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Birds of a Feather: The So-Called Internet “Privacy Activists,” the Intelligence Services and Big Tech

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COMMENT: Yasha Levine’s recent book Sur­veil­lance Val­ley is a MUST READ! Rel­a­tive­ly short and very much to the point, this volume–subtitled “The Secret Mil­i­tary His­to­ry of the Internet”–chronicles the fact that the Inter­net is a weapon, devel­oped as part of the same group of over­lap­ping DARPA/Pentagon projects as Agent Orange. 

In posts and pro­grams to come, we will more ful­ly devel­op the basic themes set forth in the excerpt below:

  1. The Inter­net is a weapon, devel­oped for counter-insur­gency pur­pos­es.
  2. Big Tech firms net­work with the very intel­li­gence ser­vices they pub­licly decry.
  3. Big Tech firms that data mine their cus­tomers on a near­ly unimag­in­able scale do so as a direct, oper­a­tional exten­sion of the very sur­veil­lance func­tion upon which  the Inter­net is pred­i­cat­ed.
  4. The tech­nolo­gies tout­ed by the so-called “Pri­va­cy Activists” such as Edward Snow­den and Jacob Apple­baum were devel­oped by the very intel­li­gence ser­vices they are sup­posed to deflect.
  5. The tech­nolo­gies tout­ed by the so-called “Pri­va­cy Activists” such as Edward Snow­den and Jacob Applebaum–such as the Tor Inter­net func­tion and the Sig­nal mobile phone app– are read­i­ly acces­si­ble to the very intel­li­gence ser­vices they are sup­posed to deflect.
  6. The orga­ni­za­tions that pro­mote the alleged virtues of Snow­den, Apple­baum, Tor, Sig­nal et al are linked to the very intel­li­gence ser­vices they would have us believe they oppose.
  7. Big Tech firms embrace “Inter­net Free­dom” as a dis­trac­tion from their own will­ful and all-embrac­ing data min­ing and their ongo­ing con­scious col­lab­o­ra­tion with the very intel­li­gence ser­vices they pub­licly decry.

We will devel­op this more com­plete­ly and in much greater detail in the future. NB: Mr. Levine does not go into the fascis­tic char­ac­ter of Snow­den, Assange, Green­wald et al. Some of those shows: Green­wald–FTR #888, Snow­den–FTR #‘s 756, 831, Assange and Wik­iLeaks–FTR #‘s 732, 745, 755, 917.

Sur­veil­lance Val­ley by Yasha Levine; Pub­lic Affairs Books [HC]; Copy­right 2018 by Yasha Levine; ISBN 978–1‑61039–802‑2; pp. 267–269.

. . . . Con­vo­lut­ed as the sto­ry may be, US gov­ern­ment sup­port for Inter­net Free­dom and its under­writ­ing of cryp­to cul­ture makes per­fect sense. The Inter­net came out of a 1960s mil­i­tary project to devel­op an infor­ma­tion weapon. It was born out of a need to quick­ly com­mu­ni­cate, process data, and con­trol a chaot­ic world. Today, the net­work is more than a weapon; it is also a field of bat­tle, a place where vital mil­i­tary and intel­li­gence oper­a­tions take place. Geopo­lit­i­cal strug­gle has moved online, and Inter­net Free­dom is a weapon in that fight.

If you take a big-pic­ture view, Sil­i­con Valley’s sup­port for Inter­net Free­dom makes sense as well. Com­pa­nies like Google and Face­book first sup­port­ed it as a part of a geopo­lit­i­cal busi­ness strat­e­gy, a way of sub­tly pres­sur­ing coun­tries that closed their net­works and mar­kets to West­ern tech­nol­o­gy com­pa­nies. But after Edward Snowden’s rev­e­la­tions exposed the industry’s ram­pant pri­vate sur­veil­lance prac­tices to the pub­lic, Inter­net Free­dom offered anoth­er pow­er­ful ben­e­fit.

For years, pub­lic opin­ion has been stacked firm­ly against Sil­i­con Valley’s under­ly­ing busi­ness mod­el. In poll, after poll, a major­i­ty of Amer­i­cans have voiced their oppo­si­tion to cor­po­rate sur­veil­lance and have sig­naled sup­port for increased reg­u­la­tion of the indus­try. This has always been a deal break­er for Sil­i­con Val­ley. For many Inter­net com­pa­nies, includ­ing Google and Face­book, sur­veil­lance is the busi­ness mod­el. It is the base on which their cor­po­rate and eco­nom­ic pow­er rests. Dis­en­tan­gle sur­veil­lance and prof­it, and these com­pa­nies would col­lapse. Lim­it data col­lec­tion, an the com­pa­nies would see investors flee and their stock prices plum­met. [Ital­ics are mine–D.E.]

Sil­i­con Val­ley fears a polit­i­cal solu­tion to pri­va­cy. Inter­net Free­dom and cryp­to offer an accept­able alter­na­tive. Tools like Sig­nal and Tor pro­vide a false solu­tion to the pri­va­cy prob­lem, focussing people’s atten­tion on gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance and dis­tract­ing them from the pri­vate spy­ing car­ried out by the Inter­net com­pa­nies they use every day. All the while, cryp­to tools give peo­ple a [false] sense that they’re doing some­thing to pro­tect them­selves, a feel­ing of per­son­al empow­er­ment and con­trol. And all those cryp­to rad­i­cals? Well, they just enhance the illu­sion, height­en­ing the impres­sion of risk and dan­ger. With Sig­nal or Tor installed, using an iPhone or Android sud­den­ly becomes edgy and rad­i­cal. So instead of push­ing for polit­i­cal and demo­c­ra­t­ic solu­tions to sur­veil­lance, we out­source our pri­va­cy pol­i­tics to cryp­to apps–software made by the very same pow­er­ful enti­ties that these apps are sup­posed to pro­tect us from.

In that sense, Edward Snow­den is like the brand­ed face of an Inter­net con­sumerism-as-rebel­lion lifestyle cam­paign, like the old Apple ad about shat­ter­ing Big Broth­er or the Nike spot set to the Bea­t­les’ “Rev­o­lu­tion.” While Inter­net bil­lion­aires like Lar­ry Page, Sergey Brin, and Mark Zucker­berg slam gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance, talk up free­dom, and embrace Snow­den and cryp­to pri­va­cy cul­ture, their com­pa­nies still cut deals with the Pen­ta­gon, work with the NSA and CIA, [and com­pa­nies like Cam­bridge Analytica–D.E.] and con­tin­ue to track and pro­file peo­ple for prof­it. It is the same old split-screen mar­ket­ing trick: the pub­lic brand­ing and the behind-the-scenes real­i­ty.

Inter­net Free­dom is a win-win for every­one involved–everyone except reg­u­lar users, who trust their pri­va­cy to dou­ble-deal­ing mil­i­tary con­trac­tors, while pow­er­ful Sur­veil­lance Val­ley cor­po­ra­tions con­tin­ue to build out the old mil­i­tary cyber­net­ic dream of a world where every­one is watched, pre­dict­ed, and con­trolled. . . .

 

 

Discussion

2 comments for “Birds of a Feather: The So-Called Internet “Privacy Activists,” the Intelligence Services and Big Tech”

  1. This arti­cle talks about how the Koch Broth­ers heav­i­ly invest­ed in Com­put­er sys­tems and ana­lyt­ics and AI to use avail­able polit­i­cal and con­sumer infor­ma­tion on 89% of the pop­u­la­tion. They use pre­dic­tive mod­el­ing from the 1800 unique pieces of infor­ma­tion on each indi­vid­ual. The infor­ma­tion is cat­e­go­rized in a strength score (1–10) that is used to cre­ate an indi­vid­ual per­son­al­i­ty pro­file. This pro­file is then cat­e­go­rized in a spe­cif­ic group for either con­sumer mar­ket­ing or polit­i­cal mes­sage tar­get­ing depend­ing on the objec­tive. In polit­i­cal tar­get­ing they will send mes­sages through that users most pop­u­lar medi­um – inter­net pur­chas­ing, e‑mails, or Cable TV and send adds with the polit­i­cal mes­sages that will be most like­ly to influ­ence that per­son and/or their spouse. The com­put­er software/analytics com­pa­ny, i360 has had exten­sive long term fund­ing by the Koch Broth­ers who more than reap the polit­i­cal ben­e­fits of their mes­sag­ing to sup­port their can­di­dates. The Koch Broth­ers sup­port­ed politi­cians get the ben­e­fits of this research and data­bas­es for below-mar­ket pric­ing so they can tar­get vot­ers with spe­cif­ic adds accord­ing­ly. The Repub­li­cans have ben­e­fit­ted from this. As have the Koch Broth­ers and their allies ener­gy inter­ests who, although not explic­it­ly stat­ed in this arti­cle sup­port dereg­u­la­tion as they attack the EPA so that their prof­its are increased.

    https://www.salon.com/2018/11/05/koch-brothers-are-watching-you-and-new-documents-expose-how-much-they-know/

    Koch broth­ers are watch­ing you: And new doc­u­ments reveal just how much they know

    Salon
    CALVIN SLOAN
    NOVEMBER 5, 2018 12:00PM (UTC)
    New doc­u­ments uncov­ered by the Cen­ter for Media and Democ­ra­cy show that the bil­lion­aire Koch broth­ers have devel­oped detailed per­son­al­i­ty pro­files on 89 per­cent of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion, and are using those pro­files to launch an unprece­dent­ed pri­vate pro­pa­gan­da offen­sive to advance Repub­li­can can­di­dates in the 2018 midterms.
    The doc­u­ments also show that the Kochs have devel­oped per­sua­sion mod­els — like their “Hero­in Mod­el” and “Hero­in Treat­ment Mod­el” — that tar­get vot­ers with tai­lored mes­sag­ing on select issues, and part­ner with cable and satel­lite TV providers to play those tai­lored mes­sages dur­ing “reg­u­lar” tele­vi­sion broad­casts.

    Over the last decade, big data and micro­tar­get­ing have rev­o­lu­tion­ized polit­i­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tions. And the Kochs, who are col­lec­tive­ly worth $120 bil­lion, now stand at the fore­front of that rev­o­lu­tion — invest­ing bil­lions in data aggre­ga­tion, machine learn­ing, soft­ware engi­neer­ing, and Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence opti­miza­tion.

    In mod­ern elec­tions, incor­po­rat­ing AI into vot­er file main­te­nance has become a pre­req­ui­site to pro­duc­ing reli­able data. The Kochs’ polit­i­cal data firm, i360 states that it has “been prac­tic­ing AI for years. Our team of data sci­en­tists uses com­po­nents of Machine learn­ing, Deep Learn­ing and Pre­dic­tive Ana­lyt­ics, every day as they build and refine our pre­dic­tive mod­els.” [1]
    Thanks to that invest­ment (and the Supreme Court’s cam­paign finance rul­ings that opened the flood­gates for super PACs), the Koch net­work is bet­ter-posi­tioned than either the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty or the GOP to reach vot­ers with their indi­vid­u­al­ly tai­lored com­mu­ni­ca­tions.
    That is a dan­ger­ous devel­op­ment, with poten­tial­ly dra­mat­ic con­se­quences for our democ­ra­cy.

    The Kochs and i360
    The Kochs for­mal­ly entered the data space nine years ago, devel­op­ing the “Themis Trust” pro­gram for the 2010 midterms — an uncom­mon­ly impact­ful elec­tion cycle where Repub­li­can oper­a­tives exe­cut­ed their REDMAP pro­gram and algo­rith­mi­cal­ly ger­ry­man­dered con­gres­sion­al maps across the coun­try in their favor.

    In 2011, the Kochs fold­ed Themis into a data com­peti­tor it acquired, i360 LLC, which was found­ed by Michael Palmer, the for­mer chief tech­nol­o­gy offi­cer of Sen­a­tor McCain’s 2008 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. Palmer still leads

    the orga­ni­za­tion.
    Back then, as jour­nal­ists Ken­neth Vogel and Mike Allen doc­u­ment­ed, the Kochs’ long-term fund­ing com­mit­ments to i360 allowed the orga­ni­za­tion to think big­ger than their polit­i­cal com­peti­tors.

    “Right now, we’re talk­ing about and build­ing things that you won’t see in 2016, because it’s not going to be ready until 2018,” Michael Palmer said in the wake of the 2014 midterm cycle.

    Those pro­grams are now oper­a­tional. And accord­ing to a suc­cess­ful GOP cam­paign man­ag­er, i360 is the “best in the busi­ness” at pro­vid­ing Repub­li­cans with vot­er data.
    i360’s client list reflects that data supe­ri­or­i­ty. The country’s most noto­ri­ous and effec­tive polit­i­cal spenders, like the Nation­al Rifle Asso­ci­a­tion, use the plat­form to iden­ti­fy and influ­ence vot­ers, as do Repub­li­can par­ty com­mit­tees, and U.S. House and Sen­ate cam­paigns.

    i360 sweet­ens the deal to its clients by offer­ing its ser­vices at below-mar­ket rates. And once clients are locked into the i360 plat­form, they have access to the company’s vot­er file — the beat­ing heart of mod­ern polit­i­cal cam­paigns.

    Con­ser­v­a­tives agree that the Kochs are sub­si­diz­ing i360. The loss­es they sus­tain by under­charg­ing clients, how­ev­er, are a pit­tance com­pared to the down-stream pub­lic pol­i­cy returns and polit­i­cal pow­er the Kochs receive from oper­at­ing what amounts to a shad­ow polit­i­cal par­ty in the Unit­ed States — one that vig­i­lant­ly guards the fos­sil fuel sub­si­dies, dereg­u­la­to­ry schemes, and regres­sive tax struc­tures that enable Koch Indus­tries to bring in $115 bil­lion annu­al­ly in pri­vate rev­enue.
    Inside the i360 Vot­er File

    i360’s vot­er file iden­ti­fies “more than 199 mil­lion active vot­ers and 290 mil­lion U.S. con­sumers,” and pro­vides its users with up to 1,800 unique data points on each iden­ti­fied indi­vid­ual.

    As a result, i360 and the Kochs know your vitals, eth­nic­i­ty, reli­gion, occu­pa­tion, hob­bies, shop­ping habits, polit­i­cal lean­ings, finan­cial assets, mar­i­tal sta­tus, and much more.

    They know if you enjoy fish­ing — and if you do, whether you pre­fer salt or fresh water. They know if you have blad­der con­trol dif­fi­cul­ty, get migraines, or have osteo­poro­sis. They know which adver­tis­ing medi­ums (radio, TV, inter­net, email) are the most effec­tive. For you.

    i360 has the fol­low­ing attribute tags, among hun­dreds of oth­ers, ranked 1–10, or sub­di­vid­ed oth­er­wise in their vot­er file.

    But i360 attribute codes are not lim­it­ed to that 1–10 scale. Their knowl­edge of your finan­cial stand­ing is gran­u­lar, from how much equi­ty you have in your home to your net wealth and expend­able income.

    They know where you live, what your mort­gage sta­tus is, and even how many bath­rooms are in your house.
    i360 has also cre­at­ed a set of 70 “clus­ter­codes” to human­ize its data for cam­paign oper­a­tives. These cat­e­gories range from “Fad­ed Blue Col­lars” to “Mean­der­ing Mil­len­ni­als,” and have flam­boy­ant descrip­tions that cor­re­spond with their attribute head­ings.

    Here are some exam­ples: INCLUDED IN ARTICLE LINK
    Koch Per­sua­sion Mod­els
    Addi­tion­al­ly, i360 has devel­oped a series of per­sua­sion mod­els for its vot­er file. These mod­els are often region­al­ly sen­si­tive — since vot­ers have region­al con­cerns — and are being used in fed­er­al elec­tions and down-bal­lot races to assist Repub­li­cans across the coun­try.

    In 2016, i360 cre­at­ed a set of region­al mod­els while work­ing with Sen­a­tor Rob Portman’s 2016 re-elec­tion cam­paign. Port­man start­ed out the race polling 9 points behind his Demo­c­ra­t­ic oppo­nent, Gov­er­nor Ted Strick­land but ulti­mate­ly won with 58 per­cent of the vote.

    The com­pa­ny devel­oped a mod­el that could pre­dict whether a vot­er sup­port­ed Port­man or Strick­land with 89 per­cent accu­ra­cy, and oth­ers that pre­dict­ed vot­er pol­i­cy pref­er­ences. Well aware of the 2016 land­scape, i360 also made a Trump/Clinton mod­el, an Anti-Hillary mod­el, and a Tick­et Split­ter mod­el.

    Much of i360’s suc­cess in the race, how­ev­er, was linked to under­stand­ing (after con­duct­ing exten­sive polling) that a “key local issue fac­ing Ohio was the opi­oid epi­dem­ic.” In response, the com­pa­ny cre­at­ed a “hero­in mod­el” and a “hero­in treat­ment mod­el” that were par­tic­u­lar­ly effec­tive at con­vinc­ing vot­ers to sup­port Port­man.

    When describ­ing how they employed their “hero­in mod­el,” i360 was clear that Rob Portman’s “posi­tion” on the cri­sis depend­ed on the vot­er, empha­siz­ing health­care solu­tion com­mu­ni­ca­tions for some, and crim­i­nal jus­tice solu­tion com­mu­ni­ca­tions for oth­ers.
    Here is i360 on the sub­ject: FORMATTED IN ORIGINAL ARTICLE

    T]he issue of opi­oid abuse was par­tic­u­lar­ly com­plex in that it was rel­a­tive­ly unknown whether it was con­sid­ered a health­care issue or a crim­i­nal jus­tice issue. The answer to this would dic­tate the most effec­tive mes­sag­ing. In addi­tion, this was a par­tic­u­lar­ly per­son­al issue affect­ing some vot­ers and not oth­ers.

    By lever­ag­ing two pre­dic­tive mod­els — the Hero­in mod­el iden­ti­fy­ing those con­stituents most like­ly to have been affect­ed by the issue of opi­oid abuse and the Hero­in Treat­ment mod­el deter­min­ing whether those indi­vid­u­als were more like­ly to view the issue as one of health­care or of crim­i­nal jus­tice — the cam­paign was able to effec­tive­ly craft their mes­sag­ing about Sen­a­tor Portman’s exten­sive work in the Sen­ate to be tai­lored to each indi­vid­ual accord­ing to their dis­po­si­tion on the top­ic.

    This manip­u­la­tion of the opi­oid cri­sis for polit­i­cal gain has a per­verse irony giv­en the Kochs’ long-run­ning work to pro­vide cor­po­rate inter­ests, includ­ing health­care and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal inter­ests, with undue polit­i­cal pow­er and influ­ence over pub­lic pol­i­cy deci­sions. The Kochs have gift­ed over a mil­lion dol­lars to ALEC, for exam­ple, an orga­ni­za­tion that counts Pur­due Phar­ma — the uncon­scionable man­u­fac­tur­er of Oxy­Con­tin — as a mem­ber.

    The com­pa­ny also stat­ed it joined Portman’s cam­paign 21 months before the elec­tion, and that, “Togeth­er, i360 and the cam­paign strate­gized a plan to exe­cute one of the most cus­tom-tar­get­ed, inte­grat­ed cam­paigns to date with a focus on get­ting the right mes­sage to the right vot­er wher­ev­er that might be.”

    This is notable because dur­ing the 2016 elec­tion, i360 also ran $11.7 mil­lion worth of “inde­pen­dent” expen­di­tures for the Nation­al Rifle Asso­ci­a­tion Polit­i­cal Vic­to­ry Fund, Free­dom Part­ners Action Fund, and Amer­i­cans For Pros­per­i­ty in Portman’s race.

    These out­side spenders, two of which are Koch-fund­ed groups, and Rob Portman’s cam­paign all used i360 to coor­di­nate their dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, phone banks, and tele­vi­sion ad buys, in the same mar­ket, in the same elec­tion.

    Addi­tion­al­ly, i360 sup­plied Portman’s cam­paign with oth­er issue-based mod­els on gun con­trol, gay mar­riage, and abor­tion that the com­pa­ny con­tin­ues to sup­ply to its clients in 2018.

    Here are some exam­ples of i360’s issue-based mod­els: FORMATTED IN ORIGINAL ARTICLE
    The list goes on, but the struc­ture stays the same. The Kochs are tai­lor­ing their adver­tis­ing to you, because they know near­ly every­thing about you.

    [1] Less than two years ago, Koch Indus­tries also acquired and invest­ed $2 bil­lion into Infor, a cloud com­put­ing com­pa­ny focused on busi­ness appli­ca­tions. And as the own­ers of a diver­si­fied con­glom­er­ate, the Kochs have worked for decades to max­i­mize their sup­ply chains by invest­ing sub­stan­tial cap­i­tal into sys­tems engi­neer­ing and analy­sis.

    The meth­ods used by the Koch Broth­ers and oth­er right wing orga­ni­za­tions to influ­ence polit­i­cal behav­ior is doc­u­ment­ed in Jane Mayer’s book “Dark Mon­ey, The Hid­den His­to­ry of the Bil­lion­aires Behind the Rise of the Rad­i­cal Right” it is described in the NY Times Book Review
    https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/24/books/review/dark-money-by-jane-mayer.html

    Posted by Mary Benton | February 3, 2019, 11:07 am
  2. The pre-planned, “self-made” bil­lion­aire Jeff Bezos — world’s rich­est man.

    BEZOS’ GRANDFATHER: ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION, DARPA/ARPA

    https://americandigitalnews.com/index.php/2019/01/11/bezos-grandfather-atomic-energy-commission-darpa-arpa/

    Posted by John G | February 11, 2019, 11:39 pm

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