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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.

During the first day of jury selection at the federal fraud trial of Elizabeth Holmes, an incognito San Diego hotel magnate pulled a large Rice Krispie Treat from his pocket.

Loudly. So loudly, in fact, that the judge's voice was barely audible in the back of the courtroom over the sound of his wiggling the brick-shaped snack out of tightly-wrapped plastic.

"My name's Hanson," said the man, wearing a baseball cap and a Patagonia puffer jacket.

Updated September 10, 2021 at 1:18 PM ET

A federal judge ordered Apple on Friday to crack open the tightly controlled App Store and allow people to use payment methods other than Apple's own processor, which usually collects a 30% commission on app purchases.

Jurors in the fraud trial of Elizabeth Holmes heard vastly different portrayals on Wednesday of the onetime whiz kid who amazed Silicon Valley with promises of biotech breakthroughs at her company, Theranos.

In a stinging opening statement on Wednesday, federal prosecutors described Holmes as a manipulative fraudster who duped investors and patients alike and knew the whole time that she was hoodwinking them.

Jury selection in the criminal fraud trial of Elizabeth Holmes starts on Tuesday, the beginning of a highly anticipated legal showdown over one of the most spectacular Silicon Valley scandals in recent history.

Federal prosecutors have charged Holmes and her former business partner and ex-boyfriend, Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani, with defrauding investors and patients of their blood-testing company Theranos, which Holmes and Balwani claimed would revolutionize laboratory medicine.

Updated August 28, 2021 at 8:54 AM ET

Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of blood-testing startup Theranos, plans to defend herself at her federal fraud trial starting next week by arguing that her ex-boyfriend, who was an executive at the company, emotionally and sexually abused her, impairing her state of mind at the time of the alleged crimes, according to newly unsealed legal filings in her case.

TikTok has quietly expanded how much information it will collect from its more than 100 million users in the U.S. to include "faceprints and voiceprints."

In response, a bipartisan duo of senators are asking TikTok to open up about what exactly that means.

Updated August 13, 2021 at 3:31 PM ET

About a decade ago, a member of Ann's family was arrested for taking sexually abusive photos of her child and distributing them online.

"Imagine the very worst thing that has ever happened to you was recorded and then it was shared repeatedly for other peoples' pleasure," Ann told NPR. She did not want to reveal her full name to preserve her family's privacy.

Jenny Park landed recently at Los Angeles International Airport from New York and planned to take an Uber home to her place in the Highland Park neighborhood.

Before she ordered the car, she was hit with sticker shock: the trip would be $150, or about half the price of her flight from New York.

"Roll my eyes to the back of my head until I can't roll them anymore," Park said. "Like literally that's how I felt."

She tried Lyft. The fare was not much different.

Both ride-hailing apps predicted cars would not reach Park for a half hour.

Updated July 28, 2021 at 8:05 PM ET

Google and Facebook will require U.S. employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus before returning to the company's offices, the tech giants said on Wednesday.

In a blog post, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the vaccine mandate would apply to its U.S. offices in the coming weeks and would be required eventually for other locations.

Depending on whom you ask, the stock trading app Robinhood has either democratized Wall Street trading or launched a generation of unsavvy investors who have become addicted to the promise of quick cash.

The tension looms as Robinhood is set to make its debut on the Nasdaq on Thursday under the symbol HOOD, raising the profile of a company that has become a household name during the pandemic – while also attracting intense regulatory scrutiny.

Say WeWork and one person comes to mind: Adam Neumann, the lanky founder and former CEO with flowing black hair and a rock-star persona who would carry on about the "energy" of the company's communal work spaces.

He also embraced a "party-boy life style," said Eliot Brown, whose new book with co-author Maureen Farrell, The Cult of We: WeWork and the Great Start-Up Delusion, was published on Tuesday.

Well before noon, Neumann was known to offer potential investors shots of tequila from a bottle he kept behind his desk.

More than 30 states are accusing Google of operating like an illegal monopoly by abusing the power it has over developers and eliminating competition in how people download and pay for apps on their Google devices.

"Google uses anticompetitive barriers and mandates to protect its monopoly power," the attorneys general wrote in the suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Wednesday.

Jeff Bezos stepped down as Amazon's CEO on Monday, exactly 27 years since he started the e-commerce giant in a garage in West Bellevue, Wash.

Bezos is handing day-to-day duties to his longtime deputy Andy Jassy but will continue to hold considerable sway as the company's executive chairman.

Many journalists who cover technology have no idea what Marc Andreessen, one of the most powerful investors in Silicon Valley, has tweeted lately.

American software pioneer John McAfee, 75, was found dead on Wednesday in a prison cell in Barcelona, Spain, according to McAfee's lawyers.

Just hours earlier, a court in Spain had approved the extradition of McAfee to the U.S., where he was set to stand trial on federal tax-evasion charges.

Authorities are investigating the cause of death.

An eccentric and brash millionaire known widely for his eponymous antivirus software, McAfee sold his stake in the company in the mid-1990s and spent his life globe-trotting and stumbling frequently into legal trouble.

The maker of the Snapchat app is eliminating a feature known as the "speed filter" that lets users capture how fast they are moving and share it with friends, NPR has learned.

The move is a dramatic reversal for Snap, Inc., which introduced the feature in 2013.

Updated June 15, 2021 at 4:55 PM ET

President Joe Biden has named Lina Khan as the chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, giving the regulatory authority's top spot to one of Silicon Valley's most prominent critics.

The surprise move elevating Khan to one of the most powerful regulatory positions in Washington was announced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., at the start of a hearing on Tuesday. It came shortly after the Senate confirmed Khan as a commissioner in a 69-28 vote.

Buying a coffee and grabbing a train is already possible with an iPhone, but Apple wants to replace the physical wallet completely.

To that end, earlier this week Apple announced a new feature to let users scan their driver's licenses and save it to their iPhones to use as a legitimate form of identification.

Former President Donald Trump's TikTok and WeChat bans were officially dropped on Wednesday, but scrutiny of the China-owned apps will continue under the Biden administration.

To replace the Trump-era actions, President Biden signed new orders calling for the Commerce Department to launch national security reviews of apps with links to foreign adversaries, including China.

With Congress stalled on federal legislation to regulate how personal data is tracked and sold online, the fight over the future of data privacy has moved to state capitals.

Only two states, California and Virginia, have passed laws to give people more control over how technology companies mine personal details and online behavior, each bringing vastly different protections for users.

Updated May 21, 2021 at 6:14 PM ET

Hours into Apple CEO Tim Cook's testimony Friday in a lawsuit challenging how his company wields its immense power over mobile devices, a federal judge created the most dramatic moment of the three-week trial brought by the maker of the hit video game Fortnite.

"It doesn't seem to me you feel any pressure or competition to actually change the manner in which you act to address the concerns of the developers," U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers told Cook.

Apple CEO Tim Cook will take the witness stand in person on Friday in a high-stakes trial over whether his company is abusing its market power.

In a courtroom in Oakland, Calif., Cook will be under oath answering questions from Apple lawyers and from attorneys for Epic Games, the maker of the popular videogame Fortnite, which is accusing Apple of being an illegal monopoly.

Why is this a big deal?

While Cook has testified before Congress, this will mark the first time he has ever taken the witness stand in a trial.

Microsoft's board of directors hired a private law firm to investigate a decades-old "intimate relationship" Bill Gates had with a company employee. The investigation, a company spokesman confirmed on Sunday, took place in the months before the billionaire resigned from the board last year.

"Microsoft received a concern in the latter half of 2019 that Bill Gates sought to initiate an intimate relationship with a company employee in the year 2000," a company spokesman told NPR.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

In April 1995, Ken Zeran's phone started ringing. And ringing. And ringing.

"Lots of calls. It wasn't like every second. But it was just lots of calls," Zeran said in an interview with NPR.

He ran a real estate magazine in Seattle. But his phone ringing off the hook had nothing to do with that — these callers were irate, often screaming.

"'How could you do this? What a loser you are,'" he remembers them saying. "You can use your own sense and think of what they might be saying given what had just happened in Oklahoma City."

Three young men got into a car in Walworth County, Wis., in May 2017. They were set on driving at rapid speeds down a long, cornfield-lined road — and sharing their escapade on social media.

As the 17-year-old behind the wheel accelerated to 123 miles per hour, one of the passengers opened Snapchat.

His parents say their son wanted to capture the experience using an app feature — the controversial "speed filter" — that documents real-life speed, hoping for engagement and attention from followers on the messaging app.

Epic Games, the maker of the hit video game Fortnite, brought Apple to federal court Monday for the start of what is expected to be a weeks-long blockbuster trial centered on Apple's iron grip of a major slice of the mobile economy.

The lawsuit that prompted the trial is about one app developer, Epic, a $29 billion company based in Cary, N.C., but the outcome could have far-reaching consequences for companies in Silicon Valley and the future of how money moves on smartphones and other devices.

Coinbase, a San Francisco startup that allows people to buy and sell digital currency, became the first major cryptocurrency company to go public when it made its stock market debut on Wednesday.

Trading began around $381 a share, pushing the company's valuation close to $100 billion. That's about what Facebook was worth when it had its initial public offering in 2012.

For eight years, the civil rights organization Muslim Advocates has reported scores of examples of bigotry and hate promoted across Facebook. It has published reports and met privately with CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his number two, Sheryl Sandberg, about its concerns.

Discord, the group-chat app that has grown rapidly during the coronavirus pandemic, removed more than 2,000 communities dedicated to extremism and other violent content in the second half of last year, the company reported on Monday.

Officials at Discord said that of the 2,212 extremist and violent communities taken down from its platform, about 1,500 were first detected by the company. That is nearly double the number that was banned for extremist content in the first half of 2020.

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