Another Example of the Corrosive Function of Digital Information

February 18, 2022

In Praise of Search Tools” contains an interesting statement. Here it is:

the shaping-up of the book that Duncan describes as he charts the advent of modern search tools might also be seen as a pulling-apart of the book. The alphabetical table that is the index “breaks down a book into its constituents.” Its structure is entirely independent from the structure of the work, sacrificing the latter for the reader’s better convenience. The alphabetical order used by the indexer breaks texts up into so many word-sized bits, but the dismemberment at issue in the culture of indexing was sometimes literal, as when concordance-makers took scissors to the pages whose words they were regrouping. In a 1919 article on the making of a concordance to the poetry of William Wordsworth, a Cornell professor describes how the eight volumes of the Oxford edition were transmuted by his team into 210,944 paper slips: records of each appearance of each of the poet’s keywords.

Interesting and in line with my ASIS Eagleton Lecture given in the mid 1980s.

Stephen E Arnold, February 18, 2022

Beyond Search and Dark Cyber Changes

February 14, 2022

Okay, I will be 78 in 2022. I have to be pragmatic about the content I have generated and posted without ads, commercial support, or compensation of any type since 2008. If you are a fan of Beyond Search, you will notice that we have removed the images, charts, graphs, and other visual accoutrements which we included in some blog posts. Why? I worked in online databases and publishing for many years before I retired. I operated within the boundaries of my understanding of fair use. I am now receiving machine generated allegations that I have not followed the definition of fair use now in play. Because I am creeping up in years, I don’t want to leave content online which can spawn assorted claims. Accordingly, we will be removing content. There are more than 12,000 posts in Beyond Search. Some of these contain obscure information about online search and retrieval. The illustrations in these were created by me. Nevertheless, these illustrations are goners as well.

And what about Dark Cyber? We have removed the videos posted as Honkin’ News and Dark Cyber from public access. If you want to view a video, you will have to go through a process which I have to determine. You can always ask about a video by writing benkent2020 at yahoo dot com.

Since I retired and stopped running around, giving lectures, and talking to people intrigued by my contrarian approach — traffic and viewership has slowly decreased. Now with the advent of artificially intelligent systems which proactively seek opportunities to assert that an entity has knowingly operated outside the boundaries of fair use, I am making these changes.

I will produce a new video series called “Stephen E Arnold’s OSINT Radar.” The illustrations in that series will come from the open source Web sites I talk about. In theory, this type of content will be within the boundaries of the fair use concept. If not, well, I am not sure what a person of my age can do. Die, for sure. Stop creating free, unsponsored, unbiased information, maybe.

One problem: With the online information I created over the years, those who are misinformed about certain aspects of search and the behavior of online information will never know how off base some of their systems, methods, and concepts are.

That’s the normal trajectory of the US democracy. As Alexis de de Tocqueville observed, average is just average.

Stephen E Arnold, February 14, 2022

Israeli Law Targets Palestinian Content Online

February 11, 2022

A piece of legislation that was too heavy-handed for even former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now being revived. On his Politics for the People blog, journalist Ramzy Baroud tells us “How Israel’s ‘Facebook Law’ Plans to Control All Palestinian Content Online.” The law, introduced by now-justice minister and deputy prime minister Gideon Sa’ar, would allow courts to order the removal of content they consider inflammatory or a threat to security. Given how much Palestinian content is already removed as a matter of course, one might wonder why Sa’ar would even bother with the legislation. Baroud writes:

“According to a December 30 statement by the Palestinian Digital Rights Coalition (PDRC) and the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC), Israeli censorship of Palestinian content online has deepened since 2016, when Sa’ar’s bill was first introduced. In their statement, the two organizations highlighted the fact that Israel’s so-called Cyber Unit had submitted 2,421 requests to social media companies to delete Palestinian content in 2016. That number has grown exponentially since, to the extent that the Cyber Unit alone has requested the removal of more than 20,000 Palestinian items. PDRC and PHROC suggest that the new legislation, which was already approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on December 27, ‘would only strengthen the relationship between the Cyber Unit and social media companies.’ Unfortunately, that relationship is already strong, at least with Facebook, which routinely censors Palestinian content and has been heavily criticized by Human Rights Watch and other organizations.”

This censorship by Facebook is codified in an agreement the company made with Israel in 2016. This law, however, goes well beyond Facebook. We also learn:

“According to a Haaretz editorial published on December 29, the impact of this particular bill is far-reaching, as it will grant District Court judges throughout the country the power to remove posts, not only from Facebook and other social media outlets, ‘but from any website at all’.”

The write-up rightly positions this initiative as part of the country’s ramped-up efforts against the Palestinians. But we wonder—will this law really only mean the wanton removal of Palestinian content? If history is any indication, probably not. Baroud reminds us that measures Israel originally applied to that population, like facial recognition tech and Pegasus spyware, have found their way into widespread use. One cannot expect this one to be any different.

Cynthia Murrell, February 11, 2022

Useful Concept: Algorithmic Censorship

January 28, 2022

This year I will be 78. Exciting. I create blog posts because it makes life in the warehouse for the soon-to-be-dead bustle along. That’s why it is difficult for me to get too excited about the quite insightful essay called “Censorship By Algorithm Does Far More Damage Than Conventional Censorship.”

Here’s the paragraph I found particularly important:

… far more consequential than overt censorship of individuals is censorship by algorithm. No individual being silenced does as much real-world damage to free expression and free thought as the way ideas and information which aren’t authorized by the powerful are being actively hidden from public view, while material which serves the interests of the powerful is the first thing they see in their search results. It ensures that public consciousness remains chained to the establishment narrative matrix.

I would like to add several observations:

  1. There is little regulatory or business incentive to exert the mental effort necessary to work through content controls on the modern datasphere in the US and Western Europe. Some countries have figured it out and are taking steps to use the flows of information to create a shaped information payload
  2. The failure to curtail the actions of a certain high technology companies illustrates a failure in decision making. Examples range from information warfare for purposes of money or ideology allowed to operate unchecked to the inability of government officials to respond to train robberies in California
  3. The censorship by algorithm approach is new and difficult to understand in social and economic contexts. As a result, biases will be baked in because initial conditions evolve automatically and it takes a great deal of work to figure out what is happening. Disintegrative deplatforming is not a concept most people find useful.

What’s the outlook? For me, no big deal. For many, digital constructs. What’s real? The clanking of the wheelchair in the next room. For some, cluelessness or finding a life in the world of zeros and ones.

Stephen E Arnold, January 28, 2022

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

« Previous PageNext Page »

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta