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Bobby Allyn

Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.

He came to San Francisco from Washington, where he focused on national breaking news and politics. Before that, he covered criminal justice at member station WHYY.

In that role, he focused on major corruption trials, law enforcement, and local criminal justice policy. He helped lead NPR's reporting of Bill Cosby's two criminal trials. He was a guest on Fresh Air after breaking a major story about the nation's first supervised injection site plan in Philadelphia. In between daily stories, he has worked on several investigative projects, including a story that exposed how the federal government was quietly hiring debt collection law firms to target the homes of student borrowers who had defaulted on their loans. Allyn also strayed from his beat to cover Philly parking disputes that divided in the city, the last meal at one of the city's last all-night diners, and a remembrance of the man who wrote the Mister Softee jingle on a xylophone in the basement of his Northeast Philly home.

At other points in life, Allyn has been a staff reporter at Nashville Public Radio and daily newspapers including The Oregonian in Portland and The Tennessean in Nashville. His work has also appeared in BuzzFeed News, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.

A native of Wilkes-Barre, a former mining town in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Allyn is the son of a machinist and a church organist. He's a dedicated bike commuter and long-distance runner. He is a graduate of American University in Washington.

Families are suing TikTok in what has turned into a major legal action in federal court.

Dozens of minors, through their parents, are alleging that the video-sharing app collects information about their facial characteristics, locations and close contacts, and quietly sends that data to servers in China.

Updated at 11:51 a.m. ET Saturday

President Trump has announced he plans to ban TikTok, the hugely popular video-sharing app, from operating in the U.S. as early as Saturday.

Trump's announcement comes after reports Friday that software giant Microsoft was in talks to acquire the app's U.S. operations. The president made it clear that he does not approve of the proposed acquisition.

Four Big Tech CEOs spent Wednesday being grilled — virtually — by House lawmakers, creating a first-ever spectacle that was by turns revealing and, inevitably, awkward.

The CEO of TikTok, the popular app for sharing short-form videos, is attacking Facebook for planning the launch of a "copycat" product, accusing the social media giant of trying to smear TikTok and put it out of business in the U.S.

Updated at 6:35 p.m. ET

Are Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple "emperors of the online economy" that stifle competition and hurt consumers? Not surprisingly, the tech giants' chief executives told Congress: absolutely not. The concern that too much power is concentrated in too few companies is unfounded, they said Wednesday.

Updated at 7:17 p.m. ET

Some of the world's most powerful CEOs are coming to Capitol Hill — virtually, of course — to answer one overarching question: Do the biggest technology companies use their reach and power to hurt competitors and help themselves?

Here's what you need to know:

Who: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

Updated 1:55 p.m. ET Tuesday

TikTok is contemplating ways to distance itself from its Chinese parent company as threats from Washington grow louder.

Updated 11:30 p.m. ET

Twitter says it was the victim of a "coordinated social engineering attack" by unspecified individuals who targeted Twitter employees with access to sensitive internal administrative systems.

The breach implicated the accounts of some of the richest and most famous people on the social media platform, including Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, former President Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Kanye West and others.

Apple landed a major victory on Wednesday when the second-highest court in the European Union declared that the tech giant does not have to pay $14.8 billion in taxes to Ireland that regulators in Europe claim the company owes.

About a year ago, former Trump aide Anthony Scaramucci got a call from an executive with the celebrity video-sharing startup Cameo.

"He called me and he's like, 'Mooch, I'd like to get you on Cameo,'" Scaramucci recalled to NPR. "I didn't even know what it was. He said, 'We're trying to get some guys who are improvisational and can have a little fun with this."

With a Cameo bio of "White House Communications Director for 11 days. Don't say 10, it hurts my feelings!" Scaramucci has found a way to capitalize on his brief tenure.

As protests swept the nation following the police killing of George Floyd, there was a surge of reports that Nextdoor, the hyperlocal social media app, was censoring posts about Black Lives Matter and racial injustice.

In an interview with NPR, Nextdoor CEO Sarah Friar said the company should have moved more quickly to protect posts related to Black Lives Matter by providing clearer guidance.

Reddit announced on Monday that it is shutting down a forum dedicated to President Trump's most ardent fans, saying it repeatedly violates the online platform's rules against harassment, hate speech and content manipulation.

Updated 9:05 p.m. ET Wednesday

Police in Detroit were trying to figure out who stole five watches from a Shinola retail store. Authorities say the thief took off with an estimated $3,800 worth of merchandise.

Investigators pulled a security video that had recorded the incident. Detectives zoomed in on the grainy footage and ran the person who appeared to be the suspect through facial recognition software.

A hit came back: Robert Julian-Borchak Williams, 42, of Farmington Hills, Mich., about 25 miles northwest of Detroit.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Updated at 9:54 p.m. ET

Facebook on Thursday said it removed campaign posts and advertisements from the Trump campaign featuring an upside down red triangle symbol once used by Nazis to identify political opponents.

The posts, according to a Facebook spokesperson, violated the social network's policy against hate.

"Our policy prohibits using a banned hate group's symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol," the spokesperson told NPR.

For the past six years, an obscure disinformation campaign by Russian operatives has flooded the Internet with false stories in seven languages and across 300 social media platforms virtually undetected, according to new report published on Tuesday by social media researchers.

Updated on June 12 at 12:55 p.m. ET

Amazon announced on Wednesday a one-year moratorium on police use of its facial-recognition technology, yielding to pressure from police-reform advocates and civil rights groups.

When Raisha Doumbia, a 20-year-old swimming instructor in Roswell, Ga., first downloaded the video-sharing app TikTok, she made lighthearted posts, like her lip-syncing and dancing to a song by the British girl group Little Mix.

But Doumbia paused the playful routines after George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis. Now she is using her TikTok feed to urge followers to march for racial justice.

"I was just so disgusted that I felt like I needed to say something, so I started to speak out, even though I had like 13 followers," she said.

President Trump has a new rallying cry in his escalating crusade against Twitter. As he put it in a tweet Friday: "REVOKE 230!"

Updated at 9 p.m. ET

President Trump signed an executive order Thursday aimed at limiting the broad legal protections enjoyed by social media companies, two days after he tore into Twitter for fact-checking two of his tweets.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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There are a lot of people trying to reach celebrity entrepreneur Elon Musk. Sometimes, though, they get Lyndsay Tucker, a 25-year-old skin care consultant.

Tucker, who works at a Sephora beauty store in San Jose, Calif., had never heard of the Tesla and SpaceX founder and CEO until a couple years ago, when she began fielding a steady stream of calls and text messages intended for him.

Apple Stores are beginning to reopen after the company in mid-March closed hundreds of its locations in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly 100 stores, or about a fifth of the tech giant's worldwide storefronts, are now open, including locations in Alabama, Florida, California and Washington state.

About 25 additional stores in the U.S. in seven states are set to open their doors this week, according to Apple.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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With its ride-hailing business devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, Uber is in talks to acquire online food delivery company Grubhub.

If the two sides can reach a deal, the combined company would emerge as the dominant food-delivery app with 55% of the U.S. market, according to analyst Dan Ives with Wedbush Securities.

After two weeks of working from her Brooklyn apartment, a 25-year-old e-commerce worker received a staffwide email from her company: Employees were to install software called Hubstaff immediately on their personal computers so it could track their mouse movements and keyboard strokes, and record the webpages they visited.

They also had to download an app called TSheets to their phones to keep tabs on their whereabouts during work hours.

Twitter is now labeling misleading, disputed or unverified tweets about the coronavirus. It is even removing content it believes could lead to harm, the company announced Monday.

The labels warn users about the problematic tweets and steer them to authoritative sources, including public health agencies and credible news outlets.

Yoel Roth, Twitter's head of site integrity, said on a call with reporters that the mission is not to "fact-check the entire Internet," but rather to limit the spread of potentially harmful tweets.

Business was humming for Airbnb host Josep Navas Masip in Philadelphia. So he purchased a second home and planned to renovate it and add it to his Airbnb offerings.

"In the middle of the renovation, the coronavirus crisis hit," he said. "I had to cancel my renovations, and I had to tell the contractor to stop working."

Navas Masip, 44, was bringing in about $2,000 a month from the two rooms he was renting from his South Philadelphia home.

Updated Thursday at 6:51 p.m. ET

Zoom has agreed to do more to prevent hackers from disrupting video conferencing sessions and to protect users' data, according to a deal announced on Thursday by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Airbnb says it's cutting 1,900 employees — about 25% of its workforce — in one of the largest layoffs to hit Silicon Valley as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

The global pandemic is the "most harrowing crisis of our lifetime," Airbnb CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky said in an email to employees on Tuesday. The virus's devastating blow to the travel industry means the company's 2020 revenue is forecast to be less than half of what the startup pulled in last year, he said.

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