(MOSCOW) ELECTION REPORT: A Smart Voting app devised by jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been removed from Apple and Google stores on the day Russians start voting in parliamentary elections.

#AceNewsReport – Sept .18: President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party is expected to win: Although a total of 14 parties are taking part in the vote, many candidates seen as anti-Putin are barred from running, including anyone associated with Navalny’s opposition movement. Some prominent Kremlin opponents have been forced to leave Russia.

#AceDailyNews says opposition smart app removed as vote begins after Russian authorities had threatened to fine the two companies if they refused to drop the app, which told users who could unseat ruling party candidates after Parliamentary and local elections began on Friday and will last three days:

A specialist disinfects ballot boxes at a polling station during a three-day parliamentary election in Rostov-on-Don, Russia September 17, 2021
The vote has been extended to three days because of the Covid pandemic

Voters are electing 450 MPs for the Duma (parliament) in Moscow and a number of cities have introduced electronic voting. For the first time since 1993, election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will not be present due to “limitations” imposed by Russian authorities.

EPA: Public video feeds of voting have been banned but official observers were allowed to watch

Navalny was jailed immediately on his return from Germany in January, having recovered from a nerve agent attack in Siberia.

The Smart Voting app was not available for download on both the Google and Apple stories in Russia on Friday.

On the eve of the election, senior officials at the communications regulator threatened big fines for any companies that “systematically violate” its demands. IT companies had been warned that refusing to remove the app would be seen as illegal interference in the vote.

On Thursday night, Google Docs went down in some regions and the Smart Voting-bot on the Telegram platform came under a powerful attack aimed at taking it offline.

Google and Apple representatives met a Russian Federation Council (upper house of parliament) commission on Thursday.

Navalny ally Ivan Zhdanov said the two companies were making a big mistake. 

He linked to an Apple statement that explained the Smart Voting app had been removed because it was illegal in Russia and that Navalny’s FBK anti-corruption organisation had been designated as extremist.

Russia’s communications watchdog blocked the Smart Voting website earlier this month, and a Moscow court banned search engines from any mention of it.

Until now, relatively small fines have been imposed on non-Russian tech companies, including Twitter and Facebook, for not deleting content considered illegal by the Russian government. But the media watchdog has now threatened to target their turnover too.

Last March, the media watchdog said it was slowing down the speed of Twitter because it had failed to remove 3,000 posts relating to suicide, drugs and pornography. 

The big social media companies were also threatened with fines if they did not delete posts urging young people to protest.

#AceNewsDesk report ………Published: Sept.18: 2021:

Editor says …Sterling Publishing & Media Service Agency is not responsible for the content of external site or from any reports, posts or links, and can also be found here on Telegram: https://t.me/acenewsdaily all of our posts fromTwitter can be found here: https://acetwitternews.wordpress.com/ and all wordpress and live posts and links here: https://acenewsroom.wordpress.com/and thanks for following as always appreciate every like, reblog or retweet and free help and guidance tips on your PC software or need help & guidance from our experts AcePCHelp.WordPress.Com

#apple, #election, #google, #moscow, #parliamentary, #putin, #russian

(CALIFORNIA) Court Report: Dozens of US state attorneys general filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google on Wednesday, according to an entry in the court docket #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – July.10: The states have been expected to file a lawsuit saying that the search and advertising giant violates antitrust law in running Google Play Store, its app store for Android phones, according to sources familiar with the matter.

SILICON VALLEY: Dozens of States Sue Google Alleging Antitrust Violations in a lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. The complaint was not immediately available.

The lawsuit, one of a series that has been filed against Google in the United States, follows complaints about the Alphabet Inc. unit’s management of its app store, known as Play Store, even though the company was originally seen as more open than Apple.

Google bans apps with objectionable content from its store, and further requires that some apps use the company’s payment tools and pay Google as much as 30 percent of their revenue.

Click here to read more.
Source: New York Post

#AceNewsDesk report ………Published: July.10: 2021:

Editor says …Sterling Publishing & Media Service Agency is not responsible for the content of external site or from any reports, posts or links, and can also be found here on Telegram: https://t.me/acenewsdaily all of our posts fromTwitter can be found here: https://acetwitternews.wordpress.com/ and all wordpress and live posts and links here: https://acenewsroom.wordpress.com/and thanks for following as always appreciate every like, reblog or retweet and free help and guidance tips on your PC software or need help & guidance from our experts AcePCHelp.WordPress.Com

#android, #anti-trust, #california, #google, #lawsuit

(WASHINGTON) Exclusive Inside the Secret Network of Mass Surveillance Report: This exclusive is being released for free in the public interest, and was enabled by crowdfunding #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – July.10: A new crowd-funded investigative journalism project, breaks the exclusive story of how the United States intelligence community funded, nurtured and incubated Google as part of a drive to dominate the world through control of information. Seed-funded by the NSA and CIA, Google was merely the first among a plethora of private sector start-ups co-opted by US intelligence to retain ‘information superiority.’

INSURGE INTELLIGENCE: How the CIA made Google and inside the secret network behind mass surveillance, endless war, and Skynet—that dates back to its origins before a secret sponsored group that acted as a bridge between U.S. Governement and business

This exclusive is being released for free in the public interest, and was enabled by crowdfunding. I’d like to thank my amazing community of patrons for their support, which gave me the opportunity to work on this in-depth investigation. Please support independent, investigative journalism for the global commons.

By Nafeez Ahmed: Medium:

The origins of this ingenious strategy trace back to a secret Pentagon-sponsored group, that for the last two decades has functioned as a bridge between the US government and elites across the business, industry, finance, corporate, and media sectors. The group has allowed some of the most powerful special interests in corporate America to systematically circumvent democratic accountability and the rule of law to influence government policies, as well as public opinion in the US and around the world. The results have been catastrophic: NSA mass surveillance, a permanent state of global war, and a new initiative to transform the US military into Skynet.

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, western governments are moving fast to legitimize expanded powers of mass surveillance and controls on the internet, all in the name of fighting terrorism.

US and European politicians have called to protect NSA-style snooping, and to advance the capacity to intrude on internet privacy by outlawing encryption. One idea is to establish a telecoms partnership that would unilaterally delete content deemed to “fuel hatred and violence” in situations considered “appropriate.” Heated discussions are going on at government and parliamentary level to explore cracking down on lawyer-client confidentiality.

What any of this would have done to prevent the Charlie Hebdo attacks remains a mystery, especially given that we already know the terrorists were on the radar of French intelligence for up to a decade.

There is little new in this story. The 9/11 atrocity was the first of many terrorist attacks, each succeeded by the dramatic extension of draconian state powers at the expense of civil liberties, backed up with the projection of military force in regions identified as hotspots harbouring terrorists. Yet there is little indication that this tried and tested formula has done anything to reduce the danger. If anything, we appear to be locked into a deepening cycle of violence with no clear end in sight.

As our governments push to increase their powers, INSURGE INTELLIGENCE can now reveal the vast extent to which the US intelligence community is implicated in nurturing the web platforms we know today, for the precise purpose of utilizing the technology as a mechanism to fight global ‘information war’ — a war to legitimize the power of the few over the rest of us. The lynchpin of this story is the corporation that in many ways defines the 21st century with its unobtrusive omnipresence: Google.

Google styles itself as a friendly, funky, user-friendly tech firm that rose to prominence through a combination of skill, luck, and genuine innovation. This is true. But it is a mere fragment of the story. In reality, Google is a smokescreen behind which lurks the US military-industrial complex.

The inside story of Google’s rise, revealed here for the first time, opens a can of worms that goes far beyond Google, unexpectedly shining a light on the existence of a parasitical network driving the evolution of the US national security apparatus, and profiting obscenely from its operation.

The shadow network

For the last two decades, US foreign and intelligence strategies have resulted in a global ‘war on terror’ consisting of prolonged military invasions in the Muslim world and comprehensive surveillance of civilian populations. These strategies have been incubated, if not dictated, by a secret network inside and beyond the Pentagon.

Established under the Clinton administration, consolidated under Bush, and firmly entrenched under Obama, this bipartisan network of mostly neoconservative ideologues sealed its dominion inside the US Department of Defense (DoD) by the dawn of 2015, through the operation of an obscure corporate entity outside the Pentagon, but run by the Pentagon.

In 1999, the CIA created its own venture capital investment firm, In-Q-Tel, to fund promising start-ups that might create technologies useful for intelligence agencies. But the inspiration for In-Q-Tel came earlier, when the Pentagon set up its own private sector outfit.

Known as the ‘Highlands Forum,’ this private network has operated as a bridge between the Pentagon and powerful American elites outside the military since the mid-1990s. Despite changes in civilian administrations, the network around the Highlands Forum has become increasingly successful in dominating US defense policy.

Giant defense contractors like Booz Allen Hamilton and Science Applications International Corporation are sometimes referred to as the ‘shadow intelligence community’ due to the revolving doors between them and government, and their capacity to simultaneously influence and profit from defense policy. But while these contractors compete for power and money, they also collaborate where it counts. The Highlands Forum has for 20 years provided an off the record space for some of the most prominent members of the shadow intelligence community to convene with senior US government officials, alongside other leaders in relevant industries.

I first stumbled upon the existence of this network in November 2014, when I reported for VICE’s Motherboard that US defense secretary Chuck Hagel’s newly announced ‘Defense Innovation Initiative’ was really about building Skynet — or something like it, essentially to dominate an emerging era of automated robotic warfare.

That story was based on a little-known Pentagon-funded ‘white paper’ published two months earlier by the National Defense University (NDU) in Washington DC, a leading US military-run institution that, among other things, generates research to develop US defense policy at the highest levels. The white paper clarified the thinking behind the new initiative, and the revolutionary scientific and technological developments it hoped to capitalize on.

The Highlands Forum

The co-author of that NDU white paper is Linton Wells, a 51-year veteran US defense official who served in the Bush administration as the Pentagon’s chief information officer, overseeing the National Security Agency (NSA) and other spy agencies. He still holds active top-secret security clearances, and according to a report by Government Executive magazine in 2006 he chaired the ‘Highlands Forum’, founded by the Pentagon in 1994.

Linton Wells II (right) former Pentagon chief information officer and assistant secretary of defense for networks, at a recent Pentagon Highlands Forum session. Rosemary Wenchel, a senior official in the US Department of Homeland Security, is sitting next to him

New Scientist magazine (paywall) has compared the Highlands Forum to elite meetings like “Davos, Ditchley and Aspen,” describing it as “far less well known, yet… arguably just as influential a talking shop.” Regular Forum meetings bring together “innovative people to consider interactions between policy and technology. Its biggest successes have been in the development of high-tech network-based warfare.”

Given Wells’ role in such a Forum, perhaps it was not surprising that his defense transformation white paper was able to have such a profound impact on actual Pentagon policy. But if that was the case, why had no one noticed?

Despite being sponsored by the Pentagon, I could find no official page on the DoD website about the Forum. Active and former US military and intelligence sources had never heard of it, and neither did national security journalists. I was baffled.

The Pentagon’s intellectual capital venture firm

In the prologue to his 2007 book, A Crowd of One: The Future of Individual Identity, John Clippinger, an MIT scientist of the Media Lab Human Dynamics Group, described how he participated in a “Highlands Forum” gathering, an “invitation-only meeting funded by the Department of Defense and chaired by the assistant for networks and information integration.” This was a senior DoD post overseeing operations and policies for the Pentagon’s most powerful spy agencies including the NSA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), among others. Starting from 2003, the position was transitioned into what is now the undersecretary of defense for intelligence. The Highlands Forum, Clippinger wrote, was founded by a retired US Navy captain named Dick O’Neill. Delegates include senior US military officials across numerous agencies and divisions — “captains, rear admirals, generals, colonels, majors and commanders” as well as “members of the DoD leadership.”

What at first appeared to be the Forum’s main website describes Highlands as “an informal cross-disciplinary network sponsored by Federal Government,” focusing on “information, science and technology.” Explanation is sparse, beyond a single ‘Department of Defense’ logo.

But Highlands also has another website describing itself as an “intellectual capital venture firm” with “extensive experience assisting corporations, organizations, and government leaders.” The firm provides a “wide range of services, including: strategic planning, scenario creation and gaming for expanding global markets,” as well as “working with clients to build strategies for execution.” ‘The Highlands Group Inc.,’ the website says, organizes a whole range of Forums on these issue.

For instance, in addition to the Highlands Forum, since 9/11 the Group runs the ‘Island Forum,’ an international event held in association with Singapore’s Ministry of Defense, which O’Neill oversees as “lead consultant.” The Singapore Ministry of Defense website describes the Island Forum as “patterned after the Highlands Forum organized for the US Department of Defense.” Documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden confirmed that Singapore played a key role in permitting the US and Australia to tap undersea cables to spy on Asian powers like Indonesia and Malaysia.

The Highlands Group website also reveals that Highlands is partnered with one of the most powerful defense contractors in the United States. Highlands is “supported by a network of companies and independent researchers,” including “our Highlands Forum partners for the past ten years at SAIC; and the vast Highlands network of participants in the Highlands Forum.”

SAIC stands for the US defense firm, Science Applications International Corporation, which changed its name to Leidos in 2013, operating SAIC as a subsidiary. SAIC/Leidos is among the top 10 largest defense contractors in the US, and works closely with the US intelligence community, especially the NSA. According to investigative journalist Tim Shorrock, the first to disclose the vast extent of the privatization of US intelligence with his seminal book Spies for Hire, SAIC has a “symbiotic relationship with the NSA: the agency is the company’s largest single customer and SAIC is the NSA’s largest contractor.”Richard ‘Dick’ Patrick O’Neill, founding president of the Pentagon’s Highlands Forum

The full name of Captain “Dick” O’Neill, the founding president of the Highlands Forum, is Richard Patrick O’Neill, who after his work in the Navy joined the DoD. He served his last post as deputy for strategy and policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence, before setting up Highlands.

The Club of Yoda

But Clippinger also referred to another mysterious individual revered by Forum attendees:

“He sat at the back of the room, expressionless behind thick, black-rimmed glasses. I never heard him utter a word… Andrew (Andy) Marshall is an icon within DoD. Some call him Yoda, indicative of his mythical inscrutable status… He had served many administrations and was widely regarded as above partisan politics. He was a supporter of the Highlands Forum and a regular fixture from its beginning.”

Since 1973, Marshall has headed up one of the Pentagon’s most powerful agencies, the Office of Net Assessment (ONA), the US defense secretary’s internal ‘think tank’ which conducts highly classified research on future planning for defense policy across the US military and intelligence community. The ONA has played a key role in major Pentagon strategy initiatives, including Maritime Strategy, the Strategic Defense Initiative, the Competitive Strategies Initiative, and the Revolution in Military Affairs.

Andrew ‘Yoda’ Marshall, head of the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment (ONA) and co-chair of the Highlands Forum, at an early Highlands event in 1996 at the Santa Fe Institute. Marshall is retiring as of January 2015

In a rare 2002 profile in Wired, reporter Douglas McGray described Andrew Marshall, now 93 years old, as “the DoD’s most elusive” but “one of its most influential” officials. McGray added that “Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz” — widely considered the hawks of the neoconservative movement in American politics — were among Marshall’s “star protégés.”

Speaking at a low-key Harvard University seminar a few months after 9/11, Highlands Forum founding president Richard O’Neill said that Marshall was much more than a “regular fixture” at the Forum. “Andy Marshall is our co-chair, so indirectly everything that we do goes back into Andy’s system,” he told the audience. “Directly, people who are in the Forum meetings may be going back to give briefings to Andy on a variety of topics and to synthesize things.” He also said that the Forum had a third co-chair: the director of the Defense Advanced Research and Projects Agency (DARPA), which at that time was a Rumsfeld appointee, Anthony J. Tether. Before joining DARPA, Tether was vice president of SAIC’s Advanced Technology Sector.

Anthony J. Tether, director of DARPA and co-chair of the Pentagon’s Highlands Forum from June 2001 to February 2009

The Highlands Forum’s influence on US defense policy has thus operated through three main channels: its sponsorship by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (around the middle of last decade this was transitioned specifically to the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, which is in charge of the main surveillance agencies); its direct link to Andrew ‘Yoda’ Marshall’s ONA; and its direct link to DARPA.

A slide from Richard O’Neill’s presentation at Harvard University in 2001

According to Clippinger in A Crowd of One, “what happens at informal gatherings such as the Highlands Forum could, over time and through unforeseen curious paths of influence, have enormous impact, not just within the DoD but throughout the world.” He wrote that the Forum’s ideas have “moved from being heretical to mainstream. Ideas that were anathema in 1999 had been adopted as policy just three years later.”

Although the Forum does not produce “consensus recommendations,” its impact is deeper than a traditional government advisory committee. “The ideas that emerge from meetings are available for use by decision-makers as well as by people from the think tanks,” according to O’Neill:

“We’ll include people from Booz, SAIC, RAND, or others at our meetings… We welcome that kind of cooperation, because, truthfully, they have the gravitas. They are there for the long haul and are able to influence government policies with real scholarly work… We produce ideas and interaction and networks for these people to take and use as they need them.”

My repeated requests to O’Neill for information on his work at the Highlands Forum were ignored. The Department of Defense also did not respond to multiple requests for information and comment on the Forum.

Information warfare

The Highlands Forum has served as a two-way ‘influence bridge’: on the one hand, for the shadow network of private contractors to influence the formulation of information operations policy across US military intelligence; and on the other, for the Pentagon to influence what is going on in the private sector. There is no clearer evidence of this than the truly instrumental role of the Forum in incubating the idea of mass surveillance as a mechanism to dominate information on a global scale.

In 1989, Richard O’Neill, then a US Navy cryptologist, wrote a paper for the US Naval War College, ‘Toward a methodology for perception management.’ In his book, Future Wars, Col. John Alexander, then a senior officer in the US Army’s Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), records that O’Neill’s paper for the first time outlined a strategy for “perception management” as part of information warfare (IW). O’Neill’s proposed strategy identified three categories of targets for IW: adversaries, so they believe they are vulnerable; potential partners, “so they perceive the cause [of war] as just”; and finally, civilian populations and the political leadership so they “perceive the cost as worth the effort.” A secret briefing based on O’Neill’s work “made its way to the top leadership” at DoD. “They acknowledged that O’Neill was right and told him to bury it.

Except the DoD didn’t bury it. Around 1994, the Highlands Group was founded by O’Neill as an official Pentagon project at the appointment of Bill Clinton’s then defense secretary William Perry — who went on to join SAIC’s board of directors after retiring from government in 2003.

In O’Neill’s own words, the group would function as the Pentagon’s ‘ideas lab’. According to Government Executive, military and information technology experts gathered at the first Forum meeting “to consider the impacts of IT and globalization on the United States and on warfare. How would the Internet and other emerging technologies change the world?” The meeting helped plant the idea of “network-centric warfare” in the minds of “the nation’s top military thinkers.”

Excluding the public

Official Pentagon records confirm that the Highlands Forum’s primary goal was to support DoD policies on O’Neill’s specialism: information warfare. According to the Pentagon’s 1997 Annual Report to the President and the Congress under a section titled ‘Information Operations,’ (IO) the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) had authorized the “establishment of the Highlands Group of key DoD, industry, and academic IO experts” to coordinate IO across federal military intelligence agencies.

The following year’s DoD annual report reiterated the Forum’s centrality to information operations: “To examine IO issues, DoD sponsors the Highlands Forum, which brings together government, industry, and academic professionals from various fields.”

Notice that in 1998, the Highlands ‘Group’ became a ‘Forum.’ According to O’Neill, this was to avoid subjecting Highlands Forums meetings to “bureaucratic restrictions.” What he was alluding to was the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), which regulates the way the US government can formally solicit the advice of special interests.

Known as the ‘open government’ law, FACA requires that US government officials cannot hold closed-door or secret consultations with people outside government to develop policy. All such consultations should take place via federal advisory committees that permit public scrutiny. FACA requires that meetings be held in public, announced via the Federal Register, that advisory groups are registered with an office at the General Services Administration, among other requirements intended to maintain accountability to the public interest.

But Government Executive reported that “O’Neill and others believed” such regulatory issues “would quell the free flow of ideas and no-holds-barred discussions they sought.” Pentagon lawyers had warned that the word ‘group’ might necessitate certain obligations and advised running the whole thing privately: “So O’Neill renamed it the Highlands Forum and moved into the private sector to manage it as a consultant to the Pentagon.” The Pentagon Highlands Forum thus runs under the mantle of O’Neill’s ‘intellectual capital venture firm,’ ‘Highlands Group Inc.’

In 1995, a year after William Perry appointed O’Neill to head up the Highlands Forum, SAIC — the Forum’s “partner” organization — launcheda new Center for Information Strategy and Policy under the direction of “Jeffrey Cooper, a member of the Highlands Group who advises senior Defense Department officials on information warfare issues.” The Center had precisely the same objective as the Forum, to function as “a clearinghouse to bring together the best and brightest minds in information warfare by sponsoring a continuing series of seminars, papers and symposia which explore the implications of information warfare in depth.” The aim was to “enable leaders and policymakers from government, industry, and academia to address key issues surrounding information warfare to ensure that the United States retains its edge over any and all potential enemies.”

Despite FACA regulations, federal advisory committees are already heavily influenced, if not captured, by corporate power. So in bypassing FACA, the Pentagon overrode even the loose restrictions of FACA, by permanently excluding any possibility of public engagement.

O’Neill’s claim that there are no reports or recommendations is disingenuous. By his own admission, the secret Pentagon consultations with industry that have taken place through the Highlands Forum since 1994 have been accompanied by regular presentations of academic and policy papers, recordings and notes of meetings, and other forms of documentation that are locked behind a login only accessible by Forum delegates. This violates the spirit, if not the letter, of FACA — in a way that is patently intended to circumvent democratic accountability and the rule of law.

The Highlands Forum doesn’t need to produce consensus recommendations. Its purpose is to provide the Pentagon a shadow social networking mechanism to cement lasting relationships with corporate power, and to identify new talent, that can be used to fine-tune information warfare strategies in absolute secrecy.

Total participants in the DoD’s Highlands Forum number over a thousand, although sessions largely consist of small closed workshop style gatherings of maximum 25–30 people, bringing together experts and officials depending on the subject. Delegates have included senior personnel from SAIC and Booz Allen Hamilton, RAND Corp., Cisco, Human Genome Sciences, eBay, PayPal, IBM, Google, Microsoft, AT&T, the BBC, Disney, General Electric, Enron, among innumerable others; Democrat and Republican members of Congress and the Senate; senior executives from the US energy industry such as Daniel Yergin of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates; and key people involved in both sides of presidential campaigns.

Other participants have included senior media professionals: David Ignatius, associate editor of the Washington Post and at the time the executive editor of the International Herald Tribune; Thomas Friedman, long-time New York Times columnist; Arnaud de Borchgrave, an editor at Washington Times and United Press International; Steven Levy, a former Newsweek editor, senior writer for Wired and now chief tech editor at Medium; Lawrence Wright, staff writer at the New Yorker; Noah Shachtmann, executive editor at the Daily Beast; Rebecca McKinnon, co-founder of Global Voices Online; Nik Gowing of the BBC; and John Markoff of the New York Times.

Due to its current sponsorship by the OSD’s undersecretary of defense for intelligence, the Forum has inside access to the chiefs of the main US surveillance and reconnaissance agencies, as well as the directors and their assistants at DoD research agencies, from DARPA, to the ONA. This also means that the Forum is deeply plugged into the Pentagon’s policy research task forces.

Google: seeded by the Pentagon

In 1994 — the same year the Highlands Forum was founded under the stewardship of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the ONA, and DARPA — two young PhD students at Stanford University, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, made their breakthrough on the first automated web crawling and page ranking application. That application remains the core component of what eventually became Google’s search service. Brin and Page had performed their work with funding from the Digital Library Initiative (DLI), a multi-agency programme of the National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA and DARPA.

But that’s just one side of the story.

Throughout the development of the search engine, Sergey Brin reported regularly and directly to two people who were not Stanford faculty at all: Dr. Bhavani Thuraisingham and Dr. Rick Steinheiser. Both were representatives of a sensitive US intelligence community research programme on information security and data-mining.

Thuraisingham is currently the Louis A. Beecherl distinguished professor and executive director of the Cyber Security Research Institute at the University of Texas, Dallas, and a sought-after expert on data-mining, data management and information security issues. But in the 1990s, she worked for the MITRE Corp., a leading US defense contractor, where she managed the Massive Digital Data Systems initiative, a project sponsored by the NSA, CIA, and the Director of Central Intelligence, to foster innovative research in information technology.

“We funded Stanford University through the computer scientist Jeffrey Ullman, who had several promising graduate students working on many exciting areas,” Prof. Thuraisingham told me. “One of them was Sergey Brin, the founder of Google. The intelligence community’s MDDS program essentially provided Brin seed-funding, which was supplemented by many other sources, including the private sector.”

This sort of funding is certainly not unusual, and Sergey Brin’s being able to receive it by being a graduate student at Stanford appears to have been incidental. The Pentagon was all over computer science research at this time. But it illustrates how deeply entrenched the culture of Silicon Valley is in the values of the US intelligence community.

In an extraordinary document hosted by the website of the University of Texas, Thuraisingham recounts that from 1993 to 1999, “the Intelligence Community [IC] started a program called Massive Digital Data Systems (MDDS) that I was managing for the Intelligence Community when I was at the MITRE Corporation.” The program funded 15 research efforts at various universities, including Stanford. Its goal was developing “data management technologies to manage several terabytes to petabytes of data,” including for “query processing, transaction management, metadata management, storage management, and data integration.”

At the time, Thuraisingham was chief scientist for data and information management at MITRE, where she led team research and development efforts for the NSA, CIA, US Air Force Research Laboratory, as well as the US Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) and Communications and Electronic Command (CECOM). She went on to teach courses for US government officials and defense contractors on data-mining in counter-terrorism.

In her University of Texas article, she attaches the copy of an abstract of the US intelligence community’s MDDS program that had been presented to the “Annual Intelligence Community Symposium” in 1995. The abstract reveals that the primary sponsors of the MDDS programme were three agencies: the NSA, the CIA’s Office of Research & Development, and the intelligence community’s Community Management Staff (CMS) which operates under the Director of Central Intelligence. Administrators of the program, which provided funding of around 3–4 million dollars per year for 3–4 years, were identified as Hal Curran (NSA), Robert Kluttz (CMS), Dr. Claudia Pierce (NSA), Dr. Rick Steinheiser (ORD — standing for the CIA’s Office of Research and Devepment), and Dr. Thuraisingham herself.

Thuraisingham goes on in her article to reiterate that this joint CIA-NSA program partly funded Sergey Brin to develop the core of Google, through a grant to Stanford managed by Brin’s supervisor Prof. Jeffrey D. Ullman:

“In fact, the Google founder Mr. Sergey Brin was partly funded by this program while he was a PhD student at Stanford. He together with his advisor Prof. Jeffrey Ullman and my colleague at MITRE, Dr. Chris Clifton [Mitre’s chief scientist in IT], developed the Query Flocks System which produced solutions for mining large amounts of data stored in databases. I remember visiting Stanford with Dr. Rick Steinheiser from the Intelligence Community and Mr. Brin would rush in on roller blades, give his presentation and rush out. In fact the last time we met in September 1998, Mr. Brin demonstrated to us his search engine which became Google soon after.”

Brin and Page officially incorporated Google as a company in September 1998, the very month they last reported to Thuraisingham and Steinheiser. ‘Query Flocks’ was also part of Google’s patented ‘PageRank’ search system, which Brin developed at Stanford under the CIA-NSA-MDDS programme, as well as with funding from the NSF, IBM and Hitachi. That year, MITRE’s Dr. Chris Clifton, who worked under Thuraisingham to develop the ‘Query Flocks’ system, co-authored a paper with Brin’s superviser, Prof. Ullman, and the CIA’s Rick Steinheiser. Titled ‘Knowledge Discovery in Text,’ the paper was presented at an academic conference.

“The MDDS funding that supported Brin was significant as far as seed-funding goes, but it was probably outweighed by the other funding streams,” said Thuraisingham. “The duration of Brin’s funding was around two years or so. In that period, I and my colleagues from the MDDS would visit Stanford to see Brin and monitor his progress every three months or so. We didn’t supervise exactly, but we did want to check progress, point out potential problems and suggest ideas. In those briefings, Brin did present to us on the query flocks research, and also demonstrated to us versions of the Google search engine.”

Brin thus reported to Thuraisingham and Steinheiser regularly about his work developing Google.

==

UPDATE 2.05PM GMT [2nd Feb 2015]:

Since publication of this article, Prof. Thuraisingham has amended her article referenced above. The amended version includes a new modified statement, followed by a copy of the original version of her account of the MDDS. In this amended version, Thuraisingham rejects the idea that CIA funded Google, and says instead:

“In fact Prof. Jeffrey Ullman (at Stanford) and my colleague at MITRE Dr. Chris Clifton together with some others developed the Query Flocks System, as part of MDDS, which produced solutions for mining large amounts of data stored in databases. Also, Mr. Sergey Brin, the cofounder of Google, was part of Prof. Ullman’s research group at that time. I remember visiting Stanford with Dr. Rick Steinheiser from the Intelligence Community periodically and Mr. Brin would rush in on roller blades, give his presentation and rush out. During our last visit to Stanford in September 1998, Mr. Brin demonstrated to us his search engine which I believe became Google soon after…

There are also several inaccuracies in Dr. Ahmed’s article (dated January 22, 2015). For example, the MDDS program was not a ‘sensitive’ program as stated by Dr. Ahmed; it was an Unclassified program that funded universities in the US. Furthermore, Sergey Brin never reported to me or to Dr. Rick Steinheiser; he only gave presentations to us during our visits to the Department of Computer Science at Stanford during the 1990s. Also, MDDS never funded Google; it funded Stanford University.”

Here, there is no substantive factual difference in Thuraisingham’s accounts, other than to assert that her statement associating Sergey Brin with the development of ‘query flocks’ is mistaken. Notably, this acknowledgement is derived not from her own knowledge, but from this very article quoting a comment from a Google spokesperson.

However, the bizarre attempt to disassociate Google from the MDDS program misses the mark. Firstly, the MDDS never funded Google, because during the development of the core components of the Google search engine, there was no company incorporated with that name. The grant was instead provided to Stanford University through Prof. Ullman, through whom some MDDS funding was used to support Brin who was co-developing Google at the time. Secondly, Thuraisingham then adds that Brin never “reported” to her or the CIA’s Steinheiser, but admits he “gave presentations to us during our visits to the Department of Computer Science at Stanford during the 1990s.” It is unclear, though, what the distinction is here between reporting, and delivering a detailed presentation — either way, Thuraisingham confirms that she and the CIA had taken a keen interest in Brin’s development of Google. Thirdly, Thuraisingham describes the MDDS program as “unclassified,” but this does not contradict its “sensitive” nature. As someone who has worked for decades as an intelligence contractor and advisor, Thuraisingham is surely aware that there are many ways of categorizing intelligence, including ‘sensitive but unclassified.’ A number of former US intelligence officials I spoke to said that the almost total lack of public information on the CIA and NSA’s MDDS initiative suggests that although the progam was not classified, it is likely instead that its contents was considered sensitive, which would explain efforts to minimise transparency about the program and the way it fed back into developing tools for the US intelligence community. Fourthly, and finally, it is important to point out that the MDDS abstract which Thuraisingham includes in her University of Texas document states clearly not only that the Director of Central Intelligence’s CMS, CIA and NSA were the overseers of the MDDS initiative, but that the intended customers of the project were “DoD, IC, and other government organizations”: the Pentagon, the US intelligence community, and other relevant US government agencies.

In other words, the provision of MDDS funding to Brin through Ullman, under the oversight of Thuraisingham and Steinheiser, was fundamentally because they recognized the potential utility of Brin’s work developing Google to the Pentagon, intelligence community, and the federal government at large.

==

The MDDS programme is actually referenced in several papers co-authored by Brin and Page while at Stanford, specifically highlighting its role in financially sponsoring Brin in the development of Google. In their 1998 paper published in the Bulletin of the IEEE Computer Society Technical Committeee on Data Engineering, they describe the automation of methods to extract information from the web via “Dual Iterative Pattern Relation Extraction,” the development of “a global ranking of Web pages called PageRank,” and the use of PageRank “to develop a novel search engine called Google.” Through an opening footnote, Sergey Brin confirms he was “Partially supported by the Community Management Staff’s Massive Digital Data Systems Program, NSF grant IRI-96–31952” — confirming that Brin’s work developing Google was indeed partly-funded by the CIA-NSA-MDDS program.

This NSF grant identified alongside the MDDS, whose project report lists Brin among the students supported (without mentioning the MDDS), was different to the NSF grant to Larry Page that included funding from DARPA and NASA. The project report, authored by Brin’s supervisor Prof. Ullman, goes on to say under the section ‘Indications of Success’ that “there are some new stories of startups based on NSF-supported research.” Under ‘Project Impact,’ the report remarks: “Finally, the google project has also gone commercial as Google.com.”

Thuraisingham’s account, including her new amended version, therefore demonstrates that the CIA-NSA-MDDS program was not only partly funding Brin throughout his work with Larry Page developing Google, but that senior US intelligence representatives including a CIA official oversaw the evolution of Google in this pre-launch phase, all the way until the company was ready to be officially founded. Google, then, had been enabled with a “significant” amount of seed-funding and oversight from the Pentagon: namely, the CIA, NSA, and DARPA.

The DoD could not be reached for comment.

When I asked Prof. Ullman to confirm whether or not Brin was partly funded under the intelligence community’s MDDS program, and whether Ullman was aware that Brin was regularly briefing the CIA’s Rick Steinheiser on his progress in developing the Google search engine, Ullman’s responses were evasive: “May I know whom you represent and why you are interested in these issues? Who are your ‘sources’?” He also denied that Brin played a significant role in developing the ‘query flocks’ system, although it is clear from Brin’s papers that he did draw on that work in co-developing the PageRank system with Page.

When I asked Ullman whether he was denying the US intelligence community’s role in supporting Brin during the development of Google, he said: “I am not going to dignify this nonsense with a denial. If you won’t explain what your theory is, and what point you are trying to make, I am not going to help you in the slightest.”

The MDDS abstract published online at the University of Texas confirms that the rationale for the CIA-NSA project was to “provide seed money to develop data management technologies which are of high-risk and high-pay-off,” including techniques for “querying, browsing, and filtering; transaction processing; accesses methods and indexing; metadata management and data modelling; and integrating heterogeneous databases; as well as developing appropriate architectures.” The ultimate vision of the program was to “provide for the seamless access and fusion of massive amounts of data, information and knowledge in a heterogeneous, real-time environment” for use by the Pentagon, intelligence community and potentially across government.

These revelations corroborate the claims of Robert Steele, former senior CIA officer and a founding civilian deputy director of the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity, whom I interviewed for The Guardian last year on open source intelligence. Citing sources at the CIA, Steele had said in 2006 that Steinheiser, an old colleague of his, was the CIA’s main liaison at Google and had arranged early funding for the pioneering IT firm. At the time, Wired founder John Batelle managed to get this official denialfrom a Google spokesperson in response to Steele’s assertions:

“The statements related to Google are completely untrue.”

This time round, despite multiple requests and conversations, a Google spokesperson declined to comment.

UPDATE: As of 5.41PM GMT [22nd Jan 2015], Google’s director of corporate communication got in touch and asked me to include the following statement:

“Sergey Brin was not part of the Query Flocks Program at Stanford, nor were any of his projects funded by US Intelligence bodies.”

This is what I wrote back:

My response to that statement would be as follows: Brin himself in his own paper acknowledges funding from the Community Management Staff of the Massive Digital Data Systems (MDDS) initiative, which was supplied through the NSF. The MDDS was an intelligence community program set up by the CIA and NSA. I also have it on record, as noted in the piece, from Prof. Thuraisingham of University of Texas that she managed the MDDS program on behalf of the US intelligence community, and that her and the CIA’s Rick Steinheiser met Brin every three months or so for two years to be briefed on his progress developing Google and PageRank. Whether Brin worked on query flocks or not is neither here nor there.

In that context, you might want to consider the following questions:

1) Does Google deny that Brin’s work was part-funded by the MDDS via an NSF grant?

2) Does Google deny that Brin reported regularly to Thuraisingham and Steinheiser from around 1996 to 1998 until September that year when he presented the Google search engine to them?

Total Information Awareness

A call for papers for the MDDS was sent out via email list on November 3rd 1993 from senior US intelligence official David Charvonia, director of the research and development coordination office of the intelligence community’s CMS. The reaction from Tatu Ylonen (celebrated inventor of the widely used secure shell [SSH] data protection protocol) to his colleagues on the email list is telling: “Crypto relevance? Makes you think whether you should protect your data.” The email also confirms that defense contractor and Highlands Forum partner, SAIC, was managing the MDDS submission process, with abstracts to be sent to Jackie Booth of the CIA’s Office of Research and Development via a SAIC email address.

By 1997, Thuraisingham reveals, shortly before Google became incorporated and while she was still overseeing the development of its search engine software at Stanford, her thoughts turned to the national security applications of the MDDS program. In the acknowledgements to her book, Web Data Mining and Applications in Business Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism (2003), Thuraisingham writes that she and “Dr. Rick Steinheiser of the CIA, began discussions with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency on applying data-mining for counter-terrorism,” an idea that resulted directly from the MDDS program which partly funded Google. “These discussions eventually developed into the current EELD (Evidence Extraction and Link Detection) program at DARPA.”

So the very same senior CIA official and CIA-NSA contractor involved in providing the seed-funding for Google were simultaneously contemplating the role of data-mining for counter-terrorism purposes, and were developing ideas for tools actually advanced by DARPA.

Today, as illustrated by her recent oped in the New York Times, Thuraisingham remains a staunch advocate of data-mining for counter-terrorism purposes, but also insists that these methods must be developed by government in cooperation with civil liberties lawyers and privacy advocates to ensure that robust procedures are in place to prevent potential abuse. She points out, damningly, that with the quantity of information being collected, there is a high risk of false positives.

In 1993, when the MDDS program was launched and managed by MITRE Corp. on behalf of the US intelligence community, University of Virginia computer scientist Dr. Anita K. Jones — a MITRE trustee — landed the job of DARPA director and head of research and engineering across the Pentagon. She had been on the board of MITRE since 1988. From 1987 to 1993, Jones simultaneously served on SAIC’s board of directors. As the new head of DARPA from 1993 to 1997, she also co-chaired the Pentagon’s Highlands Forum during the period of Google’s pre-launch development at Stanford under the MDSS.

Thus, when Thuraisingham and Steinheiser were talking to DARPA about the counter-terrorism applications of MDDS research, Jones was DARPA director and Highlands Forum co-chair. That year, Jones left DARPA to return to her post at the University of Virgina. The following year, she joined the board of the National Science Foundation, which of course had also just funded Brin and Page, and also returned to the board of SAIC. When she left DoD, Senator Chuck Robb paid Jones the following tribute : “She brought the technology and operational military communities together to design detailed plans to sustain US dominance on the battlefield into the next century.”Dr. Anita Jones, head of DARPA from 1993–1997, and co-chair of the Pentagon Highlands Forum from 1995–1997, during which officials in charge of the CIA-NSA-MDSS program were funding Google, and in communication with DARPA about data-mining for counterterrorism

On the board of the National Science Foundation from 1992 to 1998 (including a stint as chairman from 1996) was Richard N. Zare. This was the period in which the NSF sponsored Sergey Brin and Larry Page in association with DARPA. In June 1994, Prof. Zare, a chemist at Stanford, participated with Prof. Jeffrey Ullman (who supervised Sergey Brin’s research), on a panel sponsored by Stanford and the National Research Council discussing the need for scientists to show how their work “ties to national needs.” The panel brought together scientists and policymakers, including “Washington insiders.”

DARPA’s EELD program, inspired by the work of Thuraisingham and Steinheiser under Jones’ watch, was rapidly adapted and integrated with a suite of tools to conduct comprehensive surveillance under the Bush administration.

According to DARPA official Ted Senator, who led the EELD program for the agency’s short-lived Information Awareness Office, EELD was among a range of “promising techniques” being prepared for integration “into the prototype TIA system.” TIA stood for Total Information Awareness, and was the main global electronic eavesdropping and data-mining programdeployed by the Bush administration after 9/11. TIA had been set up by Iran-Contra conspirator Admiral John Poindexter, who was appointed in 2002 by Bush to lead DARPA’s new Information Awareness Office.

The Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) was another contractor among 26 companies (also including SAIC) that received million dollar contracts from DARPA (the specific quantities remained classified) under Poindexter, to push forward the TIA surveillance program in 2002 onwards. The research included “behaviour-based profiling,” “automated detection, identification and tracking” of terrorist activity, among other data-analyzing projects. At this time, PARC’s director and chief scientist was John Seely Brown. Both Brown and Poindexter were Pentagon Highlands Forum participants — Brown on a regular basis until recently.

TIA was purportedly shut down in 2003 due to public opposition after the program was exposed in the media, but the following year Poindexter participated in a Pentagon Highlands Group session in Singapore, alongside defense and security officials from around the world. Meanwhile, Ted Senator continued to manage the EELD program among other data-mining and analysis projects at DARPA until 2006, when he left to become a vice president at SAIC. He is now a SAIC/Leidos technical fellow.

Google, DARPA and the money trail

Long before the appearance of Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Stanford University’s computer science department had a close working relationship with US military intelligence. A letter dated November 5th 1984 from the office of renowned artificial intelligence (AI) expert, Prof Edward Feigenbaum, addressed to Rick Steinheiser, gives the latter directions to Stanford’s Heuristic Programming Project, addressing Steinheiser as a member of the “AI Steering Committee.” A list of attendees at a contractor conference around that time, sponsored by the Pentagon’s Office of Naval Research (ONR), includes Steinheiser as a delegate under the designation “OPNAV Op-115” — which refers to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations’ program on operational readiness, which played a major role in advancing digital systems for the military.

From the 1970s, Prof. Feigenbaum and his colleagues had been running Stanford’s Heuristic Programming Project under contract with DARPA, continuing through to the 1990s. Feigenbaum alone had received around over $7 million in this period for his work from DARPA, along with other funding from the NSF, NASA, and ONR.

Brin’s supervisor at Stanford, Prof. Jeffrey Ullman, was in 1996 part of a joint funding project of DARPA’s Intelligent Integration of Information program. That year, Ullman co-chaired DARPA-sponsored meetings on data exchange between multiple systems.

In September 1998, the same month that Sergey Brin briefed US intelligence representatives Steinheiser and Thuraisingham, tech entrepreneurs Andreas Bechtolsheim and David Cheriton invested $100,000 each in Google. Both investors were connected to DARPA.

As a Stanford PhD student in electrical engineering in the 1980s, Bechtolsheim’s pioneering SUN workstation project had been funded by DARPA and the Stanford computer science department — this research was the foundation of Bechtolsheim’s establishment of Sun Microsystems, which he co-founded with William Joy.

As for Bechtolsheim’s co-investor in Google, David Cheriton, the latter is a long-time Stanford computer science professor who has an even more entrenched relationship with DARPA. His bio at the University of Alberta, which in November 2014 awarded him an honorary science doctorate, says that Cheriton’s “research has received the support of the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for over 20 years.”

In the meantime, Bechtolsheim left Sun Microsystems in 1995, co-founding Granite Systems with his fellow Google investor Cheriton as a partner. They sold Granite to Cisco Systems in 1996, retaining significant ownership of Granite, and becoming senior Cisco executives.

An email obtained from the Enron Corpus (a database of 600,000 emails acquired by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and later released to the public) from Richard O’Neill, inviting Enron executives to participate in the Highlands Forum, shows that Cisco and Granite executives are intimately connected to the Pentagon. The email reveals that in May 2000, Bechtolsheim’s partner and Sun Microsystems co-founder, William Joy — who was then chief scientist and corporate executive officer there — had attended the Forum to discuss nanotechnology and molecular computing.

In 1999, Joy had also co-chaired the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee, overseeing a report acknowledging that DARPA had:

“… revised its priorities in the 90’s so that all information technology funding was judged in terms of its benefit to the warfighter.”

Throughout the 1990s, then, DARPA’s funding to Stanford, including Google, was explicitly about developing technologies that could augment the Pentagon’s military intelligence operations in war theatres.

The Joy report recommended more federal government funding from the Pentagon, NASA, and other agencies to the IT sector. Greg Papadopoulos, another of Bechtolsheim’s colleagues as then Sun Microsystems chief technology officer, also attended a Pentagon Highlands’ Forum meeting in September 2000.

In November, the Pentagon Highlands Forum hosted Sue Bostrom, who was vice president for the internet at Cisco, sitting on the company’s board alongside Google co-investors Bechtolsheim and Cheriton. The Forum also hosted Lawrence Zuriff, then a managing partner of Granite, which Bechtolsheim and Cheriton had sold to Cisco. Zuriff had previously been an SAIC contractor from 1993 to 1994, working with the Pentagon on national security issues, specifically for Marshall’s Office of Net Assessment. In 1994, both the SAIC and the ONA were, of course, involved in co-establishing the Pentagon Highlands Forum. Among Zuriff’s output during his SAIC tenure was a paper titled ‘Understanding Information War’, delivered at a SAIC-sponsored US Army Roundtable on the Revolution in Military Affairs.

After Google’s incorporation, the company received $25 million in equity funding in 1999 led by Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. According to Homeland Security Today, “A number of Sequoia-bankrolled start-ups have contracted with the Department of Defense, especially after 9/11 when Sequoia’s Mark Kvamme met with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to discuss the application of emerging technologies to warfighting and intelligence collection.” Similarly, Kleiner Perkins had developed “a close relationship” with In-Q-Tel, the CIA venture capitalist firm that funds start-ups “to advance ‘priority’ technologies of value” to the intelligence community.

John Doerr, who led the Kleiner Perkins investment in Google obtaining a board position, was a major early investor in Becholshtein’s Sun Microsystems at its launch. He and his wife Anne are the main funders behind Rice University’s Center for Engineering Leadership (RCEL), which in 2009 received $16 million from DARPA for its platform-aware-compilation-environment (PACE) ubiquitous computing R&D program. Doerr also has a close relationship with the Obama administration, which he advised shortly after it took power to ramp up Pentagon funding to the tech industry. In 2013, at the Fortune Brainstorm TECH conference, Doerr applauded “how the DoD’s DARPA funded GPS, CAD, most of the major computer science departments, and of course, the Internet.”

From inception, in other words, Google was incubated, nurtured and financed by interests that were directly affiliated or closely aligned with the US military intelligence community: many of whom were embedded in the Pentagon Highlands Forum.

Google captures the Pentagon

In 2003, Google began customizing its search engine under special contract with the CIA for its Intelink Management Office, “overseeing top-secret, secret and sensitive but unclassified intranets for CIA and other IC agencies,” according to Homeland Security Today. That year, CIA funding was also being “quietly” funneled through the National Science Foundation to projects that might help create “new capabilities to combat terrorism through advanced technology.”

The following year, Google bought the firm Keyhole, which had originally been funded by In-Q-Tel. Using Keyhole, Google began developing the advanced satellite mapping software behind Google Earth. Former DARPA director and Highlands Forum co-chair Anita Jones had been on the board of In-Q-Tel at this time, and remains so today.

Then in November 2005, In-Q-Tel issued notices to sell $2.2 million of Google stocks. Google’s relationship with US intelligence was further brought to light when an IT contractor told a closed Washington DC conference of intelligence professionals on a not-for-attribution basis that at least one US intelligence agency was working to “leverage Google’s [user] data monitoring” capability as part of an effort to acquire data of “national security intelligence interest.”

photo on Flickr dated March 2007 reveals that Google research director and AI expert Peter Norvig attended a Pentagon Highlands Forum meeting that year in Carmel, California. Norvig’s intimate connection to the Forum as of that year is also corroborated by his role in guest editingthe 2007 Forum reading list.

The photo below shows Norvig in conversation with Lewis Shepherd, who at that time was senior technology officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency, responsible for investigating, approving, and architecting “all new hardware/software systems and acquisitions for the Global Defense Intelligence IT Enterprise,” including “big data technologies.” Shepherd now works at Microsoft. Norvig was a computer research scientist at Stanford University in 1991 before joining Bechtolsheim’s Sun Microsystems as senior scientist until 1994, and going on to head up NASA’s computer science division.

Lewis Shepherd (left), then a senior technology officer at the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, talking to Peter Norvig (right), renowned expert in artificial intelligence expert and director of research at Google. This photo is from a Highlands Forum meeting in 2007.

Norvig shows up on O’Neill’s Google Plus profile as one of his close connections. Scoping the rest of O’Neill’s Google Plus connections illustrates that he is directly connected not just to a wide range of Google executives, but also to some of the biggest names in the US tech community.

Those connections include Michele Weslander Quaid, an ex-CIA contractor and former senior Pentagon intelligence official who is now Google’s chief technology officer where she is developing programs to “best fit government agencies’ needs”; Elizabeth Churchill, Google director of user experience; James Kuffner, a humanoid robotics expert who now heads up Google’s robotics division and who introduced the term ‘cloud robotics’; Mark Drapeau, director of innovation engagement for Microsoft’s public sector business; Lili Cheng, general manager of Microsoft’s Future Social Experiences (FUSE) Labs; Jon Udell, Microsoft ‘evangelist’; Cory Ondrejka, vice president of engineering at Facebook; to name just a few.

In 2010, Google signed a multi-billion dollar no-bid contract with the NSA’s sister agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). The contract was to use Google Earth for visualization services for the NGA. Google had developed the software behind Google Earth by purchasing Keyhole from the CIA venture firm In-Q-Tel.

Then a year after, in 2011, another of O’Neill’s Google Plus connections, Michele Quaid — who had served in executive positions at the NGA, National Reconnaissance Office and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — left her government role to become Google ‘innovation evangelist’ and the point-person for seeking government contracts. Quaid’s last role before her move to Google was as a senior representative of the Director of National Intelligence to the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Task Force, and a senior advisor to the undersecretary of defense for intelligence’s director of Joint and Coalition Warfighter Support (J&CWS). Both roles involved information operations at their core. Before her Google move, in other words, Quaid worked closely with the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, to which the Pentagon’s Highlands Forum is subordinate. Quaid has herself attended the Forum, though precisely when and how often I could not confirm.

In March 2012, then DARPA director Regina Dugan — who in that capacity was also co-chair of the Pentagon Highlands Forum — followed her colleague Quaid into Google to lead the company’s new Advanced Technology and Projects Group. During her Pentagon tenure, Dugan led on strategic cyber security and social media, among other initiatives. She was responsible for focusing “an increasing portion” of DARPA’s work “on the investigation of offensive capabilities to address military-specific needs,” securing $500 million of government funding for DARPA cyber research from 2012 to 2017.

Regina Dugan, former head of DARPA and Highlands Forum co-chair, now a senior Google executive — trying her best to look the part

By November 2014, Google’s chief AI and robotics expert James Kuffner was a delegate alongside O’Neill at the Highlands Island Forum 2014 in Singapore, to explore ‘Advancement in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence: Implications for Society, Security and Conflict.’ The event included 26 delegates from Austria, Israel, Japan, Singapore, Sweden, Britain and the US, from both industry and government. Kuffner’s association with the Pentagon, however, began much earlier. In 1997, Kuffner was a researcher during his Stanford PhD for a Pentagon-fundedproject on networked autonomous mobile robots, sponsored by DARPA and the US Navy.

Rumsfeld and persistent surveillance

In sum, many of Google’s most senior executives are affiliated with the Pentagon Highlands Forum, which throughout the period of Google’s growth over the last decade, has surfaced repeatedly as a connecting and convening force. The US intelligence community’s incubation of Google from inception occurred through a combination of direct sponsorship and informal networks of financial influence, themselves closely aligned with Pentagon interests.

The Highlands Forum itself has used the informal relationship building of such private networks to bring together defense and industry sectors, enabling the fusion of corporate and military interests in expanding the covert surveillance apparatus in the name of national security. The power wielded by the shadow network represented in the Forum can, however, be gauged most clearly from its impact during the Bush administration, when it played a direct role in literally writing the strategies and doctrines behind US efforts to achieve ‘information superiority.’

In December 2001, O’Neill confirmed that strategic discussions at the Highlands Forum were feeding directly into Andrew Marshall’s DoD-wide strategic review ordered by President Bush and Donald Rumsfeld to upgrade the military, including the Quadrennial Defense Review — and that some of the earliest Forum meetings “resulted in the writing of a group of DoD policies, strategies, and doctrine for the services on information warfare.” That process of “writing” the Pentagon’s information warfare policies “was done in conjunction with people who understood the environment differently — not only US citizens, but also foreign citizens, and people who were developing corporate IT.”

The Pentagon’s post-9/11 information warfare doctrines were, then, written not just by national security officials from the US and abroad: but also by powerful corporate entities in the defense and technology sectors.

In April that year, Gen. James McCarthy had completed his defense transformation review ordered by Rumsfeld. His report repeatedly highlighted mass surveillance as integral to DoD transformation. As for Marshall, his follow-up report for Rumsfeld was going to develop a blueprint determining the Pentagon’s future in the ‘information age.’

O’Neill also affirmed that to develop information warfare doctrine, the Forum had held extensive discussions on electronic surveillance and “what constitutes an act of war in an information environment.” Papers feeding into US defense policy written through the late 1990s by RAND consultants John Arquilla and David Rondfeldt, both longstanding Highlands Forum members, were produced “as a result of those meetings,” exploring policy dilemmas on how far to take the goal of ‘Information Superiority.’ “One of the things that was shocking to the American public was that we weren’t pilfering Milosevic’s accounts electronically when we in fact could,” commented O’Neill.

Although the R&D process around the Pentagon transformation strategy remains classified, a hint at the DoD discussions going on in this period can be gleaned from a 2005 US Army School of Advanced Military Studies research monograph in the DoD journal, Military Review, authored by an active Army intelligence officer.

“The idea of Persistent Surveillance as a transformational capability has circulated within the national Intelligence Community (IC) and the Department of Defense (DoD) for at least three years,” the paper said, referencing the Rumsfeld-commissioned transformation study.

The Army paper went on to review a range of high-level official military documents, including one from the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, showing that “Persistent Surveillance” was a fundamental theme of the information-centric vision for defense policy across the Pentagon.

We now know that just two months before O’Neill’s address at Harvard in 2001, under the TIA program, President Bush had secretly authorized the NSA’s domestic surveillance of Americans without court-approved warrants, in what appears to have been an illegal modification of the ThinThread data-mining project — as later exposed by NSA whistleblowers William Binney and Thomas Drake.

The surveillance-startup nexus

From here on, Highlands Forum partner SAIC played a key role in the NSA roll out from inception. Shortly after 9/11, Brian Sharkey, chief technology officer of SAIC’s ELS3 Sector (focusing on IT systems for emergency responders), teamed up with John Poindexter to propose the TIA surveillance program. SAIC’s Sharkey had previously been deputy director of the Information Systems Office at DARPA through the 1990s.

Meanwhile, around the same time, SAIC vice president for corporate development, Samuel Visner, became head of the NSA’s signals-intelligence programs. SAIC was then among a consortium receiving a $280 million contract to develop one of the NSA’s secret eavesdropping systems. By 2003, Visner returned to SAIC to become director of strategic planning and business development of the firm’s intelligence group.

That year, the NSA consolidated its TIA programme of warrantless electronic surveillance, to keep “track of individuals” and understand “how they fit into models” through risk profiles of American citizens and foreigners. TIA was doing this by integrating databases on finance, travel, medical, educational and other records into a “virtual, centralized grand database.”

This was also the year that the Bush administration drew up its notorious Information Operations Roadmap. Describing the internet as a “vulnerable weapons system,” Rumsfeld’s IO roadmap had advocated that Pentagon strategy “should be based on the premise that the Department [of Defense] will ‘fight the net’ as it would an enemy weapons system.” The US should seek “maximum control” of the “full spectrum of globally emerging communications systems, sensors, and weapons systems,” advocated the document.

The following year, John Poindexter, who had proposed and run the TIA surveillance program via his post at DARPA, was in Singapore participating in the Highlands 2004 Island Forum. Other delegates included then Highlands Forum co-chair and Pentagon CIO Linton Wells; president of notorious Pentagon information warfare contractor, John Rendon; Karl Lowe, director of the Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) Joint Advanced Warfighting Division; Air Vice Marshall Stephen Dalton, capability manager for information superiority at the UK Ministry of Defense; Lt. Gen. Johan Kihl, Swedish army Supreme Commander HQ’s chief of staff; among others.

As of 2006, SAIC had been awarded a multi-million dollar NSA contract to develop a big data-mining project called ExecuteLocus, despite the colossal $1 billion failure of its preceding contract, known as ‘Trailblazer.’ Core components of TIA were being “quietly continued” under “new code names,” according to Foreign Policy’s Shane Harris, but had been concealed “behind the veil of the classified intelligence budget.” The new surveillance program had by then been fully transitioned from DARPA’s jurisdiction to the NSA.

This was also the year of yet another Singapore Island Forum led by Richard O’Neill on behalf of the Pentagon, which included senior defense and industry officials from the US, UK, Australia, France, India and Israel. Participants also included senior technologists from Microsoft, IBM, as well as Gilman Louie, partner at technology investment firm Alsop Louie Partners.

Gilman Louie is a former CEO of In-Q-Tel — the CIA firm investing especially in start-ups developing data mining technology. In-Q-Tel was founded in 1999 by the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology, under which the Office of Research and Development (ORD) — which was part of the Google-funding MDSS program — had operated. The idea was to essentially replace the functions once performed by the ORD, by mobilizing the private sector to develop information technology solutions for the entire intelligence community.

Louie had led In-Q-Tel from 1999 until January 2006 — including when Google bought Keyhole, the In-Q-Tel-funded satellite mapping software. Among his colleagues on In-Q-Tel’s board in this period were former DARPA director and Highlands Forum co-chair Anita Jones (who is still there), as well as founding board member William Perry: the man who had appointed O’Neill to set-up the Highlands Forum in the first place. Joining Perry as a founding In-Q-Tel board member was John Seely Brown, then chief scientist at Xerox Corp and director of its Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) from 1990 to 2002, who is also a long-time senior Highlands Forum member since inception.

In addition to the CIA, In-Q-Tel has also been backed by the FBI, NGA, and Defense Intelligence Agency, among other agencies. More than 60 percent of In-Q-Tel’s investments under Louie’s watch were “in companies that specialize in automatically collecting, sifting through and understanding oceans of information,” according to Medill School of Journalism’s News21, which also noted that Louie himself had acknowledged it was not clear “whether privacy and civil liberties will be protected” by government’s use of these technologies “for national security.”

The transcript of Richard O’Neill’s late 2001 seminar at Harvard shows that the Pentagon Highlands Forum had first engaged Gilman Louie long before the Island Forum, in fact, shortly after 9/11 to explore “what’s going on with In-Q-Tel.” That Forum session focused on how to “take advantage of the speed of the commercial market that wasn’t present inside the science and technology community of Washington” and to understand “the implications for the DoD in terms of the strategic review, the QDR, Hill action, and the stakeholders.” Participants of the meeting included “senior military people,” combatant commanders, “several of the senior flag officers,” some “defense industry people” and various US representatives including Republican Congressman William Mac Thornberry and Democrat Senator Joseph Lieberman.

Both Thornberry and Lieberman are staunch supporters of NSA surveillance, and have consistently acted to rally support for pro-war, pro-surveillance legislation. O’Neill’s comments indicate that the Forum’s role is not just to enable corporate contractors to write Pentagon policy, but to rally political support for government policies adopted through the Forum’s informal brand of shadow networking.

Repeatedly, O’Neill told his Harvard audience that his job as Forum president was to scope case studies from real companies across the private sector, like eBay and Human Genome Sciences, to figure out the basis of US ‘Information Superiority’ — “how to dominate” the information market — and leverage this for “what the president and the secretary of defense wanted to do with regard to transformation of the DoD and the strategic review.”

By 2007, a year after the Island Forum meeting that included Gilman Louie, Facebook received its second round of $12.7 million worth of funding from Accel Partners. Accel was headed up by James Breyer, former chair of the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) where Louie also served on the board while still CEO of In-Q-Tel. Both Louie and Breyer had previously served together on the board of BBN Technologies— which had recruited ex-DARPA chief and In-Q-Tel trustee Anita Jones.

Facebook’s 2008 round of funding was led by Greylock Venture Capital, which invested $27.5 million. The firm’s senior partners include Howard Cox, another former NVCA chair who also sits on the board of In-Q-Tel. Apart from Breyer and Zuckerberg, Facebook’s only other board member is Peter Thiel, co-founder of defense contractor Palantir which provides all sorts of data-mining and visualization technologies to US government, military and intelligence agencies, including the NSA and FBI, and which itself was nurtured to financial viability by Highlands Forum members.

Palantir co-founders Thiel and Alex Karp met with John Poindexter in 2004, according to Wired, the same year Poindexter had attended the Highlands Island Forum in Singapore. They met at the home of Richard Perle, another Andrew Marshall acolyte. Poindexter helped Palantir open doors, and to assemble “a legion of advocates from the most influential strata of government.” Thiel had also met with Gilman Louie of In-Q-Tel, securing the backing of the CIA in this early phase.

And so we come full circle. Data-mining programs like ExecuteLocus and projects linked to it, which were developed throughout this period, apparently laid the groundwork for the new NSA programmes eventually disclosed by Edward Snowden. By 2008, as Facebook received its next funding round from Greylock Venture Capital, documents and whistleblower testimony confirmed that the NSA was effectively resurrecting the TIA project with a focus on Internet data-mining via comprehensive monitoring of e-mail, text messages, and Web browsing.

We also now know thanks to Snowden that the NSA’s XKeyscore ‘Digital Network Intelligence’ exploitation system was designed to allow analysts to search not just Internet databases like emails, online chats and browsing history, but also telephone services, mobile phone audio, financial transactions and global air transport communications — essentially the entire global telecommunications grid. Highlands Forum partner SAIC played a key role, among other contractors, in producingand administering the NSA’s XKeyscore, and was recently implicated in NSA hacking of the privacy network Tor.

The Pentagon Highlands Forum was therefore intimately involved in all this as a convening network—but also quite directly. Confirming his pivotal role in the expansion of the US-led global surveillance apparatus, then Forum co-chair, Pentagon CIO Linton Wells, told FedTech magazinein 2009 that he had overseen the NSA’s roll out of “an impressive long-term architecture last summer that will provide increasingly sophisticated security until 2015 or so.”

The Goldman Sachs connection

When I asked Wells about the Forum’s role in influencing US mass surveillance, he responded only to say he would prefer not to comment and that he no longer leads the group.

As Wells is no longer in government, this is to be expected — but he is still connected to Highlands. As of September 2014, after delivering his influential white paper on Pentagon transformation, he joined the Monterey Institute for International Studies (MIIS) Cyber Security Initiative (CySec) as a distinguished senior fellow.

Sadly, this was not a form of trying to keep busy in retirement. Wells’ move underscored that the Pentagon’s conception of information warfare is not just about surveillance, but about the exploitation of surveillance to influence both government and public opinion.

The MIIS CySec initiative is now formally partnered with the Pentagon Highlands Forum through a Memorandum of Understanding signed with MIIS provost Dr Amy Sands, who sits on the Secretary of State’s International Security Advisory Board. The MIIS CySec website states that the MoU signed with Richard O’Neill:

“… paves the way for future joint MIIS CySec-Highlands Group sessions that will explore the impact of technology on security, peace and information engagement. For nearly 20 years the Highlands Group has engaged private sector and government leaders, including the Director of National Intelligence, DARPA, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Singaporean Minister of Defence, in creative conversations to frame policy and technology research areas.”

Who is the financial benefactor of the new Pentagon Highlands-partnered MIIS CySec initiative? According to the MIIS CySec site, the initiative was launched “through a generous donation of seed funding from George Lee.” George C. Lee is a senior partner at Goldman Sachs, where he is chief information officer of the investment banking division, and chairman of the Global Technology, Media and Telecom (TMT) Group.

But here’s the kicker. In 2011, it was Lee who engineered Facebook’s $50 billion valuation, and previously handled deals for other Highlands-connected tech giants like Google, Microsoft and eBay. Lee’s then boss, Stephen Friedman, a former CEO and chairman of Goldman Sachs, and later senior partner on the firm’s executive board, was a also founding board member of In-Q-Tel alongside Highlands Forum overlord William Perry and Forum member John Seely Brown.

In 2001, Bush appointed Stephen Friedman to the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, and then to chair that board from 2005 to 2009. Friedman previously served alongside Paul Wolfowitz and others on the 1995–6 presidential commission of inquiry into US intelligence capabilities, and in 1996 on the Jeremiah Panel that produced a report to the Director of the National Reconnaisance Office (NRO) — one of the surveillance agencies plugged into the Highlands Forum. Friedman was on the Jeremiah Panel with Martin Faga, then senior vice president and general manager of MITRE Corp’s Center for Integrated Intelligence Systems — where Thuraisingham, who managed the CIA-NSA-MDDS program that inspired DARPA counter-terrorist data-mining, was also a lead engineer.

In the footnotes to a chapter for the book, Cyberspace and National Security (Georgetown University Press), SAIC/Leidos executive Jeff Cooper reveals that another Goldman Sachs senior partner Philip J. Venables — who as chief information risk officer leads the firm’s programs on information security — delivered a Highlands Forum presentation in 2008 at what was called an ‘Enrichment Session on Deterrence.’ Cooper’s chapter draws on Venables’ presentation at Highlands “with permission.” In 2010, Venables participated with his then boss Friedman at an Aspen Institute meeting on the world economy. For the last few years, Venables has also sat on various NSA cybersecurity award review boards.

In sum, the investment firm responsible for creating the billion dollar fortunes of the tech sensations of the 21st century, from Google to Facebook, is intimately linked to the US military intelligence community; with Venables, Lee and Friedman either directly connected to the Pentagon Highlands Forum, or to senior members of the Forum.

Fighting terror with terror

The convergence of these powerful financial and military interests around the Highlands Forum, through George Lee’s sponsorship of the Forum’s new partner, the MIIS Cysec initiative, is revealing in itself.

MIIS Cysec’s director, Dr, Itamara Lochard, has long been embedded in Highlands. She regularly “presents current research on non-state groups, governance, technology and conflict to the US Office of the Secretary of Defense Highlands Forum,” according to her Tufts University bio. She also, “regularly advises US combatant commanders” and specializes in studying the use of information technology by “violent and non-violent sub-state groups.”

Dr Itamara Lochard is a senior Highlands Forum member and Pentagon information operations expert. She directs the MIIS CyberSec initiative that now supports the Pentagon Highlands Forum with funding from Goldman Sachs partner George Lee, who led the valuations of Facebook and Google.

Dr Lochard maintains a comprehensive database of 1,700 non-state groups including “insurgents, militias, terrorists, complex criminal organizations, organized gangs, malicious cyber actors and strategic non-violent actors,” to analyze their “organizational patterns, areas of cooperation, strategies and tactics.” Notice, here, the mention of “strategic non-violent actors” — which perhaps covers NGOs and other groups or organizations engaged in social political activity or campaigning, judging by the focus of other DoD research programs.

As of 2008, Lochard has been an adjunct professor at the US Joint Special Operations University where she teaches a top secret advanced course in ‘Irregular Warfare’ that she designed for senior US special forces officers. She has previously taught courses on ‘Internal War’ for senior “political-military officers” of various Gulf regimes.

Her views thus disclose much about what the Highlands Forum has been advocating all these years. In 2004, Lochard was co-author of a study for the US Air Force’s Institute for National Security Studies on US strategy toward ‘non-state armed groups.’ The study on the one hand argued that non-state armed groups should be urgently recognized as a ‘tier one security priority,’ and on the other that the proliferation of armed groups “provide strategic opportunities that can be exploited to help achieve policy goals. There have and will be instances where the United States may find collaborating with armed group is in its strategic interests.” But “sophisticated tools” must be developed to differentiate between different groups and understand their dynamics, to determine which groups should be countered, and which could be exploited for US interests. “Armed group profiles can likewise be employed to identify ways in which the United States may assist certain armed groups whose success will be advantageous to US foreign policy objectives.”

In 2008, Wikileaks published a leaked restricted US Army Special Operations field manual, which demonstrated that the sort of thinking advocated by the likes of Highlands expert Lochard had been explicitly adopted by US special forces.

Lochard’s work thus demonstrates that the Highlands Forum sat at the intersection of advanced Pentagon strategy on surveillance, covert operations and irregular warfare: mobilizing mass surveillance to develop detailed information on violent and non-violent groups perceived as potentially threatening to US interests, or offering opportunities for exploitation, thus feeding directly into US covert operations.

That, ultimately, is why the CIA, the NSA, the Pentagon, spawned Google. So they could run their secret dirty wars with even greater efficiency than ever before.

Dr Nafeez Ahmed is an investigative journalist, bestselling author and international security scholar. A former Guardian writer, he writes the ‘System Shift’ column for VICE’s Motherboard, and is also a columnist for Middle East Eye. He is the winner of a 2015 Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for his Guardian work.

Nafeez has also written for The Independent, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Scotsman, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Quartz, Prospect, New Statesman, Le Monde diplomatique, New Internationalist, Counterpunch, Truthout, among others. He is the author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It (2010), and the scifi thriller novel ZERO POINT, among other books. His work on the root causes and covert operations linked to international terrorism officially contributed to the 9/11 Commission and the 7/7 Coroner’s Inquest.

This exclusive is being released for free in the public interest, and was enabled by crowdfunding. I’d like to thank my amazing community of patrons for their support, which gave me the opportunity to work on this in-depth investigation. Please support independent, investigative journalism for the global commons.

#AceNewsDesk report ………Published: July.10: 2021:

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#cia, #google, #skynet, #washington

(BERLIN, Germany.) JUST IN: Antitrust watchdog launched a probe into Google over anti-competitive practices, it said Tuesday, wielding a new law that has already been used to scrutinize other United States’ tech giants #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – May.26: The investigation has “outstanding cross-market significance” due to the breadth of Google’s digital products, Cartel office head Andreas Mundt said:

German antitrust watchdog launches probe into Google: ‘The Federal Cartel Office will investigate the European units of Google in Germany and Ireland and its parent company, Alphabet, in California, it said in a statement’

by French Press Agency – AFP

A technician passes by the logo of U.S. internet search giant Google during the opening day of a new office in Berlin, Germany, Jan. 22, 2019. (AFP Photo)
Google ANTI-TRUST Report

“Google’s business model is very fundamentally built on the processing of its users’ data,” Mundt said. “Google has a strategic advantage here due to its established access to competitively relevant data.”

A key question in the probe was whether consumers “have sufficient choice over the use of their data by Google if they want to use Google services,” he said.

The investigation follows the application of a new law giving the authorities more power to rein in big tech companies, with similar proceedings launched recently against Amazon and Facebook.

Under the amendment to Germany’s competition law passed in January, the watchdog said it now has more power to “intervene earlier and more effectively” against big tech companies, rather than simply punishing them for abuses of their dominant market position.

The Federal Cartel Office said last week it is examining whether Amazon has “an almost unchallengeable position of economic power,” having already launched two traditional abuse control proceedings.

The watchdog has also employed its new powers to widen the scope of an investigation into Facebook over its integration of virtual reality headsets.

The push to tighten legislation comes as big tech companies are facing increasing scrutiny around the globe, including in the U.S., where Google and Facebook are facing antitrust suits.

Last Update: May 25, 2021 3:26 pm

#AceNewsDesk report ………Published: May.26: 2021:

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#antitrust, #berlin, #cartel, #germany, #google

(LONDON) JUST IN: The owner of the Daily Mail newspaper and MailOnline website is suing Google over allegations the search engine manipulates search results to enable favouritism #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – Apr.23: It alleges Google “punishes” publishers in its rankings if they don’t sell enough advertising space in its marketplace.

Daily Mail owner sues Google over search results: ‘Associated Newspapers accuses Google of having too much control over online advertising and of downgrading links to its stories, favouring other outlets’

Google worker walking into office.

Associated Newspapers’ concerns stem from its assessment that its coverage of the Royal Family in 2021 has been downplayed in search results: For example, it claims that British users searching for broadcaster Piers Morgan’s comments on the Duchess of Sussex following an interview with Oprah Winfrey were more likely to see articles about Morgan produced by smaller, regional outlets: That is despite the Daily Mail writing multiple stories a day about his comments around that time and employing him as a columnist.

Google called the claims “meritless”.

Daily Mail editor emeritus Peter Wright told the BBC’s Today programme that the search engine’s alleged actions were “anti-competitive”.

He suggested that the Daily Mail’s search visibility dropped after using online advertising techniques “which were allowing us to divert advertising traffic away from Google to other ad exchanges, which paid better prices – and this was their punishment”.

“We think it’s time to call this company out,” he said.

The Daily Mail’s MailOnline site is one of the world’s most-read websites. It has 75 million unique monthly visitors in the US alone, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in New York on Tuesday.

‘Meritless claims’

A Google spokeswoman said: “The Daily Mail’s claims are completely inaccurate. 

“The use of our ad tech tools has no bearing on how a publisher’s website ranks in Google search. 

“More generally, we compete in a crowded and competitive ad tech space where publishers have and exercise multiple options. The Daily Mail itself authorises dozens of ad tech companies to sell and manage their ad space, including Amazon, Verizon and more. We will defend ourselves against these meritless claims.”

Separately, Google is facing antitrust lawsuits brought by the US Justice Department and attorneys general in several states after the Supreme Court declares Google’s code copying fair

The technology giant has denied abusing its market power and has previously said the ad technology market is competitive.

#AceNewsDesk report ……….Published: Apr.23: 2021:

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#advertising, #google, #london, #mailonline

(SILICONE VALLEY) JUST IN: Google has for the seventh time targeted Iranian broadcaster Press TV, blocking the English-language news network’s access to its official YouTube account without any prior notice #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – Apr.01: The community guidelines, as YouTube says, are designed to ensure the video-sharing platform stays protected and set outs what is allowed and not allowed on YouTube. The guidelines apply to all types of content, including videos, comments, links, and thumbnails.

Google renews attack on YouTube account of Iran’s Press TV: ‘We have reviewed your content and found severe or repeated violations of our Community Guidelines. Because of this, we have removed your channel from “YouTube” Google said in a message’

Tuesday, 30 March 2021 11:16 PM [ Last Update: Wednesday, 31 March 2021 8:27 AM ]

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

The US tech giant shut YouTube accounts of Press TV late on Tuesday, citing “violations of community guidelines.”

The last time Google blocked Press TV’s access to its official YouTube account was last September, again without any prior notice but citing “violations of export laws.”

The United States export laws and regulations prohibit the use of and access to controlled information, goods, and technology for reasons of national security or protection of trade.

Google again blocks access to YouTube account of Iran’s Press TV

Google again blocks access to YouTube account of Iran’s Press TVGoogle again acts against Iranian broadcaster Press TV, blocking access to its YouTube account without prior notice.

Over the past years, the US tech giant has recurrently been opting for such measures against Iranian media outlets. It has taken on Press TV more than any other Iranian outlet given the expanse of its viewership and readership.

The measure comes hot on the heels of another hostile move and aggression on the Iranian media outlets, with Facebook shutting down the page of Press TV news network.

The US-based social media giant informed Press TV on Friday that its account had been shut down for what it claimed to be the Iranian news channel’s failure to “follow our Community Standards.” The page was reinstated a few days later.

Facebook disables Press TV’s page in new attack on free speech

Facebook disables Press TV’s page in new attack on free speechFacebook permanently disables Press TV’s account in a new attack on free speech.

Facebook has on a number of occasions attacked Press TV, despite its claim of providing space for freedom of expression.

The Tehran-based English-language news network has repeatedly fallen victim to censorship on multiple fronts, including Twitter and Instagram besides Google and its services.

#AceNewsDesk report ………Published: Apr.01: 2021:

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#california, #censored, #google, #presstv, #youtube

(SILICONE VALLEY, Calif.) Google Privacy Report: If you’ve ever been curious about what secrets they know about you, here’s your chance to find out: Here’s a quick way to see first-hand #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – Mar.29: Imagine for a minute your entire search history was open for everyone to see. That’s a scary thought, right?

How to see everything Google tracks about you and erase it: Here’s what secrets Google knows about you and embarrassing queries aside, there are certain things you should never search using Google for an entirely different reason. It can totally open you up to scams and malware. Tap or click for seven risky search terms to avoid.

37 mins ago

Fox News Flash top headlines for March 27

And then there are things you’d rather not have accessible to the world. Here’s how to remove your home from Google Street View.

Prepared to be shocked

First, make sure you’re signed in to your Google account. If you’re using Chrome and see your photo or initial in the top right corner, you’re good to go. Otherwise, go to myaccount.google.com and sign in.

Next, open a new browser tab and search for the term “Google ad settings.”

Click the first result that pops up. This brings you to your ad personalization page. It displays a long list of what Google “knows” about you and topics the company thinks you are most interested in.

You’ll likely see dozens of results. A quick search may show that you are obsessed with the Royal family or even something more obscure like school supplies.

Google’s assumptions aren’t always right. Take my results. Google thinks I don’t have children, male and like heavy metal music. But amid those three strike-outs, Google nailed it with tech, jets, and tea.

Stop ad personalization with a click

Now that the fun (or unsettling) part is over, time to get to work. These private details are compiled from all the searches you’ve done, links you’ve clicked, YouTube videos you’ve watched, articles you’ve read, and more.

Maybe you scanned through your list and were glad to see just how off Google was when it comes to your interests. Or maybe they were a little too on the money for comfort.

You can switch off the ad personalization settings at the top of your Google ad settings page with one easy click. Be sure to click Advanced to expand another box. Here you can allow or prevent Google from using data from “websites and apps that partner with Google” to personalize further what you see across the web.

You can also find out more about why specific details have ended up on your profile.

Click on an interest or demographic to get a pop-up that gives you a bit more information about why it’s part of your profile. Choose “turn off” to delete this demographic entirely, removing the tag from your profile.

 Erasing your data

If you toggled ad personalization off, don’t expect to stop seeing ads. It also doesn’t mean you have wiped your data from Google’s databases entirely.

To do that, you need to dive deeper into your Google account settings. We’ve got a step-by-step guide showing you how to erase everything you can.

The first step, of course, is clearing your search history and activity:

  • Go to myaccount.google.com and log in. Click Manage your Google Account.
  • Click on Manage your data & personalization, located under Privacy & Personalization.
  • Under the Activity controls panel, you will see checkmarks next toWeb & App activity tracking, Location History, and YouTube History. Click each one to adjust your settings. You can toggle them off to stop further tracking.
  • Below Activity controls, click on My Activity under Activity and timeline.
  • On the menu that appears in the left sidebar, click Delete activity by. Select how far back you would like to delete your history in the pop-up menu. Click Delete to confirm.

Ace Related News: Sick of being tracked? Use these Google alternatives for search, mail, and more.

#AceNewsDesk report …………Published: Mar.29: 2021:

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#california, #data, #google, #privacy

(CALIFORNIA) Ace Security Report: Microsoft users are being targeted with thousands of phishing emails, in an ongoing attack aiming to steal their Office 365 credentials by leveraging ‘ Fake CAPTCHA’ system #AceSecurityDesk report

#AceSecurityReport – Mar.11: The attackers add an air of legitimacy to the campaign by leveraging a fake Google reCAPTCHA system and top-level domain landing pages that include the logos of victims’ companies:

microsoft office 365 phishing attack

Fake Google reCAPTCHA Phishing Attack Swipes Office 365 Passwords: According to researchers, at least 2,500 such emails have been unsuccessfully sent to senior-level employees in the banking and IT sector, over the past three months. The emails first take recipients to a fake Google reCAPTCHA system page. Google reCAPTCHA is a servicethat helps protect websites from spam and abuse, by using a Turing test to tell humans and bots apart (through asking a user to click on a fire hydrant out of a series of images, for instance).

March 8, 2021 12:04 pm

A phishing attack targeting Microsoft users leverages a bogus Google reCAPTCHA system.

Microsoft users are being targeted with thousands of phishing emails, in an ongoing attack aiming to steal their Office 365 credentials. The attackers add an air of legitimacy to the campaign by leveraging a fake Google reCAPTCHA system and top-level domain landing pages that include the logos of victims’ companies.

“The attack is notable for its targeted aim at senior business leaders with titles such as Vice President and Managing Director who are likely to have a higher degree of access to sensitive company data,” said researchers with Zscaler’s ThreatLabZ security research team on Friday. “The aim of these campaigns is to steal these victims’ login credentials to allow threat actors access to valuable company assets.”

Fake Phishing Emails: Voicemail Attachments

The phishing emails pretend to be automated emails from victims’ unified communications tools, which say that they have a voicemail attachment. For instance, one email tells users that “(503) ***-6719 has left you a message 35 second(s) long on Jan 20” along with a lone attachment that’s titled “vmail-219.HTM.” Another tells email recipients to “REVIEW SECURE DOCUMENT.”

phishing attack microsoft

The phishing email sample. Credit: Zscaler

When the victims click on the attachment, they then encounter the fake Google reCAPTCHA screen, which contains a typical reCAPTCHA box – featuring a checkbox that the user must click that says “I’m not a robot,” which then triggers the turing test.

After filling out the fake reCAPTCHA system, victims are then directed to what appears to be a Microsoft login screen. The login pages also contain different logos from the companies which victims work at – such as one containing a logo from software company ScienceLogic and another from office rental company BizSpace. This reveals that attackers have done their homework and are customizing their phishing landing pages to fit their victims’ profile, in order to make the attack appear more legitimate.

Victims are asked to input their credentials into the system; once they do so, a message tells them that the validation was “successful” and that they are being redirected.

phishing microsoft

The phishing landing page mimics Microsoft’s login page. Credit: Zscaler

“After giving the login credentials, the phishing campaign will show a fake message that says ‘Validation successful,’” said researchers. “Users are then shown a recording of a voicemail message that they can play, allowing threat actors to avoid suspicion.”

Researchers found a variety of phishing pages associated with the campaign, which were hosted using generic top level domains such as .xyz, .club and .online. These top level domains are typically utilized by cybercriminals in spam and phishing attacks. That’s because they can be purchased for less than $1 each – a low price for adding a level of believability to phishing campaigns.

More Phishing Attacks on Fake Google reCAPTCHA Tactic

microsoft phishing attack

Credit: Zscaler

Adversaries have been leveraging bogus reCAPTCHA systems in their attacks for years. For instance, in 2019, a malware campaign targeted a Polish bank and its users with emails containing a link to a malicious PHP file, which eventually downloaded the BankBot malware onto victims’ systems. The attackers used a fake Google reCAPTCHA system to seem more realistic.

Another phishing attack in February purported to be sent from a voicemail service and contained a link to play the voice message “Play Audi Date.wav,” eventually redirecting victims to a malicious site with a reCAPTCHA message.

Both of the above examples show that reCAPTCHA continues to be used in phishing attacks, as the tactic successfully adds legitimacy to the attack: “Similar phishing campaigns utilizing fake Google reCAPTCHAs have been observed for several years, but this specific campaign targeting executives across specific industry verticals started in December 2020,” noted researchers.

Microsoft Office 365 users have faced several sophisticated phishing attacks and scams over the past few months. In October, researchers warned of a phishing campaign that pretends to be an automated message from Microsoft Teams. In reality, the attack aimed to steal Office 365 recipients’ login credentials. Also in October, an Office365 credential-phishing attack targeted the hospitality industry, using visual CAPTCHAs to avoid detection and appear legitimate. Phishing attackers have also adopted new tactics like Google Translate or  custom fonts to make the scams seem more legitimate.

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#AceSecurityDesk report …….Published: Mar.11: 2021:

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#captcha, #google, #microsoft, #phishing

(CALIFORNIA) EFF REPORT: Google Ending 3rd Party Cookies but replacing it with FLoC. A new suite of technologies that will target ads across the web #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – Mar.09: The third-party cookie is dying, and Google is trying to create its replacement: No one should mourn the death of the cookie as we know it:

Google’s FLoC Is a Terrible Idea: ‘For more than two decades, the third-party cookie has been the lynchpin in a shadowy, seedy, multi-billion dollar advertising-surveillance industry on the Web; phasing out tracking cookies and other persistent third-party identifiers is long overdue. However, as the foundations shift beneath the advertising industry, its biggest players are determined to land on their feet & Google is leading the charge to replace third-party cookies with a new suite of technologies to target ads on the Web. And some of its proposals show that it hasn’t learned the right lessons from the ongoing backlash to the surveillance business model. This post will focus on one of those proposals, Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), which is perhaps the most ambitious—and potentially the most harmful’

March 3, 2021:

FLoC is meant to be a new way to make your browser do the profiling that third-party trackers used to do themselves: in this case, boiling down your recent browsing activity into a behavioral label, and then sharing it with websites and advertisers. The technology will avoid the privacy risks of third-party cookies, but it will create new ones in the process. It may also exacerbate many of the worst non-privacy problems with behavioral ads, including discrimination and predatory targeting:

Google’s pitch to privacy advocates is that a world with FLoC (and other elements of the “privacy sandbox”) will be better than the world we have today, where data brokers and ad-tech giants track and profile with impunity. But that framing is based on a false premise that we have to choose between “old tracking” and “new tracking.” It’s not either-or. Instead of re-inventing the tracking wheel, we should imagine a better world without the myriad problems of targeted ads. 

We stand at a fork in the road. Behind us is the era of the third-party cookie, perhaps the Web’s biggest mistake. Ahead of us are two possible futures. 

In one, users get to decide what information to share with each site they choose to interact with. No one needs to worry that their past browsing will be held against them—or leveraged to manipulate them—when they next open a tab. 

In the other, each user’s behavior follows them from site to site as a label, inscrutable at a glance but rich with meaning to those in the know. Their recent history, distilled into a few bits, is “democratized” and shared with dozens of nameless actors that take part in the service of each web page. Users begin every interaction with a confession: here’s what I’ve been up to this week, please treat me accordingly.

Users and advocates must reject FLoC and other misguided attempts to reinvent behavioral targeting. We implore Google to abandon FLoC and redirect its effort towards building a truly user-friendly Web.

What is FLoC?

In 2019, Google presented the Privacy Sandbox, its vision for the future of privacy on the Web. At the center of the project is a suite of cookieless protocols designed to satisfy the myriad use cases that third-party cookies currently provide to advertisers. Google took its proposals to the W3C, the standards-making body for the Web, where they have primarily been discussed in the Web Advertising Business Group, a body made up primarily of ad-tech vendors. In the intervening months, Google and other advertisers have proposed dozens of bird-themed technical standards: PIGINTURTLEDOVESPARROWSWANSPURFOWLPELICANPARROT… the list goes on. Seriously. Each of the “bird” proposals is designed to perform one of the functions in the targeted advertising ecosystem that is currently done by cookies.

FLoC is designed to help advertisers perform behavioral targeting without third-party cookies. A browser with FLoC enabled would collect information about its user’s browsing habits, then use that information to assign its user to a “cohort” or group. Users with similar browsing habits—for some definition of “similar”—would be grouped into the same cohort. Each user’s browser will share a cohort ID, indicating which group they belong to, with websites and advertisers. According to the proposal, at least a few thousand users should belong to each cohort (though that’s not a guarantee).

If that sounds dense, think of it this way: your FLoC ID will be like a succinct summary of your recent activity on the Web.

Google’s proof of concept used the domains of the sites that each user visited as the basis for grouping people together. It then used an algorithm called SimHash to create the groups. SimHash can be computed locally on each user’s machine, so there’s no need for a central server to collect behavioral data. However, a central administrator could have a role in enforcing privacy guarantees. In order to prevent any cohort from being too small (i.e. too identifying), Google proposes that a central actor could count the number of users assigned each cohort. If any are too small, they can be combined with other, similar cohorts until enough users are represented in each one. 

For FLoC to be useful to advertisers, a user’s cohort will necessarily reveal information about their behavior.

According to the proposal, most of the specifics are still up in the air. The draft specification states that a user’s cohort ID will be available via Javascript, but it’s unclear whether there will be any restrictions on who can access it, or whether the ID will be shared in any other ways. FLoC could perform clustering based on URLs or page content instead of domains; it could also use a federated learning-based system (as the name FLoC implies) to generate the groups instead of SimHash. It’s also unclear exactly how many possible cohorts there will be. Google’s experiment used 8-bit cohort identifiers, meaning that there were only 256 possible cohorts. In practice that number could be much higher; the documentation suggests a 16-bit cohort ID comprising 4 hexadecimal characters. The more cohorts there are, the more specific they will be; longer cohort IDs will mean that advertisers learn more about each user’s interests and have an easier time fingerprinting them.

One thing that is specified is duration. FLoC cohorts will be re-calculated on a weekly basis, each time using data from the previous week’s browsing. This makes FLoC cohorts less useful as long-term identifiers, but it also makes them more potent measures of how users behave over time.

New privacy problems

FLoC is part of a suite intended to bring targeted ads into a privacy-preserving future. But the core design involves sharing new information with advertisers. Unsurprisingly, this also creates new privacy risks. 

Fingerprinting

The first issue is fingerprinting. Browser fingerprinting is the practice of gathering many discrete pieces of information from a user’s browser to create a unique, stable identifier for that browser. EFF’s Cover Your Tracks project demonstrates how the process works: in a nutshell, the more ways your browser looks or acts different from others’, the easier it is to fingerprint. 

Google has promised that the vast majority of FLoC cohorts will comprise thousands of users each, so a cohort ID alone shouldn’t distinguish you from a few thousand other people like you. However, that still gives fingerprinters a massive head start. If a tracker starts with your FLoC cohort, it only has to distinguish your browser from a few thousand others (rather than a few hundred million). In information theoretic terms, FLoC cohorts will contain several bits of entropy—up to 8 bits, in Google’s proof of concept trial. This information is even more potent given that it is unlikely to be correlated with other information that the browser exposes. This will make it much easier for trackers to put together a unique fingerprint for FLoC users.

Google has acknowledged this as a challenge, but has pledged to solve it as part of the broader “Privacy Budget” plan it has to deal with fingerprinting long-term. Solving fingerprinting is an admirable goal, and its proposal is a promising avenue to pursue. But according to the FAQ, that plan is “an early stage proposal and does not yet have a browser implementation.” Meanwhile, Google is set to begin testing FLoC as early as this month.

Fingerprinting is notoriously difficult to stop. Browsers like Safari and Tor have engaged in years-long wars of attrition against trackers, sacrificing large swaths of their own feature sets in order to reduce fingerprinting attack surfaces. Fingerprinting mitigation generally involves trimming away or restricting unnecessary sources of entropy—which is what FLoC is. Google should not create new fingerprinting risks until it’s figured out how to deal with existing ones.

Cross-context exposure

The second problem is less easily explained away: the technology will share new personal data with trackers who can already identify users. For FLoC to be useful to advertisers, a user’s cohort will necessarily reveal information about their behavior. 

The project’s Github page addresses this up front:

This API democratizes access to some information about an individual’s general browsing history (and thus, general interests) to any site that opts into it. … Sites that know a person’s PII (e.g., when people sign in using their email address) could record and reveal their cohort. This means that information about an individual’s interests may eventually become public.

As described above, FLoC cohorts shouldn’t work as identifiers by themselves. However, any company able to identify a user in other ways—say, by offering “log in with Google” services to sites around the Internet—will be able to tie the information it learns from FLoC to the user’s profile.

Two categories of information may be exposed in this way:

  1. Specific information about browsing history. Trackers may be able to reverse-engineer the cohort-assignment algorithm to determine that any user who belongs to a specific cohort probably or definitely visited specific sites. 
  2. General information about demographics or interests. Observers may learn that in general, members of a specific cohort are substantially likely to be a specific type of person. For example, a particular cohort may over-represent users who are young, female, and Black; another cohort, middle-aged Republican voters; a third, LGBTQ+ youth.

This means every site you visit will have a good idea about what kind of person you are on first contact, without having to do the work of tracking you across the web. Moreover, as your FLoC cohort will update over time, sites that can identify you in other ways will also be able to track how your browsing changes. Remember, a FLoC cohort is nothing more, and nothing less, than a summary of your recent browsing activity.

You should have a right to present different aspects of your identity in different contexts. If you visit a site for medical information, you might trust it with information about your health, but there’s no reason it needs to know what your politics are. Likewise, if you visit a retail website, it shouldn’t need to know whether you’ve recently read up on treatment for depression. FLoC erodes this separation of contexts, and instead presents the same behavioral summary to everyone you interact with.

Beyond privacy

FLoC is designed to prevent a very specific threat: the kind of individualized profiling that is enabled by cross-context identifiers today. The goal of FLoC and other proposals is to avoid letting trackers access specific pieces of information that they can tie to specific people. As we’ve shown, FLoC may actually help trackers in many contexts. But even if Google is able to iterate on its design and prevent these risks, the harms of targeted advertising are not limited to violations of privacy. FLoC’s core objective is at odds with other civil liberties.

The power to target is the power to discriminate. By definition, targeted ads allow advertisers to reach some kinds of people while excluding others. A targeting system may be used to decide who gets to see job postings or loan offers just as easily as it is to advertise shoes. 

Over the years, the machinery of targeted advertising has frequently been used for exploitationdiscrimination, and harm. The ability to target people based on ethnicity, religion, gender, age, or ability allows discriminatory ads for jobs, housing, and credit. Targeting based on credit history—or characteristics systematically associated with it— enables predatory ads for high-interest loans. Targeting based on demographics, location, and political affiliation helps purveyors of politically motivated disinformation and voter suppression. All kinds of behavioral targeting increase the risk of convincing scams.

Instead of re-inventing the tracking wheel, we should imagine a better world without the myriad problems of targeted ads.

Google, Facebook, and many other ad platforms already try to rein in certain uses of their targeting platforms. Google, for example, limits advertisers’ ability to target people in “sensitive interest categories.” However, these efforts frequently fall short; determined actors can usually find workarounds to platform-wide restrictions on certain kinds of targeting or certain kinds of ads

Even with absolute power over what information can be used to target whom, platforms are too often unable to prevent abuse of their technology. But FLoC will use an unsupervised algorithm to create its clusters. That means that nobody will have direct control over how people are grouped together. Ideally (for advertisers), FLoC will create groups that have meaningful behaviors and interests in common. But online behavior is linked to all kinds of sensitive characteristics—demographicslike gender, ethnicity, age, and income; “big 5” personality traits; even mental health. It is highly likely that FLoC will group users along some of these axes as well. FLoC groupings may also directly reflect visits to websites related to substance abuse, financial hardship, or support for survivors of trauma.

Google has proposed that it can monitor the outputs of the system to check for any correlations with its sensitive categories. If it finds that a particular cohort is too closely related to a particular protected group, the administrative server can choose new parameters for the algorithm and tell users’ browsers to group themselves again. 

This solution sounds both orwellian and sisyphean. In order to monitor how FLoC groups correlate with sensitive categories, Google will need to run massive audits using data about users’ race, gender, religion, age, health, and financial status. Whenever it finds a cohort that correlates too strongly along any of those axes, it will have to reconfigure the whole algorithm and try again, hoping that no other “sensitive categories” are implicated in the new version. This is a much more difficult version of the problem it is already trying, and frequently failing, to solve.

In a world with FLoC, it may be more difficult to target users directlybased on age, gender, or income. But it won’t be impossible. Trackers with access to auxiliary information about users will be able to learn what FLoC groupings “mean”—what kinds of people they contain—through observation and experiment. Those who are determined to do so will still be able to discriminate. Moreover, this kind of behavior will be harder for platforms to police than it already is. Advertisers with bad intentions will have plausible deniability—after all, they aren’t directly targeting protected categories, they’re just reaching people based on behavior. And the whole system will be more opaque to users and regulators.

Google, please don’t do this

We wrote about FLoC and the other initial batch of proposals when they were first introduced, calling FLoC “the opposite of privacy-preserving technology.” We hoped that the standards process would shed light on FLoC’s fundamental flaws, causing Google to reconsider pushing it forward. Indeed, several issues on the official Github page raise the exactsame concerns that we highlight here. However, Google has continued developing the system, leaving the fundamentals nearly unchanged. It has started pitching FLoC to advertisers, boasting that FLoC is a “95% effective” replacement for cookie-based targeting. And starting with Chrome 89, released on March 2, it’s deploying the technology for a trial run. A small portion of Chrome users—still likely millions of people—will be (or have been) assigned to test the new technology.

Make no mistake, if Google does through on its plan to implement FLoC in Chrome, it will likely give everyone involved “options.” The system will probably be opt-in for the advertisers that will benefit from it, and opt-out for the users who stand to be hurt. Google will surely tout this as a step forward for “transparency and user control,” knowing full well that the vast majority of its users will not understand how FLoC works, and that very few will go out of their way to turn it off. It will pat itself on the back for ushering in a new, private era on the Web, free of the evil third-party cookie—the technology that Google helped extend well past its shelf life, making billions of dollars in the process.

It doesn’t have to be that way. The most important parts of the privacy sandbox, like dropping third-party identifiers and fighting fingerprinting, will genuinely change the Web for the better. Google can choose to dismantle the old scaffolding for surveillance without replacing it with something new and uniquely harmful.

We emphatically reject the future of FLoC. That is not the world we want, nor the one users deserve. Google needs to learn the correct lessons from the era of third-party tracking and design its browser to work for users, not for advertisers.

Note: We reached out to Google to verify certain facts presented in this post, as well as to request more information about the upcoming Origin Trial. We have not received a response at the time of posting.

#AceNewsDesk report ……….Published: Mar.09: 2021:

Editor says #AceNewsDesk reports by https://t.me/acenewsdaily and all our posts, also links can be found at here for Twitter and Live Feeds https://acenewsroom.wordpress.com/ and thanks for following as always appreciate every like, reblog or retweet and free help and guidance tips on your PC software or need help & guidance from our experts AcePCHelp.WordPress.Com

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#AceWorldNews – JAPAN – October 10 – A Japanese court has ruled Google had to delete about half of 237 search results appearing after a plaintiff’s name was entered, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported as cited by AFP.

The man started his legal action in June, saying the Google search results were damaging for his reputation as they were suggesting he could be involved in a crime.

A Google spokesman told AFP the company was reviewing the order and studying options, including an appeal.

The Japan court ruling comes after the EU’s top court said in May that individuals had the so-called right “to be forgotten,” which is the right to ask Google to delete some of their personal data.

#ANS2014

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‘ Google Could Face Record Fine for Breaching EU Competition Rules ‘

#AceWorldNews – BRUSSELS – September 22 – Google could face a record fine for breaching EU competition rules, the European Commission’s competition chief has said, warning that its four year investigation into the US search engine could eventually rival the sixteen years spent investigating software rival Microsoft.

google-rankings

Presenting the Commission’s annual competition report in the European Parliament on Tuesday (23 September), Joaquin Almunia said that he had asked Google “to improve its proposals” or face a formal ‘Statement of Objections’, including a possible fine, if its latest offer did not go “in the right direction”.

Google faces a total of twenty complaints from its rivals, including Microsoft.

“Some of the twenty formal complainants have given us fresh evidence and solid arguments against several aspects of the latest proposals put forward by Google,” Almunia told MEPs.

“We now need to see if Google can address these issues and allay our concerns,” said Almunia, although he noted that “Microsoft was investigated for 16 years, which is four times as much as the Google investigation has taken, and there are more problems with Google than there were with Microsoft.”

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` Google Must Comply with European Laws on Privacy by Amending Search Results ‘

#AceSecurityNews – EU COURT Of JUSTICE – May 13 – Google must comply with the European laws on privacy and amend some search results, a top EU court ruled on Tuesday, May 13.

English: Google Logo officially released on Ma...

English: Google Logo officially released on May 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The European Union Court of Justice said that ordinary people can ask Google to remove some sensitive, irrelevant or outdated information from Internet search results.

Earlier, the search engine stated that it does not control search results and bears no responsibility for personal data that is “in open access”. The responsibility lies with the owner of the website that provides the information, and Google merely presents the user with a link.

The case was brought by a Spanish man who complained that an auction notice of his home that could be found on Google infringed upon his privacy.

Around 180 similar complaints have been filed in Spain.

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` Google says ` Turkey ' has been ` Intercepting ' its `Internet Domain 'and ` Redirecting Users ' to other Sites '

#AceNewsServices – ANKARA – March 31 – Google says Turkey has been intercepting its Internet domain, redirecting users to other sites in the latest battle between Ankara and Web giants.

In a weekend post on Google’s security blog, software engineer Steven Carstensen said the company has received “several credible reports and confirmed with our own research that Google’s Domain Name System (DNS) service has been intercepted by most Turkish ISPs (Internet Service Providers).”

Carstensen said the DNS server “tells your computer the address of a server it’s looking for, in the same way that you might look up a phone number in a phone book.”

“Imagine if someone had changed out your phone book with another one, which looks pretty much the same as before, except that the listings for a few people showed the wrong phone number,” he added.

“That’s essentially what’s happened: Turkish ISPs have set up servers that masquerade as Google’s DNS service.”

Ace Related News: March 30 – Sophos – That’s because the easiest way for a country to get its ISPs to block access to a site like twitter.com is to tell them to stop resolving the name of the site in their DNS servers.

Most home users rely on their ISP for access to DNS, the Domain Name System that turns human-style internet names to computer-style numbers.

For example, when you ask your ISP how to find twitter.com, this is what happens. http://wp.me/p120rT-13WV

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` Brazil Wins Victory for Net Neutrality in Brazil but Companies Win Right to still Store Information '

#AceSecurityNews – BRAZIL – March 26 – Brazil has scored big for net neutrality after its lower house of Congress approved a ground-breaking post-Snowden bill that protects its users’ privacy rights, albeit with some sacrifices.

The measure did not go as smoothly as could have. To ensure success, President Dilma Rousseff had to let it through at the cost of allowing companies such as Google and Facebook to store user information outside Brazil’s servers.

The real truth is that as before all your GMail and Private Data is still stored on Servers outside these countries and as in the case of Google and Facebook free to be used albeit, they will say with restrictions says Ace News Services.

However, other provisions, which ensured that internet providers gave equal privileges to all web traffic, were left in place. This went ahead despite contrary pleas by big local phone carriers who wanted to continue charging users higher prices for separate content, such as video streaming or Skype-like services.RT

In return for allowing Google and Facebook the freedom not to be bound by Brazilian servers, where local user information was concerned, the bill gets to strengthen legal oversight and punishment for companies not respecting local laws when storing Brazilian user data internationally.

If any transgressions are detected, or data is not made available to law enforcement on request, a company would have to pay a fine equal to 10 percent of its annual earnings from the year before.

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` France’s Consumer Rights Group `Files Lawsuit ‘ in ` Paris Court ‘ against Social Media for Violation of Privacy ‘

#AceSocialNews – FRANCE – March 25 – France’s top consumer rights group has filed a lawsuit in a Paris court against Google+, Facebook and Twitter, accusing the social networks of violating the country’s privacy laws.

UFC-Que Choisir – a group which advises consumers on products, services and their rights – said it was filing a suit in the High Court over “abusive” and “illegal” practices in the conditions of use on the three social networks, AFP reported Tuesday.

The consumers’ group said that last summer they warned the companies that they would bring legal action in case they did not address concerns over terms of use and data-collection practices.

However, “they are stubbornly maintaining clauses that the association considers abusive or illegal,” the group was reported as saying.

UFC-Que Choisir asked the court to order Google+, Facebook and Twitter to get rid of or change the fine print on their terms of use since, they believe, it is far too complicated.

According to the organization, the instructions were “inaccessible, unreadable and full of hypertext links” – some of which are available only in English.

The watchdog claimed that the social networks “persist in authorizing the widespread collection, modification, preservation and use of the data of users and even of those around them.”

Social and Media News – http://on.rt.com/jpt4bc

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Turkey : ` Google declines to remove `YouTube ‘ videos that allege Corruption ‘

#AceWorldNews – Google has declined Turkey’s requests to remove YouTube videos that allege government corruption, sources told The Wall Street Journal.

Amid a corruption scandal, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has asked Google in recent weeks to block certain videos from its site in Turkey.

However, Google has reportedly refused to comply given it believes the requests are legally invalid. Turkey blocked the social media site Twitter on Thursday, and the government has threatened to do the same with YouTube and Facebook, as the sites have been prime conduits for corruption allegations.

Related News: Extract – March – 09.02 GMT – #AceWorldNews – Turkey has blocked Twitter hours after embattled Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan threatened to close it down ahead of a key election. It comes after audio recordings purportedly demonstrating corruption among his associates were posted on the site.http://wp.me/p165ui-4rt

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`Google Encrypts Gmail in Effort to Stop the Prying Eyes of the NSA – Maybe a Little To Late? ‘

#AceSecurityNews – Google is doing its best to put a lid on the NSA’s prying eyes by using enhanced encryption technology to make its flagship email service airtight.

Google Encypts Gmail“Your email is important to you, and making sure it stays safe and always available is important to us,” Gmail engineering security chief, Nicolas Lidzborski, said in a blog post.

“Starting today, Gmail will always use an encrypted HTTPS connection when you check or send email.

“Today’s change means that no one can listen in on your messages as they go back and forth between you and Gmail’s servers — no matter if you’re using public WiFi or logging in from your computer, phone or tablet.”

The internet giant’s announcement is the latest attempt to bolster the company’s widely used email service and follows a similar step in 2010, when the company made HTTPS the default connection option.

At the time, however, users had the option to turn this protection feature off.

Starting from Friday, Gmail is HTTPS-only.

The move is a response to a disclosure made by National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower, Edward Snowden, that the agency had been secretly tapping into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centres around the world.

 

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Safe Internet for Children called into Arena by Psychologists and Psychiatrists as Google Develops own Kids Version ‘

#AceSecurityNews – The Safe Internet League, Russia’s largest and most reputable organization fighting dangerous web content, considers it necessary to attract highly skilled psychologists and psychiatrists as the popular Google-owned video hosting and sharing service YouTube is developing a special version for kids, Safe Internet League CEO Denis Davydov was quoted as saying by the organization’s press service on Thursday.

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

“Leading psychologists and psychiatrists should participate in developing requirements for video content hosted on the so-called child-friendly version of YouTube in order to eliminate the risk of ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’,” Davydov said. “Far from all videos that may seem harmless to us are necessarily suitable for children. And specialists’ opinion is essential in this regard.”

Davydov said the Safe Internet League hailed Google’s decision to create a version of its video site aimed specifically at children aged ten and under.

As envisioned by project developers, the site would only show videos deemed safe for this age group, and parents will control access to it. The site would also filter out comments that contain explicit language, or other references to adult content.

“It is very laudable that Google has started demonstrating its willingness to work in Russia, showing respect for the rights of our citizens and taking care of the younger generation of Russians,” Davydov said.

Last September, the Safe Internet League published the results of a full-scale investigation by the League into Google’s activities in Russia. The organization accused Google of “ignoring Russian legal requirements” and “deliberately trying to influence Russian domestic policy in order to promote its services among Russian citizens and officials, in order to undermine digital sovereignty”.

According to reports, YouTube has already approached video producers asking to create suitable content and videos, and it is thought this content would be available exclusively on the site.

The Safe Internet League is a non-commercial organization launched by several major internet providers and a Christian charity.

The declared aim of the group is ridding the Internet of dangerous content through self-regulation in order to prevent government censorship.

Russian Media Sources

#ANS2014

 

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Welcome Everyone to `Ace News Services ‘ Please Comment or Post to be Approved ‘

#AceNewsServices says good evening from my UK home and to all my friends and readers of my news articles and posts, well just so you can write your news as it happens, and chat on the go.

Ace Friends News

` Follow my news and views and post in the box’

It is not just 140 characters and you can post a link to a video or promote your group, charity, idea or really anything.

Anyone wanting to post a video best way is copy and paste the short URL from the YouTube site and post.

Add your own tags and links and enjoy chatting to fellow bloggers.

I ask for you to observe that we do not use it as a spam area, should this happen it will be closed to everyone and l will email those people ,to be the only users.

Thank you Editor (Ace News Group) 

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` Innocence of Muslims Video on anti-Islamic issues has been demanded back by Google ‘

#AceWorldNews says that Google has urged a US appeals court to return an anti-Islamic video to YouTube, arguing that its removal damaged the website’s constitutional rights.

The video, “Innocence of the Muslims,” surfaced in 2012 and provoked a wave of indignation and deadly violence in Muslim countries.

The film was initially removed at the behest of one of the actresses in the film, who filed a lawsuit claiming she was tricked into appearing and was unaware of its anti-Muslim slant.

She has since received death threats.

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