Posts with «author_name|kris holt» label

TikTok's CEO will testify before a congressional committee in March

Shou Zi Chew, the CEO of TikTok, will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 23rd. Chow will discuss the app's privacy and data security measures, its impact on kids and ties to China (parent company ByteDance is headquartered in the country). This will be Chew's first appearance in front of a congressional panel, the committee said. TikTok COO Vanessa Pappas faced similar questions from lawmakers in September.

"ByteDance-owned TikTok has knowingly allowed the ability for the Chinese Communist Party to access American user data," committee chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers said in a statement. "Americans deserve to know how these actions impact their privacy and data security, as well as what actions TikTok is taking to keep our kids safe from online and offline harms. We’ve made our concerns clear with TikTok. It is now time to continue the committee’s efforts to hold Big Tech accountable by bringing TikTok before the committee to provide complete and honest answers for people.”

Engadget has contacted TikTok for comment.

TikTok's security and relationship with Chinese authorities have drawn the attention of US officials over the last few years. However, as CNBC notes, discussions between the US and TikTok appear to have stalled, as officials remain concerned about the possibility of China forcing it to hand over user data.

The company has tried to placate concerns from regulators and elected officials by storing US user data on domestic Oracle servers and deleting such data from its own servers in the US and Singapore. Oracle has been reviewing TikTok's algorithms and content moderation models for signs of Chinese interference.

Last month, TikTok said it fired four employees (two each in China and the US) who accessed the data of several journalists. They were said to be looking for the sources of leaks to reporters.

Also in December, lawmakers passed a mammoth spending bill. The legislation bans TikTok from federal government-owned devices. More than half of all states have implemented similar bans on local government devices. Meanwhile, senators and members of Congress have renewed efforts to ban TikTok in the US entirely.

News of Chew's appearance before the panel comes on Data Privacy Day. In a blog post, TikTok laid out some of its efforts to bolster user privacy, including a plan to set up a data center in Dublin this year to store UK and European Economic Area data.

Ford slashes Mustang Mach-E prices by up to $5,900

Ford has slashed prices of its Mustang Mach-E electric vehicle by up to eight percent (as much as $5,900), with the extended-range battery dropping in price by around 19 percent. The entry-level models are now around $600 to $900 less expensive, according to Reuters, which reported that people who are currently waiting for Ford to deliver a Mach-E will receive the price cut automatically.

At least one variant is again eligible for the $7,500 federal tax credit, which applies to EVs that have an MSRP of $55,000 or less. SUVs, vans and pickup trucks are eligible for the credit if they have a maximum MSRP of $80,000, but the Internal Revenue Service does not class the Mach-E as an SUV.

In August, Ford increased the price of the Mach-E for new orders by between around $2,600 and $8,000 compared with the 2022 trims. The company attributed the price hikes to "significant material cost increases, continued strain on key supply chains and rapidly evolving market conditions." However, it seems those issues have abated somewhat.

"At Ford, we want to make EVs more accessible, so we’re increasing Mustang Mach-E production and reducing prices across the Mach-E lineup," Ford CEO Jim Farley wrote on Twitter. "Scaling will shorten customer wait times. And with higher production, we’re reducing costs, which allows us [to] share these savings with customers."

Ford built 78,000 Mach-E vehicles in 2022. It hopes to ramp up production to an annual run rate of 270,000 by the end of this year. The company is aiming to reach a total EV production rate of 600,000 by late 2023 with the help of new lithium iron phosphate battery packs.

The move comes after Tesla slashed the prices of its EVs by up to 20 percent earlier this month. The five-seat Model Y Long Range became eligible for the tax credit after the cut, meaning that it's now $20,500 (over 30 percent) less expensive.

CWA files unfair labor practice charge against eBay's trading card subsidiary

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) has filed an unfair labor practice charge against eBay-owned TCGplayer on behalf of workers at the trading card marketplace. The organization says TCGplayer supervisors and managers, including founder and CEO Chedy Hampson, illegally surveilled union activity in recent weeks.

Workers at TCGplayer are trying to unionze and this week, a supermajority filed for a union representation election. If they're successful, they'll form TCG Union/CWA, which will be the first union within eBay.

Within the past two weeks, multiple TCGPlayer supervisors and managers, including the CEO, have patrolled the floor of the authentication center, taking note of employees who have worn any clothes or insignia identifying them as supporters of @TCGunionCWA.

— CODE-CWA (@CODE_CWA) January 27, 2023

The CWA claims that TCGplayer higher-ups have walked the floors of the company's authentication center in Syracuse, New York. It says the supervisors and managers were taking note of employees who wore clothing or badges that identified them as supporters of the union drive. "This conduct constitutes unlawful surveillance of union activity and further created an impression of surveillance designed to interfere with, restrain and coerce employees in the exercise of their rights guaranteed by Section 7 of the National Relations Labor Act," the CWA said in a statement.

The workers renewed their attempts to form a union after eBay bought TCGplayer late last year in a deal worth up to $295 million. They previously tried to organize in 2020, but withdrew their union election petition a few days before the vote. The CWA says that TCGplayer thwarted those efforts by bringing in a union-busting firm and running "an intense anti-union campaign where workers were regularly ordered to attend captive audience meetings and disparaged by management in company communications."

Engadget has contacted TCGplayer and eBay for comment.

HBO renews 'The Last of Us' for a second season

Get ready for more clickers, quips from Ellie and perhaps a trip to a decaying Seattle: HBO has renewed The Last of Us for a second season. That's not exactly a surprise, as the adaptation of Naughty Dog's games is already a huge hit for the network. Some 22 million people have now watched the first episode, five times the number of people who tuned in on the premiere night 12 days ago. The show also saw the largest second-week jump in audience figures of any original HBO drama series.

If you haven't caught The Last of Us yet and are curious what all the hullabaloo is about, there's some good news. You can now watch the first episode for free on HBO Max.

The streaming service often offers free tasters of certain shows in the hopes of getting viewers hooked and prompting them to subscribe. The first episode of Game of Thrones spin-off House of the Dragon, another major success for the platform, is free to watch on both HBO Max and YouTube.

For the uninitiated, The Last of Us is based on a PlayStation 3 (and PS4 and PS5) game of the same name. It's often held up as one of the finest examples of storytelling in video games. It tales the tale of a smuggler who reluctantly escorts a teenage girl across the US after the world has been ravaged by a fungus that turns people into terrifying, mutated creatures.

So far, HBO's terrific adaptation has largely followed the same story with some smart deviations and changes. Critics have hailed the third episode, which airs this Sunday, as the best installment of the season. It focuses on a side story that's primarily told through a note players find in the game. 

Apple Watch can now be used by pro surfers during competition

Pro surfers will soon start using an Apple Watch during competitions. The World Surf League (WSL) has designated the wearable as official wearable equipment. The organization says it's the first time that Apple Watch is being "used as official competitor equipment in a professional sports environment."

Before each heat, every surfer on the Championship Tour will receive an Apple Watch that's preloaded with the new WSL Surfer app. They can use it to keep track of scores, wave priority and times. The app, which works on Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra, syncs with the WSL's scoring system in real time. The WSL says Apple Watch fits the bill thanks to its durability, cellular data connectivity and large, bright screen.

"The noise of the wind and the waves can sometimes make it impossible to hear the announcers while competing, and that means you miss crucial information," Ítalo Ferreira, the 2019 WSL champion and an Olympic gold medalist, said in a statement. "Challenging conditions can make it hard to see the beach and a priority penalty could cost you the heat, so not needing to rely on seeing the beach or hearing the announcers makes a huge difference and prevents guesswork."

The WSL didn't say which Apple Watch model competitors will use, but the Ultra makes the most sense. It has the largest screen of any Apple Watch to date and it's the most rugged version the company has built. Apple says the Ultra has more accurate GPS and water resistance than its other models.

The 2023 WSL Championship Tour starts this weekend in Oahu, Hawaii. If you're interested to see how the Apple Watch is used in pro sports, you can watch the event on YouTube, the WSL's app or the organization's website. Meanwhile, the second season of docuseries Make or Break, which follows competitors on the Championship Tour, will hit Apple TV+ in February.

New York’s flood sensor network will soon expand across the city

New York City’s first flood-monitoring network is set to expand. Thanks to $7.2 million in funding from the city, the number of flood-prone areas FloodNet monitors with its sensors will increase from 31 to 500 across all five boroughs. The expansion is expected to start next month and take up to five years.

Data from the sensors is fed into a free web dashboard that residents, city agencies, researchers and anyone else can use to stay on top of and react to flood threats. The dashboard receives water-level readings from the sensors in real time. An interactive map shows where, when and how rapidly water is rising, whether that's due to seawater surges at the coast or stormwater drains not being able to handle floods. The dashboard also includes historical data, which can help people to track the frequency and severity of floods over time.

Researchers from New York University, The City University of New York, Brooklyn College and the Science and Resilience Institute developed FloodNet. They had assistance from the mayor's Office of Climate & Environmental Justice, the NYC Office of Technology & Innovation and neighborhood community groups.

FloodNet's solar-powered sensors are low cost and open-source. They use ultrasound to measure changes in water levels and wirelessly transfer data to a gateway hub, which then sends the information to FloodNet's servers and the dashboard.

Sea levels in the city have risen by a foot in the last century, according to the New York City Panel on Climate Change. They're expected to increase by between another eight and 30 inches by around 2050, and between 15 and 75 inches by the end of the century. More detailed flood data can help city planners and others prepare for permanent water level rises, along with weather events like hurricanes that can quickly wreak havoc.

Uber Eats now shows users which of their personal details couriers can see

The next time you order something from Uber Eats, you'll be able to find out what personal information of yours a courier can see at each stage of the delivery process. The View as Delivery Person feature follows a View as Driver function Uber added in 2020. Starting today, Uber Eats users in the US and Canada can access the information from the recent order page and in the app's privacy center (under the privacy menu on the account tab).

The delivery person will only know an approximate delivery location until they collect the order. Then they'll typically have access to your first name, initial of your last name and exact delivery location. Uber will provide them with your delivery instructions and notes too. After the order is completed, the courier will once again only see a general delivery location in their app.

Did you know we limit what your delivery person sees about you when they accept your Uber Eats order? We’ve launched a new product so you can see what is shared with a courier when you place an order on the app. US and Canada only. Link in bio for more.

— Uber Eats (@UberEats) January 26, 2023

Moreover, the feature will tell you what kinds of details couriers can't see, such as your phone number, payment details or driver rating. If you order products like alcohol or weed through Uber Eats, you need to prove you're of legal age by sharing a picture of your ID. Couriers can't see your ID details after they make the delivery, Uber says.

The idea is to provide users with more peace of mind and transparency, as Zach Singleton, Uber’s head of privacy and equity product, told The Verge. View as Driver was a popular privacy feature among users, according to Singleton, who noted that Uber receives thousands of support tickets from users who are concerned about how much personal information their driver or courier gets, as well as those eager to know more.

Safety is a critical concern for many Uber and Uber Eats users. Singleton added that women are “53 percent more likely to have a concern about the information that delivery people had when something uncomfortable has occurred.”

Workers at eBay-owned trading card marketplace TCGplayer are trying to unionize

More than 280 workers at TCGplayer, a marketplace for trading card games like Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon, are trying to unionize. A supermajority of the workers have filed for a union representation election with the National Labor Relations Board. If their efforts are successful, they'll form the first union at eBay, which bought TCGplayer in 2022 in a deal worth up to $295 million.

Employees of several card and tabletop companies have unionized, including Card Kingdom, Bellevue Mox Boarding House, Noble Knight Games and Paizo. The TCGplayer workers are similarly trying to organize with the Communications Workers of America (CWA), which has also worked with severalvideo game studios in their unionization attempts.

“We are ready to unlock the full potential we know TCGplayer can have. By forming a union, we are able to support each other, customers, and sellers to create the best TCGplayer for all of us," Jennifer Bonham, a shipping generalist at TCGplayer, said in a statement. "We are incredibly passionate about our work, but passion can only get us so far. We want to see our collective health and well-being thrive because for many of us, this is the best job we have ever had."

The workers are organizing as TCG Union/CWA and are all employed at the company's authentication center in Syracuse, New York. They each play a hand in ensuring card shipments meet quality standards and that they're accurately completed.

The workers are seeking an end to pay caps; pay rises to account for inflation and cost of living increases; and "a fair and comprehensive sick leave and absence policy that does not punish people" for issues outside of their control. Moreover, they're demanding inclusive career advancement opportunities; fair and transparent hiring practices; clearly defined job roles and expectations; and the resources and training needed to do their jobs. On top of that, they're asking for a seat at the table, along with "just cause and clear grievance and discipline procedures, applied equally to management."

This isn't the first time that the workers have attempted to unionize, as Polygon notes. They tried to do so almost three years ago with the Service Employees International Union. However, just days before the scheduled vote, they withdrew the petition. The eBay acquisition is said to have reignited the unionization drive.

"We have received notice that a petition is being filed by the Communications Workers of America labor union asking the National Labor Relations Board to conduct a vote on union representation," a TCGplayer spokesperson told Engadget in a statement. "We have not seen that petition by the National Labor Relations Board, nor have we had the chance to review it. We respect an employee’s right to choose or to decline union representation, and acknowledge this is a big decision. Our commitment to our employees during this time is to ensure they have the information needed to make an informed and confidential choice."

Engadget has contacted eBay for comment.

Watch Xbox and Bethesda's Developer Direct showcase here at 3PM ET

The first major gaming showcase of the year is about to take place as Xbox and Bethesda are set to host the premiere edition of their Developer Direct. The stream starts at 3PM ET on January 25th. It will be available on Xbox and Bethesda's YouTube and Twitch channels. You can also watch it via the embedded video below.

The showcase will run for 43 minutes, according to Aaron Greenberg, vice-president of Xbox games marketing. It will focus on four games: The Elder Scrolls Online, Redfall, Forza Motorsport and Minecraft Dungeons. Right after the event ends, there'll be a deeper dive into the next Elder Scrolls Online chapter update. The other three games are all slated to arrive sometime in the first half of 2023.

While it may be mentioned briefly, don't pin your hopes on getting more info about Starfield. Xbox and Bethesda are saving that for a standalone show at a later date. However, perhaps there'll be a surprise announcement or two during today's stream.

The Developer Direct is debuting just at the right time for Microsoft. The company needs to give people more reasons to get excited about the Xbox ecosystem. It just announced that revenue from Xbox content and services fell by 12 percent last quarter, while Xbox hardware revenue fell by 13 percent — all during a holiday quarter. Redfall is one of the games I'm most looking forward to this year and there are a ton of Forza and Minecraft fans out there, so it'll be worth paying attention to this stream.

SanDisk external drives and microSD cards are up to 65 percent off

There's no such thing as having too much storage on hand. You'll never quite know when you could use a microSD card or SSD, and better safe than sorry. Stocking up when they're on sale is never a bad idea, so it's worth checking out the latest discounts on some SanDisk models at Amazon. For instance, a Nintendo Switch-licensed 512GB microSD card (with cute Animal Crossing branding) has dropped 58 percent from $130 to $58.11. A yellow 256GB card with a Super Mario Super Star logo is 40 percent off at $31.90.

You don't necessarily have to use these cards in a Switch, of course, but depending on what you might use them for, it's worth keeping in mind the read and write speeds. These versions have read speeds of up to 100MB/s and write speeds up to 90MB/s. That might not be fast enough for a camera that shoots 8K footage with high frame rates (you might want a card with a higher capacity for that purpose, anyway), but these cards should be absolutely fine for a Nintendo Switch or Steam Deck, which have maximum read speeds of 104MB/s.

Elsewhere, SanDisk's 2TB Extreme Portable SSD is currently 65 percent off at $160. That's a hefty discount from the regular price of $460. This SSD supports read speeds up to 1,050MB/s and write speeds up to 1,000MB/s. It has USB 3.2 Gen 2 support for data transfers via USB-C.

SanDisk says the SSD has up to two-meter drop protection and IP55 water and dust resistance. There's built-in password protection with 256‐bit AES hardware encryption to protect your data and a carabiner loop to help you physically secure the device.

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribe to the Engadget Deals newsletter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.