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Tech News

Facebook is placing autoplay video ads inside Messenger

June 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Facebook previously admitted that it’s running out of places for ads in the News Feed, which doesn’t sound good for a company making billions of dollars from them. To solve that issue, the social network turned to its other apps and properties — last year, for instance, it started testing static ads within Messenger. Now, 1 Hacker Way is taking things a step further by putting video ads inside its chat application, which will even start playing as you scroll. The company told Quartz that the new ad category will start appearing within its chat app for a small set set of users on Monday, June 25th.

It sounds like more people will eventually be graced with video ads’ presence, as well, because a spokesperson told Quartz that Facebook “will be rolling out video ads gradually and thoughtfully.” The company will make people who “use Messenger each month” its top targets and promises that “they will remain in control of their experience.” Not in total control, though, because while they can hide or report an ad, as well as manage their targeting preferences, they can’t opt out of seeing them altogether.

As you can imagine, it can be awkward seeing an ad randomly play while you scroll through your messages, especially if they’re serious conversations. Messenger ad business head Stefanos Loukakos said, however, that the company doesn’t believe video ads will change the way people use the app.

He told Recode:

“Top priority for us is user experience,. So we don’t know yet [if these will work]. However, signs until now, when we tested basic ads, didn’t show any changes with how people used the platform or how many messages they send.

Video might be a bit different, but we don’t believe so.”

Tech News

Fox turns ad breaks into dramas in bid to fight ad skipping

June 17, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

There’s little doubt that TV’s commercial breaks are on the decline. How do you get people to watch ads in an era of ad-skipping DVRs and commercial-free streaming services like Netflix or Hulu? Fox Networks has an idea: turn ad time into mini dramas you might want to watch. Variety has learned that Fox will will start running Unbreakables, or short, sponsored films that highlight people who’ve overcome adversities like cancer. It’s hoping that they’ll be less disruptive than conventional ads while giving relevant brands (like insurers, pharmaceutical giants and sportswear makers) a chance at “storytelling.”

The material will range anywhere from an extremely short six seconds to long-form productions. They’ll appear on many of Fox’s conventional and digital outlets (including Fox Sports, National Geographic and FX) starting in the fall.

This isn’t the first time Fox has experimented with ways to revitalize the ad break. It has run five-second “pod punchers” designed to minimize the effect of DVR ad-skipping, and has occasionally run shows with fewer ads in hopes of removing the urge to skip ads or change the channel. The new format, however, indicates an added sense of urgency. They know many modern viewers will flee at even the slightest hint of a commercial — this theoretically keeps you invested for a while longer, even if you ultimately realize that it’s another sales pitch.

Whether or not it works isn’t clear. The sponsorship will have to come up at some point, and that may easily turn off wary viewers. And of course, this only works if you aren’t deep into ad-free viewing to begin with. If you’re a cord cutter who hasn’t watched conventional TV for months or years, this isn’t about to have you coming back. This may be most effective for viewers who are still paying for cable or satellite, but are frustrated enough with conventional ad breaks that they’re thinking of jumping ship.

Tech News

Google is helping users limit targeted ads

June 14, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Google

Facebook isn’t the only one offering tighter controls over ad privacy. Google has introduced a revamped Ad Settings that should make it easier to both learn how ads target you and, more importantly, to reduce that targeting. You now see all the ad targeting factors in one view, with both explanations of their presence and options to either turn them off or tweak the settings. You can’t completely disable ad targeting, but there’s enough here that you can limit it to highly generic factors like the site you’re visiting and the time of day.

When ads do pop up, you’ll also have a better explanation for their presence. The “why this ad?” link is now available on every service that shows Google ads, as well as ‘almost all” of the sites and apps that partner with Google on ads. If you’re scratching your head at a YouTube promo, you’ll know the reasoning behind its appearance and will have a quick way to tweak your settings if you’d rather not see that ad again.

The rework could be a helpful addition if you’re worried that Google’s ad targeting is a little too on the nose. It’s also a hedge against mounting pressure for Google to do more. The company has come under scrutiny multiple times for its approach to privacy as of late, and this could prove that it’s making a serious effort to address your concerns.

Tech News

Facebook won't exempt publishers from new political ad policy

June 13, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images

If publishers think Facebook would give them an exemption from its new political ad disclosure policy, they have another thing coming. The social network’s Campbell Brown has rejected calls for publisher exemptions to the “paid for” label in a blog post, arguing that equal treatment is necessary to ensure the policy works. It would “go against our transparency efforts,” Brown said, and would be ripe for abuse. A “bad actor” could hide its identity by claiming to be a publisher, and news outlets can take definite political stances.

Brown also denied allegations that this was a “criticism or judgment” of publishers. It’s just meant to encourage “more informed consumption,” he said.

This isn’t likely to satisfy publishers who’ve seen their ads and promoted posts vanish and have sometimes turned to registering as political advertisers to get news stories into people’s feeds. However, they might get Facebook to change its mind regardless of how much they push for a special exemption. The company is determined to prevent election meddling, and has been willing to take drastic steps (such as blocking all foreign ads during Ireland’s referendum) to avoid even a hint of impropriety. The new disclosure policy is consistent with that take-no-chances attitude.

Tech News

Facebook tells advertisers to get consent for email and phone targeting

June 13, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Facebook has had no shortage of privacy debacles lately, and it’s taking steps to prevent another one before it starts. The company has instituted requirements for its Custom Audience advertising that, as of July 2nd, will tell them to ask permission for targeting ads based on contact info like email addresses and phone numbers. They’ll also have declare how they got that contact info (direct consent, partners or a mix of both).

You’ll have more control as a user. The “why am I seeing this?” link with each ad will show just who was responsible for the targeting information an whether or not your contact info was involved (say, an email subscription). If you object to a company using those methods, you can block their ads.

The system isn’t perfect, as it requires advertisers to tell the truth about where they got their info. It’s entirely possible that a company will simply lie about the origins in order to hawk their wares to customers. This at least creates a record of that deception, though, and may open the eyes of companies that didn’t realize they should get your explicit say-so.

Tech News

What you need to know about Apple’s war on ‘digital fingerprinting’

June 5, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Engadget

Most everyone is aware of how tracking cookies work (or if you’re not, you should be). They’re little pieces of data added to your browser that track your behavior on the web. Usually, you notice them when you search for something like basketball and every ad you get for the next few days is about basketball.

At its annual WWDC keynote Apple announced that it would work on blocking another way sites and advertisers track you: canvas fingerprinting. If you haven’t heard of it before, don’t feel too bad. But actually do feel bad because it’s helping advertisers keep an eye on you based on your digital, well, fingerprint.

Canvas fingerprinting actually recognizes your browser of choice based on its configuration. Information about the browser, operating system, fonts and other pieces of data are combined to create a unique profile. Once the profile is built, it can be shared with other sites and ad networks. In other words, you can be tracked without using cookies.

It’s a bit like if you wore the same clothes to visit a couple stores. Those initial stores could call other stores and tell them what you’re wearing so as soon as you walk into future establishments, they may not know your name but they know exactly who you are.

Apple says that Safari for macOS Mojave will stop this type of tracking by limiting the browser data that sites can access. By doing this, instead of a site creating a unique profile of a visitor, it’ll only (theoretically) see exactly the same information it gleaned from another person using Safari.

In other words, everyone that visits the site with Safari will look the same. It’s like everyone wearing the same black pants, black hoodie and dark sunglasses in a store. If everyone looks alike, it’s tough to track their movement both in the establishment and once they leave.

“Previously you had to opt-out for these things not to track out. Now they’re saying if you want it if you want this you have to opt-in,” said FireEye senior analyst, Parnian Najafi Borazjani.

If you’re curious if you’re being tracked (you probably are) the EFF’s Panopticlick will test your browser. The foundation also has the helpful Privacy Badger extension to help block trackers you encounter.

Meanwhile, Firefox also has some substantial privacy features but doesn’t go quite as far as the upcoming Safari. “Mozilla is working with the TOR project to add a number of privacy and security features to the shared codebase that both Mozilla and TOR use to produce Firefox and TOR browser respectively. Canvas Fingerprinting is one such feature, however it is disabled by default and we have no current plans to ship Canvas Fingerprinting in Firefox beyond the Nightly channel,” Selena Deckelmann, senior director of engineering, Firefox runtime told Engadget.

Apple and other browser-building companies can’t