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Digital Digest – 16 December

In this week’s digital digest we look at Amazon’s entry into the PCR test market and Walksafe, the app keeping women safe on the streets.

We then take a look at big tech as the CMA takes on Apple and Google, allegations Huawei is helping the Chinese state with domestic surveillance, and US Department of Labour investigates Apple. 


Closer To Home

Amazon to sell low-cost PCR Covid tests for UK travellers Pricing test kits at just £34.99, Amazon is shaking up a market that has been described as a “rip off jungle” for UK travellers. The government approved kits will be processed in Salford at a lab Amazon set up last year to process tests for its employees.  Prior to this travellers to the UK had to order from small suppliers whose tests often arrived late or not at all. This lead to accusations that the government was failing in its handling of the test market.  The Competition and Markets Authority has cited false advertising, poor service and inflated pricing as issues in the market and has given warning to suppliers to improve. The watchdog had previously made recommendations to the Department of Health and Social Care on how to improve the situation but not much appears to have changed. Amazon’s entry into this market is good for consumers, likely providing a better quality, more efficient service at a lower price. The technology helping keep women safe on the streets The murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nasse has seen a surge in users for Walksafe, making it the fastest growing safety app in the UK.  To meet the increased demand and to build on its safety features, the app plans on launching a new sat-nav feature in the new year. The new feature will include a live map where family and friends can track a user’s movements in real time. In its present form, the app enables users to plan their journeys by mapping routes that avoid recent crime hot spots and deploys AI technology to recognise distress if a user is attacked.  Since its launch earlier this year, the app has had more that half a million downloads

Big Tech

Apple and Google’s ‘vice-like grip’ on smartphone markets harms consumers, warns watchdog

The Competition and Markets Authority warns of a duopoly that pushes consumers towards the two firms’ search engines and app stores, harming innovation and consumer choice. The CMA wants to make it easier for consumers to switch between platforms with a wider choice of search engine on their smartphones and tablets. Consumers can only download apps via the App Store on Apple phones which the CMA accuses of being a “total monopoly” while alternative ways to download Apps do exist on Google phones. This comes off the back of increased intervention into technology companies by the CMA as it investigates Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook. The tech giants have responded, citing “extraterritorial overreach” by the regulator. Both Apple and Google have claimed that opening up their app store monopolies could be harmful to consumers, exposing them to viruses. The CMA’s final decision should be published next summer. Huawei ‘helped create’ tech for China’s state surveillance and ‘re-educating’ of Uighurs

An investigation by the Washington Post has alleged that Chinese tech giant Huawei has developed mass surveillance programmes for Beijing. Technology was reportedly pitched to Chinese government officials using the company logo appearing to be intended for police or government authorities.

Huawei is reported to have helped develop a prison management system to help oversee ideological reeducation classes of detainees, including Uighur Muslims, in the Xinjiang region. It has also been alleged to have pitched facial and voice recognition AI systems in order to track political targets as well as a ‘corporate monitoring’ system for employers in order to map employees’ movements and take action if they are found to be sleeping, playing on their phones or absent from their desk. Apple faces probe over whether it retaliated against whistleblower

Apple is being investigated by the US Department of Labour following a complaint from whistleblower Ashley Gjøvik.

Gjøvik was fired from her job back in September in what she claims was retaliation for reporting concerns about environmental and health safety issues at the Sunnyvale, California office where she worked.

The Labor Department investigation is yet more evidence of the growing tension between Apple and its workforce. In recent months, employees have broken the company’s legendary culture of secrecy to speak out on controversial hiring decisions, alleged pay disparities and remote work policies in an employee movement that has come to be known as #AppleToo.


Also In the News

  1. Apple poised to become the first $3 trillion company as it emerged a secret deal with China helped fuel the company’s growth in recent years. See here. 

  2. Microsoft’s $20bn acquisition of an AI company used by the NHS is under investigation by the CMA after complaints from rivals. See here

  3. London Mayor Sadiq Khan bans electric scooters on public transport due to battery fires. See here.

  4. Chinese state backed entities among hackers who launched more over a million attacks to mine cryptocurrency and become part of botnets See here.

  5. The Guardian hits 1m paying digital readers, including 500,000 outside the UK. See here


Worth A Read

  1. Wired: Tech’s Center of Gravity is Shifting Away From Silicon Valley

  2. Press Gazette: Former BBC editor Sarah Sands tells Lords broadcaster is ‘institutionally statist’

  3. The Drum: Blocklists are still failing advertisers and minority media


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