Laura Sydell

Laura Sydell fell in love with the intimate storytelling qualities of radio, which combined her passion for theatre and writing with her addiction to news. Over her career she has covered politics, arts, media, religion, and entrepreneurship. Currently Sydell is the Digital Culture Correspondent for NPR's All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, and NPR.org.

Sydell's work focuses on the ways in which technology is transforming our culture and how we live. For example, she reported on robotic orchestras and independent musicians who find the Internet is a better friend than a record label as well as ways technology is changing human relationships.

Sydell has traveled through India and China to look at the impact of technology on developing nations. In China, she reported how American television programs like Lost broke past China's censors and found a devoted following among the emerging Chinese middle class. She found in India that cell phones are the computer of the masses.

Sydell teamed up with Alex Bloomberg of NPR's Planet Money team and reported on the impact of patent trolls on business and innovations particular to the tech world. The results were a series of pieces that appeared on This American Life and All Things Considered. The hour long program on This American Life "When Patents Attack! - Part 1," was honored with a Gerald Loeb Award and accolades from Investigative Reporters and Editors. A transcript of the entire show was included in The Best Business Writing of 2011 published by Columbia University Press.

Before joining NPR in 2003, Sydell served as a senior technology reporter for American Public Media's Marketplace, where her reporting focused on the human impact of new technologies and the personalities behind the Silicon Valley boom and bust.

Sydell is a proud native of New Jersey and prior to making a pilgrimage to California and taking up yoga she worked as a reporter for NPR Member Station WNYC in New York. Her reporting on race relations, city politics, and arts was honored with numerous awards from organizations such as The Newswomen's Club of New York, The New York Press Club, and The Society of Professional Journalists.

American Women in Radio and Television, The National Federation of Community Broadcasters, and Women in Communications have all honored Sydell for her long-form radio documentary work focused on individuals whose life experiences turned them into activists.

After finishing a one-year fellowship with the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia University, Sydell came to San Francisco as a teaching fellow at the Graduate School of Journalism at University of California, Berkeley.

Sydell graduated Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor's degree from William Smith College in Geneva, New York, and earned a J.D. from Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law.

Here's the good news: There's a lot of high-quality streaming video available right now, with great scripts and A-list actors. The bad news? Maybe there's just too much content to choose from.

It can be frustrating when viewers try to figure out which service has what they want to watch — Netflix, Prime, Hulu? It's about to get worse, as more streaming services launch this year.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg has a message for his neighbors to the south in Silicon Valley who might be sick of the high prices and overcrowding: "If you are a small business or an entrepreneur and you are trying to make it in in the Bay Area and you can't, don't move to Seattle — move to Sacramento."

One of the lures he's using to draw businesses is newly installed Verizon fifth-generation, or 5G, wireless. Each generation of faster wireless speeds has helped spark innovation.

Sam Cavaliere, a San Diego tech worker, considers himself in average health, though the 47-year-old admits, "I can always stand to lose a little weight." Like a lot of iPhone owners, he uses Apple's Health app to keep track of his weight, his exercise routines and how many steps he takes in a day.

Now the app is also storing his health records.

Microsoft workers are calling on the giant tech company to cancel its nearly $480 million U.S. Army contract, saying the deal has "crossed the line" into weapons development by Microsoft for the first time. They say the use of the company's HoloLens augmented reality technology under the contract "is designed to help people kill."

Updated at 11:52 a.m. ET

In 2011, Glynnis Bohannon gave her 12-year-old son permission to charge $20 on her credit card to play a game on Facebook called Ninja Saga. Neither of them saw any signs that the credit card information had been stored and was racking up charges as her son played and made additional in-game purchases. Bohannon says her son didn't realize it would end up costing nearly $1,000.

An app that allows Saudi men to track the whereabouts of their wives and daughters is available in the Apple and Google app stores in Saudi Arabia.

But the U.S. tech giants are getting blowback from human rights activists and lawmakers for carrying the app.

The app, called Absher, was created by the National Information Center, which according to a Saudi government website is a project of the Saudi Ministry of Interior.

Tech entrepreneurs have long prided themselves on disrupting traditional industries and creating new ones.

Print encyclopedias have been replaced by Wikipedia and Google searches.

Newspapers are struggling against online news sites and social media. But new problems have emerged as a result of this transformation: fake news and the bankruptcy of the traditional news media.

Several parts of the federal government have been shut down for about a month now, and cybersecurity professionals say government websites are becoming more vulnerable to security breaches each day the shutdown lasts.

Visitors to manufacturing.gov, for instance, are finding that the site has become unusable — its information about the manufacturing sector is no longer accessible. Instead, it features this message at the top of the homepage:

A Texas nonprofit that works with families separated at the border has turned down a $250,000 contribution from Salesforce, a company under pressure for its work creating software for the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

Tech workers from Salesforce, Microsoft, Amazon and Google have been putting pressure on their CEOs to cut ties and end contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, and other government agencies.

It's a rare occurrence for employees to tell their bosses to turn away business. But there is a growing concern among tech workers that the cutting-edge tools they create can be used in immoral ways.

Have you ever noticed something most virtual assistants have in common? They all started out female.

One of the most famous, Amazon's Alexa, got her name because of CEO Jeff Bezos' preference. "The idea was creating the Star Trek computer. The Star Trek computer was a woman," says Alex Spinelli, who ran the team that created the software for Alexa.

Spinelli is now the chief technology officer of LivePerson. His boss, CEO Robert LoCascio, is bothered by that story about Alexa.

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Today NPR spoke directly with Apple CEO Tim Cook about the revelations that hardware makers had access to personal data in the Facebook app. NPR's Laura Sydell was there and joins us now. Hi, Laura.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Hello.

Updated at 6:39 p.m. ET

Apple on Monday announced a new app to allow users to get reports on how much their kids are using particular apps on their iPhones and iPads.

As Europe's sweeping new privacy law went into effect on Friday, California voters may get to decide on strict privacy laws for their state.

An initiative likely headed for November's ballot in California would be one of the broadest online privacy regulations in the U.S. and could impact standards throughout the country.

Updated at 12:52 p.m. ET

Cambridge Analytica used Facebook to find and target Americans to trigger paranoia and racial biases, a former employee of the data analytics company told lawmakers on Wednesday.

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Netflix blew past Wall Street expectations this week and added 7.4 million new subscribers between January and March — giving it a total of 125 million paying subscribers worldwide. Its popularity is leaving rivals Amazon and Hulu in the dust as it continues to add new content.

But can the service that made binge watching popular keep it up as a big rival gears up to take it on?

There are a lot of regrets coming out of Silicon Valley these days as the dark side of the tech revolution becomes increasingly apparent, from smartphone addiction to the big scandal involving the misuse of personal information from some 87 million Facebook users.

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The recent revelations that personal data from about 50 million Facebook users were used by a data analytics firm working for the Trump campaign are making a lot of the social network's users uneasy.

Some are wondering if there's a better way to limit who can access their personal information.

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"A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."

Mark Twain said that. Actually, it was Winston Churchill. Oh, wait! He didn't say it either. But you can find fairly credible looking sources that attribute those words to one of those two famous men.

Whoever said it, a study on how news travels on Twitter confirms the basic truth of the quote. But on Twitter, lies spread a lot faster.

In 1984, two men were thinking a lot about the Internet. One of them invented it. The other is an artist who would see its impact on society with uncanny prescience.

First is the man often called "the father of the Internet," Vint Cerf. Between the early 1970s and early '80s, he led a team of scientists supported by research from the Defense Department.

Initially, Cerf was trying to create an Internet through which scientists and academics from all over the world could share data and research.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Apple made a big announcement today. It is going to invest a lot more money in the United States and create 20,000 jobs here over the next five years. NPR's Laura Sydell is with us to talk about what Apple is doing and why it is doing it now. Hey, Laura.

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This week, another big name in tech was toppled by accusations of sexual harassment — venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson, an investor in Tesla and SpaceX who left his prominent Silicon Valley company.

The big-money world of Silicon Valley remains dominated by men and remains a hard place for women to speak out if they want to join the ranks of its richest. And some women think the best way to fight harassment is to tread carefully and get to the top.

President Trump is facing a lawsuit for blocking people from his Twitter account.

This week some First Amendment advocates joined the suit — and they are making a novel argument about the right to communicate with the president in the digital age.

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