Big Tech is social distancing from facial recognition, sort of
This week, Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft announced they were scrapping or pausing their facial recognition work with police.
Those decisions are a win for skeptics who have pointed out racial bias in facial recognition systems — but when you look at the fine print, they aren’t as big of a step forward as they might sound.
IBM was the first domino
The company said Monday that it’s dropping its facial recognition work in “pursuit of justice and racial equity.” IBM’s move is the farthest-reaching of all — it won’t develop or research facial recognition tech, period.
“The symbolic nature of this is important,” one researcher told the Associated Press. But IBM’s facial recognition efforts were already minimal, so as the AP put it, the decision is “unlikely to affect its bottom line.”
Then Bezos pressed pause
The company announced that it would put a 1-year moratorium on “police use” of its facial recognition software, encouraging Congress to pass regulation in the meantime.
Microsoft’s order also won’t last forever: It won’t supply facial recognition to police until “we have a national law in place, grounded in human rights,” according to company president Brad Smith.
Microsoft has previously supported legislation that would allow police departments to use facial recognition with some limits.
But as The Washington Post notes, the announcements from Amazon and Microsoft apply only to police use of the technology: Neither company has mentioned whether it will contract with federal agencies, like ICE or the Defense Department, that regularly use facial recognition.
Amazon Ring’s, meanwhile, is still an active surveillance tool for police.
Facial recognition isn’t going anywhere
Bottom line: Police aren’t likely to lack access to this tech anytime soon.
Twitter’s experiments try to make your timeline a little less awful
Hey, did you do the reading?
Bet you thought you’d left that question behind in Psych 101. It’s making a comeback — but this time Twitter’s asking, instead of some random guy from your lecture.
The app is testing a new feature that aims to check trigger-happy tweeters: If a user retweets an article without opening it, a prompt will pop up encouraging them to read it first.
Think before you tweet
Trolls, Reply Guys, literal Nazis – Twitter has taken plenty of flack over the years for not addressing some of its darker demons. But the new test is Twitter’s latest baby step toward changing that.
Twitter’s tighten-the-screws strategy isn’t universal among social behemoths — Facebook has taken a more laissez-faire approach.
And that’s putting it mildly
Mark Zuckerberg’s hands-off style on political speech has landed him in hot water with just about everyone — his own staff, the scientists he supports, and now Joe Biden.
This is the last week to invest in the same-day delivery pharmacy blowing up on SeedInvest
If you’ve been keeping up with our newsletter lately, you’ve almost certainly heard about NowRx.
The same-day delivery pharmacy has been a hit with investors and customers alike:
- 280% revenue growth from 2017 to 2019
- $13.2M ARR in 2020
- New users have nearly doubled compared to the previous year
In fact, NowRx has been so popular among investors that their SeedInvest is over 75% full and will soon no longer be accepting new investors.
TRANSLATION: If you want in on the same-day delivery pharmacy that’s using the latest in robotics and AI to disrupt the $330 billion (yep, that’s a “b”) pharmaceutical industry, now’s your last chance to do so.
Head over to NowRx’s SeedInvest page to learn more and invest while you still can.
|Small Business Stories|
One reader’s newsletter for Black and brown women in tech
We’re highlighting stories of black business owners from our audience — and their top resources for up-and-coming entrepreneurs of color. If you’re interested in being featured, fill out our survey here.
In her job on the editorial team at Viva Tech — a Paris-based tech conference that describes itself as the largest in Europe — Vera Baker scours the news for speakers to invite.
But when the conference comes around each June, Baker has noticed a glaring pattern. “The one thing I see always is that there are not a lot of people of color in these rooms,” she said.
Fast forward to this past April. Baker was on furlough from Viva Tech, and she hit on an idea. All that tech news she was reading? She could spin it into a newsletter for women of color founders, to increase access to major conferences.
Baker sent out her first batch of For Colored Girls Who Tech to 100 friends and colleagues on April 21, and she’s since upped her subscriber count to 1k+. Especially during the pandemic, her work feels pressing.
“We see the numbers that say women in tech are more likely to be laid off,” she said. “Statistics are even worse for women of color.” One reason: Women, especially women of color, tend to have less seniority than men in general, she says.
Baker’s resources for entrepreneurs of color:
“I’m a big advocate for applying to incubators, accelerators, and other startup programs that help founders flush out their ideas and connect with investors,” Baker said. Say, the Y Combinators of the world.
But she also has a few other suggestions:
How to support Baker: Subscribe to For Colored Girls Who Tech.
|Not All Heroes|
Time limits on video games? A Japanese teen is taking the government to court
Katniss Everdeen isn’t the only teen resistance leader to know: A 17-year-old high school student named Wataru is taking on a new local law meant to crack down on video game addiction.
In Japan’s Kagawa Prefecture, kids under 20 are only allowed to game for up to 60 minutes on school nights and 90 minutes on weekends.
Wataru took matters into his own hands, and joined forces with a constitutional lawyer — Tomoshi Sakka — to sue the government.
Not all heroes wear capes — some just clutch controllers
The Kagawa Prefecture’s concerns aren’t unjustified: The World Health Organization has listed “gaming disorder” as an official disease since 2018.
But as Sakka explains it, a law like this violates Japan’s constitutional protections for freedom of expression.
None of this is to say Wataru is some kind of video game die hard — he claims to play as much as a “regular high school student.”
But Wataru felt he had to step up anyway. “If I don’t do something,” he told The New York Times, “who will?”
Our economic crisis has drawn lots of comparisons to the Great Depression. But for one small town in Washington State, the comparison feels especially apt. In the Depression era, the town of Tenino came up with a solution when one of its only banks closed down. Tenino printed its own dollar bills — in the form of thin wooden blocks.
Fast forward to the present day, and Tenino’s unique currency is flowing again. This week’s Sunday story explains who’s getting the money and why. Watch this week’s sneak peek for a preview. The story hits your inbox on Sunday morning — and you don’t even have to pay us any wooden dollars to get it.
1️⃣ So much for the markets’ pandemic-proof rallies: It was the worst day on Wall Street since mid-March, thanks to fears about a 2nd wave of coronavirus cases.
3️⃣ Audrey Gellman stepped down as CEO of The Wing — on the same day that employees staged a digital walkout to support their Black and brown colleagues.
4️⃣ The Internet Archive is pulling the plug on its National Emergency Library program two weeks early, under the pressure of a lawsuit by major publishing companies.
5️⃣ The latest in protest tech: A new app called Anonymous Camera will blur out people in photos and videos.
6️⃣ The EU is asking Google, Facebook, and Twitter to create monthly reports on how they are fighting misinformation.
7️⃣ The “defund the police” movement is coming for… the Paw Patrol.
8️⃣ Who cares what the critics think? One of Netflix’s most popular movies — The Last Days of American Crime — has a whopping 0% on Rotten Tomatoes.
9️⃣ TikTok has become a training ground for new filmmakers.
🔟 Here come Snap Minis — small apps that can be opened within Snapchat. One example: A service to watch movie trailers with your buddies and buy tickets as a group.
Stylish frames + good cause = winning formula. Felix Gray is donating 10% of the proceeds from every sale of their Nash frames to Black Girls CODE, a not-for-profit organization that provides tech education for African-American girls.
This WFH productivity software has had a 300% increase in signups since March — probably because it’s perfect for small business owners struggling with the WFH transition. Try Hubstaff for 2 weeks free.*
Turn “Work From Home” into “Win From Home” with this free toolkit. Inside is everything you need to turn remote work into your business’ newest competitive advantage.*
*This is a sponsored post.
Hey, you made it to Friday. Good job. Here’s some stuff to help you chill.
This 7-minute long YouTube vid entitled “The World’s Most Relaxing Video” was created with one idea in mind: Help you chill the F out.
Not in the video mood? We gotchu. Try guessing the titles of wikiHow articles based only on their header image. (This one gets weird.)
If games are more your speed, check out Home Sheep Home. Made by the same folks who created Wallace and Gromit, your mission is simple: Help 3 sheep — Shaun, Timmy, and Shirley — navigate their way home.
And, if all the above fail to satisfy, there’s only one thing left to do… nothing. Do nothing for two minutes right here.
We love hearing your Shower Thoughts… wait, that sounded weird. We love *reading* your Shower Thoughts. There, that’s better.
1. “People that take care of chickens are literally chicken tenders.” – Sergio
2. “Saying ‘Have a nice day’ sounds friendly, but saying ‘Enjoy your next 24 hours’ sounds threatening.” – Valerie
3. “When you’re a child, you get down from your chair. When you’re an adult, you get up from your chair.” – Nick
4. “Every C in ‘Pacific Ocean’ is pronounced differently.” – Zach
5. “Trash cans in public facilities often feature a sign on them that reads ‘Empty When Full’.” – Michael
Plus one from Reddit that made us go “Ohhhh…”
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