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Damore sues Google for discriminating against white men

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Last August, Google fired James Damore shortly after the engineer’s internal screed against affirmative action at the company went viral. Monday, Damore sued Google for illegally discriminating against whites, males, and conservatives, demonstrating that the company cannot rid itself of its controversy-courting former employee so easily.

Damore’s complaint includes 86 pages of screenshots from internal Google discussion forums, presented as evidence of alleged “anti-conservative” and “anti-Caucasian” bias, or Google’s alleged support for political violence (such as Nazi-punching). Immediately, the images became among the largest troves of internal Google discussions exposed to the public, including some images with the full names and profile pictures of Google employees, some of whom previously have been harassed for their opposition to the memo. Many are written with the earnest, unguarded candor of people who did not expect their words to travel outside of Google.

The lawsuit seeks class-action status, claiming that Google’s efforts to increase the gender and racial diversity of its workforce exclude white people, men, and conservatives. It also argues that Google employees with conservative views are shamed, blacklisted, and denied opportunities because they deviate from Google’s liberal orthodoxy.

There’s some irony in those claims. Google’s overall workforce is 69 per cent male and 56 per cent white, according to the company’s most recent diversity report. Google’s technical employees are 80 per cent male and 53 per cent white. Google’s leadership is 75 per cent male and 68 per cent white. The company is facing a Department of Labor investigation and a private lawsuit claiming that it discriminates against women in pay, and promotion.

The claims of political discrimination are not based on the First Amendment, which does not apply to private employers, but rather on a California law protecting political points of view. Damore’s lawyer, Harmeet Dhillon, claims to have won settlements in California based on discrimination against conservatives before, arguing that treating white, conservative men as a protected class “would not be a precedent, it would simply be an application of the law.”

In a statement to WIRED, a Google spokesperson said, “We look forward to defending against Mr. Damore’s lawsuit in court.” Regardless of the merits of the case, Google now faces increased scrutiny on not only its hiring practices.

At a Monday press conference in San Francisco, Dhillon, a prominent conservative who was considered for a position in the Trump administration, said “It is not fashionable and I’m sure it’s going to be sneered at today on Twitter,” but white male conservatives are treated unfairly in Silicon Valley. More than once, she asked conservatives who may have been denied a job at Google based on their beliefs to get in touch with her law firm. “People should not have to prove that they didn’t vote for the president to get a job at Google,” she said.

Dhillon noted that she is an immigrant and a woman, and said it was a legitimate goal for Google to try to have its workforce reflect the diversity of the country and its customers. But she said Google violated the law when it allegedly created quotas for hiring women and underrepresented minorities. Instead, she said Google should try job fairs or making the company more welcoming to women.

Dhillon said class could include women and people of colour because it was divided into subclasses: white people, men, and conservatives, and Damore happened to embody all three. Dozens of people contacted the firm to express interest in joining the class, she said.

The images from Google’s internal discussion boards add another explosive element to an already charged case. The free-ranging discussions are highly valued inside Google, but until now, they’ve remained inside the company. Some, including ones related to polyamory, seem unrelated to the case.

At her press conference, Dhillon said Google shareholders will be “pretty shocked to find” that employees are spending their time “talking about furry sex clubs and toxic whiteness,” rather than doing their jobs.

Dhillon also mentioned evidence of an employee wondering if Google should tweak its search results to reduce the prominence of studies that Damore cited in his memo. Dhillon said she didn’t know whether Google was actually doing this, but said employees openly discussed altering rankings to not display racist, white supremacist, anti-gay and anti-semitic content. “Don’t be surprised if they start steering you in a different direction,” Dhillon said.

Google fired Damore in August for “perpetuating gender stereotypes” after his screed against workplace diversity went viral outside the company. The 10-page missive argued that there are fewer women in technical and leadership roles at Google because of psychological differences between the sexes based on underlying biological differences. Damore cited contested science from evolutionary psychology to claim that women are less interested and suited to the tasks.

California is an “at-will” state, which gives Google broad leeway to fire Damore. However, Damore filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in August before he was fired, which some lawyers say can prevent the suit from getting thrown out of court.

Damore himself said little at the press conference. He was asked about his memo’s emphasis on biology, but evaded the question. Google CEO Sundar Pichai mentioned Damore’s argument about biology in his note about why Damore was fired. According to a report in Recode, the group of executives that Pichai consulted before firing Damore was split until they considered how Damore’s contentions would have been received if they were based on race or religion.

Louise Matsakis contributed to this article.

This article was originally published on WIRED.com

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Apple Investigating iPhone X Phones That Can’t Make Calls

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It’s easy to forget people still make calls with phones, since that’s not what most people buy them for. Now there are reports Apple’s iPhone X is falling down at that particular task, and that the problem is spreading.

9To5 Mac reports hundreds of users have reported an increase in problems, with a typical 6-8 second lag before they can answer calls. Other reports suggest the gap is as long as 10 seconds, and that some calls are missed because the phone doesn’t wake up and display unlock controls. The issue appears to stem from excessive lag between when a call is received and when it can be answered. While the reports seem to focus on the iPhone X, it may not be completely isolated to that handset; ZDNet claims the issue may go back as far as October and reports from an iPhone 6 user running iOS 11.0.3.

This is just the latest glitch to hit Apple devices, after reams of bad press over its decision to throttle phones to preserve battery life and general concerns over how well the iPhone X is (or isn’t) selling. iOS 11 is troubled enough that Apple is once again pushing back from introducing new features or capabilities in iOS 12, so they can keep patching the iOS version they already released. The iPhone 7’s components are failing in some cases, to the point that Apple has had to begin replacing phones due to component failures. And Gizmodo catalogs how the iPhone X’s screen apparently scratches extremely easily (we can’t confirm this, not having used an iPhone X).

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It’s gorgeous — and kind of broken.

Then there’s the unresponsive cold bug that appears to hit iPhone X’s hard, the faster burn-in seen on OLED panels, the iPhone 6s’ battery life problems after components were exposed to air for too long in a Chinese factory, and even claims that the iPhone X’s and iPhone 8’s batteries may hit their 500 cycle-time limit much more quickly than anticipated. In short, there’s a lot of not-great news about Apple’s iPhone family swirling around the iPhone X and to a much smaller extent, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 7.

Ever since Steve Jobs died, there’s been no shortage of people willing to write lofty think pieces about Tim Cook, his leadership of the company, and how he compares with Jobs. In many cases, these comparisons aren’t particularly useful. We don’t know how Jobs would’ve responded to various changes in market conditions and we certainly don’t have all the information necessary to compare any given decision Cook makes. Jobs himself was far from perfect. Devices like the G4 Cube and the famous iMac “Lump-Stick-Rectangle” design didn’t exactly set the market on fire.

I don’t want to say that Steve Jobs would have avoided these problems, because that’s simply not clear. Jobs may have put an extremely high bar on product quality, but that was quality as defined on his terms. “You’re holding it wrong,” and the iPhone 4’s antenna issues are exhibit A for this kind of thinking on his part. I don’t think we can say, categorically, that he simply would’ve avoided the problem, or that he would’ve responded to it differently.

But even if this problem resists a simplistic “Jobs would’ve done better” analysis, I think we’ve got enough data points in hand to draw a line. Smartphones are complex and can absolutely have problems. You can even argue that most of these issues are small, compared with devices like the Galaxy Note 7. But the trend here isn’t positive. Starting with the iPhone 6 Plus and Touch Disease, Apple seems to have real, sustained problems with building devices that aren’t hit by a major defect or problem. It hasn’t exactly been distinguishing itself on the software front either, if the legion of complaints about iOS 11 are any indication. And OS X macOS fans haven’t been thrilled with the company’s direction, either.

The smartest thing for Apple to do might well be to take a year off launching hardware to polish designs, the same way it has periodically taken a year off launching major new software versions to polish its OS. But that’s not going to happen. While the company’s overall iPhone sales did fall in Q1 2018 (that’s Apple’s fiscal Q1, not the calendar quarter), they only dropped from 78.3 million units to 77.3M units, a fractional decrease. Meanwhile, revenue grew 13 percent, thanks to dramatically higher ASPs on the iPhone X.

In short, financially, the company’s strategy is working brilliantly. And that’s all the reason Apple needs to keep right on doing what it’s doing.

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EU to review Apple’s reported $400m purchase of music app Shazam

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European Commission to investigate deal following requests from Austria, France, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden
The company’s planned takeover of Shazam would be its largest since the acquisition of Beats for $3bn in 2014. The EU said on Tuesday that it launched the inquiry into the reported $400m deal for London-based Shazam following requests from Austria, France, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden. The commission said it was concerned that Apple’s purchase of the market-leading company could have adverse effects on competition across borders.

Apple announced it would buy Shazam in December in a deal worth less than the “turnover threshold” for the EC, but above the merger notification threshold for Austria, which leads the quorum of countries worried by the deal. The iPhone-maker will now be forced to notify EU authorities about the deal and await the investigation into the implications of the deal.

The EC will have up to 35 working days for initial investigations and a further 105 working days should serious concerns be found. Apple will then have the opportunity to obtain approval by addressing any concerns.

Apple declined to comment.

The company’s planned takeover of Shazam would be its largest since the acquisition of Beats for $3bn in 2014, the company that formed the basis of Apple’s music-streaming service and line of headphones and accessories.

Shazam is the market leader in song recognition that listens to snippets of tracks and tells the user the artist and track, allowing them to buy it or find it on streaming services. It was founded in 1999 in the early age of online music, and now accounts for about 1m referrals to Apple Music and Spotify. But Shazam has struggled to find a way to make money from its technology, even as it said that it had reached 1bn downloads on smartphones last year.

Shazam only recently announced it had become profitable, thanks to advertising and click-through to other sites such as Spotify and Apple Music.

While Shazam was a pioneer in music recognition, the technology is also no longer quite as novel, with Google integrating a similar feature directly into its search app on smartphones, as well as local recognition on its Pixel smartphones, and rivals such as SoundHound performing similar functions

 

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