Policy

What’s next for tech in a post-Roe world

From employee support to privacy concerns, tech companies play a critical role in what’s to come for abortion access in the U.S.

Pro-choice demonstrators during a protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Abortion rights suddenly emerged as an issue that could reshape the battle between Democrats and Republicans for control of Congress, following a report that conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court were poised to strike down the half-century-old Roe v. Wade precedent. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

States banning abortion means that tech will play a critical role in what’s to come for abortion access in the U.S.

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Updated: June 27, 1:16 p.m. ET

The end of Roe v. Wade has sent the world of tech scrambling. Many companies are now trying to quickly figure out how to protect workers in states where abortion will be banned, while also facing potential privacy and legal ramifications.


Here’s a look at tech companies’ roles and responses to the ruling. We will update this page as news and events change.

How could this decision affect Big Tech?

How are tech companies responding?

How will this affect your privacy?

  • Tech users who use Google to find information on medication abortions or seek an Uber ride to the clinic could be leaving a digital trail for investigators.
  • “I think it's good that we were called out,” Auren Hoffman, CEO of location data provider SafeGraph, told Protocol after the company was blasted for selling information that showed where groups of people visiting clinics providing family planning and abortion services had traveled from, how long they stayed and where they traveled afterward.
  • Privacy experts are concerned that period-tracking apps could be forced to hand over some of users’ most private information, which could then be used as evidence against people who choose to terminate their pregnancies.
  • The telehealth boom of the last two years and regulatory changes at the FDA have launched a batch of startups that provide safe, effective abortion pills by mail. But the people behind these companies are equally cautious about overselling their promise, as they grapple with what the court’s decision means for the industry.
  • A recent investigation revealed that Meta might be putting the data of users seeking abortions at risk. Facebook’s automated Meta Pixel tool has been collecting data on people who make appointments or visit the websites of crisis pregnancy centers, fake abortion centers run by anti-abortion organizations.

Climate

Climate startups' secret weapon to meet their missions

Climate tech startups are embracing the public benefit corporation, a formerly niche way of incorporating, as a way of holding themselves accountable.

An increasing number of mission-driven companies are incorporating as PBCs.

Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Nearly every company today claims to be mission-driven. But the quest for profits and shareholder demands can often get in the way of more altruistic goals.

A new wave of climate-focused startups is trying to mitigate those competing interests using a wonky and somewhat dry piece of business incorporation status that’s existed for more than a decade: the public benefit corporation. Ultimately, PBCs are just one attempt — albeit a still untested one — to better align the capitalist system with combatting the climate crisis.

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Michelle Ma

Michelle Ma (@himichellema) is a reporter at Protocol covering climate. Previously, she was a news editor of live journalism and special coverage for The Wall Street Journal. Prior to that, she worked as a staff writer at Wirecutter. She can be reached at mma@protocol.com.

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How cybercrime is going small time

Blockbuster hacks are no longer the norm – causing problems for companies trying to track down small-scale crime

Cybercrime is often thought of on a relatively large scale. Massive breaches lead to painful financial losses, bankrupting companies and causing untold embarrassment, splashed across the front pages of news websites worldwide. That’s unsurprising: cyber events typically cost businesses around $200,000, according to cybersecurity firm the Cyentia Institute. One in 10 of those victims suffer losses of more than $20 million, with some reaching $100 million or more.

That’s big money – but there’s plenty of loot out there for cybercriminals willing to aim lower. In 2021, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received 847,376 complaints – reports by cybercrime victims – totaling losses of $6.9 billion. Averaged out, each victim lost $8,143.

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Chris Stokel-Walker

Chris Stokel-Walker is a freelance technology and culture journalist and author of "YouTubers: How YouTube Shook Up TV and Created a New Generation of Stars." His work has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian and Wired.

Climate

Red tape is holding back the EV transition

Charging infrastructure is getting held up by local bureaucracy, creating a conundrum for would-be EV drivers.

Lengthy administrative processes are causing significant delays as EV charging companies and local businesses seek to provide access to charging.

Photo illustration: Kena Betancur/VIEW press/Getty Images; Protocol

Building out charging infrastructure as quickly as possible has never been more critical to getting people in electric vehicles.

Yet as states and the federal government embark on ambitious plans to transition from gas-powered to electric vehicles, local government bureaucracies often stand in the way. From acquiring multiple permits to zoning requirements, lengthy administrative processes are causing significant delays as EV charging companies and local businesses seek to provide access to charging. That could slow down EV adoption at a time when the climate crisis depends on getting more of them on the road.

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Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu

Kwasi (kway-see) is a fellow at Protocol with an interest in tech policy and climate. Previously, he covered global religion news at the Associated Press in New York. Before that, he was a freelance journalist based out of Accra, Ghana, covering social justice, health, and environment stories. His reporting has been published in The New York Times, Quartz, CNN, The Guardian, and Public Radio International. He can be reached at kasiedu@protocol.com.

Workplace

Proximity bias is real. Here's how Prezi is fixing it.

Going back to the office isn’t the answer, but better virtual meetings could be.

"As simple as that sounds, creating that sense of place and purpose with a digital workspace and branding, those are the key things that we do internally and that we've productized for our customers."

Photo: Prezi

Jim Szafranski, CEO of presentation software company Prezi, started developing video meeting and presentation software Prezi Video as a “hobby project” toward the end of 2019. Then the pandemic hit.

“What was typically thought of as a presentation company suddenly was involved in the virtual work world,” Szafranski said.

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Nat Rubio-Licht

Nat Rubio-Licht is a Los Angeles-based news writer at Protocol. They graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in newspaper and online journalism in May 2020. Prior to joining the team, they worked at the Los Angeles Business Journal as a technology and aerospace reporter.

Entertainment

Why Microsoft needs to drag Call of Duty into the future

Microsoft’s biggest challenge with Call of Duty has nothing to do with Sony. It’s about modernizing the franchise for a cross-platform and subscription future.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II premiered the biggest entertainment advertisement ever at the port of Los Angeles in May 2022.

Photo: Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Activision

Microsoft and Sony have been waging an increasingly bitter battle over Call of Duty. Over the past two weeks, the feud has spilled out into the public through regulatory filings in countries like Brazil and New Zealand, which, unlike the U.S., publish such documents for all to see.

Microsoft’s goal is to convince regulators worldwide that its landmark acquisition of Call of Duty parent Activision Blizzard for close to $70 billion should get the greenlight. Sony's goal, on the other hand, is to raise the alarm about its primary gaming rival owning one of its biggest cash cows, and whether the PlayStation playbook of platform exclusivity might be turned against Sony if Microsoft decides to make Call of Duty exclusive in some way to Xbox or its Game Pass subscription service.

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Nick Statt

Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.

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