Lawsuit: Apple, Google, Tesla Profit from African Child Labor

A slew of high-tech companies including Apple, Google, and Tesla are being sued by a group of Congolese families whose children allegedly died or were severely injured while mining cobalt that is used to produce lithium-ion batteries found in smartphones and electric cars.

The human rights organization International Rights Advocates filed the suit Sunday in a Washington, D.C. federal court on behalf of 14 families from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Their suit claims that the companies knowingly aided and abetted the “cruel and brutal” use of young children to mine cobalt, which is a key ingredient for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. The other companies named in the suit are Microsoft and Dell.

“The young children mining Defendants’ cobalt are not merely being forced to work full-time, extremely dangerous mining jobs at the expense their educations and futures; they are being regularly maimed and killed by tunnel collapses and other known hazards common to cobalt mining in the DRC,” the complaint alleges.

An attorney for the plaintiffs said the case represents “extreme abuse of innocent children.”

“We will do everything possible to get justice quickly for the children we represent,” Terry Collingsworth, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, in a statement.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook Blacklists Hong Kong Protest Tracking App

Apple CEO Tim Cook, after blacklisting an app tracking Hong Kong protest and police activity over a week earlier (Oct 3rd), defended the company’s decision. One Hong Kong legislative counselor commented, “We Hongkongers will definitely look closely at whether Apple chooses to uphold its commitment to free expression and other basic human rights, or become an accomplice for Chinese censorship and oppression.”

Bloomberg reports that Apple CEO Tim Cook has defended the company’s decision to remove the HKmap.live app from its store, stating that they had received “credible information” from authorities that the software was being used “maliciously” to attack police.

The company has flip-flopped repeatedly on whether the app should be allowed in the store, initially telling developers: “Your app contains content – or facilitates, enables, and encourages an activity – that is not legal … specifically, the app allowed users to evade law enforcement,” and banning the app.

Following an outcry over the initial banning, the app was reinstated to Apple’s store. Now, following criticism from the Chinese Communist Party’s main newspaper, The People’s Daily, which stated that the app “facilitates illegal behavior,” leading it to question if Apple was “guiding Hong Kong thugs,” The Silicon Valley Masters of the Universe have once against bowed to the wishes of communist China and removed the app.

Cook wrote in a memo obtained by Bloomberg News: “Over the past several days we received credible information, from the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau, as well as from users in Hong Kong, that the app was being used maliciously to target individual officers for violence and to victimize individuals and property where no police are present.”

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), criticized Apple stating: “Apple’s decision to cave to Communist China’s demands is unacceptable. Putting profits above the human rights and dignity of the people of Hong Kong is wrong. No ifs, ands or buts about it.”

Cook addressed criticism the firm has received for removing the app stating: “These decisions are never easy, and it is harder still to discuss these topics during moments of furious public debate. National and international debates will outlive us all, and, while important, they do not govern the facts. In this case, we thoroughly reviewed them, and we believe this decision best protects our users.”

Charles Mok, a legislative counselor in Hong Kong, stated that Apple’s decision had left him “deeply disappointed” and contested the company’s reason for removing the app in an open letter to Cook. “There are numerous cases of innocent passersby in the neighbourhood injured by the Hong Kong Police Force’s excessive force in crowd dispersal operations,” Mok wrote in the letter. “The user-generated information shared using HKmap.live in fact helps citizens avoid areas where pedestrians not involved in any criminal activities might be subjected to police brutality which many human rights organisations such as Amnesty International have observed.”

Mok continued to state: “We Hongkongers will definitely look closely at whether Apple chooses to uphold its commitment to free expression and other basic human rights, or become an accomplice for Chinese censorship and oppression.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang reiterated Beijing’s stance when questioned about Apple’s removal of the app stating: “Recent events in Hong Kong are extreme, violent acts, challenging Hong Kong’s rule of law and order, threatening the safety of Hong Kong’s people, damaging Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity. We should oppose such violence instead of supporting or condoning them.”

Tim Cook told Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in a December 2017 letter: “We believe our presence in China helps promote greater openness and facilitates the free flow of ideas and information. We are convinced that Apple can best promote fundamental rights, including the right of free expression, by being engaged even where we may disagree with a particular country’s law.”

What Cook failed to mention is that the firm generates $44 billion in sales in China every year, pulling out of the country entirely could be catastrophic for the firm. China is also the primary manufacturer of Apple products such as iPhones, it seems extremely unlikely that the firm would leave behind its vast network of suppliers and assemblers who build hundreds of millions of iPhones for the company every year.

Tim Cook’s full recent memo can be read below:

Team,

You have likely seen the news that we made the decision to remove an app from the App Store entitled HKmap.live. These decisions are never easy, and it is harder still to discuss these topics during moments of furious public debate. It’s out of my great respect for the work you do every day that I want to share the way we went about making this decision.

It is no secret that technology can be used for good or for ill. This case is no different. The app in question allowed for the crowdsourced reporting and mapping of police checkpoints, protest hotspots, and other information. On its own, this information is benign. However, over the past several days we received credible information, from the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau, as well as from users in Hong Kong, that the app was being used maliciously to target individual officers for violence and to victimize individuals and property where no police are present. This use put the app in violation of Hong Kong law. Similarly, widespread abuse clearly violates our App Store guidelines barring personal harm.

We built the App Store to be a safe and trusted place for every user. It’s a responsibility that we take very seriously, and it’s one that we aim to preserve. National and international debates will outlive us all, and, while important, they do not govern the facts. In this case, we thoroughly reviewed them, and we believe this decision best protects our users.

Sources:

New South Wales Transport (Australia) Reveals Rolling Out of Special Cameras Designed to Catch Drivers using Mobile Phones

Sending text messages or talking on the mobile phone while driving can increase risks for potentially fatal accidents.

Distracted Driving

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has long warned of the dangers of distracted driving that involves the use of cellphones.

“When you send or read a text message, you take your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds, long enough to cover the length a football field while driving at 55 mph,” the CDC said.

Special Cameras Designed To Catch Drivers Using Phones

New South Wales in Australia intends to address this problem. The New South Wales Transport revealed on Sunday that it will roll out special cameras designed to catch drivers using mobile phones.

The detection cameras use artificial intelligence to detect drivers using mobile phones 24 hours a day. They can also survive in all weather conditions.

The devices will be set up in fixed and trailer-mounted spots across New South Wales starting in December.

No Warning

Drivers will not get any warning if they are approaching any of these phone detection cameras.

“We have to unfortunately use the element of surprise to get people to think ‘well, I could get caught at any time’,” NSW Roads Minister Andrew Constance said. “I want behavior to change and I want it changed immediately.”

The program aims to progressively expand to performing 135 million vehicle checks every year by the year 2023.

Program Can Help Save Lives

A six-month pilot trial that involved three cameras checked 85 million cars. During the trial period, 100,00 drivers were captured illegally using their phones. Some were caught using Facebook and texting, while others did worse things.

“Shockingly, one driver was pictured with two hands on his phone while his passenger steered the car traveling at 80kph, putting everyone on the road at risk,” Roads Minister Melinda Pavey said.

“We saw people on Facebook, people texting. We saw people trying to be tricky by having their phone below the window line of their vehicles.

The number of drivers captured using their phones would have translated to $34.5 million in fines, but no fines were issued during the trial period.

Modeling suggests that the cameras could prevent about 100 deadly and serious car crashes over five years.

Source: https://www.techtimes.com/articles/245434/20190922/these-secret-cameras-use-ai-to-catch-drivers-using-mobile-phones.htm

Study: The average U.S. adult will spend three hours and 43 minutes a day on mobile devices this year

It’s official: This year marks the first time that Americans will spend more time staring down at their phones and tablets than they will watching television.

The average U.S. adult will spend three hours and 43 minutes on mobile devices this year, according to EMarketer Inc., which is eight minutes longer than the three hours and 35 minutes that will be spent in front of the TV. And about 70% of their time will be spent on their smartphones, alone.

That shakes out to Americans spending nine less minutes tuning into shows, sporting events and movies on the tube, and eight more minutes streaming them on Netflix NFLX, +0.16%, Hulu and Amazon AMZN, -0.96%, or catching clips on Twitter TWTR, -1.46%  and YouTube, compared to last year.

“We’ve expected that mobile would overtake TV for a while, but seeing it happen is still surprising,” said Yoram Wurmser, eMarketer principal analyst, in a statement. “As recently as 2014, the average U.S. adult watched nearly 2 hours more TV than they spent on their phones.”

Smartphone apps have been drawing the most eyeballs away from television, sucking people in for almost three hours a day (two hours and 57 minutes, to be exact). But not all online content is so engaging; users spend just 26 minutes on mobile browsers.

And within those apps, people are getting lost listening to digital audio, like music and podcasts on Spotify SPOT, +1.57% and Pandora, followed by social network activity on platforms such as Facebook FB, +0.23%, Instagram and Snapchat SNAP, +3.25%.

EMarketer predicts that smartphone use will continue to dominate media consumption, although it will plateau in 2020 as users become more concerned about their screen time. This has already led Apple AAPL, +0.07% and Google GOOGL, +0.29%   to roll out features that let users monitor and limit the time they spend on their devices.

Source: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/for-the-first-time-ever-americans-will-spend-more-time-on-mobile-devices-than-watching-tv-2019-06-05

Study: Social media Linked to Rise in Mental Health Disorders in Teens

Mental health issues have risen significantly over the last decade and the rise of digital media may be one reason why, according to a national survey released March 14th. The research, published by the American Psychological Association, found sharp increases in the number of young adults and adolescents who reported experiencing negative psychological symptoms — […]