Palantir: The UK Wants a Silver Bullet

March 11, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

The UK is an interesting nation state. On one hand, one has upmarket, high-class activities taking place not too far from the squatters in Bristol. Fancy lingo, nifty arguments (Here, here!) match up nicely with some wonky computer decisions. The British government seems to have a keen interest in finding silver bullets; that is, solutions which will make problems go away. How did that work for the postal service?

I read “Health Data – It Isn’t Just Palantir or Bust,” written by lawyer, pundit, novelist, and wizard Cory Doctorow. The essay focuses on a tender offer captured by Palantir Technologies. The idea is that the British National Health Service has lots of data. The NHS has done some wild and crazy things to make those exposed to the NHS safer. Sorry, I can’t explain one taxonomy-centric project which went exactly nowhere despite the press releases generated by the vendors, speeches, presentations, and assurances that, by gad, these health data will be managed. Yeah, and Bristol’s nasty areas will be fixed up soon.


The British government professional is struggling with software that was described as a single solution. Thanks, MSFT Copilot. How is your security perimeter working today? Oh, that’s too bad. Good enough.

What is interesting about the write up is not the somewhat repetitive retelling of the NHS’ computer challenges. I want to highlight the comments from the lawyer – novelist about the American intelware outfit Palantir Technologies. What do we learn about Palantir?

Here the first quote from the essay:

But handing it all over to companies like Palantir isn’t the only option

The idea that a person munching on fish and chips in Swindon will know about Palantir is effectively zero. But it is clear that “like Palantir” suggests something interesting, maybe fascinating.

Here’s another reference to Palantir:

Even more bizarre are the plans to flog NHS data to foreign military surveillance giants like Palantir, with the promise that anonymization will somehow keep Britons safe from a company that is literally named after an evil, all-seeing magic talisman employed by the principal villain of Lord of the Rings (“Sauron, are we the baddies?”).

The word choice is painting a picture of an American intelware company which does focus on conveying a negative message; for instance, the words safe, evil, all seeing, villain, baddies, etc. What’s going on?

The British Medical Association and the conference of England LMC Representatives have endorsed OpenSAFELY and condemned Palantir. The idea that we must either let Palantir make off with every Briton’s most intimate health secrets or doom millions to suffer and die of preventable illness is a provably false choice.

It seems that the American company is known to the BMA and an NGO have figured out Palantir is a bit of a sticky wicket.

Several observations:

  1. My view is that Palantir promised a silver bullet to solve some of the NHS data challenges. The British government accepted the argument, so full steam ahead. Thus, the problem, I would suggest, is the procurement process
  2. The agenda in the write up is to associate Palantir with some relatively negative concepts. Is this fair? Probably not but it is typical of certain “real” analysts and journalists to mix up complex issues in order to create doubt about vendors of specialized software. These outfits are not perfect, but their products are a response to quite difficult problems.
  3. I think the write up is a mash up of anger about tender offers, the ineptitude of British government computer skills, the use of cross correlation as a symbol of Satan, and a social outrage about the Britain which is versus what some wish it were.

Net net: Will Palantir change because of this negative characterization of its products and services? Nope. Will the NHS change? Are you kidding me, of course not. Will the British government’s quest for silver bullet solutions stop? Let’s tackle this last question this way: “Why not write it in a snail mail letter and drop it in the post?”

Intelware is just so versatile at least in the marketing collateral.

Stephen E Arnold, March 11, 2024

Musky Metaphor: The Sink or Free for All Hellscape?

October 28, 2022

I read “Elon Musk Visits Twitter Carrying Sink As Deal Looms.” The write up (after presenting me with options to sign in, click a free account, or just escape the pop up) reported:

In business parlance, “kitchen sinking” means taking radical action at a company, though it is not clear if this was Mr Musk’s message – he also updated his Twitter bio to read “chief twit”. Mr Musk has said the social media site needs significant changes. At least one report has suggested he is planning major job cuts.

There was a photo, presumably copyright crowned, showing the orbital Elon Musk carrying a kitchen sink. A quick check of kitchen appliance vendors provided some examples of a kitchen sink:

I compared this sink with the one in the Beeb’s illustration and learned:

  1. Mr. Musk chose a white sink
  2. The drain was visible
  3. Mr. Musk’s “load” was a bit larger than a Starlink antenna


Now what’s the metaphor? Wikipedia is incredibly helpful when trying to figure out certain allusions of very bright inventors of incredible assertions about self driving software.

Wikipedia suggests:

  • Freaks of Nature (film), a 2015 comedy horror film, also known as Kitchen Sink
  • Kitchen Sink, a 1989 horror short directed by Alison Maclean
  • Kitchen Sink (TV series), cookery series on Food Network
  • “Kitchen Sink”, a song by Twenty One Pilots from their album Regional at Best
  • Kitchen Sink (album), an album by Nadine Shah, 2020
  • Kitchen Sink Press, an independent comic book publisher
  • Kitchen sink realism, a British cultural movement in the late 1950s and early 1960s
  • Kitchen sink syndrome, also known as “scope creep” in project management
  • Kitchen sink regression, a usually pejorative term for a regression analysis which uses a long list of possible independent variables
  • A sink in a kitchen for washing dishes, vegetables, etc.

I think these are incorrect.

My mind associates the kitchen sink with:

  • Going down the drain; that is, get rid of dirty water, food scraps, and soluble substances (mostly soluble if I remember what I learned from engineers at the CW Rice Engineering Company)
  • An opening into which objects can fall; for example, a ring, grandma’s silver baby spoon, or the lid to a bottle of Shaoxing wine. The allusion becomes “going down the drain” equates to a fail whale
  • A collection point for discarded vegetable matter, bits of meat with bone, fish heads, or similar detritus. Yep, fish heads.

What’s your interpretation of the Musky kitchen sink? Scope creep from Wikipedia or mine, going down the drain? Nah, hellscape.

Be sure to tweet your answer?

Stephen E Arnold, October 28, 2022

Facebook and Synthetic Data

October 13, 2021

What’s Facebook thinking about its data future?

A partial answer may be that the company is doing some contingency planning. When regulators figure out how to trim Facebook’s data hoovering, the company may have less primary data to mine, refine, and leverage.

The solution?

Synthetic data. The jargon means annotated data that computer simulations output. Run the model. Fiddle with the thresholds. Get good enough data.

How does one get a signal about Facebook’s interest in synthetic data?

Facebook, according to Venture Beat, the responsible social media company acquired AI.Reverie.

Was this a straight forward deal? Sure, just via a Facebook entity called Dolores Acquisition Sub, Inc. If this sounds familiar, the social media leader may have taken its name from a motion picture called “Westworld.”

The write up states:

AI.Reverie — which competed with startups like Tonic, Delphix, Mostly AI, Hazy,, and Cvedia, among others — has a long history of military and defense contracts. In 2019, the company announced a strategic alliance with Booz Allen Hamilton with the introduction of Modzy at Nvidia’s GTC DC conference. Through Modzy — a platform for managing and deploying AI models — AI.Reverie launched a weapons detection model that ostensibly could spot ammunition, explosives, artillery, firearms, missiles, and blades from “multiple perspectives.”

Booz, Allen may be kicking its weaker partners. Perhaps the wizards at the consulting firm should have purchased AI.Reverie. But Facebook aced out the century old other people’s business outfit. (Note: I used to labor in the BAH vineyards, and I feel sorry for the individuals who were not enthusiastic about acquiring AI.Reverie. Where did that bonus go?)

Several observations are warranted:

  1. Synthetic data is the ideal dating partner for Snorkel-type machine learning systems
  2. Some researchers believe that real data is better than synthetic data, but that is a fight like spats between those who love Windows and those who love Mac OSX
  3. The uptake of “good” enough data for smart statistical systems which aim for 60 percent or better “accuracy” appears to be a mini trend.

Worth watching?

Stephen E Arnold, October 13, 2021

Deloitte Acquires Terbium Labs: Does This Mean Digital Shadows Won the Dark Web Indexing Skirmish?

July 7, 2021

Deloitte has been on a cybersecurity shopping spree this year. The giant auditing and consulting firm bought Root9B in January and CloudQuest at the beginning of June. Now, ZDNet reports, “Deloitte Scoops Up Digital Risk Protection Company Terbium Labs.” We like Terbium. Perhaps the acquisition will help Deloitte move past the unfortunate Autonomy affair. Writer Natalie Gagliordi tells us:

“The tax and auditing giant said Terbium Labs’ services — which include a digital risk protection platform that aims to helps organizations detect and remediate data exposure, theft, or misuse — will join Deloitte’s cyber practice and bolster its Detect & Respond offering suite. Terbium Labs’ digital risk platform leverages AI, machine learning, and patented data fingerprinting technologies to identify illicit use of sensitive data online. Deloitte said that adding the Terbium Labs business to its portfolio would enable the company to offer clients another way to continuously monitor for data exposed on the open, deep, or dark web. ‘Finding sensitive or proprietary data once it leaves an organization’s perimeter can be extremely challenging,’ said Kieran Norton, Deloitte Risk & Financial Advisory’s infrastructure solution leader, and principal. ‘Advanced cyber threat intelligence, paired with remediation of data risk exposure requires a balance of advanced technology, keen understanding of regulatory compliance and fine-tuning with an organization’s business needs and risk profile.’”

Among the Deloitte clients that may now benefit from Terbium tech are several governments and Fortune 500 companies. It is not revealed how much Deloitte paid for the privilege.

Terbium Labs lost the marketing fight with an outfit called Digital Shadows. That company has not yet been SPACed, acquired, or IPOed. There are quite a few Dark Web indexing outfits, and quite a bit of the Dark Web traffic appears to come from bots indexing the increasingly shrinky-dink obfuscated Web.

Is Digital Shadows’ marketing up to knocking Deloitte out of the game? Worth watching.

Cynthia Murrell, July 6, 2021

Watching the Future of Talend

March 15, 2021

I read “Talend Sells to Private Equity Firm Thoma Bravo in $2.4 Billion Deal.” I find this interesting. Talend is a software company providing extract, transform, and load services and analytics. Data remain the problem for many thumbtypers fresh from Amazon or Google certification classes. The idea is to suck in legally data from different sources. These data are often in odd ball formats to malformed because another digital mechanic missed a bolt or added a bit of finery. Some people love MarkLogic innovations in XML; others, not so enamored of the tweaks.

What’s Thoma Bravo bring to the table for a publicly traded company with a number of competitors?

I can think of two benefits:

The first is MBA think. Thoma Bravo is skilled in the methods for making a company more efficient. It is a good idea to internalize the definition of “efficiency” as the word is used at McKinsey & Co.

The second is acquisition think. From my point of view, the idea is to identify interesting companies which provide additional functionality around the core Talend business. Then Thoma Bravo assists the Talend management to bring these companies into the mothership, train sales professionals, and close deals.

No problem exists with this game plan. One can identify some indicators to monitor; for example:

  • Executive turnover
  • Realigning expenditures; possibly taking money from security and allocating the funds to sales and marketing
  • Targeting specific market segments with special bundles of enhanced Talend software and business methods.

For more information about Talend as it exists in March 2021, navigate to this link.

Oh, one final comment. Thoma Bravo was involved in making SolarWinds the business success it became.

Stephen E Arnold, March 15, 2021

Cision: More Data from Online Monitoring

March 1, 2021

Cision calls online monitoring “listening.” That’s friendly. The objective: More particular data to cross correlate with the firm’s other data holdings. Toss in about one million journalists’ email addresses, and you have the ingredients for a nifty business. “Brandwatch Is Acquired by Cision for $450M, Creating a PR, Marketing and Social Listening Giant” says:

Abel Clark, CEO of Cision said: “The continued digital shift and widespread adoption of social media is rapidly and fundamentally changing how brands and organizations engage with their customers. This is driving the imperative that PR, marketing, social, and customer care teams fully incorporate the unique insights now available into consumer-led strategies. Together, Cision and Brandwatch will help our clients to more deeply understand, connect and engage with their customers at scale across every channel.”

Cision data may open some new markets for the PR outfit. Do you, gentle reader, law enforcement and intelligence professionals would be interested in these data? Do you think that Amazon might license the data to stir into its streaming data market place stew?

No answers yet. Worth “monitoring” or “listening.”

Stephen E Arnold, March 1, 2021

Algolia: Making Search Smarter But Is This Possible?

February 5, 2021

A retail search startup pins its AI hopes on a recent acquisition, we learn from the write-up at SiliconANGLE, “Algolia Acquires MorphL to Embed AI into its Enterprise Search Tech.” The company is using its new purchase to power Algolia AI. The platform predicts searchers’ intent in order to deliver tailored (aka targeted) search results, even on a user’s first interaction with the software. Writer Mike Wheatley tells us:

“Algolia sells a cloud-based search engine that companies can embed in their sites, cloud services and mobile apps via an application programming interface. Online retailers can use the platform to help shoppers browse their product catalogs, for example. Algolia’s technology is also used by websites such as the open publishing platform Medium and the online learning course provider Coursera. Algolia’s enterprise-focused search technology enables companies to create a customized search bar, with tools such as a sidebar so shoppers can quickly filter goods by price, for example. MorphL is a Romanian startup that has created an AI platform for e-commerce personalization that works by predicting how people are likely to interact with a user interface. Its technology will extend Algolia’s search APIs with recommendations and user behavior models that will make it possible for e-commerce websites and apps to deliver more ‘intent-based experiences.’”

The Google Digital News Initiative funded MorphL’s development. The startup began as an open-source project in 2018 and is based in Bucharest, Romania. Headquartered in San Francisco, Algolia was founded in 2012. MorphL is the company’s second acquisition; it plucked SeaUrchin.IO in 2018.

Will Algolia search be smarter, maybe even cognitive? Worth watching to see how many IQ points are added to Algolia’s results.

Cynthia Murrell, February 5, 2021

CB Insights Is Moving Fast with VentureSource Acquisition

August 23, 2020

CB Insights is a market intelligence and business analytics platform that provides insights for venture capitalists, startups, angel investing, and more. Companies use CB Insights’s data to make business decisions, develop products, and project long term goals.

CB Insights wants to remain one of the top market intelligence and business analytics platforms. The firm has upped its game by investing in machine learning and AI algorithms to its platforms. CB Insights’s biggest selling points are the quality/quantity of data.

CB Insights recently acquired the Dow Jones VentureSource dataset, announced in the blog post: “Our First Acquisition: CB Insights Acquires VentureSource Data From Dow Jones.” The VentureSource acquisition adds more information to CB Insights’s platform:

“The VentureSource data assets will significantly expand our private markets coverage and strengthen our position as a leader in emerging technology information and private market data.”

It means instead of searching through various market intelligence platforms, the Dow Jones data sets are now available through CB Insights. CB Insights promotes itself as moving fast so its clients can too. They are quickly integrating the VentureSource data set into the CB Insights.

CB Insights is probably using its own data and AI to power their own business decisions. At least they get it for free.

Whitney Grace, August 23, 2020

Salesforce Acquires Diffeo

June 30, 2020

The announcement appears on the Salesforce Web site. redirects to the customer relationship management firm’s government and aerospace page at this link. It appears that Salesforce will use the Diffeo technology to enhance its search, retrieval, and analysis capabilities. Plus, there may be some push by Salesforce to market Diffeo to the US government. As more information becomes publicly available, DarkCyber will update its information about this MIT incubator spawned firm.

Stephen E Arnold, June 30, 2020

Thomson Reuters: Getting with the Conference Crowd

October 6, 2019

DarkCyber noted “Thomson Reuters acquires FC Business Intelligence.” FCBI, according the the firm’s Web site:

Founded round a kitchen table in 1990, originally with a focus on emerging markets, the company has grown organically in size and influence ever since.

We learned:

The business will be rebranded Reuters Events and will be operated as part of the Reuters News division of Thomson Reuters.

Thomson Reuters has not delivered hockey stick growth in the last three, five, eight years, has it?

Will conferences be the goose which puts golden eggs in the Thomson Reuters’ hen house?

What’s the motive force for a professional publishing outfit to get into conferences? DarkCyber hypothesizes that:

  • Getting more cash from traditional professional publishing markets is getting more difficult; for example, few law firms have clients willing to pay the commercial online fees from the “good old days”
  • Conferences, despite advances in technology, continue to give the Wall Street Journal and other organizations opportunities to meet and greet, generate revenue from booth rentals, and a way to hop on hot topics
  • Respond to the painful fact that it is easier to make one’s own news instead of paying to just report the news, particularly if it comes from a high profile conference.

Will Thomson Reuters slice and dice the content outputs in as many ways as possible? Possibly.

Worth watching as Lord Thomson of Fleet probably is from his eye in the sky.

Stephen E Arnold, October 6, 2019

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