UK Wants To Know How Powerful Facebook And Google Ads Are

September 20, 2019

The United Kingdom recently blew the whistle on Facebook and Google, so they can understand how much advertising space both tech companies control. ZDNet reports on the situation in, “UK Watchdog Single Out Google, Facebook In Advertising Probe.” The UK is concerned that Google and Facebook dominate too much advertising space, squarely kicking the competition out of the ring. The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will launch a new market study about online platforms and digital advertising. The CMA wants to determine if Google and Facebook are harming UK consumers.

“The report will examine the potential risk factors and harm which could be impacting consumers today in the world of online advertising. The main areas CMA cites (.PDF) as worthy of investigation are:

  1. To what extent online platforms have market power in user-facing markets;
  2. Whether consumers are able and willing to control how data about them is used and collected by online platforms;
  3. Whether competition in the digital advertising market may be distorted by any market power held by platforms”

According to the article, about 50% of all UK advertising budgets are spent on digital advertising. Google and Facebook control the majority of the market, predicted to be 70% by 2020. With so many eyes focused on the two companies, both wield a lot of power. The CMA wants to ensure consumers know how Facebook and Google are using their personal information and if it poses risks to consumers.

The CMA also wants to prevent a dual monopoly, which would hamper economic growth and prevent new advertisers from entering the market. In regards to market dominance the CMA is investigating five points: ‘this includes methods to improve competition through open standards and data; means to lower the barriers to entry by competitors; ways to increase consumer data protection; and an examination of data consent rules to encourage a “fairness by design” architecture.’”

This is what government is supposed to do! The CMA is looking out for consumers and preventing monopolies that could potentially upend UK markets. The CMA wants Facebook and Google to be responsible for its actions which seems reasonable.

Whitney Grace, September 20, 2019

A DarkCyber Tip: Stay On Google’s Good Side

September 20, 2019

If your Web site does not appear in Google, it might as well not exist. Being in the top Google search results is key to your Web site’s success or failure, but how do you get in the top search results? The answer is: being on Google’s good side. Bit Rebels explains how to be on good terms with Google in the article, “How Important Is Getting On Google’s Good Side.”

You want to focus on getting in Google’s top search results, because 73% of all online searches are conducted via it. Google is the big guns when it comes to online search and if you get to the top of Google, then you will get to the top of the remaining search engines.

Being on the second, third, and fourth pages might appear to be an accomplishment, but humans have short attention spans and do not want to browse. Humans want instantaneous results, so that action involves a once over of the first page and clicking on a link.

Do not forget that SEO is an important part of high rankings:

“At this point, you probably have an idea what search engine optimization, SEO, is. In case you don’t, though, it’s the process of making your website more attractive to a search engine. When the popular search engine that is Google arranges results, it does so using specific criteria; relevance of the domain name to the search keywords, website speed and reliability, relevance of web content, popularity and several other factors.

We also noted:

What’s more, Google also takes into consideration how many clicks does your website often get. So, if it is a frequently visited website, it would automatically get bumped up the results page. Having said that, get ready to scoop the leftovers of your mind off the floor because we’re about to blow it to bit.”

To get on Google’s good side the formula is simple: create good content, concentrate on SEO, gets hits, and maybe invest in some online advertising?

Whitney Grace, September 20, 2019

YouTube: Will It Continue to Fancy Dance to the Editorial Control Be Bop?

September 20, 2019

Kids these days have ambitions of being astronauts, writers, scientists, and YouTubers. YouTubers are social media influences with mass followings that make decent livings through YouTube, mostly through ad revenue. YouTubers love and hate their platform of choice and it does not come as a surprise due to how controversial YouTube has become. The Guardian runs down YouTube’s recent headlines and spoke with YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki in the article, “YouTube’s Susan Wojcicki: ‘Where’s The Line Of Free Speech-Are You Removing Voices That Should Be Heard?’”


YouTube faces frequent scandals, involving its creators posting questionable content like hate speech, Holocaust deniers, etc. And there are those pedophiles who communicate in the comments of children’s videos or engage in code speak related to videos posted by a doting parent for digitally aware Silver Surfer.

YouTube made some progress with anti-hate speech policies to curb hate mongering videos and periodic takedowns. YouTube allegedly has a 10,000 alert, morally upright, dedicated human moderators working with smart software and systems able to the alleged five hundred hours of video posted every minute. Wojcicki seems to say her Googley unit cannot catch every instance of hate speech and questionable video, but they are trying and making a good effort at it.

The video streaming platform is one of the most popular ways Americans entertain themselves and generate money for the online ad giant. The problem is these scandals and bad actor videos that stain YouTube’s reputation, but does removing/banning them violate free speech:

“But hasn’t it been dangerously influential? [Wojcicki] pauses. ‘Look, [these question videos are] a very small percentage of our views, and the way that we think about it is: ‘Is this content violating one of our policies? Has it violated anything in terms of hate, harassment?’ If it has, we remove that content. We keep tightening and tightening the policies. We also get criticism, just to be clear, [about] where do you draw the lines of free speech and, if you draw it too tightly, are you removing voices of society that should be heard? We’re trying to strike a balance of enabling a broad set of voices, but also making sure that those voices play by a set of rules that are healthy conversations for society.’”

This particular write up adds a human dimension to the problem of hate speech and child abuse. Wojcicki’s life includes hobbies. (Imagine. A hard working Type A Googler having a hobby.) She is determined to leave a strong legacy and wants to influence more women to work in the technology industry. A good attitude is a plus when working for a company whose top lawyer makes headlines about personal behavior and the video content contains some darned awful data.

YouTube would have made a great MBA case study had not the market for MBAs imploded and free online classes demonstrated that MBA students go to school for contacts, not learning.

Nevertheless, a great case study awaits.

Whitney Grace, September 20, 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

Emailing Phishing: Yes, It Works

September 19, 2019

Phishing scams aka spam are arguably the oldest Internet scam. One would think that after almost thirty years with the Internet and email, people would have wised up to phishing scams, but no. People still fall for them and ZDNet has an article that explains why, “Phishing Emails: Here’s Why We Are Still Getting Caught After All These Years.” Here is an interesting fact, phishing emails are actually the first stage in security and data hacks within the past few years.

Google blocks more than 100 million scam emails a day and 68% of the messages are new variations of ones already blocked. What is even more interesting is who the phishing campaigns target. Enterprise users are five times more likely than a regular Gmail user to be targeted, while education users are two times more likely, government workers are three times likely, and non-profits have a 3.8 more likelihood than regular consumers. The scams only last a certain length of time to avoid detection, sometimes they last hours or only a few minutes. The scams mask themselves:

“While bulk phishing campaigns only last for 13 hours, more focused attacks are even more short lived; what Google terms as a ’boutique campaign’ — something aimed at just a few individuals in a company — lasts just seven minutes. In half of all phishing campaigns, the email pretends to have come from the email provider, in a quarter it claims to be from a cloud services provider; after that it’s most likely masquerading as a message from a financial services company or ecommerce site.”

An even scarier fact is that 45% of the Internet does not understand phishing scams. The phishing bad actors play on the naiveté and use psychological tricks, such as urgency and fear, to get people to comply.

People need to wise up and be aware of Internet scams and phishing attacks. Be aware that a reputable company will never ask for your password and always check the email address to see if it appears suspicious. If it has lot of numbers and letters and does not come from the company’s official domain, it is a scam.

Whitney Grace, September 19, 2019

An AI Tool to Identify AI-Written Text

September 19, 2019

When distinguishing human writing from AI-generated text, the secret is in the predictability. MIT Technology Review reports, “A New Tool Uses AI to Spot Text Written by AI.” We have seen how AI can produce articles that seem to us humans as if they were written by one of us, opening a new dimension in the scourge of fake news. Now, researchers have produced a tool that uses AI technology to detect AI-generated text. Writer Will Knight tells us:

“Researchers from Harvard University and the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab have developed a new tool for spotting text that has been generated using AI. Called the Giant Language Model Test Room (GLTR), it exploits the fact that AI text generators rely on statistical patterns in text, as opposed to the actual meaning of words and sentences. In other words, the tool can tell if the words you’re reading seem too predictable to have been written by a human hand. … GLTR highlights words that are statistically likely to appear after the preceding word in the text. As shown in the passage above (from Infinite Jest), the most predictable words are green; less predictable are yellow and red; and least predictable are purple. When tested on snippets of text written by OpenAI’s algorithm, it finds a lot of predictability. Genuine news articles and scientific abstracts contain more surprises.”

See the article for that colorfully highlighted sample. Researchers enlisted Harvard students to test GLTR’s results. Without the tool, students spotted just half the AI-crafted passages. Using the highlighted results, though, they identified 72% of them. Such collaboration between the tool and human interpreters is the key to warding off fake articles, one researcher states. The article concludes with a link to try out the tool for oneself.

Cynthia Murrell, September 19, 2019

Should Social Media Algorithms be Used to Predict Crime?

September 18, 2019

Do we want Thought Police? Because this is how you get Thought Police. Though tragedies like the recent mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton are horrifying, some “solutions” are bound to do more harm than good. President Trump’s recent call for social-media companies to predict who will become a mass shooter so authorities can preemptively move against them is right out of Orwell’s 1984. Digital Trends asks, “Can Social Media Predict Mass Shootings Before They Happen?” Technically, it probably can, but with limited accuracy. Journalist Mathew Katz writes:

“Companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon already use algorithms to predict your interests, your behaviors, and crucially, what you like to buy. Sometimes, an algorithm can get your personality right – like when Spotify somehow manages to put together a playlist full of new music you love. In theory, companies could use the same technology to flag potential shooters. ‘To an algorithm, the scoring of your propensity [to] purchase a particular pair of shoes is not very different from the scoring of your propensity to become a mass murderer—the main difference is the data set being scored,’ wrote technology and marketing consultant Shelly Palmer in a newsletter on Sunday. But preventing mass shootings before they happen raises some thorny legal questions: how do you determine if someone is just angry online rather than someone who could actually carry out a shooting? Can you arrest someone if a computer thinks they’ll eventually become a shooter?”

That is what we must decide as a society. We also need to ask whether algorithms are really up to the task. We learn:

“The Partnership on AI, an organization looking at the future of artificial intelligence, conducted an intensive study on algorithmic tools that try to ‘predict’ crime. Their conclusion? ‘These tools should not be used alone to make decisions to detain or to continue detention.’”

But we all know that once people get an easy-to-use tool, the ease-of-use can quickly trump accuracy. Think of how often you see ads online for products you would never buy, Katz prompts. Then consider how it would feel to be arrested for a crime you would never commit.

Cynthia Murrell, September 18, 2019

Information Technology Outsourcing: Good or Bad?

September 18, 2019

One of the early twentieth century woes was outsourcing IT jobs. These jobs were sent to India, China, and other places in Asia. The outsourcing was a topic for comedy sketch shows and a political slogan for right and left wingers. There is more to IT outsourcing than we think, especially in the United Kingdom. Computer Weekly shares a new side about IT sourcing in the article, “IT Outsourcing Is Increasing, But Not As We Know It.” There is nothing new bout the growing demand for IT workers, but service providers have changed what they offer their customers.

The outsourcing statistics are worrying for the United Kingdom economy, because Whitelane Research and PA Consulting discovered that 71% of UK organizations plan to outsource the same amount or more of their services in 2019, according to a survey of 760 IT deals. The same study showed that the same organizations are going to insource less at 16%, compared to 22% in 2018. The main reasons for the outsourcing is how traditional service providers are being changed to meet customer demands and businesses streamline operations, such as automation, AI, and mobile apps.

An IT expert said:

“ ‘Technology-driven challenger organizations are transforming the way services are delivered and consumed across sectors,’ said Manish Khandelwal, IT transformation expert at PA Consulting.”

The traditional service providers might be changing, but they, along with smaller players, are increasing their IT spending. The same IT expert observed:

“’Technology investments are growing, presenting significant opportunities for established service providers and new entrants with differentiated offerings,’ said Khandelwal. ‘Service providers that are able to transition from traditional delivery and commercial models without compromising the service quality are looking at an exciting future ahead.’”

Organizations want to meet their customers’ demands, while achieving their business goals at the same time. This requires changing the traditional service structure, but also how companies are established and how they spend their money. It does not look good for growing local economies, but it could offer individuals the ability to start businesses when they might never had the chance. It is tough balance to keep, but no one knows what the results will be.

Whitney Grace, September 18, 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

Amazon and Google Discover Tension

September 17, 2019

Google is proud of its search algorithms’ secret sauce. Google does not share its secret sauce with anyone else, because Google likes to be the top search provider in the western hemisphere. Google hates it when anyone other than Google manipulates its search results. Amazon results tend to rank at the top of many Google searches and Google wants to stop that says Tame Bay in the story, “Google Search Diversity Update To Challenge Amazon Discovery Dominance.”

Google wants its search results to be more diverse. Instead of returning a list of Amazon links to queries, no more than two Amazon links or other dominant Web pages will appear in search results. Searchmetrics wanted to know how many Web sites dominated Google search results. Searchmetrics discovered:

“Searchmetrics analyzed top ten search results on for 10,000 words before and after the diversity update. The research says that three URLs from one domain are now appearing for 3.5% of the analyzed keywords. That’s down from 6.7% before the update. This halves the chance of shoppers to see the same website appearing three times in the ten ranking positions.”

With the diversity update Amazon is limited to only two links in a box above third-party organic search results. Google did state if the search results from one domain are specifically relevant to the query then it would display more results from that specific Web site.

The downside is that sellers with paid Amazon listings will be pushed lower in the search rankings. However, it proves the argument that sellers need to diversify their marketplace with their own Web site and other channels to sell their products, instead of relying only on Amazon.

Whitney Grace, September 17, 2019

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