Big Tech has established a "kill zone" of business ideas that startups can't get funded to try

In 2014, the Economist described a "Cambrian explosion" of tech startups trying every conceivable idea in every conceivable variation, competing to find better ways to deliver better services at lower costs; today it laments the "kill-zone" of business ideas that are unfundable, either because Big Tech is already doing them, or because Big Tech might someday do them. Read the rest

UK consumer review magazine Which?: your smart home is spying on you, from your TV to your toothbrush

The UK consumer review magazine Which? (equivalent to America's Consumer Reports) has published a special investigation into the ways that Internet of Things smart devices are spying on Britons at farcical levels, with the recommendation that people avoid smart devices where possible, to feed false data to smart devices you do own, and to turn off data-collection settings in devices' confusing, deeply hidden control panels. Read the rest

Private equity bosses took $200m out of Toys R Us and crashed the company, lifetime employees got $0 in severance

Private equity's favorite shell game is to take over profitable businesses, sell off their assets, con banks into loaning them hundreds of millions of dollars, cash out in the form of bonuses and dividends, then let the businesses fail and default on their debts. Read the rest

Zuckerberg blows off Facebook shareholders' demand for transparency, says he's committed to transparency

Facebook's corporate structure allows Zuckerberg to overrule his board of directors and shareholder by giving extra votes to a special class of shares that Zuck gets to hold -- similar to the structure of Google or Rupert Murdoch's Newscorp. Read the rest

Youtubers with millions of followers are dropping out, citing stress and burnout from algorithm kremlinology

Youtube allows people -- some of them not very nice -- to earn incredible livings by performing stunts, playing videogames, creating sketches, anything that attracts an audience. Read the rest

Citing bad publicity and internal dissent, Google announces it won't renew contract to supply AI for US military drones

Google knew that Project Maven, its contract to supply AI to US military drones would be unpopular, but they were chasing hundreds of millions of dollars in follow-on contracts, and even though dozens of engineers quit over the project, at least they got a snazzy mission patch. Read the rest

Amid wage stagnation, corporate leaders declare the end of annual raises triggered by increased profitability

It was once the standard that firms that performed well would give all their employees an annual raise, in part to acknowledge workers' contribution to the business's fortunes, in part to ensure that wages kept pace with inflation (otherwise workers would be suffering a real-terms pay-cut every year). Read the rest

Leaks show that Google expected its modest AI-for-drones business to expand exponentially

While leaked memos show that Google execs perceived a real risk of internal backlash from their $9 million Pentagon contract to supply AI for US military drones, they were willing to risk it because they expected the business to quickly grow to $250,000,000. Read the rest

Oregon employers warn that the state has run out of workers who can pass a drug test

Oregon state economists Mark McMullen and Josh Lehner say that employers have told them that they can't fill vacancies because every qualified candidate fails their drug test, which is sometimes mandated by the companies' insurers. Read the rest

Leaked memos reveal the deep divisions within Google over Pentagon contract

Google's decision to provide AI tools for use with US military drones has been hugely controversial within the company (at least a dozen googlers quit over it) and now the New York Times has obtained internal memos revealing how senior officials at the company anticipated that controversy and attempted (unsuccessfully) to head it off. Read the rest

Governments all over the world buy spy products that let them track and eavesdrop on global cellphones, especially US phones

Senator Ron Wyden [D-OR] has sent a letter to the DHS with his view that "nefarious actors may have exploited" the cellular phone system "to target the communications of American citizens." Read the rest

Amazon bars Australians from shopping on its non-Aussie sites to put pressure on the government to rescind tax rule

Australian retailers are required to collect 10% Value Added Tax on every sale; Amazon's Australia store collects this tax, but the company has rejected any suggestion that its non-Australian stores should collect the tax on shipments bound for Australia. Read the rest

Telegram: ever since Russia's blocking demand, Apple has prevented us from updating our app

Last April, the Kremlin ordered a ban on the private messaging app Telegram, blocking millions of IP addresses that formed Amazon and Google's clouds in order to prevent users from accessing the service; not only was it an ominous moment in the evolution of the internet as a system for oppressive control, it was also an object lesson in how internet concentration has made the internet more susceptible to censorship and control. Read the rest

EFF on Cockygate: trademark trolls vs romance literature

Romance author Faleena Hopkins earned the wrong kind of notoriety when she registered a trademark on the word "cocky" for use in romance novel titles and then began indiscriminately threatening to sue her peers for using this common trope. Read the rest

Ad brokers are selling the fact that you visited an emergency room to ambulance-chasing lawyers

Philadelphia's WHYY radio reports that visitors to the city's hospital emergency room are blitzed for weeks with ads for personal injury lawyers, thanks to "geofenced ad" brokerages. Read the rest

Amazon has been quietly selling its facial recognition system to US police forces, marketing it for bodycam use

Amazon bills its Rekognition image classification system as a "deep learning-based image and video analysis" system; it markets the system to US police forces for use in analyzing security camera footage, including feeds from police officers' bodycams. Read the rest

After his viral racist rant, Aaron Schlossberg's law office lost its lease

Aaron Schlossberg has spent years showering his fellow New Yorkers with racist abuse, but it wasn't until he went on an unprovoked racist tirade against a server and customers at a restaurant near his law office that he became infamous. Read the rest

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