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In OneZero. More on Medium.

A scientist warns that bias in facial recognition software could lead to false arrests, lost job opportunities

Ainissa Ramirez says she’s seen Black and dark-skinned colleagues disappear into their virtual backgrounds on Zoom calls a few times this year. And she isn’t the only one.

“I have heard reports that Black people are fading into their Zoom backgrounds because supposedly the algorithms are not able to detect faces of dark complexions well,” Ramirez, PhD, former professor of mechanical engineering at Yale University, tells OneZero.

In late September, a PhD student in Canada tweeted about a Black professor whose head kept getting removed every time they tried to use a virtual background. The tweet went viral, with countless…

Court hearings are going virtual in response to COVID-19. Studies show they can lead to harsher outcomes for defendants.

Photo: SOPA Images/Getty Images

By Lauren Kirchner

On the morning of May 18, Judge Keith Dean of the Collin County District Court in Texas thanked the potential jurors in front of him for coming and performing their civic duty, as always. Then he and Judge Emily Miskel gave some new, unusual instructions: Tell your roommates to leave the room when we tell you to. Stay plugged into an outlet. And no Googling about the case in another tab!

It was what officials believed was the country’s first wholly online jury trial, gone virtual because the coronavirus has made it dangerous for people to pack…

Google and Microsoft’s early decisions about video chat put them at a strategic disadvantage in the long run

Photo: Maja Hitij/Getty Images

On Wednesday, Google made its premium videoconferencing app, Google Meet, free for everyone. At the start of April, Microsoft’s Skype added a feature that allowed users to jump into a call by clicking one link. Both companies seem to be playing catch up to the suddenly popular Zoom, even though they’re dominant tech megacorporations that have been offering competing products for the better part of a decade.

For most of the early 2010s, Skype and Hangouts (which eventually became Meet) set the standard for video chat apps. So, how did Zoom come out ahead?

Microsoft and Google took a different…

‘It’s a land grab for worker surveillance’

Photo: David Silverman/Getty Images

Just about every office worker who still has a job is now working from home, growing weary of Zoom, and in many cases struggling to juggle childcare with remote meetings and deadlines.

But there’s a deeper worry bubbling under: Working from home — and the hodgepodge of sticky-tape solutions set up in a hurry to try and make working work — could pose a significant privacy risk.

“It’s a land grab for worker surveillance,” says Lilian Edwards, a professor who studies internet law at Newcastle University in the U.K. …

Not everyone can work from home, but the ones who can should be allowed to

Woman working at home having a video conference with colleagues
Woman working at home having a video conference with colleagues
Photo: LeoPatrizi/E+/Getty Images

A growing wave of legislators is aiming to revive the comatose economy by sending their constituents back into what is effectively an active war zone — and justifying the argument with a predictable pile of parroted sound bites, leaving many Americans with a tough question to ponder as they wade through the murky waters of an astoundingly partisan pandemic.

This question is especially tough because the “pondering” isn’t up to the labor force at large. That is to say, if your employer gets the green light to pull everyone back into work, you’re going back in — or else. That…

And will we keep using it when all of this is over?

Photo: Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images

Since the coronavirus started spreading, our little computer and phone cameras have become windows from our isolation, looking into other people’s lives, catching glimpses of pets, children, and spouses in the background of video calls. I find these moments deeply humanizing; reminders that we’re not perfect work machines, just people trying to do the best we can. Our hair is messy, our faces poorly framed and lit. Sometimes we leave the mic on when we go to the bathroom.

Through this tiny lens we see the ambient background of life: people working in kitchens, bedrooms or spare rooms, the hoarded…


With a little tinkering, you can make bad Wi-Fi work a little better

Photo by Tayler Smith; Prop Styling by Caroline Dorn

Office workers everywhere have been asked to work from home in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus. And many of them are finding out that the Wi-Fi in their homes isn’t as good as it is at the office. Especially if they live in dense cities, there are dead spots in comfy corners, or constant freeze-ups on video calls.

Even without investing hundreds of dollars in new hardware (which is also an option I’d recommend and wrote about here), you can make your home Wi-Fi a little more reliable. …

What learning to speak remotely teaches us about how to compensate for the coming era of social distancing

Photo by Tayler Smith; Prop Styling by Caroline Dorn

In one way, at least, I was prepared for this crisis. I’m an author of books about technology and society, and I make my living traveling around the world giving speeches to people who would rather listen than read. Over the past couple of years, however, I’ve been doing an increasing number of my speaking appearances over the internet. It’s better for the environment, there’s less wear and tear on my body, it saves money, and I don’t have to block out as many dates on my Google Calendar.

What I didn’t realize is how much my work refining the…


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