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February 25, 2012

Official seal of the Information Awareness Office -- a U.S. agency that developed technologies for mass surveillance. Don’t you feel safer now that “data mining” in the form of mass surveillance goes on 24/7?
Chronicle News & Opinion

(MONROE, WA) -- For a company that supposedly started out with the feel good 1960’s style mantra of “Don’t do evil” Google has certainly strayed into one ghoul-infested dark alley too many over the years; alleys that are potentially dangerous and fraught with peril for average citizens -- alleys that constitute the sketchy, frightening world of personal data mining and privacy busting.

And perhaps enough should be enough already.

This latest venture of Google - to institute what is essentially one blanket “no privacy policy, we will take over your life from here on out thank you very much” privacy policy over all it’s digital platforms - should have every sane man and woman on the planet holding up two fingers in the sign of the cross and searching the house frantically for fresh garlic, wooden stakes and wolf Bain.

Son of Dracula, bad moon rising, Night of the Living Dead and all that.

And you Occupy Wall Street volunteers: wake the hell up will you?

Arguably this new Google “privacy” thing should have every sleeping-bag lugging, tent-toting, sign-carrying perpetually pissed off Occupier freaked out enough to forget about the Wall Street banksters for awhile and occupy every Google street in front of every Google office until the legion of Googleytes cry out to the heavens for their mommas, spit up day old bread and rusty nails and pray for deliverance from the hordes of the Great Unwashed.

And please, please don’t construe any of this to mean the church goin,’ heat packin’ decent (all American) women at the Chronicle ranch dislike Google. Quite the contrary. We like them just fine.

We be down with those bad boys. Even do a spot of business with them, we do. And if we did not think Google was all right (for the most part) in the grander sense – or at least had enough soul left unvarnished by demons from the underworld to be nudged gently back onto the righteous path once they veer off it - we would not be doing that.

Like everyone else we have various Google accounts up the proverbial kazoo for just about everything including going to war on a moment’s notice with all our tunes intact.

By and large we view the company as one of the most interesting, innovative companies of our century. Google has brought terrific products to the marketplace that make all of our lives easier and more productive. You’ll get no truck from us on that score.

But we, like many others have for some time now been growing quite concerned with where Google has been going with this awful combo-data mining strategy across platforms that we knew eventually would come to be.


Did we say evil? Perhaps too harsh a word. At any rate there were early signs of this dark side in 2005 when Preston Gralla wrote the piece called “Is Google evil?”

“When Google went public a year ago, it famously said in the papers accompanying its offering that its motto would be “Don’t do evil…how times have changed, “ wrote Gralla just one year later.

“In fact, they’ve changed so much that a headline in the New York Times shouts ” Relax, Bill Gates; It’s Google’s Turn as the Villain.” The article cites a widespread feeling throughout Silicon Valley and beyond that Google has gotten arrogant and in its pursuit of world domination has started to do serious harm to competitors and the technology landscape…

… there’s also a disturbing truth at work here. Google has gotten arrogant, and the best example is a little-reported incident in mid-July. CNet ran an article warning that Google has amassed enormous amounts of private information about people. And to show how easily Google can be used to pry into people’s private lives, it used Google searches to publish personal information about Google CEO Eric Schmidt, including his salary, neighborhood, his hobbies and his political donations.

Google was not amused, and promptly said it would refuse to talk to any CNet reporters for a year — in essence blackballing Cnet,” wrote Gralla.

That was seven long years ago when he wrote that stuff. Two things to note about that:

One, that was an example of how vengeful and petty Google was seven long years ago when it was just an upstart. What do you imagine the corporate mindset is now seven long years later? (Will we simply vanish off the face of the earth for writing this piece? Is that a knock at the door we hear?)

And two, seven years ago Google did not own nearly the kind of extensive dossiers on your life they now have or anywhere near the kind of dossiers they are hoping to amass with this new “privacy” policy.

If the implications of that don’t send shivers up your spine then you must be clinically brain dead. (We’re guessing mad cow disease).


And speaking of Microsoft, remember not so long ago when Microsoft got so drunk with it’s power, money and clout – not to mention it’s twisted Machiavellian ideas of taking over and controlling everything of value in the digital age - that consumers righteously began to fear what the kids in Redmond were up to and started pushing back?

Remember how geeks – who at one time thought Microsoft was like way cool dude – turned and began to refer to Microsoft as “Darth Vader” and the evil empire?

Remember how they purposely wrote nasty virus code to screw up the Windows operating system (as if it needed any more screwing up than what was intentionally thrown into the marketplace as a finished product) and then would send Bill Gates emails telling him to get his act together and get serious about security with Windows or he’ d get more where that nasty shot came from?

Well guys, you folks at Google are (we hate to say it) the new Microsoft but not the fun one from the early years -- the Microsoft when that company was sending it’s good name and cache right into the dumpster and didn’t have a clue it was doing it.

We think it would be a nice idea if the good folks at Google took a deep breath, stood back and took a hard look at themselves in the mirror and asked, “Who the hell are we really and how did we end up here where millions are now suspicious of our intentions?”

Please guys, ask yourselves why so many people have grown so fearful of your company and your motives. Ask why, if you are doing the “right thing” so many are convinced it is the wrong thing and the wrong track to be on?

Are millions wrong and are you few billionaires in the corner office and boardroom the only ones right about this?

And you dear reader should know, if you don’t already, that what is going on with Google these days makes Microsoft’s early play to take over the world look almost pathetic in hindsight.


There is now a firm twist in the gritty fabric of the universe, a tear in the long sheet of space-time that has many people finally waking from their stupor and starting to look at Google in the same light as the Darth Vader version of Microsoft, justified or not.

And that is not good for Google or anyone else.

And for those of you still mouthing the tired, dead (not to mention painfully inaccurate) old bromide that goes “government is always the problem!” you should get on your knees right now Sunny Jim and give thanks to the lord above that your state governments - in the form of a number of attorneys general – are standing up and fighting for you since no one else of any weight and stature is.

These dudes are now your thin blue line and you better love them for it.

They are leading the charge to hopefully force a solution in your favor to what is a looming nightmare for not only privacy overall – meaning across the planet - but what could potentially be the worst thing that might ever happen to your sorry (or pretty upbeat) life once every scrap of private, personal information you own and generate now and in the future has galloped out of the barn and into the wrong hands.

Information that could screw you and the pale horse you rode in on sixteen ways by Sunday service if it ever got out of the cage and into the hands of the creepy, maggoty-eyed walking undead out there in the Bad Lands -- meaning people who have the grin of the Zombie and are hell-bent on making a buck off your life and could not give a rip how they go about it or what kind of 17 varieties of deep-dish hell you could end up in because of what they can and will do with all your data once they get their hands on it.

This is one time you should say it loud and say it proud, “thank God for government!”

You should say that stuff even if you are an atheist because - to quote Google now - “this is important stuff.”


Now for those of you who missed this, there was a letter sent this week to Google Chief Executive Larry Page from Washington’s State Attorney General Rob McKenna and 35 other state attorneys general – God bless their little pea pickin’ hearts – outlining their “concerns about big changes to Google’s privacy policy.”

These state attorneys general say, and rightfully so, the changes going into effect on March 1 threaten the confidentiality of Google customers.

And that is putting things mildly.

They contend the new privacy policy has the potential to “heighten the risk of identity theft and fraud,” given that Google plans to store more detailed customer information.

“Consumers should have the choice of opting in, rather than being forced to opt out, before they give out so much personal information,” McKenna said.

“Next month, those using Google’s search engine, Google Maps, YouTube and about half of all smartphones will be among those most affected. Their whereabouts, calling, buying and Web browsing habits will be tracked for commercial uses—and there’s no easy way to say no, other than ditching your phone and most of Google’s other products,” says McKenna.

Now here’s the part you’ll really love about all his.

Under the new privacy policy, Google gives itself the freedom to combine users’ personal information from their Web browsing, along with their interactions with all other popular Google products, such as YouTube and GoogleDocs. And it prevents existing users from easily opting out of having all of their information integrated.

Thus the various AG’s like McKenna have correctly identified the danger here:

“The ramifications of the new privacy policy will be virtually impossible to avoid for millions of consumers who already use Android-powered smartphones, which represent approximately 50 percent of the smartphone market. Users must log in to Google to activate much of the functionality of their Android phones. They will now have to choose between either frequently logging in and out to avoid Google’s consolidation of their data, thus greatly reducing the efficiency of their smartphones, or replacing their devices at significant personal expense.

You think Google didn’t already know this? Sure they did. But they are forging ahead to do it anyway. Not a good sign for a company that lives off consumer trust and professes to “do no evil.”

The attorneys general also accurately point out that “consolidated personal data profiles offer a tantalizing target for hackers and privacy thieves,” writing that Google’s creation of richer personal data profiles poses the risk of much more damaging cases of identity theft and fraud when that data is compromised, a risk that will grow as instances of computer hacking grow.

Well uh, yeah. Duh.

The AG’s of course realize there may be consumers – mainly the kind who are oblivious to the danger of a loaded gun to their heads that happens to have a 6-ounce trigger pull and is in the hands of a violently shaking junkie - who would actually welcome the consolidation and sharing of their personal information across multiple platforms because this data may lead to more “customized services.”

In other word consumers who are either brain dead, completely dead (as in deader than dead) and are already in the cold ground or are terminally stupid and/or are drunk and passed out from slugging down moonshine and green Absinthe all night.

The AG’s also correctly point out that many consumers will either dislike the consolidation or not realize the potential harm.

Uh, yeah. See the brain dead thing above.

That’s why the AG’s believe – and we believe - consumers deserve a full accounting of how the new privacy policy may impact them, and a real opportunity to avoid being subjected to it.

The attorneys general have requested a meeting with Google Inc. CEO Larry Page as soon as possible and Mr. Page has been asked to reply no later than Wednesday, February 29.

The states and territories signing on to the letter are Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands and Washington.

So to all you AG’s out there, and in particular our state’s Rob McKenna, thank you, thank you for demonstrating that government on behalf of all the people is not yet dead and buried in the bone yard.



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