Businesses

Are Nondisparagement Agreements Silencing Employee Complaints? (cnbc.com) 120

cdreimer writes, "According to a report in the New York Times, 'nondisparagement agreements are increasingly included in employment contracts and legal settlements' to hide abuses that would otherwise be made public." The Times reports: Employment lawyers say nondisparagement agreements have helped enable a culture of secrecy. In particular, the tech start-up world has been roiled by accounts of workplace sexual harassment, and nondisparagement clauses have played a significant role in keeping those accusations secret... Nondisparagement clauses are not limited to legal settlements. They are increasingly found in standard employment contracts in many industries, sometimes in a simple offer letter that helps to create a blanket of silence around a company. Their use has become particularly widespread in tech employment contracts, from venture investment firms and start-ups to the biggest companies in Silicon Valley, including Google... Employees increasingly "have to give up their constitutional right to speak freely about their experiences if they want to be part of the work force," said Nancy E. Smith, a partner at the law firm Smith Mullin.
Three different tech industry employees told the Times "they are not allowed to acknowledge that the agreements even exist." And Google "declined to comment" for the article.
AI

Mozilla's New Open Source Voice-Recognition Project Wants Your Voice (mashable.com) 47

An anonymous reader quotes Mashable: Mozilla is building a massive repository of voice recordings for the voice apps of the future -- and it wants you to add yours to the collection. The organization behind the Firefox browser is launching Common Voice, a project to crowdsource audio samples from the public. The goal is to collect about 10,000 hours of audio in various accents and make it publicly available for everyone... Mozilla hopes to hand over the public dataset to independent developers so they can harness the crowdsourced audio to build the next generation of voice-powered apps and speech-to-text programs... You can also help train the speech-to-text capabilities by validating the recordings already submitted to the project. Just listen to a short clip, and report back if text on the screen matches what you heard... Mozilla says it aims is to expand the tech beyond just a standard voice recognition experience, including multiple accents, demographics and eventually languages for more accessible programs. Past open source voice-recognition projects have included Sphinx 4 and VoxForge, but unfortunately most of today's systems are still "locked up behind proprietary code at various companies, such as Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft."
Music

Steve Jobs' Life Is Now An Opera (cnn.com) 68

An anonymous reader quotes CNN's report on a new project from Pulitzer Prize-winning librettist Mark Campbell: "The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs" is set to open on Saturday night at the Santa Fe Opera, home to the largest summer-opera festival in U.S. The high-tech production, which runs until August 26, jumps in and out of key moments in the Apple founder's life, from early product-development days alongside Steve Wozniak and the launch of the original iPhone, to his wedding day with Laurene Powell Jobs... The opera features an electronic score, developed by Mason Bates, that incorporates sounds from the products Jobs created, including the audio synonymous with turning on an early Macintosh computer. The libretto, or operatic script, doesn't call out words like Apple or iPhone due to copyright issues; instead, it uses descriptors like "one device" to reference the smartphone. "Only one device, does it all," the libretto reads. "In one hand, all your need. One device. Communication, entertainment, illumination, connection, interaction, navigation, inspiration..."
One scene in the high-tech production shows Jobs standing in his family's garage on his 10th birthday. When his father gives him a workbench, the walls around them light up into video screens...
Programming

Drupal Developers Still Rebelling Against Drupal Leadership 81

New submitter cornholed writes: In an update to previous posts on Slashdot, prominent Drupal and PHP Developer Larry Garfield is still defending his reputation against allegations by Drupal leadership against sexual misconduct. As previously reported by a variety of news organizations, Larry was exiled from the Drupal project for adherence to the Gor sci-fi lifestyle.

In the latest round of allegations, Garfield was reportedly asked to resign because an autistic "woman who attended Drupal community events ... was allowed to contribute by him". While some have accused Dries Buytart and the Drupal Association of "Autism Shaming", the leader of the Drupal project claims "this person could be vulnerable and may have been subject to exploitation", hence raising the risk of legal damage to the Drupal project. Larry refutes these allegations, saying these claims are post-hoc and has shared police reports purporting his innocence.

There is still much debate in the Drupal community around why Larry was ejected from his leadership positions. While there's much speculation over Larry's ouster, there is one thing for certain: become a leader in the OSS community and a dossier on your public statements just might be made about you.
Businesses

Google, Apple, Amazon Hit Record Lobbying Highs (axios.com) 83

An anonymous reader shares a report: The last three months brought record-high lobbying spending from four major tech companies: Google spent $5.93 million, Apple spent $2.2 million, Amazon spent $3.21 million, Uber spent $430,000. Facebook spent $2.38 million this quarter, up from the same period last year but far from a record. Microsoft's bill for the quarter was just over $2 million.
Transportation

Lyft Launches a New Self-driving Division and Will Develop Its Own Autonomous Ride-hailing Technology (techcrunch.com) 49

An anonymous reader shares a report: Lyft is betting the future of the road centers on sharing autonomous vehicles. It aims to be at the forefront of that technology with a new self-driving division and a self-driving system car manufacturers could plug into their self-driving cars. The company expects to hire "hundreds" of people for the new division by the end of next year and has just signed a lease for 50,000-square-feet on the first floor of a Palo Alto facility where it plans to build out several labs and open testing spaces. The building Lyft refers to as "Level 5" will be developing its new "open self-driving platform" and a combination hardware and software system still in development. Lyft hopes auto manufacturers will then bring in a fleet of autonomous cars to its ride-hailing network. The plan is somewhat similar to one Uber announced earlier. Lyft's larger rival uses Volvo's XC90 to test its self-driving tech on the roads. Uber announced earlier this year it was also partnering with Daimler to operate self-driving cars on its network.
The Courts

Judge Rules That Government Can Force Glassdoor To Unmask Anonymous Users Online (arstechnica.com) 119

pogopop77 shares a report from Ars Technica: An appeals court will soon decide whether the U.S. government can unmask anonymous users of Glassdoor -- and the entire proceeding is set to happen in secret. Federal investigators sent a subpoena asking for the identities of more than 100 anonymous users of the business-review site Glassdoor, who apparently posted reviews of a company that's under investigation for potential fraud related to its contracting practices. The government later scaled back its demand to just eight users. Prosecutors believe these eight Glassdoor users are "third-party witnesses to certain business practices relevant to [the] investigation." The name of the company under investigation is redacted from all public briefs. Glassdoor made a compromise proposal to the government: it would notify the users in question about the government's subpoena and then provide identifying information about users who were willing to participate. The government rejected that idea. At that point, Glassdoor lawyered up and headed to court, seeking to have the subpoena thrown out. Lawyers for Glassdoor argued that its users have a First Amendment right to speak anonymously. While the company has "no desire to interfere" with the investigation, if its users were forcibly identified, the investigation "could have a chilling effect on both Glassdoor's reviewers' and readers' willingness to use glassdoor.com," states Glassdoor's motion (PDF). The government opposed the motion, though, and prevailed in district court.
Encryption

Apple Flies Top Privacy Executives Into Australia To Lobby Against Proposed Encryption Laws (patentlyapple.com) 64

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Patently Apple: Last week Patently Apple posted a report titled "Australia proposed new Laws Compelling Companies like Facebook & Apple to Provide Access to Encrypted Messages." Days later, Australia's Prime Minister spoke about the encryption problem with the Australian press as noted in the video in our report. Now we're learning that Apple has flown in top executives to lobby Turnbull government on encryption laws. It sounds like a showdown is on the horizon. This is the second time this month that Apple has flown executives into Australia to lobby the government according to a Sydney publication. Apple executives met with Attorney-General George Brandis and senior staff in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's office on Tuesday to discuss the company's concerns about the legal changes, which could see tech companies compelled to provide access to locked phones and third party messaging applications. Apple has argued in the meetings that as a starting point it does not want the updated laws to block tech companies from using encryption on their devices, nor for companies to have to provide decryption keys to allow access to secure communications. The company has argued that if it is compelled to provide a software "back door" into its phones to help law enforcement agencies catch criminals and terrorists, this would reduce the security for all users. It also says it has provided significant assistance to police agencies engaged in investigations, when asked. UPDATE 07/20/17: Headline has been updated to clarify that Apple is lobbying against the proposed encryption laws in Australia.
Youtube

YouTube Will Now Redirect Searches For Extremist Videos To Anti-Terrorist Playlists (tubefilter.com) 124

YouTube will return anti-terrorist playlists when users search for hateful content on the site using certain keywords pertaining to terrorism. Tubefilter.com reports: The new feature, dubbed The Redirect Method, is part of a four-prong strategy announced by Google last month to quash extremist ideologies across its platforms. The Redirect Method was developed by Jigsaw -- an Alphabet subsidiary whose mission is to counter extremism, censorship, and cyber attacks -- alongside another tech company called Moonshot CVE (which stands for "Countering Violent Extremism"). Jigsaw and Moonshot CVE developed the tech after studying, over several years, how terrorist factions like ISIS leverage technology to spread their messaging and recruit new followers. In coming weeks, YouTube says it intends to incorporate The Redirect Method into a wider set of search queries in languages beyond English, use machine learning to dynamically update search terms, work with partner NGOs to develop new anti-extremist content, and roll out the Method to Europe.
Microsoft

Apple, Google and Microsoft Are Hoarding $464 Billion In Cash (cnn.com) 255

Apple, Google and Microsoft are sitting on a mountain of cash -- and most of it is stashed far away from the taxman. Those three tech behemoths held a total of $464 billion in cash at the end of last year, according to a Moody's report published this week. From a report: Apple alone had a stunning quarter-trillion dollars of cash thanks to years of gigantic profits and few major acquisitions. That's enough money to buy Netflix three times. It's also more cash than what's sitting on the balance sheet of every major industry except tech and health care. All told, non-financial U.S. companies studied by Moody's hoarded $1.84 trillion of cash at the end of last year. That's up 11% from 2015 and nearly two and a half times the 2008 level. Roughly $1.3 trillion -- 70% of the total -- is being held overseas, where the money isn't subject to U.S. taxes. Apple, Google owner Alphabet, Microsoft, Cisco, and Oracle hold 88% of their cash overseas. Moody's said the tower of money stashed abroad reflects the "negative tax consequences of permanently repatriating money to the U.S."
AI

Dadbot: How a Son Made a Chatbot of His Dying Dad (www.cbc.ca) 113

theodp writes: In A Son's Race to Give His Dying Father Artificial Immortality (Warning: may be paywalled; alternate source), James Vlahos recounts his efforts to turn the story of his father's life -- as told by his 80-year-old Dad in his final months after being diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer -- into what Vlahos calls "a Dadbot -- a chatbot that emulates not a children's toy but the very real man who is my father." Given the limits of tech at the time (2016) and his own inexperience as a programmer, Vlahos recognized that the bot would never be more than a shadow of his real dad, but hoped to get the bot to communicate in his father's distinctive manner and convey at least some sense of his personality. Of the first time he demoed the bot for his parents, Vlahos writes: "Emboldened, I bring up something that has preoccupied me for months. 'This is a leading question, but answer it honestly,' I say, fumbling for words. 'Does it give you any comfort, or perhaps none -- the idea that whenever it is that you shed this mortal coil, that there is something that can help tell your stories and knows your history?' My dad looks off. When he answers, he sounds wearier than he did moments before. 'I know all of this shit,' he says, dismissing the compendium of facts stored in the Dadbot with a little wave. But he does take comfort in knowing that the Dadbot will share them with others. 'My family, particularly. And the grandkids, who won't know any of this stuff.' He's got seven of them, including my sons, Jonah and Zeke, all of whom call him Papou, the Greek term for grandfather. 'So this is great,' my dad says. 'I very much appreciate it.'"
Businesses

Why is Comcast Using Self-driving Cars To Justify Abolishing Net Neutrality? (theverge.com) 223

Earlier this week, Comcast filed its comments in favor of the FCC's plan to eliminate the 2015 net neutrality rules. While much of the document was devoted to arguments we've heard before -- Comcast believes the current rules are anti-competitive and hurt investment, but generally supports the principles of net neutrality -- one statement stood out. The Verge adds: Buried in the 161-page document was this quirky assertion (emphasis ours): "At the same time, the Commission also should bear in mind that a more flexible approach to prioritization may be warranted and may be beneficial to the public... And paid prioritization may have other compelling applications in telemedicine. Likewise, for autonomous vehicles that may require instantaneous data transmission, black letter prohibitions on paid prioritization may actually stifle innovation instead of encouraging it. In other words, Comcast is arguing for paid prioritization and internet fast lanes to enable self-driving cars to communicate better with other vehicles and their surrounding environment, thus making them a safer and more efficient mode of transportation. The only problem is that autonomous and connected cars don't use wireless broadband to communicate. When cars talk with each other, they do it by exchanging data wirelessly over an unlicensed spectrum called the Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) band, using technology similar to Wi-Fi. The FCC has set aside spectrum in the 5.9GHz band specifically for this purpose, and it is only meant to be used for vehicle-to-everything (V2X) applications. That includes vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I), and vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) -- so cars talking to other cars, to traffic signals, to the phone in your pocket... you name it. Soon enough, all cars sold in the US will be required to include V2V technology for safety purposes, if the Department of Transportationâ(TM)s new rule goes into effect.
Businesses

Microsoft's Wilsonville Jobs Are Going To China, Underscoring Travails of Domestic Tech Manufacturing (oregonlive.com) 149

An anonymous reader tips us a story: Just two years ago, Microsoft cast its Wilsonville factory as the harbinger of a new era in American technology manufacturing. The tech giant stamped, "Manufactured in Portland, OR, USA" on each Surface Hub it made there. It invited The New York Times and Fast Company magazine to tour the plant in 2015, then hired more than 100 people to make the enormous, $22,000 touch-screen computer. But last week Microsoft summoned its Wilsonville employees to an early-morning meeting and announced it will close the factory and lay off 124 employees -- nearly everyone at the site -- plus dozens of contract workers. Panos Panay, the vice president in charge of the Surface product group, traveled from corporate headquarters in Redmond, Washington, to tell the staff that Microsoft was moving production to the same place it makes all other Surface products. Though workers present say he didn't disclose the location, Microsoft has previously said it makes its other Surface computers in China. The company hasn't explained, in public or to its Wilsonville employees, why it gave up on domestic manufacturing so quickly and didn't respond to repeated inquiries for comment. But the only thing surprising about Microsoft's decision is that it tried to make its computers in the U.S. in the first place.
AMD

AMD Has No Plans To Release PSP Code (twitch.tv) 125

AMD has faced calls from Edward Snowden, Libreboot and the Reddit community to release the source code to the AMD Secure Processor (PSP), a network-capable co-processor which some believe has the capacity to act as a backdoor. But despite some signs earlier that it might consider opening the PSP code at some point, the chip-maker has now confirmed that there hasn't been a change of heart yet. "We have no plans on releasing it to the public," the company executives said in a tech talk (video).
Businesses

Avast Now Owns CCleaner After Acquiring Piriform (betanews.com) 101

An anonymous reader writes: Security firm Avast has acquired software firm Piriform. Not only does the acquired company make CCleaner, but many other solid programs too. In fact, the rest of Piriform's library -- Recuva, Speccy, and Defraggler -- are staples of the Windows freeware community. "CCleaner is a leading brand in the market, used by 130 million people, including 15 million Android users. CCleaner has an extensive and extremely loyal community of tech-savvy users, who need to speed up and optimize their PC and Android experience. Avast will maintain the CCleaner brand of products along with Avast's existing performance optimization products, Avast Cleanup and AVG Tune Up. With the addition of CCleaner, Avast has dramatically expanded its product offerings in the PC and smartphone optimization market reaching customers around the world who demand faster performance," says Avast. Vince Steckler, CEO of Avast explains, "We see many commonalities between CCleaner and Avast, allowing for great new products for our user bases. Avast and CCleaner are the top two downloaded products on popular download sites. They are both known by advanced users as focused on performance, so we believe there will be a great interest from our CCleaner customers in using Avast security products and vice versa. In today's connected world, it's all about speed and high performance, and with Piriform's robust technology we can address this need perfectly. We look forward to working with the Piriform team to grow the business together."

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