In Connected World, Users Are Getting Reared as Slaughter Animals

November 22, 2016

Yahoo, Facebook, Google, WhatsApp, Instagram and Microsoft all have one thing in common; for any service that they provide for free, they are harnessing your private data to be sold to advertisers.

Mirror UK recently published an Op-Ed titled Who Is Spying on You? What Yahoo Hack Taught Us About Facebook, Google, and WhatsApp in which the author says:

Think about this for a second. All those emails you’ve written and received with discussions about politics and people that were assumed to be private and meant as inside jokes for you and your friends were being filtered through CIA headquarters. Kind of makes you wonder what you’ve written in the past few years, doesn’t it?

The services be it free email or free instant messaging have been designed and developed in such a way that the companies that own them end up with a humongous amount of information about its users. This data is sugarcoated and called as Big Data. It is then sold to advertisers and marketers who in the garb of providing immersive and customized user experience follow every click of yours online. This is akin to rearing animals for slaughtering them later.

The data is not just for sale to the corporates; law enforcement agencies can snoop on you without any warrants. As pointed out in the article:

While hypocritical in many ways, these tech giants are smart enough to know who butters their bread and that the perception of trust outweighs the reality of it. But isn’t it the government who ultimately ends up with the data if a company is intentionally spying on us and building a huge record about each of us?

None of the tech giants accept this fact, but most are selling your data to the government, including companies like Samsung that are into the hardware business.

Is there are a way that can help you evade this online snooping? Probably no if you consider mainstream services and social media platforms. Till then, if you want to stay below the radar, delete your accounts and data on all mainstream email service providers, instant messaging apps, service providing websites and social media platform.

Vishal Ingole, November 22, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Is IBM Watson Like Microsoft Windows and Google Android? What? Huh?

November 16, 2016

Short honk. As we approach the end of 2016, I am paying attention to the prognostications for the future. I noted a stunner which I want to highlight. The source is Data Science Central’s “What Can Modern Watson Do?” (This is a heck of a question by the way. I will comment about the article in more detail next week.) For today, I want to present this statement from a mid tier consulting firm’s guru wizard savant human. Here’s the statement made in reference to IBM Watson:

David Schubmehl, an analyst at IDC compares IBMs new playbook in AI with Microsoft’s Windows in personal computing and Google’s Android OS in mobile. “IBM is trying to do the same thing with Watson,” he said, “open up a platform, make it available for others, and democratize the technology.”

Dave Schubmehl, IDC, allegedly compared IBM’s “playbook” to Microsoft Windows in personal computing and Google Android’s operating system in mobile. The hedge is the word “trying.” Yep, trying includes paying mid tier consultants to toot the Watson tuba. The premise strikes me as something a day worker in Harrod’s Creek might say; for example, the democratization of technology makes IBM Watson’s future great, maybe huge, or Number One. Yep, a day worker says this stuff frequently in rural Kentucky.

A couple of observations.

  • A playbook is not what Microsoft Windows or Google Android are. But for the fact that a “playbook” is not widely used software for consumers, the IDC logic warrants the creation of a new word for this type of logical misstep: Schubmehlian. I like that word Schubmehlian.
  • Windows has revenue. Watson does not have Windows-scale global reach, a comparable “brand,” or a subscription revenue model producing real billions every quarter. The lawyers use the phrase “but for” to help explain this type of logic. Watson is great “but for” its lack of scale, brand value, and revenue. The metaphor looks shaky, Mr. Mid Tier Consultant guru.
  • Google Android OS has market reach. The last figure I recall is that Android is the operating system on more than 80 percent of the world’s mobile devices. (The source for this magic number is none other than IDC, the same folks who generate pretty crazy numbers like how much time a professional spends looking for information each day.) Watson is great “but for” its lack of market share.

Yep, those “but fors” can be a problem. However, mid tier consultants are not paid to be right, just to sound right. Tuck this away for future reference. Watson is the new Windows AND the new Google Android OS.

Will the anti trust issues tag along? Not for a while. You can hire IDC and get this type of logic by filling out the form at this link. The result will be — how can I say it? — Schubmehlian.

Stephen E Arnold, November 16, 2016

Oh No! The Ads Are Becoming Smarter

November 15, 2016

I love Christmas and subsequent holiday season, although I am tired of it starting in October.  Thankfully the holiday music does not start playing until Thanksgiving week, as do the ads, although they have been sneaking into the year earlier and earlier.   I like the fact that commercials and Internet ads are inanimate objects, so I can turn them off.  IT Pro Portal tells me, however, that I might be in for a Christmas nightmare; “IBM’s Watson Now Used In Native Advertising” or the ads are becoming smarter!

While credit card expenditures, browsing history, and other factors are already used for individualized, targeted ads, they still remain a static tool dependent on external factors.  Watson is going to try be tried in the advertising game to improve targeting in native advertising.   Watson will add an aesthetic quality too:

The difference is – it’s not just looking at keywords as the practice was so far – it’s actually looking at the ad, determining what it’s about and then places it where it believes is a good fit. According to the press release, Watson “looks at where, why and how the existing editorial content on each site is ‘talking about’ subjects”, and then makes sure best ads are placed to deliver content in proper context.

Another way Watson’s implementation in advertising is “semantic targeting AI for native advertising.”  It will work in real-time and deliver more individualized targeted ads, over your recent Amazon, eBay, and other Web site shopping.  It is an interesting factor how Watson can disseminate all this information for one person, but if you imagine that the same technology is being used in the medical and law fields, it does inspire hope.

Whitney Grace, November 15, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


Battle of the Mid Tier Pundits: Smartwatch Sales

November 13, 2016

I love it when mid tier outfits do battle. Most blue chip consulting firms carve out unique niches and then create MBA lists and data designed to underscore the firms’ prescience and, dare I say it, brilliance. Not so with the mid tier outfits. These folks do the me to thing. Need to know what’s hoppin’ in 2017, just look at the flow of prognostications.

I read “Is the Smartwatch Market Tanking or on a Long, Slow Climb.” What makes this wonderful is that one of the mid tier outfits is or was affiliated with IDG, owner of Network World, the publication pointing out the discontinuities in estimates.

Hey, I love discontinuities. Think Brexit polls.

The write up points out without much irony or concern that

In late October, market research firm IDC said smartwatch shipments in the third quarter declined by 51% from the same quarter of 2015. The total shipped in the third quarter was 2.7 million, IDC said. By comparison, research firm Canalys on Thursday said smartwatch shipments were up 60% for the third quarter of 2016 compared with the same quarter a year ago. That resulted in 6.1 million units shipped in the latest quarter, Canalys said.

Hmmm. Separate universes or an example of bad sampling, lousy data, and former English majors getting into technology analysis? Who knows.

Now about that data about Apple smartwatches, which I think are sort of wonky. The write up revealed:

IDC said Apple shipped 1.1 million units, a decline of 71%. But Canalys said Apple shipped 2.8 million Apple Watches, nearly three times as many as IDC reported.

There you go. But the write up does not focus on:

  • Verification
  • Vetting
  • Management quality control.

My hunch is that most professionals don’t care. The time constrained folks will just choose the result that supports their position. I love the brave new world of mid tier consulting firm data. Waves and hype cycles are another kettle of fish because they are so “metaphorical,” which is appropriate for a student of Chaucer.

Stephen E Arnold, November 13, 2016

Three Deadlines in October and November Mark Three Strikes on Google

November 11, 2016

The article titled Google Is Getting Another Extension to Counter EU Antitrust Charges on Fortune begs the question, how many more times will the teacher accept the “I need more time” argument? With the potential for over a billion dollar penalty of Google is found guilty, the company is vying for all the time it can get before answering accusations of unfair treatment of rival shopping services through its search results. The article tell us,

The U.S. technology giant was due to respond to the accusations on Thursday but requested more time to prepare its defense. The company now has until Nov. 7, a European Commission spokesman said. “Google asked for additional time to review the documents in the case file. In line with normal practice, the commission analysed the reasons for the request and granted an extension allowing Google to fully exercise its rights of defense,” he said.

If anyone is counting at this point, the case is now 6 years old, meaning it has probably graduated kindergarten and moved into the First Grade. The article does not comment on how many extensions have been requested altogether, but it does mention that another pair of deadlines are looming in Google’s near future. October 26 and October 31 are the dates by which Google must respond to the charges of blocking competitor advertisements and using the Android operating system to suppress rivals.

Chelsea Kerwin, November 11, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Blue Chipper and Marketing Analytics

November 9, 2016

I think this write up “Reporter’s Notebook: McKinsey’s Heller Talks Analytics” is a summary plus odds and ends based on a McKinsey blue chip consultant’s lecture. McKinsey prides itself on hiring smart people, and it does some crafty buzzwording when it makes the obvious so darned obvious.

I noted this passage:

CMOS are asking: Do we have enough data scientists? Are we accelerating customer acquisition? Are we increasing customer value? What they care about is taking the intense amount of data that happens every day from call centers, Web sites and stores, then stitching it together and identifying new customer segmentation and new opportunities to create growth. The CMO is thinking about data science — how it can drive growth about the organization.

The idea is that federating disparate information is important from McKinsey’s point of view.

How does a marketer deal with data in a way that makes revenue? I highlighted this MBA formula: Get organized, plan, and hire McKinsey to help. The 4Ds will help too:

  • “Data. Aggregate as much information as possible and everything you do downstream creates more value.
  • Decisioning. Run advanced models — propensity models, churn models — against that data. You don’t become a data scientist overnight. The organization needs to do customer scoring and advanced analytics. Identify where the data fiefdoms are in your organization (people holding on to their data to protect their jobs) and get the right people together.
  • Design. Managing the content, offers and experience the customer receives and being curious and experimenting. Testing. A/B testing. Once you have the models, what are the experiences these customers want to see?
  • Distribution. Push both the decision data and test design into marketing. Close the loop and measure everything. If I’m in a room of marketers and I ask them what their roles are, they’re distributing marketing communications, just not in a truly data-driven way.”

But the marketing officer must embrace the five core beliefs behind “mobilization.” I bet you are eager to learn these five insights. Here you go:

  1. “Mobilize cross-functional leaders around the opportunity. The CMO needs CIO, store operations, different people to help break down the silos.
  2. Get creative about navigating the legacy … be relentless about solutions.
  3. Walk before you run. Identify a roadmap, pick some high priority areas and execute.
  4. Prioritize “lighthouse” projects to kick-start execution.
  5. Let data activation drive your new marketing operations model.”

What’s the payoff? Well, for McKinsey it is billable hours. For the client:

We see real aggressive growth with clients doing nothing wrong in the range of a 6X revenue capture. If I can increase the speed by which you test, you’re increasing revenue . Typically conversion rate increases from the low end of the 20s to high end of 150 percent plus  range … on the digital sales side yield exponential gains of 2, 3, 5X. Just 1 percent, 2 percent or 3 percent of enterprise value creation for a multi-billion company — driven by digital — is huge.

Huge? That seems to be a trendy word. Where have I heard it before? Hmmm. Will McKinsey guarantee the measurable benefit of its consultants’ work? My hunch is that McKinsey sends invoices; it does not write checks when its work wanders a bit from the data in a presentation.

Stephen E Arnold, November 9, 2016

Hackers Having Field Day with Mirai Botnet

November 7, 2016

The massive cyber-attack that crippled major website across the US on October 21 was executed using an extensive network of infected computers and smart devices. The same botnet is now on sale on Dark Web which will enable hackers to launch similar or even massive attacks in the future.

As reported by Cyberscoop in article titled You can now buy a Mirai-powered botnet on the dark web:

A botnet of this size could be used to launch DDoS attacks in addition to automated spam and ransomware campaigns. The price tag was $7,500, payable in bitcoin. The anonymous vendor claimed it could generate a massive 1 terabit per second worth of internet traffic.

The particular botnet used in the Dyn attack are all infected with Mirai malware. Though the source code of the malware is freely available across hacker forums, a vendor over Dark Net is offering ready to use Mirai-Powered botnet for $7,500. This enables any hacker to launch DDoS attack of any scale on any network across the globe.

As the article points out:

With the rise of Mirai, experts say the underground DDoS market is shifting as vendors now have the ability to supercharge all of their offerings; giving them an avenue to potentially find new profits and to sell more destructive DDoS cannons.

Though the botnet at present is for sale, soon the prices may drop or even become free enabling a teenager sitting at home to bring down any major network down with few clicks. Things already have been set in motion, it only needs to be seen, when and where the next attack occurs.

Vishal Ingole, November 7,  2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

HonkinNews, 1 November 2016 Now Available

November 1, 2016

This week’s HonkinNews explores the mini Silicon Valley the White House wanted to build on the banks of the swampy Potomac River. How did the venture perform? Think F as in 18F. The British equivalent of the GSA is not winning high fives among some UK citizens. The IBM WOW showed Las Vegas how to party with Big Blue professionals, Watson (a true party animal), and true believers. Do you have a stack of the new currency? IBM believes it has the combination to unlock a vault containing riches. Google makes it more difficult to find out which Google wizard is responsible for what. HonkinNews provides some tips to locate the Googler you want to reach. Attivo breaks new ground for verbal finery. Verizon believes that it has the secret to unlock the value of Yahoo. AT&T, it seems, is heading into trouble. Click here for the program.

Kenny Toth, November 1, 2016

Wow Revelation: AI and the Proletariat

October 29, 2016

IBM’s week long Watson conference WOW marks the starting gun for end of year marketing. I read “IBM Says New Watson Data Platform Will Bring Machine Learning to the Masses.” I like the headline. It reminded me of a part time lecturer at the one horse college I attended 50 years ago. Wild eyed, the fellow was a fan of “ism”, almost any flavor was okay with him. I read the books on the reading list and dutifully took the tests. To be candid, I was delighted when the course ended.

Watson, if the headline is to be believed, may be drifting into the lingo of that now ignored adjunct lecturer. I learned:

IBM unveiled a cloud-based AI engine to help businesses harness machine learning. It aims to give everyone, from CEOs to developers, a simple platform to interpret and collaborate on data.

There we have it: An “everyone.” Really?

The write up, which I assume to be spot on, told me:

“Insight is the new currency for success,” said Bob Picciano, senior vice president at IBM Analytics. “And Watson is the supercharger for the insight economy.” Picciano, speaking at the World of Watson conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday, unveiled IBM’s Watson Data Platform, touted as the “world’s fastest data ingestion engine and machine learning as a service.” The cloud-based Watson Data Platform, will “illuminate dark data,” said Picciano, and will “change everything—absolutely everything—for everyone.”

Interesting. “Insight” is the “currency of success.” The idea is that if someone understands an issue, that mental perception is money.

I like the superlatives too. I found this statement amusing: …Watson will illuminate Dark Data” and “will change everything.”

There we have it: An “everything.” Really?

Now Watson is no longer Lucene, home brew code, and acquired technology. Watson is an enabler. The write up told me that “I haven’t made it a reality yet.” The “it” is the potential of Watson. I liked the concept that I am going to have to do more with Watson.

Okay, but we sort of like the Facebook and Google tools. The IBM approach was important when I worked in my university’s computing center as a JCL go-fer. I even embraced IBM servers for projects at outfits like Bell Communications Research. Ah, the joys of MVS/TSO.

But now the Watson categorical superlatives are noise.

I highlighted this statement attributed to an IBM wizard:

“The number of people in today’s business who have to be able to leverage data as part of their everyday lives, to make sense of it, to drive intelligent decision-making, has grown rapidly,” she said. Gunnar pointed to the need for businesses to collaborate with data across departments to make decisions. The simple interface, she said, helps give everyone, from those who are data savvy to “citizen analysts,” a chance to work with data. “The notion of being able to work on data together, to share across the business, is a huge opportunity to accelerate insights and uncover things that weren’t able to because of the silos within the organization that prevented working on common information,” she [Ritika Gunnar, VP of offering management] said.

There we have it: “everyone.” Really?

The sheer overstatement and superlative density underscore that IBM is trying hard to make Watson a success. I am reasonably certain that Watson’s all-embracing range of functions will generate revenue for Big Blue.

But compare the coverage of the IBM Wow conference with the hooting and hollering for the Apple event which took place during the Wow event.

And remember the proletariat. Yep, wow.

Stephen E Arnold, October 29, 2016

The IBM Watson Hype Machine Shouts Again

October 28, 2016

The IBM Watson semi news keeps on flowing. The PR firms working with IBM and the Watson team may bring back the go go days of Madison Avenue. Note, please. I wrote “may.” IBM’s approach, in my opinion, is based on the Jack Benny LSMFT formula. Say the same thing again and again and pretty soon folks will use the product. The problem is that IBM has not yet found its Jack Benny. Bob Dylan, the elusive Nobel laureate, is not exactly the magnetic figure that Mr. Benny was.

For a recent example of the IBM Watson buzz-o-rama, navigate to “IBM Watson: Not So Elementary.” I know the story is important. Here’s the splash page for the write up:


I will definitely be able to spot this wizard if I bump into him in Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky. I wonder what the Watson expert is looking at or for. Could it be competitors like Facebook or outfits in the same game in China and Russia?

The write up begins with an old chestnut: IBM’s victory on Jeopardy. No more games. I learned:

IBM’s cognitive computing system is through playing games. It’s now a hired gun for thousands of companies in at least 20 industries.

I like the “hired” because it implies that IBM is raking in the dough from 20 different industry sectors. IBM, it seems, is back in the saddle. That is a nifty idea but for the fact that IBM reported its 18th consecutive quarter of revenue declines. The “what if” question I have is, “If Watson were generating truly big bucks, wouldn’t that quarterly report reflect a tilt toward positive revenue growth?” Bad question obviously. The Fortune real journalist did not bring it up.

The write up is an interview. I did highlight three gems, and I invite—nay, I implore—you to read and memorize every delicious word about IBM Watson. Let’s look at the three comments I circled with my big blue marker.

Augmented Intelligence

at IBM, we tend to say, in many cases, that it’s not artificial as much as it’s augmented. So it’s a system between machine computing and humans interpreting, and we call those machine-human interactions cognitive systems. That’s kind of how it layers up….it’s beginning to learn on its own—that is moving more in the direction of what some consider true artificial intelligence, or even AGI: artificial general intelligence.

Yikes, Sky Net on a mainframe, think I.

Training Watson

there isn’t a single Watson. There’s Watson for oncology. There’s Watson for radiology. There’s Watson for endocrinology…for law…for tax code…for customer service.

I say to myself, “Wow, the costs of making each independent Watson smart must be high. What if I need to ask a question and want to get answers from each individual Watson? How does that work? How long does it take to receive a consolidated answer?  What if the customer service Watson gets a question about weather germane to an insurance claim in South Carolina?”

The Competition

The distinctness of the Watson approach has been to create software that you can embed in other people’s applications, and these are especially used by the companies that don’t feel comfortable putting their data into a single learning system—particularly one that’s connected to a search engine—because in effect that commoditizes their intellectual property and their cumulative knowledge. So our approach has been to create AI for private or sensitive data that is best reserved for the entities that own it and isn’t necessarily ever going to be published on the public Internet.

I ponder this question, “Will IBM become the background system for the competition?” My hunch is that Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and a handful of outfits in backwaters like Beijing and Moscow will think about non IBM options. Odd that the international competition did not come up in the Fortune interview with the IBM wizard.

End Game

these systems will predict disease progression in time to actually take preventive action, which I think is better for everybody.

“Amazing, Watson will intervene in a person’s life,” blurt my Sky Net sensitive self.

Please, keep in mind that this is an IBM Watson cheer which is about 4,000 words in length. As you work through the original Fortune article, keep in mind:

  • The time and cost of tuning a Watson may cost more than a McDonald’s fish sandwich
  • The use of “augmented intelligence” is a buzzword embraced by a number of outfits, including Palantir Technologies, a competitor to IBM in the law enforcement and intelligence community. Some of IBM’s tools are ones which the critics of the Distributed Common Ground System suggest are difficult to learn, maintain, and use. User friendly is not the term which comes to mind when I think of IBM. Did you configure a mainframe or try to get a device driver for OS/2 to work? There you go.
  • The head of IBM Watson is not an IBM direct hire who rose through the ranks. Watson is being guided by a person from the Weather Channel acquisition.

How does Watson integrate that weather data into queries? How can a smart system schedule surgeries when the snow storm has caused traffic jams. Some folks may use an iPhone or Pixel or use common sense.

Stephen E Arnold, October 28, 2016

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