Huge numbers of job postings in China specify ‘men only’ or dictate women’s appearance

Gender discrimination may be a hot-button issue here in the U.S., but we don’t have a monopoly on the practice by a long shot. A new report from Human Rights Watch highlights widespread and blatant discrimination in Chinese job descriptions, despite its ostensibly being illegal there. In fact, the highest incidence rates were found in government jobs.

The report looked at 36,000 job descriptions posted in the last few years, including 2017 and 2018 listings for civil service and government jobs. The authors note that their work was conducted under increasing hostility and suppression of the topic by Chinese authorities, meaning no cooperation (but perhaps some interference) was expected.

Thousands of the listings included such language as “men only,” “suitable for men,” or the like, for example “need to work overtime frequently, high intensity work, only men need apply.” In the civil service category, this happened in as frequently as one in five listings, with no corresponding “women only” language except in a single 2018 job. In the Ministry of Public Security, more than half the jobs required the applicant be male.

When women are permitted or requested to apply, they are subject to gendered requirements: be married with kids, for instance. But more common are appearance-based demands: to be a train conductor, a woman must be between 5’1″ and 5’6″, weigh less than 143 pounds, and have “normal facial features, no tattoos, no obvious scars on face, neck or arms, good skin tone, no incurable skin conditions.”

Women lucky enough to already be employed in major companies like Baidu and Tencent are used as lures for male applicants: these “goddesses” are presented as potential matches, as in this Alibaba ad: “They are the goddesses in Alibaba employees’ heart—smart and competent at work and charming and alluring in life. They are independent but not proud, sensitive but not melodramatic. They want to be your coworkers. Do you want to be theirs?”

Of course we shouldn’t throw rocks, at the risk of shattering our own glass house of sexism and other discriminatory practices over here, but it is worth being reminded that this is a worldwide and deeply seated phenomenon.

You can read the full report, “Only Men Need Apply,” here. Its recommendations, though the Chinese authorities seem unlikely to heed them, are to modernize laws relating to discrimination and enforce the ones that exist. China is in fact party to some international agreements to guarantee its citizens certain rights and quash discrimination when it is detected, so that may work as leverage.

Google confirms some of its own services are now getting blocked in Russia over the Telegram ban

A shower of paper airplanes darted through the skies of Moscow and other towns in Russia today, as users answered the call of entrepreneur Pavel Durov to send the blank missives out of their windows at a pre-appointed time in support of Telegram, a messaging app he founded that was blocked last week by Russian regulator Roskomnadzor (RKN) that uses a paper airplane icon. RKN believes the service is violating national laws by failing to provide it with encryption keys to access messages on the service (Telegram has refused to comply).

The paper plane send-off was a small, flashmob turn in a “Digital Resistance” — Durov’s preferred term — that has otherwise largely been played out online: currently, nearly 18 million IP addresses are knocked out from being accessed in Russia, all in the name of blocking Telegram.

And in the latest development, Google has now confirmed to us that its own services are now also being impacted. From what we understand, Google Search, Gmail and push notifications for Android apps are among the products being affected.

“We are aware of reports that some users in Russia are unable to access some Google products, and are investigating those reports,” said a Google spokesperson in an emailed response. We’d been trying to contact Google all week about the Telegram blockade, and this is the first time that the company has both replied and acknowledged something related to it.

(Amazon has acknowledged our messages but has yet to reply to them.)

Google’s comments come on the heels of RKN itself also announcing today that it had expanded its IP blocks to Google’s services. At its peak, RKN had blocked nearly 19 million IP addresses, with dozens of third-party services that also use Google Cloud and Amazon’s AWS, such as Twitch and Spotify, also getting caught in the crossfire.

Russia is among the countries in the world that has enforced a kind of digital firewall, blocking periodically or permanently certain online content. Some turn to VPNs to access that content anyway, but it turns out that Telegram hasn’t needed to rely on that workaround to get used.

“RKN is embarrassingly bad at blocking Telegram, so most people keep using it without any intermediaries,” said Ilya Andreev, COO and co-founder of Vee Security, which has been providing a proxy service to bypass the ban. Currently, it is supporting up to 2 million users simultaneously, although this is a relatively small proportion considering Telegram has around 14 million users in the country (and, likely, more considering all the free publicity it’s been getting).

As we described earlier this week, the reason so many IP addresses are getting blocked is because Telegram has been using a technique that allows it to “hop” to a new IP address when the one that it’s using is blocked from getting accessed by RKN. It’s a technique that a much smaller app, Zello, had also resorted to using for nearly a year when the RKN announced its own ban.

Zello ceased its activities earlier this year when RKN got wise to Zello’s ways and chose to start blocking entire subnetworks of IP addresses to avoid so many hops, and Amazon’s AWS and Google Cloud kindly asked Zello to stop as other services also started to get blocked. So, when Telegram started the same kind of hopping, RKN, in effect, knew just what to do to turn the screws. (And it also took the heat off Zello, which miraculously got restored.)

So far, Telegram’s cloud partners have held strong and have not taken the same route, although getting its own services blocked could see Google’s resolve tested at a new level.

Some believe that one outcome could be the regulator playing out an elaborate game of chicken with Telegram and the rest of the internet companies that are in some way aiding and abetting it, spurred in part by Russia’s larger profile and how such blocks would appear to international audiences.

“Russia can’t keep blocking random things on the Internet,” Andreev said. “Russia is working hard to make its image more alluring to foreigners in preparation for the World Cup,” which is taking place this June and July. “They can’t have tourists coming and realising Google doesn’t work in Russia.”

We’ll update this post and continue to write on further developments as we learn more.

Founder of cryptocurrency debit card faces new fraud charges for $32 million ICO scheme

The U.S. government is following through on its promise to crack down on initial coin offering scams. On Friday, the SEC announced charges against Raymond Trapani, the third co-founder of Centra Tech Inc., which raised $32 million for a cryptocurrency debit card last year through a flashy ICO endorsed by DJ Khaled and boxer Floyd Mayweather. The company’s other two co-founders, Sam Sharma and Robert Farkas, were charged and arrested earlier this month.

“We allege that the Centra co-founders went to great lengths to create the false impression that they had developed a viable, cutting-edge technology,” the SEC’s Cyber Unit Chief Robert A. Cohen said of the ICO. “Investors should exercise caution about investments in digital assets, especially when they are marketed with claims that seem too good to be true.”

The SEC calls Trapani the “mastermind” of the fraudulent ICO scheme, which lured investors with claims of major credit card partnerships, misrepresentations about the company’s product, fake founder biographies and price manipulation of its Centra tokens (CTR).

According to SEC documents, these particular ICO fraud artists were caught red-handed:

Text messages among the defendants reveal their fraudulent intent. After receiving a cease-and-desist letter from a major bank directing him to remove any reference to the bank from Centra’s marketing materials, Sharma texted to Farkas and Trapani: “[w]e gotta get that s[***] removed everywhere and blame freelancers lol.” And, while trying to get the CTR Tokens listed on an exchange using phony credentials, Trapani texted Sharma to “cook me up” a false document, prompting Sharma to reply, “Don’t text me that s[***] lol. Delete.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York also unsealed criminal securities and wire fraud charges against Trapani, who was arrested Friday morning. Trapani faces one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of securities fraud and one count of wire fraud. Three out of the four charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years,

“As alleged, Raymond Trapani conspired with his co-defendants to lure investors with false claims about their product and about relationships they had with credible financial institutions,” Deputy U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami said of the criminal charges.

“While investing in virtual currencies is legal, lying to deceive investors is not.”

DARPA’s Launch Challenge offers $10M prize for short-notice, rapid-turnaround rocketry

Getting to space is already tough, but getting there on short notice and then doing it again a couple weeks later? That’s a big ask. Nevertheless, DARPA is asking it as part of its Launch Challenge, announced today at the 34th Space Symposium in Colorado. Teams must take a payload to space with only days to prepare, then do it again soon after — if they want to win the $10M grand prize.

The idea is to nurture small space companies under what DARPA envisions as the future of launch conditions in both commercial and military situations. The ability to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances or fail gracefully if not will be critical in the launch ecosystem of the near future.

Here’s how it will go down. First, teams will have to pre-qualify to show they have the chops to execute this kind of task via a written explanation of their capabilities and the acquisition of a license to launch. Qualifying teams will be rewarded with $400,000 each.

Once a set of teams is established (applications close in December), DARPA will bide its time… and then spring the launches on them sometime in the second half of 2019.

How big is the payload? Does it need to be powered? Cooled? Does it need or provide data? All this will be a mystery until mere weeks before launch. For comparison, most launches are planned for years and only finalized months before the day. DARPA will, however, provide an “example orbit” earlier in 2019 so you have a general idea of what to expect.

Teams won’t even know where they’re launching from until just before. “Competitors should assume any current or future FAA-licensed spaceport may be used. Launch site services are planned to be austere — primarily a concrete pad with bolt-down fixtures and generator or shore power.” Basically, be ready to rough it.

Any team that successfully inserts the payload to the correct low-earth orbit will receive $2 million. But they won’t be able to rest on their laurels: the next launch, with similarly mysterious conditions, will take place within two weeks of the first.

Teams that get their second payload into orbit correctly qualify for the grand prize — they’ll be ranked by “mass, time, and accuracy.” First place takes home $10M, second place $9M, and third place $8M. Not bad.

More information will be available come May 23, when DARPA will host a meeting and Q&A. In the meantime, you can read the contest rules summary here (PDF), and if you happen to be a rocket scientist or the head of a commercial space outfit, you can register for the challenge here.

Facebook, Microsoft and others sign anti-cyberattack pledge

Microsoft, Facebook and Cloudflare are among a group of technology firms that have signed a joint pledge committing publicly not to assist offensive government cyberattacks.

The pledge also commits them to work together to enhance security awareness and the resilience of the global tech ecosystem.

The four top-line principles the firms are agreeing to are [ALL CAPS theirs]:

  • 1. WE WILL PROTECT ALL OF OUR USERS AND CUSTOMERS EVERYWHERE.
  • 2. WE WILL OPPOSE CYBERATTACKS ON INNOCENT CITIZENS AND ENTERPRISES FROM ANYWHERE.
  • 3. WE WILL HELP EMPOWER USERS, CUSTOMERS AND DEVELOPERS TO STRENGTHEN CYBERSECURITY PROTECTION.
  • 4. WE WILL PARTNER WITH EACH OTHER AND WITH LIKEMINDED GROUPS TO ENHANCE CYBERSECURITY.

You can read the full Cybersecurity Tech Accord here.

So far 34 companies have signed up to the initiative, which was announced on the eve of the RSA Conference in San Francisco, including ARM, Cloudflare, Facebook, Github, LinkedIn, Microsoft and Telefonica.

In a blog post announcing the initiative Microsoft’s Brad Smith writes that it’s hopeful more will soon follow.

“Protecting our online environment is in everyone’s interest,” says Smith. “The companies that are part of the Cybersecurity Tech Accord promise to defend and advance technology’s benefits for society. And we commit to act responsibly, to protect and empower our users and customers, and help create a safer and more secure online world.”

Notably not on the list are big tech’s other major guns: Amazon, Apple and Google — nor indeed most major mobile carriers (TC’s parent Oath’s parent Verizon is not yet a signee, for example).

And, well, tech giants are often the most visible commercial entities bowing to political pressure to comply with ‘regulations’ that do the opposite of enhance the security of their users living under certain regimes — merely to ensure continued market access for themselves.

But the accord raises more nuanced questions than who has not (yet) spilt ink on it.

What does ‘protect’ mean in this cybersecurity context? Are the companies which have signed up to the accord committing to protect their users from government mass surveillance programs, for example?

What about the problem of exploits being stockpiled by intelligence agencies — which might later leak and wreak havoc on innocent web users — as was apparently the case with the Wannacrypt malware.

Will the undersigned companies fight against (their own and other) governments doing that — in order to reduce security risks for all Internet users?

“We will strive to protect all our users and customers from cyberattacks — whether an individual, organization or government — irrespective of their technical acumen, culture or location, or the motives of the attacker, whether criminal or geopolitical,” sure sounds great in principle.

In practice this stuff gets very muddy and murky, very fast.

Perhaps the best element here is the commitment between the firms to work together for the greater security cause — including “to improve technical collaboration, coordinated vulnerability disclosure, and threat sharing, as well as to minimize the levels of malicious code being introduced into cyberspace”.

That at least may bear some tangible fruit.

Other security issues are far too tightly bound up with geopolitics for even a number of well-intentioned technology firms to be able to do much to shift the needle.

Facebook, Microsoft and others sign anti-cyberattack pledge

Microsoft, Facebook and Cloudflare are among a group of technology firms that have signed a joint pledge committing publicly not to assist offensive government cyberattacks.

The pledge also commits them to work together to enhance security awareness and the resilience of the global tech ecosystem.

The four top-line principles the firms are agreeing to are [ALL CAPS theirs]:

  • 1. WE WILL PROTECT ALL OF OUR USERS AND CUSTOMERS EVERYWHERE.
  • 2. WE WILL OPPOSE CYBERATTACKS ON INNOCENT CITIZENS AND ENTERPRISES FROM ANYWHERE.
  • 3. WE WILL HELP EMPOWER USERS, CUSTOMERS AND DEVELOPERS TO STRENGTHEN CYBERSECURITY PROTECTION.
  • 4. WE WILL PARTNER WITH EACH OTHER AND WITH LIKEMINDED GROUPS TO ENHANCE CYBERSECURITY.

You can read the full Cybersecurity Tech Accord here.

So far 34 companies have signed up to the initiative, which was announced on the eve of the RSA Conference in San Francisco, including ARM, Cloudflare, Facebook, Github, LinkedIn, Microsoft and Telefonica.

In a blog post announcing the initiative Microsoft’s Brad Smith writes that it’s hopeful more will soon follow.

“Protecting our online environment is in everyone’s interest,” says Smith. “The companies that are part of the Cybersecurity Tech Accord promise to defend and advance technology’s benefits for society. And we commit to act responsibly, to protect and empower our users and customers, and help create a safer and more secure online world.”

Notably not on the list are big tech’s other major guns: Amazon, Apple and Google — nor indeed most major mobile carriers (TC’s parent Oath’s parent Verizon is not yet a signee, for example).

And, well, tech giants are often the most visible commercial entities bowing to political pressure to comply with ‘regulations’ that do the opposite of enhance the security of their users living under certain regimes — merely to ensure continued market access for themselves.

But the accord raises more nuanced questions than who has not (yet) spilt ink on it.

What does ‘protect’ mean in this cybersecurity context? Are the companies which have signed up to the accord committing to protect their users from government mass surveillance programs, for example?

What about the problem of exploits being stockpiled by intelligence agencies — which might later leak and wreak havoc on innocent web users — as was apparently the case with the Wannacrypt malware.

Will the undersigned companies fight against (their own and other) governments doing that — in order to reduce security risks for all Internet users?

“We will strive to protect all our users and customers from cyberattacks — whether an individual, organization or government — irrespective of their technical acumen, culture or location, or the motives of the attacker, whether criminal or geopolitical,” sure sounds great in principle.

In practice this stuff gets very muddy and murky, very fast.

Perhaps the best element here is the commitment between the firms to work together for the greater security cause — including “to improve technical collaboration, coordinated vulnerability disclosure, and threat sharing, as well as to minimize the levels of malicious code being introduced into cyberspace”.

That at least may bear some tangible fruit.

Other security issues are far too tightly bound up with geopolitics for even a number of well-intentioned technology firms to be able to do much to shift the needle.

France to move ministers off Telegram, WhatsApp over security fears

The French government has said it intends to move to using its own encrypted messaging service this summer, over concerns of the risks that foreign entities could spy on officials using popular encrypted apps such as Telegram and WhatsApp .

Reuters reports that ministers are concerned about the use of foreign-built encrypted apps which do not have servers in France. “We need to find a way to have an encrypted messaging service that is not encrypted by the United States or Russia,” a digital ministry spokeswoman told the news agency. “You start thinking about the potential breaches that could happen, as we saw with Facebook, so we should take the lead.”

Telegram’s founder, Pavel Durov, is Russian, though the entrepreneur lives in exile and his messaging app has just been blocked in his home country after the company refused to hand over encryption keys to the authorities.

WhatsApp, which (unlike Telegram) is end-to-end encrypted across its entire platform — using the respected and open sourced Signal Protocol — is nonetheless owned by U.S. tech giant Facebook, and developed out of the U.S. (as Signal also is).

Its parent company is currently embroiled in a major data misuse scandal after it emerged that tens of millions of Facebook users’ information was passed to a controversial political consultancy without their knowledge or consent.

The ministry spokeswoman said about 20 officials and top civil servants in the French government are testing the new messaging app, with the aim of its use becoming mandatory for the whole government by the summer.

It could also eventually be made available to all citizens, she added.

Reuters reports the spokeswoman also said a state-employed developer has designed the app, using free-to-use code available for download online (which presumably means it’s based on open source software) — although she declined to name the code being used or the messaging service.

Late last week, ZDNet also reported the French government wanted to replace its use of apps like Telegram — which president Emmanuel Macron is apparently a big fan of.

It quoted Mounir Mahjoubi, France’s secretary of state for digital, saying: “We are working on public secure messaging, which will not be dependent on private offers.”

The French government reportedly already uses some secure messaging products built by defense group and IT supplier Thales. On its website Thales lists a Citadel instant messaging smartphone app — which it describes as “trusted messaging for professionals”, saying it offers “the same recognisable functionality and usability as most consumer messaging apps” with “secure messaging services on a smartphone or computer, plus a host of related functions, including end-to-end encrypted voice calls and file sharing”.

NASA’s planet-hunting TESS telescope launches Monday aboard a SpaceX rocket

Some of the most exciting space news of the past few years has been about Earth-like exoplanets that could one day (or perhaps already do) support life. TESS, a space telescope set to launch Monday aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, will scan the sky for exoplanets faster and better than any existing platforms, expanding our knowledge of the universe and perhaps finding a friendly neighborhood to move to.

The Transit Exoplanet Survey Satellite has been in the works for years and in a way could be considered a sort of direct successor to the Kepler, the incredibly fruitful mission that has located thousands of exoplanets over nearly a decade.

But if Kepler was a telephoto aimed at dim targets far in the distance, TESS is an ultra-wide-angle lens that will watch nearly the entire visible sky.

They both work on the same principle, which is really quite simple: when a planet (or anything else) passes between us and a star (a “transit”), the brightness of that star temporarily dims. By tracking how much dimmer and for how long over multiple transits, scientists can determine the size, speed, and other characteristics of the body that passed by.

It may seem like looking for a needle in a haystack, watching the sky hoping a planet will pass by at just the right moment. But when you think about the sheer number of stars in the sky — and by the way, planets outnumber them — it’s not so crazy. As evidence of this fact, in 2016 Kepler confirmed the presence of 1,284 new planets just in the tiny patch of sky it was looking at.

TESS will watch for the same thing with a much, much broader perspective.

Its camera array has four 16.4-megapixel imaging units, each covering a square of sky 24 degrees across, making for a tall “segment” of the sky like a long Tetris block. The satellite will spend full 13.7-day orbits observing a segment, then move on to the next one. There are 13 such segments in the sky’s Northern hemisphere and 13 in the southern; by the time TESS has focused on them all, it will have checked 85 percent of the visible sky.

The little yellow patches are Kepler’s various fields of view.

It will be focusing on the brightest stars in our neighborhood: less than 300 light-years away and 30 to 100 times as bright as the ones Kepler was looking at. The more light, the more data, and often the less noise — researchers will be able to tell more about stars that are observed, and if necessary dedicate other ground or space resources towards observing them.

“TESS is opening a door for a whole new kind of study,” said Stephen Rinehart, one of the TESS project scientists, in a NASA release. “We’re going to be able study individual planets and start talking about the differences between planets. The targets TESS finds are going to be fantastic subjects for research for decades to come. It’s the beginning of a new era of exoplanet research.”

TESS being checked pre-launch; engineers included for scale.

Of course, with such close and continuous scrutiny of hundreds of thousands of stars, other interesting behaviors may be observed and passed on to the right mission or observatory. Stars flaring or going supernova, bursts of interesting radiation, and other events could very well occur.

In fact, an overlapping area of observation above each of Earth’s poles will be seen for a whole year straight, increasing the likelihood of catching some rare phenomenon.

But the best part of all may be that many of the stars observed will be visible to the naked eye. As Rinehart puts it: “The cool thing about TESS is that one of these days I’ll be able to go out in the country with my daughter and point to a star and say ‘there’s a planet around that one.'”

The launch on Monday will take place at Space Launch Complex 40 in Cape Canaveral. Once it safely enters space, the craft will receive a timely gravitational assist from the moon, which will insert it into a highly eccentric orbit that brings it close to earth about every two weeks.

“The moon and the satellite are in a sort of dance,” said Joel Villasenor, an MIT researcher and instrument scientist for TESS. “The moon pulls the satellite on one side, and by the time TESS completes one orbit, the moon is on the other side tugging in the opposite direction. The overall effect is the moon’s pull is evened out, and it’s a very stable configuration over many years. Nobody’s done this before, and I suspect other programs will try to use this orbit later on.”

This unique orbit maximizes the sky that TESS can see, minimizes the effect of the moon’s pull, and regularly brings it close enough to send data home for a short period. So we can expect a sort of biweekly drip-drip of exoplanet news for quite some time.

SpaceX is the launch partner, and the Falcon 9 rocket on which it will ride into orbit has already been test fired. TESS is packaged up and ready to go, as you see at right. Currently the launch is planned for a 30-second window at 6:32 Florida time; if for some reason they miss that window, they’ll have to wait until the moon comes round again — a March 20 launch was already canceled.

You’ll be able to watch the launch live, of course; I’ll add a link as soon as it’s available.

Austin is piloting blockchain to improve homeless services

While the vagaries of the cryptocurrency markets are keeping crypto traders glued to their CoinDesk graphs, the real potential of blockchain is its capability to solve real human challenges in a decentralized, private, and secure way. Government officials have increasingly investigated how blockchain might solve critical problems, but now one city intends to move forward with an actual implementation.

The city of Austin is piloting a new blockchain platform to improve identity services for its homeless population, as part of a competitive grant awarded by the Mayor’s Challenge program sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies. Austin was one of 35 cities to be awarded pilot grants, and the top city from that group will ultimately be awarded $5 million.

Steve Adler, the mayor of Austin since 2015, explained to TechCrunch that “at a high level, [the pilot] is trying to figure out how to solve one of the challenges we have in our community related to the homeless population, which is how to keep all the information of that individual with that individual.”

Identity is among the thorniest challenges for governments to solve, particularly for marginal populations like the homeless or refugees. As Sly Majid, Chief Services Officer for Austin, said, “If you have your backpack stolen or if your social security card gets wet and falls apart, or if you are camping and the city cleans up the site and takes your possessions, you have to start all over from the beginning again.” That is devastating for marginal populations, because it means that the cycle of poverty persists. “It really prevents you from going about and doing the sort of activities that allow you to transition out of homelessness,” he continued.

Austin has been on an economic tear, becoming one of the top startup hubs in the United States and increasingly drawing talent from major cities like San Francisco. But, “For everything that is going right, we have some challenges that are shared by a lot of large cities,” Adler said. That dizzying growth has raised housing prices, making it more difficult to improve the city’s homelessness rate. Some 2,000 individuals are homeless in the city according to a census taken earlier this year, with several thousand more at various states of transition.

The city wanted to improve the ability of its patchwork of government and private homeless service providers to offer integrated and comprehensive aid. There are a number of separate challenges here: verifying the identity of a person seeking help, knowing what care that individual has previously received, and empowering the individual to “own” their own records, and ultimately, their destiny.

The goal of the city’s blockchain pilot program is to consolidate the identity and vital records of each homeless person in a safe and confidential way while providing a means for service providers to access that information. Adler explained that “there are all kinds of confidentiality issues that arise when you try to do that, so the thought was that blockchain would allow us to bridge that need.”

By using blockchain, the hope is that the city could replace paper records, which are hard to manage, with electronic encrypted records that would be more reliable and secure. In addition, the blockchain platform could create a decentralized authentication mechanism to verify a particular person’s identity. For instance, a homeless services worker operating in the field could potentially use their mobile device to verify a person live, without having to bring someone back to an office for processing.

More importantly, vital records on the blockchain could build over time, so different providers would know what services a person had used previously. Majid provided the example of health care, where it is crucially important to know the history of an individual. The idea is that, when a homeless person walks into a clinic, the blockchain would provide the entire patient history of that individual to the provider. “Here was your medical records from your last clinic visits, and we can build off the care that you were given last time,” he said. Austin is partnering with the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas to work out how best to implement the blockchain for medical professionals.

Identity is a popular area for investors interested in blockchain and decentralization more generally. As I wrote about earlier this week, Element, a New York City-based startup co-founded by famed deep learning researcher Yann LeCun, hopes to provide decentralized identity to people in developing countries like Indonesia and the Philippines. Austin is exploring partnering with decentralized startups like BanQu to implement the details of the service for the city.

Majid noted that “It’s an iterative process for us, … and we need to crawl before we walk, and walk before we run.” Adler believes that the program is an example of the power of fusing government and private industry. Austin “tries to work with new industries, and new technologies, and new economies and tries to find the proper intersection of government innovation and responsibility,” he said. If blockchain can improve homelessness here, that solution could carry throughout the world.

Waymo reportedly applies to put autonomous cars on California roads with no safety drivers

Waymo has become the second company to apply for the newly-available permit to deploy autonomous vehicles without safety drivers on some California roads, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. It would be putting its cars — well, minivans — on streets around Mountain View, where it already has an abundance of data.

The company already has driverless driverless cars in play over in Phoenix, as it showed in a few promotional videos last month. So this isn’t the first public demonstration of its confidence.

California only just made it possible to grant permits allowing autonomous vehicles without safety drivers on April 2; one other company has applied for it in addition to Waymo, but it’s unclear which. The new permit type also allows for vehicles lacking any kind of traditional manual controls, but for now the company is sticking with its modified Chrysler Pacificas. Hey, they’re practical.

The recent fatal collision of an Uber self-driving car with a pedestrian, plus another fatality in a Tesla operating in semi-autonomous mode, make this something of an awkward time to introduce vehicles to the road minus safety drivers. Of course, it must be said that both of those cars had people behind the wheel at the time of their crashes.

Assuming the permit is granted, Waymo’s vehicles will be limited to the Mountain View area, which makes sense — the company has been operating there essentially since its genesis as a research project within Google. So there should be no shortage of detail in the data, and the local authorities will be familiar with the people necessary for handling any issues like accidents, permit problems, and so on.

No details yet on what exactly the cars will be doing, or whether you’ll be able to ride in one. Be patient.