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Massive Hack Hits Reddit

Fri, 2020-08-07 18:44
A massive attack has hit Reddit today after at least tens of Reddit channels (subreddits) have been hacked and defaced to show messages in support of Donald Trump's reelection campaign, ZDNet reports. From the report: The hacks are still ongoing at the time of writing, but we were told Reddit's security team is aware of the issue and has already begun restoring defaced channels. A partial list of impacted channels (subreddits) is available below, according to ZDNet's research: r/NFL, r/49ers, r/TPB (The Pirate Bay's Reddit channel), r/BlackMirror, r/Beer, r/Vancouver, r/Dallas, r/Gorillaz, r/Podcasts, r/freefolk, r/StartledCats, r/TheDailyZeitgeist, r/Supernatural, r/GRE, r/GMAT, r/greatbritishbakeoff, r/11foot8, r/truecrimepodcasts, r/Leafs, r/weddingplanning, r/Chadsriseup, r/bertstrips, r/CFB ...and many many other more.

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Categories: Technology

US Government Contractor Embedded Software in Apps To Track Phones

Fri, 2020-08-07 18:25
A small U.S. company with ties to the U.S. defense and intelligence communities has embedded its software in numerous mobile apps, allowing it to track the movements of hundreds of millions of mobile phones world-wide, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday, citing people familiar with the matter and documents it reviewed. From the report: Anomaly Six, a Virginia-based company founded by two U.S. military veterans with a background in intelligence, said in marketing material it is able to draw location data from more than 500 mobile applications, in part through its own software development kit, or SDK, that is embedded directly in some of the apps. An SDK allows the company to obtain the phone's location if consumers have allowed the app containing the software to access the phone's GPS coordinates. App publishers often allow third-party companies, for a fee, to insert SDKs into their apps. The SDK maker then sells the consumer data harvested from the app, and the app publisher gets a chunk of revenue. But consumers have no way to know whether SDKs are embedded in apps; most privacy policies don't disclose that information. Anomaly Six says it embeds its own SDK in some apps, and in other cases gets location data from other partners. Anomaly Six is a federal contractor that provides global-location-data products to branches of the U.S. government and private-sector clients. The company told The Wall Street Journal it restricts the sale of U.S. mobile phone movement data only to nongovernmental, private-sector clients. Numerous agencies of the U.S. government have concluded that mobile data acquired by federal agencies from advertising is lawful. Several law-enforcement agencies are using such data for criminal-law enforcement, the Journal has reported, while numerous U.S. military and intelligence agencies also acquire this kind of data.

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Categories: Technology

YouTube Will Stop Emailing Subscribers About New Videos Next Week

Fri, 2020-08-07 17:45
A lot happens on YouTube, and the Google video site has for ages emailed subscribers that opted into alerts about new uploads and livestreams. YouTube is getting rid of these emails next week as very few people opened alerts about new videos from their inbox. From a report: The rationale is "less than 0.1% of these emails are opened," the company said. Messages about your "account, mandatory service announcements, etc." remain, with Google hoping that the broader change today will help "you more easily spot and pay attention to the important emails." It reflects companies increasingly wanting to reduce information overload.

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Categories: Technology

To Head Off Regulators, Google Makes Certain Words Taboo

Fri, 2020-08-07 17:04
As Google faces at least four major antitrust investigations on two continents, internal documents obtained by The Markup show its parent company, Alphabet, has been preparing for this moment for years, telling employees across the massive enterprise that certain language is off limits in all written communications, no matter how casual. From a report: The taboo words include "market," "barriers to entry," and "network effects," which is when products such as social networks become more valuable as more people use them. "Words matter. Especially in antitrust law," reads one document titled "Five Rules of Thumb for Written Communications." "Alphabet gets sued a lot, and we have our fair share of regulatory investigations," reads another. "Assume every document will become public." The internal documents appear to be part of a self-guided training session for a wide range of the company's more than 100,000 employees, from engineers to salespeople. One document, titled "Global Competition Policy," says it applies not only to interns and employees but also to temps, vendors, and contractors. The documents explain the basics of antitrust law and caution against loose talk that could have implications for government regulators or private lawsuits.

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Canada's Last Fully Intact Arctic Ice Shelf Collapses

Fri, 2020-08-07 16:21
Iwastheone shares a report: The last fully intact ice shelf in the Canadian Arctic has collapsed, losing more than 40% of its area in just two days at the end of July, researchers said on Thursday. The Milne Ice Shelf is at the fringe of Ellesmere Island, in the sparsely populated northern Canadian territory of Nunavut. "Above normal air temperatures, offshore winds and open water in front of the ice shelf are all part of the recipe for ice shelf break up," the Canadian Ice Service said on Twitter when it announced the loss on Sunday. "Entire cities are that size. These are big pieces of ice," said Luke Copland, a glaciologist at the University of Ottawa who was part of the research team studying the Milne Ice Shelf. The shelf's area shrank by about 80 square kilometers. By comparison, the island of Manhattan in New York covers roughly 60 square kilometers. "This was the largest remaining intact ice shelf, and it's disintegrated, basically," Copland said. The Arctic has been warming at twice the global rate for the last 30 years, due to a process known as Arctic amplification. But this year, temperatures in the polar region have been intense. The polar sea ice hit its lowest extent for July in 40 years. Record heat and wildfires have scorched Siberian Russia. Summer in the Canadian Arctic this year in particular has been 5 degrees Celsius above the 30-year average, Copland said. That has threatened smaller ice caps, which can melt quickly because they do not have the bulk that larger glaciers have to stay cold. As a glacier disappears, more bedrock is exposed, which then heats up and accelerates the melting process.

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Security Researcher Troy Hunt is Open Sourcing the Have I Been Pwned Code Base

Fri, 2020-08-07 15:42
Security researcher Troy Hunt: Let me just cut straight to it: I'm going to open source the Have I Been Pwned code base. The decision has been a while coming and it took a failed M&A process to get here, but the code will be turned over to the public for the betterment of the project and frankly, for the betterment of everyone who uses it. Let me explain why and how.

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Facebook Criticizes Apple's App Store Policies, Launches Gaming App on iOS Without Games

Fri, 2020-08-07 15:00
Facebook has joined Microsoft in condemning Apple's App Store policies, after the company was forced to remove the games feature from its Facebook Gaming app, which launches today on iOS. From a report: In a statement, Facebook said it has had its Gaming app rejected multiple times by Apple in recent months, but Apple cited its App Store guidelines to justify the rejections, claiming the primary purpose of the Facebook Gaming app is to play games. Facebook says it shared usage data with Apple from its Android Facebook Gaming app that showed 95 percent of activity involves watching streams, but it was unable to change Apple's stance on the matter. Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said it chose to go ahead with the launch of its app in the App Store, but users faced an "inferior" experience compared to Android users. "Unfortunately, we had to remove gameplay functionality entirely in order to get Apple's approval on the standalone Facebook Gaming app -- meaning iOS users have an inferior experience to those using Android," said Sandberg. "We're staying focused on building communities for the more than 380 million people who play games on Facebook every month -- whether Apple allows it in a standalone app or not." Microsoft, which is facing a similar challenge, said on Thursday: Our testing period for the Project xCloud preview app for iOS has expired. Unfortunately, we do not have a path to bring our vision of cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to gamers on iOS via the Apple App Store. Apple stands alone as the only general purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass. And it consistently treats gaming apps differently, applying more lenient rules to non-gaming apps even when they include interactive content. All games available in the Xbox Game Pass catalog are rated for content by independent industry ratings bodies such as the ESRB and regional equivalents. We are committed to finding a path to bring cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to the iOS platform. We believe that the customer should be at the heart of the gaming experience and gamers tell us they want to play, connect and share anywhere, no matter where they are. We agree.

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Facebook Will Let Employees Work From Home Until July 2021

Fri, 2020-08-07 14:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: Facebook is extending its work from home policy until July of next year, becoming the latest tech giant to commit to letting staff work remotely in response to the coronavirus pandemic. "Based on guidance from health and government experts, as well as decisions drawn from our internal discussions about these matters, we are allowing employees to continue voluntarily working from home until July 2021," said Nneka Norville, a Facebook spokesperson, on Thursday. Norville also said Facebook is giving employees $1,000 for "home office needs." Zuckerberg pitched the idea to Facebook staff as both a matter of satisfying employee desires and also as an effort to create "more broad-based economic prosperity." "When you limit hiring to people who live in a small number of big cities, or who are willing to move there, that cuts out a lot of people who live in different communities, have different backgrounds, have different perspectives," Zuckerberg said on a livestream posted to his Facebook page in May. Google also recently extended its work from home policy until July 2021. And some companies, including Twitter, said their staff may work remotely indefinitely.

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Frances E. Allen, the First Woman To Win the Turing Award, Dies At 88

Fri, 2020-08-07 11:00
Frances "Fran" Allen, a pioneer in the world of computing, the first female IBM Fellow and the first woman to win the Turing Award, died on August 4, 2020, the day of her 88th birthday. IBM writes in a blog post remembering Allen: As a pioneer in compiler organization and optimization algorithms, Fran made seminal contributions to the world of computing. Her work on inter-procedural analysis and automatic parallelization continues to be on the leading edge of compiler research. She successfully reduced this science to practice through the transfer of this technology to products such as the STRETCH HARVEST Compiler, the COBOL Compiler, and the Parallel FORTRAN Product. As much as Fran will be remembered for her technical vision and her foundational work in computing, she will equally be remembered for her passion to inspire and mentor others, fostering an environment of perseverance and hard work throughout the IBM community. Starting as a programmer, Fran's first assignment at IBM was to teach the research community FORTRAN, a new complex language IBM had announced just three months before. This was the start of Fran's career-long focus on compilers for high-performance computing. Following FORTRAN, Fran became one of three designers for IBM's Stretch-Harvest project in the late 1950's and early 1960's. As the language liaison with IBM's client, the National Security Agency (NSA), Fran helped design and build Alpha, a very high-level code breaking language which featured the ability to create new alphabets beyond the system defined alphabets. An Experimental Compiler for IBM's Advanced Computing System (ACS) became her next project. Fran designed and built the machine-independent, language-independent optimizing component of the compiler. The result was a tool to help drive the hardware design and a new way to analyze and transform programs. This work led to Fran's seminal paper on Program Optimization, first published in 1966, describing a robust new framework for implementing program analysis and optimization as well as a powerful set of new algorithms. Fran's 1970 paper on Control Flow analysis introduced the notion of "intervals" and node dominance relations, important improvements over the control flow abstractions given in her earlier paper. Her 1972 paper, "A Catalog of Optimizing Transformations," identified and discussed many of the transformations commonly used today.

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Scientists Spot Space Junk With Lasers In Broad Daylight

Fri, 2020-08-07 08:00
Researchers from the Institute for Space Research at the Austrian Academy of Sciences have developed a technique in which lasers can measure the position of space debris during daylight conditions. Details of this unprecedented achievement were published in Nature Communications. Gizmodo reports: Prior to this, lasers could only detect space junk during twilight, as ground stations enter into darkness and objects near the horizon remain illuminated by the Sun's rays. This small window of opportunity severely minimizes the amount of time available to search for and characterize these orbiting objects, which can threaten crucial satellites. "We are used to the idea that you can only see stars at night, and this has similarly been true for observing debris with telescopes, except with a much smaller time window to observe low-orbit objects," explained Tim Flohrer, Head of ESA's Space Debris Office, in an ESA press release. "Using this new technique, it will become possible to track previously 'invisible' objects that had been lurking in the blue skies, which means we can work all day with laser ranging to support collision avoidance." The new technique differs from conventional methods in that it can track objects during daylight hours, which it does using a combination of telescopes, light deflectors, and filters that track light at specific wavelengths. So even when the sky is bright and blue, scientists can increase a target's contrast, making previously invisible objects visible. Keys to this method include additional telescopes and the ability to visualize space debris against the blue sky background in real-time. In daylight tests, the distances to 40 different objects were measured with the new technique, which had never been done before.

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Germany Plans To Dim Lights At Night To Save Insects

Fri, 2020-08-07 04:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from MSN: In a draft law seen by AFP, the country's environment ministry has drawn up a number of new measures to protect insects, ranging from partially outlawing spotlights to increased protection of natural habitats. "Insects play an important role in the ecosystem...but in Germany, their numbers and their diversity has severely declined in recent years," reads the draft law, for which the ministry hopes to get cabinet approval by October. The changes put forward in the law include stricter controls on both lighting and the use of insecticides. Light traps for insects are to be banned outdoors, while searchlights and sky spotlights would be outlawed from dusk to dawn for ten months of the year. The draft also demands that any new streetlights and other outdoor lights be installed in such a way as to minimize the effect on plants, insects and other animals. The use of weed-killers and insecticides would also be banned in national parks and within five to ten meters of major bodies of water, while orchards and dry-stone walls are to be protected as natural habitats for insects. The proposed reforms are part of the German government's more general "insect protection action plan," which was announced last September under growing pressure from environmental and conservation activists.

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TikTok Ban: Trump Will Prohibit Transactions With ByteDance Beginning September 20

Fri, 2020-08-07 02:57
According to The Verge, "President Trump has signed a new executive order which will block all transactions with Bytedance, TikTok's parent corporation, in an effort to 'address the national emergency with respect to the information and communication technology supply chain.'" From the report: The move comes after months of escalating tensions, which saw Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others at the White House warn that TikTok presented a national security threat because of its Chinese ownership. Microsoft is currently in talks to acquire portions of the app, aimed to be complete by September 15th. Trump's new order is set to take effect in 45 days, just after the September 15th deadline set for negotiations in the Microsoft sale. Another order banned transactions with WeChat, a popular texting app in China that has maintained a limited U.S. user base focused on recent Chinese immigrants. In both orders, the president names the International Emergency Economic Powers Act as authority for the move, as well as the National Emergencies Act -- effectively naming TikTok's continued operation within the United States as a national emergency. Such a move is highly unusual, and will likely be subject to a legal challenge.

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Lawmakers Ask California DMV How It Makes $50 Million a Year Selling Drivers' Data

Fri, 2020-08-07 02:25
Following a report revealing the California DMV was making $50 million annually from selling drivers' information, a group of nearly a dozen lawmakers on Wednesday wrote a letter looking for answers. Motherboard reports: "What information is being sold, to whom it is sold, and what guardrails are associated with the sale remain unclear," the letter, signed by congress members including Ted Lieu, Barbara Lee, and Mike Thompson, as well as California Assembly members Kevin Mullin and Mark Stone, reads. Specifically, the letter asks what types of organizations has the DMV disclosed drivers' data to in the past three years. Motherboard has previously reported on how other DMVs around the country sold such information to private investigators, including those hired to spy on suspected cheating spouses. In an earlier email to Motherboard, the California DMV said data requesters may include insurance companies, vehicle manufacturers, and prospective employers. The information sold in general by DMVs includes names, physical addresses, and car registration information. Multiple other DMVs previously confirmed they have cut-off access to some clients after they abused the data. On Wednesday, the California DMV said in an emailed statement, "The DMV does not sell driver information for marketing purposes or to generate revenue outside of the cost of administering its requester program -- which only provides certain driver and vehicle related information as statutorily required." "The DMV takes its obligation to protect personal information very seriously. Information is only released according to California law, and the DMV continues to review its release practices to ensure information is only released to authorized persons/entities and only for authorized purposes. For example, if a car manufacturer is required to send a recall notice to thousands of owners of a particular model of car, the DMV may provide the car manufacturer with information on California owners of this particular model through this program," the statement added.

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Apple Confirms Cloud Gaming Services Like xCloud and Stadia Violate App Store Guidelines

Fri, 2020-08-07 01:45
Apple won't allow Microsoft xCloud or Google Stadia on iOS because of strict App Store guidelines that make cloud services effectively impossible to operate on the iPhone. In a statement to Business Insider, Apple finally came out and explained why these cloud services cannot exist on its platform. The Verge reports: The primary reason: they offer access to apps Apple can't individually review. Here's the official Apple statement: "The App Store was created to be a safe and trusted place for customers to discover and download apps, and a great business opportunity for all developers. Before they go on our store, all apps are reviewed against the same set of guidelines that are intended to protect customers and provide a fair and level playing field to developers. Our customers enjoy great apps and games from millions of developers, and gaming services can absolutely launch on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable to all developers, including submitting games individually for review, and appearing in charts and search. In addition to the App Store, developers can choose to reach all iPhone and iPad users over the web through Safari and other browsers on the App Store." In other words, unless it's a full remote desktop app, a cloud gaming service is not allowed as these guidelines are written today -- even though very narrowly tailored LAN services like Steam Link and Sony's PS4 Remote Play are. Google and Microsoft probably don't want to offer signup options within the apps themselves because that would mean giving Apple a 30 percent cut of subscription revenue, but apps without "account creation" options violate section (c). Abiding by section (a) is also impossible considering these cloud servers on which the games are running are not owned by and located in the homes of consumers, but placed in data centers far away. And section (e) just flat out says this type of thing -- a "thin client for cloud-based app" -- can't exist in the App Store at all; it's not "appropriate," Apple says. [...] What does all this mean? Well, for now, iOS users are going to be missing out on the mobile-centric cloud gaming wave that's set to arrive with xCloud's launch. There is conceivably a way Google, Microsoft, and Nvidia could find ways around this by changing the core functionality of their respective apps.

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FCC Lowers Some Prison Phone Rates After Blaming States For High Prices

Fri, 2020-08-07 01:02
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Federal Communications Commission today voted unanimously to lower the prices inmates pay for phone calls from prisons and jails, but the organization reiterated its position that state governments must take action to lower prices on the majority of inmate calls. Today's action is a proposal to "substantially reduce [the FCC's] interstate rate caps -- currently $0.21 per minute for debit and prepaid calls and $0.25 per minute for collect calls -- to $0.14 per minute for debit, prepaid, and collect calls from prisons, and $0.16 per minute for debit, prepaid, and collect calls from jails." This is part of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which means the commission will take public comment before finalizing the new caps and could change the plan before making it final. Since the proposed rate cap limits prices on interstate calls only, it won't affect the approximately 80 percent of prison calls that don't cross state lines. Last month, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai urged state governments to cap intrastate calling prices, saying the FCC lacks authority to do so. Pai said that "33 states allow rates that are at least double the current federal cap, and 27 states allow excessive 'first-minute' charges up to 26 times that of the first minute of an interstate call." Prison phone companies Global Tel*Link and Securus Technologies have repeatedly challenged FCC-imposed rate limits in court. But while the Obama-era FCC fought in court to lower intrastate rates, Pai in January 2017 instructed FCC lawyers to drop the commission's court defense of the FCC cap on intrastate calling rates. The FCC might have lost that case anyway, as previous court rulings went against the commission. But Pai's decision to drop the court defense helped ensure that the FCC wouldn't be able to cap intrastate rates. The report notes that the FCC also took action to lower some of the "ancillary" fees prison phone companies apply to both interstate and intrastate calls.

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Facebook Removes Trump Post For the First Time

Fri, 2020-08-07 00:20
AmiMoJo shares a report from The Guardian: Facebook has removed a post from Donald Trump's page for spreading false information about the coronavirus, a first for the social media company that has been harshly criticized for repeatedly allowing the president to break its content rules. The post included video of Trump falsely asserting that children were "almost immune from Covid-19" during an appearance on Fox News. There is evidence to suggest that children who contract Covid-19 generally experience milder symptoms than adults do. However, they are not immune, and some children have become severely ill or died from the disease. The Twitter account for Trump's re-election campaign, @TeamTrump, also posted the video, which Twitter said violated its rules. "The account owner will be required to remove the Tweet before they can Tweet again," a company spokesperson said of @TeamTrump. During a press briefing on Wednesday afternoon, Trump repeated his false claims about children and the disease.

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US Senate Votes To Ban TikTok App On Government Devices

Fri, 2020-08-07 00:00
The U.S. Senate on Thursday unanimously voted to ban federal employees from using TikTok on government-issued devices. Reuters reports: The app has come under fire from U.S. lawmakers and the Trump administration over national security concerns because China's ByteDance owns the technology. The company currently faces a deadline of Sept. 15 to either sell its U.S. operations to Microsoft Corp or face an outright ban. "I'm encouraged by the bipartisan support we have seen in this body to hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable and that includes ... holding accountable those corporations who would just do China's bidding," [said Senator Josh Hawley who wrote the bill]. "And, if I have anything to say about it, we won't be stopping here," the Republican senator added. Last month, the House of Representatives voted to bar federal employees from downloading the app on government-issued devices as part of a proposal offered by Representative Ken Buck. With passage in the House and approval by the Senate, the prohibition is expected to soon become law in the United States.

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Twitter Says Security Flaw May Have Exposed Android Users' Direct Messages

Thu, 2020-08-06 23:40
Twitter on Wednesday disclosed a new security vulnerability that may have exposed the direct messages of users who access the service using Android devices. CNBC reports: Specifically, the vulnerability could have exposed the private data of Twitter users running devices with Android OS versions 8 and 9, the company said. "This vulnerability could allow an attacker, through a malicious app installed on your device, to access private Twitter data on your device (like Direct Messages) by working around Android system permissions that protect against this," the company said in a blog post. The company said there is no evidence that the Android vulnerability has been exploited by attackers. Regardless, Twitter said it has begun informing users who could have been vulnerable. The company has also updated its Android app to remove the vulnerability, and it is requiring anyone who may have been impacted to update their Twitter for Android app. Twitter said it is also identifying changes to its processes to better guard against issues like this. "Your privacy and trust is important to us and we will continue working to keep your data secure on Twitter," the company said in its blog.

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T-Mobile Passes AT&T To Become Second Biggest US Carrier

Thu, 2020-08-06 23:03
In T-Mobile's Q2 2020 earnings call today, the company says that it has surpassed AT&T in total branded customer count to become the second biggest carrier in the U.S., trailing only Verizon. PhoneDog reports: In Q2 2020, [which is the first quarter that includes Sprint following the merger of the two carriers] T-Mobile added 1.245 million customers, giving it a total subscriber count of 98.3 million. To compare, AT&T finished Q2 2020 with 93 million postpaid and prepaid customers. T-Mo also shared some good news regarding its 5G network today. The magenta carrier's 2.5GHz mid-band 5G is now live in Atlanta, Dallas, and Washington DC. That 2.5GHz 5G coverage is also live in parts of Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, and Philadelphia. T-Mo touts that its average download speeds on 2.5GHz 5G is around 300Mbps with peak speeds of 1Gbps.

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Social Movements Are Pushing Google Sheets To the Breaking Point

Thu, 2020-08-06 22:25
In the past decade, Google's suite of collaborative tools has steadily gained prominence in social movements and other forms of widespread collaboration. From a report: It was used to organize Occupy Wall Street movements in 2011, disseminate resources for protesting after the U.S. election in 2016, and assemble response to the California wildfires in 2017. During 2020, these tools have earned a reputation as "the social media of the resistance;" they have played a key role in the formation of pandemic mutual aid groups, the organization of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the aggregation of allegations in the gaming industry's #MeToo reckoning. But when these resources go viral, they often encounter limitations of G Suite. "Whenever you loaded the page, it would just fail half the time," says Edward Saperia, who initially used Google Docs to build Coronavirus Tech Handbook, a crowdsourced directory of tools, services, and resources for Covid-19 response. The proliferation of viral Google Sheets and Google Docs that break is a sign that collaboration has outgrown the collaboration tools at our immediate disposal. As the demographic of organizers and contributors has broadened and the scale of these projects has exploded, tools everyday citizens can use to spearhead these efforts have yet to catch up. Google Docs and Google Sheets were first built more than a decade ago to allow individuals to "get feedback and contributions from others [â¦] without having to email around copies of files." They were designed to facilitate the kind of collaboration we might reasonably attempt via email -- not widespread resources and movements. A Google support page states that "up to 100 people with view, edit, or comment permissions can work on a Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides file at the same time" and has a section devoted to troubleshooting files that become unresponsive after being shared with many people, recognizing the common pitfall.

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