Tech Today: March 15, 2021

Tech Today: March 15, 2021

Here’s what you need to know about what’s happening in tech today:

Landlords using private software to determine housing-worthiness
Imagine being denied an apartment – and even the leasing manager couldn’t tell you why, because software they use just said “no.” That’s the reality for millions when property managers use software like RentGrow, AppFolio, RealPage and others. Reporting by Cyrus Farivar at NBC explains how this software is completely opaque. Housing should be an absolute right – and definitely should not depend on private, closed software to determine if you qualify for it!

#MakeAIEthical campaign calls out Google
In the wake of Google shutting down its work on AI ethics, organizers with Google Walkout for Change have called out the company for its handling of multiple situations – including prominent AI ethics researchers being fired for speaking up. They call for academic conferences to refuse sponsorship from Google and reject submissions that have been edited by lawyers or corporations, academic institutions to stop accepting funds from Google “until it commits to clear and externally enforced and validated standards of research integrity,” increased legal protection for whistleblowers, and perhaps most importantly for people seeking jobs to reject invitations from Google recruiters.

Toronto looks towards Google-free smart city
Alphabet, Inc. subsidiary Sidewalk Labs had promised to help the city of Toronto, Canada build the first “smart city” in Quayside. A year ago, after technical and ethics concerns, Sidewalk Labs was removed from the plans. Now, the new plans for Quayside still include a number of new technology improvements, but recognize the fears of data collection and surveillance capitalism.

The Performance Inequality Gap
This one is a bit more technical, but worth sharing especially for programmers who follow this site. Alex Russell, a software engineer at Google working on the Chrome browser’s performance (among other things) shares his report on the state of average hardware: not the latest and fanciest $1,000+ phones, but what $200 or so gets you and how it feels browsing the web. “When we construct a digital world to the limits of the best devices, the worse an experience we build, on average, for those who cannot afford iPhones or $800 Samsung flagships.”