The U.K. government is pulling in tech firms to connect family and friends with isolated residents and patients in care via video call devices and services during the COVID-19 crisis. First to join is Facebook, which is supplying up to 2,050 of its Portal video-calling devices for free to hospitals, care homes and other settings, including hospice, in-patient learning disability and autism units. The logistical rollout will be supported by Accenture.
Fifty of the devices have already been deployed to pilot sites in Surrey, with Manchester, Newcastle and London and other areas to follow.
Iain O’Neil, NHSX Digital Transformation Director, said in a statement: “Technology companies big and small continue to pledge their resources and expertise to support our NHS and social care system in these unprecedented times. We are working hard to find and develop services that meet people’s equally unprecedented needs. Technology has never been so important to providing one of life’s most essential things — the ability to communicate with the people we love regardless of where they are.”
The NHSX said it is working with “a range of technology companies to support the NHS and social care system.”
Freddy Abnousi, MD, Head of Health Technology, Facebook said in a statement: “We designed Portal to give people an easy way to connect and be more present with their loved ones…That’s why we are piloting a program with NHSX to provide Portal devices in hospitals and other care settings to support patients and help reduce social isolation.”
Additional solutions to be deployed under the scheme include enabling health and care staff to work remotely if needed; improving communication between clinical and care teams; shifting hospital outpatients to virtual appointments; and accelerating the use of online and video consultations within GP and primary care services.
Commenting, Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “It is great to see Facebook giving care home residents and patients the devices they need to connect with their family and friends at such a challenging time. The technology sector is rising to the challenge at this moment of national emergency and we in government are working closely with them to help people stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.”
Facebook and NHSX have agreed that the care homes and care settings involved in the pilot will be able to keep the devices free of charge, and use as they see fit, following the pilot phase.
Where the Portal devices go will be chosen on the basis of their Wi-Fi connectivity and ability to run devices in residents’ rooms or another private location.
At the same time, NHSX said it is exploring connectivity options for care homes without Wi-Fi, including the use of 4G hotspots or data-enabled tablets.
The venues for the portals will be advised on how to set them up by the NHSX, as well as infection control and data protection. Concerns about privacy will be addressed by completing a factory reset on the portal before passing the device to a new user.
A Facebook spokesperson said: “Residents/patients will be supported by care staff to initiate calls to family/friends.” Each care home/care setting will be free to make their own decisions on how best to manage this; for example, whether to pre-arrange specific call times with families in advance. Staff will be supported with easy-to-use setup guidance, device instructions and guidance on infection control. Care homes will also be asked to assist residents who do not wish to use their own personal accounts by setting up a new, generic personal account to be used instead. Where residents or patients wish to use a personal account, the care home will complete a factory reset before passing the device to a new user.
Europe’s lead data regulator has issued its first ever sanction of an EU institution — taking enforcement action against the European parliament over its use of US-based digital campaign company, NationBuilder, to process citizens’ voter data ahead of the spring elections.
Software provider NationBuilder is a veteran of the digital campaign space — indeed, we first covered the company back in 2011— which has become nearly ubiquitous tool for digital campaigns in some markets.
But in recent years European privacy regulators have raised questions over whether all its data processing activities comply with regional data protection rules, responding to growing concern around election integrity and data-fuelled online manipulation of voters.
The European parliament had used NationBuilder as a data processor for a public engagement campaign to promote voting in the spring election, which was run via a website called thistimeimvoting.eu.
The website collected personal data from more than 329,000 people interested in the EU election campaign — data that was processed on behalf of the parliament by NationBuilder.
The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), which started an investigation in February 2019, acting on its own initiative — and “taking into account previous controversy surrounding this company” as its press release puts it — found the parliament had contravened regulations governing how EU institutions can use personal data related to the selection and approval of sub-processors used by NationBuilder.
The sub-processors in question are not named. (We’ve asked for more details.)
“The issue EDPS had was with the Parliament’s lack of awareness of the extent of the processing being carried out by third parties and the lack of prior authorisation, by Parliament as data controller, provided in advance of the processing,” an EDPS spokesman told us.
The EDPS also has an ongoing investigation into whether the Parliament’s use of the voter mobilization website, and related processing operations of personal data, were in accordance with rules applicable to EU institutions (as set out in Regulation (EU) 2018/1725).
The enforcement actions had not been made public until a hearing earlier this week — when assistant data protection supervisor, Wojciech Wiewiórowski, mentioned the matter during a Q&A session in front of MEPs.
He referred to the investigation as “one of the most important cases we did this year”, without naming the data processor. “Parliament was not able to create the real auditing actions at the processor,” he told MEPs. “Neither control the way the contract has been done.”
“Fortunately nothing bad happened with the data but we had to make this contract terminated the data being erased,” he added.
When TechCrunch asked the EDPS for more details about this case on Tuesday a spokesperson told us the matter is “still ongoing” and “being finalized” and that it would communicate about it soon.
Today’s press release looks to be the upshot.
Provided canned commentary in the release Wiewiórowski writes:
The EU parliamentary elections came in the wake of a series of electoral controversies, both within the EU Member States and abroad, which centred on the the threat posed by online manipulation. Strong data protection rules are essential for democracy, especially in the digital age. They help to foster trust in our institutions and the democratic process, through promoting the responsible use of personal data and respect for individual rights. With this in mind, starting in February 2019, the EDPS acted proactively and decisively in the interest of all individuals in the EU to ensure that the European Parliament upholds the highest of standards when collecting and using personal data. It has been encouraging to see a good level of cooperation developing between the EDPS and the European Parliament over the course of this investigation.
One question that arises is why no firmer sanction has been issued to the European parliament — beyond a (now public) reprimand, some nine months after the investigation began.
The EDPS spokesman told us the decision was taken not to impose an administrative fine because the parliament complied with its recommendations.
Another question is why the matter was not more transparently communicated to EU citizens. On that the spokesman said it was because part of the investigation is ongoing.
“The EDPS is still investigating with the European Parliament, and received additional evidence. We are now completing our analysis of that evidence, and we anticipate closing the investigation in the near future,” he added.
The EDPS’ PR says it will “continue to check the parliament’s data protection processes” — revealing that the European Parliament has finished informing individuals of a revised intention to retain personal data collected by the thistimeimvoting website until 2024.
“The outcome of these checks could lead to additional findings,” it also warns, adding that it intends to finalise the investigation by the end of this year.
Asked about the case, a spokeswoman for the European parliament told us that the thistimeimvoting campaign had been intended to motivate EU citizens to participate in the democratic process, and that it used a mix of digital tools and traditional campaigning techniques in order to try to reach as many potential voters as possible.
She said NationBuilder had been used as a customer relations management platform to support staying in touch with potential voters — via an offer to interested citizens to sign up to receive information from the parliament about the elections (including events and general info).
Subscribers were also asked about their interests — which allowed the parliament to send personalized information to people who had signed up.
Some of the regulatory concerns around NationBuilder have centered on how it allows campaigns to match data held in their databases (from people who have signed up) with social media data that’s publicly available, such as an unlocked Twitter account or public Facebook profile.
TechCrunch understands the European parliament was not using this feature.
In 2017 in France, after an intervention by the national data watchdog, NationBuilder suspended the data matching tool in the market.
The same feature has attracted attention from the UK’s Information Commissioner — which warned last year that political parties should be providing a privacy notice to individuals whose data is collected from public sources such as social media and matched. Yet aren’t.
“The ICO is concerned about political parties using this functionality without adequate information being provided to the people affected,” the ICO said in the report, while stopping short of ordering a ban on the use of the matching feature.
Its investigation confirmed that up to 200 political parties or campaign groups used NationBuilder during the 2017 UK general election.
NationBuilder has now sent us a statement in response to the news of the regulator’s action. In it a spokesperson said:
NationBuilder exists to help people participate in the democratic process. Our software is designed to scale authentic, one-to-one relationships. As the European Parliament has explained, they used NationBuilder’s software for customer relationship management to motivate democratic participation among EU citizens in the 2019 European Parliament elections. We are incredibly proud to have helped power that effort.
NationBuilder was founded on the belief that everyone should own their own data and, as such, our software incorporates advanced privacy and consent tools that enable our customers to comply with relevant data protection laws. The sanctity of customer data is core to our company — we do not share or sell our customers’ data, and every NationBuilder customer has a self-contained database.
We agree with the EDPS that strong data protection rules are essential for democracy, especially in the digital age. NationBuilder is — and always has been — committed to the highest standards of privacy and data protection.
The company also disputes that its contract with the EU parliament was terminated — saying it came to a natural end at the conclusion of the spring election.
This report was updated with additional comment
Google Analytics and Google Website Optimizer have merged. Now Google Website Optimizer, a free A/B and Multi-variate testing tool, is available in Google Analytics via Experiments link under Content Section (see image below).
You can create and manage all your tests within Google Analytics without going to Google Website Optimizer site.
Functionality Difference between Experiments and Google Website Optimizer
- Easy Implementation – Since you already have Google Analytics on your site, now you will need one script to put on the original version, rest of the work will be done by standard Google analytics script.
- No Multivariate Testing Anymore – There is no option to run MVT and only allows A/B testing in the “Experiments”
The last day you’ll be able to access Google Website Optimizer will be August 1st, 2012
We will add more posts as we uncover new functionality in Experiments.
Extra Crunch offers members the opportunity to tune into conference calls led and moderated by the TechCrunch writers you read every day. This week, TechCrunch’s Kate Clark sat down with Eric Yuan, the founder and CEO of video communications startup Zoom, to go behind the curtain on the company’s recent IPO process and its path to the public markets.
Since hitting the trading desks just a few weeks ago, Zoom stock is up over 30%. But the Zoom’s path to becoming a Silicon Valley and Wall Street darling was anything but easy. Eric tells Kate how the company’s early focus on profitability, which is now helping drive the stock’s strong performance out of the gate, actually made it difficult to get VC money early on, and the company’s consistent focus on user experience led to organic growth across different customer bases.
Eric: I experienced the year 2000 dot com crash and the 2008 financial crisis, and it almost wiped out the company. I only got seed money from my friends, and also one or two VCs like AME Cloud Ventures and Qualcomm Ventures.
nd all other institutional VCs had no interest to invest in us. I was very paranoid and always thought “wow, we are not going to survive next week because we cannot raise the capital. And on the way, I thought we have to look into our own destiny. We wanted to be cash flow positive. We wanted to be profitable.
nd so by doing that, people thought I wasn’t as wise, because we’d probably be sacrificing growth, right? And a lot of other companies, they did very well and were not profitable because they focused on growth. And in the future they could be very, very profitable.
Eric and Kate also dive deeper into Zoom’s founding and Eric’s initial decision to leave WebEx to work on a better video communication solution. Eric also offers his take on what the future of video conferencing may look like in the next five to 10 years and gives advice to founders looking to build the next great company.
For access to the full transcription and the call audio, and for the opportunity to participate in future conference calls, become a member of Extra Crunch. Learn more and try it for free.
Kate Clark: Well thanks for joining us Eric.
Eric Yuan: No problem, no problem.
Kate: Super excited to chat about Zoom’s historic IPO. Before we jump into questions, I’m just going to review some of the key events leading up to the IPO, just to give some context to any of the listeners on the call.
The continued presence of a U.K. far-right activist on YouTube’s platform has been raised by the deputy leader of the official opposition during ministerial questions in the House of Commons today.
Labour’s Tom Watson put questions to the secretary of state for digital, Jeremy Wright, regarding Stephen Yaxley-Lennon’s use of social media for targeted harassment of journalists.
This follows an incident on Monday night when Yaxley-Lennon used social media tools to live-stream himself banging on the doors and windows of a journalist’s home in the middle of the night.
“Every major social media platform other than YouTube has taken down Stephen Yaxley-Lennon’s profile because of his hateful conduct,” said Watson, before recounting how the co-founder of the Far Right English Defence League — who goes by the made-up name “Tommy Robinson” on social media — used social media live-streaming tools to harass journalist Mike Stuchbery on Monday night.
Stuchbery has since written about the incident for Independent.
A journalist intimidated at home at 5am, live streamed. Women colleagues facing rape and death threats installing panic buttons. The torrent of online abuse undermines democracy and free speech. We must act to stop the online world turning into a cesspit of hate. pic.twitter.com/6G4fSjEue7
— Tom Watson (@tom_watson) March 7, 2019
As we reported on Monday, Facebook removed the live stream for violating its policies after it was reported but not before Stuchbery had received a flood of abusive messages from other Facebook users who were watching the stream online.
Yaxley-Lennon appears to have been able to circumvent Facebook’s ban on his own account to live stream his intimidation of Stuchbery via Facebook Live by using another Facebook account with a fake name (which the company appears to have since suspended).
Following the incident, Stuchbery has reported receiving physical hate mail to his home address, which Yaxley-Lennon gave out during the live stream (an intimidation tactic that’s known as doxxing). He has also said he’s received further abuse online.
“Does the secretary of state think that it is right that YouTube, and the parent company Alphabet, continues to give this man a platform?” asked Watson, after highlighting another vlog Yaxley-Lennon has since uploaded to YouTube in which he warns other journalists “to expect a knock at the door.”
Wright responded by saying that “all internet companies, all platforms for this kind of speech need to take their responsibilities seriously.”
“I hope that YouTube will consider this very carefully,” he told the House of Commons. “Consider what [Yaxley-Lennon] has said. What I have said, and reconsider their judgement.”
“We all believe in freedom of speech. But we all believe too that that freedom of speech has limits,” Wright added. “And we believe that those who seek to intimidate others, to potentially of course break the law… that is unacceptable. That is beyond the reach of the type of freedom of speech that we believe should be protected.”
We’ve reached out to YouTube for comment.
Stephen Yaxley-Lennon was banned by Facebook last month for repeat violations of its policies on hate speech. Twitter banned Yaxley-Lennon a full year ago.
But he remains active on YouTube — where his channel has more than 350,000 subscribers.
The company has resisted calls to shutter his account, claiming the content Yaxley-Lennon posts to its platform is different to content he has posted elsewhere and thus he has not broken any of its rules. (Though YouTube did demonetize videos on his channel in January, saying they violated its ad policies.)
In a follow-up question, Watson raised the issue of online harassment more widely — asking whether the government would be including measures “to prevent hate figures, extremists and their followers from turning the online world into a cesspit of hate” in its forthcoming white paper on social media and safety, which it’s due to publish this winter — and thereby tackle a culture of hate and harassment online that he said is undermining democracy.
Wright said he would “consider” Watson’s suggestion, though he stressed the government must protect the ability for people to carry out robust debate online — and “to discuss issues that are sometimes uncomfortable and certainly controversial.”
But he went on to reiterate his earlier point that “no freedom of speech can survive in this country if we do not protect… people’s ability to feel free to say what they think, free of intimidation, free of the threat of violence.”
“Those who engage in intimidation or threats of violence should not find succour either online or anywhere else,” the minister added.
YouTube’s own community guidelines prohibit “harassment and cyberbullying,” so its continued silence on Yaxley-Lennon’s misuse of its tools does look inconsistent. (YouTube previously banned the InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for violating its policies, for example, and there’s more than a passing resemblance between the two “hate preachers”).
Moreover, as Watson noted in parliament, Yaxley-Lennon’s most recent video contains a direct threat to doorstep and doxx journalists who covered his harassment of Stuchbery. The video also contains verbal abuse targeted at Stuchbery. However, YouTube told us the video does not violate its policies.
In one of the live streams recorded outside Stuchbery’s home, Yaxley-Lennon can also be heard making allegations about Stuchbery’s sexual interests that the journalist has described as defamatory.
YouTube previously declined to make a statement about Yaxley-Lennon’s continued presence on its platform. It has not responded to our repeated requests for follow-up comment about the issue since Monday.
We’ll update this post if it does provide a statement following the government’s call to rethink its position on giving Yaxley-Lennon a platform.
This post was updated with information from YouTube regarding Yaxley-Lennon’s latest video.
Fredrik Thomassen as a consultant used to have the resources to offload the annoying project tasks — like making PowerPoint presentations — but now that it’s gone, he and his team wanted to make that available for everyone.
Now the startup, called Konsus, wants to turn that around even faster. Konsus is a design marketplace where companies can quickly post design projects that they need for various parts of their jobs, like presentations, and designers can pick up those jobs and submit their work back — a task that could take up a lot of unnecessary time for an employee that might be better spent working on other parts of their job. Konsus said it is compressing that even further by now looking to provide a 12-hour turnaround for those companies. The company launched out of Y Combinator in 2016.
“[Employees] want to be valuable and spend time on core tasks,” Thomassen said. “The average knowledge worker, depending on various specifics, spends around 40 percent of that time on non-core tasks that should be outsourced. That’s the 40 percent we’re going after, and people quite readily understand it. Some companies have in-house design agencies and so on, and they are 3 or 4 times as expensive as we are, and they typically want to work on these larger or more grand projects and don’t want to work on the small projects that range from 10 hours to 15 hours. Most of the projects we do are these small, nominal projects that people would have had to do themselves.”
Konsus hires account managers and project managers handling the relationships with the customers to ensure that they’re getting the quality they need when they are posting projects like PowerPoint presentations onto the site. But Thomassen also said there are plenty of examples of those firms finding designers and contractors that they’ve decided to bring on full-time, and he’s fine with the startup being seen as a springboard for contractors that want to polish their skills for working with western clients — and even end up with a full-time job after that. A lot of the designers are coming in from eastern Europe, southeast Asia and other parts of the world that aren’t necessarily on the radar of these western firms.
Like many other modern services and marketplaces, Konsus hopes to come in at the bottom of a company and work its way up. One person or a team from a larger corporation will discover it, start using it and then eventually the startup might track that firm down and start talking about a custom team and dedicated emails. Then the outsourcers working for that firm goes through a background check, signs confidentiality agreements and goes through training on corporate branding material. Konsus’ revenue comes partly from subscriptions and people pre-paying to get a team, and the other half a pay-as-you-go model where firms get a rate and Konsus takes a commission.
“If you look at [big consulting firms], they have a similar solution as we have, and you can get support for all kinds of services — data entry, PowerPoint, various graphic design tasks — that make life much, much easier,” Thomassen said. “You go home from work and then you get it back in the morning, it becomes part of your workflow. That’s what we wanted to build for everyone else. Freelancers come to us from all corners of the world, they apply on our website, and we have our own recruiter work with them. We get around 5,000 to 10,000 people who apply, and we accept 10-20 depending on how many we need. The bar is extremely high.”
Of course, given that these are the kinds of tasks that firms might outsource without such a platform, Konsus has to potentially deal with larger consulting firms like Accenture, and there are plenty of startups looking to create an online labor marketplace that might not be targeting design just yet. But as those platforms start to put together a lot of potential customers, they’ll likely start asking for tools like Konsus — which means the company is going to have to figure out ways to outcompete early.
The company has raised $ 1.7 million from Sam Altman, the Slack Fund, Acequia Capital, Paul Buchheit, Geoff Ralston, John Collison and Liquid2 Ventures.
Instagram has taken down content posted by Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny under pressure from a government agency, while YouTube has yet to do so. Navalny and others have criticized Instagram for complying to what they call a politically motivated move to silence him. Read More
Social – TechCrunch
Back before humans invented chairs we humans stood a lot. Now, almost 100 years later, we tend to sit. However, some people still stand. For those people there is the TerraMat. The TerraMat is like a cat toy for you feet. It features a number of little bumps and ridges designed to let you stretch, exercise and massage your feet while you’re standing. It was created by two… Read More