Facebook: Reluctant But Why?

January 26, 2022

The write up concerns Facebook in Australia. Australia has good relationships with the US. The bonds between Australia and the United Kingdom seem to be in reasonable shape as well. Australia, it seems to me, has been an origin point for some interesting ideas related to online.

Meta Most Reluctant to Work with Government: Home Affairs” points out that Meta (originally just plain old super community minded Facebook) is less enthusiastic about working with Australia’s government than some of its very large, possibly monopolistic fellow travelers.

The write up reports:

In a submission to the House Select Committee Inquiry into Social Media and Online Safety, Home Affairs criticized Meta for not doing enough to protect its users and for not adequately engaging with the government on these issues. In its own submission, Meta said it has “responded constructively” to Australian government inquiries and is “highly responsive” to local regulators.

I think this means that Meta is doing a better job at foot dragging than some other big technology firms. Like Meta’s recognition as the worst company in the United States, the highly responsive outfit has tallied points in the “less enthusiastic” competition.

The Australian government and Meta have other issues which have caused the US company to arm wrestle with Australian officials; for example, encryption of Facebook Messenger content, dealing with Australian media’s interest in compensation for its content, and ideas about privacy.

The write up does not answer the question “But why?”

To fill the void, may I suggest a cou8ple of reasons:

  1. Keep people in the dark. Disclosures about Meta technology, business practices, or data systems might inform the Australian government. With the information, the Australian government could formulate some new ideas about fining or controlling the community focused US outfit. In short, Meta information may lead to meta prosecution perhaps?
  2. Take steps to prevent data moving around the Five Eyes. Information disclosed in Australia might find its way to the US and the UK. Despite these countries’ security methods, some of that disclosed data could seep into the efficient machinery of the European Union. It is conceivable that the risk of becoming even more responsive to Australia increases the risk of EU action with regard to the community oriented social media company.
  3. Circle the wagons to prevent user defections. Cooperating in any way that become public could cause some Meta users to delete their accounts and prevent others in their span of control from using Meta services. This means a loss of revenue, and a loss of revenue has downside consequences; namely, encouragement for other high technology companies to nose into Meta territory.

I want to emphasize none of these ideas appear in the write up cited above. Furthermore, these are views which I developed talking with my colleagues about Meta.

Net net: Meta does not want information about its systems, methods, research, and policies. Frances Haugen, it seems, did not get that email.

Stephen E Arnold, January 26, 2022

A Comparison: US Vs. European Government Methods

January 21, 2022

I know one thing about 5G. The T Mobile super high speed service delivers data more slowly than my 4G / LTE service. Thus, it is difficult for me to accept that the pig slow 5G in rural Kentucky is a threat to aircraft eager to land on the dirt road used by certain characters in the Commonwealth.

I noted “5G Is Grounding Planes and Freaking Out Airlines: We Found Out Why.” I want to sidestep the somewhat interesting discussion about who shot John, the 5G expert. The US government and the airlines are wrestling with US 5G carriers. The main idea is a minor one; that is, 5G signals in the C band emitted from vertically mounted towers could — note the word could — cause an aircraft to demonstrate one of Newton’s Laws in an expensive way.

But here’s the quote which caught my attention:

The issues haven’t affected other countries as badly because they don’t use the same 5G frequencies as the US. In Europe, for instance, the network operates on a wavelength that is less likely to cause interference. Both the EU’s Aviation Safety Authority and the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority say there’s no such problem with their networks. China and Australia have also rolled out 5G without any issues with aircraft…. Critics have also pointed the finger at the federal government. They’ve blamed the Trump administration for failing to create a national spectrum policy and the Biden administration for the chaotic rollout. Somehow, Europe’s collection of crappy governments has avoided such problems. [Emphasis added by the Beyond Search editor]

Interesting. Now European governments have a larger challenge to surmount. Vacationing in Kiyv perhaps?

Stephen E Arnold, January  21, 2022

Big Tech: Back in Front of Informed Elected Officials Again

January 14, 2022

I read “Jan. 6 Committee Subpoenas Tech Giants after Inadequate Responses.” The write up states:

The subpoenas demand that Facebook, Google, Reddit and Twitter turn over more information about what they did and didn’t do in the lead-up to Jan. 6.

I stopped reading. Here’s what went on in my mind with the same impact as a trailer for “Don’t Look Up.”

ELECTED OFFICIAL INTERROGATES HIGH TECH EXECUTIVE:

Were you aware that your service was used to coordinate activities related to the January 6, 2022, incident in the months leading up to the date?

HIGH TECH EXECUTIVE RESPONSE:

Respectfully congressperson, our system is automated and appropriate actions were taken in real time by our artificial intelligence content moderation system.

ELECTED OFFICIAL INTERROGATES HIGH TECH EXECUTIVE:

What actions were taken?

HIGH TECH EXECUTIVE RESPONSE:

Congressperson, thank you for the question, I will have to obtain specific information after I return to my home office. I will forward that data to you and will answer any questions you have.

ELECTED OFFICIAL INTERROGATES HIGH TECH EXECUTIVE:

What do you know about the use of your platform to coordinate activities on the day of January 6, 2021?

HIGH TECH EXECUTIVE RESPONSE:

Congressperson, thank you for the question, I do not have at this time any knowledge of what our systems or the managers of those systems did on that particular day. I will, of course, gather any information available and provide that to your office.

ELECTED OFFICIAL INTERROGATES HIGH TECH EXECUTIVE:

We did ask for that information, and you did not provide the information. What do you have to say for yourself?

HIGH TECH EXECUTIVE RESPONSE:

Congressperson, I appreciate the opportunity to respond to that question. We did provide information about the January 6, 2021, incident. If that information was not what was needed, I sincerely apologize for the misunderstanding. I am really, really, really sorry. Immediately after this hearing, I will coordinate with my team. We definitely will provide any  data available to us from the events which took place more than one year ago. With the hard copies, we will include a selection of tchotchkes, including our mouse pad with color logo, a flashing LED logo pin, and a T shirt for you. Are you a size extra large or extra extra large?

ELECTED OFFICIAL INTERROGATES HIGH TECH EXECUTIVE:

Thank you for your testimony, but it seems familiar to me. My time is up. I yield to my colleague from the great State of California.

Stephen E Arnold, January 14, 2022

Amazon: A Decision Imposed and A Practice Challenged

January 12, 2022

Alexa.com, purportedly named for legendary bastion of knowledge the Library at Alexandria, has been a go-to tool for traffic-based web rankings, APIs, and other website information for 25 years. Now, however, Amazon is pulling the plug on the subsidiary. Bleeping Computer announces, “Amazon Is Shutting Down Web Ranking Site Alexa.com.” Perhaps Alexa the AI assistant wanted the name all to itself. New subscriptions have been halted, but existing subscribers will have access to Amazon data and SEO tools until May 1, 2022. Amazon APIs will be retired on December 8, 2022. Writer Mayank Parmar reports:

“In addition to the global website ranking system, Amazon’s Alexa.com also offers a full suite of SEO and competitor analysis tools with its paid subscriptions. In a new support document, Amazon says that it will be discontinuing the Alexa.com platform in May 2022 and no new monthly stats will be released going forward. ‘Twenty-five years ago, we founded Alexa Internet. After two decades of helping you find, reach, and convert your digital audience, we’ve made the difficult decision to retire Alexa.com on May 1, 2022. Thank you for making us your go-to resource for content research, competitive analysis, keyword research, and so much more,’ the company stated.”

Meanwhile, Reuters tells us good old Italy is trying to fight back against the Amazon behemoth in, “Italy Fines Amazon Record €1.3 Bln for Abuse of Market Dominance.” Reporters Elvira Pollina and Maria Pia Quaglia write:

“Italy’s watchdog said in a statement that Amazon had leveraged its dominant position in the Italian market for intermediation services on marketplaces to favor the adoption of its own logistics service – Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) – by sellers active on Amazon.it. The authority said Amazon tied to the use of FBA access to a set of exclusive benefits, including the Prime label, that help increase visibility and boost sales on Amazon.it. … The antitrust authority also said it would impose corrective steps that will be subject to review by a monitoring trustee.”

This comes as the EU Commission is pursuing two of its own investigations into Amazon. One involves the use of sensitive data from independent retailers. The other considers whether the company elevated its own retail offers and those of sellers that use its logistics and delivery services over offers from other vendors. The €1.13 billion fine is one of the largest to be levied on a US tech company by a European entity, but will it be enough to give Amazon pause? Along with its compatriots/rivals Google and Facebook, the company has a history of shrugging off what seem to most like large fees and carrying on with business as usual.

Cynthia Murrell, January 12, 2022

A Sporty Cyber Centric Write Up with Key Information Left Out

January 10, 2022

I read “Experts Detail Logging Tool of DanderSpritz Framework Used by Equation Group Hackers.” The main point of the write up is that some clever cyber people have been working to figure out how a particular exploit works. The exploit is called DanderSpritz, which is a full featured framework for obtaining useful information from a target system. The Shadow Brokers leaded the software in 2017. It took the folks writing the article four years to figure out the method. Non US outfits figured it out more quickly. What’s left out of the write up?

I noted these omissions:

  1. Details of the DanderSpritz methods incorporated into other exploit tools
  2. Explanation of who and what the Equation Group is. The Web site link does not provide substantive information.
  3. Why do long between the release of the exploit and a public analysis?

Personally I would not get too frisky when it comes to the Equation Group. I apply this type of thinking to any outfit conveniently located near an NSA facility. In the case of Shadow Brokers, my recollection is that this outfit found a way to obtain Equation Group code. My hunch is that this is a sore point for the Equation Group, and the embarrassment of the DanderSpritz dump may still cause some red faces.

Stephen E Arnold, January 7, 2022

Tech Giants: We Do What We Want. Got That?

January 3, 2022

I spotted “AT&T, Verizon Refuse US Request to Delay 5G Launch.” The main point of the story is that two big Baby Bells (remember them?) are showing their Bell Telephone DNA. The story states:

AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. rejected a request from the U.S. federal transportation officials to delay their planned launch on January 5 of a new variation of 5G wireless services.

The US government is concerned that those outstanding 5G wave forms could have a negative impact on air traffic. I think that this means “cause crashes.” Of course, I am probably incorrect. However, the US government is worried the allegedly zippy 5G might disrupt a device: Maybe a passenger’s pacemaker or create interference when a pilot checks something on an official Boeing certified iPad.

Several observations have surfaced among my Beyond Search and DarkCyber teams:

  1. The government is late to the game… again. Lateness means either failing with the big tech crowd or getting a detention slip in the form of zero technical support for the annoying official
  2. Big tech makes clear that the US government is irrelevant and will do what it wants. The drill is outrage, hearing, an apology, and then no changes
  3. Significant encouragement for outfits like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google to move forward: Deals with China, predatory pricing, cooperation on certain technical matters, and maintaining these firms’ alleged monopolies.

Net net: Quite a way to start 2022 because ignoring the 5G issue signals product managers to amp up their methods in order to generate more revenue.

Stephen E Arnold, January 3, 2022

Facebook: Making Friends in the USAF

December 31, 2021

This is a short post sparked by this Financial Times’ article: “Facebook to Build Metaverse with Start-Up That Had US Military Contracts.”

The main idea is that Facebook bought a company. The firm — Reverie— will work with Meta Facebook thing’s Reality Labs. But the bonus move is that the Meta Facebook thing was terminated when the Meta Facebook thing bought Reverie. The venerable and generally respectable Financial Times pointed out that the Meta Facebook thing would “not be involved with any future defense or military AI development.”

Okay. My hunch is that a Meta Facebook thing employee whose child seeks to enter the Air Force Academy may find that some of those involved in the selection process may remember this “not be involved with any future defense or military AI development.”

Who likes this type of business decision? Maybe the Chinese and Russian military leadership? But that’s just a thought from the wilds of rural Kentucky. The Meta Facebook thing knows what’s best for itself and, of course, the US government.

Stephen E Arnold, December 31, 2021

Log4Shell: Tough to Hide This Fire

December 28, 2021

Billy Joel is absolutely right when he sang the acclaimed song “We Didn’t Start The Fire” about the world’s slow demise. Unlike the planet, the Internet is regularly set ablaze and the demise is quick. The current flame is “Log4Shell” and it gives bad actors back doors into clouds and enterprise systems to steal data, download malware, erase information, and cause mayhem. AP News explores the breach in: “‘The Internet’s On Fire’ As Techs Race To Fix Software Flaw.”

The bug dubbed “Log4Shell” originated in open source Apache software used to run Web sites and other Web services. While open source software is a boon to the world, it is not updated as quickly as proprietary software. Amazon, for example, updates itself daily while systems running Apache only update at their owners’ behest.

Funny enough the “Log4Shell” vulnerability was first noticed in a children’s game:

“The first obvious signs of the flaw’s exploitation appeared in Minecraft, an online game hugely popular with kids and owned by Microsoft. Meyers and security expert Marcus Hutchins said Minecraft users were already using it to execute programs on the computers of other users by pasting a short message in a chat box.Microsoft said it had issued a software update for Minecraft users. ‘Customers who apply the fix are protected, it said.”

Cyber security is not child’s play, but hacking is for some bad actors. Thankfully developers are working on a patch to prevent further damage. Security professionals really should not panicking and combine their knowledge to find a solution quicker.

A couple of points:

  1. The issue allegedly was disclosed by an Alibaba tech professional, possibly Chen Zhaojun
  2. China suspender an apparently “big” cyber security deal with Alibaba after the disclosure

Are these two actions connected; specifically, did China lose control of a really nifty zero day? Beyond Search thinks that the career trajectory of some Alibaba professionals will be interesting to watch. Are there IT jobs in Ürümqi?

Whitney Grace, December 28, 2021

 

Whitney Grace, December 27, 2021

Russia May Not Contribute to the Tor Project in 2022

December 28, 2021

This is probably not a surprise to those involved with the Tor Project. We noted some evidence of Russia’s view of anonymized Internet browsing in “Russia Blocks Privacy Service Tor In Latest Move To Control Internet.” The article reports:

Russia’s media regulator has blocked the online anonymity service Tor in what is seen as the latest move by Moscow to bring the Internet in Russia under its control. Roskomnadzor announced it had blocked access to the popular service on December 8, cutting off users’ ability to thwart government surveillance by cloaking IP addresses.

The Tor Project responded with some tech tips for ways to get around the Putin partition. (Think Tor bridge. Some details are at this link.)

Does this mean that Russia has no interest in Tor? Nope. We think that some of Mr. Putin’s fellow travelers are hosting Tor relay servers, but that’s just something we heard from a person yapping about freedom.

What’s next? How about blocking any service originating in nation states not getting with Mr. Putin’s Ukrainian program? It is unlikely that Sergey Brin’s flight on a Russian rocket ship will become a reality in 2022. We also heard that the Google Cloud hosts some services that Mr. Putin thinks may erode the freedoms enjoyed by Russian citizens.

Stephen E Arnold, December 28, 2021

Red Kangaroos? Maybe a Nuisance. Online Trolls? Very Similar

December 16, 2021

It is arguable that trolls are the worst bullies in history, because online anonymity means they do not face repercussions. Trolls’ behavior caused innumerable harm, including suicides, psychological problems, and real life bullying. Local and international governments have taken measures to prevent cyber bullying, but ABC Australia says the country continent is taking a stand: “Social Media Companies Could Be Forced To Give Out Names And Contact Details, Under New Anti-Troll Laws.”

Australia’s federal government is drafting laws that could force social media companies to reveal trolls’ identities. The new legislation aims to hold trolls accountable for their poor behavior by having social media companies collect user information and share it with courts in defamation cases. The new laws would also hold social media companies liable for hosted content instead of users and management companies. Australia’s prime minister stated:

“Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he wanted to close the gap between real life and discourse online. ‘The rules that exist in the real world must exist in the digital and online world,’ he said. ‘The online world shouldn’t be a wild west, where bots and bigots and trolls and others can anonymously go around and harm people and hurt people.’”

The new law would require social media companies to have a complaints process for people who feel like they have been defamed. The process would ask users to delete defamatory material. If they do not, the complaint could be escalated to where users details are shared to issue court orders so people can pursue defamation action.

One of the biggest issues facing the legislation is who is responsible for trolls’ content. The new law wants social media companies to be held culpable. The complaints system would allow the social media companies to use it as a defense in defamation cases.

The article does not discuss what is deemed “defamatory” content. Anything and everything is offensive to someone, so the complaints system will be abused. What rules will be instituted to prevent abuse of the complaints system? Who will monitor it and who will pay for it? An analogous example is YouTube system of what constitutes as “appropriate” children’s videos and how they determine flagged videos for intellectual theft as well as inappropriate content. In short, YouTube’s system is not doing well.

The social media companies should be culpable in some way, such as sharing user information when there is dangerous behavior, i.e.e suicide, any kind of abuse, child pornography, planned shooting attacks and other crimes. Sexist and abusive comments that are not an opinion, i.e., saying someone should die or is stupid for being a woman, should be monitored and users held accountable. It is a fine line, though, determining the dangers in many cases.

Whitney Grace, December 16, 2021

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