Think Facebook Is Going to Fix Its Data Issues, Think Again

November 23, 2017

Facebook has been in hot water lately with its massive flubs with fake news. But the water is about to get scalding when you look at how fast and lose it plays with data. We learned some shocking things from a Fast Company story, “This Time, Facebook is Sharing Its Employees’ Data.”

According to the story:

Still, through a little-known arrangement, Facebook Inc. routinely shares the sensitive income and employment data of its U.S.-based employees with the Work Number database, owned by Equifax Workforce Solutions. Yes, that Equifax.


Every week, Facebook provides an electronic data feed of its employees’ hourly work and wage information to Equifax Workforce Solutions, formerly known as TALX, a St. Louis-based unit of Equifax, Inc. The Work Number database is managed separately from the Equifax credit bureau database that suffered a breach exposing the data of more than 143 million Americans, but it contains another cache of extensive personal information about Facebook’s employees, including their date of birth, social security number, job title, salary, pay raises or decreases, tenure, number of hours worked per week, wages by pay period, healthcare insurance coverage, dental care insurance coverage, and unemployment claim records.

This is pretty groundbreaking news. If the social media king can’t even keep its own employee data safe from the Equifaxes and hackers of the world, how safe are we supposed to think they keep our own data? For Facebook to earn back customer trust, it’ll have to jump through some pretty serious hoops. We’ll sit back and wait for the circus to arrive, in that case.

Patrick Roland, November 23, 2017

Solve BI Woes with This Listicle

November 20, 2017

Business intelligence is a key component in any business that wants to be competitive, turn a profit, and make themselves a known entity.  The problem, however, is betting your business intelligence plan off the ground.  CIO shares the top, “Three Reasons Your Business Intelligence Adoption Has Stalled.”  Old-fashioned BI plans relied heavily on putting technology at the forefront and having a dedicated staff to manage it.  The traditional model has changed because everyone in an organization can have access to the same type of technology that once was specialized.

The problem with implementing a BI plan is more than likely than the company culture.  The first problem is that employees (and everyone) are resistant to change.  Forcing employees to use new technology not only creates conflict, but there is also the problem with data literacy.  It usually takes a lot of training sessions to get everyone’s skills on par.

Another problem is that some companies rely too heavily on their gut instinct that confirmed data:

BI leaders spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to convince instinct-based decision-makers that analytic insight beats intuition. Unfortunately, this rarely changes deep-rooted beliefs and has little-to-no impact on the use of BI. Consequently, BI teams are better served engaging leaders who understand the value of analytics and are willing and able to influence business process change. Top-down support from organizational leaders to challenge the status quo, and push for business process transformation, is mandatory for success. It will quickly become evident to senior leaders which of their key decision-makers are furthering – or hindering – the organization’s BI and analytic adoption goals.

The third problem is that organizations implement a BI plan, usually around an IT project, and once it is rolled out and on the go, nothing else is done with it.  Companies think that once a BI plan is in place, then it will not need to evolve in the future.  A fluid mentality, rather than a check-box one is how organizations will have successful BI deployments.

Whitney Grace, November 20, 2017

A Collection of Statistics on Chatbot Usage

November 14, 2017

As chatbots become increasingly common, businesses are naturally wondering how to make the most of them. Writer Josiah Motley at The Next Web has assembled user statistics from several sources and reports, “Chatbots Are Here to Stay, What the Data Is Telling Us About the People that Use Them.” He writes:

We know businesses are loving them thanks to better service times for customers and for certain problems to be solved automatically without the need for a (paid) human to jump in, but what about other statistics and interesting facts revolving around chatbots? Are people happy with them? Do they prefer a chatty AI or do they just want to cut to the chase? All of these are questions that will need to be asked when deciding if a chatbot is right for your business, so of course, there are companies out there that are breaking out the customer surveys and figuring out what people are liking, where they’re getting the most use, and a plethora of other random information about them.

The first bit of information Motley shares is how users are liking their chatbot experiences. Nearly half of the respondents to a survey from LivePerson had not had enough such chats to say, while 38% felt good about them and 11% were displeased. That survey also examined what respondents have been using chatbots for—67% had used one for customer service in the previous year, but just 14% for productivity. Then there are several usage trends sorted by US state, including most profanity used—see the write-up for those details (complete with bar graphs.) Motley insists that chatbots are becoming an indispensable part of a business, and each organization must now decide how best to use them to reach its own particular goals.

Cynthia Murrell, November 14, 2017

Silobreaker Digs Deeper into Dark Web

November 9, 2017

The Dark Web is small, unmonitored part of the Internet.  While the Dark Web seems untraceable and unsearchable, many tech companies are making strides documenting it.  Silobreaker is one of the companies and they announced a partnership with Flashpoint to take on the Dark Web: “Silobreaker Expands Its Data Coverage To Deep And Dark Web By Teaming Up With Flashpoint.”  Flashpoint is a leading provider of business risk intelligence technology and they focus on uncovering Dark Web information.

Flashpoint recently released version four of their business risk intelligence API.  Along with the newest release, Silobreaker and Flashpoints’ team up means that more of their clients will be able to predict, detect, and resolve unstructured data into actionable intelligence.

How will Silobreaker and Flashpoint work together?

Flashpoint’s data is being ingested by Silobreaker’s platform, where it is indexed and fully integrated for use across all analytical tools, visualizations and workflow features. When correlated with Silobreaker’s open source data, this combination empowers customers to move seamlessly between the two data-sets in a single application, expanding their analyses to include both.

The only downside is in order to take advantage of the team up, their clients must have licenses to both companies.  Maybe they will offer a bundle deal if you ask nicely.

Whitney Grace, November 9, 2017


More .NET Spying Issues

November 7, 2017

George Orwell, like many science fiction authors, imagined dystopian futures, but also the possibility of grander technology.  In his quintessential novel 1984, Orwell discussed the consequences of a society controlled by completely by the government and how an advanced spy network allowed the entity to do so.  While Orwell imagined this future, he probably could not conceive of how the technology would actually work.

Today we do and many consumers are victims of spying.

Technology companies state that the spying is unintentional, but do we really believe that?  Gitbhub had a post titled, “.NET Core Should Not Spy On Users By Default”  The .NET Core is a set of tools Microsoft developed and Microsoft has a history of spying on their users.  Remember how Windows 10 spied on users?  A Microsoft representative posted that the default spying protocol is actually a good thing, because

The data we collect does not identify individual users. We’re only interested in aggregate data that we can use to identify trends. The telemetry feature is configurable, so you can turn it on/off at any time. It is also scoped, only applying to tools usage, not the rest of the product. We think that this is a good trade-off and recognize that not everyone will like it. We do know, however, that many people will like the product improvements that will come from this insight.

Spying is spying, whether the data cannot be identified.  Also everything digital leaves a footprint somehow, so the representative is more than likely misspeaking (using double think?).  The spying option should never be a default unless an advisory is given to users and they allow it.  At least, Apple does it with all of their users.

Whitney Grace, November 7, 2017

The Companies Leading Open Source

November 6, 2017

Open-source enthusiasts will want to check out this roster from Datamation, “35 Top Open Source Companies.” We’re reminded that the open-source community has moved well beyond a collection of individual hobbyists to include many corporate initiatives. The article notes:

While independent developers are still an important part of the open source community, today much of the work on open source projects is being done by corporate developers. In a recent appearance at the Open Source Summit, Linux founder Linus Torvalds acknowledged this corporate influence and welcomed it. ‘It’s very important to have companies in open source,’ he said. ‘It’s one thing I have been very happy about.’ The list below highlights some of the leading for-profit companies that are using, sponsoring and contributing to open source projects. It includes a mix of large enterprises, small startups and everything in between. Some of the companies exclusively offer products based on open source software, while others sell a mix of proprietary and open source solutions. But all of these companies play a significant role in the open source community.

The write-up emphasizes the list is alphabetical, not a ranking of any sort. Red Hat is there, of course; they are behind Apache and OpenStack, after all, and boast the most popular Linux iteration for large organizations. We also see Cloudera and Hortonworks, homes popular supported Hadoop versions, and the vast  open-source repository, GitHub. As for search, Elastic makes the roll with its Elasticsearch project, and MongoDB is recognized for its popular NoSQL database. Some of the biggest companies we see include Adobe, Facebook, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, and Samsung. See the write-up for the complete list.

Cynthia Murrell, November 6, 2017

China Trusts AI to Facilitate Human Communication

November 1, 2017

With the world’s largest population, one would think that the Chinese would not have any trouble finding someone to talk to.  Apparently, China enjoys talking with robots, says the MIT Technology Review’s article, “Why 500 Million People In China Are Talking To This AI.”  Going by the name iFlyTek, the AI app acts as on-demand translation service, but it does more than translate languages.

Over 500 million Chinese are using iFlyTek to manage their conversations with other people, including dictating texts, translating accents, transcribe, and generate automated messages.  iFlyTek is programmed with all good tools related to communication: voice recognition, natural language processing, machine translation, data mining, and more.  While the app has many applications in day to day life, the translation feature still has issues and intent is lost in translation.

The iFlyTek app is used in a variety of industries, especially healthcare and driving.  Drivers issue it vocal commands sop their hands can remain on the wheel.  Also, a hospital implemented ten female-looking robots to assist the overworked medical staff.  The robots can answer questions and direct patients to the correct department.  Doctors are also using iFlyTek to dictate a patient’s medical records.  Dictation will become more important, especially since it offers people a hands-free way to get work done.  There, of course, remains problems:

Although voice-based AI techniques are becoming more useful in different scenarios, one fundamental challenge remains: machines do not understand the answers they generate, says Xiaojun Wan, a professor at Peking University who does research in natural-language processing. The AI responds to voice queries by searching for a relevant answer in the vast amount of data it was fed, but it has no real understanding of what it says.  In other words, the natural-language processing technology that powers today’s voice assistants is based on a set of rigid rules.

Vocal-based technology is becoming better, more accurate, and more reliable, but thee are still kinks in the system.

Whitney Grace, November 1, 2017


Google Deletes Idle Android Accounts

October 31, 2017

If you have future plans that take you overseas to areas with limited to zero smartphone connectivity for more than two months and you have an Android-based phone you are in trouble.  Vernonchan reports that “Google Will Delete Your Android Backups If Your Device Is Inactive For Two Months.”

It came as quite a shock for the article’s author and only came to light, because a Reddit user was caught off guard.  The story goes that the Reddit user sent his Nexus 6P in for a refund claim and while waiting for a replacement Android device, he used an old phone.  He thought his Nexus 6P backups were safe, but when he checked his Google Drive backup folder they were gone!

He found this document related to backups: “Manage & Restore Your Device Backups In Google.”  Here is what is found in the document:

The document briefly details about finding, managing, and deleting backups. Right at the end, Google explains what happens when your backup expires: ‘Your backup will remain as long as you use your device. If you don’t use your device for 2 weeks, you may see an expiration date below your backup. For instance: “Expires in 54 days.’

Note that once a backup is deleted, there is zero chance for recovery.

In other words, you are screwed!  If you use your device regularly, there is nothing to worry about.  But if you are headed overseas for that rare place on Earth without limited to zero smartphone access for an extended period you are doomed.  If you have a warranty claim or sent the device in for repair, there are concerns there as well.

The Reddit user was extremely surprised that he never received any warning from Google and thought that it would be a good PSA to alert others to the time limit on backups.

Google, we know you have a lot going on, but it is good customer service to alert your users to things as important as data deletion!

Whitney Grace, October 31, 2017

A Handy Collection of References on AI Topics

October 24, 2017

Ever wish there were a centralized resource with all you need to know about AI, clearly presented? If so, check out the “Cheat Sheets for AI, Neural Networks, Machine Learning, Deep Learning & Big Data” at Becoming Human. Chatbot pro-Stefan Kojouharov shares his selections of graphic aids and includes a summary list of links at the end. He briefly introduces his assemblage:

Over the past few months, I have been collecting AI cheat sheets. From time to time I share them with friends and colleagues and recently I have been getting asked a lot, so I decided to organize and share the entire collection. To make things more interesting and give context, I added descriptions and/or excerpts for each major topic. This is the most complete list and the Big-O is at the very end, enjoy…

The offerings begin with illustrations of neural networks and machine learning in general, then progress to detailed information on relevant software, like Python for Data Science and TensorFlow, and topics like data wrangling and data visualization. As promised, graphics on Big-O notation conclude the presentation. This is a page to bookmark; it could save some time hunting for the right resource down the line, if not today.

Cynthia Murrell, October 24, 2017

Elsevier Makes a Brave Play to Steal Wikipedias Users

October 9, 2017

Is Wikipedia about to be unseated in the world of academic publishing? Elsevier thinks they can give the crowdsourced, yet flawed, info hub a serious run for its money. Money, being the key word, according to a recent TechDirt article, “Elsevier Launching Rival to Wikipedia by Extracting Scientific Definitions Automatically from Author’s Texts.”

According to the piece:

Elsevier is hoping to keep researchers on its platform with the launch of a free layer of content called ScienceDirect Topics, offering an initial 80,000 pages of material relating to the life sciences, biomedical sciences and neuroscience. Each offers a quick definition of a key term or topic, details of related terms and relevant excerpts from Elsevier books.

Seems like it makes sense, right? Elsevier has all this academic information at their fingertips, so why send users elsewhere on the web for other information. This extraction system, frankly, sounds pretty amazing. However, TechDirt has a beef with it.

It’s typical of Elsevier’s unbridled ambition that instead of supporting a digital commons like Wikipedia, it wants to compete with it by creating its own redundant versions of the same information, which are proprietary. Even worse, it is drawing that information from books written by academics who have given Elsevier a license.

It’s a valid argument, whether or not Elsevier is taking advantage of its academic sources by edging into Wikipedia’s territory. However, we have a hunch their lawyers will make sure everything is on the up and up. A bigger question is whether Elsevier will make this a free site or have a paywall. They are in business to make money, so we’d guess paywall. And if that’s the case, they’d better have a spectacular setup to draw customers from Wikipedia.

Patrick Roland, October 9, 2017

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