Terrorist? There’s An Algorithm For That

Facebook is reportedly planning to create Artificial Intelligence (AI) based algorithms that can spot posts that relate to terrorism and bullying, thereby making the platform safer for users, and making it less likely for those supporting and exporting violence and prejudice from using Facebook.

What’s The Problem?

The vast number of Facebook users, and the ease of signing up to and sharing widely across the platform, has meant that Facebook has become a place where posts reflect all views in society, from very good to very bad. It has also famously been a platform that defends the privacy of its users (and the use of encryption) e.g. as demonstrated by Mark Zuckerberg’s public support of Apple’s decision to not help the FBI to hack an iPhone that was used by one of the San Bernardino shooters.

Outlined in a Letter From Mark Zuckerberg

Now, in a 5,500-word letter discussing the future of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg has admitted that, due to the sheer scale and popularity of Facebook, it is now impossible to police and censor the more subverted and criminal use of the platform using conventional and existing means.

Facebook has also faced criticism in recent times over how one of Fusilier Lee Rigby’s killers spoke on the platform about murdering a soldier months before the attack, and the live streaming over Facebook of an attack on a Chicago Donald trump supporter in the so-called ‘Black Lives Matter kidnapping’.
How Will The Algorithm Work?

According to Mr Zuckerberg’s letter, the intention is to create an AI algorithm that can read text, and look at photos and videos in order to understand if anything dangerous may be happening, or to tell the difference between news stories about terrorism and actual terrorist propaganda. The aim is to create an algorithm that allows Facebook users to post (largely) whatever they like, within the law, because the algorithm will enable users to filter their news feed.

When?

The complexity of developing an AI algorithm of this kind means that it may not be fully ready for several years, although Mark Zuckerberg has stated that Facebook intends to start dealing with some of the cases this year.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

An algorithm of this kind could lead to a much better and safer Facebook experience for all users. The ability of users to customise and to have greater power control over their own online experiences is attractive, although it is important that the algorithm is not so constrictive as to simply be a kind of heavy censoring.

If the algorithm makes the platform more attractive to more users, this would be good news for business advertisers, although the algorithm may mean that businesses will have to be more careful about the content of their promotional videos, photos and messages in order to be compliant and not to be screened out. 

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Self-Flying Taxis Over Dubai From July

According to the head of Dubai’s Roads and Transportation Agency, passengers could be able to use self-flying drone taxis from as early as July this year.

One-Person Drone Taxi Already Tested Over Dubai.

The Ehang 184, electric-powered, pilotless ‘taxi’ drone is reported to have already been tested over the skies of Dubai. The four-propellered, pod-shaped vehicle is able to transport one passenger and their bag (weighing not more than 100 kilograms / 220 pounds in total) on a journey of up to 23 minutes duration on a single charge. Charging the drone’s battery up between journeys reportedly takes up to 2 hours.

Since the drone taxi can travel at 100 mph / 160km/hr top speed, this means that it can travel 31 miles in one trip, which should be more than enough for a taxi journey into and out of the United Arab Emirates’ most luxurious city.

Following Nevada.

Back in June last year, the state of Nevada in the US cleared the very same model of drone for testing of passenger-carrying.

Call Using an App.

People will be able to call and use a drone taxi by entering their location and destination into an app on their phone. The drone is then able to map the route, which will actually take it in hops from one set landing point to another rather than simply in a straight line.

The Benefits.

The benefits are, of course, huge time savings for passengers in being able to avoid traffic-jams, and labour cost savings for air-taxi operating companies. If the drone taxis prove popular, it could also lead to less congestion on Dubai’s roads and less pollution. The taxis may also be yet another draw and attraction for tourists to a city that is now a very popular destination.

Hyperloop Trains.

Back in November, Dubai struck a deal with US start-up Hyperloop to look into the construction of a vacuum-sealed, pod transportation system called Hyperloop. It is estimated that this transportation method could slash travel times between Dubai and Abu Dhabi (150 kilometres / 90 miles apart) to around 12 minutes! The dream is that Dubai could have a truly futuristic transport system in place that combines autonomous road taxis, drone taxis, and Hyperloop trains.

What Does This Mean For Your Businesses?

For businesses such as Amazon, Uber, and those in similar industries, Dubai’s adoption and use of autonomous vehicle and drone technology in a built-up environment could provide a real-life testing ground, which could present a strong argument and a demand-stimulator for the use of those technologies in many other countries and cities. For those travelling to Dubai on business, drone taxis and Hyperloop trains could save time and increase comfort in reaching important meetings.

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Drivers Rewarded For Ignoring Their Phone

A new app called SafeDrive has been developed to reduce the number of phone distraction accidents on the roads by offering shopping discount points as a reward for ignoring your phone while driving.

Why The App?

The app was developed by 30 year-old Romanian businessman Tudor Cobalas, after he nearly crashed while he was texting and driving at the same time.

Even though a personal experience was the trigger for the idea, the app has proven popular because it meets a need that has been recognised worldwide – the need to cut road accident deaths. For example, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1.25 million people die each year as a result of road traffic accidents. In the European Union, the average number of road deaths per million inhabitants is 51.5, and WHO figures show that drivers using a mobile phone are four times more likely to be involved in a crash.

Smartphone distraction is now widely recognised as a cause of many accidents on UK roads. In November last year, for example, Police in England and Wales conducted a week-long campaign to catch and crack down on drivers using hand-held mobile phones while driving. This came just ahead of UK government plans to double fines and points for using a mobile phone while driving.

How Does The SafeDrive App Work?

The ‘SafeDrive’ app works by locking the phone as soon as the car exceeds 6mph (10kmh). If the app detects that the driver hasn’t released the lock by checking the phone during a journey, the driver is then rewarded with a number of points. These points can be converted into shopping discounts in the app’s own ‘SafeDrive Marketplace’.

If the driver presses the ‘Release’ button on the phone during the journey e.g. in order to check messages or take / make calls, the app wipes out any points that the driver had accumulated in the journey.

The voluntary SafeDrive app, which already has 10,000 users around the world, also has the backing of a wide variety of commercial partners, including retailers (for the SafeDrive Marketplace) and insurance companies.

Another App Aimed At Young Drivers.

Mr Cobalas has also developed another app aimed at teenage drivers. The ‘Milez’ app is intended to meet US parental concerns about the need to educate young drivers. The app offers positive reinforcement for safe driving behaviour in the form of financial rewards from relatives and friends.

More Similar Apps Available.

There are now several apps to help improve driving and prevent phone distraction while driving. The free DriveWell app from US company Cambridge Mobile Telematics, for example, gives drivers a safety score after each trip. High scores can earn drivers discounts on their car insurance with some insurers. The app also monitors how often drivers are distracted by their phones. More phone distractions mean a lower safety score.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

As well as being refreshing to see a system that uses the phone itself as its own monitor, and uses incentives / positive reinforcement as motivator to change behaviour, the SafeDrive app and others like it could make the roads safer for all of us.

For your business in the UK, if you and your employees drive to and from work and( as part of your work) it is essential that a hands-free device is used for any calls, or that calls are only made or received when your vehicle is safely parked. Even checking texts constitutes a distraction.

The results of not heeding the law on this matter are not just the terrible human consequences, but also the potential damage to your business through driving penalties and reputational damage from the local publicity.

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Brexit Blamed For Microsoft £400 Price Rise

The effects of the UK’s vote to leave the EU and the resulting fall in the value of the pound appear to be the reasons why Microsoft has raised the price of its Surface PCs by as much as 15% in the UK.

Big Hike

The price hike is likely to add up to £400 to the price of some Microsoft’s Surface and Surface Book PCs here in the UK.

Why?

The price rise came out of a recent price review by Microsoft for its PC sales in the UK. The problem from Microsoft’s point of view is that the UK’s vote to leave the EU back in June 2016, and the subsequent announcement in October 2016 by PM Theresa May that she intended to trigger Brexit proceedings by March 2017, saw the pound’s value plummet, and trade at a new 31-year low level against the dollar (at $1.2749).

The dollar is the currency in which the main IT vendors book their revenues, and therefore, the fall in pound’s value against the dollar has meant that big IT companies are looking to make ‘harmonisation’ / re-alignment efforts (in other words, raise their prices to cover the loss).

Expected Since October Last Year

Microsoft’s latest price rise announcement is no surprise, since it announced in October last year that it was raising the prices of its cloud and on-premise software in the UK by as much as 22%. It also said at the time that from January 2017, British pound prices for on-premise enterprise software would increase by 13% to realign close to euro levels.

Hardware Prices Went Up Last June

Almost as soon as the referendum result was in last June, hardware manufacturers such as Dell raised their prices.

Businesses With Volume Licensing Contracts Safe

Microsoft have, however, stated that the price hike for the Surface and Surface Book PCs here in the UK will only apply to individuals, and to organisations without volume licensing contracts.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

If you’re a multiple-user business with a Microsoft volume licensing contract, you’re safe from this particular price rise. Microsoft has also stated, however, that prices offered to businesses indirectly by Microsoft reseller partners for the PCs are likely to vary, because the prices are determined by those individual vendors.

It is, however difficult to see in the short term, how prices are not going to go up for UK businesses in some way e.g. higher costs for UK-based public cloud users.

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Thousands of New UK Jobs at Amazon

Online retailer Amazon has announced that is going to create 5,000 new full-time jobs in the UK this year.

The new jobs will boost Amazon’s total, permanent UK workforce to 24,000.

What Kind of Jobs?

It has been reported that Amazon is going to be hiring people in a range of roles, including anything from software developers to warehouse staff. The new UK jobs will also include hundreds of apprenticeship opportunities.

Where?

It looks likely that the jobs will be created at Amazon’s new head office in London (where many of the most technical roles are situated) as well as at their Edinburgh customer service centre plus three more new warehouses / fulfilment centres in Tilbury, Doncaster and Daventry.

Why The Expansion Here?

The UK market is Amazon’s second biggest outside the US, behind Germany. The extra 3 fulfilment centres are reported to be needed to allow Amazon to cope with its existing rate of growth and to help speed up deliveries. Amazon also needs more space and staff because it will be handling more deliveries for third-party retailers who use its website for sales and who need its delivery services.

Some analysts have also mentioned a possible move into clothing plus there are reports that Amazon may be close to launching an own-brand fashion label.
These reports have been fuelled by news of Amazon creating a fashion photography studio in London. It is not inconceivable therefore that some of the new jobs may be related to this new area of the business.

Signs Last Year.

The signs of Amazon’s popularity and expansion appeared to be everywhere in the UK last year. For example, Amazon launched a grocery delivery service in parts of the UK last summer (thought to be a test for the US). Last September, Amazon also increased its locker collection / delivery points by getting a presence in Morrisons stores.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Amazon’s scale (and its economies thereof), the success of its business model plus the strength and reach of its delivery network, coupled with the power of its brand and the ease of online shopping for customers make it a serious competitor for many companies, which now include grocers and fashion retailers. Some businesses, however, benefit as third-parties using Amazon’s network, or through acting as hosts for Amazon’s collection points. News of new jobs being created by large international companies in the UK (particularly after Brexit) is welcome, particularly if the jobs are secure.

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Search Engines to Bury Pirate Content

A new anti-piracy voluntary code of practice between search engines Google and Bing could see the filtering out of websites offering pirated films, music and illegally streamed sport.

What Was The Problem?

At the moment, search engine filtering is not in place to the point where search engine users clicking on high ranking search engine results don’t end up unwittingly arrive websites which present a possible security risk and/or offer illegal/pirated content.

Online piracy means that providers of content (e.g. films and sport) are currently losing out on significant amounts of potential income, as well as wasting part of their marketing spend and losing control over quality.

In terms of what anti-piracy action can currently be taken by and on behalf of UK content providers, court orders can be taken out to block certain sites, advertising can be restricted on illegal websites, and initiatives are in place to educate and gain support from consumers, such as the ‘Get it Right From A Genuine Site’ campaign.

Google Already Has Some Measures in Place.

Google already takes some anti-piracy measures, such as removing links from search engine results where rights holders are able to provide proof that their copyright has been infringed. Google also punishes web pages that have large numbers of takedown requests by giving them lower search engine ranking positions.

Government-Brokered Talks Produce ‘World First’ Code.

The two search engine titans and representatives of the entertainment industry reached agreement on the new code during talks brokered by the UK government. The talks brought the main UK interested parties together to reach a mutually beneficial solution, which is thought to be a world first code of practice.

Although the talks were led by the Intellectual Property Office, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and Ofcom also provided advisory support and assistance.

What Will The Code Mean in Practice?

Content commentators seem to broadly agree that a joined-up approach that takes into account the interests of multiple parties is a positive step. It is thought that adoption of the code by Google and Bing, which looks likely to begin this year, will mean fewer security risks for consumers online, and a greater likelihood that consumers will more quickly be able to access high quality content on fairer sites, and avoid any legal risks associated with downloading copyright-infringed content

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This can only be good news for businesses investing in and providing high quality and original content. Although it is not an out-right screening out of piracy, it looks likely to make life more difficult for those seeking to benefit financially from the work and investment of legitimate content providers.

Businesses will now also need to be more thorough in checking to make sure that any content they publish online is not infringing any copyrights.

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Coop Bank For Sale.

The Co-op Bank, which is 20% owned by the Co-operative Group, and was rescued by a US hedge fund bail-out, is now up for sale. Meanwhile, it appears that some customers may also be experiencing the effects of its IT system transformation.
Bank For Sale.

In 2013, the Co-op Bank nearly collapsed, which was mainly attributed to it losing money on commercial property deals, and trying to buy 630 branches from Lloyds Banking Group. The headlines at the time were full of stories highlighting its more than £1 billion losses in 2012 and 2013, as well as disgraced former Co-op bank chairman Paul Flowers stepping down in 2013 over concerns about expenses, and then being charged the following year with possession of drugs.
Bailout and Back.

Co-op Bank, which now has 4 million customers, was brought back from the brink in 2013 when a rescue plan was devised to address a capital shortfall of around £1.9bn, and US hedge-fund money put it back on the right track. In 2015, the Co-op Bank said it would remain loss-making until the end of 2017, and it has now been put up of for sale
The Co-op bank is supported by selling points such as the strength of a widely recognised brand, and its ethical value associations, and a reputation for good customer service.
IT Growing Pains & Woes.

Where the IT side of Co-op banks recent journey is concerned, it appears to be a case of things getting slightly worse before they get better.
After a reported period of what some describe as ‘under-investment in its IT systems’, the bank has, over a period of 18 months, been migrating its core IT systems to a new outsourced platform with IBM. It has also been involved in a contractual dispute with Capita, one of the results of which has been the dropping of an IT system transformation with Capita.
In addition to this, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) told the Co-op bank in 2015 that its technology constituted a breach of its Threshold Conditions. This apparent sailing too close to minimum technology standards was reportedly due to a lack of a proven end-to-end disaster recovery capability. This has meant that the FCA and the Prudential Regulation Authority have told the Co-op bank that they are closely supervising its return to technology compliance.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For some customers, including business customers, the migration to the new IT platform has meant that there have been outages when banking services couldn’t be accessed during the planned maintenance periods.
The fact that there have been recent problems with compliance to technology standards, at a time when cyber crime figures are high, and at a time where other banks have been targeted (hackers stole money from Tesco bank accounts) means that the Co-op bank may not currently look like the best banking option for many business customers. The fact that the bank is now up for sale, and the obvious uncertainty that this brings may also mean that some business customers may be tempted to switch, and potential new customers may be deterred until the bank has been sold, and the details of the sale and its implications publicised.
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French Love Cheat Sues Uber After Getting Caught Out

A (now-divorced) French businessman is suing taxi-style operator Uber over the alleged role of its app in exposing evidence of his extra-marital affair to his wife.
Ticket To Ride.

According to recent news reports, the businessman in question, who has not been publicly named, but is being represented by his lawyer David-André Darmon, reportedly used his wife’s phone to request an Uber driver to take him to a rendezvous with his lover.
It has been reported that the businessman’s wife then received a number of notifications on her iPhone from the Uber app, after her husband had logged off. It was allegedly the information that was contained within these notifications, such as the man’s travel history, that aroused his wife’s suspicions.
The businessman’s lawyer, Mr Darmon, has stated that “a bug in an application” (the Uber app) was the alleged cause of the notifications and the subsequent discovery of the affair by the man’s wife.
Bye Bye Love.

Since the incident the couple are reported to have divorced. The lawsuit from the husband against Uber is thought to be in the region of £38m (€45m).
Software Bug Also Identified By Newspaper.

The French newspaper ‘Le Figaro’ carried out its own tests at the end of last year after hearing about possible problems with the Uber app. The newspaper’s test involved logging in and out of Uber on one iPhone, and then using another phone to login and order a driver. The newspaper has reported that both phones then received screen notifications from the Uber app, thus appearing to confirm claims made by the ill-fated French businessman. The newspaper concluded that there may have been a glitch with the Uber app that affected iPhones (but not android phones) before a software update in December.
Privacy Campaigners.

It appears that issues with the Uber app are nothing new. It was reported in December last year by privacy campaigners in the US on behalf of concerned customers, that an update to Uber’s app allows users’ GPS signals to be followed after they have left the vehicle at the end of their journey.
What Does Uber Say?

Uber has refused to comment on the specific case of the French businessman, but has said that protection of its clients’ personal details is a priority.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This story and other similar reports illustrate how more businesses are now using apps, and are using the data collected by those apps, perhaps in ways that we may not approve of due to their potential impact on our privacy. Data protection and privacy have become very important to consumers, particularly at a time where data breaches at large /well known companies appear to be fairly common.
In the UK, this should also be a reminder that GDPR is due to come into force in just over a year’s time, and that businesses need to become well acquainted with how they are able to collect and use customer data relating to EU citizens according to these regulations in order to be compliant, treat customers well, and to avoid any bad publicity or lawsuits.
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Your Money. But Not As You Know It.

As predicted, debit and credit card, and other cashless payment systems now make up most financial transactions, but could this mean a change in the understanding of the value of money in the young generation?
In 2015 Cards Overtook Cash.

Back in May 2015, the number of cash transactions dipped below cashless transactions for businesses, consumers and financial organisations. At that time cash made up only 48% of financial transactions, beaten by cheques (to an ever decreasing extent), credit cards, debit cards, contactless cards, direct debits, and standing orders. This led experts to predict a continued downward trend for cash, perhaps reaching £13 billion in value by 2023 compared to cashless transactions of £27 billion+. This trend appears to be very much on the course predicted, with Millennials, and now Generation-Z getting used to a world where cash plays a smaller, and decreasing part in their lives, shunned in favour of online purchasing using cards and PayPal.
Different View of Value?

Some financial and technical commentators have suggested that a change in the perception of the ‘value’ of money could be something that could be taking / could soon take place among the young because of:
  • Money becoming more ‘invisible’ and intangible through the use of more cashless transactions.
  • Less emphasis on the importance of physical cash from parents who are themselves used to using cards for most transactions.
  • Money becoming more difficult to track because of so many card-based transactions.
  • Parents topping up phones for children rather than giving them cash.
  • The ability to make contactless payments with cards
  • The introduction of new currencies e.g. Bitcoin, which is web-based and doesn’t go through central banks.
Why The Move Away From Cash?
The reasons why the move from physical cash to cashless and invisible is still progressing include:
  • A fall in the price of card readers and card transactions, and banks making it easier for more smaller businesses to take cards, which means that many smaller businesses can now offer chip and PIN services.
  • The growth of self-service checkouts.
  • The continued growth of internet shopping.
  • The expanded use of top-up cards, and transport cards with longer terms than paper tickets e.g. Oyster card.
  • Vending, parking, and other machines accepting cards.
Will Cash Disappear Soon?

According to the Payments Council, cash is still an important way for many people to carry out day-to-day purchases, and to tightly control their spending. Plus, for 3.5 million people it is the only method that is used. Despite predictions of cash soon becoming a minority system, The Payments Council has said that cash will not disappear completely.
Different Perception of Value?

The idea that perceptions of the value of money are changing has not been fully tested and is currently based upon more anecdotal evidence, guesswork and assumptions.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Offering customers the chance to pay using very convenient, cashless means i.e. by card (on and offline over the phone), PayPal, top-up cards / top-up online accounts etc. is therefore likely to be an important way to contribute to positive customer experiences of your business, help your business to remain competitive, reduce the cost of sales, and get money quickly into the business in a convenient way.
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Sex Education? Kids To Now Get Cyber Security Lessons

A 5 year pilot scheme is being introduced to English schools, which will focus on teaching children cyber security skills in a bid to fill a skills gap in this area across the UK.
Cyber Crime Now an Important National Issue.

The risk of criminals (or foreign powers) hacking into critical UK computer systems ranks as one of the top four threats to national security. The importance of combating cyber crime as a national and an international issue has been brought into sharp focus over the last year by (for example) :
  • Reports last year (such as Symantec’s in April) showing a big increase in cyber crimes such as online fraud in the UK.
  • Multiple high profile data breaches reported in the media such as the Tesco bank hack (and theft).
  • State-sponsored hacking threats outlined in Chancellor Philip Hammond’s National Cyber Security Strategy speech.
  • Alleged state-sponsored hacking in the US elections.
  • The setting up of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) with help from GCHQ, and the introduction of the National Cyber Security Programme, including ‘CyberFirst’.
  • A warning by the Commons committee last week that a cyber skills shortage is undermining confidence in the UK’s cyber defences.
The Skills Gap.

The recent Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report highlights concerns about the UK government’s efforts to protect government data from attackers, with one of these concerns being for the apparent lack of suitable cyber security skills in the country i.e. a cyber skills gap.
The New Pilot Scheme.

Under the new five-year pilot scheme, 5,700 pupils aged 14 over in English schools will spend up to four hours a week studying cyber security. The lessons will take the form of classroom and online teaching, including the setting of real-world challenges, and the introduction of work experience opportunities from September this year. The lessons will fit around the pupils’ current courses and exams.
£20 Million To Spend.

It has been reported that The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is providing £20m for the new cyber security lessons, and the intention is that:
  • Pupils can learn cutting-edge cyber security skills which could help them to find employment in a fast-growing cyber security industry that currently employs 58,000 experts.
  • Talent in this area can be identified and nurtured.
  • UK businesses and governments can benefit from the skills of home-grown cyber-security experts, and the skills gap can be significantly narrowed in the near future.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Businesses and governments need to get together and find effective ways to bridge the widening cyber-skills gap. Both governments and businesses are targets for cyber criminals, and both would benefit from the outcomes of the up-to-date education and training of a new generation of cyber security experts. This pilot, along with other initiatives could go some way to narrowing a UK cyber security skills gap, and therefore reducing the risk of each of us becoming a victim of cyber crime.
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