Author: Lois Formov-Witt

NSA spying is costing big business big money

US politicians are expected to retreat from their obsession with spying on citizens after it was revealed that the biggest losers were actually corporations.

Since the so-called Land of the Free overthrew its lawful king in a French backed terrorist coup, most of the country’s major decisions have been made to prop up businesses and corporate culture.

Snooping on citizens is more of a knee jerk reaction against terrorism which was, in itself, a smoke screen for poor economic performance by the last two presidents.

Now it seems that the snooping is getting in the way of the US’s number one priority of protecting big business from real life.

It turns out that the NSA surveillance programmes are very damaging for the American technology industry.

A report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation said that companies that provide cloud computing services stand to lose as much as $35 billion over the next three years unless Congress takes action to alleviate the fears of American people that they are being snooped on.

Cloud computing and storage companies are being seen as the saviour for business and the economy. The industry is growing fast and is expected to be a $207 billion business by 2016.

But, to the NSA, putting the material on the cloud is a bit like shoving all the personal information in one place where it can be easily collected. While that makes life easier for the spooks, it makes companies less likely to go with cloud stuff.

Big business is unhappy with the idea of being spied on as much as your Average Joe.

At the moment it is US companies that dominate the international cloud computing market. Normally that would mean that piles of foreign cash would be rolling into the US from foreign parts.

However, Daniel Castro of ITIF, is now warning that foreign companies are not trusting American cloud computer companies and he thinks that US cloud companies will lose anywhere from 10 percent to 20 percent of the market to international rivals.

This will represent a loss of $22 billion to $35 billion.

Already 10 percent of international companies surveyed have already cancelled a project that used a cloud computing service based in the US and 56 percent of companies surveyed are “less likely” to use a US based cloud computing service.

It also seems that 36 percent of US companies surveyed said they have found it “more difficult” to do business outside of the country because of NSA spying.

When you factor all that in, firms are almost certain to remind their sock puppets that this spying lark is going to have to stop – or at least have it toned down a little. It does not matter if occasionally someone blows something up in the name of their terror campaign, so long as US business is not harmed. 

Algorithm detects sarcasm in product reviews

It can often be a touch difficult to tell when someone’s being sarcastic, particularly if you’re an American.

So an Israeli team has come up with a computer algorithm to relieve us of that onerous burden.

The Semi-supervised Algorithm for Sarcasm Identification. SASI – brilliant name, or what,  can apparently recognise sarcasm with 77 percent accuracy.

And mathematicians Oren Tsur, Dmitry Davidov and Ari Rappoport of the Hebrew University would like to see it included in reviews summarisation systems and ranking systems in future.

The team curled up at bedtime with 66,000 Amazon product reviews and a nice milky drink. They categorised 80 sarcastic patterns in the reviews, and then trained their algorithm on those particular sentences.

Examples include “All the features you want – too bad they don’t work!”; “Well, you know what happened. ALMOST NOTHING HAPPENED!!!” and “Silly me, the Kindle and the Sony eBook can’t read these protected formats. Great!”.

To refine the algorithm, the researchers focused on pattern-based and syntactic features – that’s sentence structure, for all you geniuses out there. These included sentence length, number of ‘!’s and ‘?’s and the number of CAPITALISED words.

Through repeated tweaking, they refined the algorithm to achieve the 77 percent hit rate.

The authors also speculate on the reasons for sarcasm. Apparently the products most likely to draw sarcastic reviews were Shure and Sony noise cancellation earphones, Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code and Amazon’s Kindle e-reader. Now, there’s a surprise.

They suggest that factors include the popularity and price of a product. Also, they say, “The simpler a product is the more sarcastic comments it gets if it fails to fill its single function – ie noise blocking/cancelling earphones that fail to block the noise”.

“We speculate that one of the strong motivations for the use of sarcasm in online communities is the attempt to ‘save’ or ‘enlighten’ the crowds and compensate for undeserved hype.”

Read the full report here. It’s thrilling, honest.