YouTube: Adulting Continues

January 9, 2020

YouTube is taking a step designed to protect children on its platform, despite concerns that the move may decrease revenue for the creators of children’s content. CBS News shares their six minute Privacy Watch segment, “YouTube to Limit Kids Video Data Collection.” Specifically, the platform will no longer attach personalized advertising to children’s content. The video description states:

“YouTube will be limiting the amount of data it collects on children. Going forward, videos made for children won’t have personalized ads. Creators are concerned this could result in less revenue, and ultimately less content for children. CNET senior producer Dan Patterson joins CBSN to discuss the development.”

The segment begins by explains what personalized ads are, then covers who pushed for this change: privacy and security experts, regulators, and even YouTube’s parent company. As we are reminded, Google was sued last year over the issue of children’s privacy on that platform. Now, in fact, the company is trying to assert the platform is not for children under age 13 at all. That declaration rings hollow, though. As the Privacy Watch host notes, kids “live on YouTube, they consume videos for hours at a time. It’s basically their Netflix.” Just try to rebottle that genie.

The interview also discusses the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, the speed at which laws get outdated, and the sophistication of today’s ad technology. We also learn that generalized ads will still be included in children’s content, but those creating that content worry that will not be enough to maintain their revenue streams. Perhaps, but let us ask this—if the platform is no longer intended for those under 13, shouldn’t many of those operations be shuttering or shifting to another platform, anyway?

Cynthia Murrell, January 9, 2020

Do It Yourself Surgery: An Unexpected YouTube Consequence

December 5, 2019

DarkCyber noted the CNBC real news story “Doctors Are Turning to YouTube to Learn How to Do Surgical Procedures, But There’s No Quality Control.”

Quality control. What a quaint concept.

The write up states:

YouTube has become a fixture of medical education.

Fix a broken lamp? YouTube. Take out an appendix? YouTube.

DarkCyber learned:

CNBC found tens of thousands of videos showing a wide variety of medical procedures on the Google-owned video platform, some of them hovering around a million views. People have live streamed giving birth and broadcast their face-lifts. One video, which shows the removal of a dense, white cataract, has gone somewhat viral and now has more than 1.7 million views. Others seem to have found crossover appeal with nonmedical viewers…

Maybe there’s an opportunity for Google:

Google’s vice president of health, David Feinberg, noted at a recent medical conference in the fall that a lot of surgeons are flocking to YouTube. He implied, without sharing specifics, that his team would look to do a better job of managing the content as part of its broader focus on combating health misinformation across Google. Medical experts say they’re more than willing to work with YouTube to help curate medical content.

The advertising model seems ideal for this type of “professional” curation. Will medical device manufacturers sponsor curated videos?

Opportunity beckons for:

  • Do it yourselfers
  • Medical product and service providers
  • Google itself.

A management challenge? Nothing Google cannot overcome with assistance. Think the flying car tapping Boeing for expertise.

Stephen E Arnold, December 5, 2019

Google Ads: Some Data

November 26, 2019

DarkCyber noted some information about the cost of Google ads for a pet-related business. Navigate to “How Much Does it Cost to Run Google Ads? : Tech : Nature World News”.

Here’s the passage we found interesting:

Google Ad Spend costs an average of $9,000 to $10,000 per month. Depending on your budget, you decide the maximum amount that you will spend on cost-per-click (CPC). The average CPC on the Google Search Network is $1 to $2 per click. The average CPC on the Google Display Network is $1 or less per click. The cost for professional Google Ads management per month is 12 percent to 30 percent of the cost of Ad Spend per month. PPC (pay-per-click) costs an average of $15 to $800 per month.

Stephen E Arnold, November 26, 2019

Information about Facebook Ads

November 15, 2019

Advertisements are one way companies keep tabs on their competition. Unless they resort to corporate espionage, the only way companies learn about ad campaigns is when they are shared with the public. Companies spend millions of dollars to advertise on the Facebook, which is how the social media platform generates most of its income. In fact, mobile ads bring in the most advertising profit for Facebook, accounting for 84% of their entire revenue.

Unlike other social media platforms, television, radio, and print mediums, there is tool companies can use to spy on their competition’s Facebook ad campaigns. Admin PowerAdSpy posted a YouTube video entitled, “How To Spy On Your Competitor’s Facebook Ads With The Best Ad Spy Tools In The World Power AdSpy.”

According to the video, Facebook has 2.38 billion monthly users, which is almost 1/3 of the world’s population. Since Facebook has such a large user base, it is a gold mine for companies wanting to advertise their goods and services. The video also reports there are 3 million companies with advertising campaigns on Facebook. Facebook ads have seen a 66% return on ad spend (ROAS, money spent on an ad campaign) in 2019’s first quarter.

It is becoming cheaper to advertise on Facebook and Power AdSpy claims its set of advertising spy tools will help companies improve their Facebook advertising strategy. The biggest problem is the video does not say how.

The video is obviously made by someone with a less than fluent grasp on the English language and they relied on free graphics to make a professional, albeit cheap looking video. It would be impressive for a school project, but not to sell a set of marketing tools to a company. What is even worse is that Power AdSpy claims to return heaps of cash, at least the clipart graphics promise that ROI.

Software companies at least explain how their products work in theory on advertising campaigns with the promise of more tailored solutions. Power AdPlay’s own ad campaign is less than grammatically correct. If they cannot get that part right, the product itself might be sketchy.

Whitney Grace, November 15, 2019

Medical Data: A Google Focus for More Than a Decade

November 12, 2019

Medical data. Google has a bit of history. In 2008, Google made a play for personal health records. Don’t remember. Here’s what the interface looked like:


In 2011, this bold play went away. Doesn’t that sound familiar? A discontinued Google service.

Then Google bought DeepMind, the black hole of investment in the UK. DarkCyber noted this story: “Revealed: Google AI Has Access to Huge Haul of NHS Patient Data.” The write up stated:

A data-sharing agreement obtained by New Scientist shows that Google DeepMind’s collaboration with the NHS goes far beyond what it has publicly announced.

There was a dust up, but The Register reported: “Five NHS Trusts Do DeepMind Data Deal with Google. One Says No.”

DarkCyber noted the flurry of reports about Google’s tie up with Ascension, the second largest health care outfit in the US. You can read the paywalled Wall Street Journal story or you can look at one of the dozens of posts recycling this deal.

A few comments, perhaps? Why not?

First, Google has been beavering away at personal health data, including the famous CDC flue report, for more than a decade. Why? That’s a good question.

Second, Google needs new revenue. I know it sounds crazy, but the ad biz is not the same old money machine it was because the cost of “being Google” is rising more rapidly than Google’s old money machine can handle. That’s why YouTube will cuts costs by trimming un-commercial videos. Plus, there are other problems; for example, Google’s famous management style. Health data may open some revenue opportunities? Yep, a handful.

Third, Google’s information is asymmetric. There is a lot of data from Web sites, books, and other open sources. But Google is a laggard when it comes to juicy, useful, easily exploitable fine grained personal data in the hands of Amazon and Facebook. Health data is a useful goodie. Health data is proprietary and quite person centric.

What can Google do with health data? Many things. But those applications are secondary in this blog post. The point today, gentle reader, is that Google is not doing anything new. Health data has been a focal point for a relatively long time.

Oh, would you buy Google insurance? No. Would your would be employer buy information revealing a person was addicted to something? No. You might want to think about your answer. What about personalized ads to the parents of a child with an “issue”? No. Okay. No.

Stephen E Arnold, November 12, 2019

Metasearch Engine Changes Hands

October 28, 2019

In 1998 a Wall Street professionals founded Ixquick. As I recall, the developer was David Bodnick. Like other search developers, selling was better than pumping ads and trying to compete in the world of the digital library card catalog. Ixquick’s buyer was Surfboard Holding BV.

Metasearch engines like DuckDuckGo sends queries to other search engines and present a list of semi-deduplicated results. Dogpile and Vivisimo were other metasearch engines. The Ixquick twist was privacy. I don’t want to go into the notion of privacy in an ad supported search system in this item.

DarkCyber noted a Reddit post that reveals System1 (Privacy One Group) now owns the service. Note the word privacy. As I said, I am not going to explain for the umpteenth time why free Web search or free services of any type may have a different notion of privacy than someone in Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky.

Should I explain the issues related to metasearch systems? Nope. Just like the privacy thing. No one understands and no one cares.

Stephen E Arnold, October 28, 2019

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

Next Page »

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta