Algorithmic Accountability Act of 2019 proposed in US

Lawmakers in the US have proposed a bill which would require major technology companies to detect and remove discriminatory biases embedded in their computer models.

The bill, designated the Algorithmic Accountability Act of 2019, would grant new power to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and force companies to study if race, gender or other biases underpin their technology. The rules would apply to companies with annual revenue above $50 million as well as to data brokers and businesses with over a million consumers’ data.

Venture capital investment in Florida companies – Q1 2019

The MoneyTree Report, which tracks venture capital, is produced each quarter by PricewaterhouseCoopers with CB Insights. Its latest report shows:

CarePredict, a Florida-based company that developed a wrist-worn health tracker to help protect seniors, raised $9.5 million in the first quarter of 2019.

Other Florida companies that raised funds in the quarter were: Kairos, a facial recognition company, raised $4 million; Streann Media, a content provider software company, $1.88 million; Sonavation, a biometrics sensor company, $1.08 million; Open English, a online learning company, $700,000; DentiDesk, maker of online software for dental clinics, $200,000; Finxact, a banking platform company, which raised $30 million; Peerfit, a personalized fitness platform company, $18 million; Mostyle, a telecom company, $16 million; Bond-Pro, a mobile company, $10 million.

Is your hotel giving away your personal data?

According to research released by Symantec, two out of three hotel websites inadvertently leak guests’ booking details and personal data to third-party sites, including advertisers and analytics companies.

The study looked at more than 1,500 hotel websites in 54 countries that ranged from two-star to five-star properties. Compromised personal information includes full names, email addresses, credit card details and passport numbers of guests that could be used by cybercriminals who are increasingly interested in the movements of influential business professionals and government employees.

The research showed compromises usually occur when a hotel site sends confirmation emails with a link that has direct booking information. The reference code attached to the link could be shared with more than 30 different service providers, including social networks, search engines and advertising and analytics services.

Friend or Foe? Is a relationship with Amazon.com a risk?

Chico’s FAS, a major US women’s clothing chain, plans to close at least 250 stores. Since May 2018, Chico’s-branded micro site has been selling on Amazon.com, which now sells around 2,300 Chico’s styles, from crease-proof trousers to fine-knit sweaters, representing nearly six times more product offerings than when it started.

Nike, Under Armour, Lands’ End, Levi Strauss… and more are distributing clothing and accessories through Amazon.com, attracted by more than 100 million members of Amazon’s loyalty club Prime and its advanced delivery network.

According to retailers and industry analysts, the risk in this relationship comes if Amazon uses data from customer purchases to help it quickly build out its own private label clothing brands – in effect stealing market share from its current retail partners.

To sell through Amazon, Chico’s and other clothing retailers can either sell product to Amazon in a traditional wholesale relationship or sell directly to consumers as third-party merchants, paying a (is it17 percent?) referral fee on clothing and accessories sold.

Retailers pay Amazon extra to store and ship their orders under the ‘fulfillment by Amazon’ model.

Amazon has also developed its own private label apparel brands. According to TJI Research, Amazon had 109 of its own brands in clothing, shoes and jewelry categories at the start of 2019.

Snow storms in New England and Midwest of US

It’s April, but New England states were hit with snow yesterday and parts of the Midwest are prepared for a blizzard. This week some places in New England can expect to receive up to 10 inches of additional snow.

In the Midwest, the snow storm is predicted to hit Wyoming, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin and South Dakota with some areas receiving more than a foot of snow.

The weather system comes when some areas are still recovering from last month’s “bomb cyclone”, a late-winter blizzard that brought high winds and drifting snow. It then turned into drenching rains as it moved across the Midwest and caused widespread flooding along the Missouri River.

In January, an unusually strong arctic cold blast known as a “polar vortex” shattered a few all-time cold records in the Upper Midwest, creating wind chills as cold as minus 50 Celsius.

Houston Ship Channel re-opens after chemical spill

Ships are moving inbound today through an area of the Houston Ship Channel that had been contaminated by a chemical spill on March 22, 2019 when a dam failed at Mitsui & Co Intercontinental Terminals Deer Park, Texas. On April 7, the Coast Guard halted ship traffic through the spill zone while severe thunderstorms lashed the Houston area. 

The 53-mile waterway links the busiest US petrochemical port and the Gulf of Mexico.