Does Smart Software Understand Kid Vids?

April 26, 2018

The growth of AI and predictive analytics across the spectrum has become a universal rah rah. Super powered computers and their data crunching power is being utilized by industries great and small. However, the producers of AI technology might not be getting rich off this revolution. We learned more from a recent Market Watch story, “IBM Earnings Show AI is Not Paying Off Yet.”

According to the story:

“’The bulls were hoping for a clean modest beat on this key growth segment, which represents the underpinnings of the IBM turnaround story in 2018 and beyond,’ Ives said in a note to clients. In an email, Ives said he does not have an estimate for Watson itself. ‘It’s a major contributing factor to strategic imperatives and helping drive double-digit growth…’”

Despite these less than stellar results, the big names in tech aren’t getting scared away by AI yet. In fact, it is still a boom investment time. Intel, for one, is betting a large chunk on cash on AI. We will be watching this development closer, since we all know that AI can be the greatest product in the world, but if it keeps losing money it might just end up in the graveyard. (Unlikely, we know.)

But—and there seems to be a “but” when it comes to the capabilities of smart software—we noticed that Google seems to be relying on humans to make sure that children’s videos are not violent, chuck full of objectionable material, or inappropriate for kiddie viewing. According to “For the First Time, Parents Will Be Able to Limit YouTube Kids to Human-Reviewed Channels and Recommendations,”

The new features will allow parents to lock down the YouTube Kids app so it only displays those channels* that have been reviewed by humans, not just algorithms. And this includes both the content displayed within the app itself, as well as the recommended videos. A later update will allow parents to configure which videos and channels, specifically, can be viewed.

A few observations seem to be warranted:

  1. Google’s vaunted smart software cannot determine what’s appropriate for children. Therefore, Google is now assuming the role that old school, chain smoking, ink stained editors once performed. Back to the past?
  2. If the smart software cannot figure out what video is okay for children, how accurate is Google’s ad matching software. Is it possible that the ad matching system is able to perform in a “good enough” manner? Will advertisers lose confidence that their money is putting messages in front of the “right” eye balls?
  3. Perhaps Google has caught the same case of sniffles that IBM Watson has been suffering? The failure of smart software with regard to kid vids suggests that hyperbole is not the same as actual performance.

The kid vid matter is as significant as the Facebook Cambridge Analytica matter. Could these be different facets of the same assumption that technology is a go getter?

Stephen E Arnold, April 26, 2018

About That Google Question Answering: Books, Scholar, and Open Source at Its Talon Tips

April 17, 2018

Googzilla prides itself on consuming search queries. Answering those questions? That’s a matter for discussion. Note that here in Harrod’s Creek we understand that if Google does not point to an entity, Web site, or factoid—that entity, Web site, or factoid does not exist. Who knew that those in Harrod’s Creek were into epistemology?

However, Pagal Parrot found “10 Questions Even Google Can’t Answer.” Let us talk a look at the write up’s exemplary 10 questions:

“1. Why does a round pizza come in a square box?

2. Why are boxing rings square?

3.What is Satan’s last name?

4. Why do we press harder on a remote control when we know the batteries are flat?

5. Why is Google not the most translated website?

6. Why do banks charge a fee on ‘insufficient funds’ when they know there is not enough?

7. Why is it that people say they ‘slept like a baby’ when babies wake up, like, every two hours?

8. Why do Baidu lead Google in China?

9. Do Atheist also swear by the Bible /Quran when they go to court?

10. Why do people get angry each time another passenger sits beside them in a seat?”

These questions also beg another question: Do people spend time trying to dumbfound Google? It appears that the answer is, “Folks do try to bedevil the GOOG.”

The article is mostly for giggles, but there are definitely more than 10 questions Google cannot answer. Here is one: When will Google answer questions with precision and recall balanced for relevance and “accuracy”? Would advertisers respond to the functionality?

Whitney Grace, April 17, 2018

Google and the Great Forgetting

April 16, 2018

I noted the glee with which the Gray Lady explained “Facebook Takes the Punches While Rest of Silicon Valley Ducks.” Newspapers may be pummeled, but the New York Times has enough zip to remind me that Silicon Valley luminaries know how to do the ostrich thing.

However, I noticed that another newspaper was not distracted by the Facebook road show. The write up which caught my attention was “Google Loses Landmark Right to Be Forgotten Case.” I don’t know about the legal wrangling, but I understood that when a person is supposed to be expunged from the Google public-facing indexes, that means the indexes which the average user can access.

The issue is that Google indexes content and plugs the pointers, metadata, accession numbers, and other goodies into its system for fielding queries. Queries can come from a human or from a system process.

The Google method is a bit of a Rube Goldberg machine. The guts buried deep within wrapper upon wrapper of software is edging close to 20 years of service. Furthermore, getting information out of a sprawling, fragmented collection of data is not easy. Mostly pointers are deleted. But some of the information is spirited away by automated processes and tucked into digital nooks and crannies. Deleting some information can cause dependencies to return unexpected results. Deletions can translate to excitement quickly.

The write up points out none of the concerns about Google’s plumbing. The write up reported:

The information is of scant if any apparent relevance to any business activities that he seems likely to engage in,” the judge added. He said his key conclusion in relation to NT2’s claim was that “the crime and punishment information has become out of date, irrelevant and of no sufficient legitimate interest to users of Google search to justify its continued availability”.

What’s ahead?

Definitely some data pointer removals. And, of course, the thrill of figuring out if glitches become more than a minor annoyance. Perhaps criminals have the right to be forgotten? Beyond Search wonders, “Will those harmed by illegal actions will lose their memories as well.”

Here in Harrod’s Creek we think the task of removing pointers may be a prelude to a flood of metadata removal work.

Stephen E Arnold, April 16, 2018

Leadership: The Google Way

April 14, 2018

Lead, follow, or get out of the way. Nope. Lead by keeping a low profile and tackling “projects” in a stealthy manner.

That’s how I interpreted the information in “Google is Pursuing the Pentagon’s Giant Cloud Contract Quietly, Fearing An Employee Revolt.” The write up states:

The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, program has since morphed into a single contract potentially worth $10 billion over a decade, to be awarded by year’s end…. Google has kept its own interest in the contract out of the press. Company leaders have even hidden the pursuit from its own workers.

Interesting Math Club / Silicon bro management method. Lead, follow, or get out of the way. Oh, don’t sign petitions asking your boss to turn down major military contracts. Trust is important in leadership.

Stephen E Arnold, April 14, 2018

Commercial Solutions for Government: A Path Forward

April 13, 2018

I often hear grumbling when I tell law enforcement and intelligence professionals to use commercial tools. Some LE and intel professionals are confident that open source tools like Maltego, a little midnight oil, and their in house technical staff can build a system better than commercial offerings. In my 50 year work career, that can happen. But it does not happen often. The 18f alternative to Squarespace is a good example of spending money for software which falls short of low cost, widely available commercial tools.

Cybercrime has become a serious hurdle for police. It seems that under-funded departments and agencies find that procurement cycles and technological advances by bad actors combine to make certain tasks difficult. We noted the PC Magazine story, “Feds Bust Black Market Forum Behind $530M in Cybercrimes.”

According to the article:

“The Department of Justice on Wednesday announced the indictments of 36 suspects allegedly responsible for the black market Infraud forum, which sold stolen credit card details, malware, and information that could be used for identity theft, including Social Security numbers.”

This is a win for cybercrime cops. Several of the American suspects have been arrested and several more international criminals are being extradited. However, we believe that only the private sector can adequately combat clever cybercrime. We recently heard about what seems to be a positive plan from Entrepreneur magazine.

Google’s new Chronicle cyber security company may offer LE a useful tool. The specialty for Chronicle is Zero Day Attacks, which are those sneaky cyber attacks that happen instantly—unlike ransomware, for example. This is just one small piece of a massive private sector puzzle that can help put cybercrime under control for good.

Combine the capabilities of Google with Recorded Future (a company in which Google has a stake), and the open source alternatives may come up short.

Patrick Roland, April 13, 2018

Google Aims to Get More Precise by Open Sourced Maps

April 13, 2018

Google Maps is the king of direction finding but the king wants to know if it can go further. The already decently accurate system wants to use open sourcing to get a better handle on addresses and businesses you have on your map. We learned about the interesting method for pulling this off from a Tech Radar story, “Finding an Address on Google Maps Becomes Easier with Plus Codes.”

So, what are these miracle open sourced tools?

“Plus Codes are basically an open sourced solution that represents an easy to understand addressing system that works at any part of the world. It allocates address based on dividing the geographical surface into tiny ’tiled areas’, attributing a unique code to each of them.”

Seems like an interesting move by Google. However, we are skeptical about the ability to improve maps through this method. Other open source mapping tools, like OpenStreetMap, have recently come under fire for not being very accurate and turning away users. We already know that Google will have an accuracy edge here, but we simply don’t see the appeal for users overall. Look back in a year or two and this will be in the famous Google Graveyard with Glass and other swing-and-miss ideas.

Patrick Roland, April 13, 2018

When Employees Protest, Management Has to Manage

April 12, 2018

The online information drum has been pounding out messages about the Google employees who don’t want Google to do evil. The issue pivots on the GOOG’s tie up with the US government. The application? Smart software for DoD type challenges.

What if innovation didn’t come down to who had the brightest mind, but who has the biggest collection of data? That’s an interesting thought that is gaining steam in the tech community, especially among venture capitalists. We got a hint of this growing world from the Harvard Business Review article, “Are The Most Innovative Companies Just The Ones With The Most Data?”

According to the story:

“[I]nnovation is founded on data rather than human ideas, the firms that benefit are the ones that have access to the most data. Therefore, in many instances, innovation will no longer be a countervailing force to market concentration and scale. Instead, innovation will be a force that furthers them.”

Google’s employee push back warrants observation as the company tries to guide itself through choppy high technology water.

Patrick Roland, April 12, 2018

Yikes! Google Kiddie YouTube a Target

April 12, 2018

I thought Google and its kiddie YouTube had figured out how to show age appropriate videos to children. If the information in the story “Child Advocates Ask FTC to Investigate YouTube” is accurate, the GOOG may face some PR challenges. Nothing is quite as volatile as an online advertising site displaying videos which can be perceived as inappropriate. Because the write up is branded “AP” which once meant Associated Press, I am unwilling to quote from the write up. If my understanding of the assertions in the “news” story are accurate, I recall learning:

  • “Child advocate groups” — no, I don’t know what outfits these are — want Google to be “investigated.”
  • Google apparently profits from showing ads to children. (Who knew?)
  • Google has an app but it is not too popular with parents. (I don’t know who does not use the app because the AP story did not tell me as I recall.)
  • Google has channels aimed at children. One of these may be named ChuChuTV. (Nifty spelling of “choo”.)
  • Advertisers can get access to children but if the child says, “Googzilla, I am not 13” some content is blocked. (If I were a child, I would probably figure out how to get access to the video about unicorn slime pretty quickly.)

Among the entities I recall seeing identified in the article are:

  • Georgetown University law clinic
  • Jeff Chester, The Center for Digital Democracy
  • Josh Golin, Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood
  • Senator Edward Markey
  • Juliana Gruenwald Henderson, an FTC professional
  • Kandi Parsons, once an FTC lawyer

What’s missing? Links, examples of bad videos, data about what percent of kiddie YouTube programming is objectionable, and similar factual data.

I don’t want to be suspicious, but regardless of filtering method, some content may be viewed as offensive because subjective perception is not what smart software does well at this point in time.

In March 2018 I was appointed to a Judicial Commission focused on human trafficking and child sex abuse. My hope is that the documents and data which flow to me do not include assertions without specific entities being identified or with constraints that make me fearful of quoting from these documents in my writings.

After 50 years of professional work, I am not easily surprised. Therefore, I am not surprised that online ad vendors similar to Google  would focus on generating revenue. I am not surprised that videos vetted by smart software may make mistakes when “close enough for horseshoes” or “good enough” thresholds may be implemented for decision making. I am not surprised that individuals who spend time watching kiddie videos find content which is inappropriate.

Perhaps follow up stories from the “Associated Press” will beef up the details and facts about Google’s problems with kiddie YouTube. Quotes from folks are what “real” journalists do. Links, facts, and data are different from quotes. Make enough phone calls, and one can probably get a statement that fits the “real” news template.

Net net: I think more specifics would be helpful particularly if the goal is to find Google “guilty” of breaking a law, wrong doing, or some other egregious behavior. For now, however, the matter warrants monitoring. Accusations about topics like trafficking and child sex abuse and related issues are inflammatory. Quotes don’t cut it for me.

Stephen E Arnold, April 12, 2018

Correlation the SEO Way. Maybe Not?

April 11, 2018

Here is a fact about Hollywood: They love to boil movies down to a formula and regurgitate every movie into said formula over and over again. Some examples are Disney animated films, superhero films prior to the Disney Marvel franchise, and the Roman/Greek epics circa mid-twentieth century. Instead of focusing on how to tell a good story, Hollywood focuses on the auxiliary components like location, actors, and special effects.

Micheal Martinez from SEO Theory recently wrote, “Google Correlation Studies Are Sham Search Engine Optimization” and expressed that trying to learn anything from Google correlation studies is worthless. It is like Hollywood trying to develop a formula that delivers absolutely nothing. Martinez explains that Google changes it search rankings based on an algorithm. That algorithm is updated in real time from Google’s search index, so trying to create a formula to guarantee top hits is useless:

“The illusion of the power of correlation studies was driven by the popularity of one or two well-known “SEO” blogs — but I don’t want to single anyone out because, frankly, this problem didn’t arise due to the popularity of anyone’s blog. This problem arose because people in the SEO industry are too gullible and willing to accept any bullshit that is embedded in a Power Point presentation or infographic. That is, 100% of us put too much credence into presentation and insufficient analysis into methodology. I can’t exclude myself from that — not because I have ever believed any of these “correlation does not equal causation (wink wink)” arguments but because I find it too easy to point to what someone else says and use that as a reference for something I want to believe. I catch myself doing this all the time.”

There is not a reliable way to track and measure Google’s algorithm data. The only people who know that information are Google employees and they are not about to share their secrets. It is smart to be aware of SEO practices to develop good content, just do not follow them religiously.

Whitney Grace, April 11, 2018

Google Argues With Russia About Website Rankings

April 10, 2018

Amidst its employee petitions and the increasing concern about YouTube videos for children, Google is annoyed with Russia.

Google fiddled with its ranking algorithm to stop the dissemination of fake news and Russia believes it is biased against two of its news agencies. Reuters describes more of the argument in the story, “Google Seeks To Defuse Row With Russia Over Website Rankings.” Roskomnadzor called out Alphabet Inc. and its popular search engine Google, when it claimed that Google pushed Russian media sites Sputnik and Russia Today into lower search results.

Eric Schmidt claimed that Google would not be deleting those links, instead they would be pushed lower in search results. Russia claimed Google discriminated against Russia Today and Sputnik, also saying they would take action if necessary. Google responded:

“ ‘We’d like to inform you that by speaking about ranking of web-sources, including the websites of Russia Today and Sputnik, Dr. Eric Schmidt was referring to Google’s ongoing efforts to improve search quality,’ Google said in a letter posted on Roskomnadzor’s website… ‘We don’t change our algorithm to re-rank,’ it added. A Google spokeswoman confirmed the letter had been sent by the company but provided no further comment.”

Years ago Mr. Brin’s trip to space fizzled. Now the search giant is finding fault with a country known to use interesting methods to solve problems.

Whitney Grace, April 10, 2017

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