Hello, New York Times tech readers. I’m Nellie Bowles, the tech and culture reporter, here now with the roundup of the news.
It was a week that captured the central issues of tech in 2020: privacy versus the convenience of smart home devices, dependence on the smooth running of China’s manufacturing industry, battles over regulation in Europe and the lockdown on internal dissent at Silicon Valley companies.
So to those wanting to take a break from the endless Democratic primary jockeying, settle into a good chair, because what the week brought you is a basket of beautiful tech features.
Coronavirus is starting to affect tech production lines and demand for products. Apple cut its sales expectations for the quarter, citing the virus’s impact on factories and stores. The warning was a clear indication of how big the company has bet on China and how the impact of the outbreak might ripple out into the global economy, explored in an article by Daisuke Wakabayashi.
Amazon executives are also preparing for coronavirus disruptions. An article by Karen Weise and Michael Corkery outlined the measures the company is taking to hedge against the potential that the impact of the virus gets worse. The Everything Store is “making larger and more frequent orders of Chinese-made products that had already been shipped to the United States,” they wrote.
But at the same time, some suppliers are trying to lower demand, cutting back on advertising and promotions so they don’t run out of stuff.
Privacy debates and doorbells
Speaking of Amazon: Not everyone agrees on where to draw the line between privacy and convenience, sometimes not even everyone in the same house. One couple fighting over whether to keep an Alexa-enabled Echo speaker in the home invented their own solution: a bracelet of silence that jams microphones. Wear it and it’s like smart-home armor. The tale of the couple, two computer science professors, was brought to us by Kashmir Hill.
But if you do agree on getting something that records video and listens — especially a Ring doorbell — there are some privacy best practices, which Brian X. Chen outlined in his latest Tech Fix column. There are many, many steps required, including getting a burner phone number. And his conclusion: “If that all sounds like a lot of effort just to use a security camera, that’s because the security concerns make Ring products impractical to own.”
In Europe, leaders are very good at regulating technology, pioneering responses to issues of privacy and antitrust, but can it build tech giants of its own? My colleagues Adam Satariano and Monika Pronczuk wrote: “As Europe has created a reputation as the world’s most aggressive watchdog of Silicon Valley, it has failed to nurture its own tech ecosystem. That has left countries in the region increasingly dependent on companies that many leaders distrust.” Now it is trying to change that and reclaim “technological sovereignty.”
Not surprisingly, Silicon Valley companies have been making more trips to Brussels recently to lobby against some of that regulation: a new digital policy, including first-of-its-kind rules on the ways that artificial intelligence can be used by companies, Adam wrote.
Some stories you shouldn’t miss
Noam Scheiber and Kate Conger had a big story in the The New York Times Magazine on the Great Google Revolt: what happened when a group of employees tried to make the company stop doing work they saw as unethical.
Mostly, they were fired. Dive into the article to understand how Google went from an ultra-transparent company that encouraged employee dissent to, well, not.
The Style section’s Penelope Green took us to deathbeds. As more people choose to die at home and more families have smartphones, deathbed photos are returning.
“What’s happening now is that people are taking back that process,” said Stanley B. Burns, 81, an ophthalmologist who runs the Burns Archive, a collection of post-mortem and medical photos. “But the impulse to photograph is the same as it was for the Victorians.”
Our colleague in Opinion, Susan Fowler, shook the tech world in 2017 when she wrote a first-person account of working at Uber and suffering the indignities and discrimination of a sexist, start-up workplace.
Her memoir, “Whistleblower: My Journey to Silicon Valley and Fight for Justice at Uber,” is out now, and the Book Review called it “a powerful illustration of the obstacles our society continues to throw up in the paths of ambitious young women.”
Marker, a new business site by Medium, is rolling out some great stories this week including a series on “The New Rules of the I.P.O.”
Kickstarter officially voted to unionize. There have been large efforts to organize tech labor, but many have faltered.
San Diego is likely to recognize Instacart workers as employees rather than independent contractors, according to a story in Bloomberg Law.
A general reminder from The New York Times Magazine’s Future of Work issue: Professional video game players are in high demand as the industry competes for talent, and now they make even more money.
According to Newzoo, a games-and-e-sports analytics company, competitive e-sports revenue last year was about $1.1 billion, an almost 27 percent increase from 2018, Robert Capps wrote. So, in conclusion, get in while the getting is good.
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