Brave Brave: Challenging the Google

April 9, 2020

Taking on a big tech company like Google is like tilting windmills. It is near impossible to win a case against big conglomerates worth billions of dollars, but the possibility exists. That is why the “Brave Browsers Creators Call Google Out for GDRP Violation” says Forklog. Google maintains its power and profit, because it collects user data and sells it to third parties. Google is supposed to alert users how it uses their data, but that does not appear to happen.

Brave is a private block-chain browser and its creators filed a complaint with the UK Competition and Markets Authority CMA against Google for infringing the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) purpose limitation. This violation gives Google a monopoly. Brave specifically filed the complaints with the Irish Data Protection Commission. Brave reports that the Irish regulator has monitored how Google handles user data and they have also informed other European regulators.

Dr. Johnny Ryan, Brave’s Chief Policy and Industry Relations Officer, explained Google allows user data to freely flow between its subsidiaries:

“Having everyone’s personal data does not mean Google is allowed to use that data across its entire business, for whatever purposes it wants. Rather, it has to seek a legal basis for each specific purpose, and be transparent about them,’ Dr Ryan argued, ‘But Brave’s new evidence reveals that Google reuses our personal data between its businesses and products in bewildering ways that infringe the purpose limitation principle. Google’s internal data free-for-all infringes the GDPR.’”

Google apparently has a monopoly because it leverages data from one of their markets and funnels it into others. The complaint from Brave points out that Google uses vague language to communicate with users how their data is used.

Other than violating users’ privacy, Google’s misuse of data could do more harm, such as price gauging, political misinformation, and other discrimination. Brave has offered to assist the CMA in further investigation. Brave has good reason to complain against Google, because monopolies are illegal in most western countries. The problems will their argument get much attention?

Whitney Grace, April 9, 2020

Amazon AWS Challenge to Microsoft JEDI Win Reported

March 27, 2020

If you follow the grudge match between Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure, you may be interested in “AWS Charges Pentagon Wants to Give Microsoft a Do-Over on Contested JEDI Bid.” The article states:

In a court filing made public today, Amazon Web Services Inc. is charging that the Pentagon is unfairly favoring rival Microsoft Corp. as part of its reevaluation of the JEDI contract.

The today is March 24, 2020.

The article quotes the document as saying:

“Offerors would be able to change only the services they proposed for Price Scenario 6, and would not be allowed to adjust the unit prices and discounts for those services.

Discriminatory? Maybe.

The article also quotes the document as saying:

“DoD provides no meaningful commitment to evaluate the other serious errors identified by AWS’s protest,” the company wrote. “Even if taken at face value, DoD’s proposed corrective action fails to address in any meaningful way how it would resolve the technical issues AWS has raised, or which specific technical challenges it intends to address.”

Stay tuned.

Stephen E Arnold, March 26, 2020

In the UK, Brexit Leads to Taxit for Techs

March 13, 2020

US technology companies are likely to face a rocky 2020. The Coronavirus is creating some problems. If the information in “US Tech Companies Will Be Hit with New UK Tax in Just Three Weeks” is accurate, those juicy margins may be trimmed. The write up states:

The UK government said Wednesday [March 11, 2020] that it’s moving ahead with a 2% tax on revenue from digital services such as search and advertising starting on April 1. The levy will apply to firms with global sales of more than £500 million ($648 million), with at least £25 million ($32.4 million) coming from UK users.

Is the tax discriminatory? Yep.

What happens if the US technology companies pay up?

That’s easy. There are a number of European entities eager to implement a taxation model that generates revenue.

What happens if the US retaliates?

There will be collateral damage.

How likely will countries be to escalate if the tax fails? Some may implement a simple but Draconian solution: Throttling or blocking maybe?

Monopolies are good for those who obtain money from the firms in the cat-bird seat. Some European countries may not share the same view.

Stephen E Arnold, February 13, 2020

Oracle: A Gentle, Dulcet Reminder of What It Takes to Survive in the Digital Jungle

March 12, 2020

Before It Sued Google for Copying from Java, Oracle Got Rich Copying IBM’s SQL” is a deerskin moccasin stroll through a dark, dangerous thicket. A company with a penchant for oatmeal container architecture and renaming roadways should serve as a flashing yellow light.

The write up uses phrases like those favored by DarkCyber; for example:

Oracle’s history highlights a possible downside to its stance on API copyrights.

Yeah, but history is a consequence of bright individuals who seize on a particular molecule from the event stream. History does not highlight anything. Humans like lawyers, analysts, and writers do. The “possible downside” is a hedge against a former Marine who can be — ah, what is the word, — “frisky”.

The write-up says:

Oracle got its start in the 1970s selling a database product based on the then-new structured query language (SQL). SQL was invented by IBM. And Oracle doesn’t seem to have gotten a license to use it.

Yikes. What’s this mean? DarkCyber turns to the article for guidance:

Oracle got its start copying IBM’s software interface.

Yes, that’s clear.

Plus, there’s a molecule from the event stream; specifically:

Around 1977, Larry Ellison and his co-founders spotted an opportunity. They had recently started a software consulting company called Software Development Laboratories, but they wanted to transition to selling a software product. Ellison realized there was enough detail in IBM’s white papers to clone IBM’s database technology. He also realized that it would provide a credibility boost if he could say that their new Oracle database was fully compatible with IBM’s SQL standard. According to one of SQL’s designers, Donald Chamberlin, Ellison was so determined to achieve compatibility with IBM’s technology that he called Chamberlin in 1978 seeking more details about IBM’s implementation of SQL.

The digital equivalent of the two largest blocks in the former Soviet union sat down to talk turkey about Java. Oracle “owned” it; Google had some Sun Microsystems’ employees who had a bit of experience with the “write once, run anywhere” methods.

The write up states:

Google claims that “negotiations broke down over issues unrelated to money.” Google says Sun sought more control over the evolution of the Android platform than Google was willing to offer. So Google decided to build its own version of Java without a license from Sun.

The river flowed, and the rushing waters are behaving with the oddball physics of fluid dynamics. Oracle was thrashed; Google was cyclonic.

The roaring river of legal fees has reached the Supreme Court. Will the legal dam of the copyright crowd hold, or will the “let the digital water flow” of the Google crowd prevail?

The write up creeps quietly away, offering this statement:

…fair use is a notoriously complex and subjective legal standard. Any company wanting to make its software interoperable with a competitor’s product would have to worry that the competitor could sue, arguing that this use wasn’t as fair as Google’s use of Java. Most software companies don’t have Google’s legal resources or staying power, so the prospect of a lawsuit—even one they’re likely to win—could be a major deterrent to building interoperable software.

The shadow of no or reduced interoperability falls. On the other hand, consultants, integrators, resellers, and innovators see a new dawn rising.

Go with history. The sun comes up every day, at least so far.

Stephen E Arnold, March 12, 2020

Dropped Ball. Are Regulators in the Game?

March 10, 2020

Several stories appeared in the DarkCyber Overflight news feed this morning. None was directly related to the others, but they formed what some Yalies might call a leitmotif. Let’s look at each news item briefly and then try to figure out if there is a recurrent theme associated with a person, concept, or entity. Sounds fun on a Covid 19 infused day, right?

First, navigate to “Popular VPN And Ad-Blocking Apps Are Secretly Harvesting User Data.” The story published by the real news outfit Buzzfeed states:

Sensor Tower, a popular analytics platform for tech developers and investors, has been secretly collecting data from millions of people who have installed popular VPN and ad-blocking apps for Android and iOS, a BuzzFeed News investigation has found.

Let’s assume the information is accurate. The write up discloses what might be called covert data collection. Others might use different terminology. What’s interesting is the VPNs or virtual private networks are supposed to be secure. Maybe not then?

Next, take a look at “Ransomware: These Sophisticated Attacks Are Delivering Devastating Payloads, Warns Microsoft.” The main idea is that “Ransomware attackers are using common tools to take down big enterprise with human operated attacks.”

Let’s again take the statement at face value. The smart attacks of which some cyber defense firms speak are being supplemented by human attacks. Spoofs allow the humans to enter a system. Once inside, humans take advantage of “servers that have antivirus software and other security intentionally disabled which admins may have done to improve performance.” So humans attack, and humans create vulnerabilities. Interesting.

Finally, consider “How Smart Tech Masks an Emerging Era of Corporate Control.” This write up reports:

smart” means a thing is embedded with digital technology for data collection, network connectivity, and enhanced control.

What connects these separate stories? Here are some thought starters:

  1. Deception seems prevalent, based on these three stories
  2. Oversight or control seems non existent
  3. The digital environment cultivates behaviors which may be characterized as clever, deceptive, or dishonest.

I don’t know about leitmotifs, but I do know that the light of ethical behavior seems quite dim if these stories accurately reflect the “now” digital reality.

Stephen E Arnold, March 10, 2020

Facebook: A Blunder Down Under?

March 10, 2020

DarkCyber noted “Australia sues Facebook over Cambridge Analytica, fine could scale to $529BN.” The modest fine imposed by Britain has not dissuaged Australia from boosting the cost of data impropriety. Facebook — yes, the Cambridge Analytica matter — may incur a hefty fine. The write up states:

The suit alleges the personal data of Australian Facebook users was disclosed to the This is Your Digital Life app for a purpose other than that for which it was collected — thereby breaching Australia’s Privacy Act 1988. It further claims the data was exposed to the risk of being disclosed to Cambridge Analytica and used for political profiling purposes, and passed to other third parties.

The potential fine is sufficiently large to catch the attention of the “connect everyone” company. In NBC News’ math that is about $20.00, right?

On the other hand, nothing has applied the brakes to Facebook’s activities for years. Money alone may not press the pedal to the metal.

Stephen E Arnold, March 10, 2020

SEO Alert: A New Way to Rank Number One on a Google Search Results Output?

March 8, 2020

The search engine optimization crowd may find “Spanish Court: Google Search Must Show Man’s Acquittal First” useful. Those who wonder about Google’s ability to structure search results to put certain citations in a specific place in the results list will find the article suggestive.

The story concerns an individual’s effort to return search results from a Google query that accurately reflected legal facts. I don’t want to go down the rat hole of “legal facts,” “accurately,” or bias in search engines.

I circled this statement in the article:

A [Spanish] National Court decision Friday said that freedom of expression took precedence over personal data protection in this case. However, given the case’s special circumstances, the person’s acquittal must appear in first place in internet searches, it ruled.

Will Google comply? Will the Spanish court be satisfied? Will the person acquitted of a criminal charge become a happy camper?

Several observations:

  1. The Spanish court does not know or does not care that Google’s search results are objective, determined by a black box algorithm. If manipulated results are displayed, does that question Google’s objectivity?
  2. If Google can tweak court results to conform, will search engine optimization experts have a new path to influence search results?
  3. Does the Google system have other search results which create that a fact like an acquittal is effectively buried, thus distorting reality?

DarkCyber does not have answers to these questions. Could this Spanish court order create another crack in the online ad giant’s objective algorithmic system?

Worth monitoring the outcome.

Stephen E Arnold, March 8, 2020

Amazon Versus Microsoft: JEDI in Play?

March 7, 2020

DarkCyber spotted a story in Stars and Stripes titled “Judge Says Amazon Likely to Succeed on Key Argument in Pentagon Cloud Lawsuit.” The source appears to be the Bezos-owned Washington Post. That fact may provide some context for the story.

The main point in the write up seems to be:

A federal judge has concluded that a bid protest lawsuit brought by Amazon over President Donald Trump’s intervention in an important Pentagon cloud computing contract “is likely to succeed on the merits” of one of its central arguments, according to a court document made public Friday [March 6, 2020].

The article states:

In an opinion explaining her reasoning, Campbell-Smith sided with Amazon’s contention that the Pentagon had made a mistake in how it evaluated prices for competing proposals from Amazon and Microsoft. She also concluded that the mistake is likely to materially harm Amazon, an important qualifier for government contract bid protests.

What’s missing from this story? Detail for one thing.

Several observations:

  1. Planners for the JEDI program are likely to experience uncertainty
  2. Regardless of the ultimate decision, time to implement newer systems is being lost
  3. The cost of the procurement process for JEDI will climb and, at some point, may become larger than the program itself.

Net net: Government procurement remains an interesting and impactful process. Procurement just keeps grinding its procedural mechanisms, delivering “efficiency.”

Stephen E Arnold, March 7, 2020

Trellis Research Gets Money And New Technical Co-Founder

February 27, 2020

If there is one industry that needs a powerful and accurate search and analytics tool it is court systems. Los Angeles startup Trellis Research specializes in software for state court data, recently made news with a big fundraiser and addition to their team. TechCrunch explains the details in, “Building A search Tool For State Court Data And Analytics, Trellis Adds Alon Schwartz As Co-Founder.”

Trellis Research is a fire starter startup, known for designing analytics and search software for state legal systems. Their most famous products were Dostoc, an online store and electronic document depository for financial, legal, and professional documents and unGlue a startup that regulates screen time for families.

Craft Ventures recently raised $4.4 million in funding for Trellis. The company also added a new technical co-founder Alon Shwartz. Shwartz’s new role will be the chief product officer. He will work side by side with the company founder Nicole Clark

Trellis’s home office is in California, where they service the California Superior court records and judicial analytics. Wit the new round of funding, the company hopes to expand to Florida, Delaware, Texas, and New York. Clark founded Trelis when she discovered a need for better search and analytics software in the courts:

“ ‘I was customer one,’ says Clark of the product. A former litigator in Los Angeles, the entrepreneur developed Trellis to serve her own research needs. ‘I used this data for two years and during those years I won every motion that I had,’ says Clark. ‘It made it so obvious what a competitive advantage this was. It’s a way to analyze how a judge thinks about issues and a lawyer can draft their motions with a particular judge in mind.’”

Trellis offers a freemium service for state trial decisions and filings with search, but to access the actual documents people need to become paying users. There is an $100 fee for individuals and enterprise users are negotiable. Once beyond the paywall, users can file documents, download, print, and analyze them.

Clark promises that attorneys will double their win rate with Trellis Research software.

Whitney Grace, February 27, 2020

Google: Information Is for Us (Us Is the Google)

February 22, 2020

I won’t write about the alleged Google murder. Plus, I won’t run through the allegations related to this story: “Google Secretly Monitors Millions of School Kids, Lawsuit Alleges.” Google has many facets, and I find advertising Google style fascinating.

DarkCyber thinks the multi state investigation into Google’s possible violation of of antitrust law is philosophically challenging. The case involves information, consultants, Texas, and a tendril reaches Microsoft, an outfit skilled in software updates.

Let’s start with a Wall Street Journal (a story protected by a  pay walls) revealed an interesting Google stance.

“Google Resists State Demands in Ad Probe” (February 22, 2020) reported that the company’s resistance to requests for information, in the words of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton:

They don’t believe that they’re clean because they don’t act in any way like they are.

Those involved is the Texas-led legal action want more than email. Google has balked. Google has groused about c0onsultants working on the case.

Why the hassle over ads? According to the Murdoch owned WSJ:

News Corp has complained that Google and other digital companies siphon ad revenue from content creators.

DarkCyber finds the pivot point in this multi state tug of war is information.

Google is an information company. Some believe that Google sought to index the world’s information. Then allow people to access the content.

But advertising revenue and a mostly ignored lawsuit about ad technology have altered the definition of information.

Google has information about its ad business. Some of that information has been requested via appropriate legal vehicles by the states’ taking Google to court. Google does not want to make that information available.

If the data were made available, presumably attorneys would be able to:

  • Perform text analytics; for example, display statistical information about word occurrences, generate clusters of like data, etc.
  • Generate indexed entities and tag them. Once tagged, these entities can be graphed so relationships become visible
  • Output timelines of events and link those events to entities
  • Search the content using key words and use the tags to reveal tough to discern items of information; who influenced what action when the words used to describe the activities were ambiguous to a non Googler.

There are other functions enabled by the corpus and current content processing technology.

DarkCyber noted these thoughts:

  1. Google is an information company and does not want that information disclosed
  2. Tools, some of which may run on Google’s cloud infrastructure, can reveal important nuances in the ad matter, nuances which otherwise may be impossible to discern by reading and human note taking
  3. The legal system, which has been most ineffectual in dealing with Google lacks laws and regulations which have not be enacted in the US to deal with digital monopolies.

Net net: Google may have the upper hand… again.

Stephen E Arnold, February 22, 2020

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