I Used to Work for Google. I Am a Conscientious Objector.

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/23/opinion/google-privacy-china.html

American companies continue to build surveillance tools that are used to violate human rights. Workers who refuse to comply deserve protections.

By Jack Poulson
Mr. Poulson is a former research scientist at Google.
April 23, 2019

“We can forgive your politics and focus on your technical contributions as long as you don’t do something unforgivable, like speaking to the press.”

This was the parting advice given to me during my exit interview from Google after spending a month internally arguing, resignation letter in hand, for the company to clarify its ethical red lines around Project Dragonfly, the effort to modify Search to meet the censorship and surveillance demands of the Chinese Communist Party.

When a prototype circulated internally of a system that would ostensibly allow the Chinese government to surveil Chinese users’ queries by their phone numbers, Google executives argued that it was within existing norms. Governments, after all, make law enforcement demands of the company all the time. Where, they asked their employees, was the demonstrable harm?

But the time has passed when tech companies can simply build tools, write algorithms and amass data without regard to who uses the technology and for what purpose.

Complaints from a single rank-and-file engineer aren’t going to lead a company to act against its significant financial interests. But history shows that dissenters — aided by courts or the court of public opinion — can sometimes make a difference. Even if that difference is just alerting the public to what these companies are up to.

Nearly a decade ago, Cisco Systems was sued in federal court on behalf of 11 members of the Falun Gong organization, who claimed that the company built a nationwide video surveillance and “forced conversion” profilingClose X system for the Chinese government that was tailored to help Beijing crack down on the group. According to Cisco’s own marketing materials, the video analyzer — which would now be marketed as artificial intelligenceClose X — was the “only product capable of recognizing over 90 percent of Falun Gong pictorial information.”

Despite the court’s acknowledgment that Cisco built “individual features customized and designed specifically to find, track and suppress Falun Gong,” several early rulings went against the plaintiffs. And the case is still pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The failure to punish Cisco set a precedent for American companies to build artificial intelligence for foreign governments to use for political oppression. This year, an investigation by The Times found that an American company, Thermo Fisher, sold DNA analyzers to aid in the current large-scale domestic surveillance and internment of hundreds of thousands of Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group, in the region of Xinjiang. After the story broke, the company said it would no longer sell equipment in Xinjiang.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/23/opinion/google-privacy-china.html

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America’s Elderly Are Twice as Likely to Work Now Than in 1985

From Bloomberg:  https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-04-22/america-s-elderly-are-twice-as-likely-to-work-now-than-in-1985

Twenty percent of those age 65 and up haven’t retired. Many can’t afford to.

April 22, 2019

Just as single-income families began to vanish in the last century, many of America’s elderly are now forgoing retirement for the same reason: They don’t have enough money. Rickety social safety nets, inadequate retirement savings plans and sky high health-care costs are all conspiring to make the concept of leaving the workforce something to be more feared than desired.

For the first time in 57 years, the participation rate in the labor force of retirement-age workers has cracked the 20 percent mark, according to a new report from money manager United Income (PDF).

As of February, the ranks of people age 65 or older who are working or seeking paid work doubled from a low of 10 percent back in early 1985. The biggest spike in employment has gone to college-educated older workers; the share of all employees age 65 or older with at least an undergraduate degree is now 53 percent, up from 25 percent in 1985.

relates to America’s Elderly Are Twice as Likely to Work Now Than in 1985
Source: United Income; Current Population Survey

This rise of college-educated older workers has pushed the demographic’s inflation-adjusted income up to an average of $78,000, 63 percent higher than the $48,000 older folks brought home in 1985. By comparison, American workers below the age of 65 saw their average income rise by only 38 percent over the same period, to an average of $55,000. United Income’s calculations draw on recently released data from the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

There’s a mismatch between older workers who need the income the most and those who are able to work and working, said Elizabeth Kelly, senior vice president of operations for United Income and a former special assistant to the president at the White House National Economic Council during the Obama administration.

“These are the more educated, wealthier individuals in better health who are continuing to work, but it’s probably their less-educated, working-class counterparts who need to work the most,” Kelly said.

The BLS expects the big wave of aging baby boomers to represent the strongest growth in the labor force participation rate through at least 2024. “By 2024, baby boomers will have reached ages 60 to 78,” a BLS report noted. “And some of them are expected to continue working even after they qualify for Social Security benefits.”

Continue reading at:   https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-04-22/america-s-elderly-are-twice-as-likely-to-work-now-than-in-1985

Anti-Semitism Is Back, From the Left, Right and Islamist Extremes. Why?

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/04/world/europe/antisemitism-europe-united-states.html

By Patrick Kingsley
April 4, 2019

BERLIN — Swastikas daubed on a Jewish cemetery in France. An anti-Semitic political campaign by Hungary’s far-right government. Labour lawmakers in Britain quitting their party and citing ingrained anti-Semitism. A Belgian carnival float caricaturing Orthodox Jews sitting on bags of money.

And that was just the past few months.

The accumulated incidents in Europe and the United States have highlighted how an ancient prejudice is surging in the 21st century in both familiar and mutant ways, fusing ideologies that otherwise would have little overlap.

The spike is taking place in a context of rising global economic uncertainty, an emphasis on race and national identity, and a deepening polarization between the political left and right in Europe and the United States over the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

“There’s an ideological pattern that is common,” said Günther Jikeli, an expert on European anti-Semitism at Indiana University. “The world is seen as in a bad shape, and what hinders it becoming a better place are the Jews.”

Anti-Semitism has become a section of today’s political Venn diagram where the far right can intersect with parts of the far left, Europe’s radical Islamist fringe, and even politicians from America’s two main parties.

That confluence is new, experts say, as is the emergence of an Israeli government that has sidled up to far-right allies who praise Israel even as they peddle anti-Semitic prejudice at home.

“It creates a landscape that is very confusing and where things are more blurry than in the past,” said Samuel Ghiles-Meilhac, an expert on Jewish history at the Institut d’Histoire du Temps Présent, a government-funded research group in France.

Polling suggests that anti-Semitic attitudes may be no more widespread than in the past, particularly in Western Europe, where Holocaust remembrance has become a ritual for most governments.

Despite this, bigots have seemingly become more brazen, creating a climate that has made anti-Semitism far more permissible and dangerous.

In recent decades, Western anti-Semitism has tended to trace the contours of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, spiking and ebbing in correlation with spasms of violence between the two sides. But since the 2014 war in Gaza, researchers say, anti-Semitic incidents have remained at high levels.

“And that’s kind of worrying because it means it has become normal to act in anti-Semitic ways,” Mr. Jikeli said.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/04/world/europe/antisemitism-europe-united-states.html

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