Tech News : Millions Defy WhatsApp Bans

In a recent BBC World Service interview, Head of WhatsApp, Will Cathcart, claimed that tens of millions of people in countries where WhatsApp has been banned continue to use it.

Where Is WhatsApp Banned And Why? 

WhatsApp is banned Iran and North Korea, has been blocked at times in Syria, Senegal, and Guinea, and recently China banned iPhone users from downloading the app. Also, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates restrict certain features of the app.

WhatsApp faces bans and restrictions in these countries mainly due to concerns regarding its end-to-end encryption, which prevents governments from monitoring or intercepting messages sent through the platform. The encryption feature undermines authorities’ abilities to surveil communications for security purposes, potentially allowing for the spread of dissent or undesirable information. Also, WhatsApp’s widespread popularity makes it a powerful tool for activities such as organising protests or disseminating information, posing challenges to governments seeking to control the flow of information and maintain societal order. Consequently, countries with authoritarian regimes or strict censorship laws are opting to ban or restrict WhatsApp to maintain control over communication channels and uphold state authority.

Evidence of Tens of Millions Still Using It 

Mr Cathcart says the fact that WhatsApp can see the registered phone numbers of users, plus anecdotal reports of people using WhatsApp, have enabled WhatsApp to: “look at some of the countries where we’re seeing blocking and still see tens of millions of people connecting to WhatsApp”.  

Apple 

In the interview, Mr Cathcart highlighted how China ordered Apple to block Chinese iPhone users from downloading WhatsApp from the AppStore in April was a “choice Apple has made” but stressed that Android users there can still download it without going through official shops.

China has also banned another end-to-end encrypted app, Telegram, and has asked Apple to remove microblogging app Threads from its app store due to political content that mentions the Chinese president.

VPNs 

Mr Cathcart also pointed the role that virtual private networks (VPNs) and WhatsApp’s proxy service have had in keeping WhatsApp accessible.

Free Internet Battle 

Mr Cathcart also highlighted how the UK government’s battle over several years to ban end-to-end encryption in apps like WhatsApp to allow police to read criminals’ messages, and the US forcing TikTok to be sold or banned (for national security reasons) are indicators of the growing battle for a free Internet.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

For businesses, the ongoing saga surrounding end-to-end encrypted apps like WhatsApp has implications for operations, security, and ethics. As highlighted by Will Cathcart, the widespread use of WhatsApp in countries with authoritarian regimes shows its critical role as a secure communication platform for individuals facing oppressive surveillance and censorship. In such environments, where privacy and freedom of expression are under constant threat, encrypted apps serve as a lifeline for both personal and professional interactions.

However, the bans and restrictions imposed by these governments highlight the tension between security and freedom in the digital age. By targeting encrypted platforms, governments essentially seek to exert control over information flow and suppress dissent, often at the expense of individual liberties and privacy rights. For businesses operating in (or collaborating with partners in) such regions, these restrictions pose significant challenges, potentially jeopardising the confidentiality of sensitive communications and data.

Also, the battle over end-to-end encryption extends beyond geopolitical borders, shaping the broader landscape of internet freedom and digital rights. Efforts by governments like the UK’s to undermine encryption in the name of law enforcement raise serious questions about the balance between security measures and civil liberties. Any compromise to encryption standards not only undermines the privacy and security of users but also sets a dangerous precedent that threatens the integrity of the digital ecosystem.

Featured Article : LinkedIn Testing Premium Company Pages

LinkedIn is testing a ‘Premium Company Page’ subscription service for SMEs which includes AI-produced content and tools to grow follower counts, as well as other features to raise the profiles of subscribers.

What Is It? 

LinkedIn says the LinkedIn Premium Company Page is: “a subscription to help you make your Page stand out and convert more LinkedIn members into clients for your business. Premium Company Page gives you access to certain features that are only available to premium subscribers.” 

How Much? 

This service is rumoured to cost a pricey $99.99 per month per Page, reducing to $839.88 per page for an annual subscription. LinkedIn says that users can subscribe to their Premium Company Page from their Page super admin view. Users do not need a Premium Business subscription to get a Premium Company Page (these are separate subscriptions).

What Do You Get? 

The LinkedIn Premium Company Page offers users a range of premium LinkedIn features. These are:

– A custom call-to-action (CTA) button. As the name suggests, this is a button in which users can select their own custom name and unique url (for the call-to-action). Super admins who subscribe to the Premium Company Page can add this call-to-action button at the top of the Page, feed posts, and search result cards.

– The “Who’s visited my Page?” feature.  Again, as the name suggests, this feature allows Page admins to review visitor traffic and demographic trends across different time periods in Visitor Analytics. The Admin of a Premium Company Page can also use this feature to review a list of recent visitors to your Page within the Who’s Visited your Page section, subject to those visitors’ privacy settings. Admins can also see up to one new visitor’s details each day when eligible members visit the Page.

– The “Custom Testimonial” feature allows the inclusion of a testimonial or quote from a client and an optional image at the top of a subscriber’s LinkedIn Page. Linked says this feature will be made available “gradually.”

– Perhaps the most noteworthy feature is the “AI-powered post-writing assistance.” In other words, this is the use of LinkedIn’s generative AI (only available with a Premium Company Page subscription). LinkedIn says subscribers can use it to “generate a first draft of a post for your Page using your ideas on a topic” and that the tool “quickly transforms your ideas into a draft that you can edit before posting.” 

The ability to “auto-invite engaged members to follow your Page.”  LinkedIn says, with this feature “you can grow your followers by automatically inviting members who engage with your content to follow your Page” and that “After you enable automatic invitations (auto-invites), members who publicly reacted, commented on, or shared your posts in the past 30 days will be invited to follow your Page”. 

A gold LinkedIn ‘IN’ logo in the top right corner of each subscriber’s Page header to show that they have a Premium Company Page subscription. LinkedIn says this will help subscribers’ pages to stand out.

Premium Services – Monetising LinkedIn 

LinkedIn’s Premium Company Page is another example of how Microsoft’s LinkedIn has been engaged in significantly monetising its platform through the introduction and expansion of premium services, although these services still represent a relatively small percentage of overall users. This year, for example, LinkedIn’s premium subscriptions saw a notable 55 per cent growth year-over-year (Kinsta), highlighting the popularity of these services and the marketing efforts of LinkedIn.

Examples of other primary premium services offered by LinkedIn include:

– LinkedIn Premium Career. This service is designed to help individuals enhance their job search and career development by offering features such as the ability to see who viewed their profile, detailed insights into competitive applications, and direct messaging capabilities through InMail.

– LinkedIn Sales Navigator. This tool is geared towards sales professionals and offers advanced search capabilities, lead recommendations, and the ability to track potential and existing clients. It’s useful for generating leads and managing sales processes.

– LinkedIn Learning. Formerly known as Lynda.com, LinkedIn Learning provides a wide range of courses aimed at professional development, covering topics from business and technology to creative subjects.

– LinkedIn Premium Business. This service focuses on providing deeper insights into business trends and the ability to make more informed decisions through more comprehensive market data.

Also, LinkedIn has rolled out other features like Collaborative Articles and verification badges, to enhance user engagement and trust on the platform. These initiatives not only improve the functionality of LinkedIn for its users but also contribute to LinkedIn’s overall monetisation strategy by making the platform more indispensable to business and career-oriented people.

While some critics have suggested that the features of LinkedIn Premium aren’t that much better than the free offerings, LinkedIn’s premium services can provide a way to gain advantages for those looking to expand their professional network and access detailed insights and opportunities not available with a basic account.

Competition 

In addition to monetising more of its premium services, LinkedIn’s Premium Company Pages also provides a way for LinkedIn to compete with other business-oriented social networking and content platforms’ offerings. For example, Facebook Business Pages, Twitter for Business/X For Business, Instagram Business Accounts, and Google My Business all offer tools that support brand visibility, customer engagement, and online marketing.

How Do You Sign Up? 

Since it’s early days and still in the testing phase, who can see the options for signing up (and a free trial first) depends on the user’s “eligibility” and LinkedIn says those who go to their LinkedIn homepage “may see different ways to try or purchase Premium.” 

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

The introduction (it’s still being tested at the moment) of LinkedIn’s Premium Company Page service marks a strategic move by Microsoft’s LinkedIn to further monetise its platform while offering enhanced tools for SMEs to distinguish themselves in a crowded digital marketplace. This service is particularly significant as it includes AI-produced content and features designed to increase follower counts and enhance page visibility, which could potentially be a game-changer for some small to medium-sized enterprises looking to expand their reach and convert LinkedIn members into clients.

For Microsoft’s LinkedIn, the Premium Company Page service represents another layer of monetisation on an already profitable platform. By adding premium features that are targeted specifically at businesses, LinkedIn can increase its revenue streams and also its appeal as a business-to-business service provider in the competitive social media landscape. This aligns with LinkedIn’s recent strategy of rolling out more specialised and high-value features, such as Collaborative Articles and verification badges, (aimed at boosting user engagement and trust).

For SMEs, the benefits of subscribing to LinkedIn’s Premium Company Page could be substantial, if it lives up to the hype. Features like custom call-to-action buttons, AI-powered post writing assistance, and advanced analytics on page visitors could enhance the marketing capabilities of a business directly within the LinkedIn ecosystem. For example, these tools may allow businesses to craft more targeted, effective marketing strategies and to engage more personally with both existing and potential new clients. Also, the visibility boost provided by premium features like the gold LinkedIn IN logo could potentially help SMEs stand out against their competitors on the platform.

However, the introduction of these premium services is also a sign of increased competition (and monetisation efforts) among social networking platforms that cater to business users. LinkedIn’s move, therefore, places it in more direct competition with platforms like Facebook Business Pages, Google My Business, and Twitter for Business/X For Business, each of which offers tools for business visibility and customer engagement. As LinkedIn enhances its offerings, these platforms may also respond by innovating and updating their services, which could lead to a more dynamic, competitive environment that pushes further advancements in digital business tools, and provides more new marketing options for business users.

Ultimately, therefore, LinkedIn hopes its Premium Company Page will make money and help solidify its position as a leader in professional networking and as an important platform for business growth and digital marketing. As and when this service rolls out, it will be interesting to see how it influences the competitive dynamics among the major players in social media and digital marketing.

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.