Apple, What Does Significant Mean?

November 28, 2022

It is not a secret that advertising fees generate a large amount of profit on the Internet and they are increasing like rabbits in spring. Nobody likes dealing with ads, but big tech companies do not care because they only want to increase their bottom line. While Apple has revamped how ads are viewed in its App Store, 9 To 5 Mac says, “Report: Apple Currently Doesn’t Plan To ‘Significantly’ Increase Number Of Ads On iPhone.”

While Apple is currently satisfied with its net revenue from ads, there have been plans since 2018 to place more advertising on features in its products. Spotlight search was supposed to include ads, but that never happened. It appears that some Apple employees empathize with consumers:

“The report covers the tension of Apple product experience and advertising, describing an “antipathy” that some employees have toward the ad group. The Information says even some members of the ad team raised concerns with leadership that Apple was going too far. This is perhaps one reason why the plan to launch ads in Spotlight did not go ahead.”

App developers lashed back at Apple with the new changes to the App Store’s ad spots, because there were too many scams and gambling ads that appeared. Apple has paused showing certain controversial ad categories.

Apple has also angered third-party ad networks, because of its App Tacking Transparency policy that allows users to opt-out of sharing their personal information. User data is the key component in making the digital advertising world go round and the policy is viewed as Apple’s way to eliminate competition.

Apple continues to leverage its products and their features to build ad revenue. There are plans to add them to the Maps, Books, and Podcast apps. Ads might not appear on the iOS main screen yet, but given “significant” time it could happen.

Whitey Grace, November 28, 2022

Pixel and Emergency Number Dialing: Is Google Leaving Money on the Table?

November 25, 2022

I read “Very Scary Issue Dialing 911 on Google Pixel 6 Cell Phones.” The write up may not be representative because it relates data from an undefined sample. The assertion in the write up is:

Some cell phone users say they had an issue dialing 911 from their Google Pixel 6 models.

HackerNews presented a discussion thread. I found some interesting comments in the document which is located at this link. Here are several I found suggestive:

  • Crooked-v offered this observation and opinion: An update is not arriving for the Pixel 6 yet. Google’s newest flagship is going though a bit of an update crisis at the moment. The December 2021 update was pulled due to unrelated “mobile connectivity issues” (phone calls don’t work). While Google scrambles to fix everything, the next Pixel 6 update with this 911 fix is due in “late January.” Until then, it’s normal to be on the November patch. Both of Google’s “early January” and “late January” patch timelines seem incredibly slow for a bug that could cause users to literally die.
  • DoingIsLearning posted: Not sure why they don’t say it by name but the bug was originally found with MS Teams. “The issue is the result of an “unintended interaction” between Teams and Android, specifically when the users have the app installed but are not logged in to any account.”
  • Simfree asserts: I don’t think this is newsworthy at this point. My Pixel 6 and Pixel 7 both are unreliable when trying to call 911, calling with an over the top app or dialing the PSAP’s number directly are the only workarounds. Google doesn’t give a f*%k about this issue. I have filed repeated support cases over the past year with Google about this when using T-Mobile or Verizon.
  • yreg added: “It’s the users who are wrong” ideology applies when you tell the customers they are holding the iPhone 4 wrong. Or when you ask them whether they don’t have phones when you reveal the next Diablo as mobile-only. No company would argue that users are wrong and that they are not supposed to dial emergency services.

I recall a comment possibly by Google wizard Eric Schmidt along the lines that when a person has nothing to hide, there is no need to worry about surveillance” or something similar.

This can be applied to non functional emergency call features; for example, Avoid risk and you won’t have to call an emergency number.”

My view is that ad-centric companies should facilitate, intercept, and ad match emergency calls. The revenue from ad sales to emergency medical services, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, among others is money left on the table.

Google may be slipping.

Stephen E Arnold, November 25, 2022

Is There a Horse Named Intel PR?

November 25, 2022

I noted the information in “Intel Introduces Real-Time Deepfake Detector.” I like the real time angle. The subtitle caught my attention:

Intel’s deepfake detector analyzes ‘blood flow’ in video pixels to return results in milliseconds with 96% accuracy.

Milliseconds.

I am not saying that Intel’s FakeCatcher does not work on a small, curated video, maybe several.

But like smart cyber security technology, a system works because it recognizes what it knows about. What happens when a bad actor (maybe a disaffected computer science student at a forward leaning university cooks up a novel exploit? In my experience, the smart cyber security system looks dumb.

And what about the interesting four percent error rate? A four percent error rate. So if Intel is monitoring in real time the 500 hours of video uploaded to the Googley YouTube, the system incorrectly identifies only 20 hours of video per minute. What if those misidentified videos were discussing somewhat tricky subjects like missiles striking Poland or a statement about a world leader? Not even the whiz kids who fall in love with chatbots bandy about 96 percent accuracy. Well, maybe a whiz kid who thinks a chatbot is alive may go for the 100 percent thing. Researchers often have a different approach to data; namely, outputting results that are not reproducible or just copied and pasted from other documents. Efficiency is good. So is PR.

Let’s take a step back.

What about the cost of a system to handle, analyze, and identify a fake? I think most US television programming is in the business of institutionalized fakery. I can hear the rejoinder, “We are talking about a certain type of video?” That’s okay for the researchers, not okay for me.

The Intel PR item (which may itself be horse feathers or its close cousin content marketing) says:

Intel’s real-time platform uses FakeCatcher, a detector designed by Demir in collaboration with Umur Ciftci from the State University of New York at Binghamton. Using Intel hardware and software, it runs on a server and interfaces through a web-based platform. On the software side, an orchestra of specialist tools form the optimized FakeCatcher architecture.

Ah, ha. Academic computer razzle dazzle. I am not sure if the Intel news release is in the same league as the computer scientist in Louisville, Kentucky, who has published the ways to determine if I am living in a simulation. (See this IFL Science write up.) It is possible that the Intel claim is in some ways similar: Academics and big companies in search of buzz.

Intel’s announcement is really important. How do I know? I learned:

Deepfake videos are a growing threat.

This is news? I think it is a horse named “PR.”

Stephen E Arnold, November 25, 2022

Is Cyber Security Lagging a Grade Behind Other Technology?

November 25, 2022

The average computer user is unaware of how invasive and harmful cyber attacks are. Forbes details how little individuals and companies know about cyber crime in, “Why We Need A Cyber Intelligence Revolution.” Peiter Zatko is an infamous hacker and the former head of Twitter’s security. He revealed in a whistleblower complaint that Twitter’s protections are at risk because of poor security measures.

The whistleblower complaint was not a surprise to the cybersecurity world, but it was to everyone else. Companies and individuals need to be aware of the capabilities and limitations of cyber security. Companies should also set up reasonable expectations for their cybersecurity teams. Businesses are more at risk from security breaches, ransomware, and other threats. Legacy systems are especially vulnerable, because they were not designed to handle modern cyber attacks.

Cybersecurity teams need to be proactive. They can be proactive by gathering real-time intelligence from multiple sources to identify and prevent bad actors from attacking. Cybersecurity workers are in a pickle though:

“Our company recently conducted a survey of more than 300 IT professionals to determine the state of enterprise cybersecurity today and gather insights to lead us into a more secure future. Seventy-two percent of respondents have added new technologies in the past 12 months and nearly half (46%) have more than six tools and services in their security stack today. At the same time, 27% don’t even know how many tools they have in their security stack, and almost a quarter of professionals (24%) said their security posture is average or below average, indicating their awareness of their security stack vulnerabilities.”

A Gartner survey also found that 75% of organizations are investing in security vendor consolidation, because they want to reduce the strain on their cybersecurity teams. It is even worse that the old methods, such as firewalls, do not work anymore.

Organizations and individuals can take a few steps to ensure they remain safe. They can assess their current security plan and run a threat scan, use proactive and reactive solutions, and integrate threat intelligence from multiple sources.

Whitney Grace, November 25, 2022

Cyber Security? That Is a Good Question

November 25, 2022

This is not ideal. We learn from Yahoo Finance, “Russian Software Disguised as American Finds Its Way into U.S. Army, CDC Apps.” Reuters journalists James Pearson and Marisa Taylor report:

“Thousands of smartphone applications in Apple and Google’s online stores contain computer code developed by a technology company, Pushwoosh, that presents itself as based in the United States, but is actually Russian, Reuters has found. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States’ main agency for fighting major health threats, said it had been deceived into believing Pushwoosh was based in the U.S. capital. After learning about its Russian roots from Reuters, it removed Pushwoosh software from seven public-facing apps, citing security concerns. The U.S. Army said it had removed an app containing Pushwoosh code in March because of the same concerns. That app was used by soldiers at one of the country’s main combat training bases. According to company documents publicly filed in Russia and reviewed by Reuters, Pushwoosh is headquartered in the Siberian town of Novosibirsk, where it is registered as a software company that also carries out data processing. … Pushwoosh is registered with the Russian government to pay taxes in Russia. On social media and in U.S. regulatory filings, however, it presents itself as a U.S. company, based at various times in California, Maryland and Washington, D.C., Reuters found.”

Pushwoosh’s software was included in the CDC’s main app and that share information on health concerns, including STDs. The Army had used the software in an information portal at, perhaps among other places, its National Training Center in California. Any data breach there could potentially reveal upcoming troop movements. Great. To be clear, there is no evidence data has been compromised. However, we do know Russia has a pesky habit of seizing any data it fancies from companies based within its borders.

Other entities apparently duped by Pushwoosh include the NRA, Britain’s Labor Party, large companies like Unilever, and makers of many items on Apple’s and Google’s app stores. The article includes details on how the company made it look like it was based in the US and states the FTC has the authority to prosecute those who engage in such deceptive practices. Whether it plans to bring charges is yet to be seen.

Cynthia Murrell, November 25, 2022

The Zuck Play: Why Not Fire Thousands with Twitter As Cover?

November 24, 2022

Here’s the answer:

Mark Zuckerberg’s pet project, Reality Labs, may be his company’s downfall. TechSpot reports, “Meta Value Down $520 Billion Over Last Year, Threatening Its Position as a Top 20 Company.” Some of the company’s losses can be chalked up to broader economic factors, of course, especially tightened ad budgets across the board. However, reporter Rob Thubron writes:

“In addition to the falling revenue, Meta has been worrying investors with the amount of money being poured into its VR/MR ambitions, aka the metaverse. Reality Labs, the division responsible for this unit, was down another $3.7 billion in Q3. That follows the $3 billion it lost in Q2 and the $2.96 billion from the first quarter of 2022. The division hemorrhaged $10.2 billion throughout 2021, and Meta expects the unit’s operating losses to grow significantly year-over-year in 2023. Meta predicts total expenses for this year to reach between $85 billion and $87 billion.”

But Zuckerberg is nothing if not tenacious. The write-up continues:

“Despite losing billions and an analyst’s prediction that many business projects in this area will close by 2025, Zuckerberg is doubling down on the metaverse. ‘Look, I get that a lot of people might disagree with this investment, but from what I can tell, I think this is going to be a very important thing,’ he said. ‘People will look back a decade from now and talk about the importance of the work being done here.’ Meta’s decline is reflected in Zuckerberg’s falling place on Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index. The CEO has seen his fortune fall by $76.8 billion over the last 12 months, dropping to $48.9 billion and placing Zuck in the 23rd position on the list.”

We get that loss is over 60% of the Zuck’s personal fortune, but those are billions with a “b.” As Zuck allegedly says, “The metaverse has legs.” Maybe in an alternate universe?

Cynthia Murrell, November 24, 2022

Are Governments Behaving Like Sheep?

November 24, 2022

North Korea, China, and possibly Russia are incarnates of Orwell’s Big Brother from the dystopian 1984 novel. The US government is compared to Big Brother (and rightly so) when it attempts to block free speech. The thing about outlawing free speech is that it takes too much energy to regulate. The US government wants to limit free speech, but only when it feels like it. We also do not want that, because the government lies. Gizmodo explains why we do not want the government to be Big Brother in: “You Really Don’t Want The Government To Be Your Content Moderator.”

The Department of Homeland Security is collaborating with tech firms and large businesses to repackage Bush’s “War on Terror” into a new product. They are building tools to monitor social media and combat disinformation. Why did this happen?

“In April, the Biden administration announced the launch of a Disinformation Governance Board, a new unit within DHS meant to “standardize the [government’s] treatment of disinformation” across various agencies. But the project was fumbled from the start: the unit initially failed to release a charter, leaving Americans to wonder just what exactly this shadowy new group with a creepy name was going to be doing. It didn’t take long for critics—on both the political left and right—to start referring to it as a “Ministry of Truth,” (the notorious propaganda bureau from George Orwell’s 1984). Though officials tried to salvage the effort. DHS shuttered the board in May after it had been operational for less than a month.”

Biden’s administration continued the Orwellian acts with a new organization: Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security (CISA). Big businesses such as JPMorgan Chase and Twitter are working with the FBI and CISA to approach state-sponsored disinformation campaigns. The US government also wants to address COVID-19 vaccine efficacy, US support of Ukraine, Afghanistan withdrawal, and racial justice.

Is the US government is not an impartial entity despite what politicians claim?

Whitney Grace, November 24, 2022

Will Decision Intelligence Lead to Better Decision Making?

November 24, 2022

After years of hype, it turns out big data is not paying off as promised. Not yet. Marc Warner, CEO of AI firm Faculty, asserts, “Data-Driven Decision Making Will Fail—and Here Is Why” at Computer Weekly. Simply pouring through an abundance of data does not result in accurate conclusions. Warner turns philosophical as he elaborates:

“About 400 years ago, philosophers realized that collecting data to create understanding was a good thing. However, they also thought data alone was sufficient to establish how the world was and predict what would happen next – a process called induction. They thought a wider understanding of what was going on didn’t matter. Notice this is the same claim made for data-driven decision making – but we know a wider understanding does matter. Will stars appear in the sky because they did yesterday? Well, yes – for a while. But at some point, they will burn out. What was an obvious extrapolation is, suddenly, no longer true. This view changed with the philosopher Karl Popper, who said we don’t extrapolate inductively from data, because that’s impossible. In fact, we guess what’s going on, then find data to falsify that theory. This is a crucial change. Suddenly, the focus is the theory – not the data. This means the theory can be very different from an extrapolation from data.”

Not surprisingly, the AI entrepreneur believes the way to develop such theories lies in machine learning, specifically decision intelligence. Warner describes how his company used this approach to help the UK’s National Health Service wrangle an overwhelming amount of data to manage resources during the pandemic. The resulting decisions, he states, are credited with saving thousands of lives. It makes sense, of course, that accurate understanding leads to better decisions. Perhaps decision intelligence can get us there. But can this budding approach do anything to combat the stubborn problem of bias in machine learning? Nothing stops better, faster, and cheaper. More time to watch TikTok.

Cynthia Murrell, November 24, 2022

The iPhone Is Magic

November 23, 2022

I believe everything I read about the Apple iPhone. My knowledge junk bun includes such items as:

  1. Apple has a secret $275 billion deal with China. China is, of course, one of some governmental officials’ favorite countries. See this write up for details.
  2. Apple cares about user privacy. Well, maybe there are/were some issues. See this Forbes’ article for details.
  3. Apple has a monopoly-like position. But monopolies are good for everyone! See the Market Realist article for more insights.

I had these thoughts in mind right after I read this magical — possibly cream puff confection of a story — article called “Woman Who Lost iPhone at Sea Finds It Washed up 460 Days Later in Mint Condition.” The article states:

Clare Atfield, 39, dropped her iPhone in the ocean and never expected to see it again, until an incredible 460 days later. On top of it, the device was in perfect working condition

The article added:

But a year later on November 7, she was contacted by a local dog walker who claimed to have found it on the beach, not far from where she originally lost it… “The gentleman who found it and I were both just in shock that it still worked,” she admitted. The paddle boarder was stunned there wasn’t much damage to the phone considering it was lost at sea for a long time.

What’s this tell me?

  1. By golly iPhones in free protective cases are okay after being submerged in salt water for more than one year
  2. The protective case kept the water from obliterating the information on non digital documents
  3. Content marketing is alive and well when the magical iPhone is involved.

Yes, I believe everything about Apple: No secret deals, no violations of user privacy for ads or any other thing, and no monopoly position. I also believe the iPhone survivability story in the estimable “Daily Star.”

Don’t believe me? Just check with a tooth fairy. I loved the “mint condition” point too.

Stephen E Arnold, November 23, 2022

Snorkel: Now Humans Are a Benefit?

November 23, 2022

Snorkel emerged from Stanford University’s AI lab. Some at the Google are ga-ga over Snorkel’s approach to reducing the cost of creating training sets for machine learning. If you are not paying attention to the expense of training models the old-fashioned way, when humans do the work, months or years of effort are required. Then — surprise — after operating in the real world for six months (plus or minus depending on the use case), the model has to be retrained.

Snorkel wants to get subject matter experts to build a training set one time. Then the numerical recipes will harvest additional information and automatically update the training set. Imagine better, faster, cheaper. Well, that’s the theory. Thus the entire AI industry push for finding short cuts to deal with the need for building training sets for initial model training and the work needed to make sure the model does not drift off into craziness. (I won’t mention the name of any search vendors, but a number of these outfits have performed oblation for their VC gods. Why? The results of the user’s query returned garbage. Confusing the information in a PowerPoint pitch with returning relevant and precise results for a user’s query is a bit like resolving the conflicts between Newtonian and quantum physics.)

I read “AI Startup Snorkel Preps a New Kind of Expert for Enterprise AI.” My immediate reaction was a question, “Why didn’t Google buy the company?” Hmmm. Now Snorkel is going to push to be a commercial success, perhaps like DeepDyve, an outfit which used or uses Snorkel technology.

The write up says:

Snorkel’s Data-centric Foundation Model Development, as the offering is called, is an enhancement to the startup’s flagship Snorkel Flow program. The new features let companies write functions that automatically create labeled training data by using what are called foundation models, the largest neural nets that exist, such as OpenAI’s GPT-3. The new functions in Snorkel Flow let a person who is a domain expert but not a programmer create a workflow that will then automatically generate labeled data sets that can be used to train the foundation programs for specific tasks.

The base technology emerged from projects guided in part by Christopher Ré. The work goes back more than a decade. Snorkel itself has been a start up for several years.

Smart software is getting a lot of tire kicking action by large companies. My hunch is that Snorkel wants to sell its methods to the firms just now having a bean counter come to a meeting and saying, “Have you taken a look at how much money our AI teams need to retrain our models?”

Then a whiz kid — possibly a graduate of Stanford — says, “Get Snorkel!”

Well, that’s my hunch. Will the models avoid the horrible fate of self immolating smart software which just gets stuff wrong? Probably not. But the PowerPoints and Zoom presentations will explain that Snorkel does not go “under water.” Snorkel lets an apoplectic accountant breathe somewhat more easily until the next quarterly analysis of smart software expenses.

Stephen  E Arnold, November 23, 2022

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