The Greatest Threat to Freedom of the Press

Domestic, International

The Hypocrisy Parade Final Vertical

The greatest threat to the freedom of the press and expression doesn’t come from extremists — it comes from government itself.

Leaders and dignitaries from across the world convened in Paris on Sunday in a show of unity following the attacks on Charlie Hebdo. Unfortunately, many of the governments represented have atrocious records dealing with the press and freedom of expression in their own countries. To mention a few:

A Cross Section of Google’s Search Engine


A Cross Section of Google's Search Engine Drawing


 Google is involved in a lot more than directing you to websites.

Click for a larger image and scroll down for notes.


Google Search

Search is the feature that made Google famous, and the company now handles approximately 3.5 billion searches per day using a complex algorithm to deliver accurate results. To do this, Google “crawls” the Internet’s 60 trillion pages, and organizes it into the company’s 100 million gigabyte index of the Internet. Google has also indexed more than 20 million books for its searchable database, Google Books.


Advertising is where the bulk of Google’s money comes from, pulling in over $40 billion in revenue for the company each year. Google uses the information it learns about individuals from search and from mobile app data to deliver targeted ads.

Google Maps and Location Services 

Google has created a digital map of the Earth, viewable in Google Maps and Google Earth. Using satellite imagery and on-the-ground data acquired by a fleet of cars fitted with panoramic cameras, Google has been amassing huge amounts of geo-data, including information like driving conditions, street signs and speed limits. That the cars were also able to capture Wi-Fi network information is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit against the company. Google also stores the personal location data it collects from mobile devices.

Google and the NSA 

While all tech companies deny giving NSA direct access to their servers, nine of the largest tech companies, including Google, are legally required to turn over personal data to the government when ordered through a program called PRISM.  The NSA has also been able to secretly access this data through back doors, using a program called MUSCULAR.

Self Driving Car 

As part of Google’s semi-secret Google[x] lab, the company has been developing a self-driving car and the software to run it, called Google Chauffeur. The self-driving car, which still requires a human chaperone, has already logged more than half a million miles on the road without causing an accident, which is important given how bad at driving humans are. While it is unclear whether the technology will lead to fully automated cars or hybrid, computer-assisted cars, the advances in this field have the potential to change the way humans interact with automobiles.


Google acquired 8 robotics companies in January and February, including Boston Dynamics, a prominent robotics company with ties to the defense industry. While many of the acquired companies are hardware producers, some, like DeepMind Technologies, specialize in artificial intelligence and machine learning. So far, Google has been quiet about what they will be used for.

Google Glass 

Another Google[x] project, Google Glass is essentially an internet-connected wearable face computer. Equipped with a camera, its so-far limited roll-out has been contentious.

Google[x] Future Projects

In addition to the self-driving car, Google Glass and robotics, Google[x] is involved in a variety of other “moon-shot” projects that outsiders can only speculate about. One such project, a literal “space elevator,” is on hold while technology improves. Same goes for the hoverboard.


Calico, short for California Life Company, is a health company started by Google and tasked with unlocking the secrets of aging and longevity. While little is known about the company, Google CEO Larry Page commented, “Illness and aging affect all our families. With some longer term, moonshot thinking around healthcare and biotechnology, I believe we can improve millions of lives.”


In January, Google paid a startling $3.2 billion for Nest, a company that manufactures high-end internet connected thermostats and smoke alarms. While the device is certainly cool, it is the home energy usage data that Nest generates which is particularly valuable to energy companies and makes the company a strategic investment.


Google developed and maintains its own mobile operating system called Android, now the most common mobile operating system in the world. They also produce their own smart phones and tablets called Nexus. In 2012, Google bought Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, primarily for the original cell phone company’s extensive patent portfolio. Google sold most of the company to Lenovo earlier this year, but is keeping it’s “Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group, headed by former DARPA director Regina Dugan. The team is currently working on a modular phone concept that has the potential to seriously alter the structure of the smartphone market.

 Legal Department

Like Apple and Samsung, Google is perpetually involved in high stakes legal disputes over patents and copyright infringement, as well as anti-trust concerns. They have also become one of the top spenders in Washington, coming in at #2 in lobbying expenditures in 2012.

 Google Energy 

Google’s data centers require a lot of electricity, and Google has been making investments in wind farms and solar energy to power its operations. Google Energy has a US government license to buy and sell energy, allowing it to potentially act as a utility company. In 2013, Google purchased Makani, a company that aims to make tethered airborne wind turbines that can reach heights (and wind speeds) impractical for heavy, ground-based turbines.

 Project Loon and Titan

Using a combination of high-altitude blimps and drones, courtesy of Googles recent acquisition of drone manufacturer Titan Aerospace, Google is hoping to provide “balloon-powered internet for everyone.”

 Google Fiber 

Google Fiber is a high-speed internet and TV project, currently operational in Kansas City and Provo, Utah. The project seems to be more about shaming big TV and Internet providers like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T into providing better service than actually competing with them. Google Fiber is looking to set up similar infrastructure in 34 more cities.

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The Evolution of the Local Police Officer 1850-2014


Police Soldier Militarization


Over the past three decades, local police forces have seen a tremendous influx of military weaponry and technology. Investigative reporter Radley Balko writes that starting in 1997, the “1033 Program” has allowed hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military-grade weaponry to be transferred to local civic police stations. This inventory includes tanks, grenade launchers, and .50 caliber machine guns that are largely impractical for police work. The tactics have also become militarized. Criminologist Peter Kraska estimates that annual deployments of SWAT and paramilitary police have surged from 3,000 in 1980 to around 45,000 in present times. This increase appears to be a result of mission creep — while originally conceived to be used in the most extreme scenarios such as hostage situations and bank robberies, Kraska points out that the majority of SWAT raids are now centered on drug-related crimes, with authorities often breaking down doors during pre-dawn hours to serve warrants. While these forces have an important role in dealing with the most volatile situations, the huge surge in the use of SWAT teams and military-grade weapons for regular police work should raise concerns about the impact of militarization on the relationship between law enforcement and civilians.