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50 Leading Companies of the Year 2021

Bringing back privacy to users, trust to content and sustainability to the digital marketplace: Bubblr


In recent times, people are questioning the ethics of technology across various fields while less attention is paid to the people involved in design, development, and deployment. Even though we know that people developing new technologies must remain ethical, it is also important for us to make value judgments regarding the use of such technologies. Of-late social media and the internet are promising ways to improve the efficiency, reach, and effectiveness of new technologies, but this raises unique ethical dilemmas. Privacy on the internet is one such hurdle that hinders growth. People can be harmed if there is no proper restriction to access personal information, and this is one of the growing problems for societies and new technologies. Globally, there are various companies working towards bringing back privacy to users, but one that stands out from the rest is Bubblr.

Bubblr was founded in the UK in 2015 by its CTO Steve Morris. Steve started with a desire to make things right – to make the internet a more authentic ecosystem. A fair and level playing field for all parties, where each participant can just concentrate on what they are good at. Free from false information and the worry about data trawling and abuse. Bubblr has never faltered from that vision. Bubblr’s main goal is to build ethical technology and business solutions.

In conversation with Steven Saunders, CEO of Bubblr

Q. Recently, awareness of the threat of the data economy is coming to light – yet many are still unaware of it, and people can easily still fall for the free-service bait. How robust is your offering to be free from those threats?

The abuse of our personal and behavioral data is where we find ourselves today. Our personal information is being weaponized against us by online platforms, corporations, and the partners they sell it to within the data economy. These online surveillance business models have exposed us to dramatic manipulations and, in many cases, threatening principles of democracy worldwide. You only need to understand the Cambridge Analytica scandal to see the threat. Our data has become the most valuable currency online, and most are not aware of how it is working against them. To be clear, this is not about companies just selling you products; this is about you becoming the product. The algorithms running on these platforms curate content to keep us engaged based on the data they collect on you. Often, the content promotes or amplifies abusive, discriminatory, or hateful information, since people are more likely to click on sensationalized or provoking material. This can have a detrimental outcome for individuals’ viewpoints and actions. Delivering the truth does not matter to the platforms; the radical or tribe mentality it creates doesn’t matter either, because for them it’s all about engagement --- addiction to their platform and nudging us to targeted ads that feed their revenue engines. It is a giant web of manipulations that does not put individuals first. Our phones provide these corporations with our browsing history and track our every move through geolocation settings. We have willingly permitted ourselves to be followed in the most extensive surveillance-based system ever built. These companies can now predict and even shape our very beliefs by analyzing our data and our whereabouts. And it’s not just threatening our privacy, but in some instances, it’s our personal safety. We reject those models at Bubblr; we sincerely believe your data is your data, and we protect our users by ensuring everyone who uses our platform does so anonymously. It is a pretty simple proposition. If everyone is anonymous, there is no data collected. If there is no data collected, there is no threat of manipulation. This is our way to keep our users safe.

Q. Business owners trying to compete in this highly competitive market usually find themselves facing a dilemma with their digital marketing campaign. How can they benefit from an ad-free internet?

It is a brand-new equitable platform for selling goods and services. It is far more sophisticated than single line search strings used by traditional search engines. Instead, it uses precision search criteria and relevancy metrics to deliver superior results and experiences for both users and businesses alike. The ability to dominate search results only comes from delivering accurate results to users’ queries. There are no paid advertisements, so it is about correctly categorizing your goods and services since you are only matched to a customer if their query matches your products. Plus, all businesses wishing to participate in the model pay the same flat fee – with the same relevancy metrics used across participating enterprises – meaning you cannot buy your way to the top. This delivers businesses a new, low-cost, transparent, and fair subscription-based marketing channel. Everyone has the same opportunity to compete – and providing accurate, relevant results to user queries/searches is how you succeed on our platform. If you do not provide relevant results to their inquiries, they can and will report those inaccuracies, and it will impact your ability to be displayed in future searches. Price comparison sites will not work with this model, which will be a blessing to companies who struggle to pay their extortionate percentage fees.

Q. Bubblr describes itself as an ethical technology company, what does that really mean?

It is something we take pride in. Technology has no doubt altered our lives, from the way we communicate to the way we work and how we ultimately engage with the world. Our technology resides in the digital space, so engagement is an essential metric for us – but we will not let that blind us to our social responsibilities. Outside of engagement, a necessary duty is to deliver a positive impact. We prioritize and concentrate on technologies that can enrich the lives of those who touch them. We do not build blindly. Instead, we carefully look at the mistakes of those who came before us to ensure we avoid the shortcomings of their early business model decisions. For example, most social media platforms are designed to push forward voices that drive engagement, but there has not been a good enough distinction between a good voice and a bad voice. The result is we now have platforms that regularly promote hate, division, fear-mongering, and the ultimate pursuit of addicting users to their screens instead of experiencing real human interactions. That is not how you create a positive impact on society. Business ethics, in our minds, should always revolve around relationships. Our relationships exist on multiple fronts, and our standards, moral responsibilities, and ethical mindsets drive us in every area of our business decisions and practices.

Q. Tell us in brief about the perks of your (freemium) model.

Our content network apps are free of charge to both our end-users and our strategic partners. Content created within the apps will help us build critical mass of users in the Ad-free Marketplace because each app has the marketplace within it. This freemium model allows us to take advantage of dual network effects in our products, which will create virality in adoption. For example, the more content creators who utilize our technology for content distribution, the more users will want access to our content networks. The more users in our content network, the more users will experience the Ad-Free Marketplace. The more users in the Ad-Free Marketplace, the more businesses will want access to those users by categorizing their goods and services for participation in the model. The more companies that participate in the Ad-Free Marketplace, the more robust the marketplace becomes, and the more users will flock to utilize the service. As we build to that critical mass, the Ad-free Marketplace will also be a freemium model. Once fully populated – we will turn on the supplier’s monthly subscription model, which is a fraction of the cost of traditional online advertising models.

Q. What does the future hold for Bubblr, Inc? Are exciting things on the way?

We are extremely buoyed by how the market and the general public are reacting to the issues we’re looking to solve. Being a public company, I am afraid I cannot say too much about future plans, partnerships, or product pipelines. However, I can say a few things about what we have achieved recently, which may demonstrate our exciting future. In December 2020, we finally completed our RTO to be listed and current on the OTC Markets – stock ticker BBLR. We are currently raising the funding required to grow the business from a technology startup to a significant technology sector player. We have managed to attract some extraordinary figures to our advisory board who share our vision for Bubblr. It is important to note that all our advisory board members have taken equity stakes without any cash remunerations. They are Matt Loeb, a Fellow at MIT. Brigadier General Barry L. Shoop, a man with an impeccable military and academic career, and finally, there is Otto Berkes, Co-Founder of Microsoft XBOX, who also has an EMMY for his technical services while at HBO. In January 2021, we were delighted to announce that the US patent office had effectively confirmed our US patent titled INTERNET SEARCH MECHANISM. I cannot overstate this achievement’s significance as it protects our IPR, our future and is a considerable company asset. We can say that we have some exciting announcements in the pipeline to further our mission to fix a broken internet. The current economic model for the internet that evolved by accident is uneven and inequitable. It does not work for end-users, online marketers, and content providers. In contrast, our new economic model is sustainable and works for everyone. It is the right time for a change.

“Our goal is to build ethical technology and business solutions. We are an agile organization, using our own ethical tech manifesto to guide our decision making”