Fujitsu in first big WFH move
- As predicted, Fujitsu provided a great example when it announced the permanent closure of half of its office real estate in Japan. They will instead have 80,000 workers working from home permanently. This is a huge redefinition of work culture in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak. Called the "Work Life Shift" campaign, Fujitsu is to study data on how employees use offices, with a view to giving them more tools and options to work from home, at hubs or be more mobile. This will end the habit of employees commuting to and from offices. It also indicates the allowance of a higher degree of autonomy based on the principle of trust, Fujitsu announced.
- For those thinking on this as a future idea there are some considerations. The most important is communication. This should be detailed, regular and in some cases formalised. The Agile methodology for example has the concept of a 15-minute meeting where everyone summarises their work from the previous day, what is planned for the current one and if there are any blockers. People are different. Some will thrive in a work-from-home environment, but others will need more attention and control. Connectivity is also critical. A good connection that is fast, reliable and secure is essential to keep the employee linked to the office. It will include data exchange along with at a minimum voice, and preferably video, as part of some kind of meeting software. I expect to see more announcements of this shift in worker norms from other large organisations.
- It is generally understood by those in the industry that many social media platforms collect all manner of information on their users. In some cases, this is more than your local government collects and contravenes, or at least is at odds with, many privacy laws. It has recently been revealed that one stands above them all. No, not Google.
- TikTok is a short form video, social media platform from China. I don't have an account, but there are 800 million users worldwide, most between the ages of 16 and 24, and a third of them are in India. Enter Reddit user bangorlol. He is part of a group that "figure out how apps work for a job". Digging into TikTok, the group found that it was a data collection system wrapped in a social network app that they described as "essentially malware targeting children".
- Digging in the group discovered the app was collecting a comprehensive amount of information on the phone's hardware, all installed apps, all network info like IP and MAC addresses along with, in some versions, the phone's location sent back every 30 seconds. It was also found to have specific code build in to prevent a user from reversing or debugging it. In the Android version there is code that allows a .ZIP file to be downloaded, unzipped and executed -- or hidden updates. We used to call this a virus and there is no valid reason for such functionality to be included outside of a normal update cycle. Other reverse engineered social media apps had nowhere near the same amount of data collection. China's predictable response was that they don't slurp data through TikTok. Your children are probably using this app. You've been warned.
- In yet another example of artificial intelligence not yet ready for public use, it was reported that police in Detroit have admitted using facial-recognition technology that fails to accurately identify potential suspects 96% of the time. Nothing is perfect but a success rate of 4% is very low. The reasons for this are many, but all AI networks have to be trained. If you for example train one to detect birds, it won't be able to automatically identify all other animals.
- I spent time this week looking for some good news. In the midst of patches that didn't quite work, more malware everywhere, cyberattacks across the globe and failing AI, this was not an easy task. I did see that LibreOffice, a version of Office-based OpenOffice, will remain free. I also found some upcoming phones from Samsung, Google, Apple, Sony and LG. Samsung will unveil their new Note 20 and Galaxy Fold 2 in early August. Personally, I'm looking forward to the 21 models that are expected to include graphene-based battery technology. I'm not even going to try and guess at the specs. Gary Larson, The Far Side cartoonist who retired 25 years ago is experimenting with digital drawing technologies. For those of us who remember his special kind of humour, fingers crossed that he starts up again.
- Finally, for this week, in the midst of the Covid-19 situation I encourage readers to look-up multiple sources for their information. Do not rely on a single source for the latest on this virus. Treatments, detection strategies, transmission methodologies and more are still under debate and investigation with often contradictory information available. Like AI mentioned above, remember that no single test is 100% reliable. To all my readers, stay safe.
James Hein is an IT professional of over 30 years' standing. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.