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'I Looked at All the Ways Microsoft Teams Tracks Users and My Head is Spinning'

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 11:51
An anonymous reader shares a report: As far back as June, Microsoft explained in somewhat legalistic terms that it's happily recording so much Teams activity for the benefit of employers and it's up to them what they do with it. Sample wording from Redmond's fine lawyers: "Our customers are controllers for the data provided to Microsoft, as set forth in the Online Services Terms, and they determine legal bases of processing." From what I could see, Teams hoovers up all your chats, voicemails, shared meetings, files, transcriptions, your profile details including your email address and phone number, and a detailed analysis of what you were wearing on the call. (I may have made up that last one.) Cut to September and Microsoft offered a little more about the Teams Activity Report (since updated). Here's a sentence that's unsurprising but still a touch uncomfortable: "The table gives you a breakdown of usage by user." Everything from how many meetings that user organized to how many urgent messages they sent is recorded. Separate numbers are given for scheduled meetings and those that were ad hoc. Even individuals' screen-share time is there. It's remarkably detailed. But, I hear you cry, is it detailed enough? In October, then, Redmond offered "a new analytics and reporting experience for Microsoft Teams." (This was updated last week.) I confess that just staring at this made me swivel several times in wonder. Microsoft is measuring privacy settings, device types, time stamps, reasons why someone may have been blocked, and "the number of messages a user posted in a private chat." I know you'll tell me this is all normal. This is entirely what's to be expected in today's techno-marvelous world. Yet, as far as I could tell, employees don't have too much say in all this. They're forced onto a particular platform without much control over what that platform may record about them personally, with their employer being the potential beneficiary. I imagined an individual -- or even a whole team -- being summoned by their boss and told: "You didn't respond to 47 Teams messages last month." What do you say to that? "Well, I suspect those 47 messages were sent by brown-nosing halfwits who send as many Teams messages as possible, so their innate industry shows up on your Teams analytics reports."

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Samsung Heir Lee Jae-yong Sentenced To 30 Months in Prison in Bribery Case

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 11:05
A South Korean court sentenced Samsung Electronics heir Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong, otherwise known as Jay Y. Lee, to two-and-a-half years in prison on a bribery charge on Monday, a ruling which is likely to have ramifications for his leadership of the tech giant as well as South Korea's views toward big business. From a report: With this, Lee will be sidelined for the time being from major decision making at the company as it strives to overtake competitors. He will also be unable to oversee the process of inheritance from his father, who died in October, crucial to keeping control of Samsung. Lee, 52, was convicted of bribing an associate of former president Park Geun-hye and jailed for five years in 2017. He denied wrongdoing, the sentence was reduced and suspended on appeal, and he was released after serving a year.

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SoftBank-Backed WhatsApp Rival Hike Goes Off the Air in India

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 10:28
Hike, the messaging app backed by SoftBank Group that aimed to compete against WhatsApp in the world's second-most populous country, shut down and vanished from app stores Monday. From a report: The startup valued at $1.4 billion in a 2016 funding round announced its app was going off the air earlier this month without explanation. The app started by billionaire-family scion Kavin Bharti Mittal has failed over several years to displace Facebook's rival app as India's go-to venue for social media and mobile communications. The country remains WhatsApp's largest market globally. Hike, backed also by Chinese WeChat-operator Tencent Holdings, has in recent years ventured into adjacent areas such as no-frills phones and expanded even into spheres such as mobile entertainment. On Jan. 6, Mittal -- son of Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman of India's No. 2 telecom carrier, Bharti Airtel Ltd. -- announced the closure of Hike StickerChat.

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DuckDuckGo Surpasses 100 Million Daily Search Queries For the First Time

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 09:50
Privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo reached a major milestone in its 12-year-old history last week when it recorded on Monday its first-ever day with more than 100 million user search queries. From a report: The achievement comes after a period of sustained growth the company has been seeing for the past two years, and especially since August 2020, when the search engine began seeing more than 2 billion search queries a month on a regular basis. The numbers are small in comparison to Google's 5 billion daily search queries but it's a positive sign that users are looking for alternatives. DuckDuckGo's popularity comes after the search engine has expanded beyond its own site and now currently offers mobile apps for Android and iOS, but also a dedicated Chrome extension. More than 4 million users installed these apps and extension, the company said in a tweet in September 2020.

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GitHub Admits 'Significant Mistakes Were Made' in Firing of Jewish Employee

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 09:03
GitHub is admitting that a Jewish employee was fired in error and is offering him his job back. The news comes after the company hired an independent law firm to investigate the termination, and found that "significant mistakes were made." The company's head of HR, Carrie Olesen, is also resigning. From a report: "Yesterday evening, the investigation reached the conclusion that significant mistakes were made that are not consistent with our internal practices or the judgement we expect from our leaders," wrote GitHub CEO Nat Friedman in an internal message to employees on January 16th. He said the company would be issuing a public apology on its blog this weekend. In the post, GitHub COO Erica Brescia said: "To the employee we wish to say publicly: we sincerely apologize." The controversial firing came just two days after the employee warned colleagues in Washington DC to stay safe from Nazis -- news first reported by Business Insider. He posted the message on January 6th, the day of the insurrection in Washington DC, as rioters associated with neo-Nazi organizations stormed the Capitol. The warning sparked criticism from a colleague who took offense at the use of the word "Nazi" and prompted GitHub's HR team to reprimand the Jewish employee. Two days later, he was fired.

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Venice, Italy Plans to Watch Every Move of Its 30 Million Tourists

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 06:34
Here's some news from CNN for the 30 million tourists visiting Venice, Italy each year: They're watching you, wherever you walk. They know exactly where you pause, when you slow down and speed up, and they count you in and out of the city. What's more, they're tracking your phone, so they can tell exactly how many people from your country or region are in which area, at which time. And they're doing it in a bid to change tourism for the better. Welcome to Venice in a post-Covid world.... Before Covid-19 struck, tourists were arriving in often unmanageable numbers, choking the main streets and filling up the waterbuses... Enter the Venice Control Room. On the island of Tronchetto, next to the two-mile bridge separating Venice from the Italian mainland, the Control Room opened in September 2020. A former warehouse that had been abandoned since the 1960s, it's part of a new headquarters for the city's police and government — a self-described "control tower" for the city. The building has offices for the mayor, other dignitaries, and a large CCTV room, with cameras feeding in images from around the city, watched over by the police. So far so normal. But then, across the corridor, there's the Smart Control Room — another bank of screens with images and information coming live from around the lagoon. They're not being monitored for crime, though; they're feeding information to the authorities that will create a profile of the hordes of people visiting Venice. The hope is that gathering the information will not only track footfall now, enabling the authorities to activate turnstiles and start charging for entrance on busy days. Eventually, they hope that the data will help create a more sustainable tourism plan for the future.... At 10am, the arrivals reached a peak of 2,411: most likely the daytrippers. The authorities can see where these new arrivals are from by analyzing their phone data (the information is all aggregated automatically, so no personal details can be gleaned).... The system took three years to build, at a cost of €3m ($3.5m). And although some might baulk at the privacy implications (although no personal data is recorded, you and your provenance is essentially being logged as you move around the city), the authorities are very proud.

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Ask Slashdot: How Should User-Generated Content Be Moderated?

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 03:34
"I increasingly suspect that the days of large-scale public distribution of unmoderated user generated content on the Internet may shortly begin drawing to a close in significant ways..." writes long-time Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein. And then he shares "a bit of history": Back in 1985 when I launched my "Stargate" experiment to broadcast Usenet Netnews over the broadcast television vertical blanking interval of national "Superstation WTBS," I decided that the project would only carry moderated Usenet newsgroups. Even more than 35 years ago, I was concerned about some of the behavior and content already beginning to become common on Usenet... My determination for Stargate to only carry moderated groups triggered cries of "censorship," but I did not feel that responsible moderation equated with censorship — and that is still my view today. And now, all these many years later, it's clear that we've made no real progress in these regards... But as it stands now, Weinstein believes were probably headed to "a combination of steps taken independently by social media firms and future legislative mandates." [M]y extremely strong preference is that we deal with these issues together as firms, organizations, customers, and users — rather than depend on government actions that, if history is any guide, will likely do enormous negative collateral damage. Time is of the essence. Weinstein suggests one possibility: that moderation at scale "may follow the model of AI-based first-level filtering, followed by layers of human moderators." But what's the alternative? Throngs of human moderators? Leaving it all to individual users? Limiting the amount of user-generated content? No moderation whatsoever? Share your own thoughts and ideas in the comments. How should user-generated content be moderated?

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7% of Americans Have Had Covid-19

Sun, 01/17/2021 - 23:59
CNN reports: According to Johns Hopkins University's tally of cases in the United States, there have been at least 23,754,315 cases of coronavirus in the U.S., and at least 395,785 deaths. On Saturday, Johns Hopkins reported 198,218 new cases and 3,286 new deaths... On Friday, the CDC said new more contagious variants of the coronavirus will likely accelerate the spread of the virus and that means the US must double down on efforts to protect people. The U.S. Census Bureau calculates the country's entire population is 330,827,996 people. These figures suggest 7.18% of the American population has now experienced the disease — more than 1 out of every 14 Americans.

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Virgin Orbit Just Successfully Launched a 70-Foot Rocket From Its 747

Sun, 01/17/2021 - 21:59
CNN reports: A 70-foot rocket, riding beneath the wing of a retrofitted Boeing 747 aircraft, detached from the plane and fired itself into Earth's orbit on Sunday — marking the first successful launch for the California-based rocket startup Virgin Orbit. Virgin Orbit's 747, nicknamed Cosmic Girl, took off from California around 10:30 am PT with the rocket, called LauncherOne, nestled beneath the plane's left wing. The aircraft flew out over the Pacific Ocean before the rocket was released, freeing LauncherOne and allowing it to power up its rocket motor and propel itself to more than 17,000 miles per hour, fast enough to begin orbiting the Earth... The rocket flew a group of tiny satellites on behalf of NASA's Educational Launch of Nanosatellites, or ELaNa, program, which allows high school and college students to design and assemble small satellites that NASA then pays to launch into space... About four hours after takeoff on Saturday, Virgin Orbit confirmed in a tweet that all the satellites were "successfully deployed into our target orbit." The successful mission makes Virgin Orbit only the third so-called "New Space" company — startups hoping to overhaul the traditional industry with innovative technologies — to reach orbit, after SpaceX and Rocket Lab. The success also paves the way for Virgin Orbit to begin launching satellites for a host of customers that it already has lined up, including NASA, the military and private-sector companies that use satellites for commercial purposes. Virgin Orbit shared a 57-second video on Twitter showing the moment their rocket was released and then launched, saying the event went exactly as planned. "To say we're thrilled would be a massive understatement, but 240 characters couldn't do it justice anyway."

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Amazon Begins Removing QAnon Goods For Sale

Sun, 01/17/2021 - 20:59
Long-time Slashdot reader AmiMoJo quotes the Washington Post: Amazon said it will remove merchandise related to QAnon, a discredited conspiracy theory that the FBI has identified as a potential domestic terrorist threat, just a day after the e-commerce giant suspended the pro-Trump social media site Parler from using its cloud computing technology. Amazon is beginning to remove QAnon products from its site, a process that could take a few days, spokeswoman Cecilia Fan said Monday afternoon following inquiries from The Washington Post and other media outlets. Third-party merchants that attempt to evade Amazon's systems to list QAnon goods may find their selling privileges revoked, Fan added.

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Twitter Temporarily Suspends Account of US Representative

Sun, 01/17/2021 - 19:59
CNN reports: Twitter on Sunday temporarily suspended the account of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene for repeated violations of new rules the social media platform put in place following the violent U.S. Capitol riot earlier this month, a company spokesperson told CNN. "The account referenced has been temporarily locked out for multiple violations of our civic integrity policy," the spokesperson said. As a result, the congresswoman will be locked out of her account for 12 hours. CNN also notes that Greene is a QAnon supporter, and that during her 12-hour suspension she'd complained that conservative Americans "shouldn't have to fear being cancelled by American corporations where they work, do business, and use services. "They shouldn't be scared into submission by Socialists who want to end their way of life."

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Report: US Halts Huawei's Suppliers, Including Intel, in Last Blow to China's 5G

Sun, 01/17/2021 - 18:59
"The Trump administration notified Huawei suppliers, including chipmaker Intel, that it is revoking certain licenses to sell to the Chinese company and intends to reject dozens of other applications," Reuters reports, citing sources familiar with the matter: One of the sources said eight licenses were yanked from four companies. Japanese flash memory chip maker Kioxia Corp had at least one license revoked, two of the sources said. The company, formerly known as Toshiba Memory Corp, could not immediately be reached for comment... Companies that received the "intent to deny" notices have 20 days to respond, and the Commerce Department has 45 days to advise the companies of any change in a decision or it then becomes final. Companies would then have another 45 days to appeal... Before the latest action, some 150 licenses were pending for $120 billion worth of goods and technology, which had been held up because various U.S. agencies could not agree on whether they should be granted, a person familiar with the matter said. Another $280 billion of licenses for goods and technology for Huawei still have not been dealt with, the source said, but now face a higher likelihood of denial... The United States made the latest decisions during a half dozen meetings starting on Jan. 4 with senior officials from the departments of Commerce, State, Defense and Energy, the source said. The officials developed detailed guidance with regard to which technologies were capable of 5G, and then applied that standard, the person said. By doing that, the officials denied the vast majority of the roughly 150 disputed applications, and revoked the eight licenses to make those consistent with the new denials, the source said.

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Florida's Whistleblower Covid-19 Data Manager Arrested Today

Sun, 01/17/2021 - 17:59
The state of Florida's former Covid-19 data manager was arrested today. After her firing in May of 2020, Rebekah Jones had become a critic of the state's publicly-available information, even setting up her own online dashboard of Covid-19 case data. The state suspected her of being the person who'd illegally accessed the state's emergency alert health system in December to urge Health Department employees to speak up about the coronavirus, and state police obtained a warrant for a raid on her home during which they'd seized her computers and cellphones. Jones later called the raid a "sham" to retaliate against her for not altering the state's COVID-19 data. This weekend on Twitter, Jones emphasized that the police found zero evidence during their raid to connect her to that message. She also argues that the newer allegation "was issued the day after a Tallahassee judge told police that if they're not investigating a crime, they had to return my equipment." During that raid "police did find documents I received/downloaded from sources in the state, or something of that nature..." Jones posted Saturday. "[I]t isn't clear at this point what exactly they're saying I had that I shouldn't have had, but an agent confirmed it has nothing to do with the subject of the warrant." The Tampa Bay Times reports: Jones announced Saturday on Twitter that she learned of the warrant and plans to turn herself in on Sunday. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed there is a warrant for Jones' arrest but said it cannot disclose what charges she faces until she is in custody. Agency spokesman Gretl Plessinger said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times that "agents have been working with her attorney to have her turn herself in..." Jones said she and her attorney were not told what she's being prosecuted for, just that she faces one criminal charge... "The agent told my lawyer there would be only one charge," Jones tweeted on Saturday, "but emphasized that speaking out or going to the media may result in police 'stacking' additional charges." UPDATE (1/18/2021): Monday in court prosecutors asked that Jones be banned from the internet, and be required to wear a GPS monitor — but a judge rejected the request (according to a local news report cited by the Orlando Sentinel). The warrant alleges that on Nov. 10, Jones downloaded a file equivalent to between 600 and 700 sheets of paper, containing contact information for about 19,182 Floridians. The file contained names, organizations, titles, home counties as well as personal phone numbers and emails, the warrant states. On her Twitter account, Jones said the charge was retaliation for her criticisms of the state's COVID-19 response and claimed the charge had nothing to do with the original search warrant at her home last month... The agency said the message was sent from an IP address that matched Jones' address, according to the warrant. Agents seized a desktop computer from Jones' home during the search, and a forensic analysis revealed she downloaded the file containing the information, the warrant reads. The charge is a third-degree felony.

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Is There a Tech Worker 'Exodus' From the San Francisco Bay Area?

Sun, 01/17/2021 - 16:35
The New York Times reports on an "exodus" of tech workers from the San Francisco Bay Area, where "Rent was astronomical. Taxes were high. Your neighbors didn't like you" — and your commute could be over an hour. The biggest tech companies aren't going anywhere, and tech stocks are still soaring... But the migration from the Bay Area appears real. Residential rents in San Francisco are down 27% from a year ago, and the office vacancy rate has spiked to 16.7%, a number not seen in a decade. Though prices had dropped only slightly, Zillow reported more homes for sale in San Francisco than a year ago. For more than a month last year, 90% of the searches involving San Francisco on moveBuddha were for people moving out... There are 33,000 members in the Facebook group Leaving California and 51,000 in its sister group, Life After California. People post pictures of moving trucks and links to Zillow listings in new cities. They've apparently scattered across the country — even to tropical islands like Puerto Rico and Costa Rica They fled to more affordable places like Georgia. They fled to states without income taxes like Texas and Florida... The No. 1 pick for people leaving San Francisco is Austin, Texas, with other winners including Seattle, New York and Chicago, according to moveBuddha, a site that compiles data on moving. Some cities have set up recruiting programs to lure them to new homes. The Times also notes "there is a very vocal Miami faction, led by a few venture capital influencers, trying to tweet the city's startup world into existence," as other cities begin to realize that "the talent and money of newly remote tech workers are up for grabs." Topeka, Kansas, started Choose Topeka, which will reimburse new workers $10,000 for the first year of rent or $15,000 if they buy a home. Tulsa, Oklahoma, will pay you $10,000 to move there. The nation of Estonia has a new residency program just for digital nomads. A program in Savannah, Georgia, will reimburse remote workers $2,000 for the move there, and the city has created various social activities to introduce the newcomers to one another and to locals... But the article also points out that "More money was made faster in the Bay Area by fewer people than at any other time in American history," and speculates on what long-time residents may be thinking: People who distrusted the young newcomers from the start will say this change is a good thing. Hasn't this steep growth in wealth and population in a tiny geography always seemed unsustainable? These tech workers came like a whirlwind. Virtually every community from San Jose in the south to Marin County in the north has fought the rise of new housing for the arrivals of the last decade. Maybe spreading the tech talent around America is smart. Locals have also seen this play before. Moving trucks come to take a generation of tech ambition away, and a few years later moving trucks return with new dreamers and new ambitions.

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Anti-Mask Protesters Proudly Filmed Their Confrontation With a Grocery Store's Manager

Sun, 01/17/2021 - 15:34
Nine days ago America set a record: nearly 290,000 new Covid-19 cases within 24 hours. according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. Four days later, anti-mask protesters in Oregon filmed their confrontation with employees at a Trader Joe's grocery store who wouldn't let them enter the store unless they were wearing a mask. Their 8-minute video has since been viewed over 325,000 times. The Oregonian newspaper reports: As other masked customers enter the store, the manager repeats that the protesters are welcome to shop too, as long as they wear masks. He says he is more than willing to talk to the group but isn't interested in debating policy. Trader Joe's nationwide policy requires customers to wear masks in stores. "We're not demonstrating, we're buying groceries," a protester says. "That's why I'm here." The manager says he is enforcing the store's mask mandate. "It's not a law. You cannot enforce non-law," a protester says. "You cannot deny somebody the right to commerce." The store manager appears to offer to shop for the protesters and bring out what they want. Amid growing shouting, a woman says: "I need to buy groceries. I don't know what I want until I go in and see it. The Civil Rights Act protects me to go in and shop like everybody else." Legal experts have told USA Today that the 1964 Civil Rights Act does not give people the right to shop without a mask. The manager patiently explains to the protesters that "The difference you guys are trying to make isn't going to made with us. It can made with your government." But soon one protester starts amplifying their voice with a bullhorn, while another continues filming the grocery store's employees — zooming in on their name tags — and threatening, "I'm sorry that you're not going to be able to let anyone else in, because we're standing here." Another protester says "Right, that's pretty much the only resolution. It's either we get to shop, like free American citizens, right? Without being forced into wearing this mask, right...?" They don't appear to follow through on their threat to blockade entry into the store, but the manager continues talking to them throughout the video. And at one point he says calmly that "It's disheartening that we can't have any conversations any more... It's really disheartening. "It's disheartening that people can't just talk to one another."

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Darkened SpaceX Satellites Can Still Disrupt Astronomy, New Research Suggests

Sun, 01/17/2021 - 14:34
"SpaceX's attempt to reduce the reflectivity of Starlink satellites is working, but not to the degree required by astronomers," reports Gizmodo: Starlink satellites with an anti-reflective coating are half as bright as the standard version, according to research published in The Astrophysical Journal. It's an improvement, but still not good enough, according to the team, led by astronomer Takashi Horiuchi from the National Astronomical Observatory in Japan. These "DarkSats," as they're called, also continue to cause problems at other wavelengths of light [and] were included in a batch of satellites launched by SpaceX on January 7, 2020. The new study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of that dark coating... The scientists found that the "albedo of DarkSat is about a half of that of STARLINK-1113," as they wrote in their paper. That's a decent improvement in the visual spectrum, but still not great. What's more, problems persist at other wavelengths. "The darkening paint on DarkSat certainly halves reflection of sunlight compared to the ordinary Starlink satellites, but [the constellation's] negative impact on astronomical observations still remains," Horiuchi told Physics World. He said the mitigating effect is "good in the UV/optical region" of the spectrum, but "the black coating raises the surface temperature of DarkSat and affects intermediate infrared observations." A third version of Starlink is supposed to be even dimmer. Called "VisorSats," they feature a sun visor that will "dim the satellites once they reach their operational altitude," according to Sky and Telescope. SpaceX launched some VisorSats last year, but the degree to which their albedo is lessened compared to the original version is still not known, or if these versions will exhibit elevated surface temperatures. Horiuchi told Physics World that SpaceX should seriously consider lifting the altitude of the Starlink constellation to further reduce the brightness of these objects. . The article ends with a quote from an astronomer at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and an expert on satellites. He'd told Gizmodo's reporter back in January of 2020 that "SpaceX is making a good-faith effort to fix the problem," and that he believes the company "can get the satellites fainter than what the naked eye can see."

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Signal Back After 24 Hours of Outages Caused by Surging Traffic

Sun, 01/17/2021 - 13:34
"After experiencing technical difficulties Friday, the Signal messaging app appears to be back up and running," reports the Verge: The company tweeted Saturday night that it was "back," although added that some users may still see error messages in their chats. The company didn't explain what caused the outage. For users still seeing error messages in their chats — which the company said was a "side effect" of the outage that began around 11:30AM ET Friday — Signal tweeted that those messages do not affect security, rather that you may have missed a message from another user. This will be fixed in the next app updates, the company said... During the outage, the Signal tweeted that it was "working as quickly as possible to bring additional capacity online to handle peak traffic levels." A headline at Android Authority suggests a theory about what caused the outage: "Mass exodus from WhatsApp causes Signal servers to buckle under pressure." "Although we aren't certain why this specific outage occurred," they write, "Signal has made it clear that it is seeing a huge influx of new users. The surge in adoption is due in no small part to people running away from WhatsApp after that Facebook-owned service updated its privacy policy."

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Estimated Cost of Poor Software Quality in the U.S. in 2020: $2.1 Trillion

Sun, 01/17/2021 - 12:40
TechRepublic shares a remarkable calculation by the not-for-profit IT leadership group the Consortium for Information and Software Security: CISQ's 2020 report, The Cost of Poor Software Quality in the U.S., looked at the financial impact of software projects that went awry or otherwise ended up leaving companies with a larger bill by creating additional headaches for them. According to the consortium, unsuccessful IT projects alone cost U.S. companies $260 billion in 2020, while software problems in legacy systems cost businesses $520 billion and software failures in operational systems left a dent of $1.56 trillion in corporate coffers. As a result, the total cost of poor software quality in the U.S. amounted to approximately $2.08 trillion in 2020, CISQ said. Comparing this to the total U.S. IT and software wage base of $1.4 trillion, the company said the figures "underscored the magnitude of the negative economic impact of poor software quality."

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Online Misinformation Dropped Dramatically After Twitter Banned Trump

Sun, 01/17/2021 - 12:04
The Washington Post reports: Online misinformation about election fraud plunged 73 percent after several social media sites suspended President Trump and key allies last week, research firm Zignal Labs has found, underscoring the power of tech companies to limit the falsehoods poisoning public debate when they act aggressively. The new research by the San Francisco-based analytics firm reported that conversations about election fraud dropped from 2.5 million mentions to 688,000 mentions across several social media sites in the week after Trump was banned from Twitter... The findings, from Jan. 9 through Friday, highlight how falsehoods flow across social media sites — reinforcing and amplifying each other — and offer an early indication of how concerted actions against misinformation can make a difference. Kate Starbird, disinformation researcher at the University of Washington, also warned the Post that "What happens in the long term is still up in the air."

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Are Tech Companies Ducking Responsibility For The Need to De-Platform?

Sun, 01/17/2021 - 11:34
Long-time technology reporter/commentator Kara Swisher weighs in on the de-platforming of U.S. president Trump, arguing Trump "was only following the rules set for him and it was entirely the fault of the tech companies for giving him the kind of latitude that allowed him to go that far." Like a parent who gives a child endless bowls of sugar and then wonders why their kid is batshit crazy, tech has pretended to be obtuse to the consequences of their products and the choices that have been made about them. For years I have written that these companies have turned themselves into the digital arms dealers of the Internet age, amplifying and weaponizing everything. They might have cleaned up the Trump mess, but they also made the Trump mess possible by architecting systems that thrive on enragement. Most of all, they have tried to duck responsibility. I have always been amazed by Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg's statement that he did not want to be an "arbiter of the truth." My question for him: Why then did he build a platform that requires it? Even more importantly, we must examine the power that these companies wield and how to deal with that going forward... [W]hile justifiably putting a sock in Trump's toxic pie-hole, they also showed how swiftly they could end whole businesses, as was the case with the right-fave social media platform Parler.... [T]here is nothing that Parler was doing that companies like Facebook were not guilty of too and in larger measure and for a very long time. While I would not go as far as calling the company a scapegoat, as it did allow its system to be used in dangerous ways, it certainly got a lion's share of the hurt that rained down on tech and that others probably deserved even more. This brings us to the issue at hand: Power. Tech companies have too much of it, but it should be looked at through the lens of market concentration that results in the dampening of innovation needed to inevitably upend the leaders. Such a situation demands substantive and bipartisan action to deal with each company differently and with different remedies, which include fines, enforcement of existing laws, new regulation and, yes, antitrust action. That has already started, which is good, as has a series of dopey attempts to repeal Section 230, which provides broad immunity to digital platforms. What it needs is reform...

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