Episodes
As the pandemic recession drags on, people are turning to gig work to fill the gaps, and the nature of that work is evolving. Proposition 22 in California, which passed last week, lets companies classify delivery and ride-hail drivers as independent contractors. There are some new requirements, such as a wage floor and some health benefit options. Some describe it as a “third way” between benefit-free part-time work and traditional full-time employment. If the idea catches on more broadly,...
Published 11/26/20
In this pandemic, we are shopping online way, way more than we ever have. And sometimes we want to return the things we buy, which can be a hassle — with shipping and restocking fees and printing out return labels with printers we may or may not have at home. This holiday season, some retailers are trying to make returns easier. For example, employees at Simon malls will process returns for brands like Levi’s and Gap, so all you have to do is go to a mall kiosk with your item and a QR code....
Published 11/25/20
Shopping is a big part of the holiday season: We go downtown or to a packed mall, browse the store windows, smell the chestnuts roasting in the street. The pandemic has obviously changed all this, but some retailers like Gap, Ted Baker, and Ralph Lauren are trying to deliver that experience through our computers. Marielle Segarra recently clicked through a virtual tour of Ralph Lauren’s Beverly Hills store and talked about the virtual storefront experience with Joe Turow, a professor at the...
Published 11/24/20
We’ve been waiting for 5G, the fifth generation of wireless technology, for years. And the promise of it is great: that it’ll eventually be 100 times faster than 4G and make technologies, like driverless cars and augmented reality, more sophisticated. But there’s still a lot the incoming Biden administration and telecommunication companies will have to do before we have the 5G we’ve been promised. Marielle Segarra speaks with Doug Brake, director of broadband and spectrum policy at the...
Published 11/23/20
The social media site Parler doesn’t fact-check, doesn’t moderate and doesn’t label or remove misinformation. Conservatives and far-right conservatives love it, and disinformation researchers are worried. But there is one other interesting element to Parler: There’s no algorithm that amplifies stories, like the kind that tends to make disinformation go viral on YouTube or Facebook. So, could that lessen its impact? Molly speaks with Shannon McGregor, a professor studying social media at the...
Published 11/20/20
There’s been a lot of talk this week about new Twitter features, mostly disappearing tweets. But Twitter also announced Tuesday that it’s planning voice-only chat rooms called Spaces where you talk instead of type. Earlier this summer, Twitter experimented with letting people send audio-only tweets, but didn’t allow for captioning those tweets, so they were inaccessible to the deaf community. Twitter put that feature on pause and has now created two new teams — one to make Twitter a more...
Published 11/19/20
One thing the Biden administration will inherit when it comes into office is a trade and a tech war with China. President Donald Trump put all kinds of restrictions on American companies doing business with China on the use of technology from Chinese companies like ZTE and Huawei, bans on Chinese smartphone sales here and, of course, an executive order banning TikTok and WeChat, which is still in court. The moves were ostensibly about national security, but also an effort to keep China from...
Published 11/18/20
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA, was created two years ago within the Department of Homeland Security to shield America’s critical infrastructure from cyberattacks. Last week, CISA’s assistant director was pushed out, and there have been reports that its director expects to be fired. So what does this all mean for that critical infrastructure? Molly speaks with Kim Zetter, a cybersecurity journalist and author.
Published 11/17/20
The pandemic has forced lawmakers around the world to get creative about passing legislation. But in the U.S., members of Congress still have to show up to vote in person or have another member cast a proxy vote on their behalf. A report out last week by the House Administration Committee says Congress could conduct remote voting if it wanted to securely with existing technology. Amy Scott speaks with Beth Simone Noveck, who studies the impact of technology on governing as a professor at New...
Published 11/16/20
Lies and unfounded allegations about the U.S. election are not going anywhere. And though we talk about Facebook and Twitter a lot, critics say YouTube hasn’t been doing nearly enough to prevent the sharing of videos that make false or misleading claims. It’s hard to overestimate just how big YouTube is. Over a quarter of U.S. adults get news from it. Amy Scott speaks with Rebecca Heilweil, a reporter for Vox’s “Open Sourced” project.
Published 11/13/20
The incoming Biden administration promises a more open approach to immigration, including the H-1B visa program for highly skilled foreign workers employed by U.S. companies. The Trump administration has moved to restrict foreign work visas. This summer, an executive order temporarily halted new H-1B visas, and last month the Labor Department announced new rules making them more difficult to qualify for. This matters to tech, of course, because the industry employs a huge portion of H-1B visa...
Published 11/12/20
Recent antitrust investigations into Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon have garnered rare bipartisan support, but there are differences of opinion when it comes to enforcement, even within the Democratic Party. Some progressives have called for breaking up tech giants, while others favor a more moderate approach. So how might President-elect Joe Biden move forward? Amy Scott speaks with Rebecca Allensworth, a law professor at Vanderbilt University.
Published 11/11/20
The Federal Communications Commission will confront a number of issues in the coming years, from the digital divide to social media policy to 5G infrastructure. So what could the FCC’s priorities look like under President-elect Joe Biden? Amy Scott speaks with Tom Wheeler, chairman of the FCC from 2013 to 2017. He says one priority will likely be restoring Obama-era net neutrality rules that required internet service providers to offer equal access to content on the web.
Published 11/10/20
The incoming Biden administration will have a long list of policy initiatives, but since the last time Joe Biden was in the White House, tech policy has taken on a much bigger role. Back in 2017, President Trump’s FCC overturned net neutrality regulations. In the years since, the administration has made tech a huge part of its China trade policy, launched antitrust investigations and crafted executive orders on immigration that severely restricted the flow of tech talent. And then there’s the...
Published 11/09/20
In other voting news, Californians this week passed Proposition 24, a new law designed to improve on one passed in 2018, the California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA. The updated version lets people request that companies not share their data, in addition to not selling it. It also creates an enforcement agency for compliance to be set up by 2023. Like Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, California’s privacy law has the potential to set rules of the road throughout the U.S. But a...
Published 11/06/20
Votes in the presidential election are still being counted. The legal challenges have started, and the disinformation efforts that have defined 2020 are still ongoing. For example, there are no credible accounts of ballots suspiciously going missing or turning up or being destroyed. But influencers on various social media networks were spreading false narratives about just that on Election Day and beyond. Marketplace’s Molly Wood speaks with Renée DiResta, the technical research manager at...
Published 11/05/20
This election has included almost every type of disinformation, including deepfake videos that are manipulated to look real, and even the creation of a fake persona with a very real-looking face that was generated by a computer. In fact, software that uses artificial intelligence to create photos of people who don’t exist is increasingly cheap and widespread. Molly speaks with Jevin West, a professor at the University of Washington and director of the Center for an Informed Public. He says...
Published 11/04/20
Election Day won’t mean the end of campaign ads, of course, but the volume and frequency should go way, way down after today, we hope. And you, dear listener, have no doubt encountered dozens, maybe hundreds in recent weeks, a lot of them online. Starting this past weekend, for example, the Trump campaign has taken over the YouTube homepage. But it’s not just Google and Facebook raking in political ad dollars. A combination of bans on political advertising and a simple lack of digital...
Published 11/03/20
There’s a lot riding on the 2020 election, and that’s no less true for the tech industry. Criticism has become bipartisan over the past four years. There was wide support for an antitrust lawsuit against Google, for example. But on other issues the parties and candidates differ profoundly, like on their views over how tech platforms should or should not control users’ speech, their legal liabilities and net neutrality. Host Sabri Ben-Achour speaks with Issie Lapowsky, a senior reporter at...
Published 11/02/20
As a record number of voters cast their ballots by mail this year, more than half of the states are relying on signatures to verify voters’ identities. Nearly 30 counties in at least eight states use automatic signature verification software to help — yes, software. And while humans aren’t always that great, software makes mistakes too, and some experts worry it could even contribute to voter disenfranchisement. Host Sabri Ben-Achour speaks with Kyle Wiggers, who reports on artificial...
Published 10/30/20
The CEOs of Google, Facebook and Twitter testified Wednesday at a Senate hearing that was supposed to be about a fundamentally important internet law called Section 230 — which is about liability protection for tech companies. Instead, the hearing ended up being about how much power big tech companies hold, and how they wield it. Republicans accused social media platforms of anti-conservative bias, but Marketplace Tech’s Molly Wood says the evidence does not support that.
Published 10/29/20
The world of private equity — the hedge funds, the venture capital, the people pouring a ton of money into startups — comes with a huge risk. The reward can be huge too. But if you want a piece of this world, you have to be what’s known as an accredited investor, which means you need to be rich. The idea, historically, was to protect people from getting swindled into throwing their life savings into some sketchy investment. But as time has gone on, people have criticized the rule as a wall...
Published 10/28/20
The U.S. needs a 5G network. But it turns out there are a couple big questions not fully resolved in Washington. Like who’s responsible for divvying up the airwaves it would run on? We point this out because the FCC is looking at auctioning off some of the government-owned spectrum so companies can use it for 5G. And at the same time, the Department of Defense is looking at leasing out some of that same spectrum. So, Sabri Ben-Achour asked telecom analyst Craig Moffett, who’s in charge here?
Published 10/27/20
Every Monday this fall, we’re taking a look at how schools are using technology during the pandemic. And for some, it’s an opportunity to make changes to teaching and learning that have been in the works for a long time. Specifically, personalized learning — the idea that kids all learn at different paces and in different ways, and that curriculums can be tailored to a child’s learning style using artificial intelligence to monitor their progress and modify lessons on the fly. Molly speaks...
Published 10/26/20
Proposition 22 is a California initiative sponsored by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other gig work platforms that would exempt app-based ride-hailing companies and food delivery companies from a new state law that requires them to classify drivers as employees instead of independent contractors. Gig companies have poured nearly $200 million into the Yes on Proposition 22 campaign, making it the most expensive ballot initiative in state history. They’ve threatened to leave California or...
Published 10/23/20