Tech Companies Under Pressure To Safeguard Data After Roe v. Wade Overturned



After the US supreme court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday, calls increased for tech companies to take a stand about the use of online data to incriminate individuals seeking or providing abortion services, The Guardian reported.

According to The Guardian, abortion and civil rights advocates have warned that there are few federal regulations on what information is collected and retained by tech firms, making it easy for law enforcement officials to access incriminating data on location, internet searchers and communication history.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) posted “Digital Safety Tips: For People Seeking an Abortion”. In it, EFF recommends that people should keep searches related to abortion separate from their daily lives. Compartmentalizing it could make it harder to trace it back to you.

EFF also recommends choosing a separate browser with hardened privacy settings. They suggest browsers like Brave, Firefox, and DuckDuckGo on mobile. They also recommend turning off browser’s abilities to remember browsing history and site data/cookies. People who need to call a clinic or healthcare provider should do it through a Google Voice phone number instead of their actual phone number.

CNBC reported that tech companies may have to contend with issues about user privacy related to such health care whether they want to or not. That could be the case if they are ordered by a court to hand over certain types of data, like location information of users at an abortion clinic, search histories or text messages.

According to CNBC, before the decision [by the Supreme Court], lawmakers called on Google and the Federal Trade Commission to ensure data for online consumers seeking care would be protected in the event of a landmark Roe v. Wade ruling. The letters came in the wake of Politico’s reporting on a leaked draft decision that would cut back the protections.

ArsTechnica reported that four Democratic US Senators asked the Federal Trade Commission to “investigate Apple and Google for engaging in unfair and deceptive practices by enabling the collection and sale of hundreds of millions of mobile phone users’ personal data”.

The letter cited the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, saying that women “seeking abortions and other reproductive healthcare will become particularly vulnerable to privacy harms, including through the collection of their location data,”

Personally, I don’t think anyone wants to have their data collected by big tech companies – no matter what it was they were looking at on their phone or computer. Nobody wants data brokers to sell their information. I think that digital privacy is a topic we can all agree needs to be made more secure.


Court Allows Lawsuit By Woman Who Says She Helped Create Pinterest



Bloomberg reported that Pinterest Inc. must face a lawsuit from a digital marketing strategist who says she helped conceive the social media platform, a California judge ruled. According to Bloomberg, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Richard Seabolt denied the company’s motion to dismiss the suit, but he eliminated co-founder Paul Sciarra as a defendant because he left Pinterest a decade ago.

Bloomberg reported that Christine Martinez sued the company in September, saying she contributed key ideas to the platform but was never compensated by founders Bill Silbermann and Sciarra. According to her complaint, Oakland resident Martinez was friends with Silbrermann when he asked her to “salvage a failed shopping app” that later became Pinterest.

She says she developed some of the main concepts for the platform, including features that allowed users to create “pinboards” reflecting their cultural tastes and created a marketing plan to enlist bloggers to recruit users. Martinez claims she was so integral to the site’s creation that Silbermann and Sciarra embedded her name in the platform’s code.

The New York Times provided some background information (in 2021). The New York Times reported that when Pinterest went public in 2019, Christine Martinez’s friends sent congratulations. She had worked closely with the founders of the digital pinboard in its earliest days, and her friends through she would get rich alongside them. But as Pinterest’s stock price rose, turning its founders into billionaires, Ms. Martinez realized she would not be compensated or credited for her contributions, she said.

According to The New York Times, Ms. Martinez was never formally employed by Pinterest, nor did she ask for a contract. She was not given stock, though she said Pinterest’s founders had verbally agreed to compensate her many times. The New York Times also reported that other women who were former Pinterest employees wrote on Twitter about the pay disparities, retaliation, and sexist, racist comments they had experienced at the company. Pinterest’s former chief operating, Francoise Brougher, sued Pinterest, claiming gender discrimination and retaliation.

Engadget reported that Ms. Martinez filled a lawsuit against Pinterest in September. In December, the company filed a motion to dismiss it. Pinterest argued that Ms. Martinez’s claimed were too old to fall within the statute of limitations. Judge Seabolt disagreed. He stated that Ms. Martinez “sufficiently alleges” the she and the Pinterest founders agreed to deferred compensation. Pinterest went public in 2019, an event that Seabolt deemed “transformative” and his view sealed the company’s obligation to pay Ms. Martinez.

These kinds of lawsuits are important. They serve as a way to prevent employers from intentionally discriminating against the women they hired. It makes absolutely no sense to me why the Pinterest founders agreed to deferred compensation – and then (perhaps intentionally) failed to pay Ms. Martinez the money they owed her for the work she did on Pinterest.


Instagram Introduces New Ways to Verify Age on Instagram



Instagram announced that they are testing new options for people on Instagram to verify their age, starting with people based in the U.S.

If someone attempts to edit their date of birth on Instagram from under the age of 18 to 18 or over, Instagram will require them to verify their age using one of three options: upload their ID, record a video selfie or ask mutual friends to verify their age. Instagram is testing this out so they can make sure teens and adults are in the right experience for their age group. Instagram is also partnering with Yoti, a company that specializes in online age verification, to help ensure people’s privacy.

Here is more information about verifying age:

In addition to having someone upload their ID, Instagram is testing two new ways to verify a person’s age:

Video Selfie: You can choose to upload a video selfie to verify your age. If you choose this option, you’ll see instructions on your screen to guide you. After you take a video selfie, Instagram will share the image with Yoti, and nothing else. Yoti’s technology estimates your age based on your facial features and shares that estimate with Instagram. Meta and Yoti then delete the image. The technology cannot recognize your identity just your age.

Social Vouching: This option allows you to ask mutual followers to confirm how old you are. The person vouching must be at least 18 years old, must not be vouching for anyone else at that time, and will need to meet other safeguards Instagram has in place. The three people you select to vouch for you will receive a request to confirm your age and will need to respond within three days.

Instagram points out that you will still be able to upload your ID to verify your age with forms of identification like a driver’s license or ID card. They will use your ID to confirm your age and help keep their community safe. Your ID will be stored securely on Instagram’s servers and is deleted within 30 days.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Instagram is adding these extra steps as part of its efforts to ensure an “age-appropriate” experience for minors. While children under 13 are prohibited by the network’s terms of service, those who say they are ages 13 to 17 can use it with some limitations.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Instagram doesn’t verify the age a user declares when creating an account, and Instagram said these new tools won’t change that.

TechCrunch reported that there are two basic use cases for Instagram’s new verification system: adults who have registered as teens by mistake and trying to enter their correct age: and teens who are trying to circumvent the platform’s age-appropriate restrictions.

Personally, I think that one of the reasons why Instagram is announcing this new age-check system may have something to do with the lawsuits that Meta (parent company of Facebook and Instagram) is facing. In short, some have claimed in their lawsuits that Instagram includes defective design, failure to warn, fraud, and negligence.

Some of the lawsuits are from people who are now adults who claim they were harmed by Instagram. Others are parents of tweens or teens who experienced suicidal ideation or self-harm after using Instagram.


Paramount+ Arrives in UK on Roku



Months after launching in USA (and the subsequent Star Trek Discovery PR disaster), Paramount+ finally arrived in UK today. Priced at £6.99 per month, the crown jewels are undoubtedly the Star Trek catalogue, but with ComedyCentral, ShowTime and MTV, there’s over 8000 hours of premium content including classics like Cheers! and Frasier. The new Halo live action series debuts on the service bringing another dimension to Microsoft’s long-running game series. It really is a golden era for television.

If you want to watch Paramount+, there are apps available from the app stores for Apple and Android devices as you’d expect. For the big screen, it’s bundled with Sky’s Cinema subscription but if you’re not a subscriber, a media streamer like a Roku is likely your best bet for now. The Paramount+ channel can be loaded from the Roku store and it’s then just a case of logging in with your credentials. I’m assuming Paramount+ will come to smart TVs and consoles soon but it’s not yet showing up on my LG TV or Playstation.

If you don’t have a Roku and want one, I’d recommend the Express 4K model which offers HDR and 4K output (if supported by the programming). It’s easy to use and is way less confusing that the Fire TV. Crucially, the Roku comes with a remote control so there’s no need to find your mobile phone to get going. Priced at GB£39.99, there are sometimes discounts for special events like Father’s Day so keep an eye out for those.

If you want to know more about the Roku Express 4K, check out my fairly comprehensive review below.

 


Crypto Chaos with Crypto Lending! #1607



Absolute crypto chaos with crypto lending companies not letting account holders withdraw their crypto. Crypto it seems is now tied to the bigger financial market. Sadly what was supposed to be independent does not seem to be any longer with people freaking out the same way they do when the stock market drops.

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Apple Workers At Maryland Store Vote To Unionize



Apple employees at a Baltimore-area store have voted to unionize, making it the first of the company’s 270-plus stores in the United States to join a trend in labor organizing sweeping through retailers, restaurants, and tech companies, The New York Times reported.

The result, announced on Saturday by the National Labor Relations Board, provides a foothold for a budding movement among Apple retail employees who want a greater voice over wages and Covid-19 policies. Employees of more than two dozen Apple stores have expressed interest in unionizing in recent months, union leaders say.

According to The New York Times, in the election, 65 employees at Apple’s store in Towson, Md., voted in favor of being represented by the union, known as the Apple Coalition of Organized Retail Employees, while 33 voted against. It will be part of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, an industrial trade union that represents over 300,000 employees.

CNBC reported that the vote is a defeat for Apple, which has opposed unionization efforts, and could energize workers at the company’s other retail locations to move forward with organizing.

According to CNBC, The National Labor Relations Board still needs to certify the votes. That could take around a week. Apple is required to bargain with the union over working conditions after the vote is certified, according to the NLRB.

CNBC also noted that Apple is one of the most profitable companies in the world. It reported over $365 billion in global sales in 2021, and says its retail employees in the U.S. make at least $22 per hour.

TechCrunch reported that this historic victory comes after concentrated efforts from Apple to discourage its retail workers from unionizing. Last month, the trillion-dollar company’s vice president of people and retail Deirdre O’Brian sent a video to 58,000 retail staff, warning them about the perceived drawbacks of unionizing.

According to TechCrunch, O’Brian reiterated anti-union talking points, stating that it would be more difficult to enact change in stores with a union standing between Apple and employees – but workers don’t think that meaningful change is possible without having a formally recognized bargaining unit.

TechCrunch also noted that the Apple store in Maryland will become unionized through the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and are calling themselves the Coalition of Organized Retail Employees (CORE). When they first announced their intent to unionize, they wrote a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

The New York Times reported that at Starbucks, one of the companies where organizers have gained the most momentum, employees credited a vote to organize at a store in Buffalo with helping to spur other stores to file for union elections. Since that vote in December, more than 150 of the company’s roughly 9,000 corporate-owned stores in the U.S. have voted to unionize, according to the N.L.R.B.

Personally, I’m in favor of unionizing. I think that workers, who aren’t being treated well at their place of employment, should push to form a union. In some cases, the union is the only thing that can make things better for the workers – especially in companies that are strongly anti-union.


Telegram Announced Telegram Premium



Telegram announced that it has become one of the top-5 downloaded apps worldwide in 2022 and now has over 700 million monthly active users. This growth is solely from personal recommendations – Telegram has never paid to advertise its apps.

As Telegram keeps growing at rocket speed, many users have expressed their will to support our team. Today, we’re launching Telegram Premium – a subscription that lets you support Telegram’s continued development and gives you access to exclusive additional features.

According to Telegram, this will allow them to offer all the resource-heavy features users have asked for over the years, while preserving free access to the most powerful messenger on the planet.

Telegram says that by subscribing to Telegram Premium, users unlock doubled limits, 4GB file uploads, faster downloads, exclusive stickers and reactions, improved chat management – and a whole lot more. At the same time, all existing features that users have come to expect and rely on for nearly a decade remain free.

Moreover, non-premium users will be able to enjoy some of Premium’s benefits: for example, download the extra-large documents and view stickers sent by premium users, as well as tap to increase counters on premium reactions that were already added to a message.

TechCrunch reported that Telegram did not disclose how much it is charging for the premium tier, but the monthly subscription appears to be priced in the range of $4.99 to $6.00.

According to TechCrunch, paying customers will be able to follow up to 1,000 channels, up from 500 offered to free users, and create up to 20 chat folders with as many as 200 chats in each. Telegram Premium users will also be able to add up to four accounts in the app and pin up to 10 chats.

The Verge reported that premium subscribers get double the limits imposted on standard users. Instead of joining up to 500 channels, subscribers are capped at 1,000 channels. Subscribers can create 20 chat folders with 200 chats each, save up to 10 stickers, pin up to 10 chats, and add a total of four more accounts to Telegram instead of three. Premium users also get to have longer bios with a link.

According to The Verge, subscribers also get access to a library of Premium stickers and animated profile pictures. There’s also text for conversion for voice messages in case you don’t have headphones handy. Subscribing to Premium removed sponsored messages in public channels.

To me, it seems like many of the social media apps are competing with each other to attract paying subscribers. I think most people will pick their favorite one and ignore the subscription options on the other apps.