Surveillance Valley: Rise of the Google-Military Complex

Yasha Levine has launched a Kickstarter campaign for his upcoming book, Surveillance Valley, which will detail the deep ties between supposedly libertarian, freedom-loving Silicon Valley companies and the national security apparatus. In truth, these companies are way too cozy with NSA et al, watch us constantly, are seriously not our friends, engage in seriously sleazy if not criminal behavior, and more.

Not surprisingly, Levine, an experienced investigative reporter, has found traditional book publishers show interest at first, then back off. That’s why he’s self-funding. I just contributed to his Kickstarter campaign. If you care about freedom, you should too.

Because what is going on is murky and scary indeed.

I have exposed Google’s deep ties to US intelligence agencies and investigated Google’s role as a global for-profit intelligence agency — an entity that aims to capture and monetize as much of our activity in the real and online world as possible. I reported on the murky and criminal world of digital data brokers, and investigated the detailed dossiers that big tech companies compile on all of us. I have looked at Silicon Valley’s conflicted connections to tech watchdogs like EFF and privacy activists — people and organizations that are supposed to be fighting for our interests, not those of global tech. I have also revealed how the Pentagon and other US intel agencies are heavily involved in funding grassroots privacy activists and encryption technology — including just about every privacy tool endorsed by Edward Snowden.

EFF, including Tor, has always been heavily financed by the government. This should give anyone pause and indeed needs to be investigated in depth. Especially considering recent revelations show Tor to be not secure.

The book will”¦

Blow the lid off the Google-Military Surveillance Complex: It will investigate Google’s close relationship with US National Security State.

Explore the Silicon Valley arms race: It will look at how other Silicon Valley companies — Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Microsoft — are in a race to dominate the lucrative military and intelligence contracting market.

Detail exactly what Silicon Valley knows about us: Companies like Google and Facebook aggressively mine user data to compile complex and detailed dossiers.

Examine how Internet giants make money off invading our privacy:

Reveal how Silicon Valley polices our lives: There is a common misconception that no matter how much Silicon Valley companies spy on us, at least they don’t have the power to arrest and jail us. Truth is, they can and do.



We need freedom from the Internet snooping on us constantly

internet surveillance photo
Photo by Mike Licht,

The Internet of Things is a NSA paradise / Orwellian nightmare, coming real soon to your house, and Silicon Valley wants it to happen as much as NSA does.

Huge invasions of privacy and loss of freedom are happening now. Our government pretends to make us safer. Silicon Valley pretends to be helpful. Their real object is to collect as much data about us as they can, and to do that they need to watch and record everything about our online lives. They are two facets of the same data-slurping entity that cares little about personal privacy and freedoms. It’s all about grabbing the data, then exploiting and selling it. You are the product.

Samsung TVs record what we say, then sends it to an anonymous company which converts it to text, so it can process voice commands. They promise to erase the data when done with it. Right. I certainly believe them – just as much as I believe Google reading my email and Siri listening to me will never be abused, intercepted, and exploited by marketeers, criminals, or the government.

It’s only a matter of time until Samsung gets a court order to turn over voice data files. I bet iPhone’s Siri already has.

All of this is poisonous for democracy, freedom, and privacy. We have a right to not be snooped on constantly. However, we will need to fight for it. First though, we need to know just how much surveillance is happening now, who is doing it, and where the data goes. I suspect the answer will appall most of us (while government and tech apologists scurry to explain why it actually is good for us.)

Earlier this week, we learned that Samsung televisions are eavesdropping on their owners. If you have one of their Internet-connected smart TVs, you can turn on a voice command feature that saves you the trouble of finding the remote, pushing buttons and scrolling through menus. But making that feature work requires the television to listen to everything you say. And what you say isn’t just processed by the television; it may be forwarded over the Internet for remote processing. It’s literally Orwellian.

This discovery surprised people, but it shouldn’t have. The things around us are increasingly computerized, and increasingly connected to the Internet. And most of them are listening.

This has to change. We need to regulate the listening: both what is being collected and how it’s being used. But that won’t happen until we know the full extent of surveillance: who’s listening and what they’re doing with it. Samsung buried its listening details in its privacy policy — they have since amended it to be clearer — and we’re only having this discussion because a Daily Beast reporter stumbled upon it. We need more explicit conversation about the value of being able to speak freely in our living rooms without our televisions listening, or having e-mail conversations without Google or the government listening. Privacy is a prerequisite for free expression, and losing that would be an enormous blow to our society.

This is not a partisan issue. Everyone is monitored including Congress and CEOs. Lets make them aware of this, it could help bring about change.

NSA and Big Tech collaboration now hurting US tech companies


Well done, NSA! Your endless (and illegal) surveillance is damaging credibility and profits of US tech companies. NSA snooping has confirmed the worst fears of the populace about the intentions of their government. The political damage to the US government is huge and worldwide. US tech companies were and are obedient, compliant lapdogs for NSA, cheerfully working with them to insure software sold to us was broken and compromised. Hey, there was big money and juicy government contracts to be had and all tech had to do was sell out the American public, something they happily did for years.

Big tech began their faux outrage at NSA only after the Snowden revelations and have done nothing substantive to fight against such outrages. Thus, they have poisoned their own wells and now have to live with the consequences of their own callous irresponsibility, craven behavior, and possible criminality.

Cisco, IBM, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard have reported declines in business in China since the NSA surveillance program was exposed. The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation estimates the NSA imbroglio will cost U.S. businesses $22 billion through 2016. Forrester Research pegs potential losses at $180 billion, which includes tech firms and managed service providers.

Tor developing anonymous instant messaging


The Tor Instant Messaging Bundle plans to do what their Tor browser already does for web surfing, encrypt and hide instant messaging from prying eyes, including NSA. It will route encrypted messages through Tor hidden servers just like the browser does, NSA hates Tor because they can’t break into it.

It’s a measure of Tor’s reliability that a secret NSA presentation — labeled “top secret” — sports the title “Tor Stinks.” The presentation reads, “We will never be able to de-anonymize all Tor users all the time,” and adds, “With manual analysis we can de-anonymize a very small fraction of Tor users.” But that de-anonymization, to date, appears to have been random. Notably, the agency reports no success at unmasking the identity — in response to a specific intelligence or law enforcement demand — of a specific requested Tor user.

The Tor IM bundle will be able to use multiple chat clients, then send the messages through the hidden servers. The first public beta is planned for this month.