Man is the biggest problem for the computer

The biggest risk to a company’s IT security is people, I learned. It is people who download dangerous malware onto their computers because they answer e-mails promising bargains. Or they just give away their password, because an email pretends to them that their bank account has been blocked and should now be unlocked again.

Employees become the greatest risk to the security of a company if they, just like it happens a thousand times, move to your home office. You take the company laptop home and drop it in the bathtub. Or they carry it around in their briefcases, which they then forget in the supermarket – along with the sensitive data on them. Or they neglect the protocols and read their emails over a public WLAN and not over the protected company network.

If you just let the people work, they would destroy the company in minutes. Why an army of administrators is needed to prevent the worst. Which in turn means that IT staff have to work like kindergarten teachers to prevent the little employee from messing around.

I don’t think there is a safer way to doubt the basic ability of humanity to survive than an IT career. There are plenty of stories about stupid users on the Internet. Data is often deleted and those affected are outraged that the deleted data is actually gone.

But there are also tech support callers who fear that their computer has been infected with viruses because they have touched it with unwashed hands. Or those who complain that their computer does not properly record the CD-ROM until it turns out that they have put it upside down.

You read from users who should send a screenshot and then post a photo of their screen in the mail. And also from people who give their home address when asked about the IP address. There are also requests from users who have problems in the home office because their dog chewed the keyboard. In short, when a person gets involved with a computer, it is a really dangerous thing for the computer.

One could easily conclude that the whole story would be simpler if it weren’t for the people. Most things are already automated – and there are always problems when people intervene. However, robots also have their pitfalls.

I recently read an article in the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” about how robot-controlled equity portfolios are lubricated in the corona crisis. For the most part, the robo traders who were supposed to sell or buy shares according to chart analyzes had not even noticed that something extraordinary had happened in the world.

It may be that in some ways they were even more stupid than the stupidest users. Or the possible eradication of the human race is not a special event for them.

More: Despite security gaps, Zoom grows to 300 million users.


How companies can implement health and safety standards

Berlin In order to enable the slow recovery of the economy despite the still high risk of infection, the Federal Cabinet passed Covid 19 occupational safety standards on Thursday. “We must not let go, we are far from over the mountain,” said Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD). There is no return to normality anytime soon.

For example, employers must ensure that employees in buildings, outdoors and in vehicles keep a minimum distance of 1.5 meters and that colleagues do not get too close to one another in the company or during breaks – for example through barriers, markings or access regulations.

When contacts are inevitable, employers are required to keep nose and mouth covers available for employees, but also for customers or service providers. In addition, they have to provide sufficient washing facilities and disinfectants and particularly protect risk groups in their workforce.

Heil also appealed to the employees to protect their colleagues from infection: “The principle applies: never get sick to work,” said the Minister of Labor. The President of the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Isabel Rothe, explains how government regulations can be implemented in an interview with the Handelsblatt.

Read the full interview here

Ms. Rothe, how do you rate the decisions of the Federal Government and the Prime Ministers regarding the corona exit?
A differentiated, balanced and appropriate solution was found – also from the point of view of health protection. I greatly appreciate that politicians seek and take into account the advice of science from a wide variety of disciplines. We are of course particularly pleased that Federal Minister of Labor Heil today announced additional mandatory occupational safety standards.

In your view, what are the requirements for working life in workshops and offices to return to normal?
If not yet done, the decisions on infection protection in the company must be specified and implemented together with the occupational health and safety experts in a sector-specific and company-specific manner. Hygiene standards and distance regulations must also be strictly observed in working life.

How should that work in the open-plan office or a workshop?
There are many ways to minimize contacts in everyday work, for example through technical measures to separate work areas, relaxing core working hours, home office, working time corridors or shift schedules. When working in shifts, it should be ensured that the same colleagues always work together to limit the risk of infection. And even in factories that are largely fully automated, the seating must be kept at a distance in break rooms.

Do the hygiene standards generally have to be tightened?
For example, we need sufficient short breaks and sanitary facilities in the factories to enable hygiene and hand washing even more frequently. Increased cleaning intervals help to reduce the risk of infection. Wherever components are handed over despite organizational and technical measures, gloves must be mandatory. And there are also structural protective measures such as the plexiglass panes that we see at many supermarket checkouts, for example.

Isabel Rothe

The occupational and organizational psychologist has headed the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Baua) since November 2007.

(Photo: Sylwia Wisbar)

Should companies keep employees working from home?
Wherever possible, yes. However, we recommend switching to presence phases in the factory or office. Because contact with colleagues or the boss is an important means of good work organization and, above all, coping with stress. And at the moment, employees have a lot of stress, from worrying about their own health or that of relatives, fear of losing their job, to overtime and overwork.

Can the economy be adequately prepared for a pandemic like the current one?
The topic of the pandemic is not new in the companies, especially in the larger companies there are corresponding plans. But Covid-19 eclipses everything we’ve seen in the recent past. Of course, many would now like to have large supplies of protective masks in their closets, but hardly anyone has that.

Should breathing masks be worn in the office and factory?
Wherever the distance regulations cannot be adhered to consistently, covering the mouth and nose makes sense. It helps to protect employees and customers. However, respirators should be reserved for medical personnel.

What should happen if illnesses occur in the company?
It is imperative that the employer adheres consistently to the stipulations of the responsible health authority. Contact persons are systematically identified here and quarantine measures may also be arranged among colleagues. It is just as important to warmly welcome colleagues once they have survived their illness; a risk of infection can then be excluded.

More: Health protection in the company is strict, but there is no alternative.


French union CGT wants to go on strike despite Corona

DCalls for solidarity in the fight against the corona virus are apparently unheard of by the French trade union CGT. The workers’ organization called on Thursday for the month of April to stop work in the public service. In a letter to the Ministers of Labor, Budget and Civil Service, the CGT Civil Service Department announced the strike. It wants to protest against the “anti-social measures” contained in the emergency law against the pandemic.

Christian Schubert

Among other things, it stipulates that employees in strategically important sectors should work more (for a limited period of up to 60 hours per week), and the conditions for night and Sunday work are relaxed. The CGT civil service department has 85,000 members in local and regional authorities, water management, social housing, firefighters and funeral staff. The union believes workers are currently under sanitary conditions in the workplace, lacking masks, disinfectants and testing for Covid-19.

In such an environment, people should not be allowed to work any more. The CGT notes that the state, on the other hand, never has empty stocks of police equipment to suppress demonstrations such as tear gas and bullets. The state can be stretched before the “capitalists” carts, it said in the press release.

Applause at the open window

State Secretary Olivier Dussopt, who is responsible for the civil service, was “surprised” by the strike announcement, as the daily newspaper “Le Parisien” reported. Especially at the federal level above the branch organizations, all unions – including the CGT – have recently given up strike announcements. Dussopt is all the more astonished at the call to stop work because the government has postponed all major reforms, including civil service and pension reform, because of the Corona crisis.

In the civil service, the CGT remains the largest French union, but is second only to the more moderate CFDT in all areas, including the private sector. It remains to be seen how many civil servants will respond to the strike call. France is currently experiencing a wave of sympathy for health workers. Every evening at 8 p.m. people applaud at the open window. All kinds of aid organizations also find a lot of support. There is great recognition for those people who do their work and thus guarantee general care in the country.


Short-time work allowance should be possible for public services

Public service

A total of around two million people work in the public service of the municipalities.

(Photo: dpa)

In the corona crisis, short-time work should also be possible in the public sector by paying short-time allowance. This could affect employees at airports, spas, theaters, local transport or museums.

The Verdi trade union, the civil servants ‘association dbb and the Association of Local Employers’ Associations (VKA) announced negotiations on a corresponding collective agreement on Wednesday. As far as possible, the negotiations should be completed in the coming week at the latest, the German press agency in Berlin learned in the evening from negotiating circles. Verdi and the dbb demanded that employers increase short-time benefits.

So far, employees in the public service have not been able to go on short-time work due to a lack of collective bargaining authorization and have received partial reimbursement of wages from the Federal Employment Agency (BA).

For short-time work, the Federal Employment Agency pays the employees concerned 60 percent of the wages, and 67 percent for people with children. The goal is to relieve employers in an acute crisis and thereby secure jobs. Employers are now also reimbursed social security contributions in the corona crisis. Verdi boss Frank Werneke named the goal of a temporary collective agreement for crisis management. Losses in wages would have to be mitigated as far as possible or even completely eliminated.

“Wherever necessary, short-time work should be possible – Verdi wants to secure employment and receive income,” said Werneke.

The VKA had registered the need. Volker Geyer, dbb board member responsible for collective bargaining, said: “Short-time work benefits need to be increased; public employers are obliged to do so.” The regulations should only apply during the crisis. In return, redundancies due to operational reasons should be excluded by the employer.

A total of around two million people work in the public service of the municipalities. While in the core administration and other central areas the employees worked under high pressure, there was no work in other areas, it was said in negotiation circles.

VKA President Ulrich Mädge said: “The corona crisis also poses unprecedented problems for municipal employers.” This applies in particular to airports, local public transport companies, but also to savings banks, utilities, theaters, museums, baths, libraries and music schools.

“We want uniform regulations for all municipal employers throughout Germany in the crisis,” Mädge said. The VKA wanted to reach a result with the unions without ideological arguments.

More: The Bundestag passed this aid package for Germany today


The vast majority support work in the home office

Berlin Many employees in Germany are open to the possibility of mobile work in the home office. This is the result of a representative survey of around 2,500 employees from all industries, which the polling institute Civey carried out on behalf of the eco association of the internet industry. The survey was available to the Handelsblatt in advance.

For example, a large majority of more than 85 percent of respondents endorsed the possibility of working from home if their work permits. Around a third of employees (32.6 percent) also say that they will increasingly be using video conferences to communicate with customers and colleagues in the near future. Over 20 percent want to use more tools for online project work in a team. Around ten percent are increasingly relying on digital training opportunities.

Eco managing director Alexander Rabe attributes the great popularity for the digitization of work processes to the corona crisis and the associated restrictions. This prompts companies and employers to use virtual and decentralized forms of cooperation wherever possible.

“Skepticism about technology was yesterday,” said Rabe. “We will now see more and more concrete positive examples of the digitalization of business and society.” This includes the option of working from home in times of crisis. “Numerous companies are now switching to home offices, even though it seemed impossible for years,” says Rabe. “The Internet has become the central tool of interaction these days and is currently keeping economic and social life going.”

Numerous German companies have sent their employees to their home office due to the corona virus pandemic. Thousands are now sitting at home in the work or living room. Politicians also forego personal meetings and connect from afar.

The finance minister also switches to the home office

Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz also prescribed home work. The SPD politician said on Twitter: “Today I also do home office after I woke up with a bad cold. And to be on the safe side, I am going to be tested, not unimportant in these times. ”As a side effect, he could sit in the sun while working, Scholz wrote – accompanied by a photo with a view of the table, tablet, coffee cup and glasses on a sunlit balcony.

Meetings and conversations in the tea kitchen take the place of conference calls and video services. Providers like Cisco and Microsoft, Team viewer and Zoom have significantly higher traffic in these weeks, which they are reinforcing with their free offers.

However, there were some disruptions on the first days of the shutdown, as the massive restrictions on public life are called on social media. On Monday, for example, the Microsoft teams collaboration service in Europe was only partially accessible. On Tuesday, Cisco reported “degraded performance” on its Webex service, particularly when it comes to meetings.

“Corona is an opportunity like a call to digitize business, administration and healthcare even more decisively and faster,” said the president of the digital association Bitkom, Achim Berg. Technologies for web conferences should be introduced and home offices should become the standard. Before the outbreak of the Sars-CoV-2 pandemic, however, not only many managers in companies or organizations were skeptical of the home office, but also a number of employees.

Bitkom itself found out at the end of last year that four out of ten permanent employees (41 percent) were allowed to work in the home office, but most of them thankfully refused to do so.

More: Read here why the home office opens new gateways for hackers.


Employers want to make final changes to their basic pension

Hubertus Heil

The labor minister prevailed with a concept that drew the circle of beneficiaries further than the Union originally wanted.

(Photo: dpa)

Berlin The resistance of the employers to the basic pension plans of Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) was great. Now they seem to have resigned themselves to the fact that the law passed by the cabinet in February can no longer be stopped.

In contrast, the Federal Association of German Employers’ Associations (BDA) hopes for further changes to the draft in the parliamentary procedure, which begins on Thursday with a consultation in the Federal Council. The catalog with suggested corrections is available to the Handelsblatt.

The employers adhere to their fundamental concerns: “The planned basic pension is not a suitable contribution against poverty in old age, because the target group of long-term employees is particularly rarely affected by possible poverty in old age anyway.”

However: “If, despite all objections, the legislator still wants to stick to the introduction of the planned basic pension, then he should at least make some substantial corrections to the legal plans,” says the statement.

For example, the basic pension should only apply to future pensioners and not to the pension portfolio. This would “take into account the fact that many pensioners today benefit from other pension regulations that no longer exist with current pension access”. This included the deduction-free pensions from the age of 60 and pension-increasing recognition of training periods.

There is intense argument about details

In their coalition agreement, the Union and the SPD had agreed to improve long-term low-wage earners with low pension entitlements and thus protect them from going to the social welfare office in old age.

The details were the subject of heated argument. In the end, Heil prevailed with a concept that drew the circle of beneficiaries further than the Union originally wanted. Instead of a comprehensive examination of the financial situation of retirees, the aim is to use income to check whether there is a right to a pension increase.

The employers justify the required limitation to new retirees by saying that currently only one percent of all over-65s with at least 35 years of employment are dependent on social assistance in old age. In today’s pension portfolio there is therefore “no special need for social policy action”.

The BDA also requires clarification that the pension insurance must be reimbursed by the federal government for all costs incurred for the basic pension. The previously planned increase in the tax subsidy is not enough because otherwise the pension fund would bear all cost risks. In addition, the federal reimbursement to the pension insurance must also include the high administrative costs resulting from the introduction of the benefit and the income test.

The BDA is particularly critical of the planned procedure to check investment income. Pensioners should report such income to the pension insurance company in a self-assessment. “The administrative costs required would be higher than the services saved by crediting,” says the statement. If no other solution could be found, “it would be better not to count this income altogether”.

More: Hubertus Heil has landed a coup with the basic pension, says Handelsblatt editor Gregor Waschinski.


Why big data is in a dilemma

Frankfurt At a conference for actuaries, Deloitte consultants said they could use consumers’ shopping histories to assess their health status as well as a traditional medical exam.

Using this example, the British computer scientists and statisticians Bryce Goodman and Seth Flaxman illustrate in a technical essay which dilemma lies in the attractive commercial possibilities of big data. They are often hard at the vague frontier of illicit discrimination.

According to the European General Data Protection Regulation, health data are particularly sensitive data, the commercial processing of which is only permitted with explicit permission and special precautions.

In addition, everyone has the right to have the algorithm used clearly explained, to protest against the result and to demand a decision by a human being if sensitive data is used.

But when actuaries use such calculation models – also known as algorithms – to help decide who gets insurance at what price, they do not access health data directly. “Either the regulation is interpreted narrowly and only the direct use of sensitive data is meant, then there is no protection against discrimination,” conclude Goodman and Flaxman. Or, in a further interpretation, the use of data is also meant that allows strong conclusions to be drawn about the sensitive properties: “Then the regulation is not practical.”

The latter is because the algorithms of the newer generation can hardly be explained in an understandable way. This is all the more true when it comes to learning systems that develop the algorithm independently. Then even the developers no longer know exactly which data is weighted and interpreted in which combination and how.

Risks to companies

The business ethicist Adair Morse from the University of California and the central bank economist Karen Pence dealt with the problems that arise in the area of ​​finance in the article “Technological Innovation and Discrimination in Household Finance”.

They highlight the major risks that companies face when rules and current technical possibilities fall apart. The great and difficult challenge for legislators and lawyers to find a workable solution is just as clear.

The good news is that data-driven decisions reduce the potential for the particularly unsavory form of discrimination, which in economic jargon is called “taste based discrimination”, ie discrimination based on aversion or prejudice. When decision-makers no longer have as much freedom to make decisions, they can no longer easily discriminate against people they don’t like.

The bad news: The second form of discrimination, “statistical discrimination”, could become more widespread through data-based creation of profiles and decisions.

Statistical discrimination occurs when, for lack of information about the individual, for example about his creditworthiness or life expectancy, one falls back on the average values ​​of a group to which this person belongs. A woman is classified differently from a man. This was common for life insurance companies until it was banned by the courts as discriminatory.

As the amount of data increases, it becomes more difficult for commercial users to avoid this form of discrimination. At the same time, it becomes more difficult for the courts and regulators to prove and punish them.

Statistical discrimination serves to maximize profits. This is a motive that jurisprudence accepts in principle as legitimate. But the limits of what is allowed are blurred. It becomes problematic, for example, if good faith or the higher information costs of disadvantaged groups are used to charge higher prices than others. This can contradict the rules for equal access to goods and services.

So far, it has already been the case that sellers, for example of cars or loans, use rules of thumb about the possibilities of different groups to compare prices for price differentiation. However, if algorithms can now calculate how price-sensitive each individual is based on a large amount of data and, in principle, you can give each buyer a different price, this will take on a whole new quality.

Discrimination can also occur in an unexpected way, for example if minorities are heavily underrepresented in the data sets used to train artificial intelligence. With facial recognition, this has led to fair-skinned people and men being recognized much more reliably than dark-skinned people and women.

If credit default probabilities are determined, the effect of the small number means that the estimate for minorities is significantly more uncertain. If the algorithm limits lending to a default risk below a threshold, that alone can lead to rejections for the minority, even if loan defaults are not more common in their group.

Treacherous purchases

While the courts were able to easily recognize and judge different insurance premiums for men and women, it is hardly possible today to determine whether there is indirect discrimination based on gender, age or health. Because the algorithms sometimes include thousands of features. Even if the protected features are not included, they are very often included indirectly, for example, because men rarely buy tampons and the purchase of medication allows good conclusions to be drawn about their age and state of health.

It is therefore all the more urgent that politicians, regulators and courts have to take on the task of adapting the relevant laws, judgments and regulatory requirements on the subject of discrimination to a new situation in which the unequal treatment is set up in the data sets and is “decided” by algorithms that are difficult to understand. “The decisions of the next few years will influence whether discrimination in financial services will become pervasive or not,” warn Morse and Pence.

While they do not offer discussed solutions to this problem, they do indicate where one could be. They consider the previous test system to be no longer practical. The variables used in a commercial decision are used to check whether there is any discrimination.

They promote thinking about an output-oriented model. According to this, discrimination should be considered, which results in people with certain protected characteristics being worse off than people without this characteristic.

At the same time, they complain that economic research cannot contribute as much to the necessary adjustment as it could. Research that puts the interests of consumers at the center hardly takes place. Instead, it is almost only about the interests of the data-using companies.

The reason is the power of those who have the data. “The algorithms are complex, and the data are the property of the technology corporations,” she explains, adding: “A lot of research is therefore necessarily done in partnership with them.”

More: That is the difference between AI and explainable AI.


Sharp criticism of Heils EU posting directive

Berlin “The same wages for the same work – for everyone in Europe: preventing wage dumping” – that was how Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil (SPD) overwritten his key points on the EU posting of workers directive in May 2019. With his bill, which was passed by the federal cabinet in mid-February, Heil would not live up to this claim, criticizes the union political spokesman for the left-wing faction, Pascal Meiser: “The federal government obviously does not want to take any action against the full-bodied announcements to cross-border wage dumping” Meiser said to the Handelsblatt.

The number of EU citizens who are sometimes sent to work by their companies to work in Germany had increased significantly, especially after the eastward expansion of the EU. In 2010 only 250,000 so-called A1 certificates were issued for entry into Germany, in 2018 the figure was just under 429,000. This emerges from the Federal Government’s answer to a written question from Meiser. With the A1 certificate, a posted worker can prove that he is covered by social security in his home country.

In view of the sharp rise in numbers, the EU adopted the revision of the 1996 Posting of Workers Directive in 2018 and gave the member states until mid-2020 to adapt national law accordingly. So far, posted workers have only been entitled to the statutory minimum wage in their target country. The aim of the reform is to largely equate domestic workers with regard to wages and other working conditions – for example, to pay them minimum industry wages or to equate them with travel expenses if, for example, they have to travel from one construction site to another in Germany.

From Meiser’s point of view, Heil’s design falls far short of the possible. For example, only nationwide collective agreements that have been declared generally binding by the state should also apply to posted workers, but not regional ones. Only if an employee is posted for more than twelve months – or with an extension option longer than 18 months – should all the regulations applicable at the place of employment take effect.

Federal government needs to make improvements

Such long stays are the exception. According to the so far incomplete numbers of A1 certificates issued for 2019, the Ministry of Labor assumes that only 9.8 percent of the employees sent to Germany by their company for more than twelve months and even only 8.8 percent for more than Be sent for 18 months.

The federal government must therefore urgently improve, Meiser demands. “For posted workers in Germany, the same working conditions and generally applicable collective agreements must apply from the start as for domestic workers. Everything else is eyewash. “

In contrast, the Federal Association of German Employers’ Associations (BDA) criticizes that the revision of the posting of workers directive will make cross-border employee deployment within the European Union even more complex and bureaucratic. “The posting of workers directive contradicts EU fundamental freedoms,” wrote the BDA in December last year in its statement on the proposed law. The use of employees abroad would become more expensive and less legally certain, as there could be considerable sanctions for violations.

Germany is not only the main target country for posted workers from the EU, but also the second largest sending agency. According to the EU Commission, German authorities issued just under 476,000 A1 certificates in 2018 that are required for cross-border posting. Only Poland has more than 600,000.

Employers have therefore long been relieving bureaucratic obligations. An A1 certificate must be requested electronically from the health or pension insurance company not only for longer stays abroad, but also for sales talks, visits to trade fairs or participation in meetings, training sessions or seminars, which often last only a few days or sometimes even hours.

Companies and employees unsettled

In addition, different regulations apply from EU country to EU country with regard to the obligation to carry along and controls. France and Austria are particularly strict, as they control more and face severe penalties. “This A1 certificate madness unsettles our companies as well as the employees,” criticizes BDA general manager Steffen Kampeter. “It cannot be the case that these practice-unrelated regulations restrict one of the greatest achievements of the European Union – namely the internal market – in such a way.”

Employers therefore appeal to decision-makers at European level to exempt “normal business trips” and most short-term jobs in general from applying for any certificates. An attempt by the EU Commission to abolish the obligation to issue A1 certification as part of the revision of the rules on the coordination of social security systems had failed last year.

In February, Minister of Labor Heil and Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier (CDU) sent a letter to the EU Parliament demanding that, in the future, if you were to work for a maximum of seven to 30 days, you should “generally refrain from applying for an A1 certificate beforehand” .

More: The Federal Government wants to make it easier for workers to be posted abroad at short notice – against the resistance of the unions.


Ex-developer of Google robot cars fined

Anthony Levandowski

Uber, the agent in Uber’s self-driving car program, is said to have stolen Google’s business secrets.

(Photo: AP)

San Francisco One of the leading experts in the development of self-driving cars must be his former employer Google pay a fine of $ 179 million. That was decided by a court in San Francisco on Wednesday local time.

Anthony Levandowski had been accused of secrets from the Google group to his future employer About betrayed and illegally wooed employees. The robot car specialist then registered private bankruptcy.

The focus of the dispute is the technology of the so-called laser radars – the rotating devices with which the vehicles scan their surroundings. Levandowski was one of the leading specialists who first developed the technology for the Google robot car and then for the newly founded sister company Waymo. He left Waymo in early 2016 and founded the self-driving truck start-up Otto, which Uber bought a few months later for $ 680 million. Levandowski then became head of Uber’s robot car program.

In February 2017, Waymo sued its competitor Uber, claiming that Levandowski had downloaded 14,000 documents prior to its departure. Uber always denied that the confidential documents had ever reached the operator.

Unfair and fraudulent practices

An arbitration panel then ruled last December that Levandowski and another developer had used unfair and fraudulent practices by secretly poaching Google colleagues. On Wednesday, a San Francisco County court upheld the arbitral tribunal’s decision and ordered Levandowski to pay $ 179 million to Google.

In his application for bankruptcy protection, Levandowski stated that he had assets of $ 50 to $ 100 million. This is not enough to pay Google the required amount. However, it is still unclear whether Levandowski was not released from liability claims by a clause in his employment contract with Uber. Uber left this question open in a recent announcement to the stock exchange supervisory authority.

More: Why the auto industry relies primarily on robotaxis.