Posted Aug. 7, 2017 at 5:57 a.m.

Tech wrap: Google diversity debate; 3-person baby crackdown; drones watch Trump; malware case bail; Samsung heir faces jail

Published: 2017-08-07 05:57:00
Updated: 2017-08-07 05:57:00

Bulldog Bulldog

In today's wrapup of tech and life science news from around the world:

  • Google VP denounces employee memo's views on female workers
  • Doctor told to stop marketing 3-person baby technique
  • Surveillance drone to fly at Trump golf course during visit
  • Judge sets $30K bail for UK researcher in malware case
  • Prosecutors ask court to imprison Samsung heir for 12 years

The details:

  • Google VP denounces employee memo's views on female workers

Google's new head of diversity has rejected an internal commentary from an employee who suggested women don't get ahead in tech jobs because of biological differences.

Danielle Brown, who was named a vice president at the search giant only a few weeks ago, says Google is "unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success," according to a copy of her response obtained by technology news website Gizmodo.

The employee memo, titled "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber," begins by saying that only honest discussion will address a lack of equity.

But it also asserts that women "prefer jobs in social and artistic areas" while more men "may like coding because it requires systemizing," fueling a smoldering debate about sexism in Silicon Valley.

  • Doctor told to stop marketing 3-person baby technique

U.S. regulators on Friday warned a New York fertility doctor to stop marketing an experimental procedure that uses DNA from three people — a mother, a father and an egg donor — to avoid certain genetic diseases.

The doctor, John Zhang, used the technique to help a Jordanian couple have a baby boy last year.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, Zhang said his companies wouldn't use the technology in the U.S. again without permission, yet they continue to promote it.

The procedure is not approved in the U.S., and Congress has barred the FDA from even reviewing proposals to conduct such experiments.

A receptionist at Zhang's New Hope Fertility Clinic in New York said late Friday that no one was available to comment. Zhang heads the clinic and a related company, Darwin Life Inc.

New Hope's website touts having achieved the "first live birth" using this technology, along with other advanced fertility treatments it offers. The FDA's letter to Zhang cites several other marketing claims, including a reference to "the first proven treatment for certain genetic disorders."

The birth of the boy was disclosed last September. The mother carries DNA that could have given her child Leigh syndrome, a severe neurological disorder that usually kills within a few years of birth.

  • Surveillance drone to fly at Trump golf course during visit

Golfers and neighbors of Donald Trump's New Jersey course will have something more than just the president to look out for over the next few weeks.

A tethered unmanned surveillance aircraft will be flying over the Bedminster area as part of a test while Trump is staying at his home on the golf course on a 17-day vacation that starts Friday, the Secret Service said in a privacy notice issued this week.

The Department of Homeland Security says it is conducting a privacy impact assessment to evaluate privacy risks from the drone's surveillance and image-capturing capabilities. The department warns of the risk that someone's privacy could be unintentionally violated but says that the system can't collect information about what occurs inside buildings.

A similar surveillance system was used to provide security for this year's Boston Marathon and by the military.

While the surveillance aircraft will be 300 to 400 feet in the air around the golf club, other aircraft will be barred from the area.

Flight restrictions for Trump's visits have led to complaints for those who own and operate a group of small airports around the club. Two airports within 10 miles of the club aren't allowed to have planes take off or land while Trump is in town, and those within 30 miles face restrictions.

  • Judge sets $30K bail for UK researcher in malware case

A Las Vegas federal judge set bail of $30,000 on Friday for a celebrated young British cybersecurity researcher accused by U.S. prosecutors of creating and distributing malicious software designed to steal banking passwords.

The attorney for Marcus Hutchins, who has broad support in the information-security community, said the 23-year-old hacker would contest the charges. She said he would not be released until Monday because there wasn't enough time to post bail after Friday's afternoon ruling.

Hutchins is due in federal court in Milwaukee on Tuesday.

The U.K. resident gained overnight fame with quick thinking in May when he helped curb the spread of the WannaCry ransomware attack that had crippled thousands of computers worldwide.

Much of the cybersecurity community rallied around Hutchins after his arrest Wednesday, calling him a principled, ethical hacker.

The conditions of his release came as a relief for his supporters.

"This is excellent news," said Nicholas Weaver, a computer scientist at the University of California at Berkeley. "The indictment is remarkably shallow even by indictment standards, which is disappointing because it adds considerable uncertainty and fosters distrust with the general security community."

  • Prosecutors ask court to imprison Samsung heir for 12 years

South Korean prosecutors have recommended a 12-year jail term for Lee Jae-yong, 49-year-old billionaire heir of the Samsung business empire, urging a court to convict him of bribery and other crimes.

Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, became emotional Monday as he denied ever trying to seek political favors in his final remarks in the four-month-long trial. Lee was arrested in February amid a tumultuous corruption scandal that triggered months of massive public protests and culminated with the ouster of South Korea's president.

A panel of three judges at the Seoul Central District Court said they will hand down their verdict on Aug. 25.

Lee, princeling of South Korea's richest family and its biggest company, choked up during his final remarks, saying his ordeal was unjust but he had reflected during his six months in jail and realized that the bigger Samsung became, "the stricter and higher the expectations from the public and the society," a pool report from Monday's hearing said.

"Whether it was for my personal profit or for myself, I have never asked the president for any favors," he told the court.

In his remarks wrapping up the trial, Special Prosecutor Park Young Soo said Samsung's alleged bribery was typical of the corrupt and cozy ties between the South Korea's government and big businesses. Such dealings once helped fuel the country's rapid industrialization but now increasingly are viewed as illegal and unfair.

Park also accused Samsung officials of lying in their testimonies to protect Lee.

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