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[liberationtech] GNI in the news and it's not looking hot

Jacob Appelbaum jacob at
Mon Mar 7 21:09:47 PST 2011

On 03/07/2011 11:50 AM, Katrin Verclas wrote:

GNI is frankly, a giant corporate {privacy,security,human rights,
etc}-washing joke. The people involved who really care essentially have
an impossible task. The only reason GNI has any credit at all is because
of Google's presence in the group. Google should leave the group and
refuse to work with people who put corporate profits before human rights
issues. Proactive action is more important than claiming to actually
make an impact.

My memory is a bit fuzzy but I recall that I attended a conference in
Berkeley a few years ago by the name of the Soul of the New Machine. At
this conference, I attended a GNI "discussion" with the audience. It was
a heavily moderated, written discussion format and it was utterly
worthless. All of my questions were rejected by the question card moderator.

Microsoft argued against anonymity on the internet; they were spreading
lies about how the creators of the internet didn't realize how bad
anonymity would be for everyone. A few weeks prior, I'd asked Vint Cerf,
one of the creators of the internet, about anonymity online and he
certainly didn't sound like a clueless guy unaware of the anonymity
situation on the internet. He even stated that it shouldn't change,
merely that we should also support strong authentication when it's
desired. Microsoft's shill had no idea about this perspective because he
was paid to push a pro-identity agenda to increase corporate profit and
state control is the main selling point. Absolutely disgusting.

Yahoo! had a lawyer who argued that the treatment of Oiwan Lam's case[0]
by Flickr/Yahoo! was reasonable. He refused to write her a letter of
support when I requested it of him; he argued that writing a letter
"would not scale" and the same lawyer even told me how the photographer
(!) was happy with this resolution from Flickr/Yahoo!. A great irony was
that the lawyer of course had no idea that _I_ was the photographer and
clearly I was not actually happy as he suggested. It's weird when
someone lies directly to your face about how you feel but it's
satisfying when they realize what's actually happening. In that
schadenfreude kind of way, of course. This lawyer from Yahoo! promised
to get back to me and to this day, I've never heard a thing from them
again. I don't believe that Oiwan ever got any support from Yahoo! or
Flickr. I certainly never received an appology from that lawyer for his
comments. Pretty much what I expected all along but it was sad to have
this confirmation.

Yahoo!'s lawyers said nothing about their methods for preventing another
Shi Tao case[1] from re-occurring. Considering the fact that they are
basically unable to deploy SSL/TLS, I'm unsurprised by the rest of their
policies. Lots of good people at Yahoo! are tainted by this kind of
behavior. They have a lot of talented engineers and people who care
about things that matter - I once wondered why they fail so badly at
this kind of thing. Some years later, I worked with some ex-Yahoo!
middle manager types and my questions were answered. Profit over people
seems to be a guiding corporate principle with only a few exceptions.

Google had a representative who explained that they were fighting a bad
internet identity law in South Korea and attempting to resolve it in a
privacy protecting manner. Until they were able to provide a user
protecting solution, they shut down the service in question. The service
was the South Korean Youtube site and the law was about registration of
usernames to real Korean state issued IDs.

I was impressed by Google's approach and I wondered why they'd taint
themselves by being anywhere near Yahoo! or Microsoft on human rights
issues. Google is far from perfect but they were really on message in a
believable way.

Of course, I'm sure things have changed a lot and these companies are
all doing much better now. Their respective leaked law enforcement
wiretapping guides[2][3][4] seem to indicate otherwise but I'm sure
that's just an oversight. It's a wonder that Facebook and other
companies haven't joined up!

The fact that other groups aren't joining only seems to underscore how
bad things have become across the entire board. Things are probably not
friendly to users when a company can't even agree on the GNI principles!

I look forward to their next self-issued press release that
congratulates GNI for being such a stand up bunch of corporations taking
pro-active action. Oh also, I look forward to more secret settlements
for those "Gotcha" moments that accidentally slip past the rigorous
external auditing processes.

All the best,


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