May 8, 2022
Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol
Good morning. It’s been a week, hasn’t it? But it’s the weekend, which is a relief. It also gives us a chance to reflect on what the Roe v. Wade decision reveals about the tech industry. And, as ever, we have the biggest stories from Protocol this week.
Maybe the only upside of having the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision leak months before it was ready for public consumption is the fact that it at least gives the country a little time to prepare.
And tech leaders have a lot of preparing to do.
In just a week, the leaked Roe decision has shined a spotlight on the human cost of some of the tech industry’s biggest issues and has forced tech executives to rethink everything from the data they share to the benefits they offer workers.
Take the privacy questions. In the year 2022, it’s barely news that tech companies in the U.S. are allowed to collect and buy and sell deeply personal information about people, without any kind of restrictions. But the fact that location data providers like SafeGraph have been actively selling data on people traveling to and from abortion clinics hits different in the face of a post-Roe reality.
Then there are the legal questions. What happens when Facebook gets subpoenaed for data on the anonymous administrator of an abortion fund group? What about when Google gets a geolocation warrant for visitors to a family planning clinic?
There are also questions about misinformation. COVID-19 made tech giants a lot more comfortable with imposing restrictions on vaccine and other kinds of medical myths.
But the toughest question undoubtedly revolves around workers. Some 13 states have trigger laws on the books that will outlaw abortion the second SCOTUS strikes Roe. There are at least 30 big tech companies located in those states. How can those companies keep workers safe, while continuing operations in those states?
Some of these questions have been open for years. But with the court’s final decision seeming all but assured, the clock is now ticking for tech companies to come up with the answers.
100% of C-suite staff surveyed by Workplace by Meta said that frontline workers were a strategic priority for their business in 2022, but nearly two in three of them said that keeping their frontline staff, who bear the brunt of the stresses of the workplace most acutely, had only become a priority since the pandemic hit.
The Ripple-SEC legal brawl could be a game-changer for crypto — Benjamin Pimentel
It’s been more than a year since the SEC stunned the technology world by suing Ripple, kicking off what has become the most closely watched legal battle in crypto. But while the protracted brawl could drag on into 2023, Ben explained how the company and crypto advocates see increasingly optimistic signs amid the wrangling.
Gary Gensler has become crypto’s Enemy No. 1. Does he care? — Benjamin Pimentel
The crypto community was initially thrilled with the installation of Gensler, a regulator who finally understood the blockchain! But things have gotten testy between the fast-growing industry and an SEC chair determined to rein it in — and it’s not clear that he worries about how many noses he puts out of joint in the process.
Your employees are dating, but it's gotten ugly. Is this your problem? — Anna Kramer
Workplace policies about professional boundaries outside of work tend to be ambiguous. And now that offices are more of a concept than a physical space, a company’s responsibility when a relationship between co-workers goes wrong or gets in the way of work could be murkier still. Anna tried to get to the bottom of what a good solution might look like, and found that almost everyone agrees the solutions are not as straightforward as they seem.
Tony Fadell thinks capitalism can solve the climate crisis. It just needs a few tweaks. — Lisa Martine Jenkins
Tony Fadell, the inventor of consumer tech products that have swept the globe, agrees that capitalism seems to have driven the climate crisis. But he also thinks that rather than tearing it down, the system can work for the planet with a few tweaks. Lisa asked him what that would look like.
Even the best cloud services will fail. Parametrix promises payouts when they do. — Donna Goodison
So your cloud provider went down and your entire business fell over. Sorry! But you know what? As sure as day follows night, it’s going to happen again. Sorry again!
Tribal leaders are building a better internet from the ground up — Karl Bode
Despite creating the predecessor of the modern internet, U.S. broadband access has remained mired in mediocrity for decades, with Americans paying some of the highest prices in the developed world for spotty, slow connections and abysmal customer support. But underserved communities on tribal lands are taking matters into their own hands in a bid to build the decentralized, more equitable networks of tomorrow.
VC is remaking education to save the planet — Brian Kahn
If you had a net worth of $12.7 billion, what would you do with it? John Doerr, Kleiner Perkins’ chairman, decided to fund a new school at Stanford with his fortune, putting down a cool $1.1 billion to fund a center that will research and build climate solutions. Brian took a close look at the news, and the way VC increasingly sees the climate as the definitive problem to solve.
Businesses are starting to turn to workplace communication tools. Such tools enable frontline workers to feel more connected to the rest of their business, to raise concerns and to provide feedback on potential pain points or points of improvement. By bridging that divide, companies can unlock new savings and efficiencies, and build a business that can last for the long run.
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