picture-via-national-lampoon
Internet

News Roundup: Reality Shows, Killing Dogs and Crap Wages

A roundup of the week’s tech news including more Diversity news, more NSA headlines, and something original.

When it Comes to Money, Diversity is Still an Issue

Pandora and Indiegogo are the latest companies to share their diversity info. Pandora does pretty well – 49% of the workforce are female (just under 18% in tech roles) and the figure for IGG is a respectable 45% (33% in tech roles). We’ve mostly focused on the numbers of women in tech firms here at Connect, but there’s also a lack of cultural diversity in these firms. A new report from Working Partnerships USA says the major tech firms have a contracted (and therefore unreported) army of mostly black and Latino workers that are in underpaid jobs such as security, cleaning and maintenance. “These contracted service workers—not counted on tech companies’ official employment rolls and rarely mentioned in the public discourse—constitute the Silicon Valley tech industry’s ‘invisible workforce,’” it said. Considering the amount of money circulating around, and the fact the average tech worker earned $291,497 in 2013, it’s a problem that could easily be fixed.

In a random bit of money-related news, the average iPhone user earns almost double the mean US annual salary. Research firm comScore claims iPhoners earn $85,000 a year compared to an Android users average of $61,000. The average for the US is $46,440 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

NSA

The usual dose of NSA headlines

-          People at the TOR project claim the NSA are leaking TOR bugs to its developers.

-          The NSA have built a 'Google-like' search engine so you can sieve all its metadata.

-          GCHQ have been scanning for vulnerable systems in 32 countries and shared them around.

-          German spies ‘accidentally’ intercepted John Kerry and Hillary Clinton’s phone calls.

-          Hilary has also called for a “global compact” on surveillance and the use of collected data.

-          Mass surveillance systems are on sale to any government who wants them. 

-          GCHQ has produced BYOD guidelines, if you trust them enough.

China vs. OS

China really isn’t having it with these US companies. Barely a month after going after Microsoft over its monopoly in the operating system space, Chinese regulators are investigating the company again over the way it distributes its Media Player and Internet Explorer software. That’s not all; the Middle Kingdom is working on a homegrown OS to replace the likes of Windows and it’s due out sometime in October.

Social Silence and Satire

Social media is meant to make us more social. It’s in the name. But instead of making us chattier, it’s actually having the opposite effect. According to Pew, people were less likely to talk about the NSA-revelations in person than they were online, and, more importantly, were less likely to want to discuss issues if they thought their friends and followers disagreed with them. It’s pretty sad really, don’t be afraid to speak up, people!

On the subject of censorship, a Harvard study has found that individuals in China have free speech online as long as they don’t try and stir people up.  “Chinese people can write the most vitriolic blog posts about even the top Chinese leaders without fear of censorship,” the study said. “But if they write in support of or opposition to an ongoing protest—or even about a rally in favor of a popular policy or leader—they will be censored.”

Meanwhile on the subject of social media, Facebook has decided to ruin all our fun by adding a “Satire” tag in front of joke posts. The trial tested mainly on articles from the Onion and will no doubt spoil any chance of people in need of humour transplants getting outraged at nothing.

M&A

Tech M&A deals worth less than $1 billion are at their highest since 2000. Not quite at the same level, but still high. This is, however, the busiest August for M&As (including non-Tech) since the new Millennium. Bad news if you work on Wall Street, however, after the NYT revealed that Tech firms are avoiding investment banks. Think of all those billions the banks aren’t getting a cut of.

The biggest acquisition news this week was Amazon’s $970 million takeover of video-streaming site Twitch. Google were rumoured to have been close to finalising the deal for months, so the news came as a surprise to many. The search giant probably won’t sweat it too much, and has recently swept up Fitbit designers Gecko, image recognition startup Jetpac and Visual Effects software company Zync. Other acquisitions include VMWare buying CloudVolumes and Yahoo! snapping up ClarityRay.

Elsewhere, comScore now owns MdotLabs, Amris has acquired Zao, Sensata is to buy Schrader, Funding Circle has got its hands on LeapPay, Kirusa has bought Ghanaian IM app Saya Mobile, EyeEm has acquired Sight.io, and Bigcolors has nabbed GetViable.

Verbatim – Murdoch, Socks and Ask

Google is worse than the NSA, according to a certain media baron. Rupert Murdoch, a man not unfamiliar with invasions of privacy himself, tweeted last week saying, “NSA privacy invasion bad, but nothing compared to Google.” People may agree if their AI/Robots department gets out of control, but otherwise I think Mr. M may find himself in the minority.

Many people were surprised and upset about Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus, including Minecraft creator Markus "Notch" Persson. But time is said to heal all wounds and it looks like Notch is ok now. “I'm officially over being upset about Facebook buying Oculus,” he tweeted. “I'm upset about there being a hole in my favorite sock instead.”

You might have seen that Ask.com recently bought Ask.fm, a site known for having bullying problems. The company’s CEO Doug Leeds doesn’t seem fazed by it, and is ready to clean it up. “If we can’t [fix Ask.fm] we’ll shut it down,” he told Pando. Bold claim for a struggling company spending a lot of money.

No More Apps for That

Apps are over. The App economies are full of haves and piss-poor have-nots, but soon even the 1% might be struggling. According to Deloitte, one in three smartphone owners don’t download any apps over the course of a month, up from one in five last year. Those who do are downloading less; 1.82 apps per month in 2014 vs 2.32 in 2013 and 9 out of 10 never spend any money on apps. Luckily there’ s still Tom Hanks and Swing Copters to keep things ticking over.

It also seems like the App store isn’t safe from reality shows. Apparently GSN is currently looking to cast a new reality show called App Wars – where people pitch ideas for apps then actual programmers will make the app for you. I guess learning to code would be too simple.

Micro-Naughty

So Microsft have cut ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-leaning, oil-funded lobbying group. The Redmond company joined last year and said at the time, “Microsoft participates in ALEC’s Communication and Technology Task Force, as do many leading companies in the technology sector… In short, ALEC is not speaking for us on renewable energy policy”. While Microsoft are no longer affiliated with the group, Pando reports that plenty of other tech companies still are, including Google, Facebook, Yelp, and Yahoo. While their membership might be to fight against lawsuits targeting people over negative reviews, it’s still not a great group to be associated with, and it’s not like tech companies are adverse to forming their own lobbying bodies is it?

The Reg has also reported on Microsoft strong-arming Chile's government into avoiding Open Source software. Vlado Mirosevic, leader of the Chilean Liberal Party, proposed a bill that would have compelled Chile's government agencies to at least consider open-source software, but apparently Microsoft lobbied so hard against the bill that support waned and it failed to pass. Nothing illegal went down, but it’s not exactly playing fair is it?

Drones, Speeding and Killing Dogs

This week it’s Google’s Amazon-esque delivery drones that have been all over the news, but in reality it’s the cars that are still the most interesting. The company’s self-driving cars are now legally required to add steering wheels and brake pedals, which is good since the things are actually designed to exceed the speed limit when necessary. Despite all the press they do have limitations; they apparently can’t tell if a road obstacle is a rock or a crumpled piece of paper, and so will avoid both with equal vigour. But after the news that a Google Street View car possibly ran over a dog in Chile, maybe that’s a good thing? 

PREVIOUS ARTICLE

« Self-Service Data Discovery: Worth the Hype?

NEXT ARTICLE

Rant: Eulogy for a Keyboard? Not Yet »
author_image
Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

  • twt
  • twt
  • twt
  • Mail

Poll

Do you think your smartphone is making you a workaholic?