Tag Archives: Sony

Tidal Suspected of Falsifying Streaming Numbers

It seems Tidal music streaming service continues to have problems. The company has been called out for suspect financials and false claims about the number of subscribers, among other issues. Now it seems that Tidal may be falsifying the number of downloads for two of its biggest stars.

According to the Swedish newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) Tidal has misrepresented the amount of plays Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo had by “several hundred million” false plays. More plays means more money for the two artists one of which is married to Tidal’s owner JayZ.  

DN reported receiving a hard drive filled with play data from Tidal that included play times, song titles, user IDs and country codes. DN asked the Norwegian University of Science and Technology for a data analysis. In the published executive summary, the school claims “there had in fact been a manipulation of the data at particular times due to the large presence of similar duplicate records occurring for a large percentage of the user base that was active at any given time.”

Three Tidal subscribers were contacted by DN about data that said they played the albums. The records showed that one subscriber played The Life of Pablo 96 times in a single day, 54 plays occurred in the middle of the night. According to the subscriber that would’ve been “physically impossible.”

Another Tidal subscriber was shown to have streamed Beyoncé’s 46-minute album 180 times in 24 hours. That claim was also denied. Just doing the math reveals that would add up to nearly 8,280 minutes. There are only 1,440 minutes in 24 hours.

Tidal has challenged the validity of the data on the hard drive. But according to DN, the data matches exactly with information Tidal sent to record labels.

According to the university, given the nature of the manipulation, its not likely this was an outside attack or a bug in the software code but rather internal meddling. Tidal is accused of accessing subscriber accounts to play tracks of The Life of Pablo over 150 million times. According to the report the plays occurred at exactly the same times; 2am and 5am. Beyonce’s Lemonade was also streamed at the same second and millisecond.

The result of this alleged manipulation comes down to money. Payouts to Sony added up to $4 million between April and May 2016. Lemonade, released in April of 2016, accounted for $2.5 million of that. Tidal reportedly paid Universal nearly $3 million between February and March 2016. The Life of Pablo accounted for $2.4 million. But, again, more play equals more money for the artists.

In response Tidal denies any wrongdoing. A Tidal spokesperson said DN’s article was a “smear campaign,” adding that, “We expect nothing less from them than this ridiculous story, lies and falsehoods. The information was stolen and manipulated and we will fight these claims vigorously.”



Technology’s Dirty Secrets Series – Child and Forced Labor

Child-Labor-in-ChinaTechnology makes our lives easier. But the world we live in has hidden corners where others suffer for our easy life. They are exploited, poisoned then buried under mountains of technology trash. These people are resigned to accept it as the way life is. This is the dirt and blood that coats the billions of dollars made manufacturing, selling and disposing of technology. In this series the African-American Cyber Report will expose the dirty secrets of the technology industry. In the second article of this series we examine the practice of child and forced labor.

In the previous report we wrote about the use of conflict minerals and the conditions of the mines where these minerals come from. We also pointed out that many children work in these mines.

The definition of child labor according to Australian based WorldVision Action report is “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity. Work that exceeds a minimum number of hours; work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and work that interferes with their schooling.”

The worlds largest phone and technology companies, Apple, Samsung and Microsoft, along with a list of others are being accused by Amnesty International of failing to perform even the most minor checks to ensure the minerals they use in their products are not mined by children.

According to report from United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) estimates that there are approximately 40,000 children are working in mines in the Congo alone. In these mines children, sometimes along side their parents, work with their bare hands to dig out minerals used in our modern electronics. Theses mines are extremely dangerous and little of no safety equipment is provided. Children breath toxic dust and risk injury and death deep inside mineral mines.  In a quote from a 2012 report   “Jean-Bertin, a 34-year-old Congolese activist said he wants to end the “absolute silence” around the crimes committed in his country to exploit strategic raw materials like coltan. “It’s possible that two children died so that you could have that mobile phone,” he said

Yet major technology companies continue to buy these minerals from what is essentially slave labor providers sometime denying any knowledge of child forced labor.

An investigation by Amnesty International looked in to the business of Chinese Mineral giant Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Ltd. The company is major supplier of mineral to technology companies.

According to a BBC report Amnesty contacted 16 multinational battery manufacturers that purchased minerals from companies who in turn source minerals from Huayou Cobalt.

One company admitted to buying the mineral while four others were uncertain of source of the cobalt they used. Five others denied sourcing the mineral from the company even though company documents listed them as customers.  Six other companies said they were investigating the claims.

But the issues of child and forced labor goes well beyond the African continent and the mining industry. In Asia many companies use indentured workers, forced child labor and even kidnappings in the manufacture of electronics.

According to the World Vision Action Report China is the producer of almost half world’s electronics products. It is also where worker exploitation has been widely reported. Workers in these Chinese electronics factories receive low wages and are forced to work excessive overtime to meet astronomical production goals. Some factories fail to offer employees protective clothing and equipment. The result is that workers are exposed to hazardous chemicals and odors. Other common complaints include discrimination, verbal harassment and excessive punishment from factory management.

Even in this sector of the electronics industry child labor is still an issue. Cases have been reported where children as young as nine years old have been found working in factories making electronics.  Due to a labor shortages in China children from poor, rural areas are recruited to work in factories. Recruiters sometimes send money to the child’s family on a monthly basis as an incentive to keep their child working.

Some children are kidnapped and forced to work in the factories.  Children are transported to cities and factories where kidnappers deal with factory owners to supply child labor and offer to attend the factories to beat the children if they are disobedient.   These children are threatened and beaten to prevent them from running away and work up to 12 hours a day with no idea or hope of ever seeing their home or parents again.

World Vision Action also reported that children being forced out of school to work as “student interns” or “apprentices” in factories to pay off debts, tuition and school fees. These are the factories making our smartphones and tablets. Should a student desire to quit and return to their family, school administrators threaten to fail them.  Other measures used to coerce students to stay in the factory include factory management withholding wages or confiscating identity papers if they attempt to leave.

What has the manufacturers said about this situation. Read their statements to TechCrunch.com here.

Now you know

Obama; Foreign Hackers Face Sanctions

Obama-cybersecurity-e1421228350182President Obama is weilding yet another sword in his fight against foreign hackers and cyber attacks. Using his presidential powers the president has issued an Executive Order authorizing the federal government to levy sanctions against suspected hackers.

The Executive Order authorizes the Secretary of Treasury to freeze assets of those who engage in “malicious cyber-enabled activity” anywhere in the world if that cyber activity endangers the national security, foreign policy or economic stability of America.

The Executive Order does not currently target anyone for cyber-related sanctions, but in a telephone conference administration officials said they felt it was important to have the framework in place.

President Obama acted after several high-profile cyber-attacks against Target, J.P. Morgan Chase and entertainment giant Sony. The Sony hack created worldwide headlines because it was believed to have been the work of North Korea. The nation was extremely angry after the movie studio released a comedic movie about the assassination of its leader.

The hacking of  Sony Entertainment led to the first U.S. government imposed sanctions related to a cyber attack. Prior to that event White House officials never had the authority to punish individuals based on the malicious cyber activity only the region or country responsible.

“What we’re trying to do is enable us to have a new way of both deterring [action] and imposing new costs against cyber actors wherever they may be,” said Michael Daniel, a special assistant to the President and cyber-security coordinator.

White House officials were clear to point out that the new sanctions are not meant to replace  existing weapons the Obama administration has in place to confront cyber threats. Instead this order is intended to “fill in the gaps.” The order authorizes government officials to target businesses that illegally use data, trade secrets or information stolen or obtained to gain an unfair edge, and individuals and companies that give or attempt to give serious hackers a financial boost.

But professional hackers are not yet convinced of President Obama’s and the government’s promise to protect security researchers. Known as  ‘White Hat’ hackers these professional hackers expressed their concern that “cyber” sanctions announced today by the US administration could punish those trying to protect the country. They’re also doubtful of the need to call it a “national emergency” as a result of digital attacks on the nation.

The White House simply has not gained the confidence of security professionals and human rights advocates. Security researchers are trying to expose vulnerabilities in the nation’s computer networks so they can be repaired or patched. These White Hat hackers could be punished as a result of the national emergency powers without due process.

To the contrary President Obama said the powers would not be used to “target the legitimate research community or professionals who help companies improve their cyber security. And unlike some other countries, we will never try to silence free expression online or curb Internet freedom.”

“This executive order is another salvo on President Obama’s war on hackers,” said Robert Graham of Errata Security. Graham has previously criticised the US government’s attempts to counter online crime. He claims the proposed cyber laws could be used against legitimate hackers attempting to secure the Internet.

“On one hand, it’s reasonable. Chinese hackers steal trade secrets, and this makes it easier to retaliate. The recent China attack against GitHub is an excellent example of something that deserves a response from the U.S. government,” he added.

“On the other hand, it allows the suspension of due process against hacking suspects. I write tools likemasscan’, which I know the Chinese use. This order enables the government to arbitrarily seize all my assets.

Graham labeled the Executive order as “broad and unneeded.” He went on to say, “The President already has the power to deal directly with the threat of Chinese hackers, and should do so.”

Breaking It Down

Black people should be very proud of President Obama. Not only is he the first black president but he is also the first president to have to deal with the issue of cyber security as a national security issue. Every president has a legacy and cyber security is quickly shaping up to be a big part of his. The fact that we, as a nation, are in deep, dangerous and unchartered cyber waters means that our leader must take action and he has. President Obama has taken action again and again to fight this cyber war. And the fact that he has used his executive power is simply an indicator of two things. First we must address this urgent issue now! Cyber espionage, both economic and military is rampant. Strong action is needed. The threat to the economy is extreme and yes we are vulnerable. Second, we are stuck with a new Republican controlled “do nothing” Congress. They are dragging their feet confirming a new attorney general and seem wary and afraid of doing anything to make a black man look like he’s acting in the best interest of the nation.

Black Celebrities Get Caught Up In Sony Hack

It seems  that the biggest news besides cheap gas has been the hacking of Sony Pictures. To give you a little background Sony Studios computer systems were hacked on November 24th followed by an ominous warning that read;  “Hacked by #GOP. Warning: We’ve already warned you, and this is just the beginning. We have obtained all your internal data including secrets and top secrets.”  It is believed that the motivation for the hack was the planned release of the filmThe Interview.” The film is a fictional comedy about a plot to assassinate the leader of North Korea. The North Koreans have called the film an act of war. But it has not been proven they were involved in the sabotage and the North Koreans have denied any involvement.

A cascade of events followed the hacking including the release of un-released Sony movies and scripts, threats to Sony employees, terrorist threats to theaters and eventually the cancellation of the movie’s release.

According to recent report there is evidence that North Korea was responsible for the hack and the U.S. government is about to announce they have evidence of North Korean involvement.

As result of the hack many internal emails of Sony executives have become public. What these emails reveal is how nasty things are behind the scenes of a major Hollywood movie maker especially when it come to black celebrities.

Among the black celebrities caught up in the Sony hacking is none other than Kevin Hart. One of the emails released by the hackers is from Sony executive Clint Culpepper who refers to Hart as a “whore.”  Culpepper expressed his opinion of Hart when the comedic actor refused to promote his movie on social media without additional pay. Culpepper’s email read; “I’m not saying he’s a whore, but he’s a whore.” Culpeper wrote the email in an exchange with Sony co-chair Amy Pascal and CEO Michael Lynton.

Kevin Hart

Kevin Hart

Hart responded via Instagram by writing “Knowing your self worth is extremely important people…I worked very hard to get where I am today,” I look at myself as a brand and because of that I will never allow myself to be taken advantage of. I OWN MY BRAND…I MAKE SMART DECISIONS FOR MY BRAND… which is why I’m able to brush ignorance off of my shoulder and continue to move forward. I refuse to be broken people…with that being said it’s now time for me to get back to building this empire that I’ve always dreamed of!!!”

Kevin Hart was not the only African-American disparaged by Sony executives. President Obama was also mentioned in emails between Sony execs.

Sony co-chairperson Amy Pascal, a donor and Obama supporter exchanged racist tinged emails with movie producer Scott Rudin ahead of a fundraiser. Pascal, referring to “…this stupid Jeffrey (Katzenberg) breakfast,” asked what she should ask the President ” Rudin replied “would he like to finance some movies.”

Pascal continued, “I doubt it. Should I ask him if he liked DJANGO?” Pascal responded, Rudin then retorted: “12 Years.” The exchange went on, “Or the butler, or think like a man?” To which Rudin wrote: “Ride-along. I bet he likes Kevin Hart.”

Other leaked emails revealed that Matthew Knowles, the father of Beyoncé  approached Sony about a movie project. In the email Culpepper wrote to Pascal and other Sony executives, “Beyonce’s father wants to make the film of Destiny’s Child and came to me first.” He went on, “‘He’s going to Universal next. Do we think it would be a successful film? They’re on the Sony label. I’m just not sure that it’s not too soon.”

Rapper Kanye West’s name was also found among the leaked emails. The messages revealed a discussion of  a feature film starring the rapper.

Jaden and Willow Smith

Tom Rothman head of Sony sub-division Tri-Star Pictures, criticized Jaden and Willow Smith, son and daughter of Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith, for a New York Times interview .

Rothman sent an email to Pascal with a link to the interview. In the interview the Smith siblings claim they can control time and discuss ‘Prana energy’. In the email, dated November 18th, 2014, Rothman wrote  “1. Read this. 2. they r home schooled: don’t let this family date your movies!!!”

Denzel Washington, one of America’s most beloved black actors, was also the target of a racist emails inside Sony Pictures. According to the leaked emails Washington’s color was seen as a liability with executives saying he should not get lead roles in international films because he is black.

Denzel washington

Denzel washington

The actual email was sent by a single unidentified producer emailing Sony chairman Michael Lynton. The email read in part “I believe that the international motion picture audience is racist – in general pictures with an African American lead don’t play well overseas,” the producer continued.

The anonymous producer who sent the e-mail said he or she hoped the incredible statement wasn’t “inappropriate or provocative.” But it is clear from the email that the producer is suggesting Sony should avoid casting black actors to appeal to an international market that the producer saw as “racist.”

Sony executives  Lynton, Pascal and Rudin and other’s email reveal the nasty side of the entertainment industry and spared few celebrities. In their exchanges the executives reffered to Angelina Jolie as a “spoiled brat,” and additional caustic comments were made about Tom Cruise, David Fincher, Aaron Sorkin, and Adam Sandler.