Palantir Technologies and KT4 Partners: Information Decision

February 14, 2019

If you follow Palantir Technologies, there is a dust up between KT4 Partners and the producer of intelware; that is, software designed to provide intelligence solutions to licensees.

Like Palantir’s dispute with the original i2 Ltd., the details are difficult to discern due to the legal processes themselves, the desire of those involved to remain out of the spotlight, and the time lag between events.

If you do follow the legal machinations, you will want to read “Delaware Court Provides Guidance for Books and Records Demands to Limit Producing Electronic Data to Stockholders.”

I am not a lawyer and lawyers in general make me nervous; however, it appears that KT4 will be able to access certain documents to which Palantir has denied access.

Why’s this important?

Palantir and KT4 know that money is at stake. Expensive settlements may have an impact on Palantir’s IPO. Furthermore, documents may contain interesting information which could find its way into the media.

Worth monitoring this matter.

Stephen E Arnold, February 14, 2019

Amazonia for February 11, 2019

February 11, 2019

Amazon has been bulldozing away and pushing some jungle undergrowth into the parking lot of major media outlets. Let’s take a quick look at what’s shaking at the electronic bookstore on steroids:

In a New York We May Be Gone

I learned in “Facing Opposition, Amazon Reconsiders NY Headquarters Site, Two Officials Say.” The source? The Washington Post or what some of the DarkCyber researchers call the “Bezos Bugle.” The push back has ranged from allegations of subsidizing a successful company to suggestions that taxpayer money could directly benefit shareholders of Amazon. I learned:

In the past two weeks, the state Senate nominated an outspoken Amazon critic to a state board where he could potentially veto the deal, and City Council members for the second time aggressively challenged company executives at a hearing where activists booed and unfurled anti-Amazon banners. K ey officials, including freshman U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), whose district borders the proposed Amazon site, have railed against the project.

Worth monitoring because if the JEDI deal goes to Microsoft, would Amazon bail out of Virginia?

Indiscreet Pictures and Allegations of Blackmail

Amazon once was a relatively low profile outfit. Then the rocket ships, the Bezos divorce, the JEDI dust up, and now a spat. One headline captures the publicity moment: “Jeff Bezos Says Enquirer Threatened to Publish Revealing Pics.” I don’t want to unzip this allegation. You can expose yourself to the “facts” by running queries on objective search systems like Bing, Google, and Yandex. Alternatively one can turn to the Daily Mail and its full frontal report on this allegedly accurate news story.

Movie Madness

I don’t know anything about the Hollywood movie game. I noted “Woody Allen Sues Amazon for $68 Million for Refusing to Release His Films.” In the context of allegations of blackmail, this adds another facet to the diamond reputation of the humble online bookstore. According to the write up:

Allen blames the studio’s unwillingness to release his films on “a 25-year old, baseless allegation against Mr. Allen” — specifically, Allen’s adopted stepdaughter, Dylan Farrow, telling the world that he sexually assaulted her when she was a child. The suit claims that Farrow’s comments shouldn’t affect the Amazon deal, since the “allegation was already well known to Amazon (and the public) before Amazon entered into four separate deals with Mr. Allen—and, in any event it does not provide a basis for Amazon to terminate the contract.”

Amazon is taking a moral stand it seems. Interesting in the context of the blackmail allegations. Another PR coup?

Accounting Methods or Fraud?

The Los Angeles Times reported that some Amazon delivery drivers’ tips were not paid to the drivers as an add on to their pay. The tips were calculated as part of their regular wage. “Where Does a tip to an Amazon Driver Go? In Some Cases, Toward the Driver’s Base Pay” reported:

Amazon guarantees third-party drivers for its Flex program a minimum of $18 to $25 per hour, but the entirety of that payment doesn’t always come from the company. If Amazon’s contribution doesn’t reach the guaranteed wage, the e-commerce giant makes up the difference with tips from customers, according to documentation shared by five drivers.

Is this an accounting method related in some way to Enron’s special purpose entities? But in the context of blackmail and a legal battle with Woody Allen, I am not sure how to interpret the LA Times’ report if it is accurate.

Amazon and Facial Recognition

Amazon has thrown some support behind the idea that facial recognition systems may require a bit of regulation. I learned about this interest in “Amazon Weighs In on Potential Legislative Framework for Facial Recognition.” The idea is that responsible use of facial recognition technology may be a good idea. The write up stated:

…Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published a study that found Rekognition, Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) object detection API, failed to reliably determine the sex of female and darker-skinned faces in specific scenarios.

Image recognition systems do vary in accuracy. The fancy lingo is outside the scope of this week’s write up. Examples of errors are interesting, particularly when systems confuse humans with animals or identify a person as a malefactor when that individual is an individual of sterling character. Eighty percent accuracy is a pretty good score in my experience. Stated another way, a system making 20 mistakes per 100 outputs is often close enough for horseshoes. A misidentified individual may have another point of view.

Alexa Gets a New Skill

The Digital Reader reported that you can now have Alexa play a choose your own adventure audiobook. Amazon wants to make sure it has a grip on the emerging trend of “interactive fiction.” Perfect for the mobile phone, zip zip zip reader.

Baby Activity API

The engineers at Amazon have chopped another trail through the digital jungle. Programmable Web reported that Amazon’s new baby activity skill API let parents track infant data hands free. Parents should be able to track their baby’s data. Are third parties tracking the infant as well? The write up states:

The new API includes several pre-built interfaces for tracking specific data points, including Weight, Sleep, DiaperChange, and InfantFeeding. Amazon plans to continue adding to these interfaces in hopes of streamlining integration.

If a third party were to have access to these data, combining the baby data with other timeline data might yield some useful items of information at some point in the future. Behavioral cues, purchases, social interactions, and videos watched could provide useful insights to an analyst.

More Live Streaming and a Possible Checkmate for QVC

Amazon Live Is the Retailer’s Latest Effort to Take on QVC with Live Streamed Video” states:

Amazon is taking on QVC with the launch of Amazon Live, which features live-streamed video shows from Amazon talent as well as those from brands that broadcast their own live streams through a new app, Amazon Live Creator.

Will the Twitch model work for remarkable products like super exclusive Tanzanite? QVC may try to compete. DarkCyber believes that effort would tax the shopping channel in several ways. Some cloud pros might suggest putting QVC offering on a cloud service. Will AWS make the short list?

 Amazon Space

Atlantic reported that the electronic bookstore “has 288M sq. ft. of warehouses, offices, retail stores, and data centers.”

Quite an Amazon-scale week.

Stephen E Arnold, February 11, 2019

Free Web Search and Objective Results

February 8, 2019

I spotted a story from the Moscow Times called “Google Began Censoring Search Results in Russia, Reports Say.” I read:

Google began complying with Russian requirements and has deleted around 70 percent of the websites blacklisted by authorities, an unnamed Google employee told Russia’s Vedomosti business daily Wednesday. An unnamed Roskomnadzor source reportedly confirmed the information to the paper. On Thursday, a Roskomnadzor spokesman told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency that the regulator had established a “constructive dialogue” with Google over filtering content.

Let’s assume the report is accurate.

Is this the model for filtering content in online indexes which Google developed to comply with different countries’ laws and regulations?

If the Russian regulatory authority is “fully satisfied”, the Google system appears to be working.

Several questions crossed my mind; to wit:

  1. Has Google used this system to filter content in other countries; for example, the US, Brazil, or Iran?
  2. Does the system work with acceptable reliability? Some potentially objectionable can be located via a Google image query to cite one example?
  3. What is the economic payoff of Google find a solution to its pre-filtering disputes with Russia?

Interesting, particularly when one asks the question, “Am I getting accurate information when running a query on Google, regardless of the country in which the query appears to have been launched?”

If search results are shaped, what does one do to locate potentially useful information? One answer, I suppose, is to pay for commercial online access. Another may be to assume that what’s online IS the correct data set? One could ask those in one’s social network, but that too may be filtered.

But free services are free. Free services may have other characteristics as well. What does “free” mean? Hmmm.

Stephen E Arnold, February 8, 2019

Google: GDPR Vulnerability?

February 6, 2019

If you are curious about the impact of the GDPR on Google, you may want to take a look at “What to Know about Google’s GDPR Troubles.” I don’t have a good sense of what constitutes an objective review of Google and GDPR. Also, I don’t know if the information in the write up from Digiday is 100 percent accurate. Footnotes can be helpful when they are included.

Nevertheless, the article suggests that Google may be a target for individual EU member actions related to GDPR. At this point, it is not clear how many legal entities can go after the company generating more than $80 million a day in profit.

The write up states:

While the majority of GDPR warnings and fines have come from the French regulator, it won’t likely remain that way.

The cost of litigating in separate companies and any fines levied could become onerous even to an outfit like Alphabet Google.

Stephen E Arnold, February 6, 2019

Moving the Google: Right to Be Forgotten Has an Impact

January 23, 2019

I have heard that it can be difficult to reach a human at Google. It appears that a Dutch surgeon and her attorneys were successful. “Right to Be Forgotten Used to Force Google to Remove Medical Negligence Link” states:

Amsterdam’s district court has forced Google to remove search results relating to a Dutch surgeon’s past medical suspension…

The difference between printed information and digital information is becoming discernible. Print can exist in multiple copies in tangible form in many places; for example, university libraries, archives, and personal information collections. Making a change to a printed document can be tricky, but it can be done.

However, changing the digital record is a bit easier; for example, deleting a pointer in an index.

The question becomes, “What happens when a person wants to reconstruct the details of a particular matter?”

The answer is that information is relative. Figuring out what happened becomes a bit more difficult and expensive.

What happens?

I can’t look up the answer online, but I could ask IBM Watson. These types of answers may have to suffice with Silly Putty information.

A court decision may leave behind a paper trail. But the actions of a single system administrator may be impossible to identify and verify.

Epistemology may be due for a renascence when setting the record straight.

Stephen E Arnold, January 23, 2019

Google: More EU Pushback Coming?

January 21, 2019

I read “Google Is Expected to Get Hit With a Third Antitrust Penalty.” The point of contention is AdSense, the once helpful way for some online publishers to generate revenue. The AdWeek story provided zero context for the action nor did AdWeek explain why putting online ads on a Web page via AdSense was an alleged crime.

The original Bloomberg story stated:

Regulators were probing whether Google’s advertising contracts unfairly restricted rivals.

Bloomberg included one passage which I found interesting:

The EU said in 2016 that Google hindered competition for online ads with its AdSense for Search product which places advertising on websites, including retailers, telecommunications operators and newspapers. While its European market share is more than 80 percent, AdSense contributed less than 20 percent of Google’s total ad revenue in 2015, a percentage which has declined steadily since 2010.

Why did AdSense, possibly influenced by the Oingo technology, lose traction?

DarkCyber thinks that this is an interesting question.

Have Web site operators been affected as the AdSense program appears to have lost traction?

Perhaps  more information will be forthcoming. Questions include:

  • Did payout percentages of AdSense to Web participants decrease systematically?
  • What were those payout percentages?
  • Was the cost of the program a form a technical debt which contributed to the deplatforming of AdSense?
  • Was AdSense inefficiency a way to push publishers to buy ads?
  • What part did Google’s ad dispersion or inventory work down play in AdSense’s “decline”?

If another fine rolls in, Google will have won the trifecta for EU antitrust horse races it seems. One would hope that AdWeek would dig into these or similar questions.

Stephen E Arnold, January 21, 2019

Rewarding Questionable Behavior: The Google Method

January 11, 2019

I read the Bloomberg write up “Google Board Sued for Hushing Claims of Executive Misconduct.” I do recall that Bloomberg created a stir with its really factual write up about mystery components, but this is about humans and their propensity to behave in interesting ways. I assume, therefore, that most of the information is sort of accurate.

The write up informs me amidst green ads and yellow banners of semi information unrelated to the actual news item that:

Alphabet Inc.’s directors were sued by shareholders for approving a $90 million exit payment to Andy Rubin, the creator of the Android mobile software, while helping cover up his alleged misconduct and similar misbehavior by other executives. The investors claimed the board failed in its duties by allowing harassment to occur, approving big payouts and keeping the details private.

Let’s assume that the assertion, the behavior, and the litigation are factualities.

On the surface, it is possible to formulate these hypotheses:

  1. What happens in the high school science club environment stays in the science club until it doesn’t
  2. The high school science club approach to handling “issues” is to make life pretty good for well liked science club members. (One assumes that birds of a feather flock together may want the flock and the errant bird to thrive.)
  3. The high school science club method can be misunderstood by the lowly beings who purchase shares in an enterprise. Litigation is sour grapes.

From my vantage point in the anti Silicon Valley in Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky, it sure looks like some hanky panky has been practiced.

Revenue growth? Whatever it takes I assume. If Amanda Rosenberg lived in the muddy hollow, I would ask her. I wonder if the real news outfit  Bloomberg might consider such an interview a way to collect useful information?

Stephen E Arnold, January 11, 2019

AT&T Copyright Infringement Gets Complicated

December 28, 2018

For as long as we’ve had digital copyright infringement, we’ve had hardliners saying it should be an offense worthy of online banishment. Others have said that is a violation of rights, which has been the most consistent outlook on the sin. However, one major player in the digital sphere is not having it any longer and that could be a major misstep. At least, that’s the view of the Techdirt article, “AT&T Ignores Numerous Pitfalls, Begins Kicking Pirates Off the Internet.

According to the story:

“Axios was the first to break the story with a comically one-sided report that failed to raise a single concern about the practice of booting users offline for copyright infringement, nor cite any of the countless examples where such efforts haven’t worked or have gone poorly.”

This article discusses how alarming this action is. It’s seen as essentially being the judge, jury, and executioner of online users without a fair treatment. This has become a really disturbing trend for AT&T. Recently, the giant has taken a real stock tumble when they’ve been accused of mistreating Dish subscribers. Looks like rough waters are ahead for AT&T and we’d keep our distance if we were you.

Patrick Roland, December 28, 2018

Silicon Valley: A Choke Collar and a Geofence

December 27, 2018

Will the free wheeling, Wild West, break things approach thrive in 2019? Beyond Search does not think so. The trend toward censorship, content control, and decryption is evident. Whether it is India telling Amazon and Wal-Mart what the ecommerce companies can sell or Australia’s legislation which gives the government authority to order backdoors under certain conditions — government controls are beginning to arrive.

I read “Silicon Valley May Rue the Day it Called for Government Intervention Against Microsoft.” The source is one with which I am not familiar. The content may be one of those confections of hyperbole, fake news, and hand waving that are quite popular.

I read the essay because it called attention to the scrutiny given to Microsoft, urged along some may assert by competitors afraid of the company’s power.

The parallel is not exact. What struck me, however, is the specter of focused, intense energy to deal with the casualties of years of non regulation. Like an elastic band, the potential energy may be released with a snap.

The write up asserts:

Silicon Valley’s regulations-for-thee-but-not-for-me attitude has come back to bite them. They want the strictest form of regulation for telecommunications providers but no scrutiny of themselves, and now the tables have been turned.

I also noted this statement:

They took it for granted that regulators would never go after content platforms like their own, but now it is precisely those platforms that are squarely in the sights of many politicians.

Wrong. High technology companies are now likely to get choke collars and geofences.

Stephen E Arnold, December 27, 2018

Ombudsman or Enforcement Official?

December 11, 2018

As Google’s CEO prepares to read his testimony today (December 11, 2018), I noted this passage from the prepared statement:

Users also look to us to provide accurate, trusted information. We work hard to ensure the integrity of our products, and we’ve put a number of checks and balances in place to ensure they continue to live up to our standards. I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way. To do otherwise would go against  our core principles and our business interests. (See this link for the statement.)

I thought about the recent security lapse at Google Plus. Yes, that was the service which was the trigger for a compensation goodie.

But what’s important today is not the reading of Silicon Valley spin.

I suggest that the article “Facebook, Google scramble to contain global fallout from ACCC plan” may have more oomph in the long run. The Australian government appears to be inching toward clamping down on the Google and Facebook. I noted this statement:

Declaring the digital giants have “substantial” market power, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) wants to create an ombudsman to investigate complaints from consumers, media companies and marketers about Google and Facebook over issues such as defamatory comments and fake ads.

As a member of Five Eyes, Australia may be pointing the direction in which Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the US will move.

In this context, the Google statement does little to change the reality of what the company does and how it operates. For example, there is employee push back. Another example, there is the behavior of senior executives. One more: There are the claims of Foundem and other vendors who allege that Google willfully took steps to swizzle the search results.

The question becomes, “Is Australia appointing an ombudsman to deal with Google and Facebook or an enforcement officer?”

Enforcement? Laws, I assume, will follow.

Stephen E Arnold, December 11, 2018

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