By Reuters | Updated: 19 November 2022
Alphabet’s Google this week introduced rules for inviting guest speakers to its offices, days after it canceled a talk by an Indian historian who has disparaged marginalised groups and their concerns, according to company emails seen by Reuters.
The policy released Thursday is Google’s latest effort to preserve an open culture while addressing divisions that have emerged as its workforce has grown.
Workers at Google and other big tech companies in recent years have clashed and protested over politics and racial and gender equity. Also, Alphabet, Apple, and Amazon all face union organising drives whose demands include that the companies adopt progressive policies.
The Google speaker rules, seen by Reuters, cite risk to the brand from certain talks and asks workers to “consider whether there’s a business reason for hosting the speaker and if the event directly supports our company goals.”
It calls for avoiding topics that could be “disruptive or undermine Google’s culture of belonging” and reiterates that speakers are barred from advocacy of political candidates and ballot measures.
“We’ve always been proud to host external speakers at Google, as they provide great opportunities for learning and connection for our employees,” Google spokesman Ryan Lamont told Reuters. The updated process will “ensure these events are useful and contribute to a productive work environment.”
An email introducing the policy to managers said it unifies and clarifies a patchwork of guidelines.
Greater scrutiny threatens the free-flowing, university-like culture Google has prized since its inception. But a workplace viewed as more inviting could attract a more diverse workforce that might help Google develop products with broader appeal.
In recent years, internal disputes spilling into public view led Google to increase content moderation on workplace message boards and cut the frequency of company-wide meetings.
Rivals such as Meta also have policies for inviting speakers.
At Google, speakers have included then-US presidential candidate Barack Obama, celebrity chef Ayesha Curry and former basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Disputes over speakers have roiled Google since at least April, when it said internal rancor prompted it to cancel a talk on India’s socioreligious caste system by author Thenmozhi Soundararajan, who advocates for people disadvantaged by caste prejudice.
Members of an internal Hindu group had complained about Soundararajan, describing her rhetoric as inflammatory, a charge she calls bigoted.
At least one of the critics suggested inviting for balance Rajiv Malhotra, according to an internal message. Malhotra, a tech entrepreneur turned self-described contrarian author, has labeled activists such as Soundararajan as “snakes” and criticised affirmative action policies that promote lower caste groups.
The Hindu group at Google eventually scheduled Malhotra to speak about India’s positive global influence, according to an invitation. But organisers canceled November 10, the day before the planned talk at Google offices in Silicon Valley, according to a follow-up announcement.
Some workers complained to senior management about Malhotra, according to a message soliciting complaints. A linked document organised by Alphabet Workers Union, a labour organisation that has been petitioning Google to name caste in its non-discrimination policies, noted Malhotra had described homosexuality as a medical condition and Islam as a destructive force.
Malhotra told Reuters he supports marginalised communities but opposes “politicising of bias in ways that divide societies and make them vulnerable to foreign colonisation.”
Allowing his speech after canceling Soundararajan’s would have amounted to a contradictory standard, according to messages between employees.
The new speaker policy states that workers “must submit a proposal and have it approved” by a “cross-functional” review team. Requests are due at least 12 weeks before an event.
“Await a response before making contact with the speaker and/or their representative,” it says. “Failure to follow this process is a violation of Google policies.”
© Thomson Reuters 2022
Medibank Data Breach: Hackers Upload More Customer Data, Say ‘Case Closed’ on World Cybersecurity Day
By Reuters | Updated: 1 December 2022
Medibank, Australia’s biggest health insurer, said on Thursday hackers had released more of its stolen medical records, as the media reported that the complete set of data on millions of customers was now public.
The Office of the Australian Information Commission (OAIC), the country’s privacy regulator, has also begun investigating how the company handles personal information, Medibank said in a statement.
The latest release on the dark web follows progressive uploads, including records of customers’ mental health and alcohol use, that began after Medibank said on November 7 it would not pay a ransom.
“The raw data we have analysed today so far is incomplete and hard to understand,” chief executive David Koczkar said. “While there are media reports of this being a signal of ‘case closed’, our work is not over.”
On Thursday, the media reported that a blog, believed by cyber experts to be used by the hackers, carried a new post: “Happy Cyber Security Day!!! Added folder full. Case closed.” It also included a file that had several compressed files amounting to more than 5 gigabytes.
Reuters has not verified the contents of the latest files uploaded on the dark web, part of the World Wide Web that is accessible only with special software.
Medibank did not immediately respond to a Reuters question about whether it believed all stolen data had now been released.
Australian Federal Police last month said Russia-based hackers were behind the Medibank cyberattack, which compromised the details of almost 10 million current and former customers. Medicare revealed the breach on October 13.
In an update on Thursday morning, Medibank said there were currently no signs that banking data had been stolen. Personal details accessed by hackers were not enough to enable financial fraud, it added.
Six zipped files placed in a folder called “full” and containing raw data believed to have been stolen had been uploaded, Medibank said in a statement.
Australia has been grappling with a recent rise in cyber attacks. At least eight companies, including telecoms company Optus, owned by Singapore Telecommunications, have reported breaches since September.
The OAIC, which is also investigating Optus over the breach, did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the Medibank investigation.
Technology experts have said Australia has become a target for hackers just as a skills shortage leaves an understaffed, overworked cybersecurity workforce ill-equipped to stop attacks.
© Thomson Reuters 2022
YouTube Removes More Than 17 Lakh Videos in India in Q3 2022 for Violating Community Guidelines
By Press Trust of India | Updated: 30 November 2022
YouTube has removed over 17 lakh videos uploaded from India during the July-September quarter for violating the company’s community guidelines, the Google-owned firm said on Tuesday. “Between July and September 2022, in India over 1.7 million videos were removed for violating YouTube’s Community Guidelines,” YouTube said in the Community Guidelines Enforcement report for the third quarter of 2022.
Globally, YouTube removed over 56 lakh videos for violating community guidelines.
“Of the videos detected by machines, 36 percent were removed before they received a single view, and 31 percent received between 1 and 10 views before removal,” the report said.
The video hosting platform removed over 73.7 crore comments from the platform for violation of the guidelines, the report said.
YouTube data shows 99 percent of the comments were removed after they were flagged by its automated system and only 1 percent were removed after they were flagged by its users.
The Alphabet-owned company recently said that it is bringing shopping features to its Shorts video service, as it looks to fortify its revenue against a drop in spending by recession-wary advertisers. The feature, being tested with eligible creators in the US, will allow them to tag products from their own stores. “Viewers in the US, India, Brazil, Canada, and Australia can see the tags and interact with them and we’ll continue to bring tagging to more creators and geographies,” a Google spokesperson said.
FIFA World Cup 2022: Cybercriminals Using Fake Sites to Steal Personal Information, IT Security Firm Says
By Press Trust of India | Updated: 29 November 2022
From fake entry permits and betting sites to fake cryptocurrency, cybercriminals have spun all the tricks to lure football fans in the name of the FIFA World Cup, IT security intelligence firm CloudSEK warned on Monday.
While India is not part of the FIFA World Cup, the Indian community is reportedly estimated to be the largest among the expatriate population in Qatar which is hosting the biggest football tournament.
The Bengaluru-based cyber security firm said that several Telegram channels were found selling Hayya cards (FIFA entry permit) for prices ranging from $50 (roughly Rs. 4,300) to $150 (roughly Rs. Rs. 12,300).
“To create Hayya cards, the threat actors claim to require the buyer’s valid IDs like passports. And payment is only accepted in Bitcoin,” CloudSEK said in a report.
Cyber criminals are also sharing hacking techniques that purportedly allow one to register for a Hayya card without a valid FIFA ticket number, for free.
The technique is based on brute forcing the ticket number based on an alleged ticket number pattern that the threat actor shared.
“Since the FIFA world cup is a popular event, the demand for tickets far exceeds the supply. To exploit this gap between the supply and demand, scammers have set up websites that sell fake tickets,” CloudSEK said.
The threat actors are trying to cheat netizens by selling limited edition fake cryptocurrency as crypto currency platform Crypto.com is an official FIFA sponsor and Binance has partnered with Cristiano Ronaldo to promote soccer-themed NFTs.
“Threat actors are piggy-backing on this hype to sell fake ‘World Cup Coin’ and ‘World Cup Token’ by promoting them as limited edition cryptocurrency. However, most of these purported coins don’t exist,” the report said.
CloudSEK researchers in the report said FIFA sponsors should bolster their security mechanisms and stay up to date on threat actors’ tactics and techniques.
Amitabh Bachchan Wins Interim Order for Protection of His Personality Rights
By ANI | Updated: 26 November 2022
Bollywood legend and veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan filed a suit in Delhi High Court seeking protection of his personality rights, image, voice or any of his characteristics without his consent, following which the court passed an interim ex-parte injunction in his favour.
Eminent lawyer Harish Salve along with Ameet Naik and Pravin Anand, instructed by Anand and Naik, appeared for Bachchan in the High Court. The matter was heard before Justice Navin Chawla.
Salve submitted that there is a complete misuse of Amitabh Bachchan’s name, image, voice or any of his characteristics without his consent.
“The misuse of his name, image and voice, especially by the mobile application developers, and people conducting lottery by illegally associating with KBC, book publishers, T-shirt vendors and various other businesses, has prompted Mr Amitabh Bachchan to approach the High Court, seeking a restraining order against the use of his personality traits,” Salve said.
The lawyer for Amitabh Bachchan also brought to the notice of the Delhi High Court that alleged infringers have illegally registered Bachchan’s name as web-domain names such as www.amitabhbachchan.com and www.amitabhbachchan.in.
Delhi High Court’s Justice Navin Chawla noted that the plaintiff/Amitabh Bachchan alleges a violation of his publicity right as a celebrity.
The court further noted that it could not seriously be disputed that the plaintiff is a very well-known personality and is aggrieved by the usage of his name, image voice etc without his consent.
“I am of the opinion that the plaintiff has been able to make out prima facie case in his favour. The defendants appear to be using celebrity status without his authorization, permission and consent,” the HC judge said.
Justice Navin Chawla in his interim order passed an interim ex-parte injunction in favour of the Plaintiff/ Amitabh Bachchan and against the defendants.
The plea stated that there is an infringement of the Plaintiff’s personality through various manners like digital means, instant messaging apps, physical means etc.
The digital means include several websites and mobile apps that have been found misappropriating the plaintiff’s photographs and/or other characteristics, to create popularity amongst the public and to entice members of the public to download such mobile apps.
The instant messaging apps include several unscrupulous parties that have been found using Bachchan’s photograph along with his name, and the representation of a TV Show Kaun Banega Crorepati (which is associated with Bachchan), to scam the public into believing that Kaun Banega Crorepati is offering lottery prizes to the members of the public.
The physical means include the cases where dishonest traders physically affix the actor’s images and posters on their places of business, on billboards or even on products that they engage in the manufacture and sale of, with the aim to unlawfully show a nexus/affiliation/sponsorship/association with the plaintiff, so as to boost their illegal profits.
Amazon Said to End Two EU Antitrust Probes by Year-End to Avoid Fine
By Reuters | Updated: 26 November 2022
US online retail giant Amazon may be able to end two EU antitrust investigations by the end of the year after tweaking concessions to address concerns over its use of sellers’ data, two people familiar with the matter said on Friday.
Settling the EU investigations means the company will avoid a fine of as much as 10 percent of its global turnover.
Faced with charges of using its size, power and data to push its own products to gain an unfair advantage over rival merchants that also use its platform, Amazon in July offered to refrain from using sellers’ data for its own competing retail business and its private label products.
The European Commission then sought feedback from rivals and customers and subsequently said the company needed to improve its concession.
Amazon has increased the range of data which it cannot use, one of the people said.
“It is possible an EU decision will come by the end of the year,” the person said.
The EU competition enforcer declined to comment.
Asked for comment, Amazon reiterated that it had engaged constructively with the Commission to address their concerns.
The company’s other concession is equal treatment of sellers when ranking their offers for the “buy box” on its website that generates the bulk of its sales.
It has offered to set up a second buy box for a rival product if it differs substantially in price and delivery from the product in the first box.
Bloomberg was the first to report the possibility of an EU decision by the end of the year.
© Thomson Reuters 2022
Google May Use Performance Management System to Lay Off Underperforming Workers in 2023: Report
By ANI | Updated: 23 November 2022
Amidst layoffs and a slowing down of the hiring process being seen by large companies as an avenue to strengthen their revenues, global tech major Google has introduced a new performance management system, which could push out thousands of underperforming employees, according to reports.
As per a report by The Information, a new performance management system, which once implemented early next year, could make way for human resource managers to push out underperforming Google employees.
The tech publication also said Google’s managers could also use the performance ratings to avoid paying employees bonuses and stocks.
“Under the new system, managers have been asked to categorise 6 percent of employees, or roughly 10,000 people, as low performers in terms of their impact on the business,” The Information reported quoting people with knowledge of the new system.
In the previous performance review system, managers were expected to put 2 percent of employees in that bucket, the reports said.
Recently, some of the global tech leaders -Amazon, Twitter, and Meta have laid off thousands of employees.
Twitter head Elon Musk after having taken over the micro-blogging site was set to cut roughly half of Twitter’s 7,500-person global workforce.
Further, the New York Times last week reported that Amazon too was planning to lay off approximately 10,000 employees in corporate and technology roles. The report said the cuts would be the largest in the company’s history.
Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has announced that it was laying off about 11,000 employees, or 13 per cent of its global workforce. It’s the first mass redundancy exercise for the 18-year-old social media behemoth.
Reports also said Microsoft too has enforced job cuts.
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