Here are some of the biggest stories on WARC last week for you to catch up on, including: IBM’s Weather Channel lawsuit, Tencent, e-commerce in India, and the devastating effects of gambling in the UK.

IBM’s Weather Channel accused of misleading users over data use 

IBM’s Weather Channel app stands accused of misleading users over the purpose of its data collection, with a lawsuit filed by the state of California highlighting the far greater responsibility companies will have to take in data gathering and processing practices in future.

The app, which is one of the most popular in the United States, has been accused of compromising some of the most sensitive user information on an industrial scale, profiting from detailed location information.

As the story progresses, it could mark a turning point for both data collectors and processors in the US, as regulators, prosecutors, and lawmakers train their crosshairs on a side of the advertising and tech industries that has long operated relatively free of constraints.

Read the full story here: An IBM Weather Channel lawsuit and the end of cavalier data

Tencent launches Xiaowei: a digital assistant decoupled from the smartphone

Tencent is to launch its own version of a digital voice assistant, in a move being seen as a major shift to expand beyond smartphone use for the WeChat app,

The Siri-like assistant could allow the WeChat app to be deployed in smart cars and offer multiple uses for businesses. The new virtual assistant – called Xiaowei, or WeChat italking in English – will work not just with Tencent’s own services, such as QQ Music, but will connect with apps from third-parties such as Meitun Dianping and Didi Chuxing that supply on-demand services.

It will also be able to link with multiple other devices, including smart speakers and cars, according to the Shenzhen-based company.

One key complaint of voice assistants is that their use – especially in the west – rarely goes beyond that of a glorified radio. By decoupling the assistant from the speaker, and in aiming to create a system that can run across several devices, Tencent is not only staying close to the user, but focusing on usability for the businesses who are looking to interact with consumers in this new way.

Read the full story here: Tencent launches Xiaowei voice assistant

Indian law designed to protect local businesses could hit consumers hardest

New e-commerce rules that are designed to protect domestic Indian companies could end up punishing consumers, industry observers say.

Currently, foreign companies – in particular the likes of Amazon and Walmart’s Flipkart – are prevented from selling anything other than groceries directly to consumers online. Foreign investors get around the rules by teaming up with domestic platforms, which means all products listed on Amazon, for example, are advertised as being sold by an independent seller.

The new rules, which take effect from the start of next month, are aimed at closing the loophole, banning any foreign investor with a stake in a platform from selling their goods, and could spell the end of deep discounting and cashbacks for shoppers.

Read the full story here: New e-commerce rules could hit Indian consumers

Gambling: UK research uncovers the social effects of de-regulated gambling

Ubiquitous gambling advertising is changing the nature of football fandom and trapping many young men in a cycle of debt, according to the University of Bath academic, Dr Darragh McGee.

His research, due to be published soon, is based on a two-year study of 18-35 year old football supporters in Bristol and Derry. His findings suggest that the marketing efforts of gambling brands have been hugely effective, if not necessarily in the way they would like to claim.

For many young men, gambling has become a vital part of their enjoyment of sports, specifically football. Teams throughout the UK’s league systems have featured gambling companies on their shirts; broadcasts of football matches typically contain many betting ad spots, as well as extensive pitch perimeter advertising.

Though in December, the largest UK gambling companies agreed a ‘whistle-to-whistle’ ban on TV ads during games, the study poses the question of how the gambling industry can do more to warn of its danger and aid recovering addicts.

Read the full story here: Marketing 'hooks' a generation into gambling

The disruptive algorithms coming to retail

The next wave of algorithms will have a hugely disruptive effect on retail by not only hunting down appropriate purchases for consumers, but then scouring online sites for the best deals.

This story concerns the effects of curated search engines, which have become synonymous with the disruption to the traditional travel industry – services such as Google Flights, TripAdvisor, and Expedia.

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Bobby Gibbs and Nick Harrison of Oliver Wyman’s Retail and Consumer Goods Practice, suggest that traditional retail could follow a similar trajectory, with “agnostic curating engines” capable of scouring the planet to create baskets with optimal combinations of low-cost household goods.

What is interesting is the framing of consumer convenience. While individual brands might offer superior service or delivery, weighing up the vast combinations of purchases that make up the weekly shop has become more daunting than ever, opening up the potential for a simplified, choice-light evolution of shopping.

For marketing, such a world would suggest that the task of selling product will require an even more sophisticated understanding of optimization for these engines.

Read the full story: How algorithms will revolutionize retail

Sourced from WARC