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Digital Digest – 17 November

In this week’s Digital Digest we look at Amazon ceasing to accept VISA credit card payments and Israeli spyware attacks on websites in the UK and Middle East.  

We then take a look at big tech as Meta restricts the flow of internal information and Uber acts as an indicator for global economic trends. 

Closer To Home

Amazon to stop accepting VISA credit cards in UK

As of January 19th 2022, online retail company Amazon will stop accepting VISA credit cards as a means of payment, but will still accept VISA debit cards. The move comes as the cost of credit card transaction fees increase.

VISA has responded by saying it is “very disappointed that Amazon is threatening to restrict consumer choice” and that “when consumer choice is limited, nobody wins.” It is yet to be seen whether the two companies can come to an agreement prior to the January deadline and prevent a huge amount of inconvenience on numerous fronts to most users of the online shopping hub.

Israeli spyware company linked to attacks on websites in UK and Middle East

New evidence suggests that Israeli spyware company, Candiru, which was recently blacklisted in the US, was used to target critics of autocratic regimes in the Middle East as well as a London-based news website. This comes after Israeli NSO Group’s ‘Pegasus’, which infects mobile phones, was also blacklisted by the Biden administration for acting against US national security interests.

Canadian researchers say they have found a number of links between “watering hole attacks” on high-profile websites in the UK and Middle East. These attacks are aimed at ordinary websites which attract users who are thought to be “targets of interest” by the user of the malware who can then infect the computers of those users and collect vast sums of data. 

Big Tech

Meta goes into lockdown

A slew of leaks and external scrutiny has stifled the internal flow of information at Meta, formerly known as Facebook. Whistleblower, Frances Haugen, is arguably the main catalyst for such action, or rather inaction, at Meta as her revealing testimonies have led to congressional hearings and lawsuits against the tech giant.

Internal Workplace hubs are increasingly being made private, while Nick Clegg, their policy and communications chief, has slowed the release of Integrity research internally. A talk centered around ‘how to cope as a researcher when the company you work for is constantly receiving negative press’ was pulled before the recent internal research summit event as it was determined the risk of its contents leaking was not worth going ahead with. Additionally, a number of pre-recorded talks were subject to a second round of scrutiny to protect against any such leak.

Uber remains an indicator for global economic trends

The ride-hailing app Uber continues to be an accurate example of wider global economic trends and shifts. It was at the forefront of the flourishing gig economy in its early years, marshalling the full scale of venture capital in Silicon Valley, and in a post-pandemic world it is reflecting the widespread shortage of labour and supply chain disruptions causing prices to rise across the economy.

The hike in prices mirrors inflation in the wider economic environment and the rising cost of living. The days of cheap and reliable Ubers may be at an end as the cost of operation, fuel, cars, certification, coupled with driver shortages and a hard-hit gig economy, mount on the company. The question remains as to whether these changes will be here to stay once the world returns to a greater level of ‘normalcy’ or whether this is in fact the new normal. 

Also in the news

Facebook has failed to protect users from Covid misinformation, says NewsGuard. See here.

The US Senate has confirmed Google critic and competition lawyer Jonathan Kanter to lead the Justice Department’s antitrust division. See here.

Plastic scanner device that identifies which plastics can actually be recycled wins Dyson award. See here.

The European Union’s win against Google is a reminder of the scale and scope of its regulatory power. See here.

Following COP26, three ad agencies are hoping to sell consumers a sustainable future using the persuasive powers of advertising. See here.  

Worth a read

  1. BBC News: Online hate speech rose 20% during pandemic

  2. The FT: UK announces national security probe of Nvidia’s $54bn Arm deal

  3. Wired: Twitter vigilantes are hunting down crypto scammers


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