Protego Press Weekly Roundup- August 29th, 2019

As we head into the Labor Day weekend, here are the technology and policy stories we are following at Protego Press. From the possibility of devastating cyberattacks to exploiting kids on message apps to the potential for home security devices to become a private panopticon, it’s not exactly a light week’s worth of reading to take to the beach. But here goes:

Could a cyberattack bring just as much destruction as a nuclear attack? “People around the world may be worried about nuclear tensions rising, argues Jeremy Straub in Protego Press, “but I think they’re missing the fact that a major cyberattack could be just as damaging – and hackers are already laying the groundwork.”

If policymakers can’t keep up with the advance of emerging technologies, is it time for moratoriums on certain types of tech? Perhaps so, argues Kentaro Toyama in The Conversation. “Just as has begun to happen with facial recognition, it’s time to consider legal bans and moratoriums on other emerging technologies.”

Facebook discovered a flaw in its Messenger for Kids app, reports The Verge, that potentially exposed children to unauthorized users even though the company “pledged to give children a way to talk with friends without potentially exposing them to strangers online.” That has lawmakers asking questions. “In the wake of the news, Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) wrote to Facebook seeking more information on the flaw, specifically raising the question of whether the company had violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (or COPPA).”

Hundreds of police departments across the country have signed up to a program to access footage from home surveillance devices from Amazon’s Ring, reports Drew Harwell in the Washington Post. The service allows police “potential access to homeowners’ camera footage and a powerful role in what the company calls the nation’s ‘new neighborhood watch.’ The partnerships let police request the video recorded by homeowners’ cameras within a specific time and area, helping officers see footage from the company’s millions of Internet-connected cameras installed nationwide, the company said. Officers don’t receive ongoing or live-video access, and homeowners can decline the requests, which Ring sends via email thanking them for ‘making your neighborhood a safer place.’”

The Financial Times’s Lucia Greene reports that Silicon Valley companies are facing trouble hiring due to multiple ethical scandals and toxic cultures. “Companies that started as plucky upstarts offering their staff autonomy, creativity and impact are now state-like global bureaucracies. And the long hours culture (fuelled by those free pizzas) has lost its appeal as burnt-out millennials seek work-life balance. PwC estimates 88 per cent of millennials want to work for companies whose values mirror their own.”

“We are using the ultimate reality-programming device to program ourselves,” says CUNY media studies professor Douglas Rushkoff in a piece titled Most VR is Total Bullshit. Far from the utopian vision of early VR pioneers, the technologies are now dominated by large companies that have a different end goal in mind- and perhaps one less focused on driving empathy than driving profit. “By focusing on immersive simulation over active creation, most virtual reality technologies undermine the innate human abilities that they could be fostering.”