In 2018, I used to be provided the chance to share essential info relating to surveillance and data-mining enterprise practices employed by Fb and Google with the Senate and Home Judiciary Committees.
I used to be capable of take part in a number of convention calls with staffers, plus present the staffers with essential info pertaining to the congressional hearings involving Fb Chairman/CEO Mark Zuckerberg (Senate Judiciary listening to held April 10, 2018) and Google CEO Sundar Pichai (Home Judiciary listening to held Dec. 11, 2018).
I submitted info to a number of senatorial and Home Judiciary Committee staffers pertaining to violations of shopper regulation, plus civil liberty, privateness, cyber safety, security, and smartphone-user exploitation threats related to the phrases of use that help addictive, intrusive, and dangerous content material developed by Fb and Google.
The staffers included people who work for Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), plus the Home Judiciary Committee.
After watching the Fb and Google hearings, I used to be appalled that they have been extra about politics than defending residents, teenagers, youngsters, and enterprise professionals from corporations that make use of dangerous surveillance and data-mining enterprise practices.
Each hearings left quite a few unanswered questions relating to the dangerous enterprise practices employed by each corporations, which must be addressed by the Federal Commerce Fee (FTC), Federal Communications Fee (FCC), state attorneys basic, and lawmakers.
Moreover, the hearings ended with what amounted to empty apologies by each executives, whereas each corporations proceed to do enterprise as normal.
On the Fb congressional listening to, what was laughable was that on a number of events, lawmakers truly steered that Fb assist write future privacy-centric laws meant to guard shoppers of smartphones and related know-how.
I’ve information for these lawmakers: Corporations reminiscent of Google have their lobbyists write laws, based on Eric Schmidt, the previous chairman/CEO of Google and former chairman of Alphabet Inc. (Google’s now-parent firm):
“’The average American doesn’t realize how much of the laws are written by lobbyists” to guard the incumbent pursuits, Schmidt informed then-Atlantic editor James Bennet on the Washington Concepts Discussion board in 2010, whereas Schmidt was CEO at Google. ‘It’s surprising how the system truly works.”
“Washington is an incumbent protection machine,” Schmidt stated. “Technology is fundamentally disruptive.”
I used to be to sadly study that hardly any of the knowledge pertaining to the violation of shopper legal guidelines, and threats that I offered to the staffers was truly addressed by lawmakers through the hearings.
In the course of the congressional hearings that happened in 2018, Zuckerberg and Pichai implied that tech giants corresponding to Fb and Google don’t promote their product customers’ identifiable private info to third-parties similar to advertisers.
That’s both a half-truth or a potential lie, in accordance with Google’s revealed (on-line) phrases of use and the unpublished (hidden within the system) Android software legalese that helps Android apps, such because the Fb app.
Google’s on-line phrases of use state that Google doesn’t promote or share identifiable private info to third-parties, but Google’s Android software legalese clearly states that Google does share identifiable private info to quite a few third-parties that Google describes as “others.”
Don’t take my phrase for it. See for your self:
Google’s revealed (on-line) privateness coverage 2018:
“We may share non-personally identifiable information publicly and with our partners—like publishers, advertisers, developers, or rights holders. For example, we share information publicly to show trends about the general use of our services. We also allow specific partners to collect information from your browser or device for advertising and measurement purposes using their own cookies or similar technologies.”
Android software legalese on a Samsung Galaxy Notice smartphone supported by the Android OS:
“Your Personal Information” app permission: “Allows apps to read personal-profile information stored on your device, such as your name and contact information. This means apps can identify you and may send your profile information to others.”
(Screenshot by way of Rex M Lee)
Which is it? Google ought to have to elucidate the contradiction relating to their revealed (on-line) and unpublished (hidden within the gadget) phrases of use to the FTC, FCC, state attorneys basic, lawmakers, and members of the Home Judiciary Committee.
I submitted that to members of the Home Judiciary Committee, previous to the Google congressional listening to on Dec. 11, 2018.
In the course of the listening to, which centered on Google’s knowledge assortment strategies, not a single lawmaker challenged Pichai when it got here to the information that Google, and its content material builders similar to Fb can, in reality, determine telecom and tech-product customers by means of uncontrollable pre-installed Android content material corresponding to smartphone apps.
Not solely do intrusive Android apps allow Google and Android content material builders to determine a smartphone consumer, however additionally they allow the identification of the consumer’s contacts, which embrace household, associates, enterprise colleagues, plus different people who find themselves listed within the consumer’s digital handle e-book.
Right here’s one other instance of the legalese related to the “contacts” (digital handle ebook) app on a Samsung Galaxy Observe smartphone:
Contacts app permission and software product warning: “Allows the app to read data about your contacts stored on your phone, including the frequency with which you’ve called, emailed, or communicated in other ways with specific individuals. This permission allows apps to save your contact data, and malicious apps may share contact data without your knowledge.”
(Screenshot by way of Rex M Lee)
So, Google and Fb can even monitor the best way the smartphone consumer connects together with his or her contacts, whether or not it’s by telephone, e-mail, or different types of communication.
That is past creepy, particularly contemplating the variety of builders worldwide who develop Android content material for Google, aside from Fb.
Did you discover the Android “contacts” software legalese incorporates an software product warning relating to the truth that “malicious apps” might share your contact knowledge with out your information?
Promoting Entry to Product Customers
Zuckerberg and Pichai additionally implied that Fb and Google product customers have full management over their private info and knowledge, which is one other half-truth or attainable lie, as a result of Fb and Google promote entry to their product customers.
In 2018 alone, Fb, Google, and telecom suppliers have all been caught enabling knowledge brokers and multinational corporations, together with nation-state corporations from China, with the power to indiscriminately surveil their product customers whereas accumulating surveillance knowledge (e.g. location knowledge) and delicate consumer knowledge (“digital DNA”) from smartphone, social media, and tech-product customers.
Smartphone and tech-product customers are seen by telecom and tech suppliers as “uncompensated information producers” who’re to be exploited for monetary achieve by the businesses that the consumer patronizes with their loyalty, belief, and hard-earned cash.
(Rex M Lee)
The Fb–Cambridge Analytica scandal delivered to mild that tech giants comparable to Fb promote entry to their product customers to dangerous actors, together with knowledge brokers comparable to Aleksandr Kogan, who created surveillance and data-mining know-how within the type of a character quiz app. He later bought the info of tens of tens of millions of unsuspecting Fb customers to Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting agency.
On the discretion of corporations comparable to Google, Microsoft, and Fb, any particular person or firm appears to have the ability to purchase entry to their product customers by means of addictive, intrusive, and dangerous know-how within the type of an internet browser, app, widget, or emoji.
Apple isn’t harmless, both. Apple CEO Tim Prepare dinner likes to current Apple over and above corporations resembling Google and Fb relating to dangerous surveillance and data-mining enterprise practices, but Apple bought out Apple product customers to Google in a multi-billion greenback deal.
Because of this Google is enabled by Apple to watch, monitor, and data-mine Apple product customers for monetary achieve by means of Google apps.
Many Apple product customers purchased Apple merchandise years in the past to get away from Google’s predatory surveillance and data-mining enterprise practices, solely to seek out themselves on the Apple auctioning block to be bought to Google and exploited for monetary achieve.
Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Fb product customers are commodities to be bought to the very best bidder, whether or not or not the corporate that pays for entry to the product consumer will misuse the private and skilled digital DNA acquired.
Moreover, AT&T, Verizon, T-Cellular, and Dash additionally bought their telecom subscribers’ (paying clients) private info to knowledge brokers akin to LocationSmart and Zumigo, as reported in quite a few information stories in 2018.
Content material Builders or Hackers?
Smartphone, social media, and tech-product customers haven’t any management over who’s getting access to their private and skilled digital DNA by means of surveillance and data-mining know-how disguised as apps.
These apps supported by deceptive phrases of use ought to be categorized as a violation of shopper regulation relating to misleading commerce practices, because the intentions of the app developer typically aren’t revealed inside revealed (on-line) phrases of use to the app consumer.
The existence of addictive, intrusive, and dangerous apps with deceptive phrases of use is one thing that I identified to the FTC, FCC, state attorneys basic, and lawmakers on quite a few events, together with the Google and Fb congressional hearings.
Intrusive content material builders reminiscent of Google and Fb are nothing greater than hackers who use dangerous know-how to take advantage of their product customers for monetary achieve, even on the expense of the consumer’s security, whether or not the consumer is an grownup or a toddler.
Don’t take my phrase for it. Sean Parker, one among Fb’s co-founders, explains this clearly in an interview with Axios in November 2017:
“It’s a social-validation suggestions loop; it’s precisely the type of factor that a hacker like myself would come up with, since you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology. The inventors, creators—it’s me, it’s Mark [Zuckerberg], it’s Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it’s all of those individuals—understood this consciously. And we did it anyway.
“God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”
Former Google product designer Tristan Harris additionally validated that Google makes use of addictive know-how so as to exploit the Google product consumer for monetary achieve.
“The average person checks their phone 150 times a day. Why do we do this? Are we making 150 conscious choices? One major reason why is the No. 1 psychological ingredient in slot machines: intermittent variable rewards. … Addictiveness is maximized when the rate of reward is most variable,” he wrote in an essay on Medium.
“By shaping the menus we pick from, technology hijacks the way we perceive our choices and replaces them with new ones. But the closer we pay attention to the options we’re given, the more we’ll notice when they don’t actually align with our true needs.”
I identified the Fb and Google admissions to the FTC, FCC, state attorneys common, and lawmakers, who to today don’t appear to care that Silicon Valley tech giants are utilizing dangerous know-how to take advantage of their product customers for monetary achieve, even on the expense of the customers’ privateness and security.
Information networks are nonetheless promoting smartphones, pill PCs, and related merchandise which are supported by addictive, intrusive, and dangerous content material.
Authorities Fails at All Ranges to Shield Residents
The FTC, FCC, state attorneys common and lawmakers are failing to implement present shopper legal guidelines meant to guard residents, teenagers, youngsters, and enterprise professionals from corporations that make use of dangerous enterprise practices supported by misleading commerce practices.
Kogan, Zuckerberg, and different senior executives from Fb and Cambridge Analytica ought to be indicted for placing Fb customers in hurt’s method, moderately than permitting senior executives corresponding to Zuckerberg to make yet one more empty apology to lawmakers, Fb customers, and the American public.
Telecom suppliers additionally have to be held accountable for exposing paying clients to corporations that make use of dangerous enterprise practices.
The general public must ask why tech and telecom senior executives proceed to get away with negligent, dangerous, and misleading commerce practices that put residents in hurt’s means.
Solely after knowledge brokers and different entities akin to Cambridge Analytica are caught misusing private and skilled digital DNA do corporations similar to Fb, Google, AT&T, Verizon, T-Cellular, and Dash make phony apologies, whereas persevering with to do enterprise as ordinary with no penalties or authorities oversight.
In the event you do file formal buyer complaints together with your telecom or tech suppliers resembling I’ve executed, they merely reply with meaningless and nebulous info with out addressing questions and considerations with detailed solutions or resolve.
As I’ve said earlier than, it’s dangerous sufficient to lose privateness however to be exploited for monetary achieve on the expense of your civil liberties, privateness, cyber safety, and security ought to be unacceptable and unlawful. For each firm that will get caught misusing digital DNA acquired from telecom and tech-product customers, many different knowledge brokers and different entities get away with misusing an individual’s private digital DNA.
The FCC, FTC, authorities officers, lawmakers, plus the general public don’t perceive surveillance and data-mining enterprise practices relating to tech giants promoting entry to their customers slightly than instantly promoting the consumer’s identifiable private and skilled info.
In response to present shopper legal guidelines enforced on the state and federal degree, it’s unlawful to make use of enterprise practices supported by misleading commerce practices that may end up in hurt to the buyer. Nevertheless, officers proceed to show a blind eye in terms of dangerous enterprise practices employed by corporations reminiscent of Fb and Google.
At this level, senior executives for the tobacco business look harmless in comparison with telecom suppliers and tech corporations that develop addictive, intrusive, and dangerous content material to take advantage of their paying buyer for monetary achieve on the expense of the client’s privateness and security.
At the very least tobacco merchandise are bought to adults and to not teenagers and youngsters.
The Biggest Knowledge Theft within the Historical past of the World
Whereas apps present comfort for the consumer, the app developer is robbing the consumer blind by accumulating the consumer’s digital DNA to take advantage of for monetary achieve, on the expense of the product consumer’s civil liberties, privateness, cyber safety, and security.
As I’ve written earlier than, an individual’s digital DNA is probably the most useful commodity on the earth, but the FTC, FCC, and lawmakers merely permit telecom and tech suppliers to tear individuals off by means of addictive, intrusive, and dangerous apps which might be supported by deceptive phrases of use which might be unlawful, based on present shopper legal guidelines.
Nevertheless, not a single member of the Senate or Home Judiciary Committee challenged Zuckerberg or Pichai relating to the truth that the collective phrases of use that help Fb and Google merchandise could also be, actually, unlawful, as I’ve written about earlier than.
Individuals who don’t care about private privateness ought to care about getting used and exploited for monetary achieve, on the expense of their civil liberties, privateness, cyber safety, and security, by the very telecom and tech suppliers they patronize with their loyalty, belief, and hard-earned cash.
In any case, who needs to pay cash to corporations that exploit their clients like that?
Google, Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Amazon, Fb, Baidu, and different telecom and tech suppliers are chargeable for the best theft of private and skilled info on the earth, as a result of that content material developed by all corporations involved is supported by deceptive phrases of use.
The general public at giant must ask why officers are permitting these corporations to get away with what quantities to theft relating to private and skilled info.
We have to demand accountability from all events involved relating to dangerous enterprise practices employed by tech and telecom suppliers.
Rex M. Lee is a privateness and knowledge safety marketing consultant and Blackops Companions senior analyst and researcher: www.MySmartPrivacy.com
Views expressed on this article are the opinions of the writer and don’t essentially mirror the views of The Epoch Occasions.