Marketplace Tech

By Marketplace

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Monday through Friday, Marketplace’s Molly Wood demystifies the digital economy in less than 10 minutes. Reporting from Oakland, California, she looks past the hype and ask tough questions about an industry that’s constantly changing.

Episode Date
Can we print our way out of the affordable housing crisis?

The cost of building a new house has gone up sharply over the past year. Not just because of lumber, but because steel, insulation, windows and appliances are all harder to get and more expensive because of high demand and delays. A number of startups have promised to revolutionize construction with new materials and technologies. It’s not easy — the modular construction startup Katerra filed for bankruptcy earlier this month. But there are others looking to disrupt the housing industry. Marketplace’s Amy Scott speaks with Sam Ruben, the co-founder and chief sustainability officer of Mighty Buildings, which uses an enormous 3D printer in a warehouse in Oakland, California, to build houses.

Jun 15, 2021
What the failure of a construction startup tells us about SoftBank

SoftBank launched its first, $100 billion Vision Fund in 2017. Just last month, the Japanese conglomerate led by Masayoshi Son said the fund had delivered record profits for the quarter. But there have been some big failures too. The modular-construction startup Katerra filed for bankruptcy last week. SoftBank had invested more than $2 billion in the company. Katerra had borrowed money from Greensill Capital, which also received about $2 billion of SoftBank money. Greensill also collapsed earlier this year. That, of course, follows the WeWork debacle a couple of years ago. Marketplace’s Amy Scott speaks with Sarah Kunst, managing director of the venture firm Cleo Capital. She said SoftBank’s strategy has been to make huge bets on relatively unproven companies.

Jun 14, 2021
How tech might clean up concrete

Las Vegas hosted its first in-person convention this week since the pandemic. It’s called World of Concrete, which normally attracts some 60,000 engineers, architects, masons and contractors. Not quite a full turnout this year, but Marketplace senior reporter Matt Levin was there. Marketplace’s Amy Scott asked Levin what kind of tech he’s seen there.

Jun 11, 2021
A boost for TikTok and those who make money from it

President Joe Biden on Wednesday rescinded a series of executive orders from the Trump administration that had tried to ban the Chinese-owned apps TikTok and WeChat here in the United States. The orders had been blocked by federal judges. Instead, the Biden administration plans a security review of those and other apps. Many turned to the short-form video app TikTok for entertainment during the pandemic or to create their own content. Marketplace’s Amy Scott speaks with Charley Button, a talent manager at Select Management Group, where she manages some TikTok creators.

Jun 10, 2021
Massive online courses got a boost during the pandemic. Will it last?

When a couple of Stanford professors founded Coursera in 2012, they promised to democratize access to higher education by making courses from prestigious colleges available online. Nearly a decade later, many of us were thrust into the world of online education by the pandemic. Tens of millions of new users joined Coursera’s platform, some just looking for lectures to occupy their time, others seeking new skills in areas like machine learning and data science. Marketplace’s Amy Scott speaks with Jeff Maggioncalda, the CEO of Coursera. He said states like New York and Tennessee have also paid the company to provide free courses for unemployed residents.

Jun 09, 2021
Amazon’s Ring changes how police get doorbell footage

More than 2,000 police and fire departments have partnerships with Amazon to use surveillance video from its Ring security cameras. This week, the company changed the way law enforcement can access that video. Now, departments will have to post public requests on Amazon’s Neighbors app and include some details about the relevant investigation. Police used to be able to directly email users without making the request public. Marketplace’s Amy Scott speaks with Andrew Guthrie Ferguson, a law professor at American University and author of the book “The Rise of Big Data Policing.”

Jun 08, 2021
Big Tech is mining our medical records for patterns

Hospitals and other health care systems are eager to find patterns in their patient data that can help treat and prevent illness and cut costs. In England, the National Health Service is collecting the medical histories of up to 55 million patients to share with third parties. Here in the U.S., Google will help the hospital chain HCA Healthcare store and analyze health data. Amazon, IBM and Microsoft have similar partnerships. Marketplace’s Amy Scott speaks with Deven McGraw, chief regulatory officer at the health records startup Ciitizen. She’s also an adviser to Verily, a sister company to Google. McGraw says predictive analytics can help providers anticipate things like which patients are at risk of coming back to the hospital after surgery.

Jun 07, 2021
Insurance for ransomware payments is getting harder to come by

Throughout the pandemic we’ve seen hospitals, pipelines and other critical infrastructure hit with ransomware attacks. Just this past week, meat processor JBS and a ferry operator in Massachusetts were targets. Hackers often target companies with insurance because they know they’re more likely to pay their often multimillion-dollar demands. Marketplace’s Amy Scott speaks with James Rundle, who covers corporate cybersecurity at The Wall Street Journal. He says the increase in attacks has had a real impact on the cyber insurance market. Premiums are rising, and some insurers won’t cover ransom payments anymore.

Jun 04, 2021
More houses are being sold without ever hitting the market, furthering inequality

One promise of technology is open access to information –– if that information is shared. The tight housing market has led to a rise in what are called “pocket listings,” where a home is for sale but only offered to select clients. It’s common with celebrities seeking privacy. But one big real estate site, Redfin, is not taking part. Marketplace’s Amy Scott speaks with Glenn Kelman, Redfin chief executive, about why his company stopped using pocket listings in 2018. Kelman is on a bit of a campaign to end the practice. A Redfin analysis found that 4% of homes nationally were sold this March without being marketed. In Kansas City, Columbus and Minneapolis, more than 10% of sales were pocket listings. In Chicago, about 15%.

Jun 03, 2021
3 years after Europe’s GDPR, what’s changed in tech privacy?

It’s been three years since the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, took effect. At its core, the law was meant to give consumers more control over how companies collect, share and use their personal data. It was the first major privacy law with real teeth in the form of potentially large fines for companies that didn’t comply. But that didn’t really happen until recently. Marketplace’s Amy Scott speaks with Jessica Lee, who advises companies on privacy as a partner with the law firm Loeb & Loeb. She said consumer advocates tracking enforcement have been somewhat disappointed.

Jun 02, 2021
Battling climate change and climate misinformation all at the same time

So far, most of our conversations about disinformation have been about politics, the 2020 election and, during the pandemic, misleading posts about COVID-19 and the vaccine. Facebook and Twitter have gotten more aggressive about fact-checking, labeling and removing posts or accounts that misinform the public about those two topics. But now, there’s growing concern about climate misinformation. In some cases, coming from a lot of the same old sources either denying that climate change is caused by humans, downplaying its impact or spreading conspiracies about it. “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood speaks with Erin McAweeney, a senior analyst at Graphika. She said the fracking discussion in last year’s presidential debate and the 2020 wildfires both led to spikes in climate misinformation.

Jun 01, 2021
Bias in facial recognition isn’t hard to discover, but it’s hard to get rid of

This episode originally aired on March 22, 2021.

Joy Buolamwini is a researcher at the MIT Media Lab who pioneered research into bias that’s built into artificial intelligence and facial recognition. And the way she came to this work is almost a little too on the nose. As a graduate student at MIT, she created a mirror that would project aspirational images onto her face, like a lion or tennis star Serena Williams. But the facial-recognition software she installed wouldn’t work on her Black face, until she literally put on a white mask. Buolamwini is featured in a documentary called “Coded Bias,” now streaming on Netflix. She told “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood about one scene in which facial-recognition tech was installed at an apartment complex in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York.

May 31, 2021
Companies keep overpromising about AI

The insurance company Lemonade is all about automation. To file claims, customers upload a selfie video and Lemonade’s chatbot, AI Jim, will handle some claims automatically. On Twitter this week, Lemonade got in trouble suggesting that AI handles fraud detection and uses nonverbal cues to assess some claims. Researchers said that capability doesn’t exist and could be discriminatory. Lemonade quickly downplayed how much AI it uses and said it’s not based on physical features. “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood speaks with Ryan Calo, a professor of law at the University of Washington who studies emerging tech and policy.

May 28, 2021
Amazon’s business dominance is a many-tentacled thing

It’s a big news week for Amazon. First, it got sued by the District of Columbia on antitrust grounds. The lawsuit accuses the company of preventing sellers on its marketplace from offering better prices elsewhere. Then, in another part of its business, Amazon announced that it was acquiring one of the world’s oldest film studios, MGM, which was founded in 1924. So even as big as Amazon is, it just keeps getting bigger, but not in one single market. “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood speaks with Rebecca Allensworth, a law professor at Vanderbilt University. She said that makes antitrust enforcement tricky and that it reminds her of another old company: Standard Oil.

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May 27, 2021
The Apple-Epic antitrust case was a spectator sport

Legal arguments between Apple and Epic Games wound down this week in federal court. Some have called it the Super Bowl of antitrust cases. No flashy halftime show, though, but the trial did have mighty opponents, wild fans and a whole lot of cash. Epic, the maker of the video game Fortnite, argues Apple’s whole operating system is a monopoly and complains about the 30% cut of app sales it takes. But Apple says its tight controls ensure the security of apps in its store. A decision isn’t expected anytime soon. Marketplace’s Meghan McCarty Carino asked Adi Robertson, a senior reporter with the Verge, what we can take away from the case.

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May 26, 2021
Changing venture capital from within, a deal at a time

The tech industry, like most of America, is grappling with its lack of diversity and its systemic inequality. At the top of that pyramid is venture capital. In the VC industry, it’s hard to break through as either a startup founder or an investor. Last summer, Act One Ventures general partner Alejandro Guerrero created a diversity rider for venture capital firms to use in their investment deals. It says a startup and the primary investor in a startup will make every attempt to include a member of an underrepresented group as a co-investor. Guerrero said now more than 50 VC firms have adopted the language, as well as a big law firm that made it standard in all its term sheets — basically the bullet points of an investment deal. He told “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood that the point of the rider is to pause the deal-making process and think about who isn’t in the room.

Cheers to making it through this year! Donate today and get our new Mason Jar Mug and stock market-inspired drink recipes:

May 25, 2021
The tech industry promised to diversify last year. Has it delivered?

This week marks one year since a Minneapolis police officer murdered George Floyd. The year has seen national, even global, protests, demanding justice for Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black victims of police killings as well as a racial reckoning in society and business. Many tech companies came out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and made promises to make their companies more diverse and equitable in a notoriously nondiverse industry. One year later, is it possible to measure their progress? “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood speaks with Megan Rose Dickey, a senior reporter at Protocol who covers labor and diversity in tech.

Cheers to making it through this year! Donate today and get our new Mason Jar Mug and stock market-inspired drink recipes:

May 24, 2021
Self-driving cars might never be able to drive themselves

The California Department of Motor Vehicles said this week it’s reviewing whether Tesla is telling people that its cars are self-driving when, legally speaking, they’re not. This follows fatal crashes that may have involved its Autopilot feature. Tesla advertises a “Full Self-Driving upgrade option.” One man has been busted in Teslas more than once for reckless driving. He hangs out in the backseat and steers with his feet. Meanwhile, no cars are fully self-driving yet. “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood speaks with Missy Cummings, the director of the Humans and Autonomy Laboratory at Duke University. She says the so-called deep learning that cars need to see the road around them doesn’t actually learn.

Cheers to making it through this year! Donate today and get our new Mason Jar Mug and stock market-inspired drink recipes:

May 21, 2021
To solve big problems, sometimes you need a contest

Ninety-four years ago today, Charles Lindbergh took off from New York for Paris on the first solo non-stop flight across the Atlantic. One of the reasons that happened was $25,000 in prize money. The Orteig Prize was one of the inspirations for the modern XPrize, an award given to people solving big problems. The latest prize up for grabs is funded by Elon Musk, who has committed $100 million for a carbon removal technology to combat climate change. Musk’s own SpaceX was likely inspired by the first ever XPrize, which the mid-90s offered $10 million to whoever could build a privately financed reusable spaceship. “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood speaks with Anousheh Ansari, the CEO of the XPrize foundation, who says that the first prize created an industry.

Cheers to making it through this year! Donate today and get our new mason jar mug and stock market-inspired drink recipes:

May 20, 2021
Pandemic relief money is bringing internet access to places that didn’t have it

We’ve been talking for more than a year now about how the internet is everything. And there are still places in the U.S. where there basically is none. For example, Allendale, South Carolina, a town of around 3,000 people that’s not far from the Georgia border. Officials called it an internet desert. The state got $50 million in CARES Act money for broadband expansion and used some of it to install a wireless network in Allendale that runs at broadband speeds. It’s run by a local internet service provider and free to residents through the end of October. “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood speaks with Jim Stritzinger, South Carolina’s broadband coordinator. He says the state went with wireless over fiber broadband because it’s fast to deploy. They went from nothing to offering service in 61 days.

Cheers to making it through this year! Donate today and get our new Mason Jar Mug and stock market-inspired drink recipes:

May 19, 2021
That AT&T-Discovery deal is about the battle for broadband

It’s been not quite three years since AT&T completed its $85 billion merger with Time Warner, with the hope that investing in content would drive customers to consume that content with AT&T’s internet and on AT&T phones. Now, that deal is coming undone. AT&T now plans to spin off HBO, CNN and the rest of its media assets in a deal with Discovery, leaving telecom as its main focus again. Verizon is doing the same thing by getting rid of AOL and Yahoo. Marketplace’s Amy Scott speaks with Roger Entner, who follows the industry as founder of Recon Analytics. He said this comes as the companies pour billions of dollars into 5G and fiber. And it’s hard to fight the broadband war and the streaming war at the same time.

Cheers to making it through this year! Donate today and get our new Mason Jar Mug and stock market-inspired drink recipes:

May 18, 2021
Smart devices are listening to more than our words

Picture this: You’re not feeling so hot and you say to your smart speaker, “Robot, I’m hungry,” and you cough. And the device says, “Would you like a recipe for chicken soup?” And then, “By the way, would you like to order cough drops with one-hour delivery?” This is the scenario laid out in one of Amazon’s patents. And it shows how voice recognition technology could be used to learn things about us, beyond the words we say to our devices. Like whether we’re sick or depressed. Marketplace’s Amy Scott speaks with Joe Turow, a communications professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who writes about all of this in his new book “The Voice Catchers: How Marketers Listen In to Exploit Your Feelings, Your Privacy, and Your Wallet.” 

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May 17, 2021
Even criminal enterprises have reputations to think about

The FBI says a group called DarkSide was behind the ransomware attack that forced Colonial Pipeline to shut down operations last week. DarkSide is believed to have roots in Eastern Europe, possibly Russia, and is fairly new. But like a lot of these ransomware groups, it’s pretty PR-savvy. It’s got a mailing list, press releases and a hotline for victims. Marketplace’s Amy Scott speaks with Brian Krebs, an investigative journalist for Krebs on Security. He wrote a story this week walking through a DarkSide negotiation with another recent victim who wanted reassurance that if they pay the ransom, the hackers will actually give them their data back and won’t sell it or share it with anyone. During the exchange the hacker says, basically: Ask around.

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May 14, 2021
Cryptocurrency miners snap up so many computer chips that mining has become a market

Wednesday on the show, we talked about cryptocurrency’s impact on the environment. Thursday, we talk about its impact on the semiconductor shortage. Miners and gamers are competing for high-powered graphics chips, or GPUs. These are incredibly hard to find right now because of increased pandemic demand. Most are made at the same foundry in Taiwan that’s struggling to produce enough chips for every industry. And yes, crypto miners are snapping them up, too. So to protect their GPU supply, companies like Nvidia are now producing mining-specific chips. “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood speaks with Anshel Sag, a semiconductor analyst at the tech advisory firm Moor Insights & Strategy.

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May 13, 2021
Some states lure crypto miners to keep their coal plants alive

Lately, there’s been a lot more debate about cryptocurrency and how much energy it uses to be produced. Bitcoin, in particular, uses as much energy per year as the Netherlands, its carbon footprint is estimated to be the size of Singapore’s and it generates as much electronic waste as the country of Luxembourg. All these estimates come from the Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index at Digiconomist. “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood speaks with Alex de Vries, the founder of Digiconomist, who says Bitcoin mining involves running millions of computations in kind of a coin-producing lottery, but some cryptocurrencies, like Ethereum, can be created in a less energy-intensive way.

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May 12, 2021
China is leading the digital currency pack. Do we need to keep up?

China is rolling out its own digital currency. It is not a cryptocurrency, it’s an all-electronic version of the yuan, designed to replace cash in circulation, and it’s controlled by China’s central bank. The country has been testing it in a few cities. Unlike Bitcoin, the digital yuan is not anonymous. In fact, it could mean that the central government can track spending better than ever before. It could also potentially compete with the U.S. dollar in global finance. And it actually lets the Chinese government keep the country’s tech giants from taking over its financial system. “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood speaks with Jennifer Pak, Marketplace’s China correspondent.

Support from listeners is what powers our journalism. Your gift today goes back into making the business and tech news you love. Donate now:

May 11, 2021
Is the Facebook Oversight Board something anyone actually needs?

As you’ve probably heard, Facebook has an oversight board. Last week, it upheld the company’s ban of former President Donald Trump, with caveats. The board, created by Facebook and paid for by Facebook, has received such attention and been treated so seriously, that it made us wonder: Is this something other tech companies are going to try? “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood speaks with Marietje Schaake, the president of the CyberPeace Institute, and who helped found a group of experts that calls itself the Real Facebook Oversight Board. She says the actual board misses the big picture.

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May 10, 2021
New president, new FCC, new net neutrality rules?

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been focused on how the internet is everything. This week, we’re talking about the policy that affects the internet. One policy issue that has haunted every Federal Communications Commission in the past decade, and then some, is net neutrality. That’s the idea that internet service providers have to treat all content equally and can’t slow down or charge more for certain kinds of content. Rules have ping-ponged between administrations. Obama’s FCC put neutrality rules in place in 2015 and Trump’s appointee repealed them in 2017. “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood speaks with the new acting chairwoman of the FCC, Jessica Rosenworcel, who supports net neutrality rules. Wood asks Rosenworcel if it’s time for Congress to make something permanent.

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May 07, 2021
The government is making broadband more affordable — for now. How do we make that permanent?

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been focused on how the internet is everything. And this week, we’re talking to the new head of the Federal Communications Commission, which creates most of the policy that affects the internet. Access and infrastructure are important, but only if people can afford that access. Congress has created a new $3 billion fund for low-income Americans to receive $50 per month for broadband service. The subsidies start next week and the program is, for now, temporary. “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood speaks with the new acting chairwoman of the FCC, Jessica Rosenworcel, about how it might change the landscape.

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May 06, 2021
There’s a new boss at the FCC. Let’s talk about the internet, shall we?

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been focused on how the internet is everything. When it comes to federal policy governing the internet, the Federal Communications Commission is everything. Among other roles and responsibilities, the FCC maps out broadband access nationally and its maps are used to determine which areas receive billions of dollars in federal subsidies to help build out more infrastructure. But the data used to create those maps is flawed at best. Last year, Congress passed a law requiring the agency to correct that. “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood speaks with the new acting chairwoman of the FCC, Jessica Rosenworcel, about expanding access — starting with those maps.

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May 05, 2021
Should kids be taking Fake News 101?

From politics to COVID-19, we have a big problem with false information on the internet. There’s been a lot of discussion about what platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube can do to stop it from spreading, or if the government should step in to regulate those spaces. But there’s been less focus on the skills users need to sort through it all, skills that aren’t necessarily taught, at least in a formal way, in the U.S. education system. Meghan McCarty Carino speaks with Helen Lee Bouygues, who is trying to change that. She’s the founder and president of the Reboot Foundation, which teaches critical thinking skills to combat fake news. She says we’re just not inclined to second-guess information when it’s flooding our social media feeds.

May 04, 2021
If the U.S. is going to get serious about cybersecurity, it should start with hiring

The Joe Biden administration is planning to issue an executive order intended to help the country better defend against cyberattacks. One thing the federal government might want to do is just … hire more people to work in cybersecurity. The unemployment rate in the cybersecurity field is close to 0%, according to Erin Weiss Kaya, a strategist focused on cyber-organization with the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. She told “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood that the government should be focused less on technical skills or coding and more on people who are used to problem-solving in stressful environments.

May 03, 2021
When it comes to stopping misinformation, it’s not the speech. It’s the algorithms.

What you see on social media isn’t there by accident. It’s there because of an algorithm, the programs that use data to decide what content will keep you online for the longest possible time — so that you’ll see and click more ads. These algorithms are right up there with the secret recipe for Coke, in business terms, but they’re also the secret formula that helps misinformation, conspiracy theories and fake news spread so fast and so far. Congress this week had a hearing to try to understand this dynamic and, maybe, to regulate it. “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood speaks with Ina Fried, chief technology correspondent for Axios.

Apr 30, 2021
President Biden says green hydrogen is key to a lower emissions future. So, what is it?

We’ve now been covering potential climate solutions on the show for about two years and yet, we must confess, hadn’t thought much about green hydrogen until President Biden brought it up at the climate summit last week. Biden thinks hydrogen plants could be used in steel and power production and as a zero-emissions alternative fuel. And that it’ll create lots of new jobs. So, how viable is green hydrogen, actually? “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood talks with Rachel Fakhry, a policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council. Fakrhy says that in order for this to happen, we’ll have to start producing hydrogen a whole other way.

Apr 29, 2021
App stores are under fire, but they might be necessary

A recent Senate antitrust hearing focused on smartphone app stores and the fees Apple and Google charge developers: 15% for small developers, 30% for larger ones. Companies that create apps, like Match and Spotify, said the fees were too high for what Apple provides and that the terms can change without warning. Developers also pointed out that sometimes Apple might make apps that compete with external apps, as is the case with Spotify and Tile. “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood discusses the whole ecosystem with Julie Ask, a principal analyst covering technology for Forrester Research.

Apr 28, 2021
Biden sees net zero emissions in our future, but the plan relies partly on magic

Carbon capture is the talk of the climate scene right now. That’s technology that removes planet-warming carbon dioxide from the air and sequesters it in the Earth. President Joe Biden on Earth Day laid out a vision of net zero emissions by 2050 that relies partly on carbon removal. Also, Elon Musk last week officially launched a $100 million XPrize to fund carbon capture tech. Australia plans to spend more than $400 million on it, too. But climate scientists say carbon capture risks making us think we can just keep emitting all we want. Molly speaks with James Dyke, a senior lecturer in global systems at the University of Exeter, who recently wrote about this in the Conversation. He said there’s another big problem with carbon capture and storage: It doesn’t exist at scale.

Apr 27, 2021
Schools sometimes share confidential student data with police

The federal government is looking into whether a Florida school district violated privacy law by sharing student data with the county sheriff’s department. An investigation by the Tampa Bay Times found that the Pasco County School District shared grades, disciplinary records and attendance with the Sheriff’s Office, which used the data to create a list of potential future criminals. “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood speaks with Amelia Vance, who is with the nonprofit Future of Privacy Forum.

Apr 26, 2021
Well, AI got quite the talking to this week

The Federal Trade Commission issued a strongly worded post Monday, warning companies against unfair or deceptive practices in their use of artificial intelligence as well as violations of fair-credit rules. It told companies to hold themselves accountable for their algorithms or “be ready for the FTC to do it for you.” Also, the European Union this week drafted detailed legislation that would regulate AI, including banning some surveillance and social-credit scores. Molly speaks with Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington, who said the FTC post was a surprise.

Apr 23, 2021
Smartphone video was the key to convicting George Floyd’s killer. But why did it have to be?

As you’ve heard this week, a jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts in the killing of George Floyd. The key to that case was the video taken by teenager Darnella Frazier with her smartphone. Molly speaks with Allissa Richardson, a professor of journalism at the University of Southern California. She’s the author of the book “Bearing Witness While Black: African Americans, Smartphones and the New Protest #Journalism.” And she argues that smartphones, in most people’s pockets, are a powerful tool for accountability.

Apr 22, 2021
Amazon hasn’t had much antitrust scrutiny compared to other tech giants. That may be about to change.

The Senate is scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday on Lina Khan’s appointment to the Federal Trade Commission. Khan is an associate law professor at Columbia University. She published a paper at Yale in 2017 that laid out a new approach to antitrust enforcement, focused on how big tech companies use their power as gatekeepers to harm competitors and consumers. The example she used was Amazon. Molly speaks with Dana Mattioli, a reporter at The Wall Street Journal covering Amazon. In a recent piece, she described some of those behaviors. One example: when the CEO of the PopSockets phone accessories company met with Amazon about counterfeiters.

Apr 21, 2021
The global chip shortage is hurting startups dreaming up new products

The shortage of semiconductors that has shut down some car factories isn’t going away anytime soon, even though chipmakers are building new factories and promising to ramp up production. The thing is, computer chips are in everything these days. Look around you right now. If you’re at home, maybe you see your laptop or your internet router. They have chips — that’s obvious. But there could also be a chip in your toaster oven, your light switch or your electric toothbrush. Marielle Segarra speaks with Hal Hodson, a technology correspondent at the Economist. He said the chip shortage is causing delays of all kinds of products, especially the ones you don’t even own yet.

Apr 20, 2021
The right to fix your own stuff is finally having a moment in state legislatures

About half of U.S. states are considering right-to-repair bills. They would require manufacturers to publish manuals so that anyone can make repairs on electronics and appliances — everything from iPhones to tractors to ventilators. Some of the bills focus on just one of those categories; in Arkansas, it’s farm equipment, in Oregon, it’s consumer electronics, and in California, it’s medical equipment. And in France, a new law just went into effect requiring makers of some gadgets to put a “repairability” score on the label. Molly Wood speaks with Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit. He says there may be momentum, but there’s also a lot of resistance.

Apr 19, 2021
As if fighting disinformation wasn’t hard enough, there’s a language gap, too

Facebook and other social media companies get plenty of criticism for allowing too much disinformation on their platforms, especially when it comes to elections, pandemic misinformation and untruths about COVID-19 vaccines. Now, critics say, even as the platforms are taking steps toward cracking down, there’s a huge hole in their already spotty enforcement. Not all of the disinformation is in English. There are more than 40 million Spanish speakers in the U.S., and critics say they’ve been targeted with disinformation campaigns since the 2020 election and beyond.

Apr 16, 2021
Microsoft’s latest acquisition shows speech recognition is big business

Microsoft this week announced it will acquire Nuance, a Boston-based speech recognition and artificial intelligence company, for around $16 billion. It’s the company’s largest acquisition after LinkedIn and a big bet on speech recognition technology. Nuance is used most in health care, and about 10,000 health care facilities worldwide use it to capture conversations between patients and doctors and transcribe them in real time. Molly speaks with Daniel Hong, a research director at Forrester. He said that a controlled environment like a clinic or doctor’s office can make the tech more accurate.

Apr 15, 2021
What new regulations for Chinese giant Ant Group mean for the fintech industry abroad

The Chinese company Ant Group does a lot of things. It provides loans, mobile payments through Alipay, credit scores, and it acts as an investment platform. Last year, it was headed for what might have been the biggest initial public offering in history, until the Chinese government abruptly canceled it. The government on Monday forced the company under the control of its central bank and demanded that it restructure as a financial holdings company. All this happened after founder and tech billionaire Jack Ma gave a speech critical of Chinese regulators last year. But the obvious story is not the whole story. Molly Wood speaks with Rui Ma, who advises investors about Chinese companies and technology.

Apr 14, 2021
Don’t look now, but Bitcoin is going mainstream

Cryptocurrency is still kind of niche and a little confusing. The fact that it’s so beloved by eccentric tech billionaires doesn’t make it seem totally normal. But despite being developed as a decentralized alternative to government-created currencies, cryptocurrency is getting increasingly legit. The cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase is going public Wednesday on the Nasdaq. PayPal is now allowing users to pay merchants with cryptocurrency. Visa will accept one type for payments. You can now use crypto to buy a Tesla or to send money on Signal. Molly Wood speaks with Gil Luria, the director of research at D.A. Davidson, who says even though cryptocurrency is a purely digital invented asset, it’s as real as it needs to be right now.

Apr 13, 2021
Amazon beat back a union. But questions about the role of technology at work remain.

As you’ve probably heard by now, the effort to unionize an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, was unsuccessful, though the union said it will challenge the vote. It would have affected just a fraction of Amazon’s workforce, but it captured the attention of the country at a time when e-commerce has become a lifeline and the welfare of essential workers has come under threat. Meghan McCarty Carino spoke with Janice Fine, a professor of labor studies and employment relations at Rutgers University. She said the union push at Amazon and its defeat highlight the growing role of technology in the workplace, especially Amazon’s.

Apr 12, 2021
Another day, another Facebook data leak

Last weekend, a user in a hacking forum published the personal data of about 500 million Facebook users: their email addresses, phone numbers, birthdays and more. In a blog post Tuesday, Facebook said the recent data leak wasn’t a hack, but was from “malicious actors” scraping and saving publicly available information in 2019. Meghan McCarty Carino speaks with Wired senior writer Lily Hay Newman. Even she has a hard time keeping track of all the data leaks from Facebook.

Apr 09, 2021
What if gig workers could train the algorithms that determine their pay?

A couple of drivers for the delivery app DoorDash may have found a way to trick the algorithm that serves them jobs into offering better pay. Bloomberg profiled their effort, which is called #DeclineNow. They encourage other drivers to decline all the lowest-paid jobs to get the app to offer more money. But to make it work, they need a lot of drivers on board, and that can be tricky with gig workers. They don’t share a break room, after all. Instead, they’re getting together online in Facebook Groups and on Reddit. Meghan speaks with Lindsey Cameron, a professor of management at the Wharton School who studies gig workers and worked as an Uber driver herself.

Apr 08, 2021
Work tools feel like social media but without the moderation

For those of us lucky enough to work remotely this past year, talking with colleagues has felt sort of like being in a chatroom with workplace messaging platforms full of GIFs and emoji. But bringing the culture of the internet to work can also be toxic. A recent study from Project Include found that some tech workers experienced more harassment on those platforms, particularly women, people of color and transgender and nonbinary workers. Meghan McCarty Carino speaks with Caroline Sinders, who studies online harassment and founded Convocation Design + Research. She worked on the report and said the abuse took lots of forms.

Apr 07, 2021
Google’s Supreme Court win could actually benefit the little guy

For years, courts have been trying to hash out whether Google stole code from Oracle. Way back when Google was creating its Android mobile operating system, it decided to use some Java code that would make the system compatible with a lot of programs. But the Java code was owned by Oracle, which then sued, and it’s been in the courts ever since. The Supreme Court this week finally ruled that what Google did was allowed and didn’t infringe on Oracle’s copyrights. Meghan McCarty Carino speaks with Mark Lemley, a professor at Stanford, where he teaches copyright and internet law. He said the ruling means that a standard practice, of one company building on the work of another so that their products work together, didn’t get blown up.

Apr 06, 2021
High-speed internet is the new space race. But do the economics work?

The White House’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan proposes $100 billion for broadband. Right now, however, it is hard to get broadband to big parts of this country unless the infrastructure is in space. Low-Earth-orbit satellite constellations could bring high-speed internet access to those areas. Elon Musk’s Starlink is the best known, but there are a few other companies in the mix. Starlink is in beta with about 10,000 users. “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood speaks with Sascha Segan, a lead analyst at PCMag who’s been following Starlink. She asked him who could benefit from this new version of satellite internet.

Apr 05, 2021
Amazon had a weird week on Twitter. But the union vote is the big news.

Votes are being counted in Bessemer, Alabama, this week from Amazon warehouse workers considering whether to unionize. Amazon has fought tooth and nail against the union effort and also against members of Congress. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren criticized its treatment of employees, and Amazon’s official Twitter account went on the attack. So did some Twitter users claiming they were very happy Amazon employees, and not all of them were real. Molly speaks with Jason Del Rey, who covers Amazon for Recode. He said this union vote is big, no matter the outcome.

Apr 02, 2021
Creating diverse venture capital firms is possible, if you’re willing to do it

Venture capital firms are known for being an incredibly exclusive group. The firms themselves are often small. Even smaller is the number of partners, the actual decision-makers who control hundreds of millions — sometimes billions — of dollars. At the biggest firms, there might be a dozen partners maximum. And if you’re an entrepreneur who wants some of that money, it definitely helps to have gone to college with one of those partners. Kapor Capital is trying to be more inclusive in whom it promotes and funds. One way it’s different: It finds founders primarily through a submission form on its website instead of networking. Molly speaks with Mitch Kapor, the firm’s founding partner.

Apr 01, 2021
Tech investor Mitch Kapor is proving investing for social good can make money

There’s an idea that’s long been gospel in the venture capital industry, that investing in companies that have a positive social impact is a money loser — impact investing is “concessionary.” But what if it isn’t? Mitch Kapor is a well-known tech investor. He helped create the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet and was an early Uber investor. But for the past decade, Kapor and his wife, Freada Kapor Klein, have focused on companies that they say fill a gap, whether it’s social, information or opportunity. And in 2019, their firm, Kapor Capital, reported that in fact it does make money. Lots of it. “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood talks with Mitch Kapor.

Mar 31, 2021
The corporate forces that helped shape AI

“Artificial intelligence” is now a household term, whether it’s powering driving directions, spotting tumors in cancer patients or driving big discussions over ethics, bias, autonomous weapons or the future of work. But despite the fact that the first neural network was created in the late 1950s, a lot of those advancements have taken place over only about 10 years. In his new book, “Genius Makers: The Mavericks Who Brought AI to Google, Facebook, and the World,” New York Times tech correspondent Cade Metz writes about the history of AI and the corporate forces that have shaped it since the mid-2000s.

Mar 30, 2021
Investors are throwing money at mRNA and new medical technologies. What could go wrong?

We’ve been talking about all the potential of mRNA technology — better vaccines and virus detection for all kinds of diseases. Now, let’s talk about the money because the rush is on to invest in mRNA and the whole field of synthetic biology, which approaches the body and natural systems as programmable platforms like computers. However, the history of Silicon Valley and medical tech is mixed. You remember Theranos. Just last week, the founders of a once-hot biotech firm called uBiome were charged with fraud in a similar fashion. Molly speaks with John Cumbers, the founder of SynBioBeta, a network for entrepreneurs, engineers and investors interested in synthetic biology. He says billions of dollars are flowing into the field.

Mar 29, 2021
How to imagine the worst possible use of your product, and then stop it from happening

Slack rolled out a new feature this week to let people connect with anyone, even if they don’t work in the same company. One flaw became immediately obvious: Anyone with your email address could send you a connection invite and a message that could be harassing or harmful. Slack promptly changed the feature, and invites no longer contain customized messages. But it made us wonder: How can companies do a better job anticipating how features could be harmful and fix them before they get rolled out? Molly speaks with Sarah Kunst, managing director of Cleo Capital.

Mar 26, 2021
Messenger RNA technology might kick-start a new age of vaccines

The COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer are in many ways modern miracles. As you know by now, they were developed using technology called messenger RNA, or mRNA, which basically gives the body instructions to create antibodies for the novel coronavirus. It’s the first time a vaccine has been developed in this way. And now that we have this technology, we can start using it on all kinds of viruses, like the flu. Molly speaks with Andrew Hessel, a geneticist and microbiologist. He co-founded Genome Project-write, an international research effort.

Mar 25, 2021
Gig work has helped a lot of people get through this pandemic

This pandemic is the story of lots and lots of deliveries, of groceries, packages and medicine. Companies including Instacart, Amazon and DoorDash use armies of independent contractors that aren’t employees to get those goods out. “Marketplace Tech” producer Stephanie Hughes rode along with a driver for Amazon’s Flex program before the pandemic began to give us a sense of what that work is like.

Mar 24, 2021
Misinformation about COVID-19 planted a seed for online hate speech

Tuesday marks one week since the mass shootings in Atlanta that killed eight people, including six Asian women. Police have not labeled the attacks a hate crime. But we know that hate crimes against Asian Americans have been on the rise. Researchers at California State University, San Bernardino, looked at police data from 16 American cities and found that anti-Asian hate crimes more than doubled in 2020. At the same time, online hate speech against Asians has spiked. So as we think about these attacks, what do we know about online hate speech and how it translates to real-world violence? Marielle Segarra talks with Davey Alba, a tech reporter at The New York Times who covers misinformation. She has been following anti-Asian sentiment online during the pandemic.

Mar 23, 2021
Bias in facial recognition isn’t hard to discover, but it’s hard to get rid of

Joy Buolamwini is a researcher at the MIT Media Lab who pioneered research into bias that’s built into artificial intelligence and facial recognition. And the way she came to this work is almost a little too on the nose. As a graduate student at MIT, she created a mirror that would project aspirational images onto her face, like a lion or tennis star Serena Williams. But the facial-recognition software she installed wouldn’t work on her Black face, until she literally put on a white mask. Buolamwini is featured in a documentary called “Coded Bias,” airing tonight on PBS.

Mar 22, 2021
The FTC had a monopoly lawsuit against Google in its sights, and it blinked

All this week, Congress has been holding antitrust hearings with a specific eye on big tech companies. Also this week, an investigation published in Politico found that nearly a decade ago, commissioners at the Federal Trade Commission apparently ignored evidence that Google was building an anti-competitive monopoly in web search and advertising. Molly speaks with Matt Stoller, research director at the nonprofit American Economic Liberties Project.

Mar 19, 2021
Fever-screening devices used in many places are not helping control the pandemic

At the beginning of the pandemic, almost exactly this time last year, we heard a lot of promises about the types of technology that could help us stop the spread of the disease. One of those tech miracles was thermal cameras — devices that could read someone’s temperature from a distance. Companies bought them in droves, thinking that installing them at the entrances of schools, airports or offices could stop sick people from entering. But do they work, and did they ever? Molly speaks with Conor Healy, the government director at IPVM, a video-surveillance research firm. He recently co-authored a study on fever-scanning devices and said many have one large flaw.

Mar 18, 2021
Our experiment in remote schooling could improve education, if we do it right

The transition to remote learning exposed a deep digital and device divide, inequality among schools and a lack of preparation for online learning. But some of what we learned, no pun intended, could improve schooling in the future and prepare us for the next disruption. That will take money, political will and stamina. Molly talked with Laura Ruderman, CEO of the nonprofit Technology Alliance, focused on Washington state. This year, the group released a report called “Learning From Calamity.”

Mar 17, 2021
AT&T says wireless won’t be a last-mile replacement for fiber

We’re looking back on a year of life under the pandemic, and it’s clear that the internet remains everything. As long as you have access. The year showed us just how much that infrastructure could use some improving. We called one of the country’s biggest internet and wireless providers, AT&T, which has been criticized for rolling out high-speed fiber to only about 30% of the homes in its 21-state territory. The company says it’s investing heavily in 5G. It just spent $23 billion on wireless spectrum. The person in charge of building out these networks is AT&T Communications CEO Jeff McElfresh. He told Molly Wood that AT&T plans to keep expanding fiber to 3 million more customers this year and that wireless won’t be the last-mile solution in place of fiber.

Mar 16, 2021
One result of one year into the pandemic: Privacy might be dead

It’s been a full year since the coronavirus outbreak became widespread in the U.S. And all this week on our show we’re talking about what we learned or didn’t learn, and what it all means for what comes next. Last year, around this time, we talked with Amy Webb, a futurist and founder of the Future Today Institute, about how businesses might respond to the pandemic and how things might change in the future as a result of such a big direction-changing event. One thing she was really clear on is that most likely the pandemic would accelerate the death of privacy. And now, Amy Webb says, that definitely happened, starting in school.

Mar 15, 2021
White House signals that antitrust enforcement is on its agenda

The White House last week added law professor Tim Wu to the National Economic Council to advise on technology and competition policy. Wu is an ardent antitrust scholar who’s called for breaking up Big Tech companies. And the White House is reportedly also vetting legal scholar Lina Khan for a seat at the Federal Trade Commission. Khan published a paper back in 2017 titled “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” which laid out the ways she saw the tech giant as anti-competitive. Molly speaks with Will Oremus, a senior writer at OneZero. He said Khan and Wu have both essentially argued that, legally speaking, being “too big” is reason enough to be regulated.

Mar 12, 2021
Sex workers pivoted to OnlyFans, but there are a lot of amateurs there, too

A lot of people saw their jobs change dramatically during the pandemic. Among them, as you might imagine, are sex workers, who suddenly found their in-person jobs way too dangerous. Many turned to digital platforms, specifically the app OnlyFans, which lets creators post and get tips, subscription revenue and even set up pay-per-view events. In theory, anyone can use OnlyFans, but it’s home to a lot of adult content, and sex workers have found themselves learning how to be creators and battling for attention among all kinds of other would-be influencers. Molly Wood speaks with Erika Beras, a reporter for Marketplace, who has been covering this.

Mar 11, 2021
China wants to go carbon neutral by 2060, which could mean kicking out some tech

Inner Mongolia is under pressure from the Chinese government to reduce its energy use, and the province has responded by cracking down on high-energy activities. It’s curtailing new steel and methanol production and big data centers, and it’s banning cryptocurrency mining. That’s notable because Inner Mongolia is a huge hub for crypto mining, which requires a tremendous amount of electricity, as supercomputers run millions of calculations to generate new coins. Molly speaks with Jennifer Pak, Marketplace’s China correspondent. She said the environmental effects of cryptocurrency mining were, in some ways, an economic trade-off.

Mar 10, 2021
The U.S. could manufacture batteries, but it’s a dirty business

The key to a cleaner energy future is batteries. Last week, General Motors confirmed plans for a new battery production plant somewhere in the U.S. And last month, President Joe Biden ordered a review of the domestic supply chain for large-capacity batteries. Right now, most of the materials for making batteries come from other countries. But many of those metals, including lithium and cobalt, can be found here in the U.S. Molly speaks with Chris Berry, a strategic-metals consultant and president of House Mountain Partners.

Mar 09, 2021
Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky says post-pandemic, cities might actually want the company around

It has been a roller-coaster year for a lot of businesses, few more than Airbnb. The company saw an 80% drop in business last spring as the pandemic hit. It laid off a quarter of its employees, raised $2 billion in private funding and hurried the heck up and introduced Online Experiences like virtual cooking classes to try to make any money at all. But by December, it had recovered enough for a blockbuster initial public offering and a profitable third quarter. Now the company is preparing for the return of its core business and its preexisting challenges, like being blamed for housing shortages. Molly speaks with Airnbnb CEO Brian Chesky.

Mar 08, 2021
Online vaccine misinformation is big business for creators

Now that COVID-19 vaccines are pretty close to mass production in the U.S., it’s even more crucial to fight misinformation about them. That battle is going … OK. Twitter this week said it will ban users who spread COVID-19 vaccine misinformation after five strikes. Facebook last month said it would do more to remove misleading vaccine information on both Facebook and Instagram, including removing accounts. YouTube has said it banned COVID-19 misinformation, too. But in all these cases, enforcement is spotty and complicated by the fact that some social media influencers are finding that vaccine hesitancy is a great way to make a little cash. Molly speaks with Sarah Frier, a senior technology reporter for Bloomberg.

Mar 05, 2021
Google is changing the way ad tracking works

Google is getting rid of third-party cookies in its Chrome browser next year and will stop selling ads based on your browsing history. No more tracking you all over the web and targeting you with ads everywhere you are. The company also said in a blog post that it won’t replace cookies with another personal tracking technology. Google is moving to a “privacy first” strategy in which your online profile will be grouped anonymously with others like you, and you’ll get ads appropriate to your cohort. Molly spoke with Meg Leta Jones, a professor of communication, culture and technology at Georgetown. She said Google still has plenty of ways to get data about you.

Mar 04, 2021
We’re using tech to solve all our problems. But plenty of people still have problems with the tech.

Part of the problem with the COVID-19 vaccine is that the tech to get it isn’t accessible to the people who need it most. Online-only appointment systems are leaving out people without internet access or devices, and clunky, buggy websites are testing everyone’s digital literacy. For Nicol Turner Lee, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, it’s part of a bigger problem that needs a big solution. We’ve got tech that’s unevenly distributed, plus a struggling economy that needs to transition to the digital age. So Turner Lee proposes that big solution in a recent piece for Brookings: a Tech New Deal and a paid civilian corps of tech-savvy people to do building, training and outreach. The idea is that maybe the next big disaster solution won’t leave people behind.

Mar 03, 2021
The chip shortage is a manufacturing problem that won’t be easy to solve

So, here’s what’s going on with the chip shortage thing. First, among U.S. chipmakers, only Intel fabricates its own chips in the U.S. The rest contract with big companies, mostly in Taiwan and South Korea, known as fabs, which is short for semiconductor fabrication plants. The biggest are TSMC and Samsung. The facilities are incredibly expensive and take years to build and even upgrade. Now add in the pandemic, lots of people at home buying computers and slowdowns in the actual manufacturing, and there aren’t enough chips for cars, medical equipment or all those other devices. Last week, President Joe Biden requested $37 billion from Congress to kick-start the domestic supply chain for chips. Molly Wood talks with Anshel Sag at Moor Insights & Strategy about whether that will be enough money.

Mar 02, 2021
As telecoms spend billions on wireless, where does that leave the wired?

Telecom companies are spending a lot of money on wireless infrastructure to support their 5G networks. In an FCC auction announced last week, Verizon spent $45 billion on acquiring new spectrum. AT&T spent $23 billion. But wired infrastructure is not seeing the same kind of love. AT&T has stopped connecting new customers to its DSL network, and a report out last fall found that it has deployed high-speed fiber to only about a third of the households in its network. Molly talks with Angela Siefer, the executive director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance.

Mar 01, 2021
Does Clubhouse owe its Black users for the platform’s success?

Clubhouse is an invite-only audio app that came out last spring with a very small community of, at the time, mostly Silicon Valley tech-y people in it. Now, the app has 10 million active users on a weekly basis and a valuation of about $1 billion. And although there was recent buzz about SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk going on the platform, or even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, many of the people who have driven Clubhouse’s growth have been Black influencers, musicians and comedians. Molly speaks with Aniyia Williams, a principal on the responsible technology team at Omidyar Network.

Feb 26, 2021
Shopify is taking on e-commerce giants

Small businesses rushed to get online during this pandemic. And suddenly, all kinds of companies wanted to help with that: Amazon, Facebook, Etsy, Intuit and Shopify, the Canadian company that helps merchants create websites, enable payments and ship goods to customers. Shopify had unprecedented growth last year. It revamped its Shop app, which tracks shipments, to include local shopping collections. And it’s got deals with so-called marketplaces, like Facebook and Instagram, Walmart and Google, to let merchants on its platform also sell on those platforms. Molly speaks with Harley Finkelstein, the president of Shopify. He told her a draw for small-business owners is that Shopify lets them own their own customers.

Feb 25, 2021
Could Australia’s antitrust enforcement break the way the web works?

A proposed law in Australia would require Facebook and Google to pay publishers for news content that appears on their sites. In response, Facebook briefly pulled all links to news content in Australia last week, restoring them Monday. Google opposed the law but has negotiated deals with individual publishers. And Microsoft, pushing its search engine Bing, surprisingly welcomed the proposal, even saying Europe should adopt something similar. But fundamentally, paying for links is the opposite of how the web has always worked. Molly speaks with Tom Merritt, the host of the “Daily Tech News Show” podcast. He told her this is all about antitrust.

Feb 24, 2021
You need to have secure ingredients to have a secure product

The Senate will hold a hearing Tuesday investigating the SolarWinds hacks. SolarWinds is a massive IT company that contracted with the federal government. Its ubiquity let hackers get into at least nine federal agencies, including the departments of — just to pick three of the scariest options — Defense, Homeland Security and Treasury. The breach is what’s known as a supply chain hack. They’re increasingly common because it’s hard for companies and governments to verify the security of every company they work with. But experts say it’s time to create disincentives for not doing that homework. Molly spoke with Camille Stewart, a cyber-fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center.

Feb 23, 2021
How a crafty creator took her business online while Broadway’s dark

Etsy has added at least 1 million new sellers to its platform since the pandemic began. We’ll find out the latest numbers when the company reports earnings this week. One of those new sellers is Amy Price. She’s a Broadway costume designer, or at least she was when Broadway shows were running. Now, she’s turned her stitching to face masks. As part of our series “My Economy,” here’s the story of how Price got an online business up and running.

Feb 22, 2021
Filling the archives with stories from Black Silicon Valley

We’ve talked about how the accomplishments of Black inventors were literally left out of the history books documenting the early internet. Now, Meghan McCarty Carino speaks to researchers who are preserving that history. In late 2019, archivists from Stanford University met with over a dozen Black engineers and entrepreneurs who had been working in the tech industry for decades to hear their stories.

Feb 19, 2021
Gig companies have the upper hand. So why are they still negotiating?

Platforms like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash emerged big winners from the 2020 election when California voters approved Proposition 22. The ballot measure keeps gig workers classified as independent contractors, rather than employees who qualify for full benefits and protections, including the right to join a union. It had looked like gig companies were ready to take this playbook to other states to basically create their own labor laws at the ballot box. But now, we’re seeing signals the companies and labor unions might be willing to talk to head off more Prop 22-style battles. Meghan McCarty Carino speaks with Josh Eidelson, who covers labor for Bloomberg. He said despite the platforms’ victory, there’s still incentive to negotiate.

Feb 18, 2021
Could more women-led tech companies make the internet less awful?

The dating app Bumble swiped right on its initial public stock offering last week, making its CEO, Whitney Wolfe Herd, the youngest female CEO to take a company public. Not only that, but eight of the company’s 11 board members also identify as women. And that has more than just symbolic power. Bumble has styled itself a women-first dating app. The platform encourages them to send the first message. It also moderates the photos on profiles and the ones sent through direct messages so users won’t get any revealing content they didn’t ask for. Meghan speaks with Sarah Kunst, the managing director of Cleo Capital, who advised Bumble on its venture capital arm. She asked her if all of that translates into more women on the app than men.

Feb 17, 2021
Should every B.A. include some AI?

Colby College is a private, liberal arts school located in southern Maine. You can take classes in art history, chemistry, music, all the staples, and now the school is adding artificial intelligence to the list. Colby is among the first liberal arts colleges to create an artificial intelligence institute to teach students about AI and machine learning through the lenses of subjects like history, gender studies and biology. This, of course, comes as the world is grappling with ethics and AI and how to build a moral foundation into algorithms. Molly speaks with David Greene, the president of Colby College. He says that eventually, he’d like every student to study artificial intelligence to graduate.

Feb 16, 2021
Banks are getting interested in big data to figure out their climate risk

The Biden administration has made tackling climate change a priority, and a big element of the business story around climate change is risk, to cities, states and countries, to businesses and the banks that invest in all of them. Some regulatory bodies, like the European Central Bank, require climate risk assessment. It’s possible the Federal Reserve may eventually as well. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood speaks with Emilie Mazzacurati, who runs the climate data firm Four Twenty Seven, which was acquired by Moody’s last year. It uses big data analysis to help companies and governments figure out the risk climate change poses to them. This episode originally aired on Dec. 1, 2020.

Feb 15, 2021
Maybe some critical infrastructure shouldn’t be hooked up to the internet

We learned this week that a hacker tried to poison the water supply in a town outside Tampa, Florida. An operator at the plant noticed the intrusion, and there was no significant damage done to the city’s water supply. But the thing is, a lot of our critical infrastructure is connected to the internet, and not all of it is very secure. Molly speaks with Nicole Perlroth, who covers cybersecurity for The New York Times and is the author of the new book “This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race.” She asked her how we could start to tighten things up.

Feb 12, 2021
New antitrust legislation would check the power of tech giants

Arguably, the biggest problem with Big Tech is, well, the bigness. A few giant companies gobble up their competition, own the digital advertising and web hosting markets, control the information ecosystem and sometimes control their own rivals’ distribution. So far, though, these worries haven’t led to regulation. Molly speaks with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who leads the subcommittee on antitrust and has introduced a bill intended to check the power of tech giants. It focuses mostly on acquisitions, aimed at preventing huge companies from buying potential competitors and forcing companies that control more than 50% of a market to prove that a deal wouldn’t reduce competition.

Feb 11, 2021
How the history of Blackness on the internet was erased

When New York University media and culture professor Charlton McIlwain was doing research for his latest book, “Black Software,” he found an encyclopedia about Black inventors, written by Black authors. And it actually said that there wasn’t evidence Black people had made tangible contributions to the development of the internet. But McIlwain says that written history ignores decades of Black culture online, including AfroNet, an invite-only bulletin board in the late ’80s, that became a haven for Black people to connect and create. Those Black voices played a key role in the online communities that came after. He tells Molly a little more about what he found in that encyclopedia.

Feb 10, 2021
$1 billion toward better tribal broadband is just a down payment

We’ve been talking this week about the digital divide in Indian Country. Reservations lag way behind the rest of the country in terms of access to high-speed internet, but the CARES Act created a billion-dollar fund to help tribes build their own networks. Molly speaks with Matthew Rantanen, director of technology at the Southern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association, which runs a wireless network that provides service to 19 tribes near San Diego. He said that $1 billion will help, but the total cost could be seven times higher.

Feb 09, 2021
Some tribes are getting help narrowing the digital divide

In Indian Country, the proportion of households with high-speed internet access has consistently lagged behind the rest of the U.S. There has been some work to improve things. An influx of federal funding has helped some tribes build their own broadband networks across the country. Here’s a success story from Montana Public Radio’s Aaron Bolton, part of our series “The Internet Is Everything.”

Feb 08, 2021
Amazon is getting a new CEO. Will that mean big change or status quo?

Amazon’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, announced this week that he’s going to become executive chairman of the company, and the new CEO in July will be Andy Jassy, now the head of Amazon Web Services. Amazon is 26 years old and obviously is massive and has ideas to do everything from package delivery and television production to smart microwaves and artificial intelligence. And its huge and incredibly profitable cloud business. Amazon’s ambition and reach are legendary. But with Bezos taking on a new role, could that change? Molly speaks with Brad Stone, a senior executive editor for Bloomberg. He’s written one book on Amazon and has another coming out this spring. Molly asks him if Amazon might start to focus more on the gold mine of its cloud business.

Feb 05, 2021
Social media was supposed to give everyone a voice. It didn’t.

For Black History Month, we’re looking at the history of Blackness on the internet. Through most of that history, Black women in particular have been disproportionately harassed and abused. And then ignored when they tried to report that abuse or point out how tech might be misused to further oppress people online and offline. Ignored by tech companies and, it must be said, by journalists, too. Researcher and writer Sydette Harry wrote about this in Wired in a piece called “Listening to Black Women: The Innovation Tech Can’t Figure Out.” Molly asked her: “What could the internet look like right now if we had listened to Black women all along?”

Feb 04, 2021
Facebook shouldn’t be surprised its groups were overrun with conspiracies

Facebook last month announced it will stop recommending political and civic Groups to its users. The company said users want less politics in their feeds, and it has said it didn’t realize how much its Groups were spreading medical misinformation, were being used to radicalize people into QAnon and that they had become one of the home bases for the planners of the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6. But this week, The Wall Street Journal reported that the company has had internal research for months about private groups being toxic, including some being full of calls for violence, yet they were  still recommended to Facebook users. Molly speaks with Renée DiResta, a research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, who said Facebook’s push toward Groups created a cycle of radicalization.

Feb 03, 2021
The power of transferring technology for climate adaptation

A key part of adapting to climate change is prediction. In Louisiana, where water is eroding huge chunks of land every year, that means looking at how increasingly dangerous hurricanes move water and sand, and which areas might flood and which won’t. Monday we talked with Dutch scientists who make computer models that help make those predictions. The Water Institute of the Gulf is a research organization based in Baton Rouge that uses those Dutch models to mitigate erosion. Molly speaks with Justin Ehrenwerth, president and CEO of the Water Institute. He said the answers the institute is looking for can’t only come from computers.

Feb 02, 2021
When you need to figure out how to deal with water, go to the experts

Justin Ehrenwerth thinks a lot about where to put dirt. He leads the Water Institute of the Gulf, a nonprofit research group based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. And one of the reasons he cares so much about dirt is that Louisiana is losing a lot of it. That means when Ehrenwerth and his team happen upon a mountain of dirt, they use computer models to figure out where the water is coming next so they can use the dirt, and the trees and wetlands planted on top of it, to prevent future erosion. And some of those models are developed by scientists in the Netherlands, which has been combating water for hundreds of years.

Feb 01, 2021
Lawmakers call for regulation after Robinhood halts trading

The trading app Robinhood restricted trading yesterday on GameStop, AMC, Nokia, BlackBerry and a few other ’90s favorite brands that have been targeted for boosting by the Reddit forum WallStreetBets. It’s allowing users to buy limited quantities again today. Other brokers limited trades as well. But at least one retail investor sued Robinhood, saying the company manipulated the market to protect the hedge funds that have lost a lot of money placing short bets on GameStop over the past several months. Those funds, of course, are able to keep trading where and whenever they like. A number of Democratic lawmakers are also calling for regulation, including U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., who represents Silicon Valley.

Jan 29, 2021
The GameStop-stock market story is absurd

If you follow financial markets, Reddit or video games, you probably know that all three of those things merged this week in a hail of fire and rocket emojis. The simplest possible version of what happened: Several big hedge funds shorted GameStop stock. That is, they bet it would go down. There’s a group on Reddit called WallStreetBets, and they weren’t having it. Many of them decided to buy GameStop, causing its share price to go up — way up. Now, GameStop is up over 1,00% this month. The hedge funds that shorted it are losing billions, and the WallStreetBets community has moved to buying Nokia and AMC stocks, and who knows what’s next. I spoke with Edward Ongweso, who has been following this for Vice.

Jan 28, 2021
The EU doesn’t trust its citizens’ data in the hands of the U.S.

With all the crises facing America, it’s surprising to find privacy so high on President Joe Biden’s agenda. But in his first week in office, he already appointed someone to negotiate with the European Union on how personal information is moved between Europe and the U.S. Last summer, the EU said the way data was being sent to the U.S. was insecure. In August, Ireland’s data regulators told Facebook to stop transferring its citizens’ data out of Europe. The issue is with the Irish High Court. In December, Facebook argued to that court that to stop data transfers would have “devastating and irreversible consequences” for its business. But this rule would obviously impact all kinds of commercial data and companies. And obviously, it’s a big deal for the new administration. Molly speaks with Jessica Lee, a partner with the law firm Loeb & Loeb.

Jan 27, 2021
The Biden administration is inheriting working COVID-19 hospital data

On the first full day of his administration, President Joe Biden signed an executive order designed to ensure a data-driven response to COVID-19 and future public health threats. The administration already faces a big choice around COVID-19 data. In July, the Trump administration directed hospitals to stop sending data to the Centers for Disease Control, and instead to send it to the Department of Health and Human Services. And HHS used the data analysis company Palantir to harmonize the data. At first, it was a hot mess. But by the fall, the system was really working, and now is tracking hospitalizations really well. Molly speaks with Alexis Madrigal, who runs the COVID-19 Tracking Project at The Atlantic. He says the Biden administration should try to ignore the messy politics in favor of the good data.

Jan 26, 2021
Investment in climate tech is also economic stimulus

Climate change is high on President Joe Biden’s agenda. Last week, on his first day in office, the United States rejoined the Paris climate accord. Reuters reports he’s expected to announce a climate order that will introduce new regulations and make climate change a national security priority. And Biden has tied economic recovery to climate investment — new jobs, new infrastructure and new funding. Molly spoke with Jay Koh, managing director of the private equity firm Lightsmith Group, which is focused on climate adaptation technology.

Jan 25, 2021
President Biden called for an end to disinformation. Will the internet hear him?

We as a country are trying to figure out what is true. Or more accurately, whether we can agree on what is true. In his inaugural speech this week, President Joe Biden called for a return to truth and an end to the deliberate spread of misinformation. That happens on social media platforms; in fact, it’s built into their business models, and misinformation influencers abound. But that’s not the only vector. Molly speaks with Kevin Roose, who covers social media for The New York Times.

Jan 22, 2021
The failed Plaid-Visa merger is interesting fintech tea

The financial tech firm Plaid announced this week that it’s doubling its workforce in Europe. That is largely because its planned $5.3 billion merger with Visa fell apart earlier this month, after the Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit. Plaid is a platform that lets you, a customer, link your bank account to a fintech app like Venmo or Robinhood. You log in using Plaid’s interface, but the bank itself is cut out of the loop. The banks hate that. Visa could have used Plaid to expand beyond payments and maybe be legitimized in the eyes of banks. Molly speaks with Lisa Ellis, who researches payments at the firm MoffettNathanson. She said the DOJ also worried Visa might be trying to kill the competition.

Jan 21, 2021
Are pro-Trump extremists’ messages more dangerous if they’re encrypted?

The app Parler is offline, and Facebook and Twitter are tamping down extremist speech on their platforms. More people are migrating to apps like Signal, which encrypts messages between parties, and Telegram, which can. That blunts the power of extremist messages, but it also makes it harder for law enforcement to see what they might be up to, reigniting a yearslong debate about encryption itself. Molly speaks with Alexandra Givens, the president and CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology.

Jan 20, 2021
Taking down content is not censorship. It’s business.

On the show recently, we talked about tech companies and social media platforms regulating speech, banning President Donald Trump and other accounts, removing groups and topics and even booting Parler off of app stores and Amazon web hosting. And of course, there’s been a lot of backlash and claims of censorship and questions about whether speech on social media should be regulated by the government. All of that gets us to a topic that’s worth revisiting right now, which is the First Amendment. Molly speaks with Berin Szóka, the president of the nonprofit TechFreedom. He says, first of all, we’ve got to get our vocabulary right.

Jan 19, 2021
Social media has been radicalizing people for years

Back in March 2019, a gunman killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, and streamed the whole thing on YouTube. After that event we took a weeklong look at how social media radicalized people to violence, and how a troll becomes a terrorist. Now, nearly two years later and after a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol, there still seems to be some surprise that online speech leads to offline consequences, so I wanted to revisit some of what I heard that week.

Jan 18, 2021
Will “cancel culture” come for us all?

Pro-Trump Republicans are furious that Twitter, Facebook and Amazon Web Services have taken President Donald Trump’s accounts and the app Parler offline. Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, as well as other Republicans, called it “cancel culture.” Last March, Molly spoke with futurist Amy Webb, who predicted that cancel culture and the backlash to it would become an even bigger deal in the year ahead. She said that’s proving true in more ways than she expected.

Jan 15, 2021
Archiving posts from the Capitol attack has value for police and researchers

Since the attack on the U.S. Capitol, which was filmed and photographed extensively, there’s been a scramble to find and archive all those images. Law enforcement and researchers are collecting them for clues and also to understand what happened. The research and investigative journalism site Bellingcat collects open-source intelligence and publishes reports on news and global events with a small staff of researchers and digital forensics experts and a big crew of volunteers. Molly speaks with Giancarlo Fiorella, an investigator at Bellingcat. He said the site just published a sort of forensics report on the movements of the San Diego protester Ashli Babbitt, who was shot and killed during the riot.

Jan 14, 2021
Another fear after Capitol attack: information security

As we examine the fallout from the attack on the U.S. Capitol last week, what are the cybersecurity implications? Maybe not the top thing on your mind. But consider that for hours rioters had almost unimpeded access to offices, networks and computers on desks. A laptop was even stolen, and security experts say there’s the potential for all kinds of hacking and intrusions. And the cybersecurity threat is made worse by a unique feature of Congress: Everyone is in charge of their own IT. Molly speaks with Bruce Schneier, a security technologist. He lists some of the things intruders could have done.

Jan 13, 2021
One effect of the Instagrammed insurrection: FOMO

The insurrection at the Capitol last week was inspired by social media, organized on social media and finally, recorded on social media. We saw images of extremists breaking windows and sitting at Nancy Pelosi’s desk. In some ways, those images were one of the goals of the insurrection: for extremists to prove they were there and to inspire others to take part in the movement. But Wendy Schiller, professor of political science at Brown, says they could soon be replaced by other images of, for example, mugshots. “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood talks with her.

Jan 12, 2021
Surveillance tech is not accomplishing the things it’s supposed to

The federal government, along with state and local governments, spends billions of dollars every year on security and surveillance technology. In theory, to prevent things like the attack on the U.S. Capitol that happened last week. It’s sophisticated, comprehensive and creates a whole lot of privacy concerns, but also might not be accomplishing the right things. Molly speaks with Alvaro Bedoya, director of the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown.

Jan 11, 2021
Social media companies block Trump, but where’s the bigger reckoning with hate speech?

Facebook and several other platforms have banned President Donald Trump indefinitely. Twitter banned Lin Wood, Trump’s conspiracy theory-spouting lawyer, but new conspiracies theories are spreading, for instance that antifa was actually  behind Wednesday’s deadly events at the U.S. Capitol. And all of it is fueling the question of how to deal with hate speech and online radicalization. Molly speaks with Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism. She said historically in the U.S., hate speech has been treated like any other speech.

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Jan 08, 2021
Insurrection could be a turning point for social media

For years, and especially in the past year, far-right groups have used social platforms like Twitter and Facebook to organize violent movements. On Wednesday, once again, we saw the results of that online organization lead to real-life violence with an armed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. In response, Facebook and Twitter removed posts by President Donald Trump that seemed to encourage the mob, and locked Trump’s accounts on both platforms. Facebook and Instagram started blocking hashtags related to the attack on the Capitol, and Facebook said it would also scan posts for mentions of bringing weapons to any location, in or outside Washington. Molly speaks with Joan Donovan, research director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. She said Wednesday that an event like the Capitol assault, though, felt almost inevitable.

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Jan 07, 2021
Apple’s privacy labels show which apps collect the most data. Will people care?

A few weeks ago, Apple released an iOS update that shows you how much data every app on your phone or tablet is collecting — and it can be surprising. For example, even though WhatsApp offers encrypted messaging — no one can read your actual messages — it still collects a ton of other information, like your location, what you buy through the service, who your friends are, and shares all that with parent company Facebook. The idea here is much like the idea that once you find out a single burrito has 1,000 calories, you’ll be horrified and make better choices. Of course, Apple would love for people to choose its built-in apps instead. Molly speaks with Ashkan Soltani, a fellow at Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy & Technology. He says the labels could surprise people if they care.

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Jan 06, 2021
Algorithms for vaccine distribution have a weakness: the people behind them

To deal with the massive logistical problem of distributing COVID-19 vaccines, the federal government and some states are turning to private companies to create algorithms for prioritizing shipments. Some hospital systems, like George Washington in D.C. and Stanford in Palo Alto, California, created their own software systems to prioritize which health care workers get it first. In Stanford’s case, we now know the process went notoriously wrong, prioritizing doctors and administrators working remotely over residents working directly with patients every day. We wondered, is vaccine allocation a problem algorithms are meant to solve, or are officials letting algorithms take the blame for built-in inequality? Molly speaks with Karen Hao, who reported on this for the MIT Technology Review.

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Jan 05, 2021
Telehealth is here to stay

Telehealth — remote doctor visits for non-emergency treatment — has spiked dramatically since the start of the pandemic. The American Medical Association is throwing its support behind legislation that would expand funding and reduce regulations on telehealth, by letting anyone access telehealth services no matter where they are. And legislators on both sides of the aisle have called on congressional leaders to expand access. PwC’s Health Research Institute put out a report late last year, saying telehealth will be huge in 2021. But there are roadblocks, especially around equity. Molly speaks with Karen Young, PwC’s Health Industries Leader.

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Jan 04, 2021
How the Gates Foundation’s values shape the world

This episode originally aired on Sep. 17, 2020.

All this week, we’re revisiting some of our shows from 2020. That includes an interview Molly did with Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is trying to eradicate polio and malaria globally. He created a billion-dollar climate investment fund. He’s funded multiple factories to find a vaccine for COVID-19 and played matchmaker to companies around the world to get that vaccine distributed. Gates is in the position to do all this because he is one of the world’s richest people. So Molly asked Bill Gates how his philanthropy ends up doing so much of the work of government. He said some of it is mission creep.

Jan 01, 2021
Mapping internet access: No clear data on haves and have-nots

This episode originally aired on Jun. 23, 2020.

All this week on, we’re revisiting some of our shows from 2020 that touch on issues we think will continue to be pivotal in the year ahead. Chief among those is the internet. It now touches pretty much every part of our lives, but not everyone has access to good service. Earlier this month, the FCC announced the results of a $9 billion auction to provide high-speed broadband to homes and businesses that don’t have it. The money comes from something called the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, and this is just the first chunk of money to come from it. The FCC is planning to allocate billions more. But the data the FCC is using to map where broadband is most needed is wildly inaccurate, even by the agency’s own admission. Molly speaks with Nicol Turner Lee, who researches technology access as a fellow in the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution. She says the coronavirus pandemic has made the mapping problem even more obvious.

Dec 31, 2020
For-profit online schools are getting a second look from parents

This episode originally aired on Sep. 21, 2020.

This week, we’re taking a look back at some of the shows from 2020 that deal with issues that continue to be, shall we say, challenging. That includes education and the complexities of dealing with remote school every day. With parents trying to figure out the best remote-schooling options, enrollment in alternative online schools rose significantly this fall. Some of these are for-profit schools that get public money from states or public school districts for each student that they enroll, and have been around for years. Molly speaks with Jennifer King Rice, a professor of education at the University of Maryland, who’s studied for-profit virtual schools. She says you shouldn’t assume that having experience in remote learning means the school is better.

Dec 30, 2020
With all this new tech in remote schooling, what are the privacy implications?

This episode originally aired on Sep. 14, 2020.

If your kids are going to school online, then one thing you’re probably concerned about is the data that’s being collected about them, and how it’s being stored and used. Well, there are some rules — actually, lots of them. You’ve probably heard of COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, and perhaps FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Those are both federal laws governing data collection and kids. And, in the last six years, states have passed dozens more student privacy laws. But the problem is not everyone knows about them. Molly talks about it with Amelia Vance of the nonprofit Future of Privacy Forum.

Dec 29, 2020
Making sure climate solutions don’t make more problems

We’ve been looking at how technology can help us adapt to climate change as part of our series “How We Survive.” One big problem is the technology that could help us survive is not being evenly distributed. So building resilience can’t only be about one home, one tribal chapter, one town at a time.

Dec 28, 2020
Refocusing climate change as a human problem

This episode originally aired on Sep. 30, 2020.

For the past year, we’ve been talking about how to adapt to climate change and how the tech industry can help. But here’s the part, even on a tech show, where we acknowledge that climate change isn’t just about tech solutions or whiz-bang inventions. In fact, like the pandemic, climate change is a problem that reflects and exposes a lot of things about our society. Molly Wood speaks with Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine Wilkinson, who co-edited a book called “All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis.” It features poems, essays and other works of art by women working on climate issues.

Dec 25, 2020
Making datasets inclusive from the ground up

Now, more than ever, we rely on technology when we work, go to school, get health care and connect with people we can’t visit in person. But technology is only useful if it’s accessible. Host Kimberly Adams speaks with Microsoft’s Mary Bellard, who says we are in a “data desert.”

Dec 24, 2020
A possible life raft for small businesses selling online

For many small businesses, the pandemic-driven shift to selling on the internet is a huge change. Plenty of brick-and-mortar store owners were selling in person only, using everything from spreadsheets to paper and pencil to keep track of it all. So companies are increasingly offering new tools to help those brick-and-mortar stores manage their inventory and figure out which online platforms are best for them. Intuit launched something called QuickBooks Commerce earlier this year to help companies sell everywhere. Molly speaks with Alex Chriss, the EVP of the small business group at Intuit.

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Dec 23, 2020
A game store owner takes on e-commerce, reluctantly

This week, we’re looking at how small businesses are navigating e-commerce during the pandemic, and today, we hear from one business owner navigating that world. Kathleen Donahue is the owner of Labyrinth Games & Puzzles, a store in the Eastern Market neighborhood of Washington, D.C. She only sells analog games, not electronic, and perhaps unsurprisingly, she was a reluctant entrant to the world of e-commerce. We hear the story of her store’s transition online.

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Dec 22, 2020
Small businesses are getting a crash course in e-commerce

The costs of this pandemic are staggering. Most importantly, in lives lost. And increasingly, businesses lost or struggling to survive. Changing lockdown rules upended supply chains and a wary public. A lot of those businesses have been scrambling to get online, and as it happens, there are a lot of places online to list your goods beyond your own website — almost too many. Do you go to Shopify, Amazon, Facebook or Etsy? Molly speaks with Sucharita Kodali, a retail analyst with Forrester. She says the options can be overwhelming.

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Dec 21, 2020
How We Survive: Adapting to climate change

Climate change is here. Experts say we need to adapt, but what does that look like? This one-hour special from “Marketplace Tech” explores the role of technology in helping humanity weather the impacts of climate change. The time of complete prevention has passed, and we must turn toward adaptation.

Dec 19, 2020
Russia is likely to launch the disinformation version of nukes

We learned this week that hackers have been spying on the U.S. departments of State, Homeland Security, Commerce and the Treasury and maybe the Nuclear Security Administration — bad, bad stuff. The intrusion began in the spring, and the hackers are thought to be working for the Russian government. And the ongoing news about this hack have some worried about all kinds of things from a physical attack on critical infrastructure to data manipulation to more election shenanigans. We wondered, what should we be worried about? Molly speaks with Jackie Schneider, a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford.

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Dec 18, 2020
We hardly ever talk about YouTube and disinformation. Not anymore.

We talk a lot on this show about how social media platforms have been slow to react to disinformation over the years, and especially around elections — and now the coronavirus and also the coronavirus vaccine. But perhaps the slowest to take a stand is YouTube. The video platform waited until Dec. 9 — more than a full month after the presidential election — before it started to remove videos falsely claiming election fraud or rigging. Researchers have worried about its radicalizing algorithm for years, and the company has basically no interest in working with them. Molly speaks with Evelyn Douek, an affiliate at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. She said YouTube is flying firmly under the radar.

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Dec 17, 2020
The common theme with the biggest tech companies: walled gardens

The European Union is proposing new regulations on big tech companies and how they use their data, potentially to the detriment of competing companies. That is on the heels of the FTC and 46 states suing Facebook, and the FTC opening investigations into lots of other tech companies. One thing that both the EU and the FTC say is that these big tech companies impose anti-competitive conditions on third-party developers that operate on their platforms. Apple has been criticized over its App Store rules and Amazon over how it treats third-party sellers. The EU regulations would determine some companies to be “gatekeepers” subject to different rules. Molly speaks with Mark Lemley, a law professor at Stanford.

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Dec 16, 2020
The latest cyberattack on the U.S. government is a big deal

At least three government agencies have been the target of a major cyberspying campaign, apparently by the Russian government. We learned this week that hackers have been spying on the U.S. departments of Commerce, Treasury and even Homeland Security since the spring, and officials say it’s likely there are more victims that haven’t been revealed yet. The attackers got in by corrupting software updates from the company SolarWinds, which provides network management tools to the agencies. Molly Wood speaks with Kim Zetter, a cybersecurity journalist and author.

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Dec 15, 2020
Virtual eviction hearings can make horrible situations even worse

Millions of Americans remain unemployed in this pandemic and can’t pay their rent, so people are being evicted all over the country. Eviction hearings have moved to Zoom or Webex or even the phone, to limit the spread of COVID-19 in courtrooms. But some tenants’ rights advocates say the virtual hearings violate people’s rights. There aren’t procedures in place for people who don’t have broadband access, and translators that would be required in court aren’t required online. Molly speaks with Eileen Guo, a senior reporter on tech policy, ethics and social issues at MIT Tech Review. She’s been reporting on this and described a hearing she virtually attended in Jackson County, Missouri.

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Dec 14, 2020
What can Facebook learn from the attempt to break up Microsoft?

The Federal Trade Commission and almost every state are calling for Facebook to be broken up in what is probably the most groundbreaking tech antitrust lawsuit since Microsoft was sued in the 1990s. We take a look back at that Microsoft case to see if it offers any lessons for today’s tech giants. Molly Wood speaks with Margaret O’Mara, a history professor at the University of Washington and author of the book “The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America.”

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Dec 11, 2020
If everyone is shopping online this year, why aren’t shippers prepared?

Pandemic plus holidays? That equals a huge increase in online shopping and about 800 million more packages to be delivered than last year. But shipping companies and merchants that aren’t Amazon aren’t handling it all that well. For example, last week UPS limited the number of packages it would pick up from certain merchants like the Gap and Macy’s. In some ways, this seems like something folks should have prepared for, but it’s a big deal for shippers to increase capacity. It takes warehouses, fulfillment centers, trucks, planes. And unlike Amazon, shipping companies can’t spin up a quick army of independent contractors. Molly Wood speaks with Matthias Winkenbach, director of the MIT Megacity Logistics Lab.

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Dec 10, 2020
The COVID-19 vaccine is nothing short of a technology miracle

COVID-19 vaccines are being administered this week in the United Kingdom, less than a year after COVID-19 became a devastating pandemic. And the vaccines from Pfizer, in partnership with BioNTech, and Moderna use a new type of vaccine technology that’s sort of like cellular engineering. Traditional vaccines introduce fragments of virus protein into the body for it to learn to recognize and attack. These vaccines, however, use something called messenger RNA, or mRNA, to give the body a blueprint to manufacture its own virus fragments to attack. Molly Wood speaks with Safi Bahcall, a biotech investor and author of “Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries.”

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Dec 09, 2020
There’s no vaccine for lies about the COVID-19 vaccine

The coronavirus pandemic has gone hand in hand with an infodemic of misinformation about everything from homemade cures to whether masks work (spoiler alert: They do). Now, if possible, the misinformation stakes have gotten even higher as the COVID-19 vaccine begins to roll out. Doses are set to be administered in the U.K. as soon as Tuesday, and disinformation researchers say there’s a whole new wave of renewed activity spreading lies about vaccine safety and the origin of the virus. Molly Wood speaks with Joan Donovan, the research director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School.

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Dec 08, 2020
Here’s the real deal with Section 230

For years, President Donald Trump has been calling for the repeal of Section 230, the part of the Communications Decency Act from 1996 that says an online publisher or platform like YouTube or Facebook can’t be sued for things that are posted by other people. The president recently said he would actually veto the country’s annual defense spending bill if it didn’t include a repeal of Section 230. But, see, a lot of what people say they don’t like about Section 230, like claiming that social media platforms censor conservatives, really has nothing to do with that law. Molly speaks with Jeff Kosseff, author of a book on Section 230 called “The Twenty-Six Words That Created the Internet.”

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Dec 07, 2020
Creating water out of thin air in the Navajo Nation

The West is in a drought that’s only getting worse, and drought is an even bigger problem in places that have uneven access to water to start with. In the Navajo Nation, in the southwestern U.S., many homes have no running water at all. The tribe is working with the startup Source, which makes Hydropanels — solar-powered panels that pull water vapor from the air and condense it into clean drinking water. Molly speaks with Milton Tso, president of the Cameron chapter in the Navajo Nation, where one family got Source panels this summer. He described the water they make.

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Dec 04, 2020
Could a Silicon Valley startup make geothermal heating cool?

Geothermal energy systems let people heat and cool their homes using energy from the Earth. The technology has been around for decades and is incredibly efficient, but fewer than 1% of homes in the U.S. use it. Now, Dandelion Energy wants to do for geothermal heating what Tesla did for the electric car — make it cool.

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Dec 03, 2020
One key to adapting to climate change: Having your own energy grid

Increasingly, in the U.S., people are having to adapt to a world without reliable power. Storms, fires and even power shut-offs designed to prevent fires have lots of people trying to figure out local solutions for electricity. One solution is microgrids — decentralized power generation often with solar energy as its source. Molly speaks with Jose Alfaro, a professor at the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan. He says microgrids can represent freedom.

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Dec 02, 2020
Banks are getting interested in big data to figure out their climate risk

A big element of the business story around climate change is risk. The risk to cities, states and countries, to businesses and the banks that invest in all of them. Some regulatory bodies, like the European Central Bank, require climate risk assessment. It’s possible the Federal Reserve may eventually as well. Molly speaks with Emilie Mazzacurati, who runs the climate data firm Four Twenty Seven, which was acquired by Moody’s last year. It uses big data analysis to help companies and governments figure out the risk climate change poses to them.

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Dec 01, 2020
Making old buildings resilient to climate change requires new financial tools

All this week on Marketplace Tech, we’re looking at technology that can help us become more resilient to climate change. The startup BlocPower uses software to identify buildings that are prime candidates to receive more efficient energy systems. At the individual building level, this has immediate effects on both comfort and cost. And the company’s founder and CEO, Donnel Baird, says that doing this at the community level makes the entire grid more resilient. He talks with Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood.

Nov 30, 2020
Gig workers weigh in on Prop 22 passing

This month in California, voters approved Proposition 22, a ballot measure that says drivers for apps like Uber, Lyft and Instacart will remain independent contractors, not employees. We hear from four gig drivers both in and out of California who have mixed views on the law.

Nov 27, 2020
The future of work … as determined by Uber?

As the pandemic recession drags on, people are turning to gig work to fill the gaps, and the nature of that work is evolving. Proposition 22 in California, which passed last week, lets companies classify delivery and ride-hail drivers as independent contractors. There are some new requirements, such as a wage floor and some health benefit options. Some describe it as a “third way” between benefit-free part-time work and traditional full-time employment. If the idea catches on more broadly, what could it mean for how we work? Molly Wood speaks with David Weil, dean at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. He says the idea comes from Canadian labor law.

Nov 26, 2020
Retail therapy is great, but returns can take the fun out of it

In this pandemic, we are shopping online way, way more than we ever have. And sometimes we want to return the things we buy, which can be a hassle — with shipping and restocking fees and printing out return labels with printers we may or may not have at home. This holiday season, some retailers are trying to make returns easier. For example, employees at Simon malls will process returns for brands like Levi’s and Gap, so all you have to do is go to a mall kiosk with your item and a QR code. But as annoying as online returns can be for us, they might be worse for the retailers. Marielle Segarra speaks with Sucharita Kodali, a retail analyst at Forrester.

Nov 25, 2020
Retailers are turning to virtual storefronts this holiday season

Shopping is a big part of the holiday season: We go downtown or to a packed mall, browse the store windows, smell the chestnuts roasting in the street. The pandemic has obviously changed all this, but some retailers like Gap, Ted Baker, and Ralph Lauren are trying to deliver that experience through our computers. Marielle Segarra recently clicked through a virtual tour of Ralph Lauren’s Beverly Hills store and talked about the virtual storefront experience with Joe Turow, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the book “The Aisles Have Eyes.”

Nov 24, 2020
How soon some parts of the country get 5G depends on what the Biden administration does

We’ve been waiting for 5G, the fifth generation of wireless technology, for years. And the promise of it is great: that it’ll eventually be 100 times faster than 4G and make technologies, like driverless cars and augmented reality, more sophisticated. But there’s still a lot the incoming Biden administration and telecommunication companies will have to do before we have the 5G we’ve been promised. Marielle Segarra speaks with Doug Brake, director of broadband and spectrum policy at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. He says there are several different kinds of 5G, and we’re pretty far off from having the fastest kind from coast to coast.

Nov 23, 2020
Parler lets anything happen on its platform — what if nobody else cares?

The social media site Parler doesn’t fact-check, doesn’t moderate and doesn’t label or remove misinformation. Conservatives and far-right conservatives love it, and disinformation researchers are worried. But there is one other interesting element to Parler: There’s no algorithm that amplifies stories, like the kind that tends to make disinformation go viral on YouTube or Facebook. So, could that lessen its impact? Molly speaks with Shannon McGregor, a professor studying social media at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Nov 20, 2020
Twitter is finally thinking about accessibility first

There’s been a lot of talk this week about new Twitter features, mostly disappearing tweets. But Twitter also announced Tuesday that it’s planning voice-only chat rooms called Spaces where you talk instead of type. Earlier this summer, Twitter experimented with letting people send audio-only tweets, but didn’t allow for captioning those tweets, so they were inaccessible to the deaf community. Twitter put that feature on pause and has now created two new teams — one to make Twitter a more accessible place to work and another to vet product ideas for accessibility. And, according to Twitter, accessibility has been “top of mind when developing Spaces.” “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood speaks with Dalana Brand, vice president and head of inclusion and diversity at Twitter.

Nov 19, 2020