For Whom the Bell Tolls

I’m just rambling along, rabbit holing ; sorry for 765 boring words, but I’m a bit annoyed.

“Chrome Now checks for your mobile location even when Chrome is not running in order to continue showing you relevant Now cards. You can turn off Google Now at any time.”

Pardon ?
In the right hand lower corner of my screen all of a sudden in the windows bar a kind of bell appeared. You know right down, where the date, the time and all these autostarted niceties – like sound-thingy, safety-thingy etc.etc. – show up. The bell is pretty dark and badly recognisable. I first did not identify it as bell, but as a mere grey blob.

Clicking on the bell opens a box that says “Nothing to see here, move along.”
Thank you very much for telling me to “move along” on my own computer !
The box also says “Notifications” – thank you again, for not saying “Ransoms” or something.
To the right (we are still inside the box) are three symbols: A bell crossed out, three horizontal short lines (unclickable), and finally the simplified cogwheel for “settings”.
Clicking “settings” opens the upper part of said box, where it says: “Allow notifications from the following:”. Google Now and / or Google+ are suggested ; one can click the box for each, or not.
The boxes are not clicked, of course .
Next to “Google Now” is an information dot. Clicking on this leads to this webpage. It tells me basically that Google monitors where I go.  Or better, where my mobile devices are.
As if it would be Google’s concern. I have no clue what  “Google Now” may be, or where these “notifications” come from all of a sudden. They did not even feel the need to ask me about this, they simply do it. I don’t even have an account with them. Oh, and yes – of course you can switch it off : Just un-click the boxes.
But : I did NOT switch it on ! I did NOT actively and voluntarily bring this software  – be it a “service” or a program – onto my computer. I not even knew that this existed – before the bell appeared.


So this nonsense can come onto my computer only via the browser, which is based on chromium. “Iron” says it would use the chromium engine etc. but remove the Google-specific “calling home” nonsense.
But in this case Iron Fails.
Iron has to go.

Can one of my beloved readers make a suggestion for a replacement ?


I would very much like to use software that does not “check for my location even when not running”.
And no, I will not use Google hardware like portables or other computers, watches, or cars, or houses or anything else they stick their spy software operating system in. “Internet of Things” (Ger., Eng.), oh dear. When instead of the autonomous delivery truck the autonomous tank comes by – it is just a minor protocol error ?
What started as nice clean search engine (1998, 16 years ago !) slowly but steadily turns into the wet dream of a megalomaniac. What was the last thing they bought – cameras ? San Francisco ? Some minor states for tax evasion ?
Yes, I am slightly exaggerating. But it gets too large, at least for my tastes. Too much information, data, meta-data in the hand of a single corporation, and as we know since SNOWDEN, in the hand of very few agencies. In the end it’s the final victory of sigint (Ger., Eng.) over humint (Ger., Eng.).
Okay, this stupid little bell is not the Untergang des Abendlandes, but something changed. Not for the better. I know that I’m much too unappealing to be spied on, much too poor to be of any financial interest, far away from something that is only vaguely connected to “power”, war & peace or any stately affaire. I simply do not like the idea that all I do online is in some way registered, and used by someone or somewhat I have no idea about. And what Google does, and probably some other companies, is that they blur the line between “online” and “offline” with their refined technologies. This line is already thin thanks to all the portables, all these oh so convenient machines people carry around with them all the time. If there should still be a gap, the android-run “internet of things” will close it. The already barely surveyed data mines will become immeasurably abundant.
One does not need to be a Spengleresque pessimist to see that this is open to abuse. If something is possible, it will be done ; sooner or later.

10 thoughts on “For Whom the Bell Tolls

  1. Yeah, I know you’re right but it’s too late for me. All I can do is use different products – Safari as a browser, Bing as a search engine, Google for email – so that one of the bastards doesn’t know everything about me. But I delude myself, I know.

  2. If one here is not prone to delusion it is You, dear Z.
    And needless to say, using different services is all one can do – it shouldn’t be too easy for the poor analyst to gather a profile. But in the end this is automatized too, and I talk about windmills. Maybe I am just disgruntled because of this “move along”-remark. They could at least be friendly.

  3. I do hope they’re monitoring me, constantly. I like the idea of boring these idiots into submission. I love the idea that the fact that, today, I went to Waitrose, TWICE, and THEN to Tesco’s, will throw GCHQ into turmoil.

    I suspect that my new television, which can surf the internet, tell me what I should be viewing and, for all I know, grate the parmesan, is watching me more than I’m watching it. So far, I don’t think my fridge can overhear my conversations. If it can, best of luck with interpreting them, I struggle with that myself.

  4. ALARM !
    Incredible deviation from routine ! Lets check the till receipts – what is he up to ?

    If your new telly is a LG or a Samsung your antics & frolics could well be streamed to some interested audience, sadly free of charge Tim. ANd for the interpretation, there’s idea.

  5. [tangential rabbit hole. sorry.]

    All of that is a concern. But what alarms me far more is the police state surveillance of the National Security Agency, Bundesnachrichtendienst, and/or [insert name/initials of local spook agency].

  6. Oh yes LX, it is a part of it all.
    Here is a summary in Die ZEIT, sorry in German. The BND says that they want to increase the surveillance of social media (twitter, farcebook, youtube [?] and so on). They are building new departements (if the cash is granted, what should be a technicality). Wonder where to apply.
    The NSA read the google and yahoo clouds, project MUSCULAR. And everything in the US at least since 2004. Officially Google, Farcebook, Yahoo and Microsoft collaborate with the stately organs only when there’s an order by a judge. Inofficially the agencies grab it all.

    The whole thing should be searchable here. Here’s The Guardian, additional material by Greenwald.

    Google, Apple and Microsoft say they want more and better encryption – so it slows down the reading a bit.
    Cosmetics, I think. IMHO the big shots (from A-pple to V-erizon) were involved from the start.

    It is outrageous. And no single politico has any intention to change something. The parliamental comittee here gives the impression that some members don’t have the smallest idea what it’s all about.
    In a way all this makes my bleating about Google’s bell pretty silly. It is absolutely insignificant whether an unwanted service or whatever pops up on my screen – here obviously with the intention to push ads towards me based on my whereabouts.
    What angers me is the disrespectful recklessness of this all – and in this respect it’s the same, if Google all of a sudden wants to notify me about something I did not ask for, if an agency grabs all my emails and sms, or Tim’s tv watches us getting drunk in front of it. Everyone is a voyeur, but the state or any greedy company simply do not have the right to peep & spy on us, without any reasonable suspicion, just because it is technically possible : This replaces “citizen” with “suspect”.
    That’s why I dumped Iron. As Z and Tim said: it shouldn’t be too easy.

  7. Oh, definitely not silly. I agree 100% with the points you made about the intrusive corporate surveillance.

    I read this apt description somewhere, but can’t attribute it. “If it’s free, you’re not the customer — you’re the product.” Google, Facebook, et al provide all of this free software for us. They make their money by delivering targeted ads to us and strip mining every bit of personal data they can glean. I understand that. As they say in the Mafia, “It’s not personal. It’s just business.”

    I re-watched Das Leben der Anderen earlier this week. The Stasi agents, programs, methodology, and mind set are eerily close to what is going on now. I find it alarming and depressing.

  8. To lx: And if you use free Google Analytics, you are not just the product but also the supplier of your visitors data …

  9. PS: Google is so kind, so friendly, so transparent, so – I don’t know how to say – so OPEN! … According to the German law for data protection, on each blogger blog site using Google Analytics you get the following information in a header line: “Diese Website verwendet Cookies, um die Bereitstellung von Diensten zu verbessern. Durch die Nutzung dieser Website erklären Sie sich mit der Verwendung von Cookies einverstanden.” – combined with a link to the data protection informations and user conditions and a button “ok”. I right now pressed the ok-button just to see what will happen – and, what a surprise! This ok is valid for all the blogger blogs using Analytics I visited afterwards – not only for the one I gave my ok.
    So I have to find out now, how I can cancel my ok :-(

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