News roundup: Twitter announces new bug bounty programme, Huawei to invest $100 million in Asia Pacific startups, Amazon accused of breaking US employment laws, and more

A round-up of this week’s technology news, including Twitter’s new bug bounty programme, Huawei’s $100 million funding boost for Asia Pacific Startups, Amazon’s US employment law woes, and more nich

Professional ethical hacker: Are you interested? yes or no
Shutterstock / Yeexin Richelle

Twitter announces bug bounty programme to tackle unconscious bias 

Twitter has launched a bug bounty competition to reward hackers who find and report instances of unconscious bias affecting its image-cropping algorithm, as reported by the Metro. In the past, Twitter’s image-cropping algorithm has been slammed as racist and sexist because it automatically cropped images of black people and women more than photos containing white men. 

The firm has partnered with bug bounty platform HackerOne to run this competition, and cash prizes of up to $3500 are on offer. Twitter will announce the winning teams on August 8th.

“In May, we shared our approach to identifying bias in our saliency algorithm (also known as our image cropping algorithm), and we made our code available for others to reproduce our work,” explained Twitter in a blog post.

“We want to take this work a step further by inviting and incentivizing the community to help identify potential harms of this algorithm beyond what we identified ourselves.” 

Huawei unveils $100 funding boost for Asia Pacific startups

Chinese technology giant Huawei has announced a three-year $100 million funding boost for its Spark Asia Pacific startup support scheme, as reported by ZDNet. 

With the extra funding, Huawei is planning to build four new startup hubs in Vietnam, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Indonesia. The scheme, which launched last year, has already provided support to startups located in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand.

In addition to the creation of four new startup hubs across the Asia Pacific region, Huawei also plans to add 1000 startups to its accelerator program and help to generate 100 new scaleups over the next few years. 

Catherine Chen, senior vice president and board member of Huawei, said: “Startups and SMEs are the innovators, disruptors, and pioneers of our times. 34 years ago, Huawei was a startup with just 5,000 dollars of registered capital. 

“Recently, we have been thinking: How can we leverage our experience and resources to help more startups address their challenges? Doing so would allow them to seize the opportunities posed by digital transformation, achieve business success, and develop more innovative products and solutions for the world."

The announcement comes as Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou attended a Canadian court hearing on Wednesday to determine whether she can be extradited to the US to face charges for allegedly violating American economic sanctions against Iran. A verdict will likely be reached by September.

Amazon accused of breaking US employment laws

Amazon has been accused of breaking American employment laws over the way it handled a recent union vote in Alabama, as reported by Engadget. 

A representative at the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is advising employees of Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama-based warehouse to arrange a fresh vote because the previous one was fundamentally flawed. In April, employees working at the warehouse held a vote on creating a trade union but the proposal failed to pass. 

The RWDSU disputes the result of the April union vote, claiming interference by Amazon, and identifying 23 different issues with it. In one complaint, RWDSU accuses Amazon of holding the vote in a work car park without gaining the permission of the NLRB regional director. Additionally, the ballot box used in the vote was allegedly put in full sight of security cameras operated by Amazon to make voters think they were being watched by their bosses. 

The ecommerce giant rejects these accusations and insists that the union vote was fair. A spokesperson for the firm said: “Our employees had a chance to be heard during a noisy time when all types of voices were weighing into the national debate, and at the end of the day, they voted overwhelmingly in favor of a direct connection with their managers and the company.”

UK government could block Nvidia-Arm acquisition

The UK Government is currently investigating American semiconductor giant Nvidia’s $40 billion takeover of Cambridge-based chipmaker Arm to determine whether it should go ahead.

Reuters reports that British officials may intervene and stop the acquisition from taking place over national security concerns.

Last month, the UK Competition and Markets Authority completed its first-stage investigation of the Nvidia-Arm deal and submitted the findings to the UK government. 

The report is believed to outline a plethora of security challenges posed by the deal and could trigger a wider-ranging national security review led by the UK government. 

Nvidia, which is headquartered in California, has indicated that it’s prepared to work with British regulators to resolve any security concerns arising from the deal. 

Tencent sees market value plummet following “electronic drugs” comment 

A number of Chinese online gaming firms saw their shares tumble when they were called “spiritual opium” and “electronic drugs” by a government-run media organisation.

According to a report by Sky News, the Chinese Government-backed Economic Information Daily wrote an article accusing the sector of causing online gaming addiction in young people and calling for tighter regulation in the area. 

The newspaper warned in its article that “no industry, no sport, can be allowed to develop in a way that will destroy a generation”, criticising Tencent-developed online video game Honour of Kings specifically. 

These comments had damaging effects on several Chinese online video game makers, with Tencent experiencing a 10% fall in the value of its stock at the start of the week. As a result, its market capitalisation decreased by nearly $60 billion. NetEase, XD Inc and GMGE Technology Group Ltd also saw their market valuation and stock fall. 

These comments could perhaps signal that Chinese lawmakers are planning to introduce new regulations to curb the country’s booming online games market, which has been the case across other areas of China’s technology industry.

Security roundup

  • Video conferencing platform Zoom is to settle a class-action lawsuit centered around user privacy for $85 million, according to a report by ZDNet. The settlement is in relation to allegations that Zoom wrongly shared the personal information of its users with other online platforms via third-party integrations. The lawsuit also accused Zoom of misleading users over its encryption technology and failing to protect users from so-called “Zoombomings”, when unauthorised individuals or groups join Zoom calls. 
  • Cybersecurity researchers have identified a range of vulnerabilities affecting two domestic electric vehicle chargers, according to a report by the BBC. Experts at Pen Ten Partners were able to exploit the Wallbox and Project EV chargers so that they turned on or off and restricted user access. The researchers also demonstrated how cyber criminals could use the chargers to hack into a domestic internet network. Since identifying these security flaws, the researchers have reported them to the respective manufacturers to be fixed.
  • The vast majority (86%) of international businesses believe that they’ll fall victim to a serious cyber attack over the next year, as reported by IT Pro. Another significant finding from Trend Micro’s biannual Cyber Risk Index (CRI) report is that 80% of global organisations anticipate a cyber attack affecting customer data in the coming 12 months. Meanwhile, the top three ramifications of cyber attacks identified by organisations are customer churn, lost intellectual property and critical infrastructure damage.
  • New research from security software company Egress found that 73% of organisations were impacted by a data breach following a phishing attack over the past year. This threat has been exacerbated by the rise of remote working during the coronavirus pandemic, with 53% of IT leaders blaming it for a surge in phishing-related data breaches. Over half of IT leaders believe that the prospect of full-time remote and hybrid working will make it harder to fight future data breaches linked to phishing. The report also shows that, in 23% of businesses, employees who got hacked due to phishing emails were either sacked by their employer or resigned from their role. 
  • The UK Ministry of Defence has rewarded hackers who discovered security flaws impacting its computer infrastructure by paying them bug bounties, according to a report by Sky. Run with the help of US bug bounty platform HackerOne, 26 ethical hackers participated in the 30-day scheme aimed to identify serious cybersecurity issues. 


Square, the digital payments firm set up by Twitter CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey, has announced it’s to acquire Australian financial technology firm Afterpay in a $29 billion deal. As reported by the BBC, this is the largest acquisition ever made in Australia. 

US cloud software giant Salesforce is set to acquire robotic process automation company Servicetrace in an undisclosed deal. When the acquisition concludes by October 2021, Servicetrace will be merged with Salesforce brand MuleSoft.

Hootsuite, a social media management application, has acquired Canadian conversational artificial intelligence company Heyday for £35 million. According to Hootsuite, the acquisition will enable it to help companies provide an improved customer experience by leveraging conversational AI. 

British cybersecurity firm Sophos has acquired DevSecOps automation platform Refactr for an undisclosed amount. The acquisition will enable Sophos to add more automation capabilities to its adaptive cybersecurity platform, which is used across all of its products and services. 

Feedzai, a cloud financial risk management platform, is acquiring behavioural biometric platform Revelock just several months after it closed a $200 million funding round. According to Feedzai, its acquisition of Reveleck will result in the creation of the “world’s largest AI-powered financial risk management platform with native, integrated behavioral biometrics”.

Deloitte Canada is to acquire Montreal-based early-stage engineering and applied artificial intelligence firm Dataperformers in a bid to expand its AI and machine learning capabilities. This is one of several acquisitions made by Deloitte Canada in 2021. 

TikTok amassed 660 million downloads in 2020 

Chinese social media giant TikTok became the world’s most popular mobile video app last year, according to data acquired by Finbold. In 2020, it amassed 660.12 million downloads across the globe. 

While YouTube has been around for a lot longer than TikTok, it was only the fourth most downloaded mobile video app in 2020. The Google-owned app was downloaded 222.7 million times last year.

Other popular mobile video apps in 2020 were Likee (270.3 million downloads), SnackVideo (233.57 million downloads), TikTok Lite (141.89 million downloads), Moj (93.87 million downloads), Zili (84.11 million downloads), MX TakaTak (81.7 million downloads), Josh (78.13 million downloads) and Uvideo (74.95 million downloads).

Google announces self-developed mobile processor 

Google’s upcoming smartphones, the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, will be powered by self-developed processors for the first time. 

As reported by CNBC, the US tech giant has decided to make its own mobile CPU and move away from processors developed by semiconductor firm Qualcomm. The processor will be called Google Tensor, paying homage to the Google Tensor Processing Unit. 

It’s not the only major US technology company to produce self-made processors. Apple abandoned a long-standing relationship with Intel to manufacture its own computer chip, called the M1.

Rick Osterloh, senior vice president of devices and services at Google, explained in a blog post: “Tensor was built for how people use their phones today and how people will use them in the future. As more and more features are powered by AI and ML it’s not simply about adding more computing resources, it’s about using that ML to unlock specific experiences for our Pixel users.

“The team that designed our silicon wanted to make Pixel even more capable. For example, with Tensor we thought about every piece of the chip and customized it to run Google's computational photography models. For users, this means entirely new features, plus improvements to existing ones.”