Let’s look at the most important tech stories of the past week. We take a look at GameStop as their performance is more and more volatile after the January mega surge. We walk you through the U.S. government looking for input on licensing tech after the Biden administration upheld the Trump administration regulation. Meanwhile, in the EU, the EU watchdogs will hold more power in the biotech, tech, and pharma startup deals. What else were the major tech stories? Cybersecurity concerns grow as a new, unexpected cybersecurity threat re-emerged. There is also a number of AI tech stories that we will talk about, including the possible exploitation of the AI “ghost-workers”, JPMorgan on a huge AI hiring spree, and the concerns that employees will be “hired and fired” through an algorithm due to gaps in the British employment law.
GameStop stock had a volatile week, going from gains to losses.
In the late afternoon Friday trading, the shares of GameStop were down 4.1% at $176.18. After hitting the record high of $483 in January, the stock has been performing unevenly. After GameStop announced the quarterly earnings report on Tuesday, the stock went down by 34% and then unexpectedly jumped back up by over 50% on Thursday.
After the wild ride that the GameStop stock has had in early 2021 after Redditers contributed to sending it up to unprecedented heights, a much more volatile performance followed.
“I have no problem whatsoever … trading the volatility that is going on in GameStop right now,” said Jeff Tomasulo, CEO of Vespula Capital. “We’re not even looking at this fundamentally anymore because it’s just gotten so insane.”
On Friday, the Biden administration announced that it is looking for new public input on possible procedures that can help companies comply with the new rules targeting Chinese tech giants.
On Monday, the U.S. Commerce Department allowed a regulation addressing information and communications technology supply chain (ICTS) that was posed by a range of countries including China, Russia, and North Korea, but also Venezuela, Cuba, and Iran. The regulation was first established under Donald Trump, days before he left office. A part of the regulation stated that Commerce will adopt licensing or other procedures until May 19 at the latest.
“It has become apparent additional public input is needed,” the Commerce Department said Friday, adding it “is seeking input into several aspects of a potential voluntary licensing or pre-clearance process.”
Although the regulation was established right before Trump left the office, the beginning can be traced back to a 2019 Trump executive order describing the foreign adversaries as those that are “creating and exploiting vulnerabilities in information and communications technology and services … in order to commit malicious cyber-enabled actions, including economic and industrial espionage.”
“It gives me some comfort they’re going to take their time and do it in a very thoughtful and methodical way,” said Washington lawyer Judith Lee. “It’s extremely broad and that’s what makes it very scary for any type of internet or communications technology company.”
After the regulation was released, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as other business groups strongly opposed it, saying that it gives the U.S government “nearly unlimited authority to intervene in virtually any commercial transaction between U.S. companies and their foreign counterparts that involves technology, with little to no due process.”
On Monday, the U.S Chamber released an official letter in which they urge the Biden administration to suspend the rule that they refer to as “highly problematic” and very costly. Moreover, the Chamber said that while licensing is a good idea, the enormous number of transactions each year… will limit the ability of this program to review transactions in a timely manner.”
On Friday, the EU enforcer announced that the EU antitrust watchdogs will have more power over small merger deals occurring in startups that are operating in the technology, biotechnology, and pharmaceutical industries.
The information comes after weeks of concerns of the killer-acquisitions where a company buys the rival that is in an early stage of development in order to shut it down.
The European Commission said the national competition watchdogs should refer the small merger and acquisition deals to the EU enforcer.
“A more frequent use of the existing tool of referrals under Article 22 of the Merger Regulation can help us capture concentrations which may have a significant impact on competition in the internal market,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.
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The blockchain startup, Chainalysis has raised $100 million in its newest investment round. The company announced on Friday that the newest investor input has bumped the total value of the company to over $2 billion.
The round was led by investment firm Paradigm. Earlier investors such as Addition, Ribbit, and TIME Ventures also participated in the round.
“We’ll continue to invest in investigations and compliance software, but we’ll also build out new data products both for our existing customer base and new audiences,” said Michael Gronager, the firm’s co-founder and chief executive. “We’re also investing in our international expansion.”
Chainalysis’s goal is to help law enforcement and private companies track transactions and prevent illegal activities such as money laundering. The cryptocurrency transactions as recorded on their underlying blockchain.
Chainalysis has had impressive growth in the past year, doubling the number of its clients and having more than 100 hires. The company now covers 100 cryptocurrencies.
This year, the global firms have been particularly prone to cybersecurity and there is an ongoing effort to improve and strengthen the security of government agencies, private firms, pharmaceutical companies, and academic institutions.
However, it looks like that it is not only the major hacks that constitute the cyber threat but there is another type of hacks re-emerging: the hacktivism coming from activists that want to make a political point.
“Wrapping oneself in an allegedly altruistic motive does not remove the criminal stench from such intrusion, theft, and fraud,” Seattle-based Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa Gorman said.
U.S. counter-intelligence strategy released a year ago states that, “ideologically motivated entities such as hacktivists, leaktivists, and public disclosure organizations,” are considered “significant threats,”.
“What’s interesting about the current wave of the Parler archive and Gab hack and leak is that the hacktivism is supporting antiracist politics or antifascism politics,” said Gabriella Coleman, an anthropologist at McGill University who wrote a book on the famous Anonymous group that started the trend of hacktivism back in 2010.
Based on the latest data, it is no longer cash but stock that is the preferred method of payment in tech mergers and acquisitions. Almost half of all the tech deals in the U.S included stock considerations last year, as compared to 27% in 2019.
In the first quarter of 2021, we can see the same trend continuing, with half of the tech deals so far used stock. The six biggest tech deals of 2020 all included stock, such as
semiconductor maker Advanced Micro Devices Inc’s $35 billion acquisition of Xilinx Inc and Salesforce.com Inc’s agreement to buy messaging app Slack Technologies Inc for $27.7 billion.
Where does the popularity of stock come from? The increasing valuation of the sector, the highest we have seen in the past 20 years. Stock deals can also lead to tax benefits as the deal proceeds are not taxable at the corporate level in the United States (unless the stock does not make up 40% of the purchase price consideration)
While the workforce developing AI is mostly talked about in terms of scientists and researchers, there are also thousands of low-paid workers who are classifying and labeling the data. An important AI tech story by BBC looked at the possible exploitation of the so-called “ghost workers”
Recently, more and more questions in the field are about the “ghost workers” and their possible exploitation started emerging. The tasks of the “ghost workers” warry from labeling images to the computer vision algorithms can improve, providing help for natural language processors or content moderators on the social media platforms. Basically, they do what the computers cannot yet do in order to long-term improve their functioning.
The most known crowdsourcing platform is Amazon Mechanical Turk, but there is also Samasource, CrowdFlower, and Microworkers.
The Mechanical Turk, or the MTurk, as it is commonly referred to is a crowdsourcing marketplace where the requesters can ask workers from all over the world to perform a specific task.
“Most workers see MTurk as part-time work or a paid hobby, and they enjoy the flexibility to choose the tasks they want to work on and work as much or as little as they like,” said an AWS spokesman.
However, Sherry Stanley is one of the many “ghost-workers” who do not see it as a hobby or a part-time job but rather a full-time job that places humans in a position of a tiny cog in a huge machine.
“Turking is one of the few job opportunities I have in West Virginia, and like many other Turk workers, we pride ourselves on our work,” Sherry Stanley, a full-time employee of six years at MTurk told the BBC. “However, we are at the whim of Amazon. As one of the largest companies in the world, Amazon relies on workers like me staying silent about the conditions of our work.”
Stanley said she is “in constant fear of retaliation for speaking out about the ways we’re being treated”.
Stanley said that the pay and the hours vary by the day which does not provide her with any stable income or ability to plan ahead.
In response, Amazon told the BBC that it had introduced a feature in 2019 that allowed workers to see “requester activity level, their approval rate and average payment review time”.
“While the overall rate at which workers’ tasks are rejected by requesters is very low (less than 1%), workers also have access to a number of metrics that can help them determine if they want to work on a task, including the requester’s historical record of accepting tasks.
MTurk continues to help a wide range of workers earn money and contribute to the growth of their communities,” Amazon said in a statement.
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Another AI tech story is that the US Bank, JPMorgan appears to be on a huge hiring spree in the ML and AI sector. Out of more than 160 machine learning vacancies around the globe, a large part of them was added in the past two months alone.
The machine learning positions are located across the world in London, New York City, Palo Alto, Mumbai, Glasgow, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
Last week, Naftali Cohen, a VP in AI research at JPMorgan in London, said that the AI research labs of JPMorgan on their own are ready to employ 50 new people now.
AI Tech Story: Will Employees Be “Hired And Fired By Algorithm” Because Of The Faulty Employment Law?
Legal experts and Trades Union Congress (TUC) said that the current gaps in the British employment law will lead to staff “hired and fired by algorithm”. The report was created by TUC and carried out by the employment rights lawyers Robin Allen QC and Dee Masters from the AI Law Consultancy.
“The TUC is right to call for urgent legislative changes to ensure that workers and companies can both enjoy the benefits of AI,” the lawyers say. “[Employment law gaps] must be plugged quickly to stop workers from being discriminated against and mistreated.”
The report focused on how the employment law does not keep up with the adoption of AI in the workplaces and the fact that workers will not be able to challenge the performance management of AI.
“Already important decisions are being made by machines,” the lawyers explain. “Accountability, transparency, and accuracy need to be guaranteed by the legal system through the carefully crafted legal reforms we propose.”
“This is a fork in the road. AI at work could be used to improve productivity and working lives, but it is already being used to make life-changing decisions about people at work—like who gets hired and fired.
Thus, they are calling for fair rules where AI decisions must be reviewed by a human manager.
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