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Tech and the God View

Tech and the God View

It seems that both users at large and governments are now turning against the tech megaliths, which includes Facebook, Google and Amazon. Silicon Valley Is Not Your Friend We are beginning to understand that tech companies don’t have our best interests at heart. Did they ever?, wrote Noam Cohen in the New York Times. We don’t need to catalog what globalization, the exploitation of labor and the seemingly unbridled power of platforms such as Facebook and Google has done and is doing to world economies and people, individually. Wages have diminished or stagnated, verticals are being consumed and choked. They control the conversation, with hitherto unheard of collection of personal data on vast segments of the population globally – Facebook claims two billion users and how many people, besides Yours Truly, strenuously avoid Google search and all things Google, where and when possible? Voice activation may indeed make our lives easier, but again, at what price? Are we so accustomed to surrendering our privacy for the sake of convenience that we shrug it off? Head’s up, in case you missed it: Warning over iPhone apps that can silently turn on cameras at any time. And, as the article points out, “Google has recently deleted several apps that surreptitiously recorded users and masqueraded as legitimate apps.”

Wonder how many they missed…

Remembering the God View

A while back, when Travis Kalanack was CEO, Uber got into trouble with its customer-tracking God View app, which allowed the company to track riders’ locations and other data. In one case, Uber executive Emil Michael proposed digging up dirt on journalists who were critical of his company and spreading details of their personal lives. The issue was settled. Fines were levied and Uber promised to limit God View data. That was 2014. Read More...

The New Normal

The New Normal

The big news last week was the Snap IPO – the biggest since Alibaba – which raised $3.4 billion for Snap, a company which managed to lose $514.6M last year and has lost money every year since it began commercial operations in 2011,” according to CNBC and, forest through the trees, “has warned that it will never make a profit.”

Facebook tried to buy Snap nee, Snapchat, a few years back for some $3B – pass – so they bought Instagram instead, for the now seemingly bargain price of $1B. Of course, Instagram didn’t have the number of eyeballs that Snapchat did at the time, but since Facebook, um, appropriated features that Snap had innovated – Stories comes to mind – Instagram’s popularity and growth has far outdistanced Snap’s. And remember: eyeballs/exponential growth are the holy grail of Silicon Valley investors and the market. We do know that Twitter has come up more than once in articles covering the Snap IPO, as how long did Twitter skate after the IPO, promising continued user growth, which never materialized. Au contraire, but they did go a good long time with nary a sustainable revenue model in sight, and a falling user base, which does go far in explaining the lack of a buyer for the company.

For the record, ‘growth potential,’ ‘eyeballs,’ – this is the language of Web 1.0, when it was all potential, all the time. The potential was there; the timing was off: the bubble burst. That was then and this is now, and we’re at the Too Big to Fail Stage in the history of tech. Read More...

Crimes, Misdemeanors – and Business As Usual

Crimes, Misdemeanors – and Business As Usual

Move fast and break things. Do more faster. These are the mantras that the tech industry, particular those in Silicon Valley, cut their teeth on. Competition is fierce and timing (first to market) – and perception (category killer: think Google and Facebook) – is everything. So is it a wonder that Uber has drawn so much scrutiny and criticism for its practices lately? On all fronts, it seems.

Has Uber Gone Too Far this Time? Is Uber involved in a Smear Campaign,?” asks Michael Spencer on LinkedIn, referring not only to former Uber employee Susan Fowler’s blog on the sexual harassment she encountered at the company, which was not unique to her but instead, fairly widespread in Uber’s frat boy culture, according to Caroline Fairchild on LinkedIn.

Then there’s the Google patent infringement lawsuit, which is alleging that Uber is using stolen technology which it acquired through its purchase of Otto, to advance its own autonomous-car development (A Stray Email Caused Google’s Waymo to Sue Uber and Otto Over Stolen Tech). Read More...

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