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Why I hate Google, or some thoughts about “open” technologies
54 points by angeldar on Jan 31, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 39 comments
Hi. I am not the writer, and english is not my primary language, so sorry if there are some errors in my text. I just want to tell you a little story about me and google.

I am living in Crimea. Maybe you know where it is, and the events of the last year, may be not, but this post is not about it. It is not about politics, it's about technology.

Due to the sunctions of the usa government - usa companies must to stop import and export of tech products and services with Crimea. Blocked Apple app store, blocked Google play market, blocked Odesk - it hurts, but I was ok with it.

But google has really pissed me.

Google has blocked: Android documentation - www.android-developers.com - 403. Golang - https://golang.org/ - 403. Angular.js - Web page is not available. But works while I am using Tor. Google app engine - 403, now I can't use Udacity, and other services that uses GAE. Maybe some companies do not even know that their users cant get to websites. Chromium - 403, Google Code with documentation and all the projects unrelated to Google - 403. And so on.

Yes, I know how to use Tor and i2p. But I don't see any reason to use google powered technologies and invest my time, as developer, in them any more.

So, I have a question - why do we need such an OPEN technologies, that can be BLOCKED tomorrow? Today - it's me, but who knows what will happen tomorrow, and which countries or companies will decide to block their, so called open, tools that you use.

I'm sorry that this is happening and I really believe that the Internet and technology should be above politics. At least technologies, which are presented as open. I made a conclusion for myself about corporations, technologies and tools I will choose to learn and work with tomorrow. I hope my message will cause someone else to think about it.

Thank you.

Blocking Property of Certain Persons and Prohibiting Certain Transactions With Respect to the Crimea Region of Ukraine


Section 1. (a) The following are prohibited:


(iii) the exportation, reexportation, sale, or supply, directly or indirectly, from the United States, or by a United States person, wherever located, of any goods, services, or technology to the Crimea region of Ukraine;

See: http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/D...

Is this action specific to Crimea, or are there separate documents that extend the sanctions to Russia? (I can't navigate the treasury website to answer this for myself.)

If it doesn't extend to Russia, then it's easy to conclude the sanctions are irrational. Crimeans are, for the most part, powerless to the actions of Moscow. At least that's what I feel. Only the submitter truly knows the support or lack thereof of the populace towards the actions to which the international community is responding.

If there is support for Moscow, then s/he should write to Putin and demand that something be done to placate Obama and reverse the situation. If there is no support, s/he should write to Obama and ask how s/he can help action against Moscow. Anything else is simply being ignorant to the fact that the situation is really war by any other means, irrespective of how life may seem to go on normally wherever s/he may be living.

We've been suffering this for ages in Iran. But in retrospect, it has been a blessing more than a curse. For example, until a year ago, Android Market and later Play Store were unavailable in Iran. Even now, many (most?) popular apps are unavailable for Iranians, e.g Facebook, Messenger, etc. This has given rise to a series of new start-ups, aiming to fill the void left by major multinational corporations. Right now more than 90% of the smartphones in Iran are android-based and most people have Cafe Bazaar (Play Store alternative) installed on their phones. The same thing with Amazon and Digikala.

It's not as good for the consumers, but it has made it a very good time to be an entrepreneur in Iran. I wonder if it was not for all the sanctions and censorship, would we have what we have now.

But as I said it on HN elsewhere[1], please stop using App Engine for your projects. Simplenote, Udacity, etc. have been inaccessible to Iranians not because they chose to, but because they use Google as their hosting platform.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7142783

Thanks for sharing your experience, this is new point of view on the situation for me.

    the Internet and technology should be above politics.
- I am not sure about this, sometimes politics threatens the Internet itself. Putin clearly considers the Internet to be "a CIA project" and Russia is heading to its own walled network where you won't need Google technology anyway. Haven't Github and Youtube been blocked in Russia already? Even more, don't be surprised if one day you are arrested for mere fact of using Tor/i2p. So don't blame Google much, it's what Crimeans have chosen themselves: mirage of the "rich" and "mighty" state over freedom and democracy.

I wrote "should be", of course now it is not.

Yes, youtube and github were blocked for some hours, maybe 1 day, because of strange decisions of some strange people. But it was fixed. Now, I am blocked from another side of the world, and it seems - for a long time. I don't know what will happen tomorrow - everything is possible, but my message was not about this. It's about tools, that are looks like an open, or free - but at any moment they can become inaccessible.

Sanctions can be a bitch. But they're better than people shooting at each other. Sorry that you are on the receiving end of it.

The Android documentation has always been a point of consternation for me. As far as I'm aware, it is not open source. It might be licensed as such, but I haven't been able to find a repo to clone that has all of the docs in it, or more importantly a place to submit back patches. You an open issues against the docs on AOSP, but it would be nice if they would just take gerritt changes for it. That would help everyone, and then in your case you could just clone it and have a local copy.

IMHO sanctions are never better than anything and are unfair by definition. You can compare them to antibiotic - destroying both good ones and bad ones.

Majority of people do not want any sanctions, no matter what side they are on. It's the government and politicians that want it, not the people.

> IMHO sanctions are never better than anything and are unfair by definition. You can compare them to antibiotic - destroying both good ones and bad ones.

But antibiotics are better than most other options. That's why we use them.

> Majority of people do not want any sanctions, no matter what side they are on. It's the government and politicians that want it, not the people.

The people do not want war. Sanctions are a way of bringing pressure without threats of violence.

People are free to do with their own bodies whatever they think is best. But in Crimea people are being punished because Obama or some other idiot thinks it's good to do so. I don't think it's fair that a group of corrupted politicians get to decide the fate of a nation literally on the other side of the planet.

Also preventing someone from accessing a public information or from doing business is already a form of violence :( I wouldn't call it a form of 'pressure'.

> I don't think it's fair that a group of corrupted politicians get to decide the fate of a nation literally on the other side of the planet.

I'd suggest you direct that towards Russia then. You can't have it both ways. You can't vote to join Russia, and then complain that you can't use your US services. As common as it may be to think here, the internet and internet services are products. America doesn't ever have to let you use its products. The idea that you are now entitled to them because you've ever had them is a fallacy, and your anger is misplaced because of it.

I personally watch http://liveuamap.com/ every day. I think it's scary that a person could be trapped in their home by an invader. But it's Russia doing that, not America.

> preventing someone from accessing a public information or from doing business is already a form of violence :(

I don't think many people would agree with that statement.

In the abstract, the argument that sanctions are unproductive can be persuasive. But, in the real world, sanctions are only part of a toolkit of economic tools for punishing nations that act aggressively. You may think it is unfair that the US-led West gets to decide when such tools are used. I'm sure there are travesties and injustices. But, in this particular case, sanctions against Crimea and against Russia in general are an alternative to a large war in Europe.

Why not just instead forbid Russian politicians and their families to access Europe? Now that would be a real pressure, don't you think?

Instead, completely innocent people on Crimea are banned from doing any business with Europe. I don't think Russian politicians care - they live from taxes!

Yeah that sounds incredibly frustrating and unfair from a personal perspective. I wonder though if Google is legally compelled to do this by the US government or if they've voluntarily agreed to block these sites with the purpose of avoiding any questioning?

I think the question (I am not a lawyer) revolves around exporting of goods/technologies. It feels wrong to me to consider a website `resident` anywhere and thus subject to export embargos. I suppose that code lives on US servers, though? Hmm.

Sanctions are an interesting thing because I think a lot of people doing business on the web don't know to what extent they are responsible to follow them.

When I worked in internet infrastructure, we actively monitored and blocked sanctioned countries from using the service. I don't think a lot of companies do, e.g. AFAIK Amazon for AWS is supposed to. (I may be wrong and I'd love if someone with more knowledge would share.)

Apple has done the same. It's not their call, they have to follow Government rules.

Yes, I anderstand that there is not much they can do. From my point of view - apple has always been from the proprietary technology. I do not know about the development for an iOS, and I am sure that Аpple has blocked developer accounts and the purchase of development tools - but at least I can get access to all documents, videos, and materials about Swift or Objective C and development directly from their website.

Interesting. So you can still get full iOS documentation, and yet access to Android documentation is restricted or cut off? What about Cyanogenmod? I wonder what the pattern is here. Maybe it's worth pointing this out and asking the question to eff.org? I'm a bit surprised at the difference in outcome between two U.S. companies, I'm more surprised that the restriction happens with OSS though. The fact it's OSS suggests to me there wouldn't be U.S. exclusive repositories for this documentation.

I'm all with you, but to tell you the truth I don't know realistically at which point to draw the line between Google and the US Government. After all Google is (primarily) a US based corporation. So if their government impose them to shut down access from crimea, how much choice does google have?

I'm happy that at least Tor works for you. I might use a router to route all traffic through tor, pay for a VPN service or setup my own OpenVPN server.

From what I understand you can access websites like Digital Ocean or Linode or any other US corporation and I also assume you can purchase services online with CC from crimean/russian banks.

Here's an interesting question. How do sanctions apply to Multi-national companies? Is there a "home country" designation or some such thing? Google has offices in Many countries.

I guess I'm asking, what makes them a "US" company vs. a US/HK/GB Company?

I could be wrong, but I think there isn't really such thing as "international company" in terms of law. Even if they have multiple offices or factories in many countries, each entity is registered as independent company in these countries. The whole administration and management is internal, inside the organization.

I would guess that the physical servers that have the documentation, are in the US.

Google is not OPEN technology. Tor is.

Sorry, maybe I am wrong with the terminology. But, the title on the Golang home page is "Go is an open source programming language that makes it easy to build simple, reliable, and efficient software."

And on the https://code.google.com/ I see "Project Hosting on Google Code provides a free collaborative development environment for open source projects.".

Open source means that the source is available and you are free to change it. It does not necessarily have any other political or social implications. "Open" and "free" don't mean somehow "universal" or have anything to do with the limitations of criminal law not related to copyright.

I'm sorry you're in a bad situation, but the reality is that technologies grant power, and some nations don't want their citizens empowered, while other nations don't want their power through technology used by enemy nations against them. In order to have some rule that governments can't do that, you would require a higher, metagovernment, which would then have the same sort of power and require the same oversight, requiring and even higher metagovernment, and so on. Hence why government is always a scam...it promises safety and justice the way the mob does, through violence and threats.

To me, the bigger issue is the move to take things you control (your software on your own computers) to what you don't control (cloud services). Why should my ability to write a letter he dependent on what happens to some company in a different country?

If it's true, then this is so unfair that I literally wanna scream... Android, Golang, Angular.js, Chromium, are all open-source. Why the hell they are blocking access is beyond me. Are they really forced to do this???

Because it is an American law. Now, if the source was forked and hosted in another country, people might be able to access it. Of course then the access would be up to the host country and the destination country

They've only blocked access to documentation and their servers, it should be easy to mirror it somewhere else.

I'm sorry you cant access udacity. use vpn or get hola (a free chrome plugin)

Thank you, I am not going to leave Udacity. Sad, but Chrome updates and plugins - are blocked for me too. I will think about vpn. Just hope the Udacity will not block me (=.

I think you meant "free" by "open". In that case, just remember that "if something is free you are the product".

Apart that the "you're the product" is a fallacy, golang, AOSP, etc are not only free, they are open source

how that's a fallacy? Google's cash cow is its ad platform.

And the product is ad space, not the user using the service

>"It is not about politics, it's about technology."

I think that it probably is about a technology company acting because of politics.

well, google's not your bitch, you know

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