Friday Five: Salesforce picks up Slack to take on Microsoft

Zone’s Martha Green handpicks and shares the five best new stories on digital trends, experiences and technologies…

1. Salesforce picks up Slack, takes on Microsoft

In one of the biggest tech mergers in recent years, Salesforce has agreed to buy work messaging app Slack for £20bn. Described as a “match made in heaven” by CEO Marc Benioff, the union offers Salesforce the chance to expand beyond its core markets of sales and marketing, and put it in a better position to take on Microsoft.

Slack, founded in 2009, has seen its share price sink since launching publicly in 2019 and has missed out on the stratospheric rise enjoyed by other tech firms, such as Zoom, during the pandemic. It has suffered badly since Microsoft launched Teams in 2016, with Slack’s 12.5 million users dwarfed by Teams’ 100 million users.

2. Amazon primes firms to keep tabs on staff

In the latest ‘Big Brother is watching you’ news, Amazon is planning to sell companies a way to detect when staff are not wearing face masks or socially distancing. The Panorama box can be retrofitted to existing security cameras in factories or shops and then track employees using off-the-shelf AI apps.

Unsurprisingly, this has raised concerns among privacy campaigners, who say social distancing is being used as an excuse for data collection. Also unsurprisingly, Amazon has refuted the characterisation of its new product as a surveillance tool, insisting it’s designed to “improve industrial operations and workplace safety”.

3. Ditch HD to help fight against climate change

You can now fight climate change while catching up on your favourite TV show. According to report by scientists at the UK’s Royal Society, HD video streaming on a phone generates about eight times more in carbon emissions than standard definition, and on a small screen you might not even notice the difference.

The report says digital tech’s estimated contribution to global emissions range from 1.4% to 5.9%. Other ways to help include turning off videos when listening to music and keeping your mobile phone for longer — although the report notes that a person’s emissions from digital tech pale in comparison to flying just once a year.

4. NHS app adds self-isolation payment feature

The NHS Covid-19 app is getting an update that allows users to claim a self-isolation payment. People told to stay at home for 14 days can qualify for £500 of support if they are on low incomes and can’t work from home, but because the app kept users’ identities secret, they were unable to access the financial support through the app.

It is hoped adding the payment feature into the app will have a twofold benefit: encouraging more people to install the app, and to follow the stay-at-home guidance, particularly over the busy Christmas period. Citizen’s Advice has said many people face “an impossible choice” due to a big drop in their income if they stay home.

5. Spotify security unwrapped by hacker

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, not Christmas, I mean the day when Spotify reveals its annual Wrapped playlist and you realise that your most played tracks of the year are the same as last year. Unfortunately this year Spotify’s big day was tarnished by a hacker pledging his love for Taylor Swift and, er, Donald Trump.

The target of the attack was a Spotify site specially for musicians and their labels called Spotify for Artists, which is password-protected. That didn’t stop hacker ‘Daniel’ infiltrating the pages of Dua Lipa and Future, and he even swapped Lana Del Rey’s picture for one of Swift. Let’s hope that doesn’t cause any bad blood..

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