The Brief No. 37: Automation & Infiltration

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May 1, 2019

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The $629 Billion Sieve: The global technological enterprise that (loosely) controls ~32% of the world population’s data is (surprise!), finding itself in privacy disputes everywhere. Facebook is now facing accusations from Canada that it violated national privacy laws as the country moves to enact stronger legislation limiting Facebook’s autonomy over consumer data. South of this border, the company is preparing for a potential fine of $5 billion from the United States FTC, while across the Atlantic, Ireland is investigating Facebook’s mishandling of millions of user passwords, with potential fines of $2.2 billion.

Snakes in the Grass: A recent survey revealed that 53% of American voters believe political corruption is a national crisis, making it the country’s most widely-recognized issue ahead of illegal immigration, government deficits, and global warming. And the past week did little to assuage these fears. In Baltimore, the FBI raided mayor Catherine Pugh’s City Hall office and two homes, amidst a recent scandal involving $500,000 in false purchases of her children's books. Acting Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young is using this as an opportunity to shake up the government offices. On a larger scale, the unethical and widespread practice of gerrymandering and intentionally skewing legislative lines for political gain and perpetuation of voting inequality is under scrutiny. Telling e-mails reveal Michigan Republicans boasting about restructuring tactics such as “packing ‘Dem garbage’ into four districts,” proposing a map that would give conservatives control in 10 of the state’s 14 districts, and a strategist urging party members to better disguise intentions for “legal and P.R. purposes.”

Untested, Unproven: Hirers continue to debate best practices for artificial intelligence in the hiring process. The technology’s overall effectiveness is being questioned, along with the legal and ethical impact. These critics point to a lack of data disproportionate to companies’ eagerness to adopt trendy new tech, as opposed to historically reliable evaluation methods like personality assessments. Others argue that recruiting talent is “more art than science”, and turning the process over to technology will sacrifice the intangible values that seasoned recruiters gain over time. Meanwhile, established research makes the intangible more tangible via soft-skill evaluation, and raises concerns for human evaluation that has shown to be riddled with bias. Ironically, one of the primary issues with AI has been its ineffectiveness in creating successful outcomes because it relies on previous human-generated hiring decisions with low success rates and high rates of bias.

Looking Ahead: Hiring is certainly not the only industry that technology has permeated in recent years. Nearly every facet of work has been affected one way or another by some kind of automation, leading many to fear for their long-term job security. Indeed, reports warn of an impending shift that will force workers to adapt, or even completely transform, their means of employment and potentially accelerate and increase inequality and social tensions, as lower-income individuals are unable to obtain the necessary training to adjust. Still, despite its exponentially rapid rate, a widespread change of employment brought on by technological growth is not unprecedented. It’s essential then, that threatened industries learn from the past and promote proactive preparation to “support the future of work.

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In Legal Speak, a weekly podcast hosted by Leigh Jones and Vanessa Blum, legal experts break down important industry topics in depth and provide unique perspectives on significant trends. In the latest episode, Gina Passarella and Roy Strom join the show to discuss BigLaw discounts, and how the legal industry’s top firms are able to maintain growth despite offering $4.4 billion in mark-downs annually.

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