Archive for December 2, 2020

Phoenix Labs Establishes New Montreal and Los Angeles Studios & Announces New Games In Development

Posted in Commentary with tags on December 2, 2020 by itnerd

Today Phoenix Labs announced the establishment of two new studios in Montreal, Quebec and Los Angeles, California. These studios, along with new teams in its Vancouver and San Mateo locations, demonstrate Phoenix Labs’ vision for empowering and supporting teams as they embark on the journey of developing new games. 

2020 has been a pivotal year for Phoenix Labs as it increased its headcount by more than 50 developers. The company expects to reach 250 employees by the end of 2021 to support new game prototypes across studios, while continuing to support the expansion of Dauntless.

Phoenix Labs’ strategy for establishing these teams starts with investing in strong leaders and core groups in each location, and empowering them to foster team growth organically. In Montreal, the team is led by André Roy, a games industry veteran with leadership roots at Ubisoft, and is supported by Marie-Andrée Lavoie, lead of talent and culture initiatives, and Guillaume Roy, the studio’s head of technology. In Los Angeles, a core group of game developers with decades of experience working together is being led by Product Director Omar Kendall, who previously led teams at Riot Games. Omar is joined by Phoenix Labs’ own Jing Wang, who serves as the Los Angeles studio’s General Manager. 

Tomorrow, Phoenix Labs will launch the highly anticipated Dauntless Reforged content update. Reforged introduces new open-world gameplay systems and reimagines the progression and story of Dauntless. The online action RPG has seen incredible success, with a growing community of more than 25 million players. Dauntless continues to pioneer cross-platform experiences as one of a handful of games that allow for cross-play and cross-generational compatibility with PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S.

With two brand new studios, multiple prototypes in the works, huge team growth and the biggest Dauntless expansion of the year, Phoenix Labs is thriving and the future couldn’t look brighter.  

Phoenix Labs is a game company based in Vancouver, British Columbia with offices in San Mateo, Los Angeles and Montreal. Founded in 2014, Phoenix Labs strives to empower teams of passionate, experienced game developers to do what they do best – create deep, multiplayer games that bring people together. Phoenix Labs was acquired in January 2020 by digital entertainment company Garena, based in Singapore, to continue their shared vision for connecting gamers across the globe. Their debut title, Dauntless, a co-op Action RPG, is developed by a veteran team from BioWare, Riot Games, and other acclaimed studios and has seen incredible success with over 25 million players worldwide. For more information on Phoenix Labs and to view open positions, please visit www.phoenixlabs.ca.

Microsoft Adds A “Feature” To Track Users In Corporate Environments…. And The Reaction Is Pretty Much What You’d Expect

Posted in Commentary with tags on December 2, 2020 by itnerd

Microsoft in their infinite wisdom decided to a feature in some of their Office 365 apps that logged app usage data at a user level. They claimed enterprise customers could use the data to measure both the productivity and influence of their employees. The Guardian summed this feature up this way:

Microsoft has been criticised for enabling “workplace surveillance” after privacy campaigners warned that the company’s “productivity score” feature allows managers to use Microsoft 365 to track their employees’ activity at an individual level.

The tools, first released in 2019, are designed to “provide you visibility into how your organisation works”, according to a Microsoft blogpost, and aggregate information about everything from email use to network connectivity into a headline percentage for office productivity.

But by default, reports also let managers drill down into data on individual employees, to find those who participate less in group chat conversations, send fewer emails, or fail to collaborate in shared documents.

Researcher Wolfie Christl says this is problematic:


Needless to say, the blowback to this was epic as this is a significant privacy issue. And to nobody’s surprise, Microsoft has now yanked user level data according this blog post:

We appreciate the feedback we’ve heard over the last few days and are moving quickly to respond by removing user names entirely from the product. This change will ensure that Productivity Score can’t be used to monitor individual employees. At Microsoft, we’re committed to both data-driven insights and user privacy. We always strive to get the balance right, but if and when we miss, we will listen carefully and make appropriate adjustments.

We’re making the following changes to Productivity Score:

First, we’re removing user names from the product. During preview, we added a feature that showed end-user names and associated actions over a 28-day period. In response to feedback over the last week, we’re removing that feature entirely. Going forward, the communications, meetings, content collaboration, teamwork, and mobility measures in Productivity Score will only aggregate data at the organization level—providing a clear measure of organization-level adoption of key features. No one in the organization will be able to use Productivity Score to access data about how an individual user is using apps and services in Microsoft 365.

Second, we’re modifying the user interface to make it clearer that Productivity Score is a measure of organizational adoption of technology—and not individual user behavior […]

The remaining three measures in the product— Microsoft 365 App health, network connectivity, and endpoint analytics—don’t include user names. 

I am not sure if this is enough. I can see scenarios where some data could still be tied back to specific individuals seeing as it includes device identifiers. So I fully expect this to continue to be an issue that Microsoft will have to deal with.

Canada’s Workforce Is Stressed As The Holiday Season Approaches: LinkedIn

Posted in Commentary with tags on December 2, 2020 by itnerd

Canada’s workforce is bracing for a tense holiday season, with fewer people planning to take time off this year and a majority reporting work or job-hunt related stress.

LinkedIn’s latest Workforce Confidence Index report – based on a survey conducted between November 2 and 15 – sheds a light on how LinkedIn members are spending the last couple months of the year of 2020, compared to the same period last year, as well as how men and women may be experiencing remote work differently.

Holiday plans and sentiment for the winter:

  • 88% of respondents are planning to do less traveling this holiday season, either within or outside the country.
  • 55% say they’re planning to take less time off overall than the same time last year, and just 13% are planning to take more time.
  • About 31% say they will spend more time working this year, compared to just 17% planning to work less and 53% planning to keep the course.
  • Some 65% of employed workers said they’d been somewhat or very stressed about their workjust entering the season, while 78% of jobseekers said the same about their jobseeking activity.

For the full results, including insights around the differing concerns among men and women working onsite and remotely, visit here

Methodology

LinkedIn’s Workforce Confidence Index is based on a quantitative online survey that is distributed to members via email every two weeks. Roughly 1,000+ Canada-based members respond each wave. Members are randomly sampled and must be opted into research to participate. Students, stay-at-home partners & retirees are excluded from analysis so we’re able to get an accurate representation of those currently active in the workforce. We analyze data in aggregate and will always respect member privacy.

Data is weighted by engagement level, to ensure fair representation of various activity levels on the platform. The results represent the world as seen through the lens of LinkedIn’s membership; variances between LinkedIn’s membership & overall market population are not accounted for. Confidence index scores are calculated by assigning each respondent a score (-100, -50, 0, 50, 100) based on how much they agree or disagree with each of three statements, and then finding the composite average score across all statements. Scores are averaged across two waves of data collection to ensure an accurate trend reading. The three statements are: [Job Security] I feel confident about my ability to get or hold onto a job right now; [Finances] I feel confident about my ability to improve my financial situation in the next 6 months; [Career] I feel confident about my ability to progress in my career in the next year.

Guest Post: According To Atlas VPN, One In Ten Businesses Sell Your Personal Data To Third Parties

Posted in Commentary with tags on December 2, 2020 by itnerd

Customer data is a valuable commodity to businesses, which they use to improve and market their products. However, some companies profit from selling your data to other businesses.

According to data presented by the Atlas VPN team, one in ten businesses globally sell customer data to third parties.

The numbers are based on The Kaspersky Global Corporate IT Security Risks Survey, which features data from interviews with 5,266 IT business decision-makers from 31 countries globally. The interviews took place in June 2020 and were released in November 2020.

The survey reveals that around half of businesses worldwide collect client data. A total of 48% of small and medium businesses (SMBs) and 52% of enterprise representatives reported that their companies gather information about their clients. One-fifth of these businesses (18% of SMBs and 21% of enterprises) also sell that data to third parties.

Rachel Welch, COO of Atlas VPN, shares her thoughts on how people can protect better protect their data online:

“Nowadays, people face a challenge of balancing privacy and usability. They cannot control how securely companies store their information or in whose hands their data might end up. However, people can make sure that they limit the information they reveal online.

Using a VPN, reconfiguring your device’s privacy settings, and reading Privacy Policy before you sign up for a new service are just some of the things I would recommend to protect your personal data better.”

While 24% of SMBs and 21% of corporations do not currently gather customer data, they plan to do so in the upcoming 12 months. A quarter (25%) of small and medium businesses and 23% of enterprises do not collect any customer data. The remaining 3% of SMBs and 4% of corporations do not know whether they collect client data. 

Companies that do not collect client data suffer less from data breaches

Companies that collect client data are attractive targets to cybercriminals and, therefore, always at risk of a data breach. Naturally, they also have more to lose if they get hacked.

SMBs that collect customer data typically lose around $117 thousand per data breach — 37% more than their counterparts that do not collect user data. Enterprises that gather customer data also suffer 62% more financial damage due to data breaches. On average such enterprises lose $1.3 million per data breach.

To read the full article, head over to: https://atlasvpn.com/blog/one-in-ten-businesses-sell-your-personal-data-to-third-parties

Salesforce Serves Up Almost $28B To Buy Slack

Posted in Commentary with tags , on December 2, 2020 by itnerd

Salesforce, the CRM powerhouse that recently surpassed $20 billion in annual revenue, announced yesterday that it is wading deeper into enterprise social by acquiring Slack in a $27.7 billion megadeal:

Salesforce co-founder and CEO Marc Benioff didn’t mince words on his latest purchase. “This is a match made in heaven. Together, Salesforce and Slack will shape the future of enterprise software and transform the way everyone works in the all-digital, work-from-anywhere world,” Benioff said in a statement. Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield was no less effusive than his future boss. “As software plays a more and more critical role in the performance of every organization, we share a vision of reduced complexity, increased power and flexibility, and ultimately a greater degree of alignment and organizational agility. Personally, I believe this is the most strategic combination in the history of software, and I can’t wait to get going,” Butterfield said in a statement.

I’m not sure that this is a win for Salesforce. I’ve been seeing examples of companies that had been using Slack dropping it for Microsoft Teams when Office 365 gets rolled out in their environment. And that’s been happening for at least a year or more. Thus It’s always been my sense that Slack has been circling the drain for a while now. And Salesforce might have massively overpaid for a company with a diminishing value proposition. But maybe I’m wrong about this and there’s something that Slack offers that is worth almost $28 billion. Though I don’t know what that could be. But I guess we will see in the next year or two.