Weekly Round Up 2/23/18

 

 

Yeah, but who’s gonna pay for it?
Tech Could Supplement a Physical Border Wall, But Many Questions Remain


Not if the current administration has anything to say about it

DC, not California, tops list for women working in tech


Thanks, Obama

Recruiting and Retaining Female Tech Talent Is a Challenge — Here’s How We Did It

Dude, 1984 gave me chills when I thought it was just fiction
Artists And Criminals: On The Cutting Edge Of Tech

 

Well, if no one else is gonna do it…
How Tech Companies Can Help Upskill the U.S. Workforce

 


Have you guys been talking to the Russians?

HOW TECH SUPPORTS HATE

 


He was brilliant even back then, but we already knew this.

Fascinating Jobs application: Apple co-founder listed ‘tech, design’ as skills in 1973 hunt for work

 

Unless this list contains a helmet that prevents concussions and CTE, then it’s just a wish list.

This is the tech that NFL players are excited about in 2018

 

 

What were you favorite tech stories of the week? Sound off in the comments below!

WIT: The Dangers of Keeping Women Out of Tech

 

 

By Mallory Pickett of WIRED.com

IN 1978 A young woman named Maria Klawe arrived at the University of Toronto to pursue a doctorate in computer science. She had never used a computer—much less written a line of code—but she had a PhD in math and a drive to succeed in a male-dominated field. She was so good that, nine months later, the university asked her to be a professor.

Today, however, computer science is one of the few STEM fields in which the number of women has been steadily decreasing since the ’80s. In the tech industry, women hold only around one-fifth of technical roles. In light of these stats, the prevailing view in Silicon Valley these days is “This is terrible, let’s fix it.”

In Southern California, Klawe has done what tech has not. For the past 11 years, she has served as the president of Harvey Mudd College­—a small liberal arts school in Claremont, California, known for its intensive STEM focus—where the number of women in its computer science program has grown from 10 percent to 40 percent. On the subject, she’s optimistic: Change is possible. Now it’s the industry’s turn—and it could take a lesson from Klawe.

When you meet with men in the tech industry, can you tell that some of them doubt women can succeed in technical work?
That they don’t think women are suited for this? Oh, yeah.

People say that?
I was yelled at by one CEO who said his company was bringing women into technical roles but that if he saw it get to 30 percent, he’d know their hiring process was really screwed up. So I asked if he knew that we’re graduating women in computer science at more than 40 percent. He just blew me off. And when I asked him why there are so few women on his leadership team, he just said, “Gender isn’t an issue for us.”

So what about those screwed-up hiring practices? How do they work?
Look at the interview process. If I’m interviewing somebody, I would probably say, “Oh, it’s so nice to see you, welcome to Harvey Mudd, we’re really delighted to have you here with us.” But it would be quite common for a tech company to start an interview without even saying good morning or good afternoon, just: “I want to know what you know about pointers in C++, so show me how to do that.” Very adversarial, bragging, trying to show how much smarter they are. There are some women who feel perfectly comfortable in those environments, but I would say for the most part they don’t. Also, that kind of environment is just obnoxious.

But that’s how so many companies conduct interviews. Google comes to mind.
Google has studied their interview process, and I’ve heard that it overpredicts success for men and underpredicts success for women. [Google disputes this.] They just haven’t changed much.

Should they change? Judging from how well these companies are doing, it seems like those methods work. I mean, Steve Jobs was apparently an asshole—
He was an asshole. I met him.

—and Amazon reportedly has a terrible work environment, yet these are successful companies.
Yep.

So why change just to be friendlier to women?
Google, Facebook, Microsoft—all these companies were successful because they figured out a new way to make money. Google monetized search through advertising, Facebook became an advertising platform, Microsoft created a dominant software platform. But it’s probably an error to associate their success with their managerial style or their culture.

Some would say those managerial styles and cultures are crucial, not coincidental.
Let’s go back to the first big tech companies, like IBM and HP. Both were highly inclusive, really worked on hiring and promoting women and people of color. In fact, virtually every woman or person of color who’s a leader in the tech industry today—who’s roughly my age, 66—came up through IBM or HP. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and all the people in that generation came along in the ’80s or late ’70s. This happened to be a time when girls and young women were being turned away from computers. Computers became a boys’ domain almost overnight.

How?
Women were once about a third, maybe 35 percent, of the computer science majors in this country. Part of that was—I mean, this sounds so ridiculous—but part of that was because women had better typing skills and were thought of as being more careful. In the ’70s women were majoring in computer science because it was something they were expected to be good at. Then we had personal computers entering homes and schools.
There are two kinds of things you can do on a PC as a child. One is word processing. Bo-ring! The other is playing games like Pong and Space Invaders—computational power at that time couldn’t do graphics more sophisticated than that. And who likes to play those kinds of games? Boys. So it’s not particularly surprising that very quickly boys took over.

Is there a business reason for getting back to a culture in which computers aren’t seen as a boy thing?
The reality is, if tech companies can’t persuade more women and people of color to major in computer science, they are not going to be able to fill the positions that they have. Everybody’s looking at the same talent. They absolutely know what it costs to recruit a single person, and they know that if their churn for employees is, say, every 13 months, that’s not a good business case for them.

 

So when you actually start to increase the enrollment of women in computer science programs, what happens?
Well, at pretty much every place—not just Mudd but Carnegie Mellon, MIT, University of Washington, UBC, Princeton—that has made a significant effort to recruit women into engineering and computer science, not only do the female students do as well, they also take on most of the leadership roles.

With that in mind, have you noticed a change on campus?
Huge. It’s more social, people are happier—it’s just a different vibe. Before, there was a very particular culture, which is fairly common, where computer science is the central focus in the lives of most of the students. They read Reddit and GitHub, they play a lot of videogames, they do hacking projects. There are still students like that, but there are also people who care more about ballroom dancing.

What’s so important about having ballroom dancers be computer scientists?
If computer science is going to affect every aspect of society—and it is—you really would like to have some dancers, and some artists, and some doctors able to work at the interface of computer science in their field. That’s where the demand will be. Having that breadth of knowledge means you have better teams working on projects.

Sure, but is teamwork as important as your ability to write good code?
These days, agile software development often relies on pair programming, where you have two people—a driver and a navigator. The driver codes, the navigator looks over their shoulder and asks questions, and they flip roles about once every half hour. The result is much higher quality software. There are fewer faults.

Yet women still feel unwelcome. What changes at Mudd addressed that?
One was to make the introductory computer science course less intimidating. If you emphasize needing a special kind of brain, students who are underrepresented will do much worse. But if you say this is a discipline that rewards hard work and persistence, everyone does better.

We also started emphasizing more practical applications in introductory classes. In the past we presented computer science as interesting just for its own structure. That was very effective at attracting white and Asian men to the discipline, but only a subset of them, and it was generally not effective for women or people of color. When you start to make the argument that computer science is worth studying because of the things you can do with it, you attract not only more women but also a lot of men who wouldn’t have been interested in the usual approaches.

If everyone knows it’s a good idea to be more inclusive, and everyone wants to support their female employees, why aren’t more companies doing it?
Because changing culture is hard. Every company has somewhat different attributes that make recruiting people and keeping people difficult. Apple is one company that I don’t think is particularly trying. They hired their first VP of diversity and inclusion, and that person stayed for less than a year.

Are some companies succeeding?
Etsy convinced people who weren’t in software development jobs to be trained for technical roles, and they managed to get to almost 30 percent female in their engineering population relatively quickly. Accenture is doing extremely well and came in at roughly 40 percent female in their hires last year.

How did they do that?
The executive in charge of hiring came to me for help. I said, first of all, change your job descriptions. Don’t just list the technical skills you’re looking for. List communication skills, creativity, and people skills, so women will know it’s a workplace that values those things and because those are traits women tend to have more confidence about.

Gender isn’t the only concern, of course. If the percentage of female technical employees is in the teens at many companies, black and brown employees are—
In the single digits! Like, one-handed digits.

What is Harvey Mudd doing about that?
The truth is we made very little progress on race until about five years ago.

What happened?
We had been running a program where we would bring in 35 to 40 high school students for a weekend, and it was primarily aimed at students of color and women. Five years ago, we doubled the program and did two cohorts instead of one. And I started reaching out to African American leaders across the country. We also did research on how to recruit more Hispanic students, and we learned Hispanic families want their kids to stay close to home. So we needed to focus on admitting students from schools in Southern California.

What would you say to schools that are not making these changes?
What’s facing us is a very, very different future. The haves will be the people who have the skills that are needed, and the have-nots will be the people whose skills are no longer needed—because of automation, because of AI, because of robotics. We don’t know how fast certain kinds of routine jobs will go away, but we do know it will put a further income gap between people who have that kind of education and knowledge and people who don’t. If there are not many women, or people of color, or older people, or low­-income people getting that technical education and those technical jobs, it’s going to further polarize the situation in the country. It’s a question of transforming our society so a large enough fraction of people have opportunities for productive work.

So the stakes are high.
We want the Earth to survive. It’s pretty straightforward.


Do you have a woman in tech you admire? Tell us about her in the comments below!

WIT: We all must think about ‘balance of tech’ – Randi Zuckerberg

 

By Peter Hamilton of the Irish Times

“Nobody ever came up with an idea that was going to change the world when they were 24/7 glued to their phone”, Randi Zuckerberg, an entrepreneur and former Facebook employee, has told delegates at a conference.

Speaking at the Pendulum Summit, a conference in Dublin’s convention centre, Ms Zuckerberg said that “we all have to think about the balance of tech”, warning that while it can do incredible things, it doesn’t spur entrepreneurship by itself.

An older sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Randi began her career in digital marketing at advertising agency Ogilvy before joining the social media giant in its infancy.

She told the conference about the company’s ‘hackathon’ events, where “every few months everyone at the company was invited to pull an all nighter…there was one rule, you could not work on something that was related to anything you did on your day job.”

Ms Zuckerberg herself came up with the Facebook Live idea at one of those Hackathons. While the first ever transmission was only watched by two people the idea ultimately became a success after Katy Perry launched a world tour on the platform and “politicians from around the world saw an opportunity to speak directly to their constituents” with Barack Obama becoming an early adopter.

Ms Zuckerberg quit the company after the successes of Facebook Live because of a “complicated relationship with both tech and Silicon Valley”.

“On one hand I loved being part of a company like Facebook that was changing the world, I loved being in Silicon Valley where everywhere you walk people are talking about solving big problems. I hated being the only woman in the room for 10 years,” she said.

“Even today, my best advice for young women going into technology, is to have a mans name like Randi.

“I had a growing complicated relationship between the huge digital divide we see in the world. We live in a world today where some of us have amazing access to technology and advice and business and speakers. All of us in this room we are so lucky and then right in our back yard’s are millions of people who don’t even have WiFi access, and millions of people who are going to be left behind from this new economy and for me, I had trouble sitting with that.

“Some of the very tools we were working on and creating, they were used very differently by the world then how we dreamed they’d be used. For example, I remember waking up during the time of the Arab Spring and feeling so proud, waking up every morning thinking, wow, we’ve given a voice to everyone.

“And then I woke up the day after this last election in the United States and thought, wow, we gave a voice to everyone. It’s complicated,” she added.

Ms Zuckerberg is now the chief executive of Zuckerberg Media, a company she founded, and has just finished writing 30 episodes of a television show based on a children’s book she has written called “Dot”.

Weekly Round Up 1/12/18

 

 

Again?! Steve Jobs may have been a tyrant when it came to the details but, this sh*t rarely happened on his watch.

Yet another macOS High Sierra bug: Unlock App Store system preferences with any password.


With all the Technology surrounding these guys, you’d think they’d pay better attention to the world around them. I mean, I know they live in a bubble, but c’mon!
Data Sheet—Darkness Hits CES Amid the Tech Backlash.

 

And my hometown made the list! Charlotte NC for the win!
Tech’s New Hotbeds: Cities With Fastest Growth In STEM Jobs Are Far From Silicon Valley.

Wait, does this mean no more Jitterbug?!
Tech for the elderly is a growing area, but founders should think more about whether their gadget will be used.

 

I think Steve would be more worried about the lack of leadership in his company right now, actually.
The ‘father of the iPod’ says tech addiction would worry Steve Jobs if he were alive today.

 

What, bribes don’t work on Congress anymore? Since when?!
Tech executives join more than 100 business leaders calling on Congress to move quickly on DACA.

 

You know, when I was a kid, I remember my parents writing to Captain Kangaroo and asking him to cut his programming in half so I’d watch less. SMH
Kids and Smartphones: Should Tech Companies or Parents Set the Limits?

Weekly Round Up 8/18

 

 

Maybe they should ask Trump for advice on how to deal with them…. Too Soon?
Tech is not winning the battle against white Supremacy


Guess they didn’t read the fine print…

Here’s why Tech Execs can’t quit Trump’s technology council

It’s all fun and games….
The US Government must work with tech companies if it wants to remain competitive in AI

….Until the subpoenas start flying around.
Tech firm is fighting a federal demand for data on visitors to an anti-Trump website.


Leave the old people alone!!

Robocall scams get craftier as tech industry tries new ways to block the practice.


When I was in 4-H, all we got to do was cook $hit and shovel $hit.

Google continues to push diversity in tech — now with the 4-H club

…But they didn’t have any problem approving them to begin with?!
Apple pulls Apple Pay support from selling White Nationalist and Nazi Apparel.

T&T: Tips for keeping strangers off your Wi-Fi network

 

 

Give digital trespassers the boot.

By David Nield of Popular Science

You don’t want neighbors or passers-by stealing your Wi-Fi any more than you want them stealing your water, electricity, or carefully curated collection of Blu-ray movies. In fact it’s more serious than that—if someone can hook on to the same network as you, it becomes easier for them to snoop on your browsing and your locally stored files.

So how do you go about locking things down? Thankfully, keeping unwelcome visitors away from your Wi-Fi isn’t difficult and doesn’t need an IT qualification. Here’s what you need to do.

Keep changing your password

By far the easiest way to boot freeloaders off your wireless network is to change the Wi-Fi password. You need to do this through your router’s settings—either dig out the manual or run a quick web search to find the instructions for your particular make and model.

Change the password to something very hard to forget (for you) and impossible to guess (for everyone else) and you’ve got a clean slate as far as access to your wireless network goes. You do have the inconvenience of then reconnecting all of your devices and computers, but it’s a small price to pay for a clean Wi-Fi slate. Pick something that’s important to you, like a date or a name, but that no one else would think of, so it’s both simple for you to enter and secured against unwanted visitors.

 

The router’s initial password is often printed on a sticker that’s attached to the device itself, so changing it will prevent guests like party goers from spying on the security code. If the password’s only in your head or somewhere secure then no one else can connect up until you tell them what it is.

Actually, that’s not quite true—some routers feature one-touch WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) connectivity, so connecting to Wi-Fi can be done with a push of a button on the router itself. If you’re worried about someone doing this to get on the web, you can usually disable it through the router settings.

Check your router settings

While we’ve got your router configuration page open, a few other settings are worth looking at. First, change the default password used to access the router settings page to something else—this stops anyone who might gain access to your network from changing the Wi-Fi password themselves. As you’ll have realized when you accessed your router settings for the first time, you need a password to get into the menus, and a separate one to connect to Wi-Fi, so changing them both gives you maximum protection.

It’s also worth applying any pending firmware updates, which ensures your router is running the latest and most secure version of its own basic operating system. Again, with so many router makes and models on the market we can’t give you instructions for each one, but it should be simple to do—find the instruction booklet or a guide on the web for your device and it will only take a couple of minutes.

 

Elsewhere in your router’s settings you should find a screen listing the devices connected up to your Wi-Fi: Is there anything there you don’t recognize? You often have the option to disconnect a device, depending on the type of router you’ve got, though you might need to do a bit of detective work to identify the devices your router lists.

Finally, you should be able to find a setting that ‘hides’ your network (the technical term is the SSID or service set identifier) from view, so it won’t appear when your neighbors or visitors scan for Wi-Fi on their devices. If you need to connect a new device, you need to enter the SSID manually. It’s not a huge improvement in Wi-Fi security, but it’s a neat trick that can help you stay under the radar of hackers and Wi-Fi freeloaders.

Other security tips

If you want some extra help spotting who’s on your network who maybe shouldn’t be, beyond what your router offers, try Fing for Android or iOS, Acrylic Wi-Fi for Windows, or Who Is On My Wi-Fi for macOS. All those apps are free (for non-commercial use), and are easy to navigate around no matter what your level of networking know-how. Various other apps are available to do the same job too.

 

Installing a VPN on your computer doesn’t do anything extra in terms of stopping people from connecting to your Wi-Fi, but it does add an extra layer of encryption between you and the web—so that anyone who does manage to gain access to your network is going to have a much harder time trying to snoop on your activities (which websites you visit, the data you’re sending and so on). While a VPN might slightly slow down your connection speed, it keeps you a lot safer—just be sure to choose a reputable, paid-for service.

Finally, if your computer is close enough to the router to wire it up directly, and you’ve got strong cellular reception on your phone, you could turn off Wi-Fi on your router every once in a while, which can be done through the router settings on all modern boxes. No one’s going to be able to hook up to your Wi-Fi network if it’s switched off.

Do you have any tips for securing your home wifi network? Share them with us in the comments below!

App of the Week: Truebill

The App That Will Save You Hundreds Of Dollars

 

 

By Brian Rashid of Forbes

Sadly, some companies do not have your financial best interest in mind.
Companies that operate with the popular subscription-based model may be charging you money without you knowing. This could be in the form of hidden fees, by making it difficult for you to cancel a subscription, or even by signing you up for recurring payments when you make a one-time purchase.

Yahya Mokhtarzada realized the prominence of this problem when he was charged sneaky fees for in-flight wifi he had signed up for months ago. Annoyed, he did his homework and found that this situation is very common.

 

He teamed up with his brother, Idris, and founded Truebill, an app that detects and monitors recurring subscriptions.

Not only does Truebill identify these payments, but it allows users to cancel unwanted ones with a single click. The app goes a step further to ensure that the subscription is canceled by monitoring the user’s bank account the following month. In the event that the company did not follow through on the cancellation, Truebill will contact them and give the user a refund. Best of all, this service is completely free – an incredible price considering the average Truebill user saves $512 a year.

Let’s look at a real life example of their service. Imagine a user signed up for a gym membership in a city she no longer lives in. She realizes that she still being charged and wants to cancel. She calls the gym and finds out that the gym requires her to cancel in person. If not, she will have to mail a Certified Letter. With Truebill, she can easily cancel with one click on the app. Then, Truebill ensures her subscription is canceled by monitoring her bank account for charges the following month. If the gym charges her again, Truebill will automatically contact the gym to get her a refund.

In addition to saving users money, peace of mind is of the utmost importance to the Truebill team. They understand the reluctance of giving a stranger access to your financial data and use only the strongest security protocol. They do not share user data with other companies and use read-only algorithms when scanning user information.

Truebill is not anti-subscription. In fact, they educate the user on popular subscriptions with reviews on their website and recommend new ones that will increase the user experience. Truebill is, however, anti-subscription mismanagement. They believe that as payments become more automated with subscriptions, the user’s way of managing them should also become more automated.

Further, Truebill continues to increase the user experience by creating more features. They recently launched a tool that monitors subscriptions and warns the user if a price goes up. As the list of features continues to grow, the real value of TrueBill will remain, the awareness of where your money is going and what to do if you are not happy with that figure.

With our world moving toward automating, it is likely that the subscription-based model will continue to be popular. Brothers, Yahya and Idris, envision that everyone has complete control of their finances in this digital world. At just over a year old with over 150,000 users signed up, they are off to a great start.

What’s your favorite money management app? Tell us about it in the comments below!

WIT: Women in Tech Leadership is Good for Business – How to Achieve It

 

Rena Nigam, President – Global Solutions & Services, Incedo via InformationWeek

Four steps toward enabling the advance of women into tech leadership roles start with acknowledging today’s disparity.

It’s no secret that gender disparity is an issue in the technology industry. The field has become a gateway to high-paying jobs and an opportunity to make a change in the software-driven future. However, a higher number of men than women are staying on.

This gap exists due to many factors: families at home, working hours at the office, “geek workplace” culture and, sometimes unconscious, gender bias. The participation of women in their workplaces is not only a social issue, but a business issue that affects women, companies, and entire economies.

It’s easy to feel the industry has turned a corner with many of its gender equality initiatives. However, disparity still exists. Consider the number of women who enter the IT industry, compared to the number of women who make it to the top, the C-suite. At entry levels, the percentage of women entering the tech workforce is close to 30%. This number drastically shrinks when it comes to leadership roles. On a personal note, I often find myself as the only woman at the executive table. Women hold just 5% of CEO jobs, according to the S&P 500 list, and 56% of women leave their jobs at the peak of their career, which is double the quitting rate of men, per the National Center for Women and Information Technology’s report.

A recent Reuters study also stated that 30% of tech executives had no women in leadership positions. Without women role models and sponsors, the drop-out rates from entry and middle layers will not improve.

Most executives agree that gender diversity in the workforce is not just a moral imperative. It’s also good for business. Research has shown that organizations with a higher percentage of women in leadership roles are likely to outperform the average. There are a few reasons for this. For one, multiple studies show that women are better at assessing risks than men, and making decisions accordingly. This is incredibly important given the unpredictable global business environment. Second, it’s been shown that diversity of thought brought about by mixed gender leadership teams make for stronger decision making.

What can be done?
Real change must start from the top. It’s vital for senior leaders – both men and women – to maintain a clear stand on gender equality. At an enterprise level, establishing policies and procedures to ensure equality and diversity play a huge role. Here are some steps we can take to address gender disparity and encourage more women into leadership roles:

Acknowledge the problem. Women don’t experience obvious forms of sexism as much as they did a decade ago. Instead, they face an easily masked undercurrent of bigotry – it comes in more subtle forms today. First, recognize these issues in the organization. It’s also critical to understand that women and men come to work with different needs and expectations. At Incedo, we’re trying to address this with a women’s network we launched this year, I-Step Up. The objective is to enable and empower women to succeed. It brings together women from varied professional backgrounds to share their personal and professional experiences, challenges, and winning moments. It also provides a forum for women to share their needs so Incedo can better meet them.

Make conscious choices. Many new policies are being introduced to facilitate a  supportive environment for women and retain them as they move into leadership roles, such as flexible working hours, maternity benefits, and work-at-home options. However, it shouldn’t end with the company handbook. Organizations must ensure these policies get embedded into their cultures as well. It’s normal to see raised eyebrows when a woman leaves her desk early. That’s a flaw in the organization, not an individual employee. It can be easily solved with conversations by management and sensitizing your employees to gender issues.

Create opportunities for growth. Opportunities become fewer as women grow within an organization. Technology organizations often address their gender ratio gaps in leadership by first hiring women leaders in support functions – human resources, marketing, legal, and quality. While such initiatives are important, true change will not happen until women leaders are in line functions such as engineering, sales and client services. It is only then that the vicious cycle of “hiring in your own image” can be broken and more opportunities for growth can be created for women.

Measure. At every level in the enterprise, examine the gender ratio and the percentage of women you’ve hired and retained. This will provide a better indication of your organization’s status, and help you analyze where growth is being obstructed, as well as discover areas where work needs to be done to make the workplace more female-friendly.

The need for talent is only increasing as more industries become technology-driven. Enterprises cannot meet the rising demands of our digital economy if we don’t unlock the potential of our female talent. It’s time to take another look at gender issues in the enterprise, and create more opportunities for growth.

Rena Nigam is President for Global Services and Solutions for Incedo and on the company’s board. She is responsible for Incedo’s strategy in emerging technology areas. She also manages the East Coast and overall Financial Services businesses. Before joining Incedo, Rena co-founded a firm called aSpark, and prior to that, she was part of the executive team of Mphasis where she managed their global banking and capital markets unit. She is a computer engineering graduate from the University of Bombay with an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Calcutta.

What improvements would you like to see the Tech Industry make to entice moe women to work for them? Leave you thoughts in the comments below.

Weekly Round Up 5/26

 


Um…Trump University isn’t on this list.

25 Colleges that pay for themselves if you want to work in tech

Except that it didn’t work…
How Silicon Valley is trying to topple Trump — beginning with a special election in Montana

Honestly, who didn’t see this coming?
Tesla’s solar roof tiles are already sold out ‘well into 2018’

I’d just be happy if their was one to make my cat less of an a**hole.
Wearable tech latest must-have for China’s proud pet owners

Because they need all 14 or so women working in the tech field to keep working.
At tech companies, egg freezing benefits are all the rage

Why is everyone looking at Zuckerberg?
Tech companies need to stand up to the jerks in their midst

I’d be really disappointed if it didn’t.
Tech Ups The Ante In Orlando’s New Theme Park Experiences

Here’s to the crazy ones…
Walt Mossberg signs ‘out’

Kinda like watching the Hall of Presidents but with cooler tech.
Apple will live stream WWDC 2017 keynote on June 5 at 10AM PT

WIT: Stopping revenge porn starts with more women in tech.

 

By Melanie Ehrenkranz of Mic.com

Nearly three years after dozens of celebrities and actresses were targeted in a massive revenge porn campaign called the Fappening, women are under attack again.

In March, thousands of current and former male Marines were discovered to be sharing a massive stash of explicit nude photos without their subjects’ consent. The same month, someone reportedly leaked more private images of women in Hollywood, and stars like Emma Watson and Amanda Seyfried, allegedly targeted in the attack, are taking legal action.

Hacks like these are more than invasions of privacy. They’re serious personal attacks that more often than not fit the description of a sex crime. The distribution of explicit or sensitive images of someone without their consent is a form of revenge porn, or “image-based sexual abuse,” Durham University law professor Clare McGlynn said in an interview with Refinery29. This type of harassment is difficult to both prevent and enforce: When the Marines’ private Facebook group for nude photos was busted, users simply flocked to other, more off-the-radar sites.

As lawmakers have fought for harsher punishments for revenge porn distributors, there’s another way to protect victims: cybersecurity measures that protect users from having their personal images spread around the web. It’s an urgent reason to bring more women, who are disproportionately targeted in these attacks, into cybersecurity — a field with dismal gender parity and an inability to develop a work culture that allows them to thrive.

 

Revenge porn has millions of victims

Posting someone’s nude images online without their consent isn’t a form of harassment unique to celebrities. As many as 1 in 25 internet users in the United States (approximately 10.4 million people) has been threatened with or actually experienced having their explicit photos or videos posted online, according to a study from the Center for Innovative Public Health Research. The study showed that individuals from communities enduring the most harassment online also experienced a higher rate of revenge porn threats.

“Our findings show that particular groups — such as young adults and lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans — are not only much more likely to be victims of nonconsensual pornography, but are more likely to experience a range of online harassment and abuse,” lead researcher Amanda Lenhart said in a statement. “This includes other types of privacy violations, such as having their online or phone activity monitored, or having their passwords stolen or coerced by others.”

But many people still don’t take revenge porn attacks seriously. Brianna Wu, a video game developer and game studio founder, is currently running for Congress on a platform of privacy rights and inclusive technology. She knows the perils of online abuse firsthand. “We’ve seen young girls commit suicide after being violated online without consent,” she said in an email to Mic. “This is causing immense harm, but many men in tech are blind to it.”

“I was really amazed by how many men I knew in tech considered the Fappening on Reddit a fun diversion,” Wu said. But when she “tried to talk to them about it being a sex crime, a light did go off.”

The tech industry isn’t set up to prevent revenge porn

Mary Anne Franks, a professor at the University of Miami School of Law and the legislative and tech policy director of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, treats revenge porn as a “war on three fronts: legal, technological and social.” Socially, there’s been progress since 2012, she said, but her organization is still trying to “appeal to the tech industry to get a handle on the problem that they helped create.”

Tech companies rush out new products with lofty dreams of changing the world, but rarely do innovators appear to have considered the possibility of their revolutionary products being weaponized. “What’s particularly missing from that conversation is, ‘How will this affect women?'” Franks said.

“You can see that just in the way that Twitter is designed, you can see that in the way that Facebook” — which she said still hasn’t figured out how to prevent clips of rape and child abuse from popping up — “is designed,” she said. Franks also noted Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg’s previous creation, 2003’s Facemash.com, a website that allowed users to rank women on attractiveness based on their Harvard ID photos. “It’s not a coincidence that we ended up with the features and products that are heavily male dominated,” she said. 

So when “Facebook says, ‘Oh, we’re trying to figure out ways to get a handle on [violent, abusive content],’ that should be an unacceptable response,” Franks said. “Because if they didn’t have a handle on it before, they shouldn’t have rolled out the product.”

Facebook did recently address abuse issues following the Marines United scandal. New guidelines will address revenge porn by using photo-matching technology to stop the spread of nonconsensual images. 

As Wired notes, this will be helpful in mitigating revenge porn, but not preventing it. And it took a headline-grabbing scandal to nudge Facebook to roll out this protocol, when it should have anticipated the needs of its users before bad press forced its hand.

Another problem: The cybersecurity business is heavily male — and heavily white

According to a new report, women “account for just 11% of all cybersecurity professionals, earn less than their male counterparts across the board and generally feel underappreciated by their employers,” Fortune reported. 

Silicon Valley is notorious for its lack of diversity, its deeply rooted bro culture and, as a result, its pervasive exclusion of both women and people of color from the types of roles that can reshape that culture. It’s unsurprising that this trend persists in the cybersecurity industry, and that it extends beyond the business concerns to affect the internet’s most vulnerable users.

“It is entirely possible that these men never imagined the internet would free us from our earthly limitations,” Jenna Wortham wrote in the New York Times. “Instead they strove to create a world like the one we already know — one that never had equality to begin with.”

Cybersecurity experts have the ability to mitigate online abuse from a technological standpoint: They can create more efficient algorithms that scan the internet for revenge porn and quickly wipe it before it’s visible. Tech companies have the power to more strictly enforce the removal of such content. The Brookings Institution has recommended device manufacturers and internet companies develop webcams that are more easily obscured so that hackers can’t use them as surveillance devices. (In the meantime, you can always stick a Post-it note on yours.) Brookings also suggested that these companies can better encourage users to make sure they have strong passwords with less easy-to-guess security questions.

What women can offer

“Study after study has shown that women are more risk averse,” Tina Gravel, senior vice president of global channels and strategic alliances for Cryptzone, said in an email referencing a Harvard Business Review report. Gravel said that this finding can be an advantage in terms of developing the next generation of infrastructure and tech needed to stave off cybercriminals.

“Women are more likely to build these systems with security and risk reduction in mind and look for increasing ways to decrease risk, which will benefit us all,” she said. 

Franks said that until the tech industry scraps its flawed way of thinking — products exist, therefore they are valuable and should be protected even if they have issues — its products will continue to imperil women and minorities. As it stands, “the welfare of the people most likely to be hurt is always going to be an afterthought,” Franks said. 

And those most likely to endure harassment are going to be able to put those issues on the radar before they come up. That’s why a diverse team is so important.

Legislators need a better grasp of consent in the digital age

Rape culture still permeates our everyday lives — from media to victim blaming to sympathy for convicted rapists. It is also a pattern of behavior that persists among representatives in the legal system, according to Franks, which can contribute to the normalization of online sexual violence.  

“If we’re talking about legislators, the major problem is getting people past really, really outdated ideas and really moralistic ideas about sexual behavior,” Franks said. “When women are sexually assaulted, or they’re catcalled or when they’re harassed at work, we have this tendency to treat them as though it were their fault or as though the things that are happening to them are just not that serious.”

Franks said that the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative believes that the war on revenge porn can’t hinge purely on strong legislative reform and better practices from tech companies. It also requires a society that makes victims of online abuse feel safe speaking up about their experiences. It means people in power, like courts and lawyers, need to fully understand the issue at hand. It means approaching this type of harassment with empathy, not shame. 

“There are so many legislators who will honestly, in front of people, say, ‘Well, I don’t know why people are sending naked pictures to begin with,’ or, ‘If you’ve ever sent a naked picture before, you probably deserve it if they were to distribute it to someone else,'” Franks said. “There’s this really bizarre attitude toward sex that you see on the part of many legislators,” who are not just predominantly white and male, she said, but also “tend to be older.”

And tech companies need to step up

Wortham discussed her conversation with Alice Marwick, a fellow at Data & Society, summarizing Marwick’s point that “Silicon Valley tends to be ruled by a libertarian viewpoint — the notion that the less regulation and political interference in technology, the better.”
But the denizens of Silicon Valley also have a responsibility to regulate the spaces they’ve created, which too often afford their users the ability to discriminate, cyberbully and threaten others with spreading their private information. Franks said Silicon Valley tends to have a hands-off, no-regulation mentality, which has “proven to be pretty disastrous. … Many of the laws being written are not going to be terribly effective because the tech industry has so much immunity,” she said.

Many are hoping the legal system will catch up with tech and more rigorously enforce perpetrators of revenge porn. Until then, as Wired’s

Emma Grey Ellis has written, “tech companies have even fewer excuses for lagging than Congress.”  

Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google, Bing and Yahoo have all adopted policies, beginning in 2015, that ban revenge porn from their platforms. But these companies can still stand to work toward pre-emptive measures, as Franks noted — like waiting to roll out products or features until teams have deliberated on all of the ways, good and bad, they might affect users. 

 

 

Diverse teams build more inclusive products

A diverse team is not only good for a company’s bottom line, but also ensures that its products cater to the needs of a more diverse consumer base.

“The single most obvious reason to push hard for diversity is that promoting diversity means promoting understanding,” journalist and engineer Ipsita Agarwal wrote in a 2016 Medium post. “And that leads to better products that solve problems for those who might’ve otherwise been sidelined.”

Those in power can hire more women into cybersecurity, and also ensure they have female role models or mentorship when they arrive.

They can ensure that both men and women have equal opportunities to rise within the company. They can push recruitment teams to look for candidates in the right places (no, it’s not a “pipeline problem”), foster an inclusive environment and weigh men’s and women’s qualifications equally when considering them for a promotion.

“We need to help break down stereotypes and show young women that the field of cybersecurity is open to them,” Brenda Piazza, director of cybersecurity at CBIZ MHM, LLC, said in an email. “We need more women to enter the field, to demand equal pay and to help other women enter the cybersecurity industry.” 

In this specific instance, hiring more women — women of color, women from the LGBTQ community, women from the trans community — into cybersecurity will not only economically benefit the company itself, but it will lead to products and solutions that better address the privacy issues a larger breadth of consumers face. 

“Without a diverse set of individuals contributing to the industry (be that females, minorities, etc), we simply close the aperture by which we see risk, and that is harmful for everyone,” Gravel said.

Franks agreed: “The more diverse experiences you have in the room, the more likely it is you are going to see problems before they arrive.”

Who better to grasp what vulnerable users might face online than individuals who are disproportionately targeted?

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