mfioretti: google* + big data*

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  1. Similarly, GOOG in 2014 started reorganizing itself to focus on artificial intelligence only. In January 2014, GOOG bought DeepMind, and in September they shutdown Orkut (one of their few social products which had momentary success in some countries) forever. The Alphabet Inc restructuring was announced in August 2015 but it likely took many months of meetings and bureaucracy. The restructuring was important to focus the web-oriented departments at GOOG towards a simple mission. GOOG sees no future in the simple Search market, and announces to be migrating “From Search to Suggest” (in Eric Schmidt’s own words) and being an “AI first company” (in Sundar Pichai’s own words). GOOG is currently slightly behind FB in terms of how fast it is growing its dominance of the web, but due to their technical expertise, vast budget, influence and vision, in the long run its AI assets will play a massive role on the internet. They know what they are doing.

    These are no longer the same companies as 4 years ago. GOOG is not anymore an internet company, it’s the knowledge internet company. FB is not an internet company, it’s the social internet company. They used to attempt to compete, and this competition kept the internet market diverse. Today, however, they seem mostly satisfied with their orthogonal dominance of parts of the Web, and we are losing diversity of choices. Which leads us to another part of the internet: e-commerce and AMZN.

    AMZN does not focus on making profit.
    https://staltz.com/the-web-began-dying-in-2014-heres-how.html
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  2. A snap decision by Google has begun to reshape the drug treatment industry, tilting the playing field toward large conglomerates — the precise opposite outcome Google had hoped to achieve.

    The fateful decision was made September 14. Google faced pressure from an exposé in The Verge released a week earlier, documenting how shady lead generators game its AdWords system. High-cost ads based on rehab keywords referred users to phone hotlines that gave the impression of being independent information services, but were actually owned by treatment center conglomerates. Representatives, who reap large fees based on how many patients they sign up, employ high-pressure sales tactics to push people into their favored facilities, whether or not that facility is the right one for the patient.

    This deceptive marketing can lead to substandard treatment and massive overbilling. It also made lots of money for Google, which was shown in the story actively courting addiction treatment advertisers.

    And so Google made a quick call: It effectively stopped running ads from treatment facilities. At first blush, that may look like a happy alignment of the public good and a company’s need for good public relations, with Google taking a hit to make the world a better place in the midst of an epidemic.

    But the problem of economic concentration is so deep in the United States today that peeling back one layer merely reveals another. Without ads, addicts or their parents are left only with the organic search results.
    https://theintercept.com/2017/10/17/google-search-drug-use-opioid-epidemic
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2017-10-30)
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  3. We’re losing trust in numbers, especially statistics. Their sheer volume and variety can be overwhelming. In Politico’s recent roundup of Trump’s popularity figures, for example, the approval numbers among nine polls ranged from 36 percent to 54 percent. Add the hangover that many still suffer from the misleading presidential election predictions, and it's not surprising that people are starting to tune out data altogether, or simply interpret them in ways that support their beliefs.

    I don’t know whether this will lead to a full-blown crisis of democracy, but I think it’s already fair to place at least some of the blame on big data. Algorithms developed by companies such as Google parent Alphabet Inc. and Facebook Inc. enable partisan confirmation bias. They tailor our online environments not to the truth, but to the specific information we search for or click on. This can undermine our understanding of, and trust in, objective scientific and historical facts.

    Here’s an extreme example: Dylann Roof claimed in his manifesto that it was a Google search for “black on white crime” that led him to massacre nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina church in 2015. Think about that search term. What kinds of texts will perfectly match “black on white crime," as opposed to, say, “statistics on crime rates by race?” Naturally, Roof got links to racist web sites with their own alternative facts -- just as a search for “who really killed JFK” will, more often than not, lead to conspiracy sites.

    When I typed the phrase “Was the Hol” into Google, the search engine auto-completed to “Was the Holocaust real?” Of the top six search results, four were Holocaust-denying sites.
    https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articl...t-big-data-try-googling-the-holocaust
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  4. we know for a fact that companies like Google are giving corporate advertisers access to users based on the personal data they control -- and many of those advertisers are targeting individuals with the express intent to rip them off, sell them deadly products, and financially impoverish them.

    Some advertisers are just trying to help customers find a product they might like, but the dark version of online marketing is that it can facilitate what economists call "price discrimination," selling the same exact good at a variety of prices in ways unknown to the buyers. Researchers Rosa-Branc Esteves and Joana Resende highlight how with the low costs of online advertising, such online price discrimination systematically shifts wealth from consumers to corporate profits. One implication of their models is that "average prices with mass advertising i.e. without the discrimination allowed by targeting individual users online » are below those with targeted advertising," which follows the idea that firms will target certain consumers with promotions while enjoying higher prices paid by consumers kept ignorant of lower prices offered to others.

    Early Internet visionary Jaron Lanier, who pioneered ideas like "virtual reality" two decades ago, has noted that such access to behavioral targeting has even more appeal to the "tawdry" kinds of firms than the "dignified side of capitalism", since "ambulance chasers and snake oil salesmen" among the capitalist class thrive on such targeted access to their victims.

    Google isn't usually identified as a big player in the subprime mortgage debacle and its aftermath, but a significant portion of Google's profits in the mid-2000s were coming straight from subprime mortgage lenders advertising on its site. As Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy said back in 2007, "Many online companies depend for a disproportionate amount of their income on financial services advertising, with subprime in some cases accounting for a large part of it."

    Companies enticed customers with unrealistic "teaser rates" -- heavily advertised online -- that burdened borrowers with toxic terms and unmanageable obligations that exploded in later years. And as the racial and exploitive aspect of the mortgage meltdown was endemic with what some scholars described as reverse redlining, "the practice of targeting borrowers of color for loans on unfavorable terms." This offering of differential rates based on the characteristics of the borrower constitutes the most damaging price discrimination inflicting consumer harm in American history, for which Google played an integral (and profitable) role as an advertising intermediary where it was earning billions of dollars a year in that role.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-...ource=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
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  5. Have you guys heard of The Next Five Billion? Yeah? They’re really excited about this in Silicon Valley. The Next Five Billion are these poor souls in parts of the world where they can’t connect to the internet; they don’t have the resources, and there’s nobody locally who could fix this problem of course, so the white man has to bring the fire, right? With things like balloons with Google Loon, or Internet.org which is already working, where they’re giving free internet, but it’s not the full internet; it’s only Facebook and a few other services.

    So in the future, there might be a whole nation whose notion of the internet is something you sign into with your Google username or password, or your Facebook username and password, and that’s quite a bleak future to look forward to. And it’s also what I call digital imperialism. It is a new form of colonialism.

    So that’s data about you. But there’s more data in the world, right? And Google needs that data as well, so how do they get it? They’ve got satellites of course, they’ve got maps; beautiful Google Street View. Who’s seen the Google Street View Car here? Who’s done something funny while it was going by? Yeah. But there’s some places they can’t go with a car and they need the data. So there’s the Google Street View Trike for places you can’t go with a car but you need the data, right? And if you can’t go there with a trike, there’s the Google Street View Snowmobile. You can use that. And if you can’t go there with a snowmobile, maybe it’s indoors, there’s the Google Street View Trolley for that. And if you can’t go there with a trolley but you need the data, there is the Google Street View Backpack. And I saw this the other day; I shit you not!

    Now. Do you kinda get the feeling they need the data? Do you? Talk about Apple; they’ve got a different business model my friend; they sell products. They don’t sell your data, but we can talk about them. They’re not great; they’re closed, but they are a very different company. So that’s why I’m not talking about Apple, but thank you for bringing it up.

    So, what is the end-game? What are we trying to do? What does all of this combine into? Data about the world, data about all of us. What do we get if we combine all of that? Well we get what I would call the Camera Panopticon. And you might say Aral, OK, so they’re building this Camera Panopticon that knows everything about the world and everything about us. And that’s probably a useful tool for manipulating behaviour, for even, depending on how good your lens is, in predicting the future and creating it. But at least they don’t share it with governments, right? Well, wrong, of course. Since 9/11 things have changed. In the US, they’ve formed this, the Information Awareness Office, with the publicly stated goal of attaining total information awareness, knowing everything about everyone and everything. Now, if you’re going to do that, this was their real logo. Don’t make this your logo! Really! People get scared with a pyramid with an all-seeing eye shooting laser beams at the world. So, people got scared, and they were like, we were kidding, we’re just going to shut it down, right? That was a joke, ha-ha!

    And of course, they didn’t shut it down, as Edward Snowden’s revelations showed last year and we’ll be hearing from him tonight. The NSA really needs to hire a PowerPoint designer! But apart from that, all of these companies that we trusted with our most personal data, we realised were sharing it with the Government, all of this data that we thought was private. Why? Well easy; because data that you have volunteered to a third party is not under the same protections under the law. It’s so much easier for them to go to one place and to ask them for information you have volunteered. It’s like a drive-through MacDonald’s or something, you know, if you’re an agency, it’s just like all this data in one place and I just have to ask; it’s beautiful, right?

    privacy is not about whether or not you have something to hide; it’s about having the right to choose what you want to keep to yourself and what you want to share with others. It’s a fundamental human right that we have seen fit to enshrine in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Article 12 specifically. So, when these companies that need your data, that don’t respect your privacy, tell you, oh my gosh, we are fighting for your privacy, right, and if they build things like reform government surveillance and say, “We’re fighting for your privacy; the government is evil.” There’s a term for that. It is “bullshit”. Right?

    It is bullshit and it is misdirection. This is a cornerstone of magic.

    here’s the problem. If you want the problem at its core, this is the problem: in order to share something with your friend, you shouldn’t also have to share it with a stranger. You should be able to share it directly with them. This is not a complicated problem, and it doesn’t require a complicated solution. And if anyone tells you it’s a complicated problem, they probably have a vested interested in it appearing to be complicated. If we can do this, then we can start people off in their own homes, not in the home of a known abuser. We can start them off somewhere that is safe, not start them off somewhere that’s unsafe and say, “Protect yourself”. And if we can do this, then we can build products that actually protect our human rights, that protect our fundamental freedoms, that protect democracy.
    https://ind.ie/the-camera-panopticon
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  6. The intimate secret meetings between senior Enron executives and high-level US government officials via the Pentagon Highlands Forum, from November 2000 to June 2001, played a central role in establishing and cementing the increasingly symbiotic link between Enron and Pentagon planning. The Forum’s role was, as O’Neill has always said, to function as an ideas lab to explore the mutual interests of industry and government.
    Enron and Pentagon war planning

    In February 2001, when Enron executives including Kenneth Lay began participating concertedly in the Cheney Energy Task Force, a classified National Security Council document instructed NSC staffers to work with the task force in “melding” previously separate issues: “operational policies towards rogue states” and “actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields.”

    According to Bush’s treasury secretary Paul O’Neill, as quoted by Ron Suskind in The Price of Loyalty (2004), cabinet officials discussed an invasion of Iraq in their first NSC meeting, and had even prepared a map for a post-war occupation marking the carve-up of Iraq’s oil fields. The message at that time from President Bush was that officials must “find a way to do this.”


    in June 2001, the same month that Enron’s executive vice president Steve Kean attended the Pentagon Highlands Forum, the company’s hopes for the Dabhol project were dashed when the Trans-Afghan pipeline failed to materialize, and as a consequence, construction on the Dabhol power plant was shut down. The failure of the $3 billion project contributed to Enron’s bankruptcy in December. That month, Enron officials met with Bush’s commerce secretary, Donald Evans, about the plant, and Cheney lobbied India’s main opposition party about the Dhabol project. Ken Lay had also reportedly contacted the Bush administration around this time to inform officials about the firm’s financial troubles.

    By August, desperate to pull off the deal, US officials threatened Taliban representatives with war if they refused to accept American terms: namely, to cease fighting and join in a federal alliance with the opposition Northern Alliance; and to give up demands for local consumption of the gas. On the 15th of that month, Enron lobbyist Pat Shortridge told then White House economic advisor Robert McNally that Enron was heading for a financial meltdown that could cripple the country’s energy markets.

    So the Pentagon had:

    1. contracted Rendon, a propaganda firm;

    2. given Rendon access to the intelligence community’s most classified information including data from NSA surveillance;

    3. tasked Rendon to facilitating the DoD’s development of information operations strategy by running the Highlands Forum process;

    4. and further, tasked Rendon with overseeing the concrete execution of this strategy developed through the Highlands Forum process, in actual information operations around the world in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond.

    The Pentagon Highlands Forum’s intimate link, via Rendon, to the propaganda operations pursued under Bush and Obama in support of the ‘Long War,’ demonstrate the integral role of mass surveillance in both irregular warfare and ‘strategic communications.’

    Arquilla went on to advocate that western intelligence services should use the British case as a model for creating new “pseudo gang” terrorist groups, as a way of undermining “real” terror networks:

    “What worked in Kenya a half-century ago has a wonderful chance of undermining trust and recruitment among today’s terror networks. Forming new pseudo gangs should not be difficult.”

    Essentially, Arquilla’s argument was that as only networks can fight networks, the only way to defeat enemies conducting irregular warfare is to use techniques of irregular warfare against them.

    It is this sort of closed-door networking that has rendered the American vote pointless. Far from protecting the public interest or helping to combat terrorism, the comprehensive monitoring of electronic communications has been systematically abused to empower vested interests in the energy, defense, and IT industries.
    https://medium.com/@NafeezAhmed/why-google-made-the-nsa-2a80584c9c1
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  7. Thuraisingham writes that she and “Dr. Rick Steinheiser of the CIA, began discussions with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency on applying data-mining for counter-terrorism,” an idea that resulted directly from the MDDS program which partly funded Google. “These discussions eventually developed into the current EELD (Evidence Extraction and Link Detection) program at DARPA.”

    So the very same senior CIA official and CIA-NSA contractor involved in providing the seed-funding for Google were simultaneously contemplating the role of data-mining for counter-terrorism purposes, and were developing ideas for tools actually advanced by DARPA.

    From inception, in other words, Google was incubated, nurtured and financed by interests that were directly affiliated or closely aligned with the US military intelligence community: many of whom were embedded in the Pentagon Highlands Forum.

    In sum, many of Google’s most senior executives are affiliated with the Pentagon Highlands Forum, which throughout the period of Google’s growth over the last decade, has surfaced repeatedly as a connecting and convening force. The US intelligence community’s incubation of Google from inception occurred through a combination of direct sponsorship and informal networks of financial influence, themselves closely aligned with Pentagon interests.

    In December 2001, O’Neill confirmed that strategic discussions at the Highlands Forum were feeding directly into Andrew Marshall’s DoD-wide strategic review ordered by President Bush and Donald Rumsfeld to upgrade the military, including the Quadrennial Defense Review — and that some of the earliest Forum meetings “resulted in the writing of a group of DoD policies, strategies, and doctrine for the services on information warfare.” That process of “writing” the Pentagon’s information warfare policies “was done in conjunction with people who understood the environment differently — not only US citizens, but also foreign citizens, and people who were developing corporate IT.”

    The Pentagon’s post-9/11 information warfare doctrines were, then, written not just by national security officials from the US and abroad: but also by powerful corporate entities in the defense and technology sectors.

    In sum, the investment firm responsible for creating the billion dollar fortunes of the tech sensations of the 21st century, from Google to Facebook, is intimately linked to the US military intelligence community; with Venables, Lee and Friedman either directly connected to the Pentagon Highlands Forum, or to senior members of the Forum.
    https://medium.com/@NafeezAhmed/how-the-cia-made-google-e836451a959e
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  8. If we give up all our privacy on-line for contextual ads, then how come so many of them are so far off the mark? Personal data harvesting for contextual ads and content should be a beautiful thing. They do it privately and securely, and it's all automated so that no human being actually learns anything about you. And then the online world becomes customized, just for you.

    The real problem with this scenario is that is we're paying for contextual ads and content with our personal data, but we're not getting what we pay for. Facebook advertising is off target and almost completely irrelevant. The question is: Why? Facebook has a database of our explicitly stated interests, which many users fill out voluntarily. Facebook sees what we post about. It knows who we interact with.

    It counts our likes, monitors our comments and even follows us around the Web. Yet, while the degree of personal data collection is extreme, the advertising seems totally random.

    Advertising on Google Search and in Google Ads on Amazon and other websites mostly seems to promote things that I've looked at or already purchased. For example, if I buy a wallet, I see hundreds of ads for wallets for months afterward -- the one thing I definitely don't need.

    The problem isn't that we're giving up all our personal data. The problem is that we're giving it up for nothing.
    http://www.computerworld.com/article/...rity0/why-do-contextual-ads-fail.html
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  9. Fish gotta fly. Birds gotta swim. Google has to buy smaller companies and change their products’ privacy policies so they can now share data with Google. It’s just the natural order of things, and now it’s happening with Nest.

    Nest co-founder Matt Rogers posted to Nest’s official blog late Monday night to announce the company’s Nest Developer Program, a set of developer tools that will allow other products to securely integrate with Nest. Your Nest could trigger actions, like turning your lights on when you get home, and other products can also control the Nest. Your Jawbone UP24, for example, can alert your Nest thermostat to start heating your house when it detects that you’ve woken up
    http://www.techhive.com/article/23669...ly-sharing-your-data-with-google.html
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  10. As much as we may be loathe to admit it, the Facebook News Feed is where many of us love to waste our time. And unless your preferences are set show all the activities and updates of all your friends in chronological order, you're viewing a pre-determined selection of items that Facebook's algorithms have chosen just for you.

    Indeed, along with PageRank and Facebook's Newsfeed, these algorithms are creating a so-called filter bubble, a phenomenon in which users become separated from information that disagrees with their viewpoints — effectively isolating them in their own culture of ideological "bubbles." This could result in what Eli Pariser calls "information determinism" where our previous internet-browsing habits determine our future.

    Back in 2010, it was announced that, by using IBM's predictive analysis software (called CRUSH, or Criminal Reduction Utilizing Statistical History), Memphis's police department reduced serious crime by more than 30%, including a 15% reduction in violent crimes since 2006. Inspired, other cities have taken notice, including those in Poland, Israel, and the UK. Pilot projects are currently underway in Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, and Charleston.

    The 10 Algorithms That Dominate Our World3

    It works through a combination of data aggregation, statistical analysis, and of course, cutting-edge algorithms. It allows police to evaluate incident patterns throughout a city and forecast criminal "hot spots" to "proactively allocate resources and deploy personnel, resulting in improved force effectiveness and increased public safety."

    In the future, these systems will largely take over the work of analysts. Criminals will be tracked by sophisticated algorithms that monitor internet activity, GPS, personal digital assistants, biosignatures, and all communications in real time. Unmanned aerial vehicles will increasingly be used to track potential offenders to predict intent through their body movements and other visual clues.
    http://io9.com/the-10-algorithms-that...urce=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer
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