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.

Is an Uber driver an employee of the company, or an independent contractor? That question is the focus of a federal class action lawsuit coming up in California, and in smaller cases around the country. But maybe there's a third category — a murky middle not yet defined in the U.S., though there is some precedent abroad.

According to David Plouffe, the senior vice president of policy and strategy at Uber, Uber's drivers are clearly independent contractors.

Fitness trackers — the wristbands or watches you can wear to track your heart rate, steps, sleep — are getting a shot in the arm. The most popular brand, Fitbit, is going public on Thursday. It's the first startup in the burgeoning wearable tracker industry to begin trading on Wall Street. It plans to raise more than $600 million.

Fitbit recently got a shout out, sort of.

As cyberattacks continue, analysts are seeing a new pattern: Hackers are focused on stealing personally identifiable information. That includes the security clearances of U.S. intelligence officers, with the reported theft of background information. It also includes information that's less sensitive but far-reaching — like Social Security numbers.

Reason, the popular libertarian magazine, has been touched by the long arm of the law. The Department of Justice wants Reason to turn over information on the identities of six users who posted certain comments online.

Reason has since deleted the comments from its site but is declining to say whether it will comply with the federal order.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The new USA Freedom Act prevents the bulk collection of phone call metadata by the NSA. AT&T, Verizon and other carriers will keep phone call metadata on their servers, and give it to the National Security Agency if subpoenaed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, often called the FISA Court.

To be clear, phone companies do not have a new mandate to collect or store metadata — the numbers called and time and length of those calls.

The chipmaker Intel is buying a company that makes ... chips. Altera will cost about $16.7 billion in cash.

It would be the largest acquisition in Intel's 47-year history, and it's part of an effort to secure business. While Intel is an undisputed leader in chips for personal computers, its got competition in the mobile, wireless age.

As candidates hit the campaign trail, NPR looks at four major issues the next president will face from Day 1 in office.

When President Obama took office back in 2009, "cybersecurity" was not a word that everyday people used. It wasn't debated. Then, mega-breaches against consumers, businesses and the federal government changed that.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

In recent years, Twitter has become the go-to destination for news junkies. Now, Facebook is entering a deal with nine news organizations, including The New York Times, NBC News and Buzzfeed, to run some of their in-depth articles, photos and videos inside Facebook. No need to leave the app!

The drought across much of the Western U.S. is now in its fourth year. In California — where it's the most intense — farms are not under the same strict orders to conserve as cities are.

And inside the agriculture industry, farmers are quietly debating how best to respond to the drought. Given uncertainty around pending state regulations, some say there may be an incentive to not invest in water-saving technologies right now.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

If you can live stream movies, why not live stream medical care?

Insurance company UnitedHealthcare will start covering visits to the doctor's office — via video chat. Patients and physicians talk live online — on smartphones, tablets or home computer — to get to a clinical diagnosis. This move to cybermedicine could save insurers a ton of money — or have unintended consequences.

The Apple Watch is making quite a splash with its launch Friday, but most of us have never thought about this new gadget, the "smart watch." Is it a luxury item, or is the smart watch destined to be the next great essential, something we don't know we'll need but will.

Passwords get hacked — a lot. In an effort to move beyond passwords, big companies are embracing biometric technology: the use of fingerprints, iris scans or voice recognition for user identification.

To heighten security, smartphones are being outfitted with biometric features. But, ditching passwords for biometrics may not make the hackers go away.

Selfie Security

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

About 2 billion people on earth have a smartphone with a decent Internet connection, but 5 billion are largely or entirely offline, according to global figures by the ITU.

That gap is (surprise, surprise) a big opportunity for Silicon Valley. Google and Facebook are already on high-profile campaigns to connect the unconnected. And they're betting they can make billions of dollars getting people without electricity or toilets to pay for the Internet.

Another big health insurance company has revealed it has been the target of a massive cyberattack.

Premera Blue Cross says hackers may have taken up to 11 million customer records. Those records include credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, even information about medical problems. This news is just coming out but Premera issued a statement saying it discovered the breach on Jan. 29. That's about the same date that Anthem, another Blue Cross company, told the FBI that it was breached.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Obama is calling on the government and private industry to work together to take on threats to cybersecurity. He was the headliner at a summit about the issue today at Stanford University.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

President Obama is at Stanford University today, hosting a cybersecurity summit. He and about a thousand guests are trying to figure out how to protect consumers online from hacks and data breaches.

Meanwhile, in the cyber underworld, criminals are trying to figure out how to turn every piece of our digital life into cash. The newest frontier: health records.

I grab a chair and sit down with Greg Virgin, CEO of the security firm RedJack.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

RadioShack has filed for bankruptcy and the company plans to close most of its stores, as NPR's Aarti Shahani reports.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The man arrested for building Silk Road - an online marketplace best known for drugs - has been convicted. A jury found him guilty on all counts, as NPR's Aarti Shahani reports.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Some other news now, a global Internet company is becoming a little less global. Yahoo! is getting rid of a huge piece of itself. It's making a move to spin off its valuable stake in Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant. NPR's Aarti Shahani reports.

This week, in the lead up to his State of the Union address, President Obama is talking about cybersecurity — how to ensure our safety in the digital world.

As you might imagine, there are smartphones everywhere at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. Tonino Lamborghini [a company not related to the famous car brand] has a new phone out for $6,000. Samsung's Galaxy series is on display in a dazzling showroom.

When your kid's ear is throbbing at 2 a.m., you might want to grab the car keys and head to the emergency room. But now you can pick up your iPhone instead.

A startup called CellScope has built a little ear probe that you clip on top of your iPhone camera. The footage streams into an app where you can view the inside the ear.

The CEO of Sony Pictures has been saying that the cyberattack against his company is "the worst cyberattack in U.S. history." And you can see where he's coming from. An entire feature film got canned — at least for now. And his corporate networks were so damaged, Sony workers had to revert to using fax machines to communicate. That said, "the worst" is a big claim.

If you visit a local strip mall or downtown shopping street, it's not hard to find a store where customers can lease-to-own. That is, you can pay over time and eventually, after some chunky fees, a flat screen TV or living room set is yours.

Pages