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Recode Daily: Days before Uber’s IPO, its drivers go on strike

Fear-based local social media is on the rise, Google is releasing auto-transcribing, and Chinese hackers are co-opting NSA tools.

A man is protesting by holding a sign that says “Respect the drivers.”
A for-hire driver protesting in New York City in August 2018.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Shirin Ghaffary is a senior Vox correspondent covering the social media industry. Previously, Ghaffary worked at BuzzFeed News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and TechCrunch.

Today, thousands of Uber drivers are going on strike for better wages and working conditions. Drivers in at least eight cities in the US and several in other countries, from England to India, are calling for drivers to shut down their apps for Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing apps — in some areas for two hours; in other cities, such as Los Angeles, for a full 24 hours. In San Francisco, drivers will rally outside Uber’s corporate headquarters at noon. The demands are ones that Uber drivers have been making for a long time — higher wages, benefits, pricing transparency — but ahead of Uber’s IPO, represent a bigger problem the company has as it will be pushed to treat its workers better while moving toward profitability. As Shirin Ghaffary writes, “The flexible, on-demand workforce that was touted as the gig economy’s greatest asset is now its biggest liability.”
[Shirin Ghaffary / Recode]

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Inside the rise of fear-based social media networks like Nextdoor, Citizen, and Amazon’s Neighbors. Some of the most-downloaded social and news apps in the US are a new batch of networks that let neighbors view and chat about local crime. Nextdoor in particular, which is designed to be a network for neighbors to discuss everyday local news and tips, is in reality, as Rani Molla writes, a “hotbed for racial stereotyping that’s forced the company to rewrite its software and policies.” Similarly, Citizen and Amazon’s Neighbors app, which is linked to its digital doorbell Ring product, have become social networks that fuel bias and racial profiling. Molla makes the case that these apps can “fuel a vicious cycle of fear and violence,” making Americans feel like crime is getting worse, even though it’s largely been on the decline for the past 25 years.
[Rani Molla / Recode]

Google unveiled a new feature at its I/O 2019 conference that automatically transcribes video or audio you play on your phone in real time. It’s an impressive feature that could potentially help the nearly half a million deaf and hard of hearing people around the world, as The Verge’s Chris Welch details. How does it work? Using what Google has called a breakthrough in machine learning speech recognition, the program shows the transcription for audio in a black box that can be moved around on a phone screen. “Building for everyone means ensuring that everyone can access our products,” said Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai at the conference. The feature will be built into the accessibility settings in Google’s Android mobile operating software. It remains to be seen, though, just how accurate the tool will end up being.
[Chris Welch / The Verge]

Chinese intelligence agents reportedly captured NSA hacking tools, according to cybersecurity research firm Symantec. As the New York Times writes, “[T]he episode is the latest evidence that the United States has lost control of key parts of its cybersecurity arsenal.” Researchers believe that the Chinese captured the code “from an NSA attack on their own computers — like a gunslinger who grabs an enemy’s rifle and starts blasting away.” According to the Times’ reporting, the group that got hold of the sensitive tools is the same one responsible for attacks in the US on “space, satellite, and nuclear propulsion technology makers.” The episode seems to be a sign of the vulnerabilities of the digital hacking security code.
[Nicole Perlroth, David E. Sanger and Scott Shane / The New York Times]

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