This Week In Tech And Telco: Big Changes For Big Tech

Here's what you've missed in tech and telco this week. Let's be honest, it's more tech than telco today. Amazon's decision to push forward with the sale of its facial recognition to US police may feel Orwellian, but that Facebook's efforts to teach robots curiosity is sure to distract you.

So get reading and see you next week - same time, same place.

PS. Who else is in the UK and looking forward to another–I know, can you believe it–bank holiday?

Amazon investors vote to continue facial recognition sale

Shareholders asking Amazon to stop the sale of its facial recognition technology to US police have been defeated.

Investors on Wednesday were asked to rethink the tech company’s move and prohibit sales of its facial recognition system, called Amazon Rekognition, to government agencies, unless its board concludes that the technology does not facilitate human rights violations.

A second vote asked the company to commission an independent report examining the extent to which Rekognition may threaten civil, human and privacy rights, and the company’s finances.

But investors rejected the proposals at the company's annual general meeting.

Facial recognition telco
Source: Jimmy answering questions.jpg: Wikimania2009 | Beatrice Murch

The end is nigh for Huawei

Google is cutting off its relationship with Huawei, pulling the Play Store and Android support in the latest development of the war between the US and the Chinese telco.

A new license has been issued that allows US companies to continue working with the Chinese company for the next three months so that operators have time to make other arrangements.

But Google could also be hit by the decision. Huawei may be forced to launch its own, completely new operating system, which could then compete with Android.

  • UK-based CPU designer ARM, owned by Japanese firm Softbank, has also cute ties with Huawei, ordering staff to end "all active contracts, support entitlements, and any pending engagements” with the company.
Google are set to pull support for Huawei hardware

Google stores G Suite passwords in plain text

Have a business using G Suit? You may want to pay attention… Google says a small number of its enterprise customers mistakenly had their passwords stored on its systems in plaintext.

Passwords are typically scrambled using a hashing algorithm to prevent them from being read by humans.

G Suite administrators are able to manually upload, set and recover new user passwords for company users, which helps in situations where new employees are on-boarded.

But Google said it discovered in April that the way it implemented password setting and recovery for its enterprise offering in 2005 was faulty and improperly stored a copy of the password in plaintext.

The feature has since been removed.

Only two months ago, Facebook also came under fire for a bug which resulted in hundreds of millions of user passwords for the social network and Instagram to be stored as plaintext in an internal platform.

G Suite passwords have been stored in plain text since 2005

Facebook is teaching robots curiosity

Facebook is showing off a new robotics lab at its Silicon Valley headquarters, along with several research projects that involve robots learning how to do different things.

Words we might use to describe Facebook’s robot arms? Sporadical, glitchy, and chaotic. At first glance, sure. But we couldn’t be more wrong. Facebook is teaching its tech to be curious and explore different ways of solving a task at hand.

Machine learning can be used to teach robots how to do things that would be impossible to program. So the project might have practical applications somewhere down the line. More important, though, the way robots learn about the world can feed back into the algorithms applied elsewhere.

Robots that can teach themselves to explore, Facebook said, could one day lead to intelligent machines like telepresence robots.

A little Robot
Photographer: Rock'n Roll Monkey | Source: Unsplash

Still have time?

  • Whether it’s influencer marketing or getting How To videos for your latest SaaS offering seen from within the world’s second largest search engine, it’s worth taking note that YouTube is changing its subscriber count. Instead of seeing a YouTuber’s exact subscriber count (for example, 10,500,000), people will see a flat 10 million. (The Verge)
  • The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) plus a handful of other nations are set to adopt a list of guidelines for the development and use of artificial intelligence. (Politico)
  • Gendering virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa is reinforcing harmful gender stereotypes and biases, particularly for women, according to UN agency research. Unesco claims that the often submissive and flirty responses offered by the systems to many queries – including outright abusive ones – reinforce ideas of women as subservient. (Guardian)
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