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Jun 8, 2022
PROTOCOL SOURCE CODE Want your finger on the pulse of everything that's happening in tech? Sign up to get Protocol's daily newsletter. Email Address Source Code Thank you for signing up. Please check your inbox to verify your email. Email me an authentication link A login link has been emailed to you - please check your inbox. Nat Rubio-Licht is a Los Angeles-based news writer at Protocol. They graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in newspaper and online journalism in May 2020. Prior to joining the team, they worked at the Los Angeles Business Journal as a technology and aerospace reporter. Rostin Behnam said Wednesday that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission won't be weak on crypto — and added that anyone who thinks otherwise is confused. "We are one of the toughest cops on the beat," Behnam, chairman of the CFTC, said at an event hosted by the Washington Post. "We have a strong enforcement program, and we are very, very strong in terms of our market oversight and surveillance." Behnam defended the agency against the notion that the Securities and Exchange Commission would be tougher in overseeing cryptocurrencies and pushed back on the view that the emphasis on CFTC regulation in the major new bill in Congress amounts to a win for the industry. "It's just a misunderstanding of the securities laws and the commodities laws," Behnam said, saying that the kinds of regular disclosures that securities issuers make through the SEC aren't useful for many cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Cynthia Lummis, the bipartisan duo behind the bill, also rejected the idea that their approach sidelines the SEC. "The majority of the digital assets ... have characteristics of securities that will require the SEC's disclosure capabilities," Lummis said at the event. The agency "has most of the small tokens that are going to be the larger perpetrators of fraud, so the SEC's role in this is absolutely critical." She also cheered SEC Chair Gary Gensler's recent statement that many cryptocurrencies are securities but bitcoin may not be. "I agree with him," Lummis said. She added that she'd spoken with Gensler on Tuesday, when the proposal was released, but said he hadn't read it yet at the time. Gillibrand also said SEC staff had given "a lot of verbal feedback" on the draft, but had declined to give written thoughts. She said she hoped the bill "could move forward, maybe even by the end of the year." Keep ReadingShow less Better.com and its chief executive Vishal Garg, who infamously fired 900 employees on a Zoom call, are facing a whistleblower complaint that he misled investors. Sarah Pierce, former executive vice president for Sales and Operations at the online mortgage lender, said she was pushed out of her role after raising issues with the statements Garg made to investors in his "zeal to close" a SPAC deal. The SoftBank-backed company planned to go public through a SPAC transaction that valued the firm near $8 billion as of May 2021. That deal is still yet to close, as Better.com has been hurt by rising interest rates and engulfed in controversy, in no small part due to the actions of its chief executive. Garg took a one-month leave from his role late last year amid global backlash for firing employees by videoconference. Pierce, in a complaint filed Tuesday in federal court in New York, said she warned Garg that his layoff plan violated California's Warn Act and confronted him for lying about the terminated employees stealing from the company. “We have reviewed the claims in the complaint and strongly believe them to be without merit,” Better.com said in a statement to the Wall Street Journal, which was first to report the lawsuit. “The company is confident in our financial and accounting practices, and we will vigorously defend this lawsuit.” Better.com grew quickly during the early months of the pandemic, as low interest rates and a hot housing market boosted demand both for new mortgages and for refinancing existing loans. But the firm lost over $300 million in 2021, according to filings from Aurora Acquisition Corp. , the SPAC that agreed to merge with Better last year. The lawsuit says Garg told investors that Better.com could achieve profitability in the first quarter of this year, despite internal projections that saw the back half of the year as the best-case scenario. Garg allegedly said he believed interest rates would fall because "President Biden will die of covid," according to the lawsuit. Pierce said she was pushed out of her role in February in retaliation for pushing back against Garg. She has also filed a retaliation complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, according to the lawsuit. Keep ReadingShow less Alex Kipman, who helped lead Microsoft's mixed-reality efforts with the AR headset HoloLens and Xbox Kinect, is resigning from the company following Insider's investigation into allegations of harassment and misconduct toward female employees. Kipman told his team on Tuesday, according to Insider , and Microsoft Cloud leader Scott Guthrie is planning a reorganization of the mixed-reality department. GeekWire published the full text of Guthrie's email, which does not mention the allegations but does detail the personnel changes within the cloud and artificial intelligence divisions. "We have mutually decided that this is the right time for [Kipman] to leave the company to pursue other opportunities," Guthrie wrote. "I appreciate the tremendous vision Alex has provided to Microsoft over the years, and all that he has done to advance our Metaverse offerings. Alex is committed to helping the teams with the transition process over the next two months and ensuring success before pursuing what is next for him." Microsoft did not immediately respond to Protocol's request for confirmation. Dozens of Microsoft employees told Insider that Kipman allegedly got away with misconduct, including unwanted touching of female employees. One person alleged Kipman watched "VR porn" in front of a room of employees, and Microsoft employees were warned not to leave women alone around Kipman. A former executive who had worked with Kipman told Insider: "The best thing that happened, sadly, was the pandemic. So we never had to interact with him in person." Eventually, more than 25 employees shared their allegations in a report about Kipman. Microsoft did not confirm or deny specific allegations when Insider asked for comment. Keep ReadingShow less "Lord of the Rings" was a documentary. At least, if the ring was a USB-C charger and Middle-earth was the European Union. On Tuesday, EU lawmakers agreed to make USB-C charging the standard for the 27-nation bloc, a move that will cut down on e-waste. It could also have a notable impact on Apple. The provisionally passed law will require USB-C charging ports to be standard by 2024 for small- and medium-sized electronic devices sold in the EU. The decision will help consumers collectively save an estimated $268 million a year, which is great for people. The decision will also avoid 11,000 tons of e-waste annually, which is great for the planet. "We gave industry plenty of time to come up with their own solutions, now time is ripe for legislative action for a common charger," Margrethe Vestager, the European Commissioner for Competition, said last year when the law was being crafted. A 2021 analysis by the European Commission found that 44% of smartphones sold in 2019 in the EU used USB-C charging while 38% still rely on micro-USB (those devices tend to be older and cheaper). The former is expected to completely overtake the latter by 2026. But a pesky 18% of mobile devices use Apple's Lightning connector, a share the commission found was likely to stay the same absent legislation. Apple had previously pushed back on the law, saying it would stifle charging innovation. The company's laptops support USB-C charging, so it's not like Apple can't adapt. (Yes, that's a charger joke.) E-waste is a growing global problem. An analysis by the United Nations and the International Telecommunication Union found that nearly 54 million tons of e-waste accumulated in 2020, the last year with global data available. The EU USB-C decision is a relative drop in the bucket at that scale. But it's one of a number of policies that could be coming to force the tech industry to stop using the planet as a toxic waste dump. Right-to-repair laws have sprung up, which could give new life to aging electronics. Finding ways to cut down on the number of new devices going into circulation every year won't just reduce the amount of landfill space going to e-waste. It could also be a major climate boon; an estimated 68% of electronic devices' carbon emissions are tied to the manufacturing process. Some tech companies have. Notably, eBay recently opened up its accounting books to show how re-commerce on the site is helping avoid emissions, particularly when it comes to electronics. Keep ReadingShow less Businesses would need a license to offer crypto financial services in California under a bill introduced Tuesday. The bill, titled the Digital Financial Assets Law , would require companies “engaging in digital financial asset business activity,” including investing, lending or trading cryptocurrencies, to register with the state’s Department of Financial Protection and Innovation. “While the newness of cryptocurrency is part of what makes investing exciting, it also makes it riskier for consumers because cryptocurrency businesses are not adequately regulated and do not have to follow many of the same rules that apply to everyone else,” said Assemblymember Timothy Grayson in a statement. The proposal would offer consumers “basic but necessary protections” and “promote a healthy cryptocurrency market by making it safer for everyone,” added Grayson, who introduced the bill and is chair of the Assembly Banking and Finance Committee. DFPI Commissioner Suzanne Martindale, who leads the state’s Consumer Financial Protection Division, said the proposal would “by and large, create a new licensing regime for crypto finance” and set up “minimum standards for various crypto related products and services.” Martindale said California has been “trying to take a measured approach” to crypto which she said has led to an “explosion in offerings.” “We know we need to act, but we want to do it right,” she told Protocol. “We are getting complaints where people are just straight up being defrauded. I mean, we know that there are people that are just outright just getting scammed, and so we don't want to move too slow either.” The proposal underlines growing interest in regulating the fast-growing crypto industry. On Tuesday, Sens. Cynthia Lummis and Kirsten Gillibrand filed a bipartisan bill for regulating and defining cryptocurrencies and digital assets which would give the CFTC broad oversight powers. California has taken a more hands-off approach to regulating cryptocurrencies than other states. It legalized bitcoin in 2014 and regulates the fiat-currency money-transmission activities of some cryptocurrency businesses but doesn't have an equivalent to New York's BitLicense, for example. Keep ReadingShow less PayPal users can now transfer their cryptocurrency from PayPal to and from other wallets and exchanges, making the payments giant one of a growing number of fintech companies adding crypto capabilities. The company said the feature would be available Tuesday to some U.S. users and the rest of eligible U.S. users in coming weeks. PayPal customers could already buy and sell bitcoin, ethereum, bitcoin cash and litecoin in the app, including using the crypto at checkout on some purchases. But now customers can send coins in to PayPal, move their crypto from PayPal to third-party crypto hardware wallets or exchanges, and send crypto to other PayPal users in "seconds" with no fees. PayPal doesn't charge fees to transfer crypto into or out of PayPal, but network or gas fees may apply. The crypto wallet world is roughly divided into custodial and self-custody wallets, with PayPal's new offering falling in the former camp. Coinbase offers both, the Coinbase.com custodial wallet and Coinbase Wallet for a self-custody option. Block's Cash App is a custodial wallet, broadly similar to PayPal, though it only supports bitcoin; Block is also working on a self-custody hardware wallet. Robinhood recently added crypto wallets for its users. Because PayPal's wallet is custodial, users don't have access to private keys. (PayPal positions this as a benefit, telling users they won't have to worry about losing keys, and promises to replace crypto if accounts are hacked.) With the new feature, when PayPal users want to receive a crypto transfer, PayPal creates a new "receive" address for each transaction. Keep ReadingShow less Google, Uber, Amazon and other tech giants have asked the Department of Homeland Security to change its policies so that the children of highly skilled foreign workers can stay in the United States after age 21. Under the current rules, children of H1-B visa holders — many of whom work in tech — have to leave the U.S. after their 21st birthday, even if they've grown up in the U.S. and the rest of their family remains in the country. These children of foreign workers can apply for a green card, but that process is notorious for delays and complexity. The appeal from tech companies comes at a time of labor shortages in highly technical fields. The companies urged the administration “to establish more robust aging out policies” in a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. “Policymakers have recognized the plight of the Dreamers – children brought to the U.S. by their parents, who know no other country and were left without legal status – and have provided interim relief through the DACA program,” the firms wrote in their letter. “Now, we urge policymakers to also address the needs of the more than 200,000 children of high-skilled immigrants who risk falling through the cracks of the immigration system.” These children are sometimes referred to as “documented Dreamers,” and lawmakers have introduced legislation that would provide them a path to citizenship. In their letter, the companies called on Congress to pass that legislation. In an interview with Axios , Google’s vice president of Government Affairs and Public Policy, Karan Bhatia, said the current policy doesn't just hurt those families, but it also harms American competitiveness. “The prospect of having their children having to self-deport when they turn 21 deters potential employees from coming to the United States, and also makes it harder to retain employees who have been here for a while," Bhatia said. It's not just the children of H-1B visa holders who have struggled under U.S. policies. In previous years, their spouses on H-4 visas have also faced significant delays in receiving work authorizations as part of a broader strategy by the Trump administration to stall the program started by the Obama administration. Hundreds of lawsuits around the country were filed, and while many were successful in getting work permits before their cases were heard, some faced job losses, loss of health insurance and other basic freedoms. Keep ReadingShow less The Securities and Exchange Commission is reportedly opening an investigation into Binance over the 2017 initial coin offering of its BNB token, according to a Bloomberg report . The agency's said to be examining whether the token’s offering constitutes a security sale, which would have needed to be registered with the agency. This isn’t the first time that Binance has found itself in hot waters with U.S. regulators, with an ongoing SEC probe over CEO Changpeng Zhao’s links to two firms trading on Binance.US. Other investigations include a joint investigation by the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Justice over tax and money laundering concerns, and a Commodity Futures Trading Commission investigation into insider trading and market manipulation. Binance has recently continued to win regulatory approvals in Europe and the Middle East, most recently in France, Italy, and Dubai. On the latest SEC probe, Binance said that “it would not be appropriate for us to comment on our ongoing conversations with regulators, which include education, assistance, and voluntary responses to information requests” in a statement to Bloomberg, and that it “will continue to meet all requirements set by regulators.” Keep ReadingShow less Elon Musk doesn’t want to own a company with a spam bot problem. And now, he’s claiming that he has the right to bail on his Twitter takeover because the company won’t give him the data he wants on the issue, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing . But finance and securities law experts said the claim won't actually get him out of the Twitter deal — and may set him up for a legal battle. Musk claims Twitter denied him information about the number of spam bots on the platform, which would violate the terms of the merger agreement that entitles him to information for "any reasonable business purpose related to the consummation of the transaction." His letter states that Twitter needs to give Musk data about Twitter’s bot and spam accounts so he can conduct his own analysis of the issue. "As Twitter’s prospective owner, Mr. Musk is clearly entitled to the requested data to enable him to prepare for transitioning Twitter’s business to his ownership and to facilitate his transaction financing," the letter, signed by Skadden attorney Mike Ringler, states. "To do both, he must have a complete and accurate understanding of the very core of Twitter’s business model — its active user base." Now, Twitter has 30 days to cure breach, meaning the company can give Musk the information he's requesting about spam bots. But experts said no matter what, Musk's letter won't actually get him out of the deal. “Musk does not have any ground to stand on to void the agreement that he signed,” David Kass, a finance professor at University of Maryland's business school, told Protocol. Kass said Musk has two ways out of the acquisition: One would be a regulatory holdup, which doesn’t look likely now that the FTC’s window to intervene has closed . The other would be if Musk doesn’t gather enough debt funding for the deal to happen, in which case he’d pay Twitter $1 billion and break up with the company once and for all. So if the letter won’t help him end the deal, Musk could be setting himself up for a court battle, in which case Musk could try to lower the price of the deal, according to Adam Pritchard, a securities law professor at University of Michigan’s law school. Tech stocks overall have plunged, and Musk has likely realized that $44 billion is a lot more than Twitter is actually worth right now. “It's not like the understanding of the business has changed,” Pritchard told Protocol. “It's just that stock market valuations have gone south and he’s just paying way too much for this company now.” Musk is digging himself into a hole. It would take a lot to get Twitter to lower the price of the deal, and it's already reiterated that his new letter won't change anything. "Twitter has and will continue to cooperatively share information with Mr. Musk to consummate the transaction in accordance with the terms of the merger agreement," the company said in a statement Monday. "We intend to close the transaction and enforce the merger agreement at the agreed price and terms." Keep ReadingShow less President Biden invoked his emergency authority on Monday to give Southeast Asian solar suppliers a two-year reprieve from any new tariffs. Southeast Asian nations including Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam produced around 75% of imported solar modules in 2020, according to the White House statement. In March, the Commerce Department began investigating Southeast Asian solar suppliers over alleged ties to China. Auxin Solar, a California-based solar supplier, requested the investigation because it claimed Chinese companies were circumventing U.S. tariffs by assembling solar panels in Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. Auxin handed the Commerce Department reports that found 70% of that solar equipment value ultimately flowed back to China, where critical pre-assembly steps and R&D took place. The Solar Energy Industries Association warned of dire consequences from the investigation, alleging that the Commerce Department would consider tariffs of up to 250%. In March, SEIA President Abigail Ross Hopper said the investigation would have “a chilling effect on the solar industry.” As the investigation plodded along, securing solar imports became a higher political priority. In May, a group of 85 House Democrats sent a letter to the White House expressing “grave concern” about the investigation, which they said had already devastated the domestic solar industry. The group cited a survey in which 83% of solar companies reported delays or cancellations from crystalline silicon photovoltaic (CSPV) cell suppliers. The White House provided more recent data that suggests around half of domestic solar deployments are in jeopardy due to the supply crunch. In the executive order, Biden said the two-year tariff exemption would give the domestic solar industry time to ramp up output capacity while the U.S. continued to pursue its overall solar capacity goals. Half of new domestic electric capacity in 2022 and 2023 was expected to come from solar capacity and batteries, but those forecasts look shaky given the ongoing supply crunch. China heavily subsidizes its own solar industry. Policies such as feed-in tariffs for solar projects — which guarantee above-market electricity rates — have allowed China to grow solar production capacity well beyond that of any other country. If Auxin’s allegations are true, then U.S.-based solar manufacturers still face an uphill battle to boost domestic supply since their competitors would likely be more heavily subsidized. The White House seeks to counter such concerns with its own subsidy pledge: The emergency order outlined plans to boost domestic production capacity through targeted federal procurement programs and the deployment of the Defense Production Act. Keep ReadingShow less Apple is joining the BNPL craze. The tech giant announced Monday a new Apple Pay feature that would let users make purchases with its digital wallet and pay for them in four installments over six weeks. Apple Pay users won’t have to pay any fees. The company said Apple Pay Later, which was introduced at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference, will work “using standard Apple Pay implementation” and will also allow users to monitor and manage upcoming payments through the digital wallet. The announcement underlines the growth of " buy now, pay later " services, which have emerged as a major consumer credit financing trend. Despite worries that it’s a passing fad that could be derailed by rising interest rates, major BNPL companies have moved aggressively to strengthen their market positions. Last week, Affirm announced a partnership with payments technology giant Stripe. Klarna also signed a similar deal with Stripe late last year. In January, Square, Block’s payments division, finalized its purchase of the Australian BNPL provider Afterpay. Keep ReadingShow less Nine members of the AI ethics board for police technology company Axon have resigned after the company said it would develop drones equipped with Tasers despite the board's earlier opposition. Axon CEO Rick Smith proposed Taser drones as a possible answer to school shootings, even after the majority of Axon's AI board voted against a plan to pilot Taser drones with law enforcement. “We all feel the desperate need to do something to address our epidemic of mass shootings. But Axon’s proposal to elevate a tech-and-policing response when there are far less harmful alternatives, is not the solution," the resigning board members wrote in a statement. Axon did not immediately respond to Protocol's request for comment. The company said Sunday it was halting plans for the drones. "In light of feedback, we are pausing work on this project and refocusing to further engage with key constituencies to fully explore the best path forward," Smith said in a statement. The board members who are resigning include: Wael Abd-Almageed, Miles Brundage, Ryan Calo, Danielle Citron, Rebekah Delsol, Barry Friedman, Chris Harris, Jennifer Lynch and Mecole McBride. That leaves four board members remaining, including two former chiefs of police and one former commissioner of the California Highway Patrol. Last week, Axon gave its AI ethics board two days' notice of its intention to publicly announce the development of Taser drones for schools, after the board had spent about a year vetting a proposal to let law enforcement officials pilot the drones. In doing so, the resigning board members wrote, the company "bypassed Axon’s commitment to consult with the company’s own AI Ethics Board.” In comments to Protocol and in a Reddit AMA last week, Smith said he shared the board's concerns about the potential misuses of Taser drones, and said he hoped the board members and others would be part of public-facing discussions about how to address those issues. But board members were already contemplating their future with the company, wondering whether their involvement could ultimately have the impact they set out to make. The board had previously convinced Axon not to use facial recognition in its body-worn cameras. “In the past, we were helpful and listened to and [our] feedback was relevant, and maybe not so much anymore,” UVA law professor Danielle Citron, who is among the resigning board members, told Protocol last week. “Maybe this was a period of time, and it’s not meant to be forever.” Keep ReadingShow less Epic Games will begin distributing its first blockchain game later this year thanks to a partnership with Web3 startup and game publisher Gala Games. The title, a Western-themed battle royale called Grit launching sometime in 2022, will be the first of such games to be featured on the Epic Game Store. The Fortnite and Unreal Engine developer said last year it would welcome crypto games if they followed some ground rules around legality and financial transparency. “Epic is a pioneer and visionary in the video game industry. Gala Games’ titles being available on the Epic Game Store brings legitimacy to this new genre of gaming,” Gala Games President John Osvald said in a statement. “Easy access to Web3 games is a turning point for those players who have not yet seen how digital ownership can enrich the gaming experience.” The company, which developers its own games and also hosts and distributes blockchain titles from third parties, says it plans to publish more of its catalog on the Epic Game Store in the future. The Web3 movement has become a lightning rod for controversy in the game industry, with scores of developers and players alike decrying NFTs and other crypto products as overhyped nonsense that risks exploiting players and in some cases giving cover to outright fraud. Following severe instability in cryptocurrency markets that resulted in an unprecedented crash last month crash last month , the prospects of the so-called play-to-earn movement — a variety of blockchain game designed to enrich players in exchange for their time, effort and participation — have not looked promising. Still, many blockchain gaming companies are persisting with the hope that the right combination of genuine fun factor and novel crypto tech might create a hit that can break into the mainstream. Doing so, however, requires access to mainstream customers, and so far many digital game stores like Valve's Steam and Apple's App Store have not yet opened their doors to Web3. That makes Epic the first major storefront to do so. Epic CEO Tim Sweeney has been outspoken about Web3, in particular NFTs and what role these technologies might play in the eventual metaverse. Yet while he has criticized the space for its abundance of fraud and the get-rich-quick schemes, Sweeney has also expressed optimism for the broader idea of a digital goods economy and how video games will play a pivotal role in establishing new paradigms within the metaverse. "I firmly believe there’s going to be a multi-trillion dollar economy around digital goods in the future, Sweeney told Fast Company back in April. "But I think so much of the crypto currency effort, especially touching the gaming space, doesn’t address that problem of utility. They’re showing you digital goods you can’t do anything with except to say that you own it. You can cryptographically prove that you own it, but who cares?" Sweeney said as much back in October 2021, when replying to someone on Twitter asking whether Fortnite would introduce NFTs. "We aren’t touching NFTs as the whole field is currently tangled up with an intractable mix of scams, interesting decentralized tech foundations, and scams," he said . A month later, however, Epic said it would accept blockchain games on its PC game store following a blanket ban from its competitor Valve, which operates the Steam store, "provided [the games] follow the relevant laws, disclose their terms, and are age-rated by an appropriate group," Sweeney said at the time. Keep ReadingShow less Three of the four top congressional negotiators working on privacy have released a draft bill that would require companies to collect the least amount of data necessary to provide a service, end ad-targeting to kids up to age 16 and mandate annual civil rights assessments of algorithms used by the largest companies. in addition, the draft would allow users to opt out of targeted advertising, and would permit individuals to sue over certain prohibited data uses. While it would also overrule many state privacy provisions, the draft bill would dramatically increase the Federal Trade Commission's power to make rules in certain areas of privacy. The text, known as the American Data Privacy and Protection Act, represents a bipartisan, bicameral agreement after years of stalled talks on data protection. It also lays out compromises on issues, such as lawsuits, that had stymied lawmakers even as industry, consumer groups and political leadership pushed Congress to act. Despite the existing bipartisan agreement, the proposal still faces significant hurdles to becoming law this year. Foremost among them: It does not have sign-on from Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee and is the most powerful legislator in the process. Although Cantwell reportedly is aiming to hold a hearing on privacy legislation in coming weeks, she dismissed the draft on Friday as doing too little to ensure companies "act in consumers’ best interests," according to the Washington Post . Congress also is trying to tackle major hot-button issues such as guns and abortion, while also moving forward with tech antitrust legislation. Lawmakers are also running against the clock, hoping to finish much of that work in the dwindling number of days left before the unofficial kickoff of the midterm campaign season in August and the election itself in November. In addition, while some tech industry groups welcomed the progress, they also hinted they hoped for further concessions. And the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the most powerful business lobby, said earlier this week it would use its firepower to oppose a text with "a blanket private right of action" allowing consumers to sue. "In the coming weeks, we will be working with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to build support and finalize this standard to give Americans more control over their personal data," said a statement from Reps. Frank Pallone and Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Sen. Roger Wicker. Pallone chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, while McMorris Rodgers serves as its top ranking Republican member. Wicker is the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce panel. The proposed bill would also offer consumers rights to access, correct, delete and move their data, and to opt out of its transfer to third parties — abilities that have become increasingly common under international or state privacy statutes. It would also put greater transparency requirements on companies, although some critics say those notices induce fatigue with consumers more than they empower consumer choices. The bill includes a long list of provisions — such as those on data minimization and the handling of teens' information — that could alter the workings of tech giants as well as data brokers, smaller firms in the industry and brick-and-mortar companies that use data and algorithms, whether public-facing or B2B. The measure, for instance, would designate categories of sensitive data to receive heightened protections, including information on health, finances, location and biometrics. The sensitive category would also include "information revealing" race, religion, union membership and sexual orientation, among other classifications that are sometimes evident not just from users' direct statements about themselves but also through an easy analysis of their interests, home addresses, travel patterns and more. In addition to the civil rights assessments for big companies' algorithms, the draft forbids data uses that discriminate "on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or disability." The text would also require companies to obtain express consent to collect and use most biometric and genetic information, and ban most handling of revenge porn. It would also require reasonable security practices and force CEOs of big companies to certify their firms have procedures in place to comply with the law, which could potentially put them on the hook personally for lapses. Keep ReadingShow less The crypto craze keeps getting bigger — with fraudsters. Consumers lost more than $1 billion in crypto to scammers between the beginning of 2021 and March 31 of this year, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The problem is accelerating, too: An FTC report released Friday found that people were scammed out of $329 million in just the first quarter of 2022, nearly half of what they lost during all of the prior year. Most of the duping — totaling $575 million — came in the form of phony investments, frequently guaranteeing eye-popping returns. Some even came with fake dashboards to track "growth" or offered of small test withdrawals designed to fool consumers into trusting the schemes, the FTC said. Often these scams started on social media, and nearly 40% of all money lost on social media went out the door in the form of crypto. After investment scams, people lost the most crypto to fake romances. (Seriously, stop paying your web crushes.) Overall, the median loss among 46,000 reports to the FTC was $2,600. People between the ages of 20 and 49 were three times more likely to have reported falling for crypto frauds than older consumers, although the median loss for people in their 70s reached nearly $12,000. Other reports worldwide have found similar stark increases in scams. Last year, the losses were 60 times what they were in 2018, the FTC said. In a similar report a year ago, the FTC found that losses were just $80 million over the period from the last quarter of 2020 into the first of 2021. One swindle detailed by the FTC at the time involved scammers posing as celebrities like Elon Musk. The FTC isn't alone in its concerns about crypto, even when it's legitimate. On Friday, New York Attorney General Letitia James warned would-be investors that cryptocurrencies are volatile assets that can "yield more anxiety than fortune.” Keep ReadingShow less Tesla is cutting about 10% of salaried workers, Elon Musk told employees on Friday. The Tesla CEO told fellow executives earlier that he had a "super bad feeling" about the economy and the company would need to lay off employees, Reuters reported . "Tesla will be reducing salaried headcount by 10% as we have become overstaffed in many areas," Musk wrote in a note to employees, which was obtained by CNBC . "Note this does not apply to anyone actually building cars, battery packs or installing solar. Hourly headcount will increase." Almost 100,000 people work at Tesla and its subsidiaries, according to an SEC filing late last year. That means 10,000 employees could lose their jobs. Dozens of tech companies have announced layoffs in recent weeks, but Tesla is one of the biggest — and one of the only — EV companies to make such a move. Musk said at a recent conference that the U.S. is in a recession and blamed President Biden and his administration for the issue. "I've been through a few [recessions]," he said. "And what tends to happen is if you have a boom that goes on too long, you get a misallocation of capital. It starts raining money on fools, basically." Musk is not the only person worried about the U.S. economy. JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon warned of an economic "hurricane" in the near future after the Federal Reserve indicated it may reverse its emergency bond-buying programs, and as the war in Ukraine drags on. Tesla and SpaceX are calling employees back to the office for 40 hours a week. A Microsoft recruiter already put out a notice to Tesla workers that there's room for them at the company (although the post has since been deleted). Tesla shares dropped 8.5% on the news that Musk planned a hiring freeze. The company didn't return Protocol's request for comment. Keep ReadingShow less Atlassian said early Friday that it was aiming to release a fix for a critical vulnerability in its Confluence collaboration software by the end of the day. Later in the day, it confirmed that it released updated versions of Confluence that include the patch for the flaw. The vulnerability could enable execution of code by an unauthenticated remote user and has seen active exploitation, according to an advisory from Atlassian on Thursday. The flaw, tracked at CVE-2022-26134, affects every version of Confluence Server and Confluence Data Center that is currently supported. Atlassian said that it has released a number of versions of the Confluence software containing the patch (specifically, versions 7.4.17, 7.13.7, 7.14.3, 7.15.2, 7.16.4, 7.17.4 and 7.18.1). The company recommended upgrading to one of the fixed versions of Confluence, but also provided a temporary workaround in the event that customers can't upgrade right away. Confluence is a team workspace designed to offer a "secure and reliable way to collaborate on mission-critical projects," Atlassian said on its website . The Confluence software, which competes with alternatives such as Microsoft SharePoint and Google Docs, is used by more than 75,000 customers, according to the site. The zero-day Confluence vulnerability was discovered by researchers at Volexity, who said in a blog post that they reported the flaw to Atlassian on Tuesday. "When Atlassian provides a fix for this vulnerability, users should immediately patch, as this vulnerability is dangerous and trivially exploited," Volexity researchers said in the post. "This is 10/10 on the badness scale," tweeted Steven Adair, president at Volexity. Versions 1.3.0 and up of Confluence Server and Confluence Data Center are impacted, said Atlassian, which is also the maker of Jira and Trello . The vulnerability follows a weeks-long outage for Atlassian's Jira issue-tracking software in the spring, which the company blamed on a communication error between teams that led to the accidental deletion of hundreds of customer sites. This story was updated after Atlassian released a patch for the Confluence flaw. Keep ReadingShow less New York Attorney General Letitia James is warning would-be investors that cryptocurrencies are volatile assets that can "yield more anxiety than fortune.” The attorney general, who ran a brief campaign for governor late last year, has been an aggressive enforcer of crypto regulations and a powerful skeptic of the industry. Last year, she warned New Yorkers about scams using virtual currencies. This alert , published Thursday, goes a step further, asserting that even the most legitimate players in the industry are exposing their customers to extreme risk. "Even well-known virtual currencies from reputable trading platforms can still crash and investors can lose billions in the blink of an eye," James said. "Too often, cryptocurrency investments create more pain than gain for investors." James' warning follows a period of particular volatility in the crypto market, coming weeks after the collapse of the TerraUSD stablecoin and its related luna token left investors with billions in losses. Bitcoin and ether — listed among the well-known, reputable currencies James cited — have both lost half their value since reaching high points in November, prompting even staunch boosters to declare the arrival of a new crypto winter . The notice detailed a long list of issues James sees with crypto investing: the prices "swing wildly" and crash without warning; there is no guarantee you can cash out during bad times; trading costs are high and there are no federally regulated exchanges, with trading platforms operating all over the globe. James has also used New York's century-old Martin Act, among the most potent securities laws in the country, to take legal action against crypto firms. Most notably, the state AG's office last year reached a settlement with Tether and Bitfinex over what James said were misrepresentations of the assets backing the tether stablecoin. The organizations were barred from doing business in New York, and Tether also agreed to produce regular reports on the assets backing the tether stablecoin. The window in which regulators could object to Elon Musk's planned $44 billion takeover of Twitter has now ended, according to the company, removing one hurdle from the long path between now and the transaction's eventual scheduled closing later this year. Thanks to the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act of 1976, companies planning a merger or acquisition above a certain threshold — $101 million, for 2022 — must file their plans with the Federal Trade Commission before doing the deal. That kicks off a 30-day waiting period when regulators can do one of three things: They can grant early termination, meaning they have no issues with the transaction; they can file a second request for information, kicking off an actual probe; or they can do nothing at all, and simply let the waiting period expire. That last one is what the FTC did, Twitter said in a press release . The waiting period closed without fanfare at midnight, ending the opportunity for regulators to throw themselves on top of the deal with a slow-motion, "Nooooooooo." That said, realistically there was very little chance that they actually would: HSR and other antitrust laws exist to preserve competition between businesses in a sector. There's not much template for individuals purchasing $44 billion companies on their own, because that's not historically a thing that happens. Although competition regulators have declined to intervene, the road to closing is still filled with metaphorical potholes. Chief among those is Musk himself , who, in addition to facing multiple lawsuits from Twitter shareholders, recently appeared to be trying to find a way either to reduce his offer price for Twitter or potentially even wriggle out of the deal entirely. The Securities and Exchange Commission also has some questions for Musk about how he acquired his existing Twitter shares. Musk's influence over Twitter already runs deep , though, and the company has seen turnover in response. Twitter itself also plans to hold Musk to the deal: The company recently asked its shareholders to vote in favor of the transaction at an as-yet unscheduled special meeting. Keep ReadingShow less Live social audio was once a hot trend . Platforms were racing to develop audio tools that could compete with pandemic darling Clubhouse. But the best days of Clubhouse and its competitors seem to be behind them. Several Clubhouse executives have headed for the exit recently. In late April, Stephanie Simon left as the company’s head of Brand Evangelism and Development. Simon joined Clubhouse just a couple of months after launch in 2020. Then this week, three more leaders announced their resignations, including Nina Gregory , Aarthi Ramamurthy and Anu Atluru ; the trio led News, International and Community, respectively. “Clubhouse wouldn’t be where it is today without them,” a spokesperson told Protocol of the departed executives. “We’re immensely grateful for everything they have done and we know that they’ll do great things in the future.” \u201cCareer update! After over a year, I\u2019ve decided to leave Clubhouse - I\u2019m so grateful for the opportunity to lead international product efforts and scale Clubhouse across the \ud83c\udf0e and learn from the best coworkers in the industry.\u201d — Aarthi Ramamurthy (@Aarthi Ramamurthy) 1654109551 Ramamurthy’s departure is particularly notable. She’s married to Sriram Krishnan, a partner for a16z, a major Clubhouse investor. The pair used to host the "The Good Time Show" on Clubhouse, but they’ve recently turned to broadcasting it live on YouTube instead. Ramamurthy and other departed leaders did not return requests for comment. Atluru's exodus is also eyebrow-raising, as she was one of Clubhouse's earliest employees. She was an investor in the app's series A round, and more recently provided seed funding to the buzzy social media platform BeReal . Gregory came to Clubhouse from NPR, where she was a senior editor on its arts desk. \u201cAfter 2 yrs, I\u2019m officially taking my leave from @Clubhouse! \ud83d\udc9b\n\nIt\u2019s been a wild ride building zero to one, serving as our first Head of Community, and going from a team of 3 to 100+! \ud83d\udcab\n\nNext, I\u2019m excited to explore new ideas again as a founder, investor, & community builder!\ud83d\udc77\ud83c\udffd\u200d\u2640\ufe0f\u201d — Anu \ud83e\udee7 (@Anu \ud83e\udee7) 1654088456 The social audio platform has been struggling for some time , and the departures are another sign that Clubhouse is in trouble — but they're hardly the only one. The platform is also struggling to hold an audience. Between Jan. 1 and May 31, Clubhouse saw 3.8 million installs globally compared to 19 million installs during the same period last year, according to SensorTower data. That's an 80% drop year-over-year. When the company was riding high a year ago, Clubhouse was valued at $4 billion after a round of series C funding. It's unclear, though, how much the company is worth today. \u201c\u2026 and that\u2019s a wrap @Clubhouse! It\u2019s been fun to experiment with news and social audio I\u2019m excited for my next chapter. Stay tuned\u2026.\u201d — nina gregory (@nina gregory) 1654139663 Many of the platforms that followed Clubhouse into the realm of live audio are also losing steam. Facebook shut down its short-form audio Soundbites feature and its Audio hub. Meanwhile, the company integrated its Live Audio Rooms feature into its live video offering . Twitter is scaling back resources for Spaces and other long-term projects. Reddit’s social audio feature launched in April 2021, and it's still in pilot mode . Whether it ever takes off is TBD, but the state of live audio right now certainly doesn't bode well for it. But some companies aren’t giving up. Spotify Greenroom, for example, just rebranded to Spotify Live ; Discord just launched a Clubhouse clone called Stage channels; and VC David Sacks’ new social audio app, Callin, raised $12 million last fall. Still, there are no clear winners in the live social audio race: only losers and new contenders. And unless those new entrants can attract and hold onto a substantial post-lockdown audience, social audio may end up as nothing more than a pandemic fad. Keep ReadingShow less Coinbase announced Thursday that it was rescinding accepted job offers to new hires, in addition to its previously announced hiring freeze, Chief People Officer L.J. Brock wrote in a blog post . The company seemed to be determined to triple its workforce even after weak first-quarter earnings, which resulted in its stock plummeting. However, it changed its mind almost immediately, announcing a hiring freeze just a week after its analyst call. Now, two weeks later, Coinbase is taking another step further to “reprioritize [their] hiring needs against [their] highest-priority business goals,” which includes extending the hiring pause for the foreseeable future and rescinding a number of accepted offers for people who have not started yet, via email. Coinbase also said that it was also establishing a “talent hub” for individuals impacted by its decisions. The slew of hiring freezes and layoffs aren't just limited to fintechs; companies across all sectors of tech have been slowing hiring and letting go of staff. Both Twitter and Meta froze hiring last month, and Twitter also rescinded job offers . Keep ReadingShow less As the New York state legislature entered the eleventh hour, its first-in-the-nation crypto mining moratorium bill passed with little time left to spare. Its passage by the state Senate Thursday could define what happens with the burgeoning crypto mining industry taking over upstate New York and how the state meets its climate goals. New York has become a major hub for crypto mining, particularly following a crackdown in China last year. In an effort to stem the opening of a slew of mines, members in both houses of the state legislature introduced legislation last year that would put a two-year moratorium on mining that uses proof of work, an energy-intensive computational technique that keeps the blockchain secure. That bill passed the state Senate but not the Assembly. The legislation was reintroduced and passed with modified language this session, and will now go to Gov. Kathy Hochul's desk. The governor will have 10 days to sign or veto the law. “This is Gov. Hochul and the administration’s new fracking moment,” Liz Moran, Earthjustice’s New York public advocate, told Protocol, referring to a similar showdown that happened over fracking eight years ago that ended in former Gov. Andrew Cumo banning the practice . Miners generally seek out cheap energy to maximize returns, and they found a little slice of heaven in upstate New York, where natural gas and hydropower are abundant. A number of shuttered or nearly shuttered power plants have proven to be particularly attractive as sites to construct vertically integrated bitcoin mines. But while miners have found heaven, residents have seen places they love become hell. The epicenter of the battle over crypto mining is on the shores of Seneca Lake, the largest of the Finger Lakes. There, Greenidge Generation revived a dormant coal plant built in the 1960s. Retrofitted to burn natural gas, the power plant sends a tiny amount of juice onto the grid and spends the rest of its operating time mining bitcoins. Residents nearby have complained of noise pollution from the mining rigs' cacophony. They've also said the plant destroys the bucolic character of the region and its burgeoning wine industry. That would all be problematic enough, but the plant will also make it harder for the state to reach its climate goals, particularly if other aging power plants are also retrofitted the same way. “Instead of cowering to cryptomining cash, Governor Hochul must follow the legislature’s lead by signing this bill into law and then denying Greenidge Generation’s air permit renewal,” Yvonne Taylor, vice president of Seneca Lake Guardian, said in a statement. That pollution permit is up for renewal, and the state Department of Environmental Conservation has punted on it for months. With the moratorium in the governor’s hands and the DEC itself previously saying Greenidge “has not shown” it wouldn’t affect the state’s ability to meet its climate goals, the pressure to reject it will ratchet up further. (The state is also hosting a gubernatorial primary later this month.) “With this legislation in particular, it put forwards a simple question: In the face of New York’s ambitious climate law, should we be allowing an industry to repurpose fossil-fuel power plants when we’re trying to move away from fossil fuels entirely?” Moran said. The now-passed moratorium, if signed into law, would put the brakes on that. It would allow mines with the proper air pollution permits to stay open but forbid new ones from being constructed during a two-year pause. That would allow the state to study the impacts and decide if a full-on ban or other approach makes more sense. This story has been updated Thursday to reflect the bill's passage. Advocates' reactions and more details were added on Friday. Keep ReadingShow less Microsoft has broken rank with its peers in the tech industry and said it will not combat employee unionization efforts. The news was announced on Thursday in a blog post authored by Microsoft President Brad Smith. "Recent unionization campaigns across the country — including in the tech sector — have led us to conclude that inevitably these issues will touch on more businesses, potentially including our own," Smith wrote. "This has encouraged us to think proactively about the best approach for our employees, shareholders, customers, and other stakeholders." Smith said the company has outlined four principles it's committing to in order to guide how it handles labor organizing at Microsoft and its many subsidiaries, which include countless divisions and offices around the world spanning its software, hardware, gaming and cloud businesses. The post is similar in style to one Microsoft published earlier this year in which it pledged to follow pro-competition principles around software distribution and app stores in an effort to avoid regulation. The principles could have a major effect on the corporate structure of Microsoft's business. The company does not currently have any labor unions, but it is in the process of acquiring game publisher Activision Blizzard. Raven Software, a video game studio owned by Activision, last week became the first major game developer with a recognized labor union after nearly two dozen quality-assurance testers voted to unionize with the National Labor Relations Board. At the time, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer said the Xbox division would respect the union. “Once the deal closes, we would absolutely support [an] employees’ organization that’s in place,” Spencer told employee during an Xbox all-hands meeting, according to Kotaku . “We think it is a right of employees and something that can be a part of a relationship between a company and people who work at the company.” Smith's blog post Thursday, however, goes far beyond those comments by pledging not to actively combat union efforts, as its competitors Amazon and Apple are now doing. "We respect this right and do not believe that our employees or the company’s other stakeholders benefit by resisting lawful employee efforts to participate in protected activities, including forming or joining a union," Smith said of one of the four principles titled, "We recognize that employees have a legal right to choose whether to form or join a union." The other principles indicate that Microsoft may be open to supporting more unions within its workforce. "We are committed to creative and collaborative approaches with unions when employees wish to exercise their rights and Microsoft is presented with a specific unionization proposal," reads another of the four principles. Smith said of that principle that it gives the company an opportunity to work with existing unions and to foster "collaborative approaches that will make it simpler, rather than more difficult, for our employees to make informed decisions and to exercise their legal right to choose whether to form or join a union." The other two principles involve committing to working with labor unions both in the U.S. and Europe and having an open-door policy for discussing issues in the workforce that may be facilitating labor organizing efforts. "We acknowledge that this is a journey, and we will need to continue to learn and change as employee expectations and views change with the world around us. And we recognize that employers and employees will not always agree on all topics — and that is okay," Smith concluded. "Perhaps as much as anything, we bring a sense of optimism grounded in an appreciation that success in a competitive global economy requires that businesses and labor strive to work together well." Keep ReadingShow less On the same day it announced layoffs, Gemini was hit with a lawsuit by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The agency claims that the crypto exchange, run by brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, misled it during conversations in 2017 about a bitcoin futures contract product, according to a complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan Thursday. Gemini, founded in 2014, has long proudly marketed itself an exchange that plays nice with regulators. But, according to the CFTC, Gemini's leadership made misleading statements on a product that "was significant because it was to be among the first digital asset futures contracts listed on a designated contract market." The complaint focuses on conversations between the crypto exchange and regulators in 2017. The alleged false statements were about efforts by Gemini to prevent manipulation, according to the CFTC. A Gemini spokesperson said the company "has been a pioneer and proponent of thoughtful regulation since day one. We have an eight-year track record of asking for permission, not forgiveness, and always doing the right thing. We look forward to definitively proving this in court.” The company also published a letter to employees Thursday detailing plans to cut 10% of its staff of more than 1,000 in response to what its leadership deemed the start of "crypto winter." The CFTC under Chairman Rostin Behnam has said it will push for a larger role in regulating crypto . The commission is generally the industry's preferred regulator over the SEC. A forthcoming bill backed by Sens. Cynthia Lummis and Kirsten Gillibrand would designate the CFTC as crypto’s lead regulator, according to a draft leaked to The Block last week. Lummis has called that version "outdated" and pledged to release the bill next week, but she has spoken publicly about advancing the CFTC's role in crypto regulation on other occasions. Keep ReadingShow less
Axon Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
When was Axon founded?
Axon was founded in 1987.
Where is Axon's headquarters?
Axon's headquarters is located at Hercules, 28, Gilze.
What is Axon's latest funding round?
Axon's latest funding round is Acquired.
Who are the investors of Axon?
Investors of Axon include EVS.
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