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Court requires Glassdoor reveal identities of anonymous users

(BUSINESS NEWS) Glassdoor is being forced to identify anonymous reviewers in ongoing grand jury case and their fight may already be over.

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The U.S. Court of Appeals has recently denied Glassdoor Inc’s motion to quash a grand jury subpoena requiring the company to reveal identifying information about anonymous users who wrote reviews about a separate company.

Although reviews are anonymous, users on Glassdoor must provide an email address, which does not appear on the site. Before the company posts a review, the author is notified that while rare, their information may be disclosed if required by law. However, Glassdoor’s Privacy Policy also notes that the company will “take appropriate action to protect the anonymity” of users.

Glassdoor argued that complying with the subpoena would violate anonymous speech rights and violate privacy. The Court of Appeals was like, yeah whatevs, this is about a federal case so give up those names.

The subpoena is in relation to an ongoing investigation by an Arizona Federal Grand Jury. Allegedly, a government contractor that administers two Department of Veteran’s Affairs programs committed wire fraud and misused government funds. As of March 2017, 125 reviews have been posted on Glassdoor by current and former employees of the contractor.

On March 6, 2017, Glassdoor was served with a subpoena ordering the company to provide identifying information about the reviewers, including emails, IP addresses, and billing information.

Glassdoor argued this request violated their user’s First Amendment rights, and the government agreed to limit the scope of its request to eight crucial reviews.

The government noted this information would aid the investigation, enabling them to contact the reviewers as third party witnesses to business practices related to the case. However, Glassdoor was still not cool with this, and filed a motion to suppress the subpoena.

The district court denied the motion, upholding their stance that since the investigation was not being conducted in bad faith, the company must respond under pain of contempt. Basically, Glassdoor is going to get charged $5000 a day until they comply.

Most of the argument stems from Supreme Court Case Branzburg v. Hayes, which stipulates that reporters generally cannot refuse to testify in a criminal grand jury. Branzburg v. Hayes combined three separate cases regarding journalists reporting illicit activity, but protecting their sources from identification.

Glassdoor argues since they are not a news organization, this case should not apply to their users. The court shot back that although Glassdoor isn’t technically in the news business, just like the reporters in Branzburg, the company publishes information from sources it agrees not to identify.

While Glassdoor’s commitment to protecting its users is noble, since review posters are notified before each posting their info may be shared, Glassdoor may not have the same grounds of arguing promised anonymity as the reporters in the Branzburg case. Plus, since the investigation is in good faith, the government contends that the company has no reason for resistance.

Glassdoor insists the court instead focus on the results of Bursey v. United States, a case regarding the First Amendment rights of groups considered subversive by the government. Bursey requires government investigations to satisfy a three-part “compelling interest” test to proceed.

The Court of Appeals argues that since Glassdoor users aren’t really a special community group, the precedent set in Branzburg about investigations in good faith more accurately applies to the current case.

Since the government is not investigating Glassdoor itself, but rather attempting to further the grand jury case with information from users, Glassdoor’s motion to quash the subpoena was denied.

The eight users whose reviews were flagged will likely have to testify in the case, and Glassdoor cannot further refuse to identify the reviewers.

Lindsay is an editor for The American Genius with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. DeeJayH

    November 15, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    “yeah whatever?” & “not cool with this?” until reading those I had no idea using GENIUS in your name was for comedic effect. #kudos. Can not believe that went right over my head

    • Lani Rosales

      November 15, 2017 at 3:05 pm

      From time to time, our writers slide in little jokes or silly notes – just making sure you’re all paying attention! 😉 #GoodEye

  2. Leslie

    December 22, 2017 at 3:56 pm

    The correct things to do for a website like Glassdoor is to not collect this information. Not having this information means the government cannot request it.
    A website like Startpage, for example, differentiates it from the Googles of this world in this manner.
    I do agree that the juvenile writing in this article makes me doubt whether the contents are serious.

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Business News

Finally the American workforce is now mostly women!

(BUSINESS NEWS) Women officially make up more than half the workforce, but that doesn’t mean total equality. So what does this tipping of the scale mean?

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Equality for women has finally been achieved: according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women now make up more than half of the workforce! That’s it, that’s the article.

Kidding. Just because women are currently in the majority doesn’t mean all their problems are solved.

First, it’s worth noting that although women currently make up more than half of employees on payroll, that number is slight (50.04% to be exact). Not to mention, women are very likely to fall back in the minority once construction – a male dominated profession – picks back up in the spring.

Still, the number of women in the workforce has been growing over the last decade. While jobs in manufacturing – another male dominated field – are dwindling, jobs in education and healthcare are growing. When it comes to K-12 teaching, for example, women are more likely to fill teaching roles. Women also dominate in nursing.

Not to mention, women are earning more degrees than men!

That said, despite this progress, women as a whole are still getting paid less than men. Part of the reason lies in the types of careers that women end up in. Those female-dominated fields we mentioned earlier? They don’t typically pay well. Plus, there’s that pesky glass ceiling that still exists in some fields. Remember, there are more CEOs named John than female CEOs.

It’s also worth noting that the information collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics only covered people on a payroll. That means the growing number of freelancers aren’t being accounted for in the report. Freelancing has become a great way for individuals, often women, to stay home and care for their family while also earning money. It would be interesting to know how freelancers shift the balance, both in employment and income.

Finally, there’s the invisible labor that women often contribute to society. According to the UN, women account for 75% of all unpaid labor – which includes things like childcare, meal prep and cleaning. This is vital labor that is not accounted for by studies like that of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and sheds light into another reason why women might still have lower pay than men, on average.

So, yes, the fact that women make up over half the workforce is something to be celebrated! That said, we’ve still got work to do on the equality front.

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Business News

Interview escape plan 101: Because you definitely need one

(BUSINESS NEWS) A job interview should be a place to ask about qualifications but it seems more people are asked about their personal life. How do you escape this problem?

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“So, why did you move from Utah to Austin?” the interviewer asked over the phone.

The question felt a little out of place in the job interview, but I gave my standard answer about wanting a fresh scene. I’d just graduated college and was looking to break into the Austin market. But the interviewer wasn’t done.

“But why Austin?” he insisted, “There can’t be that many Mormons here.”

My stomach curled. This was a job interview – I’d expected to discuss my qualifications for the position and express my interest in the company. Instead, I began to answer more and more invasive questions about my personal life and religion. The whole ordeal left me very uncomfortable, but because I was young and desperate, I put up with it. In fact, I even went back for a second interview!

At the time, I thought I had to put up with that sort of treatment. Only recently have I realized that the interview was extremely unprofessional and it wasn’t something I should have felt obligated to endure.

And I’m not the only one with a bad interview story. Recently, Slate ran an article sharing others’ terrible experiences, which ranged from having their purse inspected to being trapped in a 45 minute presentation! No doubt, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mistreatment by potential employers.

So, why do we put up with it?

Well, sometimes people just don’t know better. Maybe, like I was, they’re young or inexperienced. In these cases, these sorts of situations seem like they could just be the norm. There’s also the obvious power dynamic: you might need a job, but the potential employers probably don’t need you.

While there might be times you have to grit your teeth and bear it, it’s also worth remembering that a bad interview scenario often means bad working conditions later on down the line. After all, if your employers don’t respect you during the interview stage, it’s likely the disrespect will continue when you’re hired.

Once you’ve identified an interview is bad news, though, how do you walk out? Politely. As tempting as it is to make a scene, you probably don’t want to go burning bridges. Instead, excuse yourself by thanking your interviewers, wishing them well and asserting that you have realized the business wouldn’t be a good fit.

Your time, as well as your comfort, are important! If your gut is telling you something is wrong, it probably is. It isn’t easy, but if a job interview is crossing the line, you’re well within your rights to leave. Better to cut your losses early.

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Business News

What’s DMT and why are techies and entrepreneurs secretly taking the drug?

(BUSINESS) The tech world and entrepreneur world are quietly taking a psychadellic in increasing numbers – they make a compelling case, but it’s not without risks.

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Move over tortured artists and festival-goers, psychedelics aren’t just for you anymore. An increasing number of professionals in Silicon Valley swear by “microdosing” psychedelic substances such as lysergic acid diethylamide(LSD) in efforts to heighten creativity and drive innovative efforts.

This probably isn’t a shock to anyone following trends in tech and startups, particularly the glorification of the 8-trillion hour workweek (#hustle). But business owners, entrepreneurs, and technologists are also turning to other hallucinogens to awaken higher levels of consciousness in hopes of influencing favorable business results.

Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is growing in popularity as business leaders and creatives flock to Peru or mastermind retreats to ingest the drug. It exists in the human body as well as other animals and plants. In his book DMT: The Spirit Molecule, Dr. Rick Strassman says “this ‘spirit’ molecule provides our consciousness access to the most amazing and unexpected visions, thoughts and feelings. It throws open the door to worlds beyond our imagination.”

The substance is commonly synthesized in a lab and smoked, with short-lived effects (between five to 45 minutes, however, some say it lasts for hours).

Traditionally, however, it is extracted from various Amazonian plant species and snuffed or consumed as a tea (called ayahuasca or yage). The effects of DMT when consumed in this manner can last as long as ten hours. Entrepreneurs are attracted to the “ayahuasca experience” for its touted ability to provide clarity, vision and inventiveness.

Physical effects are said to include an increase in blood pressure and a raised heart rate. Users report gastrointestinal effects when taken orally, commonly referred to as the “purge.” The purging can include vomiting or diarrhea, which makes for interesting conversation at the next company whiteboarding session.

Users are subject to dizziness, difficulty regulating body temperature, and muscular incoordination. Users also risk seizures, respiratory failure, or falling into a coma.

DMT can interfere with medications or foods, a reason why many indigenous tribes that work with it also follow specific dietary guidelines prior to ingestion. Not paying attention to diet or prescription medication prior to consuming ayahuasca or DMT can lead to the opposite of the intended effect, potentially even causing trauma or death.

So why the hell are people putting themselves through this ordeal?

Many claim profound mental effects, often experiencing a transformative occurrence that provides clarity and healing. Auditory and visual hallucinations are common, with reports of geometric shapes and sharp, bold colors. Many report intense out-of-body experiences, an altered sense of time and space or ego dissolution (“ego death”).

Studies have indicated long-term effects in people who use DMT. Some report a reduction in symptoms of depression or anxiety.

Subjects in an observational study showed significant reductions in stress after participating in an ayahuasca ceremony, with effects lasting through the 4-week follow-up period.

Subjects also showed improvements in convergent thinking that were still evident at the 4-week follow up. People who consume DMT generally chronicle improvements in their overall satisfaction of life, and claim they are more mindful and aware after the experience.

It’s important to note that dying from ayahuasca is rarely reported, but that doesn’t rule out the risk. It’s also illegal in the states, explaining why groups flock to Peru to visit licensed ayahuasca retreats or why technologists buy DMT on the dark web to avoid detection.

For those considering a DMT journey (and we don’t recommend it based on the illegal nature and health risks), it’s critical to gain a full understanding of the potential risks prior to consumption.

For more reading:

This story was first published here in June, 2019.

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