Reconsidering privacy risks after Roe
In the post-Roe era, when abortion may be illegal in much of the country, many women are worried that their data might be used against them — whether it’s digital receipts, period tracking apps or the vast trove of personal information collected and disseminated every day by tech companies large and small.
The data landscape, and privacy protections, have transformed since the Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973. “It is almost impossible to be truly anonymous in modern American life,” Shira Ovide writes in The Times’s On Tech newsletter. The limitless appetite for data at companies like Google, Facebook and Verizon — along with hundreds of businesses you probably haven’t even heard of — has created a condition where privacy doesn’t really exist.
Period tracking apps have become a source of concern, reports The Times’s Kashmir Hill. They can serve as digital diaries for sexual activity, birth control methods and conception attempts. Some women use the apps when trying to get pregnant, others to avoid it, and many just to know when their next period is coming.
But other information could be even more problematic. Cynthia Conti-Cook, a civil rights lawyer and technology fellow at the Ford Foundation who has researched prosecutions on charges of feticide or endangering a fetus, says text messages and search histories are the most common forms of digital evidence in such cases.
“We should start with the types of data that have already been used to criminalize people,” Conti-Cook said. “The text to your sister that says, ‘Expletive, I’m pregnant.’ The search history for abortion pills or the visitation of websites that have information about abortion.”
Payment data could be another risk, The Times’s Ron Lieber and Tara Siegel Bernard report. Card issuers and banks know what to do when it comes to terrorism or money laundering. Whether banks must hand over information to law enforcement about things like abortion is new territory. The Fourth Amendment gives people protections against government intrusion. But those protections weaken once individuals voluntarily share information with a third party, legal experts said. That means law enforcement officials can generally ask financial institutions to hand over customer data with a simple subpoena.
“Whatever your views about abortion, this is a moment to reflect on what we have given up to the hungry maw of America’s unfettered data collection economy,” Ovide writes. The implications of surveillance capitalism just got a lot more complicated.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
Revised consumer spending data shows a slowdown. In a sign that cracks may be forming in a crucial pillar of the U.S. economy, spending increased only 0.5 percent in the first quarter when adjusted for inflation, after growing 0.6 percent in the final quarter of last year. The government had previously estimated the first-quarter figure at 0.8 percent.
Ben & Jerry’s objects to Unilever’s sale of its Israeli business. The ice cream maker said last year that it would stop sales in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Its parent company, Unilever, said yesterday that it had sold the Israeli business to a local partner who would continue West Bank sales. Ben & Jerry’s, which still has an independent board, said in response: “We continue to believe it is inconsistent with Ben & Jerry’s values for our ice cream to be sold in the occupied Palestinian territory.”
UBS settles S.E.C. fraud charges for $25 million. Without admitting to the agency’s findings about a complex options trading strategy called YES, the bank will pay a civil penalty of $17.4 million that will go to harmed investors, with about $7.6 million more for payments related to arbitrations. The S.E.C. said advisers and investors were ill-equipped to understand the strategy’s risks.
OPEC is likely to restore oil output to prepandemic levels. The cartel is finishing up a two-day meeting today where it is expected to pledge to boost oil production by nearly 650,000 barrels a day. That level would be in line with what its members were producing before big cuts in early 2020. The decision comes ahead of a planned trip by President Biden to Saudi Arabia next month.
The publisher Macmillan suffers a cyberattack. Booksellers said they were unable to place orders with the publisher, one of the nation’s largest, The Wall Street Journal reported. The company said it had “recently experienced a security incident, which involves the encryption of certain files on our network,” and was working to restore its systems.
Polarization in the C suite
Executive teams are becoming more politically polarized as people seek out colleagues with like-minded views, a new research paper shows — and shareholders may suffer for it.
“Before writing this paper, we were very cautious because everyone tends to believe that at the top levels among major financial decision makers, people put personal stuff aside,” the paper’s lead author, Vyacheslav Fos, told DealBook. But the research shows that growing political tensions are disruptive.
The Republican share among executives who registered a party affiliation rose to 75 percent in 2016, from 63 percent in 2008. By 2020, it had retreated to about 68 percent, perhaps because of growing apprehension about the Trump presidency, according to Fos, who is an associate professor of finance at Boston College.
This appears to be the first look at voter registrations of executive teams. Fos and his co-authors, Elisabeth Kempf and Margarita Tsoutsoura, who are associate professors at the University of Chicago and Cornell, scoured voter registration records for executives of firms in the S&P 1500 index between 2008 and 2020. Previous research focused on political donations, which offers limited insight because companies and executives often give to both parties. Registration data reveals private positions that may reflect more deeply held convictions.
The researchers assessed the impact of polarization by looking at companies with both abnormally large losses and executive departures, finding that when politically misaligned executives left, their companies’ stock prices suffered more.
The overturning of Roe v. Wade may accelerate the trends revealed by the study, Fos believes. As the political and legal divides between states grow starker, people and companies are likely to move where their views are shared and the law is welcoming. So team partisanship is likely to rise, too.
The S.E.C. crushes crypto dreams again
The S.E.C. denied an application yesterday to create an exchange-traded fund that would let investors bet on Bitcoin via the stock market. The rejection came despite a campaign by the digital asset management firm Grayscale that enlisted support from market luminaries and generated more than 11,000 comment letters.
A “spot” E.T.F. that invests in Bitcoin has long been a crypto industry goal. The S.E.C. had already rejected several attempts by the Winklevoss brothers. Since 2013, Grayscale has run a Bitcoin trust that lets investors trade shares in crypto it holds. But the trust has limitations — like high fees and no redemption mechanism — and has been trading at a discount to the price of Bitcoin. Grayscale argues that converting its trust into an E.T.F. would “unlock billions of dollars of investor capital while bringing the world’s largest Bitcoin fund further into the U.S. regulatory perimeter.”
But the S.E.C. ruled that the company had not made its case, in part because its proposal did not meet the standard that it must “prevent fraudulent and manipulative acts and practices” and “protect investors and the public interest.”
Grayscale promptly sued the S.E.C. in federal court in an attempt to reverse the decision. Its senior legal strategist, Donald Verrilli Jr., a former U.S. solicitor general, said in a statement that regulators were acting “arbitrarily and capriciously.”
“DPRK hackers are really good. They look at really interesting and very gray, new areas of cryptocurrency because actually, A, no one really understands them, and B, they can exploit weakness.”
— Eric Penton-Voak, coordinator of a panel of experts on North Korea at the U.N., using an abbreviation for North Korea’s official name. The nation has brought in hundreds of millions of dollars via crypto hacks.
A half-year of I.P.O. woe
Rising interest rates, increased regulatory scrutiny and the stock market’s worst first half in 50 years are squeezing the I.P.O. market in a way that hasn’t happened since the financial crisis. Six months into 2022, initial public offerings are at their slowest pace since 2009, according to data from Dealogic.
Proceeds from I.P.O.s have plunged 94 percent. First-time stock sales in the U.S. have only raised $4.8 billion so far this year, down from $83 billion a year earlier. Many I.P.O.s that have made it to market have been disappointments: Shares of newly public companies are down 46 percent this year, according to Renaissance Capital’s I.P.O. index.
Other financing markets are stuck as well. Lenders are worried that rising costs for oil and other raw materials may make it harder for companies to honor their debts. Outflows from high-yield bond funds have accelerated, and direct lenders — hedge funds and other investment firms that lend money to companies — have been demanding stricter terms.
Even high-profile companies are having to call off deals. Instacart, Discord and Reddit are among the well-known companies that bankers say are waiting to I.P.O. And Bloomberg says the junk debt market is “effectively frozen,” with lenders sitting on about $80 billion worth of commitments to finance leveraged buyouts. Yesterday, Walgreens announced that its planned sale of the British drugstore chain Boots had fallen through, in part because financing the deal became too expensive.
THE SPEED READ
Spirit Airlines postponed a shareholder vote on an acquisition by Frontier and said it would keep talking to Frontier and a rival suitor, JetBlue. (NYT)
The crypto exchange Coinbase is reportedly selling tools to the U.S. government that help track crypto users. (Intercept)
Consumer groups in Europe and the U.S. plan to file complaints with regulators today about Google’s privacy practices. (WSJ)
Jerome Powell and other central bankers say forces that kept inflation low before the pandemic are unlikely to return. (NYT)
Best of the rest
John Visentin, the C.E.O. of Xerox, has died at 59. (NYT)
An analysis of C.E.O. stock sales raises questions about insiders gaming the system. (WSJ)
A court ordered Three Arrows Capital, a crypto hedge fund based in Singapore, to liquidate. (Sky News)
U.S. military recruits are increasingly facing an onslaught from predatory lenders. (NYT)
Hawaiian Tropics’s Ron Rice made billions promoting life at the beach, but rarely tanned himself. (New Yorker)
David F. Gallagher contributed to today’s DealBook.
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