By Agencies | Updated: 2 July 2022
Google announced Friday it would delete users’ location history when they visit abortion clinics, domestic violence shelters and other places where privacy is sought.
“If our systems identify that someone has visited one of these places, we will delete these entries from Location History soon after they visit,” Jen Fitzpatrick, a senior vice president at Google, wrote in a blog post. “This change will take effect in the coming weeks.”
Other places from which Google will not store location data include fertility centres, addiction treatment facilities, and weight loss clinics.
The announcement comes a week after the US Supreme Court made the tectonic decision to strip American women of constitutional rights to abortion, leading a dozen states to ban or severely restrict the procedure and prompting mass protests across the country.
Activists and politicians have been calling on Google and other tech giants to limit the amount of information they collect to avoid it being used by law enforcement for abortion investigations and prosecutions.
Fitzpatrick also sought to reassure users that the company takes data privacy seriously.
“Google has a long track record of pushing back on overly broad demands from law enforcement, including objecting to some demands entirely,” she wrote.
“We take into account the privacy and security expectations of people using our products, and we notify people when we comply with government demands.”
Concerns over smartphone data and reproductive rights arose even before the Supreme Court ruling, when several conservative US states in recent months passed laws that give members of the public the right to sue doctors who perform abortions — or anyone who helps facilitate them.
That led a group of top Democratic lawmakers in May to send a letter to Google chief executive Sundar Pichai, asking him to stop collecting smartphone location data lest it become “a tool for far-right extremists looking to crack down on people seeking reproductive health care.”
Ever since the SC ruling, there has been several announcements by social media platforms to remove abortion-related data. With abortion now or soon to be illegal in over a dozen states and severely restricted in many more, Big Tech companies that vacuum up personal details of their users are facing new calls to limit that tracking and surveillance. One fear is that law enforcement or vigilantes could use those data troves against people seeking ways to end unwanted pregnancies.
History has repeatedly demonstrated that whenever people’s personal data is tracked and stored, there’s always a risk that it could be misused or abused. With the Supreme Court’s Friday overruling of the 1973 Roe vs Wade decision that legalized abortion, collected location data, text messages, search histories, emails and seemingly innocuous period and ovulation-tracking apps could be used to prosecute people who seek an abortion — or medical care for a miscarriage — as well as those who assist them.
Vietnam Orders Technology Firms, Telecom Operators to Store User Data Locally, Set Up Local Offices
By Reuters | Updated: 18 August 2022
Vietnam’s government has ordered technology firms to store their users’ data locally and set up local offices, its latest move to tighten cybersecurity rules. The new rules, issued in a decree on Wednesday, will apply to social media companies like Alphabet’s Google and Meta’s Facebook, and telecommunications operators, and will take effect on October 1. “Data of all Internet users ranging from financial records and biometric data to information on peoples’ ethnicity and political views, or any data created by users while surfing the internet must be to stored domestically,” the decree stated.
Authorities will have the right to issue data collection requests for purpose of investigation and to ask service providers to remove content if it is deemed to violate the government’s guidelines, the decree added.
Foreign firms will have 12 months to set up local data storage and representative offices after receiving instructions from the Minister of Public Security, and will have to store the data onshore for a minimum period of 24 months, according to the decree.
Two tech firms contacted by Reuters, Google and Meta, did not immediately respond to requests for comment..
Vietnam is run by the Communist Party, which maintains tight media censorship and tolerates little dissent. It has tightened Internet rules over the past few years, culminating in a cybersecurity law that came into effect in 2019 and national guidelines on social media behaviour introduced in June last year. © Thomson Reuters 2022
Government Orders to Block 8 YouTube Channels for Alleged Disinformation
By Press Trust of India | Updated: 18 August 2022
The government on Thursday ordered blocking of eight YouTube channels, including one operating from Pakistan, for allegedly spreading disinformation related to India’s national security, foreign relations and public order.
The blocked YouTube channels had over 114 crore views; and 85.73 lakh subscribers and the content was being monetised, an official statement said.
The channels that were blocked under the Information Technology Rules-2021 include seven Indian news channels. The blocked YouTube channels made false claims such as demolition of religious structures by the Government of India, ban on celebration of religious festivals, declaration of religious war in India, an official statement said.
“Such content was found to have the potential to create communal disharmony and disturb public order in the country,” it said.
It said the YouTube channels were also used to post fake news on various subjects such as the Indian Armed Forces and Jammu and Kashmir.
“The content was observed to be completely false and sensitive from the perspective of national security and India’s friendly relations with foreign States,” the statement said.
It has been revealed that fake anti-India content was being monetised by the blocked channels on YouTube.
Earlier on April 25, the government had blocked 16 YouTube news channels including 10 Indian and 6 Pakistan-based channels for spreading disinformation related to India’s national security, foreign relations, and public order.
According to information shared by minister of state for electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar in a written reply to Rajya Sabha earlier this month, the government has issued 105 directions to social media platforms under the new IT rules that came into effect in February last year. The directions were issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting under the new rules.
The data shared by the minister shows that 94 directions to block content was issued to YouTube between December 2021 and April 2022, five to Twitter, and three each to Facebook and Instagram.
Philips Announces Imminent Departure of CEO Frans Van Houten, Plans to Change Leadership
By Reuters | Updated: 17 August 2022
Dutch health technology company Philips on Tuesday unexpectedly announced the imminent departure of CEO Frans van Houten, in the midst of a massive product recall that has halved its market value over the past year.
Philips said Van Houten would be replaced on October 15 by Roy Jakobs, head of the company’s Connected Care businesses, even though his third term as CEO was not due to end until April.
“The supervisory board and current Philips CEO Frans van Houten have agreed that with the end of his third term in sight, the time is right for the change in leadership,” Philips said in a statement.
“I’m happy with the outcome”, Van Houten told reporters. “It’s always difficult of course to let go, but it is a logical moment to hand over after 12 years. It’s great to be able to hand over to an internal successor with the conviction he will build on the foundation that I have laid.”
A special shareholder meeting will be held on September 30 to appoint Jakobs, who joined the company in 2010, as CEO.
Philips shares were up 2.2 percent in early Amsterdam trading, but are still down more than 50 percent since it shocked investors in June 2021 by recalling 5.5 million ventilators used to treat sleep apnoea.
Foam used for sound dampening can degrade and emit small particles that irritate airways, while gases released by the degrading foam may also be toxic or carry cancer risks, the company said at the time.
Although this blow to Philips’ reputation could have led it to pick an outsider for the top job, supervisory board chairman Feike Sijbesma said Jakobs was the right man to fix the company’s problems.
“He has extensive international experience and he increased the growth profile of the businesses he led”, Sijbesma said.
“He led the ramp up of production following the recall and knows very much about patient safety and product quality, so also from that perspective he is the right person. He can hit the ground running.”
During his almost 12 years at the helm, 62-year old Van Houten led the transformation of the once-sprawling conglomerate into a focused healthcare specialist, spinning off its lighting and consumer electronics divisions.
Philips now focuses on medical imaging, monitoring and diagnostic equipment and competes against General Electric and Siemens Healthineers.
© Thomson Reuters 2022
Elon Musk Tweets About Purchasing Manchester United Football Club
By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 17 August 2022
Elon Musk tweeted Tuesday evening that he is purchasing the Manchester United football club, although it was not clear if the eccentric billionaire, currently embroiled in a lawsuit over his bid to buy Twitter, was being serious.
The 51-year-old Tesla and SpaceX CEO, who has a habit of posting provocative statements on social media for fun, said: “Also, I’m buying Manchester United ur welcome,” in a reply to an earlier tweet about supporting both of America’s two major political parties.
Manchester United, a storied English football club, is currently led by the six children of late American businessman Malcolm Glazer, who took a controlling stake in the franchise in 2005.
Shares of the team listed on the New York Stock Exchange are down year to date, but ended Tuesday flat, with a market capitalisation of $2.1 billion (roughly Rs. 16,655 crore).
The Glazer family also owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, an NFL franchise in Florida.
There was no immediate reaction from the club or its owners to Musk’s tweet.
Manchester United fans have protested the team’s management for poor performance in recent years, as well as their involvement in a plan to start a new “Super League” of Europe’s richest teams.
The Red Devils finished last season at sixth place in the English Premier League, but have gotten off to a rocky start this year.
After two straight losses, including a humiliating 0-4 defeat last weekend at Brentford, Manchester United currently sit at dead last — the first time they have been at the bottom of the chart in 30 years.
More protests against the Glazer family’s ownership of the club are planned ahead of United’s next game at home to Liverpool on August 22.
As for Elon Musk, the richest man in the world recently sold nearly $7 billion (roughly Rs. 55,517 crore) worth of Tesla shares, and is in a major legal battle in the US state of Delaware over his aborted plan to buy Twitter.
Amazon Workers in Upstate New York File Petition to Conduct Union Election
By Associated Press | Updated: 17 August 2022
Backed by the grassroots labour group that secured the first-ever union victory of an Amazon warehouse in the US, workers of another warehouse filed a petition on Tuesday for an election in upstate New York in the hopes of a similar outcome.
A spokesperson for the National Labor Relations Board said the petition was filed for the warehouse known as ALB1, located in the town of Schodack, roughly 10 miles (16 kilometres) southeast of Albany.
To qualify for a union election, the NLRB requires signatures from 30 percent of eligible voters at a specific facility. Whether or not workers have reached that threshold will likely be hashed out in the coming weeks.
Paul Flaningan, an Amazon spokesperson, said the company has roughly 1,000 warehouse workers at the Schodack location. But in the filing, the Amazon Labor Union, the nascent union backing the workers, said there would be roughly 400 employees in the bargaining unit.
Heather Goodall, a warehouse worker and a former insurance agent who’s leading the organising effort, said in an interview earlier this month that workers had enough support to file for a union petition, but were choosing to delay in order to pick up even more signatures. On Tuesday, she said the group’s attorneys were not ready to release information on the number of signatures collected to the public.
The NLRB must now verify if the workers who signed the petition are qualified to seek an election. If the agency approves, it will sort out dates and times for an election between the company and the Amazon Labor Union, which pulled off a union win on Staten Island, New York in April.
The union, composed of former and current warehouse workers, began backing organising efforts in upstate New York after it was approached by Goodall, who joined Amazon in February to scope out the company’s working conditions. She quickly began talking to her co-workers about organising and launched the union campaign in May along with a group of other workers.
Soon after, Goodall said she met with the Teamsters and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, or RWDSU, which also took on Amazon during a union election at a facility in Bessemer, Alabama, the results of which are still being contested.
Eventually, she said organisers decided to pursue a more grassroots approach and align with the ALU, based on a belief the group understood the company better than other established unions.
“It seemed to make sense that we work directly with them, and continue to build the Amazon Labor Union nationally,” Goodall said.
A labour victory in Schodack would essentially broaden ALU’s support within Amazon and transform it into a touch point for labour concerns beyond Staten Island. It could also revive enthusiasm that began to flail following the group’s May loss at a second warehouse on Staten Island and reports that it halted organising at two other nearby facilities.
At the same time, the ALU is defending its lone win against Amazon, which has filed more than two dozen objections to that election. Attorneys for both sides have attempted to discredit the others’ claims during a weeks-long, contentious NLRB hearing that wrapped up in mid-July. A ruling on that case is expected to be issued in the coming weeks.
Organisers say Amazon has already began holding meetings with workers in Schodack to discourage them from unionising. In a statement, Flaningan, the Amazon spokesperson, said employees can choose what they want to do.
“As a company, we don’t think unions are the best answer for our employees,” Flaningan said. “Our focus remains on working directly with our team to continue making Amazon a great place to work.”
Meanwhile, dozens of TikTok creators are pledging to stop business with Amazon until it meets the demands of the union, such as a minimum wage of $30 (roughly Rs. 2,300) an hour and longer breaks. On Tuesday, the nonprofit Gen-Z for Change unveiled a campaign backed by roughly 70 content creators who say they will refuse to monetise their platforms for Amazon unless “tangible changes” are made to improve working condition.
“Amazon’s widespread mistreatment of their workers and blatant use of union busting tactics will no longer be tolerated by the TikTok Community or TikTok Creators,” said the letter the group shared on Twitter.
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment on the campaign.
Other campaigns have been underway at company warehouses in states like Kentucky and North Carolina as workers attempt to gather enough signatures to petition for their own elections. Among other things, workers in upstate New York are calling for better training at the company’s warehouse and higher wages.
“We have employees that are unable to even make it to work because they can’t afford gas,” Goodall said. “They can’t afford car repairs, they can’t afford to support their families.”
The petition comes amid broader scrutiny into Amazon and its warehouse operations across the country. On Monday, dozens of workers at a company air hub in San Bernardino, California walked off the job to protest low wages and safety from heat.
Federal officials have also been more involved. Last month, OSHA inspected Amazon facilities in a handful of states after receiving referrals for health and safety violations. The civil division of the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is also investigating safety hazards at Amazon warehouses and what a spokesperson for the office called “fraudulent conduct designed to hide injuries from OSHA and others.”
Best Buy Trims Jobs After It Cuts Sales and Profit Forecast Citing Surging Inflation
By Associated Press | Updated: 13 August 2022
Best Buy, the nation’s largest consumer electronics chain, is trimming jobs in an effort to adjust to new changes in consumer behaviour as the virus wanes.
Best Buy declined to say how many jobs it was cutting, but The Wall Street Journal, which was first to report the news, estimated it involved hundreds of jobs at the store level.
“We’re always evaluating and evolving our teams to make sure we’re serving our customers,” Best Buy said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press. ‘With an ever-changing macroeconomic environment, including customers shopping more digitally than ever, we have made adjustments to our teams that include eliminating a small number of roles.”
The job cuts come after Best Buy reduced its annual sales and profit forecast late last month, citing surging inflation that has dampened consumer spending on gadgets. The Minneapolis-based company echoed Walmart, which a few days before cut its profit outlook. The nation’s largest retailer said that higher prices on basic necessities are forcing shoppers to cut back on discretionary items .
Walmart also announced earlier this month that it was cutting jobs at its corporate headquarters as part of a restructuring effort.
Still, the latest snapshot on the overall US job market remains strong even as inflation continues to rage and affect all types of businesses. Last week, the government reported that unemployment dropped another notch, from 3.6 percent to 3.5 percent, matching the more than 50-year low reached just before the pandemic took hold. The economy has now gained back all 22 million jobs lost in March and April 2020 when COVID-19 hit the US.
Best Buy said last month it now expects this year’s sales at stores opened at least a year to be down 11 percent, much steeper than the 3 percent to 6 percent drop it originally forecast in May.
For Best Buy’s fiscal second quarter, it expects comparable sales to be down 13 percent. Still, revenue for the quarter should be roughly 7.5 percent higher than the second quarter of 2020, it said.
Best Buy is slated to report its quarterly results on August 30.
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