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GOOGLE OUTLINES STEPS TO TACKLE WORKPLACE HARASSMENT

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Google on Thursday outlined changes to its handling of sexual misconduct complaints, hoping to calm outrage that triggered a worldwide walkout of workers last week.

“We recognise that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that,” chief executive Sundar Pichai said in a message to employees. “It’s clear we need to make some changes.”

Arbitration of harassment claims will be optional instead of obligatory, according to Pichai, a move that could end anonymous settlements that fail to identify those accused of harassment.

“Google has never required confidentiality in the arbitration process and it still may be the best path for a number of reasons (e.g. personal privacy, predictability of process), but, we recognise that the choice should be up to you,” he said in the memo.

image: https://content.thestar.com.my/smg/settag/name=lotame/tags=all

A section of an internal “Investigations Report” will focus on sexual harassment to show numbers of substantiated concerns as well as trends and disciplinary actions, according to the California-based company.

He also said Google is consolidating the complaint system and that the process for handling concerns will include providing support people and counselors. Google will update its mandatory sexual harassment training, and require it annually instead of every two years as had been the case.

Less booze

Google is also putting the onus on team leaders to tighten the tap on booze at company events, on or off campus, to curtail the potential for drunken misbehavior.

“Harassment is never acceptable and alcohol is never an excuse,” Google said in a released action statement. “But, one of the most common factors among the harassment complaints made today at Google is that the perpetrator had been drinking.”

Google policy already bans excessive consumption of alcohol on the job; while on company business, or at  work-related events.Some teams at the company have already instituted two-drink limits at events or use ticket systems, Google said.

Google executives overseeing events will be expected to strongly discourage excessive drinking, according to the company, which vowed “onerous actions” if problems persisted. The company also promised to “recommit” to improving workplace diversity through hiring, retention, and career advancement.’ –

Googleplex walkout

Thousands of Google employees joined a coordinated worldwide walkout a week ago to protest the US tech giant’s handling of sexual harassment. A massive turnout at the “Googleplex” in Silicon Valley was the final stage of a global walkout that began in Asia and spread to Google offices in Europe.

Some 20,000 Google employees and contractors participated in the protest in 50 cities around the world, according to organisers. Demma Rodriguez, head of equity engineering and a seven-year Google employee, said during the walkout that it was an important part of bringing fairness to the technology colossus.

“We have an aspiration to be the best company in the world,” Rodriguez said. “But we also have goals as a company and we can’t decide we are going to miss those.” The protest took shape after Google said it had fired 48 employees in the past two years – including 13 senior executives – as a result of allegations of sexual misconduct.

Demands posted by organisers included an end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination for all current and future employees, along with a right for every Google worker to bring a co-worker, representative, or supporter when filing a harassment claim.In a statement organisers commended Google for the response, but said more changes are needed.

“We demand a truly equitable culture, and Google leadership can achieve this by putting employee representation on the board and giving full rights and protections to contract workers,” organiser Stephanie Parker said in the statement.

Along with sexual harassment, Google needs to address racism and discrimination that includes inequity in pay and promotions, organisers said. “They all have the same root cause, which is a concentration of power and a lack of accountability at the top,” Parker said. – AP

Source:  https://www.thestar.com.my/tech/tech-news/2018/11/09/google-outlines-steps-to-tackle-workplace-harassment/#HJzOgT86K4srKCt1.99

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Mercedes-Benz sells 180,539 vehicles, January

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Mercedes-Benz delivered 180,539 vehicles to its customers worldwide in January (-6.7%).

The second-best start to a year for sales was influenced by important model changes in the high-volume SUV and compact-car segments.

In particular, the model change of the B-Class, CLA and GLE, each with a double-digit sales decrease, had a negative impact on total unit sales worldwide despite the ongoing high demand for the cars with the star insignia.

From today’s perspective, the company expects the model changes to affect deliveries in the first quarter.

With a high degree of probability, the full year will be affected also by exogenous challenges and geopolitical risks, the company announces in its global sale report for January.

A member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG responsible for Mercedes-Benz cars marketing and sales, Britta Seeger, said “With more than 180,000 vehicles delivered, Mercedes-Benz has started the year 2019 with the second-best January ever”.

“With the B-Class, the CLA and the GLE, we look forward in the coming months to the new generations of models very popular with our customers and expect the model offensive in our high-volume segments to provide significant sales impetus”.

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AMAZON ERROR ALLOWED ALEXA USER TO EAVESDROP ON ANOTHER HOME

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A user of Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant in Germany got access to more than a thousand recordings from another user because of “a human error” by the company.

The customer had asked to listen back to recordings of his own activities made by Alexa but he was also able to access 1,700 audio files from a stranger when Amazon sent him a link, German trade publication c’t reported.

“This unfortunate case was the result of a human error and an isolated single case,” an Amazon spokesman said.

The first customer had initially got no reply when he told Amazon about the access to the other recordings, the report said. The files were then deleted from the link provided by Amazon but he had already downloaded them on to his computer, added the report from c’t, part of German tech publisher Heise.

 

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CRYPTOCURRENCY INDUSTRY FACES INSURANCE HURDLE TO MAINSTREAM AMBITIONS

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Cryptocurrency exchanges and traders in Asia are struggling to insure themselves against the risk of hacks and theft, a factor they claim is deterring large fund managers from investing in a nascent market yet to be embraced by regulators.

Getting the buy-in from insurers would mark an important step in crypto industry efforts to show that it has solved the problem of storing digital assets safely following the reputational damage of a series of thefts, and allow it to attract investment from mainstream asset managers.

“Most institutionally minded crypto firms want to buy proper insurance, and in many cases, getting adequate insurance coverage is a regulatory or legal requirement,” said Henri Arslanian, PwC fintech and crypto leader for Asia.

“However, getting such coverage is almost impossible despite their best efforts.”

Many asset managers are interested in digital assets. A Greenwich Associates survey, published in September, said 72% of institutional investors who responded to the research firm believe crypto has a place in the future.

Last month, Mohamed El-Erian, Allianz’s chief economic adviser said that cryptocurrencies would gain wider acceptance as institutions began to invest in the space.

Most have held off investing so far however, citing regulatory uncertainty and a lack of faith in existing market infrastructure for storing and trading digital assets following a series of hacks, as well the plunge in prices.

The total market capitalisation of crypto currencies is currently estimated at approximately US$120bil (RM502bil) compared to over US$800bil (RM3.3tril) at its peak in January.

“Institutional investors who are interested in investing in crypto will have various requirements, including reliable custody and risk management arrangements,” said Hoi Tak Leung, a senior lawyer in Ashurst’s digital economy practice.

“Insufficient insurance coverage, particularly in a volatile industry such as crypto, will be a significant impediment to greater ‘institutionalisation’ of crypto investments.”

Regulatory uncertainty is another problem for large asset managers. While crypto currencies raise a number of concerns for regulators, including money laundering risks, few have set out clear frameworks for how cryptocurrencies should be traded, and by whom.

Insurance might allay some of the regulators’ concerns around cyber security. Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission recently said it was exploring regulating crypto exchanges, and signalled that the vast majority of the virtual assets held by a regulated exchange would need insurance cover.

Custody challenge

Keeping crypto assets secure involves storing a 64 character alphanumeric private key. If the key is lost, the assets are effectively lost too.

Assets can be stored online, in so-called hot wallets, which are convenient to trade though vulnerable to being hacked, or in ‘cold’ offline storage solutions, safe from hacks, but often inconvenient to access frequently.

Over US$800mil worth of crypto currencies were stolen in the first half of this year according to data from Autonomous NEXT, a financial research firm.

Some institutions have started working to solve this problem, and may provide fierce competition to the incumbent players.

This year, Fidelity, and a group including Japanese investment bank Nomura have launched platforms that will offer custody services for digital assets.

Despite the industry’s complaints, insurers say that they do offer cover. Risk advisor Aon, received some two dozen inquiries this year from exchanges and crypto vaults seeking insurance, according to Thomas Cain, regional director, commercial risk solutions, at Aon’s Asian financial services and professions group.

“It is not difficult to insure companies that hold large amounts of crypto assets, but given the newness of the asset class and the publicity some of the crypto breaches have received, applicants need to make an effort to distinguish themselves,” Cain said.

The industry also says it is getting closer to solving the custody problem.

“This year there have been a number of developments, and some providers have developed custody solutions suitable for institutional clients’ needs,” said Tony Gravanis, managing director investments at blockchain investment firm Kenetic Capital.

“Players at the top end of the market have also been able to get insurance,” he said.

But this is not the case for all.

One cryptocurrency broker, declining to be named because of the subject’s sensitivity, said insurers struggled to understand the new technology and its implications, and that even those who were prepared to provide insurance would only offer limited cover. “We’ve not yet found an insurer who will offer coverage of a meaningful enough size to make it worthwhile,” he said. – Reuters

 

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