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Google Has a Problem: A Monopoly on Data, Not Traffic, Data

April 20, 2015

Leave it to the complainers in the UK to accuse Google of having a monopoly on data. Navigate to “Google Dominates Search. But the Real Problem Is Its Monopoly on Data.” Note that there are some outfits in the UK which have quite a bit of data too. The difference is that Google appears to be free, and the UK outfit is sort out of the spotlight.

The write up jumps from the allegations under consideration by the European Commission about Google’s search results. The write up states:

Were Google a manufacturer, say, a monopoly such as it has over internet search would never be allowed. But three factors conspire to Google’s advantage. Firstly, digital services, however ubiquitous, seem less tangible and therefore do not appear so obvious a threat to commercial pluralism, innovation and to consumer interests.

Okay, no monopolies allowed. No kilt wool combines. No champagne controls in quirky France. No centralization of Mercedes Benz parts. I understand.

To its credit, the Guardian points out that an alternative to Google is just a click away. The reality is different. Ask a shrink about habits. I highlighted this paragraph:

The wider problem is that Google has become the ultimate monopolist of the information age. Information is a source of power, and nothing in the EU’s case does anything significant to touch that power.

Good point. So isn’t the war over? Research that question in Qwant.

Stephen E Arnold, April 20, 2015

Short Honk: Google: Perhaps Google Is Sorry

April 15, 2015

I don’t want to rehash familiar ground. Google perceives itself as a great outfit. “Antitrust: Commission Sends Statement of Objections to Google on Comparison Shopping Service; Opens Separate Formal Investigation on Android” makes it clear that the European Commission has some doubts. The headline also demonstrates that the EC wants to create a Google friendly document. That first page of results is important.

As a Googler once told me, “It is easier to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission.” I have emended this to mean, “We’re sorry. We’re really, really sorry.” It worked in a “Fish Called Wanda.” Oh, wait. That was a motion picture. Well, close enough.

Stephen E Arnold, April 15, 2015

Attivio Board Member Under Scrutiny

April 3, 2015

I read “The SEC Charges Venture Capitalist with Insider Trading.”

Here’s the passage I noted:

An Oak spokesman was just learning about the SEC charges when contacted by Fortune, and did not yet have any comment. Among the open questions not only are if Ahmed will be a partner on the future fund, but also if he’ll remain a board member with existing Oak portfolio companies like Attivio Inc., Circle Financial Kenet LLC and Nomorereack.com.

I have mentioned that firms requiring repeated injections of venture funding are under considerable pressure to produce returns. I find it interesting that Attivio, founded by former executives at Fast Search & Transfer, had a board member who allegedly requires investigation. I wish to note that Fast Search was investigated by Norwegian authorities, and John Lervik, the founder, was saddled with formal punishment.

Attivio is a variant of Fast Search’s aspirations to deliver an enterprise wide unified information access platform. Dr. Lervik and his team had the ability to see what enterprise customers wanted. The technology fell short of the mark and some fancy financial dancing ensured. Attivio’s founders left Fast Search before the investigation spooled to high RPMs.

Search remains a difficult sector  in which to produce the types of returns venture firms and angels expect the investments to generate. Is the SEC investigation an indication that extra ordinary measures are required to make some of the these investments pay off?

My view is that it is desirable to offer a product that customers want to buy, grow by making sales, and avoiding the lure of geysers of venture capitalist money. Others have a different view. That makes horse races. Who would try to fiddle with a horse race? Good question in Kentucky.

I wonder if any of the Fast Search team are on the Attivio Board of Directors.

Stephen E Arnold, April 3, 2015

Google: Three Elephants Preparing to Fight Among Themselves

April 2, 2015

I love the Google. I found two unrelated articles interesting for one simple reason: Google is getting ready for its own version of Wrestlemania.

The first write up is “China Blasts Google Security Move as ‘Unacceptable’.” Most outfits doing business in China seek to avoid getting into an awkward position with the Chinese authorities. Anyone remember the mobile death vans? Well, check up on your allegedly accurate current history. According to the write up, Google is not recognizing certain Chinese certificates:

The Google posting was updated Wednesday to note that CNNIC’s certificates “will no longer be recognized in Google products” adding that the Chinese organization was “welcome… to reapply once suitable technical and procedural controls are in place”.  An anti-censorship group, GreatFire.org – which has accused Beijing of attacking its services—said the original revelation was evidence that CNNIC had been “complicit” in so-called man-in-the-middle operations. Such attacks involve an unauthorized intermediary inserting themselves between computer users and their online destinations, usually undetected, allowing them to harvest data including passwords.

For me, the point is that Google is lighting up the radar of the CNNIC just as the fly bys by Mr. Putin’s armed forces catch the attention of Russia’s neighbors.

The second write up is even more fascinating, if it is accurate. The article is “EU Lays Groundwork for Antitrust Charges Against Google.” You will either have to buy a newspaper and kill a small bush or tree or pay. Or you will have to pony up money for online access. If the link works, wow, you are lucky.

The passage I noted was:

The European Commission, the European Union’s top antitrust authority, has been asking companies that filed complaints against Google for permission to publish some information they previously submitted confidentially, according to several people familiar with the requests. Shopping, local and travel companies are among those that have been contacted, one of those people said.

Assume the “one of those people said” is delivering on the money information. The idea that there will be legal documents available for analysis is darned interesting. I have reviewed one or two court documents in my work career and some of them are chock full of useful information. Too bad that some documents, like those in the i2 vs Palantir matter disappear after the proceedings, but that’s life in the aeries of legal eagles.

The net net of this is that Google is not just jousting with the Xooglers at Facebook and the world’s smartest man at Amazon. The Google appears to be entering a two front war. One hopes those online advertising revenues continue to pump cash into the Google’s coffers. Two front wars can be costly for human, companies, and the victims of the proverb which asserts:

When elephants fight, only the grass gets trampled.

I am delighted I live in Harrod’s Creek. The mine drainage run off makes grass a scare item. So who will be the grass when Google tussles with China and the EC? I am interested in how a company battling nation states will move forward.

Stephen E Arnold, April 2, 2015

HP: Caveat Venditor Becomes the Company Slogan

March 31, 2015

[I was going to post this on April Fool’s Day. But I thought that some of my very small audience would think I was posting a joke. This is no joke, I fear.]

I am not sure my high school Latin is working, but I think I am close. You know the phrase, Caveat emptor. My view is that Hewlett Packard’s new slogan is, “Seller beware” or caveat venditor in my version of the dead language.

Navigate to “HP Sues Autonomy Co-Founder Lynch in U.K. for $5.1 Billion.” The write up reports:

Hewlett-Packard Co. escalated its more than two-year-old battle with Michael Lynch, suing the Autonomy Corp. co-founder, as well as a former chief financial officer, for $5.1 billion. Hewlett-Packard has maintained that before it agreed to buy the Cambridge, England-based software company for $10 billion in 2011, Lynch and other managers gave an overly optimistic representation of its financial health.

There you go. Let me get this straight. HP decided to buy something. That something triggered much work by HP executives and its consultants. The something became Autonomy. More analyses and conversations ensued.

HP believes that the sellers (Dr. Mike Lynch and his senior managers) did the Norman Vincent Peale thing to sway the $100 billion corporation. You remember. The Power of Positive Thinking. I assume Dr. Lynch and his team did the normal sales pitch complete with diagrams, buzzwords, and lots of upbeat comments about the market opportunity, the IDOL and DRE technology, and the future for smart software. Most of the pitches I have heard in my 50 year business career are more marketing than verifiable facts. Buyers want to buy. Sellers want to sell. Sellers usually have a tough time forcing a buyer to buy unless the situation takes place in a Netflix entertainment experience.

false advertising

A happy quack to http://www.owned.com/search/advertising-fail/

The article points out:

The U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office in January dropped its probe into the takeover after finding “insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction,” the agency said at the time. The U.S. Department of Justice is still investigating, and the SFO said it gave its files to the U.S. authorities. The U.K. accounting regulator, the Financial Reporting Council, is still looking into the matter. The fight has been played out in the open on both sides of the Atlantic, with Lynch posting comments and documents on his blog and Hewlett-Packard aligning with shareholders to pursue Lynch and Hussain in court.

Okay. The SFO seems to okay with the deal. FRC is still analyzing.

The winner is going to be the law firms working on this matter. From my point of view, HP bought Autonomy. Dr. Lynch sold Autonomy. As far as I know, Dr. Lynch did not use direct or implied threats to cause the deal to occur. HP, managed by adults, made a decision.

Now, years and billions later, HP is going to “prove” that a known technology wizard with a strong marketing sense fooled a multi-billion dollar company, its handpicked team of managers and analysts, and legions of brains for hire folks.

I know Dr. Lynch is good. I did not know he was a magician and hypnotist.

Fascinating but HP has to do something in addition to splitting its company in two, ignoring the threat posed by Amazon and its ilk, the absence of management wisdom, and the uncertain market into which HP knowingly jumped.

I wonder if HP will take a look in the mirror and wonder what business message the company is sending. Auto dealers in Palo Alto are probably wondering if they are next to be sued. Every auto salesperson with whom I interacted stresses the positive. I, when the buyer, have to do my homework and understand the facts about a purchase BEFORE signing the deal and forking over hard cash.

Stephen E Arnold, March 31, 2015

Google, Safari, and the Europe Problem

March 27, 2015

I read “Google Loses Safari Web Tracking Court of Appeal Case.” The write up is less amusing than Loon balloons or contemplating the future of Glass. I assume the write up is accurate. I read:

UK consumers have been granted the right to take Google to court over revelations from 2012 that it bypassed security settings in Apple’s Safari browser to track users.

The write up included this paragraph:

Dan Tench, a partner at law firm Olswang, acting for the claimants, said that the decision was vital as it stops Google “evading or trivializing these very serious intrusions into the privacy of British consumers”.

Is this accurate?

My hunch is that Google may face additional legal scrutiny in Europe in 2015 despite this statement from the article:

Jonathan Hawker, who set up the Google Action Group regarding the Safari tracking issue, said that anyone who used an Apple iPhone, iPod or iPad between summer 2011 and spring 2012 could be entitled to compensation and should come forward. “Anyone who used the Safari browser during the relevant period now has the right to join our claim against Google. We urge all Safari users to join us in this battle to hold Google to account for its actions in the only way it understands,” he said.

My hunch is that Google’s legal eagles (maybe solicitor sparrows?) will seek additional legal processes. I do know that the GOOG is not keen on having its dreams thwarted. But I am not sure what Google understands although some people are confident in their grasp of the X Lab crowd.

Stephen E Arnold, March 27, 2015

Painting an IT Worker’s House Requires an NDA

March 27, 2015

You would not think that contractors, gardeners, painters, plumbers, and electricians would have to sign an non-disclosure agreement before working on someone’s home, but according to the New York Times it is happening all over Silicon Valley“For Tech Titans, Sharing Has Its Limits” explains how home and garden maintenance workers now have to sign NDAs for big name tech workers just like they have to with celebrities.  Most of the time, workers do not even know who they are working for or recognize the names.  This has made it hard to gather information on how many people require NDAs, but Mark Zuckerberg recently had a lawsuit that sheds some light about why they are being used.  He goes to great lengths to protect his privacy, but ironically tech people who use NDAs are the ones who make a profit off personal information disclosures.

“The lawsuit against Mr. Zuckerberg involves a different residence, 35 miles south in Palo Alto. In it, a part-time developer named Mircea Voskerician claims that he had a contract to buy a $4.8 million house adjoining Mr. Zuckerberg’s residence, and offered to sell a piece of the property to Mr. Zuckerberg. He says that in a meeting at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, he discussed a deal to sell his interest in the entire property to Mr. Zuckerberg. In exchange, he says, Mr. Zuckerberg would make introductions between him and powerful people in Silicon Valley, potential future business partners and clients. Mr. Voskerician passed up a better offer on the house, the suit contends, but Mr. Zuckerberg did not follow through on the pledge to make introductions.”

Voskerician said he only signed the NDA on as a condition to the proposed agreement, but Zuckerberg’s legal representation says the NDA means all information related to him.  On related terms, Facebook is making more privacy rules so only certain people can see user information.  It still does not change how big name IT workers want their own information kept private.  It seems sharing is good as long as it is done according to a powerful company’s definition of sharing.

Whitney Grace, March 27, 2015
Stephen E Arnold, Publisher of CyberOSINT at www.xenky.com

Legal Technology Update

March 20, 2015

It seems that the field of legal tech is making progress. Above the Law reports on “Today’s (Legal) Tech: The State of Legal Technology in 2015.” Writer Nicole Black attended the LegalTech New York conference. She highly recommends this conference to her colleagues in the legal technology field, by the way. She also came away with a list of new legal tools. Be aware, though, that e-discovery and information-governance solutions are not among them; those areas just aren’t her cup of tea. Black writes:

“Whenever I attend LegalTech, one of my goals is to learn about new and interesting legal tools that are NOT related to e-discovery or information governance, since these areas simply don’t interest me. Trying to locate vendors with offerings outside of these two categories is no small task at LegalTech. The conference organizers seem to be single-mindedly focused on these subjects and you can’t walk more than two feet in the Exhibit Hall without tripping over a booth offering software related to either topic.

“But, I doggedly sifted through the slew of emails I received from vendors until I found a few with products that interested me. As is the case every year, a theme seems to emerge after I’ve met with the various vendors, and this year it was documents, documents, and more documents.”

Black goes on to list several vendors of interest. She met with three offering litigation-prep document management, Factbox, Allegory, and Opus 2 Magnum. Each works a little differently from the others, she notes. Then there’s Redact Assistant, which simplifies the removal of sensitive content; Plainlegal, which supplies document automation for IP filings; and Brainloop, which offers virtual data rooms to enhance collaboration. The final entry, Box, is a general online-document storage and collaboration tool that has been making inroads into the legal space.

Black wraps up her article with a description of swag found at the conference, but I’ll let you navigate to the article for those card-game-related details. It sounds like the conference was a lot of fun.

Cynthia Murrell, March 19, 2015

Stephen E Arnold, Publisher of CyberOSINT at www.xenky.com

HP Autonomy: HP Shareholder Deal

March 14, 2015

I am no legal eagle. I did find “US Judge Approves HP Shareholder Deal over Autonomy Acquisition” interesting. (If the news story disappears, well, that’s life in the world of real news.)

The story reports:

Hewlett-Packard Co won preliminary approval from a U.S. judge to settle shareholder litigation on Friday involving the information technology company’s botched acquisition of Autonomy Plc. The ruling, from U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco, comes after HP failed to win approval of two previous proposed deals. Breyer had written that the last deal may not have been fair for shareholders because it could have forced them to give up claims beyond the Autonomy deal.

The battle over HP’s decision to purchase Autonomy continues. I assume the lawyers representing the parties to this matter are thinking about appeals. Will billing cross their minds?

Stephen E Arnold, March 14, 2015

Algorithms: Be Careful with Those College Math Notes

March 13, 2015

I read “Algorithmia Launches With More Than 800 Algorithms On Its Marketplace.” With the world embracing smart software, the monetization of math is no surprise. I would point out that one of my math books is an early version of Numerical Recipes: The Art of Scientific Computing. the book contains more than 400 numerical routines. The book includes useful explanations of MCMC, linear programming, and Delaunay triangulation, and more.

I also have Advanced Math for Beginners, a Russian textbook. There are other math books on my shelves including a copy of Zbigniew Michalewicz’s Genetic Algorithms + Data Structures = Evolution Programs. My assumption is that I could study the examples in these and other books, create a program, and move forward with my really smart software application. Maybe not? I thought. What happens if a I use an algorithm for sale on Algorithmia which I ingested from one of these textbooks? Yikes. Jail time?  A fine? A Google Oracle Java style dust up? Could Algorithmia take legal action against a company dependent on methods taught in college classes?

Stephen E Arnold, March 13, 2015

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