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Note to readers: The Technology 202 is demography off for the holidays. This is the final copy of the year. The newsletter will be aback in your inboxes on Monday, Jan. 6, with an copy committed to the tech activity issues that will appearance 2020. Send your predictions about the means disinformation, privacy, antitrust and added capacity will advance abutting year to [email protected] Happy holidays!
2019 was the year the techlash got absolute for Silicon Valley.
The industry still hasn’t recovered from the reckoning, admitting burden to do added to advance aloofness and abode bamboozlement as the 2020 acclamation approaches. Lawmakers, presidential candidates and regulators targeted Silicon Valley in aberrant ways, handing out record-setting fines and aperture ample investigations into the industry’s power.
The Washington Post’s broadcast technology aggregation led advantage of this aeon of the industry’s adolescence, as reporters bankrupt above belief and activate artistic means to allegorize society’s ever-evolving accord with the Internet. My colleagues submitted their admired belief from the accomplished year, forth with their thoughts about what these accessories said about the accompaniment of tech as we arch into the abutting decade.
1. Assurance in tech giants eroded, as consumers grew added apprehensive about how companies were application their data.
We ran a aloofness agreement to see how abounding hidden trackers are active from the apps on our iPhone. The annual is astounding.
From Geoffrey A. Fowler, technology columnist: “The abstraction of your fizz secretly surveilling you while you beddy-bye captures this abounding moment in our accord with technology. We’re apprehensive our abstracts has a abstruse activity — and this agreement accustomed it. Customer assurance is abbreviating bound — and tech companies acquire to acquire it aback by actuality added cellophane about what they’re accomplishing with our data.”
2. Algorithms and data-mining went boilerplate — as the surveillance tech conjured in Silicon Valley afflicted aggregate from summer camps to academy admissions.
Debate may be angry about government uses of facial-recognition technology, but the technology already is an accustomed allotment of Americans’ accustomed lives. Now hundreds of summer camps above the United States acquire tethered their rustic lakefronts to facial-recognition software, accepting parents an added all-seeing appearance into their kids’ home abroad from home.
Pregnancy-tracking apps such as Ovia acquire climbed in accepting as fun, affable assembly for the alarming uncertainties of childbirth. But they acquire additionally become able ecology accoutrement for administration and bloom insurers.
From Drew Harwell, artificial intelligence reporter: “Algorithms that assay our faces, behavior and bodies are now mainstream. A flood of bargain cameras, sensors and microphones — and a growing accessible accepting in trading aloofness for abundance and affluence — has adapted the American abode and ancestors quicker than anyone expected.”
Records advised by The Washington Post appearance that at atomic 44 accessible and clandestine universities in the United States assignment with alfresco consulting companies to aggregate and assay abstracts on -to-be students, either by tracking their Web activity or formulating predictive array to admeasurement anniversary student’s likelihood of enrolling. The all-inclusive majority of universities advised by The Post do not acquaint acceptance the schools are accession their information.
Douglas MacMillan and Nick Anderson
From Douglas MacMillan, accumulated accountability reporter: “Several university admiral we batten to for this adventure dedicated their data-mining practices like this: Google and Facebook are already tracking teenagers above the Web, so why shouldn’t we? It’s a admonition that abounding industries are afterward in the footsteps of tech — for bigger or worse.”
3. Tech companies struggled to badge their casework at scale, adopting new questions about the responsibilities of platforms.
Uber’s analytic activity is broken, according to bodies who acquire formed there, balked by Uber’s affirmation that its drivers are absolute contractors and not advisers — and accordingly it isn’t amenable for their actions.
From Greg Bensinger, algorithms and artificial intelligence reporter: “The adventure was a affirmation of how so abundant of the tech industry bouncer itself from albatross and a apprehension to Uber’s acknowledgment three months afterwards of the admeasurement of animal assaults during rides. The protections afforded the gig abridgement and added belvedere companies like Amazon and eBay by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act leaves barter captivation the bag aback sometimes abhorrent things happen. In this case, about two dozen advisers abundant how Uber was enabling bad actors to abide active for them so that it could abstain acknowledged or columnist scrutiny.”
YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and added tech companies acquire tasked a workforce of contractors with reviewing suicides and massacres to adjudge if such agreeable should abide online — and assure the firms’ reputations.
Elizabeth Dwoskin, Jeanne Whalen and Regine Cabato
From Christina Passariello, technology editor: “One of the big capacity of the year was the albatross of tech companies to the problems that acquire emerged on their sites. Facebook and YouTube acquire been grappling with this for years and acquire assassin tens of bags of bodies to analysis ambiguous content. But our analysis showed they accumulate those reviewers at arms’ length, employing them mostly as contractors and disturbing to accord with the ancillary furnishings of reviewing abhorrent agreeable for hours a day.”
Amazon prohibits CBD sales on its site, but some sellers avoid the rule. To analysis the e-commerce giant’s adeptness to badge its marketplace, The Washington Post bought 13 articles to see if they included CBD. Eleven did.
From Jay Greene, Seattle technology reporter: “Amazon’s retail armpit is enormous, with added than 500 actor listings, by some estimates. That admeasurement makes its difficult to police. Amazon has a activity that prohibits the auction of CBD, and yet it’s appealing accessible to find. We bought 13 articles and had them tested, and 11 included the banned compound. That availability offers a window into the challenges the e-commerce behemothic has patrolling its own site.”
4. Washington took aberrant activity to authority the tech giants to annual — but abounding critics didn’t anticipate federal enforcers went far enough.
The adjustment the FTC brokered marks the best cogent aloofness abuse anytime levied adjoin a tech giant. But the adventure abaft it — declared by 10 bodies accustomed with the bulk — illustrates the challenges adverse a 105-year-old bureau tasked with watching some of the best able agenda players in the all-around economy.
From Tony Romm, chief tech activity reporter: “It is the bigger accomplished anytime levied adjoin a tech behemothic for a aloofness mishap, yet the Federal Trade Commission’s $5 billion abuse adjoin Facebook this summer still served to allegorize its connected attempt to rein in Silicon Valley. The FTC initially advised tougher penalties — some at the bureau absolutely approved that — but it ultimately autonomous to achieve its added than year-long analysis rather than litigate. Only time will acquaint if the commission’s resolution — and the changes it armament on Facebook — will advisedly accommodate the tech behemothic afterwards a account of mistakes or absolve those who feel Washington already afresh bootless to do its job.
Afterwards years of able to ascendancy inappropriate content, YouTube is still carrying agitated and sexually answerable videos to adolescent children, an adumbration that the platform’s advance far exceeds its adeptness to badge itself.
From Christina: “Parents apperceive this: kids adulation YouTube, for the amaranthine cartoons and added agreeable that appeals to little ones. And yet YouTube says that kids beneath 13 shouldn’t be on its site. This affectionate of bucking – amid activity and convenance – is aggressive in technology, which tries to balk albatross for what appears on a platform. YouTube afterwards faced an FTC accomplished for allegedly actionable the Children’s Online Aloofness Protection Act, the law that prohibits accession abstracts on accouchement beneath 13.”
5. The industry’s adeptness was challenged in new ways, as Washington began antitrust investigations of above tech companies.
Developers acquire appear to acquire that, afterwards warning, Apple can accomplish their assignment anachronistic by announcement a new app or affection that about copies their ideas. Some apps acquire artlessly askance beneath the pressure.
From Reed Albergotti, customer electronics reporter: “Without a advancing association of software developers, Apple’s iPhone never would acquire taken off. It would be aloof addition corpuscle fizz with a blow screen. But Apple has additionally taken abounding of the best account for itself, as this commodity shows by absorption on the bodies who’ve been afflicted by this practice, accepted as ‘Sherlocking.’ This commodity helped beacon the chat about Apple’s power, and assembly cited it its antitrust analysis into the company.”
6. Bamboozlement activated companies’ investments in angry falsehoods.
Companies are aggravating to rein in medical misinformation on amusing media, but the botheration isn’t aloof technological. It’s additionally human.
From Abby Ohlheiser, agenda ability reporter: “I spent months anchored in Facebook groups adherent to circulating unproven, sometimes dangerous, accustomed ‘cures’ for blight for this story. Alike as Facebook was starting to able bottomward on viral misinformation about vaccines, ‘cures’ like baking soda, colloidal silver, and aroma were still accepting huge audiences there (our adventure helped to get Facebook to added aggressively absolute the ability of apocryphal medical cures, although I still consistently see them in the accustomed anesthetic groups I abutting for this story). This is partially a technology story. But as a ability biographer who covers the Internet, I basic to accomplish abiding I captured the claimed here, too. These artificial cures were alluring audiences of bodies who were atrocious to save the lives of a admired one, or themselves, and were award algebraic tunnels of apocryphal advice able miracles.”
An bearding Wikipedia editor raced to abolish arguable claims as the above carnality president’s son was bent up in a civic political crisis.
From Isaac Stanley-Becker, civic political reporter: “It turns out acceptable old Wikipedia — the affliction of every aerial academy history teacher’s actuality — has a lot to advise amusing media platforms about active misinformation. It absolutely helps not to acquire a accumulation motive.”
“In general, our misinformation efforts are focused on befitting our elections safe,” says an Instagram spokeswoman.
From Tonya Riley, Technology 202 and Cybersecurity 202 researcher: “This year we saw Facebook abode new assets to fact-checking on Instagram. But as this adventure shows, it’s not bright how able-bodied the accoutrement construe to the platform, which is a abundant added beheld average than Facebook. Instagram served as a key apparatus for Russian bamboozlement efforts in 2016 and will acceptable comedy a agnate role in 2020. It’s additionally played a key role in subcultures that advance calm disinformation, article tech companies acquire struggled to abode in 2019.”
7. Tech workers stood up to companies as industry activism connected above white-collar tech employees.
Vanessa Bain was already an Instacart evangelist, but afterwards desperate pay changes she became one of the best able agitators adjoin the grocery commitment startup, in what has become a abrupt analysis of how abundant advantage blue-collar on-demand workers can aggregate to win bigger analysis from technology companies that accumulate them at a distance.
From Nitasha Tiku, tech ability reporter: “Stories about activity activism in the tech industry generally focus on white collar engineers or the barrage of new attack adjoin a tech company. I basic to accord readers added of a narrative, to see behind-the-scenes at all the accomplishment and affect it takes to adapt an atomized activity force, from a gig worker’s perspective. From my actual aboriginal chat with Vanessa Bain, I knew she had an absurd adventure that illustrated the abutting appearance of activity acclimation in the gig economy, and new approach advised to advance alive altitude aback your bang-up is an algorithm.”
8. Silicon Valley’s affair angry into a hangover as Wall Street challenged alleged ‘unicorn’ valuations.
Uber’s IPO celebrations were boozed-filled benders that and occasionally got out of control, hearkening aback to the company’s ability beneath ousted CEO Travis Kalanick.
From Faiz Siddiqui, approaching of busline reporter: “Few were afraid that Uber acclaimed its IPO the way it did — with partying that sometimes got out of hand. But alike as it was happening, some central the company’s address had reservations, apprehensive what absolutely Uber had to bless and whether it was acceptable anatomy to arena in the accumulated anniversary with champagne, mimosas and late-night bar crawls . Afterwards all, drivers had been agitation alfresco Uber’s address that anniversary over their abbreviating accomplishment and analysis by the company. Then, on a day aback workers woke up at 6 a.m. to activate celebrating, Uber’s IPO floundered out of the gate. It’s emblematic of what has been a depressed IPO division for Silicon Valley’s ‘unicorn’ startups: beneath banking affiance and the adamantine realities of activity public, actuality answerable to investors and acceptable a acceptable business. IPO day ability acquire apparent the aftermost action cry — or bleat — of the Uber of old.”
9. Our accord with our accessories connected to evolve, alteration accustomed interactions.
Library e-book waits acquire prompted some to booty their memberships to a new extreme, accession library cards or agenda numbers to accredit them to acquisition the rarest or best accepted books, with the beeline wait.
From Heather Kelly, technology reporter: “People are still account books in 2019, but abounding are accomplishing it in the best 2019 was possible: they’re administration and accession library logins to acquisition abbreviate waits for ebooks that they apprehend on their phones and e-readers. Libraries, publishers, authors and readers are addition out this complicated new ecosystem in absolute time, and I’m abiding it will abide to change in the advancing years.”
BITS: Amazon prohibits Cannabidiol (CBD) sales, but it’s still accessible to acquisition accepted versions of the artefact on the online marketplace, my aide Jay Greene reports. Eleven of the 13 items purchased by The Post off Amazon that seemed to acquire CBD based off artefact reviews independent the substance, a lab confirmed.
The Post’s analysis illustrates Amazon’s attempt to badge its marketplace, which is bedeviled by third-party sellers alms millions of unvetted items. Sellers acquire in ample allotment been able to avoid Amazon’s ban by abrogation CBD out of their artefact descriptions — a convenance they say Amazon turns a dark eye to.
(Amazon adumbrative Patrick Graham denied this claim. Amazon architect and CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
Others are added explicit: A recent chase for “CBD oil” on Amazon angry up added than 6,000 results. Customer reviews generally additionally acknowledgment CBD, alike if the artefact description doesn’t. One artefact purchased by The Post alike had a baby bulk of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which clashing CBD is actionable in best states.
Amazon says it deploys avant-garde algorithms advised to detect out descriptions that could adumbration at the banned ingredient. Amazon removed some, but not all, of the artefact listings afterwards actuality asked about them by The Post. The aggregation told Jay it was investigating anniversary of the sellers.
Laws acclimation the auction of CBD are murky, and Amazon beneath to say why it banned the added accepted substance. Amazon faces growing analysis from assembly over its attempt to badge its platform.
NIBBLES: A accumulation of Democratic assembly is pressing the Department of Apartment and Urban Development about how it uses and funds facial acceptance technology in accessible housing.
“[HUD] is amenable for creating and ensuring discrimination-free practices in all communities,” the legislators, led by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), wrote in a letter to Secretary Ben Carson yesterday. “However, as abundant civilian rights experts acquire acicular out, aback accessible apartment and federally assisted acreage owners install facial acceptance aegis camera systems, they could be acclimated to accredit invasive, accidental and adverse government surveillance of their residents. Those who cannot allow added do not deserve beneath in basal aloofness and protections.”
The letter cites apropos aloft by researchers at Georgetown University and the American Civilian Liberties Union that facial acceptance proves beneath accurate when acclimated on minorities and could advance to “overcriminalization” of bodies of color.
Lawmakers are requesting HUD acknowledge by Jan. 24.
There is no federal law acclimation the use of facial acceptance technology by federal agencies. Civilian rights groups calling for a ban on the technology criticized the House Oversight Board for apathetic a audition on the technology slated for this anniversary until abutting year.
Clarke, alongside Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), introduced legislation that would ban the use of facial acceptance in accessible housing. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who additionally active the letter, introduced a accompaniment bill in the Senate aftermost month. Both bills acquire been referred to committee.
BYTES: Instagram appear new behavior bygone to added rein in how influencers use the belvedere to militarist products. The amusing media behemothic will crave influencers announcement branded agreeable to advance belted items including booze and diet articles to apparatus appropriate restrictions based on age alpha abutting year, the aggregation appear yesterday.
The aggregation will additionally activate to added carefully accomplish an announcement ban on branded agreeable announcement vapes, tobacco and weapons. The changes, which appear aloof weeks afterwards Instagram started acute users to verify their age, mark the aboriginal time Instagram has implemented restrictions for branded agreeable for assertive items. The restrictions accompany the agreeable added in band with Facebook’s behavior for advertisers.
The aggregation will additionally cycle out a adaptation of Facebook’s “Brand Collabs Manager” for baddest Instagram users to advice them allotment analytics with brands and acquisition brands for potential new partnerships.
— Account from the accessible sector:
A key House committee on Wednesday unveiled a first abstract of a bipartisan federal aloofness bill, bringing Assembly one footfall afterpiece to casual a law to rein in the tech industry’s able accumulating of claimed advice
An Equal Employment Opportunity Commission analysis activate “reasonable account to accept that Uber acceptable a ability of animal aggravation and retaliation,” admiral said.
Texas board are arresting their accommodation to appoint some of Google’s longtime foes as allotment of an antitrust delving into the chase giant, adage that the company’s contempo acknowledged objections abuse to “severely compromise” states’ scrutiny.
— Account from the clandestine sector:
Google, Amazon, and Apple are accommodating as allotment of a alive accumulation to advance a new IP-based acute home connectivity standard.
According to Facebook’s ad library, the ad has accustomed over 1,000 impressions and was additional for a few hundred dollars.
SoftBank is amid the companies that stepped in with an action to advice accounts a new cellphone network, Dish Network’s administrator testified in a balloon testing T-Mobile’s acquirement of Sprint.
Wall Street Journal
–Tomorrow Instacart workers will acquaintance the Occupational Safety and Bloom Administration apropos allegations of alarming assignment altitude as allotment of a week-long beef accomplishment to accession acquaintance about the company’s analysis of gig workers.
— Added account about tech workforce and culture:
In the lead-up to the holidays, as abounding bodies put up their final out-of-office replies for the year, workers at grocery-delivery startup Instacart are angry for their livelihoods.
Masayoshi Son’s adventure basic close is acclaimed for authoritative outsize bets on tech startups. It has additionally been declared as an ambiance of applause and harassment.
— Tech account breeding fizz about the Web:
The affluence with which we can watch or accept to about annihilation anytime has fabricated our accord with alone releases both added actual and added numbing.
Wall Street Journal
But it’s alleged Home Acute because the home comes first.
We were promised community, civics, and convenience. Instead, we activate ourselves dislocated, distrustful, and disengaged.
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