Right or Wrong to Be Forgotten?

December 2, 2021

While it is still possible to disappear, it is nearly impossible to forget some past mistakes. In 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union recognized the “right to be forgotten.” The Irish Times reported that Google has something to say on that law, “Google Should Not Get A Say In What Is To Be Forgotten.”

The EU Court of Justice ruled in favor of the “right to be forgotten” against Google’s Spanish subsidiary by Spain’s data protection agency AEPD and a Spanish citizen. The right to be forgotten forces Google to delist information in searches, but the AEPD argued it was in the public’s benefit for information to remain listed.

The biggest issue in question is the current case of the Quinn family against the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation. Should information related to ongoing litigation and national economic concern be removed from the Internet? There is an even bigger question:

“The more fundamental issue which these delistings have drawn attention to, however, is the power of a private company to decide when, and whether, an individual’s right to be forgotten can be enforced. At present, right-to-be-forgotten claims (such as those made in the Quinn case) are considered and decided on by employees of the search-engine operators to whom the request is made. While these search engines publish annual transparency reports which include statistics about how many right-to-be-forgotten applications are made – and how many are successful – these reports do not detail the content of the decisions in right-to-be-forgotten cases – or the factors used in reaching those decisions. The result is that private companies have the power not only to delist articles but to do so based on their own assessment of whether a legitimate right-to-be-forgotten claim exists, what public interest, if any, would require the item to continue appearing in search results, and how to balance any public interest with the data-protection rights of the requesting party.”

There are very few guidelines about how “right to be forgotten” law is applied. Private companies determine who has the right, but how and why do they make that decision?

It sounds like another case of where the present is going to make the standard by which the future will abide.

Whitney Grace, November December 2, 2021

MIT, Facebook, and Google: Estimable Outfits Indeed

November 21, 2021

In 2019, MIT was the outfit issued a letter to the MIT community with this statement:

Here are the core facts, as best as we can determine: Over the course of 20 years, MIT received approximately $800,000 via foundations controlled by Jeffrey Epstein. All of those gifts went either to the MIT Media Lab or to Professor Seth Lloyd. Both Seth and Media Lab Director Joi Ito have made public statements apologizing to Jeffrey Epstein’s victims and others for judgments made over a series of years.

I read “How Facebook and Google Fund Global Misinformation.” I noted this passage:

But there’s a crucial piece missing from the story. Facebook isn’t
just amplifying misinformation. The company is also funding it. An MIT Technology Review_ _investigation, based on expert interviews, data analyses, and documents that were not included in the Facebook Papers, has found that Facebook and Google are paying millions of ad dollars to bankroll clickbait actors, fueling the deterioration of information ecosystems around the world.

What did the 2019 Epstein related missive from L. Rafael Reif and the MIT Technology Review article spark in my mind?

Here’s the summary:

  1. How many Facebook and Google employees are former students or graduates of these two estimable companies?
  2. Why does MIT rely on confidential documents appropriated by a Harvard graduate? Was this action by the Harvard graduate legal?
  3. The MIT – Epstein interactions took place over 20 years; Facebook and Google have been breaking moral ground for the same interval. Why is so much time required to identify, research, and apologize for certain behaviors?

I have other thoughts as well, but these convey the direction in which these “revelations” are drifting. MIT, Facebook, and Google — estimable outfits indeed.

Stephen E Arnold, November 21, 2021

Expert Surprised That Health Club Billing Methods Are Used by SaaS and Cloud Companies

November 19, 2021

I enjoy write ups which reveal the obvious. Consider health clubs or gym memberships. One gym located in the whiskey and fried chicken capital of the flyover states is about 3,000 square feet. How many members does the facility have? The answer is 3,000. How many use the gym on a regular basis? About 100. How does the outfit make money? Billing the “members” who never use the equipment. Plus, the billings each month are facilitated by the smart software at Visa, MasterCard, and banks with auto-withdrawal capability. Is this a scam? Nope, it’s the business model of health clubs. Just sign up and never come. Works like a champ by the way.

I Analyzed SaaS Billing Dark Patterns” and learned that the author was surprised, shocked, horrified, and troubled that cloud providers use the health club approach to revenue. The write up reveals:

SaaS providers are more than willing to use dark billing patterns to increase their growth metrics and revenue. They exploit positive user acquisition loops in recurring subscriptions to get money from users as surreptitiously as possible.

Yep, shocker.

I loved this rhetorical question? Why do SaaS providers deploy the dark patterns?

The answer is, “The method generates money.”

But, but, but…. That’s bad.

Well, it depends on what point of view one adopts, doesn’t it.

Hollowing out is dumbing down in my book. The surprise in the write up illustrates the failure of basic management oversight.

What’s this mean? Higher costs, people who cannot figure out why something doesn’t work, and a lack of awareness about the obvious. Yep, the thumbtyper world is a fascinating construct.

Stephen E Arnold, November 19, 2021

It Is Official: One Cannot Trust Lawyers Working from Coffee Shops

November 16, 2021

I knew it. I had a hunch that attorneys who work from coffee shops, van life vehicles, and basements were not productive. Billing hours is easy; doing work like reading documents, fiddling with eDiscovery systems, and trying to get Microsoft Word to number lines correctly are harder.

I read “Contract Lawyers Face a Growing Invasion of Surveillance Programs That Monitor Their Work.” The write up points out that what I presume to be GenX, GenY and millennials don’t want to be in a high school detention hall staffed by an angry, game losing basketball coach. No coach, just surveillance software dolled up with facial recognition, “productivity” metrics, and baked in time logging functions.

Here’s a passage I noted:

Contract attorneys such as Anidi [Editor note: a real lawyer I presume] have become some of America’s first test subjects for this enhanced monitoring, and many are reporting frustrating results, saying the glitchy systems make them feel like a disposable cog with little workday privacy.

With some clients pushing back against legal bills which are disconnected from what law firm clients perceive as reality, legal outfits have to get their humanoid resources to “perform”. The monitoring systems allow the complaining client to review outputs from the systems. Ah, ha. We can prove with real data our legal eagles are endlessly circling the client’s legal jungle.

My take is different: I never trusted lawyers. Now lawyers employing lawyers don’t trust these professionals either. That’s why people go to work, have managers who monitor, and keep the professionals from hanging out at the water fountain.

Stephen E Arnold, November 16, 2021

The Final Disintermediation: Are Libraries Marked for Death?

November 9, 2021

Brewster Kahle founded the Internet Archive, but according to the Time article: “I Set Out To Build The Next Library Of Alexandria. Now I Wonder: Will There Be Libraries In 25 Years?” he is pondering if he did the right thing. Kahle wanted the Internet Archive to preserve Web sites and television as well as digitize books. Out of necessity, libraries have become more digital.

While digital information has a multiple benefits, there is an extreme downside tied to corporate control:

“But just as the Web increased people’s access to information exponentially, an opposite trend has evolved. Global media corporations—emboldened by the expansive copyright laws they helped craft and the emerging technology that reaches right into our reading devices—are exerting absolute control over digital information. These two conflicting forces—towards unfettered availability and completely walled access to information—have defined the last 25 years of the Internet. How we handle this ongoing clash will define our civic discourse in the next 25 years. If we fail to forge the right path, publishers’ business models could eliminate one of the great tools for democratizing society: our independent libraries.”

The problem is the larger book publishers, not the small prints. The larger publishers limit the number of digital copies available to public libraries. Publishers are extorting money from public and academic libraries over every small thing related to books. It hinders the freedom and dissemination of information.

The Internet Archive doubles as a lending library. It lends out digitized books one user at a time, works with independent publishers to ensure their rights are respected. This is the proper way to manage “controlled digital lending.”

This happened in 2020:

“Last year, four of the biggest commercial publishers in the world sued the Internet Archive to stop this longstanding library practice of controlled lending of scanned books. The publishers filed their lawsuit early in the pandemic, when public and school libraries were closed. In March 2020, more than one hundred shuttered libraries signed a statement of support asking that the Internet Archive do something to meet the extraordinary circumstances of the moment. We responded as any library would: making our digitized books available, without waitlists, to help teachers, parents, and students stranded without books. This emergency measure ended two weeks before the intended 14-week period.”

The publishers’ lawsuit demands that the Internet Archive delete all the digital copies of books it acquired legally. Many states have reacted against the publishers’ demand as harmful to libraries. The publishers counter that it is unconstitutional.

Kahle believes libraries will still exist in twenty-five years in the current argument between publishers and libraries is handled well. He is right, but he is also discounting that libraries are technology media centers, provide free Internet, have free community programs, are meeting centers, and do much more than check out books.

Will libraries be disintermediated? Good question.

Whitney Grace, November 9, 2021

Google Realizes Making Big News Is Big Pain

November 5, 2021

Yahoo hired Marissa Meyer as CEO in 2012 to de-semelize, yangize, bartzize, morse-ize, thompsonize, levinshohnize the once coherent portal. One idea she had to reinvigorate Yahoo was to make it a top news authority. She hired the best journalists in the business and subsequently failed. Google is learning that being a news provider is harder than it appears. Search Engine Journal explains Google’s newest media endeavor in the article, “Google Is Developing ‘Big Moments’ Feature For Breaking News.”

Google has a poor reputation for curating news. The search engine giant wants to rectify that problem with a new search feature called “Big Moments.” Google has been working on “Big Moments” for over a year. Big Moments launched after Google’s employees complained about the lack of access to real-time news.

People visit Google to search for news after it happens. For updated news, people turn on the television or visit social media Web sites like Facebook or Twitter. Google wants that traffic, so they are hoping this new endeavor will hook people seeking news:

“Big Moments will provide historical context about events when possible, and go beyond what Google typically shows in search results for news stories. If the story is a natural disaster like a hurricane, for example, Big Moments may list authoritative facts about deaths and injury counts, as well as data about the frequency of hurricanes in the area. Google may pull in information for Big Moments from open source data repositories such as Data Commons, which gathers data from US government agencies and is hosted by Google.”

Big Moments uses machine learning technology that Google developed in 2018. Elizabeth Reid is leading the project.

Google’s Big Moments is moving more towards news editorial content curation. Google relies on algorithms to automate its processes, while news services rely on humans for editorial content. Google cannot add human curators, because it would delay the desired instantaneous response.

Algorithms are getting what appears to be “smarter” and some can even write legible content. However, they still lack human reasoning and ability to respond to changing news with human logic. Humans are still needed in journalism and news curation.

Whitney Grace, October 19, 2021

The Bezos Bulldozer and One of Its Charming Quirks

October 22, 2021

Amazon is the Bezos bulldozer. I know. I know. He’s into space and making the world better. Nevertheless, the “trust” outfit Reuters is not buying the PR. “Amazon Copied Products and Rigged Search Results to Promote Its Own Brands, Documents Show” provides an interesting look at Amazon’s ecommerce business strategy.

The write up asserts:

… Thousands of pages of internal Amazon documents examined by Reuters – including emails, strategy papers and business plans – show the company ran a systematic campaign of creating knockoffs and manipulating search results to boost its own product lines in India, one of the company’s largest growth markets. The documents reveal how Amazon’s private-brands team in India secretly exploited internal data from Amazon.in to copy products sold by other companies, and then offered them on its platform.

Navigate to the source document for quotes, names of bulldozer drivers, and the specifics of the retail ants crushed under the steel tracks of the snorting behemoth.

Why would Amazon copy and boost its own products?

Gee, that’s a tough question. Pick from these possible reasons:

[a] Executive compensation incentives engineer rapacious methods into the ecommerce processes

[b] Because Amazon could. Hey, what’s power for if one doesn’t use it.

[c] Increasing profit results in higher stock prices and juicier bonuses for high-performing Amazon professionals

[d] It’s fun because business is a game

[e] The companies and products are little more than tests for Amazon. Follow the data.

I like the “It’s fun” answer. Because business is a game to be won.

Stephen E Arnold, October 22, 2021

Facebook: Why Change?

October 6, 2021

I read “Facebook Can’t Be Saved.” The main point struck me as:

Facebook has experienced years of intense scrutiny over the exact issues that are being discussed in the wake of Haugen’s revelations, and has only succeeded in making its inherent problems worse. During the hearing, Haugen compared fixing Facebook’s issues to mandating that cars come with seat belts. But maybe Facebook doesn’t need a seat belt. Maybe it just needs to stop being given more chances.  

This is an interesting analogy. I would ask this question, “Why should Facebook change?” The company has loyal users, lobbyists, and friends in high places. The available consequences are fines and enduring hearings and legal proceedings.

After watching the testimony by the whistle blower, my hunch is that Facebook will evolve. But the deep machine is chugging along.

Stephen E Arnold, October 6, 2021

Google Play Store Content Curation Flop, Well, Thousands of Flops

September 20, 2021

Google does collect user personal information for targeted ads, but more than 19000 apps in the Google Play Store could violate user privacy. The Daily Hunt shares the warning in the article: “Alert! More Than 19000 Apps On Google Play Store Could Leak Your Personal Data-Check Details.”

Digital security company Avast discovered that over 19000 apps hosted on the Google Play Store could leak user data and risk the phone’s security. Avast said the apps leak information, because there is a misconfiguration in the Firebase data. Android developers use Firebase to store user data. Avast reported the problem to Google, so it can notify app developers.

Most of the apps affected are:

“The apps that could be facing the issue are mostly related to lifestyle, gaming, food delivery and email, among others, the firm said, adding that users in Europe, South-East Asia and Latin America region are likely to have been impacted by it. More than 10 percent of 180,300 publicly available Firebase instances were found to be open by researchers at the Avast Threat Labs, which means that apps users’ data in those cases have been exposed to the public.”

User information is waiting to be stolen. Hopefully Google and Android app developers will fix the Firebase misconfiguration quickly so information is stolen by bad actors.

Whitney Grace, September 20, 2021

Change Is Coming But What about Un-Change?

September 8, 2021

My research team is working on a short DarkCyber video about automating work processes related to smart software. The idea is that one smart software system can generate an output to update another smart output system. The trend was evident more than a decade ago in the work of Dr. Zbigniew Michalewicz, his son, and collaborators. He is the author of How to Solve It: Modern Heuristics. There were predecessors and today many others following smart approaches to operations for artificial intelligence or what is called by thumbtypers AIOps. The DarkCyber video will become available on October 5, 2021. We’ll try to keep the video peppy because smart software methods are definitely exciting and mostly invisible. And like other embedded components, some of these “modules” will become components, commoditized, and just used “as is.” That’s important because who worries about a component in a larger system? Do you wonder if the microwave is operating at peak efficiency with every component chugging along up to spec? Nope and nope.

I read a wonderful example of Silicon Valley MBA thinking called “It’s Time to Say “Ok, Boomer!” to Old School Change Management.” At first glance, the ideas about efficiency and keeping pace with technical updates make sense. The write up states:

There are a variety of dated methods when it comes to change management. Tl;dr it’s lots of paper and lots of meetings. These practices are widely regarded as effective across the industry, but research shows this is a common delusion and change management itself needs to change.

Hasta la vista Messrs. Drucker and the McKinsey framework.

The write up points out that a solution is at hand:

DevOps teams push lots of changes and this is creating a bottleneck as manual change management processes struggle to keep up. But, the great thing about DevOps is that it solves the problem it creates. One of the key aspects where DevOps can be of great help in change management is in the implementation of compliance. If the old school ways of managing change are too slow why not automate them like everything else? We already do this for building, testing and qualifying, so why not change? We can use the same automation to record change events in real time and implement release controls in the pipelines instead of gluing them on at the end.

Does this seem like circular reasoning?

I want to point out that if one of the automation components operates using probability and the thresholds are incorrect, the data poisoned (corrupted by intent or chance) or the “averaging” which is a feature of some systems triggers a butterfly effect, excitement may ensue. The idea is that a small change may have a large impact downstream; for example, a wing flap in Biloxi could create a flood in the 28th Street Flatiron stop.

Several observations:

  • AIOps are already in operation at outfits like the Google and will be componentized in an AWS-style package
  • Embedded stuff, like popular libraries, are just used and not thought about. The practice brings joy to bad actors who corrupt some library offerings
  • Once a component is up and running and assumed to be okay, those modules themselves resist change. When 20 somethings encounter mainframe code, their surprise is consistent. Are we gonna change this puppy or slap on a wrapper? What’s your answer, gentle reader?

Net net: AIOps sets the stage for more Timnit Gebru shoot outs about bias and discrimination as well as the type of cautions produced by Cathy O’Neil in Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy.

Okay, thumbtyper.

Stephen E Arnold, September 8, 2021

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