The Tech Curmudgeon – Google’s CEO Schmidt clueless

Google CEO Eric Schmidt (center) and other Google VIPs wearing Google Glass (image credit: KPCB)

So Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt thinks that government regulation is required to protect privacy from a rising tide of civilian drones. The Tech Curmudgeon agrees, at least in principle, because civilian drones and things like passenger aircraft should be kept well separated.

Yet this is the man apparently doesn’t see a problem with Google Glass, a system that turns every user into a mobile audio and video surveillance system, with all that data conveniently stored in Google’s server farms.

If you’re a Google investor, dump your shares now. With a CEO who’s too stupid – or who thinks that everyone else is too stupid – to understand how these two claims are hypocritical, Google’s future looks bleak.


Google Glass: Welcome to the end of privacy

CATEGORY: PrivacyIf you haven’t yet seen Mark Hurst’s piece on Google Glass over at Creative Good, you need to. You really, really need to. A lot of times cool new gadget and service roll-outs mainly just affect the manufacturers and the people with the cash to buy them. Sure, there can be collateral damage – World of Warcraft widows, for instance – but usually the downside isn’t as direct as it is with this latest idea from the Don’t Be Evil crowd. A snip from Hurst’s analysis:

The key experiential question of Google Glass isn’t what it’s like to wear them, it’s what it’s like to be around someone else who’s wearing them. I’ll give an easy example. Your one-on-one conversation with someone wearing Google Glass is likely to be annoying, because you’ll suspect that you don’t have their undivided attention. And you can’t comfortably ask them to take the glasses off (especially when, inevitably, the device is integrated into prescription lenses). Finally – here’s where the problems really start – you don’t know if they’re taking a video of you.

Now pretend you don’t know a single person who wears Google Glass… and take a walk outside. Anywhere you go in public – any store, any sidewalk, any bus or subway – you’re liable to be recorded: audio and video. Fifty people on the bus might be Glassless, but if a single person wearing Glass gets on, you – and all 49 other passengers – could be recorded. Not just for a temporary throwaway video buffer, like a security camera, but recorded, stored permanently, and shared to the world.

Ummmkay, that’s a little creepy. But we’ll adjust, right? Not so fast.

Now, I know the response: “I’m recorded by security cameras all day, it doesn’t bother me, what’s the difference?” Hear me out – I’m not done. What makes Glass so unique is that it’s a Google project. And Google has the capacity to combine Glass with other technologies it owns.

First, take the video feeds from every Google Glass headset, worn by users worldwide. Regardless of whether video is only recorded temporarily, as in the first version of Glass, or always-on, as is certainly possible in future versions, the video all streams into Google’s own cloud of servers. Now add in facial recognition and the identity database that Google is building within Google Plus (with an emphasis on people’s accurate, real-world names): Google’s servers can process video files, at their leisure, to attempt identification on every person appearing in every video. And if Google Plus doesn’t sound like much, note that Mark Zuckerberg has already pledged that Facebook will develop apps for Glass.

Wait – so now it’s not only taking video of me, it’s linking that video to my name and identity? Yes. Try not to think, for a moment, about all the data that exists on you already – you know, consumer profiles and the like. You don’t surf porn, do you?

Finally, consider the speech-to-text software that Google already employs, both in its servers and on the Glass devices themselves. Any audio in a video could, technically speaking, be converted to text, tagged to the individual who spoke it, and made fully searchable within Google’s search index.

Nervous yet? Keep reading.

Let’s return to the bus ride. It’s not a stretch to imagine that you could immediately be identified by that Google Glass user who gets on the bus and turns the camera toward you. Anything you say within earshot could be recorded, associated with the text, and tagged to your online identity. And stored in Google’s search index. Permanently.

I’m still not done.

The really interesting aspect is that all of the indexing, tagging, and storage could happen without the Google Glass user even requesting it. Any video taken by any Google Glass, anywhere, is likely to be stored on Google servers, where any post-processing (facial recognition, speech-to-text, etc.) could happen at the later request of Google, or any other corporate or governmental body, at any point in the future.

Remember when people were kind of creeped out by that car Google drove around to take pictures of your house? Most people got over it, because they got a nice StreetView feature in Google Maps as a result.

Google Glass is like one camera car for each of the thousands, possibly millions, of people who will wear the device – every single day, everywhere they go – on sidewalks, into restaurants, up elevators, around your office, into your home. From now on, starting today, anywhere you go within range of a Google Glass device, everything you do could be recorded and uploaded to Google’s cloud, and stored there for the rest of your life. You won’t know if you’re being recorded or not; and even if you do, you’ll have no way to stop it.

So, say in five years you’re applying for a job with, I don’t know, Google. You might not remember calling Sergey Brin a fascist motherfucker on May 3, 2013, while having coffee with your best friend and discussing this article. But Google’s HR group remembers. They have the audio (and maybe the video, too). But, but – HR groups would never use that, right? No, of course not. Just like they never ask for Facebook passwords.

Just think: if a million Google Glasses go out into the world and start storing audio and video of the world around them, the scope of Google search suddenly gets much, much bigger, and that search index will include you. Let me paint a picture. Ten years from now, someone, some company, or some organization, takes an interest in you, wants to know if you’ve ever said anything they consider offensive, or threatening, or just includes a mention of a certain word or phrase they find interesting. A single search query within Google’s cloud – whether initiated by a publicly available search, or a federal subpoena, or anything in between – will instantly bring up documentation of every word you’ve ever spoken within earshot of a Google Glass device.

Seattle’s 5 Point Cafe has proudly become the first establishment to ban Google Glass. I’m guessing they won’t be the last. I’m also thinking of starting a pool: on what date will we hear about the first assault against a GG wearer by somebody who doesn’t want his/her privacy invaded?

Once again, corporate America is innovating new and improved ways of invading your privacy. Orwell saw the future, only he thought governments would be the culprits. And they certainly will be – expect them to be lining up to purchase Google’s data. And expect Google to find an excuse to sell it to them.

What we need now are equally gifted tech entrepreneurs dedicated to short-circuiting Google and to assuring greater privacy for the citizenry. I actually have a couple of ideas. If you’re a venture capitalist who’s concerned about our civil liberties, drop me a line….

Do Not Track may hurt online campaigning

If you ever want a good laugh, I highly suggest looking through the Google Analytics of yourself, to see what advertisers think of you. For example, mine says that I’m an 18-24 year old woman interested in politics and pop culture. The ads I usually get are to buy new seasons of House on DVD, to volunteer for Obama for America, and for some reason, to sign up for Christian Mingle (the Internet is now my mother).

The Analytics determine this based on the material you view online. It tracks what websites your IP address visits most often and a quick description of what those websites cater to. This tracking allows advertisers to find you where you live online and tailor their advertising campaign to their target audience.

Continue reading

You really want your smartphone to be that smart?

Smartphones are getting much, much smarter, writes Alan Mutter at Newsosaur — and that fact is another nail fastening the lid on the coffin of newspapers. But I’m not sure I want to live with a really smart smartphone with the increased capabilities Mutter predicts.

Wielding the hammer on the latest attempt to transfer wealth from newspaper companies to Silicon Valley are Google and Apple as they vie for creation of what Mutter describes as “one master app”:

[Y]our next smart phone will move from being a collection of individually helpful but largely unconnected applications to being increasingly dominated by a single master app that seamlessly and intuitively integrates the essential functions you commonly use. Continue reading

Digital forensic investigation fails to exonerate Heartland of authoring climate strategy memo

On May 1, 2012, The Heartland Institute published a digital forensics report from Protek International, a computer and information forensics and security firm based out of Chicago. Heartland hired Protek to investigate whether there was evidence that anyone from Heartland had written the “2012 Heartland Climate Strategy” memo (aka the Memo) that Heartland claims was fabricated by Peter Gleick when he falsified his identity in order to acquire and then leak confidential Heartland documents in February, 2012.

As a result of their investigation, Protek concluded that the Memo had not been created on Heartland’s computer system and didn’t exist there or in Heartland’s email system prior to its publication on February 14, 2012. An S&R analysis of Protek’s investigation report finds that this broad conclusion is not supported by the details of Protek’s investigation. Continue reading

The Tech Curmudgeon – hell no, you don't get my Facebook password, Mr. Interviewer

Image credit: Scientific American

In one of the Tech Curmudgeon’s favorite movies, Winston Zeddmore (played by Ernie Hudson) told Ray Stantz (played by Dan Aykroyd) “When someone asks if you’re a god, you say ‘YES!'” In that same spirit, if a prospective employer asks for your Facebook password, you say “NO!” Actually, the Tech Curmudgeon initially thought that “fuck off!” was a better response, but you may not want to get a reputation for having an attitude problem.

Then again, having an attitude about refusing to bare your private life to an employer who has no legitimate interest in said private life isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That’s why it’s called “your private life,” after all.

The Tech Curmudgeon also feels that any company who demands access to your private information via social networking sites as a condition of employment is a company that desperately needs to go out of business yesterday, if not sooner. Continue reading

Great googly moogly! Google ain't gonna !#$*!$%'in like this

Expletive Deleted

Or, Allegations of America’s dirty little backwoods secret and Google won’t let their ads be placed on the newsfic coverage…

Since I’ve only got a few articles under my belt thus far, I feel like I can still beat the “new blogger” drum, at least for a while. I’d best enjoy this while the romance is still all hot and sticky. My posts should still throb with their burgeoning tumescence. Why, I’m so hot, my prose is even turgid.

As a new blogger, I face many issues. Finding a name for a blog (and available domain) that pleases more than just me. Finding a host that will serve my needs without breaking the bank. Learning the ins and outs of social media and self-promotion. Maybe even generating a little (likely very little) revenue while I’m at it. That’s where this post comes in. Continue reading

The Tech Curmudgeon – Steve Jobsophilia

What the hell is up with all the Jobsophilia since Steve Jobs died? The Tech Curmudgeon has noticed that there’s a hell of a lot of supposedly smart people reporting and blogging on “technology” claiming that Steve Jobs was the most visionary tech guy in the last 30 or 40 years. Or they’re fellating Jobs’ reputation and going so far as to claim that the man changed the world more than anyone else in the history of technology. The Tech Curmudgeon wants some of what they’re smoking, because it’s clearly better than mescaline and LSD.

So lets look at some of Jobs’ contemporaries who are more important than he was to things that, you know, actually matter to the real world. Continue reading

The Tech Curmudgeon – "Technology" means more than gadgets, people

The Tech Curmudgeon looked up the word “technology” in his dead tree American Heritage Dictionary, and just in case he was dating himself, he looked up the word in an online dictionary too. Both dictionaries generally agree with each other that the word “technology” means the application of science or knowledge to achieve a practical objective. That’s a pretty broad definition that takes in anything from stereo systems to car engines to air- and spacecraft to oil extraction equipment. So the Tech Curmudgeon wants to know when was it that “technology” came to mean just personal gadgets, social media, and smartphone apps? Continue reading

The Tech Curmudgeon – software patents and Samsung vs. Apple

The Tech Curmudgeon read last week that Samsung was challenging Apple’s iPad patents, demanding that Apple prove its patents were valid. About damn time. Whatever lawyer it was in the patent office who granted the first software patent needs to be run out of town on a rail. And the lawyer who granted the first “design appearance” patent needs to be tarred and feathered and then run out of town on a rail.

Software patents are one of the most egregious misuses of patent protection that exist. There was a time when the patent office would reject patents for 3rd Grade math or simple sorting algorithms, but no longer. For the last couple of decades, anyone could code an obvious calculation method for a spreadsheet program and then patent that code. With that patent in hand, you could not only sell a crappy spreadsheet program, but you could also sue all the other spreadsheet program developers who used your patented code for a simple, obvious calculation. Yay, more litigation! Continue reading

Why Google has to appear to play nice with China

by Matthew Record

For America, especially American companies, The People’s Republic of China is like a wild west for the modern day: a vast, untamed opportunity for companies and all Americans with an ideological missionary impulse or anyone who salivates at the largest single-state market in the world. That’s why Google represents such an interesting fulcrum in the battle of the hearts and minds of the People’s Republic: Google is both an economic success story and an ideological entity with its motto: “Don’t be evil.” Indeed, “that’s why China hits the American mind so hard. It is a country whose scale dwarfs the United States. With 1.3 billion people, it has four times America’s population. For more than a hundred years, American missionaries and businessmen dreamed of the possibilities—one billion souls to save, two billion armpits to deodorize” (Zakaria 87). Continue reading

Nota Bene #117: Wake Up!

“Hollywood is so crooked that Mafia gangsters are entirely outclassed and don’t stand a chance. People in Hollywood are smarter. They have more sophisticated knowledge of money and deals and how to steal legally rather than illegally.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #114: Big Star

“The radio makes hideous sounds.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #113: Seth's Near-Death

“Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #111: Mmmmm… Beeeeeer

Sorry for the long absence. Let’s carry on, shall we? “If you listen to the guys up in the stands, pretty soon you’ll be up there sitting with them.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #109: You Can't Tuna Fish

“It’s absolutely stunning to me, the contempt in which the network holds the audience. The idea that these people have standards is laughable.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #107: Zzzzzzzzzzzzz

“I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #105: The Illustrated Dick

“When all you are becomes defined as the amount of information traceable to you, what are we then? What have we become, in a world where there is no separation, no door, no filter beyond which we can say, ‘No. This is my personal space. Not yours. Here I am alone with my thoughts and free of any outside influence or control. This, you cannot have.’ I don’t know, but I don’t want to find out.” Who said it? Continue reading