UK Group Threatens to Sue Facebook Over Cambridge Analytica

Lawyers for a group of UK residents whose Facebook data was harvested by Cambridge Analytica are now threatening to sue for damages. In a 27-page letter served to the company Tuesday, they accuse Facebook of violating British data privacy regulations. The letter before claim, as it’s called, is the first step in the UK’s legal process for filing a class action suit. It warns Facebook that if it does not adequately respond to a list of questions regarding user privacy within 14 days, the claimants may take legal action against the company in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. Nearly 1.1 million British citizens could be eligible to join such a suit if it goes forward.

The warning comes from the UK-based law firm Irvine Thanvi Natas Solicitors, which is representing dozens of people who argue that Facebook misused their personal data in violation of UK law. It follows an announcement Monday by separate group, called the read more

The Office-Messaging Wars Are Over. Slack Has Won.

Last September, the software company Atlassian launched a new workplace chat app called Stride, aimed squarely at taking on the similar app Slack. “We’ve been thrilled by the excitement we’ve seen from the tens of thousands of teams who have adopted it as their communication platform,” the company gushed in a March blog post.

Now, less than a year after the launch, Atlassian is pulling the plug on the product, along with its earlier workplace chat app HipChat. Atlassian said it will discontinue the two products by Feb. 15, 2019, and exit the communications business.

Slack surpassed HipChat in users in late 2014 and has outpaced HipChat ever since, according to Zapier, which offers tools that enable users to connect cloud-hosted applications.

Zapier

To top it off, it is transferring the intellectual property for Stride and HipChat to Slack, as part of a deal the companies described as a “partnership.” read more

Different US Election Maps Tell ‘Different Versions of the Truth’

On May 11, 2017, a reporter named Trey Yingst, who covers the White House for the conservative news network OANN, tweeted a photo of a framed map of the United States being carried into the West Wing. The map depicted the 2016 election results county-by-county, as a blanket of red, marked with flecks of blue and peachy pink along the West Coast and a thin snake of blue extending from the northeast to Louisiana.

It was a portrait of the country on election night, but on Twitter, it was also a Rorschach test.

Conservatives replying to Yingst’s tweet interpreted the expanse of red as proof of their party’s dominance throughout all levels of government. Liberals viewed the map as a distortion, masking the fact that most of that redness covers sparsely populated land, with relatively few voters.

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p class=”paywall”>In reality, both sides are right, says Ken Field. A self-proclaimed “cartonerd,” Field is a product engineer at the mapping software company read more

What Problems? Facebook Stock Has Never Been More Valuable

Few companies in the history of business have been pilloried like Facebook in the last two years. The list of offenses, largely self inflicted, reads like a rap sheet.

It ignored its growing role in media and politics. It dismissed fake news as unimportant. It let fake accounts proliferate. It was too slow to find and shut down foreign hackers and spies. It allowed third parties to download and sell user data without telling anyone. And it was naive, defensive, and slow footed in addressing these problems.

Now Facebook faces federal investigations by the Justice Department, the FBI, Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission. Facebook executives including CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg have been forced to testify in three sets of congressional hearings. The fines could run in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

You’d think all this would scare the heck out of investors, as the company prepares to report Wednesday how it performed for the first read more

The Political Education of Silicon Valley

“Confusion reigns in the political arena. Old labels no longer fit, and the citizenry seems torn between competing desires for saviors and scapegoats.” So began a 1995 story in WIRED on the state of digital-age politics. Electoral turmoil then amounted to a standoff between “a Democratic president, a Republican Congress, and a slew of voters registering as ‘Independent.’ ” More innocent times, clearly. Still, the public seemed to be looking for new paradigms, which inspired WIRED to ask, “Is there a new politics emerging in the Net/cyberspace/digital culture?” The answer was, cautiously, yes. And that politics was libertarianism, with its zeal for laissez-faire capitalism and contempt for the ponderous institutions of Big Government.

If you asked a similar question today—is there a new Silicon Valley politics?— it would be pretty clear that libertarianism is no longer the answer. Sure, obstreperous free-market utopians are still some of the most quotable members of the tech scene, but truly, the last right-leaning presidential candidate to win Santa Clara County, the heart of Silicon Valley, was Ronald Reagan in 1984. As the tech industry has grown in power and influence, its politics have moved to the left. Bill Clinton pulled out wins in both his campaigns. In 2012, Barack Obama won with 70 percent of the vote to Mitt Romney’s 27 percent, and employees of big tech companies like Apple and Google donated overwhelmingly to Obama’s campaign. Four years later, Bernie Sanders got 42 percent of the Democratic primary vote, and Hillary Clinton won 73 percent of the general electorate in Santa Clara County, one of the most lopsided read more

The Secret Internet War Over Bots

Companies are waging an invisible data war online. And your phone might be an unwitting soldier.

Retailers from Amazon and Walmart to tiny startups want to know what their competitors charge. Brick and mortar retailers can send people, sometimes called “mystery shoppers,” to their competitors’ stores to make notes on prices.

Online, there’s no need to send people anywhere. But big retailers can sell millions of products, so it’s not feasible to have workers browse each item and manually adjust prices. Instead, the companies employ software to scan rival websites and collect prices, a process called “scraping.” From there, the companies can adjust their own prices.

Companies like Amazon and Walmart have internal teams dedicated to scraping, says Alexandr Galkin, CEO of the retail price optimization company Competera. Others turn to companies like his. Competera scrapes pricing data from read more

Users Sue Juul for Addicting Them to Nicotine

Juul Labs, the San Francisco-based e-cigarette company, is under pressure from parents, schools, public health advocates, lawmakers, and the Food and Drug Administration for its popularity with younger users, who have gravitated to Juul’s discrete rechargeable vaping device and nicotine pods in flavors like mango and fruit medley. Now come the lawsuits.

Since April, consumers have filed at least three complaints against Juul. Two of the lawsuits were filed in California and allege Juul deceptively marketed the product as safe, when it contains more potent doses of nicotine than cigarettes. Both seek monetary damages, as well as an injunction to curb Juul’s marketing practices.

In the first case, filed in US District Court in Northern California in late April, Bradley Colgate of La Jolla and Kaytlin McKnight of Arroyo Grande say they first purchased Juul in 2017. The suit claims that McKnight became addicted to nicotine salts and now vapes several Juul pods each week. read more

Facebook Confirms It’s Working on a New Internet Satellite

Fiber optic cables are the gold standard of a good internet connection, but laying them can be expensive, and in some parts of the world, a physically daunting task. So in remote corners of the globe, people often connect to the internet instead via massive geostationary satellites. These school bus-size instruments are especially far away, producing significantly slower connections. A host of companies believe the better way to connect the estimated half of Earth’s population that’s still offline is to launch “constellations” of smaller satellites into low Earth orbit, around 100 to 1,250 miles above our planet.

According to emails obtained from the Federal Communications Commission in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by WIRED, and a confirmation from the company itself, Facebook is officially one of them.

The emails show that the social network wants to launch Athena, its very own internet satellite, in early 2019. The new device is designed read more

Facebook’s Fight Against Fake News Keeps Raising Questions

Facebook wants you to know it’s trying really hard to deal with the ways people use its platform to cause harm. It just doesn’t know exactly what to do. What separates hate speech from offensive ideas, or misinformation from coordinated disinformation intended to incite violence? What should the company allow to remain on the platform, and what should it ban? Two years after Russians weaponized Facebook as part of a large-scale campaign to interfere with US democracy, the social network is still struggling to answer those questions, as the past two weeks have made clear. But it’s trying to figure it out.

As Facebook reaffirms its commitment to fighting fake news in recent weeks, it has also been forced to defend its decision not to ban sites like Alex Jones’ InfoWars. Instead, the company says, it reduces the distribution of content that is flagged and confirmed to be false by fact checkers.

On Wednesday, Recode’s Kara Swisher aired a read more

Uber’s CEO Faces an Impossible Decision

Of all the management mistakes that led to Uber’s culture and business crisis, Travis Kalanick’s biggest mistake was that he kept a tight inner circle of executives, for whom bad behavior appeared to have no consequences. The most egregious example of this anything-goes leadership culture was in 2014, when Emil Michael, then Uber’s senior vice president, suggested at a private dinner that Uber put a million dollars into hiring a team of opposition researchers and journalists to dig into the personal lives of the company’s critics.

Although Michael was made to apologize publicly, Kalanick didn’t fire him for his behavior. Post–public scandal there were no internal consequences. Michael’s continued tenure signaled that Kalanick would tolerate bad behavior, if not encourage it.

Which is why Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is now faced with an impossible situation. Barney Harford is the operational and strategy whiz Khosrowshahi recruited last fall to help fix Uber. read more