Tag Archives: spying

Google: Just Another Name For Big Brother

Were you suspicious at all when Google decided to film every street in your city? Did you even notice when it seems they captured more than just an image of the street, that there were some car license plates, discernible faces, and even pictures into people’s living rooms, not to mention a few burglaries? Or were you blasĂ© and accepting of another way in which we’re being watched constantly and in Google slowly taking over the world in a myriad of digital ways? I sometimes wonder what would happen should Google turn out to be a political force.

There are people who called us paranoid when we worried about all these captured images. I wondered how well would it work for people planning espionage. I haven’t searched using Google Earth much but it’s been minimally helpful. The only time I looked outside of North America was to research for a story that takes place in Ireland, and it turns out there is only a satellite image of parts of Ireland, no street views. Well there is sort of a street view of Dublin, in parts, but with digital approximations of buildings for other areas. Who knows what other countries have but I hear the Germans are pretty suspicious of Google snooping and are limiting what they’ll be able to digitize.

And no wonder. With the heightened paranoia of terrorism and bombs many countries don’t want full images of their streets and sewer systems, communications areas, etc. outlined in such explicit detail. But that’s not all. The new millennium’s Big Brother is Google and it is everywhere. Yes, most of us use it as a medium for one thing or another, such as the search engine. Google tried to copy all books including those in copyright, infringing on all sorts of copyright laws and then hoping no one would notice. They claimed they were just moving all books into a way that people could access them easier and this makes sense for out of print books in the public domain. But those that still have estates or authors alive, and therefore existing copyrights, should be protected. Google then arrogantly set up a statement saying you could opt out but then you would have no recourse to complain if they copy one of your books, but if you opt in, you’re buying into the system. As opposed to them having to prove the copyright is now public domain, the onus fell on every author and publisher to prove they owned the copyright. This one is still being disputed and it was nice to see that at least some of the apathetic writers’ groups in Canada did band together to try to stop them.

But that’s not all, is it? Now it turns out that not only was Google capturing images of our streets and homes, it was also capturing passwords and documents if people were working on their computers and did not have their WIFI locked. Hmm, If I stole someone’s information, it would be just that. Theft, spying, invasion of privacy. Canada’s privacy commissioner has ordered Google to apologize and delete the information. That’s it? Does Google even have governments cowed that a slap on the wrist is all they get? How about a charge and massive fines? How about a watchdog checking what they have? How many years ago did the snoop the streets of our cities and we’re just finding this out now?

I said I’d be worried if Google was a political force but I’m already worried that it could be behind a political force, supplying stolen information to governments with less that honorable tendencies. I’d be naive to think they didn’t know they were doing this and stupid not to question why. And if any of you are smart, you’ll be asking these questions too and making sure Google is investigated and regulated before they do take over the world.

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Sucky Drivers & Yahoo Tracking

Yes, yes, I’m going to post some observations on the bad drivers in Greater Vancouver. I didn’t last week, because surprisingly I didn’t see anything overt.

The first winner this week was an unmarked police car (which I can always identify by the nubs on top of the roof, the very dark glass and the shade o’ grey paint) license # 657 KGV (BC). If you get right behind them you can also see the police lights inside the rear window. Not only did these guys turn left in an intersection where the light was well into red (usually two cars can get through a left turn who are already in the intersection) but they also decided to change lanes with no signalling.

Granted a lot of people don’t signal, that still doesn’t make it right. It’s one of my pet peeves. If you’re a good enough driver, you should be able to do all your road maneuvers AND still signal. And it does warn people of what you’re going to do. Usually a line creeper is an indication that someone is going to change lanes. Back to the cops. Even an unmarked, but still noticeable, police car should follow the rules and police are supposed to be examples of and uphold the law. Oh right, how could I be so stupid? They’re bigger on flaunting it these days, beating up innocent people and getting overzealous in tasering. Why would they do something as simple as obey road signs?

Okay, well, they’re not alone in sucky driving. Yesterday was  a bonus crop with goldy and yet very dirty Mr. Chev Cavalier (licence #484 JSA) going 40 km in a 50 km zone and then speeding through the playground and school zones of 30 km and going 50 km. Nice going guy, inconsistent in all ways and irritating to everyone. Some cities have laws that if you go too slow you can be ticketed for obstructing traffic.

Then there was Mr. Key Food Equipment, white van #16 (licence # 6515 KA). Nice going as I was coming along at a good speed and you suddenly pulled out from the lane beside me, no signalling, no warning. I had to slam on my breaks. There is a law here too that says whether you signal or not you change lanes when SAFE to do so. There was nothing safe and I fell like calling your bosses. Hope you didn’t wreck any equipment with your race car driver tricks.

But…there was in fact a light in the highway to hell. Mr. Sporty Black Toyota with the sunroof,(licence # 365 HVV) hats off to you and kudos for excellent driving. We both were getting tired of the doddering traffic (and yes I speed a bit, like most Vancouver drivers–actually most speed a lot) and go about 10 km over the limit. At one point I got stuck behind a slow car and signalled (yes signalled) to move into the right lane. Mr. Toyota was coming up fast so I motioned for him to go by. He actually slowed down to let me in.

Since we were going about the same speed he also didn’t feel the need to zip in front of me and slow down and at times I was in the one lane and he in the other. He continued to signal and never cut anyone off and in fact caused no problems compared to the other annoyances and downright dangerous drivers. You cops could take a lesson from this guy. It just goes to show that there are some people who can drive well and still follow the rules of the road, and do it politely.

Other than that, the writing world, like everything else is rumbling as magazines fold or re-evaluate their structures with the current money crunches. I haven’t seen any anthologies folding yet. As always, www.ralan.com is the best place to find up to date info on speculative markets.

And for anyone who is on any yahoo group, you’ll want to read this and decide if you want yahoo snooping into your every move:

SFWA reported this and I feel it’s important enough to share. Yahoo is Tracking Group Members and basically being a spy and snooping where they don’t belong. Talk about Big Brother. Hey guys, didn’t you hear, George Bush is gone!

If you belong to ANY Yahoo Groups – be aware that Yahoo is now using “Web Beacons” to track every Yahoo Group user. It’s similar to cookies, but allows Yahoo to record every website and every group you visit, even when you’re not connected to Yahoo. Look at their updated privacy statement at http://info.yahoo.com/privacy/us/yahoo/details.html.

About half-way down the page, in the section on *cookies*, You will see a link that says *WEB BEACONS*. Click on the phrase “Web Beacons.” On the page that opens, on the left find a box entitled “Opt-Out.” In that section find “opt-out of interest-matched advertising” link that will
let you “opt-out” of their snooping. Click it and then click the opt-out button on the next page. Note that Yahoo’s invasion of your privacy – and your ability to opt-out of it – is not user-specific.
It is MACHINE specific. That means you will have to opt-out on every computer (and browser) you use. Nice, eh? More insidious than corn. Maybe the name yahoo is better suited than we thought.

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