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05.20.16 | 10:23 am

How to make drones less of a privacy nightmare

The Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration has issued "voluntary best practices" for drone operators on protecting privacy after meeting with various stakeholders, TechCrunch reports.

Guidelines include maintaining explicit privacy policies, notifying people when unmanned planes might observe their personally identifiable information, limiting use over private property, and not using drones for things like credit and employment eligibility checks where existing rules don't explicitly allow it.

09.30.16 | 12:03 am

Marc Andreessen says he feels “50 pounds lighter” since quitting Twitter last week

Venture capital investor Marc Andreessen, who abruptly quit Twitter last week, says that he feels "50 pounds lighter" and "free as a bird" since quitting the platform last week. He was talking at the Strictly VC event in Palo Alto when he made the remarks, reports TechCrunch. The investor also defended his firm Andreessen Horowitz's track record, though admitting that even "the best venture capitalists in the world still strike out most of the time. That's just the nature of the beast."

09.29.16 | 6:54 pm

Evening intel: Robot babysitters, AOL does something right, a mansplainer apologizes

• Meet iPal, a 3-foot-tall humanoid robot designed to look after children ages 3 to 8 for several hours unsupervised.

• AOL's new email app, Alto, has several surprisingly handy features, the most notable of which is the Dashboard, which picks out flights, calendar events, hotel bookings, shipments, and more.

• The WSJ contributor who advised women in tech to hide their genders online as a way of combating sexism has apologized after a day of backlash.  

• The British fashion brand Asos is the center of a scathing BuzzFeed exposé that accuses the company of mistreating its warehouse workers. 

• The FCC has temporarily backed down from a plan to force cable companies to "unlock" their set-top boxes, and Comcast couldn't be happier. 

09.29.16 | 6:44 pm

Comcast is pretty stoked that the FCC’s cable-box plan fell through

The Philadelphia cable giant applauded the FCC today after Chairman Tom Wheeler backed off of his set-top box proposal at the last minute, saying it wasn't quite ready for a vote. 

David Cohen, Comcast's senior executive VP, said in a statement that Wheeler made the right decision and should allow more time to iron out the kinks. "This is an extremely complicated and technical item that should not be adopted without the opportunity for expert and public input," Cohen said. 

The proposal would have forced cable and satellite TV providers to "unlock" their set-top boxes and let third-party companies like Google offer TV programming through apps. Box rental fees are said to cost consumers an estimated $231 a year. Read Cohen's full statement. 

09.29.16 | 5:24 pm

If you vote for Jill Stein, prepare to incur the wrath of these “Star Trek” actors

A broad coalition of actors, writers, and directors connected to the Star Trek universe have their names attached to an open letter urging fans of the science-fiction franchise to vote for Hillary Clinton in November and resist the urge to pick a third-party candidate. The letter was posted today on a Facebook page called "Trek Against Trump."

"We have heard people say they will vote Green or Libertarian or not at all because the two major candidates are equally flawed. That is both illogical and inaccurate. Either Secretary Clinton or Mr. Trump will occupy the White House. One is an amateur with a contemptuous ignorance of national laws and international realities, while the other has devoted her life to public service, and has deep and valuable experience with the proven ability to work with Congress to pass desperately needed legislation."

J.J. Abrams, Brent Spiner, Zachary Quinto, and Zoe Saldana are among the names attached to the letter, in addition to actors associated with nearly every Trek incarnation. 

Normally, I wouldn't urge anyone to read the comments, but read the comments: There are more than 150 so far, and not everyone is happy about the Star Fleet elite ostensibly defending the two-party status quo. Look, I get it, but the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few—that's kind of a basic Star Trek thing. 

09.29.16 | 4:34 pm

VC makes naive error, pays deeply in shame and tears

Yesterday, the "Experts" section of the Wall Street Journal posted an opinion piece by John Greathouse in which even the headline induced rage: "Why Women in Tech Might Consider Just Using Their Initials Online." The body of the post didn't add much nuance.

Unsurprisingly, the internet reacted. Angry readers were quick to flood Twitter with comments, explaining to Greathouse, a venture capitalist, that asking women to mask their gender online is not solving the problem of sexism in tech—it's admitting defeat. 

A day has gone by and now it seems Greathouse agrees. He recently posted this apology on Twitter:

09.29.16 | 4:16 pm

This scathing exposé reveals how Asos treats its warehouse staff

Today, BuzzFeed published a long-form story, based on three months of reporting, about how the British online fashion brand Asos treats its U.K. warehouse staff. Workers describe being unable to take regular toilet breaks or water breaks for fear of missing targets; some have had their contracts terminated because they were ill or tending to a sick relative. 

In the U.S., Gawker published similar stories about Amazon's warehouse practices. It's possible that Asos modeled its warehouse after Amazon's, since founder Nick Robertson said he wanted his company to become the "Amazon of fashion." 

09.29.16 | 3:56 pm

Soon, our kids will have robot babysitters

We got a taste for what this will look like at the RoboBusiness exhibit in California. iPal, a 3-foot-tall humanoid robot, is designed to look after children ages 3 to 8 for several hours unsupervised. It is created by a robotics company called Avatar Mind, which is based out of Nanjing, Shenzhen, and Silicon Valley.

The Guardian asked experts what they thought of iPal and the consensus seemed to be that it is a terrible idea. As a temporary amusement, robots can be fun and educational, but child development experts worry that robotic nannies will not provide children with the emotional support they require. 

[Image via Avatar Mind]

09.29.16 | 3:25 pm

Facebook wants to boost your marketing career for the low, low price of your soul

Blueprint launched last year as a training tool for marketers. Now Facebook is offering a certification program to validate that you're a professional who's fluent in Blueprint. 

That sounds harmless enough, except the process for getting it makes the SATs look like a free-for-all. Mainly, you have to let Facebook peer into your eyes, your home, and deep into your everlasting soul. Oh, and there's also a test you have to take, administered by Pearson, and a $150 fee. But hey, all in the name of your marketing career. 

This uncomfortably upbeat instructional video feels like a dark and inscrutable metaphor for the dystopian fate that awaits all of humanity, but it technically isn't.

09.29.16 | 3:23 pm

In the race to automated cars, do not ignore the automated pizza

Uber, Google, Tesla, and GM all are at work on autonomous vehicles, an innovation that is expected to remake our city infrastructure.

Meanwhile, a startup called Zume has been working on a more humble but no less important project: the automated pizza. As NPR explains:

Here's how it works. A customer places an order on the app. Inside the Zume factory, a team of mostly robots assemble the 14-inch pies, which get loaded par-baked–or partially baked–each into its own oven.
Whether the truck has five pies or 56, it needs just one human worker—to drive, slice, and deliver to your doorstep.

[Photo: Zume]

09.29.16 | 3:14 pm

Deloitte has a team of 5,000 promoting use of Apple gear in enterprise clients

We wrote here recently about the inner workings of Apple's app-making partnership with IBM, which might end up placing more Apple devices in the workplace. Apple also has deals with SAP and Cisco. Now it's linked up with the global consulting firm Deloitte to further establish iDevices in the enterprise, the Associated Press reports. Deloitte consultants will help clients use Apple devices like the iPhone and the iPad for specialized business tasks like insurance claims adjusting and retail sales management, the companies say.

Apple has said it sold $25 billion in hardware and services into the enterprise in the year ending September 2015 (the split between hardware and services isn't known). Apple's enterprise sales are still small compared to the $233 billion in sales it reported in the same period. Hopefully we will hear some more concrete data on Apple's progress selling its devices to the enterprise when the company reports earnings October 27.

09.29.16 | 2:48 pm

Why did it take so darn long for Congress to provide funds to fight Zika? 

Funds to stop the spread of Zika, a virus that can be passed from a pregnant women to the fetus and cause serious birth defects, took a very long time to come by. In that time, 23,135 cases were confirmed in the U.S.. A few reasons for the delay: 

* President Barack Obama requested $1.9 billion in February (you read that right, February), but Republicans controlling Congress acted slowly on the request on account of a fight on Capitol Hill. 

* Republicans attached restrictions on any of the money going to Planned Parenthood in Puerto Rico. Democrats blocked the $1.1 billion measure. As a result, $650 million needed to be shifted from elsewhere, including from the fight against Ebola. 

* The seven-week summer break.

09.29.16 | 2:45 pm

Why airplane internet is so slow and what one company plans to do about it

It's all about supply and demand. The proliferation of mobile devices over the last decade has overtaxed in-flight Wi-Fi services, where bandwidth is limited but appetite for connectivity keeps growing. Gogo Inc., an early leader in the field, hasn't had a major upgrade since 2008—a time when the iPhone was in its infancy and the iPad didn't exist. 

Now, the company says it's planning a major upgrade that will bring speedier service to U.S. carriers, but travelers won't notice any change until 2018, the Wall Street Journal reports. That's because the upgrade will require vast infrastructure improvements on both airplanes and cell towers. In the meantime, a number of rivals are nipping at Gogo's heels, providing faster service at lower costs.

Read more from WSJ.