9 Israeli firms protecting us and our kids on social media

Video published on Jun 26, 2017 by the MyPermissions YouTube channel.

Article published by Brian Blum on israel21c.org August 15, 2018

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which saw raw data from some 87 million Facebook users harvested without their knowledge, netizens have been increasingly concerned about protecting their privacy on social media.

The European Union’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) that recently went into effect (as anyone with an email inbox could not have failed to notice), is part of the push to counter future privacy breeches.

Beyond policy, there is a growing bevy of startups aimed at keeping our social data safe. Given Israel’s prowess in cybersecurity, the Startup Nation has not surprisingly jumped to the fore as one of the leaders in preventing hackers from accessing our accounts and keeping social-media bullies at bay.

A 2017 Haaretz study identified 57 cyber privacy startups based in Israel dedicated to protecting users’ private information online, including via social media. ISRAEL21c takes a look at nine of them. Tell us about your favorites in the comments below.

1 – MyPermissions

The first step in staying safe on social media is knowing which third-party apps have access to your data. Tel Aviv-based MyPermissions has analyzed more than 3 million apps, creating a massive database of who talks to whom in the app world.

Want to know if that photo app has access to your location or if your contacts are being shared with your ride-sharing app? Download and run MyPermissions and you’ll get an instant snapshot of your social-media privacy status.

MyPermissions’ Privacy Cleaner app then runs in the background to prompt you against sharing sensitive information without your knowledge and to help revoke any permissions you may have unwittingly given with a single click. MyPermissions is now working on a new app, MyPrivacy, which will provide a suite of consumer privacy solutions designed for non-technical people.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg may insist that users always have a right to disable cookies and safeguard their data, but how many users know how to do that – let alone actually take action? “The key point is being proactive instead of reactive,” says Yoav Degani, CEO of the six-year-old company. “You don’t need to wait for Facebook to make changes.”

2 – Cyabra

It’s one thing to know which apps have access to your data. What about your friends on social media – how do you know if they’re even real? If they’re not, the pictures and status updates you share with them may be used in unscrupulous ways.

Yossef Daar, co-founder of Cyabra, claims there are 140 million fake accounts on Facebook and 38 million on LinkedIn, and 48 million bots on Twitter. Cyabra helps ferret out the real from the fraudulent. Its clients are mostly corporate – security (including politicians), communications, PR and marketing.

Cyabra uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect fake news and fake users. Hundreds of parameters are analyzed by Cyabra’s algorithms, with each piece of information individually rated and compiled into a comprehensive report.

Cyabra, which has raised $1 million in seed funding (led by TAU Ventures), was chosen to participate in The Bridge commercialization program cosponsored by Coca-Cola, Turner and Mercedes-Benz. A former Mossad deputy director, Ram Ben-Barak, is on the company’s board of directors

3 – BigID

With GDPR now the law across Europe and with similar rules on their way in Canada, Australia, China and Japan, ensuring that a user’s data remains private is more important than ever.
Graph courtesy of BigID

BigID, which has headquarters in New York and R&D in Tel Aviv, enables its corporate clients to inventory and identify the most sensitive bits of information from among vast stores of data – including social media.

Thanks to GDPR, the two-year-old company is seeing a lot of new business. “The market is changing [and] demanding more technology-based controls over how data is being used,” BigID CEO Dimitri Sirota told TechCrunch.

The company closed a $30 million Series B round in June. That was just a few months after closing an initial $16 million. BigID says it can find personal data in any language with 97 percent accuracy.

4 – D-ID

You can withdraw money, cross a border or unlock your mobile phone using your face as an identifier. The latest version of Facebook even lets you login with your picture. But “unlike passwords, you cannot change your face,” points out Gil Perry, CEO of Israeli cybersecurity startup D-ID.

And that opens the door to hackers getting access to your data by stealing your picture.

D-ID has built a “firewall” to block facial recognition. D-ID’s software subtly alters stored pictures, just enough to escape detection by facial-recognition algorithms. Look at two pictures side-by-side and you’ll notice the difference, although on its own, the manipulated picture appears normal.

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