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Google: The New Internet Police?

Google: The New Internet Police?

 

 

I wanted to write about something different this week other than spying and privacy issues. However, our illustrious President made a speech related to the NSA issues this past week and a new issue with Google has arisen that needs to be called to your attention. So alas, my posts about other important issues will have to wait until next week.

My connections on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ may have seen some ranting messages about two weeks ago over an incident I had where Google blocked – and still is blocking – my access to a site I visit daily. Specifically, The Hacker News.

And while I can’t understand why The Hacker News isn’t taking this as an attempt by Google to block their site, maybe they’ll reconsider when they see this post.

[Please note: Clicking on any image here will take you to the full size image.]

About two weeks ago I went to the normal URL for Hacker News and received this message from Google:

Google Blocking Notice

 

 

When you click the first link, you’re taken to the Google Terms of Service.  I read their brief terms of service that was referenced in the notice as to why I was blocked. And for ease of reading here’s EXACTLY what it says (If you want to skip the legalities, click here):

 

 

 

 

Google Terms of Service

Last modified: March 1, 2012

Welcome to Google!

Thanks for using our products and services (“Services”). The Services are provided by Google Inc. (“Google”), located at 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043, United States.

By using our Services, you are agreeing to these terms. Please read them carefully.

Our Services are very diverse, so sometimes additional terms or product requirements (including age requirements) may apply. Additional terms will be available with the relevant Services, and those additional terms become part of your agreement with us if you use those Services.

Using our Services

You must follow any policies made available to you within the Services.

Don’t misuse our Services. For example, don’t interfere with our Services or try to access them using a method other than the interface and the instructions that we provide. You may use our Services only as permitted by law, including applicable export and re-export control laws and regulations. We may suspend or stop providing our Services to you if you do not comply with our terms or policies or if we are investigating suspected misconduct.

Using our Services does not give you ownership of any intellectual property rights in our Services or the content you access. You may not use content from our Services unless you obtain permission from its owner or are otherwise permitted by law. These terms do not grant you the right to use any branding or logos used in our Services. Don’t remove, obscure, or alter any legal notices displayed in or along with our Services.

Our Services display some content that is not Google’s. This content is the sole responsibility of the entity that makes it available. We may review content to determine whether it is illegal or violates our policies, and we may remove or refuse to display content that we reasonably believe violates our policies or the law. But that does not necessarily mean that we review content, so please don’t assume that we do.

In connection with your use of the Services, we may send you service announcements, administrative messages, and other information. You may opt out of some of those communications.

Your Google Account

You may need a Google Account in order to use some of our Services. You may create your own Google Account, or your Google Account may be assigned to you by an administrator, such as your employer or educational institution. If you are using a Google Account assigned to you by an administrator, different or additional terms may apply and your administrator may be able to access or disable your account.

If you learn of any unauthorized use of your password or account, follow these instructions.

Privacy and Copyright Protection

Google’s privacy policies explain how we treat your personal data and protect your privacy when you use our Services. By using our Services, you agree that Google can use such data in accordance with our privacy policies.

We respond to notices of alleged copyright infringement and terminate accounts of repeat infringers according to the process set out in the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

We provide information to help copyright holders manage their intellectual property online. If you think somebody is violating your copyrights and want to notify us, you can find information about submitting notices and Google’s policy about responding to notices in our Help Center.

Your Content in our Services

Some of our Services allow you to submit content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.

When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps). Some Services may offer you ways to access and remove content that has been provided to that Service. Also, in some of our Services, there are terms or settings that narrow the scope of our use of the content submitted in those Services. Make sure you have the necessary rights to grant us this license for any content that you submit to our Services.

You can find more information about how Google uses and stores content in the privacy policy or additional terms for particular Services. If you submit feedback or suggestions about our Services, we may use your feedback or suggestions without obligation to you.

About Software in our Services

When a Service requires or includes downloadable software, this software may update automatically on your device once a new version or feature is available. Some Services may let you adjust your automatic update settings.

Google gives you a personal, worldwide, royalty-free, non-assignable and non-exclusive license to use the software provided to you by Google as part of the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling you to use and enjoy the benefit of the Services as provided by Google, in the manner permitted by these terms. You may not copy, modify, distribute, sell, or lease any part of our Services or included software, nor may you reverse engineer or attempt to extract the source code of that software, unless laws prohibit those restrictions or you have our written permission.

Open source software is important to us. Some software used in our Services may be offered under an open source license that we will make available to you. There may be provisions in the open source license that expressly override some of these terms.

Modifying and Terminating our Services

We are constantly changing and improving our Services. We may add or remove functionalities or features, and we may suspend or stop a Service altogether.

You can stop using our Services at any time, although we’ll be sorry to see you go. Google may also stop providing Services to you, or add or create new limits to our Services at any time.

We believe that you own your data and preserving your access to such data is important. If we discontinue a Service, where reasonably possible, we will give you reasonable advance notice and a chance to get information out of that Service.

Our Warranties and Disclaimers

We provide our Services using a commercially reasonable level of skill and care and we hope that you will enjoy using them. But there are certain things that we don’t promise about our Services.

OTHER THAN AS EXPRESSLY SET OUT IN THESE TERMS OR ADDITIONAL TERMS, NEITHER GOOGLE NOR ITS SUPPLIERS OR DISTRIBUTORS MAKE ANY SPECIFIC PROMISES ABOUT THE SERVICES. FOR EXAMPLE, WE DON’T MAKE ANY COMMITMENTS ABOUT THE CONTENT WITHIN THE SERVICES, THE SPECIFIC FUNCTION OF THE SERVICES, OR THEIR RELIABILITY, AVAILABILITY, OR ABILITY TO MEET YOUR NEEDS. WE PROVIDE THE SERVICES “AS IS”.

SOME JURISDICTIONS PROVIDE FOR CERTAIN WARRANTIES, LIKE THE IMPLIED WARRANTY OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NON-INFRINGEMENT. TO THE EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, WE EXCLUDE ALL WARRANTIES.

Liability for our Services

WHEN PERMITTED BY LAW, GOOGLE, AND GOOGLE’S SUPPLIERS AND DISTRIBUTORS, WILL NOT BE RESPONSIBLE FOR LOST PROFITS, REVENUES, OR DATA, FINANCIAL LOSSES OR INDIRECT, SPECIAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, EXEMPLARY, OR PUNITIVE DAMAGES.

TO THE EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, THE TOTAL LIABILITY OF GOOGLE, AND ITS SUPPLIERS AND DISTRIBUTORS, FOR ANY CLAIM UNDER THESE TERMS, INCLUDING FOR ANY IMPLIED WARRANTIES, IS LIMITED TO THE AMOUNT YOU PAID US TO USE THE SERVICES (OR, IF WE CHOOSE, TO SUPPLYING YOU THE SERVICES AGAIN).

IN ALL CASES, GOOGLE, AND ITS SUPPLIERS AND DISTRIBUTORS, WILL NOT BE LIABLE FOR ANY LOSS OR DAMAGE THAT IS NOT REASONABLY FORESEEABLE.

Business uses of our Services

If you are using our Services on behalf of a business, that business accepts these terms. It will hold harmless and indemnify Google and its affiliates, officers, agents, and employees from any claim, suit or action arising from or related to the use of the Services or violation of these terms, including any liability or expense arising from claims, losses, damages, suits, judgments, litigation costs and attorneys’ fees.

About these Terms

We may modify these terms or any additional terms that apply to a Service to, for example, reflect changes to the law or changes to our Services. You should look at the terms regularly. We’ll post notice of modifications to these terms on this page. We’ll post notice of modified additional terms in the applicable Service. Changes will not apply retroactively and will become effective no sooner than fourteen days after they are posted. However, changes addressing new functions for a Service or changes made for legal reasons will be effective immediately. If you do not agree to the modified terms for a Service, you should discontinue your use of that Service.

If there is a conflict between these terms and the additional terms, the additional terms will control for that conflict.

These terms control the relationship between Google and you. They do not create any third party beneficiary rights.

If you do not comply with these terms, and we don’t take action right away, this doesn’t mean that we are giving up any rights that we may have (such as taking action in the future).

If it turns out that a particular term is not enforceable, this will not affect any other terms.

The laws of California, U.S.A., excluding California’s conflict of laws rules, will apply to any disputes arising out of or relating to these terms or the Services. All claims arising out of or relating to these terms or the Services will be litigated exclusively in the federal or state courts of Santa Clara County, California, USA, and you and Google consent to personal jurisdiction in those courts.

For information about how to contact Google, please visit our contact page.

[End of Google Terms of Service]

For clarity, I was NOT using Google services! First of all, I’m signed out of Google and I’m using Firefox not Google Chrome. So where am I using the Google services when I’m on my own home network provided to me by Comcast?

Firefox & Signed out of Google

 

And as proof, here are the screen shots of those two items. First, I’m using Firefox and signed out of Google.

 

Comcast my ISP

 

As proof of my Internet provider, the IP address listed in the Google notice shows my ISP as Comcast.

 

So again, where am I using Google’s service if I’m using Firefox, on my ISP (Comcast) AND I’m signed out of Google?

 

 

 

 

Then I went to the second link that is supposed to show me the error of my ways:

Google Blocking Link

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First of all the second paragraph on that page:

The error page most likely displays a CAPTCHA (a squiggly word with a box below it). To continue using Google, type the squiggly word into the box — it’s how we know you’re a human, not a robot.

 

As you saw from the first image above, there was no CAPTCHA on the screen. There shouldn’t have been one because I wasn’t visiting Google and why would I be required to use a captcha if I’m visiting a regular website?

Now, this is what really gets me! Google advising me to check for malware on my computer. EXCUSE ME?

ESET, would you like to address that since every machine on this network, save one, has ESET Smart Security on it?

ESET Smart Security

 

Additionally, ESET claims I have no processes running in the background that are using resources. Wouldn’t there have to be something running to be causing your alleged unusual traffic Google?

Then to add insult to injury you recommend that I use Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware? Seriously?

Google Recommends Ad-aware?

 

The same company that was purchased by the very people that Ad-Aware was supposed to protect against?

And in case you haven’t heard about the purchase back in I believe it was 2010, here’s the info: http://malwaretips.com/Thread-Lavasoft-Innocent-until-proven-guilty And that’s just one such article discussing this issue.

 

 

 

 

 

So, for kicks and giggles I ran an ESET scan on my computer, and on the student server (which is currently testing out the Microsoft Security Essentials).

Just as I thought, no malware found! And I even ran the ESET online scanner on the student server running Microsoft Security Essentials.

Since I do teach security, Google, I do a lot of research but I do not use automated tools, exploit kits or any other automated tools to search Google.

[Note to Google: My courses are also accepted as continuing education credits for certified security professionals in case there were any doubts. I’d give you the links to the courses, but I doubt that any Google employee will bother to verify it.]

And again, I repeat, I wasn’t even going to Google! I was going to The Hacker News so why are you blocking me from that site? It’s NOT YOURS! Therefore, your terms of service do not apply and you have no right to block me.

I would have let this go except that an incident over the weekend with my roommate prompted me to revisit this.

He went to Wisconsin State Fair on Saturday and was on the Verizon mobile network. While they had stopped to sit and eat, he opened his browser to go to The Hacker News website and guess what he received?

 

Verizon Service Blocked

 

 

Since phones are easier to hack, I’ve deleted his IP address but as you can see, it’s a screen shot from his Galaxy Note 2 with MyLookout running in the background.

Now remember, he was up in Wisconsin, far removed from our network where I had been getting the notice!

So, what’s your reason now Google? Why are you blocking The Hacker News?

 

 

 

 

 

 

And to the folks at The Hacker News, aren’t you the slightest bit upset about the fact that Google is apparently blocking your site?

Of course, I can’t get an answer out of Google because there are no phone numbers for contacting them and my forms submitted have yet to be replied to. And there has been absolutely no response from them on any of the social networks where I originally posted my first blocked screen shot 2 weeks ago.

If Google is now the Internet police that can block my visiting a website totally unrelated to their services, then I believe Comcast and Verizon needs to send my bill to them. After all, why should I pay Comcast and Verizon when Google’s going to police my services? Only fair right?

 

 

Debbie