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How Google will Search & Destroy your privacy, interview with author Scott Cleland

May 12, 20116 mins
Data and Information SecurityMicrosoftSecurity

Interesting interview with leading Google critic Scott Cleland, author of "Search & Destroy, Why You Can't Trust Google Inc."

Scott Cleland is said to be “the world’s leading Google critic.” He’s testified about Google in front on Congress and runs,, and Precursor. Cleland is also the author of the recently released book “Search & Destroy, Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc.” Based on his four years of research, book, and some of his quotes from previous discussions, I interviewed Scott Cleland.

You believe Google is untrustworthy, unethical and biased. You’ve called Google “pack rats,” keeping triplicate copies of everything on everyone via Google mirrors. What do you think Google is doing by hoarding all that data?

Cleland: It is Google’s unique mission  “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”  They also have a uniquely deep belief in, and commitment to, artificial intelligence, so the more masses of datasets they can collect, the smarter they and their algorithms become. Google knows information is power. Google tracks most everything that goes on on the Internet and uses it to target advertising at users, to learn what no one else knows, and to create new services.

If you want to try and get your mind around all the information Google tracks and collects — see this one page chart I created called  “Google’s Total Information Awareness Power.”

Search & Destroy says Google has a political agenda. What “hidden political agenda” does Google have?

Cleland: Google believes in radical transparency over privacy and redistribution of others’ information property without their permission and without payment. The quintessential example of this political agenda at work was Google’s decision to index and make universally accessible all of Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks documents, which included extremely private, secret, and confidential information that has no business being in the public domain. This was an immensely irresponsible political act.

Do you believe Google’s political agenda plays into why so many former Google employees are later appointed to government office such as the Google former CEO Eric Schmidt being nominated for Commerce Secretary?

Cleland: The rumor of Google Chairman Schmidt being considered for a Cabinet post is silly. Anyone that knows Washington and the Senate confirmation process knows first that there is no way a six-billionaire could get through the financial conflicts of interest process requiring a blind trust of one’s assets, and second that it makes no sense to appoint someone who would have to legally recuse themselves from most all of the job because they have been so intimately involved in the issues facing the Commerce Department promoting Google’s interests. This appears to be a Google-generated rumor to try and indirectly influence law enforcement officials to not enforce the law against them.

How does Google’s hidden political agenda “threaten individual freedom, democracy, and national sovereignty”?

Cleland: If the world’s Internet information access monopoly does not believe in privacy or property rights, we are all on path to become Google’s serfs.

You talked of Google secretly tracking and recording Android users’ location “a thousand times a day” and mentioned that “personal omni-tracking information” could fall into the hands of “government spy agencies that Google works with, or law enforcement who could gain access to it without a subpoena.” Do you have any numbers of how often that happens and to which government or law enforcement agencies?

Cleland: No I do not, but that is something Google clearly could be more transparent and accountable about.

Whether users want relevant ads are not, so many small and even large sites use Google ads as a source of income. How do you propose these sites move away from Google spy ads that collect data, but still make money?

Cleland: That is a real dilemma that the government/FTC created when they allowed Google to tip to monopoly by approving Google’s acquisitions of DoubleClick and AdMob. That is also a great question to ask of the FTC which is reportedly primed to launch an antitrust investigation of Google. Ask them how will the FTC restore the competition they allowed Google to crush?

Google’s spokesman Adam Kovacevich claimed you are not a “neutral analyst” since your research is paid by Microsoft and AT&T. Google charges the government/law enforcement for users’ records while Microsoft hands them over for free. How is what Google collects and keeps three copies of, any different than how Microsoft collects information on users?

Cleland: Google can’t refute the message of my book so they shoot the messenger. My book is my own and it stands on its own. After four years of research, over 700 endnotes documenting the facts, and using over 150 quotes from Google executives, the case and evidence is overwhelming that one can’t trust Google Inc., as the company claims.

I disclose in my book bio and on my websites that my company Precursor LLC is a research consultancy for Fortune 500 companies. However, none of my clients were aware that I was writing a book until it had already been printed.

It is supremely ironic that the company with a morass of hidden conflicts of interest, that refuses to acknowledge it works for advertisers and not users, and that claims to be against censorship and for freedom of speech makes such effort to squash and discredit dissent to Google. I am not the only Google watchdog they have tried to personally discredit.

In closing, here are a couple excerpts from Scott Cleland’s book, “Search & Destroy, Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc.”

Actions speak louder than words. Google dispenses soaring rhetoric about serving users, but Google’s actions are all about influencing and controlling users. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Forwarned is forearmed: Google’s real mission is to remake the world in its own image through hidden influence, manipulation, and central planning. And Google’s immense unaccountable power is so destructive precisely because Google is shockingly political, unethical and untrustworthy.

Thank you to Scott.

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ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.