Rights group hits Amazon, Foxconn over China labor conditions

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A U.S. watchdog group criticized Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and contract manufacturer Foxconn over what it described as harsh working conditions at a plant in China that makes the retail giant’s Echo Dot smart speaker and Kindle e-reader.

FILE PHOTO: An Amazon.com Inc driver stands next to an Amazon delivery truck in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 21, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File photo

The 94-page report by New York-based China Labor Watch cited excessive hours, low wages, inadequate training and an overreliance on “dispatch” or temporary workers in violation of Chinese law at the Hengyang Foxconn plant in Hunan province.

Taiwan-based Foxconn, known formally as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd (2317.TW), is the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer and employs more than a million people.

Foxconn, which also makes Apple Inc (AAPL.O) iPhones, came under fire in 2010 for a spate of suicides at plants in China. Foxconn pledged to improve working conditions.

FILE PHOTO: Visitors are seen at a Foxconn booth at the World Intelligence Congress in Tianjin, China May 19, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

China Labor Watch said its nine-month investigation found that about 40 percent of workers at the plant were dispatch workers, far exceeding the 10 percent limit under Chinese law. Dispatch workers were paid at the same rate for regular and overtime hours, rather than time and a half as required, said China Labor Watch Program Officer Elaine Lu.

“They were underpaid,” Lu said. “That’s illegal.”

Dispatch workers earned 14.5 yuan ($2.26) per hour, the report said. Workers also put in more than 100 overtime hours per month during peak season, far more than the 36 hours allowed by law, and some worked for 14 consecutive days.

Amazon said in a statement it audited the factory in March and found “two issues of concern.”

“We immediately requested a corrective action plan from Foxconn,” Amazon said, adding it is monitoring Foxconn’s response and “compliance with our Supplier Code of Conduct. We are committed to ensuring that these issues are resolved.”

Amazon did not say what the issues were or whether they had been addressed.

Foxconn said in an emailed statement that it “works hard to comply with all relevant laws and regulations” where it operates and conducts regular audits. “If infractions are identified, we work to immediately rectify them,” it said.

Reporting by Alwyn Scott in New York and Reuters Beijing bureau; Editing by Chris Reese

Quit or Commit?

There’s a fatal flaw in how many small business owners take my idea of working “on” their business and turn that into challenges they never thought about.   Simply put, they download the principles that I put forth in The E-Myth Revisited and replace their obsessive behavior as Technicians with manic behavior as Managers.

Wrong, wrong, wrong!

Why?

Because these same small business owners have never stopped to ask themselves one thing: “Is this business actually worth saving?”

My experience tells me that it isn’t.

The facts – that nearly 90% of all small businesses will close in less than five years – tell me the same thing.

No amount of systemization, processes, standards, and procedures can make a bad business idea flourish – and that’s why you need to ask yourself if the company is even viable.

When you quit your job as an employee, did you jump into ownership of a business that did the same technical work you had been doing?  Again, forty years of working with small business owners tells me that is exactly what you did, and now, as you try to raise the bar – and your income level, you’re floundering.

You’re dumping money into marketing and social media, you’re writing manuals and systems, and all the while, your business model – the dream you once had for entrepreneurship – has fatal flaws.

You opened a tractor dealership where there are no farmers.

A restaurant on a dirt road outside a small town.

You’re selling software no one buys.

I want you to stop, today, and actually think about your small business:  how big can it actually get?  Quit making phone calls, quit cleaning the windows, and actually think about what success looks like to you – is it $100,000 in sales?  $250,000? 

The number isn’t important, but today – right now, in fact – you need to determine how much your business model can actually produce.  Realistically.  Honestly. 

Is this business worth continuing to build?

Those are tough words, but the facts are still the facts: small businesses fail because the owner never understood what they were doing when they opened the doors – they were, as I’ve said many times, really just “Technicians suffering from an Entrepreneurial Seizure.”

So, run the numbers.  Do the math.  Make the decision. 

Why continue to push a rock up the hill, only to have it roll over you?

There is a better way, and that better way is to understand that what you tried to build wasn’t what you needed to build. 

Now, if you ran those numbers and the business actually could produce positive results and cash flow, the next question you need to answer is just as simple as the first one, “do I want to do this anymore?”

Harsh?  Yes.  But again, no one is asking that.  We’ve come to think of entrepreneurs as some larger-than-life egocentric Superman who, by sheer force of will, can make new businesses flourish through simple Hard Work and Sticking With It and nothing could be farther from the truth.

Entrepreneurship is a learned skill and a process and small businesses fail because small business owners don’t know and don’t follow that process.  Think I’m lying?  Think again. 

Your “superman” entrepreneur – Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Ray Kroc, Jeff Bezos – they didn’t succeed because they were especially gifted business people, they succeeded because they devoutly believed in what they were doing and that devotion to their dreams allowed them to find and interface with the people who could further those dreams. 

How many people does it take to make an iPhone?

A Quarter Pounder?

To ship your purchase from China to your home?

Take stock of your business, take heed of its shortcomings, and realize that maybe – just maybe – you’ve forgotten what it was that made you want to own your own company in the first place. 

Sound pessimistic?  Not at all!  In fact, right now, I’m more optimistic than I’ve been in years.  Why?  You’ll find out in the next column.

See How This Hospital Uses Artificial Intelligence To Find Kidney Disease

The role of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare continues to rise.

According to a June 2018 ABI Research report, the number of patient monitoring devices, which also includes AI for home-based preventative healthcare) that use data to train AI models for predictive analytics will be 3.1 million in 2021, up from 53,000 in 2017. That connectivity is predicted to save hospitals around $52 billion in 2021.

“We now have exponential increases in digital healthcare data due to the internet, electronic health records, personal health records, cell phones, wearable devices, digital medical devices, sensors and many other factors,” said Drew Gantt. partner and co-chair, Healthcare, Venable LLP. “This data will fuel algorithmic solutions, clinical decision support tools, and visual tools in the near term.”

Gantt says that healthcare businesses should focus on using AI technology to solve problems, uncover value, promote their mission and create competitive advantage rather than merely using it for technology’s sake or to have the latest thing.

Mount Sinai Hospital in New York announced a partnership on June 1, 2018, with the AI healthcare startup, RenalytixAI, to create an AI tool that identifies patients at the hospital who are at risk for advanced kidney disease. 

In 2017, the Global Kidney Health Atlas reported that 1 in 1o people worldwide has chronic kidney disease. And, a patient with kidney disease traditionally won’t begin treatment until dialysis is needed.

Mount Sinai and RenalytixAI will put more than three million patient health records into the AI tool to identify at-risk patients. By automating the process of analyzing large volumes of data, the team hopes that this will help reduce diagnostic errors, expedite detection and free hospital staff to focus on care. Both parties indicate they hope to commercialize the new AI product Q2 2019. 

“By partnering with a major healthcare system like Mount Sinai, we can really define the clinical impact of AI-driven products in kidney disease,” said James McCullough, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, RenalytixAI. “We can also focus on developing the reimbursement and regulatory pathways critical for adoption across health networks with large at-risk diabetes and minority populations.”

RenalytixAI is a spinout of EKF Diagnostics, a Cardiff-based point-of-care diagnostic company with a biomarker portfolio, which transferred its sTNFR biomarker to the company.

UK lawmakers have 'lost confidence' in TSB boss over IT crisis

LONDON (Reuters) – The chairman of TSB said on Thursday the bank’s chief executive, Paul Pester, had the full support of the board, after Pester came under attack from lawmakers over his handling of an IT crisis, casting doubt on his position.

FILE PHOTO: A sign is displayed outside a branch of the TSB bank in central London March 12, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall/File Photo

Parliament’s Treasury Committee said earlier on Thursday it had “lost confidence” in Pester and questioned whether he should remain in his post. The IT outage left thousands of customers without access to accounts and unable to make vital payments.

TSB Chairman Richard Meddings’ response suggested Pester would remain at the bank for now, noting Pester’s progress in resolving the IT issues.

“This progress has been achieved under the leadership of Paul Pester, who continues to have the full support of the TSB Board,” Meddings said in a statement on Thursday evening.

The politicians cannot directly influence whether Pester is sacked. That decision rests with the bank’s board.

In letters to Meddings, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority, the chair of the Treasury Committee, Nicky Morgan, said the committee was expressing no opinion on who was responsible for the IT crisis but on Pester’s response afterwards.

“Since the IT problems at TSB began, its public communications have often been complacent and misleading. This tone has been set from the top,” Morgan said in a statement.

In her letter to Meddings, Morgan listed instances where the TSB boss had either omitted information or made statements the committee deemed inaccurate, and did not take opportunities to correct his statements.

“Whether intentionally or not, he has not been straight with the committee and … TSB’s customers,” she said.

Treasury Committee members called such public criticism of a serving bank CEO “unprecedented”.

The PRA and FCA declined to comment.

“I have never seen such unanimity in the Committee. Each and everyone came to the same conclusion,” said Labour party lawmaker and committee member John Mann on Twitter.

TSB’s Spanish owner, Sabadell, said earlier on Thursday the crisis had so far cost about 70 million pounds ($94 million), mainly from a waiver of overdraft fees and compensation for cases of alleged fraud linked to the IT problems.

Sabadell declined to comment on the lawmakers’ criticisms of Pester.

In his second appearance in front of the committee on Wednesday, Pester was forced by one lawmaker to admit he had been unaware of serious problems with the bank’s fraud helpline during his first appearance, where he said most issues had been resolved.

Additional reporting by Kirstin Ridley, editing by Edmund Blair, Larry King

Blockchain Is Here to Stay. Here Are 3 Ways You Can Use It in Your Business

You have certainly heard of the “Blockchain Revolution.”  “Blockchain” and “cryptocurrency” and Bitcoin are all over the news.

You may be intrigued, you may be horrified, or you may feel some of both.

But you can’t afford to ignore major trends in new technology. Like it or not, blockchain is here to stay. And it will have the power to enable your business like never before.

For the moment, blockchain is in its nascent phase — think of the internet in 1996. It’s inaccessible to most non-technical people, except for Bitcoin and some of the gaming applications like cryptokitties. So it’s the perfect time to learn. You have time to get up to speed about blockchain before it represents a threat to your business. And when the technology matures you will be prepared to capitalize on it.

Once you delve into this topic you will find that blockchain will fuel much more than the over-hyped cryptocurrency market. Blockchain technology will ultimately give rise to a host of applications which will become very useful once the technology and infrastructure has evolved.

So the one thing you cannot afford to do is ignore blockchain. Instead, educate yourself about it.

First, the basic primer about Blockchain: Blockchain is a distributed, decentralized ledger based on “blocks,” which is a record of a transaction. Multiple blocks are strung together to form a “blockchain.” Information on the blockchain is encrypted — it remains anonymous and secure. Individuals retain ownership of their personal information and also be “authenticated” without giving up that privacy.

Here are three ways that blockchain will eventually transform your business. 

1. Seamless Payments

A few years ago a local business sent someone to clean my couch. He said the company would invoice me. Several months later I realized they had never sent me an invoice. It took me three phone calls to get them to take my money. 

Any decent invoicing system would solve the problem of not sending out customer invoices. Using a system on the blockchain will significantly enhance this process. It will enable seamless payments, straight to your mobile digital wallet, as soon as the service is completed or the product delivered.

Seamless payments will also extend to the ability to pay contractors, employees, and vendors  in any currency. Payments will go directly into the receivers’ digital wallets, eliminating the need for administration and allowing people and companies to get paid faster. Since the payment can be sent in any currency this allows access to services and employees anywhere in the world.

To get a taste for this, check out Bitwage, a blockchain powered international wage payment processing company or PayStand which allows companies to track invoices and payments.

2. Decentralized Marketplaces

Small and large merchants already have places to sell their goods and services — just look at Amazon.

But there are downsides to those marketplaces for businesses. Since they act as the trusted third party, they are in the middle of every transaction. That leads to high costs for the privilege of being there and lag time for businesses to get their money.

Ultimately, blockchain technology will enable marketplaces which allow businesses to list their goods and services with a small fee or none at all. District is a good example. Through the use of smart contracts District allows merchants to place their goods and services on this marketplace. It handles posting and listing, search filtering, payments and “reputation management” which means you can trust those on the network to pay you.

3. Finding Remote and Project Based Talent

How many times have you identified a specific project that you need to get done but none of your employees have skills or bandwidth to do it? That’s when you need to find someone you can hire for a discrete project with a specific deadline. “The Gig Economy” has transformed the way companies and workers relate to work. Blockchain helps companies to find temporary workers for specific projects, and enables “gig” workers to present themselves to opportunities seamlessly.  

One company that is building a marketplace for this using blockchain technology is Dock. Dock is a “decentralized data exchange protocol that lets people connect their profiles, reputations and experiences across the web with privacy and security.” That allows freelancers to be in control of their information and to easily apply for opportunities when they see them in job marketplaces or through HR. And it’s a clearing house for your business to find excellent talent for specific projects.

These are three examples of how blockchain technology may mature to help your business. Take the time to learn about blockchain today to help power your business tomorrow.

U.S. says internet use rises as more low income people go online

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Internet use by Americans increased in 2017, fueled by a rise among people with lower incomes, a government report viewed on Wednesday by Reuters found.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) also reported that for the first time tablets were more popular than desktop computers, and that more households had a mobile data plan than wired broadband service. The results were to be publicly released later on Wednesday.

The survey results demonstrate the growing importance of the internet in everyday communication as the way consumers access content changes.

Among Americans living in households with family incomes below $25,000 per year, the survey found internet use increased to 62 percent in 2017 from 57 percent in 2015, while households earning $100,000 or more showed no change at 86 percent.

The gain of 13.5 million users was “driven by increased adoption among low-income families, seniors, African Americans, Hispanics, and other groups that have been less likely to go online,” the agency said.

David Redl, who heads NTIA, said in a statement that “while the trend is encouraging, low-income Americans are still significantly less likely to go online.”

The survey of Americans aged three and older conducted for the agency by the U.S. Census Bureau found that 78 percent used the internet in November 2017, up from 75 percent in July 2015, when the previous survey was conducted.

It found that in 2017, 64 percent of Americans used a smartphone, compared with 53 percent in 2015, and tablet use increased to 32 percent from 29 percent in 2015. At the same time, desktop computer use fell to 30 percent in 2017 from 34 percent in 2015.

Laptop use by Americans was unchanged at 46 percent, while those with Smart TV and TV-connected devices jumped to 34 percent in 2017 from 27 percent in 2015.

The survey involved 123,000 people in more than 52,000 U.S. households. It was the largest U.S. survey of computer and telecommunications use, the agency said.

The report found senior citizens have increased their internet usage since the last survey to 63 percent, up from 56 percent in 2015. Among Hispanics, 72 percent used the internet in 2017, up from 66 percent in 2015, the survey found.

Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai has made “bridging the digital divide” a key focus. The FCC has said that 97 percent of Americans in urban areas have access to high-speed fixed service, while only 65 percent of Americans in rural areas have such access.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Bill Berkrot

Apple's Tim Cook Takes Aim at Facebook's Privacy Issues

Apple CEO Tim Cook took some more not-so-veiled shots at Facebook in a nationally televised interview Monday evening.

Speaking to CNN, Cook said he generally favors corporate self-regulation instead of government-imposed regulations. But when it comes to online privacy, self-regulation clearly isn’t working and the government may need to step in, he said.

“You have to ask yourself, so what form of regulation might be good,” Cook said. He continued: “I think the privacy thing has gotten totally out of control.”

Cook has repeatedly criticized Facebook in recent months over how much data it collects on consumers and what it does with that information. For example, when asked about how he would have handled the Cambridge Analytica scandal— in which the data on up to 87 million Facebook users was leaked to a data-analytics company linked to President Donald Trump — Cook said, “I wouldn’t be in that situation.”

Apple’s launching new features that will limit the data Facebook can collect

His comments on CNN followed the opening of Apple’s annual WWDC developer conference earlier in the day in San Jose.

At the conference, company officials announced numerous new features for its devices that seemed intentionally designed to restrict the amount of data Facebook in particular can collect on Apple users and to help those users limit the amount of time they spend on their devices, especially with Facebook’s apps.

Apple has repeatedly tried to distinguish itself from Facebook, Google, and the other tech giants by emphasizing its stated commitment to privacy. Unlike those companies, advertising is a small piece of Apple’s business, and it generally doesn’t collect as much detailed information on its users as they do.

Cook played up that angle again in the interview, painting as nefarious the data collection done by Facebook and other ad-based businesses.

“I think most people are not aware who’s tracking them, how much they’re being tracked, and the sort of the large amounts of detailed data that are out there about them,” he said.

Facebook officials have fired back at Cook in recent months, arguing that the company’s advertising business allows it to offer its service for free and its data collection helps it offer ads that are actually of interest to individual users.

In the interview, Cook said that he had been testing out the new features Apple has designed to allow customers to monitor their phone usage, he found that he himself was using his phone more than he should.

Cook reiterated his support for DACA

In addition to taking shots at Facebook, Cook also reiterated his support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. That program, which protected undocumented people who arrived in the US as children from being deported, was canceled by Trump in September. Cook and other tech leaders have been urging Congress to reinstate it.

“Congress needs to fix DACA, and fix DACA means allowing everyone to stay in this country and stop this ridiculous discussion that people brought here as kids shouldn’t be allowed to stay here,” he said.

Cook also weighed in on the incipient trade war that the Trump administration appears to be launching against China, the European Union, Mexico, and other countries. Despite the administration’s announcement last week that it would now apply its previously announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the EU, Mexico, and Canada, Cook said he was “optimistic” a trade war could be averted.

“No one will win from that. It will be lose-lose,” he said. “When the facts are so clear like that, I think both parties will see that and be able to work things out.”

Regardless of how those trade tensions end up, Cook said he didn’t think the iPhone — by far Apple’s most important product — won’t be caught in the crossfire and prices won’t rise on it as a result.

“I don’t think the iPhone will get a tariff on it,” he said.

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Earnings Preview: What To Expect From Broadcom On Thursday

, Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

IRVINE, CA, THURSDAY, MAY 28: Broadcom Corp. offices are shown May 28, 2015 in Irvine, California. The company has agreed to be acquired by Avago Technologies Inc. for $37 billion in cash and stock, creating a giant in the business of supplying the technological infrastructure behind a range of common products, from smartphones to wireless networks to cloud computing. (Photo by Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Broadcom Inc. is scheduled to report earnings after Thursday’s close. The stock hit a record high of $285.68/share in 2017 and is trading near $256/share. The stock is prone to big moves after reporting earnings and can easily gap up if the numbers are strong. Conversely, if the numbers disappoint, the stock can easily gap down. To help you prepare, here is what the Street is expecting:

Earnings Preview: 

Broadcom is expected to earn $4.75/share on $5.00 billion in revenue. Meanwhile, the so-called Whisper number is $4.86. The Whisper number is the Street’s unofficial view on earnings.

Company Profile & Various Businesses:

Here is a brief company profile courtesy of Thomson Reuters Eikon:

Broadcom Inc., formerly Broadcom Limited, incorporated on March 3, 2015, is a designer, developer and global supplier of a range of semiconductor devices with a focus on digital and mixed signal complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS)-based devices and analog III-V based products. The Company operates through four segments: Wired Infrastructure, Wireless Communications, Enterprise Storage and Industrial & Other. It offers a range of products that are used in end-products, such as enterprise and data center networking, home connectivity, set-top boxes (STBs), broadband access, telecommunication equipment, smartphones, data center servers and storage systems, factory automation, power generation and alternative energy systems, and electronic displays. Its product portfolio ranges from discrete devices to complex sub-systems that include multiple device types, and also includes firmware for interfacing between analog and digital systems. Its products include mechanical hardware that interfaces with optoelectronic or capacitive sensors.

Competition:

Page 1 / 2

Amazon’s Alexa Has A Clear Favorite – and Some Savage Analysis – for the NBA Finals

Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant is a handy, seamless way to listen to music and find out about the weather. As the NBA finals head into tonight’s Game 2 between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, though, the voice assistant is also dabbling in sports analysis.

If you ask Alexa “Who will win the NBA Finals this year,” it gives you the following dissertation:

“Even with both conference finals going to game 7, these playoffs were over before they even started. I think the Warriors will win the playoffs pretty handily, and the rest of the league will spend the off-season trying to figure out what they will do to damper the dynasty.”

Yes, savage. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Alexa is showing some bias – the Warriors’ home base in Oakland is much closer than the Cav’s HQ to both Amazon’s Seattle headquarters and to Silicon Valley, which you might call Alexa’s spiritual home. But Alexa’s stance is also shared by most NBA analysts (and, if the memes are any indicator, LeBron himself).

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Of course, it’s deeply misleading to say that “Alexa” has any opinions at all. While the voice assistant incorporates an array of what are known as “limited” or “weak” artificial intelligence functions, such as search and natural language processing, it doesn’t have any more opinions, emotions, or sports analysis skills than your laptop (or, for that matter, your refrigerator). Those are the realm of human-like “general” A.I., which we won’t see for nearly 20 years, at the very least.

That becomes clear if you ask Alexa a more nuanced or specific question. Ask “Alexa, who will win Game 2 of the NBA finals?” and you get the same spiel about the series as a whole. Ask “Who will be NBA MVP this season?” and the machine draws a blank. Ask “Who will be MVP of the NBA Playoffs?” and you’ll be treated, for some reason, to a summary of Game 1.

Most likely, the scripted pro-Warriors response was plugged in manually by Amazon’s Alexa team. The Game 1 report that Alexa spits out in response to almost any other Finals-related query might have been scraped from news feeds by a more automated process, similar to the way Alexa finds and reads the news or stock reports.

Fortune has reached out to Amazon for more details about their creation’s anti-Cleveland bias. But don’t worry – Alexa won’t be replacing Jeff Van Gundy on the mic anytime soon.

Valve Squashes Decade-Old Steam Security Bug, and More Security News This Week

This week we looked inward for change; if you ever wondered what it’s like to be a national technology and culture magazine that loses $100,000 in Bitcoin, have we got a story for you. If you’d rather an even wilder tale from around the globe, please read about how Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko faked his own death, and why some of his colleagues have cried foul.

In other international news, Papua New Guinea threatened to ban Facebook for a month for seemingly spurious reasons, concerning locals who rely on the service. Closer to home, inmates in San Quentin built their own search engine, for use exclusively in a prison-approved coding program.

Government agencies are even less prepared for cyberattacks than you thought. Garrett Graff reviewed former director of national intelligence James Clapper’s new book, and charted his path to becoming one of President Donald Trump’s most vocal critics. And please enjoy these very good pups getting brain scans to see if they’d be good bomb-sniffers. No, really!

But wait, there’s more. As always, we’ve rounded up all the news we didn’t break or cover in depth this week. Click on the headlines to read the full stories. And stay safe out there.

A Very Bad Steam Vulnerability Gets Patched After 10 Years

Vulnerabilities happen. But not many of them persist unnoticed as long as a remote code execution flaw that was recently discovered in online gaming platform Steam. For 10 years, all it would take to run malicious code on one a Steam-connected device was sending some bad packets. Security researcher Tom Court, who identified the issue, notes that a security upgrade Valve implemented in July of last year softened the potential impact, and Valve released a full fix almost two months ago. But still! Ten years! That’s not quite Meltdown and Spectre territory, but plenty impressive in its own right—especially given the much lower degree of difficulty.

Ticketfly Gets Hacked With Some Guy Fawkes Iconography

For anyone worried that society had fully moved past the whole V for Vendetta hacker schtick, the person or persons who breached Ticketfly this week beg to differ. On Thursday, the ticket-seller’s site homepage was replaced by a message that read “Ticketfly HacKedBy IsHaKdZ” and “Your Security Down im Not Sorry” and some Guy-Fawkes-holding-daggers-action. Motherboard confirmed that the vandals also accessed “personal details of Ticketfly customers and employees,” apparently numbering in the thousands.

Apple Stored Email Metadata on Its Servers For Years

According to some poking by security researcher Sabri Haddouche, Apple has stored email metadata ever since it transitioned its Mail app to iCloud. Haddouche says he was able to find email addresses, names, and timestamps for messages sent dating all the way back to 2012. It seems to relate to the feature that helps autocomplete some email entry fields. This is still happening, by the way; if you’d rather it not happen to you, either log out of iCloud or don’t use Apple’s Mail app.

Kaspersky Loses Lawsuits Against US Ban

Security software giant Kaspersky has been banned from US government use since last year, due to unspecified national security concerns related to, well, the fact that it’s Russian. This week, a federal judge dismissed the company’s bid to overturn the ban, meaning it remains verboten. Kaspersky has said it will appeal the decision.


More Great WIRED Stories

Space Photos of the Week: A Cruise Around Mars' Hale Crater

Mars isn’t short of interesting craters, but Hale Crater has a lot going on. It’s a fairly large impact crater running almost 62 miles across, featuring recurring slope lineae (elements that are seasonal and some think are linked to liquid water) and active gullies. The greenish blue is colored bedrock, exposed by whatever giant rock or comet impacted the surface, and the other geologic activities, like wind erosion and possible melting ice, make Hale Crater a never-ending exciting place to explore.

While it doesn’t look like a giant arachnid, this sparkling region—captured by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, in unprecedented detail—is called the Tarantula Nebula. It’s only 160,000 light years away, which by astronomical standards is not rather far. The Tarantula Nebula contains regions where stars are forming, while others contain remnants of supernova explosions and large clouds of dust.

It’s easy to forget that our Sun is one star among many, and is actively aging and doing other starlike things. Last week NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured the Sun in extreme ultraviolet light, shown here in bluish green. The bright white glow toward the left is a burst of highly charged particles that then speed around the magnetic field lines, shown in streaks around the white glow. You can think of these sort of like stellar burps, only with radiation that would kill any living thing.

That barred spiral galaxy is a glowing gorgeous blue, but it’s not what we are here to see. Take a look above the galaxy—all those smudges of glowing orange light are galaxies as well. This cluster is a feature called SDSS J0333+0651. Scientists study galaxy clusters like these to understand the early universe and star-forming regions. See, looking this far out can be hard, and even Hubble can’t resolve star-forming regions at such distances. That’s where galaxy clusters come in: Their mass is so large that they distort the very fabric of space-time, bending the light of objects behind them. That arc of bluish light highlights the brighter star-forming region of that galaxy, otherwise invisible to us without SDSS J0333+0651 doing all the heavy lifting of, you know, bending space.

At 55 million light years from Earth, there lives an unusual galaxy known as NGC 5643. This remarkable image combines data from the Alma observatory in Chile with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope. NGC 5643 is a Seyfert galaxy; these types have very luminous centers, and scientists think what causes this brightness is a supermassive black hole at the center that sucks up material. These interactions cause dust and gas to move around creating a nebulous looking galaxy, unique among most others in the universe.

This is a close-up of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, also called the geyser moon. The Cassini spacecraft took this photo in 2009 and actually flew through one of those plumes! Enceladus is an icy moon with water below its crust, regularly spewing out ice, water vapor, and organic compounds. Here, sunlight illuminates these eruptions as they break through the frozen surface. Someday scientists hope to launch a mission to study Enceladus and find out if life might lurk below its icy crust.

What Do Wells Fargo and Facebook Have in Common? They Know Saying Sorry Is Always a Good Idea

While in the car the other day, a radio ad caught my attention, because my former employer Wells Fargo was apologizing and promising to win back customers’ trust. It isn’t the only big company owning up and vowing to fix past misdeeds–there’s Uber and Facebook, too.

Corporate apologies aren’t anything new. From statements to full-page newspaper ads, it’s been done and probably by every household brand you can think of and then some.

What’s new is how companies are issuing their mea culpas. There’s social media now, so companies aren’t just issuing statements to the media, and they know they can reach more people via Twitter than newspaper ads.

What’s also new: the speed at which companies should get their messages out, and the speed at which they’re expected to turn around their bad behaviors. I expected Wells Fargo’s add to come a lot sooner.

Wells Fargo has been rocked by scandals for two years, starting in 2016 when it was revealed the bank was opening up thousands of accounts without customers’ consent. It cost the bank $185 million in fines and harmed its reputation much more. More recently, in April, federal regulars fined the bank $1 billion for mortgage and auto loan abuses that harmed borrowers.

You can’t apologize until you are reasonably confident you have fixed your problems, changed your organizations’ culture and otherwise righted your ship — or stagecoach.

I have mixed feelings about all these companies saying “we’re sorry.”

As a public relations professional, I like to think this has to do with the role PR plays in organizations’ culture and the seat it has at the executive table. I believe that PR serves as the conscience of organizations, guiding leaders not on how to “spin” but how to do the right thing to start.

But the journalist in me is skeptical. I don’t want to hear apologies or promises of renewed commitment to customers; I want to see it in action, and that takes time more than words.

What does action that builds trust look like?

Being transparent. Supporting legislation and groups that protect consumers pocketbooks, privacy and more. Executives donating their time to educational and other worthy causes. More immediately owning up to mistakes and being very specific about what you are doing to correct them–which might take longer than a 60-second ad spot.

It also looks like, well, nothing. Not making any headlines for wrongdoing can feel pretty quiet. I guess, in that way, inaction speaks louder than words.

Data Sheet—What AI Will Do to the Financial System

Will they or won’t they? Two of the biggest tech startups are teasing about going public…in 2019. Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, speaking at the Code Conference on Wednesday, said his company “will be ready to IPO next year, but I don’t know if we will.” And Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told CNBC his company is “on track” to go public in 2019, as well. “Lots of things can happen in the world but we have a reasonable buffer as well, so I think we’re in a pretty good spot,” he said.

It happens every year. Famed Internet analyst Mary Meeker issued her annual slide deck of Internet metrics. The 294-page presentation noted that smartphone sales have leveled off while smart speaker sales are exploding, albeit from a small base. Meeker also showed how Chinese tech companies are growing fast and entering fields like AI.

Coming into focus. Speaking of Chinese AI companies, SenseTime, a Chinese startup focused on using AI for image recognition, raised $620 million of venture capital in a deal valuing the company at $4.5 billion. The company says its software has been used in over 100 million mobile devices from China.

High hurdles. The California state Senate voted to maintain strict net neutrality rules similar to those that the Federal Communications Commission imposed in 2015 and repealed last year. The bill must next pass the state Assembly, where an earlier proposal died in January.

Double platinum. A couple of personnel moves at Apple Music have the record industry talking. After putting Oliver Schusser in charge of the service last month, Apple named Elena Segal as global director of music publishing. Getting into the publishing side of music could allow Apple to gain rights more quickly, or even set up its own record label, speculates Rolling Stone.

Turn up the volume. In what seems like a strange turn of events, headphone maker Monster filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to issue up to $300 million of its own digital currency coins, dubbed Monster Money Tokens, that would be convertible into company stock. Sales at the company slipped 34% to $57 million last year, generating a net loss of $27 million.

The trend is your friend. Speaking of digital currencies, bitcoin set an all-time high close to $20,000 just before the Chicago Mercantile Exchange started trading bitcoin futures contracts. It has since fallen precipitously, trading under $8,000 now. But that’s completely typical behavior for a commodity price when derivatives contracts begin trading, according to a new study released by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. As with home mortgages and other instruments, early on investors have no reliable way to bet against the commodity, so prices rise dramatically. The arrival of futures trading allow pessimists finally to place their bets, driving down the price.

Android Jeff. At the annual shareholder meeting of Amazon, held on Wednesday in Seattle, several small groups gathered outside to protest. One group carried a huge mock robot with the face of Jeff Bezos, as they protested in favor of a proposal to increase oversight of the company via an independent board chairman. Shareholders rejected the plan. Bezos, who founded the e-commerce giant in 1994, holds both the positions of CEO and board chairman.

Here's the Thing About That Racist Roseanne Barr Tweet: It Never Should Have Posted

Come on, Twitter executives. Why do you just keep sitting around sipping Silicon Valley lattes and doing nothing about hate speech on your service? Enough is enough.

This week, after Roseanne Barr posted a hateful tweet that I won’t link to directly or mention in detail, and then as the alt-right seized on the moment and started agreeing with her, I could only wonder how this is anything but a perfect example of what’s wrong with social media.

ABC did the right thing and canceled her show. Barr later apologized profusely, but how do you even come up with a tweet like hers without having some underlying issues?

That said, I’m increasingly annoyed at Twitter specifically. I’ve experience plenty of hate speech and outright threats, and the problem doesn’t seem to be going away at all.

First off, the AI is not as difficult as you might think. Twitter and Facebook have claimed in the past that it’s almost impossible at this point to weed out hate speech, and that they need to make more advancements to understand the difference between, say, a joke and a jab. As humans, we pick up on these things pretty quickly, associating terms and spotting sarcasm as though we were born with an emotional intelligence detection system. (By the way, we are.) Bots have a harder time, but this is not rocket science. 

If Twitter had any AI at all, the company could easily have detected the word associations Barr made, and could easily have shown her a prompt with a warning about posting the tweet. (Supposedly, she posted at a late hour and wasn’t thinking–maybe the AI would have helped her avoid the entire debacle.) But I’d want Twitter to go further than that. Thousands of people saw the tweet, obviously. I checked my own feed and it was there. Why? I understand all of the free speech issues here, what I’m talking about is pretty simple: If I don’t want to see hate speech on Twitter, why does Twitter still show me hate speech?

Here’s the reason: They don’t know how to solve the problem. The AI is “too nuanced” as some have argued, but in the end it’s not a Herculean task and not impossible. The company lacks the programming prowess to pull it off, and it is not a big enough priority.

But what if this specific tweet finally prompted people to start objecting? We’re annoyed that Barr posted the hateful note direct at one specific person. Are we annoyed enough to start calling on Twitter to deal with the problem and start showing more warnings, and to start removing the tweets from our feeds if we decide we don’t want to see them? And to protect other people from seeing them as well? Trolls can start trolling each other.

My issue is that we don’t seem to have any control, even though Twitter claims there are settings to reduce how much hate speech you see. It doesn’t work. It’s not smart enough. The AI is not working. For social media to progress further, for it to become less of a cesspool of trolls and abuse, the everyday users–the ones who actually want to use social media for legitimate purposes and as a form of connection–have to start objecting more.

Will we?

8 Companies' Privacy Policy Emails, Graded

Email Screenshot

A privacy update from Ticketmaster includes an embedded video.

In case you didn’t check your email last week, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect on May 25th. It’s a big and important privacy regulation change that left countless companies scrambling to explain it to their customers.

If you did check your email, you saw one Privacy Policy update after another fill your Inbox. Most of them had pretty standard subject lines, like “Updates to Our Privacy Policy” or “We’ve Updated Our Privacy Policies” – not exactly begging the recipient to open them.

But some companies were more creative, indicating that the Marketing department had as much to say about privacy requirements as the Legal department. For example, this email subject line from social intelligence company Union Metrics definitely stood out:

“Another privacy email? Yes, but please read this one too.”

Every communication with a customer is an opportunity to create a positive customer experience. With a little effort, it is even possible to turn legal disclosures into an experience.  Here are four companies that did a great job communicating this important – and complicated – policy change to customers, plus four companies that simply (e-)mailed it in.

THE WINNERS

Ticketmaster (Grade: A+): The events ticketing company managed to turn a privacy policy update into a marketing campaign, complete with a tagline that served as its email subject line: “Privacy. It’s personal.” The email begins with a short video that mixes imagery of big stadium concerts, a soccer game and fine arts with smartphone images of users scrolling through the Ticketmaster app. The video pays off the tagline at the end by noting that “just like your taste in entertainment, your privacy is personal to you.”

The email itself starts off with friendly language that doesn’t sound like a team of lawyers wrote it: “At Ticketmaster, our fans are at the heart of everything we do. Therefore, it’s hugely important to us that you are in control of the personal information you share when buying tickets with us.” It then lays out three elements of the new Privacy Pages: that it’s clear and honest, that it puts the customer in control, and that it encourages customers to ask questions and learn more. Importantly, it contains just two links: a large call-to-action button to view the Privacy Policy, and a link to contact the Privacy team.

Buffer (Grade: A): The social media publishing app sent an email from a real person – “Joel from Buffer” – and even included his picture in the signature. While the subject line, “Privacy update: How we are meeting GDPR requirements,” doesn’t exactly scream excitement, the body of the email is informative, personal, and to the point. It uses clear language to describe Buffer’s commitment to privacy: “We are fully aligned with the spirit of the GDPR for a safe and secure Internet. We aspire to embrace privacy by design…”