Clearview: More Tradecraft Exposed

March 26, 2020

After years of dancing around the difference between brain dead products like enterprise search, content management, and predictive analytics, anyone can gain insight into the specialized software provided by generally low profile companies. Verint is publicly traded. Do you know what Verint does? Sure, look it up on Bing or Google.

I read with some discomfort “I Got My File From Clearview AI, and It Freaked Me Out.”

Here are some factoids from the write up. Are these true? DarkCyber assumes that everything the team sees on the Internet meets the highest standards of integrity, objectivity, and truthiness. DarkCyber’s comments are in italic:

  1. “Someone really has been monitoring nearly everything you post to the public internet. And they genuinely are doing “something” with it. The someone is Clearview AI. And the something is this: building a detailed profile about you from the photos you post online, making it searchable using only your face, and then selling it to government agencies and police departments who use it to help track you, identify your face in a crowd, and investigate you — even if you’ve been accused of no crime.”
  2. “Clearview AI was founded in 2017. It’s the brainchild of Australian entrepreneur Hoan Ton-That and former political aide Richard Schwartz. For several years, Clearview essentially operated in the shadows.”
  3. “The Times, not usually an institution prone to hyperbole, wrote that Clearview could “end privacy as we know it.” [This statement is a reference to a New York Times intelware article. The New York Times continues to hunt for real news that advances an agenda of “this stuff is terrible, horrible, unconstitutional, pro anything the NYT believes in, etc.”]
  4. “the company [Clearview] scrapes public images from the internet. These can come from news articles, public Facebook posts, social media profiles, or multiple other sources. Clearview has apparently slurped up more than 3 billion of these images.” [The images are those which are available on the Internet and possibly from other sources; for example, commercial content vendors.]
  5. “The images are then clustered together which allows the company to form a detailed, face-linked profile of nearly anyone who has published a picture of themselves online (or has had their face featured in a news story, a company website, a mug shot, or the like).” [This is called enrichment, context, or machine learning indexing and — heaven help DarkCyber — social graphs or semantic relationships. Jargon varies according to fashion trends.]
  6. “Clearview packages this database into an easy-to-query service (originally called Smartcheckr) and sells it to government agencies, police departments, and a handful of private companies….As of early 2020, the company had more than 2,200 customers using its service.” [DarkCyber wants to point out that law enforcement entities are strapped for cash, and many deals are little more than proofs-of-concept. Some departments cycle through policeware and intelware in order to know what the systems do versus what the marketing people say the systems do. Big difference? Yep, yep.]
  7. “Clearview’s clients can upload a photo of an unknown person to the system. This can be from a surveillance camera, an anonymous video posted online, or any other source.”
  8. “In a matter of seconds, Clearview locates the person in its database using only their face. It then provides their complete profile back to the client.”

Now let’s look at what the write up reported that seemed to DarkCyber to be edging closer to “real news.”

This is the report the author obtained:

image

The article reports that the individual who obtained this information from Clearview was surprised. DarkCyber noted this series of statements:

The depth and variety of data that Clearview has gathered on me is staggering. My profile contains, for example, a story published about me in my alma mater’s alumni magazine from 2012, and a follow-up article published a year later. It also includes a profile page from a Python coders’ meet up group that I had forgotten I belonged to, as well as a wide variety of posts from a personal blog my wife and I started just after getting married. The profile contains the URL of my Facebook page, as well as the names of several people with connections to me, including my faculty advisor and a family member (I have redacted their information and images in red prior to publishing my profile here).

The write up includes commentary on the service, its threats to individual privacy, and similar sentiments.

DarkCyber’s observations include:

  • Perhaps universities could include information about applications of math, statistics, and machine learning in their business and other courses? At a lecture DarkCyber gave at the University of Louisville in January 2019, cluelessness among students and faculty was the principal takeaway for the DarkCyber team.
  • Clearview’s technology is not unique, nor is it competitive with the integrated systems available from other specialized software vendors, based on information available to DarkCyber.
  • The summary of what Clearview does captures information that would have been considered classified and may still be considerate classified in some countries.
  • Clearview does not appear to have video capability like other vendors with richer, more sophisticated technology.

Why did DarkCyber experience discomfort? Some information is not — at this time or in the present environment — suitable for wide dissemination. A good actor with technical expertise can become a bad actor because the systems and methods are presented in sufficient detail to enable certain activities. Knowledge is power, but knowledge in the hands of certain individuals can yield unexpected consequences. DarkCyber is old fashioned and plans to stay that way.

Stephen E Arnold, March 26, 2020

British Maps Online: Finding a Map Is Challenging

February 26, 2020

The British Royal Collection recently added a brand new addition to their online collection. The blog Ian Visits explores the new collection in the post: “Huge Archive Of Old Military Maps Published.” The post explains that over three thousand maps that King George III collected have been digitized. Dr, Yolande Hodson headed the project and spend ten years cataloging George III’s collection. This is the first time in history that these documents have been available free to the public.

Scholars are amazed at the breadth and wealth of information available in the maps, but the average user will find the maps fun due to their age and information. The map collection contains items from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, consisting of maps drawn in the field, uniform depictions, fortification plans, and presentation maps of sieges, battles, and marches. King George III loved maps:

“Maps were an important part of George’s early life and education, and he built up a huge collection of more than 55,000 topographical, maritime and military prints, drawings, maps and charts. Upon the King’s death, his son, George IV, gave his father’s collections of topographical views and maritime charts to the British Museum (now in the British Library), but retained the military plans due to their strategic value and his own keen interest in the tactics of warfare.”

These maps offer a window to the past. They show how common soldiers and people dealt with in the daily lives. They are not photographs, but they offer more details than many a picture can.

Keep in mind that browsing may be needed to locate a particular map.

Whitney Grace, February 26, 2020

Twitch: A Big, Juicy Target

February 16, 2020

Videogame streamers are some of the Internet’s most popular celebrities and most people have never heard about them. PewDiePie is the reigning streaming king and YouTube is his domain, but dozens of other gamers vie for his throne from the land of Twitch. The San Francisco Gate examines the streaming craze and how tech corporations are trying to hone in on the profits, “Game On: Tech Giants Vs. The Kind Of Streaming.”

Both Facebook and Microsoft have attempted to snag a piece of the streaming profit pie, but nothing rivals Twitch. Twitch started as a startup in San Francisco that Amazon purchased for $1 billion in 2014. Twitch now controls 76% of video game streaming on Europe, North America, and South America. While most people are not aware of the popularity of video game streaming, it is an importance facet in the $180 billion gaming industry and it makes more money than movies and music.

Microsoft is eager to take on Twitch and the company hired one of Twitch’s biggest streamers, Tyler Blevins aka Ninja for an undisclosed amount of amount. Microsoft wants Blevins to promote its streaming service Mixer, but he did little to raise Mixer’s users in 2019. Mixer only accounts for 3.2% of the streaming market, while Twitch continues to grow. Hiring Blevins was not enough for Microsoft, although it was a good move:

“Mixer has been growing steadily since it started, said Ben Decker, head of gaming services at Microsoft, and now has more than 30 million monthly active users. But to really compete with Twitch, which has reported that it has 140 million monthly users, Microsoft needs to do more than spend a few million dollars on a star streamer, said Doron Nir, chief executive of StreamElements. When it comes to having a streaming platform, this is a billion-dollar game,” he said. “It’s going to take a lot more from Mixer to really take away from the enormous audience that Twitch has.”

Nir said he didn’t believe the deal for Blevins was bad for Mixer. It still brought widespread media attention and put it in the conversation. And Microsoft was not discouraged, bringing over Michael Grzesiek, a professional gamer known as Shroud, and Cory Michael, a streamer who goes by King Gothalion, from Twitch.”

Other tech giants are attempting to steal some of Twitch’s success, but Twitch remains strong and will continue to dominant for the time being. There is room for streaming platforms like Mixer and other emerging rivals to join the market, but they will need to bring something new and unique like Twitch did.

Whitney Grace, February 16, 2020

Google Podcasts: How Much Will One Pay to Be a Top Podcast?

February 14, 2020

Podcasts are the talk radio for the mobile thumb adept. Finding podcasts has been a matter of hit and miss. Apple displays some podcasts on topic pages. Then the iPhone outfit provides “see all”, and one gets another subset of available content organized by Apple categories. Just try to locate a Spanish language technology podcast from the US. Interesting exercise. The optimal results are obtained by finding one Spanish podcast and then browsing the other podcasts displayed by the system. My approach is to locate the name of a specific podcast and using Apple’s quite limited “search box” to find the program. Either way, hassle after hassle. Other services offer podcasts. These are variants of the Apple approach. Hassle after hassle.

Now there is an alternative for those who embrace the Google with the intensity of deceased Googler Forrest Timothy Hayes. Late in 2019 Google provided some information about its podcast service which would be available on:

Google Search on all browsers
Google Search App for Android (requires v6.5 or higher of the Google Search App)
Google Podcasts app
Chrome for Android
Google Home
An Action on the Google Assistant
Android Auto

The Google Android podcast app became available in January 2020. Not perfect. One user pointed out that there is no way to search within a podcast episode list and there is no bookmark function. Google responded in a Googley way of course:

We’re always working to improve Google Podcasts, and we’ll take these suggestions into account as we design our upcoming roadmap.

DarkCyber noted a dedicated podcast Web page called Google Podcasts. It looked like this on Thursday, February 13, 2020:

image

Among our test queries was a search for “cyber law.” The results included a pointer to the Steptoe & Johnson cyber law podcast. After a listing of some random Steptoe & Johnson programs, these suggestions were presented:

image

Okay, a work in progress as long as the Googlers who worked on this project remain interested or fail to get transferred to a “hot” project within the online ad company. Google’s high school science club management approach does produce some high school science fair type projects. (Observation: There may be more winners at a Santa Clara high school science fair than among the Google “projects.”

Let’s shift gears.

Good, bad, or indifferent, consider this question:

What will a podcaster or a firm funding a podcast play pay to appear on the Google Podcast search splash page?

Or

How much will a podcaster in search of visibility and clicks pay to be in one of the limited “results” displays?

Or

How many ads can Google display when a person uses Google Podcasts search to look for a category like “travel” or “flight”?

For now, Google Podcast search results appear to be without overt advertising. In the future, this may be another monetization play created by segmenting Google’s index.

That’s okay as long as the results are useful. For now, DarkCyber will stick to its old fashioned methods.

Stephen E Arnold, February 14, 2020

Old Book Illustrations

February 14, 2020

A useful collection of illustrations from “old books” is now available at this link. The service says:

Old Book Illustrations was born of the desire to share illustrations from a modest collection of books, which we set out to scan and publish. With the wealth of resources available online, it became increasingly difficult to resist the temptation to explore other collections and include these images along with our own. Although it would have been possible to considerably broaden the time-frame of our pursuit, we chose to keep our focus on the original period in which we started for reasons pertaining to taste, consistency, and practicality: due to obvious legal restrictions, we had to stay within the limits of the public domain. This explains why there won’t be on this site illustrations first published prior to the 18th century or later than the first quarter of the 20th century.

Like many other collections of images, locating an image can be an interesting exercise. DarkCyber entered a query for the word “factory.” The system respond with two pages of thumbnails. One of the “factory” items as this image:

image

Old Book Illustrations provides documentation for use of the retrieval system. The Navigation How To includes diagrams and explanations for the user.

DarkCyber points out that locating images by key words or concepts makes clear the limitations of today’s information retrieval technology. This is not a criticism of Old Book Illustrations. Our observation is intended to make sure that the tens of millions of “search experts” recognize the limitations of finding technology and perhaps their own understanding of the issues involved when looking for digital information in services that cannot pay for subject matter experts to index using controlled vocabularies and well crafted classification systems.

How advanced is a more mature system like Google’s, for instance? Go to Google Images and try to locate a specific image in the Time Life images stored on Google. How’s that working out?

Image recognition is at the heart of facial recognition systems. There are worries about facial recognition, but image recognition and meaningful mapping to terms remains a very difficult task. Many problems must be solved before image recognition’s accuracy eliminates most of the manual work still required even with today’s most sophisticated systems.

Kudos for those who try. However, the journey is a long one. Travelers will have manual scanning of images in a database to occupy their idle hours.

Stephen E Arnold, February 13, 2020

Map Economics: Useful Content and One Major Omission

February 13, 2020

DarkCyber spotted a paper called “The Economics of Maps.” The authors have presented some extremely useful and interesting information about depicting the real world.

One of the most useful aspects of the article is the list of companies providing different types of mapping services and data. The list of firms in this business includes such providers, vendors, and technology companies as:

Airbus

Farmers Edge

Mapbox

Pitney Bowes

There are some significant omissions; for example, the category for geo-analytics for law enforcement and intelligence applications; for example, the low profile Geogence and investigative tools like those available from Verint.

Worth reading and tucking into one’s intelligence folder in our opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, February 13, 2020

Paris Museums: More Art Online. Search Means Old Fashioned Hunting Around

February 5, 2020

Oh, boy—it is a collection of art from the many Paris Museums available online at Paris Musées Collections. This artist’s daughter is delighted!

Unfortunately, the site’s search functionality disappoints. Unless your goal is either to find a specific work or to aimlessly browse the 150,213 public domain images, it is another almost unusable collection. I suppose trusting to serendipity has its place, but most of us are looking for something a bit more specific, even if we don’t have a particular title or artist in mind.

There is a section titled “Thematic Discovering,” which might be useful to some. They have put together 11 preconfigured themes that span museums, like “Sport, Jeux Olympiqes et Paris” (Sports, Olympic Games, and Paris) or “Elements: Air, Terre, Feu, Eau” (Elements: Air, Earth, Fire, Water). They do make for interesting guided tours. There are also a highlighted Virtual Exhibition and a few suggested works at the bottom of the page.

I was excited to find this resource—it really is a valuable collection to have at our fingertips. If only it were easier to navigate. Check it out if you feel persistent.

And for those who think search is really great. None of the visual art collections feature a search which delivers what most users seek.

Cynthia Murrell, February 5, 2020

Amazon and New, Quite Real Twitch Opportunity

January 14, 2020

In my lectures, I discuss Twitch. I won’t go into the examples of Twitch content in this blog. You can look for me at one of my law enforcement lectures this year.

I do want to call attention to “Twitch’s Non Gamers Are Finally Having Their Moment.” The write up includes an interesting factoid, which – like most Wired information – is super credible. Here’s the statement:

A new report from stream management site StreamElements indicates that in December, Twitch viewers watched 81 million hours of “Just Chatting,” Twitch’s category for streamers who do exactly that, plus any number of other grab-bag activities. That was a solid 7 million hours more than the first game listed, League of Legends, and 23 million more than the second, Fortnite. The popularity of “Just Chatting” is bleeding into January, too, and according to StreamElements, nongaming may be Twitch’s number two category in 2020.

Several observations:

  1. Microsoft and the GOOG are working hard to poach gamers from Twitch. This seems like a contentious issue for Amazon, and it will be interesting to see how the Bezos legal eagles respond to the talent drain. Maybe terminate their Prime accounts?
  2. The surge in Just Chatting viewing points to Twitch becoming the go to source for in real life streaming programs. Most programs are experimental, but a few of them – for example, BadBunny and the Raj thing – are starting to develop into a shotgun marriage of radio talk, live listener feedback, and visual content.
  3. Traditional content producers like the people who create TV game shows and wanna bes like Apple and Netflix, look a bit old fashioned when compared to content generated by Awkwards_Travel, who may be the future of travel information.

There are downsides. If you are interested in our Amazon briefing which expands on the Twitch innovations and their downside, write darkcyber333 at yandex dot com.

Net net: Twitch started with egames, but it is now on a path to create something which complements games and creates a fresh approach to video.

Stephen E Arnold, January 14, 2020

Free and Legal Movies Online

January 9, 2020

We have found a handy resource—Fossbytes lists “20 Free Movie Download Sites for 2020 [Legal Streaming].” It can be difficult to pick out the legit sites from the illegal sources in search results, and I’m sure all our gentle readers prefer to be on the up-and-up. While he is at it, writer Adarsh Verma links to his publication’s lists of free and legal music downloads and sports streaming, as well.

Verma provides a screenshot from each site and a paragraph or two describing its content. You may want to bookmark it so you can take your time exploring all 20 options. Some entries, like Netflix and Hulu, are only free for the extent of their trial periods. Still, one could get some mileage out of that. Several fill very specific niches, like the Korean Film Archive (classic Korean films), Le CiNéMa Club (Indie films), and Open Culture (international films). Others are more general-purpose, like The Internet Archive, Pluto TV, and Vimeo.

Here is what the write-up says about one of our favorite Googley properties, YouTube:

“In an earlier version of this article, YouTube was listed a lot lower in this list. However, thanks to some recent changes and the company’s growing inclination towards free, ad-supported content, I’ve decided to list it as the #1 source of free movies on the web. Now, YouTube offers more than 100 complete feature-length films on its platform. It’s also mentioned on our latest list of best movie streaming sites. This makes YouTube a perfectly free movie website for those who can’t afford to spend a premium for accessing Netflix and Hulu content. You can simply visit this link and watch movies like Zookeeper, Legally Blonde, The Terminator, Flawless, Kung Fu Killer, IP Man, and more. Moreover, YouTube also has plans to make its original shows and movies free from 2020. It’s worth noting that these movies for streaming are currently only available in the USA.”

Some options, like YouTube, are supported by interruptive ads. Most of the sites are available anywhere in the world, though several are only available in the U.S. Check out the article for the rest of the list.

Cynthia Murrell, January 9, 2020

Trouble Ahead for Deep Fakes and Fancy Technology?

January 3, 2020

At a New Year’s get together, a person mentioned a review of the film “Cats.” I don’t go to movies, but the person’s comments intrigued me. I returned home and tracked down “How Cats Became a Box Office Catastrophe.”

I noted one sentence in the write which was:

We probably don’t need to remind you of the backlash the internet unleashed upon Cats the moment the Cats trailer dropped. Viewers gasped in horror as Universal’s vision of adding cat fur and features to the proportions of a human body was finally revealed. It was uncomfortable to look at, a clear example of the uncanny valley, where viewers are unsettled by artificially constructed beings that are just shy of realism.

The write then added:

Beyond subjective opinions, critics highlighted several issues including glitchy and unpolished CGI that could have been a result of its rushed production, that took place within a single year. In contrast, this year’s photo-realistic Lion King movie began work in 2016.

Two points: Backlash for the context and the “unpolished CGI.”

What happens when the rough hewn nature of other fantastical technology, swathed in investor hype and marketers’ misrepresentations, is understood?

Exciting for some in 2020.

Stephen E Arnold, January 3, 2020

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