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Software That Contains Human Reasoning

April 20, 2016

Computer software has progressed further and keeps advancing faster than we can purchase the latest product.  Software is now capable of holding simple conversations, accurately translating languages, GPS, self-driving cars, etc.  The one thing that that computer developers cannot program is human thought and reason.  The New York Times wrote “Taking Baby Steps Toward Software That Reasons Like Humans” about the goal just out of reach.

The article focuses on Richard Socher and his company MetaMind, a deep learning startup working on pattern recognition software.  He along with other companies focused on artificial intelligence are slowly inching their way towards replicating human thought on computers.  The progress is slow, but steady according to a MetaMind paper about how machines are now capable of answering questions of both digital images and textual documents.

“While even machine vision is not yet a solved problem, steady, if incremental, progress continues to be made by start-ups like Mr. Socher’s; giant technology companies such as Facebook, Microsoft and Google; and dozens of research groups.  In their recent paper, the MetaMind researchers argue that the company’s approach, known as a dynamic memory network, holds out the possibility of simultaneously processing inputs including sound, sight and text.”

The software that allows computers to answer questions about digital images and text is sophisticated, but the data to come close to human capabilities is not only limited, but also nonexistent.  We are coming closer to understanding the human brain’s complexities, but artificial intelligence is not near Asimov levels yet.



Whitney Grace, April 20, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Slack Hires Noah Weiss

March 29, 2016

One thing you can always count on the tech industry is talent will jump from company to company to pursue the best and most innovating endeavors.  The latest tech work to jump ship is Eric Weiss, he leaps from Foursquare to head a new Search, Learning, & Intelligence Group at Slack.  VentureBeat reports the story in “Slack Forms Search, Learning, & Intelligence Group On ‘Mining The Chat Corpus.’”  Slack is a team communication app and their new Search, Learning, & Intelligence Group will be located in the app’s new New York office.

Weiss commented on the endeavor:

“ ‘The focus is on building features that make Slack better the bigger a company is and the more it uses Slack,” Weiss wrote today in a Medium post. “The success of the group will be measured in how much more productive, informed, and collaborative Slack users get — whether a company has 10, 100, or 10,000 people.’”

For the new group, Weiss wants to hire experts who are talented in the fields of artificial intelligence, information retrieval, and natural language processing.  From this talent search, he might be working on a project that will help users to find specific information in Slack or perhaps they will work on mining the chap corpus.

Other tech companies have done the same.  Snapchat built a research team that uses artificial intelligence to analyze user content.  Flipboard and Pinterest are working on new image recognition technology.  Meanwhile Google, Facebook, Baidu, and Microsoft are working on their own artificial intelligence projects.

What will artificial intelligence develop into as more companies work on their secret projects.


Whitney Grace, March 29, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Facebook Exploits Dark Web to Avoid Local Censorship

March 9, 2016

The article on Nextgov titled Facebook Is Giving Users a New Way to Access It On the ‘Dark Web’ discusses the lesser-known services of the dark web such as user privacy. Facebook began taking advantage of the dark web in 2014, when it created a Tor address (recognizable through the .onion ending.) The article explains the perks of this for global Facebook users,

“Facebook’s Tor site is one way for people to access their accounts when the regular Facebook site is blocked by governments—such as when Bangladesh cut off access to Facebook, its Messenger and Whatsapp chat platforms, and messaging app Viber for about three weeks in November 2015. As the ban took effect, the overall number of Tor users in Bangladesh spiked by about 10 times, to more than 20,000 a day. When the ban was lifted, the number dropped..”

Facebook has encountered its fair share of hostility from international governments, particularly Russia. Russia has a long history of censorship, and has even clocked Wikipedia in the past, among other sites. But even if a site is not blocked, governments can still prevent full access through filtering of domain names and even specific keywords. The Tor option can certainly help global users access their Facebook accounts, but however else they use Tor is not publicly known, and Facebook’s lips are sealed.


Chelsea Kerwin, March 9, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Facebook: In the Spotlight

March 7, 2016

A Facebook executive found that the party-loving Brazilians were not full of fun recently. A Facebook executive was detained without samba music. (See “Facebook Executive Jailed in Brazil.”)

Also interesting was “Facebook Hit With German Antitrust Investigation Over User Terms.” The write up reported:

The German federal competition authority has opened an investigation into Facebook over what it suspects is “an abusive imposition of unfair conditions on users.”

The friction between governments and widely used American software systems and services appears to be increasing.

The only challenge will be figuring how to put the horse back in the barn. The barn burned and apartments and a Chuck E Cheese have been built on the once fallow land.

Facebook was set up in 2004. That works out to more than a decade of development. How often are complexes torn down in a modern digital city? Municipal bureaucracies often react slowly and in often confusing ways.

Stephen E Arnold, March 7, 2016

The Facebook Google Hundred Years War

February 24, 2016

Okay, the 100 years is in Internet time. But the idea is one that is not a surprise to me and the goslings here in Harrod’s Creek. We are far from the field of battle. What sparked my thoughts about the squabbles among the Plantagenets and the good folks over at the House of Valois. What happened to chivalry?

I read “Facebook and Google at War: Is It Time to Pick Sides” and my addled goose brain thought of the 14th and 15th century dust up. Chivalry and deception went hand in hand with the routine stuff of fights over sovereignty.

In the world of search, the Alphabet Google thing faces a couple of challenges. The 15 year old revenue model is still chugging along. The users’ behavior is changing, and that put a bit of pressure on the Googlers to diversify their revenue streams. Yikes. What business model can the science and math club use as inspiration? Wild and crazy X Labs’ activities? The social thrust has not exactly worked out. Google no longer requires mandatory Google social log ins for games. Games are big, right?

In the world of social, Facebook is the go to way to keep track of pals. Unlike Twitter, which is a coterie service, Facebook is big, popular with some folks, and has revenue streams from its services. Facebook addiction, anyone? Facebook is also holding its own against upstarts, and the company is semi-famous for its hefty flow of useful information about people, individuals, heck, anyone who signs up and remains logged in. Good stuff.

The write up points out:

Businesses can create a ‘Canvas’ by bringing together their own videos and images, which they combine with interactive buttons to create a truly engaging social experience. The functionality is top notch: “In Canvas, people can swipe through a carousel of images, tilt to view panoramic images and zoom in to view images in detail.” Businesses can easily build their Canvas using a combination of videos, still images and call-to-action buttons.

I would mention that Facebook wants folks with content to use Facebook as a publishing platform. There you go. More useful content to analyze via assorted graph analytics methods.

What’s Google doing? The write up does not focus too much on the Alphabet Google thing.

Now back to that 100 year war. Were not the winners the innovators who created the weapons and, of course, the plague?

Stephen E Arnold, February 24, 2016

Study Determines Sad News for People Who Look on Facebook “Likes” as Friendship

February 23, 2016

The article on Independent titled Facebook Friends Are Almost entirely Fake, Study Finds illuminates the cold, cold world of Facebook. According to the study, out of the hundreds of “friends” accumulated on Facebook, typically only about four are true blue buds. Most of them are not interested in your life or sympathetic to your problems. 2% are actively trying to stab you in the back. I may have made up the last figure, but you get the picture. The article tells us,

“The average person studied had around 150 Facebook friends. But only about 14 of them would express sympathy in the event of anything going wrong. The average person said that only about 27 per cent of their Facebook friends were genuine. Those numbers are mostly similar to how friendships work in real life, the research said. But the huge number of supposed friends on a friend list means that people can be tricked into thinking that they might have more close friends.”

This is particularly bad news considering how Facebook has opened the gates to all populations meaning that most people have family members on the site in addition to friends. Aunt Mary may have knit you a sweater for Christmas, but she really isn’t interested in your status update about running into your ex and his new girlfriend. If this article teaches us anything, it’s that you should look offline for your real relationships.


Chelsea Kerwin, February 23, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Its Official: Facebook and the Dark Web

February 5, 2016

A piece from Nextgov suggests just how ubiquitous the Dark Web could become. Published as Facebook is giving users a new way to access it on the ‘Dark Web’, this article tells us “a sizeable community” of its users are also Dark Web users; Facebook has not released exact figures. Why are people using the Dark Web for everyday internet browsing purposes? The article states:

“Facebook’s Tor site is one way for people to access their accounts when the regular Facebook site is blocked by governments—such as when Bangladesh cut off access to Facebook, its Messenger and Whatsapp chat platforms, and messaging app Viber for about three weeks in November 2015. As the ban took effect, the overall number of Tor users in Bangladesh spiked by about 10 times, to more than 20,000 a day. When the ban was lifted, the number dropped back to its previous level.”

Public perception of the darknet is changing. If there was any metric to lend credibility to the Dark Web being increasingly used for mainstream purposes, it is Facebook adding a .onion address. Individual’s desire for security, uninterrupted and expansive internet access will only contribute to the Dark Web’s user base. While the Silk Road-type element is sure to remain as well, it will be interesting to see how things evolve.


Megan Feil, February 5, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Google Wants ISIS to Stay Off the Regular Web

January 29, 2016

Propaganda from the Islamic State (Isis) exists not only in the Dark Web, but is also infiltrating the familiar internet. A Wired article discusses the best case scenario to stop such information from spreading in their article Google: ISIS must be ‘contained to the Dark Web’. Google describes ISIS only existing in the Dark Web as success. This information helps explain why,

“As Isis has become more prominent in Syria and Iraq, social media, alongside traditional offline methods, have have been used to spread the group’s messages and recruit members. In 2014 analysis of the group’s online activity showed that they routinely hijack hashtags, use bots, and post gruesome videos to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. The UK’s internet counter terrorism unit claims to remove 1,000 illegal pieces of terrorism related content from the internet each week — it says that roughly 800 of these are to do with Syria and Iraq. The group claims in the 12 months before June 2012 that 39,000 internet takedowns were completed.”

The director of Google Ideas is quoted as describing ISIS’ tactics ranging from communication to spamming to typical email scams; he explains they are not “tech-savy.” Unfortunately, tech chops is not a requirement for effective marketing, so the question still remains whether containing this group and their messages to the Dark Web is possible — and whether that means success with growing numbers of people using the Dark Web.


Megan Feil, January 29, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Critics Blast Zuckerbergs Free Internet

January 26, 2016

Mark Zuckerberg is giving the subcontinent India access to free Internet.  In some eyes Zuckerberg is being generous, but his critics are saying he’s doing it to gain control of a 1.2 billion untapped market.  The New York Post shares Zuckerberg’s magnanimous act in “Mark Zuckerberg Defends His Free Internet Bid In India.”

Zuckerberg’s free Internet in India is dubbed “Free Basics” and it offers full access to Facebook and other affiliated sites, while blocking access to Google, Twitter, and other rivals.  Free Basics’s partner Indian telecom partner Reliance Communication was forced to temporarily shut down service.

Critics are angry with Zuckerberg, claiming he is violating net neutrality and it comes as a slap in the face after he defended it within the United States.  Free Basics could potentially ruin Internet competition in India and gain an iron grasp on a developing market.  An even more intriguing piece to the story is that Free Basics was formerly named, but Zuckerberg was forced to change it so new Internet users would not think that Facebook and related Web sites were all that existed.

“The local tech entrepreneur warned that ‘the incentive to invest in better, faster and cheaper access to the entire Internet will be replaced with one of providing better, faster and cheaper access to [Facebook’s] websites and apps’…In his Monday op-ed piece, Zuckerberg at times sounded exasperated as he insisted that the limited access provided by Free Basics was better than no access at all.”

Free Basics has already been deployed in thirty-five countries and provides free Internet for fifteen million people.

What’s the problem with wanting one’s way like blocking our competitors’ services? Absolutely nothing, if you rule the world. If not, there may be push back. I learned this in kindergarten.  Zuckerberg can expect lots of push back.


Whitney Grace, January 26, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Islamic State Is Now a Convenient App

December 28, 2015

It used to be that if you wanted to be an enemy of western civilization you had to have ties to a derelict organization or even visit an enemy nation.  It was difficult, especially with the limits of communication in pre-Internet days.  Western Union and secret radio signals only went so far, but now with the Internet insurgent recruitment is just a few mouse clicks away or even an app download.  The Telegraph reports that the “Islamic State Releases Its Own Smartphone App” to spread propaganda and pollute Islam’s true message.

Islamic State (Isil) released an Android app to disseminate the terrorist group’s radical propaganda.  The app was brought to light by hacktivist Ghost Security Group, who uncovered directions to install the app on the encrypted message service Telegram.  Ghost Security says that the app publishes propaganda from Amaq News Agency, the Islamic State’s propaganda channel, such as beheadings and warnings about terrorist attacks.  It goes to show that despite limited resources, if one is tech savvy and has an Internet connection the possibilities are endless.

” ‘They want to create a broadcast capability that is more secure than just leveraging Twitter and Facebook,’ ” Michael Smith of Kronos Advisory, a company that acts as a conduit between GhostSec and the US government, told CS Monitor.

‘[Isil] has always been looking for a way to provide easy access to all of the material.’ ”

Isil might have the ability to create propaganda and an app, but they do have a limited reach.  In order to find this app, one has to dig within the Internet and find instructions.  Hacktivist organizations like Ghost Security and Anonymous are using their technology skills to combat terrorist organizations with success.  Most terrorist group propaganda will not be found within the first page of search results, one has to work to find them, but not that hard.


Whitney Grace, December 28, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

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