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Social media and dating apps have a serious identity problem

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Social media and dating apps have a serious identity problem

It’s time for social media and dating apps to face the music and curb fraud, deception and disinformation on their platforms once and for all.

In the beginning, social media and dating apps represented small corners of the internet with just a handful of users. Today, Facebook and Twitter are so big they influence elections, make or break vaccine campaigns, and move markets.

Dating apps like Tinder and Bumble are not far behind, with millions upon millions of people looking to their services to meet their “forever” mate.

But the fun and games are over now. You’ve chosen profit over trust and safety. You have created a gateway for identity theft and online fraud.

Today we all have a friend who’s been “catfished” on Bumble or Tinder; we all have family members who’ve been victimized by online Twitter and Facebook scams. Every day, we hear of new cases where malicious actors steal identities — or create fake new ones — to commit fraud, spread misinformation for political and commercial gain, or promote hate speech.

In most industries, users with fake identities really only impact the business. But when trust is broken on dating and social platforms, it harms users and society at large. And the financial, psychological — and sometimes physical — impact on a person is real.

So who’s accountable for stopping or combating this rise in fraud? Clearly, not the platforms themselves. Although some claim to be taking action.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, Facebook took down 1.3 billion fake accounts. Enough? Not even close. The fact is social platforms and dating apps today do the bare minimum to prevent fraud. While basic AI and human moderators help, they are outmatched by the sheer volume of users.

Facebook says it has 35,000 people checking content; that’s a legion, but it works out to roughly one moderator for every 82,000 accounts. And as bad actors grow more sophisticated by the day, using deepfakes and evolving crime techniques like synthetic fraud, their scale continues to increase. Even savvy online users fall prey to these cons.

Social and dating platforms have come under fire for moving slowly to combat the problem, but what can be done?

Catfishing is serious business

It’s not difficult to imagine this scenario: You meet someone online and start a conversation. The person says the right things, asks the right questions. The relationship starts to feel “real” and you begin to sense kinship. Before you know it, it escalates; all your guards are down and you become impervious to red flags. You go as far as calling it love.

You and your new significant other make plans to finally meet in person. They claim they don’t have money for the trip. You trustingly and lovingly send the money, only for this person to ghost shortly after.

While some catfishing incidents resolve on their own with minimal harm inflicted, others — like the example above — can lead to financial extortion and criminal activity. Reported losses to romance scams reached a record $304 million in 2020, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Actual losses in this underreported area are likely exponentially higher, though, and more so when you count “gray areas” and online begging. Yet most dating apps fail to offer a way to verify identities. Some popular apps — like Tinder —make identity verification voluntary; others, well, offer nothing. Who wants to put friction in the way of a new subscriber?

But voluntary verification just scratches the surface. These businesses must do more to block entry to anonymous and faked identities. Given the damage they inflict on societies and their customers, we as a society must demand they step up.

On social networks, identity verification can be a double-edged sword

Romance scams aren’t specific to dating apps; about one-third actually begin on social media. But there are many other reasons to verify identity on social networks. Consumers might want to know if they are engaging with the real Oprah Winfrey or Ariana Grande or some parody account; Winfrey and Grande probably also want that distinction to be apparent.

On a more serious note, pressure is mounting for social networks to control online abusers by verifying identities. In England, the #TrackaTroll movement has gained steam, mainly due to the efforts of British reality star Katie Price. Nearly 700,000 signed her petition lobbying for Harvey’s Law, which was named after her disabled son, who has been heavily targeted by anonymous online abusers.

However, many argue strongly against requiring identity verification on social networks. Usually, they point out that requiring verification can endanger domestic abuse survivors and dissidents in countries with repressive regimes that search out and harm political opponents. Moreover, identity verification would not deter many who spread disinformation about politics or vaccines because they want to be identified to build their audience and personal brand.

Today, Facebook and Twitter offer a “verification” review process that awards authentic accounts with a blue checkmark. But this is far from foolproof. Twitter recently paused its “verification” program because it incorrectly verified a number of fake accounts.

Facebook has done more. The social network has long imposed identity verification conditionally, for example, if a user is locked out of their account. They also base identity requirements on content posted, where certain behaviors, words and images trigger a block of the poster, pending verification and human review.

The identity arms race

When bad actors create fake identities on dating apps and social media to defraud and harm others, it damages public trust and undoubtedly impacts revenue for these platforms. Social media platforms wrestle daily to reconcile their business objectives of maximizing usage with protecting user privacy — or face increased regulation and loss of consumer trust.

It’s vital to protect identities from thieves and hackers who would misuse it. Imagine a fake Twitter or Facebook account claiming to be you, spreading hate statements. Without a way to disprove your involvement, you might lose your job or worse.

What choices will the platforms make to protect their users — and their own brand? Their decisions have centered on policy and revenue protection rather than technology. Balancing trust-building measures with privacy concerns and their need for revenue is the grand strategic dilemma they must resolve. Regardless, the burden is on them to create a safe space for its users.

Social media and dating platforms must take greater responsibility when it comes to protecting users from fraud and bad actors online.

Source: Tech

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Paack pulls in a $225M Series D led by SoftBank to scale its E-commerce delivery platform

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By now, many of us are familiar with the warehouse robots which populate those vast spaces occupied by the likes of Amazon and others. In particular, Amazon was very much a pioneer of the technology. But it’s 2021 now, and allying warehouse robots with a software logistics platform is no longer the monopoly of one company.

One late-stage startup which has been ‘making hay’ with the whole idea is Paack, an e-commerce delivery platform which a sophisticated software platform that integrates with the robotics which are essential to modern-day logistics operations.

It’s now raised €200m ($225m) in a Series D funding round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. The capital will be used for product development and European expansion.

New participants for this round also include Infravia Capital Partners, First Bridge Ventures, and Endeavor Catalyst. Returning investors include Unbound, Kibo Ventures, Big Sur Ventures, RPS Ventures, Fuse Partners, Rider Global, Castel Capital, and Iñaki Berenguer.

This funding round comes after the creation of a profitable position in its home market of Spain, but Paack claims it’s on track to achieve similar across its European operations, Such as in the UK, France, and Portugal.

Founded by Fernando Benito, Xavier Rosales and Suraj Shirvankar, Paack now says it’s delivering several million orders per month from 150 international clients, processing 10,000 parcels per hour, per site. Some 17 of them are amongst the largest e-commerce retailers in Spain.

The startup’s systems integrate with e-commerce sites. This means consumers are able to customize their delivery schedule at checkout, says the company.

Benito, CEO and Co-founder, said: “Demand for convenient, timely, and more sustainable methods of delivery is going to explode over the next few years and Paack is providing the solution. We use technology to provide consumers with control and choice over their deliveries, and reduce the carbon footprint of our distribution.” 

Max Ohrstrand, Investment Director at SoftBank Investment Advisers said: “As the e-commerce sector continues to flourish and same-day delivery is increasingly the norm for consumers, we believe Paack is well-positioned to become the category leader both in terms of its technology and commitment to sustainability.”

According to research from the World Economic Forum (WEF), the last-mile delivery business is expected to grow 78% by 2030, causing a rise in CO2 emissions of nearly one-third.

As a result, Paack claim it aims to deliver all parcels at carbon net-zero by measuring its environmental impact, using electric last-mile delivery vehicles. It is now seeking certification with The Carbon Trust and United Nations.

In an interview Benito told me: “We have a very clear short term vision which is to lead sustainable e-commerce delivers in Europe… through technology via what we think is perhaps the most advanced tech delivery platform for last-mile delivery. Our CTO was the CTO and co-founder of Google Cloud, for instance.”

“We are developing everything from warehouse automation, time windows, routing integrations etc. in order to achieve the best delivery experience.”

Paack says it is able to work with more than one robotics partner, but presently it is using robots from Chinese firm GEEK.

The company hopes it can compete with the likes of DHL, Instabox, and La Poste in Europe, which are large incumbents.

Source: Tech

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Infermedica raises $30M to expand its AI-based medical guidance platform

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Infermedica, a Poland-founded digital health company that offers AI-powered solutions for symptom analysis and patient triage, has raised $30 million in Series B funding. The round was led by One Peak and included participation from previous investors Karma Ventures, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Heal Capital and Inovo Venture Partners. The new capital means the startup has raised $45 million in total to date.

Founded in 2012, Infermedica aims to make it easier for doctors to pre-diagnose, triage and direct their patients to appropriate medical services. The company’s mission is to make primary care more accessible and affordable by introducing automation into healthcare. Infermedica has created a B2B platform for health systems, payers and providers that automates patient triage, the intake process and follow-up after a visit. Since its launch, Infermedica is being used in more than 30 countries in 19 languages and has completed more than 10 million health checks.

The company offers a preliminary diagnosis symptom checker, an AI-driven software that supports call operators making timely triage recommendations and an application programming interface that allows users to build customized diagnostic solutions from scratch. Like a plethora of competitors, such as Ada Health and Babylon, Infermedica combines the expertise of physicians with its own algorithms to offer symptom triage and patient advice.

In terms of the new funding, Infermedica CEO Piotr Orzechowski told TechCrunch in an email that the investment will be used to further develop the company’s Medical Guidance Platform and add new modules to cover the full primary care journey. Last year, Infermedica’s team grew by 80% to 180 specialists, including physicians, data scientists and engineers. Orzechowski says Infermedica has an ambitious plan to nearly double its team in the next 12 months.

Image Credits: Infermedica

“We will invest heavily into our people and our products, rolling out new modules of our platform as well as expanding our underlying AI capabilities in terms of disease coverage and accuracy,” Orzechowski said. “From the commercial perspective, our goal is to strengthen our position in the US and DACH and we will focus the majority of our sales and marketing efforts there.”

Regarding the future, Orzechowski said he’s a firm believer that there will be fully automated self-care bots in 5-10 years that will be available 24/7 to help providers find solutions to low acuity health concerns, such as a cold or UTI.

“According to WHO, by 2030 we might see a shortage of almost 10 million doctors, nurses and midwives globally,” Orzechowski said. “Having certain constraints on how fast we can train healthcare professionals, our long-term plan assumes that AI will become a core element of every modern healthcare system by navigating patients and automating mundane tasks, saving the precious time of clinical staff and supporting them with clinically accurate technology.”

Infermedica’s Series B round follows its $10 million Series A investment announced in August 2020. The round was led by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and digital health fund Heal Capital. Existing investors Karma Ventures, Inovo Venture Partners and Dreamit Ventures also participated in the round.

Source: Tech

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KKR invests $45M into GrowSari, a B2B platform for Filipino MSMEs

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A sari-sari store owner who uses GrowSari

GrowSari, the Manila-based startup that helps small shops grow and digitize, announced today that KKR will lead its Series C round with a $45 million investment. The funds will be used to enter new regions in the Philippines and expand its financial products. The Series C round is still ongoing and the startup says it is already oversubscribed, with the final composition currently being finalized. 

Before its Series C, GrowSari’s total raised was $30 million. TechCrunch last wrote about GrowSari in June 2021, when it announced its Series B. Since then, it has expanded the number of municipalities it serves from 100 to 220, and now has a customer base of 100,000 micro, small and mid-sized enterprise (MSME) store owners. 

Founded in 2016, GrowSari is a B2B platform that offers almost every kind of service that small- to medium-sized retailers, including neighborhood stores that carry daily necessities (called sari-saris), roadside and market shops and pharmacies, need.

For example, it has a wholesale marketplace with products from major fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands like Unilever, P&G and Nestle. It partners with over 200 providers, like telecoms, fintechs and subscription plans, so sari-saris can offer services like top-ups and bill payments to their customers. 

Sari-sari operators can also use GrowSari to launch e-commerce stores and access short-term working capital loans to buy inventory. The startup’s other financial products include digital wallets and cash-in services, and it is looking at adding remittance, insurance and loans in partnership with other providers. 

The new funding will be used to expand into the Visayas and Mindanao, the two other main geographical regions in the Philippines, with the goal of covering all 1.1 million “mom and pop” stores in the Philippines. 

Source: Tech

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