by John Ward
In a period of just nine days during February, a US search engine with links to the NSA has been caught conspiring to record Americans secretly, and censoring news about the populist movement Les Gilets Jaunes; while the French energy supplier EDF has been continuing to force an instrument of domestic surveillance into every French home on the direct orders of a President in the tertiary stages of a Napoleon complex.
As Jackie Mason often said, “Now you should worry”.
Yesterday, Google told the media (having been caught in the act of illegal surveillance) that it had made an “error” in not disclosing that its Nest Secure home security system has a built-in microphone in its devices. Consumers could, if they wished, turn the integral mic off, Google insisted.
Except, of course, it’s hard to turn off a mic if you don’t, as it were, know it’s there. “The feature was never meant to be secret,” Google whined.
Why on Earth would anyone want to be bugged as the price to pay for having home security? Think about it: “Hello, I’m here to enquire about getting Nest Home Security installed, and I’m especially intrigued that the kit includes a way of ensuring that every bump, grind, orgasm, opinion and crockery-throwing row in our house is going to be recorded by you guys, because that’s really going to make us feel extra safe and private”.
So, you’re in marketing team for the Nest project, and somewhere along the line it occurs to you that people concerned about personal security are not going to want (unwittingly) to be taking part in their very own Truman Show. Do you (a) feature it as an option than can be turned off or (b) keep shtum?
I mean, you’re given the product spec by the goggle-eyed pointyheads, and it says there’s a hidden mic in this little gadget, and as a reasonably senior executive you know that Google is hand in glove with the NSA. So you say, in some meeting or other, like, you know – maybe we should tell people about it. And they all say, “Oh – yeh, that’s a good idea” but by mistake it gets left off the launch marcoms and you don’t even notice.
Well, that makes sense. However, it’s not as if this device was launched on some kind of casual whim: Google acquired Nest for $3.2 billion in 2014 – an outfit that sells video doorbells and security cameras. You’re in the software data collection business, and these blokes sell spy hardware. But the possibility of real time snooping on the customer just never occurs to you. Why would it?
Nevertheless, I do not see any sign (in the media reporting this outrageously unconstitutional act) of anyone as yet asking Google, “Er, just what the blue blazes was the advantage to the consumer of having their every utterance monitored by an ISP with close links to State surveillance agencies?” I wonder what Google’s response would be to that teensy brain teaser.
“The microphone has never been on and is only activated when users specifically enable the option,” Google claimed. And if you believe that, then no doubt you’re happy to believe that inserting a cigar into an intern’s vagina is perfectly normal Presidential behaviour.
Google began selling the devices two years ago. That’s a long time for an entire marketing division, technical team and Board of Directors not to spot the unique microphone feature.
You know they’re lying, I know they’re lying. But nothing will come of it. After all, it isn’t very healthy to take on the US Alt State. It’s members kill people and stuff. No, really: they do.
At a far lower level (but with the same attitude involved) Edenis – the new incarnation of EDF’s “delivery and measurement” arm – has been working hard (under a direct edict from Macron) to install hitech sensor-counters in every French home over the last fifteen months. Having read in some of the techie media here about the disturbing range of information the new compteur can record, quite a few of the more awake French adult population have been quietly binning the initial requests and then more pointed demands as they came through the door. Following a conversation with the bar keeper in a local village, I decided to do the same.
Last week, Edenis sent out letters, and this time it was a demand: do as you’re told, or we will suspend your access to our website to check your consumption against the bill, put you on a higher tariff, cut you out of all special offers and stop all access to tailor-made consumption charges.
This ought to tell even the most dull among us just how much EDF want this operation to be fulfilled. The company has a long history of cheating (the year before last I was on the point of going to Court before they relented on the size of my bill) and a random consumerist check six years ago showed that 13% of all compteur bills from EDF were inaccurate….in the vast majority of cases, to the detriment of the customer.
An English-speaking French media source told me last Friday that the new gizmo tracks when you cook, take a shower or bath, get up, go to bed, the settings on your central heating, what rooms you use most and when, and when the house is empty. The company’s media PR insists that this will make it easier for EDF to tailor charges precisely to your needs, but my source insists from insider knowledge that this is rubbish: the new truc reduces the customer’s personal choice, and leaves him wide open to being charged at the highest rate during the heaviest consumption periods.
Aside from standard Big company greed, the rationale for this in Macron’s oddly arranged brain is that (with a golden shareholding in EDF) the Elyséenot only sees the chance for more profits to plug its embarrassing budget deficit, but also the chance to know precisely the best time to swoop if the house is the subject of seditious and “extreme” political views or terrorism. Quite separately, I would bet my last centime that cyber criminals throughout Europe are working as I write to hack into the data…which, in the more upmarket citadin homes, will conveniently tell them the best time to attempt a heist.
As predicted here some months back, the new 80 kph speed limit is primarily a tax drive aimed at achieving a 35% uplift in speeding fines. The Républicain newspaper reported last week that, after less than two years in power, the Macron administration has added 20% more surveillance cameras – an amazing statistic, and not exactly what one might term cameraderie.
It would be difficult to find a more perfect example of totalitarian corporate fascism than a dictatorial Presidency (put in place by a global bank) colluding with an energy supplier it part owns to both fleece and spy upon its population. Luckily for us all, the French are on the case, via the medium of the Gilets Jaunes.
As it happens, the GJs lead us straight back to Google. Type ‘gilets jaunes’ into the purely accidental eavesdropper search engine, and there is no ‘news’ option – you have to select that option from ‘More’ among many other useful addenda like ‘shopping’.
Go into the ‘All’ option and a cavalcade of one-sided State criticism awaits: GJs caught being anti-Semitic, GJs caught being violent, GJs’ popularity fading, GJs are anti-EU etc etc. For most compliant French media, GJ-bashing is at roughly the same level as Brexit-bashing in the UK.
But among the Gilets Jaunes themselves, the view remains the same: we are merely here to point out the injustice of falling wages and rising prices, and to make life uncomfortable for the corporate State being created by Emmanuel Macron. I speak to at least one group a week; they shrug at the demonisation…but add darkly that there are government troublemakers everywhere now. There is talk of paramilitary force being prepared against them. They have caused mayhem and demonstrations of mass support for 15 weeks in a row. The idea that their popularity is fading evokes raucous laughter among those manning the roundabouts and autoroute exits.
The UN is extremely critical of the French State’s reaction, pointing out that “since the start of the yellow vest protest movement in November 2018, we have received serious allegations of excessive use of force.” It goes on to make very profound observations:
“The restrictions on rights have also resulted in a high number of arrests and detentions, searches and confiscations of demonstrators’ possessions, and serious injuries have been caused by a disproportionate use of so-called ‘non-lethal’ weapons like grenades and defensive bullets or ‘flashballs’…..we fear that the disproportionate response may deter the population from continuing to exercise its fundamental freedoms.”
Well spotted for once United Nations: that is precisely the aim of Macron and the homoerotic yobs with whom he surrounds himself. (See Affaire Benallatfor more info on that reference)
Lest we forget, the left-wing blunt northern “journalist” and Remainer Paul Mason sent Emmanuel Macron good wishes on his election in 2017. Somewhat typical “Little Englander” ignorance, if you ask me.
The data-greedy neoliberal corporocrats will not rest until they have turned every last one of us upside down to get the money out of our pockets, and inside out to discover every last hate-crime we dare to commit. The Hard global Left underwritten by George Soros et al will do nothing to stop this, because they hope to inherit that infrastructure of close examination at some point.
Only an alliance of decent mutualists, creative entrepreneurs, and victims of heartless 3% thinking is going to stop these people. All of us in the West badly lack the motivators and honest leaders to make this happen.