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Hillicon Valley: Tech leaders to tackle cybersecurity at White House meeting

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Leaders of the nation’s biggest tech companies, including Amazon’s new chief, will head to the White House Wednesday to meet with President Biden in the wake of a string of cybersecurity attacks. Apple CEO Tim Cook is reportedly on the list to attend, but the Silicon Valley giant is facing struggles of its own after workers launched an organizing effort for better workplace conditions. 

Meanwhile, a new watchdog report found the gunshot detection technology ShotSpotter rarely leads Chicago police to evidence of gun-related crimes. And TikTok will let businesses sell products directly on the platform through a new Shopify partnership. 

ON THE LIST: The CEOs of Amazon and IBM will be among a group of leaders from a wide spectrum of tech companies and organizations set to meet with President Biden at the White House on Wednesday.

Individuals familiar with the matter confirmed to The Hill on Tuesday that both Amazon CEO Andy Jassy and IBM CEO Arvind Krishna will attend the meeting, which the Biden administration announced last month. 

A spokesperson for Bank of America also confirmed that chairman and CEO Brian Moynihan will participate in the meeting.

Bloomberg News reported Monday that Apple CEO Tim Cook and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella will attend. Microsoft declined to comment Tuesday, and Apple did not respond to The Hill’s request for comment. Reuters first reported Monday that Jassy would attend. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday that addressing cybersecurity threats requires a “whole-of-nation effort,” and she noted that a wide array of government and industry leaders would be involved in the meeting.

“The president, members of the Cabinet and his national security team, and private sector and education leaders are going to be meeting to discuss how we can work together to collectively improve the nation’s cybersecurity,” Psaki told reporters during the daily briefing.

Read more about the Wednesday meeting here.

ORGANIZING AT APPLE: Apple workers are organizing to push for better workplace conditions across the Silicon Valley giant’s corporate, tech and retail branches. 

A website and Twitter page launched Monday, under the name Apple Too, calling for workers to share their experiences to “expose persistent patterns” of racism, sexism, discrimination, intimidation and more.

“For too long, Apple has evaded public scrutiny. The truth is that for many Apple workers — a reality faced disproportionately by our Black, Indigenous, and other colleagues from minoritized racial, gender, and historically marginalized groups of people — the culture of secrecy creates an opaque, intimidating fortress,” the website states.

The workers behind the anonymous website say that when they’ve pressed for accountability, they’ve been faced with a “pattern of isolation, degradation, and gaslighting.”

“No more. We’ve exhausted all internal avenues. We’ve talked with our leadership. We’ve gone to the People team. We’ve escalated through Business Conduct. Nothing has changed,” they add. 

Read more about the effort

TROUBLESHOOTING SHOTSPOTTER: The gunshot detection technology ShotSpotter rarely leads Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers to evidence of gun-related crimes and is used to justify over-policing in the primarily Black and brown communities it has been deployed to, according to a report released Tuesday by a city watchdog.

The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) Public Safety section analyzed CPD and emergency management data between the beginning of 2020 and this May and found that only 9.1 percent of dispatches by the technology resulted in evidence of a gun-related criminal offense.

Among the 50,176 dispatched alerts in that time frame, only 1,056 appeared to indicate that an investigatory stop was the direct result of ShotSpotter.

“Our study of ShotSpotter data is not about technological accuracy, it’s about operational value,” Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety Deborah Witzburg said in a statement. 

“If the Department is to continue to invest in technology which sends CPD members into potentially dangerous situations with little information — and about which there are important community concerns — it should be able to demonstrate the benefit of its use in combatting violent crime,” she added. “The data we analyzed plainly doesn’t do that.”

CPD is ShotSpotter’s largest customer, having signed a three-year contract worth $33 million in August 2018. The city quietly exercised an option to extend the contract through Aug. 19, 2023, despite protests calling for its cancellation. The secret extension has drawn scrutiny from Chicago’s City Council.

ShotSpotter’s sensors are deployed over 117 square miles of the city, spanning the 12 police districts with the highest proportion of Black and Latino residents.

The technology has come under increased scrutiny since officers dispatched by it killed a 13-year-old named Adam Toledo.

Read the company’s response here.

TIKTOK SHOPPING: TikTok and Shopify announced Tuesday that they will be partnering to offer merchants the option to sell items directly in the short-form video app for the first time.

TikTok is piloting the shopping feature for some Shopify merchants in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom in the coming weeks.

“Our community has transformed shopping into an experience that’s rooted in discovery, connection, and entertainment, creating unparalleled opportunities for brands to capture consumers’ attention,” said Blake Chandlee, president of global business solutions at TikTok.

The partnership will eventually help the many brands that have unlocked new customer bases on TikTok sell directly to consumers within the app.

One of the merchants in the pilot program is the Kylie Jenner owned Kylie Cosmetics, which has racked up two million followers on TikTok. 

“I have so much fun creating TikTok videos, and I love sharing posts of my fans using the products,” Jenner said. “That’s why I’m excited for Kylie Cosmetics to be one of the first to let customers shop directly on our TikTok.”

Read more here.

An op-ed to chew on: It’s time to break up Big Tech’s media monopoly

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