Japan Does Not Want a Bad Apple on Its Tax Rolls

January 25, 2023

Everyone is falling over themselves about a low-cost Mac Mini, just  not a few Japanese government officials, however.

An accountant once gave me some advice: never anger the IRS. A governmental accounting agency that arms its employees with guns is worrisome. It is even more terrifying to anger a foreign government accounting agency. The Japanese equivalent of the IRS smacked Apple with the force of a tsunami in fees and tax penalties Channel News Asia reported: “Apple Japan Hit With $98 Million In Back Taxes-Nikkei.”

The Japanese branch of Apple is being charged with $98 million (13 billion yen) for bulk sales of Apple products sold to tourists. The product sales, mostly consisting of iPhones, were wrongly exempted from consumption tax. The error was caught when a foreigner was caught purchasing large amounts of handsets in one shopping trip. If a foreigner visits Japan for less than six months they are exempt from the ten percent consumption tax unless the products are intended for resale. Because the foreign shopper purchased so many handsets at once, it is believed they were cheating the Japanese tax system.

The Japanese counterpart to the IRS brought this to Apple Japan’s attention and the company handled it in the most Japanese way possible: quiet acceptance. Apple will pay the large tax bill:

“Apple Japan is believed to have filed an amended tax return, according to Nikkei. In response to a Reuters’ request for comment, the company only said in an emailed message that tax-exempt purchases were currently unavailable at its stores. The Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau declined to comment.”

Apple America responded that the company invested over $100 billion in the Japanese supply network in the past five years.

Japan is a country dedicated to advancing technology and, despite its declining population, it possesses one of the most robust economies in Asia. Apple does not want to lose that business, so paying $98 million is a small hindrance to continue doing business in Japan.

Whitney Grace, January 25, 2023

OpenAI Working on Proprietary Watermark for Its AI-Generated Text

January 24, 2023

Even before OpenAI made its text generator GPT-3 available to the public, folks were concerned the tool was too good at mimicking the human-written word. For example, what is to keep students from handing their assignments off to an algorithm? (Nothing, as it turns out.) How would one know? Now OpenAI has come up with a solution—of sorts. Analytics India Magazine reports, “Generated by Human or AI: OpenAI to Watermark its Content.” Writer Pritam Bordoloi describes how the watermark would work:

“We want it to be much harder to take a GPT output and pass it off as if it came from a human,’ [OpenAI’s Scott Aaronson] revealed while presenting a lecture at the University of Texas at Austin.  ‘For GPT, every input and output is a string of tokens, which could be words but also punctuation marks, parts of words, or more—there are about 100,000 tokens in total. At its core, GPT is constantly generating a probability distribution over the next token to generate, conditional on the string of previous tokens,’ he said in a blog post documenting his lecture.  So, whenever an AI is generating text, the tool that Aaronson is working on would embed an ‘unnoticeable secret signal’ which would indicate the origin of the text. ‘We actually have a working prototype of the watermarking scheme, built by OpenAI engineer Hendrik Kirchner.’ While you and I might still be scratching our heads about whether the content is written by an AI or a human, OpenAI—who will have access to a cryptographic key—would be able to uncover a watermark, Aaronson revealed.”

Great! OpenAI will be able to tell the difference. But … how does that help the rest of us? If the company just gifted the watermarking key to the public, bad actors would find a way around it. Besides, as Bordoloi notes, that would also nix OpenAI’s chance to make a profit off it. Maybe it will sell it as a service to certain qualified users? That would be an impressive example of creating a problem and selling the solution—a classic business model. Was this part of the firm’s plan all along? Plus, the killer question, “Will it work?”

Cynthia Murrell, January 24, 2023

How to Make Chinese Artificial Intelligence Professionals Hope Like Happy Bunnies

January 23, 2023

Happy New Year! It is the Year of the Rabbit, and the write up “Is Copyright Easting AI?” may make some celebrants happier than the contents of a red envelop. The article explains that the US legal system may derail some of the more interesting, publicly accessible applications of smart software. Why? US legal eagles and the thicket of guard rails which comprise copyright.

The article states:

… neural network developers, get ready for the lawyers, because they are coming to get you.

That means the the interesting applications on the “look what’s new on the Internet” news service Product Hunt will disappear. Only big outfits can afford to bring and fight some litigation. When I worked as an expert witness, I learned that money is not an issue of concern for some of the parties to a lawsuit. Those working as a robot repair technician for a fast food chain will want to avoid engaging in a legal dispute.

The write up also says:

If the AI industry is to survive, we need a clear legal rule that neural networks, and the outputs they produce, are not presumed to be copies of the data used to train them. Otherwise, the entire industry will be plagued with lawsuits that will stifle innovation and only enrich plaintiff’s lawyers.

I liked the word “survive.” Yep, continue to exist. That’s an interesting idea. Let’s assume that the US legal process brings AI develop to a halt. Who benefits? I am a dinobaby living in rural Kentucky. Nevertheless, it seems to me that a country will just keep on working with smart software informed by content. Some of the content may be a US citizen’s intellectual property, possibly a hard drive with data from Los Alamos National Laboratory, or a document produced by a scientific and technical publisher.

It seems to me that smart software companies and research groups in a country with zero interest in US laws can:

  1. Continue to acquire content by purchase, crawling, or enlisting the assistance of third parties
  2. Use these data to update and refine their models
  3. Develop innovations not available to smart software developers in the US.

Interesting, and with the present efficiency of some legal and regulatory system, my hunch is that bunnies in China are looking forward to 2023. Will an innovator use enhanced AI for information warfare or other weapons? Sure.

Stephen E Arnold, January 23, 2023

Seattle: Awareness Flickering… Maybe?

January 17, 2023

Generation Z is the first age of humans completely raised with social media. They are also growing up during a historic mental health crisis. Educators and medical professionals believe there is a link between the rising mental health crisis and social media. While studies are not 100% conclusive, there is a correlation between the two. The Seattle Times shares a story about how Seattle public schools think the same: “Seattle Schools Sues Social Media Firms Over Youth Mental Health Crisis.”

Seattle schools files a ninety-page lawsuit that asserts social media companies purposely designed, marketed, and operate their platforms for optimum engagement with kids so they can earn profits. The lawsuit claims that the companies cause mental and health disorders, such as depression, eating disorders, anxiety, and cyber bullying. Seattle Public Schools’ (SPS) lawsuit states the company violated the Washington public nuisance law and should be penalized.

SPS argues that due to the increased mental and physical health disorders, they have been forced to divert resources and spend funds on counselors, teacher training in mental health issues, and educating kids on dangers related to social media. SPS wants the tech companies to be held responsible and help treat the crisis:

“ ‘Our students — and young people everywhere — face unprecedented learning and life struggles that are amplified by the negative impacts of increased screen time, unfiltered content, and potentially addictive properties of social media,’ said SPS Superintendent Brent Jones in the release. ‘We are confident and hopeful that this lawsuit is the first step toward reversing this trend for our students, children throughout Washington state, and the entire country.’”

Tech insiders have reported that social media companies are aware of the dangers their platforms pose to kids, but are not too concerned. The tech companies argue they have tools to help adults limit kids’ screen time. Who is usually savvier with tech though, kids or adults?

The rising mental health crisis is also caused by two additional factors:

  1. Social media induces mass hysteria in kids, because it is literally a digital crowd. Humans are like sheep they follow crowds.
  2. Mental health diagnoses are more accurate, because the science has improved. More kids are being diagnosed because the experts know more.

Social media is only part of the problem. Tech companies, however, should be held accountable because they are knowingly contributing to the problem. And Seattle? Flicker, flicker candle of awareness.

Whitney Grace, January 17, 2023

Billable Hours: The Practice of Time Fantasy

January 16, 2023

I am not sure how I ended up at a nuclear company in Washington, DC in the 1970s. I was stumbling along in a PhD program, fiddling around indexing poems for professors, and writing essays no one other than some PhD teaching the class would ever read. (Hey, come to think about it that’s the position I am in today. I write essays, and no one reads them. Progress? I hope not. I love mediocrity, and I am living in the Golden Age of meh and good enough.)

I recall arriving and learning from the VP of Human Resources that I had to keep track of my time. Hello? I worked on my own schedule, and I never paid attention to time. Wait. I did. I knew when the university’s computer center would be least populated by people struggling with IBM punch cards and green bar paper.

Now I have to record, according to Nancy Apple (I think that was her name): [a] The project number, [b] the task code, and [c] the number of minutes I worked on that project’s task. I pointed out that I would be shuttling around from government office to government office and then back to the Rockville administrative center and laboratory.

She explained that travel time had a code.  I would have a project number, a task code for sitting in traffic on the Beltway, and a watch. Fill in the blanks.

As you might imagine, part of the learning curve for me was keeping track of time. I sort of did this, but as I become more and more engaged in the work about which I cannot speak, I filled in the time sheets every week. Okay, okay. I would fill in the time sheets when someone in Accounting called me and said, “I need your time sheets. We have to bill the client tomorrow. I want the time sheets now.”

As I muddled through my professional career, I understood how people worked and created time fantasy sheets. The idea was to hit the billable hour target without getting an auditor to camp out in my office. I thought of my learnings when I read “A Woman Who Claimed She Was Wrongly Dismissed Was Ordered to Repay Her Former Employer about $2,000 for Misrepresenting Her Working Hours.”

The write up which may or may not be written by a human states:

Besse [the time fantasy enthusiast] met with her former employer on March 29 last year. In a video recording of the meeting shared with the tribunal, she said: “Clearly, I’ve plugged time to files that I didn’t touch and that wasn’t right or appropriate in any way or fashion, and I recognize that and so for that I’m really sorry.” Judge Megan Stewart concluded that TimeCamp [the employee monitoring software watching the time fantasist] “likely accurately recorded” Besse’s work activities. She ordered Besse to compensate her former employer for a 50-hour discrepancy between her timesheets and TimeCamp’s records. In total, Besse was ordered to pay Reach a total of C$2,603 ($1,949) to compensate for wages and other payments, as well as C$153 ($115) in costs.

But the key passage for me was this one:

In her judgment, Stewart wrote: “Given that trust and honesty are essential to an employment relationship, particularly in a remote-work environment where direct supervision is absent, I find Miss Besse’s misconduct led to an irreparable breakdown in her employment relationship with Reach and that dismissal was proportionate in the circumstances.”

Far be it from me to raise questions, but I do have one: “Do lawyers engage in time fantasy billing?”

Of course not, “trust and honesty are essential.”

That’s good to know. Now what about PR and SEO billings? What about consulting firm billings?

If the claw back angle worked for this employer-employee set up, 2023 will be thrilling for lawyers, who obviously will not engage in time fantasy billing. Trust and honesty, right?

Stephen E Arnold, January 16, 2023

US AI Legal Decisions: Will They Matter?

January 10, 2023

I read an interesting essay called “This Lawsuit against Microsoft Could Change the Future of AI.” It is understandable that the viewpoint is US centric. The technology is the trendy discontinuity called ChatGPT. The issue is harvesting data, lots of it from any source reachable. The litigation concerns Microsoft’s use of open source software to create a service which generates code automatically in response to human or system requests.

The essay uses a compelling analogy. Here’s the passage with the metaphor:

But there’s a dirty little secret at the core of AI — intellectual property theft. To do its work, AI needs to constantly ingest data, lots of it. Think of it as the monster plant Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors, constantly crying out “Feed me!” Detractors say AI is violating intellectual property laws by hoovering up information without getting the rights to it, and that things will only get worse from here.

One minor point: I would add the word “quickly” after the final word here.

I think there is another issue which may warrant some consideration. Will other countries — for instance, China, North Korea, or Iran — be constrained in their use of open source or proprietary content when training their smart software? One example is the intake of Galmon open source satellite data to assist in guiding anti satellite weapons should the need arise. What happens when compromised telecommunications systems allow streams of real time data to be pumped into ChatGPT-like smart systems? Smart systems with certain types of telemetry can take informed, direct action without too many humans in the process chain.

I suppose I should be interested in Microsoft’s use of ChatGPT. I am more interested in weaponized AI operating outside the span of control of the US legal decisions. Control of information and the concomitant lack of control of information is more than adding zest to a Word document.

As a dinobaby, I am often wrong. Maybe what the US does will act like a governor on an 19th century steam engine? As I recall, some of the governors failed with some interesting consequences. Worry about Google, Microsoft, or some other US company’s application of constrained information could be worrying about a lesser issue.

Stephen E Arnold, January 10. 2023

The EU Has the Google in Targeting Range for 2023

January 10, 2023

Unlike the United States, the European Union does not allow Google to collect user data. The EU has passed several laws to protect its citizens’ privacy, however, Google can still deploy tools like Google Analytics with stipulations. Tutanota explains how Google operates inside the EU laws in, “Is Google Analytics Illegal In The EU? Yes And No, But Mostly Yes.”

Max Schrems is a lawyer who successfully sued Facebook for violating the privacy of Europeans. He won again, this time against Google. France and Austria decided that Google Analytics is illegal to use in Europe, but Denmark’s and Norway’s data protection authorities developed legally compliant ways to use the analytics service.

Organizations were using Google Analytics to collect user information, but that violated Europeans’ privacy rights because it exposed them to American surveillance. The tech industry did not listen to the ruling, so Schrems sued:

“However, the Silicon Valley tech industry largely ignored the ruling. This has now led to the ruling that Google Analytics is banned in Europe. NOYB says:

‘While this (=invalidation of Privacy Shield) sent shock waves through the tech industry, US providers and EU data exporters have largely ignored the case. Just like Microsoft, Facebook or Amazon, Google has relied on so-called ‘standard Contract Clauses’ to continue data transfers and calm its European business partners.’

Now, the Austrian Data Protection Authority strikes the same chord as the European court when declaring Privacy Shield as invalid: It has decided that the use of Google Analytics is illegal as it violates the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Google is “subject to surveillance by US intelligence services and can be ordered to disclose data of European citizens to them’. Therefore, the data of European citizens may not be transferred across the Atlantic.”

There are alternatives to Google services, including Gmail and Google Analytics based in Europe, Canada, and the United States. This appears to be one more example of the EU lining up financial missiles to strike the Google.

Whitney Grace, January 10, 2023

UK Focused on Apple and Google in 2023

January 6, 2023

While there continues to be some market competition with big tech companies, each has their own monopoly in the technology industry. The United Statuses slow to address these industry monopolies, but the United Kingdom wants to end Google and Apples’ control says Mac Rumors in the article: “UK Begins Market Investigation Into Apple and Google’s Mobile Dominance.”

The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will investigate how Apple and Google dominate the mobile market as well as Apple’s restrictions on cloud gaming through its App Store. Smaller technology and gaming companies stated that Google and Apple are harming their bottom lines and holding back innovation:

“The consultation found 86% of respondents support taking a closer look at Apple and Google’s market dominance. Browser vendors, web developers, and cloud gaming service providers said the tech giants’ mobile ecosystems are harming their businesses, holding back innovation, and adding unnecessary costs.

The feedback effectively justifies the findings of a year-long study by the CMA into Apple and Google’s mobile ecosystems, which the regulatory body called an “effective duopoly” that allows the companies to “exercise a stranglehold over these markets.” According to the CMA, 97% of all mobile web browsing in the UK in 2021 happened on browsers powered by either Apple’s or Google’s browser engine, so any restrictions can have a major impact on users’ experiences.”

The CMA will conduct an eighteen-month-long investigation and will require Apple to share information about its business products. After the investigation, the CMA could legally force Apple to make changes to its business practices. Apple, of course, denies its current practices promote innovation and competition as well as protect users’ privacy and security.

Whitney Grace, January 6, 2023

Google and Its View of Copy and Paste: Not Okay, No, No, No!

January 4, 2023

Another day, another hoot. Today (January 4, 2023) I read a “real” news story from the trust outfit Thomson Reuters titled “Google Alleges India Antitrust Body Copied Parts of EU Order on Android Abuse.” Yes, that’s the title. Google. Copying. India. Abuse.

I ran through my mind a few instances of allegations of the Google doing the copying. First, there was the online advertising dust up. My belief is that most people are not aware that Google paid Yahoo to make a dispute about online advertising technology go away. This was in 2004, and the Saul Hansell (who?) story is online at this link. To make a long story short, for me the deal allowed the Google to become an alleged monopoly in online advertising. It also made clear to me that innovation at Google meant copying. Interesting? I think so.

Then there were the hassles with newspapers and publishers about Google News. Wikipedia has a summary of the jousting. You can find the “Controversies with Publishers” thumbnail at this link. I would summarize the history of Google News this way: Others create timely information and Google copies it. Google emphasizes its service to users; publishers talk about copying without payment. The dismal copy paste drama began in 2002 and continues to this day.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Google’s scanning of books. I think of book scanning as similar to my photocopying a journal article when I was in college. I preferred to mark up the copy and create my University of Chicago style manual approved footnotes sitting in a cheap donut shop miles from the university library. After a decade of insisting that copying books was okay, the courts agreed. Google could copy. How are those clicks on Google Books and Google Scholar going in 2023. You can read about this copying decision in “After 10 Years, Google Books Is Legal.”

Copying is good, true, high value, and important to users and obviously to the Google.

Now what did the Reuters’ article tell me today? Let’s take a look:

Google has told a tribunal in India that the country’s antitrust investigators copied parts of a European ruling against the U.S. firm for abusing the market dominance of its Android operating system, arguing the decision be quashed, legal papers show.

Google is objecting to a nation state’s use of legal language copied from a European Union document.

Yep, copied.

Does Google care about copying and the role it has played at Google? In my opinion, no. What Google cares about is the rising tide of litigation and the deafening sound of cash registers ringing as a result of Google’s behavior.

Yep, copying. That’s a hoot. How does Google think laws, regulations, and bills are made? In my experience, it’s control C and control V.

Stephen E Arnold, January 4, 2022

Tech Transfer: Will Huawei Amp Up Litigation for Alleged Infringement

January 4, 2023

Those patents can be tough to read. However, there are legal eagles who have engineering degrees and industry experience, to determine if one firm is infringing on another outfit’s patent. What do the legal eagles for the allegedly intellectual property misdeeds do. I am no lawyer, but I think the basic objective is to figure out the alleged infraction and then do as much research as possible to learn. Ultimately the exercise can lead to patent litigation. In some instances, however, owning a patent opens the door to some fascinating analytic technology. Relationship maps, documents authored by the inventors or the engineers snared in the research, and a reason to ask questions, take stuff apart, and determine the appropriate action. In some cases, there will be a wham bam patent lawsuit. But in other situations, the outfit which feels as its it crown jewel was torn from its well formed head, just gets smarter.

Ah, has. Could this desire to get smarter or just ask a lot of questions be part of the Huawei plan for the Samsung patents?

Samsung Transfers 98 of Its US Patents to Huawei” reports:

a new report from The Elec claims that Samsung has just transferred 98 patents it owned in the United States to Huawei last month. This includes the 81 patents that Samsung transferred to Huawei in 2019. So far, the South Korean company has transferred a total of 179 patents to Huawei.

What about the sanctions? Well, what about them? Armed with legal eagles, Huawei may obtain some useful information if it pursues alleged infringement investigations. The legal work can take place in the US. But what about the data harvested by the Huawei legal team? Could that information find its way to the China-affiliated firm?

Birds fly don’t they information going to be helpful? Hmmm.

Stephen E Arnold, January 4, 2023

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