Mapping the Earth: A Big Game?

October 20, 2021

I read “Was Google Earth Stolen?” I have not thought about making a map of the earth game-like for many years. I read the article by Avi Bar-Zeev, one of the individuals close to the Keyhole approach. Interesting stuff.

I want to underscore the fact that Microsoft was noodling around in this geographic earth space as well. There is a short item on the Microsoft Web site called “The Microsoft TerraServer.” The write up states:

The Microsoft TerraServer stores aerial and satellite images of the earth in a SQL Server Database served to the public via the Internet. It is the world’s largest atlas, combining five terabytes of image data from the United States Geodetic Survey, Sovinformsputnik, and Encarta Virtual Globe™. Internet browsers provide intuitive spatial and gazetteer interfaces to the data. The TerraServer demonstrates the scalability of Microsoft’s Windows NT Server and SQL Server running on Compaq AlphaServer 8400 and StorageWorks™ hardware. The TerraServer is also an E-Commerce application. Users can buy the right to use the imagery using Microsoft Site Servers managed by the USGS and Aerial Images. This paper describes the TerraServer’s design and implementation.

The link to download the 23 year old Microsoft document is still valid, believe it or not!

Other outfits were into fancy maps as well; for example, the US government entity in Bethesda and some of the folks at Boeing.

Is this germane to the Bar-Zeev write up? Nah, probably no one cares. I find stories about technology “origins” quite interesting for what each includes and what each omits. Quite game-like, right?

Stephen E Arnold, October 20, 2021

The Boss of the DoubleClick Outfit Offers Some Advice

October 19, 2021

I read “Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai Calls for Federal Tech Regulation, Investments in Cybersecurity.” What did the owner of DoubleClick talk about?

That’s easy. Big things like quantum computing which is unlikely to arrive on the Google phone any time soon. And regulation. You know the rules of the road which the DoubleClick outfit follows like a super slick Waymo vehicle which rarely drive into a dead end or create a thrill or two for those spotting one in a bus lane. Plus cybersecurity. Right. That’s why the DoubleClick outfit apparently alerted some Gmail users that a mere nation state or two or three were interested in their missives.

The write up reports that the boss of the DoubleClick systems and methods stated in an interview at a high class technology event:

Pichai additionally tied consumer privacy to security, even noting that “one of the biggest risks to privacy is the data getting compromised” — an interesting statement coming only days after Amazon, a top Google rival, saw its game streaming site Twitch hacked. As for where to draw the line in regulating tech, Pichai said the law shouldn’t encroach on the open internet.

Yep, DoubleClick’s owner did not mention online advertising as originally crafted by pay-to-play innovator Yahoo. Right? Yahoo, the pre IPO settlement, and the business.

Nope, DoubleClick’s owner did not talk about online advertising and how that money machines has shaped Alphabet Google into the sleek, trustworthy, reliable, and Timnit Gebru-sensitive outfit it is today.

Minor omission. Understandable from the owner of the DoubleClick technology.

Following rules is the name of the game. The question is, “What rules is Alphabet Google following?”

Why new ones are important to the company is not particularly clear to me. But I just sit in my computer lab in rural Kentucky and marvel at how the owner of the DoubleClick technology can be so darned sincere and earnest.

As Oscar Wilde observed in the Importance of Being Earnest:

The truth is rarely pure and never simple.

That’s why it is challenging to delete old email on the Gmail system, why Android is a busy beaver in the transfer data stream, and why the Importance of Being Earnest is relevant to the mom-and-pop online advertising company and, of course, to quantum computing.

Stephen E Arnold, October 19, 2021

Xoogler Identifies Management Idiosyncrasies and Insecurities

October 18, 2021

Curious about how the GOOG manages. There an interesting interview on Triggernometry with Taras Kobernyk, a former engineer with the mom-and-pop online advertising company. You can locate the video at this url. Some useful information emerges in the video. Here are three examples from my notes:

  • Google has an American culture
  • It’s hard to trust the company
  • Management is afraid.

I found the interview interesting because the engineer was from the former Soviet Union and seems to have taken some Google’s googley statements in a literal way. Result? Job hunt time. Is there “Damore” information to be revealed?

Stephen E Arnold, October 18, 2021

Amazon and Google: Another Management Challenge

October 18, 2021

There’s nothing like two very large companies struggling with a common issue. I read “Nearly 400 Google and Amazon Employees Called for the Companies to End a $1.2 Billion Contract with the Israeli Military.” Is the story true or a bit wide of the mark? I don’t know. It is interesting from an intellectual point of view.

The challenge is a management to do, a trivial one at that.

According to the write up:

Hundreds of Google and Amazon employees signed an open letter published in The Guardian on Tuesday [presumably October 12, 2021] condemning Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion contract signed by the two companies to sell cloud services to the Israeli military and government.

Now what?

According to the precepts on the high school science club management method, someone screwed up hiring individuals who don’t fit in. The solution is to change the rules of employment; that is, let these individuals work from home on projects that would drive an intern insane.

Next up for these two giants will be a close look at the hiring process. Why can’t everyone be like those who lived in the dorm with Sergey and Larry or those who worked with Jeff Bezos when he was a simple Wall Street ethicist?

I will have to wait and see how these giant firms swizzle a solution or two.

Stephen E Arnold, October 18, 2021

Google and the Russian Law: A Mismatch

October 8, 2021

I think this may have been a social visit. You know. A couple of people who wanted to snag a Google mouse pad or one of those blinking Google lapel pins. “Court Marshals Visit Google’s Moscow Office to Enforce Censorship Decision” asserts in “real” news fashion:

In the run-up to Russia’s parliamentary elections on Sept. 17-18-19, the Kremlin’s battle against online dissent brings new developments almost daily. Tech giants are not spared, with Google at the forefront earlier this week. Court marshals visited the company’s Moscow office to enforce an injunctive measure to remove the opposition-minded ‘Smart Vote’ site from search results. This online voting recommendation system was designed by the team of jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny.

Yep, just a casual drop in. Fun. Censorship? I think it depends on whom one asks.

What happened? Google and Apple rolled over. I assume that digital countries understand that real countries have some powers that commercial enterprises lack?

Do you remember when Sergey Brin hoped to ride a Russian rocket into space? Not going to happen this week.

Stephen E Arnold, October 8, 2021

Ex-Googlers Work On Biased NLP Solutions

October 6, 2021

Google is on top of the world when it comes to money and technology. Google is the world’s most used search engine, its Chrome Web browser is used by two-thirds of users, and about 29% of 2021 digital advertising were Google ads. Fast Company asks and investigates important questions about Google’s product quality in: “It’s Not Just You. Google Search Really Is Getting Worse.”

Over 80% of Alphabet Inc.’s revenue, Google’s parent company, comes from advertising revenue and about 85% of the world’s search engine traffic feeds through Google. Google controls a lot of users’ screen time. The search engine’s quality results have been studied and researchers have learned that very few users scroll past the “fold” (all of the available content on a screen). Advertising space at the top of search results is incredibly valuable. It also means that users are forced to scroll further and further to reach non-paid results.

Alphabet Inc. has another revenue generating platform, YouTube. A huge portion of videos include multiple ads. Users can avoid ads by paying for a premium subscription, but very few do.

Google does want to improve its search quality. Currently a lot of information from queries are distributed across multiple Web sites. Google wants to condense everything:

“Google is working on bringing this information together. The search engine now uses sophisticated “natural language processing” software called BERT, developed in 2018, that tries to identify the intention behind a search, rather than simply searching strings of text. AskJeeves tried something similar in 1997, but the technology is now more advanced.

BERT will soon be succeeded by MUM (Multitask Unified Model), which tries to go a step further and understand the context of a search and provide more refined answers. Google claims MUM may be 1,000 times more powerful than BERT, and be able to provide the kind of advice a human expert might for questions without a direct answer.”

Google controls a huge portion of the Internet and how users utilize it. Alphabet Inc. is here to stay for a long time, but there are alternatives such as Bing, DuckDuckGo, Ecosia, and Tor browsers. Google, however, will one day fade. Sears Roebuck, Blockbuster, Kmart, cassettes, etc. were al household names, until they became obsolete.

Whitney Grace, October 6, 2021

Google: More Management of Sensitive Issues

September 24, 2021

Some MBA engineers are driven purely by greed without regard for their fellow humans. When Google formed its parent company, Alphabet Inc., they changed their company motto from “Don’t be evil” to “Do the right thing.” However, Google has proven it does not do the right thing when it comes to respecting user privacy and pursuing the almighty dollar. Google has violated user privacy multiple ways, while they tried to establish a market in China despite the country’s abhorrent human rights record.

The Daily Hunt explains that, “Alphabet Inc’s Google Gave User Data To Hong Kong Authorities Despite Vow.” The Hong Kong Free Press reported that Google gave the Hong Kong government user data, despite promising not to do so. Google said that these reports were actually stop bad actors and crime:

“Alphabet Inc’s Google complied with three of 43 government requests received between July and December 2019, the company told HKFP. One request was for an emergency disclosure involving a credible threat to life, Google said, while the others involved human trafficking and were supported by search warrants granted by the court. They were not related to national security and no user content data was shared, the company added.”

Other technology companies, including Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter, said they would no longer comply with Hong Kong government data requests, because China imposed a national security law that violates civil rights.

Google could be telling the truth when it comes to preventing human trafficking and saving human lives, but they could also comply with the Chinese government in order to gain favor in its technology market.

Huge corporations pretend to be ethical, but its usually lip service. Money and the threat of bad publicity has more sway than violating civil liberties and human rights. Google is not any different.

Whitney Grace, September 24, 2021

Google and Its Informed Approach to Compensating Employees: Just Pay Less

September 23, 2021

Google does have unethical business practices, including violating user privacy, discriminating treat of ethnic minorities and women in its hiring activities and work environment, and attempting to establish a business relationship with China. Another infraction to add to Google’s growing list is: “Google Underpaid Thousands Of International ‘Shadow Workers,’ Violating Labor Laws Around The World, Report Reveals” says Business Insider.

Google employs over 900 temporary workers in Poland, France, Netherlands, Germany, India, Ireland, and the UK. Pay-parity laws in Asia and Europe require companies to pay full-time and temporary workers the same wage if they essentially do the same job. Google underpaid its workers in violation of these laws.

Google’s compliance department discovered the error, but did not want to bring attention to the issue. Instead Google raised wages for new employees in order to avoid financial, reputational, and legal problems. Google is still attempting to save face:

“While the team hasn’t increased the comparator rate benchmarks for some years, actual pay rates for temporary staff have increased numerous times in that period,’ Spyro Karetsos, Google’s chief compliance officer, said in a statement to Insider. Most temporary staff are paid significantly more than the comparator rates.

‘Nevertheless, it’s clear that this process has not been handled consistently with the high standards to which we hold ourselves as a company,’ he added. ‘We’re doing a thorough review, and we’re committed to identifying and addressing any pay discrepancies that the team has not already addressed. And we’ll be conducting a review of our compliance practices in this area. In short, we’re going to figure out what went wrong here, why it happened, and we’re going to make it right.’”

Google certainly has the funds to make it right. Google should be treating all of its employees, no matter their status, equality. If Google had admitted the mistake, they would have looked like the bigger person, been criticized or praised, then the world would have forgotten the incident. Now Google can add this to their list of personnel management achievements.

High school behavior? Intentional disregard for employee rights? We don’t know.

Whitney Grace, September 23, 2021

Alphabet Spells Out YouTube Recommendations: Are Some Letters Omitted?

September 23, 2021

I have been taking a look at Snorkel (Stanford AI Labs, open source stuff, and the commercial variants). I am a dim wit. It seems to me that Google has found a diving partner and embracing some exotic equipment. The purpose of the Snorkel is to implement smart workflows. These apparently will allow better, faster, and cheaper operations; for example, classifying content for the purpose of training smart software. Are their applications of Snorkel-type thinking to content recommendation systems. Absolutely. Note that subject matter experts and knowledge bases are needed at the outset of setting up a Snorkelized system. Then, the “smarts” are componentized. Future interaction is by “engineers”, who may or may not be subject matter experts. The directed acyclic graphs are obviously “directed.” Sounds super efficient.

Now navigate to “On YouTube’s Recommendation System.” This is a lot of words for a Googler to string together: About 2,500.

Here’s the key passage:

These human evaluations then train our system to model their decisions, and we now scale their assessments to all videos across YouTube.

Now what letters are left out? Maybe the ones that spell built-in biases, stochastic drift, and Timnit Gebru? On the other hand, that could be a “Ré” of hope for cost reduction.

Stephen E Arnold, September 23, 2021

Google Play Store Content Curation Flop, Well, Thousands of Flops

September 20, 2021

Google does collect user personal information for targeted ads, but more than 19000 apps in the Google Play Store could violate user privacy. The Daily Hunt shares the warning in the article: “Alert! More Than 19000 Apps On Google Play Store Could Leak Your Personal Data-Check Details.”

Digital security company Avast discovered that over 19000 apps hosted on the Google Play Store could leak user data and risk the phone’s security. Avast said the apps leak information, because there is a misconfiguration in the Firebase data. Android developers use Firebase to store user data. Avast reported the problem to Google, so it can notify app developers.

Most of the apps affected are:

“The apps that could be facing the issue are mostly related to lifestyle, gaming, food delivery and email, among others, the firm said, adding that users in Europe, South-East Asia and Latin America region are likely to have been impacted by it. More than 10 percent of 180,300 publicly available Firebase instances were found to be open by researchers at the Avast Threat Labs, which means that apps users’ data in those cases have been exposed to the public.”

User information is waiting to be stolen. Hopefully Google and Android app developers will fix the Firebase misconfiguration quickly so information is stolen by bad actors.

Whitney Grace, September 20, 2021

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