Reactions to My Own “Google Manifesto”

UPDATE (August 10, 2017): Google Employees Are Being Targeted by Alt-Right Racists

The now fired Google employee who wrote the now infamous sexist internal memo has been busy giving interviews to alt-right racists of the worst kind, where he’s spouting fake science of the same sort promoted by segregationists decades ago, and blaming everyone but himself for this situation.

Meanwhile, I’ve been reading the reactions to Here’s My Own Damned “Google Manifesto” that I posted less than 24 hours ago. Some of these are in various public venues, most are arriving in my inbox –(https://lauren.vortex.com/2017/08/09/heres-my-own-damned-google-manifesto).

We can leave aside for now the majority of these reactions — which agree with me that Google not only was correct to fire that jerk, but really had no ethical alternative to doing so. I appreciate these of course, but they don’t provide us with the really interesting data.

On the other hand, the negative reactions are most telling.

A relative few attempt to make reasoned arguments in favor of the ex-Googler, but of course fail miserably since the “science” arguments on which he based his rant are so fundamentally and completely flawed.

But polite disagreements are always welcome.

As you’ve no doubt surmised by now, the vast bulk of the disagreeing reactions were anything but polite.

It’s not just that they’re vile, crude, obscene, sexist, racist, antisemitic, threatening, and otherwise so despicable. What’s fascinating is how just plain stupid the authors appear to be.

Apparently most of them dropped out of school at third grade. Or perhaps its inbreeding. In any case, you’d be hard pressed to find a more illustrative collection of alt-right morons — incapable of correctly writing sentences even of just a few words, spelling skills roughly equivalent to your average brick, and of course “stuck” caps-lock keys. Many are unable to even spell common obscenities correctly. Sad!

Perhaps most amusing are the ones who incorrectly assume from my first name that I’m female (and have apparently never bothered to view my “official” photo — https://lauren.vortex.com/lauren.jpg), and so are not only using inappropriate obscene terminology for referencing me, but are also rudely and obscenely suggesting physically impossible personal interactions.

I don’t often quote the Bible, but Proverbs 13:20 seems appropriate here:

Walk with the wise and become wise,
for a companion of fools suffers harm.

In other words, you’re judged by the company you keep.

And given the sexists, racists, antisemites, and other alt-right lowlifes with which our ex-Googler has now allied himself, I’d assert that we’re getting a clearer picture every day of how deeply permeating this particular fool’s twisted belief structure has become.

One thing’s for sure. Google is well rid of him.

–Lauren–

Here’s My Own Damned “Google Manifesto”

UPDATE (August 10, 2017): Reactions to My Own “Google Manifesto”

I feel like vomiting. Since the saga of the leaked, sexist “manifesto” authored by a (most appropriately fired) ex-Google employee started to hit the media, I’ve been feeling increasingly ill.

Not just ill. Also depressed. And angry. The last is the worst. I don’t like to be angry. As the old TV meme says, you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

I’ve been writing about this for days and doing multiple radio interviews on the topic. Each time, I’m even more angry.

I don’t care much about the jerky ex-Googler himself, whom we now know performed a sexist skit at Harvard for which the administration formally apologized — making it clear that his sexist attitudes were not suddenly formed after he joined Google.

Nor do I care about his educational background — I’ve known great scientists who couldn’t punch their way out of a paper bag when it comes to understanding the real issues of people and social policies.

Hell, he’s still young, and perhaps he can still be salvaged.

Or perhaps not, given the example of a vile, 71-year-old sociopath, by all accounts a sexist and serial woman abuser since his youth, now splitting his time between playing President of the United States and playing golf while running up a historic leisure travel bill on the taxpayers’ dime.

So it’s not really the immature kid’s manifesto alone that is most sickening — it’s the reactions after it was leaked from Google that show the depths of depravity that creatures like Donald Trump have normalized.

It’s therefore not surprising that criminals and other alt-right, racist superstars of the worst sort have rushed to the defense of the fired Googler, and are proclaiming boycotts against Google.

Good luck with that, guys.

In fact, the racist, sexist, antisemitic Nazis and Nazi-wannabees — or in other words, a large percentage of Trump’s support base — have been increasingly pissed off at Google, Google’s YouTube, and other major Silicon Valley firms.

Why? Because observers (including myself) have been urging these firms to stop treating the lying, fake news, false propaganda spewing sites as if they were legitimate news or fact sources, and now the large search and social media firms are beginning to crack down on those endless spews of violent hate speech and the Russian-directed lie machines. It particularly irks the hate-complex when they can no longer monetize their filth or use major suggestion engines to try sucker in new converts.

In a horrid, ironic way we probably need to thank Trump for the fact that the dangers represented by the white supremacists and their assorted bands of cronies have finally became too obvious to be ignored, now that they’ve gone public after crawling out from under their rocks.

And I for one don’t care in the least how long it took for these major firms to finally act against them — the point is that actions are now being taken, and everyone who cares about keeping the USA great, and not permitting it to be flushed down the toilet of racist, sexist, alt-right sickos, should be supporting these ongoing anti-hate efforts.

The fired Googler case isn’t even a close call. His sexist manifesto was chocked-full of the same kind of fake science, fake extrapolations, garbage arguments that you can find virtually word for word in old essays arguing that blacks are inferior and unsuitable for technical jobs of any kind.

Disseminating that kind of garbage inside Google, without Google then taking action to condemn his screed, would have led to a toxic work environment — especially for women — that Google could not ignore. To NOT have fired him would have been absolutely wrong. He ended his own ability to effectively work in the team-oriented environment of Google going forward. He wrote what he wanted to write, but seemingly didn’t understand that one must be responsible for the consequences of your words on your coworkers.

Of course, the fact that the Nazi crowd has rallied around that author doesn’t mean that the problem is solely in their sphere.

That fact is that Google — like virtually all tech-oriented firms — has had diversity problems and has been working diligently to improve the diversity of their own workplace. That’s part of what makes the now fired Google employee’s manifesto so harmful — it was seemingly calculated to throw a monkey wrench into Google’s efforts in this regard.

And to be utterly clear about this, these diversity issues when it comes to women in the tech workplace have nothing whatever to do with “biology” as he claimed — but have everything to do with men treating women like dirt, as I’ve seen throughout my career and noted in: “Meet the Guys: The Jerks of Computer Science” – https://lauren.vortex.com/2017/02/27/meet-the-guys-the-jerks-of-computer-science

So these problems are not new, but we now face the specter of the alt-right racists and their ilk — cheered on by Donald Trump and his cronies — trying to turn back the clock to normalize or even expand conduct that is unacceptable in any civilized 21st century society.

There is no more middle ground. The time for neutral stances regarding sexism, racism, and associated hate leaders and hate groups has long since passed.

If you do not take a firm stance against such hate, you are by definition helping to pave the way for the expansion of its malignancies.

When firms like Google — imperfect as are we all — act to push back on sexism, racism, and other hate as in this case and more generally across their ecosystems — they should be strongly supported in those actions.

In a very real sense, we’ve reached the point where we each must decide if we’re absolutely and firmly opposed to alt-right and other hatemongers, or if we’re willing to continue tolerating them, and so in essence tacitly partnering with them. None of us can sit this one out.

Make your choice.

–Lauren–

Audio from My Radio Discussion About the Leaked Google “Diversity” Manifesto Controversy

Last night I spoke for several minutes on the national “Coast to Coast AM” radio program about the controversy over the Google employee who wrote an inflammatory internal post regarding Google’s diversity efforts, in which he asserted that women are biologically unsuited for technical work. That document was leaked from Google and has now become a global story.

The MP3 audio file of my interview for download is:

https://lauren.vortex.com/lauren-c2c-8-6-2017.mp3

or you can hear it directly via this player:

Brief segments of this clip at the beginning and end include discussion of an unrelated social media issue in the United Kingdom.

My full blog post regarding this Manifesto controversy is:

“A Googler’s Leaked Google ‘Diversity’ Manifesto — Lose-Lose-Lose” – https://lauren.vortex.com/2017/08/05/a-googlers-leaked-google-diversity-manifesto-lose-lose-lose

As always, my thanks to show host George Noory and the entire C2C team for so frequently providing me the opportunity to discuss the realities of technology and technology policy issues with their very large audience. Background information about the program is at: 

https://www.wired.com/2006/02/coast-to-coast-am-is-no-wack-job/

Be seeing you.

–Lauren–

A Googler’s Leaked Google “Diversity” Manifesto — Lose-Lose-Lose

UPDATE (August 9, 2017):  Here’s My Own Damned “Google Manifesto”

UPDATE (August 7, 2017):  Audio from My Radio Discussion About the Leaked Google “Diversity” Manifesto Controversy

– – –

The topic of the leaked — and already widely viewed and discussed — Google “diversity” document (an internal opinion “manifesto” authored by a single Googler, not a statement of Google policy) is sufficiently depressing that I’m already getting tired of the queries I’m receiving about it.

I view the leak itself as an extraordinarily serious breach of trust. This breach stands apart from a separate issue — was it appropriate for such a missive to have been written and disseminated even in Google’s extraordinarily frank and open internal discussion ecosystem? That discussion environment overall provides major benefits to Google and ultimately to its users.

While the issues are separate, they together create a cascade of damage, a true lose-lose-lose situation.

It seems impossible to tease out any positive aspects from the manifesto. Even if we leave aside its foundational and the other fallacies which permeate its structure, any reasonable, dispassionate observer would predict that such a document could only do damage — not only to individuals but potentially to Google itself if it was propagandized by Google Haters — which now indeed seems to be the case if I judge by various of the queries filling my inbox.

Enough such damage would have been done if the manifesto had stayed purely internal to Google. That such an inflammatory document might have been expected to have a significant risk of being leaked does not in any way excuse the leaking, which has poured a tanker car of gasoline onto the already blazing fire.

What perhaps saddens me the most about this situation is that I’ve seen similar twisted, sexist claims — as in that Googler’s manifesto — so many times over the years. For all our talk, for all our efforts, such malignant views continue to persist. In the age of negative role models from vile sociopaths like Donald Trump, they may even be expanding.

I touched on some of this several years ago in “Meet the Guys: The Jerks of Computer Science” (https://lauren.vortex.com/2017/02/27/meet-the-guys-the-jerks-of-computer-science) several years ago, and I am unconvinced that the situation described there has improved in any notable aspect to date.

And all of this — both the abominable manifesto itself and the leaking of same — gives me the strong urge to punch my fists into my screens and pray for the aliens to show up to put Earth out of its misery.

But we can’t always have a happy ending.

Be seeing you.

–Lauren–

Beware the Browser Extensions Privacy Trap!

There’s a story going around currently about a group of researchers who claim to have de-anonymized a variety of browser users’ search data. The fact that proper anonymization of data is a nontrivial task is quite well known. Sloppy “anonymization” can be effectively as bad as no anonymization at all.

But the interested observer might wonder … where did these researchers get their search data in the first place?

It turns out that the main source of this data are the individuals or firms behind third-party browser extensions and apps, which provide or sell the user data that they collect to data brokers and to other entities.

And so we open up a very big can of worms.

The major browsers (e.g., Google’s Chrome) provide various means for users to install extensions and applications (also known as “add-ons” or “plugins” or “apps”) to extend browser functionalities. While the browser firms work extensively to build top-notch security and privacy controls into the browsers themselves, the unfortunate fact is that these can be undermined by such add-ons, some of which are downright crooked, many more of which are sloppily written and poorly maintained.

Ironically, some of these add-on extensions and apps claim to be providing more security, while actually undermining the intrinsic security of the browsers themselves. Others (and this is an extremely common scenario) claim to be providing additional search or shopping functionalities, while actually only existing to silently collect and sell user browsing activity data of all sorts.

The manner in which these apps and extensions end up being installed can be insidious, and relates to the fundamental complexity of the underlying security models, which are not understood by the vast majority of users, especially non-techie users. For the record, similar confusion exists regarding smartphone app security models, e.g. for Android.

The bottom line is that most users, faced with a prompt to install an extension or app that claims to provide useful functions, will simply grant the requested permissions, no matter how privacy and/or security invasive those permission actually are.

And why should we expect these users to do anything differently? Expecting them to really understand what these permissions mean is ludicrous. We’re the software engineers and computer scientists — most users aren’t either of these. They have busy lives — they expect our stuff to just work, and not to screw them over.

I recently helped an older Chrome user whom I know clean out their Chrome browser on Windows 10. As is routine for me, I used Chrome Remote Desktop for this purpose (please see: “Google Asked Me How I’d Fix Chrome Remote Desktop — Here’s How!” – https://lauren.vortex.com/2017/07/24/google-asked-me-how-id-fix-chrome-remote-desktop-heres-how).

He must have had 25 or 30 “crap” extensions installed that I needed to individually remove (some of which appeared to have been “slave” extensions installed by other “master” extensions). He claimed not to have knowingly installed any of them. Almost certainly, these were all prompted installations at sites he visited once or twice, with which he could have easily interacted without installing any of these add-ons at all.

But these sites push users very hard to install these privacy-invasive, data sucking extensions, and as noted above most users will grant requested permissions, implicitly assuming that they’re protected by the browser itself.

Underlying browser security models can complicate the situation. For example, one of the most common — and most easily abused — categories of permissions requested by extensions and apps is one that grants read and write access to all data at all websites you visit — or even that *plus* all data on your computer!

Now, here’s the kicker. While these sorts of permissions are the golden ticket for abuse by crooked and sloppy extensions or apps, there are many legitimate, well-written add-ons that also require such permissions to operate.

But how is the average user to make a reasonable determination in this context, faced with a site urging them to install an add-on that is being portrayed as necessary? Most users don’t have a site reputation database at hand for reference — they just want to get on with what they’re trying to do online.

I will note here that I know of various corporate environments where security policies absolutely prohibit the installation of apps or extensions with such broad permissions, with few if any exceptions (e.g. unless they’re of internal origin and have passed rigorous internal security and privacy audits).

I don’t have a brilliant “magic wand” solution to this set of problems.

Personally, I install as few browser extensions and apps as possible unless I am absolutely confident in the reputation of their origins, and I absolutely minimize the installation of any add-ons that require broad permissions either to websites or the local machines. Sometimes there are situations where an app or extensions looks very useful and enticing — but I still need to say “no go” to them the vast majority of the time.

One last thing. I urge you to check right now to see what extensions and/or apps you have installed, and remove the ones that you don’t need (or worse, don’t even recognize). For most versions of Chrome, you can do this by entering on your browser address bar:

chrome://extensions

and:

chrome://apps

On the extension list, a little trash can at the right is where you click to remove an extension. On the app list page (page select is at the bottom of that page), right click to access the menu that includes a “Remove from Chrome” entry. On Chrome OS, you may not be able to access the app page(s) using the link above. If the link doesn’t work in this case, click on the white circle in the bottom of screen toolbar to bring up the app page.

Is this all too complicated? Yep, it sure is.

Be seeing you.

–Lauren–