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Julian Assange: We Need to Break up Google Before Hillary Clinton Has the Chance to Become a President

Julian Assange for Nedeljnik, June 18th 2015.
By Veljko Lalic and Marko Prelevic
Datum: 18/06/2017

Julian Assange: We Need to Break up Google Before Hillary Clinton Has the Chance to Become a President

Foto Profimedia

We've waited for the interview with Julian Assange for a couple of years now. Recently, we would just send a request formally, not expecting anything. Okay, we used to tell ourselves, his story is so hude that it's completely normal for him to appear exclusively in the media like The New York Times or The Guardian, and certainly not in Nedeljnik, a rather small newsmagazine in a rather small country, Serbia. But we did have one trump card - Uro{ Balov, Assange's friend and his Serbian publisher. We became so close with Uro{ that we started greeting each other with "Assange!".

We also knew one thing: the best things happen when you least expect them. Balov recently published the Serbian edition of Assange's latelst book, "When Google Met WikiLeaks", we've sent him a message, and then waited for a response we thought would never come.

"Julian is willing to give you a small interview."

"We'll email you the questions in two hours", we responded.

Instead of three - which was a deal - we've sent six questions. Subquestions, too. Worth a try, eh?

He didn't mind. "He'll have your answers in two days time."

We started working on our magazine cover, still anxious. Assange, they tell us, sleeps a lot. His assistent then calls us and says that the interview is done (she timidly adds that "it's great"), and that we'll get it by Tuesday. Which, in Nedeljnik, is the ultimate deadline. In a panic, we call Uro{ Balov again. "We're a serious team", he says. "I don't know someone as serious as Julian", he adds.

Monday night. It's a strange email address, but there can be no dilemma. And there are the answers, sure. Julian Assange talks openly about the interconnections of Google and Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and the presidential hopeful. We realise it is, indeed, a "great" interview. Even Uro{ tells us that he got goosebumps while reading it. He sends us an SMS:

"This is one of the best interviews he ever gave".

So let's hear him.

 

 

 

 

Your remarks on Google, such as that it's a "geo-political visionary of Washington", will come as a surprise to a majority of people and internet users, who all see Google as this inventive, "cool" company that cherishes liberal values. In fact, regular Internet users don't view Google as a "corporation" whatsoever, let alone an evil one. Have you managed to fathom the phenomenon of this duplicity, this "hypocrisy" of Google?

In some ways the higher echelons of Google always seemed more distant and obscure to me than the halls of Washington. When my colleague told me the executive chairman of Google wanted to make an appointment with me I was intrigued that the mountain would come to Muhammad. But it was not until well after Schmidt and his entourage had gone that I came to understand who had really visited me.

One way of looking at Google is that it’s just business. But, for an American internet services monopoly to ensure global market dominance, it cannot simply keep doing what it is doing, and let politics take care of itself. What’s a megacorp to do? If it wants to straddle the world, it must become part of the original empire. Great part of Google's image is that it is "more than just a company", and it comes from the perception that it does not act like a big, bad corporation. It is luring people into its trap with gigabytes of "free storage", which gives perception that it is acting contrary to the corporate profit motive. Google is often perceived as an essentially philanthropic enterprise, pouring funding into "corporate responsibility" initiatives to produce "social change," exemplified by Google Ideas. But as Google Ideas shows, the company’s "philanthropic" efforts bring it uncomfortably close to the imperial side of US influence. Whether it is being just a company or "more than just a company," Google’s geopolitical aspirations are firmly intertwined with the foreign-policy agenda of the world’s largest superpower.

Therefore, it would be imperative that we solve the situation with Google’s search and internet service monopoly, to break up its dominant position by regulators, and to do it before Hillary Clinton has an opportunity to become the President.

 

Your latest book is uncovering the details of a close political cooperation between Washington and Google. What does that cooperation look like, and was it there from the beginning, or has it started when Google became so strong? And what does the fact that Google is spending more on lobbying in Washington than all of military companies tell us about the other corporations from "Silicon Valley" and beyond? Is there a company that you feel can and will resist that siren song from Capitol?

Let's take the example of the 2016 US presidential elections. With its support to Hillary Clinton, Google will play a significant part in it, as the company that has close ties with the US Department of State, which Clinton previously headed. As I have explained in the book "When Google Met WikiLeaks", Google's relations with the US government date back to 2002. Many people who are currently working for Google, starting from Jared Cohen, the Director of Google Ideas or better say Google's "director of regime change", are closely linked to US foreign policy. It should be noted that their ties with Hillary Clinton are especially strong, as many of them have previously worked as her advisers or assistants. She’s been building a financial reserve and an infrastructure to run for the Presidency for almost three years and she’s even reposition the Clinton Global Initiative around this aim. Let me remind you that she was Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013, during which WikiLeaks released confidential cables showing she had approved the spying on foreign diplomats, United Nations officials, and U.S. allies.

And let me also remind you that Google took an active part in PRISM – a clandestine anti-terrorism mass electronic surveillance data mining program launched in 2007 by the US National Security Agency (NSA). You can look at a number of different interactions that have occurred and how those PRISM revelations came out. We have a very powerful corporation that has spread itself into most of the world and is collecting information from people, from their handsets, from their searches and so on, pooling it in the United States, making interconnections, very sophisticated interconnections between all that information—basically doing all the National Security Agency’s job for it, erecting a central database, a rich central database. Even if you had the best person running it is a dangerous entity that is very similar to the National Security Agency, that can be coerced by the National Security Agency into opening up its archives. Compare the mission statements of Google and the NSA – the NSA, who literally say, ‘We want to collect all private information, pool it, store it, sort it, index it, and exploit it.’ Whereas Google says, ‘We want to collect all private information, pool it, store it, sort it, and sell those profiles to advertisers.’ Really, they’re almost identical.

If you, at the same time, look at cases like Verizon, where we can see that there’s been a number of interactions between Verizon and the National Security Agency, yes, Verizon did get FISA court orders to hand over all the call records on a continual basis to the National Security Agency via the FBI, but you can bet what actually happened was the head of Verizon, speaking at a sort of informal, social level with the National Security Agency, FBI, said, "Look, I really want to help you guys. I do. I want to help you. But I need to be protected. And therefore, you need to give me an instrument of force majeure, so I’m not sued by all the customers and shareholders if this thing comes out. Give me an instrument of force majeure. Give me some kind of thing from the FISA court, something like that, that I can cover myself, and then we let it go ahead."

 

In what sorts of ways does Google endanger our freedom? Is it solely the surveillance and distributing our data and our dossiers to NSA, CIA and other intelligence services, or is it the entire way of immersion into Google's world - from ads and YouTube clips, via the suggestions and maps, to watching Google's logo so many times a day?

Do you know that 80 percent of the smartphones now being sold, run something called Android, which is Google’s operating system. It means that Google knows when people have turned it on for the first time, their locations, the Wi-Fi networks that are within the area, everything they search through, the various ads that people see, which are also run by Google, emails that are in relation to Gmail. So, Google is, in itself, a type of private NSA. It’s in the business of collecting as much data around the world as possible, about as much people and places as it can, making interconnections between this data in order to make people more predictable, in order, partly, to sell them advertisements. That’s its business model. But also it has become a target for the National Security Agency. And that is what has come out in the Edward Snowden revelations, that Google and the National Security Agency, through this PRISM system and several other involvements, have a close interaction. And that is what I study in this book.

However, people continue to be shocked at the extent of surveillance, but still have no intention of leaving social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, or to stop using Google’s Gmail. They cannot grasp that such level of surveillance exists because they can’t see it. The NSA is like God to them, it is something invisible out that observes and registers everything we do, but they can’t see it and they become skeptical. They say ‘yes, this is important and true,’ but then ignore the rules. Given the complexity and the secrecy surrounding the NSA’s activities, and Google’s, people don’t really think this is happening. They understand it intellectually, but they don’t see it on their own.

 

You famously proclaimed that Google and similar companies have become "Gods of mass surveillance, constructed by the Western civilization". Can you please elaborate on this? Are you a pessimist regarding the future of communication and our awareness about the need to protect our privacy, or do you sometimes, along with the people WikiLeaks helped (like Edward Snowden), feel that you're in a battle decided a long time ago?

As you have already mentioned, Google has become the largest lobbying group in Washington, larger than Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Boeing. I believe that due to its power, it’s highly unlikely that anti-trust regulation would force the company to break up. Do you know that Apple is the largest company in terms of market capitalization in the U.S., and that Google is number two. But, it’s interesting that the natural conflict between those two, and between Microsoft and Google, hasn’t led to regulatory action in the US. Google is becoming a distributor, taking over networks of fiber optic cables, and also trying to become an editor, diving deeper into content production. It is also interesting that the NSA has hacked Europe’s antitrust regulators, which coincidentally were investigating Google. As is documented in "When Google Met WikiLeaks", the US government lists Google as part of the defense industrial base. And so, it is something that is seen by U.S. hard power and surveillance power as something that is integral to US strategic power.

As human societies have moved into the internet, the internet has also moved into our human societies. Our interpersonal, business and state communications are meshed with the internet now in the same way like our bodies are meshed with our veins and arteries. A sickness that befalls internet befalls our societies individually and all societies together. That sickness that approaches is on a one hand mass surveillance of all telecommunication traffic flowing through the internet, all our financial transactions, intellectual ideas, interpersonal relationships, and on the other hand new regimes to control these flows of information, to control the very blood of international human civilisation. So, first of all we must be aware of this coming dystopia. As a result of that awareness we must change peoples’ behaviour so that collectively we can come up with ideas how to fight it. That is a matter of political awareness and self-knowledge.

 

On the occasion of Serbian edition of "When Google Met WikiLeaks", you sent a letter to the Serbian public and said that in Serbia you have partners in the battle against internet-hegemons. But do you believe that a small country like Serbia - always balancing between the West and the East - can be brave and plucky? How would you persuade the politicans who are leading this country not to yield to the dictates of foreign governments and big corporations?

I would not like to find myself in a position to draft anybody's foreign policy, but I would like to warn people all these developments are leading to a new transnational dystopia the likes of which we have never previously seen. It affects not just one country in one region, but rather every country in every region. It affects all countries at once because every country is moving on to the internet. It is the greatest theft in human history. The last several years has seen extraordinary political radicalisation of societies that has been connected to the internet because the internet itself is going through a remarkable educational transformation of the people who use it. In some societies this has already produced revolutions and tremendous reforms. It is an era of unprecedented, above all, political education. Therefore, the rise of Google and all those connected, and the threat it poses to the independence and autonomy of nations and cultures must be understood by Serbian audiences, before events overtake us. I would say that only together we can fight for our liberty and our place in this new world.

 

You've been in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for three years now. Numerous times we heard about your deteriorating health condition. How are you feeling these days, and do you feel repercussions of not having clean air and sunlight? Do you think you'll ever be allowed to seek a proper medical care?

As you can imagine, being detained for various ways in this country for almost five years - and in this embassy for three years, which has no outside area and therefore no direct sunlight, would make any person soon enough meeting with certain difficulties. I would thank you for your care, but would restrain from commenting further my medical condition, but would just add I am continuing my legal case.


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