Aarti Shahani

Aarti Shahani is a Tech Reporter on NPR's Business Desk. Based in Silicon Valley, it's her job to cover the biggest companies on earth. In her reporting, she works to pinpoint how economies and human relationships are being radically redefined by the tech sector.

Shahani has an unconventional path. Journalism is her second career. Before it, she was a community organizer in her native New York City, helping prisoners and families being deported from the U.S. She loves learning from brilliant, intense people — be they the engineers who are building self-driving cars, or the jailhouse lawyers filing laser-sharp habeas petitions.

Shahani received a Master in Public Policy degree from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, with generous support from the University and the Paul & Daisy Soros fellowship. She has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago. Her reporting has been honored with awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, a regional Edward R. Murrow Award, and an Investigative Reporters & Editors Award.

She finds Northern California to be a beautiful and jarring place — and she hopes one day to understand its many contradictions.

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The software equivalent of cancer - that is how Apple CEO Tim Cook is describing code the government wants Apple to write so the FBI can unlock the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists.

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Intel has a new report out today. It's not about semiconductors. It's about diversity: how Intel is doing when it comes to women and underrepresented minorities on its staff. The results are mixed — some strong and some, frankly, failures. Still the sheer amount of information is exceptional, and a direct challenge to other Silicon Valley giants who've chosen to hide their data.

Be Engineers About Diversity

Let's start with some numbers.

Hundreds of thousands of people drive for Uber in the U.S. The ride-hailing company has had high-profile fights in courts and city halls over the status of these drivers: Are they employees or contractors? Can they unionize?

A fight that's gotten far less attention — one that may affect drivers far more — is the competition between Uber and its main rival, Lyft.

Competition for drivers is so great that, about a year ago, Uber sent covert operatives into Lyft cars — to recruit.

Isabella Dure-Biondi was one of these covert operatives.

If you hail a ride using the on-demand app Lyft, that car could one day be self-driving.

On Monday, Lyft announced a new partnership with General Motors, which is pumping half a billion dollars into the software startup and joining the board. One of the things they're doing is planning to build an autonomous fleet.

They haven't released a specific timeline on when, though in the future, when you call the on-demand car service, the vehicle likely won't have a human driver.

In 2015, the selfie rage did not taper. And we learned something interesting about the "art form," as some might call it. It appears to be dominated, and shaped, by women.

The five most popular people on Instagram are women. Kim Kardashian (ranked No. 2 after Taylor Swift) came out with the first book dedicated to selfies (hers). And a debate brewed over what the selfie says about females.

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The words you use betray who you are.

Linguists and psychologists have long been studying this phenomenon. A few decades ago they had a hunch that the number of active verbs in your sentences or which adjectives you use (lovely, sweet, angry) reflect personality traits.

The camera on your smartphone is powerful. You use it to record your baby's first steps. Take a panorama shot or selfies at the Taj Mahal. Every day, we're finding new uses.

And recently, a startup in Silicon Valley realized: That camera on the phone could be used by people who are blind, to get help seeing remotely. The company Be My Eyes has created a novel kind of volunteer opportunity on the Internet.

Yahoo is changing course in its efforts to sell shares in another company. The tech giant's goal is to avoid a big tax bill.

Yahoo has a 15 percent stake in the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. Yahoo wants to sell that stake, which is worth about $32 billion, for two reasons: one, to get a bunch of cash, which it can give to investors who are hungry for a return; and two, because those shares arguably overshadow the rest of the business, making investors undervalue what Yahoo itself brings to the table.

Mark Zuckerberg is a dad! And he's marking the birth of his first child (and #GivingTuesday) with a promise to give away 99 percent of his shares in Facebook to make a brighter future.

In an open letter to Max, their newborn daughter, Zuckerberg, 31, and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan, 30, pledged to give 99 percent of their shares in Facebook — worth about $45 billion today — over the course of their lifetime.

Two tech startups you know have now gone public: Square (which makes the little white square to swipe credit cards) and Match, the online dating giant. Both companies got nice, first-day pops to their share prices as they started selling for well above the initial price. But interestingly, those initial prices were set low.

Really low.

Square was planning to price somewhere between $11 and $13 a share, which, analysts say, is already pretty cheap. But then, the company went even lower, settling for just $9. That's really, really cheap.

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If you travel for work — and you're tired of living out of a suitcase, renting rooms and sharing bathrooms with grungy roommates — there's a man in Austin, Texas, who has a possible solution. Call it a long shot. But basically, he's building tiny self-contained apartments that move when you do.

Jeff Wilson gives me a tour of the first prototype. He's the mastermind behind the Kasita ("little home" in Spanish — only with a "k" instead of a "c").

Tens of thousands of cars that drive themselves are about to hit the streets. Sort of. Last year, the electric carmaker Tesla started putting cameras and sensors into its Model S vehicles — making it possible, one day, for the devices to become the driver's eyes, ears and even hands. And today is the day.

The way Tesla has chosen to deliver this feature to car owners is peculiar, but let's start with what self-driving even means.

Amazon is firing yet another shot at a competitor. This time it's a mega-artisanal shot, at Etsy — the popular craft site. The e-commerce giant on Thursday launched Handmade, a new marketplace for, well, handmade goods. This could be wonderful news for the artisan movement, or terrible news for Etsy, its staunchest supporter to date.

Valerie Nethery got a message out of the blue, from Amazon. "They emailed me directly. I'm not sure how they found me."

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And it's time for All Tech Considered.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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Hillary Clinton's private server is currently in the possession of the FBI. And while it has been reported that the server was "wiped," what actually happened remains unclear. But not because the term is so hard to understand from a technical standpoint. In fact, wiping is a straightforward process. It's very different from hitting the delete button. And if it happened, experts say, it'll hamper the FBI investigation.

A gunman in Virginia murdered two television journalists, Alison Parker and Adam Ward, as they conducted a live on-air interview on Wednesday. The suspect, Vester Lee Flanagan, apparently had a camera.

Flanagan didn't just want to shoot the victims. He wanted to film himself in the act of committing murder.

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Google is restructuring. In a blog post today, CEO Larry Page announced a new firm called Alphabet. Alphabet will become the parent company atop all of Google's many ventures. NPR tech reporter Aarti Shahani joins us now to explain. Hi, Aarti.

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Cars have become computers on wheels. Crash the computer, and you could crash the car.

Two hackers decided they wanted to try doing that with a car that's considered pretty strong in terms of software, not just hardware. They chose the Tesla Model S. And — guess what — they broke in. But that's not the surprising part. The surprising part is how Tesla responded.

The Hack

Android is the most popular mobile operating system on Earth: About 80 percent of smartphones run on it. And, according to mobile security experts at the firm Zimperium, there's a gaping hole in the software — one that would let hackers break into someone's phone and take over, just by knowing the phone's number.

Just A Text

Federal regulators are looking to place tighter controls on the export of cyberweapons following the megabreaches against the Office of Personnel Management and countless retailers.

The Commerce Department wants to ensure that software that can attack a network — the kind that can break in, bypass encryption and steal data — can't be shipped overseas without permission. But the cybersecurity industry is up in arms.

We've heard a lot about how people get ugly online — abuse others and bully because they don't have to stand behind their words. But there's an upside to anonymity on the Internet, too: Good things can happen when you don't have to say your name.

On the app Yik Yak, for example, college students are asking for help when they're feeling desperate or even suicidal — and the anonymous crowds are responding with kindness.

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Microsoft is cutting up to 7,800 jobs. That's nearly 7 percent of its workforce, and it's mostly from the company's smartphone business. NPR's Aarti Shahani reports.

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