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Giving kids smartwatches might not be too smart

(TECH NEWS) If you’re trying to teach your kid about stranger danger, giving them smartwatches won’t help the lesson.

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All of these smart devices are not exactly the smartest choice when it comes to privacy. This is especially true for protecting your children. A new report from the Norwegian Consumer Council (NCC) and European Security firm Mnemonic tested just how safe smart watches are, and the results are unsettling.

The report, appropriately and almost embarrassingly titled “#WatchOut,” details analysis of 4 different types of smart watches from Gator, Tindell, Viksfjord and Xplora.

All of these watches have been marketed to consumers as a way to protect children. Some come with an SOS button and alert parents when their children go beyond certain boundaries. Unfortunately the report found that these features are unreliable.

In addition, two of the smartwatches were found to be vulnerable to hackers. If successful, hackers could remotely control the watches giving them access to location, personal information and even the ability to communicate through the device.

Even scarier, expert hackers would be able to listen to surroundings through the watch.

As researchers took a closer look at the smart device app permissions, they found that only one of them allows parents to opt out of data collection. Xplora explicitly states that they give data to marketers, which might be something that parents overlook.

Most people permit apps to collect and share data without a second thought.

The European Consumer Organization (BEUC) has adamantly opposed smart watches targeted towards children until these flaws are corrected. They ran a public service announcement warning against using the devices because of their failure to provide adequate security.

Ideally, BEUC wants to create mandatory regulations for companies to adhere to, to prevent future hacks. One member even said that smart watches that choose not to comply should be withdrawn from the market.

Flawed as they may be, these smartwatches are not the only vulnerable device putting children’s lives at risk. Mattel had to pull one of the newest Barbie dolls off of the shelves after realizing that the mic, once hacked, turned into a recording device in a child’s bedroom.

Regardless of the technological advantages of smart devices, it’s best to think twice before buying them for children.

Natalie is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and co-founded an Austin creative magazine called Almost Real Things. When she is not writing, she spends her time making art, teaching painting classes and confusing people. In addition to pursuing a writing career, Natalie plans on getting her MFA to become a Professor of Fine Art.

Tech News

Social media giants are trying to operate without human controls but are failing

(TECH NEWS) Artificial intelligence (AI) is taking over in fascinating ways, but this big experiment of replacing human tasks is failing. Good news / bad news.

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Let me tell you a story. In fact, let me tell you several.

A village in Macedonia had a small economic boom during the 2016 election, plagiarizing and stitching together pro-Trump messages on social media, then publishing the results as “news” in order to profit from Google ad revenue.

Back during the “Keep Calm and…” T-shirt fad, a shirt company went through a thoroughly justified PR apocalypse for selling products labeled “Keep Calm and Hit Her” and “Keep Calm and Rape a Lot.”

The 17th most popular website on Earth occasionally likes to tell women over 30 to freeze their ova.

So! That’s a parade of fail. What’s it got in common, beyond making any reasonable reader consider moving to an Amish community and trying to forget even the word “Internet”?

People. More accurately, their absence.

Veles, Macedonia churned out profitable nonsense about Trump slapping a protester (that didn’t happen) or getting the blessing of the Pope (Pope says nope) because Google ads are programmatic. There’s no QA component, no human eyes reviewing content and asking “is this worth advertising on?” or for that matter “is this blatantly false?”

Likewise the Evil T-Shirt Crisis. The company generated slogans by dropping memes into an algorithm, then throwing the result on Amazon. That ended… poorly.

We, and every other tech and business network in the digital cosmos, have written in depth about all the dang robots taking our jobs. Usually our primary concern is the economic fallout. We’re a business news organization. It’s our job to warn you about that stuff.

But there’s another problem, and it’s a huge problem, especially as media consumption in general continues to rise, and more and more of that media is moderated by algorithms rather than people.

Robots aren’t just taking our jobs. They suck at our jobs. Algorithms may play go, but they aren’t ready to make value judgments yet. A quick Google will yield a dozen more examples of AI failures just as repulsive and/or hilarious as the ones on my list. And the real punchline for all of that?

It’s good news.

For once, the robot apocalypse is cutting us puny humans a break. It’s creating jobs almost as fast as it’s gobbling them up, because at this point, it is excruciatingly clear that robots aren’t ready to produce work people can actually see. They’re not even ready to put ads on work people see, not without causing a PR catastrophe every other month.

AI isn’t a better widget. It also isn’t an employee that doesn’t want benefits or take long lunches.

It’s a product in permanent beta, desperately trying to catch up to the constantly changing nuance of human interaction. It doesn’t work without homo sapiens holding its robot hand.

Let’s call it Salter’s Law: For every application of AI to customer-facing work, you will need to hire at least one human for damage control when the AI screws up.

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Tech News

New stats behind mobile addiction and how people are coping

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Addiction to our screens is now accepted, and while younger generations are glued more tightly to them, many people are finding ways to fight back.

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I’d probably get this article done faster if I wasn’t checking my phone every couple of sentences. Even if I’m not expecting a message and know that everyone I was talking to is currently busy, it’s likely I’ll still neurotically check my phone every few minutes just in case.

Turns out I’m not alone in my mobile addiction.

A study from Deloitte of 2,000 U.S. internet users aged 18 to 75 found most people check their smartphone roughly 47 times a day.

Younger users nearly double this stat, checking their devices around 86 times a day, up from 82 times reported in the 2016 study.

The study also assessed which activities drove users to check their smartphones. Patterns of use compared to the previous year remain relatively unchanged except for self-reports of checking the phone while driving, which has fortunately decreased.

More than nine out of every ten respondents confess they use their phone while shopping or “spending leisure time.” Over eight out of ten reported checking on phones while watching TV, eating in a restaurant, and even while talking to family and friends.

When watching a show that’s longer than eleven minutes, I put my phone on the opposite side of the room if I want any hope of paying attention. I know if I keep my phone next to me, I’ll miss crucial chunks of episodes. This is a partial attempt to manage the addiction.

Likewise, around 47 percent of respondents said they’re trying to limit their usage, and are actively taking steps to reduce time spent on their phones. Some people report success by simply keeping their phones out of sight, turning it off during meals, or while spending time with friends.

A third of those surveyed turn off audio notifications, while around a quarter even went as far as putting some apps the chopping block. Another quarter could only part with their phones at bed time, turning their devices off at night.

Having a smartphone is fun (an addiction), but you don’t want to end up being that sad woman in the “Selfie” episode of High Maintenance only interacting with your phone.

Sometimes it can be much healthier to just put your phone away for a while. This can be a few hours of no phone time, or if you cans swing it, a few days of “business only” phone time.

Let people know if you’re going radio silent for a significant amount of time though, because otherwise your mom will think you’re dead if you stop responding to texts. Now please excuse me while I fail to follow my own advice and continue the technology loop of checking my Snaps, texts, and Instagram feed.

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Tech News

Turn your FAQ page into a chatbot without knowing how to code

(TECH NEWS) An easy way to add a chatbot to your site and automate some of your work is through this new simple tool that doesn’t require any tech know-how.

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Reduce your workload and personalize customer service engagement with Faqbot, the tool that turns your online FAQ into a customized chatbot.

Co-founded by Denny Wong and CEO Mathis André, Faqbot uses machine learning to streamline frequently asked questions into a handy chatbot pal.

Based on your existing FAQ content, Faqbot builds a database that learns from every conversation to improve responses. Faqbot can also be used to automate sales and lead generation.

You get to design the conversation flow, mapping out a custom path to guide users to a desired outcome. Set predefined choices or free text, customize the bot’s responses, and determine what leading questions the bot should ask.

For example, on the Faqbot site, I was given two pre-set choices to click after each response from the bot. Clicking “Thanks for helping” gets the polite response “You are welcome! ;-)” complete with an old-school emoji featuring a nose.

If you select “not my question,” Faqbot uses its general response to any unanswerable question: “Sorry, I’m a chatbot. I am constantly learning and have answers to frequently asked questions. Thank you for leaving your email and we will get back to you shortly.”

Choose your own responses based on already defined FAQ or come up with new messaging to better engage and inform your customers as needed. The free text option is also available if customers wish to continue asking questions.

Of course, I had to try out some less than frequently asked questions. When I asked Faqbot “are we friends?” it kindly replied, “Absolutely. You don’t have to ask.” So I’m smitten.

However, when I tried to take it to the next level by asking “Do you love me?,” which seems to be the internet’s favorite way to harass a bot, I got the “Sorry, I’m a chatbot” response.

That’s okay. I’ll recover. Faqbot isn’t here to love, it’s here to answer questions.

You can easily install the chatbot by either copy/pasting the snippet of codes directly into your webpage, or connect Faqbot to your company’s Facebook page. No coding skills required.

Pricing is based on number of users per month, but all levels include the same service offerings of FAQ database management, messaging interface, a ticketing system, and DIY guided conversation flow. You can try out Faqbot free for 7 days by signing up on their site.

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