Is The TikTok Google Allegation Accurate?

July 21, 2022

Good question. I know that any outfit offering a “service” has individuals who can look at data, metadata, and any other “stuff” associated with a particular entity; for example, spend limit, contacts, and geodata. Privacy and security depend on access controls. In theory, certain data are sandboxed and special approvals may be needed to get into that nifty play area. The hitch in the git along is that a system fails, a senior executive needs something now to close a big deal, a friend begs for help with such and such a problem. There’s also just the endemic “good enough” and “close enough for horse shoes” attitude which affects TV personalities interaction with Air France to a busy parent trying to buy a hamburger and shake for a hungry lacrosse player at 4 pm on a blistering day in rural Kentucky.

That means… gaps, slip ups, work arounds, and doing what’s needed to fill time or get something done fast.

I read “Nothing Is Private: TikToker Who Says She’s a Former Google Admin Warns Workers about Work Accounts.” The information in the article is about a revelation on TikTok. The problem is that I am not sure the behavior described is accurate. Heck, it could be fabricated for some clicks and maybe an appearance on the Joe Rogan podcast. Fame is where you find it today.

The article states as what a TikTok denizen said:

Whatever you put in that account—whether it’s emails, photos, Google Drive documents, or anything else—is not private.

Okay, clear enough.

For fun, let’s assume the Xoogler spilling the beans on the utility of having access to billions of users information is sort of true.



The write up says:

that means that a company has access to all of the documents within someone’s company Google account, which can include things like email drafts, G-chats, and Google Drive uploads. This also reportedly applies to universities with student Google accounts. Furthermore, one does not have to leave the job or university for their administrators to obtain this access. “I can get into any of it,” Lauren says. “Any of it!”

Ads, folks. Ads mean money. Who can resist generating revenue, beating performance targets, and getting a big bonus. Once Google would toss in a ski trip or a mouse pad. Go for it. The incentive plan is what makes the Googlers spin.

What’s the fix? The answer is:

Delete. Delete. Delete.

Sounds like reasonable advice if deletion is indeed “real.” Data are backed up and delete usually means removing a pointer to an object in a file. Those back ups, the copies of data tables in a marketing department laptop, or the data required to whip up a projection based on use of information to spur quicker depletion of ad inventory.

Probably not deleted.

Let’s assume the write up describes something the Google does not, could not, would not, and will not do. Wow. Bullet dodged.

But… what if…? Wow. Bullets incoming.

Stephen E Arnold, July 21, 2022

EU Consumer Groups File Privacy Complaints Against Google

July 19, 2022

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation specifies platforms must protect users’ privacy “by design and by default.” However, the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) asserts Google’s registration process violates that regulation. The BBC reports, “Google Sign-Up ‘Fast Track to Surveillance’, Consumer Groups Say.” The BEUC is leading a band of 10 consumer organizations in filing complaints against the company with data-protection authorities in several European countries. The Federation of German Consumer Organisations has gone so far as to send Google a warning letter. The article notes:

“The [BEUC] believes sign-up is the critical point at which Google asks users to choose how their account will operate. But the simplest one step ‘express personalisation’ process, it alleges, leaves consumers with account settings that ‘feed Google’s surveillance activities’. And the consumer organisation says Google does not provide users with the option to turn all settings ‘off’ in one click. Instead, BEUC says, it takes five steps and ten clicks to turn off the trackers Google wants to activate on a new account – these relate to web and app activity, YouTube history and personalised advertising on their account. Ursula Pachl, deputy director general of the BEUC, said: ‘It takes one simple step to let Google monitor and exploit everything you do. If you want to benefit from privacy-friendly settings, you must navigate through a longer process and a mix of unclear and misleading options’. Ms Pachl added: ‘In short, when you create a Google account, you are subjected to surveillance by design and by default. Instead, privacy protection should be the default and easiest choice for consumers.'”

We are reminded Google requires registration before one can use most of its ubiquitous services. Google insists its sign-up process makes users’ privacy options clear and simple to navigate. That may be a matter of opinion, depending on how tech savvy one is, but the insistence is a red herring. The point is that requiring users to jump through hoops to secure privacy means it cannot be considered the “default” setting, as the law requires. The effort to bring these complaints emerges as a similar complaint filed by the BEUC in Ireland in 2018 is said to be making progress, with a draft decision expected in a matter of months. Perhaps one or more of these actions will result in penalties large enough that Google cannot shrug them off as easily as a strongly worded letter. Hey, anything is possible.

Cynthia Murrell, July 22, 2022

When It Comes to AI, Who Is Wrong? Sorry, Who Is Right? Who Is on First? I Don’t Know.

July 15, 2022

When I read revelations about alleged issues with smart software I think about the famous Abbott & Costello routine “Who’s on First?” If you are not familiar with this comedy classic you can find a version at this link.

I read “30% of Google’s Emotions Dataset is Mislabeled.” Who says, “I don’t know.”

The write up asserts:

Last year, Google released their “GoEmotions” dataset: a human-labeled dataset of 58K Reddit comments categorized according to 27 emotions. The problem? A whopping 30% of the dataset is severely mislabeled! (We tried training a model on the dataset ourselves, but noticed deep quality issues. So we took 1000 random comments, asked Surgers whether the original emotion was reasonably accurate, and found strong errors in 308 of them.) How are you supposed to train and evaluate machine learning models when your data is so wrong?

Who? Surgers. What? Yes, what’s in charge of synthetic data? What? Yes. I don’t know. Okay, I don’t know what’s going on in this write up.


The article contains some examples of humans mislabeling data. Today these labels are metadata, not index terms or classification codes. Metadata. “I never metadata I didn’t like.” Really.

The article in my opinion is actually pro-Google. Why?

Why’s responsible for Google and its goal of eliminating as many humans from a process once deemed appropriate for subject matter experts. SMEs are too expensive and slow for today’s metadata mavens.

What’s the fix? Synthetic data which relies only a a few humans and eventually (one theorizes) no humans at all. Really? Yes, Really works with Snorkel-type technology.

I enjoyed this statement from the cited article:

If you want to deploy ML models that work in the real world, it’s time for a focus on high-quality datasets over bigger models – just listen, after all, to Andrew Ng’s focus on data-centric AI. Hopefully Google learns this too! Otherwise those big, beautiful traps may get censored into oblivion, and all the rich nuances of language and humor with it…

What? Yeah, I know. What’s in charge of synthetic data. The idea is for Google whopper approach to smart software resolves these issues and others as well. What’s “high quality”? I bet you didn’t know quality requires Google scoring algorithms. What? In the manager’s seat.

Stephen E Arnold, July 15, 2022

Google Smart Software: Is This an Important Statement?

July 15, 2022

I read “Human-Centered Mechanism Design with Democratic AI” continues Google’s PR campaign to win the smart software war. Like the recent interview with a DeepMind executive on the exciting Lex Fridman podcast and YouTube programs, the message is clear: The Google’s smart software is not “alive”. (Interesting PR speak begins about 1 hours and 20 minutes into the two hour plus interview. The subtext is in my opinion, “Nope, no problem. We have smart software lassoed with our systems and methods.” Okay, I think I understand framing, filtering, and messaging designed to permit online advertising to be better, faster, and maybe cheaper.

This most recent contribution uses language many previous Googley papers do not; for example, “human” and “democratic.”  The article includes graphics which I must confess I found a bit difficult to figure out. Here’s an illustrative image which baffled me:


The Google and its assorted legal eagles created this image from the data mostly referenced in the cited article. Yes, Google and attendant legal eagles, you are the ultimate authorities for this image from the cited article in Nature.

Those involved with business intelligence will marvel at Google’s use of different types of visualizations to make absolutely crystal clear the researchers’ insights, findings, and data.

Great work.

I did note one passage on page nine of the Nature article:


Here is the operative language used to explain some of the democratic methods:



We wished to maximize



We chose

Net net: Researchers at the Google determine and then steer the system. Human-centered design meshes with the Snorkel and synthetic data methods I presume. And bias? Where there are humans, there may be bias. How human-centered were the management decisions about certain staff in the Google smart software units?

Stephen E Arnold, July 15, 2022

Never Enough! Even Google Needs To Buy Data

July 15, 2022

Google needs to buy data. Say what? That seems to be a contrary sentence, but The Verge explains that: “Google Is Paying The Wikimedia Foundation For Better Access To Information.” It would make sense that Google would buy large datasets to feed/instruct its AI projects, but why would the search engine need to buy Wikimedia Foundation information? Google is one of the first Wikimedia Enterprise customers and the company wants to buy its data to be the most accurate and up-to-date search engine. The Wikimedia Foundation is a non-profit organization that created Wikipedia.

Google’s crawlers already scrape Wikipedia’s pages, but that has the downside of being outdated and inaccurate. Google will no longer need to rely on free data dumps and free APIs. Wikimedia Enterprise customers are given access to proprietary APIs that recycle and process information at larger rates. Google has loved Wikipedia for years:

“Although you may not notice it, Google uses Wikimedia’s services in a number of ways. The most obvious is within its “knowledge panels,” which appear on the side of search results pages when you look up the people, places, or things within Google’s massive database. Wikipedia is one of the sources Google frequently uses to populate the information inside these panels. Google also cites Wikipedia in the information panels it adds to some YouTube videos to fight misinformation and conspiracy theories (although it didn’t really inform Wikimedia of its plans to do so ahead of time).”

Google has not explained how it will use the Wikimedia Foundation, but we can surmise that it will be cited more and pushed to the top of search results more. The Internet Archive also is a Wikimedia Foundation customer.

Whitney Grace, July 15, 2022

Listen Up! Direct from a Former Verity Executive: Google Search Lags

July 13, 2022

If anyone knows about falling behind in search and retrieval, it is probably a former Verity executive. Verity provided a decent security token to limit content access and created one of the world’s most sluggish indexing updating methods I had ever encountered. When was this? The late 1990s. Verity ended up as a contributor to the estimable Autonomy “search” offering. Therefore, experience in moving users to content is a core competency of former Verity executives.

I spotted a Googler who was a former Verity executive. The individual identified how a search and retrieval system does not meet the needs of the here and now user. The information is contained in what I think somewhat askew discussion of the Google finding system. The information appears in “Google Exec Suggests Instagram and TikToc Are Eating into Google’s Core Products, Search and Maps.” The write up includes some interesting observations. These comments reveal Google’s apparently slow realization that it is making money as it loses the hearts and minds of a couple of important customer segments. It also colors the outlines of Google’s hesitancy to identify one of its most difficult search problems:

I noted these statements in the article:

he [the former Verity executive] somewhat offhandedly noted that younger users were now often turning to apps like Instagram and TikTok instead of Google Search or Maps for discovery purposes. “We keep learning, over and over again, that new internet users don’t have the expectations and the mindset that we have become accustomed to.” Raghavan said, adding, “the queries they ask are completely different.”

Experience matters. Verity went nowhere and ended up a footnote in Autonomy’s quest for customers, not technology and cutting edge functionality. Been there, seen that could be one of the triggers for this moment of candor.

Here’s another:

“In our studies, something like almost 40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search,” he continued. “They go to TikTok or Instagram.” The figure sounds a bit shocking, we have to admit. Google confirmed to us his comments were based on internal research that involved a survey of U.S. users, ages 18 to 24. The data has not yet been made public, we’re told, but may later be added to Google’s competition site, alongside other stats — like how 55% of product searches now begin on Amazon, for example.

Flash back to the Verity era. New systems were becoming available. The wild and crazy Fast Search & Transfer folks were demonstrating a different almost “webby” approach to finding enterprise information. There was a sporty system from ISYS Search which provided a graphical interface, which — believe it or not — is still in the commercial market. There were quite fascinating folder oriented systems like Folio and Lextek. There were rumblings about semantics from Purple Yogi, later renamed Stratify, and also still available sort of from a records management company. Verity was lagging in the race to search domination.

So is Google. And a former Verity wizard identifies three companies which pose a bit of a challenge to a company which lacks focus, urgency, and hunger.

Add to this mea culpa the allegedly accurate statements reported in “Read the Memo Google’s CEO Sent Employees about a Hiring Slowdown.” The main idea in my opinion is that the mighty Googzilla is wandering in the wilderness with billions from online advertising. The problem is that developers are putting up trailer parks, slumurbia housing, and giant digital K-Marts. Googzilla is confused. Where’s the Moses to snap a leash on the beastie and pull the multi-ton monster to a valley filled with prey?

The trajectory for Alphabet Google YouTube DeepMind and the solving death folks seems to be discernable. Peak Google, yep. Now gravity. (No, I won’t quote from the endlessly readable Gravity’s Rainbow. Sorry, I lied. How about this line from the page turner?

You think you’d rather hear about what you call life: the growing, organic Kartell. But it’s only another illusion. A very clever robot. The more dynamic it seems to you, the more deep and dead, in reality, it grows.

Verity, mostly dead. The Google? Well, gravity. No pot of gold at the end of this digital rainbow I surmise.

Stephen E Arnold, July 13, 2022

The Google: A 20-Something with Digital Cancer?

July 9, 2022

I read a blog post called “Who Is Going To Replace Google For Us?” The write up, in my opinion, starts with the premise that Google is in big trouble. I like to think of the Google as struggling with digital cancer, not the fixable skin stuff but the not-so-slick pancreatic cancer.

The blog post states:

The primary search product no longer works for many things, it is no longer adjusted to fight SEO. They have allowed shopping to be dominated by near 60% Amazon links and search results for any kind of product are consumed by semi-fake comparison pages Amazon referral clickbait.

I also noted this comment:

The modern internet – for which Google by virtue of it’s near-monopoly status is responsible – falls far short of what 20th century science fiction thought it would be. There’s not a lot of information. There’s a lot of crappy goods being sold and a lot of ads. I occasionally find some good things, like agricultural extension websites, but there’s not a lot of genuine content that rises to the top.

I found this harsh. Employees and certain contractors can call a Googler. Oh, you are not in one of those categories. Well, think of the contact problem as an emulation of the AT&T-type approach to customer service. A “customer” spends big bucks. If not, you are not a “customer”; therefore, no customer service. This makes sense in the current business context I believe.

I liked the post. I would point out that Google wants to include links to Amazon because is not the go-to place for product information. The new wizard from Verity (remember those nifty security tokens and remarkable performance?) is going to do more of this shopping stuff. Why?

Amazon. Plus Google has problems with the TikTok thing. Also, Google faces a bit of management pressure from assorted Timnit-Gebru type situations, the absolute out of control wackiness of Google’s version of HAL, and the rascals in the European Union who are definitely not Googley.

Search is just one visible presentation of a certain digital issue. Incurable? Good question.

Stephen E Arnold, July 9, 2022

Is Google a Giving Outfit? One Possible Example

July 9, 2022

I believe everything I read whilst loafing along the info highway. Here’s an example of a real news item which seems plausible, but is the information accurate? Who knows? Let’s consider that a tittle of truth lies therein. The article is “Google Allowed a Sanctioned Russian Ad Company to Harvest User Data for Months.” The write up asserts:

…As recently as June 23, Google was sharing potentially sensitive user data with a sanctioned Russian ad tech company owned by Russia’s largest state bank

The info comes from an outfit called Adalytics. The article continues:

Adalytics identified close to 700 examples of RuTarget receiving user data from Google after the company was added to a U.S. Treasury list of sanctioned entities on Feb. 24. The data sharing between Google and RuTarget stopped four months later on June 23, the day ProPublica contacted Google about the activity.

I believe in coincidences, particularly when real media, the Google, and the special action are inter-twined.

My thoughts this morning (July 2, 2022):

  1. I will probably hear on CSPAN at some point in the future: “Senator, thank you for the question. I don’t have knowledge of that. I will get back to you with the information you request.”
  2. Google is sufficiently disorganized, involved with personnel management issues, and dealing with media inquiries about it’s smart software become alive that the Googlers downstream did not get the memo.
  3. Google’s incentive plans reward benchmarks and upticks. Downticks like cutting off a revenue stream are not high on a Googler’s to do list.

Net net: I believe everything I read on the Internet. In this case, maybe this report from a firm of which I have never heard is an arrow in Googzilla’s eye. Maybe?

Stephen E Arnold, July 9, 2022

Dr. Google, Dr. Google, Emergency, Emergency

July 8, 2022

The United States’s healthcare system is a giant mess controlled by drug makers, pharmacies, insurance companies, hospitals, and others who benefit from the system. The country spends 17% of its GDP on healthcare. There is a lot of money to be made in American healthcare and big tech companies know it. The Economist explains how, “Alphabet Is Spending Billions To Become A Force In Health Care.” The five big tech companies have invested over $3 billion and probably more. These investments range from Amazon’s telemedicine and online pharmacy, the health features on Apple’s smartwatch, Microsoft has health-related cloud computing offerings, and Meta’s reality-reproducing releasing fitness-related features.

Google’s parent company Alphabet is making the most ambitious moves in healthcare. Between 2019 and 2021 Alphabet more than one hundred deals in life sciences and healthcare with venture capital funds. In 2022, Alphabet has so far spent $1.7 billion in advancing health technology and science. Alphabet is using the same business tactics as in the past: throwing lots of money at projects and seeing what develops.

Alphabet has plans for wearables, health records, health-related AI, and extending human life. Google purchased Fitbit in 2019 for $2.1 billion and the company designed a feature that monitors the heart for irregularities. The FDA approved it. With this approval, Google hopes it will also see the same for its Pixel Watch, Pixel phone, and Google Nest.

Alphabet also wants to increase transparency in electronic health records:

“Google is also giving health records another whirl. The new initiative, called Care Studio, is aimed at doctors rather than patients. Google’s earlier efforts in this area were derailed in part by hospitals’ sluggishness in digitizing their patient records. ‘That problem has mostly gone away but another has emerged,’ says Karen DeSalvo, Google’s health chief—‘the inability of different providers’ records to talk to each other.’ Dr DeSalvo has been vocal about the need for greater interoperability since her days in the

Obama administration, where she was in charge of coordinating American health information technology. Until that happens, Care Studio is meant to act as both translator and repository (which is, naturally, searchable).”

The company has already made headway with AI, such as AlphaFold-software that predicts protein structures and Isomorphic Labs that will accelerate and cheapen drug discovery. As for stopping the aging process, subsidiary Verily partnered with L’Oréal to study skin biology. Its other subsidiary Calico received 42.5 billion from AbbVie to study age-related diseases.

Alphabet faces many roadblocks, such as governments, government data that is difficult for AI to read, market competition, and general difficulties. Alphabet probably will not solve the mystery of death.

Whitney Grace, July 8, 2022

Waymo: A Few Bugs? Impossible, Google Does Not Do Bugs, Does It?

July 5, 2022

I read an amusing article about Google’s smart autos. It was “Traffic Cones Confused a Waymo Self-Driving Car. Then Things Got Worse.” I noted this explanation of a minor issue:

A confused Waymo self-driving car was captured on video as it became stranded on an Arizona road earlier this month while carrying a passenger and then unexpectedly driving away as a worker from the company’s roadside assistance arrived to help. But the Waymo vehicle soon became stuck farther down the road, which was lined with construction cones. The Waymo worker caught up to the vehicle, took over, and drove the paying passenger to his final destination. Waymo operates a limited ride hail service in Chandler, Arizona.

Traffic cones are familiar, if unloved, accoutrements of modern highway life. Telecommunication companies, contractors related to elected officials, and fun loving high school students put them in interesting places. Japan has traffic cones with embossed faces, according to the real news outfit


This image originated with and I am eager to credit them for their outstanding news coverage of traffic cones. Could the face on the cone have frightened the almost sentient Google smart software?

An outfit called offers a traffic cone with humanoid characteristics but no explanation.


Kudos to Briskoda, a forum for the owners and lovers of the outstanding Skoda vehicles. Sorry. I don’t know how to enter the S with the little hat. Check out, and you may inspired to acquire this gem of a European vehicle.

If the Waymo smart software was confused by these types of traffic cones, I think we should forgive Google for the misstep described in the article. If the smart software is just not functioning, perhaps a critical look is warranted? Perhaps Google has to put “waymo wood” behind this smart driver autonomous thing.

Stephen E Arnold, July 5, 2022

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