WWD – Women’s Wear Daily: Tech’s Crisis of Confidence

As posted on WWD on April 6, 2018. Written by Adriana Lee and Evan Clark. (Link to original article.)

An interview with John Wantz

The world is ready to log off — or at least, fed up enough to wish it could.

After 20 years at the pinnacle of consumer culture, technology itself is facing a crisis of confidence that is much deeper and more complex than any of its prior setbacks and data privacy snafus.

Technology’s issues have become more numerous and varied, encompassing not just a single industry, but a pillar of modern life.

* Facebook’s been scandalized by how its data was used to inappropriately target voters.

* Hackers regularly attack from the shadows, most recently breaking into the data vaults at Hudson’s Bay Co. and Under Armour Inc. and Sears Holdings Corp.

* Amazon’s seemingly ceaseless expansion has led to increased scrutiny, with President Trump keeping the heat on with fire-breathing tweets.

* And smartphones and social media have been blamed for everything from digital addictions to shorter attention spans to increased anxiety.

As tech grew up, it moved from geeky and remote to hip and innovative. Now the sector is plugged in and filthy rich, settling uneasily into its role as a key part of the new establishment.

The digital genie is not going back into the mainframe. But people have become less enamored, leaving average users, Silicon Valley (and brands that rely on the connection between the two) to muddle forward.

Facebook has been pushed to the forefront by its scandal around Cambridge Analytica, which secured information from millions of Facebook accounts and used it to target voters in the 2016 election. The scope was massive: As many as 87 million users could have been affected, up significantly from the 50 million users previously estimated, according to a blog post Wednesday by Facebook’s chief technology officer, Mike Schroepfer.

The post covered new changes to platform and developer tools that set limits on developer access to user data. The nine new updates cover Facebook logins, groups, event data and more.

“We believe most people on Facebook could have had their public profile scraped,” Schroepfer said, pointing to a look-up feature that uses phone numbers and e-mails. (Scraping is a web tactic to extract data.) Facebook has shut down the feature.

On a call with reporters, chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg admitted that the company didn’t have “a broad enough view of what our responsibilities were,” and personally took the blame.

“I started this place, I run it,” he said. “I’m responsible for what happened here.” And yet he couched the sentiment, drawing on the complexity of “building something like Facebook, which is unprecedented in the world. And if we got this right, we would have messed something else up.”

The takeaway: Connecting billions of people is hard, and fixing the gaps and securing the network is a process, a job that may never end. So far, the ceo said he hasn’t fired anyone over the scandal, and he plans to expand the team of 15,000 people who work on security and content review to 20,000 by year’s end.

Zuckerberg will testify on Capitol Hill Wednesday. “This hearing will be an important opportunity to shed light on critical consumer data privacy issues and help all Americans better understand what happens to their personal information online,” said Rep. Greg Walden (R., Ore.) and Frank Pallone Jr. (D., N.J.) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Mark Zuckerberg is headed to Capitol Hill next week to explain Facebook’s data practices with lawmakers. Jeff Chiu/REX/Shutterstock (5744251g)

Lawmakers are feeding off an increasingly frustrated populace.

“Consumers are finally getting to the point where they’re saying, ‘No more, I don’t want it, let’s delete Facebook,’ or, ‘I want to punish the company,’” said Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist at Golden Gate University and author of “Decoding the New Consumer Mind: How and Why We Shop and Buy.”

But signing out of Facebook or dropping tech completely could be hard or impossible.

“We have changed our psychology through the use of Facebook and we are now, I would say, dependent on it,” Yarrow said. “People look at it like a lifeline to relationships. People have also been presenting this idealized version of themselves through Facebook, and they become attached to this persona and they don’t want to let that go. It’s almost like an avatar in a way, ‘That’s a me that’s relevant to me.’”

So it won’t be an easy or simple process, but Yarrow said change has come.

“All of this is OK, it’s normal,” she said. “It’s wonderful, in fact, that we’ve now seen the limits of what we’re willing to tolerate. And I’m not sure what shape it will take, but there will be pressure, where really collectively we all say, ‘OK, I think that’s about all we can manage with this — we need to see what’s going on; we need more transparency, accountability,’ and we’ll start to see the pendulum swing back.”

Tech’s image problems tend to crest and fall like waves, sweeping in and then retreating, again and again.

But the recent spate of major tech failures have created a tidal wave-like effect that’s been building for some time.

According to a 2014 Pew Internet & American Life survey, 91 percent of Americans “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that people had lost control over how their personal information was collected and used. Roughly 80 percent of social media users were worried about advertisers and businesses plucking their social data, and 64 percent believed the government should do more to regulate advertisers. In another survey last year, just 9 percent of social media users reported being “very confident” that social companies would protect their data. About half of users were not at all or not very confident their data was safe.

The stakes are even higher now, with implications ranging from the financial to the political to safety. On one end, Uber and Tesla face the literal and figurative wreckage of recent self-driving car fatalities. On the other, Facebook contends with its latest data privacy scandal. In between lie many complex layers representing hundreds of millions of user data profiles and billions of discrete facts about how average people live and operate online.

Reconciling that with the evolution of modern retail is a hard calculus. Customer data is the lifeblood of e-commerce and plays a growing role in physical stores as well, fueling recommendations, personalized services and more. But that flow of information doesn’t work if people can’t trust their brands and service providers.

“What’s going on is real,” said Karsten Weide, program vice president of digital media and entertainment at IDC. “People are getting more concerned about privacy, and the reason is that the data breaches have become much more frequent than just once a year. I think this is here to stay.

“As we get closer to the midterms [elections], this is going to become more of an issue,” he said. “A lot of politicians will be using this for grandstanding, and so there will be calls for more privacy regulation. There will even be calls for the breakup of Facebook, the breakup of Amazon, the breakup of Google, perhaps. In Europe, they’re further along than we are.”

Next month, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation will go into effect, requiring companies to be more transparent with users about the data they collect and how they’ll use it. The rules also give consumers more control over their own information. Some social media companies plan to take the EU compliance standard beyond Europe and apply it universally.

“We’re taking a global approach to GDPR, to help ensure all members benefit from increased control and clarity,” said a LinkedIn spokeswoman.

Facebook will as well, said Zuckerberg, who noted that the company already complies with much of the GDPR. As for exactly how much, he wouldn’t say. “We intend to make all the same controls and settings available everywhere, not just in Europe,” he explained, but with the caveat that formats may differ by markets and according to regional laws.

Weide said the rest of the world could look to Europe as a template, and pointed to both Canada and Australia, which are looking at privacy regulation, as examples. He expects at least some companies to go above and beyond, like LinkedIn, which could help address some of the public’s discomfort.

While Facebook was pushed into the spotlight over data for the Trump campaign, it feels like the President himself is trying to drag Jeff Bezos’ Amazon into center ring.

Trump continued his Twitter attack on the e-commerce giant this week.

“I am right about Amazon costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy,” Trump tweeted. “Amazon should pay these costs (plus) and not have them bourne [sic] by the American Taxpayer. Many billions of dollars. P.O. leaders don’t have a clue (or do they?)!”

That puts the President at odds with at least some of the experts in his own administration. The blog of the Postal Service’s Inspector General noted that “growth in packages is most welcome, especially as it continues to lose letter mail volumes.”

It remains to be seen if Trump can keep his attention trained on Amazon long enough to enact any real policies regarding the company’s relationship with the post office, its tax treatment or its general size and influence in the economy.

In friendlier times: Donald Trump listens to Jeff Bezos, the two buffered by Microsoft ceo Satya Nadella at a White House meeting last year. AP/REX/Shutterstock (8872937f)

But his attacks on Amazon have had real stock market impact. Since Trump’s beef with Amazon resurfaced last week, the high-profile tech stock is down 3 percent to 1,451.75, shedding nearly $22 billion in market value and spooking Wall Street traders overall.

Consultant Jonathan Low, partner at Predictiv, said Trump’s attacks are really directed at The Washington Post, which Bezos owns personally, rather than any antitrust impulse against Amazon. (Trump’s latest tweet on Amazon bears this out, describing the Post as the web giant’s “chief lobbyist.”)

“The underlying issue is potentially much more devastating — and I think it has to be not with Facebook’s abuse in data and not with Amazon taking over the world — it’s with the fact that every business today is a tech business,” Low said.

“And part of the success of tech and the companies that have adapted to tech is that they’re getting their raw materials for free from consumers and I think the fear is that that’s what’s going to end,” he said. “Margins are going to shrink dramatically because there will be more rules out the use of data, where there may be less access to data and companies will have to pay more. Consumers may even be compensated for their data somehow.”

A newer breed of startup has begun to take hold to address data privacy through blockchain technology, and they’re getting plenty of attention in the financial, healthcare and retail sectors. Groups like Hypr, Token and Shop believe that decentralizing data, so there is no single repository or overseeing organization, is key to safeguarding people’s information. The premise appeals to players of all sizes, including payment giants like MasterCard, which has been linking up with blockchain companies, and even Zuckerberg himself.

In January, the 33-year-old Facebook ceo pledged to fix the myriad issues plaguing his platform — such as the “fake news epidemic” — he also said he would explore encryption and blockchain. Hindsight offers extra context, as it’s clear now that Zuckerberg had long known about Cambridge Analytica by this point.

Blockchain startups like Shop, a cooperative that won Shoptalk’s Start-up Pitch Competition last month, believe in a tokenized approach to security and data privacy: Digital tokens act like a set of keys that give users access and control over their data. Shop aims to create an economy of sorts, with tokens acting as both retail currency and a basis for loyalty programs.

In assessing the landscape today, one particular tech giant stands out to Shop ceo John Wantz: “I think my respect for Apple is growing lately. Because governments are so intrusive on telecommunications, it had to develop a position [saying,] ‘Either we’ll be completely open like Android, and let any government in any country have carte blanche access to the data, or we decide whose side we’re on and maybe we cryptographically secure [it].” The way the iPhone maker built its technology and architecture impresses Wantz — it uses cryptography in various parts of its software, including FaceTime and iMessage.

Apple’s tendency to hold tight to user data might give it an advantage as consumer privacy concerns spike. Oleksiy Maksymenko/imageBROKER/REX/Shutterstock (9426243a)

When Apple launched Business Chat for iMessage, its approach to user control stood out. People can mute or silence brands, and they initiate all chats, not the companies.

“Another major difference with Apple versus the free-to-use, or monetized companies like Google and Facebook, is that Apple doesn’t have a business model with monetizing data flow,” explained Rurik Bradbury, global head of conversational strategy at LivePerson, which helps retailers integrate with the new iOS business features. “The data in the messages is encrypted up to the point where it hits the brand, and then encrypted on the way back again. So they’re not looking at what’s happening in these conversations, and they don’t have any interest in looking.…That’s quite positive for brands who don’t want to have their connection to customers digitally mediated.”

Those relationships are more fraught than ever. Today, the need for privacy safeguards and the demand for services can work like opposing forces. “Consumers say, ‘I don’t mind giving away my data, as long as I know what data that is, and what I get in return,’” IDC’s Weide said. “So you have to talk about the quid pro quo, something of value you provide in return.”

In Facebook’s case, the value lies in the connection to family and friends, or perhaps benefiting from ads aligned with their interests. “Most of the content that Facebook knows about you, it’s because you chose to share that content with your friends and put it on your profile,” said Zuckerberg. “And we’re going to use data to make the services better, whether that’s ranking news feed or ads or search, or helping you connect with people through people who you know. But we’re never going to sell your information.”

He knows his company hasn’t done a good job of conveying that to people, and when it comes to public trust, such failures are a fundamental problem. But it’s also an opportunity for businesses, if they’re clear about the data they gather, how they will use it and how they will protect it.

Today, dense terms of service, complex privacy settings or automatic opt-ins for unwanted features can seem like hostile acts toward consumers. Against that backdrop, greater care and transparency work as powerful differentiators, especially for customer relationship-oriented sectors like retail. Businesses capable of conveying that they’re built to serve people, not pull one over on them — and actually mean it — could stand out.

And so with another turn of the tech wheel, changes in one area might be opening up new opportunities in another — and perhaps a chance for fashion brands to benefit from a fresh start.

Living in the era of post data privacy?

Data Privacy is paramount; breaches, hacks and identity theft are just some of the risks we are all exposed to. The internet put the world at our fingertips.

Want to know something? Google it. Want to buy something? Order it online. But with this freedom has come risk. To sign up for brand accounts or make a purchase we have to share our data. Social Media accounts gather user data from the minute they create an account. Our friends, posts, preferences, likes, reshares and subgroups all tell the platform a story about who you are. Connections and personal preferences are valuable data that can be sold or used internally to better target advertising.

Google and Facebook are the leading companies investing in Artificial Intelligence, which will allow them to delve even further into who we are. They are building research facilities in Paris making it the European hub for AI. Futuristic shows such as Westworld paint a terrifying picture of a world where technology can imitate us flawlessly, and companies can use algorithms to predict our every move before we make them, meanwhile many of us joined Facebook without an understanding of what we have given away.

Google and Facebook are the leading companies investing in Artificial Intelligence, which will allow them to delve even further into who we are. They are building research facilities in Paris making it the European hub for AI. Futuristic shows such as Westworld paint a terrifying picture of a world where technology can imitate us flawlessly, and companies can use algorithms to predict our every move before we make them, meanwhile many of us joined Facebook without an understanding of what we have given away.

Given the critical nature of our data, should we all go off the grid? Does data privacy mean having no connection to the outside world?

No, absolutely not. We should be able to continue to take advantage of our greater access without fear of data theft or misuse.

This is why at EVERY we are not just planning to focus on just security or privacy; but rather on data ownership. Data ownership is a principle of stewardship that lies at the core of data security and privacy.

It is our data, and we should be able to do as we wish with it.

Data ownership means that companies will explicitly gain customer permission to use customer data. For example, if you follow a brand on Facebook, the platform knows that you like that and other similar brands. This data is then given to companies that use Facebook’s advertising platform to serve and improve their ads. They combine this data with your Facebook friends’ data to determine if your friends might like the brand as well. The data they gather is so specific that users can feel like Facebook is listening through the microphones on their devices (not true). Reply All did a special describing how Facebook’s data gathering works: it’s an advertising process that feels invasive.

This is why EVERY is building an ecosystem focused on data ownership. Consumers should not be expected to sign over all of their data rights to use a platform; rather they should be explicitly asked for the use of their data in a blockchain-powered exchange that allows shoppers to monetize that data by gaining loyalty points and custom discounts directly with brands.

EVERY shoppers will choose to share their data.

Blockchain + User Privacy Use Cases

By John Wantz, April 6th, 2018

The polls and surveys are in: people do not trust large internet companies. In a recent report by Politico and Morning Consult, only 39% of Americans said they trusted Google, while 31% trust Facebook, and a mere 21% trust Twitter.

This is particularly startling when you consider that the platforms these companies operate are staples of daily life used every day by billions of people: Google search, Gmail, Android, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, Periscope, and more.

So how do we combat this trend? How can new companies build trust and protect their users’ privacy? Here are 3 ways we believe that blockchain technology will transform the user privacy issue.

1: Return Power to Users

Today, the bulk of the power resides with large centralized internet platforms: The Facebooks, Googles, and Amazons of the world. These companies often have complicated legal terms many users are uneasy with when using these services, even if they use them regularly (and have no alternative but to abide by terms they disagree with in order to use them).

Blockchain technology that underpins cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, can return this power back to the users. Blockchain technology allows decentralized applications, called dapps, to be built. Compared to a conventional, centralized application, a dapp inverts the power dynamic.

A decentralized system allows more direct relationships to be built between developers and users. For instance, users could be given the ability to vote and contribute to future product decisions. And certain rules, like the ability to not be censored, can be fully enforced through smart contracts.

We anticipate a number of different platforms to pop-up, some that will be more open than others. But the blockchain is the single enabling factor that is moving us towards a more decentralized world.

2: Selective Sharing

In addition, sharing today is rather black or white. Things are either private or public. They are either ephemeral or permanent. But with blockchain technology, we open up the world of selective sharing.

For instance, Blockchain Health is working on a system where consumers are intimately involved in the process of sharing their healthcare data with different researchers. Their system requires the user to explicitly accept that a new research institution can use their data. This system can also be adopted by care providers, financial institutions, insurance, and more.

We can also imagine new sharing options, such as case-by-case sharing, automatic sharing (rule-based), or time-based. If you are looking to get a second opinion, you could provide a certain doctor’s office with your information for two weeks.

Instead of creating multiple paper or digital copies of your sensitive information and sharing it openly, you can invite people to view the relevant data on your blockchain based on need or time.

3: Monetization for Sharing

The third option is to directly reward people for sharing their information.

Steemit, for example, is a social media platform that rewards its users who make good posts or helpful comments with Steem Media Tokens (SMT). The company has paid out millions of dollars to users to date and hopes that its incentivization structure will promote positive content.


Today, people are losing confidence in some of the world’s largest companies and becoming increasingly aware of their personal data footprint and the privacy concerns that surround it. As people look for new solutions, blockchain-enabled software platforms may be the way forward.

We look forward to closely monitoring this space as it continues to evolve and mature.

Originally published at every.shop.

Originally published at shoppers.shop on April 6, 2018.

Sourcing Journal: How Serial Entrepreneur Uses Blockchain and Crypto to Reimagine Retail

This article was originally featured on Sourcing Journal on March 22, 2018. Written by Jessica Binns. (Link to original article.) SHOP is now EVERY* (Every instance of SHOP including the title has been changed for brand equity)

John Wantz thinks blockchain can create better relationships between brands and consumers.

Back in 2011, the serial entrepreneur co-founded Comr.se, a commerce-centered API for social networks, mobile and marketplaces. After a failed attempt to sell the startup to Target, Wantz joined the big-box chain’s innovation team and worked for a year on its secretive Project Goldfish initiative. When Target shut down Project Goldfish (as well as its Store of the Future innovation group) following disappointing holiday earnings, Wantz launched yet another startup, EVERY — which looks to the decentralized nature of blockchain technology to reimagine the retail experience and, Wantz hopes, to strengthen consumer relationships with brands.

At SXSW, EVERY revealed that it has acquired three other startups: Wantz’s own Comr.se, Kanga and venture capital-funded FoxCommerce, the latter two of which will be the first apps to run on SHOP’s blockchain protocol. While FoxCommerce’s website claims it’s an e-commerce platform designed for the digitally native brands disrupting retail today, Kanga says it’s a millennial-driven apparel marketplace — offering goods like Angie Bauer lingerie and collections from Diesel — with seemingly revolutionary rhetoric built into its mission. It’s “a brand-direct marketplace for those who reject the status quo. gamechangers. rule breakers. goodtrouble makers,” according to Kanga’s website.

Kanga, in particular, maintains that retail has had too much control over consumer data for far too long. But Kanga, according to its website, “empowers you to take your data back, control who knows what about you, and respects the value of your personal information by rewarding you for the data you choose to share.”

The EVERY technology ecosystem seems to be a response to Amazon and its obsessive control over brand data.

“We’re laser-focused on shopping and powering experiences that enhance the direct relationships between brands and shoppers,” Wantz said. “EVERY is establishing a decentralized retail ecosystem where brands and shoppers have the power to dictate how value will be exchanged amongst themselves based on shopper-controlled access to their own personal data and appropriate rewards given by brands in return.”

Those rewards come in the form of the EVERY cryptocurrency token, which shoppers receive for sharing information with brands such as their personal style preferences, profile info and purchase history. Consumers then can exchange tokens for discounts and other purchase incentives, according to SHOP. The company plans to sell 100 million EVERY tokens between May 14 and June 13 this year. Both Kanga and FoxCommerce — which was launched by former ModCloth co-founder and chief experience officer Adil Wali — were acquired via EVERY tokens.

“The EVERY token has been designed to support an ‘information marketplace’ that continually increases the amount of personal consumer data being shared between shoppers and brands,” Jamie OShea, EVERY CMO, explained. “This equitable exchange helps brands deliver more meaningful retail experiences to shoppers while returning greater savings to them in the process.”

“For shoppers, this is the first tool that empowers them to own and monetize their personal data, shifting that control out of the hands of third-party retailers like Amazon,” added OShea, who co-founded the counterculture art publication Juxtapoz and provided marketing consultant services to brands like Disney and Nike.

“Blockchain technology has the power to greatly improve many industries, and retail is chief among them,” Wali said. “EVERY is well positioned to be a large part of the meteoric rise of decentralized technology.”

Originally published at medium.com on March 28, 2018.

EVERY Announced as Shoptalk 2018 Startup Pitch Winners

SHOP is now EVERY* (Every instance of SHOP including the title has been changed for brand equity)

John Wantz, CEO of SHOP, pitching in front of the panel of judges at Shoptalk 2018

Earlier this week the EVERY team attended the Shoptalk Conference in Las Vegas, the “world’s largest conference for retail and eCommerce innovation,” according to the Shoptalk website, winning 1st place in the Startup Pitch Competition.

The finalist of the competition consisted of 15 technology companies from around the globe who are building retail solutions, but in the end the judges selected EVERY for its promise in disrupting the retail landscape and awarded us the $25,000 prize.

Watch the video above to see the entire 5 minute pitch our CEO, John Wantz, presenting at Shoptalk, and hear how the EVERY* (formerly SHOP) team is bringing value back to Brands and Shoppers through the decentralization of retail.

For more information about EVERY, check out our white paper, Github, and our new marketplace, Kanga. If you’re looking to become a part of the EVERY community, join our Telegram and say hello!

Our team’s extensive experience in the retail industry enabled us to understand critical Brand and Shopper pain points, and led us to create EVERY as a means to return power to Brands and Shoppers.

Originally published at medium.com on March 27, 2018.