Google and Its View of Copy and Paste: Not Okay, No, No, No!

January 4, 2023

Another day, another hoot. Today (January 4, 2023) I read a “real” news story from the trust outfit Thomson Reuters titled “Google Alleges India Antitrust Body Copied Parts of EU Order on Android Abuse.” Yes, that’s the title. Google. Copying. India. Abuse.

I ran through my mind a few instances of allegations of the Google doing the copying. First, there was the online advertising dust up. My belief is that most people are not aware that Google paid Yahoo to make a dispute about online advertising technology go away. This was in 2004, and the Saul Hansell (who?) story is online at this link. To make a long story short, for me the deal allowed the Google to become an alleged monopoly in online advertising. It also made clear to me that innovation at Google meant copying. Interesting? I think so.

Then there were the hassles with newspapers and publishers about Google News. Wikipedia has a summary of the jousting. You can find the “Controversies with Publishers” thumbnail at this link. I would summarize the history of Google News this way: Others create timely information and Google copies it. Google emphasizes its service to users; publishers talk about copying without payment. The dismal copy paste drama began in 2002 and continues to this day.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Google’s scanning of books. I think of book scanning as similar to my photocopying a journal article when I was in college. I preferred to mark up the copy and create my University of Chicago style manual approved footnotes sitting in a cheap donut shop miles from the university library. After a decade of insisting that copying books was okay, the courts agreed. Google could copy. How are those clicks on Google Books and Google Scholar going in 2023. You can read about this copying decision in “After 10 Years, Google Books Is Legal.”

Copying is good, true, high value, and important to users and obviously to the Google.

Now what did the Reuters’ article tell me today? Let’s take a look:

Google has told a tribunal in India that the country’s antitrust investigators copied parts of a European ruling against the U.S. firm for abusing the market dominance of its Android operating system, arguing the decision be quashed, legal papers show.

Google is objecting to a nation state’s use of legal language copied from a European Union document.

Yep, copied.

Does Google care about copying and the role it has played at Google? In my opinion, no. What Google cares about is the rising tide of litigation and the deafening sound of cash registers ringing as a result of Google’s behavior.

Yep, copying. That’s a hoot. How does Google think laws, regulations, and bills are made? In my experience, it’s control C and control V.

Stephen E Arnold, January 4, 2022

Hey, TikTok, You Are the Problem

January 4, 2023

Chinese-owned TikTok has taken the world by storm, and the US is no exception. Especially among the youngest cohorts. That is a problem for several reasons, but it is the risk to privacy and data security that has officials finally taking action. First to move were several states, as CNN‘s Brian Fung reports in “Why a Growing Number of States Are Cracking Down on TikTok.” We learn:

“At least seven states have said they will bar public employees from using the app on government devices, including Alabama, Maryland, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Texas. (Another state, Nebraska, banned TikTok from state devices in 2020.) Last week, the state of Indiana announced two lawsuits against TikTok accusing the Chinese-owned platform of misrepresenting its approach to age-appropriate content and data security.”

We note this quote by the Berkeley Research Group’s Harry Broadman:

“I’m a little bit mystified why it’s taking so long for CFIUS [the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] to deal with this problem. There must be some issue that’s going on.”

The Arnold IT team is mystified as well. Maybe lobbying and political contributions are the issue? Or cluelessness about the immense value of children’s and young people’s data? These overdue actions on the state level were followed by proposed federal legislation. Fung discusses the bipartisan effort in, “US Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Ban TikTok:”

“The proposed legislation would ‘block and prohibit all transactions’ in the United States by social media companies with at least one million monthly users that are based in, or under the ‘substantial influence’ of, countries that are considered foreign adversaries, including China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela. The bill specifically names TikTok and its parent, ByteDance, as social media companies for the purposes of the legislation. … TikTok has previously said it doesn’t share information with the Chinese government and that a US-based security team decides who can access US user data from China. TikTok has also previously acknowledged that employees based in China can currently access user data.”

But we should totally trust them with it, right? Not willing to take ByteDance at its word, the US military, State Department, Department of Homeland Security, and other security-conscious federal agencies long since banned the app on devices under their control. Will the prohibition soon extend to the rest of the country, to both public and private entities? If so, prepare for the rage of Gen Z.

Cynthia Murrell, January 4, 2023

Google: Do Small Sites Need Anti Terrorism Help or Is the Issue Better Addressed Elsewhere?

January 3, 2023

Are “little sites” really in need of Google’s anti-terrorism tool? Oh, let me be clear. Google is — according to “Google Develops Free Terrorism-Moderation Tool for Smaller Websites” — in the process of creating Googley software. This software will be:

a free moderation tool that smaller websites can use to identify and remove terrorist material, as new legislation in the UK and the EU compels Internet companies to do more to tackle illegal content.

And what institutions are working with Google on this future software? The article reports:

The software is being developed in partnership with the search giant’s research and development unit Jigsaw and Tech Against Terrorism, a UN-backed initiative that helps tech companies police online terrorism.

What’s interesting to me is that the motivation for this to-be software or filtering system is in development. The software, it seems, does not exist.

Why would Google issue statements about vaporware?

The article provides a clue:

The move comes as Internet companies will be forced to remove extremist content from their platforms or face fines and other penalties under laws such as the Digital Services Act in the EU, which came into force in November, and the UK’s Online Safety bill, which is expected to become law this year.

I understand. Google’s management understands that regulation and fines are not going away in 2023. It is logical, therefore, to get in front of the problem. How does Google propose to do this?

Yep, vaporware. (I have a hunch there is a demonstration available.) Nevertheless, the genuine article is not available to small Web sites, who need help in coping with terrorism-related content.

How will the tool work? The article states:

Jigsaw’s tool aims to tackle the next step of the process and help human moderators make decisions on content flagged as dangerous and illegal. It will begin testing with two unnamed sites at the beginning of this year.

Everything sounds good when viewed the top of Mount Public Relations, where the vistas are clear and the horizons are unlimited.

I want to make one modest observation: Small Web sites run on hosting services. These hosting services are, in my opinion, more suitable locations for filtering software. The problem is that hosting providers comprise a complex and diverse group of enterprises. In fact, I have yet to receive from my research team a count of service providers that is accurate and comprehensive.

Pushing the responsibility to the operator of a single Web site strikes me as a non-functional approach. Would it make sense for Google’s tool to be implemented in service providers. The content residing on the service providers equipment or co-located hardware and in the stream of data for virtual private systems or virtual private servers. The terrorism related content would be easier to block.

Let’s take a reasonable hosting service; for example, Hertzner in Germany or OVHCloud in France. The European Union could focus on these enabling nodes and implement either the Google system if and when it becomes available and actually works or an alternative filtering method devised by  a European team. (I would suggest that Europol or similar entities can develop the needed filters, test them, and maintain them.) Google has a tendency to create or talk about solutions and then walk away after a period of time. Remember Google’s Web Accelerator?)

Based on our research for an upcoming presentation to a group of investigators focused on cyber crime, service providers (what I call enablers) should be the point of attention in an anti-terrorism action. Furthermore, these enablers are also pivotal in facilitating certain types of online crime. Examples abound. These range from right-wing climate activists using services in Romania to child pornography hosted on what we call “shadow ISPs.” These shadow enablers operate specialized services specifically to facilitate illegal activities within specialized software like The Onion Router and other obfuscation methods.

For 2023, I advocate ignoring PR motivated “to be” software. I think the efforts of national and international law enforcement should be directed at the largely unregulated and often reluctant “enablers.” I agree that some small Web site operators could do more. But I think it is time to take a closer look at enablers operating from vacant lots in the Seychelles or service providers running cyber fraud operations to be held responsible.

Fixing the Internet requires consequences. Putting the focus on small Web sites is a useful idea. But turning up the enforcement and regulatory heat on the big outfits will deliver more heat where being “chill” has allowed criminal activity to flourish. I have not mentioned the US and Canada. I have not forgotten that there are enablers operating in plain sight in such places as Detroit and Québec City. Google’s PR play is a way to avoid further legal and financial hassles.

It is time to move from “to be” software to “taking purposeful, intentional action.”

Stephen E Arnold, January 3, 2023

Need a Human for Special Work? Just Buy One Maybe?

December 29, 2022

Is it possible to purchase a person? Judging from the rumors I have heard in rural Romania, outside the airport in Khartoum, and in a tavern in Tirana — I would suggest that the answer is “possibly.” The Times of London is not into possibilities if the information in “Maids Trafficked and Sold to Wealthy Saudis on Black Market” is accurate. Keep in mind that I am mindful of what I call open source information blindspots. Shaped, faked, and weaponized information is now rampant.

The article focuses on an ecommerce site called The article explains:

[The site] Saudi Arabia’s largest online marketplace, through which a Times investigation shows that hundreds of domestic workers are being illegally trafficked and sold to the highest bidders.

Furthermore, the Times adds:

The app, which had 2.5 million visits last year — more than Amazon or AliExpress within the kingdom — is still available on the Apple and Google Play stores despite being criticised by the UN’s Special Rapporteurs in 2020 for facilitating modern slavery.

If true, the article is likely to make for some uncomfortable days as the world swings into 2023; specifically:

  1. The Saudi government
  2. Apple
  3. Google
  4. Assorted law enforcement professionals.

If the information in the write up is accurate, several of the newspaper’s solicitors will be engaged in conversations with other parties’ solicitors. I assume that there will be some conversations in Mayfair and Riyadh about the article. Will Interpol become curious? Probably.

Let’s step back and ask some different questions. I am assuming that some of the information in the article is “correct”; that is, one can verify screenshots or chase down the source of the information. Maybe the lead journalist will consent to an interview on a true crime podcast. Whatever.

Consider these questions:

  1. Why release the story at the peak of some countries’ holiday season? Is the timing designed to minimize or emphasize the sensitive topic of alleged slavery, the Kingdom’s conventions, or the apparent slipshod app review process at controversial US high technology companies?
  2. What exactly did or does Apple and Google know about the app for the Haraj marketplace? If the Times’ story is accurate, what management issue exists at each of these large, but essential to some, companies?
  3. Is the ecommerce site operating within the Kingdom’s cultural norms or is the site itself breaking outside legal guidelines? What does Saudi Arabia say about this site?

To sum up, human trafficking is a concern for many individuals, government entities, and non-governmental organizations. I keep coming back to the question “Why now?” The article states:

Apple said: “We strictly prohibit the solicitation or promotion of illegal behaviour, including human trafficking and child exploitation, in the App Store and across every part of our business. We take any accusations or claims around this behaviour very seriously.” Google declined to comment. Haraj, Saudi Arabia’s human rights commission and the government have been contacted for a response.

Perhaps taking more time to obtain comments would have been useful? What’s the political backstory for the disclosure of the allegedly accurate information during the holiday season? Note that the story is behind a paywall which further limits its diffusion.

Net net: Many questions have I.

Stephen E Arnold, December 29, 2022

How Regulation Works: Irritate Taylor Swift and Find Out

December 29, 2022

Ticketmaster and its parent company Live Nation have been scamming consumers for decades. There was a lawsuit in the 2010s about inflated service fees that Ticketmaster lost. Plaintiffs were awarded gift certificates with minuscule amounts that could not be combined and had expiration dates. The bigger question, Engadget asks, is why did it take a poster to force the federal government into action: “Ticketmaster’s Taylor Swift Fiasco Sparks Senate Antitrust Hearing.”

Ticketmaster screwed up tickets for Taylor Swift’s first tour in five years. The ticket seller’s systems were overwhelmed by fourteen million people, including bots, when tickers went up for sale. Ticketmaster’s Web site was hit with 3.5 million system requests.

Ticketmaster informed Swift they could handle the mass of fans, but she was “pissed off” when they failed.

“Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mike Lee (R-UT), the chair and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust and Consumer Rights, have announced a hearing to gather evidence on competition in the ticketing industry. They have yet to confirm when the hearing will take place or the witnesses that the committee will call upon.”

New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stated Live Nation should be broken up. The US government has been investigating Live Nation’s monopoly for several months, but the Swift fiasco has garnered the issue more public attention.

Ticketmaster was sued in the past for similar issues and the company lost. Why is Live Nation allowed to continue its poor business practices?

Whitney Grace, December 29, 2022

Surprise: TikTok Reveals Its Employees Can View European User Data

December 28, 2022

What a surprise. The Tech Times reports, “TikTok Says Chinese Employees Can Access Data from European Users.” This includes workers not just within China, but also in Brazil, Canada, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States. According to The Guardian, TikTok revealed the detail in an update to its privacy policy. We are to believe it is all in the interest of improving the users’ experience. Writer Joseph Henry states:

“According to ByteDance, TikTok’s parent firm, accessing the user data can help in improving the algorithm performance on the platform. This would mean that it could help the app to detect bots and malicious accounts. Additionally, this could also give recommendations for content that users want to consume online. Back in July, Shou Zi Chew, a TikTok chief executive clarified via a letter that the data being accessed by foreign staff is a ‘narrow set of non-sensitive’ user data. In short, if the TikTok security team in the US gives a green light for data access, then there’s no problem viewing the data coming from American users. Chew added that the Chinese government officials do not have access to these data so it won’t be a big deal to every consumer.”

Sure they don’t. Despite assurances, some are skeptical. For example, we learn:

“US FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr told Reuters that TikTok should be immediately banned in the US. He added that he was suspicious as to how ByteDance handles all of the US-based data on the app.”

Now just why might he doubt ByteDance’s sincerity? What about consequences? As some Sillycon Valley experts say, “No big deal. Move on.” Dismissive naïveté is helpful, even charming.

Cynthia Murrell, December 28, 2022

Ka-Ching, Ka-Ching: The Unforgettable Tune Haunting Meta

December 26, 2022

What’s the sound of the European cash registers? Ka-ching, ka-ching. The melody of money.

I spotted two allegedly true real news stories this morning that sound like previous write ups about the Zuckbook, oops, Facebook, oh, darn, Meta.

The first is “Meta Settles Cambridge Analytica Class-Action Lawsuit for $725 Million.” The story reports:

Parent company Meta has agreed to pay $725 million to settle a long-running class-action lawsuit accusing Facebook of allowing Cambridge Analytica and other third parties to access user’s private information…

Cambridge Analytica. Four years ago. Links to possible intelligence activities in a certain special operation favoring nation state. Lies. What’s not to love? The is writing a check for $725 million. In terms of fellow traveler Twitter that’s peanuts. No big deal. Guilty? “Senator, thank you for that question….”

The second write up is “EU Tells Meta That Facebook Marketplace Breaches Anti-Trust Rules.” This write up explains:

In yet another demonstration of the new aggressive stance of European regulators, the EU has lodged a notice accusing Meta of ‘abusive practices’. The allegation relates to the fact that Facebook Marketplace currently ties its online classified ads service to the Facebook social network. The European Commission alleges that the company imposes unfair trading conditions on rivals to its Facebook Marketplace, in order to gain a commercial advantage.

How disrespectful! The Zuck has worked to bring people together. The Marketplace does that. I live in rural Kentucky. One of my neighbors was killed meeting a person to purchase a mobile phone. The connection making mechanism seems to have been a certain social network. It is clear to me that I don’t understand the bridge building, good vibe generating mechanisms of social media. That’s okay. I am a dinobaby.

Let’s get back to the music of ka-ching, ka-ching.

I have some expectation that the European Union will be ringing its cash registers in 2023. Some US high-technology companies output cash when the tune ka-ching, ka-ching sounds. That may be a  conditioned reflex similar to Ivan Pavlov’s demonstration of conditioning. Yes, ka-ching may be a suitable substitute for dog treats. Woof.

In my opinion, the ka-ching, ka-ching thing suggests:

  1. A pattern of behavior that flaunts expected business practices
  2. Management attitudes that encourage behavior some lawmakers consider illegal
  3. An increasing perception that some of the societal pressure points are becoming more sensitive because of certain social media practices.

Fair or unfair? True or false?

Well, just listen: Ka-ching, ka-ching.

Stephen E Arnold, December 26, 2022

How Does a China-Affiliated Outfit Identify Insider Threats? Surveillance, Of Course

December 26, 2022

I will not revisit my comments about the risks posed by TikTok to the US. I do find it amusing that statements offered in one of those “Thank you, Senator, for that question….” sessions has been demonstrated to be false. Hello, perjury?

TokTok Admits Tracking FT Journalist in Leaks Investigation” reports:

Two members of staff in the US and two in China gained access to the IP addresses and other personal data of FT journalist Cristina
Criddle, to work out if she was in the proximity of any ByteDance employees, the company said. However, the company failed to find any leaks.
A BuzzFeed journalist and a number of users connected to the reporters through their TikTok accounts were also targeted.

A government has the capacity to surveil who and when and where it wants. When a company focuses on vulnerable demographics and is directly affiliated with a government, Houston, we have a problem.

More problematic when that government/company can feed information to targeted users, that information can shape the impressionable target’s world view. That’s an opportunity creator. Toss in keep track of what immature minds do only may provide some useful information to force a target to take an action or else. The else can include salacious videos and much, much more interesting immature behavior. If released, the mature version of the nude dance at a high school party might derail a promotion at a secretive high-tech company, creating an opening for a more compliant target to apply for the job. Exciting? Yep.

What’s the tally? Deception. Check. Invasion of a non Chinese citizen’s rights. Check. Information warfare. Check.

Yep, TikTok.

Stephen E Arnold, December 26, 2022

In France, Tipping in Restaurants, Non. Showing Appreciation to the Government, Oui

December 23, 2022

Ah, France. Land of 200 cheeses, medallion bedecked chickens, and fat American high-tech creatures. Go to a French restaurant and order (in French certaInment) a cooked bird. Chow down. Do not tip the waiter. Say “merci” and smile. But if you a very fat, super large, very unpredictable American technology company tipping is mandatory.

Don’t believe me?

Read “Microsoft Hit with €60 Million Fine by France for Not Offering Cookie Opt Out on Bing.” Mais oui. The write up reports:

In addition, CNIL will fine Microsoft €60,000 per day within three months if it doesn’t ask users for consent to use an ad fraud detection cookie.

Will Microsoft’s paying up make the governmental doubt about Microsoft become like the mist in Verdon Gorge?

Ho ho ho.

In order to do business in France, American outfits have to go through a number of hoops. Some are easy; others require some bureaucratic finesse. One example is for an American company to sell something to the French government. There are hoops for American cheese. I have been informed that canned American cheese propelled by carbon dioxide is a hoot at some French parties. Mon dieu! Aerosol fromage. Interesting.

With the EU chasing some firms who say one thing and do another, fining some big tech companies is a way to get an allowance from mom. Amazon appears to decided to just pay up.

Microsoft may enter the fascinating French legal system to explain that its tracking devices are different. Oh, well. Some French judicial officials can use a mobile phone. But the cookie thing? Maybe not so much.

What’s the sound I hear? It is ka-ching.

Finding reasons to take legal action against US big tech companies is easy. The regret, as I understand it, is that it take a long time to get the money from the Americans.

What’s the outlook for 2023? That’s a softball question. The answer is more lawyers pecking on the confused Americans. The Monaco Grand Prix is in France right?

Stephen E Arnold, December 23, 2022

Predicting Google and the UK in 2023

December 21, 2022

For Google, coping with legal challenges is just a routine part of doing business in Europe it seems. The Register reports on the latest lawsuit in, “130,000 UK Businesses Sue Google Over £13.6B in Lost Ad Revenues.” To no one’s surprise, the class-action suit claims the company abuses its dominant position to disadvantage the competition. Reporter Katyanna Quach writes:

“The company’s anticompetitive practices, alleged in the lawsuit, have cost smaller businesses – like publishers and online apps selling ad space – up to 40 per cent, the law firm said. The losses incurred from 1 January 2014 to date for the companies in the lawsuit are estimated up to £13.6 billion (about $16.5B). Toby Starr, a partner at Humphries Kerstetter, leading the claim, pointed to similar antitrust probes, accusing Google of abusing its dominant position in online advertising, from the EU.  Google’s misconduct in this matter is well known. The French authorities have fined the firm and multiple investigations are underway across the globe. However, none of these regulatory actions will do anything to compensate the UK publishers of thousands of websites and mobile apps who have lost billions in advertising revenue because of Google’s actions. The only way to recoup these losses is through a competition class action,’ he said in a statement.”

Closer to home, we are reminded:

“The US Department of Justice also accused Google of ‘unlawfully maintaining monopolies through anticompetitive and exclusionary practices in the search and search advertising markets’ in a lawsuit in 2021.”

Audacious as ever, Google denies any wrongdoing and dubs the UK lawsuit “speculative and opportunistic.” Those same advertising tools that are unfairly vilified, a spokesperson insists, instead benefit publishers and other businesses “of all sizes.” One wonders why the company bothers to defend itself since its tens of billions of dollars [pdf] in revenue ensure it can easily absorb any fines and damages that come its way.

Cynthia Murrell, December 21, 2022

« Previous PageNext Page »

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta