Zuckerberg responds to Cambridge scandal, will block data access of unused apps

“I started Facebook, and at the end of the day I’m responsible for what happens on our platform” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted after days of the public and government officials waiting for him to speak up about the Cambridge Analytica scandal since it broke Friday. “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you.”

Zuckerberg laid out a slate of changes Facebook will make to prevent past and future abuses of user data by app developers. Those include:

  1. Blocking data access of apps you haven’t used for three months or more
  2. Auditing old apps that collected a lot of personal data
  3. Reducing the amount of data apps can pull using Facebook Login without an additional permissions screen to just your name, profile photo, and email address
  4. Requiring a signed contract from developers that want to pull your posts or private information
  5. Surfacing Facebook’s privacy third-party app privacy settings tool atop the News Feed to help people repeal access to apps
  6. Telling people if their data was misued by the app associated with Cambridge Analytica, or apps Facebook bans for misue in the future.

What’s missing from this response is any indication why Facebook didn’t do more to enforce its policy prohibiting apps from sharing user data, or why it took Cambridge Analytica at their word when they said they deleted the data without proper investigation.

The proposed solutions should help users take better control of their data while putting sensible friction and documentation in place for app developers that want people’s personal info or content. The audits of developers who pulled lots of friends’ data before the 2014 change that restricted that ability could root out some more bad actors.

But overall, the plan doesn’t address the fact that tons of developers pulled and may still be in possession of illicit Facebook data. Now off of Facebook’s servers, it has little control over it. Finding and deleting every copy of these data sets may be impossible. That could lead to future data scandals that may make people take Zuckerberg up on his assertion that if Facebook can’t keep people’s data safe, they shouldn’t use it.

You can read Zuckerberg’s full post below:

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I want to share an update on the Cambridge Analytica situation — including the steps we've already taken and our next…

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Source: Tech Crunch

To protect election systems from hacking, states are getting cozier with Homeland Security

It might be a snow day in Washington, but the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on election system security continued as planned. During Wednesday’s hearing, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and her predecessor Jeh Johnson appeared with a panel of state election officials to hash out the recommendations issued by the committee on Tuesday.

“This issue is urgent,” said Senate Intel Chairman Richard Burr in his opening statements. “If we start to fix these problems tomorrow, we still might not be in time to save the system for [2018] and 2020.”

The hearing often turned to what broke down during the 2016 election, describing the kind of measures and policies that need to be put in place to allow federal and state officials to communicate smoothly around future threats, including the established threat from Russia. We learned last year that Russia targeted election systems in at least 21 states. Many members of the committee expect other U.S. adversaries to adopt that same model around known vulnerabilities.

“Despite evidence of interference, the federal government and the states had barely communicated about strengthening our defenses,” said Senate Intel Vice Chair Mark Warner. “It was not until the fall of 2017 that DHS even fully notified the states they had been potential targets.”

So what’s changing?

For one, Homeland Security won’t let coordinating the security clearances for as many as 150 relevant state election officials get in the way of handing down important election system intelligence. Only 20 officials out of that 150 number have that clearance now.

“We’ve worked out the processes whereby if we have actionable information we will provide it to the state and local officials on a day read-in so we are not letting the lack of clearance hold us back,” Nielsen said. “If we have information to share with them in respect to a real threat, we will do so.”

According to Amy Cohen, executive director of the National Association of State Election Directors, an organization that brings together election officials in all 50 states, states have made “great strides” since the former DHS secretary designated all election systems as critical infrastructure in January of 2017.

States that may have been nervous about federal overreach after the critical infrastructure designation (which applied to all aspects of federal state and local elections including polling places, storage facilities, voter registration databases and the voting machines themselves) seem to be warming up to and opting into the “technical resources” that Homeland Security has on offer. As of today, more than half of the states have signed up for Homeland Security’s optional cybersecurity audits. That program helps states identify potential system vulnerabilities and makes recommendations based on its findings.

“To be clear, there has been a learning curve on the sharing of information,” Nielsen said. One challenge is understanding how states vary in operating and organizing their elections. For example, an election that would be run by a county in one state might be the domain of the governor or the secretary of state’s office in another.

“Today I can say with confidence that we know whom to contact in every state to share threat information,” Nielsen said. “That did not exist in 2016.”

While Homeland Security and the states have made progress since the 2016 election, those improvements are incremental and uneven. State budgets vary and some rely more heavily on federal funds for required steps for securing their elections, like purging insecure election machines and purchasing new machines that leave an auditable paper trail. Many states are currently undertaking the steps necessary to get their election systems up to Homeland Security’s recommended standards, even as U.S. adversaries likely continue to probe existing systems for cyber weaknesses.

“The threat of interference remains,” Nielsen admitted. “We recognize that the 2018 midterm and future elections are clearly potential targets for Russian hacking attempts.”

Source: Tech Crunch

Mobile gaming is having a moment, and Apple has the reins

It’s moved beyond tradition and into the realm of meme that Apple manages to dominate the news cycle around major industry events all while not actually participating in said events. CES rolls around and every story is about HomeKit or its competitors, another tech giant has a conference and the news is that Apple updated some random subsystem of its ever-larger ecosystem of devices and software .

This is, undoubtedly planned by Apple in many instances. And why not? Why shouldn’t it own the cycle when it can, it’s only strategically sound.

This week, the 2018 Game Developer’s Conference is going on and there’s a bunch of news coverage about various aspects of the show. There are all of the pre-written embargo bits about big titles and high-profile indies, there are the trend pieces and, of course, there’s the traditional ennui-laden ‘who is this event even for’ post that accompanies any industry event that achieves critical mass.

But the absolute biggest story of the event wasn’t even at the event. It was the launch of Fortnite and, shortly thereafter, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on mobile devices. Specifically, both were launched on iOS and PUBG hit Android simultaneously.

The launch of Fortnite, especially, resonates across the larger gaming spectrum in several unique ways. It’s the full and complete game as present on consoles, it’s iOS-first and it supports cross-platform play with console and PC players.

This has, essentially, never happened before. There have been stabs at one or more of those conditions on experimental levels but it really marks a watershed in the games industry that could serve to change the psychology around the platform discussion in major ways. 

For one, though the shape of GDC has changed over the years as it relates to mobile gaming – it’s only recently that the conference has become dominated by indie titles that are mobile centric. The big players and triple-A console titles still take up a lot of air, but the long tail is very long and mobile is not synonymous with “casual gamers” as it once was.

I remember the GDC before we launched Monument Valley,” says Dan Gray of Monument Valley 2 studio ustwo. “We were fortunate enough that Unity offered us a place on their stand. Nobody had heard of us or our game and we were begging journalists to come say hello, it’s crazy how things have changed in four years. We’ve now got three speakers at the conference this year, people stop you in the street (within a two block radius) and we’re asked to be part of interviews like this about the future of mobile.”

Zach Gage, the creator of SpellTower, and my wife’s favorite game of all time, Flip Flip Solitaire, says that things feel like they have calmed down a bit. “It seems like that might be boring, but actually I think it’s quite exciting, because a consequence of it is that playing games has become just a normal thing that everyone does… which frankly, is wild. Games have never had the cultural reach that they do now, and it’s largely because of the App Store and these magical devices that are in everyones pockets.”

Alto’s Odyssey is the followup to Snowman’s 2015 endless boarder Alto’s Adventure. If you look at these two titles, three years apart, you can see the encapsulation of the growth and maturity of gaming on iOS. The original game was fun, but the newer title is beyond fun and into a realm where you can see the form being elevated into art. And it’s happening blazingly fast.

“There’s a real and continually growing sense that mobile is a platform to launch compelling, artful experiences,” says Snowman’s Ryan Cash. “This has always been the sentiment among the really amazing community of developers we’ve been lucky enough to meet. What’s most exciting to me, now, though, is hearing this acknowledged by representatives of major console platforms. Having conversations with people about their favorite games from the past year, and seeing that many of them are titles tailor-made for mobile platforms, is really gratifying. I definitely don’t want to paint the picture that mobile gaming has ever been some sort of pariah, but there’s a definite sense that more people are realizing how unique an experience it is to play games on these deeply personal devices.”

Mobile gaming as a whole has fought since the beginning against the depiction that it was for wasting time only, not making ‘true art’, which was reserved for consoles or dedicated gaming platforms. Aside from the ‘casual’ vs. ‘hardcore’ debate, which is more about mechanics, there was a general stigma that mobile gaming was a sidecar bet to the main functions of these devices, and that their depth would always reflect that. But the narratives and themes being tackled on the platform beyond just clever mechanics are really incredible.

Playing Monument Valley 2 together with my daughter really just blew my doors off, and I think it changed a lot of people’s minds in this regard. The interplay between the characters and environment and a surprisingly emotional undercurrent for a puzzle game made it a breakout that was also a breakthrough of sorts.

“There’s so many things about games that are so awesome that the average person on the street doesn’t even know about,” says Gray. “As small developers right now we have the chance to make somebody feel a range of emotions about a video game for the first time, it’s not often you’re in the right place at the right time for this and to do it with the most personal device that sits in your pocket is the perfect opportunity.”

The fact that so many of the highest profile titles are launching on iOS first is a constant source of consternation for Android users, but it’s largely a function of addressable audience.

I spoke to Apple VP Greg Joswiak about Apple’s place in the industry. “Gaming has always been one of the most popular categories on the App Store,” he says. A recent relaunch of the App Store put gaming into its own section and introduced a Today tab that tells stories about the games and about their developers.

That redesign, he says, has been effective. “Traffic to the App Store is up significantly, and with higher traffic, of course, comes higher sales.”

“One thing I think smaller developers appreciate from this is the ability to show the people behind the games,” says ustwo’s Gray about the new gaming and Today sections in the App Store. “Previously customers would just see an icon and assume a corporation of 200 made the game, but now it’s great we can show this really is a labour of love for a small group of people who’re trying to make something special. Hopefully this leads to players seeing the value in paying up front for games in the future once they can see the craft that goes into something.”

Snowman’s Cash agrees. “It’s often hard to communicate the why behind the games you’re making — not just what your game is and does, but how much went into making it, and what it could mean to your players. The stories that now sit on the Today tab are a really exciting way to do this; as an example, when Alto’s Odyssey released for pre-order, we saw a really positive player response to the discussion of the game’s development. I think the variety that the new App Store encourages as well, through rotational stories and regularly refreshed sections, infuses a sense of variety that’s great for both players and developers. There’s a real sense I’m hearing that this setup is equipped to help apps and games surface, and stayed surfaced, in a longer term and more sustainable way.”

In addition, there are some technical advantages that keep Apple ahead of Android in this arena. Plenty of Android devices are very performant and capable in individual ways, but Apple has a deep holistic grasp of its hardware that allow it to push platform advantages in introducing new frameworks like ARKit. Google’s efforts in the area with AR Core are just getting started with the first batch of 1.0 apps coming online now, but Google will always be hamstrung by the platform fragmentation that forces developers to target a huge array of possible software and hardware limitations that their apps and games will run up against.

This makes shipping technically ambitious projects like Fortnite on Android as well as iOS a daunting task. “There’s a very wide range of Android devices that we want to support,” Epic Games’ Nick Chester told Forbes. “We want to make sure Android players have a great experience, so we’re taking more time to get it right.“

That wide range of devices includes an insane differential in GPU capability, processing power, Android version and update status.

“We bring a very homogenous customer base to developers where 90% of [devices] are on the current versions of iOS,” says Joswiak. Apple’s customers embrace those changes and updates quickly, he says, and this allows developers to target new features and the full capabilities of the devices more quickly.

Ryan Cash sees these launches on iOS of ‘full games’ as they exist elsewhere as a touchstone of sorts that could legitimize the idea of mobile as a parity platform.

“We have a few die-hard Fortnite players on the team, and the mobile version has them extremely excited,” says Cash. “I think more than the completeness of these games (which is in of itself a technical feat worth celebrating!), things like Epic’s dedication to cross-platform play are massive. Creating these linked ecosystems where players who prefer gaming on their iPhones can enjoy huge cultural touchstone titles like Fortnite alongside console players is massive. That brings us one step closer to an industry attitude which focuses more on accessibility, and less on siloing off experiences and separating them into tiers of perceived quality.”

“I think what is happening is people are starting to recognize that ios devices are everywhere, and they are the primary computers of many people,” says Zach Gage. “When people watch a game on Twitch, they take their iPhone out of their pocket and download it. Not because they want to know if there’s a mobile version, but because they just want the game. It’s natural to assume that these games available for a computer or a playstation, and it’s now natural to assume that it would be available for your phone.”

Ustwo’s Gray says that it’s great that the big games are transitioning, but also cautions that there needs to be a sustainable environment for mid-priced games on iOS that specifically use the new capabilities of these devices.

“It’s great that such huge games are transitioning this way, but for me I’d really like to see more $30+ titles designed and developed specifically for iPhone and iPad as new IP, really taking advantage of of how these devices are used,” he says. “It’s definitely going to benefit the AppStore as a whole, but It does need to be acknowledged however that the way players interact with console/PC platforms and mobile are inherently different and should be designed accordingly. Session lengths and the interaction vocabulary of players are two of the main things to consider, but if a game manages to somehow satisfy the benefits of all those platforms then great, but I think it’s hard.”

Apple may not be an official sponsor of GDC, but it is hosting two sessions at the show including an introduction to Metal 2, its rendering pipeline, and ARKit, its hope for the future of gaming on mobile. This presence is exciting for a number of reasons, as it shows a greater willingness by Apple to engage the community that has grown around its platforms, but also that the industry is becoming truly integrated, with mobile taking its rightful place alongside console and portable gaming as a viable target for the industry’s most capable and interesting talent.

“They’re bringing the current generation of console games to iOS,” Joswiak says, of launches like Fortnite and PUBG and notes that he believes we’re at a tipping point when it comes to mobile gaming, because mobile platforms like the iPhone and iOS offer completely unique combinations of hardware and software features that are iterated on quickly.

“Every year we are able to amp up the tech that we bring to developers,” he says, comparing it to the 4-5 year cycle in console gaming hardware. “Before the industry knew it, we were blowing people away [with the tech]. The full gameplay of these titles has woken a lot of people up.”

Source: Tech Crunch

Here is how to delete Facebook

Some of us have been on Facebook for more than a decade, but all good things come to an end. Over the past eighteen months, Facebook has been in a downward spiral. The social network is in the eye of a controversy storm, with fake news, Russia’s meddling in the 2016 Presidential election, and misuse of personal data by Cambridge Analytica swirling around Menlo Park.

Meanwhile, the company has lost billions in value, all coming down to the fact that the public’s trust in Facebook has been eroded, perhaps beyond repair.

If you’re ready to jump ship, the process isn’t all that difficult.

The first step is to make sure you have a copy of all your Facebook information. Facebook makes it relatively simple to download an archive of your account, which includes your Timeline info, posts you have shared, messages, photos, as well as more hidden information like ads you have clicked on, the IP addresses that are logged when you log into or out of Facebook, and more.

You can learn all about Downloading your Archive here.

To go ahead and download, just go to the Settings page once you’re logged in to Facebook and click “Download a copy of your Facebook data.”

Remember, you can’t go back and download your archive once you’ve deleted your account, so if you want that info at your fingertips, make sure to download the archive first.

Before you delete your account, know this: once your account is deleted, it can’t be recovered. If ever you want to rejoin Facebook, you’ll be starting from scratch.

Oddly, finding the button to delete your Facebook account isn’t available in the settings or menu. It lives on an outside page, which you can find by clicking right here.

Important note: It takes a few days from the time you click the Delete button to the time that your account is actually terminated. If you sign on during that period, the account will no longer be marked for termination and you’ll have to start over. It will take up to 90 days for your account to be fully deleted.

Moreover, some information like log records are stored in Facebook’s database after the account is fully deleted, but the company says that information is not personally identifiable. Information like messages you’ve sent to friends will still be accessible to them.

Keep in mind, Facebook still likely has access to a good deal of your data long after you’ve deleted your account. Plus, Facebook owns WhatsApp and Instagram . So if you really want to stop feeding data into the Facebook machine, you likely need to go ahead and delete those apps as well.

Source: Tech Crunch

One of the youngest fund managers in the U.S. just launched her own accelerator, too

Last August, we told you about Laura Deming, a New Zealand native who was home schooled before moving halfway around the world as a 12-year-old to work alongside Cynthia Kenyon, a renowned molecular biologist who specializes in the genetics of aging.

She didn’t stay long. At age 14, Deming began her college career at MIT. When she turned 16, she dropped out to join Peter Thiel’s two-year-old Thiel Fellowship program, which gives $100,000 to young people “who want to build new things.” By last August, when we profiled Deming, she had closed on $22 million in commitments for her second venture fund, which supports aging-related startups. She was 23.

Because Deming has always had an intriguing relationship with time, we weren’t all that surprised when she reached out to us late last week to let us know her San Francisco-based venture firm, The Longevity Fund, has now established a new accelerator program — one with backing from famed investor Marc Andreessen, the early-stage venture firm Felicis Ventures and other, unnamed investors.

Deming isn’t disclosing how much money will be invested through the accelerator, called Age 1, but she does say the pool of capital is distinct from the money she’s investing with Longevity Fund. She also says that Andreessen, Felicis and her other backers will serve as mentors to the companies that pass through the program.

Other notable details about Age 1: Deming says that she and her advisors — including serial entrepreneur Elad Gil, who most recently co-founded the genomics testing company Color Genomics — will be “quite flexible” when it comes to the stage of applicants. She says the bigger idea is to help them get to a significant “value inflection point” within four months, which is how long the program runs.

Instead of accepting startups serially, Age 1 will work with small batches of startups — between three and five at a time — and it’s accepting them right now on a rolling basis, with plans to present them to an invite-only group of investors on October 5 in the Bay Area. (Startups can apply here.)

Though there’s not necessarily a headquarters for the program, Age 1 will provide co-working space for companies that need it and, even more notably, it will invest $500,000 per startup — more than most accelerators are willing or able to plug into the startups with which they work.

What we don’t know: at what cost. Asked about the ownership stake that Age 1 expects in exchange for its checks and mentorship, Deming, over email, declines to say.

As for what Deming and company are looking for, she suggests the program is particularly interested in working with startups that are committed to addressing late-onset medical conditions relating to Alzheimer’s, heart disease, diabetes and more. Though they’re casting a wide net, she adds that “one of hundreds of things we’d be interested in seeing is more work on the role of the circadian or other developmental clocks in longevity.”

Whether Deming’s ability to nurture startups is as promising as her prodigious understanding of biology remains to be seen, but her venture record to date is encouraging. Though Longevity has a fairly limited number of portfolio companies thus far, one of them, the genome editing technology company Precision BioSciences, secured a partnership last month with food giant Cargill; the two are now working together on a new product to reduce saturated fat in canola oil.

Another portfolio company — UNITY Biotechnology, a company that’s trying to reverse aging through therapeutics — meanwhile closed on $55 million in Series C funding on Monday. It has raised more than $200 million at this point, including from Thiel’s Founders Fund, Jeff Bezos, Fidelity and ARCH Venture Partners. 

To learn more about Deming, you might check out this TED talk she gave back in 2013.

Source: Tech Crunch

Tradewind Bioscience attacks the physiology of tumors to treat cancer

Cancer remains the one counterpoint to the march of medical progress that has scored human history over the last 200 years.

Last year 600,920 people in the U.S. died from cancer, and another 1.7 million received an initial diagnosis of the disease. Globally, one in six people die from cancer, according to the World Health Organization.

In the past decade, research in the field has expanded the possible treatments of the disease from surgery (which was the only option until the 20th century), radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormonal therapy.

Among the most promising of these new treatments are those which attack the functions of the tumor itself. New epigenetic therapies, therapeutic viruses, novel nanoparticles, and immune therapies look at external responses to cancerous growths — sequencing out mutations that can lead to cancerous growths; creating new pathogens that only attack cancer cells; building new particles that attack cancer cells; or boosting the ability of the body’s natural immune system to attack cancer cells. By contrast these treatments look to stop the growth of tumors by focusing on inhibiting the biological processes that encourage that growth.

Tradewind Bioscience, which is launching today at Y Combinator’s winter demo day, is taking this approach.

While research on these new potential therapies is only now making its way into scientific journals (with most studies published within the past three months), Tradewind co-founders Dr. Thaddeus Allen and Dr. Ron Buckanovich have mostly kept their research under wraps after having studied different cancers for more than a decade.

Non-small cell lung cancer in a 54 year-old woman. Photo courtesy of Flickr/Oregon State University

Allen began his research roughly 14 years ago at the University of California, San Francisco under the tutelage of the Nobel Prize-winning cancer researcher Dr. J. Michael Bishop, where he was studying the way a certain protein, EGFL6, affected the growth of lung cancer cells.

Bishop’s lab was one home for novel cancer research, but UCSF wasn’t alone in breaking new ground on cancer research. Half a continent away, Buckanovich was doing his own studies on the role that the same protein played in the growth of ovarian cancer cells in his lab at the University of Michigan .

“He had filed a patent through the University of Michigan,” Allen says of how he first came across Buckanovich’s research. “I found him on Google patents and I found the patent first. I contacted the tech transfer office and they put me in touch with [him]. Probably the best thing I’ve done in the course of this adventure was to form that relationship with Ron and the University of Michigan.”

Buckanovich published his research on the link between ovarian cancer and the EGFL6 protein in 2016, and it was the jolt that Allen needed to reach out and begin work on Tradewind in earnest.

“I thought long and hard about how we proceed,” Allen says. “This protein is incredibly important in how cancers survive and spread around the body. I had that idea four years ago… and it took me that time to get the courage to say okay let’s get this together.”

In the interim, Allen had been quietly amassing a body of research of his own on how the protein may affect lung cancer cells. “I wanted to keep things secret until things had progressed to a certain point. A point of inevitability,” he says. “I really want to be the one to make this work.”

Serous carcinoma. Photo courtesy of Flickr/Ed Uthman

That Tradewind’s therapy is potentially able to treat two very different kinds of cancer is remarkable because cancer is considered to be a very unique disease. It’s a parasite that’s specific to the genetic makeup of its host. In fact, the specificity of cancer to an individual is what makes the disease so difficult for the body to fight.

“We’re taking on the possibility that they’ve really hit on something that — as opposed to going after some downstream things — are in the physiology of these cancers,” says Diego Rey, Y Combinator’s visiting partner focused on healthcare and biotech startups. “When you go downstream in these [treatment] processes it’s a little bit like whack a mole,” says Rey. 

Rather than attack the cancer, Tradewind’s therapy tries to attack the root of the disease. How it grows and spreads through the body.

“We’ve been able to tease out [some] main things that [the protein] does,” says Allen. “It regulates cancer stem cels… the ones that allows the cancer to grow… And it plays a really prominent role in the survival of cells.”

In primary tumors — the initial cancerous mutations — Allen and Buckanovich discovered that the protein they identified plays a major role in controlling stem cells which allow the tumor to grow. That same protein is important in keeping cancers alive as they spread through the body.

“The secreted protein feeds back on the cells and allows them to live as they exit the tumor and find new homes in different tissues,” says Allen. “What the antibody can do… it can bind to the secreted protein and now the protein can not feed back on the cancer cell and bind to the receptors that it’s supposed to bind to. So now it can’t provide that survival signal to the cancer cell.”

The expression of this protein in a patient can also be a useful indicator of the potential to develop cancer. “If you have lots of this protein it’s very likely that you will succumb to a cancer,” says Allen. “[And] it’s really the highly metastatic cancers. These are the deadliest. These are the ones that will spread around the body to different tissues.”

For Allen and Buckanovich, the development of their therapy means that patients could one day get an intravenous infusion of antibodies that would inhibit the production of the protein they identified, rather than getting a bolus of incredibly toxic chemotherapy or undergoing radiotherapies.

“That is actually what Y Combinator has urged us to refocus on,” Allen said. “We’ve been so busy trying to convince people that the target is fantastic.”

Once out of Y Combinator Allen predicts that his new company will need between $7 million and $10 million to get to a first stage of clinical trials within the next three years.

Both he and Buckanovich think that the treatment could be effective beyond their fields of expertise in lung cancer and ovarian cancer.

“Tumors use EGFL6 to tell the cancer cells to migrate and then divide. You’re telling the cancer cells to metastasize,” says Buckanovich. “[But] we have also shown that it helps cancer cells to initiate.”

Buckanovich says that’s the key to what he and Allen are trying to do. “The protein is made not only by the tumor cells but it is made by the host,” he says. “Think of it like soil. If cancer is the seed… if we can prevent there from being a fertile soil for any of these seeds to grow. It may be more applicable than just the subset of cancers that make this protein… In an ideal world this drug would be preventative. We might be able to treat [cancer] with a benign course of antibodies.”

Source: Tech Crunch

Get ready to start seeing more local ads on YouTube

YouTube’s video ad creation service aimed at helping small business reach YouTube viewers is now available more broadly across the U.S. The company announced this morning that YouTube Director onsite, as the service is called, is now live in over 170 U.S. cities, up from only 9 previously – Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C., New York, Tampa and Seattle.

This is significant expansion, in terms of reaching potential YouTube advertisers who would have otherwise not had the resources to write, film and edit a professional ad for YouTube.

The service is kind of a bargain for the small businesses, too. Hiring a pro to create a professionally produced video could cost $1,000 or more. But YouTube is basically doing it for free – well, free with a catch.

It’s available at no charge for any business that commits to spending at least $350 to advertise the video on YouTube. However, that’s in line with the low-end of buying airtime for a 30-second local TV ad, which ranges from $200 to $1,500+, depending on time slot.

YouTube Director onsite works by connecting area businesses with YouTube-approved filmmakers, who will schedule call with the advertiser to learn about the business and help them to write a script. The filmmaker then comes to the business to film the video, and returns an edited version the next week. YouTube’s ad experts help get the video upload to the site, and aid the business in crafting their YouTube ad campaign.

The company hasn’t shared any comprehensive metrics on how well these ads perform, but did note in a blog post a single case study where a custom guitar shop saw a 13x return on ad spend, and a 130 percent increase in revenue from the ad. The YouTube Director onsite website also features a number of other ads created via the service, to showcase the professional quality of what can be produced.

The company has claimed for years that YouTube ads are more effective than TV because they allow targeting – but that’s an argument that can be made for may sorts of online ads. In addition, YouTube reaches a younger demographic, so small businesses should keep in mind that they may need other ways to reach to those over the age of 35, for example.

The timing of this U.S. expansion is relevant because YouTube just last week announced new AdWords experiences that tie together Google searches with YouTube advertising and calls-to-action.

“Soon you’ll be able to reach people on YouTube who recently searched for your products or services on Google. For example, an airline could reach people on YouTube who recently searched Google.com for ‘flights to Hawaii.’ We call this custom intent audiences,” explained the recent Google’s announcement.

The company had previously allowed Google account user data to influence YouTube ads, starting in 2017. With custom intent audiences, advertisers can now create a keyword list for their video in AdWords. They can then combine this targeting feature with YouTube’s new direct response video ad format, TrueView, which offers a customizable call-to-action in a video ad.

The ads created by YouTube Director onsite will support this feature as well, allowing the businesses to capture leads or referrals, or something else that’s important to their specific businesses.

In other words, if you thought having the shoes you abandoned in a retailer’s shopping cart following you around the web was weird, wait until YouTube starts showing you ads for local businesses that match up with what you’ve just been googling. (By the way, Google does let you opt out of personalized ads if that’s how you roll.)

Source: Tech Crunch

Cambridge Analytica CEO Andrew Nix has been suspended

Andrew Nix, the CEO of the London-based voter profiling company Cambridge Analytica — which harvested private information from more than 50 million Facebook users without their permission to analyze their voter behavior — has been suspended from his job. In an announcement posted to the company’s cite, the board said the suspension was effective immediately.

Nix’s suspension ties directly to footage that was filmed over the last year by Britain’s Channel 4 News and which surfaced yesterday. The video comes on the heels of investigative reporting by the Guardian, The Observer and the New York Times that has shown how the company used data to target groups and design messages that appealed to their interests.

In one minute-long clip, Nix boasts of entrapping politicians to meet its clients’ needs. Nix can be overheard saying in one recording, “It sounds a dreadful thing to say, but these are things that don’t necessarily need to be true as long as they’re believed.”

It gets worse, as anyone who read about Nix in the Guardian yesterday can attest.

From its report:

When the reporter asked if Cambridge Analytica could offer investigations into the damaging secrets of rivals, Nix said it worked with former spies from Britain and Israel to look for political dirt. He also volunteered that his team were ready to go further than an investigation.

“Oh, we do a lot more than that,” he said over dinner at an exclusive hotel in London. “Deep digging is interesting, but you know equally effective can be just to go and speak to the incumbents and to offer them a deal that’s too good to be true and make sure that that’s video recorded.

“You know these sort of tactics are very effective, instantly having video evidence of corruption.”

Nix suggested one possible scenario, in which the managing director of Cambridge Analytica’s political division, Mark Turnbull, would pose as a wealthy developer looking to exchange campaign finance for land. “I’m a master of disguise,” Turnbull said.

Another option, Nix suggested, would be to create a sex scandal. “Send some girls around to the candidate’s house, we have lots of history of things,” he told the reporter. “We could bring some Ukrainians in on holiday with us, you know what I’m saying.”


Today, the company’s board cited those comments, saying that they “do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view the violation.”

Cambridge Analytica did not respond directly to our requests for more information.

The data firm was reportedly embedded with the Trump campaign beginning in 2016.

Talking to the trade magazine Ad Age at the time, a consultant who had worked with Cambridge Analytica noted that no one in Washington took the firm terribly seriously, either. “Everyone universally agrees that [Cambridge’s] sales operation is better than their fulfillment product . . . The product comes late or it’s not quite what you envisioned.”

“What’s the old saying?” asked another source in the same article. “All hat, no cattle?”

According to the Guardian, Nix, 42, studied the history of art at Manchester University and worked as a financial analyst in Mexico and the U.K. before joining SCL, a strategic communications firm that is parent to Cambridge Analytica.

Nix later set up Cambridge Analytica with the help of Robert Mercer, a billionaire patron of right-wing outlets like Breitbart News. Steve Bannon, the former executive director of Brietbart who served as Trump’s chief strategist until last August, was formerly a vice president with the outfit. Mercer’s daughter, Rebekah, sits on its board.

Source: Tech Crunch

Amazon surpasses Alphabet in market value

Amazon is currently the second biggest company in the world when it comes to market capitalization. The company is currently worth $763.27 billion (NASDAQ:AMZN) while Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG) is “only” worth $762.98 billion.

Amazon has had an incredible quarter. Stock is up nearly 29 percent since early January. As for Alphabet, its shares have gone up and down.

And if you look at today alone, Amazon is up 2 percent, while Alphabet is flat. Alphabet can still pass Amazon again before the stock market closes. But it sounds like the writing is on the wall.

The only company that is currently more valuable than Amazon is Apple. There’s still quite a long way to reach Apple as Apple’s market capitalization is… $892 billion.

Source: Tech Crunch

This tortoise shows kids that robot abuse is bad

When humanity’s back is against the wall and the robots have us cornered I’d say I’m all for whanging a few with a baseball bat. However, until then, we must be kind to our mechanical brethren and this robotic tortoise will help our kids learn that robot abuse is a bad idea.

Researchers at Naver Labs, KAIST, and Seoul National University created this robot to show kids the consequences of their actions when it comes to robots. Called Shelly, the robot reacts to touches and smacks. When it gets scared it changes color and retracts into its shell. Children learn that if they hit Shelly she will be upset and the only thing missing is a set of bitey jaws.

“When Shelly stops its interaction due to a child’s abusive behavior, the others in the group who wanted to keep playing with Shelly often complained about it, eventually restraining each other’s abusive behavior,” Naver Labs’ Jason J. Choi told IEEE. The study found that Shelly’s reactions reduced the amount of abuse the robot took from angry toddlers.

The researchers showed off Shelly at the ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human Robot Interaction last week.

Source: Tech Crunch