Today in Big Tech — November 23, 2020

While putting today’s roundup together I thought of the name “Today in Big Tech” — a tad less generic than Tech Roundup. On with the news! Let’s see how busy this U.S. Thanksgiving week will be.

Secret Amazon Reports Expose the Company’s Surveillance of Labor and Environmental Groups by Lauren Gurley

“The documents show Amazon analysts closely monitor the labor and union-organizing activity of their workers throughout Europe, as well as environmentalist and social justice groups on Facebook and Instagram. They also reveal, and an Amazon spokesperson confirmed, that Amazon has hired Pinkerton operatives — from the notorious spy agency known for its union-busting activities — to gather intelligence on warehouse workers.”

The problem with Amazon is that the solution is so unclear. Banning Amazon from selling its own goods on its own store, forcing it to spin off AWS, or writing some better labor laws — none of that will stop the company from continuing its long list of unethical practices.

Undersheriff, Apple security chief, businessman indicted in bribery schemes by Sue Dremann

“Sung and Jensen allegedly held up four gun licenses from Apple employees and extracted from Moyer a promise that Apple would donate iPads to the sheriff’s office. A donation of 200 iPads worth nearly $70,000 was ended at the last minute after Aug. 2, 2019, when Sung and Moyer learned that the district attorney’s office had issued a search warrant seizing all of the sheriff’s office’s CCW license records.”

Sounds like both sides are to blame here. The two-year investigation is particularly painful — either party could have said no and saved the attorney’s office a ton of resources.

Facebook plans charm offensive for Joe Biden by Kiran Stacey and Hannah Murphy

“In its attempt to secure a hearing from the new administration, Facebook is planning a series of initiatives that align with Mr Biden’s top priorities in government, insiders say. The company will expand its efforts to combat misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, and is considering publishing a banner advertisement at the top of users’ news feeds encouraging them to take a vaccine once it is approved.”

It’s sad that these are only Facebook’s priorities because the company believes they are the administration’s priorities. Facebook really could use some basic ethical principles under which to operate on. No, Zuckerberg, number of shares don’t count.

Amazon’s AirPods competitor can now track workouts by Todd Haselton

“Amazon said the Echo Buds can track the duration of a workout, the steps you take, estimated calories burned and how fast or how far you walk or run.”

On its own, this is cool. When coupled with Amazon Halo, not so much.

Snapchat launches a TikTok-like feed called Spotlight, kick-started by paying creators by Sarah Perez

“Snapchat says its algorithms will work to surface the most engaging Snaps to display to each user on a personalized basis.”

There was a time when every social company, nay ever tech company, was copying Snapchat. In fact, we’re still in that time. But we’re also in the time where everyone — including Snapchat — is copying TikTok.




Executive Editor @VentureBeat Formerly @TheNextWeb @ZDNet @CNET @TechSpot @ArsTechnica

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Emil Protalinski

Emil Protalinski

Executive Editor @VentureBeat Formerly @TheNextWeb @ZDNet @CNET @TechSpot @ArsTechnica

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