Mozilla News Beat, March 26, 2021
Welcome to the Mozilla News Beat, a glance at the internet news of the week in order of best-to-worst. Enjoy!
Fish For All
Amazing how a boat excursion can turn into an absolute zoo. Watch as this guy offers up fish to the creatures of the sea, and then things, promptly, get out of hand.
If you recently watched a TikTok of Naiomi Glasses (@naiomiglasses) skating down a sandstone, you weren’t alone — the video has raked in over 200K likes. Glasses spoke to TeenVogue about growing up skating, preconceived notions about skate culture and why, now, she does so in traditional Diné clothing. “When I was younger, I felt like I had to dress like a little boy to skate,” Glasses told TeenVogue. “As I’m getting older, I’m like: ‘I’ll skate in my skirt.’”
Lina + FTC
The world first met Lina Khan back in 2017 when she published a paper about Amazon’s track-record on competition and how its business practices presented a paradox: low prices helped buyers with affordability in the short term but eventually reduced competition and harmed them in the long run. Now, President Biden wants her to be a commissioner of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. The appointment would be huge, not just for the Yale graduate but for the country, potentially signaling to big tech companies that the FTC will tackle anti-competitive practices.
Welp, didn’t see this one coming. Prince Harry, Meghan Markle’s husband and Duke of Sussex, now works in tech. The prince revealed this week his two new jobs. One being a commissioner at the Aspen Institute in D.C., where he’ll help study the state of mis- and disinformation. The other being his new role as Chief Impact Officer at BetterUp, a San Francisco mental health and personal coaching company. The news is real but, we’ve gotta say, “British prince takes his talents to Silicon Valley” sounds like the premise of a fantastic made-for-TV movie.
Facial recognition is popping up in more and more places. The latest company to make use of the tech is Disney. Pre-pandemic, Disney used an RFID-enabled wristband at its theme parks to ID guests. Now, in the name of a touchless experience, it’s testing out face detection. For one month, Disney’s Magic Kingdom will capture an image of a mask-wearing park-goer and convert the image into a unique number to identify them and their ticket.
Extra Strength Facial Recognition
Did you read the blurb above and think, “But facial recognition can’t work through masks!”? Well, a new report from the BBC notes that in some cases it can. Even prior to COVID-19, some researchers like those at Japan’s NEC Corp were already working on facial recognition software that worked beneath face coverings. For some companies, the stars aligned when the pandemic hit — it offered the perfect reason to roll out mass surveillance under the excuse of public health.
More Facebook Fines
Reporters Without Borders has filed a lawsuit against Facebook for “allow[ing] disinformation and hate speech to flourish on its network,” the French non-profit said in a statement. The lawsuit claims Facebook failed in its promise of creating a safe and error-free online environment and, therefore, violates France’s deceptive business practice laws. If punished, Facebook could see fines as high as $8.6 billion.
A video released by Amazon reveals how the company uses four cameras equipped with AI to monitor its drivers during their shifts. The cameras don’t record audio but always record when the vehicle is running and take note when a driver is not wearing a seatbelt, distracted, speeding, tired and more. One Amazon driver reported quitting over the invasion of privacy. It gets worse: Vice notes that now, Amazon will force employees to consent to this tracking or lose their job.
End Ring Reviews
You probably already know Mozilla’s called for Ring to end its relationship with law enforcement. Now, civil rights groups are uniting to ask for help from a different group: gadget review sites. Nearly two dozen civil rights organizations have penned a joint letter asking publications like CNET, Consumer Reports, New York Times’s Wirecutter and more to stop reviewing Amazon’s video doorbell products. According to the groups, Ring devices “weaponize fear-mongering culture by using racially coded language and dog whistles.” Endangering Black lives, they say, directly benefits Amazon’s business model.
Why does it feel like everywhere you go online people are talking about NFTs? (Including here!) The emerging format is gaining quickly in popularity, but that may not be a good thing for the Earth. Gizmodo points out that a recent $6 million NFT auction resulted in 500 tons of carbon emissions. The artists involved with the auction were all given carbon offsets but it doesn’t address what caused the pollution in the first place. As Gizmodo puts it, “carbon pollution is a zero-sum problem we can’t offset our way out of.”
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