Google’s Latest Plan to Sell Your Data Will Leave you FURIOUS

Google’s Latest Plan to Sell Your Data Will Leave you FURIOUS
Giving our behavioral data to companies with this grand a scope will likely never be completely safe, but this is beyond reproach. 

  

One of the most invasive and unnerving realizations

that we must face in our new technological age is the fact that we are very literally being mined by the products that we use.

There is a great deal of convenience in the internet.  We can use it to travel around our city on even the busiest of days with ease.  We can order any number of dishes from any number of restaurants.  Heck, we can even rent an electric scooter to ride around town, leaving it where we like when we’re finished. But, as the wise have always told us, nothing in this life is free.  Sure, we pay for these services, and we pay to have access to the internet, but that’s not nearly all of the value that is being taken from us by the corporations whom we trust online.

Story Continues

Google, Facebook, and others have long been selling our online behavioral data to advertisers, in order for those advertisers to then weaponize their work in the most effective ways.  Google is literally telling Dupont and these other enormous chemical companies, what time of day is best for them to run laundry detergent commercials in order to maximize their weaseling into our pockets. Worse still; this game is played at such a high level that only Holy Rollers need apply for a seat.  That means that you and I are simply pawns in the game. Has that stopped forward-facing companies like Google from continuing this habitual debauchery?  Of course not.

 

And it’s getting worse. 

MOST OF THE data collected by urban planners is messy, complex, and difficult to represent. It looks nothing like the smooth graphs and clean charts of city life in urban simulator games like “SimCity.” A new initiative from Sidewalk Labs, the city-building subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet, has set out to change that.

The program, known as Replica, offers planning agencies the ability to model an entire city’s patterns of movement. Like “SimCity,” Replica’s “user-friendly” tool deploys statistical simulations to give a comprehensive view of how, when, and where people travel in urban areas. It’s an appealing prospect for planners making critical decisions about transportation and land use. In recent months, transportation authorities in Kansas City, Portland, and the Chicago area have signed up to glean its insights. The only catch: They’re not completely sure where the data is coming from.

This “appealing prospect” sounds a lot more like data harvesting for the sake of targeting us with more advertisements.

To make these measurements, the program gathers and de-identifies the location of cellphone users, which it obtains from unspecified third-party vendors. It then models this anonymized data in simulations — creating a synthetic population that faithfully replicates a city’s real-world patterns but that “obscures the real-world travel habits of individual people,” as Bowden told The Intercept.

The program comes at a time of growing unease with how tech companies use and share our personal data — and raises new questions about Google’s encroachment on the physical world.

 

Concerns over the use of this GPS data are obvious enough to understand, but a fun analogy awaits you anyway: Let’s say that Amazon puts a new Whole Foods store in your town, and Google isn’t happy about it for whatever reason.  Google has the power to reroute traffic to the area near that store to make it an unappealing commute.  Eventually, people will stop coming. Or, even crazier, if Google decided they didn’t want the location to even show up in their Maps app.  You could be literally lost, confused, and impaired while driving. Giving our behavioral data to companies with this grand a scope will likely never be completely safe, but this is beyond reproach.

Article Produced By
Andrew West

Andrew West is an Atlanta-based author who enjoys his pursuit of happiness to the fullest, whether it be craft beer, the great outdoors, or playing music.

https://flagandcross.com/googles-latest-plan-to-sell-your-data-will-leave-you-furious/

 

Gaza’s Ruling Group Hamas Seeks Funding in Bitcoin to Combat Financial Isolation

Gaza's Ruling Group Hamas Seeks Funding in Bitcoin to Combat Financial Isolation

  

The militant arm of Hamas —

the de facto ruling authority of the Gaza Strip in Palestine — has appealed to its supporters to send it funds using Bitcoin (BTC). The appeal was made via the official Telegram channel of Abu Obeida, a spokesman for Hamas’ Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, on Jan. 29.

Hamas — which comprises social service arm “Dawah” and militant faction “Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades,” is deemed to be a terrorist organization, in whole or in part, by several countries and international organizations — including the United States and the European Union. Russia, Turkey and China are among those major world powers who do not designate the group as a terrorist entity. In his message, Abu Obeida called upon “all lovers of the resistance and the supporters of our righteous cause to support the resistance financially using ‘Bitcoin’ currency,” adding that an exact funding mechanism for transacting the crypto would be announced later.

He continued:

“The Zionist enemy is fighting the resistance by trying to cut its support by all means, but the resistance lovers in all the world are fighting these Zionist attempts and are seeking to find all possible support for the resistance."

Hamas has governed the Gaza Strip since 2007, after winning a military conflict against the Palestinian nationalist political party Fatah — a struggle for power that ensued from the latter’s defeat in the parliamentary elections of 2006. The Gaza Strip notably continues to be subject to a land, air and sea blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt in the wake of Hamas’ victory, which severely restricts the movement of people and goods.

Abu Obeida’s turn to Bitcoin comes in the immediate context of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to temporarily freeze millions of dollars in Qatari aid — including $15 million a month to pay the salaries of Hamas civil servants — from entering the Gaza Strip, in retribution for a recent flare-up in border tensions between Israel and Hamas. Aside from the Gaza Strip blockade, given Hamas’ designation as a terrorist entity in many Western countries, many global banks bar services to the group via their anti-money-laundering (AML) and illicit terror financing prevention mechanisms.

As reported, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill last September that would establish a crypto task force to combat terrorist use of cryptocurrencies. A congressional hearing earlier that month had nonetheless concluded that while al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and other such terrorist groups have all attempted to raise funds through crypto, their success has been limited — and that in many instances, fiat currencies provide more robust anonymity for illicit fundraising.

Article Produced By
Marie Huillet

Marie Huillet is an independent filmmaker, with a background in journalism and publishing. Nomadic by nature, she’s lived in five different countries this decade. She’s fascinated by Blockchain technologies’ potential to reshape all aspects of our lives.

https://cointelegraph.com/news/gazas-ruling-group-hamas-seeks-funding-in-bitcoin-to-combat-financial-isolation

UAE-Saudi Arabian Digital Currency ‘Aber’ to be Restricted to Select Banks at Start

UAE-Saudi Arabian Digital Currency 'Aber' to be Restricted to Select Banks at Start

  

The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) central bank (UAECB)

and the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) have announced that the interbank digital currency they are co-developing will be called “Aber.” The news was reported by the national Saudi Press Agency on Jan. 29.

A joint statement from the banks has reportedly outlined that the use of Aber will be limited to financial settlements using distributed ledger technologies (DLT) “on a probational basis and [for] exclusive use by a limited number of banks in the two countries.” While news of the two countries’ plans for a digital currency for cross-border interbank settlement has previously been reported, this appears to be the first official indication of the currency’s name and initial circulation scope.

The banks clarified that the currency’s issuance falls within a proof-of-concept framework, aimed at:

“[…] studying the dimensions of modern technologies and their feasibility through practical application and the determination of their impact on the improvement and the reduction of remittances costs and the assessment of technical risks and how to deal with them.”

The statement did not determine an official launch date for the currency’s pilot issuance, but outlined that it would initially be focused on technical aspects. The announcement also reported that if “no technical obstacles are encountered, economic and legal requirements for future uses will be considered.”‏

The two countries said bilateral issuance is important as they consider that while national central systems for remittances and domestic transactions have proved their solidity to date, some aspects of international remittances require further development. The Aber project aims to ascertain whether a digital currency could be supportive of this development, the

statement adding:

“The project will also enable considering the possibility of using the system as an additional reserve system for [a] domestic central payments settlement system in case of their disruption for any reason.”

Issuance of Aber reportedly forms part of a seven-point bilateral cooperation plan between UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, negotiated in a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Saudi-Emirati Co-ordination Council Jan. 17. As reported, the UAE is looking to join the list of leading destinations for blockchain firms in 2019 by establishing a new pro-crypto legal framework. In Saudi Arabia, customs authorities have recently concluded a pilot scheme linking their cross-border trade platform “FASAH” with IBM and Maersk’s “TradeLens” blockchain infrastructure.

Article Produced By
Marie Huillet

Marie Huillet is an independent filmmaker, with a background in journalism and publishing. Nomadic by nature, she’s lived in five different countries this decade. She’s fascinated by Blockchain technologies’ potential to reshape all aspects of our lives.

https://cointelegraph.com/news/iran-central-bank-will-consider-expert-input-before-enacting-crypto-regulations

North Europe’s Largest Conference Moontec Set to Welcome Top Enterprise Blockchain Projects

North Europe’s Largest Conference Moontec Set to Welcome Top Enterprise Blockchain Projects

  

The Moontec conference is set to welcome speakers

from companies including Maersk, IBM, and Revolut to Tallinn, Estonia on 26 November for a two-day event that will emphasize the development of workable blockchain solutions for business.

Such a forward-thinking information society as Estonia provides the ideal setting for blockchain projects as it works to attract the cutting-edge of innovation. Citizens in Estonia, now not even limited to residents since the advent of E-Residency, have access to a digital identity which can encompass various facets of their day-to-day life. Since Estonia introduced licensing for companies operating in crypto less than a year ago, there have been nearly a thousand successfully issued licenses. Such moves have helped to position Estonia at the top in terms of providing a conducive environment for blockchain entrepreneurs, along with other popular locations such as Malta, Switzerland, and South Korea.

Interest shown towards blockchain in Estonia has never been higher and this year’s Moontec is dedicated to discussing the biggest challenges facing the nascent technology nowadays. These are issues surrounding regulation, market adoption, and crucially finding application in real-world practice. This reflects a notable shift in the space from a focus on exploring the manifold use cases, to building practical solutions for business. It is likely that this will be where blockchain starts to realize its full potential; many top businesses, such as those sending thought leaders to Moontec, are investing money into developing blockchain projects.

Moontec thus hopes to stimulate discussion and help to clarify the wider, general goals of blockchain in enterprise. By contributing to a discourse that helps build consensus for a stable vision of blockchain development, attendees and speakers alike can help foster progress towards functional applications. Support from the highest levels of Estonia is self-evident with the former Prime Minister, now Vice Chairman of the Finance Committee, due to be in attendance. Opening the event with a speech is Ott Vatter who is Deputy Director of the E-Residency programme.

So the message coming out of Moontec 18 is already clear: let’s work as a community towards building the best practical blockchain applications for business. There is also a clear message from Estonia as the pioneering Baltic nation continues to send positive signals to businesses. They say they are committed to aiding this process as much as possible and will innovate to help entrepreneurs from all corners of the world. It is self-evident that they are currently doing this to great effect. Moontec will to this end be a crucible for wider progress in blockchain for enterprise.

Article Produced By
Bob Keith

Chronic crypto nut and freelance writer/editor for longer than I care to remember. Have finally found a home here at Crypto Disrupt.

https://cryptodisrupt.com/north-europes-largest-conference-moontec-set-to-welcome-top-enterprise-blockchain-projects/

 

NYSE Operator Partners With Blockstream to Launch Crypto Tracking Tool for Investors

NYSE Operator Partners With Blockstream to Launch Crypto Tracking Tool for Investors

  

The Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) has partnered

with major global blockchain firm Blockstream to launch its Cryptocurrency Data Feed product, as ICE Data Services tweeted on Jan. 24. Founded in 2000 in the United States, the Intercontinental Exchange is a global company that owns exchanges for financial commodity markets and operates 23 global exchanges, including the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

According to the announcement, ICE’s new crypto data service enables real-time and historical data for more than 60 cryptocurrencies from major trading markets and exchanges worldwide. Blockstream has introduced the product under the name “Crypto Feed V3” on its Twitter, claiming that the updated service now includes more than 30 venues across over 400 crypto and fiat trading pairs. The new partnership intends to provide global investors with a comprehensive tool to monitor data for the most actively and widely traded cryptocurrencies, the company wrote.

The Cryptocurrency Data Feed includes a number of crypto market monitoring services such as price discovery, historic data and full-depth market by price and by venue insight, as well as round-the-clock market overview including a calculated accumulated volume, the volume of weighted average price (VWAP) and others. In addition, the new service is backed by ICE’s Secure Financial Transaction Infrastructure (SFTI) tool, which claims to eliminate downtime for investors and enable immediate notifications in case of an emergency. ICE had previously announced its plans to launch Bakkt, regulated, global ecosystem for digital assets, in August 2018.

As reported on Dec. 31, 2018, ICE released an update to the launch timeline for Bakkt — which had previously been a targeted Jan. 24 launch date — in accordance with consultation with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Recently, Bakkt has announced that they are hiring for a number of key positions at the company, mostly looking for developers at director and senior levels. Previously in mid-January, Bakkt had also acquired certain assets in futures commission merchant Rosenthal Collins Group.

Article Produced By
Helen Partz

Helen is passionate about learning languages, cultures and the Internet. She has years of experience working at international online advertising projects. Growing interested in Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in late 2017, she joined Cointelegraph as a writer.

https://cointelegraph.com/news/bitcoin-skeptic-ex-starbucks-ceo-howard-schultz-considers-2020-presidential-run

Altcoin What is an altcoin?

Altcoin | What is an altcoin?

  

These days, everybody talks about altcoins.

Indeed, bitcoin is no longer a profitable coin to mine if you don’t have the specialized hardware. Therefore, people are looking for easier coins to mine. And with the large choice available, it’s not that simple to find the best altcoin to mine. But let’s start at the beginning: What is an altcoin?

Definition of altcoin

What is altcoin? The term altcoin, or alt coin, comes from ALTernative COIN (I also read about alternate coin sometimes). While some people use this term to define cryptocurrencies in general, I prefer to keep it as an alternative to bitcoin. Indeed, bitcoin is the first digital currency and, as such, is the reference. And all the newcomers are alternatives.

Bitcoin alternatives

Bitcoin is not the only crypto-coin anymore. Indeed, since 2009, many new coins have hit the market. And all these new coins are alt coins. And the first alternative currency is the namecoin, which is based on the decentralization of domain name registration. The first clone of bitcoin, litecoin, is available since October 2011. And there are more than 700 cryptographic currencies available on the market today. While many of them are not worth much (or are simply scams like onecoin), some of them could make you rich!

Founding principles of altcoins

In the cryptomoney industry, there are founding principles each coin has to respect, such as decentralization and total transparency. Therefore, a true cryptocurrency always has a blockchain, or chain of blocks. And its code is generally available to the whole community. Furthermore, the community is in charge of all major decisions on the future of the currency, which should respect the specifications defined when creating the currency. As a result, if you find a “crypto-currency” that has neither a block chain nor free software available, it’s NOT an altcoin. But it’s most certainly a scam to extort money from you, using the reputation of the bitcoin.

What altcoins to invest in?

While you could buy many coins from many unknown altcoins, it’s a risky investment. Therefore, if you want to buy altcoins, you should focus on the currencies which have a daily trade volume of at least 100,000 USD. To play it safer, you could invest in the most serious alt-coins, with a daily exchange volume of more than a million dollars such as ethereum, ripple, litecoin, monero, Factom or Zcash. Since the currencies are dynamic, you should study their prices regularly before buying altcoins. And don’t forget to invest only what you can afford to lose!

Article Produced By

https://bestbitcoinalternative.com/resources/altcoin/

Top 10 Messenger App Telegram Plans Blockchain Platform Launch in March: Sources

Top 10 Messenger App Telegram Plans Blockchain Platform Launch in March: Sources

  

Global messaging app Telegram plans

to release the mainnet and token for its blockchain-based Telegram Open Network (TON) platform as early as March 2019. The news was revealed to Cointelegraph by a source close to Telegram founder and CEO Pavel Durov today, Jan. 23. Telegram — which reportedly counts 200+ million active users per month, placing it among the top ten most popular messaging apps worldwide — raised almost $1.7 billion in two private initial coin offering (ICO) rounds last year for both Telegram and its forthcoming platform TON.

Cointelegraph’s source has emphasized that Durov was reluctant to confirm a concrete date for TON's release and that the March estimate remains subject to change. According to a separate report from Russian business media outlet The Bell, Durov’s team has told investors that TON is 90 percent ready, but that delays are possible, due to the “innovative nature of the development.” As reported, details released so far have suggested that TON will aim to function as “new way of exchanging data,” and will be powered by the platform’s native cryptocurrency, dubbed “Gram.”

As reported in May, 2018, the staggering success of Telegram’s pre-sales prompted the company to subsequently decide to cancel a public ICO that had been slated for later in 2018. Despite rumors that the Russian billionaire and former owner of Chelsea FC Roman Abramovich backed the project, only two entrepreneurs — co-founder of payment service Qiwi, Sergei Solonin, and co-founder of dairy giant Wimm-Bill-Dann, David Yakobashvili — have publicly confirmed their investments to date.

Following news that TON was “70 percent ready” last October, the government of Iran stepped up its restrictions on the messaging app, declaring that any cooperation with the app to launch its Gram token would be considered an act against national security and a disruption to the national economy. Iran has enforced a spate of bans against Telegram since April 2018. The app has also notably been blocked in Russia — Durov’s birthplace — since April 2018, officially due to Durov’s refusal to share the app’s encryption keys with authorities in compliance with a local telecoms law. According to data at the time of the block, around 10 million of Telegram’s users are based in Russia.

Article Produced By
Marie Huillet

Marie Huillet is an independent filmmaker, with a background in journalism and publishing. Nomadic by nature, she’s lived in five different countries this decade. She’s fascinated by Blockchain technologies’ potential to reshape all aspects of our lives.

https://cointelegraph.com/news/top-10-messenger-app-telegram-plans-blockchain-platform-launch-in-march-sources

Hodler’s Digest Jan 2127: Top Stories Price Movements Quotes and FUD of the Week

Hodler’s Digest, Jan. 21–27: Top Stories, Price Movements, Quotes and FUD of the Week

  

Top Stories This Week

CBOE Withdraws BTC ETF Rule Exchange Request From SEC Amid Gov’t Shutdown

The Chicago Board Options Exchange’s (CBOE) BZX Equity Exchange has withdrawn its request for a rule change from the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in order to list its Bitcoin (BTC) exchange-traded fund (ETF). A CBOE spokesperson told Cointelegraph that U.S. government shutdown was the reason for the withdrawal, as the end of the review period is approaching with no government agencies able to operate fully. The CBOE will instead re-submit the filing for an ETF — which was backed by investment firm VanEck and financial services company SolidX — at a later date.

Bank of International Settlements Believes Bitcoin Must Depart from Proof-of-Work

According to new research from the Bank of International Settlements (BIS), Bitcoin’s problems can only be solved if the cryptocurrency departs from a proof-of-work system. The BIS research states that once Bitcoin’s block rewards fall to zero, the resulting transaction fees will not be sufficient to sustain mining expenses. While the study does not the existence of second-layer solutions like the Lightning Network, it notes that the only true remedy is a complete departure from proof-of-work to avoid an unusable network slowdown.

US State of Wyoming Introduces Crypto Defining, Custody Legislation

The state of Wyoming has introduced a bill that will both define cryptocurrency assets, as well as allow banks to provide custodial services for cryptocurrencies. According to the legislation, crypto assets would be placed into one of three categories — digital consumer assets, digital securities and virtual currencies — which means they would be defined as intangible personal property, granting virtual currencies the same treatment as money. Banks that provide 60 days written notice to the commissioner will be able to service as qualified custodians for digital assets if the bill passes.

John McAfee Claims to Flee Country to Escape IRS, Conducts Presidential Campaign From Boat

Crypto entrepreneur and advocate John McAfee claims that he has fled the country this week in order to escape an indictment by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and will be conducting his 2020 presidential campaign from a boat in international waters. According to McAfee, a grand jury had been convened against him by the IRS. McAfee also added that he has not paid U.S. taxes for eight years, speaking already from a boat in an unknown location from which he will use proxies to conduct his campaign.

Bithumb Crypto Exchange Looks to Reverse Merger to Take Company Public in US

Blockchain Exchange Alliance, a Singapore-based holding firm that has a controlling stake in crypto exchange Bithumb, is looking to acquire a publicly traded company in the U.S. According to media reports, Blockchain Industries — a publicly traded company — has signed a binding letter of intent with the Blockchain Exchange Alliance, which would in effect be the first instance of a crypto exchange going public if the reverse merge proves to be successful. An unnamed source added that the combined company plans to eventually “uplist” from the OTC markets to the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq.

Winners and Losers

The crypto markets are slightly down at the end of the week, with Bitcoin trading at around $3,581, Ripple at $0.31 and Ethereum about $115. Total market cap is around $119 billion. The top three altcoin gainers of the week are Obitan Chain, ALBOS and Bittwatt. The top three altcoin losers of the week are PlayerCoin, Hercules and Bitspace.

Most Memorable Quotations

“The next bull run will decide which public blockchains persist for the next 100 years. I believe Bitcoin is currently the *only* sure thing,” — Alistair Milne, United Kingdom-based investor and entrepreneur

“Institutional investors are pretty picky. They're very intelligent investors, but then they also require an ecosystem of sophisticated trading strategies and tools […] They need derivatives, they need options, they need to get a short sell, and if our markets can get these things, what will happen is that you'll no longer see this massive volatility,” — Charles Hoskinson, founder of altcoin Cardano (ADA)

“1) Either the innovation finds practical utility followed by years of steady and sustainable commercial progress and integration into the economic fabric (e.g., the Internet); or

2) The invention fails to achieve broad adoption and its commercial applications as medium of exchange are limited (e.g., the Segway),” — Adena Friedman, president and CEO of Nasdaq Inc. “When it shot up high, I said I don't want to be one of those people who watches and watches it and cares about the number. I don't want that kind of care in my life […] Part of my happiness is not to have worries, so I sold it all and just got rid of it,” Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder, on selling all of his Bitcoin

FUD of the Week

New Research Indicates $16 Million in Cryptocurrency Stolen in Cryptopia Hack

According to an analysis by blockchain infrastructure firm Elementus, as much as $16 million in Ethereum and ERC20 tokens was stolen in the recent hack of New Zealand exchange Cryptopia. The exchange had originally reported that the losses were significant, without naming a specific number. According to the Elementus data, funds were transferred out of both core and secondary wallets from Jan. 13 to 17, while Cryptopia alerted police and the public about the hack by Jan. 15. Elementus’ investigations have found that around $15 million remains in the two wallets purportedly under control of the hackers, while about $880,000 has already been cashed out.

Accused in Iceland Bitcoin Miner Heist Receives 4.5 Year Prison Sentence

The Icelandic man accused of stealing Bitcoin mining equipment has received a four-and-a-half year prison sentence. Sindri Þór Stefánsson had been arrested in Amsterdam after reportedly flying to Holland with a stolen passport. Along with six other accomplices, Stefánsson received jail time after being convicted of the theft Bitcoin mining equipment reportedly worth $2 million, as well as two other attempted heists that took place December 2017 and January 2018. The group’s target was Nordic IT company Advania, to which all seven defendants will now pay compensation of 33 million Icelandic Krona (about $273,000).

Suspect Arrested in 11 Million IOTA Theft Case After International Police Collaboration

A 36-year-old individual suspected of the theft of over $11 million in IOTA, as well as fraud and money laundering, has been arrested by the United Kingdom’s South East Regional Organised Crime Unit. The Hessen State Police in Germany, the UK’s National Crime Agency and Europol also helped with the arrest, following a search warrant carried out in Oxford, U.K. The suspect has reportedly stolen more than $11 million in IOTA from over 85 victims since January 2018 by using a malicious IOTA seed generator to lead users to private keys that he controls.

Article Produced By
Molly Jane Zuckerman

Molly Jane is a Russian Literature major from California with a background in writing. She joins Cointelegraph after working as a freelance journalist and blogger.

https://cointelegraph.com/news/hodlers-digest-jan-2127-top-stories-price-movements-quotes-and-fud-of-the-week

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Facebook agrees to do more to tackle scam ads after celebrity defamation lawsuit

Facebook agrees to do more to tackle scam ads after celebrity defamation lawsuit

Facebook has agreed to plough more resource

into combating the use of its advertising platform by scammers, saying it will do more to tackle scam ads that use well-known public figures to try to trick consumers. It plans to launch a dedicated scam ad report button in the UK, slated to go live in around three months’ time, as well as set up a specialist, locally-based team to monitor ad reports, keep an eye on scammer trends and generally work on getting celebrity-exploiting scam ads taken down more quickly than its current AI-aided ad review systems have been doing.

The new measures were announced in a joint press conference with UK consumer advice personality, Martin Lewis, who launched a defamation lawsuit against Facebook in April, saying the social network giant had failed to stop scammers using his image on scores of ads that aimed to swindle consumers, thereby damaging his reputation.

Lewis filed suit after becoming frustrated by the scale of scam ads bearing his image and Facebook’s tepid response to the problem its platform has created — telling the Guardian last year: “What is particularly pernicious about Facebook is that it says the onus is on me, so I have spent time and effort and stress repeatedly to have them taken down.” He confirmed today that he’s dropped the lawsuit after Facebook agreed to make changes.

“There were over 1,000 on Facebook in a year. And the way that the company acted then wasn’t good enough, so I had to resort to [taking legal action],” he said during the press conference, adding that he had wanted to see “tangible real change to the number of scam ads on the platform”, so was happy to drop the lawsuit because he believes the new report button will do that. Facebook has also agreed to provide funding to help get a citizens scam advice service up and running in partnership with UK consumer advice charity, Citizens Advice. Lewis said he was delighted with that outcome.

The social network giant, which took in $13.73BN in revenue last quarter, said it will donate cash and Facebook ad credits to the value of £3 million over the next three years to help set up the new scam advice bureau within the charity. This will be called ‘Citizens Advice scams action project’ (aka Casa), and the pair said it will aim to provide information and support to consumers who are concerned they are being targeted by or have fallen victim to a scam.

Facebook’s support for Casa breaks down into £2.5M in cash over the next two years, and £500,000’s worth of ad credit coupons for ads on its own platform, which it said will be distributed in tranches over the next three years. There was little detail on exactly how Casa will operate at this nascent stage but given the ad credit donation its work will presumably include running scam awareness ads on Facebook — funded (initially) by Facebook itself. Ergo, part of the company’s donation will be ploughed straight back into its own ad business.

Pressed on whether its approach with an ad report button still puts too much onus on consumers to have to protect themselves from scams being spread on Facebook’s platform, its regional director for Northern Europe, Steve Hatch, claimed it does already take down “huge amounts of these ads” but admitted its ad review systems are “not perfect” — hence the company seeing value in introducing a button for direct user reports of dodgy ads.

For his part Lewis said he had never wanted to have to go to court but said his intention had rather been to draw attention to the problem and pressure Facebook to do more. He said he was therefore pleased it had agreed to do more to tackle scam ads. “This button is only in the UK. This is not Facebook worldwide. This is unique to the United Kingdom that has not been done anywhere else and it is a direct result of this scam ads campaign. And I’m actually very grateful to Steve and his team here in the UK for pushing this on what is normally a global organization that works in a global way,” he said.

Albeit, to be clear, Facebook is not accepting legal liability for scam ads. And there’s no suggestion that any existing victims of the scam ads which bore Lewis’ image are going to be in line for any direct compensation from Facebook for their losses. Asked directly about the compensation point, Hatch sidestepped the question, saying Facebook is focusing on what more it can do to stop scammers from defrauding people in the first place.

Also pressed on why it had taken a lawsuit by a celebrity consumer champion to get it to do more, he said: “This is an area we’ve focused on for a very, very long time. But what [Lewis] has really pushed us towards is this specific focus about the use of public images and celebrity.” While the new measures are UK only for now, Hatch suggested Facebook might look to expand the approach elsewhere if it proves successful.

“We’ve started in the UK,” he said in response to another question. “Like any system if we find it works — and we sincerely hope that it does, we think we’ve got the right amount of focus, we think we’ve got the right amount of investment behind it — it’s very imaginable that we would take this out to other markets. But what we want to make sure is we’re getting this right.”

He also said it would be important for Facebook to find the right partner to work with in other markets, as it’s doing with Citizens Advice in the UK. While Lewis sounded happy to end his publicity focused legal battle against Facebook, having won some tangible concessions from the company, he warned that unchecked scam ads persist on other platforms, and said he is “not ruling out another lawsuit if things don’t improve”– namechecking Google and Yahoo as two of the other platforms now in his sights.

“Over the last few weeks I have again been plagued by scam adverts. A few of them have been on Facebook and when we’ve told Facebook they’ve taken them down very quickly. I can’t expect more. I accept that the technology isn’t perfect. What I want is proactive response, good team set up and them being taken down quickly. But that’s not the case with Google,” he said, adding that the problem is even more difficult to combat where Google is concerned given it’s more difficult to know where the ads are being served, as they can be served across even more touchpoints.

“I believe they’re not even giving us a direct contact at the moment,” he added, discussing Google’s response to complaints his team has filed about scam ads bearing his image. “We’re just having to go through the normal reporting channels, that everything goes through, even though I’m a major target of scam ads. By the nature of what I do, by both being on television and the subjects that I talk about — and being relatively trusted on that subject — means that my click through rate, apparently, for scam ads is really good!” We reached out to Google and Yahoo for a response to Lewis’ comments. (Disclosure: TechCrunch’s parent, Verizon Media Group/Oath, is also the parent company of Yahoo.)

A Google spokesperson told us:

Because we want the ads people see on Google to be useful and relevant, we take immediate action to prevent fake and inappropriate ads. We have a tool where anyone can report these ads and these complaints are reviewed manually by our team. In 2017, we removed 3.2 billion bad ads and we’re constantly updating our policies as we see new threats emerge.

A Verizon Media spokesperson also sent us the following statement:

Deceptive and misleading ads are not acceptable, and we expect our partners to comply with all laws, regulations and our policies, which prohibit this activity. We block ads in violation of our policies, as well as bad actors who work to circumvent our human and automated controls. The landscape of bad actors is continually evolving and we are committed to evolve with it to help keep our platforms and users protected.

“The big problem that we face is that [online advertising] is a Wild West,” Lewis continued, saying the problems he’s faced extend to “many other online advertising tools”. “This is an absolute Wild West with people sitting all over the world, and with very little regulation, no criminal enforcement — because frankly the Met Police are not going to go to whatever these country these people are in and arrest them, and that’s the problem with online advertising. Hence why I’ve targeted the platform to say the only thing we can do… is deny them the oxygen of publicity and deny them access to the individuals.”

“I want online advertisers to see this as a warning shot across their bows,” he also said, calling on Google and the online advertising industry as a whole “to start to take responsibility”, adding: “Real people are seeing their livelihood taken away, their life savings taken away. People are losing money that they need to live on by irresponsible advertising protocols. It’s about time other firms stood up, took responsibility, improved their reporting protocols and started to give money to Citizens Advice scam action.

“Scam adverts make people distrust advertising. So this isn’t just an issue for the people who put the adverts out there but any company who does advertising in the UK legitimately, trying to get their message across, this is diluting what you are doing. So the advertising industry as a whole — not just the platforms — need to try and make sure this stops. Otherwise you’ll get close to the point where someone like me says never trust an advert online.” The issue of direct compensation for consumers scammed via online platforms is a matter for policy makers and regulators to work on, he added.

Article Produced By
Natasha Lomas

Writer

Natasha is a senior reporter for TechCrunch, joining September 2012, based in Europe. She joined TC after a stint reviewing smartphones for CNET UK and, prior to that, more than five years covering business technology for silicon.com (now folded into TechRepublic), where she focused on mobile and wireless, telecoms & networking, and IT skills issues. She has also freelanced for organisations including The Guardian and the BBC. Natasha holds a First Class degree in English from Cambridge University, and an MA in journalism from Goldsmiths College, University of London.

https://techcrunch.com/2019/01/23/facebook-agrees-to-do-more-to-tackle-scam-ads-after-celebrity-defamation-lawsuit/

Insurance Giant Aetna Partners With IBM on Blockchain Network for Healthcare Industry

Insurance Giant Aetna Partners With IBM on Blockchain Network for Healthcare Industry

  

United States-based health insurance giant Aetna

has partnered with IBM to create a blockchain network tailored to the healthcare industry, Reuters reported Jan. 24. Estimated to serve over 39 million clients globally, Aetna has reportedly issued a joint statement with IBM clarifying that the blockchain system will be designed to streamline insurance claims processing and payments, as well as manage directories. The insurance giant also recently merged with retail pharmacy and healthcare firm CVS Health Corp.

Alongside American financial services firm PNC Bank, two other health insurers — which count over 55 million members combined — have also reportedly joined the initiative: not-for-profit Health Care Service Corp., the fourth largest American health insurer, with over 15 million members, and Anthem Inc., which provides coverage for over 40 million people in the U.S.

Chris Ward, an executive at PNC Bank’s treasury management unit, told Reuters that implementing a blockchain solution can “remove [the] friction, duplication, and administrative costs that continue to plague the industry.” Further members from the healthcare and technology sectors are reportedly expected to join the project in coming months, according to the statement.

Aetna is one of a group of major U.S. healthcare companies that formed an alliance last year to trial blockchain solutions for improving data integrity, security and cost efficiency. The initiative also includes leading American healthcare non-profit, Ascension. Blockchain technology continues to gain traction in the global healthcare sector, as insurers, hospitals and other industry professionals explore its benefits for sharing, securing and streamlining sensitive clinical and other health-related information.

Article Produced By
Marie Huillet

Marie Huillet is an independent filmmaker, with a background in journalism and publishing. Nomadic by nature, she’s lived in five different countries this decade. She’s fascinated by Blockchain technologies’ potential to reshape all aspects of our lives.

https://cointelegraph.com/news/insurance-giant-aetna-partners-with-ibm-on-blockchain-network-for-healthcare-industry