Chrome De-Googled?

June 27, 2022

Concerned about the Google and its engineered advertising delivery vehicle? If you are like those in Italy’s government banning some Google tools, you might be interested in the Chrome browser without some of Google’s added extras. Are you familiar with Google hotwords? Ah, right.

Navigate to “Ungoogled Chromium.” The article provides a summary of the features of the De-Googled version of Chrome. There’s also a link to download the code; however, these software links can disappear into the aether without much warning. If so, you are on your own, gentle reader. There are even command line switches available. These make it easier to see what the Google version of Chrome does to manage one’s browsing experience. (What did TikTok learn from Google? That’s a question which a motivated researcher might want to explore. Just a thought?)

Stephen E Arnold, June 27, 2022

10 and Done for a Gun?

June 24, 2022

Mass shootings are an unfortunate part of US history well before the Columbine massacre. However, the prominence of school shootings and in other public places has gained a horrible commonplace in our society. What makes these massacres different from ones in the past is the availability of mass assault weapons like AK-47s. When similar attacks occurred in Australia, England, and Japan, their governments responded accordingly by outlawing all assault weapons and/or limited access to firearms. These countries have not had any incidents since these laws were enacted. Over twenty years later, the United States is still slow to act as our social media platforms, but Ars Technica says, “Facebook Enforces Ban On Gun Sales With 10-Strikes-And You’re Out Policy.”

Facebook does not want users to use the Facebook Marketplace to sell firearms. Users are given ten warnings about selling and purchasing guns before they are banned from the platform. The gun-selling policy is more lenient than its child pornography policy and sharing terrorist images. Child porn is illegal and posting terrorist activity is heavily monitored. Both get kicked off the platform, but selling guns that could possibly be used in a public attack are tolerated nine times before you are out? Facebook commented that:

“ ‘Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said in a statement that the company quickly removes posts that violate its policy prohibiting gun sales and imposes increasingly severe penalties for repeat rule-breakers, including permanent account suspension…’

Stone was quoted as saying, ‘If we identify any serious violations that have the potential for real-world harm, we don’t hesitate to contact law enforcement. The reality is that nearly 90 percent of people who get a strike for violating our firearms policy accrue less than two because their violations are inadvertent and once we inform them about our policies, they don’t violate them again.’

Facebook uses the strike system to impose a tiered set of punishments for various types of violations, with warnings escalating to temporary restrictions on posting content as a user piles up more strikes.”

Selling guns legally is and should be allowed, but it should be heavily monitored and enforce penalties for violators. Illegal gun sales should not be tolerated one, two, or ten times on any platform. It is easier to buy a gun in the United States than a car, medicine, and, in some cases, gasoline.

Other countries learn, but the United States is slower than a room of monkeys typing out the entire works of Shakespeare to protect its people and Facebook exasperates the problem.

Whitney Grace, June 24, 2022

Google and a Delicate, Sensitive, Explosive, and Difficult Topic

June 24, 2022

Google Gets Political In Abortion Search Results

As a tech giant, Google officially has a nonpartisan stake in politics, but the truth is that it influences politicians and has its digital fingers in many politically charged issues. One of them is abortion. According to the Guardian, the search engine giant is: “Google Misdirects One In 10 Searches For Abortion To ‘Pregnancy Crisis Centers.’”

While Google claims its search results are organic and any sponsored content is marked with an “ad” tag, that is only a partial truth. Google tracks user search information, including location to customize results. Inherently. this is not a bad thing, but it does create a “wearing blinders in an echo chamber” situation and also censors information. If a user is located in a US “trigger state,” where abortion might become illegal if the US Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, a user will be sent to a “pregnancy crisis center” that does not provide abortion for every 1 in 10 searches. These centers do not provide truthful information in regards to abortion:

“In more than a dozen such trigger-law states, researchers found, 11% of Google search results for “abortion clinic near me” and “abortion pill” led to “crisis pregnancy centers”, according to misinformation research non-profit Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH). These clinics market themselves as healthcare providers but have a “shady, harmful agenda”, according to the reproductive health non-profit Planned Parenthood, offering no health services and aiming instead to dissuade people from having abortions.”

Unfortunately these false abortion clinics outnumber real clinics 3 to 1 and there are 2,600 operating in the US. Researchers discovered that 37% of Google Maps searches sent users to these fake clinics and 28% of search results had ads for them. Google labels anti-abortion advertising with a “does not provide abortions” disclaimer, these ads appear in abortion-related searchers.

Google has a policy that any organization wanting to advertise to abortion service seekers must be certified and state if they provide said services or not in their ads. Google also claims it always wants to improve its results, especially for health-related topics.

While this is a benign form of censorship and propagating misinformation compared to China, North Korea, and Russia, it is still in the same pool and is harmful to people.

Whitney Grace, June 24, 2022

Singapore: How Disneyland with a Death Penalty Approaches Crypto

June 23, 2022

I read “Singapore Regulator Vows to Be Unrelentingly Hard on Crypto.” The approach seems to be a bit different from the control mechanisms used in the US. (You will have to pay to read the orange newspaper’s story.) The write up states:

Singapore will be “brutal and unrelentingly hard” on bad behavior in the crypto industry, according to its fintech policy chief, marking a stark shift in rhetoric after years of the city-state courting the sector.

The report suggests that Singapore sees value in a central bank digital currency and a “platform” for financial activities.

From my perspective, [a] Singapore understands the potential upsides and downsides of crypto currency and wants to be a player, [b] Singapore sees a void because certain leading nation states are dithering, and [c] there’s money to be made.

Money, control, and filling a void — Good reasons perhaps.

Stephen E Arnold, June xx, 2022

A Reminder for Those Who Fantasize about Data Sharing: Keep Fantasizing

June 22, 2022

I read “Many Researchers Say They’ll Share Data — But Don’t” reports that a sample of 381 articles produced this finding:

But of the 1,792 manuscripts for which the authors stated they were willing to share their data, more than 90% of corresponding authors either declined or did not respond to requests for raw data (see ‘Data-sharing behaviour’). Only 14%, or 254, of the contacted authors responded to e-mail requests for data, and a mere 6.7%, or 120 authors, actually handed over the data in a usable format.

The “whys” reported in the article are fascinating; for example:

  • No informed consent
  • No ethics approval to share
  • Researchers had “moved on”
  • Gee, the dog ate the data
  • Language issues (No habla nada) when interpreting comments
  • “Fear of getting scooped”
  • Data privacy
  • Confidentially
  • Data misuse downstream by those doing “secondary analyses”

I like the “dog ate my data”, an approach practiced at different times by Googley-type companies, reluctant witnesses, and wizards who produce non-reproducible results.

What about different governments’ desire for agency data sharing? Ho ho ho.

What about companies using the jargon “silo breakers”? Ho ho ho

What about government investigators sharing of data with other government investigators or inspectors general? You kidding or what?

What about researchers at a  university with a US government grant? Tenure comes first, then maybe with a trusted post doc on my team and even then… maybe.

Stephen E Arnold, June 22, 2022

Google: Is The Ad Giant Consistently Inconsistent?

June 21, 2022

Not long ago, the super bright smart software management team decided that Dr. Timnit Gebru’s criticism of the anti-bias efficacy was not in sync with the company’s party line. The fix? Create an opportunity for Dr. Gebru to find her future elsewhere. The idea that a Googler would go against the wishes of the high school science club donut selection was unacceptable. Therefore, there’s the open window. Jump on through.

I recall reading about Google’s self declared achievement of quantum supremacy. This was an output deemed worthy of publicizing. Those articulating this wild and crazy idea in the midst of other wild and crazy ideas met the checklist criteria for academic excellence, brilliant engineering, and just amazing results. Pick out a new work cube and soldier on, admirable Googler.

I know that the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper is one of the gems of online trustworthiness. Therefore, I read “Google Engineer Warns the Firm’s AI Is Sentient: Suspended Employee Claims Computer Programme Acts Like a 7 or 8-Year-Old and Reveals It Told Him Shutting It Off Would Be Exactly Like Death for Me. It Would Scare Me a Lot.” (Now that’s a Googley headline! A bit overdone, but SEO, you know.)

The write up states:

A senior software engineer at Google who signed up to test Google’s artificial intelligence tool called LaMDA (Language Model for Dialog Applications), has claimed that the AI robot is in fact sentient and has thoughts and feelings.

No silence of the lambda in this example.

The write up adds:

Lemoine worked with a collaborator in order to present the evidence he had collected to Google but vice president Blaise Aguera y Arcas and Jen Gennai, head of Responsible Innovation at the company dismissed his claims. He was placed on paid administrative leave by Google on Monday [June 6, 2022 presumably] for violating its confidentiality policy.

What do these three examples suggest to me this fine morning on June 12, 2022?

  1. Get shown the door for saying Google’s smart software is biased and may not work as advertised and get fired for saying the smart software works really super because it is now alive. Outstanding control of corporate governance and messaging!
  2. The Google people management policies are interesting? MBA students, this is a case example to research. Get the “right” answer, and you too can work at Google. Get the wrong answer, and you will not understand the “value” of calculating pi to lots of decimal places!
  3. Is the objective of Google’s smart software to make search “work” or burn through advertising inventory? If I were a Googler, I sure wouldn’t write a paper on this topic.

Ah, the Google.

Stephen E Arnold, June 21, 2022

What Is Mandarin for Finesse? TikTok, Perhaps?

June 17, 2022

I read “TikTok Exec: We’re Not a Social Network Like Facebook. We’re an Entertainment Platform.” That is an interesting way to describe the short video service, monetization platform, and data gobbling system. TikTok may not want to position itself to be a social network. But Facebook (and Alphabet Google YouTube DeepMind) sure wants to be just like TikTok. One difference is that the possible links to a certain beefy nation state are not desirable.

The write up presents the TikTok positioning or what I call shape shifting finesse tactic. The write up presents a few interesting factoids and assertions; to wit:

  1. [Facebook] “will likely run into trouble if it tries to copy TikTok, and will end up offering an inferior experience to users and brands.”
  2. TikTok “did not fully embrace or see … how social this format [TikTok’s short form videos] could be.
  3. “History is not on Zuckerberg’s side.”
  4. TikTok has “an array of competitors across the world, including businesses in e-commerce and live streaming.”
  5. TikTok has not experienced an advertising slow down.

I am not sure about my enthusiasm for these observations. Perhaps more attention on the link to a certain nation state, data collection, and the use case for a nation state to have a real time feed of who, what, when, where, and similar data might be useful.

I mean “we’re not like” statements are dry runs for US government committee hearings. I can say that I am not like a small 1962 VW bug. What does that provide? Not much.

Stephen E Arnold, June 17, 2022

The UK National Health Service: The Search for a Silver Bullet

June 13, 2022

Modern health care is a bit of muddle. The UK’s National Health Service has licensed, tested, tire kicked, and tried every angle to manage its myriad activities.

According to the odd orange newspaper (the Financial Times), the often befuddled NHS may be ready to embrace the PowerPoint assertions of a US company. “Palantir Gears Up to Expand Its Reach into UK’s NHS” reports:

Over the next few months, Palantir will bid for the five-year £360mn contract for the proposed Federated Data Platform (FDP), a new data tool to connect and integrate patient and other data sources from across the health system, so real-time decisions can be made effectively by clinicians and bureaucrats.

How similar is delivering health care to analyzing information to win a battle or figure out what an adversary is likely to do?

I am not sure. I do know that many intelware companies (this is my term for firms providing specialized software and services to law enforcement, crime analysts, and intelligence professionals) find that commercial clients can become squeamish under these conditions:

  1. Question from potential customer: “Who are your customers?” Intelware vendor: “Sorry, that information is classified.”
  2. Question from potential customer: “Can you provide a specific example of how your system delivered fungible results?” Intelware vendor: “We are not permitted to disclose either the use or effect of our system.”
  3. Question from potential customer: “How much consulting and engineering are needed before we can provide access to the system?” Intelware vendor: “That depends.” Customer asks a follow up question: “Can you be more specific?” Intelware vendors: “That information is classified.”

You can see how the commercial outfits not engaged in fighting crimes against children, drug smuggling, terrorist actions, termination of adversaries, etc. can be a tough sell.

But one of the big issues is the question, “Is our data available to government entities in our country or elsewhere without our knowledge or permission?”

Every licensee wants to here assurances that data are private, encrypted, protected by 20 somethings in Slough, or whatever is required to close the deal.

But there is the suspicion that when a company does quite a bit of work for certain government agencies in one or more countries, stuff happens. Data mining, insider actions, or loss of data control  due to bad actors behavior.

It will be interesting to see if this deal closes and how it plays out. Based on NHS’s track record with Google-type outfits and Smartlogic-type innovators, I have a hunch that the outcome will be a case study of modern business processes.

Palantir needs many big wins to regain some stock market momentum. At least the Financial Times did not reference Palantir’s estimate of a 30 percent chance of nuclear war. Undoubtedly such a terrible event would stretch NHS’s capabilities regardless of technology vendor underpinning the outfit.

Stephen E Arnold, June 13, 2022


Amazon Artifice: Can Clever Become Cunning and Then Crime?

June 7, 2022

I spotted about 250 comments on Hacker News in response to this question: Anyone else quickly losing confidence in Amazon?

The answer is, “Yep.”

What’s interesting is that a number of comments address governance issues; that is, Amazon appears to some people to be allowing third party sellers to market products which create perceived and real problems. Examples range from pet supplies that cause owners and beasties problems to products which are unlikely to receive the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval (huh, what’s that?)

The comments contain some interesting assertions or accusations. I noted these:

  • lt1970: It’s against Amazon policy to let others know that sellers are buying reviews.
  • taurath: The resellers are more important customers than the buyers are.
  • dcchambers: The [Amazon] number crunchers have determined actually dealing with the fraud isn’t yet worth it financially.
  • KVFinn: The [Amazon ecommerce] search feels actively hostile.

Another write up dated June 3, 2022) was “Amazon Urges Consultant to Push Message from Minority Groups.”

The subject? The narrative that regulation would harm “communities of color.”

Okay, is this weaponized information?

The point of view I am taking in my forthcoming book for law enforcement, analysts, and intelligence professionals would identify this “shaped info payload” is designed to benefit corporate interests, not those individuals who fit into the euphemistic phrase “communities of color.”

Stephen E Arnold, June 7, 2022

Google Experiences a Kangaroo Punch

June 6, 2022

When I was in Australia giving a talk, I did see red kangaroo. The critters did not seem to pack much of a punch, but there were quite a few of them on the road to Canberra. I knew that some in Australia use the kangaroo as a symbol in some sporting venues. I asked about the punch. The roo uses its forelegs to hold a humanoid or other creature. Then the hind legs slash away at the victim’s under belly. Those skilled in the art of kangaroo behavior point out that the animals don’t box. They disembowel. Who knew?

Google may have an opportunity to learn about roo behavior. “Google Told to Pay Australian Politician $515,000 for Defamation” reports:

Judge Steven Rares said the videos, which were posted by political commentator Jordan Shanks amounted to a “relentless, racist, vilificatory, abusive and defamatory campaign” against Barilaro. The videos questioned the former legislator’s integrity, including labelling him “corrupt” without evidence, and called him racist names that were “nothing less than hate speech”, the judge said. He found that Alphabet Inc’s Google, which owns content-sharing website YouTube, earned thousands of dollars by hosting the two videos but failed to apply its own policies to prevent hate speech, cyber bullying and harassment. The videos were viewed nearly 800,000 times between them since being posted in late 2020.

A half million US is more like a paper cut, if that.

The Vice report “Google Will Pay Massive Damages for Hosting YouTuber’s ‘Racist’ Anti-Italian ‘Abuse’” uses the word “massive” which is a bit overblown. That story includes this statement:

“Google cannot hide behind the use of its Californian head office or American understandings of the English language as being the same as in Australia,” Rares [an Australian Federal Court Justice] said. “It operates a very large business in Australia, has Australian staff and lawyers and could not suggest that it was somehow ignorant of how hurtful and bullying the ‘bruz’ video was in its use of the slurs and venomous hate speech that Mr Shanks directed avowedly, deliberately at Mr Barilaro, for criticising Mr Shanks’ earlier racist behaviour.

Interesting, particularly the reference to understanding, a notion popular among some artificial intelligence professionals at the Google .

One kangaroo scrape makes not difference. As I saw firsthand in Australia, there are lots of kangaroos. What if these use their hind quarters in a coordinated dust up with the Google. But Australia is a mere country. Google is the Alphabet with Chrome trim and a fascinating management method.

Stephen  E Arnold, June 6, 2022

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