What’s new in tech
National security threat
The U.S. government has ordered a Chinese firm to sell the gay-dating app Grindr on national security grounds, said David Sanger in The New York Times. “It appears to be the first case in which the United States has asserted that foreign control of a social media app could have national security implications.” Grindr, based in West Hollywood, Calif., and with more than 27 million users, sold its majority stake to a Chinese company, Beijing Kunlun Tech Co. Ltd., in 2016. While the U.S. didn’t try to block the acquisition, it has become increasingly concerned “about China’s ability to gain access to critical American technology.” Grindr owns potentially sensitive user data and has already drawn backlash for “sharing users’ HIV status, sexual tastes, and other intimate personal details.”
Verizon is now offering free filtering of spam calls, said Chris Welch in TheVerge.com. The system, which uses a federal authentication standard called STIR/SHAKEN,“verifies that a call is actually coming from the number it’s posing as.” Many spammers will spoof your local area code or exchange. The system can automatically block unwanted calls and report the number. It falls into line with a mandate established by the Federal Communications Commission, which has “warned all major U.S. carriers” that it will take action if they don’t make an effort to stem the deluge of robocalls, which numbered 26.3 billion in 2018. Competitor T-Mobile has put a similar system in place, but only for some phone models. Almost half of all mobile call volume is now estimated to be spam marketing.
Facebook charged over ads
Facebook was charged by the Department of Housing and Urban Development with violating fair-housing laws, said John McKinnon and Jeff Horowitz in The Wall Street Journal. HUD “accuses the social media giant of unlawfully discriminating based on race, national origin, religion, and more.” The department charged that Facebook allowed real estate companies to draw a virtual red line around majority-minority ZIP codes and let advertisers target potential buyers based on interests, such as “the Bible,” that correspond to protected categories. Facebook said “it had taken steps to prevent advertising discrimination.” Recently, Facebook removed “age, gender, and ZIP code targeting for housing, employment, and credit-related advertisements” after reaching a $5 million settlement with advocacy groups.