A light structure at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore.

Critical Future Tech

April 2021

Photo by Robynne Hu on Unsplash

Issue #6

April 2021




March had, as usual, a torrent of news to keep us entertained. The highlight of the month is certainly the unionizing efforts from Amazon warehouse workers.

Another highlight is that starting with this issue, interviews will be available on audio format 🎉

We're joined by Yonatan Miller, co-founder of the Tech Workers Coalition Berlin chapter where we discuss tech activism, Amazon’s effect on cities, what if Big Tech left countries, alternative online business models and much more.

- Lawrence

What Happened in March


Big Tech, Governments & Regulation


The White House is assembling an All-Star antitrust team, with the appointment of tech critic Tim Wu which signals tech companies will not have an easy time.

Still in the United States, Twitter sued Texas AG alleging retaliation for having banned Trump, more states are joining the Texas-led antitrust lawsuit against Google and Virginia signed a consumer data protection into law. The bill provides consumers, among other rights, the right to access and delete their data.

Apple is facing scrutiny and attacks on multiple fronts. The company is facing an antitrust probe in the U.K. over its App Store rules, with possible changes in the E.U. over its App Store dominance. In France too Apple has a list of new complaints over data privacy.

Brussels banned Uber drivers under a newly enforced taxi regulation, which promptly took drivers to protest outside the First Minister's office.

Still in the Union, the E.U. competition commissioner said Google's ad business could be subject to a large scale investigation all while being ordered to comply with requests from Europeans who want to remove specific Google search results.

Finally, a new European right-to-repair law could require technology to last for a decade. And Spain granted gig delivery workers employee rights.

Amazon


Amazon deserves its own section. The company that is becoming the face of inequality has been all over the news, mainly due to the historic labor showdown at an Alabama Amazon warehouse as employees are signaled their increasing their interest in unionizing. The company did all it could to squash unionizing efforts, from removing workers from an internal directory, hiring off-duty cops to harass workers and supporters to using Twitter bots to share anti-union propaganda, which Twitter quickly banned.

German union called a four-day strike at Amazon sites in support of the unionizing efforts in the U.S. and Bernie Sanders even invited Jezz Bezos to attend a Senate hearing on income inequality, which he predictably turned down.

Fairness & Accountability


Internal data revealed that Black Amazon employees are promoted less frequently and are rated more harshly than non-Black peers. Google advised mental health care when workers complained about racism and sexism. Nonetheless the company has pledged $25m to empower women and girls.

Facebook is also under probe for systemic racial bias in hiring and promotions. Still on Facebook, the company was accused of censoring a Greek hunger strike coverage, having later admitted to "mistakenly" suspending the journalists' accounts.

In the U.S. Amazon will pay contract delivery drivers $8.2m to settle a wage-theft lawsuit and Apple will pay $308.5m for patent infringement.

Brazil's consumer protection regulator fined Apple $2m for not including charger in iPhone 12 box, or 0.00007% of its 2020 revenue...

Privacy


A U.S. report came out stating there are thousands of people wrongly on police's facial recognition database

A $5b lawsuit will go forward against Google for it's Google Chrome Incognito mode, contending that "private" browsing mode should block Google's web tracking.

Even though Amazon is under fire, the company was forcing delivery drivers to sign "biometric consent" forms or face losing their job.

Australia Vs. Tech


Remember the skirmish between Australia and Facebook? Well News Corp and Facebook struck a deal, settling the dispute that led to the social media's temporary blackout in the country.

Worth checking


To get these delivered to your inbox, subscribe to CFT's monthly newsletter at the end of the page. And now, onto the interview.

Conversation with
Yonatan Miller

Tech Activist, Berlin Tech Workers Coalition co-founder

This conversation was recorded on March 29th 2021 and has been edited for length and clarity.



You can reach Yonatan on Twitter. Make sure to also check Berlin Tech Workers Coalition and Tech Workers Coalition.

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