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Assange: Google Is Not What It Seems (newsweek.com)
362 points by rcamera on Oct 23, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 193 comments



Despite all the people that think he sounds like a lunatic, is any of what he is saying a lie? Lots of people who sound like lunatics but aren't telling lies are worth listening to, I think.

So, he's putting a lot of "these guys are all evil" spin on it, but then again, all the connections he is making seem to be true. Whether it means Google is in bed with the US government or not is up to the reader (with nudging from him, of course), but I don't anyone confronted with this many factual connections between a CEO of a mega corporation and government actors could simply write this off as "lunacy".

I think most people in the tech industry (and sadly not many people outside it) have already realized the Google is very very big-brothery.


How do you define a "lie"?

It is full of misinformation and omission of fact which then creates a false narrative. There are a few options then:

a) Assange is omitting important facts intentionally (which I don't think is the case). In this case you can call this misinformation a "lie".

b) Assange truly believes in the narrative and honestly thinks the important facts are not that important. In this case, well, he is a bit of a lunatic...

Some examples of omission/misinformation:

1. DARPA funding. He omitted that perhaps 30-50% of all PhD students in one or another way get DARPA funding.

2. "$2M contract with NSA in 2003". He omitted that Google was selling it's "Search Appliance" left and right in 2003 and NSA was just a small fish.

3. "Caught redhanded with handing petabytes of data... via PRISM". He forgot to mention that Google was bound by law to comply with NSL and warrants and was one of the first ones among all the companies to push for more transparency.

4. "Google Maps are shopped to Pentagon". He forgot to mention that Google sells access to maps to everyone and Pentagon is just a small fish.

5. When talking about lobbying, he stops explaining why Google lobbies. It doesn't lobby for more contracts, like Lockheed, it lobbies for less regulation in search ;-)

I could go on.

Overall, I would say, the Lockheed-Google analogy is deeply flawed. Just follow the money. Google does not care for government contracts - virtually all of it's revenue is from ads. The key asset for Google is user trust, which as you can see, is very hard to retain. If user trust is lost, Google is toast. Why would it then have any incentive to bed with the government?

Disclosure: I work for Google. I sit next to security folks (not physical security, mind you). Everyone I know here is super super pissed about Keyscore, wiretaps, NSL, etc.


Replying only to your comment about sitting next to security professionals. I am a security professional at another large company. I and my team mates are also all pissed about XKeyScore etc. But it doesn't bubble up all the way through upper management. Because at some point there's section 215 of the Patriot Act, NSLs, and CALEA.

It's the compliance and legal folk who implement key and data escrow. The security folks are mostly not working to defend against nation states - although they will partner with other companies in the field and with the government to share intelligence about ongoing campaigns and fingerprints.


Omissions are not lies. Yes, it's true that a lot of PhD-Students get DARPA funding, but that doesn't make the fact less true that Google also gets this.

All you are presenting is different interpretations of facts and weighting them differently - which is completely okay and a politics standard.

I disagree with you on one thing: if the main asset of google is trust, how come it aggressively lobbies against german consumer rights and makes themselves a hated target in that country? Doesn't quite fit...

I don't believe that Assange is necessarily _dishonest_. I have different interpretations to a lot of his things, but I am convinced that they are his actual opinions.


You are correct that omissions are not lies. However, when you need to make decisions based on information you need all possible information, not half of it. So it's not presenting different interpretations, he's providing context.

If I tell you about somebody wearing a rain coat and using an umbrella on a sunny day, you might conclude that person is a nutcase. If I add the context that this person is highly sensitive to sunlight and is protecting himself, you will probably conclude differently.

Yes, this happens a lot in politics, but that doesn't mean it's ok.


I could argue that adding the fact that a lot of PhD students receive DARPA funding and trying to mingle it with corporate funding is problematic on the same grounds, as it adds context that I don't feel worthwhile, because it distracts.

The attempt to put all context into all discussions is obviously futile. Adding relevant context is a worthwhile way of debate, but not necessarily part of any particular statement. Assange doesn't see that piece of info as relevant.

Trying to turn this on the person is not a way to go in my opinion. Prove a lie before.

Interacting with his statements (and be it "I think he's overinterpreting and I won't further engage"), is the way to go.

(To add context: I live in Berlin, a person in a rain coat and an umbrella on a sunny day is nothing special.)


There is a reason that the oath of witness in U.S. court systems requires telling not only the "truth" (i.e. facts or truthful opinions), but "the whole truth" (i.e. all important contextual information/opinions relevant to the question).

The best you can say about Assange building a narrative with carefully-manipulated facts and opinions is that it's manipulative, even if not false.

After all, that's what you guys all say when the NSA does it, is it not? The NSA isn't even this bad, they generally choose to be completely silent instead of feeding manipulative facts.


Thor is the Norse god of lightning. Everyone who has been struck by lightning in the past 100 years did not worship Thor. No worshipers of Thor have been struck by lightning in the past 100 years.

Now this isn't very convincing, since you are well aware of the fact that there are few, if any living worshipers of Thor. However, if you weren't aware, it would be a highly deceitful narrative that uses only facts. Omissions with the intent to mislead are just as dishonest as lies.


This is unhelpful, following this track, no discussion can happen without taking the full context of the universe into account. This might be fun for your 2-sentence statement, when discussing an entity as large as Google in relation to an entity as large as states, I'd be impressed to see you putting all context on the the table before I die.

Also, you cannot put the whole context on the table, as some of this is secret, meaning that you will necessarily omit things.

Which means you have to rely on heuristics. Or trust.

By the way, I follow Thor and I've been struck by a lightning.

Logic != Debate


Reading my example it is obvious that the facts I state don't support the position that worshiping Thor prevents lightning strikes; reading a position where someone makes statements of fact that sound ominous without certain context, but are benign in-context, it is reasonable to assume that either:

1) They don't know what they are talking about

2) They are being deceitful


Or

3) Doesn't merit that piece of context as you do. See my other comment about adding context is an important part of debate, but not necessarily of every individual statement.


I'm not quite sure what you're getting at; if they don't merit that piece of context as I do then either I'm wrong or they are (the latter of which would fall under #1, and the former of which I cannot learn from their statements since they never addressed that piece of context in the first place).


That is a completely different topic, but yes I am glad Vic Gundotra was fired.


Do you have folks in your company with the red ID badges? I think that they are the security vetted employees. These people are working on projects that you, your boss and their bosses do not and cannot know anything about. Are they super pissed also? Are you allowed to ask them?


Wherever you got your information from, they're hilariously wrong. I'm sincerely sorry that they made you look so stupid... red badges are for contractors and vendors, so you see them on the security guards and the bus drivers and the cafe workers. This is public knowledge (at the very least, Gizmodo published a sensationalized article containing this information like.... 3 years ago).


A little late, but there is no way to submit every piece of available (or even easily-researchable) information in one article. So I think every article would be guilty of lying were that the case.

Also, the facts that you listed are not the facts that really sell his story. It's the connections, not the business Google was doing. Google's a company, I am at peace with the fact that they're selling their products to the highest bidder (the government has a big wallet, filled with money we give it). It's the connections with schmidt, and the other high-ranking Google employees and various parts of gov't.

Also, remember, the only company that seemed to really fight surveillance (I might be getting this wrong, I only really read pretty standard news sources) was Yahoo.

I don't know why everyone is focusing on the DARPA funding... I don't really like it, and I'm worried about the priorities of the research, but that's not so relevant to google.


DARPA is the wrong agency to follow when it comes to intelligence funding. If you want to look at intelligence funding, DARPA is the wrong source. Check out IARPA instead. http://www.iarpa.gov/ These guys are the public intelligence research arm and researchers report to the Program Manager. Some of the programs are interesting. Some of them are downright... dodgy.


The biggest problem for me is that it simply doesn't matter if I trust today's Google 100%. The fact is that it's a company and eventually the leaders will die, leave or retire.

Even if I claim that Google [today] is 100% pure, honest and ethical, that trust isn't transferable to Google [tomorrow] that will have all of its resources and all of its databanks to mine someday.

And that's a problem. Rationally we shouldn't let them occupy too high a pedestal or trust them too far, or we run the risk of regretting it later, when it's too late.


I think this is an important point that a lot of people miss. An entity having too much power is a concern separate from what you think they'll do with that power: there are always situations where your current understanding of their "morality" will no longer be valid (i.e. coercion by gov'ts as with the NSA, change in leadership as in your example).

People seem to have an intuitive sense of this but don't have the brains to comprehend it so they land up on "Google has the potential to be evil so therefore they're evil now".


What I've always found interesting in the nebulus of Assange/Google/NSA/etc. is 90%+ of the time, people only focus on this as it if is only as US-gov issue. As if Russia, India, China and others haven't developed similar systems of surveillance. It's not to say that any system is wrong or right (whole different debate for another time) ... but it just astounds me that people look at what was leaked/released/unclassified and say, "well, look at all the threats to the US, look at what we need to protect. it's for our safety" completely ignoring that other governments and organizations are also developing similar systems. In my mind, it should just be treated as a baseline of possibility/capability.


But a lot of those other countries are fundamentally different (or at least they are on paper... specifically old constitution paper) than the US.

When the US does it, it's hypocrisy (because of written law, and what we supposedly stand for), when the other countries do it it's not questioned because their citizens don't have the same protection by a long shot.

So while contradictory, I think (partially) that it IS a US-gov issue -- other countries it's a non-starter because they don't have the same rights (or claim the same things).


True. But then an easy way to clarify my point would be ... when you make a connection with a server, can you verifiably prove your packets haven't been intercepted at any point and recorded by a foreign entity (for sake of this point, China/Russia) or undisclosed corp, given everything known about certain TLA security agencies? And that's kinda what makes things interesting ... that conflict drives innovation on both ends of the spectrum. The next decade is going to be interesting, that's for sure, heh.


Yeah, pretty sure the answer is no (though it's funny, we wouldn't have any idea how bad it really was, and maybe still don't, without the whole PRISM thing)....

yeah, the next decade is definitely going to be interesting.


Everybody and their grandmothers know that Russia, India, China are using everything within their means to spy on the world, and their citizens. Its the US hypocrisy of whining about this, while doing as much and more is what gets people.


> I think most people in the tech industry (and sadly not many people outside it) have already realized the Google is very very big-brothery.

.. and is politically oriented. For example, the China government hacking incident was blown way out of proportion, greatly damaging the company's business in there. The consequence is still hurting them that Google services are now almost inaccessible in China.


"The company, which in 2010 blamed China for an attack on its computer networks, said it recently discovered the Gmail campaign, which "appears to originate from Jinan, China," and targeted specific individuals." - http://americanpowerblog.blogspot.com/2011/06/china-hacks-go...

"Chinese hackers who breached Google’s servers several years ago gained access to a sensitive database with years’ worth of information about U.S. surveillance targets, according to current and former government officials." - http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/chines...

There's a reason PRISM and others go through the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Courts.

China hacked the interface US intelligence agencies were used to request Chinese surveillance targets and information. This is why they've lost business in China.


Some of it's clearly true, even if it's the more prosaic part of it.

The Google founders clearly have links to some evil people. If you attend the neo-Nazi rally[0] in Davos or the Bilderberg Group, you're meeting up with some rotten human beings who have both the power and the desire to do the world harm.

[0] Godwin does not apply because they actually are white supremacists.

I wouldn't accept the whole story uncritically. The thing about conspiracies and "conspiracy theories" is that lower-case-c conspiracies happen all the time. There isn't one Conspiracy to rule them all (that's an adolescent fantasy; if it did exist, you could slaughter them all in the room where they meet, and save the world) and the Bilderberg group doesn't have as much power or importance as is ascribed to it, and just as the various crime families don't identify with any single animal called "the Mafia", there isn't a cohesive "Power Elite" or "Illuminati". Google isn't at the center of The Conspiracy because it doesn't exist. However, people (and especially the sorts of people who tend to acquire power in large organizations) are naturally conspiratorial. When it suits their self-interest, people conspire. Given the company that is now available for the Google founders to keep, and the published fact that, to some extent, they do so, it's obvious based on these links, with the Google founders attending Murdoch's private parties. that Google is going to be involved in some dirty shit. Should it surprise anyone? The Valley is filthy. That's only news to the clueless.

This is, as Assange admits, largely speculation when it comes to motives. However, I think there's more truth in what he's putting forward than 99% of people in tech will want to admit.


> Godwin does not apply because [the Bilderberg Group] actually are white supremacists.

Basis for this accusation? Can't find anything about it except for from Stormfront and Alex Jones, neither of which count as basis for anything. It is Godwin if you accuse people of being Nazis without evidence, FYI.


[flagged]


Spreading openness and democracy around the world is part of the "Jewish agenda"?


True for all the Jews I know.


I did not realize what a nut Assange has become. The more there is the danger that he might be forgotten, the more ridiculous his theories of the world.

However, you have to think about his target audience. The audience doesn't consist of people who are familiar with things like DARPA grants, and think tanks. For people in the know, this writing will read like lunacy, because they will understand that Assange sees demons behind every innocuous shadow. Some random college kid from middle America, on the other hand, won't know that his writing is lunacy.

For example, think about his casual implication that DARPA funding of Page and Brin's Stanford research might be a signal of their nefarious links to some cabal of elites in the defense industry. Anyone who has worked in a top-ten engineering program knows that nothing could be further from the truth. Those grants go out, in a bureaucratic fashion, to tons of people, without any such elites getting involved at all. In fact the worst thing you can say about those DARPA grants is that they are haphazardly doled out for some real stupid projects.

But think about how that accusation looks to some kid. It seems like there is this grand conspiracy because Larry Page and Sergey Brin took DARPA money ... of course they must be deep cover CIA implants right?

Its complete stupidity from start to finish, but its the type of stupidity that can only be debunked by actually being there and seeing that Assange speaks nonsense. This guy is an entertainer and self-promoter of extraordinary cunning. Think of the audacity it takes to write this gibberish with such confidence.


The piece is 5800+ words, exactly one of which is DARPA.

It's entirely possible that Assange is a nut, but nothing he says presents quite as nutty as extrapolating that single mention into a tale of innocent students being seeded with delusions of CIA double agents and elite shadow cabals by a scheming madman.


The DARPA point wasn't the only point of insanity. I just don't have the patience to sit and list out why his other points are equally silly for anyone versed in the space. The DARPA point was the easiest to explain and the most accessible for the Hacker News audience.


Here's another one:

"In 2012, Google arrived on the list of top-spending Washington, D.C., lobbyists—a list typically stalked exclusively by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, military contractors, and the petro-carbon leviathans. Google entered the rankings above military aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, with a total of $18.2 million spent in 2012 to Lockheed’s $15.3 million. Boeing, the military contractor that absorbed McDonnell Douglas in 1997, also came below Google, at $15.6 million spent, as did Northrop Grumman at $17.5 million."

If you follow the supplied link to the lobbyist spending database, you find that the fiendish "National Association of Realtors" spent way more than Google and LockMart put together. The nefarious "American Hospital Association" also outspent Google.

Are we to assume that they are even more cryptomilitaryindistrial than Google?

No. I'd assume they have legislation in front of Congress. Far simpler.

There is a critique of centralization of information within internet corporations and government agencies, but this isn't it.


From a business perspective, you want to look at these as rates against revenue, not just bulk sums for reasons you pointed out.

Normalized for dollar spend per $1000 in revenue (2012), the % spend on lobbying is:

HP 232%

Facebook 75.6%

Northrop G 69.4%

Yahoo 55.1%

Google 36.3%

Lockheed Martin 32.4%

Boeing 19.1%

Oracle 18.1%

Microsoft 10.9%

IBM 4.6%

Ideally you would want to normalize by revenue from government contracts (like in HP's case), but there isn't really a story to follow here because different companies spend different percentages of their revenue on lobbying.


> Ideally you would want to normalize by revenue from government contracts

I'm not sure that makes sense; normalizing by revenue tells the tale of how much of what the company brings in is devoted to swaying public policy, but I'm not sure what normalizing by revenue from government contracts get you -- presumably, any profit maximizing corporation trying to sway policy is trying to do so for its own benefit, whether the way in which it hopes to receive that benefit is by direct government contracts, or by government policy encouraging (and perhaps even subsidizing) others to purchase the service it sells, or by some other shift in policy that helps the firms business.


It makes sense because some companies see lobbying as an investment in future sales, either indirectly through policy or directly.

HP is a prime example of this, as many government computers and services involve HP, hence HP has such a high "investment" rate with lobbying.


The National Association of Realtors is evil in the ways it maintains its monopoly on home sale transactions. Its enormous amount of lobbying is all about guaranteeing that monopoly by buying lawmaker votes.


> Are we to assume that they are even more cryptomilitaryindistrial than Google?

No. But those others haven't managed to convince too many that hey are "not Evil" or some like that bullshit.

Once they made that proclamation they get a nice PR boost, but when they are perceived to not abide by it, they should accept the corresponding criticism.


> But those others haven't managed to convince too many that hey are "not Evil" or some like that bullshit.

The "American Hospital Association" probably has very few people who think it is evil.


I guess you haven't read the HN threads on hospital costs in the US. Here's a sample https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6838269


> I just don't have the patience to sit and list out why his other points are equally silly for anyone versed in the space.

In other words, your argument is: if it isn't self-evident to you that I'm right and Assange is wrong then that can only be because you are so profoundly ignorant that it is not even worth making the effort to educate you, or even to point you to a reference.

You'll have to pardon me if I don't find that convincing.


No, his argument is that Assange is clearly wrong on one point, so don't buy his (Assange's) spiel hook, line, and sinker.

Think. Look into things. Do some research.


But.. he wasn't wrong. He claimed that DARPA supported early goog, and they did.

Your post's parent just doesn't happen to believe that that's cause for alarm.

He didn't buy into 'Assange's spiel' not because it was factually wrong, but because it differed from his opinion on the weight of significance regarding DARPA grants.

If his argument is "Assange is clearly wrong.", he's clearly wrong.


Assange gives a fact, and gives it an implication. The fact is correct DARPA did give a grant that lead to Google. The implication is "therefore Google is a government spy". I believe the great-grandparent post was arguing with Assange's implication, not his facts, when stating that Assange is clearly wrong. The GGP poster cited DARPA's history of giving grants to anything and everything. That's not a refutation of Assange's facts, but it is a refutation of his implication.


When your entire job is managing other people's information, the terms on which you let potentially hostile third parties access that data is a huge deal.

So what exactly is your problem with the DARPA point? It is perfectly legitimate to complain that the same political institutions advocating the dismantlement of civic privacy are funding consumer-focused tech in California. Or that Schmidt might harbor political/social aspirations that are leading him at best into a sort of passive acquiescence in activities Assange sees as socially destructive.

All you seem to be saying is that you consider these sorts of connections "normal" and thus not subject to reasonable critique.


>> ... Think of the audacity it takes to write this gibberish with such confidence.

Thanks for your heads-up.


> In fact the worst thing you can say about those DARPA grants is that they are haphazardly doled out for some real stupid projects.

There have been protests and boycotts against DARPA funding even back when it was ARPA. See http://web.eecs.umich.edu/~kuipers/opinions/no-military-fund... . This was especially an issue because "[t]he Mansfield Amendment of 1973 expressly limited appropriations for defense research through ARPA, which is largely independent of the Military Services, to projects with direct military application." You can see some of the effects at http://books.google.com/books?id=nUJdAAAAQBAJ&pg=PT264&lpg=P... , where project had to have a military justification.

Perhaps you can tell me this - why is there so much funding through DARPA and not NSF, NIH, and other non-military sources? Steve Blank's "The Secret History of Silicon Valley" discusses some of the long ties between Silicon Valley and the military. Do you call that a 'grand conspiracy'? Whatever it is, Assange's statement seem to be in line with at least part of DARPA documented history.


I am bummed that the "silly research" is gone. Whether intended or not, it pushed for more military research, which when not weighed against a maturation of the human race puts us in a more precarious technological imbalance.


The Mansfield amendment was deliberate, so yes, it was intended.

The question should be, why don't the non-military projects also not support "silly research"?

The answer seems to be a combination of factors. Since WWII the federal government switched to funding "silly research", instead of industry labs common in the pre-war era. Without a doubt this was enabled by government operations to run the war.

There's also the idea that government should be run like a business, and not waste money on 'silly' things.

Yes, it's crazy that the government likes its "five year plan" style of research, where you almost have to know the answer before you get research funding.


> DARPA grants is that they are haphazardly doled out for some real stupid projects.

I think this is what a lot of people outside academia don't realize. DARPA brings up connotations of inventing Arpanet, but the reality (like VC investing) is that a lot of silly research is funded by DARPA grants.


Calling someone a conspiracy "nut" is not an argument, and doesn't add anything to the conversation besides an ad hominem fallacy.

I do agree with your one point that DARPA funding is given out in a seemingly haphazard manner. However, giving companies money is an effective way of exerting influence over them in the future.


Simply calling somebody a nut instead of pointing out the flaws in their argument is a proper example of the ad hominem fallacy. However, taking aim at the argument itself, successfully demonstrating its nuttiness, and concluding that one would have to be a nut to try making such a case is not a failure of reason. Quite the opposite.

After all, the ad hominem rule is not some generalized prohibition against personal attacks. It is merely a prohibition against baseless or irrelevant personal attacks – especially when used to deflect a justified charge, skirt a legitimate issue, or evade a properly vexing question.

This is a very important limit, and one that serves a valuable social function. Specifically, it's what allows us to derive positive utility from clear and direct condemnation of dubious personal characteristics in cases where those traits are producing or defending overt violations of reasonable and openly defensible social norms – like not gleefully spreading baseless FUD, for whatever reason.

I'll be the first to agree that killing messengers is bad policy. That said, I'm also a big fan of marginalizing unreliable narrators. In that regard, knocking Assange down a few pegs seems like a major boon to the mass surveillance conversation, which could really benefit from cooler, clearer heads prevailing.


> After all, the ad hominem rule is not some generalized prohibition against personal attacks. It is merely a prohibition against baseless or irrelevant personal attacks

That reminds me of an earlier-posted article, "The Eighth Meditation on Superweapons and Bingo". Very interesting read: http://squid314.livejournal.com/329561.html


In essence you are saying that you don't agree with Assange so his name should be smeared to keep his opinions from reaching the public. You are claiming that you are able to parse and analyze his statements for their truthfulness, whereas the rest of the public will be hoodwinked. What an arrogant and elitist way to think.

Arguments should stand or fall based on merit, not on labels like "nutjob" or "conspiracy theorist".


"In essence you are saying that you don't agree with Assange so his name should be smeared to keep his opinions from reaching the public."

Nope. And even if I did think smearing people was okay, there's no need for dishonest characterizations when the man is openly making a fool of himself. If honest discussion about what he's actually doing makes him look bad then the fault lies with him, and not the people who are simply noticing that he's losing the thread.

"You are claiming that you are able to parse and analyze his statements for their truthfulness, whereas the rest of the public will be hoodwinked"

Oh really? Do say where.

"Arguments should stand or fall based on merit,"

Well, at least you're right about one thing. And speaking of arguments falling on merit, yours begins by distorting something I said to assert something I neither said nor even implied, then departs even further from reality by asserting I'm "claiming" something about my own abilities in relation to those of "the rest of the public" even though I made precisely zero mention of either. Seriously, at this point you're just making shit up. So of all the faults in your position, I'd say basic dishonesty tops the list. And that's a bit rich coming from a guy who started by railing against "smears."

But thanks for playing.


Actually, that's not what I'm saying, but you're certainly entitled to your opinion.


Hence why I think Snowden is somewhat stand-offish around him. Assange seeks acceptance and validation in a lot of the duo-presentations I've seen (especially in the Mega sponsored New Zealand one, where Snowden outright disagreed with him on a few points), but Snowden knows that he appears as a crackpot. A crackpot with SOME good ideals and points, but are ultimately poisoned by his high-level of lunacy appearance.

EDIT: It seems some people don't agree with me.

EDIT2: And the responder below has also been downvoted. Not liking this attitude, if you disagree with something it doesn't mean you should downvote. :\


I have seen some very shallow attempts to paint this as truth on Youtube. Not sure who the sponsoring organization was for that one, but you can probably safely assume it's an western-based acronym. Anyway, if you watch the full event it's clear that the entire thing was out of context. The fact is, both characters were somewhat standoffish around Mr. Dotcom and with good reason. I am not sure how, when discussing such important matters as the political direction society is taking with regards to its economic, technological development and the preservation of fundamental human rights within that context, how anyone's appearance is remotely relevant.


Thankfully Dotcom has realised his poisonous "brand", and has stepped back from the limelight (that is, until extradition is pushed again).


I am his target audience and I know plenty about DARPA grants and think tanks. Assange has read massive amounts of leaked diplomatic cables (remember he ranks among names like Manning and Snowden for leaking documents), and as far as I can tell is very well politically aware and spoken.

No, don't look at the (one) mention of DARPA funding. Go look at the content of the diplomatic cable quotes, the fact that Schmidt visited him with US Government Officials to espouse US foreign policy objectives. Look at the sum of his argument including all of his evidence. And remember that this is just an extract from a book he wrote about it.

Partnerships with US Corporations has always played a role in US Foreign Policy. Right now the military is talking about replacing large parts of its active forces with private companies. For information systems and telecommunication, launching rockets, building planes, creating munitions, researching weapons, it is the same.

Eisenhower gave his famous speech in 1961 on the forming Military-Industrial Complex. Military-Industrial because it partners the Military and Industry. (He warns America that if it goes unchecked, it could have dire consequences. I'm not saying it's gone unchecked - that's a different discussion.)

http://coursesa.matrix.msu.edu/~hst306/documents/indust.html

I go to my earlier point, the partnerships are not limited to munitions. Using Google to spy on foreign countries already shows that they have an intimate relationship. The question is whether Google is involved in Foreign Policy in other ways.

From GCHQ to NSA: "Let's be blunt - the Western World (especially the US) gained influence due to drafting earlier standards:

* The US was a major player in shaping today's internet. This resulted in pervasive exportation of America's culture as well as technology. It also resulted in a lot of money being made by US entities."

http://hbpub.vo.llnwd.net/o16/video/olmk/holt/greenwald/NoPl... (96)

The US would have a lot to gain if they could use Google to 'prioritize and export US culture'. Google's CEO sounds an awful lot like he's saying that.

From the intro text:

"They outlined radically opposing perspectives: for Assange, the liberating power of the Internet is based on its freedom and statelessness. For Schmidt, emancipation is at one with U.S. foreign policy objectives and is driven by connecting non-Western countries to Western companies and markets."

The US keeps an eye out on US Companies, too. Seems like an easy trade for me if I were a CEO. It will also help you expand your international base. Win-win.

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/09/05/us-governments...


I am his target audience too and agree with the view that Google is playing a role in the US Foreign Policy. But I'm not so sure that's a bad thing. It all depends on what you're promoting and that Movements.org non-profit the article/book talks about is a pro human rights organization.

So what is Google promoting in its role in the US Foreign Policy? Is Google promoting anything like torture or drone executions? As far as I can tell, no. They are lobbying for things like net neutrality.

I agree with Assange that Movements.org it has "blind spots", but do those blind spots make Google involvement a bad thing? Isn't Google just picking its battles?

All what the article proves is that Google has an agenda. WikiLeaks has an agenda too. I like both agendas and I think they overlap.


It is ironic but the DoD is increasingly more progressive than the actual elected government. They fund open ended science and research. They invest in renewable energy projects and have a serious attitude towards climate change. They can have a suprisingly beneficial for the environment of sites they own.


The Naval Surface Warfare Lab funded my high school robotics team trip to Seattle. I must be really evil.


From an old Onion article at http://www.theonion.com/articles/death-star-to-open-day-care... :

> After months of speculation, it was confirmed yesterday that the Death Star, the Empire’s vaunted, planet-destroying space station, has added a new, state-of-the-art day care center to its already vast array of capabilities. The massive four-room day care center, which, according to Grand Moff Tarkin, will “provide a safe and fun learning environment for tots between the ages of one and four,” has already begun spring enrollment and is expected to be fully operational by June 1.

> ... Last Friday, in the middle of a coloring activity, the planet Alderan was blown up, delighting 23 of the 24 children who witnessed the devastating power of the battle station.

> ... “As a stormtrooper and father of three, I’m very excited about the new day care center,” Death Star citizen Ralph Sedgwick said. “It’s a safe, nurturing environment, one in which my child will learn.”

I'm not at all saying that NSWL is evil. Only that, realistically, even the most quintessential of evil empires must surely not have been evil in every single aspect. A large organization can't work that way.


you may not be evil, but it would be logical to think that your ambitions coincided with a few of the ambitions/priorities of the Naval Surface Warfare Lab.

If a consensus was reached by the public that NSWL does 'evil' things, it'd make logical sense to further investigate the possibility that you do evil things.

DARPA creates lots of things, but one of those things they focus on is weapon advancement and defense. They have a lot of creation under their belt (the internet, various medical advancements, surgical and prosthetic equipment and techniques, etc etc), but their public military image and priority on defense is such that the public has come to the consensus that DARPA is a spooky, evil, lab -- regardless of the good that they've done.

If the public consensus is that a group that Google deals with 'is evil', it'd make logical sense for there to be more pressure on both parties (Google and the involved party) to be as transparent with the public as possible to negate the brooding bad PR -- otherwise that 'bad' image may rub off and affect both parties.

That is, unless, the benefits of the partnership are greater than the disadvantages created by the negative PR generated by the partnership itself.. and I am personally of the opinion that that's the state Google is in now.


> you may not be evil, but it would be logical to think that your ambitions coincided with a few of the ambitions/priorities of the Naval Surface Warfare Lab.

As a threshold matter, I don't think developing new technologies for the purposes of defending the country is "evil." Besides that, perhaps the majority of the military's interests coincide with those of the public as a whole. The technology that helps stabilize injured soldiers in the field so they can be brought back into a hospital also helps people who have been in serious car accidents. The military's need for survivable, distributed, communications infrastructure gave rise to the internet. Its work into reconnaissance and attack drones is giving rise to the delivery drones Amazon is looking to put into the market.

Medicine, logistics, automation, data analysis, communications, etc, are all areas that the military has a huge interest in, but those areas also happen to have extensive, totally innocuous purposes.


Perhaps in 5-10 years, people are going to look back at your comment and think you are the nut.

I'm confident Assage knows what he's talking about more than you do.


He writes well, and it's an interesting look at how intertwined the government has become (was it ever not?) enmeshed with corporate empires. Unfortunately in the wider population, Google's image is nigh unassailable. The average user wouldn't know about their being saddled with military contracts through their Boston Dynamics acquisition, for example. For this, and other reasons, 99 times out of 100, "free market" consumer action such as boycotts have negligible impact. That's alright though, when you can trust the state to properly monitor and regulate ethical conduct, though it doesn't look like we'll be quite so lucky here.

Regulatory capture is one of the biggest problems in the government today, but the solution isn't decreasing the power of the government over companies, it's decreasing the power of companies over the government.


>>Unfortunately in the wider population, Google's image is nigh unassailable.

Well, for me I _still_[1] think of Google as the good guys because I place the blame for this mess squarely on USgov, which perhaps ultimately leads to the public's lack of empathy - but I see this as a chicken-and-egg problem. I don't know if USgov laws created a socioeconomic setup that made people too stressed about day-to-day life not care, or people not caring resulted in our current socioeconomic setup. That's the cycle I'd like to break; but blaming Google solves nothing. What are they suppose to do? Just straight up say "Screw you USgov, we're not obeying the law. Don't care about your gag-orders or your subpoenas. We're just going to flat out refuse. Do your worst, come at me bro." --- I would think even Google must crumble under the full force of USgov that would swiftly follow such an act of rebellion.

Afterall, Google cannot dodge, bob and weave like say... Snowden.

1. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8443796


> What are they [Google] suppose to do?

Not have a business model predicated on datamining users' information, and build their systems in such a way that they are unable to collect troves of unnecessary information.

But the only way we'll ever see any change is through users/developers: Detach yourself from such businesses. Don't build your dream on top of their corrupted platform. And if you must use some of their services for pragmatic reasons, consider them hostile governmental entities and thoroughly understand what you are giving away to be stored indefinitely.

Even if we demolished the NSA and put the traitors' heads on pikes, it would only be a matter of time until insurance companies robustly created similar chilling effects: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7928484


Basically, you're saying to just not create a business like Google. That's not a practical solution because... money. If there's an opportunity to make money, it will be taken. Even the illegal & immoral ones, not to even talk about perfectly legal avenues.

More tangible problems with your idea of never collecting huge amounts of userdata are:

- If Google didn't collect userdata, I suspect their search wouldn't be working even half as good as it does now.

- Gmail, or any email provider?

- Amazon's shopping history with your address and CC recorded?

- Youtube?

- cellphone service provider? (yeah, you could avoid logging conversations & SMS but you're still the kind of company the NSA would come to for spying on a person simply because you'd be a major hub of communication)


Yes. Users wising up will hopefully put an end to that money. Your statement is similar to saying that ending the NSA is not a practical solution because "power". So our personal autonomy is fucked because money and power - I'm willing to admit that this may be the inevitable answer, but in what way is it productive?

It's indeed hard to imagine a world in which users control their data - that is the extent of how hard we've been pwned.

Some of these systems were in place long before the issue could possibly be on anyone's radar, and would/will take quite a lot of work to extricate ourselves. anonymous payments - hard, especially now with Bitcoin on the scene. cell service - a bit harder, TOR+wifi+bearer payment for programmatic wifi access. physical address obfuscation - even harder, physical package mix network backed by repu (fuck, I give up).

But Youtube? You could write a software frontend tomorrow that avoided being Google's slave by not sending cookies. Comments would be a little harder, but that's a feature - I think a recent study showed glancing at those actually causes brain cancer. Beyond that, I guess TOR to scrub IPs until a better (high-latency) mix network comes along.

Email is a broken naive protocol like HTTP which relies on centralized identities, and can thus never really be secured. But secure messaging itself is a low hanging fruit. The fact we don't have it already shows that we seriously need to invest effort into building the ladder.


When I said youtube, I meant the fact that people upload their lives to it. Not the cookie or IP tracking stuff. Speaking of uploading lives, let me add Facebook. So there just can't be a Facebook?

Devolving the internet & its services isn't the answer. You'd also have to just stop using cellphones too. There is no hiding from a corrupt government. You can't expect the general population to do all this stuff you're talking about. You have to fix the government. Focus on corruption-in-USgov and NSA, they are the enemy. Anything else is a distraction because it's not reasonable to say "Don't make a useful service for millions of non-technical people". Somebody, something, will always be popular and become a major hub of communication. To prevent that, is to prevent the evolution of not only the internet... but even society in general. And you'd be doing all that to avoid a corrupt-government, which you will fail at because you cannot avoid a corrupt-government. Anyone who thinks they have is wrong; it's just that USgov/NSA isn't interested enough in them yet.

The only exception is Snowden, and we all see the sacrifice he had to make to do it. If we all did that then... well... there is no America anymore. If that's what you're advocating, then you're asking for a nationwide revolution. Which is fine, btw. I'm supportive[1] of that. I'm just saying that avoiding a couple of social sites doesn't put you out of reach of the NSA. You'd have to get a significant amount of US citizens to go completely off the grid and live like hermits... or Snowdens. If that happened, I will happily call that a revolution and celebrate.

1. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8458114


(for context, I hope for both the NSA and Facebook to go out of business, and was recently thinking Snowden might make a good Schelling point for a write-in candidate)

There's always going to be collection of selective disclosure. Some of that could be changed by a culture of secrecy (youtube videos in skimasks ^_^), but in general there will be people who post everything to the friendster du jour. And I don't see how one could ever stop assuming that information will be archived indefinitely. For this, my hope can only be for a symmetric Brinworld transparency where it ultimately doesn't matter (and to the extent some does, people learn to navigate these contours).

But for stuff that doesn't need to be shared, I think you're focused too much on the NSA, when it's really just the most prominent example. Any sufficiently-funded intelligence agency is going to have plants that work at significant corporate information troves. Exfiltration isn't terribly hard when companies setup geographically diverse data centers on purpose.

And as I said, insurance companies are a far more worrying threat to me as far as dictating everyday terms of your life - "we noticed you buy an awful lot of beer. Your auto insurance rates will be doubling unless you let us install a GPS-enabled breathalyzer in your car". I suppose this could be held back with legislation if we had a working political process, but I also recognize that economics tends to win out regardless.

You say 'devolve' when talking about moving to non-centralized services, but this is a loaded term. I view web toys (also a loaded term, heh heh) as a stop off from the Internet becoming mainstream-recognized before its application technologies were really polished to withstand model precession. There's no reason privacy-preserving technology couldn't have a similar interface, yet be easily self-administered with the help of any friend who is just slightly savvy (besides that it's much harder to get such software funded when there's no point for capital to invest because it rightly takes the middlemen out of the picture).


"Regulatory capture is one of the biggest problems in the government today, but the solution isn't decreasing the power of the government over companies, it's decreasing the power of companies over the government."

It's both, really. Companies are incentivized to meddle with government because government meddles with them. The revolving door goes in both directions. It's the dark side of "public-private partnership."

BTW... I really wonder if it's possible to get as big as Google without kowtowing to the state. Are you allowed to get that big without being summoned to some... ahem... "interesting" meetings? Seems to me that no government would allow private power of that magnitude without ensuring that its leadership was somehow beholden to state interests or at least was "with the program."


>"That's alright though, when you can trust the state to properly monitor and regulate ethical conduct, though it doesn't look like we'll be quite so lucky here."

Please provide an example of an industry whose regulator has performed this task well (or a list of regulators if you can find more than one), as I am not familiar with any in North America (my area of residence and familiarity).

>"Regulatory capture is one of the biggest problems in the government today, but the solution isn't decreasing the power of the government over companies, it's decreasing the power of companies over the government."

Why is the former solution inferior to the latter? I believe that the first solution is the only solution because of problems such as the aformentioned regulatory capture, as well as public choice, and various resource allocation (market-related) reasons. Please explain why I am mistaken. If you would like clarification with respect to any of my reasoning, let me know, and I can show my work (but I don't want to bore you unnecessarily).


1.

That's kind of the catch, isn't it? All the government agencies that do their job with efficacy wouldn't be the ones you'd be made aware of. Only when something goes wrong do you become aware that your local water board performs useful work.

To the point though, regulation ensures our planes crash at a rate of less than one per 21,000 years of flight time. Food safety regulations have dropped e.coli poisoning by half in 15 years. I believe there's a state by state comparison on road deaths following seatbelt regulations, showing a clear causative effect.

Maybe we'd be a bit more aware of the fact that the government actually works pretty well most of the time if we sent our little prayers of gratitude to the Federal Aviation Administration on touch down instead.

Despite this, my larger point is that it works even better in most other Western countries. You can see this quite clearly in at least one case by comparing public expenditures on healthcare per person. Single payer health insurance is more effective per dollar, regardless of possible criticism on other grounds.

2.

Largely, because the free market is a poor regulator, and the government does it pretty well most of the time. To break it down:

a) there are things we'd rather corporations didn't do, for the good of society as a whole - such as misleading consumers about ingredients, or hey, hiring local cartels to break down some unions in Columbia.

b) consumer action by itself is ineffective. Boycotts, in the vast majority of cases, are too transient to be effective. This is compounded by the sheer number of companies one must try to keep track of to be an ethical consumer, the cartel example above is Coca-Cola, for example. Furthermore, say a mining or oil company is doing massive ecological damage. It's just too difficult to be able to track the produce of that mine to any decisions you make personally to effect what minute sway that decision would have.

c) the solution is to codify our standards for this behavior by social agreement, and penalize corporations that are found wanting. This is a regulatory body that provides a net benefit to society.

I do agree that the government has protectionist and overreaching regulations in certain areas, but I believe it's remiss to label the entire government as such. "Big" and "small" government are rhetorical buzzwords that prevent people from evaluating regulations and regulatory bodies on the case by case basis they require.


1. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is actually used on Wikipedia as an example on the regulatory capture page; saying that "[i]n a June 2010 article on regulatory capture, the FAA was cited as an example of "old-style" regulatory capture, "in which the airline industry openly dictates to its regulators its governing rules, arranging for not only beneficial regulation but placing key people to head these regulators".[1] If you believe that regulations have improved food safety, I suppose that would be attributable to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), where there is substantial evidence that it has caused more deaths than it has prevented, as well as evidence that it has gone out of its way for the benefit of some corporations; I have too many citations to provide for easy reading here, but the Wikipedia page is a good start.[2] It is possible that seatbelt laws sped up adoption, but the government has continued to ratchet up safety requirements without regard to the cost/benefit ratio to consumers, and the regulations have prevented further innovation in many area of automotive design and construction.[3][4]

2. a) Although the 'ingredients list' is a frequently cited example, the court system is sufficient to police this, as product descriptions are legally binding; the judicial system serves well in areas without 'consumer protection' agencies, such as electronic component performance specifications.

b) Is the problem that consumer action is ineffective, or that the majority of consumers don't agree with you, and engage in the same boycotts you do? Boycotts by individuals and corporations were effective in pressuring South Africa to stop apartheid, and have worked against many companies including Nike. I for one cannot manage to persuade my fellow citizens to boycott "The Simpsons" (which I don't find funny), or "Lululemon" (which far too many people wear outside of yoga classes), but that does not mean that I should be given the coercive power of the state. Perhaps the onus is on you to be more persuasive, and regulators are unnecessary here as well.

c) Maybe codifying standards into law is a possible solution, but the real problem is that there is no way to prevent the standards which are codified from being crafted in such a manner as to benefit special interests more than the general public (for public choice, and political ignorance reasons).

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regulatory_capture

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_the_Food_and_Drug_...

[3] http://econlog.econlib.org/2014/10/09/mueller2.jpg

[4] http://www.autonews.com/article/20140331/OEM11/140339975/tes...


> the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), where there is substantial evidence that it has caused more deaths than it has prevented,

This claim establishes you either as having horribly terrible reading comprehension, being a liar, or being a lunatic. The idea that the FDA has _cost more lives than it saves_ is so laughably insane that I don't even know where to begin. I guess the easiest place to start is the fact that your "sources" say nothing of the sort: the closest they come to you claim is the the a _specific_ amendment that the FDA made 50 years ago "may have cost more lives than it saved". To somehow conclude that applies to the FDA at large seems impossible for anyone with a reading comprehension level higher than the second grade.


Reading through the specifics, you are right, it seems that the FAA is not doing as good a job as it should be, with episodic laxness in safety checks. It's a leap to say that the industry would be safer or otherwise better off without it though.

Claiming that the FDA has caused more deaths than prevented is, I'm afraid, utterly mindboggling. I can't really entertain the notion seriously, and can only think that this is more selection bias. Do share the evidence, though I feel it'd be a difficult thing to quantify concretely.

Ingredients lists is a throwaway example. More difficult elements to police are things like pesticide usage, hormone usage, presence of disease causing bacteria or molds. The reason Mad Cow Disease is no longer relevant is due to quick identification of the problem and suitable regulation to rectify it. 4.4 million cattle were killed to eradicate the disease, which is difficult to imagine happening quite so thoroughly by the individual volition of the farmers involved.

As for boycotts, it comes down to a separation of belief and behavior. Say a company with production in the third world sometimes uses slave labor. I'm confident that the majority of consumers would agree that this is not a morally acceptable thing for the company to be doing. However, this doesn't necessarily translate into changes in purchase decisions, if the consumer even finds out about this fact in the first place. Immoral corporate action is only rarely confronted by boycott, and only rarely does that boycott then work. Personal preferences are beside the point, and it's disingenuous to compare cartoons to human rights abuses.

Codification of standards can and is done without privileging special interests over the commons. In most other Western countries, this is pretty well understood. The political structure in the US (low voter turnouts require excessive campaign funds which require pandering, for one) means that regulatory bodies may be more susceptible to capture than most, but the fault does not lie with the existence of the body in the first place, nor in most places, does it wholly negate what good the regulator does do.

It does look that way, of course. "Fluoridation of Water Saves Another Ten Million Cavities" is unfortunately a headline I've yet to see.


I don't know what exactly the parent poster had in mind about FDA, but a commonly seen argument is that delaying a drug for a year by requiring more tests saves X expected lives (more chance to discover adverse effects), but also costs Y lives (those who would've been saved during that year), and that FDA are motivated by political reasons to act to ensure safety even in cases when X is significantly less than Y - thus, in effect, killing many people.

But that's not my point to make, so I can't give specific examples.


Any interesting point, though it'd be hard to believe that'd come anywhere close the amount of lives saved by ensuring food and medicine are safe.


He does indeed write well. This made me lol:

>> That April, $32,300 went to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. A month later the same amount, $32,300, headed off to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Why Schmidt was donating exactly the same amount of money to both parties is a $64,600 question.


A lot of innuendo and guilt by association, political conspiracy ala Kevin Bacon. I suppose isolation tends to produce conspiracy theories. I'll get down voted for this of course.

When Assange is raising concerns about a potential Google monopoly over the whole of the internet, he is of course, raising a legitimate concern. But the attempts by Assange, and people like Yasha Levine, to tie Google into the military industrial complex are weak sauce. The point about DARPA funding is particularly bullshit. Is any student who ever worked using research funds or equipment from DARPA at a university, and later goes on to found another company, beholden to the agenda of that organization? I worked on projects in college where I scarcely knew where the funds were coming from or who I should be paying my allegiance to.


the attempts by Assange, and people like Yasha Levine, to tie Google into the military industrial complex are weak sauce

The historical, current and future involvement of senior Google executives in US foreign policy, their self-description and in some cases their personal identification as middle-east focused was, I felt, well illustrated in the article. The DARPA point is tangential.


Though the article was focused on middle-east related activities, would your argument change if the article mentioned an equal number of South American or Asia focused conferences/think tanks, etc. etc.

It's interesting that we keep saying US foreign policy, but I wonder if it truly is US only, or if Google's connections in other countries have similar connections and activities? If they do, does that change how we feel about these?


would your argument change

This is a tangent. I don't think there's any argument. The statements were well supported.


The statements are mostly guilt by circumstance. IMHO, there's a lot of puffery and bullshit going on at these NGO conferences and meetings, where self-important people present platitudes in powerpoint slides about vacuous and abstract solutions for the world's problems. It's the same nonsense we've seen before. A bunch of bankers go to meet in secret, and all of a sudden people are talking about Bilderbergers/Trilateral Commission/Illuminati/FreeMasons secretly ruling the international scene.

If a bunch of Silicon Valley guys go to Davos and meet with say, the government of Burma, where they talk about how some technical internet thing is going to help their country, is it nefarious, or is it a naive belief by people passionate about technology and their own ability, that they can solve complex problems with stuff they're working on? (The State Department arranges lots of these "CEO tours" all the time. Are they secretly working on foreign policy, or, are they trying to open up exports, or sell people on American capitalism? And so what if the CEOs are talking about the benefits of the Web or internet technology for an open society? Just because the trip is arranged on behalf of the State Department doesn't make the agenda wrong)

The desire for the ultra-successful techies to thinkt hey can solve the world's problems by exporting Silicon Valley is the kind of thinking Mike Judge lampoons in "Silicon Valley", the naivete' of techies that they can "change the world" by developing an app or distributing computers to people in a country with broken civil institutions.

Assange wants to play "connect the dots" to imply something nefarious going on, but if Angelina Jolie were in the same meetings instead of Eric Schmidt, what would Assange be saying? Hollywood actors often have the same narcissistic view.

Nothing in his commentary actually zeros in on anything Google has done based on these supposed connections that's bad (leaving aside the wrong claims about how PRISM works)

What would be the incentive for Google to risk a tens of billion-a-quarter business on some quid-pro-quo for the US Government or Eric Schmidt's vanity? After all, it is a public company seeking to make a profit. It is not an oil company, it does not harvest raw resources from foreign companies, and it doesn't make hardly any revenue from selling services to the US government. There's not much US government favors can do for it's bottom line. It's biggest impediments are regulations that block people from using its services (mainly China). It doesn't have the same incentives that past American companies needed the American empire for -- to protect its physical interests in oil or resource concessions abroad. You need the US empire for that, you don't necessarily need it to protect virtual assets.

A plausible theory for Google being in bed with the US Government in this regard would have to provide a compelling motive. You can make the case for Exxon, or Unilever, Halliburton, or say, companies with manufacturing plants abroad, that rely on US government protection and contracts, but the only theory about why Google would even want to be in bed with the US government would rest on some kind of threat, like the government putting a regulatory gun to the head of Google threatening onerous restrictions or anti-trust action that would destroy their business unless they comply -- a huge stick, not a carrot.

My point is, Google has more important things to worry about on a day to day basis. They're more worried about competitors like Apple, than some weak ass benefits some association with bureaucrats might provide.

I think Schmidt's post-Google-CEO career, from writing books, to trying to be a pseudo-diplomat and tech-utopian ambassador are really harming Google's brand by association. Bill Gates had the right idea, pick low hanging, high value, fruit, work on the boring stuff, stay mostly quiet about it while you get stuff done. Actions speak louder than words.

But I think it's just that -- association. Google Ideas isn't Google, this Cohen guy is irrelevent to Google's main business lines.


This is probably the clearest most concise rebuff of the Assange's talking points and I completely agree with you.

However, in the interest of transparency, I wish you would have included that you work for Google.

On another note, not only do I agree with your points, but I think you've got a great writing style.


Thanks. It's clearly marked in you HN profile who my employer is, I'm pretty transparent about it, I pretty much assume that anyone who suspects my bias or that I'm "shilling" will just look at my profile.

And yes, it cannot be denied that I have bias towards my employer. It doesn't make my arguments wrong, but it does raise suspicion as to my motivations.


>The State Department arranges lots of these "CEO tours" all the time. Are they secretly working on foreign policy, or, are they trying to open up exports, or sell people on American capitalism?

What's the difference? They both support the agenda of the supporting governments.

>Just because the trip is arranged on behalf of the State Department doesn't make the agenda wrong

Right, but without transparency to indicate one or the other people are likely to perceive the meddling of a specific government within a company that deals with international business to be troublesome/worrying.

>Assange wants to play "connect the dots" to imply something nefarious going on, but if Angelina Jolie were in the same meetings instead of Eric Schmidt, what would Assange be saying?

Does Angelina Jolie have something to do with the world's largest store of personal information, or do you somehow think that Schmidt's influence comes from his celebrity rather than his influence inside one of the world's biggest economic powers?

Angelina Jolie, and celebrities like her, are used to influence the public. Celebrities like Schmidt are powerful because they are leveraging the power of their respective domains.

If I were Assange, i'd probably conclude that the use of a celebrity like Angelina Jolie was for the purposes of controlling a populous or influencing 'the masses' opinion -- but i'm not Assange, and Jolie is tangential.

> Nothing in his commentary actually zeros in on anything Google has done based on these supposed connections that's bad (leaving aside the wrong claims about how PRISM works)

Enduring Security Framework, NSA tool contracts, GeoEye-1 sharing(Both the gov and Google paid for half of the satelite, but the 16 inch resolution imagery is only available for gov use. How's that for fair?), Google's membership within the Defense Industrial Base (“products and services that are essential to mobilize, deploy, and sustain military operations.”), the rental of Google's front page to the state ("Live! Secretary Kerry answers questions on Syria"), and the government support of Schmidt as some sort of official Ambassador for back-channel influence of negotiating parties.

Did you just skim past all that, or do you think that none of this is cause for concern?

>it is not an oil company, it does not harvest raw resources from foreign companies, and it doesn't make hardly any revenue from selling services to the US government. There's not much US government favors can do for it's bottom line.

Google harvests raw resources in the form of data-mining, and turns those resources into a product worth value. The value that it accrues from the US government is not in the form of revenue, but rather in the form of access -- access to those in power and access to business tactics and resources that are above and beyond the treatment of most businesses by the US government.

>You need the US empire for that, you don't necessarily need it to protect virtual assets.

That's far from true. Past large groups did not only depend on the US to protect their physical product, but also to protect their position in the market (if government subsidized usually), to protect their methodologies, and in some cases protect their IP.

Example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_Term_Extension_Act

an act, widely considered to have been unconstitutional, voted on by voice, which was created by the reasoning that "copyright industries are one of the largest trade surpluses for the state"

If lobbyists can succeed in increasing a held copyright by 50 years to a 120 year total it doesn't take much imagination to understand why a company may want to be in bed with their host government.

>What would be the incentive for Google to risk a tens of billion-a-quarter business on some quid-pro-quo for the US Government or Eric Schmidt's vanity?

the continued permission to exist as a company and not a fragmented post anti-trust mess?

>My point is, Google has more important things to worry about on a day to day basis. They're more worried about competitors like Apple, than some weak ass benefits some association with bureaucrats might provide.

Google does, but Schmidt doesn't. That's why the assertion that Schmidt is a puppet ambassador for the US government came about -- because he and his highly-political cadre of followers (cabinet?) go from country to country on state sponsored tours, apparently while espousing pro-US/surveillance talking points with the world's leaders.

>Google Ideas isn't Google

What? It may not be the whole of Google, but isn't that a bit silly?


> Geo-Eye high res imagery. Everyone who owns an imagery satellite is pretty much forced to give the government preferential access, and offer lower resolution to the public. This is not Eric Schmidt wanting to do favors for the government, I'm sure all of the competing mapping companies want to offer the best, highest resolution maps, but are often regulated by the state from doing so.

> Kerry ad on front page.

Seriously? So when YouTube hosts President Obama in a Hangout, you think this is some quid-pro-quo for foreign missions? You think Twitter hosting Presidential or Candidate questions, or Facebook doing the same mean something is going on? Red Bull's epic stratosphere sky dive also was promoted in the same way. Google wants to promote their services, like G+/Hangouts/YouTube and the government wants free advertising it's a win-win, and you don't need to concoct a story that this is payback for Eric Schmidt delivering a message to Kim Jong Un, or for Google getting a free-pass from the FTC.

This is what I mean by guilty by association. If YouTube hosts a Whitehouse press conference, there's a product manager in YouTube is supremely happy, but it is extremely unlikely they had to hand over the keys of their servers to the NSA to get it. YouTube audience size and demographics alone are reason enough. In the same manner, Obama went on "Between Two Ferns" not as a favor to the show because of a State Department mission.

Not every relationship between the government and the private sector needs a conspiracy. The government needs to buy toilet paper like everyone else.

"Defense Industrial Base"? Oh, you mean, if the US military opens a Google Apps account, uses Docs, Gmail, and Maps for it's internal planning, suddenly it's no different than Lockheed Martin? The military and government uses Powerpoint like crazy, does this make Microsoft part of the "defense industrial base"? It's a pretty meaningless label then.


It's not mentioned in the article, but Google acquired Boston Dynamics, a military contractor.


And? Do you think Google is going to build robot weapons for the defense department? Or, do you think this was an IP and talent Acquihire?

That's what I mean by guilt-by-association. Elon Musk tried to buy Russian ICBMs, was he trying to build intercontinental ballistic missiles for nuking, or was he trying to get to Mars?


>Do you think Google is going to build robot weapons for the defense department?

Do you think they wouldn't?


Well, Google acquired the defense contracts that Boston Dynamics had during their acquisition, so I guess the answer is:

Yes, they are going to build robots for the defense department.

not that I like Vice.. but: http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/how-google-will-manage-its-...

better link. a list of Google defense contracts :

https://www.fpds.gov/ezsearch/fpdsportal?indexName=awardfull...


Of course they're not. Absolutely ZERO evidence or indication they are interested in building robot weapons for the government. To even suggest this is patently absurd and downright offensive. It has absolutely zero to do with the company mission, business model, and would be an affront to company culture as well.

Google might accidentally build SkyNet one day, but they're not going to build it on contract for the government.


Now why would it be offensive? Is Google so much better than Boing or Lockheed Martin?

Saying that it has zero to do with Googles mission or business model isn't relevant. Google does plenty of things that has nothing to do with their mission; which I assume is still "to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful".

Android, self-driving cars, drone delivery, drug research, AppEngine and the whole robots project itself, are all projects that has little or nothing to do with their mission.

If there's money to be made in doing robot weapons for the US government I assure you that Google will at the very least consider it.


>Google might accidentally build SkyNet one day, but they're not going to build it on contract for the government.

You're right, but only by default.

Google forgoes DoD funding once they acquire companies which :

1) have already received DoD funding/grants

2) already have contracts in place with the DoD that must be honored post-acquisition, but are contractually in name with the previous vendor, using Google only as the global representative of the previous existent vendor, while reaping the benefits of a contract.

So, Google surely won't create SkyNet. But 'Cyberdyne Systems : a Google Company' probably will.


My guess is, those contracts will run out, and will not be renewed. None of those contracts are for weapons anyway.

Those DARPA contracts represent an insignificant rounding error in Google's revenue.


>offensive

Are you personally offended by this idea? Or is it offensive to the corporation of Google?

If either, why? If not, will you expand on how it is offensive, please.


From my observations, a large contingent of the employees at Google are fairly progressive on the political spectrum, at the very least, even those on the economic right tend to be of the anti-interventionist libertarian stripe, and not in favor of building weapons to further a military empire.

My guess is, you'd have a hard time getting people to explicitly work on something whose purpose is to kill people. Now, something like a self-driving car could certainly turn into a self-driving unmanned combat vehicle, but I bet the Google X people would be pretty horrified if that's what it was used for, as they are trying to save lives, not take more.

Someone else asked if Google is different than Lockheed Martin or Boeing, and I'd say, the answer is yes. Those companies are steeped in the defense contractor business and make a huge chunk of money by selling weapons to the military.

People often accuse Google of being an "advertising company" and look at where we get our money to find our motivations. Well, if you consistently apply that logic, our interests would be in getting you to watch more cat videos, and Boeing/Lockheed's interests would be in the world needing more weapons.

You can't simultaneously accuse Google of being "only an ad company", while at the same time accusing it of being interested in the military industrial complex, where it receives almost no benefit or revenue.


So Google does business with the U.S. government? No duh. It's not exactly a state secret, it's not like Google doesn't post job openings at the Washington D.C. and Reston, VA locations for people who want to sell and support the government.

Here's the contract awards

http://www.usaspending.gov/search?form_fields=%7B%22search_t...

https://www.fpds.gov/ezsearch/search.do?indexName=awardfull&...

Of course they want to sell to the government. The government has money.


The claim is not only that Google does business with the government, but that they also help push the US Government's agenda. Did you read the article?


Of course, that's how government acquisitions work. Do you think the government purchases things that don't help its agenda?

You can add up the dollar figures in the contracts yourself and guess if that's worth the CEO of Google adopting an unduly favorable tone about the government in order to continue to receive more contracts.

I know if I had a big enough customer for one of my products I'd probably talk nice about them also.


> Of course they want to sell to the government. The government has money.

sell what exactly? Eric Schmidt as Ambassador for the US? That's what the article claims they are attempting to 'sell'.


That was interesting.

I've always been a bit curious about Schmidt and what sort of measure someone who is neither in awe nor seeking to impress might make of him.

I think the whole piece is probably best summed up with this line towards then end.

>"What Lockheed Martin was to the twentieth century, technology and cyber-security companies will be to the twenty-first."

That certainly makes sense.


Only sort of. "Technology" (by which I assume you mean the sort of things produced by Google - namely, software services) and cyber-security are different from Lockheed's products in one extremely important way: anyone has the capacity and reason to use them. Only the government and a handful of large entities (airlines, maybe a few research labs) have any need for the things made by Lockheed and Boeing. But almost every single American uses a Google service, and certainly the entire population of the Internet can use cyber-security solutions.

They're similar in the sense that the government might spend incomprehensible sums of money on them, but that's where it ends, and in that sense airplanes are the same as potatoes. The potential issues with something like Google are very, very different from the steel-and-gears military industrial complex (which is also still going strong), where the companies and government seem to exist solely to justify each other's existence.


> Only sort of. "Technology" (by which I assume you mean the sort of things produced by Google - namely, software services) and cyber-security are different from Lockheed's products in one extremely important way: anyone has the capacity and reason to use them.

No. Lockheed and Boeing are defense companies. They sell safety to citizenry in the form of defense through government as a proxy. Anyone enjoying the safety of well maintained national borders employing equipment by either of those groups are 'using' their 'product'.

They (as defense contractors, and not private plane builders) are dependent on capitalization funding -- provided by the people through a vote for elected officials -- who will have the chance to provide a positive or negative pressure on the party in question with regards to allotted subsidies and funding towards that effort.

One way that both groups (both Google and the defense contractors) are much alike is that there is no way that they could have naturally grown to such proportions without anti-trust/monopoly/power-grab laws kicking in. Their (the companies) size is the largest indicator, to me personally, that they are playing ball with the world's governments.


> By mid-August we discovered that a former German employee—whom I had suspended in 2010—was cultivating business relationships with a variety of organizations and individuals by shopping around the location of the encrypted file, paired with the password’s whereabouts in the book

I remember reading Daniel Domscheit-Berg's (or was known as Daniel Schmidt, I think) book "Inside WikiLeaks", which talked about Assange's increasing paranoia.

I'm sad to read that the former German employee was once someone very important to Wikileak's early days and, if you read the book, someone who was very close to the man himself.

I'm suddenly more worried about Julian Assange and his paranoid/conspiracy theory view of the world


Paranoia is one thing. But I don't think it's paranoid to state that conspiracies exist. 5 years ago, people were called crazy for suggesting that the NSA were eavesdropping on the entire internet.

This particular article outlines the well-known links between NGOs and the US administration, and the probable ulterior motives underlying NGOs' stated objectives (i.e. 'human rights' etc). I don't think this is a paranoid theory.


Is interesting to read other people's suppositions on this stuff. In a similar vein, I tend to think of Facebook as being just another government agency, but Google has always been much more curious. Google seems to have ambition beyond getting close to power, Google has since the very earliest days seemed that it is interested in being a power in and of itself. The International Olympic Committee has this unusual designation of being a non-geographical state-like entity. I suspect Google would also like that designation.


It is not that I believe that Google and Eric Schmidt along with the government are part of some kind of conspiracy. And I do acknowledge that someone like Assange probably is much more paranoid than he should be.

It is simply that we should not voluntarily give so much power to a single company.


It's stupid that you are being down-voted but I agree profusely.

Google might stand for a better way of doing things (from what we had before) but at the end of the day it is a global and impersonal corporation with thousands of employees.

What our governments must due is keep a close eye on them. What we must do is compete with them and do everything in our power to beat them to market or circumvent their walled garden. If they go down in the process then too bad, we will take all their engineers - the real value of Google.

I would expect any startup and government to approach a huge conglomerate like Google, Apple, or Microsoft without fear and with much integrity.


I don't see the point. Just read the original text. https://wikileaks.org/Transcript-Meeting-Assange-Schmidt.htm...


Because the linked article includes a lot more than just the details of that meeting.


I'm not sure if they're details or opinions. I find the original meeting much more interesting. It's a legitmate exchange between two smart people.


The last section reads like the ravings of a conspiracy nut. From associating the DARPA grants that fund many university computer science projects with nefarious spy collaboration to repeating PRISM is the long-debunked full take program of Greenwald's fantasy, it's straight lunacy.


A lot of what's happened in the past ten years is straight out of the rantings of 1990s-era conspiracy nuts.

If anything, the 90s conspiracy wackos were too conservative. Nobody would have imagined that everyone would think it perfectly okay to carry a portable device that constantly reports their location to central servers 24/7, not to mention that it has a microphone that can be switched on by malware.


The Patriot Act, indefinite detention, torture camps, the NDAA bill, NSA spying, the immense violations by the FBI and DEA when it comes to parallel construction and aggressive localized spying and tracking, StingRay, fake cell towers, local jurisdictions (eg Virginia) compiling phone records and tracking citizens, killing thousands of innocent people around the globe via drones, Guantanamo, arresting people under terrorism charges for joking on Facebook or online games, the TSA, Homeland Security...

And on and on

If you told someone in 1997 that that's how America would look today, they'd never believe it.


Can you speak more about NDAA?

Oh man there's so many things I want to add to your list.


Please read up on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XKeyscore

It actually does what you claim was Greenwald's fantasy/lunacy


I know all about Xkeyscore: https://medium.com/state-of-play/getting-xkeyscore-right-f49...

It's a database that has nothing to do with a full-take of Google data with Google's cooperation as claimed by Greenwald and repeated by Assange to support his thesis. Greenwald's PRISM fantasy is just that.


> reads like the ravings of a conspiracy nut.

As do all the articles about the information Snowden made available to us.

Imagine it's somewhere in 2005-2010 while reading... you would be nuts if you didn't think they were conspiracy nuts.


ECHELON was an open secret much earlier and the European Paiament had written reports on it in the 1990s.

People claiming it was conspiracy theory were fucking idiots given all the reputable evidence. The stuff about Boeing and McDonnal Douglas was late 1999 / early 2000.


European Parliament report was issued in 2001. The difference back then was that everyone in the general population considered you a nutcase if you described it to them. These days, only perhaps 60% of people consider you a nutcase.


The only things that has been surprising about Snowden's revelations have been, in some cases, the scale (MUSCULAR comes to mind) and the audacity (Dual EC DRBG, which is technically "strong crypto", unless your opponent is NSA).

Warrant/NLS compliance (PRISM) was never a conspiracy theory, nor was foreign intelligence interception on domestic networks (regulated since 1978 by the FISA, with explicit increases in scope by PATRIOT ACT, and very public debates about "warrantless wiretaps" in the middle of the last decade).

Moreover what's notable about Snowden's leaks is how many conspiracy theories they didn't substantiate. No black helicopters are mentioned. Even the super-sekrit slides stamped TOP SECRET and EYES ONLY (which were never supposed to be seen by the sheeple) make reference to having to comply with First Amendment rights, civil liberties oversight, court orders, etc.

But people crow about conspiracy theories here because they honestly believe that showing specifics of programs and authorities that were widely known in general is proof of conspiracy.


> ... make reference to having to comply with First Amendment rights, civil liberties oversight, court orders, etc.

I just wish they did more actual complying, and less lip service to compliance. I especially wish they'd think a bit about the spirit, not just the letter.


Could you address specifically which parts you are referring to? I speed-read through it and didn't notice anything that wasn't established fact, especially the DARPA bits.


We need an analogue of Godwin's law for the use of the phrase "conspiracy theory." It's a term used by naive establishmentarians to discredit any attempt to dig into the darker reaches of politics, even when the stuff being discussed is well documented and consistent with historical fact.


Is "establishmentarian" supposed to be the new "statist shill"?


I rather think it was a play on the word "antidisestablishmentarian" which technically would be one who is opposed to the disestablishment of the Anglican church as the official church of those lands governed by the queen of England. [1]

In this case an establismentarian would be presumed to be anyone who favors the current order of things; whether it be a democracy, a cryptocracy or a kakistocracy.

So, yes. A statist shill.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antidisestablishmentarianism


Please let us know how it has been debunked.


The NY Times published a correct description of PRISM very shortly after Greenwald's published his insane misread. http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/06/08/technology/tech-compani...

This description matches the declassified PRISM documents, the description in Snowden's leaked slides, US law, the miniscule price tag in Snowden's slides, and the description of a specific PRISM integration I heard from one of the implementers (possibly one interviewed in the nytimes story).


I believe he is referring to XKeyscore, not PRISM, which is as insane as it sounds, unless you believe the NSAs denial.


No, he is very clearly referring to Greenwald's PRISM fantasy. From the article: "Caught red-handed last year making petabytes of personal data available to the U.S. intelligence community through the PRISM program...."


You are arguing semantics and I'm talking about what the NSA is actually capable of. Please read this paragraph:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XKeyscore#Capabilities


The original story tries to implicate Google in opening their servers for "full take" data feed.

XKeyscore was a program to analyse data siphoned from wiretaps. This is what caused that infamous ppt slide "SSL Removed Here ;-)" which, among other reasons, caused Google to start encrypting all of the inter-data center links.


You are arguing about a program that has nothing to do with Assange's thesis that Google is an arm of the US State Department. This isn't merely semantics.


That's a lot of citations there, thanks for backing up your claims!


It's in TFA. What citations do you need?


This comment reads like the ravings of a deluded government stooge.


Debunked?


I noticed something curious in the comment section:

DARPA is mentioned exactly once in this article and then mostly as a tangential point. Despite this, it's mentioned several times in multiple critical top-level comments here in the comment section.


Perhaps because that is the one thing that anybody with even the slightest academic computer science background in the US will immediately recognize as utter nonsense.

There are many other ridiculous associations in Assange's essay, some of which have been pointed out by others in the thread, but that one jumps out of the page, grabs you by the ears, and screams crazy.


This is straight out of NSA's manual to manipulate online discourse. You can read more about it here:

* Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media [1]

* How Covert Agents Infiltrate The Internet To Manipulate, Deceive, And Destroy Reputations [2]

Poul-Henning Kamp, in a hypothetical talk about his work at the NSA, talks about just this. [3] Here's a quote:

> The idea is to steer discussions in these forums to or from particular topics (...) and disrupt consensus building against our purposes

[1]: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2011/mar/17/us-spy-ope...

[2]: https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/02/24/jtrig-manipula...

[3]: http://youtu.be/fwcl17Q0bpk?t=14m36s


Any time you read an article by Assange you have to read it in context and using his meaning for some key concepts:

Some further reading: http://estaticos.elmundo.es/documentos/2010/12/01/conspiraci...

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/urizenus-sklar/understanding-c...


I suggest that people reading these comments look through the posting histories of the people bashing Assange and make a judgement about whether or not they're real people.

You be the judge.


We're all real people, you're the one who created a throwaway account to question other peoples motives.


A lot of what he writes has nothing to do with the facts but rather adds to the general "evil theme".

Somehow he was able to paint having "analyticity" as a bad thing: "Schmidt’s dour appearance concealed a machinelike analyticity".

And acquisitions are conveniently renamed into takeovers: "In 2004, after taking over Keyhole"

And then this. I don't even:

"The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps."


Those interested in geopolitics have their own cultural references. The last is a reference to Thomas Friedman's "A Manifesto for the Fast World" (NYT, 1999). The more complete context is:

> It's true that no two countries that both have a McDonald's have ever fought a war since they each got their McDonald's. (I call this the Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention.) But globalization does not end geopolitics -- the enduring quest for power, the fear of neighbors, the tug of history. What globalization does is simply put a different frame around geopolitics, a frame that raises the costs of war but cannot eliminate it.

> That is why sustainable globalization still requires a stable, geopolitical power structure, which simply cannot be maintained without the active involvement of the United States. All the technologies that Silicon Valley is designing to carry digital voices, videos and data around the world, all the trade and financial integration it is promoting through its innovations and all the wealth this is generating, are happening in a world stabilized by a benign superpower, with its capital in Washington, D.C.

> The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist -- McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the builder of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. ''Good ideas and technologies need a strong power that promotes those ideas by example and protects those ideas by winning on the battlefield,'' says the foreign policy historian Robert Kagan. ''If a lesser power were promoting our ideas and technologies, they would not have the global currency that they have. And when a strong power, the Soviet Union, promoted its bad ideas, they had a lot of currency for more than half a century.''

See http://www.nytimes.com/1999/03/28/magazine/a-manifesto-for-t... for the McDonald's/McDonnell Douglas quote, but I started the context from the end of the previous page to show why McDonald's was relevant in the first place.

The 'Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention' is from Friedman's 1999 book "The Lexus and the Olive Tree". See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lexus_and_the_Olive_Tree' .


The Golden Arches Theory (even before it was disproven by the Russia-Georgia war of 2008) -- and similar theories like the "democracies don't fight wars against each other" theory -- have always been silly things that take rely on people not understanding math. You've got a feature that (at the time the theory is articulated) is historically fairly recent and that, when you take the number of pairs of countries that have been in wars that have occurred in any given time frame and the total number of pairs of country that have existed in the same time frame, and the total number of pairs of country that share the feature in question, where the expected value of number of wars between countries sharing the trait that is supposed to protect against war would be closer to zero than one if wars were randomly distributed and the feature had no effect, and then the theory uses the (utterly unsurprising) fact that the actual number of wars between countries sharing the trait is zero as the whole basis for an argument that sharing the trait prevents war.


If you read the Wikipedia page about the book you'll see Russia-Georgia listed as 1 of 5 such counter-examples, going back to the US invasion of Panama in 1989.

You'll also see his responses.

But I'm not trying to justify either which way. My point is that there are certain concepts in geopolitical dialog that are used as short-hand to express a larger concept. Expressions like "McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas" are to outsiders as meaningless as "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra" or "information wants to be free".

In other words "[Schmidt] struggled to verbalize many of [his politics], often shoehorning geopolitical subtleties into Silicon Valley marketese or the ossified State Department micro-language of his companions" can be turned around - Assage uses a different language than you or I, though he doesn't struggle to verbalize his politics.


Your point about context was well made, my response was a tangent inspired by your post, not an argument against it.


Personally, I do think asking Eric Schmidt to leak this kind of stuff was a horrible idea. But this reminds me of the anti poaching scandal:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7623873

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8156005


In all of Chrome, Firefox and IE, after a few moments the page background turns black, and then it's unreadable (black text on black background). Is this happening to anyone else? Is there a readable link? :P


Try:

    jQuery('#cboxOverlay').remove();
    jQuery('#colorbox').remove();
There's a modal that pops up with a black overlay. Opacity is 0 for me, but that might not be registering for whatever reason for you.


Happening to me. Unreadable.


Not a single occurrence in the 154 previous comments of the words rape or rapist. I remember when that number would be 30 or higher. I guess it's not so believable anymore?

edit: voted down to zero but with no responders. :-)

/me waves to the NSA propagandists & apologists among us. I remember when many of us would have labeled that a whacky conspiracy theory, not so very long ago. Now we have the evidence that we were wrong we should remind each other of it whenever these stories come up.


Here you might have the real explanation for why Eric Schmidt stepped down.


Sadly, I found the following pieces gave Assange so little credibility that if he had just written about the last 3rd of the article, it would seem more credible to me.

If a suspended employee was shopping around "the location of the encrypted file, paired with the password’s whereabouts" and in "two weeks most intelligence agencies, contractors and middlemen would have all the cables", wouldn't you just move the files and change the password?

He then goes on to say "Not only had Hillary Clinton’s people known that Eric Schmidt’s partner had visited me, but they had also elected to use her [Lisa Sheilds] as a back channel." However, he never mentions who Lisa Sheilds is, just that was Schmidts 'partner'.

I had to research it, but apparently she works for the "Council on Foreign Relations" http://www.cfr.org/staff/b5862 They do a horrible job explaining what they do. But I find it odd that Assange would have left out this details. Sheilds is a conduit to Clinton as well as Schmidts partner. This is an important detail.

"While WikiLeaks had been deeply involved in publishing the inner archive of the U.S. State Department, the U.S. State Department had, in effect, snuck into the WikiLeaks command center and hit me up for a free lunch." Assange blames Google, but he was naive enough to take a meeting, not knowing who the people setting up or attending were? I find this doubtful.

"The last forty years have seen a huge proliferation of think tanks and political NGOs whose purpose, beneath all the verbiage, is to execute political agendas by proxy." Which direction is this statement going? The state is influencing the political agenda's of corporations? or vice versa. Was it any other way, and is this a problem as Assange seems to assume it is?

Google and the Council on Foreign Affairs put together a conference to 'workshop technological solutions to the problem of “violent extremism.”' This sounds like a good thing to me, but Assange condescendingly and rhetorically asks "What could go wrong?", ok, I'll bite. What went wrong? Unfortunately, he never answers.

"Google Ideas is bigger, but it follows the same game plan. Glance down the speaker lists of its annual invite-only get-togethers, such as “Crisis in a Connected World” in October 2013. Social network theorists and activists give the event a veneer of authenticity, but in truth it boasts a toxic piñata of attendees: U.S. officials, telecom magnates, security consultants, finance capitalists and foreign-policy tech vultures... " Invite-only ? Really? Is this surprising for such a gathering? If so, what are the activists doing with the foreign-policy tech vultures? Who's calling them vultures?

"I began to think of Schmidt as a brilliant but politically hapless Californian tech billionaire who had been exploited by ... U.S. foreign-policy types". He again here is assuming that Schmidts agenda and that of US Foreign Policy are not aligned.

If this article didn't have Julian Assange posted all over it, I almost think it would be more credible. What I've never understood about those who praise Assange (not WikiLeaks as an idea, but the way Assange runs it) is that he's as bad as many of the actions of people reported in the leaks. He has his own political agenda, and is given a huge volume of classified information by a third party, and he then decides what of these classified information gets published and what doesn't. What makes him the deciding factor in all of this? If you think you're doing good publishing information that others think is classified, than publish the information. Don't pick through it, see what you think will make headlines or embarrass people you don't like, and publish only that which you feel is fit to press.


"The last forty years have seen a huge proliferation of think tanks and political NGOs whose purpose, beneath all the verbiage, is to execute political agendas by proxy."

This one is especially ironic, given that WikiLeaks has been reduced by now to a proxy political action arm for the Kremlin. The world is still waiting for the WikiLeaks "secrets on Moscow" that Assange threatened to release in 2010.

RT at least got smart and finally stopped "The Julian Assange show" (http://rt.com/tags/the-julian-assange-show/) so that the connection isn't quite so obvious, but it is there, even today.


"WikiLeaks has been reduced by now to a proxy political action arm for the Kremlin"

Seriously?


Yes, seriously. Assange himself stated bluntly that he told Snowden to go to Russia (not Cuba, nor any of the leftist South American nations).

DDB left WikiLeaks due in part to the ongoing association of WikiLeaks with authoritarian figures like Israel Shamir.

WikiLeaks could choose to start today and bring "transparency" to an increasingly opaque Russian situation, especially since Russia has recently passed laws requiring all media outfits to have no more than 20% foreign ownership, passed laws requiring bloggers to register themselves with central authorities, passed laws legalizing Internet surveillance even more extensive than is legal in the U.S. (and even U.K.) and much more.

WikiLeaks could do this today, there are half a million civil liberties organizations in the Western world focusing on the Western democracies and seemingly no powerful groups in Russia.

But despite their stated pro-transparency aims, WikiLeaks refuses to do this.

If it's because Russia has threatened WikiLeaks with actual physical harm (something the U.S. government has never done) then WikiLeaks shouldn't have acted as collaborators with Russia by telling Snowden to go there instead of South America.

But I don't think it's a physical threat at all, the cooperation of WikiLeaks with Russia since 2010 has gone on for so long (and Assange has been cooped up in Ecuador for so long) that one would think the physical threat has subsided, at least enough for WikiLeaks to quietly stay away from Russia instead of actively assisting them, as they did in 2013.

The most charitable explanation for all of this is that a common enemy (for WikiLeaks and Russia) makes strange bedfellows... but that doesn't change the fact that WikiLeaks has been actively collaborating with the Kremlin


And people call Assange the conspiracy theorist...

I guess that's why you made a good soldier.


> wouldn't you just move the files and change the password?

Quoting from http://unspecified.wordpress.com/2011/09/03/wikileaks-passwo... - "speculation says that since it was on the WikiLeaks server temporarily, and WikiLeaks was aggressively mirroring their site to avoid being taken down, it was copied within the few hours that it was available online, and spread from there." Quoting from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_diplomatic_cables... - "This included WikiLeaks volunteers placing an encrypted file containing all WikiLeaks data online as "insurance" in July 2010, in case something happened to the organization." In either case, the encrypted file could not be moved from everyone's computers.

Several people knew the password. One was a journalist. The journalist published the password.

> He has his own political agenda, and is given a huge volume of classified information by a third party, and he then decides what of these classified information gets published and what doesn't. What makes him the deciding factor in all of this? If you think you're doing good publishing information that others think is classified, than publish the information. Don't pick through it, see what you think will make headlines or embarrass people you don't like, and publish only that which you feel is fit to press.

Don't we all have our own political agendas? Assange is at least somewhat direct about expressing them.

But ... have you not read any of the history of Wikileaks? Assange invited the US to "privately nominate any specific instances (record numbers or names) where it considers the publication of information would put individual persons at significant risk of harm that has not already been addressed" and "reached an agreement with media partners in Europe and the United States to publish the rest of the cables in redacted form, removing the names of sources and others in vulnerable positions." (Quotes from that Wikipedia leak.)

Your proposal might kill people.

Slow leaks also keep the pressure up. If your agenda, for example, is to point out the contradictions in the government's statements and actions, then a partial release may elicit an official response, then a later release of more information can be used to show that that response was a lie, or to highlight how certain words were carefully chosen based on differences between an internal meaning of certain words and the general public meaning of those same words.


I wasn't proposing that the leaks be published without names being redacted, so with your comment regarding having names and such redacted to protect people.

I'm not sure I agree regarding slow leaks to keep pressure up. If that was the purpose, do you think that has been effective?

I don't think we all have 'political agendas', I would hope that most of us have humanitarian agendas which manifest themselves through political influence. There are definitely those with political agendas, but I don't think it's the majority.


I took "Don't pick through it, see what you think will make headlines or embarrass people you don't like, and publish only that which you feel is fit to press." to mean that everything should be printed. Otherwise he needs to decide what he feels is fit to press, and what is fit to be redacted.

Now you are saying that he should redact certain items. What judgement should he use for that? Since it seemed like you were questioning his ability to make that judgement.

I think Greenwald's slow release of the files from Snowden has done a superb job of making the US wary about what it can do and say, which I think was part of Greenwald's agenda. Compare that to the Wikileaks cable release which, once it went public, had a burst of fingerprint pointing and then became yesterday's news.

I don't understand your statement. The Newsweek describes Assange as beliving "the liberating power of the Internet is based on its freedom and statelessness". How is liberation not part of a humanitarian goal? Based on what he's said, his political agenda is meant to pursue his humanitarian agenda.

So even if I'm wrong, and there are people who have no political agenda, why do you say that Assange has a "political agenda", when it's apparently actually his humanitarian agenda that you see?


Specifically that the redacted parts were to ensure the safety of the people involved was what I meant by the pieces that should be redacted. Hiding names and details which may harm people is responsible, but not publishing whole pieces of content, I think, makes WikiLeaks the 'editor' of information rather than 'liberator'.

I don't think I said that political agenda's can't be lead by humanitarian agendas, if I did, that isn't what I meant, but not every humanitarian agenda is also a political agenda.

I do believe that Assange has a humanitarian agenda, but that doesn't mean he doesn't also have a political agenda, and those two may be different things.


Quoting from https://wikileaks.org/About.html :

"WikiLeaks is a not-for-profit media organisation. Our goal is to bring important news and information to the public."

That makes them an "'editor' of information". If you send them video from the surveillance cameras of your local Kwik-E-Mart, showing how the cats gather around the trash bin, then I see little need for them to publish that information. While a 'liberator' of information would do so as a matter of principle.

You appear to know little about the history of Wikileaks or about the leaked cables. Why do you think you know enough about Assange's political agenda, as distinct from his humanitarian agenda, to be confident about your statement?

I of course agree with you, but that's because I think everyone has a political agenda. You don't, so you must have other, specific reasons, which you haven't explained.


> wouldn't you just move the files and change the password?

The encrypted files were distributed via bittorrent, with the password given to trusted individuals. This was done as a "dead-man's switch"; insurance against "prior restraint" (which can cover anything from incarceration to termination, depending on your level of paranoia).

See http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/09/01/cablegate_leak_row/

The problem is this:

    Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.

    -- Benjamin Franklin
Once the password started being shared to people without professional security training and the temperament to keep secrets, it was only a matter of time before it all came out. Regardless if you agree with wikileak's political and social philosophies, and even if you feel they provided much-needed sunlight/disinfectant, as an organization they acted like a bunch of preteens running a club out of a treehouse.


As someone who was once naïve, Assange's writing echos the folks hawking copies of Socialist Worker on the street corner. A wikileaks sounds like a good idea, but this WikiLeaks is a tool to attack the less-bad and protect the more-bad.


An excerpt from the excerpt:

> Schmidt arrived first, accompanied by his then partner, Lisa Shields. When he introduced her as a vice president of the Council on Foreign Relations—a U.S. foreign-policy think tank with close ties to the State Department—I thought little more of it

The effort you spent writing all those words should perhaps have been better spent objectively reading and understanding the piece.


To any "outsider" unfamiliar with Hacker News, it's heavily populated with Google employees, contractors, and developers that build on to Google products and services.

Keep that in mind when you read the comments here.


It's also heavily populated with people who work at or with Google's competitors, of which there are many more. Bias and differing opinions are everywhere.


It is unfortunate that so much effort in this thread is being put into suggesting that anyone who disagrees with Assange must be a tool of the government or Google. We must not allow ourselves to fall prey to the military intelligence complex and actually think critically.

But I suppose when you agree with the premise then it's not actually propaganda...


An ad hominem attack voted up to the top is one giveaway that the rebuttals are emotional, rather than counter-arguments supported by facts.


The suggestion that the thread must be full of Google shills and that critics can be dismissed out of hand as part of the conspiracy is also an emotional argument unsupported by evidence.


We can agree this thread is full of shills, just possibly not google shills.


How do you tell the difference between a shill and someone who actually holds an opposing point of view?

It might be true, but Hacker News has a diverse userbase and it might as well be false. Using the term seems to me to be just a way to dismiss the credibility of critics - it's a thought terminating cliche.


Shills are easy to detect, as they out of character with the typical tone and style of messages on a particular forum. They also tend to have egregious flaws in reasoning and use emotional and heated personal attacks against the person or topic in question. The posts often get pushed to the top more quickly than usual.

It has already been revealed that government agencies use sock puppets and other techniques to manipulate popular and influential message boards, such as Reddit and Hacker News:

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/07/14/manipulating-o...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/50_Cent_Party

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2011/mar/17/us-spy-ope...

Also, as many of you here on Hacker News should know, marginally ethical marketing techniques are commonly used by tech and other companies, including bought articles and opinion pieces, astro turfing, sock puppets, guerrilla marketing, software to assist in targeting specific forums and message boards, vote brigading etc. See:

http://www.blackhatworld.com/


> Shills are easy to detect, as they out of character with the typical tone and style of messages on a particular forum. They also tend to have egregious flaws in reasoning and use emotional and heated personal attacks against the person or topic in question.

So in other words, you're claiming that non-accordance with the groupthink of that particular forum implies that the poster is a shill.

Furthermore, you claim that using "proper" reasoning and unemotional informational content is evidence that the poster is likely not a shill, as if it's that hard to actually shill for something without resorting to crackpottery or emotional appeals.

I don't accept either premise, and nor should you.

> Also, as many of you here on Hacker News should know, marginally ethical marketing techniques are commonly used by tech and other companies, including bought articles and opinion pieces, astro turfing, sock puppets, guerrilla marketing, software to assist in targeting specific forums and message boards, vote brigading etc. See:

The fact that "Commonly-used" techniques exist implies absolutely nothing by itself about whether a given comment is from a shill, unless you're willing to believe that the base rate for shill/non-shill is significantly biased towards shills and sockpuppets on a normal basis.

For instance, Ebola is "common" in Liberia, but someone coming in with the symptoms of fever and headache are still at least as likely to have flu (or even Lassa fever) as they are to have Ebola.


"Planned Research

There are three components of our proposed research focusing on persuasive messaging, norms-based influence, and social media effects respectively.

1. Persuasive messaging-based influence

2. Norms-based influence

3. Neural predictors of Twitter impact in Cairo"

http://minerva.dtic.mil/doc/samplewp-Lieberman.pdf

"Here we report results from a randomized controlled trial of political mobilization messages delivered to 61 million Facebook users during the 2010 US congressional elections. The results show that the messages directly influenced self-expression, information seeking, and real world voting behavior of millions of people. Furthermore the messages not only influenced the users who received them but also the users' friends, and friends of friends."

http://jhfowler.ucsd.edu/massive_turnout.pdf


I disagree about how hard it is to find a shill. I'm never certain and I don't think you can be. You should register everything you read online as at least slightly suspect.

Thanks for the information and the arguments supported by links. Here are some other links for you.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astroturfing#Business_and_adop...

http://swampland.time.com/2012/11/07/inside-the-secret-world...

http://mprcenter.org/blog/2013/01/how-obama-won-the-social-m...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HBGary#Astroturfing

"Maraya helps you, through its proprietary tools and templates, dialogue with and retain your online audience effectively for high social media ROI. Maraya Media’s intelligent dialogue platform offers brands, agencies, community managers, publishers and individuals alike a range of social media management solutions that enables them to intelligently manage, engage, recruit and retain fans, followers and customers online.

The offering ranges from social network management and campaign publishing, through strategic audience dialogue, message and campaign planning, brand partnership and collaboration, social conversation innovation, analysis and optimization."

http://www.marayamedia.com/company.php

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140224/17054826340/new-s...

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/02/16/945768/-UPDATED-The...

I would only add that the US uses these techniques with other countries all the time - and in fact that's what this article is ultimately about. Google's role.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/usaid-effort-t...

http://minerva.dtic.mil/


> How do you tell the difference between a shill and someone who actually holds an opposing point of view?

Shills make ad hominem attacks they can't back up. Such as the (at the time) top rated comment calling Assange a "nut" and backing it up with "I just don't have the patience to sit and list out why his other points are equally silly for anyone versed in the space".

Shills don't want to have a discussion. They want to call names and end the discussion. I think HN could do without.


Those two points apply also to quite many "normal" non-shill commenters on the internet, and realistically you should expect "misinformed ranter vulgaris" to outnumber actual shills 100-to-1 in most discussions.


it's also heavily populated with government contractors and our friends at various alphabet groups, and Google employees, and Google competitors and people that don't care either way.


Partnerships with US Corporations has always played a role in US Foreign Policy. Right now the military is talking about replacing large parts of its active forces with private companies. For information systems and telecommunication, launching rockets, building planes, creating munitions, researching weapons, it is the same.

Eisenhower gave his famous speech in 1961 on the forming Military-Industrial Complex. Military-Industrial because it partners the Military and Industry. (He warns America that if it goes unchecked, it could have dire consequences. I'm not saying it's gone unchecked - that's a different discussion.)

http://coursesa.matrix.msu.edu/~hst306/documents/indust.html

I go to my earlier point, the partnerships are not limited to munitions. Using Google to spy on foreign countries already shows that they have an intimate relationship. The question is whether Google is involved in Foreign Policy in other ways.

From GCHQ to NSA: "Let's be blunt - the Western World (especially the US) gained influence due to drafting earlier standards:

* The US was a major player in shaping today's internet. This resulted in pervasive exportation of America's culture as well as technology. It also resulted in a lot of money being made by US entities."

http://hbpub.vo.llnwd.net/o16/video/olmk/holt/greenwald/NoPl... (96)

The US would have a lot to gain if they could use Google to 'prioritize and export US culture'. Google's CEO sounds an awful lot like he's saying that.

From the intro text:

"They outlined radically opposing perspectives: for Assange, the liberating power of the Internet is based on its freedom and statelessness. For Schmidt, emancipation is at one with U.S. foreign policy objectives and is driven by connecting non-Western countries to Western companies and markets."

The US keeps an eye out on US Companies, too. Seems like an easy trade for me if I were a CEO. It will also help you expand your international base. Win-win.

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/09/05/us-governments...


I really dont like google or they "dont be evil" lies. I believe they are the one of the most dangerous organization.. Call me skeptic or negative, I hope people would use they head and tey to avoid googles services..


It wasn't until this article that I realized that Eric Schmidt of Google was the same Eric Schmidt of Sun Microsystems that famously said "you have zero privacy anyway. get over it".

Why am I supporting Google?


It was actually Scott McNealy who said that. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_McNealy


I stand corrected. thank you.




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