Is our addiction to satellites threatening the ozone layer? Hashtag Trending for Wednesday, June 26, 2024

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The Department of Homeland Security gets serious about AI.  Microsoft is the next target of the European government’s anti-trust actions.  Mozilla is accused of ousting a senior executive because he had cancer and is our addiction to satellites once again threatening the ozone layer?

All this and more on the “hard to tell who the good guys are” edition of Hashtag Trending.  I’m your host Jim Love, let’s get into it.

The Department of Homeland Security is ramping up its artificial intelligence capabilities with the launch of its new AI Corps. The DHS has just hired the first 10 members of a 50-person team, which aims to explore safe and responsible AI applications across the department’s operations.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told Axios, “We need that expertise to really fuel our interest in leading the federal government in the safe and responsible deployment of AI to advance our mission.”

The new hires come from diverse backgrounds, including government agencies, tech giants, startups, and research institutions. They’ll be tackling challenges like countering fentanyl trafficking, combating online child exploitation, and enhancing cybersecurity.

Competition for these roles has been fierce, with over 3,000 applications received for just 50 positions. To attract top talent, the DHS is utilizing flexible hiring practices that allow them to compete with private sector opportunities.

Those who have worried about a few massive corporations controlling AI and its uses can now rest easy knowing that a massive government organization is entering the field.

Sources include: Axios

The European Union has escalated its antitrust scrutiny of Microsoft, accusing the tech giant of breaching competition rules by bundling its Teams communication platform with its popular Office suite. This move could potentially lead to significant fines for the company.

Despite Microsoft’s preemptive unbundling of Teams from Microsoft 365 last year, EU regulators claim these changes were insufficient to address their concerns. The European Commission is particularly worried that Microsoft may have given Teams an unfair distribution advantage, limiting customer choice and potentially stifling innovation from competitors.

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s vice president, responded, saying, “Having unbundled Teams and taken initial interoperability steps, we appreciate the additional clarity provided today.” The company has expressed willingness to work on further solutions to address the EU’s concerns.

This investigation, sparked by a complaint from Salesforce-owned Slack, highlights the ongoing challenges tech giants face in balancing product integration with fair competition. As the probe continues, it could have far-reaching implications for how major tech companies bundle their services in the future.

Sources include: CNBC

Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox browser, is facing a serious legal challenge from its own Chief Product Officer, Steve Teixeira. In a lawsuit filed this month, Teixeira accuses Mozilla of disability discrimination and retaliation following his cancer diagnosis.

According to the complaint, Teixeira was being groomed for the CEO position when he was diagnosed with ocular melanoma in October 2023. Upon returning from medical leave, he alleges that Mozilla executives attempted to demote or terminate him, citing concerns about his capabilities as a cancer patient.

Teixeira claims he was given an ultimatum: accept a diminished role with reduced pay or leave the company. He argues this violates disability discrimination laws and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

There are also rumblings that Teixeira had been less than enthusiastic about planned lay-offs at Mozilla in an area is supposedly profitable.

Mozilla denies all allegations, stating, “We have a 25-plus-year track record of maintaining the highest standards of integrity and compliance with all applicable laws.”

As the legal battle unfolds, it could have significant implications for Mozilla, whose claim to fame is that it’s that “we’re not those other guys – the big greedy corporations” or at least a kinder-gentler version.

Sources include:  The Register

A new study from the University of Southern California raises concerns about the potential impact of satellites on Earth’s ozone layer. As companies like Starlink deploy thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit, their eventual re-entry could pose an unexpected environmental threat.

When these satellites burn up in the atmosphere, they release aluminum oxide particles. Researchers estimate that large satellite constellations could introduce over 360 metric tons of these compounds annually. These particles can linger in the atmosphere for decades and potentially accelerate ozone depletion.

Lead researcher Robyn Schofield explained, “We don’t know what effect this will have. One likely outcome would be that the aluminum particles seed the growth of ice-containing particles.”

This study comes at a critical time, with plans for tens of thousands of new satellites by 2030. While the ozone layer has been recovering since the ban on chlorofluorocarbons, this new threat could complicate its regeneration.

Sources include: The Register

And that’s our show for today.

Hashtag Trending goes to air 5 days a week with a daily news show, with a weekend interview show we call the Weekend Edition.

Show notes are at technewsday.ca or .com  – either one works.

We love your comments.  Contact me at editorial@technewsday.ca

I’m your host Jim Love. Have a Wonderful Wednesday.

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