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Yahoo Japan and Line set to merge



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Tomohiro Ohsumi

Japan’s biggest search engine and messaging app are set to merge under a deal agreed by their parent companies.

Yahoo Japan is the country’s biggest search engine, and has e-commerce and online banking subsidiaries.

Line is the country’s dominant messaging app, and is also popular in Southeast Asia and Taiwan.

Analysts say the merger will help the companies compete with Japan’s other online giants.

Yahoo Japan has long offered a diverse range of services but has lagged behind many of its competitors, said Seijiro Takeshita, from the University of Shizuoka.

“This will be a very big headache and threat to the players like NTT Docomo and Rakuten,” he said.

Big in Japan

While Google is the predominant search engine in the US and Europe, Yahoo is Japan’s most popular search engine.

More than 50 million people visit Yahoo Japan’s website every month.

Yahoo Japan is no longer linked to its US namesake, which sold its remaining stake in the company in 2018.

Line, which is owned by South Korean company Naver, has roughly 80 million users in Japan and a similar number in Southeast Asia and Taiwan.

The app itself is perhaps best known for cartoonish stickers, a feature which its competitors have also adopted.

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In recent years, Yahoo Japan’s parent company, Softbank, has bet billions on primarily Asian-based tech companies.

The deal could also make it a dominant player in the payments market in Japan.

Softbank already has its own payment service PayPay.

With this deal, it will scoop up Linepay, which is used by many of its competitors.

“I think there will be a lot of game-changing issues that will go on,” said Mr Takeshita.

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LANXESS, Merck KGaA, SAFC Hitech, Dow Chemical Co, Jiangsu Nata Opto, Nouryon , ARGOSUN – Industry World News



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Big Tech Faces Data Collection Scrutiny, but Big Insurance Might be Next



For most of the past decade, people all around the world sat and watched as significant tech companies started to expand their reach into every part of our daily lives. In many cases, the results were positive, like bringing our favorite entertainment to every device we own. We loved being able to order food and consumer goods with unparalleled ease. Here’s how big tech faces data collection scrutiny — but big insurance might be next (we hope).

Big Tech Companies Hoarding, Our Data, is One Thing — Big Insurance Collection is Another.

Getting a better look at how companies have been making conveniences possible hasn’t been pretty. Companies like Facebook have been embroiled in one controversy after another, mostly revolving around how they treat user privacy concerns. At the same time, Google has courted a public relations nightmare surrounding its extensive and intrusive data collection practices.

Topping it all off, though, was the revelation that Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Amazon were allowing contracted employees to listen to voice recordings of users, sometimes without their knowledge.

The backlash generated by these events has grown with time, resulting in a renewed push to crackdown on big tech and the way it collects and uses user data. The problem is that the tech industry isn’t the only one that collects vast, unregulated amounts of user data.

The global insurance industry has been collecting all kinds of data on millions of individuals for years – and there are little regulation and even less attention paid to their activities.

Feeding a Big Data Machine

    Insurance — big data collection — on your private information.                                                    Photo: Siarhei/Adobe Stock

Anyone who follows the latest insurance technology trends should know that the industry is making a push into big data and AI in a big way. Their main goals are to streamline service delivery, enable faster claims processing, and increase profits. To do it, they’re ramping up efforts to get their hands on every scrap of data they can find about consumers.

Healthcare data carnivores — includes the collection and storage of vast quantities of so-called lifestyle data that are not even related to health.

The problem, as it relates to privacy, is that insurance companies are collecting data without anything by way of consent — especially within the realm of health insurance. What they’re doing is also not illegal,

by the way. In the US, at least, the vast majority of people don’t actually own their own medical data.

That means healthcare industry giants like Optum can collect as much private medical data as they want. They have already collected all your health information – for more than half of the total US population. The insurance companies can sell it to whomever they want.

It’s Not Just Medical Records

The enormous collection of data doesn’t stop with health records. Insurers of all stripes are tapping into data sources like social media histories, media consumption records, and even court records to use as data points. The idea is to build a profile of customers that presents a complete picture of who they are, how they live, and their specific preferences.

On the surface, that sounds like it could result in a net benefit for consumers. It should enable companies to more specifically tailor their offerings to each individual, rather than demographic subsets and risk pools. In practice, however, the early results haven’t been anywhere near that positive.

Already, insurers have started to use their data to engage in a practice they call “price optimization.”

The insurance increases your rates as a customer — not based on actual risk scoring, but based on predicted behaviors. For example, if an insurer’s data models show that an individual doesn’t take the time to shop around when purchasing other types of goods and services, it triggers a series of insurance price increases.

This price hike based solely on the prediction that you don’t shop around for price — so they can do what they want. Your insurance will be charged at higher rates.

What’s more, insurers generally have no obligation to provide any transparency into how they set rates. Most of the time, they’re able to claim that their actuarial models are trade secrets. The trade secret is even used when they are pressed for details by insurance regulators.

The result is a system that’s pulling in more varieties of consumer data, but with no oversight into how it’s being used. Worse still, consumers have no way to opt-out of the process or even find out what information an insurer has used in making their decisions.

Nobody’s Watching

Shot of a Working Data Center With Rows of Rack Servers. People Walk and Work there, they are Blurred in Motion. Long Exposure Shot.
  Big Insurance Abuse of Our Private Data                                                                           Photo: Gorodenkoff /Adobe Stock

Although the general public has remained fixated on the way that big tech firms are using – and some would say abusing their data, the same can’t be said about the data practices of the insurance industry.

The dishonest insurance industry has used the lack of attention to ramp up their data collection efforts both in plain sight as well as behind the scenes. So far, only the practice of price optimization has drawn any real attention from the public — because it’s very tangible. But other visible results of the insurance industry’s data-mining isn’t being addressed.

In the absence of any real oversight, some insurers are even beginning to move toward bleeding-edge technologies like facial analytics to augment their data collection repertoires.

With the rise of IoT and connected devices, we can expect every little detail of our lives to be documented, from GPS car tracking, to what groceries we have in our smart fridge. That’s a practice that could have some disturbing undertones, depending on how it’s put to use. The good news, if there is any, is that it’s starting to look like the insurance industry has started to draw the kind of attention that portends a coming regulatory reckoning.

A Reckoning May be Coming

Regulators in specific segments of the insurance industry have begun to launch probes into how the insurance industry is using all of the data it’s been collecting. Life insurers, in particular, are already facing some tough questions about how they’re using non-traditional data sources.

There have also been some early efforts in some states to restrict the ways that insurers can use non-health data in their underwriting procedures.

These moves probably won’t be the last word on the issue, however. As more regulators start to look into what the insurance industry’s been up to, there’s a good chance that the public will start to take notice, too. If the public finally wakes up and notices what’s happening — it’s all but certain to create an uproar similar to what big tech is experiencing right now.

Insurers would do well to pay careful attention to what happens to Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and other companies. The day for the spotlight to be turned on the insurance companies may be coming sooner than they think.

Andrej Kovacevic

Andrej is a dedicated writer and digital evangelist. He is pursuing an ongoing mission to share the benefits of his years of hard-won expertise with business leaders and marketing professionals everywhere. He is a contributor to a wide range of technology-focused publications, where he may be found discussing everything from neural networks and natural language processing to the latest in smart home IoT devices. If there’s a new and exciting technology, there’s a good chance Andrej is writing about it somewhere out there.

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You don’t have to share your phone number for Facebook logins anymore



Passwords can be a bear sometimes — particularly if you’re prone to forgetting them. In an effort to help users regain access to their Facebook profiles when they lose track of their login information, Facebook today announced that it’s rolling out updated login, registration, and recovery screens to its apps in regions where email addresses are less commonly used to create accounts, such as developing countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa.

Typically, Facebook requests numbers from a phone’s primary SIM card to prefill fields on registration, login, and account recovery pages. The company works with service providers to enable this such that when people create new accounts or log into existing ones, it requests a current number from the mobile network to do things like automatically fill in relevant login fields.

The new screens disclose that Facebook requests and receives up-to-date phone numbers from said networks, and they provide users an opportunity to opt out of sharing their number for account access purposes. Additionally, on the Facebook app as well as Facebook Lite and Facebook’s mobile website, the logout screens have been updated with an option to save login information to make it easier to access accounts in the future.

In the newest Facebook apps and website, users in selected countries will see new tools allowing them to indicate whether they prefer to share their number. Those who choose not to won’t see their number from the mobile network to prefill various forms — but they might see it entered automatically if they’ve saved the number in-app or on-device or if they’ve previously logged in with it.

Facebook notes that when users make any change, their preference will only be saved for the device and app or browser they’re using. If they use a different browser, they’ll see the same screens again.

“In some cases, people are new not only to our apps and websites, but also to the internet as a whole. They may never have set up a username or password before,” wrote Facebook director of product management Jon Paris and product manager Vincent Gonguet in a blog post. “These tools are important to our efforts to help people access our services more easily, and we look forward to continued collaboration with our partners.”

Facebook has a mixed track record when it comes to the handling of users’ phone numbers. It received blowback this past summer for its implementation of SMS two-factor authentication, which allowed anyone to look up a person’s profile by a number they’d previously provided. Worse still, the social network last year admitted that it used these numbers to target users with advertisements.

In attempts at remediation, Facebook in 2018 added the option to set up two-factor authentication with third-party apps instead of a number, and it recently removed the ability to enter a number and email address into the Facebook search bar to find a person on the platform. It’s also experimented with alternative methods of verifying a person’s identity, such as a step that requires the capturing of a “video selfie” at login time.

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