Online Ad Fraud! Who Knew?

October 24, 2018

I read “Apps Installed On Millions Of Android Phones Tracked User Behavior To Execute A Multimillion-Dollar Ad Fraud Scheme.” Goodness, first my faith in Facebook’s data about video ad performance was eroded a tiny bit. Now there are allegations about Android app ad fraud. The write up uses the word “cabal.”

The online advertising business, in my opinion, has been a bastion of integrity. Sure, there were baseless assertions about robot clickers which depleted a competitor’s online ad checkbook. There were squishy numbers about the number of human eyeballs versus crawler clicks. And there were ads for interesting products and services which online ad vendors suggested were real, true blue commercial messages.

Yes, integrity. Online advertising. Bound at the hip.

But there is this write up in Buzzfeed which states:

But an investigation by BuzzFeed News reveals that these seemingly separate apps and companies are today part of a massive, sophisticated digital advertising fraud scheme involving more than 125 Android apps and websites connected to a network of front and shell companies in Cyprus, Malta, British Virgin Islands, Croatia, Bulgaria, and elsewhere. More than a dozen of the affected apps are targeted at kids or teens, and a person involved in the scheme estimates it has stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from brands whose ads were shown to bots instead of actual humans.

I know that it takes smart filters to verify apps in crime free locations like Cyprus, Malta, and Bulgaria. And the British Virgin Islands? Unthinkable.

But the article presents some data which suggest that a modest amount of money is in play; to wit:

App metrics firm AppsFlyer estimated that between $700 million and $800 million was stolen from mobile apps alone in the first quarter of this year, a 30% increase over the previous year. Pixalate’s latest analysis of in-app fraud found that 23% of all ad impressions in mobile apps are in some way fraudulent. Overall, Juniper Research estimates $19 billion will be stolen this year by digital ad fraudsters, but others believe the actual figure could be three times that.

Google, of course, was quick to take action. Google cares.

I am disappointed that this infinitesimal aberrations in an integrity filled business have been reported as “true” fact.

More data are needed, please. I know that Facebook and Google can explain this misguided assertion.

My goodness, manipulation of online advertising. Shocking. Shocking.

Stephen E Arnold, October 24, 2018

More Pressure on For Fee Legal Publishers

October 24, 2018

One of the things we take for granted in the United States is information access. The US Constitution and other laws make it mandatory that certain information is shared with the public for transparency. Other reasons are laws like the Freedom of Information Act that declassifies confidential information when it is no longer a security risk. The Electronic Frontier Foundation shares how the US Court of the Appeals of the Federal Circuit shares its documentation, “Federal Circuit Makes Briefs Immediately Available To The Public.”

The Federal Circuit Court will now make its briefs available to the public. Before briefs were only available after a period of days when they were reviewed by the Clerk’s Office. However, the Clerk’s Office wants to be clear that all received briefs will be marked as “tendered,” until the office has accepted them for filing, then they will be publicly available. The instant access is a victory:

“While this is perhaps a small change, we appreciate that the Federal Circuit is making briefs available upon filing. We had encountered delays of 7 days or more (this meant that the parties’ briefs were sometimes not available until after supporting amicus briefs were due). Ultimately, the public’s right of access to courts includes a right to timely access. The Federal Circuit is the federal court of appeal that hears appeals in patent cases from all across the country, and many of its cases are of interest to the public at large.”

The Federal Circuit’s former access to briefs conflicted with other actions it holds on transparency. The good news is that the Federal Circuit will only seal information if there is good reason and if parties want to have more than fifteen consecutive words sealed they need to file a separate motion. Hopefully more federal district courts will not seal as many records, because the Federal Circuit is not doing so.

Whitney Grace, October 24, 2018

HSSCM Method: October 13, 2018 Update

October 13, 2018

i read “Google CEO Refuses to Answer Detailed Questions on China in Letter to Senate.” CNET is a real news outfit, and I assume the information in the article is accurate. Perhaps Google’s information was not understood by the Senate. I do not think it is possible for the Senate to remain far from a political quasar.

The write up states that the Google  letter included this statement:

We are approaching these issues deliberately, and whether we would or could release a search service in China remains unclear. Accordingly, we are not in a position to be able to answer detailed questions.

That seems pretty clear to me, but I live in rural Kentucky. This fact may give me a different appreciation of the English language. For me, the passage quote above means something along the lines:

I am not going to provide information to you. So there.

I think this approach is characteristic of a high school science club refusing to explain to the chemistry teacher where the concentrated hydrochloric acid went.

I recall one of our chemistry aces, whom shall remain nameless, saying to Virgil Shepherd, our estimable chemistry teacher:

I don’t know. Maybe the regular chemistry class used it instead of vinegar.

Mr. Shepherd did not buy the statement. But what could he do? The science club contained a published author, most of the top 20 students in the school, and knew that the regular chemistry students would lack the insight to stonewall.

Hey, did Mr. Shepherd want Illinois State Scholars, students who also attended local universities to rack up college credit from leaving high school, and and people who just rolled over when nobodies like chemistry teachers asked semi informed questions?

Of course not. He wanted a rubber chicken dinner just like the other teachers who had half a clue.

Now back to the letter. It is my content that it demonstrates the HSSCM method of talking down to lesser mortals.

This behavior is a core principle. Those who are in a more rarified atmosphere do not have to grub in the polluted atmosphere of dullardness.

Back to the article, the letter allegedly was “sent”  on August 31. Well, that is a long time when measured in Internet minutes.

What’s the outcome?

First, it is now October 11, 2018, and the letter is ancient history when viewed from a science club’s perspective. Time’s a wastin’ when you are disruptin, some say.

Second, anger is not a trait one expects from august elected officials. Anger demonstrates a lack of judgment, patient, and rational thought. Logic and data are essential, unless one decides to do something due to a “feeling”. See this HSSCM example for a logical exception. The idea is, I believe, “we make the rules we follow, not some ageing group of former student council members.” Thus, the outcome will be more aloofness and objectivity from the author of the letter.

Third, nothing. Stalling is a known method of thwarting lesser mortals. These non Googlers often struggle to maintain focus. When delayed, the lesser mortals fight among themselves. The high school science club continues on its merry way. Science club members, we knew, were the future.

What’s the punishment? Detention in the library? A fine? Okay, parents will pay. Pull out of College Bowl (the TV show) or drop out of the state’s Quick Recall competition.


Today as it was then? Yep. High school science club management methods—works every time. Usually.

Stephen E Arnold, October 13, 2018

Artificial Intelligence: Oversold?

September 18, 2018

I read “Big Tech Is Overselling AI As the Solution to Online Extremism.” strikes me as a semi-reliable outfit. I cannot, however, overlook the write up’s failure to define “extremism.” Physicists these days cannot define dark matter, so I suppose I will have to accept the non definition.

Assuming that one can define extremism, is holding “big tech” to a higher standard than it holds physicists who disagree that the undefined dark matter does not exist. I know it is a lazy rhetorical trick, but these folks are physicists and deal with uncertainty, in theory at least, every day.

Nevertheless, I found this statement in the article thought provoking:

In 2017, 250 companies suspended advertising contracts with Google over its alleged failure to moderate YouTube’s extremist content. A year later, Google’s senior vice president of advertising and commerce, Sridhar Ramaswamy, says the company is making strong progress in platform safety to regain the lost confidence of its clients. However, a recent study by the NGO Counter Extremism Project refutes the effectiveness of the company’s effort to limit and delete extremist videos. More transparency and accountability from YouTube is needed, given that the study found that over 90 per cent of ISIS videos were uploaded more than once, with no action taken against the accounts that violated the company’s terms of service.

What’s at fault? The Google type outfits which cannot get software to figure out human utterance in a way that nails extremism, which if not defined, can be a tough task. Or is the problem that smart software does not work as some big tech folks assert and dearly hope is correct?

My hunch is that artificial intelligence is the equivalent of a cowboy throwing sand in the eyes of the gun toting bad guy who wants to shoot the person in the white hat. Note: the hat is a real Western thing, not a beanie with a propeller like those I spotted in a 2016 video recently.

I know that tech yip yap with mouthfuls of jargon can send some intellectual blood hounds chasing chimera.

You decide. I think I smell a red herring.

Stephen E Arnold, September 18, 2018

Google and the Right to Be Mostly Removed from an Index

September 14, 2018

Yeah, the deletion thing.

I am able to recall some exciting “deletion” events over my 50 year working career. Let me recount one amusing deletion event. The year is 1980 (give or take a year or two). The topic was the Capital Holding IBM mainframe system running the mission critical IBM CICS (Customer Information and Control System). The CICS system and its many components was designed to make it theoretically impossible to delete a record when a high priority process was running in memory. Yes, gentle reader, in memory with data not yet written to disc. The technically fascinating Capital Holding computer center and its mainframes are no more, and on that day in 1980 neither was the data which, according to the IBM CICS manual could not be deleted.

Yeah, well.

I did not work at Capital Holding; I worked at the Louisville Courier Journal database unit, and we supported our electronic products on IBM MVS TSO systems at Bell Labs. Close enough for horseshoes, right. I sat in the meeting for an hour and contributed one comment, “Fiddling with live CICS processes by deleting a record is not a good idea. Find a work around. I have to go.” I left the wizards of the insurance business to sort out the reality of what happens when you poke around in an IBM in memory process. By the way, you can kill an AS/400 database process and the data with an ill advised delete.

At Capital Holding, one of the Job Control Language crew managed to issue a command and trash the database and whatever else was in memory at the time.

Yeah, well.

In retrospect, this was a useful reminder to me that one does not remove things from an index. One finds a way to leave the thing in the index and make sure the thing does not show up in a query. To the outsider, the data are gone. To someone who knows how the “gone” was implemented, the data are still in the index, probably on disc somewhere, and maybe on a tape in an Iron Mountain cave too. But “gone” means that the managers and lawyers in carpetland can demonstrate the datum is indeed gone.

Yeah, well. Like the internal Google video, gone is relative.

I thought of this when I read “Google Digs In Heels Over Global Expansion of EU’s Right to Be Forgotten.” The write up does not explain that stuff in an index may never really go away. I don’t think the EU cares, and I know that users who want information about people who want certain information to never be displayed don’t care about how. The goal is to have the information disappear.

Yeah, well.

Google may have some business, political, social, and economic reasons to stop this deletion demand.

From my rural Kentucky redoubt, I wonder if the Google wants to figure out how to delete information from an index without creating more work, more computational costs, and more headaches when the CICS behavior surfaces somewhere in the sensitive plant that is the global Google computing infrastructure. Of course, one can rebuild the indexes and really make the datum disappear, but rebuilds are interesting. Really expensive too when measured in terms of machine time, lost uptime, etc., etc.

The write up does a good job of explaining the non technical aspects of the issue.

I am sitting here wondering if Google when forced to delete lots of stuff from its indexes is concerned about the specific methodology of removing and removing and removing from a dynamic, distributed index.

IBM asserted that its delete function could not operate when a CICS process was chugging along.

Yeah, well.

Stephen E Arnold, September 14, 2018

How Many Lawsuits Can Fit on the Shoulders of the Google?

September 14, 2018

Google users who disabled its location tracking services are very upset, because Google is still tracking them.  According to Gizmodo, there is now, “A Lawsuit Over Google’s Sneaky Location Tracking Could Be A Game-Changer.”  Google is not apologetic about its sneak tactics and have changed its location policy.  California resident Napoleon Patacsil is upset enough to take Google to court. Patacsil wants a judge to grant his case a class-action status so other Google users can join.

Google fooled users by making it seem very simple to opt out of location tracking, but it is not:

“A slider control on the Location History section seemed to state that this was a one-stop shop to prevent Google hanging onto your location data. A support page for the feature read, “With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.” But that wasn’t entirely true. In order to fully opt-out of having your location activity stored by Google, you have to also pause the Web & Activity control as well. This is acknowledged if a user digs deeper into Google’s product documentation.”

Google responded by changing the wording in its location policy, stating that some of its services will continue to track users.  Patascil’s case includes evidence showing how Google continued to track user information, even when the option was turned off.  The argument is that his violates California privacy laws and an individual’s privacy expectations.

“The biggest question the courts will have to consider is whether or not Google met its legal obligation to obtain consent from its users. Does burying all of the information a user needs deep within separate documents on separate web pages adequately inform a user about what they are agreeing to? If all that information is collected in one document located at a separate portal, would that qualify as sufficient explanation of a company’s policies?”

If the lawsuit does become gain traction, then others could grab the fire wagon.  Google still does not admit any fault, but has agreed not to misrepresent its privacy practices anymore.  Google is probably going to wait for this to blow over.  The company spurs too much of California’s economy to lose its business license.

Whitney Grace, September 2, 2018

The Social Vendor ATM: Governments Want to Withdraw Cash

August 21, 2018

I read “Social Networks to Be Fined for Hosting Terrorist Content.” My first reaction is, “Who is going to define terrorist content?” Without an answer swirling into my mind, I looked to the article for insight.

I learned:

,,, the EC’s going to follow through on threats to fine companies like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube for not deleting flagged content post-haste. The commission is still drawing up the details…

I assume that one of the details will be a definition of terrorist content.

How long will a large, mostly high school science club type company have to remove the identified content?

The answer:

One hour for platforms to delete terrorist content.

My experience, thought hardly representative, is that it is difficult to get much accomplished in one hour in my home office. A 60 minute turnaround time may be as challenging for a large outfit operating under the fluid principles of high school science club management.

Programmers sort of work in a combination of intense focus and general confusion. My hunch it may be difficult to saddle up the folks at a giant social vendor to comply with a take down request in 3,600 seconds.

My thought is that the one hour response time may be one way to get the social media ATM to eject cash.

By the way, some of Google’s deletion success can be viewed at this page on YouTube. Note that there are some interesting videos which are not deleted. One useful way to identify some interesting videos is to search for the word “nashid” or “nasheed.”

The results list seems to reveal at least one facet of terrorism’s definition.

Stephen E Arnold, August 21, 2018

Can IBM Watermark Neural Networks?

August 8, 2018

Leave it to IBM to figure out how to put their stamp on their AI models. Of course, as with other intellectual property, AI code can be stolen, so this is a welcome development for the field. In the article, “IBM Patenting Watermark Technology to Protect Ownership of AI Models at Neowin, we learn the technology is still in development, and the company hasn’t even implemented it in-house yet. However, if all goes well, the technology may find its way into customer products someday. Writer Usama Jawad reports:

“IBM says that it showcased its research regarding watermarking models developed by deep neural networks (DNNs) at the AsiaCCS ’18 conference, where it was proven to be highly robust. As a result, it is now patenting the concept, which details a remote verification mechanism to determine the ownership of DNN models using simple API calls. The company explains that it has developed three watermark generation algorithms…

These use different methods; specifically:

  • Embedding meaningful content together with the original training data as watermarks into the protected DNNs,
  • Embedding irrelevant data samples as watermarks into the protected DNNs
  • Embedding noise as watermarks into the protected DNNs.

We learned:

“IBM says that in its internal testing using several datasets such as MNIST, a watermarked DNN model triggers an ‘unexpected but controlled response’.”

Jawad notes one drawback as of yet—though the software works well online, it still fails to detect ownership when a model is deployed internally. From another article, “IBM Came Up With a Watermark for Neural Networks” at TheNextWeb, we spotted an  interesting tidbit—Writer Tristan Greene points out a distinct lack of code bloat from the watermark. This is an important factor in neural networks, which can be real resource hogs.

For more information, you may want to see IBM’s blog post on the subject or check out the associated research paper. Beyond Search wonders what smart software developers will use these techniques. Amazon, Facebook, Google, Oracle, Palantir Technologies? Universities with IBM research support may be more likely candidates, but that is, of course, speculation from rural Kentucky.

Cynthia Murrell, August 8, 2018

Oracle Brews Java Revenge with a Taste That Lingers

May 15, 2018

I assume that the “real” news experts at Fortune have their facts lined up. I hope so because the story “Google Is Now Under Investigation after Oracle Accused It of Secretly Tracking Android Users.” In my view, if one uses a mobile phone, one is tracked. This is my supposition, and I have a handy dandy copper lined bag which helps me keep my visits to the local ice rink a secret. Imagine. A 74 year old who ice skates albeit carefully.

The write up points out two items which surprised me. Remember. I was not surprised by the tracking feature which is old news here in Harrod’s Creek. I noted two points:

  1. The assertion that Google is under investigation because of an action Oracle took. I find that fascinating. A database company nudging Australian investigators into action. What’s that say about Oracle’s clout? What’s that say about Australian investigators’ interest in the GOOG? I just don’t know.
  2. The write up links Oracle’s poking at Google to Oracle’s annoyance related to the use of Java in Google’s mobile phone operating system. I thought that the idea today was to engage in “conversations” and move on with Sillycon Valley lives.

I, of course, believe that Google data are anonymized. Why would Google keep track of individual user clicks, photos, email, browser actions, or location for that matter?

I don’t have the slightest idea, but I can guess. Here’s my hypothesis: Google wants / needs to sell ads, create services to help people, and make Google a better workplace. Set aside the internal politics and the grousers who are quitting because the GOOG wants government contracts.

What else does Oracle have up its old fashioned, very capacious technology sleeve?

Stephen E Arnold, May 15, 2018

Palantir Technologies: A Canary Sings Off Tune

May 14, 2018

Short honk: I read “If You Thought Cambridge Analytica Was Scary, Well This Lot’s F*cking Terrifying.” The intent of the write up is to equate Palantir with Cambridge Analytica. I am not sure I am convinced, but the write up includes an interesting chart. In fact, the chart identifies some individuals allegedly involved with Cambridge Analytica and some allegedly associated companies. Note that the larger version of the chart takes the intrepid researcher to another site and suggests that anyone who wants to include the chart in an article use the link, not a screen capture. Worth a gander says the Beyond Search goose. Please, note that the Beyond Search goose is not terrified.

Stephen E Arnold, May 14, 2018

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