Tag: advertising

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 will enlist 10,000 employees to moderate YouTube videos

YouTube had its hands full lately, dealing with disturbing channels and videos masquerading as family-friendly offerings. Now, YouTube chief Susan Wojcicki has explained how the platform plans to keep a closer eye on the videos it hosts going forward by applying the lessons it learned fighting violent extremism content. Wojcicki says the company has begun training its algorithms to improve child safety on the platform and to be better at detecting hate speech. To be able to teach its algorithms which videos need to be removed and which can stay, though, it needs more people's help. That's why it aims to appoint as many as 10,000 people across Google to review content that might violate its policies.

YouTube says its machine-learning algorithms help take down 70 percent of violent extremist content within eight hours of upload. By training those algorithms to do the same for other types of videos, such as those questionable uploads that targeted children, the platform will be able to take them down a lot faster than it currently can.

In addition to getting 10,000 Google employees' help, YouTube also plans to conjure up stricter criteria to consult when deciding which channels are eligible for advertising. At the moment, creators need at least 10,000 views to be able to earn ad money, but it sounds like the platform will also expand its team of reviewers to vet channels and videos and "ensure ads are only running where they should."

Finally, YouTube promises to be a lot more transparent. In 2018, it'll start publishing reports containing data on the flags it gets, along with the the actions it takes to remove any video and comment that violates its policies.

Source: YouTube (1), (2)

Facebook temporarily stops advertisers from filtering by race

A year ago, ProPublica discovered they -- and conceivably anyone else -- could make ads on Facebook that weren't shown to certain ethnic or racial groups. The social network claimed it would fix the issue and prevent legally-prohibited advertising discrimination on its platform. Weeks ago, ProPublica repeated its experiment and again found it possible to exclude ads along ethnic and racial lines. In response, Facebook has temporarily halted this advertising feature while it investigates how it has been used.

"Until we can better ensure that our tools will not be used inappropriately, we are disabling the option that permits advertisers to exclude multicultural affinity segments from the audience for their ads," Facebook reportedly said in a letter to the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus; The document was shared with USA Today.

Facebook is suspending this feature, known on the advertising platform as its 'multicultural affinity marketing' targeting option, while it looks into how advertisers exclude groups. That investigation will go beyond race and ethnicity to understand how those from other demographics, like those from the LGBT community and religious groups, are also excluded using this advertising tool. Facebook will share the results of its investigation with the affected groups.

Going forward, ads that target specific racial and ethnic groups will receive additional scrutiny before appearing on Facebook, and their creators will have to confirm that they comprehend both anti-discrimination law and the social network's policies. All ads will also get a button in the top right corner flagging them for review. These new requirements will be added over the next few weeks, and Facebook will again enable its 'multicultural affinity marketing' feature after its review process.

Source: USA Today

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

Snapchat’s new ad formats are designed to keep you watching

This week, Snapchat debuted two new ad styles meant to engage its users more and encourage less skipping, TechCrunch reports. So far, the app's ads have largely consisted of short videos, which followed the last clip in a Story or were placed throughout Discover content, as well as sponsored Lenses that promoted some sort of product. Now, advertisers will have the option of putting together a Promoted Story or an AR Trial ad.

For Promoted Stories, advertisers will be able to create a more in-depth ad featuring three to 10 photos or videos that will work just like any other Snapchat Story. These ads will appear throughout a country for one day and will be labeled as sponsored content. Today, for example, US users will see an HBO Promoted Story featuring six Snaps that show what series or movies you could be watching on HBO instead of engaging in Black Friday shopping.

The AR Trial ads are like more active versions of Snapchat's sponsored 3D World Lenses. In September, Snapchat released 3D World Lenses that promoted Blade Runner and Bud Light, but they were mostly just fun, not functional. The Bud Light Lens, for example, just featured an AR Bud Light vendor that you could place on whatever surface you liked. But the AR Trial ads are meant to let users get a better look at the product being sold. BMW's new AR Trial ad will let you place its X2 vehicle in the area you're viewing through the camera lens and then allow you to walk around it and even change its color.

Snap Inc. had a less than impressive third quarter, reporting just 4.5 million new users, and the company has said it will focus on attracting more users in the coming year. Those efforts include a redesign of the Android version of its app and some significant tweaks to the app overall. Some of those changes are meant to make it easier to navigate through all of the app's offerings, which is not always intuitive and could help it increase its user base. And that, like these new ad formats, is likely to please Snapchat's partners.

Via: TechCrunch

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

ProPublica: Facebook advertisers can still discriminate by race

A year ago, ProPublica discovered that Facebook let advertisers select who would see ads based on 'ethnic affinity.' Because the social network doesn't ask users to disclose their racial identity, Facebook collects data and assigns each a preference for content that aligns with those the network believes coincide with an ethnic group. Advertisers then had the choice to target -- or avoid -- users based on their 'ethnic identity,' which would violate the Fair Housing Act. Shortly thereafter, an apologetic Facebook said it would shut down 'ethnic affinity' ads for housing and jobs. But ProPublica just released a new report confirming they could still make dozens of rental housing ads that discriminated against certain ethnic groups -- and Facebook approved all of them.

Further, according to ProPublica, the social network approved all but one of them within minutes, as their image above demonstrates. The other ad sought to exclude renters who were "interested in Islam, Sunni Islam and Shia Islam," which Facebook allowed after just 22 minutes. The platform's policies state that their vetting process should have flagged the discriminatory language in each of these advertisement requests, but that didn't happen.

Federal law prohibits ads from discriminating based on race in three areas -- housing, employment and credit. Not coincidentally, these were the areas that Facebook claimed it was ended its 'ethnic affinity' advertising options. The Department of Housing and Urban Development was previously investigating Facebook for its advertising policies, but confirmed to ProPublica that it had closed the inquiry.

When reached for comment, Facebook said a technical error miscategorized the ProPublica ads, so compliance and review alarms weren't triggered. Facebook provided this statement to Engadget from its VP of Product Management Ami Vora:

"This was a failure in our enforcement and we're disappointed that we fell short of our commitments. Earlier this year, we added additional safeguards to protect against the abuse of our multicultural affinity tools to facilitate discrimination in housing, credit and employment. The rental housing ads purchased by ProPublica should have but did not trigger the extra review and certifications we put in place due to a technical failure.

Our safeguards, including additional human reviewers and machine learning systems have successfully flagged millions of ads and their effectiveness has improved over time. Tens of thousands of advertisers have confirmed compliance with our tighter restrictions, including that they follow all applicable laws.

We don't want Facebook to be used for discrimination and will continue to strengthen our policies, hire more ad reviewers, and refine machine learning tools to help detect violations. Our systems continue to improve but we can do better. While we currently require compliance notifications of advertisers that seek to place ads for housing, employment, and credit opportunities, we will extend this requirement to ALL advertisers who choose to exclude some users from seeing their ads on Facebook to also confirm their compliance with our anti-discrimination policies – and the law."

Source: ProPublica

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

FCC will vote on viewer-tracking broadcast standard this week

On Thursday, the FCC will vote on a new broadcast standard that stands to have a big impact on both consumers and broadcasters. Next Gen TV, also known as ATSC 3.0, will bring with it sharper images and video as well as the ability for TV broadcasters to get more detailed data about consumers' viewing habits. Rather than just broad demographics, those broadcasters will be able to collect viewing data similar to how cable providers do with set-top boxes and how websites track browsing history. That information could then be used to more specifically target ads to viewers. The FCC is expected to approve the new standard but many are voicing concern over privacy issues and lack of regulation.

Jessica Rosenworcel, an FCC commissioner, doesn't think the current plan for the Next Gen TV rollout is adequate and has urged the FCC to start over, Broadcasting & Cable reports. She says that unlike the digital TV transition that occurred in 2009, the current Next Gen TV transition plan doesn't have a congressional mandate, any subsidies for new equipment that will be required with the new standard and no test market. In a speech given at the Open Technology Institute, she said, "Before we authorize billions for patent holders and saddle consumers with the bills, we better understand how these rights holders will not take advantage of the special status conferred upon them by the FCC."

Further, in a comment on the FCC's proposal, the Consumers Union, Public Knowledge and New America's Open Technology Institute said, "We agree with the comments filed by the original Petitioners that the Next Gen TV standard potentially offers 'compelling public interest benefits, including stunning video and more immersive audio, as well as the opportunity for revolutionary features that will significantly enhance the viewing experience.' But achieving those benefits should not come at the expense of consumers, which could occur if the transition to ATSC 3.0 is approved by the Commission without adoption of appropriate, common sense safeguards." It also said, "Consumers are being asked to take a leap of faith without the benefit of a regulatory safety net."

On the other side of the issue, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who proposed approving the new standard shortly after being nominated to the position by President Trump, has been a vocal supporter of Next Gen TV from the start. In a recent speech he said opponents wanted "to impose extensive government regulation that could strangle Next Gen TV in its infancy." In regards to privacy concerns surrounding the expanded access to viewer data he said that the FCC was only looking at the technical aspects as of now and might look into privacy concerns later.

But many want privacy concerns to be addressed before the standard is approved. Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, told Bloomberg, "If the new standard allows broadcasters to collect data in a way they haven't before, I think consumers should know about that. What privacy protections will apply to that data, and what security protections?"

Via: Bloomberg

Source: FCC

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