Medical Data: A Google Focus for More Than a Decade

November 12, 2019

Medical data. Google has a bit of history. In 2008, Google made a play for personal health records. Don’t remember. Here’s what the interface looked like:


In 2011, this bold play went away. Doesn’t that sound familiar? A discontinued Google service.

Then Google bought DeepMind, the black hole of investment in the UK. DarkCyber noted this story: “Revealed: Google AI Has Access to Huge Haul of NHS Patient Data.” The write up stated:

A data-sharing agreement obtained by New Scientist shows that Google DeepMind’s collaboration with the NHS goes far beyond what it has publicly announced.

There was a dust up, but The Register reported: “Five NHS Trusts Do DeepMind Data Deal with Google. One Says No.”

DarkCyber noted the flurry of reports about Google’s tie up with Ascension, the second largest health care outfit in the US. You can read the paywalled Wall Street Journal story or you can look at one of the dozens of posts recycling this deal.

A few comments, perhaps? Why not?

First, Google has been beavering away at personal health data, including the famous CDC flue report, for more than a decade. Why? That’s a good question.

Second, Google needs new revenue. I know it sounds crazy, but the ad biz is not the same old money machine it was because the cost of “being Google” is rising more rapidly than Google’s old money machine can handle. That’s why YouTube will cuts costs by trimming un-commercial videos. Plus, there are other problems; for example, Google’s famous management style. Health data may open some revenue opportunities? Yep, a handful.

Third, Google’s information is asymmetric. There is a lot of data from Web sites, books, and other open sources. But Google is a laggard when it comes to juicy, useful, easily exploitable fine grained personal data in the hands of Amazon and Facebook. Health data is a useful goodie. Health data is proprietary and quite person centric.

What can Google do with health data? Many things. But those applications are secondary in this blog post. The point today, gentle reader, is that Google is not doing anything new. Health data has been a focal point for a relatively long time.

Oh, would you buy Google insurance? No. Would your would be employer buy information revealing a person was addicted to something? No. You might want to think about your answer. What about personalized ads to the parents of a child with an “issue”? No. Okay. No.

Stephen E Arnold, November 12, 2019

Buzzword Originator: Bits from LinkedIn

November 11, 2019

DarkCyber spotted “What on Earth Is a Data Scientist? The Buzzword’s Inventor DJ Patil Spills All.” The write up contained an interesting factoid:

The term “data scientist,” virtually unheard of just a few years ago, now returns over 25,000 results on LinkedIn’s Jobs page—that’s a solid 2,000 more than the search results of the universally trendy “financial analyst” (at least to us New Yorkers).

How valid is the phrase? We noted this statement from DJ Patel, a former LinkedIn professional and adviser to President Obama:

“But because I was working at LinkedIn, I just tested all the job titles we could think of to see which one would get the most interest from job applicants. Turns out that everybody wanted to be a data scientist, so we’re like, OK, that is what we will call ourselves.”

The hot title? Just marketing it seems.

Stephen E Arnold, November 12, 2019

IBM Watson to the Rescue of Truth: Facts? Not Necessary

November 7, 2019

Could IBM Watson Fix Facebook’s ‘Truth Problem’?” stopped me in my daily quest for truth, justice, and the American way of technology. The write up dangles some clickbait in front of the Web indexing crawlers. Once stopped by IBM Watson, Facebook, and Truth, the indexers indexed but I read the story.

I printed it out and grabbed by trusty yellow highlighter. I like yellow because it reminds me of an approach which combines some sensational hooks with a bit of American marketing.

For instance this passage warranted a small checkmark:

Facebook is between a rock and a hard place because “the truth” is often subjective, where what is true to one party is equally false to the other.

I like the word subjective, and I marveled at the turn of phrase in this fresh wordsmithing: “between a rock and a hard place.” Okay, a dilemma or a situation created when a company does what it can to generate revenue while fending off those who would probe into its ethical depths.

This statement warranted a yellow rectangle:

Since Facebook itself is perceived as being biased (or perhaps the news sources it hosts are), a solution from them would be suspect regardless of whether it was AI-based or, assuming such a thing was financially viable (which I doubt it is), human-driven.  But IBM may have a solution that could work here.

Yes, a hypothetical: IBM Watson, a somewhat disappointing display of the once proud giant’s Big Blueness, is a collection of software, methods, training processes, and unfulfilled promises by avid IBM marketers. I grant that a bright person or perhaps a legion of wizards laboring under the pressures of an academic overlord or a government COTAR possibly, maybe, or ought to be able to build a system to recognize content which is “false.” Defining the truth certainly seems possible with time, money, and the “right” people. But can IBM Watson or any of today’s smart software and wizards pull off this modest task? If the solution were available, wouldn’t it be in demand, deployed, and detailed. TV programs, streaming video, tweets, and other information objects could be identified, classified, and filtered. Easy, right?

I then used my yellow marker to underline words, place a rectangle around the following text, and I added an exclamation point for good measure. Here’s the passage:

IBM also has the most advanced, scalable, deployable AI in the market with Watson. They recognized the opportunity to have an enterprise-class AI long before anyone else, and they have demonstrated human-like competence both with Jeopardy and with a debate against a live professional debater a few years ago.  I attended that debate and was impressed that Watson not only was better with the facts, it was better with humor. It lost the debate, but it was arguably the audience’s favorite.

Yes, assertions without facts, no data, no outputs, no nothing. Just “has the most advanced, scalable, deployable AI in the market.” The only hitch in this somewhat over-the-top generalization is, “It [Watson] lost the debate.”

But what warranted the exclamation mark was “it [IBM Watson] was better with humor.” Yep, smart software has a sense of humor at IBM.

This write up raises several questions. I will bring these up with my team at lunch today:

  1. Why are publications like Datamation running ads in the form of text? Perhaps, like Google Ads, a tiny label could be affixed so I can avoid blatant PR.
  2. Why is IBM insisting it has technology that “could” do something. I had a grade school teacher named Miss Bray who repeated endlessly, “Avoid woulda, coulda, shoulda.” What IBM could do is irrelevant. What IBM is doing is more important. Talking about technology is not the same as applying it and generating revenue growth, sustainable revenue, and customers who cannot stop yammering about how wonder a product or service is. For example, I hear a great deal about Amazon. I don’t here much about IBM.
  3. What is the “truth” in this write up. IBM Watson won Jeopardy. (TV shows do post production.) I am not convinced that the investment IBM made in setting up Watson to “win” returned more than plain old fashioned advertising. The reality is that the “truth” of this write up is very Facebook like.

To sum up, clicks and PR are more important than data, verifiable case examples, and financial reports. IBM, are you listening? Right, IBM is busy in court and working to put lipstick on its financials. IBM marketers, are you listening? Right, you don’t listen, but you send invoices I assume. Datamation, are there real stories you will cover which are not recycled collateral and unsupported assertions? Right, you don’t care either it seems. You ran this story which darn near exhausted by yellow marker’s ink.

Stephen E Arnold, November 7, 2019

Facebook: Following the Credge of Innovation

November 5, 2019

Cue the music. There’s nothing like a logo. Nothing in this world. DarkCyber noted the Credge logo innovation. Not to be outdone, Facebook, a very popular and profitable company, has added a logo. It looks like this.




See the innovation. The logo changes colors depending upon what a happy and possibly insecure Facebook user is doing at a particular time. A context aware logo! And DarkCyber thought Einstein was insightful and semi-creative. Al, you are not in Facebook’s league.

Why? Well that answer appears in a Facebook post called “Introducing Our New Company Brand.” DarkCyber learned:

The new branding was designed for clarity, and uses custom typography and capitalization to create visual distinction between the company and app.

Facebook is quite expert at clarity.

Is DarkCyber Confused?

No, DarkCyber understands. A new logo takes companies to the credge of innovation.

Stephen E Arnold, November 4, 2019

Security Industry Blind Spot: Homogeneity

October 24, 2019

Push aside the mewlings about Facebook. Ignore Google’s efforts to quash employee meetings about unionization. Sidestep the phrase “intelligent cloud revenue.”

An possibly more significant item appeared in “Information Security Industry at Risk from Lack of Diversity.” The write up states:

The Chartered Institute of Information Security (CIISec) finds that 89 percent of respondents to its survey are male, and 89 percent over 35, suggesting the profession is still very much in the hands of older men.

Furthermore, the security industry is wallowing in venture funding. That easy money has translated into a welter of security solutions. At cyber security conferences, one can license smart monitoring, intelligent and proactive systems, and automated responses.

The problem is that this security country club may be fooling itself and its customers.

The write up quotes from the CIISec report, presenting this segment:

“If the industry starts to attract a more diverse range of people whilst spreading awareness of the opportunity available, we could be well on the way to truly modernizing the industry,” adds Finch. “Key to all this will be both organizations and individuals having a framework that can show exactly what skills are necessary to fulfill what roles. This will not only help hire the right people. It will also mean that it the routes to progress through an individual’s career are clearly marked, ensuring that individuals who enthusiastically join the industry don’t over time become jaded or burn out due to a lack of opportunity.”

Partially correct opines DarkCyber. The security offered is a me-too approach. Companies find themselves struggling to implement and make use of today’s solutions. The result? Less security and vendors who talk security but deliver confusion.

Meanwhile those bad actors continue to diversify, gain state support, and exploit what are at the end of a long day, vulnerable organizational systems.

Stephen E Arnold, October 24, 2019

The Google: We Are Supreme Because We Say So

October 23, 2019

The quantum supremacy PR stunt is aloft. Navigate to “What Our Quantum Computing Milestone Means.” The write up does not mention self-serving public relations. Nope. Here’s an example:

While we’re excited for what’s ahead, we are also very humbled by the journey it took to get here. And we’re mindful of the wisdom left to us by the great Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman: “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.”

Aw, shucks. Google is just plain folk.

And the write up has a reminder to IBM, an outfit somewhat troubled by the supremacy thing:

As we scale up the computational possibilities, we unlock new computations. To demonstrate supremacy, our quantum machine successfully performed a test computation in just 200 seconds that would have taken the best known algorithms in the most powerful supercomputers thousands of years to accomplish. We are able to achieve these enormous speeds only because of the quality of control we have over the qubits. Quantum computers are prone to errors, yet our experiment showed the ability to perform a computation with few enough errors at a large enough scale to outperform a classical computer.

And Google sees an upside too:

Quantum computing will be a great complement to the work we do (and will continue to do) on classical computers. In many ways quantum brings computing full circle, giving us another way to speak the language of the universe and understand the world and humanity not just in 1s and 0s but in all of its states: beautiful, complex, and with limitless possibility.

Yep, our work. Let’s see. That includes:

  • Online advertising
  • Me too mobile phones
  • Hiring Microsoft executives
  • Implementing interesting management methods related to personnel- executive interaction
  • Employees sleeping in their vehicles.

Great stuff. Quantum PR.

Stephen E Arnold, October 23, 2019

What to Be Found Via Google?

October 13, 2019

Do you want your business and/or Web site to be at the top of Google’s search results? It is a hard race to the top, but it can be won and Business 2 Community explains how in, “How To Use Google My Business Posts.” Google My Business (GMB) posts are part of the Google My Business profile, one of the many services that Google offers users to optimize their business’s profile. According to the article, Google My Business (GMB) posts are mini-ads for your business or the goods/services you offer.

The GMB posts allow users to publish products, services, events and other information directly to Google’s search and maps. Your content is then placed in front of potential customers. The biggest clincher is that the GMB posts are placed in Google’s many services in real time. That is a big deal! Being able to view and interact with content in real time is part of the augmented reality.

“Google offers four different types of posts to help you promote your business:

• Events, like a wine night or networking event

• Offers, such as sales or discounts

• Product updates, like new merchandise

• Announcements, such as “We’re open late” or “Closed due to inclement weather!”

There are two ways to create a GMB post, on a desktop or mobile device. Videos and photos can also be added to posts. All posts appear in a user’s GMB profile and are live on Google search for seven days, unless an event is more than seven days in the future.

GMB is like Facebook or LinkedIn, except for businesses. How long will it take before it becomes spam filled? Also Google Ads works too, but that requires some monetary investment.

Whitney Grace, October 13, 2019

Hot Buzzword: Continuous Intelligence

October 11, 2019

No, I don’t know what “continuous intelligence” means. When I worked at Booz, Allen, one of the presidents from that era remarked to me, “I have a sixth sense for great jargon.” That fellow, James Farley, would have embraced “continuous intelligence.” The phrase sounds good. It is metaphorical. It could support a new practice area.

I heard the word at the TechnoSecurity & Digital Forensics Conference. I am not sure which session speaker dropped the phrase. Maybe Cisco’s and Coalfire’s? At the time, I noted the phrase but did not think much about it.

This morning it surfaced again in “Clear the Path to Continuous Intelligence with Machine Learning, Consultancy Urges.” Not a Booz, Allen pitch which is interesting. The jargon outputters are from ThoughtWorks.

The write up defines the phrase “continuous intelligence” this way:

… The continuous intelligence state: This is where CD4ML platform thinking and a data DevOps culture become the norm. This is “continuous delivery for data,” the ThoughtWorks team explains. “As data scientists create more refined and accurate models, they can easily deploy these into production as replacements for prior models. Being able to create products which learn and complete the intelligence cycle in a continuous fashion is what sets this stage apart. The loops become more seamless and most of the hurdles are removed. Loops become tighter and faster with more use and more experimentation, which is a key indicator of the health of intelligence cycle.”

Got it? If not, a mid tier consulting firm will assist you as you travel the learning curve. A conference opportunity? Absolutely.

“Continuous intelligence” has arrived.

Stephen E Arnold, October 11, 2019

Oracle Is Streamlining Its Brands

September 19, 2019

When Apple rehired Steve Jobs to save the floundering company, Jobs returned to with a minimalist mentality. He told a shocked group of employees that instead of offering every type of Apple computer with bells, whistles, and ice-cream, there would be a limited number. From this limited number, consumers could choose which Apple worked for them and Apple would be able to concentrate on building the best product on the market. Oracle is taking a page from Jobs’s minimalist book, because ZDNet shares how, “Oracle Analytics: Honing 18+ Products Down To A Single Brand.”

Oracle is one of the most recognized and trusted names in business intelligence. The company has grown so much with products and acquisitions that its hard drive runneth over with names and brands. Oracle rebranded its BI and data analytics with the Oracle Analytics moniker. Oracle is now run by Bruno Aziza and T.K. Anand, both worked in Microsoft’s BI department. They described Oracle Analytics as three pillars:

“Oracle Analytics Cloud will encompass all stand-alone cloud analytics and will serve as the flagship offering

Oracle Analytics Server encompasses all stand-alone on-premises analytics, and is essentially a reboot of OBIEE

Oracle Analytics for Fusion Applications will cover analytics in service of Oracle’s many business applications”

The rebranding will encompass classic analytics and new features, particularly taking advantage of natural language processing. There is a new integrated user experience with self-service data discovery, reporting, fancy dashboards, and multi-device usage.

Oracle promises to bring the same, reliable service, except better and more intuitive for BI enterprises. Oracle spoke about NLP, but did not say much about AI or machine learning. There is probably some AI in Oracle Analytics, but the rebranding has kept any new developments for a later announcement.

Whitney Grace, September 19, 2019

YouTube Recommendation Engine Benefits Advertisers, Users?

September 17, 2019

Beware the YouTube recommendation engine, especially where the kids are concerned. We are warned by Scientific American in its piece, “YouTube’s Recommendation Algorithm Has a Dark Side.” (And, no, this is not about the pedophile thing.) Writer Zeynep Tufekci readily admits there is a lot of good information on YouTube. In fact, that is why just staying away is not an option for most internet users. He cautions us, though, not to go for the worthy instructions and stay for the captivating rubbish. He writes:

“‘How do I’ assemble that table, improve my stroke, decide if I’m a feminist, choose vaccinations, highlight my cheeks, tie my shoelaces, research whether climate change is real…? Someone on YouTube has an answer. But the site has also been targeted by extremists, conspiracy theorists and reactionaries who understand its role as a gateway to information, especially for younger generations. And therein lies the dark side: YouTube makes money by keeping users on the site and showing them targeted ads. To keep them watching, it utilizes a recommendation system powered by top-of-the-line artificial intelligence (it’s Google, after all). Indeed, after Google Brain, the company’s AI division, took over YouTube’s recommendations in 2015, there were laudatory articles on how it had significantly increased ‘engagement’: Silicon Valley–speak for enticing you to stay on the site longer. These ‘recommended’ videos play one after the other. … YouTube’s algorithms will push whatever they deem engaging, and it appears they have figured out that wild claims, as well as hate speech and outrage peddling, can be particularly so.”

We’re reminded that kids (most of whom do not have the experience to consistently discern good information from bad) are likely to go to Google-owned YouTube with their questions before any other search platform because, like it or not, they much prefer video to text. Couple that with the fact that Google’s Chromebooks, which come preloaded with YouTube, dominate the U.S. K-12 market. Grown-ups probably underestimate how much time young people spend on the platform, and especially how often they are lured away from approved educational fare.

Tufekci’s suggestion is for Google to disable the recommendation engine on schools’ Chromebooks. That would be a good place to start, but how do we convince a pusher to cut off its youngest and most vulnerable users? Legislation may be required.

Google wants engagement. Google wants revenue. Is the Google speak making these two factors too difficult for users to discern?

Cynthia Murrell, September 17, 2019

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