t byfield on Fri, 15 Jan 2010 15:17:25 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Google

brian.holmes@aliceadsl.fr (Wed 01/13/10 at 01:18 PM -0600):

> It seems that a global corporation is now doing battle with 
> a an extremely powerful state on the terrain of information. 
> A rare event. Or there is an extremely convoluted strategy 
> that we cannot yet understand. One way or another, how 
> fascinating!

Or: a global corporation is now the terrain on which extremely powerful
states are now doing battle.

This is all impossibly murky, and there's much more talk than facts (cf.
my earlier remark about speech acts lying at the heart of this tussle), 
so echo-camber effects are inevitable. That said, this sounds like it's
getting warm:[1]

     Uh, "account information", "subject line", "search warrants" and
     "intercept systems". That ring a bell? This appears to indicate
     that the state-sponsored Chinese hackers have hacked into the
     portion of the Google infrastructure that deals with government
     warrants, intercepts, national security letters and other
     modalities pertinent to the Terrorist Surveillance Program. That,
     if true, could be very problematic, one would think.

Then the author goes on to speculate exactly where the computers in 
question were located -- a fool's errand if ever there was one in the 
case of Google. 

Of course, the PRC hardly needs to go around stealing source code for
this kind of arrangement, since the tech heavies are falling all over
themselves trying to get contracts with the PRC to implement these 
kinds of systems. Just how much proprietary material these companies
are obliged to turn over the the PRC as a part of these contracts (or,
indeed, the application process), who knows? But this certainly isn't
an issue that either side overlooked; the PRC's been *openly* sensitive 
about such things going back at least a decade (see, for example, its
standoffs with Microsoft and the release of Red Flag Linux). Anyway, 
it seems unlikely that the PRC would take recourse to this kind of 
hacking to get what it could get by much more up-front means.

The FT reported[2] on 13 Jan that:

     Google informed the White House of its plans shortly before
     making them public. However, the White House said it did not
     advise them on the decision. Hillary Clinton, US secretary of
     state, met Eric Schmidt, Google chief executive, and other
     technology leaders at an off-the-record dinner at the state
     department last week to discuss the use and abuse of technology.

Of course, the Secretary of State always meets with tech leaders to 
shoot the breeze about airy-fairy problems like "the use and abuse of 
technology," right? Not about specific issues of mutual interest like
the nexus of corporate-governmental surveillance. The only source FT 
cites for that meeting was noted tech leader "Tiffany Shlain, creator 
of the Webby awards." Guest list is here:[3] Twitter, Howcast, Shirky, 
Rasiej, Social Gaming Network, Webbies, Ford Foundation president, and 
a "pioneer of mobile content and services." Another guest list[4] that 
adds: Microsoft Chief R&D Strategy Officer Craig Mundie and Sue Bostrom, 
Cisco's chief globalization officer. These other articles describe the 
agenda in utterly different terms, mostly about the Obama admin's drive 
to adopt social media. 

Google has plenty of paths to the USG, not least among them its last 
Chief Policy Officer, now the USG's Deputy CTO Andrew McLaughlin -- 
whom some of you may remember from his stint at ICANN -- so it hardly
needs to whisper in the margins of, of all things, a *social media 
gabfest*. But it isn't hard to imagine that such a gabfest might serve
as a useful figleaf for an impromptu meeting involving, say, Google, 
Microsoft, and Cisco. Since the Obama administration has followed 
through on earlier promises about transparency by releasing torrents
of info about visitors, I'd expect to see a bit more camouflage. 


     [1] <http://emptywheel.firedoglake.com/2010/01/13/china-google-attack-and-the-terrorist-surveillance-program/>

     [2] <http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/eef33954-009a-11df-ae8d-00144feabdc0.html>

     [3] <http://mediamemo.allthingsd.com/20100107/guess-whos-coming-to-dinner-eric-schmidt-and-the-technorati-visit-the-state-department/>

     [4] <http://voices.washingtonpost.com/posttech/2010/01/sec_clinton_dines_high-tech_ti.html>

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