Welcome to Part 3 of my blog series about Google. If you have not read my first post, I’d recommend reading Google: Friend or Foe Part 1 and 2 before continuing.
What type of threat do companies like Google pose?
First, I think one threat tech companies pose is rooted in their surveillance business models, data collection, in addition to outside business relationships with governments (foreign and domestic) and other third parties. How will they use data? We’ve already seen the privacy issues, subsequent lawsuits and investigations.
Case in point, ten years ago China executed a state-sponsored cyber attack against Google and other large businesses. Many believe the attack was a response to Google’s decision to stop offering their search engine in the Chinese market due to human rights concerns. In addition the totalitarian communist state wanted to censor, monitor and limit Google search results. This began an interesting relationship between Google and the NSA (National Security Agency).
Once you investigate links with China, you will discover Google’s “Dragonfly” project. In a 2018, article from Just Security entitled, “Google’s Dragonfly: A Bellwether for Human Rights in the Digital Age”
“This “history” throws yesterday’s news about Google’s secret “Dragonfly” project, a search engine that will meet Beijing’s demands for censorship, into disturbing relief. Ever since 2010, the Chinese government has never quite gotten over the rebuke leveled against it by an uppity Western ICT company, which in retrospect clearly discredited the government on the world stage. Google took the type of action in support of human rights that few governments, let alone the private sector, would dare attempt. Of course, the Chinese government viewed the incident as a threat to regime control …. But, in the end, the Chinese government merely had to wait its challenger out, and all would be well.”
“Resisting no longer makes any business sense when the laws and policies of your country of origin and other active markets begin to resemble those of the country from which you withdrew.”
On the home front, if you want to explore Google’s U.S. partnerships with government agencies, political groups, nonprofits and the like, check out their ‘Transparency’ page.
Another interesting article was written by Harvard Law Review in 2018 entitled, “Cooperation or Resistance?: The Role of Tech Companies in Government Surveillance”
Second, I think the biggest threat comes from the Social Engineering aspect of Google’s capabilities.
Remember, social engineering is used to manipulate people. When your platform is capable of shaping thought, behavior follows. Behind every artifact or innovation is a worldview – a philosophy of the person or group that created it. What is this artifact or innovation for? What is its purpose?
What is the dominant philosophy behind driving the current and future business model at Google? Does the philosophy view humans as dignified individuals or machines or something else? What are the political and economic philosophies expressed through search algorithms and social engineering.
Everything is fine when the people at the top are of goodwill toward their fellow humans. However, when organizations and their partners become self-serving, abusive or tyrannical, a perceived threat becomes real. Individual lives and whole societies will be impacted.
I don’t think we fully understand the power and implications of these technologies.
When a company makes profits by collecting, organizing and manipulating the personal data of billions of people we must attempt to understand potential threats and risks involved. In the wrong hands, these powerful tools can cause great harm or be misused to the detriment of humanity.
At the end of the day, Google is able to curate your internet experience to the places Google wants you to go. It controls what you see and what you don’t see. In other words, Google can herd people where they want them to go through powerful algorithms. Because Google has millions of data points on billions of individuals, Google’s powerful AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology can predict your behavior with creepy accuracy. If Google can tell you where to find the information you think you are looking for but Google wants to to see and what to buy, it can tell you what to say and think. It already does.
Without anyone knowing, Google is shaping the worldview of billions of people. The question is what is the shape of the worldview Google intends for users? How will Google treat worldviews that counter it’s own? Shaping thought can be beneficial but that is what parents, teachers, mentors, artists and leaders do – not tech companies.
The First of the Ten Commandments is; “…You shall have no other gods before me”. After digging into the tech giant’s business model, activates, partnerships and philosophy, I believe Google’s first commandment is “You shall have no other gods but Google.” Think about it.
After reading this series of posts, are you seeing a general theme?
What can we do about it?
Don’t just take my word for it, do your own research.
Take a technology inventory. List all of the technology devices and platforms connected to you and your family.
Welcome to Part 2 of my blog series about Google. If you have not read my first post, I’d recommend readingGoogle: Friend or Foe Part 1 before continuing. Part 2 builds on the foundation of my previous post.
I think the best way to understand “What Google is actually doing?” is to see that Google is in the “thought-shaping” and digital human data-trafficking business.
When an organization’s stated mission is to “organize the world’s information”, we know that based on what Google does with information tells us more about the purpose. Information shapes thought. Thought and beliefs drive behavior. Therefore, I submit that Google is shaping thoughts of billions of people and by extension, driving behavior. But, to what end?
What is Google actually doing?
YouTube, AdSense, FitBit, Nest, DoubleClick and over 200 others are not the end of Google’s reach. Google is a major stake holder and data repository for genetics-testing company 23andMe. Seems harmless enough. However, 23andMe is partnered with big pharma drug giant Gloxo-Smith-Kline for research into disease using data collected. Most 23andMe customers are unaware of this. [source link]
“In its filing, Google also noted that Anne Wojcicki is a co-founder of 23andMe and is a member of the board of directors. Wojcicki is married to Sergey Brin, Google’s president of technology and company co-founder. The search giant also outlined other intertwined relationships beyond Brin and Wojcicki: Sergey also holds approximately 35 percent of Google’s Class B common stock. Prior to Google’s investment in 23andMe, Sergey provided approximately $2.6 million in interim debt financing to 23andMe…” [source link]
In other words, Google is interested in genetic data on millions of people. That’s of interest to me.
Google surveillance in your home
On the home front, Google’s purchase of Nest is an interesting play. Nest is well known for their ‘smart’ thermostats and ‘user-friendly’ security camera systems for homes and businesses. What is not so well known is Google placing microphones on their in-home ‘smart’ thermostats. Apparently, Nest ‘forgot’ to include the one feature most people concerned about privacy care about on their product feature list for in-home thermostats – a microphone. [source link]
Of course, there is Google Home, a virtual assistant similar to Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. These devices are constantly monitoring or ‘listening’.
Additionally, Google has filed a few interesting patents. Perhaps, ‘invasive’ is a better descriptor. These new technologies use artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze other technologies inside the home, clothing, chemicals and even voices in your home. [source link]
Google made inroads into the smart phone market. It’s Android mobile operating system has dominated the mobile market. Its devices are cheap and come loaded with Google apps. The Android operating system is collecting data on users who may not use Google’s other products or platforms. There are 2 Billion Android users worldwide as of 2017. [source link]
Google surveillance at your child’s school
Google also launched it’s Google ChromeBook, cloud-based personal computing hardware. It’s also very cheap but you’re locked into Google’s offerings with the device. The key to understand its growing pervasiveness in schools is knowing that the low price-point is a strategy to gain marketshare and essentially aimed at data collection. If a child is forced by his school to use a Google ChromeBook, he is being groomed to grant access to his data to a tech giant for life. How will that data be used?
Google is being sued in New Mexico for collecting and misusing data on children who are required to use ChromeBooks in schools. [source link]
The growing ‘tech in the classroom’ or “edtech” industry is worth BILLIONS of dollars. So, there is a huge push by big tech to cram as much technology as possible into classrooms and homes in the name of “better education.” There’s little to no research supporting the pervasive use of tech in the classroom is beneficial. In fact studies are proving that “the digital interface does not stimulate the brain as well as an analog interface. Off-loading the cognitive effort that makes critical brain connections stronger is like paying someone else to do your exercise for you.”
Remember, this is a profit-centered approach, not a student-centered approach.
Google surveillance on the school bus?
“In places such as Hot Springs, Va., Alphabet Inc.’s Google has wired school buses, turning them into rolling study halls for students with long commutes and sometimes patchy or nonexistent Wi-Fi at home. Google says the program, a pilot which is in 15 school districts in 13 states, will be funded at least through the end of this school year.” [source link]
Google surveilling your location, email, documents, photos and network
Google Maps was the best free mobile GPS system available… until Waze was introduced and began giving Google Maps a run for their money. Google acquired Waze for nearly a $1 Billion before Apple or another competitor could buy them. [source link]
All of this and more on top of the world’s most powerful search engine and email client used (Gmail) [source link]. While most know that Google stores personal data related to search, few are aware that Google is collecting data from Gmail accounts. [source link]
Google Docs is popular for document storage and search capabilities. Google Photos platform receives 1.4 Billion uploads per day by users. Let’s not forget Google Fiber (broadband internet and IPTV).
Are you starting to see a pattern? A good detective identifies behavior patterns. Patterns lead to evidence.
Google may have begun with good intentions but as I have demonstrated they have followed a path of bad actions that are a cause for concern.
BTW. None of this has gone unnoticed by the Feds, the U.S. Department of Justice has ramped up it’s investigation into this tech behemoth. [source link]
Why do companies like Google and Facebook offer their products for free or cheap? Because their surveillance business model turns the user into the “product” they can sell. Google and Facebook are in the ‘Digital Human data-trafficking” business. They manipulate people and sell the digital profiles of billions of people. They surveil you and sell everything they know about you to the highest bidder … and you let them.
In my next post, we’ll talk about the type of threat companies like Google pose and what can we do about it.
It all started when I learned how technology and social media were being used by pimps to manipulate and lure children into exploitation and trafficking.
As I learned more about platforms like Facebook, SnapShat, Instagram, etc., I ended up taking a deep-dive into the technologies and companies that power the massive engine we call the ‘internet’. To borrow an idea from the film ‘The Matrix’, I took the red pill which leads to truth. I’m interested in following the path that leads to the truth of a matter.
“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
The joke I hear often is, “Google is listening” to you. As we nervously laugh, we have to wonder, “To what extent is Google actually listening and why?”
I decided to research Google for three reasons. First, I’m concerned about privacy and data collection. Second, I am concerned what kind of tech-infused world my children will be living in. Third, I believe its beneficial for sensible intelligent people to learn and share regarding this topic. I invite you to join me as we explore Google if not for anything else than raising awareness. I will share my findings in the next series of posts.
If Google and other powerful technology platforms are “listening or tracking” you or to put another way, “gathering data on users”, we have to ask “why?” What is the purpose?
The short and benign answer most people give is that Google and other tech platforms are selling targeted ads to companies that want to sell us their products. However, recent data and user privacy investigations indicate something more going on.
Here are some questions to consider:
What is Google?
What are Google’s motives?
What is Google’s strategy?
What is Google actually doing?
What type of threat do companies like Google pose, if any?
What can we do about it?
What is Google?
To the general public, Google is the most powerful search engine in the world. It is. But, it is more than that. Google and its parent company Alphabet Inc. are active in multiple tech industries: internet technology and networks, cloud computing, computer software, computer hardware, artificial intelligence (AI), consumer services, security and advertising. Within these industries Google and it’s parent company Alphabet Inc. have made over 230 acquisitions since 2001.
Alphabet Inc. is the biggest company in the world. It is worth $1.2 TRILLION. It is also one of the most powerful influencers in the world.
What is Google’s philosophy?
“Don’t be Evil” is the tech giant’s motto. However, evil at its simplest meaning is the absence of good. I use the analogy, that darkness is the absence of light. In order to know what is evil, one must understand what is good. I argue that good leads to human flourishing, beauty, justice, health, unity, security and peace. Evil is everything that distorts or departs from good. In the final analysis, “Don’t be Evil” is a poor choice for a motto or way of doing business because you are framing your business philosophy around avoiding the “absence of good.” Perhaps, “Be Good” would be a better vision for Google?
The answer to “What is Google?” gets clearer as we explore their businesses and observe their behavior. This is where things get a bit more interesting and concerning.
Next, let’s explore motives. Motives reveal a lot about character traits, worldview and beliefs of individuals as well as organizations. Keep in mind, behavior (actions) can affirm or betray stated values or mission. In other words, to the extent your actions deviate from your stated mission or values give evidence of your lack of integrity, misrepresentation or ill-intent. If a company states a value of honesty and they fudge on their financials, they are not holding true to their stated value of honesty. They are being dishonest.
What are Google’s motives?
According to Harvard behavioral psychologist and tech research scientist Dr. Robert Epstein, Google has three motives.
2. Social Engineering
3. Government Partnerships (military, intelligence, law enforcement – both domestic and international)
The first motive is pretty straight forward, publicly traded companies exist to generate profits for shareholders. I have no problem with companies legitimately generating profits. Legitimate profit-making is a good thing. Provide a good product or service and get paid fairly for it. Great!
Its the second motive that should be explored, investigated and discussed. Social Engineering is the process used to manipulate the behavior of individual humans and groups. Basically, social engineering can be used to get you to click on an ad, buy a product, go to a political rally or watch a certain video, etc. It can also used to manipulate people.
The third motive is complex and very concerning, Government Partnerships. Frankly, I don’t have the expertise to completely dissect it but we’ll touch on it later.
In my next post, we’ll put Google on trial and look at their claims, the evidence and their behavior.
Can I have your undivided attention for 8 minutes?
‘Deepfake’ AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology is a powerful technology and it’s on the rise. Rather than trying to explain the technology, click play on the video below. This technology enables one to superimpose actor Tom Cruise’s face onto comedian, Bill Hader’s body. It is downright creepy.
Having viewed the video above, imagine the face of your child superimposed on to someone else’s body using AI technology. The scenes are made against their will and beyond your knowledge for the benefit of those who exploit and harm children. DeepFake AI technology can be used to create images and videos by those who wish to bully, blackmail, exploit, entrap, or groom our children. This is the worst kind of identity theft.
Artificial Intelligence commonly referred to as ‘AI’ is quickly transforming from a sci-fi fantasy into a current reality. It will impact every human-being on the planet. AI is a powerful technological tool. Will it be for good or evil, for benefit or detriment? We don’t know yet. However, law enforcement is concerned, the Federal Government is concerned, nonprofits and NGOs are concerned. Should parents be concerned? The answer is ‘yes!’
As many of you know, I advocate for internet safety and vigilance when dealing with these new forms of technology. In particular, understanding how our children (minors) interface with smartphones, internet capable devices and social media is vital. In addition, we must understand and address their vulnerabilities and our responsibilities on an ongoing basis. We must understand threats and risks of offering this powerful communication portal into their lives to early for the wrong reasons. These technologies are changing us as humans. But, that discussion is for another time.
My family practices internet safety by limiting where my wife and I post photos of our children on Social Media. We ask the same of the rest of our family. In doing so, we raise awareness of the risks in our community.
Having served for 3 years on the leadership team of the 5 Stones Anti-Trafficking Taskforce under the Ft. Worth Police Department, I am well versed in the child exploitation and trafficking space. Smartphones, unlimited internet access and Social Media platforms can be a risky if not deadly for our children. If this frightens you, it should. I’ve seen dozens of cases where children are being exploited online by bullies and pimps. The children come from every demographic, ethnicity, socioeconomic sphere, all ages and every neighborhood. Exploitation is not limited by borders or wealth (see Jeffery Epstein or visit your local law enforcement officer). We know the risks of sharing data and photos online. We know the risks of devices in the hands of children. Heck, I have a hard time putting down my smartphone.
We need a paradigm shift in our thinking. Parents must lock arms and unite against technology’s ability to allure our children (and us).
Imagine posting a public photo of your child the same way you see an advertisement on a public billboard. You are putting your prize possession on display for the world to see. With the current advances in AI technology (DeepFake), someone you don’t even know can transform an innocent image of YOUR child into a degrading and disgusting pornographic film by superimposing your child’s face onto a video image. By the time you discover the exploitation, its too late. Thousands of perverts, traffickers, sex-buyers and criminals will have viewed the video. Videos spread on the dark web and in private chat rooms where they are bought and sold. There is nothing you can do except prepare to deal with your child’s lifelong trauma.
Imagine your child on an auction block to be sold. In short, this is happening on the dark web and social media sites. But, you can mitigate the risks. You are the solution. You can be a hero for your child. It will require GRIT and discipline on your part as you talk with your children and partner with them as they grow older and demonstrate responsibility. Encourage them to lead in the family and school.
Solutions: Be Vigilant not afraid
Be aware of what you post online.
Be careful to post using proper privacy settings when using Social Media.
Use internet filters and monitors on your child’s devices for school and home use
Consider delaying giving your child a personal smartphone until 16-17yrs old (depending on their maturity and responsibility).
This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.