The Google Transparency Project, the work of Campaign for Accountability, poured over reams of data to find 258 instances of ‘revolving door activity’ between Google or its associated companies and the federal government, national political campaigns and Congress since 2009.
The Google Transparency Project, the work of Campaign for Accountability, poured over reams of data to find 258 instances of “revolving door activity” between Google or its associated companies and the federal government, national political campaigns and Congress since 2009.
Much of that revolving door activity took place at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, where 22 former White House officials went to work for Google and 31 executives from Google and related firms went to work at the White House or were appointed to federal advisory boards by Obama. Those boards include the President’s Council on Science and Technology and the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.
Regulation watchdogs may be just as keen about the moves between Google and the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission. Those government bodies regulate many of the programs that are at the heart of Google’s business, and there have been at least 15 moves between Google and its lobbying firms and those commissions.
The research also shows that 25 officials in national security, intelligence or the Department of Defense joined Google, and three Google executives went to work for the DOD.
Eighteen former State Department officials became Google employees, and five Google staffers became employed at the State Department.
Friends in high places
Former Google employees occupy several key slots in the federal government. These include:
- Megan Smith, vice president new business development at Google 2003-12, vice president of Google 2012-14, chief technology officer at the Office of Science and Technology Policy 2014-present.
- Alexander Macgillivray, deputy general counsel at Google 2003-09, general counsel at Twitter 2009-13, deputy chief technology officer at OSTP 2014-present.
- Nicole Wong, vice president and deputy general counsel at Google from 2004-11 and deputy chief technology officer at OSTP 2013-14.
- Jannine Versi, product marketing manager in Middle East and North Africa for Google 2010-2012, White House National Economic Council 2013-14, chief of staff International Trade Administration at U.S. Department of Commerce 2014-present.
- Michelle Lee, deputy general counsel at Google 2003-12, under secretary of commerce for intellectual property and director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office 2012-present.
- Mikey Dickerson, site reliability manager at Google 2006-13, administrator U.S. Digital Service 2014-present. Dickerson also assisted with election day monitoring and modeling with Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and helped repair the broken HealthCare.gov website.
At least 18 former Google employees work or have worked for the U.S. Digital Serviceand its General Services Administration sidekick, 18F. USDS operates under the Executive Office of the President, consulting on big federal information technology projects.
The door revolves
Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, a nonpartisan group that exposes abuses of power in government, said it’s hard to know for sure how more than 250 people moving between Google and the federal government since 2009 compares to other corporations, but “it sounds like it’s a very significant number.”
“It’s very hard to get information about the quantity of people who go in and out of government service,” Amey told Watchdog.org.
Google didn’t return an email seeking comment for this story.
Analysts at Google Transparency Project compiled the revolving-door data by using public information that includes lobby disclosure records, news stories, LinkedIn profiles and reports from Open Secrets. Campaign for Accountability notes the analysis is “an evolving representation of the scale of the revolving-door relationship between Google and government” rather than a comprehensive tally.
In other words, the total could be higher.
SCHMIDT: The Google chief executive
SCHMIDT: The Google executive chairman’s company Civis Analytics was a key ally of Obama during his re-election campaign.
The project’s analysis included affiliates of Google, such as YouTube, as well as key law firms and lobbyists.
It also includes Civis Analytics, whose sole investor is Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google parent company Alphabet Inc.
At least 27 people who worked on Obama’s 2012 presidential re-election campaign went to work for Civis Analytics after the election. Google Transparency Project said “those employees are then deployed by the White House to work on President Obama’s top policy priorities.”
Those policies include federal technology acquisition reform, national security matters and health care reform – Civis Analytics employees worked with Google engineers to fix the broken HealthCare.gov website in 2013, Campaign for Accountability reports. Read the rest of this entry »
DID THEY OR DIDN’T THEY? Google Caught Whitewashing Autocomplete, Manipulating Search Results to Favor Hillary ClintonPosted: June 10, 2016
Common search terms associated with Clinton appear to have been scrubbed from Google as the tech giant has been accused of manipulating its autocomplete results to favor the Democratic presidential candidate.
“While researching for a wrap-up on the June 7 Presidential Primaries, we discovered evidence that Google may be manipulating autocomplete recommendations in favor of Hillary Clinton,” SourceFed wrote. “If true, this would mean that Google Searches aren’t objectively reflecting what the majority of Internet searches are actually looking for, possibly violating Google’s algorithm.”
For example, when searching Hillary Clinton “cri,” Google finishes the phrase as “crime reform.” On Yahoo, the result is “criminal charges.” On Google’s own trend website, there were not enough searches for Hillary Clinton and “crime reform” to build a graph of the results.
Typing Hillary Clinton and “ind” gives Google users results on Hillary Clinton and Indiana. On Microsoft’s Bing search engine, a user gets Hillary Clinton and “indictment,” yielding results for the FBI investigation into Clinton’s private email server.
Just putting the name “Hillary Clinton” into Google, you are directed towards searches for her “twitter,” “email,” “age,” and “speech.”
Notably missing is the second top result on Bing, which is of her potential “indictment.”
Here are 10 more examples of questionable Google autocompletes for Clinton:
1. “Hillary Clinton anti…”
Bing gets you antichrist, antisemitic, and anti gay marriage.
Google gets you “anti obama ad.”
2. “Hillary Clinton vin…”
Bing gets you vindictive and a variety of searches focusing on the death of Vince Foster.
Atlas the humanoid robot can trudge through snow and overcome physical challenges from its developers at Boston Dynamics, a unit of Alphabet Inc.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) David Shepardson reports: Alphabet Inc said Wednesday its self-driving car project will expand testing to Kirkland, Washington later this month, the third city where it is testing autonomous vehicles.
“We’re looking forward to seeing the cars on the road and understanding more about how self-driving cars might someday improve safety and provide traffic relief.”
— Washington Governor Jay Inslee
Google said in a statement that one reason for the new site in the northwest United States is to gain experience in “different driving environments, traffic patterns, and road conditions.”
Kirkland has significant seasonal rain that allows for wet weather testing, along with hills that will allow testing of sensors at different angles and elevations.
Renaissance Florence, Enlightenment Edinburgh, Mozart‘s Vienna: why have certain places at certain times created such monumental leaps in thought and innovation? This is the question at the heart of travel writer Eric Weiner‘s latest book, The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World’s Most Creative Places, From Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley.
“This is a book about process, about how creative genius happens and what are the circumstances,” Weiner explains. “I believe in the power of place and the power of culture to shape our lives in unexpected ways.”
Traveling the globe, Weiner looked at the locations and cultures that fostered history’s greatest minds. Through his research he pieced together a list of ingredients he believes played a vital role in creating these “genius clusters,” including money, diversity, competition, and disorder.
“A little bit of chaos is good,” says Weiner. “The pot has to be stirred. If you are fully invested in the status quo—either as a person or a place—you are unlikely to create genius because you are too comfortable.”
So can a government build a city that will generate the geniuses of tomorrow? Weiner thinks not. “I wish I could sit here and tell you that there was a formula and if you applied that formula you could create the next Silicon Valley,” he says. “There is no formula.”
About 8:30 minutes.
Camera by Austin Bragg and Joshua Swain. Hosted and edited by Meredith Bragg.
New regulations could make it harder than ever for Google to re-enter the world’s largest market.
David Z. Morris reports: In rules released this week, China’s State Council announced that all digital maps provided in China be stored on servers within its borders. The rules, which also lay out certification standards for digital mapping providers, will go into effect Jan. 1.
“Keeping map servers within China would, in theory, give its government even more control over what its citizens see. But the move is arguably redundant—China has long held mapping services to strict content standards, and blocks those that don’t comply.”
According to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency, the purpose of the new regulations is to “boost development of the geographic information industry” and safeguard “national sovereignty and geographic information security.”
“Google has since made moderate concessions in its representation of Chinese borders on maps accessed from outside of the country, changing the names of disputed regions and depiction of Chinese borders with India and the Philippines”
The rules seem much heavier on tightening control than on boosting development. In addition to the server location requirements, map providers are prohibited both from displaying or even storing any data deemed to be prohibited by the government. Government officials will be able to regularly inspect data for “errors and leaks of information that threaten national sovereignty,” according to Xinhua. Read the rest of this entry »
Companies such as Amazon and Apple use Shanghai’s free-trade zone to run some of their value-added services in China, due to the area’s looser rules on foreign capital.
Yang Jie reports: The jury is still out on the business benefits of Shanghai’s free-trade zone— but one notable U.S. tech giant is among the firms that has dipped a toe into the pilot area’s waters.
“The free-trade zone’s rules make it easier for foreign companies to run e-commerce operations, for example. But they have little benefit when it comes to activities such as Internet search and e-mail, which are dependent on the location of the server and the storage of data”
Google, of Mountain View, Calif., set up a company in Shanghai’s pioneer free-trade zone last year, according to online filings reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
Companies such as Amazon and Apple use Shanghai’s free-trade zone to run some of their value-added services in China, due to the area’s looser rules on foreign capital and greater freedom in terms of industries that foreign businesses can participate in.
The free-trade zone’s rules make it easier for foreign companies to run e-commerce operations, for example. But they have little benefit when it comes to activities such as Internet search and e-mail, which are dependent on the location of the server and the storage of data, according to people familiar with the matter.
The right to privacy is usurping the public right to know in Asia’s financial hub.
Financial hubs depend on the free flow of information, and nowhere more so than in Hong Kong, gateway to the opaque China market. So a recent case in which an appeals board upheld the censorship of a court judgment to protect the supposed privacy rights of the litigants sets a bad precedent. The territory is following Europe’s lead toward extreme privacy protection at the expense of access to information.
“The right to be forgotten affects more than media freedom. It prevents investors and entrepreneurs from conducting due diligence and managing business risks, and helps people hide from public scrutiny. That may be good for the reputations of the rich and powerful, but it will hurt Hong Kong’s reputation for transparency.”
Luciana Wong Wai-lan, who now serves on several government advisory panels, participated in a matrimonial case in the early 2000s. In 2010 Ms. Wong requested that the court remove the judgments from its online reference system. The court made them anonymous, but hyperlinks to the judgments placed on the website of local shareholder activist David Webb still revealed her name.
Ms. Wong wrote to Hong Kong’s privacy commissioner for personal data in 2013, and the commissioner ordered Mr. Webb to remove the links pursuant to Data Protection Principle 3 (DPP3) of the Personal Data Privacy Ordinance. Read the rest of this entry »
The woman killed herself after shooting with an AK-47-type automatic gun. Another man was killed in the raid, a police official said. Three police officers were injured.
“A woman blew herself up at the start of a dawn raid Wednesday on an apartment in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis targeting suspects linked to Friday’s massacre in Paris,”
As the raid was unfolding, the Paris prosecutor said three men holed up in the apartment were detained, as well as a man and a woman nearby. Investigators didn’t immediately identify the detainees.
French authorities suspect Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian-born Islamic State operative and presumed mastermind of the deadly Paris terror attacks may be in Saint-Denis, where elite police were conducting the raid in the early hours of Wednesday morning, a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor said.
If confirmed, Mr. Abaaoud’s presence in Saint-Denis—near the a sports arena where three suicide bombers detonated their explosive vest on Friday—would deepen concerns about Europe’s security. It would raise questions over how an Islamic State operative, who featured prominently on Western military’s target lists, slipped back through borders to sow terror in the heart of the continent.
Pizza Rat’s on a roll! Pranksters paid homage to the iconic Big Apple rodent — by building a robot version of it.
Source: New York Post
Ben Lovejoy reports: While we can’t say for sure that an Apple Car will ever go on sale, it’s a certainty by this point that the company is devoting substantial development resources to the project. Tim Cook said recently that there would be “massive change” in the car industry, and that “autonomous driving becomes much more important.”
But as a recent opinion piece on sister site Electrek argued, and Elon Musk warned, actually manufacturing a car is massively more complex than making consumer electronics devices. Apple will therefore be looking for partners to pull together different elements of the car. Re/code has put together an interesting look at the most likely candidates …
None of the companies would comment on any conversations they have with the Cupertino giant about their own cars. None of them flat-out denied those conversations, either. Google, Tesla and Apple all declined to comment.
The list below is not exhaustive. Yet after conversations with nearly a dozen manufacturers, industry experts and tech companies involved in the world of self-driving cars, Re/code assembled a portrait of the leading, innovative companies and critical dynamics in the autonomous industry.
The exterior of the car could, it suggests, be made by five companies: Roush, Delphi, Edison2, Atieva and Renovo Motors. The first of those, Roush, is a Michigan-based “boutique automotive supplier” which already has one key claim to credibility in the field: it assembled the exterior for Google’s prototype self-driving cars.
Renovo recently teamed-up with engineers from Stanford University to create a self-driving electric DeLorean capable of donuts and drifting. While it was of course a PR stunt, you need some impressive tech to pull it off. Read the rest of this entry »
Tick Tock, Tick Tock…
Daniel Payne writes: In just over a week, the Ahmed Mohamed clock controversy has become a global phenomenon: the young man brought a homemade clock to school and was subsequently arrested because school officials thought it looked like a bomb, leading to a worldwide outcry and hundreds of thousands of tweets, articles, and words of praise for the boy from Irving, Texas.
Ahmed has received commendation from the likes of Google, Facebook, Twitter, and even the president of the United States. Just recently, his family announced they will meet dignitaries at the United Nations; later, after a jaunt to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, they hope to meet with President Obama.
Mohamed has become an international superstar. But there are nonetheless several puzzling and troubling questions regarding his rise to fame. A great many people who have been mildly skeptical of this story have been denounced as “Ahmed truthers” and as people who are out to conduct a “smear campaign” against an innocent boy. But it’s actually reasonable and even necessary to be a bit skeptical of extraordinary stories such as this. You don’t have to have a vendetta against Ahmed to want the full story on the table, and asking honest questions about such a remarkable news event doesn’t mean you’re out to “smear” this young man.
With that in mind, here are six questions the media should be asking the Mohamed family to clarify some points that badly need it.
1. Why did Ahmed claim to build the clock if he didn’t actually build it?
From the beginning we’ve been told that Ahmed—a supposedly creative, clever, inventive young man—threw the clock together from parts in his bedroom in order to “impress” his teachers at school. Ahmed told Chris Hayes he put it together himself. He told the Dallas Morning News that he “made a clock,” elsewhere claimed “I’m the person who built a clock and got in trouble with it,” and claimed that the clock was “[his] invention.”
As it turns out, it’s almost certain he did no such thing. All the evidence points toward the conclusion that Ahmed didn’t build his clock at all, and instead just took apart an old digital clock and put the guts inside a pencil case. If this is true—and it almost certainly is—why did he claim he “built” such a device?
Photographs and videos of his workshop have shown a bench scattered with circuit boards, wires, and other electronic devices. If Ahmed is used to working in such conditions and with the guts and pieces of such technology, he should know the difference between “building” a clock and not building one. So what led him to claim he built something that, for all appearances, he didn’t?
WASHINGTON – Brent Kendall reports: A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled Apple Inc. was entitled to an injunction barring rival Samsung Electronics Co. from incorporating features into its devices that infringe the iPhone maker’s patents.
A trial judge who previously denied Apple’s request “abused its discretion when it did not enjoin Samsung’s infringement,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said.
The decision is a notable win for Apple, which has argued that Samsung should have to do more than pay monetary damages for infringing upon Apple’s patented technology. Read the rest of this entry »
“I think bitcoin is more robust because we cannot depend on Satoshi [Nakamoto, creator of bitcoin] to say, ‘Hey, Satoshi, what do we do with the block size?'” says Wences Casares, founder of the bitcoin wallet Xapo. “I think that would be a weaker bitcoin.”
Casares is an entrepreneur who brought the first internet service provider to his home country of Argentina and then launched the mega successful online brokerage firm Patagon. So people listen when he says that bitcoin “may change the world more than the Internet did.”
Reason TV‘s Zach Weissmueller sat down with Casares in Xapo’s San Francisco headquarters and discussed the state of bitcoin, why he believes that bitcoin’s core technology needs modification to increase block size, and why such a modification doesn’t threaten the future of the crypotcurrency as some critics fear. Read the rest of this entry »
Adam Rogers writes: Imagine an election—A close one. You’re undecided. So you type the name of one of the candidates into your search engine of choice. (Actually, let’s not be coy here. In most of the world, one search engine dominates; in Europe and North America, it’s Google.) And Google coughs up, in fractions of a second, articles and facts about that candidate. Great! Now you are an informed voter, right? But a study published this week says that the order of those results, the ranking of positive or negative stories on the screen, can have an enormous influence on the way you vote. And if the election is close enough, the effect could be profound enough to change the outcome.
In other words: Google’s ranking algorithm for search results could accidentally steal the presidency. “We estimate, based on win margins in national elections around the world,” says Robert Epstein, a psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology and one of the study’s authors, “that Google could determine the outcome of upwards of 25 percent of all national elections.”
Epstein’s paper combines a few years’ worth of experiments in which Epstein and his colleague Ronald Robertson gave people access to information about the race for prime minister in Australia in 2010, two years prior, and then let the mock-voters learn about the candidates via a simulated search engine that displayed real articles.
One group saw positive articles about one candidate first; the other saw positive articles about the other candidate. (A control group saw a random assortment.) The result: Whichever side people saw the positive results for, they were more likely to vote for—by more than 48 percent. The team calls that number the “vote manipulation power,” or VMP. The effect held—strengthened, even—when the researchers swapped in a single negative story into the number-four and number-three spots. Apparently it made the results seem even more neutral and therefore more trustworthy.
But of course that was all artificial—in the lab. So the researchers packed up and went to India in advance of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, a national campaign with 800 million eligible voters. (Eventually 430 million people voted over the weeks of the actual election.) “I thought this time we’d be lucky if we got 2 or 3 percent, and my gut said we’re gonna get nothing,” Epstein says, “because this is an intense, intense election environment.” Voters get exposed, heavily, to lots of other information besides a mock search engine result. Read the rest of this entry »
‘ It might sound like something you’d see in a science fiction movie, but my prediction is that in the next three to five years, implantable devices will become about as normal as wearing the latest watch.’
Bijan Khosravi writes: That is right, the implantable. In the past decade of tech innovation, connectivity has been the name of the game. Call your friend in the middle of the night in Antarctica. Facetime with your sister on vacation in India. Talk about the movie you saw with friends in London. Anything is possible with the push of a button and now with the Apple Watch, you can do it all with the twist of a dial. But this is just the beginning of what Silicon Valley has in store for us in the name of connectivity. We’re about to enter the next level of high tech innovation – connecting with yourself.
And the most efficient and accurate way to do that is with the next wave of sensor based smart devices – those you can implant into your body. It might sound like something you’d see in a science fiction movie, but my prediction is that in the next three to five years, implantable devices will become about as normal as wearing the latest watch.
The movement into an era of implantables is already in full swing with wearables and attachables like FitBit. These are just the first generation of gadgets that go beyond monitoring and measuring your body movements. Startups like Thync are pushing the envelope with their neurosignaling patch that uses low voltage electrical currents to alter a person’s mood and energy. Read the rest of this entry »
Trolls operate on the principle that negative attention is better than none. In fact, the troll may feed off the negative attention, claiming it makes him a victim and proves that everyone is out to get him.
Nate Silver writes:
…There’s a notion that Donald Trump’s recent rise in Republican polls is a media-driven creation. That explanation isn’t entirely wrong, but it’s incomplete. It skims over the complex interactions between the media, the public and the candidates, which can produce booms and busts of attention. And it ignores how skilled trolls like Trump can exploit the process to their benefit.
Let’s look at some data. In the chart below, I’ve tracked how media coverage has been divided among the Republican candidates over roughly the past month (the data covers June 14 through July 12), according to article counts on Google News. In turn, I’ve shown the share of Google searches for each candidate over the same period. The data was provided to FiveThirtyEight by Google but should closely match what you’ll get by searching on Google Trends or Google News yourself.
“Trump has taken trolling to the next level by being willing to offend members of his own party. Ordinarily, this would be a counterproductive strategy. In a 16-candidate field, however, you can be in first place with 15 or 20 percent of the vote — even if the other 80 or 85 percent of voters hate your guts.”
Even before his imbecilic comments about Sen. John McCain this weekend, which came too recently to be included in this data, Trump was receiving far more media attention than any other Republican. Based on Google News, 46 percent of the media coverage of the GOP campaign over the past month was directed toward Trump, more than for Jeb Bush (13 percent), Chris Christie (9 percent), Scott Walker (8 percent), Bobby Jindal (6 percent), Ted Cruz (4 percent) and Marco Rubio (4 percent) combined.
“Trolls are skilled at taking advantage of this landscape and making the news cycle feed on its own tail, accelerating the feedback loop and producing particularly large bounces and busts in the polls.”
And yet, the public is perhaps even more obsessed with Trump. Among the GOP candidates, he represented 62 percent of the Google search traffic over the past month, having been searched for more than six times as often as second-place Bush.
So if the press were going purely by public demand, there might be even more Trump coverage. Instead, the amount of press coverage that each candidate has received has been modulated by the media’s perception of how likely each is to win the nomination….(read more)
“The public is perhaps even more obsessed with Trump. Among the GOP candidates, he represented 62 percent of the Google search traffic over the past month, having been searched for more than six times as often as second-place Bush.”
But a regression analysis — you can read the gory details in the footnotes3— suggests that press attention both leads and lags public attention to the candidates. This makes a lot of sense. The public can take cues from the media about which candidates to pay attention to. But the media also gets a lot of feedback from the public. Or to put it more cynically: If Trump-related stories are piling up lots of pageviews and Trump-related TV segments get good ratings, then guess what? You’re probably going to see more of them.4
This creates the possibility of a feedback loop….(read more)
…So if these spikes are media-driven, they seem to be driven by some particularly modern features of the media landscape. Social media allows candidates to make news without the filter of the press. It may also encourage groupthink among and between reporters and readers, however. And access to real-time traffic statistics can mean that everyone is writing the same “takes” and chasing the same eyeballs at once. Is the tyranny of the Twitter mob better or worse than the “Boys on the Bus” model of a group of (mostly white, male, upper-middle-class, left-of-center) reporters deigning to determine what’s news and what isn’t? I don’t know, but it’s certainly different. And it seems to be producing a higher velocity of movement in the polls and in the tenor of media coverage. Read the rest of this entry »