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
Now we know some of what Facebook knows about how it’s hurting us

Facebook knows a lot about how it affects its users, because it’s investigated possible negative impacts. For instance, internal research showed that one of its algorithms actually encourages angrier content. Or that Instagram, which it owns, makes body image issues worse for teen girls. And even though it knows all this, it doesn’t share the information, either with Congress or its own oversight board. That’s the finding of an investigation out this week from The Wall Street Journal, called the Facebook Files. It’s a topic for “Quality Assurance.” Marketplace’s Jed Kim speaks with Jeff Horwitz, a reporter for the Journal and an author of the series.

Sep 17, 2021
There’s still a lot to learn about buying now and paying later

There’s been a surge in the buy now, pay later space, which is exactly what it sounds like: Get something you maybe can’t quite afford and pay it off in installments. You might not even need to have your credit checked. By some counts, more than half of Americans have used it. There are concerns that this new method of payment could be confusing us about what we want versus what we need. And now Affirm, a leader in this space, is partnering with Amazon. Marketplace’s Jed Kim speaks with Max Levchin, CEO of Affirm. Levchin believes the new model of buying is necessary.


Sep 16, 2021
Facebook is taking a run at the whole cameras-in-glasses thing

You’d look so good in these Ray-Bans, and you could capture the envious stares of people who can’t believe how good you’d look. Because these glasses are built through a partnership with Facebook. They allow you to take photos and share video via cameras in the frame. It’s the latest attempt by Silicon Valley to reap bundles of money by using tech to make glasses more than glasses. Google and Snap have also attempted it. We here at “Marketplace Tech” are a camera-shy group, and the prospect of many more cameras makes us nervous. Marketplace’s Jed Kim speaks with Susan Landau, a cybersecurity and policy professor at Tufts University. Landau says there’s a reason we’d be uncomfortable.

Sep 15, 2021
Big Tech is finally seeing the dollar signs seniors represent

Apple’s streaming event from California happens today and many expect there’ll be an announcement of a new iPhone model. Speculation always abounds, because Apple is notoriously tight-lipped with these events. One thing that they have announced is a new feature in iOS that pays attention to how we walk, or our gait. The idea is that it’ll be able to tell if something’s changed about a senior citizen’s gait and that could give early warning of a fall. Marketplace’s Jed Kim speaks with Dominic Endicott, a partner and director at Northstar Ventures, which invests in “age tech.” Endicott says Apple has already introduced a feature in its watches that can tell if you’ve fallen, and it helps you call 911.

Sep 14, 2021
Looking for worms in Apple leaves a bad taste in ethical hackers’ mouths

Bug bounties. They’re an important security tool in the arsenal of many tech companies. Here’s how they work. Give ethical hackers the chance to probe your systems for weaknesses, pay them for exploits they find and fix said exploits before ne’er-do-wells find and use them. Bounty programs vary from company to company. Marketplace’s Jed Kim speaks with Reed Albergotti, a tech reporter for The Washington Post who wrote about widespread dissatisfaction with how Apple pays its bounties and the ways it limits communication about the bugs hackers find — all problems that may hurt security for Apple users.

Sep 13, 2021
Storms are getting stronger. So how do we adapt?

Friday marks the statistical peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, which has already been a very active and destructive one. Marketplace’s Jed Kim continues his discussion with Paul Robinson about how tech can help us cope with flooding. Robinson’s executive director of RISE Resilience Innovations, a nonprofit tech accelerator in Norfolk, Virginia. It supports a wide range of startups that are focused on climate resilience. Some aim to train up a workforce that’s ready to do flood-resistant construction. Others try to aid our adaptability, like developing apps that predict and monitor flooding and map it in real time.

Sep 10, 2021
Flooding is getting worse. Can tech help us deal with it?

Water infrastructure — it’s boring. Invisible. We only care about it when things go wrong, and things have been going wrong. Punishing storms have caused catastrophic flooding in New York, Texas, Louisiana and elsewhere. But water systems are expensive, time consuming and hard to fix. Technology may provide some relief. Marketplace’s Jed Kim talks to Paul Robinson, the executive director of RISE, a nonprofit accelerator in Norfolk, Virginia, that helps develop climate tech. Robinson says one of the companies they fund is StormSensor, which puts sensors in storm and sewer pipes

Sep 09, 2021
The business of editing genes to battle disease is bringing in record funding

When you’re sick, you can get treated with medicine or surgery. There’s a growing field, though, that looks at our own cells as treatment delivery systems. Many see it as the future of medicine, and that’s prompting a lot of investment in the field. This year, the industry is on track to raise more than $20 billion dollars, a record. That’s according to the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine, an advocacy group whose members include universities, foundations and major biopharma companies like Pfizer, Bayer and Johnson & Johnson. Marketplace’s Jed Kim talks to Janet Lambert, their CEO.

Sep 08, 2021
El Salvador becomes the first to make bitcoin a national currency

Starting today, bitcoin is an official national currency in El Salvador, along with U.S. dollars. To use the cryptocurrency, Salvadorans need to download an electronic wallet. If they use the government-sanctioned wallet, they’ll get $30 worth of bitcoin to use. Stores have to accept bitcoin, provided they have internet access and can do so. They’ll still take American dollars. In the past six months, the value of a bitcoin has fluctuated by as much as $30,000, so how it’ll go is anyone’s guess. Marketplace’s Jed Kim speaks with George Selgin, who directs the Center for Monetary and Financial Alternatives at the Cato Institute.

Sep 07, 2021
The right to repair broken tech is key to farmers

This episode originally aired July 19, 2021.

The Federal Trade Commission is turning its attention to the right-to-repair movement — a pushback against manufacturers limiting who can repair the equipment they make. The agency put out a report on this in May that found “the burden of repair restrictions may fall more heavily on communities of color and lower-income communities.” One group watching this debate is farmers, as some companies that make farm equipment only allow repairs at their own dealerships. Kimberly Adams speaks to Terry Griffin, an agricultural economist with Kansas State University. He grew up on a farm in northeast Arkansas and says back then, DIY equipment repairs were just a part of life.

Sep 06, 2021
Apple and Google’s app stores have been fortresses of commerce. South Korea fired a cannonball.

When buying apps or making in-app purchases, you’re pretty much limited to either Apple or Google’s systems, and those companies are paid a commission of up to 30% on your purchase. South Korea this week passed a law that will force them to allow alternative payment systems — ending commissions when developers sell things directly. It comes as Apple and Google are under pressure from antitrust regulators around the world. Marketplace’s Jed Kim speaks with Nick Statt, a reporter at Protocol, who says South Korea’s law is a big deal for developers.

Sep 03, 2021
Covid tested our ability to teach during a crisis. As a new school year begins, how are we doing?

Schools across the country are opening their doors to students again. Many have remote options for those who need it. But a handful of states, including New Jersey and Massachusetts, have largely banned remote learning, saying it’s just not effective enough. But as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, more kids may need to quarantine at home — and without remote options, they could miss weeks of school. Marketplace’s Jed Kim speaks with Michael Horn, the founder of the think tank Clayton Christensen Institute. Horn says many school districts face a lot of uncertainty.

Sep 02, 2021
OnlyFans put many of its users through an emotional wringer. Sex workers are getting fed up.

Sex workers are planning to demonstrate outside of several major banks in New York City on Wednesday. They say Bank of New York Mellon and others are discriminating against them by refusing to process payments for companies like OnlyFans. That is the social media subscription site made popular by sex workers that recently said it was going to ban adult content, then backed off amid criticism. Jed Kim speaks with his Marketplace colleague Kimberly Adams, who has been reporting on the topic. She said payment processors push decisions on what can happen online.

Sep 01, 2021
The mission to get girls coding doesn’t take a COVID break

The gender gap in tech starts pretty early. Look at computer science students: Roughly 4 out of 5 bachelor’s degrees in that field go to men. That’s why the nonprofit Girls Who Code aims to get girls interested at a young age — as early as third grade. Since the organization was founded in 2012, hundreds of thousands of girls have gone through its clubs and summer immersion programs. When COVID-19 canceled in-person classes, they moved totally online. That actually allowed Girls Who Code to grow, and enrollment went up 200%. Marketplace’s Jed Kim speaks with Tarika Barrett, who took over as CEO this year. She said they had to design their new model with the hardest-to-reach girls in mind.

Aug 31, 2021
A kid’s dream come true — video games as medicine!

It’s the age-old mantra of parents who won’t let their kids have gaming consoles — too many video games hurt your brain! But last summer, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first-ever prescription video game. It’s called EndeavorRX, and it’s meant to help treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in kids age 8 to 12. It’s not a standalone treatment — it’ll be prescribed along with other, more traditional medication. Without insurance, it costs about $100 a month. A year later, developers are just starting to reach out to doctors and potential patients. Marketplace’s Jed Kim speaks with Ian Bogost, who directs the film and media studies program at Washington University in St. Louis.

Aug 30, 2021
The legacy of the Theranos debacle weighs especially heavy on women in biotech

The trial of Elizabeth Holmes, former CEO and founder of the blood test company Theranos, is set to begin next week. Holmes is charged with wire fraud, having allegedly defrauded investors about the accuracy of Theranos’ technology. She’s pleaded not guilty. Many other women founders — especially in biotech and health care — have been getting compared to Holmes. Marketplace’s Jed Kim speaks with Erin Griffith, a reporter who covers startups and venture capital for The New York Times. Griffith says investors often ask female entrepreneurs to prove they’re not another Theranos.

Aug 27, 2021
Admit it, you rank your friends by how much they annoy you. Now, Google’s doing it for websites.

What drives you nuts about surfing online? Maybe it’s news sites that autoplay videos or cooking pages that bury their actual recipes below expanding ads. Or maybe it’s your dad, who keeps sending you links to Hampster Dance. Well, for some of the things that make you pull your hair out while browsing, there may be hope. By the end of the month, Google will change how it ranks websites, so that ones that are harder to load are ranked lower. Will that make websites less annoying? Marketplace’s Jed Kim speaks to Simon Schnieders, founder of the search engine optimization agency Blue Array.

Aug 26, 2021
Big batteries are key to the planet’s future. But what’s up with these Bolt fires?

The electric vehicle market got a little shake-up this month after Chevy recalled all of its Bolts due to the risk of battery fires. The recall comes as the EV market is getting hot … uh, no. It’s set to explo — nope! There are going to be a lot more sales in the future. Like many people, Marketplace’s Jed Kim would like to know how a lithium-ion battery goes pear-shaped. He asked Kristin Persson, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.

Aug 25, 2021
Everyone finally understands the importance of cybersecurity. What does that mean for cybersecurers?

There’ve been lots of big security breaches recently. Like in the recent case of T-Mobile, where about 50 million people’s personal information got exposed. And attacks on critical infrastructure, like the Colonial Pipeline hack. Remember those gas shortages along the East Coast? As hacks go up, so does the demand for help preventing and responding to them. Marketplace’s Jed Kim speaks with Lesley Carhart, an incident responder for the industrial cybersecurity company Dragos. Carhart said nowadays, people understand what she does — including her grandma.

Aug 24, 2021
Smart cities promised urban tech utopias. So where are they?

Early in the pandemic, Sidewalk Labs — an offshoot of Google — announced it was shutting down a big project in Toronto called Quayside. It was meant to be a testing ground for smart-city concepts, a hyperconnected neighborhood from the ground up, with things like an underground network of package-delivery robots. But even before the pandemic, it ran into the same problems that have dogged smart-city projects around the world. Marketplace’s Meghan McCarty Carino speaks with Shannon Mattern, who focuses on this topic in her new book, “A City Is Not a Computer: Other Urban Intelligences.” Mattern said optimizing cities for connectivity often means giving up privacy.




Aug 23, 2021
It’s the last gasp for Internet Explorer, once the browser to rule them all

This week, some Microsoft apps, like Outlook, started their slow march to no longer working in Internet Explorer. Next year, the browser itself won’t be supported anymore, as Microsoft moves users to its Edge browser instead. It’s the end of an era for Internet Explorer, which was created back in the ’90s during the browser wars and was the focus of the big antitrust case against Microsoft. Marketplace’s Meghan McCarty Carino speaks with Margaret O’Mara, a professor of history at the University of Washington. O’Mara said the first major browser was Netscape Navigator, co-developed by Marc Andreessen, who saw browsers as the future of everyday computing.

Aug 20, 2021
Digital tools have become a liability and a lifeline of last resort in Afghanistan

When the Afghan government quickly fell to the Taliban over the weekend, alerts went out with instructions to delete digital activity. Contacts, photos, music — anything that might link someone to something opposed by the Taliban. But in the absence of a coordinated evacuation effort, vulnerable Afghans are now being asked to share personal information online, sometimes to accounts they can’t confirm are legitimate. Marketplace’s Meghan McCarty Carino speaks with Eileen Guo, a senior reporter covering tech policy and ethics at MIT Technology Review. Guo spent two and a half years in Kabul as founder of Impassion Afghanistan the country’s first digital media agency and she says Afghans are being asked to share details about past employment, even scans of their passports.

Aug 19, 2021
Using the power of minor internet celebrity to promote vaccines

The Biden administration is reportedly considering recommending a booster shot of the COVID vaccine. But almost a third of Americans over 12 haven’t gotten their first dose yet. Some local health departments are pioneering a new way to reach the hold-outs through micro-influencers. These aren’t the big stars of social media with millions of fans and their own product lines or whatever. Rather, these folks have smaller, local followings in specific communities. The city of San Jose, California and the Knight Foundation recently partnered with about 50 Vietnamese, Latinx and Black micro-influencers to promote vaccines. Marketplace’s Meghan McCarty Carino speaks with Andy Lutzky, the city’s chief communications and marketing officer. He says San Jose’s vaccination rate rose 12 percentage points over the summer, in part because of the influencers’ work.

Aug 18, 2021
A window into the chaos and suffering in Afghanistan, through uploads

A lot of disturbing images have come out of Afghanistan. Some taken by professional media, such as people flooding a runway at the airport in Kabul, and many others taken by citizens on their phones and posted to social media. The technological ability of everyday people to document what’s happening on the ground has changed radically from when the conflict began 20 years ago. Marketplace’s Meghan McCarty Carino speaks with Zeynep Tufekci, who studies the social impacts of technology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She said that while citizen reporting from Afghanistan is all over the internet, some Afghan journalists and activists are trying to erase all traces of their digital histories.

Aug 17, 2021
If we’re gonna spend billions improving broadband, we kinda need to know what’s there

High-speed internet, safe to say, has become pretty essential to our lives, especially during the pandemic, and yet many Americans struggle to get it. The government has mapped internet access for years, but those maps have overestimated that access. So Congress tasked the Federal Communications Commission with making better ones. The first results came out this month: a map showing mobile coverage from four of the biggest wireless carriers. But better maps for wired broadband are still in the works. Meanwhile, Congress is poised to pass the infrastructure bill, which could allocate $65 billion to improving broadband in the places that need it most. Marketplace’s Meghan McCarty Carino interviews Nicol Turner Lee who researches technology access at the Brookings Institution. Turner Lee says this new mobile data is valuable, since about 15% of Americans — especially young and low-income ones — need it to get online.

Aug 16, 2021
Getting a clearer picture of wildfires from thousands of miles into space

The Dixie fire in Northern California has spread more than 700 square miles, making it the largest single fire in California history. There are more than 5,000 firefighters working on the ground to contain it. Increasingly, technology is aiding firefighting efforts like this one — from above. Andre Coleman, a data scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, helped create a new system that uses data from satellites to map the boundaries of a fire, multiple times a day, and predict what it will do next. He says it’s faster and more precise than traditional fire imaging.

Aug 13, 2021
A tech optimist reacts to a not-so-optimistic climate report

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, issued a report this week that laid out over nearly 4,000 pages the reality that many are already living: Climate change is here, and much of that change is irreversible — rising temperatures, more and bigger wildfires, extreme droughts and flooding. And to avoid things getting worse, the report says, we’re going to need new technologies that help us capture and remove carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As part of our series “How We Survive,” we take a look at the role technology can play in a changing climate and how much money is going into it. Marketplace’s Meghan McCarty Carino speaks with Jay Koh, managing director of The Lightsmith Group, which is focused on climate adaptation technology. He says there’s a climate investment boom going on.

Aug 12, 2021
Good news, parents and guardians! Social media might be getting a little safer for kids.

Google just announced a slew of new policies to make its products safer for young users. Facebook did the same just last month. Both said they will restrict targeted advertising aimed at kids and teens, though in slightly different ways. They’re also turning more protective features on by default — like setting kids’ Instagram or YouTube accounts to private, turning off autoplay and disabling location history. Google said it will get rid of “overly commercial content” from YouTube Kids. It will also remove images from its search results of users under 18, if they ask. Marketplace’s Meghan McCarty Carino speaks to Ariel Fox Johnson, the senior counsel for global policy at Common Sense Media. She said there’s been growing concern about the ways these technologies could harm children.

Aug 11, 2021
It’s harder to schmooze a VC over Zoom, but the money’s still flowing

Venture capital investors poured more money into startups over the past year than ever before, according to financial data company PitchBook. Venture is, of course, how a lot of tech startups raise money. This finding may come as something of a surprise — investors have historically favored face-to-face meetings before handing a promising founder millions of dollars. The industry is known for being majority white and majority male and, historically, VC firms have placed a lot of value on the intangible qualities of an entrepreneur. But the move to connecting virtually means it’s not just Silicon Valley area companies that are seeing a boost in funding, it’s startups across the U.S.

Aug 10, 2021
So you have to be vaccinated to get into that hot new bar? There’s an app for that.

More and more places are starting to require vaccines for work, school or to get into concerts, bars and restaurants. That means we’re going to need a way to prove vaccination. There’s the paper card from the CDC everyone gets with their shots, but also digital vaccine passport apps. Marketplace’s Meghan McCarty Carino speaks with Laurin Weissinger, who co-wrote a paper for the  Brookings Institution about vaccine verification systems. Weissinger says we’re starting to see these apps pop up in the U.S., but there’s a lot of variation.

Aug 09, 2021
Why is China targeting its own internet companies?

For months, the Chinese government has been putting pressure on big tech companies. It penalized the recently public ride-hailing company Didi for how it collected user data. It blocked two major video game streaming platforms from combining, hit e-commerce giant Alibaba with a nearly $3 billion antitrust fine and this week, a state-run newspaper called online games “spiritual opium.” But the crackdown hasn’t been targeting all tech companies equally. Marketplace’s Meghan McCarty Carino speaks with Greg Ip, the chief economics commentator for The Wall Street Journal. He writes that the government views the tech industry in two distinct ways: the nice-to-haves and the need-to-haves.

Aug 06, 2021
Is Uber turning Postmates into a zombie app?

We learned this week that Uber saw strong demand for its food delivery service in recent months, despite restaurants reopening. Late last year, the company bought its competitor Postmates for $2.6 billion dollars. Behind the scenes, Uber has been working to merge the two businesses, transitioning drivers away from the Postmates corporate app for months, with plans to completely shut it down as soon as next week. The consumer app will stick around. Marketplace’s Meghan McCarty Carino speaks with Alex Susskind, director of the Cornell Institute for Food and Beverage Management. He says even though Uber and Postmates are offering essentially the same foods from the same drivers, there’s a reason the brands are separate: consumers.

Aug 05, 2021
Twitter wants bounty hunters to help fix its image-cropping algorithm

Back in May, Twitter partially disabled an algorithm that cropped photos posted by users in ways that revealed certain biases. A company audit, and plenty of people on the internet, found the algorithm preferred white faces over Black faces, and women over men. Now, as part of the hacker conference DEF CON, which starts tomorrow, the company is offering a cash bounty to help fix the problem. Marketplace’s Meghan McCarty Carino speaks with Rumman Chowdhury, director of Machine Learning Ethics, Transparency and Accountability at Twitter. Before that, she was founder and CEO of Parity, which helped other companies identify bias in their algorithms. Chowdhury says the cropping algorithm was based on data tracking where real people tended to look in photos.

Correction (Aug. 5, 2021): A previous version of this story misstated how Twitter’s algorithm was biased. The audio has been corrected.

Aug 04, 2021
Do privacy “nutrition” labels stop us from eating the burger?

About seven months ago, Apple rolled out some new features that let users see exactly how apps collect data about us and share it with advertisers. The privacy “nutrition” labels run pretty much on the honor system: It’s up to the app makers to provide the information. Now, Google is revealing how its own labels might work for Android. Marketplace’s Meghan McCarty Carino speaks with Ashkan Soltani, a fellow at Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and Technology. He says we can get a sense of how effective Google’s labels might be by looking at how Apple’s have worked so far.

Aug 03, 2021
An app to track home health care aides has unintended effects

They’re called electronic visit verification apps, or EVVs. They log the hours and the movements of home health care workers paid for by Medicaid. States are just starting to roll them out as part of an Obama-era program that promised to make managing the work of home aides more efficient and reduce fraud in the system. Marketplace’s Meghan McCarty Carino speaks with Virginia Eubanks, the author of “Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor.” She’s been following Arkansas’ implementation of EVVs and co-wrote a story about it for the Guardian newspaper. Eubanks said the state’s app has been glitchy, which led to missed paychecks for aides.

Aug 02, 2021
The Activision Blizzard walkout could bring a reckoning for the video game industry

On Wednesday, hundreds of employees of video game company Activision Blizzard walked out. The protest followed a lawsuit from California regulators accusing the maker of World of Warcraft and Call of Duty of unfair pay and lack of advancement for women and a “frat boy drinking culture” at the company. Management eventually apologized for its initial, dismissive response to the lawsuit and promised to investigate. Sarah Needleman covers video games and technology for The Wall Street Journal. She said men have dominated the video game industry for years, despite a roughly 50-50 split among players.

Jul 30, 2021
When it comes to electric car charging, it’s all about location, location, location

Yesterday, the show focused on how the growing market for electric vehicles is affecting the supply chain for batteries. Today, how about where to charge all those batteries? Many people have electric cars, and a lot more will by 2025. Global sales will triple by 2025, according to IHS Markit. But it’s not just about the number of cars, it’s also about the number of available chargers. Marketplace’s Meghan McCarty Carino speaks with Jessika Trancik, a professor at MIT who recently co-wrote an article on charger placement for Nature Energy. Trancik says for the EV market to grow, we’re going to need more chargers in the right places, especially at home.

Jul 29, 2021
The road to an electric vehicle future is paved with lithium

The electric vehicle market, while still small, has grown rapidly this year. Of course, a global shortage of microchips could slow things down. In the long term, there’s also the issue of availability of lithium, a soft, silvery metal that’s the key component in electric car batteries. Marketplace’s Meghan McCarty Carino speaks to Chris Berry, a strategic metals consultant and president of House Mountain Partners. He says demand for lithium is expected to triple in the next five years which is why some automakers, like GM, have taken the unusual step of making deals with lithium mines directly.

Jul 28, 2021
Why it’s so hard for biographies about women to stay on Wikipedia

When you search for someone notable on the internet, one of the first things that often pops up is a link to their Wikipedia page. But if you’re looking for a notable woman, that might not be the case. There are about 1.5 million biographies on Wikipedia. Only about 19% of them are about women. And those that do get published are much more likely to be targeted for deletion, compared to biographies of men. That’s according to research by Francesca Tripodi, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams speaks to Tripodi about her recent paper, “Ms. Categorized: Gender, notability, and inequality on Wikipedia.”

Jul 27, 2021
How technology is changing what happens after you flush

Let’s talk about gardening technology. Not some fancy gadget for monitoring water or sunlight, but technology that feeds the dirt itself. Washington, D.C.’s wastewater-treatment plant is one of the largest high-tech plants in the world. It uses a process akin to pressure cooking to turn what’s flushed down the toilet into fertilizer fit for planters at home. Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams takes a tour to learn more about thermal hydrolysis tech.

Jul 26, 2021
How important is broadband to the $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan?

Optimists in Washington, including President Biden, are hoping debate on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package could start as early as Monday, just before the August recess. Senate Republicans blocked a procedural vote to start that debate this week, pushing for more time to hammer out details. You’ve got the usual talk of roads and bridges, yes, but broadband is another key part of the bill, with a draft showing $65 billion devoted to expanding high-speed internet access across the country. Details are starting to emerge about what form that might take. Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams interviews John Hendel, a technology reporter at Politico, who is covering the blow-by-blow.

Jul 23, 2021
Augmented reality may change how we see the world. Until then, we have Pokémon.

It’s been five years since Pokémon Go launched, sending kids and adults alike out into the streets, capturing Pokémon through their smartphones. It was one of the first massively successful augmented reality games, generating maps populated with the fantastical creatures based on actual maps. It tracks where players are in the real world to determine which Pokémon they can see. Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams speaks with John Hanke, the CEO of Niantic, the company behind Pokémon Go, about the future of augmented reality. 

Jul 22, 2021
Robots are making progress on space exploration, along with billionaires

High profile trips by billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos have more people thinking about the future of space tourism. There’s a long way to go before that’s common, but one destination for would-be space explorers is Mars. NASA scientists are working on robots to help explore more of the planet first. Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams talks with Ali Agha, a principal investigator and research technologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who’s testing a fleet of robots, including ones from Boston Dynamics called Spot by sending them into caves in Northern California.

Jul 21, 2021
New evidence that your smartphone isn’t nearly as private as you hope

Seventeen international news organizations dropped the results of a sprawling and detailed investigation over the weekend. It’s called the Pegasus Project, and it found that Israeli surveillance tech firm NSO sold its software to clients who used it to spy on human rights activists, journalists and politicians. One surveillance tool, called Pegasus, could infect people’s smartphones, sometimes just by sending a text. It could collect emails, calls, social media posts, passwords, even activate the camera or microphone. Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams and Molly Wood talk about the story.

Jul 20, 2021
The right to repair broken tech is key to farmers

The Federal Trade Commission is turning its attention to the right-to-repair movement — a pushback against manufacturers limiting who can repair the equipment they make. The agency put out a report on this in May that found “the burden of repair restrictions may fall more heavily on communities of color and lower-income communities.” The FTC is set to vote on Wednesday on next steps. One group watching this debate is farmers, as some companies that make farm equipment only allow repairs at their own dealerships. Kimberly Adams speaks to Terry Griffin, an agricultural economist with Kansas State University. He grew up on a farm in northeast Arkansas and says back then, DIY equipment repairs were just a part of life.

Jul 19, 2021
In the face of mass protests, the Cuban government turned off the internet

This week in Cuba, journalists, influencers and regular citizens posted scenes online from the country’s largest anti-government protests in decades. That is, until the government restricted access to a number of social media platforms. According to the internet monitoring firm NetBlocks, Facebook, Instagram, Telegram and WhatsApp were all disrupted. There are reports that access returned by midweek. Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams spoke with Isabella Alcañiz, director of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Center at the University of Maryland, about the growing importance of internet access in Cuba.

Jul 16, 2021
The EU has led the charge on regulating Big Tech. What about disinformation?

Arguably one of the biggest problems facing the world right now is disinformation. It’s fueled everything from the spread of QAnon conspiracy theories to the Capitol Insurrection to anti-vaccination movements — all of which undermine democracy and public health. Lawmakers and researchers in the U.S. have demanded that social media platforms do more to deal with disinformation. But what about the European Union, which has aggressively regulated tech in other ways and has historically been more willing to police speech than the U.S. has? Host Molly Wood interviews Margarethe Vestager, executive vice president of the European Commission. Vestager oversaw an EU legislative proposal, the Digital Services Act, which would require online platforms to do more to tackle things like hate speech.



Jul 15, 2021
Europe shows a new way to think about regulating tech companies

The European Union has led the charge on regulating Big Tech companies for years now. Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation was the first major rule on the transfer and tracking of personal data. The EU has also given the rest of the world a new way to think about tackling the American giants: Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon. Last year, the EU produced two proposals for regulation that labeled the biggest tech companies “gatekeepers” meaning they control or restrict access to other companies, apps or services. Host Molly Wood speaks with Margrethe Vestager, the executive vice president of the European Commission who oversaw the proposals.

Jul 14, 2021
Big Tech dodged one tax bullet, but another one is coming

European Union leaders said Monday they will delay, for now, plans for a digital tax that would require Big Tech companies like Facebook and Google to pay taxes anywhere they do business. That’s because, this weekend, leaders from the world’s 20 biggest economies agreed to try to create a global minimum tax. Host Molly Wood speaks to Margrethe Vestager, the executive vice president of the European Commission, who oversees competition and digital policy. She says the digital tax isn’t off the table, but tech will have to pay either way.

Jul 13, 2021
What does it take to get people to be kind online?

The neighborhood social media platform Nextdoor is planning to go public at a valuation of around $4.3 billion. The company says it saw astronomical growth in active users this past year. Its shares will trade under the ticker symbol “KIND” because part of the company’s mission, it says, is to cultivate kindness. At the same time, the platform has struggled to deal with hate speech and the spread of misinformation. Nextdoor says it is willing to accept a decline in user engagement if that means the platform has less racist speech. Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams speaks to Susan McGregor, a scholar with the Data Science Institute at Columbia University. McGregor says that even though people may know one another on Nextdoor, it doesn’t necessarily make them nicer.

Jul 12, 2021
What technology can and can’t do to aid first responders in Surfside

About two weeks ago, part of a 12-story condominium in Surfside, Florida, collapsed. Dozens of people were killed, and dozens more are unaccounted for. Images of cranes and giant shovels, along with lines of first responders carefully removing buckets of debris, reveal the scale of the difficult task of finding those still missing. While sniffer dogs and emergency personnel working by hand are still doing most of the work, there is a variety of technology, old and new, aiding them. First, in the attempt to rescue any survivors; now, for the recovery of victims and as part of the effort to understand why the building collapsed. Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams speaks with Robin Murphy, director of the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue.

Jul 09, 2021
Ever watch something on YouTube and wished you hadn’t? You’re not alone.

Most of what people watch on YouTube is recommended by YouTube’s algorithm. Finish one video on how to save a dying houseplant, and it might suggest more. But that system can also send users down rabbit holes that radicalize and misinform. For almost a year, the Mozilla Foundation has been tracking the viewing habits of more than 37,000 volunteers who installed a browser extension letting them identify videos they called “regrettable.” Mozilla found YouTube’s algorithm recommended 70% of those problematic videos. Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams speaks to Brandi Geurkink, senior manager of advocacy at Mozilla, who led the research effort.

Jul 08, 2021
There will be no return of the JEDI contract

If you land a contract with the Department of Defense, that’s usually big money. Unless, of course, the government changes its mind. That’s what happened to Microsoft this week when the Pentagon canceled the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, cloud computing contract. The government controversially awarded that $10 billion contract to Microsoft in late 2019; Amazon immediately sued, saying former President Donald Trump exerted undue influence over the decision, which led to a long legal battle. Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams speaks with “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood about why the old contract no longer met the Pentagon’s needs.

Jul 07, 2021
Big social media firms commit to protecting women online, but what’s actually going to change?

More than a third of women report personal experiences with online violence. This month, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Google all signed on to new commitments to address online abuse and women’s safety on the web. The companies say they will test out new tools, including one that would give users the chance to put the brakes on a video that unexpectedly goes viral. Facebook, Twitter and Google didn’t make specific pledges about when they would be testing the new tools, but TikTok said its tests will start as early as this year.

Jul 06, 2021
There’s a new boss at the FCC … let’s … talk about the internet, shall we?

This episode originally aired May 5, 2021.

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. Host Molly Wood speaks with the new acting chairwoman of the FCC, Jessica Rosenworcel, about expanding access — starting with those maps.

Jul 05, 2021
How a debate over consumer privacy may influence the push to regulate Big Tech

It’s been a big week for the Federal Trade Commission. A court on Monday threw out the agency’s antitrust complaint against Facebook and told it to come back with a stronger argument. On Thursday, Lina Khan chaired her first meeting as the new head of the Federal Trade Commission and started making changes right out of the gate, expanding the agency’s antitrust powers. Khan is famous for her antitrust arguments against Amazon, but she’s also written on the role privacy concerns could play in attempting to regulate big tech firms like Facebook. Marketplace’s Kimberly Aadms speaks with Issie Lapowsky, a senior reporter for Protocol, who dug into this part of Khan’s background, especially a 2019 article she co-authored on the idea of “information fiduciaries.”

Jul 02, 2021
Not even the government knows the full extent of how government is using facial recognition

A new report from the Government Accountability Office says at least 20 federal agencies are using facial recognition technology, and not just the obvious acronyms like the FBI, TSA and ICE. Agencies like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NASA are using the tech, too. More than half of the agencies using facial recognition don’t know what systems their employees are using or how often they use them. Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams interviews Gretta Goodwin, director of the GAO’s homeland security and justice team, about the agency’s findings.

Jul 01, 2021
Nevada considers bringing back the “company town” for the tech industry

In recent years, Nevada has drawn plenty of tech companies to the state, especially to Northern Nevada, which is close to both Silicon Valley and Lake Tahoe. Lawmakers now are looking at a new way to try to lure companies to the state. As Benjamin Payne reports, it is not without controversy.

Jun 30, 2021
The founder of a new ad-free search engine bets people will pay for privacy

When you search for something online, chances are you Google it. The company handles about 90% of search traffic globally and makes money by selling ads based on the things it knows about you. But, there are competitors offering the ability to search privately, including a new one from folks who learned the trade at Google. Sridhar Ramaswamy worked in ads at Google for 15 years, and he’s the co-founder of Neeva — an ad-free, subscription-based search engine that launches Tuesday. But why would people pay $4.95 a month for something they’re used to getting for “free?” Marketplace’s Amy Scott interviews him to find out.

Jun 29, 2021
Recruiting the next generation of venture capitalists from historically Black colleges

Venture capital has been the way the world’s most promising tech companies get funded. But it’s a notoriously white industry. A survey last year by the National Venture Capital Association found that just 4% of U.S. workers in the industry are Black. HBCUvc is a nonprofit trying to change that by connecting VC firms with historically Black colleges and universities, like Morgan State. Marketplace’s Amy Scott spoke to HBUvc leadership, students and Black entrepreneurs to find out more about how the group might bring about change.

Jun 28, 2021
Congress moves closer to setting limits on Big Tech. How far will lawmakers go?

This week, after nearly 30 hours of debate, the House Judiciary Committee passed a series of antitrust bills that could weaken the power and influence of the biggest tech companies. The proposed legislation would increase merger filing fees to give regulators more money to police them, prohibit big companies from snapping up smaller competitors and even force tech giants to sell off parts of their business that create conflicts of interest. All of the measures had some bipartisan support, but there’s still a lot of disagreement even within parties about how far to go. Marketplace’s Amy Scott speaks to Makena Kelly, a policy reporter at The Verge, who followed the hearings.

Jun 25, 2021
Funding is pouring in to companies trying to crack self-driving tech

The self-driving software firm Embark Trucks said Wednesday it plans to go public in a deal that would raise more than $600 million and value the company at more than $5 billion. Alphabet’s Waymo just raised $2.5 billion in fresh funding as it tries to expand its self-driving taxi fleet outside of Phoenix. Chris Gerdes is a professor of mechanical engineering and co-director of the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford and a safety adviser with Ford’s autonomous-vehicle division. Marketplace’s Amy Scott asked him where all this money is going.

Jun 24, 2021
Rising prices make it harder to estimate what a house is really worth

The median sale price of an existing home rose to a record $350,300 last month, according to the latest report from the National Association of Realtors. Sales of existing homes fell in May for the fourth straight month as competition for the few homes available continued to push up prices. Last week, Zillow announced an update to its tool for estimating home values, saying the changes allow its algorithm to “react more quickly to market trends.” Marketplace’s Amy Scott spoke to Norm Miller, a professor of real estate finance at the University of San Diego and a consultant to companies that create automated valuation models for banks and the government.

Jun 23, 2021
The Biden administration wants to fight domestic terrorism. How can tech help?

Earlier this month, the White House released its first-ever strategy to fight domestic terrorism. The plan includes more funding for investigators and prosecutors, better information sharing between agencies and efforts to address the underlying causes of violent extremism, such as racism and bigotry. Tech has a role to play too. The Joe Biden administration says it will invest in programs to increase digital literacy and work with tech companies to make it harder for terrorists to recruit online. Marketplace’s Amy Scott spoke with Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the nonprofit Global Project Against Hate and Extremism.

Jun 22, 2021
Does human resources still need humans?

You’d think one line of work that would be safe from the robot takeover is human resources. But some companies are working on it. A recent New York Times investigation laid out how Amazon’s automated systems for managing warehouse workers led to unreasonable scheduling, delayed benefits and inadvertent firings. Marketplace’s Amy Scott speaks with Peter Cappelli, a professor of management and director of the Center for Human Resources at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. He explains what a traditional HR department used to do that’s now done by software.

Jun 21, 2021
A critic of Big Tech is now one of its biggest regulators

This week, the White House appointed Lina Khan to chair of the Federal Trade Commission. The announcement came just hours after she was confirmed by the Senate to be a commissioner. At just 32, she’s the youngest-ever FTC chair. Khan rose to fame for a paper she wrote while at Yale Law School, making the case for reining in Amazon’s monopoly power. Khan went on to work on Capitol Hill, as an FTC staffer and as a professor at Columbia University’s law school. Marketplace’s Amy Scott speaks with Cecilia Kang, who covers tech policy for The New York Times. According to Kang, the difference between commissioner and chair is a big one.

Jun 18, 2021
Buy now, pay later. What’s the catch?

If you do any shopping online, you’ve no doubt seen offers to pay for that sweater or mattress in installments using services from Affirm, Afterpay, Klarna and other fintech companies. These “buy now, pay later” startups got a boost from the growth in online shopping during the pandemic. And the model is moving beyond retail to include things like rent, travel, even medical bills. Marketplace’s Amy Scott spoke with Sheridan Trent, a research analyst for the Strawhecker Group, a consulting firm that works with some “buy now, pay later” companies.

Jun 17, 2021
What the authoritarian crackdown on social media means for global activism

It’s been more than a decade since the revolution that came to be known as the Arab Spring, when protesters across the Middle East challenged — and in some cases overthrew — authoritarian governments. Social media played a central role in helping activists organize and build support. Now, autocratic leaders around the world have been stifling dissent on these platforms or banning them altogether. Russia, China, India and Nigeria are some recent examples. Could social media play the same role today that it did in 2010? Marketplace’s Amy Scott speaks with Philip Howard, a professor of sociology, information and international affairs at Oxford University.

Jun 16, 2021
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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