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‘Meero’ Ventures In AI Technology For Photo-Enhancing Processes



Photo: Meero

Meero is building a worldwide community of professional photographers and serves as a platform to manage their photoshoots from the beginning to post-production. One of the company’s ultimate goals is to make the web, mobile apps, and other businesses look attractive to customers by helping them get quality and good photos. To continue its service and become the world’s leading photography platform, the company just raised a $230 million funding round.

Meero, a Paris-based photography platform founded in 2016, aims to reinvent the market for professional photography. The fund which came from three big accounts will be used to finance the company’s plan to incorporate Artificial Intelligence in the post-production of images for businesses like e-commerce or travel.

Eurazeo, Prime Ventures, and Avenir Growth are the top sources of the funding round, including participation from past investors. Last year, the company accumulated fundraising of $45 million, which sums up Meero’s fund to $300 million. Since its founding, Meero acts as a comprehensive marketplace for photographers from around the globe where different companies can choose a freelancer to take shots of its desired subjects. Photos will undergo post-production processes, and companies can get it back in less than 24 hours.

However, with the boom of social media sites such as Facebook, and most notably Instagram, companies see the need to integrate photos with their businesses, as it believes in attracting a wide variety of audience. These companies range from real estate industries, food, travel sites, retail to e-commerce, which demand professional and high-quality shots. In a world where businesses mostly rely on images to advertise services and products, Meero understands the need that is driving rapid growth.

And so the birth of automatic photo editing algorithms.

Today, Meero aims to connect professional photographers with clients and then uses AI to handle most of the post-production. If a photographer wants to accept more photo shoots, the AI-powered tool is capable of processing images in a few seconds, unlike a 60-minute photo shoot requires ample hours of editing. This innovation, created within the Meero Research Center, makes the lives of photographers easier and allows them to spend most of their time taking pictures rather than doing the editing.

Back in the day, Meero faced setbacks when businesses demand vast numbers of photos taken around the world, and local photographers had to do the photo shoots and to edit as well. Before the advent of AI technology, photographers had troubles in ensuring consistency of look and style in the post-production processes. A lone photographer retouching hundreds of photos via Photoshop and other editing apps would take longer time without even achieving the consistency it hoped.

Technology plays a vital part for companies that want to add real value to the market. Meero’s cutting edge technology for photo enrichment gives a solution to a problem that plagues professional photography — editing. It’s genuinely a laborious job which takes much effort and 20-40 percent of photographer’s time, Forbes reported. With the new AI production processes, it will be easier for the technical team to identify and create metadata for objects in the photo, making the job less time-consuming.

Moreover, the company aims to help photographers attract more clients, as it plans to open up the marketplace to individual customers. This means that aside from catering big brands, Meero will eventually reach out to private individuals who wish to experience the benefits offered by this platform. In two years, Meero is going to take photos for your wedding day, birthday occasions, and even your alumni homecoming event.

Thomas Rebaud, CEO and Founder, indicated that the amount of the round was a testament not just to the company’s growth, but also to its global goal. It has now 31,000 clients in almost 100 countries. The latest round will help Meero expand its services, including entering into the US market.

At present, Meero already employs 600 people across five offices in Paris, New York, Shanghai, Tokyo, and Bangalore as it works with major clients like Airbnb and UberEats. The company expects to double its manpower as it sees the growing need of some businesses to integrate images on their services and products. By the end of 2019, the startup predicts to increase its increasing tech team from 80 to 300 employees.

I've been contributing news since 2010, both online and print. Aside from Z6Mag, I manage independent news blogs that provide awareness on a diverse list of topics to every reader.

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‘Firefox’ Patches Exploited ‘Zero-Day Vulnerability’ And Launched ‘Enhanced Tracking Protection’ Feature

[bctt tweet=”Firefox browser have been updated to patch up a zero-day that has been exploited in the wild and they launched Enhanced Tracking Protection feature so sites won’t track users.” username=”Z6Mag”]



Firefox browser have been updated to patch up a zero-day that has been exploited in the wild and they launched Enhanced Tracking Protection feature so sites won't track users.
Firefox has finally patched up a zero day that has been exploited by hackers. Photo: Z Jason | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

A zero-day vulnerability that can allow for “exploitable crash” and other attacks by hackers when abused has finally been patched up by Mozilla. The Mozilla team has released earlier today version 67.0.3 of the Firefox browser to address the critical vulnerability.

“A type confusion vulnerability can occur when manipulating JavaScript objects due to issues in Array.pop, Mozilla engineers wrote in a security advisory posted yesterday.

“This can allow for an exploitable crash,” they added. “We are aware of targeted attacks in the wild abusing this flaw.”

Samuel Groß, a security researcher with Google Project Zero security team, and the Coinbase Security team were credited with discovering the Firefox zero-day — tracked as CVE-2019-11707.

“tl;dr an integer overflow in the code responsible for loading script tags leads to an out-of-bounds write past the end of a mmap chunk. One way to exploit this includes placing a JavaScript heap behind the buffer and subsequently overflowing into its metadata to create a fake free cell. It is then possible to place an ArrayBuffer instance inside another ArrayBuffer’s inline data. The inner ArrayBuffer can then be arbitrarily modified, yielding an arbitrary read/write primitive. From there, it is quite easy to achieve code execution,” wrote the researcher about the zero-day he discovered.

Nonetheless, aside from the terse announcement from Mozilla, there is no other information offered by the tech giant, especially that regarding the vulnerability or the ongoing attacks in the wild.

In a separate interview, the tech researcher said that “the bug can be exploited for RCE [remote code execution] but would then need a separate sandbox escape” to run code on an underlying operating system.”

“However, most likely it can also be exploited for UXSS [universal cross-site scripting] which might be enough depending on the attacker’s goals,” he added.

Reports revealed that the vulnerability could be exploited to attack cryptocurrency owners. However, the tech researcher from Google admitted that he has no idea regarding the attacks.

“I don’t have any insights into the active exploitation part. I found and then reported the bug on April 15,” the Google security researcher said.

Firefox launches Enhanced Tracking Protection

Meanwhile, the search engine company has also renewed its commitment to protecting user data from unauthorized mining and tracking by advertisers.

“It’s been several weeks since I was promoted to Senior Vice President of Firefox, responsible for overall Firefox product and web platform development. As a long-time employee with 10+ years, I’ve seen a lot of things within the tech industry from data breaches, net neutrality, and the rise and fall of tech companies. I believe that Firefox has and will continue to make a big impact in building the necessary protections to keep people safe online,” said Dave Camp, Senior VP of Firefox in a press release.

According to Firefox, for those who have newly installed Firefox, the Enhanced Tracking Protection will be installed to their browsers by default. This feature will block sites from tracking the user for whatever purpose it may serve, especially in retargeting and other forms of advertising. It will block known “third-party tracking cookies” according to the Disconnect list.

Enhanced Tracking Protection will be practically invisible to the users, and they will only notice that it’s operating when they visit a site and see a shield icon in the address bar next to the URL address and the small “i” icon.

“When you see the shield icon, you should feel safe that Firefox is blocking thousands of companies from your online activity,” Camp added.

Users can also check what companies are included in the blocked trackers by clicking the shield icon, and going to the Content Blocking section, then Cookies. It should read Blocking Tracking Cookies. Then, click on the arrow on the right-hand side, and users will see the companies listed as third-party cookies and trackers that Firefox has blocked. If users want to turn off blocking for a specific site, they can click on the Turn off Blocking for this Site button.

Furthermore, Camp said that they would be rolling out the Enhanced Tracking Protection feature in default to existing users in the coming months without the users doing anything to activate it.

“If you can’t wait, you can turn this feature on by clicking on the menu icon marked by three horizontal lines at the top right of your browser, then under Content Blocking. Go to your privacy preferences and click on the Custom gear on the right side. Mark the Cookies checkbox and make sure that “Third-party trackers” is selected,” Camp advised.

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The North Face Google Search Campaign Denounced By Wikipedia — Company Blamed Lack Of Communication

[bctt tweet=”The North Face hacked Google’s top search results by exploiting Wikipedia.” username=”Z6Mag”]



Screenshot from The North Face video

In The North Face latest video campaign, they proudly announced reaching number 1 in Google’s search results by paying nothing; an impossible feat in the search engine giant’s platform.

“We hacked the results to reach one of the most difficult places: the top of the world’s largest search engine, paying absolutely nothing, just by collaborating with Wikipedia,” says in their video.

The campaign achieved its goal: they were number 1 on Google’s Top Photos. However, the popular American outdoor lifestyle brand found itself in controversy — as Wikipedia and public outcry denounced the campaign.

A Brazilian subsidiary of ad agency Leo Burnett created the video and was behind the effort in April to insert the images on Wikipedia pages.

In the video material shared by AdAge, The North Face explained how they were able to “hack” Google.

The North Face capitalized on the idea that often times, before going on a trip, people turned to Google to make a basic search. Furthermore, those search results often had Wikipedia at the top of the list of search results. In relation, the images attached to these Wikipedia pages are also the top photo results in Google Images.

To exploit this, they hired Leo Burnett’s Brazil team to take photos of models in popularly searched travel locations wearing The North Face jackets, clothes, and equipment — which they eventually used to replace the photos on Wikipedia pages.

At the end of the campaign, there was North Face gear in more than 15 locations including Brazil’s Guarita State Park and the Mampituba lighthouse, as well as, California’s Cabo peninsula, Peru’s Huayna Picchu, and Scotland’s Cuillin mountains.

The result was that The North Face photos that were replaced in Wikipedia ended up to be the top photo results every time someone searched for the popular destinations. Hence, massive publicity boosts and free advertising costs.

Initially, The North Face and Burnett’s team appeared to be clueless about the possible backlash from an ethical standpoint; considering the lines that were said in the video seems to be an accomplishment for the team. The video, shown above, starts with the line, “How can a brand be the first on Google without paying anything for it?” and brags that they “did what no one has done before…we switched the Wikipedia photos for ours” and that they “[paid] absolutely nothing just by collaborating with Wikipedia.”

Hours after uploading the AdAge video campaign, Wikipedia moderators removed 12 images (or, in some cases, simply cropped out the TNF logo), and reported the accounts that had uploaded them for breaches of Terms of Use for undisclosed paid advocacy.

“Adding content that is solely intended to promote a company or its products goes against the spirit, purpose, and policies of Wikipedia to provide neutral, fact-based knowledge to the world,” the Wikimedia Foundation wrote in response. “It exploits a free public learning platform for corporate gain.”

Moreover, Wikipedia said in a tweet, “Yesterday, we were disappointed to learn that @thenorthface and @LeoBurnett unethically manipulated Wikipedia. They have risked your trust in our mission for a short-lived consumer stunt.”

The Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit behind Wikipedia, has since refuted that there was no collaboration of any sort, saying in a blog that “Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation did not collaborate on this stunt, as The North Face falsely claims.”

“In fact, what they did was akin to defacing public property, which is a surprising direction from The North Face. Their stated mission, ‘unchanged since 1966,’ is to “support the preservation of the outdoors’– a public good held in trust for all of us,” it added.

The North Face has since then apologized on Twitter and said that it has ended the promotion. In an interview with The New York Times, the company pinned the blame on a lack of communication between the company and the local distributor in Brazil — which had approved the campaign.

The North Face said in response to Wikipedia‘s Tweet shown above says, “We believe deeply in @Wikipedia’s mission and apologize for engaging in activity inconsistent with those principles. Effective immediately, we have ended the campaign and moving forward, we’ll commit to ensuring that our teams and vendors are better trained on the site policies.”

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Facebook Usage Forecast Continues To Decline

The future isn’t too bright for Facebook all along.



Facebook is compensating numbers using Instagram's and WhatsApp's growth to cover the fact up that their number is on a decline.
Average US Facebook Usage Time is down by three minutes in 2018. Photo: Stock Catalog | CC BY 2.0

Facebook’s engagement is shrinking — as Americans spend less and less time on the social media network. The future isn’t bright for Facebook either, and they are expected to see a declining trend in US time spent on the platform, a study reveals.

A report published by eMarketer showed that the average time spent on the social media giant declined by 3 minutes in 2018 and is expected to continue decreasing until 2021 — where it is predicted to plateau.

This year, US Adult Facebook users will spend only 38 minutes per day browsing the site, which is down by two minutes in the company’s previous forecast. Furthermore, they expect that by 2020, the average time spent will drop more to 37 minutes per day.

“Facebook’s continued loss of younger adult users, along with its focus on downranking clickbait posts and videos in favor of those that create ‘time well spent,’ resulted in less daily time spent on the platform in 2018 than we had previously expected,” eMarketer principal analyst Debra Aho Williamson said. “Less time spent on Facebook translates into fewer chances for marketers to reach the network’s users.”

For spectators, a few minutes drop in time spending among American may not be significant, but it is a very alarming trend for Facebook whose business depends mainly on advertising and ad revenues. Analysts argue that since the US is one of Facebook’s most lucrative market, a decline in the engagement level in the tech giant’s flagship service may force advertisers to use other advertising platforms.

Nonetheless, the future of Facebook may depend on Instagram soon as engagement levels are on an increasing trend. Average daily time on the Facebook-owned platform will reach 27 minutes this year among US adult users. And time spent will increase by 1 minute every year through 2021, according to the researchers.

“Features like Stories, influencer content and video are all contributing to more engagement and a slow but steady uptick in time spent on Instagram,” Williamson said.

App “family metrics” will be published; no more Facebook-only numbers

According to some people knowledgeable on the matter, it could also be the reason for Facebook’s decision to stop communicating their engagement data to the public. Besides, having bad data is also similar to having no business at all.

Instead, according to Facebook, it will start publishing collective metrics for its “family” of apps, which includes Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

“Over time, we expect family metrics will play the primary role in how we talk about our company, and we will eventually phase out Facebook-only community metrics,” Facebook’s CFO Dave Wehner said during the call.

Facebook is probably doing this to project growth even if the growth of Facebook (the social media platform) is on the decline and the growth of other platforms such as Instagram may compensate for the bad numbers in Facebook’s arsenal.

Controversy after controversy

Analysts and researchers posit that Facebook’s shrinking numbers are affected by a series of controversies over security that the company has faced in the last few years. The tech giant has been repeatedly slammed for their failure to protect their users’ privacy in different occasions.

Only recently, a study published by Consumer Reports suggests that there are a lot of Facebook users who can’t turn off the facial recognition feature and cannot prevent the social media network from using the technology to identify their faces in the platform. According to CR, they have found out that eight out of the 31 test accounts that they used in the study does not have an option to turn off facial recognition. As an implication, it is possible that there are more users out there who don’t have the same ability even if the researchers have noted that they are still unsure whether there are others.

Furthermore, the growing number of fake news and fake accounts used for political motives also dissuades users from using Facebook as often as they used to. Even if the company has renewed its commitment to end the swath of fake news and fake profiles on its platform, the problem persist and the perception of people over the way the company is handling the problem does not change.

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