Plus: Alexa is caught sharing conversations with an unexpected audience, Julian Assange is arrested, and Jeff Bezos is challenging his competitors on worker pay.
Uber filed its much-anticipated IPO on Thursday, “pulling back the curtain on a company that is still, at times, battling itself.” The 400-page S-1 filing called out the company’s “workplace culture” as a risk factor, saying it “created significant operational and cultural challenges that have in the past harmed, and may in the future continue to harm, our business results and financial condition.”
About two years ago, founder Travis Kalanick was ousted from his CEO position amid a series of scandals at the company and a #DeleteUber campaign. In spite of this, Uber has been able to build “a gargantuan business” with $11.3 billion in revenue last year, which is five times as much as its biggest US competitor, Lyft. Uber is expected to be valued at more than $90 billion — although that figure will be finalized in the coming weeks.
[Rani Molla and Theodore Schleifer]
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While we often think of Alexa and other AI gadgets as being self-taught, there are real human beings doing the teaching. Thousands of people around the world are listening to snippets of people’s conversations with Amazon’s Alexa, according to a new report from Bloomberg. The article characterizes most of these workers’ jobs as “mundane,” but notes that sometimes employees encounter “recordings they find upsetting, or possibly criminal” such as a suspected sexual assault, and that “[w]hen something like that happens, they may share the experience in the internal chat room as a way of relieving stress.”
Amazon told Bloomberg that “[e]mployees do not have direct access to information that can identify” a specific person or account. A screenshot reviewed by Bloomberg shows that the recordings sent to the Alexa reviewers provide a user’s first name, the device’s serial number, and are associated with an account number.
[Matt Day, Giles Turner, and Natalia Drozdiak / Bloomberg]
The DOJ charged WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with conspiracy to hack a government computer. A “heavily bearded and disheveled” Assange was arrested Thursday in England, where he had been living for years under protection inside of the Ecuadorian embassy. The charge, filed last year and unsealed Thursday, “stems from what prosecutors said was his agreement to break a password to a classified United States government computer,” but, as the New York Times writes, “is not an espionage charge, a detail that will come as a relief to press freedom advocates.”
Assange — who has been linked to 2016 leaks of DNC party emails — was specifically charged for allegedly helping former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning hack government files that documented the US and other countries’ killing of civilians and journalists in the Iraq war.
[Eileen Sullivan and Richard Pérez-Peña / The New York Times]
Jeff Bezos dared his competition to top his company’s $15-an-hour minimum wage. In his annual letter to shareholders, “Today I challenge our top retail competitors (you know who you are!) to match our employee benefits and our $15 minimum wage,” Bezos wrote. “Do it! Better yet, go to $16 and throw the gauntlet back at us. It’s a kind of competition that will benefit everyone.”
Last year, Amazon raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour, affecting 350,000 employees. Its retail competitors like Target and Walmart currently pay less — $12 and $11 an hour, respectively. Still, Amazon was criticized for cutting some employee stocks and grants when it raised its minimum wage. The company then made additional increases to pay. Amazon has also faced criticism over reports of harsh working conditions in its packaging and warehouse facilities.
[Vlad Savov / The Verge]
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