Weekly Industry News Round-Up

Amazon flooded with fake reviews, updates to Google Maps and the possible end of Auto Trader. Find out everything in our Tuesday News Day.

Review bribes

Trying to compete in marketplaces such as Amazon and Facebook leads some companies to try and find every little advantage they can gain over their competitors. This week Which? the consumer group, reported on online bribery in which people were paid off with free products or money to manipulate the marketplace by writing fake positive reviews.

The Which? investigator managed to find several “rewards for reviews” groups that asked for people to write five-star reviews praising the product regardless of quality or price.

So the Amazon marketplace reviews aren’t exactly true – what’s the big deal?

Well, to begin with, many people (including myself) use product reviews as one of the biggest deciding factors of whether or not to go through with a purchase, so this tactic of buying fake reviews does not only mislead and manipulate customers into purchasing a product but it also taints the reputation of the Amazon marketplace.

So how do we spot these fake reviews? Well, luckily it is very easy to determine whether a review is fake or real. Here are some steps to spot a fake review:

Check the date of the review

Typically, if a majority of the reviews for a certain product are posted at roughly the same date then it is very likely that the review has been paid for.

Reviewer track record

If you delve deeper into the reviewer account and notice that they leave five-star reviews for a vast majority of products, then this could suggest that they are being paid to leave fake five-star reviews.

Rating patterns

When you delve into the fake reviewer accounts and notice that they either leave five-star reviews or extremely negative one-star reviews, this could also suggest at the account is paid to leave reviews.

Honestly, this news is nothing surprising as I (and I’m sure you have too) come across apps and websites that incentivise you to leave reviews for certain products or services. This is just a new adaptation of the same strategy that companies will use in order to gain an advantage on their competition. But it is disappointing to have found yet one more area of the internet that can’t be taken at face value – and reminds us that we should always check, and double check, everything we see online.

Fake News

The Auto Trader killer?

For years people have gone to certain online marketplace (such as Gumtree, eBay and Auto Trader) to shop for secondhand cars. Well, recently eBay has acquired another company that rivals Auto Trader (they currently own Gumtree too).

eBay has announced that they are acquiring Motors.co.uk and intend to make the business leading alternative to Auto Trader as a marketplace for listing and buying cars.

The purchase of Motors.co.uk is not a small acquisition as they currently more than 350,000 cars listed on the site. Combined with eBay’s listings, the two companies have roughly 620,000 cars listed on their UK sites alone. This move will knock Auto Trader down rom its current top-spot, making it the second biggest online source for secondhand cars. The choice between eBay and Auto Trader is entirely subjective, with both having dedicated customer bases that will probably stay loyal even with the rise of competitors. Ultimately, whichever is most successful will come down to the website that can provide not only the best user experience but also the biggest inventory of cars and car parts – so attracting sellers will need to be the key focus for both sites moving forward.

Visa troubles

For those that don’t know, anyone travelling to the US from the UK must have an ESTA. This authorises you to travel to the states without the need for a full visa. It’s easy to apply for one online and only costs about $14, which covers you for about 18 months. Unfortunately, unsuspecting travellers are being conned by businesses taking advantage of this system, as the top search results for an ESTA visa are being held by commercial websites that are charging customers more than five times the price to acquire the travel visa.

So how did this happen?

Well, thanks to how search results are displayed within Google, marketers have easily pushed their websites above the official U.S. Customs and Border Protection by taking advantage of SEO tactics and by using Google Ads. This then pushed the official site below these results. And as internet users we’ve grown to trust Google, and that the top result it shows us is there because it’s the one we need – this trust has for years been leading many to pay way more for their visa without realising that they didn’t need to.

Online seller poach

Over the last week, it has come to light that eBay is trying to sue Amazon over allegations they are purposely trying to poach online sellers from eBay.

The allegation is that Amazon representatives signed up for an eBay account which they then used to contact a number of sellers to convince them to transition to Amazon from eBay. To avoid detection from eBay, the Amazon representatives asked the eBay sellers to talk on the phone. This tactic can easily be seen as Amazon attempting to poach the source of eBay’s income which leads to many ethical and legal disputes.

I think that as investigations go further into this controversy it will start to uncover more ethical and legal issues that Amazon may be responsible for. If this dispute ends up in a courtroom then as long as eBay win then the standards for poaching sellers will be kept, If they lose then it may lead to a review of these standards and common practices.

eBay box

Apple’s privacy website

With the world increasingly demanding privacy whilst searching the web, Apple has just released their brand-new website which is dedicated to Apple’s privacy features. This new website has launched just a week before Apple’s Tim Cook will be speaking at the 40th annual international conference.

The timing of this new website is clearly not just a coincidence, as, with data breaches, personal data and information about millions of online users are hacked and leaked every week. The push to show that Apple is determined to keep users safe is admittedly a consumer-focused benefit but also helps improve Apple’s public relations massively. This combined with the 40th annual international conference of data protection and privacy commissioners grants Apple an excellent stage in which they can use this new consumer-focused view in order to promote their brand and image.

Now, even if this is purely just a tactic to promote themselves as leaders in online privacy, I fully support this move to demonstrate the importance of the large companies taking consumer privacy as a major factor of their work.

62% of the internet running on unsupported PHP

Statistics released from W3Techs have shown that roughly 78.9% of sites run off of soon to be out-of-date PHP software. On December 31st 2018 security support for PHP 5.6.x will officially end. This means that by 2019, 62% of websites that rely on PHP 5.X will stop receiving security updates for their servers, leading to hundreds of millions of websites exposed and vulnerable to cyber attacks.

After PHP 5.X became the most widely used version of PHP back in spring of 2017, PHP extended its deadline to the end of 2018 and now that we are here, it seems that majority of the websites who run PHP have not taken the leap to update to a new version.

This deadline has been coming for a while and whilst many of us have known that the end is near for PHP 5.X it seems that majority of the internet is not ready to let go. I think as soon as major security leaks start appearing in 2019, that’s when we’ll see a massive departure from PHP 5.X.

Chrome 70 is here! And so is one annoying flaw

If you’re like me then you’ll be used to forgetting your passwords. For me, I would rather just stay logged into my account on any site than have to log in every time I go to the website, it’s not the most secure option, but it’s definitely a widely used way of using the web. Things are about to change with the launch of Google Chrome 70, as the browser will now force users to re-login to their Google accounts. Whilst this is understandable for obvious security reasons, for users like me, we will have to go through the annoying process of guessing our password, get frustrated that it is not working, request to change the password and finally log into the Google account. All this process to finally start using the brand new version of Chrome.

Google chrome dinosaur

Google Maps update

In a push to improve user experience, Google Maps has pushed out major updates to provide users with a multitude of new features. The features included to improve the user experience include:

Making sharing your locations simpler

For users that travel a lot sharing your location with friends or family when meeting up can be very useful – as this not only shows how close you are but also gives an idea of how long the travel will take. The new update aims to make sharing your real-time location and estimated time of arrival easier.

Charging stations for electric vehicles

As the public becomes more and more used to the idea of electric cars, the demand for charging stations becomes an increasing issue. Currently, you either charge your car at home overnight, or you stop at a larger service station and use the quick charge facilities there. But what if you’re in an area you don’t know well? Well, luckily Google Maps will now display where the closest charging points are for your electric car.

Real-time commuting

One of the bigger changes with this update is the Commuters tab which has now been revamped to display real-time updates with delays on your current route or with public transport. Along with this, Google Maps now displays the exact locations of buses and trains in 80 different regions worldwide.

Free apps are now over?

Due to the European Union demanding that Google release some of it’s hold on the Android market Google has started to rework the terms of how their Android Operating System is distributed throughout the EU.

The original complaint from the EU came from how Google made it mandatory for phone manufacturers to implement Google Chrome and Google’s search applications with the rest of the Android app store. Now because of the demand from the EU, Google is pitching that they will now license their app suite and start to charge $40 for the license per device. The price of the license will differ depending on the country of the device and the device itself. Now you may be wondering why this information is relevant? An extra cost of $40 to the manufacturer is nothing, right? But it’s worth remembering that it’s unlikely that the likes of Samsun and HTC will absorb that cost themselves, instead it will be passed onto us, the customer. And in a time when the latest smart device either costs more than a starter car or requires you to sign away a significant portion of your income for two years, this is another expense we could do without.

Bright Design Tuesday News day