The company claims to have not considered before launch whether their new protest and strike surveillance tool could be misused.
Thanks, Molly. Nice catch. What RSS service would you now recommend?
I’m proud to be contributing to someone who calls this kind of stuff out!
Maybe I’m being optimistic but it seems like they will HAVE to cancel this after “next week’s research” since of course that will show that it can be used in harmful ways. If they claim their dumb week of research shows anything else it will completely strain credulity. I feel as if they’d simply ignore you if they planned on continuing with it?
Regardless, great work Molly!
Yeah. I've been a Feedly user for the same reasons you were and have watched those "AI"/corporate/enterprise features with the same skepticism, hoping that the product direction would not go that far out of alignment with my needs. I somehow missed the strike/protest announcement, and I'm grateful you caught it and responded as you did. I did not have "find a new RSS reader" on my to do list, but now I do. I'd be curious where you own product evaluation ends up.
I think you're maybe being a little harsh on Feedly here. In humanitarian aid it's a pretty common use case to get these kinds of risk reports, e.g. I was in Bukavu when there were big election rallies, so local staff were told they could work from home if they wanted and foreign travels were cancelled. I also participated in the Polish abortion protests, which were peaceful, but there was a huge police presence as well as a right-wing counterprotest that could easily have turned violent, I wouldn't want international employees near that if they didn't understand the local context, let alone the nationalist marches that happen every November. I know in the West protest is generally thought of as peaceful and legal, but in most places it can easily become violent, not least because the police or military are willing to use violence to suppress them.
It also doesn't seem like a particularly useful strikebreaking tool - Disney or Rio Tinto doesn't need AI to say when its employees are striking, and their anti-union activities will long precede the strike making the news. It seems like they were going for the automation of a pretty standard situation report and really did communicate it a bit badly. And corporations do need to be aware of any kind of unrest that's happening near their employees and assets, whether we're talking about humanitarian workers or exploitative gold mines, so it's not exactly Feedly's fault that people want to aggregate that kind of news.
Anyway, just my two cents, it's not like tech leadership has a record of being good about ethical concerns or thinking through consequences, but in this case it really did strike me as a fairly innocuous product with a low potential for misuse.
Have also been using Feedly since the Google Reader debacle, and this is a wee bit too much.
its pretty ridiculous how they think some very remedial "AI" matching algorithms can even *do* these tasks, and then to double down and pretend they are totally definitely NOT trying to do them makes it even more ridiculous.
there are real companies that play in this space - my former employer subscribed to SOS International, and we got helpful info like "expect protests outside the Capital in DC on <insert day here>", "avoid public areas and expect potential for disruption of services in Santiago on Sunday during protests against the government." We never got "careful, someone is giving a demonstration of a waterpik at a TED talk" -- likely because they had humans vetting info, not "Leo" on his own, winging it
Ugh. I've never paid for Feedly but, like you, I started using the free version after Google Reader went away. I'll be looking for a new RSS reader now...
"I don’t think it’s likely that Feedly’s so-called “AI” news aggregator technology is gamechanging as far as corporate (or certainly governmental) surveillance tech."
I take a different angle on this. I don't see this product as giving much value to potential strikebreakers, because I would expect those interested in breaking a strike (the company where the strike is taking place) to know more about the strike, and know it sooner, than what could be found in a news feed.
Now, there are some twists I could see changing that- if the aggregation included social media where organizing was taking place, or if there were third party companies looking for strikes to break/unions to bust unrelated to themselves (something in this regime seems like an area I might have a blind spot).
That said, you correctly point out that their examples show that they are mischaracterizing articles in potentially damaging ways- such as saying that nonviolent strikes/protests are dangerous/violent events. There are clearly functional issues both with the service and the marketing around it. But as of yet I don't see that it is either targeted as or useful as a tool for union busters or strike breakers- in either intent or execution.
Remind me to not get on your wrong side 😉
Hey Molly! Do you know what the results of “next week’s research” was and what’s going on with this?
Really nice work Molly, as always. The whole subject reminded me of Neil Postman’s “ Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change”