Microsoft employees pissed over company's connection to ICE

Back in January, Microsoft announced that they were "proud" to support ICE. Honestly, what company wouldn't be? A U.S. federal contract, no matter how large your coffers and corporate reach might be, is a good get, due both to the amount of American lucre you'll pocket and the visuals that come from being trusted by one of the most powerful countries in the world to meet their cloud computing needs.

But hey: it isn't January anymore and Microsoft in June, 2018 is looking a little bit like IBM back in the 1930s.

Under the Trump Administration's direction, ICE and other Homeland Security entities have been busy breaking up families, emotionally scarring thousands of innocent kids, and driving their anguished caretakers into cages, or worse, to suicide. That Microsoft's Azure cloud computing services are helping such villainy along, in any capacity, might be good in the short-term, for the company's bottom line, but the optics are shit. More than this, the company's association with ICE is raising the hackles of some of their their most important assets: not their shareholders or board, but their employees.

According to Gizmodo, a number of Microsoft employees, who prefer to remain anonymous in the interest of protecting their careers, have stepped forward to report that the computer technology company's relationship with ICE has led to growing dissent among the company's workforce. When Giz questioned Microsoft's PR team on the matter, the response was a bit wishy-washy:

From Gizmodo:

Microsoft condemned family separation by ICE in a statement to Gizmodo but declined to specify if specific tools within Azure Government, like Face API—facial recognition software—were in use by the agency.

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Here are 15 privacy settings you should change from defaults, from Linkedin to cellphones to smart TVs

The Washington Post rounds up 15 privacy defaults that no one in their right mind would want to leave as-is, and provides direct links to change 'em (hilariously and predictably, Verizon/Oath/Yahoo's privacy settings dashboard times out when you try to load it) -- once you're done with that, go back and follow his links to unfuck the privacy defaults for Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and #DeleteFacebook. (via Reddit) Read the rest

Alternatives to Google products

Restore Privacy collects alternatives to Google products: "It’s been fun Google, but it’s time to say goodbye." And it's not just Firefox, DuckDuckGo and Tutanota; privacy-oriented options include NextCloud for storage, Matomo for web anaytics, Etar for calendars, and HookTube for relaying YouTube videos. Read the rest

Google Sheets' hidden Pride Easter egg

June is Pride month. What better time to spruce up your rows and columns with the colors of the rainbow?

David Murphy of Lifehacker shares an oldie-but-goodie Easter egg in Google Sheets that turns them into the colorful spreadsheets we all need.

To check it out, simply pull up a new spreadsheet in Google Sheets. In cell A1, enter a “p”—the case doesn’t matter. Scroll right one cell (B1) and enter an “r.” You can probably guess where this is going. Basically, you’ll be spelling out pride, one letter per cell, from cells A1 to E1. And as soon as you tap that final “e” and hit Enter (or Return), your entire spreadsheet will turn into a giant rainbow to match the six colors most commonly associated with Pride.

The only bummer is that if you delete any letter from the word "pride," the colors disappear. Murphy suggests hiding the first row (1) to keep the fun going. Read the rest

Google promises no more use of its artificial intelligence tech in weapons

Alphabet, Google's parent company, promises not to allow use of its artificial intelligence technology in weapons and in certain forms of surveillance. 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

Former Tory chancellor takes over newspaper, sells "money-can't buy" coverage to Uber, Google and others

George Osborne was David Cameron's Chancellor of the Exchequer, the architect of UK austerity; he was fired by Theresa May when she became Prime Minister and he did not run for re-election in the disastrous election of 2017, instead taking a job as editor-in-chief of the Evening Standard. 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

No, seriously, THIS is the mission patch for Google's drone warfare AI contract with the Pentagon

JWZ: "Which probably translates to, 'Take your ad-targetting snake-oil and repurpose it to execute brown people with drones'. You know, kind of like how Wehrner von Braun aimed for the stars, but mostly hit London." 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

Design fiction, speculative design, and "creepiness"

In "design fiction" and "speculative design," designers and science fiction writers create fictional products and services, which go on to inform real engineering and product design processes. Read the rest

A dozen googlers quit over Google's military drone contract

Google's "Project Maven" is supplying machine-learning tools to the Pentagon to support drone strikes; the project has been hugely divisive within Google, with employees pointing out that the company is wildly profitable and doesn't need to compromise on its ethics to keep its doors open; that the drone program is a system of extrajudicial killing far from the battlefield; and that the firm's long-term health depends on its ability to win and retain the trust of users around the world, which will be harder if Google becomes a de facto wing of the US military. Read the rest

Google announces ad-ban for sleazy bail-bonds companies

In 2016, Google banned ads for payday lenders; now it has followed up with a ban on another predatory industry: for-profit bail bondsmen, who rip off black people and poor people with deceptive financing terms that are designed to create a usurious cycle of permanent debt. (Image: Sarah Nichols/CC-BY-SA) Read the rest

Amazon doesn't like how Signal circumvents censorship

Signal is an encrypted messaging app for smartphones and desktops that I and a lot of other folks use on a daily basis to communicate with discretion and security. I like it so much that I've moved away from using other services on my iOS and Android phones to using Signal for all of the texting I do, even with those who don't use the app. Unfortunately, according to The Verge, the Signal team is having a difficult time trying to provide its services to users in the UAE, Egypt and Oman, where the app has been banned by the government. Considering the fact that these states aren't known for treating political dissidents and minorities none too well, that's a big deal. For some people, encrypted comms are essential to avoiding incarceration or worse.

The crux of Signal's issues with providing services to users in these countries is that Amazon, whose CloudFront web services Signal's parent company, Open Whisper System, uses, has banned domain-fronting. Domain-fronting, put simply, is a technique for making traffic from one site look like it's from another site. In an email received by Open Whisper System's founder, Moxie Marlinspike (best damn name in the business,) the General Manager of Amazon CloudFront called Open Whisper Systems' domain-fronting out, telling Marlinspike that Amazon would love to have their business, but not his company refuses to comply with their no domain-fronting policies.

From the email:

When access to Signal was originally censored in Egypt, Oman, Qatar, and UAE, we responded by through Google App Engine.

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It's 2018, and Google just proposed an instant messaging tool with no encryption

It's 2018, five years after Edward Snowden's documents revealed the scope of US and allied mass surveillance; after a string of revelations about creepy private-sector cyber-arms-dealers who sell spying tools to stalkers, criminals, and autocratic governments, Google has proposed "Chat," a new Android standard for instant messaging with no encryption and hence zero protection against snooping. Read the rest

Russia blocks Google & Amazon IP addresses, saying they're used by Telegram app Putin just banned

Russia's communications regulator says it has blocked IP addresses owned by Google and Amazon because Moscow claims the internet addresses are used by the Telegram messaging service that was banned by Putin's regime this week. Read the rest

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