Technology

Why it matters: From the Valley to D.C., Big Tech players like Facebook, Google and Amazon are under more scrutiny than ever as new technology develops and privacy and antitrust concerns grow in lockstep with companies’ ambitions.

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Scoop: Lyft acquires cartop advertising startup Halo Cars

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Lyft has acquired Halo Cars, a small startup that lets ride-hailing drivers earn money via ad displays mounted atop their cars. Lyft confirmed the deal but declined to share any details.

Why it matters: Ride-hailing companies are increasingly eyeing additional ways to generate revenue, and Lyft rival Uber has been quietly testing a partnership with New York-based Cargo that gives it a cut of the advertising revenue, as I previously reported.

Coronavirus forces more companies to skip tech conferences

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Sony and Oculus parent Facebook both said on Thursday that they are pulling out of next month's Game Developer Conference in San Francisco over coronavirus concerns. Meanwhile, AT&T is joining IBM in skipping next week's RSA security conference in San Francisco.

The big picture: While these two shows are still slated to continue, other events have been scrapped altogether, including Barcelona's Mobile World Congress, one of the tech industry’s biggest global events, and Facebook's global marketing conference.

How art can help us understand AI

Photo: Ina Fried/Axios

Activists and journalists have been telling us for years that we are handing too much of our human autonomy over to machines and algorithms. Now artists have a showcase in the heart of Silicon Valley to highlight concerns around facial recognition, algorithmic bias and automation.

Why it matters: Art and technology have been partners for millennia, as Steve Jobs liked to remind us. But the opening of "Uncanny Valley: Being Human in the Age of AI" tomorrow at the de Young Museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park puts art in the role of technology's questioner, challenger — and sometimes prosecutor.

SoftBank to cut its stake to get T-Mobile's Sprint deal done

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

T-Mobile and Sprint announced a revised merger agreement that will see SoftBank getting a smaller share of the combined company, while most shareholders will receive the previously agreed upon exchange rate. The companies said they hope to get the deal as early as April 1.

Why it matters: The amended deal reflects the decline in Sprint's business, while leaving most shareholders' stake intact and removing another hurdle to the deal's closure.

New Mexico accuses Google of violating kids' privacy with data collection

A student uses Google Translate at the Rohingya English Academy in Malaysia. Photo: Faris Hadziq/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

New Mexico attorney general Hector Balderas accused Google in a lawsuit of illegally amassing schoolchildren's personal data through G Suite Education products that the tech giant lets kids in the state use for free.

The big picture: There are at least 80 million students and teachers using these products across the world, Google revealed in a blog post last January.

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Exclusive: Democrats call on dating sites to screen for sex offenders

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Democratic members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee are urging dating sites to more thoroughly check users against sex offender registries, raising the possibility of legislation that would force them to do so.

Why it matters: Match Group, which includes Tinder, Hinge and OKCupid, is under fire from lawmakers after a report revealed the company doesn't screen for sex offenders on its free platforms.

Lawmakers add staff to tech antitrust investigation

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee is staffing up as it works to finish its investigation into the competitive impact of tech giants.

Why it matters: The House probe's findings will help shape legislation that may aim to toughen antitrust law for the digital era, and they could offer fuel for similar investigations already under way by state and federal antitrust enforcers.

Local governments' ransomware problem drags on

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

At least 21 state and municipal government agencies in the United States this year were locked out of their own records and computer systems until they paid up, according to data disclosed to Axios by security company Emsisoft.

Why it matters: Ransomware attacks are among the most dangerous cybersecurity risks facing businesses and governments, Brett Callow, a threat analyst with Emsisoft, said. The threats cost the U.S. roughly $7.5 billion last year, the company estimates.

The rise and rise of ransomware

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Ransomware attacks are becoming smarter, more common, and more dangerous.

What's happening: In ransomware incidents, attackers take systems down and demand payment (usually in bitcoin) to restore access to them.

Trump administration backs Oracle in Google fight

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo via The Washington Post.

The Trump administration is siding with Oracle in the database giant's dispute with Google before the Supreme Court — a move that comes as Oracle's founder hosts a high-dollar fundraiser for the president.

Why it matters: Billions of dollars — and, Google argues, the future of software innovation — are at stake as a long-running copyright dispute between the two giant companies heads to the Supreme Court next month.

EU stakes out positions on regulating data, artificial intelligence

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The European Commission released long-awaited position papers Wednesday on several key digital issues, including how to treat the continent's digital data and how best to regulate artificial intelligence.

Why it matters: Europe has traditionally trailed the U.S. in creating giant tech companies that gobble up consumer data, but it has led in issuing rules and policies to govern such practices.

Google releases developer version of Android 11

Image: Google

Google released an earlier-than-expected test version of Android 11, offering developers a glimpse of what to expect in the final release later this year. Among the changes in the early code are improved support for 5G and foldable devices, as well as more granular security protections.

The big picture: Once upon a time, Google waited until its spring I/O developer conference to share code for the next version of Android, but has been moving the release earlier in recent years to give developers more time to prepare for the under-the-hood changes.

Massive MGM data breach: Guests' personal details posted on hacking site

The MGM Grand hotel in Las Vegas. Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

An MGM Resorts security breach last summer resulted in the personal details of 10.6 million guests published on a hacking forum this week, ZDNet first reported Wednesday.

Why it matters: Federal government employees and high-profile guests were affected by the breach, according to analysis by data breach monitoring service Under the Breach and ZDNet — including officials from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Microsoft staffers and singer Justin Bieber.

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