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On Thursday August 6, Axios Cities author Kim Hart hosted a conversation on how technology companies are responding to the pandemic, featuring former U.S. Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil and Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth.

DJ Patil unpacked how tech companies are building ethical and responsible tech centered on privacy and transparency during a time of crisis.

  • On the issue of misinformation during a pandemic: "It's no small statement to say [misinformation] is life or death. And so platforms have responsibility right now to figure out what is the right level of action at a bare minimum. It's creating stricter standards for how and what is allowed on their platforms."
  • On his concerns with the lasting consequences of quickly developing COVID-19 response technology: "It's easy to say this technology can be beneficial. But I have very serious reservations about it being deployed. What happens once it's deployed? Do we keep that in place after a pandemic? Those are the questions that we should be prepared to answer right now."

Kenneth Roth discussed different contact tracing models, highlighting the Bluetooth-based contact tracing system designed by Apple and Google.

  • On apps that use Bluetooth technology rather than location data for contract tracing: "Not relying on location data is a huge step forward in terms of privacy...[The app] did not identify infector, [it] simply told somebody that you were near somebody who was infected. They didn't put the data in a central database that the government might use for other reasons."
  • On the responsibility of Big Tech when it comes to moderating what contract tracing apps are allowing in their stores: "When you have problematic uses of technology of this sort, Google and Apple shouldn't participate. They should say we're not going to let you put apps like this on our stores if you're going to be using it this highly abusive way."

Axios co-founder and CEO Jim VandeHei hosted a View from the Top segment with
Chief Ethical and Humane Use Officer at Salesforce Paula Goldman who discussed Salesforce's work on ethical tech development.

  • On having clear priorities in developing ethical technology: "Even though there's no definition of responsible tech for a pandemic, we need to think about things like privacy. We need to think about how vulnerable groups [are] being affected."

Thank you Salesforce for sponsoring this event.

Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Nov 2, 2020 - Health

The coronavirus is becoming impossible to track

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Americans increasingly have no idea where they're catching the virus, and contact tracing efforts are falling apart in the face of the sheer number of cases, NYT reports.

Why it matters: It's much easier to close down a meatpacking plant — or even contain an outbreak in a nursing home — than to contain a virus spreading rapidly through the population from an unknown number of origins.

Updated Oct 30, 2020 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on the workforce in the years to come

Axios' Mike Allen, Hans Nichols, and Niala Boodhoo hosted a conversation on how the next presidential term will impact the economy and workforce, featuring White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, Joe Biden's policy director Stef Feldman and The Conference Board chief economist Dana Peterson.

Larry Kudlow discussed the breakdown of stimulus talks between Republicans and Democrats and President Trump's economic performance over the past four years.

  • On Trump’s economic record and plan for a second term, which has been criticized as vague: "The president has a track record. He's the incumbent. He has a very clear track record with a very clear set of economic principles. And he will provide more of the same."

Stef Feldman unpacked Vice President Biden's economic platform and the economic impact of COVID-19.

  • On this the most recent U.S. GDP report: "Our economy plunged into a recession because of President Trump's failure to have a plan to get the virus under control...Q3 growth wasn't enough to pull us out of the ditch that President Trump drove us into."

Dana Peterson discussed the recent GDP report as well as how the central banks and individual banks can contribute to economic equity.

  • On rewiring our economy for a more inclusive future: "We must tackle these issues on multiple fronts. When you think about access to banking, many people are unbanked...Individual banks can do more in terms of making sure that people have access to credit and that they're not being denied for reasons that could potentially be linked to some kind of bias."

Axios co-founder and CEO Jim VandeHei hosted a View from the Top segment with USAFacts Steve Ballmer and discussed the U.S.'s economic trajectory.

  • On the impact of the COVID-19 stimulus package: "The decline in unemployment started to occur as soon as the government started putting stimulus back into the economy. Obviously, the stimulus for business — the PPP program — was undoubtedly a part of that."

Thank you USAFacts for sponsoring this event.

4 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Congressional Hispanics want Lujan Grisham at HHS

Michelle Lujan Grisham arriving on Capitol Hill. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Hispanic lawmakers are openly lobbying to have New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham be named Health and Human Services secretary, according to a letter obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: These members are now following the example some Black lawmakers have used for weeks: trying to convince Joe Biden his political interests will be served by rewarding certain demographic groups with Cabinet picks.