
I use YouTube daily but run it out of brave browser. Zero
ads and you can listen with screen off or while browsing other
We can destroy the value of digtal advertising by mass
adoption of brave browser.
What is digtal advertising worth if ads can't be sent,
viewed or tracked?
Let's take down the goobook surveillance tracking censorship
monopolies. Install brave or equivalent mobile adblocker
Which ties in nicely with the US demanding social media account details
with visa applications. You haven't said whether your work is us government
based, but it would be pleasingly ironic if it were.
I'm still confused
by that, actually: allegedly the NSA has all data, from everywhere, so why
ask for the visa applicant's data? Is it too hard to connect physical and
digital people, or are they just seeing if you will admit to your online
14 day waiting period on facebook account deletes.
Some years ago I created a
facebook account and then deleted it. Deleting it was not easy. When I did the
final delete, it stated that all my data would be deleted, and would not be
recoverable ever. I was also told I would have to **not** log into my account for
14 days after which everything would be gone. If I did log in during that period
the account delete would not occur.
It has been some years and I still live in fear that if I was to "check" if my
account still exists by attempting to log into it I will get a "Welcome back"
I suppose there are worse things. The account could be active and "owned" by
"people will actually believe their information was 'deleted' "
aside from birth and school records, most data will become 'stale' and
worthless to advertisers and agencies. I suspect that your 'old' data will
eventually become 'archived' in a storage array somewhere, essentially,
statistically more worthless as time goes by. Perhaps, adding to a
historical perspective on some future Documentary, about the collapse of
Info on your birth, school, medical, jobs, driving record ... the
authorities already have all that. Facebook is essentially worthless, other
than as a phone book with pictures.
It's amazing that FB employees were THIS NAIVE about what was going on in that
company, thinking it was just about "connecting people." Anyone on the street
with half a brain could see what was going on. Grow up and see the world for
what it is, people.
I think it is more "being ignorant". To me, being naive implies being "an
innocent". These people are hard core coders, computer scientists, network
engineers, etc. What they do is figure out how to do outrageously complex
technical things, and they are very successful at it. Like most scientists
and engineers however, they never stop to ask "should we be doing these
things". They stand on the shoulders of the scientist and engineers who
came before them and continue to progress the state of their art, but never
consider the ethics. I see it all the time at work. Can we develop this
new thing? Sure. Should we develop this new thing? That's not my problem
- management wants this new thing. They are no different than the guards
at a concentration camp herding people to the ovens. I was only following
Have Zuckerberg and the rest of the asseclowns over there realized how
fuccked they really are? It is only a matter of time before class action and
individual lawsuits are filed not only against Facebook (fuck that) but them
personally, for intentionally and willfully creating a data mining operation
disguised as a social network. They will get sued for every penny they have
and will be lucky if they don't end up doing time.
The people who use this tripe are addicts, and like all addicts need rehab.
They couldn't say how many articles are in the US Constitution yet practically
know what Oprah eats for breakfast - and it ain't a Weight Watchers diet!
I got into the dotcom world in 97 got out in '11. Worked for a bunch of big
and small dotcoms. They are all so badly run its hard to describe. rampant
greed zero morality.. The VCs just want their 100:1 return. VCs are idiots.
some are just stupid many are just illegal accounting fraud capitalizing
expenses accelerating revenue recognition over stating audience. People
forget that Fb has already had a bunch of exposed numbers "mistakes". Hope it
goes to zero.
From an evolutionary standpoint, humans are extemely adapted to hiding
feelings, thoughts, plans, motivations, and intentions. This has enabled our
survival for millenia. Our ears don't move toward what or who we're listening
to, and we don't have tails or bristling fur or feathers that would display
our emotions. Facebook causes us to post all this stuff, then takes ownership
and uses it to make a profit any way they can. Social media is not something
that we are adapted to, and we're getting stomped on by the companies that
To me, what is really sad about this whole story is that there is nobody at
Facebook - now or previously - who doesn't know that their company makes its
money by harvesting data and selling it to anyone with a few bucks in their
hand. I believe these employees are all lying when they deny this plain fact.
I believe the same to be true of Google, but of course, Google at least has
never denied it, like Facebook is trying to do now that someone in the MSM has
bothered to report about it.
Anyone here ever work with chickens...the henhouse/chicken analogy is often
used with the facebook...when you walk into the henhouse sometimes the hens
they aren't expecting visitors and they get all fussy and show their agitation
through clucking and squawking and fussing about...but then after a few
moments they go back to what they were doing as if nothing ever happened. That
about what is going on here. Facebook users and employees will go back to work
for their owners in a few more days and it will have been all forgotten.
According to Thomas Paine, all the Facebook, Amazon, Google and Tesla are
products of the DOD and are losing their hidden government support. That is
the real reason that people like Zuckerberg and Soros are divesting.
People will forget about any Facebook scandal after another scandal surfaces
elsewhere in 3, 2, 1 and....... There goes the school of ADHD zombie fish-head
people onto another hook, the scandal of the next week. The next scandal will
hit the top of the pond and sink, and the fish-head school of people-fish will
swim over to it and stare at the scandal to see if it moves. People are
grotesquely simple minded.
So now the FB employees finally see what the bloodsucking Vampire
Zuckerberg and Frankenstein Bosworth really are: the enemy of the people.
Time for a mass revolt, pitchforks and torches to burn down the platform.
"We've never believed the ends justify the means
The Liberal Credo is
"THE ENDS JUSTIFY THE MEANS"
I can't tell you how many Liberals I've asked this very question and they
will flat out tell you that if you have to throw babies into a branch
chipper to get what you want,
YOU DO IT
. Lefties/Communists have
always believed in mass murder to get what they want - so - spying on a few
million people certainly doesn't give the pause.
"... Like Google, Facebook is ambiguous in its privacy policies as to how it will share information with third parties. A former CIA officer, speaking anonymously, confirmed the CIA's interest in Facebook as an intelligence and communications tool, noting that the agency's use of Facebook for operations is "classified." ..."
"... Christopher Ketcham is a freelance writer. You can write him at email@example.com or see more of his work at christopherketcham.com . ..."
Users with at least half a brain have long known that Facebook exploits their privacy and was probably from the start a vehicle
for full-blown surveillance by our spy agencies. I certainly suspected the latter. In 2009, I wrote up a pitch for an investigative
piece about Google, Facebook and their connections to the CIA. I published a piece in Counterpunch about the Google angle, but was
never able to report out fully what I suspected about Facebook. In the pitch, I wrote:
If personal data could be collected in more concentrated, focused form, with the additional advantage of efficiently collating
social networks, complete with personal photos, habits, activities and itineraries freely provided in a centralized system by
the users themselves well, that would be Facebook. The intelligence services' hand in Facebook is not direct, but publicly available
records suggest that venture capital was pumped into Facebook from investment firms whose board members cross-pollinate with a
company called In-Q-Tel.
Founded in 1999 to research and invest in new digital technologies focused on intelligence gathering, In-Q-Tel was part of
the push for the privatization of national security operations that would become endemic under the Bush Administration. Some $25
million in seed money during Google's start-up in 1999 arrived in part from the equity firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers,
which works with In-Q-Tel to develop spy technology. In-Q-Tel-funded companies produced the eye-in-the-sky image database that
would become Google Earth. In mid-2005, In-Q-Tel's former director of technology assessment, Rob Painter, joined Google as "senior
federal manager," further cementing Google's bond with the intelligence community.
Like Google, Facebook is ambiguous in its privacy policies as to how it will share information with third parties. A former
CIA officer, speaking anonymously, confirmed the CIA's interest in Facebook as an intelligence and communications tool, noting
that the agency's use of Facebook for operations is "classified." The former CIA officer only went so far as to suggest the
CIA may be using the site for communications. "It's a perfect place to hide communications," says the former CIA officer. "You
don't need secret, expensive satellite systems anymore when you can hide in plain sight with millions of idiots sending photos
and inane messages to each other." When pressed on the subject, the source reiterated: "How it's employed by [the CIA] is classified,
and you shouldn't write about it." The Facebook angle for the proposed piece will require further reporting. What's widely known
is that the CIA has been using Facebook since 2006 as a recruiting tool for the clandestine services, which marks the first time
the CIA has employed online social networking for the hiring of personnel.
Ah, but denial is a powerful drug, one that produces amnesia, and I soon forgot my own reporting and marched as a guinea pig into
the Facebook surveillance system. We now know exactly how Facebook shares information with third parties.
Deleting my account, I join an exodus that requires no explanation given the Cambridge Analytica disclosures. Hopefully this is
the start of a movement that will drive the company's stock price down where we'll find greasy Mark Zuckerberg begging for a quarter
on the corner. Perhaps sooner, someone skilled with demolitions and with access inside the company can blow up the Facebook servers,
and we can be done with this menace altogether. More articles by:
Those companies are way too connected with intelligence agencies (some of then are
essentially an extension of intelligence agencies) and as such they will be saved in any case.
That means that chances that it will be dot com bubble burst No.2 exist. but how high they are is
Trump is after Amazon, Congress is after Facebook, and Apple and Google have their problems
too. Should the world's top tech firms be worried?
rump is going after Amazon; Congress is after Facebook; Google is too big, and Apple is
short of new products. Is it any surprise that sentiment toward the tech industry giants is
turning sour? The consequences of such a readjustment, however, may be dire.
Trump lashes out at Amazon and sends stocks tumbling
The past two weeks have been difficult for the tech sector by every measure. Tech stocks
have largely driven the year's stock market decline, the largest quarterly drop since 2015.
Facebook saw more than $50bn shaved off its value after the Observer revealed that Cambridge
Analytica had harvested millions of people's user data for political profiling. Now users are
deleting accounts, and regulators may seek to limit how the company monetizes data, threatening
Facebook's business model.
On Monday, the Federal Trade Commission confirmed it was investigating the company's data
practices. Additionally, Facebook said it would send a top executive to London to appear in
front of UK lawmakers, but it would not send the chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, who is
increasingly seen as isolated and aloof.
Shares of Facebook have declined more than 17% from the close on Friday 16 March to the
close on Thursday before the Easter break.
Amazon, meanwhile, long the target of President Trump's ire, saw more than $30bn, or 5%,
shaved off its $693bn market capitalization after it was reported that the president was
"obsessed" with the company and that he "wondered aloud if there may be any way to go after
Amazon with antitrust or competition law".
Shares of Apple, and Google's parent company Alphabet, are also down, dropping on concerns
that tech firms now face tighter regulation across the board.
For Apple, there's an additional concern that following poor sales of its $1,000 iPhone X.
For Google, there's the prospect not only of tighter regulation on how it sells user date to
advertisers, but also the fear of losing an important Android software patent case with the
Big tech's critics may be forgiven a moment of schadenfreude. But for shareholders and
pension plans, the tarnishing of tech could have serious consequences.
Apple, Amazon and Alphabet make up 10% of the S&P 500 with a combined market
capitalization market cap of $2.3tn. Add Microsoft and Facebook, with a combined market value
of $1.1tn, and the big five make up 15% of the index.
Overall, technology makes up 25% of the S&P. If tech pops, the thinking goes, so pops
"We're one week into a sell-off after a multi-year run-up," says Eric Kuby of North Star
Investment Management. "The big picture is that over the past five years a group of mega cap
tech stocks like Nvidia, Netflix, Facebook have gone up anywhere from 260% to 1,800%."
The post office is a service for citizens. It operates at a loss. Being able to send a letter
across the country in two days for fifty cents is a service our government provides. Amazon
is abusing that service. It's whole business model requires government support.
Amazon's spending power is garnered simply from its massively overalued stock price. If that
falls, down goes Amazon. Facebook is entirely dependent on the postive opinion of active
users. If users stop using, down goes Facebook's stock price, and so goes the company. It's
extremely fragile. Apple has a short product cycle. If people lose interest in its newest
versions, its stock price can tank in one year or so. Google and Microsoft seem quite solid,
but are likely overvalued. (Tesla will most likwly go bankrupt, along with many others.) If
these stocks continue to lose value, rwtirement funds will get scary, and we could enter
recession again almost immediately. Since companies such as Amazon have already degraded the
eatablished infrastructure of the economy, there may be no actual recovery. We will need to
change drastically in some way. It seems that thw wheels are already turning, and this is
where we are going now - with Trump as our leader.
'Deutsche Bank analyst Lloyd Walmsley said: "We do not think attacking Amazon will be
Lloyd Walmsley hasn't spent much time in Seattle, apparently. The activities of Amazon and
Google (but especially Amazon) have all contributed to traffic problems, rising rents and
property prices, and gentrification (among other things) that are all making Seattle a less
affordable, less attractive place to live. That's why Amazon is looking to establish a
'second headquarters' in another city: they've upset too many people here to be able to
expand further in this area without at least encountering significant resistance. People here
used to refer to Microsoft as 'the evil empire'; now we use it to refer to Amazon. And when
it comes to their original business, books, I and most people I know actively avoid buying
from Amazon, choosing instead to shop at the area's many independent book stores.
why do you still sport the FB, Twitter, Google+, Instagramm, Pinterest etc. buttons below
every single article? Why do you have to do their dirty work? I don't do that on my webpages,
you don't need to do neither. Please stop it.
Not being a Trump supporter, however there is a lot of sense in some of the comments coming
from Trump,. Whether he carries through with them , is another subject.
His comment on Amazon:- " Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state or local
governments, use our postal system as their delivery boy (causing tremendous loss to the US)
and putting many thousands of retailers out of business."
Who can argue against that? Furthermore, the retailers would have paid some
Talk about elephants in the room. What about the elephants who were let out of the room
to run amuck ? Should it not have been the case of being wise before the event , rather than
after the event?
A quasi-battle of the billionaires. With Bezos, there's the immediate political element in
Bezos' ownership of the clearly anti-Trump Washington Post, which has gone so far as to
become lax in editorial oversight (eg, misspelling and even occasional incomplete articles
published in an obvious rush to be first to trash POTUS), but there are other issues.
Amazon's impact on physical retail is well-documented, and not so long ago (ie, before Trump
"attacked" Amazon"), it was sometimes lamented by those on the American left, and Trump is
correct in that critique, provided one believes it is valid in the first place. Amazon does
have a lot of data on its customers, including immense expenditure information on huge
numbers of people. What kinds of constraints are there in place to protect this data, aside
from lawyer-enriching class action suits? Beyond that, there's also online defense
procurement, worth hundreds of billions in revenue to Amazon in the years to come, that was
included in the modified NDAA last year. Maybe that is on Trump's mind, maybe not, but it
should probably be on everyone's mind. Maybe the Sherman Antitrust Act needs to be
reinvigorated. It would seem that even Trump's foes should be willing to admit that he gets
some things right, but that now seems unacceptable. I mean, look at the almost knee-jerk
defense of NAFTA, which way back when used to be criticized by Democrats and unions, but now
must be lionized.
If Amazon can get cheaper shipping than anyone else and enable manufactuers to sell direct,
they can sell more than anyone else as long as consumers only buy according to total price.
This means two things. One, all retailers as well as distributors may be put out of business.
Two, the success of Amazon may rely almost entirely on shipping costs. American consumers
also will need to forego the shopping experience, but if they may do so if they're sarisfied
with remaining in their residences, workplaces, and cars most of the time. This is the case
in many places. People visit Starbucks drive thrus and eat and drink in their cars. If Amazon
owns the food stores such as Whole Foods and Starbucks, it's a done deal. Except for one
thing. If this happens, the economy will collapse. That may have already happened. Bezos is
no rocket scientist.
Maybe it did expand my audience. I have no idea. About the only proven use I found was being
able to get on Tinder to get laid, as you cannot have a Tinder account without a Facebook
account. Thereafter I called it Fuckbook.
When a friend invited me to join Googlemail over a decade ago, I accepted and used it as an
address for any organisation who might store or misuse my data.
Little was I to know that Android would rely on a Gmail address...
Having said that, my AdSense adverts still show me ads that are no way based on my online
activity so I wonder if the same people are behind the algorithms here as were predicting the
world economy in 2007.
Usage of Facebook is of cause a big mistake. It is simply stupid in most cases. But usage of
Wikipedia is not. Althouth probably NSA also gets information about pages you visited directly or indirectly.
"... consider the "internet of things" (IdiOT) directly intrusive ..."
"... how long will it remain technically feasible to opt out of the idiot stuff? ..."
I recall a time some 20 or so years ago when many of us thought about and wondered how in the
world the Internet could survive if info and interactions were without monetary cost. It
seemed like a space within which we could freely move and think and engage. I recall driving
down the NJ Turnpike in 1993 Listening intently to a radio news report about the wonders of
the upcoming information super highway that was about to bring us all together and overcome
violence and racism and sexism and without any tolls. Al Gore himself was encouraging this
wondrous new world. We were about to be a part of World Wide Web love fest reminiscent of a
1967 Summer of Love Be-In.
Now we know how the Internet survived. Call it innovation. I call it a police state,
engineered by right-wing jerks at Stanford with a little help from their friends at Cal Tech,
MIT, and Harvard, and based in Silicon Valley. If that's the way you want it, well that's the
way you'll get it.
Neoliberalism and spying are connected at birth. anybody who think that Google or Facebook shenanigans are anomaly needs to
think again... Survellance Valley is the product of neoliberalism. As simple as that.
"... We need to take ownership of our information and data back again and regulate the internet as a utility. ..."
"... It may not have much affect on who knows what about those of us who have already given away our privacy, but it could protect future generations ..."
Actually, it's wonderful (though it's also full of lies, propaganda and bs).
But like all too many wonderful things, the greedy and the power hungry despoil it,
manipulate it to their own advantage, and use it to exploit others - often under the guise of
A new technology is developed, people start using it, and before they know it, they can't
live, work, or perform many daily tasks without it.
Oh, sure, all of us here could stop commenting online. We could abandon social networks.
But what about everything else that involves giving up our personal information to a
corporation and/or the government that has become part of how things get done in our
That's a heck of a lot harder.
Add to that our collective intention since 1980 to weaken government regulation of
business' ability to do whatever it wants with our personal information, while increasing
government's ability to surveil us and invade our privacy, as well, and you have an internet
that is getting less and less wonderful by the day.
Oh, and don't forget those in business and government trying to destroy net neutrality, so
some (those who can pay for it) will be more equal than others in their ability to use the
We need to take ownership of our information and data back again and regulate the
internet as a utility.
It may not have much affect on who knows what about those of us who have already given
away our privacy, but it could protect future generations .
... Remember to look at the back of the your envelopes containing your personal mail - when
it's being scanned by your State it will have it's rear various pencilled initials. At one
time the departments in sorting offices were only allowed to deviate mail for twenty minutes
but now given that standards have dropped not such constraints exist. That's progress.
I recommend the new 'Brave' browser - it's primary focus is on privacy. It was created by
the former CEO of Mozilla (Firefox) and employs at least one engineer involved in the
development of the Tor browser (the one used for super-secure browsing on the dark web).
Its snappy performance is also a pleasant surprise.
19. One way to limit the amount of data that you are providing is to stop using Google
Chrome. It is a browser created by an advertising company specifically to harvest your
personal information. If you are logged in to gmail, using google for your searches, watching
Youtube and browsing on chrome, then you're making it easy for them. Try Firefox or one of
the other browsers out there, use a different search engine, and don't leave your account
logged in to google all day.
With every financial transaction, banks know the location, value and can estimate the goods I
buy. They could run AI algorithms to determine everything about my habits and preferences to
spend and sell this insight to shops and websites who could use this it to get me to part
with my money easier...but they don't.
Mobile operators poll my mobile phone constantly so always know my location, they know the
numbers I call and text so know my social network. They could run AI algorithms to determine
where I'll be when, and who I'll likely be with...but they don't.
Make their day, write something outlandish.
Decades ago, long before mobile phones were invented, we used to get crossed lines on our
landline regularly. We could hear other people in the background, and one day a nosy woman
listening to our conversation was relaying what we were talking about to her husband,
oblivious to the fact we could hear her, so we spiced up the conversation.
I started it by saying, "OK, but down to business, lets talk about next week". We made it
sound as if we were planning a heist. She was totally taken in, to the point of asking her
husband if she should tell the police! After a few minutes of leading her on, I said," Do you
think the nosy bitch listening in on the crossed line got all that? ".
She slammed her phone down.
"... If you wipe your phone every year, you learn which apps you need and which are just sitting in the background hoovering up data ..."
"... 14. Have as many social-media-free days in the week as you have alcohol-free days ..."
"... 16. Don't let the algorithms pick what you do ..."
"... 18. Finally, remember your privacy is worth protecting ..."
"... Increasingly, our inner lives are being reduced to a series of data points; every little thing we do is for sale. As we're starting to see, this nonstop surveillance changes us. It influences the things we buy and the ideas we buy into ..."
"... Being more mindful of our online behaviour, then, isn't just important when it comes to protecting our information, it's essential to protecting our individuality. ..."
"... It seems sensible to take steps to 'protect' ourselves from the data hoover that is google or Facebook. ..."
"... Our data is ours, and not theirs to sell onto or allow political freak shows to 'target' us for the suckers benefit, and not the suckees welfare. Who knows how many abusers have been able to hit on vulnerable family's with children! ..."
"... The internet is a colourful addictive place that most users have only a limited grasp of its potential, as nicely illustrated by our politicians being dumb to these recent events impact. Capitalist thinking, we know, is incapable of self regulation. ..."
You may well have downloaded your Facebook data already; it has become something of a trend
in recent days. Now take a look at what Google has on you. Go to Google's "Takeout" tool and
download your data from the multiple Google products you probably use, such as Gmail, Maps,
Search and Drive. You'll get sent a few enormous files that contain information about
everything from the YouTube videos you have watched, your search history, your location history
and so on. Once you've seen just how much information about you is in the cloud, you may want
to go about deleting it. I highly recommend deleting your Google Maps history, for a start,
unless you are particularly eager to have a detailed online record of everywhere you have ever
been. You may also want to stop Google from tracking your location history. Sign in to Google,
open Maps, then click on "timeline" in the menu. At the bottom, there's an option to manage
your location history.
... ... ...
10. Never put your kids on the public internet
Maybe it's fine to upload pics to a shared (private) photo album, or mention their day in a
group DM. But if it's public, Google can find it. And if Google can find it, it's never going
away. How are you going to tell your child in 16 years' time that they can't get a drivers'
licence because Daddy put a high-res photo of their iris online when they were two and now they
trip alarms from here to Mars?
12. Sometimes it's worth just wiping everything and starting over
Your phone, your tweets, your Facebook account: all of these things are temporary. They will
pass. Free yourself from an obsession with digital hoarding.
If you wipe your phone every year, you learn which apps you need and which are just
sitting in the background hoovering up data .
If you wipe your Facebook account every year, you learn which friends you actually like and
which are just hanging on to your social life like a barnacle.
14. Have as many social-media-free days in the week as you have alcohol-free
This can be zero if you want, but know that we're judging you.
15. Retrain your brain to focus
Save up your longreads using Instapaper or Pocket and read them without distraction. Don't
dip in and out of that 4,000-word article on turtles: read it in one go. Or maybe even try a
16. Don't let the algorithms pick what you do
You are not a robot, you are a human being, and exercising your own free will is the
greatest strength you have. When that YouTube video ends, don't watch the next one that
autoplays. When you pick up your phone in the morning, don't just click on the stories at the
top of Apple News or Google Now. Exercise choice! Exercise freedom! Exercise humanity!
17. Do what you want with your data, but guard your friends' info with your life
Yes, you should think twice before granting that fun app you downloaded access to your
location or your photo library. Do you trust it not to do weird things with your pictures? Do
you know it won't track your every movement? But ultimately, those are your decisions, and they
are for you to make. But your friends' data isn't yours, it's theirs, and you are a trusted
custodian. Don't think twice before authorising access to your address book, or your friends'
profiles: think five or six times, and then don't do it.
18. Finally, remember your privacy is worth protecting
You might not have anything to hide (except your embarrassing Netflix history) but that
doesn't mean you should be blase about your privacy.
Increasingly, our inner lives are being reduced to a series of data points; every little
thing we do is for sale. As we're starting to see, this nonstop surveillance changes us. It
influences the things we buy and the ideas we buy into .
Being more mindful of our online behaviour, then, isn't just important when it comes to
protecting our information, it's essential to protecting our individuality.
Frenske 28 Mar 2018 23:58
I always use the wrong birthday when registering for accounts unless it is for financial
services and utility which may do credit check or are used in credit checks. If my real name
is not required I use a variation on my last name.
Jack Harrison 28 Mar 2018 22:33
Astounding that people are surprised about all this data hoarding and selling.
There's a reason Facebook, Google etc are worth BILLIONS. It ain't because of the ads you
ignore or are blocked.
FooBar21 -> cachito11 28 Mar 2018 21:31
"There billions of species on our own very planet that show us daily how life is not
In their case daily life is a constant struggle to evade an endless supply of predators
who are always looking to tear them limb to limb or swallow them whole, find whatever scraps
of food they can find to avoid starving to death, and compete with conspecifics for the right
to procreate. On a good day.
wascallywabbit -> Davinci Woohoo 28 Mar 2018 19:34
Thanks Davinci for the reasoned and balanced response.
I appreciate that it's not necessarily your view, but that there is a lot of history
behind it. However, to a European living in a modern democracy, it just seems to be a strange
and counter-productive attitude. For example, rather than paying taxes for pooled and
equitable public services, many of those services are run as profit-making businesses, thus
removing money from the system. It also reinforces class divisions, as the rich can pay, but
the poor cannot. As a result, many people cannot pay for medical care, cannot send their
children to university, and are forced to buy a car to move around.
Again, I'm not criticising you personally, just the mindset that you mentioned.
fatkevin 28 Mar 2018 19:25
It seems sensible to take steps to 'protect' ourselves from the data hoover that is
google or Facebook.
But should it be that way round? These cyborg organisations should frame their technology
and services that automatically displays social responsibilities towards those they are
currently sucking dry of personal information.
Our data is ours, and not theirs to sell onto or allow political freak shows to
'target' us for the suckers benefit, and not the suckees welfare. Who knows how many abusers
have been able to hit on vulnerable family's with children!
The internet is a colourful addictive place that most users have only a limited grasp
of its potential, as nicely illustrated by our politicians being dumb to these recent events
impact. Capitalist thinking, we know, is incapable of self regulation. Internet orgs
therefore need steep guidelines that imposes tight operating practices that ensures the
vulnerable (that's you and me) don't have to encounter the likes of these recent
Putting lead into food a century ago was deadly until food standards were criminalised;
the same applies to the cyborgian world of the internet.
Facebook's dirty tricks have been exposed, they will never completely regain the trust of
Alternatives are set to cannibalize the social media model, pioneered by Facebook.
Costs of security features, auditing information, and loss of ad revenue will make
Facebook less profitable.
Finally, Facebook ( FB )
has been exposed for the fraud that it is. There has never been such an inflated market cap
based on nothingness, just hype. Steve Jobs successfully hyped up Apple ( AAPL ) but unlike Fakebook, Apple actually
makes products, and they have a huge following. Here we will elaborate on several key points
that we've been saying for years, but now maybe the market is listening:
Facebook ( FB ) has a
weak underlying business model. Users do not like to see advertisements therefore management
will be driven to measures such as grey hat (or even black hat) methods to obtain data and
use data in ways in conflict with users.
Facebook ( FB ) is
ultimately and primarily a tool of the intelligence agencies (primarily but not exclusively
the CIA) and furthers a larger agenda as part of the DOD's "Information Awareness" program,
more than it is a hot business model.
There are thousands of social media networks , in fact Ning offers users a platform to create their own social network.
The only thing unique about Facebook ( FB ) is that it is the most used and trusted
network, but that all is hanging on the thin thread of users trust, which has now completely
Mark Zuckerberg is an unethical tricky leader that cannot change , he is detached from
reality, has no vision, no understanding of what his customers want, and perhaps most
importantly; stole Facebook ( FB ) from Winkelvoss .
Facebook became spammy in 2010 , the amount of bot manipulation is highly under-reported.
Fake accounts are bought and sold in a black market, software is sold that can create fake
accounts by the hundreds, thousands.
Based on the above, we believe the real value of Facebook ( FB ) is about $10 - $20 per share. Let's use the
'toplist' format as promoted by Facebook ( FB ) itself:
So if this trend continues - what should investors do? Sell , that's for starters. Contact
an attorney who knows Securities if you are a shareholder. That's the good news. Finally,
unless you like being tracked in your every move, delete your Facebook ( FB ) account. Because that's the only real
remedy. You can't block Zuck:
Remember one thing, Facebook ( FB ) users - you use FB with your consent. This author
deleted FB years ago, as have millions of others. If you really like the idea of social network
there are hundreds of others. Or set one up yourself for sharing family photos with Grandma.
JomSocial can turn any Joomla site into a
social media site.
The point here is investors that this is the beginning of a crap storm that has been brewing
for years but it didn't metastasize until now.
Facebook is going to zero. If you're long get out now before it drops further. There's
nothing supporting the stock except hopers and hot air.
One last thing, Fake News started on Facebook ( FB ) see articles here ,
here , and
. Since the Trump election there has been a backlash on 'Fake News' sites, which Facebook is #1
. It's a platform for Fake News!
News existed before Fakebook and will continue to exist. Facebook is to the internet was the
Laser Disc was to the home movie industry. It's outdated, it's bloated, it's hype - there's
nothing there. Move on, drones. Nothing to see here.
CIA-Facebook sucks. But this is not news. FB is service. The web has changed a great deal since it started. It was always
overpriced and overhyped but this is not at all unique. It reflects more on how pathetic, misguided and sick most the average neoliberal
"consumer" is. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYFz1am9OO4
As long as there are attention whores, there will be some type of facebook
As long as there are attention whores, there will be some type of facebook. I tried it for a while until my page was hijacked
and someone put a picture of some black girl naked with a big booty under a waterfall as my profile photo. No shit, this really
happened. I went from 13 friends to hundreds of friend requests overnight.
People were emailing my wife and asking her if we split up or something. Now I am glad I quit that shit. To some people it
is like crack. My neighbor used to post pictures of himself pulling worms out of his garden or when he was in yoga class. I wanted
to tell him that no one really gives a fuck.
In response to the Facebook data harvesting scandal, Mozilla has launched an
extension for its Firefox Browser
helps you segregate your web activity from Facebook's prying eyes by isolating your identity into a separate "container." This makes
it far more difficult for Facebook to track your activity on other websites using third-party cookies.
Upon installation, the extension deletes your Facebook cookies and logs you out of Facebook. The next time you visit the social
media giant, it will open in a special blue browser "container" tab - which you can use to safely log in to Facebook and use it like
you normally would. If you then click on a link that takes you outside of Facebook, it will load outside of the container.
Should you click on any Facebook Share buttons on other browser tabs it will load them within the Facebook container. You should
know that when you're using these buttons information will be sent to Facebook about the website that you shared from .
If you use your Facebook credentials to create an account or log in using your Facebook credentials, it may not work properly
and you may not be able to login. Also, because you're logged into Facebook in the container tab, embedded Facebook comments and
Like buttons in tabs outside the Facebook container tab will not work. This prevents Facebook from associating information about
your activity on websites outside of Facebook to your Facebook identity. So it may look different than what you are used to seeing.
Think of it as a condom for Facebook.
Mozilla notes that it "does not collect data from your use of the Facebook Container extension," adding "We only know the
number of times the extension is installed or removed."
One Reddit user asks "why not just make every tab an isolated container? "There should be NO REASON for one tab to know or read
what another tab (aka cookies) are doing from another domain," states
Lo and behold, the Mozilla programmer who created the extension popped into the thread and answered the question:
In Firefox Options - Privacy section you can setup to
delete cookies and clear history at every browser exit.
Same with Internet explorer. Not sure about Chrome.
You can also accept or deny third party cookies.
Ghostery is a must, especially for ZH
C Cleaner is a nice utility for getting rid of excess crap.
The DOJ's Inspector General Michael Horowitz announced Wednesday that he is expanding his internal investigation into alleged
FBI abuses surrounding Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications - and will be examining their relationship with
former MI6 spy Christopher Steele. The announcement follows several requests from lawmakers and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
"The OIG will initiate a review that will examine the Justice Department's and the Federal Bureau of Investigation's compliance
with legal requirements, and with applicable DOJ and FBI policies and procedures, in applications filed with the U.S. Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Court (FISC) relating to a certain U.S. person," the statement reads.
It should be noted that the OIG's current investigation and upcoming report - which led to former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe's
firing, is focused on the agency's handling of the Clinton email investigation. This new probe will focus on FISA abuse and surveillance
of the Trump campaign.
On March 1, House Intelligence Committee (HPSCI) Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) wrote in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions
that the FBI may have violated criminal statutes, as well as its own strict internal procedures by using unverified information to
obtain a surveillance warrant on onetime Trump campaign advisor Carter Page.
Nunes referred to the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DIOG), which states that the "accuracy of information contained
within FISA applications is of utmost importance... Only documented and verified information may be used to support FBI applications
to the court."
A "FISA memo" released
in February by the House Intel Committee (which has since closed its Russia investigation), points to FBI's use of the salacious
and unverified "Steele Dossier" funded by the Clinton Campaign and the DNC.
"Former and current DOJ and FBI leadership have confirmed to the committee that unverified information from the Steele
dossier comprised an essential part of the FISA applications related to Carter Page," Nunes wrote in his March 1 letter.
Meanwhile, a February 28 letter from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) requested
that IG Horowitz "conduct a comprehensive review of potential improper political influence, misconduct, or mismanagement" in relation
to the FBI's handling of counterintelligence and criminal investigations of the Trump campaign prior to the appointment of Robert
Steele in the crosshairs
The OIG letter also notes "As part of this examination, the OIG also will review information that was known to the DOJ and the
FBI at the time the applications were filed from or about an alleged FBI confidential source."
The source, in this case, is Christopher Steele.
The House Intel Committe's "FISA memo" alleges that the political origins of the dossier - paid for by Hillary Clinton and the
Democratic National Committee (DNC) - were not disclosed to the clandestine court that signed off on the warrant request, as DOJ
officials knew Steele was being paid by democrats. Moreover, officials at the DOJ and FBI signed one warrant, and three renewals
against Carter Page.
Considering that much of the Steele dossier came from a collaboration with high level Kremlin officials (a collusion if you
will), Horowitz will be connecting dots that allegedly go from the Clinton campaign directly to the Kremlin.
Although the contents of the dossier were unable to be corroborated, the FBI told the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
(FISA) court that Steele's reputation was solid - and used a Yahoo News article written by Michael Isikoff to support the FISA
application. The Isikoff article, however, contained information provided by Steele. In other words, the FBI made it appear to
the FISA court that two separate sources supported their application, when in fact they both came from Steele.
(interestingly, Isikoff also wrote a hit piece to discredit an undercover FBI informant who testified to Congress last week about
millions of dollars in bribes routed to the Clinton Foundation by Russian nuclear officials. Small world!)
So despite the FBI refusing to pay Steele $50,000 when he couldn't verify the dossier's claims, they still used it - in
conjunction with a Steele sourced Yahoo! article to spy on a Trump campaign associate. And to make up for the fact that the
underlying FISA claims were unverified, they "vouched" for Steele's reputation instead.
"... As Curran points out, people would be outraged if they discovered the government was monitoring them to this extent. But when Google does it? People hardly bat an eye. ..."
"... Need to ditch Microsoft operating system soon also. Something about giving away Windows 10 felt like Microsoft's in bed with government spying. The automatic updates blow. ..."
"... I've done a lot of hardening, and extensive work on the registry, services and task manager for windows 10. I also use "Windows Firewall Control". Nice program. Catches all connection attempts to internet and a log file so you can see what is connecting and what address and port. The program is an interface for the system firewall. Cortana, explorer, all microsoft office applications, error reporting, back ground task host are the busiest trying to connect. Some exe files that I've deleted, show up again, so now I just block the connection for the. ..."
"... Windows 7 has telemetry and also patches that install telemetry during updates. ..."
"... The real problem is with the smartphone. Unless you are going to go flip phone, you are freaking screwed. Those things suck up your whole life, and if you have an android phone, google play services is basically big brothering all your apps. I'd be highly surprised if our phones aren't logging EVERYTHING that is typed into the virtual keyboard. ..."
The Cambridge Analytica scandal was never really about Cambridge Analytica.
As we've pointed out, neither Facebook nor Cambridge Analytica have been accused of doing anything
explicitly illegal (though one could be forgiven for believing they had, based on the number of
lawsuits and official investigations that have been announced).
Instead, the backlash to these revelations - which has been justifiably focused on Facebook - is so
the public has been forced to confront for the first time something that
many had previously written off as an immutable certainty
That Facebook, Google
and the rest of the tech behemoths store reams of personal data, essentially logging everything we do.
In response to demands for more transparency surrounding user data, Facebook and Google are
offering users the option to view all of the metadata that Google and Facebook collect.
And as Twitter user Dylan Curran pointed out in a comprehensive twitter thread examining his own
the extent and bulk of the data collected and sorted by both companies is
Google, Curran said, collected 5.5 gigabytes of data on him - equivalent to some 3 million
Microsoft Word documents. Facebook, meanwhile, collected only 600 megabytes - equivalent to roughly
Another shocking revelation made by Curran: Even after deleting data like search history and
revoking permissions for Google and Facebook applications, Curran still found a comprehensive log of
his documents and other files stored on Google drive, his search history, chat logs and other
sensitive data about his movements that he had expressly deleted.
What's worse, everything shown is the data cache of one individual. Just imagine how much data
these companies hold in total.
... ... ...
Google even saves a log of every log a user has ever viewed or clicked on, every app they've every
opened and every image they've every searched for - and every news article they've ever read.
... ... ...
Curran, who joked that he's "probably on an FBI watchlist" following his twitter thread, explained
that the data he highlighted - while some of it might seem obscure - could have thousands of
potentially compromising applications, including blackmailing a rival or spying on a spouse.
... ... ...
The question now is: Will this transparency actually change user's behavior? Or will Facebook's
hollow promises to change be enough to lull its legions of users back into a passive ignorance. As
Curran points out, people would be outraged if they discovered the government was monitoring them to
this extent. But when Google does it? People hardly bat an eye.
Honestly though, aside from a well deserved arresting of Zuck and dragging him
through the streets for treason, you people using FB have only yourselves to blame
if this privacy-attack thing of Facebook's is a surprise to you. It's like suing a
cigarette company for the holes in your cheeks and throat.
OK, final edit: I should not have said "you people", I should have said "those
people", since most of you ZHers are probably way too smart to have ever been on
I ain't freaked out because I don't use these voyeuristic platforms. Boycotts
work, folks. Starve the beasts. It's the only effective weapon we have at this
time. Other weapons will come into our hands as our power increases.
Isn't selling advertising their business model?
Don't they collect personal data so they can target market
Don't they bury "opt-in consent" deep inside their user agreements
that nobody reads?
Haven't they published their methods which have been known for years?
Why is all this such a surprise?
Oh! I get it now.
All that was perfectly fine until Trump became POTUS.
It is the absolute right of the State to supervise the
formation of public opinion.
- Joseph Goebbels
All right - I'm gonna fess up....I use facebook. I
know we all bash on it, and everybody here claims to
have never used it, but probably half of you are
lying. I have never loaded the facebook ap on my
android, and don't play games. (I also don't post
pictures of my breakfast....I use it for a few very
good groups that share information about hiking and
such, and I post a lot of photos of my hikes, sort of
like in the old days when you'd invite friends over to
I downloaded the info zipfile. Yes, it was huge,
yes it had every photo and every comment I've ever
made on facebook, and yes, they even stored all the
messages I send and receive through facebook. But
so what, I wasn't surprised by that.... No, they did
not have records of my phone calls or
phone-text-messages, or any other information that I
hadn't given them. So - if you are judicious in what
you share, and expect that everything you put on line
is fully public (in spite of promises), you are likely
Wow - even split on up/down votes. I didn't think
I actually said anything controversial, not sure what
the downvotes are for....
I'll add a bit more. In my opinion, facebook is
like a fairly boring 24/7 cocktail party. Everybody
is jabbering and only half-aware, and it goes on far
too long. The best thing to do in a cocktail party
is to find somebody who i've been wanting to talk to
anyhow, and sit and talk with them. Facebook can
serve the same purpose. ALSO - I avoid all the
political ranting on facebook....I find it to be
inappropriate...leave that for...er...zerohedge. My
daddy taught me long ago that you don't discuss
religion or politics at a cocktail party, and he was
right, so I don't discuss either on facebook.
Why the fuck
Facebook is beyond me.
I value my
privacy, which is why I use an avatar and
phony name for my relatively small online
footprint. Most people don't do that.
They seem to want to spill their guts to any
and all, as if that gives their life meaning.
All this such a surprise? NO.
Shouldn't be. It's part of their
business model and has been since
inception. It's been staring
everyone in the face all along.
Most of the sheeple have played
right into it. I can remember when a
typical American's attitude toward
attempts to get even the most benign
personal info was "none of your damn
business." Now everyone shares all
of their private lives in massive
public view, hoping for a "hit" of
attention to satisfy cravings
brought on by their Social
zactly - same goes for the rest of
the social media top dogs which are
really just shadow guv front
companies. That is how they got to
be top dogs - playin ball with da
Da Man: "You job is to be
our front man and we'll fund you
until we bust our all the legit
competition. Then we'll tell our 98%
owned media to endlessly tout you as
a genius. "
Da bitches : "Der...Ok"
Proof? All those "titans" of
industry that magically survived
years of burning cash somehow
managed to avoid "the hidden hand of
the market." Now the fuckers stand
atop the "capitalist" system and
lecture us about how to run a
company. Yeah right. Fuckem.
It can help people though. For example,
when my friends go through the passing of
a loved one, human or pet, the feedback
can help ease the pain, and I have seen
that numerous times in the last 8 years.
Since 2010 I have had 6 pets pass away,
and "spilling my guts" and getting
feedback did help ease the pain. So there
are positive aspects to it also. And like
with most things in life, moderate usage
I've done a lot of hardening, and extensive work
on the registry, services and task manager for
windows 10. I also use "Windows Firewall
Control". Nice program. Catches all connection
attempts to internet and a log file so you can
see what is connecting and what address and
port. The program is an interface for the system
firewall. Cortana, explorer, all microsoft
office applications, error reporting, back
ground task host are the busiest trying to
connect. Some exe files that I've deleted, show
up again, so now I just block the connection for
Windows 7 has telemetry and also patches
that install telemetry during updates.
Got Google Chrome? Get rid of it. FireFox is
better and Tor Browser even better.
I second your comments. I've never used
Facebook, but Google has invaded everything. I'm
working on getting de-googled, particularly
after their recent youtube BS, but that is a
In some cases the alternatives are good. Protonmail is excellent and affordable. Signal
is a great messenger app.
Opera with scriptsafe
and ghostery works well. On a home PC you can
use install a good linux distro in a virtual PC
and browse through a VPN (Torguard takes crypto
as does Primary Internet Access). But I'm still
using gdrive (gestapo drive as I like to call
all google stuff) because alternatives aren't as
good and probably have the same privacy issues.
The real problem is with the smartphone.
Unless you are going to go flip phone, you are
freaking screwed. Those things suck up your
whole life, and if you have an android phone,
google play services is basically big brothering
all your apps. I'd be highly surprised if our
phones aren't logging EVERYTHING that is typed
into the virtual keyboard.
A co-worker went on vacation and I showed him
a site where he could see his trail in DC,
places he went. He acknowledged that is
exactly the places he visited. Red lines on a
map with his travels.Too funny.
i used it, and I'm OK with the risk
of this. it's a free website that needs to make
use it at your own risk. (e.g. have never used
my real name associated with any of those accounts;
I never use them to instant message; I have a rule
that I never ever use an 'app within an app' if an
app interests me I'll download the direct .exe for
a different laptop or device (that doesn't have any
Google or FB account on it). other small things,
that -- sure i'm sure they probably suspect my name
and track some info -- but it's mostly pointless
shit. especially no app or chat histories tho.
the real idiots are the people mad about this.
not Zuck. of course Zuck is gonna Zuck or Google is
p.s. the fact that Twitter thread is 'news'
(despite being known for years) shows just how
blind and stupid people are.
p.s.s. and to be fair there are some benefits to
some of those features. the geo-location stuff can
be nefarious, but it also makes searching for local
businesses a lot easier, and provides security
(e.g. it's helpful that Google knows you always
log-in from a certain State cuz then it can block a
log-in attempt from Nigeria). again. not saying
it's WORTH IT (Don't like it, don't use it) but
there is a practical reason for it too.
You are ignoring the venality of the sorts of
people who will attempt to exploit this information
(governments, insurers, real estate agents, HR
fucktards - the whole shebang of parasites and
ticket-clippers... who are almost entirely made up
And you're ignoring Richelieu's
Give me six lines written by the most honest
man: in them, I will find something with which
to hang him
I still have my flip phone so I can't received
texts, can't google to find anything & have to call
411 to get a number.
I too have Facebook but its
on an old windows 7 computer that I also go to just
for a group, similar to you but I've never posted a
personal picture. Even my kittykat that I had at
one time as my icon is one that I've got from
bing.com images. Its close enough.
As for Google? They're a search engine. They
have your IP address. Of course they're going to
keep track of everything you do from that IP
address/phone number if you use it. And before
bing.com outsourced their search to Google they
were a Microsoft search engine. Guess they got
lazy. When they did so I went to DuckDuckGo and
Yahoo. I know you can't do that on the android
phone because its almost hardwired in for Google so
the only advice I can give is go back to the flip
phone if you want any privacy because sadly....
Google will go out of business selling your
information before it never sells your information
& then the government will come in and declare
Google too big to fail with all that info & sweep
it into the NSA late one Friday night while
everyone is watching a version of Stormy & her 2
Some of you don't get it. If you communicated with a
Facebook or Google user, they got all your
communications as well.
And they probably have
Hillary's deleted emails.
And if you have a Smart TV, they can watch and
listen to you and your kids.
If you communicate with a Facebook user, then FB
email address or your phone number
That's not "all your communications". Not your
contacts, not your other email addresses, not your
other phone numbers.
Don't get me wrong: that's more than I want them
to have, but it ain't much in the grand scheme of
You forgot to mention that they have the text of
your communications. I never said they had
everything if you did not have an account. I
don't have Facebook, but family members and
family do. They have posted photos and I have
communicated via text, email and phone. They
have those text messages and emails, and any
photos I texted and emailed, even though I never
clicked a little box to consent to their
just did some digging here myself. What I found:
minimally 8 Gb of data of all sorts. As a footnote:
I don't have/use: android phone, smart tv,
whatsapp/other messenger, almost always use
hooktube instead of youtube, VPN, mostly protonmail
(especially for personal info), no 'social' media
hardly ever login via 'social/google account (hand
full of exceptions).
I was a bit surprised they had this much (and
kept that much (even though have been a long time
skeptic of them)).
tmosley - I'm gonna guess "deletion" doesn't really get rid
of the data. Should have asked for it to be wiped with a
cloth. Posting all the stuff facebook collected about
one's self on twitter - did he do that just to be sure
everyone everywhere had seen his laundry.
In 1994, Wired magazine ran a short story entitled "Hack the spew" . This was back when Wired was
actually cutting edge and not the insufferable Silicon
Valley stroke job it became after Conde Naste acquired it. In it our antihero "Stark" finds
himself inexplicably recruited as a kind of data scout, looking for viable consumer trends
emerging from the fully immersive, all encompassing data field known as "The Spew".
"When a schmo buys something on the I-way it goes into his Profile, and if it happens to
be something that he recently saw advertised there, we call that interesting, and when he
uses the I-way to phone his friends and family, we Profile Auditors can navigate his social
web out to a gazillion fractal iterations, the friends of his friends of his friends of his
friends, what they buy and what they watch and if there's a correlation."
The Spew of course, was the near future analogy of where the internet was headed, and when I
went looking to link to it for this post, the piece turned out to be written by none other than
Neal Stephenson. That means I read "Hack The Spew" and it made an impression on me before I
even knew who Stephenson was or perhaps was on his way to becoming. Few would argue that
Stephenson has a gift for seeing the general ambience of our oncoming future. Cryptonomicon uncannily anticipated the impetus
toward crypto-currencies; the current systemic dysfunction of national sovereignty worldwide
was foretold in Snow Crash; so it follows
that all this will likely culminate in something that resembles The Diamond Age .
Today, "The Spew" is not equivalent to the Internet itself, but it is more accurately
analogous to say the social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, especially when combined
with the twin monopolies of Google and Amazon, collectively are: The Spew.
It is like a global garbage pile of digital flotsam and jetsam, over which peasants scurry
around and scour, looking for some morsel here, a crumb there, which can be monetized. If a
trend or a trait is detected, even better. Those can be aggregated, syndicated, federated, even
rehypothecated and at scale that can yield staggering financial payoffs and perhaps, even steer
the course the history.
At least that's the narrative since the Cambridge Analytica scandal blew up in Facebook's
face. After a long string of successive privacy fails (a.k.a a pattern of abuse?) this time
feels different, as if the chickens are finally coming home to roost for
Cambridge Analytica is not uniqueEver heard of Kareem Serageldin?
To date, he is the only banker to
have been sent to prison in connection with the 2008–2009 Global Financial Crisis for
his role in issuing fraudulent mortgage-backed securities (at least outside of
Iceland ). To be sure, he was a fall guy, a token sacrifice to demonstrate contrition for
what was a systemic, institutionalized effort to inflate a bubble whose implosion nearly
crashed the entire global financial system.
In this case while Facebook attempted to throw water on this crisis by ceremonially
banishing Cambridge Analytica from its system, the longstanding pattern of abuse remains, and
is perhaps now, finally, awareness of that is reaching critical mass with the public:
And while there were
key differences in the way data was used , (not to mention more informed consent) the
2012 Obama re-election campaign used the same data mining features and accessed the same data
as the Cambridge Analytica app
In fact it may be veritably baked into their ecosystem to such a degree that it is almost
impossible to develop and create an app on Facebook
that doesn't harvest your data
"At this point, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's pattern on privacy is clear. Launch new
stuff that pushes the boundaries of what people consider comfortable. Apologize and assure
users that they control their information, but rarely pull back entirely, and usually
reintroduce similar features at a later date when people seem more ready for it."
It becomes clear, as Futurist (and easyDNS member) Jesse Hirsh made this point on
Steve Pakin's "The Agenda" over the weekend: "Facebook ships with all privacy enhanced
settings disabled" -- further, my personal findings are that they use obfuscation
to make it harder to disable data sharing settings. You have to jump through hoops to do
WhatsApp founder Brian Acton, who became a billionaire when Facebook bought his company
hasn't let that dissuade him from telling the world what he thinks of all this:
Should you? Should easyDNS? Here's my take on it:
If you are a business: keep your
page but don't be reliant on it
There is a difference between a business who uses Facebook as an antennae to provide
additional ways to stay in touch with customers and those whose business model is completely
dependent on Facebook. We started our Facebook page when we were pulled into the
Wikileaks Crisis as a way to stay in touch with our customers while that entire fiasco
played out. We maintain it today for the same reason, and people do frequently contact us
through that page looking for support.
You have to credit the guy with dominating his niche but I couldn't help wondering what
would happen to his business if something substantial changed at Facebook, or if some of his
readers would feel "used" if they understood some of the myriad tactics some of these sites
routinely use, via Facebook, to drive their own affiliate revenues.
It brings to mind 2 things:
My late friend and one of the original easyDNS customers Atul Chitnis who was among the first to
observe "if you're not paying for the product, you are the product"
My own maxim, which I introduced in the
Guerrilla Capitalism Overview that there are two kinds of companies, those that feed on
customer ignorance compared to those who prosper via customer savvy . I think it is obvious
to all, at least now, that Facebook needs customer ignorance to survive.
(Or as Zuck eloquently observed it back in his dormroom days)
YMMV on your personal
I read a long time ago "don't put anything on the internet that you wouldn't want to read in
the newspapers the next day", and that has served me well as a guide over the years.
My basic assumption is that everything I post to Facebook, including "private" messages are
wide open, being harvested, data mined, aggregated, used to target and retarget ads to me,
build a profile and otherwise compile a comprehensive dossier, even stuff I've "deleted". (If
you've ever watched "Terms and Conditions May
Apply" you'll know that Facebook actually keeps the stuff you "delete").
So I never say anything on Facebook or put anything on there that is remotely confidential
or proprietary. It's strictly a water cooler. I like it because it enabled me to reconnect with
various groups of my friends and peers over the years, from the kids I grew up and went to high
school with in Galt, Ontario to the misfits from the London underground music scene in college,
to the tech entrepreneurs from the mid-90's on.
Would I use it to send anything to anybody that I found myself hoping that it's never going
to leak or be used against me? Uh, no. That would be terribly naive.
So to that end, I'll probably keep my personal Facebook page, even though I sometimes catch
myself spending too much time arguing stupid pointless crap (like politics) with people I'd
otherwise never associate with. But that's a self-discipline issue, not a data soveriengty
issue (although it is
now also common knowledg e that Facebook deliberately codes the platform itself to be as
addictive as possible)
All that said
At least #deleteFacebook from your mobile devices
Facebook harvests your contact lists from your mobile devices (don't believe me, go here )
There are people in that list that I do not know. There are phone numbers from people who work
for my competitors in there. My daughter's (age 11) cell phone number is in there.
You can "delete" all this here : (but as you know Facebook never
actually deletes anything).
Then when you go to "delete" all your contacts you get a message
"We won't be able to tell you when your friends start using Messenger if you delete all
your uploaded contact info."
They say that like it's a bad thing. But there is also this curious sentence:
"If you have Continuous Uploading turned on in the Messenger app, your contact info will
be uploaded again the next time the app syncs with Facebook servers."
I had deleted the Facebook mobile app from my phone a long time ago. I kept messenger
installed because sometimes customers would contact easyDNS or Zoneedit via our Facebook pages
It turned out I had already disabled continuous uploading but I was surprised to find that
the messenger app had defaulted permission to access my phone's microphone.
After this exercise I simply deleted the Messenger app from my phone as well.
Data Sovereignty is an idea who's time has come
I think it would be safe to assume, that barring some widespread public pushback (such as
the one happening right now), this is The New Normal.
People who may have been complacently oblivious to the fact that their social network was
pimping them as mere data points are realizing that they don't like it as they have their faces
rubbed in one data breach and privacy violation after another.
Given the outrages of Equifax, Facebook et al, we may have arrived at the crossroads and we
may only get this choice once.
Do we push back and say "NO", I own my own data, I control who gets it and what happens with
Or, do we calm down after a few days, or weeks and then it's business as usual. Next year
Zuck will apologize for some other new breach of trust ahead of his 2020 presidential bid,
while us "shmoes" go ahead and vote for him.
Doesn't the entity we fear most already have access to all our data? Who is it that we
think we are hiding anything from? Just don't be stupid and put any new sensitive info out
there, anywhere, if you don't have to... but worrying about the info the the govt already has
on you? What would be the point?
"... Much of what Cambridge Analytica claimed to be able to do for its clients has an exaggerated ring to it. As with the Steele dossier, several of the Cambridge Analytica documents are unintentionally funny, such as a letter from Aleksandr Kogan, the Russian-American academic researcher, suggesting that finding out if people used crossbows or believed in paganism would be useful traits on which to focus. ..."
"... What is lacking in these scandals is much real evidence that Russian "meddling" or Cambridge Analytica "harvesting" – supposing all these tales are true – really did much to determine the outcome of the US election. Keep in mind that many very astute and experienced American politicians, backed by billions of dollars, regularly try and fail to decide who will hold political office in the US. ..."
Many people who hate and fear Donald Trump feel that only political
black magic or some form of trickery can explain his election as US President. They convince
themselves that we are the victims of a dark conspiracy rather than that the world we live in
is changing, and changing for the worse.
Analytica has now joined Russia at the top of a list of conspirators who may have helped
Trump defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016. This is satisfactory for Democrats as it shows that they
ought to have won, and delegitimises Trump's mandate.
In the Russian and Cambridge Analytica scandals, dodgy characters abound who claim to have a
direct line to Putin or Trump, or to have secret information about political opponents or a
unique method of swaying the voting intentions of millions of Americans. The most doubtful
evidence is treated as credible.
The dossier by the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, about Trump's
romps in Moscow, struck me when I first read it as hilarious but entirely unbelievable. The US
media thought the same when this document was first being hawked around Washington before the
election, and refused to publish it. It was only after Trump was elected that that they and the
US security agencies claimed to find it in any way credible.
Much of what Cambridge Analytica claimed to be able to do for its clients has an exaggerated
ring to it. As with the Steele dossier, several of the Cambridge Analytica documents are
unintentionally funny, such as a letter from Aleksandr Kogan, the Russian-American academic
researcher, suggesting that finding out if people used crossbows or believed in paganism would
be useful traits on which to focus.
We are told that Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users have been "harvested" (a
good menacing word in this context, suggesting that the poor old users are being chopped off at
the ankles), and that information so garnered could be fed into the Trump campaign to put him
over the top on election day. In reality, information gathered from such a large number of
people is too generalised or too obvious to be of much use.
What is lacking in these scandals is much real evidence that Russian "meddling" or Cambridge
Analytica "harvesting" – supposing all these tales are true – really did much to
determine the outcome of the US election. Keep in mind that many very astute and experienced
American politicians, backed by billions of dollars, regularly try and fail to decide who will
hold political office in the US.
It simply is not very likely that the Kremlin – having shown extraordinary foresight
in seeing that Trump stood a chance when nobody else did – was able to exercise
significant influence on the US polls. Likewise, for all its bombastic sales pitch, Cambridge
Analytica was really a very small player in the e-campaign.
The Russian "meddling" story (again, note the careful choice of words, because "meddling"
avoids any claim that the Russian actions had any impact) and the Cambridge Analytica saga are
essentially conspiracy theories. They may damage those targeted such as Trump, but they also do
harm to his opponents because it means that they do not look deeply enough into the real
reasons for their defeat in 2016, or do enough to prevent it happening again.
Since Clinton lost the election by less than 1 per cent of the vote in the crucial swing
states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, almost anything that happened in the campaign
can be portrayed as decisive. But there are plenty of common-sense reasons for her defeat which
are now being submerged and forgotten, as the Democrats and a largely sympathetic media look to
Russian plots and such like to show that Trump won the election unfairly.
It is worth looking again at Hillary Clinton's run-for-office in 2016 to take a more
rational view of why she unexpectedly lost. A good place to start is Shattered: Inside
Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign , by the journalists Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes,
which was published a year ago and is based on interviews with senior campaign staffers.
Ironically, the Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook based his approach on a similar sort of
analysis of vast quantities of data about voters that Cambridge Analytica claimed it could use
to great effect.
Mook's conviction that this data was a sure guide to where to invest the Democrats' best
efforts had disastrous consequences, even though Clinton outspent Trump by 2 to 1. For
instance, she did not campaign in Wisconsin after winning the nomination, because her election
team thought she was bound to win there. She put too little effort into campaigning in
Michigan, though her weakness there was underlined there in March when she lost the primary to
Traditional tools of electioneering such as polls and door-to-door canvassing were
discounted by Mook, who was absorbed by his own analytical model of how the election was going.
In major swing states, the book says that "he declined to use pollsters to track voter
preferences in the final three weeks of the campaign".
Clinton carried a lot of political baggage because she had been demonised by the Republicans
for 25 years. She had bad lluck, such the decision of the FBI director, James Comey, to send a
letter to Congress about her emails two weeks before the election – but Trump somehow
managed to survive even worse disasters, such as boasting of how he groped women.
Opponents of Trump tend to underestimate him because they are convinced that his faults are
so evident that he will implode when the electorate find him out. Somehow they never do, or at
least not those parts of the electorate which votes for him.
The very scandals that Trump's critics believe will sink him have enabled him dominate the
news agenda in a way no American politician has ever done before. The New York Times
and CNN may detest him, but they devote an extraordinary proportion of their news
output to covering his every action.
The accusation that the Kremlin and companies like Cambridge Analytica put Trump in the
White House may do him damage. But I suspect that the damage will mostly be among people who
never liked him and would never vote for him.
Perhaps the one thing would have lost Trump the election is if his campaign had truly relied
on Cambridge Analytica's data about the political proclivities of pagan crossbow
To corporate giants like Facebook, leaks to rivals or the media are a cardinal sin.
That notion was clear in a new Wired
story about Facebook's rocky time over the last two years. The story talks about how
Facebook was able to find two leakers who told a Gizmodo reporter about its news operations.
But one source for the Wired story highlighted just how concerned employees are about how
their company goes after leakers. According to the story, the source, a current Facebook
employee, asked a Wired reporter to turn off his phone so Facebook
wouldn't be able to use location tracking and see that the two were close to each other for
the meeting .
The Wired's 11,000-word
wide-ranging piece , for which it spoke with more than 50 current and former Facebook
employees, gives us an inside look at how the company has been struggling to curb spread of
fake news; battling internal discrimination among employees; and becoming furious when anything
leaks to the media. Another excerpt from the story:
The day after Fearnow (a contractor who leaked information to a Gizmodo reporter) took
that second screenshot was a Friday. When he woke up after sleeping in, he noticed that he
had about 30 meeting notifications from Facebook on his phone. When he replied to say it was
his day off, he recalls, he was nonetheless asked to be available in 10 minutes. Soon he was
on a video-conference with three Facebook employees, including Sonya Ahuja, the company's
head of investigations. According to his recounting of the meeting, she asked him if he had
been in touch with Nunez (the Gizmodo reporter, who eventually published
He denied that he had been. Then she told him that she had their messages on Gchat,
which Fearnow had assumed weren't accessible to Facebook. He was fired. "Please shut your
laptop and don't reopen it," she instructed him.
did not adequately secure the informed consent of its users . From a report: The
verdict, from a Berlin regional court, comes as Big Tech faces increasing scrutiny in Germany
over its handling of sensitive personal data that enables it to micro-target online
advertising. The Federation of German Consumer Organisations (vzvb) said that Facebook's
default settings and some of its terms of service were in breach of consumer law, and that the
court had found parts of the consent to data usage to be invalid. "Facebook hides default
settings that are not privacy-friendly in its privacy center and does not provide sufficient
information about it when users register," said Heiko Duenkel, litigation policy officer at the
vzvb. "This does not meet the requirement for informed consent."
There are likely multiple reasons for the decline. Facebook has been losing its "cool"
factor for years, and young people have more options than ever for staying in touch with
friends and family. Facebook also serves as a digital record keeper -- but many young people
don't seem to care about saving their life online, at least not publicly.
That explains why Snapchat and Instagram, which offer features for sharing photos and
videos that disappear, are growing in popularity among this demographic. Overall, eMarketer
found Facebook lost about 2.8 million U.S. users under 25 last year.
The research firm released Facebook usage estimates for 2018 on Monday, and expects
that Facebook will lose about 2.1 million users in the U.S. under the age of 25 this
(techcrunch.com)Onavo Protect, the VPN client from the data-security app maker acquired
by Facebook back in 2013, has now popped up in the Facebook app itself,
under the banner "Protect" in the navigation menu . Clicking through on "Protect" will
redirect Facebook users to the "Onavo Protect -- VPN Security" app's listing on the App Store.
We're currently seeing this option on iOS only, which may indicate it's more of a test than a
full rollout here in the U.S. Marketing Onavo within Facebook itself could lead to a boost in
users for the VPN app, which promises to warn users of malicious websites and keep information
secure as you browse. But Facebook didn't buy Onavo for its security protections. Instead,
Onavo's VPN allow Facebook to monitor user activity across apps, giving Facebook a big
advantage in terms of spotting new trends across the larger mobile ecosystem. For example,
Facebook gets an early heads up about apps that are becoming breakout hits; it can tell which
are seeing slowing user growth; it sees which apps' new features appear to be resonating with
their users, and much more. Further reading: Do Not, I
Repeat, Do Not Download Onavo, Facebook's Vampiric VPN Service (Gizmodo).
In a blog post, Facebook deputy general counsel Paul Grewal laid out how SCL came into
possession of the user data. In 2015, Aleksandr Kogan, a psychology professor at the University
of Cambridge, created an app named "thisisyourdigitallife" that promised to predict aspects of
users' personalities. About 270,000 people downloaded it and logged in through Facebook, giving
Kogan access to information about their city of residence, Facebook content they had liked, and
information about their friends. Kogan passed the data to SCL and a man named Christopher Wylie
from a data harvesting firm known as Eunoia Technologies, in violation of Facebook rules that
prevent app developers from giving away or selling users' personal information. Facebook
learned of the violation that year and removed his app from Facebook. It also asked Kogan and
his associates to certify that they had destroyed the improperly collected data. Everyone said
that they did. The suspension is not permanent, a Facebook spokesman said. But the suspended
users would need to take unspecified steps to certify that they would comply with Facebook's
terms of service.
Documents seen by the Observer , and confirmed by a Facebook statement, show
that by late 2015 the company had found out that information had been
harvested on an unprecedented scale . However, at the time it failed to alert users and
took only limited steps to recover and secure the private information of more than 50 million
individuals... On Friday, four days after the Observer sought comment for this story,
but more than two years after the data breach was first reported, Facebook
announced that it was suspending Cambridge Analytica and Kogan from the platform, pending
further information over misuse of data. Separately, Facebook's external lawyers warned the
Observer on Friday it was making "false and defamatory" allegations, and reserved
Facebook's legal position...
The evidence Wylie supplied to U.K. and U.S. authorities includes a letter from
Facebook's own lawyers sent to him in August 2016, asking him to destroy any data he held that
had been collected by GSR, the company set up by Kogan to harvest the profiles... Facebook did
not pursue a response when the letter initially went unanswered for weeks because Wylie was
travelling, nor did it follow up with forensic checks on his computers or storage, he said.
"That to me was the most astonishing thing. They waited two years and did absolutely nothing to
check that the data was deleted. All they asked me to do was tick a box on a form and post it
Wylie worked with Aleksandr Kogan, the creator of the "thisisyourdigitallife" app, "who has
previously unreported links to a Russian university and took Russian grants for research,"
according to the article. Kogan "had a licence from Facebook to collect profile data, but it
was for research purposes only. So when he hoovered up information for the commercial venture,
he was violating the company's terms...
"At the time, more than 50 million profiles represented around a third of active North
American Facebook users, and nearly a quarter of potential U.S. voters."
(theguardian.com)They had records of a screenshot he'd taken, links he had clicked or
hovered over, and they strongly indicated they had accessed chats between him and the
journalist, dating back to before he joined the company. "It's horrifying how much they know,"
he told the Guardian, on the condition of anonymity... "You get on their bad side and
all of a sudden you are face to face with Mark Zuckerberg's secret police "... One European
Facebook content moderator signed a contract, seen by the Guardian, which granted the company
the right to monitor and record his social media activities, including his personal Facebook
account, as well as emails, phone calls and internet use. He also agreed to random personal
searches of his belongings including bags, briefcases and car while on company premises.
Refusal to allow such searches would be treated as gross misconduct...
Some employees switch their phones off or hide them out of fear that their location is
being tracked. One current Facebook employee who recently spoke to Wired asked the reporter to
turn off his phone so the company would have a harder time tracking if it had been near the
phones of anyone from Facebook. Two security researchers confirmed that this would be
technically simple for Facebook to do if both people had the Facebook app on their phone and
location services switched on. Even if location services aren't switched on, Facebook can infer
someone's location from wifi access points.
The article cites a 2012 report that Microsoft read a French
blogger's Hotmail account to identify a former employee who had
leaked trade secrets . And it also reports that tech companies hire external agencies to
surveil their employees. "One such firm, Pinkerton, counts Google and Facebook among its
clients." Though Facebook and Google both deny this, "Among other services, Pinkerton offers to
send investigators to coffee shops or restaurants near a company's campus to eavesdrop on
Al Gidari, consulting director of privacy at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society,
says that these tools "are common, widespread, intrusive and legal."
(sfgate.com)BeauHD on Friday
March 23, 2018 @08:50PM from the rough-week dept. Facebook has had a terrible week. Since it
was revealed that political data firm Cambridge Analytica
obtained information about 50 million Facebook users , the social media company has been in
damage control mode,
apologizing for its mistakes and
conducting forensic audits to determine exactly what happened. SFGate reports today that
has been hit with four lawsuits in federal court in San Francisco and San Jose thus far
this week." From the report: One lawsuit was filed by a Facebook user who claims the Menlo
Park company acted with "absolute disregard" for her personal information after allegedly
representing that it wouldn't disclose the data without permission or notice. That lawsuit,
filed by Lauren Price of Maryland in San Jose on Tuesday, seeks to be a class action on behalf
of up to 50 million people whose data was allegedly collected from Facebook by London-based
Cambridge Analytica. The lawsuit says that during the 2016 election, Price was "frequently
targeted with political ads while using Facebook." It seeks financial restitution for claims of
unfair business practices and negligence. Both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica are named as
defendants. Cambridge Analytica also announced today that the company will
undergo an independent third-party audit to determine whether it still holds any data
covertly obtained from Facebook users. "We take the disturbing recent allegations of unethical
practices in our non-U.S. political business very seriously," CEO Alexander Tayler writes . "The Board
has launched a full and independent investigation into SCL Elections' past practices, and its
findings will be shared publicly."
(zdnet.com)BeauHD on Tuesday
March 06, 2018 @08:20PM from the plot-twist dept. According to newly released documents by the
Electronic Frontier Foundation, federal agents
would pay Geek Squad employees to flag illegal materials on devices sent in by customers
for repairs. "The relationship goes back at least ten years, according to documents
released as a result of the lawsuit [
filed last year ]," reports ZDNet. "The agency's Louisville division aim was to maintain a
'close liaison' with Geek Squad management to 'glean case initiations and to support the
division's Computer Intrusion and Cyber Crime programs.'" From the report: According to the
EFF's analysis of the documents, FBI agents would "show up, review the images or video and
determine whether they believe they are illegal content" and seize the device so an additional
analysis could be carried out at a local FBI field office. That's when, in some cases, agents
would try to obtain a search warrant to justify the access. The EFF's lawsuit was filed in
response to a report that a Geek Squad employee was
used as an informant by the FBI in the prosecution of child pornography case. The documents
show that the FBI would regularly use Geek Squad employees as confidential human sources -- the
agency's term for informants -- by taking calls from employees when they found something
it could also help the cybersecurity community discover previously unknown threats . The
Intercept: When the mysterious entity known as the " Shadow Brokers " released a tranche of stolen NSA
hacking tools to the internet a year ago, most experts who studied the material honed in on the
most potent tools, so-called zero-day exploits that could be used to install malware and take
over machines. But a group of Hungarian security researchers spotted something else in the
data, a collection of scripts and scanning tools the National Security Agency uses to detect
other nation-state hackers on the machines it infects. It turns out those scripts and tools are
just as interesting as the exploits. They show that in 2013 -- the year the NSA tools were
believed to have been stolen by the Shadow Brokers -- the agency was tracking at least 45
different nation-state operations, known in the security community as Advanced Persistent
Threats, or APTs. Some of these appear to be operations known by the broader security community
-- but some may be threat actors and operations currently unknown to researchers.
The scripts and scanning tools dumped by Shadow Brokers and studied by the Hungarians
were created by an NSA team known as Territorial Dispute, or TeDi. Intelligence sources told
The Intercept the NSA established the team after hackers, believed to be from China, stole
designs for the military's Joint Strike Fighter plane, along with other sensitive data, from
U.S. defense contractors in 2007; the team was supposed to detect and counter sophisticated
nation-state attackers more quickly, when they first began to emerge online. "As opposed to the
U.S. only finding out in five years that everything was stolen, their goal was to try to figure
out when it was being stolen in real time," one intelligence source told The Intercept. But
their mission evolved to also provide situational awareness for NSA hackers to help them know
when other nation-state actors are in machines they're trying to hack.
Onavo Protect , a newly released VPN service from Facebook : I found that Onavo Protect uses a Packet
Tunnel Provider app extension, which should consistently run for as long as the VPN is
connected, in order to
periodically send the following data to Facebook (graph.facebook.com) as the user goes
about their day:
When user's mobile device screen is turned on and turned off.
Total daily Wi-Fi data usage in bytes (Even when VPN is turned off).
Total daily cellular data usage in bytes (Even when VPN is turned off).
Periodic beacon containing an "uptime" to indicate how long the VPN has been connected.
but behind the cartoonish facade is a ruthless code of secrecy . From a report: They
rely on a combination of Kool-Aid, digital and physical surveillance, legal threats and
restricted stock units to prevent and detect intellectual property theft and other criminal
activity. However, those same tools are also used to catch employees and contractors who talk
publicly, even if it's about their working conditions, misconduct or cultural challenges within
the company. While Apple's culture of secrecy, which includes making employees sign
project-specific NDAs and covering unlaunched products with black cloths, has been widely
reported, companies such as Google and Facebook have long put the emphasis on internal
Zuckerberg hosts weekly meetings where he shares details of unreleased new products and
strategies in front of thousands of employees. Even junior staff members and contractors can
see what other teams are working on by looking at one of many of the groups on the company's
internal version of Facebook. "When you first get to Facebook you are shocked at the level of
transparency. You are trusted with a lot of stuff you don't need access to," said Evans, adding
that during his induction he was warned not to look at ex-partners' Facebook accounts.
reported this week , speaks volumes of Facebook's core beliefs. Sample
this except from Business Insider : Facebook executives waded into a firestorm of
criticism on Saturday, after news reports revealed that a data firm with ties to the Trump
campaign harvested private information from millions of Facebook users. Several executives took
to Twitter to insist that the data leak was not technically a "breach." But critics were
outraged by the response and accused the company of playing semantics and missing the
point. Washington Post reporter Hamza Shaban: Facebook insists that the Cambridge
Analytica debacle wasn't a data breach, but a "violation" by a third party app that abused user
data. This offloading of responsibility says a lot about Facebook's approach to our
privacy. Observer reporter Carole Cadwalladr, who broke the news about Cambridge Analytica:
Yesterday Facebook threatened to sue us. Today we publish this. Meet the whistleblower
blowing the lid off Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. [...] Facebook's chief strategy officer
wading in. So, tell us @alexstamos (who expressed his displeasure with the use of "breach" in
media reports) why didn't you inform users of this "non-breach" after The Guardian first
reported the story in December 2015? Zeynep Tufekci: If your business is building a
massive surveillance machinery, the data will eventually be used and misused. Hacked, breached,
leaked, pilfered, conned, "targeted", "engaged", "profiled", sold.. There is no informed
consent because it's not possible to reasonably inform or consent. [...] Facebook's defense
that Cambridge Analytica harvesting of FB user data from millions is not technically a "breach"
is a more profound and damning statement of what's wrong with Facebook's business model than a
"breach." MIT Professor Dean Eckles: Definitely fascinating that Joseph Chancellor, who
contributed to collection and contract-violating retention (?) of Facebook user data, now works
for Facebook. Amir Efrati, a reporter at the Information: May seem like a small thing to
non-reporters but Facebook loses credibility by issuing a Friday night press release to
"front-run" publications that were set to publish negative articles about its platform. If you
want us to become more suspicious, mission accomplished. Further reading: Facebook's
latest privacy debacle stirs up more regulatory interest from lawmakers (TechCrunch).
(arstechnica.com)BeauHD on Sunday
March 25, 2018 @10:34AM from the book-of-secrets dept. An anonymous reader quotes a report from
Ars Technica: This past week, a New Zealand man was looking through the data Facebook had
collected from him in an archive he had
pulled down from the social networking site. While scanning the information Facebook had stored
about his contacts, Dylan McKay discovered something distressing:
Facebook also had about two years worth of phone call metadata from his Android phone ,
including names, phone numbers, and the length of each call made or received. This experience
has been shared by a number of other Facebook users who spoke with Ars, as well as
independently by us -- my own Facebook data archive, I found, contained call-log data for a
certain Android device I used in 2015 and 2016, along with SMS and MMS message metadata. In
response to an email inquiry about this data gathering by Ars, a Facebook spokesperson replied,
"The most important part of apps and services that help you make connections is to make it easy
to find the people you want to connect with. So, the first time you sign in on your phone to a
messaging or social app, it's a widely used practice to begin by uploading your phone
contacts." The spokesperson pointed out that contact uploading is optional and installation of
the application explicitly requests permission to access contacts. And users can delete contact
data from their profiles using a tool accessible via Web browser.
If you granted permission to read contacts during Facebook's installation on Android a
few versions ago -- specifically before Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) -- that permission also
granted Facebook access to call and message logs by default. The permission structure was
changed in the Android API in version 16. But Android applications could bypass this change if
they were written to earlier versions of the API, so Facebook API could continue to gain access
to call and SMS data by specifying an earlier Android SDK version. Google deprecated version
4.0 of the Android API in October 2017 -- the point at which the latest call metadata in
Facebook user's data was found. Apple iOS has never allowed silent access to call data. You
are able to have Facebook delete the data it collects from you, "but it's not clear if this
deletes just contacts or if it also purges call and SMS metadata," reports Ars. Generally
speaking, if you're concerned about privacy, you shouldn't share your contacts and call-log
data with any mobile application.
"... Evidence of Israel's role in gas attacks in Syria was overwhelming even though Russia was blocked from presenting same to the United Nations time and time again. ..."
"... the Likudist extremists who run that nation are mostly former Russian gangsters and enemies of Russia's current leadership. ..."
"... As anger grew toward Cambridge Analytica on Monday after Britain's Channel 4 broadcast a report showing company executives boasting about their extreme propaganda strategies, including filming opponents in compromising situations with Ukrainian sex workers, authorities in the U.K. and the U.S. also questioned whether Facebook mishandled the alleged breach and it's now facing damaging investigations that will further tarnish its brand. ..."
"... Britain's information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, confirmed she was applying to the courts for a warrant to search Cambridge Analytica's London offices and said Tuesday morning that she has been left frustrated by the company's reluctance to cooperate with her investigation. ..."
we know they not only kept files on 50 million Americans through Facebook, using the data there
to profile fears and emotions, targeting and manipulating millions but when Google added their
incredible mass of data, billions of illegally read emails and more, the American people became
little more than pawns.
Again we reiterate, Russia didn't do it. It was the tech companies, all working as is now
being made public, for Israeli intelligence and the mob. From the Daily Beast, March 20, 2018
by Jamie Ross:
"Facebook has been plunged into crisis over the allegations that Cambridge Analytica misused
data from more than 50 million people to help elect Donald Trump. Nearly $40 billion was wiped
off Facebook's market value Monday, an emergency meeting is due to be held Tuesday morning, and
CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been criticized for remaining silent during what some analysts are
describing as a threat to the company's existence.
Zuckerberg has been summoned to the British parliament to give evidence about the how it
handles people's personal data. The head of a British inquiry into 'fake news,' Damian Collins,
has accused Facebook of previously 'misleading' a parliament committee, adding: 'It is now time
to hear from a senior Facebook executive with the sufficient authority to give an accurate
account of this catastrophic failure of process.'"
What is being left out is more telling, that Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook, has
long openly worked for Israeli intelligence and that evidence now exists that Israel not only
ran the program to rig the American election, as many believe it did in both 2000 and 2004,
leading to the destruction of Iraq, but that it did so again in 2016.
Few note the real policies of former Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama, the even
handedness in the Middle East and their use of leverage against Israel. Obama never accepted
wild claims made against Syria as Trump has and never attacked Damscus.
Evidence of Israel's role in gas attacks in Syria was overwhelming even though Russia was
blocked from presenting same to the United Nations time and time again.
But then we hypothesize, what are we speaking of when we talk of Israel? This is where so
many back off as anyone who questions Israel is smeared as an "anti-Semite" though the Likudist
extremists who run that nation are mostly former Russian gangsters and enemies of Russia's
The reason for what appears to be Israeli animosity toward Russia in reality originated when
Putin cleaned out the oligarchs that looted Russia for two decades, plunging that nation into
poverty and then fleeing to Tel Aviv or New York with endless billions of ill gotten gains.
This is real history, not the history written down in books or reported in fake news.
More on happenings in London as reported by Jamie Ross:
"As anger grew toward Cambridge Analytica on Monday after Britain's Channel 4 broadcast a
report showing company executives boasting about their extreme propaganda strategies, including
filming opponents in compromising situations with Ukrainian sex workers, authorities in the
U.K. and the U.S. also questioned whether Facebook mishandled the alleged breach and it's now
facing damaging investigations that will further tarnish its brand.
Britain's information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, confirmed she was applying to the
courts for a warrant to search Cambridge Analytica's London offices and said Tuesday morning
that she has been left frustrated by the company's reluctance to cooperate with her
[ Editor's Note : There appears to have been the classic "fix" in at the British Court by
delaying for days the seizure of Cambridge's computer files, giving the needed time to remove
any incriminating evidence Jim W. Dean ]
Fears have also been raised that the investigation may have been compromised by the presence
of cybersecurity consultants from Stroz Friedberg -- the company hired by Facebook to audit
Cambridge Analytica on its behalf -- who were in the London offices on Monday evening, until
they were asked to leave by the information commissioner.
Asked if there was a risk of Cambridge Analytica or Facebook destroying evidence, Denham
said on Sky News: "As this point we're not satisfied with the cooperation we're getting from
Cambridge Analytica, so the next step is for us to apply to the court and to do an audit to get
some answers as to whether data was misused and shared inappropriately."
British Parliament Culture Committee Chairman Damian Collins said:
'This is a matter for the authorities. Facebook sent in data analysts and lawyers who they
appointed. What they intended to do there, who knows? The concern would have been, were they
removing information or evidence which could have been vital to the investigation? It's right
they stood down but it's astonishing they were there in the first place.'"
The issue now is one of accepting what is happening for all to see rather than absorbing the
fake narrative sold the world. For those unaware, it isn't just millions of Americans but
government officials as well, who form their opinions and prejudices against nations, races of
people, religions and even ideas themselves.
The are imprinted via fictional television shows like Homeland , whose writers and
producers are in actuality as complicit in psychological warfare as those who run Cambridge
Analytical, Google or Facebook, the groups now under the public microscope.
As for Mueller and his investigation, it is pure theatre. As for Trump, more theatre as
well, a buffoon long shown to be a mob asset, now wielding nukes and threatening the world,
holding it hostage to his bad brain chemistry and his criminal handlers.
Gordon Duff is a Marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War that has worked on veterans and
POW issues for decades and consulted with governments challenged by security issues. He's a
senior editor and chairman of the board of Veterans Today, especially for the online magazine
"New Eastern Outlook."
I would not exaggerate the voodoo science behind Cambridge Analitica activities -- all this
crap about the Big Five personality traits borrowed from social psychology: openness,
conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.
But it really can create "plausible lies" to targeted groups of voters in best "change we can
believe in" style. Essentially promoting "bat and switch" politics.
"... The Guardian ..."
"... Wall Street Journal ..."
"... In July 2005, SCL underwent a dramatic transformation. It very publicly rebranded itself as a psychological warfare company by taking part in the UK's largest military trade show. ..."
"... The company's efforts paid off. Over the next ten years, SCL won contracts with the US Defense Department's Combatant Commands, NATO, and Sandia National Labs. ..."
"... Along the way it created Cambridge Analytica, a subsidiary firm which differs from SCL Group in that it focuses primarily on political campaigns. Its largest investors include billionaire Robert Mercer, co-CEO of hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, who is best known for his advocacy of far-right political causes and his financial support of Breitbart News. Steve Bannon briefly sat on Cambridge Analytica's board of directors. ..."
"... Although Cruz ultimately failed, Cambridge Analytica's CEO, Alexander Nix, claimed that Cruz's popularity grew largely due to the company's skillful use of aggregated voter data and personality profiling methods. ..."
"... Cambridge Analytica relies upon "psychographic" techniques that measure the Big Five personality traits borrowed from social psychology: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. ..."
"... In the US, Cambridge Analytica developed psychological profiles of millions of Americans by hiring a company called Global Science Research (GSR) to plant free personality quizzes. Users were lured by the prospect of obtaining free personality scores, while Cambridge Analytica collected data–and access to users' Facebook profiles. Last week, The Guardian ..."
"... Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet ..."
"... Twitter And Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest ..."
"... Roberto J. González is chair of the anthropology department at San José State University. He has written several books including American Counterinsurgency: Human Science and the Human Terrain and Militarizing Culture: Essays on the Warfare State . He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . ..."
In the days and weeks following the 2016 presidential elections,
reports surfaced about how a small British political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica,
might have played a pivotal role in Donald Trump's surprise victory. The company claimed to
have formulated algorithms to influence American voters using individually targeted political
advertisements. It reportedly generated personality profiles of millions of individual citizens
by collecting up to
5000 data points on each person. Then Cambridge Analytica used these "psychographic" tools
to send voters carefully crafted online messages about candidates or hot-button political
Although political consultants have long used "microtargeting" techniques for zeroing in on
particular ethnic, religious, age, or income groups, Cambridge Analytica's approach is unusual:
The company relies upon individuals' personal data that is harvested from social media apps
like Facebook. In the US, such activities are entirely legal. Some described Cambridge
Analytica's tools as "
mind-reading software " and a " weaponized AI
[artificial intelligence] propaganda machine ." However, corporate media outlets such as
CNN and the
Wall Street Journal often portrayed the company in glowing terms.
Cambridge Analytica is once again in the headlines–but under somewhat different
circumstances. Late last week, whistleblower
Christopher Wylie went public , explaining how he played an instrumental role in collecting
millions of Facebook profiles for Cambridge Analytica. This revelation is significant because
until investigative journalist Carole Cadwalladr published her exposé in The
Guardian , Cambridge Analytica's then-CEO Alexander Nix had adamantly denied using
Facebook data. And although Facebook officials knew that Cambridge Analytica had previously
gathered data on millions of users, they did not prohibit the company from advertising until
last Friday, as the scandal erupted. To make matters worse, the UK's Channel 4 released
undercover footage early this week in which Cambridge Analytica executives boast about
using dirty tricks–bribes, entrapment, and "beautiful girls" to mention a few.
The case of Cambridge Analytica brings into focus a brave new world of electoral politics in
an algorithmic age–an era in which social media companies like Facebook and Twitter make
money by selling ads, but also by selling users' data outright to third parties. Relatively few
countries have laws that prevent such practices–and it turns out that the US does not
have a comprehensive federal statute protecting individuals' data privacy. This story is
significant not only because it demonstrates what can happen when an unorthodox company takes
advantage of a lax regulatory environment, but also because it reveals how Internet companies
like Facebook have played fast and loose with the personal data of literally billions of
From Public Relations to Psychological Warfare
In order to make sense of Cambridge Analytica it is helpful to understand its parent
company, SCL Group, which was originally created as the PR firm Strategic Communications
It was founded in the early 1990s by Nigel Oakes , a flamboyant UK businessman. By the late
1990s, the company was engaged almost exclusively in political projects. For example, SCL was
hired to help burnish the image of Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid–but Oakes and
SCL employees had to shut down their operations center when SCL's cover was blown by the
In July 2005, SCL underwent a dramatic transformation. It
very publicly rebranded itself as a psychological warfare company by taking part in the
UK's largest military trade show. SCL's exhibit included a mock operations center
featuring dramatic crisis scenarios–a smallpox outbreak in London, a bloody insurgency in
a fictitious South Asian country–which were then resolved with the help of the company's
psyops techniques. Oakes told a
reporter : "We used to be in the business of mindbending for political purposes, but now we
are in the business of saving lives." The company's efforts paid off. Over the next ten
years, SCL won contracts with the US Defense Department's Combatant Commands, NATO, and Sandia
Over the past few years SCL–now known as SCL Group –has transformed itself yet again. It no longer
defines itself as a psyops specialist, nor as a political consultancy–now, it calls
itself a data analytics company specializing in "behavioral change" programs.
Along the way it created Cambridge Analytica, a subsidiary firm which differs from SCL
Group in that it focuses primarily on political campaigns. Its largest investors include
billionaire Robert Mercer, co-CEO of hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, who is best known for
his advocacy of far-right political causes and his financial support of Breitbart News. Steve
Bannon briefly sat on Cambridge Analytica's board of directors.
Cambridge Analytica first received
significant media attention in November 2015, shortly after the firm was hired by
Republican presidential nominee Ted Cruz's campaign. Although Cruz ultimately failed,
Cambridge Analytica's CEO, Alexander Nix, claimed that Cruz's popularity grew largely due to
the company's skillful use of aggregated voter data and personality profiling methods.
In August 2016, the Trump campaign hired Cambridge Analytica as part of a desperate effort
to challenge Hillary Clinton's formidable campaign machine. Just a few months later,
reports revealed that Cambridge Analytica had also played a role in the UK's successful
pro-Brexit "Leave.EU" campaign.
Hacking the Citizenry
Cambridge Analytica relies upon "psychographic" techniques that measure the Big Five
personality traits borrowed from social psychology: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion,
agreeableness and neuroticism.
In the US, Cambridge Analytica developed psychological profiles of millions of Americans
by hiring a company called Global Science Research (GSR) to plant free personality quizzes.
Users were lured by the prospect of obtaining free personality scores, while Cambridge
Analytica collected data–and access to users' Facebook profiles. Last week, The Guardian reported that Cambridge Analytica collected data from more than
300,000 Facebook users in this way. By agreeing to the terms and conditions of the app, those
users also agreed to grant GSR (and by extension, Cambridge Analytica) access to the profiles
of their Facebook "friends"–totalling approximately 50 million people.
Psychographics uses algorithms to scour voters' Facebook "likes," retweets and other social
media data which are aggregated with commercially available information: land registries,
automotive data, shopping preferences, club memberships, magazine subscriptions, and religious
affiliation. When combined with public records, electoral rolls, and additional information
purchased from data brokers such as Acxiom and Experian, Cambridge Analytica has raw material
for shaping personality profiles. Digital footprints can be transformed into real people. This
is the essence of psychographics: Using software algorithms to scour individual voters'
Facebook "likes," retweets and other bits of data gleaned from social media and then combine
them with commercially available personal information. Data mining is relatively easy in the
US, since it has relatively weak privacy laws compared to South Korea, Singapore, and many EU
In a 2016
presentation , Nix described how such information might be used to influence voter opinions
on gun ownership and gun rights. Individual people can be addressed differently according to
their personality profiles: "For a highly neurotic and conscientious audinece, the threat of a
burglary–and the insurance policy of a gun. . .Conversely, for a closed and agreeable
audience: people who care about tradition, and habits, and family."
Despite the ominous sounding nature of psychographics, it is not at all clear that Cambridge
Analytica played a decisive role in the 2016 US presidential election. Some charge that the
company and its former CEO Alexander Nix, exaggerated Cambridge Analytica's effect on the
election's outcome. In February 2017, investigative journalist
Kendall Taggart wrote an exposé claiming that more than a dozen former employees of
Cambridge Analytica, Trump campaign staffers, and executives at Republican consulting firms
denied that psychographics was used at all by the Trump campaign. Taggart concluded: "Rather
than a sinister breakthrough in political technology, the Cambridge Analytica story appears to
be part of the traditional contest among consultants on a winning political campaign to get
their share of the credit–and win future clients." Not a single critic was willing to be
identified in the report, apparently fearing retaliation from Robert Mercer and his daughter
Rebekah, who is also an investor in the firm.
By no means has Cambridge Analytica limited its work to the US. In fact, it has conducted
"influence operations" in several countries around the world.
For example, Cambridge Analytica played a major role in
last year's presidential elections in Kenya, which pitted incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta of the
right-wing Jubilee Party against Raila Odinga of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement. The
Jubilee Party hired Cambridge Analytica in May 2017. Although the company claims to have
limited its activities to data collection, earlier this week Mark Turnbull, a managing director
for Cambridge Analytica,
told undercover reporters a different story . He admitted that the firm secretly managed
Kenyatta's entire campaign: "We have rebranded the party twice, written the manifesto, done
research, analysis, messaging. I think we wrote all the speeches and we staged the whole
thing–so just about every element of this candidate," said Turnbull.
Given the most recent revelations about Cambridge Analytica's planting of
fake news stories , it seems likely that the company created persuasive personalized ads
based on Kenyans' social media data. Fake Whatsapp and Twitter posts exploded days before the
Kenyan elections. It is worth remembering that SCL Group has employed disinformation campaigns
for military clients for 25 years, and it seems that Cambridge Analytica has continued this
pattern of deception.
The August elections were fraught with accusations of vote tampering, the inclusion of dead
people as registered voters, and the murder of
Chris Msando , the election commission's technology manager, days before the election. When
the dust settled, up to 67 people died in post-election violence–and Kenyatta ultimately
emerged victorious. Weeks later, the Kenyan Supreme Court annulled the elections, but when new
elections were scheduled for October, Odinga declared that he would boycott.
Given Kenya's recent history of electoral fraud, it is unlikely that Cambridge had much
impact on the results.
Anthropologist Paul Goldsmith , who has lived in Kenya for 40 years, notes that elections
still tend to follow the principle of "who counts the votes," not "who influences the
But the significance of Cambridge Analytica's efforts extends beyond their contribution to
electoral outcomes. Kenya is no technological backwater. The world's first mobile money service
was launched there in 2007, allowing users to transfer cash and make payments by phone.
Homegrown tech firms are creating a "Silicon Savannah" near Nairobi. Two-thirds of Kenya's 48
million people have Internet access. Ten million use Whatsapp; six million use Facebook; two
million use Twitter. As Kenyans spend more time in the virtual world, their personal data will
become even more widely available since Kenya has no data protection laws.
Cambridge Analytica doesn't need to deliver votes so much as to create the perception that
they can produce results. . .Kenya provides an ideal entry point into [Africa]. . .Embedding
themselves with ruling elites presents a pivot for exploiting emergent commercial
opportunities. . .with an eye on the region's resources and its growing numbers of
Recent reports reveal that Cambridge Analytica has ongoing operations in Mexico and
Brazil (which have general elections scheduled this July and October, respectively).
India (which has general elections in about a year) has also been courted by the company,
and it is easy to understand why: the country has 400 million smartphone users with more than
250 million on either Facebook or Whatsapp. India's elections are also a potential gold mine.
More than half a billion people vote in parliamentary elections, and the expenditures are
astonishing: Political parties spent $5 billion in 2014, compared to $6.5 billion in last
year's US elections. India also has a massive mandatory ID program based on biometric and
demographic data, the largest of its kind in the world.
Cambridge Analytica's global strategy appears focused on expanding its market share in
promising markets. Although many people might describe Kenya, Mexico, Brazil, and India as
developing countries, each in fact has a rapidly growing high-tech infrastructure, relatively
high levels of Internet penetration, and large numbers of social media users. They all have
weak or nonexistent Internet privacy laws. Though nominally democratic, each country is
politically volatile and has experienced episodic outbursts of extreme political, sectarian, or
criminal violence. Finally, these countries have relatively young populations, reflecting
perhaps a long-term strategy to normalize a form of political communication that will reap
long-term benefits in politically sensitive regions.
The capacity for saturating global voters with charged political messages is growing across
much of the world, since the cost of buying Facebook ads, Twitterbots and trolls, bots for
Whatsapp and other apps is cheap–and since more people than ever are spending time on
social media. Such systems can be managed efficiently by remote control. Unlike the CIA's
psyops efforts in the mid-20th century, which required extensive on-the-ground
efforts–dropping leaflets from airplanes, bribing local journalists, broadcasting
propaganda on megaphones mounted on cars–the new techniques can be deployed from a
distance, with minimal cost. Cambridge Analytica relies upon small ground teams to do business
with political parties, and partnerships with local business intelligence firms to scope out
the competition or provide marketing advice, but most of the work is done from London and New
Weaponizing Big Data?
From its beginnings, Cambridge Analytica has declared itself to be a "data-driven" group of
analytics experts practicing an improved form of political microtargeting, but there are
indications that the firm has broader ambitions.
In March 2017,
reports emerged that top executives from SCL Group met with Pentagon officials, including
Hriar Cabayan, head of a branch which conducts DoD research and cultural analysis. A decade
Cabayan played an instrumental role in launching the precursor to the Human
Terrain System , a US Army counterinsurgency effort which embedded anthropologists and
other social scientists with US combat brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A few months later, in August 2017, the Associated Press reported that
retired US Army General Michael Flynn, who briefly served as National Security Director in the
Trump administration, had signed a work agreement with Cambridge Analytica in late 2016, though
it is unclear whether he actually did any work for the firm. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to
the FBI about his contacts with Russian operatives in late 2017, when he was working with
Trump's transition team. Given his spot in the media limelight, it is easy to forget that he
once headed US intelligence operations in Afghanistan, advocating for a big data
approach to counterinsurgency that would, among other things, include data collected by
Human Terrain Teams.
The connections between Cambridge Analytica/SCL Group and the Pentagon's champions of
data-driven counterinsurgency and cyberwarfare may be entirely coincidental, but they do raise
several questions: As Cambridge Analytica embarks on its global ventures, is it undertaking
projects that are in fact more sinister than its benign-sounding mission of "behavioral
change"? And are the company's recent projects in Kenya, India, Mexico, and Brazil simply
examples of global market expansion, or are these countries serving as laboratories to test new
methods of propaganda dissemination and political polarization for eventual deployment here at
Here the lines between military and civilian applications become blurred, not only because
ARPANET–the Internet's immediate precursor–was developed by the Pentagon's Advanced
Research Projects Agency, but also because the technology can be used for surveillance on a
scale that authoritarian regimes of the 20th century could only have dreamed about. As Yasha
Levine convincingly argues in his book Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet , the Internet
was originally conceived as a counterinsurgency surveillance program.
Neutralizing Facebook's Surveillance Machine
It appears that many people are finally taking note of the digital elephant in the room:
Facebook's role in enabling Cambridge Analytica and other propagandists, publicists, and
mind-benders to carry out their work–legally and discreetly. As recently
noted by Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai in the online journal Motherboard ,
Cambridge Analytica's data harvesting practices weren't security breaches, they were "par for
the course. . .It was a feature, not a bug. Facebook still collects -- and then sells --
massive amounts of data on its users." In other words, every Facebook post or tweet, every
g-mail message sent or received, renders citizens vulnerable to forms of digital data
collection that can be bought and sold to the highest bidder. The information can be used for
all kinds of purposes in an unregulated market: monitoring users' emotional states,
manipulating their attitiudes, or disseminating tailor-made propaganda designed to polarize
"If your business is building a massive surveillance machinery, the data will eventually
be used and misused. Hacked, breached, leaked, pilfered, conned, targeted, engaged, profiled,
sold. There is no informed consent because it's not possible to reasonably inform or
Cambridge Analytica is significant to the extent that it illuminates new technological
controlling processes under construction. In a supercharged media environment in which
Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp (owned by Facebook) have become the primary means by which
literally billions of people consume news, mass producing propaganda has never been easier.
With so many people posting so much information about the intimate details of their lives on
the Web, coordinated attempts at mass persuasion will almost certainly become more widespread
in the future.
In the meantime, there are concrete measures that we can take to rein in Facebook, Amazon,
Google, Twitter, and other technology giants. Some of the most lucid suggestions have been
articulated by Roger McNamee, a venture capitalist and early Facebook investor.
He recommends a multi-pronged approach : demanding that the social media companies' CEOs
testify before congressional and parliamentary committees in open sessions; imposing strict
regulations on how Internet platforms are used and commercialized; requiring social media
companies to report who is sponsoring political and issues-based advertisements; mandating
transparency about algorithms ("users deserve to know why they see what they see in their news
feeds and search results," says McNamee); requiring social media apps to offer an "opt out" to
users; banning digital "bots" that impersonate humans; and creating rules that allow consumers
(not corporations) to own their own data.
In a world of diminishing privacy, our vulnerabilities are easily magnified. Experimental
psychologists specializing in what they euphemistically call "behavior design" have largely
ignored ethics and morality in order to help Silicon Valley companies create digital devices,
apps, and other technologies that are literally irresistible to their users. As the fallout
from Cambridge Analytica's activities descends upon the American political landscape, we should
take advantage of the opportunity to impose meaningful controls on Facebook, Google, Twitter,
and other firms that have run roughshod over democratic norms–and notions of individual
privacy–in the relentless pursuit of profit. Join the debate on
Facebook More articles by: Roberto J. González
Tonight at 7pm ET/PT,
will air a controversial interview with Stephanie Clifford, aka Stormy Daniels, the
adult-film star who says she had an affair with Donald Trump. Daniels will talk to Anderson Cooper
about the relationship she says she had with Trump in 2006 and 2007, unveiling details that bring her
story up to the present. It will be the first - and so far only - television interview in which she
speaks about the alleged relationship.
The 60 Minutes interview will include an examination of the
potential legal and political ramifications of the $130,000 payment that Trump's attorney Michael
Cohen says he made to Daniels using his own funds. Daniels accepted the money in return for signing a
confidentiality agreement, although she recently violated the CA, claiming Trump never signed it.
The president has denied having an affair with Daniels, while Trump's legal team - in this case led
by Charles Harder who won a $140MM verdict for Hulk Hogan against Gawker - is seeking to move the case
to federal court and claims that
Stormy is liable
for up to $20 million in damages. This in turn prompted Daniels to launch a
campaign to fund her lawsuit
against Trump, which at last
check had raised over $290K
Cooper conducted the interview earlier this month, shortly after Cohen obtained a temporary
restraining order against Daniels. Meanwhile, Daniels is seeking a ruling that the confidentiality
agreement between her and the president is invalid, in part because Mr. Trump never signed it. The
president's attorneys are seeking to move the case to federal court and claim Daniels is liable for
more than $20 million in damages for violations of the agreement.
On Thursday, the lawyer representing Daniels fired off a tweet with a picture of what appeared to
be a compact disc in a safe - hinting that he has video or photographic evidence of Clifford's affair
with President Trump.
"If 'a picture is worth a thousand words,' how many words is this worth?????" tweeted lawyer
Avenatti has been a frequent guest on cable news as he promotes Stormy's upcoming 60 minutes
tell-all about her alleged affair with President Trump. When CBS Evening News' Julianna Goldman asked
Avenatti if he had photos, texts or videos of her alleged relationship with Trump, he replied "No
comment," adding that Clifford just "wants to set the record straight." (which you can read more about
in her upcoming book, we're sure).
Previewing today's 60 Minutes segment, Avenatti purposefully built up the suspense, tweeting that,
among other things,
"tonight is not the end – it's the beginning"
And while it is highly unlikely that the Stormy Daniels scandal will escalate into anything of
Clinton-Lewinsky proportions, not to mention that Trump has enough other headaches on his hands, here
according to The Hill
, are seven things to watch for in tonight's interview:
1. Will she give details about the nondisclosure agreement?
Daniels has never spoken publicly about the nondisclosure agreement that purportedly bars her from
speaking about her alleged affair with Trump. But a lawsuit filed by Daniels earlier this month
confirmed the existence of such a document, arguing that it is invalid because it was never co-signed
by Trump himself.
Whether Daniels will discuss the details of the agreement in the "60 Minutes" interview remains to
be seen. Her lawsuit seeking to void the contract is still pending, and NDAs often prohibit
signatories from speaking about the agreements.
Daniels has hinted that is true of her NDA. During an interview with late-night host Jimmy Kimmel
in January, Kimmel pointed out that Daniels would likely be barred from discussing the agreement if
it, in fact, existed. "You're so smart, Jimmy," was her cagey response.
2. Will she talk openly about the alleged affair?
Daniels has implied she was paid $130,000 by Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen weeks before
the 2016 presidential election to keep quiet about the alleged affair.
Speaking openly about
her claims would certainly violate the terms of the disputed NDA, and could subject Daniels to legal
In court papers filed earlier this month, Trump's lawyers said that Daniels could face up to $20
million in damages for violating the terms of the agreement. One question that remains is whether
Daniels could toss out the NDA completely in her "60 Minutes" interview, and provide details about her
alleged relationship with the president. The last time she spoke about it was 2011, when she gave an
interview to In Touch magazine that wasn't published until this year.
3. Will she mention possible video or photographic evidence?
Avenatti has repeatedly hinted that video or photographic evidence of Daniels's alleged affair with
Trump exists. The March 6 lawsuit filed by Daniels to void the nondisclosure agreement with Trump
refers to "certain still images and/or text messages which were authored by or relate to" the
president. While the NDA reportedly required her to turn over such material and get rid of her own
copies, Avenatti has suggested that Daniels may have retained it.
Avenatti hinted this week that he may be in possession of such material, tweeting a cryptic photo
of a compact disc inside of what appeared to be a safe. "If 'a picture is worth a thousand words,' how
many words is this worth?????" he wrote on Twitter.
4. Will she address whether she was physically threatened?
Avenatti prompted questions earlier this month when he said that Daniels had been threatened with
physical harm in connection with the alleged affair with Trump. Asked on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" whether
Daniels had been physically threatened, Avenatti bluntly replied, "yes." Exactly who may have
threatened Daniels or what the nature of those threats may have been is unclear, and Avenatti has
declined to discuss the matter in greater detail. Daniels herself has not addressed any potential
physical threats that she may have gotten, leaving open whether she will discuss the topic in the "60
5. Will she discuss whether Trump knew about the $130K payment?
Cohen himself has acknowledged making the payment to Daniels, but has insisted that the money came
from his personal funds and that Trump was never made aware of the transaction. White House press
secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has said she does not believe Trump knew about the payment. But
Avenatti has argued otherwise, saying the fact that Cohen used a Trump Organization email address
backs up his claim that the real estate mogul was aware of the transaction. In an interview on
"Morning Joe" last week, Avenatti also suggested that he had more evidence that Trump knew about the
payment. Asked by Willie Geist if his "belief that the president directed this payment is based on
more than a hunch," Avenatti simply replied, "yes," but declined to provide any evidence.
6. Why does she want to talk about the affair now?
Daniels's lawsuit claims she expressed interest in discussing the alleged affair publicly in 2016
after The Washington Post published a 2005 "Access Hollywood" tape in which Trump could be heard
boasting about groping and kissing women without their permission. It was at this point that Cohen and
Trump "aggressively sought to silence Ms. Clifford," according to the lawsuit, which claims that the
$130,000 payment and nondisclosure agreement soon followed. But for more than a year after that,
Daniels was silent about the alleged affair, and it was only in recent months that the accusations
resurfaced. One thing to watch for is whether Daniels addresses her motives in the "60 Minutes"
interview, or answers questions about what she hopes will happen next.
7. What happens next?
There may be hints of what Daniels's next steps are in the interview. A planned court hearing for
Daniels's lawsuit is still months away. However, whatever Daniels reveals in the interview may force
the hand of Trump's own legal team. After news broke that CBS intended to air the "60 Minutes" segment
with Daniels, speculation swirled that Trump's lawyers would take legal action seeking to block the
broadcast. Such legal action would have been unlikely to proceed, because courts rarely allow such
prior restraint of speech, particularly regarding the news media.
But Trump's legal team has already signaled they're willing to fight Daniels on her claims. They
reportedly asked for a temporary restraining order against her last month and have asked to transfer
the lawsuit from California state court to a federal court in Los Angeles. But how Trump and his
lawyers respond to the interview after it airs will be closely watched.
Internet Service Providers
Glasses, Spectacles & Contact lenses
Initially, this ridiculous scandal was mildly amusing.
has become a tedious circus sideshow that serves to distract the
masses from much more important issues.
The disgusting fact that Trump chose to throw his dick into
this cum-dumpster skank is bad enough, but now that her lawyer
apparently has a Trump dick-pic or some other pornographic
evidence, he intends to exploit and extort as much publicity and
money that he can in an effort to embarrass the POTUS.
Is it any wonder that the USA has become the laughing stock of
Creating a malware application which masks itself as some kind of pseudo scientific test and
serves as the backdoor to your personal data is a very dirty trick...
Especially dirty it it used by academic researchers, who in reality are academic scum... An
additional type of academic gangsters, in addition to Harvard Mafia
"... By Ivan Manokha, a departmental lecturer in the Oxford Department of International Development. He is currently working on power and obedience in the late-modern political economy, particularly in the context of the development of new technologies of surveillance. Originally published at openDemocracy ..."
"... The current social mobilization against Facebook resembles the actions of activists who, in opposition to neoliberal globalization, smash a McDonald's window during a demonstration. ..."
"... But as Christopher Wylie, a twenty-eight-year-old Canadian coder and data scientist and a former employee of Cambridge Analytica, stated in a video interview , the app could also collect all kinds of personal data from users, such as the content that they consulted, the information that they liked, and even the messages that they posted. ..."
"... All this is done in order to use data to create value in some way another (to monetize it by selling to advertisers or other firms, to increase sales, or to increase productivity). Data has become 'the new oil' of global economy, a new commodity to be bought and sold at a massive scale, and with this development, as a former Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff has argued , global capitalism has become 'surveillance capitalism'. ..."
"... What this means is that platform economy is a model of value creation which is completely dependant on continuous privacy invasions and, what is alarming is that we are gradually becoming used to this. ..."
"... In other instances, as in the case of Kogan's app, the extent of the data collected exceeds what was stated in the agreement. ..."
"... What we need is a total redefinition of the right to privacy (which was codified as a universal human right in 1948, long before the Internet), to guarantee its respect, both offline and online. ..."
"... I saw this video back in 2007. It was originally put together by a Sarah Lawrence student who was working on her paper on social media. The ties of all the original investors to IN-Q-Tel scared me off and I decided to stay away from Facebook. ..."
"... But it isn't just FB. Amazon, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, Apple, Microsoft and many others do the same, and we are all caught up in it whether we agree to participate or not. ..."
"... Platform Capitalism is a mild description, it is manipulation based on Surveillance Capitalism, pure and simple. The Macro pattern of Corporate Power subsuming the State across every area is fascinating to watch, but a little scary. ..."
"... For his part, Aleksandr Kogan established a company, Global Science Research, that contracted with SCL, using Facebook data to map personality traits for its work in elections (Kosinski claims that Kogan essentially reverse-engineered the app that he and Stillwell had developed). Kogan's app harvested data on Facebook users who agreed to take a personality test for the purposes of academic research (though it was, in fact, to be used by SCL for non-academic ends). But according to Wylie, the app also collected data on their entire -- and nonconsenting -- network of friends. Once Cambridge Analytica and SCL had won contracts with the State Department and were pitching to the Pentagon, Wylie became alarmed that this illegally-obtained data had ended up at the heart of government, along with the contractors who might abuse it. ..."
"... This apparently bizarre intersection of research on topics like love and kindness with defense and intelligence interests is not, in fact, particularly unusual. It is typical of the kind of dual-use research that has shaped the field of social psychology in the US since World War II. ..."
"... Much of the classic, foundational research on personality, conformity, obedience, group polarization, and other such determinants of social dynamics -- while ostensibly civilian -- was funded during the cold war by the military and the CIA. ..."
"... The pioneering figures from this era -- for example, Gordon Allport on personality and Solomon Asch on belief conformity -- are still cited in NATO psy-ops literature to this day ..."
"... This is an issue which has frustrated me greatly. In spite of the fact that the country's leading psychologist (at the very least one of them -- ex-APA president Seligman) has been documented taking consulting fees from Guantanamo and Black Sites goon squads, my social science pals refuse to recognize any corruption at the core of their so-called replicated quantitative research. ..."
here. Not new to anyone who has been paying attention, but a useful recap with some good
observations at the end, despite deploying the cringe-making trope of businesses having DNA.
That legitimates the notion that corporations are people.
By Ivan Manokha, a departmental lecturer in the Oxford Department of International
Development. He is currently working on power and obedience in the late-modern political
economy, particularly in the context of the development of new technologies of surveillance.
Originally published at
The current social mobilization against Facebook resembles the actions of activists who,
in opposition to neoliberal globalization, smash a McDonald's window during a
On March 17,
The Observer of London and The
New York Times announced that Cambridge Analytica, the London-based political and corporate
consulting group, had harvested private data from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million
users without their consent. The data was collected through a Facebook-based quiz app called
thisisyourdigitallife, created by Aleksandr Kogan, a University of Cambridge psychologist who
had requested and gained access to information from 270,000 Facebook members after they had
agreed to use the app to undergo a personality test, for which they were paid through Kogan's
company, Global Science Research.
But as Christopher Wylie, a twenty-eight-year-old Canadian coder and data scientist and
a former employee of Cambridge Analytica, stated in a video interview , the
app could also collect all kinds of personal data from users, such as the content that they
consulted, the information that they liked, and even the messages that they posted.
In addition, the app provided access to information on the profiles of the friends of each
of those users who agreed to take the test, which enabled the collection of data from more than
All this data was then shared by Kogan with Cambridge Analytica, which was working with
Donald Trump's election team and which allegedly used this data to target US voters with
personalised political messages during the presidential campaign. As Wylie, told The Observer,
"we built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons."
Following these revelations the Internet has been engulfed in outrage and government
officials have been quick to react. On March 19, Antonio Tajani President of the European
Parliament Antonio Tajani, stated in a twitter message that misuse of
Facebook user data "is an unacceptable violation of our citizens' privacy rights" and promised
an EU investigation. On March 22, Wylie communicated in a tweet that he accepted
an invitation to testify before the US House Intelligence Committee, the US House Judiciary
Committee and UK Parliament Digital Committee. On the same day Israel's Justice Ministry
Facebook that it was opening an investigation into possible violations of Israelis'
personal information by Facebook.
While such widespread condemnation of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica is totally justified,
what remains largely absent from the discussion are broader questions about the role of data
collection, processing and monetization that have become central in the current phase of
capitalism, which may be described as 'platform capitalism', as suggested by the Canadian
writer and academic Nick Srnicek in his recent book
Over the last decade the growth of platforms has been spectacular: today, the top 4
enterprises in Forbes's
list of most valuable brands are platforms, as are eleven of the top twenty. Most recent
IPOs and acquisitions have involved platforms, as have most of the major successful startups.
The list includes Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, eBay, Instagram,
YouTube, Twitch, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Waze, Uber, Lyft, Handy, Airbnb, Pinterest, Square, Social
Finance, Kickstarter, etc. Although most platforms are US-based, they are a really global
phenomenon and in fact are now playing an even more important role in developing countries
which did not have developed commercial infrastructures at the time of the rise of the Internet
and seized the opportunity that it presented to structure their industries around it. Thus, in
China, for example, many of the most valuable enterprises are platforms such as Tencent (owner
of the WeChat and QQ messaging platforms) and Baidu (China's se