Archive for July 2017

Your Latest IT News Update

MoneySuperMarket Fined For Sending Emails

The Information Commissioner’s Office has fined MoneySuperMarket £80,000 for sending 7 million emails to former subscribers who had already opted out of receiving communications from the company.

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A Great Example Of Video To Engage With Your Market

In the interest of starting the kids early with life skills, The Halifax is enlisting the help of young YouTube stars / ‘vloggers’, to help teach other children about basic money management.

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New ‘Pay To Read’ Facebook Content Model

It has been reported that in a move to satisfy the publishers on its social network, Facebook may soon be moving over to charging its users for reading news on its platform.

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Mobile Banking Iris-Scanning

This September, TSB customers will just have to look at their phone’s camera to access mobile banking services thanks to the introduction of iris-scanning authentication.

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House of Lords Investigating AI ‘Ethics’

With the advancement of artificial intelligence, the House of Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence (AI) is calling on academics, experts, industry insiders, and the public for feedback on the social, economic, and ethical implications of the technology.

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Drones To Be Registered, Users To Be Tested

The UK government announced last week that drones need to be registered and users may have to undergo safety awareness tests soon.

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Tech Tip: Quickly Show The Preview Pane Using Keyboard Shortcut

If you’re still using Windows 7, there’s a handy keyboard shortcut that allows you to quickly show the preview pane. Here’s how to use it:

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Tech Tip: Quickly Show The Preview Pane Using Keyboard Shortcut

If you’re still using Windows 7, there’s a handy keyboard shortcut that allows you to quickly show the preview pane. Here’s how to use it:

Rather than using the slower method of using icon in the top right of Windows Explorer :

  • Hit ALT+P to show or hide the pane.
  • Resize the pane for a more detailed view.

Drones To Be Registered, Users To Be Tested

The UK government announced last week that drones need to be registered and users may have to undergo safety awareness tests soon.

Accountability and Responsibly

New government rules mean that drones weighing 250 grams and above now need to be registered online. Owners of these drones will also have to take safety awareness tests to determine their knowledge of UK safety, security, and privacy regulations. The government hopes that these new rules will help to develop accountability among drone owners and encourage them to act responsibly.

Why?

The new rules have been introduced after numerous near-miss drone and aircraft incidents (many near airports) which have endangered life and caused major disruption. For example, a drone being flown dangerously close to Gatwick airport earlier this month caused four Easyjet and one British Airways flights to be diverted and Airprox figures show that there were 70 such incidents last year, and 33 so far in this year.

Potential Damage

According to research conducted by DfT, British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA), and the Military Aviation Authority (MAA), drones could possibly damage the windscreens of helicopters. The study also found, however, that airplane windscreens would need a heavy drone of around 2kg, flying at a high speed, to inflict any real damage.

Parliamentary Approval May Be Needed

The Department for Transport (DfT) wants to introduce the new rules as soon as possible so that it can explore how to implement it in the coming months. The rules being drafted will include rules for existing and new drones, but Parliamentary approval may be needed to bring the rules into force.

Regulated Areas

As well as problems with drones being flown near airports, there is also the well-documented problem of drones being used to deliver drugs and other contraband to prisoners in UK jails.

Geo-Fencing

Geo-fencing is one viable way for the government to keep drones away from restricted areas such as prisons and airports. Geo-fencing technology can be built into the drones so that the government can take their coordinates via GPS, and with a pre-defined boundary already programmed, stop them from flying into prohibited areas.

While some drone makers have already pre-programmed their drones to not fly in restricted areas, the government wants to be doubly sure that it is the case.

The Need for Regulations

Drones have become an important tool in many commercial and public safety settings, such as in transport infrastructure inspection, film and television, and for use by the police and fire service in helping to save lives. These valuable uses will need to be considered in the new proposed regulations, which are designed to prioritise public protection while maximising the drones’ full potential, according to UK Aviation Minister from the Department for Transport, Lord Callanan.

The potential for misuse is clear however , and many have welcomed this move to have drones registered, and to conduct safety awareness tests to educate users.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Drones are part of a new industry where the technology and products have been developing before the law has had an opportunity to catch up. Drones clearly have many productive, value-adding, and innovative business uses, and they have been tested and tipped for wider use in the future by e.g. Amazon for parcel deliveries. A move towards autonomous vehicles and new transport technologies means that drones currently have a bright future when used responsibly and professionally. The fact that drones are widely and easily available (with minimal restrictions) to individuals as well as companies, as shown by the many aircraft near misses, indicates that most people would welcome the introduction of regulations that contribute to public safety. It is important, however, that any new rules take account of the rights of the majority of responsible drone users, and don’t restrict the commercial potential of drones.

House of Lords Investigating AI ‘Ethics’

With the advancement of artificial intelligence, the House of Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence (AI) is calling on academics, experts, industry insiders, and the public for feedback on the social, economic, and ethical implications of the technology.

Information and Evidence Gathering

Appointed by House of Lords on 29 June 2017, the committee has been tasked to gather evidence and prepare a report by 31 March 2018, and will start listening to statements of evidence in the autumn.

The committee are encouraging concerned sectors to provide their views on how AI may be or has been affecting them. Evidence will be mainly gathered using a questionnaire.

Pragmatic Approach

The committee aims to use the feedback to generate pragmatic solutions to issues arising from uses of AI. It is thought that, by gathering real-world opinions from many different groups, including the public, the committee’s recommendations to the government will have greater value.

Timely Inquiry

From information dissemination e.g. by news-bots, to customer service chat-bots, AI is slowly taking over many of the manual tasks that are usually done by people.

Many commentators have pointed to the danger posed to jobs by AI. Back in March, for example, a report by PwC showed that over 30% of UK jobs could be lost to automation by the year 2030.

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Clement-Jones (committee chair) has said that the inquiry into AI and its impact will give a better understanding as to what opportunities exist in the use of AI, and what real threats it may pose.

Extreme Prediction

One of the more extreme comments about AI’s impact in the future came this month from Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk who reportedly described AI as a “fundamental risk to the existence of civilisation.”

Security and Ethical Concerns

In 2016, the UK government’s chief scientific officer Mark Walport pointed out in a report that it is critical to guarantee transparency and accountability as to how AI will be used and regulated.

It is thought therefore, that this inquiry will help contribute to a wider understanding of the ethical and security issues facing us with the continued growth of AI.

The Lords Want to Know

Through this inquiry, the House of the Lords Committee on AI will encourage the public to think about AI, how they can prepare for its widespread use, and what impact it could have on their everyday life, jobs, education and skills, democracy, cyber security, privacy, and data ownership.

It is hoped that the inquiry will also give a better view of what industries will benefit from AI, what obstacles will need to be overcome using AI;, what role the government could play in supporting AI, and, what the issues are around ethics, privacy, consent, safety, diversity, and transparency.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

AI is already being used and its use and role in the automation of many aspects of our lives is set to grow. Although research last month from US CRM and strategic applications company Pegasystems indicated that trust levels in AI were high (60% of UK people would use more AI if it saved them time and money), there are clear concerns about the threats that another intelligent force could pose to us. It makes sense, therefore, that we should get a good understanding now of the issues surrounding AI while it is still in its relatively early stage of development.

Most businesses are likely to be affected by some aspect of automation e.g. software or mechanical, in the near future, either themselves of through suppliers and stakeholders. There is an inevitability that AI and robotics will alter what jobs look like in the future, and will take some jobs away from humans, but it is also important to remember that they could provide huge advantages and opportunities for businesses and their customers.

Workers can try to insulate themselves from the worst effects of automation by seeking more education / lifelong learning, and by trying to remain positive towards and adapting to changes.

How much AI automation and what kind of AI automation individual businesses adopt will, of course, depend upon a cost / benefit analysis compared to human workers, and whether automation is appropriate and is acceptable to their customers.

Mobile Banking Iris-Scanning

This September, TSB customers will just have to look at their phone’s camera to access mobile banking services thanks to the introduction of iris-scanning authentication.

Iris-Scanning Access

TSB customers with Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+ will be the first in Europe to use iris-scanning technology to unlock their TSB banking app. As always, users will be required to register their biometric data within the app first, and then use it in lieu of passwords and personal identification numbers.

Authentication Most Secure

Carlos Abarca, TSB’s CIO, is reported to be all for a more customer-friendly approach to identification and authentication and, aside from reducing the time spent on keying in your PIN, iris recognition is believed by many to be the most secure method of verifying a customer’s identity because no two irises are the same.

Iris-Scanning On the Go

Airports and other establishments have been using iris-scanning technology for quite some time now e.g. airport automated passport checks.

Having the technology in handheld devices is (if it actually works consistently well) likely to provide value-adding convenience and immediacy for bank customers.

Hack-Free?

Many thought that iris-scanning technology was totally secure and fool-proof until a group of German hackers claimed that they were able to bypass Samsung’s iris scanner. They used a 3D print out of an eye that matches photos taken from the web of the account user; these photos were in high definition, enough to capture the iris. Samsung dismissed this claim as not possible.

Although it would be impossible for TSB to say that iris-scanning is hack-proof, the bank has re-assuringly said that it is potentially more secure than using fingerprints for authentication because fingerprint scanning uses 40 characteristics whereas iris scanning uses 266. Some critics have said however, that using a fingerprint may be slightly more convenient for customers than holding a phone to their eye.

Voice Recognition Fail

Not all biometric methods have been successfully introduced. Many people may remember how, back in May this year, BBC reporter Dan Simmons was able to fool HSBC’s biometric voice recognition system by passing his brother’s voice off as his own in an experiment that was filmed for the BBC Click technology digest TV programme.

TSB Optimistic

While creating a fake eyeball is a possibility, it is likely to be exceptionally hard to do. Hacking the iris scanner in the phone will could also prove to be a real challenge because aside from the biometrics, TSB is also relying on the digital certificate on the mobile phone. TSB is confident that this project will be successful among its customers, especially those tech-savvy ‘early adopters’ who want the latest innovation in their banking experience.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Banks are keen to move away from password technology, which has been shown to be relatively lacking in security (e.g. passwords can be stolen) and move into the more secure world of biometrics. Finding a practical workable technology that maximises security and convenience is in the interest of all of us, and such systems (if affordable) could have applications in many businesses outside of banking.

Although iris-scanning / iris recognition technology looks very promising, organisations looking to introduce biometrics (particularly on a large scale) face two major challenges in the minds of their customers – worries about privacy and worries about safety. Customers want to know that their data is secure, and that the biometric system can’t be hacked or fooled. Back in August last year, a study from YouGov and commissioned by e-mail provider GMX shows that the UK people surveyed had trust concerns about biometrics ranging from concerns about the providers to the technology itself. More than 40% of those surveyed didn’t want companies to have any access to their biometric information, and one-third said they were afraid that their biometric information could fall into the hands of criminals. In fact, only 5% of those surveyed thought that there is no risk associated with biometric logins.

With wider knowledge in the market about the safety aspects of these systems backed up by falling fraud figures (fraud figures are still too high in the UK), the industry establishing benchmarks for best practice, and maximum convenience for customers using them, biometric systems may be more trusted and more widely accepted and used in future.

New ‘Pay To Read’ Facebook Content Model

It has been reported that in a move to satisfy the publishers on its social network, Facebook may soon be moving over to charging its users for reading news on its platform.

Keeping Publishers Happy

Facebook is reported to be in the early stages of talks with various news organisations and publishers on monetising news that is currently being consumed by Facebook users for free on its platform.

This means the company could soon support subscription-based revenue models, making users pay for news and information.

10 Articles a Month

For the present, Facebook is telling its publishers that they can show at least 10 free articles a month before the paywall starts. Publishers will also have full access to and control of subscriber data generated from Facebook.

Facebook Journalism Project

Facebook is known to be a staunch supporter of news and information, and has provided greater support this image publicly by establishing the Facebook Journalism Project to support journalism and news literacy. The project also serves as a hub for journalists and publishers. This is where the idea for subscription-based revenue models came about after feedback from publishers.

Instant Articles

Facebook’s publishing partners are already gearing up and testing for subscription support on Facebook’s Instant Articles.

Instant Articles is a Facebook tool that allows publishers to distribute fast, interactive news to their readers in the Facebook app itself. Article loading is faster when accessed by readers, and even auto-play videos load rapidly. This translates to increased content consumption and sharing.

Instant Articles does not yet support the tokenised, paywall-based schemes other companies are using to fight the deteriorating revenues from display advertising and the growing number of ad-blockers.

Facebook – A Big News Distributor

The news of the possible move to subscription news for customers is extra significant because Facebook has become an important news distribution player, particularly in its own country. For example, a 2016 survey by the Pew Research Center showed that 44% of Americans get their news from Facebook.

Combating Fake News

Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is reported to be in support of the battle against “Fake News” by making the news industry stronger and by partnering with news organizations and publishers.

The journalism project of Facebook also aims to address the proliferation of “Fake News”, which became prominent during the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook is also making public efforts to be seen to be curbing its propagation, for example, last May, Facebook cracked down on false accounts and ran educational adverts on how to spot fake news.

Facebook’s Benefit

Initial talks with the news organizations and publishers indicate that Facebook will not take a cut from the news subscription feature. Instead, it will indirectly benefit from encouraging users to stay longer on its site, and by spending more time on its site, users will see more ads.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This move by Facebook is a way of potentially killing several birds with one stone.

Firstly, it’s a way of finally answering complaints from many publishers that when they put their articles on Facebook they lose control of them (and don’t get paid).

Secondly, while some publishers have walked away from Facebook (many daren’t because of Facebook’s importance news distribution in the US), it may be a way to woo some publishers back.

Thirdly, introducing the subscription model could help Facebook to tackle the fake news problem (and the bad publicity it has generated), because Instant article readers could view news from paywall publishers as being more credible.

Finally, the Instant Article service has grown 25% in the last six months, with nearly a third of clicks on Facebook now leading to Instant Articles. Now may, therefore, be the ideal time for Facebook to start developing what could become a future cash cow.

A Great Example Of Video To Engage With Your Market

In the interest of starting the kids early with life skills, The Halifax is enlisting the help of young YouTube stars / ‘vloggers’, to help teach other children about basic money management.

Halifax and the Young Vloggers

What better way is there to communicate with young people than using a combination of their peers, celebrity (vloggers), and a medium that many of them use regularly? This is just what The Halifax, part of Lloyds Banking Group, has decided is a worthwhile tactic pursue, as it has selected children who are YouTube video bloggers, or vloggers, and asked them to create vlogs for 11 to 15 year-olds.

Money Matters

The YouTubers will talk about management in a language that is familiar to the target age bracket and they will offer guidance and information on savings, spending, and online safety.

The Halifax is also making videos intended for parents to help them discuss money matters with their kids.

Study

In a study by Internet Matters, it was reported that 75% of 5 to 15 year-olds use YouTube. The same study revealed that parents have a hard time talking about money with their children. With these findings, The Halifax launched its vlogging campaign.

Really?

Some commentators have pointed out that although this tactic has a feel-good factor to it (and the potential to get positive PR for Halifax), it just happens to support their online banking service launched in 2015, and aimed at young age bracket, and could be an inventive way to nurture the next generation of loyal Halifax customers.

Online Service

Designed with Childnet International and the Money Advice Service, Halifax’ online banking service offers financial education, online safety information, and mobile banking app access. While its online content has its attraction, many youngsters age 11 to 15 are not using online banking services.

Target Market Love YouTube

Based on the research of Internet Matters, an average of 26 posts a day are made by children on social networks like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. They also spend 15 hours a week online, but only 48% of 11 to 15 year-olds, who are account holders of Halifax, regularly use online banking services.

The Three YouTubers

The 3 young vloggers chosen to present the videos for Halifax may only be aged 14 (Ambi and Evie), and 15 (Oscar), but they’re old hands when it comes to talking about a range of topics on YouTube.

Just as Gen-Z members are early-starters who value recommendations from peers when making their own brand / product choices, Halifax may well be hoping that its teenage vloggers will deliver more and more financially educated young customers, and whole brand-loyal families. The 3 vloggers have talked about many topics from fashion to politics, and now, they will create educational videos about money management and offer tips, advice, and guidance to more than 55,000 of their subscribers.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Many businesses face the challenge of communicating effectively with (and selling to) young customers. Many young people spend a lot of time online, and much of that on social media. Harnessing the power of social media is now an important aspect of business communications. Finding ways to encourage young people to share social media messages (and videos) requires an understanding of the buyer behaviour of that group, a campaign that is ethical, genuinely interesting and value-adding, supports and feeds into an existing product / service, and one that can generate good PR. Clearly, The Halifax has done its homework in a campaign that could generate more, educated, loyal customers by talking to them using their own voice, and by making it easier for families to talk about money with each other. Time will tell however what the real ROI on this idea is, but for the moment it is generating some good PR for The Halifax’s young persons’ banking services.

MoneySuperMarket Fined For Sending Emails

The Information Commissioner’s Office has fined MoneySuperMarket £80,000 for sending 7 million emails to former subscribers who had already opted out of receiving communications from the company.

What Happened?

It has been reported that MoneySuperMarket sent 7.1 million emails over 10 days between 30th November and 10th December 2016 to people who had once been subscribers, but had already opted out of receiving direct marketing correspondence from the price comparison website. This was reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) which then fined MoneySuperMarket £80,000. The company confirmed to the ICO that out of the 7.1m emails sent, 6.7m were received by former subscribers.

Against The Law

According to the ICO, in this case, MoneySuperMarket broke the law and received the fine because they sent direct marketing messages ‘dressed up’ as legitimate updates people who had opted out of receiving all / any kind of communications anyway.

Disclaimer

The ICO also found a disclaimer section in MoneySuperMarket’s email which stated that since MoneySuperMarket held the subscriber’s email address, it could still send marketing communications to them.

MoneySuperMarket also stated that even though the subscriber had already opted out of receiving communication, the email was a chance for them to ‘reconsider’ receiving future marketing messages by clicking a link to start receiving emails again.

Both ideas were found by the ICO to be against the law, particularly the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), which sits alongside the Data Protection Act.

No Means No

By imposing a hefty fine on MoneySuperMarket, the ICO has made very clear that when people choose to not receive direct marketing anymore, in the eyes of the law, no means no, and under no circumstances should organisations keep sending communications. Using another email to ask people to ‘reconsider’ is also not a viable (or legal) tactic because the person has opted out of all communications.

Fine For Morrisons

Last month, the ICO imposed a fine of £10,500 on grocery supermarket Morrisons when it sent out a chain of more than 200,000 emails to customers who had already chosen to opt out from their direct marketing. The ICO has made it clear that in the light of both the Morrisons and MoneySuperMarket incident, they will continue to take action against companies that choose to ignore or act in ignorance of the law.

Smaller Fine For Early Payment

MoneySuperMarket has been instructed to pay the £80,000 by 17 August 2017. If the company pays the fine early, however, the fine will be reduced to £64,000. If the company uses its right to appeal the matter, the discount will be revoked.

In the meantime, a spokesperson for the company has already issued an open apology, stating that MoneySuperMarket takes the protection of its customers’ data and privacy very seriously, and that measures will be out in place to stop anything like it happening again.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Direct marketing and communicating with subscribers is an area that is governed by law, and it is, therefore, not open to creative interpretation of any kind. This case is a reminder of the fact that ‘no means no’ when subscribers choose the opt-out option, and companies should make sure that they are clear on at least the basic aspects of the law before undertaking direct marketing.

The introduction of GDPR next year will mean that businesses will need to re-visit how they manage their direct marketing because, for example, businesses need to be very careful around the area of consent to process data as failure to meet the new standards could mean the need to alter consent mechanisms, seek fresh GDPR-compliant consent from subscribers, or find an alternative to consent.

The PCI Security Standards Council warned UK businesses last year that failing to comply with GDPR could see them facing fines of up to €20m or 4% of annual worldwide turnover, whichever is greatest for data breaches. These kinds of fines far exceed the current £500,000 maximum fine. This is particularly worrying since a survey by PwC back in September 2016 showed for example, that 98% of organisations had no idea what they were going to do to ensure GDPR compliance.

Your Latest IT News Update

AI Growth – A Risk To Human Civilisation

In a recent meeting with the National Governors Association, the US bi-partisan body dealing with state and national public policy and governance, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk reportedly described ‘Artificial Intelligence’ (AI) as a “fundamental risk to the existence of civilisation.”

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Age Checks To View Porn To Be Compulsory

The Digital Economy Act, which comes into force in nine months, will mean that those trying to view pornography on any commercial website or online platform available people in the UK could face a compulsory age check.

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Paid Content ‘Fast Lanes’ Possible As US Rules May Be Removed

The possible scrapping of a 2015 net neutrality order in the US has led to a group of major technology firms, including Alphabet Inc and Facebook, challenging the U.S. Federal Communications Commission on the grounds that it could lead to paid “fast lanes” for web content.

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Australia To Introduce Own Version of ‘Snooper’s Charter’

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is reportedly seeking to introduce a law that will force technology companies to give law enforcement agencies access to encrypted messages.

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Samsung Phones Recycled For Gold & Other Precious Metals

An announcement on the Korean website of Samsung indicates that it plans to recover and re-use components, and recycle precious materials from its stock of Galaxy Note 7 smartphones, the production of which was stopped last October after incidents of some phones catching fire.

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Tech Tip: Stop Default Microsoft Edge

In Windows 10, the Microsoft Edge Browser has a habit of trying to open everything as the default app. You can stop this from happening.

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Tech Tip: Stop Default Microsoft Edge

In Windows 10, the Microsoft Edge Browser has a habit of trying to open everything as the default app.

To stop this, and to be able to re-assign your own defaults for many different services and applications:

  • Open Settings and go to System.
  • Find “Default Apps” (near the bottom of the options list).
  • Choose / re-assign your defaults from the list, and even assign them by the type of file they open.