Google Adds to Its Fancy Dancing Repertoire

February 21, 2019

I assume that someone at Google learned about the UK report hashtagging Facebook as a “digital gangster.”

Google is almost certainly aware that regulatory scrutiny of the firm’s practices is likely to increase in 2019. One of Google’s easier dance moves is reported in “Google Exec Reorganizes Policy Shop as Global Threats Loom.” Nothing solves problems like influencers, insiders and money. The write up asserted:

“Public Policy,” will become “Government Affairs and Public Policy.”

Ah, wordsmithing.

Tougher to explain is the report is another wave of advertisers (many of which have no other way to promote their products and services) are finding themselves taking a mor-tical stand. (That’s a combo of moral and ethical, a neologism for online marketing.)

I noted “Nestle, Disney Pull YouTube Ads, Joining Furor Over Child Videos.” The sometimes source free Bloomberg reports:

Walt Disney Co. is said to have pulled its advertising spending from YouTube, joining other companies including Nestle SA, after a blogger detailed how comments on Google’s video site were being used to facilitate a “soft-core pedophilia ring.” Some of the videos involved ran next to ads placed by Disney and Nestle.

Bloomberg, true to real news norms, adds this statement:

YouTube on Tuesday released an updated policy about how it will handle content that “crosses the line” of appropriateness.

I don’t want to dwell on appropriateness, lobbying, or the cycle of surprise, apologies, and remediation which seems more like a visit to the previously owned and lightly used shop.

Like Facebook, Google has some interesting methods of generating revenue as it continues to avoid the “digital gangster” moniker. Inappropriate kiddie content is, however, problematic for any organization. How? Why? How much? Who? — Questions which may warrant answers some day. Maybe.

It may be time for the founders to distance themselves even more from the online ad giant. The quite valuable 25 year old teapot may be reaching it limit for safe operation.

Stephen E Arnold, February 21, 2019

Google Book Search: Broken Unfixable under Current Incentives

February 19, 2019

I read “How Badly is Google Books Search Broken, and Why?” The main point is that search results do not include the expected results. The culprit, as I understand the write up, looking for rare strings of characters within a time slice behaves in an unusual manner. I noted this statement:

So possibly Google has one year it displays for books online as a best guess, and another it uses internally to represent the year they have legal certainty a book is released. So maybe those volumes of the congressional record have had their access rolled back as Google realized that 1900 might actually mean 1997; and maybe Google doesn’t feel confident in library metadata for most of its other books, and doesn’t want searchers using date filters to find improperly released books. Oddly, this pattern seems to work differently on other searches. Trying to find another rare-ish term in Google Ngrams, I settled on “rarely used word”; the Ngrams database lists 192 uses before 2002. Of those, 22 show up in the Google index. A 90% disappearance rate is bad, but still a far cry from 99.95%.

There are many reasons one can identify for the apparent misbehavior of the Google search system for books. The author identifies the main reason but does not focus on it.

From my point of view and based on the research we have done for my various Google monographs, Google’s search systems operate in silos. But each shares some common characteristics even though the engineers, often reluctantly assigned to what are dead end or career stalling projects, make changes.

One of the common flaws has to do with the indexing process itself. None of the Google silos does a very good job with time related information. Google itself has a fix, but implementing the fix for most of its services is a cost increasing step.

The result is that Google focuses on innovations which can drive revenue; that is, online advertising for the mobile user of Google services.

But Google’s time blindness is unlikely to be remediated any time soon. For a better implementation of sophisticated time operations, take a look at the technology for time based retrieval, time slicing, and time analytics from the Google and In-Q-Tel funded company Recorded Future.

In my lectures about Google’s time blindness DNA, I compare and contrast what Recorded Future can do versus what Google silos are doing.

Net net: Performing sophisticated analyses of the Google indexes requires the type of tools available from Recorded Future.

Stephen E Arnold, February 19, 2019

Google: Just Like a Colonizing Force?

February 15, 2019

Can a company cross over into the monetization methods of a country? I read “Google’s Sidewalk Labs Plans Massive Expansion to Waterfront Vision” and formulated this company-country question.

If accurate the Star’s report seems to outline a way for a commercial enterprise, based in the US, to monetize or “cost recover” via methods usually associated with a nation state. The techniques may be more gentle than those early colonizers of Peru, but the goal seems to be similar.

I learned:

Google’s futuristic development on the eastern waterfront, Quayside, is only the first step in an expansive and ambitious plan to build new neighborhoods — and new transit — throughout the entire Port Lands, the Star has learned. In return for its investment in this vision, Sidewalk Labs wants a share of the property taxes, development fees and increased value of city land that would normally go to city coffers.

The source of this monetization method comes from “internal documents.” Like Bloomberg’s revelations about fiddled motherboards, the information could be viewed with skepticism.

google toronto

Let’s assume that the story is spot on. The revenue from this technology revitalization effort is characterized in the article:

These future revenues, based on the anticipated increase in land value once homes and offices are built on the derelict Port Lands, are estimated to be $6 billion over the next 30 years. Even a small portion of this could amount to a large, recurring revenue stream diverted from the city into private hands.

The money generated from what is usually described as “development” by property professionals would flow to the government entities. These in turn would repair roads, provide services, and educate children. Google, I assume, would use these funds to further its commercial interests and continue its efforts to solve death, develop more sophisticated online advertising methods, and rekindle the Google Glass technology, among other high value endeavors.

There are upsides. The area would become more valuable to the city and its residents.

Nevertheless, the coupling of funding methods commonly associated with nation states and governmental agencies with Google is interesting.

Perhaps the same approach would work for Google in China and Russia? But leaders in those countries may not entertain Google’s 21st century approach to a public private partnership.

In Louisville, Kentucky, Google pulled out of its high speed access project. That’s just one risk of cutting deals with commercial enterprises. Google, in particular, can change its mind. Like Amazon, companies wield real power. New York City and environs are waking up to the reality of Amazon’s bidding the Big Apple farewell.

What happens if Google becomes disenchanted with Toronto? A pull out could have significant financial consequences.

But the idea is interesting, and certainly worthy of Francisco Pizarro’s advisers.

Stephen E Arnold, February 15, 2019

Stephen E Arnold

Google News: Not So Much News As Control and Passive Aggressive Offense

February 12, 2019

I read “One Analyst’s Attempts to Demystify the Types of Traffic Google Sends Publishers.” The write up explains some of the clever ways Google manages its traffic and any related data linked to the traffic and content objects.

To put it another way, Google is continuing its effort to control content for its own purposes, not the publishers’, not the users’ or the advertisers’ goals.

The article makes it clear that Google is adapting in a passive aggressive manner to the shift from desktop boat anchor search to the more popular mobile device approach to search.

Users want information and no longer are troubled with thinking up a query, deciding what service to use, or questioning the provenance of the information.

The write up takes a bit of time to figure out. There are acronyms, Googley lingo, and data which may be unfamiliar to most readers. Spend a few minutes and AMP up your understanding of what Google is doing to help out — wait for it — itself.

Surprise, right?

The downstream implications of this approach are interesting. Perhaps an analyst will tackle the issues related to:

  • Time disconnects between event and inclusion of “news”
  • Ability to “route” and “filter” from within the Google walled garden
  • Implications of inserting “relevant” ads into what may be shaped streams so that ad inventory can be whittled down.

Interesting and just the tip of the Google content management iceberg.

Stephen E Arnold, February 12, 2019

Google: Is Waze Getting Lost?

February 7, 2019

I read “NYPD Demands Google Stop Waze from Revealing User-Reported Location of DWI Checkpoints.” According to the write up:

the NYPD has just sent a cease and desist letter to Google, demanding that the reporting feature no longer reveal the location of DWI checkpoints.

User reported data may become a contentious issue. Some drivers may believe that their individual decision to post information is okay.

Google’s clever managers and engineers want users to rely on their services.

What if these services put lives at risk; specifically, make it possible for a person under the influence of a substance which impairs reflexes and thought? The issue of responsibility may be worth considering in the event of a pedestrian or injury to another driver? The driver, the map vendor, and/or the law enforcement entity?

What’s interesting is that government agencies in the US seem to be unable to work with certain high technology firms to resolve certain issues.

European regulators, on the other hand, seem to be more willing to adopt mechanisms to enforce applicable rules and regulations.

According to the write up:

Google essentially declined the request and cited benefits to the feature.


Stephen E Arnold, January 7, 2019

Google Translation: Getting More Intelligent?

February 7, 2019

Translation has never been easier with AI and NLP tools. It is amazing for people who cannot speak foreign languages to communicate with the assistance of translation apps, like Google Translation. While there are many translation apps on the market, Google is by far the best free one. As with many of its products and services, Google spends countless hours perfecting its language algorithms. The Verge published “Google’s Head of Translation On Fighting Bias In Language And Why AI Loves Religious Texts.”

Macduff Hughes heads Google’s translation and in the interview discusses how Google has moved from translating word by word but entire sentences. The new and smarter translation method is called “neural machine translation,” it uses machine learning, and a lot of its data comes from religious texts. One problem Google Translation faces is gender biased language. In order for translation AI to learn, it needs to be fed a lot of accurate and diverse data. These data sources, however, reflect societal biases which the AI can learn and replicate, such as doctors are male and nurses are female. The goal is to overcome these limitations so people know there is more than one way to phrase something as well as explain the differences.

Google is addressing three big bias and nuance initiatives. The first is to expand full sentence gender translation to more languages, the second is improving document translation based on context, and the third is addressing gender neutral languages. On a funnier and conspiracy based note is in 2018, when people typed nonsense words into Translate it spat back religious information. The explanation is a logical way of teaching AI:

“Usually it’s because the language you’re translating to had a lot of religious text in the training data. For every language pair we have, we train using whatever we can find on the world wide web. So the typical behavior of these models is that if it gets gibberish in, it picks out something that’s common in the training data on the target side, and for many of these low-resource languages — where there’s not a lot of text translated on the web for us to draw on — what is produced often happens to be religious.”

Translation is becoming a tool to organize more of the world’s information, according to Hughes, because it allows more people to access stuff that was in a different language. The naysayers argue that Translation provides a very shallow translation and Hughes acknowledges that. However, Translation works for basic translation and someday AI might have the skills of a professional linguist. It is not perfect, but Google Translate gets you to the train station and the bathroom.

Whitney Grace, February 6, 2019

Google Search and ATT Exposed Cable Report

February 6, 2019

Update at 320 US Eastern time:

I stopped an ATT repair truck (not a subcontractor). I reported the open box managing voice and data. The ATT employee told me, “The company doesn’t care. I can’t call it in. Even if I see a downed cable, management does not want to know. The new ATT.” Interesting insight into a company which advertises “moments together.” More like no moments whatsoever.

Original Story:

Come across an exposed cable or exposed cables? Run a Google query for ATT cable down and one gets the first result: 800 288 2020. Like this:


Now the first hit means relevance, or that’s my assumption. Dial the number and the automated system only responds if one is an ATT customer who has an account number. What happens if a child fiddles with the exposed cable or gear? Let’s think about the risks to the youngster. What about the risks to actual ATT wireless, DirecTV, or phone / data services?

Nice work Google. A useless phone number. Nicer work ATT. Putting children and users at risk. (Please, don’t call me and tell me that someone somewhere is sorry. I don’t believe those sophistries.) We can make moments together in another way.

Stephen E Arnold, February 6, 2019

Google: GDPR Vulnerability?

February 6, 2019

If you are curious about the impact of the GDPR on Google, you may want to take a look at “What to Know about Google’s GDPR Troubles.” I don’t have a good sense of what constitutes an objective review of Google and GDPR. Also, I don’t know if the information in the write up from Digiday is 100 percent accurate. Footnotes can be helpful when they are included.

Nevertheless, the article suggests that Google may be a target for individual EU member actions related to GDPR. At this point, it is not clear how many legal entities can go after the company generating more than $80 million a day in profit.

The write up states:

While the majority of GDPR warnings and fines have come from the French regulator, it won’t likely remain that way.

The cost of litigating in separate companies and any fines levied could become onerous even to an outfit like Alphabet Google.

Stephen E Arnold, February 6, 2019

A Google Moonshot: Shoes

February 2, 2019

I read “Alphabet’s Verily Has Been Working on Health-tracking Shoes to Measure Movement, Weight and Falls.” The news that Apple cut off Google from the app store is trivial next to this announcement. The problems with France and other EU government authorities are inconsequential.

Google is innovating in — wait for it — shoes.

I learned:

Alphabet’s life sciences arm, Verily, has been looking for partners to co-develop shoes with sensors embedded to monitor the wearer’s movement and weight, as well as to measure falls, CNBC has learned.

Potential partners include the designers who created Rosa Klebb’s knife shoes for “From Russia with Love,” innovators who have implemented tootsie wear described by Richard Freiherr von KrafftEbing, and the manufacturer of shoes tailored to those skilled in the art of the shuffle dance.


The write up explained:

If Verily progresses with the project, the shoes could have a wide range of health-related uses. For instance, sudden weight gain can be a sign that the body is retaining fluid, which is a symptom of congestive heart failure. Another area of interest is fall detection, two of the people said, which could be useful for seniors in particular.

Product enhancements range from providing dagger shoes to those engaged in military operations, unusual shoes able to make digital recordings of interesting people have interactions, and YouTube shuffle dancers who put their health in peril performing moon walk moves.

With miniaturization, Google could encapsulate a variant of the Loon balloon, deploying the mechanism when signal boosting is required.

Now word on how the new initiative relates to solving death, another of Google-targeted problems.

Stephen E Arnold, February 2, 2019

Cyber Saturday, January 26, 2019

January 26, 2019

Information about the world of government centric information makes headlines. Usually one or two stories a week make it into the trade journals or on the talking head TV shows.

This morning was an exception.

If you a follower of cloak-and-dagger, cat-and-mouse style adventures, you may be interested in these stories.

Kremlin Secrets Maybe?

DDoSecrets (an acronym for Distributed Denial of Secrets) points to gigabytes of Kremlin related data. You can find the links at this tweet for now. Once the data are taken down, you may have to do your own sleuthing. You will need to be wise in the ways of Tor, however.

Facebook and Message Encryption

Worried about your Facebook Messenger and Instagram posts being viewed by someone other than the recipient. Like WhatsApp, the company will be rolling out end to end encryption before the end of 2019. Will this move make government authorities gathering information for an investigation happy? Will more countries adopt Australia-style backdoor regulations? This is an important development. Is Facebook sufficiently organized to make this happen? Details appear in the New York Times’ story “Zuckerberg Plans to Integrate WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger.” This is also a story which may be pay walled.

Journalists Targeted

Writing real news — whether behind a pay wall or not — may be risky. According to the Association Press, an outfit which frightens me when I even consider quoting a sentence — some of the people at Citizen Lab have been under pressure as a result of their reporting. The subject? NSO, an cyber security firm, and the Khashoggi matter. Navigate to this link.

Better Filtering

Some may call Google You Tube recommendations censorship. I am not sure what to call Google’s actions. The company is a bit of a waffler on most things except selling online advertisements and chastising me because I disabled Google Play on one of my Android test mobile phones. According to the Guardian, YouTube will back off suggesting conspiracy theory videos. What’s a conspiracy theory video? Good question which Google assumes it can answer.

From my point of view, Dark cyber has become mainstream. Interesting.

Stephen E Arnold, January 26, 2019

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