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Google, Safari, and the Europe Problem

March 27, 2015

I read “Google Loses Safari Web Tracking Court of Appeal Case.” The write up is less amusing than Loon balloons or contemplating the future of Glass. I assume the write up is accurate. I read:

UK consumers have been granted the right to take Google to court over revelations from 2012 that it bypassed security settings in Apple’s Safari browser to track users.

The write up included this paragraph:

Dan Tench, a partner at law firm Olswang, acting for the claimants, said that the decision was vital as it stops Google “evading or trivializing these very serious intrusions into the privacy of British consumers”.

Is this accurate?

My hunch is that Google may face additional legal scrutiny in Europe in 2015 despite this statement from the article:

Jonathan Hawker, who set up the Google Action Group regarding the Safari tracking issue, said that anyone who used an Apple iPhone, iPod or iPad between summer 2011 and spring 2012 could be entitled to compensation and should come forward. “Anyone who used the Safari browser during the relevant period now has the right to join our claim against Google. We urge all Safari users to join us in this battle to hold Google to account for its actions in the only way it understands,” he said.

My hunch is that Google’s legal eagles (maybe solicitor sparrows?) will seek additional legal processes. I do know that the GOOG is not keen on having its dreams thwarted. But I am not sure what Google understands although some people are confident in their grasp of the X Lab crowd.

Stephen E Arnold, March 27, 2015

Google Cloud Launcher and a Sci Fi TV Show

March 27, 2015

Google has diverse interests. First, the most important high school science and math club project.

Google will it seems get into the entertainment biz. You can learn more in “Google Takes Its Web Game to TV.” Yep, I know. Balloons, Glass, and a $70 million hire. All in a day’s work.

Now the less important news. Google posted “Deploy Popular Software Packages Using Cloud Launcher.” For those with search-oriented eyes, Lucene in the form of Elasticsearch (Bitnami)  and Solr in the form of Bitnami’s “infrastructure” solution are available.

Lucene and Solr starts at $6.46 per month. Bitnami is a cloud services company, which is much loved by Amazon’s Werner Vogels.

Amazon is responding with unlimited storage for $60 per year.

A number of observations seem to be warranted:

  1. Google and Amazon are offering what seems bargain basement prices.
  2. Both companies seem to be competing to become the WalMart of services companies
  3. Google wants to be in the entertainment business.

Perhaps the companies will follow the path blazed by Kraft and Heinz. Would a Googlezon simplify life for customers who want tech, toys, and entertainment in a single, easy to use bundle? Competition is less efficient and therefore not logical, right?

Stephen E Arnold, March 27, 2015

FTC and Google: Never Complain, Never Explain Usually

March 26, 2015

I read “FTC Addresses Its Choice Not to Sue Google.” The write up reports that the FTC is explaining its decision not to chase Google around the conference table. Heck, would that tire out the Googlers, making it tough to stay awake in a White House meeting?

According to the write up:

“All five Commissioners (three Democrats and two Republicans) agreed that there was no legal basis for action with respect to the main focus of the investigation — search,” the statement released on Wednesday read. “The Commission’s decision on the search allegations was in accord with the recommendations of the F.T.C.’s Bureau of Competition, Bureau of Economics, and Office of General Counsel.”

I think this means, “No problemo.”

I also found this statement about the FTC’s expertise in information governance interesting:

In the final paragraph of the commissioners’ statement, the agency once more expressed regret at the inadvertent release of its internal document. “We are taking additional steps to ensure that such a disclosure does not occur in the future,” it said.

That’s good. The future. Many search vendors point out that the functions their marketers say are available today really mean in the “future.” Is this a characteristic of our digital era.

Stephen E Arnold, March 26, 2015

IBM Methods Are Alive and Well: Google Goes with Lock In for Search in Africa

March 25, 2015

I assume the information in “Facebook and Google Are Locking In African Customers with Freebie Deals” is accurate. Let me  be upfront. I don’t worry too much about Facebook. Folks using that service make a decision to post information, build friend lists, and do other social functions.

Search is different. A person enters a query and assumes, maybe believes, that the results are objective, accurate, and related to the query itself. I am not sure this utopia exists or that most users, even with graduate degrees, can figure out the difference between information, disinformation, misinformation, or reformation of information.I know it takes considerable work. To see the depth of the problem, run a query for the seemingly innocuous phrase “concept searching.” Check out the results. Nifty, eh?

The article states:

Both companies [Facebook and Google] are rolling out programs in some African countries that give people free internet access—but the complimentary access is contingent on people using their services. Their large-scale world-connectivity projects are tailored to ensure that Facebook and Google become the go-to on-ramps for accessing Internet.

Is the objective market control for the purpose of generating revenue?

The story explains:

It’s hard for companies to compete with Facebook and Google in the US; in Africa, where these tech giants will have a huge leg up on local competitors, it will be even harder. By establishing themselves as home bases for the internet, Facebook and Google are elbowing control over the online experiences of a continent away from would-be domestic entrepreneurs and local startups.

Perhaps Facebook and Google will merge, sort of a Kraft and Heinz type deal. That will provide even more freebies to the markets in Africa, right? Is this article getting close to explaining how a Belgium-type deal was such a plus for the Congo? Absolutely not. The parallels are specious. Neither Facebook or Google is a monarchy. Neither Facebook or Google are interested in natural resources? Neither Facebook or Google wishes to prevent others from serving the markets in Africa.

This is just great marketing for those with a dog in the fight, especially advertisers.

Stephen E Arnold, March 25, 2015

Glass: Not Shattered, Not Dead

March 23, 2015

I read “Google Glass Eyewear Isn’t Dead, Eric Schmidt Confirms.” I think of glass and the word “shattered.” My association with the wonky heads up display elicits these memory hooks:

  • A shattered life, mental stress, a motivated Xiaomi executive
  • A broken marriage
  • The multi-named Babak Parviz’s departure for the sunny climes of the Amazon
  • The coinage “glasshole”.

The write up does not hit my memory triggers. I learned:

Google Glass is “a big and very fundamental platform for Google,” Schmidt told the Wall Street Journal in an interview published Monday. Schmidt went on to say that the company’s decision to stop selling the initial version of the controversial gadget gives Google the opportunity “to make it ready for users.”

There you go. Google stands behind its products and services. The Google Graveyard is obviously not hip the meaning of words used by Googlers.

I get it. Google glass is not broken, opaque, or built according to a lost formula discovered by a stained glass window researcher in Milan. Glass lives. Dodgeball, Google Buzz, the Google Catalog, and maybe Google Plus are alive and very well I presume.

Stephen E Arnold, March 23, 2015

Quote to Note: Google, the FTC, and the Public Good

March 21, 2015

I don’t care too much about the methods Google uses to generate revenue. For more than a decade, I have documented in my books and articles the tools available to a search vendor to perform results shaping, hit boosting, and semantic shading. Heck, I even offer an explanation of the methods available to those outside of Google to accomplish similar ends. I do these lectures for law enforcement and intelligence professionals, so you may have to work through my articles to piece together the who, what, how, when, and why.

I read “Take Google to Court, Staff Report Urged FTC.” Former middle school teachers, self appointed experts, and mid tier consultants have massaged this “revelation” in great and somewhat skewed detail. Suffice it to say, these folks have been uninformed about the GOOG and probably believe that Google enjoys a 65 percent share of North American Web search traffic. Hint: Google’s share of Web search traffic in Denmark and Germany is north of 95 percent. The good old USA is approaching that level of dominance. Take that ComScore and crunch your data again.

In the write up, which you may have to pay to read or go to a library and look for a hard copy of the newspaper, I noted this statement:

“Speculation about potential consumer and competitor harm turned out to be entirely wrong,” Kent Walker, Google’s general counsel, said in a statement. “Since the investigation closed two years ago, the ways people access information online have increased dramatically, giving consumers more choice than ever before.”

There you go, Foundem, Yelp, and the other Web sites most vocal about Google search results. Google makes it clear that Google is doing great things.

Stephen E Arnold, March 21, 2015

Duck Duck Jumbawumba?

March 18, 2015

Usually if you want a private search, free of targeted ads you head on over to While DuckDuckGo holds its on against bigger search engines, because it is the nice guy of search, no one has really come out to challenge water fowl. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a story about another private-based search engine: “Hampton Entrepreneur Seeks To Launch Privacy-Friendly Search Engine,” but you cannot so much as call it a DuckDuckGo rival as another option.

Michael DeKort launched a $125,000 Kickstarter campaign to fund Jumbawumba, a search engine that uses Google’s prowess while retaining a user’s privacy. It also would create cohesive search results using video, images, news, and Web sites on one page, instead of four.

How does it work?

“Jumbawumba taps Google’s vast reach. To Google’s eyes, though, the queries come from Jumbawumba, not from the originating computer, Mr. DeKort said. And while Google, Bing and Yahoo! keep records of each computer’s searches, and use them to tailor advertising, Jumbawumba pledges not to store any data on one-time searches. (It would keep records of ongoing search queries, but wouldn’t sell them to marketing firms, Mr. DeKort said.) Jumbawumba’s computer server will ultimately be overseas, limiting government access, though the company would respect law enforcement subpoenas.”

While private search engines like Jumbawumba will probably never be able to compete with Google, it is good to know that Michael DeKort are fighting to protect online privacy. The more the merrier for private search!

Whitney Grace, March 18, 2015

Stephen E Arnold, Publisher of CyberOSINT at

Loon Has Rough Landing

March 14, 2015

I liked balloons when I was a more youthful version of my ageing self. Now I find the specter of balloons floating over my home during the Kentucky Derby Festival annoying. One of my boxers gets nervous when the shape floats and hisses as the adventurers ignite their burners to keep the puppy, beer can, or globular advertisements aloft.

I read with some enjoyment “It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! Google Balloon Crash Alarms Town.” (If the article disappears, complain to the publisher, not me. Thanks.) I won’t quote from the source because it carries the pound banner of the Associated Press, and I don’t need its legal eagles flapping around my ears.

The point of the write up, as I understand it, is that a Google Loon balloon fell gently from the sky. The location is somewhere  in Veracruz, the state, not the city. I know Google is into search, relevance, inventing the future, and trying to make money as the desktop search model erodes. I know that balloons are generally a benign technology compared to asbestos mining or underwater surveillance of a hostile naval operation. I get it.

One question: What happens if one of these puppies drops gently on a children’s pre-school or does a death spiral into an outdoor market in a rural area?

Relevant? Nah, just search for balloon and get the Wikipedia hit here. I do like the first major entry under “applications”—“Decoration or Entertainment.” Providing wireless service to underserved populations earns nary a mention.

Stephen E Arnold, March 15, 2015

Google: Similarity Function Drifts from Relevance

March 12, 2015

I ran a test query for “Concept Searching,” an indexing outfit. I noticed that Google generated a list of companies with the label “People Also Search For.”


What I find interesting is that the list of companies is a bit of a grab bag. Here is the list presented to me:


  • X1 Technologies, now in the eDiscovery business
  • GenieKnows, an SEO outfit
  • Funnelback, Squizz’s search solution which has gone quiet since David Hawking shifted roles
  • dtSearch, a Microsoft centric desktop and CD-ROM search system for Windows
  • Northern Light Group, now a research firm
  • Coveo, the ageing startup once focused exclusively on Microsoft centric solutions
  • ZyLAB Technologies, a legal document management and search solution
  • Metalogix, a SharePoint migration specialist
  • Convera, one of the spectacular business implosions which I documented in the Xenky profile available at
  • Dieselpoint, a search outfit that went quiet a couple of years ago
  • Axceler, now a unit of Metalogix
  • Fast Search & Transfer, the search company that has the distinction of a financial misstep and a founder with a painful brush with Norwegian law enforcement
  • Exalead, now a unit of Dassault Systèmes, a company which has largely faded from the North American market
  • Expert System, a quite good semantic vendor based in Modena, Italy
  • Vivisimo, a metasearch outfit acquired by IBM and now part of the IBM Big Data machine.

Quite an assortment. I assume that these suggestions are helpful to the LinkedIn experts, the failed webmasters now rebranded as search wizards, and wanna-be academics looking for consulting revenue.

For me, the list is an illustration of what Google wants to do, provide on point suggestions. However, the list makes vivid the limitations of the Google methods. Hey, the company is focusing attention on balloons.

Stephen E Arnold, March 12, 2015

Open Source ElasticSearch Added to Google Cloud Platform

March 12, 2015

ElasticSearch is a popular open source search engine that has been downloaded over 10 million times since it deployed in 2010. Amazon recently announced they are planning on adding an ElasticSearch management service to EC2 to relieve workloads for developers. Rival Google announced on the Google Cloud Platform Blog that they will be adding ElasticSearch compatibility to its own cloud computing platform: “Deploy ElasticSearch On Google Compute Engine.”

The Google Compute Engine is ecstatic that ElasticSearch will be deployed on the platform and are actively encouraging end users to download it. They even made a list about why people need to start using ElasticSearch:

1 “Based on Lucene: Elasticsearch is an open source document-oriented search server based on Lucene. Lucene is a time tested open source library that is capable of reading everything from HTML to PDFs.

2 Designed for cloud: Elasticsearch was designed first for the cloud with its capabilities around simple cluster configuration and discovery and high-availability by default. This means you can expand your Elasticsearch deployment simply by adding new nodes. This expansion of your cluster — or in the case of a hardware failure, reduction — results in automatic reconfiguration of your document indices across the cluster.

3 Native use of JSON over HTTP: Extending the platform is simple for developers. The schema doesn’t need to be defined up front and your cluster can be extended with a variety of libraries in your languages of choice, even using the command line.”

ElasticSearch can be deployed with a few easy clicks ad once it is working you can immediately use it for log processes and analysis with Logstash, keyword text search, and data visualization with Kibana.

Deployment on the Google Compute Engine means ElasticSearch will reach an entirely new customer line. Other open source search engines will be pressured to up their ante with new features and services that ElasticSearch does not have. LucidWorks and other open source based search companies are feeling the pressure.

Whitney Grace, March 12, 2015
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