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Category: Opinion

Make online retailers pay taxes in their home states — no matter where their customers live


To the editor: Your print headline, “Online buyers must pay taxes,” should have read, “Online sellers must pay taxes.” (“Make online retailers collect taxes,” editorial, April 19)

Think about it: If I’m on vacation in Arizona and buy something there, I pay Arizona sales tax, not the sales tax of…


A $6 trillion wake up call for the tech industry


Jim FruchtermanContributor

Jim Fruchterman is the founder and chief executive of Benetech, a non-profit developer of technology for social good.

Earlier this year, the business community received a wake-up call issued with all of the might that $6 trillion can muster.

The call came from Laurence Fink, the founder and chief executive of the global investment firm, BlackRock, and was delivered as a letter to the CEOs of the world’s largest companies.

Aptly titled, “A Sense of Purpose,” the letter informed business leaders that driving record profits is no longer enough to garner BlackRock’s support. Companies must also positively contribute to society, or in Mr. Fink’s words, “Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate.”

I was elated when I read the letter. I’ve spent my entire career as a social entrepreneur advocating for businesses—specifically technology businesses in Silicon Valley—to use their technology, wealth, and influence for social good. After reading the letter in the New York Times and seeing the extensive coverage in major business publications, I turned to the leading Silicon Valley tech blogs to get their take on this blockbuster announcement. After all, the Bay Area is home to many of BlackRock’s largest clients.

Crickets. Fink’s letter wasn’t covered by the technology press. Well, to be accurate, I checked the first ten pages of Google results as well as all of the tech pubs in Techmeme’s top ten list. Nothing.

Guys (I hate to say it, but it’s mostly guys here in the Valley), Fink’s point is that ignoring society’s voice will lead to the loss of our “license to operate.” Putting the Valley’s collective hands over our ears and saying “we can’t hear you” only works for so long.

Instead, what if Silicon Valley embraced the letter to commit good for the better of society as a whole, not just the interests of the software and data industrial complex? What if Fink’s letter served as a constant reminder to build products that make the world a 10x more equitable place to live and prosper and not just to build products that deliver 10x profit?

With those questions in mind, here are two interrelated and crucial ways to commit good on purpose while making sure Silicon Valley technology companies embrace “A Sense of Purpose.”

Put People Before Algorithms. The goal of algorithms must not be to replace, manipulate, or deceive in the name of profit. This is all too often the case as black-box algorithms use massive amounts of data to attract eyeballs, encourage clicks, and, in more dire circumstances, even determine if someone goes to prison.

We must always ask up front how unaccountable algorithms impact individuals and society as a whole. Instead of eyeballs, clicks, and even prison time served, algorithms should be optimized to make people better—more efficient in their jobs, more informed in their daily lives, and more connected to their communities. We must make a cognizant effort to analyze and identify the risks of algorithms-gone-rogue before they result in disasters. Let’s not only ask, “How can we make more money?” but also, “What could go wrong?”

Risk-benefit analysis already takes place around boardroom tables by those with monetary interests, but those conversations fail to include the diverse voices of the communities that will feel the decision’s impact. There will never be perfect clarity around what will unfold after a decision is made. That’s exactly why decisions that impact thousands, millions, and even billions of people must include all company stakeholders—shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate—if we are ever to prevent a world where algorithms reign supreme in the name of profit.

Treat Diversity as Our Greatest Asset. It’s very easy to discount points of view, values, and even someone’s humanity when the voice of diversity is not present. Establishing diversity as a core company principle is a good start, but it’s not enough. Diversity must be omnipresent and it must be truly embraced across an organization as an asset, not a statistic.

Many in Silicon Valley will tell you that diversity has been a top priority for years, only to follow with reports that cite a 2% increase in women employees, 0% increase in black employees, and no data at all on the number of employees with disabilities. Let’s not conflate transparency with priority. We must increase diversity now while investing in STEM education and training to create a more diverse pipeline of workers for tomorrow’s technology jobs. By making the workforce of today and tomorrow more diverse, we make our communities more diverse. We are then one step closer to never discounting a point of view, value, or someone’s entire humanity due to a lack of voice.

It’s not too late to use Mr. Fink’s letter as a wake-up call for Silicon Valley to commit good on purpose. While the two proposals detailed in this article are aspirational, they have at their core something much more valuable than $6 trillion. These ideas are about regaining Silicon Valley’s conscience. They are about investing in a collective future that prizes diversity and equality, not a future that allows technology, data, and algorithms to further entrench the inequality that we face today in Silicon Valley and everywhere that feels our impact.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)


Need an existential reason for ditching Alexa? Here are a few

Alexa’s creepy laugh is far from the most worrying thing about her. This is despite the fact that Amazon’s digital assistant – which allows users to access the internet and control personal organization tools simply by speaking to the device – has been reported to spontaneously chuckle to herself. We shouldn’t be too concerned about her going rogue and turning on us either – a Terminator-style takeover by artificial intelligence doesn’t seem imminent. But Alexa does pose one immediate threat. Rather than worrying about AI becoming more human, we should fear ourselves becoming more artificial by outsourcing important actions and…

This story continues at The Next Web

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Hack Brief: There’s a New iPhone Text Message Attack

Hack Brief: There’s a New iPhone Text Message Attack

It turns out pranksters can crash an iPhone merely by texting it the exact right string of English and Arabic characters.

The post Hack Brief: There’s a New iPhone Text Message Attack appeared first on WIRED.

Hack Brief: There’s a New iPhone Text Message Attack

Hack Brief: There’s a New iPhone Text Message Attack

It turns out pranksters can crash an iPhone merely by texting it the exact right string of English and Arabic characters.

The post Hack Brief: There’s a New iPhone Text Message Attack appeared first on WIRED.

Obama’s Former Privacy Director Decries America’s Data Security

Obama’s Former Privacy Director Decries America’s Data Security

President Obama stands in the well of the House, demanding Congress take action on privacy and cybersecurity. Nothing happens. It has become an annual Washington ritual. One we witnessed again last night. The state of our union’s data is insecure. In 2009, President Obama announced the creation of a White House cybersecurity office as part […]

The post Obama’s Former Privacy Director Decries America’s Data Security appeared first on WIRED.

Email Spoofing: Explained (and How to Protect Yourself)

Jason P. Stadtlander Headshot, Huffington Post

Recently a co-worker asked me “Why do people even bother to spoof my email address?”

First, for those of you joining me that have no idea what the term spoofing means – let us examine that.

Spoofing is defined as:

1. imitate (something) while exaggerating its characteristic features for comic effect.
2. hoax or trick (someone).

Origin: late 19th century English comedian Arthur Roberts.

In the context of computers, to spoof one’s email address means that the sender is acting as if the email is coming from someone it is not.

How someone (or something) sends an email made to look like it comes from somewhere or somewhere it does not, is a little more technical to explain. So, if you don’t like tech talk, then skip to the next section “Why is my email address being spoofed?”

How are they spoofing me?

Spoofing email addresses is rather easy. All a person needs to spoof an email address is an SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) server (a server that can send email) and the appropriate email software. Most website hosting services will even provide an SMTP server in their hosting package. It is also possible to send email from your own computer if you load an SMTP server on it, however most ISPs will block port 25 (which is required to send out email).

Many of the available free SMTP servers will allow you to show a different “from” address than the actual registered domain that the email is transmitting from. However, to the recipient of said message, they will see that it actually came from the address you specified.

Now, there are special checks in place (and more being put into place) to prevent exactly this problem. One is called SPF or “Sender Policy Framework” which was developed by Meng Weng Wong in 2003. Basically, each time an email is sent, the receiving server compares the IP of the origin with the IP listed in the SPF record with the appropriate domain.

EXAMPLE 1: So, for example, let’s say someone tried to spoof Bill Gates (
They would send an email on his behalf > the recipient server would then talk back to and say “Hey, I have an email that is coming from stating that it was sent from” > would then tell the recipient server, “No, sorry, it should be coming from” and the message would never get delivered.

Why is my email address being spoofed?

Two basic reasons people (and machines) spoof:

1. Malicious: To cause useless internet traffic – ultimately hoping to bog down servers or bring them to a halt.

2. Because you were unlucky enough to have clicked the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Continue reading Email Spoofing: Explained on Huffington Post The Blog

Email Spoofing: Explained (and How to Protect Yourself) | Jason P. Stadtlander

It Doesn’t Really Matter if ISIS Sympathizers Hacked Central Command’s Twitter

It Doesn’t Really Matter if ISIS Sympathizers Hacked Central Command’s Twitter

For 40 minutes today, followers of the most feared terrorist organization in the world had free reign over a computer network of the US military. That is the story that many will take away from the hack of CENTCOM Twitter and YouTube accounts. And that story will be hyperbole.

The post It Doesn’t Really Matter if ISIS Sympathizers Hacked Central Command’s Twitter appeared first on WIRED.