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  • 4:44 pm

Apple cuts off dev access for controversial face recognition app maker Clearview AI

Apple cuts off dev access for controversial face recognition app maker Clearview AI
[Photo: Nicole Cagnina/Unsplash]

Apple has cut off developer access to the iOS version of the Clearview AI facial recognition app, saying that it violates the terms of Clearview’s developer agreement, BuzzFeed News reports.

Clearview AI was using a software distribution tool Apple created for developers to share their apps directly with people in their own companies, sidestepping the App Store. But Clearview was using the tool, which came with membership in Apple’s Enterprise Developer Program, to distribute its app to its more than 2,200 customers. That violates the terms of its agreement, as BuzzFeed News pointed out to Apple, prompting the tech giant to act.

The Clearview AI app works like an internet “face search.” Based on a facial recognition scan by the camera of a mobile device, Clearview then searches for matches from within the billions of facial images it’s scraped from the web and now stores on its servers. A January 18 profile by the New York Times‘s Kashmir Hill on the secretive startup, which is funded in part by Peter Thiel, set off a major discussion about how facial recognition tech should and shouldn’t be used.

Now that Apple has cut off Clearview AI’s membership in the program, the New York-based developer will no longer be able to distribute the iOS version of its app in this way. It’ll still be able to distribute the app to Android devices used by its customers, however. Clearview’s customers comprise mostly law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad, and a few companies such as Macy’s and Best Buy.

Earlier this week, New York-based Clearview AI said its entire client list had been stolen by hackers.

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  • 4:21 pm

FCC outraged, fines AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon $200M for selling your real-time location

FCC outraged, fines AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon $200M for selling your real-time location
[Photo: Patrick Schreiber/Unsplash]

The Federal Communications Commission wants answers. Scratch that. The FCC wants fines. Today the FCC proposed more than $200 million in penalties from AT&T ($57 million), Verizon ($48 million), T-Mobile ($91 million), and Sprint ($12 million).

This is the conclusion of a probe into the Big Four cellphone carriers’ sharing of customers’ real-time location data, which is a violation of federal law. The Wall Street Journal reports that the carriers provided real-time feeds to data companies that included the locations of individual users. Some data companies, in turn, did not act ethically with that information. (This partially came out after a reporter from Vice paid a bounty hunter $300 to pinpoint the location of his T-Mobile handset.) The FCC concluded that the cell carriers failed to adequately protect customer data.

Laura Moy, associate director at the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law, told the WSJ that cellphone customers “have no choice but to share highly private information with a provider about everywhere they go. Carriers are not allowed to turn around and sell that location information to anyone with a phone number and a few dollars to spend. But this has been a widespread practice, and the FCC has been slow to rein it in.”

T-Mobile and Sprint are expected to complete their merger in the coming weeks, including 30,000 job cuts. The cellphone carriers are expected to dispute the penalties.

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  • 12:51 pm

25-year study: Most corporate tax incentives do more harm than good

25-year study: Most corporate tax incentives do more harm than good
[Photo: Sean Pollock/Unsplash; Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash]

Rolling out the red carpet for corporations with tax incentives often comes at a steep cost to cities and states, according to a comprehensive new study that tracks 25 years of such incentives. “We found that in almost all instances, these corporate tax incentives cost states millions of dollars, if not more, and the returns were minimal,” says co-author Bruce McDonald, an associate professor of public administration at North Carolina State. The agreements “ultimately left states in worse financial condition than they were in to begin with.”

The researchers studied the 32 states that provide 90% of the country’s state and local tax incentives, from 1990-2015, and evaluated both state and local tax incentives, while controlling for demographic, economic, political, and governmental data. An algorithm assessed whether attracting and retaining businesses offset the incentives. Overall, they concluded that  the incentives “draw resources away from states” and “negatively affect the overall fiscal health of states.”

Just two types of tax incentives proved valuable: job creation tax credits and job training grants, which both create longterm tax revenue for people finding higher-paying work.

“The takeaway message here is that maybe states shouldn’t be offering these tax incentives, or at the very least should examine their assumptions about the impact these incentives actually have,” says McDonald, who titled the study, “You Don’t Always Get What you Want.” 

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  • 12:28 pm

Study: Older women win in the sharing economy because people trust their ads

Study: Older women win in the sharing economy because people trust their ads
[Photo: Aaron Sebastian/Unsplash]

Aging while female pays dividends in at least one marketplace: the online sharing economy. An Airbnb photo of an older, smiling female host will attract more guests than any other demographic, according to new research out of Hebrew University with big implications for profile photos on platforms ranging from Uber to eBay.

Researchers tracked 320 Airbnb ads, and found that when users perceive host photos to be “trustworthy,” their listing prices are higher, and generate much more business. Customers perceive “trustworthiness” based on these characteristics, in the following descending pecking order:

  • Women are considered more trustworthy than men
  • Older hosts are trusted more than younger ones
  • Smiling faces are perceived as more trustworthy neutral expressions
  • Attractive hosts are considered more trustworthy unattractive ones

Customers also prefer photos that show the host interacting with others, because it signals positive social relationships–i.e., that someone else also trusts the lister.

How important are the photos? They’re everything, much more important than online ratings and reviews. “We find that a host’s reputation, communicated by her online review scores, has no effect on listing price or likelihood of customer booking,” write the authors.

The researchers note that Airbnb hosts seem unaware of these details. Though two-thirds of them post smiling photos, many listings by male-female couples feature photos of just the man—when photos of the woman would likely attract more guests.

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  • 10:55 am

Twitter verified a fake 2020 congressional candidate that was created by a high schooler

Twitter verified a fake 2020 congressional candidate that was created by a high schooler
[Photo: Stephen Walker/Unsplash; Twitter/Wikimedia Commons]

A 17-year-old high school student was able to pull off a feat that’s out of reach for many ordinary Twitter users: getting a coveted blue “verified” checkmark. However, he didn’t get his own account verified, instead managing to convince Twitter to verify an account he created for a fake Republican candidate for Congress, reports CNN Business. The verification of the fictitious congressional candidate, Andrew Walz, comes on the heels of a Twitter spokesperson emphasizing that “our worst-case scenario is that we verify someone who isn’t actually the candidate.”

But that’s exactly what’s happened—and it didn’t even involve Russia’s propaganda machine or political extremists. The high schooler, who the network didn’t name due to his age, told CNN that he was bored over the December holiday period and, after learning about Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, wanted to test Twitter’s election integrity efforts.

So how did he dupe Twitter? He took 20 minutes to create a website for the imaginary candidate, then another five minutes to make a Twitter account for him. For the candidate’s picture, the teen took an image created by artificial intelligence from the website This Person Does Not Exist. Then the teen had his fake candidate listed on Ballotpedia, a website that aims to be an online encyclopedia for American political candidates.

The teen told CNN that Ballotpedia—with which Twitter partners “to utilize their expertise in identifying the official campaign Twitter accounts of candidates”—didn’t ask for any proof that Congressional candidate Andrew Walz actually existed. After that, the account for the fake Walz was verified.

Twitter gives verified status to public figures, politicians, publications, and journalists, so that its users have a better idea if the news or comment they’re reading comes from a legitimate source. The company has previously come under fire for not verifying political candidates who have not previously held public office, so in December Twitter announced it would step up its efforts to verify political candidates.

Yet the fact that Twitter was so easily duped by a teenager whose actions could so easily be reproduced by individuals looking to manipulate political discourse and the 2020 elections is concerning. When CNN approached Twitter about the verified account for the fake candidate, the company quickly removed the profile and told CNN, “The creation of a fake candidate account is in violation of our rules and the account has been permanently suspended.”

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  • 7:00 am

How to get your free McDonald’s Egg McMuffin on ‘National Egg McMuffin Day’

How to get your free McDonald’s Egg McMuffin on ‘National Egg McMuffin Day’
[Photo: courtesy of McDonald’s]

Do you love the McDonald’s Egg McMuffin breakfast sandwich? The answer is probably “yes” considering it’s ranked as the fifth best-selling McDonald’s menu item of all time. And if you are an Egg McMuffin-lover, we’ve got great news: McDonald’s is giving away free Egg McMuffins in honor of “National Egg McMuffin Day.”

Now is “National Egg McMuffin Day” a real holiday? Of course not—it’s a marketing exercise by one of the world’s best-known fast-food joints. But it’s a delicious marketing exercise, at least. And in honor of the fake holiday, which takes place on Monday, March 2, McDonald’s is giving everyone a free Egg McMuffin sandwich. Here’s how to get yours:

  1. Make sure you’ve downloaded the official McDonald’s mobile app and registered an account in it.
  2. Then on Monday, March 2, go to a participating McDonald’s (the app will tell you which stores are participating) between 6 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. (local time).
  3. Follow the “National Egg McMuffin Day” redemption instructions in the app while you’re in the participating McDonald’s and get ready to gobble down that delicious bacon, egg, cheese, and toasted muffin delight.

Keep in mind that the free Egg McMuffin deal is limited to the hours above and only on Monday, March 2. The freebie is also limited to one Egg McMuffin per registered user in the McDonald’s app. But we’re sure your local McD’s will be happy to sell you another one while you’re there.

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Report: Bloomberg reached out to Yang to be his VP

Report: Bloomberg reached out to Yang to be his VP
[Photo: Flickr user Gage Skidmore (Yang) (Bloomberg)]

Mike Bloomberg is realizing that it takes more than blanketing the country with half a billion dollars’ worth of ads, a pile of silly memes, and defensive reactions to tough questions during Democratic primary debates to build appeal for his presidential candidacy.

In a bid to harness the momentum of the Yang Gang, the intensely enthusiastic followers of former candidate Andrew Yang, Bloomberg’s campaign reached out to Yang to court him for a possible endorsement, as well as becoming the former NYC mayor’s running mate, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Yang, who once quipped that Bloomberg is like a “movie director who casts himself,” isn’t interested in joining the cast just yet, with the WSJ noting that he “didn’t commit to join forces.” And the Yang Gang took to Twitter this afternoon, largely to express their disapproval in typically understated terms:

The ex-candidate, who recently dropped out of the race after performing poorly in the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, is now a CNN contributor.

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The coronavirus just took down Facebook’s F8 event. Who’s next?

The coronavirus just took down Facebook’s F8 event. Who’s next?
[Photo: Flickr user Anthony Quintano]

It turns out that Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress was not the only big tech event to fall victim to the coronavirus. Facebook has canceled the 2020 edition of its F8 developer conference, citing “the growing concerns around COVID-19.” The event—which was to take place on May 5 and 6 in San Jose, California—will be replaced with live-streamed content, local meetings, and other elements less susceptible to risks and fears associated with the coronavirus.

In recent years, F8 has been the first event in a busy season of tech-giant developer conferences—which, along with educating engineers, also serve as a platform to announce major products aimed at consumers. Two Google developer conferences are coming up: Cloud Next on April 6-8 and I/O from May 12-14. Microsoft’s Build is scheduled for May 19-21. Apple hasn’t announced dates for WWDC yet, but last year it took place from June 3-7. And Amazon’s Re:Mars, an AI event, is currently set for June 16-19.

Will any of them take place as planned? Facebook’s difficult decision could prompt other big companies to pull their own respective plugs sooner rather than later, before too many would-be attendees have booked travel. These events have become so instrumental to the industry’s rhythms that it’s not clear what would happen if they just went away. Or whether things would just go back to normal in 2021, assuming that the world is feeling less alarmed about the coronavirus by then.

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YouTube TV is dropping Fox Sports regionals

YouTube TV is dropping Fox Sports regionals
[Photo: Filip Mroz/Unsplash]

YouTube TV has announced that it’s dropping regional Fox Sports channels from its service on February 29, becoming the third live TV streaming provider to do so.

“We do not take this decision lightly,” YouTube TV said in a statement on Twitter. “This is a reflection of the rising cost of sports content.”

YouTube TV isn’t alone in deciding that Fox Sports regionals are no longer worth the price. Dish Network dropped the channels from its satellite service and from Sling TV last summer, and FuboTV, a service that once prided itself on its live sports offerings, dropped them at the start of this year. PlayStation Vue, which had offered regional Fox Sports channels, shut down at the end of January. For cord-cutters who want to watch Fox Sports regionals without cable, Hulu + Live TV ($55 per month) and AT&T TV Now ($80 per month for the “Max” package) are the last remaining options.

The backstory here is that these channels are no longer owned by Fox, despite the name. When Disney acquired 21st Century Fox, it agreed to divest Fox’s regional sports networks and sold them to Sinclair Broadcast Group for $9.6 billion. Sinclair may be looking for much higher carriage fees from TV providers to recoup its investment, but that plan could be backfiring as streaming providers balk and traditional TV continues to decline at historic rates.

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So much for altruism: Startups that are good for the world get less crowdfunding

So much for altruism: Startups that are good for the world get less crowdfunding
[Photo: Perry Grone/Unsplash]

Looking to crowdfund your brilliant idea? Downplay how wonderful it is for the environment or social good. This is the finding of a recent study of 8,631 Kickstarter projects, published in the Journal of Business Ethics. Despite the general assumption “that on digital platforms, citizens are inclined to provide more support to projects with a social benefit,” the authors found that Kickstarter projects that strongly emphasized their good-for-the-worldness frequently did not get funded.

Potential backers, it turns out, want to know that their investment will see a return. “Even the most socially conscious individuals continue to be driven by their self-interest,” says coauthor Daniela Defazio, an assistant professor of management at the University of Bath. “They appreciate products’ pro-social attributes, but only when they are provided in combination with product functionality.”

To get funded, the key is to explain how a business is good for the world, but to primarily emphasize its value, functionality, and financial return. As Defazio puts it, “a moderate emphasis on pro-social framing is beneficial, but too much emphasis can backfire.”

Much of the problem comes down to space: on Kickstarter, the title and blurb are approximately 10 words. Space limitations are typical throughout the business world, whether in pitch time or word space on a label. “Placing pro-social cues in those may overshadow other attributes,” says Defazio. For the study, Defazio partnered with a researcher from the Polytechnic University of Milan to track technology and design projects on Kickstarter for two years, measuring the correlation between funding success and good-for-the-world emphasis.

One caveat: Defazio notes that earlier studies show that backers on micro-lending platforms such as Kiva.org, which appeal to socially conscious investors, do respond more positively to socially conscious businesses.

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Coronavirus infects the markets: U.S. markets down 10%, Goldman predicts 0% growth in 2020

Coronavirus infects the markets: U.S. markets down 10%, Goldman predicts 0% growth in 2020
[Photo: Pexels/Pixabay]

There are now 82,549 confirmed cases of covid-19 worldwide, predominantly in China (78,497) and South Korea (1766), and spreading in Italy (528), and the markets have taken notice, spiraling downward on fears of business disruptions across Asia, Europe and the U.S.:

  • U.S. markets are crashing. The Dow dropped 2.2%, the S&P 500 2.5%, and the Nasdaq 2.9% this morning, and are showing signs of heading further south. The Dow and S&P 500 have lost 10% since Monday. Market gurus are throwing around the term ‘correction‘, which is typically at least -10%.
  • Bank of America says to expect global GDP growth of 2.8%, which would be the worst since the financial crisis, dragged down by coronavirus fears, as well as uncertainty about the U.S. election.
  • Goldman Sachs updated its earnings estimate for U.S. companies in 2020 to 0%. Wall Street’s earlier estimates for the year were 7% growth. The update comes due to China’s slow first quarter and rampant supply chain disruptions to U.S. companies, leading Apple, Nike and United Airlines to say they will not meet their earnings targets.
  • Europe and Asia markets tumble 2-4%. The Stoxx Europe 600 dropped 4% and the Nikkei 2.1%.

Before you blame the drops entirely on coronavirus, know that many are saying that the market was due for a correction anyway. Still, the outlook is not good. “We have to brace ourselves for wave after wave of earnings downgrades,” Paul O’Connor, Janus Henderson Investors’ head of multiasset, told the Wall Street Journal.

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NYC first to crack down on Grubhub, Uber Eats, DoorDash, Postmates, and others

NYC first to crack down on Grubhub, Uber Eats, DoorDash, Postmates, and others
[Photo: Kai Pilger/Unsplash]

Those convenient food delivery apps are not so convenient for restaurants. New York’s City Council is poised to introduce a legislative package that aims to regulate their ballooning fees and commissions, making it one of the first cities in the country to push back on these middlemen apps.

The New York Times reports that, should the legislation pass, delivery apps such as Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash, and Postmates will be capped at charging restaurants no more than 10%  commissions (current charges are often between 15% and 30%) and require licenses through the city, which could be revoked for infringements. The guidelines would apply only to apps that deliver for more than 20 separately owned restaurants. The bills will undergo a public hearing in April.

Grubhub dominates two-thirds of the New York market, while DoorDash and Uber Eats are in a dead heat for 15%. Nationwide, DoorDash accounts for 38% of meal deliveries, and Grubhub 31%. But although they’ve come to dominate the restaurant industry, these apps have struggled with their business models. Postmates delayed a planned 2019 IPO after lackluster starts from Uber and Lyft; Grubhub reported wider-than-expected fourth-quarter losses earlier this month; and Softbank-funded DoorDash is now preparing for an IPO, after merger talks with Uber reportedly fell through last year.

Complaints of well-funded apps pillaging their brick-and-mortar partners are not unique to food delivery. ClassPass, the fitness studio app, is facing similar accusations.

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DoorDash has taken the first steps toward filing for its IPO

DoorDash has taken the first steps toward filing for its IPO
[Photo: Brett Jordan /Unsplash]

Popular food delivery service DoorDash has announced that it’s taken its first steps to file for its upcoming initial public offering. In a brief statement, the company said on Thursday that it has submitted a draft registration statement on Form S-1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission:

DoorDash today announced that it has confidentially submitted a draft registration statement on Form S-1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) relating to the proposed initial public offering of its common stock. The number of shares to be offered and the price range for the proposed offering have not yet been determined. The initial public offering is expected to take place after the SEC completes its review process, subject to market and other conditions.

DoorDash’s draft submission comes months after the company was valued at $13 billion late last year. It also happens to occur on the same day the New York City Council announced six bills proposing limiting the caps food delivery services like DoorDash can charge food establishments. If similar cities follow suit, caps on fees DoorDash could charge establishments could severely impact its bottom line.

So when will DoorDash actually have its IPO? That’s uncertain for now. First, the SEC needs to review DoorDash’s Form S-1 statement and until that happens, even DoorDash can’t say when its stock will IPO.

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Reddit’s CEO calls TikTok ‘parasitic,’ ‘terrifying,’ and ‘spyware’

Reddit’s CEO calls TikTok ‘parasitic,’ ‘terrifying,’ and ‘spyware’
[Photo: Cody Glenn/Web Summit via Sportsfile/Flickr]

It’s the social media app taking the world by storm, but Reddit’s cofounder and CEO Steve Huffman didn’t have kind words for the hottest app made in China. Speaking at the Social 2030 conference, which TechCrunch reports aims to spot trends in social media that will shape the next 10 years, Huffman weighed in when asked if startups had something to learn from TikTok:

Maybe I’m going to regret this, but I can’t even get to that level of thinking with them. Because I look at that app as so fundamentally parasitic, that it’s always listening, the fingerprinting technology they use is truly terrifying, and I could not bring myself to install an app like that on my phone.

The Reddit CEO later added: “I actively tell people, ‘Don’t install that spyware on your phone.'”

While Huffman’s words are harsh, he’s not alone in his criticism of the app. Tiktok has been under siege from all sides by privacy advocates for its data collection policies. Last year the company got hit by a $5.7 million fine from the FTC for illegally collecting children’s data. Since then the app is even reported to be under National Security review to see if it’s a threat to American interests.

In response to Fast Company’s request for a comment on Huffman’s remarks, a TikTok spokesperson replied: “These are baseless accusations made without a shred of evidence.”

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Panera debuts $9/month unlimited coffee and tea subscription

Panera debuts $9/month unlimited coffee and tea subscription
[Photo: courtesy of Panera Bread]

Just when coffee culture couldn’t get more obsessive, Panera is launching the ultimate bottomless cup with an $8.99/month subscription for unlimited coffee and tea.

The deal: Subscribers can get one cup of hot drip coffee, hot tea or iced coffee every two hours, unlimited. Light roast, dark roast, hazelnut, iced or decaf coffee, as well as tea, are available—ordered through the app, online or in-store. Sign up here now, or at in-store kiosks starting on March 2nd.

Fair warning. Though Panera is pitching the subscription as a way for you to save money on coffee, Panera’s 150 test locations over the last three months saw subscribers visit three times more frequently and purchase 70% more in add-on items than the average customer. In other words, watch your wallet. These metrics, in addition to a surge of new customers, are inspiring Panera’s quick nationwide rollout.

How can Panera afford this? Unlike most coffee chains, their current coffee business is small and able to accommodate a quick expansion. Panera locations are also suburban and mostly accessible only by car—therefore not at risk of the foot-traffic deluge that overwhelms urban coffee chains. The company hopes to expand its customer traffic, and particularly its breakfast business, which is a growth area throughout the industry.

Do other restaurants do subscriptions? Panera is the first nationwide restaurant to offer a coffee subscription. Subscription models have been slowly creeping into the food industry, first with Blue Apron and Hello Fresh. Many delivery services, including DoorDash, PostMates and GrubHub (as of yesterday) have memberships for free deliveries and other perks for around $10/month. Local restaurant subscriptions do exist, such as a four-location chain in St. Paul that offers one menu item per day for $99/month.

Will this be popular? Hell yeah. Panera’s tests in four markets showed an over-90% retention rate.

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Apple just lost its VP of manufacturing design, while another ops exec is looking to leave

Apple just lost its VP of manufacturing design, while another ops exec is looking to leave
[Photo: Flickr user Synthesis Studios]

Apple has just lost one veteran executive, with another veteran exec looking to depart soon, reports Bloomberg. Nick Forlenza, one of the company’s VPs of manufacturing design has left the company due to retirement. Forlenza’s “manufacturing design” title doesn’t mean he had the responsibility of designing Apple products, rather his position was an operations role, which is responsible for the production processes for manufacturing Apple’s devices.

The other exec Bloomberg says will soon depart is Duco Pasmooij, a longtime operations VP at the company who in recent years has moved to the company’s augmented reality division. As an operations VP, Pasmooij spent years overseeing product operations related to the iPhone.

Forlenza’s and Pasmooij’s roles are critical in supply chain management—an area that is particularly vulnerable right now given Trump’s trade tariffs with China and the spread of the coronavirus impacting operations at manufacturing facilities overseas. However, Bloomberg reports that neither of those situations are responsible for the two execs’ exits. Apple currently has around 100 vice presidents who report to CEO Tim Cook and other senior executives.

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President Trump’s reelection campaign is suing a familiar target: The New York Times

President Trump’s reelection campaign is suing a familiar target: The New York Times
[Photos: tacskooo/Pixabay; Flickr user Gage Skidmore]

President Trump’s reelection campaign is suing The New York Times for libel over an opinion piece the paper published in March 2019, titled The Real Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo.

The piece, written by former Times executive editor Max Frankel, argues that it was no coincidence that U.S.-Russia relations changed under Trump after Russian actors targeted Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. “The [Trump] campaign and the Kremlin had an overarching deal,” alleges the summarizing sub-headline of the story, to “help beat Hillary Clinton for a new pro-Russian foreign policy,” regardless of whether it was explicitly spelled out.

The president’s campaign says that it wants to “hold the news organization accountable for intentionally publishing false statements against President Trump’s campaign,” according to a statement published by Reuters. It also alleges that the Times was eager to “improperly influence” the 2020 presidential election, a claim that falls in line with the president’s ongoing attacks on media organizations, which he’s called “the enemy of the American people.”

The Times responded shortly after the suit was filed on Wednesday. “The Trump campaign has turned to the courts to try to punish an opinion writer for having an opinion they find unacceptable,” Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman, said in a statement. “Fortunately, the law protects the right of Americans to express their judgments and conclusions, especially about events of public importance,” Murphy added. “We look forward to vindicating that right in this case.”

Like the Times, or any large publisher, Trump is no stranger to libel lawsuits. In 2011, he lost a complaint against an author who called Trump a millionaire instead of a billionaire. The Times itself helped shape libel law, and the bar would certainly be high to win a suit against arguably the most famous person in the world. Given the president’s keen interest in his press clippings, particularly in his hometown newspaper, it’s possible that the president’s team simply aims to discourage negative coverage rather than challenge a single opinion story, long since forgotten, that was published more than 10 months ago.

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Scotland becomes first to make pads and tampons free for all women

Scotland becomes first to make pads and tampons free for all women
[Photo: Josefin/Unsplash]

Another reason to visit and love Scotland: yesterday the country’s parliament voted almost unanimously to make women’s sanitary products freely available. Scottish women will be able to pick up tampons and pads at places like pharmacies and community centers.

The Period Products (Free Provision) Scotland bill, which is expected to pass through its remaining legislative hurdles, is a “real signal to people in this country about how seriously parliament takes gender equality,” said the bill’s proposer, parliament member Monica Lennon. Two years ago, Scotland began providing free sanitary products to schools and universities.

Women typically spend over $2000 on sanitary products. A 2018 survey by Young Scot found that a quarter of young women struggled to afford sanitary products, a common scenario known as “period poverty.”

Tampon and pad prices have long been a political issue in the U.K. due to the so-called Tampon Tax, the 5% tax rate on sanitary products, a rate set by the EU. You can read a bloody wonderful BBC summary of all things related to the public interest and tampons, here.

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Controversial facial recognition company Clearview AI just had its entire client list stolen

Controversial facial recognition company Clearview AI just had its entire client list stolen
[Photo: Miłosz Klinowski/Unsplash]

Clearview AI, the New York City-based facial recognition company, has had its entire client base list stolen by hackers, reports The Daily Beast. The list contains all the names of the customers of the controversial AI company and is sure to be the biggest scandal yet the company has faced since its founding in 2017.

In recent months, Clearview AI has been attacked from all sides by lawmakers, tech giants, and privacy advocates for its business practices, which include scraping public images of people from sites like LinkedIn, Venmo, Facebook, and YouTube. Clearview AI’s systems then allow clients to search for people in its database using these scraped images.

While several law enforcement agencies are known to use Clearview AI’s services, the breach of its entire client list may cause some embarrassment for organizations using its services who wish to remain unknown. As of now, however, it looks like Clearview AI’s client list hasn’t been made public—at least not yet.

Clearview AI made the disclosure of the breach in an email to clients, saying an intruder “gained unauthorized access” to the client list. When the Daily Beast contacted the company about the breach, Tor Ekeland, the company’s attorney said in a statement, “Security is Clearview’s top priority. Unfortunately, data breaches are part of life in the 21st century. Our servers were never accessed. We patched the flaw, and continue to work to strengthen our security.”

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Google announces $10 billion investment in dozens of states across the country

Google announces $10 billion investment in dozens of states across the country
[Photos: Kai Wenzel/Unsplash; Flickr user Nguyen Hung Vu]

Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai kicked off the morning at 6:04am with a $10 billion bang—tweeting that the company is planning to invest that much money in offices and data centers in dozens of states this year.

Long criticized for helping turn the Bay Area into an unaffordable playground that even rank-and-file tech company employees can’t afford, Pichai’s announcement is carefully crafted to position Google as a nationwide employer (“Google has a presence in 26 states”) with investments that will create thousands of jobs ranging from construction gigs to Google staff jobs to local business opportunities. “Everywhere we invest, we strive to create meaningful opportunities for local communities.” The announcement also repeats Google’s June-of-last-year commitment to invest $1 billion in Bay Area housing.

Plenty of new activity will be in the South, with growing offices and engineering teams in Atlanta, and expanded offices and data  centers in Texas, Alabama, South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee. Other notable expansions will be in Colorado, New York, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, California, Washington, Nebraska and Massachusetts. Google will also expand existing offices in cities like Detroit. Read the full plans here.

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