Tag: ads

Wileyfox phones are cheaper if you don’t mind lockscreen ads

Wileyfox is already in the business of making affordable smartphones that prioritise value for money, and now it's started offering most of its devices for significantly cheaper, provided customers are willing to put up with ads on their lockscreen. From today, you can get as much as 42 percent off the retail price of a Wileyfox phone should you opt to pick up the "Add-X" version. Amazon has a similar scheme in the US with ad-subsidised "Prime Exclusive" phones, and in the UK you can get a tenner off the retailer's Fire tablets and some Kindle e-readers if you let Amazon stick its "Special Offers" on the lockscreen.

Amazon's Prime Exclusive smartphones, as the epithet suggests, are only available to Prime subscribers, and require you to link your Amazon account and install the retailer's Android app suite. Wileyfox considers Add-X to be less demanding, and less intrusive. When you set up a new device, you're asked to plug in your date of birth and specify your gender (male or female). This intel will be used to tailor the ads you receive initially, and what types you engage with or dismiss out of hand will shape what ads are served to you in the future.

Should you actually want to see more about a product or service, or take advantage of say, a coffee promotion, Wileyfox hands you off at that point, and doesn't collect any data on that interaction past the lockscreen. Ads and offers will always be age-appropriate, and Wileyfox says it's not going to open the platform up to payday loan providers and such. The company is keen to be transparent about what data it collects and who it's selling ad space to. Earlier this year, Wileyfox had to issue an emergency software update to phones after owners grew concerned about the preinstalled Yandex Zen newsfeed app, which was collecting user data without their explicit consent.

The ads themselves won't get in the way of notifications, weather widgets and whatever else you typically have on your lockscreen, and take just one swipe to dismiss. Your phone may end up using mobile data to download batches of ads, but apparently you're looking at less than a 20MB shortfall each month. For these slight inconveniences, you can get up to £70 off the normal price of a Wileyfox handset.

Model Normal price Add-X price Add-X saving
Spark Plus £120 £70 £50
Spark X £140 £80 £60
Swift 2 £160 £100 £60
Swift 2 Plus £190 £120 £70

Wileyfox will sell Add-X versions on its own site and through Amazon, Carphone Warehouse and everywhere else you can find its phones already. The company also says every smartphone it releases from now on will have an Add-X variant. Now, even if you buy an Add-X model you don't have to live with lockscreen ads forever. Chuck £40 Wileyfox's way and within two working days your phone will receive an OTA update that strips everything related to Add-X off the device.

Wileyfox is well aware that people could 'hack' the system in this way -- for example, they could buy a Swift 2 Plus for £120 instead of £190, pay £40 to remove Add-X and effectively save themselves £30 off the cost of the phone. The company thinks that after using the Add-X model for a day or two, however, they'll realise they can easily live with lockscreen ads and would rather save that £40. And maybe they'll even find some value in a cheaper takeaway offer now and again.


Google cracks down on apps with shady lock screen ads

Following years of complaints by users, Google is cracking down on Android apps that show shady ads on your lock screen, according to a new developer policy spotted by Android Police. That includes very popular ones like ES File Explorer, which has over 100 million downloads to date. They often force annoying, obtrusive and even spyware ads to pop up for games, iffy anti-virus tools and other dreck.

Google is letting some apps continue to display ads, however. "Unless the exclusive purpose of the app is that of a lock screen, apps may not introduce ads or features that monetize the locked display of a device," the new developer policy note reads. In other words, if the express purpose of the app is to be a lock screen, it can continue to annoy you with ads.

Last year, users on Reddit went so far as to build a spreadsheet of apps that exhibit the behavior, which includes the Go suite of apps (Weather, Keyboard, etc.), ES File Explorer, HiFont and 360security. On a Reddit post about the new policy (with over 1,400 comments), users noted that even smartphone manufacturers like Samsung have pre-installed apps that exhibited the behavior.

Bad ads have become a scourge across Google products, and the search giant said it removed over two billion of them last year. Apps that are deceptive, disruptive, inappropriate or interfere with apps or device functionality and banned from the store. Google introduce Play Protect early this year in an effort to curb the problem, but a lot of shady stuff still gets through.

Via: Android Police

Source: Google


Companies pull ads from YouTube over comments in child videos

YouTube is once again facing an advertiser fallout. HP, candy giant Mars and other big-name brands are pulling their ads from the streaming site after BuzzFeed and Times stories revealed that their ads were running alongside videos of children that were either clearly exploitative or innocent and loaded with pedophilic comments. In multiple cases (such Mars, Smirnoff's owner Diageo and German retailer Lidl), the companies have vowed not to come back until there are "appropriate safeguards."

YouTube has already been taking down exploitative videos and disabling ads for other clips. It's "working urgently to fix this," a spokesperson said to Reuters. In a statement to the Financial Times, YouTbe stressed that it was clamping down on videos that might give "cause for concern" even if their content was illegal.

However, the move clearly came too late for many of the advertisers -- they want to know their ads won't display next to horrifying videos or comments. And like the uproar over videos promoting hate speech and extremism, it appears that companies are taking action because YouTube took a long time to respond. It also suggests that YouTube's dependence on a mix of algorithmic filtering, trusted viewers and reports from authorities isn't enough to prevent significant numbers of questionable or illegal videos from slipping through the cracks.

Source: Reuters, Financial Times


UK watchdog tells ISPs to advertise ‘real’ broadband speeds

Broadband packages are notoriously difficult to untangle. Prices are obscured with introductory discounts and the speeds you get are nothing like what was advertised. It sucks, and the UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) knows it. So today, the watchdog has announced new rules for broadband advertising. From now on, the figure you see must be based on the download speeds available to 50 percent of the company's customers at peak hours. In addition, a qualifier like "average" must be visible. It's a marked improvement over the previous guidelines, which said speeds must be available to at least 10 percent of customers.

The problem, of course, is that every home is different. You might have full-fibre access, or a nearby cabinet with old-fashioned copper running up to your doorstep. As a result, it's hard for internet service providers to give one definitive number on their billboard ads. Still, marketing materials can be deceptive. The ASA consulted on a number of solutions, including an average download speed over a 24-hour period (rather than peak hours) and a range of speeds available to the middle 60 percent (20th to 80th percentile) of customers. The latter was ultimately abandoned because it didn't explain where customers were likely to fall within the range.

The new guidelines will take effect on May 23rd, 2018. They're just that, though — guidelines. It will, therefore, be interesting to see just how many providers fall in line.

The ASA made a similar rule-change last year to simplify broadband pricing. In May 2016, it announced that all providers would have to include line rental in its broadband prices. All of the major ISPs are now co-operating, which has made it easier for customers to manage their bills and compare packages.

Ofcom, the UK's media and telecoms regulator, is conducting a similar review into broadband speeds. In October, it published a consultation with suggested changes to the Broadband Speeds Codes of Practice. These included forcing ISPs to use peak time windows for speed estimates, based on a national sample of their customers. Unlike the ASA's rules, however, Ofcom wants speeds to be advertised as a range. They would be given to customers at the point-of-sale and in relevant after-sale information. The rules would also make it easier for customers to switch if their speeds fall below the minimum guaranteed by their ISP.

Source: ASA


Facebook will alert you if you liked a fake Russian account

As part of its ongoing transparency efforts on Russian activity, Facebook today revealed that it will soon let users find out if they liked or followed pages created by the Internet Research Agency between January 2015 and August 2017. The company said it plans to roll out the tool by the end of this year, which is going to live in the Facebook Help Center and will also include information about Instagram accounts.

"It is important that people understand how foreign actors tried to sow division and mistrust using Facebook before and after the 2016 US election," Facebook said in a blog post. "That's why as we have discovered information, we have continually come forward to share it publicly and have provided it to congressional investigators."

Last month, Facebook announced that Russian influence had reached 126 million people on its platform -- and that doesn't include the additional 20 million who were reportedly exposed on Instagram. The company's General Counsel, Colin Stretch, has since testified before a US House of Representatives committee investigating Russia's meddling in the 2016 US Presidential Election and said that the social network is "deeply concerned about all these threats."

Stretch added that the social network is doubling its engineering efforts, hiring more ad reviewers and requiring more information from political advertisers to crack down on these "bad actors." Before the end of the year, you can find out whether or not you were fooled by one of them.

Source: Facebook


Channel 4 is making All 4 accounts mandatory early next year

Channel 4 is going the way of the BBC early next year, when it will begin forcing users to sign up for an All 4 account in order to access the catchup service. No doubt, like the BBC, this will give Channel 4 the opportunity to better tailor the All 4 experience to the individual. But switching accounts from optional to mandatory isn't without an ulterior motive. Just as the BBC peeks at user data to catch out licence fee dodgers, Channel 4 will utilise it to serve targeted ads to nearly every All 4 streamer, whether they be watching on a phone, tablet, console or smart TV.

"From next year every All 4 advertising opportunity will be personalised or targeted," said Channel 4 exec Jonathan Lewis. This won't apply to the All 4 service on Sky and Virgin boxes, though, since Channel 4 doesn't directly control those platforms. The broadcaster has its own ad format that literally calls the viewer out by name, but don't expect every targeted ad to be this obvious. If you have an All 4 account you use regularly, chances are Channel 4 knows your location, age, gender, interests and viewing habits by now, meaning you've seen your fair share of personalised ads already.

Channel 4 isn't just looking at serving targeted ads online, but to linear TV viewers too, and is looking at a range of potential partners including Sky. The pay-TV provider has its own technology called Adsmart, which paints a very detailed picture of individual households using data on income, family status, spending habits and even pet preferences. Marketers then use this to push certain ads at very specific audiences, delivered straight to their Sky boxes.

Source: Channel 4


Senators want FEC to improve transparency for online political ads

It's not just companies like Google asking the Federal Election Commission to improve disclosure for online political ads. A group of 15 Democrat senators (led by Sens. Claire McCaskill, Amy Klobuchar and Mark Warner) has filed an official comment calling on the FEC to take "immediate action" increasing the transparency for internet political ads. Russia took advantage of exemptions in political ad law to influence the 2016 presidential election without revealing its involvement, the senators argued, and that could be "the norm" if the Commission doesn't step in. Internet ads should be scrutinized just as closely as their TV and radio counterparts, according to the senators.

The filing comes just a day before the end of a comment period on a proposal that the FEC should update its election ad rules. It also follows less than a month after a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill that would ask online companies to follow the same political ad rules as conventional media.

There's no guarantee that the comments will influence the FEC's position. However, it illustrates the sense of urgency among those worried Russia will try to skew future elections. The 2018 midterms are less than a year away -- if there's going to be any kind of impact, lawmakers can't afford to wait.

Source: Senator Mark Warner


Google urges FEC to adopt more specific rules for political ads

Google, Facebook and Twitter have all found evidence of Russian influence for last year's US presidential election. Google, however, is seeking to separate itself a bit from it's social-media peers in a new document filed with the US Federal Election Commission (FEC) on Thursday, according to a report by Recode.

The Google filing apparently urges US election regulators to create more specific rules for foreign-funded online political ads, including guidelines for ads about issues as well as those about candidates. In addition, the company says that it is different than Facebook or Twitter in that it allows political ads on Adsense websites, in search and on YouTube, so needs different rules for publishing.

According to Recode, Google things that the "majority of advertisers...self-impose some sort of disclaimer" when placing ads, though the company is also considering requiring all election-related ads to use a specific icon to explain to viewers why they're seeing the ad. Google further said that it needed to "modernize its disclaimer rule so that political committees and other organizations have clear notice regarding the disclaimers they are required to include with their internet communications," according to the report.

While this all sounds like a great first step, there's more work to be done to ensure that future elections are not tampered with in this way. As Recode notes, it wasn't just ads that were placed, but organic content shared and published by fake Russian accounts.

Source: Recode


Twitter offered Russian media outlet 15 percent of its election ads

Twitter may have just given the boot to ads from Russia-backed media outlets, but it wasn't quite so discerning in 2016. BuzzFeed News has obtained email showing that Twitter offered Russia Today up to 15 percent of its US election ad volume in June of last year. This wouldn't have been nearly as large as Fox's ad buy (32 percent) or CNN's (56 percent), but there's a real chance you would have noticed... had it gone through. While it's not clear whether the reach or the $3 million price tag influenced the decision, RT turned the offer down.

Twitter didn't challenge the legitimacy of the email, but said it doesn't have any comment on private chats with "any advertiser, even a former advertiser."

It's important to note that word of the Democratic National Committee hack had only recently surfaced at the time Twitter was making its offer. And it wasn't alone in unintentionally aiding a Russian propaganda effort. Just this week, word emerged that Facebook gave advertisers electoral demographics that made it easier for Russia to exploit social divisions. The Twitter scoop ultimately illustrates how internet giants weren't fully aware of what could happen by courting key Russian advertisers.

Source: BuzzFeed News


Facebook will require political advertisers to disclose their identities

Facebook has had a rough few months since the election. At least 10 million people saw Russian-placed political ads on the platform, which may have helped widen the rift between political sides during the 2016 US presidential election. In reaction, the social network has pledged to hand-review any new ads that target politics and race. Further, Facebook has just announced that it will be rolling out new transparency features for all ads, including political ones, starting next month in Canada. The US will get the new tools by next summer, in time for the US midterm elections next November.

"When it comes to advertising on Facebook," wrote Rb Goldman, VP of Facebook Ads, in a blog post, "people should be able to tell who the advertiser is and see the ads they're running, especially for political ads. That level of transparency is good for democracy and it's good for the electoral process. Transparency helps everyone, especially political watchdog groups and reporters, keep advertisers accountable for who they say they are and what they say to different groups."

When the feature releases next month, you'll be able to click "View Ads" on a Page and see any advertising that page is running, whether you're a target for the ad or not. All advertising will also now be required to come from Pages, too. During the first Canadian test, only active ads will be available to view, but when the feature comes to the US, Facebook plans to build an archive of ads related to the federal elections. The company is also creating an archive that will hold up to four years of related ads and provide details on how much money was spent on each one. Facebook will also provide how many impressions each ad delivers and the demographics information about who the ads reached.

In addition, anyone placing an election-related ad on Facebook will have to provide more documentation on their identity and location as well as disclose that they are running election-related advertising. Advertisers will also have to include a "Paid for by" disclosure in the ad itself. For advertisers who don't disclose up front, Facebook is also building machine learning tools to help find non-compliant advertisers and make them verify their identity. "We remain deeply committed to helping protect the integrity of the electoral process on Facebook" wrote Goldman. "And we will continue to work with our industry partners, lawmakers and our entire community to better ensure transparency and accountability in our advertising products."

Facebook isn't the only social network looking to make its platform less susceptible to social engineering. Twitter announced this week that it will also identify political ads and disclose who paid for them, as well.

Source: Facebook