Jon Swartz

Are Big Tech acquisitions feeding antitrust probes?

As big tech companies collect startups from different industries like Easter eggs, are they unwittingly adding evidence to the antitrust investigations of the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission? While two of the four companies in question -- Alphabet’s Google, and Facebook — slowly begin to concede in public filings and conference calls they are subjects of regulatory scrutiny, they are brazenly scooping up smaller companies that extend their tentacles into new markets and collect more personal information.

President-elect Trump invites tech leaders to roundtable for Dec 14

President-elect Donald Trump has invited technology industry leaders to a roundtable Dec 14 in New York. The invitation for the summit was sent by President-elect Trump's chief of staff Reince Priebus, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, and transition team adviser Peter Thiel. Among the CEOs who will attend the meeting is Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins. The tech industry, which bet heavily on Hillary Clinton in the months leading up to the presidential election, is looking to build bridges to the incoming Administration.

90 age-discrimination suits reflect growing issue for tech

Tech’s graying workforce is increasingly voicing its displeasure about ageism – in court. Since 2012, 90 age-related lawsuits have been filed against a dozen top tech companies in Silicon Valley, according to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).

The suits were filed in California, where the companies are based and a vast majority of their employees are located. With 28 such suits since May 2013, Hewlett-Packard is most likely to spend the most time in court. Cisco Systems is named as defendant in 11 suits, followed by Apple (9), Google (8), and Oracle (7) and Genentech (7). Yahoo, Intel, LinkedIn, Facebook, Tesla Motors and Twitter were also sued. Most claim wrongful termination, while a smattering cited hiring or promotion. Plaintiffs' names were omitted because the DFEH, a state civil rights agency, does not provide them to third parties. The rash of suits isn't surprising to those in Silicon Valley. Legal experts and employees say a confluence of factors have deepened the problem: an aging workforce of people who want to, and have to, work longer; a spike in mergers and restructurings that have led companies to shed tens of thousands of workers; and evolving skill sets that have marginalized some workers and put a premium on others.

Boards reflect male-dominated tech world

[Commentary] We know big-name tech CEOs want no part of the diversity debate. But at least we know who they are. Largely anonymous boards of directors for the tech industry are conspicuously silent and -- for decades -- have been the province of white, older men.

They are equally to blame for hiring trends that skew toward younger, white males, as illustrated in diversity reports recently released by Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Progress on boards for women has been glacial, and nearly non-existent for African-Americans and Hispanics. White men held about 75% of the board seats on the 500 largest publicly traded companies, vs. 5.5% for male African-Americans in 2012, the most recent year in which data was available, according to the Alliance for Board Diversity.

Top tech execs need to speak up on diversity

[Commentary] The sound of silence. That's what we're hearing from tech's biggest names about their industry's woeful record on diversity in the workforce and the urgent need to improve it Not one high-ranking CEO has stepped up to provide leadership for the industry or articulate concrete plans for diversifying the workforce.

This is puzzling and disappointing.

Facebook is Silicon Valley's new powerhouse

Facebook said it passed 1.32 billion monthly active users during its ninth straight quarter of boffo financial results, the latest exclamation point in the American success story of Mark Zuckerberg.

The 2010s are shaping up as the decade of the social networking giant, as it immerses itself in mobile and video technology. "Facebook has become a tech powerhouse," says Craig Palli, chief strategy officer at app-marketing tech company Fiksu, pointing to Facebook's flourishing businesses in mobile, video and instant messaging.

First Take: Kill switch requires standardization

[Commentary] Google and Microsoft's decision to join Apple on the "kill switch" front throws considerable heft behind the movement to deter smartphone thefts. But it's just a start.

For the technology to truly take hold and repel criminals, the anti-theft software should be part of the default operating system so the user doesn't have to choose to activate it. By 2015, new versions of operating systems used by 97% of smartphones in the USA will have a kill switch, which lets an owner remotely deactivate a stolen smartphone. But many of them will require the user to activate, or "opt-in," the technology.

Apple's kill switch puts the onus on individuals, as does technology from Google and Microsoft. That's not good enough. Standardization is the most sensible course because smartphone thefts show no signs of slowing down. About 3.1 million smartphone-related thefts were reported in 2013 in the US, double the number in 2012, according to Consumer Reports.

Consumers are souring on Web, post-NSA, survey says

The National Security Agency has left more than a black mark on the reputations of tech companies: It is now hurting them financially.

Americans are less likely to bank and shop online because of lingering doubts over the NSA's digital-snooping activities. Almost half the more than 2,000 adult respondents (47%) to a recent Harris poll commissioned by security firm ESET said that they have changed their behavior and think more carefully about where they go, say and do online.