Bianca Andreescu plays with Amazon, and other Canadian tech news

Amazon Canada has teamed up with Canadian tennis star Bianca Andreescu to create special “Summer with Alexa” content.

Delivered via Amazon’s Alexa and smart speaker device Echo, the content is part of a larger effort by Amazon to share “uniquely Canadian experiences” and feature Canadian businesses.

“The Alexa Canada team is focused on creating fun, engaging experiences to make each day special,” said Celine Lee, Canada country manager, Amazon Alexa, in a release. “Whether you’re celebrating at home or returning to in-person events, our dedicated Alexa experiences reflect how important it is for customers in Canada to stay connected, keep each other motivated, and have fun this summer.”

Starting July 27, Canadians can ask Alexa to “chat with Bianca Andreescu;” ask a number of questions about the tennis star; ask for tennis jokes, a “summer fact of the day,” or complete a tennis quiz. To support small businesses in Canada, when users say, “Alexa, support small businesses,” Alexa will recommend products from Canadian-owned companies on Amazon.

“Even as someone who spends a lot of my time training for some really tough challenges, nothing could have prepared us for the last year-and-a-half,” said Andreescu in a release. “That’s why I was so excited to lend my voice to the ‘Summer with Alexa’ experiences, to share some fun and hopeful messages and stories with my fellow Canadians as we find our way back to a new normal.”

Also on Tuesday, Pinterest introduced a new tool to help creators partner with brands on sponsored content.

The new “paid partnerships” tool lets creators add brands directly in their idea pins, and once the brand approves the tag, the Idea Pin will include a “Paid Partnership” label. The tool is launching in for select creators in most major markets.

“With this latest update, we’re empowering creators to reach millions of shoppers on the platform and monetize their work,” said Aya Kanai, PInterest head of content and creator partnerships, in a release.

“Creators deserve to be rewarded for the inspiration they deliver to their followers, and the sales they drive for brands. Creators are central to our mission to bring everyone the inspiration to create a life they love, and we’ll continue working with them to build their businesses and find success on Pinterest.”

Facebook is making changes to its advertising options that are intended to “create a safer and more private experience for young people.”

The changes for Instagram include defaulting users under 16 into private accounts, and making it harder for suspicious accounts to contact young people.

“We’ve developed new technology that will allow us to find accounts that have shown potentially suspicious behavior [sic] and stop those accounts from interacting with young people’s accounts,” explained Instagram in a blog post. “By ‘potentially suspicious behavior,’ we mean accounts belonging to adults that may have recently been blocked or reported by a young person, for example.”

Those changes are being introduced first in the U.S., Australia, France, the U.K. and Japan, with other countries to follow.

Facebook also changing advertising rules related to targeting users under 18 on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger around the world. Starting in a few weeks, advertisers will only be able to target users based on age, gender and location.

“This means that previously available targeting options, like those based on interests or on their activity on other apps and websites, will no longer be available to advertisers.”

Facebook said it already lets users control their ad settings to prevent advertising in this way. “But we’ve heard from youth advocates that young people may not be well equipped to make these decisions. We agree with them, which is why we’re taking a more precautionary approach in how advertisers can reach young people with ads.”

Facebook also announced that three new Canadian publishers, The Globe and Mail, Glacier Media and Black Press Media, have joined the News Innovation Test, a new initiative that sees Facebook pay for publishers for content while also connecting Facebook users to more credible news.

Facebook first announced the program in Canada in May, with 14 media companies signing on to start.

“Under the agreement, Facebook pays publishers for the right to offer users links to content on specific topics, initially including coverage of the pandemic and climate science,” reported the Globe. “The agreement allows Canadian news organizations to determine whether Facebook users must subscribe to their publications in order to access their stories. News organizations can also sell advertising around content provided to the social network’s users.”

David Brown