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Amazon Revealed by the BBC: Analysis and News about the Bezos Bulldozer

The BBC is a subsidized news outfit. As a person who lives in America, I don’t understand the approach taken to either obtaining money or to programming. I do miss the Lilliburlero tune. Also, wouldn’t it be helpful to be able to locate BBC audio programs? Well, maybe not.

DarkCyber noted “Why Amazon Knows So Much about You.” The write up is notable for several reasons. First, it uses one of those Web layouts that are popular: Sliding windows, white text on black backgrounds, and graphics like this one of Mr. Bezos, zeros and ones, and a headline designed to make the reader uncomfortable:

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Second, the article is labeled as news, but it is more of a chatty essay about Amazon, its Great Leader, and the data the company gathers via the front scoop of the Bezos bulldozer. But news? Maybe one of those chatty podcasts which purport to reveal the secrets of some companies’ success.

Third, the write up seems long. There are plenty of snappy graphics, dialog which reads a bit like the script for the video program Silicon Valley, and embedded video; for example, Margreth Vestager:

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Note that this image is in close proximity to this image of Mr. Bezos and his friend. Happenstance? Sure.

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The write up goes deep into Amazon history with details about a snowy, cold, and dark night. The stage setting is worthy of Edward Bulwer Lytton, the fellow who allegedly coined the phrase “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Is the BBC’s pen mightier than an Amazon sword, available in the US for $23.70 with free shipping for Prime members:

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With that in mind, what is “Why Amazon Knows So Much about You?”

The most straightforward way to respond to this question is to look at what the write up covers. Here’s the general layout of the almost 5,000 word “semi news” story:

Introduction with the author’s personal take on Amazon

The early days (the meeting in the mountains) of “planning to suck data”

Amazon’s approach to business: Slippery, clever, and maybe some Google-style deflection

The Ring moment when the Shark Tank people proved they were not qualified to work for Mr. Bezos

Amazon is just like those other American monopolies and the sky is falling because staff are complaining about many things

Amazon’s big ideas for making even more money.

 

Read more »

Interviews

Exclusive: DataWalk Explained by Chris Westphal

An Interview with Chris Westphal” provides an in-depth review of a company now disrupting the analytic and investigative software landscape.

DataWalk is a company shaped by a patented method for making sense of different types of data. The technique is novel and makes it possible for analysts to extract high value insights from large flows of data in near real time with an unprecedented ease of use.

DarkCyber interviewed in late June 2019 Chris Westphal, the innovator who co-founded Visual Analytics. That company’s combination of analytics methods and visualizations was acquired by Raytheon in 2013. Now Westphal is applying his talents to a new venture DataWalk.

Westphal, who monitors advanced analytics, learned about DataWalk and joined the firm in 2017 as the Chief Analytics Officer. The company has grown rapidly and now has client relationships with corporations, governments, and ministries throughout the world. Applications of the DataWalk technology include investigators focused on fraud, corruption, and serious crimes.

Unlike most investigative and analytics systems, users can obtain actionable outputs by pointing and clicking. The system captures these clicks on a ribbon. The actions on the ribbon can be modified, replayed, and shared.

In an exclusive interview with Mr. Westphal, DarkCyber learned:

The [DataWalk] system gets “smarter” by encoding the analytical workflows used to query the data; it stores the steps, values, and filters to produce results thereby delivering more consistency and reliability while minimizing the training time for new users. These workflows (aka “easy buttons”) represent domain or mission-specific knowledge acquired directly from the client’s operations and derived from their own data; a perfect trifecta!

One of the differentiating features of DataWalk’s platform is that it squarely addresses the shortage of trained analysts and investigators in many organizations. Westphal pointed out:

…The workflow idea is one of the ingredients in the DataWalk secret sauce. Not only do these workflows capture the domain expertise of the users and offer management insights and metrics into their operations such as utilization, performance, and throughput, they also form the basis for scoring any entity in the system. DataWalk allows users to create risk scores for any combination of workflows, each with a user-defined weight, to produce an overall, aggregated score for every entity. Want to find the most suspicious person? Easy, just select the person with the highest risk-score and review which workflows were activated. Simple. Adaptable. Efficient.

Another problem some investigative and analytic system developers face is user criticism. According to Westphal, DataWalk takes a different approach:

We listen carefully to our end-user community. We actively solicit their feedback and we prioritize their inputs. We try to solve problems versus selling licenses… DataWalk is focused on interfacing to a wide range of data providers and other technology companies. We want to create a seamless user experience that maximizes the utility of the system in the context of our client’s operational environments.

For more information about DataWalk, navigate to www.datawalk.com. For the full text of the interview, click this link. You can view a short video summary of DataWalk in the July 2, 2019, DarkCyber Video available on Vimeo.

Stephen E Arnold, July 9, 2019

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