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

MailChimp Swings Away from Cryptocurrency

April 19, 2018

Marketing automation platform MailChimp has made some customers very unhappy with a recent decision. Future Society declares, “MailChimp is Shutting Down ICO and Blockchain-Related Emails, and People Are Freaking Out.” Though one user charged the company with exercising “centralized capricious power,” MailChimp points to its (updated) Acceptable Use Policy, which does prohibit processing cryptocurrency transactions across their platform. Writer Foster Kamer tells us:

“We asked a few more questions about how MailChimp can actually delineate between emails from people involved in the shilling and profiteering of blockchain and ICOs versus people having news-related discussions of blockchain and ICOs (because, LOL, in the current moment, most non-algorithmic humans have a justifiably tough time distinguishing between the two). We’ll update here if they respond. In the meantime, it’ll be a hell of a lot of fun to watch (1) which companies follow MailChimp’s lead, (2) which companies capitalize off of the fact that they nixed this entire segment of people from their platform and go all in on blockchain, sweeping ’em up in MailChimp’s place, and (3) watching all of blockchain and ICO Twitter collectively lose their minds about feeling censored and repressed.”

Kamer has little sympathy for those objecting to MailChimp’s move, and points out they are free to take their email marketing needs to another business. We wonder, though, whether this action signifies a trend. Founded in 2001, MailChimp is based in Atlanta, and they happen to be hiring for several positions as of this writing.

Cynthia Murrell, April 19, 2018

Google and the Great Forgetting

April 16, 2018

I noted the glee with which the Gray Lady explained “Facebook Takes the Punches While Rest of Silicon Valley Ducks.” Newspapers may be pummeled, but the New York Times has enough zip to remind me that Silicon Valley luminaries know how to do the ostrich thing.

However, I noticed that another newspaper was not distracted by the Facebook road show. The write up which caught my attention was “Google Loses Landmark Right to Be Forgotten Case.” I don’t know about the legal wrangling, but I understood that when a person is supposed to be expunged from the Google public-facing indexes, that means the indexes which the average user can access.

The issue is that Google indexes content and plugs the pointers, metadata, accession numbers, and other goodies into its system for fielding queries. Queries can come from a human or from a system process.

The Google method is a bit of a Rube Goldberg machine. The guts buried deep within wrapper upon wrapper of software is edging close to 20 years of service. Furthermore, getting information out of a sprawling, fragmented collection of data is not easy. Mostly pointers are deleted. But some of the information is spirited away by automated processes and tucked into digital nooks and crannies. Deleting some information can cause dependencies to return unexpected results. Deletions can translate to excitement quickly.

The write up points out none of the concerns about Google’s plumbing. The write up reported:

The information is of scant if any apparent relevance to any business activities that he seems likely to engage in,” the judge added. He said his key conclusion in relation to NT2’s claim was that “the crime and punishment information has become out of date, irrelevant and of no sufficient legitimate interest to users of Google search to justify its continued availability”.

What’s ahead?

Definitely some data pointer removals. And, of course, the thrill of figuring out if glitches become more than a minor annoyance. Perhaps criminals have the right to be forgotten? Beyond Search wonders, “Will those harmed by illegal actions will lose their memories as well.”

Here in Harrod’s Creek we think the task of removing pointers may be a prelude to a flood of metadata removal work.

Stephen E Arnold, April 16, 2018

Yikes! Google Kiddie YouTube a Target

April 12, 2018

I thought Google and its kiddie YouTube had figured out how to show age appropriate videos to children. If the information in the story “Child Advocates Ask FTC to Investigate YouTube” is accurate, the GOOG may face some PR challenges. Nothing is quite as volatile as an online advertising site displaying videos which can be perceived as inappropriate. Because the write up is branded “AP” which once meant Associated Press, I am unwilling to quote from the write up. If my understanding of the assertions in the “news” story are accurate, I recall learning:

  • “Child advocate groups” — no, I don’t know what outfits these are — want Google to be “investigated.”
  • Google apparently profits from showing ads to children. (Who knew?)
  • Google has an app but it is not too popular with parents. (I don’t know who does not use the app because the AP story did not tell me as I recall.)
  • Google has channels aimed at children. One of these may be named ChuChuTV. (Nifty spelling of “choo”.)
  • Advertisers can get access to children but if the child says, “Googzilla, I am not 13” some content is blocked. (If I were a child, I would probably figure out how to get access to the video about unicorn slime pretty quickly.)

Among the entities I recall seeing identified in the article are:

  • Georgetown University law clinic
  • Jeff Chester, The Center for Digital Democracy
  • Josh Golin, Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood
  • Senator Edward Markey
  • Juliana Gruenwald Henderson, an FTC professional
  • Kandi Parsons, once an FTC lawyer

What’s missing? Links, examples of bad videos, data about what percent of kiddie YouTube programming is objectionable, and similar factual data.

I don’t want to be suspicious, but regardless of filtering method, some content may be viewed as offensive because subjective perception is not what smart software does well at this point in time.

In March 2018 I was appointed to a Judicial Commission focused on human trafficking and child sex abuse. My hope is that the documents and data which flow to me do not include assertions without specific entities being identified or with constraints that make me fearful of quoting from these documents in my writings.

After 50 years of professional work, I am not easily surprised. Therefore, I am not surprised that online ad vendors similar to Google  would focus on generating revenue. I am not surprised that videos vetted by smart software may make mistakes when “close enough for horseshoes” or “good enough” thresholds may be implemented for decision making. I am not surprised that individuals who spend time watching kiddie videos find content which is inappropriate.

Perhaps follow up stories from the “Associated Press” will beef up the details and facts about Google’s problems with kiddie YouTube. Quotes from folks are what “real” journalists do. Links, facts, and data are different from quotes. Make enough phone calls, and one can probably get a statement that fits the “real” news template.

Net net: I think more specifics would be helpful particularly if the goal is to find Google “guilty” of breaking a law, wrong doing, or some other egregious behavior. For now, however, the matter warrants monitoring. Accusations about topics like trafficking and child sex abuse and related issues are inflammatory. Quotes don’t cut it for me.

Stephen E Arnold, April 12, 2018

The Country of Facebook Rebuffs England

March 27, 2018

I read “Facebook’s Zuckerberg Will Not Answer UK Lawmakers’ Questions over Data Scandal.” The main idea of the “real” news story struck me as:

Zuckerberg will instead send his Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer or Chief Product Officer Chris Cox to appear before parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee.

Several observations:

  1. The lawmakers in England are likely to interpret the refusal of Facebook’s president as a slap in the face.
  2. Facebook may face increasing friction from lawmakers and, possibly, from government agents with regard to some of Facebook’s activities in England
  3. Increased attention from British entities may increase Facebook’s costs in the form of regulatory compliance and tax scrutiny.

England has demonstrated that it can take immediate and direct action in certain matters of state. Facebook’s decision to ignore a request from the country may spark additional actions.

England can arrest, detain, and deport individuals. Planning a jaunt to London to catch a play may evolve into a risky proposition for individuals identified as of particular interest to England.

Serious business in the view of the addled goose.

Stephen E Arnold, March 27, 2018

Now That Craigslist Censors Content Where Will That Info Go?

March 27, 2018

Short honk: I read in Newsweek (sorry, The Daily Beast) this story: “The New Law That Killed Craigslist’s Personals Could End the Web As We’ve Known It.” Like many write ups, the main point for The Daily Beast write up strikes me as:

Under current law, the site can’t be held legally liable if someone uses veiled terms to solicit commercial sex—aka prostitution—through the Craigslist personals. But FOSTA will change that, opening up Craigslist (and every other digital platform) to serious legal and financial jeopardy should it accidently “promote” or “facilitate” prostitution.

What happens when censorship forces some content producers to find other communication channels? The research for my “Dark Web Notebook” suggests that some content producers will shift to hidden services; for example, peer to peer, encrypted chat system. Others will turn to the information leaking Dark Web. And a few will become innovators, cooking up new communication confections to dodge authorities.

In my upcoming lecture for some lawyers at a well known government agency, I emphasize that the cyber enforcement task is going to become much more difficult and quickly.

There are some fixes, and if you want to talk about this options, write darkcyber333 at yandex dot com for more information. (Yes, I have a nifty video conferencing system and a PayPal account.)

Stephen E Arnold, March 27, 2018

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