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

You Know You Are in Deep Doo Doo When…

May 7, 2018

I flipped through the Overflight news feeds and noted several stories. Remember when you were a wee thing, and you did something wrong. Your friends knew. Your friends’ mom knew. Your mom knew. Then your father or significant parental other (SPO) knew. That may be the feeling of some of the Cambridge Analytica wunderkind.

An example is warranted:

That excellent hire Christopher Wylie has allegedly shared more information about turning clicks into votes. The good hearted wizard told the Guardian about data, target variables, and profiling. There’s even a reference to a patent (absent the patent number, the assignee, and other data which allows one to locate the referenced patent). The kimono is open and the sight does not strike me as one I would describe as attractive.

Will declaring bankruptcy allow the Cambridge Analytica “owner” to avoid further scrutiny? That seems unlikely.

Will an expert step forward and suggest that Cambridge Analytica may have precipitated the Brexit anguish? That seems unlikely.

Nevertheless, I would hypothesize that moms.

PS. Include patent identifiers when you quote patents, dear Guardian editors, please. Perhaps you too are engaging in some data shaping just on a tiny scale?

Stephen E Arnold, May 7,l 2018

Cambridge Analytica: Those Greek Tragedians Understood Bad Decisions

May 2, 2018

Here in Harrod’s Creek, the echoes of the khoros are sometimes audible. For example, we heard that Cambridge Analytica, the zippy data outfit has folded its tents. The firm’s offices in the US and elsewhere are shuttered or in the process of turning out the lights and unplugging from the interwebs.

We noted this statement in Gizmodo:

The news was announced during a conference call led by Julian Wheatland, the current chairman of the SCL Group who was reportedly tapped to take over as Cambridge Analytica’s next CEO. Both companies will now close their doors. During the call, Wheatland said that the board determined that rebranding the company’s current offerings in the current environment is “futile.”

In the online information the Beyond Search team has been reviewing, there was no reference to this statement, allegedly crafted by Sophocles:

I would prefer even to fail with honor than win by cheating.

CNBC reported:

The firm is shuttering in part due to mounting legal fees associated with its investigation into whether there had been any wrongdoing with regard to Facebook data, according to the Wall Street Journal who first reported the shuttering.

That “real” news report did not include this statement, allegedly penned by Euripides:

Cleverness is not wisdom.

Will other clever individuals bump into Greek truisms?

The odds in Harrod’s Creek that trouble will be coming to some social media outfits are the same as those on Justified, the favorite in the Kentucky Derby.

Race tracks do need workers to clean their Augean stables. The work is less sporty than crunching data of mysterious origins, but it pays because horses are often more reliable than some humans. Plus there is a party for workers after the race on Saturday.

Stephen E Arnold, May 2, 2018

Former Autonomy Executive Found Culpable

May 1, 2018

I read “U.S. Jury Convicts Former Autonomy Executive of Fraud over HP Deal.” The jury found Sushovan Hussain guilty of wire fraud. Reuters said that in 2009 Mr. Hussain began to “deceive Autonomy’s investors and HP( about the company’s financial condition and prospects for growth.”

An ArnoldIT profile about Autonomy is available without charge at this link.

The HP purchase of Autonomy was one of the major turning points in enterprise search. The $11 billion deal made clear that enterprise search was an application space which would have provided rocket fuel for HP’s growth.

HP discovered that enterprise search was a challenging technology to use as a way to generates billions of dollars in revenue quickly and easily.

Beyond Search’s view of this deal—as well as the sale of Exalead to Dassault Systèmes, Vivisimo’s sale to IBM, and the manic repositioning of the vendors pitching proprietary search solutions—is that may companies found that enterprise search was a tough nut to crack. Marketing is easier than generating sustainable revenues. In my experience, enterprise search requires specialized expertise.

What’s interesting is that I heard that HP executives reviewed the Autonomy financial data, knew about the Qatalyst 2011 report about Autonomy, and decided to purchase the company. The deal seemed to unfold quickly and then implode almost as quickly. HP paid more for Autonomy than any other search acquisition of which I was aware. HP emerged as the proud owner of the firm which brought Bayesian methods to the enterprise. (I want to mention that the mathematical procedures implemented by Autonomy are now incorporated into most of the next generation information access systems I discussed in CyberOSINT, my book on what’s beyond search.


A page from the 2011 Qatalyst report about Autonomy. The full document, once available on the Oracle Web site, is now difficult to locate via open source methods.

This legal dust up may gather momentum. Possibly appeals and more people accused by HP making their way to the court room. I will stay tuned for developments reported by “real news” outfits like Thomson Reuters.

Stephen E Arnold, May 1, 2018

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