Posts about google

Past the page

Watch this video and be astounded by what you can do with questions and answers, orders and actions, curiosities and information in voice using “OK, Google” (or, if you prefer, as I do, “OK, Jarvis”).

Now think about the diminished role of the page and what that will do to media. We publishers found ourselves unbundled online, so we shifted from selling people entire publications to trying to get them to come to just a page — any page — and then another page on the web, lingering long enough to shove one more ad at their eyeballs.

But just as the web disintermediated physical media, voice disintermediates the page. But media still depend on the page as their atomic unit, carrying their content, brand, ownership, and revenue. Now, when you want to know the score of the Jets game — if you dare — you don’t need to go to ESPN and find the page, you just say, “OK, Google. What’s the Jets score?” And the nice lady will tell you the bad news.

Now let’s go farther — because that’s what I live to do. Let’s also disintermediate the device. There’s nothing to say that you need to speak to your device to do this as long as you can get your question to Google in the cloud. So imagine that you carry with you a transponder that broadcasts your identity — it could be a phone or Google Glass or a watch or just a card in your wallet, if you still need a wallet — so that when you walk into a connected room, you can simply say out loud, “OK, Google,” and ask your question and you’ll get an answer from whatever device happens to be listening. You can be in a rental car that knows you’re you and tell Google to add a calendar item or make a phone call or look up a fact and you’ll not have to see a single page. Star Trek didn’t navigate the universe through pages.

So there’s the next kick in the kidneys to old media. There’s another reason to build relationships with people so we can be their agents of information rather than just manufacturers of pages filled with content. Page? Content? What’s that?

Attention v. relationship economy

Oddly, Google chief economist Hal Varian analyzes newspapers‘ problems and prescribes solutions strictly from an old-media perspective — based on attention to marketing messages — rather than an internet (namely, Google) perspective of relevance and relationships.

In a speech to Italian journalists, Varian says that “the basic economic problem facing news is increased competition for attention” and that newspapers must use such tricks as tablets and dayparts to get people to spend more leisure time with news so they can show them more ads (ignoring, for one thing, the fact that advertising abundance — championed by Google — lowers advertising prices and takes from newspapers the pricing power they once had). “The fundamental challenge facing newspapers is to increase the time people spend on their content,” Varian says. “More time reading the newspaper online translates into more online ad revenue.”

I couldn’t disagree more. Pardon me for suggesting to a Googler that we would be better off asking, what would Google do?

Google reinvented the advertising model, moving past attention as a proxy for intent (“if they see my ad I can convince them to buy my product”) and placement as a substitute for relevance (“men read the sports section and men buy tires, ergo we will advertise our tires in the sports section”). Google also killed the beloved myth of mass media that supported it for a century: All readers see all ads so we charge all advertisers for all readers. Google understands that users have variable value that is increased the closer it can get to delivering relevance and intuiting intent through signals — search, location, context, behavior as well as consuming content — which come from having a relationship of mutual value with the user.

The last thing newspapers should do is continue to try to shovel their old relationships, forms, and models into a new reality. No, don’t just sell space for messages to advertisers (for they’ll soon wake up and realize the pointlessness of the exercise). Don’t try to recreate old forms in new devices like tablets. Don’t measure the value of relationship as page views or time spent. Don’t think your primary value is manufacturing content that you then try to sell.

Newspapers and other former media outlets should become — as Google is — services that still inform — that is their core value — but now can use their own signals to learn about and return relevance to people as individuals and communities rather than masses, thus deriving greater value in the transaction.

For example, through my use of its Maps, Google knows where I live and work. My local newspaper doesn’t. When I ask for “pizza” in search, Google doesn’t give me a hundred archived articles with the word “pizza” in them but gives me the nearest pizza (soon, I hope, the best pizza, the pizza I’d most likely enjoy, the pizza my friends like with ever crisper relevance … and crusts). If my newspaper knew where I lived and worked — if it gave me reason to reveal that — it could target content to me the way it already tries to target ads. Why does *every* newspaper site still treat its home page as a one-size-fits-all print page when it could prioritize news that might be more relevant to me?

The reason: because newspapers still believe in the myth of mass media; they want to hope that with enough time you will look at all the pages they make and all the ads on them. That is the old attention-based media model Varian still recommends. This is also why newspapers continue to sell advertisers space for messages when instead they should be helping those merchants build better relationships with customers. But first, newspapers have to learn how to build relationships themselves.

That is the lesson Google teaches us. That is the new media market Google, more than anyone, created.

First, the good news

First, listen to this superb and profoundly disturbing segment by On the Media producer Sarah Abdurrahman about how she and her husband and other guests at a Canadian wedding were detained and mistreated at the U.S. border crossings in spite of their citizenship — American — and because of their religion — Islam.

Welcome back. I told you it well done, didn’t I? I’d be screaming bloody murder at such treatment but Abdurrahman kept her journalistic cool and curiosity, trying to get the facts and understand our rights, asking questions, in spite of never getting answers. People have been saying lately that Verizon picked on the wrong person in me. Well, U.S. Customs and Border Protection could not have picked a worse person to detain: a smart, accomplished journalist with an audience.

I would hope that CBP is humiliated by this and will change, but our government isn’t humiliated by spying on the entire damned world and won’t change that, so I’ll give up my hope. Nonetheless, this story is the perfect bookend to the Guardian’s reporting on the NSA, showing a government that is out of control — because its citizens can no longer control it. Well done, OtM. Thank you, Sarah.

Now the bad news. Next came a story that did have me shouting at the radio as geographer Jim Thatcher condemned major tech companies with broad brush — without specifics, without evidence or proof, only with innuendo — for the possibility they could be redlining the world and diverting users away from certain areas. “It’s hidden what they’re doing,” he said. If it’s hidden, then how does he know they’re doing it? Not said. Microsoft had a patent that could do things like this but Thatcher acknowledged that “Microsoft may or may not” every use it. They could.

Brooke Gladstone laments Google’s purchase of Waze for $1.3 million because “we are being sold for our data, it’s an old story.” No, I was using Waze at the very moment I heard that because (1) I get data of great value back, helping me avoid not opium dens but traffic jams and (2) I generously want to share my data with others who have generously shared theirs with me. This is an example of a platform that does precisely what news organizations should do: help the public share its information with each other, without gatekeepers.

Next, Thatcher says with emphasis that “theoretically” Google could charge coffee shops for directing us to one over another. Then Thatcher acknowledges that it’s not happening. It could. And he dollops on a cherry of fear about technology and “for-profit” corporations.

Don’t you smell the irony in the oven, OtM? You properly and brilliantly condemn the CBP for detaining Americans because they are Muslims and because Muslims could do terrorism even when they don’t. Then, in the very next segment, you turn around and needlessly condemn technology companies because they could do things some guy imagines even though he admits they don’t.

Those are two sides of the same phenomenon: moral panic, the unsubstantiated suspicion that some apparently alien entity — Muslims or (OMG!) for-profit technology companies — could upset the social order, a fear often fanned by media.

Put down the fan, OtM, and learn the lesson from Abdurrahman’s superb story that your role — you of all media outlets — is to throw cold water on such unwarranted fright-mongering.

Mind you, these two segments were surrounded by two more very good reports: one that gives us a guide for what to ignore in breaking news (so as not to fan flames) and another about how — surprise, surprise, surprise — technology can lead to good ends. I remain a fan and loyal listener of OtM. And that is why I humbly offer you a map to guide you away from a dodgy neighborhood called technopanic.

Verizon responds, and so do I

I just received a letter from Verizon’s VP and associate general counsel, William H. Johnson, to the acting head of the FCC Enforcement Bureau, Robert Ratcliffe, responding to my Nexus 7 complaint. I will respond below. First, Verizon’s stand:

In a letter to the Enforcement Bureau, Jeff Jarvis alleges that Verizon Wireless is violating its C Block obligations by declining to activate Mr. Jarvis’s Google Nexus 7 LTE tablet on its network. Verizon Wireless takes seriously its C Block obligations, and, as explained below, it is fully complying with them, including with respect to the device in question.

The Google Nexus 7 is a new tablet developed by Google. Google announced in July that this tablet will run on the Verizon Wireless network. The manufacturer of the Nexus 7 subsequently submitted the device for our certification process in August, and that process has proceeded apace. In fact, we expect final certification of the device will come shortly. Once the device is certified, we will work with Google to enable the device to be activated on our 4G LTE network within a matter of days.

Verizon Wireless’s certification process is fully consistent with the Commission’s C Block rules. Those rules require Verizon Wireless to allow customers to use their choice of devices, but they also recognize that this obligation only applies in the case of devices that comply with the provider’s published technical standards. See 47 C.F.R. § 27.16(b). The Commission recognized that providers may “use their own certification standards and processes to approve use of devices and applications on their networks so long as those standards are confined to reasonable network management,” and the Commission allowed providers flexibility in implementing these standards and processes.1 Verizon’s certification process for third-party devices like the Google Nexus 7 is a straightforward way to ensure that devices attached to the Verizon Wireless network do not harm the network or other users. Although Verizon Wireless uses one of the most rigorous testing protocols of any carrier, the process generally takes only between four and six weeks. Certification is done by third party labs approved by Verizon Wireless, and selected by the device manufacturer. Over the years, Verizon Wireless has certified hundreds of devices; information on the certification process is available to anyone at www.opennetwork.verizonwireless.com.

Verizon is committed to ensuring our customers have the best overall experience when any device becomes available on the nation’s most reliable network. Please let us know if you have any further questions on this matter.

In a letter I will shortly send to the FCC, I will ask: What is the definition of “open”? What is the definition of the Block C requirement that allows “customers to use the devices and applications of their choice”?

The industry definitions of openness and consumer choice across GSM carriers all around the world is quite clear: I take a device to Germany, say, buy a SIM, put it in the device, and if the frequencies of the antennae match, then it will work. Full stop. This works because there is an open standard that governs the process, not a closed “certification” process.

The Nexus 7 clearly has met these open standards. It has been approved by the FCC. It works on the networks of AT&T, T-Mobile, and GSM carriers around the world — any one of whom has much, much more experience with GSM than Verizon. As I and others have demonstrated, the Nexus 7 *does* work on Verizon’s network.

That is not the issue. The issue is that Verizon refuses to give me the immediate opportunity — using a device of my choice on an open network — to receive a SIM and add it to my shared data plan. As I noted in my complaint, Verizon agents used this as an opportunity to try to sell me Verizon tablets. That is a consumer issue.

That is in direct contravention of the spirit and letter both of the Block C requirements and the FCC consent decree of July 2012 against Verizon demanding openness and consumer choice on the network.

I continue to ask the FCC to bring clarity to this matter and to assure that Verizon will operate an open network on which the customers — not Verizon — have the power of choice.

Note well that the Nexus 7 is just the first of many devices sure to come to market from all over the world. That development is what was to be encouraged by the clause of the Block C requirements we are discussing. That cannot bear Verizon’s continued interference.

: LATER: I received a letter from Verizon responding to my FCC complaint and I responded in turn in the post above.

TelHell thus far

Notes on the Verizon fight, ongoing. The original post is below.

Here is my rant on This Week in Google:

The discussion continues. Here is the full show.

It took six days but a Verizon executive handling Verizon policy and external affairs, Libby Jacobson, finally responded to me there. But I won’t buy her company line.

The discussion around my posts on Google+ has been fascinating — vitriol against Verizon and a surprising level of customer support for T-Mobile and its service and data plans.

Here is where the saga began. Note how calm I am: I’m assuming this is just a bureaucratic screwup, not a willful act to violate the terms of the Block C spectrum auction and a consent decree against Verizon. I don’t hear anything over the weekend — understandable — so I wait until Monday to ask again.

I got confirmation that the device does work on Verizon’s network — it just *won’t* connect it. So I wrote the post below and crossposted it on Google+ with much conversation there.

Here is reaction to my FCC complaint against Verizon, which I filed with the Enforcement Bureau. Here was Verizon refusing to connect my unlocked device and trying to sell me one of their locked devices instead. I think that’s a violation of consumer law and I think I’ll go to the Federal Trade Commission on that.

I also posted a version of the tale on Huffington Post, where there is more conversation.

Related: Here is a Guardian story reporting that phone companies did not put up a fight when handing our data over to the NSA. Whose side are they on? And here’s a Verizon executive slamming Google and other technology companies for “grandstanding” when they defend our rights against the NSA and its spying. Again, whose side are they on?

I still have not heard from Google on this matter. I’m disappointed but I will keep trying.

I’ll keep the reports coming.

: AND: Here is the post Verizon erased (along with a few years’ worth) in which it promised to follow the open network requirements of the Block C auction (thanks to a Buzzmachine commenter for finding it).

: UPDATES: Continuing to update this post to keep a record of coverage.

* Josh Stearns at Free Press writes a wonderful post looking at Verizon’s larger venalities.

Verizon is working hard to undermine openness not just on wireless devices but across the Internet. In court last week, Verizon argued that it should be allowed to edit the Internet — blocking sites if it wants, or making them pay more to reach Verizon customers.

It’s all part of Verizon’s campaign to undermine the FCC’s authority to protect consumers online. This is like Exxon saying the Environmental Protection Agency lacks the authority to stop polluters from destroying the environment.

Jeff Jarvis has filed his complaint about Verizon’s blocking. It’s now up to the FCC to stop Verizon’s latest assault on open networks.

* Ars Technica also gives the matter good coverage. I disagree with their conclusion that Verizon will beat the regulators by approving the device soon. That does not wipe away their crime, which was delay and bogus certification.

* Consumerist points out that Verizon doesn’t know the difference between “can’t” and “won’t.

Verizon, caught red-handed

nexus7slide2
Verizon has now on multiple occasions refused to connect my Google Nexus 7 LTE tablet, though the device was publicized widely as working on Verizon and though I know from other users that it will work on its network. On Twitter, its support spokesman said in response to my repeated inquiries over four days:

Verizon is thus clearly violating FCC regulations governing its acquisition of the spectrum that enables its LTE service, which require it to open to *all* devices. To quote from the regulations (my emphasis):

(b) Use of devices and applications. Licensees offering service on spectrum subject to this section shall not deny, limit, or restrict the ability of their customers to use the devices and applications of their choice on the licensee’s C Block network, except:
(1) Insofar as such use would not be compliant with published technical standards reasonably necessary for the management or protection of the licensee’s network, or
(2) As required to comply with statute or applicable government regulation.

Verizon also violates its promise not to violate that requirement. On May 7, 2008, Ars Technica quotes Verizon VP Jim Gerace saying on the company’s public policy blog:

“Verizon Wireless—and all the other participants in the recent 700 MHz spectrum auction—understood the FCC’s rules for using that spectrum in advance of the auction. Of course we’ll abide by those rules.”

I attempted to read the rest of Gerace’s blog post but Verizon has erased years of its posts there and the Wayback Machine does not have a cache from that date.

This promise came in response to a tough letter from Google at the time demanding that Verizon abide by the rule. Said Google: “The Commission must ensure that Verizon understands that this license obligation means what it says: Any Apps, Any Devices.”

And no wonder, for Google anticipated precisely this situation when it entered the spectrum auction Verizon won and insisted then on open access as an FCC condition of the sale: Google ended up marketing an unlocked device made to run on Verizon’s LTE network and now Verizon refuses to honor its promise to abide by the rules of its auction to do so.

On Twitter and Google+, many have asked why I bother, why I don’t just install the T-Mobile SIM and month’s free access that came with the Nexus 7 LTE. A few reasons: First, I am stuck with a shared-data plan on Verizon thanks to my locked (how could you, Google?!) Chromebook Pixel with LTE and my family’s Verizon iPads. Second, adding the Nexus 7 to my shared-data plan will cost me only $10 more a month, less than I’ll play if I support it solo on another carrier’s network. Third, this is a matter of principle. I will bring my Dell Hell experience to bear and fight for what is right.

Some also caution that on the Verizon network, my Nexus 7 will connect only if LTE is available; it will not be able to fail down to slower speeds as it could on other networks. True; that is how my Chromebook Pixel works and I am willing to live with the limitation for the price.

It has also been pointed out to me across social media that one can take a Verizon SIM from another LTE device, put it in the Nexus 7, and it will work. Only problems are, I don’t have such a SIM and if I did I’d need to use it in that other device. But this does prove — as others have done it — that the Nexus 7 *does* work on Verizon’s network.

So this is not a matter of anything Verizon cannot do. This is a matter of what Verizon will not do. And that is what makes this a violation of FCC regulations and Verizon’s assurances.

I have frequently asked Verizon for its help on Twitter and Google+ and in its store and via phone to Verizon Wireless via a representative in that store; you see the net of that above: a smart-assed refusal to take my money. I tried many avenues before writing this post.

I have twice asked Verizon Wireless’ director of PR for devices, Albert Aydin (@VZWalbert) for a company statement on why it refuses to connect the Nexus 7 and I have heard nothing. I do so as a journalist and also as a member of the public (I take the title “public relations” literally). I will email this post to him once more asking for the company’s statement.

I will also ask Google PR for its stand regarding Verizon’s violation of its assurances to the FCC and Google. Back in 2008, Verizon said: “As we work to put the spectrum we won to good use, if Google or anybody else has evidence that we aren’t playing by the rules, there are legitimate and expedited ways to address that.” Yes, like blogs, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, This Week in Google, Reddit, and angry customers everywhere.

: LATER: Verizon digs its hole deeper, with the @VZWSupport Twitter account sending me this:

To which I replied: “Cannot” is a lie. “Will not” is truthful — and the violation of the FCC regulations.

: LATER: Here is the *proof* that Verizon’s network *can* connect to the Nexus 7 but that Verizon *refuses* to do so, *violating* the FCC regulations. I took the SIM out of my Chromebook Pixel, put it in the Nexus 7 LTE, and it worked — note the “VERIZON WIRELESS” at the bottom of the screen and the bars at the top.

nexus7capture

: LATER: Android Central got this from Verizon: “This is not yet a device that is Verizon 4G LTE certified. We’ll let folks know when its certified.”

Hmmm. This device was announced two months ago. They are just getting around to thinking about this now? Or they are succumbing to pressure and the requirements of the FCC’s regulations? I report, you decide.

Funny thing is, Verizon apparently responded to CNET and Android Central but not to me. All they tell me is that they won’t/can’t do it.

: THE NEXT DAY: Torod B. Neptune, VP of Corporate Communications for Verizon Wireless, just sent me this email: “I apologize for the delay in getting back to you. The Nexus 7 is not yet a Verizon 4G LTE certified device. As background, below is the link to information on our certification process, which you’ll find under the ‘Get Your Device Certified’ tab: www.opennetwork.verizonwireless.com.” [The link doesn't work; take out the www and it will]

I’m asking questions elsewhere to interpret this. The device already works on Verizon’s network. The issue is that Verizon won’t give me a sim and add it to my account. Again we come to the “can” vs. “will” conundrum. More later.

: LATER: I have just filed this complaint with the Enforcement Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission:

I am a Verizon Wireless customer registering a complaint regarding Verizon’s refusal to connect my Verizon 7 LTE tablet via its C Block LTE spectrum, in violation of:

* 47 CFR 27.16 – Network access requirements for Block C, paragraph (b), reading in part: “Licensees offering service on spectrum subject to this section shall not deny, limit, or restrict the ability of their customers to use the devices and applications of their choices on the licensee’s C Block network…”

* Also the FCC’s July 2012 consent decree with Verizon underlining the requirement for open access to the C Block network. Chairman Genachowski said at the time, “[C]ompliance with FCC obligations is not optional. The open device and application obligations were core conditions when Verizon purchased the C-block spectrum.”

Google announced its Nexus 7 LTE tablet earlier this year and promoted the fact that the device would operate on the LTE services of T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon Wireless. On that promise, I bought a Nexus 7 LTE from Google — waiting weeks for it to be offered in addition to wifi-only devices. I received it last Friday.

On Saturday, September 15, I went to the Verizon Wireless store on Route 206 in Bridgewater, NJ, and attempted to add the device to my shared data plan. I was told that it could not be added because Verizon had not yet added the IMEI numbers to its system. The clerk called Verizon himself and could not solve the problem at the time. I’d had a similar problem when I attempted to activate my Google Chromebook Pixel with LTE service sometime before and that was solved eventually by adding the SKU to the company’s system. So I thought this would be solved with help and I reached out to Verizon support on Twitter and Google+.

On Monday, September 17, I received this message in response from the official Verizon Wireless support Twitter account (my emphasis): “@jeffjarvis I’m excited you got your Nexus 7 but not all LTE tablets are created equal. It’s not part of our line up & can’t be activated^JH.” Later that day, I received another tweet from that account reading (my emphasis): “@jeffjarvis We apologize for any inconvenience; however, it can not be activated. Go to http://vzw.com/products to view compatible tablets^LA.”

There Verizon is refusing to connect my tablet though it has been approved by the FCC and is compliant with standards such that it is also being offered and being activated on AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s LTE networks. Further, Verizon is instead attempting to require that I buy a tablet from them. This is a clear violation of the letter and intent of the openness requirement on Block C.

I later tested Verizon’s claim that the device could not be connected. I took the SIM from my Chromebook Pixel, placed it in the Nexus 7 LTE table, and it connected to the Verizon network just fine. So the issue is not that the device cannot be connected but that Verizon will not connect it.

Thus it is clear that Verizon is violating the terms of the Block C spectrum auction and of its consent decree with the Enforcement Bureau of the Commission.

I will also note that on May 7, 2008, the technology news service Ars Technica quoted Verizon Wireless vice president and spokesman Jim Gerace saying, in response to a Google complaint regarding Verizon’s compliance with Block C requirements: “Verizon Wireless — and all the other participants in the recent 700 MHz spectrum auction — understood the FCC’s rules for using that spectrum in advance of the auction. Of course we’ll abide by those rules.”

But Verizon Wireless is not doing so. I contacted public relations executives at Verizon Wireless via Twitter and email and on the third attempt received communication directing me to its certification process. Yet in a November 27, 2007 press release the company said that “Any device that meets the minimum technical standard will be activated on the network.” Clearly, the device meets the standards for it has been approved by the FCC; it works on T-Mobile’s and AT&T’s networks; and it demonstrated that it works on Verizon’s network.

This is a matter of Verizon subverting the Commission’s rules related to the requirement of openness on Block C. It is also a matter of consumer fraud.

I ask that you forward this complaint to the appropriate authorities at the Commission and I ask that you inform me of the progress of your investigation.

Tech companies: Whose side are you on?

I wrote this for the Guardian. I’m crossposting it here for my archive. The post is all the more relevant a day later as Google, Apple, AT&T, and Public Knowledge attend a secret White House meeting about secrecy. I’d have a lot more respect for them if they refused, given the condition.

Technology companies: Now is the moment when you must answer for us, your users, whether you are collaborators in the U.S. government’s efforts to collect it all — our every move on the internet — or whether you, too, are victims of its overreach.

Every company named in Edward Snowden’s revelations has said that it must comply with government demands, including requirements to keep secret court orders secret. True enough. But there’s only so long they can hide behind that cloak before making it clear whether they are resisting government’s demands or aiding in them. And now the time has come to go farther: to use both technology and political capital to actively protect the public’s privacy. Who will do that?

We now know, thanks to Snowden, of at least three tiers of technology companies enmeshed in the NSA’s hoovering of our net activity (we don’t yet know whether the NSA has co-opted companies from the financial, retail, data services, and other industries):

(1) Internet platforms that provide services directly to consumers, allowing government to demand access to signals about us: Google with search, mail, calendars, maps; Facebook with connections; Skype with conversations, and so on.

In its first Prism reporting, the Washington Post apparently unfairly fingered nine of these companies, accusing the NSA and FBI of “tapping directly into the central servers” that hold our “chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs.” Quickly, the companies repudiated that claim and sought the right to report at least how many secret demands are made. But there’s more they can and should do.

(2) Communications brands with consumer relationships that hand over metadata and/or open taps on internet traffic for collection by the NSA and Britain’s GCHQ, creating vast databases that can then be searched via XKeyscore. Verizon leads that list, and we now know from the Süddeutsche Zeitung that it also includes BT and Vodafone.

(3) Bandwidth providers that enable the NSA and its international partners to snoop on the net, wholesale. The Süddeutsche lists the three telco brands above in addition to Level 3, Global Crossing, Viatel, and Interroute. Eric King, head of research for Privacy International, asked in the Guardian, “Were the companies strong-armed, or are they voluntary intercept partners?”

The bulk data carriers have no consumer brands or relationships and thus are probably the least likely to feel commercial pressure to protect the rights of the users at the edge. The telephone companies should care more but they operate as oligopolies with monopoly attitudes and rarely exhibit consumer empathy (which is a nice way of saying their business models are built on customer imprisonment).

A hodgepodge alliance of U.S. legislators is finally waking up to the need and opportunity to stand up for citizens’ rights, but they will be slow and, don’t we know, ineffective and often uninformed. The courts will be slower and jealous of their power. Diplomacy’s the slowest route to reform yet, dealing in meaningless symbolism.

So our strongest expectations must turn to the first tier above, the consumer internet platforms. They have the most to lose — in trust and thus value — in taking government’s side against us.

At the Guardian Activate conference in London last month, I asked Vint Cerf, an architect of the net and evangelist for Google, about encrypting our communication as a defense against NSA spying. He suggested that communication should be encrypted into and out of internet companies’ servers (thwarting, or so we’d hope, the eavesdropping on the net’s every bit over telcos’ fibre) but should be decrypted inside the companies’ servers so they could bring us added value based on the content: a boarding pass on our phone, a reminder from our calendar, an alert about a story we’re following (not to mention a targeted ad).

Now there are reports that Google is looking at encrypting at least documents stored in Google Drive. That is wise in any case, as often these can contain users’ sensitive company and personal information. I now think Google et al need to go farther and make encryption an option on any information. I don’t want encryption to be the default because, in truth, most of my digital life is banal and I’d like to keep getting those handy calendar reminders. But technology companies need to put the option and power of data security directly into users’ hands.

That also means that the technology companies have to reach out and work with each other to enable encryption and other protections across their services. I learned the hard way how difficult it is to get simple answers to questions about how to encrypt email. The industry should work hard to make that an option on every popular service.

But let’s be clear that encryption is not the solution, probably only a speed bump to the NSA’s omnivorous ingesting. At the Activate conference, Cerf was asked whether the solution in the end will be technical or institutional. No doubt, institutional, he answered. That means that companies and government agencies must operate under stated principles and clear laws with open oversight.

Before Snowden’s leaks, technology CEOs would have had to balance cooperation and resistance just as the nation supposedly balances security and privacy. But now the tide of public opinion has clearly shifted — at least for now — and so this is the moment to grab control of issue.

If they do not assert that clear control, these technology companies risk losing business not only from skittish consumers but also from corporate and foreign-government clients. The Cloud Security Alliance polled companies and found that 10% had canceled U.S. cloud business and 56% were less likely to do business with U.S. providers. “If businesses or governments think they might be spied on,” said European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes, “they will have less reason to trust the cloud, and it will be cloud providers who ultimately miss out.”

Besides taking action to secure technology and oversight within their companies and the industry, right-thinking technology companies also need to band together to use their political capital to lobby governments across the world to protect the rights of users and the freedom and sanctity of privacy and speech on the net. They must take bold and open stands.

To do that, they must first decide on the principles they should protect. In my book Public Parts, I proposed some principles to discuss, among them:
* the idea that if any bit on the net is stopped or detoured — or spied upon — then no bit and the net itself cannot be presumed to be free;
* that the net must remain open and distributed, commandeered and corrupted by no government;
* that citizens have a right to speak, assemble, and act online and thus have a right to connect without fear;
* that privacy is an ethic of knowing someone else’s information and coming by it openly;
* and that government must become transparent by default and secret by necessity (there are necessary secrets). Edward Snowden has shown us all too clearly that the opposite is now true.

I also believe that we must see a discussion of principles and ethics from the technologists inside these companies. One reason I have given Google the benefit of the doubt — besides being an admirer — is that I believe the engineers I know inside Google would not stay if they saw it violating their ethics even if under government order.

Yonathan Zunger, the chief architect of Google+, said this after the Guardian’s and Glenn Greenwald’s first revelations were published:

I can tell you that it is a point of pride, both for the company and for many of us, personally, that we stand up to governments that demand people’s information…. I can categorically state that nothing resembling the mass surveillance of individuals by governments within our systems has ever crossed my plate. If it had, even if I couldn’t talk about it, in all likelihood I would no longer be working at Google.

In the end, it’s neither technologies nor institutions that will secure us from the inexorable overreach of government curiosity in the face of technical capability. Responsibility for oversight and correction begins with individuals, whether whistleblowers or renegade politicians or employees of conscience who finally remind those in power: “Don’t be evil.”

Google’s TV

chromecast

Google just demoted your television set into a second screen, a slave to your phone or tablet or laptop. With the $35 Chromecast you can with one click move anything you find on your internet-connected device — YouTube video, Netflix, a web page as well as music and pictures and soon, I’d imagine, games — onto your big TV screen, bypassing your cable box and all its ridiculous and expensive limitations.

Unlike Apple TV and Airplay, this does not stream from your laptop to the TV; this streams directly to your TV — it’s plugged into an HDMI port — over wi-fi via the cloud … er, via Google, that is. Oh, and it works with Apple iOS devices, too.

I’m just beginning to get a grasp on all the implications. Here are some I see.

* Simply put, I’ll end up watching more internet content because it’s so easy now. According to today’s demonstration, as soon as I tell Chrome to move something to my TV, the Chromecast device will sense the command and take over the TV. Nevermind smart TVs and cable boxes; the net is now in charge. There’s no more awkward searching using the world’s slowest typing via my cable box or a web-connected TV. There’s no more switching manually from one box to another. If it’s as advertised, I’ll just click on my browser and up it comes on my TV. Voila.

* Because Google issued an API, every company with web video — my beloved TWiT, for example — is motivated to add a Chromecast button to its content.

* Thus Google knows more about what you’re watching, which will allow it to make recommendations to you. Google becomes a more effective search engine for entertainment: TV Guide reborn at last.

* Google gets more opportunities to sell higher-priced video advertising on its content, which is will surely promote.

* Google gets more opportunities to sell you shows and movies from its Play Store, competing with both Apple and Amazon.

* YouTube gets a big boost in creating channels and building a new revenue stream: subscriptions. This is a paywall that will work simply because entertainment is a unique product, unlike news, which is — sorry to break the news to you — a commodity. I also wonder whether Google is getting a reward for all the Netflix subscriptions it will sell.

* TV is no longer device-dependant but viewer-dependant. I can start watching a show in one room then watch it another and then take it with me and watch on my tablet from where I left off.

* I can throw out the device with the worst user interface on earth: the cable remote. Now I can control video via my phone and probably do much more with it (again, I’m imagining new game interfaces).

* I can take a Chromecast with me on the road and use it in hotel rooms or in conference rooms to give presentations.

Those are implications for me as a user or viewer or whatever the hell I am now. That’s why I quickly bought three Chromecasts: one for the family room, one for my office, one for the briefcase and the road. What the hell, they’re cheap.

Harder to fully catalog are the implications for the industry — make that industries — affected. Too often, TV and the oligopolies that control it have been declared dead yet they keep going. One of these days, one of the bullets shot at them will hit the heart. Is this it?

* Cable is hearing a loud, growing snipping sound on the horizon. This makes it yet easier for us all to cut the cord. This unravels their bundling of channels. I’ll never count these sharks out. But it looks like it could be Sharknado for them. I also anticipate them trying to screw up our internet bandwidth every way they can: limiting speeds and downloading or charging us through the nose for decent service if we use Chromecast — from their greedy perspective — “too much.”

* Networks should also start feeling sweaty, for there is even less need for their bundling when we can find the shows and stars we want without them. The broadcast networks will descend even deeper into the slough of crappy reality TV. Cable networks will find their subsidies via cable operators’ bundles threatened. TV — like music and news — may finally come unbundled. But then again, TV networks are the first to run for the lifeboats and steal the oars. I remember well the day when ABC decided to stream Desperate Housewives on the net the morning after it aired on broadcast, screwing its broadcast affiliates. They’d love to do the same to cable MSOs. Will this give them their excuse?

* Content creators have yet another huge opportunity to cut out two layers of middlemen and have direct relationships with fans, selling them their content or serving them more targeted and valuable ads. Creators can be discovered directly. But we know how difficult it is to be discovered. Who can help? Oh, yeah, Google.

* Apple? I’ll quote a tweet:

Yes, Apple could throw out its Apple TV and shift to this model. But it’s disadvantaged against Google because it doesn’t offer the same gateway to the entire wonderful world of web video; it offers things it makes deals for, things it wants to sell us.

* Amazon? Hmmm. On the one hand, if I can more easily shift things I buy at Amazon onto my TV screen — just as I read Kindle books on my Google Nexus 7 table, not on an Amazon Kindle. But Amazon is as much a control freak as Apple and I can’t imagine Jeff Bezos is laughing that laugh of his right now.

* Advertisers will see the opportunity to directly subsidize content and learn more about consumers through direct relationships, no longer mediated by both channels and cable companies. (That presumes that advertisers and their agencies are smart enough to build audiences rather than just buying mass; so far, too many of them haven’t been.) Though there will be more entertainment behind pay walls, I think, there’ll still be plenty of free entertainment to piggyback on.

* Kids in garages with cameras will find path to the big screen is now direct if anybody wants to watch their stuff.

What other implications do you see?