Google: Position on Its Ad Moxie

August 12, 2021

I read “US Judicial Panel Moves Texas Lawsuit against Google to New York.” The guts of the story is some legal maneuvering about where allegations about Alphabet Google will be adjudicated. As in real estate, the keys to value is location, location, location. The legal dust up will take place in the Big Apple.

In the article was a quote allegedly made by a Googley-type. My hunch is that this frank, clear, and positive statement vivifies how the mom and pop online ad outfit will position itself. Here’s the quote:

Google welcomed the panel’s decision, saying it would lead to “just and efficient litigation. “We look forward to demonstrating how our advertising business competes fiercely and fairly to the benefit of publishers, advertisers and consumers,” a Google spokeswoman said in an email statement.

I wonder if the Google used this language in its embrace of recently concluded French litigation?

Stephen E Arnold, August 12, 2021

Another Perturbation of the Intelware Market: Apple Cores Forbidden Fruit

August 6, 2021

It may be tempting for some to view Apple’s decision to implement a classic man-in-the-middle process. If the information in “Apple Plans to Scan US iPhones for Child Abuse Imagery” is correct, the maker of the iPhone has encroached on the intelware service firms’ bailiwick. The paywalled newspaper reports:

Apple intends to install software on American iPhones to scan for child abuse imagery

The approach — dubbed ‘neuralMatch’ — is on the iPhone device, thus providing functionality substantially similar to other intelware vendors’ methods for obtaining data about a user’s actions.

The article concludes:

According to people briefed on the plans, every photo uploaded to iCloud in the US will be given a “safety voucher” saying whether it is suspect or not. Once a certain number of photos are marked as suspect, Apple will enable all the suspect photos to be decrypted and, if apparently illegal, passed on to the relevant authorities.

Observations:

  1. The idea allows Apple to provide a function likely to be of interest to law enforcement and intelligence professionals; for example, requesting a report about a phone with filtered and flagged data are metadata
  2. Specialized software companies may have an opportunity to refine existing intelware or develop a new category of specialized services to make sense of data about on-phone actions
  3. The proposal, if implemented, would create a PR opportunity for either Apple or its critics to try to leverage
  4. Legal issues about the on-phone filtering and metadata (if any) would add friction to some legal matters.

One question: How similar is this proposed Apple service to the operation of intelware like that allegedly available from the Hacking Team, NSO Group, and other vendors? Another question: Is this monitoring a trial balloon or has the system and method been implemented in test locations; for example, China or an Eastern European country?

Stephen E Arnold, August 6, 2021

Autonomy: An Interesting Legal Document

August 4, 2021

Years ago I did some work for Autonomy. I have followed the dispute between Hewlett Packard and Autonomy. Enterprise search has long been an interest of mine, and Autonomy had emerged as one of the most visible and widely known vendors of search and retrieval systems.

Today (August 3, 2021) I read “Hard Drives at Autonomy Offices Were Destroyed the Same Month CEO Lynch Quit, Extradition Trial Was Told.” The write up contains information with which I was not familiar.

In the write up is a link to “In the City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court The Government of the United States of America V Michael Richard Lynch Findings of Fact and Reasons.” That 62 page document contains a useful summary of the HP – Autonomy deal.

Several observations:

  1. Generating sustainable revenue for an enterprise search system and ancillary technology is difficult. This is an important fact for anyone engaged in search and retrieval.
  2. The actions summarized in the document provide a road map of what Autonomy did to maintain its story of success in what has been for decades a quite treacherous market niche. Search is particularly difficult, and vendors have found marketing a heck of a lot easier than delivering a system that meets users’ expectations.
  3. The information in the document suggests that the American judicial system may find this case a “bridge” between how corporate entities respond to the Wall Street demands for revenue and growth.

Like Fast Search & Transfer, executives found themselves making decisions which make search and retrieval a swamp. Flash forward to the present: Google search is shot through with adaptations to online advertising.

Perhaps the problem is that people expect software to deliver immediate, relevant results. Well, it is clear that most of the search and retrieval systems seeking sustainable revenues have learned that search can deliver good enough results. Good enough is not good enough, however.

Stephen E Arnold, August 4, 2021

Another EU Suggestion for the Google

August 4, 2021

I love the Google. I enjoy the delicious usability of Google Maps. The service is brilliant. Waze has data not in the Google Map thing; for example, a restaurant in Louisville called Cocina. Helpful, right? I also like the fascinating interaction of Gmail with the mail client on my phone. Now where did that message go? Oh, right. Auto folders and mystery deletes. What could be more helpful?

But the European Commission is not as flexible as I. I read “EU Warns Google to Improve Hotel and Flight Search Results in Two Months.” Google is working really hard to improve its search system. The core is a couple of decades young and the travel function is as slick as the Gmail system in my opinion.

The write up asserts:

Google has two months to improve the way it presents internet search results for flights and hotels and explain how it ranks these or face possible sanctions, the European Commission and EU consumer authorities have said.

The EC appears to think that Google may or has the potential to mislead people who use the Google to “plan their holidays.” Hmmm. Hello, Covid restrictions.

Google just might be favoring “traders.” Is “traders” a code word for those who purchase ads, are loved by Google sales reps, or individuals with a more Googley approach than others?

I don’t know.

But with France fining the Google the equivalent of eight hours of revenue, the online ad giant is going to view the EC and just maybe the EC should emulate China and its approach to big tech dogs?

Stephen E Arnold, August 4, 2021

NSO Group: Talking and Not Talking Is Quite a Trick

July 30, 2021

I read “A Tech Firm Has Blocked Some Governments from Using Its Spyware over Misuse Claims.” First, let’s consider the headline. If the headline is factual, the message I get is that NSO Group operates one or more servers through which Pegasus traffic flows. Thus, the Pegasus system includes one or more servers which have log files, uptime monitoring, and administrative tools which permit operations like filtering, updating, and the like. Thus, a systems administrator with authorized access to one or a fleet of NSO Group servers supporting Pegasus can do what some system administrators do: Check out what’s shakin’ with the distributed system. Is the headline accurate? I sure don’t know, but the implication of the headline (assuming it is not a Google SEO ploy to snag traffic) is that NSO Group is in a position to know — perhaps in real time via a nifty AWS-type dashboard — who is doing what, when, where, for how long, and other helpful details about which a curious observer finds interesting, noteworthy, or suitable for assessing an upcharge. Money is important in zippy modern online systems in my experience.

My goodness. That headline was inspirational.

What about the write up itself from the real news outfit National Public Radio or NPR, once home to Bob Edwards, who was from Louisville, not far from the shack next to a mine run off pond outside my door. Ah, Louisville, mine drainage, and a person who finds this passage suggestive:

“There is an investigation into some clients. Some of those clients have been temporarily suspended,” said the source in the company, who spoke to NPR on condition of anonymity because company policy states that NSO “will no longer be responding to media inquiries on this matter and it will not play along with the vicious and slanderous campaign.”

So the company won’t talk to the media, but does talk to the media, specifically NPR. What do I think about that? Gee, I just don’t know. Perhaps I don’t understand the logic of NSO Group. But I don’t grasp what “unlimited” means when a US wireless provider assures customers that they have unlimited bandwidth. I am just stupid.

Next, I noted:

NSO says it has 60 customers in 40 countries, all of them intelligence agencies, law enforcement bodies and militaries. It says in recent years, before the media reports, it blocked its software from five governmental agencies, including two in the past year, after finding evidence of misuse. The Washington Post reported the clients suspended include Saudi Arabia, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and some public agencies in Mexico. The company says it only sells its spyware to countries for the purpose of fighting terrorism and crime, but the recent reports claim NSO dealt with countries known to engage in surveillance of their citizens and that dozens of smartphones were found to be infected with its spyware.

Okay, if the headline is on the beam, then NSO Group, maybe some unnamed Israeli government agencies like the unit issuing export licenses for NSO Group-type software, and possibly some “trusted” third parties are going to prowl through the data about the usage of Pegasus by entities. Some of these agencies may be quite secretive. Imagine the meetings going on in which those in these secret agencies. What will the top dogs in these secret outfits about the risks of having NSO Group’s data sifted, filtered, and processed by Fancy Dan analytics’ systems tell their bosses? Yeah, that will test the efficacy of advanced degrees, political acumen, and possible fear.

And what’s NSO Group’s position. The information does not come from an NSO Group professional who does not talk to the media but sort of does. Here’s the word from the NSO Group’s lawyer:

Shmuel Sunray, who serves as general counsel to NSO Group, said the intense scrutiny facing the company was unfair considering its own vetting efforts.

“What we are doing is, what I think today is, the best standard that can be done,” Sunray told NPR. “We’re on the one hand, I think, the world leaders in our human rights compliance, and the other hand we’re the poster child of human rights abuse.”

I like this. We have the notion of NSO Group doing what it can do to the “best standard.” How many times has this situation faced an outfit in the intelware game, based in Herliya, and under the scrutiny of an Israeli agency which says yes or no to an export license for a Pegasus type system. Is this a new situation? Might be. If true, what NSO Group does will define the trajectory of intelware going forward, won’t it?

Next, I like the “world leaders” and “Human rights compliance.” This line creates opportunities for some what I would call Comedy Central comments. I will refrain and just ask you to consider the phrase in the context of the core functions and instrumentality of intelware. (If you want to talk in detail, write benkent2020 at yahoo dot com and one of my team will get back to you with terms and fees. If not, I am retired, so I don’t care.)

Exciting stuff and the NSO Group ice cream melt is getting stickier by the day. And in Herzliya, the temperature is 29 C. “C” is the grade I would assign to this  allegedly accurate statement from the article that NSO Group does not talk to the media. Get that story straight is my advice.

And, gentle NPR news professional, why not ask the lawyer about log file retention and access to data in Pegasus by an NSO system administrator?

Stephen E Arnold, July 30, 2021

Does GitHub Data Grab for AI Training Violate Licenses?

July 22, 2021

Programmer Nora Tindall has taken to Twitter to call out Microsoft property GitHub on violating licenses for algorithm training purposes. She shares a screenshot of an exchange she had with GitHub Support that seems to confirm her charge:

[Tindall] I am specifically asking if any code from my GitHub account, most of which is licensed GPL, was used in the training set. It is a simple question.”

[GitHub] Sorry about the delay in getting back to you. I reached out to the team about this. Apparently all public GitHub code was used in training. We don’t distinguish by license type. I hope that answers your question!

It does indeed answer Tindall’s question, and she vows to pursue legal action. Predictably, the post prompted a flurry of comments, so navigate there to read that debate. It seems like the legality of this data usage is nebulous until courts weigh in. We note this exchange:

[Daniel Monte] Is there any precedent for training an AI on copyrighted content being a violation of said copyright?

[Nora Tindall] No, there’s no precedent in any of this. This is the deciding moment for the future of the copyleft ideal, and of free software in general. Maybe for copyright as a whole, actually, since this has applications outside software.

[Laurie] The law on all of this is basically non-existent. And there aren’t enough people who really understand the nuances who are also lawyers. It’s a whole mess which results in companies getting to decide for themselves. Not good.

[Critical Oil Theory Salesman] Hard agree. I’d imagine that we would see a completely different set of legal interpretations if the open source community trained a GPT3 model on Microsoft’s publicly available code.

Perhaps—that would be an interesting experiment. Is Microsoft really ignoring licenses? If not, Twitter is disseminating incorrect information. If yes, then Microsoft has designs on open source information in a way that outfoxes Amazon-type of open source maneuvers. But Microsoft is busy securing its own code and may want to envelope GitHub is the same cyber goodness.

Cynthia Murrell, July 22, 2021

Google and France: Whoa, Will Googlers Put That Trip to Provence on Hold?

July 13, 2021

Many news sources reported that the French government has put a price tag on Google’s content frivolities. The fine is in the neighborhood of $600 million. To put this in perspective, Google generates about $600 million a day in revenue, so no big deal.

CNBC’s “Google Hit with Record $593 Million Fine in France over News Copyright Battle” reports:

Google was ordered to present an offer of remuneration to publishers within two months, or risk facing fines of up to 900,000 euros per day.

From a practical point of view, Google will work out a plan. The plan will be discussed over numerous two-hour lunches, and then revised if warranted. If agreement is not reached, Google will seek redress in an appropriate manner. Google could write a check, threaten Apple-style to pull out of the country, or embrace the fascinating French legal system. Keep in mind that red tape is allegedly an invention of the Spanish has been a favorite method in France for centuries.

I found the Russian viewpoint interesting. “France slaps Google with Biggest Fine Ever of €500 Million for Failing to Comply with Copyright Rules” states:

The US company expressed upset at the French authority’s decision in a statement: “We have acted in good faith during the entire negotiation period. This fine does not reflect the efforts put in place, nor the reality of the use of news content on our platform.” The battle between Google and French publishers, including Agence France-Presse, has been going on since early 2020. Despite Google claiming that it has acted appropriately, French publishers insist that the company has used copyrighted articles and images without fairly paying the original authors under the EU “neighboring rights” rule. In February, Google was forced to pay out $76 million dollars to 121 French news outlets, with $22 million to be paid annually over three years.

The French fine might encourage other European Union entities to take a harder line with regard to what Google has been doing for the last 20 years. If that happens, the fines might consume a week or two of Google’s revenue. This begs the question, “What’s the point?” Either regulators take action that incentivizes different behavior at Google or just use the money, buy a good Beaujolais, rent a super yacht, and cruise to Antarctica to look at the big penguins.

Stephen E Arnold, July 13, 2021

Apple Threatens the UK?

July 12, 2021

Apple is a friendly company. It cares about security and privacy. It wants to hobble other technopolies with its user-centric approach ad tracking. Apple wants the Apple app store to be the bestest place in the world for developers to make their products available (even if some of those products don’t work as advertised) to the Apple customers. There are so many goodnesses associated with Apple, this headline has to be a misunderstanding: “Apple Attorneys Threaten UK Market Exit If Court Orders Unacceptable Patent Fees.”

It seems clear that the word “threat” is a strong one. The notion that “fees” might dissuade a trillion dollar company is puzzling. The write up reports:

Apple’s lawyers have warned the iPhone maker could exit the UK if a court orders it to pay “commercially unacceptable” fees to patent company Optis Cellular over alleged infringement of 3G and 4G patents. Apple is currently involved in a lawsuit with Optis in the United Kingdom, with Apple refusing to pay the firm license fees for patents Optis claims it used in the iPhone and other technologies. In June, a High Court judge ruled that Apple had infringed two of the patents, and therefore Apple should pay fees.

There are some strong words in this paragraph; for example, infringement, refusing, and High Court judge ruled.

Apple?

Yes, and the write up adds:

This is not the only lawsuit involving Optis that Apple is contending with. In August 2020, a Texas federal jury ruled Apple willfully infringed on 4G LTE patents owned by PanOptis and related companies, including Optis, and that it had to pay $506.2 million. In April 2021, a federal judge allowed a retrial to take place, due to there being “serious doubt” about the verdict.

Does this suggest that Apple is unaware of the function of a patent? Does Apple not understand the laws and customs associated with an inventor who holds a patent?

Possibly.

Several observations are warranted:

  • If Apple pulls out of the UK, this might be good news for Samsung, Google, and other vendors of non-Apple mobile phones.
  • The idea of a large company threatening a country and its laws is interesting. It may suggest that Apple is tired of mere nation states interfering with its plans to deliver Apple goodness to more people than ever before.
  • Since Brexit, the UK lacks pull with other Western European countries. As a result, Britain is to blame for this threat.

This is an interesting posture and one that may be little more than saber rattling. On the other hand, no more Facetime in merrie olde Englande may be a reality for an island nation which has faced invaders, pillagers, and cut purses many times. Where is King Arthur when he’s needed? Merlin uses an iPhone I believe.

Stephen E Arnold, July 12, 2021

Commercial Accidental Censorship: Legal Blogs

July 12, 2021

Printed law journals are going the way of the printed newspaper, and legal blogs are taking their place. Kevin O’Keefe, LexBlog founder and host of Real Lawyers Have Blogs, is concerned that the ephemeral nature of blog posts poses a real problem for the law field. In his succinct post, “Where Will All the Legal Blogs Go?” he notes when a lawyer leaves a firm their posts are usually either deleted or recredited to the firm itself. We learn:

“Courts are more apt to cite blogs than a law review or law journal. As the New York Times has written on a couple occasions, law reviews are becoming largely irrelevant. Citations will lead to broken links. Legal blogs play a significant role in legal research. Lawyers looking for information on a subject turn to Google and find helpful blog posts. Law is for the long term. Lawyers use law from years ago. Law is advanced by dialogue and writing on the law. You eliminate the long term and a useable dialogue and writing on the law, and you have a problem.”

Yes, citations to nowhere are of no use to anyone, and posts credited to a firm rather than an individual become cannot be referenced, cited, or footnoted. The remedy, O’Keefe insists, is that legal blogs be aggregated, archived, and made accessible. Will his fellow legal bloggers listen?

Are Reed Elsevier and Thomson Reuters failing its legal users?

Cynthia Murrell, July 12, 2021

Audacity: Audacious or Not?

July 5, 2021

I found this notice interesting: “Audacity Desktop App.” Audacity is an audio software. One can record a podcast and remove unwanted background noise. It has many other tricks, not the least of which was that it was free and open source. There is an interesting back-and-forth on Reddit about who has rights to Audacity the application, the licenses under which the software has been provided, and nuances about music which elude me.

But there was an interesting passage in the Audacity Web page at this location about the type of data collected by the app and the organization with some ownership and development claims to the Audacity product; to wit:

Data necessary for law enforcement, litigation and authorities’ requests (if any).

My hunch is that music or audio banditos relying on Audacity may react to this explanation of data collected by the software. And for those living in California assuming that its Consumer Privacy Act offers a shield. Audacity says:

The California Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”) provides California residents, referred to in the law as “consumers,” with rights to receive certain disclosures regarding the collection, use, and sharing of personal information, as well as rights to access and control personal information. Certain information that we collect may be exempt from the CCPA because it is considered public information (because it is made available by a government entity) or covered by another federal privacy law, such as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

What other open source software products, systems, and components will capture interesting information to be able to comply with rules and regulations in the jurisdictions in which the products are “used”?

Stephen E Arnold, July 5, 2021

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