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Articles on this Page
- 01/18/18--05:15: _A New Wave Of Bad A...
- 01/18/18--05:25: _Soon your doctor mi...
- 01/18/18--05:36: _Zapier’s $10,...
- 01/18/18--05:41: _The United States w...
- 01/18/18--06:20: _Facebook touts smal...
- 01/18/18--06:41: _The definitive acco...
- 01/18/18--07:00: _What 100 Cities Are...
- 01/18/18--07:46: _Uber and Softbank j...
- 01/18/18--07:57: _These 2 loopholes i...
- 01/18/18--08:33: _Facebook finally ap...
- 01/18/18--09:00: _CES Could (And Shou...
- 01/18/18--09:09: _Snap layoffs hit do...
- 01/18/18--09:50: _Trump thinks Tim Co...
- 01/18/18--11:37: _Apple Will Make iPh...
- 01/18/18--12:29: _“Right to Rep...
- 01/18/18--16:01: _Panera petitions th...
- 01/18/18--21:39: _Google and China...
- 01/18/18--21:47: _WhatsApp launches i...
- 01/18/18--22:00: _Companies Say They ...
- 01/18/18--23:22: _NASA has successful...
- 01/18/18--05:15: A New Wave Of Bad Ads Is Hijacking Even Top-Tier Websites
- 01/18/18--05:25: Soon your doctor might be able to refuse care for “moral” reasons
- 01/18/18--06:20: Facebook touts small biz benefits as News Feed changes spark fear
- 01/18/18--06:41: The definitive account of Travis Kalanick’s Uber downfall is here
- 01/18/18--07:00: What 100 Cities Are Learning From Each Other By Sharing Their Data
- 01/18/18--07:46: Uber and Softbank just sealed the deal
- 01/18/18--09:00: CES Could (And Should) Go Virtual Within The Next Decade
- 01/18/18--12:29: “Right to Repair” legislation has now been introduced in 17 states
- 01/18/18--16:01: Panera petitions the U.S. to finally define “egg”
- 01/18/18--21:39: Google and China’s Tencent agree to share patents
- 01/18/18--21:47: WhatsApp launches its new Business messenger app
Over the past couple of weeks, internet users have been complaining of a new wave of hard-to-close, misleading, and malicious ads popping across websites big and small. Some of the ads even make it impossible for people to read news and other content by redirecting browsers to spammy sites or popping up mobile app store pages for undesired software.
Just got this weird pop up (the URL changed to what you see in the pic) while reading a NYT article via way of a tweet. pic.twitter.com/XGdM8tXl1s
— Josh Sternberg (@joshsternberg) January 5, 2018
It’s exciting to see every major media outlet covering this same important story on their mobile websites. pic.twitter.com/keXPRSLgpv
— Chai — If I Ever Fall In Love (@anildash) January 7, 2018
Many social media posts lamented that even top-tier publishers like The New York Times and The Atlantic were willing to run such intrusive ads on their sites. But experts say the problem isn’t with lack of discernment on the part of site publishers but with an extremely complex online advertising system that makes it hard for publishers involved to detect, let alone weed out, misleading and malware-laden ads.
Malvertising, as it’s sometimes called, isn’t new. The first recorded sighting of a malware-loaded ad, in late 2007 or early 2008, stemmed from a vulnerability in Adobe Flash, and affected a number of platforms including MySpace, Excite, and Rhapsody. In 2012, the Online Trust Alliance, an industry group, estimated nearly 10 billion ad impressions were compromised by malicious ads. But those in the digital ad industry say the problem has been rapidly growing worse.
“Over the past two years, we have seen the amount of malware and mobile redirects, which might lead to malware, roughly double in the digital ad ecosystem,” says Chris Olson, CEO of The Media Trust, a McLean, Virginia company that provides security services to ad providers and online publishers.
“It allows them to precisely target users at scale, so they can precisely target users who have unpatched operating systems or browsers,” says John Murphy, VP of marketplace quality at Pasadena adtech company OpenX. “They can also target individual devices, and this also makes it very difficult to detect, because even if we do a high level scanning on our side to ensure that the creatives are clean, unless we come up with the exact combination of characteristics they’re targeting, we’re not going to see the behavior.”
And experts say the problem traditionally gets worse around the year-end holidays, when the number of online ads skyrockets just as the people able to review security issues at ad networks and publishers are on vacation or occupied with other matters.
“My wife and kids and I have seen it throughout the course of December, so that’s why I think it’s not a small or isolated incident,” says Augustine Fou, who researches online ad fraud. “I think it’s pretty mainstream.”
Over $1 Billion In Losses
In some cases, unscrupulous advertising code even purposely displays marketing messages that users will never see, according to a report on Monday from ad security company GeoEdge. Instead, the ads hijack phones and computers to simulate mouse clicks and finger taps on the hidden ads, in order to pull in revenue from advertisers who can’t distinguish automated interactions from legitimate potential customers.
“Through a series of analyses of campaign behavior, as well as domain and network reputation, GeoEdge’s security team has been able to identify a range of malicious auto-redirect activities, which are generating over $1 billion in losses for publishers and marketers, a significant increase from last year,” GeoEdge CEO Amnon Siev said in a statement.
To fight back, companies looking to weed out unscrupulous ads need to scan them using a variety of browsers from a variety of locations, says Murphy. OpenX works with The Media Trust and GeoEdge to review ad content for malware and other issues. Publishers are increasingly demanding that adtech companies they do business with root out such unscrupulous ads, he says. But experts say that, just as with other cybersecurity issues, it’s ultimately a cat-and-mouse game between unscrupulous advertisers and those looking to stop them.
“Every time we think about malicious activity you need to follow the money,” Siev tells Fast Company. “There is so much money involved here, [malicious ad makers] have an army of developers working day and night in order to find a way to bypass all the potential mechanisms.”
Alongside the rise in ad malware, security researchers have also recently highlighted a surge in cryptojacking—scripts and software that secretly mine cryptocurrency using website visitors’ CPUs. According to a report by Check Point this week, cryptojacking malware accounted for two of the three most widespread malware infections globally in December 2017. And, Israeli adtech firm Spotad warned recently, websites and publishers need to be prepared for this kind of malware slipping in through their sites’ ad networks.
The risk to publishers, of course, is that internet users who are fed up with malicious ads will turn increasingly to adblocking software. PageFair, which studies adblocking, said in a 2017 report that adblocking usage had grown 30% during the previous year. And Google has announced that starting next month, Chrome will automatically strip ads from sites that don’t adhere to industry standards for ad quality, presumably in the hopes of preventing users from blocking ads indiscriminately with third-party tools. (Google has also said it would develop tools for preventing unwanted redirects in Chrome.)
Aside from filtering ads, and keeping systems updated to reduce the risk of malware, users can also take other steps to avoid falling prey to malicious and scammy ads, says Andrew Blaich, a security researcher at the mobile security firm Lookout.
“One of the big things, if you see these ads, is to not click on them,” he says, “because you’re not going to get what they’re advertising.”
A proposedrule under review at the White House would create a new division of conscience and religious freedom division inside the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) that would allow healthcare providers to opt out of treating patients or offering services that go against their moral and religious beliefs such as performing abortions or working with LGBT patients.
The rule was drafted in December and only released publicly today. This represents a rollback of policies put in by former President Obama and shift away from the HHS’s current focus on maintaining and enforcing federal civil rights and healthcare privacy laws. The newly created office will be a place for healthcare workers to lodge complaints against organizations that might force them to work against their beliefs and ensure that those healthcare facilities that employ them will support their decision to refuse care.
This rule presents a conflict of ethics and the Hippocratic oath in the healthcare profession, according to Ben Brown, a gynecologist-obstetrician in Chicago and a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health. He told the Washington Post, “Imposing their values on a patient is not in consort with our professional job as doctors.”
“In Detroit, a child was denied care by her pediatrician because her parents are LGBTQ,” Pride at Work Executive Director, Jerame Davis, said in a statement. “Nationwide, 29% of transgender people report being refused service due to their actual or perceived gender identity. …the HHS OCR was established to prevent these sort of discriminatory practices.”
Prior to the proposed rule, over 450 major companies are extending protections for their trans employees including health coverage for gender identity based medical care. However, it’s still challenging and often dangerous to be out at work. Earlier last year the Justice Department rolled back protections for LGBTQ workers and it’s still legal to fire someone for being gay or transgender in 28 states.
Last March, Zapier, the work automation platform, announced it would be offering $10,000 to cover moving expenses for any employees who wanted to ditch the Bay Area for someplace where the cost of living is less insane. By midsummer, Business Insider reported that job applications had spiked some 30% but there weren’t any takers yet for the so-called “de-location package.”
Nine months on, Zapier, whose workforce is entirely remote to begin with, now tells Fast Company that it’s grown its headcount by more than 65%–from around 75 staffers last spring to 125 today. Two of those 50-odd hires were from the Bay Area, yet still no Zapier employees have chosen to take the money and run (or, rather, relocate). At last count, in October, job applicants had swelled 53% since the package’s rollout.
Basecamp, another all-remote tech company, recently committed to paying San Francisco–competitive salaries across its entire workforce, which led to a round of raises. A Zapier spokesperson says the company similarly tries “to be consistent and competitive anywhere else in the world, no matter where you are.” If anyone eventually does take the 10 grand to relocate, the company wouldn’t dock their pay.
Despite the fact that Spain had a horrifying terrorist attack and massive demonstrations surrounding Catalonia’s bid for independence, more tourists wanted to visit Spain than travel to the United States in 2017.
While France has maintained its hold on the top spot, with 82.6 million croissant-craving visitors pouring into the country, last year was the first time that the U.S. has been bumped from the No. 2 position, according to a forthcoming report from the UN’s World Tourism Organization. While the final numbers won’t be released until the spring, according the UNWTO as reported by The Guardian, in 2016, Spain welcomed 75.3 million visitors, just behind the U.S. with 75.6 million.
The reason that the U.S. was bumped is due to the decline in international tourism that came in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency. Threats of “extreme vetting” and Trump’s calls for stricter border controls caused tourism to fall 6% during the first six months of Trump’s presidency, compared to the year before.
According to Deutsche Welle, the slump is real and it’s rare: “Over the past two decades, the U.S. tourist industry has only experienced two downturns: after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and again during the economic recession that began in 2008.” Not only are fewer visitors making their way to the U.S., but those that do make it through border patrol, spend less once they are here, specifically 3% less. Per Deutsche Welle, that translates to a loss of $4.6 billion to the US economy and roughly 40,000 lost jobs.
African-American- and Hispanic-owned small businesses get the most benefit out of Facebook, a new study concludes, even as the company’s recent changes to News Feed seem likely to make it harder for such operations to drum up customers.
According to a study published today by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Morning Consult, and Facebook, more than 60% of small enterprises say they use Facebook as a “tool for business,” and of all those, 32% said they built their business on the platform.
But the numbers are much higher for African-American- and Hispanic-owned operations, with 63% and 65%, respectively, saying they’d built their businesses on Facebook. Of those, 69% of African-American small-business owners said they’d hired employees based on business growth since they joined the platform; 71% said they’d increased sales since being on Facebook; and 70% said they used the platform to sell outside their local area. For Hispanic small business owners, those numbers were 80%, 78%, and 78%, and for all small businesses, 42%, 56%, and 52%.
Yet even as this study touts Facebook’s positive impact on small businesses, and in particular minority-owned operations, there are those who fear the social networking giant’s recent major changes to how it operates News Feed, which are intended to prioritize showing posts from users’ friends and family, will harm small businesses.
“According to Rina Liddle, the founder of Vancouver social media marketing firm Liddle Works Indie Media, some will be hit harder than others,” the CBC reported. “She says small businesses and companies that rely on Facebook’s algorithm to raise awareness for their brand won’t be getting the same exposure.”
And Inc. wrote in November that previous changes to News Feed will make it harder than ever for businesses to achieve organic reach.
Travis Kalanick may no longer be Uber’s CEO, but his time at the top continues to provide irresistible fodder for journalists. Bloomberg’s Eric Newcomer and Brad Stone have a report on his downfall, which fleshes out the story we already knew in fascinating detail. Kalanick was unrealistic, isolated, and erratic—qualities that you can theoretically get away with if you’re the prime architect of a massively valuable startup, but which did him in when he failed to address them.
Here’s how he dealt with the repercussions of the release a video of him riding in an Uber and chewing out its disgruntled driver:
Kalanick was unable or unwilling to right himself. If anything, his judgment deteriorated. He decided that he should apologize privately to Kamel, the driver he berated on video. The plan was simple: meet with Kamel at some neutral and nonthreatening location, engage in five minutes of pleasantries, say sorry, and leave.
The meeting went on for more than an hour, with Kalanick re-debating Kamel over Uber’s pricing policies. Somehow, by the end, Kalanick suggested that he give the driver Uber stock, according to people familiar with the discussion.
My favorite bit may be one that isn’t all that Kalanick-related, involving board member Arianna Huffington’s intermingling of her Uber duties with her day job, though it seems like another sign of fundamental dysfunction:
The founder of the Huffington Post was a constant presence at Uber’s offices, making suggestions that seemed to promote her new wellness company, Thrive Global Holdings LLC. For example, she wanted to put “nap pods” at driver hubs and give drivers meditation wristbands. Huffington’s company received $50,000 in consulting fees from Uber.
Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities program is designed to teach civic leaders in small and mid-sized metros–cities with a population between 100,000 and 1 million–how to use data collection and evidence-backed decision-making strategies to improve residents’ lives. But because many cities share similar problems, the program, which started in April 2015, has always had a broader goal: to recruit at least 100 places willing to try creating a network of test beds to share what’s working (or not), in hopes of speeding learning curves and adoption.
Less than three years into the effort, the nonprofit hit its target adoption rate, adding five new participants to the cohort. That includes Columbia, South Carolina, Honolulu, Hawaii, and Long Beach, California, as well as Grand Rapids Michigan and Irving, Texas. In many places, the core principles are the same: tracking lots of quality of life indicators that will hopefully help officials formulate new fixes. Some of these cities also have specific needs to address immediately, like stormwater issues (Columbia), affordable housing and homelessness (Honolulu), and finding ways to attract and grow new business (Long Beach).
While the program has met its initial goal, a What Works Cities spokesperson says that it will continue to add more cities, although exact details for the next phase have yet to be released. There’s certainly demand: Two-thirds of the nearly 300 eligible cities in America have applied for inclusion. Simone Brody, the initiative’s executive director says that’s because the obvious “domino” effect. The total class of participants represents efforts geared toward 31 million residents across 39 states. The 100 cities have a combined budget of $104 billion total or some serious R&D money.
“You’re seeing the movement kind of cascade beyond the early adopters,” Brody says. “These [latest] cities were not sort of cutting edge data cities, but are really excited to embrace and take this on.”
Overall, two issues affecting many places are homelessness and eroding trust in law enforcement. In many cases, solving homelessness starts with identifying how those affected ended up in that situation, which might be different in a fast growing city compared to one with a stalled economy.
Bloomberg’s methodologies encourage cities to focus on plans that have been tested and have proven results, pressing service providers to gear their efforts in those directions. (For instance, the number of hot meals or showers that a shelter provided might not rank as high as a measure of effectiveness as how many people it helped enroll in housing voucher, job search, or substance abuse programs.) Ultimately, Brody says, city leaders are looking for outcome-dependent solutions: these places are setting firm progress goals, and asking partners to track and measure their own progress to ensure impacts get made.
Engendering more trust in a city’s police officers is tricky, particularly as police shootings continue. “There’s a lot of work being done around how we diversify our police forces,” Brody says (whether that’s a solution to broader issues around policing is another story). That starts with recruitment practices. “How do you change the way people feel about joining the police force?” she asks.
At least 13 cities are sharing data around this issue, with some promising results in Chattanooga, which saw a boost in the number of minorities and women joining its department by changing how the job was advertised. “Instead of focusing on joining the police force as a sort of commitment to their community, they were focused on the challenge of the job,” Brody says. “Even just that small tweak in thinking about what is attracting certain kinds of people to join certain professions has been very interesting and we’re seeing dramatic changes there.”
It’s a start but the solving such a pressing issue isn’t just up to Chattanooga anymore. A bunch of smart solutions in separate places should hopefully add up to a universal toolkit for larger change.
A deal giving Softbank 15% of Uber has officially closed. Softbank has made its initial investment in Uber, providing the company with $1.25 billion in new cash. The purchase of stock shares from existing investors will happen throughout the day.
“We’re proud to have SoftBank, Dragoneer, and the entire consortium in the Uber family. This is a great outcome for our shareholders, employees, and customers, strengthening Uber’s governance as we double down on our technology investments and continue to bring our services to more people in more places around the world,” says Uber spokesman Matt Kallman.
The deal with Softbank also ushers in changes to Uber’s board, which will expand to accommodate a total of 17 members. Rajeev Misra, chief executive of SoftBank Investment Advisers and director at SoftBank Group Corp, and Marcelo Claure, CEO of Sprint, will be joining. Another four seats have yet to be claimed. As a part of the new structure, super voting rights, currently held by former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and other early board members, will be eliminated. Benchmark Capital has also promised to shelve its lawsuit against Kalanick.
The news marks an important step for CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who is trying to move Uber toward a more stable future and an initial public offering in 2019. The company has taken a series of hits this year, not least of all in its valuation, which Bloomberg reports sits at $54 billion.
The Senate joined the House in passing a six-year renewal of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, over the objections of civil libertarians who say the law makes it too easy to spy on Americans without a warrant, Politico reports.
The law is mostly designed to allow warrantless surveillance of people overseas with no ties to the United States, using data the NSA vacuums up from telecom giants as well as major internet companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple. But it also allows other security agencies, including the FBI, to examine conversations and internet data from Americans that get swooped up in the course of such monitoring, a process sometimes called “backdoor” surveillance. At a 2015 hearing of the secret FISA court, one Justice Department lawyer described these backdoor searches as the “FBI’s ‘Google’ of its lawfully acquired information.”
Under the law just passed, a new restriction would require that the FBI obtain a warrant before conducting searches related to an established criminal investigation. But the bill permits exceptions to that rule, including in cases involving national security and when the FBI determines there is a “threat to life or serious bodily harm.” And the bill still lets the FBI search surveillance data related to U.S. persons before it opens a criminal case.
As passed, the law would also enable the National Security Agency to resume a practice sometimes called “about” collection, whereby the agency grabs communications that simply mention a particular target, rather than being sent to or from that person. The NSA had voluntarily abandoned the practice last year under scrutiny from the FISA court.
The Trump administration supports the bill, which passed the Senate 65-34 with votes from both parties, despite objections from senators who argued the bill doesn’t do enough to protect individual liberties.
Rand Paul, the Republican from Kentucky, and Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat, both attempted to filibuster the bill on Tuesday, and had cosponsored an alternative bill that had support from civil rights groups, but it never reached the Senate floor for debate.
“Should the government be allowed to search this database to prosecute you for not paying your taxes or for a minor marijuana violation? Absolutely not,” Paul said on Tuesday, arguing that warrantless searches were unconstitutional. “Rubber-stamping this awful bill is a dereliction of duty by a Congress that has a responsibility to protect Americans’ freedoms, as well as our country’s security,” said Wyden.
Back in October, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg met with the Congressional Black Caucus and promised Facebook would appoint a black member to its unfailingly white board in the “very near future.” That day is finally here: After 14 years, Mark Zuckerberg revealed earlier that Kenneth Chenault, the soon-to-be-former American Express CEO, is joining Facebook’s board.
Zuckerberg did not point out that Chenault is the first black (and non-white) board member, though he claimed that he has “been trying to recruit Ken for years.” All this doesn’t mean much in the way of voting rights, of course, since Zuckerberg has majority voting power and, as a result, control over the company.
Still, here’s hoping this is a sign of things to come—perhaps more diversity in senior leadership?
Last week I was in Las Vegas to attend my 43rd CES. With 2.5 million square feet of exhibit space and more than 180,000 people attending, the show is one of the largest trade shows in the world. And for most of us in tech, there are plenty of reasons to attend—from meeting with clients and potential clients and checking out key products in person.
I’m able to pre-select products that interest me because, as a member of the analyst and press community, I received over 2,500 meeting requests before the show started. The requests began showing up in my email in early September. While I can’t read all of them, I scan the subject lines looking for products of interest. When I find them, I put them on a watch list.
But my time in Las Vegas is pretty much taken up by meetings. That left 30 minutes to visit the convention center’s exhibit hall, and 90 minutes to check out the exhibits at the Sands.
The show is so expansive now with exhibits placed in two major venues and six satellite hotels. It’s diversified and grown into much more than consumer electronics show. Even if I spent 100% of my time on the show floors, I couldn’t have seen it all during the four days of the show. And it’s hard to get around inside the exhibit halls. At any given time at least 75-80% of the show’s 180,000 attendees are packing the aisles. As I tried to walk the aisles at LVCC, a quip by Yogi Berra—”it’s so crowded nobody goes there anymore”— kept ringing in my ears.
For these reasons, I think CES and other trade shows will eventually go virtual. The virtual trade show concept has been around for some time but the technology hasn’t been available to approximate the experience of a real trade show in VR.
That’s changing. Thanks to virtual reality goggles and platforms like Oculus, Vive and others in the works, I could envision that within the next 6-8 years, it may be possible for any vendor to create a VR-based 360-degree exhibit where anyone could experience products as if they were at a real trade show.
Imagine a virtual CES. Using VR glasses, you would be able to walk through LG’s video canyon as thousands of us did at CES and marvel at the technology behind it. You could stand in front of Sony’s new 146-inch 8K TV and run through a demo.
Videoconference systems such as Zoom and Skype video could be used for the human interactions and meetings that happen at real trade show booths. While viewing the exhibit though VR glasses, a representative from the company could be doing the demo as if they were standing next to you at the show.
Vendors might use a common set of VR tools and 3D cameras to create exhibits that would work with all VR glasses. The exhibits could be tied to a virtual show, or the vendor could just create a special exhibit that they use and update as they launch new products.
The economic implications of this are interesting. If you were at CES and saw the huge exhibits from companies like Sony, Samsung, and LG you might have wondered how much they cost. Just creating the giant exhibits (and staffing them) can run well over $5 million for a company, and that number may be conservative. Add the booth space rental costs, hotels, and travel expenses and soon exhibiting at CES becomes a major line item for even the biggest tech companies.
Meanwhile, the cost of creating a virtual exhibit is probably less than a fifth of the cost of a “real” exhibit. And a VR exhibit could easily be accessed by far more people than just the 180,000 in a large physical structure in Las Vegas. Vendors would be less dependent on the tech media at CES to get the word out about new products. People could experience them virtually, as if they too were in Vegas.
I became convinced that the idea of virtual or VR-based trade shows was in our future after I was shown how Cirque Du Soleil used VR to put the user on a virtual stage to watch the show happening around them. The acts happen just a few feet away from your virtual seat. You can view it on Samsung’s Gear platform or on Google’s Daydream. My mind wandered from that (entertainment) concept over to the idea of virtual product reviews and how that might impact trade shows in the future.
Of course, virtual trade shows, if done well, could end up taking business away from physical convention centers and hotels. Real-world shows in general could eventually become less important.
It probably won’t happen anytime soon. VR headsets are not close to being prime-time products for consumers. But after seeing the demo of HTC’s Vive Pro and the vivid VR content it can deliver, I am convinced that the time will eventually come. Even as augmented reality technology supplants VR tech in many use cases, virtual trade shows could become VR’s killer app.
Each year I leave CES I say that this will be my last. It takes a toll on my body: Every day I walked close to 10 miles to get to events, meetings, and exhibits held at different venues around the sprawling Vegas Strip. Personally I’d prefer to see products in VR than deal with the hassle and expense of CES, which arguably has grown too large for the physical world.
Snap just laid off about two dozen employees, sources have confirmed with Fast Company. The layoffs hit many on the company’s content team, although eight teams were impacted in total. The company is now consolidating this team to California, which had members in New York as well.
The layoffs were first reported by the Information (paywall). People with knowledge of the situation told Fast Company that many Snap content employees were asked to either move to California or be cut.
Snap has considered content one of its main revenue drivers. But recent headlines have pointed to severe headwinds. According to a report from last week, engagement has suffered. Only 20% of its users engage with Discover, and other new highly anticipated features–like Maps–are also seeing adoption problems.
Meanwhile, many publishers aren’t seeing the results they hoped to with Snapchat content. CNN announced that it would cancel its show on the platform because its revenue prospects were dim. Similarly, a recent survey of ad buyers reported an overwhelming Instagram preference. All these problems point to scaling and revenue-building hiccups.
A source close to Snap tells Fast Company that despite these changes, the company plans to hire more in the coming months.
President Trump is gushing about Apple—and CEO Tim Cook—following news that the company will contribute $350 billion to the U.S. economy in the next five years. During a speech Thursday in Pennsylvania, Trump said Cook was a “great guy” and claimed he called to thank him for Apple’s investment.
“In the news, I heard $350 billion,” Trump said. “I thought, ‘You mean $350 million? That’s going to be a beautiful plant.’ They said, ‘No, it’s three-hundred and fifty billion dollars.’ And I just called Tim Cook and I thanked him. But I don’t imagine there has ever been an investment that big in this country.”
Apple also plans to spend more than $30 billion creating an additional 20,000 jobs by 2023. Read more about Apple’s investment here.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an interview with ABC News last night that Apple will soon release a software update allowing iPhone users to turn off the now-notorious “throttling” feature. But the lawsuits just keep coming.
Apple introduced a “dynamic power management” feature to help prolong the life-spans of the batteries in aging iPhones. But it didn’t tell users, many of whom noticed their phones getting slower. Finally the company admitted to it, and apologized, on December 28. Some people were angry enough to file suit. More than 40 class actions have been filed against Apple so far. (Patently Apple has been keeping track; the current number is 45, not including reported lawsuits “in-the-works in France, South Korea, Australia, Israel and Canada.”)
The latest one—Christina Neumann v. Apple Inc.–was filed just yesterday in a federal court in Northern California by Oakland attorney Scott Cole. Cole’s firm has sued Apple twice before–once over overheating issues in the iPad, and again for the denial of meal and rest breaks for Genius Bar workers.
“It’s too little too late,” Cole said of Apple’s decision to let users shut off dynamic power management. “Countless consumers worldwide have purchased new iPhones and iPhone batteries, or dumped their units altogether, in frustration due to Apple’s lack of transparency.”
The lead attorney in another class action, Adam Levitt of DiCello Levitt & Casey, said Apple’s move today is positive but that the damage has already been done. “The fact still remains that millions of consumers have already suffered harm because of Apple’s dishonesty and manipulation,” Levitt wrote in an email to Fast Company. “Whatever Apple does should be transparent and subject to court approval, because we’re talking about the due process rights of millions of Apple customers.”
Levitt’s class action, Harvey v. Apple Inc (embedded below), was also filed in the Northern District of California. Other class actions have been filed in Southern California, Illinois, New York, and North Carolina. A California Central District federal judge is now reviewing the first class action filed, Stefan Bogdanovich and Dakota Speas v. Apple Inc, to determine if the other class actions can be united under one suit.
Speaking to ABC News about the iPhone update, Cook said, “We’re going to give people the visibility of the health of their battery so it’s very, very transparent. This hasn’t been done before.” If users don’t want the phone to automatically reduce its performance in order to prevent unexpected shutdowns, “you can turn it off,” he said. The next iOS 11 developer beta is expected in early February, meaning that a public release will likely be available in March.
Hawaii and Oklahoma are the most recent states to introduce laws that would give consumers an alternative to manufacturer service departments when something breaks, says a report by advocacy group Repair.org. In general, the proposed Right To Repair laws to be debated in 17 states would require device makers like Apple and Samsung to make the tools, parts, and manuals needed for repairs available to independent repair shops.
Apple, Toyota, John Deere and others have lobbied against the laws, saying that letting third parties crack the shell on consumer devices opens the door to hackers and device counterfeiters. The Right To Repair people say manufacturers are simply trying to keep their monopoly on the lucrative business of repairing their own stuff.
— Kyle Wiens (@kwiens) January 18, 2018
A handful of Right to Repair bills were introduced in state houses last year, but the momentum behind passing the law has picked up considerably. And the recent revelations that Apple secretly slowed down older iPhones to conserve their aging batteries (which can be replaced only by Apple) seems to have moved the issue higher on the agendas of the states.
States with laws pending include: Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington.
On Thursday, Panera petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to more precisely define what constitutes an egg.
“They actually define a bunch of related terms like dried egg whites, freeze dried egg yolks, all these other related terms, but they state in the code of federal regulations that, ‘we will not define the word egg.’ It’s very unusual,” says Sara Burnett, director of food policy and wellness at Panera, as she sips a green juice.
The reason for Panera’s sudden interest in eggs isn’t merely philosophical: The company is launching a new breakfast sandwich featuring cheese, bacon, and a slightly runny over-easy egg. When Panera executives were coming up with ways to market the sandwich, they realized that their competitors’ sammies (think Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and Chick-fil-A) are made with components of eggs and additives like citric acid, modified food starch, and medium chain triglycerides.
“What we think of as an egg we’re not seeing in competitors’ menus and they’re calling them eggs,” Panera CEO Blaine Hurst tells Fast Company, referring to the kind of puck-like eggs that appear in between two often wilting buns at many fast food joints. The petition asks for the term “egg” to be defined as “a food made from a cracked shell egg without addition of additives or further processing (other than pasteurization).” The FDA may not define “egg” explicitly, but it does define “fresh eggs” as seen here.
Regardless of whether the petition gains traction with the FDA, Panera is hoping it will appeal to consumers who care about food transparency.
“We’re not going to tell you about what you should be eating, we just want you to be informed,” Hurst says slyly. Another piece of information he wants customers to know: The chain’s new egg sandwiches launch today.
The American search giant and Chinese social media giant have come to an agreement to share patents so it’s easier for the companies to introduce their products in markets around the world without the risk of litigation, reports Reuters. Google and Tencent have not revealed which patents they’ve agreed to share, or how much Google (or Tencent) is paying for the agreement. The only semi-specific thing Google said about the patent-sharing agreement was that it covered a broad range of patents. The move will likely see Google make a little more headway into China, where Tencent dominates with a number of its products, including WeChat, an app store, and live-streaming platforms.
WhatsApp Business is a free Android app the company released today that aims to make it easier for businesses to connect with customers, WhatsApp announced in a blog post. The app will allow businesses to create profiles where customers can find out more about them, offer quick replies to customer questions, view messaging statistics, and offer Confirmed (aka verified) Accounts. WhatsApp Business is available for download today in Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, the U.K., and the U.S., with the app rolling out to other markets in the coming weeks.
The head of the world’s largest investment fund, Blackrock, set Wall Street aflutter recently when he told CEOs they needed to act more in society’s interests. No more short-termism to fulfill quarterly earnings targets. It’s time for more decision-making in the name of sustainability and a harmonious world, said Larry Fink.
“To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society,” Fink said in a much cited letter to CEOs. “Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate.”
In truth, many CEOs probably already understand the social imperative. They’ve been hearing similar messages about corporate social responsibility for a decade and more. The harder question, as a new survey shows, may be how they carry out that mandate. Squaring the need to serve multiple stakeholders with the need to serve profit-hungry investors remains a big challenge.
The survey, based on responses from 350 executives from multiple countries, comes from the global consulting firm Deloitte. It finds that CEOs are keen to enact an agenda around the Sustainable Development Goals, the suite of global commitments covering everything from ending extreme poverty and hunger to tackling climate change and reducing income inequality. Fully 92% of respondents say they support the SDG agenda. But just 17% believe they currently have programs in place to help achieve the SDGs by 2030.
Fink asked CEOs to take up the slack from governments that he said are failing “to prepare for the future, on issues ranging from retirement and infrastructure to automation and worker retraining.” Society is increasingly turning to the “private sector and asking that companies respond to broader societal challenges,” he said. But CEOs have yet to work out how to go about reaching those goals. For example, only 12% of executives believe their businesses will collaborate with governments to ensure schools are preparing students “appropriately for the future.”
“I think people find it hard to know how they can contribute over and above what they’re doing at the moment. There is a [complicated] landscape [of opportunities] out there, but in some cases companies are still coming to grips with what they should be doing,” says David Cruickshank, Deloitte’s global chairman, in an interview with Fast Company.
“They say quite explicitly that their businesses only prosper if the societies that they serve prosper. But a lot of businesses struggle to focus what they do and they don’t have great measures of impact. There is a lack of standardization in non-financial reporting.”
Two-thirds of respondents cite “progress toward inclusive growth/sustainability” as a top concern, above issues like customer trust and employee and retention. About a third of executives said social initiatives can improve relationships with governments and regulators and improve internal creativity and innovation. More surprisingly, just 17% said attracting and retaining millennial staff was a big driver for social programs; other surveys have often found that to be a consideration for companies adopting CSR.
Fink’s letter was “likely to cause a firestorm in the corner offices of companies everywhere” according to the New York Times’s Andrew Ross Sorkin. And it seems timed to encourage executives to think how they’re going to use savings generated from the recent corporate tax cut. Instead of sending the money back to shareholders in the form of dividends or share buybacks (which raise stock prices), Fink seems to be saying they should invest in social projects instead.
However, if Deloitte’s survey is any guide, companies haven’t yet worked out how to follow Fink’s advice and measure the social and environmental impact that results. “Whenever I get together with executives, this is high up the agenda. There is a change of attitude from pension funds and other funds to have more purpose and invest in sustainability. But they may still wonder if they are doing enough of the right things, or if things they are doing are focused enough,” Cruickshank says.
The nuclear fission system was developed under NASA’s Kilopower project and aims to be a long-term, reliable way to power both missions to and on the surface of Mars, reports Reuters. The prototype system uses a uranium-235 reactor core roughly the size of your average paper towel roll. The ultimate goal is for the power system to be able to provide the 40 to 50 kilowatts of power that could keep habitats and life-support systems running on the surface of the red planet. A full power test of the system is scheduled to happen sometime in March.