<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Tech News]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/tech http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.comen-usWed, 16 Aug 2017 19:02:50 -0700Wed, 16 Aug 2017 19:02:50 -0700NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Design Tech High at Oracle's HQ to Open in January]]> Wed, 16 Aug 2017 18:50:21 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/0816-2017-OracleCharter.jpg

Oracle is building a first-of-its-kind 64,000 square-foot high school at its Redwood Shores headquarters.

The public school will be aimed at educating many designers and techies of the future.

Design Technology School will be tucked into the giant Oracle campus. The public charter school will soon house 550 students, some of whom designed the building.

The unusual design features giant windows and patios overlooking nearby grasslands.

The school's executive director said when they opened 150 spots the school instantly received 650 applications. Design Technology is scheduled to open in January.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Protests at Google Offices Over Engineer's Firing Canceled]]> Wed, 16 Aug 2017 11:24:41 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/GOOGLE_AP_832426237202.jpg

Protests planned at Google offices around the country over the firing of an employee who questioned company diversity efforts have been postponed.

A statement on the “March on Google” website says Saturday’s protests were being canceled because of threats from what it called “Alt Left terrorist groups.”

Protest organizers didn’t respond to requests for information about the alleged threats or which authorities were notified about them.

The planned events in Pittsburgh and eight other locations were in reaction to Google’s firing of a software engineer who argued that biological differences helped explain why women are underrepresented at the company.

The protest group is accusing news organizations of falsely characterizing the protests as “organized by Nazi sympathizers” despite what it describes as its “clear and straightforward statements denouncing bigotry and hatred.”

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Apple, Aetna Meeting to Bring Apple Watch to Aetna: Sources]]> Mon, 14 Aug 2017 11:25:56 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/applewatchcolorful-1200x675.jpg

Apple and Aetna held secret meetings last week to bring Apple's health- and fitness-tracking device, Apple Watch, to Aetna customers, according to three sources who spoke with CNBC. 

Aetna, which covers an estimated 23 million people, is negotiating a deal with Apple to either provide the smartwatch for free or at a discounted rate to its members. 

Recently, Apple has focused on developing new health sensors for people with chronic disease, according to a CNBC report in April.

Apple Watch recently surpassed Fitbit as the top-selling health-tracking device, after shipments reached an estimated 22 million in early 2017. 

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Google Cancels 'Town Hall' on Diversity at the Last Minute]]> Fri, 11 Aug 2017 03:57:29 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/182*120/GettyImages-474984752.jpg

Google canceled a company town hall on diversity at the last minute Thursday afternoon out of concerns about people's safety, worrying they may be publicly outed for asking a question, according to a Google spokesperson.

The questions that were planned by "Googlers" appeared externally this afternoon and some employees are being named on "some websites," CEO Sundar Pichai said in an email sent to employees.

The tech giant planned the town hall meeting for Thursday following days of scrutiny over a controversial memo on the company’s diversity initiatives written by engineer James Damore.

Pichai was expected to lead the town hall with other members of the company’s leadership.

After the anti-diversity memo was made public, Pichai released a memo of his own on Tuesday addressing the importance of self-expression in the workplace while being aware of the company’s code of conduct.

"To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK,” Pichai said in his memo sent to Google employees.

In the controversial 3,000 word memo written by Damore, the 28-year-old engineer blamed the gender pay gap in the tech industry on biological differences between men and women. He also criticized what he called a politically correct bias in the Google culture.

"People get offended because it goes against the left’s ideology," Damore said during an interview on a conservative talk show on YouTube. “And then they just think, ‘OK, it offends people, therefore it’s wrong and there it’s an opinion."

After the canceled event, Pichai took the opportunity to make a surprise appearance at a women-in-tech awards event later Thursday. He talked directly to dozens of young female engineers from around the world and offered a short but poignant message. 

"There’s a place for you in this industry. There’s a place for you at Google," he said. "Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise."

The event is the culmination of a yearlong global competition for young women to use technology to address a problem. It’s one of several initiatives that Google helps fund in order to diversify its workforce.

It comes as the company conducts damage control over Damore's memo and firing.

"It’s definitely a defining moment for Google, for our culture," said Maggie Johnson, Google vice president of education. "It’s something that we’re working through."

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Google Continues Property Buying Spree in Downtown San Jose]]> Thu, 10 Aug 2017 12:59:47 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP_16132525649141-google-generic.jpg

Google is gobbling up properties, rapidly expanding its footprint in the South Bay.

The Mountain View tech giant's development partner, Trammell Crow, has picked up a plot of land behind San Jose's Diridon Station, the Mercury News reported. The latest purchase highlights the idea that the proposed Google village will be transit-oriented.

TC Agoge Associates, a Trammell Crow affiliate, shelled out $3.2 million on Aug. 8 for the parcel at 59 S. Autumn St., right next to the actively used tracks that bring light rails to the station, according to the Mercury News.

However, the land was valued at $88,000 in its most recent assessment, the newspaper said. That means Google handed out about 36 timesthe parcel's assessed price.

The purchase sheds light on the possibility that property values will skyrocket as Google continues to invest in land for Silicon Valley's latest tech campus, which is on track to be double the size of the company's Mountain View headquarters.

San Jose has entered into exclusive talks with Google to sell it about 250 acres of space near Diridon Station.

So far, the tech behemoth and Trammell Crow have spent more than $144 million, snatching up 19 plots of land in the vicinity of the SAP Center, the Mercury News found.

Google says the project will feature roughly eight million square feet of office space and bring as many as 20,000 new jobs to the area around San Jose's Diridon Station. The city hopes the Google village will propel the station toward becoming the Grand Central Station of the west.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Lyft Sparks Censorship Fears With Email to Drivers]]> Thu, 10 Aug 2017 10:41:39 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-450502220.jpg

Lyft apparently doesn't agree with the adage, "Any publicity is good publicity."

In an email, the San Francisco-based ride-sharing giant asked its drivers to pump the brakes before speaking with the press, and instead check in with Lyft officials first, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

The July note states: “Email press@lyft.com if you’re ever contacted by a reporter. Speaking of Lyft in the news: We’re here to help if you get approached for an interview. Shoot a note to our communications team and they’ll make sure you’re prepared for any questions.”

The message has created a stir, raising concerns about censorship.

Some drivers have taken to online message boards, calling it a scare tactic. Others say this is Lyft’s way of trying to get in front of bad publicity, which has plagued its biggest competitor, Uber, according to the SF Examiner.

Drivers also wrote that they are independent contractors, not employees, so Lyft cannot restrict their actions.

Scott Coriell, a Lyft spokesperson, shared a statement with NBC Bay Area, which reads: "Drivers are free to speak to the press — and we know they do all the time. There are no restrictions or requirements. We often hear from drivers who are approached by the media and have questions or concerns. We wanted to remind them that we're here as a resource. We have sent similar reminders in the past."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[How Your Phone Can Detect Card Skimmers]]> Thu, 10 Aug 2017 07:39:49 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/skimmer-gas-pump-tda.jpg

Card skimmers at gas pumps and ATMs are a growing problem, but did you know your cell phone can protect you?

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller made a video explaining a few tips to remember when filling up your gas tank.

First, avoid pumps at the end of gas stations. They're often too far for the store clerk to have a clear view of the pump.

Next, leave your debit card in your wallet. It's all too easy for a thief to skim your debit card's magnetic strip. If they catch your pin number, you can bet your bank account is up for grabs.

Have a look around the pump. Look for tampering, a loose credit card reader or a broken seal on the pump's cabinet.

The best way to check for skimmer devices is using your phone, Miller said. Thieves often use Bluetooth technology to transmit card and pin information. Just turn on Bluetooth and search for a device. If you see a long string of numbers trying to connect, that's a bad sign.

As NBC Responds in DFW reported in April, law enforcement across the U.S. have seen a spike in skimming cases this year, and it's expected to keep rising. More credit and debit cards are using chip technology, making it increasingly difficult for thieves to skim your information.

Miller also noted to always print a receipt. You'll need the receipt to file a claim with the gas station's insurance in case you pump bad fuel, or if your identity is stolen.

If it looks like a pump or ATM has been tampered with, move to another pump or pay inside. If you notice suspicious charges on your account, contact your financial institution immediately, the TDA said.

Photo Credit: Texas Department of Agriculture
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<![CDATA[Silicon Valley Executives Urge Brisbane to Build Housing]]> Wed, 09 Aug 2017 19:38:29 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Brisbane_Baylands.jpg

Executives from nearly three dozen leading Silicon Valley companies on Tuesday asked Brisbane officials to help tackle the Bay Area's critical housing shortage by approving the hotly debated Baylands project, which aims to add 4,400 units to the region's housing inventory.

Home to just under 4,700 people, Brisbane has held tightly onto its small town charm, despite years of housing and annexation suggestions by city leaders and developers.

Now, several of the region's job makers, including Salesforce and Yelp, are speaking up, in a story first reported by the San Francisco Business Times.

"The Bay Area added more than 530,000 jobs in the past five years but built just 94,000 housing units," the letter stated. "We believe the Baylands is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to move the needle on San Mateo County’s job-housing imbalance."

The letter comes after a delay in a now year-long review of Universal Paragon Corporation's proposal to develop Brisbane's former rail yard and sanitary landfill.

The developer has proposed a mixed-use development, which would also add 7 million square feet of office space in addition to the housing units, while the community plan proposes adding hotel units and additional commercial space in place of housing units.

Pressure to add housing from outside groups, including county and state officials, is mounting. Several of California's lawmakers voiced concern about the community's alternative plan Monday, because it would bring 15,500 additional jobs to the area without anywhere to house the workers. 

One of the residents speaking in favor of housing at a special council meeting was former Brisbane Mayor Michael Barnes. He said the decision to remove housing came from the council, not the community.

"...The citizen's preferred alternative, a Baylands plan developed by the people of Brisbane included housing, but the city council stripped it out of their proposal," Barnes said. 

While the majority of the community was opposed to the developer's plans in a community survey, more than have of respondents said they were open to some housing being built on the Baylands site.

Barnes urged the council to consider the wider context of the housing shortage in their final deliberations.

"The fact that we have 120 legislators in Sacremento and 130 housing bills in Sacremento shows that everyone in California thinks housing is a problem and that we should build some housing here," Barnes said. "Please consider some housing at the Baylands. Negotiate with your state legislators." 

However, the majority of Brisbane residents present were vocal in their opposition to the project.

"All of these moral arguments about how Brisbane owes the rest of the region and the state to fix the problems that everyone else created are hollow arguments." said Brisbane resident Tony Verreos. "A lot of emotion, not a lot of logic there."

The Brisbane City Council is expected to vote this month on a recommendation for a November ballot measure.

To learn more about the proposed redevelopment, click here.

Photo Credit: City of Brisbane Via Universal Paragon Corp.]]>
<![CDATA[Fired Google Engineer Speaks Out About Anti-Diversity Memo]]> Wed, 09 Aug 2017 23:47:24 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/google+damore-0809.jpg

The former Google employee who generated outrage among his co-workers for a memo criticizing the company's diversity efforts talked publicly about it Wednesday for the first time.

James Damore lost his job after his internal memo was leaked. In the memo, he blamed the gender gap in the tech industry on biological differences between men and women.

Damore, appearing on a conservative talk show on YouTube Wednesday, told host Stefan Molyneux his memo wasn't an opinion but rather based on scientific research. He added that the memo originally was 10 pages and was leaked with much of that scientific data supporting his gender views edited out.

Damore also criticized what he called a politically correct bias in the Google culture.

In his memo, he said among other things women are unsuited to be good engineers because they're more interested in people than ideas.

"People get offended because it goes against the left's ideology," Damore said on the talk show. "And then they just think, 'OK, it offends people, therefore it's wrong and therefore it's an 'opinion.'"

The CEO of Glint, a firm that helps companies increase employee engagement and boost business, disagreed.

"When an employee acts in a way that violates a code of conduct, in a way that creates a hostile environment for its employees, smart companies take action," said Jim Barnett. "And that's what happened here."

Damore has said he plans to sue Google, and he reportedly has received an offer from WikiLeaks' Julian Assange.

Google has called for a company town hall meeting on diversity Thursday.

Photo Credit: YouTube]]>
<![CDATA[Disney to Remove All Content on Netflix for Own, New Service]]> Tue, 08 Aug 2017 13:48:15 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/207*120/11-11-2015-bob-iger-disney-GettyImages-492431088.jpg

Disney wants to own a piece of the streaming pie.

The company announced during its latest earnings report on Tuesday it intends to pull all its content from Netflix for its own streaming service in 2019, CNBC reported. 

CEO Bob Iger told CNBC's Julia Boorstin Disney had a "good relationship" with Netflix, but decided to exercise an option to move its content off the platform. Movies to be removed include Marvel as well as Disney titles.

It will also be making a "significant investment" in exclusive movies and television series for the new platform.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA['Google Manifesto' Fuels Debate on Gender Bias in Tech World]]> Tue, 08 Aug 2017 09:17:51 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/google-campus1.jpg

A 10-page document known as the "Google Manifesto" that criticizes the company's diversity practices and says that women aren't suited for engineering jobs is adding further controversy to the debate around gender bias in Silicon Valley, NBC News reported.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the memo violates the company's code of conduct, but also added that minority viewpoints cannot be discounted. NBC News could not independently confirm reports that the author of the report, said to be a Google engineer, was fired.

"I am just kind of tired of it," said former Google engineer Cate Huston. "These things keep happening and the details change but the substantive portion of it is that women shouldn't be engineers are we aren’t welcome."

While Google and other tech companies are making efforts to hire a more diverse workforce, they are still grappling with how to fix a bro culture after a number of headline-grabbing stories this year. Stories of harassment in the tech investment world have led to resignations and, at Uber, at least 20 firings.

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Google Engineer Fired for Anti-Diversity Memo: Reports]]> Tue, 08 Aug 2017 14:16:18 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-4862340081.jpg

A Google engineer was fired Monday after igniting a firestorm of controversy over the weekend by writing and releasing an internal memo criticizing the tech company's diversity programs, according to multiple reports.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a memo to employees that the engineer who penned the memo violated the company's code of conduct, according to a Redcode report, which was also published to CNBC.

Bloomberg first reported the name of the fired engineer, who confirmed his dismissal in an email to the news agency. NBC News has not independently confirmed the report.

The 10-page anti-diversity memo, first reported by Motherboard and published in full by Gizmodo Saturday, argued that men are biologically better fit to work in the tech industry and be leaders in the workplace. It also characterized Google's gender equality efforts as misguided.

According to Redcode, Pichai added, "To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK."

The anti-diversity memo was sent out Friday to more than 40,000 Google employees. Some employees tweeted about it on Saturday.

In May, Google said publicly it had to improve the company's diversity programs and close pay gaps between men and women. Seventy percent of the company's tech-sector employees are men.

One Google employee responded to the memo with a tweet: "That garbage fire of a document is trash, and you are wonderful coworkers who I am extremely lucky to work with."

Another employee wrote: "Imagine working at Google, getting paid all that money, just to spend your time writing a disgusting manifesto and sending it to your peers."

Danielle Brown, Google's new vice president of diversity and inclusion, responded to the document in a memo to employees, which was obtained by Motherboard. "We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company," she wrote. "We’ve continued to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul."

In his anti-diversity memo, the Google engineer said there is sexism at work but that some ideas are "too sacred to be honestly discussed" at Google.

He said the company needs to be more open to conservative ideals.

Kym McNicholas, community director of Extreme Tech Challenge, a competition for startup companies, sent her thoughts on the incident to NBC Bay Area via email Sunday.

"I wouldn't give this engineer anything more than a reality check," she said. "It shows he feels threatened, and that's his own insecurity coming out." 

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Instagram Posts May Reveal Signs of Depression: Study]]> Mon, 07 Aug 2017 18:58:38 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Instagram-Logo-GettyImages-540936038.jpg

Scientists have created an algorithm that can determine whether an Instagram user is showing signs of depression based on their posts to the app, according to a study published Monday by EPJ Data Science.

Researchers used almost 44,000 pictures from 166 people. Of the sample, 71 participants had a history of depression. The computer algorithm successfully identified markers of depression 70 percent of the time, according to the study.

It was able to spot markers of depression based on Instagram posts even before participants were clinically diagnosed.

The photos were examined based on their colors, the number of faces and the number of likes a post received. Researchers concluded that participants who posted photos with blue, gray or dark light tended to be depressed. Depressed Instagram users were also more likely to post photos with faces, but fewer faces per photo than their less-depressed counterparts. Depressed users also tended to receive fewer likes and were more likely to post photos without a filter. 

However, the co-authors of the study, Andrew Reece and Christopher Danforth, caution that their study was limited by its relatively small sample size. Roughly 43 percent of their initial participants refused to share their Instagram data out of privacy concerns. Reece and Danforth did not immediately return NBC's request for comment. 

The findings cannot be generalized to every Instagram user, but could serve as a "blueprint for effective mental health screening in an increasingly digitalized society."

Reece and Danforth concluded that their algorithm helped prove that mental illness and social media use have a scientifically calculable correlation.

Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Mystery Solved: Why a Va. Driver Dressed as a Car Seat]]> Tue, 08 Aug 2017 08:38:59 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/080717+car+with+hidden+driver.jpg

A van that appeared to have no driver made headlines when it was spotted in Arlington, Virginia, last week. But when News4's Adam Tuss saw the van on Monday and looked inside, he saw that it did have a driver: a man dressed in a costume made to look like just a car seat.

From the road, the unmarked gray van eerily looks like it's moving without a driver. The entire front seat looks empty. But when Tuss looked inside, he saw a man wearing a beige and black costume that covered his entire torso.

His arms poked out of the bottom of the costume to steer. His face was completely covered, like that of a sports mascot who can see out, but no one can see in.

"I looked out and I said, 'Oh my God, there's a guy in a seat costume," Tuss said. "How's that possible? Your brain can't get around it for a second."

Tuss went to the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington on Monday to talk with ARLnow.com founder Scott Brodbeck about the vehicle he saw in Clarendon and Courthouse on Thursday night

As Tuss left the ARLnow.com offices, he saw the 2017 Ford Transit Connect himself. He and a News4 photographer followed the vehicle in Clarendon and Ballston for about 20 minutes. 

Tuss went to knock on the window. At first, he thought he saw an empty seat. Then, when he looked below the wheel, he saw a man's hands and legs.

"Brother, who are you? What are you doing? I'm with the news, dude," Tuss said. "Dude, can you pull over and we can talk for a second?"  

But the driver didn't say a word.

After multiple inquiries by News4, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute said Monday afternoon that the van and van driver are part of a study they are conducting on driverless cars. The worker was wearing the uniform he was supposed to wear. 

"The driver's seating area is configured to make the driver less visible within the vehicle, while still allowing him or her the ability to safely monitor and respond to surroundings," a statement from the institute says. 

Virginia Tech declined to make the half car seat, half man -- as Tuss put it -- available for an interview. 

Arlington County officials were involved in the planning for the study, a Virginia Tech spokeswoman said. Arlington was selected because "it is representative of the urban areas for which automated vehicles are currently being considered," she said. 

Go here to learn more about the study

The Virginia Department of Transportation was not aware of the vehicle, a representative said. The Arlington Police Department was "shocked" by news of the van, one representative said.

Several "invisible driver" prank videos can be found on YouTube. The drivers are entirely hidden by costumes that look just like car seats.

CORRECTION (Aug. 8, 2017, 9:30 a.m.): An earlier version of this story said the driver ran a red light, in apparent attempt to evade News4. But a spokeswoman for the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute says a thorough review of the in-vehicle camera showed the driver passed through a yellow light. 

Photo Credit: NBC Washington
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<![CDATA[Texas Professors Work to Stop Spread of 'Fake News']]> Mon, 07 Aug 2017 10:41:20 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/computerhandstyping_1200x675.jpg

A team of professors from the University of Texas at Arlington is working to create a program that will help stop the spread of fake news.

“What we’re talking about – the President uses that term to refer to media in general – but what we’re talking about are stories that are entirely fictitious or largely fictitious,” said Mark Tremayne, Ph.D., an assistant professor of communications at UT Arlington.

The project to root out fake news on social media is titled, “Bot vs. Bot: Automated Detection of Fake News Bots,” and will eventually result in a computer program that will be designed to alert people when posts they’re seeing, or even comments on social media posts, have likely been generated by automated social media accounts.

The researchers have made assurances that their motivations are not political.

“This is not targeted for or against any one party or any one candidate,” said Christoph Csallner, Ph.D., an Associate Professor in the Computer Science and Engineering Department. “This project is really about national security. You could imagine some real threats [being spread through ‘fake news’ posts] like another country trying to start confusion among residents, or the military.”

“At some point this could be considered a danger to democracy or a danger to national security if these platforms, Facebook and the other social networks, are being used as propaganda tools,” Dr. Csallner added.

Part of the problem of combating automated efforts to spread ‘fake news’ is that bots can simultaneously share posts that contain deliberate falsehoods in a single instant across multiple platforms that will be seen and potentially shared by millions of real people.

“The stuff can be generated automatically by a program,” Dr. Tremayne said. “So you don’t know as you are scrolling through, especially with the comments, you don’t know which one is an actual person [who] sat there and typed them out and which ones were just spit out by some algorithm. And wouldn’t you like to know?”

The challenge, Dr. Csallner said, will be sorting through the massive amount of content that is published on social media and keying in on indicators that increase the likelihood that any particular post was made by a bot.

The team is in its early stage of development for its program, and expects to have a working result within a year.

Photo Credit: AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Google Engineer's Anti-Diversity Memo Ignites Heated Debate]]> Mon, 07 Aug 2017 17:55:00 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-4862340081.jpg

A Google engineer ignited a firestorm of controversy this weekend after writing and releasing an internal memo criticizing the tech company's diversity programs.

The 10-page anti-diversity memo was first reported by Motherboard and published in full by Gizmodo on Saturday.

The memo argued that men are biologically better fit to work in the tech industry and be leaders in the workplace and characterized Google's gender equality efforts as misguided.

The memo went public after it was sent out Friday to Google to more than 40,000 employees. Then, when employees started tweeting about it Saturday, it started to attract a lot of attention.

In May, Google said publicly it had to improve the company's diversity programs and close pay gaps between men and women. Seventy percent of the company's tech-sector employees are men.

One Google employee responded to the memo with a tweet: "That garbage fire of a document is trash, and you are wonderful coworkers who I am extremely lucky to work with."

Another employee wrote: "Imagine working at Google, getting paid all that money, just to spend your time writing a disgusting manifesto and sending it to your peers."

Danielle Brown, Google's new vice president of diversity and inclusion, responded, saying, "We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company. ... We’ve continued to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul."

The man who wrote the memo also sounded off this weekend, saying there is sexism at work, but he added that some ideas are "too sacred to be honestly discussed" at Google.

He said the company needs to be more open to conservative ideals.

Kym McNicholas, community director of Extreme Tech Challenge, sent her thoughts to NBC Bay Area via email Sunday.

"I wouldn't give this engineer anything more than a reality check," she said. "It shows he feels threatened, and that's his own insecurity coming out." 

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images file]]>
<![CDATA[SF, LA Want Uber to Pay $15M More for Violating Settlement]]> Sat, 05 Aug 2017 07:26:28 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/uber-file.jpg

$15 million more. That's how much San Francisco and Los Angeles prosecutors say Uber needs to pay for violating a prior legal settlement.

The two counties made their case before a judge in San Francisco Friday. This all stems from a case settled last year when Uber already paid the two counties $10 million.

In that settlement, Uber also agreed to fix violations, including misleading advertising on driver background checks and charging airport service fees.

The District Attorney's Office on Friday argued Uber violated that settlement by failing to submit a certification of compliance by an April deadline. Records also show drivers were making unauthorized trips to the airport, the DA's Office said.

Uber's attorney admits the company did miss the compliance date because of changes that occurred at the company during that time, but asked the judge to separate any possible late penalty from the issue of compliance.

If the judge finds them guilty, the ride-share company would have to fork over another $15 million to the counties.

The judge is expected to make a ruling next Friday.

<![CDATA[Email Prankster Says He Duped White House Officials]]> Wed, 02 Aug 2017 03:49:29 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/laptop1234578.jpg

An online prankster showed emails to CNN alleging that he was able to trick top White House officials into thinking they were chatting with other members of the administration, NBC News reported.

The U.K.-based man, who goes by @SINON_REBORN on Twitter, tweeted screenshots of some of the correspondence that he claims he had with former communications director Anthony Scaramucci. The prankster said he was pretending to be ousted White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.

Scaramucci did not immediately respond to NBC News' request for comment.

CNN also reports that the prankster pretended to be President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner while talking with Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert, who provided his personal email in the messages.

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Watchdog Group to File Complaint Against Google]]> Mon, 31 Jul 2017 11:43:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-4862340082.jpg

A watchdog group on Monday is expected to file a legal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against Google over a new program that links customers' web activity to in-store purchases.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center is asking for a full investigation into the tech giant's Store Sales Measurement program, which aims to show advertisers that clicks online do lead to purchases at brick-and-mortar stores.

According to EPIC's complaint, Google’s consumer profiling technology can allegedly track 70 percent of all credit and debit card transactions in the U.S. without revealing how they got the information.

The group alleges Google is also putting shoppers' personal information — including product searches, location searches and payment information — at risk of hacks by not revealing what encryption it's using to protect the data from breaches.

Critics worry that the personal information could end up in the wrong hands. But Google argues that the program helps prove the effectiveness of online ads. The Mountain View-based company adds that it does not share or give a third party company access to customers' information and that customers can opt out of the program.

The complaint accuses Google of failing to provide customers with a reasonable way to opt out, calling the process "burdensome, opaque and misleading."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Judge Hears Terror Lawsuit Against Social Media Giants]]> Thu, 27 Jul 2017 22:27:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/gonzalez-0727.jpg

The family of a young woman killed in a Paris terror attack two years ago is accusing social media of helping fuel such attacks in what could be a groundbreaking lawsuit, which went before a judge Thursday.

The controversial case involves the family of Long Beach college student Nohemi Gonzalez, whose death in the coordinated Paris terror attacks in November 2015 came just as her professional career was about to begin. Gonzalez was studying in Paris at the time and was one of 130 people killed in the attack.

"ISIS could not exist if not for social media," said Keith Altman, attorney for the Gonzalez family.

The lawsuit, which was filed a little more than a year ago, names Google, Twitter and Facebook. On Thursday, a federal judge in Oakland heard arguments in the case from both sides.

The family claims the social media giants allowed terrorist propaganda on their sites, making it easy for the groups to grow and carry out attacks such as those that occurred in Paris.

"These companies enable ISIS to do what they need to do and then stand back and say they were not responsible," Altman said.

The social media companies say the suit should not go forward because it has no merit and because their sites work to always identify and delete extremist material.

The companies also are standing behind the Communications Decency Act, which says internet sites cannot be held liable for content provided by others on their site.

But another attorney for the family says that law wont hold up in court.

"The power of that tool is a thousand times greater than the power of the printing press," attorney Robert Tolchin said. "So this is a completely new animal."

The judge can take as long as needed to decide if the case will go to trial or will be dismissed.

Photo Credit: Gonzalez family]]>
<![CDATA[Google Doles Out $820 Million For 52 Sunnyvale Properties]]> Thu, 27 Jul 2017 23:59:46 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-508003271.jpg

Google has snatched up 52 Sunnyvale properties, shelling out a whopping $820 million on the acquisitions.

The buildings, which were bought from real estate company CBRE, are located roughly four miles south of the tech giant's Mountain View headquarters, according to the Silicon Valley Business Journal. A real estate brokerage silently collected the properties on Google's behalf, the report said.

In recent years, Google has leased or bought a slew of smaller campuses in Sunnyvale and the company's new properties fill in the gaps between them, the Business Journal said.

The company highlighted its need for room to grow by reporting on Monday that it has more than 72,000 employees, CNBC said.

Once the ongoing purchases have been buttoned up, Google's workforce will be scattered from San Francisco to San Jose. That sets the company apart from rivals, including Apple and Facebook, whose workers are clustered closer together.

In keeping with its plans for expansion, Google in June also won exclusive rights to negotiate with San Jose leaders about a new development that will span roughly 8 million square feet around the Diridon Station. Google partnered with real estate giant Trammell Crow for that project, and has already spent more than $100 million on land in the South Bay city. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sex Discrimination Cases at Silicon Valley Tech Companies]]> Thu, 27 Jul 2017 14:13:48 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Ellen-Pao-Tech-Harassment-AP_998998012528.jpg

Add Binary Capital venture capital firm co-founder Justin Calbeck to a growing list of executives and companies in Silicon Valley faced with sexual discrimination charges. 

Caldbeck, who recently apologized for using his position for sexual gain, resigned shortly after six women came forward detailing explicit late-night text messages, groping and unwanted sexual advances.

The announcement came just after Uber CEO Travis Kalanick resigned following an investigation into gender discrimination at his company as well.

Here are some other high-profile cases that attracted national attention and prompted changes at Silicon Valley tech companies:

Pao v. Byers, November of 2011 to February of 2015

In a three-year legal battle, Reddit CEO Ellen Pao sued her former employer and lost. The high-profile case drew national attention when Pao sought $16 million in damages against Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Following her loss, Pao may have been on the hook for $1 million in legal costs if she didn’t drop the case.

Hong v. Facebook and Huang v. Twitter, March of 2015

Shortly after the Pao verdict, two other gender discrimination lawsuits followed. Chia Hong sued Facebook following a data analysis she did concluding that code created by female employees was rejected more frequently than code written by their male colleagues, but the company refuted the basis of Hong's allegation.

Twitter engineer Tina Huang also filed a lawsuit in March recounting a history of bypassing qualified women for promotions. Twitter denied the allegations and published new diversity initiatives shortly after.

Moussouris v. Microsoft, September of 2015

Katie Moussouris' suit on behalf of "all current and former female technical professionals employed by Microsoft in the U.S." argued that Microsoft's evaluation process discriminated against women, resulting in women being promoted less frequently and paid less than their male colleagues. Microsoft responded that it tried to maintain "a workplace where all employees have the chance to succeed." The court has dismissed Microsoft's request to dismiss the claims on two occasions last year, and the lawsuit is ongoing.

Ard  v. Yahoo and Anderson v. Yahoo, October of 2016

On the flip side, Yahoo's focus on elevating and hiring more women landed them in the hot seat for gender discrimination as well. The company was involved in two separate lawsuits by former male employees, Scott Ard and Greg Anderson. The pair argued that higher-ranking female executives showed bias to female employees in the annual review and hiring process.

Justice Dept. v. Oracle, January of 2017

At the start of 2017, the Department of Labor announced it would sue Oracle, because it found a pay gap by gender and race. Oracle called the lawsuit "politically motivated, based on false allegations and wholly without merit."

Essay: "Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber," February of 2017

While it wasn't a lawsuit, a blog post penned by Uber engineer Susan Fowler generated a massive audience and sparked an internal investigation by Uber and another by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Uber fired at least 20 people during the investigation into Fowler’s claims and CEO Travis Kalanick resigned in June.

Labor Department v. Google, April of 2017

The U.S. Department of Labor sued Google for "extreme" gender pay discrimination while the tech giant argued it found no gender pay gap in its own internal analysis.

Lai v. Binary Capital, June of 2017

The company came under public scrutiny following a lawsuit by Ann Lai and six accounts from women detailed sexual harassment by Justin Caldbeck, the co-founder of Binary Capital venture capital firm. Caldbeck apologized for using his position for sexual gain and resigned.

Photo Credit: File--AP
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<![CDATA[Facebook Cafeteria Workers Unionize, Seeking Higher Wages]]> Wed, 26 Jul 2017 18:54:26 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Unite_Line.jpg

Around 500 cafeteria workers at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park have elected to unionize in an effort to negotiate higher wages, health care benefits, and pensions.

"They're living in the shadows," said Enrique Fernandez, the business manager for Unite Here Local 19. "Access has to be there for all."

Local 19 is the local chapter representing the group of Facebook workers and more than 4,000 other hospitality workers in Silicon Valley who have unionized at companies like Intel Corp., Cisco Systems and Dell.

Many tech companies rely on a growing number of drivers and culinary staff to accommodate their expanding workforces, but service workers say they feel the impact of Silicon Valley's lack of affordable housing.

Many opt to live in vans and trailers — which can be seen lining the streets in Mountain View neighborhoods near Google's headquarters — in an effort to make ends meet.

Fernandez says the problem extends throughout the region.

"They park next to the park and they shower. It’s very sad," Fernandez said. "This is working people. It is not like these people are not working."

Two of those workers raise their three children in a garage just blocks from Facebook headquarters, according to the Guardian.

The majority of the cafeteria workers are employed full-time and make an average of $18.81 per hour, according to the union, which would be an annual salary of just under $40,000 per year.

However, the cafeteria workers say their earnings can't keep up with the high living costs in San Mateo County, where the median household income is $101,272 annually.

Facebook said it has been working to address affordable housing concerns and employed one of the earliest set of standards for contract vendors in 2015, which included a $15 per hour minimum wage, 15 paid days off and new child benefits.

"Our vendor workers are valued members of our community," a Facebook spokesperson said. "We are committed to providing a safe, fair, work environment to everyone who helps Facebook bring the world closer together, including contractors." 

Most of the upcoming discussions will be handled directly between the employees and the company handling the contracts, Flagship Facility Services, which has said it is willing to negotiate with the union.

Fernandez said because of the positive partnership, he expects a contract to be completed in a matter of months. 

"Living in Silicon Valley is hard," Fernandez said. "But I'm optimistic that it will not take long. It could take six months, it could take three months — you cannot rush the process."

Facebook's shuttle workers, who voted to unionize in 2015, successfully negotiated a union contract in roughly three months.

Photo Credit: Unite Here Local 19
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<![CDATA[Bay Area Braces For More Jobs, But Where Will Techies Live?]]> Wed, 26 Jul 2017 19:21:07 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-79425812.jpg

The good news: More tech jobs are coming to the Bay Area, as companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and LinkedIn promise to grow in the years ahead.

The bad news: Traffic is already really bad here, and housing is at a premium.

Where will the techies live, and how long will it take us all to get to work?

Those two issues are being taken up by Bay Area politicians in an initiative that has been named Plan Bay Area 2040. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but it aims to increase housing for all income levels, while somehow trimming our commute times.

“This is sort of a blueprint,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who admits Plan 2040 is a guess at what the future will bring.

“The one constant in the Bay Area is growth,” he added. “We need to focus on affordable housing.”

And, he adds, housing near public transportation.

Good news for young techies, who like to walk anyway.

For the rest of us? Hold on to what you have, and keep an eye out for more affordable housing.

Scott is on Twitter: @scottbudman

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[TSA to Implement New, Stronger Airport Screening]]> Wed, 26 Jul 2017 13:55:25 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/DIT_NAT_TSA_NEW_MEASURES_072617_1-150109909395300001.jpg

The Transportation Security Administration is rolling out new and stronger screening methods for carry-on baggages at airports across the United States.