The Roman Philosopher Lucius Anneaus Seneca (4 BCE-65 CE) was perhaps the first to note the universal trend that growth is slow but ruin is rapid. I call this tendency the "Seneca Effect."
Showing posts with label Powers that be. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Powers that be. Show all posts

Friday, April 7, 2023

How to Make Your Google Masters Happy: Fixing the Privacy Policy of Your Blog


As I told you in a previous post, for months, Google has been pestering me with notices that there was something wrong with the privacy policy of my blog and that if I wouldn't fix it, they would start doing dark and dire things, such as making my blog invisible to search engines. Now, after many attempts and much struggle, I can tell you that the saga is over.  So, I am posting these notes that may be useful for you in case you find yourself in the same situation.

The problem had to do with the privacy regulations of the EU and the EEA, aka the "General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): I had to obtain consent from the user for something not explicitly described in the ominous messages I was receiving. Fixing the problem turned out to be a small Odyssey. 

1) Using search engines The first thing you normally do in these cases is look over the Web to see if someone has already solved the problem that plagues you. About this specific question, I immediately found myself facing a wall of sites claiming that they can solve the problem for you if you just pay some money. Mostly, they looked like traps, but I was dumb enough to pay $29 for a "personalized policy declaration" that came with the request of a further payment for hosting it on their site. I took care myself to create a subpage of the blog to host it at no cost. 

First lesson learnedskip the sites that ask you money to fix this problem unless you are a commercial site and you need to do it quickly. 

2. The text I downloaded may have been a good policy declaration, but Google still wasn't satisfied and I later learned that they didn't give a hockey stick about that. 

Second lesson learned: you can spend a lot of time (and also money) fixing the wrong problem.

3. I contacted Google's customer service at -- yes, they have a customer service to help people fixing exactly the GDPR problem. Amazingly, I got in contact with someone who seemed to be a real person -- the messages were signed "Gargi," which is an Indian male name. After a few interactions, he finally told me what Google wanted. It was simple: I just had to add the sentence "cookies are used for ads personalization" in the "consent banner." And that was it. Gargi even sent me a screenshot of what the banner should look like. It was a step forward. 

Third lesson learned. Human beings can still be useful for something. 

4But who controls the cookie banner? I had never placed a cookie banner on my blog, and I saw no such a thing appearing when I loaded the blog. Other people told me that they didn't see any banners on the first page of my blog. I had always interpreted the lack of a banner as a consequence of my blog not being a commercial one. But, no, the trick was a different one. After much tinkering and head-scratching, I discovered that my browser (Chrome) keeps track of previous decisions and didn't show the banner again to people who had already accepted the cookies. I could see the banner if I erased the cookies from my main browser, or used a "virgin" browser. The beauty of this trick is that not even the people from Google's customer service seemed to know it; so, at some moment, they started telling me that my blog had no cookie banner, and I had to explain to them that they just weren't seeing it, but it was there. Once they understood this, it was no more a problem. But it took time. 

Fourth lesson learned: Truth may be hidden, and often is. 

5. How do you change the text of the cookie consent banner? One of those things that look easy but are not easy at all. First, you have to access the HTML code of your blog, which is not an easy task by itself. It is like open heart surgery: you make a mistake, and the patient dies. Then, even if you know how to manage HTML, you soon discover a little problem. There is NO CODE for the cookie consent banner on the HTML page of Google's blogs. The banner is dynamically generated from somewhere, Google knows where, and it is not accessible with the tools provided by Google's blogger. 

Fifth lesson learned: Google plays with you like a cat plays with a mouse.

6. It means that there has to be a widget for the cookie banner, right? Yes, there is such a widget that you can set as showing a cookie banner as you like it to be. The problems are that 1) it cannot show the banner at top of the page, where these banners normally are, and 2) it doesn't replace the Google-generated banner. So, the result is that you have two different banners in different areas of the screen at the same time. Apart from the awful effect on the way your blog looks, it is not surprising that Google was still not happy with this solution

Sixth lesson learned: Some solutions are not. 

7. How about trying chatGPT? Eventually, chatGPT gave me the right hint. It said that it was possible to insert a cookie banner script in the main HTML page of the blog. I tried the scripts provided by chatGPT and none worked, but those provided by helpful human bloggers did. I found that scripts (unlike widgets) can supersede the Google-created banner. After some tweaking, Google was finally happy. 

Seventh Lesson learned. ChatGPT is your friend, but it is a bad programmer   



The good thing about this story is that I learned something, but it was also a sobering experience. The way Google managed it was so bad that I can only understand it as an explicit attempt to discourage small bloggers who are not making money from their blogs and who can't afford a professional maintenance service. Just why harass poor bloggers to do something that Google could do easily on a banner that it is wholly managed by Google? I mean, do you realize the time lost to do such a simple thing as adding a single sentence to a banner? 

It seems clear to me that at Google they don't like blogs in general. Even though they offer a blogging platform, it is a poor service for several reasons. Yet, Blogger also has several good points, the main one being that it is free. Then, it offers you possibilities of customization that other "bare-bones" platforms (e.g. substack) do not provide. For someone who just wants to express his/her ideas in public, it can still be a good choice. But, after this experience, I am wary. Google knows what they have in mind next in Mountain View. So, I may switch platforms in the near future. For now, "The Seneca Effect" blog is still there, alive and reasonably well, even though shadow-banned by the Powers That Be. And maybe these notes could be useful for you.

Final lesson I learned: I, for one, welcome our new Google masters 


Here is the script to control the text of the cookie consent banner to be cut and pasted into the HTML code of a blogger blog after the </head> tag. It is simple, but it wasn't so simple to understand what was needed. 

<script type='text/javascript'> 

  cookieOptions = { 

    msg: &quot;This site uses cookies for ad personalization, to analyse traffic and to deliver some Google services. By using this site, you agree to its use of cookies.&quot;, 

    link: &quot;;, 

    close: &quot;Okay!&quot;, 

    learn: &quot;Learn More&quot; }; 


Monday, February 8, 2021

Cassandra is Dead. Long Live Cassandra!


After the fall of Troy, Cassandra was taken as Agamemnon's "pallake" (concubine) and taken to Mycenae where she was killed by Clytemnestra, Agamemnon's wife. The destiny of prophetesses is never so bright, especially when they turn out to have been right. Something similar, although fortunately much less tragic, is happening to the Cassandra blog, censored on Facebook by the powers that be. So, I guess it is time to call it quits. But Cassandra is not dead! She will return in some form.


On March 2, 2011, I started the blog that I titled "Cassandra's Legacy." 10 years later, the blog had accumulated 974 posts, 332 followers, and more than 5 million visualizations (5289.929). Recently, the blog had stabilized at around 2,000-3,000 views per day.

A small blog, by all means, but I always had the sensation that it was not without an impact on the nebulous constellation of the people, high up, whom we call "the powers that be." It is a story that reminds me the legend that George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq in 2003 after he had learned about peak oil. Reasonably, it can't be but a legend, but are we sure? After all, the people who take decision are not smarter than us, just way richer. And they can misunderstand things just like we all do. Of course, their blunders make much more noise.  

And so, it may well be that many things that we are seeing around us have a logic. For sure, a certain kind of message cannot be eliminated anymore simply by ignoring it. It has to be actively suppressed. And that seems to be what's happening, with censorship rampant in the social media. Even the Cassandra blog, even though not important in itself, attracted the wrath of the powers that be. It was censored on Facebook and it seems to me that it is also kept nearly invisible in the search engines. As I discussed in a previous post on Cassandra, we knew it was going to happen and it did. 

Of course, this blog could survive even while boycotted by Facebook, but when you discover that you are in the crosshairs of someone big and powerful, it is better to take notice, duck down, and take cover. It makes little sense to insist to keep an indefensible position. It is time for Cassandra to fold. 

But this is not a defeat. It is, on the contrary, a badge of honor that the PTBs noticed this blog and acted against it (O.K., maybe it was just a glitch of some complicated AI program, who knows?). In any case, closing the blog simply means recognizing that the memetic war follows the standard rules of war. It is all about movement. And that's what Cassandra is doing. It is moving. We all do. The only things that never move are the dead, and we are still very much alive! And "Cassandra's Legacy" will remain on line, although it won't be updated anymore.

I am working at renewing a blog that I had already created, called "The Seneca Trap."  It will be online soon with the name "The Seneca Effect". We'll see if it becomes another target for the PTBs!

In the meantime, I am passing to you a few paragraphs that I took from Dmitry Orlov's book "The Five Stages of Collapse." (2013) where he correctly predicted how the West was moving along a path that's taking it to follow the steps of the old Soviet Union, even in terms of censorship. Orlov describes how, at that time, people defended themselves from an obtrusive and obtuse regime. I guess we'll have to adopt the same techniques.

The Rise of Steganography

by Dmitry Orlov -- From "The Five Stages of Collapse" (2013)

I am sure that certain readers will at this point recollect schlocky American Cold War novels they wasted their time reading, or automatically conjure up secret codes and communications technologies used Financial Collapse45to play a spy vs. spy cat-and-mouse game with the KGB, while others will want to think that the KGB was sufficiently incompetent and/or demoralized to just let all that secret communication slip by (I assure you that it was not). Well, having seen how it all works in practice, I am happy to disabuse you of all such notions. The only technologies involved were spoken word and pen and paper; the good results were achieved thanks to mental fortitude and solidarity.
The technique I saw used was an instance of steganography, which “is the art and science of writing hidden messages in such a way that no one, apart from the sender and intended recipient, suspects the existence of the message, a form of security through obscurity. The word is of Greek origin and means ‘concealed writing’ from the Greek words steganos (στεγανός), meaning ‘covered or protected’, and graphei (γραφή), meaning ‘writing.’”10 There is the outer, public message, which is innocuous or insipid or annoyingly redundant (except for a few easily overlooked details); then there is the inner, private message, which can only be discerned by the intended recipient, who has prior knowledge. The key security feature is that the recipient needs to know that the message is a message at all, never mind decipher it.
My mother and my grandmother kept up a voluminous correspondence augmented by regular telephone conversations. They discussed everything from the weather to their reading to what they ate for break-fast. They also seemed to be curiously obsessed with pieces of porcelain: which tea set was a present from whom, who would have liked it, who had owned a similar one at one time or another, from whom they may have purchased it and how much they may have paid for it, how many cups were cracked or broken, whether they could be repaired, who was the clumsy one and broke a cup, who had been particularly skillful at gluing together a broken cup so that it is now as good as new and so on and so forth, all seemingly innocent prattle between two dotty women reminiscing about sentimental bits of bric-à-brac—but for someone in the know, laden with secret meanings. Cups were thousands of dollars. Tea sets were tens of thousands. Cracked cups were expenses incurred. Broken cups were deals that had fallen through. Any persons mentioned were not referred to by full name but by informal diminutives and endearments and referenced not to actual places and times but to private, shared memories. But there were also passages of general interest, such as soup or cake recipes, sometimes supplied with a passing comment addressed directly to the KGB censor, such as “Others who are reading this might find this interesting as well.” Who could possibly suspect secret, nefarious, conspiratorial intent in some-one so seemingly guileless? Not even the KGB!