Tag: eric schmidt

Schmidt hits the fan over NSA googling Google

The chairman of Google (tick: Ogle) has hit out at the National Security Agency (NSA) for allegedly going through its datacentres with a fine tooth comb looking for nits.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he said the behaviour of the NSA was “outrageous”.  

Google has stamped its tiny feet and complained to NSA, to the president of the USA, and to the US Congress, the WSJ said.

But the NSA hit back at Schmidt in a statement saying that everything it does takes account of laws and regulations. Schmidt is doing a grave disservice to the USA and to US allies.

Schmidt is in Hong Kong and told the WSJ correspondent that it had no plans to expand again in China because of censorship.

Google is a country, not a company

Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Go Ogle, was in Oxford yesterday, speaking at the Sheldonian about goodness knows what. It was probably attended by arse lickers, big time.

We couldn’t be bothered to tip up – and in similar manner, Eric Schmidt couldn’t be bothered to tip up at a Google conference this morning where champagne socialist Ed Miliband dilated at length about how evil Google is.

Schmidt did, however, appear at a conference later on, where he said and yeah, I kid you not, he said: “Google is a country.”

He corrected that to “company” a few seconds later, in Just a Minute style.

Now we  have met Schmidt when he suddenly appeared as the boss of Novell. He’s a bit like Princess Anne. Who is she? Well, no one knows.

And no one knows who Schmidt is. But we are a bit interested that every single politician in England – David Cameroon, Nickerless Clegg and Headless Miliband – is complaining about Ogle. Get off Google’s back – it is a country, not a company!

Google drone Eric Schmidt wants civilian drone regulation

Google chairman Eric Schmidt believes more regulation is needed in the civilian drone market. The use of drones by law enforcement and enthusiasts is skyrocketing, but it is also raising new concerns about privacy, reports Auntie BBC

“You’re having a dispute with your neighbour,” he told The Guardian in an interview printed on Saturday. “How would you feel if your neighbour went over and bought a commercial observation drone that they can launch from their backyard. It just flies over your house all day. How would you feel about it?”

Bear in mind that Schmidt recently returned from a visit to North Korea, so he might be a bit too worried about Big Brother, but it is an interesting point. In addition to nosy neighbours, Schmidt also believes cheap mini drones could be used as a terrorist weapon. We’d add cross-border drug smuggling to his list. Also, celebrity hunting paparazzi drones. 

The civilian drone market is slowly but surely taking off. In addition to small quadcopter toys, manufacturers are coming up with bigger drones, with bigger payloads. With that in mind it is only a matter of time before someone fits a 4K camera and a nice telephoto lens to a civilian drone and starts spying on celebs, or shooting them with a coaxial assault rifle.  

The female is deadlier than the male. Bee drones are harmless and can’t sting, unlike Google droning on endlessly about things it knows nothing about.

Google unveils detailed map of North Korea

Google chairman Eric Schmidt recently paid an unexpected visit to North Korea. Schmidt’s daughter Sophie offered a good account of the visit and you can check it out here.  Now, the company has rolled out an equally intriguing map of North Korea, with plenty of streets, towns and landmarks.

But “landmarks” in North Korea also include nuclear sites, forced labor camps for political prisoners and memorial palaces housing the remains of demigods Kim Il Sung and Kim Kong Il. 

The map will let you take a virtual tour of Yodok and Hwasong gulags, which are part of an extensive network of North Korean prison camps. Human rights groups claim as many as 200,000 people are imprisoned in these de facto concentration camps. Some camps are so-called family camps, and they are not used to imprison dissidents or criminals, but rather their extended families.

The map also includes the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility. North Korea recently announced that it plans to carry out a new nuclear test at the site. The hermit kingdom already tested two nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009. The first device fizzled, while the second one delivered a yield of about 5 kilotons.

Of course, Google did not get the new data from the North Korean regime. CNN reports the search giant relied on a “community of citizen cartographers,” using Google’s Map Maker software. Google believes the new maps could be useful to South Korean citizens, who still have family members living across the 38th parallel.

The new map will not be of much use to North Koreans themselves, as internet access in the country is extremely restricted, along with everything else from food to electricity. 

Google's Schmidt talks to Pyongyang – in context

Top Google executive Eric Schmidt has been and gone to Pyongyang, North Korea, where he told the despotic administration that its only hope for progress is internet freedom – but the matter is a little more complicated in the isolationist state than simply going online.

North Korea, the isolated military-cult nation run since the 50s by the Kim family, currently only operates a private ethernet, and according to the limited amount of first-hand accounts, this is largely available to the privileged sections of society.

Schmidt told officials that without opening its country to the internet, it will “remain behind”. North Korea has historically been hit hard by economic sanctions led by the United States for its controversial military and alleged nuclear program. Since the collapse of the USSR, North Korea was left with ultra-Capitalist, and communist in name China as its only ally, ultimately leaving its military strength as its primary bargaining chip in international relations and welfare for some time. Despite paying lip service to North Korea with revolutionary rhetoric, China is still an ally mostly because it doesn’t want the trouble of a disastrous war – with heavy international implications – in its back yard.

Current head of state, Kim Jong Un, in a New Year’s address, hinted at technological innovation as becoming the basis for his leadership. Since taking office, it is thought Jong Un will need to differentiate himself from Kim Jong Il and find a niche into which he can fit, and use to promote himself as a strong and competent leader. Tied up in propaganda and revolutionary rhetoric, Jong Un did hint at a more open state – after all, he was educated in the West and is not as unfamiliar with how the world operates outside of North Korea’s borders as many of his countrymen, who are purposefully kept in the dark. Jong Un said that his country should “bring about a radical turn in the building of an economic giant on the strength of science and technology,” by “fanning the flames of the industrial revolution in the new century”.

Jong Un went on to say that North Korea must “push back the frontiers of science and technology” to develop the country, and that all sectors of the national economy should “direct primary efforts to the development of science and technology”.

It is within this context that Schmidt visited Pyongyang. The Google chairman said that, as the world becomes increasingly connected, North Korea’s “decision to be virtually isolated is very much going to affect their physical world, their economic growth and so forth”. He went on to say that, once the internet is up and running, “citizens in a country can certainly build on top of it”.

“The government has to do something,” Schmidt said. “It has to make it possible for people to use the internet which the government in North Korea has not yet done”.

Bringing the internet to North Korea would dramatically open its borders in a very short space of time. Though it is still likely the privileged sections of Pyongyang who would be the main benefactors, the Party’s rule relies on its isolationist position. Smuggled South Korean soap opera tapes, for example, are influencing opinions about the outside world in the country. Even with considerable censorship, the open nature of the internet could smash cultural misconceptions that have been drilled into the public since the Korean war – and it could well be a shock. The internet, after all, has a tendency to un-censor itself, even in the most heavily censored parts of the world.

For Schmidt, humanitarian concerns aside, North Korea opening up to money from outside its borders would eventually be an investment opportunity. Jong Un, who is keen to be seen as a technologically enlightened leader, will be open to some influence, especially at a fragile moment in his career.

Just as there was increased pressure on Cuba to allow for outside investment following the fall of the USSR, North Korea – so far, stubborn to give up its self determination, which is a fundamental principle of the Juche idea  – is also sensitive to being cracked open for new markets. The semi-feudal state is notoriously harsh on its own people, with reports that dissidents are sent to brutal concentration and ‘re-education’ camps, and with heavy sanctions and without aid from the USSR its population fell victim to particularly vicious famines – though not, of course, the party leadership. A jump to the open nature of the internet opens an enormous can of worms.

The resulting outcome is dependent on the Kim family and senior party officials. Whatever happens, Jong Un seems keen to paint himself as a different kind of leader, and the geopolitical implications in that region and worldwide will be far reaching, if the dictatorship’s control is relinquished at all.

Manchester Uni to throw Alan Turing a centenary shindig

Centenary celebrations have been planned for the man widely acclaimed as the father of modern computing, Alan Turing.

The University of Manchester will host an event featuring key speeches from Google senior vice president Dr Vint Cerf, Head of the IBM Watson project Dr David Ferruci, as well as others such as chessmaster Garry Gasparov and Turing award winners.

Turing’s life and legacy will be discussed along with the future of computer science at the event which will run from 22nd to 25th June.

The work of Alan Turing has been in the headlines recently as, at last, there is a move to promote computer sciences in the British curriculum.  

In a speech, education minister Michael Gove heralded the “foundation stones” that Turing laid in the development of computing. Google’s Eric Schmidt, who criticised the absence of computer science education in the UK, will also speak at a centenary celebration in Princeton University on 10th May.

While Turing is held in high regard at home and abroad, domestic authorities recently refused to overturn convictions for homosexuality against the computer scientist – who was part of the legendary Bletchley Park code-breaking team.

Despite a recent petition to have his conviction pardoned, it was sadly ruled that this was not allowed as homosexuality was offence in the fifties when Turing was convicted.   Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown offered an apology for his treatment at the time.

The event at Manchester University, where Turing worked with Max Newman and created the first computer with memory stored programs, will celebrate his life and work with three days of lectures and panel discussions.

More details of the lectures can be found here.

Eric Schmidt hits out at UN

Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt has warned that a new United Nations treaty that aims to bring in more regulation of the net could stuff up everything.

At Mobile World Congress, Google’s Eric Schmidt said handing over control of things such as naming and DNS to the UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) would divide the internet.

He said that this would be a disaster because it would end the openness and interoperability of the web, which is one of the greatest achievements of humanity. Schmidt warned that people should not give that up easily.

Schmidt said that the moves, which seem logical, will have the effect of “balkanising the internet,” urging everyone to strongly resist the moves.

The ITU, which is part of the United Nation, this week began discussing changes to a 1988 treaty that would bring in international governance of the internet.

New proposals, thought to be backed by Russia and China, regulate cybersecurity and give the ITU dominance over such “ground up” organisations like ICANN.

Schmidt said that the ITU is a magnificent organisation and has done a great job in telecommunications, but the web works differently Current governance is working pretty well, he told ZDNet, and if it needs to be changed it would have to be done very carefully.

Schmidt admitted that regulators have a role to play. However, he advised decision makers to consider the future when settling on how to govern the internet over matters such as privacy. 

Google preparing robot army at secret lab

Google, the company that does what it wants, when it wants and how it wants, has a top-secret laboratory somewhere in the Bay Area where execs and researchers come together to decide the kind of innovations people might not want, but they’re going to have.

The laboratory, dubbed Google X, reads like a wish-list from Alpha Centauri – featuring projects that really aren’t that far away, like internet of things – up to the more outlandish like space elevators. A person familiar with the matter told the New York Times that, in terms of secrecy, it’s not dissimilar to the CIA.

There’s one office at Google, Mountain View – where, TechEye hears, Google employs bully-boy security officers who take much pride in a jobsworthian dictat – and another in a secret location.

The secret location is where Google researches robotics, where, a deepthroat told the New York Times, executives are playing with the idea of sending automated robots onto the streets to capture Google Maps. Which is quite a far cry from its humble days as a welcome alternative to Yahoo.

Google makes sure the ideas keep coming, with poached scientists and engineers from the likes of Microsoft, Nokia, Stanford, MIT, Carnegie Mellon and NYU, reports the New York Times.

It’s all sounding a bit Skynet. That said, it’s not time to relocate to the Welsh valleys just yet – the time of computer-controlled nuclear death from above is not quite upon us.

Google claims it doesn’t toy with shareholder money lightly, and the speculative projects are only baby steps towards death’s door for all of humankind.

According to the New York Times, Google co-founder Sergey Brin is an evangelist for the projects. He allegedly worked on a list of projects together with Larry Page as well as Eric Schmidt and other executives. 

Curriculum under review for computer science in schools

Government Minister David Willets has responded to calls to promote computer sciences with a trial which will focus on teaching programming skills.

Willetts responded to calls from Google‘s Eric Schmidt to start teaching programming skills to kids in the UK.  Last month Schmidt lashed out at the government about students learning how to use programs rather than creating them.

Another Minister at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Ed Vaizey, has also spoken out about the need for more support for computer sciences.  TechEye also spoke to programmer David Braben, of Elite fame, who made fresh calls for changes to the curriculum to support teaching creation rather than consumption of software.

Now the ‘Behind the Screens’ initiative will trial in schools across England with the aim of encouraging children to develop software and computational principles.

Willetts also said that he wants to see 21st century skills in school, and that includes writing programs.

In terms of a wider roll out of computer science subjects, the Department for Education told TechEye a curriculum review is currently looking at ways to incorporate ICT on a wider scale.

“The National Curriculum is currently being reviewed,” a spokesperson told us. “As part of this process we had a call for evidence to which all stakeholders were invited to make submissions.  These are currently being analysed.” 

“The Review will consider whether all other subjects (currently part of the National Curriculum) should remain so and design statutory/non statutory programmes of study for each subject to be taught in maintained schools from September 2014; both ICT and Computer Science are being reviewed as part of this process.”

“ICT evolves at a rate far faster than any curriculum can – that’s why we are stripping the curriculum back to core knowledge, allowing schools greater flexibility to adapt the subjects to the needs of the their pupils.”

The curriculum review has also involved meeting with the members of the ‘computing community’:

“Throughout the National Curriculum Review process Ministers and officials from the Department have had several meetings with representatives of the computing community,” the spokesperson said, “including Microsoft, BCS (The Chartered Institute for IT) and Computing for Schools to discuss the potential benefits of developing Computer Science as a subject, underlining its importance to the Government.”

How to stop Facebook and Google trampling on your privacy rights

Companies like Facebook and Google keep infringing on our rights to privacy. Their secretive and menacing privacy policies are ever reaching into our data, handing over the details of your life to third parties when our contacts agree, giving us little choice over who has our information.

We also have the government in the UK talking about shutting down social media in times of unrest and increasing monitoring of social networks, while the US has recently been trying to push through HR 1981, a far reaching data retention bill. Many other countries in Europe already do this, Denmark and Norway to name two, having adopted the EU data retention directive. Denmark goes further, imposing more monitoring than the directive requires.

We are also tracked online pretty much everywhere. Looked at something on Amazon recently?

Somewhere, sat on a data bank, there is a record of your purchases, planned purchases, and things you’ve looked at. Does your Amazon account send your confirmations and delivery reports about purchases to Gmail? Now Google know what you’ve bought, too. Then there’s e-tags and similar technology, which even if you delete cookies, they just reproduce them. Your IP is logged by law under the data retention act (UK).

Depending on the country, all of your activities may also be logged. Many countries have such strict censorship or such oppression of rights that you cannot be yourself online without facing privacy intrusions. Be sure to check the data retention that your country has in place to see how extreme the monitoring of your activities is. This may give you reason to follow these steps, if the rest isn’t enough to persuade you.

It’s time to fight back.

There are a lot of things you can do to protect yourself online, so here are a couple of basics.

Yes, it will take effort, maybe a little money, and a lot of reading up, but if you want to keep your privacy it’s worthwhile. It’s also a big ‘up yours’ to governments, Google and others who make a mockery of security around your data, and in some cases, profit from it.

This will not necessarily make you completely anonymous, these are just some basic steps, but it does prevent a lot of your footsteps being traced back to you, giving you some semblance of privacy on the internet.

These suggestions aren’t to be taken lightly, and please remember that abusing these things for ill gives the opportunity for governments to impose restrictions on them. Use them responsibly or don’t bother. Handle your own data. Yes, this one is really obvious, but many people seem to forget that using services online usually has a stipulation of ‘hey we can see what you’re doing!’.

Do you use a Gmail account when you sign up to services? What email address do you use for Facebook? For Amazon? For anything? Do you use webmail a lot? Stop. Get yourself a domain.

It’s cheap and most providers have a nice management system in place so that you can handle your email addresses and so on. Make yourself an email address, set it up in Evolution or whatever email software it is you use. Check that the privacy policy of the webmail service your domain provider has and see if the data stored there is used for anything, instead of just sitting there.

Hosting providers are less likely to be using it for marketing purposes than popular webmail providers like Google, keep in mind that you’re paying them to handle it. If you’re concerned about whether privacy will be available, or you can’t find anything about it, email the domain provider before you sign up and ask what your options are with regards to email privacy. Also ask whether you can permanently delete your content. Again, read their privacy policy. I cannot state enough how important reading the privacy policies of services is when it comes to controlling your data.

Be sure to opt out of showing your personal information in the website’s whois.

Start pretending to be from another country.

That doesn’t mean donning a kimono or wearing a string of garlic, it means getting a VPN. A virtual private network is a tunnelling service. You effectively, using lay terms here, connect to another computer somewhere else in the world and use that IP instead of your own. This makes it much harder for people to log your traffic online. There are plenty of public VPNs available if you believe your security may be at risk due to your habits online.

This is not a suggestion of ‘you can go and do illegal stuff because no one knows it’s you!’, people misusing it in this way risk the legality of the services for those who may actually need them for a number of reasons, or those who want to protect themselves from the prying eyes of companies and governments for their own peace of mind.

There are a lot of people around the world who may be at risk if they were found to be speaking out online, for example. So if you want anonymity to be a little shit, congratulations on making it harder for us who have legitimate reasons.

Private VPNs are available pretty cheap. They do keep information from when you sign up, and some will log your traffic online. Check the privacy policy before you sign up for any private VPN service to see exactly how much privacy you have when using their service. Some will state categorically that they do not log information, but they will still have your details from when you sign up for an account. Others may log absolutely everything you do, and then sell the data to a third party. They do not accept illegal use of their services, and rightly so, and they will hand over your information if you are found to be using it for ill.

Public VPNs are much more private, the whole point of them being anonymity. For most, there is no logging, there is no sign up and so they don’t have any contact details on you. There are many ‘proxy’ sites you can use too. You go to the site, you type in the address of the website you would like to surf anonymously, and voilà! There you go. Again, be sure to check any privacy policy attached to these sites. If you do not find one, do not use it.

Tor is a service which makes your web browsing anonymous. This has been a point of contention recently because of the activities of hacktivist groups who openly discuss the use of it. You download and install, make sure all your settings are right, and then you get surfing.

When you open it, it will tell you the IP address that you are surfing from, and it gives you the option of changing your address if you want to. It also features NoScript, another handy app.

Get NoScript here.  

This comes as standard with Tor, however you can still use it with Firefox without the use of Tor. It allows you control the scripts, cookies and other code websites try to load. You can blacklist certain things, whitelist certain things, and basically handle the amount of scripts that websites are allowed to load on your computer, hence ‘no script’.

From the website: “NoScript selectively, and non-intrusively, blocks all scripts, plug-ins, and other code on Web pages that could be used to attack your system during visits”.

Clear your browsing data.  

This one is probably obvious but you’d be amazed how many people leave their cookies, temp files, and everything else, just building up on their PC. This is not a clever thing to do.

Cookies and other seemingly harmless files are used to track what you do online. Companies leave a little unique ID in a cookie, which identifies that the person using the site is you. Every time you go to that site, if the cookie is there, they know. This is more data for them.

Regularly clear your browsing data. Not sure if it’s clear? Clear it again. Remove cookies, temp files, everything. Fine, you’ll be logged out of your favourite sites, but it’s a small price to pay and you can always just log back in each time.

Pseudonyms and aliases.  Google+ has introduced a ‘real names policy’. This means they want you to use your real name, and not a pseudonym on their services. The backlash from users has been immense.

The reason for the policy? Here’s what Google’sEric Schmidt had to say. “The only way to manage this is true transparency and no anonymity. In a world of asynchronous threats, it is too dangerous for there not to be some way to identify you. We need a name service for people. Governments will demand it.”

Apparently it’s dangerous for you to be anonymous.

Your government will demand that you have no anonymity on the internet and this implies that it justifies the naming policy! This is a dangerous idea, and it’s dangerous for Google to impose. Are you in China, using the internet to get a message out about human rights? Good luck with not getting arrested.

There’s a system in place to suspend the accounts of people whose names do not fit their policy.

This can still be your name, but if Google says it’s not? Well, there goes your account.

A way around this, if you don’t want to use your real identity for whatever reason (and many, many people have very legitimate reasons) is to use one that fits their policy. Common or bland looking names such as Jonathon Smithson are unlikely to raise any red flags. So instead of using a handle or nickname (hotgirl928143 will flag, stupid) use a made up name.

A first name, and a last name. Try not to make it too obscure, or too bland. Use your imagination a little. The same goes for on just about any other site. If you really want to be anonymous, do not use your name. Especially if it’s uncommon. Make up an identity and use that. Perhaps even make a few.

Don’t be sentimental about your online content.  

Much like ‘clear your browsing data’, this one is really obvious too. Many people are incredibly sentimental about the data they have put online. How much information is on your Facebook wall? Guess what! Facebook gets to keep that as long as it’s there.

A lot of users only keep it because it’s a time line, almost a diary, of the events that have happened over so many years. Records of interactions with your friends. It’s like your life written out online. Facebook plays on this, a lot. When you try and either deactivate or delete you account, you get a nice line of your friend’s tagged photos with the message ‘x will miss you!’. So stay, and minimise the amount of information that is stored on your wall and profile.

You can download your Facebook profile from the account settings. This allows you to download and keep everything that is on your wall if you’re a little sentimental. Every documentation of events, every photo, every status update, all in one handy .zip file. It might take a lot of time, but clearing the old posts from your wall will take a lot of data out of Facebook’s hands.

Every month or so, download a new backup from the account settings tab, and wipe out the old again. This counts for other ‘services’ too. Twitter and Google+ statuses. Old forum posts (if you can’t delete the post, you can always edit out the content). You don’t necessarily have to delete all of it, but have a think about how much of it identifies you, or things about you.

If you have a webmail account, store all of your old emails locally.

You can download them to Outlook or Evolution, and then export them to a file for backup, if your webmail does not offer the chance for you to do this. Then purge the emails stored online. Don’t use the same username everywhere. This one is more about hiding in search results and preventing your information from being easily searchable. Although do remember, data being linked across the web is not good for your privacy on the whole.

Does your gaming nickname cross over with places where you speak to your family, or real life friends? I’m sure you can see how separating them can make a lot of sense. What about support groups? If you are signed up to a forum for help with mental health, physical illness, or anything else, does that use the same name as, say, your Facebook account? Is your username the same everywhere? If you search for your username, does it link to a lot of different websites? This means that if someone wants to find out what you’ve been up to online, it’s only a quick Google search away.

This can include potential employers, current employers, co-workers or just about anyone else.

Are you in a country where your rights are under threat? Could some of your information leave you open to discrimination? Think about how your information can be linked up across the internet by the username you use, and how people accessing that information could harm you.

Switch it up a little and use different usernames for different websites, if you don’t, you could be very easy to find. If you have ever posted anything personal on a website, forum, anything… it means someone who’s run into you on another site can potentially find it. It means employers could find it. If armchair internet detectives can find it, you can bet government can definitely find it.

If you are using a very common nickname, then it’s going to be a little harder to join the dots, but still be cautious, and do not think you are hidden from view because of it.

Don’t use the same information everywhere.

If you are using just one email address and you use it to sign up to every service you use, that’s another way the accounts can be linked and you can be identified. Is your email address searchable on those accounts? Can you be looked up on Facebook with it? What about other places? Much like the username, there are a lot of potential dangers to this.

Get a domain or two, create a bunch of forwarders to your main account, or mailboxes if you have the patience, and use different email addresses in different places on the web. Depending on how much privacy you want to keep, it may be worth getting a few domains. If you keep using the same one, it may start becoming a little obvious.

Don’t be an ass.

Just to throw this in again, this information is intended to help people keep their privacy and control of their data in an age where exactly that is at risk. Do not use it to be an idiot.

People appreciate the ability to keep their lives private. The ability to be anonymous. Some may not have the same rights to privacy as we do here in the UK, and it makes advice like this valuable.

Anonymity online is not an excuse to do whatever you want. Acting like a moron is partially why there are attempts to banish it. Don’t ruin it for the rest of us.