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Google, Big Tech and the US War Machine in the Global South

By Michael Kwet | CounterPunch | April 27, 2018

The recent Facebook and Cambridge Analytica fiasco deepened public concern about the political power and allegiances of Big Tech corporations. Soon after the story went viral, 3,100 Google employees submitted a petition to Google CEO Sundar Pichai protesting Google’s involvement in a Pentagon program called “Project Maven”.

Last week, the Tech Worker’s Coalition launched a petition protesting tech industry participation in development for war, urging Google to break its contract with the Department of Defense (DoD). Will Pichai respond?

Google has a lot to answer for. In March 2016, then US Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, tapped then Alphabet CEO Eric Schmidt to chair the DoD’s new Innovation Advisory Board. The Board would give the Pentagon access to “the brightest technical minds focused on innovation” –  culled from Silicon Valley.

More recently, details about Project Maven emerged. The project uses machine learning and deep learning to develop an AI-based computer vision solution for military drone targeting. This innovative system turns reams of visual data – obtained from surveillance drones – into “actionable intelligence at insight speed.”

Because there are many more hours of surveillance footage than a team of humans can view, most of the footage cannot be evaluated by Pentagon workers. Using AI, Project Maven steps in to make sure no footage goes unwatched. The AI performs analytics of drone footage to categorize, sift and identify the items the DoD is looking for – cars, people, objects and so on – and flag the sought-after items for a human to review.  The project has been successful, and the Pentagon is now looking to make a “Project Maven factory”.

Reports of Google’s participation in Project Maven comes amidst news they are bidding alongside Amazon, IBM and Microsoft for a $10 billion “one big cloud” servicing contract with the Pentagon. Eric Schmidt, who is no longer CEO of Google or Alphabet, but who remains a technical advisor and board member at Google’s parent company Alphabet, claims to recuse himself of all information about Google AI projects for the Pentagon, because he also chairs the DoD’s Innovation Advisory Board.

Schmidt’s central role in this story underscores controversy about Google’s close relationship to the US military. In 2013, Julian Assange penned an essay highlighting Google’s sympathy for the US military empire in his essay, The Banality of ‘Don’t Be Evil’– a criticism of Schmidt and Jared Cohen’s co-authored book, The New Digital Age.

In 2015, Schmidt hosted Henry Kissinger for a fireside chat at Google. He introduced Kissinger as a “foremost expert on the future of the physical world, how the world really works” and stated Kissinger’s “contributions to America and the world are without question.”

For many, Henry Kissinger’s “contributions” are drenched in the blood of the Global South. Declassified documents show that during the Vietnam/Indochina War, Kissinger, then a national security advisor, transmitted Nixon’s orders to General Alexander Haig: use “anything that flies on anything that moves” in Cambodia. According to a study by Taylor Owen and Ben Kiernan (Director of Genocide Studies at Yale University), the United States dropped more tons of bombs on Cambodia than all of the Allies during World War II combined. Cambodia, they conclude, may be the most bombed country in history. By all reason, Kissinger should be tried for genocide.

Carpet bombing Cambodia is just one of many crimes carried out by Dr. Kissinger. During his time in government, he bolstered “moderate” white settler-colonial forces in Southern Africa to subvert the black liberation struggle for independence and self-determination. The US deemed Nelson Mandela, the African National Congress and other, less-recognized black liberation groups as “terrorist” and “communist” threats to US interests. The apartheid regime subjugated the black majority not only inside South Africa, but in brutal wars across the border in countries like Angola and Mozambique.  More than 500,000 Africans died in Angola alone.

US corporations profited from business in the region, and provided white supremacists the arms, vehicles, energy resources, financial support and computer technology used to systematically oppress black people. IBM was a primary culprit, supplying the apartheid state with the bulk of computers used to denationalize the black African population and administer the state, banks, police, intelligence and military forces.

On April 6, 2018, Kissinger welcomed one of today’s new tech leaders, Eric Schmidt, to keynote the annual Kissinger Conference at Yale University. This year’s theme was Understanding Cyberwarfare and Artificial Intelligence. After praising the ROTC and Ash Carter (both in attendance), Schmidt told the audience it is a “tremendous honor to be on the same stage as Dr. Kissinger, and we all admire him for all the reasons we all know.” In his speech, he spoke of how the US must develop AI to defend against today’s familiar adversaries: the “nasty” North Koreans, the Russians, the Chinese. A couple of Yale students were kicked out for protesting.

In decades past, human rights advocates famously challenged the development of technology for racial capitalism. Activists, including students and workers, pressured IBM, General Motors and other corporations to stop aiding and abetting apartheid and war.

Today, a new wave of technology is being tapped by military and police forces. IBM has partnered with the City of Johannesburg for early efforts at “smart” policing, while Africa and the Middle East are targets of the US drone empire. Activists advocating democracy and equality inside Africa and the Middle East are staunchly opposed to these developments.

The bi-partisan effort to police Trump-designated “shithole” countries with advanced weaponry has Big Tech on its side. Google’s involvement with Project Maven constitutes active collaboration in this endeavor.

An activist campaign about Silicon Valley’s collaboration with the US military could be unfolding. However, it’s going to take grassroots pressure across the world to make technology work for humanity.

Michael Kwet is a Visiting Fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School.

April 30, 2018 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Google’s Eric Schmidt, arbiter of news, has long history with Obama & Clinton

RT | November 21, 2017

Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, announced that his company will ‘de-rank’ RT’s articles online, calling them propaganda. Is he concerned for the integrity of news, or are his motives more partisan?

The 62-year-old, with an estimated wealth of $11.1 billion, has never hidden his political leanings, jumping straight into Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign long before she officially announced her candidacy. In one of John Podesta’s leaked emails, the long-time Clinton confidant and chairman of her presidential campaign told her soon-to-be campaign manager Robby Mook that he had met with Schmidt in April 2014, more than a year before Clinton told the American public that she was hoping to become their next president.

“I met with Eric Schmidt tonight… He’s ready to fund, advise recruit talent, etc. He clearly wants to be head outside advisor, but didn’t seem like he wanted to push others out. Clearly wants to get going. He’s still in DC tomorrow and would like to meet with you if you are in DC in the afternoon. I think it’s worth doing…” Podesta wrote in the email, which was published by WikiLeaks last October.

Another email, written two weeks later, showed Schmidt sharing his campaign ideas with Clinton aide Cheryl Mills. “Let’s assume a total budget of about $1.5 billion, with more than 5,000 paid employees and million(s) of volunteers,” he said.

He went on to brainstorm ideas on how to utilize technology in the campaign. It wasn’t long before The Groundwork, founded by analysts and engineers who worked on Barack Obama’s campaign and funded by Schmidt, became Clinton’s top technology provider. The Groundwork was housed in an office just a few blocks away from Clinton’s campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, New York.

Schmidt continued to advise Clinton on digital matters throughout the campaign.

“Eric recognizes how the technology he’s been building his whole career can be applied to different spaces. The idea of tech as a force multiplier is something he deeply understands,” The Groundwork’s Michael Slaby told Quartz in 2015.

Then there was campaign night, when a photo forwarded to Politico showed a smiling Schmidt at Clinton’s election headquarters, complete with a “staff” badge.

Schmidt’s efforts to get Clinton elected, along with Google’s overall efforts to do the same, were addressed in a November 2016 report by the Campaign for Accountability ‒ a non-partisan, non-profit organization that aims to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life ‒ and its Google Transparency Project. The document concluded that “Google executives and employees bet heavily on a Clinton victory, hoping to extend the company’s influence on the White House.” It added that “had she won the election, Clinton would have been significantly indebted to Google and Schmidt, whom she referred to as her ‘longtime friend.'”

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange also brought up the relationship between Schmidt and the US establishment in his 2014 book, ‘When Google Met WikiLeaks.’ He describes a 2011 encounter with Schmidt in Norfolk, UK, where Assange was under house arrest at the time.

“I had been too eager to see a politically unambitious Silicon Valley engineer, a relic of the good old days of computer science graduate culture on the West Coast. But that is not the sort of person who attends the Bilderberg conference four years running, who pays regular visits to the White House, or who delivers ‘fireside chats’ at the World Economic Forum in Davos,” Assange wrote. “Schmidt’s emergence as Google’s ‘foreign minister’ – making pomp and ceremony state visits across geopolitical fault lines – had not come out of nowhere; it had been presaged by years of assimilation within US establishment networks of reputation and influence.”

Same thing, different candidate 

Schmidt’s political leanings became clear in the early days of Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign. He publicly endorsed Obama, telling The Wall Street Journal in October 2008 that he was “doing this personally,” as Google was “officially neutral” in the election. He also served as an informal adviser to Obama’s campaign.

Schmidt also donated $5,000, the maximum allowed by law, to Obama’s 2008 campaign, according to US media reports that cited a now-deleted official list of donors. Schmidt’s close relationship with Obama didn’t end when the Democratic candidate was elected. Schmidt chaired the board of public policy think tank New America Foundation, working closely with Obama as a member of his Transition Economic Advisory Board. Later, Schmidt claimed a seat on Obama’s new Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

The two became so close that the Consumer Watchdog sent a letter to the White House demanding that Obama distance himself from Google, and stop inviting Schmidt to fancy galas in Washington, DC. The group pointed out that Schmidt, and then-Google Vice President Marissa Mayer, were invited to a state dinner despite the company being under criminal investigation by the Department of Justice over allegations that it profited from selling online ads to illegal pharmacies.

“Executives of companies under federal criminal investigation should not be invited while a major case is pending. Allowing such executives to hobnob at a gala White House event inevitably sends a message that the Administration supports them and undercuts the ability of federal investigators to proceed with their case in a fair and unbiased way,” reads the letter, dated June 23, 2011.

Schmidt also supported Obama’s 2012 campaign, helping to recruit talent, deciding on technology, as well as mentoring campaign manager, Jim Messina. He was present in the Chicago, Illinois boiler room on election night. The Google executive was apparently so impressed by Obama’s campaign staff that he invested in several start-ups founded by the analysts and engineers who worked on it, one of those being The Groundwork.

Schmidt’s announcement to ‘de-rank’ RT’s articles comes despite Google’s own investigation saying it found no manipulation of its platform or policy violations by RT. There may be more ground to question Schmidt’s integrity than that of RT – but that’s highly unlikely to happen in today’s climate, because Google is not a Russian company.

Read more:

‘Modern censorship: Google decides RT is propaganda, yet millions disagree’

‘Google’s plan to isolate Russian media is an act of information warfare’

Google will ‘de-rank’ RT articles to make them harder to find – Eric Schmidt

November 21, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Google Spy Drones For Street View?

By Wolfe Richter | Testosterone Pit | April 15, 2013

Back in 2009, Google CEO and now Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, already under heavy fire for his company’s strategy to collect, store, and mine every shred of personal data out there, said on CNBC, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

It makes sense. Why worry about surveillance if you haven’t done anything wrong? This, in his unvarnished manner, is what he thinks about privacy. There is none. You don’t need it. You don’t want it. It’s not good for you. It just makes you appear guilty. It’s the philosophy under which police states operate.

Google has no compunction about reading emails of its Gmail users, browsing through user details in its social network services, tracking people throughout their searches, purchases, and reading patterns. It draws conclusions and combines it all with other data into a beautiful whole. For people with Android mobile devices, there is little Google doesn’t know.

Google isn’t the only data hog out there, and perhaps not even the one with the most intimate data – that would probably be Facebook – but it has some unique non-internet tools. Its Street View cars for example. They record visually what is going on in every neighborhood in the world – while also picking up wireless data from home or business networks. So when its new “privacy policy” took effect last year, it caused a lot of fretting. “Calling this a ‘privacy policy’ is Orwellian doublespeak,” lamented John Simpson of Consumer Watchdog. It should instead be called a “spy policy.” But the ruckus, like so many things, subsided after a few weeks.

But suddenly, Schmidt got all riled up about privacy issues of devices that Google doesn’t control through its software and that can access and record promising details of life: civilian drones. Including the toy-like “everyman” minidrones, such as multi-rotor helicopters. He wants them banned outright. And if they can’t be banned, he wants them regulated. To make his point, he dragged out an unfortunate example of a neighbor with an axe to grind:

“How would you feel if your neighbor went over and bought a commercial observation drone that they can launch from their back yard,” he said. “It just flies over your house all day. How would you feel about it?” He didn’t like that prospect. Not at all. “It’s got to be regulated,” he said, he whose company fights regulations wherever it encounters them. “It’s one thing for governments, who have some legitimacy in what they’re doing, but have other people doing it … It’s not going to happen.”

An unfortunate example because an insidious and at once funny Google moment of this type erupted in a village in France. A guy was urinating in his yard. We know he did; just then a Street View car drove by. Its camera, mounted on a rooftop post, could see over the closed gate and the perimeter enclosure and caught the hapless dude in flagrante delicto.

He didn’t know it at the time. And he didn’t know it when the scene appeared on Street View. His neighbors discovered the photo of him in his yard, relieving himself, face slightly blurred. It was only after he’d become the laughingstock of his village that he learned about it. Sure, in Schmidt’s surveillance-state words, he “shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

So the difference between a Street View car and a drone is one of degrees. One can only capture what’s visible from its elevated equipment; the other can fly. One is an essential part of its business model; the other should be banned? Why his sudden handwringing about privacy when it comes to drones? Especially since Google is plowing a fortune into cars that drive themselves – road-bound drones, so to speak. The next step would be devices that fly. The mapping and control software would by then be on the shelf.

In a couple of years, the FAA will take up the delicate matter of drones used by civilians and companies. Perhaps by then, Google Ventures will fund a company that is developing the latest and greatest unmanned multi-rotor helicopters the size of a briefcase to replace the awkward Street View cars. They’d take pictures of the insides of homes, to show what a neighborhood is really like, beyond the facades. Users would love it. Software will blur the faces of the people inside to guard their “privacy,” very helpful, as the hapless dude in France found out. And then Google will oppose vigorously any regulation that doesn’t suit it. Because Airborne Street View would be the next leap forward for Google – and Schmidt must already be fantasizing about it.

Here are some tricks I use to maintain privacy and security on the internet – written in my own manner so that even I can follow the instructions: Windows 7, Internet Explorer, Silverlight, Flash Player, & Java Privacy Settings and Cleanup.

April 16, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment