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.
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.