Meaningful data are extremely valuable for small businesses, says Streamlytics founder and CEO Angela Benton, but it’s your responsibility to find and use information ethically. We’re currently in a new era of data collection–and that’s for the better.
That’s according to Angela Benton, the founder and CEO of Streamlytics, a company that collects first-party consumer data transparently and aims to disrupt the current model of third-party mining of data from cookies and other methods that raise privacy and ethics concerns. Most recently, she was named one of Fast Company‘s Most Creative People for helping consumers learn what major companies know about them and paying them for the data they create while using streaming services like Netflix or Spotify.
In the latest Inc. Real Talk streaming event, Benton explainsthat she founded the company with minorities in mind, particularly the Black and Latinx communities, because of the disproportionate way they’ve been affected by data and privacy. For example, she points to the recent controversy over facial recognition data being sold to the police, which has a much higher error rate when comparing data of Black and Asian male faces, which could potentially lead to wrongful arrests.
“That becomes extremely important when you think of what artificial intelligence is used for in our day-to-day world,” she says, noting that AI is used for everyday interactions like loan applications, car applications, mortgages, and credit cards. Using her company’s methods, Benton says, clients can secure ethically sourced data, so that algorithms won’t negatively affect communities that have historically suffered from discriminatory practices.
Here are a few suggestions from Benton for finding data ethically without relying on third-party cookies.
Do your own combination of data sets.
“How [Streamlytics] gets data is very old school,” Benton says. Instead of relying on tech to combine data points, she says, you can manually compare data you already own and make assumptions using your best judgment. You may have data from a Shopify website, for example, about the demographic of your customers, and then you can go to a specific advertiser, like Hulu, for instance, to then target people that fit that profile.
Use your data to discover new products.
You can also look to your data to find common searches or overlapping interests to get ideas for new products, Benton says. Often, she says, she receives data requests from small business owners to discover ideas that aren’t currently on the market, for example, a vegan searching for a vitamin.
This combination method surprised Benton when she presented clients with data. “I thought it was going to be more focused on just like, “How can I make more money?” she says. “But we are hearing from folks that they want access to data to use it in more creative ways.”
Don’t take social media data at face value.
Benton and her company purposely do not source social media data because she thinks the data leave too much out of the full picture. You may get a customer’s age and “likes” from a social media page, but that doesn’t tell you what they’re searching for or what their habits are.
“That’s not, to me, meaningful data. That’s not where the real value lies,” she says. “We’re not focused on what people are doing on social media, we’re focused on all of the activities outside of that.” She gave a scenario where a consumer is watching Amazon Prime, while also scrolling on Uber Eats to find dinner.
Data signals are happening at the same time, but they’re not unified. It’s up to businesses to connect the dots. To Benton, that’s more meaningful than what you’re posting and what you’re liking on social media.
Civil rights groups are calling on Amazon to permanently ban use of its facial recognition software, as an approaching deadline looms on the future of the technology.
In an open letter addressed to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and incoming CEO Andy Jassy, 44 civil rights groups pointed to ongoing instances of police violence against the Black community as evidence that Amazon should stop selling facial recognition technology to law enforcement. “As a company, Amazon has a choice to make: Will you continue to profit from selling surveillance technology to law enforcement? Or will you stand for Black lives and divest from giving law enforcement these harmful tools?” said the letter, which was published Monday.
After national protests that followed the death of George Floyd last year, Amazon followed Microsoft and IBM in stopping the sale of its facial recognition technology to law enforcement. However, unlike IBM, which abandoned its program, and Microsoft, which indefinitely suspended police use of its facial recognition until a federal law is introduced, Amazon opted to impose a one-year ban to “give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules” to govern the use of the technology.
While some cities have imposed bans on facial recognition technology being used by police departments, the technology isn’t regulated by federal authorities. Amazon has yet to say whether it will continue its moratorium after it expires next month, or lift the ban and sell the technology to law enforcement.
“They did share that they are committed to standing with the Black community and standing for racial justice,” says Jennifer Lee, technology and liberty project manager at the ACLU in Washington State, where Amazon is headquartered. “If they’re going to do that they need to permanently divest from selling facial recognition technology and cease involvement with police and law enforcement.”
Amazon didn’t respond to requests for comment. However, the Seattle-based giant is pushing against shareholder calls for more transparency around the use of its facial recognition software, called Rekognition.
Ahead of the company’s annual general meeting on May 26, one shareholder proposal is calling for an independent third-party audit on the risks linked with government use of Rekognition, citing calls of more than 70 civil rights organizations to stop selling the technology, who said it contributed to “government surveillance infrastructure.” Another shareholder proposal is calling for an independent report on how Amazon conducts due diligence on its customers, including law enforcement agencies that use Rekognition.
In a proxy memo filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Amazon said that it has “conscientiously acted to review and address the concerns expressed in the proposal and transparently provided information regarding our actions to the public” and that it is actively engaged in policy debates around facial recognition regulation.
Amazon introduced Rekognition, a cloud-based technology that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify people and objects in photos and video, in 2016. But the technology became a lightning rod for civil rights groups and anti-surveillance advocates after researchers at MIT found it identified gender of certain ethnicities less accurately than similar products made by Microsoft and IBM.
(Amazon said the MIT findings were “misleading and drawing on false conclusions” and asserted that its own tests had found no such inaccuracies.) After it was revealed the company pitched the software to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, hundreds of Amazon employees sent an internal letter to CEO Jeff Bezos stating that they “refuse to contribute to tools that violate human rights.”
The heightened awareness around racial equality and concerns about police surveillance are making such shareholder proposals harder to ignore for institutional investors. Glass Lewis, a proxy advisory firm, issued a report last week recommending investors vote in favor of both shareholder proposals about Rekognition, given the previous controversies linked to the software, and the fact that no federal regulations appear set to pass before the moratorium passes.
“We have to draft these proposals in a way to get them on the ballot, so we go with a softer approach,” says Brianna Harrington, shareholder Advocacy Coordinator at Harrington Investments, which is bringing the proposal calling for an audit of risks linked to government use of Rekognition. “In a perfect world they’d stop selling the technology.”
I’m a staff reporter at Forbes covering tech companies. I previously reported for The Real Deal, where I covered WeWork, real estate tech startups and commercial real estate. As a freelancer, I’ve also written for The New York Times, Associated Press and other outlets. I’m a graduate of Columbia Journalism School, where I was a Toni Stabile Investigative Fellow. Before arriving in the U.S., I was a police reporter in Australia. Follow me on Twitter at @davidjeans2 and email me at email@example.com
In July 2018, the A.C.L.U. ran a study that it said matched the headshots of 28 members of Congress to mugshots of known criminals. A secondary test performed by the M.I.T. Media Lab in January 2019 and reported by The New York Times found that Recognition had a hard time identifying female faces and the faces of dark-skinned individuals. Representatives from Amazon, however, pushed back against those claims, saying both the A.C.L.U. and M.I.T. Media Lab studies didn’t use the Recognition technology properly.
The company also issued a lengthy response statement on how it uses Recognition. Lawmakers and other tech companies, though, are calling for greater oversight over the technology. The response to facial recognition Ahead of Amazon’s shareholders meeting, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to ban the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement groups, while Massachusetts currently has a bill seeking to put a moratorium on the tech in committee.
Microsoft (MSFT) President Brad Smith has said that his company rejected the sale of its own facial recognition technology to a police department out of fear that it would disproportionately impact women and minorities. Smith said that the technology had primarily been trained with white males, and, as a result, wouldn’t have been accurate. The company also denied the sale of its tech to a foreign country. Google (GOOG, GOOGL), meanwhile, has chosen not to sell its technology at all. For more on Yahoo Finance’s and Dan Howley’s coverage of this story please click: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/amazon…
Japan has been credited with containing the COVID-19 pandemic, and many observers have questioned how it was done. Explanations have included Japanese lifestyle and customs, such as bowing instead of shaking hands. But one factor that’s been overlooked is Japan’s universal healthcare system, which was established more than 60 years ago.
All 126 million Japanese have equal access to advanced medical care. The country has one of the world’s best-ranked healthcare systems, and one of the longest-lived and healthiest populations. Japan’s resilience in the face of a devastating pandemic is one reason why it’s now exporting its medical and healthcare expertise to other countries.
Japan wants to help other countries enhance their healthcare systems so they can best serve the needs of their people, says Dr. Kondo Tatsuya, CEO of Medical Excellence JAPAN (MEJ), which promotes Japanese healthcare abroad. MEJ works with dozens of organizations in Japan to bring innovation and best practices to bear when fighting complex public health challenges such as COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
The new digital hospital
The Kitahara group of healthcare organizations is one of MEJ’s members. It operates medical institutions including Kitahara International Hospital in Hachioji City, western Tokyo. Established as a neurosurgery center in 1995, the Kitahara group expanded its services and facilities such as a rehabilitation hospital and a brain checkup clinic, and initiated an emergency medicine project in Cambodia. While the novel coronavirus spread throughout Japan, significantly affecting some medical centers, the Kitahara group’s facilities had no cases of COVID-19. It was able to keep the virus out through strict sanitary measures as well as a cutting-edge security system.
“Even before the first COVID-19 patient in Japan, we were routinely gathering information and taking measures to prevent infections,” says Hamasaki Chika, general manager in the Business Promotion Department of Kitahara Medical Strategies International. “When we accept emergency patients, we conduct our own screening, including thorough interviews and chest scans. By doing this, we managed to identify patients who needed special attention, which was provided in a separate location.”
The Kitahara group and NEC codeveloped the security system, which grants access based on visitors’ biometric information. Not only can it keep unauthorized people out of the hospital, it can prevent dementia patients from leaving when it’s not safe for them. Using facial recognition technology, the system can also detect where staff, visitors and patients have been inside the hospital, facilitating any tracing of infection routes.
“We know who went where, and we can grasp the movement of people in the hospital,” says group spokesperson Kameda Yoshikazu. “Since the system prevents dementia patients from leaving when it’s unsafe, they have minimal restrictions on their movements, which reduces their stress.”
The security system is only one aspect of the what the Kitahara group terms a digital hospital. Staff use virtual reality headsets to help stroke patients in their rehabilitation exercises, as well as virtual travel to help them relax. Using VR headsets, patients have been able to experience virtual travel at a time of real travel restrictions due to the coronavirus. The VR therapy is aiding their rehabilitation, according to Kameda.
Using advanced technology is part of what the Kitahara group calls its Total Life Support service focused on community medicine. Staff go beyond the traditional roles of Japanese hospital workers by offering patients support on everything from dealing with emergencies and rehabilitation to everyday administrative procedures process and knowing their rights.
In an unusual move for a Japanese healthcare provider, the group is exporting this model. It’s bringing its knowhow to Cambodia via its Sunrise Japan Hospital in Phnom Penh, as well as to other countries through training programs and seminars in Japan and overseas. The challenge facing the group is to expand the model within Japan and to grow overseas ties.
“Our Total Life Support approach is unique in Japan,” says Hamasaki. “It’s a package we offer for the resilience of society. Our Hachioji Model is something we want to provide to Southeast Asia and beyond, including the Pacific Rim, Central Asia and the Middle East.”
Globalizing Japanese medicine
The globalization of Japanese medicine and healthcare is the raison d’être of MEJ, a public-private partnership established in 2011 with the help of the Japanese government. MEJ is dedicated to promoting not only Japanese healthcare services and products to the world, but also access to Japanese medicine for people from overseas. Furthermore, it emphasizes the concept of rational medicine, which Dr. Kondo describes as a holistic approach to medicine to serve the best interests of the patient.
MEJ is comprised of 50 member businesses including major Japanese life-science, manufacturing and insurance companies. MEJ also runs the MEJ Forum, an exchange platform for medical entities and associations in Japan that are interested in globalization of their services. It launched Japan Hospital Search, a search engine that directs inbound medical travelers to international hospitals throughout Japan that are accredited by the MEJ.
“Medical care in Japan has had a domestic focus, but we would like it to make an international contribution,” says Dr. Kondo. “We want to provide mutual benefits for both people in and outside Japan, so it’s a win-win situation.”
A graduate of the University of Tokyo, Dr. Kondo worked as a neurosurgeon before becoming chief executive of the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency (PMDA), the entity responsible for ensuring the safety and effectiveness of drugs and medical devices in Japan. At both the PMDA and MEJ, Dr. Kondo has promoted the concept of healthcare incorporating the many disciplines supporting medicine, including biology, pharmacology and engineering. He believes healthcare should be based on regulatory science, an ethical approach to science and technology to benefit society. His vision for medicine is reflected in the MEJ’s Rational Medicine Initiative, an approach that calls for combining innovations in medicine and healthcare to produce the highest level of patient-centric care.
While promoting inbound medical tourism, MEJ wants to help establish medical centers of excellence in developing countries in Southeast Asia and Africa. This would be an opportunity for mutual learning and collaboration, and would also ensure that the best practices of Japanese healthcare and the Rational Medicine Initiative are shared with people outside Japan.
“Each country has its unique circumstances. We engage in international cooperation and development with a deep respect for the pride of the people of every country,” says Dr. Kondo. “I was born during wartime, and I believe that instead of advancing through competition, countries should strive for common benefit. This is why the world needs a system like the one we have at MEJ.”
Note: All Japanese names in this article are given in the traditional Japanese order, with surname first.
To learn more about Kitahara International Hospital, click here.
To learn more about Medical Excellence JAPAN, click here.
Japan is changing. The country is at the forefront of demographic change that is expected to affect countries around the world. Japan regards this not as an onus but as a bonus for growth. To overcome this challenge, industry, academia and government have been moving forward to produce powerful and innovative solutions. The ongoing economic policy program known as Abenomics is helping give rise to new ecosystems for startups, in addition to open innovation and business partnerships. The Japan Voice series explores this new landscape of challenge and opportunity through interviews with Japanese and expatriate innovators who are powering a revitalized economy. For more information on the Japanese Government innovations and technologies, please visit https://www.japan.go.jp/technology/
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