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Instagram Now Allowing All Users To Tag Products As Ads In Posts

Instagram is now allowing all users to tag products in the posts they upload to their feeds, enabling any photo to act as an advertisement for whatever product is tagged.

Instagram initially announced their plans to give everyone the ability to tag products in their photos last month. The feature is now currently available for all users. Originally this feature was only available for content creators who make their income by selling products through their Instagram posts.

Users can now tag products in their images as long as the business is registered and set up with Instagram Shopping. The company made a statement regarding the update to the app and their hopes for the future.

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“From supporting brands you love to helping your friends and family discover new products they may like, sharing products on Instagram just got easier.”

Full instructions on how users can tag a brand and specific product are posted on the company’s blog, but it essentially works the same way as when you would tag a person in your picture.

Like when another individual is tagged in a post, users will be able to see when an image has product tags, and can easily click the image to have the link appear. Users can then purchase the tagged product directly in the app or through the brand’s product page.

With this new feature any Instagram post can be an advertisement, something that is likely very exciting for brands, however, it’s not clear what the benefits are to the average user, who’s essentially providing free advertising through their posts. Instagram, however, believes that this is a feature many users will utilize.

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Business owners will receive a notification whenever someone tags a product of theirs in a photo and they can manage and view all tagged content on their profile. Businesses can also manage who can tag their products in their preference settings.

Instagram claims that this is just the beginning for product tagging for the average user, and they’re currently working on more ways to bring this feature to other aspects of the app as well. For the past couple of years Instagram has pivoted to become more of a platform for shopping, and the company has been transparent about the ways in which they’re trying to monetize every aspect of the app.

The company even said they no longer want to be viewed as just a photo-sharing app, unless it’s referring to their goals of expanding shopping and video features on the app.

In December, Instagram’s head Adam Mosseri said that it” is prioritizing Reels as well as shopping in 2022,” so time will tell what other features will be implemented to further support the app’s goals.

Amazon

Historic Union Vote For New York Amazon Workers Is Just The Beginning

In a recent interview, The Teamsters’ new president said that organizing Amazon is “vital,” as the company has “total disrespect” for its workers and their efforts to unionize to better protect their rights as employees. 

Amazon Opens Up First Cashierless Whole Foods 

Amazon has officially brought its cashierless Just Walk Out technology to a Whole Foods store for the first time. Customers can now shop and leave the store with all their items without having to interact with any cashier. 

The revamped Whole Foods opened up on February 23rd in Washington, DC’s Glover Park location, where there’s been a Whole Foods for over 20 years. 

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While Amazon has introduced this technology in Amazon Go and Amazon Fresh branded stores, this is the first time the cashierless technology is being fully implemented into a Whole Foods store. 

Amazon bought the Whole Foods grocery chain back in 2017 for $13.7 billion, but up until this point Amazon’s integration with the chain has been more minimal; offering discounts and free delivery services to Prime account holders. 

The Whole Foods is a 21,500 square foot location, however, the Amazon Fresh store in Washington is the largest Amazon location to implement Just Walk Out cashierless technology. Amazon’s implementation of this technology in a preexisting Whole Foods location with no additional Amazon branding being added to the overall design and aesthetic is proving to experts that the tech company is very confident in the cashierless technology.

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There’s no official word yet if Amazon plans to bring the technology to all Whole Foods stores, but it’s likely more Just Walk Out stores will begin to appear throughout the nation. 

According to a reporter who went to the DC Whole Foods location, the store features Amazon’s palm-recognition technology for entry, alongside with QR codes. The store still has employees staffing various counters who are also there to assist customers who may not fully understand the cashierless technology at first. 

The store is overall leaning into a more self-service model. Customers are able to cut their own loafs of bread and other features that promote independence. 

The cashierless technology is being met with mixed reactions, especially from DC residents who were used to shopping regularly at that specific Whole Foods location. 

The second Whole Foods store that’s set to open with cashierless Just Walk Out technology is located in Los Angeles. The brand announced that it will likely be opening later this year.

Snapchat Fights Drug Dealing With Automated Drug Detection System On App 

Snapchat announced that they will be making a greater effort to combat drug dealing on the platform. The announcement is partially due to the increased amount of drug-related deaths among US high school and college-aged students. 

Snapchat announced that they have adopted improved automated drug detection systems as well as enhancing partnerships with law enforcement. The app will also now have a portal that can be used for educating users on the dangers of drugs. 

“Our position on this has always been clear: we have absolutely zero tolerance for drug dealing on Snapchat. We have a unique opportunity to use our voice, technology and resources to help address this scourge, which threatens the lives of our community members.”

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The increased security efforts come after the CDC warned of a major spike of drug overdoses in 2021, mainly driven by fentanyl; a cheap synthetic opioid that’s 100 times more potent than heroin, and is often mixed with counterfeit pills that young people buy through social media. 

In 2020 fentanyl fatalities rose by 32% when compared to 2019; more than 93,000 deaths. Individuals aged 24 or younger have seen a 50% increase in drug deaths as well.

“Every drug you try now is a game of Russian roulette,” Shabbir Safdar, director of the Partnership for Safe Medicines, a non-profit fighting pharmaceutical counterfeits, said

A recent study from the Tech Transparency Project (TTP) found that pills labeled as Oxycontin, Percocet, Xanax or Adderall are readily available on platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, and Craigslist. 

Within the past year Snapchat claims it has increased its proactive detection of drug sales by 390%; increasing security efforts by 50% within the last quarter alone. When Snapchat’s systems detect drug dealing activity on the app the account is automatically banned and the creator is blocked from creating new accounts on the platform. 

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The company has also increased their partnerships with law enforcement and improved on response times to law enforcement inquiries by 85% within the past year. 

Snapchat said it is “working with experts to continually update the list of slang and drug-related terms blocked from search results on Snapchat. Other platforms should also take measures to put a stop to the massive rise in online drug dealing. This is not just a Snapchat problem,” said Christine Elgersma, a senior editor at children’s safety non-profit Common Sense Media.

At a 2021 congressional hearing, Instagram executive Adam Mosseri had to answer questions regarding drug dealing on social media.

“Why are children’s accounts even allowed to search for drug content to begin with, much less allowed to do so in a way that leads them to a drug dealer in two clicks?” asked the Republican senator Mike Lee of Utah.

“Accounts selling drugs or any other regulated goods are not allowed on the platform. The app uses technology to proactively take down a huge number of drug-related posts, Mosseri responded.

Billionaire Businessman, Orlando Bravo, Claims The Metaverse Will Be Big, And Should Be Invested In 

Puerto Rican billionaire businessman Orlando Bravo, co-founder and managing partner of the private equity firm Thoma Bravo, claimed this week that the metaverse will be the “big word of 2021, and is a big time investment.” 

“The metaverse is very investable, and it’s going to be very big.” 

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Much like the movie “Ready Player One,” the metaverse is a sci-fi concept where humans put on some sort of virtual reality gear that allows them to live, work, and play in a virtual world. The concept has been viewed as a utopian dream, and a dystopian nightmare, depending on your standpoint. 

Facebook’s co-founder Mark Zuckerberg announced his company’s plans for the metaverse last month. Zuckerberg also recently changed the name of Facebook to Meta, claiming the new company will have a major focus on the metaverse. 

“The metaverse is the next frontier just like social networking was when we got started.”

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The entire concept of the metaverse has been heavily debated online. One marketing campaign in Iceland even went as far as to mock the metaverse announcement video as a means of bringing in tourists. In the video, a Zuckerberg lookalike introduces viewers to “Icelandverse, a place of enhanced actual reality without the silly-looking headsets.” 

Beyond Facebook, tech giants like Microsoft, Roblox, and Nvidia are already trying to enhance their software so that it’s compatible with the metaverse, and can even be used to power it if needed. 

Thomas Bravo alone has more than $83 billion in assets under management and a portfolio that contains more than 40 software companies. Beyond his excitement for the metaverse, Bravo also discussed his passion for cryptocurrency and bitcoin. 

“How could you not love crypto? Crypto is just a great system. It’s frictionless. It’s decentralized. And young people want their own financial system. So it is here to stay,” Bravo said.

Laptop Google Search

Google Introduces New Tool To Help Minors Delete Their Photos From Search 

Google is now making it easier for minors or their parents to delete photos from search results within their devices. 

Google posted a blog post this week in which they detailed how they’ll be rolling out a tool that allows parents and their kids, younger than the age of 18, to request the removal of images from Google’s imaging tab, as well as request to have the images no longer appear as thumbnails in search inquiries. 

Google previously released methods for users to request the removal of personal information and photos that are deemed as “non-consensually explicit” or reveal “financial, medical, and national identification” information. The company’s newest security measures extend that protection to images of minors. 

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“We know that kids and teens have to navigate some unique challenges online, especially when a picture of them is unexpectedly available on the internet. We believe this change will help give young people more control over their digital footprint and where their images can be found on Search.”

The company’s blog post explained how the new form allows users to flag certain URLs that contain any images or search results that they want removed. Google will then review each submission and reach out to the user if additional information is needed. 

Google did emphasize, however, that these requests won’t result in the total removal of a particular image from the internet, and users will likely need to contact a website’s webmaster to ask for specific content to be removed. 

The company announced this new tool back in August as a part of their larger plan to protect minors across its platforms. Other features within Google such as “Family Link” allow parents to better monitor their kids accounts and internet activity. 

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Big tech companies all over the world have been called out for their lack of efforts when it comes to protecting minors from the harmful content that’s on the internet. David Monahan, campaign manager at Fairplay, a child advocacy group, recently spoke to the media about Google’s newest efforts, and hopes for the future. 

“We’re glad to see Google take this overdue step to give children and teens and their families more control over what images show up in search results. We hope Google will go farther to reverse its collection of sensitive data and give families the ability to erase the digital footprint that Google and its partners maintain on every young person in the US.”

Alexandra Hamlet, a clinical psychologist who works with teenagers, said Google’s request process could also “help parents talk more openly with their kids about managing their online presence. That could include discussing what’s worthy of consideration for removal, such as a photo that could harm their future reputation versus one where they perceive to look less than perfect.”

“While some parents may believe that their teen can handle the removal of various pictures without help, I do suggest that they still have conversations about values and how they tie into image online. They could be missing out on a great opportunity to help their teen to build insight and assertiveness skills,” she explained.

Facebook Whistleblower To Testify In Front Of Senate Regarding Company’s Impact On Kids

Frances Haugen is a former Facebook product manager, who was recently identified as the Facebook whistleblower who released tens of thousands of pages of research and documents that indicate the company was more than aware of the various negative impacts its platforms have, particularly on young girls. 

Haugen worked on civic integrity issues within the company. Now, Haugen will be questioned by a Senate Commerce subcommittee about what Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, knew regarding its effects on young users and a multitude of other issues. 

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“I believe what I did was right and necessary for the common good — but I know Facebook has infinite resources, which it could use to destroy me. I came forward because I recognized a frightening truth: almost no one outside of Facebook knows what happens inside Facebook.”

Haugen previously shared a series of documents with regulators at the Wall Street Journal, which published a multi-part investigation on Facebook, showing the platform was aware of the problems within its apps, including the negative effects of misinformation’s and the harm caused by Instagram on young users. 

“When we realized tobacco companies were hiding the harm it caused, the government took action. When we figured out cars were safer with seat belts, the government took action. And today, the government is taking action against companies that hid evidence on opioids. I implore you to do the same here. Facebook’s leadership won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their immense profits before people,” she explained. 

This is not the first time Facebook will be subject to Congressional hearings regarding its power and influence over its users. Haugen’s upcoming testimony will speak to the overall issue of social media platforms and the amount of power they have in regards to personal data and privacy practices. 

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Haugen discussed how her goal isn’t to bring down Facebook, but to reform it from the toxic traits that continue to exist today. Around a month ago Haugen filed at least eight complaints to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The complaints alleged that the company is hiding research about its shortcomings from investors, and of course, the public. 

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, who chairs the Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection, released a statement this Sunday after Haugen’s appearance on “60 Minutes” where she identified herself as the whistleblower.

“From her [Haugen’s] first visit to my office, I have admired her backbone and bravery in revealing terrible truths about one of the world’s most powerful, implacable corporate giants. We now know about Facebook’s destructive harms to kids … because of documents Frances revealed.”

Following the Wall Street Journal’s investigative piece on Facebook, Antigone Davis, the company’s global head of safety, was questioned by members of the same Senate subcommittee, specifically in regards to Facebook’s impact on young users. Davis tried to downplay the idea that these reports are being seen as a “bombshell” by the public, and didn’t commit to releasing a fully detailed research report, to defend Facebook’s side of the argument, due to “privacy considerations.”

“Facebook’s actions make clear that we cannot trust it to police itself. We must consider stronger oversight, effective protections for children, and tools for parents, among the needed reforms,” Senator Blumenthal added.

Apple’s iPhone 13 Makes Pricing Headlines With Multiple Trade-In Offers

Apple announced the next generation of iPhone at their recent keynote event. Beyond the new tech specs, experts are mainly talking about the amazing trade-in offers that Apple is giving its customers.

This Company Is Using New Technology With Nature To Combat Excessive AC Use

The heat waves in the US have become more and more common as climate change has worsened in recent years. SkyCool Systems is a relatively new company attempting to combat the harmful greenhouse gases emitted from excessive air conditioning use throughout the country through new technology. 

“Our planet naturally cools itself by sending heat out in the form of infrared light or radiation. We’re using that effect to essentially radiate heat out during the day and at night, even under direct sunlight.” 

Eli Goldstein is SkyCool’s co-founder and CEO who explained that this process is known as radiative cooling. SkyCool uses rooftop panels made using nanotechnology and optical film that radiates infrared light and cools itself in the process. 

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According to the company these panels work in the opposite way that traditional solar panels do by reflecting about 97% of the sunlight that hits them, and cooling the surface below. 

The SkyCool model involves an embedded network of pipes that are below the panels. These pipes are filled with water that’s kept cool by the panels and then can flow into a refrigeration or air conditioning system. The goal is to take pressure off the AC or fridge cooling systems which can use a lot of energy. 

The panels also cool themselves naturally and don’t require any external power to function, which helps the entire house use less electricity during times of extreme heat. 

Jesus Valenzuela is the store manager at a grocery outlet store in Stockton, California which recently adopted the SkyCool system technology. 

“After we had our SkyCool system installed, our electricity company increased their rates on us. We actually didn’t see our bill go up at all. In fact, we saw it go just a little bit down. I estimate that the panels have saved the store roughly $3,000 a month.”

Goldstein’s co-founder and UCLA professor Aaswath Raman is one of many scientists who have been researching the benefits of radiative cooling for years now. Raman is an expert in the field who claims that while several similar solutions have appeared in recent years, there have also been challenges, like how well the technology works without sunlight. 

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“Our technology works best in hot, dry climates where the sky is clear, so when you have clouds, that blocks that radiative cooling window. In the same way that [carbon dioxide] blocks light and sort of has that heat trapping effect, water vapor also will block infrared light.”

“The biggest obstacle to making the technology ubiquitous is its relatively high cost. Most radiative cooling solutions suffer from a high manufacturing cost and large-scale production limits,” researchers at China’s Fudan University wrote in a paper published in the journal Nature.

Goldstein claims that SkyCool’s panels do cost more than solar panels, but didn’t disclose the actual cost. 

“New technologies like radiative cooling are often more expensive. People are very sensitive to first cost, and so that is another barrier to getting new things out there.”

“Much of that is because of low production volumes. Scaling up production could help bring the cost down, particularly for developing countries in Asia and Africa where we hope to eventually expand. For now, we’re focused on commercial applications of the technology, though we hope to start installing panels on the roofs of individual homes.”

“We’re just excited to be able to use this new technology for good,” Goldstein said.

Chromebooks Dominating PC Market With 75% Annual Growth Internationally 

According to reports from Canalys, Chromebooks have been outperforming the rest of the industry product categories thanks to a 75% annual growth and shipment of over 11 million units last quarter. 

Overall the worldwide PC market has seen a 10% rise in shipments this past quarter with over 121 million units sold, according to data from Canalys. Growth in the tablet market has decreased slightly in Q2, with a total increase of just 4% with 39.1 million units sold. 

After its success in Q2, vendors of Chromebook continued to invest in the brand. HP came in second with a 116% increase in shipments for Q2. Lenovo came right after with an 82% increase in shipments and Acer was right next to them with a growth of 83%. 

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Brian Lynch is a research analyst at Canalys who claims the success of Chromebooks is showing that the PC market is remarkably resilient, and its growth will likely continue after the pandemic as well. He explained that “the company has cemented a healthy position across all end-user segments in the industry.” 

“Even as key markets like North America and Western Europe have seen schools begin to open up, shipments remain elevated as governments and education ecosystems plan for the long-term integration of Chromebooks within digital learning processes.”

“With Chrome’s hold over the education space relatively secure, Google is set to bet big on the commercial segment this year. We expect to see a strong focus on attracting small businesses with updated services, such as the new ‘Individual’ subscription tier for Google Workspace and promotions on CloudReady licenses to repurpose old PCs for deployment alongside existing Chromebook fleets,” Lynch explained. 

Lynch also noted that Apple is looking to expand its M1 success into the commercial space that companies like Microsoft have successfully been running. Microsoft is also gearing up to release Windows 11 this year, which will likely lead to another massive spike in sales. Lynch claims the race between Apple’s OS devices and PC devices has never been tighter thanks to overall advancements in personal device technology. 

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Tablets have been dominating the personal device market within the past few years, as more consumers are attracted to the lower price point, and touch capabilities that allow them to do even more than what they could on a traditional laptop. 

Apple has been leading the tablet market for quite some time, last quarter they sold 14.2 million iPads, and vendors in general saw a massive increase in buying once the pandemic started. 

Canalys research analyst Himani Mukka says this past quarter was the fifth consecutive one in which the tablet market has seen an exponential increase within the personal device market. 

“Even as consumer demand for tablets undergoes an inevitable slowdown in the coming quarters, there are exciting developments to be seen in commercial deployments. Canalys expects to see stronger integration between the tablet and PC, allowing for smoother workflow transitions between multiple devices, which is especially attractive to those operating under hybrid and on-the-go work styles.” Mukka said. 

“This will certainly be the case for iPads and Macs, but the introduction of Windows 11 on cloud, and its usage on devices that can run Android bodes well for tablet vendors, users, and developers beyond the Apple ecosystem.”