Amazon will have to let shareholders vote on proposals to curb sales of its controversial facial recognition product, the Securities and Exchange Commission said in a letter to the company this week.
Activist shareholders have pushed proposals that, if approved, would require Amazon to audit its Rekognition tool for potential civil rights concerns, and to stop selling the tool to government agencies until a civil rights review is completed.
Open MIC, a group that helped organize the shareholder votes, announced that the SEC made the final ruling after Amazon requested that the agency let the company use a process to keep the proposals from a vote. The SEC said in a letter late last month that the company didn’t meet the standards for that process, and while Amazon appealed the decision, the agency held the ruling in another letter yesterday.
Open MIC said the proposals would now come up for consideration at the company’s annual shareholder meeting, which has not yet been scheduled. While the proposals may still be a long shot to pass, they put further public pressure on Amazon’s sales of the tool, which has been used by some police departments in the United States. CEO Jeff Bezos has defended working with the US government, but some have raised concerns about potential bias in Rekognition.
Amazon has disputed those characterizations. The company declined to comment.
Rekognition has faced criticism, both from within Amazon and from some experts in artificial intelligence. Yesterday, a group of prominent researchers asked the company to stop government sales of the facial recognition tool, which they described as “flawed.”
Alexa? Play a supercut of Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos’ relationship, please, because those two are officially divorced.
To announce she and Jeff are finally done(zos), MacKenzie boldly decided to join Twitter on Thursday for the sole purpose of tweeting a statement about “dissolving” her marriage. Ah, 2019.
For the record, Jeff currently follows only one person on Twitter, and it’s MacKenzie.
“Grateful to have finished the process of dissolving my marriage with Jeff with support from each other and everyone who reached out in kindness,” she wrote, “looking forward to the next phase as co-parents and friends.”
In addition to her civil declaration of singledom, MacKenzie explained that she was “happy” to be giving Jeff all of her interests in the Washington Post and Blue Origin, along with 75 percent of their Amazon stock, and control of her shares.
“Excited about my own plans. Grateful for the past as I look forward to what comes next,” she concluded.
Mr. Jeff also tweeted his own statement simultaneously, explaining how thankful he is for MacKenzie’s presence in his life.
While the two seem to more than ready to peacefully move on from one another, it appears Twitter users will be clinging to these divorce announcements for quite some time.
Jeff may have walked away with the majority of the Amazon shares, but MacKenzie appears to have won the hearts of Twitter users with an iconic first tweet.
The worry that legalization would increase underage use has generally proved unfounded.
3 min read
Opinions expressed by Green Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
After cannabis became legal for recreational use in Washington state, use of weed dropped in among almost all groups of high schoolers and middle schoolers, according to a study from Washington State University.
Washington became one of the first states to approve adult-use marijuana sales, with the first dispensaries opening in 2014. Then, as now, one of the arguments against legalization was that it would lead to increased use by teenagers.
The study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, found just the opposite happened with most teens. Led by Washington State University College of Nursing Assistant Professor Janessa Graves, the study found only one group of teens increased marijuana use: 12th graders who work.
Working teens and marijuana.
Graves was joined on the project by researchers from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, University of Colorado and the Oregon Health Authority. The researchers found use went down among teens in the 8th and 10th grades, as well as with 12th graders who didn’t work.
For 12th graders who worked less than 11 hours a week, cannabis used remained about the same. However, for 12th graders who worked more than 11 hours per week, use increased. Also, across all age groups, those who worked reported using cannabis more than those in their peer group who did not work.
The researchers classified work as jobs other than babysitting, yardwork or household chores. Researchers used information from the 2010 and 2016 Healthy Youth Survey conducted in Washington.
Why the exception?
Clearly, the numbers are encouraging for those concerned about legalization leading to increased teen marijuana use. Graves told Science Daily that the numbers reflect common sense. Working teens are exposed earlier than their peers to both the positive and negative influences of adults.
Graves said, “Kids learn a lot by working, in terms of responsibility. But there are also pretty good data showing that kids who work engage in adult-like behaviors earlier. I would say this for any parent of working kids: It’s important to know the quality of management and supervision at your child’s job. Be thoughtful about the quality of a particular workplace.”
As the study shows, the issue with legal marijuana isn’t so much with teens as it might be with adults, including those who supervise and work with teens on the job. The study writers recommend that employers consider advertising and enforcing zero-tolerance policies toward any adult workers who endorse or provide marijuana or any other substances to underage workers.
Snap is taking its augmented reality tools to a much bigger canvas. The company today announced Landmarkers, a set of lenses aimed at bringing new life to some of the world’s most famous locations. The lenses, which were designed by Snapchat users, transform locations like the Eiffel Tower into animated characters — one of which throws up rainbows. They’re rolling out inside Snapchat starting today.
At launch, Landmarkers are available in five locations around the world. In addition to the Eiffel Tower, you can find them at Buckingham Palace in London; the Capitol in Washington, DC; the Flatiron Building in New York City; and the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
One lens causes the Capitol Building to shoot confetti. Another turns the Flatiron Building into a giant slice of pizza. A third transforms the Chinese Theatre into a stack of hot dogs and ice cream cones.
The lenses are whimsical in the tradition of Snap’s lenses, and offer people more reason to open the app and create snaps. Lens creators will be able to submit their own takes on the landmarks using Lens Studio 2.0, an upgrade to its development platform that is rolling out. Lenses for Landmarkers will be hand-picked by Snap employees to prevent abuse, the company said. Other new features in Lens Studio include tools for making lenses that track hands, the body, and pets.
So far, Snap hasn’t offered lens creators any way to make money, other than occasionally pairing them up with advertisers to make branded lenses. But as part of today’s announcements, Snap will let them create public profiles within Snapchat, so if you find a lens from someone you like you can tap on their profile to see what other lenses they have created. To date, creators have made more than 400,000 lenses, Snap says, and they have been used 15 billion times.
Landmarkers can be found by tapping on the camera screen, as with any other lens. To help people discover them, Snap will notify users when they are near a Landmarker if they have the camera open and have accessed the lens carousel.
Landmarkers will begin rolling out today. Snap will add many more monument-based lenses in the future, the company said today at its partner summit in Hollywood.
In addition to Landmarkers, the company’s camera platform is also adding two new partner integrations for its Scan product. By pressing on the camera screen, users can already find products using Amazon and song titles using Shazam. Today, Snap is adding Giphy to help users find contextual GIFs, and Photomath for helping them cheat on tests.
Many brands grapple with a fundamental problem: how do you profitably build a company in hyper-competitive markets? Grabbing business from a competitor is a difficult and expensive proposition. Raising your prices, unless delicately handled, can be risky. Lowering your prices can just lead to a price war and reduce your gross margin. Driving incremental product innovation is a common strategy but one with low odds of success when the value-add may be minor and the product remains comparatively undifferentiated. There is a better approach to reigniting growth: create your own category.
There have been many successful examples of brands that have created new categories like Vitamin Water in bottled water marketplace, minivans by Chrysler, Greek-style yogurt by Chobani and the iTunes music store by Apple. According to research published in the Harvard Business Review, brands that create new categories generate much higher financial returns than incremental innovators.
Category creators have to do a few things right to produce their industry-leading returns. First and foremost, they appeal to consumers by:
– Providing a unique offering that delivers compelling packaging, convenience, functionality or experiential benefits. Xbox, for example, enabled friends to play each other over the Internet.
– Creating a new pricing model that is attractive to consumers. For example, iTunes allowed consumers to buy only what they want (i.e. individual songs or streaming) at a low price.
– Re-engineering how a product is delivered and distributed. Consider how Netflix revolutionized the delivery of movies by leveraging a cloud based platform for anytime, anywhere access.
As a founder or marketer, you have the ability to marshal resources and create powerful marketing campaigns. Before you do that, consider if it makes more sense to re-position or create a new category for your brand. Creating a new category is typically financially rewarding, too, with greater growth and higher valuations for the company or brand. It’s not an easy endeavor but with sound brand strategy, fortitude and perseverance you can make your vision of creating a new category a reality. Here are five key elements of building a new category:
– Start with the why. Simon Sinek’s book “Start With the Why” provides valuable insight on how great leaders inspire action. When it comes to creating a new category, it is all about the “why”. People don’t buy “what” you do or “how” you do it, they buy what they “feel.” It’s difficult to create a category without inspiring others and getting them to realize they had a problem they didn’t know existed or that fundamentally changes how they interact with the world. No one asked for Vitamin Water.
– Build the right team. Honestly, this sounds simple but marketing and product teams fail, not because of their talent, but because the team was not aligned correctly and did not have the buy in of top leadership. Another thing you need that’s not easily examined is guts. It takes a certain amount of risk to succeed and some teams just can’t seem to take the all-out risk. You also have to have a team that is not full of themselves and has a high degree of customer empathy. You can’t create a team that just wants to “sell.” They have to create the product or service with such a strong customer benefit in mind that the customer wants to buy the product.
– Bigger is not always better. Even with a huge marketing budget, it’s tough to create a new category. However, it certainly can be done and doesn’t always need to break the bank. In fact, a modest budget is often a driving force in being resourceful, creative and thinking about things differently. How do you find and leverage your most passionate enthusiasts? How do you make key influencers gush about you? How do you leverage social media to create unbridled demand for your product or service?
– Competition is good. It may sound counterintuitive, but when you are creating a new category, competition helps legitimize a market and increases the size of the overall category pie. This is especially true for startups. You will actually benefit if others are spending their marketing dollars to help popularize the value of what you are doing. The key, however, is to preserve your first “mover” advantage, being first to market, and continue to find ways to elevate yourself above the crowd, while maintaining both a product and thought leader position. Never for one minute believe you don’t have any competition.
– Stay focused on your core marketing message. As tempting as it is when you have a team of passionate, creative people who want to change up your marketing messaging, success will be determined in the early days by consistently describing what you do and continuing to repeat the same message over and over and over until it clicks with your target customer. Some companies focus on getting a product to market and then marketing it. But it is important to prime the market and spend significant time early on crafting your message, testing it in the market and then repeating it often. Hopefully, the key message will be picked up and communicated virally in social media by your customers. All Chobani kept saying was Greek yogurt is better for you until we believed it.
Building a new market category is not for everyone. It takes vision, stamina and lots of guts. But when you get it right, there is amazing satisfaction for you, your company and the market that benefits from the new category created.
If you want to learn more about building new marketplace categories, get the book by the author of this article, Brands and Bulls**t.
Kim Kardashian is expecting her fourth child via a surrogate and is looking forward to taking it easy with her pre-baby celebrations this year, telling E! News she wants a “zen-like CBD-themed” baby shower. Read more…
Proto, the company WhatsApp has partnered with on its new Checkpoint Tipline service, has clarified that the service is “not a helpline” and is meant first and foremost as a research project. In an FAQ posted on its website, the company said “The Checkpoint tipline is primarily used to gather data for research, and is not a helpline that will be able to provide a response to every user.” A WhatsApp spokesperson later confirmed to Buzzfeed News that the announcement hadn’t meant to imply that every request would receive a response.
When the tip line was first announced on Tuesday, WhatsApp said that users would be able to share messages with it in order to have Proto verify their authenticity. It added that, “this combined effort by WhatsApp and industry organisations will help contribute to the safety of the elections, by giving people means to know if the information is verified and deter people from sharing rumors that have no basis in fact.” It also said that the tip line would create a database of rumors to study misinformation.
Subsequent tests by Reuters and Buzzfeed News suggested that not every message would receive a response from the tip line. Reuters noted that a message it reported was still awaiting classification two hours later, while Buzzfeed News sent two links, three text samples, and three images without receiving a response.
In its FAQ, Proto has now explicitly said that it will not be able to verify every available rumor. Instead it will focus on reports that can be evaluated on “publicly available and accessible information” and that it will not attempt to verify rumors that “would require journalistic reporting or fact-checking.” It says that the verification center may take up to 24 hours to verify a message, after which it will “prioritize newer queries.” However, over time Proto notes that its response times will improve as it builds up a directory of messages it’s evaluated.
Proto’s service, which will run for four months, is doing vital work in helping us to understand the spread of misinformation online. WhatsApp presents a particular challenge because of its end-to-end encryption. However, with elections already being targeted in places like Brazil, many had hoped that this initiative would have more of a focus on stopping the spread of misinformation in the first place.
Set expectations early, or they will be set for you.
7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
At Scribe, we work with numerous ultra-successful individuals who are used to running and controlling things in their lives. They give directions, and people follow their lead. But what happens when those people start writing their book — something they have no experience doing?
We’ve seen what happens. If we don’t provide them with firm and direct leadership, our authors will step in with their own leadership. They will try to control the book-writing process because being in control is comfortable for them. What we care about most is making sure they write a book that they are proud of. Being comfortable won’t get them a great book.
99.9 percent of our authors don’t know what writing and publishing a great book entails — which is great, that’s why we exist. But letting them take control of the process — which they do, if we don’t set clear expectations — is a recipe for disaster.
Once we realized that, we came to the conclusion that the author-facing members of our Tribe did not lead our authors well enough. How we fixed our expectation setting process provides a valuable lesson for any company that leads leaders.
When is it too late to set expectations?
One of our Tribe members practically ran out of her office toward my desk, “JT, we need you. We can’t get this author to publish her book.”
I’d seen this happen before. One of our authors was facing some understandable last-minute nerves. It’s never easy to put your ideas into the world.
“Why won’t she publish?” I asked.
“She wants a new cover, but we’re supposed to publish in two weeks,” she replied
“Okay, let me ask you this. Did anyone set the expectation that we can’t make a new cover this late in the process?” I said.
She avoided my eyes. That was the only answer I needed.
I thought back to the other times I joined projects to help authors publish their books. I realized in that moment that there was one clear issue with all of them and knew exactly what we needed to do in that moment.
Being a good sherpa
Imagine you just dropped $80,000 to climb Mt. Everest. You hired a team of sherpas and rented all the equipment you need to be successful. You’ve done some hiking before, and you’ve gone up other mountains, but this is new territory for you.
This is the biggest mountain you will ever climb.
You want leadership and guidance as you climb up the icy slopes. You want your sherpas to clearly communicate when you’ll reach your next camp. You want them to encourage you and tell you where you’re doing well and where you’re faltering. And when you approach an icefall that will require extreme concentration and mental capacity from you, you want them to set that expectation well ahead of time.
That icefall comes at the same point in the journey every time. There’s no excuse for your sherpas to say, “Oh yeah, we’re coming up to the most dangerous part of your journey in 15 minutes. People die up here all the time, so be careful.”
You’d panic, and rightfully so.
Now imagine they said, “We’re coming up to the most dangerous part of your journey and you’re going to lead the way.”
Frankly, I’m not climbing Mt. Everest either way, but if someone said that? Hell no! I’d be off that mountain so fast I’d cause an avalanche.
Instead of leaving you in the dark and forcing you to lead the way, you want your sherpa to set expectations repeatedly from the moment you sign up for the climb — that’s how they display leadership.
“On one of your first days of climbing,” the good sherpa says, “we’ll spend hours ascending a dangerous icefall. It is one of the deadliest spots on the planet. Don’t worry, though. We’ve done this a thousand times before and everyone we lead gets across safely. Just be ready to give it all of your focus and concentration and you’ll be just fine.”
In that case, you feel safer and more confident, even if you’re still a bit nervous.
You know you’re in the hands of a professional, and you know you’ll have to give this upcoming section of the journey everything you’ve got.
When faced with that request for a last-minute cover design, I realized in that moment how we needed to lead and set expectations for our authors — just like a good sherpa helping people climb Mt. Everest.
It’s our responsibility to tell them exactly what’s coming next and to set those expectations early and often. For example, “once you lock your cover, we cannot make revisions without putting your project at risk.”
Setting expectations for what obstacles and successes lie ahead for our authors — and the work they’ll have to do to reach their ultimate goal — not only gets them a better book, but it makes their journey much more enjoyable.
They’ll reach the deadly icefall and say, “This is it? I was expecting something dangerous.”
Related: The Myth of Low-Level Tasks
How did we improve our expectation setting?
Every week, our author-facing Tribe members meet to discuss challenges they’re facing with authors.
One trend has been strikingly clear in every meeting so far: almost every challenge with an author has been a result of us not setting clear expectations:
If an author wanted a title that would make them look bad, their writer didn’t lead them firmly enough in another direction. If an author felt nickel-and-dimed for paying an extra research fee, it was because the publishing manager didn’t adequately lay out the budget that was available. If an author wanted to change their cover at the last minute, it was because no one told them they couldn’t.
And now, after going through challenging situations together every week, all of our author-facing Tribe members needed to set clear expectations too. Even the Tribe member whose author asked for a new cover two weeks before publication.
“Tell you what,” I said. “I’m not coming onto this project. If our Author wants a new cover, let her know that we can absolutely do that for her. But I’ve seen that cover—it’s one of the best ones we’ve done in a long time. Tell her I said that. If she still wants a new cover, just set two clear expectations: it will cost her more money, and it will delay her release date.”
She nodded, and I could tell she understood. She got back on the phone with the author, and after reinforcing that her cover was already fantastic, and setting those clear expectations, the author gave up the idea of changing her cover. She finished her journey happy and on time, with a great book.
That’s how we lead leaders: by setting clear expectations and guiding them through obstacles. Do the same thing, and you’ll lead your clients happily and safely to their summit.