Uber suspends shared rides, tweaks Uber Eats to serve local communities better – Blog – 10 minute

In a nutshell: Adhering to guidance from the CDC and other health agencies, Uber is suspending its Uber Pool service to help reduce the spread of the virus. Uber is also trying to leverage its food delivery platform to reduce the strain to restaurants and delivery drivers.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Uber has announced that it is suspending its carpool service, Uber Pool, in the United States and Canada. The company’s regular Uber ride offerings and food delivery service, Uber Eats, will still be in service.
While the U.S. and Canada are targeted, Uber is mulling enacting the same suspension in other countries. In the meantime, the company is trying other avenues to “flatten the curve” of the virus outbreak. There is a new in-app message reminding riders to “travel only if necessary” and to exercise caution to protect their safety and the community.
Addtionally, Uber is trying to utilize its Uber Eats platform to help local restaurants, drivers, and first responders. The company is waiving delivery fees and promoting delivery from local restaurants that are new to Uber. Uber says this is to make up for the lack of in-restaurant dining. The company also announced that customers have the option to request deliveries be left on their doorstop to avoid coming into contact with Uber drivers. Finally, Uber says it’s committing to deliver 300,000 free meals to first responders and healthcare workers in the U.S. and Canada.
As more people practice social distancing and self-isolation to limit the spread of the coronavirus, ride sharing services and taxi services are starting to feel the strain. San Francisco instituted a “shelter in place” policy that bans all non-essential transportation. To help drivers affected, Uber is offering financial assistance and expanding its paid sick leave policy.

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Blizzard has some UI tweaks for Diablo IV, including expanded control options for PC – Blog – 10 minute

Why it matters: In its first quarterly progress update for Diablo 4, Blizzard said it is expanding control options for the PC version. In addition to adding gamepad support, players will also be able to remap the primary skill trigger to the keyboard. The user interface is getting a lot of other changes as well.
In the playable Diablo IV demo shown at Blizzcon 2019, the primary skill was activated by the left mouse button. Both during the event and for months after, fans requested they consider moving the control to the keyboard to separate abilities from movement.
Lead User Interface Designer Angela Del Priore said that they would add the option to map the skill to the keyboard. Additionally, the game will give players the ability to assign any power into any slot, another highly requested feature dating back to Diablo 3. Slots will also have customizable bindings, so players can set them up any way they choose.

Another UI tweak being made to the game is moving the Action Bar back to the middle bottom of the screen (above). In the Blizzcon demo, the Action Bar was in the left corner (below). The developers did this to make the battle area more visible but found through feedback and in-house testing that it just didn’t work for desktop play.
“We wanted to try clearing the central combat area and freeing up the bottom of the screen where the isometric camera already sees less,” said Priore. “However, based on usability test results, the team’s feedback, and the feedback we received from the demo, we’re going to move the default position of the action bar back to the bottom center for PC players.”

She explained that moving it to the corner will remain in the console version because of the difference in viewing angle and distance. PC users will have the option to have the bar in either position, depending on their setup and preference.
You can check out all of the other details coming to Diablo 4 in Blizzard’s new blog for the game.

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DTA tweaks IT contracting rules to help government get on with agile – Strategy- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

A small yet valuable tweak to the federal government’s IT procurement rules will help agencies run with agile projects, while also making sure agencies don’t ‘set and forget’ contracts.
The Digital Transformation Agency introduced the changes in its new digital sourcing contract limits and review policy, which will replace its IT capped term and value policy from February 1.
One of the reforms brought about as a result of the IT procurement taskforce, the IT capped term and value policy limited IT contracts to $100 million or three years.
But while the policy capped the value and length of contracts, it only allowed agencies to extend contracts by the length of the original contract.
The DTA said a review of the policy found it “could stifle innovation by not allowing trials and proofs-of-concepts, because extensions could not be longer than the initial term”.
Under the new policy, which like its predecessor will be mandatory, agencies can now enter into contract extensions for up to three years in length.
The new policy also requires that agencies exercise contract extension options only after reviewing a supplier’s performance and deliverables, though it is not clear how this requirement differs to the former policy.
“It is clearer [sic] that buyers need to review the performance and deliverables of a contract prior to extending it,” the DTA in a blog post.
“We are making sure there is no default ‘set and forget’ in our digital sourcing contracts so we aren’t left with old technology or solutions that aren’t working.”
Other key aspects of the former procurement rules such as the joint ministerial exemption, which can be granted by a portfolio minister of the government services minister Stuart Robert, remain in place.
Changes to the procurement rules come just months after Robert floated a fundamental shake-up of the federal government’s IT funding model.
Canberra has long struggled with an IT investment process that has historically favoured big-bang, waterfall-based technology projects over agile delivery methods.
The DTA is currently working with the Finance and Defence departments to “explore different funding models that could be considered in the future to address the current issues”.

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‘Beanz Means Vegan’ – Heinz tweaks slogan for Veganuary campaign- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Heinz Beanz has thrown its weight behind Veganuary by tweaking its familiar Beanz Meanz Heinz slogan to Beanz Meanz Vegan for a month-long campaign.
The new marketing campaign has been devised by Havas London to reinforce the fact that the canned staple is vegan.
A limited-edition range of tins will simultaneously promote the brand and the veganism movement in response to the growing popularity of animal-free diets. More than a quarter of a million Britons took part in last year’s Veganuary.
Emily Wright from Heinz Beanz said: “There’s a general perception that being vegan means you have to spend lots of money on fancy foods, but being vegan isn’t all kale and quinoa. That’s why we want vegans to know that our classic Heinz Beanz can still be enjoyed this Veganuary, whether on a simple piece of toast or a delicious baked potato.”
A PR campaign from Wonderland Communication will firm up this messaging in response to surveys indicating 10% of people are unaware that Heinz Beanz is vegan.

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Apple tweaks its App Store algorithm as antitrust investigations loom – gpgmail


That Apple has used its App Store to offer itself a competitive advantage is nothing new. gpgmail and others have been reporting on this problem for years, including those times when Apple chose to display its apps in the No. 1 position on the Top Charts, for example, or when it stole some of the App Store’s best ideas for its own, banned apps that competed with iOS features, or positioned its apps higher than competitors in search. Now, in the wake of antitrust investigations in the U.S. and abroad as well as various anticompetitive lawsuits, Apple has adjusted the App Store’s algorithm so fewer of its own apps would appear at the top of the search results.

The change was reported by The New York Times on Monday, who presented Apple with a lengthy analysis of app rankings.

It even found that some searches for various terms would display as many as 14 Apple-owned apps before showing any results from rivals. Competitors could only rank higher if they paid for an App Store search ad, the report noted.

That’s a bad look for Apple which has recently been trying to distance itself and its App Store from any anti-competitive accusations.

In May, for example, Apple launched a new App Store website designed to demonstrate how it welcomes competition from third-party apps. The site showed that for every Apple built-in app, there were competitors available throughout the App Store.

But availability in the store and discoverability by consumers are two different things.

Apple admitted to The NYT that for over a year many common searches on the App Store would return Apple’s own apps, even when the Apple apps were less popular or relevant at times. The company explained the algorithm wasn’t manipulated to do so. For the most part, Apple said its own apps ranked higher because they’re more popular and because they come up in search results for many common terms. The company additionally said that one feature of the app’s algorithm would sometimes group apps by their maker, which gave Apple’s own apps better rankings than expected.

Above: via The NYT, the average number of Apple apps that returned at the top of the search results by month

Apple said it adjusted the algorithm in July to make it seem like Apple’s own apps weren’t receiving special treatment. According to the NYT, both Apple VP Philip Schiller, who oversees the App Store, and SVP Eddy Cue, who oversees many of Apple’s apps, confirmed that these changes have not fully fixed the problem.

The issue, as Apple explains it, is that its own apps are so popular that it had to tweak its algorithm to pretend they are not. Whether or not this is true can’t be independently verified, however, as Apple doesn’t allow any visibility into metrics like searches, downloads, or active users.

Maybe it’s time for Apple’s apps to exit the App Store?

The report, along with the supposed ineffectiveness of the algorithm’s changes, begs the question as to whether Apple’s apps should show up in the App Store’s charts and search results at all, and if so, how.

To be fair, this is a question that’s not limited to Apple. Google today is facing the same problem. Recently, the CEO of a popular software program, Basecamp, called Google’s paid search ads a “shakedown,” arguing that the only way his otherwise No. 1 search result can rank at the top of the search results page is to buy an ad. Meanwhile, his competitors can do so — even using his brand name as the keyword to bid against.

The same holds true for the App Store, but on a smaller scale than the entirety of the web. That also makes Apple’s problem easier to solve.

For example, Apple could simply choose to offer a dedicated section for its own software downloads, and leave the App Store as the home for third-party software alone.

This sort of change could help to eliminate concerns over Apple’s anti-competitive behavior in the search results and chart rankings. Apple might balk against this solution, saying that users should have an easy way to locate and download its own apps, and the App Store is the place to do that. But the actual marketplace itself could be left to the third-party software while the larger App Store app — which today includes a variety of app-related content including app reviews, interviews with developers, app tips, and a subscription gaming service, Apple Arcade — could still be used to showcase Apple-produced software.

It could just do so outside the actual marketplace.

Here’s how this could work. If users wanted to re-install an Apple app they had deleted or download one that didn’t come pre-installed on their device, they could be directed to a special Apple software download page. Pointers to this page could be in the App Store app itself as well as in the iOS Settings.

An ideal spot for this section could even be on the existing Search page of the App Store.

With a redesign, Apple could offer a modified search screen where users could optionally check a box to return a list of apps results that would come only from Apple. This would indicate intentional behavior on the consumer’s part. That is, they are directly seeking an Apple software download — as opposed to the current situation where a user searches for “Music” and sees Apple’s own music app appear above all the others from rivals, like Spotify and Pandora.

Alternately, Apple could just list its own apps on this page or offer a link to this dedicated page from the search screen.

And these are just a few variations on a single idea. There are plenty of other ways the App Store could be adjusted to be less anti-competitive, too.

As another example, Apple could also include the “You Might Also Like” section in its own apps’ App Store listings, as it does for all third-party apps.

Image from iOS 1Above: Apple Music’s App Store Listing

This section directs users to other apps that match the same search query right within the app’s detail page. Apple’s own apps, however, only include a “More by Apple” section. That means its keeping all the search traffic and consumer interest for itself.

Image from iOS

Above: Spotify’s App Store Listing

Or it could reduce the screen space dedicated to its own apps in the search results — even if they rank higher — in order to give more attention to apps from competitors while still being able to cater to users who were truly in search of Apple’s software.

But ultimately, how Apple will have to behave with regard to its App Store may be left to the regulators to decide, given Apple’s failure to bake this sort of anti-competitive thinking into its App Store design.

 


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Microsoft tweaks privacy policy to admit humans can listen to Skype Translator and Cortana audio – gpgmail


Microsoft is the latest tech giant to amend its privacy policy after media reports revealed it uses human contractors to review audio recordings of Skype and Cortana users.

A section in the policy on how the company uses personal data now reads (emphasis ours):

Our processing of personal data for these purposes includes both automated and manual (human) methods of processing. Our automated methods often are related to and supported by our manual methods. For example, our automated methods include artificial intelligence (AI), which we think of as a set of technologies that enable computers to perceive, learn, reason, and assist in decision-making to solve problems in ways that are similar to what people do. To build, train, and improve the accuracy of our automated methods of processing (including AI), we manually review some of the predictions and inferences produced by the automated methods against the underlying data from which the predictions and inferences were made. For example, we manually review short snippets of a small sampling of voice data we have taken steps to de-identify to improve our speech services, such as recognition and translation.

The tweaks to the privacy policy of Microsoft’s Skype VoIP software and its Cortana voice AI were spotted by Motherboard — which was also first to report that contractors working for Microsoft are listening to personal conversations of Skype users conducted through the app’s translation service, and to audio snippets captured by the Cortana voice assistant.

Asked about the privacy policy changes, Microsoft told Motherboard: “We realized, based on questions raised recently, that we could do a better job specifying that humans sometimes review this content.”

Multiple tech giants’ use of human workers to review users’ audio across a number of products involving AI has grabbed headlines in recent weeks after journalists exposed a practice that had not been clearly conveyed to users in terms and conditions — despite European privacy law requiring clarity about how people’s data is used.

Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft have all been called out for failing to make it clear that a portion of audio recordings will be accessed by human contractors.

Such workers are typically employed to improve the performance of AI systems by verifying translations and speech in different accents. But, again, this human review component within AI systems has generally been buried rather than transparently disclosed.

Earlier this month a German privacy watchdog told Google it intended to use EU privacy law to order it to halt human reviews of audio captured by its Google Assistant AI in Europe — after press had obtained leaked audio snippets and being able to re-identify some of the people in the recordings.

On learning of the regulator’s planned intervention Google suspended reviews.

Apple also announced it was suspending human reviews of Siri snippets globally, again after a newspaper reported that its contractors could access audio and routinely heard sensitive stuff.

Facebook also said it was pausing human reviews of a speech-to-text AI feature offered in its Messenger app — again after concerns had been raised by journalists.

So far Apple, Google and Facebook have suspended or partially suspended human reviews in response to media disclosures and/or regulatory attention.

While the lead privacy regulator for all three, Ireland’s DPC, has started asking questions.

In response to the rising privacy scrutiny of what tech giants nonetheless claim is a widespread industry practice, Amazon also recently amended the Alexa privacy policy to disclose that it employs humans to review some audio. It also quietly added an option for uses to opt-out of the possibility of someone listening to their Alexa recordings. Amazon’s lead EU privacy regulator is also now seeking answers.

Microsoft told Motherboard it is not suspending human reviews at this stage.

Users of Microsoft’s voice assistant can delete recordings — but such deletions require action from the user and would be required on a rolling basis as long as the product continues being use. So it’s not the same as having a full and blanket opt out.

We’ve asked Microsoft whether it intends to offer Skype or Cortana users an opt out of their recordings being reviewed by humans.

The company told Motherboard it will “continue to examine further steps we might be able to take”.


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