Amid the ongoing scandal regarding Facebook’s part in the US 2016 elections, the social media giant has found itself in the middle of yet another controversy. A New York Times report brought to light how a voter profiling company, Cambridge Analytica, harvested more than 50 million Facebook profiles of American voters without their permission. This report resulted in not just harsh criticism from lawmakers in the United States and Britain, but users as well, sparking the #DeleteFacebook movement.
According to the report, Cambridge Analytica secured a $15 million investment to develop a tool that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. Although these profiles were obtained without the consent of the users, the millions of Facebook profiles do not constitute a data breach as nobody hacked into Facebook. The data, surprisingly, was obtained legally because the business model of Facebook is predicated on mining the personal details of its two billion users.
A former employee at Cambridge Analytica, Christopher Wylie, who helped the company obtain user data said the company was built on harvesting user data. “We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons,” he added. The data allowed Cambridge Analytica to exploit the social media activity of the American electorate and help the Trump campaign target advertisements.
Wylie reached out to Aleksandr Kogan, a Russian-American who developed a personality prediction app called “thisisyourdigitallife.” Kogan told Facebook that he was collecting the data for academic purposes. It should be noted that Facebook has the right to collect user information for research and other purposes as stated in their terms and conditions. Kogan’s app compiled personal information from people based on what they liked on Facebook. As per a report by The Guardian, Kogan, through his company Global Science Research, paid 270,000 people to download the app and take a personality test. Using the test, Cambridge Analytica was able to compile information not only from the users who took the test but from their friend’s profiles as well.
The problem lies in the fact that Facebook was aware that Cambridge Analytica had user data and they asked the company to delete it. While Cambridge Analytica and Kogan seemed to comply, the social networking company never followed up or confirmed the deletion of the data. Until last week, Facebook also allowed the voter profiling company to operate on its site.
The fallout from the scandal resulted in users walking away from the social networking site. Various celebrities also took to Twitter to express their views, including Jim Carrey, who tweeted Zuckerberg’s quote from 2004.
— Jim Carrey (@JimCarrey) March 20, 2018
In addition to Cambridge Analytica’s involvement with the US 2016 election, the company has also been a part of the Brexit referendum and US Senator Ted Cruz’s primary run in 2016.
Finally, following days of silence, the Chief Executive Officer of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg responded to the criticism via a Facebook post. Apologizing for the mistake, Zuckerberg said, “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you.”
Whistleblower Wylie was suspended from Facebook and Instagram following the controversy.
— Christopher Wylie (@chrisinsilico) March 18, 2018
— Christopher Wylie (@chrisinsilico) March 19, 2018
Facebook along with Cambridge Analytica is facing several lawsuits in Britain and United States of America. The Attorney General of Massachusetts, Maura Healey’s office will also be opening an investigation into the matter. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia and Representative Adam Schiff of California, the Congressional Democrats leading inquiries into Russian interference in the 2016 election have also called for investigations of the Facebook data leak.
Suki: This Startup Wants To Transform Healthcare With Its Artificial Intelligence Tool
We live in a rapidly transforming era where humanity is making exponential leaps in technology. Thirty years ago, no one would have believed you could talk to an online voice assistant to create tasks and get things done. Ten years ago, no one would have believed humanity would land robots on Mars. Technology truly has improved the quality of living of every human who owns a smartphone and has access to an internet connection. Voice assistants are slowly replacing manual tasks and making lives easier and efficient. Siri, Alexa, Google Voice Assistant are just some of the widely used artificial intelligence based tools which are employed on a daily basis. Artificial intelligence, which is hailed as the technology of the future is now slowly making its way into much more complex domains like self driving vehicles, quantum computing and also health care.
Suki, a United States of America based startup founded by Punit Soni, developed their own voice assistant which runs on artificial intelligence to simplify healthcare for doctors and other healthcare professionals. In simple terms, Suki is akin to Siri for doctors. While you could order a pizza or schedule an appointment on Siri, doctors could modify, edit and add health records of their patients. Suki is a powerful tool to help doctors with documentation of health records which often take hours of their (doctors) time.
Suki currently focuses on documentation but has the potential to expand its usage to data queries, ordering, prescribing and billing. According to a white paper published by Suki, using its technology increases the time a doctor spends with a patient by 12% by cutting note taking time by 76%. The time which is saved also brings in a financial benefit of $30,000 more in revenue a year on average for doctors.
Suki raised a $ 20 million Series B round from Flare Capital Partners, First Round Capital, and Venrock, doubling its total funding to $ 40 million since its 2017 launch. Suki is also looking to expand its reach in India and has decided to establish Bangalore as their base of operations. India holds a lot of potential for Suki considering the amount of manual work which goes into almost any sector.
It would be interesting to watch how Suki and other similar AI based startups would transform healthcare across the world.
Leher Versus Clubhouse: Which Audio Listening Startup Would You Choose?
Clubhouse is a new type of social networking platform which is an audio only platform. This means every conversation takes place through audio where users speak to let their thoughts known. Users can create and host rooms where speakers will talk about a particular topic. Originating in the Silicon Valley, Clubhouse attracted some major names onto its platform like Elon Musk, Evan Williams, Reddit co founder Alexis Ohanian, former Y Combinator President Sam Altman, AngelList co founder Naval Ravikant, Ashton Kuthcer, Oprah Winfrey, Drake, Kevin Hart and many others are some of the influential personalities who are on Clubhouse. There is however a catch as Clubhouse is currently limited to iOS.
Leher is an Indian made alternative to Clubhouse and is a similar audio sharing and listening startup. Leher also has video support unlike Clubhouse and is also available for both Android and iOS. However, Leher does not have the biggest names in the world on its platform but it does have significant micro influencers and is growing at a rapid pace. Within 180 days of its beta version launch, the company claimed to have its users spend about 44 minutes every day and 250,000 minutes per month for live video sessions.
We at Startup Stories are curious to see which among Leher or Clubhouse would our readers choose to take part in a virtual discussion. Please let us know your answer in the poll below.
Facebook Launches BARS For Creating Raps To Counter TikTok’s Growing Popularity
Facebook is leaving no stone unturned to tackle the surging popularity of the Chinese video making app TikTok. As part of its redoubled efforts Facebook is launching a new app named BARS which could be used to create and share raps. The core idea behind the app is rappers could focus on creating content without having to worry about investing heavily in production and equipment.
Facebook said, “Audio production tools can be complicated, expensive and difficult to use. With BARS, you can select one of our professionally-created beats, write lyrics and record yourself dropping bars (sic.)” The company also added, “BARS auto-suggests rhymes as you’re writing to keep your flow going. You can also jump into Challenge mode and freestyle with auto-suggested word cues. Choose from a variety of audio and visual filters to take your creations to the next level (sic.)”
The app is now available in the Apple App Store in the United States of America. The invites for using BARS would be sent out in batches beginning in the USA and then expanded worldwide.
This would be the second app which Facebook is launching to counter TikTok’s growing popularity. Instagram Reels was the latest offering from the photo sharing platform Instagram (owned by Facebook) and was launched as a replacement for the video sharing application TikTok. TikTok was enjoying an unrivalled popularity in India as it became a means to keep boredom at bay during the nationwide lockdown which was imposed in light of the COVID-19 virus. However, the Indian government announced that it would ban 59 Chinese applications in which TikTok was one, along with WeChat, Helo, Cam Scanner and many others. This left a sudden void in video making applications, and Instagram realised the need for urgency to capitalize on this void. Therefore, Instagram immediately pushed their latest feature Instagram Reels which lets its users create 15 second videos with music from Instagram’s database. These videos look very similar to the ones made on TikTok and has gained a lot of popularity in India where Tik Tok continues to be banned.
ALSO READ: 4 Things To Know About Instagram Reels
Google also took advantage of the Indian Government’s ban of the viral application TikTok. Google introduced a new feature on YouTube called YouTube Shorts. The feature for all intents and purposes mimics the same features TikTok used to provide. The new feature mimics many of TikTok’s most popular features, allowing users to make and post 15 second videos with built in creative tools encouraging them to add licensed music and more.
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