Sunday, December 22, 2013

Search Me

In the UK, we had/have a deplorable police practice called "stop and search"

now this was ostenisbly so people suspected of carrying {drugs, knives, guns, islamic-extremism, irishness} cold be caught - unlike the US, this was targetted - of course, the net effect was to alienate various groups (especially the last 2) even more.

ironically, one of the things about the british police people like is that you could ask them staff - "ask a bobby" was a common piece of advice - the {time, location, help, etc}...and generally, they would be helpful (still are sometimes) - also, them not carrying guns makes them a bit more accessible:)

So now, if you search the internet via some engine {Google, Bing, Yahoo! etc}, what you look for will no doubt be part of the encroaching polis-state's total information awareness - as someone said at the IETF, when flying to Vancouver recently, he'd set off from another airport very early, and was about to send his partner an {e=mail, SMS, checkin} saying "this airport is SO dead", and then thought "do i really really want the NSA to put their interpretation on that".....

how weird to live in this world.

so the {NSA, GCHQ, Disney, etc} collect all our utterances.....but you can't go ask them for anything.

note that despite this, 9/11, 7/7, and poor Rigby's murder occurred. all that money spent by the surveilance state, but they can't reveal what they know in case the bad guys know that they know who the bad guys are and where they live.

come on, its our money, and we know you know where everyone lives, so how about you use it t round up the usual suspects for once before they commit some outrage, eh? just once. to prove you didn't spend it all on drink and drugs

Dave Eggars puts it in to context with a nice article discussing the swings of history and the story of Bernstein and the Front....for me, what we need is an extremist liberal take over of government which locks up and persecutes all the surveillance people for a couple of years, to give them a taste of what they are going to enable, but to point out that if it was an extremist right wing takeover, it would never end.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

terms and conditions, part II

1. We were wondering why there's no service that explains all online services' Terms&Conditions in Plain English once and for all (using a common set of terms:)

e.g. you own everything you put here on google's blogger service; or you own nothing you put here on google's blogger service. When you die, it is all deleted; or when you die, it is all in the public domain; etc etc

2. We were also wondering why there is no service that explains to you your privacy settings in one simple infographic, once and for all

e.g. using a simple visualisation of which people  who you don't know from Adam can see something you post or tag or blog, when a friend of a friend responds, reposts/ tags etc  - i.e. a simple venn diagrammy type thing with your ego net extending at least to friend of friend, then with pictures of people further away in the you-centric infosphere, and so on.

Of course, one answer to these two questions is that there isn't really an honest way to make money from such a service - or at least, not in a way that would a) induce trust and b) not cause all the existing service providers to set their best lawyers on you...

So I'm thinking this is an excellent project for cloud legal people at QMUL - we can get law students each year to do a project translating T&C for for the lay person, and explaining about property and privacy for the great public users of the unwashed Interweb....

3. Single sign on - hmmmm - how do we do this with really fast revocation? I quite like the two-gadget approach (you need a fitbit like device that talks to your smart phone - without both, AND you, then all bets are off....

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Role of Religion in Revolutionary Network Architectures

I'm looking forward to the forthcoming IAB workshop on Internet Technology Adoption and Transition for lots of reasons (catch up with many people, navel gaze about important topic, maybe even find out what works and what doesn't)!)

However, I'm looking through all the papers that will be presented and am worried that we are missing a very big factor in technology's success or failure, and that is faith.

The papers to be presented break into 4 rough groups
1. Economics -
     e.g. how do markets and commons interact.?...
     how do various tricks bundling, regulation play out?

2. Process -
     what do patents do to things?
     how does the ietf capitalize (or not) on research?

3. Ecology
     does the hourglass emerge always?
     how is diversity helpful (or  hindering)?

4. Technology
   what makes a protocol tick well?
   what pieces of the current experimental world (ICN, bitcoin) will make it to      prime time?

All good, but all roads that have been trod several times before in the communities - in general, economics has not had a great track record in prediction, and bio-inspired stuff is fun, but again doesn't match the details.
It is always worth studying the process and use cases are well worth documenting of course, but what bugs me is that there are so many potential failures we havn't looked at, and what do they have in common?

For me, it is the lack of a fervour, and what is more, persistence in the face of strong adversarial reaction - when we started deploying IP (I am not talking about the mega-ARPA projects, I am talking about the "going into schools at weekends" and "laying out community nets in small towns" movements in the mid 1980s), we were conducting a missionary movement - I recall also giving courses on TCP/IP to hoards of commercial folks despite their seniors in their companies still buying all sorts of CCITT (now ITU) and ISO (now nowhere to be seen) products being pushed by big companies and government agencies (GOSIP - Government OSI Procurement, was the official religion).

We persisted on this for 20 years - we still do....but we are now the official religion.

so now what happens if you want to introduce new tech, you need to make it the underdog - IPv6, no good at all - DNSSec secure BGP? hopeless basket cases. You need something that
a) is really barking mad, but might just work
b) has the feel of overthrowing an older dogma
c) inspires faith, even when the evidence is thin....

but you also need to think long term - 20 years is too short - its generational.
And most of us in the game are from the previous generation, and we need to get out the way.....but of what?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

future of the net & its impact on birth and death of industries

Yesterday, I attended an interesting meeting between policy maker/implementors, and techie/geeky people to discuss this fine topic (again - previous meeting was blogged earlier here under the topic of collective intelligence

this time, we split into two groups first, and laid out our wares to each other as techies all in one room, and policies all in the other, and then came together.

1. Techie discussion was perhaps more far reaching - long term problems like the use of the Internet as a metaphor for organising other sectors (decentralisation, symmetry between clients and servers/peer progressive) for energy, government, education, crowd sourcing/funding, journalism etc etc...

Some v. interesting stuff on power-law distributions in networks, and how these impact the way power itself plays out across a web of organisations, and if we do adopt the internet metaphor for these other secotrs, what that would do to wealth (in all senses of the word).

2. Then the policy people summaries their topics, which were much more about immediate problems the net brtings in their space under the general headings of

Personal - Does the net impact our cognition?; why do some things succeed and some fail? does the net replace people & jobs?

Business -does the net replace businesses or just optimise them?

Government - who is going to lead on regulation and governance?; is the net just too big to control;?
specifics (who is going to pay for rural broadband? how should public broadcast be funded?)

There was sme discussion about transport area stuff (esp. under optimnisaing both the operations and the large decision making - e.g. HS2). There was some discussion about censorship and darknets.

The main conclusions the tech people draw on these discussions (and tried to lead the policy people towards) were largely optimisitic

Again, background reading
1. Jaron Lanier's "Who Owns the Future"monetizing your personal data instead of being owned by the net
2. Cory Doctorow the war on general purpose computing and appliances
3. The Interconnectedness of Everything

Crucial background was on defending systems against bad guys. I'm not so optimistic about this aspect of the net

Thursday, November 07, 2013


More than  a decade ago I was involved in the Internet standards (being on the IAB) and we responded to the RIPA excessive intrusions in the US (and elsewhere) quite robustly - see for example with RFC1984 (so aptly numbered by the late, lamented Jon Postel - see IAB's statement on crypto)).

So then we thought that was that.

Some of us built some cool network monitoring technology (e.g. Endace) which was originally used (innocently) for long term understanding of the evolution of internet traffic characteristics (and led to fine conferences like PAM and IMC (this years conf)

So it became apparent that some agencies in funny big round buildings in the US and UK were buying lots of this kit (esp. when they insisted that companies that built and programmed it only have US citizen employees).

So these, and other worries about wiretap by good and bad agencies led many Cloud service providers (think social media, search, webmail, etc) to turn on HTTPS by default - after all  much of the Internet runs over unsecured physical infrastructure, and much of its use is now a big carrier of transactions of financial worth (home shopping, home banking, whole sale information business too), so loss of identity is no joke - we were aware of the threat - or so we thought

We complied with lawful intercept requests - why would we not? we aren't the bad guys - we want to be a contributer to a healthier, wealthier, greener, happier, safer world. THat's the kind of people we are in the Internet Staff. 

And so, now having stirred the IETF with one big swizzle stick, the NSA and their cronies are going to reap the whirlwind - BUT, this won't just be that they can't wiretap anymore (we did that mostly with HTTPS going on by default, although we can harden systems (like my institution has just done) against MITM attacks too, better - no, we are going to make the WHOLE net and CDN and Cloud go dark - you know why this is BAD, dear #nsa morons? because it means you wont even be able to catch genuine bad guys any more - if you'd cooperated with us instead of attacking us, we wouldn't have had to have done this.

Now they are not only doubly wasting our money, the unintended consequence of having to harden the net against these hardened criminal nut agencies, is that the bad guys will go dark along with the good, not by default - permanently, ubiquitously, eternally, with forward and backward secrecy.

Not even evidence will be gettable - even with warrants.

Well done, NSA and GCHQ. This happened under your watch, not ours.

well hard

Sunday, November 03, 2013

human machine improved collective intelligence....

[Background reading list:
warning- lots!!!]

1. I am very skepticle of some of the far out machine
intelligence/singularoty folks (kurzweil et al) -

They hark back to the big AI errors of the 1960s,
and all the advances in real machine "intelligence"
that appear to be clever have been made on the back of
a) a lot of data and fast processors
b) some very simple mechanisms - e.g. Bayesian Inferencing

Of course, there's some very clever algorithmic work
making big systems go fast -
Just for example, facebook run around 3000 interactive jobs
a day in their entire graph (1 billion users)
to explore various business questions - the tools
(data centers with a million cores,
map/reduce and Pregel style highly
distributed/parallel or large
memory system processing frameworks) 
are not like anything in the past, 
but nor are they anything to do with AI, 
nor do they exhibit any emergent properties we don't expect:)

2. In hybrid human/machine thinking, 
such as we do now with big data in commerce 
(google, aforesaid facebook) and Big Science 
(LHC, Astronomy, Genomics, Proteomics etc) 
there are plenty of cool things to do, 
but they don't involve large groups of people, 
rather small numbers of skilled smart people 
with a LOT of silicon slaves...

3. So in the collective space, what do we have? 

Things like twitter for news, 
Wikipedia as a knowledge base, 
Kickstarter for investment, 
Liquid for democracy, 
EBay for commerce, etc and so on -  
These are emergent social thinking machines, its true - 
and they evolved/emerged out of web systems  - 
so what changed since Vanavar Bush's seminal article, 
As We May Think?

A bunch of things, really 
but they havn't been codified/captured very well...
which are the meta-behaviour constraints that have evolved to
control bad behaviour in online social worlds, 
e.g. to reduce trolling, 
help people defend against fishing and grooming, 
and to damp down flame wars and so on - 

IBM, back in the day, did a study of the
use of Lotus notes in a lot of customer sites, 
and ended up buidling some nice systems that, 
with human help, reduced the 
incidents of antisocial colleapse:
People were allocated roles 
(the "lightening conductor" was one role I liked,
who would take the heat when someone was becoming abusive -
like proxy victim!);
Studies of bulletin board use 
(Usenet News, the Well and so on, 
in the 60s and 70s 
showed informal evolution of similar roles, albeit informally...

So wikipedia now has lots of distributed controls 
to prevent edit wars, 
and liquid and ebay have a bunch of heuristics 
that do a lot of damage limitation.
These systems look a bit kludgy:- 
they evolve to meet needs;
they look a lot like immune systems; 
it looks like they work! 

Systems like recommendation networks, 
and reputation systems (with +ve and -ve) 
which use strategy-proof algorithms (like pagerank)
seem promising, although obviously Wikipedia 
is interesting in that they don't use explicit 
named author&reputation, so its a lesson in
another approach that can work too.

So these involve preventing the 
collapse of group comms into chaos, 
or domination by small vocal groups, 
but don't necessarily demonstrate improved intelligence 
over traditional think thanks/meetings of minds 
(the royal society, the academy of science in US , 
and ad hoc groupings formed to solve particular problems - 
e.g. NASA's moon mission, the IPCC, 
and DARPA's autonomus car (precursor to google cars), 
the LHC, the genome, the search for HIV vaccine, etc etc

I don't have anything to offer that solves the 
problem of increasing intelligence above existing human levels, 
but stopping groups becoming more stupid than the dumbest member 
seems a goood start. 
Also, it depends on your goal - 
if the goal is to have a society with
collective intelligence on the average human level, 
but with buy-in because everyone is involved,
engaged and owns it, then that seems good enough...

Stuff with nanotech meets quantum computing meets singularity 
is not relevant really (in my opinion). All it does (for me) 
is scale up the technolgty we have to day. There's no indication 
that it makes computational thinking easier. 
It just means we can stay on the curve we are on led by Moore's Law 
and other amazing engineering feats of improving performance that
computing has managed in storage and communications as well as

By the way, a nice paper on the non-utopic use of bitcoin by some
friends (and an ex student) of mine:
and I am sure this is just a step in the arms race there...

we just finished a modest EU project in this area which might provide
a few more useful pointers (perhaps:)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Why Big Data Bugs Me

I've been talking to a bunch of serious social science people and it
appears there's a ground swell of backlash against naive big data hype

1. we did this paper to try and capture some of this which we call

2. kate Crawford (see also ted talk) continues a nuanced revision of
what big data's place should be  limited to, and here, how:-e.g.
Big Data Governance
also see Acquistis talk and I also really like Janna Malamud Smith's nuanced book on Private Matters

3. For any "interesting" big data (i.e. about people, not about
particles or weather:), we have major major problems with ground
truths of the data - just starting from selection bias (data mining
twitter or any online material ignores, systematically, the 25% people
who don't use the net - of course, these are in the main, but not
exclusively, the poor, so if you're setting social policy based on
what people online say, then you're ok if your a tory (sorry:) but
anyone else better worry....

but its much more insidious than

4.  On the NHS data, if you claim to be doing logitudinal, cross
population studies, and you don't compare the NHS records to (say) the
center for longitudinal studies' data, then you are missing out
healthy people - this is a bit of an issue if you are trying to do
public health, as the healthy people are the ones that might contain
clues about what to do constructively to do prevention
whereas people that get various syndromes will have a wide variety of
factors that may or may not have contributed...

However, to track the healthy people, you'll need lots of lifestyle data,
which the GP/NHS record wont have whereas a proper study (with random
trials of various things) would do, and would do with informed

Basically, for me, the rush to explit data (in these ways - no
criticism of the natural scientists who use big data all the time
perfectly reasonably) is motivated by a) laziness
and b) cheapskate attitude the above would suggest...

In government, of course, a big problem is that proper use of
logitudinal studies takes several electoral cycles to produce
results, so the "powers that be" are basically "has beens" by the time
the cool new knowledge start to roll in, so they don't get to claim

this is, of course, the biggest challenge to liberal democracies today
(how to make evidence based policy that has planning horizon of 1-10

Oxford Uni have some thoughts on this last problem, although my take is a bit more radical...


The reen and pirate  party in germany are causing the big parties to adopt a
thing called Liquid Democracy - this is crowd sourcing engagement, and
appears to generate long term stable decision making/sticking capabilities
in society that may turn out to be the eventual outcome of the careful
thinking in some parts behind the (less crazy parts of the) occupy and
Indignados and related moves (there's others in russia and some interesting
cover ones in China and in the Islamic countries (not just the obvious Arab
spring ones)....

I personally think that liberal democracy in its current form is incapable
of carrying out long term planning- but  some organisations (that aren't just 
Opus Dei or the Mafia) are able to do it in inclusive ways, and we should figure out how to construct
such systems as needed - long term planning (e.g. for reaching WHO targets
for eliminating diseases) appears to work in some cases - so why not in
others, and how does new tech help (or hinder)?

In my particular discipline, this is what is called "games on graphs" (think
Conways game of life played out over complex topological/topographic spaces)
- we have some ideas why some patterns (memes) are dynamically stable and others
collapse and some take over (endemic) so why not use this stuff....

how does a religion persist for 1000 years? why does a clearly broken idea like free market economics based on rational choice theory last 30 years? How come liberal democracy has survived so long?

time for syndicalist anarchism based on maths:)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Prismer (with apoligies to patrick mcgoohan --

One of the points about #Prism is that the various national security agencies (#NSA, #GCHQ etc) are using it mostly to get meta-data on conversations involving foreigners - however, the conversations must be between those foreigners and citizens, so they are, by trivial corollary, getting meta-data on citizens. The 2nd conclusion is that between agencies who cooperate (e.g. UK and US), they can merge the two views to get a view on everyone, without even breaking their own constitutions (well, ok the UK doesn't have one). So the step to a "global market in espionage sigint" has been largely completed. of course, the irony is that the real enemies of freedom have had enough tradecraft to avoid leaving meta-data trails, since ancient roman times (e.g. undercover religions - living in "crypts") so they won't show up - no, the old adage is the opposite of the case: if you are innocent, nothing of yours will be hidden - if you are guilty of something, it ain't going to show up on any of their screens unless you are seriously stupid. Of course, the most guilty of all, the people wasting our tax money on this system, instead of doing their job (humint on real bad guys) and turning our society into a toxic moral slag heap, they sure as hell won't shw up on any screens either - they all are too busy looking at all the espionage porn of normal peoples' lives to get caught by each other - or do any good whatsoever.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

internet of things = SDN + hypergraph

basically, almost any service in the future internet of things can be decomposed into a graph (food/waste, health monitoring/control, environmental, security/access through doors/windows, power network, air con, etc etc) and a set of on/off operations (a few involve set points - like thermostats, but if you assume a network which provides heat, then that is just on/off at some level of granularity)

so we could do this all with SDN applied to a hypergraph - the specific graphs would be VPNs and openflow specifications would say how permissions and TE work, then you just use same tech to run ALL the IoT apps across the VPNs - then your home hub/service center (or cached/cloned copy on your smart phone, or car computer) would just be the controller for this - the state (and audit trail/history) can be written/read to an append only (cf. git/irminsule) database which can therefore be easily replicated for high availability/low latency access, and then you are done....all other tools work
in the right direction...

Where devices might be a bit more complex, we might want to build a simple semantic description system (but many are going to be like the setpoint controller - even your PVR/home digital media recorder) - how many more patterns can there be? well, think how many physical actuators there are (include remote controls for existing legacy devices) and what state/actuator model they have - not many....

IoT - game over...


Thursday, April 18, 2013

quantity v. quality in social 'science' research + big data

My cousin Antony pointed me at the work of Tarde (and earlier, Leibniz) on the concept of monads

A paper by Latour (see
for background and google for the full paper/chapter)

so social nets as graphs can see aggregates and individuals as properties of
the set of edges and verticies - so that lets us unify this model - provided we
capture sufficiently rich types of edges (kinship relationships, types of
friendships, encounters, co-membership of clubs, geo-spatial relations,
psycological, etc etc)

it also mighr help explain the dicomty in economics/history where most the
time, most effects are caused by large group behaviour (a la marxist analysis)
but from time to time, indivuduals wirled great influence and impact outcomes
(classical) - so this is just when someone is a hub at a time when opinions are
"hypercritical" ?-- balanced between one extreme and another -- when that
person can sway a large number around them because of their centrality and

hmm... .. ..

fits with the whole peer-progressive thing too

so this is where small data (and anecdotes and narratives) meet big data

and its also why the butterfly's wingflap causing a  hurricane could be something we'd eventually model properly (after all, a trillion butterfly wingflaps happen every year without hurricanes, so its a matter of modeling the right butterfly, or the right Genghis Kahn).

I'm also pointed at Sandra Gonzalez Bailon's paper on this:

I also like Kate Crawford's very nice talk on this topic ....

Monday, March 18, 2013

from napster to friendster - its all still piracy - according to Jaron Lanier

Just reading Jaron Lanier's new tome, "Who Owns the Future", which is, unsurprisingly, pretty good - one nicely put argument is about money as information (and its transformation as a record of past work into a model of future promises) - but the more striking point for me, especially in view of recent arguments about privacy and micropayment systems for cloud (OSN) services instead of eyeball time and surveillance analytics, is that when
you download some music for free, your appropriation deprives the author and performer of potential future revenue, but when the OSN company decide they can monetize all your pictures, life story, and interests, this is no different in reality, yet if you do a lot of music/game/movie piracy, you will get in legal trouble, whereas when wholesale invasion of privacy and monetizing of your personal informational property occurs, the big corporate pirates are rewarded by Wall Street investment.....

note.. there is now some doubt being cast on what is being charged by these guys for your life - so this is interesting, as it calls into question the price we'd have to pay for a privacy preserving service (i.e. it isn't the revenue google and fb are currently making divided by the number of users, because they revenue reflects possibly absurd profit margins, which are completely unnecessary once we dispense with adverts and analytics - lets say it could be as little as 1/10th of their current revenue - that'd be peanuts

paper estimating worthlessness of paying for boosting search rank result
plus press covverage

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Robot Ethics

so there's a lot of guff about in recent techblogs droning on about robots (drones) and ethics

here's a very simple thought experiment which doesn't need Terminator/Skynet to present a dilemma Real Soon Now

Cars are being fittted with devices that detect if they are heading for an obstacle and actve the brakes automagically to safely stop.....

However, if not all cars have such a tech, then the car behind might re-end you

the front and rear impacts represent different risks (the crumple zones in a car are more designed to absorp impact in front, rather than rear)

so if you detect an obstacle ahead, and a car behind and (assuming cooperation) a car behind with, or without a robot safety you choose to brake less so that you amortize the impact over two cars?

so do you want a robot to act in the interests of ALL passengers in all vehicles, or "selfisly" on behalf of "this car only"???

I.e. if we design robot brakers according to Asimov's laws, do we want the 4th law as well as the usual 1st three
[see the 4th law for ethical synthetic humanism, #101]

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

CACM and the ACM Digital Library (&Open Access)

The february issue of the CACM contains a letter about proposals and trending ideas for ACM's digital library access in the current context where many academic/government research funding agencies are increasingly seeking free and open access to tax payers' funded work - the article skates over two possible  aspects - see Open Access position statement...

1. Some funding agencies will not pay for "gold" (author pays) - this is excluded if an institute has its own repository (e.g. Cambridge University has a copyright library and DSpace and other systems and has been around a bit longer than the ACM.....
2. Most of the DL content is authored, reviewed, edited, and even copies are hosted by ACM members - a very simple system would be to cover the costs of the DL completely from membership and conference/journal subscription income, but still allow 100% open access (open links and copies) - there's no evidence that systems that do this (Usenix, ArXiv, Wikipedia) fail. It behoves the ACM Publications Board to a) let us know what this would cost in terms of increases ACM and SIG membership annual fees and b) to estimate the impact (negative or possibly positive) on membership numbers....

Some SIGs (like SIGCOMM, since I was chair) have published fully open access to all the conference papers for a long time with no apparent negative impact on the SIG's membership or attendance at events (possibly positive, although that would be anecdotal only)

I think it would be interesting to canvas the entire ACM membership on this - there's a strong collegiate tradition in the ACM, and the idea of a "wholly membership owned not-for-profit free (green) open access digital library of the main repository of 75 years of Computer Science, would probably be very attractive to many people.

Looking at the rest of the issue, you can see many articles and papers of current interest that show what a lively and relevant organisation the ACM is and how timely much of the CACM material is - for example, earlier this week in Cambridge we had talks about dark silicon (and what ARM is doing about it), and lo and behold, there it is in the Research Highlights section, in the clearest and most accessible possible terms...and should be available to anyone in the world concerned with the future of our subject -

power, parallelism or reliability?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Mechanism Design, Incentives, and N-Sided Markets for N>2

I'd like to say that the Internet was born free, but everywhere is in
value-chains, but that would be naive and simplistic.

The purpose of this note is to elicit discussion and clarity on how we could
re-design existing systems in the Internet that use advertising to cover costs
(and make a profit) and replace the income by some other system. For example,
one could consider a system where people pay subscriptions (or even pay-per-use) to an
online service such as search, e-mail or social media. A simple economic
analysis would say that such a system could replace a 2-sided market (with the
service provider facing the customer for free, but advertisers for revenue -
i.e. a 3-body  system) with a single, simple market, where transparency,
competition and market efficiencies would find the right price.
Such a system would also not need to exploit side effects such as the
monetising users' personal data, to be viable and sustainable.

Such a view is naive in the extreme, and I have two reasons that I think why.

The first is micro-economic, and is about the value-chain of components in the
system. The second is macro-economic, and is more theoretical (and I'd like to
hear back from experts if it is technically correct).

Let's look at the first problem, which concerns the primary business of some of
the organisations involved in this complex world:

1. Let's think about a daily activity of a couple of billion of the worlds smart
phone carrying netizens, and see what stakeholders (at least in part) are involved.

Goods/Services -> Advertisers -> search/OSN -> ISP -> Cellular provider ->Handset -> Handset OS -> App/App SDK
                 <- analytics="" div="" nbsp="">
                                 cloud infrastructure 

Obviously this is a hugely simplified picture. When you use an app on your
iDroid, (e.g. the HappyFrogs game), that you downloaded from an AppShop for
free, it presents you with adverts. These adverts come from the cloud and
provide revenue for the app implementer and the cloud provider. You probably
have a nearly-all-you-think-you-can-eat data plan with your cellular provider.
You probably also have a DSL line and WiFi at home - you might pay 30 zinglots
a month for the former and 10 for the latter. Occasionally (e..g once per
month), you get billed for going over your mobile data plan. Once in a while
(e.g once per year) you forget that while abroad, you might have to pay 50
zinglots to see a few adverts.

This is allegedly a 2-sided market. Obviously it isn't that simple since there
are payments for components in the system, and the people being paid are
incented to let you send/receive more data (to keep up with the latest speeds
and so on).  Hence as much as 30% of traffic to your phone maybe "unwanted"
adverts. And a lot of traffic from your phone is fed into analytics and sold as
market research.

Proponents of a subscription system for the services (and payment for games
either buying or renting) claim that this misguided incentive would go away and
the system would settle into some Utopic Adams/Hayak friendly perfect market.

This is pretty naive. The cost of the cellular system and its profits were
predicated on voice and SMS. (I'd note that when one of the largest companies
acquired its license for 3G spectrum, it paid 2-3% of the GDP of a large
European nation for it. It then wrote that down the next year. Spectrum
licenses of a decade or more are just another wrinkle in the picture).

So what you pay for your cell phone is a little high but not too much
(regulators in Europe have market tested the 3G providers and they are
competing - prices are decreasing, performance increasing - hey, they are even
competitive with fixed line broadband - there's some headroom in the backhaul
networks in some countries too, as the step-up increases in capacity sometimes
lead the increases in demand, although sometimes they lag too).
Another important facet of cellular is that, like the fixed line phone
companies before, the cell-phone net for voice is subject to lawful intercept
laws. The counter side is that people expect jolly-good-privacy. Cell phone
providers have not "failed" to deploy location based services - they have
actively avoided any service that might make them appear to their customers as
being Big Brother. Of course ,this laid them wide open to handset OS and App
vendors doing all sorts of cool location based services, but being in the
pocket of the user, the perception of Apple/Googledroid/Microbird's AGPS based checkin systems was as a friendly personal thing, not a cold brazen impersonal
corporate spy. So note that _privacy_ was a part of the value of the cellular
phone service providers business case.

The point here is that the cell phone business pre-dates and has businesses
which are separate from the 2-sided market of advert/game/user.

So the second outfit, the cloud service provider, also has other businesses.
Let's just think of search. Once upon a time there was google search. It beat
off Altavista by being better at stopping sites "gaming" the search ranking
algorithm. To do this, instead of pagerank, a whole slew of complex heuristics
had to be developed. In some sense, what Google (and any other eyeball catching
company) had to do was to predict what users really want. To do this, it has to
look at users AND in great detail at what they click on really, as opposed to
what order things show up on their search screen results. Bingo - click-on is
the true value. So now we have click-thru revenue from adverts for things and
auctions for positions of those things and rank order. A market in search, and
loss of data privacy.

So note that loss of privacy was also an essential side effect of a cloud
service provider's business case.

So in all this, the users personal data, the value of any and all the little
people's identity is a tiny tiny piece. Indeed, the additional price to be
extracted from users if we were to switch them to subscription
is a minuscule step up from what is currently being paid every month by them
(both phone/home side and big data/cloud side customers). It ain't worth
getting out of bed for. It doesn't matter how small you make the transaction
overheads either. Clearly they can be made zero given you already have user
accounts and payments for going over data plan volume caps etc etc...

2. N-Side markets, for N>2

Combinatorial Auctions, Collusion, and Confusion

My second argument is that we don't now how to do mechanism design
for a system of more than 3 customers. I claim this because I've read some of
the literature on combinatorial auctions, and see that the problem is
computationally hard. This means that all sorts of heuristics/approximations
and even machine learning have to be used to try and solve problems. However,
the key difficulty is that we don't have any algorithms that have explanatory
value. We don't know what the outcome will be and when we get it, we don't know
why we have it. This is no use for a regulator - this has already stalled 4G
spectrum Auctions in some countries where the set of potential licensees and the
government couldn't figure out whether a particular structure of auction would
lead to any companies buying (e.g. this bit of spectrum in these states, that
bit in those states) going bankrupt, or getting a white elephant or what have
you. This matters, as businesses like to plan.

I claim that even without the value chain flow of personal data from the user
edge into the analytics cloud, the system is a many-sided market and we cannot
propose any mechanism that would incrementally line up all the pieces, 
unless we have a flag day and say we declare all the systems to have to operate
transparently from a given instant, and how likely is that to happen.

We could hope for some simplifying step - for example, if we were to force some
of the components in the network to combine (e.g. cellular+ISP+cloud), then
there would be a 2-sided system which could be collapsed down easily through
incentive alignment (e.g .simple vickrey auction of service between customer
and advertiser would determine price of privacy:).

There are many cloud providers and many ISPs and Cellular providers. However,
some of them are already implicated - for example, google and apple both build
handset OSs, run online services, control AppShop developers, and to some
extent, dictate terms to cellular providers (at least implicitly). Perhaps a
gently nudge could get us the rest of the way there....surreally, t his might
be a Good Thing.

3. Unintended consequences.

There would be many. I leave it as an exercise for you, dear reader, to think
of as many as you like.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Who Are We - Who am i++

So I've updated my reflections on both Eric Schmidt's visit (see the Humanitas video of Google Chief's talks in Cambridge early 2013) plus my take on some of the discussions at the Dagstuhl Seminar on Decentralised Privacy and OSNs (see Dagstuhl's excellent Website for more info there) and here's the document that resulted....

My cousin Antony (a trained ANthropologist and Computer Scientist!) pointed me at this interesting revival of Tarde's use of the Monad notion, which seems somewhat relevant!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

who am i

draft for later today....

Who am i ( & why do we care?)?

Who am i - a person - a behavour
        Jackie Chan, philospher, martial artist, buffoon
        character - despite no id, behaves morally
        a SET of relationships

The rise of the robots
        Golem & rabbi of prague
                on/off meth/emeth, peace/killer
        Frankenstein's monster - no soul, but moral
        Asimiv++ laws of robotics/robish - programming errors...and ais

Weapons and software - provenance and liability
        semtex (those bouncing czechs again) - watermark
                s/w - originators & users - can also watermark/fingerprint
        botnets for hire
                follow the money (click trajectory) - ok for crims
                mad people, however, -- follow god -- no money :) ?

Who cares?

Prurient public interest in celebs - minor celebs - ...
        who really was marilyn monroe...etc etc

Commercial interest in little ole me?
        adverts/recommendations - targetted
        click through (click fraud - bots again:)
        analytics == market research

Government and big data...
        evidence based health, energy and other policies
        finding the bad guys (cliques in social graph)
        panopticon - mission creen

Is the past 12 years "typical" or just a brief mad interlude ?
        do we want to base a future on a small window
        think 1780 "buy canals, young boy"... :-)

        Dunbar - not just a number (150:)
        Social Nets project::- (Oxford (parent of) & Cambridge:-)
        also a law - 3^6 - circles of trust
                theory of mind -> endorphins ->shared experience-> trust
                family, close friends, acquaintaces
        Autism spectrum - are cloud companies just
                high functioning aspergers/stalkers

Tech change
        differential privacy
        homomorphic crypto
        privay preserving
        offers poss. of users "giving" MORE data:)

Policy change
        Privacy Law - Make It So!
        Only hold data that is pertinent, for so long as relevant

        Go further - don't hold data at all.
        I "hold' my data.
        I give you a capability to ask me for my data
        for so long as I allow...

        Audit trail tells me who looked at it when.

        Now no need for one single identity
        (which is an illusion anyhow)

        Me jon(a(than) = work, friends, close family
        My kids - two last names = parents, nationilty

        Future - same as past (but not present) -

        Exploit unique UK position
        -- 1 id per relationship
                bank, tescos, amazon, doctor, school work, friends, family
        with associated keys to data
        -- Data owned by me (replicated encrypted in a million clouds)
        -- no aggregation allowed by others (only me:)

Consequence of tech + law:-
        Allows +me+ to monetize my person

        Tell how much value my store loyalty card is worth

        Provenence - digital footprint/breadcrumbs
        can track s/w
        and robots (or more importantly their programmers or priests)
        and AIs too

Who pays
        I do - because its peanuts--

        Total facebook or google revenue/number of users

        Subscription instead of panopticon
        music high quality content already heading that way

        Note celebs (who am i) aren't on facebook...

        Do you really want to be low quality, marginal profit, product?

Monday, January 07, 2013

Internet of Senses

as blogged elsewhere, i've recently been upgraded so I now have better eyesight than for a long time due to intra-ocular implants (placcy lenses to you:)
and digital hearing tech - the digital hearing tech is cool - the aids have a 16 band grahpic eq programme you can set - in principle, this can be done "over the air" and also you can stream audio to them so they are the ultimate in-the-ear headphones too:)

however, on a much simpler front. I've been trying to obtain the simplest phone for my 90yr old mum and (as I'd like to not have to wear the hearing aids 24*7) for myself - what I want would have NOTHING but a standard good old fashioned big-button phone interface and handset (corded, not cordless, as finding lost handsets in a 4 story house is already consuming a non-sustainable amount of time) - but as well as big buttons, I'd like a customisable level of EQ/amplification on incoming and outgoing audio levels. the simplest thing would be a tone/gain control on the base of the phone under a sliding flap, which, once set, would be LEFT ALONE....a betterer thing might be a little web service i could access from an app on my cell phone to configure it, and (here's the personalisation bit) a setting to set it to switch to a given audio setting for each detected bluetooth device nearby (so the presence of my phone would switch it to higher gain) - alternatively (and even betterrerer, and as well as) would be to use speaker recognition to switch gain level up (e.g. my mum saying "hello, hello, anyone there")

all the phones I can find (e.g. via the action-on-hearing website) that do amplification AND big buttons, also have at least 9 more buttons than necessary, and many require you to click on the "amp" button each time you use the phone (doh!) rather than having a setpoint config, and one time button for exceptions...but my speakerer recog thing would be easy to program up, and I reckon such a phone could be done for <10 p="p" quid="quid">
the fact that it doesn't exist just proves the market in the area for elderly and challenged people is severely broken. severely.

such a phone would actually be nice for anyone if designed right too... ... ..

i suppose i could take apart a cheapoh (argos cheapest) big button phone and put an amp in, and a dsp chip and do the thing myself....but life's too short...

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misery me, there is a floccipaucinihilipilification (*) of chronsynclastic infundibuli in these parts and I must therefore refer you to frank zappa instead, and go home