recent Episodes

Your car and your concentration are at issue in Washington

09/14/10 06:00 AM

The U.S. Department of Transportation will hold a Distracted Driving Summit next week. Tomorrow, OnStar is expected to announce new connectivity features for its service. And today, Representatives from Ford and a tech company called Nuance are in DC urging congress to be cautious in crafting new distracted driving laws. They say narrow legislation could stifle new technology that could make cars safer.

But while congress debates law, technology marches on and the car of tomorrow will be able to do things the car of today can only dream of. As connectivity becomes easier and more ubiquitous, our cars will be able to talk to each other and avoid accidents. That’s according to Raja Sengupta, a professor at UC Berkeley, with whom we speak today. We also check in with Marketplace reporter Alissa Roth who fills us in on the lack of legislation presently covering this issue.

Comments | Filed Under: transportation mobile phones law government science

What if you could declare online reputation bankruptcy?

09/13/10 06:00 AM

The web is becoming ever more interactive. And you’re expected to constantly feeding it information about yourself and your opinions. You report your location on Foursquare, you update your status (and/or location too) on Facebook, you review restaurants and books. And all along the way it’s like we’re completing these sketches of ourselves and each other. We each have an ever-thickening dossier of information attached to who we are.

Our guest, Jonathan Zittrain, is co-founder and co-director of The Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. He sees this trend only continuing. What if you could get a big discount for car insurance but with the stipulation that you had to agree to rate other drivers’ driving ability AND agree to let them rate yours? And then your premium would be adjusted based on how other people think you’re doing out on the road? Sure, it would be creepy but maybe it’s a trade off you’d be willing to make in exchange for lower rates and safer roads.

But Zittrain wonders if we shouldn’t be able to switch it all off and declare what he calls reputation bankruptcy. A chance to erase ourselves from our digital trail and start over. Hit the reset button. We discuss the web that knows too much and how one might go about shutting it off.

Comments | Filed Under: facebook foursquare Jonathan Zittrain web culture social media

Machine translates brain waves into words.

09/10/10 08:06 AM

The idea of a computer being able to read your thoughts and translate them into words seems like something from science fiction. Or fantasy. But it’s happening now. In Utah.

Bradley Greger is with the department of Bioengineering at the University of Utah. He and his colleagues have found a way to translate brain waves into words. They were able to perform an experiment with a volunteer who had had part of his skull removed as part of an epilepsy treatment. They affixed dozens of electrodes directly to the man’s brain and had him say simple words. Then they measured the electric pattern that accompanied those words and were able to recognize set patterns when the words were repeated.

Dr. Greger says this could be a potentially huge development for people who’ve had strokes, suffer from ALS, or are otherwise unable to speak. He says that if all goes well, it could be used on those people within a few years.

He isn’t entirely comfortable saying he’s invented a mind reading machine but at the same time he doesn’t know what else to call it.

Comments | Filed Under: science health

Judge makes it harder for feds to see your cell phone records

09/09/10 09:31 AM

New developments in who gets to see your cell phone information.

A federal appeals court in Pennsylvania has ruled that judges may demand a warrant from investigators who tries to obtain location information from cell phones. Where you were when you made a call. It’s not an overwhelming precedent-setting move, it just says that judges can demand a warrant instead of a simple subpoena and it only applies to cell phone location data, not GPS data from smart phones.

The government had argued that anyone using a cell phone does not have a right to keep their location private. The judge in the case disagreed.

The whole matter gets a bit cloodgy in that the law governing this kind of situation dates back to 1986, prehistoric times in terms of where cell phone technology has come. All sides involved in the debate agree that there is a need for a fairly large update to recognize technological realities.

We talk to privacy attorney Al Gidari of Seattle law firm Perkins Coie. We also check in with Jim Dempsey, Vice-President for policy at The Center for Democracy and Technology, a privacy advocacy group.

Comments | Filed Under:

Craigslist censors self, decries censorship

09/08/10 08:38 AM

Craigslist has taken down the “adult services” section of its site. This after 17 states attorneys general and advocacy groups charged the ads in that section promoted prostitution and human trafficking. It’s just the latest development in an ongoing war over what responsibility Craigslist has over ads on its massively popular website.

The ads used to be located in the “erotic services” category but after controversy there, they were moved to “adult services” where people posting them would be charged a fee and the ads would, Craigslist claimed, be vetted by actual human beings to determine if anything illegal was taking place.

But it’s difficult for a human being to know for sure what’s going to happen as a result of any particular ad. And besides, the section was protected by section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that protects websites from what users post on them.

We talk to Jeff Jarvis, he writes about media and news at and he teaches journalism at City University New York. We also check in with Ryan Calo, a senior research fellow at Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, for a look at the legal issues at stake.

Comments | Filed Under: craigslist

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the Blog

Future Tense becomes Marketplace Tech Report

09/17/10 06:12 PM

Hi everyone. John Moe here. Starting Monday, September 20th, Future Tense will be going by the name Marketplace Tech Report.

Producer Larissa Anderson and I have been working closely with the folks at Marketplace ever since we took over Future Tense in May. It’s worked out great. We’ve helped them, they’ve helped us, and together we’ll find more stories you’ll want to hear. Basically, we loved Marketplace so much we married them. And kind of took their name too. Is it creepy to compare two radio shows to a married couple? Sorry about that.

As part of the Marketplace portfolio of programs (along with Marketplace, Marketplace Morning Report, and Marketplace Money), Marketplace Tech Report will keep bringing you stories that explain news and trends and technology and what it all means to you. We’ll be moving to a new simpler URL:, which will go live over the weekend. We’ll be bringing our entire archive of past shows and blog posts with us but in the meantime, we’re leaving up so you can access the show archives from there as well.

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