[Axis of Easy] Google's Secret Program To Gather Health Data On Millions

Weekly Axis Of Easy #121

Last Week’s Quote was  “The greatest barrier to progress is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge.’ …by Daniel Boorstin, which nobody got. H/t to Jonathan Harder who suggested it. I didn’t know who Boorstin was, but by some weird coincidence I have since picked up his book “The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America” without even realizing it was him. 

This Week’s Quote:  “Image is reality, and reality is nothing more than one long propaganda film” by….???

THE RULES: No searching up the answer, must be posted to the blog

The Prize: First person to post the correct answer gets their next domain or hosting renewal is on us.

In this issue:
  • Google’s secret program to gather health data on millions
  • Network Solutions discloses data breach
  • US Senators suggest data portability bill
  • Google’s Sidewalk project brings citizen scores to Toronto
  • The DNS Wars: A Chronicle 
  • How Big Tech and Finance Betrayed Us and What We Can Do About It

Podcast Edition for this week:

Google’s secret program to gather health data on millions

Remember our take on Google’s acquisition of Fitbit last week, in effect we cautioned that this deal was not done in isolation and most definitely part of a larger strategy.  Now that strategy has come to light as WSJ broke the story Monday about Google’s secretive “Project Nightingale”, an initiative to collect health data on millions of Americans including: diagnoses, lab results, hospitalization records in effect “a complete health history” including patient names and dates.

Further, neither patients affected or their doctors have been informed. Google issues a press release after the story broke stating that the program is compliant with all federal and state laws. (In a 2014 interview “Google co-founder Larry Page suggested that patients worried about the privacy of their medical records were too cautious”).

Read: https://www.wsj.com/articles/google-s-secret-project-nightingale-gathers-personal-health-data-on-millions-of-americans-11573496790 (paywall)

Or: https://www.msn.com/en-us/finance/technologyinvesting/googles-project-nightingale-secretly-gathered-medical-records-on-people-report/ar-BBWBz1A

Network Solutions discloses data breach

We meant to get this in last week, but if you still have some of your domains using Network Solutions, Register.com or Web.com for your registrar, you probably received a notice that they’ve experienced a data breach, customer info was accessed and you should change your password. Maybe, what you should do instead is finally move your domain registrar over here, since you’re probably already using us for DNS anyway. Our price is less than half what Netsol charges you, we have a full range of security options for your account, and if you’re managing a portfolio of domains we have options to add our new Domainsure monitoring service on top of everything else a decent registrar should be doing for your domains.

Remember, we take all the pain out of transferring your domains because we do everything for you. You lose no remaining time on your registration, the transfer acts an early renewal and adds a year on. Open an EASY-DOES.IT ticket now to get the ball rolling.

US Senators suggest data portability bill

Three US senators who have a history of being highly critical of Big Tech have introduced a bi-partisan bill to mandate data portability between social media platforms. Mark Warner (D-VA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) are co-sponsoring the Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act.

The act would require that users can migrate their data between platforms, that platforms with over 100 million users would have to make their services inter-operable and that users would be able to “designate a trusted third-party to manage their privacy, content, online interactions and account settings”.

These same senators co-sponsored the Dashboard Act in June which could force large tech companies to disclose how they monetize data and introduced the Do Not Track Act.

Google’s Sidewalk project brings citizen scores to Toronto

One of the recurring themes in #AxisOfEasy is that China’s Sesame Credit system, which algorithmically automates obedience to The State will, if successful, be compelling enough to the ruling class worldwide that it will eventually find its way to the liberal democracies in a characteristically westernized manner. That means I’d expect it to show up via private tech platforms as opposed to via top-down government programs.

Toronto may have the dubious distinction of being an early prototype of what this would look like. The Globe and Mail published an exposé based  on a leaked document out of Google dubbed “The Yellow Book” which lays out the parameters on how governance and efficiency would function in this “City of the Future”….

“The plan calls for the creation of privately owned and regulated roads, charter schools in place of publicly administered schools, the power to levy and spend property taxes without democratic oversight, a corporate criminal justice system where the cops and judges work for Sidewalk Labs, and totalizing, top-to-bottom, continuous surveillance.

Torontonians who decline to “share” information with Sidewalk Labs will not receive the same level of services as those who do.”

Google’s Sidewalk issued a statement after the Globe piece that “the document does not share its current ambitions”. (Is there a glitch in the matrix or did we already cite something like this earlier in this issue?)

I guess the saving grace around Sidewalk is that, unlike China, living in it wouldn’t be compulsory. At least not yet. In China Sesame Credit becomes compulsory for all citizens in 2020. Here in North America my guess is that privately sponsored “smart cities” with their ubiquitous surveillance and mandatory data sharing will slowly spread through cash strapped municipalities like soda machines and Uber.


The day after the Boing Boing article Toronto City Council gave the go-ahead to Sidewalk with some caveats around data usage and privacy.

See: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-waterfront-toronto-votes-to-move-forward-with-sidewalk-labs/

The DNS Wars: A Chronicle 

Back in the early days of my involvement with DNS and domain policy, which was my participation in the long gone Network Solutions’ domain-policy mailing list, I often wondered why was it, that all the crazies were attracted to domain and DNS policy? I won’t name names, save to concede I was possibly one of the crazies. But I surmised that there was a widespread recognition, even then, that as the internet spread and gained critical mass, it was the naming infrastructure that would become the choke points for control, and for the original ethos of an open and uncensored internet to prevail, that’s where the main battlegrounds were going to be.

DNS pioneer Paul Vixie recently delivered the keynote at NANOG 77 in Austin, Texas, and the theme of his talk was “DNS Wars: Episode IV. A New Bypass”. An obvious riff on Star Wars: A New Hope. The presentation is pretty dense with technical jargon, but also delves into this kind of “Snowcrash” world we seem to be moving into.

Geoff Huston’s summary on Vixie’s talk is quite excellent in that it puts everything Vixie chronicled in a form not only readable by laypersons and techies alike, but in an engrossing, albeit long, read. Traversing the span of The Root Wars, Sitefinder, Open Resolvers, Client Subnets, and now, DNS-over-TLS vs DNS-over-HTTPS, this takes you down the rabbit hole of internet naming. Reading it for me brought to mind not the Star Wars analogy, but an old Blue Oyster Cult song: Veteran of a Thousand Psychic Wars.

I remember most of these like they were yesterday.


(h/t Jim Carroll)

How Big Tech and Finance Betrayed Us and What We Can Do About It

Adding this as I sit down to finalize this issue as I listened to Demitri Kofinas’ Hidden Forces podcast this morning after dropping the kid to skool. In his latest episode 109, he interviews Financial Times journalist Rana Foroohar. She is also author of Makers and Takers: How Wall St. Destroyed Main Street (which I have but haven’t read yet) and her latest Don’t Be Evil: How Big Tech Betrayed Its Founding Principles and All of Us.

Their conversation centers around how social media and surveillance capitalism affects not only our relationships, empathy levels, but also our brains and the way we perceive reality itself. I feel like I could write an entire post on this single podcast, maybe I will.

Give it a listen: https://hiddenforces.io/podcasts/rana-foroohar-big-tech-finance/

Don’t forget, we have a podcast edition of AxisOfEasy now too:


We’ll be getting it added to the major podcast platforms soon-ish.

Oh, and one other thing…..


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