Marketplace Tech®

with Ben Johnson

About the Program

Hosted by Ben Johnson, this daily "journal of the Digital Age" airs during broadcasts of Minnesota Public Radio's Morning Edition.

Official program website

Latest Show
04/26/2018: The Supreme Court is going to decide the fate of online sales tax
Will online business be forced to collect state sales taxes? That question will go before the Supreme Court sometime in June. Traditionally, businesses only need to collect sales taxes in states where they have a physical presence. But South Dakota recently passed a law to change that. Two companies, Wayfair and Overstock, sued the state. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood spoke with Josh Silverman, the CEO of Etsy, about how the court battle could affect smaller online retailers.    (04/26/2018)

04/25/2018: What do local political campaigns know about you?
Political campaigns want your data. At least that’s what the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal taught us. But data isn’t just a factor in presidential politics. Local campaigns collect lots of data as well, and that data needs to be secured. Marketpalce Tech host Molly Wood spoke with Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams about what kinds of information smaller campaigns have.  (04/25/2018)

04/24/2018: Can states regulate the internet?
The days are numbered for federal net neutrality regulations. In response, some states are working on their own versions to prevent internet service providers (ISP) from blocking, slowing or charging more for some web traffic. Oregon, Washington and several other states have made new rules, but a bill working its way through the California legislature would go the furthest. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood spoke with Ryan Singel, a media and strategy fellow at Stanford Law School, about how a state can regulate a business that crosses state lines.   (04/24/2018)

04/23/2018: Automation could change the economy. Is the U.S. prepared?
Robots are coming for all our jobs, right? It can be hard not to feel that way given the pace of automation. But if it really is inevitable, are we doing anything to prepare for it? Enter the Automation Readiness Index, a research project put together by The Economist and funded by Swiss robotics giant ABB. It’s a global list ranking the nations most prepared to smoothly integrate “intelligent automation into their economies.” Marketplace Tech Host Molly Wood spoke with Guido Jouret, ABB’s chief digital officer, about which countries came out on top and how the United States is faring.  (04/23/2018)

04/20/2018: Feeling "privacy fatigue" yet?
This week, Facebook revealed more about the way it collects data on just about everyone. The company disclosed how much data it collects when users aren’t logged in to Facebook and are just surfing the web. The company even tracks people who don’t have a Facebook account. To put the deluge of privacy news into perspective, Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood spoke with Tom Merritt, host of the "Daily Tech News Show" podcast, about whether this is all just a Facebook problem.    (04/20/2018)

04/19/2018: How cable became the backbone of the internet
Many Americans rely on a cable provider to connect them to broadband internet, and streaming and other tech trends are changing the way we watch television. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood spoke with Amanda Lotz about her new book, "We Now Disrupt This Broadcast," on the role of cable and the internet in transforming the way we are entertained.       (04/19/2018)

04/18/2018: What rights do we have over photos of our faces?
We’re all being photographed, a lot — by each other, and by cameras in public and private spaces.  As our images become more widespread, there’s also more facial recognition technology that’s used to identify us. This week, a federal judge said Facebook must face a lawsuit over its use of facial recognition. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood talks with Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology about the value in this kind of technology, along with what kind of harm it can cause. (04/18/2018)

04/17/2018: The gig economy for accountants
It's Tax Day, and if you are one of the 50 million people who prepared their taxes online, you might have seen an option to talk to a real accountant through video chat. That’s because accountants are now part of the gig economy — and many certified public accountants are working gigs with TurboTax. On Marketplace Tech, we look at the need for accountants on demand and discuss how the gig economy is changing for highly educated workers.  (04/17/2018)

04/16/2018: Will online merchants have to start collecting sales tax?
Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear a case that will determine who collects sales tax for online purchases. Right now, many online merchants — such as Overstock and Newegg —don't collect sales tax — which means lots of customers just don’t pay it. Next on Marketplace Tech, a look at the history of why online retailers haven’t collected sales tax — unless they have a physical presence in a state … and how likely that is to change.  (04/16/2018)

04/13/2018: When campaigns figured out the internet
This week Marketplace Tech has been focused on the data economy, and how the practice of trading our personal information for services evolved. The revelation that Facebook data was harvested by a political data analytics firm kicked off this conversation, but it’s important to note that politics has been involved with social media for a long time. And politicians have been experts at gathering data about us for even longer. Marketplace host Molly Wood spoke with Sunshine Hillygus, professor of political science and public policy at Duke University, about the entangled history of the web and politics.  (04/13/2018)

04/12/2018: The laws — or lack thereof — surrounding data
Congress may have grilled Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg this week, but generally, lawmakers have given social media and tech a regulatory pass. Now there's at least talk about the possibility of laws that would govern our private data. So, all this week on Marketplace Tech, we're focusing on the data economy. Today a look at the laws (or lack thereof) that have been put in place around data and technology. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood talks with Nuala O'Connor, who leads the nonprofit Center for Democracy & Technology.  (04/12/2018)

04/11/2018: How online princess quizzes revolutionized advertising
Facebook won’t stop selling ads anytime soon. But the ad business has changed in the last few decades, and data is at the heart of its new strategy. All this week on Marketplace Tech, we’re focusing on the data economy and how we got here. Host Molly Wood speaks with Safiya Noble, a professor at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication, about the evolution of advertising technology and how much it now relies on personal information, such as what Disney princess each of us is.  (04/11/2018)

04/10/2018: The deal we made with our data
Mark Zuckerberg will testify in front of Congress today. He’s expected to address the way Facebook protects information about its users. But the current Facebook scandal is really a story about data, and a data economy that’s out of control. Over the course of this week, Marketplace Tech will look at different aspects of the data economy to understand how we got here. Today’s focus: privacy. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood spoke with Mark Surman, executive director of the Mozilla Foundation, about how sharing personal information in exchange for free services came to be. (04/10/2018)

04/09/2018: Would you wear a smart jacket?
What do you think of when you hear the term "wearable technology?” Smart watches, fitness trackers and Bluetooth headsets? All good examples, but the term is expanding. Now it could mean a denim jacket from Levi's and Google that allows wearers to pair the clothing with a smartphone. That may sound harmless, but wearable tech can also be a risk to your security and privacy. Marketplace’s Jon Gordon spoke with Amanda Parkes, a fashion technologist with the Future Tech Lab, about some of the new technology that might be making its way into your closet and why you may want to handle it with care. (04/09/2018)

04/06/2018: Apple may go solo in microchips
Apple might be getting in the chip business. Bloomberg reported earlier this week that Apple plans to replace Intel processors in Mac computers with microchips of its own. The move would stem from Apple’s strategy of making all of its devices — like Macs, iPhones and iPads — work more like each other and more seamlessly. Marketplace Tech host Jon Gordon spoke with Dwight Silverman, the tech editor at the Houston Chronicle, about what’s behind the move.  (04/06/2018)

04/05/2018: Why space junk is becoming a big deal
There is a lot of junk in space. And there looks to be more coming as private companies send more satellites into low-Earth orbit. Last week, SpaceX got conditional approval from the Federal Communications Commission to launch more than 4,000 satellites. Marketplace Tech host Jon Gordon speaks with Marcia Smith, editor at, about what happens when all those satellites — new and old — eventually stop working.  (04/05/2018)

03/04/2018: Privacy can be a selling point in tech
Your internet service provider is watching you. At least, it’s watching where you go on the web and selling that data to third parties. There were regulations dealing with the issue for a few months, but the Trump administration did away with them. If you want to obscure your web activity, you can use something called a virtual private network, but they’re expensive and a little shady. Now the internet company Cloudflare says it’ll keep your information away from your ISP. Marketplace Tech host Jon Gordon spoke with Travis LeBlanc, a former Federal Communications Commission regulator, about how Cloudflare’s service works.  (04/04/2018)

04/03/2018: Ransomware will happen. How should cities respond?
A ransomware attack in Atlanta affected city services including the court system, first responders and utilities. Attackers demanded a ransom of $50,000, which the city refused to pay. It made us wonder: Just how vulnerable are American cities to ransomware? Marketplace’s Jon Gordon talks about it with Chester Wisniewski, a principal research scientist at security firm Sophos in Canada. (04/03/2018)

04/02/2018: Can you ever really stay anonymous on the web?
Tech companies know a lot about us — a lot more than we realize. The recent scandal involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica shined a spotlight on this issue and the lack of control we have over how companies track us online. But it's not just what social networks know about us that can be problematic. People-finder sites, like Spokeo, amass and sometimes sell our info. Marketplace Tech host Jon Gordon spoke with Gennie Gebhart of the Electronic Frontier Foundation to find out how much of yourself you can realistically scrub from the internet.   (04/02/2018)

03/30/2018: The future of self-driving cars in Arizona
A self-driving Uber car struck and killed a pedestrian last week in Arizona. The state, which welcomed autonomous vehicle testing with the promise of little regulation, has suspended Uber’s Arizona operations. Uber had already voluntarily stopped all self-driving activities after the accident. Marketplace Tech host Jon Gordon spoke with reporter Jimmy Jenkins of public radio station KJZZ in Tempe, Arizona, to take a second look at how self-driving cars will be regulated. (03/30/2018)

03/29/2018: Amazon makes most of its money in the cloud
The most profitable part of Amazon's business has nothing to do with retail. A huge chunk of the internet is powered by Amazon Web Services, ranging from Pinterest to Buzzfeed to Netflix. The thing is, cloud computing is hard, and lots of companies are turning to Amazon to make it happen. But what are the downsides? Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood talks about it with Lily Hay Newman, who covers security for Wired. (03/29/2018)

03/28/2018: What your shadow profile says about you
Facebook’s data collection habits have been an eye opener for many in the past few weeks, with users learning how little control they have over their data. And Facebook isn’t just collecting data to figure out who you are, but also who you know and who your friends know. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood spoke with Kashmir Hill, who covers privacy and tech for Gizmodo, to explain the so-called shadow profiles on Facebook.   (03/28/2018)

03/27/2018: Could "Ready Player One's" virtual world really come to life?
"Ready Player One," the movie based on the bestselling book opens in theaters this weekend. The story is set in a dystopian version of the future where people spend more time in a virtual world, called the OASIS, than they do in the physical world. The book is full of pop culture references from the 1980s and ‘90s, as is the movie version directed by Steven Spielberg. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood spoke with Ernest Cline, the author of the book and a screenwriter on the film, about whether he really thinks we’ll eventually spend all of our time in virtual reality.       (03/27/2018)

03/26/2018: How vulnerable is U.S. cyberinfrastructure?
Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that Russian hackers have infiltrated the U.S. electric grid. That means they may have the ability to shut down major power plants. The targeted facilities included at least one nuclear power plant and other types of infrastructure as well. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood spoke with former U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert Latiff about the strategy behind the attacks. (03/26/2018)

03/23/2018: Some users are quitting Facebook, but for others it's not that simple
Facebook has seen better days when it comes to its public image. The Cambridge Analytica scandal is the latest public relations disaster to befall the tech giant, and in response, some users are deleting their accounts. But is that realistic? Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood spoke with Jillian York of the Electronic Frontier Foundation about why quitting Facebook is a privilege that not everyone can afford.    (03/23/2018)

03/22/2018: What Congress wants to hear from Facebook
Two U.S. senators are asking the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee to get Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress. They want Zuckerberg to explain how Facebook handles our personal information and how it let the political data firm Cambridge Analytica harvest detailed information on 50 million Facebook users without their permission. The last time Facebook was asked to appear before Congress, Zuckerberg and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg sent their legal team instead. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood spoke with Republican Sen. John Kennedy from Louisiana, one of the senators who penned a letter asking Zuckerberg to testify, about what he’d like to hear from Facebook.   (03/22/2018)

03/21/2018: Why the streaming business is so tough
If you’re not Apple, Google or Amazon, the music streaming business is tough. Last week, iHeartMedia filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Pandora moved to renegotiate its costly deals with record labels last week, and Spotify is reassuring investors that it can turn a profit as it prepares to go public next month. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood spoke with Paul Sweeney, media analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, about why it’s so hard to make money in streaming.       (03/21/2018)

03/20/18: How much does your data really say about you?
With enough data, could a company predict what you want? That’s the idea behind psychographic advertising: A company builds a profile of each customer and uses it to manipulate their emotions through marketing. This type of advertising is at the heart of a scandal involving Cambridge Analytica, which used Facebook to get this type of personal data. But how far can this type of advertising go? Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood spoke with Alexandra Samuel of the Harvard Business Review about what psychographic marketing really is and what its limits are.    (03/20/2018)

03/19/18: How the video game industry thinks about violence
There’s more scrutiny around violence and video games at this year’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. After the mass shooting at Parkland High School in Florida last month, President Donald Trump called the game industry to the White House and suggested that violence in video games could lead to real-world violence. However, research hasn’t found a link between the two. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood spoke with Kate Edwards, executive director of Take This, a mental health nonprofit, to find out how game developers are thinking about this in their work.  (03/19/2018)

03/16/2018: Is 5G really a national security issue?
This week President Donald Trump signed an executive order that put a halt on a merger between two giants in the microchip-making business. Singapore-based Broadcom was attempting to buy California-based Qualcomm. The president cited national security concerns in his order to block the merger. At issue was Qualcomm’s role in developing next-generation wireless connectivity, or 5G. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood spoke with Roger Cheng, executive editor at CNET, about why 5G is so important to U.S. interests.          (03/16/2018)

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