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Jul
12

In March this year, Facebook released a tool called “Why am I seeing this?”, which allowed users to take a deeper look at the ads they were being shown and the reason they were being targeted.

The service was created in response to the public outcry following events like the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which raised concerns about the abuse of user data by giant tech companies and the lack of privacy that it entails.

Today, Facebook has announced that it's further improved the tool, claiming to have increased the amount of transparency offered overall. This includes much more intricate detail on the reason for being targeted, a clearer list of the companies that own and sell your data, and a direct link to a page where you can change your targeting preferences, including the ability to opt out entirely in certain instances.

So... why am I seeing this?

The feature is relatively easy to access. When you notice an ad in your Facebook feed, clicking on the three dots in the top right corner of it allows you to access a “Why am I seeing this?” screen.

Previously, this area would show you one or two reasons for the ad being targeted at you. The reasons given were often rather vague, perhaps pointing out that you’re in an appropriate demographic to be targeted, or that you had visited the website of the product being advertised.

With the update, the list of reasons will reportedly be more specific and complete, offering up particular details, such as the pages that you have liked or interests that you have listed, and how this has influenced the targeting.

This improved page will also show you exactly where this information came from and gives you more direct controls for either hiding ads from this source or adjusting the control this advertiser has.

A brief video courtesy of Facebook demonstrates the updated "Why am I seeing this?" tab.

How do I opt out?

Despite the apparent improvements to the clarity of these options, it’s still a rather labyrinthine process to access the settings, although once you have navigated to the appropriate page, the details on offer are more thorough. 

In order to view which marketing companies and data brokers have your information and are selling it to advertisers, head to Settings > Ads > Advertisers and Businesses > “Who have uploaded and shared a list with your info”.

This shows you a list of all the companies with your personal data, from which point you can select ‘View details’ on each one and, for those users that have received the update, open the ‘Privacy options’ tab and opt out.

While the update is now live, it isn’t yet available to everyone. Facebook hasn’t explicitly stated when it will become available to every user, but it's expected to slowly roll out in full over the coming weeks.


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Jul
12

It seems Amazon isn’t the only company who hires people to eavesdrop on conversations you have with your voice assistant – Google has now been caught out doing the same thing, too.

Belgian broadcaster VRT NWS has reported that Google hires contractors to listen and transcribe audio recordings of users talking to Google Assistant, either via a smart speaker or their phones.

One such contractor provided the broadcaster with over 1,000 recordings for an investigation into the transcription process. It was found that many of the recordings included identifiable personal details of users, while 153 conversations were seemingly recorded by accident, as the wake command of “OK Google” or “Hey Google” wasn’t used to trigger the digital assistant.

According to the report, Google employs thousands of contractors around the world to transcribe Assistant conversations, although they all use a secure login to access the recordings via the company’s Crowdsource app.

You can watch the original report, with English subtitles, in the video below.

In Google’s defense

Although it's no secret Google collects user data and stores recorded conversations with Assistant, the company has not previously disclosed the fact that humans also listen to some of these interactions.

After VRT NWS broke the news, Google published a blog post defending the practice, stating that the system is necessary to learn more about user behavior and to improve Assistant’s algorithms and customer experience. Hiring people from around the world means the company’s “speech technology works for a wide variety of languages, accents and dialects”, thus “[enabling] products like the Google Assistant to understand your request, whether you’re speaking English or Hindi”.

According to Google, contractors listen to only 0.2% of all audio clips and none are “associated with user accounts”. Moreover, transcribers are instructed “not to transcribe background conversations or other noises, and only to transcribe snippets that are directed to Google”.

Google also says there are “a number of protections in place to prevent false accepts from occurring”, which is when Assistant is triggered accidentally by “some noise or words in the background”.

A contractor leaking audio clips to a news outlet, Google says, is a violation of its data security policies. The incident is being investigated by the company, and it says action will be taken against the leaker. Google is also reviewing the policies it has in place for its transcribers “to prevent misconduct like this from happening again”.


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Jul
11

As the proprietor of the Steam Store, it’s Valve’s job to help you find the games you’re looking for – a job that’s easier starting today with the introduction of three new experimental features that are part of Valve’s new Steam Labs collection. 

In more or less words, Steam Labs is a collection of new experimental features that Valve wants to test before rolling it out to everyone with Steam installed on their computer. 

The three features released today are called Micro Trailers, Interactive Recommender and Automatic Show. Micro Trailers is pretty self-explanatory and will show you short six-second clips of games on the Steam Store, while the Automatic Show compiles a bunch of trailers from Steam’s most popular games and shows them to you in one oversized, 25-minute sizzle trailer.

Interactive Recommender is probably the most interesting of the experimental features Valve released today as it allows you to play around with Steam’s recommendation algorithm. You can change the algorithm to show you more of what’s popular or more niche, allowing you to find some games that might not have otherwise floated to the top of your recommended games list. 

All the features are available to test out starting today and, if all goes well, could potentially become part of the main Steam app sometime down the road.


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Jul
11

Want to watch Love Island online? We don't blame you, the UK's guilty summer TV pleasure has come back big. With all of the classic bits from last year - sexy dancing challenges, people 'cracking on' and back-stabbing galore, Love Island is back in full swing.

With the likes of semi-famous contestants (here comes Tommy Fury!), some emotional break-ups and somehow the most popular islander being a stuffed elephant - this season has been full of twists that mean you need to watch Love Island online.

Returning daily (with the exclusion of Saturday) at 9pm BST, the days of piling around the TV for summer dating drama are back. Whether you're a Love Island devotee who's been patiently counting down the days since last year's bout of strange dating rituals, or someone new to this phenomenon (oh boy are you in for a treat!) this is the place to be to find out everything you need to know about this year's viewing times.

Last year ran for a mind-boggling 59 days, leaving contestants Jack Fincham and Danny Dyer's daughter...Dani Dyer victorious and the proud winners of £50,000. This year's show is expected to run for eight weeks but who knows what plot twists lie ahead, you'll just have to watch Love Island online to find out.

So if you're ready to watch Love Island 2019 online and all you need is the location and time, scroll down to see how to watch the dating show of the year! Whether you're in the UK or badly timed a holiday, we've got the low-down for where to watch it.

How to watch Love Island online for free in the UK:

If you're going to be in the UK the whole time the show is on then watching it couldn't be easier. Simply gather around with your friends and families at 9pm Monday to Friday each week to watch the excessively tanned battle it out for money. Each episode airs at 9pm BST on ITV2 (or 10pm on ITV2+1).

But if you would rather watch Love Island online you can easily catch it via the ITV website or watch it on your mobile devices via the ITV Hub app which you can download here for Android and here for your iPhone or iPad.

The other way to watch ITV online is to go via TVPlayer.com - we actually prefer this option as the stream tends to be better quality and more robust. It's also a faster site, more responsive and quicker to get up and running with. It's still free and legal, too.

How to watch Love Island online from outside the country

If you’re from the UK and have planned a holiday while the show is on then clearly you're not very dedicated to Love Island! But don’t worry as we can help you avoid any annoying geo-blocking allowing you and your friends to catch Love Island on your holiday. By using a VPN, you can change your IP address to one in the UK which will allow you to stream the event using your ITV account. Keep reading and we’ll show you how.

  • Stateside? Check out the very best US VPN services


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Jul
11
Amazon Prime Day 2019: UK deals live now ahead of the 48-hour event
Posted by Brendan Griffiths on 11 July 2019 03:56 PM

Amazon Prime Day is held once a year and offers exclusive discounts to Amazon Prime members around the world. And this is year is set to be the biggest event yet and it kicks off in just four day's time.

Amazon Prime Day 2019 will take place July 15th-16th. That's right, we're getting an epic 48-hour sale this year - a significant upgrade over the 36 hours last year. So get ready for a huge number of Prime Day deals - some of which have already begun.

If you're not a Prime member yet, this is the best time of year to get it sorted as Amazon has just knocked £20 off the annual fee. Check out the full details of this limited-time deal.

Given summer can be a bit dry for deals, unless you want items for the garden at least, Prime Day is a fantastic opportunity for tech fans to pick up discounted bargains from their wish-list and enjoy them sooner rather than later. Black Friday is a long time away after all and sometimes the Prime Day deals are actually even better. 

You're in the right place to learn everything you need to know about Amazon Prime Day 2019. We'll tell you what deals to expect, what the best deals were last time and even what brilliant offers you can take advantage of right now as there are some early Amazon Prime Day deals appearing already. And if you want to get involved, we'll tell you how to sign up for Amazon Prime membership for free.

What is Amazon Prime Day

Amazon Prime Day is a summer sales event on Amazon websites around the world where members of Amazon Prime get exclusive discounts on a huge range of items. It's not just Amazon-branded items either (although they're amongst the best deals for sure), lots of other manufacturers and third-party merchants save their best deals for Prime Day too, knowing millions of extra shoppers will be hitting the online store.

Why does Amazon have Prime Day? Sure, it's a neat "thank you" for all it's paying members. A thank you that involves giving Amazon more money. It's a smart model to be honest. You need to either sign up for a free trial or be an existing member of Amazon Prime and people that keep the service either pay Amazon a monthly or annual fee giving Amazon a regular income source from them.

And it's no co-incidence the best deals are found on Amazon's items. Buy a Kindle and you're going to keep buying ebooks from Amazon. Buy a Fire TV Stick you're going to watch Prime Video (a great perk of membership) and maybe pay for the odd rental. Buy an Echo smart speaker and you're into the Alexa family and helping Amazon fight off competition from Google's rival Home devices.

How should I prepare for Amazon Prime Day?

Want to enjoy the best Prime Day deals? Then you have to be a member of Amazon Prime. If you've not been a member before, then our best advise is to sign up for a free 30-day trial. Given Prime Day is happening July 15th-16th, that free trial will last you right through the sale. 

You can totally cancel it anytime before the 30-day are up free of charge if you're not bothered about the other perks of membership like free access to loads of TV show and movie content on Prime Video, free Kindle books/magazines, member-only discounts and super fast delivery options.

We'd also advise setting yourself a sensible budget aside and doing your research on what sort of items you'd like to keep an eye out for. If you have been thinking of getting an Amazon product, TV, set of headphones, bluetooth speakers, robot vacuum cleaner or any sort of tech really, holding on for a Prime Day deal is a solid shout as we see great deals on these items every year. We're really not that far off now too. 

We've rounded up a list of our favourite Amazon Prime membership benefits. Take a look if you want to learn a bit more about what's on offer for Prime members throughout the year.

Amazon delivery

Image credit: Amazon

What deals are live right now?

Just because those Prime Day deals are a while off yet we're not waiting to bring you the best discounts. We've been able to dig out a few crackers already, it's what we do here every day after all. So here's a selection of the best deals we've seen at Amazon today. Stay tuned as we'll keep updating this page with the best discounts all the way until Prime big day itself.

Amazon even gave us an early Prime members-only deal to get us going when it officially announced the Prime Day dates. The original Echo Show is down to £79.99 from £179.99. It's for a refurbished model though. That's....not a particularly great start to be honest, Amazon. We think you're better off waiting for a Prime Day deal on the newer 2nd-gen Echo Show or maybe the smaller Echo Show 5 which we can see getting a tasty discount in the sale. 

We've had a look around on Amazon though, which of course has some super competitive deals going on throughout the year if you know where to look. These are our favourite pre-Prime Day deals you can buy right now.

When is Amazon Prime Day 2019?

Amazon Prime Day is July 15 and July 16, which makes the name a bit of a misnomer. No one is complaining about having a whole 48 hours to save money, though.

Amazon has steadily increased the time of its Prime Day sales year after year: it was 24 hours the first year, then 30 hours, and last year it was 36 hours. Now we're in for a whole 48 hours, starting from July 15th next month. 

And let's face it with the Amazon Black Friday deals event now lasting about a week, anything's possible. Except sleep apparently if you're a Deals Editor.

We'll be front and centre for the entire thing to ensure you can see the best deals as navigating the messy array of deals and discounts that can be a bit exhausting directly on Amazon's site. Fortunately, we're used to trawling for deals there every day and we usually learn of the best deals way in advance, giving us plenty of time to prepare coverage for you.

Image credit: Amazon

What were the best-selling Prime Day items last year?

The online behemoth's sales event of the summer was the biggest day of sales in its history last year, with over 89 million visits logged (10% more than in 2017). We can only see 2019 being even bigger.

Amazon sold over 100 million products around the world and over one million smart home devices – not just Amazon ones but Philips Hue lights, Hive thermostats and various manufacturers’ smart plugs. Prime Day was the biggest day ever for Echo devices, Fire tablets for kids, Kindle e-readers and Fire TV products.

Amazon said the two best-sellers worldwide were the Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote and the Echo Dot. Both of those items have actually been replaced with newer versions since - thankfully without a bump in RRP. So we totally expect the newer Amazon Echo Dot (3rd gen) and Fire TV Stick with the all-new Alexa voice remote (it now has extra buttons for volume control and gaming) to get similar discounts for the best prices of the year.

Other best-sellers included:

What were the best Prime Day deals last time?

As ever, some of the best Prime Day deals were on Amazon’s own devices, some of which have since been discontinued and replaced with new and improved models. The ever-popular Echo speakers were big hits with the following price drops:

Kindles and Fire Sticks and tablets received mouth-watering discounts too. The biggest surprise though was the never-previously-discounted Kindle Oasis dropping from £50 and the Paperwhite getting its lowest price yet. It just goes to show that the Prime Day deals on Amazon's devices is the absolute best time to buy. Amazon has knocked £30 off since the slightly newer version arrived, but there's room for a bigger price-cut on Prime Day itself.

The Fire TV Stick dropped to its lowest ever price while the already cheap Fire Tablets dropped significantly with the Fire 7 getting reduced to just £29.99. So yes, these are the deals to look out for again this year.

There were some cracking deals on TVs too, some of which are now even cheaper given TV deals in general are seriously competitive here in the UK. We saw 55-inch Ambilight OLED screens go from £1499 to £1199 (or just £999 today!). On the other end of the scale a 55-inch Hisense dropped to just £369, an all-time low at the time.

Mobile phone deals on Amazon Prime Day don't make too many headlines, but if you're willing to pay the upfront cost of a phone rather than go for a contract, there were certainly deals to be had last year. The then year-old Samsung Galaxy S8 dropped to £439. The Honor View 10 was just £338.99.  And the already very budget-friendly Moto G6 Play dropped to £135.99. So not the most modern or premium selection of handsets, but don't bet against a wider range this year as more brands are keen to get involved each year

Here in the UK we saw plenty of other deals across multiple products. The biggest discounts were on coffee machines: many of them got 50% price cuts. Hive smart thermostats were 44% off, selected home security kits were 45% off and everything in the Amazon Warehouse section was 20% off. Chromebook fans got to snap up the excellent but terribly named Asus C202SA-GJ0027 for £99.99 instead of the usual £199.99.

prime day optimus day deals ebuyer

Image credit: ebuyer

Will other retailers take part in Amazon Prime Day?

We have seen other stores in the UK try and cash in on the Amazon Prime Day fever by hosting their own deals. But in all honesty, they've regularly disappointed. 

However, if retailers do sell the same item that's getting a great deal on Amazon, expect to see a lot of price-matching. This can be especially handy if you have a store-specific gift card burning a hole in you pocket. We see retailers price match Amazon on items like Fire sticks and Echo speakers throughout the year and some even go 99p cheaper to gain an advantage. 

John Lewis is worth a look as the store usually offer a minimum two-year guarantee on all electricals while most rivals stick with the standard one year. Currys, Argos and AO.com will be hoping to entice buyers to their sites too.

Hopefully electricals and computing specialists ebuyer will launch its Optimus Day again to rival Prime, which was a nice bit of Transformers humour for us last time around. Will Argos go for Megatron deals?

We also expect to see rivals to Amazon's own devices go on sale. In particular, expect to see multiple discounts on the Google Home deals to match the equivalent Echo products.We see this sort of price-matching happen a lot during even basic sales during the year. Chances are, you'll be able to get the best prices yet on Google's smart speakers.

amazon delivery

Image credit: Amazon

What could Amazon have done better on Prime Day?

It should have anticipated and been able to cope with the load not just on its ecommerce site but on its cloud services too: we weren’t the only ones irritated because we couldn’t get our Preacher fix on Amazon Prime Video. It’s all the more embarrassing when you remember that Amazon provides the cloud infrastructure for many high-profile sites and services: Prime Day wasn’t a great ad for that side of its business.

Our main criticisms aren’t technological, though. Navigating the deals was hopeless and many of the deals were laughable, especially in gaming: we frequently found much better console bundles on AO.com’s eBay page than we did on Amazon. 

Here’s a great example. On Prime Day, one of the flagship deals we identified was $50 off a set of Bose QuietComfort 25 headphones. That brought the price down from $299 to $249. Just three weeks later, Amazon US was listing the same headphones for $169.


Will Amazon Prime Day 2019 do things differently?

Yes. CNBC reports that Jeff Wilke, Amazon’s CEO of worldwide retail, has already demanded improvements to prevent a repeat the previous Prime Day’s capacity problems: “tech teams are already working to improve our architecture”. 

We’d like to think that Amazon will also improve the navigation and discoverability of its deals for Prime Day 2019, although we aren’t holding our collective breath: both factors’ general rubbishness didn’t stop Prime Day breaking all records, so there’s not much incentive for Amazon to change it unless it decides better navigation will drive significantly higher sales. But that's why we're here to show you the best Prime Day deals!

It’s a safe bet that Prime Day 2019 will be longer. It’s already grown from one day to one and a half; further inflation seems inevitable.

Image credit: Amazon

What does all this mean for Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

It’s clear that Amazon is prioritising Prime Day over Super Black Friday Deals Month or whatever convoluted name it’s going to give its Black Friday sales period in 2019: according to Digitalcommerce360.com, 67% of this year's Prime Day deals were lower than comparable deals on the preceding Black Friday. 

That’s not to say Amazon won’t take part in Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It will, and it’ll offer the same kind of discounting that we’ve seen in recent years. But Prime Day is more important to the firm, and we’d expect its discounts to be deeper, especially on its own devices.

Image credit: Amazon

Prime Day: why does it matter more to Amazon?

There are some crucial differences between Prime Day and Black Friday. The first is that Prime Day is Amazon’s own day. It’s right there in the name, which of course refers to Amazon’s Prime membership programme and associated services. Amazon doesn’t own Black Friday, and that means ultimately it’s just another retailer shouting for attention – a massive retailer with a really loud voice, of course, but Black Friday is a sales event for the entire retail sector. It’s much harder for rivals to muscle in on something that Amazon has effectively created from thin air.

The second and more important difference is that Black Friday doesn’t create new spending. It just moves it slightly. As we’ve discovered in recent years, the money people spend over the Black Friday period is money they were probably going to spend anyway: all Black Friday really does is concentrates pre-Christmas shopping in the last week of November. 

Prime Day spending is different in two ways. First of all, people aren’t spending the money they’d already planned to spend on Christmas presents. And secondly, they’re buying mainly for themselves, not for others. If you go back to the list of bestsellers there’s an awful lot of impulse buying in there: Instant Pots and Hue Lightstrips, frying pans and dishwasher tablets. This is new spending, not merely moving pre-planned spending. 

There’s another key benefit for Amazon. Its best-sellers on Prime Day weren’t just Amazon devices; they were Amazon devices that connect to Amazon services. Fire TVs, Kindle Fires, Echo devices, Alexa remotes. Each one of them connecting to Amazon Prime, and each one of them requiring a Prime membership to buy in the first place. So when Black Friday rolls around, Amazon will have a whole bunch of Prime members for whom shopping on Prime is the default, and who might want to enhance their Amazon-powered smart homes with Amazon-branded Black Friday deals.

Prime Day means that for Amazon, Christmas now comes twice a year.


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