Tech Bytes to Know this Week: 9.23.2016

September 22nd, 2016

Topics: AI & Machine Learning Apps Big Data / Analytics Culture Customer eCommerce Marketing / Sales Privacy Products / Services

Algorithms Are the Foundation of Modern Tech Companies, Which is Why Questions About Bias in Amazon’s Pricing Algorithm Are Significant – Algorithms run our lives. They’re everywhere. Whether they’re deciding which search results we see on Google to what news is trending on Facebook, they are the driving force behind business and why the tech sector is so disruptive to every industry in the modern economic world.
That’s why a new report by ProPublica is a significant threat to Amazon’s efforts to not only run an ecommerce business, but become a successful marketplace. The report asserts that in 94% of cases, the seller featured in the “Buy Now” recommendations on a product page give preference not to the best deal, but to Amazon or sellers who have paid Amazon to fulfill their orders directly. That means smaller sellers might be forced to sign up with Amazon, despite not needing their help fulfilling orders to ensure they remain viable companies in the Amazon marketplace.
When Facebook was found to have potentially included unconscious bias into its ‘Trending News’ section earlier this year it forced the company to entirely change that section of its website (and eventually eliminated human editors altogether). The charge against Amazon is that it programmed its algorithm to include a bias that benefited its own business over competitors. If customers believe the charges (and they care), the Amazon brand could be tarnished to a much higher degree than Facebook. As we’ve seen from the Facebook incident, companies need to take these situations seriously. All of that’s assuming regulators don’t view the move as anti-competitive, which isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
Read More: Amazon Says It Puts Customers First. But Its Pricing Algorithm Doesn’t
Read More: Amazon Pushes Customers Towards Pricier Products, Report Claims
Read More: Amazon Faces Questions Over How It Lists Prices For Non-Prime Customers
Read More: Amazon Isn’t Showing You the Best Prices Unless You are a Prime Member or Placing a Large Order

Google Bails on Privacy Promises with Allo Launch – Messaging apps are so hot right now. Each day more than a billion (with a B) chats are sent around the world. That’s why Google desperately wanted in on the game, and why it created Allo. Allo is the new ‘smart’ messaging platform created by Google that integrates chatbots and AI software into the platform to better meet your messaging needs. The problem with including smart functionality is that Google needed to store messages to make things work, which means bailing on its previous promise that its messaging platform would be the world’s best with respect to privacy. The app already had a huge hill to climb to compete with Apple, Facebook and Snapchat and now the chorus of privacy advocates expressing extreme disappointment with Allo is likely to relegate it to Google+ territory. Only time will tell, but Allo is running against the grain when it comes to messaging app privacy, and that’s not a great strategy.
Read More: Google’s Allo Messaging App Isn’t Making Good on Its Privacy Promises
Read More: Google Allo: Don’t Use It, Says Edward Snowden
Read More: Google’s New Messaging App Is “Smart.” But Should You Use It?

Wells Fargo Fraud Case Demonstrates Why Financial Sector is Ripe for Disruption – I wrote about the Wells Fargo case last week (where I asserted that beyond fraud, it’s identity theft) and the mess continued this week with Capitol Hill taking a turn questioning CEO John Strumpf. Elizabeth Warren took the opportunity to make the case for why criminal charges should be pursued, but I’d like to talk about something else entirely: disruption. The Wells Fargo fiasco is representative of a larger issue within the financial sector of poor focus on serving customers. For too long banks have used and abused customers in ways only matched by telecom. We’ve already seen a number of technology companies enter the sector and I suspect scandals like that of Wells Fargo will only encourage more to brave into the FS waters in the near future.
Read More: ‘You Should Resign’: Watch Sen. Elizabeth Warren Grill Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf
Read More: In Wells Fargo’s Bogus Accounts, Echoes of Foreclosure Abuses
Read More: ‘Wells Fargo Isn’t the Only One’: Other Bank Workers Describe Intense Sales Tactics

Will Streaming the Debates Increase Viewership? – The Presidential debates will be streamed on numerous platforms, including Twitter, Facebook Bloomberg and NBC’s streaming platform (in virtual reality). But will it increase viewership? And will any potential increase in viewership matter to the outcome of the election?
Read More: Twitter Will Live Stream the US Presidential Debates
Read More: Twitter, Bloomberg to Stream Debates, in Effort to Reach ‘Cord-Cutting’ Audience
Read More: How Twitter is Planning to Win Your Attention During General Election Debates

Featured CXOTalk Video of the Week: Episode 161: Open Data at the New York Times, with Scott Feinberg, API Architect
The New York Times core mission is to “enhance society by creating, collecting, and distributing high-quality news and information.” In this episode, the Times’ API architect, Scott Feinberg explains how open data supports the business and social goals of this venerable newspaper.

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