Episodes
The European Union is proposing new regulations on big tech companies and how they use their data, potentially to the detriment of competing companies. That is on the heels of the FTC and 46 states suing Facebook, and the FTC opening investigations into lots of other tech companies. One thing that both the EU and the FTC say is that these big tech companies impose anti-competitive conditions on third-party developers that operate on their platforms. Apple has been criticized over its App...
Published 12/16/20
At least three government agencies have been the target of a major cyberspying campaign, apparently by the Russian government. We learned this week that hackers have been spying on the U.S. departments of Commerce, Treasury and even Homeland Security since the spring, and officials say it’s likely there are more victims that haven’t been revealed yet. The attackers got in by corrupting software updates from the company SolarWinds, which provides network management tools to the agencies. Molly...
Published 12/15/20
Millions of Americans remain unemployed in this pandemic and can’t pay their rent, so people are being evicted all over the country. Eviction hearings have moved to Zoom or Webex or even the phone, to limit the spread of COVID-19 in courtrooms. But some tenants’ rights advocates say the virtual hearings violate people’s rights. There aren’t procedures in place for people who don’t have broadband access, and translators that would be required in court aren’t required online. Molly speaks with...
Published 12/14/20
The Federal Trade Commission and almost every state are calling for Facebook to be broken up in what is probably the most groundbreaking tech antitrust lawsuit since Microsoft was sued in the 1990s. We take a look back at that Microsoft case to see if it offers any lessons for today’s tech giants. Molly Wood speaks with Margaret O’Mara, a history professor at the University of Washington and author of the book “The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America.” Your support makes our...
Published 12/11/20
Pandemic plus holidays? That equals a huge increase in online shopping and about 800 million more packages to be delivered than last year. But shipping companies and merchants that aren’t Amazon aren’t handling it all that well. For example, last week UPS limited the number of packages it would pick up from certain merchants like the Gap and Macy’s. In some ways, this seems like something folks should have prepared for, but it’s a big deal for shippers to increase capacity. It takes...
Published 12/10/20
COVID-19 vaccines are being administered this week in the United Kingdom, less than a year after COVID-19 became a devastating pandemic. And the vaccines from Pfizer, in partnership with BioNTech, and Moderna use a new type of vaccine technology that’s sort of like cellular engineering. Traditional vaccines introduce fragments of virus protein into the body for it to learn to recognize and attack. These vaccines, however, use something called messenger RNA, or mRNA, to give the body a...
Published 12/09/20
The coronavirus pandemic has gone hand in hand with an infodemic of misinformation about everything from homemade cures to whether masks work (spoiler alert: They do). Now, if possible, the misinformation stakes have gotten even higher as the COVID-19 vaccine begins to roll out. Doses are set to be administered in the U.K. as soon as Tuesday, and disinformation researchers say there’s a whole new wave of renewed activity spreading lies about vaccine safety and the origin of the virus. Molly...
Published 12/08/20
For years, President Donald Trump has been calling for the repeal of Section 230, the part of the Communications Decency Act from 1996 that says an online publisher or platform like YouTube or Facebook can’t be sued for things that are posted by other people. The president recently said he would actually veto the country’s annual defense spending bill if it didn’t include a repeal of Section 230. But, see, a lot of what people say they don’t like about Section 230, like claiming that social...
Published 12/07/20
The West is in a drought that’s only getting worse, and drought is an even bigger problem in places that have uneven access to water to start with. In the Navajo Nation, in the southwestern U.S., many homes have no running water at all. The tribe is working with the startup Source, which makes Hydropanels — solar-powered panels that pull water vapor from the air and condense it into clean drinking water. Molly speaks with Milton Tso, president of the Cameron chapter in the Navajo Nation,...
Published 12/04/20
Geothermal energy systems let people heat and cool their homes using energy from the Earth. The technology has been around for decades and is incredibly efficient, but fewer than 1% of homes in the U.S. use it. Now, Dandelion Energy wants to do for geothermal heating what Tesla did for the electric car — make it cool. Your support makes our podcast possible — become a Marketplace Investor today to keep us going strong.
Published 12/03/20
Increasingly, in the U.S., people are having to adapt to a world without reliable power. Storms, fires and even power shut-offs designed to prevent fires have lots of people trying to figure out local solutions for electricity. One solution is microgrids — decentralized power generation often with solar energy as its source. Molly speaks with Jose Alfaro, a professor at the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan. He says microgrids can represent freedom. Your support...
Published 12/02/20
A big element of the business story around climate change is risk. The risk to cities, states and countries, to businesses and the banks that invest in all of them. Some regulatory bodies, like the European Central Bank, require climate risk assessment. It’s possible the Federal Reserve may eventually as well. Molly speaks with Emilie Mazzacurati, who runs the climate data firm Four Twenty Seven, which was acquired by Moody’s last year. It uses big data analysis to help companies and...
Published 12/01/20
All this week on Marketplace Tech, we’re looking at technology that can help us become more resilient to climate change. The startup BlocPower uses software to identify buildings that are prime candidates to receive more efficient energy systems. At the individual building level, this has immediate effects on both comfort and cost. And the company’s founder and CEO, Donnel Baird, says that doing this at the community level makes the entire grid more resilient. He talks with Marketplace Tech...
Published 11/30/20
This month in California, voters approved Proposition 22, a ballot measure that says drivers for apps like Uber, Lyft and Instacart will remain independent contractors, not employees. We hear from four gig drivers both in and out of California who have mixed views on the law.
Published 11/27/20
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