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Google: The Thin Line between Search and Surveillance

One could argue that Google is a corporation whose content and cash flow results from their ability to survey the Internet with unfettered access to users’ information under protection of the Safe Harbor Provision of the DMCA. The provision is a corporate loop-hole that allows Google to not be held responsible for content that might otherwise be personal, private, or illegal as defined by the U.S. Constitution and The Geneva Accords. Google claims to be software without moral judgment and purposely refuses to admit that it may be facilitating mafia-style corporations counterfeiting without license and thus profiting through illegal gain by eradicating people’s property rights as otherwise guaranteed.

GoogleFor instance, I released the Celebrity album by Escape Club on February 7, 2012, through my BeanBag1/Whipped Cream indie label imprint. On that day, the number one result on Google search for “Escape Club Celebrity” was “Download it now for Free on Bit Torrent!” I contacted Bit Torrent with a DMCA take-down notice and received follow-up emails bouncing back from them stating, “undeliverable after 48-hours, undeliverable after 72-hours, etc.” Even the DMCA’s Safe Harbor Provision requires recognition of copyright. However, Google purposely ignores these obvious issues in their search results while advocating the motto of “do no evil.”

As if facilitating the eradication of users’ property rights, including the right to profit, isn’t evil enough, we now have proof that Google purposely ignored further basic human rights with what is a gross breach of their own personal, privacy and surveillance guarantees through their complicity with the National Security Agency (NSA). This is the result of Google retaining every search and email by every person in their system, with details from that information being made available to corporations and governments without the individuals distinct involvement, license or payment. In other words, users have no control of their own information, nor did they share in the profits.

Tech corporations collect and provide information in the name of advertising, so corporations can target you, and so can governments. Not only does that seem patently offensive in itself, but the advertising I am receiving as a result of my searches has no relevance to what I purchase. In fact, my daily searching online bears almost no relationship to anything I buy. Isn’t this really just an uncertain creation for more incalculable Internet advertising profits while lending purpose and cover to surveillance?

Even within the tech industry, there are opposing views as to whether corporate surveillance is a good thing. The American story of the web begins with “Father Of The Internet” Vint Cerf when he was at the U.S. Government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). He’s now Vice President and Internet Evangelist for Google and told Wired in an April 2012 interview, “We knew what we were unleashing on the world.”

George W. Bush (right) stands with Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients, Vinton G. Cerf (left) and Robert E. Kahn (middle), Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2005. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

While Cerf’s prescient declaration of world impact is robustly reflected in the American technology corporation’s world ambition, our British friends give the credit for “Father of the Internet” to Professor Tim Berners-Lee, who in in the same month that Cerf was talking to Wired, was quoted by The Guardian as urging us to forsake corporate control and take back our data from Google and Facebook.

Having jumped on the Internet bandwagon in the early 90s without any expectation of world domination myself, I now side with Professor Berners-Lee and advocate no corporate or government surveillance online. Revoking the Safe Harbor Provision, a technology industry loop-hole that exempts mega-corporations like Google from the same lawful responsibilities the rest of us operate under, and then further requiring online corporations to obey all existing laws and regulations, including no retention of citizen files without court order, would stop most threats of abusive corporate and government surveillance.

My personal information should not be for sale to Wal-Mart or Homeland Security. My private property belongs to me, whether offline or online. And the dark history necessitating these statements shows signs of repeating itself when the book 1984, written in 1948, increased sales by 700% on Amazon this week following reports of Google’s similarity to the story’s “Big Brother.”

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Dave Bean

Dave Bean is an Internet Radio pioneer who has worked for Musicmatch Internet Radio, baseBeat.com, OnRadio.com; and currently as a Music Curator for Internet Radio at Slacker.com. As an owner of independent record labels, he was one of the first to license songs to eMusic and iTunes.

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2 comments to Google: The Thin Line between Search and Surveillance

  • Tin Man

    So, several things:

    * Removing the DMCA Safe Harbor [1] that the author talks about would effectively lead to tons and tons of censorship. The government could easily shut down almost any website. It could shut down any blogging site with comments, any social network, any search engine, any communication platform, as it’s likely there’s a link to a copyright-infringing website on here. And if there is not, the government could simply add one.

    * Google does comply with DMCA takedown requests. It even posts records of them to Chilling Effects, so that people can check if legitimate websites aren’t being taken down.

    * Intellectual property rights aren’t property rights. Actually, they’re the exact opposite. [2] The right to profit isn’t a property right.

    * Google HAS to retain every Gmail user’s e-mails. Otherwise, she/he wouldn’t be able to read her/his e-mail.

    * Google’s privacy policy is quite reasonable when it comes to sharing information [3]. It doesn’t frivolously share or sell a user’s data. Google’s ads are generated in-house.

    * Google requires a warrant to give out content [3]. EFF has given Google 5/6 stars when it comes to keeping data away from the government [4].

    * “Requiring online corporations to obey all existing laws and regulations” would do the exact opposite of “stopping most threats of abusive corporate and government surveillance”, because, in order to make sure online corporations obey all the laws, the government would have to police everything that goes on on the internet. And if they were given the power to easily shut down a non-compliant website, they could just shut down all the sites that refuse to hand over information to them, with the excuse that they’re breaking the patriot act (or whatever silencing law they come up with).

    [1] http://chillingeffects.org/dmca512/
    [2] http://falkvinge.net/2012/12/22/the-copyright-monopoly-stands-in-direct-opposition-to-property-rights/
    [3] https://www.google.com/policies/privacy/
    [4] https://www.eff.org/who-has-your-back-2013

  • [...] Google: The Thin Line between Search and Surveillance One could argue that Google is a corporation whose content and cash flow results from their ability to survey the Internet with unfettered access to users’ information under protection of the Safe Harbor Provision of the DMCA. The provision is a corporate loop-hole that allows Google to not be held responsible for content that might otherwise be personal, private, or illegal as defined by the U.S. Constitution and The Geneva Accords. Google claims to be software without moral judgment and purposely refuses to admit that it may be facilitating mafia-style corporations counterfeiting without license and thus profiting through illegal gain by eradicating people’s property rights as otherwise guaranteed. [...]