Daniel Brandt/Wikipedia

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Public Information Research

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This was retrieved from a cache of Daniel Brandt's TOW article, which he worked for years to have taken down.

Daniel Brandt

Daniel Leslie Brandt (born circa 1947 to missionary parents in China[1]) is an American activist[2][3][4] on the World Wide Web, particularly in relation to Google Inc. and the Wikipedia encyclopedia project.

Brandt's current activism centers around demands for accountability from organizations he believes are operating irresponsibly, or in an unnecessarily secretive manner.[5] In 1989, Brandt and Steve Badrich co-founded a non-profit organization called Public Information Research (PIR). Brandt launched Google Watch in 2002, a website stating his criticism of the Google search engine, and Wikipedia Watch in 2005, a similar site detailing his opinion that the Wikipedia encyclopedia lacks accountability and accuracy. Brandt also works as a book indexer based in San Antonio, Texas.[6]

Student activism

In his college years he was an anti-Vietnam War activist while at the University of Southern California (USC). According to the Daily Trojan,

"Brandt was the editor and creator of Prevert, a monthly student activist newspaper, and the de facto leader of the student activist movement at this university in the late '60's."[7] On October 4, 1968, he was one of three members of Students for a Democratic Society who burned what they said were their draft cards in front of television cameras following a speech by Senator Edmund Muskie at USC.[8]

When Brandt's student deferment classification was withdrawn by the local Selective Service System in December 1968 due to his public non-cooperation with his draft board, Brandt was convicted of failure to report for a pre-induction physical exam and refusal to submit to induction. Brandt appealed and his convictions were reversed on the grounds that he was entitled to student status as an undergraduate at USC.[9] Since President Carter granted amnesty to all draft resisters in 1977, this would have the effect of overturning this conviction even if it had not already been reversed, with the further implication that all civil rights have been restored despite the conviction.[10]

Political activism

Brandt states that during the 1980s, when living in Arlington, Virginia, he introduced a number of political activists and researchers to computing and how to work with databases, including former Central Intelligence Agency officers Philip Agee[11] and Ralph McGehee, as well as John F. Kennedy assassination researchers Bernard Fensterwald and Mary Ferrell.[12]

From the 1960s onwards, Brandt collected clippings and citations pertaining to influential people and intelligence matters. In the 1980s, through his company Micro Associates, he sold a database of citations of these clippings, books, government reports, and other publications. He told the New York Times that "many of these sources are fairly obscure so it's a very effective way to retrieve information on U.S. intelligence that no one else indexes."[13]

These prior efforts were the basis of his NameBase website, described as "a quirky index of names cross-indexed," focusing on "foreign policy, spy, conspiracy, media, etc."[14] Currently the names are drawn from over 800 books, serials, and other publications.[15]

Between 1990 and 1992, three members of Brandt's Public Information Research (PIR) advisory board, including Chip Berlet, resigned after complaining that another board member, L. Fletcher Prouty, was openly working with and defending Liberty Lobby and the Holocaust denial group the Institute for Historical Review, which republished Prouty's book The Secret Team.[16]

Online activism

Government cookies

In March 2002, Brandt was credited with finding persistent HTTP cookies on one of the Central Intelligence Agency's websites that could be used to track users for approximately 10 years, in contravention of federal government rules.[17][18] On December 25, 2005, Brandt found that the National Security Agency's website was using two HTTP cookies set to expire in 2035. Brandt contacted the NSA to remind them they were in violation of federal rules and the cookies were removed. The event gained international publicity.[3][4]

Criticism of Google and Yahoo!

In 2002, Brandt launched the website Google Watch through PIR, reportedly in response to Google's low ranking of deep content within NameBase.org, which is placed far below competing information.[19]

Google Watch documents Brandt's views on privacy, long-living HTTP cookies, and advertising policies within Google and Gmail. Brandt has also described the issue of "made for AdSense pages" — spam pages with content often scraped from other sites that sometimes enjoy high rankings in search engines due to optimization techniques. In addition, PIR has released Scroogle, a screen-scraping proxy that circumvents Google's tracking of user activity via HTTP cookies. Some writers have criticised the Google Watch website, such as writer Farhad Manjoo, who stated:

"… Daniel Brandt's arguments seem absurd. Because he has a personal stake in the squabble, he's pretty easy to dismiss: He doesn't like his Google rank, so it's not surprising he doesn't like Google."[19] In addition to Brandt's PIR, other privacy and civil rights organisations including the Australian Privacy Foundation, Consumer Federation of America, and Katherine Albrecht's CASPIAN, have endorsed an open letter drafted by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and the World Privacy Forum requesting that Google suspend their Gmail service on account of privacy concerns, such as "the unlimited period for data retention that Google’s current policies allow."[20]

Brandt also maintains an anti-Yahoo! website, Yahoo! Watch. His principal complaint is that the Yahoo! feature Site Match embeds paid links into the main index and search results.

Criticism of Wikipedia

Brandt launched the Wikipedia Watch website through PIR on October 13, 2005,[21] in response to a user authoring a biographical article on him within the Wikipedia peer-edited online encyclopaedia project. Brandt himself has been blocked from editing Wikipedia following a lengthy and sometimes uncivil battle between him and various editors and administrators on the article and talk pages there. He has published some logs from Wikipedia Internet Relay Chat channels on Wikipedia Watch,[22] and has listed dozens of examples of plagiarism by Wikipedia editors on the English portal.[23] Several PIR domains have been placed on Wikipedia's spam blacklist.[24] On the Wikipedia Watch website, Brandt advances his view that a website whose content is copied as widely as that of Wikipedia should have higher standards of accountability, and that members of the public who contribute or edit articles should make their identities public for this reason; this includes the facilitation of article subjects bringing litigation against editors, although since this multiple wikis now have articles about him. Brandt considers Wikipedia to be a privacy risk, and stated, "It [Wikipedia] needs to be watched closely." Brandt's view is that the creation of biographical articles on Wikipedia is broadly unacceptable due to the inaccuracy of information included and a lack of accountability.[25]

Since November 19, 2005, the Wikipedia Watch site has included a page stating personal details allegedly pertaining to individual Wikipedia editors and administrators who have edited Brandt's biography or responded to his complaints, to

"discourage irresponsible editors from applying for adminship, and encourage others to be more considerate of those who would rather not have an article about themselves." Brandt states that his reasoning for maintaining the list is that, "if I ever decide that I have cause to sue, I'm not sure who should be sued." This is, according to Brandt, due to a lack of any party within the project claiming content responsibility.[26]

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales responded to Brandt in a letter to Editor & Publisher, stating,

"I don't regard him as a valid source about anything at all, based on my interactions with him. I tried very hard to help him, and he misrepresented nearly everything about our conversation in his very strange rant. He considers the very existence of a Wikipedia article about him to be a privacy violation, despite being a public person. I find it hard to take him very seriously at all. He misrepresents everything about our procedures, claiming that we have a 'secret police' and so on."[27] A sidebar on Brandt's site contradicts this letter: "Wales never tried to help Brandt at all, and he and Brandt have never had a conversation."[28]

In November 2006, the Associated Press reported Brandt's claim to have uncovered 142 "examples of suspected plagiarism" among the 12,000 Wikipedia articles he searched to illustrate the need for "Wikipedia to conduct a thorough review of all its articles." According to the report "Wikipedia editors have been reviewing the 142 articles in question and have declared a handful to be OK because copied passages came from the public domain. Editors found others where Wikipedia appeared to be the one plagiarized. But editors found extensive problems in several cases, with many still not yet fully checked."[29]

Seigenthaler Wikipedia biography controversy

Main article: John Seigenthaler Sr. Wikipedia biography controversy In May 2005, an anonymous editor added defamatory information to the John Seigenthaler Sr. Wikipedia biography. In December 2005, Seigenthaler criticized his Wikipedia biography in a USA Today column that generated considerable publicity.[30]

Brandt found that the IP address used by the editor was also used to host a website, with the text, "Welcome to Rush Delivery." Brandt contacted a company in Nashville, Tennessee, known by that name, and the IP address on the email they sent back to Brandt matched that in the edit history of the Seigenthaler article. Within the week, Brian Chase, a manager at Rush Delivery, resigned and personally confessed to Seigenthaler.[31]


  1. ^ Chasnoff, Brian (December 11, 2005). S.A. man is chasing the secret authors of Wikipedia. San Antonio Express-News
  2. ^ Jesdanun, Anick (December 28, 2005). NSA Web Site Puts 'Cookies' on Computers. Associated Press
  3. ^ a b Goldenberg, Suzanne (December 30, 2005) US intelligence service bugged website visitors despite ban. The Guardian
  4. ^ a b Velshi, Ali (December 29, 2005). "New Information About NSA Domestic Spying Program Emerges", The Situation Room, CNN
  5. ^ Thatcher, Gary (July 31, 1989). Cloak-and-Dagger Database: Software Sniffs Out Secret Agents. The Christian Science Monitor p. 8.
  6. ^ Seelye, Katharine Q. (December 11, 2005) A Little Sleuthing Unmasks Writer of Wikipedia Prank. New York Times
  7. ^ Daily Trojan, January 12, 1971.
  8. ^ Kneeland, Douglas E. (October 5, 1968). Muskie Urged Raid Halt; Muskie Confirms He Appealed To Johnson to Halt the Bombing. The New York Times
  9. ^ United States v. Brandt, 435 F.2d 324 (9th Cir. 1970).
  10. ^ Proclamation 4483 -- Granting pardon for violations of the Selective Service Act, August 4, 1964, to March 28, 1973. archives.gov. Retrieved November 6, 2006.
  11. ^ Hand, Mark (January 3, 2003). "Searching for Daniel Brandt". CounterPunch
  12. ^ McCarthy, Jerry (January-March 1994). Mary Ferrell Profile. NameBase NewsLine, cited on Spartacus Educational
  13. ^ Gerth, Jeff (October 6, 1987). Washington Talk: The Study of Intelligence; Only Spies Can Find These Sources. New York Times
  14. ^ Dedman, Bill (ed.). Power Reporting: Beat by beat: Military. via PowerReporting.com, accessed 19 April 2006.
  15. ^ http://www.namebase.org/unique.html PIR website, "Why is namebase unique?", retrieved 15 April 2006.
  16. ^ Dan Brandt, "An Incorrect Political Memoir," Lobster, No. 24 (December 1992); Chip Berlet, "Right Woos Left: Populist Party, LaRouchite, and Other Neo-fascist Overtures To Progressives, And Why They Must Be Rejected", Cambridge, Massachusetts: Political Research Associates, 1991.[1]
  17. ^ Associated Press (March 20, 2002). CIA Caught Sneaking Cookies via CBS News
  18. ^ Aftergood, Steven (March 19, 2002). CIA cookies exposed and eliminated. Secrecy News
  19. ^ a b Manjoo, Farhad (2002-08-29). Meet Mr. Anti-Google. Salon.com. Archived from the original on 2005-03-09. See http://www.google-watch.org/gaming.html#case3., Brandt's response
  20. ^ Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (April 19, 2004). Thirty-One Privacy and Civil Liberties Organizations Urge Google to Suspend Gmail. via privacyrights.org
  21. ^ Alexa traffic details.
  22. ^ http://www.wikipedia-watch.org/findchat.html - Wikipedia-Watch: The Wikipedia Hive Mind Chat Room]
  23. ^ http://www.wikipedia-watch.org/psamples.html - Wikipedia-Watch: Plagiarism by Wikipedia Editors]
  24. ^ See the spam blacklist for a current listing of sites.The relevant policy prohibits automated insertion of links by bots, as well as widespread placement of marginally-relevant links. See Wikipedia:Spam#External link spamming
  25. ^ Public Information Research. http://wikipedia-watch.org - Wikipedia Watch, Retrieved on April 2006
  26. ^ http://www.wikipedia-watch.org/hivemind.html - Wikipedia-Watch:The Wikipedia Hive Mind
  27. ^ DeFoore, Jay (2005-12-01). Wikipedia Founder, Readers Respond to Seigenthaler Article. Editor & Publisher. Membership required.
  28. ^ http://www.wikipedia-watch.org/wikitort.html - Wikipedia-Watch: Can You Sue Wikipedia?]
  29. ^ Jesdanun, Anick (November 3, 2006). Wikipedia Critic Finds Copied Passages. Associated Press.
  30. ^ Seigenthaler, John Sr. (2005-11-29). A False Wikipedia 'biography'. USA Today.
  31. ^ Terdiman, Daniel (2005-12-15). In search of the Wikipedia prankster. CNET News.com.


"Google Libraries and Privacy" by Daniel Brandt, Web Pro News, 1 December 2005
"An Incorrect Political Memoir" by Daniel Brandt, Lobster, December 1992

External links

Sites run by Daniel Brandt

Media coverage

"Conspiracy Researcher says Google's no good" by Farhad Manjoo, Salon.com, 30 August 2002 with http://www.google-watch.org/gaming.html#case3 Brandt's response (down the bottom) "Paranoid or Prescient? Daniel Brandt is concerned about Google Print" by Jim Hedger, Concept, 2003 "Scraping Google to see what's happening" by John Battelle, Searchblog, 11 January 2005 "Anti-Google campaign by Lenz?" by Nathan Weinberg, Blog news Channel, 15 May 2005 "What's in a Wiki?" by Philipp Lenssen, Blog News Channel, 30 October 2005 "Who owns your Wikipedia bio?" by Andrew Orlowski, The Register, 6 December 2005 "Caught red handed" Sydney Morning Herald, 12 December 2005 Persondata NAME Brandt, Daniel Leslie ALTERNATIVE NAMES SHORT DESCRIPTION Activist DATE OF BIRTH 1947 PLACE OF BIRTH China DATE OF DEATH PLACE OF DEATH Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Brandt"

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