Hello again from SHIFT SF and welcome back to our weekly roundup of the tech stories that caught our eye this week. These are some of the stories that our B2B tech teams have been monitoring throughout the week:
Is Tech History Repeating?
The Lyft IPO this week was not technically enterprise tech news, but we were intrigued by a Wired article that looked at the “go-go days of hot technology IPOs” – with the expected public offerings of Uber, Slack, Pinterest and others – and took a look back at previous IPO runs.
According to the op-ed, “the last time there was a pipeline of tech IPOs this large and bunched together was in 1999, when … the tech bubble was at its frothiest.” Those of us with some history in the Valley know that the dot-com crash hit the industry hard just a year later. There was another large group of tech IPOs in 2007, shortly before the financial crisis forced the Great Recession. One more thing these three eras have in common? The companies going public for the most part were not yet profitable. Coincidence? Maybe.
Is Amazon’s AI Biased?
On Wednesday, a group of AI researchers from Facebook, Google, Microsoft and other companies joined academics in calling for Amazon Web Services to stop licensing its facial recognition technology to law enforcement, claiming that AWS’ algorithms are flawed. At issue are claims that the platform, known as Rekognition, makes more mistakes when identifying female or dark-skinned faces, and that it does not account for non-binary genders.
In an open letter posted to Medium, the group reinforced an earlier study that found Rekognition misidentified dark-skinned women 31% of the time (vs. a 0% error rate in identifying light-skinned men). “There are no laws or required standards to ensure that Rekognition is used in a manner that does not infringe on civil liberties,” the letter, which had been signed by more than 60 researchers, states. “We hope that the company will … examine all of its products and question whether they should currently be used by police.” As new research brings to light additional flaws in AI algorithms, protests among researchers, investors and tech workers, will only increase in frequency.
Blockchain Background Check
Consultant firm PricewaterhouseCoopers is running a pilot program that uses blockchain technology to vet job candidates’ credentials. According to The Wall Street Journal, the program is an experiment to see how emerging technologies can improve human resources. The “Smart Credentials” technology has the potential to reduce the time required to confirm references, previous employers and university degrees. The catch? Schools and companies would need to opt-in and adopt the technology in order to make blockchain a realistic method for conducting background checks.
Related Pro Tip
Working with a publicly traded company or a startup planning to IPO? The rules of engagement for PR pros change once the markets are involved. Learn tips on how to prepare for an IPO or earnings and extend the post announcement momentum.