Wired mag on Google and Silicon Valley's ties to the military-industrial complex
Wired has a great piece out by Nitasha Tiku on Google employees resigning over the company's military contracting, and the increasing realization by Silicon Valley workers that their companies are an integral part of the military-industrial complex. As I've been saying for a few months now, it's great that Googlers have finally started to look at their company's military drone contracting work. But this isn't new. Google has been helping the Pentagon wage war abroad for nearly two decades — and recently it's been helping domestic law enforcement, as well. Front and center: it's partnership with California-based predictive policing outfit called PredPol (a relationship I outline in my book Surveillance Valley).
The Wired piece quotes me:
Yasha Levine is the author of the book Surveillance Valley, which chronicles Google’s integration with the military starting in 2003 with the purchase of a CIA-backed mapping startup that would become Google Earth—through the company’s more recent work with the predictive policing startup PredPol.
Levine says he’s not surprised that Project Maven prompted employees to act. “It creeps people out, understandably, because drones are associated with drone strikes and missile strikes and murder and a lot of collateral damage and a lot of civilians being hurt,” he said. However, Levine thinks Google’s predictive policing work should get as much attention. “It’s very close to our life and has a big impact on inner city communities and minority communities.”
Anyway, I'm glad that Silicon Valley's ties to the U.S. National Security State are getting more attention. The industry's expensive marketing sheen's finally coming off. Nitasha makes a great point about President Donald Trump playing a role in this. He's been a PR nightmare for Silicon Valley — hard for most rank and file engineers to ignore their companies' role in the global war and surveillance machine when ol' Trump is the face of it. So it's not surprising that the furor over Facebook's data collection and now the resignations at Google happened after he was elected.
The election of President Trump may play a role as well. Had the Project Maven contract been revealed before the 2016 presidential election, “I think it’s probably fair to say that the response would have been smaller and different,” because there was less suspicion toward the administration, said one former Google employee, who recently resigned in part because of Project Maven. “We’ve just sort of taken it for granted, ‘Oh yeah, the US is the good guys.’”
Want to know more? Buy Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet