With Time and Money You May Be Able to Scrub That Web Content about You

January 25, 2022

What is posted on he Internet stays in the digital ether forever, but occasionally content can be deleted but only with a lot of work. AIM explains how your Internet breadcrumbs can be deleted in the article, “Online Tools That Help You Remove Your Digital Footprint.” A person’s contact information and interests is the lifeblood of growing businesses. According to the Mine privacy start-up after they surveyed 30,000 of its users, it was discovered that a user’s email was in 350 companies databases.

That sounds like a startling statistic, but emails are shared like people used to share cigarettes. Also mailing houses and phonebooks used to list and sell the same information. Back in analog paper days, people did not have GPSs strapped to their bodies at all times so it is alarming that we can be tracked at all times and everything we do is recorded. There are ways to combat data collection, such as using privacy browsers like Brace, Firefox, and Duck Duck Go:

“Firefox is a great alternative for web browsing for privacy with its ‘Enhanced Tracking Protection’ that automatically blocks online trackers. Similarly, Duck Duck Go does not track user activity and open tabs and your browsing history can be deleted with a tap. These also include a signal ‘Global Privacy Control’ that sends your “do not sell” preference directly to websites you visit.”

There are also data deletion services. Users can backtrack and ask companies to delete all of their personal data, but it is a tedious task. Instead there are companies users can hire to delete all their personal information. It is like those services that you can hire to remove you from physical junk mail lists.

It makes sense that startups would spring up that specialize in deleting personal information. The idea is genius for niche market in cyber security and some of the companies are: Delete Me, Mine, Data Privacy Manager, Ontrack, Rightly, and Privacy bot.

The bigger question is do these companies actually provide decent services or are they a bait and switch? Our take? Parts of Internet indexes are like lice in a college dorm.

Whitney Grace, January 25, 2022

An Arnold Law of Online

January 18, 2022

I spotted “My First Impressions of Web3.” Interesting. I have been keeping since the 1980s what I call Arnold’s Laws of Online Information. Maybe I will publish a list of these. For now I want to point out this Law:

Online seeks centralization.

The late Robert David Steele and I argued about the Web 3 idea. He believed that online could be distributed, thus breaking the grip of monopolies. I pointed out that online is inherently powered by discrete services which first affiliate (links), then clump, and eventually end up moving toward the Ma Bell model. Break up an online service and what happens? The process repeats itself.

Web3 is an interesting idea, but as “My First Impressions of Web3” points out:

I don’t think it’s on a trajectory to deliver us from centralized platforms…

I agree because it sure looks like this Arnold Law is a keeper. Why? Efficiency, money, power, ego, and control. Saying one thing while the behavior of online charts another course is nothing new.

Stephen E Arnold, January 8, 2022

Easier Targets for Letter Signers: Joe Rogan and Spotify

January 13, 2022

YouTube received a missive from fact checkers exhorting the online ad giant to do more to combat misinformation. Ah, would there were enough fact checkers. YouTube, despite having lots of money, is an easier target for government regulators. Poke Googzilla in the nose or pull its charming tail, and the beast does a few legal thrashes and then outputs money. France and Russia love this beast baiting. Fact checkers? Not exactly in the same horsepower class as the country with fancy chickens or hearty Siberians wearing hats made of furry creatures.

I noted “Scientists, Doctors Call on Spotify to Implement Misinformation Policy Over Claims on Joe Rogan Show.” Spotify is not yet a Google-type of operation. Furthermore the point of concern is a person who was a paid cheerleader for that outstanding and humane sporting activity mixed martial arts. My recollection is that Mr. Rogan received some contractual inducements to provide content to the music service and cable TV wannabe. He allegedly has a nodding acquaintance with intravenous vitamin drips, creatine, and fish oil. You can purchase mugs from which one can guzzle quercetin liquid. Yum yum yum. Plus you can enjoy these Rogan-centric products wearing a Joe Rogan T shirt. (Is that a a mystic symbol or an insect on the likenesses’ forehead?)


The write up states:

More than 260 doctors, nurses, scientists, health professionals and others have signed an open letter calling on the streaming media platform Spotify to “implement a misinformation policy” in the wake of controversy over podcaster Joe Rogan’s promotion of an anti-vaccine rally with discredited scientist Robert Malone in an episode published on December 31st. Rogan has repeatedly spread vaccine misinformation and discouraged vaccine use. The December episode attracted attention in part because Dr. Malone falsely claimed millions of people were “hypnotized” to believe certain facts about COVID-19, and that people standing in line to get tested as the omicron variant has driven record new cases of the virus was an example of “mass formation psychosis,” a phenomenon that does not exist.

Impressive. The hitch in the git along is that Mr. Rogan attracts more eyeballs and listeners than some mainstream news outlets. He is an entertainer, and one might make the case that he is a comedian, pulling the leg of guests and of some listeners. I think of him as an intellectual Adam Carolla. Note that I am aware of the academic credentials of both of these stars.

The larger issue is that these letters beef up the résumé of the publicists working on these missives. Arguments and discussions in online for a whip up eddies of concern.

There are a few problems:

  1. Misinformation, disinformation, and reformation of factual data are standard functions of the human.
  2. Identifying and offering counter arguments depends upon one’s point of view.
  3. Spotify receives content and makes it available. Conduits are not as efficient in modifying what an entertainer does in near real time before the entertainer entertains.

Why not tell Spotify to drop Mr. Rogan? Money, contracts, and the still functional freedom of speech thing.

Will more letters arrive this week? My hunch is that the French, Russian, et al approach might ultimately be more pragmatic. Whom does the publicity for the control Rogan letter benefit?

Maybe Mr. Rogan?

Stephen E Arnold, January 13, 2022

Interesting Dating App Not Publicly Loved by the EU

January 13, 2022

Anyone wishing to keep up with decisions regarding the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) can turn to the GDPRhub wiki. Unfortunately, articles posted there are not always the easiest to read, especially after being machine-translated from one language to another. We slogged through the tortured prose in Norway authority Datatilsynet’s article 20/02136-18 regarding a recent fine imposed upon Grindr. The introductory summary states:

“In January 2020, the Norwegian DPA received 3 complaints against Grindr from the Norwegian Consumer Council (NCC) in collaboration with noyb [European Center for Digital Rights] regarding the sharing of data between the Grindr app and advertising partners MoPub, Xandr, OpenX Software, Ad Colony and Smaato. The complaint was based on the report ‘out of control’ prepared by the company mnemonic, and commissioned by the NCC. The NCC’s inquiry showed that Grindr shared certain categories of personal data to several advertising partners, including advertising ID, IP address, GPS, location, gender, age, device information and app name. The data was shared through software development kits (SDKs).”

The rest of the post outlines the technical details about the case, including issues of jurisdiction, guideline violations, and assessment of the 65,000,000 NOK ($7,345,000) fine. The key issue is Grindr’s user agreement, which did not give users enough control over their personal data to meet GDPR requirements. See the article for an extensive discussion of that reasoning. Basically, it looks like Grindr just did what it wanted and assumed it could beg for forgiveness. It was sadly mistaken. Let this be a lesson to other companies looking to distribute their apps in Europe. Fines that Google, Facebook, and Amazon weather as a matter of course could break smaller outfits.

Cynthia Murrell, January 11, 2021

TikTok: Redefines Regular TV

January 11, 2022

What do most people under the age of 30 want to watch? YouTube? Sure, particularly some folks in Eastern Europe for whom YouTube is a source of “real news” and tips for surviving winter in Siberia. (Tip: Go to Sochi.)

TikTok videos Will Be Playing at Restaurants, Gyms, Airports Soon” reports:

TikTok partnered with Atmosphere to bring short-form videos to the background of your next gym session, restaurant meal, or airport visit. Startup Atmosphere streams news and entertainment to commercial locations such as restaurants, airports, hotels, doctors’ waiting rooms, and other venues. That content is sourced from a host of free, ad-supported networks, including YouTube, Red Bull TV, AFV TV, World Poker Tour, The Bob Ross Channel, and, now, TikTok—making its out-of-home video service debut.

The airport venue may not be A Number One with a Bullet today, but it has promise, particularly when paired with those surveillance centric smart TVs from some folks in South Korea and elsewhere.

My thought is that the short form video looks like the future of entertainment. Instead of smash cuts, the new programs will be structured like TikTok videos. The idea will be to create an impression with the individual videos providing the shaped or weaponized content.

Dystopia? Nah, just the normal progression of information when new tools, techniques, capabilities, and methods become available. In the case of TikTok, the addition of a China-linked approach adds spice. Perhaps it is time to think in terms of managing the content streams which are set to displace what Boomers and other old timers find reliable.

That requires understanding, will, and commitment. Those are qualities on display in many seats of government, aren’t they?

Stephen E Arnold, January 11, 2022

US Needs to Do Better at Building Digital Skills

January 10, 2022

A recent study sums up the state of worker skills in this country, and it is far from rosy. Tech News World connects the dots in its piece, “Report Finds US Workers Lagging in Digital Skills.” In both educating our youth and keeping adult workers up to date, the US is falling behind. It seems playing online games, watching TikTok, and using chipped credit cards do not provide a high-value tech foundation. Citing a recent think-tank report, writer John P. Mello Jr. tells us:

“One-third of U.S. workers lack digital skills, with 13 percent having no digital skills and 18 percent having, at best, limited digital skills, noted the report by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a science and technology institute. In essence, the ITIF reported, one in six working-age Americans are unable to use email, web search, or other basic online tools. ‘It begins with insufficient teaching of digital skills in the K-12 education system. Only a quarter of U.S. high schools have computer classes,’ the report’s author, ITIF Director of Global Innovation Policy Stephen Ezell told TechNewsWorld.”

Another roadblock is a lack of digital platforms at home for many students. Apparently 23% of households do not possess a computer and over seven percent of Americans do not use the internet.

Not only are we failing to teach our children what they need to know, efforts to keep the existing workforce current are insufficient in several fields. We learn:

“The lack of workforce digital skills is particularly acute in certain industries, according to the report. Across the U.S. construction, transportation and storage industries, half of all workers have no or only limited digital skills, while that share is over one-third across the health and social work, manufacturing, hospitality and retail and wholesale industries, it continued. The lack of digital skills in the manufacturing sector is particularly concerning, it added, especially because jobs in U.S. manufacturing increasingly demand a facility with digital skills, which is important for individual workers to be both competitive and productive, and for broader U.S. manufacturing industries as well.”

Ezell reports private-sector investment in training, as a share of US GDP, fell 30 percent over the past 20 years. According to the international Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), we invest about one-sixth the OECD average in labor market retraining among leading countries. Where does this lack of investment get us? Well below average in the developed world. A 2021 study from online education provider Coursera ranked the U.S. just 29th out of 100 countries in digital skills proficiency, putting us behind many countries in Europe and Asia.

This sorry state of affairs could all change if Congress ever manages to pass the Build Back Better bill, which includes funding for digital-skills training for both youth and established workers. We also see a ray of hope from yet another report, this one released last April by global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company. That study found 69%of organizations are doing more skill-building now than they did before the Covid-19 crisis. A silver lining, we suppose.

Cynthia Murrell, January 10, 2022

Ads and Money Plus Surveillance and Strong Control: A Winning Equation?

December 30, 2021

We need to face it that if the western world did not have a mixed capitalistic economy, the amount of consumer surveillance Amazon, Google, Apple, and other tech companies would be the equivalent of government surveillance in China and North Korea. The Drum explains how advertising spies on consumers in: “Why The Death Of Third-Party Cookies Is Actually A Modern Advertiser’s Dream.”

Third-party cookies will soon be a tool of the past. Consumers are tired of ads, but if they must engage with ads they tire of seeing the same ones, lack of personalization, and authenticity. New techniques stress personalization and authenticity. New advertising tools will farm more consumer data to create the next generation of ads:

“In-content ad strategies use artificial intelligence (AI) to not only deliver personalized, timely content, but also to generate contextual data about the viewer. This data offers brands the option to target audiences based on sentiment, which adds a key emotional moment of connection between viewer and brand – helping to build both trust and advertising effectiveness.”

This sounds like harmless advertising, but it implies prying further into consumers’ privacy. There is a fine line between collecting consumer data for advertising campaigns and invading privacy. Lines need to be drawn and consumers should be informed and given a choice to participate in advertising. One could argue they could avoid the Internet, but that’s like saying a person can rely on US public transportation outside a major metropolis. It does not work.

Whitney Grace, December 30, 2021

DarkCyber for December 28, 2021, Now Available

December 28, 2021

This is the 26th program in the third series of DarkCyber video news programs produced by Stephen E Arnold and Beyond Search. You can view the ad-free show at this url. This program includes news of changes to the DarkCyber video series. Starting in January 2022, Dark Cyber will focus on smart software and its impact on intelware and policeware. In addition, Dark Cyber will appear once each month and expand to a 15 to 20 minute format.

What will we do with the production time? We begin a new video series called “OSINT Radar.” OSINT is an acronym for open source intelligence. In a December 2021 presentation to cyber investigators, the idea surfaced of a 60 second profile of a high value OSINT site. We have developed this idea and will publish what we hope will be a weekly video “infodeck” in video form of an OSINT resource currently in use by law enforcement and intelligence professionals. Watch Beyond Search for the details of how to view these short, made-for-mobile video infodecks. Now when you swipe left, you will learn how to perform free reverse phone number look ups, obtain a list of a social media user’s friends, and other helpful data collection actions from completely open source data pools.

Also, in this DarkCyber program are: [a] the blame for government agencies and specialized software vendors using Facebook to crank out false identities. Hint: It’s not the vendors’ fault. [b] why 2022 will be a banner year for bad actors. No, it’s not just passwords, insiders, and corner-cutting software developers. There is a bigger problem. [c] Microsoft has its very own Death Star. Does Microsoft know that the original Death Star was a fiction and it did not survive an attack by the rebels?, and [d] a smart drone with kinetic weapons causes the UN to have a meeting and decide to have another meeting.

Kenny Toth, December 28, 2021

Clicks Rule: The Foundation for Unchecked Expansion

December 22, 2021

TikTok foods. You laugh. Maybe rethink that? What about TikTok financial services? Sounds crazy, right? A China-centric company financing users around the world? What about TikTok shopping? That makes sense, doesn’t it? How can short videos provide a platform for expansion, more specifically, unchecked expansion?


I read “In 2021, the Internet Went for TikTok, Space and Beyond.” I have been around online services since Ellen Shedlarz, the information specialist at Booz, Allen & Hamilton, sat me down and walked me through commercial databases. I think that was in 1973, maybe 1974. I learned that traffic was a big deal. No clicks, no nothing.

What’s the king of clicks now? The data compiled by a trade association like the old American Petroleum Institute, Chem Abstracts, or Medline? Nope. What about Facebook, Google, or Yahoo? Nope.

The big dog is TikTok, the outfit that for a short time Microsoft or Oracle would buy. How did that work out? Right, it didn’t.

The write up explains:

Google [was] dethroned by the young ‘padawan’ TikTok. Let’s start with our Top Domains Ranking and 2021 brought us a very interesting duel for the Number 1 spot in our global ranking. Google.com (which includes Maps, Translate, Photos, Flights, Books, and News, among others) ended 2020 as the undefeated leader in our ranking — from September to December of last year it was always on top. Back then TikTok.com was only ranked #7 or #8.

What outfits dominate the majority of mostly counted Internet clicks whether by humanoid or happy racks of mobile phones and tireless bots? The answer is TikTok, the service mostly beyond the comprehension of people over the age of 15. (I am just joking, you art history majors who are now TikTok consultants. Humor. Chill.)

I have created a table based on the CloudFlare data which — like all click stream numbers — requires handfuls of salt and a liter of soy sauce;

Top Domains 2021 Top Domains 2020
TikTok The Google
The Google The Zuck
The Zuck Microsoft
Microsoft Apple
Apple Netflix
Amazon Amazon
Netflix TikTok
YouTube YouTube
The Tweeter Instagram
WhatsApp The Tweeter

Three observations as you ponder the alleged loss of position by Googzilla and the worst company in America, according to a Yahoo poll:

  1. TikTok is number one. Where does that user data go? What can one do with such data? What has TikTok learned from its monitoring of the ageing and increasingly clumsy creature known to my research team as Googzilla. (Did you know Googzilla wants to date Snow White?)
  2. The data from clicks makes it possible for those with access to the data to build out their services; for example, Apple into financial services with the really classy metal credit card and App Store.
  3. Clicks translate into monopoly jets. Let me explain. The more clicks, the more data, and the more data, the clearer the signals about moving into a new stream of revenue.

Will the TikTok service remain at the top? Nah, nothing is forever in the one click world. But for now, the message sent to the Google and Zuck is one that is best expressed in a holiday card like this one from Etsy:


These products are explained in detail on TikTok. Eating disorders, kitchen envy, and gastrointestinal distress will make it easy to cook, eat, buy, and suffer in 30 second increments. Yep, it’s a TikTok “buy now” innovation. Neither the Google nor the Zuck have a now answer to the China backed service. Where do those data go?

Stephen E Arnold, December 22, 2021

Red Kangaroos? Maybe a Nuisance. Online Trolls? Very Similar

December 16, 2021

It is arguable that trolls are the worst bullies in history, because online anonymity means they do not face repercussions. Trolls’ behavior caused innumerable harm, including suicides, psychological problems, and real life bullying. Local and international governments have taken measures to prevent cyber bullying, but ABC Australia says the country continent is taking a stand: “Social Media Companies Could Be Forced To Give Out Names And Contact Details, Under New Anti-Troll Laws.”

Australia’s federal government is drafting laws that could force social media companies to reveal trolls’ identities. The new legislation aims to hold trolls accountable for their poor behavior by having social media companies collect user information and share it with courts in defamation cases. The new laws would also hold social media companies liable for hosted content instead of users and management companies. Australia’s prime minister stated:

“Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he wanted to close the gap between real life and discourse online. ‘The rules that exist in the real world must exist in the digital and online world,’ he said. ‘The online world shouldn’t be a wild west, where bots and bigots and trolls and others can anonymously go around and harm people and hurt people.’”

The new law would require social media companies to have a complaints process for people who feel like they have been defamed. The process would ask users to delete defamatory material. If they do not, the complaint could be escalated to where users details are shared to issue court orders so people can pursue defamation action.

One of the biggest issues facing the legislation is who is responsible for trolls’ content. The new law wants social media companies to be held culpable. The complaints system would allow the social media companies to use it as a defense in defamation cases.

The article does not discuss what is deemed “defamatory” content. Anything and everything is offensive to someone, so the complaints system will be abused. What rules will be instituted to prevent abuse of the complaints system? Who will monitor it and who will pay for it? An analogous example is YouTube system of what constitutes as “appropriate” children’s videos and how they determine flagged videos for intellectual theft as well as inappropriate content. In short, YouTube’s system is not doing well.

The social media companies should be culpable in some way, such as sharing user information when there is dangerous behavior, i.e.e suicide, any kind of abuse, child pornography, planned shooting attacks and other crimes. Sexist and abusive comments that are not an opinion, i.e., saying someone should die or is stupid for being a woman, should be monitored and users held accountable. It is a fine line, though, determining the dangers in many cases.

Whitney Grace, December 16, 2021

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