More Bull from the Google Haters: Search Results and Trump’s Travel Ban

Views: 206

Here we go again. There are new stories today being breathlessly spouted by the alt-right, and being picked up by mainstream media, about internal Google emails showing employees discussing possible ways to “leverage” search results to help push back against Trump’s racist travel ban in January 2017, shortly after his inauguration.

The key aspect to note about this media brouhaha is that NONE of those ideas were EVER implemented. And the discussions themselves include participants noting why they shouldn’t be.

These discussions were the personal thoughts of individual Googlers, who are encouraged by Google to speak as openly as possible internally to help assure that Google has a wide range of opinions as input to decision-making on an ongoing basis.

I experienced this firsthand during the period ending several years ago when I consulted to Google. I had never seen such an open exchange of ideas at any large firm before. I was absolutely in awe of this — and actively participated in many internal discussions — because such interchange is an incredibly important asset — not only to Google, but to its users and to the world at large.

You want to avoid whenever possible having employees self-censoring internally about controversial matters. You want the maximum practicable interchange of ideas, many of which by definition will never actually be implemented.

We’d frankly have a much better world if such open internal discussions took place at all firms and other organizations.

What’s so appalling about this situation is that there are (or were) individuals inside Google who would purposely leak such internal discussions, obviously in the hopes of generating exactly the kinds of fanatical Google hate being demonstrated by the alt-right and their allies, and to try stifle the kinds of open internal discussions that are so important to us all.

–Lauren–

What We See on the Leaked TGIF Video Makes Us Proud of Google

Views: 422

Ever since an online right-wing rag recently released a leaked copy of a corporate “TGIF” meeting at Google (recorded a couple of days after the election of Donald Trump), I’ve been receiving emails from various Trump supporters pointing at various short, out of context clips from that video to try make the argument that a vast, conspiratorial political bias by Google is on display.

This is utter nonsense. And a viewing of the entire now public meeting recording (https://lauren.vortex.com/g-tgif) not only reveals a lack of bias, but should inspire a completely different set of reactions — namely confidence and pride.

For in this video we see exactly what I for one would have hoped to see from the leaders of a powerful corporation under such circumstances — expressions of personal concern, but a clear determination not to permit personal feelings to skew or bias Google search engine or other services.

As I watched this video, I found myself almost constantly nodding my head in agreement. Frankly, if I had been up there on that stage I would have been sorely tempted to state my concerns regarding the election’s outcome in somewhat stronger language. And let’s face it, events in the ensuing nearly two years since that election have proven these kinds of concerns to have been utterly justified.

The motives of the Google or ex-Googler who originally leaked this TGIF video are obvious enough — to try feed into the alt-right’s false narratives of claimed political bias at Google. 

In this respect that person failed miserably, because any fair-minded individual viewing the entire video cannot fail to see corporate leaders explicitly keeping their personal feelings separate from corporate policies. 

That’s not to say that this nefarious leaker hasn’t done real damage inside Google. Reportedly, internal access to TGIF videos has been greatly restricted in the wake of the leak. That’s bad news all around — open discussion of sometimes controversial issues inside Google is key not only to Google’s success, but is important to Google’s users and the global community as well.

And of course the leaker has now spawned a plethora of additional right-wing articles attacking various Google execs, and a range of new wacky false conspiracy theories, including the bizarre notion that the beanie propeller hats typically worn by new Google employees are actually some kind of creepy cult symbolism. Give me a break! Apparently these conspiracy idiots never saw “Beany & Cecil” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMdReHP9cb0).

Google — like all firms — is made up of human beings, and a person hasn’t walked this planet who qualifies as perfect. But when I watch this video, I see a group of people working very hard to do the right thing, to keep Google firmly on an unbiased and even keel despite personal disappointments.

And yes, that makes me very proud of Google and Googlers.

–Lauren–

Google Backs Off on Unwise URL Hiding Scheme, but Only Temporarily

Views: 456

In previous posts, including “Here’s How to Disable Google Chrome’s Confusing New URL Hiding Scheme” (https://lauren.vortex.com/2018/09/07/heres-how-to-disable-google-chromes-confusing-new-url-hiding-scheme), I’ve noted the serious security and other problems related to Google Chrome’s new policy of hiding parts of site URLs.

Google has now — sort of, temporarily — backed off on these changes.

In a post over on the Chromium blog, at:

https://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=883038

they note that URL subdomain hiding (Google uses the term “elide” — how often do you see that one?) is being rolled back in Chrome M69, but the post also says that they plan to begin hiding — I mean “eliding” — www again in M70, but not “m” (no doubt because they realized what a potential mess that made over on Tumblr). They also say that they’ll initiate a discussion with standards bodies about this to reserve “www or m” as hidden subdomains.

The comments on that Chromium post appear to be virtually universally opposed to Google’s hiding any elements of URLs. At the very least, it’s obvious that Google should not begin such URL modifications again until after such a time (if ever) that standards bodies have acted in these regards, and I would argue that these bodies should not do so in the manner that Google is now pushing.

The www and m subdomains have been integral parts of the user experience on the Web for decades. Tampering with them now (especially www) makes no sense, and (along with the other action that Google took at the same time — hiding the crucial http:// and https:// prefixes that are key signals regarding communications security) just puts users in an even more vulnerable position, as I discussed in “Chrome Is Hiding URL Details — and It’s Confusing People Already!” (https://lauren.vortex.com/2018/07/10/chrome-is-hiding-url-details-and-its-confusing-people-already).

We can certainly have a vibrant discussion regarding additional signals that could help users to detect phishing and other URL-related attacks, but any and all changes to URL displays (including involving http, https, m, www, and so on) should only take place if and after there is broad community agreement that such changes are actually user positive.

Google should completely cease all of these URL changes, permanently, unless such criteria are met.

–Lauren–

Verizon’s 5G Home Broadband Has a Rough Start

Views: 419

A few days ago, Verizon Wireless announced with great fanfare that people in their initial handful of supported cities (including here in L.A.) could use a locator site as of this morning to check for availability of the new Verizon Wireless 5G Home Broadband service, which supposedly touts some impressive specs. Actually, we should call it “5G” with the quotes made obvious, since it’s not really a standardized 5G yet, but let that pass for now.

The locator site has been present at least since that announcement but said that you couldn’t actually check addresses until something like 5 AM PDT this morning. So this morning I decided to check my address. I didn’t expect it to be covered — I heard rumors that Verizon’s initial coverage of L.A. would be very small, perhaps centered on downtown L.A., and I’m literally in the other end of the city in the distant reaches of the San Fernando Valley.

The site apparently did enable its address checking functionality this morning. Well, in theory, anyway.

The page has an annoying overlay curtain effect when you touch it (that was there several days ago as well) but as of right now the “Check availability” link immediately punches you through to another page saying that service is not available at your address — before you’ve even entered a physical address.  Are they trying to guess your approximate location based on your IP address? Naw, that would never work — too prone to error, and think of all the people using mobile devices who all appear to be coming from carrier gateways.

Hmm. There is a “change address” link — and you can actually enter your address at that one. Oops, still says not available at your address. But, wait a second. Whether you enter your address directly or not, there’s a note under that unavailability announcement:

Server is temporarily down, couldn’t able to process the request currently.

Wow, this is starting to feel like a phishing site with a backend coded by someone who clearly wasn’t a native English speaker.

And checking again just now, the site is still in this condition.

Not an auspicious beginning.

–Lauren–

EU Preliminarily Passes Horrific Articles 11 & 13 — Here’s How to Fight Back!

Views: 410

By a vote of 438 to 226, the massively confused and lobbyists-owned EU Parliament has preliminary passed horrific Article 11 and Article 13, aimed at turning ordinary users into the slaves of government-based Internet censorship and abuse.

The war isn’t over, however. These articles now enter a period of negotiation with EU member states, and then are subject to final votes next year, probably in the spring.

So now’s the time for the rest of the world to show Europe some special “tough love” — to help them understand what their Internet island universe will look like if these terrible articles are ever actually implemented.

Article 11 is an incredibly poorly defined “link tax” aimed at news aggregators. If Article 11 is implemented, the reaction by most aggregators who have jurisdictional exposure to the EU (e.g., EU-based points of presence) will not be to pay the link taxes, but rather will be to completely cease indexing those EU sites.

Between now and the final votes next year, news aggregation sites should consider temporarily ceasing to index those EU sites for various periods of time at various intervals, to give those sites a taste of what happens to their traffic when such indexing stops, and what their future would look like under Article 11.

Then we have Article 13’s massive, doomed-to-disaster content filtering scheme, which would be continually inundated with false matches and fake claims (there are absolutely no penalties under Article 13 for submitting bogus claims). While giant firms like Google and Facebook would have the resources to implement Article 13’s mandates, virtually nobody else could. And even the incredibly expensive filtering systems built by these largest firms have significant false positive error rates, frequently block permitted content, and cost vast sums to maintain.

A likely response to Article 13 by many affected firms would be to geoblock EU users from those company’s systems.  That process can begin now on a “demonstration” basis. The IP address ranges for EU countries can be easily determined in an automated manner, and servers programmed to present an explanatory “Sorry about that, Chief — You’re in the EU!” message to EU users instead of the usual services. As with the Article 11 protest procedure noted above, these Article 13 IP blocks would be implemented at various intervals for various durations, between now and the final votes next year.

The genuinely sad part about all this is that none of it should be necessary. Article 11 and 13 mandates will never work as their proponents hope, and if deployed will actually do massive damage not only to EU (and other) users at large, but to the very constituencies that have lobbied for passage of these articles!

And that’s a lose-lose situation in any language.

–Lauren–