All posts in “Big Tech Companies”

Twitter’s Jack Dorsey gets roasted for his ignorant tweets about Myanmar

More than 600,000 Rohingya refugees have flooded into Bangladesh to flee an offensive by Myanmar’s military that the United Nations has called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing."
More than 600,000 Rohingya refugees have flooded into Bangladesh to flee an offensive by Myanmar’s military that the United Nations has called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Image: Kevin Frayer / Getty Images

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey shared with the world what he did on his most recent birthday: travel to Myanmar and do a 10-day silent meditation.

Dorsey made a thread on Twitter explaining the experience, and hundreds of people chimed in to remind Jack of the genocide happening in Myanmar that’s been perpetuated by social media, how funny it is that he paid money to get bit by mosquitos, and his general rich white guy privilege.

Of course, Jack took the idea of Vipassanā and translated it into terms that tech people are familiar with, using words like “hack” and “reprogram.”

Some people on Twitter compared Dorsey’s experience of embracing pain to their experience on Twitter, where harassment continues to run rampant and negativity permeates every aspect of the platform.

Another person pointed out how some people really don’t have the option to meditate on their pain, and instead are forced to live and work with it because they can’t afford healthcare.

One Twitter user compared Dorsey to Gavin Belson, the villainous businessman from the show Silicon Valley who literally goes on a trip to meditate in Asia only to return to his normal capitalistic ways when he returns to Silicon Valley. Classic rich white tech guys stuff.

One of Dorsey’s more universally funny tweets in his thread was one where he shared that he’d been bitten over 100 times by mosquitos, and that’s pretty hard not to laugh at. People love schadenfreude.

The most egregious part about Dorsey’s Twitter thread is his willingness to ignore the genocide happening in Myanmar, which either he somehow wasn’t aware of or just decided not to mention.

You gotta be aware of this stuff, especially when you’re tweeting it out to hundreds of thousands of people on your own information-sharing platform.

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Arrested Huawei CFO potentially faces decades in jail

Things are not looking up for Huawei’s CFO. 

Wanzhou Meng, arrested Dec. 1 in Vancouver and facing possible extradition to the U.S., had a bail hearing today in which it was made clear that she is looking at some serious jail time for allegedly misrepresenting to authorities the relationship between Huawei and a company by the name of SkyCom. 

Reporters in attendance tweeted details from the hearing, and noted the shocked reaction from the gathered crowd upon learning the possible severity of Meng’s punishment were she to face trial and be found guilty. 

Dave Lee of the BBC reported “[gasps] in the court” when it was announced that Meng could be hit with “multiple charges each with maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.”

According to the Washington Post, Weng was arrested while in transit from Hong Kong to Mexico. 

Deirdre Bosa of CNBC, who was also in attendance, reported on the calculations the court must consider when potentially setting bail for someone of such extraordinary wealth. 

“Meng being released on $1 million bail would be like asking upper middle class Canadian family to cough up $136,” she paraphrased the Crown as explaining, before noting that Meng’s “father has a net worth of $3.2bn.”

There is still a chance Weng will make bail, however, with Bosa reporting the arguments being made in Weng’s favor. 

China, meanwhile, has officially demanded Meng’s release. In a statement reported by the Post, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry called the detention a human rights violation. 

“To detain someone without giving clear reason is an obvious violation of human rights,” read the statement from spokesperson Geng Shuang.

We’ll soon know if the Canadian courts are amenable to that argument. 

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Xiaomi’s next phone might have a 48-megapixel camera

The smartphone megapixel wars aren’t over yet. 

Chinese electronics company Xiaomi teased a new smartphone with a 48-megapixel camera, a record for the company, and as far as we can recall, an all-time record in popular consumer electronics, beating Nokia’s 41-megapixel 808 PureView phone

As noted by Android Central, the phone is also likely to have Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 675 chip. 

As extravagant as 48 megapixels sound, it actually makes a lot of sense. Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro has a 40-megapixel main camera, but, by default, it uses the information gathered by the sensor to create better-looking 10-megapixel photos. If Xiaomi goes the same route, its new phone will likely default to 12-megapixel photos while benefiting from the details gathered by the 48-megapixel sensor. 

We can also take an educated guess at which sensor Xiaomi will use, since Sony launched its 48-megapixel IMX586 image sensor for smartphones in July (Samsung also has a 48-megapixel sensor called ISOCELL Bright GM1). And yes, one of those sensor’s features is combining the light captured from four adjacent pixels to create a bright 12-megapixel image in crappy light conditions. Prepare for some awesome night photos.

The photo of the phone, shared by Xiaomi president Bin Lin on Chinese social network Weibo, doesn’t reveal any other details about the phone except its black color. The photo’s caption, however, claims the new phone is coming in January. 

Given its CPU, the phone is likely to be a mid-ranger with an obvious focus on photography. And judging by Xiaomi’s previous launches, it’ll likely be pretty cheap. 

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Amazon is targeting airports for its next cashier-free Go store expansion, report says

Amazon’s checkout-free Go stores are really starting to take off.

The online retail giant has been in contact with several major U.S. airports to discuss opening new cashier-less Amazon Go locations, according to public records.

Both Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), which is the second-busiest airport in the country, and San Jose International Airport (SJC) are locations Amazon expressed interest in, according to a Reuters report

One airport, Dallas Fort Worth International (DFW), reportedly reached out to Amazon first, expressing interest in bringing the e-commerce giant’s brick-and-mortar convenience store to its location.

Whether Amazon Go actually shows up in any of these locations remains to be seen. Airport officials have stated that the company would be required to go through the same competitive bidding process that it requires of all of its concessionaires.

Amazon Go stores would certainly stand-out from other airport retailers. Customers check-in when entering the shop using their smartphone. After that, customers just grab whatever items they’d like to purchase and place them in their bag. 

Amazon’s proprietary “Walk Out” technology consisting of cameras and sensors installed throughout the store track a customer’s items and charges the account used on a customer’s phone that is scanned when they walk into the store.

While Amazon Go stores are still in the experimental phase, the company has recently been focused on expanding the model. Amazon currently has multiple Go locations running in Seattle and Chicago, with the cashierless convenience store soon coming to New York and San Francisco as well.  It was reported last week that Amazon is testing out using its Go technology on a full-sized supermarket, as opposed to its smaller convenience store locations.

With hundreds of millions of people traveling through airports in the U.S. each year, the company clearly sees an opening for its quick-stop Amazon Go stores.

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Microsoft wants regulation to keep the ‘facial recognition genie’ in the bottle

There’s no time like the present to slow the tide of a technology-enabled facilitation of discrimination aided by facial recognition. 

So, somewhat surprisingly, argues one key developer of said facial recognition tech: Microsoft

On Dec. 6, Microsoft president Brad Smith released an over 3,500-word blog post detailing his concerns with the aforementioned technology and calling for immediate government regulation. The post gets straight to the point, noting that as a society we can’t risk waiting any longer.

“The facial recognition genie, so to speak, is just emerging from the bottle,” reads the post in part. “Unless we act, we risk waking up five years from now to find that facial recognition services have spread in ways that exacerbate societal issues.”

When the president of what is, or at least for a moment in late November was, the world’s most valuable company publicly decries the potential future harms of a tech we should probably take note. 

This rings true especially when that very same company has a $480 million contract with the U.S. military to help it “increase lethality.” Because if facial recognition tech spooks even Smith, then the rest of us should be feeling pretty nervous right about now. 

Specifically, the blog post lays out three problems with facial recognition tech. 

First, it “[increases] the risk of decisions and, more generally, outcomes that are biased and, in some cases, in violation of laws prohibiting discrimination.” This is a very real concern, as we know that in its current form the technology has a hard time correctly identifying people of color, women, and young people. 

Next, “the widespread use of this technology can lead to new intrusions into people’s privacy.” We’ve seen what this looks like in China, with automated facial recognition tech being used to identify and publicly shame jaywalkers. 

And, lastly, “the use of facial recognition technology by a government for mass surveillance can encroach on democratic freedoms.” This we know  to be true, as the tech can identify individual protesters at, say, a march. Even, potentially, if they’re masked

This is not the first time Microsoft has asked the government to regulate the sector. The company issued a similar call in June. However, this time around, Microsoft is also asking its competitors to not wait for the government to act. “We and other tech companies need to start creating safeguards to address facial recognition technology,” Smith writes. 

Notably, Smith doesn’t think the technology is all bad. He writes that it has been used to find missing children, and even to help diagnose a rare disease. Still, according to Smith, it clearly needs some serious and immediate checks. 

Perhaps Smith, in addition to this lengthy call for regulation, can do us all one more favor and send his blog post directly to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Maybe Bezos, whose company has its own controversial facial recognition program, will take the concerns of a fellow rich man more seriously than those of the organizations that have spoken up against it. 

But no point in holding your breath — it’s unlikely the blue hue of your oxygen-starved face will pose any problems to the algorithm identifying you in the crowd. 

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