Another Tale of Googzilla: The Browser Discontinuity

September 5, 2017

I read “My Friends at Google: It Is Time to Return to Not Being Evil.” The write up is a gentle, polite first person narrative about one browsers brush with the Google. Who knows if the narrative reflects the GOOG’s side of the story. I found these statements interesting. You, gentle reader, will have to consult the original and make your own decision.

ITEM 1

Google increased their proximity with the Mozilla foundation. They [Google] also introduced new services such as Google Docs. These services were great, gained quick popularity, but also exposed the darker side of Google. Not only were these services made to be incompatible with Opera, but also encouraged users to switch their browsers.

ITEM 2

Recently, our Google AdWords campaigns were suspended without warning [for the Vivaldi browser]

ITEM 3

Two days after my thoughts were published in an article by Wired, we found out that all the campaigns under our [Vivaldi’s] Google AdWords account were suspended – without prior warning…When we reached out to Google to resolve the issue, we got a clarification masqueraded in the form of vague terms and conditions… In exchange for being reinstated in Google’s ad network, their in-house specialists dictated how we should arrange content on our own website and how we should communicate information to our users.

ITEM 4

A monopoly both in search and advertising, Google, unfortunately, shows that they are not able to resist the misuse of power.

Intriguing if the information is accurate. Is the Google not the lovable, friendly outfit we love so much in Harrods Creek? Nah, as the write up explains:

After almost three months of back-and-forth, the suspension to our account has been lifted, but only when we bent to their requirements.

No problemo, right?

Stephen E Arnold, September 5, 2017

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Online Ad Fraud? You Must Be Joking

July 25, 2017

Years ago a New York conference organizer who specialized in early morning breakfast meetings asked me, “Will you do an exposé about online advertising fraud?” My response to this question was, “No.”

Why did I drag my feet? Three reasons:

In the research for my first Google book “The Google Legacy,” which is now out of print but I sell pre-publication versions 13 years after I wrote it, I realized that online ads were easy to manipulate. Here’s one example. Write a script which visits a page and clicks on an ad. The poor advertiser’s account can be consumed in a nonce. No one paid much attention to this “feature,” and I had zero desire to get involved with ad types. Who wanted hassles when I was still working? Not me.

Second, explaining the who, what, why, and how involved imparting technical information to decidedly non tech type people. Sorry, that’s not for me. Leave that work to those who have the patience and personality to deal with jazzed Madison Avenue types.

Third, none of my contacts wanted to reveal that click fraud was a problem. The approach was similar to the memorable statement, “Android fragmentation? There’s no Android fragmentation.” Yeah, right.

Now there are some brave souls stepping forward in what may become a darned interesting interpersonal, intercompany, and legal battle. This possible dust up is one which I will watch far from the fray.,

To get a sense of what’s about the become either “real” or “fake” news, navigate to “Online Ad Fraud Is a Widespread Problem, Google and Other Big Ad Platforms Admit.” Now the “big” online ad platforms boil down to a two horse race. I suppose the smaller folks like the vendors of annoying weird links, annoying pop ups, and looped videos with raucous sound tracks may be keeping some secrets under a rock, there are people who just want to see those online ad accounts depleted by a software robot. Click, click, click, and the pre paid ad accounts goes down, down, down.

The write up points out:

Google-run tests found evidence of fake ad spaces sold on Google and Oath-owned programmatic ad platforms, as well as well as on PubMatic and AppNexus.

The point, I think, is that the vendors of online ads want to “prove” and “remove doubt” that online ads work. One should keep in mind that almost everything online is an ad. Amazon, for example, is one giant Sears catalog with manufacturers and sellers desperate for positive reviews and placement on the first page of Amazon’s result pages. Do you every look at page 14 when searching for cufflinks which hide USB drives?

The write up focuses on spoofing, offering:

The method is used to trick ad buyers into purchasing advertising space on websites that don’t exist, or that the sellers don’t have access to. Because of the speed and volume of advertising online when bought programmatically, it’s virtually impossible to check if an ad ran where sellers say it was supposed to run.

As long ago as 2003, i noticed that there are many ways and many reasons for fiddling with online ads.

Perhaps Facebook and Google, among others, will share their knowledge, concerns, and ideas. The thrill of losing ad revenue should make for some interesting PR and, possibly, legal activity.

Stephen E Arnold, July 25, 2017

Google and Hate Speech: None of This I Know It When I See It

June 7, 2017

I read “YouTube Clarifies “Hate Speech” Definition and Which Videos Won’t Be Monetized.” I don’t know much about defining abstractions because I live in rural Kentucky. Our governor just recommended prayer patrols to curb violence in Louisville, home of the Derby and lots of murders on weekends.

Google has nailed down the abstraction “hate speech.” According to the write up, Google’s definition is:

[content which] “promotes discrimination or disparages or humiliates an individual or group of people on the basis of the individual’s or group’s race, ethnicity, or ethnic origin, nationality, religion, disability, age, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other characteristic associated with systematic discrimination or marginalization.”

And

“inappropriate use of family entertainment characters,” which means content showing kid-friendly characters in “violent, sexual, vile, or otherwise inappropriate behavior,” no matter if the content is satirical or a parody. The final category is somewhat broad: “incendiary and demeaning content” means that anything “gratuitously” demeaning or shameful toward an individual or group is prohibited.”

And

“controversial issues or sensitive events,” which YouTube defines as “video content that features or focuses on sensitive topics or events including, but not limited to, war, political conflicts, terrorism or extremism, death and tragedies, sexual abuse, even if graphic imagery is not shown… For example, videos about recent tragedies, even if presented for news or documentary purposes, may not be eligible for advertising given the subject matter.”

This is good to know for three reasons:

  1. Google can define abstractions. No disambiguation subroutines are required.
  2. Google could run ads against this type of content and make money, but Google will not do that. (Did Google run ads against these types of content in the past? Nah, “do not evil” shuts the door on that question.)
  3. Facebook can process Google’s definitions and craft even more functional guidelines. (Me too is the basic process for innovation or becoming a publisher with editorial guidelines.)

Next up for Google to define are “love,” “truth,” justice,” and “salary data.”

Stephen E Arnold, June 7, 2017

About.com Still Running Google Adwords

May 18, 2017

I read “After 18 Years, About.com Is Changing Its Name and Shutting Down Its Website — Its CEO Reveals How It All Went Down.” The main idea is that About.com, a weird list of curated sites by topics, is dead. However, I noted this ad on May 15, 13 days after the struggling About.com took a bullet for the good of current information.

image

The ad appeared in a list of search results for sentiment analysis, not market sentiment analysis, but when someone is spending money to promote a terminated Web information service, that someone either is [a] blessed with oodles of cash, [b] oversees a crew of with it managers, or [c] does not know how to turn off Adwords.

Perhaps this approach to fiscal and marketing methods provides some insight into why the About.com Web site slumped to the moist early summer earth? Definitely a plus for the Google sales professional handling the dead company’s account.

Stephen E Arnold, May 18, 2017

Facebook Excitement: The Digital Country and Kids

May 4, 2017

I read “Facebook Admits Oversight after Leak Reveals Internal Research On Vulnerable Children.” The write up reports that an Australian newspaper:

reported that Facebook executives in Australia used algorithms to collect data on more than six million young people in Australia and New Zealand, “indicating moments when young people need a confidence boost.”

social media madness small

The idea one or more Facebook professionals had strikes me as one with potential. If an online service can identify a person’s moment of weakness, that online service could deliver content designed to leverage that insight. The article said:

The data analysis — marked “Confidential: Internal Only” — was intended to reveal when young people feel “worthless” or “insecure,” thus creating a potential opening for specific marketing messages, according to The Australian. The newspaper said this case of data mining could violate Australia’s legal standards for advertising and marketing to children.

Not surprisingly, the “real” journalism said:

“Facebook has an established process to review the research we perform,” the statement continued. “This research did not follow that process, and we are reviewing the details to correct the oversight.”

When Facebook seemed to be filtering advertising based on race, Facebook said:

“Discriminatory advertising has no place on Facebook.”

My reaction is to this revelation is, “What? This type of content shaping is news?”

My hunch is that some folks forget that when advertisers suggest one has a lousy complexion, particularly a disfiguring rash, the entire point is to dig at insecurities. When I buy the book Flow for a friend, I suddenly get lots of psycho-babble recommendations from Amazon.

Facebook, like any other sales oriented and ad hungry outfit, is going to push as many psychological buttons as possible to generate revenue. I have a hypothesis that the dependence some people have on Facebook “success” is part of the online business model.

What’s the fix?

“Fix” is a good word. The answer is, “More social dependence.”

In my experience, drug dealers do not do intervention. The customer keeps coming back until he or she doesn’t.

Enforcement seems to be a hit-and-miss solutions. Intervention makes some Hollywood types oodles of money in reality programming. Social welfare programs slump into bureaucratic floundering.

Could it be that online dependence is a cultural phenomenon. Facebook is in the right place at the right time. Technology makes it easy to refine messages for maximum financial value.

Interesting challenge, and the thrashing about for a “fix” will be fascinating to watch. Perhaps the events will be live streamed on Facebook? That may provide a boost in confidence to Facebook users and to advertisers. Win win.

Stephen E Arnold, May 4, 2017

Mother Google to Fix the Ad Problem

April 24, 2017

I read “Google Faces Competition Scrutiny over Plans to Build Ad Blocker into Chrome.” My recollection is that there has been some chatter about how Google displays ads in videos. I have also heard that some folks are wondering why certain ads appear in certain result sets. I enjoy no display videos which contain links to Web sites selling teen fashion; for example:

image

I am not sure what’s an ad and what’s a misfire.

The write up raises a different issue; namely,

Google introducing ad blocking, however, would have massive implications. The browser has a 58.6pc worldwide market share, according to NetMarketShare, against 19pc for Internet Explorer, the second-most popular. It could well attract interest from regulators given Google’s huge online advertising business. Google made $22.4bn (£17.5bn) in advertising revenue in the final quarter of last year, up 17pc annually, and undermining other adverts may be seen as an attempt to boost its own business.

What an unusual idea? Google possibly trying to “boost its own business.”

How could Google or any other Silicon Valley be viewed as acting in a way that is not fair, objective, and beneficial for customers?

We love Google and find the suggestion that Google would behave in an untoward manner unseemly.

Stephen E Arnold, April 24, 2017

Google Ads Misfire on Xenky.com

March 27, 2017

I have a site which I use to provide information to those who attend my law enforcement, intelligence, and security lectures and webinars. The site also has information about my books written specifically for law enforcement and intelligence professionals.

I don’t recall when we included Google ads on the site, but it has not been an issue until today, March 26, 2017. Google helpfully displayed for the visitors to the page for my new Dark Web Notebook:

image

Yep, an ad for Hot Latin Beauties Online. I understand that Google’s robot parsed the text about the book, which you can read at this link. That does not mean that I find the ad appropriate for my audience. Even the Jeff Bezos information service has figured out the disconnect.

The ad, appearing on a page for enforcement officials, sparked several thoughts:

  1. Google is really working overtime to burn up its advertising messages for the purpose of generating revenue. (No, I did not click on the link.) The ad’s presence illustrates what happens when concept matching simply does not work very well.
  2. The need for revenue is only part of the problem for the Google. Search has not been much of a concern for many years. The public statements about Google revisiting its systems and methods is talk. The presence of an ad which I find amusing illustrates that the company is happy to do some PR and merrily continue displaying content mismatched to the content on a Web page. Okay for me and my audience; maybe not so okay for a person uncomfortable with one click to Hot Latin Beauties Online.
  3. Google’s ability to fix this type of mismatch is going to be expensive and time consuming. The company has wrapped its search and retrieval core in layer upon layer of “smart” software. I am not sure the young Xooglers laboring on the various teams have the expertise or the motivation to figure out how the Rube Goldberg machine works.

My hunch is that one shot fixes will be the order of the day. Longer term, the GOOG has to either make the effort to work the concept disconnects or get in the hand-crafted rule business. Either way, the expense of making a meaningful fix is going to put pressure on the Google’s CFO “mom.”

Now if the GOOG can’t match ads with their software, what’s that suggest about Google’s ability to match on point, useful results to one’s query?

Answer: Google’s precision and recall is not too good. Exciting for “expert” Google searchers and the conclusions these folks draw based on access to the world’s information.

Hey, the Google is free. Stop your complaining. Yes, sir. By the way, Dark Web Notebook points its readers to far more interesting information than a link which generates this helpful message for Google’s paying customer:

image

High value click. Lucky Google advertiser. Spending money for this stuff. Clever, clumsy, tricky, or something else? Decide for yourself, gentle reader. Oh, the Dark Web Notebook is available only to those who can verify their employment with a law enforcement or intelligence agency of the US or one of its allies. Hot Latin ladies, sorry, not available no matter what Google’s term matching suggests.

Stephen E Arnold, March 27, 2017

Google, Query Relaxation, and Advertisers

March 23, 2017

Most folks don’t know what a query relaxation process does. Think of a noose around your neck. If someone pulls the noose tight, you elicit a very specific result. If I remove the noose, you can frolic on your mobile device. Now substitute strict Boolean queries for a free text search. The Boolean search pulls the result set tight; that is, you get results in which the indexed words match the Boolean query. If a vendor tosses in semantic expansion which drags in concepts, synonyms, and inputs from other users’ queries, the noose is relaxed. You can breathe again.

Search vendors dependent on advertising control the scope of the result set. Yandex, we noted, is relaxing its queries. The reason? Relaxed queries allow an ad matching system more leeway. The idea is that if I search for “Kia Soul 2011 P22545R18” tire, an outfit like Google has to match with ads its system has been told want the keyword “Kia” or “Soul.”

But if the query is relaxed and expansion methods are in play, “Kia” becomes “car”, “vehicle,” “SUV” and “Soul” becomes “auto parts” and maybe “religion.”

Instantly, the ad matching system can go to the advertising pool and start putting more ads into the search results. Some of the ads may be helpful; for example, “auto parts.” Others for a Zen weekend might not be germane to a person looking for a set of radials.

Pretty boring stuff, right? The problem is that as the number of queries sent to old school desktop computers goes down, the opportunity to use ads goes down too. The fix?

Query expansion. Looser queries, more opportunities to display less and less relevant ads. Who is going to notice? Well, that’s a good question.

Now navigate to “AT&T, Other U.S. Advertisers Quit Google, YouTube over Extremist Videos.” The write up points out:

AT&T, Verizon, Johnson & Johnson and other major U.S. advertisers are pulling hundreds of millions of dollars in business from Google and its video service YouTube despite the Internet giant’s pledge this week to keep offensive and extremist content away from ads. AT&T said that it is halting all ad spending on Google except for search ads. That means AT&T ads will not run on YouTube or two million websites that take part in Google’s ad network.

On the surface, the allegations suggest that Google’s smart software is not smart enough to prevent an ad for a mobile phone company from appearing as a sponsor of a video the advertiser finds offensive. From my point of view, this is an example of what happens when revenue drives query relaxation. With relaxed queries, the advertiser’s message is “close enough” to the results list. Bingo. Google books revenue and the advertiser’s message is displayed.

In the good old days before mobile devices decimated the GoTo.com/Overture.com model, less relaxed queries and ad matching worked reasonably well. Today, relaxed queries are an easy way to generate revenue.

The counter argument is that relaxed queries are what “usage data say searchers want.” Right, that assurance an a dime will buy me what? Not much.

Net net: Buy ads and make sales is a mantra from a time past. Today’s world of search is filled with relaxed queries and less relevant result sets and less relevant, context aware ads.

Google will have to figure something out. Relaxed queries and ad matching is now big news and costing my favorite free online search outfit a lot of money. My suggestion to Google: Relax less. Embrace relevance, precision, and recall.

Users want an answer to their question. Advertisers want to make sales. Google wants money. Dare I say, “Pick two.”

Stephen E Arnold, March 23, 2017

Is This Our Beloved Google? Ads and Consumer Scams?

March 20, 2017

I admit it. I want to believe everything I read on the Internet. I take this approach to be more in tune with today’s talking heads on US cable TV and the millennials who seem to cross my path like deer unfamiliar with four lane highways.

I read what must be an early April Fool’s joke. The write up’s headline struck me as orthogonal to my perception of the company I know, love, and trust: “Google to Revamp Ad Policies after U.K., Big Brands Boycott.”

The main idea is that someone believes that Google has been indexing terror-related content and placing ads next to those result pages and videos. I learned:

The U.S. company said in a blog post Friday it would give clients more control over where their ads appear on both YouTube, the video-sharing service it owns, and the Google Display Network, which posts advertising to third-party websites. The announcement came after the U.K. government and the Guardian newspaper pulled ads from the video site, stepping up pressure on YouTube to police content on its platform.

Interesting. I thought Google / DeepMind had the hate speech, fake news, and offensive content issue killed, cooked, and eaten.

The notion that Google would buckle under to mere advertisers strikes me as ludicrous. For years, Google has pointed out that confused individuals at Foundem, the government of France, and other information sites misunderstand Google’s squeaky clean approach to figuring out what’s important.

The other item which suggests that the Google in my mind is not the Google in the real world is “Facebook, Twitter, and Google Must Remove Scams or Risk Legal Action, Says EU.”

What’s up? Smart software understands content in context. Algorithms developed by the wizards at Google and other outfits chug along without the silly errors humans make. Google and other companies have to become net nannies. (Hey, that software worked great, didn’t it?)

I learned:

The EU also ordered these social networks to remove fraudulent posts that can mislead consumers.

If these write ups are indeed accurate, I will take down my “Do no evil” poster. Is there a “We do evil” version available? I will check those advertisements on Google.

Stephen E Arnold, March 20, 2017

Three Deadlines in October and November Mark Three Strikes on Google

November 11, 2016

The article titled Google Is Getting Another Extension to Counter EU Antitrust Charges on Fortune begs the question, how many more times will the teacher accept the “I need more time” argument? With the potential for over a billion dollar penalty of Google is found guilty, the company is vying for all the time it can get before answering accusations of unfair treatment of rival shopping services through its search results. The article tell us,

The U.S. technology giant was due to respond to the accusations on Thursday but requested more time to prepare its defense. The company now has until Nov. 7, a European Commission spokesman said. “Google asked for additional time to review the documents in the case file. In line with normal practice, the commission analysed the reasons for the request and granted an extension allowing Google to fully exercise its rights of defense,” he said.

If anyone is counting at this point, the case is now 6 years old, meaning it has probably graduated kindergarten and moved into the First Grade. The article does not comment on how many extensions have been requested altogether, but it does mention that another pair of deadlines are looming in Google’s near future. October 26 and October 31 are the dates by which Google must respond to the charges of blocking competitor advertisements and using the Android operating system to suppress rivals.

Chelsea Kerwin, November 11, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

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