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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Perhaps, a new approach to America?


As I was reading this article at Ars Technica, something jumped out at me. Something that unleashed the floodgates of anti-statism in my mind, bringing this recent move by Google -- to refuse to censor search results in China -- into a strange and ironic light.

According to a source from Macworld, as reported by Ars Technica, the system that was compromised by the attackers -- strongly believed to be of Chinese government origin -- was a system setup by Google to monitor email traffic for US and other Western law enforcement agencies.

Julian Sanchez, writing for the Cato Institute, jumped on this:

"As an eminent group of security experts argued in 2008, the trend toward building surveillance capability into telecommunications architecture amounts to a breach-by-design, and a serious security risk. As the volume of requests from law enforcement at all levels grows, the compliance burdens on telecoms grow also—making it increasingly tempting to create automated portals to permit access to user information with minimal human intervention."

As it appears that the breach of Google's system was into the very systems that the US Patriot Act mandates all US-based ISPs provide to law enforcement, it begs the question of ultimate responsibility here.

I do not believe for a second that Google does not lament the existence of these monitoring systems, given it's co-founder Sergei Brin's memories of the repressive and totalitarian Soviet Union from which his upbringing hails. Indeed, Brin has demonstrated great difficulty grappling with his commitment to "don't be evil" -- the company's slogan -- and the draconian requirements that various world government's impose on it. Particularly those in China.

If the sources information is accurate, that the systems compromised are the very systems that agencies like the FBI use to scan emails for suspicious content, then I hope that the irony is not lost on someone like Brin; Google was less secure because it was, by law, forced to be. Instead of a sealed-tight box, the US government demands a hole be drilled in the side for it's security monitors to peep through.

While Google is likely depending on diplomatic pressure from the US Government to champion it's cause in the current row with China, it's unlikely that we'll see Google unleash any harsh criticism on the very US Government policies that perhaps, contributed to making this security breach possible.

But perhaps Google should make light of this, in order to shine light on the glaring hypocrisy of the United States. That, while the US laments Chinese spies attempting to obtain information on persons it considers a risk to it's national interests, it is actively doing the same thing. The difference is that Google is forced to be a willing partner in the spying efforts of US authorities, where they like it or not.

In a political environment where a great amount of the US population believes criticizing things like this is tantamount to being "soft on terror", it's easy to understand why Google hasn't mustered the will to pick a fight. The last thing it needs is the Republican Party and it's media mouthpiece Fox News, on a search and destroy mission against Google to pigeon-hole it as a left-coast, liberal, hippy, soft-on-terror, pro-al Qaeda organization -- which they certainly would have, had Google crowed loudly against the mandatory spying provisions.

The question I have is: how far down the rabbit hole of "doing no evil" is Google really willing to go? They're on a roll so far. I'm ready to be even more impressed.

Posted by Mike Brock on January 13, 2010 | Permalink


I would just like to point out yahoo's response in a similar situation a few years ago, where they rather helpfully turned over personal information from the email accounts of chinese dissidents to the Chinese government so they could do their chinese government thing to em. Yahoo only regretted it later, when it had to pay a fine in the U.S., for being a shameless corporate whore.

Yahoo sells out freedom at the first opportunity and google pulls out of the largest growth market in the world.

Google is a perfect example of how corporations can have higher ethical standards than other forms of organizations. Google has dealt a blow to oppressive commies and also those who think all big business is evil.

Posted by: steven | 2010-01-13 1:39:14 PM

Sergey Brin & Lawrence Page have shown time and time again that "Do no evil" is just a slogan.

They've grossly exceeded the requirements of many regimes and have done little to put their massive economic fist against tyranny.

In fact, they've put the Google juggernaut behind things like consolidated government medical and banking records, cap & trade emissions scams, and other draconian communist measures.

Brin and Page are statists, and collectivists, this fits with their goal to collect and control all human knowledge.

Look how they sold out the anti-Scientology activists just to please the Scientology even though they were COMPLETLY IMMUNE from action.

Posted by: Pete | 2010-01-13 2:18:59 PM

Google saw no further than an open door to the biggest potential market in the world. They have too much invested to back out now, but probably know if they push too hard they will be thrown out and China will put in their own system. The US is in a difficult position as China holds hundreds of billions dollars of US debt, not to mention the bulk of US based manufacturing capability. No choice....must play nice.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-01-13 7:09:38 PM

Peter hit the nail on the head. Money, money, money.

Posted by: Steve Bottrell | 2010-01-13 9:52:34 PM

"The question I have is: how far down the rabbit hole of "doing no evil" is Google really willing to go?"

I agree with you Mike, but Google can't fight the U.S. gov't. The change must come from Americans. Hopefully they'll wake up and realize what the Patriot Act really is.

Posted by: Charles | 2010-01-14 6:37:43 AM

"Google can't fight the U.S. gov't"

That is a fallacy planted in your head to keep you in line. Real freedom requires insurmountable struggle, and often means challenging the government stumers of the day.

Posted by: Vegan Philosopher | 2010-01-14 8:36:55 AM

"That is a fallacy planted in your head to keep you in line. Real freedom requires insurmountable struggle, and often means challenging the government stumers of the day."

blah blah blah blah

Please learn how to read. I actually agree with you.

Posted by: Charles | 2010-01-14 9:17:14 AM

It's hard for me to accept the cynical view, that Google acted purely on the basis of their small revenues in China.

They were controlling over 30% of the market share of the world's biggest internet market, and revenues were estimated to be around $600 million. A small percentage of Google's $26 billion in overall revenue, yes. But I'm not quite sure they were losing money as some suggest.

Even if they were losing money, a company like Google can afford to lose money in a market for a very long time. Google lost hundreds of millions on YouTube for years before it became profitable. Google's entire business model is based on losing money in different industries in order to dominate it. Eventually they turn a profit. And they can afford to do it. They made billions in profits last quarter alone. Billions. I don't think there was any real financial pressure to pull out of the world's fastest growing economy by it's investors.

To say this was just a convenient excuse to save money doesn't make any sense in the context of anybody who understands or has watched Google for years.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2010-01-14 9:22:10 AM

Google practises its own form of subtle censorship. Just key in "climategate", and see how many hits appear on the suggested list. Considering the fact Al Gore is on their board of directors, I'd say they're not strangers to political agendas.

I switched to Bing a few months back. I don't know if they're any better than the rest, but I cannot stomach Al Gore, and his merry men.

Posted by: dp | 2010-01-14 9:37:58 AM


I personally know some of the engineers who work on Google Search. I also know engineers who work on Wave, and Email, etc. I think I can speak with a great degree of confidence when I say that Google does not alter it's search results for any political ends. At all.

Google engineers internally would have a shit fit if they were forced by management to censor results for political ends. Trust me.

Google, in reality, for anyone who knows anything about how it works internally is not a centrally managed company at all. It's nothing but organized chaos. There's not really even any central vision on grand strategy in place at Google, contrary to what people think.

If Google were censoring it's results for something like "climategate", there's no way Google would get away with it. One of it's engineers would totally leak it, and blow it wide open.

Given my close connection with Google engineers, and my understanding of it's internal workings, I don't believe for a second there's any conspiracy to filter results in favor of one position on "climategate" or the other. That's just ridiculous.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2010-01-14 9:52:31 AM

I call BS, Mike. Their affiliation with Al Gore is damning enough, but their attemted stifling of access to subjects that don't fit their agenda has been well documented on some fairly well known blogs.

Posted by: dp | 2010-01-14 10:15:26 AM

I should add, I will not buy an Apple product, either. Gore is on their board of directors, as well. His attempt to manipulate, and control information is nothing short of criminal.

Posted by: dp | 2010-01-14 11:03:07 AM

You can call BS all you want. But pointing to circumstantial evidence, such as search term completions on one keyword versus another proves nothing.

This is nothing more than the typical conservative, self-victimization. The presence of Al Gore on the Board of Directors is meaningless, since company directors have virtually no say in the day to day operations of the company. All they do is select a CEO and set executive compensation.

It is your conspiracy theory that strains credibility, not the veracity of Google's search results.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2010-01-14 11:04:55 AM

I suppose your acquaitance with a few employees puts you in a position to know what goes on in the boardroom. I know a kid who pumps gas at a Husky station, and he says Husky is going to cut its budget in Alberta by 12%, and invest in a project in SE Asia. He also says bigfoot drives a 1977 Ford 4x4.

Posted by: dp | 2010-01-14 11:17:32 AM

Your ignorance of how public corporations work is showing pretty plainly now. The Board of Directors is elected by the shareholders, and is responsible for appointing the CEO and setting executive compensation.

In most cases, the Boards of Directors for one particular company will have like one to four meetings a year. That's it. They are NOT actively involved in the day-to-day operations of the company contrary to whatever is going on in your head.

The only thing the directors concern themselves with is the performance of the CEO and allocating stock for compensation on behalf of the shareholders, approving the corporate operating budget and setting broad policies -- like corporate ethics codes. But they do not do anything beyond that. They don't choose what products the company brings to market, or choose features in products, or direct -- as you're implying -- the company to filter search results. As a matter of law, nothing the board of directors does is in secret, either. Everything the board does is publicly disclosed under securities laws.

Any cursory research will re-enforce what I just told you. Your apparent ignorance on this matter should be embarrassing at this point, but I'm sure you'll just come back and tell me I'm wrong again.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2010-01-14 11:51:01 AM

~after reading a post on SDA a while back, i googled "clima", climate", "climatega", etc...

...nothing but sweet nothings on the suggestions.

i then googled "climategate" and got millions of results.

i've just googled it again now (a couple of weeks after they were called on their bullsh:)t), and it shows up, with a mere 1 900 000 results.

~also, Google got called on this, and fixed it real fast:


...with a straight face, tell me again about Google's technical impartiality?

Posted by: shel | 2010-01-14 11:51:52 AM


Google claimed there were problems with their auto-complete systems, and I believe them. There's no evidence that Google filtered search results.

On a circumstantial basis, the fact that no search recommendations appeared for "Islam is" was interesting but it proved nothing.

Once again, conservatives constantly paint themselves as these infinite victims of big evil liberals who are out to get them. It's quite tiring actually. Anything conservatives can find to support that there is a conspiracy against them, they cling on to, and cling to all circumstantial evidence as fact.

You know what? I have circumstantial evidence that conservatives want to kill all non-believers, establish a white-only country, turn our country into a police state, and bankrupt our nations. Except of course, I have better evidence for all those things than you have for Google being conspiring against you.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2010-01-14 12:03:44 PM

It's funny that while conservatives criticize the left as having Bush Derangement Syndrome for all their crazy, whackjob theories, they never stop to question whether their own batshit crazy ideas.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2010-01-14 12:06:03 PM

there's enough conspiracy theories to go around from banjo pickin' Jezus lovin' stumptoothed conservative mouthbreathers, and 911-truthing nose-pierced corn-braided liberal airheads.

for the rest of us with the "batshit crazy" idea that Google might be messing around with a seemingly one-sided self censorship, let's just look at the evidence. its not easily dismissed, unless one wants it to be.

your call, i guess.

Posted by: shel | 2010-01-14 12:21:13 PM

Good posting. There are several problems with "it's" vs. "its" though.

Posted by: Bobo | 2010-01-14 1:04:30 PM

Mike, it's not a question of you being wrong. There has been evidence of google cherry picking search criteria. They have Al Gore as a senior advisor. Connect the dots. I've decided not to use google any more, and that's my choice. The same goes for Apple. Affiliating your brand with Al Gore, who seems to be an unlikely "senior advisor", can only be seen as a political choice. As Shel has already mentioned, Climate, Islam, and other key words have been, in some sense, censored.

The Chinese were restricting porn sites, which makes sense to me. The Chinese need porn, like Ozzy Osbourne needs whiskey.

It's no coincidence that this decision came so soon after Gore's big flop in Copenhagen. I'd call it damage control. They wouldn't want a billion people having access to information that contradicts the AGW movement's world view, now would they?

Posted by: dp | 2010-01-14 1:42:15 PM


You're certainly free to believe whatever you want. I never suggested otherwise. Have fun "connecting the dots".

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2010-01-14 2:02:15 PM

Advisory rolls for people , ex vice presidents for instsnce is often only about the connections they can offer the people offering them the advisory role. They actually advise on nothing for the most part, but their aquisition makes a great deal of sense from the influence peddling perspective, and for purposes of presaging.

Posted by: Vegan Philosopher | 2010-01-14 2:40:10 PM

"rolls", what a knob

Posted by: Vegan Philosopher | 2010-01-14 2:42:16 PM

here's a quote from Google, Jan 5:

“This is a bug and we’re working to fix it as quickly as we can.”


i've just googled "christianity is" and "judaism is" and got the usual list of suggestions.

then i googled "islam is", and guess what?

check it out yourself.

...maybe someone should tell the tech wizards at Google they haven't fixed their "bug" yet.

Posted by: shel | 2010-01-14 3:05:45 PM

You can't blame them for treading lightly around Islam. They could end up in flames. If they came right out and admitted it, I doubt anyone(other than Ezra) would be upset. It's this facade of neutrality that makes them dangerous.

Posted by: dp | 2010-01-14 3:12:48 PM


personally know some of the engineers who work on Google Search. I also know engineers who work on Wave, and Email, etc. I think I can speak with a great degree of confidence when I say that Google does not alter it's search results for any political ends. At all.

That certainly does not look like the case when it comes to China which has laid down the law and google must either comply or leave. It has everything to do with altering search results for political ends.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-01-14 7:48:14 PM

It's rather telling how dp sees Al Gore as a bigger threat to freedom than Red China.

Posted by: Jib Halyard | 2010-01-17 4:45:29 PM

But I guess that's what "conservatism" has come to these days

Posted by: Jib Halyard | 2010-01-17 4:46:54 PM

You guessed wrong jib. There's nothing in my comment that supports China. But, now that you mention it, Gore is a pretty big threat, in case you hadn't noticed.

Posted by: dp | 2010-01-17 6:30:10 PM

"They have Al Gore as a senior advisor. Connect the dots.
Big Al said he invented the internet. No wonder google wanted him on the board of directors. The man is thaaaat close to god himself and moving up fast. At least in his opinion. Bet he sleeps with his Nobel peace prize and spends a lot of time in front of the mirror. He perfected the art of selling absolutely nothing to millions of people worldwide. Here in BC we are now being taxed on nothing thanks to Al. That, gentlemen, is quite a feat for one man. If I owned google I would also want him on my board of directors. The man truly knows how to herd sheep.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-01-17 6:52:05 PM

dp, Al Gore (a private citizen merely exercising his right to free speech) clearly bothers you a lot more than Red China does. get back to me when Gore starts censoring people or locking people up or killing dissidents or ploughing through protestors with an APC. then i'll understand.

Posted by: Jib Halyard | 2010-01-17 9:41:11 PM

I think Gore is advising google to make a deal. Sounds like they're going to put their profits above principals. No surprise here.

Posted by: dp | 2010-01-18 7:46:47 AM

By the way everyone, I decided to do some real research on this problem with Google, and found there are indeed, other search terms which are not producing any results.

Try searching for "jews are" or "Christians are". Also try searching for "Americans are".

Ooops. Looks like conspiracy theory over.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2010-01-18 10:00:26 AM

"I think Gore is advising google to make a deal. Sounds like they're going to put their profits above principals. No surprise here."

based on what evidence?

Posted by: Jib Halyard | 2010-01-18 5:23:04 PM

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