Hashtag Trending Apr.11-State of the labour market amid tech layoffs, MSI hacked, First defamation case against ChatGPT

Are we losing or winning in the tech job market? Maybe a digital signature can’t always be trusted. And the first defamation lawsuit is filed stating ChatGPT was not just talking smack…

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These stories and more on Hashtag Trending for Tuesday, April 11th

I’m your host Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada and TechNewsDay in the US – here’s today’s top tech news stories.

If you’re confused about whether layoffs have damaged job prospects and calmed what some thought was an over heated competition for tech talent – you are not alone. The data has been sending mixed signals.

But CompTIA an organization that describes itself as nonprofit association for the information technology workforce –  has done an analysis of the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics data and attempted to clarify what is happening.

Despite the much-publicized layoffs we’ve all heard about, employers across the US added 197,000 tech positions in March. The unemployment for tech jobs remained unchanged at 2.2 per cent which is well below the general unemployment rate of 3.5 per cent 

That’s in spite of the fact that this has been a much worse year for layoffs in the tech sector. 2023 layoffs from over 500 tech companies total 168,000 people being laid off, surpassing all of 2022 (164,000 for the year) – even though we are only at the end of the first quarter of 2023. That data comes from layoffs.fyi

So how is it that we are still in such a strong labour market?  It turns out that there’s a strong demand from outside the tech sector in manufacturing, finance and insurance and other areas.

Job postings for tech positions rose to nearly 316,000 and that’s up 38 per cent from February.

The bottom line seems to be that we shouldn’t confuse what appears to be tech companies overstaffing during the pandemic with the real demand for IT as part of a growing economy.

Gartner, a leading technology advisory firm, still projects that IT spending will grow by 5.5 per cent this year. That’s up from a more conservative forecast of 2.4 per cent.

There is no doubt that lay-offs and job losses are real, disruptive and take a toll on people, but overall, it seems like a career in the tech industry is still a good idea.

We’ll give the final word on this to Tim Herbert, chief research officer at CompTIA.

 “While caution is in order given the state of uncertainty, the data suggests segments of employers may be stepping back into the tech talent market.” 

Sources: Layoffs.fyi / Comptia

While demand for tech employees has continued to rise, the demand for PCs has continued to decline. According to a report in Reuters, global shipments of personal computers dropped by nearly a third in the first quarter of 2023. 

Industry analysts at Canalys blamed, “weak demand, excess inventory and a bleak economic outlook for the shipment declines. 

Canalys analyst Ishan Dutt is quoted saying, “Most of the issues that plagued the industry in the second half of last year have extended into the start of 2023,” 

Apple had the largest drop of more than 40 per cent. Dell Technologies showed a drop of close to 30 per cent. Lenovo and HP, also faced significant declines. 

There seems to be a consensus among research firms that the market could recover later this year, although some analysts are less optimistic with the crisis in the banking sector and the US Federal Reserve continuing to hike rates to combat inflation. But even those who are less optimistic, like Fox Advisors analyst Steven Fox are not looking at a continued crash. Fox has stated, “We’re saying things are sluggish and are going to stay that way.” 

Source: Reuters

Owners of MSI brand motherboards, GPUs, notebooks, PCs and other equipment are being advised by the the company to be very cautious when updating their device firmware or BIOS and obtain firmware/BIOS updates only from the MSI official website.

It turns out that MSI was hacked by a group known as Money Message who have claimed to have stolen data from MSI that includes source code, private keys and BIOS firmware.

While relying on only official sites sounds like common sense, security blog The Register reminds us that its not unusual for these updates to “float around” in forums. 

And they also point out that the theft of BIOS, source code and private keys could allow someone to develop malicious firmware clones that would appear to be digitally signed and authentic.  

Those digital signatures are used to prove that you can trust an update as authentic and from the manufacturer. But with this theft, that idea goes out the window. 

While MSI is the latest, it’s not the only firm of its kind to have a cyberattack or data breach. Acer, another prominent PC maker suffered an attack less than a month ago.  

So be safe – if you can’t identify where a BIOS or firmware update came from – don’t run it.

Source: The Register

The Canadian Privacy Commissioner joins a list of privacy regulators who are looking at ChatGPT for possibly using personal information without permission.  

A report in ITWorldCanada reported that Privacy Commissioner Phillip Dufresne said in a recent statement, AI technology and its effects on privacy is a priority for my Office. We need to keep up with – and stay ahead of – fast-moving technological advances, and that is one of my key focus areas as Commissioner.”

The investigation into OpenAI was launched in response to a complaint, but the Commissioner will not identify the person or organization and with an ongoing investigation, his office will not answer any questions.

Canada’s investigation follows on the heels of similar concerns and investigations from regulators in Italy, France and Ireland.

But the regulators may have a tough time dealing with ChatGPT.  Since OpenAI does not have offices in Europe or Canada, how to regulate it may be an issue. And it doesn’t look like there will be a great deal of cooperation from the public for any ban or restrictions, based on the experience in Italy.  When ChatGPT was restricted in Italy AtlasVPN reported that demand for virtual private network software (VPNs) that can allow users to disguise their location jumped 400 per cent. 

Source:  IT World Canada

We may see the first defamation case against an Artificial Intelligence bot.  Brian Hood, Mayor of Hepburn Shire Council in Australia has served notice that the software has defamed him. 

According to Hood, and verified by the BBC, ChatGPT falsely reported that he was sent to jail for bribery when working for Australia’s national bank. Hood states that he was a whistleblower and never charged with a crime. 

Which points out one of the key issues with AI is that when it makes false claims, it sounds very convincing. The BBC reported that ChatGPT stated that Hood “pleaded guilty to one count of bribery in 2012 and was sentenced to four years in prison. 

Hood states that he was “horrified” to see what ChatGPT was telling people. 

Worse still, the results were different on different versions of the chatbot. Microsoft’s Bing correctly identifies him as a “whistleblower” and says he was “not involved in the payment of bribes.”  

So it’s possible, depending on which version of AI you use, that there could be incredible inaccuracies which the average person might not even know about.   

I think, Mayor Hood got it right.  That is horrifying.

Source: BBC

That’s the top tech news for today.  Hashtag Trending goes to air five days a week with the daily tech news and we have a special weekend edition where we do an in depth interview with an expert on some tech development that is making the news. 

Follow us on Apple, Google, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. Links to all the stories we’ve covered can be found in the text edition of this podcast at itworldcanada.com/podcasts

We love your comments – good or bad. You can find me on LinkedIn, Twitter, or on Mastodon as @therealjimlove on our Mastodon site technews.social.  Or just leave a comment under the text version at itworldcanada.com/podcasts  

I’m your host, Jim Love, have a Terrific Tuesday!

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Jim Love
Jim Lovehttp://www.itworldcanada.com/
I've been in IT and business for over 30 years. I worked my way up, literally from the mail room and I've done every job from mail clerk to CEO. Today I'm CIO of a great company - IT World Canada - Canada's leading ICT publisher.

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