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President Biden is urging critical infrastructure entities to improve their cybersecurity amid an onslaught of hacks and attacks against industries that are key to national security and the economy.
Mr. Biden is directing the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Commerce to develop performance goals for critical infrastructure and ...
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — As a member of the secretive Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Angus King has reason to worry about hackers. At a briefing by security staff this year, he said he got some advice on how to help keep his cellphone secure.
Step One: Turn off phone.
PayPal and the Anti-Defamation League have announced plans to partner on grasping how extremists use online financial platforms to fund their activities and on "disrupting" such usage.
The payment processor and anti-hate group announced the partnership Monday, calling it a research effort to better understand and address the issue.
DALLAS (AP) – It was a steamy Friday two Augusts ago when Jason Whisler settled in for a working breakfast at the Coffee Ranch restaurant in the Texas Panhandle city of Borger. The most pressing agenda item for city officials like him that morning: planning for a country concert and ...
With "Spiral: From the Book of Saw" available to home theaters, now is a great time to take a look back at the first film of the horror franchise with its recent release on the ultra-high definition format.
Specifically, Saw: Unrated (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, not rated, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, 161 ...
Jeff Benson / Decrypt: US Marshals Service has given a $6.6M+ contract to crypto startup Anchorage to manage seized crypto assets; BitGo had won a similar $4.5M contract in April — Anchorage sells institutional custody solutions for nearly 60 digital assets, including everything from Bitcoin to Zcash. — Bitcoin
Nikhilesh De / CoinDesk: New bipartisan infrastructure bill in Congress aims to raise ~$30B by imposing new taxes on exchanges trading digital assets including crypto — The draft language could mean a number of individuals interacting with crypto may have to start reporting their transactions.
Tage Kene-Okafor / TechCrunch: Cairo and Dubai-based Swvl, a bus-hailing and ridesharing provider in emerging markets, plans to go public in the US in a SPAC merger at a valuation of ~$1.5B — Cairo and Dubai-based ride-sharing company Swvl plans to go public in a merger with special purpose acquisition company Queen's Gambit Growth Capital, Swvl said Tuesday.
The Economic Times: Filing: Ixigo, an Indian online travel app with 250M+ users, raises $53M led by Singapore's GIC; source: Ixigo is targeting a $750M+ valuation for its IPO in Q4 — Online travel app Ixigo has raised $53 million (Rs 395 crore) from investors led by Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC …
Tiernan Ray / ZDNet: OpenAI introduces Triton 1.0, an open-source programming language for writing GPU code for neural networks, and claims it is easier to write than Nvidia's CUDA — SEO: Python-like language promises to be easier to write than native CUDA and specialized GPU code but has performance comparable …
Digital marketing is an ever-growing part of business success. According to Statista, in February 2020, U.S. marketing executives were devoting a whopping 13.2% of their company’s revenue toward marketing budgets. The allotted budget spend was up from an average of 7% to 10% in previous years. The statistics website also reiterated that digital marketing continues […]
Our journey in experimenting with machine vision and image recognition accelerated when we were developing an application, BooksPlus, to change a reader’s experience. BooksPlus uses image recognition to bring printed pages to life. A user can get immersed in rich and interactive content by scanning images in the book using the BooksPlus app. For example, you […]
The post Experiments in Fast Image Recognition on Mobile Devices appeared first on ReadWrite.
Gathering and analyzing data has been the craze of business for quite some time now. Yet, too often, the former takes hold of companies at such strength that no care is given to the thought of utilizing data. There’s a reason we had to invent a name for this phenomenon – “dark data.” Unfortunately, data […]
I got the Zeno Gym a little over a month ago. Man, is it tough — but I’m a little older. Then my little brother tried it out and loved it — he has consistently lifted weights several times a week at a gym for years. Then — my nephew (who plays football at a […]
The post The Zeno Gym — Just Right Even for the Health Nuts appeared first on ReadWrite.
There’s no denying that videos are the most powerful tool to impact the viewer’s mind. This is because the human brain processes image 60,000 times faster than textual content. As a result, numerous major brands harness video marketing’s power to make the most out of their marketing endeavors. From a marketing standpoint, they’ve positioned themselves […]
The post How SMBs Can Utilize Video Marketing to Boost Their Revenue appeared first on ReadWrite.
Tech companies continue to be at the forefront of how employers respond to the pandemic.
As countless offices prepare to reopen this fall, there’s still a lot of uncertainty about the specifics, namely whether or not employees will need to be vaccinated. Tech companies are now some of the first employers to make their position clear: If workers want to return to the office, they will need to get a Covid-19 vaccine.
Google and Facebook — two of the largest tech companies in the world — announced on Wednesday that they will be requiring that all employees returning to their US offices get vaccinated. Google was the first to announce this at the beginning of the day, and Facebook followed suit a few hours later. The news comes as the US government struggles to get its adult population vaccinated (currently fewer than half of eligible Americans have received one vaccine dose), and cases across the nation are rising as the more contagious delta variant spreads. So far, President Biden has not placed a federal mandate on vaccines, which leaves it largely up to employers to exert pressure if they want their employees to avoid getting Covid-19.
Tech firms were some of the first workplaces to require employees to work from home at the beginning of the pandemic. Now, these same companies are some of the first major employers in the private sector to mandate that employees be vaccinated before they return. And other companies outside the tech industry are likely to follow.
“I hope these steps will give everyone greater peace of mind as offices reopen,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a blog post announcing the requirements. Google is also pushing back the date when it will mandate employees to return to the office from September to October at the soonest, citing concerns about the delta variant. Google also is letting some 20 percent of its employees permanently work from home, and 60 percent work a few days a week in person.
Lori Goler, VP of People at Facebook, released a statement saying that any of the company’s employees working in a US office will need to be vaccinated. Both Google and Facebook said they will have a process for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other reasons. “We continue to work with experts to ensure our return-to-office plans prioritize everyone’s health and safety,” wrote Goler in a partial statement.
Under federal law, it’s been considered legal for employers to require employees to be vaccinated. The courts have recently tossed out cases by people trying to sue hospitals and universities that have required vaccines.
Google and Facebook are also both headquartered in Silicon Valley, a geographic area with one of the highest vaccination rates in the country. But these companies are global firms that employ workers across the political and vaccine-hesitancy spectrum.
At Google, while most employees chiming in on company listservs have so far seemed supportive of the vaccine mandate, some employees have complained, questioning the effectiveness of the vaccines and whether Google has a right to require one, according to a source at the company.
Given how politicized vaccines have become in the US, where many conservative leaders have been slow to support vaccination and stoked vaccine skepticism, it’s likely there will be more resistance.
Nevertheless, these major tech companies are once again setting the tone for how corporate America adapts its working conditions to the realities of the ongoing pandemic.
Six questions to consider before launching yourself into space.
For many, the rise of commercial space tourism is a vulgar display of wealth and power. Amid several global crises, including climate change and a pandemic, billionaires are spending their cash on launching themselves into space for fun. When Amazon founder Jeff Bezos told reporters after his first space tourism trip on Tuesday that Amazon customers and employees had “paid” for his flight, that only intensified that criticism.
But critics won’t deter Bezos and the other superrich. Space tourism is now a reality for the people who can afford it — and it will have repercussions for everyone on Earth.
In fact, all signs indicate that the market for these trips is already big enough that they’ll keep happening. Jeff Bezos’s spaceflight company Blue Origin already has two more trips scheduled later this year, while Virgin Galactic, the space firm founded by billionaire Richard Branson, has at least 600 people who have already paid around $250,000 each for future tickets on its spaceplane.
Now, as the commercial space tourism market (literally) gets off the ground, there are big questions facing future space travelers — and everyone else on the planet. Here are answers to the six biggest ones.1. What will people actually be able to see and experience on a space trip?
The biggest perk of traveling to space is the view. Just past the boundary between space and Earth, passengers can catch a stunning glimpse of our planet juxtaposed against the wide unknown of space. If a passenger is riding on a Virgin Galactic flight, they will get about 53 miles above sea level. Blue Origin riders will get a little bit higher, about 62 miles above sea level and past the Kármán line, the internationally recognized boundary between Earth and space. Overall, the experience on both flights is pretty similar.July 13, 2021
The view is meant to be awe-inducing, and the experience even has its own name: the Overview Effect. “When you see Earth from that high up, it changes your perspective on things and how interconnected we are and how we squander that here on Earth,” Wendy Whitman Cobb, a professor at the US Air Force’s School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, told Recode.
Another perk of these trips is that space tourists will feel a few minutes of microgravity, which is when gravity feels extremely weak. That will give them the chance to bounce around a spacecraft weightlessly before heading back to Earth.
But Blue Origin’s and Virgin Galactic’s flights are relatively brief — about 10 and 90 minutes long, respectively. Other space tourism flights from SpaceX, the space company founded by Elon Musk, will have more to offer. This fall, billionaire Jared Isaacman, who founded the company Shift4 Payments, will pilot SpaceX’s first all-civilian flight, the Inspiration4, which will spend several days in orbit around Earth. In the coming years, the company has also planned private missions to the International Space Station, as well as a trip around the moon.
These trips are meant to be enjoyed by space nerds who longed to be astronauts. But there’s another reason rich people want to go to space: demonstrating exclusivity and conspicuous consumption. More than a few people can afford a trip to Venice or the Maldives. But how many people are privileged enough to take a trip to space?
“What a nice way of showing off these days than to post a picture on Instagram from space,” Sridhar Tayur, a Carnegie Mellon business professor, told Recode.View this post on Instagram 2. Does commercial space travel have any scientific goals, or is it really just a joyride?
Right now, space tourism flights from Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin have only reached suborbital space, which means that flights enter space but do not enter orbit around Earth. Scientifically, that’s not a new frontier. Though these current flights use new technology, suborbital flight with humans aboard was accomplished by NASA back in the early 1960s, Matthew Hersch, a historian of technology at Harvard, told Recode.
Right now, it’s not clear these trips will offer scientists major new insights, but they might provide information that could be used in the future for space exploration. In fact, these trips are also being marketed as potential opportunities for scientific experiments. For instance, the most recent Virgin Galactic flight carried plants and tested how they responded to microgravity.
These private companies primarily see opportunities in their commercial vehicles that can be reused at scale, which will allow the same rockets (or in Virgin Galactic’s case, spaceplanes) to go to space again and again, which lowers the overall cost of space tourism.
Billionaires and their private space companies also see the development of these rockets as an opportunity to prepare for flights that will do even more, and go even farther, into space. Bezos, for instance, has argued that New Shepard’s suborbital flights will help prepare the company’s future missions, including its New Glenn rocket, which is meant for orbital space.
“The fact of the matter is, the architecture and the technology we have chosen is complete overkill for a suborbital tourism mission,” Bezos said at Tuesday’s post-launch briefing. “We have chosen the vertical landing architecture. Why did we do that? Because it scales.”
Beyond potential scientific advancements in the future, suborbital spaceflight might also create new ways to travel from one place on earth to another. SpaceX, for instance, has advertised that long-haul flights could be shortened to just 30 minutes by traveling through space.3. Is it safe?
Right now, it’s not entirely clear just how risky space tourism is.
One way space tourism companies are trying to keep travelers safe is by requiring training so that the people who are taking a brief sojourn off Earth are as prepared as possible.
On the flight, people can experience intense altitude and G-forces. “This is sustained G-forces on your body, upwards of what can be 6 G in one direction — which is six times your body weight for upwards of 20 or 30 seconds,” Glenn King, the chief operating officer of the Nastar Center — the aerospace physiology training center that prepared Richard Branson for his flights — told Recode. “That’s a long time when you have six people, or your weight, pressing down on you.”
There’s also the chance that space tourists will be exposed to radiation, though that risk depends on how long you’re in space. “It’s a risk, especially more for the orbital flight than sub-orbital,” explains Whitman Cobb. “Going up in an airplane exposes you to a higher amount of radiation than you would get here on the ground.” She also warns that some tourists will likely barf on the ride.
There doesn’t seem to be an age limit on who can travel, though. The most recent Blue Origin flight included both the youngest person to ever travel to space, an 18-year-old Dutch teenager, as well as the oldest: 82-year-old pilot Wally Funk.4. How much will tickets cost?
The leaders in commercial space tourism already claim they have a market to support the industry. While Bezos hinted on Tuesday the price would eventually come down — as eventually happened with the high prices of the nascent airline industry — for now, ticket prices are in the low hundreds of thousands, at least for Virgin Galactic. That price point would keep spaceflight out of reach for most of humanity, but there are enough interested rich people that space tourism seems to be economically feasible.
“If you bring it down to $250,000, the wait times [to buy a ticket] will be very long,” Tayur, of Carnegie Mellon, told Recode.5. What impact will commercial space travel have on the environment?
The emissions of a flight to space can be worse than those of a typical airplane flight because just a few people hop aboard one of these flights, so the emissions per passenger are much higher. That pollution could become much worse if space tourism becomes more popular. Virgin Galactic alone eventually aims to launch 400 of these flights annually.
“The carbon footprint of launching yourself into space in one of these rockets is incredibly high, close to about 100 times higher than if you took a long-haul flight,” Eloise Marais, a physical geography professor at the University College London, told Recode. “It’s incredibly problematic if we want to be environmentally conscious and consider our carbon footprint.”
These flights’ effects on the environment will differ depending on factors like the fuel they use, the energy required to manufacture that fuel, and where they’re headed — and all these factors make it difficult to model their environmental impact. For instance, Jeff Bezos has argued that the liquid hydrogen and oxygen fuel Blue Origin uses is less damaging to the environment than the other space competitors (technically, his flight didn’t release carbon dioxide), but experts told Recode it could still have significant environmental effects.
There are also other risks we need to keep studying, including the release of soot that could hurt the stratosphere and the ozone. A study from 2010 found that the soot released by 1,000 space tourism flights could warm Antarctica by nearly 1 degree Celsius. “There are some risks that are unknown,” Paul Peeters, a tourism sustainability professor at the Breda University of Applied Sciences, told Recode. “We should do much more work to assess those risks and make sure that they do not occur or to alleviate them somehow — before you start this space tourism business.” Overall, he thinks the environmental costs are reason enough not to take such a trip.6. Who is regulating commercial space travel?
Right now, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has generally been given the job of overseeing the commercial space industry. But regulation of space is still relatively meager.
One of the biggest areas of concern is licensing launches and making sure that space flights don’t end up hitting all the other flying vehicles humans launch into the sky, like planes and drones. Just this June, a SpaceX flight was held up after a helicopter flew into the zone of the launch.
There’s a lot that still needs to be worked out, especially as there are more of these launches. On Thursday, the Senate hosted a hearing with leaders of the commercial space industry focused on overseeing the growing amount of civil space traffic.
At the same time, the FAA is also overseeing a surging number of spaceports — essentially airports for spaceflight — and making sure there’s enough space for them to safely set up their launches.
But there are other areas where the government could step in. “I think the cybersecurity aspect will also play a very vital role, so that people don’t get hacked,” Tayur said. The FAA told Recode that the agency has participated in developing national principles for space cybersecurity, but Congress hasn’t given it a specific role in looking at the cybersecurity of space.
At some point, the government might also step in to regulate the environmental impact of these flights, too, but that’s not something the FAA currently has jurisdiction over.
In the meantime, no government agency is currently vetting these companies when it comes to the safety of the human passengers aboard. An FAA official confirmed with Recode that while the agency is awarding licenses to companies to carry humans to space, they’re not actually confirming that these trips are safe. That’s jurisdiction Congress won’t give the agency until 2023.
There doesn’t seem to be an abundance of travelers’ insurance policies for space. “Passengers basically sign that they’re waiving all their rights,” Whitman Cobb said. “You’re acknowledging that risk and doing it yourself right now.”
So fair warning, if you decide to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars for a joyride to space: You’d likely have to accept all responsibility if you get hurt.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar has proposed changing the internet law Section 230 in order to combat health misinformation.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced new legislation today that aims to finally hold tech companies responsible for allowing misinformation about vaccines and other health issues to spread online.
The bill, called the Health Misinformation Act and co-sponsored by Sen. Ray Luján (D-NM), would create an exception to the landmark internet law Section 230, which has always shielded tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter from being sued over almost any of the content people post on their platforms.
Klobuchar’s bill would change that — but only when a social media platform’s algorithm promotes health misinformation related to an “existing public health emergency.” The legislation tasks the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to define health misinformation in these scenarios.
“Features that are built into technology platforms have contributed to the spread of misinformation and disinformation,” reads a draft of the law seen by Recode, “with social media platforms incentivizing individuals to share content to get likes, comments, and other positive signals of engagement, which rewards engagement rather than accuracy.”
The law wouldn’t apply in cases where a platform shows people posts using a “neutral mechanism,” like a social media feed that ranks posts chronologically, rather than algorithmically. This would be a big change for the major internet platforms. Right now, almost all of the major social media platforms rely on algorithms to determine what content they show users in their feeds. And these ranking algorithms are generally designed to show users the content that they engage with the most — posts that produce an emotional response — which can prioritize inaccurate information.
The new bill comes at a time when social media companies are under fire for the Covid-19 misinformation spreading on their platforms despite their efforts to fact-check or take down some of the most egregiously harmful health information. Last week, as Covid-19 cases began surging among unvaccinated Americans, President Biden accused Facebook of “killing people” with vaccine misinformation (a statement he later partially walked back).
At the same time, major social media companies continue to face criticism from some Republicans, who have opposed the Surgeon General’s recent health advisory focused on combating the threat of health misinformation. Conservatives, and especially Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), have also pushed back against the White House’s work flagging problematic health misinformation to social media platforms, calling the collaboration “scary stuff” and “censorship.”
Even though tech giants are facing bipartisan criticism, Klobuchar’s plan to repeal Section 230 — even partially — will likely be challenging. Defining and identifying public health misinformation is often complicated, and having a government agency decide where to draw that boundary could run into challenges. At the same time, a court would also have to determine whether a platform’s algorithms were “neutral” and whether health misinformation was promoted — a question that doesn’t have a simple answer.
Also, it may prove difficult for individual users to successfully sue Facebook, even if Section 230 is partially repealed, because it’s not illegal to post health misinformation (unlike, say, posting child pornography or defamatory statements).
And free speech advocates have warned that repealing Section 230 — even in part — could limit free speech on the internet as we know it because it would pressure tech companies to more tightly control what users are allowed to post online.
Regardless, the bill’s introduction reflects the political will on Capitol Hill among Democrats to force tech companies to more effectively combat misinformation on their platforms.
“For far too long, online platforms have not done enough to protect the health of Americans,” said Sen. Klobuchar in a statement. “These are some of the biggest, richest companies in the world, and they must do more to prevent the spread of deadly vaccine misinformation.”
Earlier this year, Sen. Klobuchar wrote a letter with Sen. Luján to the CEOs of Twitter and Facebook demanding they more aggressively take down misinformation on their platform, as Recode first reported. The letter cited research by a nonprofit, the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which found that 12 anti-vaccine influencers — a “Disinformation Dozen” — were responsible for 65 percent of anti-vaccine content on Facebook and Twitter.
In responses to those letters, which were seen by Recode, both platforms largely defended their approach to these influencers, noting that they’d taken some actions on their accounts. Across both platforms, many of the accounts are still up. While data revealing the extent to which misinformation on Facebook has exacerbated vaccine hesitancy is limited, longtime online advocates for vaccines told Recode earlier this year that Facebook’s approach to vaccine content has made their job harder, and that content in Facebook groups, in particular, has made some people more opposed to vaccines.
It’s also not the first time that Congress has tried to repeal parts of Section 230. Most recently, Congress introduced the EARN IT Act, which would take away Section 230 immunity from tech companies if they don’t adequately address child pornography on their platforms. That bill, which had bipartisan support when introduced, is still in Congress. Earlier this year, Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) also reintroduced their proposal, the Protecting Americans from Dangerous Algorithms Act, which would remove platforms’ Section 230 protections in cases where their algorithms amplified posts that involved international terrorism or interfered with civil rights.
President Trump also attempted to repeal Section 230 through a legally unenforceable executive order, a few days after Twitter started fact-checking his misleading posts about voting by mail in the 2020 elections.
Despite potential hurdles to their proposal, Sens. Klobuchar and Luján’s bill is a reminder that lawmakers concerned about misinformation are thinking more and more about the algorithms and ranking systems that drive engagement on this kind of content.
“The social media giants know this: The algorithms encourage people to consume more and more misinformation,” Imran Ahmed, the CEO for the Center for Countering Digital Hate, told Recode in February. “Social media companies have not just encouraged growth of this market and tolerated it and nurtured it, they also have become the primary locus of misinformation.”
Your location data is for sale, and it can be used against you.
One of the worst-case scenarios for the barely regulated and secretive location data industry has become reality: Supposedly anonymous gay dating app data was apparently sold off and linked to a Catholic priest, who then resigned from his job.
It shows how, despite app developers’ and data brokers’ frequent assurances that the data they collect is “anonymized” to protect people’s privacy, this data can and does fall into the wrong hands. It can then have dire consequences for users who may have had no idea their data was being collected and sold in the first place. It also shows the need for real regulations on the data broker industry that knows so much about so many but is beholden to so few laws.
Here’s what happened: A Catholic news outlet called the Pillar somehow obtained “app data signals from the location-based hookup app Grindr.” It used this to track a phone belonging to or used by Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill, who was an executive officer of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Burrill resigned his position shortly before the Pillar published its investigation.
There’s still a lot we don’t know here, including the source of the Pillar’s data. The report, which presents Burrill’s apparent use of a gay dating app as “serial sexual misconduct” and inaccurately conflates homosexuality and dating app usage with pedophilia, simply says it was “commercially available app signal data” obtained from “data vendors.” We don’t know who those vendors are, nor the circumstances around that data’s purchase. Regardless, it was damning enough that Burrill left his position over it, and the Pillar says it’s possible that Burrill will face “canonical discipline” as well.
What we do know is this: Dating apps are a rich source of personal and sensitive info about their users, and those users rarely know how that data is used, who can access it, and how those third parties use that data or who else they sell it to or share it with. That data is usually supposed to be “anonymized” or “de-identified” — this is how apps and data brokers claim to respect privacy — but it can be pretty easy to re-identify that data, as multiple investigations have shown, and as privacy experts and advocates have warned about for years. Considering that data can be used to ruin or even end your life — being gay is punishable by death in some countries — the consequences of mishandling it are as severe as it gets.
“The harms caused by location tracking are real and can have a lasting impact far into the future,” Sean O’Brien, principal researcher at ExpressVPN’s Digital Security Lab, told Recode. “There is no meaningful oversight of smartphone surveillance, and the privacy abuse we saw in this case is enabled by a profitable and booming industry.”
For its part, Grindr told the Washington Post that “there is absolutely no evidence supporting the allegations of improper data collection or usage related to the Grindr app as purported” and that it was “infeasible from a technical standpoint and incredibly unlikely.”
Yet Grindr has gotten in trouble for privacy issues in the recent past. Internet advocacy group Mozilla labeled it as “privacy not included” in its review of dating apps. Grindr was fined nearly $12 million earlier this year by Norway’s Data Protection Authority for giving information about its users to several advertising companies, including their precise locations and user tracking codes. This came after a nonprofit called the Norwegian Consumer Council found in 2020 that Grindr sent user data to more than a dozen other companies, and after a 2018 BuzzFeed News investigation found that Grindr shared users’ HIV statuses, locations, email addresses, and phone identifiers with two other companies.
While it’s not known how Burrill’s data was obtained from Grindr (assuming, again, that the Pillar’s report is truthful), app developers usually send location data to third parties through software development kits, or SDKs, which are tools that add functions to their apps or serve ads. SDKs then send user data from the app to the companies that make them. As an example, that’s how data broker X-Mode was able to get location data from millions of users across hundreds of apps, which it then gave to a defense contractor, which then gave it to the US military — which is far from the only government agency sourcing location data this way.
Companies sell this data with ease because the data supply chain is opaque and the practice is barely regulated, especially in the United States. The $12 million fine from Norway was because Grindr violated the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. The United States still doesn’t have an equivalent federal privacy law, so Grindr may not have done anything legally wrong here unless it lied to consumers about its privacy practices (at which point it may be subject to Federal Trade Commission penalties, such as they are).
“Experts have warned for years that data collected by advertising companies from Americans’ phones could be used to track them and reveal the most personal details of their lives,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who has pushed for privacy regulations on the location data industry, said in the statement to Recode. “Unfortunately, they were right. Data brokers and advertising companies have lied to the public, assuring them that the information they collected was anonymous. As this awful episode demonstrates, those claims were bogus — individuals can be tracked and identified.”
In the absence of laws, companies could regulate themselves to better protect users’ privacy. But without anything compelling them to do so — and in an environment where any transgressions are difficult to identify and track — the user is simply left to hope for the best. App stores like Apple’s and Google Play do forbid selling location data in their terms of service, but we know some companies do it anyway. If Apple or Google finds out that apps are breaking those rules, they may ban them from their stores. But that doesn’t help the people whose data was already collected, shared, or sold.
You can also advocate for privacy laws that forbid these practices from happening at all, by contacting your local and federal representatives. 2021 has seen the passage of two state-level privacy laws (Virginia and Colorado), but we’re still waiting for a federal law. Though Democrats have the presidency, House, and Senate (barely, and still not enough without filibuster reform), they have yet to advance any of the privacy bills proposed — and the year is more than half over.
The simple fact is, the data you give to apps powers a massive economy worth hundreds of billions of dollars, which is hundreds of billions of reasons for it not to change — until and unless it’s forced to.
“The FTC needs to step up and protect Americans from these outrageous privacy violations, and Congress needs to pass comprehensive federal privacy legislation,” Wyden said.
The future of work, according to a remote work expert.
After a year-and-a-half hiatus, many offices will open back up in September. Most companies are asking that employees return on a hybrid basis, meaning they come into the office at least some of the time. But what exactly that will look like is uncertain.
What is certain is that more people will work from home than ever before, and this shift has the potential to disrupt everything from physical office space to the way people feel about work. And as US companies face a hiring crisis, companies that don’t offer remote work could find themselves at a significant disadvantage when it comes to recruiting new talent.
Recode talked with Tsedal Neeley, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and the author of Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding from Anywhere, about the many issues that are coming up as the nature of work changes.
The interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.Blue-collar versus white-collar? Rani Molla
There were already a lot of perks to being a white-collar worker: You generally make more money, you work in an air-conditioned office, and now you get to work from home, which can make life so much easier. Do you think this will lead to growing animosity between blue-collar and white-collar workers?Tsedal Neeley
Whether or not people have access to virtuality — or hybrid work, or dynamic work, depending on who you’re talking to — can easily become a diversity and inclusion question. First of all, we have to truly understand, in a given organization, whether or not anything that people are doing can be done remotely. We have a tendency to look at roles from a global standpoint and say, “Well, these jobs can’t be done remotely and these jobs can,” and quickly start assigning people to remote or non-remote. When we start scrutinizing the tasks that people do and the work that they do, one option that many companies have been pursuing is, “Can we pool and rotate?” So instead of all these people being attached physically to these job areas, can we do something where we look at tasks, what can be done virtually, what requires physical presence, and all of us share in that?
The second thing is, if we can’t give people remote work opportunities because of what they do, we have to give people remote learning days. We have to give people some kind of remote experiences that they can do some self-development around. And this is where you can have parity. Blue-collar workers — I’m thinking in warehouses that are not outfitted with technology, or delivery folks — I don’t think that’s going to change much. But I also don’t think that it’s going to create as bad a division as we expect. Because hybrid, by definition, means you have some in-person, you have some remote, there’s going to be a mix.What working from home means for service workers Rani Molla
So if people don’t go into the office as often — if I’m only going into the financial district one or two days a week — what does that mean for the people who work at the salad bars, the service counters, where I used to get my nails done? What are the repercussions for them when more people work remotely?This is the era for employees. The power is in employees’ hands today. Tsedal Neeley
If you are there twice a week, another person for another company is there twice a week, another person is around once a week. I am firmly convinced that the patterns of movement may differ, but people will still be there. Even if companies reduce their commercial footprint, there will be more smaller organizations in the same entity, as opposed to one having a lot of floors in a building.Rani Molla
But overall, if everyone went in five days before, now everyone’s working two days, there are fewer total days that people are actually going in. So there has to be some sort of reduction, right?Tsedal Neeley
There will be some kind of reduction. But I don’t think we’re going to have these empty buildings as we imagine. I think there’s going to be a redistribution of who’s there and when, but the activities will be similar.Workers have the power right now, so companies will have to adapt to their demands Rani Molla
Let’s talk about companies like Goldman Sachs, that have been really hardline on everyone coming into the office. Are they going to lose talent going forward? Are people going to be like, “I’m not going to work at this company or in this industry if they’re not going to let me have any flexibility in my work and life”?Tsedal Neeley
We’re in an era where people have tasted a different way of working, a different way of connecting with the people they cohabitate with, a reduced level of stress from the reduction of commutes, saving more money. And because they’ve tasted this, they’re demanding it, they want it. Given that, will incumbents remain as powerful as they’ve always been in drawing and retaining top talent? With the kind of great resignation and turnover that we’re already starting to see, I would be surprised that if in the long run they won’t start seeing people leave. This is the era for employees. The power is in employees’ hands today because of the sheer scale and magnitude of the people who want to retain some kind of work-life flexibility in their professional arrangements. And if they can’t get it here, why not get it elsewhere?What a shame, if organizations are not leaning into the gift that virtuality and remote work gives, so that they can ... retain their women Rani Molla
Why are some companies asking employees to be in the office all the time, if the pandemic has proved they don’t have to be?Tsedal Neeley
It’s this belief and this bias that it is through in-person presence that we are able to connect, to communicate, to collaborate, to learn. It’s this bias that culture building and culture maintenance can only happen in in-person settings. But that is not empirically true. The emphasis of their work is very much process-focused, as opposed to outcome-focused. In order for remote-hybrid to work, people have to change their performance metric, and trust employees, and let go of control, and allow empowered autonomous employees to achieve organizational goals.Rani Molla
That makes me think of Apple, which might have to backtrack a little bit on its work-from-home policy so people don’t quit. We’re in a very tight hiring crunch right now, so employers have to offer more perks like working from home to attract talent. But what happens when there isn’t a hiring crunch? Do we go back to normal?Tsedal Neeley
We may. These things are cyclical, but the cost of turnover for companies is a year and a half of that individual’s salary. Think about that and the institutional memory that walks out the door. And we’re actually seeing early retirements, people who are saying, “We like to be home, we’ve been through this crazy crisis, I don’t want that stress anymore.” The losses of drastic turnover, it’s not just that you’re losing talent. You’re also messing with the culture of your organization. Think about a place where there’s an exodus. That’s not a motivating environment. Not only are there pragmatic losses when someone leaves, but there’s also cultural, social, emotional, psychological blows that companies will take. If I was a company right now, I would fight to keep my best people. Because my best people will ensure that I do well.Letting people work remotely could stop talent loss Rani Molla
I’ve been writing about how working mothers really want to work from home, but they’ve also been having a really hard time doing so, reporting higher rates of stress and burnout. There’s an expectation that women have to both be ideal workers and ideal mothers. Obviously things are extra hard due to the pandemic, but it seems like it’s always been sort of an impossible situation for women. How does remote work fit into that?Tsedal Neeley
It’s been bad, but it’s gotten worse. I have been alarmed. US labor statistics data showed that 3 million women have left the workforce [in 2020]. It made my head explode. And then another survey that looked at the same data was able to identify that almost 600,000 are mothers and caretakers. What a shame, if organizations are not leaning into the gift that virtuality and remote work gives, so that they can take advantage of flex time and flex jobs to retain their women. Or to also incorporate some kind of child care apparatus in order to support mothers. Some of the smart companies that I’ve talked to have done things like, from this time to this time every day we’re actually going to have online programs so that mothers with children between the ages of 5 and 10 can get some kind of respite. We can’t send you babysitters in the middle of a global pandemic, but these companies have found ways to support women and mothers — but these are in the minority.
We talk about diversity, and gender and women, and then we see amazing women leaving. We have to work hard to bring them back and to reintegrate them into our organizations. Even the pre-pandemic ways of handling young families and professional demands were not great. If I can work from home, my pickup would be much easier than me breaking my neck to get to my child between 5 and whatever time. All of that goes away.Folks who have always been out of the mainstream in their organizations suddenly feel like they’re not only at the table, but that no one is calling them the wrong name Rani Molla
Working from home can benefit certain groups: people with disabilities, people who were never that good at schmoozing in the office in the first place. Some Black people say they prefer working from home because they feel a better sense of belonging and experience fewer microaggressions. What does this mean for diversity inclusion? Is working from home the ticket to making a little more equity at work?Tsedal Neeley
I think so. Folks who have always been out of the mainstream in their organizations suddenly feel like they’re not only at the table, but that no one is calling them the wrong name. They don’t have to take that psychological commute every day in order to code switch and fit in. Those with physical disabilities, or even neurodiversity challenges and concerns, are finding so much more peace. The lessons we can learn, however, is why is it that people have had these experiences, and what can we do to make changes in our organization so that they have the sense of belonging that they’ve experienced through this remote environment?What can we really expect five years from now? Rani Molla
I’ve made some really bad predictions, so I want you to make a prediction instead. What is this going to look like in a year or two, or five, from now?Tsedal Neeley
Guidelines and the policies will settle. Competencies around flexible workplaces will rise. Individual managers will level up to figure out how to lead a distributed workforce. People will be more agile with using digital tools, so things like tech exhaustion will go away. After people experience the hybrid format, they will settle into a rhythm that really works for them. And I think that we’ll see more remote than in-person days. I also predict that physical spaces — office spaces — will look very different. The remote year has totally influenced what people want: smart boards, movable furniture, outdoor space for work. So we’re going to see physical spaces of offices look very different than they are today.