US Big Tech to EU: Please, Knock Off the Outputs

May 23, 2024

dinosaur30a_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dinobaby. Unlike some folks, no smart software improved my native ineptness.

I read “Big Tech to EU: “Drop Dead.” I think the write up depicts the US alleged quasi monopolies of indifference to the wishes of the European Union. Stated another way, “The Big Dogs are battling for AI dominance.” The idea is that these outfits do not care what the EU wants. The Big Dogs care about what they want.

The write up contains several interesting statements. Let me highlight a handful and encourage you to read this article which explains some of the tension between governments and companies with more cash than some nation states. In fact, some of the Big Boys control more digitally inclined people than the annoying countries complaining about predatory business models. The illustration shows how much attention some Big Dogs allow EU and other government regulatory authorities.

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The Big Dogs of technology participate in a Microsoft Teams’s session with and EU official. The Big Dogs seem to be more interested in their mobile phones than the political word salad from the august official. Thanks, MSFT Copilot. Keep following your security recipe.

Consider this statement:

Right from the start, it was obvious that the tech giants were going to war against the [European Digital Markets Act or] DMA, and the freedom it promised to their users.

But isn’t that what companies in a free market do?

Here’s another gem:

Apple charges app vendors a whopping 30 percent commission on most transactions, both the initial price of the app and everything you buy from it thereafter. This is a remarkably high transaction fee —compare it to the credit-card sector, itself the subject of sharp criticism for its high 3-5 percent fees. To maintain those high commissions, Apple also restricts its vendors from informing their customers about the existence of other ways of paying (say, via their website) and at various times has also banned its vendors from offering discounts to customers who complete their purchases without using the app.

What’s the markup for blue chip consulting firms or top end lawyers? Plus, Apple is serving its shareholders. As a public company, that is what shareholders have a right to expect. Once again, the underlying issue is how capitalism works in the US market.

And this statement:

These are high-stakes clashes. As the tech sector grew more concentrated, it also grew less accountable, able to substitute lock-in and regulatory capture for making good products and having their users’ backs. Tech has found new ways to compromise our privacy rights, our labor rights, and our consumer rights – at scale.

Once again the problem is capitalism. The companies have to generate growth, revenue, and profits. Can a government agency manage the day-to-day operations of these technology-centric firms? Governments struggle to maintain roads and keep their Web sites updated. The solution may have been a bit more interest 25 years ago. In my opinion, the “better late than never” approach is not going to work unless governments put these outfits out of business… one way or another.

Net net: The write up is not about Big Dog tech companies ignoring the DMA. The write up wants the basic function of publicly-traded companies to change. Go to a zoo. Find a jungle cat. Tell it to change its stripes. How is that going to work out?

Stephen E Arnold, May 23, 2024

Googzilla Makes a Move in a High Stakes Contest

May 22, 2024

dinosaur30a_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dinobaby. Unlike some folks, no smart software improved my native ineptness.

The trusted “real news” outfit Thomson Reuters published this popular news story about dancing with Googzilla. The article is titled by the click seekers as “Google Cuts Mystery Check to US in Bid to Sidestep Jury Trial.” I love the “mystery check.” I thought FinCEN was on the look out for certain types of transactions.

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The contest is afoot. Thanks, MSFT Copilot.

Here’s the core of the story: On one side of the multi-dimensional Go board is the US Department of Justice. Yes, that was the department with the statues in the area where employees once were paid each week. On the other side of the game board is Googzilla. This is the digital construct which personifies the Alphabet, Google, YouTube, DeepMind, et al outfit. Some in Google’s senior management are avid game players. After all, one must set up a system in which no matter who plays a Googzilla-branded game, the “just average wizards” who run the company wins. The mindset has worked wonders in the online advertising and SEO sector. The SEO “experts” were the people who made a case to their clients for the truism “If you want traffic, it is a pay-to-play operation.” The same may be said for YouTube and content creators who make content so Google can monetize that digital flow and pay a sometimes unknown amount to a creator who is a one-person 1930s motion picture production company. Ditto for the advertisers who use the Google system to buy advertising and benefit by providing advertising space. What’s Google do? It makes the software that controls the game.

Where’s this going? Google is playing a game with the Department of Justice. I am certain some in the DoJ understand this approach. Others may not grasp the concept of Googzilla’s absolute addiction to gaming and gamesmanship. Casinos are supposed to make money. There are exceptions, of course. I can think of a high-profile case history of casino failure, but Google is a reasonably competent casino operator. Sure, there are some technical problems when the Cloud back end fails and the staff become a news event because they protest with correctly spelled signage. But overall, I would suggest that the depth of Googzilla’s game playing is not appreciated by its users, its competition, or some of the governments trying to regain data and control of information pumped into the creatures financial blood bank.

Let’s look at the information the trusted outfit sought to share as bait for a begging-for-dollars marketing play:

Google has preemptively paid damages to the U.S. government, an unusual move aimed at avoiding a jury trial in the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit over its digital advertising business. Google disclosed the payment, but not the amount, in a court filing last week that said the case should be heard and decided by a judge directly. Without a monetary damages claim, Google argued, the government has no right to a jury trial.

That’s the move. The DoJ now has to [a] ignore the payment and move forward to a trial with a jury deciding if Googzilla is a “real” monopoly or a plain vanilla, everyday business like the ones Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft have helped go out of business. [b] Cash the check and go back to scanning US government job listings for a positive lateral arabesque on a quest to the SES (senior executive service). [c] Keep the check and pile on more legal pressure because the money was an inducement, not a replacement for the US justice system. With an election coming up, I can see option [d] on the horizon: Do nothing.

The idea is that in multi-dimensional Go, Google wants to eliminate the noise of legal disputes. Google wins if the government cashes the check. Google wins if the on-rushing election causes a slow down of an already slow process. Google wins if the DoJ keeps piling on the pressure. Google has the money and lawyers to litigate. The government has a long memory but that staff and leadership turnover shifts the odds to Googzilla. Google Calendar keeps its attorneys filing before deadlines and exploiting the US legal system to its fullest extent. If the US government sues Google because the check was a bribe, Google wins. The legal matter shifts to resolving the question about the bribe because carts rarely are put in front of horses.

In this Googzilla-influenced games, Googzilla has created options and set the stage to apply the same tactic to other legal battles. The EU may pass a law prohibiting pre-payment in lieu of a legal process, but if that does not move along at the pace of AI hyperbole, Google’s DoJ game plan can be applied to the lucky officials in Brussels and Strasbourg.

The Reuters’ report says:

Stanford Law School’s Mark Lemley told Reuters he was skeptical Google’s gambit would prevail. He said a jury could ultimately decide higher damages than whatever Google put forward.

“Antitrust cases regularly go to juries. I think it is a sign that Google is worried about what a jury will do,” Lemley said. Another legal scholar, Herbert Hovenkamp of the University of Pennsylvania’s law school, called Google’s move "smart" in a post on X. “Juries are bad at deciding technical cases, and further they do not have the authority to order a breakup,” he wrote.

Okay, two different opinions. The Google check is proactive.

Why? Here are some reasons my research group offered this morning:

  1. Google has other things to do with its legal resources; namely, deal with the copyright litigation which is knocking on its door
  2. The competitive environment is troubling so Googzilla wants to delete annoyances like the DoJ and staff who don’t meet the new profile of the ideal Googler any longer
  3. Google wants to set a precedent so it can implement its pay-to-play game plan for legal hassles.

I am 99 percent confident that Google is playing a game. I am not sure that others perceive the monopoly litigation as one. Googzilla has been refining its game plan, its game-playing skills, and its gaming business systems for 25 years. How long has the current crop of DoJ experts been playing Googley games? I am not going to bet against Googzilla. Remember what happened in the 2021 film Godzilla vs. Kong. Both beasties make peace and go their separate ways. If that happens, Googzilla wins.

Stephen E Arnold, May 22, 2024

E2EE: Not Good Enough. So What Is Next?

May 21, 2024

dinosaur30a_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dinobaby. Unlike some folks, no smart software improved my native ineptness.

What’s wrong with software? “

I think one !*#$ thing about the state of technology in the world today is that for so many people, their job, and therefore the thing keeping a roof over their family’s head, depends on adding features, which then incentives people to, well, add features. Not to make and maintain a good app.

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Who has access to the encrypted messages? Someone. That’s why this young person is distraught as she is escorted to the police van. Thanks, MSFT Copilot. Good enough.

This statement appears in “A Rant about Phone Messaging Apps UI.” But there are some more interesting issues in messaging; specifically, E2EE or end to end encrypted messaging. The current example of talking about the wrong topic in a quite important application space is summarized in Business Insider, an estimable online publication with snappy headlines like this one: “”In the Battle of Telegram vs Signal, Elon Musk Casts Doubt on the Security of the App He Once Championed.” That write up reports as “real” news:

Signal has also made its cryptography open-source. It is widely regarded as a remarkably secure way to communicate, trusted by Jeff Bezos and Amazon executives to conduct business privately.

I want to point out that Edward Snowden “endorses” Signal. He does not use Telegram. Does he know something that others may not have tucked into their memory stack?

The Business Insider “real” news report includes this quote from a Big Dog at Signal:

“We use cryptography to keep data out of the hands of everyone but those it’s meant for (this includes protecting it from us),” Whittaker wrote. “The Signal Protocol is the gold standard in the industry for a reason–it’s been hammered and attacked for over a decade, and it continues to stand the test of time.”

Pavel Durov, the owner of Telegram, and the brother of the person like two Ph.D.’s (his brother Nikolai), suggests that Signal is insecure. Keep in mind that Mr. Durov has been the subject of some scrutiny because after telling the estimable Tucker Carlson that Telegram is about free speech. Why? Telegram blocked Ukraine’s government from using a Telegram feature to beam pro-Ukraine information into Russia. That’s a sure-fire way to make clear what country catches Mr. Durov’s attention. He did this, according to rumors reaching me from a source with links to the Ukraine, because Apple or maybe Google made him do it. Blaming the alleged US high-tech oligopolies is a good red herring and a sinky one at that.

What Telegram got to do with the complaint about “features”? In my view, Telegram has been adding features at a pace that is more rapid than Signal, WhatsApp, and a boatload of competitors. have those features created some vulnerabilities in the Telegram set up? In fact, I am not sure Telegram is a messaging platform. I also think that the company may be poised to do an end run around open sourcing its home-grown encryption method.

What does this mean? Here are a few observations:

  1. With governments working overtime to gain access to encrypted messages, Telegram may have to add some beef.
  2. Established firms and start ups are nosing into obfuscation methods that push beyond today’s encryption methods.
  3. Information about who is behind an E2EE messaging service is tough to obtain? What is easy to document with a Web search may be one of those “fake” or misinformation plays.

Net net: E2EE is getting long in the tooth. Something new is needed. If you want to get a glimpse of the future, catch my lecture about E2EE at the upcoming US government Cycon 2024 event in September. Want a preview? We have a briefing. Write benkent2020 at yahoo dot com for restrictions and prices.

Stephen E Arnold, May 21, 2024

Germany Has Had It with Some Microsoft Products

May 20, 2024

dinosaur30a_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dinobaby. Unlike some folks, no smart software improved my native ineptness.

Can Schleswig-Holstein succeed where Munich and Lower Saxony failed? Those two German states tried switching their official IT systems from Microsoft to open source software but were forced to reverse course. Emboldened by Microsoft’s shove to adopt Windows 11 and Office 365, informed by its neighbors’ defeats, and armed with three years of planning, Germany’s northernmost state is forging ahead. The Register frames the initiative as an epic battle in, “Open Source Versus Microsoft: The New Rebellion Begins.”

With cries of “Digital Sovereignty,” Schleswig-Holstein shakes its fist at its corporate overlord. Beginning with the aptly named LibreOffice suite, these IT warriors plan to replace Microsoft products top to bottom with open source alternatives. Writer Rupert Goodwins notes open source software has improved since Munich and Lower Saxony were forced to retreat, but will that be enough? He considers:

“Microsoft has a lot of cards to play here. Schleswig-Holstein will have to maintain compatibility with Windows within its own borders, with the German federation, with Europe, and the rest of the world. If a change to Windows happens to break that compatibility, guess who picks up the pain and the bills. Microsoft wouldn’t dream of doing that deliberately, no matter how high the stakes, yet these things happen. Freedom to innovate, don’t you know. If in five years the transition is a success, the benefits to the state, the people, and open source will be immeasurable. As well as bringing data protection back to those charged with providing it, it will give European laws new teeth. It will increase expertise, funding, and opportunities for open source. Schleswig-Holstein itself will become a new hub of technical excellence in an area that intensely interests the rest of the world, in public and private organizations. Microsoft cannot afford to let this happen. Schleswig-Holstein cannot back down, now it’s made it a battle for independence.”

See the write-up for more warfare language as well as Goodwins’ likening of user agreements to the classic suzerain-vassal relationship. Will Schleswig-Holstein emerge victorious, or will mighty Microsoft prevail? Governments depend on Microsoft. The US is now putting pressure on the Softies to do something more than making Windows 11 more annoying and creating a Six Flags Over Cyber Crime with their security methods. Will anything change? Nah.

Cynthia Murrell, May 22, 2024

Will Google Behave Like Telegram?

May 10, 2024

dinosaur30a_thumbThis essay is the work of a dinobaby. Unlike some folks, no smart software improved my native ineptness.

I posted a short item on LinkedIn about Telegram’s blocking of Ukraine’s information piped into Russia via Telegram. I pointed out that Pavel Durov, the founder of VK and Telegram, told Tucker Carlson that he was into “free speech.” A few weeks after the interview, Telegram blocked the data from Ukraine for Russia’s Telegram users. One reason given, as I recall, was that Apple was unhappy. Telegram rolled over and complied with a request that seems to benefit Russia more than Apple. But that’s just my opinion. The incident, which one of my team verified with a Ukrainian interacting with senior professionals in Ukraine, the block. Not surprisingly, Ukraine’s use of Telegram is under advisement. I think that means, “Find another method of sending encrypted messages and use that.” Compromised communications can translate to “Rest in Peace” in real time.

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A Hong Kong rock band plays a cover of the popular hit Glory to Hong Kong. The bats in the sky are similar to those consumed in Shanghai during a bat festival. Thanks, MSFT Copilot. What are you working on today? Security or AI?

I read “Hong Kong Puts Google in Hot Seat With Ban on Protest Song.” That news story states:

The Court of Appeal on Wednesday approved the government’s application for an injunction order to prevent anyone from playing Glory to Hong Kong with seditious intent. While the city has a new security law to punish that crime, the judgment shifted responsibility onto the platforms, adding a new danger that just hosting the track could expose companies to legal risks. In granting the injunction, judges said prosecuting individual offenders wasn’t enough to tackle the “acute criminal problems.”

What’s Google got to do with it that toe tapper Glory to Hong Kong?

The write up says:

The injunction “places Google, media platforms and other social media companies in a difficult position: Essentially pitting values such as free speech in direct conflict with legal obligations,” said Ryan Neelam, program director at the Lowy Institute and former Australian diplomat to Hong Kong and Macau. “It will further the broader chilling effect if foreign tech majors do comply.”

The question is, “Roll over as Telegram allegedly has, or fight Hong Kong and by extension everyone’s favorite streaming video influencer, China?” What will Google do? Scrub Glory to Hong Kong, number one with a bullet on someone’s hit parade I assume.

My guess is that Google will go to court, appeal, and then take appropriate action to preserve whatever revenue is at stake. I do know The Sundar & Prabhakar Comedy Show will not use Glory to Hong Kong as its theme for its 2024 review.

Stephen E Arnold, May 10, 2024

Google Trial: An Interesting Comment Amid the Yada Yada

May 8, 2024

dinosaur30a_thumbThis essay is the work of a dinobaby. Unlike some folks, no smart software improved my native ineptness.

I read “Google’s Antitrust Trial Spotlights Search Ads on the Final Day of Closing Arguments.” After decades of just collecting Google tchotchkes, US regulators appear to be making some progress. It is very difficult to determine if a company is a monopoly. It was much easier to count barrels of oil, billets of steel, and railroad cars than digital nothingness, wasn’t it?

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A giant whose name is Googzilla has most of the toys. He is reminding those who want the toys about his true nature. I believe Googzilla. Do you? Thanks, Microsoft Copilot. Good enough.

One of the many reports of the Google monopoly legal activity finally provided to me a quite useful, clear statement. Here’s the passage which caught my eye:

a coalition of state attorneys said Google’s search advertising business has trapped advertisers into its ecosystem while higher ad prices haven’t led to higher returns.

I want to consider this assertion. Please, read the original write up on Digiday to get the “real” news report. I am not a journalist; I am a dinobaby, and I have some thoughts to capture.

First, the Google has been doing Googley things for about a quarter of a century. A bit longer if one counts the Backrub service in an estimable Stanford computer building. From my point of view, Google has been doing “clever.” That means to just apologize, not ask permission. That means seek inspiration from others; for example, the IBM Clever system, the Yahoo-Overture advertising system, and the use of free to gain access to certain content like books, and pretty much doing what it wants. After figuring out that Google had to make money, it “innovated” with advertising, paid a fine, and acquired people and technology to match ads to queries. Yep, Oingo (Applied Semantics) helped out. The current antitrust matter will be winding down in 2024 and probably drag through 2025. Appeals for a company with lots of money can go slowly. Meanwhile Google’s activity can go faster.

Second, the data about Google monopoly are not difficult to identify. There is the state of the search market. Well, Eric Schmidt said years ago, Qwant kept him awake at night. I am not sure that was a credible statement. If Mr. Schmidt were awake at night, it might be the result of thinking about serious matters like money. His money. When Google became widely available, there were other Web search engines. I posted a list on my Web site which had a couple of hundred entries. Now the hot new search engines just recycle Bing and open source indexes, tossing in a handful of “special” sources like my mother jazzing up potato salad. There is Google search. And because of the reach of Google search, Google can sell ads.

Third, the ads are not just for search. Any click on a Google service is a click. Due to cute tricks like Chrome and ubiquitous services like maps, Google can slap ads many place. Other outfits cannot unless they are Google “partners.” Those partners are Google’s sales force. SEO customers become buyers of Google ads because that’s the most effective way to get traffic. Does a small business owner expect a Web site to be “found” without Google Local and maybe some advertising juice. Nope. No one but OSINT experts can get Google search to deliver useful results. Google Dorks exists for a reason. Google search quality drives ad sales. And YouTube ads? Lots of ads. Want an alternative? Good luck with Facebook, TikTok, ok.ru, or some other service.

Where’s the trial now? Google has asserted that it does not understand its own technology. The judge says he is circling down the drain of the marketing funnel. But the US government depends on the Google. That may be a factor or just the shadow of Googzilla.

Stephen E Arnold, May 8, 2024

Security Conflation: A Semantic Slippery Slope to Persistent Problems

May 2, 2024

dinosaur30a_thumbThis essay is the work of a dinobaby. Unlike some folks, no smart software improved my native ineptness.

My view is that secrets can be useful. When discussing who has what secret, I think it is important to understand who the players / actors are. When I explain how to perform a task to a contractor in the UK, my transfer of information is a secret; that is, I don’t want others to know the trick to solve a problem that can take others hours or day to resolve. The context is an individual knows something and transfers that specific information so that it does not become a TikTok video. Other secrets are used by bad actors. Some are used by government officials. Commercial enterprises — for example, pharmaceutical companies wrestling with an embarrassing finding from a clinical trial — have their secrets too. Blue-chip consulting firms are bursting with information which is unknown by all but a few individuals.

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Good enough, MSFT Copilot. After “all,” you are the expert in security.

I read “Hacker Free-for-All Fights for Control of Home and Office Routers Everywhere.” I am less interested in the details of shoddy security and how it is exploited by individuals and organizations. What troubles me is the use of these words: “All” and “Everywhere.” Categorical affirmatives are problematic in a today’s datasphere. The write up conflates any entity working for a government entity with any bad actor intent on committing a crime as cut from the same cloth.

The write up makes two quite different types of behavior identical. The impact of such conflation, in my opinion, is to suggest:

  1. Government entities are criminal enterprises, using techniques and methods which are in violation of the “law”. I assume that the law is a moral or ethical instruction emitted by some source and known to be a universal truth. For the purposes of my comments, let’s assume the essay’s analysis is responding to some higher authority and anchored on that “universal” truth. (Remember the danger of all and everywhere.)
  2. Bad actors break laws just like governments and are, therefore, both are criminals. If true, these people and entities must be punished.
  3. Some higher authority — not identified in the write up — must step in and bring these evil doers to justice.

The problem is that there is a substantive difference among the conflated bad actors. Those engaged in enforcing laws or protecting a nation state are, one hopes, acting within that specific context; that is, the laws, rules, and conventions of that nation state. When one investigator or analyst seeks “secrets” from an adversary, the reason for the action is, in my opinion, easy to explain: The actor followed the rules spelled out by the context / nation state for which the actor works. If one doesn’t like how France runs its railroad, move to Saudi Arabia. In short, find a place to live where the behaviors of the nation state match up with one’s individual perceptions.

When a bad actor — for example a purveyor of child sexual abuse material on an encrypted messaging application operating in a distributed manner from a country in the Middle East — does his / her business, government entities want to shut down the operation. Substitute any criminal act you want, and the justification for obtaining information to neutralize the bad actor is at least understandable to the child’s mother.

The write up dances into the swamp of conflation in an effort to make clear that the system and methods of good and bad actors are the same. That’s the way life is in the datasphere.

The real issue, however, is not the actors who exploit the datasphere, in my view, the problems begins with:

  • Shoddy, careless, or flawed security created and sold by commercial enterprises
  • Lax, indifferent, and false economies of individuals and organizations when dealing with security their operating environment
  • Failure of regulatory authorities to certify that specific software and hardware meet requirements for security.

How does the write up address fixing the conflation problem, the true root of security issues, and the fact that exploited flaws persist for years? I noted this passage:

The best way to keep routers free of this sort of malware is to ensure that their administrative access is protected by a strong password, meaning one that’s randomly generated and at least 11 characters long and ideally includes a mix of letters, numbers, or special characters. Remote access should be turned off unless the capability is truly needed and is configured by someone experienced. Firmware updates should be installed promptly. It’s also a good idea to regularly restart routers since most malware for the devices can’t survive a reboot. Once a device is no longer supported by the manufacturer, people who can afford to should replace it with a new one.

Right. Blame the individual user. But that individual is just one part of the “problem.” The damage done by conflation and by failing to focus on the root causes remains. Therefore, we live in a compromised environment. Muddled thinking makes life easier for bad actors and harder for those who are charged with enforcing rules and regulations. Okay, mom, change your password.

Stephen E Arnold, May 2, 2024

A Modern Spy Novel: A License to Snoop

April 29, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

UK’s Investigatory Powers Bill to Become Law Despite Tech World Opposition” reports the Investigatory Powers Amendment Bill or IPB is now a law. In a nutshell, the law expands the scope of data collection by law enforcement and intelligence services. The Register, a UK online publication, asserts:

Before the latest amendments came into force, the IPA already allowed authorized parties to gather swathes of information on UK citizens and tap into telecoms activity – phone calls and SMS texts. The IPB’s amendments add to the Act’s existing powers and help authorities trawl through more data, which the government claims is a way to tackle “modern” threats to national security and the abuse of children.

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Thanks, Copilot. A couple of omissions from my prompt, but your illustration is good enough.

One UK elected official said:

“Additional safeguards have been introduced – notably, in the most recent round of amendments, a ‘triple-lock’ authorization process for surveillance of parliamentarians – but ultimately, the key elements of the Bill are as they were in early versions – the final version of the Bill still extends the scope to collect and process bulk datasets that are publicly available, for example.”

Privacy advocates are concerned about expanding data collections’ scope. The Register points out that “big tech” feels as though it is being put on the hot seat. The article includes this statement:

Abigail Burke, platform power program manager at the Open Rights Group, previously told The Register, before the IPB was debated in parliament, that the proposals amounted to an “attack on technology.”

Several observations:

  1. The UK is a member in good standing of an intelligence sharing entity which includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the US. These nation states watch one another’s activities and sometimes emulate certain policies and legal frameworks.
  2. The IPA may be one additional step on a path leading to a ban on end-to-end-encrypted messaging. Such a ban, if passed, would prove disruptive to a number of business functions. Bad actors will ignore such a ban and continue their effort to stay ahead of law enforcement using homomorphic encryption and other sophisticated techniques to keep certain content private.
  3. Opportunistic messaging firms like Telegram may incorporate technologies which effectively exploit modern virtual servers and other technology to deploy networks which are hidden and effectively less easily “seen” by existing monitoring technologies. Bad actors can implement new methods forcing LE and intelligence professionals to operate in reaction mode. IPA is unlikely to change this cat-and-mouse game.
  4. Each day brings news of new security issues with widely used software and operating systems. Banning encryption may have some interesting downstream and unanticipated effects.

Net net: I am not sure that modern threats will decrease under IPA. Even countries with the most sophisticated software, hardware, and humanware security systems can be blindsided. Gaffes in Israel have had devastating consequences that an IPA-type approach would remedy.

Stephen E Arnold, April 29, 2024

Will Google Fix Up On-the-Blink Israeli Intelligence Capability?

April 18, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

Voyager Labs “value” may be slipping. The poster child for unwanted specialized software publicity (NSO Group) finds itself the focal point of some legal eagles. The specialized software systems that monitor, detect, and alert — quite frankly — seemed to be distracted before and during the October 2023 attack. What’s happening to Israel’s advanced intelligence capabilities with its secret units, mustered out wizards creating intelligence solutions, and doing the Madison Avenue thing at conferences? What’s happening is that the hyperbole seems to be a bit more advanced than some of the systems themselves.

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Government leaders and military intelligence professionals listen raptly as the young wizard explains how the online advertising company can shore up a country’s intelligence capabilities. Thanks, MidJourney. You are good enough, and the modified free MSFT Copilot is not.

What’s the fix? Let me share one wild idea with you: Let Google do it. Time (once the stablemate of the AI-road kill Sports Illustrated) published this write up with this title:

Exclusive: Google Contract Shows Deal With Israel Defense Ministry

The write up says:

Google provides cloud computing services to the Israeli Ministry of Defense, and the tech giant has negotiated deepening its partnership during Israel’s war in Gaza, a company document viewed by TIME shows. The Israeli Ministry of Defense, according to the document, has its own “landing zone” into Google Cloud—a secure entry point to Google-provided computing infrastructure, which would allow the ministry to store and process data, and access AI services. [The wonky capitalization is part of the style manual I assume. Nice, shouting with capital letters.]

The article then includes this paragraph:

Google recently described its work for the Israeli government as largely for civilian purposes. “We have been very clear that the Nimbus contract is for workloads running on our commercial platform by Israeli government ministries such as finance, healthcare, transportation, and education,” a Google spokesperson told TIME for a story published on April 8. “Our work is not directed at highly sensitive or classified military workloads relevant to weapons or intelligence services.”

Does this mean that Google shaped or weaponized information about the work with Israel? Probably not: The intent strikes me as similar to the “Senator, thank you for the question” lingo offered at some US government hearings. That’s just the truth poorly understood by those who are not Googley.

I am not sure if the Time story has its “real” news lens in focus, but let’s look at this interesting statement:

The news comes after recent reports in the Israeli media have alleged the country’s military, controlled by the Ministry of Defense, is using an AI-powered system to select targets for air-strikes on Gaza. Such an AI system would likely require cloud computing infrastructure to function. The Google contract seen by TIME does not specify for what military applications, if any, the Ministry of Defense uses Google Cloud, and there is no evidence Google Cloud technology is being used for targeting purposes. But Google employees who spoke with TIME said the company has little ability to monitor what customers, especially sovereign nations like Israel, are doing on its cloud infrastructure.

The online story included an allegedly “real” photograph of a bunch of people who were allegedly unhappy with the Google deal with Israel. Google does have a cohort of wizards who seem to enjoy protesting Google’s work with a nation state. Are Google’s managers okay with this type of activity? Seems like it.

Net net: I think the core issue is that some of the Israeli intelligence capability is sputtering. Will Google fix it up? Sure, if one believes the intelware brochures and PowerPoints on display at specialized intelligence conferences, why not perceive Google as just what the country needs after the attack and amidst increasing tensions with other nation states not too far from Tel Aviv? Belief is good. Madison Avenue thinking is good. Cloud services are good. Failure is not just bad; it could mean zero warning for another action against Israel. Do brochures about intelware stop bullets and missiles?

Stephen E Arnold, April 18, 2024

Google: The DMA Makes Us Harm Small Business

April 11, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

I cannot estimate the number of hours Googlers invested in crafting the short essay “New Competition Rules Come with Trade-Offs.” I find it a work of art. Maybe not the equal of Dante’s La Divina Commedia, but is is darned close.

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A deity, possibly associated with the quantumly supreme, reassures a human worried about life. Words are reality, at least to some fretful souls. Thanks MSFT Copilot. Good enough.

The essay pivots on unarticulated and assumed “truths.” Particularly charming are these:

  1. “We introduced these types of Google Search features to help consumers”
  2. “These businesses now have to connect with customers via a handful of intermediaries that typically charge large commissions…”
  3. “We’ve always been focused on improving Google Search….”

The first statement implies that Google’s efforts have been the “help.” Interesting: I find Google search often singularly unhelpful, returning results for malware, biased information, and Google itself.

The second statement indicates that “intermediaries” benefit. Isn’t Google an intermediary? Isn’t Google an alleged monopolist in online advertising?

The third statement is particularly quantumly supreme. Note the word “always.” John Milton uses such verbal efflorescence when describing God. Yes, “always” and improving. I am tremulous.

Consider this lyrical passage and the elegant logic of:

We’ll continue to be transparent about our DMA compliance obligations and the effects of overly rigid product mandates. In our view, the best approach would ensure consumers can continue to choose what services they want to use, rather than requiring us to redesign Search for the benefit of a handful of companies.

Transparent invokes an image of squeaky clean glass in a modern, aluminum-framed window, scientifically sealed to prevent its unauthorized opening or repair by anyone other than a specially trained transparency provider. I like the use of the adjective “rigid” because it implies a sturdiness which may cause the transparent window to break when inclement weather (blasts of hot and cold air from oratorical emissions) stress the see-through structures. The adult-father-knows-best reference in “In our view, the best approach”. Very parental. Does this suggest the EU is childish?

Net net: Has anyone compiled the Modern Book of Google Myths?

Stephen E Arnold, April 11, 2024

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