Freezenet’s Official Podcast: April 2021: Amazon Won

In the 30th episode of the Freezenet official podcast, “Amazon Won”, we take a look at the news and reviews we covered in April 2021.

Welcome to the Public version of the Freezenet official podcast for April 2021. This month’s episode is entitled “Amazon Won” after Amazon successfully crushing it’s employee’s efforts to unionize.

Also this month, we cover the growing criticism of the Rogers Shaw merger as well as the massive half a billion user security incident at Facebook.

We also cover all the usual music and video game reviews. We do have something important to say related to oddities and the forums as well.

You can check out our official podcast on Soundcloud or Anchor. Alternatively, you can take a listen below:

What follows is a transcript of this month’s episode:

Intro

In the battle between Amazon and its employees, today, Amazon won.

Hi, I’m your host, Drew Wilson. Welcome to episode 30 of the Freezenet official podcast for April, 2021. Here are your top 3 headlines:

The Top 3

Amazon successfully crushes efforts by its employees to unionize

Canadian’s overwhelmingly oppose the Rogers Shaw merger. This as study shows Canadian’s pay some of the highest bills in the world

… and Facebook’s half a billion user data breach sees legal action forming in Europe

Top Stories

It was a devastating month for those who support workers rights. Employees at an Amazon fulfillment centre in Alabama has been pushing to unionize. This after absolute horror stories surfaced about employees being forced to urinate in water bottles, high turnover rates, excessively high quota’s, COVID-19 outbreaks, and a whole lot more.

So many eyes were on the story during the lead-up to the vote. Early on this month, anticipation was high as the vote was set to take place on a Monday.

Days after the vote was said to take place, observers noted that Amazon is definitely nervous over it. This after Amazon attacked high profile figures supporting the union. The corporation went so far as to deny the stories of what employees face while they work for the online retail giant. On the ground, Amazon had been reportedly wallpapering bathroom stalls with anti-union propaganda, forcing employees to sit through meetings aimed at discouraging unionization, and banning anyone from discussing the pro-unionization side on Amazon property.

A week later, a result was still forthcoming. Some were expecting the results to come in sooner, but those results, at that point in time, still weren’t forthcoming.

Days later, Amazon, itself, admitted that the story about employees being forced to urinate in water bottles was, in fact, true. This after Amazon openly blasted anyone talking about that story, implying that the story was false. Still, Amazon defended themselves by saying that this is an industry-wide problem and that it’s not an exclusive problem to Amazon employees.

After that hit the media, another story emerged that said that Amazon was challenging hundreds of votes as they got tallied. This story caused critics to say that this is all part of a massive voter suppression campaign.

Then came the devastating news for employees. The vote count came in and unionization was rejected. It represented a crushing blow to employees, not just at Amazon, but everywhere across the United States. Amazon added insult to injury by doing a victory lap and saying that it’s what employees wanted. Critics responded by saying that the result only makes sense if employees enjoy being abused by their employer. The union helping out the employees said that the fight isn’t over as they plan on litigating. They point out all the methods used to crush the movement and how the vote wasn’t actually a fair one. Few outside of Amazon agree that this development represents a win of any kind for the employees.

Meanwhile in Canada, criticism of the Rogers Shaw merger deal is growing. Wind Mobile founder, Anthony Lacavera who ran the former independent carrier that has since been bought out by Shaw and turned into Freedom Mobile, openly opposed the deal. He said that the deal would hurt competition in Canada on the carrier front. He also remarked how he felt that Wind Mobile could easily operate as an independent business if given the chance. As a result, he appeared to be supportive of the idea of spinning off Freedom Mobile during the deal.

Shortly after those comments, a hearing took place with MPs to discuss the merger. Rogers, for its part, is saying that the merger, which would see the elimination of a major player, increase competition. Obviously, no one bought it and MPs openly got testy with representatives. In one exchange, NDP member, Brian Masse, commented, “You promised increasing jobs, new investment, lower prices and to reach markets that you wouldn’t before — be it Aboriginal or rural (or) remote. I mean these are promises that would make a robber baron blush”.

One of the common refrains amongst the merger critics is that Canadians pay some of the highest cell phone and Internet bills in the developed world. That criticism was backed up by a study that confirmed this. The ReWheel study looked at various data rates among 41 EU & OECD countries when it came to 4G plans. As of March of 2021, for a 20GB plan, Canada was ranked as the most expensive amongst all of those countries. For most other plans in the study, Canada was, at minimum, the 7th most expensive, frequently appearing in the top four most expensive countries.

ISP apologists tried to argue that Canada’s population density is so low, that prices need to stay high. That myth was actually debunked in the study because Australia, which has a similar population density, was found to have much cheaper plans than in Canada. The myth never held up to scrutiny because Canada’s population is generally concentrated into a few small areas in the country. Still, it was nice to see that myth get debunked yet again just for good measure.

Canadian Innovation Minister, Francois-Philippe Champagne, even stepped into the debate to express concerns over the deal. He noted that such a deal presents a “very serious” competition issue. Whether he actually does anything about it or not remains to be seen, though.

After that, academics and industry experts also testified before MPs. They shared their thoughts on what the deal means. As if it was like a broken record, they generally agree that this represents a serious concern over competition. Already, competition on the carrier front is virtually non-existent. Consequently, the deal would take Canada a step in exactly the wrong direction. Really, at this point, it would be faster to list off the people who actually support the deal. So far, to our knowledge, that lists consists of Rogers and Shaw. It’s pretty safe to say that almost all of Canada is really hoping that this deal falls through. After all, the quality of service is bad enough and the bills are already high enough.

Turning to our third big story, Facebook has suffered from another major security incident. 533 million accounts were compromised as a result. The blockbuster sized breach has been tracked by security researchers since January. The database was floating around on the dark web for people to access, but at a cost. The researcher tried to warn Facebook, but those warnings went unacknowledged. We learned about it this month because the whole database went public for free. As a result, the researcher alerted the media.

After reporters started asking Facebook about the incident, Facebook finally responded by saying that the data was taken in 2019. Facebook said that changes have since been made and that the incident is now over and done with from their perspective. This stunned researchers who point out that affected users were not notified of the incident. Researchers disagreed with the assessment that this is old news and that nothing needed to be done about it.

Days after the incident took place, European regulators were asked about the incident. In response, the Irish Data Protection Commission said that they were unaware of this latest incident. They further said that they were on a fact-finding mission to get to the bottom of this as a result.

Legally, this is problematic for Facebook. According to the General Data Protection Regulation (or GDPR) in Europe, Facebook has a narrow window to notify authorities of an incident. To our knowledge, the law was passed in 2018 and this incident took place in 2019. Unless we’re missing something, this incident does, in fact, fall within the scope of the GDPR. Obviously, violations of the GDPR are a serious matter because, depending on the violation, a company can be on the hook for a percentage of global annual turnover in the form of a fine. What’s more, Facebooks failure to notify its users would also be of concern as well from the laws perspective.

While there is potentially serious legal liability for Facebook in Europe, Canada is a different story. At most, the social media giant faces a strongly worded letter from the privacy commissioners – be it provincial or federal. This is thanks to privacy laws remaining woefully unreformed. There is no mechanism to levy fines. Canada’s federal privacy commissioner responded to requests for comments from outlets, saying that they were never notified by Facebook about its latest incident. As a result, they are contacting Facebook to figure out what is going on. Unfortunately, because Canada doesn’t have its legal act together on the privacy front, Facebook could very easily ignore the commissioners. There wouldn’t be any real consequences of that. Sadly, because of this reality Canada faces, Canada isn’t even in the Facebook debate in the first place.

Meanwhile, back in Europe, Digital Rights Ireland is preparing to file a major lawsuit against Facebook. This in response to the latest security incident. Director of Digital Rights Ireland, Antoin Ó Lachtnain, commented, “The scale of this breach, and the depth of personal information compromised, is gob-smacking.” He is encouraging European citizens affected by the incident to join in on the lawsuit via facebookbreach.eu. The litigation website described this legal action as “the largest-ever mass action of its kind.” It is hoped by the organization that personal information will be taken seriously by large tech giants.

Quite the intense month this month, that’s for sure. Here are some of the other stories making news this month.

Other Stories Making News

We got another update to the long running story of Julian Assange’s extradition case. As most observers know, Assange is an Australian citizen. There have been long-running questions on whether the Australian government would actually intervene in the case. This month, we’ve reported on a bi-partisan Australian delegation meeting with their American counterparts to discuss the case. We don’t know if anything became of that meeting, but as we reported in previous episodes, the Biden administration says that he intends on continuing with an appeal.

Controversy has rocked the free and open source movement this month. Richard Stallman, a founder of the Free Software Foundation, left the organization in 2019 amidst allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards women among other things. In the time since, the movement had been moving forward with plenty of different projects. Then, with little notice or reason, Stallman was brought back to the board at the foundation. The development shocked the free software community. In part, there was little to no known actions taken in the form of retribution. All people knew about the news is that he’s back, end of story. As a result, there was considerable backlash and frustration in the community.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation responded with some comments on their site saying that they were “profoundly disappointed” by the decision. They then urged the organization to reconsider this decision.

Reaction then turned into action as sponsors began pulling out of the organization. This includes well known organization, Red Hat. The organization said that they were “appalled” by the news and said that they were immediately suspending funding for the organization. High ranking members of the Free Software Foundation said that they were leaving the organization as part of the protest of Stallmans return.

We noted that one takeaway in all of this is that, although the decision to allow Stallman was quite universally rejected, the reaction by the community is actually a bright spot in all of this controversy. The free and open software movement stands for a number of things, but gender based harassment is definitely not one of those things. An overwhelming message is that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. When that bar isn’t met, the community will react accordingly. In the face of this kind of adversity, the community did shine here.

The Democrats proposal to gut Section 230 saw a development this month. As you might recall, Democrats tabled the SAFE TECH act that would effectively gut Section 230 protections completely. Some are admitting that such a move would effectively mean the end of their respective websites. This month, Facebook took some flack for the position they took on this issue. They came out to support the move to gut Section 230. The caveat they proposed is that there should be a standard of best practices a website should be able to follow in order to get those legal protections.

Understandably, free speech proponents were furious with Facebook for this. Cory Doctorow responded to this development by saying, “A monopolist’s first preference is always “don’t regulate me.” But coming in at a close second is “regulate me in ways that only I can comply with, so that no one is allowed to compete with me.”

One of the things that is difficult for journalists like myself is to find positive stories to report on. Not only are stories needing to be positive, but also relevant and meaningful to readers. This month, we were actually successful in bringing some positive news. Some of you might recall a court case a while back involving APIs (or Application Programming Interfaces). Specifically, the court case was known as Google vs. Oracle.

A quick and dirty example of what an API is would be to use YouTube as an example. If you click on that little share button for a video, you’ll notice that you can get some code that you can post on third party sites. That piece of code is an embed iframe. You can post that code onto a third party site much like what we do with our first impression videos. YouTube gets the referral and traffic and we are able to provide you with multimedia content. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.

What Oracle, by extension, alleged, is that my act of embedding a YouTube video is copyright infringement. Regardless of the video, I somehow violated YouTube’s intellectual property because I re-implemented YouTubes API. For clarity, I’m not actually involved in the lawsuit as it involves completely different code in question, but I’m simply using an illustrative example. At any rate, you can probably see not only how ridiculous such a notion would be, but also how bad for computing that would be if this was actually the law.

The news this month is that the US Supreme Court has ruled that re-implementing an API is actually Fair Use. This basically puts an end to not only the legal action brought by Oracle, but also brought a huge amount of relief for those who are into technology in general. The EFF responded to the story by saying, among other things, “we are pleased that the Court recognized the overall importance of fair use in software cases, and the public interest in allowing programmers, developers, and other users to continue to use their acquired knowledge and experience with software interfaces in subsequent platforms.”

In another positive news story, notorious malware developer, NSO Group, was dealt a blow in the court case filed by Whatsapp. NSO Group had a lawsuit filed against them for their Pegasus malware. The malware was used by different governments around the world to crack down on journalists and activists. In court, the company was arguing that the case should be tossed because they have sovereign immunity. In short, they work with the government and are, therefore, immune to litigation. The judges were apparently unconvinced by this line of defence mainly because they haven’t gotten any direction from the US government on this. So, it sounds like either NSO Group proves their government relationship, or the government steps in to say that there is a relationship, or this line of defence is basically dead.

Meanwhile, digital rights advocates have lost their patience with the Trudeau government. Among the issues cited are lack of movement on privacy reforms, the pushing of link tax laws, lack of prioritization of connecting rural and indigenous communities with high speed Internet, and even a push being made for Internet censorship. As a result, the government is being labelled as anti-Internet. Michael Geist even went so far as to declare the Trudeau government the most anti-Internet government in Canadian history.

I don’t personally agree with the assessment that this current government is the worst. I will agree that this government has fallen the furthest thanks to seemingly looking promising at the beginning of the mandate. The problem is that every Canadian government since I started writing news back in 2005 has been anti-Internet and anti-innovation. Whether it was the Martin Liberal government, the Harper Conservative governments, or the current Trudeau Liberal government. All of them had an axe to grind when it came to the Internet and innovation. If the previous governments got some of the ideas floating around with the current government, it would be easy to assume that they would take those initiatives as well.

The only reason why copyright laws aren’t a total disaster today in Canada is because so many bad laws died on the order-paper due to elections being called. Whether it was warrantless wiretapping, suing Canadians for millions based on a mere accusation of copyright infringement, the failed three strikes law, or even Internet censorship – all of those proposals failed to pass largely thanks to time running out to pass them. Canadians have been incredibly lucky in that regard. This current government is just carrying on the tradition of Canadian governments trying to crack down on the Internet and innovation. Nothing more.

Finally, in a follow-up to that story, the Canadian government unveiled their 2021 budget. The short of it is that it seems as though they have embraced being the Internet and innovation villain. When it came to expanding broadband Internet access to rural and indigenous communities, the government acknowledged the importance of the Internet in light of COVID-19. They then said that they’ll invest in Internet for all over the next 6 years.

On the issue of privacy and data, the government said that they would like to study the issue further. They also wanted to create a Data Commissioner on this issue. What’s wrong with the Privacy Commissioner in a role to handle privacy issues, we have no idea. Either way, it signalled that they were no longer committed to protecting personal privacy.

Finally, they said that they were going to create a so-called Digital Services Tax where services could be taxed at 3%. There was no long term implementation like the other examples. Instead, it seemed like the government was into pushing it through immediately as a way to bolster revenue.

To say that the budget is disappointing would be a huge understatement. With the next election being scheduled for, at latest, 2023, most of the positive initiatives would extend well into the next government and out of reach of what can be reasonably expected. It’s just further proof that the Canadian government has abandoned digital rights altogether.

Video Game Reviews

So, definitely a lot going on this month, that’s for sure. Now, let’s change things up and talk about entertainment.

Before we get into the video game reviews, we wanted to go over the first impression videos we posted this month.

First, we played the Steam game, Far Cry. This first person shooter game was released in 2004. You can check out the video directly on our site or via YouTube.

After that, we played the Playstation 3 game, LittleBigPlanet. This adventure game was released in 2008, however, we got the Game of the Year edition which was released in 2009. You can also check out the video directly on our site or via YouTube.

As always, you can subscribe to our YouTube channel to get the latest video’s we’re posting.

Now, here are the video games we reviewed this month.

First up is Wario Land 2 for the Game Boy Color. Interesting variety in the game, but repetitive play renders this game boring. So, this one barely passed with a 54%.

After that, we tried Q-Bert for the Game Boy Color. A good game to play if you are already into this franchise, but otherwise, it’s a dated game. This one also only barely passes with a 50%.

Next up is Pokemon Puzzle Challenge for the Game Boy Color. A game with reduced features. Otherwise, little really makes this game particularly memorable. So, a game that gets a mediocre 62%.

After that, we tried R-Type DX for the Game Boy Color. A game that actually features multiple games to satisfy the core fans, but length becomes problematic. Still, it does feature an interesting weapon system. So, a game that gets an average 64%.

Finally, we played Qix Adventure for the Game Boy Color. A game that takes the original concept and brings it to a whole new level of excitement. The added objectives do add some spice to the play as well. So, a game that gets a great 80%.

Music Reviews

As for music we’ve listened to this month, we’ve got…

Aurora Feat. Naimee Coleman – Ordinary World (Original Radio Mix)

Ace of Base – All That She Wants

Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart and Sting – All for Love

Mick Jagger – Don’t Tear Me Up

Coverdale•Page – Pride and Joy

Aerosmith – Livin’ On the Edge

Lenny Kravitz – Are You Gonna Go My Way

… and finally, Stone Temple Pilots – Plush

Picks of the Month

So, that leads us to our pick of the month. This month, our pick of the month belongs to Aurora Feat. Naimee Coleman – Ordinary World (Original Radio Mix). Also, be sure to check out Qix Adventure for the Game Boy Color.

Oddities

Now, ordinarily, this is the part where we talk about oddities we’ve seen over the last month. Unfortunately, we ran into a technical problem with our web forums. We have an idea on how to fix it, but we did get to thinking about the future of the forums. The last time we got a legitimate comment was on April 25th of 2020. So, well over a year ago. By our estimation, we got approximately 12 comments since the forums publicly opened back on October 18, 2018.

According to our internal statistics, traffic for the forums accounts for a mere 1.5% of overall traffic. A vast majority of that traffic can be attributed to my own activity. I’ve honestly put a lot of effort into maintaining and keeping the forums spam free – the latter of which is a notoriously difficult task on a web forum, but one I was very successful in.

While I feel like I can fix the forum issue, I’m questioning whether or not it is even worth it at this stage. It’s mostly due to a lack of anyone willing to use the forums in spite of the well over 2,000 posts I’ve added to it to spur conversations. It was meant to be a place for you to take the conversation wherever you wanted to take it so long as it was within reason.

So, for now, I’m thinking I’ll just leave the forums broken for the time being. Basically, you can’t actually post anything. If you’d like to see the forums continue, please let me know in the comments section of this podcast on the site. Otherwise, I’m thinking of just shutting the whole section down due to lack of activity. The oddities section will continue, but in the old form of a periodic post in the miscellaneous section of the news site.

Believe me, I’m by no means a fan of this move, but I have to also think about where my efforts should go to keep the site growing. It would be pointless to put it towards a web forum that no one other than myself intends on using. This when I can, for instance, focus on the ever growing Wiki instead. So, if you are in favour of having a forum to hang out and chat on, have your voice heard now. Otherwise, I’ll probably look at removing it from the site to help free up server resources.

Outro

Before we close out this months podcast, we got one quick announcement to make. This month, we posted the March Wiki content patch. For this patch, we added 291 episodes to the archive for the Future Sound of Egypt. This is a very sizeable amount of content. This amounts to an additional 316 hours worth of additinal listening content. In addition to that, we updated the shows for Resonation, Fables, Random Movement Podcast, and the V Recordings Podcast archives as well. We hope you enjoy these additions to the site and we look forward to adding even more in the future!

If you’d like to get your hands on some behind the scenes stuff, exclusive content, and early access material, you can check out our Patreon page at Patreon.com/freezenet. Through this, you can help make Freezenet just that much better all the while getting some pretty cool stuff in the process. That’s Patreon.com/freezenet!

Alternatively, you can simply buy us a coffee via ko-fi.com/freezenet!

…and that’s this months episode for April, 2021. I’m Drew Wilson for Freezenet. Be sure to check out our website at freezenet.ca for all the latest in news and reviews. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Thank you for listening and see you next month.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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