Archive for News and Events

How Your Phone Can Depress You

Research by Nottingham Trent University has revealed that mobile phone alerts can have a negative impact on your mood, especially if they’re work-related and or non-human notifications.

App Research

The research, which was carried out to study the way people interact with the notifications on their phone and how they impact mood, was conducted by using an app called NotiMind which participants downloaded to their phones. The app collected details about the phone’s digital notifications, plus information about each participant’s self-reported moods at different points in the day over a five-week period, and involved the sending of half a million notifications.

Findings

The collected data showed that one-third of the participants suffered negative effects on their mood from their phone notifications, such as feeling hostile, upset, nervous, afraid or ashamed.

Most Negative

Phone notifications which related to non-human activity e.g. Wi-Fi availability and the working of the phone itself were found to be the ones that had the biggest negative impact on someone’s mood. Not surprisingly, work-related alerts (especially when several arrived) ranked a close second when measuring negative moods.

Why Negative?

The researchers noted that the disruption, distraction, and competition for attention that phone notifications bring, as well as the source (e.g. work-related) are contributors to negative feelings in recipients.

Most Positive

Those notifications which had the most beneficial effect on moods were found to be messages from friends, especially when several of these notifications arrived at once. Friend-related notifications were found to create a sense of belonging and feelings of connection to a social group in the recipients.

Emojis Help

Another interesting finding of the research was that the inclusion of emoji characters in notifications was found to lift the mood of recipients. This is particularly significant for the world’s fastest growing language in all forms of communications because they transcend traditional language barriers, and they help to quickly and easily communicate the emotional content of a message.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Most of us now have smart-phones, and the many apps compete for our attention, and the many different kinds of notifications that we receive privately during the course of our day at work disrupt our work and affect our moods. This means that modern businesses are likely to be affected by more constant and low-level disruption than in the past due to notifications and workers responding and reacting to them (often putting work aside to do so). It is also important to remember that being connected to (and being able to deal with) general life matters (without having to take time off to do so) can have a positive effect on workers.

In terms of how businesses communicate with their staff, customers and other stakeholders, this research could be valuable in terms of helping to structure notifications so that they will be received in a positive way. For example, knowing the best time of day to send notifications, not sending too many in a short time, linking messages to social / human subjects, and including emojis could help businesses to communicate in a more beneficial way with their public.

Are You Unwittingly Making Crypto-Currency?

Scammers are secretly installing ‘mining code’ in websites so that they can use the computers of website visitors to help them generate digital cash or ‘crypto-currencies’.

What’s Happening?

Hackers are operating a popular scam which involves installing ‘mining script’ code such as Coin Hive into multiple web pages without the knowledge of the website owners. The scammer then gets multiple computers to join their networks so that the combined computing power will enable them to solve mathematical problems. Whichever scammer is first to solve these problems is then able to claim / generate cash in the form of crypto-currency.

If, for example, a website is able to get one million visitors a month, and if the Coin Hive Web Miner for Monero (XMR) is used, it could generate an income of £88 in the Monero crypto-currency.

What Is Coin Hive?

Coin Hive is crypto-currency mining software written in Javascript, which sends any coins mined by the browser to the owner of the web site. If you visit a website where it is being used (embedded in the web page), you may notice that power consumption and CPU usage on your browser will increase, and your computer will start to lag and become unresponsive. These slowing, lagging symptoms will end when you leave the web page.

Cloud Being Used

There are reports that this crypto-currency mining scam is now being extended to target cloud-based computing services. If hackers are able to break into a cloud account they can harness a huge amount of computing power and use multiple machines to try and generate more income.

With cloud billing services making it hard to detect the scam before it is too late, victims can be left with large bills for servers that hackers have been using for their coin mining.

Measures Being Taken

Many different measures are now being taken by companies and organisations to stop the surreptitious use of mining including:

  • Researchers in Illinois are developing a monitoring system that can spot the signs of mining software e.g. the increased activity in processors when working out the complicated maths problems. The researchers are working with a cloud company with a view to deploying it in their network, and have plans to extend the system to personal computers.
  • Government officials the Crimean council have reportedly been sacked for using mining software on government computers.
  • The creators of the FiveM add-on for the video game GTA (Grand Theft Auto) V have released an update which stops people from being able to add miners to their code.
  • Security service Cloudflare has suspended the accounts of some customers suspected of using mining scripts.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The increased CPU usage and slowing down of computers caused by mining scripts waste time and money for businesses. There are some simple measures that your business can take to avoid being exploited as part of this scam.

If, for example, you are using an ad blocker on your computer, you can set it to block one specific JavaScript URL which is https://coinhive.com/lib/miner.min.js . This will stop the miner from running without stopping you from using any of the websites that you normally visit.

Also, a dedicated browser extension called ‘No Coin’ is available for Chrome, Firefox and Opera. This will stop the Coin Hive mining code being used through your browser. This extension comes with a white-list and an option to pause the extension should you wish to do so.

Coin Hive’s developers have also said that they would like people to report any malicious use of Coin Hive to them.

Maintaining vigilance for unusual computer symptoms, keeping security patches updated, and raising awareness within your company of current scams and what to do to prevent them, are just some of the ways that you could maintain a basic level of protection for your business.

Legal Threat From GDPR

Speaking at the recent IP Expo in London, Irwin Mitchell solicitors warned businesses that focusing too much on consent as a basis for data collection could mean that they miss other options and issues, and leave themselves open to the risk of fines from the UK regulator when GDPR comes into force next year.

Consent

One of the key areas highlighted by the speaker from Irwin Mitchell was the fact that obtaining consent will be far more difficult under GDPR, and that the stricter rules around the gathering of consent with GDPR could mean that companies that rely on it entirely face the risk fines.

Under GDPR, businesses will need to demonstrate that they have a basis for transferring and processing user data i.e. ensuring that they have ‘legitimate interests’ i.e. showing that they are using data for legitimate business purposes and that no privacy rules are being breached.

What About Consent?

Consent where gathering and using personal data is concerned is a notoriously complicated legal area.

When the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force next year businesses will need ‘explicit consent’ to legitimate certain forms of data processing. GDPR will essentially make a number of other changes to the way in which organisations will have to gain consent.

Consent under GDPR will have to be unbundled i.e. consent requests are separate from other terms and conditions, granular (a thorough explanation of options to consent must be given), named (state which organisation and third parties will be relying on consent), and documented (keeping records of how consent was gained).

Consent will also have to be easy to withdraw, and this means that if companies focus too much first on the consent aspect of GDPR as a legal basis for using personal data, it may be at the expense of other options, and could leave them open to legal risks that they had missed.

Complications For Businesses

Some of the complications that could lead to some businesses being open to legal threats are that:

  • Under GDPR implied consent will disappear.
  • Terms and conditions can no longer be used as a catch-all.
  • Businesses that rely to some degree on consent as a legal basis will need to redraft their forms to make them compliant.
  • Many current marketing consents are not clear enough, and companies will need to sort through them, make sure they are compliant, and refresh them every two years.

Revealed Gap

For many businesses, trying to prepare for GDPR has revealed just how far behind they have been with data protection practices anyway, and many are still trying to find data that they should have been securing for years. With the clock ticking, compliance is a daunting challenge.

Focusing On The Wrong Things

Some GDPR commentators have pointed out that many companies have been focusing on the wrong things in their preparations for GDPR because they don’t understand the real legal risks.

For many businesses, there needs to be (and there hasn’t been) enough of a focus on the use of technology in their preparations in order to be realistically compliant in time.

Businesses are also not in a position of to see the day-to-day cases in which EU regulators are forming a point of view on data protection.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

There is now a pervading view that although the legal profession understands many of the ins and outs of consent, and the other important legal matters relating to GDPR, many businesses do not, and there is likely to be a quantum of illegality into May 2018 and beyond.

The whole area of what is meant by consent is so complicated and carries so many new obligations that data controllers should concentrate first on looking at other legal grounds as an alternative to consent.

Businesses could help their own preparations by focusing on how they can use technology to achieve compliance in time for GDPR, but may need to seek the current best legal information and advice to make sure that they are aware of, and are covered for the worst legal risks.

Google’s DeepMind To Monetize AI

After years of astonishing AI developments and expensive R & D and staffing bills, Google now plans to finally monetize its DeepMind AI by embedding it into a host of Google products and services.

Losing Money

Up until now, the expense of AI development work by DeepMind has meant big annual losses. Last year, for example, it made a loss of £94 million, which was partly due to the hiring of experienced and highly specialised technical staff to work its AI development and research.

The hope and intention is, of course, that the AI developments made by DeepMind will pay back with improved products and services and new business opportunities that will generate more revenue in the not-too-distant future.

What is DeepMind?

DeepMind is Google’s London-based artificial intelligence (AI) company which it purchased in 2014 for $400 million. It has been engaged in developing AI with a view to improving Google’s products and services with it, and to help in the battle for voice first AI dominance against competitors like Microsoft and Amazon (Cortana and Alexa). For example:

  • Improving Google’s voice-controlled virtual assistant ‘The Google Assistant’ in order to make it sound more natural in products such as the new Google Home Mini.
  • Developing the algorithm WaveNet, a network for producing better and more realistic-sounding speech. Originally it was thought to be too computationally intensive to work in consumer products (and therefore to be effectively monetized), but work by DeepMind over the last 12 months has improved the speed and quality.

WaveNet is now reported to be 1000 time faster, capable of running at scale, and is, therefore, the first product to launch on Google’s latest Tensor Processing Units (TPU) cloud infrastructure (used to accelerate a wide range of machine learning workloads, including both training and inference).

According to the DeepMind blog, the updated version of WaveNet can generate Google Assistant voices for US English and Japanese across all platforms, thus rendering it more likely to make money for Google.

Ethics Perspective

As well as worrying about how to best make money out of the expensive work on AI, DeepMind is also aware that simply advancing AI and developing ever more powerful algorithms without considering the possibility of hyper-intelligent machines turning on humans would be a mistake, and more than just commercial suicide.

In a recent meeting with the US National Governors Association, for example, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk reportedly described ‘Artificial Intelligence’ (AI) as a “fundamental risk to the existence of civilisation.”

With that in mind, DeepMind has set up ‘Ethics and Society’ which is essentially an ethics committee to look at the real-world impacts of AI with the aim of helping technologists put ethics into practice and helping society at large understand the potential effects of AI.

‘Ethics and Society’ is able to draw upon the input of a number of expert ‘fellows’ including Nick Bostrom of Oxford University’s Future Humanity Institute and Strategic Artificial Research Centre.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

AI-based, voice-controlled virtual assistants are now popular in-home devices such as the Amazon Echo, and in the Windows 10 operating system. As one of the really big tech company market leaders, Google, of course, needs to be able to compete in that market segment, but the full benefits of Google’s DeepMind work and investment not have been realised yet. After such a large R & D investment, it is understandable that Google now wants the DeepMind project to start paying back by incorporating AI in (and thereby adding value to) existing and new products and services.

The fast development of AI has brought important and real-world concerns about the growth of automation, the changes it will bring to the labour market, and the other potential threats that it could pose.

Most businesses are likely to be affected by some aspect of automation e.g. software or mechanical, in the near future, either themselves directly or via suppliers and stakeholders.

There is, of course, the threat that intelligent machines could be a danger to humans if AI is not properly regulated, but a more immediate threat is likely to be the threat that AI-based automation poses to traditional jobs. There is an inevitability that AI and robotics will alter what jobs look like in the future, but it is also important also to remember that they could provide huge advantages and opportunities for businesses.

Regulation of the growth of AI, and keeping a close eye on the ethical aspects of it are sensible measures, and 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 automation and what kind of 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.

Crackdown On Tax Payments By Online Businesses

The European Commission is using the rulings of two cases involving Apple and Amazon, and reforming the way VAT is collected to make sure that all online businesses pay their taxes.

The Apple & Amazon Cases

The rulings on cases involving Apple’s operations in Ireland, and Amazon’s in Luxemburg are to be used to close loopholes for those multinational companies operating in Europe and seeking to allocate profits to entities not (directly) involved in the provision of the goods or services to which the profits relate, as a means of reducing the amount of corporation tax they pay.

Countries Accused

There have also been accusations that governments appeared to have allowed the companies to channel their profits through companies that existed mainly for tax arrangements from which they stood to benefit.

Apple

In Apple’s case, last year the Irish government was ordered to retrieve €13 billion in back taxes by the EC (the European Union’s antitrust and competition watchdog). The EC has now taken the Irish government to court for failing to recover the money from Apple, thereby firing a warning shot to other multinationals that they’re not going to let companies (however powerful) off the hook when it comes to taxes owed. The tax bill for Apple is equivalent to 5% of its cash reserve / one quarter’s global profit, so could be enough to have an effect.

Amazon

In Amazon’s case, the EC ordered Luxembourg’s government to recover $250 million from Amazon because Amazon’s reduced tax bill was deemed to be ‘illegal state aid’. This amount equates to a little over the global profit for the last quarter, and is, therefore, a significant amount for Amazon.

VAT Changes

The EC has also moved to close more loopholes where VAT is concerned. These moves could create a proposed new, unified system of value-added tax (VAT) collection across the EU. This could stop companies from ‘jurisdiction shopping’ to pay the lowest rates, and it is estimated that it could help governments recover VAT of up to €150 billion a year (including €50 billion lost to fraud). With this scheme in place, governments in countries where purchases are made could receive revenue, and (cross border) businesses would know the right amount of tax to pay and collect, and could have their compliance costs reduces. The proposed VAT changes, however, are unlikely to be introduced until 2022.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

These moves and the very public announcement of them last week are clearly designed to send a message to all companies, online or offline, in whichever country their tax liability actually lays, they will be expected to pay their taxes in the EU for sales made in the EU from now on. The fact that the EC has challenged huge corporations and whole countries shows that it is serious.

Hopefully, the proposed new VAT changes will be less complicated and costly for small businesses than the Commission’s last attempt to simplify EU cross-border VAT collection with the mini one-stop shop” in 2014.

It is possible to see why, for the benefit of their economies, countries like Ireland may have been reluctant to go after Apple for the money, but for many people, seeing big corporations (with big profits) being held to account like other businesses, the EC’s announcements and actions have a positive aspect to them.

The Commission now has to make sure that the proposed changes help all online businesses not just multinationals like Apple and Amazon that can afford expert help with their tax advice.

Augmented Reality Maps

The Ordnance Survey augmented reality (OS) Maps app will allow users to see signs identifying UK landmarks in the area they’re looking at through their phone or tablet’s camera view.

Augmented Reality Maps

The new version of the OS Maps app uses ‘augmented reality’ which is the technology that can allow the real-world view to have other computer-generated or extracted real-world sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data superimposed on it.

The augmented reality aspect is an update to the current app which uses GPS to show users exactly where they are, records their route, and offers them the option to choose a map type from standard overview map, 1: 50k (Landranger), 1: 25k (Explorer) or aerial imagery.

No Phone Signal Needed

Even though the new augmented reality app works on smart phones, it does not need a phone signal, and is, therefore, practical for use in remote places. If users do operate with a data connection, pressing on a label gives the users additional local area information with routes, places to stay and local images from GetOutside.

Using Phones For Navigation

The app is thought to be particularly useful and convenient because many people now use their smart-phones for navigation, and it is part of an app that operates on the user’s existing mobile device.

Where Can You Use It?

The new app is able to operate in 200,000 locations throughout the UK.

Features Identified

The kinds of geographical features that the app displays labels and useful text information about include hills and mountains, lakes, coastal features, woodland, and transport hubs.

Wider Perspective

The app addresses the challenge posed by small phone screen sizes by showing what is on the horizon.

Safer With Paper?

Despite the convenience and practicality of the app, the Digital Product Manager at Ordnance Survey has been quick to point out that, for safety reasons, it is still recommended that people carry a paper map when outside (because they don’t rely on batteries).

Where To Buy?

The app is free to subscribers of OS Maps (exclusively for Premium Users). For non-subscribers, it can be purchased from the OS online shop for £19.99 and then downloaded from Apple iTunes or Google Play.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Augmented reality ideas such as this could provide all kinds of opportunities for businesses involved in tourism and tours e.g. cities, holiday / historic / tourist locations, travel and tour companies, galleries). Other opportunities could be in design e.g. allowing consumers to view how a retailer’s virtual furniture looks in their room before they buy.

Augmented reality could also provide business opportunities in education and teaching and anywhere that information about culture and the environment is needed in a fast, convenient and portable form (handheld AR equipment).

There are also military applications for AR such as the Heads-Up Display (HUD) used by ground troops, and there are medical uses e.g. to practice surgery in a controlled environment.

Businesses may also be able to use AR for advertising and promotional purposes e.g. apps designed to display information about (and offers relating to) restaurants, shops, and other businesses in the local area of a user.

In short, we are still at the beginning of the AR revolution, and the technology offers businesses and other organisations opportunities that are limited only by the imagination.

Tech Tip: Android Phone: Snap A Screenshot

If you see something on the screen of your android phone that you want to save and share, there’s an easy way to do it.

  • Press your phone’s power and volume-down buttons at the same time to capture a screenshot.
  • Share via the notification that appears on your device or via the “Screenshots” folder within Google Photos (or any other gallery app or Android file browser).

UK Moves To Subscription Economy

A recent YouGov survey of more than 2,000 people in the UK, sponsored by subscription software firm Zuora has revealed that the average monthly spend by UK adults on subscription services of all kinds has tripled in the past year.

Why?

A challenging global economy, fierce competition, disruption and changes across many industry sectors, the need to reduce costs and combat piracy (e.g. of software), and the effect of consumers getting used to using their mobile devices to sign up for what they want, when they want (and switch just as easily), plus a shift towards apps and the ease on online payment systems are some of the contributors to what has become a challenge to customer loyalty and retention.

This has meant that businesses have been forced to move away from a product-centric mentality, and to try and create long-term brand affinity based around flexible subscription-based services. This, in turn, has meant that the ‘subscription economy’ has become a reality for many of us.

What Kinds of Subscriptions?

Businesses are now offering a vast range of subscription-based services including:

  • Software – Software as a Service (SaaS) models are now commonplace (no more sending out CDs).
  • Magazines, newspapers and journals – subscription-based services offer huge cost savings, convenience, and environmental benefits in this sector.
  • Cars – car makers are now providing services where customers pay to use cars rather than buying them outright.
  • Healthcare – medical and dental services.
  • Online data storage services – e.g. Google Drive and Dropbox.
  • Telecoms – for example, Norway’s state-owned operator Telenor offers a subscription-based service for businesses trying to use IoT access to technology.
  • Airlines – Surf Air, for example, is offering a subscription-based service in Europe whereby, for a monthly charge (and an initial membership fee), customers can subscribe and receive unlimited flights.
  • Grocery shopping services – now have nearly 2 million UK subscribers.
  • In-car apps – now have 650,000 subscribers in the UK.
  • Beauty and grooming – this includes subscriptions for men’s shaving service, Harry’s, which now has more than 1.3 million UK monthly subscribers.

The Figures

The report shows that a staggering 58 million UK shoppers now subscribe to services, and UK consumers now spend 12% of their monthly disposable income on subscription services. This means that the UK adult population is now spending an average £56 per month on subscription services. 35–54 year-olds are spending the most at £62 every month on their subscriptions, although spending has risen across all age groups and isn’t confined to just millennials.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Consumers in the UK now have a clear preference for on-demand, personalised, and subscription-based access to services. The subscription-business model has officially gone mainstream, and in order to compete effectively, retain as well as gain customers, and to protect customer and brand loyalty, businesses need to look seriously at how they can take advantage of this opportunity by shifting and transforming their business models so that they are in-line with the subscription economy that consumers are buying so heavily into.

One other interesting finding in the report is that a quarter of the UK population predict that they will be subscribing to even more services over the next five years. This should flag-up the importance for UK businesses to look now at how they can best position themselves to get a piece of the subscription pie in what appears to be a trend that is set to continue.

E-Currency A Real Possibility For Sweden

A year after launching an investigation into the viability of introducing an e-currency, Sweden’s central bank looks likely to introduce the ‘e-krona’ as a government-guaranteed means of payment and a digital complement to cash.

Why?

In November last year, Sweden’s central Riksbank, which had been the first to issue paper banknotes in the 1660s, reported a massive drop in the use of cash with the amount of notes and coins in circulation having fallen by 40% since 2009. This trend among the general population, coupled with the increasing digitisation of banking services, forced Riksbank to decide on exploring the real possibility of introducing the ekrona within two years.

Sweden’s Riksbank, like other central banks, currently provides electronic money through accounts to banks and clearing organisations, but only provides central bank money to individuals in the form of notes and coins.

The plan now, therefore, is to create a proposal for the digital currency, and then, in 2018, to explore more of the detail about any regulatory challenges, and about how an e-currency system for all could function in practice in the country.

Issues

Among the many issues that the central bank and the government are considering in drawing up their proposals for the possible introduction of the digital currency, is the potential vulnerability of a cashless society in the case of a systemic failure, due to a digital payments market being in the hands of only a small number of commercial players, payment services and infrastructures (as is currently the case in Sweden).

Other issues, such as how the ever-declining use of cash in Sweden will affect society (and certain groups within it), and the infrastructure, and what could happen when there is no central bank money in society, are all being considered.

How Would It Work?

It is currently envisioned that the e-krona could be used for small payments between consumers and companies and could be made available via an account or through an app or card.

The advantages of having the e-krona are cost savings, convenience, accessibility (24 hours a day, seven days a week), and the fact that it would be risk-free because it would still be linked directly to the central bank.

Not New

Digital currencies are not new. The most well known digital crypto-currency ‘Bitcoin’ has seen a large rise in value in recent years, and despite having a ban placed on trading in the currency 2 weeks ago in the Chinese markets (as a way for the Chinese government to gain some control over it), has rallied round and recovered its initial 8% drop in value.

Unlike the proposed e-krona, however, Bitcoin is not linked to any banks, and is generally used by companies, organisations, banks, and investors rather than by individuals (1 Bitcoin = £3238.86).

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For businesses, handling cash can be costly and time-consuming, and for consumers, the introduction of contactless payments (the closest thing we have to digital currency) has proved to be very convenient and easy to use. In July, for example, Browns of Brockley, an independent café in east-London become the UK’s latest small business to go completely cashless, preferring instead to take just (mainly contactless) card payments. This move was actually inspired by the owner’s visit to Sweden, and his positive experiences in the near cashless society where he reported that he didn’t have to withdraw money once.

Cash is also declining in use in the UK, and the prospect of digital currencies that could be used by all (not just large organisations or banks) could be a win-win situation for consumers and UK businesses, particularly small businesses. Digital currencies could be a way to help business to ultimately increase efficiency and boost profits.

In the case of Bitcoin, for larger businesses and organisations (and investors) it offers the benefits of freedom from the constraints and controls of banks, speed, convenience and accessibility (borderless, day or night). This kind of currency and its underlying technology (Blockchain) look set to make its easier to do large-scale business in the not-too-distant future.

Google’s Shopping Ads Change

After receiving a €2.42 billion fine from the European Commission back in June, Google is now letting other comparison shopping services (rather than just its own Google Shopping) place ads at the top of its search results.

What Happened?

Back in June, Google was deemed to have broken EU antitrust rules, and was handed the EC regulator’s largest fine to date for distorting the market by promoting its own shopping comparison service at the top of its own search engine results, and thereby demoting competitors’ shopping service adds.

Google was given a 3 month deadline to put things right, or face paying 5% of its parent company Alphabet’s average daily worldwide earnings, which could amount to an estimated $14m a day. Google must also submit a report on its compliance with the EC’s ruling every four months.

Prior to the decision to fine Google, it was reported that the company disagreed with the EC’s findings, and had argued that Amazon and eBay exerted more influence over the public’s spending habits.

Changes

Google is now reported to have made changes to how its search engine results to comply with the EC’s ruling. These changes are reported to include:

  • Comparison shopping services being given the same opportunity to show shopping ads from merchants on Google’s Search results pages as are given to Google Shopping.
  • Google Shopping operating as though it were a separate business in order to create greater equality in search engine results.
  • The foot of adverts will now visibly identify the comparison shopping service via which the ad arrived, as well as the merchant concerned.

The changes will initially affect shopping ads in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K.

Criticism

Critics of Google’s announcement that it has changed things to make it fairer for advertisers in response to the ruling have been quick to say that Google may, in fact, profit from the ruling by being able to charge comparison shopping sites for expensive ad slots when the sites used to appear for free in organic search results.

Also, some commentators have suggested that Google could impose penalties on comparison shopping sites that got it into trouble with the Commission, and that Google should simply let its search engine crawl, index, and rank comparison shopping results in the same way that it does other web pages.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Some see this whole situation as a political move at a time where there has been mounting anxiety in European capitals about the influence that the US giant companies known as ‘Gafa’ – Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon – have on our lives. This has been amplified by the deterioration in European / US trade relations since the start of the Trump administration.

It has to be said though that it is quite an unusual situation anyway whereby the company displaying the adverts to so many people around the world has a less than transparent system for doing so (using its own essentially secret algorithms). Simply because of the sheer volume of adverts that Google sells and displays, having to change the system even slightly in a relatively short time frame may have had a negative impact on Google’s profits. Some commentators have also pointed out, however, that the large fine that Google was given could actually have been twice as large.