Uber started mapping South African cities

Accurate maps are at the core of providing reliable transportation to everyone and everywhere. Uber has rolled out mapping vehicles in South African cities, beginning with Cape Town. The efforts can be compared to Google Street View vehicles. Uber uses a mix of mapping technologies to provide the underlying infrastructure for its apps. The fleet of cartographers is equipped with rooftop cameras, which will record street imagery of their surroundings, during rides around picking up passengers.

Data collected by Uber’s mapping vehicles will be used to improve driver efficiency by calculating more accurate estimated time of arrival and supporting drivers to choose the best route from one point do another.

Cape Town is one of Uber’s priority markets in Africa. There will be approximately 12 of these vehicles in Cape Town, followed by other cities in South Africa. Earlier this year we put mapping cars on the road in Mexico, Canada and the United Kingdom. Uber has spent $500 million on its global mapping project.

On the question of privacy – if you catch a ride, the devices do not retain any imagery at or around your initial pick-up or final drop-off locations. The imagery neither will be posted online,  nor be made available to the public. Uber will also accept reasonable requests to delete recorded images.

MENA startups you need to know

Recently in Bahrain took place the MENA Angel Investor Summit 2016, which is one of the largest meetings of venture capitalists, angel investors, accelerators, angel investment organizations and entrepreneurs. The event’s purpose is to build a strong supportive and sustainable start-up ecosystem and grow the angel investment community in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Since the first Summit in 2010, over 1000 regional and international investors have been able to connect with around 150 high-potential innovative entrepreneurs from the region. This has resulted in USD 6 million investments. This year gave a chance to over 30 promising start-ups. Most of them had a competitive edge with regional and global appeal. Below we present 5 most interesting ones.

GetBaqala – It comes from Bahrain. It aims to make grocery shopping fast, simple and convenient. It is an m-commerce platform, which enables people to purchase daily needs and groceries from their neighborhood magazines and then brings the products to their doorstep within 2 hours. The goal is to make local shopping experience easy and pleasant for buyers thanks to connecting them to their trusted merchants from their neighborhood via a mobile app. The startup plans to reach 300 orders daily by December 2017.

myU – It comes from Kuwait. It is an app for school communication. In each school it works as intranet social network of pupils, faculty members, clubs and organizations. The tool makes it easy to communicate in real-time with anyone in the school community. It can be used if a teacher wants to announce something to his pupils, or when a school organization wants to promote its events and activities, or when a pupil wants to ask about an exam date. The startup has more than 60,000 users and over 1,000 educators. In 2016 it reached revenues of $75,000.

Masmoo3 – It comes from Jordan. It is an online platform, which produces and publishes Arabic Audiobooks. It offers Arabic speakers a digital library of Arabic audiobooks. They are accessible using the internet download and smartphones apps. The aim is to provide Arabic speakers with luxury of listening to books while practicing everyday activities like driving, walking, playing sports, and relaxing.

Elmuda– It comes from Jordan. It is the Middle East’s premier online luxury fashion store. The online platform connects modern women with more than 150 brands around the world, where they can buy unique products from London to LA, Berlin to Bucharest, Paris to Milan.

Kotobna – It comes from Egypt. It is the first online self-publishing platform in Arab world. The startup enables young Arab authors to publish, promote and monetize their work via website and mobile app. In half a year there were published 200 e-books, which were downloaded 11,000 times.

German government will punish social networking sites for publication of false news

The German coalition government announced that from next year it will introduce legislation imposing on social networking sites fines for publishing false information in them. The fine’s value may reach even 500 000 euros.

Announcement of the new regulations appeared in the commentary of Thomas Oppermann, the head of the parliamentary club of the SPD German party, for the weekly Der Spiegel. According to plans, in 2017 Germany will apply the law, according to which Facebook and other social platforms will be responsible for removal in time of information appearing on these sites.

The dominant market social media platform, such as Facebook, will be obliged to open special offices in Germany, operating around the clock, 365 days a year, exclusively engaged in identifying false information provided by various sources in these sites. If the website does not respond within 24 hours by removing false content, it will be charged a financial penalty. According to the plans of the German government, the fine imposed on social media website for negligence in removing “fake news” might reach the amount of 500 thousand euros.

Answering Der Spiegel’s question, Facebook has ensured that it seriously treats the issue of publishing deceitful information. It assured that it will be in constant contact with German authorities in the fight against false news. It will consult with experts and the government to work out together an effective mechanism for removal of content that may mislead public opinion.

Russian application in one second recognizes faces on Twitter – the portal protests

Russian company NTechLab released an application that in one second allows to recognize the face in the photo published on the Web. The tool has been integrated with Twitter. In its creators’ opinion, the app helps to identify fake accounts. However, Twitter protests and claims, that the application is incompatible with its rules.

The application is called FindFace. It has been developed by Russian company NTechLab, founded by Artem Kucharenko and Alexander Kabakov. They had previously tested the tool on VK, which is a local equivalent of Facebook in Russia.

FindFace, using artificial intelligence algorithms, is able in 1 second to identify on the network the same face, even if on photographs it is showed in different perspectives. NTechLab decided to integrate its application with Twitter and share it globally. As a result, out of more than 300 million user accounts, in a second the app is able to pick those, that bear a photograph of the same person.

According to NTechLab, the application can be very useful for Twitter users and serve for detection of fake accounts on the website. The opposite view, however, have Twitter’s managers. They believe that use of this application is inconsistent with Twitter rules and it will be treated very seriously by the company. In addition, there are concerns that the application can be used not only to activities from which Internet users can benefit. Yet, so far it has not been disclosed what exact steps Twitter intends to take. There are only rumors about the necessity of talks between Twitter and NTechLab on the use FindFace by users.

The European Union will loosen orders for the cookies, because those privacy messages are too annoying to web surfers

According to unofficial information, the European Union intends to implement less restrictive provisions for the use of cookies by websites. In the future, these annoying requests for permission to use cookies will be replaced by proper settings in the user’s web browser.

Information on these EU objectives has been provided by Reuters. It has reached a new draft of legislation on privacy of Internet users, which Brussels intends to introduce in the future.

One of the topics planned by these provisions applies to cookies – small text elements placed on your computer when the internet user visits a website. With cookies, the website is able to (on your next visit) identify the user and, as a consequence, to addressed to him personalized advertising and to automate certain actions (for example: login to specific services).

Under the EU rules introduced in 2012, website owners are obliged to notify the Internet user on the use of cookies and get him to agree to install this tool on their computers. Site administrators usually apply to these requirements, but the side effect is far from the legislator’s intention. Web users, when entering websites, are in fact attacked by banners with demands to confirm the “cookie policy”. Most of them, for the sake of peace, agree without reading the cookies regulations.

As reported by Reuters, the EU officials have noted this problem and intend in the future to alleviate somewhat the rules on cookies. According to the new regulations, the user could permanently allow the possibility of cookies usage in privacy settings of his web browser (all the popular browsers have this option). This way you will not see banner informing about the cookies.

According to unofficial announcements, the amended regulations on the cookies would take effect from the beginning of 2018.