June 25, 2012
Despite the company’s famous motto, Wired insists that “Google Is Evil.” Writer Rory O’Conner contends that Google‘s privacy violations, and attempts to cover them up, make them worthy of the epithet. Specifically, their Street View cars collected private data– from passwords to photos to emails– from anyone whose wireless signal it managed to pick up. When regulators called them on it, the company became defensive, defying and lying, according to FCC findings.
So, how can anyone trust Google? Or, for that matter, other giant data-mongers like Facebook? We can’t, of course, O’Conner insists. He writes:
“Small wonder that Google co-founder Larry Page is feeling ‘paranoid’, as the Associated Press recently reported. Why? As I detail in my new book ‘Friends, Followers and the Future: How Social Media are hanging Politics, Threatening Big Brands and Killing Traditional Media,’ as the new ‘contextual web’ takes the place of the data-driven web of the early 21st century, it will mean further bad news for Google — even though the company still sold $36.5 billion in advertising last year. Couple Google’s paranoia about Facebook and the evident failure of its latest social network, Google Plus, with its problems about privacy, trust and anti-trust, and it’s no surprise that executives are feeling paranoid. After all, they are facing the very real prospect of waging a defensive war on many fronts — social, privacy, and trust — simultaneously. Despite its incredible reach, power and profit, it’s a war that Google — the 21st century equivalent of the still-powerful but increasingly irrelevant Microsoft — may well be destined to lose, along with the trust its users have long extended to one of the world’s most powerful brands.”
Interesting conclusions. Stay tuned to see how this all plays out.
Cynthia Murrell, June 25, 2012
Sponsored by PolySpot
June 11, 2012
Things may not have went exactly as Oracle planned, but according to Lawmakers call on DOJ to reopen investigation into Google Wi-Fi spying it drew more unwanted glances in Google’s direction. The Silicon Valley titan has been attracting questionable looks in regards to its ‘flexibility’ regarding privacy and copy right policies.
“We are concerned that the facts uncovered by the FCC’s investigation put Google’s initial explanation of these events in question,” they wrote.
“While Google has called the snooping a mistake, the FCC report said Google’s actions resulted from a deliberate software-design decision of a Google employee who examined and evaluated the data that was collected and shared his findings with others at the company.”
“Privacy is a critical issue and neither Google’s influence nor size absolves it from responsibility.”
In April, the engineers of Google’s Street View service decided it should use the Street View cars for scanning Wi-Fi networks and war driving. The information gathered would benefit in the creation of maps of Wi-Fi hotspots. A code was also developed for collecting Wi-Fi payload data, for the future benefit of some Google services. One may question if Oracle achieved true victory. They definitely put Google back in the unhappy face of more government scrutiny.
Jennifer Shockley, June 11, 2012
June 10, 2012
There are many ways to gather data, some more scrupulous then others. Gaining permission to share personal history is the more ethical, but according to the article How to Build a Mountain of Patient Data: Don’t Ask for Permission, there’s a professional health loophole in regards to information sharing.
“One of the reasons Indiana has been successful is we haven’t over-regulated the private sector. It’s allowed the market to blossom. We were able to do a lot of that work when there was less scrutiny.”
Opinion, something about saying ‘private sector’ followed by ‘more work with less scrutiny’ just seems wrong.
According to Molly Butters of Indiana Health Information Exchange:
“The result is many patients may not know they’ve been included. And if they are aware, opting out is hard: Patients must be granted permission by their health care providers to opt out of the exchange. The number of people who opt out is few.”
Indiana has around 6.5 million residents over all. Indiana Health Information Exchange along with their exchanges, have requisitioned the medical information of 4.5 million of those residents.
Building a data store is necessary, but not at the cost of privacy. It seems Indiana has added the clause ‘can be shared throughout health industry’ to the HIPAA Act. How many professional librarians are comfortable with this approach? How many traditional publishers? How many of the Facebook generation? Let’s think about that… None, some or all?
Jennifer Shockley, 10, 2012
May 22, 2012
Ah, Facebook and its content treasure trove. The New York Times reports, “Facebook Shares More About How It Uses Your Data.” The social behemoth has added new explanations about its content and privacy policies to the site’s Help tab.
Writer Somini Sengupta infers that the new disclosures may be in response to questions from certain European college students and the Irish Data Protection Office (which regulates Facebook’s European data policies.) Perhaps, but it seems to us that the clamor for transparency from Facebook began long ago. More likely, the timing has something to do with Facebook’s comparatively new Director of Privacy, Erin Egan. Ms. Egan was previously a partner and co-chair of the global privacy and data security division at a respected international law firm based in Washington, DC.
The write up informs us:
“The new explanations, available by clicking on the Help tab on the bottom of the Facebook home page, include one on how cookies work on the site and what information application developers receive when you download an app on the Facebook platform. The explanations also inform users about who can see what kinds of posts on their timelines.”
“‘We also provide more information about how we use data to operate Facebook, to advertise, and to promote safety and security for Facebook users,’ Ms. Egan wrote.”
Could the timing of these explanations, and the creation of the Director of Privacy position itself, have anything to do with Facebook going public? The company must now balance the specter of public scrutiny with its obligation to plump up profits for shareholders. Good luck with that.
Cynthia Murrell, May 22, 2012
Sponsored by PolySpot
April 24, 2012
The Fail Blog is notorious for reporting incidents when humanity hysterically fails. Had they read ZDNet’s, “Larry Page’s Identity Crisis: The Dead Weight of Google+” they would have posted it on their front page with a giant “FAIL” in the corner. Google+ cannot compete with Facebook. No one is signing up for Google’s social networking site, so they are relying on advertising to bring in the people. Google claims 50 million people have signed onto the service, but they are counting anyone who signs up for active Google services. One can conclude the number is much lower.
When Larry Page took over as Google’s CEO last year, he wanted to differentiate himself from his predecessor. Page relied on Google+ to mesh all of its applications into one cohesive whole, but Google fails to understand how a user uses his or her identity. Google users generally have more than one Gmail account. Google does not allow combine to mesh their accounts into one dashboard. The multiple accounts create an identity crisis in Google, because users want to be one person, not multiples.
“The issue of fragmented identity is longstanding and can bear partial responsibility for the fact that people sign up for new third-party services using identity mechanisms from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, not from Google. People only tend to have one identity for each of those successful social networks.”
It’s easier to keep track of yourself across multiple third party accounts than dozens of Google profiles. Google+ will never be able to compete with Facebook. Maybe Google should concentrate on its strengths and building them up, rather than crossing into someone else’s territory.
Whitney Grace, April 24, 2012
Sponsored by PolySpot
March 31, 2012
I find the notion of pundits fascinating. The US in 2012 pivots on a news hook, the Warhol fame thing, and a desire to share viewpoints to Flipbook and Pulse users.
This morning I was listening to the crackle of small arms fire in rural Kentucky. Dawn had not yet extended its crepuscular reach to my hollow but two write ups did. Neither is one of those magnum loads squirrel hunters desire here in the Commonwealth. Nope, these were birdshot, but each write up is interesting nonetheless.
Both indirectly concern search and retrieval. Both found their way into my “gems of the poobahs” folder.
First, I noted the digital Atlantic’s write up “The Advertising Industry’s Definition of ‘Do Not Track’ Doesn’t Make Sense.” What caught my attention was the juxtaposition of the word “advertising” with the phrase “doesn’t make sense.” Advertising making sense? The Atlantic “real” journalist has not watched television with a 67 year old. More than half of the TV commercials which I find embedded in basketball games every four minutes don’t make sense. Advertising is about creating a demand for must-have products. Advertising is part of the popular culture and an engine of growth for companies unable to generate sales without the craft and skill of psychological tactics. Check out an advertisement for Kentucky bourbon. Does this headline make sense?
“Honk if you’re proud to be a redneck?
As a resident of Kentucky, I am not sure I know what a redneck is, but I bet those folks in Boston do. But what’s “making sense” part. What advertising does is tickle the brain to make some folks want to drink. And we all know how important it is to imbibe whiskey, engage in “real” journalism, ferry children to soccer practice. Yep, makes “sense” to me.
But here’s the passage which caught my attention:
Stanford’s Aleecia McDonald found that 61 percent of people expect that clicking a Do Not Track button should shut off *all* data collection. Only 7 percent of people expected that websites could collect the same data before and after clicking a ‘Do Not Track’ button. That is to say, 93 percent of people do not understand the industry’s definition of DNT. Which totally makes sense! Who would ever think saying, “Do not track me,” actually means, “It’s fine to collect data on me, but don’t show me any signs that you’re doing so.” Simply because the industry itself has defined ‘Do Not Track’ in an idiosyncratic way doesn’t mean their self-serving decision should be the basis for all policy and practice in this field.
Almost any redneck would understand this passage, the implications of persistent cookies, and the distinction between various types of tracking, including my favorite, iFrames-based method.
Second, I read “Debunking Senator Al Franken On Google, The Internet & Privacy.” This screed is from a “real” journalist and favorite source of juicy quotes on the subject of search and retrieval. The point of the write up is that despite the author’s affection for a US senator as a comedian, the US senator does not know beans about tracking, Google, and, by extension, search and retrieval. Now “search” does not mean find. Search, I believe, means to the “real” journalist using methods to generate traffic to a Web site. I define “search” differently, but the good part in my opinion is this passage:
Ya think? But I mean, Facebook kind of does sell my friends. I can export all of them out to Yahoo and Bing, because Facebook and Yahoo and Bing all have deals. I can’t export them to Google, because, you know, they aren’t friends. Would you call that selling to the highest bidder? When I go over to search on Bing, by default, all my Facebook friends are being used to personalize my search results. Oh, I can opt-out, but you know how hard that is. Since that’s part of a Bing-Facebook deal, is that a line that’s crossed?
Please, read the entire “real” journalistic analysis of a talk by a US senator. I must admit I don’t relate to the questions and analytic points in this paragraph. I recognize the names of the companies mentioned, but “the deal” baffles me.
Why do I care? Three points:
- I sense the emotion in these write ups. Passion is good for advertising and good for capturing attention. However, I am struggling to figure out what the problem is. Advertising seems to be what America is. Untangling the warp and woof of this fabric is difficult for me.
- The ad hominem method and charged language causes me to think that the lingo of advertising has become the common parlance of “real” journalists.
- I struggle to unravel the meaning of certain parts of these two write ups. Am I alone?
Net net: technology and advertising are an interesting compound. Now “real” journalism is quite similar. To quote one “real” journalist, “Ya think?” Well, not much.
Stephen E Arnold, March 31, 2012
Sponsored by Pandia.com
March 31, 2012
David Bamman, Brendan O’Connor, Noah A. Smith present some interesting facts based on a study they wrote about in their article, Censorship and Deletion Practices in Chinese Social Media. Their study touches on a variety of different aspects regarding how China allegedly controls the intake and outflow of information.
The Chinese government methods are far different from the United States’ approach. My understanding of the situation is that China takes censorship to extremes and infringes on the freedom of their citizens using the GFW (Great Firewall of China) , which filters key phrases and words, preventing access to sites like America’s Facebook and Google. However, Sina Weibo is the Chinese equivalent of Facebook where bloggers post and pass information presumably in a way the officials perceive as more suitable for the Middle Kingdom.
Sina Weibo is monitored and as long as members stay within the boundaries or disguise their information, posts go unnoticed. If any of the outlawed phrases are entered, the user’s post is deleted and anyone searching for the information is met with the phrase ‘Target weibo does not exist’. If the user properly masks the phrase or words used, the information will get through, showing that there is the possibility of future change regarding the censorship practices in China.
The GFW will catch obvious outgoing information such as political figures, which was monitored during the study. The article asserted:
In late June/early July 2011, rumors began circulating in the Chinese media that Jiang Zemin, general secretary of the Communist Party of China from 1989 to 2002, had died. These rumors reached their height on 6 July, with reports in the Wall Street Journal, Guardian and other Western media sources that Jiang’s name had been blocked in searches on Sina Weibo (Chin, 2011; Branigan, 2011). If we look at all 532 messages published during this time period that contain the name Jiang Zemin, we note a striking pattern of deletion: on 6 July, the height of the rumor, 64 of the 83 messages containing that name were deleted (77.1 percent); on 7 July, 29 of 31 (93.5 percent) were deleted.
No firewall is perfect, but according to the studies done on searches, blogs and texts containing prohibited information, China has a pretty impressive figure. It may not seem reasonable by American standards, but by filtering anything they deem as politically sensitive, China protects the privacy of their country, preventing global rumors and interference.
On one level, censorship makes sense, in particular regarding the business world. The Chinese government makes its corporations responsible for their employees, meaning if an employee is blogging instead of working and puts in illegal information, the company itself is fined, or worst case scenario, shut down. Thus Chinese factories have a high rate of productivity because their workers are actually doing their job.
How is China’s alleged position relevant to the US? There may be little relevance, but to officials in other countries, the article’s information may be just what one needs to check into a Holiday Inn of censorship.
Jennifer Shockley, March 31, 2012
Sponsored by Pandia.com
March 15, 2012
It is tough to search when content is not there. We have been alerted to the threat of censorship from lawmakers by conflicts over legislation such as SOPA, PIPA, ACTA and TPP. We must not ignore a more insidious threat: that of direct dealings between copyright industries and Internet service providers at the behest of government; so warns TechDirt in “UK Government Pressuring Search Engines to Censor Results in Favor of Copyright Industries.”
Rather than laws that would have to be enforced through legal channels, the back-door “notification” system described in the article would submit blacklists to search engines. These lists would name sites accused of infringement, which would then be barred from search results. Any accusation could doom an entire site to obscurity, possibly without recourse. Whitelists of approved media services would also be provided and those sites artificially promoted within search results. Writer Glyn Moody asserts:
Absolute power over search engines’ results in these areas would be handed to industries that hardly have a good track record for adopting a proportionate approach to tackling unauthorized downloads. In particular, they are unlikely to lose much sleep over all the legitimate content that will become invisible when sites of borderline legality are removed from search engines’ results ‘just to be on the safe side.’ And there are no indications that there would be any oversight as to who goes on the lists, or any right of appeal — making it a purely extra-judicial punishment.
It seems that most search engines are balking at the proposed arrangement, for now at least. Moody notes that complying with white lists could be considered anti-competitive and get sites in trouble with the European Commission. Yes, that would be important. Perhaps it is a sign that the whole scheme is a bad idea? How will the legal spat between India, Google, and Facebook work out? Our view: not well.
Cynthia Murrell, March 15, 2012
Sponsored by Pandia.com
March 7, 2012
Ah, The Culture of Fear is finally reaching social media. With search morphing from precision and recall to asking one’s closest online pals, fear and search may now become unlikely bed fellows.
I came across an interesting article today (while taking a break from browsing my social media accounts on my smartphone) titled, “Smartphone, Social Media Users at Risk for Identity Fraud.” According to the piece, smartphone owners and social media users have an increased risk of becoming a victim of identity theft because of a lack of adequate security settings. A recent report on identity fraud by Javelin Strategy and Research found that 7 percent of smartphone users were victims of identity fraud last year, compared to the 4.9 percent rate among the general population. The article tells us more:
Around 62 percent [of smartphone owners] said they don’t use a password or a pin code to lock their devices. About 32 percent admitted to saving log-in information on their devices. Social media and mobile behaviors made users more vulnerable to fraud, according to the report. Users of social networking services, such as LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook and Twitter, had the highest incidence of fraud. Consumers who actively engage with social media and use a smartphone were found to have a disproportionate rate of identity fraud than consumers who do not use in these services.
Because of GPS-enabled location data and personal information shared over these networks, users are putting themselves at risk. However, when it comes to sharing information on smartphones and social media, users’ fear may be misdirected and misinformed. It seems to me that a 2 percent increase in identity theft possibilities might not be the biggest of our problems.
Andrea Hayden, March 7, 2012
Sponsored by Pandia.com
February 24, 2012
I just submitted my March 2012 column to Enterprise Technology Management, published in London by IMI Publishing. In that column I explored the impact of Google’s privacy stance on the firm’s enterprise software business. I am not letting any tiny cat out of a big bag when I suggested that the blow back might be a thorn in Googzilla’s extra large foot.
In this essay, I want to consider exogenous complexity in the context of the consumerization of information technology and, by extension, on information access in an organization. The spark for my thinking was the write up “Google, Safari and Our Final Privacy Wake-Up Call.”
Here’s a clever action. MIT students put a red truck on top of the dome. For more see http://radioboston.wbur.org/2011/04/06/mit-hacks.
If you do not have an iPad or an iPhone or an Android device, you will want to stop reading. Consumerization of information technology boils down to employees and contract workers who show up with mobile devices (yes, including laptops) at work. In the brave new world, the nanny instincts of traditional information technology managers are little more than annoying nags from a corporate mom.
The reality is that when consumer devices enter the workplace, three externalality happen in my experience.
First, security is mostly ineffective. Clever folks then exploit vulnerable systems. I think this is why clever people say that the customer is to blame. So clever exploits cluelessness. Clever is exogenous for the non clever. There are some actions an employer can take; for example, confiscating personal devices before the employee enters the work area. This works in certain law enforcement, intelligence, and a handful of other environments; for example, fabrication facilities in electronics or pharmaceuticals. Mobile devices have cameras and can “do” video. “Secret” processes can become un-secret in a nonce. In the free flowing, disorganized craziness of most organizations, personal devices are ignored or overlooked. In short, in a monitored financial trading environment, a professional can send messages outside the firm and the bank’s security and monitoring systems are happily ignorant. The cost of dropping a truly secure box around a work place is expensive and beyond the core competency of most information technology professionals.
Second, employees blur information which is “for work” with information which is “for friends, lovers, or acquaintances.” The exogenous factor is political. To fix the problem, rules are framed. The more rule applied to a flawed system, the greater the likelihood is that clever people will exploit systems which ignore the rules. Clever actions, therefore, increase. In short, this is a variation of the Facebook phenomena when a posting can reach many people quickly or lie dormant until the data load explodes like long forgotten Fourth of July fire cracker. As people chase the fire, clever folks exploit the fire. Information time bombs are not thought about by most senior managers, but they are on the radar of those involved in a legal matter and in the minds of some disgruntled programmers. The half life of information is less well understood by most professionals than the difference between a uranium based reactor and a thorium based reactor. Work and life information are blended, and in my opinion, the compound is a dangerous one.
Third, vendors focusing on consumerizing information technology spur adoption of devices and practices which cannot be easily controlled. The data-Hoovering processes, therefore, can suck up information which is proprietary, of high value, and potentially damaging to the information owner. Information is not “like sand grains.” Some information is valueless; other information commands a high price. In fact, modern content processing and data analytic systems can take fragments of information and “fuse” them. To most people these amalgams are of little interest. But to someone with specialized knowledge, the fused data are not god nuggets, the fused data are a chunky rosy diamond, maybe a Pink Panther. As a result, an exogenous factor increases the flow of high value data through uncontrolled channels.
A happy quack to Gunaxin. You can see how clever, computer situations, and real life blend in this “pranking” poster. I would have described the wrapping of equipment in plastic “clever.” But I am the fume hood guy, Woodruff High School, 1958 to 1962. Image source: http://humor.gunaxin.com/five-funny-prank-fails/48387
Now, let’s think about being clever. When I was in high school, I was one of a group of 25 students who were placed in an “advanced” program. Part of the program included attending universities for additional course work. I ended up at the University of Illinois at age 15. I went back to regular high school, did some other Fancy Dan learning programs, and eventually graduated. My specialty was tricking students in “regular” chemistry into modifying their experiments to produce interesting results. One of these suggestions resulted in a fume hood catching fire. Another dispersed carbon strands through the school’s ventilation system. I thought I was clever, but eventually Mr. Shepherd, the chemistry teach, found out that I was the “clever” one. I sat in the hall for the balance of the semester. I adapted quickly, got an A, and became semi-famous. I was already sitting in the hall for writing essays filled with double entendres. Sigh. Clever has its burdens. Some clever folks just retreat into a private world. The Internet is ideal for providing an environment in which isolated clever people can find a “friend.” Once a couple of clever folks hook up, the result is lots of clever activity. Most of the clever activity is not appreciated by the non clever. There is the social angle and the understanding angle. In order to explain a clever action, one has to be somewhat clever. The non clever have no clue what has been done, why, when, or how. There is a general annoyance factor associated with any clever action. So, clever usually gets masked or shrouded in something along the lines, “Gee, I am sorry” or “Goodness gracious, I did not think you would be annoyed.” Apologies usually work because the non clever believe the person saying “I’m sorry” really means it. Nah. I never meant it. I did not pay for the fume hood or the air filter replacement. Clever, right?
What happens when folks from the type of academic experience I had go to work in big companies. Well, it is sink or swim. I have been fortunate because my “real” work experiences began at Halliburton Nuclear Services and continued at Booz, Allen & Hamilton when it was a solid blue chip firm, not the azure chip outfit it is today. The fact that I was surrounded by nuclear engineers whose idea of socializing was arguing about Monte Carlo code and nuclear fuel degradation at the local exercise club. At Booz, Allen the environment was not as erudite as the nuclear outfit, but there were lots of bright people who were actually able to conduct a normal conversation. Nevertheless, the Type As made life interesting for one another, senior managers, clients, and family. Ooops. At the Booz, Allen I knew, one’s family was one’s colleagues. Most spouses had no idea about the odd ball world of big time consulting. There were exceptions. Some folks married a secretary or colleague. That way the spouse knew what work was like. Others just married the firm, converting “quality time” into two days with the dependents at a posh resort.
So clever usually causes one to seek out other clever people or find a circle of friends who appreciate the heat generated by aluminum powder in an oxygen rich environment. When a company employs clever people, it is possible to generalize:
Clever people do clever things.
What’s this mean in search and information access? You probably already know that clever people often have a healthy sense of self worth. There is also arrogance, a most charming quality among other clever people. The non-clever find the arrogance “thing” less appealing.
Let’s talk about information access.
Let’s assume that a clever person wants to know where a particular group of users navigate via a mobile device or a traditional browser. Clever folks know about persistent cookies, workarounds for default privacy settings, spoofing built in browser functions, or installation of rogue code which resets certain user selected settings on a heartbeat or restart. Now those in my advanced class would get a kick out these types of actions. Clever people appreciate the work of clever people. When the work leaves the “non advanced” in a clueless state, the fun curve does the hockey stick schtick. So clever enthuses those who are clever. The unclever are, by definition, clueless and not impressed. For really nifty clever actions, the unclever get annoyed, maybe mad. I was threatened by one student when the Friday afternoon fume hood event took place. Fortunately my debate coach intervened. Hey, I was winning and a broken nose would have imperiled my chances at the tournament on Saturday.
Now more exogenous complexity. Those who are clever often ignore unintended consequences. I could have been expelled, but I figured my getting into big trouble would have created problems with far reaching implications. I won a State Championship in the year of the fume hood. I won some silly scholarship. I published a story in the St Louis Post Dispatch called “Burger Boat Drive In.” I had a poem in a national anthology. So, I concluded that a little sport in regular chemistry class would not have any significant impact. I was correct.
However, when clever people do clever things in a larger arena, then the assumptions have to be recalibrated. Clever people may not look beyond their cube or outside their computer’s display. That’s when the exogenous complexity thing kicks in.
So Google’s clever folks allegedly did some work arounds. But the work around allowed Microsoft to launch an attack on Google. Then the media picked up on the work around and the Microsoft push back. The event allowed me to raise the question, “So workers bring their own consumerized device to work. What’s being tracked? Do you know? Answer: Nope.” What’s Google do? Apologize. Hey, this worked for me with the fume hood event, but on a global stage when organizations are pretty much lost in space when it comes to control of information, effective security, and managing crazed 20 somethings—wow.
In short, the datasphere encourages and rewards exogenous behavior by clever people. Those who are unclever take actions which sets off a flood of actions which benefit the clever.
Clever. Good sometimes. Other times. Not so good. But it is better to be clever than unclever. Exogenous factors reward the clever and brutalize the unclever.
Stephen E Arnold, February 24, 2012
Sponsored by Pandia.com