Yeah, We Are Sorry. Very, Very Sorry

September 8, 2019

If you do not remember the name James Damore, he was a former Google employee who authored the Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber aka the Google memo that described Google’s diversity as an “ideological echo chamber,” where the company believes that disparities are caused by oppression and attempts to fix them through reverse discrimination. Google fired James Damore after the memo made the rounds inside and outside the company. One Redditor named TiredOfLying4Google posted, “I Helped Google Screw Over James Damore” in the James Damore subreddit.

TiredOfLying4Google started that he/she saw the memo internally a month before it went viral. Google human resources did nothing, except send the memo up the reporting chain as internal feedback. When Damore’s memo leaked, Google took action:

“Unfortunately, the memo started spreading within the company. The floodgates opened and previously silent employees started talking. To quell dissent, we: told executives to write to their employees condemning the memo; manipulated our internal Memegen to bias the ratings towards anti-Damore posts (the head of Memegen is an “ally” to the diversity cause); and gave every manager talking points on what to tell their reports about the memo. In all our communications, we concentrated on how hurt employees purportedly were and diverted attention from Google’s discriminatory employment practices and political hegemony, never mind the science.”

TiredOfLying4Google continued that the company wanted to make an example of Damore, so they spied on him and tried to find a reason to terminate his employment. They did not discover anything, but his devices became extremely slow and probably prevented him from rallying support. Upon his dismissal, Google employees were afraid to speak up. TiredOfLying4Google also said that Google’s reputation took a hit.

Damore apparently knew about Google’s dubious practices, including Dragonfly-the censored Chinese search engine. TiredOfLying4Google was surprised Damore did not report those secrets, claiming Damore probably cared about Google.

Google took more extreme measures by cancelling an employee town hall to address the controversy, placed the blame on “alt-right trolls”, planted information with journalists, and controlled the entirety of the NLRB case and class action lawsuit. Google used its money, influence, and power to create false information to support dismissing Damore and keeping their employees in line. Damore does not hold any power and Google will continue to hold sway.

Whitney Grace, September 8, 2019

Google: A Friday Get Together in the Shadow of Dorian

September 7, 2019

When I worked in Sillycon Valley, Friday was a big deal. I am not sure why. Once or twice a month, I would trek to some local joint and hang out with others who worked at our whiz bang technology and cyber data company. In general, the mood was upbeat. We were making money. We did not have vulture capitals roosting on our shiny vehicles. We were not responding to US government mandated document collection tasks.

If the information in Mr. Jeff Bezos’s Washington Post is correct, the Googlers must have concluded that Dorian was pummeling them with rain, high winds, and untethered plastic pool floats. The story is titled “Google Receives Demand for Documents from Justice Dept., Acknowledging Federal Antitrust Scrutiny.” (I was able to read it after wading through the begging-for-dollars pop ups. Really, Mr. Bezos?)

I noted this statement, which may or may not be affected by someone who is breathing the fumes from the Bezos bulldozer idling in front of the Washington Post’s headquarters.

the Justice Department has requested records related to its prior antitrust investigations, marking the tech giant’s first major acknowledgment that it’s a subject of a federal competition probe. The civil-investigative demand — acknowledged in a securities filing and a blog post — comes weeks after Justice Department officials said they would open a broad review of big tech, including search.

Records requests are interesting. On the surface, the request is simple: Gather up the information from “past investigations.” On the other hand, fast-moving, high-tech companies are not really into archiving. Sure, there are document management systems, files on Google Drive, data tucked into USB sticks, paper stored in file cabinets (although some Googlers may not be familiar with actual records management conventions), and maybe –– just maybe — data in a Google social media system.

The unknown, as I understand the document landscape, is to comply with this simple government request.

But — and there is often a but — associated with a simple government request. The content Google provides will be compared with information that the investigators, lawyers, and analysts have.

Anomalies are, in general, not desirable. For example, if the government document reviewers have a document NOT in the Google collection delivered in compliance with the request, an int4eresting question can be raised:

Why did you Google not provide the same information you delivered in the prior antitrust matters? (Translation: We have info in our files from our previous look at you and you a leaving stuff out.)

Now let’s assume that there is information in the government’s file (usually maintained in accordance with assorted guidelines and regulations about US government document retention). Here’s the question:

Why did you provide a document pertinent to a prior antitrust matter that you previously did NOT provide? (Translation: The trove of documents you Google have just delivered includes information we have not seen before. Why?)

You can generate quite a string of questions from this type of matching exercise. Neither question trigger unencumbered joy of pre-demand Friday staff get togethers. (Did you know that Google owns the Sports Page in Mountain View?)

Worth monitoring for two reasons:

  1. Is Google’s record keeping up to snuff?
  2. Are the data provided congruent with what the lawyers, analysts, and investigators have in their files both paper and digital?

A digital Dorian in Mountain View?

Stephen E Arnold, September 7, 2019

YouTube: Wobbling Toward Responsibility

August 17, 2019

With all the problems plaguing YouTube these days, the issue of its copyright infringement reporting system may seem easily overlooked. However, we learn the company has not forgotten about that particular headache in Gizmodo’s article, “YouTube Announces Some Changes to Its Infamously Awful Copyright Infringement System.” While it is important to protect the rights of copyright holders, YouTube’s system for handling infringement claims is famously easy to abuse. Users have often cited videos as violating their own copyrights either in error, by not confirming the use is a violation, or maliciously, as a tool to censor critics or monetize the work of others. Due to the liability rules the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, the platform has reason to err on the side of those who make these claims. Content creators wrongly accused suffer takedowns and, often, financial losses as a result. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, among other critics, have objected to the disparity.

Now, though, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has promised several changes meant to curtail such abuses. First up—narrowing the window of accusation. Writer Tom McKay explains:

“The biggest change is that anyone filing such a copyright claim will have to enter exact timestamps of the alleged violation, which is intended to prevent copyright holders form flagging entire videos in violation willy-nilly. … This is important because creators previously could be left in the dark as to precisely which content was supposedly infringing, whether the video was 10 seconds or multiple hours. YouTube added that it will be reviewing the accuracy of timestamps and ‘copyright owners who repeatedly fail to provide accurate data will have their access to manual claiming revoked.’ (This seems kind of like something that should have already been happening, but okay.)”

Indeed. McKay also observes:

“While these changes will provide some much-needed clarity for YouTubers plagued by copyright claims, they notably don’t do much to level the playing field between rights holders and individuals claiming fair use of material for purposes like criticism, education, news, or research.”

TechCrunch reported that YouTube is changing its music copyright posture. DarkCyber noted this statement in “YouTube Shuts Down Music Companies’ Use of Manual Copyright Claims to Steal Creator Revenue”:

Going forward, copyright owners will no longer be able to monetize creator videos with very short or unintentional uses of music via YouTube’s “Manual Claiming” tool. Instead, they can choose to prevent the other party from monetizing the video or they can block the content. However, YouTube expects that by removing the option to monetize these sorts of videos themselves, some copyright holders will instead just leave them alone.

Quite a situation? Yes, indeed.

Cynthia Murrell, August 17, 2019

US AI Standards Document

August 15, 2019

DarkCyber learned about “U.S. LEADERSHIP IN AI: A Plan for Federal Engagement in Developing Technical Standards and Related Tools.” The research team poked about and located the report. You can, as of August 15, 2019, download the 52 page document at this link. There are some interesting “targets” in the report; for example, the need for documented case examples. A related document has been prepared by AI insiders. You can download this 112 page report at this link. A bit of Binging and Googling (coupled with patience) reveals similar position papers.

DarkCyber’s view is:

  • The authors of these documents are not upfront about the technical balance tipping from the US to other countries’ efforts
  • The spectrum of “flavors” of artificial intelligence
  • The lag between what specific companies are doing and what the bold vision of a smart future will deliver.

How can these issues be addressed? DarkCyber has been noodling about the gaps, the spectrum, and the Borges like reality and fantasy dichotomy for years.

Based on the information presented in these documents, other issues are of greater concern to those wrestling with AI in a decidedly American venue, with US athletes, and a US definition of “world champion.”

In short, a question: What if Jorge Luis Burges’s observation is correct:

Reality is not always probable, or likely.

DarkCyber assumes one could ask IBM Watson or Amazon SageMaker.

Stephen E Arnold, August 15, 2019

Amazon Twitch: Curation, Manipulation, or Exploitation Issues?

August 12, 2019

One of the DarkCyber research team plays games. The rest of the group try to ignore the revolution. Someone at Engadget is into games. We determined this by reading “Ninja Calls Out Twitch after His Dormant Channel Highlights Porn.” “Ninja” is an Internet star who plays games. Ninja had a channel or stream on Amazon Twitch. Ninja left Amazon Twitch for Microsoft’s game streaming service. (No, DarkCyber did not know MSFT was into online games, but obviously with a big star like Ninja, MSFT is more than the red ring of death game console.)

The story is a vector for Ninja’s allegations that Amazon Twitch did a bad game player thing. Ninja’s channel — no longer used by Ninja — became a promotional vehicle for other Twitch gamers. The horror apparently was Hollywood all the way. Plus Amazon Twitch’s quite interesting moderation system allowed Ninja’s dormant channel to be to be used by other Twitchers to stream porn. This is bad, it seems, because the Twitch users wanted to watch Ninja play games, not watch actual humanoid interactions.

The write up points out:

We’ve asked Twitch for comment. Whatever its response, this isn’t a great look for the service. It was no surprise that Ninja’s stream would scale back (Twitch partners aren’t allowed to stream on rival services), many only expected it to remain idle, not become a billboard for other broadcasters. It certainly underscores the significance of Ninja’s switch. His leap to Mixer represented a competitive blow, and Twitch clearly wasn’t happy about it. Update 8/11 5:55PM ET: That was fast — Twitch has already reverted Ninja’s old page to a regular offline screen, including chat (where people are roasting Twitch as we write this).

A couple of questions:

  • Does Amazon Twitch have a method to use unused channels to promote other Twitch streams? If so, what is it? Happenstance, a SageMaker function, or a rule book?
  • What will Amazon change to prevent porn from being displayed to the young people who follow popular gamers like Ninja?
  • Does Amazon monetize questionable content; for example, SweetSaltyPeach now banned and brought back as RachelKay and similar streamers who appeal to teen agers?

Amazon Twitch, in its own way, is behaving in a manner which might/could develop into a formal investigation by an appropriate US government entity.

Stephen E Arnold, August 12, 2019

 

Google: Ever Flexible, Ever Accommodating to Its Values

July 7, 2019

Is Google taking its workers’ concerns seriously? Business magazine Inc. levels some strong criticism at the company in its piece, “Google Rejected Employees’ Plea to Reform its Sexual Harassment Policy. Here’s Why that Is a Big Mistake.” Sure, Google did make a few changes to its policy after last year’s walkout, but those changes fell short of employee demands. Shareholders attempted to remedy that at their June meeting with a simple proposal:

“RESOLVED, Shareholders request management review its policies related to sexual harassment to assess whether the Company needs to adopt and implement additional policies and to report its findings, omitting proprietary information and prepared at a reasonable expense by December 31, 2019.”

Sounds reasonable to right? Not, apparently, to Google’s board of directors, which recommended against the resolution, or Larry Page or Sergey Brin, who’s “no” votes held the weight of their combined 51% of the vote. (The two cofounders together own only 13% of the stock, but that’s a paradox for another time.) On top of that, company brass demonstrated their disdain for the issue: CEO Sundar Pichai refused to answer questions at the meeting, and neither Page nor Brin even bothered to show up. Writer Suzanne Lucas reproaches the company:

“Rejecting a proposal to assess sexual harassment policies basically states, ‘We’re happy as we are.’ Except, the ‘we’ here includes all employees (and contractors) who aren’t happy. And Alphabet leadership blatantly indicated that they were not interested in listening to the little people. … “When you don’t show up, you don’t answer questions, and the voting is ‘ceremonial’ rather than meaningful, you’re screaming, ‘I don’t care!’ And while businesses exist to make money, you can’t keep a business going with unhappy employees. If you don’t listen to reasonable proposals, you’re not going to keep people happy.”

Indeed. Lucas outlines four components she says make for an effective sexual harassment policy: bright-line rules; investigating each and every claim, preferably through an outside entity if executives are involved; making no exceptions for the most valuable employees; and open reporting within the company (without naming names). See the write-up for details on each of these points.

Will Google change its tune, or will it continue to pretend it does not have a sexual harassment problem? Time’s up. A or B?

Cynthia Murrell, July 7, 2019

Google: Instructional Hacking Policy Is Nothing New

July 6, 2019

I read “YouTube Says Its Policy on Instructional Hacking Videos Isn’t New.” The subtitle for the article is:

But a specific ban against instructional hacking could have negative consequences.

Maybe bad publicity?

The write up states:

This week Kody Kinzie, co-founder of the ethical hacker group Hacker Interchange, reported that its YouTube channel had received a strike for breaking one of its rules. Which rule? A ban against “Instructional hacking and phishing: Showing users how to bypass secure computer systems.” Fellow information security professionals and others — including some Google employees — came out in support of the Null Byte channel and its Cyber Weapons Lab series, while YouTube retracted the strike and reinstated the removed videos.

Yes, information is bad, no good. Plus, flip flops are part of a busy, bright Googler’s day.

The article includes a list of bad things one must not do on the Google. Examples include eating disorders and instructional theft. What is “instructional theft”? Stealing Sony Vegas 15? I noted this statement in what appears to be an official Google statement of policy:

Please note this is not a complete list.

DarkCyber has come across information designed to meet the needs of individuals with an unusual interest in the behaviors of young children, data about hacking commercial software, videos supporting the for fee activities of “talent” who collect money via “donations”, and similar topics. Example? Sure, how about this:

image

Several observations:

  • Policies are a bit like those implemented by parents who say, “Because I said so.”
  • Google generates situational decisions because its policy appears to be “react”, handwave, and move on
  • Responsibility for what Apple’s Tim Cook calls chaos is an uncomfortable burden and best left for others to shoulder. Interns? New hires? People who cannot catch on with a hot project team? Castoffs from Dodgeball, Orkut, WebAccelerator, etc.?

Fascinating stuff, particularly the “Please note this is not a complete list.” Perhaps there is no list, just whatever whatever is needed to douse a brush fire and generate clouds of smoke to season red herrings?

Stephen E Arnold, July 6, 2019

Microsoft and Data Practices: No Backups as a Little Aerial Burst Burns Backup Floppies

July 4, 2019

I read “Microsoft Restores Deleted Technet and MSDN Blogs.” The title is incorrect. DarkCyber suggests “Microsoft Cannot Restore Deleted Blogs Because Backup Practices Fail.” I rarely pay attention to old Microsoft anything. Sure, we noticed that a desktop computer reported that the registration code was no longer valid. We plugged in another legal code and forgot about Microsoft’s odd ineptness with any type of data management. Hey, where are my digital books?

The point of this write up deep in the hollows of rural Kentucky is encapsulated in this passage from the write up:

The problem with the above delete and restore operation: Apparently there was no backup, but you had to restore it from any backups. There is a risk that parts will be lost or that the structure will not return in its old form.

Ever wonder why backups of SQLServer don’t work? Ever wonder where documents went in SharePoint? What happened to historical data in Bing queries?

If the above statement highlight in red is accurate, the reason is that Microsoft’s data practices leave something to be desired; for example, stringent application of such mantras as 1, 2, 3 backup procedures and software that sort of actually works. Hey, where are those restore points?

In the last few days, Facebook nuked itself. Google undergoes self inflicted carpet bombing consistently. Now Microsoft reveals that a fundamental function has been ignored or simply does not work.

What’s up? Complexity hides problems until the fragility of the super duper structures break down. Of course, if the write up is sour grapes, Microsoft remains just the wonderfulest outfit in the digital world.

Stephen E Arnold, July 4, 2019

Bilderberg Attendees

June 28, 2019

Who attended the exclusive Bilderberg meeting this year?

It is the most prestigious and consequential meeting you may never have heard of, and it has been going on since 1954. The Bilderberg Meeting is an annual conference where elites from Europe and North America discuss the fate of the world. Originally formed to avoid another World War, the gathering includes some 120 to 150 of the world’s top movers and shakers in politics, industry, finance, academics, and the media. This year’s meeting was held in Dresden, Germany, the first week of June and, thanks to From the Trenches World Report, we know who was invited—just see the “Bilderberg 2019 Annotated Members List.” Blogger Video Rebel introduces their roster:

“I prefer an in depth look at the participants which is why I have been doing annotated Bilderberg participants lists for several years. This year has lots of AI experts. As usual lots of military experts and bankers plus media and politicians. But lots of experts in populist revolts and movements. Based on their invitations to attend, they seem to want to co-opt gender studies, Gays, Greens and the Trump administration.”

We are interested to see the increase in AI experts; that makes sense right now. Navigate to the write-up for the full list, but here are some names that caught my eye: Jared Cohen, Jared Kushner, Eric Schmidt, and Peter Thiel. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall for some of those conversations!

Cynthia Murrell, June 24, 2019

The Jedi Return: Page and Brin Address Those Perceived to Be Really Smart

June 11, 2019

I read “Elusive Google Co-Founders Make Rare Appearance at Town Hall Meeting.” What these fine innovators do is not likely to become a talking point in Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky. I did note this passage in the write up:

Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have long been the stars of the search giant’s weekly “TGIF” town hall meetings. But for the past six months, the pair had been no-shows, an absence that coincided with Google controversies over antitrust concerns, work in China and military contracts.

Interesting but what happened to the discrimination and sexual harassment dust ups? I assume that certain management flubs are more important than others. It is clear that the researcher working on this CNet article did not come across information about a certain liaison which triggered a divorce and an attempted suicide. And what about the Googler, the yacht, the alleged female of ill repute, and a drug overdose? Obviously fake, irrelevant, or long-forgotten items I assume.

I also noted this passage:

The disappearing act drew criticism from those who see Page’s and Brin’s absence as dodging accountability during the most tumultuous period in the company’s 20-year history.

What’s that reminder about correlation and causation? Probably the six month hiatus is a refine of the firm’s management techniques. Are there antecedents? What about restructuring to Alphabet to provide more insulation in the Googleplex from the heat of certain investigations? What about the “Gee, we’re not really working on a China centric search system”?

How about this statement from the article?

But as Google’s issues mount, the company’s co-founders have faded into the background.

There’s even a reference to the YouTube clown car.

Most recently, Google-owned YouTube drew blowback last week after the service refused to take down the channel of Steven Crowder, a conservative comedian who hurled homophobic slurs at Carlos Maza, a Vox journalist and video host who is gay.

And the discrimination and retribution approach to human resources warranted a comment:

One of the questions during the Q&A portion of the May 30 TGIF concerned alleged retaliation from management against employees, according to a partial transcript viewed by CNET. The question was about the departure of Claire Stapleton, a Google walkout organizer who said she was unfairly targeted because of her role in the protest. Stapleton announced her resignation in a blog post Friday. The questioner asked if “outside objectivity” could be added to HR investigations.

The write up is interesting, but there are aspects of the Google matter which warrant amplification, if not by the real new outfit CNet, then some other entity, perhaps former MBA adjunct professors embracing the gig economy of the MBA implosion?

What the write up makes clear but does not explain is the unwillingness of the Google to be forthright about what it has done, when it began to implement certain interesting monetization procedures, and how it decided upon certain management processes to deflect criticism and understanding of the firm’s Titanic algorithms.

The CNet write up is interesting, not for what it reveals, but for its omissions. Today that’s real news.

Stephen E Arnold, June 11, 2019

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