Updated Jul. 11, 2017 at 9:18 a.m.

Tech wrap: Gig economy workers need help; media vs Google, Facebook; new sickle cell drug; NATO helps Ukraine; Apple data center in Denmark

Published: 2017-07-11 09:18:00
Updated: 2017-07-11 09:18:13

Bulldog

In today's Bulldog roundup of technology and life science news:

  • Gig economy workers should get more protection: UK report
  • News outlets seek to negotiate with Google, Facebook on ads
  • FDA approves first new drug in 20 years for sickle cell
  • NATO: We're supplying new cybersecurity equipment to Ukraine
  • Apple to open new data center in Denmark

The details:

  • Gig economy workers should get more protection: UK report

Workers in the so-called gig economy, from Uber drivers to delivery cyclists, need greater labor protections, according to a much-anticipated report published Tuesday that was commissioned by the government.

The study by Matthew Taylor, a former adviser to Tony Blair, concluded that a new category of worker — the "dependent contractor" — should be created to secure genuine flexibility for laborers.

While some workers in the gig economy like the flexibility, others suffer from job security in contracts that, for example, offer no guarantee on the number of hours to be worked. Such insecurity can make it hard, for example, to get a mortgage — even when someone is in regular work.

"There's nothing wrong with zero and low hours contracts but they should be a means to two-way flexibility, not a lazy way for those with market power to dump risk on those who lack that power," he said.

Taylor's report is considered to be an important piece of research in addressing the challenges of a quickly changing workplace. Taylor set out seven "principles for fair and decent work," including additional protections for workers suffering unfair, one-sided flexibility.

But he also issued what might be best described as a clarion call for respect in the workplace, bolstered by stronger incentives for firms to treat workers fairly.

  • News outlets seek to negotiate with Google, Facebook on ads

News outlets are seeking permission from Congress for the right to negotiate jointly with Google and Facebook, two companies that dominate online advertising and online news traffic.

The News Media Alliance, which represents nearly 2,000 news organizations, said the two companies' dominance have forced news organizations to "play by their rules on how news and information is displayed, prioritized and monetized."

"These rules have commoditized the news and given rise to fake news, which often cannot be differentiated from real news," the alliance said in a press release on Monday.

It won't be easy getting a congressional antitrust exemption to negotiate as a group. But the alliance's chief executive, David Chavern, said in an interview that trying is better than doing nothing.

The news industry has been hit with declining print readership and a loss of advertising revenue as it has moved online.

The outlets want stronger protections for intellectual property, support for subscription models and a bigger share of the online advertising market. Google and Facebook combined will account for 60 percent of the U.S. digital advertising market this year, according to the research firm eMarketer.

Campbell Brown, head of news partnerships at Facebook, said in a statement that the company is "committed to helping quality journalism thrive on Facebook. We're making progress through our work with news publishers and have more work to do."

For example, the company said it is testing new products to help its users discover local news on Facebook. The company also said it is working to cut down on false news and clickbait headlines in favor of "quality journalism."

Google also said it wants to help news organizations "with both their challenges, and their opportunities." The company said it has built several specialized products and technologies "specifically to help distribute, fund, and support newspapers."

  • FDA approves first new drug in 20 years for sickle cell

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first drug in nearly 20 years for sickle cell, an inherited disease in which abnormally shaped red blood cells can't properly carry oxygen throughout the body, which can cause severe pain and organ damage.

About 100,000 people in the U.S., mostly blacks, have the disorder and about 275,000 babies are born with it each year worldwide.

In a study, the new drug, Endari, cut the number of pain crises and dangerous chest complications, and reduced hospitalizations and the need for transfusions.

It is made by a California company, Emmaus Medical Inc., and approved for adults and children 5 and older.

  • NATO: We're supplying new cybersecurity equipment to Ukraine

NATO's secretary-general says the 29-member alliance is supplying hardware to the Ukrainian government to help protect its government networks from cyberattacks.

At a news conference in Kiev alongside Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Monday, Jens Stoltenberg told journalists that "we are in the process of providing Ukraine with new equipment to some key government institutions."

Few other details were provided, but Stoltenberg said the gear would "help Ukraine investigate who is behind the different attacks."

Ukraine has recently been hit by a series of powerful cyberattacks, including a June 27 attack that crippled computers across the country. Kiev blames Russia for the intrusions, charges the Kremlin denies.

Stoltenberg added that the alliance is studying the Ukraine attacks closely. "NATO is learning a lot from Ukraine," he said.

  • Apple to open new data center in Denmark

Denmark says that Apple has decided to build a data center in the southwestern town Aabenraa, near Viborg, where it has another one already under construction.

The Danish Foreign Ministry says that both will use only renewable energy as a power source and "thereby contribute to Denmark achieving its renewable energy goals."

The ministry said Monday that with the latest investments from Apple, Facebook and Google's purchase of a land plot, the Scandinavian country is moving to becoming a major site for the world's biggest tech players. It is also among the top three countries in terms of environmental technologies, according to a Greenpeace report this year.

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