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‘Techlash’ Hits College Campuses

In 2006, Google bought YouTube for more than $1 billion, Apple was preparing to announce the first iPhone, and the American housing bubble began to deflate. Claire Stapleton, then a senior at the University of Pennsylvania, faced the same question over and over: What did she plan to do with that English degree? She flirted, noncommittally, with Teach for America.

Then, a Google recruiter came to campus and, Ms. Stapleton said, she “won ‘American Idol.’” The company flew her out to Mountain View, Calif., which felt to her “like the promised land” — 15 cafeterias, beach volleyball courts, Zumba classes, haircuts and laundry on-site.

But for Ms. Stapleton, now 34, the real appeal in a job at Google was what seemed to be a perfect balance of working for income and according to one’s conscience. Naturally, she said yes to an offer in the corporate communications department.

“There was this ambient glow of being part of a company that was changing the world,” Ms. Stapleton said. “I was totally googly-eyed about it.”

More than a decade later, college seniors and recent graduates looking for jobs that are both principled and high-paying are doing so in a world that has soured on Big Tech. The positive perceptions of Google, Facebook and other large tech firms are crumbling.

Many students still see employment in tech as a ticket to prosperity, but for job seekers who can afford to be choosy, there is a growing sentiment that Silicon Valley’s most lucrative positions aren’t worth the ethical quandaries.

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Credit…Rafael Rios for The New York Times

“Working at Google or Facebook seemed like the coolest thing ever my freshman year, because you’d get paid a ton of money but it was socially responsible,” said Chand Rajendra-Nicolucci, 21, a senior at the University of Michigan. “It was like a utopian workplace.”

Now, he said, “there’s more hesitation about the moral qualities of these jobs. It’s like how people look at Wall Street.”

The growing skepticism of Silicon Valley, sometimes referred to as the “techlash,” has spared few of technology’s major players.

In 2019, Facebook was fined nearly $5 billion by the Federal Trade Commission for mishandling user data. Amazon canceled its plans for a New York City headquarters after residents, union leaders and local legislators contested the idea that the behemoth should receive $3 billion from the state to set up shop. Google, in 2018, faced internal protests over its plans for a censored search engine in China and handling of sexual harassment. (High-ranking Google employees have stated that the company never planned to expand search into China, but also that plans for a China project had been “terminated.”)

The share of Americans who believe that technology companies have a positive impact on society has dropped from 71 percent in 2015 to 50 percent in 2019, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey.

At this year’s Golden Globes, Sacha Baron Cohen compared Mark Zuckerberg to the main character in “JoJo Rabbit”: a “naïve, misguided child who spreads Nazi propaganda and only has imaginary friends.”

That these attitudes are shared by undergraduates and graduate students — who are supposed to be imbued with high-minded idealism — is no surprise. In August, the reporter April Glaser wrote about campus techlash for Slate. She found that at Stanford, known for its competitive computer science program, some students said they had no interest in working for a major tech company, while others sought “to push for change from within.”

Belce Dogru, who graduated from Stanford with a degree in computer science last year and is completing a master’s program at the university, said: “There has definitely been a shift in conversation on campus.”

Stanford is the second-biggest feeder school for jobs in Silicon Valley, according to data from HiringSolved, a software company focused on recruiting. Some companies pay as much as $12,000 to advertise at the university’s computer science job fairs; recruiters at those events didn’t always have to make a hard sell.

“It felt like in my freshman year Google, Palantir and Facebook were these shiny places everyone wanted to be. It was like, ‘Wow, you work at Facebook. You must be really smart,’” said Ms. Dogru, 23. “Now if a classmate tells me they’re joining Palantir or Facebook, there’s an awkward gap where they feel like they have to justify themselves.”

Palantir, in particular, has drawn the ire of students at Stanford for providing services to U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (also known as ICE).

Last summer, a campus activist group, Students for the Liberation of All People, visited the company’s office, a 15-minute walk from campus, and hung a banner nearby that read: “Our software is so powerful it separates families.” Similar protests took place at the University of California, Berkeley, Brown and Yale, according to Recode. The protests, and the attitudes they reflected, were also covered in The Los Angeles Times.

Audrey Steinkamp, a 19-year-old sophomore at Yale, which sends about 10 percent of each graduating class into tech, said that taking a job in Silicon Valley is seen as “selling out,” no different from the economics majors going into consulting who are “lovingly and not-so-lovingly called ‘snakes.’”

That is especially true, some of the students said, when a classmate chooses to work for Facebook, whose products have spread disinformation and helped influence a presidential election.

“The work you do at a place like Facebook could be harmful at a much larger scale than an investment bank,” Ms. Dogru said. “It’s in the pockets of millions of people, and it’s a source of news for millions of people. It’s working at a scary scale.”

Many students still believe that technology can help change the world for good. As Ms. Glaser put it for Slate, some of them are opting out of the Big Tech pipeline and trying, instead, “to use technical skills as an insurance policy against dystopia.”

“Students have an opportunity to look at where they can have the most impact that’s in line with their values,” said Leslie Miley, a former director of engineering at Google and Slack. “The fact of the matter is Google, Facebook, Twitter are not in line with those values because they’re huge companies beholden to a lot of different masters.”

Anna Geiduschek, a software engineer who graduated from Stanford in 2014, was working at Dropbox last year when she received an email from an Amazon Web Services recruiter. She replied that she wouldn’t consider a job with the company unless Amazon cut its contract with Palantir.

“These companies go out of their way to try and woo software engineers, and I realized it would send a powerful message for me as a potential employee to tell them no,” Ms. Geiduschek, 27, said, noting that top tech companies sometimes spend roughly $20,000 to recruit a single engineer. “You could basically cut them off at their supply.”

Her recruiter responded: “Wow I honestly had no idea. I will run this up to leadership.” Days later, Ms. Geiduschek received another template email from an Amazon hiring manager, so she scheduled a call and aired her grievances by phone.

Some engineers are sharing screenshots of their protest emails on Twitter with the hashtag #TechWontBuildIt. Jackie Luo, an engineer, sent an email to Google saying that she wouldn’t consider a job there given its plans to re-enter China with a censored search engine.

Kelly Carter, a web developer, emailed a Tesla recruiter with her concerns about the company’s anti-union tactics. Craig Chasseur, a software engineer, emailed the H.R. department at Salesforce to critique the company’s contract with ICE.

These protests echo mounting public concerns about the power of these corporations. But it’s not clear whether they have moved the needle for prospective hires.

Former recruiters for Facebook told CNBC in May that the acceptance rate for full-time engineering job offers at the company had dropped precipitously, as much as 40 percent.

After the article’s publication, Facebook disputed the figure; the company “regularly ranks high on industry lists of most attractive employers,” a spokesman said. Data published the same month by LinkedIn showed that tech firms continued to hire at high rates, especially for entry-level employees.

But at campus career centers, students are struggling with the dual, and sometimes dueling, desires for prestige and purpose.

“It started with millennials, but now Gen Z-ers are getting educated because they want to do good in the world,” said Sue Harbour, the senior associate director of the career center at the University of California, Berkeley, which is Silicon Valley’s top feeder, according to HiringSolved. “And as we’ve seen tech companies grow, we’ve also seen the need for more tech oriented to social responsibility.”

Some recent graduates are taking their technical skills to smaller social impact groups instead of the biggest firms. Ms. Dogru said that some of her peers are pursuing jobs at start-ups focused on health, education and privacy. Ms. Harbour said Berkeley offers a networking event called Tech for Good, where alumni from purpose-driven groups like Code for America and Khan Academy share career opportunities.

Ms. Geiduschek said she recently left Dropbox for Recidiviz, a nonprofit that builds technological tools for criminal justice reform.

But those so-called passion jobs are more challenging to come by, according to Amy Binder, a sociologist at the University of California, San Diego, and the lead author of a 2015 paper about elite colleges “funneling” graduates into certain kinds of “prestigious” careers.

“For other sectors like tech it’s easier to get on the conveyor belt and fill these positions,” Dr. Binder said. “I graduated from Stanford in the ’80s, and even back then there was talk on campus about people selling out and going to investment banks, but those jobs are still getting filled. The self-incrimination hasn’t stopped the juggernaut.”

Dr. Binder said elite schools have long steered students toward certain “high-status” industries — the C.I.A. in the 1950s, finance and consulting in the aughts and tech today. It’s a “prestige system,” she said, that universities enable.

“As tech firms get more negative reviews in the media and it becomes clear what their political toll can be, students may have more circumspection about taking these jobs,” she said. “At the same time, they’ll continue taking these jobs because of the security and reputation that comes with them. And universities will keep sponsoring all this recruitment.”

For years, students were told they could tackle ethical concerns about technology from the inside, working within the mammoth structures of companies like Google. Ms. Stapleton said that was part of the company’s allure: its ostensible commitment to empowering even its youngest employees to weigh in on critical problems.

She spent 12 years at Google and YouTube on various teams, including internal communications, where she wrote company talking points. Her weekly emails to staff, she said, were the stuff of corporate legend. At a 2012 all-hands, Larry Page, one of the company’s founders, called her onstage to celebrate her work as colleagues presented her with a wooden plaque that read: “The Bard of Google.”

Then, in 2018, Ms. Stapleton helped organize a Google walkout, after reporting in The New York Times revealed that the company gave a $90 million severance package to the Android creator Andy Rubin, who was accused of sexual misconduct.

Twenty-thousand workers left their desks in protest. Within six months, Ms. Stapleton said, she was demoted and pushed to resign. In December, she wrote about her experience in an essay for Elle.

Google maintained that Ms. Stapleton was not sidelined for her role in the walkout. “We thank Claire for her work at Google and wish her all the best,” a Google spokesperson responded. “To reiterate, we don’t tolerate retaliation. Our employee relations team did a thorough investigation of her claims and found no evidence of retaliation. They found that Claire’s management team supported her contributions to our workplace, including awarding her their team Culture Award for her role in the Walkout.”

But Ms. Stapleton said her story should give bright-eyed students pause about whether Big Tech and altruism are aligned.

“I don’t know if Google can credibly sell young people on the promise of doing good in the world anymore,” she said. “That’s not to say there aren’t wonderful people there and interesting things to work on. But if you care about a company’s values, ethics and contributions to society, you should take your talents elsewhere.”

Mr. Miley, who left Google in 2019, echoed her sentiment: “It’s hard to change a system from within when the system doesn’t think it needs to be changed.”

A spokeswoman for Google said the company continues to see job application numbers grow annually, and noted that the practice of having employees raise concerns about policies, whether on data privacy or human rights reviews, is part of the corporate culture.

The outside attention those concerns may draw is a reflection of Google’s growth and evolution from a search company to a larger entity with many products and services, the spokeswoman said.

But even companies with a market cap of over $970 billion (Google’s parent company, Alphabet) or over $614 billion (Facebook) aren’t immune to the punches of potential talent. John Sullivan, a professor of management at San Francisco State University who also advises companies on recruitment, estimated that criticisms of Uber’s sexual harassment and discrimination policies cost the company roughly $100 million, largely because of talent lost to competitors.

Sarah Soule, a professor and senior associate dean at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, said in an email that there is a long history of students protesting questionable corporate ethics, with several cases of protest directed toward recruiters, yielding powerful effects.

Take the case of Dow Chemical Company, which in 1965 accepted a $5 million Department of Defense contract to manufacture the flammable gel napalm during the Vietnam War. When recruiters turned up at New York University, they were met with hundreds of angry student demonstrators, The Times reported.

Brendon Sexton, the student government president at N.Y.U. at the time, demanded a moratorium on Dow’s campus recruitment efforts in 1968. “They don’t care that a sin is being committed here,” he told protesters near the job interview site.

Public pressure continued to mount, fueled largely by young activists. The company halted its production of napalm a year later.

Ms. Geiduschek said the behavior of tech companies is especially difficult to challenge because their products are ubiquitous.

“It’s hard to avoid spending your money at Amazon. I sometimes do it, especially in that Christmas-season binge,” she said. “If you want to sway this company to do the right thing, you have to attack it at places that are higher leverage, where it hurts.”

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Facebook Says It Won’t Back Down From Allowing Lies in Political Ads

SAN FRANCISCO — Defying pressure from Congress, Facebook said on Thursday that it would continue to allow political campaigns to use the site to target advertisements to particular slices of the electorate and that it would not police the truthfulness of the messages sent out.

The stance put Facebook, the most important digital platform for political ads, at odds with some of the other large tech companies, which have begun to put new limits on political ads.

Facebook’s decision, telegraphed in recent months by executives, is likely to harden criticism of the company heading into this year’s presidential election.

Political advertising cuts to the heart of Facebook’s outsize role in society, and the company has found itself squeezed between liberal critics, who want it to do a better job of policing its various social media platforms, and conservatives, who say their views are being unfairly muzzled.

The issue has raised important questions regarding how heavy a hand technology companies like Facebook — which also owns Instagram and the messaging app WhatsApp — and Google should exert when deciding what types of political content they will and will not permit.

By maintaining a status quo, Facebook executives are essentially saying they are doing the best they can without government guidance and see little benefit to the company or the public in changing.

In a blog post, a company official echoed Facebook’s earlier calls for lawmakers to set firm rules.

“In the absence of regulation, Facebook and other companies are left to design their own policies,” Rob Leathern, Facebook’s director of product management overseeing the advertising integrity division, said in the post. “We have based ours on the principle that people should be able to hear from those who wish to lead them, warts and all, and that what they say should be scrutinized and debated in public.”

Other social media companies have decided otherwise, and some had hoped Facebook would quietly follow their lead. In late October, Twitter’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, banned all political advertising from his network, citing the challenges that novel digital systems present to civic discourse. Google quickly followed suit with limits on political ads across some of its properties, though narrower in scope.

Reaction to Facebook’s policy broke down largely along party lines.

The Trump campaign, which has been highly critical of any attempts by technology companies to regulate political advertising and has already spent more than $27 million on the platform, largely supported Facebook’s decision not to interfere in targeting ads or to set fact-checking standards.

“Our ads are always accurate so it’s good that Facebook won’t limit political messages because it encourages more Americans to be involved in the process,” said Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Trump campaign. “This is much better than the approaches from Twitter and Google, which will lead to voter suppression.”

Democratic presidential candidates and outside groups decried the decision.

“Facebook is paying for its own glowing fake news coverage, so it’s not surprising they’re standing their ground on letting political figures lie to you,” Senator Elizabeth Warren said on Twitter.

Ms. Warren, who has been among the most critical of Facebook and regularly calls for major tech companies to be broken up, reiterated her stance that the social media company should face tougher policies.

The Biden campaign was similarly critical. The campaign has confronted Facebook over an ad run by President Trump’s campaign that attacked Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s record on Ukraine.

“Donald Trump’s campaign can (and will) still lie in political ads,” Bill Russo, the deputy communications director for Mr. Biden, said in a statement. “Facebook can (and will) still profit off it. Today’s announcement is more window dressing around their decision to allow paid misinformation.”

But many Democratic groups willing to criticize Facebook had to walk a fine line; they have pushed for more regulation when it comes to fact-checking political ads, but they have been adamantly opposed to any changes to the ad-targeting features.

On Thursday, some Democratic outside groups welcomed Facebook’s decision not to limit microtargeting, but still thought the policy fell short.

“These changes read to us mostly as a cover for not making the change that is most vital: ensuring politicians are not allowed to use Facebook as a tool to lie to and manipulate voters,” said Madeline Kriger, who oversees digital ad buying at Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC.

Facebook has played down the business opportunity in political ads, saying the vast majority of its revenue came from commercial, not political, ads. But lawmakers have noted that Facebook ads could be a focal point of Mr. Trump’s campaign as well as those of top Democrats.

Facebook’s hands-off ad policy has already allowed for misleading advertisements. In October, a Facebook ad from the Trump campaign made false accusations about Mr. Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. The ad quickly went viral and was viewed by millions. After the Biden campaign asked Facebook to take down the ad, the company refused.

“Our approach is grounded in Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process and the belief that, in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is already arguably the most scrutinized speech there is,” Facebook’s head of global elections policy, Katie Harbath, wrote in the letter to the Biden campaign.

In an attempt to provoke Facebook, Ms. Warren’s presidential campaign ran an ad falsely claiming that the company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, was backing the re-election of Mr. Trump. Facebook did not take the ad down.

Criticism seemed to stiffen Mr. Zuckerberg’s resolve. Company officials said he and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s president, had ultimately made the decision to stand firm.

In a strongly worded speech at Georgetown University in October, Mr. Zuckerberg said he believed in the power of unfettered speech, including in paid advertising, and did not want to be in the position to police what politicians could and could not say to constituents. Facebook’s users, he said, should be allowed to make those decisions for themselves.

“People having the power to express themselves at scale is a new kind of force in the world — a Fifth Estate alongside the other power structures of society,” he said.

Facebook officials have repeatedly said significant changes to its rules for political or issue ads could harm the ability of smaller, less well-funded organizations to raise money and organize across the network.

Instead of overhauling its policies, Facebook has made small tweaks. Mr. Leathern said Facebook would add greater transparency features to its library of political advertising in the coming months, a resource for journalists and outside researchers to scrutinize the types of ads run by the campaigns.

Facebook also will add a feature that allows users to see fewer campaign and political issue ads in their news feeds, something the company has said many users have requested.

There was considerable debate inside Facebook about whether it should change. Late last year, hundreds of employees supported an internal memo that called on Mr. Zuckerberg to limit the abilities of Facebook’s political advertising products.

On Dec. 30, Andrew Bosworth, the head of Facebook’s virtual and augmented reality division, wrote on his internal Facebook page that, as a liberal, he found himself wanting to use the social network’s powerful platform against Mr. Trump.

But Mr. Bosworth said that even though keeping the current policies in place “very well may lead to” Mr. Trump’s re-election, it was the right decision. Dozens of Facebook employees pushed back on Mr. Bosworth’s conclusions, arguing in the comments section below his post that politicians should be held to the same standard that applies to other Facebook users.

For now, Facebook appears willing to risk disinformation in support of unfettered speech.

“Ultimately, we don’t think decisions about political ads should be made by private companies,” Mr. Leathern said. “Frankly, we believe the sooner Facebook and other companies are subject to democratically accountable rules on this, the better.”

Mike Isaac reported in San Francisco and Cecilia Kang reported from Washington. Nick Corasaniti contributed reporting from New York.

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Sonos, Squeezed by the Tech Giants, Sues Google

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — In 2013, Sonos scored a coup when Google agreed to design its music service to work easily with Sonos’s home speakers. For the project, Sonos handed over the effective blueprints to its speakers.

It felt like a harmless move, Sonos executives said. Google was an internet company and didn’t make speakers.

The executives now say they were naïve.

On Tuesday, Sonos sued Google in two federal court systems, seeking financial damages and a ban on the sale of Google’s speakers, smartphones and laptops in the United States. Sonos accused Google of infringing on five of its patents, including technology that lets wireless speakers connect and synchronize with one another.

Sonos’s complaints go beyond patents and Google. Its legal action is the culmination of years of growing dependence on both Google and Amazon, which then used their leverage to squeeze the smaller company, Sonos executives said.

Sonos advertises its speakers on Google and sells them on Amazon. It built their music services and talking virtual assistants directly into its products. Sonos workers correspond via Gmail, and run the business off Amazon’s cloud-computing service.

Then Google and Amazon came out with their own speakers, undercutting Sonos’s prices and, according to Sonos executives, stealing its technology. Google and Amazon each now sell as many speakers in a few months as Sonos sells in one year.

Like many companies under the thumb of Big Tech, Sonos groused privately for years. But over the past several months, Patrick Spence, Sonos’s chief executive, decided he couldn’t take it anymore.

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Credit…Adam Amengual for The New York Times

“Google has been blatantly and knowingly copying our patented technology,” Mr. Spence said in a statement. “Despite our repeated and extensive efforts over the last few years, Google has not shown any willingness to work with us on a mutually beneficial solution. We’re left with no choice but to litigate.”

Sonos executives said they had decided to sue only Google because they couldn’t risk battling two tech giants in court at once. Yet Mr. Spence and congressional staff members have discussed his testifying to the House antitrust subcommittee soon about his company’s issues with them.

Jose Castaneda, a Google spokesman, said Google and Sonos had discussed both companies’ intellectual property for years, “and we are disappointed that Sonos brought these lawsuits instead of continuing negotiations in good faith.”

“We dispute these claims and will defend them vigorously,” he added.

A spokeswoman for Amazon, Natalie Hereth, said the company did not infringe on Sonos’s technology. “The Echo family of devices and our multiroom music technology were developed independently by Amazon,” she said.

Sonos sued Google in Federal District Court in Los Angeles and in front of the United States International Trade Commission, a quasi-judicial body that decides trade cases and can block the import of goods that violate patents. Sonos sued Google over only five patents, but said it believed Google and Amazon had each violated roughly 100. Sonos did not say how much it sought in damages.

The evolving relationship between Sonos and the tech giants reflects an increasingly common complaint in the corporate world: As the biggest tech companies have become essential to reach customers and build businesses, they have exploited that leverage over smaller companies to steal their ideas and their customers.

After mostly keeping those grievances private for years because they feared retaliation, many smaller companies are now speaking out, emboldened in an age of growing scrutiny of America’s largest tech firms.

Credit…Adam Amengual for The New York Times
Credit…Adam Amengual for The New York Times

Mr. Spence and other Sonos executives said they had agonized over the decision to sue Google, largely because Google still underpins their business. Sonos executives suspect that their pressure on the patent issue has complicated other areas of the relationship, though they can’t say for sure.

After Sonos intensified its demands that Google license its technology, Google pushed Sonos to comply with stricter rules for using Google’s virtual assistant. Those proposed rules included a mandate to turn over the planned name, design and targeted start date of its future products — which Google would compete directly against — six months in advance, up from 45 days in the current deal, Sonos executives said.

“The fear of retaliation is a real fear. Any of these companies could bury them tomorrow. Google could bury them in their search results. Amazon can bury them in their search results,” said Sally Hubbard, a former assistant attorney general in New York’s antitrust bureau who now works at Open Markets Institute, a think tank. “It’s really hard to find any industry where corporations are not dependent on one of the big tech giants.”

Fifteen years ago, home sound systems typically meant a tangled network of wires and speakers and complicated instructions on how to make it all work. Then Sonos came along in 2005, promising wireless sound throughout a house, seamlessly controlled from a hand-held device. Its early ads boasted: “Any song. Any room.

Sonos quickly began patenting its innovations, a stockpile of intellectual property it now proudly displays on its website.

Its devices made life a bit more comfortable for consumers who could afford them, and they made for a nice little business for Sonos, which is based a few miles from the Southern California coast in Santa Barbara. Sales of its devices took off after the advent of the smartphone and music streaming. Sonos now employs about 1,500 people and sells more than $1 billion in speakers a year.

When Sonos teamed up with Google in 2013, it gave Google engineers detailed diagrams on how its speakers interacted wirelessly with one another. At the time, Google was not a competitor.

Two years later, Google released a small device that could turn an old speaker into a wireless one, much like Sonos’s original product. A year after that, Google released its own wireless speaker, the Google Home. The device, marketed around Google’s talking virtual assistant, quickly began outselling Sonos’s offerings.

Sonos bought the Google devices and used a technique called packet sniffing that monitored how the speakers were communicating. They discovered that Google’s devices used Sonos’s approach for solving a variety of technological challenges. Sonos executives said they had found that Amazon’s Echo speakers also copied Sonos technology.

In August 2016, Sonos told Google that it was infringing. Google had little response. As Google released more products, it violated more patents, Sonos executives said. Over the next three years, Sonos told Google four more times, eventually handing over a list of 100 patents it believed Google had violated. Google responded that Sonos was also infringing on its patents, Sonos executives said, though it never provided much detail.

When Sonos delivered a proposed model for Google to pay licensing fees, Google returned its own model that resulted in its paying almost nothing, Sonos executives said.

Sonos executives said their complaints were hardly just about patents, however. They are concerned that Google and Amazon are flooding the market with cheap speakers that they subsidize because they are not merely conduits for music, like Sonos’s devices, but rather another way to sell goods, show ads and collect data.

Sonos’s entry-level speaker is about $200. Amazon and Google’s cheapest speakers are $50, and they often offer them at much steeper discounts.

In the third quarter of 2019, Amazon shipped 10.5 million speakers and Google six million, according to Strategy Analytics. For the 12 months ending in September, Sonos said it had sold 6.1 million speakers.

“Amazon and Google are making it a mass-market product at a price point that Sonos can’t match,” said Jack Narcotta, a Strategy Analytics analyst.

Amazon said that it was focused on creating the best experience for customers and that its virtual assistant had generated “billions of dollars” for developers and device makers.

To compete, Sonos has had to yield even more power to the companies. When consumers became hooked on Google’s and Amazon’s virtual assistants, Sonos also built them into its speakers.

But Sonos had a strategy to still stand out on store shelves. Instead of being locked into using just one of the assistants, Sonos customers could use both simultaneously. Sonos engineers patented the technology to enable the assistants to work side by side, and executives lobbied Amazon and Google to let it happen.

At first, the companies hated the idea. Hours before a New York news conference in October 2017, Sonos was preparing to unveil its first speaker with virtual assistants when the Amazon product chief Dave Limp called Mr. Spence. Mr. Limp had just found out that Google would also be onstage, and he said Amazon was now pulling out of the event as a result, according to two people familiar with the conversation. After negotiations, Amazon relented.

Sonos executives said Google and Amazon had ultimately forced them to make users select one assistant when setting up their speaker. Amazon said it had never asked Sonos to force users to choose its assistant or Google’s version.

Amazon later changed its position and joined an alliance with Sonos and other companies to make virtual assistants like Alexa function together. Google, along with Apple and Samsung, did not join the alliance.

Google has maintained, Sonos executives said, that it will pull its assistant from Sonos’s speakers if it works alongside any assistant from Amazon, Apple, Microsoft or Baidu, the Chinese internet company. Sonos has followed Google’s orders.

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4 Things to Know About YouTube’s New Children Privacy Practices

In September, Google agreed to pay a $170 million fine and make privacy changes as regulators said that its YouTube platform had illegally harvested children’s personal information and used it to profit by targeting them with ads. The penalty and changes were part of an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission and the attorney general of New York, which had accused YouTube of violating the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

On Monday, YouTube said it was beginning to introduce changes to address regulators’ concerns and better protect children. Here is what you need to know about those changes.

YouTube said that, starting Monday, it would begin to limit the collection and use of personal information from people who watched children’s videos, no matter the age of the viewer. Federal law prohibits online services aimed at children under 13 from collecting the personal information of those young users without parental consent.

YouTube said it had also turned off or limited some features on children’s videos tied to personal information. These include comments and live-chat features, as well as the ability to save videos to a playlist.

YouTube will no longer show ads on children’s videos that are targeted at viewers based on their web-browsing or other online activity data. Instead, the company said, it may now show ads based on the context of what people are viewing.

YouTube said viewers who watched a video made for children on its platform would now be more likely to see recommendations for other children’s videos.

In September, YouTube said it would require all video producers on its platform to designate their videos as made for children or not made for children. In November, it introduced a new setting to help producers flag children’s content, a designation that signals YouTube to limit data collection on those videos. The video service said that it was also using artificial intelligence to help identify children’s content and that it could override a video producer’s categorization if its system detected a mistake.

YouTube is one of the most popular platforms for children. Some animated videos on YouTube channels aimed at younger children — like Cocomelon Nursery Rhymes and ChuChu TV — have been viewed more than a billion times.

The platform’s new limits on data-mining send a signal to other popular sites offering children’s content that they also may be subject to the federal children’s online privacy law. Musical.ly, a wildly popular video social network now known as TikTok, also had to pay a fine last year to settle F.T.C. charges that it had illegally collected children’s personal information.

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Silicon Valley’s Newest Rival: The Banks of the Hudson

When Facebook was searching for another New York office, one big enough to fit as many as 6,000 workers, more than double the number it currently employs in the city, it had one major demand: It needed the space urgently.

So after the company settled on Hudson Yards, the vast mini-city taking shape on Manhattan’s Far West Side, existing tenants were told to move and a small army of construction workers quickly began to revamp the building even before a lease had been signed.

Facebook’s push to accommodate its booming operations is part of a rush by the West Coast technology giants to expand in New York City. The rapid growth is turning a broad swath of Manhattan into one of the world’s most vibrant tech corridors.

Four companies — Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google — already have big offices along the Hudson River, from Midtown to Lower Manhattan, or have been hunting for new ones in recent months, often competing with one another for the same space.

In all, the companies are expected to have roughly 20,000 workers in New York by 2022.

Cities across the United States and around the world have long vied to establish themselves as worthy rivals to Silicon Valley. New York City is certainly not anywhere close to overtaking the Bay Area as the nation’s tech leader, but it is increasingly competing for tech companies and talent.

New York’s rise as a tech hub comes as industries that have long dominated the city’s economic landscape are transformed by technology, and are themselves increasingly reliant on software engineers and other highly skilled workers.

The growth in New York is occurring largely without major economic incentives from the city and state governments. Officials are mindful of the outcry last year over at least $3 billion in public subsidies that Amazon was offered to build a corporate campus in Queens.

The retail behemoth, stung by the backlash, canceled its plans abruptly in February. It is continuing to add jobs in the city, although at a slower pace.

Still, Amazon’s announcement last month that it would lease space in Midtown for 1,500 workers renewed a debate over whether incentives should be used to woo huge tech companies to New York.

Opponents of the earlier deal, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of Queens, said Amazon’s decision to expand in Manhattan showed that New York was so attractive that tax breaks were unnecessary.

Others responded that the Hudson Yards space the company was leasing paled next to the campus proposed for Long Island City, Queens, and to the 25,000 people Amazon had pledged to employ there.

Tech companies are choosing New York to tap into its deep and skilled talent pool and to attract employees who prefer the city’s diverse economy over technology-dominated hubs on the West Coast. New York is also closer to Europe, an important market.

“For a long time, if you lived in the broader tech sector, there was inertia that brought you to Silicon Valley,” said Julie Samuels, executive director of Tech: NYC, a nonprofit industry group. “So many people wanted to live here and move here, but felt the jobs weren’t here. Now the jobs are here.”

Google has grown so quickly and is so squeezed for space that it is temporarily leasing two buildings until a much larger development in Manhattan near the Holland Tunnel, St. John’s Terminal, is ready in 2022.

The big tech firms started in New York with small outposts. Google’s first New York employee, a sales worker, arrived in 2000, and worked out of a Starbucks in Manhattan. It was the company’s first office outside California.

Tech industry offices were once mostly filled with sales and marketing employees who needed to be closer to their customers and to industries like fashion, finance, media and real estate that power the city’s economy.

Over the past five years, though, the makeup of the companies’ combined New York work force has come to resemble the West Coast version: a mix of engineers and others involved in software development.

The New Tech Corridor

Four big technology companies will have a combined 20,000 workers in the city by 2022, mostly concentrated along Manhattan’s West Side. Squares on the map show where Facebook, Google and Amazon have leased space, or are planning to.

The New York Times

At Google’s New York office, highly skilled workers now outnumber their colleagues in sales and marketing. Of the nearly 800 job openings that Amazon has in the city, more than half are for developers, engineers and data scientists.

“Every line of business and every platform is represented quite healthfully,” said William Floyd, Google’s head of external affairs in New York, the company’s largest office except for its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters. “Not everyone wants to be in California.’’

Oren Michels, a tech adviser and investor who sold Mashery, a company based in San Francisco, to Intel in 2013, said that New York City had become a refuge for tech workers who did not want to be surrounded solely by those working in the same industry.

“You have younger engineers and those sorts of people who frankly want to live in New York City because it’s a more interesting and fun place to live,” he said. “San Francisco is turning into a company town and the company is tech, both professionally and personally.”

Mr. Michels said that his family had bought a home in Manhattan in 2014 with a plan to split their time between San Francisco and New York. They soon decided to live full time in New York, where Mr. Michels is on the boards of four tech firms.

The number of tech jobs in New York City has surged 80 percent in the past decade, to 142,600, from 79,400 in 2009, according to the New York State Comptroller’s office. (The business services industry, which includes accountants and lawyers and is the largest private sector, employed 762,000 people in 2018, according to the comptroller’s office.)

Since 2016, the number of job openings in the city’s tech sector has jumped 38 percent, an analysis for The Times by the jobs website Glassdoor found. In November, New York had the third-highest number of tech openings among United States cities, 26,843, behind just San Francisco and Seattle.

It is not only the biggest tech firms that are growing in New York. From 2018 through the third quarter of 2019, investors pumped more than $27 billion into start-ups in the New York City region, the second most in that time for any area outside San Francisco, according to the MoneyTree Report by PwC-CB Insights. (Nearly $100 billion was invested in start-ups in the Silicon Valley area in that period.)

Industries like finance, retail and health care provide more jobs, but the tech sector, with an average salary of $153,000, has become one of New York City’s main economic drivers.

That has raised concerns about whether the industry is intensifying income inequality and making New York unaffordable for more people.

The four big tech companies “attract thousands of out-of-state employees with advanced degrees and work experience, and drive unprecedented influxes in luxury rentals, rent hikes, and the flipping of buildings and private homes,” said Kiana Davis, a policy analyst at the Urban Justice Center.

“It should go without saying,’’ she added, “that middle-income, low-wage, poor and unemployed residents in these cities cannot access the luxury housing market nor the rising rents and have been driven out of their communities as a result.”

Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel, a real estate appraisal firm, said that the residential market in Manhattan had been strong in areas where the tech firms had grown.

“I speak to brokerage groups twice a week, and the conversation is always peppered with questions about the tech sector,” Mr. Miller said. “If you have 20,000 employees coming in who are high-wage earners, that can have a pronounced impact.”

The major tech firms are expected to grow to the point that they are among the largest private tenants in New York in the coming years, rivaling longtime leaders like JPMorgan Chase.

Among companies in the technology, advertising, media and information industries, Google and Facebook are now the largest tenants, beating out legacy companies like Condé Nast, News Corp. and Warner Media, according to an analysis performed for The Times by the real estate company Cushman & Wakefield.

Facebook employs 2,900 people in New York, and recently signed the lease at Hudson Yards for 1.5 million square feet in three buildings. In addition to providing space for 6,000 workers, the deal gives the company an option to take over another several hundred thousand square feet in the development.

Facebook executives initially set their sights on a marquee building on Madison Avenue in the Flatiron district, not far from the company’s existing offices, according to a person familiar with Facebook’s plans.

But then Facebook executives toured Hudson Yards and were impressed with the amenities, including shops and restaurants, and with the short walk to major subway lines.

A deal was struck in November, but with a requirement on Facebook’s part that about 300,000 square feet in two buildings, 30 and 55 Hudson Yards, be ready very soon.

Workers were immediately brought in to begin preparing the space and to move out existing tenants.

Two blocks east, Facebook is close to signing a lease for about 700,000 square feet in the 107-year-old James A. Farley Building across from Pennsylvania Station, according to three people familiar with the deal. The property, also known as the Farley Post Office, is being renovated by the Related Companies and another developer, Vornado Realty Trust.

More than 2,500 employees could eventually work there. (The Wall Street Journal first reported on the potential lease.)

“It’s hard to predict future growth, but we believe New York is a vibrant market with a tremendous pool of talent,” a Facebook spokeswoman, Jamila Reeves, said. She declined to comment on the company’s specific plans.

Just north of the Farley building, Amazon said recently that it had signed a lease for 350,000 square feet in a building on 10th Avenue near Hudson Yards, enough space for 1,500 employees. The social media company LinkedIn, whose New York offices are not far away, in the Empire State Building, recently said it would expand to four additional floors in the landmark property.

The tech titan whose intentions in New York are probably least known is Apple.

Executives at the company, which has had an office in the Flatiron area, have toured buildings in that neighborhood and in the Hudson Yards area but a deal has not yet been signed. Apple has inquired about leasing much less space than other big tech companies, roughly 50,000 square feet.

Apple declined to comment.

For every West Coast company with a household name that has expanded in New York, there are many large but lesser-known firms with headquarters in the city.

One, Datadog, which provides cloud-based software for businesses, went public in September and is valued at $10.5 billion. The company has 480 employees in its New York offices, up from 125 three years ago.

Categories
artificial intelligence Breast Cancer Cancer Google Inc Mammography Mozziyar Etemadi Nature (Journal) Uncategorized your-feed-healthcare

A.I. Is Learning to Read Mammograms

Artificial intelligence can help doctors do a better job of finding breast cancer on mammograms, researchers from Google and medical centers in the United States and Britain are reporting in the journal Nature.

The new system for reading mammograms, which are X-rays of the breast, is still being studied and is not yet available for widespread use. It is just one of Google’s ventures into medicine. Computers can be trained to recognize patterns and interpret images, and the company has already created algorithms to help detect lung cancers on CT scans, diagnose eye disease in people with diabetes and find cancer on microscope slides.

“This paper will help move things along quite a bit,” said Dr. Constance Lehman, director of breast imaging at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who was not involved in the study. “There are challenges to their methods. But having Google at this level is a very good thing.”

Tested on images where the diagnosis was already known, the new system performed better than radiologists. On scans from the United States, the system produced a 9.4 percent reduction in false negatives, in which a mammogram is mistakenly read as normal and a cancer is missed. It also provided a lowering of 5.7 percent in false positives, where the scan is incorrectly judged abnormal but there is no cancer.

On mammograms performed in Britain, the system also beat the radiologists, reducing false negatives by 2.7 percent and false positives by 1.2 percent.

Google paid for the study, and worked with researchers from Northwestern University in Chicago and two British medical centers, Cancer Research Imperial Centre and Royal Surrey County Hospital.

Last year, 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 41,760 deaths were expected among women in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. Globally, there are about 2 million new cases a year, and more than half a million deaths.

About 33 million screening mammograms are performed each year in the United States. The test misses about 20 percent of breast cancers, according to the American Cancer Society, and false positives are common, resulting in women being called back for more tests, sometimes even biopsies.

Doctors have long wanted to make mammography more accurate.

“There are many radiologists who are reading mammograms who make mistakes, some well outside the acceptable margins of normal human error,” Dr. Lehman said.

To apply artificial intelligence to the task, the authors of the Nature report used mammograms from about 76,000 women in Britain and 15,000 in the United States, whose diagnoses were already known, to train computers to recognize cancer.

Then, they tested the computers on images from about 25,000 other women in Britain, and 3,000 in the United States, and compared the system’s performance with that of the radiologists who had originally read the X-rays. The mammograms had been taken in the past, so the women’s outcomes were known, and the researchers could tell whether the initial diagnoses were correct.

“We took mammograms that already happened, showed them to radiologists and asked, ‘Cancer or no?’ and then showed them to A.I., and asked, ‘Cancer, or no?’” said Dr. Mozziyar Etemadi, an author of the study from Northwestern University.

This was the test that found A.I. more accurate than the radiologists.

Unlike humans, computers do not get tired, bored or distracted toward the end of a long day of reading mammograms, Dr. Etemadi said.

In another test, the researchers pitted A.I. against six radiologists in the United States, presenting 500 mammograms to be interpreted. Over all, A.I. again outperformed the humans.

But in some instances, A.I. missed a cancer that all six radiologists found — and vice versa.

“There’s no denying that in some cases our A.I. tool totally gets it wrong and they totally get it right,” Dr. Etemadi said. “Purely from that perspective it opens up an entirely new area of inquiry and study. Why is it that they missed it? Why is it that we missed it?”

Dr. Lehman, who is also developing A.I. for mammograms, said the Nature report was strong, but she had some concerns about the methods, noting that the patients studied might not be a true reflection of the general population. A higher proportion had cancer, and the racial makeup was not specified. She also said that “reader” analyses involving a small number of radiologists — this study used six — were not always reliable.

The next step in the research is to have radiologists try using the tool as part of their routine practice in reading mammograms. New techniques that pass their initial tests with flying colors do not always perform as well out in the real world.

“We have to see what happens when radiologists have it, see if they do better,” Dr. Etemadi said.

Dr. Lehman said: “We have to be very careful. We want to make sure this is helping patients.”

She said an earlier technology, computer-aided detection, or CAD, provided a cautionary tale. Approved in 1998 by the Food and Drug Administration to help radiologists read mammograms, it came into widespread use. Some hospital administrators pressured radiologists to use it whether they liked it or not because patients could be charged extra for it, increasing profits, Dr. Lehman said. Later, several studies, including one that Dr. Lehman was part of, found that CAD did not improve the doctors’ accuracy and even made them worse.

“We can learn from the mistakes with CAD and do it better,” Dr. Lehman said, adding that A.I. has become far more powerful, and keeps improving as more data is fed in. “Using computers to enhance human performance is long overdue.”

She and Dr. Etemadi said that a potentially good use of A.I. would be to sort mammograms and flag those most in need of the radiologist’s attention. The system may also be able to identify those that are clearly negative, so they could be read quickly and patients could promptly be given a clean bill of health.

Although developers of A.I. often say it is intended to help radiologists, not replace them, Dr. Lehman predicted that eventually, computers alone will read at least some mammograms, without help from humans.

“We’re onto something,” she said. “These systems are picking up things a human might not see, and we’re right at the beginning of it.”

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