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Insurance startup backtracks on running videos of claimants through AI lie detector • The Register

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An insurance biz has retracted boasts of how it uses AI algorithms to study videos of customers for “non-verbal cues” that their claims are fraudulent. The marketing U-turn came after the ethics of this approach was called publicly and loudly into question.

Using machine-learning software to automate decision-making processes to decide whether to accept or deny customers credit or insurance payments is particularly sensitive. Last month, America’s consumer watchdog, the FTC, issued a strongly worded statement warning that it was illegal to deploy algorithms end up discriminating against people based on their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, and age when making financial-related decisions.

Alarm bells were set off when Lemonade, a company based in New York, admitted it built software that scanned videos of customers explaining the situations they found themselves, which were submitted as part of insurance claims, to decide whether those people were essentially lying or committing some other fraudulent.

Lemonade prides itself on providing an easier and simpler way for people to file pet, home, and life insurance claims. Customers speak to a chat bot, submit their claim, and a decision on how much it should pay them can be made in a few minutes.

“When a user files a claim, they record a video on their phone and explain what happened. Our AI carefully analyzes these videos for signs of fraud. It can pick up non-verbal cues that traditional insurers can’t, since they don’t use a digital claims process,” Lemonade stated in a series of tweets that have since been deleted.

Netizens criticized Lemonade’s technology, accusing it of being potentially biased and reliant on flimsy sentiment and emotion analysis. The backlash on Twitter prompted the company to delete its posts and issue a new statement, where it claimed it just used facial recognition algorithms to make sure the same person wasn’t making multiple claims.

“There was a sizable discussion on Twitter around a poorly worded tweet of ours (mostly the term ‘non-verbal cues’) which led to confusion as to how we use customer videos to process claims,” the upstart stated on its website. “There were also questions about whether we use approaches like emotion recognition (we don’t), and whether AI is used to automatically decline claims (never!)”

“We do not use, and we’re not trying to build, AI that uses physical or personal features to deny claims,” it reiterated.

That said, the company’s privacy policy does say it collects, among other details, people’s physical characteristics when handling life insurance.

And in a filing to America’s financial regulator, the SEC, Lemonade said its system collects roughly 1,700 “data points” from customers.

“We use technology and artificial intelligence to reduce hassle, time, and cost associated with purchasing insurance and the claims submission and fulfillment process. We built our entire company on a unified, proprietary, state-of-the-art technology platform. Our customers are able to purchase insurance on our website or through our app, generally in a matter of minutes. Our artificial intelligence system handles substantially all of our customer onboarding and a meaningful portion of our claims,” it said in the filing.

What those data points describe is unclear. It did admit its own technology could have unintended consequences, where customers were paid too much or too little, leading to biased and discriminatory decisions. On the one hand, this is a boilerplate warning to investors and the financial markets that the biz could go belly up, and thus investments could be lost, though on the other hand, it is pretty specific about how it could go wrong.

“Our proprietary artificial intelligence algorithms may not operate properly or as we expect them to, which could cause us to write policies we should not write, price those policies inappropriately or overpay claims that are made by our customers. Moreover, our proprietary artificial intelligence algorithms may lead to unintentional bias and discrimination.”

It added:

The company was launched in 2016, and operates across the US and parts of Europe, including France, Germany, and the Netherlands. It has yet to turn a profit, and spends most of its money on sales and marketing.

“Our future success depends on our ability to continue to develop and implement our proprietary artificial intelligence algorithms, and to maintain the confidentiality of this technology,” it said.

The Register has asked Lemonade for further comment. ®

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Elon Musk sells Tesla shares worth $6.9bn as Twitter trial looms | Elon Musk

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Elon Musk has sold $6.9bn (£5.7bn) worth of shares in Tesla after admitting that he could need the funds if he loses a legal battle with Twitter and is forced to buy the social media platform.

The Tesla CEO walked away from a $44bn deal to buy Twitter in July but the company has launched a lawsuit demanding that he complete the deal. A trial will take place in Delaware in October.

“In the (hopefully unlikely) event that Twitter forces this deal to close *and* some equity partners don’t come through, it is important to avoid an emergency sale of Tesla stock,” Musk said in a tweet late on Tuesday.

In other comments on Twitter on Tuesday, Musk said “yes” when asked if he was finished selling Tesla stock. He also said he would buy Tesla stock again if the Twitter deal does not close.

Musk has committed more than $30bn of his own money to the financing of the deal, with more than $7bn of that total provided by a coterie of associates including tech tycoon Larry Ellison, the Qatar state investment fund and the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange, Binance.

Musk, the world’s richest person, sold $8.5bn worth of Tesla shares in April and had said at the time there were no further sales planned. But since then, legal experts had suggested that if Musk is forced to complete the acquisition or settle the dispute with a stiff penalty, he was likely to sell more Tesla shares.

Last week Musk launched a countersuit against Twitter, accusing the platform of deliberately miscounting the number of spam accounts on the platform. Twitter has consistently stated that the number of spam accounts on its service is less than 5% of its user base, which currently stands at just under 238 million. Legal experts have said that Musk will find it hard to convince a judge that Twitter’s spam issue represents a “company material adverse effect” that substantially alters the company’s value – and therefore voids the deal.

Musk sold about 7.92m Tesla shares between 5 August and 9 August, according to multiple filings. He now owns 155m Tesla shares or just under 15% of the electric carmaker.

The latest sales bring total Tesla stock sales by Musk to about $32bn in less than one year. However, Musk remains comfortably ahead of Jeff Bezos as the world’s richest man with an estimated $250bn fortune, according to the Bloomberg billionaires index.

Tesla shares have risen nearly 15% since the automaker reported better-than-expected earnings on 20 July, also helped by the Biden administration’s climate bill that, if passed, would lift the cap on tax credits for electric vehicles.

Musk also teased on Tuesday that he could start his own social media platform. When asked by a Twitter user if he had thought about creating his own platform if the deal didn’t close, he replied: “”.

With Reuters

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Iran reveals use of cryptocurrency to pay for imports • The Register

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Iran has announced it used cryptocurrency to pay for imports, raising the prospect that the nation is using digital assets to evade sanctions.

Trade minister Alireza Peyman Pak revealed the transaction with the tweet below, which translates as “This week, the first official import order was successfully placed with cryptocurrency worth ten million dollars. By the end of September, the use of cryptocurrencies and smart contracts will be widespread in foreign trade with target countries.”

It is unclear what Peman Pak referred to with his mention of widespread use of crypto for foreign trade, and the identity of the foreign countries he mentioned is also obscure.

But the intent of the announcement appears clear: Iran will use cryptocurrency to settle cross-border trades.

That’s very significant because Iran is subject to extensive sanctions aimed at preventing its ability to acquire nuclear weapons and reduce its ability to sponsor terrorism. Sanctions prevent the sale of many commodities and technologies to Iran, and financial institutions aren’t allowed to deal with their Iranian counterparts, who are mostly shunned around the world.

As explained in this advisory [PDF] issued by the US Treasury, Iran has developed numerous practices to evade sanctions, including payment offsetting schemes that let it sell oil in contravention of sanctions. Proceeds of such sales are alleged to have been funnelled to terrorist groups.

While cryptocurrency’s anonymity has been largely disproved, trades in digital assets aren’t regulated so sanctions enforcement will be more complex if Iran and its trading partners use crypto instead of fiat currencies.

Which perhaps adds more weight to the argument that cryptocurrency has few proven uses beyond speculative trading, making the ransomware industry possible, and helping authoritarian states like Iran and North Korea to acquire materiel for weapons.

Peyman Pak’s mention of “widespread” cross-border crypto deals, facilitated by automated smart contracts, therefore represents a challenge to those who monitor and enforce sanctions – and something new to worry about for the rest of us. ®

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Edwards Lifesciences is hiring at its ‘key’ Shannon and Limerick facilities

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The medtech company is hiring for a variety of roles at both its Limerick and Shannon sites, the latter of which is being transformed into a specialised manufacturing facility.

Medical devices giant Edwards Lifesciences began renovations to convert its existing Shannon facility into a specialised manufacturing centre at the end of July.

The expansion will allow the company to produce components that are an integral part of its transcatheter heart valves. The conversion is part of Edwards Lifesciences’ expansion plan that will see it hire for hundreds of new roles in the coming years.

“The expanded capability at our Shannon facility demonstrates that our operations in Ireland are a key enabler for Edwards to continue helping patients across the globe,” said Andrew Walls, general manager for the company’s manufacturing facilities in Ireland.

According to Walls, hiring is currently underway at the company’s Shannon and Limerick facilities for a variety of functions such as assembly and inspection roles, manufacturing and quality engineering, supply chain, warehouse operations and project management.

Why Ireland?

Headquartered in Irvine, California, Edwards Lifesciences established its operations in Shannon in 2018 and announced 600 new jobs for the mid-west region. This number was then doubled a year later when it revealed increased investment in Limerick.

When the Limerick plant was officially opened in October 2021, the medtech company added another 250 roles onto the previously announced 600, promising 850 new jobs by 2025.

“As the company grows and serves even more patients around the world, Edwards conducted a thorough review of its global valve manufacturing network to ensure we have the right facilities and talent to address our future needs,” Walls told

“We consider multiple factors when determining where we decide to manufacture – for example, a location that will allow us to produce close to where products are utilised, a location that offers advantages for our supply chain, excellent local talent pool for an engaged workforce, an interest in education and good academic infrastructure, and other characteristics that will be good for business and, ultimately, good for patients.

“Both our Shannon and Limerick sites are key enablers for Edwards Lifesciences to continue helping patients across the globe.”

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