“When anybody honks at me in traffic, I blush, wave, and shout, ‘Thanks for being a fan.'”—Jarod Kintz
On June 6, 2013, Bloomberg published “Google Is Said to Be Acquiring Waze for $1.1 Billion,” a few hours ahead of the formal announcement. Yet, this remarkable act of precognition, came after it was made public by Israeli financial newspaper Calcalist on May 27, that Israel’s Tax Authority had requested from Waze reports on its shareholders, in order to begin the tax-collection process. Those of them holding more than 10% will pay between 25 and 30% of their income.
Waze Traffic Engineering
At the time of that even earlier precognition act by the tax authorities, the bid for Waze was still open. The rumors on the Hebrew media claimed that either Facebook or Google would win. The outcome was decided on odd grounds, reflecting on the background of this surprisingly popular … spying device.
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Few people realize that Israel has conquered several internet and information-technology niche markets. This is true to the extent that most American citizens are unwillingly sharing their secrets with the State of Israel.
I reviewed that a few months ago in Microsoft Strikes Israeli Software, after the American giant limited the activity of Babylon and similar companies on their browsers.
The Israeli activity is mockingly known as “Download Valley,” or in a more serious term the “field of directing users.” Other Israeli players are Perion, the manager of the IncrediMail, Smilebox and SweetIM brands, VisualBee, Montiera, Fried Cookie Software, WebPick, Linkury, Bundlore, iBario and KeyDownload. These are Israel’s Weapons of Mass Distraction.
Another niche market is far more dangerous. An offshoot of Golden Pages, the Israeli business phone directory company, Amdocs develops, implements and manages software and services for business support systems, including billing, customer relationship management, and for operations support systems. If your phone company is AT&T, BT Group, Sprint, T-Mobile, Vodafone, Bell Canada, Telus, Rogers Communications, Telekom Austria, Cellcom, Comcast, DirecTV, Elisa Oyj, TeliaSonera or O2-Ireland, then Israel has access to much of your communications and bills, including credit cards numbers.
Also important in this context is Check Point, a provider of software and combined hardware and software products for IT security, including network security, endpoint security, data security and security management. In other words, the supermarket near your home probably uses products from this giant to secure its transactions. Israel has access to all of them. This apparently innocent company got so rich that its CEO sits in a penthouse office atop Tel Aviv’s highest tower.
“We are Social”
“We are Social,” claims one of Waze’s slogans, reminding us of yet another niche market favored by Israeli companies.
The social network leading company is still Facebook. There is enough evidence to conclude that this company has deep connections with the Israeli intelligence, in essence being nothing but an upgraded version of Mossad’s Ksharim program, described in the past by Victor Ostrovsky.
The upgrade was achieved by stealing code from Harvard students Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra; Mr. Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, made them believe that he would help them build a social network called HarvardConnection.com (later called ConnectU). Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged the theft by paying indemnifications.
Applications like Facebook are critical for intelligence services because they map the connections (that’s the meaning of “ksharim”) of an individual, facilitating its surveillance, entrapment, and attack.
Yet, Facebook is unlikely to lead the social networks market for much longer. As predicted in Facebook IPO Fails Mossad, people are unlikely to stick with it in the long term. People need privacy. Instead, it is predicted that specialized social media platforms will rise. For example, writing Back in Bethlehem wouldn’t have been possible without my use of such specialized social media as a safe data storage, hiding everything in plain sight but split in a myriad of tiny bits. If this tendency will continue, Facebook is expected to decline in a few years.
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Waze is one of these specialized social media companies. The company’s home page tells the whole story in a few worrying words. “Waze is the world’s fastest-growing community-based traffic and navigation app. Join other drivers in your area who share real-time traffic and road info, saving everyone time and gas money on their daily commute.” This is nice, but it continues: “See other friends also driving to your destination, when you connect to Facebook. Coordinate everyone’s arrival times when you pick up or meet up with friends. Now you’re effortlessly in sync when you drive together.”
In other words, Waze is a social-network real-time tracking device. It allows following an entire network of people moving on the road. Moreover, it allows proper movement of camouflaged military units in a variety of environments.
The amazing thing is that people willingly cooperate with this violation of their privacy, to the extent that the company was sold for over a billion dollar.
Looking from outside, most Israeli companies mentioned in this article seem to be unrelated. Yet, it is not a secret that most key people in them are former Unit 8200 soldiers. Most of them openly boast about this. This SIGINT unit is the largest in the IDF, and specializes in surveillance. It has formal relations with CAZAB. This is not random.
Engineers who had developed applications for 8200, often adapt them to the civilian environment. Over the years, this has created what is known as the Israeli Hi-Tech market described in this article. Waze enters this category.
Selling Waze to either Google or Facebook was easy. As smartphones and tablets are getting more popular both companies are increasing efforts to court customers on the move. Waze’s 40 million users would help Google add social features to its mapping tool and gain market-share over its main rival, Apple Inc. On the other hand, if Facebook wants to survive as the leading social network, it must purchase every specialized network gaining prominence in the market. Both companies offered Waze over a billion dollar. Yet, money was a secondary issue.
Waze has two locations. The main headquarters are in Ra’anana, near the abovementioned Amdocs; 70 workers develop the application and run the company from there. Another 10 workers are in Palo Alto, California, supervising the American operation. The main issue in the negotiations was the location of the company after the purchase. Waze’s directors wanted it to stay in Israel. Facebook didn’t agree; Google complied and won the bid.
Dear Waze CEO Noam Bardin, would you be kind enough to explain why do you need all the awesome data that you are collecting to remain accessible from Israel? I will understand if you decline to answer me (Bloomberg also commented that it was impossible to get answers from you). Don’t worry, the answer is rather obvious.
Roi Tov is a graduate—among others—of Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute of Science. In addition to his memoir, Tov is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Molecular Physics and other scientific journals. He won various travel writing and photography awards.
In his writings, he tries to reveal life in Israel as a Christian Israel Defense Force (IDF) officer—from human rights violations to the use of an extensive network of underground agents. He was recognized first as a refugee and subsequently as political prisoner of Bolivia.