Further Reading (11 April)

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  • Taiwan joins Canada in banning Zoom for government video conferencing” – CBC and “Video service Zoom taking security seriously: U.S. government memo” – Reuters. The island nation joined Canada in banning the use of popular web conferencing app, Zoom, even though the company is allegedly addressing security concerns turned up over the last few weeks. Taiwan’s Cabinet cited “security concerns” without identifying those concerns in its statement recommending the use of other apps. However, the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program reportedly issued a memorandum finding the government version of Zoom safe to use, which is different from its free or business versions. Citizen Lab has issued a report calling into question Zoom’s security, among other things, however.
  • We Saw NSO’s Covid-19 Software in Action, and Privacy Experts Are Worried” – Vice’s Motherboard. Israel’s NSO Group and Italy’s Cy4Gate have pitched systems to their respective governments and possibly others that would use people’s phones to track them in the name of preventing and tracing COVID-19. NSO Group’s system allegedly uses the contacts in one’s phone to suss out who a person has contacted or is liable to contact. Cy4Gate would rely more on location data to much the same aims. Questions have been raised from the perspective of civil liberties and privacy and effectiveness. Thus far, as far as is known, it has just been government agencies using location data although there is possibly help from private sector companies.
  • The Far-Right Helped Create The World’s Most Powerful Facial Recognition Technology” – HuffPost. A long read on Clearview AI and its ties to white supremacists, Neo-Nazis, and Peter Thiel, who has invested in Clearview and owns a large stake in Palantir which contracts with numerous federal agencies to provide data analytics. This epic examination of all the interconnections is worth the time.
  • The Humble Phone Call Has Made a Comeback” – The New York Times. In a somewhat surprising development, Verizon is saying that boring, vanilla wireless calls have risen by 50% and AT&T says the same on their networks has increased 35%. Everyone quoted in the article claims this is because sheltering-in-place Americans are looking for connection in the form of voice. The article hints that over the top call services like WhatsApp are also experiencing surges, and, of course, the now ubiquitous Zoom has experienced phenomenal growth. However, something the article touches on but does not develop is the possibility that internet capacity issues may be limiting video calls and so phone calls are a more appealing option.
  • As School Moves Online, Many Students Stay Logged Out” – The New York Times. As should not be a surprise for anyone with even just a rudimentary grasp of the Digital Divide, more affluent children are participating in distance learning programs at a much higher rate due to a variety of reasons, including a household’s inability to afford broadband service, an area’s spotty or non-existent coverage, or new duties foist on children by parents who still need to work outside the home. It would seem absent dramatic, even miraculous, changes in federal and state programs and funding, the gap between the digital haves and haves not will only grow with the differences in the education of American children growing as well.
  • Mass school closures in the wake of the coronavirus are driving a new wave of student surveillance” – The Washington Post. Another feature of digital life that has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic: online proctors for tests. However, allowing these proctors to access laptop cameras, microphones, and screens present all sorts of privacy issues, in addition to the other software and apps universities and high schools are using to surveil their students. More dramatically, some companies use facial recognition technology, eye-tracking software, and even predictive software to determine whether a student is cheating. Moreover, these companies get access to all sorts of sensitive student data in the name of ensuring the person taking the test is actually who she claims to be. And, many students have to pay fees for the service they are being forced to use.
  • WhatsApp to impose new limit on forwarding to fight fake news” – The Guardian. The popular messaging app is trying to slow the spread of COVID-19 misinformation and lies by setting new limits on the forwarding of certain messages. Now, if a message has been forwarded five or more times, a user will only be able to send it on to one person or chat at a time. In 2018, WhatsApp instituted a five person/chat forward limit in India where the mass forwarding of rumors and fake news led to the lynchings of more than 30 people who were allegedly kidnapping children. This limit was extended to the rest of the world in 2019. Presently, there are WhatsApp messages indicating that 5G is the cause of COVID-19 and all manner of pseudo-science and incorrect medical advice being sent via WhatsApp.

Further Reading (5 April)

  • Exclusive: U.S. officials agree on new ways to control high tech exports to China – sources” – Reuters. Sounds like internecine warfare in the Trump Administration over China trade policy has spilled out into the open again. It appears as if those in favor of stricter export restrictions are leaking the details of regulations (which may be described here) that would choke off the flow of key technology such as optical equipment, radar, and semiconductors on the grounds that such goods imported by China for civilian purposes end up in the hands of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), obviating the distinction in the U.S.’s export regime. They favor pulling any licenses that allow for the trade of these goods, ending the PLA’s ability to buy civilian equipment, and instituting a process under which foreign companies shipping banned U.S. items into China would need U.S. approval. Of course, these changes depend on the President agreeing to them, and it’s not at all clear he would.
  • Big Tech Could Emerge From Coronavirus Crisis Stronger Than Ever” – The New York Times. A severe economic downturn could place large companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon on even stronger footing as smaller companies falter. This dynamic could be driven by increased use of their services while people eschew going out and companies are relying more on cloud and other products as employees work from home. Paradoxically, this dynamic could amplify calls in Washington and elsewhere to break up tech companies.
  • Coronavirus pandemic changes how your privacy is protected” – CNET. Governments around the world are either using exceptions in privacy and data protection laws for emergencies or extreme conditions and agencies are signalling they will ease up on what they consider legitimate activities using personal data to fight COVID-19. Notably, a number of nations are using the location data on people’s phones to ensure the sick are staying home and people are not congregating together in groups. It remains to be seen whether such uses will become accepted and the possibly the norm going forward.
  • As Coronavirus Surveillance Escalates, Personal Privacy Plummets” – The New York Times. This article shows some of the darker sides of governments using personal data, most often obtained from people’s phones, to combat the spread of COVID-19, namely the publishing of detail about possibly infected people. In South Korea, hackers were able to identify such people and online harassment began. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio identified the law firm at which the second confirmed case of the virus worked with predictably bad results. Moreover, civil libertarians are warning that some of these changed uses of personal data could become permanent as they did after September 11, 2001 with legislation like the PATRIOT Act.
  • How Civic Technology Can Help Stop a Pandemic” – Foreign Affairs. In what may be a pro-Taiwan article, Taipei and the people of the island nation are lauded for numerous bottom-up uses of technology to very successfully fight the spread of COVID-19. In fact, the nation of 24 million has had fewer than 400 confirmed cases despite being roughly 600 miles from Wuhan and plenty of travel between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China.
  • U.S. government, tech industry discussing ways to use smartphone location data to combat coronavirus” – The Washington Post. The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy has convened a task force to coordinate the U.S.’s technological response to COVID-19 to grapple with the myriad, novel problems of trying to use location data to track and even predict infections and outbreaks. Of course, this task force and the technology industry has also wrestling with how to collect the right type of information while also protecting privacy, or so they are claiming.
  • How to Think About the Right to Privacy and Using Location Data to Fight COVID-19” – Just Security. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) flagged a number of practical and policy reasons not to hail the use of location information as the holy grail for fighting COVID-19. For example, given that the location services on cell phone do not always provide exact whereabouts, these data may have limited value in determining who may have been exposed to an infected person. Use of location data to identify and possibly restrict the movement of allegedly infected people may cause people to not cooperate for fear of harm or inability to earn their salary. The ACLU also thinks the crisis may be leveraged by technology companies to normalize the privacy policies that are ultimately contrary to the public good.
  • Democrats say Google’s COVID-19 ad ban is a gift to Donald Trump” – Protocol. A now altered Google advertising policy was preventing Democrats from running advertisements criticizing the Trump Administration and what they considered its lies while allowing the Trump Administration to place advertisements. A few days after the article first ran, Google reversed course and will not allow some of this type of advertising.
  • Google uses location data to show which places are complying with stay-at-home orders — and which aren’t” – The Verge. Google will start releasing COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports that show population-level changes in how frequently people are going to retail establishments and parks, to cite two categories.
  • Leaked Amazon Memo Details Plan to Smear Fired Warehouse Organizer: ‘He’s Not Smart or Articulate’” – Vice News. Leaked notes from a high-level Amazon meeting including CEO Jeff Bezos suggest the company was trying to portray the leader of a walkout organized at Staten Island warehouses as stupid and unable to speak coherently. The purpose was to throw attention on the worker and away from the company’s continuing labor troubles. The leader of the walkout urged Amazon’s management to better sterilize and to communicate which workers tested positive for COVID-19. In response he was fired for allegedly violating company policy regarding a 14-day quarantine after exposure.

Further Reading (27 March)

Further Reading (March 9)

  • The Pentagon Is Sitting on a Chunk of Valuable Airwaves. Why?“ – Politico. This comprehensive primer on U.S. spectrum issues points to a major stumbling block in trying to beat China in the 5G race: the Department of Defense currently controls the valuable mid-band spectrum that experts and private sector stakeholders argue is best suited for next generation communications. Worse still, China and the rest of the world are moving forward into these mid-band frequencies, meaning that unless the Pentagon develops alternatives, its ability to operate in other parts of the world may be compromised by having to share these spectrums. Finally, the Trump Administration does not have a coherent approach even as the DOD is trying to reach agreement with private sector companies like telecommunications companies.
  • Digital Edits, a Paid Army: Bloomberg Is ‘Destroying Norms’ on Social Media“ – The New York Times. Mike Bloomberg’s campaign pushed the limits of what social media platforms allow influencers and users to say about political matters without explicitly revealing their allegiance to or payment from a presidential campaign. Bloomberg has poured millions into recruiting and activating social media users to advocate for his campaign, far outpacing rivals for the Democratic nomination and possibly suggesting a playbook for the eventual Democratic nomination. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram struggled to keep up with a number of the Bloomberg campaigns moves.
  • Facial-Recognition Company That Works With Law Enforcement Says Entire Client List Was Stolen” – Daily Beast.“Clearview AI’s Massive Client List Got Hacked“ – WIRED; “The world’s scariest facial recognition company is now linked to everybody from ICE to Macy’s” – Recode; “Clearview’s Facial Recognition App Has Been Used By The Justice Department, ICE, Macy’s, Walmart, And The NBA” – BuzzFeed; and “Clearview AI Reports Breach of Customer List” – Motherboard. The company that has scraped the images of people from multiple websites for use with artificial intelligence facial recognition technology has gotten much more recognition lately, most of it scrutiny the company would just as likely want to avoid. After a breach of its client list (including a number of law enforcement agencies), numerous entities denied being client, claimed they only tried the service, or asserted they would never use the service. These reports come amidst statements by multiple governments they will investigate the company’s practices. Among the law enforcement agencies that are likely using Clearview AI are: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)I, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Interpol, and many local police departments. 
  • Suckers List: How Allstate’s Secret Auto Insurance Algorithm Squeezes Big Spenders” – The Markup. One insurer tried to convince a state regulator to increase supposedly outdated car insurance premiums and was required to submit voluminous additional information. Maryland ultimately turned down Allstate, in large part because the analysis of the underlying algorithm showed it was designed to inflict the largest increases on those willing to pay much more. This is not the first instance of differential pricing and with algorithms and big data, more is almost certainly on the way.
  • Europe’s bid to stay world’s digital cop fizzles to life” – Politico. This piece questions how much impact the European Union (EU) will have in trying to compete with the U.S. and China in shaping the future of technology and accompanying policy.
  • Justice Department faults Google for turning over evidence too slowly in antitrust probe, hinting at possible legal action” – The Washington Post. The Department of Justice sent a letter to Google possibly threatening legal process to get documents the company is producing too slowly or not at all. This document request will likely inform the agency’s larger antitrust investigation into big technology companies.

Further Reading (March 2)

  • Senior intelligence official told lawmakers that Russia wants to see Trump reelected” – Washington Post and “Lawmakers Are Warned That Russia Is Meddling to Re-elect Trump” – New York Times. According to these accounts of a briefing provided to the House Intelligence Committee by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the status report on ongoing, mutating Russian efforts to interfere with the 2020 election may both result in the acting DNI being denied the job permanently and an impairment of federal efforts to fend off Russian interference. Reportedly, the conclusion that Russia favors Trump over Democratic candidates angered both committee Republicans and the White House. With the departure of former acting DNI Joseph Maguire and the tapping of U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, a Trump loyalist with no intelligence experience, the Intelligence Community (IC) may limit the information it shares with Congress and the public.
  • Pay Up, Or We’ll Make Google Ban Your Ads” — Krebs on Security. A variation of ransomware has surfaced in which the purveyors threaten to overwhelm a website’s advertising through Google’s AdSense with bot traffic, causing Google to take down the ad, unless bitcoin is turned over. Another mutation of the seemingly lucrative ransomware trade.
  • 2014 Bloomberg Hoped the NSA Was “’Reading Every Email’” – The Intercept. The website unearthed a live event with Katie Couric at which former New York City Mayor and candidate for the Democratic nomination for President Mike Bloomberg endorsed National Security Agency surveillance and a notice and comment approach to privacy regarding private sector practices. However, these views are contrary to many in the Democratic party, and Bloomberg has taken other privacy and surveillance stances that may prove unacceptable to Democratic voters.
  • Retail Customer Data Exposure Spotlights Cloud Security Risk” – Bloomberg Law. Failing to properly set up the security for consumer data stored in the cloud resulted in a security firm being able to easily access information on millions of American households. A market analytics company did not configure security settings correctly and consequently the data on consumers being stored on Amazon’s cloud was accessible to anyone with credentials to log into AWS.
  • Hacker Eva Galperin Has a Plan to Eradicate Stalkerware” – WIRED. A security researcher with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has convinced Kaspersky to treat spyware used by stalkers and estranged spouses as malware and hopes to talk the other antivirus companies into doing the same.
  • At Facebook, One Million Takedowns Per Day is Evidence of Failure, Not Success” – Council on Foreign Relations. In this piece, a cybersecurity expert argues that even if Facebook’s numbers on takedowns of fake accounts are accurate, there are still millions of fake accounts from which users may sow discord and disinformation. A case is made for Facebook to introduce validated accounts to ensure the person opening the account is an actual person and not a mischief maker.
  • Corporations are working with the Trump administration to control online speech” – Washington Post. In an opinion piece, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) defended Section 230 the same week the Department of Justice held a workshop on this provision of federal law that protects online platforms from legal liability for what its users post online. Following months of Trump Administration and Republican pushback on Section 230, Attorney General William Barr called for a reexamination of the legal shield. Wyden claimed the Administration and Republicans are looking to revise Section 230 with the foreseeable results that smaller platforms and those expressing disfavored viewpoints would be either litigated out of existence or silenced.
  • Lawyer: Assange was offered US pardon if he cleared Russia” – AP News and “Rohrabacher confirms he offered Trump pardon to Assange for proof Russia didn’t hack DNC email” – Yahoo News. Despite differing rationales as to why a U.S. pardon was being offered, both an attorney for Julian Assange and former Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) agree that a pardon was offered to Assange if he disclosed the source of the Democratic National Committee emails provided to Wikileaks. Assange’s lawyer claimed the pardon would be in exchange for stating Russia was not involved whereas Rohrabacher claimed the purpose was to confirm that deceased DNC staffer Seth Rich was the source. The White House denied any involvement.
  • How Saudi Arabia Infiltrated Twitter” – BuzzFeed News. This piece details the lack of internal security at Twitter that made the social media platform ripe to be infiltrated. Allegedly, two Saudis working for Twitter were recruited to inform the Saudi government about the Twitter accounts of Saudi dissidents throughout the world. One employee has been indicted and is being held in the U.S. while the other fled to Saudi Arabia. Moreover, the article suggests the U.S. and Israeli governments tried to get Twitter to turn over account information, but the company declined to do so.

Further Reading (February 27)

  • ‘The intelligence coup of the century’” – The Washington Post. A fascinating read of how the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency and West Germany’s intelligence agency used a Swiss company, Crypto AG, to sell encryption machines to the governments of many countries that enabled the agencies to spy on their communications. This operation ran from the mid-1950’s through the last decade when end-to-end encryption in apps and devices rendered such machines superfluous. According to the source documents and sources, the Germans were appalled by the Americans insistence that even allies be spied upon. The revelations in this article may not help the Trump Administration make the case that Huawei and other Chinese companies are security risks.
  • Ransomware Attacks Grow, Crippling Cities and Businesses” – The New York Times. Experts continue to insist the actual number of ransomware attacks are underreported for a variety of reasons, including the fact many victims pay the ransom. However, the reported number of attacks and the average amount of demanded ransom continues to grow. Hackers are growing more creative in who they target and how they try to get payment. Worse still, these attacks are driving a number of smaller and mid-sized businesses to close down when they either choose not to pay the ransom or do not get their data unlocked, a common occurrence. 
  • Explained: Why The Feds Are Raiding Tech Companies For Medical Records” – Forbes. Law enforcement agencies are making requests of and receiving access from companies that hold vast amounts of medical records. This seems to be an area of data privacy that has not received much attention.
  • U.S. Officials Say Huawei Can Covertly Access Telecom Networks” – Wall Street Journal. According to British, German and U.S. officials, the Trump Administration has been providing evidence that Huawei maintains access through its hardware to telecommunications systems. However, Administration officials would not say whether Huawei or Chinese intelligence has used this access. Huawei denied ever having spied and asserted it would not heed Chinese intelligence if directed to do so. The company did not say whether it has or would allow Chinese intelligence operatives to access these alleged backdoors. Nonetheless, even with this purported evidence, both the U.K. and Germany appear to be willing to use Huawei equipment with certain security mitigation.
  • California’s new privacy law is off to a rocky start” – TechCrunch. There continues to be a wide range of compliance with the “California Consumer Privacy Act” (AB 375) and a nascent subindustry of tech companies to help California residents utilize their rights under the new privacy statute.
  • Judge orders Pentagon to stop work on JEDI cloud contract” – Politico. A federal court granted Amazon’s request to enjoin the Department of Defense’s $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract that was awarded to Microsoft. Amazon has argued that President Donald Trump’s tweets and other actions prejudiced the company during the procurement. It remains to be seen whether Amazon will prevail.
  • How Big Companies Spy on Your Emails” – Vice’s Motherboard. Turns out your email may be the subject of data mining and subsequent sharing of information gleaned from inboxes. The companies identified in the article claim they only utilized anonymized or pseudonymized data.
  • Personal Data of All 6.5 Million Israeli Voters Is Exposed” – The new York Times. An app used by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party made available the personal information of every voter in Israel through apparently shoddy data security or a mistake. White hat hackers flagged the problem, but it is not clear who, if anyone, may have accessed the information.
  • Someone Tried to Hack My Phone. Technology Researchers Accused Saudi Arabia.” – The New York Times. In June 2018, a reporter who has written extensively about the rise of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was sent a suspicious text he never opened that one group of experts claim is Pegasus spyware developed by an Israeli security firm, the NSO Group. It may be malware similar to that sent to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos phone that his security experts say was sent by Prince Mohammed. The NSO Group has denied any connection.
  • EXCLUSIVE: The cyber-attack the UN tried to keep under wraps” – The New Humanitarian. According to a still secret United Nations report, a sophisticated hacker broke into the servers of three offices, including the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and may have accessed and exfiltrated the information of UN personnel and people with whom they have worked. This report follows years of warnings that UN systems were vulnerable. Nonetheless, the UN has not publicly acknowledged the hack nor need they do so are they are exempt from data security regimes such as the General Data Protection Regulation.
  • Huawei denies German report it colluded with Chinese intelligence” – Reuters. The international news agency picked up on an article in a German publication, Handelsblatt, that detailed a classified paper sent by a think tank to the German government detailing the likely risks posed by technical backdoors in Huawei products. These backdoors could be used for surveillance or other practices, and the think tank concluded that considering China’s National Intelligence Law, Huawei would be required to use this access to help the Chinese government. Interestingly, Huawei denied that it had ever worked with Chinese intelligence, which was beside the point of the paper. In any event, the German government is said to be considering setting technical requirements high enough for its 5G networks to screen out Huawei without resorting to an out and out ban.
  • Federal Agencies Use Cellphone Location Data for Immigration Enforcement” – Wall Street Journal. DHS is buying cellphone location data from at least one private vendor to track, apprehend, and arrest non-U.S. citizens and residents in the U.S. While the Supreme Court has held that law enforcement agencies must obtain a warrant to directly use location data, it appears going to a private sector third-party may serve as a legal workaround. This may be the first of perhaps more ways law enforcement agencies are using and will use cellphone location data in investigating alleged crimes, and critics argue the potential for abuse is high given the lack of oversight.
  • EU Deepens Antitrust Inquiry Into Facebook’s Data Practices” – Wall Street Journal. The European Commission (EC) is continuing and deepening its investigation into Facebook’s alleged anticompetitive practices of advantaging or disadvantaging its partners with respect to accessing user data on the basis of perceived threat to the social media giant. The EC claims such practices are inherently anticompetitive and in violation of European Union law, while Facebook has denied the allegations and has characterized the EC’s efforts to obtain internal communications as unacceptably broad. The EC’s examination of Facebook follows other allegations of the company’s possibly anticompetitive practices, notably a lawsuit brought by app developer Six4Three and the two troves of Facebook documents that have been released (here and here.)
  • The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President” – The Atlantic. A very deep examination of the playbook the Trump reelection campaign is expanding for this year’s election, including disinformation, attacks on the media, and other methods to so muddy the waters that people will have trouble telling truth from fiction.

Further Reading (December 17)

Further Reading (December 8)

  • Big Tech’s Big Defector“ – The New Yorker. Roger McNamee was one of the pioneer investors in Silicon Valley, including companies like Facebook, and now condemns many of the data privacy practices the largest technology engage in. This article surveys a number of possible remedies, including banning transfers of data to third parties, imposing a fiduciary duty of companies that collect and process data, and levy a tax on injurious collection and divisive content on platforms.
  • UN Secretary-General: US-China Tech Divide Could Cause More Havoc Than the Cold War“ – WIRED. Secretary-General António Guterres predicts that a major war could be started with one country utilizing a cyberattack on another country. In this wide-ranging interview, Guterres opines on autonomous weapons, geostrategic social and technological divides. Also, on how technology can help and hurt humans and the flourishing of democracy.
  • The California DMV Is Making $50M a Year Selling Drivers’ Personal Information” – VICE. Even with the pending effective date of the “California Consumer Privacy Act,” there is a significant loophole through which sensitive data about Californians is being sold to data brokers and others: the DMV. In a public records request, VICE found out the DMV earned $50 million last year selling such data, and California is not the only state doing this.
  • Imagine Being on Trial. With Exonerating Evidence Trapped on Your Phone.” – The New York Times. An eye-opening investigation on the huge gap between the technological and legal resources available to prosecutors and largely out of reach for public defenders. Even though smartphones and the trove of data they hold could better help courts get to the truth of many criminal matters, public defenders are either not able to afford technology prosecutors typically use to extract data from phones but they also cannot issue warrants to tech companies which frequently rebuff the subpoenas they issue. As a side note, one company, Grayshift, offers technology to prosecutors to access the data on encrypted iPhones, suggesting there are means for law enforcement to break encrypted communications.
  • Exclusive: China’s ByteDance moves to ringfence its TikTok app amid U.S. probe – sources” ­– Reuters. In the face of a Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) review, TikTok’s parent, ByteDance, is reportedly putting in place systems to ensure separation between the data collected by TikTok and the data collected by the parent company.
  • U.S. Tech Companies Prop Up China’s Vast Surveillance Network” – The Wall Street Journal. Through minority partnerships or other arrangements, the technology of a number of American firms are being used by Chinese firms to assist in surveillance and oppression in China. The U.S. firms typically claim not to know the end uses but profess their opposition to the types of tactics used in China.

Further Reading (23 November)

  • Meet The Immigrants Who Took On Amazon”Wired. This article traces a burgeoning movement of workers at an Amazon fulfillment center in Minneapolis-St. Paul comprised largely of Somali immigrants to win some concessions from management. The article also traces Amazon’s view on unionizing (not surprisingly, it’s not favorable) and its employment practices. Whether the efforts of Amazon workers at this warehouse spread to other facilities remains to be seen.
  • Child Abusers Run Rampant as Tech Companies Look the Other Way” – The New York Times. A horrific expose on how poorly technology platforms are doing in identifying and taking down child pornography. A number of the tech companies claim security and privacy are the reasons they do not scan the pictures and videos uploaded to their networks, law enforcement officials and other stakeholders decry a lack of will. Worse still, tech companies are not sharing technology to identify this illegal material or are not sharing proprietary methods. Moreover, end-to-end encryption is only complicating matters.
  • “He’s F–King Destroyed This Town”: How Mark Zuckerberg Became The Most Reviled Man In Tech” ­– Vanity Fair. Once widely admired among the tech community in Northern California, Facebook’s CEO is a bit less admired these days on account of the company’s bruising (some say illegal) business tactics and how its actions portray the larger tech world.
  • Yes, Robots Are Stealing Your Job” – The New York Times. Candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, Andrew Yang, shares his views on automation and why many current and future jobs may soon not be available for humans. He discusses his proposal on how to help those displaced by the coming wave of automation, including a universal basic income.
  • How Facebook’s ‘Switcheroo’ plan concealed scheme to kill popular apps” – ComputerWeekly.com. An investigative journalist got his hands on thousands of pages of documents showing Facebook’s methods of dealing with competitors and potential rivals, which a former app developer is alleging in a California state court violates antitrust laws. In addition to the outlets reporting on these documents, the cache of internal Facebook communications have been provided to the House Judiciary Committee for its investigation into digital markets.
  • Microsoft vows to ‘honor’ California’s sweeping privacy law across entire US” – The Verge. Just as with the GDPR, Microsoft says it will voluntarily honor the “core” principles of the CCPA when it becomes effective.

Further Reading (15 November)

  • The Porch Pirate of Potrero Hill Can’t Believe It Came to This” – The Atlantic. How technology intersects with and possibly exacerbates long entrenched societal problems. A fascinating read starting with someone stealing Amazon packages in a rapidly gentrifying San Francisco neighborhood.
  • Why Do We Tolerate Saudi Money in Tech?” – The New York Times and “Former Twitter employees charged with spying for Saudi Arabia by digging into the accounts of kingdom critics” – The Washington Post. Unsealed indictments show that agents working for the Saudi regime used Twitter to track critics of the government, and questions have been posed regarding the effect of a Saudi prince’s stake in Twitter that is the second largest bloc of shares and bigger than CEO Jack Dorsey. It is likely that many countries around the world will continue to seek to penetrate Twitter and other giant social media platforms to mine the information for a range of goals, not least of which will be spying on enemies.
  • Facebook’s Rebrand Addresses Its $5 Billion FTC Settlement” – BuzzFeed News. Critics claim Facebook’s all capitals rebrand is an attempt to forestall action by regulators that its ownership of WhatsApp and Instagram is deceptive and to also to stave off attempts to split up the company.
  • Inside the Valentine’s Day Text Message Mystery” – The New York Times. Last week thousands of SMS messages sent on Valentine’s Day 2019 arrived on people’s phones, causing understandable confusion. The explanations from telecommunications companies as to why this happened were vague, but eventually the fingered was pointed at Syniverse Technologies, a third-party messaging service that admitted the wave of messages was caused when a server that crashed on February 14 was reactivated.
  • In the Trump era, Oracle holds tech sway” – Axios. In part because of CEO Safra Catz’s support for President Donald Trump, and in part because of its different business model, Oracle has escaped the lashing the larger technology companies have endured of late.
  • Facebook considering limits on targeted campaign ads” – Politico. Vice-President for Global Affairs and Communications and former British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg reveals that Facebook may forgo the microtargeting of users that allowed for personalized political ads in 2016 that many argue amplified the dynamics of the 2016 election and allowed disinformation to be all the more effective. Facebook’s floating of this policy change came after Google signaled it might limit political advertising, and Twitter swore off paid political ads. These may be signs that the scrutiny and pressure that accompany political advertising may not be worth the revenue.
  • Why has a privacy app used by Edward Snowden hit the NBA, NFL and NCAA?” – yahoo! sports. Signal has displaced WhatsApp as the go-to messaging in professional North American sports for players, agents, and executives because of the app’s reputation as the safest, most secure app available. It also helps cover potentially unethical conduct because of the setting that automatically deletes communications.