Note on the links
1. Moral and philosophical background
2. Google gives me the creeps ....
(link to creepy picture)
3. ... by way of the Earl of Rochester
4. The moral of it all
P.S. See and think for yourself
P.P.S. The facts of the matter
1. Moral and philosophical background
As I have been explaining over the last week, I am
concerned with computer security, having lost my last computer by a hack,
and having run into the incompetence of both my provider xs4all and the
McAfee software they provide to protect my computer, and I also happen to
have a somewhat aristocratic view of
mankind, which amounts to the beliefs that, firstly,
Stupidity and egoism are the roots of all vice
which is also what most of the religious prophets and mystics taught, if
perhaps in other words, such as those of the Protestant Heidelberger Katechismus
(the link is to "On The Pleasure of Hating" by
William Hazlitt on my
site, which is about
the ordinary failings and weaknesses of ordinary men)
Men are prone
to mischief, to every good work reprobate.
and secondly, that I hold the last may - in view of human history - hold for
most, it doesn't hold for all (so far, that is: See my
fundamental problem in ethics and morals), and thirdly, that
I myself am
logical philosopher, who has a liking for some classical satirical writers
who thought likewise, and specifically
Etienne de la Boetie,
Samuel Butler (of Hudibras),
John Wilmot 2nd Earl of Rochester,
Swift, and in modern days George Orwell and
All this was by way of background - and I will return to the writers I
mentioned in Nederlog, and also have written about them there, whereas the above
links are to works of these thinkers on my site - for my concerns in this piece
are basically with the safety-risks of browsing the internet, Google's
omnipresence on the net, and Google's plans with books and the internet.
2. Google gives me the creeps...
I am coming to the point, which in this piece is basically an illustration
that you find below, which needs a little introduction concerning Google and
You may have found some quotations from Rochester (as I will call him, for
brevity's sake) in Nederlogs of the last week, and you may find a fine site
about him, with a selection of his poems here
to find out whether he is also to your taste.
He is to mine, and having the internet with ADSL it turns out to be easy to
find stuff about him that I would never have been able to get through a library
in pre-internet days, in this case notably Rochester's biography by Charles
Burnet, Bishop of Salisbury, who is supposed to have converted him on his
As dr. Johnson wrote in his Life of Rochester (the link is to an article on
Johnson and Rochester at on-literature.com):
At this time he [that is: Rochester in his last days when dying very painfully
- MM] was led to an acquaintance with Dr. Burnet, to whom he laid open, with
great freedom, the tenour of his opinions, and the course of his life, and from
whom he received such conviction of the reasonableness of moral duty, and the
truth of Christianity, as produced a total change both of his manners and
opinions. The account of those salutary conferences is given by Burnet in a book
entitled, Some Passages of the Life and Death of John, Earl of Rochester,
which the critick ought to read for its elegance, the philosopher for its
arguments, and the saint for its piety. It were an injury to the reader to offer
him an abridgment.
The present "critick" - who also likes and admires
dr. Johnson - googled
this, and rapidly found that Google, that has been scanning enormous amounts of
old books to put them on the internet, ostensibly in the interest of all, indeed
had scanned this book, and had placed the scan on the internet.
So I downloaded it, found that it is essentially a photographic reproduction
of the book's front, back and inside pages, reasonably well done and useful,
except for the facts that (i) one doesn't have the text but pictures of it (so
there is no easy textual copying) and that (ii) Google has imposed itself on EVERY page
by adding to the end of each page at the righthand side this:
And yes, it's a bit vague, but it definitely is there, again and
again and again at every page, and I think it is intrusive, irritating, and also
appears far too much like a - much swathed, tacit, actually judicial -
sort of (implicit, future, partial) ownership claim by Google.
This they will probably deny, and instead insist that they serve
the interest of the public by making available all manner of ancient texts,
freely also, that were not available at all, or were only available to few, and
that usually also only with some trouble and considerable patience - and I am
speaking here of university libraries in the old paper-only days, in which
academics could ask for old and rare tomes, and sometimes get them, eventually,
after a long wait, and with some restictions.
This last contention I would not deny, and my problem with Google is not so
much that at present they do not serve the public, including me, for clearly
they do, and also not so much that at present they do not provide the public
with an excellent search tool for the internet, for they do.
My problems with Google
- that you can find out for yourself by browsing with Firefox with some
Ghostery - are, first, that it turns out to be everywhere, even
on my (supposedly) very private webmail-pages that my provider provides,
presumably for my personal safety, but "Google Analytics" is there too,
as if this is self-evidently necessary, moral and normal; and second that
I am not a believer in the goodness and
sincerity of mankind at large (there are
some exceptions, it is true, but these
will not work in large firms, politics, religion or the ordinary popular
media, and indeed will not for moral and intellectual reasons - or so I hold), and
certainly not in the real morality of commercial firms, such as Google,
Microsoft, Sun and so on (and I wrote "real" because they all pay
copywriters to write plausible lies to convince you and me of their good
In fact, I hold one should look upon politicians and corporate firms alike,
as said so well by Lord Acton in these general terms
All power corrupts, and absolute
power corrupts absolutely
and as regards Google, I am afraid that they already have far more power than
is good for anybody who is not a perfect saint or son of
God (and the folks of
Google, who no doubt are very clever, are at least as certainly no saints), and
my surfing with some indications of what happens hidden for me in my personal
browser, when I do not take steps
such as installing Add-Ons
to find out, convinced me that Google is spying in my privacy - my actions, my
searches, my interests, my values, indeed my private mail box - in ways I do
find highly objectionable, since this is and ought to be none of their or
Now again I suppose the good folks at Google, who undoubtedly have very
clever lawyers and copywriters also, will smile benignly and tell me that my
worries are needless; that their aims are noble and praiseworthy; that indeed
they work and deliver, do so all for free, for you and me, equitably; and that
anyway they have the best and most reasonable and clearly well-intentioned
And again I don't say no, and would in fact say in reply just two things:
Read Lord Acton's diagnosis again; consider some human
history; and do
some hours or days of browsing with
Firefox and its Add-Ons
NoScript and Ghostery, so as to find out what
is found out about you, if you don't prevent it (and possibly even
then, for the good folks at Google are clever, and what one can undo with a
computer, one can do with a computer).
Also, note it is not just Google, though Google is by far the most
present behind my back if I don't watch, and also if I do: ALL commercial
firms seem to have found out by now that, as things are at present legally not
at all properly set up, they can in fact spy into your personal
details to their hearts content, and virtually without any legal limitation, if
only they can muster the technical computer expertise.
3. .... by way of the Earl of Rochester
I have arrived at the trigger of this piece, which I hit upon when reading to
the pdf-copy of Bishop Burnet's text about Rochester, that Google had so
kindly scanned and found for me. (It's under the link, and see my
Here is the page that follows after the scanned paper page 135, with Google's
page number 144, that starts very appropriately thus:
Some diversion, mirth, and pleasure is all they can promise themselves; but
to obtain this, how many evils are they to suffer!
Here you see The Mighty Hand Of Google at
work, dear reader, and if you do not find it at least a tiny bit creepy,
your heart is of stone or your mind is mighty cloudy.
Also, the next Google-page is like this, and clearly this is a mistake also,
for the same pages also occur in the file properly scanned, and without
The Mighty Hand Of Google visibly at work,
except for the ever present nice reminder by Big Brother that, happily for you,
and in Everyone's Best Interests, it all has been
Just like the sites you visit, the bookmarks you make, and including your
very personal mail webpages, in fact, whether you like it or not, whether you
know it or not (*).
4. The moral of it all
Actually, I find this more than a little creepy and scary, and my own
thoughts about it, in part, are here: A
new internet is needed + 3 special reasons why, where
more detailed links are provided for those who want to try out Firefox with the
Add-Ons I mentioned.
Otherwise, for the moment I have no more to offer in this context, except my
strong recommendation to you
to install the latest Firefox,
which is very easy and literally just two or three minutes work with a fast
internet-connection; install NoScript and Ghostery, and possibly
see for yourself what happens behind your
back and in secret while you're browsing the internet and looking around as if
you were a private person using a private tool in your personal life and space.
No way! "Big Brother watches you" too -
and there is very little you can do about it at present, except to see what He
may see of what you see: all of it, and He records it also, in His Big Database,
possibly for Eternity, and to sell to marketeers or hand over, if nicely asked
or forced, to some secret service or police, in case some government may decide
that you are a terrorist, or at least not a
nice person, in their view.
P.S. See and think for yourself
I am not asking you to blindly agree or indeed blindly disagree with
me - I am asking you to see for yourself how you are tracked and traced. Here
are two final observations for the moment.
First, to install Firefox is a breeze, and it is very intuitive and easy in
its use, but it is true that NoScript and other Add-Ons do require a little
knowledge of computers and computing, and need a little time to get used to, for
what you will very probably find are two things: Most of the sites you visit
have some scripts running, and most of these do not run as they did before the
scripts were blocked by NoScript, and indeed may not work at all as you expect
them to act.
This is indeed because NoScript blocks scripts, but fortunately you can quite
easily tweak NoScript so that it does so selectively or not at all, or not at
all conditionally. This just takes some getting used to, and is mostly quite
instructive as well (except if you are in a great hurry, and desire a well-known
site to work as you were used to, before you knew part of its charm and ease
came from scripts, that also might do other things than contribute to your ease
Second, I do not blame Google. It is true that I do not trust
them, but then I know a lot of
history and know
Lord Acton, and it is also true that I do not agree
with them, for they might have chosen to be much more clear, up front and
explicit about the tracking they do, using your browser and your time, money and
your computer (for most of what happens for their tracking and tracing of
by way of your computer's processor), and they might simply ask you and me whether we
agree to all that tracking and tracing, or rather choose to do without.
In fact, the reason I do not blame Google is mostly that they, just like the
bankers at Goldman Sachs, Merill Lynch etetera, simply use the opportunities
deregulated or unregulated trading, tracing and tracking offer these days, which
is, at least in principle, either fair or at least allowed because the internet
is as deregulated as the banking world was prior to this year, and mostly still
is, because politicians have weak spines and/or other interests than they
publicly allow for.
Google is in it for the money, and technically they do a fine job, while they
also may - still - be mostly fired by a considerable amount of idealism, though
at least part of that seems to me to be posturing or advertising as well.
Personally, I don't like it and also am afraid for it, for - whatever the
intents, purposes and morals of the folks at Google - you and they should be
aware that EVERYTHING some commercial firm like Google finds out about you,
secretly, partially in secret, or wholly up front, WILL be accessible by
whatever government (or other party) that can pressure them into handing over the
And if I were to live in a country where the police routinely tortures
dissidents - and these days there are quite a few of these - I would be very
afraid of all tracking and tracing of my computer, browser, email, webpages etc.
and not because I am afraid of the nice and clever folks of Google, who do it
for money and to help people get a more useful internet, but because I am afraid
of the secret police in my country, who may use what Google has found out about
me against me, whether or not the folks at Google agree, and indeed also whether
or not they know.
P.P.S. The facts of the matter
The above picture has not been manufactured by me: I have found
it just as is in
the file Google supplied that contains Burnet's text as described (a
text that indeed is well worth reading, as dr. Johnson said),
as I found it on Oct 4, 2009, and stored it 13.09 local Dutch time.
The only things I have done is read the text; gotten somewhat nauseous as I
suddenly hit upon
the above creepy picture; copied it
in a screengrab; and write this piece about it.
Also, the screengrab is of the said page as it is displayed in Adobe 8 when
set to reading the file the page comes from in Full Screen view. But for these
things, I am just reporting what I found, while adding my own comments.
Note on the links: Links are underlined; the bold
links are to English pieces, and the non-bold links to Dutch pieces; and all
links except for a few to Google or Ealaside Haas's Rochester pages are to
(*) That is: UNLESS (1) you know a LOT about computers and
the internet and (2) you have spend rather a LOT of time to tweak your computer
in such a way that the chances of spying on it and you are minimized. The vast
majority - 99% at least - has not done this, and wouildn't know how to do so
properly if they wanted to.
And further see my Musings
on computing and a new internet.