You Have Been Warned, Fear Google!

August 14, 2017

It is hard not to subscribe to Google’s free services, such as their email, office suite, web analytics, Google Home, the Nest tool, and, of course, the search engine.  Google promised not to use their services and powers for evil, but Big Brother looms over Alphabet Inc. like an ominous, dark shadow.  Google and other search engines, except for DuckDuckGo, collect information about you.  It is frightening how much information Google actually knows about a person, especially because it is freely given.  TopTenz shares “10 Reasons You Should Fear Google,” listing why Google is more alarming than Big Brother.

CEO Eric Schmidt rubs shoulders with the political elite and has donated money to people in both the Republican and Democratic parties.  His unknown power reminds us of Bob Iger, Michael Eisner, and Jeffery Katzenberg.  Google can influence foreign governments more than we think, the list shares incidents with China’s totalitarian law and urged on the Iranian revolution.  Google is looking to harvest the finances that are emerging in new, democratized countries:

The piece would go on to argue that the technology provided by the private sector would be the driving force in “democratizing” hostile and third world nations, thus making them ripe for private investment.

 

Soon after, the social media revolutions of Tunisia and then Egypt would excite many in the West, particularly in the government sector, giving companies like Google even more sway in the highest circles. Although many internet based companies tried to carve out a niche in the newfound space, Google had already established themselves as major players.

Perhaps the most dangerous of all is that Google can shape the way people consume and retrieve information.  Google could choose and select the type of information its user’s access, meaning it could hide the truth, push a political agenda, and further aggravate the amount of fake news plaguing the Internet.

Some of this is true and some of this is fake.  Google is as profit driven as any company, but at the same time, they are working on projects that would benefit humanity.  Adding more competition to the market is one way to curb Google’s “evil” intentions.

Whitney Grace, August 14, 2017

 

China Further Alienates Citizens by Banning VPNs

August 1, 2017

China is notorious for its police-state policies, particularly as it applies to any Western news or communication. For years clever Chinese citizens and international businesses located in China have relied on VPNs to evade Chinese firewalls. All that is changing now as China has announced all internet carriers must block VPNs in the next six months.

Bloomberg’s musing on the topic are accurate in their concern for the future of Chinese based companies:

It’s unclear how the new directive may affect multinationals operating within the country, which already have to contend with a Cybersecurity Law that imposes stringent requirements on the transfer of data and may give Beijing unprecedented access to their technology. Companies operating on Chinese soil will be able to employ leased lines to access the international web but must register their usage of such services for the record…

Whether a multinational corporation, a small mom-and-pop venture just getting off the ground, or an individual, the lack of VPNs will disrupt everyday life. Will this power move by the Chinese government usher in a new era of Dark Web usage or will a new lifeline to the world beyond the Great Wall emerge?

Catherine Lamsfuss, August 1, 2017

Google Invests in Robot Reporters

July 27, 2017

People fear that robots will replace them in the workforce, but reporters did not have to deal with this worry.  Machines lack the capability to write cohesive news pieces, except that robots are getting smarter.  Google might become the bane of news reporters, because of Business Insider shares that, “Google Is Giving The Press Association £622,000 To Create An Army Of Robot Reporters.”  Google granted the Press Association £622,000 ($810,000) to develop robots the can write 30,000 stories per day for news outlets.

The funds come from Google’s Digital News Initiative will dole out the $810,000 over three years to “stimulate and support innovation in digital journalism across Europe’s news industry.”  The Press Association dubbed the project “Reporters and Data and Robots” (RADAR) that will also run in tandem with the news startup Urbs Media.  The robots will produce stories by:

The robot reporters will draw on open data sets on the internet and use natural Language Generation (NLG) software to produce their copy, PA said.

 

The data sets — to be identified and recorded by a new team of five human journalists — will come from government departments, local authorities, NHS Trusts and more, PA said, adding that they will provide detailed story templates across a range of topics including crime, health, and employment.

The head of the Press Association says that RADAR will ease pressures on news outlets in a cost-effective way while providing local stories.  While this might work, the naysayers are stating that human reports are still needed to cover local news, because it requires investigation and personal relationships.  All we can say is that both arguments are correct.

Whitney Grace, July 27, 2017

Booz Allen Hamilton Under Scrutiny

July 5, 2017

Consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton is facing an inquiry by the U.S Department of Justice for irregularities in billing inappropriately its clientele mostly comprising of government agencies.

As reported by Washington Times in a news piece titled Booz Allen Hamilton Under Federal Investigation over Billing Irregularities, Contractor Says, the reporter says:

Booz Allen was notified of the probe earlier this month and is working to resolve the matter with federal investigators, the company said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Thursday afternoon.

This is not the first time that the consulting firm dubbed as world’s most profitable spy organization has come under fire. In October 2016, an employee of the company was apprehended by federal authorities in possession of classified information. This was the second time an employee of the largest intelligence and defense contractor was arrested on charges of spying and selling classified information.

The investigation pertaining to irregularities in billing in ongoing.

Vishal Ingole, July 5, 2017

DoD and Textron Move Analytics to Cloud

July 3, 2017

Continuing in its efforts to become more cloud-based, the DOD has partnered with Textron to create a web-based intel program. This latest edition of intelligence gathering program has shifted the DOD away from software into cloud presence, one of the government’s goals for the future.

Defense Systems recently reported on this new collaboration:

Decreasing a hardware footprint by consolidating data-centers and servers is entirely consistent with the Pentagon’s push to move more services, applications, storage systems and functions to a cloud-based architecture; this is particularly relevant in light of DOD’s initiative to integrate more commercial IT systems and move more Joint Regional Security Stacks (JRSS) functions to the cloud.

The program itself streamlines data analysis and places it in the cloud for easier storage and access.  This latest move showcases how technology across the board is shifting from traditional software and hardware driven data analytics and moving toward cloud-based.

Catherine Lamsfuss, July 3, 2017

Maybe Trump Speak Pretty One Day

June 15, 2017

US President Donald Trump is not the most popular person in the world.  He is a cherished scapegoat for media outlets, US citizens, and other world leaders.  One favorite point of ridicule for people is his odd use of the English language.  Trump’s take on the English tongue is so confusing that translators are left scratching their heads says The Guardian in, “Trump In Translation: President’s Mangled Language Stumps Translators.”  For probably the first time in his presidency, Trump followed proper sentence structure and grammar when he withdrew the US from the Paris Accord.   While the world was in an uproar about the climate change deniers, translators were happy that they could translate his words easier.

Asian translators are especially worried about what comes out of Trump’s mouths.  Asian languages have different root languages than European ones; so direct translations of the colloquial expressions Trump favors are near impossible.

India problems translating Trump to Hindi:

‘Donald Trump is difficult to make sense of, even in English,’ said Anshuman Tiwari, editor of IndiaToday, a Hindi magazine. “His speech is unclear, and sometimes he contradicts himself or rambles or goes off on a tangent. Capturing all that confusion in writing, in Hindi, is not easy,’ he added. ‘To get around it, usually we avoid quoting Trump directly. We paraphrase what he has said because conveying those jumps in his speech, the way he talks, is very difficult. Instead, we summarise his ideas and convey his words in simple Hindi that will make sense to our readers.’

Indian translators also do Trump a favor by translating his words using the same level of the rhetoric of Indian politicians.  It makes him sound smarter than he appears to English-speakers.  Trump needs to learn to trust his speechwriters, but translators should learn they can rely on Bitext’s DLAP to supplement their work and improve local colloquialisms.

Whitney Grace, June 15, 2017

 

DARPA Progresses on Refining Data Analysis

June 12, 2017

The ideal data analysis platform for global intelligence would take all the data in the world and rapidly make connections, alerting law enforcement or the military about potential events before they happen. It would also make it downright impossible for bad actors to hide their tracks. Our government seems to be moving toward that goal with AIDA, or Active Interpretation of Disparate Alternatives. DARPA discusses the project in its post, “DARPA Wades into Murky Multimedia Information Streams to Catch Big Meaning.” The agency states:

The goal of AIDA is to develop a multi-hypothesis ‘semantic engine’ that generates explicit alternative interpretations or meaning of real-world events, situations, and trends based on data obtained from an expansive range of outlets. The program aims to create technology capable of aggregating and mapping pieces of information automatically derived from multiple media sources into a common representation or storyline, and then generating and exploring multiple hypotheses about the true nature and implications of events, situations, and trends of interest.

‘It is a challenge for those who strive to achieve and maintain an understanding of world affairs that information from each medium is often analyzed independently, without the context provided by information from other media,’ said Boyan Onyshkevych, program manager in DARPA’s Information Innovation Office (I2O). ‘Often, each independent analysis results in only one interpretation, with alternate interpretations eliminated due to lack of evidence even in the absence of evidence that would contradict those alternatives. When these independent, impoverished analyses are combined, generally late in the analysis process, the result can be a single apparent consensus view that does not reflect a true consensus.’

AIDA’s goal of presenting an accurate picture of overall context early on will help avoid that problem. The platform is to assign a confidence level to each piece of information it processes and each hypothesis it generates. It will also, they hope, be able to correct for a journalistic spin by examining variables and probabilities. Is the intelligence community is about to gain an analysis platform capable of chilling accuracy?

Cynthia Murrell, June 12, 2017

Bibliophiles Have 25 Million Reasons to Smile

June 6, 2017

The US Library of Congress has released 25 million records of its collection online and are anyone with Internet access is free to use it.

According to Science Alert article titled The US Library of Congress Just Put 25 Million Records Online, Free of Charge:

The bibliographic data sets, like digital library cards, cover music, books, maps, manuscripts, and more, and their publication online marks the biggest release of digital records in the Library’s history.

The Library of Congress has been on digitization spree for long and users can expect more records to be made online in the near future. The challenge, however, is retrieving books or information that the user needs. The web interface is still complicated and not user-friendly. In short, the enterprise search function is a mess. What The Library of Congress really needs is a user-friendly and efficient way of accessing its vast collection of knowledge to bibliophiles.

Vishal Ingole, June 6, 2017

Google: Administrivia Is Hard and Expensive

May 29, 2017

I read “Accursed of Underpaying Women, Google Says It’s Too Expensive to Get Wage Data.” The real journalism outfit The Guardian revealed:

Google argued that it was too financially burdensome and logistically challenging to compile and hand over salary records that the government has requested, sparking a strong rebuke from the US Department of Labor (DoL), which has accused the Silicon Valley firm of underpaying women.

An attorney representing the government allegedly said:

“Google would be able to absorb the cost as easy as a dry kitchen sponge could absorb a single drop of water.”

It seems that Google is not into administrivia. It seems that Google wants to husband its resources. Solving death and Loon balloons need funding.

Tough luck, US Department of Labor.

Google allegedly explained:

“This is obviously a very time-consuming and burdensome project,” said Lisa Barnett Sween, one of Google’s attorneys, claiming that the company has already worked 2,300 hours at a cost of nearly $500,000 to partially comply with the government’s demands, which she argued were broad and unconstitutional. “Our courts must act to check this abuse of power.”

Absolutely. Obvious.

Google did promote Dr. Anna Patterson, the founder of Cuil and Xift (both search engines) recently. See. Progress. How long has Dr. Patterson been laboring at the GOOG. I think it is creeping up on a decade more or less.

Google and women. A perfect match. Why can’t the lawyers representing the US Department of Labor understand this simple fact. Equality, the hallmark of a high school science club.

Administrative detail. My hunch is that it is not interesting and maybe, just maybe… Never mind.

Stephen E Arnold, May 28, 2017

About That Freedom of Speech Thing

May 26, 2017

I read “G7 Summit: Theresa May to Ask World Leaders to Launch Internet Crackdown after Manchester Attack.” The Internet means online to me. Crackdowns trigger thoughts of filtering, graph analysis, and the interesting challenge of explaining why someone looked up an item of information.

The write up interpreted “online” as social media, which is interesting. Here’s a passage I highlighted:

The prime minister will ask governments to unite to regulate what tech companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter allow to be posted on their networks. By doing so, she will force them to remove “harmful” extremist content, she will suggest to G7 members at a meeting in Italy.

The named companies have been struggling to filter inappropriate content. On a practical level, certain inappropriate content may generate ad revenue. Losing ad revenue is not a popular notion in some of these identified companies.

The companies have also been doing some thinking about their role. Are these outfits supposed to be “responsible” for what their users and advertisers post? If the identified companies are indeed “responsible,” how will the mantle of responsibility hang on the frames of Wild West outfits in Silicon Valley. The phrase “It is easier to ask forgiveness than seek permission” is a pithy way of summing up some Silicon Valley action plans.

The write up enumerates the general types of digital information available on “the Internet.” I noted this statement:

She [Theresa May, Britain’s prime minister] will also call for industry guidelines to be revised by the tech companies to make absolutely clear what constitutes harmful material, with those that fail to do so being held to account.

The impact of Ms. May’s suggestion may create some interesting challenges for the companies facilitating the flow of real time information. Will Silicon Valley companies which often perceive themselves as more important than nation states will respond in a manner congruent with Ms. May’s ideas?

My thought is that “responsibility” will be a moving target. What’s more important? Advertising revenue or getting bogged down in figuring out which item of information is okay and which is not?

At this moment, it looks to me as if revenue and self interest might be more important than broader political considerations. That Maslow’s hierarchy of need takes on a special significance when Silicon Valley constructs consider prioritize their behaviors.

What happens if I run an online query for “Silicon Valley” and “content filtering”? Bing wants me to personalize my results based on my interests and for me to save “things for later.” I decline and get this output:

image

I particularly liked the reference to Silicon Valley sending “its ambassador” to Appalachia. Sorry, Ms. May, my query does not encourage my thinking about your idea for responsible censorship.

Google displays an ad for social media monitoring performed by GFI Software in Malta. I am also directed to hits which do not relate to Ms. May’s ideas.

image

Google interprets the query as one related to third party software which blocks content. That’s closer to what Ms. May is suggesting.

Neither search giant points to itself as involved in this content filtering activity.

That tells me that Ms. May’s idea may be easy to articulate but a bit more difficult to insert into the Wild West of capitalistic constructs.

Digital information is a slippery beastie composed of zeros and ones, used by billions of people who don’t agree about what’s okay and what’s not okay, and operated by folks who may see themselves as knowing better than elected officials.

Interesting stuff.

Stephen E Arnold, May 26, 2017

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