Hey Alexa, Regift Yourself: Google Overtakes Amazon in Biometric Data Acquisition Tools

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According to the Canalys research outfit, Google has taken the lead over Amazon for the first time in the acquisition of biometric identifying data–aka “smart speakers”.  It should come as no surprise that Google is vastly more interested in acquiring “phonemes” by which to identify users and track them through a variety of means.

The “smart speaker” is the latest step in government contractor Google’s long running campaign to track users and build speech-to-text and speech recognition tools.

The program goes back to at least 2007 when Marissa Meyer said of “GOOG-411”:

The speech recognition experts that we have say: If you want us to build a really robust speech model, we need a lot of phonemes, which is a syllable as spoken by a particular voice with a particular intonation. So we need a lot of people talking, saying things so that we can ultimately train off of that.

So who do you think the customers are for speech-to-text and speech recognition tools to whom government contractors like Google and Amazon might be selling your biometric data?  The biometrics harvesting tools allows Big Tech to connect your voice print and maybe your fingerprints to all the other data that they have already harvested about you from other means.  And of course when you add in facial recognition or iris recognition it’s game, set and match.

Think about that when you enable your fingerprint, iris or facial recognition authentication or talk to Alexa or your Google Home Mini.   Or you could just ask the Shoe Gazer at the Internet Association.

“Hey Alexa, re-gift yourself.”

 

YouTube/Amazon Fight: Tone Deaf Google acts like it’s their videos

Your margin is my opportunity.  Now bend over.

Inspired by Jeff Bezos

If a record company pulled your music from a retailer because of a commercial dispute that had nothing to do with you or the label itself, how would that make you feel?  If you ran to your contract to see if you could stop them, do you think anyone would have ever thought to negotiate protection against anything so philistine? This little life parable shows you why you should never underestimate the highly innovative monopolists forcing their way into our lives.

According to Bloomberg:

Alphabet Inc.’s Google pulled support for its YouTube video service from Amazon.com Inc.’s streaming-media devices, citing the internet retailer’s failure to make Amazon Prime Video available through Google’s gadgets and the recent halt of the sale of some Nest products on its website.

What’s interesting about YouTube’s behavior is that you would think that YouTube actually owned the videos on YouTube.  Which in probably 99% of the cases, they do not.  (It’s unclear if the Amazon boycott includes Vevo, the premium content provider co-owned by Google, but I would assume it does.)  I’m no fan of Amazon, God knows, so I’m not suggesting that YouTube’s move here is hard on Little Jeffie, the destroyer of worlds.

I’m suggesting that it is hard on artists and is not something that any other distributor would think they could get away with.  And the fact that YouTube exists to screw artists and songwriters doesn’t excuse YouTube’s tone deaf wielding of other people’s property to gain a commercial advantage against Amazon accruing almost entirely to Google.  So what did Google do, exactly?  Bloomberg tells us:

Google blocked YouTube access via the Echo Show, Amazon’s smart speaker with a touchscreen, on Tuesday and will stop supporting YouTube on Amazon’s Fire TV set-top box on Jan. 1. In a statement, a Google representative said it’s taking the action because the YouTube apps on Amazon products aren’t made by Google, like the YouTube app on the iPhone is, and the retail giant doesn’t sell some Google products, such as Chromecast and Google Home.

“We’ve been trying to reach agreement with Amazon to give consumers access to each other’s products and services,” Google said in a statement. In its own statement, Seattle-based Amazon said its gadgets now send users to the YouTube website, and the company hopes to resolve the dispute as soon as possible.

In other words, Amazon stopped carrying totally unrelated Google products and Google responded by blocking your videos from Amazon devices.  Did anyone ask you if that was OK?  According to the Verge:

Three months ago, YouTube pulled its programming from Amazon’s Echo Show device — the first skirmish in what is apparently an ongoing war. Shortly after, Amazon stopped selling the Nest E Thermostat, Nest’s Camera IQ, and the Nest Secure alarm system. Two weeks ago, Amazon got YouTube back on the Echo Show by simply directing users to the web version, a workaround that left a lot to be desired. But even that version won’t be available after today.

In other words, this boycott of the billionaires has nothing to do with any YouTube artist or Vevo artist, but all are being harmed by it for reasons they have no control over.  You might, however, be able to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against Google and possibly both Google and Amazon by clicking here.

@noamcohen: Silicon Valley is Not Your Friend

Late last month, Mark Zuckerberg wrote a brief post on Facebook at the conclusion of Yom Kippur, asking his friends for forgiveness not just for his personal failures but also for his professional ones, especially “the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together.” He was heeding the call of the Jewish Day of Atonement to take stock of the year just passed as he pledged that he would “work to do better.”

Such a somber, self-critical statement hasn’t been typical for the usually sunny Mr. Zuckerberg, who once exhorted his employees at Facebook to “move fast and break things.” In the past, why would Mr. Zuckerberg, or any of his peers, have felt the need to atone for what they did at the office? For making incredibly cool sites that seamlessly connect billions of people to their friends as well as to a global storehouse of knowledge?

Lately, however, the sins of Silicon Valley-led disruption have become impossible to ignore.

Facebook has endured a drip, drip of revelations concerning Russian operatives who used its platform to influence the 2016 presidential election by stirring up racist anger. Google had a similar role in carrying targeted, inflammatory messages during the election, and this summer, it appeared to play the heavy when an important liberal think tank, New America, cut ties with a prominent scholar who is critical of the power of digital monopolies. Some within the organization questioned whether he was dismissed to appease Google and its executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, both longstanding donors, though New America’s executive president and a Google representative denied a connection.

Meanwhile, Amazon, with its purchase of the Whole Foods supermarket chain and the construction of brick-and-mortar stores, pursues the breathtakingly lucrative strategy of parlaying a monopoly position online into an offline one, too.

Now that Google, Facebook, Amazon have become world dominators, the question of the hour is, can the public be convinced to see Silicon Valley as the wrecking ball that it is?

These menacing turns of events have been quite bewildering to the public, running counter to everything Silicon Valley had preached about itself.

Read the post on the New York Times

@kate_h_taylor: Amazon is under fire for reported Hurricane Irma price gouging, with ‘life-sustaining necessities’ selling for wildly inflated prices

[Editor Charlie sez:  This is what happens when Silicon Valley gets its paws on the food supply.  But Amazon will get away with it, not least because the lawyer who kept Larry Page and Eric Schmidt out of the slammer for violating the Controlled Substances Act is on Amazon’s board of directors: Jamie Gorelick.]

amazon water gouging

Amazon is under fire for reportedly inflating prices as Floridians prepare for Hurricane Irma.

With local grocery stores selling out of basics such as water and other emergency supplies, many shoppers have turned to Amazon to prepare for the Category 5 storm.

However, some people have been disturbed to find wildly inflated prices for essentials such as water on the e-commerce site.

For example, a 24-pack of Aquafina — typically sold for less than $6 — was priced at $20. And, Deadspin editor Diana Moskovitz reported that a 24-pack of Nestle bottled water with expedited shipping was priced at $179.25.

Price gouging on essential items during emergencies is illegal in Florida, the Miami Herald reported. While Amazon is not based in Florida, the Florida Attorney General’s office told the Miami Herald that “If a business is selling an essential commodity to persons who are using it in Florida as a result of the emergency, the business may be subject to Florida’s price gouging law.”

Read the post on Business Insider

More on Facebook’s Charm Offensive: @LeonLazaroff: Facebook’s Video Ambitions Spur Talks With Music Industry

[Editor Charlie sez:  More on royalty deadbeat Facebook’s charm offensive, this time from Jim Cramer’s The Street featuring quotes from David Lowery.  And notice–no mention of takers for the hillbilly deal offer.]

For years, Facebook chose not to pay licensing fees to music labels or songwriters despite the site’s billions of hours of uploaded music. The world’s most popular social media platform argued that because the site didn’t make it possible for users to search for a particular song, in the manner of Alphabet Inc.’s (GOOGL) YouTube, it wasn’t using music to drive sales….

Yet as Facebook’s priorities have evolved, so has its view on music. As CEO Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly said of late, Facebook is focused on becoming a hub for premium video content, both from advertisers and users as well as original content for its Watch and other platforms.

As a result, Facebook has begun to negotiate licensing deals with the industry’s three major music labels as well as Merlin BV, which represents hundreds of independent distributors, according to a person familiar with the talks. A deal is likely to take place within months rather than years, the source said. News that Facebook had offered the labels hundreds of millions of dollars so that its users might legally upload music to the site was initially reported by Bloomberg on Tuesday, Sept. 5.

“It’s a major win for songwriters in that Facebook is actually admitting they need licenses,” said David Lowery, a lecturer in the music business program at the University of Georgia and frontman for the bands Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven. “If you expect to get major brands to spend big money on video advertising that’s professionally produced, you absolutely need licenses. That’s what’s driving this.”

Read the post on The Street

@FranklinFoer: How Silicon Valley is erasing your individuality

[Editor Charlie sez:  Remember that most of these companies are in the MIC Coalition cartel that is colluding to destroy songwriters, and royalty deadbeat Facebook refuses to license at all.]

Until recently, it was easy to define our most widely known corporations. Any third-grader could describe their essence. Exxon sells gas; McDonald’s makes hamburgers; Walmart is a place to buy stuff. This is no longer so. Today’s ascendant monopolies aspire to encompass all of existence. Google derives from googol, a number (1 followed by 100 zeros) that mathematicians use as shorthand for unimaginably large quantities. Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google with the mission of organizing all knowledge, but that proved too narrow. They now aim to build driverless cars, manufacture phones and conquer death. Amazon, which once called itself “the everything store,” now produces television shows, owns Whole Foods and powers the cloud. The architect of this firm, Jeff Bezos, even owns this newspaper.

Along with Facebook, Microsoft and Apple, these companies are in a race to become our “personal assistant.” They want to wake us in the morning, have their artificial intelligence software guide us through our days and never quite leave our sides. They aspire to become the repository for precious and private items, our calendars and contacts, our photos and documents. They intend for us to turn unthinkingly to them for information and entertainment while they catalogue our intentions and aversions. Google Glass and the Apple Watch prefigure the day when these companies implant their artificial intelligence in our bodies. Brin has mused, “Perhaps in the future, we can attach a little version of Google that you just plug into your brain.”

More than any previous coterie of corporations, the tech monopolies aspire to mold humanity into their desired image of it.

Read the post on The Washington Post

@davidclowery: Does Sensenbrenner Bill Mean It’s Time for a Grand Jury?

What appears to be a backdated NOI sent to the author. If this was intentionally backdated this is fraud. Note MRI is simply a third party that sent the notice on behalf of the service.  All legal responsibility rests with the service. 

Digital music services are trying to end songwriters ability to ever sue broadcasters and digital music services for copyright infringement with this bill.   In order to sue for copyright infringement you have to mount a case in a federal court.  Not your local district court.  This is extremely expensive.   I would estimate you need about $250,000 to effectively fight a case.   This bill takes away statutory penalties and legal fees, even when the songwriter prevails.  This makes it impossible for independent songwriters to exercise their legal rights. NAB Broadcasters and digital services like YouTube and Spotify can safely ignore songwriters, especially independent songwriters with no resources. Songwriters and publishers would have never been able to achieve the recent settlements against Spotify, without statutory penalties and legal fees.

So this may surprise you but I say “fine!” Take away our ability to mount copyright infringement lawsuits?  We still have plenty of other (sometimes much more severe) remedies available.  Most songwriters don’t really care about the money.  The royalties are pretty paltry to begin with.  This is really about the principle. This is about justice.

I’m no lawyer but the more I learn about the predicament of songwriters in the US, it feels like something more than just copyright infringement seems to be going on.  My layman’s reading of the situation makes me wonder if this isn’t exactly what the authors of the RICO laws had in mind.  [RICO stands for “Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act”.  Copyright infringement has long been one of the RICO “predicates”.]

Read the post on Hypebot