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Apple’s Alleged Restriction on Workers’ Slack Use Sparks Labour Complaint

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By Reuters | Updated: 8 December 2021

Apple has restricted employees’ use of workplace messaging app Slack, hampering workers’ ability to engage in protected speech and organising, a former employee alleged in a complaint to a US labour regulator filed on Tuesday.

Slack, which allows individuals to create on-the-fly group conversations, was rolled out a few years ago by Apple and has become increasingly popular as a discussion forum during the pandemic, multiple employees have said.

Apple employees who advocate for pay equity, remote work and other causes in the company have used it as well. On October 25, according to the complaint by former worker Janneke Parrish to the US National Labor Relations Board, Apple introduced moderation rules for the platform.

“It gives the appearance of surveillance of employees’ protected speech activities,” said the complaint, a copy of which was reviewed by Reuters.

An Apple spokesperson declined to comment. The company has previously said it does not discuss specific employee matters but is “deeply committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive workplace,” taking “all concerns” from employees seriously.

Apple’s policy holds that workers cannot create new Slack channels “without management’s knowledge and support,” according to the complaint, which includes a screenshot of a message detailing the policy.

Posts about workplace concerns must be directed to a manager or the “People Support” group, according to the complaint.

Parrish says she was fired in October after playing a leading role in employee activism.

The charge comes amid a broader push by Silicon Valley workers to speak out about their working conditions and the impact of technology on society. The employee activism has been particularly striking at Apple, which is known for its secretive culture.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Apple

‘Facebook Papers’ Hit as Platform Reports Over $9 Billion in Quarterly Profit

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 26 October 2021

Facebook announced over $9 billion (roughly Rs. 67,550 crore) in quarterly profits, hours after a US news collective published a deluge of withering reports arguing the company prioritises its growth over people’s safety.

The social media giant has been battling a fresh crisis since former employee Frances Haugen leaked reams of internal studies showing executives knew of their sites’ potential for harm, prompting a renewed US push for regulation.

Facebook released results showing its profit in the recently-ended quarter grew to $9.2 billion (roughly Rs. 69,040 crore) — a 17 percent increase — and its ranks of users increased to 2.91 billion.

Facebook executives said on an earnings call that the tech titan would have brought in even more money if not for Apple updating its iPhone operating system to thwart advertisers tracking app users for ad targeting without permission.

“Overall, if it wasn’t for Apple’s iOS 14 changes, we would have seen positive quarter over quarter revenue growth,” Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said of the iPhone software tweak made in the name of protecting privacy.

Hours earlier, new reports blamed CEO Mark Zuckerberg for his platform bending to state censors in Vietnam, noted Facebook allowed hate speech to flourish internationally due to linguistic shortcomings and said it knew its algorithm fuelled toxic polarisation online.

“These damning documents underscore that Facebook leadership chronically ignored serious internal alarms, choosing to put profits over people,” US Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Big Tech critic, said in a statement.

News organisations like The New York Times, The Washington Post and Wired were among those that have now received access to the set of internal Facebook documents that Haugen originally leaked to US authorities and which were the basis of a damning Wall Street Journal series.

Facebook has assailed the reporting as an effort to cast the social network used by billions of people in an inaccurate light.

“Good faith criticism helps us get better, but my view is that what we are seeing is a coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents to paint a false picture of our company,” Zuckerberg said in an earnings call.

Behind the curtain

Haugen, who testified on social media before British lawmakers Monday, has repeatedly said the company puts its continuous growth, and thus profits, before the well-being and safety of users.

“Facebook has been unwilling to accept even little slivers of profit being sacrificed for safety, and that’s not acceptable,” she told the lawmakers, adding that angry or hate-fuelled content “is the easiest way to grow” the social media platform.

Facebook has been hit by major crises previously, but the current view behind the curtain of the insular company has fuelled a frenzy of scathing reports and a renewed push from US lawmakers to crack down on social media.

The Washington Post story out Monday said Zuckerberg had personally signed off on a push from Vietnam’s authoritarian government to limit the spread of so-called “anti-state” posts.

A report from Politico called the documents a “treasure trove for Washington’s anti-trust fight” against the platform, revealing internal employee chats about Facebook global dominance.

One of Monday’s reports, from website The Verge, plunged into the company’s own worries for its future.

“Teenage users of the Facebook app in the US had declined by 13 percent since 2019 and were projected to drop 45 percent over the next two years, driving an overall decline in daily users in the company’s most lucrative ad market,” the story said, citing internal company research.

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Apple to Start Enforcing New App Privacy Notifications in Coming Weeks

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By Reuters | Updated: 8 April 2021

Apple said on Wednesday that in the coming weeks it will start enforcing a new privacy notification rule that digital advertising firms such as Facebook have warned will hurt their sales.

Apple said the notices will become mandatory when its iOS 14.5 operating system becomes available in the coming weeks, though it did not give a precise date.

The one-time notices will require an app developer to ask a user’s permission before the app tracks activities “across other companies’ apps and websites.” Digital advertising industry experts have said the warning could cause many users to decline permission.

Apple announced the move last June, but said in September that it would delay the change to give digital advertisers time to adjust. Some developers are already displaying the notice on a voluntary basis.

Apple has said that it is providing developers with alternative advertising tools ahead of the change. One tool provides a way for advertisers running app installation advertisements to see how many people installed an app after the ad campaign without divulging information on individual users. Another tool called private-click management gives advertisers a way to measure when a user clicks an ad inside an app and is taken to a web page, but without revealing data about the individual user.

Although the tools are intended to be used by software developers, Apple added information about them to one of its privacy guides for consumers on Wednesday.

Facebook had said in December that it planned to show the pop-up notification because it did not want Apple iPhone users to lose access to its apps.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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