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Alphabet Google and Its EU Strategy

June 29, 2016

Short honk: Read the original article “Eric Schmidt Gave Us a Glimpse of the Strategy He’s Using to Persuade the EU to Not Declare Google a Monopoly.”

Here’s the quote to note which I circled in true blue:

“Our strategy, and my personal strategy, is to get to know the regulators very, very well.” Schmidt [Alphabet Google big dog] does that, he said, because “people don’t know how we work.”

Right. No one really knows how Alphabet Google works. Perhaps one might ask someone disenchanted with Mother Google. Perhaps a person at Foundem has some thoughts.

To know the Alphabet Google thing is to love the Alphabet Google thing. Knowledge makes the monopoly idea fade it seems.

Stephen E Arnold, June 29, 2016

Palantir Technologies: Now Beer Pong and Human Augmented Intelligence?

June 23, 2016

I went months, nay years, without reading very much about Palantir Technologies. Now the unicorn seems to be prancing through my newsfeeds frequently. I read “Palantir’s Party Culture: Beer Pong, Office Pranks, and a Bad Case of the Hives.” The focus is less on how Gotham works and the nifty data management system the firm has engineered and more upon revelations about life inside a stealthy vendor of search and content processing systems.

The write up uses what appears to be company emails  and letters from attorneys as sources of information. I thought that emails were the type of information not widely available. Lawyer letters? Hmm. Guess not. A former Hobbit (allegedly the Palantirians’ names for themselves in the Shire) has revealed information about a matter involving a terminated employee.

The Sillycon Valley company allegedly has or had employees who horsed around. I find this difficult to believe. Fun at work? Wow. The aggrieved individual alleges he was injured by a “drunk coworker” who was playing beer pong. And the individual with a beef allegedly had “snacks” taken from his work space. (I thought Palantir-type outfits provided food for the Hobbit-like individuals.)

The write up contains this statement:

The letter [from a legal eagle?] also makes the surprising allegation that Palantir engaged in improper business practices by using both Bloomberg data feeds and software from an IT firm called ANB without the appropriate licenses. Neither Palantir, Bloomberg, nor ANB responded to requests for comment. In the July 2010 letter, Cohen’s attorney states that his client was retaliated against for speaking out about these practices. From the letter:

Mr Cohen was retaliated against for…complaining about issues such as Palantir’s illegal use of third party copyrighted and trademarked icons and Bloomberg data feeds without adequate licenses. In addition, Mr. Cohen was retaliated against for complaining about the illegal use of open source code without crediting authors, and the illegal use of ANB software development kit without ANB’s authorization.

Yikes. From beer pong and missing snacks to the allegation of “improper business practices.”  Who knew this was possible?

Please, note that the statements in the write up about “ANB” probably refer to IBM i2’s proprietary file structures for the Analyst’s Notebook product. (I dug in that outfit’s garden for a while.) What other errors lurk within these write ups about disenchanted Hobbits?

Several questions occurred to me:

  1. Is Palantir’s email system insecure? Have there been other caches of company email let loose from the Shire?
  2. Are these emails publicly available? Will those with access to the emails gather them and post them on a pastesite?
  3. What is the relationship between the IBM i2 proprietary file format and the Gotham system? (Wasn’t there a legal dust up with regard to i2’s proprietary technology?)
  4. How do commercial database content feeds find their way into systems not licensed for such access?

I find it interesting how a company which purports to maintain a low profile captures the attention of “real” journalists who have access to emails and legal letters.

I noted a couple of factoids too:

Key factoid one: Beer pong can be dangerous.

Key factoid two: People working in high tech outfits may want to check out their internal governance methods. Emails don’t walk; emails get sent or copied before, during, or after beer pong.

Stephen E Arnold, June 23, 2016

Palantir Technologies Challenges US Government Procurement

June 22, 2016

I was a wee lad when I read Don Quixote. I know that students in Spain and some other countries study the text of the 17th century novel closely. I did not. I remember flipping through a Classics’ comic book, reading the chapter summaries in Cliff’s Notes, and looking at the pictures in the edition in my high school’s library. Close enough for horse shoes. (I got an A on the test. Heh heh heh.)

Here’s what I recall the Don and his sidekick. A cultured fellow read a lot of fantasy fiction, mixed it up the real world, and went off on adventures or sallies. The protagonist (see I remember something from Ms. Sperling’s literature class in 1960) rode a horse and charged into the countryside to kill windmills. I remember there were lots and lots of adventures, not too much sex – drugs – rock and roll, and many convoluted literary tropes.

I still like the windmills. A Google search showed me an image which is very similar to the one in the comic book I used as my definitive version of the great novel. Here it is:

Image result for don quixote windmills

What does a guy riding a horse with a lance toward a windmill have to do with search and content processing? Well, I read “Palantir Lambastes Army Over $206 Million Contract Bidding.” I assume the information in the write up is spot on.

Palantir Technologies, a unicorn which is the current fixation of a Buzzfeed journalist, is going to sue the US Army over a “to be” contract for work. The issue is an all source information system procurement known as DCGS or sometimes DI2E. The acronyms are irrelevant. What is important is that the US Army has been plugging away with a cadre of established government contractors for a decade. Depending on whom one asks, DCGS is the greatest thing since sliced bread or it is a flop.

However, Palantir believes that its augmented intelligence system is a better DCGS / DI2E. than the actual DCGS / DI2E.

The US Army may not agree and appears be on the path to awarding the contract for DCGS work to other vendors.

According to the write up:

Palantir claims the Army’s solicitation is “unlawful, irrational, arbitrary and capricious,” according to the letter of intent Palantir sent to the U.S. Army and the Department of Justice, which was obtained by Bloomberg. The letter is a legal courtesy, which states Palantir will file a formal protest in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims next week and requests the Army delay awarding the first phase of the contract until litigation is resolved. The contract is slated to be awarded by the end of 2016.

The contract is worth a couple of hundred million, but the follow on work is likely to hit nine figures. Palantir has some investors who want more growth. The best way to get it, if the write up is accurate, is on the backs of legal eagles.

I don’t know anything about the US Army and next to nothing about Palantir, but I have some experience watching vendors protest the US government’s procurement process. My thought is that when bidders sue the government:

  • Costs go up. Lawyers are very busy, often for a year or more. In lawyer land, billing is really good.
  • Delays occur. The government unit snagged in the contracting hassle have to juggle more balls; for example, tasks have to be completed. When the vendors are not able to begin work, delays occur. This may not be a problem in lawyer land, but in the real world, downstream dependencies can be a hitch in the git along.
  • Old scores may be hummed. Palantir settled a legal dust up with IBM which owns i2 Analysts Notebook. The Analysts Notebook is the very same software system whose file structure Palantir wanted to understand. i2 was not too keen on making its details available. (Note: I was a consultant to i2 for a number of years, and this was input number one to me from one of the founders). IBM has a pretty good institutional memory without consulting Watson.)

And Don Quixote? I wonder if the Palantirians, some of whom fancy themselves Hobbits, are going to be able to shape the real world to their vision. The trajectory of this legal dust up will be interesting to watch as it flames across the sky toward Spain and Don Quixote’s fictional library. Flame out or direct hit? The US Army and US government procurement policies are able to absorb charging horses and possibly a lance poke or two.

Stephen E Arnold, June 22, 2016

From Whence the Loon Balloon?

June 20, 2016

I read “This Company Claims Google Stole the Balloon Wi-Fi Tech behind Project Loon.” I learned:

a company called Space Data Corporation is claiming it developed that technology more than a decade earlier — and Google’s moonshot was based in part on its proprietary trade secrets.

The information was news to me. Google has been poking around wireless for years. I did a presentation which included a profile of Google providing wireless connectivity with gizmos mounted on top of a pizza delivery auto. I wrote a for fee column for a dead tree outfit about Google’s stake in Meraki. I even read some of Google’s wireless patents. Exciting stuff.

The write up states:

In a complaint filed earlier this week in Northern California District Court, Space Data cites two patents that Loon allegedly infringes on — one dealing with providing connectivity through a network of balloons (filed in 1999) and another dealing with the termination and recovery of those balloons (filed in 2001). Both patents predate Loon and the company does not appear to have licensed either one. Google holds a number of its own patents on Loon’s technology, granted without reference to Space Data’s technology. Space Data currently offers two products — SkySat and SkySite — both of which aim to provide balloon-based connectivity in a similar way to Project Loon. The system does not appear to be in wide use, although the company does hold FCC licenses to provide broadband spectrum services in remote areas of Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.

I have a nagging thought that the Google before its IPO got some push back regarding Yahoo’s Overture/GoTo technology. Since that time, hasn’t Google’s innovation mavens been inventing original stuff?

Stephen E Arnold, June 20, 2016

Banks as New Dark Web Educators

June 15, 2016

The Dark Web and deep web can often get misidentified and confused by readers. To take a step back, Trans Union’s blog offers a brief read called, The Dark Web & Your Data: Facts to Know, that helpfully addresses some basic information on these topics. First, a definition of the Dark Web: sites accessible only when a physical computer’s unique IP address is hidden on multiple levels. Specific software is needed to access the Dark Web because that software is needed to encrypt the machine’s IP address. The article continues,

“Certain software programs allow the IP address to be hidden, which provides anonymity as to where, or by whom, the site is hosted. The anonymous nature of the dark web makes it a haven for online criminals selling illegal products and services, as well as a marketplace for stolen data. The dark web is often confused with the “deep web,” the latter of which makes up about 90 percent of the Internet. The deep web consists of sites not reachable by standard search engines, including encrypted networks or password-protected sites like email accounts. The dark web also exists within this space and accounts for approximately less than 1 percent of web content.”

For those not reading news about the Dark Web every day, this seems like a fine piece to help brush up on cybersecurity concerns relevant at the individual user level. Trans Union is on the pulse in educating their clients as banks are an evergreen target for cybercrime and security breaches. It seems the message from this posting to clients can be interpreted as one of the “good luck” variety.

 

Megan Feil, June 15, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Sillycon Valley Antics: Hulk, Hillary

June 13, 2016

I noted two items which reminded me why I enjoy Sillycon Valley techno wizardry. The first item concerns the Hulk Hogan Gawker matter. The story “Gawker Files for Bankruptcy and Says It Will Sell the Company to Ziff Davis or Someone Else” converted to a quasi emoji in my addled goose brain; to wit:

image

My hunch is that anyone who wants to annoy the founder of Palantir Technologies, may want to consider the risks. That splat is ugly and may be blended with an aniline dye.

The other item makes clear that the Alphabet Google thing is an objective algorithmic construct, kissed by the golden Sillycon Valley sun. Navigate to “There’s No Evidence That Google Is Manipulating Searches to Help Hillary Clinton.” Therein resides the truth. I learned:

Apparently, Google has a policy of not suggesting that customers do searches on people’s crimes. I have no inside knowledge of why it runs its search engine this way. Maybe Google is just uncomfortable with having an algorithm suggesting that people search for other people’s crimes. In any event, there’s no evidence that this is specific to Hillary Clinton, and therefore no reason to think this is a conspiracy by Google to help Clinton win the election.

Definitely rock solid from a person whose brother works at Google. Even more reason to accept the Sillycon Valley objectivity argument.

Stephen E Arnold, June 13, 2016

Palantir Technologies: Will the Company Prevail in DCGS?

June 3, 2016

I read “Army Eyes DCGS Reforms on Capitol Hill.” Not long ago, I described a decision which struck me as putting Palantir in a checkmate position. This write up explains that Palantir does have a deus ex machina to help it prevail in its DCGS travails. You can review my earlier write up and the GAO’s decision in “GAO DCGS Letter B-412746.”

If the “Army Eyes DCGS Reform” write up is spot on, there is some procurement excitement ahead. Those activities will not be in the “FAR” future. (FAR is a US government acronym for a collection of procurement guidelines.)

I learned:

Palantir is considering suing the Army over the DCGS-A 2 solicitation, according to a Politico report. The Army has said it expects to award a $206 million contract for DCGS-A 2 later this year.

Here’s the snippet I located of the “report”:

image

Politico said:

“The secretive Silicon Valley firm Palantir is considering suing the Army to block a planned $206 million contract to build a next-generation battlefield intelligence network, an industry lobbyist with knowledge of the issue told POLITICO. It’s the latest sign that commercial technology companies are becoming increasingly aggressive in seeking to wrestle big-dollar contracts from the Pentagon’s traditional suppliers.

How much money is at stake? Think in terms of $2.5 to $3.5 billion over the new two or three years. That’s without scope changes and the impedimenta government contracts entail. (If you are curious, you can find the RFP summary at this link.)

How does a commercial company go about derailing the Department of Defense. I used to work at an outfit which provided to President Theodore Roosevelt an advisor. That advisor helped design the Department of Navy. Think it is easy dislodging my former employer from its government contracts?

This is not Monty Hall time. Palantir Technologies has an opportunity to disrupt US government procurement procedures. Can the Hobbits prevail? I know that Tolkien fiction works out in fantasy worlds, but the procurement process might be a bridge too FAR.

If you want to read the regulations, start here.

Stephen E Arnold, June 3, 2016

Quote to Note: What Silicon Valley Hates

June 1, 2016

I read the Gray Lady’s write up about the shoot out between some high profile people and outfits. You can get the details in “Tech Titans Raise Their Guard, Pushing Back Against News Media.” The addled goose is interested in the behavior of real journalists and the folks with money, influence, and legal eagles. Eagles have been known to snack on geese.

Here’s the quote I noted:

“The possibility that Gawker may have to post a bond for $50 million or more just to be able to pursue its right to appeal the jury’s verdict raises serious concerns about press freedom,” Lynn Oberlander, general counsel for First Look, said in a statement.

The Constitution thing again. Troublesome for sure. Paying for placement may be the answer. That’s journalism too I surmise.

Stephen E Arnold, June 1, 2016

Alphabet Google: An NHS Explainer

May 30, 2016

I read “Did Google’s NHS Patient Data Deal Need Ethical Approval?” As I thought about the headline, my reaction was typically Kentucky, “Is this mom talking or what?”

The write up states:

Now, a New Scientist investigation has found that Google DeepMind deployed a medical app called Streams for monitoring kidney conditions without first contacting the relevant regulatory authority. Our investigation also asks whether an ethical approval process that covers this kind of data transfer should have been obtained, and raises questions about the basis under which Royal Free is sharing data with Google DeepMind.

I hear, “Did you clean up your room, dear?”

The notion of mining data has some charm among some folks in the UK. The opportunity to get a leg up on other outfits has some appeal to the Alphabet Google crowd.

The issue is, “Now that the horse has left the barn, what do we do about it?” Good question if you are a mom type. Ask any teenager about Friday night. Guess what you are likely to learn.

The write up continues:

Minutes from the Royal Free’s board meeting on 6 April make the trust’s relationship with DeepMind explicit: “The board had agreed to enter into a memorandum of understanding with Google DeepMind to form a strategic partnership to develop transformational analytics and artificial intelligence healthcare products building on work currently underway on an acute kidney failure application.” When New Scientist asked for a copy of the memorandum of understanding on 9 May, Royal Free pushed the request into a Freedom of Information Act request.

I recall a statement made by a US official. It may be germane to this question about medical data. The statement: “What we say is secret is secret.” Perhaps this applies to the matter in question.

I circled this passage:

The HRA confirmed to New Scientist that DeepMind had not started the approval process as of 11 May. “Google is getting data from a hospital without consent or ethical approval,” claims Smith. “There are ethical processes around what data can be used for, and for a good reason.”

And Alphabet Google’s point of view? I highlighted this paragraph:

“Section 251 assent is not required in this case,” Google said in a statement to New Scientist. “All the identifiable data under this agreement can only ever be used to assist clinicians with direct patient care and can never be used for research.”

I don’t want to draw any comparisons between the thought processes in some Silicon Valley circles and the Silicon Fen. Some questions:

  • Where is that horse?
  • Who owns the horse?
  • What secondary products have been created from the horse?

My inner voice is saying, “Hit the butcher specializing in horse meat maybe.”

Stephen E Arnold, May 30, 2016

The New Shakespeare: The Oracle Anti Google Slide Deck

May 30, 2016

Yep, it is Sunday. You may be thinking about your next presentation. I would suggest that you navigate to “How Oracle Made Its Case against Google, in Pictures.” I don’t know much about great writing, but I do have a nose for a killer PowerPoint. Believe me. Oracle’s legal eagles crafted a Julius Caesar or Macbeth grade set of slides for its current Google dust up. My thought is that if you are working to convince folks to decide a multi billion dollar matter in your favor, you will want to check out the Oracle work.

Here is one slide or image from what appears to be a reliable source:

image

I know that it is not readable. The main point is that Oracle alleges that the Alphabet Google thing “copied line for line” 11,000 lines of code.

I don’t have a dog in the fight. I did find it amusing that this allegedly accurate slide quotes Alphabet Googlers. I believe the phrase is “hoisted by one’s own petard.” I am not sure what it means, but my inner voice says that a petard doing the hoisting for one’s own person is not what the doctor ordered:

image

Oh, before I forget, the write up begins with an allegedly accurate quote from an Alphabet Googler. The statement is, “I wanted to win.” When I read the line, I thought the person allegedly making the statement was Peter Thiel. An errant thought.

The only problem… Oracle lost. Go, Alphabet.

Stephen E Arnold, May 30, 2016

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