Posts with «business» label

Hitting the Books: What autonomous vehicles mean for tomorrow's workforce

In the face of daily pandemic-induced upheavals, the notion of "business as usual" can often seem a quaint and distant notion to today's workforce. But even before we all got stuck in never-ending Zoom meetings, the logistics and transportation sectors (like much of America's economy) were already subtly shifting in the face of continuing advances in robotics, machine learning and autonomous navigation technologies. 

In their new book, The Work of the Future: Building Better Jobs in an Age of Intelligent Machines, an interdisciplinary team of MIT researchers (leveraging insights gleaned from MIT's multi-year Task Force on the Work of the Future) exam the disconnect between improvements in technology and the benefits derived by workers from those advancements. It's not that America is rife with "low-skill workers" as New York's new mayor seems to believe, but rather that the nation is saturated with low-wage, low-quality positions — positions which are excluded from the ever-increasing perks and paychecks enjoyed by knowledge workers. The excerpt below examines the impact vehicular automation will have on rank and file employees, rather than the Musks of the world.

MIT Press

Excerpted from The Work of the Future: Building Better Jobs in an Age of Intelligent Machines by David Autor, David A. Mindell and Elisabeth B. Reynolds. Reprinted with permission from the MIT PRESS. Copyright 2022.


THE ROBOTS YOU CAN SEE: DRIVERLESS CARS, WAREHOUSING AND DISTRIBUTION, AND MANUFACTURING

Few sectors better illustrate the promises and fears of robotics than autonomous cars and trucks. Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are essentially highspeed wheeled industrial robots powered by cutting-edge technologies of perception, machine learning, decision-making, regulation, and user interfaces. Their cultural and symbolic resonance has brought AVs to the forefront of excited press coverage about new technology and has sparked large investments of capital, making a potentially “driverless” future a focal point for hopes and fears of a new era of automation.

The ability to transport goods and people across the landscape under computer control embodies a dream of twenty-first-century technology, and also the potential for massive social change and displacement. In a driverless future, accidents and fatalities could drop significantly. The time that people waste stuck in traffic could be recovered for work or leisure. Urban landscapes might change, requiring less parking and improving safety and efficiency for all. New models for the distribution of goods and services promise a world where people and objects move effortlessly through the physical world, much as bits move effortlessly through the internet.

As recently as a decade ago, it was common to dismiss the notion of driverless cars coming to roads in any form. Federally supported university research in robotics and autonomy had evolved for two generations and had just begun to yield advances in military robotics. Yet today, virtually every carmaker in the world, plus many startups, have engaged to redefine mobility. The implications for job disruption are massive. The auto industry itself accounts for just over 5 percent of all private sector jobs, according to one estimate. Millions more work as drivers and in the web of companies that service and maintain these vehicles.

Task Force members John J. Leonard and David A. Mindell have both participated in the development of these technologies and, with graduate student Erik L. Stayton, have studied their implications. Their research suggests that the grand visions of automation in mobility will not be fully realized in the space of a few years.15 The variability and complexity of real-world driving conditions require the ability to adapt to unexpected situations that current technologies have not yet mastered. The recent tragedies and scandals surrounding the death of 346 people in two Boeing 737 MAX crashes stemming from flawed software and the accidents involving self-driving car-testing programs on public roads have increased public and regulatory scrutiny, adding caution about how quickly these technologies will be widely dispersed. The software in driverless cars remains more complex and less deterministic than that in airliners; we still lack technology and techniques to certify it as safe. Some even argue that solving for generalized autonomous driving is tantamount to solving for AGI.

Analysis of the best available data suggests that the reshaping of mobility around autonomy will take more than a decade and will proceed in phases, beginning with systems limited to specific geographies such as urban or campus shuttles (such as the recent product announcement from Zoox, an American AV company). Trucking and delivery are also likely use cases for early adoption, and several leading developers are focusing on these applications both in a fully autonomous mode and as augmented, “convoy” systems led by human drivers. In late 2020, in a telling shift for the industry from “robotaxis” to logistics, Uber sold its driverless car unit, having spent billions of dollars with few results. The unit was bought by Amazon-backed Aurora to focus the technology on trucking. More automated systems will eventually spread as technological barriers are overcome, but current fears about a rapid elimination of driving jobs are not supported.

AVs, whether cars, trucks, or buses, combine the industrial heritage of Detroit and the millennial optimism and disruption of Silicon Valley with a DARPA-inspired military vision of unmanned weapons. Truck drivers, bus drivers, taxi drivers, auto mechanics, and insurance adjusters are but a few of the workers expected to be displaced or complemented. This transformation will come in conjunction with a shift toward full electric technology, which would also eliminate some jobs while creating others. Electric cars require fewer parts than conventional cars, for instance, and the shift to electric vehicles will reduce work supplying motors, transmissions, fuel injection systems, pollution control systems, and the like. This change too will create new demands, such as for large scale battery production (that said, the power-hungry sensors and computing of AVs will at least partially offset the efficiency gains of electric cars). AVs may well emerge as part of an evolving mobility ecosystem as a variety of innovations, including connected cars, new mobility business models, and innovations in urban transit, converge to reshape how we move people and goods from place to place.

TRANSPORTATION JOBS IN A DRIVERLESS WORLD

The narrative on AVs suggests the replacement of human drivers by AI-based software systems, themselves created by a few PhD computer scientists in a lab. This is, however, a simplistic reading of the technological transition currently under way, as MIT researchers discovered through their work in Detroit. It is true that AV development organizations tend to have a higher share of workers with advanced degrees compared to the traditional auto industry. Even so, implementation of AV systems requires efforts at all levels, from automation supervision by safety drivers to remote managing and dispatching to customer service and maintenance roles on the ground.

Take, for instance, a current job description for “site supervisor” at a major AV developer. The job responsibilities entail overseeing a team of safety drivers focused in particular on customer satisfaction and reporting feedback on mechanical and vehicle-related issues. The job offers a mid-range salary with benefits, does not require a two- or four-year degree, but does require at least one year of leadership experience and communication skills. Similarly, despite the highly sophisticated machine learning and computer vision algorithms, AV systems rely on technicians routinely calibrating and cleaning various sensors both on the vehicle and in the built environment. The job description for field autonomy technician to maintain AV systems provides a mid-range salary, does not require a four-year degree, and generally requires only background knowledge of vehicle repair and electronics. Some responsibilities are necessary for implementation — including inventorying and budgeting repair parts and hands-on physical work—but not engineering.

The scaling up of AV systems, when it happens, will create many more such jobs, and others devoted to ensuring safety and reliability. Simultaneously, an AV future will require explicit strategies to enable workers displaced from traditional driving roles to transition to secure employment.

A rapid emergence of AVs would be highly disruptive for workers since the US has more than three million commercial vehicle drivers. These drivers are often people with high school or lower education or immigrants with language barriers. Leonard, Mindell, and Stayton conclude that a slower adoption timeline will ease the impact on workers, enabling current drivers to retire and younger workers to get trained to fill newly created roles, such as monitoring mobile fleets. Again, realistic adoption timelines provide opportunities for shaping technology, adoption, and policy. A 2018 report by Task Force Research Advisory Board member Susan Helper and colleagues discusses a range of plausible scenarios and found the employment impact of AVs to be proportional to the time to widespread adoption. Immediate, sudden automation of the fleet would, of course, put millions out of work, whereas a thirty-year adoption timeline could be accommodated by retirements and generational change.

Meanwhile, car-and-truck makers already make vehicles that augment rather than replace drivers. These products include high-powered cruise control and warning systems frequently found on vehicles sold today. At some level, replacement-type driverless cars will be competing with augmentation-type computer-assisted human drivers. In aviation, this competition went on for decades before unmanned aircraft found their niches, while human-piloted aircraft became highly augmented by automation. When they did arrive, unmanned aircraft such as the US Air Force’s Predator and Reaper vehicles required many more people to operate than traditional aircraft and offered completely novel capabilities, such as persistent, twenty-four-hour surveillance.

Based on the current state of knowledge, we estimate a slow shift toward systems that require no driver, even in trucking, one of the easier use cases, with limited use by 2030. Overall shifts in other modes, including passenger cars, are likely to be no faster.

Even when it’s achieved, a future of AVs will not be jobless. New business models, potentially entirely new industrial sectors, will be spurred by the technology. New roles and specialties will appear in expert, technical fields of engineering of AV systems and vehicle information technologies. Automation supervision or safety driver roles will be critical for levels of automation that will come before fully automated driving. Remote management or dispatcher, roles will bring drivers into control rooms and require new skills of interacting with automation. New customer service, field support technician, and maintenance roles will also appear. Perhaps most important, creative use of the technology will enable new businesses and services that are difficult to imagine today. When passenger cars displaced equestrian travel and the myriad occupations that supported it in the 1920s, the roadside motel and fast-food industries rose up to serve the “motoring public.” How will changes in mobility, for example, enable and shape changes in distribution and consumption?

Equally important are the implications of new technologies for how people get to work. As with other new technologies, introducing expensive new autonomous cars into existing mobility ecosystems will just perpetuate existing inequalities of access and opportunity if institutions that support workers don’t evolve as well. In a sweeping study of work, inequality, and transit in the Detroit region, Task Force researchers noted that most workers building Model T and Model A Fords on the early assembly lines traveled to work on streetcars, using Detroit’s then highly developed system. In the century since, particularly in Detroit, but also in cities all across the country, public transit has been an essential service for many workers, but it has also been an instrument facilitating institutional racism, urban flight to job-rich suburbs, and inequality. Public discourse and political decisions favoring highway construction often denigrated and undermined mass transit, with racial undertones. As a result, Black people and other minorities are much more likely to lack access to personal vehicles.

“Technology alone cannot remedy the mobility constraints” that workers face, the study concludes, “and will perpetuate existing inequities absent institutional change.” As with other technologies, deploying new technologies in old systems of transportation will exacerbate their inequalities by “shifting attention toward what is new and away from what is useful, practical, and needed.” Innovating in institutions is as important as innovating in machines; recent decades have seen encouraging pilot programs, but more must be done to scale those pilots to broader use and ensure accountability to the communities they intend to serve. “Transportation offers a unique site of political possibility.”

Google files motion to dismiss four charges in antitrust lawsuit

Google has filed a motion to dismiss most of an ad tech-focused antitrust lawsuit brought forward by a group of state attorneys general. It has requested that a federal court dismiss four of the six charges with prejudice, which would prevent them from being brought back to the same court.

"The complaint misrepresents our business, products and motives, and we are moving to dismiss it based on its failure to offer plausible antitrust claims," Adam Cohen, Google's director of economic policy, wrote in a blog post. The company says the plaintiffs failed to provide evidence of wrongdoing for several of their allegations and that much of the suit "is based on outdated information that bears no correlation to our current products or business in this dynamic industry (and in any event never amounted to a violation of antitrust laws)."

The AGs, who are led by Texas AG Ken Paxton, claimed Google abused its power to shore up its position in the online ads market. They said the company agreed a "sweetheart deal" in 2018 that gave Facebook parent Meta a boost in ad header bidding (a type of tech allows publishers to solicit bids from multiple ad exchanges simultaneously) in exchange for support for Google's Open Bidding method of selling ads.

Google said the deal was above board and that it wasn't a secret, as Facebook Audience Network (FAN) was one of several partners for its Open Bidding program. Cohen said the deal "does not provide FAN with an advantage in the Open Bidding auction. FAN competes in the auction just like other bidders: FAN must make the highest bid to win a given impression, period. If another eligible network or exchange bids higher, they win the auction."

The AGs also alleged that Google harnessed at least three programs to manipulate ad auctions. The aim, according to the states, was to push publishers and advertisers into using the company's own tools.

"State Plaintiffs respond to Google’s success by seeking to compel Google to share with its competitors the fruits of its investments and innovation," Google wrote in its filing. "They criticize Google for not designing its products to better suit its rivals’ needs and for making improvements to those products that leave its competitors too far behind. They see the 'solution' to Google’s success as holding Google back, rather than letting market forces urge its competitors forward."

As Reuters notes, the two other charges in the suit are based on state law and were stayed in September. Although Google hasn't asked for those to be dismissed, it reserved the right to make that request at a later date.

A group of Activision Blizzard workers is unionizing

Call of Duty: Warzone quality assurance workers at Activision Blizzard studio Raven Software have announced plans to unionize with the Communication Workers of America (CWA). They have asked the company to voluntarily recognize their group, which is called the Game Workers Alliance. The 34-person unit had the support of 78 percent of eligible workers, according to Polygon.

Today workers at @RavenSoftware launched @WeAreGWA with CWA!

Solidarity with #GWAUnion! https://t.co/Z1jxHG8G2W

— CWA (@CWAUnion) January 21, 2022

“We ask that Activision Blizzard management respect Raven QA workers by voluntarily recognizing CWA’s representation without hesitation,” CWA secretary-treasurer Sara Steffens said in a statement. “A collective bargaining agreement will give Raven QA employees a voice at work, improving the games they produce and making the company stronger. Voluntary recognition is the rational way forward.”

Workers have given Activision Blizzard until January 25th to respond to their request, according to The Washington Post. If the company fails to do so, the group will file for a union election through the National Labor Relations Board and, because the workers have a supermajority of votes, they'd be able to formalize the union without voluntary recognition from Activision Blizzard. Should the group approve the union in an election, the company would need to bargain with workers in good faith.

Sixty Raven workers went on strike in early December after Activision Blizzard laid off 12 QA contractors, despite a request from Raven leadership to keep them employed. The workers demanded the company convert all Raven QA contractors into full-time employees. So far, Activision Blizzard has reportedly been playing hardball and declining to meet with with the striking workers. Warzone players have been grousing about the game's bugs, which QA workers are tasked with finding and addressing.

"Activision Blizzard is carefully reviewing the request for voluntary recognition from the CWA, which seeks to organize around three dozen of the company’s nearly 10,000 employees," the company told Polygon. "While we believe that a direct relationship between the company and its team members delivers the strongest workforce opportunities, we deeply respect the rights of all employees under the law to make their own decisions about whether or not to join a union." It added that it has raised minimum pay for Raven employees by 41 percent over the last few years, extended paid time off and converted over 60 percent of the studio's contractors into employees.

The CWA claims Activision Blizzard has "used surveillance and intimidation tactics, including hiring notorious union busters, to silence workers.” Last July, the company hired WilmerHale, a law firm with a history of cracking down on unionization efforts, to review its HR policies.

The Game Workers Alliance said its principles include solidarity, equity, diversity, transparency and sustainability. "Shortened development timelines sacrifice project quality and damage the mental and physical health of our team," it wrote on Twitter. "'Crunch' is not healthy for any product, worker, or company."

Our Principles:

-Solidarity: The voices of workers should be heard by leadership. By uniting in solidarity, we can ensure our message is further reaching, and more effective. (1/8)

— Game Workers Alliance 💙#WeAreGWA (@WeAreGWA) January 21, 2022

Earlier this week, Microsoft announced an agreement to buy Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion, the biggest deal in video game history. If shareholders and regulators approve the acquisition, which could have enormous ramifications for the industry, the merger should close by June 2023.

In an interview with the Post on Thursday, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer noted that he didn't have much experience with unions personally after working at Microsoft for over three decades. “So I’m not going to try to come across as an expert on this, but I’ll say we’ll be having conversations about what empowers them to do their best work, which as you can imagine in a creative industry, is the most important thing for us," he said.

On Wednesday, Activision Blizzard said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing regarding the planned merger that, "To the knowledge of the company, there are no pending activities or proceedings of any labor union, trade union, works council or any similar labor organization to organize any employees of the company or any of its subsidiaries with regard to their employment with the company or any of its subsidiaries." The week that Raven workers went on strike, Activision Blizzard sent its employees a letter imploring them “to consider the consequences” of signing union cards.

As Bloomberg's Jason Schreier noted, the Game Workers Alliance is the first union within a AAA gaming company in North America. Last month, workers at Vodeo Games formed the first video game union in the US. Management at the indie studio voluntarily recognized Vodeo Workers United. Swedish publisher Paradox Interactive signed a collective bargaining agreement with unions in 2020, while Japanese–Korean publisher Nexon recognized a workers' union in 2018.

Google reportedly plans to release an AR headset in 2024

Google might have ditched its Daydream VR headset years ago, but that doesn't mean it gave up on headsets altogether. The Vergesources claim Google is developing an augmented reality headset, nicknamed Project Iris, that it wants to release in 2024. The standalone wearable would use a custom Google processor, outward-facing tracking cameras and run Android, although a custom OS is a possibility given job listings. It might also rely on cloud-based rendering to overcome the processing power limitations of a headset.

Clay Bavor, the manager for the Project Starline 3D telepresence booth (also said due for 2024), is understood to be overseeing the highly secretive project. The tipsters also said the AR headset team included Google Assistant creator Scott Huffman, ARCore manager Shahram Izadi and Mark Lucovsky, the former leader of Meta's in-house OS development. The Pixel division is also believed to be involved in some hardware work.

We've asked Google for comment, although CEO Sundar Pichai hinted in October that AR was a "major area of investment" for the company. The headset is supposedly very early in development without a clear market strategy, suggesting that the 2024 target isn't firm.

The headset might seem unexpected from a company burned by its initial take on an AR wearable. It's not a shock given the evolving landscape, however. Apple is widely rumored to be creating a mixed reality headset, while Meta hasn't been shy about wanting to both develop AR hardware and jumpstart the metaverse. Google risks ceding the field to competitors if it doesn't offer AR hardware or the platform to match, even if finished technology is still years away.

Activision Blizzard continues to remove employees amid misconduct allegations

Since July, 37 Activision Blizzard employees have been fired or forced out and another 44 have been disciplined as the company attempts to address accusations of harassment and misconduct, a spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal. In October, the company said more than 20 people had departed and at least another 20 had been disciplined.

The game publisher was supposed to share a summary of that information publicly before the holidays, according to the report. However, embattled CEO Bobby Kotick is said to have pulled the plug on that over concerns it would make Activision's woes seem even worse.

The spokesperson denied "the assertion regarding Mr. Kotick," as well as claims that employees had filed around 700 reports of misconduct and other issues since July, when Activision was sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). The agency alleged the company fostered a "frat boy" culture where discrimination and sexual harassment were rife.

Former Blizzard president J. Allen Brack, who was accused in the DFEH suit of taking "no effective remedial measures" to mitigate sexual harassment, left the company soon after the filing. Activision Blizzard's top HR executive Jesse Meschuk has departed, as have Diablo 4 game director Luis Barriga, lead designer Jesse McCree (after whom an Overwatch character was previously named) and World of Warcraft designer Jonathan LeCraft.

In November, the WSJreported that Kotick had known about many of the worst instances of abuse for years and that he may have protected some employees who were accused of harassment. Many Activision Blizzard employees staged a walkout in the wake of the report and around 2,000 signed a petition calling for him to step down. The Activision board has issued a statement of support for Kotick.

Along with employees, state treasurers and investors (the share price has dropped by almost 30% since July) have expressed concern about the issues at hand. Several Activision Blizzard partners have condemned the company or reassessed their relationships with it too.

PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo chiefs criticized the company in notes to their employees. Xbox head Phil Spencer said last week that Microsoft has "changed how we do certain things with" Activision, but didn't share details. Also this month, Lego postponed an Overwatch 2 set that was supposed to arrive in February while it evaluates its partnership with Activision Blizzard.

Apple faces class action lawsuit over Powerbeats Pro charging issues

Apple is facing another lawsuit over Powerbeats battery trouble. New York resident Alejandro Vivar has filed a potential class action lawsuit over allegations Powerbeats Pro design defects prevents the wireless earbuds from charging properly. As it's reportedly too easy to lose contact between the buds and their charging case, one of the earpieces either won't charge "consistently" or quickly drain its charge. Apple committed fraud by misrepresenting battery life and failing to address issues it supposedly knew about, the plaintiff said.

Vivar's attorneys suggest a combination of the case design and an insufficiently sturdy ear "gasket" (the piece that goes into your ear) may be responsible. Customers have had to resort to inserting a "wedge" to keep the charging pins in contact, according to the lawsuit. The lawyers also reject Apple's claims the Powerbeats Pro are sweat- and water-resistant, arguing that sweat corrodes the charging contacts.

The lawsuit calls for Apple to "correct" the situation, compensate affected users and pay unspecified damages. If the lawsuit is fully certified as a class action, it would cover both New York customers as well as those in Georgia, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Virginia.

We've asked Apple for comment. As with many such lawsuits, there's no certainty it will reach class action status or lead to compensation. And don't expect a windfall even if the case succeeds — with some exceptions, class actions tend to result in small payouts. If anything, the lawsuit may do more to affect design choices than Powerbeats Pro buyers' bank accounts.

California judge says Google's non-disclosure agreements violate state law

Google may have to rethink its non-disclosure agreements following a long-running lawsuit from an anonymous worker. According to The Washington Post, a California Superior Court judge has ruled that Google's employee confidentiality agreements violate state labor laws. Terms banning the employee from discussing his job with potential employers amounted to a non-compete clause and were thus illegal in the state, the judge said.

The internet company originally persuaded a judge to toss out most of the worker's claims in the belief federal law overrode California legislation. An appeals court overturned that decision, however, noting that state laws did more to protect free speech rights that included work experience. Google has declined to comment on either the verdict or any plans to appeal.

The outcome wouldn't let Google employees discuss trade secrets if it was upheld. It would let people discuss work experience, though, and could make it easier for job-seekers to switch roles without fear of lawsuits. It might also provide more opportunities for sexual assault and harassment victims to discuss their reasons for leaving a company, although California legislation has already tackled non-disclosure agreements that bar victims from talking about incidents.

 This ruling might also have wider repercussions for California's tech sector. QH Law partner Ramsey Hanafi told the Post that many large tech companies have similar gag rules. Like it or not, Silicon Valley firms might have to revamp their agreements and accept that it will be easier for staff to leave or identify toxic work cultures.

Meta hit with $3.2 billion class action suit over alleged exploitation of UK Facebook users

A legal expert has teamed with a litigation firm to sue Meta on behalf of 44 million Facebook users in the UK, claiming that they had their data exploited in violation of competition laws, TechCrunch has reported. The firm is seeking £2.3 billion ($3.1 billion) in damages for UK Facebook users. 

The lawsuit was filed by competition law specialist Dr. Liza Lovdahl Gormsen, and is being funded by Innsworth, a law firm that takes on cases in exchange for a share of damages won. It claims that even though users don't pay to use Facebook, they surrender data that has considerable value. 

"They are exploiting users by taking their personal data without properly compensating them for taking that data," Lovdahl Gormsen said in a statement. "I don’t think the users are entirely clear when they click on the terms and conditions how unfair that deal is." 

She added that Facebook has become "the sole social network in the UK where you could be sure to connect with friends and family in one place." And even as it locked users into its ecosystem (which includes WhatsApp and Instagram), it was tracking users across other websites as well. "It abused its market dominance to impose unfair terms and conditions on ordinary Britons giving it the power to exploit their personal data," according to Lovdahl Gormsen. 

The lawsuit covers the period from October 2015 to December 31st, 2019. It's an "opt-out" class action lawsuit, meaning that users will not need to take any action to receive damages in the case, unless they decide to opt out. 

"People access our service for free. They choose our services because we deliver value for them and they have meaningful control of what information they share on Meta’s platforms and who with. We have invested heavily to create tools that allow them to do so," a Meta spokesperson told The Guardian in a statement. 

Facebook already had a hit of bad news this week in the US, as a Federal judge said an antitrust suit by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against Facebook could move forward. The FTC wants to force Meta to sell Instagram and WhatsApp, accusing it of engaging in "anti-competitive conduct" against rivals. 

PayPal faces lawsuit for freezing customer accounts and funds

Three PayPal users who've allegedly had their accounts frozen and funds taken by the company without explanation have filed a federal lawsuit against the online payment service. The plaintiffs — two users from California and one from Chicago — are accusing the company of unlawfully seizing their personal property and violating racketeering laws. They're now proposing a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all other users who've had their accounts frozen before and are seeking restitution, as well as punitive and exemplary damages.

Lena Evans, one of the plaintiffs who'd been a PayPal user for 22 years, said the website seized $26,984 from her account six months after it got frozen without ever telling her why. Evans had been using PayPal to buy and sell clothing on eBay, to exchange money for a poker league she owns and for a non-profit that helps women with various needs. 

Fellow plaintiff Roni Shemtov said PayPal seized over $42,000 of her money and never got an acceptable reason for why her account was terminated. She received several different explanations when she contacted the company: One customer rep said it was because she used the same IP and computer as other Paypal users, while another said it was because she sold yoga clothing at 20 to 30 percent lower than retail. Yet another representative allegedly said it was because she used multiple accounts, which she denies. 

Shbadan Akylbekov, the third plaintiff, said PayPal seized over $172,000 of his money without giving him any explanation why the account got limited in the first place. Akylbekov used the account of a company his wife owns to sell Hyaluron pens, which are needle-less pens that inject hyaluronic acid into the skin. After the money disappeared from the account following a six-month freeze, PayPal allegedly sent his wife a letter that says she "violated PayPal's User Agreement and Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) by accepting payments for the sale of injectable fillers not approved by the FDA." It also said that the money was taken from her account "for its liquidated damages arising from those AUP violations pursuant to the User Agreement."

PayPal has long angered many a user for limiting accounts and freezing their funds for six months or more. One high-profile case was American poker player Chris Moneymaker's who had $12,000 taken from his account after six months of being limited. Moneymaker was already in the process of asking people to join him in a class action lawsuit before his funds were "mysteriously returned." 

Part of the complaint reads:

"Plaintiffs bring this class action against Defendant PAYPAL, INC. ("PayPal") to recover damages and other relief available at law and in equity on behalf of themselves, as well as on behalf of the members of the class defined herein... This action stems from Defendant’s widespread business practice of unilaterally seizing funds from its clients’ financial accounts, without cause and without any fair or due process.

PayPal places a "hold" on Plaintiffs' own funds in their own PayPal accounts. PayPal has failed to inform Plaintiffs and members of the class of the reason(s) for the actions PayPal has taken, even telling Plaintiffs and members of the class that they will "have to get a subpoena" to learn the simple information as to why PayPal was holding, and denying Plaintiffs, access to their own money."

'PUBG Mobile' maker sues copycat game and app stores that hosted it

When you're the progenitor of an entire gaming genre and holding the reigns of a billion dollar intellectual property, imitation, it turns out, is not the sincerest form of flattery. It's the sort of thing that gets you dragged into US federal court. And that's exactly what Krafton, maker of PUBG Mobile, is doing to Garena Online over accusations that the Singapore-based game developer has once again infringed its battle royale IP. What's more, Krafton has named Google and Apple in its complaint.

This isn't the first time that Krafton has sued Garena Online. In 2017, Krafton filed suit in Singapore over the sale of Free Fire: Battlegrounds, Garena's suspiciously PUBG-like mobile shooter, but ended up settling that case. Now, Krafton is suing Garena again, over Free Fire again, but this time in US federal court.

Krafton alleges that after settling in 2017, Garena immediately resumed selling Free Fire on both Google Play and the Apple App Store without entering into any sort of licencing agreement to use the litigated game content. Additionally, Garena started selling of another battle royale game of questionable copyright pedigree, Free Fire Max, this past September. As such, Krafton is suing Garena for copyright infringement claiming that “Garena has earned hundreds of millions of dollars from its global sales of the infringing apps," and holding both the Google and Apple marketplaces liable for damages for hosting the content. Krafton, which is headquartered in Seoul, South Korea, has not specified damages outside of a statutory $150,000 per infringement. 

Copyright infringement claims like this are wildly common throughout the tech industry with legal departments constantly on the prowl for potential IP violations, be they intentional or not. For example, earlier this week, the App Store were inundated with knock-off and clones of the newly-minted hit mobile app, Wordle, prompting Apple to intercede and remove the offending iterations.