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Google Maps Accessible Transit Routes. Screenshot: YouTube.com
There's a paradox when it comes to technology and accessibility.
The big tech companies invest a tremendous amount to make their products and services accessible, though it gets little attention. At the same time, there are still big hurdles that often make it challenging for those with disabilities to fully benefit from the latest and greatest in tech.
So, it was gratifying to see three big developments in accessible tech that got at least some mainstream attention on Thursday.
One response: Steven Aquino, a freelance tech journalist who writes frequently on accessibility issues, praised all three moves.
The bottom line: Making tech accessible is important for inclusion and equality purposes, but it often has other benefits too. For instance, captioned photos and videos, originally designed for people with limited hearing or vision, are helping to train machine-learning systems.
Paul Jacobs. Photo: Qualcomm
What they're saying: Both reports state that Jacobs has notified Qualcomm's board and that he's approached a range of investors, including SoftBank. However, Reuters said the board doesn't view the effort as a credible one.
Why it matters: With the Broadcom deal dead, Qualcomm's M&A options are fairly limited. Any deal with foreign investors could face the same type of rejection by the U.S. government, and there appears to be few likely U.S. buyers.
The European flag. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images
The European Commission will vote next week on a proposed 3% tax on digital revenues of large tech companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon that conduct significant business abroad. Digital advertising and gig economy services would be within the scope of the tax, per a draft of the proposal obtained by Reuters.
Why now: EU states have criticized some U.S. tech firms for avoiding taxes there by housing profits in states with low tax rates, such as Ireland.
The bigger picture: The EU currently taxes profits of companies in countries where they are headquartered. The cross-border digital economy has left many countries wanting a new tax solution that takes into account the location of the companies' users, rather than the physical location of the company.
Tech's response: The proposal to tax companies' revenue (rather than profits) is getting a cool reception from U.S. firms, Axios' Kim Hart reports.
Electrical pylons and high tension wires in California. Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
U.S. officials on Thursday accused Russia of a wide-ranging campaign of cyberattacks that targeted energy infrastructure, citing a "multi-stage intrusion campaign by Russian government cyber actors," Axios' Ben Geman writes.
"Since at least March 2016, Russian government cyber actors...targeted government entities and multiple U.S. critical infrastructure sectors, including the energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors."— The FBI and Department of Homeland Security said in a joint statement
Why it matters: Reuters notes that it's the "first time the United States has publicly accused Moscow of hacking into American energy infrastructure."
Meanwhile, Chinese hackers are targeting the U.S. maritime industry, researchers at FireEye announced Friday.
Axios' Joe Uchill reports FireEye says they've seen an influx of what are believed to be Chinese spies hacking computer systems at U.S. engineering and maritime firms, particularly those with interests in the South China Sea.
Why it matters: Most spying is just that — spying. This does not mean that China is trying to sabotage the U.S. maritime industry. It does, however, offer a glimpse of what Beijing's intelligence priorities are.
A series of new ads opposing H1-B visas for tech workers have popped up in the underground stations that are part of San Francisco's BART system. The ads, from a group called "Progressives for Immigration Reform," are being criticized as a thinly veiled attack on immigrants.
Why it matters: H1-B visas, which allow tech companies to hire foreign workers for high-skill jobs, have long been a source of intense debate. President Trump has taken a number of actions, including proposals to make it harder for those with such visas to extend them and to limit the work options for spouses of those here on an H1-B visa.
While we are on the subject of hoops today, check out this free-throw-shooting robot that some Toyota workers built in their spare time. It shoots better than the pros. I wonder which NCAA team will be first to offer it a scholarship.