Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

Community News Network

April 25, 2013

Is Google more powerful than some nations?

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Once upon a time, Google concerned itself with seemingly benign, profit-driven things: the optimal position of online ads for erectile dysfunction drugs, mapping the location of every sports bar in America, churning out free services to further cement a quasi-monopoly in global search.

But these are no longer the comfortable, well-established guardrails around Google.

More than two years ago, as governments on two continents were preparing to launch anti-trust investigations against it, Google began moving aggressively onto the turf of states. Today, Google is arguably one of the most influential nonstate actors in international affairs, operating in security domains long the purview of nation-states: It tracks the global arms trade, spends millions creating crisis-alert tools to inform the public about looming natural disasters, monitors the spread of the flu, and acts as a global censor to protect American interests abroad. Google has even intervened into land disputes, one of the most fraught and universal security issues facing states today, siding with an indigenous group in the Brazilian Amazon to help the tribe document and post evidence about intrusions on its land through Google Earth.

In a new form of digital statecraft, Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt has traveled to North Korea against State Department wishes. "Keep the government out of regulating the Internet," he recently told an audience on a visit to Myanmar. (Disclosure: Schmidt is the chairman of the New America Foundation board. New America is a partner in Future Tense with Slate and Arizona State University.)

As Google evolves its role on the world stage, the fundamental question might be less about whether states might regulate Google, but whether states can compete against such a powerful, global technology platform. After all, Google appears to have emerged relatively unscathed from the threat of state intervention. In January, it was victorious after a two-year anti-trust investigation by U.S. regulators. Earlier this month, Google settled with European regulators following a two-year inquiry. And for the systematic collection of personal data, such as personal photographs and emails from Wi-Fi networks through its Street View mapping service, Google must pay what amounts to a pittance of a fine to a German privacy regulator.

Google's most explicit and organized foray into state domains has been under the banner of Google Ideas, its "think/do tank." Jared Cohen, who gained fame as a rising star of "digital diplomacy" at the State Department, joined Google in October 2010 to launch Google Ideas. It began with a trio of initiatives under the broad umbrellas of counter-radicalization, illicit networks, and fragile states. Through the unit, Google has collaborated with state authorities to dismantle what it calls illicit networks, such as drug cartels and human trafficking, and worked with the U.S. government's broadcasting arm, Voice of America, to run the "first phone-based constitutional survey" in Somalia.

It has even staked a claim in the fight against violent extremism, in which there has "traditionally been an over-reliance on governments," as Cohen wrote in a post on Google's corporate blog nearly a year ago. "What do a former violent jihadist from Indonesia, an ex-neo-Nazi from Sweden and a Canadian who was held hostage for 15 months in Somalia have in common?" Cohen asked. With this, Google Ideas launched the quasi-social network aimed at a demographic not typically coveted by advertisers: former gang members, religious extremists, right-wing nationalists, far-right fascists, or the victims thereof. The Against Violent Extremism network would spur a global conversation, "de-radicalize" youth and serve as a "one-stop shop" to reframe the issue of counter-radicalization. Wired called it the "Facebook for terrorists." Among America's foreign policy elite, it was praised as an example of something Google can do "much more easily than any government could." A year later, 231 former terrorists and violent extremists have joined AVE. But they're outnumbered: The network hosts almost three times as many private-sector members and Western elites, such as NGO workers and academics.

As Google carved out a role in terrorism prevention, state-based counter-radicalization programs have come under scrutiny. "Western governments . . . are unlikely to succeed in tackling the risk of future terrorism by attempting to shape religious ideology," Samuel Rascoff, a law scholar at New York University, wrote in a January 2012 paper questioning the effectiveness of state-based counter-radicalization efforts that promote "mainstream" theological alternatives to radical Islam. In addition to criticizing state-led efforts, Rascoff questioned initiatives by the private sector. Despite having a "less pronounced government footprint," he writes, nongovernmental actors in this space may rouse suspicion, with skeptical targets worrying "that the secretive national security apparatus plays some unknown role in the process." Indeed, Google's alignment with the national security apparatus is far from clear. Despite frequently touting transparency as a core value, the details of Google's relationship with the National Security Agency on encryption and cybersecurity remains a secret.

In a series of sketches about "our future world" in "The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business," a new book by Schmidt and Cohen, there is the slightest of hints of what Google's alignment with state security apparatuses might actually look like, especially in regards to counterterrorism efforts: "We'll use computers to run predictive correlations from huge volumes of data to track and catch terrorists, but how they are interrogated and handled thereafter will remain the purview of humans and their laws," they write. Is there a global, nonstate actor with more access to "huge volumes of data" than Google? Indeed, Google, which often bristles at regulation, may have little choice but to enter and cooperate more fully with states in the fraught arena of counterterrorism. "The public will demand that [technology companies] do more in the fight against terrorism," Cohen and Schmidt write. And this was before Boston, before every video watched and posted by Tamerlan Tsarnaev on YouTube had been scrutinized for signs of radicalization.

In "The New Digital Age," Schmidt and Cohen describe the Internet as the largest experiment involving anarchy in history. They go further, too, arguing it might "ultimately be seen as the realization of the classic international-relations theory of an anarchic, leaderless world." By describing the Internet in such dystopian fashion - a space ravaged by code wars and cyberwarfare, a place where terrorists get radicalized and illicit networks find global reach - Cohen and Schmidt justify Google's increasingly close ties with state security interests. Yet the authors conceive of the battle for power in our time as one mostly between citizens and states, a conception of the world that deflects less obvious questions: How state-like will states allow Google to become? As a global, borderless entity, what mechanisms exist for Google's billions of global users to hold Google accountable? Yes, Google allows users to download personal data and activity logs, but that's not exactly the same thing as having a say in how Google uses that same data.

Google's view on state regulation is certainly no secret. The defining theme of Schmidt and Cohen's book is "the importance of a guiding human hand," a clever rewrite of Adam Smith's centuries-old metaphor for free markets that even today animates our endless debates about the proper role of the state in regulating the economy. Schmidt and Cohen never explicitly refer to Google as the all-important "guiding human hand" the world needs today. Yet for a company that's never been humble, a company unafraid to enter the Sisyphean quest for global security, it is hard not to imagine that's what they meant.

               

 Frazier is a technology and business journalist based in Columbus, Ohio, and a graduate student studying political and legal geography at Ohio State University. Follow her on Twitter @myafrazier.



    



 

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • To sleep well, you may need to adjust what you eat and when

    Sleep.  Oh, to sleep.  A good night's sleep is often a struggle for more than half of American adults.  And for occasional insomnia, there are good reasons to avoid using medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription.

    April 16, 2014

  • Doctors to rate cost effectiveness of expensive cancer drugs

    The world's largest organization of cancer doctors plans to rate the cost effectiveness of expensive oncology drugs, and will urge physicians to use the ratings to discuss the costs with their patients.

    April 16, 2014

  • Low blood-sugar levels make for grousing spouses

    Husbands and wives reported being most unhappy with their spouses when their blood-sugar levels were lowest, usually at night, according to research released this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Missing a meal, dieting or just being hungry may be the reason, researchers said.

    April 16, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 12.51.22 PM.png VIDEO: Toddler climbs into vending machine

    A child is safe after climbing into and getting stuck inside a claw crane machine at a Lincoln, Neb., bowling alley Monday.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • portraitoflotte.jpg VIDEO: From infant to teen in four minutes

    Dutch filmmaker Frans Hofmeester’s time lapse video of his daughter, Lotte — created by filming her every week from her birth until she turned 14 — has become a viral sensation.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Victimized by the 'marriage penalty'

    In a few short months, I'll pass the milestone that every little girl dreams of: the day she swears - before family and God, in sickness and in health, all in the name of love - that she's willing to pay a much higher tax rate.

    April 15, 2014

  • Allergies are the real midlife crisis

    One of the biggest mysteries is why the disease comes and goes, and then comes and goes again. People tend to experience intense allergies between the ages of 5 and 16, then get a couple of decades off before the symptoms return in the 30s, only to diminish around retirement age.

    April 15, 2014

  • treadmill-very-fast.jpg Tax deduction for a gym membership?

    April marks another tax season when millions of Americans will deduct expenses related to home ownership, children and education from their annual tax bill. These deductions exist because of their perceived value to society; they encourage behaviors that keep the wheels of the economy turning. So why shouldn't the tax code be revised to reward preventive health?

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • bomb1 VIDEO: A year after marathon bombing, Boston remains strong

    The City of Boston came together Tuesday to honor those who were injured and lost their lives at the Boston Marathon on the one-year anniversary of the bombing. While the day was sure to be emotional, those affected by last year's race are showing they won't let the tragedy keep them down.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Google acquires drone maker Titan Aerospace to spread Internet

    Google is adding drones to its fleets of robots and driverless cars.
    The Internet search company said it acquired Titan Aerospace, the maker of high-altitude, solar-powered satellites that provides customer access to data services around the world. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

    April 14, 2014

Featured Ads
Poll

Should vaping in public, such as in stores and restaurants, be treated the same as smoking, whether regulated privately by the business or by local governments?

Yes, vaping in public should be restricted like tobacco smoking.
No, vaping shaping should be allowed anywhere.
Not sure/undecided.
Don't care.
     View Results
Mineral Wells Index


Click on a photo to visit our SmugMug page

Front page
Weather Underground Radar
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Raw: Royal Couple Visits Australia Mountains Raw: Pro-Russian Militants Killed on Base Captain of Sunken South Korean Ferry Apologizes Boston Bombing Survivors One Year Later Sister of Slain MIT Officer Reflects on Bombing Raw: Blast at Tennessee Ammunition Plant Kills 1 Hoax Bomb Raises Anxiety in Boston Egypt Clamps Down on Mosques to Control Message After Fukushima, Japan Eyes Solar Power New York Auto Show Highlights Latest in Car Tech Ex-California City Leader Gets 12 Year Sentence Disbanding Muslim Surveillance Draws Praise Hundreds Missing After South Korean Ferry Sinks Passengers Abuzz After Plane Hits Swarm of Bees Town, Victims Remember Texas Blast At Boston Marathon, a Chance to Finally Finish Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?
Must Read
Seasonal Content
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Stocks
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide