What’s new in tech
Saudi spies infiltrate Twitter
Two former Twitter employees were charged by the Justice Department with spying on behalf of Saudi Arabia, said Aruna Viswanatha and Betsy Morris in The Wall Street Journal. One, Ahmad Abouammo, was arrested in Seattle last week “and is accused of trying to obtain personal information about Saudi Arabia’s critics,” including the email address of one “prominent critic of the Saudi royal family” with more than 1 million Twitter followers. The second, a former website maintenance worker, Ali Alzabarah, allegedly used his credentials to access “over 6,000 Twitter accounts in 2015 on behalf of the Saudi government.” A third Saudi national, Ahmed Almutairi, was also charged for his role in persuading the men to access the information, paying them with cash and, in at least one case, a watch.
Uber software ignored pedestrians
Uber’s self-driving vehicles weren’t designed to recognize a pedestrian outside a crosswalk, said Aarian Marshall and Alex Davies in Wired.com. Federal investigators found that the software inside the autonomous Uber SUV that killed an Arizona woman last year “did not include a consideration for jaywalking pedestrians.” U.S. regulators are in the midst of a 20-month investigation into the incident. “Despite the fact that the car detected” the woman almost six seconds before striking her, it first “classified her as a vehicle. Then it changed its mind to ‘other,’ then to vehicle again, back to ‘other,’ then to bicycle, then to ‘other’ again, and finally back to bicycle.” It wasn’t until 1.2 seconds before the impact that the system realized “it couldn’t steer around her.” The SUV was traveling 43.5 mph when it hit her.
Finding your consumer score
“As consumers, we all have ‘secret scores’: hidden ratings that determine how long each of us waits on hold when calling a business, whether we can return items at a store, and what type of service we receive,” said Kashmir Hill in The New York Times. These “e-scores” are often believed to be inaccessible, but I got mine from a company called Sift and “I found it shocking.” It was more than 400 pages long and “contained all the messages I’d ever sent to hosts on Airbnb” and “years of Yelp delivery orders.” Sift is not the only company “in the business of scoring customers” and then selling that data to clients. Five of them—Sift, Zeta Global, Retail Equation, Riskified, and Kustomer—will share the data they have on you if you contact them or fill out an online form.