Tag Archives: whatsapp

Facebook, WhatsApp Are Dangerous

Facebook’s woes are spreading globally, first from the U.S. to Europe and now in Asia.

A landmark study by researchers at the University of Warwick in the U.K. has established that Facebook has been fanning the flames of hatred in Germany. The study found that the rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated, and those living in large cities and those in small towns were alike susceptible to online hate speech on refugees and its incitement to violence, with incidence of hate crimes relating directly to per-capita Facebook use.

And during Germany-wide Facebook outages, which resulted from programming or server problems at Facebook, anti-refugee hate crimes practically vanished — within weeks.

As the New York Times explains, Facebook’s  algorithms reshape a user’s reality: “These are built around a core mission: promote content that will maximize user engagement. Posts that tap into negative, primal emotions like anger or fear, studies have found, perform best and so proliferate.”

Facebook started out as a benign open social-media platform to bring friends and family together. Increasingly obsessed with making money, and unhindered by regulation or control, it began selling to anybody who would pay for its advertising access to its users. It focused on gathering all of the data it could about them and keeping them hooked to its platform. More sensational Facebook posts attracted more views, a win-win for Facebook and its hatemongers.

See also: Too Much Tech Is Ruining Lives  

India

In countries such as India, WhatsApp is the dominant form of communication. And sadly, it is causing even greater carnage than Facebook is in Germany; there have already been dozens of deaths.

WhatsApp was created to send text messages between mobile phones. Voice calling, group chat and end-to-end encryption were features that were bolted on to its platform much later. Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014 and started making it as addictive as its web platform — and capturing data from it.

The problem is that WhatsApp was never designed to be a social-media platform. It doesn’t allow even the most basic independent monitoring. For this reason, it has become an uncontrolled platform for spreading fake news and hate speech. It also poses serious privacy concerns due to its roots as a text-messaging tool: Users’ primary identification being a mobile number, people are susceptible everywhere and at all times to anonymous harassment by other chat-group members.

On Facebook, when you see a posting, you can, with a click, learn about the person who posted it and judge whether the source is credible. With no more than a phone number and possibly a name, there is no way to know the source or intent of a message. Moreover, anyone can contact users and use special tools to track them. Imagine the dangers to children who happen to post messages in WhatsApp groups, where it isn’t apparent who the other members are; or the risks to people being targeted by hate groups.

Facebook faced a severe backlash when it was revealed that it was seeking banking information to boost user engagement in the U.S. In India, it is taking a different tack, adding mobile-payment features to WhatsApp. This will dramatically increase the dangers. All those with whom a user has ever transacted can harass them, because they have their mobile number. People will be tracked in new ways.

Facebook is a flawed product, but its flaws pale in comparison with WhatsApp’s. If these were cars, Facebook would be the one without safety belts — and WhatsApp the one without brakes.

That is why India’s technology minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, was right to demand that WhatsApp “find solutions to these challenges which are downright criminal and violation of Indian laws.” The demands he made, however, don’t go far enough.

Prasad asked WhatsApp to operate in India under an Indian corporate entity; to store Indian data in India; to appoint a grievance officer; and to trace the origins of fake messages. The problems with WhatsApp, though, are more fundamental. You can’t have public meeting spaces without any safety and security measures for unsuspecting citizens. WhatsApp’s group-chat feature needs to be disabled until it is completely redesigned with safety and security in mind. This on its own could halt the carnage that is happening across the country.

Lesson from Germany

India — and the rest of the world — also need to take a page from Germany, which last year approved a law against online hate speech, with fines of of as much as 50 million euros for platforms such as Facebook that fail to delete “criminal” content. The E.U. is considering taking this one step further and requiring content flagged by law enforcement to be removed within an hour.

The issue of where data are being stored may be a red herring. The problem with Facebook isn’t the location of its data storage; it is, rather, the uses the company makes of the data. Facebook requires its users to grant it “a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content” they post to the site. It assumes the right to use family photos and videos — and financial transactions — for marketing purposes and to resell them to anybody.

See also: The World Doesn’t Need Silicon Valley  

Every country needs to have laws that explicitly grant their citizens ownership of their own data. Then, if a company wants to use their data, it must tell them what is being collected and how it is being used, and seek permission to use it in exchange for a licensing fee.

The problems arising through faceless corporate pillage are soluble only through enforcement of respect for individual rights and legal answerability.

Why Phones Are Bad for WC Negotiations

A litigation analysis found that lawyers used telephone negotiation in 72% of the cases studied, resulting in settlement only 35% of the time. That means that phone negotiation sessions or other processes had to be used multiple times to get to settlement. We can assume that repetition resulted in a loss of time and money for the participants.

In contrast, mediation resulted in resolution 100% of the time in the studied cases. Yet, lawyers used mediation in only 2% of the cases.

Here are some of the problems with telephone negotiations:

Lack of Visual Information

You can’t share documents or other visuals over the phone. Even if all participants to the call are supposed to have the documents in their possession, you can’t be positive they are actually looking at a document, even if they say they are, or if it’s the right one.

Body language provides visual cues to the negotiator about how things are going. Facial expressions can show surprise, anger or anxiety as parties exchange information. You can’t look someone in the eye over the phone. Without the visuals, it may be easier for people to dissemble. Likewise, over the phone you are unable to enhance your own message with gestures or other body language. In mediation, the mediator interprets participants’ body language to better facilitate negotiation.

See also: Work Comp: Mediation or an ‘Informal’?  

Getting Negotiators to Pay Attention

Listening is hard work. When negotiators use the phone, they may not be focused. There could be active interference, e.g., flashing lights and text messages on the phone, incoming emails, other notifications from multiple devices or co-workers coming by. Even without those distractions, people’s attention may drift.

Technology Can Get In the Way

What about using Facetime, WhatsApp, Skype or another video call utility? Theoretically, this could overcome some of the deficits of voice-only negotiation. On the other hand, have you seen the hilarious Tripp & Tyler video about video conference calls? Even when the technology is working perfectly, body language can be difficult to interpret or convey through video.

It’s true that video conferencing might be helpful during mediation if, for example, the adjuster or injured worker is in another state and unable to travel to the mediation, assuming the principal negotiators are physically present.

See also: Tips on Mediation in Workers’ Comp  

Lemonade Really Does Have a Big Heart

Twelve months ago, Lemonade opened for business. For me, it marked the start of a new chapter in the history of the insurance industry. To coincide with their launch, I posted this article after speaking with CEO and co-founder Daniel Schreiber. The headline was “insurance will never be the same again!”

Of course, it was easy for me to make such a grand pronouncement 12 months ago, on the day that Lemonade hit the street. At that time, they had no customers, had not written any insurance and had certainly never paid a claim.

One year on, and Lemonade is up and running. Was I right to say insurance would never be the same again? I caught up with Daniel again to find out!

Disruptive Innovation

First things first, let me set some context. A question I get asked a lot by insurers and industry folk is, “why should we be interested in what Lemonade are doing?” It’s a great question and exactly what they should be asking. (I also point out that they need to be really interested in what ZhongAn is doing, as well).

To massively over-simplify and paraphrase Clayton Christensen, Lemonade has brought simplicity, convenience and affordability to a marketplace where the existing offering is complicated, expensive and inaccessible.

This is why the incumbent insurers need to take note when Lemonade pays a claim in three seconds. Otherwise, they could end up like DEC. Once the market leaders in minicomputers, DEC dismissed the rise of PCs, only to watch helplessly as IBM and Apple ate their lunch with personal computers.

Or Kodak, the inventor of digital photography. The company was too wedded to an outdated business model that relied on people printing their photos. That was until it was too late, and Kodak went from being the world’s fourth largest brand to bankrupt in less than two decades!

Now, it might have taken about 15 years for the demise of Kodak and about 10 for DEC to wake up and smell the coffee. The point being that disruptive innovations don’t take hold overnight; they need time to gain traction and build momentum.

But in this digital age, this speed of change is increasing. This is the key characteristic in the World Economic Forum’s definition of the 4th Industrial Revolution. It took Google just five years to hit a $1 billion in revenues. And Amazon only four!

Just think about this for a second. A decade ago, we didn’t have the iPhone, the iPad, Kindle, Uber, AirBnB, Android, Spotify, Instagram, WhatsApp, 4G. Could you imagine life without these now? Could you conceive that insurance is going to change and for the better?

You trust me, and I will trust you

There is another reason why incumbent insurers should be watching Lemonade very closely. It has addressed the fundamental issue with insurance and customer perception, which is trust, behavior and the conflict of interest.

There’s a ton of research and data that shows customers don’t trust insurers. And for good reason.

Insurers make the product complicated by using fancy jargon that Joe and Josephine Bloggs can’t understand. Insurers get paid up front and then create hurdles and barriers when the customer rightfully asks the insurer to do what they’ve already paid them to do.

And worse, the customer has to prove they are not a liar to the insurer’s satisfaction before a penny is paid out.

“Insurance fraud has become a self-fulfilling prophecy for incumbent insurers,” Daniel said. “They don’t trust customers to be fair and honest. This drives their behavior toward customers. And guess what, customers respond accordingly. Which justifies the insurer’s behavior in the first place. It’s a vicious circle that neither side can break.”

See also: Lemonade’s New Push: Zero Everything  

Lemonade’s virtuous circle

This conflict of interest doesn’t exist in the Lemonade business model. By operating as a tech platform that is also an insurance carrier, Lemonade has separated cost of operations from the pool of risk capital. It has also raised the bar when it comes to total cost of operations at 20% GWP.

Lemonade don’t profit from non-payment of a claim (in the way an incumbent insurer does). The company starts by trusting customers to make honest claims. Which is why Lemonade pays out straight away, with around a third of claim payouts fully automated. No human intervention at all.

Lemonade accepts that there are a few bad apples but works on the premise that most of us are fundamentally decent people.

It is usually at this point that the diehards and old laggards of the insurance industry start throwing fraud and loss data at me. Citing decades of data that proves Lemonade will eventually crash and burn under the weight of inflated and illegal claims.

My response is always the same “hands up everyone who is a bad person.” Of course, no hands go up because the vast majority of us are decent, respectful, honest people.

Which is why Lemonade has now had six, yes ,SIX, customers who have handed claims payouts back.

Just think about this for a moment.

A customer makes a claim (in seconds), gets paid (immediately), finds the situation has changed (later), realizes he got paid too much (oops!), then gives the payment back (you kidding me?).

Could the customer’s behavior be directly related to Lemonade’s behavior?

Yes, certainly! You only have to look at customer behavior at Grameen Bank in Bangladesh to see that trust can be relied  upon. Here, unsecured personal loans are repaid on time without the need for credit scores and debt collection agencies.

You don’t have to take my word for it, either. Hot out of the oven is this video of Lemonade customers in New York.

So, what’s the story, one year on?

Lemonade has been true to its word on the subject of transparency.

Throughout the year, the company has published its numbers, warts and all, for everyone to see. Building and maintaining trust is fundamental to Lemonade’s business model, and this starts with being open and honest.

Daniel has shared with me the latest numbers, and they are very impressive. I won’t repeat them here, because I know the team will be posting them all shortly in the latest Transparency Chronicles. They’re proud of the numbers, and rightly so.

See also: Lemonade: World’s First Live Policy  

All I will say is that Daniel and the team have steered a considered and thoughtful course in their first year. They could have chased the numbers, as many first year startups would do, only to regret the quality of business they end up with.

But Lemonade’s team has stuck to their knitting, have impressive growth numbers, a quality customer base completely aligned to the brand and are now licensed in 18 states (with more to follow).

Our job has only just started,” Daniel said. “Over the next year, we will continue to make insurance easier and better for our customers. One area we’ve started to look at now is the underlying insurance language and the products that form the heart of all insurance.”

Are you surprised?

You shouldn’t be! Lemonade is a highly professional startup and will no doubt become the definitive case study for exactly how “it” should be done.

But has this surprised Daniel?

“There are two things that have surprised us this year,” Daniel told me. “First, the extent of the warm reception we’ve received across the industry and from customers. We hoped customers would like us, but we never took for it granted.

“After all, you can’t beta test a new insurance company. The MVP (minimally viable product) approach simply doesn’t apply to insurance. It’s regulated and has to be the real deal from the get-go, right first time. So, for us, having customers put their faith in Lemonade from Day One has been very satisfying.

“The second is that our faith in humanity and behavioral economics has been affirmed. There will always be people who want to game the system, but on the whole, all our expectations about customer behavior have been exceeded.

“Who would have thought we would have six customers who gave their claim payouts back. That is very gratifying and also humbling for us. And gives us encouragement to continue doing what we are doing.”

Lemonade is live; insurance will never be the same again!

For me, I’m convinced. Historians will look back to Sept. 21, 2016, the day that Lemonade opened for business, as a watershed for the insurance industry.

Which means, of course, that the key question now is, who among the incumbent insurers will provide the Kodak moment? The one who simply missed that the world had changed until it was too late.

The Big Lesson From Amazon-Whole Foods

I doubt that Google and Microsoft ever worried about the prospect that a book retailer, Amazon, would come to lead one of their highest-growth markets: cloud services. And I doubt that Apple ever feared that Amazon’s Alexa would eat Apple’s Siri for lunch.

For that matter, the taxi industry couldn’t have imagined that a Silicon Valley startup would be its greatest threat, and AT&T and Verizon surely didn’t imagine that a social media company, Facebook, could become a dominant player in mobile telecommunications.

But this is the new nature of disruption: Disruptive competition comes out of nowhere. The incumbents aren’t ready for this and, as a result, the vast majority of today’s leading companies will likely become what toast—in a decade or less.

Note the march of Amazon. First it was bookstores, publishing and distribution, then cleaning supplies, electronics and assorted home goods. Now, Amazon is set to dominate all forms of retail as well as cloud services, electronic gadgetry and small-business lending. And the proposed acquisition of Whole Foods sees Amazon literally breaking the barriers between the digital and physical realms.

See also: Huge Opportunity in Today’s Uncertainty  

This is the type of disruption we will see in almost every industry over the next decade, as technologies advance and converge and turn the incumbents into toast. We have experienced the advances in our computing devices, with smartphones having greater computing power than yesterday’s supercomputers. Now, every technology with a computing base is advancing on an exponential curve—including sensors, artificial intelligence, robotics, synthetic biology and 3-D printing. And when technologies converge, they allow industries to encroach on one another.

Uber became a threat to the transportation industry by taking advantage of the advances in smartphones, GPS sensors and networks. Airbnb did the same to hotels by using these advancing technologies to connect people with lodging. Netflix’s ability to use internet connections put Blockbuster out of business. Facebook’s  WhatsApp and Microsoft’s Skype helped decimate the costs of texting and roaming, causing an estimated $386 billion loss to telecommunications companies from 2012 to 2018.

Similarly, having proven the viability of electric vehicles, Tesla is building batteries and solar technologies that could shake up the global energy industry.

Now, tech companies are building sensor devices that monitor health. With artificial intelligence, these will be able to provide better analysis of medical data than doctors can. Apple’s ResearchKit is gathering so much clinical-trial data that it could eventually upend the pharmaceutical industry by correlating the effectiveness and side effects of the medications we take.

As well, Google, Facebook, SpaceX and Oneweb are in a race to provide Wi-Fi internet access everywhere through drones, microsatellites and balloons. At first, they will use the telecom companies to provide their services; then they will turn the telecom companies into toast. The motivation of the technology industry is, after all, to have everyone online all the time. The industry’s business models are to monetize data rather than to charge cell, data or access fees. They will also end up disrupting electronic entertainment—and every other industry that deals with information.

The disruptions don’t happen within an industry, as business executives have been taught by gurus such as Clayton Christensen, author of management bible “The Innovator’s Dilemma”; rather, the disruptions come from where you would least expect them to. Christensen postulated that companies tend to ignore the markets most susceptible to disruptive innovations because these markets usually have very tight profit margins or are too small, leading competitors to start by providing lower-end products and then scale them up, or to go for niches in a market that the incumbent is ignoring. But the competition no longer comes from the lower end of a market; it comes from other, completely different industries.

The problem for incumbents, the market leaders, is that they aren’t ready for this disruption and are often in denial.

Because they have succeeded in the past, companies believe that they can succeed in the future, that old business models can support new products. Large companies are usually organized into divisions and functional silos, each with its own product development, sales, marketing, customer support and finance functions. Each division acts from self-interest and focuses on its own success; within a fortress that protects its ideas, it has its own leadership and culture. And employees focus on the problems of their own divisions or departments—not on those of the company. Too often, the divisions of a company consider their competitors to be the company’s other divisions; they can’t envisage new industries or see the threat from other industries.

This is why the majority of today’s leading companies are likely to go the way of Blockbuster, Motorola, Sears and Kodak, which were at the top of their game until their markets were disrupted, sending them toward oblivion.

See also: How to Respond to Industry Disruption  

Companies now have to be on a war footing. They need to learn about technology advances and see themselves as a technology startup in Silicon Valley would: as a juicy target for disruption. They have to realize that the threat may arise in any industry, with any new technology. Companies need all hands on board — with all divisions working together employing bold new thinking to find ways to reinvent themselves and defend themselves from the onslaught of new competition.

The choice that leaders face is to disrupt themselves—or to be disrupted.

Hate Buying? Chatbots Can Help

If you wanted to buy health insurance, how would you do it? I’d probably Google “health insurance,” click on the first link (maybe skip the ads out of an irrational disdain) and reach a website that looks something like this:

Once I am here, I find that I am woefully unprepared to carry on. What is basic sum insured? Pre-hospitalization? Post-hospitalization? Convalescence benefit? Ideally, I would have known what all these terms meant before I started searching for insurance, but I didn’t.

Insurance providers such as HDFC Ergo know that many people don’t understand these terms and provide more information. In the picture above, clicking on the little circled “i’s” next to each plan feature reveals further information. This is helpful — but only to a point. If I expand too many boxes, the screen starts to look like a jumble of words.

At this point, I would do what all people do best: procrastinate. I would return to Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat or Instagram and indulge myself in the endless stream of instant gratification I can get by simply picking up my phone or opening a new tab.

Suffice it to say that websites can only take you so far. Too much text clutters the user interface (UI) and makes the experience unpleasant. Too little text, and the user is too uninformed to make a decision.

See also: How Chatbots Change Open Enrollment  

Consequently, insurance providers add the option for real human interaction in the form of instant call-backs and live chats.

Through these media, an insurance broker could answer all the questions a potential customer has and tell him exactly what he should or shouldn’t buy. The customer doesn’t need to do any digging or reading on his own.

However, this, too, is not a perfect solution.

Hiring real people is not scalable.

They need to be clothed, fed and given days off.

If you are a multinational insurance company, you can throw money at these problems and minimize the inconvenience. If you are a smaller company, though, this is not an option. You might as well say goodbye to on-the-fence customers and focus on the informed ones.

But what if there was a solution?

What if you could have human interaction without the cost? Or could inform users without human interaction?

This is the promise of chatbots.

Chatbots make conveying information easier than in traditional media. They take a daunting and impersonal process like reading up on insurance plans and turn it into a simple conversation.

Imagine if all those uninformed leads could be funneled into a familiar WhatsApp-like interface, where a piece of software living on Amazon’s servers personally answered all queries as if it were a human. Chatbots interact with potential clients as a real human would to collect basic information about a person’s level of knowledge and stage in the buying process. Thus, when a human does eventually get in touch with each potential client, that human doesn’t need to waste time figuring out what the client knows and can begin helping immediately.

See also: 4 Hot Spots for Innovation in Insurance  

Here is an example of how Securenow, an insurance brokerage company, uses chatbots to help customers.

And this is how you can even showcase the best-suited insurance plans over a chatbot.

Chatbots are still in their early stages, but it is hard not to see their game-changing potential in the insurance space. In an industry where information is important — if not necessary — in making purchasing decisions, chatbots have the potential to make the buying process easier for all parties involved.