Under Fire and Losing Trust, Facebook Plays the Victim

On Tuesday morning, Facebook employees were quiet even for Facebook employees, buried in the news on their phones as they shuffled to a meeting in one of the largest cafeterias at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Mark Zuckerberg, their chief executive officer, had always told them Facebook Inc.’s growth was good for the world. Sheryl Sandberg, their chief operating officer, had preached the importance of openness. Neither appeared in the cafeteria on Tuesday. Instead, the company sent a lawyer.

The context: Reports in the  and thethe previous weekend that Cambridge Analytica, the political consulting firm that advised President Trump’s electoral campaign on digital advertising, had effectively stolen personal information from at least 50 million Americans. The data had come from Facebook, which had allowed an outside developer to take it before that developer shared it with Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook tried to get ahead of the story, announcing in a blog post that it was suspending the right-leaning consultancy and that it no longer allowed this kind of data sharing. Its users—a cohort that includes 2 billion or so people—weren’t ready to forgive. The phrase #DeleteFacebook flooded social media. (Among the outraged was WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton, who in 2014 sold Facebook his messaging app for $19 billion.) Regulators in the U.S. and Europe announced they were opening inquiries. The company’s stock fell almost 9 percent from March 19-20, erasing about $50 billion of value.

QuicktakeFacebook and Cambridge Analytica

In most moments of crisis for the company, Zuckerberg or Sandberg have typically played damage-controller-in-chief. This time, the employees got all of 30 minutes with Paul Grewal, the deputy general counsel. the news reports were true—a blame-deflecting phrase that struck some as odd—Grewal told them, Facebook had been lied to. Cambridge Analytica should have deleted the outside developer’s data, but it didn’t. Reporters were calling this a breach, but it wasn’t, because users freely signed away their own data and that of their friends. The rules were clear, and Facebook followed them.

One employee asked the same question twice: Even if Facebook played by its own rules, and the developer followed policies at the time, did the company ever consider the ethics of what it was doing with user data? Grewal didn’t answer directly.

A Facebook spokesman declined to comment for this story, referring to a January post by Zuckerberg stating the CEO’s aim to get the company on a “better trajectory.” On Wednesday afternoon, Zuckerberg published a post promising to audit and restrict developer access to user data. “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can't then we don't deserve to serve you,” he wrote. “I've been working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn't happen again.”

Read more: Silicon Valley Has Failed to Protect Our Data. Here’s How to Fix It

Of course, Facebook has weathered complaints about violating user privacy since its earliest days without radically altering its practices. The first revolt came in 2006, when users protested that the service’s news feed was making public information that the users had intended to keep private. The news feed is now the company’s core service. In 2009, Facebook began making users’ posts, which had previously been private, public by default. That incident triggered anger, confusion, an investigation by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, and, ultimately, a consent decree. In 2014, the company disclosed that it had tried to manipulate users’ emotions as part of an internal psychology experiment.

As bad as each of these may have seemed, Facebook users have generally been unfazed. They’ve used the service in ever-greater numbers for greater amounts of time, in effect trading privacy for product. They were willing to give more and more data to Facebook in exchange for the ability to connect with old high school friends, see pictures of their grandkids, read only the news that they agree with. The concept was dubbed Zuckerberg’s Law in 2008, when the CEO argued at a conference that each year people would share twice as much information about themselves as they had the year before. Notions of privacy were eroding, Zuckerberg said in 2010. “That social norm,” he added, “is just something that has evolved over time.”

For a while, the only thing Facebook needed to do to keep growing was to remove barriers to downloading and using the product. By 2014, it had reached almost half the world’s internet-connected population, and Zuckerberg realized the only way to expand further was to add people to the internet. While Facebook invested in internet subsidy programs in developing countries, it also went on an acquisition binge, buying up popular social software makers such as Instagram and WhatsApp.

These moves led to annual revenue growth of about 50 percent, with most of the increase coming from mobile ads, and converted the company’s Wall Street doubters. Last year, even as Facebook was forced to acknowledge that it had played a role in the Russian disinformation campaign during the election of Trump, investors pushed its stock price up 53 percent.

But the big blue app, as employees call Facebook’s namesake service, hasn’t changed much in years. The company has tweaked its algorithm, at times favoring or punishing clickbait-style news and viral videos, but most people use the service the same way they did two or three years ago. And some people are simply over it. In North America, Facebook’s daily user counts fell for the first time in the fourth quarter, and time spent on the site declined by 50 million hours a day. Facebook claimed that this was by design: Zuckerberg was focusing on helping users achieve “time well-spent,” with the news feed de-emphasizing viral flotsam.

The company positioned its new algorithmic initiative as a reaction to a study co-authored by one of its employees, arguing that while Facebook could be bad for users' mental health if they used it passively, more active use was actually good for you. The study could be viewed as a rare show of corporate transparency or a novel way to goose engagement.

Some of the moves, however, look even more desperate. Now, when people stop going on Facebook as often as usual, the company sends them frequent emails and text messages to encourage them to re-engage. It’s also getting more aggressive about suggesting what users should post.  According to some employees, the focus on time well-spent just means the company will point to metrics such as comments and personal updates as signs of growth, rather than genuinely improving the user experience.

In the long run, Facebook wants to make its product even more immersive and personal than it is now. It wants people to buy video chatting and personal assistant devices for their homes, and plans to announce those products this spring, say people familiar with the matter. It wants users to dive into Facebook-developed virtual worlds. It wants them to use Facebook Messenger to communicate with businesses, and to store their credit-card data on the app so they can use it to make payments to friends.

Employees have begun to worry that the company won’t be able to achieve its biggest goals if users decide that Facebook isn’t trustworthy enough to hold their data. At the meeting on Tuesday, the mood was especially grim. One employee told a reporter that the only time he’d felt as uncomfortable at work, or as responsible for the world’s problems, was the day Donald Trump won the presidency.

BOTTOM LINE – As its share price tanks and regulators circle, Facebook is struggling to answer basic questions about its next moves, even from its own employees.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-21/under-fire-and-losing-trust-facebook-plays-the-victim

Ashton Kutcher landed in hospital after following Steve Jobs’s fruitarian diet

Ben Child: Actor speaks of 'terrifying' health ordeal at the Sundance premiere of the Apple founder's biopic

Christian Bale is rumoured to have lived on coffee and one apple a day to achieve his emaciated physique in The Machinist. But not everyone is suited to unorthodox diets, as Ashton Kutcher discovered after adopting the late Steve Jobs’s fruitarian regimen in preparation for a new biopic of the technology magnate.

Speaking at the premiere of Jobs at the Sundance film festival on Friday night, Kutcher revealed that he went to hospital with pancreas problems after following a strict diet of fruit, nuts and seeds. Jobs, who was often reported to be a fruitarian, died of pancreatic cancer in October last year.

“First of all, the fruitarian diet can lead to, like, severe issues,” Kutcher told USA Today. “I went to the hospital like two days before we started shooting the movie. I was like doubled over in pain. My pancreas levels were completely out of whack. It was really terrifying considering everything.”

Kutcher also revealed that he spent hundreds of hours studying tapes of Jobs in an effort to accurately replicate his hunched walk and mannerisms. The actor said that he felt close to the Apple founder as they shared a fascination for “tech space”. He also revealed an admiration for his subject’s ability to bounce back after periods of struggle.

“He’s a guy that failed and got back on the horse,” said Kutcher. “I think we can all sort of relate to that in some place in our life where we are moving forward with something and we fall down. You have to have the guts to get back up and go again. I think I share that as well.”

Jobs, which covers the period from Apple’s founding in a garage in Palo Alto, California to the launch of the iPod in 2001, has so far received a lukewarm response from critics. Variety’s Justin Chang said Joshua Michael Stern’s film “more or less embodies the sort of bland, go-with-the-flow creative thinking Jobs himself would have scorned”, while CNET’s Casey Newton was unimpressed by a movie in which “the viewer spends two hours watching cardboard cutouts lose arguments to Ashton Kutcher”. Indiewire’s Eric Kohn, however, praised “Kutcher’s committed performance, certainly his most impressive turn in years, which conveys the character’s focused, manipulative intentions in each calculated look”.

Aaron Sorkin, the Oscar-winning writer of The Social Network, is planning a separate biopic based on Walter Isaacson’s bestselling official biography of Jobs. Sorkin’s version will reportedly comprise just three extended scenes, each capturing a point just before a vital product launch in order to portray Jobs and his biggest successes.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/jan/28/ashton-kutcher-hospital-steve-jobs-diet

Meet the tech evangelist who now fears for our mental health

Belinda Parmar was a passionate advocate of the digital revolution but has started keeping her familys smartphones and laptops locked away to protect her loved ones. Is she right to be so worried?

In Belinda Parmars bedroom there is a wardrobe, and inside that wardrobe there is a safe. Inside that safe is not jewellery or cash or personal documents, but devices: mobile phones, a laptop, an iPod, chargers and remote controls. Seven years ago, Parmar was the high priestess of tech empowerment. Founder of the consultancy Lady Geek, she saw it as her mission both to make tech work better for girls and women and to get more girls and women working for tech. Now she wants to talk about the damage it can cause to our mental health, to family life and to children, including her son Jedd, 11, and daughter Rocca, 10.

Parmar made her living and lived her life through these devices, so what happened to make her lock them up? Why did this tech evangelist lose her faith?

Strong women run in Parmars family. She tells me her mother raised her and her sister alone after separating from their father when Parmar was two (shes now 44 and recently separated herself), while her grandmother, who had four children, ran her own business, a recruitment firm in Mile End, east London. She grew up believing anything was possible, which is why she felt driven to start Lady Geek when she was 35, after a man in a phone shop tried to sell her a pink, sparkly phone. That was the way technology was sold and I thought: This is ridiculous. I was so angry that I went home and started a blog, she says.

The blog was called Lady Geek, and it launched a national conversation about sexism in the tech industry. Parmar left her job in advertising to turn it into a business, advising tech companies how to make their products better for women, and going into schools to encourage girls to go into the industry, for which she was awarded an OBE. For me, tech was a leveller, she says. You didnt need money, you didnt need status; it was an enabler of a more equal and more diverse society. This tiny bubble that most of us lived in had been popped and that was wonderful. That still is wonderful.

But certain aspects of her relationship with technology were not so wonderful. Id wake up and look at Twitter, she says. I had two small children, and the first thing I should have been doing was going to see the kids, but Id be looking at Twitter. She realised she was using social media for validation, to feed her ego. She began to think: If technology is an enabler, why am I just using it for things I dont like about myself?

As her children grew up, she started to be disturbed by her sons apparent compulsion to play video games. Technology takes parents out of control. I cant compete with an amazing monster, that level of dopamine. He doesnt want to eat with us, to be with us, because its not as exciting, she says. She bought a Circle, a device that allows you to manage the whole familys internet access, controlling which devices are online at which times and what they can view. My son hid it, she says. She tried to turn the wifi off, but he stood guarding it, blocking her way. She still does not know where the Circle is. In theory, she says, if youve got compliant children, this would be perfect. Perhaps that is why her combination to the safe, with his devices and hers, is 12 digits long.

Safe
Safe keeping … Parmar locks her devices in for the night. Photograph: Teri Pengilley for the Guardian

She has reason to worry. When a friends 12-year-old son showed signs of being addicted to video games, Parmar at first shrugged it off. Then he refused to go to school because he wanted to play all day, and then he spent eight weeks in a psychiatric institution. Hes 15 now. Nothings changed. He still wont go to school, she says.

Professor Mark Griffiths, a psychologist and director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University, has spent 30 years studying technological addictions; he was the first to use that phrase in 1995, to describe excessive person-machine relationships. All behaviour is on a continuum from absolutely no problems at all, he says, through to recreationally enjoying something, to excessively enjoying something, to problematic and then addictive and pathological at the far end. For someone to be genuinely addicted to technology, that technology has to be the single most important thing in their life they do it to the neglect of everything else and very few people fulfil that.

He is prolific (helped, he says, by having given up his mobile phone), publishing more than 100 papers last year alone his most recent was on Instagram addiction. But he has his doubters. There are academics wholl say this is complete nonsense, that if it doesnt involve ingestion of a psychoactive substance it cant possibly be an addiction. To that he retorts: what about gambling? What is good for me is the established bodies are catching up, he says. This year, the World Health Organization added gaming disorder to its list of mental health conditions in ICD-11, the International Classification of Diseases.

Griffiths is careful to articulate the difference between believing that technological addictions are real, and believing that they are ubiquitous. Addiction is defined not by the amount of time spent doing the activity, but by the context in which you do it. Parents tend to pathologise behaviour that isnt pathological its the technological generation gap, he says. Every week, concerned parents email him to say their daughter or son is addicted to social media, and when he asks if their children do their homework and chores, take exercise and have a wide network of friends, nearly always the answer is yes. But, they say, the kids are wasting three hours a day online. What were you doing when you were their age? Because I was watching TV for three hours a day when there were only three channels. And then there are the parents who use social media just as much as their kids, and who shouldnt be surprised when kids end up copying exactly what they are doing.

While it may be reassuring that few of us would qualify as addicts by Griffiths definition, the fashion for tech detoxes, and a recent survey that found that 75% of those aged 25 to 34 feel they use their phone too much, suggests many of us remain disturbed by our increasingly entwined relationship with technology. Richard Graham, a child and adolescent psychiatrist who runs the Tech Addiction Service at Londons private Nightingale hospital, tells me: Were psychologically cyborgs now, whether we like it or not. Were integrating these devices into our mental functioning, into our social and emotional lives. He quotes Chief Justice Roberts of the US supreme court: The proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy.

While Graham feels the addiction model has its uses, he also draws on other ways of thinking about what is going on when we cant look away from a screen. He tells me about the student who decided to wind down one evening by playing a game of League of Legends, which would take about 40 minutes; the next time he looked at the clock, it was 5.30am. To explore this, Graham turned to flow psychology, a way of understanding the process of getting into the zone around a piece of work, which can be positive but can also make you lose track of space and time. This is not escapism: A lot of gamers are thinking strategically, in a very deep way. He is also interested in the idea of hyperfocus, which some people with ADHD experience, as not so much a problem of not being able to concentrate, but of not being able to shift concentration.

He was influenced, too, by the work of Sherry Turkle, a social psychologist who has been researching the relationship between people and technology for three decades. Some of the participants in her studies, he says, were so attached to their consoles that they even found winning upsetting because it disrupts the connection with the machine. Theres a sense that they keep going because they dont want that connection to be lost. A psychoanalyst might compare this to the unconscious desire to be back in the womb, in a state of absolute connection.

For young people on the brink of or enduring the horrors of adolescence, like Belindas son, Graham feels there could be something else going on: an identity crisis, trying to find a place in the world of near-adults. For these young people, games and social media arent just fun theyre business. Whether they monetise their YouTube channel or not, this is a way to succeed, to harness digital capital and turn it into self-esteem. Griffiths suggests that screens might even be one of the reasons for the drop in youth crime over the past 25 years: More youth are spending more time in front of technology, so they havent got time to go out and commit acquisitive crime. Being very engrossing isnt necessarily bad.

These experts agree that abstinence is not the way forward: instead, we need to build what they call digital resilience, and learn to use technology in a measured, controlled way. If someone goes diving and is deeply immersed in the ocean, Graham says, you cant just bring them up quickly without significant effect. So rather than talking about digital detox, we need to think about digital decompression.

He recommends the American Academy of Pediatrics family media plan, which tells you how much sleep you need, and schedules a period of no-screen time an hour before bed, as well as clean periods in your day and clean zones in your home. I think it can really help if everyone does it together. But adults can be more slippery than young people. Theyll say: I need my phone for work, for my alarm. Unfortunately, with adolescents, anything like that smacks of hypocrisy and is incredibly damaging.

Young people can be responsive when adults change their own behaviour, he says. I had quite a nice discussion with a young man and his mother. She told me she only has a Kindle, and I replied that the later models will disrupt your sleep as much as anything else. This absolutely thrilled the adolescent, who was much more willing to change his behaviour because Id caught his mum out. And she was up for changing, too.

Parmar realises she has to set an example. I love technology, but my own behaviour has changed because Im more self-aware, she says. Hence her devices being in the safe, along with her sons. But looking around her sunlit bedroom, I see a laptop on the desk, a tablet next to her pillow. So your bedroom isnt screen-free, then, I say. She looks reflective, perhaps a little sheepish, and acknowledges that she likes to watch things on her tablet once the kids have gone to bed. Shes still figuring things out, still coming to terms with the tough decisions we all need to make if we want to be more in control of our relationship with technology.

These are the conversations Parmar wants us to have, which is why she is launching a campaign and website, TheTruthAboutTech.com (no relation to a similarly named American campaign), that will offer practical tips and a space for people to share their stories. This is my new mission. And I tell you what: dealing with my son every day, it reminds me, this is personal. This is really personal.

She also wants to hold to account the tech giants who are profiting from our over-engagement. She raises her voice: I want to say, youve got to be more responsible. You can still make billions, but you should be thinking about how can you bring all the human values we want as a society into your products. She is furious with Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, who last year said the companys main competitor was not Amazon Video or YouTube, but sleep. That is disgraceful. He should be saying: My No 1 mission is to unite families in their living room around great content.

These companies, she says, are the most powerful brands in the world, more powerful than governments. Imagine if a government had said that. Theyre digital dictators, and part of this campaign is getting them to stand up and be accountable. And what does that mean? It means rethinking Snapchats streaks, which track how long users have been in daily communication, keeping them checking in for fear of losing out; it means rethinking YouTubes Up next queue, which automatically plays video after video; it means addiction ratings on video games. And thats barely scratching the surface.

How does she feel about her previous work, spreading the benefits of tech with no mention of its dangers? I think I was naive, she says. I didnt know enough. I feel good about the fact that I got more women into technology, but if I did it again, I would do it in a way that is more realistic, balancing the good and the bad.

I cant stop thinking about that safe. After all, a safe is built to protect our most precious possessions or to lock up our most dangerous weapons. It feels extraordinary that something so everyday, so anodyne as a mobile phone could have such unnerving value, such threatening power. With their influence and wealth, why would the tech giants change from digital dictators to enlightened despots?

Parmar believes commercial pressures will compel them two influential Apple shareholders are already threatening to sue the company for not limiting screen time. Graham proposes a darker alternative: We could edge towards the equivalent of a parasite that drains its host so much that it kills itself, along with the host. He doesnt mean that these technology companies and their products will actually kill us, of course. But if its this relentless, the so-called attention economy will fall down, because well all be too exhausted.

Build your digital resilience

Four tips from addiction expert Richard Graham.

1 Be united as a family. Use the American Academy of Pediatrics family media plan but remember: The whole family needs to buy into this.

2 Plan activities outside the home. Go to the cinema, for example. Its a shared experience, and theres a narrative to stoke the imagination.

3 Vary your digital diet. People get stuck in very simple diets of media consumption, using the same platforms, games and messaging apps. Using different platforms is important its about moving between them and having a sense of ease of being able to do something, then stop and move on.

4 Live healthily. Sleep enough, eat well, drink enough water and do some physical activity every day.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/mar/15/meet-the-tech-evangelist-who-now-fears-for-our-mental-health

Heres Why Trump Went Postal on Amazon

Here’s Why Trump Went Postal on Amazon

The Amazon blame game took another turn on Thursday, when President Donald Trump spun the wheel back around to the U.S. Postal Service. Amazon.com Inc. is a convenient scapegoat for just about any issue. The mail is no different.

Amazon isn’t killing the post office. Since signing a landmark contract in 2013 to expand their business relationship and deliver packages on Sunday, revenue has ticked up; losses are down; and shipping is just about the only growth segment in the mailbag. The Postal Service is saddled by larger issues. Sure, there’s the internet, and nobody is sending postcards anymore, but the big financial dilemma is the agency’s yearly obligation to set aside cash to cover health care costs for future retirees. This accounts for billions in losses.

Give Up?

U.S. Postal Service makes small improvements but is nowhere close to sustainable

Source: U.S. Postal Service

U.S. mail is also required to cover every American, employing carriers who roam neighborhoods six days a week (or seven, if Amazon has a package ready). The Postal Service has said it actually makes money on the Amazon deal. E-commerce revenue provides “essential support to pay for the network and infrastructure that enables us to fulfill our universal service obligation,” David Partenheimer, a spokesman for the Postal Service, wrote in a January op-ed. “All users of the mail benefit.”

The Amazonification of U.S. Mail

Shipping revenue overtook junk mail for the first time last year

Source: U.S. Postal Service

Amazon rebuilt its delivery network around the post several years ago. The company operates “sortation centers” that complement warehouses and organize packages by zip code before sending them to post offices for the final leg of delivery. In Kenosha, Wisconsin, Amazon has a million-square-foot warehouse, connected to a 500,000-square-foot sort center with a covered conveyor belt that resembles an airport skybridge.

Ending the U.S. mail relationship would probably be a bigger setback for Amazon than for the Postal Service. On a dark day in late 2011 when the postmaster general proposed cutting 100,000 staff and shutting thousands of post offices, EBay Inc. shares dropped more than 6 percent. Amazon’s deal came soon after, and radical cuts were avoided—probably not a coincidence.

So the e-commerce giant got the Postal Service off life support, but any benefit beyond that is minimal. Nothing short of a complete overhaul of the mail system, some kind of bankruptcy-style financial restructuring or reneging on those health-care promises would turn the Postal Service into a sustainable business.

Maybe that’s Trump’s goal. Building an antitrust case against Amazon—an idea the President has floated—is a tall order. Amazon’s five-year contract with the Postal Service could be up for renewal this year. Breaking up that relationship would be an easier way for Trump to inflict pain on the #AmazonWashingtonPost, as he calls it.

Fully Charged

And here’s what you need to know in global technology news

A Facebook executive advocated for a grow-at-all-costs mentality in a controversial 2016 memo. BuzzFeed obtained a copy of the staff email from longtime executive Andrew Bosworth, which said deaths or terrorist attacks shouldn’t get in the way of the company’s mission to connect people.

Google is helping shape the future of U.S. wireless networks. The company’s plan to overhaul how valuable airwaves are used for calls and texts is gaining momentum.

Tesla is recalling about 123,000 cars. The voluntary recall affects all Model S sedans built before April 2016, capping the automaker’s worst month-long performance on the stock market since 2010.

Microsoft unveiled its biggest reorganization in years. Devices and software will live together, and Windows is now part of the cloud division. Windows chief Terry Myerson will depart as part of sweeping changes by CEO Satya Nadella.

The man who steadied Twitter wants to sell you a mortgage. As CEO of student-loan refinancer SoFi, Anthony Noto has to upsell the company’s high-earning clientele and fend off Goldman Sachs.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-30/here-s-why-trump-went-postal-on-amazon

JPMorgan Brings Amazons Alexa to Wall Street Trading Floors

  • Voice-activated assistant can now send reports from analysts
  • Other firms such as New York Life using it to help employees

“Alexa, ask JPMorgan what the price target for Apple is.”

It’s a request that JPMorgan Chase & Co. institutional clients can now get quickly answered through Amazon.com Inc.’s ubiquitous voice-activated assistant. The bank and the e-commerce giant have partnered to provide JPMorgan’s Wall Street users with another way to access its research. Alexa is able to send analysts’ reports and related queries, and the bank is testing other features, like providing prices on bonds or swaps, according to David Hudson, global head of markets execution for the New York-based bank.

Voice assistants are “clearly becoming something people are habituated to in their lives,” Hudson said. “It’s about taking information that’s somewhere in the bank, that someone has to generally go and look for, or which is time-consuming or requires authentication to get, and putting that to you in another channel.”

As clients’ habits evolve, firms have been finding ways to adapt popular retail technologies for the business world. While JPMorgan is one of the first to push the Alexa virtual assistant to institutional shops, other banks have been using the service in their consumer operations. And New York Life Insurance Co. is among financial companies building programs that use Alexa as a tool for employees.

12,000 Agents

Customers are becoming increasingly willing to use voice assistants to monitor accounts, according to a survey conducted last year by Bain & Co. While 6 percent of U.S. respondents now use the technology, 27 percent are open to it, according to the consultant.

Capital One Financial Corp. was the first bank to allow customers to manage credit card and bank accounts through the voice assistant, and the lender has slowly expanded its Alexa service, allowing people to ask questions like how much they spent on Amazon last week.

New York Life will start rolling out Alexa features to its 12,000 agents later this year to help them get quick details on policies and prepare for meetings, said Mark Madgett, who leads the insurer’s field force of agents. That means the agents can ask Alexa to figure out how much life insurance a customer has or the value of those policies, or to catch them up on the latest products the firm is offering, he said.

“This is a very complicated business,” Madgett said. “When I started 32 years ago, I had five products that I could help solve problems with. Today there are thousands of permutations around financial solutions.”

New ’Skill’

JPMorgan’s automated service, known in Amazon verbiage as a “skill,” is the latest shared project for the biggest U.S. bank and the world’s largest online retailer. Amazon already leases cloud-computing power to JPMorgan and has asked the bank to compete in creating new products including a small-business credit card for its customers. The companies are also collaborating on a health-care venture.

Read more: JPMorgan-Amazon health venture goes beyond squeezing middlemen

JPMorgan’s Alexa project started last year as part of an internal competition to foster innovation. The bank first opened up data in its research group and added feeds from other departments, including banking and custody and fund services — capabilities now being tested internally. If the automated service takes off, it should free the firm’s salespeople from having to answer routine queries.

JPMorgan has seen that clients are open to new ways of interacting with technology. Not long after the bank created mobile apps for its trading business, it was recording large trades, including a $400 million currency bet last year. So allowing Alexa users to access JPMorgan data from wherever they choose to work — home, office or on the go — makes sense.

The next step is enabling institutional clients to act on the information they’re getting. In the not-so-distant future, Wall Street traders could routinely use Alexa to execute trades, according to Hudson. But the bank needs to do more work on client authentication and other security measures to prevent errant trades before that happens, he said.

“In the open-office environment, if you leave an Alexa on your desk plugged into an Amazon account, you might find a TV delivered tomorrow as a practical joke,” Hudson said.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-26/jpmorgan-brings-amazon-s-alexa-to-wall-street-trading-floors

I made Steve Bannons psychological warfare tool: meet the data war whistleblower

Christopher Wylie goes on the record to discuss his role in hijacking the profiles of millions of Facebook users in order to target the US electorate

The first time I met Christopher Wylie, he didnt yet have pink hair. That comes later. As does his mission to rewind time. To put the genie back in the bottle.

By the time I met him in person, Id already been talking to him on a daily basis for hours at a time. On the phone, he was clever, funny, bitchy, profound, intellectually ravenous, compelling. A master storyteller. A politicker. A data science nerd.

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Cambridge Analytica whistleblower: ‘We spent $1m harvesting millions of Facebook profiles’ video

Two months later, when he arrived in London from Canada, he was all those things in the flesh. And yet the flesh was impossibly young. He was 27 then (hes 28 now), a fact that has always seemed glaringly at odds with what he has done. He may have played a pivotal role in the momentous political upheavals of 2016. At the very least, he played a consequential role. At 24, he came up with an idea that led to the foundation of a company called Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm that went on to claim a major role in the Leave campaign for Britains EU membership referendum, and later became a key figure in digital operations during Donald Trumps election campaign.

Or, as Wylie describes it, he was the gay Canadian vegan who somehow ended up creating Steve Bannons psychological warfare mindfuck tool.

In 2014, Steve Bannon then executive chairman of the alt-right news network Breitbart was Wylies boss. And Robert Mercer, the secretive US hedge-fund billionaire and Republican donor, was Cambridge Analyticas investor. And the idea they bought into was to bring big data and social media to an established military methodology information operations then turn it on the US electorate.

It was Wylie who came up with that idea and oversaw its realisation. And it was Wylie who, last spring, became my source. In May 2017, I wrote an article headlined The great British Brexit robbery, which set out a skein of threads that linked Brexit to Trump to Russia. Wylie was one of a handful of individuals who provided the evidence behind it. I found him, via another Cambridge Analytica ex-employee, lying low in Canada: guilty, brooding, indignant, confused. I havent talked about this to anyone, he said at the time. And then he couldnt stop talking.

Explainer embed

By that time, Steve Bannon had become Trumps chief strategist. Cambridge Analyticas parent company, SCL, had won contracts with the US State Department and was pitching to the Pentagon, and Wylie was genuinely freaked out. Its insane, he told me one night. The company has created psychological profiles of 230 million Americans. And now they want to work with the Pentagon? Its like Nixon on steroids.

He ended up showing me a tranche of documents that laid out the secret workings behind Cambridge Analytica. And in the months following publication of my article in May,it was revealed that the company had reached out to WikiLeaks to help distribute Hillary Clintons stolen emails in 2016. And then we watched as it became a subject of special counsel Robert Muellers investigation into possible Russian collusion in the US election.

The Observer also received the first of three letters from Cambridge Analytica threatening to sue Guardian News and Media for defamation. We are still only just starting to understand the maelstrom of forces that came together to create the conditions for what Mueller confirmed last month was information warfare. But Wylie offers a unique, worms-eye view of the events of 2016. Of how Facebook was hijacked, repurposed to become a theatre of war: how it became a launchpad for what seems to be an extraordinary attack on the USs democratic process.

Wylie oversaw what may have been the first critical breach. Aged 24, while studying for a PhD in fashion trend forecasting, he came up with a plan to harvest the Facebook profiles of millions of people in the US, and to use their private and personal information to create sophisticated psychological and political profiles. And then target them with political ads designed to work on their particular psychological makeup.

We broke Facebook, he says.

And he did it on behalf of his new boss, Steve Bannon.

Is it fair to say you hacked Facebook? I ask him one night.

He hesitates. Ill point out that I assumed it was entirely legal and above board.

Last month, Facebooks UK director of policy, Simon Milner, told British MPs on a select committee inquiry into fake news, chaired by Conservative MP Damian Collins, that Cambridge Analytica did not have Facebook data. The official Hansard extract reads:

Christian Matheson (MP for Chester): Have you ever passed any user information over to Cambridge Analytica or any of its associated companies?

Simon Milner: No.

Matheson: But they do hold a large chunk of Facebooks user data, dont they?

Milner: No. They may have lots of data, but it will not be Facebook user data. It may be data about people who are on Facebook that they have gathered themselves, but it is not data that we have provided.

Alexander
Alexander Nix, Cambridge Analytica CEO. Photograph: The Washington Post/Getty Images

Two weeks later, on 27 February, as part of the same parliamentary inquiry, Rebecca Pow, MP for Taunton Deane, asked Cambridge Analyticas CEO, Alexander Nix: Does any of the data come from Facebook? Nix replied: We do not work with Facebook data and we do not have Facebook data.

And through it all, Wylie and I, plus a handful of editors and a small, international group of academics and researchers, have known that at least in 2014 that certainly wasnt the case, because Wylie has the paper trail. In our first phone call, he told me he had the receipts, invoices, emails, legal letters records that showed how, between June and August 2014, the profiles of more than 50 million Facebook users had been harvested. Most damning of all, he had a letter from Facebooks own lawyers admitting that Cambridge Analytica had acquired the data illegitimately.

Going public involves an enormous amount of risk. Wylie is breaking a non-disclosure agreement and risks being sued. He is breaking the confidence of Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer.

Its taken a rollercoaster of a year to help get Wylie to a place where its possible for him to finally come forward. A year in which Cambridge Analytica has been the subject of investigations on both sides of the Atlantic Robert Muellers in the US, and separate inquiries by the Electoral Commission and the Information Commissioners Office in the UK, both triggered in February 2017, after the Observers first article in this investigation.

It has been a year, too, in which Wylie has been trying his best to rewind to undo events that he set in motion. Earlier this month, he submitted a dossier of evidence to the Information Commissioners Office and the National Crime Agencys cybercrime unit. He is now in a position to go on the record: the data nerd who came in from the cold.

There are many points where this story could begin. One is in 2012, when Wylie was 21 and working for the Liberal Democrats in the UK, then in government as junior coalition partners. His career trajectory has been, like most aspects of his life so far, extraordinary, preposterous, implausible.

Profile

Cambridge Analytica: the key players

Alexander Nix, CEO

An Old Etonian with a degree from Manchester University, Nix, 42, worked as a financial analyst in Mexico and the UK before joining SCL, a strategic communications firm, in 2003. From 2007 he took over the companys elections division, and claims to have worked on 260 campaigns globally. He set up Cambridge Analytica to work in America, with investment from RobertMercer.

Aleksandr Kogan, data miner

Aleksandr Kogan was born in Moldova and lived in Moscow until the age of seven, then moved with his family to the US, where he became a naturalised citizen. He studied at the University of California, Berkeley, and got his PhD at the University of Hong Kong before joining Cambridge as a lecturer in psychology and expert in social media psychometrics. He set up Global Science Research (GSR) to carry out CAs data research. While at Cambridge he accepted a position at St Petersburg State University, and also took Russian government grants for research. He changed his name to Spectre when he married, but later reverted to Kogan.

Steve Bannon, former board member

A former investment banker turned alt-right media svengali, Steve Bannon was boss at website Breitbart when he met Christopher Wylie and Nix and advised Robert Mercer to invest in political data research by setting up CA. In August 2016 he became Donald Trumps campaign CEO. Bannon encouraged the reality TV star to embrace the populist, economic nationalist agenda that would carry him into the White House. That earned Bannon the post of chief strategist to the president and for a while he was arguably the second most powerful man in America. By August 2017 his relationship with Trump had soured and he was out.

Robert Mercer, investor

Robert Mercer, 71, is a computer scientist and hedge fund billionaire, who used his fortune to become one of the most influential men in US politics as a top Republican donor. An AI expert, he made a fortune with quantitative trading pioneers Renaissance Technologies, then built a $60m war chest to back conservative causes by using an offshore investment vehicle to avoid US tax.

Rebekah Mercer, investor

Rebekah Mercer has a maths degree from Stanford, and worked as a trader, but her influence comes primarily from her fathers billions. The fortysomething, the second of Mercers three daughters, heads up the family foundation which channels money to rightwing groups. The conservative megadonors backed Breitbart, Bannon and, most influentially, poured millions into Trumps presidential campaign.

Wylie grew up in British Columbia and as a teenager he was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia. He left school at 16 without a single qualification. Yet at 17, he was working in the office of the leader of the Canadian opposition; at 18, he went to learn all things data from Obamas national director of targeting, which he then introduced to Canada for the Liberal party. At 19, he taught himself to code, and in 2010, age 20, he came to London to study law at the London School of Economics.

Politics is like the mob, though, he says. You never really leave. I got a call from the Lib Dems. They wanted to upgrade their databases and voter targeting. So, I combined working for them with studying for my degree.

Politics is also where he feels most comfortable. He hated school, but as an intern in the Canadian parliament he discovered a world where he could talk to adults and they would listen. He was the kid who did the internet stuff and within a year he was working for the leader of the opposition.

Hes one of the brightest people you will ever meet, a senior politician whos known Wylie since he was 20 told me. Sometimes thats a blessing and sometimes a curse.

Meanwhile, at Cambridge Universitys Psychometrics Centre, two psychologists, Michal Kosinski and David Stillwell, were experimenting with a way of studying personality by quantifying it.

Starting in 2007,Stillwell, while a student, had devised various apps for Facebook, one of which, a personality quiz called myPersonality, had gone viral. Users were scored on big five personality traits Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism and in exchange, 40% of them consented to give him access to their Facebook profiles. Suddenly, there was a way of measuring personality traits across the population and correlating scores against Facebook likes across millions of people.

An
Examples, above and below, of the visual messages trialled by GSRs online profiling test. Respondents were asked: How important should this message be to all Americans?

The research was original, groundbreaking and had obvious possibilities. They had a lot of approaches from the security services, a member of the centre told me. There was one called You Are What You Like and it was demonstrated to the intelligence services. And it showed these odd patterns; that, for example, people who liked I hate Israel on Facebook also tended to like Nike shoes and KitKats.

There are agencies that fund research on behalf of the intelligence services. And they were all over this research. That one was nicknamed Operation KitKat.

The defence and military establishment were the first to see the potential of the research. Boeing, a major US defence contractor, funded Kosinskis PhD and Darpa, the US governments secretive Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is cited in at least two academic papers supporting Kosinskis work.

But when, in 2013, the first major paper was published, others saw this potential too, including Wylie. He had finished his degree and had started his PhD in fashion forecasting, and was thinking about the Lib Dems. It is fair to say that he didnt have a clue what he was walking into.

An

I wanted to know why the Lib Dems sucked at winning elections when they used to run the country up to the end of the 19th century, Wylie explains. And I began looking at consumer and demographic data to see what united Lib Dem voters, because apart from bits of Wales and the Shetlands its weird, disparate regions. And what I found is there were no strong correlations. There was no signal in the data.

And then I came across a paper about how personality traits could be a precursor to political behaviour, and it suddenly made sense. Liberalism is correlated with high openness and low conscientiousness, and when you think of Lib Dems theyre absent-minded professors and hippies. Theyre the early adopters theyre highly open to new ideas. And it just clicked all of a sudden.

Here was a way for the party to identify potential new voters. The only problem was that the Lib Dems werent interested.

I did this presentation at which I told them they would lose half their 57 seats, and they were like: Why are you so pessimistic? They actually lost all but eight of their seats, FYI.

Another Lib Dem connection introduced Wylie to a company called SCL Group, one of whose subsidiaries, SCL Elections, would go on to create Cambridge Analytica (an incorporated venture between SCL Elections and Robert Mercer, funded by the latter). For all intents and purposes, SCL/Cambridge Analytica are one and the same.

Alexander Nix, then CEO of SCL Elections, made Wylie an offer he couldnt resist. He said: Well give you total freedom. Experiment. Come and test out all your crazy ideas.

An
Another example of the visual messages trialled by GSRs online profiling test.

In the history of bad ideas, this turned out to be one of the worst. The job was research director across the SCL group, a private contractor that has both defence and elections operations. Its defence arm was a contractor to the UKs Ministry of Defence and the USs Department of Defense, among others. Its expertise was in psychological operations or psyops changing peoples minds not through persuasion but through informational dominance, a set of techniques that includes rumour, disinformation and fake news.

SCL Elections had used a similar suite of tools in more than 200 elections around the world, mostly in undeveloped democracies that Wylie would come to realise were unequipped to defend themselves.

Wylie holds a British Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa a UK work visa given to just 200 people a year. He was working inside government (with the Lib Dems) as a political strategist with advanced data science skills. But no one, least of all him, could have predicted what came next. When he turned up at SCLs offices in Mayfair, he had no clue that he was walking into the middle of a nexus of defence and intelligence projects, private contractors and cutting-edge cyberweaponry.

The thing I think about all the time is, what if Id taken a job at Deloitte instead? They offered me one. I just think if Id taken literally any other job, Cambridge Analytica wouldnt exist. You have no idea how much I brood on this.

A few months later, in autumn 2013, Wylie met Steve Bannon. At the time, he was editor-in-chief of Breitbart, which he had brought to Britain to support his friend Nigel Farage in his mission to take Britain out of the European Union.

What was he like?

Smart, says Wylie. Interesting. Really interested in ideas. Hes the only straight man Ive ever talked to about intersectional feminist theory. He saw its relevance straightaway to the oppressions that conservative, young white men feel.

Wylie meeting Bannon was the moment petrol was poured on a flickering flame. Wylie lives for ideas. He speaks 19 to the dozen for hours at a time. He had a theory to prove. And at the time, this was a purely intellectual problem. Politics was like fashion, he told Bannon.

[Bannon] got it immediately. He believes in the whole Andrew Breitbart doctrine that politics is downstream from culture, so to change politics you need to change culture. And fashion trends are a useful proxy for that. Trump is like a pair of Uggs, or Crocs, basically. So how do you get from people thinking Ugh. Totally ugly to the moment when everyone is wearing them? That was the inflection point he was looking for.

But Wylie wasnt just talking about fashion. He had recently been exposed to a new discipline: information operations, which ranks alongside land, sea, air and space in the US militarys doctrine of the five-dimensional battle space. His brief ranged across the SCL Group the British government has paid SCL to conduct counter-extremism operations in the Middle East, and the US Department of Defense has contracted it to work in Afghanistan.

I tell him that another former employee described the firm as MI6 for hire, and Id never quite understood it.

Its like dirty MI6 because youre not constrained. Theres no having to go to a judge to apply for permission. Its normal for a market research company to amass data on domestic populations. And if youre working in some country and theres an auxiliary benefit to a current client with aligned interests, well thats just a bonus.

When I ask how Bannon even found SCL, Wylie tells me what sounds like a tall tale, though its one he can back up with an email about how Mark Block, a veteran Republican strategist, happened to sit next to a cyberwarfare expert for the US air force on a plane. And the cyberwarfare guy is like, Oh, you should meet SCL. They do cyberwarfare for elections.

U.S.
Steve Bannon: He loved the gays, says Wylie. He saw us as early adopters. Photograph: Tony Gentile/Reuters

It was Bannon who took this idea to the Mercers: Robert Mercer the co-CEO of the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, who used his billions to pursue a rightwing agenda, donating to Republican causes and supporting Republican candidates and his daughter Rebekah.

Nix and Wylie flew to New York to meet the Mercers in Rebekahs Manhattan apartment.

She loved me. She was like, Oh we need more of your type on our side!

Your type?

The gays. She loved the gays. So did Steve [Bannon]. He saw us as early adopters. He figured, if you can get the gays on board, everyone else will follow. Its why he was so into the whole Milo [Yiannopoulos] thing.

Robert Mercer was a pioneer in AI and machine translation. He helped invent algorithmic trading which replaced hedge fund managers with computer programs and he listened to Wylies pitch. It was for a new kind of political message-targeting based on an influential and groundbreaking 2014 paper researched at Cambridges Psychometrics Centre, called: Computer-based personality judgments are more accurate than those made by humans.

In politics, the money man is usually the dumbest person in the room. Whereas its the opposite way around with Mercer, says Wylie. He said very little, but he really listened. He wanted to understand the science. And he wanted proof that it worked.

And to do that, Wylie needed data.

How Cambridge Analytica acquired the data has been the subject of internal reviews at Cambridge University, of many news articles and much speculation and rumour.

When Nix was interviewed by MPs last month, Damian Collins asked him:

Does any of your data come from Global Science Research company?

Nix: GSR?

Collins: Yes.

Nix: We had a relationship with GSR. They did some research for us back in 2014. That research proved to be fruitless and so the answer is no.

Collins: They have not supplied you with data or information?

Nix: No.

Collins: Your datasets are not based on information you have received from them?

Nix: No.

Collins: At all?

Nix: At all.

The problem with Nixs response to Collins is that Wylie has a copy of an executed contract, dated 4 June 2014, which confirms that SCL, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, entered into a commercial arrangement with a company called Global Science Research (GSR), owned by Cambridge-based academic Aleksandr Kogan, specifically premised on the harvesting and processing of Facebook data, so that it could be matched to personality traits and voter rolls.

He has receipts showing that Cambridge Analytica spent $7m to amass this data, about $1m of it with GSR. He has the bank records and wire transfers. Emails reveal Wylie first negotiated with Michal Kosinski, one of the co-authors of the original myPersonality research paper, to use the myPersonality database. But when negotiations broke down, another psychologist, Aleksandr Kogan, offered a solution that many of his colleagues considered unethical. He offered to replicate Kosinski and Stilwells research and cut them out of the deal. For Wylie it seemed a perfect solution. Kosinski was asking for $500,000 for the IP but Kogan said he could replicate it and just harvest his own set of data. (Kosinski says the fee was to fund further research.)

Dr
An unethical solution? Dr Aleksandr Kogan Photograph: alex kogan

Kogan then set up GSR to do the work, and proposed to Wylie they use the data to set up an interdisciplinary institute working across the social sciences. What happened to that idea, I ask Wylie. It never happened. I dont know why. Thats one of the things that upsets me the most.

It was Bannons interest in culture as war that ignited Wylies intellectual concept. But it was Robert Mercers millions that created a firestorm. Kogan was able to throw money at the hard problem of acquiring personal data: he advertised for people who were willing to be paid to take a personality quiz on Amazons Mechanical Turk and Qualtrics. At the end of which Kogans app, called thisismydigitallife, gave him permission to access their Facebook profiles. And not just theirs, but their friends too. On average, each seeder the people who had taken the personality test, around 320,000 in total unwittingly gave access to at least 160 other peoples profiles, none of whom would have known or had reason to suspect.

What the email correspondence between Cambridge Analytica employees and Kogan shows is that Kogan had collected millions of profiles in a matter of weeks. But neither Wylie nor anyone else at Cambridge Analytica had checked that it was legal. It certainly wasnt authorised. Kogan did have permission to pull Facebook data, but for academic purposes only. Whats more, under British data protection laws, its illegal for personal data to be sold to a third party without consent.

Facebook could see it was happening, says Wylie. Their security protocols were triggered because Kogans apps were pulling this enormous amount of data, but apparently Kogan told them it was for academic use. So they were like, Fine.

Kogan maintains that everything he did was legal and he had a close working relationship with Facebook, which had granted him permission for his apps.

Cambridge Analytica had its data. This was the foundation of everything it did next how it extracted psychological insights from the seeders and then built an algorithm to profile millions more.

For more than a year, the reporting around what Cambridge Analytica did or didnt do for Trump has revolved around the question of psychographics, but Wylie points out: Everything was built on the back of that data. The models, the algorithm. Everything. Why wouldnt you use it in your biggest campaign ever?

In December 2015, the Guardians Harry Davies published the first report about Cambridge Analytica acquiring Facebook data and using it to support Ted Cruz in his campaign to be the US Republican candidate. But it wasnt until many months later that Facebook took action. And then, all they did was write a letter. In August 2016, shortly before the US election, and two years after the breach took place, Facebooks lawyers wrote to Wylie, who left Cambridge Analytica in 2014, and told him the data had been illicitly obtained and that GSR was not authorised to share or sell it. They said it must be deleted immediately.

Christopher
Christopher Wylie: Its like Nixon on steroids

I already had. But literally all I had to do was tick a box and sign it and send it back, and that was it, says Wylie. Facebook made zero effort to get the data back.

There were multiple copies of it. It had been emailed in unencrypted files.

Cambridge Analytica rejected all allegations the Observer put to them.

Dr Kogan who later changed his name to Dr Spectre, but has subsequently changed it back to Dr Kogan is still a faculty member at Cambridge University, a senior research associate. But what his fellow academics didnt know until Kogan revealed it in emails to the Observer (although Cambridge University says that Kogan told the head of the psychology department), is that he is also an associate professor at St Petersburg University. Further research revealed that hes received grants from the Russian government to research Stress, health and psychological wellbeing in social networks. The opportunity came about on a trip to the city to visit friends and family, he said.

There are other dramatic documents in Wylies stash, including a pitch made by Cambridge Analytica to Lukoil, Russias second biggest oil producer. In an email dated 17 July 2014, about the US presidential primaries, Nix wrote to Wylie: We have been asked to write a memo to Lukoil (the Russian oil and gas company) to explain to them how our services are going to apply to the petroleum business. Nix said that they understand behavioural microtargeting in the context of elections but that they were failing to make the connection between voters and their consumers. The work, he said, would be shared with the CEO of the business, a former Soviet oil minister and associate of Putin, Vagit Alekperov.

It didnt make any sense to me, says Wylie. I didnt understand either the email or the pitch presentation we did. Why would a Russian oil company want to target information on American voters?

Muellers investigation traces the first stages of the Russian operation to disrupt the 2016 US election back to 2014, when the Russian state made what appears to be its first concerted efforts to harness the power of Americas social media platforms, including Facebook. And it was in late summer of the same year that Cambridge Analytica presented the Russian oil company with an outline of its datasets, capabilities and methodology. The presentation had little to do with consumers. Instead, documents show it focused on election disruption techniques. The first slide illustrates how a rumour campaign spread fear in the 2007 Nigerian election in which the company worked by spreading the idea that the election would be rigged. The final slide, branded with Lukoils logo and that of SCL Group and SCL Elections, headlines its deliverables: psychographic messaging.

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/data-war-whistleblower-christopher-wylie-faceook-nix-bannon-trump

Apples New Spaceship Campus Has One Flaw and It Hurts

The centerpiece of Apple Inc.’s new headquarters is a massive, ring-shaped office overflowing with panes of glass, a testament to the company’s famed design-obsessed aesthetic. 

There’s been one hiccup since it opened last year: Apple employees keep smacking into the glass.

Surrounding the building, located in Cupertino, California, are 45-foot tall curved panels of safety glass. Inside are work spaces, dubbed “pods,” also made with a lot of glass. Apple staff are often glued to the iPhones they helped popularize. That’s resulted in repeated cases of distracted employees walking into the panes, according to people familiar with the incidents. 

Some staff started to stick Post-It notes on the glass doors to mark their presence. However, the notes were removed because they detracted from the building’s design, the people said. They asked not to be identified discussing anything related to Apple. Another person familiar with the situation said there are other markings to identify the glass. 

Apple’s latest campus has been lauded as an architectural marvel. The building, crafted by famed architect Norman Foster, immortalized a vision that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs had years earlier. In 2011, Jobs reportedly described the building “a little like a spaceship landed.” Jobs has been credited for coming up with the glass pods, designed to mix solo office areas with more social spaces. 

Apple campus in Cupertino.
Photographer: Jim Wilson/New York Times via Redux

The building is designed to house some 13,000 employees. Wired magazine, first to pay a visit at its opening last year, described the structure as a “statement of openness, of free movement,” in contrast to Apple’s typically insular culture. “While it is a technical marvel to make glass at this scale, that’s not the achievement,” Jony Ive, Apple’s design chief, told the magazine in May. “The achievement is to make a building where so many people can connect and collaborate and walk and talk.”

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment. It’s not clear how many incidents there have been. A Silicon Valley-based spokeswoman for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration referred questions about Apple’s workplace safety record to the government agency’s website. A search on the site based on Apple’s name in California found no reports of injuries at the company’s new campus. 

It’s not the first time Apple’s penchant for glass in buildings has caused problems. In late 2011, 83-year-old Evelyn Paswall walked into the glass wall of an Apple store, breaking her nose. She sued the company, arguing it should have posted a warning on the glass. The suit was settled without any cost to Apple, according to a legal filing in early 2013. 

    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-16/apple-s-new-spaceship-campus-has-one-flaw-and-it-hurts

    As Bitcoin Sinks, Crypto Bros Party Hard on a Blockchain Cruise

    When 600 cryptocurrency enthusiasts set sail from Singapore on Monday night for their second annual Blockchain Cruise, the price of Bitcoin was hovering comfortably above $13,500.

    By the time their 1,020-foot-long ship pulled into Thailand on Wednesday, for an afternoon of bottomless drinks and crypto-focused talks on a sun-soaked private beach, Bitcoin had cratered to $10,000.

    The group of mostly young men, many of whom became wildly rich — at least on paper — as Bitcoin and other digital tokens skyrocketed last year, had in all likelihood just lost millions.

    But if anyone was fazed, they didn’t show it. The party rolled on as the sangria and Red Bull flowed, Bitcoin-themed rap music blared and drones filmed it all from above.

    “Nothing goes up in a straight line,” explained Ronnie Moas, the founder of Miami Beach-based Standpoint Research, who was one of the event’s speakers on Wednesday. In a best-case scenario, he said, Bitcoin could jump to $300,000 in as little as seven years.

    For skeptics of the crypto craze, it’s hard not to see all this as another sign of runaway exuberance — a repeat of the boosterish Las Vegas securitization conference, immortalized in The Big Short, that preceded the subprime mortgage meltdown of 2007. But the steadfast optimism on display at this week’s Blockchain Cruise also carries a warning for anyone betting on a cryptocurrency crash: It’s going to take more than a 50 percent drop in Bitcoin from its Dec. 18 high to drive out the diehards.

    “This is something that you either believe in or not,” said Moas, who has become a crypto-celebrity after issuing stratospheric price forecasts for Bitcoin.

    The cruise’s eclectic list of speakers included Jose Gomez, a former aide to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez; Kaspar Korjus, the head of Estonia’s e-residency program (which may issue its own cryptocurrency); and Jorg Molt, an early digital currency backer whose claim to hold 250,000 Bitcoins (worth $2.8 billion at the current price) couldn’t be verified.

    But perhaps the biggest draw was John McAfee, the anti-virus software pioneer with a checkered past. In 2012, while living in Belize, McAfee had run-ins with local police for alleged unlicensed drug manufacturing and weapons possession, but was released without charge. At one point, Belize police started a search for him as a person of interest in connection with the murder of his neighbor. McAfee said he was innocent and that he fled Belize because of persecution by corrupt officials.

    He now helps run MGT Capital Investments Inc., a small-cap tech company with a Bitcoin mining business. He has become a cryptocurrency evangelist on Twitter, touting the technology and various tokens to his more than 700,000 followers. Coinsbank, the digital currency exchange and wallet operator that organized the cruise, made him a headline speaker.

    On Wednesday, McAfee blamed the recent market slump on unfounded fear of government intervention. He urged cryptocurrency holders — one of whom sported a “Buy The Dip” t-shirt — to stick with their bets.

    Read more: Bitcoin Fall Extends to 25% as Fears of Crypto Crackdown Linger

    “You cannot force a ban on a distributed system,” McAfee said in an interview after his speech. “It’s like how do you ban smoking weed? You can’t ban it. People will come back.”

    Not every conversation on the Blockchain Cruise revolved around cryptocurrencies. Attendees, unsurprisingly, had plenty to say about blockchain — the distributed ledger technology that underpins Bitcoin — and its potential to improve industries from finance to health care.

    Charity was also a topic raised by speakers including Moas, who urged the audience to donate some of their newfound wealth and help reduce global inequality.

    Many attendees have far more than they need.

    Rowan Hill, a former coal miner in Australia, said he retired by 26 after getting in on the crypto boom early. After the cruise, he’s heading to Japan for a four-week snowboarding trip.

    “A lot of people can’t stand the price swings” in digital currencies, Hill said, donning a fedora and sunglasses as he lounged on the beach. “The average person just sells, and they lose out.”

    Joe Stone, an Australian who invests in digital assets, said market declines are easier to bear in the company of fellow enthusiasts. For many on the cruise, the next stop is another cryptocurrency conference in Bangkok.

    “There’s nowhere I’d rather be,” said Stone, after a late night of mingling at the ship’s cigar bar over whiskeys. “Otherwise I’d just be at my computer.”

    For more on cryptocurrencies, check out the   podcast:

      Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-19/as-bitcoin-sinks-crypto-bros-party-hard-on-a-blockchain-cruise

      Phone-addicted teens arent as happy as those who play sports and hang out IRL, new study suggests

      To no parent’s surprise, too much smartphone use makes teens unhappy.

      So says a new study from San Diego State University, which pulled data from over one million 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders in the U.S. showing teens who spent more time on social media, gaming, texting and video-chatting on their phones were not as happy as those who played sports, went outside and interacted with real human beings.

      But is it the screen time bringing them down or are sadder teens more likely to insulate themselves in a virtual world? Lead author of the study and professor of psychology Jean M. Twenge believes it’s the phone that contributes to making them unhappy, not the other way around.

      “Although this study can’t show causation, several other studies have shown that more social media use leads to unhappiness, but unhappiness does not lead to more social media use,” Twenge said.

      Though abstinence doesn’t seem to fix the problem, either, as noted in the study, there’s something to Twenge’s theory. Another recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and also lead by Twenge, found a spike in depression and suicide among teen girls increased the more time they spent on their phones.

      That’s alarming, especially considering the age in which kids get smartphones has continued to climb lower — dropping from 12 in 2012 to 10.3 years in 2016.

      Twenge has been studying teen behavior since the early 90’s and has been on the forefront of research suggesting an abrupt change in behavior and emotional states of teenagers due to smartphone use. She says there’s been a dramatic shift starting in 2012 when younger and younger kids starting getting more screen time.

      Researchers found more of the same while sifting through the data for this study. Teenagers’ life satisfaction, self-esteem and happiness plummeted after 2012.

      To back up that work, Twenge’s previous studies suggest kids who spend at least four or five hours on their phone increase their risk factor for suicide by a whopping 71 percent, regardless of whether it was cat videos or something else. It was the time spent on the device, not the content, that mattered most.

      “By far the largest change in teens’ lives between 2012 and 2016 was the increase in the amount of time they spent on digital media, and the subsequent decline in in-person social activities and sleep,” Twenge said. “The key to digital media use and happiness is limited use.”

      She suggests teens aim to spend no more than two hours a day on digital media, exercise more and try to hang out with friends face-to-face to increase happiness — all things adults could probably use more of as well.

      Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2018/01/23/phone-addicted-teens-arent-as-happy-as-those-who-play-sports-and-hang-out-irl-new-study-suggests/

      Cutting Down on Cow Burps to Ease Climate Change

      In a cream-colored metal barn two hours north of Wellington, New Zealand, a black-and-white dairy cow stands in what looks like an oversize fish tank. Through the transparent Plexiglas walls, she can see three other cows in adjacent identical cubicles munching their food in companionable silence. Tubes sprout from the tops of the boxes, exchanging fresh air for the stale stuff inside. The cows, their owners say, could help slow climate change.

      Livestock has directly caused about one-quarter of Earth’s warming in the industrial age, and scientists from the U.S. departments of agriculture and energy say bigger, more resource-heavy cattle are accelerating the problem. Contrary to popular belief, cows contribute to global warming mostly through their burps, not their flatulence. So about a dozen scientists here at AgResearch Grasslands, a government-owned facility, are trying to develop a vaccine to stop those burps. “This is not a standard vaccine,” says Peter Janssen, the anti-burp program’s principal research scientist. “It’s proving to be an elusive little genie to get out of the bottle.”

      The effort isn’t entirely altruistic. Grasslands is dedicated to boosting New Zealand’s dominant agriculture and biotech industries, and the country’s biggest company, Fonterra Co-operative Group Ltd., a $14 billion dairy processor, has vowed to increase its milk exports without increasing carbon emissions. But 2017 is set to be the third-hottest year on record—the top two were 2016 and 2015—so the globe can use all the help it can get, business-minded or not. “It’s essential to reduce global livestock emissions in order to reduce climate change consistent with what countries signed up to under the Paris Agreement,” says Andy Reisinger, deputy director of the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre.

      Janssen.
      Photographer: Jake Mein for Bloomberg Businessweek

      Janssen and his team are trying to purge cow stomachs of methanogens, the microbes that convert hydrogen into methane, a potent greenhouse gas. It’s an unexpectedly delicate and difficult task, because cows rely on a host of other bacteria, fungi, and protozoa in their guts to digest the grasses they eat. Researchers have tried feeding them oregano, tea extracts, probiotics, antibiotics, seaweed (too toxic), coconut oil (too expensive), chloroform (too carcinogenic), and even leftover grains from beer brewing (which made cows poop more nitrous oxide, another greenhouse gas).

      So far no vaccine has progressed far enough to be given to the cows in the cubicles, where methane output can be measured. The vaccine must first be successfully tested in the lab and on sheep. Although the scientists have figured out how to produce the desired antibodies in the cows, the animals continue to merrily burp. Janssen’s team is looking for proteins they can use to concoct a stronger vaccine, one that will better prime the cows’ immune systems to attack methanogens. A single methanogen genome has 2,000 proteins, so they’ve narrowed their search to a handful of candidates, which they think could knock out the gassiest microbes.

      A cow is led into the methane measurement center.
      Photographer: Jake Mein for Bloomberg Businessweek

      The hunt for a vaccine costs about $1.4 million a year, about two-thirds of which comes from the New Zealand government. Industry supplies the rest. The money is part of a $7.5 million pool for curbing farming gases meant to address New Zealand’s status as the world’s highest per capita methane emitter. Janssen says it may take five years or longer to create the right vaccine, but it will do much more to reduce bovine emissions than a treatment that Dutch company DSM is developing for bucket-fed cows. That’s because the vaccine will work just as well for grazers. “There aren’t too many ruminants in the world where the animals never get to eat grass,” he says, noting that even cows fattened with feed in a controlled environment typically start out in pastures.

      DSM used computers to create a methane-blocking molecule called 3-nitrooxypropanol, or 3-NOP, that appears to cut burped methane by about a third when sprinkled on a cow’s food. The company, whose annual research and development budget is $500 million, is waiting for approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is likely to take at least two more years. “For developed countries, this is the most promising technology at this point,” says Alexander Hristov, a Penn State professor of dairy nutrition who’s tested 3-NOP for DSM. The New Zealanders are leading the vaccine hunt, he says, but they haven’t developed a proven product they can offer to farmers.

      Dairy cows at Massey University, which supplies cows for AgResearch.
      Photographer: Jake Mein for Bloomberg Businessweek

      Janssen, a bespectacled man with the lanky limbs of a longtime mountain explorer, says his team is also working on substances similar to 3-NOP that could be given in pill form. A complicating factor: No one knows how low-methane a cow can go without hurting its health or productivity. Trials suggest cows that burp less seem to cope fine, but scientists want to make sure there are no unintended consequences, such as reduced milk quality or quantity. “We need to understand where that tipping point is,” Janssen says.

      Humans are the final hurdle. Canadian scientists created low-polluting pigs almost a decade ago, but people wouldn’t buy the genetically modified pork. “Farmers will produce what the consumer demands,” says Tim McAllister, who’s conducting trials of 3-NOP and other methane-reduction techniques for the Canadian government at the Lethbridge Research and Development Centre in Alberta. Soaring global demand for meat makes climate concerns pressing. North of Wellington, the cows seem content in their tanks, turning to watch as Janssen strides between their boxes. For now, their burps are packed with methane, but they may not have to be.

        BOTTOM LINE – Researchers are painstakingly hunting for compounds that can quell methane-packed cow burps but will still have to sell regulators and the public on the science.

        Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-29/cutting-down-on-cow-burps-to-ease-climate-change