Dark Cyber Now on Vimeo

December 27, 2017

The Dark Cyber video for December 26, 2017, is now available on Vimeo. Dark Cyber is a new series of videos from Stephen E Arnold’s Beyond Search HonkinNews Productions. You can view the Vimeo program at https://vimeo.com/248450035.

Stephen E Arnold, December 27, 2017

Silicon Valley Has the Secret to Eternal Life

December 27, 2017

Walt Disney envisioned his namesake park, Walt Disney World, to be a blueprint for the city of the future.  Disney was a keen futurist and was interested in new technology that could improve his studios and theme parks.  His futuristic tendencies led to the urban legend that he was cryogenically frozen and will one day be revived.  Disney wasn’t put on the ice, but his futuristic visions are carried out by Silicon Valley technologists seeking immortality.  Quartz reports on the key to eternal life in the article, “Seeking Eternal Life, Silicon Valley Is Solving For Death.”

Death is the ultimate problem that has yet to be solved.  Many in Silicon Valley, including Oracle’s Larry Ellison, are searching for a solution to prolong life with anti-aging research.  Bill Maris convinced Alphabet’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin to start Calico, Google’s billion-dollar effort to cure aging.  Also, cryogenics remains popular:

Other denizens of the valley pursue cryogenics or cryonics, which is the process of freezing oneself in a vat of liquid nitrogen soon after death. They do this in the hope that it will suspend them in time, preserving them for a future when science can bring them back to life. There are about 350 people already frozen worldwide with another 2,000 signed up—but yet to die.

Medical breakthroughs have already extended the US lifespan and that of other developed nations.  Developing nations still have short lifespans and it draws the conclusion that wealthier people will live forever, while the poor ie quicker.  It is questionable that the extra years tacked onto people’s lives are really worth it because many people spend them unable to care for themselves or in pain.

The article spins into current anti-aging research, then into philosophy about humans vs. machines and what makes a person a person.  Throw in some science-fiction and that is the article in short.

Whitney Grace, December 27, 2017

New York Begins Asking If Algorithms Can Be Racist

December 27, 2017

The whole point of algorithms is to be blind to everything except data. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that in the wrong hands, algorithms and AI could have a very negative impact on users. We learned more in a recent ACLU post, “New York Takes on Algorithm Discrimination.”

According to the story:

A first-in-the-nation bill, passed yesterday in New York City, offers a way to help ensure the computer codes that governments use to make decisions are serving justice rather than inequality.


Algorithms are often presumed to be objective, infallible, and unbiased. In fact, they are highly vulnerable to human bias. And when algorithms are flawed, they can have serious consequences.


The bill, which is expected to be signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, will provide a greater understanding of how the city’s agencies use algorithms to deliver services while increasing transparency around them. This bill is the first in the nation to acknowledge the need for transparency when governments use algorithms…

This is a very promising step toward solving a very real problem. From racist coding to discriminatory AI, this is a topic that is creeping into the national conversation. We hope others will follow in New York’s footsteps and find ways to prevent this injustice from going further.

Patrick Roland, December 27, 2017

You Cannot Search for Info If the Info Is Not Indexed: The Middle Kingdom Approach

December 26, 2017

I noted two items this morning as I geared up to video the next Dark Cyber program. (Dark Cyber is a new series of HonkinNews programs from the creator of this blog, Beyond Search.)

Item one’s title is “China Shuts Down Thousands of Websites in Internet Network Crackdown.” As I understand the article, Chinese authorities remove information to reduce the likelihood that problems will arise from unfettered information access, exchange, and communication. The article quotes one source as saying, “These moves have a powerful deterrent effect.” That’s true to some degree; however, squeezing the toothpaste tube of online content may result is forcing that information into channels which may be more difficult to constrain. Nevertheless, I find the action suggestive that the Wild West days of the Internet are drawing to a close in the Middle Kingdom.

Item two’s title is “China Sentences Man to Five Years in Jail for Running VPN Service.” The main idea is that the virtual private network approach to obfuscating one’s online activities is under scrutiny in China. Apple, as you may recall, removed VPN apps to comply with Chinese guidelines. I noted this passage in the source document:

Wu’s [the fellow who gets to sojourn 60 months in a prison] VPN service reportedly had 8,000 foreign clients and 5,000 businesses. However, he had failed to apply for a state permit. While his isn’t the first sentence since another person was sent to jail for nine months on similar charges, this is the first time that such a dramatic sentence has been approved, raising concerns about the government’s growing interest in controlling information that comes into the country.

What happens if one adds one plus two? The answer is, “You can’t search for information if it is not indexed.” What information in the US accessible indexes is not online.

This weekend I was looking for a story about a Norwich, UK, man who was sentenced to prison and placed on the UK register of sex offenders. The story was not in Google News. I located the story in Bing’s news index. I found this interesting, and you can get the gist of the arrest in the January 2, 2017, HonkinNews “Dark Cyber” program.

Stephen E Arnold, December 26, 2017

Dark Cyber: December 26, 2017, Program Available

December 26, 2017

The Dark Cyber team has released the December 26, 2017, program. You can access the news show via YouTube at this link. The program is also available via Vimeo at this link. The program includes these stories:

  • Information about Blackdot Solutions’ social media and analytics technology. What makes this important is that Blackdot has extended Relativity’s eDiscovery platform so that other types of data can be integrated with the Relativity system. The pay off is a more robust investigative and legal discovery capability.
  • The useful functionality of a new Dark Web search system named Ichidan. With this free tool, an analyst can probe specific ONION urls in order to obtain clues about possible Dark Web server vulnerabilities.
  • How to locate up to the date information about the location of Dark Web sites engaged in questionable eCommerce activities. With the failure of some Dark Web search services to update in a timely manner, finding pointers can be difficult. Dark Cyber reveals that there are three ways to track down the site one wishes to investigate.

In January 2018, Dark Cyber introduces a new look and adds news features. Special programs featuring interviews with individuals with specific expertise related to Dark Cyber activities will be released. Plus, the company profiles will be expanded. The first program for 2018 takes a look at Trovicor, an important intercept and analytics platform which serves the governments of more than 35 countries.

If you have questions or wish to request specific companies for the Dark Cyber team to profile, write us at darkcyber333 at yandex dot com.

Kenny Toth, December 26, 2017

Law Enforcement Do Not Like Smartphones

December 26, 2017

Smartphones and privacy concerns are always hot topics after mass shootings and terroristic acts.  The killers and terrorists always use their smartphones to communicate with allies, buy supplies, and even publicize their actions.  Thanks to these criminals, law enforcement officials want tech companies to build backdoors into phones so they can always can the information.  The remainder of the public does not like this.  One apple spoils the entire batch.  KPTV explains why smartphones are a problem in “Why Smartphones Are Giving Police Fits.”

After the recent mass shooting in Texas, police were unable to hack into the killer’s phone because of all the privacy software in place.  Law enforcement do not like this because they are unable to retrieve data from suspects’ phones.  Software developers insist that the encryption software is necessary for digital privacy, but police do not like that.  It holds up their investigations.

…it could take specialists weeks to unlock the phone and access material that may reveal the killer’s motive and other information.


The FBI’s first option is likely to pressure the device-maker to help access the phone, but if that won’t work they could try breaking into it. Sometimes “brute force” attacks aimed at methodically guessing a user’s passcode can open a device, though that won’t work with all phones.

Arora said the difficulty of breaking into the phone would depend on numerous factors, including the strength of the gunman’s passcode and the make and model of the phone. Police may have more options if it’s an Android phone, since security practices can vary across different manufacturers.

The tech companies, though, are out to protect the average person, especially after the Edward Snowden incident.  The worry is that if all smartphones have a backdoor, then it will be used for more harm than good.  It establishes a dangerous precedent.

Law enforcement, however, needs to do their jobs.  This is similar to how the Internet is viewed.  It is a revolutionary tool, but a few bad apples using it for sex trafficking, selling illegal goods, and child porn ruins it for the rest of us.

Whitney Grace, December 26, 2017

Google Getting into More Trouble Because of Ads

December 26, 2017

It feels like Google is in the news every day lately. Usually, it’s not for anything good. Take, for instance, the recent Register piece about some fishy ad policies, in the article “Google Lies About Click-Fraud Refunds and Tried to Destroy Us –Ad Biz.”

In a complaint filed in a US district court in San Jose, California, on Wednesday, the ad biz claimed Google failed to refund almost $500,000 paid to place ads on websites that drove invalid traffic, in violation of Google rules

Claiming that this is a pattern of behavior, the complaint seeks recognition as a class action for Google’s alleged false promises to refund advertisers for ad impressions placed through Google’s DoubleClick Ad Exchange deemed to be invalid.

The lawsuit contends that a Google employee had warned the ad biz privately that Google’s Network Partner Managers like AdTrader ‘would mysteriously start getting into trouble with Google once they reached an annual revenue run rate of $4-5 million.’

It should be pointed out that Google has not been convicted of any of these claims, but they are troubling. It is easy to say that it is a busy time to be a member of the search giant’s legal team. Recently, the city of Seattle sent Google a letter stating that it is considered a commercial advertiser, like a radio or television station, and therefore had to turn over any information about political ads sold regarding city elections. We have no doubt Google will weather these storms, but they are concerning.

Patrick Roland, December 26, 2017

Artificial Intelligence: Horse Feathers?

December 25, 2017

I read “Artificial Intelligence More Hype Than Reality: Narayana Murthy.” The individual expressing this view is Infosys co-founder N.R. Narayana Murthy. I am not sure some of the folks at Facebook, Google, IBM, Microsoft, and the hundreds of other companies touting smart software agree with Mr. Murthy’s opinion.

I found this comment interesting:

“There is this whole thing about automation and artificial intelligence. That is much more hype than the reality, at least in the software services.”

Let’s ask IBM Watson, Cortana, and Alexa. Well, maybe not. Those systems are engaged in more substantive matters.

Stephen E Arnold, December 25, 2017

A Look at Chinese Search Engine Sogou

December 25, 2017

An article at Search Engine Watch draws our attention to one overseas search contender—“What Do You Need to Know About Chinese Search Engine Sogou?” Sogu recently announced terms for a proposed IPO, so writer Rebecca Sentance provides a primer on the company. She begins with some background—the platform was launched in 2004, and the name translates to “searching dog.” She also delves into the not-so-clear issue of where Sogu stands in relation to China’s top search engine, Baidu, and some other contenders for the second-place, so see the article for those details.

I was interested in what Sentance writes about Sogou’s use of AI and natural language search:

It also plans to shift its emphasis from more traditional keyword-based search to answer questions, in line with the trend towards natural language search prompted by the rise of voice search and digital assistants. Sogou has joined major search players such as Bing, Baidu and of course Google in investing in artificial intelligence, but its small size may put it at a disadvantage. A huge search engine like Baidu, with an average of more than 583 million searches per day, has access to reams more data with which to teach its machine learning algorithms.

But Sogou has an ace up its sleeve: it is the only search engine formally allowed to access public messages on WeChat – a massive source of data that will be particularly beneficial for natural language processing. Plus, as I touched on earlier, language is something of a specialty area for Sogou, as Sogou Pinyin gives it a huge store of language data with which to work. Sogou also has ambitious plans to bring foreign-language results to Chinese audiences via its translation technology, which will allow consumers to search the English-speaking web using Mandarin search terms.

The article wraps up by looking at Sogou’s potential effect on search markets; basically, it could have a large impact within China, especially if Baidu keeps experiencing controversy. For the rest of the world, though, the impact should be minimal. Nevertheless, this is one company worth keeping an eye on.

Cynthia Murrell, December 25, 2017

Alexa AI Could Drastically Change Your Shopping Experience

December 25, 2017

Amazon’s Alexa, a wi-fi enabled, voice-activated speaker, has become less of a novelty and more of a way of life for millions of owners. With that in mind, the company is aiming to utilize this exposure for analytic purposes. But many are not so excited, as we learned from a Wired piece, “Alexa Wants You To Talk to Your Ads.”

According to the story,

These early interactions won’t necessarily provide additional revenue, but for forward-thinking brands they do hold value. No matter how basic the interaction, connecting with a customer through voice provides a trove of data on how consumers are interacting with a product. Collecting information on how Alexa is used will provide a base of knowledge to position brands to build the more sophisticated tech still to come. Once that “killer experience” is discovered and the confusion clears, these early advertising settlers will be set up to succeed.

They are angling this as a great thing for customers, too. But we are a little skeptical. There is a real fear that Amazon is overstepping boundaries in the name of AI and analytics. Recently, it has come to light that Alexa is always listening and possibly transmitting that data to a warehouse. Even more intimidating is a recent report that Alexa can be easily hacked and used as an eavesdropping tool. This might not be the ideal time for Amazon to encourage this level of interaction with Alexa.

Patrick Roland, December 25, 2017

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