An Apple Byte : Police Warnings Over iOS 17’s NameDrop

It’s been reported that iOS 17’s new NameDrop feature has prompted the Police to issue warnings to parents on social media (in the US) about its potential to be abused, possibly posing a risk to their children.

NameDrop, introduced with iOS 17.1 in November allows those with iPhones and Apple Watches running watchOS 10.1 to share their contact information, (plus photos and more with AirDrop) simply by holding their phones close together (within a few millimetres).

Police in several US states have issued warnings that this feature could, therefore, enable predators to use NameDrop to steal personal contact information from unsuspecting teens just by placing their phone next to the teen’s phone.

The Police also highlighted the fact that for protection, the feature can be turned off by going to settings, selecting AirDrop, selecting “Bringing Devices Together,” and then moving the toggle to off. There is also a ‘Contacts Ony’ option which means that only someone on the iPhone’s contact list can connect through AirDrop and NameDrop.

Tech Insight : Ways To Use ‘WhatsApp Business’ To Help Your Business

In this insight, we look at some of the many ways you can use ‘WhatsApp Business’ to boost your marketing and connect with customers to provide a more personalised service.

What Is WhatsApp Business? 

WhatsApp Business is a version of the popular encrypted app that was introduced in January 2018 which is specifically focused on the needs of business and is designed for small and medium business owners.  It’s free to download use the app but if you want the free WhatsApp Messenger app (which many businesspeople already use) and the Business version on the same phone, you will need to use and verify a separate phone number, e.g. a virtual number.

For larger businesses (50+ users) WhatsApp offers a premium, paid-for Enterprise version – WhatsApp Cloud.

The Key Benefits of Using WhatsApp Business For Your Business Communications

Some of the key benefits of using WhatsApp Business for business communications include:

– It’s cost-effective, i.e. it’s free for small businesses to use and therefore reduces costs related to customer service phone calls and traditional SMS.

– It offers businesses a platform to have real-time, direct conversations with customers and has global reach (180+ countries).

– It has end-to-end encryption, meaning it’s secure and private between the business and the customer.

– You can share many different kinds of media (rich media), e.g. images, videos, documents, and other media to provide product details, answer queries, or offer support.

– Conversations with customers (and other stakeholders) are organised in chats that can be easily categorised and filtered.

– It enables automated greetings, away messages, and quick replies, thereby allowing businesses to respond promptly, even when not actively managing the account.

– A dedicated business profile provides customers with essential details such as business hours, location, and website.

– Businesses can receive a green verified badge, assuring customers they’re communicating with a genuine business.

– It can be integrated with CRM tools and other business systems to streamline your operations.

Personalised Service Is Valued By Customers 

WhatsApp Business enables a more personalised services and there are many studies showing that consumers / customers value a more personalised service.  For example:

– Epsilon’s “The Power of Me” Study (2018) revealed that 80 per cent of customers said they’re more likely to do business with a company if it offers personalised experiences.

– SmarterHQ’s Privacy & Personalisation Report (2019) showed that 72 per cent of consumers said they only engage with marketing messages that are tailored to their interests, i.e. people may be concerned about privacy but they still value personalisation.

– Salesforce’s “State of the Connected Customer” Report (2020/2021) where 66 per cent of customers said they expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, and 52 per cent said they expect offers to always be personalised.

What’s Different About WhatsApp Business? 

Some of the key features and their benefits that WhatsApp Business offers that the normal free version doesn’t include:

– A Business Profile that allows companies to present professional information such as business name, description, address, phone number, and website, enhancing trust and credibility.

– Automated messages, which enable timely communication with customers by scheduling greetings or responses, enhancing customer experience and reducing manual work.

– Quick replies, thereby facilitating faster response times for common queries, (enhancing customer service efficiency).

– WhatsApp Web with landline phone number, thereby offering the flexibility to communicate from a desktop even without a mobile phone (catering to businesses’ varied communication needs).

– Chatbot integration. With AI now playing a key role in many businesses, this feature enables businesses to instantly respond even outside business hours or during peak times, effectively allowing continuous customer support.

– Label conversation, which, as previously mentioned, assists in organising and segmenting contacts for better tracking and targeted communication.

– QR Codes and short links. QR codes are now so useful and widely used that most of us have a QR code app on our phone, and they’re tipped to totally replace bar codes in retail. This feature simplifies the customer’s process of initiating contact, promoting ease of access.

– The Broadcast feature gives businesses the ability to send out mass messages for updates or promotions, thereby facilitating efficient communication with larger audiences.

– Catalog provides a way to showcase products and services directly within the app, streamlining the purchase process and providing detailed information.

– The WhatsApp Business API allows larger businesses to integrate WhatsApp with their existing systems, thereby offering personalised messaging, chatbots, and analytics.

Examples of Ways To Use WhatsApp Business For Your Business 

Here are a few simple examples of ways you can use the various WhatsApp Business features to improve your relationship with customers (and other stakeholders) with a view to boosting profits:

– With Group Chat you can facilitate team discussions, event organisation, and information dissemination.

– Making good use of One-to-One Chat can be a way to help build and maintain strong relationships with individual clients or customers.

– As mentioned previously, using the Broadcast Message feature can allow you to efficiently send news or announcements to a broad audience without recipients knowing who else received it.

– Videos and voice calls offer cost-effective real-time communication and are especially beneficial for international business relations.

– Being able to present a complete business profile can enhance your business credibility and trust.

– Using QR codes or clickable links can be a way to direct customers to the business’s WhatsApp.

– Auto-response enables you to address customer queries even when offline, preventing long waiting times.

– WhatsApp Business enable you to engage after a sale and foster loyalty by sending personalised product recommendations.

– The CRM Integration allows you to provide even more highly personalised services (which are valued by customers) by understanding the customer better.

– Collecting feedback through WhatsApp can provide valuable insights which can help businesses improve and grow.

– Promptly addressing customer concerns and handling questions establishes professionalism for your business in the minds of customers.

– Using notifications can keep customers updated on promotions and offers.

– By sharing content, you can establish authority in the industry, e.g. by sharing insightful content, thereby fostering trust.

Using the WhatsApp Business API 

Using the WhatsApp API, which is essentially a tool for large-scale business communication using automated messages, chatbots, and templates can bring the benefits of cost-effective communication, the use of pre-approved templates, automated responses through chatbots, and enhanced customer engagement.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

In essence, WhatsApp Business offers various tools that businesses can leverage to enhance their communication, foster relationships, and personalise customer interactions, which in turn can lead to improved customer satisfaction and business growth.

WhatsApp Business is more than just another communication tool, it’s a paradigm shift for small businesses. Customers today want to feel valued, not just as a transaction, but as partners in a shared ‘journey’ so by offering real-time interactions, businesses can create experiences that are more genuine and resonant.

One of the platform’s most important implications is in its democratisation of marketing. For example, traditional advertising avenues can be costly and often out of reach for smaller businesses. WhatsApp Business provides an avenue for these businesses to connect directly with their customer base.

In a digital environment full of risks and scams, trust has become a pivotal currency in today’s market and because businesses and customers are now often separated by screens, establishing genuine trust, therefore, can be challenging. WhatsApp Business, with its direct communication and verification features, can bridge this gap and signal to customers that behind the digital storefront is a genuine business, and one that listens, cares, and values the relationship.

WhatsApp Business, therefore, provides and effective and efficient way for small businesses to approach communication, marketing, and relationship-building.

Tech News : Protect Kids from War Content

It’s been reported that some schools, in the UK (as well as Israel and the US) have advised Jewish parents to delete social media apps from their children’s phones over fears that they may see distressing hostage videos or videos of civilians being killed in the Israel-Hamas-Gaza conflict.

In Israel 

In Israel, schools and parents are reported to have been asking children to delete their social media apps over fears that they may see images and videos, made and posted online by Hamas, showing Israeli citizens being shot (e.g. at the Tribe of Nova Festival near the Gaza-Israel border), children being abducted, and captives of Hamas pleading for their lives. The fear is that children could be subjected to psychological terror and long-lasting psychological damage by witnessing the videos and images, which it’s been reported have been shared on Instagram, ‘X’ (Twitter), and TikTok, and forwarded on WhatsApp.

In the US 

In the US, it’s been reported that a New Jersey school emailed parents, asking them to tell their children to delete their social media apps, and that another New York school advised parents to monitor their children’s social media usage, and to talk to them about what action to take if/when they encounter such images or videos.

In The UK

A similar approach is being taken in the UK with Jewish schools asking parents to ask their children to delete social media apps and/or talk to their children about the kind of content they are seeing.

Social Media 

Social media’s role generally over the Israel-Gaza conflict is now under the spotlight, particularly over how it has been used to spread misinformation (false or incorrect information shared without harmful intent), disinformation (false information shared with the specific intent to deceive), and confusion, and to fan hatred. For example:

– A misleading video was shared across platforms, wrongly connecting a 2015 Guatemala event to Hamas (a video of a girl being set on fire by a mob).

– A Hamas leader recently reacted to a fake news story from an Israeli TV channel.

– False claims that Qatar had threatened to cut off gas exports.

– Allegations that Hamas “beheaded babies” which was even published on tabloid front pages, and was referenced by President Joe Biden in a speech.

With factors like mistrust of mainstream media allowing falsehoods to be spread instantly by social media, a surge in the amount of falsehoods being spread, challenges in verifying and fact checking, a lack of moderation guardrails on some platforms, intense emotions about the conflict, and third-party agendas, social media is playing a part not just in shaping opinion, but also perhaps affecting the thinking, attitudes, and decisions of key players in the war.

Facing Criticism and Investigations 

Examples of how the social media platforms and secure apps are facing scrutiny in relation to the conflict include:

– X, Telegram, and TikTok being criticised by regulators for not doing enough to stop the deluge of misleading information being spread via their platforms.

– The EU launching an investigation into ‘X’ (Twitter) over the spread of disinformation and violent content relating to the Israel-Hamas conflict.

– The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab reporting that Telegram is the primary means of communication for disseminating statements by Hamas to its supporters.

– The UK’s technology secretary (Michelle Donelan) holding a virtual meeting with bosses at Google, Meta, X, TikTok, and Snapchat and asking the platforms to clearly set out what action they were taking to remove illegal material that breaches their terms and conditions.

What Are The Social Media Platforms Doing To Help? 

Examples of what some of the main things social media platforms are doing, e.g. to tackle distressing videos and images from the conflict, misinformation, and disinformation being posted on their platforms include:

– X (Twitter) has emphasised its commitment to tackling misinformation and has implemented stricter rules about misleading information. X says it’s using a combination of technology and human review to flag and, if necessary, remove false or misleading content about the Israel-Gaza conflict, and they’re adding warning labels to potentially distressing or graphic content and offer users the choice to view or skip such posts.

– It’s been reported that Meta has established a special operations centre (with experts, including fluent Hebrew and Arabic) dedicated to the Israel-Gaza situation, focusing on detecting and removing harmful content more rapidly, and leveraging third-party fact-checkers to assess the accuracy of potentially misleading posts. Meta has also enhanced its measures to reduce the spread of graphic videos and images of the conflict and has introduced “sensitivity screens” which blur out potentially distressing content until a user chooses to view it.

– TikTok has reinforced its community guidelines that prohibit content promoting hate or misinformation and is reported to be working with experts and fact-checkers to identify and combat false narratives about the conflict. Although the platform has (since Musk took ownership) very much touted its ‘free speech’ approach, it’s now reported to have implemented a stronger content moderation system to quickly detect and restrict the spread of graphic videos related to the conflict. X is also reported to be using warning labels and restricting the reach of videos that may not violate their policies but could be distressing to some users.

– Although Snapchat focuses on content from trusted news outlets through its ‘Discover’ feature, it’s reported to have enhanced its moderation guidelines for user-generated content regarding the conflict, especially content that is graphic in nature. Snapchat uses both automated systems and human reviewers to monitor and, when necessary, remove certain such content and labels have been introduced for stories or snaps that may contain distressing imagery.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

With Hamas reportedly using Telegram as their main means of communication with supporters and with anyone on any side able to upload and share videos and images on social media platforms, plus use encrypted apps like WhatsApp to share content, this conflict is a moderation nightmare for social media companies and a source of real concern for parents and schools.

Even though social media platforms are facing investigations and questions and have introduced some measures to help, as the advice from schools shows, perhaps the only sure and trusted way to protect children is to delete social medias apps together.

This story highlights how in conflicts such as Russia’s war on Ukraine and now the conflict in Gaza, social media channels are not just sources of information but can be used as a tool in information warfare and as a tool to deliberately terrorise and horrify people. Being vulnerable and inquisitive, alongside not having the capacity to cope with the many images of war, children are particularly at risk of distress and psychological damage.

It’s not surprising therefore, that schools and parents are seeking to take time to talk to children about what’s happening and their feelings and questions about it, plus reason with them about parental monitoring of what children are looking at and of the advantages of deleting their much-valued social media apps.

This story also highlights why many feel that social media platforms still have such a long way to go in protecting people (particularly their youngest users) from online threats and perhaps provides some vindication to governments and critics who have called for (and supported the introduction of) protective laws, e.g. the Online Safety Bill, and how these may force social media companies to be more socially responsible.

For the social media companies, issues that arrive in conflicts are a reminder of the difficulties of maintaining a balance between free speech and preventing harm and influence from bad actors. With a ground invasion by Israel apparently imminent, the situation for those directly affected in the Middle East only looks like getting worse, as do the worries for parents and the challenges for social media companies.

Tech News : TikTok Trend : AI-Enhanced Profile Photos For LinkedIn Job Seekers

It’s been reported that a TikTok video has started a trend of people using AI to enhance their appearance in their LinkedIn profile photos with a view to improving their chance of getting a job via the platform.

The TikTok Video 

The short TikTok video that’s been attributed to inspiring the trend was posted during the summer and has since been watched more than 50 million times. The video shows the face of a young woman being enhanced by AI and refences the Remini AI photo and video enhancer app.

Remini 

The Remini app, which claims to have 40 million monthly active users, says that it uses “innovative, state-of-the-art AI technology to transform your old photos into HD masterpieces” and that using its app you can “Turn your social media content into professional-grade images that engage your audience”.

By uploading 8 to 10 selfies (from different angles), the app offers generative AI so users can create hyper-realistic photos or alter ego versions of themselves or can enhance “ordinary” photos of themselves. The app lets users enhance the detail, and adjust the colour, face glow, background, and other details to create a more flawless look and improve photos, e.g. for use on social media profiles.

Why? 

With so much competition in the job market for young adults (among whom the AI photo trend is most popular), and with others having access to the same technology, it may seem that enhancing a photo (within reason) to get a competitive edge seems fair to many, particularly if it’s easy and cheap to do (as it can be with AI tools).

Also, research has shown that better profile photos can yield positive results in the labour market. For example, the results of a 2016 research study by Ghent University (Belgium) found that employment candidates with the most favourable Facebook profile picture received around 21 per cent more positive responses to their application than those with the least favourable profile picture, and that their chances of getting an immediate interview invitation differed by almost 40 per cent.

Psychology

In terms of human psychology, it’s known that people tend to form more favourable judgments of individuals who appear more attractive or have a better photographic representation of themselves due to a combination of psychological factors. These include:

– The psychology of first impressions. Grounded in our instinctual ability to quickly gauge and categorise new information, this trait that was historically essential for survival. Seeing an enhanced photo, within seconds, could potentially appeal to this trait and lead to an employer making a more positive judgement about trustworthiness, competence, and likability.

– The ‘Halo Effect,’ which is a cognitive bias that leads us to assume that individuals possessing one positive trait (e.g., physical attractiveness in a photo) must also possess other desirable qualities, even when no evidence supports these assumptions.

– Social Comparison Theory, which suggests that people tend to evaluate themselves by comparing themselves to others. This could mean that when a person’s photo exudes attractiveness, viewers may subconsciously compare themselves and feel admiration or envy, thereby influencing their judgments.

– Our human tendency of ‘confirmation bias’ means that we seek out and interpret information that aligns with our existing beliefs or stereotypes. In other words, if we believe that attractive people are more successful or competent, we may selectively notice and emphasise information in the photo that confirms this belief.

– Theories of ‘Psychological Attraction’ could also mean that a positive and happy looking profile photo could lead to an employer making a more favourable evaluation by associating the positive feelings with the person’s image.

– Other possible psychological influences that could result from an enhanced profile photo could potentially include evolutionary psychology. For instance, we may subconsciously favour those who appear more attractive as potential mates or allies, and cultural or social Influences. For example, cultural and societal norms play a significant role in shaping our perception of beauty, and a profile photo that displays popular beauty ideals could play to the biases of a potential employer looking at a profile photo.

Why Use Apps Like Remini? 

Apps such as Rimini offer many benefits for young adults (or anyone) looking to get a high quality, enhanced photo for a LinkedIn profile photo. For example:

– They’re cheap. Using an AI app (perhaps on a free trial basis) is less expensive than using professional photographic services, plus they don’t require any of the expensive equipment such as lighting, studio hire, etc.

– They’re fast, require minimal effort, and offer a better chance of satisfaction for the user. From just a few selfie uploads, with no need for any photographic knowledge or professional input or equipment, users can get great results in minutes with minimal difficulty.

– They produce high quality, professional looking results.

– They can be used on-demand and offer flexibility. For example, users can virtually try out different styles and looks that could even influence their own real look or could be used as a kind of split testing of response to their profile.

Other Apps Also Available 

It’s worth pointing out that Remini is not the only such AI photo/video enhancing app available. For example, others include Snapseed, iMyFone UltraRepair, VSCO, Pho.To, PicsArt, Photo Wonder, Pixlr, and many more.

Challenges

Obviously, choosing to present a photo that is not a true representation of yourself with the intention of using it to get a job could have its challenges. For example:

– LinkedIn and similar platforms are professional networks where credibility is essential. If you meet someone in person or on a video call and they realise you don’t look like your profile photo, it can set a negative first impression. They might question your authenticity in other areas if you’re willing to misrepresent your appearance.

– Integrity is paramount in professional settings and presenting picture that doesn’t genuinely represent you might be seen as a breach of trust or even deceptive. This perception could, of course, impact your relationships with potential employers, colleagues, or clients.

– Relying on an AI-enhanced image can also have psychological implications. It may suggest that you’re not confident in presenting your true self, which could translate to lower self-esteem or self-worth over time.

– Employers / employment agencies are likely to be more interested in experience and qualifications rather than appearance and also may be wise to the fact that candidates may be using AI-enhanced photos.

– AI-enhanced images, especially those overly refined, can sometimes be clearly identified as modified which could lead people to think you’re hiding something or are overly focused on superficial aspects.

– There could be cultural and ethical implications. For example, in some cultures or industries, authenticity and honesty are valued above all else. Misrepresenting yourself, even in something as seemingly trivial as a profile photo, could be deemed as unethical or unprofessional.

– While the intention behind using an enhanced photo might be to increase job opportunities, it might actually have the opposite effect. If employers or recruiters sense any deceit, they might choose not to engage with you.

– Using AI-enhancement tools, especially those online, could pose a risk to your privacy. There’s always a chance your photos might be used without your consent or knowledge.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Appearances are, of course, important in first impressions, in professional environments, and where there are certain expected or required appearance and dress codes to adhere to. Also, wanting a professional-looking photo that you can be happy with, that you think shows the best aspects of yourself as a candidate is understandable, as is thinking that it may help you overcome some known biases.

Having a low price/free way to obtain professional photos quickly is also an attractive aspect of these kinds of AI apps. However, a balance is needed to ensure that the photo is not too enhanced or too unlike what a potential employer may reasonably expect to see in front of them should they choose to invite you to interview. An overly enhanced photo could, therefore, prove to be counterproductive.

It should be understood, however, that for most employers and agencies, experience, qualifications, and suitability for the role are far more important than a photo in making fair and objective recruitment decisions. It’s also worth noting that even if a photo did contribute to getting an interview, the face-to-face, in-person interview is a challenge that AI can’t yet help with (yet). That said, many corporate employers are turning to AI to filter job applications, and young people may feel that with this and with other competing applicants potentially using AI to get an edge, so why shouldn’t they?

This story also highlights the challenges that businesses now face from generative AI being widely available, e.g. being used to write applications, emails, and more, as well as risks to security with deepfake based scams. Just as generative AI has helped businesses with productivity, it also presents them with a new set of threats and challenges, and may require them to use AI image-spotting tools as a means of filtering and protection in many aspects of the business, including recruiting, and may highlight why and when, even in a digital world, face-to-face meetings continue to be important in certain situations.

Tech Tip – Create Shortcuts for Important WhatsApp Chats

If there’s a particular and important chat you access frequently, you can create a shortcut for it on your device’s home screen. Here’s how:

Long-press on the specific chat in the chat list until it’s selected.

Tap on the three dots (top right).

Choose “Add chat shortcut.”

Tap on “Add”.

This will create a shortcut icon on your device’s home screen, so you can save time by accessing the chat directly without opening WhatsApp first.

Tech Tip – Prioritise WhatsApp Messages By Pinning A Chat To The Top

If there’s a particular WhatsApp chat you would like to prioritise, you can pin it to the top of your chats list. Here’s how:

– For Android: Tap and hold the chat you want to pin, then tap the Pin symbol at the top of the screen.

– For iPhone: Swipe right on the chat you want to pin, then tap Pin.

Your chosen chats (you can choose up to three) will then moved to top of your chats list.

Tech Tip – How To Save Time By Sending Public (But Private-Looking) Messages In WhatsApp

If you’d like to use WhatsApp to save time when asking a group of people the same question, making it look as though you’ve asked each of them individually and not having to open each chat to ask them separately, here’s how:

– For Android: Tap on Chats > Menu (three dots top right)> New Broadcast.

– Select the contacts for the broadcast list by tapping on their names (a green tick will appear).

– Once the list has been made, tap on the “Create” (big green tick) button. You will then be shown the number of recipients (and names) top left, with a message field at the foot of the screen.

– Compose and send the message to the list.

– To edit the recipients, or to delete the list, tap on the three dots (top right) and tap on ‘Broadcast list info.’

– To create the list in iOS – Tap on Chats > Broadcast Lists > New List > Add contacts.

Tech News : €345m Children’s Data Privacy Fine For TikTok

Video-focused social media platform TikTok has been fined €345m by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) over the privacy of child users.

The Processing of Personal Data 

The fine, as well as a reprimand (and an order requiring them to bring its data processing into compliance within three months) were issued in relation to how the company processed personal data relating to child users in terms of:

– Some of the TikTok platform settings, such as public-by-default settings as well as the settings associated with the ‘Family Pairing’ feature.

– Age verification in the registration process.

During its investigation into TikTok, The DPC also looked at transparency information for children. The DPC’s investigation focused on the period from 31 July 2020 and 31 December 2020.

Explained 

Explained in basic terms, TikTok was fined because (according to the DPC’s findings) :

– The profile settings for child users accounts being set to public-by-default meant that anyone (on or off TikTok) could view the content posted by the child user. The DPC said this also posed risks to children under 13 who had gained access TikTok.

– The ‘Family Pairing’ setting allowed a non-child user (who couldn’t be verified as the parent or guardian) to pair their account to the child user’s account. The DPC says this enabled non-child users to enable Direct Messages for child users over 16, thereby posing a risk to child users.

– Child users hadn’t been provided with sufficient information transparency.

– The DPC said that TikTok had implemented “dark patterns” by “nudging users towards choosing more privacy-intrusive options during the registration process, and when posting videos.” 

TikTok Says…

TikTok has been reported as saying that it disagrees with the findings and the level of the fine. TikTok also said: “The criticisms are focused on features and settings that were in place three years ago, and that we made changes to well before the investigation even began, such as setting all under 16 accounts to private by default”.

Fines

This isn’t the first fine for TikTok in relation to this subject. For example, in July 2020, the company was fined $5.7 million by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for collecting data from minors without parental consent. Also, in April this year, TikTok was fined £12.7m by the ICO for allowing children under 13 to use the platform (in 2020).

The level of TikTok’s most recent fine, however, is not as much as the £1bn fine issued to Meta in May for mishandling people’s data in transfer between Europe and the US.

Banned In Many Countries

In addition to fines in the some of the countries where the TikTok app is allowed, for a mixture of reasons including worries about data privacy for young users, possible links to the Chinese state, incompatibility with some religious laws and some political situation(s) have resulted in TikTok being banned in Somalia, Norway, New Zealand, The Netherlands, India, Denmark, Canada, Belgium, Australia, and Afghanistan.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Back in 2020, TikTok was experiencing massive growth as the most downloaded app in the world. It was also the year when former U.S. President Donald Trump issued an executive order aiming to ban TikTok in the United States, plus the year when the platform picked up its first big fine ($5.7 million) from the FTC (in the US) over collecting data from minors without parental consent.

As pointed out by TikTok, this latest, much larger European fine dates back to issues from around the same time, which TikTok argues it had already addressed before the DPC’s investigation began. This story highlights how important it is to create a safe environment in this digital society for children and young people who are frequent users of the web and particularly social media platforms. This story also highlights how important it is for businesses to pay particular attention to data regulations relating to children and young users and to review systems and processes with this mind to ensure maximum efforts are made maintain privacy and safety.

Furthermore, it is also an example of the importance of having regulators with ‘teeth’ that can impose substantial fines and generate bad publicity for non-compliance which can help provide the motivation for the big tech companies to take privacy matters more seriously. TikTok’s worries, however, aren’t just related to data privacy issues. Ongoing frosty political relations between China and the west mean that its relationship with the Chinese government is still in question and this, together with the bans of the app in many countries means it remains under scrutiny, perhaps more than other (US based) social media platforms.

Tech News : Opting Out Of AI-Targeting

The EU’s new Digital Services Act allows social media users to opt out of AI personalised content feeds based on relevance.

What Is The DSA? 

The Digital Services Act is a new EU Law designed to protect users. It applies to any digital company operating and serving the EU with “very large online platforms” (those with over 45 million EU users) and very large search engines subject to the toughest rules.

The DSA focuses on five key areas of user protection which are:

1. Illegal products. I.e. platforms will need to stop the sale of illegal products.

2. Illegal content. This means that platforms (e.g. social media platforms) need to take measures stop hate speech, child abuse and harassment, electoral interference and more, whilst safeguarding free speech and data protection.

3. Protection of children. This includes large online platforms and search engines having to take a wide range of measures to protect children, such as protection from being targeted with advertising based on their personal data or cookies, protecting their privacy, redesigning content “recommender systems” to reduce risks to children, and much more.

4. Racial and gender diversity. This means that companies (e.g. the large social media platforms) can’t target users with adverts based on personal date such as race, gender, and religion.

5. Banning so-called “dark patterns.” This means protecting consumers from manipulative practices designed to exploit their vulnerabilities or trick/manipulate them into buying things they don’t need or want and making it difficult for them to cancel. For example, this includes fake timers on deals, hiding information about signing up to a subscription and making subscription cancellation steps too complicated for users.

User Empowerment 

More on the matter of user empowerment, the DSA means that users (e.g. users of social media platforms) now need to be given clear information on why they are recommended certain information and have the right (and a clear way) to opt-out from recommendation systems based on profiling (tracking). This has led to the large social media platforms making changes. For example:

– Meta’s Facebook launching a chronological news Feeds tab (last July) to whereby users can see posts from their friends, groups, pages and more in chronological order, and no longer showing any “Suggested For You” posts. Also, since February, Meta’s apps, including Facebook, have stopped showing ads to users aged 13-17 based on their activity to the apps.

– Google’s YouTube stopping next video recommendations based on profiling for logged in users with the ‘watch history’ feature turned off.

– Instagram introducing a “Not Personalised” option instead of just an ‘Explore’ tab based on algorithmic content selections (personalised – “For you”).

– TikTok rolling out the option for users in Europe opt out from its personalised algorithm-based feed, i.e. as TikTok says, if users opt out of “For You” and “LIVE” feeds, it will instead show “popular videos from both the places where they live and around the world, rather than recommending content to them based on their personal interests”. Also, from July, TikTok stopped showing users in Europe aged 13-17 from being shown personalised ads based on their online activity.

– Snapchat has announced four new measures that it’s taking in the EU to comply with the DSA, including giving users “the ability to better understand why content is being shown to them and have the ability to opt out of a personalised Discover and Spotlight content experience.”

Amazon and Google

With the DSA also affecting very large search engines and companies like Amazon, a couple of examples of how they are complying include:

– Amazon creating a new channel for submitting notices against suspected illegal products and content.

– Google promising to increase data access to increase transparency, helping users to understand more about how Google Search, YouTube, Google Maps, Google Play, and Shopping work.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

Tech companies have known about the basic requirements of the DSA for three years and have had four months to comply with the act’s rules. Given the size of the “very large” social media companies and search engines, however, it has required some considerable work (some claiming thousands of staff had been involved), costs, and rethinking and re-organising. The DSA’s rules are far-reaching, while compliance means increased operational costs, e.g. due to necessary investment in technical infrastructure, legal fees, human resources for content moderation, and data governance systems. Also, the stricter regulations on data collection, content, and restrictions on targeting could limit ad-revenues and user-engagement. There’s also the added challenge of a greater workload for social media companies – e.g., with the need for more effective and continuous monitoring, user outreach, and updates.

That said, users may welcome the chance to essentially opt-out of being targeted and many may say that giving greater protection to users, especially children, is long overdue and that legislation appears to have been necessary to make change happen. For the very large tech companies, although they may not be happy with parts of the DSA, they have recognised that compliance is now crucial for sustained market access and legal operation within the EU and the fines for non-compliance are very steep and something (along with the bad publicity) they’d like to avoid (6% of turnover and potential costly suspension of the service).

The new rules have only just come into force, so it remains to be seen how the large tech companies fare going forward in a fast-evolving tech landscape that now has the added complications of AI.

Featured Article: More People Follow ‘TikTok News’

With the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2023 showing TikTok now being the source of news for 20 per cent of 18–24-year-olds at the expense of news websites and apps, we look at where most people now get their news from and the reasons why.

The Report 

The Reuters Institute report is based on the findings of a survey of more than 93,000 people in 46 countries, including the UK, conducted by YouGov in January and February of this year.

Some Key Findings

Some of the key findings about where people young people and others now get their news from are:

– Interest in news stories has declined, there are now high levels of selective news avoidance (36 per cent) i.e., people actively and regularly avoid news (to avoid bad news).

– Trust in the news has fallen and more than half of us (56 per cent) now worry about being able to distinguish between fake and real news on the Internet.

– Around only a fifth of respondents (22 per cent) now say they prefer to start their news journeys with a news website or app (down 10 percentage points since 2018).

– One fifth of young people get their news from TikTok.

– For news topics TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat users now pay more attention to celebrities and social media influencers than to journalists or media companies.

– Consumption of traditional media, such as TV and print, is falling in most markets, with online and social consumption not making up the gap.

– Younger people have a weaker connection with news brands’ own websites and apps than before and prefer to access news via side-door routes such as social media, search, or mobile aggregators.

– Although Facebook is still one of the most-used social networks, shifting its focus away from news (and competition) has meant that its influence on journalism and popularity as a news source is declining.

– Whereas on Facebook and Twitter, news media and journalists are still central to the conversation, audiences say they pay more attention to celebrities, influencers, and social media personalities than journalists in networks like TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat (the social networks more popular with young people).

In short, people are moving away from Facebook, news apps and websites, with many young people now preferring to get their news from TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat, paying more attention to what influencers and celebrities say about it.

Why? 

The declining engagement with traditional networks, e.g. Facebook and the rise of TikTok and a range of other video-led networks, along with the preference for the views of influencers and celebrities is likely to be the result of the influence of the habits of the youngest generations. This is because they have grown up with social media and as a result, naturally pay more attention to influencers or celebrities than they do to journalists, even for news. This may also explain why many young people prefer to access news via ‘side-door routes’ such as social media, search, or mobile aggregators rather than heading straight for news websites and apps.

As the Reuters Institute director Rasmus Neilsen explains, “Younger generations increasingly eschew direct discovery for all but the most appealing brands” and “They have little interest in many conventional news offers oriented towards older generations’ habits, interests, and values, and instead embrace the more personality-based, participatory, and personalised options offered by social media, often looking beyond legacy platforms to new entrants”. 

Also, the current squeeze on household spending has meant that people have been rethinking how much they can afford to spend on news media.

Facebook’s declining use for news isn’t just because it’s moving away from news but is also down to strong competition from YouTube and youth-focused networks like TikTok.

A general mistrust of news and a lack of confidence about being able to spot fake new could be due to influences like criticism of the news media, which is often driven by politicians and facilitated by social media.

As for declining interest in news and ‘selective avoidance’ of news, these can be attributed to (probably since the pandemic), an abundance of bad news on constant-repeat e.g., the war in Ukraine and the cost-of-living crisis, thereby causing people to avoid bad news to protect their own wellbeing and mental health.

Podcasts 

As highlighted in Reuters Report, podcasts are still popular, and their usage has grown by one-third since 2018. Although they are a source of news, the news podcasts compete for attention with lifestyle and specialist shows (some of which also deal with news), and the listeners tend to be richer, better educated, and younger.

Where Do People Get Their News From? 

According to YouGov figures, although most UK people now get their news from the national TV news (44 per cent) and news websites (40 per cent but declining), social media is where just over a quarter (26 per cent) of people get their news). An Ofcom report from 2022 confirms that younger age groups are more likely to use the internet and social media for news, whereas their older counterparts favour print, radio, and TV. The report shows that the reach of print/online newspapers has seen a large decrease from 2020 i.e. 47 per cent to 2022 (38 per cent), and the report states that social media is overtaking traditional channels for news among teens, e.g. with TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube being their top three most used sources for news.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

The shifting landscape of news consumption highlighted in the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2023 has significant implications for various stakeholders in the business world. Publishers, traditional media outlets, social media platforms, and advertisers all need to adapt to the changing preferences and behaviours of news consumers, particularly among younger generations.

For publishers and traditional media, the report emphasises the decline in interest and trust in news stories, as well as the decreasing preference for news websites and apps. This highlights the need for innovative approaches to news delivery and engagement to capture the attention of younger audiences. Investing in video-led networks, exploring personalised and participatory options, and leveraging social media platforms can help reach a broader audience.

Social media platforms, while still influential, face challenges in the evolving news landscape. The decline of Facebook as a news source, primarily driven by competition from platforms like TikTok and YouTube, indicates the importance of diversifying content offerings and adapting to changing user preferences. Platforms must strike a balance between user-generated content and news media to remain relevant and trustworthy sources of information.

Advertisers need to reassess their strategies and platforms for reaching their target audiences. With young people paying more attention to influencers and celebrities on platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat, there is an opportunity to collaborate with these popular figures to promote their products or services. Advertisers should also consider leveraging podcasts, which have seen growth and appeal to a more affluent, educated, and younger demographic.

Overall, the report highlights the need for businesses to stay informed about the changing news consumption habits and preferences of their target audiences. Adapting to the rise of video-led networks, social media influencers, and personalised content can help companies stay relevant and effectively engage with consumers. By embracing new platforms and approaches, businesses can navigate the evolving news landscape and leverage these changes to their advantage.