Why Facebook’s Plan to Tie Remote Pay to Location Will Probably Fail

By Josh Barro

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg says he believes, within 10 years, about half of Facebook’s workforce will be working from home permanently. And the company, having found success with its involuntary shift to remote work during this pandemic, is starting its move in that direction now: making most open jobs available for work from home, and allowing many of the company’s office-based employees to start working remotely, too. But he says the company will “adjust” pay based on the employee’s actual work location — workers who currently earn the high salaries associated with the high-cost Bay Area may not get to keep them if they move somewhere cheaper.

The policy raises two critical questions: One, will Facebook really find it tenable to go to a model that relies much less on in-office work? And two, if it does, will it be able to maintain a policy of paying employees different salaries for the same work based on their location? I think the answers to both questions are unclear, but I also think that they are inversely related: the more Facebook shifts to work-from-home, the harder they will find it to pay employees location-based salaries for the same work.

“Like the second we all started working from home, everyone started speculating about whether working from home would be the next big thing,” says Betsey Stevenson, a labor economist and professor of public policy at the University of Michigan. “But we also remember Marissa Mayer calling everyone back to Yahoo! and saying, ‘This working from home thing isn’t working out.’”

Traditionally, the big tech firms have located in expensive labor markets like Silicon Valley because they believe they’re able to make more money by doing business there — a sufficiently greater amount of money that it’s worth paying the high salaries skilled workers there demand. Silicon Valley has the world’s greatest pool of skilled tech workers, and tech firms believe that those people do better work when they are physically near each other, interacting in-person, and drawing on each other’s expertise. If tech firms did not believe they got value out of the Silicon Valley location, they would move somewhere where the labor and the real estate are cheaper. And while significant numbers of workers in the industry already worked from home some or all of the time before the pandemic, there had also been pushback against that trend — most famously at Yahoo — driven by a sense among some executives that workers do better work when they are in the office more. Tech firms provide extensive and expensive amenities, including free meals, in part to induce employees to come physically into work and see each other.

If that thinking gets turned on its head — if Facebook and its peers decide they actually don’t care nearly as much about workers being in an office or in the Bay Area as they thought — then the substantial wage premium that exists for workers in Silicon Valley will be harder to justify. The Valley will remain a repository of talent, and to the extent workers there are more skilled than workers elsewhere, they’ll be paid more. But the part of the wage premium that was driven by the benefits of physical presence would go away. If Facebook really believes location doesn’t matter much anymore, it shouldn’t just be allowing its workers to move away from Silicon Valley, it should be actively shifting its employment footprint away from Silicon Valley, toward places where skilled workers are willing to accept lower salaries.

And in this scenario, I don’t think Facebook would have a lot of success benchmarking those remote workers’ salaries to their specific locations. After all, suppose one Facebook worker decides to work from home in San Diego and another equivalent worker moves to Boise. How will Facebook be able to hold down the salary of the Boise worker when both workers add the same value? Previously, you might have said it was because the Boise worker would have a harder time finding a more lucrative job offer in Boise, so he’d be less likely to quit over low pay. But now why wouldn’t one of Facebook’s competitors, having similarly discovered that remote work is just fine, hire away the low-paid Facebook workers in the low-cost markets?

Jed Kolko, the chief economist at the job-listing website Indeed, says Facebook’s ability to set salaries based on location will be determined by its competitors’ preferences and practices. If many other large, prestigious tech firms similarly decide they are prepared to go to a much less office-based culture — and Google is being more circumspect than Facebook, at least for now — that could lead to a much more national labor market in the tech industry, with reduced geographic variation in pay. Instead of competing mostly against workers in their local area, workers will compete for jobs with workers all over the country. Firms will also be competing with faraway firms to hire employees. Kolko says there is one way this shift should benefit both workers and firms: Better matching, with more workers finding a job that best suits their skills and interests. Other effects are more uncertain. Firms bidding against more firms could push national average wages up, but workers bidding against more workers could push them down. It is also possible American workers could face more competition from foreign workers — if a job doesn’t need to be done in the U.S., it usually doesn’t need to be done by someone with authorization to work in the U.S. — though sending jobs abroad adds logistical, cultural and tax implications not associated with increased geographic diversity within one country. In particular, virtual simulations of in-person interactions, such as Zoom meetings, are much more viable when employees are all in the same or similar time zones.

My best guess is the Silicon Valley pay premium will be maintained because, post-pandemic, companies will realize they were getting significant benefits from both regional agglomeration and face-to-face office interaction, and that a better-than-expected experience with temporary remote work does not mean it should be adopted as a permanent model. Stevenson, the labor economist, notes in particular that remote working seems to work better for employees who have already had extensive in-person interactions with members of the organization where they work; it is harder to integrate a new hire into in organization of people he or she has barely met. So as companies begin hiring again, they may rediscover some of the lost virtues of the office. As such, I would take the “under” on Zuckerberg’s projection that half the company’s workforce will be remote by 2030.


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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Grants an Option to Some Employees to Work From Home Forever Amid COVID-19 Pandemic: Report

By Erin Fox

San Francisco: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has granted an choice to his workers to work at home ‘without end’ even after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, Buzzfeed reported on Tuesday. Twitter has upped the ante after Facebook, Alphabet (Google) and others have requested their workers to work at home until year-end. In an e-mail to workers on Tuesday, Dorsey granted the choice for employees to work at home indefinitely. Twitter Rolls Out New Labels to Provide Additional Context on Tweets Containing COVID-19 Misinformation.

The choice would not apply to these required to make a bodily look, like sure upkeep workers, however these for which their jobs will be completed remotely, mentioned the report.

“We’ve been very thoughtful in how we’ve approached this from the time we were one of the first companies to move to a work-from-home model,” a Twitter spokesperson instructed BuzzFeed News.

Dorsey mentioned it’s unlikely Twitter would open its workplaces earlier than September. Twitter was one of many first tech firms to make it necessary for its almost 5,000 workers to work at home. Google and Facebook have additionally determined to enable most of their workforces to keep house and work by the top of this yr.

Facebook will open most of its workplace from July 6. Google workers can be ready to stroll into their workplaces beginning July, however majority of these whose roles enable them to work at home may accomplish that till the top of the yr. Google’s authentic plan was to preserve work at home coverage till June 1. E-commerce main Amazon India has additionally allowed its workers to work at home until October.

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Twitter to allow some employees to work from home forever

TAMPA (CNN NEWSOURCE/WFLA) – Twitter says it will let some of its staff continue working from home “forever” if they want as long as their role and situation enables them to work from home.

The decision reflects how some measures implemented in response to the coronavirus pandemic could lead to a new normal for corporate America even after the immediate health crisis passes.

Twitter said the experience of working from home for the past few months has shown it can work at scale.

The social media company does not expect to open most of its offices, or support business travel, before September.

Most recently, Facebook and Google had announced its employees will be working from home for the rest of the year amid the pandemic.


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Game World Star PewDiePie Signs Exclusive Deal With YouTube

AFP – Agence France Presse

Swedish video star Felix Kjellberg, aka PewDiePie, is seen in a 2015 photo

YouTube on Monday announced that streaming star PewDiePie will make the Google-owned video platform his exclusive online stage.

PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, has 104 million subscribers at YouTube, where his videos have racked up more than 25 billion views.

No details were disclosed regarding any financial incentives involved in his decision to go exclusive at Google-owned YouTube, which competes with rival platforms such as Amazon-owned Twitch and Microsoft Mixer.

“YouTube has been my home for over a decade now and live streaming on the platform feels like a natural fit as I continue to look for new ways to create content and interact with fans worldwide,” Kjellberg said in a release.

Kjellberg created a YouTube channel in 2010 and began uploading videos of “Minecraft” and “Amnesia” game play, according to the service.

His channel has evolved to include a range of comedy and reaction videos as well as popular videos about topics catching fire on various online platforms.

In August 2013, Kjellberg became the most-subscribed YouTube channel in the world in 2013, and six years later became the first individual YouTube creator to reach 100 million subscribers.

Kjellberg is going exclusive at YouTube as online gaming and video streaming has surged overall as people staying home due to the deadly pandemic turn to the internet for entertainment.

“YouTube is where the world comes together to connect and during these unprecedented times,” said head of gaming Ryan Wyatt.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to continue to grow our roster of creators who are making our platform their exclusive live streaming home.”

The list of gaming-related content stars exclusive at YouTube include CouRage, Lachlan, LazarBeam, Muselk, Typical Gamer, and Valkyrae.

YouTube touts being the largest global gaming platform with more than 200 million gamers a day watching more than 50 billion hours of game play annually.

The 30-year-old Swede has stepped into controversy over the years.

In September 2017, he apologized for using a racial slur in an expletive-laden rant against an opponent during a live-streamed computer game.

Before that, he was shunned by YouTube and Disney over videos containing anti-Semitic insults or Nazi references.

In 2016, he was temporarily blocked from Twitter after joking he had joined the Islamic State group.

Kjellberg last year said he was “sickened” after hearing that the gunman behind a New Zealand mosque massacre had promoted his videos before opening fire.

gc/rlThis story was produced by AFP. For more information go to AFP.com.
© Agence France-Presse


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Canada’s Newspapers Want Google, Facebook to Pay For Content

By Esteban Duarte

Canada’s newspapers are asking the federal government to follow France and Australia in forcing companies such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook, Inc. to pay to display their news content.

“Both France and Australia have set deadlines to have mandatory solutions in place by July. That means paying for copyrighted content and sharing the advertising dollars and data that flow from it,” said a letter signed by newspaper executives including Andrew MacLeod of Postmedia and The Globe and Mail’s Phillip Crawley. “The situation is urgent, with media companies suffering huge advertising declines because of the coronavirus pandemic.”

Read more: Google Ordered to Pay for News in French Antitrust Crackdown

Read more: Facebook, Google to Be Forced to Pay for News in Australia

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Facebook Expands Access to Option to Transfer Your Photos and Videos to Google Photos

After first launching its new photo and video transfer tool to users in Ireland last December, Facebook is this week expanding the option to users in the US and Canada, which enables you to easily transfer all of your Facebook photo and video content to Google Photos.

As noted in Facebook’s original announcement:

“At Facebook, we believe that if you share data with one service, you should be able to move it to another. That’s the principle of data portability, which gives people control and choice while also encouraging innovation.”

As part of this, Facebook has begun with the option to transfer your Facebook visual content to Google Photos, which provides another way to preserve your memories, and share them via another outlet.”

As noted, Facebook initially launched the option to users in Ireland, before expanding it to more regions in February and March. The US is actually among the last regions to get access to the option, which is not the usual way that these types of tools are rolled out. But it could be reflective of Facebook’s broadening international user base – although it may also be in alignment with European data ownership provisions and meeting necessary requirements for such.

As reported by The Verge, Facebook’s eventual plan is to enable users to transfer any of their Facebook data to other platforms that are part of The Data Transfer Project, a sharing initiative between the major tech companies which aims to facilitate greater access and ownership of your digital information.

As explained on the DTP website:

The DTP facilitates the transfer of an individual’s data between providers. For a provider to be included in the Project, they have to provide export (and ideally import) functionality for some or all of their users’ data. Functionality may be executed through a public-facing API or other reasonable substitute.”

Current contributors to the DTP include Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter.

Given that so much of our information and content is now posted online, it’s important for consumers to maintain some level of control and ownership over such. If a platform shuts down, all of your information is gone – which is just one of the reasons why it’s important that there is a level of interoperability and data sharing capacity available.

Facebook’s initial steps with Google Photos are one of the early developments, and it’s good to see the tech giants working together to facilitate greater sharing.


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Apple And Google Launch First Phase Of COVID-19 Contact Tracing. Will Americans Use It?

Covid-19 app on smartphone software in crowd of people with bluetooth notification of exposure. Interface created by photographer.

Yesterday, Apple and Google launched the first phase of their joint effort to help track the spread of COVID-19. The two tech companies have begun testing an initial version of their exposure notification API that should help public health authorities contain the spread of coronavirus by quickly identifying people who might have been exposed to new cases. It will be widely available to most public health agencies by mid-May. 

For this effort to work, people using Apple and Android phones will need to download the apps and report whether or not they have been diagnosed with coronavirus. In a country where people are protesting lockdowns and social distancing and where big tech hasn’t exactly gained the public’s trust, how likely are Americans to use these apps?

A new survey conducted by The Washington Post and the University of Maryland found that a majority Americans aren’t planning on using the apps, with nearly 3 in 5 Americans are either unwilling or unable to use the infection-alert system that Google and Apple have developed. For the apps to be most effective, they require a large portion of the population to contribute. A recent study by epidemiologists at Oxford University estimated that the ideal number would be 60% of the population. If Americans are already rather adverse to the idea of using the contact-tracing tech, then it’ll be difficult to persuade them that this initiative will help find potential new infections, thus helping us to ease lockdown restrictions faster and make resuming economic and social activities safer. 

Just under half of polled Americans said that they would definitely or probably use the apps, however, and that’s no small number. Additionally, 59% said that they would feel comfortable using the app to anonymously inform people they came physically close to if they were to be diagnosed with coronavirus. 

In Australia, coronavirus tracing app COVIDsafe was released on Sunday and by Tuesday had over 2 million downloads, which is about 10% of Australia’s population. Singapore’s contact tracing app saw similar percentages of downloads, whereas among Norway’s population, about 30% have downloaded the app. As Casey Newton points out in his newsletter The Interface, “The first thing to say about this is that it’s very difficult to predict what people will do when they are asked to begin participating in Big Tech’s exposure notification system…if exposure notification appeared to be working — if public health agencies use it as part of a broader scheme relying on human beings to do more old-fashioned tracing — you can imagine big campaigns within communities to get more people to opt in. (Or your employer forcing you to!)”

According to the survey, Democrats and people who reported they are worried about becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 are more willing to use the apps, whereas Republicans and people who are less worried about getting infected are more likely to resist use of contact-tracing apps. One barrier to the success of this effort is the fact that 1 in 6 Americans don’t have smartphones, especially among the senior population who are more vulnerable to the virus. 

Another barrier to adoption would be concerns about privacy and lack of trust. The poll asked Americans how much they trusted tech companies like Apple and Google, universities, public health agencies and health insurance companies to keep their identities anonymous. More than half of Americans don’t trust tech companies or health insurance companies, and only 56% and 57% do trust universities and public health agencies.

Contact-tracing sounds very dystopian and concerns over privacy are understandable, but are they justified? Apple and Google say that they’d be using Bluetooth technology “with user privacy and security central to the design.” This means that the app will use your phone’s Bluetooth chip to find other devices whose owners have also opted to use the COVID-19 tracking apps. Public health authorities will determine what they consider to be likely exposure, based on physical proximity — six feet or closer based on current CDC guidelines — and time spent in proximity. These variables will be calculated on a user’s phone and if contact is likely, then both phones will log the event, but the information will not be shared with Google or Apple.

The most likely concern here is that governments or third parties can use this tech for surveillance. Google and Apple are essentially addressing this by changing the code that each device’s Bluetooth signals outward every 10 to 20 minutes, limiting a person’s ability to eavesdrop on these codes to track a someone’s movements. 

“When a user reports a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, their app uploads the cryptographic keys that were used to generate their codes over the last two weeks to a server,” reports Wired. “Everyone else’s app then downloads those daily keys and uses them to recreate the unique rotating codes they generated. If it finds a match with one of its stored codes, the app will notify that person that they may have been exposed, and will then show them information about self-quarantining or getting tested themselves.”

But it’s not foolproof against correlation attacks or linkage attacks. In the case of a correlation attack, the contacts of an infected person can figure out which people they encountered is infected. “Taken to an extreme, bad actors could collect RPIDS [(rolling proximity identifiers)] en masse, connect them to identities using face recognition or other tech, and create a database of who’s infected,” writes the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit that defends civil liberties in the digital world. “A well-resourced adversary could collect RPIDs from many different places at once by setting up static Bluetooth beacons in public places, or by convincing thousands of users to install an app. The tracker will receive a firehose of RPIDs at different times and places. With just the RPIDs, the tracker has no way of linking its observations together.” 

Given the global state of emergency, many argue that potential surveillance is a “price worth paying.” The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change recently published a report that argues that the public must accept a level of intrusion that would normally be unacceptable in liberal democracies. 

“The paper argues all governments must choose one of three undesirable outcomes: an overwhelmed health system, economic shutdown, or increased surveillance,” reports the BBC

In May, we’ll see a larger rollout of APIs that can communicate between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities that users can download from the Apple App Store or Google Play. Over the summer, the second phase of the effort will allow exposure notification to be built directly into iOS and Android.

“This is a more robust solution than an API and would allow more individuals to participate, if they choose to opt in, as well as enable interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities,” according to an Apple press release. “Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort, and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders. We will openly publish information about our work for others to analyse.”

Rebecca Bellan

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