Big Tech Lobbying and Midterms Could Impact Antitrust Bill

This past year, Big Tech has invested more than $95 million in lobbying initiatives designed to kill the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which seeks to rebalance the power between consumers and major technology companies such as Amazon, Alphabet, Apple and Meta Platforms. In two years, the bill has advanced further than any similar U.S. legislative effort, but time is running out before midterm elections and the unknown of a potential shift in control of the House and/or Senate. Supporters of the measure say they currently have the votes needed for passage. Continue reading Big Tech Lobbying and Midterms Could Impact Antitrust Bill

Lyft Media Aims to Expand Multi-Platform Digital Ad Presence

Lyft Media is the new business unit under which the ride hailing company is consolidating its advertising sales activities. More than two years since Lyft acquired Halo Cars Inc., manufacturer of car-top digital monitors, it is renewing its focus on generating ad revenue. In-car tablets that show advertisements in addition to letting riders track routes, control music and tip and rate their drivers are being testing in Los Angeles and by year’s end will be in 25 percent of Lyft vehicles there and in Washington D.C., Chicago and San Francisco. Continue reading Lyft Media Aims to Expand Multi-Platform Digital Ad Presence

U.S. Firms Chase China’s WeChat in Bid to Build Super Apps

U.S. tech execs are experiencing app envy, with companies from Uber to PayPal and billionaires Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey setting their sights on building one-size-fits-all “super apps” to rival Tencent’s WeChat in China and SoftBank’s LINE in Japan. Where typical apps are built to do one thing really well, so-called super apps are generalists, which in theory means people will use them more often. Spotify and Snap have also expressed interest in super solutions, which have been popular in Asia since 2020 and are sparking new interest in the West. Continue reading U.S. Firms Chase China’s WeChat in Bid to Build Super Apps

Funding for Startups Faces Downturn After 10-Year Bull Run

Following a decade-long boom, funding for startups is in decline, according to PitchBook, which says investments in fledgling U.S. tech firms has dropped by 23 percent in Q2 to $62.3 billion, the biggest fall since 2019. In another dire indicator, startup sales and IPOs have fallen to $49 billion the first six months of 2022, plunging 88 percent compared to the same period in 2021. The slump comes amidst an overall stock market downturn that has seen the technology sector take a particularly brutal hit that appears to have affected private startup valuations. Continue reading Funding for Startups Faces Downturn After 10-Year Bull Run

Microsoft Pulls AI Analysis Tool Azure Face from Public Use

As part of an overhaul of its AI ethics policies, Microsoft is retiring from the public sphere several AI-powered facial analysis tools, including a controversial algorithm that purports to identify a subject’s emotion from images. Other features Microsoft will excise for new users this week and phase out for existing users within a year include those that claim the ability to identify gender and age. Advocacy groups and academics have expressed concern regarding such facial analysis features, characterizing them as unreliable and invasive as well as subject to bias. Continue reading Microsoft Pulls AI Analysis Tool Azure Face from Public Use

Massachusetts Court Objects to Gig Worker Ballot Measure

A proposed Massachusetts ballot initiative designating gig drivers as independent contractors was nixed by a state court that deemed it an attempt to avoid liability by companies like Uber and Lyft in the event of accident or crime. The Tuesday ruling effectively halted a $17.8 million campaign in support of a bill the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said violates the State Constitution, with hidden language excepting drivers from being “an employee or agent” of a gig company. The move is the latest in a series of skirmishes between gig companies and local governments.  Continue reading Massachusetts Court Objects to Gig Worker Ballot Measure

Tech Sector Takes Hit as Startups and Stalwarts Feel the Pain

A 13-year bull run in technology startup investments has come to a halt, according to recent reports that describe a new climate of layoffs and skepticism that has resulted in valuations dropping and an exodus of funds. Rising interest rates, a palliative against 8 percent-plus inflation, have affected the investment outlook, making startups and private tech companies look overpriced. Even established public tech firms are affected, with Meta Platforms and Amazon dropping more than 30 percent this year, while Apple, Microsoft and Alphabet have logged 20 percent declines. Netflix has fallen by 69 percent. Continue reading Tech Sector Takes Hit as Startups and Stalwarts Feel the Pain

Russia’s Native Tech Star Yandex Collapsing Over Sanctions

Yandex — the giant Russian tech brand involved in everything from search to music streaming and ride-hailing — has been reeling from the effects of economic sanctions and the country’s invasion of Ukraine. Yandex stock, described as “soaring” on its Nasdaq debut in 2011, was in February said to be “in freefall,” having declined to about half of its value. The company has an estimated 67 million users worldwide, including in Michigan, Arizona, Ohio, London and Paris, where partnerships with Uber and Grubhub were followed by forays into robotic food delivery and self-driving cars. Continue reading Russia’s Native Tech Star Yandex Collapsing Over Sanctions

Unity Game Engine Makes ‘Digital Twins’ for Industrial Tests

Game giant Unity is using its game engine technology to help businesses make “digital twins” of real-world objects, environments and even people. These virtual entities take the brunt of testing products, machines and environments. Currently there are dozens of companies reportedly using Unity’s game engine to model digital doubles that can sub-in for robots, manufacturing lines and buildings, among other things, virtually operating and monitoring them even as they are optimized and trained. These twins rust when exposed to water and respond to things like temperature. They learn to avoid a ditch or call attention to a broken part. Continue reading Unity Game Engine Makes ‘Digital Twins’ for Industrial Tests

European Commission Advances New Rules for Big Gig Firms

The European Commission took steps last week to require ride-hailing firms and others to classify drivers and couriers as employees, which would entitle them to minimum wage and other legal protections. Should they go into effect, the proposed rules would impact some 4.1 million people, and would make the European Union among the strictest in the world when it comes to protecting so-called gig workers. Uber and others that depend on low labor costs and limited liability are expected to fight the proposal, which must proceed through several legislative steps before being codified as law. Continue reading European Commission Advances New Rules for Big Gig Firms

Didi Exits NYSE for Hong Kong, China Tightens Tech Control

China is making an investment statement as it attempts to take control of its financial future and set new yen-centric standards for international monetary exchange. Much is being read into Didi Chuxing delisting itself Friday from the New York Stock Exchange, where it raised billions of dollars, capping at $39 billion for the Beijing version of Uber. The message is: with money of its own and a knack for finding more, the world’s No. 2 economy feels it no longer needs Wall Street and says it will relist on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong. Continue reading Didi Exits NYSE for Hong Kong, China Tightens Tech Control

Startups Want Consumers to Be Paid for Their Personal Data

Personal data is fueling a $455.3 billion online advertising market, and a crop of new startups wants consumers whose information creates the value to get a piece of that action. Among the startups are Brave Software, Tapestri, Reklaim and Streamlytics. Now real estate billionaire Frank McCourt has committed $250 million to fund Project Liberty, which he hopes will restyle the web as a platform owned by the public. Of that amount, McCourt — former owner of the L.A. Dodgers — earmarked $25 million to create a decentralized social networking protocol that aims to reinvent the model for consumer data governance online. Continue reading Startups Want Consumers to Be Paid for Their Personal Data

Tesla Value Pushes Past $1 Trillion with News of Hertz Order

Tesla valuation shot up to $1 trillion on news that Hertz ordered 100,000 vehicles for delivery by the end of 2022. The purchase is anticipated to favorably affect Tesla consumer sales as rental drivers are able to essentially test-drive Tesla electric cars. Over the past year Tesla stock has more than doubled, and the $1 trillion valuation puts it in an elite class of companies including Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Alphabet whose market caps exceed $1 trillion. Facebook in June crossed the $1 billion valuation mark only to fall below during September and October selloffs. Continue reading Tesla Value Pushes Past $1 Trillion with News of Hertz Order

Uber and Lyft Attempt to Protect Gig Worker Business Model

Ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft, which have been branching out into areas such as food delivery and scooter rentals, spent about $200 million to pass a ballot initiative that countered California’s 2019 legislation giving gig workers the status of employees. The two companies are now focused on avoiding the same battle in other states by pushing for legislation classifying their drivers as contractors. In New York state, for example, Uber and Lyft offered bargaining rights and other benefits to their workers, but not full classification of employees, which could raise their prices 20 to 30 percent. Continue reading Uber and Lyft Attempt to Protect Gig Worker Business Model

Labor Department Reverses Trump-Era Rule for Gig Workers

On May 6, the Biden administration rescinded the “Independent Contractor Rule,” created during the Trump administration, that made it easier to classify gig workers as independent contractors. The Department of Labor stated that withdrawing the rule would “maintain workers’ rights to the minimum wage and overtime compensation protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act.” Labor Secretary Marty Walsh added that the move will “stop the erosion of worker protections that would have occurred had the rule gone into effect.” Continue reading Labor Department Reverses Trump-Era Rule for Gig Workers