December 8, 2016
I read “Activists Back Google’s Appeal against Canadian Order to Censor Search Results.” The write up appears in a “real” journalistic endeavor, a newspaper in fact. (Note that newspapers are facing an ad revenue Armageddon if the information in “By 2020 More Money Will Be Spent on Online Ads Than on Radio or Newspapers” is accurate.)
The point of the “real” journalistic endeavor’s write up is to point out that censorship could get a bit of a turbo boost. I highlighted this passage:
In an appeal heard on Tuesday [December 6, 2016] in the supreme court of Canada, Google Inc took aim at a 2015 court decision that sought to censor search results beyond Canada’s borders.
If the appeal goes south, a government could instruct the Google and presumably any other indexing outfit to delete pointers to content. If one cannot find online information, that information may cease to be findable. Ergo. The information does not exist for one of the search savvy wizards holding a mobile phone or struggling to locate a US government document.
The “real” journalistic endeavor offers:
A court order to remove worldwide search results could threaten free expression if it catches on globally – where it would then be subject to wildly divergent standards on freedom of speech.
It is apparently okay for a “real” journalistic endeavor to prevent information from appearing in its information flows as long as the newspaper is doing the deciding. But when a third party like a mere government makes the decision, the omission is a very bad thing.
I don’t have a dog in this fight because I live in rural Kentucky, am an actual addled goose (honk!), and find that so many folks are now realizing the implications of indexing digital content. Let’s see. Online Web indexes have been around and free for 20, maybe 30 years.
There is nothing like the howls of an animal caught in a trap. The animal wandered into or was lured into the trap. Let’s howl.
Stephen E Arnold, December 8, 2016
December 6, 2016
I read a weird, sort of out-of-time write up from the “real” journalistic outfit the Washington Post. The story is “Pentagon Buries Evidence of $125 Billion in Bureaucratic Waste.” The days of the fun Golden Fleece Award have passed us by. The Washington Post is apparently trying to revivify an interesting series of announcements about expensive, inefficient US government processes. I know the US government is a paragon of efficiency, so I was curious about the hot news which I read on December 5, 2016. If the url doesn’t work, you may have to pay to view the Bezos paper’s content. Don’t hassle me. Contact the big guy at the digital Wal-Mart.
The “news” in the story is that a 2015 report HAS BEEN REMOVED FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE WEB SITE. The capital letters are necessary because the investigative team at the Bezos paper has discovered that a white hot report is no longer findable.
Guidepost for some real journalists. Helpful and apparently accurate.
Okay, that’s just not true.
The report “Transforming DoD’s Core Business Processes for Revolutionary Change” is available. Just click this DTIC link for the short version and this link for the 140+ page version. Dive into the document which was in preparation for more than a year. The reports appeared in January 2015. It took me exactly 20 seconds to navigate to USA.gov, enter the title of the report, and identify the document in the result list. Sure, the USA.gov search relevance thing is not too good, but the document is indeed online from a unit of the Department of Defense. (I wonder if the intrepid Bezos paper researchers have sought ZPIC and RAC contract information on the US government’s fraud related Web sites. There’s a story there.)
This report was assembled in 2014 and made available in 2015. The Bezos paper rolled out the “Pentagon Buries…” write up on December 5, 2016. That’s a bit like reporting that in 2014 Wiz Khalifa’s “We Dem Boyz“ was a reasonably popular rap song. Run the story today and you have a real timely report. That’s “real” journalism.
The DoD fiddles with its Web site frequently. Try and locate details of the 2015 DCGS meeting in Virginia. The information is online, but due to the spiffing up of US government Web sites, content seems to disappear. In some cases like the MIC, RAC, and ZPIC information, a contractor or a clever government Web master moves content from a public folder to a non-public folder. Some bureaucrats are not completely ditzy.
The DoD, however, is another kettle of fish. The agency has to deal with the tanks it does not want yet it continues to receive, the F-35 thing, and the stealth ship which is neither stealthy or ready to take a quick spin to Jeju this afternoon. These expensive projects are difficult to hide. Notice I did not mention my fave US government project, the Distributed Common Ground System available (sort of) in Air Force and Army flavors.
My point is that “investigations” implies something substantive, reasonably new, and not widely known. The “Pentagon Buries…” write up is not new. Its information is widely known even here in rural Kentucky, and I would presume by legions of Beltway Bandits who wonder what the Trumpeteers will do to their highly polished apple carts used to ferry proposals and invoices to the the Department of Defense and assorted sub entities.
In an era during which real journalists at outfits like the Guardian REALIZE THAT FREE WEB SEARCH IS NOT WHAT IT SEEMS, I conclude that the “real” journalists prefer old news to tracking down something of substance which is current. Even my comment about MIC, RAC, and ZPIC contracts is old news. I keep the juicy new stuff to myself.
Because I am not a “real” journalist, I sell information because I am a semi retired consultant. Watch for “Dark Web Notebook.” The monograph contains information not previously collected. Some of the information is “actual factual” just like the podcast by three millennials. Perhaps the Bezos paper will buy a copy? I know better than to put the study on Amazon. I watched the horror of the Schubmehl thing, which tried to hawk eight pages of my research for $3,500 on the digital Wal-Mart. What was that “wizard” thinking? Maybe he could work at the Bezos paper? Might be a good fit.
Stephen E Arnold, December 6, 2016
December 6, 2016
The article titled Google’s Murky Washington Lobbying Is Making Apple Look Good on Observer points out yet another area of shady activity by Google. In the last five to ten years, Google has led the charge of tech firms into Washington, D.C. Google employees include multiple ex-White House staffers, and vice versa, Google spends tens of millions on lobbying per year (compared to Apple’s measly $5M) and Google donated over a million dollars to various political candidates in 2014 through its PAC. The article presents why this is not ideal:
Google has built significant relationships with the US government – directly through the revolving door of personnel, traditional lobbying, political contributions; and indirectly through trade associations and other advocacy groups. The lack of transparency, especially for a company that specializes in information, is problematic. Google’s very calculated strategy has bought out new critics, including some shareholders. Given the climate Google operates in most people would expect transparency, and instead Google has chosen opacity, which is troubling.
As we know, the American people get very antsy when it comes to the state of our oligarchy. We are keenly aware of the huge amounts of money being passed around, especially when it comes to lobbying. At this point, the only company spending more on lobbying than Google is GE. But what exactly this money buys for Google remains murky, and that should make us all extremely uncomfortable.
Chelsea Kerwin, December 6, 2016
December 4, 2016
DCGS (pronounced dee-sigs by those inside the Beltway and dee-see-gee-ess by folks in Harrod’s Creek) may be heading to some changes. What is DCGS? Who are the DCGS vendors? What are the contracts worth? DCGS is a 15 year old project to provide one screen with federated intelligence, war fighting, and Web information. What are the contracts worth? Lots. Think hundreds of millions for some Beltway outfits. Some of the vendors appear in the list below:
Now to the meat of this write up. Here are the top 10 tips for DCGS incumbent vendors to have on hand if [a] their employer loses some DCGS deals, [b] employees and contractors working on DCGS projects get fired, RIFed, or terminated but without extreme prejudice, or [c] need some ideas to prepare for a future elsewhere (perhaps Palantir?).
Identify six different Starbuck’s and rotate your visits. You don’t want the “regulars” to know you are flipping rocks for work.
Hit Second Story Books or Capitol Hill Books for a copy of the classic job hunters’ manual What Color Is Your Parachute?
Convert your home office into an AirBnB rental to generate some extra dolares en efectivo.
Inform your significant other that he/she has to get a second job, possibly at Wendy’s or McDonald’s.
Add more content to your Microsoft LinkedIn résumé. (Note: Do not select need the “secret” job search option. You do not have an employer.)
Switch to Sunmark antacids with calcium instead of Whole Foods’ select mixed nuts.
Sign up to drive for Uber.
Tell your children they need more exposure to diversity and will switch to local public schools immediately.
Inform your family that holiday gifts will be purchased at the Montgomery County Thrift Shop in Bethesda or the Goodwill in Ashburn.
Cancel that cruise to the Norwegian fjords. Vacation this year is a trip to Wal-Mart Supercenter on Georgia Avenue NW.
Please, have a footless and fancy free 2017. Plus, remember to sign up for unemployment.
Stephen E Arnold, December 4, 2016
November 28, 2016
Owing to geopolitical differences, countries like Iran are turning towards like-minded nations like Russia for technological developments. Russian Diplomat posted in Iran recently announced that home-grown search engine service provider Yandex will offer its services to the people of Iran.
Financial Tribune in a news report Yandex to Arrive Soon said that:
Last October, Russian and Iranian communications ministers Nikolay Nikiforov and Mahmoud Vaezi respectively signed a deal to expand bilateral technological collaborations. During the meeting, Russian Ambassador Vaezi said, We are familiar with the powerful Russian search engine Yandex. We agreed that Yandex would open an office in Iran. The system will be adapted for the Iranian people and will be in Persian.
Iran traditionally has been an extremist nation and at the center of numerous international controversies that indirectly bans American corporations from conducting business in this hostile territory. On the other hand, Russia which is seen as a foe to the US stands to gain from these sour relations.
As of now, .com and .com.tr domains owned by Yandex are banned in Iran, but with the MoU signed, that will change soon. There is another interesting point to be observed in this news piece:
Looking at Yandex.ir, an official reportedly working for IRIB purchased the website, according to a domain registration search. DomainTools, a portal that lists the owners of websites, says Mohammad Taqi Mozouni registered the domain address back in July.
Technically, and internationally accepted, no individual or organization can own a domain name of a company with any extension (without necessary permissions) that has already carved out a niche for itself online. It is thus worth pondering what prompted a Russian search engine giant to let a foreign governmental agency acquire its domain name.
November 25, 2016
I read a personnel announcement. For most people, the report that a Silicon Valley type joined Donald J. Trump’s transition team is a ho hum, so what moment. You decide for yourself. Navigate to “Trump’s Transition Team Adds VC from Thiel’s Founders Fund.” I highlighted this bit of real news from real journalists as spot on (I assume, of course).
Trae Stephens, a principal at Thiel’s Founders Fund, is being appointed to Trump’s defense transition team, said people familiar with the matter. He will help shape policy and vet Defense Department staff but isn’t expected to take a role in the administration, said the people, who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.
When I read this, several ideas flapped across my mind.
First, the DCGS incumbents now have to deal with two Palanterians providing input on how to use information to achieve operational goals. One Hobbit was not good for outfits accustomed to having direct inputs with regard to certain procurements and technology decisions. Two Hobbits. Yikes.
Second, I doubt that Donald J. Trump understands that DCGS is based on a very big vision of federating information from a wide range of sources, deploying systems which can lose connectivity in certain situations, and require that system users keep on their toes with regard to the freshness of the data being manipulated. My hunch is that explaining why a system which has been in the works for more than a decade and has consumed billions of dollars is not going to fit into a sound bite or a tweet. Explanations may be a bigger problem than the venerable traditional Beltway approach to government software. Palantir’s Hobbits show pictures and clever stuff like wheel menus.
Third, the Hobbits are not likely to bring up the past. The future is sort of now in the Donald J. Trump moment. When the Hobbits fire up a laptop and generate a bubble gum card about an alleged bad actor, my thought is that Donald J. Trump will say, “That’s huge.” The fact that Gotham is a product and ready to install and use may elicit a “That’s great.” Who will say that about the DCGS console? I know. The vendors holding the prime DCGS contracts.
In short, some of those vendor meetings underway in Beltway office buildings are likely to be interesting. And stressful. Yep, stressful.
Stephen E Arnold, November 25, 2016
November 24, 2016
Blockchain technology though currently powers the Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, soon the technology might find takers in mainstream commercial activities.
Blockgeeks in an in-depth article guide titled What Is Blockchain Technology? A Step-By-Step Guide for Beginners says:
The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.
Without getting into how the technology works, it would be interesting to know how and where the revolutionary technology can be utilized. Due to its inherent nature of being incorruptible due to human intervention and non-centralization, blockchain has numerous applications in the field of banking, remittances, shared economy, crowdfunding and many more, the list is just endless.
The technology will be especially helpful for people who transact over the Web and as the article points out:
Goldman Sachs believes that blockchain technology holds great potential especially to optimize clearing and settlements, and could represent global savings of up to $6bn per year.
Governments and commercial establishment, however, are apprehensive about it as blockchain might end their control over a multitude of things. Just because blockchain never stores data at one location. This also is the reason why Bitcoin is yet to gain full acceptance. But, can a driving force like blockchain technology that will empower the actual users can be stopped?
November 22, 2016
Yahoo, Facebook, Google, WhatsApp, Instagram and Microsoft all have one thing in common; for any service that they provide for free, they are harnessing your private data to be sold to advertisers.
Mirror UK recently published an Op-Ed titled Who Is Spying on You? What Yahoo Hack Taught Us About Facebook, Google, and WhatsApp in which the author says:
Think about this for a second. All those emails you’ve written and received with discussions about politics and people that were assumed to be private and meant as inside jokes for you and your friends were being filtered through CIA headquarters. Kind of makes you wonder what you’ve written in the past few years, doesn’t it?
The services be it free email or free instant messaging have been designed and developed in such a way that the companies that own them end up with a humongous amount of information about its users. This data is sugarcoated and called as Big Data. It is then sold to advertisers and marketers who in the garb of providing immersive and customized user experience follow every click of yours online. This is akin to rearing animals for slaughtering them later.
The data is not just for sale to the corporates; law enforcement agencies can snoop on you without any warrants. As pointed out in the article:
While hypocritical in many ways, these tech giants are smart enough to know who butters their bread and that the perception of trust outweighs the reality of it. But isn’t it the government who ultimately ends up with the data if a company is intentionally spying on us and building a huge record about each of us?
None of the tech giants accept this fact, but most are selling your data to the government, including companies like Samsung that are into the hardware business.
Is there are a way that can help you evade this online snooping? Probably no if you consider mainstream services and social media platforms. Till then, if you want to stay below the radar, delete your accounts and data on all mainstream email service providers, instant messaging apps, service providing websites and social media platform.
November 17, 2016
I read “Google: EU Commissioners Don’t Understand Antitrust Law.” The main point of the write up is that the Googlers perceive the regulatory folks in the European Union as have a problem with their reading skills and logical thought. Who knows if this is true? I just love the idea of a Sillycon Valley company informing government officials that they are, in a word, clueless. Ah, the confidence of the online advertising outfit.
The write up informed me that:
In an effort to soften the European Commission’s inquiry into business practices, Google has claimed that those bringing charges against it do not fully understand antitrust law.
The source for the insight was a write up in a Google blog penned by a real live Googler called “Improving Quality Isn’t Anti Competitive, Part II.” The write up points out that online shopping is “robustly competitive.”
What’s interesting is that the European Union does not agree with the Googler it seems. Is it possible that the clueless wonders will take umbrage at Google’s view of their inquiry? Nah, I bet those EU folks are darned forgiving. The regulators have given Google extensions so that the company could respond to the allegations about Google’s putting its thumb on the scale when weighing cheese.
I do love the idea that regulators do not understand the laws they are charged with interpreting and enforcing. Let’s see. Yes, I remember that Google took a similar approach to its China business. How has that been working out for Google? The Alphabet Google thing may face a similar type of push back with the EU no matter how much those folks love Google search. Well, there’s always Qwant.com and Yandex mail if the EU folks get too frisky.
Stephen E Arnold, November 17, 2016
November 11, 2016
I read a LinkedIn special write up titled “Peter Thiel to Join Trump Transition Team.” The main point of the write up was that Silicon Valley icon and founder of Palantir Technologies has allegedly just hopped on the Trump Transition Express. I learned:
Peter Thiel has agreed to join Donald Trump’s presidential transition team, according to multiple sources close to the situation.
I love those “multiple sources.” Verification is great especially when anonymized.
It strikes me that if the news is on the money, there are some interesting consequences of this decision. Let me pop several out of the microwave which is heating my Bob Evans sausage, egg, and cheese every day classic breakfast.
I start my day the health way: A Bob Evans microwave meal and news about the impact of a new technology voice in the new administration of the new president. Yummy.
First, based on my limited experience in the Washington presidential transition Beltway hoedowns, there may be an opportunity or two to chat up those involved in managing certain large defense and intelligence related projects. Now the conversations are informal, premature, fuzzy, and for sure non binding, but there just might be a few words exchanged about reducing billions in government waste with regard to certain high profile, contentious, over budget, and fractionalized projects. Maybe the Distributed Common Ground System will come up? Maybe providing Gotham to the entire transition team? Who knows? But a taste of Gotham’s manna may be just what the hard working commuters on the Transition Express need to perk up and open their eyes to what technology really can do.
Second, the hinges on the Alphabet Google special door to President Obama’s outfit may be wearing out. Palantir, which Mr. Thiel founded, has Google-type bright lads and lasses who can out Google the Google when it comes to heavy duty information analysis. War fighting “trumps” selling ads for Garcinia- Cambogia.
Some of Mr. Thiel’s inputs may rely on Palantir Gotham for data relevant to a decision taken by Transition Express fellow travelers. If Palantir’s approach shows answers, the Google results list looks — how can I phrase it? — dowdy, lame, old fashioned. Imagine the efficiency of the the new president’s advisors generating knock out visualizations for budgets, action items, and timelines with Gotham. Exciting, no? Yes?
Third, the established outfits like the Beltway outfits which have methods of communicating and influencing now have to rethink getting on the radar of the transition team. Those juicy, rock solid indefinite cost, open ended pipelines of money may have to make some navigational adjustments in real time. But what if Mr. Thiel just is involved in calculating the azimuth? How does a Beltway Top 100 firm make up for lost US government “to be” revenue? My answer, “With alacrity tinged with freneticism.”
If Mr. Thiel is on the transition team, there will be some capture teams worrying about [a] their bonus, [b] their new business plan, and [c] their résumés. The latter will be just super for LinkedIn’s secret job search service too. Who knows? Maybe some of these folks will post anonymous LinkedIn rumors which we enjoy here in Harrod’s Creek.
Stephen E Arnold, November 11, 2016