TWIG 537: When GANs Go Wrong

Beep boop - this is a robot. A new show has been posted to TWiT…

What are your thoughts about today’s show? We’d love to hear from you!

1 Like

Future of Google:
Google has insights in the interests of the next generation of customers like no other company. Partly because of the use of Chrome(books) in Schools and Universities but also because of YouTube & Google Search and positional data. IMHO people will vote that Google should keep their positional and other data once they notice that without this data Maps will show you only Steak Houses when you are a vegan, or offer you a BP gas station when you drive your mum’s electric-car. I bet they will even charge you for a better version of the Assistant in the future. And then the discussion about data tracking etc. bla bla is over (like any other media/politic hot air bubble). Sign in and get all the benefits or let it be. The big leak in Googles policy is the lack of reliability. You can’t constantly kill services people use and like and hope that they don’t go elsewhere.

2 Likes

There is no car company that does everything “full stack”. All automotive companies work with suppliers for both hardware and software solutions including camera and radar technologies today. Waymo could be a tier 1 supplier to one or more of the automotive OEMs.

4 Likes

We just had a discussion about how big of a monopoly google has in some markets. I never hear such arguments about Boing or Airbus, etc… Is google just not clever enough to hire the right lobbist?

But Boeing and Airbus don’t use their dominace in aircraft to pressure you to buy their cars or their candy…

There is no problem with a company having a monopoly in one or two areas. That has to happen, for expample when a new market develops. It is how the companies react, once they are a real monopoly. Do they try and stiffle competition, forcing others out of the market? Or making their customers pay through the nose, because they can’t go anywhere else? Or do they use their dominance in one market to take over a new market?

That is what Google have been accused of. They aren’t being accused of being a big and successful advertising company, they are being accused of using their position in advertising to drive dominance in new markets, by offering unfair deals. They are accused of using their dominance in search and advertising to push shops and comparison sites down the rankings in favour of their own shops and comparison sites.

On the one hand, hey, it is their business, why can’t they cross promote? On the other hand, they are supposed to be an independent search engine that brings you unbiased results. How can they be unbiased if it promotes it other products ahead of the competition, whether the competition is bigger in that market or not? They have to walk a fine line and they cross that line often, at least to outsiders.

Then there is their blatant disregard for the law. Instead of designing their systems to comply with laws, they ignore the laws, until the cost of lawyers and fines outweighs doing business properly, then they complain that it is sooo expensive to implement changes to comply with the law - hey, idiots, if you’d developed your system to comply with the law in the first place, you wouldn’t have this problem, the costs would have scaled up with the business!

Google aren’t the only offenders here, Facebook are even worse in many ways, and don’t get me started on Uber in Europe, but it seems to be a general Silicon Valley disease. “Hey, we are Silicon Valley, we can do what we want! Oh, what, we can’t? But that isn’t fair, it will impact our profits if we have to play by the same rules as the rest of the world!”

This is leading to a backlash in some parts of the world. People and governments have had enough of these big tech companies coming in, breaking laws left-right-and-centre and then using their power to complain in the press that they are being hard done by and being picked upon. Tax avoidance schemes aren’t helping their case much either, especially in Europe, even if they aren’t technically breaking the law. That is just the icing on the cake and it shows the typical, honest worker who has to pay full taxes see “just how evil” these companies are, because they don’t pay any tax!

That is what the government and the press put out, and it is commonly believed, even though it is the government’s tax laws that allow them to do this, legally. As an example, Google earned more money in advertising revenue from the UK Government in 2018 than it paid in taxes! It got a couple of hundred thousand in advertising revenue from the Government, but it paid tax of under 100,000 UKP or something silly, even though it made billions from advertising in the UK - but, while the workers worked in the UK and were a cost, reducing profit in the UK to nil, all the money for the advertising was funneled to a low-tax country, where the actual company was based, that had the advertising contracts. It funneled just enough back to the UK subsidiary to keep it from going bankrupt. That is all perfectly legal, but it gets right up people’s noses, especially when they are paying 30%-50% tax from their salaries and they see a company paying less than 1% corporate tax for all the business they are “stealing” from their employers in their country.

They might not be acting illegally, here, but it is amoral and it is an easy target to show just how bad and evil these companies are! It isn’t illegal, but it isn’t helping their case. “These companies are acting illegally? And they aren’t paying tax? They must be stopped!”

They are being picked upon because they have broken laws. If I go out and run somebody down in my car and I get arrested for it, I can’t complain that I’m being hard done by, I broke the law, yet big tech does exactly this in the business world, they do something wrong, then complain that they are being wronged, when they are taken to task for it.

3 Likes

You made some very good points, however the same arguments can be made about / against a lot of big companies in general. The theme seems to be: Better apologize afterwards than ask for permission. Or like the bean counter in the car industries said: It’s cheaper to pay for a few hundred funerals than recall ten thousand cars. I totally agree about everything you said about taxes etc. But honestly that only shows how or own governments look the other way when it comes to tax loopholes for big names (in the industry). Wanna talk how “much” taxes U2 pays? We the voter need to hold our politics accountable. Hopefully not only to protest vote for all the far(er)right parties that pop up everywhere.

1 Like

Totally and those companies also get taken to task, when they step out of line. Look at the 737MAX debacle for Boeing, the whole fleet grounded for months (although the US FAA/FTA took much longer than the rest of the world to ground the fleet).

Other big companies, in other areas, have also been hauled over the coals and fined heavily for their actions, but those aren’t sexy companies and they aren’t Big Tech, so for us, IT fans, they often pass under the radar.

Philips and a few others had to pay huge fines a couple of years back for cartel offences, the oil companies often get warned or fined for such activity. The memory scandal a couple of years ago, Infineon and others had big fines.

But Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon are so large that they make huge press in all outlets, when they get fined, whereas many of the others only really appear in the specialist press or financial news, because they are big in their industry, but “nobody” has heard of them.

For example, Deutsche Wohnen received a record fine under GDPR in Germany a couple of weeks back for not adequately securing the information about its tenants. They had to pay 14.5M€ because they failed to delete information about tenants after it expired (I think they have to keep the data for 10 years, then it has to be deleted), their archiving system didn’t allow for this, they were warned in 2016 and 2017 and hadn’t complied, when they were re-audited last year.

They also didn’t have adequate controls in place to ensure that employees only got to see the data they needed to perform their job. This wasn’t a data breach, it was just internal controls being lax and keeping data for too long.

Now think about Google, Twitter and Uber. They store way more information than the bare minimum they need to operate, which contravenes GDPR, they don’t delete the information once it is no longer relevant, which contravenes GDPR and they sell/share that information with third parties without getting the permission of the identifiable (European) persons involved, which contravenes GDPR. Remember Ubers “God-Mode” story from a few years back? Or TWiT 2 weeks ago, where Alex and Christine were trying to defend Big Tech for not building security in from the beginning, because it is too difficult - I have worked in IT for over 30 years and I have never worked on a project that didn’t define the security model a one of the very first considerations.

3 Likes

We have government sites with so gigantic security wholes that you can ride an elephant through them and no one will ever notice. Asked about the problem, you hear: “Yeah but you only can fill out a form to change your official living address but can’t change the address directly.” (The address is important to get a passport, register where you can vote, tax correspondence, etc.) Then you ask: And how does the department check if the changes are valid and the answer is: Hmm…
My point is that it is hard to push very loud for security when your own backyard is wide open.

We both agree that no company / government / organizations should get away with not carrying about the protection of user data or not being transparent about the use of this data (which in itself is a wishy whashy statement).

But when is good enough really “good enough”? In other words who will decide that they cared enough? Data misuse, hacks and fishing attempts will happen more and more because the tools are getting better and knowledge is more widespread and it pays good. This will not end.
And data breaches, hacks and fishing attacks are getting more and more complex.
Do we really wanna end with privately held but government founded “rating” agencies that decide who did enough or not enough ? (Moody’s and all their BS comes to mind).
Let’s be frank here, if Facebook gives you the opportunity to never see an advertisement again from a company that you haven’t approved and you can opt, they only can store your login id and password, but then someone finds out how to track your surfing behavior based on your Facebook id. Do we punish Facebook then? I know, that this is a very simple example.

And while we are at it: What about browser? Isn’t it your decision what software you use? Shall we try to sue companies that are not in our jurisdiction for using tracking/fishing or (wanted) back doors in their software, or selling user data or hand them over to agencies if that is legal if not “wanted” in their country? In my country its illegal for the policy to look into my private data without a warrant. But its obviously not illegal in other western “democracies”.
Do we even have the legal power, instruments and BUDGET to “inform” our local citizens about “security” leaks in “foreign” software (which in Europe pretty much means pretty much EVERY software)?

A cent for every open source software that has security leak which could legally be closed in a heartbeat if we put enough resources behind it. But what if not? Do we forbid the use of (“unproved”) open source software because somebody finds a security problem but there is no one to fix it (right in time whatever that means).

How much time do we give a person/organization to fix a security problem? Let’s take again the car industry as an example. It took literally years and private lawsuits before the authorities picked up the problems and made laws. And the technical aspects of all these lawsuits were simple in comparison.

Do we ban cheap Chinese Phones and Tablets because their Android version never gets updated? And if so, how do we get rid of the million devices that are already in use and constantly breaking security? And if not, what is the difference between “unprotected” user data on a phone and unprotected user data on a web server?

It’s so easy to throw the stone against big Corporations (which we should - even bigger stones) while totally ignoring the bigger pictures/problem.
I totally agree that the examples you mentioned should be punished and more important made public. User awareness cost companies way more money than fines. No only in operation but also on the stock market.

Fighting such cases is the same as trying to keep the windows closed while at the same time ignoring the open door. And the flood is coming…

1 Like

This is perhaps one of the reasons that we are seeing proposed “digital taxes” in Europe, which would apply only to the very largest global businesses and be a flat rate on revenue. Once a business gets to the size of these Silicon Valley giants, it can afford almost infinite lawyers to attack a problem, whereas all governments are constrained on how much they can spend on an issue. A tax on profits can be subverted, if you have enough lawyers.

The real reason the giants are so offended by these taxes is that the simple structure without exemptions or allowances is a smooth surface that their lawyers cannot crack or undermine. It’s a pragmatic solution to the problem of giant corporations having more resources than many governments. Their protestations about unfairness are really “it’s unfair because we can’t break it”.

2 Likes

I really like the airport lounge sound effects with Stacy. It adds a lot of interest. :airplane:

4 Likes

Agree. I think that was Musk promoting a convenient worldview.

3 Likes