Google: We’re Watching You! — June 15th

google watching youGoogle, the world’s leading corporation for technological innovation has placed itself at the very frontline of public concern for the collection and sharing of our personal information.

In cooperation with secretive programs authorized by FISA and the Patriot Act, Google acts as a proxy for the U.S. Government to violate our 4th Amendment Rights to the protection from unwarranted and unreasonable searches and seizures.

Though Google publicly denies any wrong-doing, the very laws that govern the secret collection of our personal data and meta-data also forbid companies like Google from revealing to the public how much and how wide-spread the sharing of our information really is.

Google says that the government does not have direct access to their server and data base, but how can we believe this? And what of indirect or back door access to the data they collect? Just how secure is the personal information they collect from their users? And WHY do they need to collect and store this information in the first place?

Google says it does not spy on its users, however it is well documented that the CIA has heavily funded Google from its earliest stages. So how are we to believe these organizations that pride themselves on their secrecy? We demand full transparency from Google, and the immediate stoppage of data sharing.

To this, we would like to pose the question of how, if corporations like Google, who behave as de facto agencies for the Federal Government, can claim the rights of personhood under the law?

Corporate personhood has proven to allow our government – in collusion and cooperation with companies such as Google – the ability to sidestep the Constitution and therefore we say, Corporations Are Not People. Corporate personhood is unconstitutional and we demand that this status be abolished.

Locally, here in Venice, the home to Google’s Southern California office, Google is also a part of a system that is gentrifying our community.

Google brings with it the redevelopment of all of North Venice to cater to their upwardly mobile employees, with high-end shops, restaurants and luxury apartments that infringe on the neighborhoods of our lowest income families. Google brings with it a lot of prestige and money, but no jobs and no opportunities for the poorest in our community, who need it the most.

If Google is to be in Venice, then Venice demands that Google behave as a good neighbor and give back to Venice, and to our low income families that have called Venice home for generations.

To address these issues, on Wednesday, June 12, 2013, POWER (People Organized for Westside Renewal) delivered a letter to Google in Venice, to call for a meeting to discuss these important issues and to find ways that Google can become part of the solution.

We now wait on Google’s response. Until then, we would like to put the company on notice, Google: We’re Watching You!

Media Liaison:
Mark Lipman

google watching


  1. Clay Claiborne says

    I’ve known and used Google even before it was a corporation, so when I
    heard they were going to protest Google in Venice, I went just to see
    what it was all about.

    Google was started by a couple of guys at Stanford who had the lofty goal
    of making all of humanity’s knowledge available to all of humanity. In
    the 16 years since they started, they have come incredibly close to
    fulfilling that goal.

    At the protest, I was turned off early by what appear to be harassment
    of two black, female Google security guards that obviously had no clue
    that this protest was happening by the leaders of this group of ~50
    demonstrators. After Mark Lipman finished his argument with the security
    guards, he went on to complain that Google provides “no jobs and no opportunities for the poorest in our community, who need it the most.”

    It seems that Google is to be blamed for “gentrifying our community.” Apparently they pay their employees too much. If they moved a sweetshop to Venice would that satisfy this group?

    True enough, Google requires mainly highly-skilled employees. The future
    requires mainly highly skilled employees. Have these protesters
    investigated the many ways Google has made it relatively easy to gain
    those skills, even in some of the lowest income communities in the

    And BTW, Google has a strong history of hiring from their community, the
    Open Source community. When I was president of Linux User, Los Angeles
    [LULA] they would regularly recruit through me because they believe in
    hiring first those who had contributed to this community.

    In 2004, when Google was in Santa Monica, near where the anti-war movement was protesting Bush at SM airport,
    the Google office practically emptied out to join the protest.
    Afterwards, a Google employee that had come from LULA invited me in for
    free sodas and a tour.

    Most people use the Internet everyday. Few have a deep understanding of how it was built and by who.

    Speaking of Google employees,
    everybody knows of (1) Larry Page, (2) Eric E. Schmidt and (3) Sergey
    Brin. How many know of David C. Drummond, a black man who joined Google
    11 years ago and is number 5 in their management team. I mention this so
    you don’t think they just hire black people for “lowest income” jobs.

    After I returned from the Google protest, I watched an Al Jazeera report
    on Google’s latest project to fulfill their mission: Solar powered WiFi
    access points lofted high with hot air balloons. Google sees it as a
    way to extend Internet access to the least connected and poorest people
    in the world.

    One of the demands of the protest was that Google “give back” to
    the Venice community. The day before the protest, some Google engineers
    were giving a programming class for youth at the Abbot-Kinney library. I
    didn’t hear anybody at the rally mention that. Did they even know about

    Even before Google moved to Venice, I was told, on the q-t, by the
    person delivering food to homeless people in Venice, that Google was
    funding the regular food drops.

    Last year, Google came in at #1 in CNN/Money/Fortune list of “100 Best Companies to Work For,”
    so obviously they should not be welcomed to Venice. Do these protesters
    know that all Google employees can spend 20% of their time, that’s one
    day in five, on personal projects? How many corporations do that?

    That’s how Google engineers, with official Google backing, were able to
    build the first Speech-to-Tweet system when Mubarak tried to shut down
    the Internet in Egypt during the revolution. Google, working with
    Twitter, made sure that anybody with access to a land-line could still
    tell the world what was happening in Egypt. They did the same thing when
    Qaddafi tried to shut down the Internet in Libya. I know of no US
    corporation that did as much for the democratic movement in MENA.

    In Nov-Dec 2010, when the first indications of what would be called the
    Arab Spring were developing, Google paid schools in Cairo to help
    improve Google Translates Arabic. That would prove extremely important
    in the coming months. I personally know of at least one use that may
    have saved lives, and saved the day, in Tahrir Square. Likewise, they
    rushed to improve their Farsi when people were in the streets in Iran,

    “We feel that launching Persian is particularly important now, given ongoing events in Iran” said Google principal scientist Franz Och in a statement on Goolge’s Official Blog.

    And remember Wael Ghonim, the Google employee that played a leading role
    in the Egyptian uprising? After Wael Ghonim was released from the
    custody of Mubarak’s thugs, he said he would like to return to work at
    Google if he was not fired. Outgoing Google CEO Eric Schmidt tweeted
    back “We’re incredibly proud of you, @Ghonim, & of course will welcome you back when you’re ready.”

    Google started out as an Open Source project. Like many successful Open Source & Free Software projects, it had to become a corporation to accomplish its mission. That’s just the way the world works now.

    But even though Google has become a giant corporation, I think I can accurately paraphrase Churchill by saying “Never before has a corporation done so much for so many for so little cost to the user.”

    I first discovered Google at the 1998 Linux Expo
    in North Carolina. They were just a Linux search engine working out of a
    garage them. They were, and are, a member in good standing of the
    Linux, Open Source or Free Software community.

    True to the Free Software creed, they operate on a very different
    intellectual property model than all the other corporation in the world
    that are not part of that community.

    Did those protesters even know that Google doesn’t own Android? True Google has contributed heavily to Android development, but the software remains under the GPL or “copy-left” licensing.
    Anybody can build an Android device without paying Google a single
    dime. Just try that with Iphone software. There is a big difference.

    They say charity begins at home, but home for Google is not Venice, in
    spite the big building here that they have taken over. Google is a
    citizen of the world and home is the Free Software movement that spawned
    it. So if you want to look for Google’s charitable side, you should
    look at all that they have done for Free Software. First, they continue
    to make most of the software they develop freely available under a GPL
    like license, then there are grant programs like the “Summer of Code”
    Summer of Code is a global program that offers post-secondary student
    developers ages 18 and older stipends to write code for various open
    source software projects. We have worked with open source, free
    software, and technology-related groups to identify and fund projects
    over a three month period. Since its inception in 2005, the program has
    brought together over 6,000 successful student participants and over
    3,000 mentors from over 100 countries worldwide, all for the love of
    code. If you use the Internet, a Droid phone, or many other
    Internet appliance, you benefit from code paid for by Google and made
    available for free. Microsoft only does that by way of exception, and
    then only because they have to compete with the Open Source Community.

    Much of what we know about Internet censorship in China is because
    Google very publicly fought it. All the others, Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo
    went along with the Chinese program without so much as a mummer of
    public protest.

    It was much the same when Bush started demanding access to people’s
    search records in 2006. Again, all the other search engines went along
    with the program. It was only when Google made clear they were going to
    fight it that those plans were abandoned.

    Google has also taken a strong position in fighting bogus claims of copyright infringement and in support of the “fair use” exception to the copyright laws. For that reason my Vietnam:American Holocaust remains up on YouTube
    [434,929 views] even as it was removed from Facebook because they don’t
    recognize fair use. When Google received a copyright infringement claim
    about one piece of music I used, they didn’t take down this very
    valuable anti-war film, instead they put a link to where viewers could
    buy the song.

    The Open Source movement is a revolutionary movement, I call it
    communist software. Oddly enough it was through my connections to this
    movement, rather than the Left, that first alerted me to the rising “Arab Spring” before anyone else in the LA left.

    Obviously, I have a long association with this movement, and with the
    most significant corporation spawned by that movement, Google. That’s
    why I think Google is the best corporation in the world and that’s why I
    come to its defense.

    Since this protest has adopted as its slogan “Google: We’re Watching
    You!,” I have to assume they have seen everything I have related above.
    What I can’t figure out is why, of all the corrupt corporations in the
    world, they choose to target Google.

    Personally, my protest time will continue to be focused on Syria, where
    an uncaring world is letting 200 people a day be slaughtered by their
    government, with the exception of occasional flurries into other areas,
    like this one.

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