Hosted by Molly Wood, “Marketplace Tech” demystifies the digital economy. The daily show uncovers how tech influences our lives in unexpected ways and provides context for listeners who care about the impact of tech, business and the digital world.
Here's the Latest Episode from Marketplace Tech:
The debate over how social media platforms deal with content hit a new peak this week after Twitter fact-checked several of President Donald Trump’s tweets. That prompted Trump to sign an executive order trying to limit platforms’ legal protections. Currently, under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, internet platforms aren’t legally responsible for most content posted by users. Host Molly Wood speaks with Jeff Kosseff, author of “The Twenty-Six Words That Created the Internet,” a book on Section 230.
COVID-19 has opened up a conversation about remote therapy, but online mental health care goes way beyond talking to a therapist over video chat. App analytics companies say downloads of mental health and wellness apps are up almost 30% since the pandemic began. These include therapy services, but also meditation apps like Calm and Headspace. Do they work, and how is your data handled? American Public Media’s mental health reporter, Alisa Roth, takes a look.
Tech has helped in the fight against the coronavirus, but there’s a bottleneck when it comes to contact tracing: public health departments. These government agencies are chronically underfunded, and some don’t have the right tech to get medical data quickly. Host Molly Wood speaks with Dan Gorenstein, co-host of the health-care podcast “Tradeoffs,” about trying to track the spread of the virus with fax machines.
This week marks two years since Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation went into effect. Companies spent millions of dollars on GDPR compliance, and people expected fines so big they’d put Big Tech out of business. That didn’t exactly happen, but what has the GDPR meant for consumer privacy? Host Molly Wood speaks with Jessica Lee, a partner with the law firm Loeb & Loeb who specializes in privacy.
TikTok has been in the news for its new CEO, who was poached from Disney, and for the record labels who think the service should pay more to publishers and artists for song rights. And there have been calls to ban it in the U.S. over its Chinese ownership and security fears. But its popularity keeps growing.
Most restaurants right now are open for delivery or pickup only, and that means a lot of them are relying on third-party delivery services like Grubhub, DoorDash or Uber Eats. Those services can charge significant fees to restaurants, and some restaurants complain those fees are unsustainable. Some cities have capped those fees and now the delivery companies say the caps are unsustainable. Host Molly Wood speaks with Venessa Wong, a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News.
Ventilators, dialysis machines and mechanical beds are more important than ever. That equipment, of course, breaks down. And some manufacturers restrict access to repair information, so hospital technicians can’t just fix things themselves. Molly Wood speaks with iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens, who just launched a public database of medical-equipment repair manuals.
Uber looking to buy Grubhub. Facebook buying Giphy. Apple nabbing NextVR. Host Molly Wood speaks with Mark Lemley, who teaches antitrust and internet law at Stanford University, about whether regulators will take action against any of these deals. He says Facebook buying Giphy, for example, may not be any worse than its purchase of Instagram. But the combined weight of so many acquisitions could prompt regulators to wade in.
The Chinese telecom manufacturer Huawei sells a lot of the complex hardware needed for 5G. But what if there were a way to build the networks that didn’t depend on Huawei? A group of 31 companies are pushing for devices that let software do most of the heavy lifting. Host Molly Wood speaks with Doug Brake, director of broadband and spectrum policy at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.
The biggest instant homebuyers — Opendoor, Zillow, Offerpad and Redfin — stopped making purchases in March, in some cases backing out of deals and forfeiting their deposits. Now, some iBuyers are coming back, but they’ll need to prove the model can survive a downturn. Marketplace’s Amy Scott speaks with Mike DelPrete, who watches iBuying closely. He’s a scholar-in-residence at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Host Molly Wood speaks with Marketplace correspondent Scott Tong about the increase in ransomware attacks against hospitals and other health-care facilities. Tong says places that are working on coronavirus testing and vaccines appear to be especially popular targets. And because these institutions are anxious to restore access to potentially lost patient information, they may ignore authorities’ advice and pay the ransoms.
Notarization has been around for centuries. It’s when an official of the state verifies a person’s identity so she can buy a house, adopt a child or draft a will. Lots of states allow online notarization, but the COVID-19 pandemic has forced others states to follow. On “Marketplace Tech” today, a look at how online notarization works, why it costs more and how secure the practice is.
Host Molly Wood speaks with Sarah Chavez, executive director of the nonprofit group The Order of the Good Death. Social distancing makes it hard to mourn together deaths from the pandemic or other causes. So people are turning to digital spaces to remember their loved ones. Chavez says some people are even creating digital altars in the video game Animal Crossing.
Host Molly Wood speaks with Renée DiResta, the technical research manager at Stanford Internet Observatory, about coronavirus disinformation campaigns. YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have been trying to chase the conspiracies off the internet, but DiResta says it’s not an accident these theories reach so many people. It’s an old playbook that’s even more effective in a time of fear and uncertainty.
Host Molly Wood speaks with Ann Hornaday, a film critic at The Washington Post, about the future of films in the pandemic era. Since lots of people are working from home and using Zoom, she says it will eventually be a stylistic option for directors trying to convey what it was like living through 2020. It’s just a matter of time, she says, before the first Zoom movie.
Host Molly Wood speaks with Etsy CEO Josh Silverman about how the platform has been a go-to for people looking for fabric masks. Silverman says that Etsy sellers had to pivot to making and selling masks after the CDC announced that everyone should be wearing them outside. The company helped sell more than 12 million masks last month.
Host Molly Wood speaks with Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams, who covers politics and the economy, about how political ads are changing during the pandemic. Adams says online ads may be cheaper, helping cash-strapped campaigns, but consumers are even less in the mood for content that doesn’t either cheer them up or inform them about COVID-19. It could also mean that online ads are way more accessible to bad actors looking to spread misinformation.
Host Molly Wood speaks with Michael Petricone of the Consumer Technology Association about the Trump administration’s executive order on green cards and how it’ll affect the tech industry. Petricone says that immigrants make the U.S. economy and tech industry stronger. He adds that limitations on green cards and visas could make it harder for the economy to recover once the COVID-19 pandemic recedes.
Host Molly Wood speaks with Ryan Calo, a professor of law at the University of Washington, about the legalities involved in police using drones to monitor social distancing requirements during this pandemic. Calo says that though it can be legal, he is worried about surveillance being combined with AI tools that purport to detect whether people are sick. He raises concerns about companies selling “technical snake oil” and increasing anxieties in an already anxious environment.
Host Molly Wood speaks with Dr. Loren Wold, from the nursing school of Ohio State University, about how he and OSU colleagues have adapted to create COVID-19 tests. He says they’ve needed to create their own fluids to stabilize samples, 3D-print their own nasal swabs and figure out supply chain logistics for test tubes.
Host Molly Wood speaks with Felix Salmon, chief financial correspondent at Axios, about fintech companies getting involved in the PPP loan program for small businesses. He says PayPal, Square and other fintechs aren’t likely to beef up that side of their businesses beyond the federal program, mainly because they’re not well-equipped to gauge risks on loans that aren’t guaranteed by the government.
Host Molly Wood speaks with David Sapin, who works for consulting firm PwC, about the company’s new contact-tracing app. After an employee self-reports being positive for coronavirus, Sapin says, the human resources department could see if the exposed employee came into contact with co-workers and notify them. He says the app only traces contacts at the workplace, not outside.
Host Molly Wood speaks with Lily Hay Newman, a reporter at Wired, about the recent surge of phishing emails. Newman says with the distraction of the pandemic, people online are more vulnerable to hackers asking for information like login credentials. Some of these messages, she adds, are disguised as fast-food coupons, making it challenging to detect the fraud.
Host Molly Wood speaks with the CEO of Houseparty, Sima Sistani, about the sudden surge in the use of the app as people quarantining at home connect for video chats with friends and family. Like Zoom, Houseparty’s privacy practices have come under scrutiny as millions more are using the platform. Keep a close eye on your connections lists, Sistani says, and privacy should not be an issue.
In the United States, we’ve traditionally liked using cash and credit cards to pay for things. But the COVID-19 crisis means we’re buying different things in new ways. That represents an opportunity for people to start using financial technology apps like Venmo and Square, even in typically analog places, like farmers markets.
Host Molly Wood speaks with VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi about simultaneous show and movie watching options that are helping us be alone together during the pandemic. He says people have the options of creating group watches via Netflix Party and gaming streaming sites. “Gaming is the new social network,” he says.
Host Molly Wood speaks with Sara Fischer, a media reporter at Axios, about the state of the digital advertising industry. Usually, Fischer said, the ad industry as a whole grows along with U.S. GDP, with the digital segment outperforming. Since the economy has gone south during the coronavirus pandemic, the digital ad industry’s initial 2020 growth estimate of 12% has dwindled to 4%. Yet even its shriveled prospects look good relative to other media.
Host Molly Wood speaks with Avi Reichental, an early pioneer in 3D printing, about how 3D printers could help fill the gap for much needed PPE during this pandemic. He says that not only are companies making things, but so are many people who have 3D printers at home. Now, he says, FDA regulations should be revisited and revised so 3D PPE can be quickly approved and certified.
Host Molly Wood speaks to Michael Alvarez, professor of political and computational social science at Caltech, about the possibility of people voting online in the November general election. During this pandemic, when people want to minimize coming into contact with other people and anything physical that can potentially transmit COVID-19, like paper, Alvarez says there might be the possibility of people voting through an app to minimize that friction. But federal and state governments, he adds, have to come up with a plan to make that a smooth transition for everyone and avoid any technical crises.
Host Molly Wood speaks with Holli Plummer, who teaches English and history at a Los Angeles private school, about the learning curve all teachers and students are facing now that everything is being taught online. Plummer says teachers from all over the world are coming together to find solutions to making online learning as effective as traditional classes.
Host Molly Wood speaks with Adi Robertson, a senior reporter at The Verge, about how virtual reality is having its time right now. However, due to the global pandemic, VR headsets are on a shortage, which might make the product miss its spotlight. Robertson says we shouldn’t think of VR as a tool for online and homeschooling because it’s expensive and inaccessible for students, given the shortage — not to mention students who already have a hard time getting access to the internet and a decent computer.
When someone tests positive for COVID-19, one way to try to prevent its spread is for public health officials to track down all the people that person has been in contact with and then isolate them. This is called contact tracing, and the U.S. hasn’t done a great job of it so far. Now Big Tech wants to get involved. Apple and Google announced a program where they allow people who’ve tested positive for the virus to tell an app, which then alerts people nearby via Bluetooth technology. Will it work? “Marketplace Tech” host Molly Wood discusses that with Ross Anderson, a professor of security engineering at the University of Cambridge.
Host Molly Wood speaks with Jimmy Chen, founder and CEO of the startup Propel, which makes an app called Fresh EBT. The app helps recipients of SNAP, also known as food stamps, digitally check their balances. Now, Propel has partnered with GiveDirectly, a nonprofit, to give a one-time cash gift to users of the Fresh EBT app, beginning in areas hardest hit by COVID-19.
Host Molly Wood speaks with Sarah Frier, a social media reporter for Bloomberg News, about her new book “No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram.” Originally, the incentive on Instagram was to get as many followers, likes and comments as possible on content posted, but during this pandemic, Frier says, influencers on the platform are sharing entertainment via live videos and stories — tools that were less popular pre-pandemic. She also predicts that Instagram won’t go back to mostly aspirational content posting — like photos of outfits, luxe dinners or exotic travel — right away.
Host Molly Wood speaks with Jay Koh, managing director of the private equity firm the Lightsmith Group, which focuses on climate adaptation technology. As the pandemic keeps people quarantined at home, the fight against climate change isn’t paused. And Koh says after the pandemic, people may reevaluate the way they travel, which could permanently lower our carbon footprint.
Host Molly Wood speaks with Joseph Steinberg, a cybersecurity consultant, about why some state and federal computing infrastructures are still running on the decades-old coding language COBOL. New Jersey’s recent surge of unemployment benefit claims overwhelmed the system. It might need to be replaced or at least scaled up, Steinberg says, and that can be expensive.
Host Molly Wood speaks with U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna of California, a Democrat whose 17th District includes Silicon Valley, about how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting business for tech companies. Many of these companies, he says, have been pitching various tech-based solutions, and many are still not being used. Right now he is also working with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and other legislators to help gig workers maintain their flow of income.
Host Molly Wood speaks with Aziz Gilani of venture capital firm Mercury Fund about why venture-backed startup companies are not included in the coronavirus relief bill, which allows small businesses to apply for loans. Congress did not intend to leave startups out, he says, but the oversight means his company is scrambling to find ways to support some 40 companies in Mercury’s portfolio.
Kimberly James, 46, of Rome, Georgia, is a gig worker who has delivered food and transported passengers. But she has health problems, and has had to stop working to minimize her exposure to COVID-19. But, as a gig worker, not an employee, she has way fewer options for how to keep herself afloat financially.
Host Kimberly Adams speaks with her sister, Nichole Adams-Flores, psychology supervisor for CHE Behavioral Health Services, about how telehealth has changed during the pandemic to allow her to continue offering mental health care to the elderly patients she works with. Now, Adams-Flores says, they are allowed to use popular apps like WhatsApp or FaceTime to stay in touch with loved ones and doctors. It does pose some patient privacy questions, and Adams-Flores says that’s been a big topic of conversation.
Host Kimberly Adams speaks with Matt Day, a tech reporter at Bloomberg, about Amazon’s current state as it is still shipping out products during this pandemic when people are being ordered to stay at home. Workers at Amazon warehouses, Day says, have organized walkouts and speaking out about their working conditions — working more to ship out both essential and nonessential goods. Day notes, however, that Amazon’s core business model isn’t only e-commerce, but also anything regarding Amazon Web Services, so they will survive business-wise this pandemic.
Host Molly Wood speaks with Kim Zetter, a cybersecurity journalist, about the spike of Zoom bombing — a new phenomenon where strangers obtain Zoom meeting IDs and barge in digitally to disrupt the meeting. Zoom is also facing different scrutiny, Zetter says, now that it was discovered that the platform had been sharing data to Facebook without being fully transparent. Zetter adds that Zoom users — especially those hosting digital meetings — should be mindful of the privacy breaches the platform may have and start requiring passwords for Zoom guests to wait and be let into the e-meetings.
Host Molly Wood speaks with Rajiv Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation. Back in 2014, Shah was in charge of leading the Ebola response in West Africa, and only with data metrics, he says, was his team of epidemiologists able to identify those who had tested positive with the disease and those who at least had symptoms of the disease. With that in mind, Shah says the U.S. should create some sort of data-driven response to identify the same issues with COVID-19 — who’s tested positive, who’s symptomatic, what is working with social distancing (or not) and what health care workers need.
Host Molly Wood speaks with Chris Giattina, CEO of the Alabama-based manufacturing and design firm Blox, which specializes in modular medical facility construction. During this time of crisis, when hospitals are reaching their capacity to treat regular patients on top of treating those with COVID-19, Blox is beginning production on its mobile isolation care units, or MICUs, to help alleviate hospital space. With Blox’s technology, these modular medical facilities are built in only weeks, rather than months — and they have everything a doctor needs to keep treating patients. They’re also cheaper than traditional hospital beds.
Host Molly Wood speaks with Jacqueline Linnes, a professor of biomedical engineering who runs a lab at Purdue University, about what sort of tech is needed to produce COVID-19 tests in the face of a shortage. She says production at scale during the pandemic is the biggest challenge. Linnes also says academia may be prompted by the accelerated work during the pandemic to rethink how peer reviews are conducted. A lot of peer reviewers are usually excited to read about the next big thing around biosensors, for example, but pay little attention to more mundane things regarding manufacturing.
Host Molly Wood speaks again with Amy Webb, futurist and founder of the Future Today Institute, about the fear-versus-optimism side of tech during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who see this pandemic as an opportunity to pause and really prioritize what sorts of scientific and tech advances should be done, Webb says, will move forward and will be OK at the end. On the other hand, she says, those who oppose the fact that the future will now look different than originally envisioned will have a much more difficult time adapting.
Host Molly Wood speaks with Amy Webb, futurist and founder of the Future Today Institute, about the tech we have and wish we had during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are lucky this pandemic didn’t happen even 30 years ago, Webb says, given the many ways we can now connect and communicate with our colleagues, friends and family via video calls. Webb also expects tech companies to accelerate the technology around drones and autonomous vehicles that deliver essential goods to people’s homes.
Host Molly Wood speaks with Alex Stamos, Facebook’s former chief information security officer, about disinformation around COVID-19 on social media. A lot of people are working from home, which includes tech employees who are in charge of moderating content on social platforms. At home, they might not be supervised the same way they would at tech company offices, where high security measures might ensure that they are not sharing users’ personal information. So how are social platforms managing disinformation about coronavirus while not compromising users’ personal information?
Host Molly Wood speaks to Alexander Howard, the director of the Digital Democracy Project at the nonprofit Demand Progress, about the need for transparency regarding the data being collected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Collecting certain data — like location, who is interacting with whom, and the last time a person was tested for coronavirus — is helpful to epidemiologists, Howard says. And, he adds, there should be discussions about how, and whether, the data will be used for other purposes.
Host Molly Wood speaks with Christopher Mitchell, director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Community Broadband Networks Initiative. Now that people are expected to work from home and students are required to be home-schooled during the COVID-19 pandemic, internet connectivity has become essential. Mitchell says cities and states need to develop a plan to expand broadband connectivity to those without access — especially now that people are being asked to not leave their homes.