September 6, 2022
Photo: Constantine Johnny/Getty Images
Hello, and welcome to Protocol Enterprise! Today: why the FTC is taking direct aim at a company that you probably don’t know, but that probably knows you; Cloudflare reverses course on Kiwi Farms; and how the U.S. government plans to roll out the chip bucks.
When the Federal Trade Commission launched its investigation of little-known ad tech company Kochava late last month, it wasn’t just about selling location data that could identify people who visited abortion clinics. It was about unintended consequences of a data industry fueled by ad dollars, ruled by chaotic obfuscation and shielded through nondisclosure agreements.
My story digs into how Kochava’s business reflects a data ecosystem the FTC says is at the heart of a digital data surveillance industry it aims to shackle.
Kochava is best known amid digital advertisers and app makers for providing mobile app and advertising measurement, helping app publishers verify the number of app installs that come through paid partners.
Kochava will not reveal where the location data it sold comes from.
Kochava is putting up a fight against the FTC, which alleged data sold by Kochava can be pieced together with other information to identify people in a harmful way.
This might seem like some wonky ad tech case against a company few have heard of. But it’s about a lot more.
Why on-demand talent could be exactly what companies need right now: If you thought the rise of remote work, independent contractors and contingent workers rose sharply during the pandemic, just wait until the next few months when you see a higher uptick in the on-demand talent economy.
Three days after insisting it would not remove its services from one of the worst sites on the internet, Cloudflare changed its mind, and did not appear happy about it.
Cloudflare’s abrupt reversal knocked Kiwi Farms offline through the holiday weekend, and the site was struggling to find providers to keep it up and running as the week began. Last Wednesday, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince insisted the company would not end its relationship with Kiwi Farms — a transphobic website dedicated to harassment and linked to several suicides — despite an organized pressure campaign following the swatting and ongoing stalking of Clara Sorrenti, a Twitch streamer.
But Saturday, in a terse blog post that appeared to blame the pressure campaign for escalating the behavior of the site’s users, Prince said Cloudflare had “taken steps to block their content from being accessed through our infrastructure. This is an extraordinary decision for us to make and, given Cloudflare's role as an internet infrastructure provider, a dangerous one that we are not comfortable with.”
Just about every other major internet infrastructure provider seems to be comfortable with cutting off companies that violate their terms of service. Why does Cloudflare keep finding itself in this situation, carrying water for terrible people while claiming to stand on an important principle, only to fold when the rest of the world discovers how terrible those people really are?— Tom Krazit (email | twitter)
NACHA and other industry groups and regulators are pushing for big changes. In this virtual Protocol event, we'll speak with a panel of payment experts and regulators to discuss how banks can stay ahead of the curve and ensure the U.S. can catch up with innovation overseas.
Join Protocol’s Tomio Geron on Thursday, Sept. 8 at 10 a.m. PDT for a panel discussion featuring Sara Xi, chief product officer, Prime Trust; James Colassano, senior vice president, product development and strategy, The Clearing House; and Leigh Lytle, U.S. policy lead, Plaid. RSVP here.
The Biden administration published its plan to dole out the $50 billion in funding designed to boost chip manufacturing in the U.S. in a 20-page document released by the Commerce Department on Tuesday.
The funding, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden last month as part of the $280 billion Chips and Science Act, will largely be used to help companies expand existing chip factories or start construction on new ones.
Of the total cash, the Commerce Department will allocate about $28 billion to build new factories for chipmaking, and assembly and packaging that are geared toward producing the most advanced logic and memory chips; $10 billion will be set aside to expand capacity for current and older-generation chips that can be crucial for national security uses.
Part of the funding will go toward building the National Semiconductor Technology Center, or NSTC, a public-private organization that will conduct research, offer prototyping capabilities and help develop the necessary workforce to fill the new jobs created, among other objectives. Overall, the Commerce Department will commit $11 billion toward creating the new organization, and also fund additional research and development initiatives.
The chips funding is part of a broad push by the Biden administration to tackle a perceived threat from China. The U.S. has unveiled several measures to hurt China’s ability to pursue AI-related applications, including last week placing restrictions on the export of specific chips designed for AI computing made by Nvidia and AMD.
Companies that accept cash from the Chips for America Fund are barred from using it for new advanced manufacturing investments in China or other countries “of concern” or from using it for stock buybacks. The Commerce Department said it could claw back cash it sees as used improperly.
Commerce said it would release funding application guidelines by February.— Max A. Cherney (email | twitter)
Why on-demand talent could be exactly what companies need right now: The biggest benefit of leveraging on-demand talent is often tapping into the talent and skills that businesses can’t find elsewhere. Upwork’s recent report highlights that 53% of on-demand talent provide skills that are in short supply for many companies, including IT, marketing, computer programming and business consulting.
InterContinental Hotels was hit by a cyberattack that disrupted its bookings system for more than a day, and it’s unclear if the company has recovered.Our cousins over at POLITICO were able to check out a list of chips that the Russian government is hoping to find, an interesting look at how the trade embargo is affecting the country’s internal systems.
Thanks for reading — see you tomorrow!