The duo is looking to create an all-solid-state battery for electric vehicles that could charge in as few as 15 minutes.
Nissan’s goal is to create a smaller and cheaper all-solid-state battery that will replace the lithium-ion batteries currently used in its vehicles.
There’s a new collaboration in town: Nissan is working with NASA to develop a new type of battery to power electric vehicles.
The goal is to create a smaller and cheaper all-solid-state battery that will replace the lithium-ion batteries currently used in Nissan’s electric vehicles. (And indeed, most EVs.) Ideally, the resulting battery would skip the use of the rare and expensive materials that power lithium-ion batteries, including cobalt and lithium itself. The safety and stability of the batteries will also be a priority.
And — here’s the kicker — when finished, the battery will fully charge in just 15 minutes, rather than the several hours required of the current technologies (though that wait time can be cut down significantly by the use of direct-current fast chargers). This potential for speed could change the charging landscape, making the “refuel” experience more analogous to that of a traditional gas station.
All-solid-state batteries use solid electrodes and other component parts, rather than relying on the liquid or polymer components of lithium-ion batteries. They have historically been low in energy density, but recent technological developments have renewed interest in exploring their use in EVs and other applications. With the need to get more people in EVs ASAP to address the climate crisis, the more innovation on the battery front, the better.
To conduct their research, Nissan and NASA are using a computerized database called an “original material informatics platform” to test combinations of hundreds of thousands of materials to gauge what would work best. The University of California, San Diego, is also involved in the research.
The Japanese automaker’s main EV offering so far has been the Leaf. The vehicle was truly ahead of its time when it hit the market in 2010, but now the rest of the market seems to be catching on as more and more EVs get snapped up.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but if the duo succeeds, the resulting battery could revolutionize EVs. Some of the main barriers to wide-scale EV adoption are the expense and rarity of the materials needed for lithium-ion batteries, as well as the time it takes to charge them. A number of Nissan rivals are also researching all-solid-state batteries, including Toyota, Volkswagen, Ford and GM.
That said, we probably shouldn’t hold our collective breath. The Nissan-NASA partnership is slated to launch a pilot plant in 2024, and a product launch in 2028. And we need to get more EVs on the road yesterday.
SpaceX reportedly received millions from the U.S. for its help in sending terminals for its Starlink internet service to Ukraine, according to The Washington Post.
The United States Agency for International Development paid for 1,333 terminals at $1,500 per terminal, as well as $800,000 in transportation fees for the terminals, totaling $3 million including other costs, according to The Washington Post. In a press release from USAID on April 6 that was later altered to exclude these details, SpaceX donated 3,667 Starlink terminals worth roughly $10 million; USAID purchased the additional 1,333, aerospace reported Joey Roulette tweeted on Wednesday.
The USAID press release now calls the donation a “public-private partnership” rather than a “private sector donation.” It’s currently unclear whether SpaceX sent Ukraine its standard terminals, which retail for $600, or its advanced terminals announced in February, which retail for $2,500, according to The Washington Post.
“The Starlink satellite terminals will enable unlimited, unthrottled data connectivity from anywhere in Ukraine,” the altered press release reads. “The terminals will allow public officials and critical citizen service providers to continue to communicate within Ukraine and with the outside world.”
USAID spokesperson Rebecca Chalif said in a statement to The Washington Post that the donation was “made possible by a range of stakeholders, whose combined contributions valued over $15 million and facilitated the procurement, international flights, ground transportation, and satellite Internet service of 5,000 Starlink terminals.”
The donation was originally sparked by tweets from Mykhailo Fedorov, vice prime minister of Ukraine and its minister of Digital Transformation, in late February asking SpaceX CEO Elon Musk to provide internet service to Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion of the country. Musk responded “Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route.” Starlink terminals first arrived March 1, with a second shipment arriving March 9.
In mid-November, one Doordash share was worth just under $246. Today, it’s worth about $108.
Doordash stock has taken a massive tumble in the new year, and that’s hurting employees’ pocketbooks and retirement plans. According to an internal memo obtained by Business Insider, Doordash plans to offer employees who joined after the 2020 IPO “top-up” equity grants to offset the losses.
“Over the past year, we’ve seen significant differences in the value of equity compensation driven by someone’s start date and the volatility in our stock price,” the memo reads. “Going forward, we are designing a compensation program to ensure that performance is what drives differences in pay — even in the face of stock volatility.”
According to compensation comparison tool levels.fyi, equity makes up anywhere from 23.3% to 55.5% of a software engineer’s total compensation at the company, where 6.25% of stocks vest on a quarterly basis. That’s similar to what employees in similar roles are paid at competitors like Instacart and UberEats, but a slightly higher proportion of equity compared to Big Tech firms like Google and Meta.
Doordash is among a slew of tech stocks that have taken a tumble in the first quarter of the year. Shopify, for example, will increase employee base pay starting in July, after shares have fallen more than 60% since November. It’s also giving employees more flexibility between stock and cash options, according to The Globe and Mail. When Instacart’s valuation fell, the company adjusted an internal accounting measure so that employees were essentially gaining shares at a lower price. Robinhood, Snap, Roku and Uber have also offered increased equity to employees.
According to Pitchbook, the slump is hitting early-stage startups, too. In a survey of VC funding in Q1 of 2022, it found that VCs only invested $70.7 billion over the past three months — the lowest quarter since 2020 — with very few companies choosing to IPO. In contrast to the IPO and SPAC flurry last year, Pitchbook said that poor public market performance is influencing the change in startup funding, too.
Texas belt buckles. Super-sized silver cowboy boots. Drones making a giant Doge in the sky.
Elon Musk offered up several meme-able moments at Thursday’s “Cyber Rodeo” to open Tesla’s Austin Gigafactory. But the one thing Tesla watchers are all talking about is the Cybertruck, which the world’s richest man announced would be available in 2023. Attendees were shown the latest prototype, electrically dropping rear glass and all.
“We can’t wait to build this here,” said Musk as the vehicle rolled onto the stage. “Sorry for the delay, but you’re going to have this next year and it’s going to be great.”
It’s not the first time Musk has made such a promise. He’s been teasing the angular, electric truck since 2019, when he said it would go to market in 2021. As time went on, that became early 2022, then late 2022. In January, Musk told investors that a 2023 delivery was “likely” — not guaranteed. Along the way, the price for the Cybertruck also disappeared from the order page.
But that hasn’t deterred the Tesla true believers, who have been clamoring for the truck since it was announced. Leading up to the evening event, plenty of speculation circulated on Reddit and Twitter that the “cyber” in Cyber Rodeo meant there would be big news about the truck. Now, we have the news, which amounts to a promise on a road littered with them.
There’s no doubt a market for electric trucks. The Ford F-150 is the most popular vehicle in America. While Tesla is the biggest EV seller in the U.S., the Cybertruck delays have allowed other companies to take the lead. Ford, for example, will start selling an electric version of their popular pickup this summer. Reservations for the F-150 Lightning have been so brisk, Ford said in January that it plans to crank out 150,000 of them per year to meet demand. Rivian also released its battery-powered truck late last year with much fanfare, though it’s struggled with production holdups since. An electric Chevy Silverado is also coming soon, and a Hummer EV for some reason. In short, it’s a market growing more crowded by the day and Tesla could well be slipping behind its competitors.
The prototype Tesla let fans examine up close Thursday is clearly far from final. There were large gaps between sheets of steel on the vehicle’s sides, while parts of the interior had low-quality finishes that seemed like placeholders. (Hopefully, anyways, for future Cybertruck owners’ sakes.) It also still had the Model X yoke, with no airbag.
As the saying goes, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” While Musk’s promise of a 2023 Cybertruck rollout sure sounds nice, it might be a mistake to count on Tesla delivering the goods.
Robinhood said it’s given a crypto wallet to every user who wants one, with millions on a waitlist. But its stock dropped Friday after Goldman Sachs said the online brokerage faces a rough road ahead.
Shares were down about 8% in late morning trades and have lost 39% of their value this year. The stock is 87% below its all-time high of $85 it reached in August shortly after its IPO, propelled by its growth in crypto trading revenue.
The company said Thursday it had rolled out the crypto wallet feature to every eligible Robinhood user on its waitlist. It also added support for Lightning payments, making the wallet more useful for low-cost retail transactions and transfers.
“Our goal is to make Robinhood the most trusted and easiest to use crypto platform,” CEO and co-founder Vlad Tenev said in the statement.
But news of Robinhood’s aggressive push for a stronger crypto market position was offset by a Goldman Sachs note downgrading its stock from neutral to sell.
“We believe this lack of clarity around the path to profitability will prevent the stock from re-rating higher,” Goldman analysts wrote.
The analysts said recent data pointed to user growth that “remained depressed” and pointed to worries of a crypto slump, which could have a negative impact on Robinhood given its growing reliance on that market.
“While the company has negotiated much better economics on crypto trading, we see the decline in broader industry crypto volumes largely offsetting this tailwind,” the analyst note said.
Robinhood kicked off the year with a disappointing earnings report highlighted by a revenue outlook that was well below what Wall Street was expecting.
Last month, we found out that Block’s new bitcoin hardware wallet would include a fingerprint sensor. Now, we know what it might look like: a rock.
Block hardware chief Jesse Dorogusker tweeted a photo of prototypes of the company’s new hardware wallet, a flat hexagonal gadget complete with USB-C charging ports. The wallets (or should we say rocks?) allow users to access cryptographic keys stored on the device using a fingerprint sensor, but Block will also offer PIN as an alternative means of authentication.
It’s unclear if the wallet has a name. Jack Dorsey quote-retweeted Dorogusker’s post saying “rockey,” and Dorogusker didn’t caption his own tweet. Let’s call it “rockey” for now, OK? (Which might be a portmanteau of “rock” and “key.”)
The company formerly known as Square wrote in a blog post last month that the wallet system would include three components. First, it will have a mobile app that allows customers to own and manage bitcoin and find partners to buy, sell or convert fiat to crypto. Second, the wallet has a hardware device (rockey) that would “act as a self-serve recovery kit” for when someone’s mobile wallet is lost. Third, it’ll have tools to help customers recover from losing part of their wallets.
Block will offer more details about what happens for people who lose both their phone and hardware device in the future. “And as part of defining what tools we provide to customers in order to recover their wallet in different scenarios, we’ll also be thinking through inheritance, as that is an important part of managing your financial future,” the company wrote.
Dorsey announced in June 2021 Block’s plans to introduce a crypto wallet, dribbling out details over time. We knew Block originally didn’t want a display and that the hardware wallet would have a corresponding mobile app, but we didn’t know what it would actually look like until recently. Lindsey Grossman, Block’s head of Product, Marketing and Partnerships for the wallet project, told the Verge that the images are “some prototypes we are experimenting with for the hardware component of the wallet.” So the final product might look quite different.
Following the first successful union election in an Amazon warehouse, the company shared in a filing that it plans to file several objections to the conduct of both the union and the National Labor Relations Board in an effort to contest the results.
The Amazon Labor Union became the first group to successfully unionize a group of Amazon workers when it won an election at the JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island by more than 500 votes on April 1. Amazon immediately announced its objection to the result and also expressed its intention to challenge the conduct of the NLRB, the federal body that oversees the administration of U.S. labor laws and union elections.
Both parties have the right to file objections to union election conduct after the results are announced, and the NLRB must rule on those objections before it can officially certify the results of the election. While the company has not issued further public comment since the vote on April 1, Amazon’s April 7 filing with the NLRB shows that the company plans to accuse the Amazon Labor Union of coercing people to vote in favor of the union, as well as accusing the NLRB of behavior that “interfered with employee free choice.”
In the filing, the company asked the NLRB for more time to gather evidence of these accusations, and the NLRB granted the extension.
“The employees have spoken and their voices have been heard,” Eric Milner, an attorney for the Amazon Labor Union, said in a statement to the Associated Press. “Amazon is choosing to ignore that, and instead engage in stalling tactics to avoid the inevitable.”
A second union election with the ALU for a different Staten Island facility will begin on April 25. Amazon union organizers with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in Bessemer, Alabama, are also waiting on official election results, where just over 400 contested ballots will determine a victor there.
Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal and former CEO Jack Dorsey like Elon Musk. Twitter employees? Not so much.
The news that Tesla’s leader would join Twitter’s board did not sit well with employees, who have expressed concern that Musk’s values seem to contradict the company’s. Twitter now plans to host Musk at a town hall to (hopefully?) clear the air, according to company messages obtained by The Washington Post. The meeting is being dubbed an AMA, and the Post said it’s not very common for the company to host one.
“We say that Twitter is what’s happening and what people are talking about right now,” Agrawal wrote in an email to employees on Thursday. “Often, we [at] Twitter are what’s happening and what people are talking about. That has certainly been the case this week … Following our board announcement, many of you have had different types of questions about Elon Musk, and I want to welcome you to ask those questions to him.”
Musk is at once one of Twitter’s biggest posters and one of its biggest critics. A few weeks before news that he bought a big stake in Twitter went public, Musk tweeted that he was considering building his own social media platform. He’s a self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist” who has called for an open-source algorithm and criticized Twitter’s content moderation policies. Republican lawmakers still upset about former President Donald Trump’s ban on the platform have taken a liking to Musk’s tweets attacking Twitter and appointment to Twitter’s board.
Employees are worried that Musk’s seat on the board could set the company back on its progress toward eradicating hate speech and misinformation on the platform. “Free speech” has often been used as cover for harassment and misinformation and has led to far-right Twitter clones like Gab and Trump’s own Truth Social. The employees are not alone, either. A digital ad agency leader said Musk’s role may scare off brands from doing business on Twitter, and Reddit’s former CEO expressed concern about the move.
“We know that he has caused harm to workers, the trans community, women, and others with less power in the world,” one employee said, according to messages seen by the Post. “How are we going to reconcile this decision with our values? Does innovation trump humanity?”
“Quick question: If an employee tweeted some of the things Elon tweets, they’d likely be the subject” of an HR investigation, another employee wrote on Slack. “Are board members held to the same standard?”
Tech companies have spent months hyping the potential of the metaverse, a platform that isn’t yet real. Even still, Epic and LEGO are already trying to make sure the concept is safe for kids — or at least that’s what they claim. The announcement was light on details.
The companies said Thursday that they’re entering a “long-term” partnership to make a “family-friendly” metaverse. Lego Group CEO Niels Christiansen said in a statement that “there is huge potential to develop life-long skills such as creativity, collaboration and communication through digital experiences,” and the partnership is aimed in that direction.
But the companies’ metaverse for kids seems to be in very early stages. It’s unclear when it will launch and what the platform will entail, exactly. The three principles driving the project, the companies said, are to prioritize childrens’ safety and wellbeing, protect children’s privacy and give children and parents “tools that give them control over their digital experience.”
“We are excited to come together to build a space in the metaverse that’s fun, entertaining, and made for kids and families,” said Epic CEO Tim Sweeney.
While this sounds heartwarming, a metaverse for kids isn’t a new concept. The virtual worlds in games like World of Warcraft, Minecraft, Roblox and Epic’s own Fortnite provide a glimpse of what the Lego/Epic co-branded metaverse could look like, and could even use existing games as building blocks for a virtual social platform where players can dress up their avatars, buy virtual goods with digital currency and hang out with friends — similar to other metaverse concepts, just likely with more parental controls. Sweeney has been bullish on the concept for months, stating at a conference in Seoul in November that “over the coming decades, the metaverse has the potential to become a multi-trillion-dollar part of the world economy,” Bloomberg reported.
Epic is also going up against other major gaming companies who have staked their claim in the metaverse, including Pokémon Go creator Niantic, which announced plans to build “real-world metaverse” apps in November, and of course Meta, which has pivoted in the last year to make developing the metaverse its entire identity.
Twitter is officially letting you say “don’t @ me” — and now it actually means something. The platform announced Thursday that it’s testing a feature called “unmentioning,” which helps quiet your noisy notifications by letting you leave a conversation you have no interest in being part of.
The feature is currently being tested by a small group of users and is only available on the web. Twitter said the feature is “a way to help you protect your peace and remove yourself from conversations.” Users that have this feature can select the menu next to the reply button on a tweet and choose the option to “get you out of this conversation.” Users who choose this will be untagged from the conversation, as well as prevent further mentions and notifications. When used, your Twitter handle will be grayed out on that post.
Dominic Camozzi, a senior privacy designer at Twitter, first previewed the unmention feature on his page last June. The feature is a step in combatting harassment by controlling “unwanted attention,” Camozzi previously tweeted.
Twitter has been working on several other anti-abuse features, including “Safety Mode,” a tool which automatically blocks accounts for seven days if they comment using harmful language. Twitter began testing the mode in September and expanded in February. These features add to one that allows users to limit who can reply to their posts that was rolled out in 2020 and expanded in 2021.
Anti-harassment features aren’t the only way that Twitter is giving more power to users. The platform announced Tuesday that it’s finally working on an edit button — a feature so long-awaited that Twitter made an April Fools’ joke out of it. But in a quieter move, Twitter changed the way deleted tweets show up when embedded on third-party websites, leaving a blank box behind rather than text. Though Twitter Senior Product Manager Eleanor Harding said the change was to “better respect when people have chosen to delete their tweets,” it makes it possible for public figures to erase newsworthy statements as if they never happened.
The FCA announced a new three-year strategy on Thursday, aimed at improving “outcomes for consumers and in markets throughout the U.K.” A key focus of the strategy is the hiring of 80 additional employees to help shut down “problem firms” that do not meet the requirements of FCA regulatory standards. That could be a lot of kinds of financial businesses, but crypto has been in the FCA’s crosshairs.
Even with recent gestures by the British government to seem more welcoming to crypto, the regulatory environment for crypto firms headquartered in the U.K. has been uneasy of late.
After setting an April 1 deadline for crypto firms on its temporary register to get on its permanent register or cease operations, the agency left crypto firms in a mad scramble to meet its deadline. But the FCA changed its mind shortly after and extended its deadline for a select few crypto firms, allowing firms including Revolut and Copper to continue operations on a temporary basis.
The added enforcement funding sought by the FCA mirrors efforts by regulators in the U.S. The CFTC requested an expanded budget for training risk analysts on digital assets last week, and has sought expanded authority over crypto regulation. Likewise, the SEC has requested new enforcement positions within the agency, though not on the scale of the FCA’s proposal.
Activision Blizzard will be moving its 1,000-plus quality assurance testers from contract roles to full-time jobs with additional pay raises, following months of activism and unionization from a group of workers (including QA testers) at Raven Studio, the gaming studio that produces Call of Duty.
The company announced that all of its temporary and contingent quality-assurance testers would be offered full-time contracts with a pay increase to a minimum of $20 per hour. Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, converted many of its contract QA testers to full-time last month.
“As ‘Call of Duty’ evolves, we anticipate periods where the workload will fluctuate and exceed our expanded team’s bandwidth. With this in mind, we’re adding extra support for our team from external partners,” Josh Taub, Activision Publishing’s chief operating officer, wrote in an email to employees.
A group of workers at Raven Software began the process of forming a union after Activision Blizzard laid off some contract QA testers and offered full-time roles to others in a similar move late last year. Those workers staged a walkout and strike and eventually formed one of the first game-workers unions in the U.S., called the Game Workers Alliance, with the Communications Workers of America in January 2022.
Those same unionized workers may not be given the new benefits and pay raises going to other QA testers, according to Communications Workers of America Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens. “The company’s assertion that the National Labor Relations Act prevents them from including Raven workers is clearly an effort to divide workers and undermine their effort to form a union (Game Workers Alliance – CWA),” she wrote in a statement to Protocol.
Activision Blizzard has been embroiled in months of scandal following California and federal labor suits alleging the company fostered a work environment that led to a frat-house culture of sexual harassment. While the company reached a settlement agreement with the Equal Opportunity and Employment Commission in late March, it still must face ongoing investigations and suits from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and former employees and shareholders. The company most recently angered employees by ditching its COVID-19 vaccine mandate. After workers organized a digital walkout, Activision walked back its decision.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated when Epic converted QA testers to full-time. This story was updated on April 7, 2022.
Last year, Better.com fired 900 employees via a videoconference gone wrong. Less than a month ago, it laid off another 3,000 employees, about 35% of its remaining workforce.
Now, Better.com is at it again, offering “anyone who wants it” a voluntary separation plan, or 60 days’ paid severance and health insurance coverage, a person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.
The online mortgage lender is extending the offer to some of its corporate, product development and engineering employees, company executives reportedly announced at a town hall on Tuesday.
One source told TechCrunch that the company is losing “around $50 million a month,” according to a recent internal meeting where that was disclosed. Company execs cited the current mortgage markets with rising interest rates and shifting refinancing conditions as reasons for the layoffs.
Better.com CEO Vishal Garg went viral last December for his bungled handling of the company’s initial layoffs, which he later apologized for in a letter to employees that was subsequently leaked on Blind. He took a leave of absence after that round of layoffs and was reinstated in January by the company’s board, but he’s now facing a fraud suit from investors who allege he misused their funds.
“Today we acknowledge that we overhired, and hired the wrong people,” Garg said in a leaked video of a meeting discussing the initial layoffs that was obtained by TechCrunch. “And in doing that we failed. I failed. I was not disciplined over the past 18 months. We made $250 million last year, and you know what, we probably pissed away $200 million. We probably could have made more money last year and been leaner, meaner and hungrier.”
In the months since the initial layoffs, the company has lost a flurry of senior execs, including its vice president of Finance, head of Real Estate, head of Sales and general manager of Purchase, all of whom resigned.
Dreams do come true. Elon Musk got to visit with Biden administration officials at the White House on Wednesday.
The occasion? A meeting of auto industry leaders to discuss electric vehicles and charging infrastructure with senior administration officials, including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy and Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu. On the industry side, the group also included the heads of GM, Ford, Stellantis, Lucid and Nissan.
The group met to discuss the interoperability of chargers and charging networks, a fertile topic given that a handful of companies have followed Tesla’s lead and announced plans for their own proprietary networks. But the tides seem to be shifting toward open networks where any EV can charge at any station. The administration itself has put forward a plan and funding to build out a network across the U.S.
In a statement, the Biden administration said “there was broad consensus that charging stations and vehicles need to be interoperable and provide a seamless user experience, no matter what car you drive or where you charge your EV.” The participants also discussed cooperation between government and industry on a domestic supply chain for battery materials, which has become an increasingly hot topic after Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to ramp up production.
The meeting is a big deal for Twitter’s newest board member, who’s been upset with the Biden administration for not saying enough nice things about Tesla. Or anything at all, really. It took until early February for Biden to even mention Tesla, the country’s largest EV producer, a fact that evidently aggrieved Musk.
In late February, after reporting emerged that the White House had no interest in hosting Musk with other corporate leaders, Musk emailed CNBC to double down on his frustrations with being ignored. But — and it’s a big but! — he also sought to assuage any fears that he might make a scene if he ultimately received an invite.
“They have nothing to worry about,” he told CNBC. “I would do the right thing.”
Still, when the president mentioned Ford and GM in the State of the Union but not Tesla, Musk fired off a cranky reply to a Biden tweet. White House aides said Biden’s apparent antipathy is rooted in the Tesla CEO’s anti-union stance. (While major automakers sport unionized workforces, none of Tesla’s plants have unionized.)
But despite the acrimony and potential differences of opinion, Musk’s assurances he’d “do the right thing” if he got the invite seem to have paid off. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall at the White House on Wednesday. As of press time, Musk had not yet tweeted about the meeting.
Solar panels work when the sun is up. But a group of engineers at Stanford University found a way to generate electricity from them at night, too. Neat!
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Thursday said regulating crypto should focus squarely on the risks it poses to consumers and businesses, not the technology.
In her first major comments on crypto, Yellen reinforced the Biden administration’s approach to the fast-growing technological trend that’s upending the global financial system, which seeks to balance encouraging innovation with guarding against risk.
Yellen said regulations “need to adjust” in the face of new technologies, “but that process should be guided by the risks associated with the services provided to households and businesses, not the underlying technology” in a speech at American University’s Kogod School of Business’ Center for Innovation.
“Wherever possible, regulation should be ‘tech neutral,’” she said. “Consumers, investors and businesses should be protected from fraud and misleading statements regardless of whether assets are stored on a balance sheet or distributed ledger.”
Yellen reaffirmed the Biden administration’s view of crypto as a ground-breaking technical innovation. Major crypto companies have warned that regulation could stifle that innovation and cause the U.S. to fall behind other countries, but she argued that any changes in U.S. regulations must be based on the goal of protecting consumers and businesses.
Those protections include principles and policies already in place in traditional finance. For example, “firms that hold customer assets should be required to ensure those assets are not lost, stolen, or used without the customer’s permission,” she said.
The Treasury Department “will work to make sure consumers, investors and businesses have adequate protections from fraud and theft, privacy and data breaches, and unfair and abusive practices,” she said. “Great care must also be applied to ensure innovations do not cause disparate harm to vulnerable communities or exacerbate social, racial or economic inequities.”
Yellen also addressed the proposal to create an official U.S. digital dollar, which she said must be done “in the context of the central role the dollar plays in the world economy.”
“We have a strong interest in ensuring that innovation does not lead to a fragmentation in international payment architectures and that the development of digital asset technologies is consistent with our values and laws,” she said.
The Army Corps of Engineers has closed its review of SpaceX’s planned expansion in Boca Chica, Texas, because the company failed to provide environmental documentation about how the Starbase site growth could affect the surrounding ecology and wildlife.
Bloomberg first reported the Army Corps’ letter to SpaceX detailing the missing documentation, which should have included information on how the planned expansion in South Texas would affect the complex and rare combination of coastal flats and wetlands that surround the planned growth area. The Army Corps cannot approve the company’s planned growth until it submits those documents.
The local residents of Cameron County, Texas, have been sharply divided over the SpaceX facility’s growth and Elon Musk’s plans to build and launch the Starship spacecraft to Mars from that location eventually, in part because of the way the facility could threaten the environment and beaches. Musk’s facility has grown rapidly over the last five years, and Musk reportedly spends about half of his time living in the surrounding area.
SpaceX rocket launches and booster tests have sometimes exploded over the wetlands and coastal mudflats, and environmental researchers in the area told Protocol last year that they are especially concerned about the effects on some rare bird species in the Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge, adjacent to the Starbase facility. Locals also told Protocol last year that they feel that Musk’s wealth and power have made it impossible for people to challenge the company’s decisions to close roads to the beaches; though the company has an agreement that gives them a right to a certain number of road closures per year, the roads have been closed for far more hours each year than previously agreed upon.
The Federal Aviation Administration is also preparing a final environmental impact report for the planned Starship and Super Heavy rocket and booster launches and has pushed backed the report’s planned release date several times over the last year. The current planned release date is April 29, and that report will determine whether or not SpaceX must take additional steps to mitigate the potential environmental consequences of the Starship launches.
SpaceX did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Berkshire Hathaway just bought a huge stake in HP. Warren Buffett’s investment firm took a roughly 11% stake in the company, which is worth about $4.2 billion based on the stock’s closing price at market close on Wednesday.
Berkshire’s stake makes it the largest shareholder in the personal computing and printing company. Shares of HP jumped more than 15% in premarket trading Thursday morning, according to CNBC.
“Berkshire Hathaway is one of the world’s most respected investors and we welcome them as an investor in HP Inc,” an HP spokesperson told Yahoo Finance.
Berkshire’s latest grab is its third large investment since late February. In mid-March, the firm bought a large stake — about 14.6% — in Occidental Petroleum. The firm also bought insurance company Alleghany Corp for $11.6 billion late last month. Prior to Alleghany, Buffett hadn’t followed through with a large acquisition in about six years, Reuters pointed out.
Berkshire has taken a fairly conservative approach to investing in tech in the past, with the notable exception being its stake in Apple. Evercore ISI tech analyst Amit Daryanani said Berkshire’s investment shows that HP is still a valuable company. “We view Berkshire buying HPQ shares as a positive that validates HPQ’s strategy/deep value,” Daryanani wrote in a note.
HP sees the future of work as hybrid. The company announced plans to buy office headset-maker Poly in late March, and it purchased remote computing software firm Teradici last year.
NASA isn’t just staring off into space. It’s also looking down on Earth and tracking how it’s changing.
The agency announced two new climate research projects on Tuesday, one looking at the Earth’s forest biomass and the carbon it stores, and another monitoring groundwater loss. Together, they’ll help us get a handle on how climate change is reshaping the planet — and how the world’s natural resources could help in our effort to stave off the worst impacts.
The project tracking biomass, part of the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation, will allow researchers to discover how Earth’s forests are changing, what role forests play in fighting climate change and the impacts of deforestation both regionally and globally. To do that, NASA is using technology aboard the International Space Station known as lidar, which uses lasers to capture the trees, plants and shrubs in stunning 3D detail. (Yes, from space.) The lidar data along with advanced modeling will be among the most granular estimates of biomass ever created.
Knowing how much carbon is stored in forests will allow scientists to predict how much will be released by deforestation and wildfires. Extremey large and destructive wildfires have become increasingly common in the western U.S. due to rising temperatures and increasing drought while fire is commonly used to clear land in the tropics. Climate change has also exacted a toll in other ways on forests, including drying out the Amazon. That could be turning one of the world’s largest carbon sinks into a net emitter, speeding up the climate crisis even further.
In short, as the forests go, so goes the planet. Getting a grip on how they’re doing and what areas are huge stores of carbon could help policymakers better target areas for protection.
Meanwhile, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced a new method of tracking groundwater loss, an increasingly precious resource. The research team, which includes scientists at JPL and Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, studied California’s Tulare Basin using satellite data from NASA and the European Space Agency. There, they explored at changes in ground height as well as small changes in gravity itself, which can shift locally due to groundwater withdrawals.
The researchers created a monthly look at groundwater and ground-level changes, showing that certain types of aquifers are more impacted by water withdrawal than others. The team chronicled the results in a study in Scientific Reports published last month. While the findings are specific to the Tulare Basin, they serve as a proof of concept for using the same techniques in other regions where groundwater used for agriculture and other purposes.
Stretching the results across all of California’s Central Valley — where the Tulare Basin is located — could be a huge boon. The region produced more than $49 billion in agricultural products in 2020, largely by relying on groundwater to keep thirsty crops like almonds in rotation. Managing groundwater more intelligently there and in other places that lean on it for irrigation could help save money and conserve natural resources. The need is particularly acute given that climate change is sapping surface water resources; California and other parts of the groundwater-dependent Southwest are in their worst drought in at least 1,200 years.
Pinterest is taking a stand against climate change misinformation, as it did with COVID-19 vaccine myths. And while Pinterest isn’t really the first platform anyone thinks of when it comes to the spread of fake climate news, its stance could push other social media companies to be more aggressive.
The platform announced Wednesday that it’s taking down false and misleading information related to climate change and conspiracy theories in both content and ads. That includes content that rejects the existence of climate change, the human influence on global warming and information that contradicts scientific consensus on the matter. Pinterest will also remove “harmful, false or misleading” content about public safety crises like extreme weather events.
Sarah Bromma, Pinterest’s head of Policy, said the new policy expands on its current rules against public health misinformation, which were set in 2017.
“The expanded climate misinformation policy is yet another step in Pinterest’s journey to combat misinformation and create a safe space online,” Bromma said in a statement announcing the change.
Pinterest is the first big tech platform to take such a stance on climate change misinformation. The platform said the new policy comes as more people search for ways to lead a greener life, like “zero waste tips” and “recycling clothes ideas.” If searches to lead a greener life are escalating on Pinterest, they are surely rising elsewhere, too. Google reported that the world collectively increased its searches on the impact of climate change last year, if that’s any indication of how big the issue has become.
Other platforms haven’t taken as strong of a stance against the spread of climate change misinformation. Meta-owned Facebook pledged to place labels on posts about climate change, but a recent report found that the platform fell short of its goals. The company has also praised its Climate Science Center to connect people with credible information about climate change, but few even know about it. Google stopped showing ads on YouTube that include false claims about climate change, but it hasn’t explicitly banned content containing climate change misinformation. And even that effort hasn’t stopped people from running ads questioning climate change.
Unlike other platforms, Pinterest’s policy addresses both ads and content. The company is also working with the Climate Disinformation Coalition and the Conscious Advertising Network to help detect misinformation on various platforms, Pinterest said.
Twitter giveth, and Twitter taketh away. The company is testing an edit button, but it’s also wiping out embedded tweets if they’ve been deleted. The clear answer: Screenshot everything.
Now, if a third-party website embeds a tweet that ends up getting deleted after it’s shared, users will see a blank box with grey lines and a button that says “explore what’s happening on Twitter.” Before today, the original unformatted text would show up.
The change was first detailed by Twitter user Kevin Marks last week, and Twitter Senior Product Manager Eleanor Harding later responded that the change was to “better respect when people have chosen to delete their tweets.” The tweets of users who have had their accounts suspended also no longer show up when embedded.
Harding said that Twitter will soon release “better messaging that explains why the content is no longer available.” Twitter did not immediately respond to request for comment from Protocol. The change creates a problem for websites, including news outlets, that rely on embedded tweets to provide context for stories. It also makes it possible for public figures to erase newsworthy statements as if they never happened.
The change follows a week of wild news from Twitter. After joking that it was working on a long-awaited edit button on April Fools’ Day, the company announced Tuesday that it actually had plans for an edit button in the works. “People want to be able to fix (sometimes embarrassing) mistakes, typos and hot takes in the moment,” tweeted Jay Sullivan, Twitter’s head of Consumer Product. Twitter also welcomed Elon Musk to its board of directors this week, following his purchase of more than 9% of the company — a decision which may signal big upcoming changes to the way the platform works. Musk is a self-described “free speech absolutist” who wants Twitter to open-source its algorithm.
Google has booted dozens of Android apps from the Google Play store after finding the apps included a line of code that was discreetly harvesting user data.
According to the Wall Street Journal, some of the now-banned apps were Muslim prayer apps downloaded more than 10 million times. A popular highway speed trap detection app and a QR-code-reading app were also found to include the data-scraping code. Researchers reportedly linked the Panamanian company responsible for the code to a Virginia-based company that works with U.S. national security agencies.
The line of code, part of an SDK developed by Measurement Systems S. De R.L., was found to be collecting rich data including precise location information, email and phone numbers, nearby devices and passwords when users used a “cut and paste” feature. It could also scan for WhatsApp downloads, according to researchers. The company did not encrypt or otherwise obfuscate personal identifiers, which may violate data privacy laws.
Google banned the apps on March 25, spokesperson Scott Westover told the Wall Street Journal, and is allowing apps to return to the Google Play store once they’ve deleted the code. Several are already back online and available for purchase.
Two researchers, Serge Egelman from the International Computer Science Institute at UC Berkeley and Joel Reardon of the University of Calgary, first discovered the SDK and published their findings in a report Wednesday. The report was shared in advance of publication with the Wall Street Journal, Alphabet and the Federal Trade Commission.
The researchers also found that Measurement Systems is tied to Virginia-based Vostrom Holdings Inc., whose Packet Forensics LLC subsidiary works with the federal government on cyberintelligence.
In 2020, Motherboard reported that the U.S. government had purchased precise location data collected through several apps, including Muslim Pro. The ACLU later filed for three years of data purchased by the U.S. government, calling its data collection efforts “a serious threat to privacy and religious freedom.” Lingering fears that Muslims are targeted for data collection still remain, particularly in light of documented surveillance of Muslims by the U.S. government following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The U.S. Defense Department declined to discuss specifics to the Journal, though it has reportedly admitted previously that it purchases publicly available data for the purposes of national security.
Correction: This story was updated to correct the spelling of Vostrom Holdings Inc. This story was updated April 6, 2022.
Big banks are considering bringing Zelle to retail, positioning them for a big brawl with Visa and Mastercard.
Some of the banks that own Zelle operator Early Warning want to make it a payment option at retailers, competing directly with Visa and Mastercard, according to the Wall Street Journal. But others don’t want to make that move and instead want to keep Early Warning focused on fraud prevention.
Al Ko, the CEO of Early Warning, told Protocol in February that Zelle doesn’t compete with other payment methods or apps at present. The money transfer and payment service saw strong growth during the pandemic to 1.8 billion payments in 2021, up 49% from 2020. But that pales against the more than 300 billion transactions Visa and Mastercard did, and while Zelle has made some progress in getting people to use it for business payments, it’s still mostly used for person-to-person money transfers.
One complication is that while Visa and Mastercard get a cut of transactions they process, those fees, known as interchange, are split with the banks that issue cards and the banks that help merchants receive payments.
Interchange fees have been a valuable source of income for many fintech companies, prompting many to issue Visa or Mastercard debit cards to their customers to spend balances held in spending, payment or brokerage accounts.
The success of Alipay and WeChat Pay in China have led many financial institutions to revisit the idea of direct bank-account payments. Zelle recently introduced QR code payments, a key feature that helped Chinese payment apps gain popularity, but the Zelle feature is still being rolled out across its bank and credit union customer base.
Among the many strange things about Elon Musk’s revelation of his large stake in Twitter, there was the particular form he used to reveal it. Buckle up: We’re about to dive deep into the wonderful world of SEC filings.
Musk disclosed his stake in a Schedule 13G filing Monday, used by investors who are taking a passive stake in a company, which means he didn’t plan to seek control of the company or influence its policies. That was promptly contradicted by Twitter’s announcement that it planned to name Musk to the board, as well as his barrage of tweets in March where he, well, sought to influence Twitter’s policies.
The SEC website, like Twitter at present, lacks an edit button, so Musk filed a new, different form, a Schedule 13D. Since Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal admitted Twitter and Musk had been having conversations about him joining the board for weeks, it’s likely he should have filed that form in the first place.
He also should have filed on March 24, his new filing shows. That’s 10 days after the date at which his holdings exceeded the 5% threshold that requires disclosure, as SEC rules require.
Musk’s new filing also gives us an idea of how much Twitter investors lost by selling to Musk without knowing of his intentions. Traders sent shares soaring Monday, suggesting investors view a Twitter partially owned by Musk as more valuable. Musk paid $2.6 billion for his shares, which are now worth $3.8 billion. A quick calculation shows that investors who sold him shares between $38.20 and $40.30 between March 24 and April 1 missed out on $165 million, assuming shares would have jumped similarly in price had Musk made his filing on time.
Musk would have still profited massively from his acquisition had he made the disclosure on time.
By March 24, Musk had acquired a 7.5% stake in Twitter. He increased his stake to 9.1% by the time of his late filing. He also agreed not to buy more than 14.9% of the company’s shares, according to the filing, in exchange for taking a board seat. “Any future acquisitions of Common Stock will be subject to the Company’s policies, including its insider trading policy, as applicable,” the filing stated.
Musk has expressed contempt for the Securities and Exchange Commission, which he has tangled with before. His filing about the Twitter stake discloses, as required, that he reached a settlement with the SEC about earlier charges of securities fraud which revolved around — wouldn’t you know it? — a tweet.
Eight days ago, over $625 million worth of ether and USDC was stolen in an exploit of the Ronin sidechain used for the popular play-to-earn game Axie Infinity. Now the game’s studio, Sky Mavis, is trying to pay its users back.
Sky Mavis announced Wednesday that it has raised over $150 million in funding, which will be added on to the company’s existing balance sheet to reimburse users for the entire $625 million lost. Binance led the fundraising, its first investment in Sky Mavis. Existing backers a16z, Animoca Brands, Paradigm and Accel also invested in the round.
“All users affected by the Ronin Validator Hack will be reimbursed,” the company said. “While racing for mainstream adoption, we made some trade-offs that ended up leaving us vulnerable to this sort of attack. It’s a lesson we’ve learned the hard way.”
The hackers were able to siphon funds from the Ethereum sidechain when a person was able to compromise a majority of a small number of Sky Mavis’ Ronin validator nodes and Axie DAO validator nodes, Sky Mavis said. The company considered the hack “socially engineered” and is continuing to investigate. The company also said it was working with law enforcement to recover funds.
In the meantime, the gaming studio will increase the number of validators from five to 21 over the next quarter. Binance will also provide Ronin users liquidity so that they can withdraw and deposit ether.
Axie Infinity has about 2.2 million monthly active players. Many of the most committed players rely on the game for significant income and may have been severely impacted by the hack. The game is particularly popular in the Philippines, where users account for about 35% of global traffic. Many there have turned playing the game into a full-time job, and speculators have long feared that a hack could be economically destabilizing to millions of people.
But Sky Mavis still sees play-to-earn as a net good. “We believe that Axie will go down in history as the first game to imbue players with true digital property rights and recent events have only strengthened this conviction,” the company said.
Binance.US, the American arm of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange, just raised a whopping $200 million seed round.
It is now valued at $4.5 billion, the company said in a statement. The funding round was led by RRE Ventures, Foundation Capital, Original Capital, VanEck and Circle Ventures.
The funding round quickly sparked speculation that Binance could be gearing up to take the American entity public. The company, which says it’s able to process 1.4 million orders per second, plans to use the funds to boost spot trading and roll out new products and services. It will also be used for marketing and “consumer education initiatives.” In February, the Binance parent company announced a $200 million “strategic investment” in Forbes.
Binance.US CEO Brian Shroder said the company has become profitable after only three years. The company looks to continue growing in the U.S. “from this position of strength, and with an eye toward continuing our rapid ascent alongside the ascent of the crypto industry at large,” he said in a statement.
Binance’s foray into the U.S. market has been controversial. The company is reportedly under investigation by the Justice Department and the IRS over allegations that the exchange has been used for illicit activity. Binance.US is not allowed to operate in five states: Hawaii, Idaho, New York, Texas and Vermont.
Binance.US also has grappled with leadership issues. Shroder was named CEO in September after the abrupt departures of two previous heads.
Brian Brooks quit suddenly in August, citing “differences over strategic direction.”
Predecessor Catherine Coley left in June. Her departure turned into a crypto-world mystery: A well-known figure in industry circles, Coley has not been heard from since she left the company.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Original Capital’s name. This story was updated on April 6, 2022.