In 1999, Scott McNealy, the former head of Sun MicroSystems, reportedly declared, "You have zero privacy anyway....Get over it." He unintentionally let the proverbial cat out of the bag of the digital
age. In 2009, McNealy's assessment was confirmed by Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt. In an interview with NBC's Mario Bartiromo, he proclaimed, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." Schmidt's words have become Google's new mantra. Welcome to 21st-century corporate morality.
Now, a decade-plus later, McNealy's prophetic words have take on a far more sinister significance than he probably intended. They are increasingly becoming the operating assumption of the digital
corporate state. Whether going online, using a PC, smartphone, tablet or digital TV, users can no longer assume they have any privacy. In fact, users should assume they have absolutely no privacy.
McNealy's and Schmidt's words both speak to a fundamental change in the definition of privacy. Once upon a time not so long ago, a sealed letter or a personal telephone conversation was
considered private, protected communications. Those days are over. Unless you have the time or the technical know-how to encrypt your digital communications, none of what you transmit - however personal - through a digital wireline or wireless network is "private." Rather, through the spectacle of post-modern capitalism, the private has become public, the property of the corporation that owns your keystrokes.
The digital revolution has morphed the personal into an electronic commodity; the electronic commodity is the exchange currency of an encroaching, 21st-century digital feudalism.
Two complementary forces are driving this change: short-term corporate self-interest and a self-serving security-state. The ordinary American's traditional privacy rights are giving way to the
demands of the militarized corporate state. They are determining America's digital economy and future.
On March 1, Google introduced a new program that collects user data from its 60 services. Google stores "cookies" (i.e., code that compiles a record of an individual's web browsing history) on a
growing number of communications devices, whether a home PC, tablet, smartphone and a growing number of TV sets. These cookies track every Web site a person visits or function s/he uses.
Every time you enter a term into Google's search engine, check out a video on YouTube, send or receive an email through Gmail (including key words in the message) or even make a call or
download information on an Android-based phone, even using a third party's phone from AT&T or Verizon, your input will be captured, stored and processed by Google. Google users can't opt out of its data harvesting procedure; the company reports that the new procedure does not apply to Google Wallet, the Chrome browser and Google Books.
Google has been accused of hacking both Apple's and Microsoft's operating systems to further its data-capture practice. Jonathan Mayer, a Stanford researcher, discovered that Google could
track a person's usage of Apple's Safari browser on an iPhone and an iPad, undercutting privacy settings. In addition, Microsoft engineers report finding that Google could bypass the privacy settings on its Internet Explorer browser. Google denies both accusations. Google insists its data gathering practice is done for the ostensible purpose of better serving its users. It claims that by
more precisely tracking a user's inputs it can more efficiently target-market its advertising offerings. Its sophisticated artificial intelligence software enables it to "predict" individual user's usage
patterns. This is, in all likelihood, partially true as Google is estimated to control close to half of worldwide ad placements of the web.
However, Google's long-term intentions seem more sinister. In 2010 it was revealed that Google partnered with the CIA in a venture called "Recorded Future." Google's vast data archive can be
harnessed to meet "security" needs. This is especially troubling in light of a controversial bill being pushed through Congress, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). The act would allow sharing of data between companies like Google and the National Security
Agency (NSA) to combat alleged cyber-security threats.
This gets scarier in light of a recent DC Court of Appeals ruling upholding a lower court's decision blocking a Freedom of Information request from the Electronic Privacy Information Center. EPIC
sought to determine the nature of the collaboration between the NSA and Google over Chinese hacking of the company's site. The claims of national security are increasingly trumping a citizen's right to know and his/her notion of privacy.
Google is not alone in data harvesting of personal - and once assumed private - information. Other high-tech companies, especially social networking sites like Facebook (with Microsoft's Bing
search engine) and Twitter, are redefining, shrinking, the country's traditional notions of private communications. Once, not long ago, letters and phone calls were private. Today, once a user inputs a keystroke on their device of choice that is connected to the Internet, whether it be a PC, smartphone, tablet or, increasingly, TV set and accessed either through a wireline or wireless network, that data becomes a "public" commodity, owned by the private corporation that
facilitates the communications.
By David Rosen, AlterNet
21 May 12
In: Other News
Tags: google, privacy, spying, fredom, erosion of liberty, liberty, big brother, cia, fbi,
Location: United States (load item map)
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