Massachusetts Court Objects to Gig Worker Ballot Measure

A proposed Massachusetts ballot initiative designating gig drivers as independent contractors was nixed by a state court that deemed it an attempt to avoid liability by companies like Uber and Lyft in the event of accident or crime. The Tuesday ruling effectively halted a $17.8 million campaign in support of a bill the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said violates the State Constitution, with hidden language excepting drivers from being “an employee or agent” of a gig company. The move is the latest in a series of skirmishes between gig companies and local governments.  Continue reading Massachusetts Court Objects to Gig Worker Ballot Measure

New York State Legislature Passes Broad Right to Repair Law

The New York state legislature has passed the nation’s most comprehensive “right to repair” bill, the Digital Fair Repair Act. The DFRA requires original equipment manufacturers to make available to independent repair providers and consumers existing diagnostic and repair information and tools for digital electronic parts and equipment. The measure, which awaits Governor Kathy Hochul’s signature, affects all manufacturers selling digital products in New York state. “Where before, manufacturers could push consumers to use manufacturer-authorized shops, now they’ll have to compete,” said indie repair chain iFixit. Continue reading New York State Legislature Passes Broad Right to Repair Law

Seattle ‘Pay Up’ Legislation Created to Support Gig Workers

Seattle’s City Council has unanimously passed the “Pay Up” bill, designed to improve working conditions and compensation for on-demand gig workers, increasing wages and mileage reimbursement for the region’s app-based labor pool. Beginning in 2023, apps including DoorDash, Grubhub and Uber Eats will be required to pay delivery drivers per-minute and per-mile rates, with the clock ticking the minute the drivers accept an order. Pay Up is the first step in Seattle’s ongoing effort to protect app-based workers, which one councilmember called “one of the fastest growing sectors in our economy.” Continue reading Seattle ‘Pay Up’ Legislation Created to Support Gig Workers

State AGs Launch Investigation into Effects of TikTok on Kids

A group of state attorneys general has announced an investigation into TikTok and the potential harm it may cause younger users. The fact-finding is not unlike that launched by top state legal advisors last year into Meta Platforms. The bipartisan group is exploring whether TikTok is violating state consumer protection laws with engagement tactics that may cause minors to become “hooked” on the app. Kids in the age of social media “feel like they need to measure up to the filtered versions of reality that they see on their screens,” said California attorney general Rob Bonta. Continue reading State AGs Launch Investigation into Effects of TikTok on Kids

Apple Is Hiring New Team to Develop Wireless Chips in SoCal

Apple plans to set up a new office in Irvine, California to develop wireless chips. Job listings indicate the company is looking for individuals experienced with modem chips and other semiconductors. The new components could eventually replace those provided by third-party suppliers such as Broadcom and Skyworks Solutions. In a move that is part of a larger initiative by Apple to develop more tech in-house, engineers will reportedly work on RF integrated circuits, wireless radios, wireless SoC, and semiconductors for connecting to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Continue reading Apple Is Hiring New Team to Develop Wireless Chips in SoCal

Brands Adapt as Privacy Concerns Chill Advertising Business

From fast food to sporting goods, companies are harvesting and hoarding consumer data at a record pace in an attempt to maintain ad targeting at a time when government and Big Tech are erecting privacy firewalls. In the past, brands could rely on their platform partners to supply much of the data necessary for focused advertising. All that changed this year when Apple rolled out a new policy restricting how customers could be tracked on its devices. Google is said to be readying a similar revamp for Chrome. Meanwhile, California and Europe have passed new consumer privacy laws.  Continue reading Brands Adapt as Privacy Concerns Chill Advertising Business

Massachusetts Finds Compromise in Use of Facial Recognition

Oakland, Portland, San Francisco and Minneapolis have banned police use of facial recognition, mainly due to its inherent racial bias. Massachusetts is now the first U.S. state to legislate its use. The law, which goes into effect in July, has found a middle ground, both allowing law enforcement to use the facial recognition technology to catch criminals and building in protections intended to prevent false arrests. With the new law, police must get a judge’s permission to run a facial recognition search. Continue reading Massachusetts Finds Compromise in Use of Facial Recognition

FAA Greenlights First Automated Commercial Drone Service

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved the first fully automated commercial drone flights, giving permission to Marlborough, Massachusetts-based American Robotics. The FAA’s decision limits automated drone operation to rural areas and altitudes below 400 feet. In Israel this June, Pizza Hut will test delivering pies via drones to makeshift “government-approved landing zones,” such as parking lots. From there, delivery drivers will take the pizzas the last mile to customers’ homes. Continue reading FAA Greenlights First Automated Commercial Drone Service

Gig Economy Companies Fight for California’s Proposition 22

DoorDash, Lyft and Uber executives had already pledged $90 million to back California Proposition 22, exempting them from a new state labor law requiring gig workers to be reclassified as employees. But, said sources, political strategists told them they needed to spend even more to have a chance of passing the measure. Now, as we get closer to the November 3 election, backers have spent almost $200 million. A UC Berkeley poll found only 39 percent of likely voters support the measure and 36 percent are opposed. Continue reading Gig Economy Companies Fight for California’s Proposition 22

Amazon Shipping Recovers, States Question Worker Health

According to Amazon, the crush in deliveries sparked by the coronavirus pandemic is slowing down and it is again allowing suppliers to send an unlimited amount of inventory to its warehouses. Consumers can once again expect to see Amazon’s typical one- and two-day deliveries return in the next few weeks. Once it fell behind, Amazon had to hire 175,000 people to meet demand. As to the number of its own workers struck down by COVID-19, Amazon declines to reveal figures, saying they are “no worse” than the rest of the country. Continue reading Amazon Shipping Recovers, States Question Worker Health

As Sales Shift to E-Commerce, Bose Shutters Retail Stores

Bose, which opened its first retail store in 1993, will close its remaining 119 retail stores in Australia, Europe, Japan and North America. The company didn’t reveal how many jobs will be lost due to the closures, but it is believed to be in the hundreds. Bose stated that the move is due to “the dramatic shift to online shopping in specific markets,” and that “approximately 130 stores located in Greater China and the United Arab Emirates; and additional stores in India, Southeast Asia, and South Korea” will remain open. Continue reading As Sales Shift to E-Commerce, Bose Shutters Retail Stores

CES 2020: Panasonic Reveals HDR-Capable VR Glasses

Panasonic demonstrated its prototype of a stylish, steampunk-looking set of VR goggles at CES this week. The company claims these are the first such ultra-high definition VR eyeglasses to offer support for HDR video content. The company envisions a number of applications for the glasses, including new VR experiences such as sports viewing and virtual travel experiences. Panasonic and its partner on the goggles, Massachusetts-based Kopin Corporation, expect to offer a commercial version featuring a compact and lightweight body sometime next year in anticipation of the many applications that will be enabled by 5G services. Continue reading CES 2020: Panasonic Reveals HDR-Capable VR Glasses

Comparison of Biometric Data Use, Storage in 50 Countries

The use of biometrics — and the resulting data — are growing exponentially. Pro-consumer website Comparitech analyzed 50 different countries to create a more detailed picture of where and why biometrics are collected and how the data is being stored. Although the U.S. is one of the countries whose biometric collection is “extensive and invasive,” in related news, the Department of Homeland Security mothballed a plan to require facial recognition screening for every person before leaving or entering the country. Continue reading Comparison of Biometric Data Use, Storage in 50 Countries

California Attorney General Sues Facebook For Documents

California attorney general Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit in California Superior Court to obtain Facebook documents and email correspondence between chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg. Becerra revealed that, over an 18-month period, Facebook has “ignored or resisted” his dozens of requests for these documents. Meanwhile, internal Facebook documents recently made public revealed the company was more interested in defeating rivals than improving customer privacy. Continue reading California Attorney General Sues Facebook For Documents

Jack Dorsey Announces Twitter’s Plan to Ban Political Ads

Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey revealed yesterday that the social platform would ban all political advertisements. Dorsey believes such content has “significant ramifications that today’s democratic infrastructure may not be prepared to handle,” and that manipulated videos and the spread of misinformation are creating challenges at an “overwhelming scale.” The move adds another layer to the debate over online advertising, social media and free speech — especially in the political arena — and increases the pressure on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to reconsider his laissez-faire approach. Continue reading Jack Dorsey Announces Twitter’s Plan to Ban Political Ads