Google Maps: Complex and Tricky for Some Users

September 12, 2019

Google Maps has become the one stop map tool due to its reliability, ease of use, accuracy, and wealth of information. The map app, however, is not as accurate as you think says Media Street in the article, “You Can’t Trust Google Maps To Find It All-Fake Businesses Are Everywhere.” The Wall Street Journal discovered that nearly eleven million businesses listed on Google Maps are fake. Other companies create the listings to boost their own business info ahead of the competition and others are scams.

In 2018, Google removed more than three million fake listings and more than 90% were removed before a user saw them. Users reported 250,000 fake profiles, while Google’s own system flagged 85% of the removals. Google encourages users to report anything suspicious or appears fraudulent.

Google does its best to track down the fake businesses:

“Google typically verifies if a business is legit by calling, mailing a postcard, or emailing a numerical code that is then entered on the website. It’s a pretty easy process for savvy scammers who likely use fake addresses and businesses for their listings anyway. Knowing this, the company says that they are constantly developing new ways to weed out fake listings, but can’t elaborate on what they are due to the sensitive nature.

Every month Maps is used by more than a billion people around the world, and every day we and our users work as a community to improve the map for each other,’ Google Maps’ product director, Ethan Russell, wrote in the blog post. ‘We know that a small minority will continue trying to scam others, so there will always be work to do and we’re committed to keep doing better.’”

There are ways to be wise to scams. You can avoid businesses that have names that included “dependable” or “emergency,” screen your phone calls, do not trust all the reviews, and also do your own research. See if the business has a Web site, check other review sites, view social media accounts, etc. Never forget to trust your gut instinct either.

Whitney Grace, September 12, 2019

The Platform of the Future Is…

August 2, 2019

What’s the platform of the future? Here are your choices:

[a] Artificial intelligence

[b] Neuro linguistic services

[c] Silicon brain implants connected to the cloud

[d] Indexing

[e] Pay to play content.

Did you pick “d”: Indexing.

If you did, you are on the same wavelength as the rock and roll, up and down advisory and analyst firm IDC.

The pronouncement comes from Stewart Bond, research director at IDC Research Inc. (Note: DarkCyber has written reports for IDC. The firm sold these reports on Amazon without DarkCyber’s permission, and IDC did not pay for the use of the DarkCyber reports. How much were our reports? $3,200 for eight pages of goodness? Want to know more? Drop us an email: darkcyber333 at yandex dot com.)

This revelation appeared in Silicon Angle which presented a summary of an interview with IDC Research’s director. Other gems from the write up were:

Pre-existing silos and multicloud can give companies a lot of disparate spaces to scavenge through. The most sensible place to start may be with the available data about all that data — or metadata.

Yes, indexing, an art practiced for millennia.

We noted this statement:

Companies are realizing that poorly cleansed or inaccurately labeled data are resulting in inaccurate insights. And vendors are rushing to the rescue. The number of vendors offering cataloging solutions has increased about 240% in the last year and a half, according to Bond’s research.

Hmm. What’s the research methodology? Remember that IDC has generated some specious numbers in the past; for example, the amount of time a person in a company spends looking for information. DarkCyber is curious about this 18 month period, the sample, the methodology, and the reliability of the analytic process. A 2.4X increase is robust, particularly for indexing and the accompanying tasks embraced in the sweeping generalization.

And we put an exclamation mark next to this passage:

Multicloud has flung data all over the place. Effective software must have spider legs that can reach out and quickly gather intelligence about it. Data cataloging may do this with machine learning, human annotation, Google-like search features, etc. “I think that’s going to be the data platform of the future,” Bond stated. Informatica Corp. currently leads in this market, according to Bond.

Okay, flinging data all over the place. Colorful. We also noted that Informatica Corp. is the leader in “this market.” Exactly what market are we thinking about. Google, search, cloud—what, which?

Keep in mind that Informatica has been around since 1993, and it has grown to about $1 billion a year in revenue. Impressive when compared to the local tire store, but a bit behind the curve when it comes to data. Amazon in the last quarter generated about $8 billion. Annualized Amazon is about 32X bigger than Informatica. Who will win in the cloud cataloging game? Informatica? Sure it will.

But why the love for Informatica? One possibility is that Informatica is a client or prospect of IDC. That’s an idea worth considering.

And where did this “indexing” pronouncement appear? In Silicon Angle. Here’s the explanation which appeared with the IDC research director’s startling insight:

SiliconANGLE Media Inc.’s business model is based on the intrinsic value of the content, not advertising. Unlike many online publications, we don’t have a paywall or run banner advertising, because we want to keep our journalism open, without influence or the need to chase traffic.The journalism, reporting and commentary on SiliconANGLE — along with live, unscripted video from our Silicon Valley studio and globe-trotting video teams at theCUBE — take a lot of hard work, time and money. Keeping the quality high requires the support of sponsors who are aligned with our vision of ad-free journalism content. If you like the reporting, video interviews and other ad-free content here, please take a moment to check out a sample of the video content supported by our sponsors, tweet your support, and keep coming back to SiliconANGLE.

DarkCyber interprets this information as a way to make “sponsored” content less front and center.

“Indexing” is a sure fire way to generate buzz for a consulting company and maybe, just maybe, some revenue from sponsored video for Silicon Angle.

The video is here.

Stephen E Arnold, August 2, 2019

Facebook: Fighting the Good Ad Fight

July 21, 2019

It is search to the rescue! Following a settlement meant to eliminate discrimination on Facebook last year, the company is amending how it delivers housing, job, and financial services ads. ABC News reports, “Facebook to Make Jobs, Credit Ads Searchable for US Users.” The platform makes most of its money from targeted advertising, but the technique has its problems. Reporter Frank Bajak writes:

“The move is likely part of Facebook’s strategy to show regulators that is doing a good job policing its own service — putting it in compliance with existing anti-discrimination law — and doesn’t need a heavy-handed approach from lawmakers. It comes as the company is facing increasing regulatory pressures.

As part of the settlement with plaintiffs including the ACLU and the National Fair Housing Alliance, Facebook agreed in March to stop targeting people based on age, gender and zip code and to also eliminate such categories as national origin and sexual orientation. The groups had sued claiming Facebook violated anti-discrimination laws by preventing audiences including single mothers and the disabled from seeing many housing ads — while some job ads were not reaching women and older workers. Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney at the ACLU and the group’s lead attorney in the case, said making the three Facebook databases searchable by anyone ‘definitely creates greater access to information about economic opportunities.’”

Of course, there could still be a lot of bias hidden in those ad-steering algorithms, but good luck achieving complete transparency there—proprietary software and all that. Besides, there are also the issues of privacy, anti-trust violations, and hate speech to consider. At least Facebook appears to be looking ahead: they say they are fighting voter suppression efforts and potential attempts to interfere with the 2020 census. Will it be enough to keep its critics, like the ACLU and the National Fair Housing Alliance, at bay?

Cynthia Murrell, July 21, 2019

The Ease with Which Search Marketing Experts Manipulate Relevance and the Clueless

July 8, 2019

The New York Times (paywall, gentle reader, take heed) ran an opinion editorial “real news” item called “I Used Google Ads for Social Engineering.” You can locate the write up on page A 23 of the July 8, 2019, dead tree edition in the version of the paper that is distributed in rural Kentucky. By the way, good luck with that.

The write up contains some interesting factoids; for example:

  1. “Three out of four smart phone owners turn to Google first to address their immediate needs.” (Immediate needs? Remind me where I put the dog’s shock collar? No. Help me insert a video snip in my weekly DarkCyber video? No. Explain why my Android phone no longer allows me to hear voicemail? No. And I could go on but three fourths of my immediate needs require my attention be directed at Google? Really?)
  2. A person has 150 micromoments a day. (No, I don’t know what a micromoment is, and I hope I don’t learn either.)
  3. Redirection is a method which diverts my attention from what I wanted to what Google wanted me to want. (Yeah, that sounds just wonderful.)

The point of the write up is:

Google left behind a blueprint. The blueprint shows, step by step, how you can create your own redirect ads to sway any belief of opinion – held by any Google user, anywhere in the world – of your choice.


Just a question: “Why hasn’t an entity used the technique to deal with the border crisis or Iranian leaders’ desire to generate explosive material if Google Ads are so darned effective?”

The write up admits there are some weaknesses in Google’s approach.

No kidding? How about making Google the focus of what search engine optimization experts actually do: Distort relevance so poor, little Google doesn’t know what’s what about a particular topic?

The write up identifies one measure of success:

Nine days after my campaign began [to prevent suicide], the ads were accepted by Google. My ad was the first result across the United States when someone Google with suicidal intent. I showed unique ads to suicidal people who were physically located around the Golden Gate Bridge. Nearly one in three searches who clicked my ad dialed the hotline – a conversion rate of 28 percent. The average Google Ads conversion rate is 4 percent. The campaign’s 28 percent conversion rate was met in the first week.

Who can dispute the value of Redirect, Google Ads, and clicks?

Not me.

The write up points out:

Click data can be used for harm by a redirector whit bad intentions. If redirectors can groom ISIS sympathizers, they can also use it to groom school shooters. A redirector using a call forwarding service can link up with like minded terrorist by having clickers’ calls directed to their phones.

There you go. The how to manipulate method. Pederasts, are you paying attention? Credit card scammers, pay attention? Contraband vendors, you need Google Ads, right now.

The write up continues:

Using Google’s ISIS campaign blueprint, anyone can access the platform’s precise targeting tools and redirect ads to help further his or her own agenda. For instance, swaying peoples’ political beliefs during an election.

Why does this method work like a champ?

More than 50 percent of people still can’t differentiate between an ad )redirect or not) and an organic result on Google.

The person writing the article was at the time of the writing a Google certified partner and the founder of an outfit called Berlin SEM. I think SEM means “search engine marketing.”

Let’s step back and look at a handful of questions:

  1. Is this “news” or is it a marketing play designed to make the phone ring and the email flow to Berlin SEM?
  2. Are there mechanisms in place at Google or elsewhere to prevent this type of exploitation, what some call a “dark method”?
  3. Are the data presented in the write up or available from other sources able to tie an action to a Google ad budget; that is, “How much does it cost (money and time) to skew an election, cause me to buy an shirt, or perform some other action I did not want to perform?

DarkCyber is one the fence about [a] the benefit of presenting information about behavior manipulation via ads and  [b] the inappropriateness of presenting a partial description of what an effective distortion campaign requires.

But an opinion editorial is not designed to be data heavy, thorough, and comprehensive. In fact, the write up is another example of trying to criticize Google and making the Google method into a service some advertisers will want to use now and more often.

The message strikes DarkCyber as, “That Google advertising is just what I need to make sales.”

Good job. Boost that usage of Google because micromoments are just an opportunity to distort. Don’t forget the tweets, the Facebook posts, the traditional news release, and for fee content placement.

Combo propaganda campaigns are more effective and warrant more comprehensive explanation, analysis, and discussion, not advertorials.

Stephen E Arnold, July 8, 2019

Google: The Ad Innovator Trying to Fend Off Amazon

June 14, 2019

Google earns the majority of its revenue from advertisements. The search engine giant is always searching for new ways to improve its users’ and customers’ service, especially for those who line its profit margins. The Media Online shares how Google has improved its advertising features: “Five New Google Features That Will Change The Digital Marketing Landscape.” All of these new features could change how advertisers approach digital marketing.

Google is releasing new types of ads respectfully called Discovery Ads and Galley Ads. Discovery will allow advertisers to promote brands through attractive native ads that change based on its target audience. The advertiser creates variations of an ad with images and copy, then based on the audience’s feed Google’s algorithm will deliver original ads. Galley ads are Google’s first ads that include a graphic element. The galley ads will feature images that can expand into a full-page experience and allow potential customers to interact with the products.

Google will also make four changes to its conversion and ad bidding process. Advertisers will be able to make seasonal adjustments to their bidding campaigns, set conversions at a campaign level, and there will be a new smart bidding strategy to maximize conversion values and their rules. There will be brand new video ads called “bumper ads” that will automatically generate six-second bides from longer videos.

Sentimental analysis comes into play for targeting audiences:

“The search giant is developing a more enhanced automatic targeting function in their display advertising and will publish it as a new tool on the audience side. Rather than just being able to choose between conservative and aggressive, Audience Expansion allows you to select degrees of specificity. There is even a special forecasting mechanism that predicts the change in ad spend, clicks, and conversions. This allows brands to focus on audience segments that work for the brand and incrementally increase the reach while still being able to control campaign performance.”

Google shopping is about to become smarter too. No longer with Google Shopping solely focus on searching for products. It will instead curate a personalized page based on past shopping history, similar to Amazon. Also there is more support for Google Shopping Ads, where brands can share budgets based on local retailers. This means shoppers can purchase directly from their search results using payment options stored in Google. It eliminates a step in shopping.

Will these ad innovations prevent Amazon from encroaching? Privacy? Regulators? Interesting questions.

Whitney Grace, June 14, 2019

Bing and Ad Revenue: Fake News or Cash Money?

June 13, 2019

No one ever thought it would happen, but Bing is actually making more money via ads than Google. Cue the double take and head scratching. How is this possible? Bloomberg explores how in the article, “Bing’s Not The Laughing Stock Of Technology Anymore.”

Microsoft’s search engine is ten years old and was build upon the company’s first effort to rival Google. Bing was advertised as a “decision engine” compared to Google that only found things. Bing has been a joke for the past decade, but under current CEO Satya Nadella’s guidance Bing makes Microsoft a tidy profit.

CEO Nadella’s approach to Microsoft has been less about taking on giants, but rather being pragmatic about products and their purpose. Bing stopped hemorrhaging money when Nadella stopped tossing funds at it and cut down on costs. Bing was placed at the forefront of Microsoft products, where users would see and be persuaded to use it. Bing’s ad revenue grew twelve percent last year, which did not trail far behind Google’s seventeen percent growth.

Microsoft does not concentrate all of its energy on Bing, instead its search engine is more of a side hustle that brings in money that is directly injected into other areas. Bing has also forced Google and Microsoft to stop bullying one another for ad revenues. Apparently the two companies accept that they each exist and work around one another. Bing meanwhile continues on:

“Bing may remain a side gig for Microsoft, and certainly it failed as the strategic counter strike to Google. But birthdays are best if you don’t think about what might have been and instead appreciate what you have. So happy birthday, Bing. You’re not the laughingstock of technology anymore.”

Bing might be doing well, but Google continues to pull more accurate results. Has Bing’s results accuracy improved? Not really.

Whitney Grace, June 12, 2019

Amazon Reviews: Factual or Fakey?

May 15, 2019

Here’s a handy set of tips for the online shopper—LifeHacker tells us “How to Spot Fake Reviews on Amazon.” Writer Brendan Hesse grants there are innocent reasons for incorrect reviews at Amazon, like a user accidentally posting their review in the wrong place, or a software snafu inserting the wrong reviews into a product’s description. However, he writes:

“There are, of course, more suspicious motives for unrelated reviews to appear on the wrong products, such as attempting to artificially inflate (or deflate) a product or to dissuade buyers from a competitor. And even if the review is for the correct listing, there’s no shortage of reasons as to why it may be fake or misleading—whether that’s as part of a review-for-pay racket; ‘review bombing’ campaigns to change a product’s rating; ads masquerading as reviews; or those curious positive reviews with a one-star rating because the reviewer wants to send a message about shipping taking too long, or some other aspect of the transaction that doesn’t apply to the product itself. Whatever the case, these are easy to spot and deal with.”

First, he advises, don’t just skim the reviews—fake ones may be over-the-top (positive or negative), or they may spend a lot of words discussing a competing product. Also, many 1-star or five-star reviews with very little text in the description are probably fakes. Other tips include checking for the “verified purchase” badge next to a reviewers name and seeking reviews outside Amazon itself. We wonder—can software pick out the legit reviews for us? Unlikely.

Cynthia Murrell, May 15, 2019

Google: Travel Planning

April 22, 2019

Google wants to become the one stop shop for most information needs which generate advertising revenue. Google can already track flight information, has an incredibly accurate map system, and can track down hotel and tourist sight locations. Google now wants to help people book their travel plans and earn profit from the travel industry. PYMNTS shares the news about Google’s new travel endeavors in the article, “Google Debuts Travel Bookings Feature.” Google’s new endeavor is a travel insight tool.

Google’s new travel insight tool helps people decide where to visit for vacation, including information on trending vacation destinations. Other new features include a Google Flights that allows users to search for travel destinations based on budget. At first glance, Google Flights appears to be another flight search engine like Priceline, Travelocity, Expedia, and Orbitz. Google Flights is more intuitive than a regular travel tool and offers more interaction along with price comparisons:

“Google enables users to explore the world map on Google Flights to see where you can fly on the cheap. If you live in, say, San Francisco and want to spend under $150 on flight, you search by setting a price limit and seeing only the destinations that will be in your price range to fly. For users who have decided on where they want to travel and are starting to search for flights, Google will provide price insight for most trips, which was previously only available for holiday dates. It shows whether the price of the flight is high, typical or cheap compared to what the airline typically charges. Google will also alert you if the price won’t decline more or if it will increase soon.”

And hotels? Why not? Using the new “Deals” feature, users can search and find hotels that offer cheaper rates for a specific hotel or area. Hotel review pages have also expanded with machine learning to include more photos and reviews.

Google Flights is an interesting intuitive tool, especially for the budget traveler. Other travel Web sites offer the same service, but you have to scour to find the deals and conduct numerous searches at once. Google makes it easy for advertisers? For users? Not an issue.

Whitney Grace, April 23, 2019

Alphabet Google: The Wing Clipping Accelerates

December 9, 2018

It is not a great time to be a tech titan. Facebook and Google and their peers seem to be embroiled in daily dilemmas. These kings of the internet are taking it on the chin regarding privacy, fake news, and more. And, yet, we are still surprised when their names pop up in the news feed. Such was the case with a recent Vulture piece, “Google Accused of GDPR Privacy Violations By Seven Countries.”

According to the article:

“The complaints, which each group has issued to their national data protection authorities in keeping with GDPR rules, come in the wake of the discovery that Google is able to track user’s location even when the “Location History” option is turned off. A second setting, “Web and App Activity,” which is enabled by default, must be turned off to fully prevent GPS tracking.”

As detailed in the New York Times, Mark Zuckerberg’s strategy of “Deflect, Deny, Delay” has been keeping them out of any serious legal hot water. Google’s challenge may rip headlines from the Zuckerberg connection machine.

The reason? Information is now becoming available about Google’s malicious ad network flaws.  Since Google found inspiration in GoTo, Overture, and Yahoo’s pay to play system, Google is now talking about ad abuse; for example, “Tackling Ads Abuse in Apps and SDKs.”

What worse? Siphoning data or failing to identify issues which undermine the Madison Avenue way?

Ad fraud? Facebook and Google alike but different except to regulators in Europe.

Stephen E Arnold, December 9, 2018

Patrick Roland, November 30, 2018

AdWords Adds Feefo Power

November 19, 2018

What the heck is Feefo? Is sounds like the name for the newest and cutest Internet star or some sort of product for the furry community. The Drum shares that it is actually an online review company (huh?) in the article, “Google To Strengthen Adwords Intelligence With Feefo Partnership.” Feefo has now partnered with Google AdWords. Feefo will use its sentiment analysis technology, it works with companies Next, Vauxhall, Expedia, and Thomas Cook, to discover advertising keywords from brand reviews. These keywords will then be pumped into digital ads to increase click-through-rates.

Google is proud of the new partnership:

“Adrian Blockus, head of channel sales for the UK and Ireland at Google, explained: ‘We’re pleased to have Feefo on board as a Google partner. Feefo has the product knowledge, advanced technology and insight needed, to create and optimize Google AdWords campaigns for their customers.’”

AdWords users will be able to use Feefo insights to spruce up their brand copy and landing pages to reflect the language and sentiment customers use in their reviews. In other words, Web sites will be rewritten to use customer-based language to make it sound more consumer friendly.

It is an ingenious strategy, because consumer feedback is being directed funneled into a company’s Web site. The language on a Web site will sound more natural and fluid to directly reflect consumer experiences with the product or service. Feefo says it will help consumers make confident and informed decisions, but actually the consumers are providing the keywords.

Whitney Grace, November 19, 2018

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