Tired of being bombarded with constant requests to share content on social media, bestow
ratings, leave comments, and generally “join in on the discussion,” the nation’s Internet users
demanded substantially less interactivity this week.
Speaking with reporters, web users expressed a near unanimous desire to visit a website
and simply look at it, for once, without having every aspect of the user interface tailored to
a set of demographic information culled from their previous browsing history. In addition, citizens
overwhelmingly voiced their wish for a straightforward one-way conduit of information, and specifically
one that did not require any kind of participation on their part.
“Every time I type a web address into my browser, I don’t need to be taken to a fully immersive,
cross-platform, interactive viewing experience,” said San Diego office manager Keith Boscone.
“I don’t want to take a moment to provide my feedback, open a free account, become part of a growing
online community, or see what related links are available at various content partners.”
“All I want is to go to a website, enjoy it for the time I’ve decided to spend there, and
then move on with my life,” he continued. “Is that so much to ask?”
Early versions of the WWW developed a reputation as a versatile and convenient tool for accessing
mission-critical data at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN). Paradoxically the Web
tools Tim Berners-Lee developed were the most successful and were widely regarded as the best way to
access the CERN phone directory. Please note, that the first successful WWW application was not distribution
of published papers it was a gateway to an existing and important application. Of course, the versatility
of WWW became clearer as the technology spread among high energy physics institutions and then
to the outside world. But is it really an accident that the Web took off as a gateway to existing information
system? I think this is not an accident and that's why WWW served as a launch pad for several scripting
...HTTP is useful in its own right, for example, as a good file-distribution protocol with a number
of important advantages over ftp. This article gives an example how to speak HTTP and get understood.
... By definition, HTTP is a request/response protocol that exchanges messages in a format
similar to that used by Internet mail (MIME). An HTTP transaction is essentially a remote procedure
call. It is usually a blocking call, although HTTP/1.1 provides for asynchronous and batch modes.
HTTP allows intermediaries (caches, proxies) to cut into the response-reply chain.
An operation to execute remotely is expressed in HTTP as an application of
a request method to a resource. Additional parameters, if needed, are communicated via request headers
or a request body. The request body may be an arbitrary octet-stream. The HTTP/1.1 standard defines
methods GET, HEAD, POST, PUT, DELETE, OPTIONS, TRACE, and CONNECT. A
particular server may accept many others. This extensibility is a rather notable feature of HTTP.
The parties can use not only custom methods but custom request and reply headers as well. In addition,
a client and a server may exchange meta-information via "name=value" attribute pairs of the standard
Most of the HTTP transactions performed every day are done behind the scenes by browsers, proxies,
robots, and servers. Yet the protocol is so simple that one can easily speak it oneself. The only
requirement is a language or tool that is able to manipulate text strings and establish TCP connections.
Even a simple telnet application may do in a pinch, which is often useful for debugging. Server-side
programming is less demanding: a servlet or a scriptlet does not need to bother with the network
connectivity, authentication, access restrictions, SSL, and other similar chores. Server modules
or FastCGI give a server-side programmer even more tools: load-balancing, persistence, database connectivity,
etc. This article demonstrates how to use Perl scripts to speak and respond HTTP directly.
Dr. Nikolai Bezroukov
Nature of WEB radically changed after Snoden revelation. From a medium for spreading
information and knowledge it instancly transformed into spying yey that follow your activities and even
I was always suspicious about "cloud" Web mail services starting with Hotmail.The problem is where my emails are being stored and while each single email is exposed while it
transit the Web, the collection of email in your Inbox as well as your address book constitute something
much more dangerous then a single email. Such a collection provides much more revealing information
voluntarily stored by you (is not this stupid ?) in the place over which you've no control (and as such
you should have no expectation of privacy) . I can see why Brazil and Germany are now concerned
about NSA. I can't understand why they are not concerned about stupidity of their citizens opening accounts
and putting confidential information on the Web. Is not this a new mass form of masochism?
As we have all found out, that trust is misplaced, as "cloud" services were systematically
abused. and while we all now need to learn Aesop language (slang is actually almost unpenetratable to
computers, unless they are specifically programmed for particular one) and be more careful, I can understand
why "Fecebook" users should be concerned. Facebook is nothing but a database about their users. So users
data is what Facebook actually sells.
But from the other point of view, Fecebook wanted this "exhibitionism orgy",
and they got what they deserve. See
Big Uncle is Watching You.
In a current NSA-inspired debate about the moral consequences of digital technologies, it is important
to realize that seamless integration of services under Google (and other Internet Oligopolies) umbrella,
where everyone is forced to wear Google's digital straitjacket can be a very bad thing. It essentially
invites snooping, especially government snooping as the less entities government need to deal with,
the more in-depth penetration can be archives. Whether this will be in the name of fighting terrorism,
communist agents, or infiltration of Martians does not matter. If technical means of snooping exist
they will be used. It is duty of concerned citizens who object this practice to make them less effective.
First of all we must fight against this strange "self-exposure" mania under which people
have become enslaved to and endangered by the "cloud" tools they use. Again this nothing more nothing
less then digital masochism. But there is another important aspect of this problem which is different
from the problem of unhealthy
self-revelation zeal that large part of Facebook population demonstrates on the Net.
This second problem is often discussed under the meme
Is Google evil ? and it is connected
with inevitable corruption of Internet by large Internet Oligopolies such as Google, Yahoo, Facebook,
etc. And they become oligopolies because we agree to use them as primary sources, for example Google
for search, independently whether it is good for all types of searches or not. That mean the diversification
is now a duty of concerned Internet users. And if you did not put several search providers like say,
duckduckgo.com in your browser and don't rotate them periodically, you are making a mistake. First of
all you deprive yourself from the possibility to learn strong and weak point of different search engines.
the second Google stores all searches, possibly indefinitely, so you potentially expose yourself to
a larger expend they you thing even if do not log to Google account during searches. See
Alternative Search Engines to Google
As Eugeny Morozov argued in
Net Delusion The Dark Side of Internet Freedom “Internet solutionism” exemplified by Google,
is the dangerous romantic utopia of our age. He regards Google-style "cloud uber alles" push
as counter-productive, even dangerous:
...Wouldn’t it be nice if one day, told that Google’s mission is to “organize the world’s information
and make it universally accessible and useful,” we would finally read between the lines and discover
its true meaning: “to monetize all of the world’s information and make it universally inaccessible
and profitable”? With this act of subversive interpretation, we might eventually hit upon the
greatest emancipatory insight of all: Letting Google organize all of the world’s information
makes as much sense as letting Halliburton organize all of the world’s oil.
The reason why the digital debate feels so empty and toothless is simple: framed as a debate over
“the digital” rather than “the political” and “the economic,” it’s conducted on terms that are already
beneficial to technology companies. Unbeknownst to most of us, the seemingly exceptional nature of
commodities in question – from “information” to “networks” to “the Internet” – is coded into our
language. It’s this hidden exceptionalism that allows Silicon Valley to dismiss its critics as Luddites
who, by opposing “technology,” “information” or “the Internet”-- they don’t do plurals in Silicon
Valley, for the nuance risks overwhelming their brains – must also be opposed to “progress.”
Internet started as a network of decentralized servers, and now it probably will eventually
return to it on a new level as the danger of cloud providers exceed their usefulness. In any case now
it looks like anybody who is greedy enough to use "free" (as in "The only free cheese is in the mouse
trap") Gmail instead of getting webmail account
via ISP with your own (let it call vanity, but it's your own :-) website is playing with fire. Even
if they are nothing to hide, if they use Hotmail of Gmail for anything but spam (aka registrations,
newsletters, etc) they are entering a dangerous virtual room with multiple hidden camera that record
and store information including all their emails and address book forever. Important email should probably
now be limited to regular SMTP accounts with client like Thunderbird (which actually is tremendously
better then Gmail Web mail client with its Google+ perversions).
For personal, private information, you need to have your own servers and keep nothing
in the "cloud". The network was originally designed to be "peer-to-peer" and the only hold back has
been the cost of local infrastructure to do it and the availability of local technical talent to keep
those services running. Now cost of hardware is trivial and services are so well known that running
them is not a big problem even at home, especially a pre-configured virtual machines with "business"
cable ISP account ( $29 per month from Cablevision).
Maybe the huge centralized services like Google and Yahoo have really been temporary
anomalies of the adolescence of the Internet and given the breach of trust by governments and by these
large corporations the next step will be return on a new level to Internet decentralized roots. Maybe
local services can still be no less viable then cloud services. Even email, one of the most popular
"in the cloud" services can be split into a small part of pure SMTP delivery (important mails) and bulk
mail which can stay on Webmail (but preferably you private ISP, not those monsters like Google, Yahoo
or Microsoft). That does not exclude using "free" emails of this troika for storing spam :-). In short
we actually don't have to be on Gmail to send or read email. Google search is not the best search engine
for everything. Moreover it is not wise to put all eggs in one basket. Microsoft might be as bad, but
spreading your searches makes perfect sense. TCP connection to small ISP is as good and if you do not
trust ISP you can use you home server with cable provider ISP account.
Where I have concern is if the network itself got partitioned along national borders
as a result of NSA snooping, large portions of the net can become unreachable. That would be a balkanization
we would end up regretting. It would be far better if we take a preemptive action against this abuse
and limit the use of our Gmail, hotmail, Yahoo accounts for "non essential" correspondence, if we spread
our search activities among multiple search engines and have our web pages, if any on personal ISP account.
We need to enforce some level of privacy ourselves and don't behave like lemmings. Years ago there was
similar situation with telephones wiretaps, and before laws preventing abuse of this capability were
eventually passed people often used public phones for important calls they wanted to keep private.
In Australia any expectations of privacy isn't legally recognized by the Supreme Court once people
voluntarily offered data to the third party. And I think Australians are right. Here is a relevant
General Counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence Robert S. Litt explained
that our expectation of privacy isn't legally recognized by the Supreme Court once we've offered
it to a third party.
'Why is it that people are willing to expose large quantities of information to private parties
but don't want the Government to have the same information?,' he asked."
... ... ...
While Snowden's leaks have provoked Jimmy Carter into labeling this government a sham,
and void of a functioning democracy, Litt presented how these wide data collection programs are in
fact valued by our government, have legal justification, and all the necessary parameters.
echoing the president and his boss James Clapper, explained thusly:
"We do not use our foreign intelligence collection capabilities to steal the trade secrets
of foreign companies in order to give American companies a competitive advantage. We do not indiscriminately
sweep up and store the contents of the communications of Americans, or of the citizenry of any
country. We do not use our intelligence collection for the purpose of repressing the citizens
of any country because of their political, religious or other beliefs. We collect metadata—information
about communications—more broadly than we collect the actual content of communications, because
it is less intrusive than collecting content and in fact can provide us information that helps
us more narrowly focus our collection of content on appropriate targets. But it simply is not
true that the United States Government is listening to everything said by every citizen of any
It's great that the U.S. government behaves better than corporations on privacy—too bad it trusts/subcontracts
corporations to deal with that privacy—but it's an uncomfortable thing to even be in a position of
having to compare the two. This is the point Litt misses, and it's not a fine one.
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
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 or all your SMS.
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.
The modern capability of storage of data provide the capability of storing the following information
about you for several years (five years minimum), if not for a lifetime:
Your emails and, in case you are using Webmail providers, your address book. It is
reasonable to assume that all of them will be automatically analyzed using keyword database and
flagged if some of "suspicious" words are found. See
keywords in your posts that might trigger surveillance. Your address book is also swiped,
if you are using "cloud" provider like Gmail, Hotmail, etc. Now you know who is hiding in this
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
Not only the USA government with its
is involved in this activity. British security services are probably even more intrusive. Most governments
probably try to do some subset of the above. Two important conclusions we can get are:
Due to development of technologies and availability of low cost high power computers and
storage profiling is now easy and automatic.
If something is available at los cost, most probably it will be abused.
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. 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 ;-)
The centralization of searches on Google (and to lesser extent on Bing) are also serious threats
to your privacy. Here diversification between three or more search engines might help a bit. Other then
that and generally limited your time behind the computer 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. Search
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. For comparison
In July 2012 it was revealed that
CERN amassed about 200 petabytes
of data from the more than 800 trillion collisions looking for the
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 info storage capabilities of the US government are around 5 zeta bytes (5*1021)
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
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:
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
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.
Any large bureaucracy
is a political coalition with the primary goal of preserving and enhancing of its own power (and
closely related level of financing), no matter what are official declarations. And if breaching your
privacy helps with this noble goal, 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 sometimes it looks like a shadow government.
And now they will fight tooth-and nail to protect the fruits of a decade long bureaucratic expansion.
It is an Intelligence Church of sorts and like any religious organization they do not need facts to
support their doctrine and influence.
Typically there is a high level of infighting and many factions within any large hierarchical organization,
typically with cards hold close the west and limited or not awareness about those turf battles of the
outsiders. Basically any hierarchical institution corporate, religious, or 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 balances. 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
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 for establishing
democratic governance for 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" used. First of all the revelations constitute
a sever blow if not a knockout for all NSA activities against serious opponents. Now they are forewarned
and that mean forearmed. That simply means that they might start feeding NSA disinformation and that's
a tremendous danger that far outweigh the value of any real information collected.
There is another side of this story. As we mentioned above, even if NSA algorithms are incredibly
clever they can't avoid producing large number of false positives taking into account that they are
drinking from a fire hose. After two year investigation into the post 9/11 intelligence agencies, the
Washington Post came to conclusion that they were collecting far more information than anyone can comprehend
(aka "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"
Such volume along creates a classic problem of "signal vs. noise" (infoglut).
...Infoglut raises disturbing questions regarding new operations of power and control
in a world of algorithms." —Jodi Dean, author of Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies
...Andrejevic argues that people prioritize correlation over comprehension - "what" and
facts are more important than "why" and reasons.
Presence of noise in the channel makes signal much more difficult to detect. As Washington Post noted:
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 problems. That's why NSA is hunting for email on cloud
providers, where they are already filtered from spam, and where processing required is so much less
then for the same information intercepted from the wire. Still even with the direct access to user accounts,
the volume of data, especially graphic info (pictures), sound 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 a mess with a lot of incompetents
at the helm. Which is typical for government agencies and large corporations. Still the level of logs
collection and monitoring proved to be surprisingly weak, as those are indirect signs of other rot.
It looks like the agency does not even know what reports Snowden get into his hands. 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 this government
project. 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
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 other data.
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.
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 they can chase mostly "big fish". Although one nasty 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 of 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 looking for the
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.
Mass collection of data represent dangers outside activities of three latter agencies. Data collected
about you by Google, Facebook, etc are also very dangerous. And they are for sell. Errors in algorithms
and bugs in data mining 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 such as your medical history.
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 all governments over the world are pushed into this
shady area by the new technologies that open tremendous opportunities for collecting data and making
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. As we already mentioned several times before, 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.
Email security is a large and complex subject. It is a
typical "bullet vs. armor" type of topic. In this respect the fact the US government were
highly alarmed by Snowden revelations is understandable as this shift the balance from dominance of
"bullet" by stimulating the development of various "armor" style methods to enhance email privacy. It
also undermines/discredits cloud-based email services, especially large one such as Hotmail, Gmail,
and Yahoo mail, which are the most important providers of emails.
You can't hide your correspondents so recreation of network of your email correspondents is a fact
of life that you can do nothing about. But you can make searching emails for keywords and snooping of
the text of your email considerably more difficult. And those methods not necessary means using PGP
(actually from NSA point of view using PGP is warning sign that you has something to hide and that increase
interest to your mailbox; and this is a pretty logical assumption).
First of all using traditional POP3 account now makes much more sense (although on most ISPs undelivered
mail is available via Web interface). In case of email security those who know Linux/Unix have a distinct
advantage. Those OSes provide the ability to have a home server that performs most functions of the
cloud services at a very moderate cost (essentially the cost of web connection, or an ISP Web account;
sometime you need to convert you cable Internet account to "business" to open ports). Open source software
for running Webmail on your own server is readily available and while it has its security holes at least
they are not as evident as those in Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo mail. And what is the most important you
escape aggregation of your emails on a large provider.
IMHO putting content in attachment, be it gif of a handwritten letter in DOC document, or
MP3 file presents serious technical problems for snoopers. First of all any multimedia attachment, such
a gif of your handwriting (plus a jpeg of your favorite cat ;-), dramatically increase the
necessary storage and thus processing time.
Samsung Note 10.1 and
Microsoft Surface PRO tablets provide opportunity
to add both audio and handwriting files to your letter with minimal effort. If you have those device,
use them. Actually this is one of few areas when tablets are really useful. Sending content as a multimedia
file makes snooping more difficult for several reasons:
While recognition of handwriting is well studied area of computer science, number of mistakes
that are made are considerable. Especially, if you do not write is a straight line.
Captcha provides infinite source
of inspiration here. There are automatic program that allow you to generate captcha graphic, but
this is an overkill outside small specialized areas such as sending new passwords, etc.
For MP3 with your voice there are objective limits of software technologies used in voice
recognition, no matter how powerful are the computers, that are used for decoding. Human ability
to recognize speech despite some level of noise is nothing but simply amazing. Even with slightest
background noise (your favorite song, etc) the message became almost unpenetratable for computers.
That actually is a pretty powerful protection from automatic snooping. Of course if you are designated
as an "object of interest" this does not help, but for commoners this is an almost perfect way to
keep sensitive information more or less private (and generally it is a bad idea to send sensitive
information via email).
Another important privacy enhancing feature of emails is related to a classic "noise vs. useful signal"
problem. In this respect the existence of spam looks like a blessing. In case of mimicry filtering "signal
from noise" became a complex problem. That's why NSA prefers accessing mail at final destination as
we saw from slides published in Guardian. But using local delivery and Thunderbird or any other mail
client make this avenue of snooping easily defeatable. Intercepted on the router, spam can clog
arteries of automatic processing really fast. It also might slightly distort your "network of contacts"
So if you switch off ISP provided spam filter and filter spam locally on your computer, the problem
of "useful signal vs. noise" is offloaded to those who try to snoop your mail. And there are ways to
ensure that they will filter out wrong emails ;-). Here is a one day sample of spam:
Subject: Gold Watches
Subject: Join us and Lose 8-12 lbs. in Only 7-10 Days!
Subject: New private social network for Ukrainian available ladies and foreign men.
Subject: Fresh closed social network for Russian attractive girls and foreigners.
Subject: Daily Market Movers Digest
Subject: IMPORTANT - WellsFargo
Subject: New private social network for beautiful Ukrainian women and foreign men.
Subject: Fresh closed social network for Russian sexy women and foreign men.
Subject: (SECURE)Electronic Account Statement 0558932870_06112013
Subject: (SECURE)Electronic Account Statement 0690671601_06112013
Subject: Returned mail: see transcript for details
Subject: Bothered with censorship restrictions on Social networks?
Subject: Delivery Status Notification (Failure) - [AKO Content Violation - SPAM]Are
Subject: (SECURE)Electronic Account Statement 0355009837_06112013
Subject: You need Ukrainian with large breasts that Madame ready to correspond to intimate topics?
Subject: You need a Russian woman with beautiful eyes is ready to correspond to private theme?
Subject: Mail delivery failed: returning message to sender
Subject: Are you bored with censorship limits at Social networks?
Subject: Join us and Lose 8-12 lbs. in Only 7-10 Days!
Subject: Important Activation needed
Subject: WebSayt Sadece 35 Azn
Subject: Join us and Lose 8-12 lbs. in Only 7-10 Days!
Note the line "Subject: Mail delivery failed: returning message to sender". That means that
in the spam filter you need to fight with the impersonalization (fake sender) as well. While typically
this is easy based on content of "Received:" headers, there are some complex cases, especially with
bounced mails and "onetime" identities (when the sender each time assumes a different identity at the
same large provider). See also
Using “impersonalization” in your email campaigns.
BTW fake erotic spam provides tremendous steganography
opportunities. Here is a very simplistic example.
Subject: Do you want a Ukrainian girl with large breasts ready to chat with you on intimate
New closed social network with hot Ukrainian ladies is open. If you want to talk on erotic themes,
with sweet women then this is for you!
I dropped my previous girlfriend. Things deteriorates dramatically here and all my plans are
now on hold.
So I decided to find a lady friend for regular erotic conversations! And I am now completely satisfied
Does the second paragraph starting with the phrase "I dropped my previous girlfriend..." in the email
below contain real information masked in erotic spam, or the message is a regular junk?
Typical spam filter would filter this message out as spam, especially with such a subject line ;-).
You can also play a practical joke imitating spammer activity. Inform a couple of your friends about
it and then send similar letter from one of your Gmail account to your friends. Enjoy change in advertisements
In many cases what you want to send via email, can be done more securely using phone. Avoid unnecessary
emails like a plague. And not only because of NSA existence.
Snooping into your mailbox is not limited to three-letter agencies.
I always wondered why Facebook -- a cluelessly designed site which imitates AOL, the hack written
in PHP which provide no, or very little value to users, other then a poorly integrated environment for
personal Web page (simple "vanity fair" pages), blog and email. It is definitely oriented on the most
clueless or at least less sophisticated users and that's probably why it has such a level of popularity.
They boast almost billion customers, although I suspect that half of those customers check their account
only once a month or so. Kind of electronic tombstone to people's vanity...
The interface is second rate and just attests a very mediocre level of software engineering. It is
difficult to imagine that serious guys are using Facebook. And those who do use it, usually are of no
interest to three letter agencies. Due to this ability of the government to mine Facebook might be a
less of a problem then people assume, much less of a problem than mining Hotmail or Gmail.
But that does not mean that Facebook does not have value. Just those entities for whom it provides
tremendous value are not users ;-) Like WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange stated Facebook, Google, and
Yahoo are actually extremely powerful tools for centralized information gathering that can used
by advertisers, merchants, government, financial institutions and other powerful/wealthy players.
Such sites are also very valuable tools for advertisers who try to capitalize of the information
about your Facebook or Google profile, Gmail messages content, network of fiends and activities. And
this is pretty deep pool of information.
"Facebook in particular is the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented,"
Assange said in the interview, which was videotaped and published on the site. "Here
we have the world's most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their
addresses, their locations and the communications with each other, their relatives, all sitting within
the United States, all accessible ..."
That's why Google, who also lives and dies by advertising revenue put so much efforts at Google+.
And promotes so heavily +1 button. They sense the opportunity for additional advertising revenue
due to more precise targeting and try to replicate Facebook success on a better technological platform
(Facebook is a hack written in PHP -- and writing in PHP tells a lot about real technological level
of Mark Zuckerberg and friends).
But government is one think, advertisers is another. The magnitude of online information Facebook
has available about each of us for targeted marketing is stunning. In Europe, laws give people
the right to know what data companies have about them, but that is not the case in the United States.
Here is what
writes about Facebook data mining efforts:
There have been some concerns expressed regarding the use of Facebook as a means of surveillance
and data mining. The Facebook
"We may use information about you that we collect from other sources, including but not
limited to newspapers and Internet sources such as blogs, instant messaging services and other
users of Facebook, to supplement your profile."
However, the policy was later updated and now states: "We may use information about you that we
collect from other Facebook users to supplement your profile (such as when you are tagged in a photo
or mentioned in a status update). In such cases we generally give you the ability to remove the content
(such as allowing you to remove a photo tag of you) or limit its visibility on your profile."
The terminology regarding the use of collecting information from other sources, such as newspapers,
blogs, and instant messaging services, has been removed.
The possibility of data mining by private individuals unaffiliated with Facebook has been
a concern, as evidenced by the fact that two
Institute of Technology (MIT) students were able to download, using an automated script, over
70,000 Facebook profiles from four schools (MIT,
University of Oklahoma,
and Harvard University)
as part of a research project on Facebook privacy published on December 14, 2005.
Since then, Facebook has bolstered security protection for users, responding: "We’ve built numerous
defenses to combat phishing and malware, including complex automated systems that work behind the
scenes to detect and flag Facebook accounts that are likely to be compromised (based on anomalous
activity like lots of messages sent in a short period of time, or messages with links that are known
to be bad)."
A second clause that brought criticism from some users allowed Facebook the right to sell users'
data to private companies, stating "We may share your information with third parties, including responsible
companies with which we have a relationship." This concern was addressed by spokesman Chris Hughes,
who said "Simply put, we have never provided our users' information to third party companies, nor
do we intend to."
Previously, third party applications had access to almost all user information. Facebook's privacy
policy previously stated: "Facebook does not screen or approve Platform Developers and cannot control
how such Platform Developers use any personal information."
However, that language has since been removed. Regarding use of user data by third party applications,
In order to provide you with useful social experiences off of Facebook, we occasionally need to
provide General Information about you to pre-approved third party websites and applications that
use Platform at the time you visit them (if you are still logged in to Facebook). Similarly, when
one of your friends visits a pre-approved website or application, it will receive General Information
about you so you and your friend can be connected on that website as well (if you also have an
account with that website). In these cases we require these websites and applications to go through
an approval process, and to enter into separate agreements designed to protect your privacy…You
can disable instant personalization on all pre-approved websites and applications using your Applications
and Websites privacy setting. You can also block a particular pre-approved website or application
by clicking "No Thanks" in the blue bar when you visit that application or website. In addition,
if you log out of Facebook before visiting a pre-approved application or website, it will not
be able to access your information.
In the United Kingdom, the
Trades Union Congress
(TUC) has encouraged employers to allow their staff to access Facebook and other social-networking
sites from work, provided they proceed with caution.
In September 2007, Facebook drew a fresh round of criticism after it began allowing non-members
to search for users, with the intent of opening limited "public profiles" up to search engines such
as Google in the following months.
Facebook's privacy settings, however, allow users to block their profiles from search engines.
Concerns were also raised on the
programme in October 2007 when Facebook was shown to be an easy way in which to collect an individual's
personal information in order to facilitate identity theft.
However, there is barely any personal information presented to non-friends - if users leave the privacy
controls on their default settings, the only personal information visible to a non-friend is the
user's name, gender, profile picture, networks, and user name.
In addition, a New York
Times article in February 2008 pointed out that Facebook does not actually provide a mechanism
for users to close their accounts, and thus raised the concern that private user data would remain
indefinitely on Facebook's servers.
However, Facebook now gives users the options to deactivate or delete their accounts, according to
but it will not be deleted. We save your profile information (connections, photos, etc.) in case
you later decide to reactivate your account." The policy further states: "When you delete
an account, it is permanently deleted from Facebook."
A third party site,
USocial, was involved in a controversy surrounding the sale of fans and friends. USocial received
a cease-and-desist letter
from Facebook and has stopped selling friends.
Inability to voluntarily terminate accounts
Facebook had allowed users to deactivate their accounts but not actually remove account content
from its servers. A Facebook representative explained to a student from the
of British Columbia that users had to clear their own accounts by manually deleting all of the
content including wall posts, friends, and groups. A New York Times article noted the issue, and
also raised a concern that emails and other private user data remain indefinitely on Facebook's servers.
Facebook subsequently began allowing users to permanently delete their accounts in 2010. Facebook's
... ... ...
Quit Facebook Day
Quit Facebook Day was an online event which took place on May 31, 2010 (coinciding with Memorial
Day), in which Facebook users stated that they would quit the social network, due to privacy concerns.
It was estimated that 2% of Facebook users coming from the United States would delete their accounts.
However, only 33,000 users quit the site.
... ... ...
Facebook has been criticized heavily for 'tracking' users, even when logged out of the site.
Australian technologist Nik Cubrilovic discovered that when a user logs out of Facebook, the cookies
from that login are still kept in the browser, allowing Facebook to track users on websites that
include "social widgets" distributed by the social network. Facebook has denied the claims, saying
they have 'no interest' in tracking users or their activity. They also promised after the discovery
of the cookies that they would remove them, saying they will no longer have them on the site. A group
of users in the United States have sued Facebook for breaching privacy laws.
Google wants to be a sole intermediary between you and Internet. As Rebecca Solnit pointed out (Google
eats the world):
Google, the company with the motto "Don't be evil", is rapidly becoming an empire. Not
an empire of territory, as was Rome or the Soviet Union, but an empire controlling our access to
data and our data itself. Antitrust lawsuits proliferating around the company demonstrate its quest
for monopoly control over information in the information age.
Its search engine has become indispensable for most of us, and as Google critic and media professor
Siva Vaidhyanathan puts it in his 2012 book The Googlization of Everything,
"[W]e now allow Google to determine what is important, relevant, and true on the Web and in
the world. We trust and believe that Google acts in our best interest. But we have surrendered
control over the values, methods, and processes that make sense of our information ecosystem."
And that's just the search engine. About three-quarters of a billion people use Gmail, which conveniently
gives Google access to the content of their communications (scanned in such a way that they can target
ads at you).
Now with Prism-related revelations, those guys are on the defensive as they sense a threat to their
franchise. And the threat is quite real: if Google, Microsoft, Yahoo all work for NSA, why not feed
them only a proportionate amount of your searches. And why not feed them with "search spam"?
Now with Prism-related revelations, those guys are on the defensive as they sense a threat
to their franchise. And the threat is quite real: if Google, Microsoft, Yahoo all work for NSA,
why not feed them only a proportionate amount of your searches. And why not feed them with "search
One third to Google and one third to Bing with the rest to
https://duckduckgo.com/ (Yahoo uses Bing internally).
You can rotate days and hope that the level of integration of searches from multiple providers is a
weak point of the program ;-). After all while Google is still better on some searches, Bing comes close
on typical searches and is superior in searches about Microsoft Windows and similar Microsoft related
themes. It is only fair to diversify providers.
Google’s motto may be ‘don’t be evil’ but people are increasingly unconvinced that it is as good
as it says it is. The Guardian is currently running a poll asking users ‘Does Google ‘do evil’?’
and currently the Guardian reading public seems to think yes it does. This is partially about Google's
attempt to minimize taxes in the UK but there are other concerns that are much more integral to what
Google is about. At its core Google is an information business, so accusations that it is a threat
to privacy strike at what it does rather than just its profits.
Google recently got a slap on the wrist by Germany for its intrusion of privacy through its street
view and received a $189,225 fine. This was followed in April with several European privacy regulators
ones it had. Unfortunately it was not transparent in how it implemented the changes bringing the
ire of the European regulators. This was followed by not implementing their suggested changes leading
to the regulators considering more fines.
Facebook’s inventory of data and its revenue from advertising are small potatoes compared to Google.
Google took in more than 10 times as much, with an estimated $36.5 billion in advertising revenue in
2011, by analyzing what people sent over Gmail and what they searched on the Web, and then using that
data to sell ads. Hundreds of other companies (Yahoo, Microsoft, Amazon to name a few) have also staked
claims on people’s online data by depositing cookies or other tracking mechanisms on people’s browsers.
If you’ve mentioned anxiety in an e-mail, done a Google search for “stress” or started using an online
medical diary that lets you monitor your mood, expect ads for medications and services to treat your
In other words stereotyping rules in data aggregation. Your application for credit could
be declined not on the basis of your own finances or credit history, but
basis of aggregate data — what other people whose likes and dislikes are similar to yours have done.
If guitar players or divorcing couples are more likely to renege on their credit-card bills, then the
fact that you’ve looked at guitar ads or sent an e-mail to a divorce lawyer might cause a data aggregator
to classify you as less credit-worthy. When an Atlanta man returned from his honeymoon, he found that
his credit limit had been lowered to $3,800 from $10,800. The switch was not based on anything he had
done but on aggregate data. A letter from the company told him, “Other customers who have used their
card at establishments where you recently shopped have a poor repayment history with American Express.”
Even though laws allow people to challenge false information in credit reports, there are no laws
that require data aggregators to reveal what they know about you. If I’ve Googled “diabetes” for
my mother or “date rape drugs” for a mystery I’m writing, data aggregators assume those searches reflect
my own health and proclivities. Because no laws regulate what types of data these aggregators can collect,
they make their own rules.
It’s amazing that there are naive people who worry about government intrusion into our privacy
when we already gave away our civil rights to the billionaires in Silicon Valley. The NSA is taking
note of our calls and emails, but anyone – me included! — who uses the internet and social media
already sold out our privacy rights to the trillion dollar multinational companies now dominating
our lives and – literally – buying and selling us.
The NSA isn’t our biggest worry when it comes to who is using our calls, emails and records for
purposes we didn’t intend. We are going to pay forever for trusting Google, Facebook. Microsoft,
AOL and all the rest. They and the companies that follow them are the
real threat to liberty and privacy.
The government may be wrong in how it is trying to protect us but at least it isn’t literally
selling us. Google’s and Facebook’s et al highest purpose is to control our lives, what we buy,
sell, like and do for money. Broken as our democracy is we citizens at least still have a voice and
ultimately decide on who runs Congress.
and company answer to no one. They see themselves as an elite and superior to everyone else.
In fact they are part of a business culture that sees itself not only above the law but believes
it’s run by
beings. Google even has its own bus line, closed to the public, so its “genius” employees don’t
have to be bothered mingling with us regular folk. A top internet exec
just ruined the America’s Cup race by making it so exclusive that so far only four groups have
been able to sign up for the next race to be held in San Francisco because all but billionaires are
now excluded because this internet genius changed the rules to favor his kind of elite.
Google and Facebook have done
little-to-nothing to curb human trafficking pleading free speech as the reason their search engines
and social networks have become the new slave ships “carrying” child rape victims to their new masters
internationally. That’s just who and what these internet profiteers are.
Face it: the big tech companies aren’t run by nice people even if they do make it pleasant for
their workers by letting them skateboard in the hallways and offering them free sushi. They aren’t
smarter than anyone else, just lucky to be riding a new tech wave. That wave is cresting.
Lots of us lesser mortals are wondering just what we get from people storing all our private data.
For a start we have a generation hooked on a mediated reality. They look at the world through
In other words these profiteers are selling reality back to us, packaged by them into entertainment.
And they want to put a computer on every desk to make sure that no child ever develops an attention
span long enough so that they might actually read a book or look up from whatever tech device they
are holding. These are the billionaires determined to make real life so boring that you won’t be
able to concentrate long enough pee without using an app that makes bodily functions more entertaining.
These guys are also the world’s biggest hypocrites. The New York Times published a story
about how some of the top executives in Silicon Valley send their own children to a school that does
not allow computers. In “A
Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute” (October 22, 2011) the Times revealed that
the leaders who run the computer business demand a computer-free, hands-on approach to education
for their own children.
This new situation makes usage of Web proxy at home a must. Not to protect yourself ( this is still
impossible ), but to control what information you release and to whom. See
Squid. It provides powerful means to analyze your Web traffic as well
as Web site
In my experience, Squid’s built-in blocking mechanism or access control is the easiest method
to use for implementing web site blocking policy. All you need to do is modify the Squid configuration
Before you can implement web site blocking policy, you have to make sure that you have already
installed Squid and that it works. You can consult the
Squid web site to get the latest version
of Squid and a guide for installing it.
To deploy the web-site blocking mechanism in Squid, add the following entries to your Squid configuration
file (in my system, it’s called squid.conf and it’s located in the /etc/squid
acl bad url_regex "/etc/squid/squid-block.acl"
http_access deny bad
The file /etc/squid/squid-block.acl contains web sites or words you want to block.
You can name the file whatever you like. If a site has the URL or word listed in squid-block.acl
file, it won’t be accessible to your users. The entries below are found in squid-block.acl
file used by my clients:
With the squid-block.acl file in action, internet users cannot access the following
Sites that have addresses ending with .oracle.com
Sites that have addresses ending with .playboy.com.br
Sites containing the word “sex” in its pages
You should beware that by blocking sites containing the word “sex”, you will also block sites
such as Middlesex University, Sussex University, etc. To resolve this problem, you can put those
sites in a special file called squid-noblock.acl:
You must also put the “no-block” rule before the “block” rule in the Squid configuration file:
acl special_urls url_regex "/etc/squid/squid-noblock.acl"
http_access allow admin_ips special_urls
acl bad url_regex "/etc/squid/squid-block.acl"
http_access deny bad
Sometimes you also need to add a no-block file to allow access to useful sites
After editing the ACL files (squid-block.acl and squid-noblock.acl),
you need to restart Squid. If you install the RPM version, usually there is a script in the
/etc/rc.d/init.d directory to help you manage Squid:
# /etc/rc.d/init.d/squid reload
To test to see if your Squid blocking mechanism has worked, you can use your browser. Just enter
a site whose address is listed on the squid-block.acl file in the URL address.
In the example above, I block .oracle.com, and when I try to access oracle.com, the
browser returns an error page.
Vanity fair posting should probably now be severely limited. Self-exposure entails dangers that can
became evident only in retrospect. The key problem is that nothing that you post is ever erased. Ever.
Limiting your activity in social network to few things that are of real value, or what
is necessary for business or professional development, not just vanity fair staff or, God forbid, shady
activities is now a must.
And remember that those days information about your searches, books that you bought on Amazon, your
friends in Facebook, your connections in LinkedIn, etc are public. If you want to buy a used book without
it getting into your database, go to the major city and buy with cash.
Also getting you own email address and simple web site at any hosting site is easy and does not require
extraordinary technical sophistication. Prices are starting from $3 per month. Storing your data on
Facebook servers might cost you more. See Guide
for selecting Web hosting provider with SSH access for some ideas for programmers and system administrators.
In a way the situation with cloud sites providing feeds to spy on the users is a version of autoimmune
disease: defense systems are attacking other critical systems instead of rogue agents.
As we mentioned before, technological development has their set of externalities. One side effect
of internet technologies and, especially, cloud technologies as well as wide proliferation of smartphones
is that they greatly simplify "total surveillance." Previously total surveillance was a very expensive
proposition, now it became vey cheap. In a way technological genie is out of the bottle. And it is impossible
to put him back. Youtube (funny, it's another site targeted by NSA) contains several informative talks
about this issue. From the
“This is the current state of affairs. There is no more sense of privacy. Not because it’s
been ripped away from you in some Orwellian way, but because you flushed it down the toilet”.
All-in-all on Internet on one hand provides excellent, unique capability of searching information
(and search sites are really amplifiers of human intelligence) , but on the other put you like a bug
under microscope. Of course, as so many Internet users exists, the time to store all the information
about you is probably less then your lifespan, but considerable part of it can be stored for a long
time (measured in years, not months, or days) and some part is stored forever. In other words both government
and several large companies and first of all Facebook and Google are constantly profiling you. That's
why we can talk about death of privacy.
Add to this a real possibility that malware is installed on your PC (and Google Bar and similar applications
are as close to spyware as one can get) and situation became really interesting.
Give me a break. Why wouldn’t the Feds use these tools? They’d be idiots if they didn’t. Repeat
Privacy is a bit of a joke online and you willingly give it up.
People share everything on social networks (lunch, vacation plans, whereabouts,
drivel no one cares about).
This information is increasingly public.
Let’s face it; folks are broadcasting everything from the breakfast they eat to their bowel movements
to when and where they are on vacation. They use services that track every movement they make
(willingly!) on Foursquare and Google Latitude. Why wouldn’t an FBI agent chasing a perp get into
some idiot’s network so he can track him everywhere? It’s called efficiency people.
Here are some simple measures that might help, although they can't change the situation:
If you are technically savvy think about replacing major cloud providers with small ISP accounts.
Webmail and personal Web site creation activities can be done equally well on that platform with
less risk of total surveillance.
Avoid "vanity fair on social sites and "overexposure".
Don't put all eggs in one "cloud-based" basket. Use two or more email accounts with only
non-essential mails stored "in the cloud".
Use multimedia instead of plain text for your emails whenever possible. More widely your
camera (with which you can make a picture of your handwritten letter) and video information. On Samsung
tablets with stylus, use stylus for writing emails.
Move your sensitive information to removable media and use retro-computing for its processing.
Create you own home DMZ with caching DNS server.
Use IE "InPrivate" browsing mode as you primary browsing mode. Block cookies from Facebook
and, possibly, some other over-snooping" sites of your choice. .
Use "less-snooping" search engine.
Again, none of those measures change the situation dramatically, but each of them slightly increase
the level of your privacy.
way it evaporated in Google, unless you use VPN. But even in this case there are ways to "bound" your
PC to you via non IP based methods.
There are other search engines, browsers, email services, etc. besides those operated by the
giants. DuckDuckGo, protonmail, and the Opera browser (with free built-in VPN!) work well for
The problem is, if these other services ever do get popular enough, the tech giants will either
block them by getting their stooges appointed to Federal agencies and regulating them out of existence,
or buy them.
I've been running from ISP acquisitions for years, as the little guys get bought out I have
to find an even littler one.
Luckily I've found a local ISP, GWI, that I've used for years now.
They actually came out against the new regulations that would allow them to gather and sell their
customers' data. Such anathema will probably wind up with their CEO publicly flayed for going
against all that is good and holy according to the Five Horsemen.
"... It is impossible to deny that Facebook, Google and Amazon have stymied innovation on a broad scale. To begin with, the platforms of Google and Facebook are the point of access to all media for the majority of Americans. ..."
"... According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, newspaper publishers lost over half their employees between 2001 and 2016. Billions of dollars have been reallocated from creators of content to owners of monopoly platforms. ..."
"... In 2015 two Obama economic advisers, Peter Orszag and Jason Furman, published a paper arguing that the rise in "supernormal returns on capital" at firms with limited competition is leading to a rise in economic inequality. ..."
"... There are a few obvious regulations to start with. Monopoly is made by acquisition - Google buying AdMob and DoubleClick, Facebook buying Instagram and WhatsApp, Amazon buying, to name just a few, Audible, Twitch, Zappos and Alexa. At a minimum, these companies should not be allowed to acquire other major firms, like Spotify or Snapchat. ..."
"... The second alternative is to regulate a company like Google as a public utility, requiring it to license out patents, for a nominal fee, for its search algorithms, advertising exchanges and other key innovations. ..."
"... Removing the safe harbor provision would also force social networks to pay for the content posted on their sites. A simple example: One million downloads of a song on iTunes would yield the performer and his record label about $900,000. One million streams of that same song on YouTube would earn them about $900. ..."
"... Woodrow Wilson was right when he said in 1913, "If monopoly persists, monopoly will always sit at the helm of the government." We ignore his words at our peril. ..."
In just 10 years, the world's five largest companies by market capitalization have all changed,
save for one: Microsoft. Exxon Mobil, General Electric, Citigroup and Shell Oil are out and Apple,
Alphabet (the parent company of Google), Amazon and Facebook have taken their place.
They're all tech companies, and each dominates its corner of the industry: Google has an 88 percent
market share in search advertising, Facebook (and its subsidiaries Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger)
owns 77 percent of mobile social traffic and Amazon has a 74 percent share in the e-book market.
In classic economic terms, all three are monopolies.
We have been transported back to the early 20th century, when arguments about "the curse of bigness"
were advanced by President Woodrow Wilson's counselor, Louis Brandeis, before Wilson appointed him
to the Supreme Court. Brandeis wanted to eliminate monopolies, because (in the words of his biographer
Melvin Urofsky) "in a democratic society the existence of large centers of private power is dangerous
to the continuing vitality of a free people." We need look no further than the conduct of the largest
banks in the 2008 financial crisis or the role that Facebook and Google play in the "fake news" business
to know that Brandeis was right.
While Brandeis generally opposed regulation - which, he worried, inevitably led to the corruption
of the regulator - and instead advocated breaking up "bigness," he made an exception for "natural"
monopolies, like telephone, water and power companies and railroads, where it made sense to have
one or a few companies in control of an industry.
April 26, 2017
You don't need to look as far back as Brandise or as far forward as Google to see the pernicious
effects of monopoly. Just look at airlines...
April 26, 2017
I have no awareness of how google harms me, I use Bing for searches, and yes they are an octopus,
but with efficiencies of scale that...
April 26, 2017
"True, the internet never had the same problems of interoperability."...but not for want of trying.
The old Microsoft Network-MSN-was a...
Could it be that these companies - and Google in particular - have become natural monopolies by
supplying an entire market's demand for a service, at a price lower than what would be offered by
two competing firms? And if so, is it time to regulate them like public utilities?
Consider a historical analogy: the early days of telecommunications.
In 1895 a photograph of the business district of a large city might have shown 20 phone wires
attached to most buildings. Each wire was owned by a different phone company, and none of them worked
with the others. Without network effects, the networks themselves were almost useless.
The solution was for a single company, American Telephone and Telegraph, to consolidate the industry
by buying up all the small operators and creating a single network - a natural monopoly. The government
permitted it, but then regulated this monopoly through the Federal Communications Commission.
AT&T (also known as the Bell System) had its rates regulated, and was required to spend a fixed
percentage of its profits on research and development. In 1925 AT&T set up Bell Labs as a separate
subsidiary with the mandate to develop the next generation of communications technology, but also
to do basic research in physics and other sciences. Over the next 50 years, the basics of the digital
age - the transistor, the microchip, the solar cell, the microwave, the laser, cellular telephony
- all came out of Bell Labs, along with eight Nobel Prizes.
In a 1956 consent decree in which the Justice Department allowed AT&T to maintain its phone monopoly,
the government extracted a huge concession: All past patents were licensed (to any American company)
royalty-free, and all future patents were to be licensed for a small fee. These licenses led to the
creation of Texas Instruments, Motorola, Fairchild Semiconductor and many other start-ups.
Changes at the Top
The five largest companies in 2006
Exxon Mobil $540 General Electric 463 Microsoft 355 Citigroup 331 Bank of America 290
BILLION MARKET CAP
Apple $794 Alphabet (Google) 593 Microsoft 506 Amazon 429 Facebook 414
All figures in 2017 dollars; 2017 companies as of April 20. Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices By The
New York Times
True, the internet never had the same problems of interoperability. And Google's route to dominance
is different from the Bell System's. Nevertheless it still has all of the characteristics of a public
We are going to have to decide fairly soon whether Google, Facebook and Amazon are the kinds of
natural monopolies that need to be regulated, or whether we allow the status quo to continue, pretending
that unfettered monoliths don't inflict damage on our privacy and democracy.
It is impossible to deny that Facebook, Google and Amazon have stymied innovation on a broad
scale. To begin with, the platforms of Google and Facebook are the point of access to all media for
the majority of Americans. While profits at Google, Facebook and Amazon have soared, revenues
in media businesses like newspaper publishing or the music business have, since 2001, fallen by 70
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, newspaper publishers lost over half their employees
between 2001 and 2016. Billions of dollars have been reallocated from creators of content to owners
of monopoly platforms. All content creators dependent on advertising must negotiate with Google
or Facebook as aggregator, the sole lifeline between themselves and the vast internet cloud.
It's not just newspapers that are hurting. In 2015 two Obama economic advisers, Peter Orszag
and Jason Furman, published a paper arguing that the rise in "supernormal returns on capital" at
firms with limited competition is leading to a rise in economic inequality. The M.I.T. economists
Scott Stern and Jorge Guzman explained that in the presence of these giant firms, "it has become
increasingly advantageous to be an incumbent, and less advantageous to be a new entrant."
There are a few obvious regulations to start with. Monopoly is made by acquisition - Google
buying AdMob and DoubleClick, Facebook buying Instagram and WhatsApp, Amazon buying, to name just
a few, Audible, Twitch, Zappos and Alexa. At a minimum, these companies should not be allowed to
acquire other major firms, like Spotify or Snapchat.
The second alternative is to regulate a company like Google as a public utility, requiring
it to license out patents, for a nominal fee, for its search algorithms, advertising exchanges and
other key innovations.
The third alternative is to remove the "safe harbor" clause in the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright
Act, which allows companies like Facebook and Google's YouTube to free ride on the content produced
by others. The reason there are 40,000 Islamic State videos on YouTube, many with ads that yield
revenue for those who posted them, is that YouTube does not have to take responsibility for the content
on its network. Facebook, Google and Twitter claim that policing their networks would be too onerous.
But that's preposterous: They already police their networks for pornography, and quite well.
Removing the safe harbor provision would also force social networks to pay for the content
posted on their sites. A simple example: One million downloads of a song on iTunes would yield the
performer and his record label about $900,000. One million streams of that same song on YouTube would
earn them about $900.
I'm under no delusion that, with libertarian tech moguls like Peter Thiel in President Trump's
inner circle, antitrust regulation of the internet monopolies will be a priority. Ultimately we may
have to wait four years, at which time the monopolies will be so dominant that the only remedy will
be to break them up. Force Google to sell DoubleClick. Force Facebook to sell WhatsApp and Instagram.
Woodrow Wilson was right when he said in 1913, "If monopoly persists, monopoly will always
sit at the helm of the government." We ignore his words at our peril.
[Mar 06, 2017] Reposting junk articles from MSM (what can be called "pure propaganda") is pretty destructive and lower "implicit rating" of the contributor himself.
Or "karma" in Internet forum terminology.
You are right in a sense that even in Web format you can filter junk by using some find of filtering
software similar to email filtering that "moves" low quality contributors to junk folder.
While we can't actually separate politics from economics (and should not as only "political economy"
exists in reality, and there are normative, moral aspects of economics) better contributors are able
to separate junk MSM articles from more valid contributions, which still happen regularly.
In other words: tell me who you quote and I will tell you who you are.
A web server is a Server side application designed to process HTTP
requests between client and server. HTTP is the basic and very widely
used network protocol. We all would be familiar with Apache HTTP
Apache HTTP Server played an important role in designing
what web is today. It alone has a market share of
Microsoft IIS comes second in the list having a market share of
comes at number 3 and 4 having a market share of
Last day I came across a web server named
When I tried to inquire it's features and deployed it to testing, I
must say it is amazing. A web server which is portable and do not need
any configuration file. I though it is a very cool project and wanted
to share it with you. Here we have given Caddy a try!
What is Caddy?
is an alternative web server easy to
configure and use.
The Project leader of
Caddy claims that Caddy is a general-purpose web server, claims to be
designed for human and it is probably the only of its kind.
Features of Caddy
Speedy HTTP requests using HTTP/2.
Capable Web Server with least configuration and hassle free
TLS encryption ensure, encryption between communicating
applications and user over Internet. You may use your own keys and
Easy to deploy/use. Just one single file and no dependency on
No installation required.
Run on multiple CPUs/Cores.
Advanced WebSockets technology interactive communication
session between browser and server.
Server Markdown documents on the fly.
Full support for latest IPv6.
Creates log in custom format.
Serve FastCGI, Reverse Proxy, Rewrite and Redirects, Clean URL,
Gzip compression, Directory Browsing, Virtual Hosts and Headers.
Available for All known Platform Windows, Linux, BSD, Mac,
What make caddy Different?
Caddy aims at serving web as it should be in the year 2017 and
not traditional style.
It is designed not only to serve HTTP request but also human.
Loaded with Latest features HTTP/2, IPv6, Markdown,
WebSockets, FastCGI, templates and other out-of-box features.
Run the executables without the need of Installing it.
Detailed documentation with least technical description.
Developed keeping in mind the need and ease of Designers,
Developers and Bloggers.
Support Virtual Host Define as many sites as you want.
Suited for you no matter if your site is static or dynamic.
If you are human it is for you.
You focus on what to achieve and not how to achieve.
Availability of support for most number of platforms Windows,
Linux, Mac, Android, BSD.
Usually, you have one Caddy file per site.
Set up in less than 1 minute, even if you are not that much
Offers access to Google Search, Google Site Search, Google News.
It is fast and clean with custom colors and no ads, stray URLs or clutter included.
Allows navigation of search result pages from omniprompt.
Supports fetching of number of results in a go, users can start at the nth result.
Users can disable automatic spelling correction and search exact keywords.
Supports limiting of search by attributes such as duration, country/domain specific search
(default: .com ), language preference.
Supports Google search keywords in the form filetype:mime , site:somesite.com and many
Permits non-stop searches: start new searches at omniprompt without exiting.
Supports HTTPS proxy services.
Ships in with a man page which includes examples, shell completion scripts for Bash, Zsh
Users can optionally open first search result in a web browser.
How To Install Googler in Linux
Users of Ubuntu Linux and its derivatives such as Linux Mint , Xubuntu can install it via this
PPA by executing the commands below:
Important: If in case above installation instructions fails to install Googler, then you need
to install it from source using latest version as shown.
Other distributions can install Googler from source using following instructions.
First download the latest version of Googler (at the time writing the latest version is v2.9).
$ cd Downloads
$ wget -c https://github.com/jarun/googler/archive/v2.9.tar.gz
$ tar -xvf v2.9.tar.gz
$ cd googler-2.9
$ sudo make install
$ cd auto-completion/bash/
$ sudo cp googler-completion.bash /etc/bash_completion.d/
How to Use Googler in Linux Terminal
The following are some examples showing how Googler works in Linux, the basic command below
will show information about tecmint.com:
$ googler tecmint.com
Let's take a trip back in time to the early, simpler days of the web. A time when most of us used
low-powered PCs or dumb terminals, often over slow dial-up connections. We generally visited web
pages using command-line, text-only browsers like the venerable
Jump forward to these days of web browsers like Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. You'd think that
browsing the web at the command line would have gone the way of the <blink> tag. You'd be wrong.
Web browsers that run in a terminal window are alive and kicking. They're niche, but still get the
Why browse the web from the command line?
There are any number of reasons for browsing the web from the command line. You might be a command
line junkie who wants to do everything from the terminal or you might have a slow internet connection.
You might want to test a website's accessibility, avoid tracking scripts and annoying advertising.
Or, you might just want to read an article or blog post without distractions.
With that out of the way, let's take a look at three browsers for the command line.
Links2 bills itself as the graphical
version of the venerable
Links . It's
a lot like its predecessor in that it gives you the option to run either in text-only mode or graphical
When you start it by typing links2 at the command line and go to a website,
the result is something like this:
Reading an Opensource.com article with Links2.
But when you run links2 -g then visit a site, the result is something like
Reading an Opensource.com article with Links2 in graphical mode.
That's not the only trick that Links2 can do. The browser can display frames and tables, and supports
Like Links2, ELinks is a fork of
the Links browser. And like Links2, ELinks can display tables and frames. While it supports using
One feature that makes ELinks stand out from other command line browsers is its menu system. Press
ESC on your keyboard display a set of menus that let you enter and save URLs, add
bookmarks, set up the browser, and more.
Using the menus in ELinks.
ELinks lacks a graphical mode, but it does have a nifty feature that lets you view images on a
web page. Either click the placeholder for the image or highlight it and press v on
your keyboard. ELinks opens the image with an application like ImageMagick or GraphicsMagick.
Displaying an image from a web page.
When I first fired up w3m , it
reminded me of a cross between the classic text-based browser
Lynx and the
UNIX/Linux text viewer
more . While it might not
have as many features as the other browsers I discuss in this article, w3m gets the job done.
You can navigate web pages using a mouse, and the browser will render tables and even accept cookies.
Like ELinks2, w3m lets you view images on a page using an external program. The browser doesn't do
As far as the important job of rendering web pages, w3m does a better job than Links2 or ELinks
even with complex pages. The rendering is clean and colorful.
Viewing a web page with w3m.
w3m doesn't use the same keyboard shortcuts as other command line browsers, so get ready to learn
some new ones. You can do that by pressing H while running w3m.
Have a favorite command line web browser? Feel free to share it with our community by leaving
Posted by msmash
on Wednesday December 21, 2016 @01:40PM
An anonymous reader writes:
A Google product manager has
filed a lawsuit
against the company for its confidentiality policies on the
grounds they violate California labor laws. California labor laws give
employees the right to discuss workplace issues with law enforcement,
regulators, the media, and other employees. Google is accused of firing the
employee for exercising his rights, then smearing his reputation in an internal
email sent to the rest of the company. These policies are put in place to
allegedly prevent the leaking of potentially damaging information to regulators
or law enforcement. They in turn prohibit employees from speaking out about
illegal activity within the company, even to its own lawyers, and encourage
them to report other employees suspected of leaking information. The Verge has
obtained a copy of the complaint, linked below in full. "Google's motto is
'don't be evil.' Google's illegal confidentiality agreements and policies fail
this test," the lawsuit reads. One policy allegedly even prevents employees
from writing a novel about working for a large Silicon Valley corporation --
like, for instance, Dave Eggers' dystopian novel, The Circle -- without first
getting final draft approval from Google. The Information confirmed that this
lawsuit was filed by the same individual, known in the suit only as "John Doe,"
who filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board earlier this year
over many of the same confidentiality policies.
Posted by msmash
on Monday December 05, 2016 @09:40AM
Earlier this month, Opera announced a new interesting feature with Opera 43
developer that predicts the website you're about to go to. The company
There are two ways we can predict what page the user will soon
load. When the current page tells us so, and when we can determine from the
users actions that they are about to load something. Pages can use the tag, and
for instance Google uses that for search results if they are pretty sure of
what you will load next. When someone writes in the address bar they are
humanly slow. Sometimes it is obvious what they will write after just 1-2
characters but they will just keep writing or arrowing through suggestions for
millions or billions of wasted clock cycles. We expect this feature to
results in an average of 1 second faster loads from the address bar
The company insists that this feature saves time and energy without
compromising the security. What's your thought?
Posted by msmash
on Monday December 19, 2016 @12:25PM
Microsoft is pushing hard for Windows 10 to become the operating system of
choice for everyone across the world, but this isn't happening just yet, as
Windows 7 keeps dominating the desktop market. From a report on Softpedia:
The Firefox Hardware Report published recently by Mozilla shows that Windows 7
is the number one browser for users running the company's browser,
with a share of 44.86 percent
, followed by Windows 10 with 25.67 percent.
Seeing Windows 7 dominating the desktop OS charts is not surprising, but on the
other hand, it's living proof that Microsoft will really have a hard time
moving users to Windows 10 before 2020 when it reaches end of support.
Microsoft's Windows 10, however, already improved substantially since its
launch in 2015, mostly thanks to the free upgrade offer targeting Windows 7 and
8.1 users, but this still isn't enough to become the number one choice for PC
on Wednesday December 21, 2016 @09:45PM
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica:
With Firefox 50,
Mozilla has rolled out the
first major piece
of its new multi-process architecture. Edge, Internet
Explorer, Chrome, and Safari all have a multiple process design that separates
their rendering engine -- the part of the browser that reads and interprets
reasons (if the rendering process crashes, it doesn't kill the entire browser)
and security reasons (the rendering process can be run in a low-privilege
sandbox, so exploitable flaws in the rendering engine are harder to take
advantage of). Moreover, these browsers can all create multiple rendering
engine processes and use different processes for different tabs. This means
that the scope of a crash is narrowed even further, typically to a single tab.
Internet Explorer and Chrome both implemented this long ago, in 2009. Firefox,
however, has not offered a similar design. Although work on a multi-process
browser was started in 2009, under the codename
, that work was
suspended between 2011 and 2013 as priorities within the organization shifted.
In response, Mozilla started switching to a
new extension system
in 2015 that opened the door to a multi-process
design. The first stage of Firefox's move to multi-process involves separating
the browser shell from a single rendering process that's used by every tab.
In Firefox 48
, that feature was enabled for a small number of users who
used no extensions. Firefox 49 was rolled out to include users running a
limited selection of extensions. Now, in Firefox 50, a
separate renderer process is used for most users and most extensions
Developers are now able to mark their extensions as explicitly multi-process
compatible. Firefox 51 will extend this even further to cover all extensions,
except those that are explicitly marked as incompatible. Mozilla says that,
even with the limited changes made in Firefox 50, responsiveness of the browser
has improved by 400 percent due to the separation between the renderer and the
browser shell. During page loads, responsiveness will increase to 700 percent.
Posted by EditorDavid
on Saturday December 03, 2016 @12:39PM
An anonymous reader quotes Bleeping Computer:
Chrome 55, released earlier
this week, now
blocks all Adobe Flash content by default
, according to a plan set in
motion by Google engineers
earlier this year
... While some of the initial implementation details of
the "HTML5 By Default" plan changed since then, Flash has been phased out in
favor of HTML5 as the primary technology for playing multimedia content in
Google's plan is to turn off Flash and use HTML5 for all sites
. Where HTML5
isn't supported, Chrome will prompt users and ask them if they want to run
Flash to view multimedia content. The user's option would be remembered for
subsequent visits, but there's also an option in the browser's settings
section, under Settings > Content Settings > Flash > Manage Exceptions, where
users can add the websites they want to allow Flash to run by default.
Exceptions will also be made automatically for your more frequently-visited
sites -- which, for many users, will include YouTube. And Chrome will continue
with Flash -- as well as an option to re-enable Flash on all
Posted by msmash
on Friday December 02, 2016 @04:20PM
20-year-old Lan Cai was in a car crash this summer, after she was plowed into
by a drunk driver and broke two bones in her lower back. She didn't know how to
navigate her car insurance and prove damages, so she reached out for legal
Things didn't go as one would have liked, initially, as
The help she got, Cai said, was less than satisfactory. Lawyers
from the Tuan A. Khuu law firm ignored her contacts, and at one point they came
into her bedroom while Cai was sleeping in her underwear. "Seriously, it's
super unprofessional!" she wrote on Facebook. (The firm maintains it was
invited in by Cai's mother.) She also took to Yelp to warn others about her bad
experience. The posts led to a threatening e-mail from Tuan Khuu attorney Keith
Nguyen. Nguyen and his associates went ahead and filed that lawsuit, demanding
the young woman pay up between $100,000 and $200,000 -- more than 100 times
what she had in her bank account. Nguyen said he didn't feel bad at all about
suing Cai. Cai didn't remove her review, though. Instead she fought back
against the Khuu firm, all thanks to attorney Michael Fleming, who took her
case pro bono. Fleming filed a motion arguing that, first and foremost, Cai's
social media complaints were true. Second, she couldn't do much to damage the
reputation of a firm that already had multiple poor reviews. He argued the
lawsuit was a clear SLAPP (strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation).
Ultimately, the judge agreed with Fleming, ordering the Khuu firm to pay
$26,831.55 in attorneys' fees.
Posted by msmash
on Wednesday November 30, 2016 @11:45AM
TV, social media now increasingly entertains us, and even more so than
television it amplifies our existing beliefs and habits. It makes us feel more
than think, and it comforts more than challenges. The result is a deeply
fragmented society, driven by emotions, and radicalized by lack of contact and
challenge from outside. This is why Oxford Dictionaries designated "post-truth"
as the word of 2016: an adjective "relating to circumstances in which objective
facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotional appeals."
Traditional television still entails some degree of surprise. What you see on
television news is still picked by human curators, and even though it must be
entertaining to qualify as worthy of expensive production, it is still likely
to challenge some of our opinions (emotions, that is). Social media, in
uses algorithms to encourage comfort and complaisance, since its entire
business model is built upon maximizing the time users spend inside of it
Who would like to hang around in a place where everyone seems to be negative,
mean, and disapproving? The outcome is a proliferation of emotions, a
radicalization of those emotions, and a fragmented society.
This is way more dangerous for the idea of democracy founded on the
notion of informed participation. Now what can be done? Certainly the
explanation for Trump's rise cannot be reduced to a technology- or
media-centered argument. The phenomenon is rooted in more than that; media or
technology cannot create; they can merely twist, divert, or disrupt. Without
the growing inequality, shrinking middle class, jobs threatened by
globalization, etc. there would be no Trump or Berlusconi or Brexit. But we
need to stop thinking that any evolution of technology is natural and
inevitable and therefore good. For one thing, we need more text than videos in
order to remain rational animals. Typography, as Postman describes, is in
essence much more capable of communicating complex messages that provoke
thinking. This means we should write and read more, link more often, and watch
less television and fewer videos -- and spend less time on Facebook, Instagram,
"... "Google was the rich kid who, after having discovered he wasn't invited to the party, built his own party in retaliation," Whittaker wrote. "The fact that no one came to Google's party became the elephant in the room." ..."
"... Isn't it inevitable that Google will end up like Microsoft. A brain-dead dinosaur employing sycophantic middle class bores, who are simply working towards a safe haven of retirement. In the end Google will be passed by. It's not a design-led innovator like Apple: it's a boring, grey utilitarian, Soviet-like beast. Google Apps are cheap - but very nasty - Gmail is a terrible UI - and great designers will never work for this anti-design/pro-algorithms empire. ..."
"... All of Google's products are TERRIBLE except for Gmail, and even that is inferior to Outlook on the web now. ..."
"... I used Google Apps for years, and Google just doesn't listen to customers. The engineers that ran the company needed some corporate intervention. I just think Larry Page tried to turn Google into a different company, rather than just focusing the great ideas into actually great products. ..."
"... It seems the tech titans all have this pendulum thing going on. Google appears to be beginning its swing in the "evil" direction. ..."
"... You claim old Google empowered intelligent people to be innovative, with the belief their creations would prove viable in the marketplace. You then go on to name Gmail and Chrome as the accomplishments of that endeavour. Are you ****** serious? ..."
"... When you arrived at Google it had already turned the internet into a giant spamsense depository with the majority of screen real estate consumed by Google's ads. The downhill spiral did not begin with Google+, but it may end there. On a lighter note, you are now free. Launch a start-up and fill the gaping hole which will be left by the fall of the former giant. ..."
"... Great post. Appreciate the insights the warning about what happens when bottom-up entrepreneurship loses out to top-down corporate dictums. ..."
"... The ability to actually consume shared content in an efficient and productive manner is still as broken as ever. They never addressed the issue in Buzz and still haven't with G+ despite people ranting at them for this functionality forever. ..."
"... Sounds like Google have stopped focusing on what problem they're solving and moving onto trying to influence consumer behaviour - always a much more difficult trick to pull off. Great article - well done for sharing in such a humble and ethical manner. Best of luck for the future. ..."
Whittaker, who joined Google in 2009 and left last month, described a corporate culture clearly
divided into two eras: "Before Google+," and "After."
"After" is pretty terrible, in his view.
Fortune 500) once gave its engineers the time and resources to be creative. That experimental
approach yielded several home-run hits like Chrome and Gmail. But Google fell behind in one key area:
competing with Facebook.
That turned into corporate priority No. 1 when Larry Page took over as the company's CEO. "Social"
became Google's battle cry, and anything that didn't support Google+ was viewed as a distraction.
"Suddenly, 20% meant half-assed," wrote Whittaker, referring to Google's famous policy of letting
employees spend a fifth of their time on projects other than their core job. "The trappings of entrepreneurship
Whittaker is not the first ex-Googler to express that line of criticism. Several high-level employees
have left after complaining that the "start-up spirit" of Google has been replaced by a more mature
but staid culture focused on the bottom line.
The interesting thing about Whittaker's take is that it was posted not on his personal blog, but
on an official blog of Microsoft (MSFT,
Fortune 500), Google's arch nemesis.
Spokesmen from Microsoft and Google declined to comment.
The battle between Microsoft and Google has heated up recently, as the Federal Trade Commission
and the European Commission begin to investigate Google for potential antitrust violations. Microsoft,
with its Bing search engine, has doubled its share of the search market since its June 2010 founding,
but has been unsuccessful at taking market share away from Google.
Despite his misgivings about what Google cast aside to make Google+ a reality, Whittaker thinks
that the social network was worth a shot. If it had worked -- if Google had dramatically changed
the social Web for the better -- it would have been a heroic gamble.
But it didn't. It's too early to write Google+ off, but the site is developing a reputation as
a ghost town. Google says
90 million people have signed up, but analysts and anecdotal evidence show that fairly few have
turned into heavy users.
"Google was the rich kid who, after having discovered he wasn't invited to the party, built
his own party in retaliation," Whittaker wrote. "The fact that no one came to Google's party became
the elephant in the room."
Isn't it inevitable that Google will end up like Microsoft. A brain-dead dinosaur employing
sycophantic middle class bores, who are simply working towards a safe haven of retirement. In
the end Google will be passed by. It's not a design-led innovator like Apple: it's a boring, grey
utilitarian, Soviet-like beast. Google Apps are cheap - but very nasty - Gmail is a terrible UI
- and great designers will never work for this anti-design/pro-algorithms empire.
I have to be honest with you. All of Google's products are TERRIBLE except for Gmail, and
even that is inferior to Outlook on the web now.
I used Google Apps for years, and Google just doesn't listen to customers. The engineers
that ran the company needed some corporate intervention. I just think Larry Page tried to turn
Google into a different company, rather than just focusing the great ideas into actually great
It seems the tech titans all have this pendulum thing going on. Google appears to be beginning
its swing in the "evil" direction. Apple seems like they're nearing the peak of "evil".
And Microsoft seems like they're back in the middle, trying to swing up to the "good"
side. So, if you look at it from that perspective, Microsoft is the obvious choice.
The stark truth in this insightful piece is the stuff you have not written..
Atleast you had a choice in leaving google. But we as users don't.
I have years of email in Gmail and docs and youtube etc. I can't switch.
"Creepy" is not the word that comes to mind when Ads for Sauna, online textbooks, etc
suddenly begin to track you, no matter which website you visit.
You know you have lost when this happens..
A fascinating insight, I think this reflects what a lot of people are seeing of Google from
the outside. It seems everybody but Page can see that Google+ is - whilst technically brilliant
- totally superfluous; your daughter is on the money. Also apparent from the outside is the desperation
that surrounds Google+ - Page needs to face facts, hold his hands up and walk away from Social
before they loose more staff like you, more users and all the magic that made Google so great.
Best of luck with your new career at Microsoft, I hope they foster and encourage you as the
Google of old did.
I understand Facebook is a threat to Google search but beating Facebook at their core competency
was doomed to fail. Just like Bing to Google. I was so disappointed in Google following Facebook's
evil ways of wanting to know everything about me I've stopped using their services one at a time,
starting with Android.
I am willing to pay for a lot of Google's free service to avoid advertising and harvesting
my private data.
You claim old Google empowered intelligent people to be innovative, with the belief their
creations would prove viable in the marketplace. You then go on to name Gmail and Chrome as the
accomplishments of that endeavour. Are you ****** serious?
Re-branding web based email is no more innovative than purchasing users for your social networking
site, like Facebook did. Same for Chrome, or would you argue Google acquiring VOIP companies to
then provide a mediocre service called Google Voice was also innovative?
When you arrived at Google it had already turned the internet into a giant spamsense depository
with the majority of screen real estate consumed by Google's ads. The downhill spiral did not
begin with Google+, but it may end there. On a lighter note, you are now free. Launch a start-up
and fill the gaping hole which will be left by the fall of the former giant.
Great post. Appreciate the insights the warning about what happens when bottom-up entrepreneurship
loses out to top-down corporate dictums.
Re: sharing, while I agree sharing isn't broken (heck, it worked when all we had was email),
it certainly needs more improvement. I can't stand Facebook. Hate the UI, don't care for the culture.
Twitter is too noisy and, also, the UI sucks. I'm one of those who actually thinks Google+ got
21st century BBSing right.
But if that's at the cost of everything else that made Google great, then it's a high price
BTW, you can say a lot of these same things about similar moves Microsoft has made over the
years, where the top brass decided they knew better, and screwed over developers and their investments
in mountains of code.
So, whether it happens in an HR context or a customer context, it still sucks as a practice.
I have made a concerted effort to move away from Google products after their recent March 1st
but I am making strides. Now I just need to dump my Android phone and I will be "creepy-free"
... for the time being.
The ability to actually consume shared content in an efficient and productive manner is
still as broken as ever. They never addressed the issue in Buzz and still haven't with G+ despite
people ranting at them for this functionality forever.
Funny that I should read your post today as I wrote the following comment on another persons
post a couple days back over Vic's recent interview where someone brought up the lack of a G+
"But if it were a social network.......then they are doing a pretty piss poor job of managing
the G+ interface and productive consumption of the stream. It would be nice if there was at least
an API so some 3rd party clients could assist with the filtering of the noise, but in reality
the issue is in the distribution of the stream. What really burns me is that it wouldn't be that
hard for them to create something like subscribable circles.
Unfortunately the reality is that they just don't care about whether the G+ stream is productive
for you at the moment as their primary concern isn't for you to productively share and discuss
your interests with the world, but to simply provide a way for you to tell Google what you like
so they can target you with advertising. As a result, the social part of Google+ really isn't
anything to shout about at the moment."
You've just confirmed my fear about how the company's focus has changed.
Thanks for this. I love many of the things Google has done. Summer of code, WebM, Google Earth,
free web fonts, etc.
I really was disappointed with Google+. I waited for an invite, and when I finally got one,
I started to use it. Then the google main search page started to include google+ notifications,
and the JS crashed my browser. Repeatedly. I had to clear my cache and delete my cookies just
so google wouln't know it was me and crash search with a notification. They fixed that issue quickly
but I did not understand why they would risk their flagship product (search) to promote google
plus. The search page really should be a simple form.
And google plus not allowing aliases? Do I want a company that is tracking everything I do
centrally to have my real name with that tracking? No. Hence I do not use google+ anymore, and
am switching to a different search engine and doing as little as I can with google.
I really don't like to dislike google because of all they have done that was cool, it is really
sad for me to see this happening.
Sounds like Google have stopped focusing on what problem they're solving and moving onto
trying to influence consumer behaviour - always a much more difficult trick to pull off. Great
article - well done for sharing in such a humble and ethical manner. Best of luck for the future.
jmacdonald 14 Mar 2012 4:07 AM great write-up
personally i think that google and facebook have misread the sociological trend against the
toleration of adverts, to such an extent that if indeed google are following the 'facebook know
everything and we do too' route, i suspect both companies may enter into issues as the advertising
CPMs fall and we're left with us wretched consumers who find ways around experiences that we don't
more on this stuff here: www.jonathanmacdonald.com
and here: www.jonathanmacdonald.com
for anyone that cares about that kinda angle
Google products are useful but probably they could have done more to improve the GUI, Standardization
and Usability. You can continue to earn business in short term enjoying your strategic advantage
as long as you don't have competitors. But as soon as you have just one competitor offering quality
products at same cost, your strategic advantage is gone and you have to compete through technology,
cost and quality. Google has been spreading its business wings to so many areas, probably with
the single point focus of short term business gains. Google should have learnt from Apple that
your every new offering should be better (in user's eye) than the previous one.
Thanks for the thoughtful blog post. Anybody who has objectively observed Google's behavior
and activity over the past few years has known that Google is going in this direction. I think
that people have to recognize that Google, while very technically smart, is an advertising company
first and foremost. Their motto says the right things about being good and organizing the world's
information, but we all know what Google is honestly interested in. The thing that Google is searching
for, more than almost anything else, is about getting more data about people so they can get people
better ads they'll be more likely to click on so they make more money. Right now, Google is facing
what might be considered an existential threat from Facebook because they are the company that
is best able to get social data right now. Facebook is getting so much social data that odds are
that they're long-term vision is to some point seriously competing in search using this social
data that they have. Between Facebook's huge user-base and momentum amongst businesses (just look
at how many Super Bowl ads featured Facebook pages being promoted for instance, look at the sheer
number of companies listed at www.buyfacebookfansreviews.com that do nothing other than promote
Facebook business pages, and look at the biggest factor out there - the fact that Facebook's IPO
is set to dominate 2012) I think that Facebook has the first legitimate shot of creating a combination
of quality results and user experience to actually challenge Google's dominance, and that's pretty
exciting to watch. The fact that Google is working on Google+ so much and making that such a centerpiece
of their efforts only goes to illustrate how critical this all is and how seriously they take
this challenge from Facebook into their core business. I think Facebook eventually enters the
search market and really disrupts it and it will be interesting to see how Google eventually acts
from a position of weakness.
they're just like any company that gets big. you end up losing visibility into things, believe
that you require the middle management layer to coordinate, then start getting into the battlegrounds
of turf wars because the people hired have hidden agendas and start bringing in their army of
yes men to take control as they attempt to climb up the corporate ladder. however, the large war
chest accumulated and the dominance in a market make such a company believe in their own invulnerability.
but that's when you're the most vulnerable because you get sloppy, forget to stop and see the
small things that slip through the cracks, forget your roots and lose your way and soul. humility
is really your only constant savior.
btw, more than likely Facebook will become the same way. And any other companies who grow big.
People tend to forget about the days they were struggling and start focusing on why they are so
great. You lose that hunger, that desire to do better because you don't have to worry about eating
pinches of salt on a few nibbles of rice. This is how civilization just is. If you want to move
beyond that, humans need to change this structure of massive growth -> vanity -> decadence
-> back to poverty.
This perceived shift of focus happens at every company when you go from being an idealistic
student to becoming an adult that has to pay the bills. When you reach such a large scale
with so much at stake, it is easy to stop innovating. It is easy to get a mix of people who don't
share the same vision when you have to hire on a lot of staff. Stock prices put an emphasis on
perpetual monetization. Let's keep in mind that Facebook only recently IPO'd and in the debate
for personal privacy, all the players are potentially "evil" and none of them are being held to
account by any public policy.
The shutdown of Google Labs was a sad day. Later the shutdown of Google Health I thought was
also sad as it was an example of a free service already in existence, akin to what Ontario has
wasted over $1 billion on for E-Health. Surely these closures are a sign that the intellectual
capital in the founders has been exhausted. They took their core competencies to the maximum level
quickly, which means all the organic growth in those areas is mostly already realized.
There needs to be some torch passing or greater empowerment in the lower ranks when things
like this happen. Take a look at RIM. Take a look at many other workplaces. It isn't an isolated
incident. There are constantly pressures between where you think your business should go, where
investors tell you to go, and where the industry itself is actually headed. This guy is apparently
very troubled that his name is attached to G+ development and he is trying to distance himself
from his own failure. Probably the absence of Google Labs puts a particular emphasis on the failure
of G+ as one of the only new service projects to be delivered recently.
After so much time any company realizes that new ideas can only really come with new people
or from outside influences. As an attempt to grow their business services via advertising, the
idea that they needed to compete with Facebook to continue to grow wasn't entirely wrong. It was
just poorly executed, too late, and at the expense of potentially focusing their efforts on doing
something else under Google Labs that would have been more known as from them (Android was an
acquisition, not organically grown internally). There is no revolution yet, because Facebook and
Google have not replaced any of each others services with a better alternative
The complaints in the final paragraph of the blog regarding privacy are all complaints about
how much Google wants to be Facebook. Thing is that Google+ just like all the aforementioned
services are opt-in services with a clear ToS declared when you do so, even if you already have
if not better than most other competing service providers. The only time it draws criticism is
when some changes have been made to say that if you use multiple services, they may have access
to the same pool of information internally. It's a contract and it was forced to be acknowledged
when it changed. When advertising does happen it is much more obvious to me that it is advertising
via a Google service, than when Facebook decides to tell me who likes what. Not to give either
the green light here; but the evolution is one of integrating your network into the suggestions,
and again, it isn't isolated to any one agency.
One way to raise and enforce objections to potential mishandling of information is to develop
of customer information. We are blind if we think Google+ and Facebook are the only businesses
using data in these ways. This blanket minimum requirement could be voluntarily adopted via 3rd
party certification, or it could be government enforced; but the point is that someone other than
the business itself would formulate it, and it must be openly available to debate and public scrutiny/revision.
It is a sort of "User License Agreement" for information about us. If James Whittaker left to
partake in something along these lines, it sure would make his blog entry more credible, unless
Microsoft is focused so much more greatly on innovation than the profit motive.
It is also important for customers and the general public not to get locked into any
kind of brand loyalty. One problem is Facebook is a closed proprietary system with no
way to forward or export the data contained within it to any comparable system. Google is a mish-mash
of some open and some closed systems. In order for us as customers to be able to voice our opinions
in a way that such service providers would hear, we must be provided alternatives and service
As an example of changing service providers, there has been an exodus of business customers
away from using Google Maps as they began charging money to businesses that want to use the data
to develop on top of it. I think that this is just the reality of a situation when you have operating
costs for a service that you need to recoup; but there is a royalty-free alternative like Open
Street Map (which Apple has recently ripped off by using Open Street Map data without attribution).
Google won't see the same meteoric growth ever again. It probably is a less fun place
for a social media development staffer to work at from 2010 to present, than it was from 2004
- 2010 (but I'm betting still preferable to FoxConn or anything anywhere near Balmer).
Linda R. Tindall :
Thank you for your honest comments Mr. Whittaker. And yes, Google is not like it was before..
It is Scary, Google may destroy anyone online business overnight!
Google penalize webmasters if they don't like a Website for any reason. They can put out anyone
they want out of business. How does Google judge a webmaster's?
Google's business isn't anymore the search engine. Google's business is selling and displaying
GOOGLE becomes now the Big Brother of the WWW. I think it is scary that Google has so much
power. Just by making changes, they can ruin people's lives.
As it turned out, sharing was not broken. Sharing was working fine and dandy, Google just wasn't
part of it. People were sharing all around us and seemed quite happy. A user exodus from Facebook
never materialized. I couldn't even get my own teenage daughter to look at Google+ twice, "social
isn't a product," she told me after I gave her a demo, "social is people and the people are on Facebook."
Google was the rich kid who, after having discovered he wasn't invited to the party, built his
own party in retaliation. The fact that no one came to Google's party became the elephant in the
"... Newspapers exist to process and assess the rival claims of experts politicians, governments, corporations, the professoriate, pollsters, authors, whistleblowers, filmmakers, and denizens of the blogosphere. When its own claims to authority are misplaced a spectacular example having been the Monday before the election, when newspapers were still expecting a Clinton victory the print press and its kith and kin correct themselves (the next day) and investigate the prior beliefs that led them to error. A free and competitive press resembles the other great self-correcting systems that have evolved over centuries democracy, markets, and science. ..."
"... And as for social media, the new highly-decentralized content producers, to the extent they are originators of new information, the claims made there are slowly becoming subject to the same checking and assessment routines as are claims advanced in other realms. (No, the Pope did not endorse Donald Trump.) As for intelligence services, in which the experts' job is to know more than is public, it is the newspapers that make them less secret. More than any other institution in democratic industrial societies, newspapers produce a provisional version of the truth. So the condition of newspapers should concern us all ..."
"... In What If the Newspaper Industry Made a Colossal Mistake? , in Politico , Jack Shafer speculated recently the newspaper companies had "wasted hundreds of millions of dollars" by building out web operations instead of investing in their print editions, "where the vast majority of their readers still reside and where the overwhelming majority of advertising and subscription revenue still come from." As perspicacious a press critic as is writing today, Shafer was reporting on an essay by a pair of University of Texas professors, H. Iris Chyi and Ori Tenenboim, in Journalism Practice . ..."
"... More serious has been the lack of thinking-out-loud about the future of those print editions. No one needs to be told that smart phones have replaced newspapers, radio, and television as the tip of the spear of news. It appears that Facebook and Twitter have supplanted cable television and radio talk shows as the dominant forum for political discussion. ..."
"... The immense prestige associated with newspapers arose from the fact that for centuries they were reliable money machines, thanks to their semi-monopoly on readers' attention. ..."
"... In a world in which the gas pump starts talking to you when you pick up the hose and video commercials are everywhere online, the virtues of print are many-sided, for readers and advertisers alike. In Why Print Still Rules , Shafer laid out the case for print's superiority as a medium "an amazingly sophisticated technology for showing you what's important, and showing you a lot of it." It's finite. It attracts a paying crowd, which is why advertisers are willing to pay more much more for space. ..."
"... The WSJ costs $525 a year for six days, including a first-rate weekend edition. The Times charges $980 a year for seven days a week, including a Sunday edition that contains much more content than most readers need. (Its ads bring in a ton of money.) That's why the WSJ decision to cut back to from four to two daily sections is significant: it acknowledges the reduced but still very powerful claim of print on consumers' ever-more stretched budget of time. It puts more pressure on the Times's luxury brand. ..."
Infrastructure, Economic Principals : Bridges, roads, airports, the electricity grid, pipelines,
food and fuel and water systems: all of these are underfunded to some degree. So are the myriad new
arrangements, from satellites and ocean buoys to emission scrubbers and ocean barriers, required
to keep abreast and cope with climate change. Which wheels will begin to get the grease in coming
months? We'll see.
At the moment I am even more interested in the well-being of social information systems Last week
The Wall Street Journal announced it would reduce its print edition from four sections to
two, bringing it into line with the Financial Times . Should that be an occasion for concern?
On the contrary, let me try to convince you that it is welcome news.
Although newspapers still carry crossword puzzles, comics, agony aunts, and churn out all manner
of fashion magazines, they are mainly in the business of producing provisionally reliable knowledge.
What's that? I have in mind propositions on which every honest and knowledgeable person can agree.
Not so much big judgement, such whether climate change is occurring or whether Vladimir Putin
is a despot, but rather ascertainable facts, beginning with what parties to various debates are saying
about themselves and each other and about their pasts. These are the foundations on which big judgements
A case in point: almost all of what the world knows about Donald Trump, that is, that we consider
that we really know, we owe to The New York Times , The Wall Street Journal
, The Washington Post , the Financial Times , and various newspaper-like organizations,
Bloomberg News, Politico , and the Guardian in particular. The Associated Press, Reuters
and the BBC contributed a little less; magazines still less; the rest of radio and television, hardly
anything at all, with the notable exception of Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly's lead off question in
the first presidential debate . Someone will prepare a list of the fifty or a hundred of the
best stories of the last year, I expect. I'll only mention a few memorable examples:
The Post's coverage of the Trump Foundation; the Times' many investigations,
including those of his tax strategies and his practices as a young landlord; a Politico
roundtable of five Trump biographers; the WSJ's pursuit of the George Washington bridge
closing, coverage that changed the course of the campaign; and the FT's continuing emphasis
on the foreign policy implications of the America election. The same thing could be said about
newspapers' coverage of Hillary Clinton.
Newspapers exist to process and assess the rival claims of experts politicians, governments,
corporations, the professoriate, pollsters, authors, whistleblowers, filmmakers, and denizens of
the blogosphere. When its own claims to authority are misplaced a spectacular example having been
the Monday before the election, when newspapers were still expecting a Clinton victory the print
press and its kith and kin correct themselves (the next day) and investigate the prior beliefs that
led them to error. A free and competitive press resembles the other great self-correcting systems
that have evolved over centuries democracy, markets, and science.
And as for social media, the new highly-decentralized content producers, to the extent they are
originators of new information, the claims made there are slowly becoming subject to the same checking
and assessment routines as are claims advanced in other realms. (No, the Pope did not endorse Donald
Trump.) As for intelligence services, in which the experts' job is to know more than is public, it
is the newspapers that make them less secret. More than any other institution in democratic industrial
societies, newspapers produce a provisional version of the truth. So the condition of newspapers
should concern us all.
What If the Newspaper Industry Made a Colossal Mistake? , in Politico , Jack Shafer speculated
recently the newspaper companies had "wasted hundreds of millions of dollars" by building out web
operations instead of investing in their print editions, "where the vast majority of their readers
still reside and where the overwhelming majority of advertising and subscription revenue still come
from." As perspicacious a press critic as is writing today, Shafer was reporting on an essay by a
pair of University of Texas professors, H. Iris Chyi and Ori Tenenboim, in Journalism Practice
Chyi and Tenenboim overstated their case, I think. Those dollars invested in web operations weren't
wasted; they had to be spent. Most newspapers, all but the WSJ , made the mistake of making
their content free on the Web for several years. Only gradually did they come round to the approach
the Journal had pioneered: a paywall, with some sort of a metering technology designed to
encourage online subscriptions.
More serious has been the lack of thinking-out-loud about the future of those print editions.
No one needs to be told that smart phones have replaced newspapers, radio, and television as the
tip of the spear of news. It appears that Facebook and Twitter have supplanted cable television and
radio talk shows as the dominant forum for political discussion. But newspapers haven't gone away;
indeed, by establishing beachheads for the content they produce on social media platforms, they have
become more influential than ever.
The immense prestige associated with newspapers arose from the fact that for centuries they were
reliable money machines, thanks to their semi-monopoly on readers' attention. It is no longer news
that the revenue model has turned upside down, Advertisers used to pay two thirds or more of the
cost of publishing a successful newspaper; today it is more like a third, if that. Attention was
slowly eroded away by radio, broadcast and pay television, until the invention of search-based advertising
in 2002 turned decline into a seeming rout. The basic business model is still the same, as Tim Wu
The Attention Merchants; The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads (Knopf, 2016): "free diversion
in exchange for a moment of your consideration, sold in turn to the highest-bidding advertiser."
It's the technology that has changed.
In a world in which the gas pump starts talking to you when you pick up the hose and video commercials
are everywhere online, the virtues of print are many-sided, for readers and advertisers alike. In
Why Print Still Rules , Shafer laid out the case for print's superiority as a medium "an amazingly
sophisticated technology for showing you what's important, and showing you a lot of it." It's finite.
It attracts a paying crowd, which is why advertisers are willing to pay more much more for space.
The fancy newspapers are in good shape to refurbish their printed editions. Three of the four
have new owners with deep pockets. Rupert Murdoch, a maverick Australian, now a US citizen, bought
the WSJ in 2007; Amazon's Jeff Bezos, thought to be the second richest American, after Bill
Gates, bought the WPost in 2013; the Japanese newspaper group around Nikkei bought
the FT in 2015. The NYT is the shakiest of the four, but there seems little doubt that
the cousins of the Sulzberger/Ochs clan will find a suitable partner, the oft-expressed enmity of
President-elect Trump notwithstanding.
Pricing, meanwhile, is all over the map, as is the appropriate size of the paper edition itself.
The FT delivers two sections of tightly-written no-jump news over five days and a great weekend
edition for $406 a year. The WSJ costs $525 a year for six days, including a first-rate weekend
edition. The Times charges $980 a year for seven days a week, including a Sunday edition that
contains much more content than most readers need. (Its ads bring in a ton of money.) That's why
the WSJ decision to cut back to from four to two daily sections is significant: it acknowledges
the reduced but still very powerful claim of print on consumers' ever-more stretched budget of time.
It puts more pressure on the Times's luxury brand.
It's the regional papers that worry me, as much for their roles as distributors of news as producers
of it. When the Times , WSJ and FT are placed on the stoop in the morning, my
old paper, The Boston Globe , is not among them. At around $770 a year, it simply costs too
much, especially considering the meager local content it provides. Assume that the "right" price
for a year of a fancy paper today is somewhere between the FT and the WSJ , at around
$500 a year. At around half as much, or even $300, a print edition of the Globe would be highly
attractive. My hunch is that circulation would again begin to increase, and, in the process, shore
up the metropolitan area's home-delivery network. Instead I buy digital versions of the Globe
(for $208) and the Post (for $149). Want to know what a year of the print Post costs?
So does the copy editor. But I stopped looking after interrogating the web page for five minutes.
Newspapers are notorious for gulling their subscribers. Not even the FT is straightforward
Like the other leading papers the Chicago Tribune , Los Angeles Times , Philadelphia
Inquirer , and Baltimore Sun the Globe was sold for a song to a non-newspaper
owner in the course of the panic that followed the advent of search advertising in 2002. These publishers
no longer seem to see themselves as part of an industry that was quite tight-knit before the fall.
That's another disadvantage with which the big national dailies must cope. For many years, newspaperfolk
considered that their businesses were mostly exempt from the laws of supply and demand. Price cuts
play a big part in the lore of its past. Today, the future of the industry depends on the recognition
that price/performance is everything.
"... The days of old Google hiring smart people and empowering them to invent the future was gone. The new Google knew beyond doubt what the future should look like. Employees had gotten it wrong and corporate intervention would set it right again. ..."
"... Had Google been right, the effort would have been heroic and clearly many of us wanted to be part of that outcome. I bought into it. I worked on Google+ as a development director and shipped a bunch of code. But the world never changed; sharing never changed. It's arguable that we made Facebook better, but all I had to show for it was higher review scores. ..."
It wasn't an easy decision to leave Google. During my time there I became fairly passionate about
the company. I keynoted four Google Developer Day events, two Google Test Automation Conferences
and was a prolific contributor to the Google testing blog. Recruiters often asked me to help sell
high priority candidates on the company. No one had to ask me twice to promote Google and no one
was more surprised than me when I could no longer do so. In fact, my last three months working for
Google was a whirlwind of desperation, trying in vain to get my passion back.
The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate.
The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus.
Technically I suppose Google has always been an advertising company,
but for the better part of the last three years, it didn't feel like one. Google was
an ad company only in the sense that a good TV show is an ad company: having great content attracts
Under Eric Schmidt ads were always in the background. Google was run like an innovation factory,
empowering employees to be entrepreneurial through founder's awards, peer bonuses and 20% time. Our
advertising revenue gave us the headroom to think, innovate and create. Forums like App Engine, Google
Labs and open source served as staging grounds for our inventions. The fact that all this was paid
for by a cash machine stuffed full of advertising loot was lost on most of us. Maybe the engineers
who actually worked on ads felt it, but the rest of us were convinced that Google was a technology
company first and foremost; a company that hired smart people and placed a big bet on their ability
From this innovation machine came strategically important products like Gmail and Chrome, products
that were the result of entrepreneurship at the lowest levels of the company. Of course, such runaway
innovative spirit creates some duds, and Google has had their share of those, but Google has always
known how to fail fast and learn from it.
In such an environment you don't have to be part of some executive's inner circle to succeed.
You don't have to get lucky and land on a sexy project to have a great career. Anyone with ideas
or the skills to contribute could get involved. I had any number of opportunities to leave Google
during this period, but it was hard to imagine a better place to work.
But that was then, as the saying goes, and this is now.
It turns out that there was one place where the Google innovation machine faltered and that one
place mattered a lot: competing with Facebook. Informal efforts produced a couple of antisocial dogs
in Wave and Buzz. Orkut never caught on outside Brazil. Like the proverbial hare confident enough
in its lead to risk a brief nap, Google awoke from its social dreaming to find its front runner status
in ads threatened.
Google could still put ads in front of more people than Facebook, but Facebook knows so much more
about those people. Advertisers and publishers cherish this kind of personal information, so much
so that they are willing to put the Facebook brand before their own.
Exhibit A: www.facebook.com/nike,
a company with the power and clout of Nike putting their own brand after Facebook's? No company
has ever done that for Google and Google took it personally.
Larry Page himself assumed command to right this wrong. Social became
state-owned, a corporate mandate called Google+. It was an ominous name invoking the
feeling that Google alone wasn't enough. Search had to be social. Android had to be social. You Tube,
once joyous in their independence, had to be well, you get the point. Even worse was that innovation
had to be social. Ideas that failed to put Google+ at the center of the
universe were a distraction.
Suddenly, 20% meant half-assed. Google Labs was shut down. App Engine
fees were raised. APIs that had been free for years were deprecated or provided for
a fee. As the trappings of entrepreneurship were dismantled, derisive talk of the "old Google" and
its feeble attempts at competing with Facebook surfaced to justify a "new Google" that promised "more
wood behind fewer arrows."
The days of old Google hiring smart people and empowering them to invent the future was
gone. The new Google knew beyond doubt what the future should look like. Employees had gotten
it wrong and corporate intervention would set it right again.
Officially, Google declared that "sharing is broken on the web" and nothing but the full force
of our collective minds around Google+ could fix it. You have to admire a company willing to sacrifice
sacred cows and rally its talent behind a threat to its business.
Had Google been right, the effort
would have been heroic and clearly many of us wanted to be part of that outcome. I bought into it.
I worked on Google+ as a development director and shipped a bunch of code. But the world never changed;
sharing never changed. It's arguable that we made Facebook better, but all I had to show for it was
higher review scores.
BitTorrent is one of the most popular mechanisms for peer-to-peer (P2P) file
sharing. For the most part BitTorrent client applications have been standalone tools,
but now, thanks to open source startup AllPeers, Firefox users can take advantage
of BitTorrent inside of their browsers.
"With AllPeers you just click on a link for a torrent and it's just like downloading
a normal file; you can download it right in the browser," Matthew Gertner, Allpeer
. "With a feature called Social BitTorrent, which
is totally unique to AllPeers, when I start to download files from a Torrent, I
can use the same drag and share feature to share with others. It's the path of least
resistance for sharing files."
AllPeers has been providing P2P file sharing for over two years already, though
until now the company was limited to its own private network for peers. With the
BitTorrent capability, the technology has now expanded the number of files available
to its users.
The BitTorrent capabilities are not, however, as full or complete as many standalone
BitTorrent clients. AllPeers does not allow its users to create their own torrent
trackers, instead making them rely on existing torrent tracker files.
Instead of one file download, the BitTorrent protocol separates the file into
multiple chunks, which are then shared and downloaded via multiple sources. The
system is also set up so that while users are downloading a file, they are sharing
it at the same time by uploading chunks they've already downloaded to others in
the torrent swarm. In order to share the files through a torrent, a "tracker" file
The reason AllPeers doesn't allow for the torrent tracker creation, Gertner said,
has to do with both legal and technical reasons. Essentially AllPeers is afraid
of the potential legal risk it might be exposed to if one of its users created a
torrent tracker for a file they were not legally allowed to share.
It's the same reason AllPeers doesn't include a torrent search capability.
"We didn't want that [search], either, because they might not be authorized and
we didn't want to be a source for that," Gertner said.
That being the case, AllPeers users do have their own friend networks that Gertner
expects will also become discovery networks for torrents. It is the social aspect
that Gertner expects will set AllPeers apart from its peers.
Among those peers is the Opera browser which
has integrated BitTorrent
for two years. Gertner noted that, while the AllPeers client is free
like Opera is, it's open source, which Opera is not.
He added that when they began development of AllPeers, they had no contact with
Mozilla whatsoever. That's turned into a partnership of sorts, that has AllPeers
distributing a customized version of Firefox that includes the AllPeers extension
that users can load themselves.
"We're doing some new things that have a potentially positive effect on Firefox's
market share," Gertner said. "As AllPeers grows its user base, people will want
their friends to use Firefox so they can connect."
Though AllPeers is all about Mozilla, it does recognize the fact there are other
browsers out there, namely Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
"We still see a lot of potential to grow in the Firefox community," Gertner said.
"But I'm sure one day we'll have an IE version." Gertner said he even knows how
he would build one.
An AllPeers for IE extension would be based on Mozilla's XULrunner, which is
a standalone version of the Mozilla Framework, which could then interface with IE.
Though AllPeers is open source it isn't run as a non-profit. The goal is to make
money eventually. "Right now we're venture financed," Gertner said. "The goal is
to build the business model after we build our user base. We're not immediately
trying to monetize."
"This book was a pleasurable, gripping, interesting read...It is academically
focused with lots of bibliographic notes and references, yet it is clearly written
for the general reader too. This skills of a journalist shine through: collect,
curate and create a clearly understandable text from a seething mass of ideas."
(Darren Ingram Darren Ingram Media )
General readers, media and publishing professionals, journalism students
"[A] hard-hitting examination of the future of news and reporting - and a
'must' for social issues and journalism collections alike." (California Bookwatch,
The Journalism Shelf Midwest Book Review )
"The book is essential reading for many journalists today who must prepare
themselves for the digital dilemmas of tomorrow." (Geoff Ward All Voices
"The book is optimistic without being sentimental, thought-provoking without
being pretentious and realistic without being harsh, which makes it comforting
for someone with a keen interest in seeing journalism prevail and hopefully
eye-opening for those who wish to better understand it." (Madeleine Maccar
Chicago Center for Literature and Photography )
"Commendably well written and annotated, this volume will be valuable to
anyone interested in journalism, mass communication, or digital media. Summing
up : Highly recommended." (R.A. Logan CHOICE )
"Brock's writing is crisp, concise, and clear and his research extensive.
The book is impeccably edited and presented in a very reader-friendly fashion...As
reference material, Out of Print is an essential addition to any media-related
collection. To members of the journalism field who've endured years of angst
over the future of their profession, it's so much more. Brock's analysis is
too well-reasoned and supported to be easily dismissed as blind optimism, lighting
a beacon of hope to those interested in seeing journalism right itself from
its current state of upheaval." (Rich Rezler ForeWord Reviews )
"[A]rgues that the experimentation and inventiveness of the new news media
are cause for greater optimism than the red ink on the balance sheets of media
companies.Seeking to reassure the doom-mongers, he delves back into the history
of journalism and demonstrates the shaky beginnings and rapid innovation that
powered news journalism for three centuries before the maturation and slow decline
of the business in the 20th century. His prιcis of the history is fascinating
and elegantly done." (Emily Bell New Statesman )
"A brief survey of journalism's history and evolution leads toward modern
transformations that are forcing people to rethink how journalism can be accomplished,
both ethically and profitably... Out of Print is a 'must-read' for anyone
in today's journalism or periodical industries, and is worthy of the highest
recommendation for public or college library Media Studies shelves." (Library
Bookwatch, The Journalism Shelf Midwest Book Review )
"[P]rovides an insightful and detailed analysis of journalism through history
and reviews the effects of the digital age on journalism's current state, as
well as its potential future... By working through the history of journalism
starting from its uncertain beginnings with the development of the postal service
in the 15th century, Brock emphasizes the fact that journalism has never been
fixed, but has continued to develop and evolve in a fluid manner and has undergone
radical periods of change before the development of the internet in the 1990s...
Although arguably an overly positive analysis of journalism today, Brock's stance
is refreshing and the book is a pleasure to read."
( WAN-IFRA )
"A good overview of the problems--and some of the opportunities--facing those
in the world of media. While the book paints a picture of where the newspaper
industry has gone wrong, which is a sad story that tends to dominate the media
(surprise!), it also makes the oft-overlooked point that print media is just
one stage in the evolution of journalism. Therefore, it's possible to come away
from this book, which is ostensibly about the death of a great industry, feeling
upbeat and even excited about the possibilities for the next stage of media's
evolution. What exactly that will be is uncertain, but it's clear--from the
book and just by surveying the current media landscape--that it will be a lot
less centralized, more democratic and, likely, much less profitable for those
in charge than in print media's heyday. Which is probably a good thing." (Phil
"[Brock's] particularly good at analyzing the changes which have taken place,
such as digital technology, and showing that they should force a complete rethink
of journalism rather than attempts to adapt old ways to fit new technology.
The chapter on 'Rethinking Journalism Again' is a thought-provoking look at
what is changing and how it should be regarded both within the industry and
as a consumer." (Sue Magee The Bookbag )
"[A] comprehensive look at the history of the news. getAbstract recommends
[Brock's] historical overview to those in and out the news business who believe
that a free society prospers when journalism does." (getAbstract Inc.
" Out of Print does what 'think books' about contemporary journalism
do best: It addresses a larger public who might not know about the problems
facing journalism but also offers an academic discussion rooted in a conversation
about the past, present, and future of journalism. Brock's work makes a significant
contribution in the field." (Nikki Usher International Journal of Communication
"[A]n unsentimental look at the fall of the 'golden age' of newspapers as
much as it is an optimistic take on the future of the news business...Brock's
frank, level headed take on business models, ethics, and other tenets of journalism
is approachable and refreshing." (Karen Fratti Media Bistro, 10,000 Words
"Its greatest virtue, by far, is in seeing the changes in journalism throughout
history as a ceaseless process. Brock refuses to fall into the trap of technological
determinism. He accepts that technological developments lead to change but rightly
understands that, even between the inventions which have influenced how news
is gathered and transmitted, journalism has always been in a state of flux."
(Roy Greenslade The Guardian )
"All journalists and certainly journalism students should read this book.
And bloggers and technologists interested in the media biz should, too." (Hope
Leman Critical Margins )
Top Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars
Lessons in digital disruption By
John Gibbs on September 5, 2013 Format: Kindle Edition Many busy people
take journalism for granted, but the disruption of journalism should be a matter
of urgent concern to democratic societies because the free flow, integrity and
independence of journalism is essential to citizens who vote, according to journalism
professor George Brock in this book. The book aims to explain why the news media
is undergoing radical alteration, and what the result ought to be and might
The book provides an entertaining overview of the history of journalism,
from its messy and opinionated beginnings featuring sensational and unreliable
news stories through to the Leveson Inquiry in 2011 and 2012 into the culture,
practices and ethics of the British press following the News International phone
hacking scandal. In a 2000-page final report, Justice Leveson made a range of
recommendations which would improve the protection of privacy in the UK and
restrain the excesses of the press.
However, it is not the Leveson recommendations which provide the greatest
threat to the press; rather, it is the digital disruption brought about by the
Internet. Shrinking subscriber bases and advertising revenue have resulted in
the crumbing of the established business model. Experiments have been made with
paywalls and meters, but so far no-one has established a clearly viable new
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Report abuse 5.0 out of 5 stars
Journalism: Past, Present and Future By
HALL OF FAME on December 26, 2013 Format: Paperback This is a book which
in a sense is written in the hope of revitalizing Journalism. It provides a
history of the business and tries to contend with the general pessimism which
has come to the profession in recent years with the contracting of Print Media
and the ascension of Digita formats of expression. It points out that the centralized
powerful Print world many think of as the only face of Journalism is a relatively
recent development in its history. The Golden Era of Journalism which began
in the 1890's Brock suggests had already begun to fade somewhat in the fifties
of the twentieth century. Brock tells the story of the Digital Transformation
the drastic loss in Advertising revenues , the contraction in personnel and
outlets which came to the Print world once the Computer began taking over. He
indicates however that News as we think of it was not necessarily the primary
business of that grab-bag creation the Newspaper. All in all he provides in
this age of Abundance of Information a great deal of information and clear thought
about Jounalism its idea and ideals. He suggests that much of its future is
open to experimentation and that new developments will come which will help
strengthen the free flow of ideas, the objective reporting of reality, the investigating
of and keeping honest government and business officials. This is a book for
the General Reader but it should be of course of first interest to all who practice
and would practice the trade of Journalism.
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Clear-Eyed Dissection of the Contemporary Newspaper Industry (with a British
Dr. Laurence Raw on January 17, 2014 Format: Paperback OUT OF PRINT takes
a long, hard look at the British newspaper industry - its past, present and
future. The author, a former journalist with many years of experience - for
example, at the London SUNDAY TIMES - looks at the way in which newspapers acquired
a position of considerable primacy in British cultures from the mid-eighteenth
to the late twentieth centuries, a position that is now under threat through
digitization. Brock is well aware of how the internet has changed the ways in
which readers consume news - looking for outlets other than that of the newspapers
and exercising freedom of choice, as well as making the news themselves through
blogs. On the other hand, he believes that there is a future for the printed
newspaper - perhaps the circulation figures will not be as substantial as they
were in the past, but Brock understands how many readers prefer paper to the
screen, even if they own an IPad or a smartphone. Ultimately OUT OF PRINT calls
for the newspaper industry to become more flexible, to reject its antediluvian
practices of the past, both in terms of news-gathering and distribution, and
adapt itself to changing practices. A combination of the tried and tested, the
reliable and the trustworthy, allied to new, innovative methods of delivering
the news, both in print and online, seems like the formula for future success.
Perhaps the book is a little too parochial in focus (there is too much on the
Leverson inquiry, and not enough on developments within the American newspaper
industry), but it is nonetheless well written and highly accessible.
FireFury03 writes: The BBC is
reporting that the
American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) ran out of spare IP addresses yesterday. "Companies
in North America should now accelerate their move to the latest version of the net's addressing
system. Now Africa is the only region with any significant blocks of the older version 4 internet
addresses available." A British networking company that supplies schools has done an analysis
on how concerned IT managers should
be. This comes almost exactly 3 years after Europe ran out.
When a National Security Agency contractor revealed top-secret details this month on the government's
collection of Americans' phone and Internet records, one select group of intelligence veterans
breathed a sigh of relief.
Thomas Drake, William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe belong to a select fraternity: the NSA officials
who paved the way.
For years, the three whistle-blowers had told anyone who would listen that the NSA collects
huge swaths of communications data from U.S. citizens. They had spent decades in the top ranks
of the agency, designing and managing the very data-collection systems they say have been turned
against Americans. When they became convinced that fundamental constitutional rights were being
violated, they complained first to their superiors, then to federal investigators, congressional
oversight committees and, finally, to the news media.
To the intelligence community, the trio are villains who compromised what the government classifies
as some of its most secret, crucial and successful initiatives. They have been investigated as
criminals and forced to give up careers, reputations and friendships built over a lifetime.
Today, they feel vindicated.
He's an American who has been exposed to some incredible information regarding the deepest
secrets of the United States government. And we are seeing the initial outlines and contours
of a very systemic, very broad, a Leviathan surveillance state and much of it is in violation
of the fundamental basis for our own country — in fact, the very reason we even had our own
American Revolution. And the Fourth Amendment for all intents and purposes was revoked after
Q: What did you learn from the document — the Verizon warrant issued by the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Court — that Snowden leaked?
It's an extraordinary order. I mean, it's the first time we've publicly seen an actual,
secret, surveillance-court order. I don't really want to call it "foreign intelligence" (court)
anymore, because I think it's just become a surveillance court, OK? And we are all foreigners
now. By virtue of that order, every single phone record that Verizon has is turned over each
and every day to NSA.
There is no probable cause. There is no indication of any kind of counterterrorism investigation
or operation. It's simply: "Give us the data." ...
There's really two other factors here in the order that you could get at. One is that the
FBI requesting the data. And two, the order directs Verizon to pass all that data to NSA, not
But when it comes to these data, the massive data information collecting on U.S. citizens
and everything in the world they can, I guess the real problem comes with trust. That's really
the issue. The government is asking for us to trust them.
It's not just the trust that you have to have in the government. It's the trust you have
to have in the government employees, (that) they won't go in the database — they can see if
their wife is cheating with the neighbor or something like that. You have to have all the trust
of all the contractors who are parts of a contracting company who are looking at maybe other
competitive bids or other competitors outside their — in their same area of business. And they
might want to use that data for industrial intelligence gathering and use that against other
companies in other countries even. So they can even go into a base and do some industrial espionage.
So there is a lot of trust all around and the government, most importantly, the government
has no way to check anything that those people are doing.
At the outset of Glenn Greenwald's communications with the "anonymous leaker" later identified
as 29-year-old former NSA employee
Edward Snowden, Greenwald
– a journalist, blogger and former lawyer – and the film-maker Laura Poitras, with whom he is collaborating,
are told to use a PGP ("pretty good
privacy") encryption package.
Only then will materials be sent to him since, as Snowden puts it, encryption is "not just for spies
and philanderers". Eventually Greenwald receives word that a Federal Express package has been sent
and will arrive in a couple of days. He doesn't know what it will contain – a computer program or
the secret and incriminating US government documents themselves – but nothing comes on the scheduled
day of delivery. FedEx says that the package is being held in customs for "reasons unknown". Ten
days later it is finally delivered. "I tore open the envelope and found two USB thumb drives" and
instructions for using the programs, Greenwald writes.
His account reminded me of the time, nearly a decade ago, when I was researching Britain's road
to war in Iraq, and went through a similar experience. I was waiting for an overnight FedEx envelope
to reach me in New York, sent from my London chambers; it contained materials that might relate to
deliberations between George Bush and Tony Blair (materials of the kind that seem to be holding up
the Chilcot inquiry).
A day passed, then another, then two more. Eventually, I was told I could pick up the envelope at
a FedEx office, but warned that it had been tampered with, which turned out to something of an understatement:
there was no envelope for me to tear open, as the tearing had already occurred and all the contents
had been removed. FedEx offered no explanation.
As Greenwald notes, experiences such as this, which signal that you may be being watched, can
have a chilling effect, but you just find other ways to carry on. FedEx (and its like) are avoided,
and steps are taken to make sure that anything significant or sensitive is communicated by other
means. In any event, and no doubt like many others, I proceed on the basis that all my communications
– personal and professional – are capable of being monitored by numerous governments, including my
own. Whether they are is another matter, as is the question of what happens with material obtained
by such surveillance – a point that this book touches on but never really addresses. Greenwald's
argument is that it's not so much what happens with the material that matters, but the mere fact
of its being gathered. Even so, his point is a powerful one.
This is the great importance of the astonishing revelations made by Snowden, as facilitated by
Greenwald and Poitras, with help from various news media, including the Guardian. Not only does it
confirm what many have suspected – that surveillance is happening – but it also makes clear that
it's happening on an almost unimaginably vast scale. One might have expected a certain targeting
of individuals and groups, but we now know that data is hovered up indiscriminately. We have learned
that over the last decade the NSA has collected records on every phone call made by every American
(it gathers the who, what and when of the calls, known as metadata, but not the content), as well
as email data. We have learned that this happens with the cooperation of the private sector, with
all that implies for their future as consorts in global surveillance. We have learned, too, that
the NSA reviews the contents of the emails and internet communications of people outside the US,
and has tapped the phones of foreign leaders (such
as German chancellor Angel Merkel), and that it works with foreign intelligence services (including
Britain's GCHQ), so as to be able to get around domestic legal difficulties. Our suspicions have
been confirmed that the use of global surveillance is not limited to the "war on terror", but is
marshalled towards the diplomatic and even economic advantage of the US, a point Greenwald teases
out using the PowerPoint materials relied on by the agencies themselves. Such actions have been made
possible thanks to creative and dodgy interpretations of legislation (not least the Patriot Act implemented
just after 9/11). These activities began under President Bush, and they have been taken forward by
President Obama. It would be a generous understatement to refer to British "cooperation" in these
matters, although Greenwald's intended audience seems to be mostly in the US, and he goes light on
the British until it comes to the treatment of his partner, David Miranda, who was detained in the
UK under anti-terror legislation.
When the revelations first came out, in the summer of 2013, Snowden explained that he "had the
capability without any warrant to search for, seize, and read your communications". That meant "anyone's
communications at any time", he added, justifying the public disclosure on the grounds that this
"power to change people's fates" was "a serious violation of the law". Snowden's actions, and the
claims he has made, have catalysed an important debate in the US, within Congress (where views have
not necessarily followed party lines) and among academics and commentators. Views are polarised among
reasonable individuals, such as
New Yorker legal writer Jeff Toobin ("no proof of any systematic, deliberate violations of law"),
New York Review of Books's David Cole ("secret and legally dubious activities at home and abroad"),
and in the US federal courts. In Britain, by contrast, the debate has been more limited, with most
newspapers avoiding serious engagement and leaving the Guardian to address
the detail, scale and significance
of the revelations. Media enterprises that one might have expected to rail at the powers of Big
Government have remained conspicuously restrained – behaviour that is likely, over the long term,
to increase the power of the surveillance state over that of the individual.
the arrival of secret courts in Britain, drawing on the experience of the US, it feels as if
we may be at a tipping point. Such reluctance on the part of our fourth estate has given the UK parliament
a relatively free rein, leaving the Intelligence and Security Committee to plod along, a somewhat
pitiful contrast to its US counterparts.
The big issue at stake here is privacy, and the relationship between the individual and the state,
and it goes far beyond issues of legality (although Snowden's fear of arrest, and perhaps also Greenwald's,
seems rather real). It is in the nature of government that information will be collected, and that
some of it should remain confidential. "Privacy is a core condition of being a free person," Greenwald
rightly proclaims, allowing us a realm "where we can act, think, speak, write, experiment and choose
how to be away from the judgmental eyes of others".
Snowden's revelations challenge us to reflect on the ideal balance between the power of the state
to know and the right of the individual to go about her or his business unencumbered, and this in
turn raises fundamental questions about the power of the media, on which Greenwald has strong views,
usually (but not always) fairly articulated. He makes the case for Snowden, and it's a compelling
one. One concern with WikiLeaks
acting independently was the apparently random nature of its disclosures, without any obvious filtering
on the basis of public interest or the possible exposure to risk of certain individuals. What is
striking about this story, and the complex interplay between Snowden, Greenwald, Poitras and the
Guardian, is that the approach was different, as the justification for the leaks seems to have been
at the forefront of all their minds. In his recent book
Secrets and Leaks Rahul Sagar identified a set of necessary conditions for leaks. Is
there clear evidence of abuse of authority? Will the release threaten public safety? Is the scale
of the release limited? Many people, though not all, see these as having been met in the Snowden
Britain needs a proper debate about the power of the state to collect information of the kind
that Snowden has told us about, including its purpose and limits. The technological revolution of
the past two decades has left UK law stranded, with parliament seemingly unable (and perhaps unwilling)
to get a proper grip on the legal framework that is needed to restrain our political governors and
the intelligence services, not least in their dance with the US. "The greatest threat is that we
shall become like those who seek to destroy us", the legendary US diplomat George Kennan warned in
1947. In response, revelations can be made, Greenwald's book published, and a
Pulitzer prize awarded. Long may it go on.
• Philippe Sands QC is professor of law at University College London. To order No Place to
Hide for £15 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846 or go to
No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the Surveillance State
Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian have been the only source for this information in the UK,
which is a disgusting state is affairs. The timidity of our media is striking, embarrassing and
Information needs to be collected by security agencies within reason. Indiscriminate harvesting
is information corrupts democracy indescribably.
Incumbent powers can, and will, use private information to quell legitimate protest and debate,
and protect their own interests at the expense of justice for their own citizens, and the innocent
citizens of foreign countries. They will use it to bribe public servants and corrupt democracy.
Innocent information can still be used against you. It is a failure of intellect and imagination
to doubt this, and proclaim the old, untrue mantra, "nothing to hide, nothing to fear".
This cannot be disputed, and so those who continue to defend the actions of our governments
are either blind, ignorant or working in tandem.
Thank you Ed Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian.
Keep this story alive. It's almost the only one that matters.
mirageseekr, 23 May 2014 11:45am
While I agree that personal privacy is important and needed I think the bigger concern is
what happens to democracy when people in authority can be blackmailed. The important
thing about Snowden was that he confirmed what Tice and Binney have been saying all along and
just lacked the actual evidence.
What I see with some of the rulings from the courts and laws from congress is puppets on
a string. They know their argument fails to hold water and yet the feverishly stand by and
defend it. The only reasonable answer for that is someone has the goods on them and is using it,
just as Russ Tice has been saying for years. So the major question and one I hope Snowden and
Greenwald have the answer to is, who is the puppet master?
Our societies have only the charade of democracy. Now the proverbial curtain has been pulled
back and we must look to see the truth. Tice has said he saw the orders for surveillance of Obama
and Supreme court justices as well as top brass. So who is it exactly that this very expensive
system paid for by our tax dollars is used for. We know the "terrorism" is a lie or possibly a
distraction for workers they may worry about having a conscious. They claim it is not for industrial
espionage, but I am willing to bet some people have made lots of money from having access to information
that was stolen. To me the tin foil hat club had it right all along. The people calling the shots
are the Council on Foreign Relations, The Trilateral Commission, and Bilderbergs. And if that
is true then we have a few global elite of un-elected people determining economies, wars, policy
for us all and doing it in violation of sovereignty laws. I wish The Guardian would report more
on the military state the USA has become, daily the police beat and kill people here. The DHS
has been loading up on ammunition that is not used for target ranges and is against the Geneva
convention, the TSA, just ordered weapons and ammunition. The State Department just got a few
tons of explosives even the post office has a SWAT team. We have allowed them to build a standing
army within our country in direct violation of our constitution. The FEMA camps are up and running
and NDAA ensures you can be quietly taken away in the night with absolutely no rights and no charges
and even gives them the right to kill Americans. This is not a partisan issue, the bill passed
84-15. So how much more will it take for Americans to realize that the only difference between
the US right now and Nazi Germany is that they haven't started loading the trains yet. The US
also learned from the Germans mistakes, they will most likely not go house to house with weapons
at first. It will be some false flag to make the population willingly go. Maybe it will be like
the drills they have had (one in Denver) where they took the schoolchildren to the football arena
for a FEMA/DHS "drill" except they forgot to make any mention to the parents about it. The puppet
masters need to be exposed now, there is not much more time to wait to see how this is going to
MiltonWiltmellow, 23 May 2014 11:48am
Snowden's revelations challenge us to reflect on the ideal balance between the power of the
state to know and the right of the individual to go about her or his business unencumbered, and
this in turn raises fundamental questions about the power of the media, on which Greenwald has
strong views, usually (but not always) fairly articulated.
These sorts of understatements represent a sort of passive acceptance. (e.g., "Let's debate
about the tigers dragging our children to the jungle where it devours them. Tiger's have legitimate
needs too. Maybe if we stake goats, the tigers will devour the goats instead of our children ...
The entire relationship between State and individual changes when the State takes it upon
itself to monitor the everyday activities of its citizens.
This isn't an academic question which august authorities like yourself can debate among themselves
for the next ten or twenty years.
This is a fucking tiger in the nursery.
Either the citizen has basic human rights (the right to freely interact with others) or the
citizen turns into a subject -- a potential threat to State security and thus a suspect.
The question isn't "how much secret surveillance should be allowed" but rather "how can this
secret surveillance be stopped?
AhBrightWings -> MiltonWiltmellow, 23 May 2014 12:41pm
Brilliant Milton. Couldn't agree more, and love your metaphor. Just because it's crouched under
the dust-ruffle doesn't mean it isn't there. If you've watched footage of tigers hunting, they
often freeze for long periods of time to lull their prey into a fall sense of well-being.
As you said so well: This is a fucking tiger in the nursery.
LostintheUSMiltonWiltmellow, 23 May 2014 1:26pm
And it is not just about reading our emails, etc. Or listening into phone calls. I mentioned
an obscure book to my husband (in the same room) that has been out of print for 34 years one day
while working on my computer and a short while later there was an ad for that book that popped
up on gmail.
Think about that.
And NONE of this is about "protecting" us. The Boston Marathon bombers were all over the radar
for their previous activities and the NSA was paying them no mind. This web is to protect the
oligarchy from us peasants. We are living in 17th century France...the aristocracy pay no
taxes and we are being taxed and worked to death.
Levi Genes -> LostintheUS, 24 May 2014 11:44am
The Boston Marathon bombers were all over the radar for their previous activities and the
NSA was paying them no mind. This web is to protect the oligarchy from us peasants.
It's much more violently proactive than simple 'protections' from potential opposition.
The reason they appear now on the 'radar' is because the so-called Boston 'bombers' were deeply
run by the FBI for the same nefarious reasons as are all other patsies in the parade of US false
flag operations: deflection from public investigation identifying the actual terrorist perpetrators
/ plausible deniability for the public to bite on to facilitate the desired effect of implemented
programs of public terror. The evidence of state sponsored terror is there if one chooses to look.
The recent, violent murder in Florida of an associate / witness to that FBI operation by an
FBI agent / interrogator, tasked with insuring that associate / witness's compliance to the prescriptive,
government narrative of the Boston event as force fed to the public by compliant / co-opted mass
media, is but yet another thinly but effectively veiled, social conditioning manipulation of public
consciousness reinforcing the enabling myth of just who is the actual threat to public peace and
Boston was an exercise in social conditioning to martial law where no civil rights exist. They
shut the city down in contrived pretext and stormed through whatever private domain they chose
as a show of force in exercise of police state power over all constitutionally based constraints.
All on a desperate, audacious and unthinkable lie.
You will do exactly what you're told to do, when you're told to do it, by heavily
armed masked men in black, storming through your house without your invitation, ostensibly in
pursuit of and protecting you from the terrible phantoms created by their masters.
Bagdad, Boston, London, Kiev, no matter. Same game of violent control from the same power cabal
while draining the hard earned wealth and civil power of the masses by the same boom/ bust / state
terrorist means. All of it, an horrific extension of covert enablement by forced public pacification
to Operation Gladio and its drive to global dominion.
NATO / NWO intent is defined by its break-away elitist culture of absolute authoritarianism
by absolute systemic corruption in absolute secrecy. Snowden and his journalist associates are
providing a glimpse of its all encompassing scope. Our individual response, or lack thereof, will
determine our fate as either citizens with rights based in moral principles and economic equity,
or as mere commodities for use as needed by hidden powers.
A stark choice, as the presumptive enemies of the state that we in fact are.
guest88888epinoa, 24 May 2014 3:29am
Baubles handed out - nothing changed.
Agreed. Ultimately, despite their good intentions, I feel as though both Greenwald and Snowden
aren't pushing the case against dragnet surveillance hard enough. We don't need a debate. This
is fascism pure and simple, and they are spying on us because they fear the day that we revolt
against their putrid austerity and the general failure of capitalism.
The Grauniad of course possesses no perspective whatsoever. Seriously Mr. Sands, we need a
debate? You find out the majority of the world is being spied on and violated, and you are actually
think that a few cosmetic changes will make a difference?
There will be no debate, and you know it. But I suppose that while you are wealthy and
safe from economic deprivation, who cares if the NSA tramples on the freedoms of common people,
all in defense of the ultra-rich, right?
KilgoreTrout2012, 23 May 2014 12:14pm
"NSA has collected records on every phone call made by every American (it gathers the who,
what and when of the calls, known as metadata, but not the content), as well as email data."
I don't buy it's just metadata, since the US and are allies have the technology to do so, the
content is also being "saved". Most likely US "content" is collected in Great Britain to give
the NSA plausible deniability that they are not collecting content. And the US probably has Great
The NSA may not have the technology to truly read all that data today but someday it will all
be collated, analyzed, and used to put each citizen into national security classifications. Your
travel, jobs prospects, etc. will be limited based on where you fall in their assessments.
guest88888 -> KilgoreTrout2012, 24 May 2014 3:34am
I don't buy it's just metadata,
Of course I agree with you sentiment that the US and its cronies are lying through their teeth
about everything, but I want to point out that metadata collection is far more intrusive than
just regular wiretapping.
Greenwald gave a great example. To paraphrase:
If I call an AIDS clinic, and you monitor the content of my call, I may never bring up the
actual disease in most of my conversations. I might say, let's meet at this time, or book an appointment,
or make small talk etc.
But, if you have the metadata, you can know that I've been calling an AIDS clinic repeatedly.
You can know where I'm calling from. You can find out where I've been getting meds (from the pharmacy).
In short, you can rapidly figure out if I have AIDS, what I'm doing about it, even how I may
have got it. Much easier with metadata than simple wire-tappping.
Not that much analysis needed, since you need much less data.
AhBrightWings, 23 May 2014 12:35pm
Not sure I agree that the debate has been "more limited" in Great Britain. The Guardian is,
after all, a British publication and it has had ten times (conservatively) more coverage than
any other journal I know of, and continued congratulations for doing so.
The problem in the US is that we can't get any traction on the revelations that kicks over
into judicial action to end this crime spree. Congress is ossified, the populace is mummified,
and so we march on, becoming the United States of Zombieland, where the only signs of sentient
life are in the MIC and its many tentacles and claws.
Snowden's sacrifice and Greenwald's work only have value if people wake up and use what we've
learned. The mystery is what we are all waiting for. The trajectory from UPS hold-ups to being
held-up in a cell is shorter--when things truly take a dire turn (and we may get lucky and they
may not, I fully concede that)--than many want to concede. The rise of every despot and tyrant
has illustrated that arc well. Why do we think we'll be the exception to that pattern?
Our exceptionalism appears to have blinded us in more ways than one.
Theodore McIntire, 23 May 2014 12:54pm
In addition to revealing how invasive and law/truth twisting big governments / organizations
(of any orientation and denomination) are likely to behave, the Snowden revelations also showed
how much the media and public are/were disengaged from reality and blindly trusting of big governments
Except for those poor souls who live in fear or live off the fear of others... They are very afraid
and angry about the Snowden revelations and any other disruptions to their fear based animal herd
CraigSummers, 23 May 2014 1:32pm
I find it interesting that you don't mention even once in your review the potential ramifications
of compromising US intelligence. This is an extremely important consideration in the debate (at
least to some concerned citizens). In addition, the released information goes far beyond civil
liberties in many instances. One can certainly question the motives of Greenwald. Greenwald has
a body of written work from Salon, the Guardian and others which indicate he was not motivated
entirely by a debate about "privacy" and civil liberties.
The release of information that the NSA spied on universities in Hong Kong coincided with Snowden's
arrival in the special administrative region of the People's Republic of China. This was hardly
a coincidence - and shows the level of planning used by Snowden before illegally stealing tens
of thousands of top secret documents.
".......The big issue at stake here is privacy, and the relationship between the individual
and the state, and it goes far beyond issues of legality (although Snowden's fear of arrest.......seems
Jesus, ya think?
Leondeinos -> CraigSummers, 23 May 2014 4:26pm
The ramifications are simply that the NSA has been caught in its full incompetence and arrogance.
Snowden did the world a great favor. Greenwald's book is a good read that does expose and explore
those ramifications for the world.
The version of the Defense Intelligence Agency's assessment of damage done by Edward Snowden's
leaks released by the US (here on the Guardian website) contains no information about the potential
ramifications of compromising US intelligence. This "redacted" version consists 12 pages of blanks
out of a total of 39 pages in the original. What you see is what you get. A year after Snowden's
revelations, it is a pathetic, contemptible defence of a vast waste of money, people, and diplomatic
reputation by the US government.
Microsoft Group Program Manager Rob Mauceri has today revealed that Internet Explorer 10 will
be bringing its bells and whistles over to Windows 7 in mid-November. The catch is that the release
planned for next month is (still) a preview as the Redmond company wants to "collect developer and
customer feedback" before rolling out a final version.
better HTML5 support, the Enhanced Protected Mode, plus other tweaks and fixes. IE10 can be experienced
in full on Windows 8 which arrives on October 26.
As the “single most powerful tool for population control,” the CIA’s “Facebook program” has dramatically
reduced the agency’s costs — at least according to the latest “report” from the satirical mag
In the video, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is dubbed “The Overlord” and is shown receiving
a “medal of intelligence commendation” for his work with the CIA’s Facebook program.
The Onion also takes a jab at FarmVille (which is responsible for “pacifying”
as much as 85 million people after unemployment rates rose), Twitter (which is called useless as
far as data gathering goes), and Foursquare (which is said to have been created by Al Qaeda).
Check out the video below and tell us in the comments what you think.
AMERICANS today spend almost as much on bandwidth — the capacity to move information — as we do
on energy. A family of four likely spends several hundred dollars a month on cellphones, cable television
and Internet connections, which is about what we spend on gas and heating oil.
Just as the industrial revolution depended on oil and other energy sources, the information revolution
is fueled by bandwidth. If we aren’t careful, we’re going to repeat the history of the oil industry
by creating a bandwidth cartel.
Like energy, bandwidth is an essential economic input. You can’t run an engine without gas, or
a cellphone without bandwidth. Both are also resources controlled by a tight group of producers,
whether oil companies and Middle Eastern nations or communications companies like AT&T, Comcast and
Vodafone. That’s why, as with energy, we need to develop alternative sources of bandwidth.
Wired connections to the home — cable and telephone lines — are the major way that Americans move
information. In the United States and in most of the world, a monopoly or duopoly controls the pipes
that supply homes with information. These companies, primarily phone and cable companies, have a
natural interest in controlling supply to maintain price levels and extract
maximum profit from their investments — similar to how OPEC sets production quotas to guarantee high
But just as with oil, there are alternatives. Amsterdam and some cities in Utah have deployed
their own fiber to carry bandwidth as a public utility. A future possibility is to buy your own fiber,
the way you might buy a solar panel for your home.
Encouraging competition is another path, though not an easy one: most of the much-hyped
competitors from earlier this decade, like businesses that would provide broadband Internet over
power lines, are dead or moribund. But alternatives are important. Relying on monopoly producers
for the transmission of information is a dangerous path.
After physical wires, the other major way to move information is through the airwaves, a natural
resource with enormous potential. But that potential is untapped because of a false scarcity created
by bad government policy.
Our current approach is a command and control system dating from the 1920s. The federal government
dictates exactly what licensees of the airwaves may do with their part of the spectrum. These Soviet-style
rules create waste that is worthy of Brezhnev.
Many “owners” of spectrum either hardly use the stuff or use it in highly inefficient ways. At
any given moment, more than 90 percent of the nation’s airwaves are empty.
The solution is to relax the overregulation of the airwaves and allow use of the wasted spaces.
Anyone, so long as he or she complies with a few basic rules to avoid interference, could try to
build a better Wi-Fi and become a broadband billionaire. These wireless entrepreneurs could one day
liberate us from wires, cables and rising prices.
Such technologies would not work perfectly right away, but over time clever entrepreneurs would
find a way, if we gave them the chance. The Federal Communications Commission promised this kind
of reform nearly a decade ago, but it continues to drag its heels.
In an information economy, the supply and price of bandwidth matters, in the way that oil prices
matter: not just for gas stations, but for the whole economy.
And that’s why there is a pressing need to explore all alternative supplies of bandwidth before
it is too late. Americans are as addicted to bandwidth as they are to oil. The first step is facing
Tim Wu is a professor at Columbia Law School and the co-author of “Who Controls the Internet?”
"According to an article on New York Times, Microsoft researchers have discovered
tens of thousands of junk Web pages, created only to lure search-engine users to advertisements.
While most of us have run across them from time to time, the company researchers have found the pages
are deliberately generated in vast numbers by a small group of shadowy operators. By following the
money trail, Microsoft researchers were able to track the flow from big-name advertisers to search
engine spammers. Many use Google's blogspot.com to set up spam doorway pages. 'The practice has proved
to be a vexing problem for the major search companies, which struggle to prevent both spammers and
companies specializing in improving legitimate clients' Web traffic -- a field known as search-engine
optimization -- from undermining their page-ranking systems. Surprisingly, the researchers noted
that the vast bulk of the junk listings was created from just two Web hosting companies and that
as many as 68 percent of the advertisements sampled were placed by just three advertising syndicators.'
The report is available at Microsoft Strider Search Ranger project page."
Elsop Webmaster Resource Center
is a comprehensive site of software, site mappers, link validators, trade associations, computer
law, webmaster humor, training, site develpment services, and more.
internet.com from Mecklermedia can
help you search the list of Internet Service Providers, give you data on all the browsers available,
compare features of web server and Internet apps. Great "Guide to Electronic Commerce".
Web Design Group's Web
Authoring FAQ (also known as the comp.infosystems.www.authoring.html FAQ) has valuable info on
editors, HTML tags and special characters, HTML tips, search engine submissions, and other common
HTML issues. A great starter site for all HTML authors.
htmlpp is a simple HTML pretty printer, based on nsgmls
and SGMLS.pm. The code is pretty alpha, but gives attractive results for many
HTML docs. Some things, like nested tables, are rendered only passably. Other
deeply-nested structures may render badly as well.
Note that this pretty-printer is oldish, and alpha, and unlikely to be
developed any further. It's not a bad illustration of some of the
possibilities for SGML technology in web authoring. Perhaps someone will take
up the challenge, and build the "right" tool!
Since htmlpp gets its input from nsgmls, invalid
documents should not be expected to work. However, a side effect of this
approach is that minor errors and inconsistencies are actually fixed.
Attribute values are always quoted in the pretty printed version. Characters
like "<", ">" and "&" are converted into the appropriate SGML entities in
attribute values and in document text. End tags are inserted automatically --
which will surprise you if you thought it was legal to imbed <pre> elements
inside <p> elements, for example.
It also works great on the atrociously hard to read markup
generated by specialized HTML editors and conversion tools, and can help you
identify where you need to pay further attention on making your pages more
accessible to people with disabilities.
Pretty HTML is an easy-to-use program that formats your HTML
Web pages. After processing, your HTML code is neatly arranged, commented,
spaced, and indented, making it much easier to read and maintain. You can also
use Pretty HTML to compress your Web pages by eliminating unnecessary spaces
and carriage returns. Process your Web pages one at a time or batch-format
entire folders in a single operation. Pretty HTML offers a number of options
to ensure that the HTML formatting is done to your liking. To play it extra
safe, you can have the program make backup copies of your originals. Excellent
online help is included.
rpl is a UNIX text replacement utility. It will replace
strings with new strings in multiple text files. It can scan
directories recursively and replace strings in all files
found. Includes source, build script, and man page. Should
work on most flavors of Unix.
Treesed searches for pattern1. If pattern2 is supplied pattern1 is replaced
by pattern2. If pattern2 is not supplied treesed just searches. A list of files
can be supplied with the -files parameter. Treesed is also capable of
search/replace in files in subdirectories if you supply the -tree parameter. All
files in the current directory and subdirectories are processed. Always a backup
is made of the original file, with a random numeric suffix.
Search and Replace Search and Replace 98 From: Andromeda HTML Workshop Version: 2.21 Date: July
19, 1998 File size: 263.2K Downloads: 835 License: Free Search and Replace 98 is a text search-and-replace
tool that can work on single files or an entire directory of HTML pages. Search and Replace 98 can
read files of up to 512K in size.
BK ReplaceEm BK ReplaceEm From: BK Computer Programming pop Version: 1.7 Date: January 5, 1998
File size: 457K Downloads: 8,538 Freeware string-replacing utility. At its core, BK ReplaceEm is
a text search and replace program. However, unlike the search and replace functionality of a standard
text editor, BK ReplaceEm is designed to operate on multiple text files at once. And you need not
only perform one search and replace operation per file--you can set up a list of operations to perform.
You can perform different operations on multiple file groups. You can also specify a backup file
for each file processed, just in case the replace operation doesn't meet your expectations. This
latest version adds whole-word search support and other enhancements. The file-processing engine
has been completely rewritten in this version.
The problem with /usr/ucb/mail shell escapes is going stay with us for quite a while: I have found
that many web sites run CGI helper scripts that send data from the network into /usr/ucb/mail, without
censoring of, for example, newline characters embedded in the data.
WebMaker is a GUI HTML Editor for Unix. Main features include a nice GUI interface, menus, toolbar
and dialogs for tag editing, multiple windows support, HTML 4.0 support, color syntax highlighting,
preview with external browser, ability to filter editor content through any external program that supports
stdin/stdout and KDE integration.
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ABUSE: IPs or network segments from which we detect a stream of probes might be blocked for no
less then 90 days. Multiple types of probes increase this period.
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