Ireland and Google: The Privacy Man Versus Data Man

May 23, 2019

I read “EU Regulator Launches Probe into Google over Data Privacy.” My initial reaction is that the country known for its writers is going where the money is. Then I realized this might be a more interesting dust up.

I recalled a line allegedly inked by George Bernard Shaw, Mark Twain, or maybe a person named Cyrus Ching; to wit:

I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.

I am not sure which is which or who is who in the forthcoming cage match. From the CNBC business font I learned:

Ireland’s data privacy watchdog on Wednesday announced the launch of an inquiry into Google over the tech giant’s collection of data when it comes to online advertising.

The write up adds:

The Data Protection Commission, which acts as the lead supervisory authority for Google in the European Union, said its probe would examine whether Google’s processing of data in advertising transactions breaches the bloc’s privacy rule.

Let’s get ready to rumble. The location? A country which offered modest incentives to high technology outfits. Snort.

Stephen E Arnold, May 23, 2019

Autonomy CFO: Sentenced

May 14, 2019

I read ”Autonomy’s Former CFO Sushovan Hussain Sentenced to Five Years in Jail.” The article reported that Sushovan Hussain will be incarcerated for 60 months and then “subject to “a further three years ‘supervised release’.” In addition to the sentence, Mr. Hussain has been fined $4 million and another $6.1 million described as a “forfeiture payment.” This $6.1 is the money Mr. Hussain allegedly received as a result of the sale of Autonomy to Hewlett Packard. HP bought Autonomy for about $11 billion in 2011. (HP news release is here.)

The write up states:

In summing up, Breyer stated that Hussain had been involved in a “methodological long-term pattern” of making false statements and added that Hussain believed that in a high-growth business, such as Autonomy, future growth would effectively cover-up any false statements. Breyer also argued that Hussain had used his position to corrupt “a number of innocent people”, chivvying them into becoming a part of the fraud.

If you are unfamiliar with the technical details and some of Autonomy’s background, you will find a profile I wrote years ago in the Xenky archive. This is a version of my final report, and it has not been updated, but it provides some context for the interest Autonomy generated in its search, retrieval, and content processing systems.

The Register, a UK publication, provides periodic updates about the trial currently underway in England. You can locate these reports at www.theregister.co.uk. Use the search function to locate the stories.

Some History of Enterprise Search

This sentence and fine was more aggressive than the judgment against the former Fast Search & Transfer founder, John Lervik, who after a series of legal processes, was cleared of wrong doing in 2016. Microsoft purchased Fast Search & Transfer in 2008.

Autonomy and Fast Search were the two vendors of enterprise search which were the most widely licensed information access systems in the period 2005 to 2010 when appetite for proprietary search began to decline. The acquisition of Vivisimo by IBM and the purchase of Exalead by Dassault did not lead to litigation. Other search vendors sold out or simply tried to reinvent themselves in a somewhat challenging search for revenues.  Today, the most widely used enterprise search system is Elasticsearch, which is available as open source software. Endeca has been absorbed into Oracle. Delphis and Entopia went out of business. OpenText rolled up a number of search companies, which are now largely forgotten; for example, Fulcrum and BRS. There are a number of interesting case studies waiting to be written; for example, the trajectory of Convera from “inventor” to consulting business, the fate of Verity and IBM’s Stairs as well as other companies helping to expand search’s version of the tulip craze centuries ago.

Stephen E Arnold, May 14, 2019

Animatronics: The Impact of Digital

May 6, 2019

DarkCyber noted these statements from “Gold Coast Animatronic Marvels Up for Auction, Rendered Redundant by CGI.” The found of Creature Workshop, John Cox, made these observations:

  • CGI had reached the point of photo realism.
  • Today with some of the effects we are seeing it is very hard to tell what is real and what is computer-generated
  • 3D animation and visual effects are now able to create realistic characters, realistic environments, realistic vehicles all created within the computer.

There was one statement which suggests that human actors may be replaced as well.

We are even seeing in some of the big movies now they are de-aging actors, or totally replacing them with a CGI character, so you have to wonder where it will end.

It is a short step from de-aging to replacing. Now about the accuracy of videos. What’s real and what’s fake? Good questions, particularly if asked by a legal eagle when video footage is evidence assumed to be “real” and there are gaps between an event and “finding” relevant video data.

Stephen E Arnold, May 5, 2019

Human Trafficking: Popular and Pervasive

April 18, 2019

Sex trafficking is one of the greatest crimes in the world. Sex trafficking is one of the crimes facilitated by digital environments, but the same technology the bad actors use for their crimes is always being used to catch them. USA Today shares how the technology is used to put an end to sex trafficking in the article, “Technological Tricks Can Help End Sex Trafficking: Former IBM Vice President.”

In January 2019, the US Institute Against Human Trafficking launched the Reach Out Campaign in Tampa, Florida. The program used web scraping technology to gather phone numbers of Web sites selling sex in Tampa. It was discovered that most of the numbers linked to cell phones of people sold for sex so they could communicate and book appointments with their “clients.” Reach Out gathered over 10,000 numbers and a mass text was sent out to the numbers with information to leave the sex industry.

The Reach Out Campaign received a 13 percent response. The program needs to be launched across the country in order to assist more sex trafficking victims, who deal with complicated psychological issues. AI bots called Intercept Bots are deployed to create fake sex ads on the Internet, then when someone responds it collects the user’s information. The bot will then share that it is a lure and that the user’s information will potentially be given to law enforcement. While it is important to assist the victims, it is also helpful to address the perpetrators, generally men, and prevent them from committing the crimes in the first place:

It is important, however, that we not just focus on punishing those engaged in buying sex. Many of these men suffer from sex addictions that can be treated. This is why the Intercept Bots program also sends potential sex buyers information on where to get this help. A study in the medical journal Neuro  psycho pharmacology estimates that between 3-6 percent of Americans suffer from compulsive sexual behavior. And studies estimate that the percentage of American men who have engaged in commercial sex at least once is 15 to 20 percent; compared to their peers, these men think about sex more often.

Thee are also ad campaigns targeted at people buying sex share the consequences of getting caught buying sex.

Combating trafficking is difficult, but spreading information and using technology to catch bad actors saves victims from further abuse.

Whitney Grace, April 18, 2019

A Grain of Salt for Zuckerberg Suggestions

April 12, 2019

Given the pressures Facebook has been under to better regulate harmful content on its platform, it is no surprise Mark Zuckerberg has weighed in with a blog post on the matter. However, writer Mark Wyci?lik-Wilson scoffs at the Facebook founder’s ideas in the BetaNews write-up, “Mark Zuckerberg’s Calls for Internet Regulation Are Just an Attempt to Shift the Blame from Facebook.” The article outlines Zuckerberg’s “four ideas to regulate the internet,” noting that, coming from anyone else, they might be plausible suggestions: First, there’s the concept of privacy regulations like those in Europe’s GDPR. Zuckerberg also says he wants more control over hate speech, and to exert tighter standards over political advertising, especially near election time. Finally, he counsels data portability.

We’re reminded nothing is actually standing in the way of Facebook implementing these ideas on its own—and this is what makes Wyci?lik-Wilson suspicious of Zuckerberg’s motives. He also notes a couple tendencies he has observed in the Facebook CEO: to pass the buck when something goes wrong, and to spin any attempts to address users’ concerns as a PR positive. He writes:

Whilst admitting that ‘companies such as Facebook have immense responsibilities’ it seems the Facebook founder would rather have rules and guidelines handed down to him rather than having to do the hard work himself. This is understandable. It would help to absolve Facebook of blame and responsibility. If things go wrong when following regulations set out by the government or other agencies, it’s easy to point to the rulebook and say, ‘well, we’re were just doing as we were told’. At the moment it’s all too easy for Facebook to make a lot of noise about how it wants to improve things while simultaneously raping users’ privacy, and benefiting from the fake news, extremist content and everything else the social network claims not to want to be a platform for. But at the end of the day, a signed-up user is a signed-up user, and acts as a microscopic cog in the advertising-driven money-machine that is Facebook. Facebook has shown time and time again that it can do something about objectionable content and activity — be that political extremism, racism, election interference or whatever. But it doesn’t do anything until it faces insurmountable pressure to do so.

Wyci?lik-Wilson urges Facebook to just go ahead and implement these suggestions already, not wait to be told what to do outside forces. “Less talking, more doing,” he summarizes.

Cynthia Murrell, April 12, 2019

The EU, the Internet Archive Dust Up: One Fact Overlooked

April 11, 2019

I read “EU Tells Internet Archive That Much Of Its Site Is ‘Terrorist Content’.” The main point is that Europol’s European Union Internet Referral Unit pointed out that the Internet Archive contains problematic information. The article explains that the Internet Archive explains:

there’s simply no way that (1) the site could have complied with the Terrorist Content Regulation had it been law last week when they received the notices, and (2) that they should have blocked all that obviously non-terrorist content. [emphasis in the original]

DarkCyber wants to point out a fact that may be of interest to the EUIRU and the Internet Archive; to wit: The site has information, but the site’s search system and interface make it very difficult to locate information. For EUIRU, the inadequate search system makes finding the potentially harmful information a challenge. For the Internet Archive, the findability system makes it equally difficult for IA staff to locate items so each can be reviewed.

What will the Internet Archive do? The options are limited and some are unpalatable: Fight the EU? Ignore the request? Block access from Europe? Go out of business? Address the issue head on? Worth watching how this develops.

Stephen E Arnold, April 11, 2019

Singapore Enters the War Against US Social Media

April 7, 2019

Wow, the high school science club companies may have to duke it out with the student council. That’s a metaphor. The Facebooks, Googles, and other social media ad giants may have to deal with politicians. Horror of horrors.

I read “Singapore’s Fake News Laws Upset Tech Giants.” The main point is that a city state which takes a hard line on chewing gum is “adopting tough measures” related to fake news. (I assume the write up in Phys.org is accurate, of course.)

The article noted:

Singapore is among several countries pushing legislation to fight fake news, and the government stressed ordering “corrections” to be placed alongside falsehoods would be the primary response, rather than jail or fines.

The trick is that some person or some algorithms has to spot fake news. If that person is an individual who perceives a misstatement, that may be contentious. If a smart algorithm from the science club crowd misses fake news, that’s probably a thorny path as well.

Facebook and Google are on the scene. I noted this statement in the write up:

Google, Facebook and Twitter have their Asia headquarters in Singapore, a city of 5.6 million which is popular with expats as it is developed, safe and efficient. But there were already signs of tensions with tech companies as the government prepared to unveil the laws. During parliamentary hearings last year about tackling online falsehoods, Google and Facebook urged the government not to introduce new laws.

I interpreted this to mean, “Yikes, lobbying does not work in Singapore as it does in the USA.”

Another tiny step from non US regulators to get certain firms to abandon some of their more interesting and possibly cavalier and entitled practices. Can the mere government of Singapore deal with the corporate countries US laws have enabled?

Stephen E Arnold, April 7, 2019

IBM and Oldsters

March 29, 2019

I can hear the question posed to IBM Watson now, “Watson, is it okay to fire older employees in order the make room for younger, less expensive workers?”

I even can anticipate the IBM Watson answer, “Yes.”

IBM Watson is smart software, but it does not do as well providing human resource outputs as it does with generating recipes which require tamarind.

How do I know?

I read “IBM Sued By Former Employees For Alleged Illegal Firing.” I learned from the article:

IBM is being sued by a group of its former employees for allegedly laying them off for their age.

The write up added what seems obvious to a human like me but probably a nuance unnoticed by IBM’s Watson:

The lawyers of the complainants added that their main case against IBM would be a major age-discrimination lawsuit. They said that top executives of the company “took the calculated risk of openly breaking the law” in order to cover up substantial, targeted layoffs of its older workers.

IBM Watson may need a bit more training, particularly information related to employment laws and regulations.

Stephen E Arnold, March 29, 2019

Quote to Note: HP Boss and the HP Management Style

March 25, 2019

I read “The Tech Lawsuit of the Year: HPE v Mike Lynch and Sushovan Hussain.” The write up contains a remarkable passage. The sentences in the article include a quote to note. Here’s what I circled as memorable. Your mileage may vary, of course:

In court filings seen by The Register, Lynch accused HPE chief exec Meg Whitman of responding to concerns he raised in HP management meetings shortly after the Autonomy buyout by “playing country music to the meeting [and] instructing the senior executives attending to take the meaning of the country music songs and apply them to their own management methods”. Lynch also claimed that he was “placed on gardening leave for six months” after telling Whitman that “we are now rapidly losing a lot of good people”.

For me the description of management approach sounds a chime of truth. Here is the statement next to which I placed an exclamation point and a note to myself saying, “Yes”:

playing country music to the meeting [and] instructing the senior executives attending to take the meaning of the country music songs and apply them to their own management methods“. [emphasis added]

As I considered this observation, two songs in the genre of country, particularly the Wild West of Silicon Valley, activated:

  • I’d Be Better Off in a Pine Box
  • I Bought the Boots That Just Walked Out On Me.

HP and its management methods?

Stephen E Arnold, March 25, 2019

Facebook: Ripples of Confusion, Denial, and Revisionism

March 18, 2019

Facebook contributed to an interesting headline about the video upload issue related to the bad actor in New Zealand. Here’s the headline I noted as it appeared on Techmeme’s Web page:

image

The Reuters’ story ran a different headline:

image

What caught my attention is the statement “blocked at upload.” If a video were blocked at upload, were those videos removed? If blocked, then the number of videos drops to 300 million.

This type of information is typical of the coverage of Facebook, a company which is become the embodiment of social media.

There were two other interesting Facebook stories in my news feed this morning.

The first concerns a high profile Silicon Valley investor, Marc Andreessen. The write up reports and updates a story whose main point is:

Facebook Board Member May Have Met Cambridge Analytica Whistleblower in 2016.

Read more

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