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September 12, 2019

The United States of Google?

Breaking up “Big Tech” isn’t going to address the assault on American’s privacy.

On Monday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced he would be leading a task force of AGs from 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico in an investigation of Google for possible anti-trust violations. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving company.

“When there is no longer a free market or competition, this increases prices, even when something is marketed as free, and harms consumers,” declared Republican AG Ashley Moody of Florida. “Is something really free if we are increasingly giving over our privacy information?”

Increasingly giving over our privacy information? How about having it taken — without any choice? And what about the fact this unconscionable data heist involves children?

More than a year ago, columnist Michelle Malkin sounded the alarm, noting “the tech-industry-supported Common Core ‘standards,’ tests, and aligned texts and curricula” promulgated in America’s classrooms was ripe for exploitation. She explained, “The recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act further enshrined government collection of personally identifiable information — including data collected on attitudes, values, beliefs, and dispositions — and allows release of the data to third-party contractors thanks to Obama-era loopholes carved into the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.”

Google is one of the principal perpetrators. “With little public oversight, Google has infiltrated schools through its ‘free’ Google Apps for Education suite,” Malkin adds. “As I’ve reported previously, Google is building brand loyalty through its questionable certification program that essentially turns teachers into tax-subsidized lobbyists for the company.”

How intrusive is the tech behemoth? The education category at the Google apps website is a cornucopia of programs designed to work in conjunction with an Android phone. That’s the same Android phone already supplying Google with reams of personal data about one’s location and habits.

Moreover, the notion that such data remains within the boundaries of education is a pipe dream. “Over the past four years,” Malkin notes, “Google has admitted ‘scanning and indexing’ student email messages sent using GAFE and data mining student users for commercial gain when they use their accounts for noneducational purposes.”

In other words, privacy is dead. Unfortunately, the elimination of privacy is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The Trump administration is reportedly looking into creating an alliance with the tech behemoths under the guise of preventing gun violence. “The proposal is part of a larger initiative to establish a new agency called the Health Advanced Research Projects Agency or HARPA, which would sit inside the Health and Human Services Department,” The Washington Post reports.

The effort is being advanced by the Suzanne Wright Foundation. It was founded by Bob Wright, former NBC head and personal friend of the president, following his wife’s death from pancreatic cancer. Wright has proposed that HARPA embrace a project called “Safe Home” — “Stopping Aberrant Fatal Events by Helping Overcome Mental Extremes.” It would ostensibly identify “neurobehavioral signs” of “someone headed toward a violent explosive act” stated Geoffrey Ling, HARPA’s lead scientific adviser.

And who will abet the four-year project costing an estimated $40 million to $60 million of taxpayer funding? “The document goes on to list a number of widely used technologies it suggests could be employed to help collect data, including Apple Watches, Fitbits, Amazon Echo and Google Home,” the Post adds.

What about privacy? “Those familiar with the project stressed it would not collect sensitive health data about individuals without their permission,” the Post states.

Once again, Malkin reminds us such assertions are bald-faced lies, noting the Federal Trade Commission just approved a settlement with Google/YouTube, which was caught data mining users — under the age of 13. It follows a similar settlement made earlier this summer regarding Google’s Street View program, where cars roaming around more than 30 countries secretly collected emails, passwords, and other personal data from Wi-Fi networks.

The YouTube settlement cost Google between $150 million to $200 million, and the Street View effort, which the company insisted was a “mistake” — until investigators revealed that “Google engineers built software and embedded it into Street View vehicles to intentionally intercept the data from 2007 to 2010” — cost them $13 million. For a company that earned more than $100 billion in 2018, both settlements amount to nothing more than a minor business cost.

Toward what end? “Under the cloak of ‘science,’ Big Tech and Big Government are on the cusp of instituting a mental-health social-credit-score system incorporating dubious predictive analytics,” Malkin warns.

The government of Communist China, which has already set up such a system — one that prevents “bad” people from getting well-paid jobs, home mortgages, and car loans, and bans one’s children from attending private schools, even as one’s profile is put on a public blacklist — would undoubtedly approve.

As for the Trump administration, it apparently aims to embrace an approach to law enforcement detailed by the 2002 sci-fi movie “Minority Report.” It is about a dystopian future where a specialized police department apprehends criminals before they commit their crimes.

Unfortunately, the future is already here. Malkin reveals, “The Pioneer Institute reported that federal, state, and local governments spent more than $30 billion in 2018 to implement social-emotional-learning monitoring in K–12 public schools.”

Searching for “neurobehavioral signs” that might reveal “someone headed toward a violent explosive act” no doubt.

Where is the national outcry? In a better nation, Google and other tech entities that data-mine children — data-mining that will attach itself to that child’s entire life — would be ushered out of America’s classrooms with extreme prejudice. In this one, it is likely nothing at all will happen, because most American adults are completely enmeshed in their own obsession with tech.

Educators? Malkin rightly refers to them as “tech-crazed, fad-addled school districts oblivious to privacy concerns.” Politicians? Google alone spent nearly $22 million in 2018 on federal lobbying. Moreover, as Tufts University political science professor Eitan Hersh explains, politicians take their cues from the public: “The firms have sway in Washington because huge numbers of consumers rely on these companies and like their products and because most politicians do not care about antitrust probably because the voters don’t care about antitrust.”

In truth, anti-trust is a diversion. Breaking up “Big Tech” isn’t going to address the assault on privacy. In the unlikely event it actually succeeds, it will merely “democratize” that assault. Far too many powerful players have a vested interest keeping the American public’s personal information as accessible as possible for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the possibility of manipulating elections.

According to Dr. Robert Epstein, who supported Hillary Clinton in 2016, manipulation by Google, and other Big Tech companies could sway as many as 15 million votes in 2020. And, as he stated to a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee in July, that could happen “without people’s knowledge and without leaving a paper trail for authorities to trace.”

So who’s really running the country? Don’t expect a Google search to provide an answer. As for privacy, Big Brother — times a million — is watching you.

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