Alternative Blockchain Uses Deepen Individuals’ Privacy and Ownership Losses

Social media connection concept with mobile, notebook and server technology illustration.EPS10 vector file organized in layers for easy editing.
Social media connection concept with mobile, notebook and server technology illustration.

Picture Credit: Cienpies Design & Communication

The system behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, known as blockchain, is now being explored for other potential applications, according to NASDAQ. A blog post in the Wall Street Journal offered a basic definition of blockchain:

 A blockchain is a data structure that makes it possible to create a digital ledger of transactions and share it among a distributed network of computers. It uses cryptography to allow each participant on the network to manipulate the ledger in a secure way without the need for a central authority.
 ZDNET explains that “preparing an enterprise to embrace the Internet of Things means more than simply linking with remote devices or sensors. The IoT means rethinking an organization’s relationship with technology, and the possibilities that are opening up. These possibilities go far beyond what anyone could have even imagined a couple of years ago.” Of course, the myriad of applications from these efficiency gains are all very promising but, as 1,200 lawyer international firm Taylor Wessing points out, you don’t own this data that is being collected! This truly must change or you are going to be paying Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook for the use of your own eye scan… ABSURD! Waay back in 2008, Facebook issued its new and improved (for them) “terms of service (TOS)” asserting that “anything you upload to Facebook can be used by Facebook in any way they deem fit, forever, no matter what you do later.*Consumerist shared their TOS confirmation. A 2015 Atlantic cover story details how utterly creepy it is that Internet users have suffered a total loss of privacy and ownership (Google assigns to term to vehicles, wonder why…):
Picture Credit: Atlantic Monthly
“Facebook has also been thinking about faces. Last summer, the company’s artificial intelligence team announced that its facial-recognition software passed key tests with near human-level accuracy. (In June 2015), it presented a further development:”
‘Facebook’s Yann LeCun, the AI team’s director, boasted that a different algorithm could identify people 83 percent of the time even if their faces were not in the picture. The program instead works from a person’s hairdo, posture, and body type.’
Alternative Uses for Blockchain that NASDAQ Flags: Fortune applauded recently the ascendancy of ex-Caryle Group finance exec Adena Friedman to the role of NASDAQ chief executive, “making her the first woman to run a major U.S. exchange and catapulting her into the top ranks of women in finance.”
  • A blog on Bytecoin noted numerous alternative uses for blockchain, starting with Namecoin’s pioneering application of distributed DNA in which its goal is to allow registering standard DNS records, performing updates on them, and gaining access to these records. Others like Datacoin and Storj have suggested that blockchain could be used for cloud storage (peer to peer file sharing networks) or Satoshi Nakamoto’s suggestion that it could serve as a “distributed timestamp server” to protect data from being changed or deleted. Bitmessage and Twister both suggest that blockchain might be useful for communication platforms.
  • Startups like MyPowers is using blockchain technology as the basis to create a marketplace for digital content or any digital asset that can be traded online. It is pushing for the idea that the mass consumer audience can enjoy a decentralized marketplace for all types of products, merchandise, subscriptions and even influencers’ time.
  • Since blockchain has been used to authenticate transactions, an interesting application is to extend this to other applications like voting or any situation that needs authorization, such as for political parties or even proxy voting used by shareholders.
  • Identity management is another application in which tamper-proof digital identities can be created like those being developed by Onename. This is similar to Bitnation’s creation of digital identities both of which are now viewed as a potential replacement for the use of usernames and passwords in the online environment.
  • Records for businesses can be kept in a much more organized and succinct fashion through the use of blockchain technology, according to companies like Factom. At the same time, it addresses security and compliance issues based on the precedent set by blockchain’s original financial-based use.


 Picture Credit: Shutterstock
  • An infographic created by Let’s Talk Payments offers these applications and other alternatives for blockchain technology. These other options include smart contracts, reviews and endorsements, real estate, precious metals and diamonds, Internet of Things (IoT) applications, app development, patient medical records, network infrastructure, gaming, ride sharing and numerous financial uses.

Another Anti-Innovation: Facebook says users can’t stop it from using biometric data (!?)


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In an article that has since been removed from Chicago Crain’s Business, Facebook says users can’t stop it from using biometric data.

(Bloomberg)—Facebook Inc.’s software knows your face almost as well as your mother does. And like mom, it isn’t asking your permission to do what it wants with old photos. While millions of internet users embrace the tagging of family and friends in photos, others worried there’s something devious afoot are trying to block Facebook as well as Google from amassing such data.As advances in facial recognition technology give companies the potential to profit from biometric data, privacy advocates see a pattern in how the world’s largest social network and search engine have sold users’ viewing histories for advertising. The companies insist that gathering data on what you look like isn’t against the law, even without your permission.

If judges agree with Facebook and Google, they may be able to kill off lawsuits filed under a unique Illinois law that carries fines of $1,000 to $5,000 each time a person’s image is used without permission — big enough for a liability headache if claims on behalf of millions of consumers proceed as class actions. A loss by the companies could lead to new restrictions on using biometrics in the U.S., similar to those in Europe and Canada.

THE LAW: Read the Illinois Biometric Privacy Act

Facebook declined to comment on its court fight. Google hasn’t responded to requests for comment (Scroll down for a closer look at the court cases).


Courts have struggled over what qualifies as an injury to pursue a privacy case in lawsuits accusing Facebook and Google of siphoning users’ personal information from e-mails and monitoring their web browsing habits. Suits over selling the data to advertisers have often failed. This year, the U.S. Supreme Court set a “concrete injury” standard for privacy suits, a ruling that both sides are using to argue their case ahead of a hearing Thursday in San Francisco over Facebook’s bid to dismiss the biometrics case.Google is fending off suits in Chicago, arguing that the Illinois statute can’t apply outside the state under the Constitution’s interstate commerce rules. Google also contends the Illinois law doesn’t regulate photos.

Facebook encourages users to “tag” people in photographs they upload in their personal posts and the social network stores the collected information. The company uses a program it calls DeepFace to match other photos of a person. Alphabet Inc.’s cloud-based Google Photos service uses similar technology.The billions of images Facebook is thought to be collecting could be even more valuable to identity thieves than the names, addresses, and credit card numbers now targeted by hackers, according to privacy advocates and legal experts.

While those types of information are mutable—even Social Security numbers can be changed—biometric data for retinas, fingerprints, hands, face geometry and blood samples, are unique identifiers. “Biometric identifiers are a key way to link together information about people,” such as discrete financial, medical and educational records, said Marc Rotenberg, the president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, who isn’t involved in the case. Facebook has “cleverly got its users to improve the accuracy of its own database,” he said.


Photo by Facebook

And just how good is Facebook’s technology? According to the company’s research, DeepFace recognizes faces with an accuracy rate of 97.35 percent compared with 97.5 percent for humans—including mothers.

Rotenberg said the privacy concerns are twofold: Facebook might sell the information to retailers or be forced to turn it over to law enforcement—in both cases without users knowing it.

While most of the earlier privacy lawsuits relied on federal wiretap laws, the facial recognition cases hinge on the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (The Verge asks, “Who is trying to gut this act?” Guess) The Illinois residents who sued under the 2008 law say it gives them a “property interest” in the algorithms that constitute their digital identities—in other words, that gives them grounds to accuse Facebook of real harm. Facebook got the case moved to San Francisco. “Just as trade secrets or subscriber lists can be proprietary to a company like Facebook, unique and unchangeable biometric identifiers are proprietary to individuals,” according to their complaint. They also claim an “informational injury” because Facebook didn’t get consent to collect their so-called faceprints.

Facebook says the lawsuit should be thrown out because the users haven’t suffered a concrete injury such as physical harm, loss of money or property; or even a denial of their right to free speech or religion. The plaintiffs “have offered no specific or coherent allegations explaining how this collection and storage actually affects their privacy—much less causes them concrete harm,” Facebook argued in a court filing. Facebook offered examples that might work, such as if users were identified in an embarrassing photo that cost them their jobs, were victims of identity theft, or were caught in a compromising situation that harmed their relationships.While one person might be able to bring such a case, a group lawsuit would be impossible because it would “create a sea of individualized issues,” Facebook says.

Legal experts say it’s unclear which side will benefit from the Supreme Court’s “concrete harm” ruling in a case involving search engine operator Spokeo Inc. “Spokeo is vague about what kinds of injury are concrete enough to count,” said Julie Cohen, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center. “Everybody is scrambling for advantage.”


  • December 2005 — Facebook introduces photo tagging
  • October 2008 — Illinois adopts Biometric Information Privacy Act
  • June 2012 — Facebook acquires Israeli facial recognition developer
  • September 2012 — Facebook ceases facial recognition in Europe
  • 2015-2016 — Facebook, Google, Shutterfly and Snapchat sued under Illinois biometrics law. Shutterfly settles confidentially.
  • May 2016 — Illinois lawmaker proposes excluding photos from biometrics law, then shelves bill after privacy advocates complain
  • October 2016 — Facebook makes second attempt to get biometrics lawsuit thrown out

The Facebook case is In re Facebook Biometric Information Privacy Litigation, 15-cv-03747, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco). The Google cases are Rivera v. Google, 16-cv-02714, and Weiss v. Google, 16-cv-02870, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).


Weiss v. Google by craignewman on Scribd

TheVerge explains: “Many of the plaintiffs suspect Google or Facebook to be behind the last-minute proposal to change the law. “We believe that Facebook is a lobbyist that is a part of this,” said Chris Dore, an Edelson partner who is working on the lawsuit against Facebook’s photo-tagging system. “The changes that have been proposed certainly mirror the arguments that have been made in our case.” Facebook’s most recent motion to dismiss confirms this impression, devoting an entire section to the argument that the Illinois law does not apply to information derived from photographs.

Angie’s List: Home Repair Referrals, Trust but Verify and IoT Land


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Update: In early October, according to the Street, “As Angie’s List (ANGI) continues to implement a turnaround effort, the consumer review site’s M&A path is getting more complicated. The Indianapolis company announced Friday that former Bankrate (RATE) CEO Thomas Evans had been elected chairman of the board. Evans replaces John Chuang, who resigned as chairman and director. Director Steven Kapner also resigned.” Barry Diller’s IAC Interactive bid at $8.75  (about $500M) from November 2015 was rejected as too low.

NEVER underestimate a driven female entrepreneur who is motivated by a journalism model, want high renewals, and seeks out loyalty from its membership ranks. When Angie Hicks Bowman started “her list” in 1995 as a call-in service, she insisted on having home repair service provider reviews provided by paid network members to build credibility. As a customer reviews-based search engine for paying members, as a directory site, a homeowner pays a yearly fee to be a member and has access to the site where they can browse business profiles and search for home service providers. Members can also read in depth reviews of service providers that were written by other members. “When talking about services that we cover — you know, having a roof done on your house, replacing your furnace — these are high-cost-of-failure transactions, and the need for high-quality information is important. I think there should be more accountability online,” she told Huffington Post host Mike Sacks in 2013.

So these referral networks are a compliment to a measurable media marketing site like Blue Corona which offers a user friendly website and SEO optimized content , as do many other web site contractors. But what Angie’s List has achieved a high loyalty rate based on trust (service providers can be listed for free here but can’t submit their own skewed reviews, though maybe “members” do.) Of course, as the graphic above demonstrates, all business activity is focused on data-driven networks tied to the ever present “cloud” which is undergoing a data explosion due to the Internet of Things. (IoT). The latest estimate is the “Internet of Everything” — all of the people and things connected to the internet — will generate 507.5 zettabytes (1 zettabyte = 1 trillion gigabytes) of data by 2019, according to Cisco.


After logging $344M in revenues in 2015, Angie’s List has begun to morph into a broader consumer space that now includes health care services under (relatively new) President and CEO Scott Durchslag (who turned around [some] Best Buy? and Expedia, and grew Skype). Scott clearly states the Angie’s List mission: “to relentlessly elevate the local home services experience.” So here are the key elements of this turnaround which link quality to perceived value:

  • Update the platform to accelerate innovation, launch new marketing initiatives and add new features and services including a service provider dashboard;
  • Shift sales efforts from a “transactional model” (hello, Wells Fargo) to a service quality/ customer relationship model so that members and business clients get their issues and concerns addressed;
  • Eliminate “member pay walls” so that membership grows, reviews increase and then service provider jobs grow as a bi-product;
  • Develop and deliver new personalized, customized and data driven tools and products to help service        providers better manage and grow contractor businesses;
  • Allow members to specify what advertising they want to see and then that permission can be monetized        with selected advertisers and your existing service providers (IAI occasionally engages in consumer surveys); and                      Picture Credit: NGDATA
  • Online consumers should emphatically reject the idea that force-fed advertising is acceptable and accept that there is NO SUCH THING as a “free” Internet service as Facebook has aggressively shown by redefining the meaning of “private information”).

At the root of the Internet of Things was data collection in the energy industry, especially for utilities. In the coming Green Revolution, IoT will enable a community of customers with shared interests in energy efficiency retain the benefits from their conservation efforts. McKinsey points out that IoT works best with networks but has some serious privacy concerns for households (are you listening GoogleAmazonAppleIBMYahooFacebookTwitter?) as there are already concerns about: 1) identity theft, 2) household hacking and 3) privacy intrusion.

McKinsey frames it correctly here:

The Internet of Things refers to the networking of physical objects through the use of embedded sensors, actuators, and other devices that can collect or transmit information about the objects. The data amassed from these devices can then be analyzed to optimize products, services, and operations. Perhaps one of the earliest and best-known applications of such technology has been in the area of energy optimization: sensors deployed across the electricity grid can help utilities remotely monitor energy usage and adjust generation and distribution flows to account for peak times and downtimes.



Facebook, Amazon, Google, IBM and Microsoft come together to create historic Partnership on AI

Hmmmn…is this standard setting, oligopoly or collusion???


Picture Credit: TechCrunch tagged as “AI competition” (?)

Posted with no further comment from TechCrunch….

” The world’s largest technology companies hold the keys to some of the largest databases on our planet. Much like goods and coins before it, data is becoming an important currency for the modern world. The data’s value is rooted in its applications to artificial intelligence. Whichever company owns the data, effectively owns AI. Right now that means companies like Facebook, Amazon, Alphabet, IBM and Microsoft have a ton of power. In an act of self-governance, these five companies came together today to announce the launch the new Partnership on AI. The group is tasked with conducting research and promoting best practices. Practically, this means that the group of tech companies will come together frequently to discuss advancements in artificial intelligence. The group also opens up a formal structure for communication across company lines. It’s important to remember that on a day-to-day basis, these teams are in constant competition with each other to develop the best products and services powered by machine intelligence.

Financial support will be coming from the initial tech companies that are members of the group, but in the future, membership and involvement is expected to increase. User activists, nonprofits, ethicists and other stakeholders will be joining the discussion in the coming weeks. “We want to involve people impacted by AI as well,” said Mustafa Suleyman, co-founder and head of applied AI at DeepMind, a subsidiary of Alphabet. The organizational structure has been designed to allow non-corporate groups to have equal leadership side-by-side with large tech companies.

As of today’s launch, companies like Apple, Twitter, Intel and Baidu are missing from the group. Though Apple is said to be enthusiastic about the project, their absence is still notable because the company has fallen behind in artificial intelligence when compared to its rivals — many of which are part of this new group. The new organization really seems to be about promoting change by example. Rather than preach to the tech world, it wants to use a standard open license to publish research on topics, including ethics, inclusivity and privacy. “The power of AI is in the enterprise sector,” said Francesca Rossi, an AI ethics researcher at IBM Research. “For society at-large to get the benefits of AI, we first have to trust it.”

The focus of the organization is a refreshing juxtaposition to more pop-culture discussions about the risks of artificial intelligence. While the jury is still out as to whether a singularity event could threaten mankind, we already face a long list of challenges in today’s world of AI. While computers are not at a point yet where they can take all of our jobs, they can amplify the negative tendencies that humans already possess. A biased world can result in biased data sets and, in turn, bias artificial intelligence frameworks. To combat this, companies like Microsoft have already formed AI ethics advisory boards. But, rather than override existing efforts, the new group augments projects already undertaken at individual companies and provides a forum for sharing valuable advice. The group plans to make discussions and minutes from meetings publicly available.