The Week in Tech: Facebook Is in the News. Again. – The HabariTimes Online
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The Week in Tech: Facebook Is in the News. Again.

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The Week in Tech: Facebook Is in the News. Again.

Each week, technology reporters and columnists from The New York Times review the week’s news, offering analysis and maybe a joke or two about the most important developments in the tech industry. Want this newsletter in your inbox? Sign up here.

Greetings, friends. I’m Brian X. Chen, a tech columnist, meaning my job is to obsess over tech news so you don’t have to. So here’s the CliffsNotes version of the week in tech.

I remember a time when tech companies were desperate to be in the news. Just a decade ago, making headlines usually meant a company’s gadget or software product was making a big splash and getting nice publicity. But nowadays, tech companies are more powerful than ever, and journalists are focusing on holding them accountable rather than cheerleading.

So I bet Facebook wishes it could be out of the news cycle, even briefly. This week, a British parliamentary committee released confidential Facebook emails and documents as part of its investigation into online misinformation. And they did not make Mark Zuckerberg’s social networking empire look good.

The documents revealed how Facebook treated user data as a bargaining chip. The social network had a “white list” agreement with companies it favored, including Airbnb, Lyft and Netflix. The arrangement involved sharing user data with those parties that other companies were restricted from obtaining.

The revelations paint Facebook as if it were the head of an internet syndicate with the mission of making money and crushing competition. That’s a terrible image at a time that Facebook is trying to win back people’s trust by saying its true mission is to connect people with people. In a nondenial statement, Facebook said it never sold people’s data.

None of the bad publicity is lost on Facebook employees, as it appears to be affecting morale. BuzzFeed reported that Facebook had divided into three camps: people on Team Zuckerberg, people who believe the press is creating biased narratives, and a group that believes the scandals show that the company is on the brink of a meltdown.

Incidentally, Glassdoor, a site where people can anonymously rank their employers, released a report this week that found Facebook was the No. 7 place to work of 2018, down from No. 1 last year. (Morale dip aside, that’s still a great overall ranking; I think people just love having Philz Coffee on campus.)

■ At least Facebook isn’t alone in hot water. Last Friday (because companies like to save their bad news for weekends) Marriott International revealed that hackers had breached its Starwood reservation system and had stolen the personal data of up to 500 million guests.

The stolen data included names, addresses and encrypted credit card details of hotel customers. Hackers also stole travel histories and passport numbers of a smaller group of guests. It’s one of the bigger cybersecurity breaches in history. (Then again, the Facebook breach affecting 30 million accounts, announced last September, was nothing to sneeze at.)

■ Another company having a bad news week: Huawei. Meng Wanzhou, a top executive and daughter of the company founder, was arrested last week in Canada at the request of the United States, in a move that will certainly increase tensions between the two countries.

Canada’s Justice Department said she was sought for extradition to the United States but did not give a reason. The United States government has long expressed concern about Huawei’s surveillance capabilities because of the company’s close ties to the Chinese government.

• O.K., O.K., I’ll lighten things up. I wrote a column this week about how I tried to turn my food-obsessed dog, Max, into an Instagram celebrity — and failed. I tried everything: kissing up to influencers, getting professional consultations and even buying bots, but no dice. Here’s what I learned about the brutal space that is Instagram.

• I love New York Times crossword puzzles, and I know many of you do, too. So it was a delight to hear from Sam Ezersky, an assistant editor of puzzles, about the tech tools uses to create the crosswords as well as how puzzle-solving has changed in the smartphone era.

• This week there’s been some buzz around 5G, the fifth-generation wireless network from cellular carriers, meaning a faster cellular connection might be closer to reality.

Both AT&T and Verizon Wireless announced they would support a yet-to-be-named 5G phone from Samsung next year. The 5G network will theoretically be so fast that people will be able to download movies in seconds. (I’ll believe it when I see it — I still struggle to get a good 4G LTE signal in San Francisco.)

Brian X. Chen is the lead consumer technology writer. He reviews products and writes Tech Fix, a column about solving tech-related problems. Before joining The Times in 2011 he reported on Apple and the wireless industry for Wired. @bxchen

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