“Google styles itself as a friendly, funky, user-friendly tech firm that rose to prominence through a combination of skill, luck, and genuine innovation. This is true. But it is a mere fragment of the story. In reality, Google is a smokescreen behind which lurks the US military-industrial complex.” ~ Nafeez Ahmed, “How the CIA made Google: Inside the secret Network behind mass surveillance, endless war, and Skynet”
Back in the day when Google was first establishing its empire — and wasn’t the household name we know it to be now — I remember setting up my first gmail account. A friend had introduced me to it as I was becoming increasingly disillusioned with Microsoft. To be honest, I knew very little about Google, nor was I aware of the ground-breaking technology that was at the foundation of their service. All I knew is that I needed a referral link from a friend or family member in order to establish my own account. Seemed straightforward enough.
But then, with a simple Internet search (through Google, no less), results began appearing about how “creepy” the service was in compiling a record of each and every search, every email — including metadata. According to these alarmist headlines, the advent of Google and its wide-ranging data collection was a guaranteed privacy nightmare, which would pander to an increasingly prominent surveillance state around the world.
My thought at the time? Whoever’s writing these articles is seriously paranoid. After all, if you’re not doing anything wrong, why worry if they have a record of your emails and online activity spanning decades.
Over the years, as I’ve learned more about the dangers of widespread surveillance and the mass collection of data on the population — along with its far reaching ramifications — I’ve come to realize those early ‘alarmists’ weren’t far off. Actually, they may have greatly underestimated the situation we find ourselves in today. This is why it’s so disturbing to discover the true origins of Google are closely tied to the CIA and NSA.
Follow the Money
“In 1994… two young PhD students at Stanford University, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, made their breakthrough on the first automated web crawling and page ranking application. That application remains the core component of what eventually became Google’s search service. Brin and Page had performed their work with funding from the Digital Library Initiative (DLI), a multi-agency programme of the National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA and DARPA.
“But that’s just one side of the story.
“Throughout the development of the search engine, Sergey Brin reported regularly and directly to two people who were not Stanford faculty at all: Dr. Bhavani Thuraisingham and Dr. Rick Steinheiser. Both were representatives of a sensitive US intelligence community research programme on information security and data-mining,” writes investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed.
Thuraisingham noted in this document that from 1993 to 1999, “the Intelligence Community [IC] started a program called Massive Digital Data Systems (MDDS) that I was managing for the Intelligence Community when I was at the MITRE Corporation.”
With the intention of developing “data management technologies to manage several terabytes to petabytes of data,” as well as “query processing, transaction management, metadata management, storage management, and data integration,” the MDDS program funded 15 research projects at several different universities, including Stanford.
During the Annual Intelligence Community Symposium in 1995, an abstract presented by the MDDS program lists the main sponsors of the program are none other than the NSA, the CIA’s Office of Research & Development, and the Community Management Staff (CMS) which operates under the Director of Central Intelligence.
“In fact, the Google founder Mr. Sergey Brin was partly funded by this program while he was a PhD student at Stanford. He together with his advisor Prof. Jeffrey Ullman and my colleague at MITRE, Dr. Chris Clifton [Mitre’s chief scientist in IT], developed the Query Flocks System which produced solutions for mining large amounts of data stored in databases. I remember visiting Stanford with Dr. Rick Steinheiser from the Intelligence Community and Mr. Brin would rush in on roller blades, give his presentation and rush out. In fact the last time we met in September 1998, Mr. Brin demonstrated to us his search engine which became Google soon after [in September 1998],” recalls Thuraisingham.
This isn’t the first time U.S. intelligence has funded America’s top scientists — there’s a long history of collaboration, including the atomic bomb, satellite technology and putting a man on the moon. The Internet itself was made possible because of intelligence support in the 1970s, when the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) — an agency within the United States Department of Defense that’s responsible for developing new technologies to be used by the military — connected four supercomputers for the purpose of managing large data transfers. The agency then handed off its operations to the National Science Foundation (NSF), which in turn spread the network through thousands of universities, and, ultimately, to the public.
However, in the 1990s, military and intelligence budgets weren’t able to keep up with technological advances. But the Clinton administration saw an opportunity to fund these projects through the private sector — which had vast resources at their disposal. If U.S. intelligence wanted to conduct mass surveillance, it would need the help of universities and supercomputing companies.
With the MDDS grant, Google was born — and surpassed the wildest dreams of the intelligence community. Here was a network system that could organize information to a high degree and track like-minded groups of people across the Internet, identifying them by their digital fingerprints. Patterns could be spotted in this new sea of information, which would hopefully lead to the identification and tracking of terrorists virtually. But there’s a catch.
“Hastily passed 45 days after 9/11 in the name of national security, the Patriot Act was the first of many changes to surveillance laws that made it easier for the government to spy on ordinary Americans by expanding the authority to monitor phone and email communications, collect bank and credit reporting records, and track the activity of innocent Americans on the Internet,” says the ACLU. “While most Americans think it was created to catch terrorists, the Patriot Act actually turns regular citizens into suspects.” [source]
In other words, we’re paying through our own tax dollars to be spied upon — and guilty until proven innocent. As technology and the convenience it brings become increasingly prominent in our daily lives, we would be wise to ask: at what cost to our privacy and freedom?