Startups

Obama heads to Silicon Valley security talks amid tensions

DAVID E. SANGER AND NICOLE PERLROTH explore the future of encryption technology, and its relationship with the government. He writes about the advancements in technology at big tech companies like Google and Apple, and how they deal with cybersecurity issues in an increasingly dangerous world. The government, however, is steadfastly anti-encryption, since it prevents them from being able to gain access to the private lives of their citizens, a hallmark of the modern American government. This beef extends to telecommunications, with the government demanding access to people’s personal phone calls at any time. Large companies are focused on encryption strong enough to prevent incidents at stores like Target, when large scale thefts of credit card numbers have occurred in the past. The government however, is unlikely to back down. Magana examines what this means for you and me, and for technology as a whole.

Read an excerpt of the article written by DAVID E. SANGER AND NICOLE PERLROTH: 

President Obama was to meet here on Friday with the nation’s top technologists on a host of cybersecurity issues and the threats posed by hackers. But nowhere on the agenda is the real issue for the chief executives and tech company officials who will gather on the Stanford campus: the growing estrangement between Silicon Valley and the government. The long history of quiet cooperation between Washington and America’s top technology companies — first to win the Cold War, then to combat terrorism — was founded on the assumption of mutual interest. But the Obama administration’s efforts to prevent companies from greatly strengthening encryption in commercial products like the iPhone and Google’s email services has shattered that assumption. And there is continuing tension over the government’s desire to stockpile flaws in software — known as zero days — for future use against adversaries. ‘‘What has struck me is the enormous degree of hostility between Silicon Valley and the government,’’ said Herb Lin, who spent 20 years working on cyberissues at the National Academy of Sciences before moving to Stanford several months ago. ‘‘The relationship has been poisoned, and it’s not going to recover anytime soon.’’ Mr. Obama’s cybersecurity coordinator, Michael Daniel, concedes there are tensions. American firms, he says, are concerned about international competitiveness, and that means making a very public show of their efforts to defeat American intelligence-gathering by installing newer, harder-to-break encryption systems and demonstrating their distance from the United States government. The F.B.I., the intelligence agencies and David Cameron, the British prime minister, have all tried to stop Google, Apple and other companies from using technology that the firms themselves cannot break into — meaning they cannot turn over emails or pictures, even if served with a court order. The firms have vociferously opposed government requests for such information as an intrusion on the privacy of their customers and a risk to their businesses. ‘‘In some cases that is driving them to resistance to Washington,’’ Mr. Daniel said in an interview. ‘‘But it’s not that simple. In other cases, with what’s going on in China,’’ where Beijing is insisting that companies turn over the software that is their lifeblood, ‘‘they are very interested in getting Washington’s help.’’ Mr. Daniel’s reference was to Silicon Valley’s argument that keeping a key to unlocking terrorist and kidnappers’ secret communications, as the government wants them to do, may sound reasonable in theory, but in fact would create an opening for others. It would also create a precedent that the Chinese, among others, could adopt to ensure they can get into American communications, especially as companies like Alibaba, the Chinese Internet giant, become a larger force in the American market. ‘‘A stupid approach,’’ is the assessment of one technology executive who will be seeing Mr. Obama on Friday, and who asked to speak anonymously. That tension — between companies’ insistence that they cannot install ‘‘back doors’’ or provide ‘‘keys’’ giving access to law enforcement or intelligence agencies and their desire for Washington’s protection from foreign nations seeking to exploit those same products — will be the subtext of the meeting. That is hardly the only point of contention. ...Read more

Uber model may point to work’s future

Farhad Manjoo writes abut the ‘uberization’ of work, referring to the introduction of new technology in various fields, just like Uber did.  Uberization will have its benefits: Technology could make your work life more flexible, allowing you to fit your job, or perhaps multiple jobs, around your schedule. Even during a time of renewed job growth, Americans’ wages are stubbornly stagnant, and the on-demand economy may provide novel streams of income.The complication, here, though, is that most taxi drivers are also independent contractors, so the arrangement isn’t particularly novel in the ride business. The larger worry about on-demand jobs is not about benefits but about a lack of agency: a future in which computers, not humans, determine what you do, when and for how much. The author concludes by saying that the on-demand economy may be better than the alternative of software automating all our work, but that isn’t necessarily much of a cause for celebration

Read an excerpt of the article written by Farhad Manjoo:

As Uber has grown to become one of the world’s most valuable start-ups, its ambitions often seem limitless. But of all the ways that Uber could change the world, the most far-reaching may be found closest at hand: your office. Uber, and more broadly the app-driven labor market it represents, are at the center of what could be a sea change in work, and in how people think about their jobs. You may not be contemplating becoming an Uber driver any time soon, but the Uberization of work may soon be coming to your chosen profession. Just as Uber is doing for taxis, new technologies have the potential to chop up a broad array of traditional jobs into discrete tasks that can be assigned to people just when they’re needed, with wages set by a dynamic measurement of supply and demand, and every worker’s performance constantly tracked, reviewed and subject to the sometimes harsh light of customer satisfaction. Uber and its ride-sharing competitors, including Lyft and Sidecar, are the boldest examples of this breed, which many in the tech industry see as a new kind of start-up — one whose primary mission is to efficiently allocate human beings and their possessions, rather than information. ‘‘I do think we are defining a new category of work that isn’t full-time employment but is not running your own business either,’’ said Arun Sundararajan, a professor at New York University’s business school who has studied the rise of the so-called on-demand economy and who is mainly optimistic about its prospects. Uberization will have its benefits: Technology could make your work life more flexible, allowing you to fit your job, or perhaps multiple jobs, around your schedule. Even during a time of renewed job growth, Americans’ wages are stubbornly stagnant, and the on-demand economy may provide novel streams of income. ‘‘We may end up with a future in which a fraction of the work force would do a portfolio of things to generate an income — you could be an Uber driver, an Instacart shopper, an Airbnb host and a Taskrabbit,’’ Dr. Sundararajan said. But the rise of such work could also make your income less predictable and your long-term employment less secure. And it may relegate the idea of establishing a lifelong career to a distant memory. ‘‘I think it’s nonsense, utter nonsense,’’ said Robert B. Reich, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, who was a labor secretary in the Clinton administration. ‘‘This on-demand economy means a work life that is unpredictable, doesn’t pay very well and is terribly insecure.’’ After interviewing many workers in the on-demand world, Dr. Reich said he had concluded that ‘‘most would much rather have good, well-paying, regular jobs.’’ It is true that many of these start-ups are creating new opportunities for employment, which is a novel trend in tech, especially during an era in which we’re all fretting about robots stealing our jobs. Proponents of on-demand work point out that many of the tech giants that sprang up over the last decade minted billions in profits without hiring very many people; Facebook, for instance, serves more than a billion users, but employs only a few thousand highly skilled workers, most of them in California. To make the case that it is creating lots of new jobs, Uber recently provided some of its data on ridership to Alan B. Krueger, an economist at Princeton and a former chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. Unsurprisingly, Dr. Krueger’s report, which he said he was allowed to produce without interference from Uber, paints Uber as a force for good in the labor market. ...read more