Search for a Person in China: Three Seconds and You Are Good to Go

December 26, 2018

I read “Welcome to Dystopia : China Introduces AI Powered Tracking Uniform in Schools.” The article explains that “China has started to introduce school uniforms which track pupils all the time.”

The “all” is problematic. A student equipped with the new uniform has to take it off, presumably for normal body maintenance and the inevitable cleaning process.

The overstatement, I assume, is designed to make the point that China is going to keep social order using smart software and other tools.

The new uniform  “comes with two chips embedded in the shoulder areas and works with an AI-powered school entrance system, which is equipped with facial recognition cameras.”

Combined with other monitoring gizmos, the question, “Where’s Wong? can be answered in a jiffy. The write up explains:

The entrance system, powered by facial recognition camera, can capture a 20-second-long video of each pupil going in or coming out of the school. The footage will be uploaded onto an app in real time for teachers and parents to watch.An alarm will go off if the school gate detects any pupil who leaves the school without permission,

The article suggests that location and identification takes seconds.

One presumes the search results will be objective and ad free.

Stephen E Arnold, December 26, 2018

Visual Social Media Gaining Traction Outside US

June 22, 2018

Text-based social media tools, such as Twitter and Facebook remain the kings of social media in English-speaking countries like the United States and Great Britain. However, this is not the case around the world, where visual social media tools are overtaking them. We learned more from a recent ZD Net story, “What’s Driving Middle East’s Rush to Social Media?”

According to the story, Facebook is very popular in Saudi Arabia and UAE, but Snapchat, Instagram and the like are absolutely exploding.

“However, in some Middle East countries, Facebook use has dropped substantially, by up to -20 percent, since 2013. Reasons for this decline aren’t clear but may include privacy concerns and preferences to use newer and more visually orientated social networks.”

The Middle East is not the only place where visual social media is really gaining traction. The marketing world is already hip to this trend. Many wise ad agencies and brand-centric marketers are touting the power of visual social media to construct a company’s narrative and brand. This is not just a blip on a radar, but a global phenomenon that is poised to leave text-based social media in the dust. Keep your eyes peeled as this trend catches on across other nations and businesses.

Patrick Roland, June 22, 2018

Microsoft Chasing Voice Search

June 21, 2018

Maybe it has to do with a need for innovation and maybe it has to do with a need for Bing market share, but no matter what the motivation for Microsoft to kick its voice search program in to high gear was, we like it. Big changes are coming for the company and we discovered exactly what from a recent ZdNet story, “Microsoft Moves Toward Consolidating Its Many Speech Services.”

According to the story:

“Microsoft has some ambitious goals for its coming unified Speech Service, which falls under its Microsoft Cognitive Services umbrella.

“The new unified Speech Service “unites several Azure speech services that were previously available separately: Bing Speech (comprising speech recognition and text to speech), Custom Speech, and Speech Translation. Like its precursors, the Speech service is powered by the technologies used in other Microsoft products.”

Still skeptical? Microsoft recently reported a 346 percent increase in voice search in regards to hotel searches using its products. Flight searches were nearly as high. That is obviously a big huge arrow pointing toward the future and its interesting to see Microsoft grabbing the bull by the horns so quickly. Time will tell if it pans out, but we know Microsoft continues to plug away despite Google, without a mobile phone success, and in Amazon’s backyard.

Patrick Roland, June 21, 2018


Google Does Not Play Hardball, Certainly Not in Australia

June 20, 2018

Google has eagerly held its stronghold on the market and many of its tough exploits have been documented. Recently, their tactics seem to have reached a new level of seriousness, as we discovered in a recent Business Insider story, “Unlockd is Blaming Google for Going Into Administration.”

According to the story:

“The Unlockd app, which is backed by Rupert Murdoch’s son Lachlan, lets mobile users view ads, content, and offers based on their interests in exchange for rewards. It is only available on Android…“The company said it was planning to go public when Google threatened to ban its service from Google Play.”

This was a big blow to a company that was valued at $180 Million. However, it is appearing that Google is perhaps not the villain many are making them out to be in this scenario. Recently, Google has been giving users an option to turn off advertisements that know too much of their information. So, what once looked like a strong arm tactic to ruin a startup is now beginning to seem like Google turning a corner and helping users protect their information.

Patrick Roland, June 20, 2018


Visual Search Enters Its Next Phase

June 19, 2018

About a year ago, some of the biggest names in search declared that visual search was the next big horizon in the industry and that they were pouring great gobs of money into this world. If you are like us, visual search is not exactly part of your everyday life yet. But, that doesn’t mean it isn’t evolving, as we discovered in a fascinating Digital Trends story, “Not Happy With Pinterest Search Results? Refine it With Text and Photo Queries.”

According to the story:

Pinterest announced the addition of text searches that work within the visual search tool, allowing users to give Pinterest Lens a bit more direction on the intent of the search. According to Pinterest, users make an average of 600 million searches every month.”

That’s an interesting trend and suggests an uptick. However, all these advances still don’t seem to be creeping into our daily life…yet. As reported by IT Pro Portal, retailers are starting to adopt visual search technology. This directly stems from the rise of shopping via cell phone, as opposed to laptops. And, as we all know, phones are custom made for visual search thanks to their cameras. The technology sounds like it is there, our interest is there as shoppers, and we think the storm is on the horizon where visual search overtakes the retail market soon.

Patrick Roland, June 19, 2018

Google and the China Market: A Second Phase

June 18, 2018

It’s early in Harrod’s Creek. I read “Google Places a $550 Million Bet on China’s Second Largest E Commerce Player.” The write up was intriguing. Google is apparently interested in turning Avis into Hertz, at least in the Chinese e commerce arena. Also, I recall that Google wanted China’s political leaders to change. I am not sure Avis knocked Hertz out of the Number One spot in car rentals. Also, it seems to me that China has become focused on remaining distinctly Chinese with the added twist of surveillance, filtering, and other interesting information collection methods.

The CNBC “real” news outfit states:

The two tech companies said they would work together to develop retail infrastructure that can better personalize the shopping experience and reduce friction in a number of markets, including Southeast Asia. For its part, said it planned to make a selection of items available for sale in places like the U.S. and Europe through Google Shopping — a service that lets users search for products on e-commerce websites and compare prices between different sellers.

During my trips to China, I entertained myself looking for knock offs or counterfeit goods. For example, one of the individuals serving as my “guide” let me know that I could buy watches similar to those on offer at the Zurich airport shops. I took a look, and to my unpracticed eye, these watches looked pretty good. I did not buy one, however. I am happy with my easy to read Timex.

My hunch is that such goods will be filtered from those offered by the new retail team mates.

The timing is particularly Googley. The US and China are engaging in tariff checker games.

Worth monitoring, particularly if one is engaged in certain branded retail sectors.

Stephen E Arnold, June 18, 2018


Short Honk: Does Amazon Have Facebook Data?

June 5, 2018

I read “Facebook Gave Device Makers Deep Access to Data on Users and Friends.” The write up mentions Amazon as a company given “access to vast amounts of its users’ personal information.” So the answer appears to be “Yes.” I assume that the NYT report is “real” news. What can Amazon do with that data? Check out the Amazon analysis in this week’s DarkCyber.

Stephen E Arnold, June 5, 2018

Amazon: A New Revenue Stream Begins to Flow

May 23, 2018

Amazon is a bit of an exception when compared to Facebook and Google. In general, Amazon’s business has cruised along without eliciting the criticism which swarms around Facebook.

Yesterday I had an experience which revealed how strongly some companies feel that Amazon is in some way sacrosanct. There is an outfit which Jessica B., one of the investigative journalists who worked for me before I retired, used PRUnderground to put out news releases about my books, speeches, and my various projects. One of the young people who help me drafted a 500 word news release about one of the research findings which I will present at the upcoming Telestrategies ISS conference in Prague. The attendees will be active law enforcement, intelligence, and security professionals. The release was a summary of one of the new services which Amazon has begun to introduce.

The PRUnderground professionals informed me that what the person wrote and submitted for release on June 5 was not permissible. The angle was that PR about another company was not PR. Amazon is probably happy that my news release is not news. (We also encountered another instance of censorship with this story. The LinkedIn system blocked this write up, presumably because the writer who did the story was not treating Microsoft in a proper manner. Interesting.)

I read “Amazon Is Selling Facial Recognition to Law Enforcement for a Fistful of Dollars.” The source is the Washington Post which may be a project favored by Jeff Bezos, the big Amazonian.

Several observations:

I have been reporting about Chinese and Israeli facial recognition systems in my weekly DarkCyber videos. I generally prefer to report about non US companies, but here is the Washington Post reporting about facial recognition sold to government entities. I wonder if the professionals at PRUnderground would have run a news release about the story. I suppose I could ask, but I think I will conserve my energy for my research and analysis of what some youngsters call the “actual factual.”

What happens if one combines the story about Rekognition, which has been around since 2015 when I heard about the system with the information which I will present in my “Deanonymizing Digital Currency Transactions”?

My hunch is that some stock market types, a handful of specialist vendors serving the LE and intel communities, and a few people in the US government who have attended my lectures this year might find the two items of significant interest.

On June 5, 2018, I will include some of the information in the DarkCyber released coincident with my speeches in Prague.

In the meantime, Amazon is an interesting company and one that is positioned to disrupt a reasonably large market for investigative tools and services. To give one example, what if the crowd facial recognition feature is cross correlated with purchase history, banking information, and other data housed by Amazon?

Think about that idea. Think about cross correlation in real time of multiple streams of data. I did.

I won’t be doing a PRUnderground release. I will just plug along, content in the knowledge that the Washington Post three years after Rekognition moved from idea to buggy beta tuned into what I think is now old news.

My hunch is that this item will not appear in my LinkedIn feed either. The shaping of fact based information must continue.

Perhaps I will ask Alexa. “Why is Amazon pushing so hard to land a large Department of Defense contract?” and “Why is Amazon dipping its Bezos sized toe into the law enforcement services market?”

I will share my hypothesis with the 200 or 300 LE and intel professionals who attend my two lectures. I will be offering for fee webinars and in person training on this subject later this year. Who knows? I might even write a short analytic white paper.

Publicity on LinkedIn and PRUnderground. Probably unlikely.

Stephen E Arnold, May 23, 2018

Seeking Sound FX

April 21, 2018

Short honk: Searching for sounds is not the smoothest experience. If you are into clicking and listening, check out the Beeb’s collection of sound effects. There is a license, and there are conditions.

Stephen E Arnold, April 21, 2018

DarkCyber for 28 November 2017 Now Available

November 28, 2017

DarkCyber for November 28, 2017, covers four Dark Web stories. The first is CaaS or Crime as a Service. The report points to an Interpol reports which explains a major shift in methods for online criminals. The second item describes Terbium Labs technology. The Baltimore-based company’s Matchlight system can locate confidential information available on the Dark Web. Next, Stephen E Arnold talks about hosting providers for Dark Web sites. The examples include companies from Ukraine, Moldova, and Holland. The program concludes with a discussion of a Google Blogger service story. The Blogger post provides clear text names and ONION urls for a number of Dark Web sites which may provide access to illegal products or services. With the information on Blogger, library patrons and students can access this information from a standard Web browser.

Kenny Toth, November 28, 2017

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