Look Out, Facebook: The Social Network That Doesn't Want Your Big Data
By Andrew Cave | November 17, 2016 06:19 PM
Remember the time when a stated attraction of Snapchat was the ability to permanently delete messages? Never mind that this claim was effectively contradicted by the ability to take screen shots. It struck a chord with a generation of users worried about how their data might be used.
Vero is aiming to do the same with algorithms and big data. Launched by its billionaire chief executive and cofounder Ayman Hariri, at a time when Facebook and others are under attack for allowing fake news to be picked up by the algorithms that run its social network, it comes with an avowed pledge.
"We don’t use algorithms and we don’t want your big data ," says Hariri, 38, the second youngest son of the assassinated former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri who is deputy chief executive of construction company Saudi Oger.
The app, which is run by a 25-strong global team with no office, claims to be a "streamlined next generation social media platform" that has been built to suit users, who are "often choosing to forgo the social sphere altogether."
Points Of Difference
Vero states that it differs from other applications by allowing users to categorize their followers, choosing which content to share with whom with a swipe of a button.
It says it combines this with"genuine peer-to-peer recommendations" across food, music, movies and partnerships. from "Vinyl Me Please" to London Fashion Week, where users were able to make instant purchases via a "buy now" button.
Vero also claims to have already been responsible for the largest known transaction completed via social media on Apple Pay with an Aston Martin DB5 sports car being bought for £825,000.
The app is big on music sharing, with Hariri’s business card featuring a recommendation to listen to Delilah by Florence and The Machine and guests at the London launch being presented with a specially packaged Al Green vinyl LP.
However, Vero’s aversion to trading users’ data could also be part of its sales proposition. The app doesn’t make a big deal of the policy but Hariri states: " We’re not going to measure peoples’ lives ever. We believe in a chronological feed.
"We’re always going to be thinking about ways to enhance the user experience and algorithms don’t do that. People can’t understand them and they don’t know what’s going on with them."
Fake News Views
As for the "fake news" controversy, Hariri says he believes Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, who has posted a 560-word statement on the social media site, denying that it has become a major platform for falsehoods and misinformation and asserting that "99% of what people see on Facebook is authentic."
Facebook has also announced that it will prevent fake news websites from using its advertising network and Hariri doesn’t see the company as a major villain in this space.
"An algorithm does whatever it is programmed to do," he says. "So if it’s programmed to be malicious, that’s what it will be like. I don’t believe that Google or Facebook are sitting there doing that.
"But there’s a lot of pressure on both of them because they have to keep up with expectations on Wall Street. Given that they have an advertising model, they have to sell more ads and therefore they have to continuously grow their algorithms with big systems and quantum computing. It’s massive and I’m not sure it’s serving us very well."
Algorithms And Big Data
Can an app with an aversion to algorithms and user’s big data position that policy as a unique advantage? Hariri believes it is possible.
"We haven’t turned up the marketing machine yet in terms of that," he says. "But we’re going to turn up the volume on a lot of the things we’re doing and how and why.
"I think we’re doing this at a very good time as people are starting to be aware of a lot of things. The consumer is becoming a product and we’re just not interested in doing that.
"We’re behaving in the way of a company that wants to be around for a while and will take care of its users’ data and protect it."
Can an app that pledges not to sell its users’ big data make that into a successful unique selling proposition? Do let me know your views.