Maryland and Montana are restricting police access to DNA databases

Maryland and Montana have become the first U.S. states to pass laws that make it tougher for law enforcement to access DNA databases.

The new laws, which aim to safeguard the genetic privacy of millions of Americans, focus on consumer DNA databases, such as 23andMe, Ancestry, GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA, all of which let people upload their genetic information and use it to connect with distant relatives and trace their family tree. While popular — 23andMe has more than three million users, and GEDmatch more than one million — many are unaware that some of these platforms share genetic data with third parties, from the pharmaceutical industry and scientists to law enforcement agencies.

When used by law enforcement through a technique known as forensic genetic genealogy searching (FGGS), officers can upload DNA evidence found at a crime scene to make connections on possible suspects, the most famous example being the identification of the Golden State Killer in 2018. This saw investigators upload a DNA sample taken at the time of a 1980 murder linked to the serial killer into GEDmatch and subsequently identify distant relatives of the suspect — a critical breakthrough that led to the arrest of Joseph James DeAngelo.

While law enforcement agencies have seen success in using consumer DNA databases to aid with criminal investigations, privacy advocates have long warned of the dangers of these platforms. Not only can these DNA profiles help trace distant ancestors, but the vast troves of genetic data they hold can divulge a person’s propensity for various diseases, predict addiction and drug response, and even be used by companies to create images of what they think a person looks like.

Ancestry and 23andMe have kept their genetic databases closed to law enforcement without a warrant, GEDmatch (which was acquired by a crime scene DNA company in December 2019) and FamilyTreeDNA have previously shared their database with investigators. 

To ensure the genetic privacy of the accused and their relatives, Maryland will, starting October 1, require law enforcement to get a judge’s sign-off before using genetic genealogy, and will limit its use to serious crimes like murder, kidnapping, and human trafficking. It also says that investigators can only use databases that explicitly tell users that their information could be used to investigate crimes. 

In Montana, where the new rules are somewhat narrower, law enforcement would need a warrant before using a DNA database unless the users waived their rights to privacy.

The laws “demonstrate that people across the political spectrum find law enforcement use of consumer genetic data chilling, concerning and privacy-invasive,” said Natalie Ram, a law professor at the University of Maryland. “I hope to see more states embrace robust regulation of this law enforcement technique in the future.”

The introduction of these laws has also been roundly welcomed by privacy advocates, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Jennifer Lynch, surveillance litigation director at the EFF, described the restrictions as a “step in the right direction,” but called for more states — and the federal government — to crack down further on FGGS.

“Our genetic data is too sensitive and important to leave it up to the whims of private companies to protect it and the unbridled discretion of law enforcement to search it,” Lynch said.

“Companies like GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA have allowed and even encouraged law enforcement searches. Because of this, law enforcement officers are increasingly accessing these databases in criminal investigations across the country.”

A spokesperson for 23andMe told TechCrunch: “We fully support legislation that provides consumers with stronger privacy protections. In fact we are working on legislation in a number of states to increase consumer genetic privacy protections. Customer privacy and transparency are core principles that guide 23andMe’s approach to responding to legal requests and maintaining customer trust. We closely scrutinize all law enforcement and regulatory requests and we will only comply with court orders, subpoenas, search warrants or other requests that we determine are legally valid. To date we have not released any customer information to law enforcement.”

GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA, both of which opt users into law enforcement searches by default, told the New York Times that they have no plans to change their existing policies around user consent in response to the new regulation. 

Ancestry did not immediately comment.

Read more:

#23andme, #ancestry, #dna, #electronic-frontier-foundation, #federal-government, #gedmatch, #genetics, #health, #judge, #law-enforcement, #maryland, #montana, #privacy, #security, #the-new-york-times, #united-states


Western States Face Excessive Heat Warnings and Advisories

Temperatures in Northern California could hit 107 on Tuesday and areas across Washington could reach the lower 100s, the National Weather Service said.

#california, #global-warming, #las-vegas-nev, #montana, #national-weather-service, #nevada, #washington-state, #weather, #western-states-us


Two New Laws Restrict Police Use of DNA Search Method

Maryland and Montana have passed the nation’s first laws limiting forensic genealogy, the method that found the Golden State Killer.

#dna-deoxyribonucleic-acid, #forensic-science, #genealogy, #genetics-and-heredity, #law-and-legislation, #maryland, #montana, #privacy, #your-feed-science


At 18, He Had Consensual Sex With 2 Teens. Montana Wants Him to Stay a Registered Offender.

A federal judge said Randall Menges should be removed from a sex-offender registry, but the Montana attorney general plans to fight to keep him on it.

#child-abuse-and-neglect, #christensen-dana-l, #decisions-and-verdicts, #discrimination, #homosexuality-and-bisexuality, #idaho, #knudsen-austin, #menges-randall, #montana, #sex-crimes, #sex-offender-registry


Remains Found 36 Years Ago in Montana Are Identified

DNA analysis has identified the remains of a woman, who for decades was known only as Christy Crystal Creek, as those of Janet Lee Lucas, who was last seen in Spokane, Wash., in 1983.

#dna-deoxyribonucleic-acid, #forensic-science, #genealogy, #lucas-janet-lee, #missing-persons, #missoula-county-mont, #montana, #murders-attempted-murders-and-homicides, #serial-murders, #spokane-wash, #teeth-and-dentistry


Workers at Exclusive Montana Resort Reach $1 Million Wage Settlement

A group of guest workers from Jamaica had accused the Yellowstone Club and Hospitality Staffing Solutions of shortchanging their wages and tips.

#compensation-for-damages-law, #foreign-workers, #immigration-and-emigration, #jamaica-west-indies, #labor-and-jobs, #montana, #skiing, #suits-and-litigation-civil, #visas, #wages-and-salaries, #workplace-hazards-and-violations, #yellowstone-club


Crusoe Energy is tackling energy use for cryptocurrencies and data centers and greenhouse gas emissions

The two founders of Crusoe Energy think they may have a solution to two of the largest problems facing the planet today — the increasing energy footprint of the tech industry and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the natural gas industry.

Crusoe, which uses excess natural gas from energy operations to power data centers and cryptocurrency mining operations, has just raised $128 million in new financing from some of the top names in the venture capital industry to build out its operations — and the timing couldn’t be better.

Methane emissions are emerging as a new area of focus for researchers and policymakers focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and keeping global warming within the 1.5 degree targets set under the Paris Agreement. And those emissions are just what Crusoe Energy is capturing to power its data centers and bitcoin mining operations.

The reason why addressing methane emissions is so critical in the short term is because these greenhouse gases trap more heat than their carbon dioxide counterparts and also dissipate more quickly. So dramatic reductions in methane emissions can do more in the short term to alleviate the global warming pressures that human industry is putting on the environment.

And the biggest source of methane emissions is the oil and gas industry. In the U.S. alone roughly 1.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas is flared daily, said Chase Lochmiller, a co-founder of Crusoe Energy. About two thirds of that is flared in Texas with another 500 million cubic feet flared in North Dakota, where Crusoe has focused its operations to date.

For Lochmiller, a former quant trader at some of the top American financial services institutions, and Cully Cavmess, a third generation oil and gas scion, the ability to capture natural gas and harness it for computing operations is a natural combination of the two men’s interests in financial engineering and environmental preservation.

NEW TOWN, ND – AUGUST 13: View of three oil wells and flaring of natural gas on The Fort Berthold Indian Reservation near New Town, ND on August 13, 2014. About 100 million dollars worth of natural gas burns off per month because a pipeline system isn’t in place yet to capture and safely transport it . The Three Affiliated Tribes on Fort Berthold represent Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nations. It’s also at the epicenter of the fracking and oil boom that has brought oil royalties to a large number of native americans living there. (Photo by Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The two Denver natives met in prep-school and remained friends. When Lochmiller left for MIT and Cavness headed off to Middlebury they didn’t know that they’d eventually be launching a business together. But through Lochmiller’s exposure to large scale computing and the financial services industry, and Cavness assumption of the family business they came to the conclusion that there had to be a better way to address the massive waste associated with natural gas.

Conversation around Crusoe Energy began in 2018 when Lochmiller and Cavness went climbing in the Rockies to talk about Lochmiller’s trip to Mt. Everest.

When the two men started building their business, the initial focus was on finding an environmentally friendly way to deal with the energy footprint of bitcoin mining operations. It was this pitch that brought the company to the attention of investors at Polychain, the investment firm started by Olaf Carlson-Wee (and Lochmiller’s former employer), and investors like Bain Capital Ventures and new investor Valor Equity Partners.

(This was also the pitch that Lochmiller made to me to cover the company’s seed round. At the time I was skeptical of the company’s premise and was worried that the business would just be another way to prolong the use of hydrocarbons while propping up a cryptocurrency that had limited actual utility beyond a speculative hedge against governmental collapse. I was wrong on at least one of those assessments.)

“Regarding questions about sustainability, Crusoe has a clear standard of only pursuing projects that are net reducers of emissions. Generally the wells that Crusoe works with are already flaring and would continue to do so in the absence of Crusoe’s solution. The company has turned down numerous projects where they would be a buyer of low cost gas from a traditional pipeline because they explicitly do not want to be net adders of demand and emissions,” wrote a spokesman for Valor Equity in an email. “In addition, mining is increasingly moving to renewables and Crusoe’s approach to stranded energy can enable better economics for stranded or marginalized renewables, ultimately bringing more renewables into the mix. Mining can provide an interruptible base load demand that can be cut back when grid demand increases, so overall the effect to incentivize the addition of more renewable energy sources to the grid.”

Other investors have since piled on including: Lowercarbon Capital, DRW Ventures, Founders Fund, Coinbase Ventures, KCK Group, Upper90, Winklevoss Capital, Zigg Capital and Tesla co-founder JB Straubel.

The company now operate 40 modular data centers powered by otherwise wasted and flared natural gas throughout North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. Next year that number should expand to 100 units as Crusoe enters new markets such as Texas and New Mexico. Since launching in 2018, Crusoe has emerged as a scalable solution to reduce flaring through energy intensive computing such as bitcoin mining, graphical rendering, artificial intelligence model training and even protein folding simulations for COVID-19 therapeutic research.

Crusoe boasts 99.9% combustion efficiency for its methane, and is also bringing additional benefits in the form of new networking buildout at its data center and mining sites. Eventually, this networking capacity could lead to increased connectivity for rural communities surrounding the Crusoe sites.

Currently, 80% of the company’s operations are being used for bitcoin mining, but there’s increasing demand for use in data center operations and some universities, including Lochmiller’s alma mater of MIT are looking at the company’s offerings for their own computing needs.

“That’s very much in an incubated phase right now,” said Lochmiller. “A private alpha where we have a few test customers… we’ll make that available for public use later this year.”

Crusoe Energy Systems should have the lowest data center operating costs in the world, according to Lochmiller and while the company will spend money to support the infrastructure buildout necessary to get the data to customers, those costs are negligible when compared to energy consumption, Lochmiller said.

The same holds true for bitcoin mining, where the company can offer an alternative to coal powered mining operations in China and the construction of new renewable capacity that wouldn’t be used to service the grid. As cryptocurrencies look for a way to blunt criticism about the energy usage involved in their creation and distribution, Crusoe becomes an elegant solution.

Institutional and regulatory tailwinds are also propelling the company forward. Recently New Mexico passed new laws limiting flaring and venting to no more than 2 percent of an operator’s production by April of next year and North Dakota is pushing for incentives to support on-site flare capture systems while Wyoming signed a law creating incentives for flare gas reduction applied to bitcoin mining. The world’s largest financial services firms are also taking a stand against flare gas with BlackRock calling for an end to routine flaring by 2025.

“Where we view our power consumption, we draw a very clear line in our project evaluation stage where we’re reducing emissions for an oil and gas projects,” Lochmiller said. 

#air-pollution, #alpha, #artificial-intelligence, #bain-capital-ventures, #bitcoin, #bitcoin-mining, #blackrock, #china, #co-founder, #coinbase-ventures, #colorado, #computing, #cryptocurrency, #cryptography, #denver, #energy, #energy-consumption, #energy-efficiency, #everest, #founders-fund, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #jb-straubel, #lowercarbon-capital, #methane, #mining, #mit, #montana, #natural-gas, #new-mexico, #north-dakota, #tc, #tesla, #texas, #trader, #united-states, #upper90, #valor-equity-partners, #winklevoss-capital, #world-bank, #wyoming


Grizzly Bear Fatally Mauls a Backcountry Guide Near Yellowstone Park

When the bear charged at Montana officials who were investigating the attack, they shot and killed it.

#animal-behavior, #bears, #deaths-fatalities, #endangered-and-extinct-species, #fish-and-wildlife-service, #idaho, #montana, #national-parks-monuments-and-seashores


In Montana, Bears and Wolves Become Part of the Culture Wars

The politics of predators seem poised to enter a new chapter in the state, which now seems intent on reviving some of the practices of a century ago that virtually exterminated wolves from Montana.

#bears, #daines-steve, #endangered-and-extinct-species, #gianforte-greg-1961, #hunting-and-trapping, #montana, #republican-party, #wolves


Montana Governor Gets Written Warning After Killing a Wolf

Greg Gianforte did not complete a trapping certification course before trapping and killing a black wolf last month, a state wildlife official said.

#gianforte-greg-1961, #hunting-and-trapping, #montana, #parks-and-other-recreation-areas, #wolves, #yellowstone-national-park


In Rural Montana, a Hope That Biden Will Reopen the Rails

The North Coast Hiawatha hasn’t run through Montana since 1979. Now cities like Billings, Bozeman, Helena and Missoula are hoping that “Amtrak Joe” will help fund new rail service.

#amtrak, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #infrastructure-public-works, #montana, #railroads, #rural-areas, #transit-systems


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#arkansas, #california, #colorado, #conservation-of-resources, #forests-and-forestry, #montana, #oregon, #ozark-mountains, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #states-us, #wildfires


Snoop Dogg’s Casa Verde Capital closes on $100 million as the cannabis industry bounces back

Casa Verde Capital, the investment fund co-founded by cannabis connoisseur Snoop Dogg (also known as Calvin Broadus), has closed on $100 million for its second investment fund, according to documents filed with the SEC.

The fund, whose managing director, Karan Wadhera declined to comment for this article, has managed to raise more cash just as the market for cannabis-related products seems poised for another period of expansion.

“What happened to the public perception of the cannabis industry is not too dissimilar to the dotcom bubble of the late ’90s, where there was a lot of hype — a lot of it driven by public companies — and a lot of speculative trading and valuations that weren’t really founded in reality. [We’re talking about] projections multiple years out into the future, and then crazy revenue multiples on top of that,” Wadhera said of the last bust when he spoke to TechCrunch in July. “Things just got really frothy, and that eventually burst, and last April or May was sort of the apex of that moment. It’s when things started to trade off. And it’s been those names, the public names in particular, that have been hit particularly hard.”

Since then, the industry has come roaring back.

“Sitting here today, four-plus months into COVID, cannabis has really proved itself to be a non-cyclical industry. Cannabis has been deemed an essential business everywhere across the U.S. We had record sales in March, April and May, and the trend has continued,” Wadhera said in July. “And now that we are getting into an environment where governments are going to be looking for additional sources of tax revenue, the potential urgency around cannabis legalization is going to be there, which is going to be massively positive for the industry.”

There’s no indication of the target for the new venture capital fund, but with the new fundraising, Casa Verde more than doubles the size of its initial investment vehicle.

Since Broadus, Wadhera and a third partner and the founder of Cashmere Agency and Stampede Management Ted Chung launched their debut fund in 2018, weed businesses have endured a roller-coaster business cycle of boom and bust.

In spite of those market vagaries, Casa Verde has managed to build a portfolio that is now worth at least $200 million, according to people with knowledge of the firm. That money has come through several special purpose vehicles and other fundraising mechanisms raised alongside the flagship fund.

The overall market for cannabis and cannabinoid derivatives is expected to hit $34 billion by 2025 according to an analyst report seen by TechCrunch from the investment bank Cowen.

With Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota all passing adult-use cannabis legalization measures in their states, the investment bank predicted roughly 30 percent growth to their total addressable market estimates.

For its part, Casa Verde has always taken a broad view on the potential addressable market that cannabis and its chemical compounds could capture.

Nowhere is that more on view than in the firm’s latest investment in the sleep company, Proper.


“[Cannabis] is an input as well and its use case will go beyond how people think of cannabis stigmatically,” Wadhera said. “At its core, [Proper] is a company that’s helping us target this sleep epidemic. We think CBD and cannabis at large can play a big role in addressing that in a way that traditional products haven’t been able to.”

And what’s true for sleep is true for a number of other different applications as well, Wadhera has said in the past.

Casa Verde has already invested heavily across the pure-play opportunities in cannabis, with investments spanning delivery, supply chain logistics, brands, and retail.

But the health benefits that cannabinoids could have for all kinds of ailments open up a much larger market — as do the broad consumer opportunities should Congress accede to the wishes of more than 60 percent of the American electorate and legalize recreational cannabis use nationally.

And, as Wadhera told us in July, a Biden administration presents a potentially much more positive regulatory environment for the industry than the previous Trump administration did.

“I think Biden will be very helpful. He has laid out many of the things that he wants, and [while] he isn’t taking it as far as full-scale legalization, he’s certainly in favor of full-scale decriminalization, [meaning] letting states have full authority over what happens with their businesses, and also the rescheduling of cannabis down from the current Schedule 1 level,” Wadhera had said. “So all of that will be incredibly helpful and will bring a lot more players who will feel comfortable investing in the space and, potentially, acquiring some of these businesses, too.”


#analyst, #arizona, #biden, #biden-administration, #calvin, #casa-verde-capital, #congress, #cowen, #karan-wadhera, #montana, #musicians, #new-jersey, #proper, #retail, #securities-and-exchange-commission, #snoop-dogg, #tc, #ted-chung, #trump-administration, #united-states, #venture-capital


Senator Jon Tester on Democrats and Rural Voters: ‘Our Message Is Really, Really Flawed’

Mr. Tester, a Montana farmer, said in an interview that Democrats had failed to connect with much of the country: “You cannot have Chuck Schumer talking rural issues to rural people.”

#content-type-personal-profile, #democratic-party, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #elections-senate, #montana, #police-reform, #presidential-election-of-2020, #rural-areas, #tester-jon, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government


U.S. Border Agency Settles With 2 Americans Detained for Speaking Spanish

In a video of the 2018 incident in Havre, Mont., a Border Patrol agent is heard telling the two American women he detains that speaking Spanish in the small city is “very unheard-of.”

#american-civil-liberties-union, #customs-and-border-protection-us, #havre-mont, #hernandez-mimi, #hispanic-americans, #language-and-languages, #montana, #race-and-ethnicity, #racial-profiling, #suda-ana, #suits-and-litigation-civil


7 Places Where the Slopes Are Less Skied

These under-the-radar resorts offer plenty of room to turn, and plenty of challenge amid a winter of social distancing.

#california, #colorado, #idaho, #montana, #new-hampshire, #skiing, #travel-and-vacations, #utah, #vermont


Pandemic Crowds Bring ‘Rivergeddon’ to Montana’s Rivers

As urbanites flock to forests and rivers to escape coronavirus threats, trailheads are cramped with parked cars and fishing on the Madison River is like a Disneyland ride.

#bozeman-mont, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #fishing-sport, #hikes-and-hiking, #montana, #parks-and-other-recreation-areas, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #real-estate-and-housing-residential, #trek-bicycle-corp, #trout-unlimited


Tiny Love Stories: ‘It Soothes Me to Know Someone So Gentle’

Modern Love in miniature, featuring reader-submitted stories of no more than 100 words.

#dating-and-relationships, #love-emotion, #manila-philippines, #modern-love-times-column, #montana, #uganda


The Loneliness of the Red State Democrat

Liberals got “trounced” in Montana, and the party will spend the next few years in the wilderness.

#bozeman-mont, #bullock-steve, #daines-steve, #democratic-party, #elections-senate, #gianforte-greg-1961, #hickenlooper-john-w, #interior-department, #land-and-water-conservation-fund, #montana, #national-park-service, #national-parks-monuments-and-seashores, #presidential-election-of-2020, #republican-party, #tester-jon


Montana’s New Governor Could Remake the State

Greg Gianforte’s victory is another step in the Republicans’ ideological conquest of the American West.

#gianforte-greg-1961, #montana, #patient-protection-and-affordable-care-act-2010, #politics-and-government, #presidential-election-of-2020


Fueled by Cash, Health Care and Trump’s Woes, Democrats Aim for Senate Control

Republicans are battling to hold off losses by warning of the risks of unified Democratic power in Washington, but they concede their majority is in peril.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #bullock-steve, #daines-steve, #montana, #politics-and-government, #presidential-election-of-2020, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government


‘It Has Hit Us With a Vengeance’: Coronavirus Surges Again Across the United States

Unlike earlier outbreaks concentrated in the Northeast and South, the virus is simmering at a worrisome level in most regions.

#ann-arbor-mich, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #illinois, #kansas, #kentucky, #michigan, #montana, #shutdowns-institutional, #south-dakota


Mask Mandate? In a Montana Town, It ‘Puts Us at Odds With Customers’

In Hamilton, business owners are walking a tightrope between keeping people safe from the coronavirus and not driving them away.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-risks-and-safety-concerns, #hamilton-mont, #labor-and-jobs, #masks, #montana, #restaurants, #small-business


Montana’s Greatest Cultural Export: Inane Campaign Ads

The state perfected intensely folksy political advertising, a signifiers-over-substance approach that has pervaded the nation.

#gianforte-greg-1961, #montana, #political-advertising, #united-states-politics-and-government, #williams-kathleen-1961


Fleeing the Trolls for the Grizzly Bears

When “civilization” oppresses, wilderness is the best therapy.

#exploration-and-explorers, #federal-lands, #hikes-and-hiking, #kristof-nicholas-d, #montana, #pacific-crest-trail, #pacific-northwestern-states-us, #united-states, #wilderness-areas


Why Montana Is a Test Case for Democrats’ Winning the Senate

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#bozeman-mont, #bullock-steve, #daines-steve, #elections-senate, #montana, #presidential-election-of-2020, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government


Will Clean Energy Projects Face Troubles That Have Bedeviled Pipelines?

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#alternative-and-renewable-energy, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #energy-and-power, #environment, #keystone-pipeline-system, #montana, #pipelines, #suits-and-litigation-civil, #trump-donald-j, #united-states


Supreme Court Strikes Down Limits on State Aid to Religious Schools

The case was the court’s latest on whether the Constitution allows the states to exclude religious groups from government programs.

#constitution-us, #discrimination, #education-k-12, #missouri, #montana, #playgrounds, #private-and-sectarian-schools, #religion-state-relations, #roberts-john-g-jr, #stillwater-christian-school


A Canal That Opened the Montana Prairie May Soon Dry Up

An early 20th-century federal water project irrigated the prairie to create farms and towns in eastern Montana. But it needs a $200 million overhaul.

#agriculture-and-farming, #bureau-of-reclamation, #canals, #glacier-national-park-mont, #havre-mont, #infrastructure-public-works, #irrigation, #montana, #rivers, #roosevelt-theodore, #water


I Was Supposed to Eat at a Restaurant. I Bailed.

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#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-reopenings, #masks, #montana, #restaurants


How Democrats Win in Montana (and They Do Win)

For the shrewd Montana Democrat, good government and good politics are often indistinguishable.

#baucus-max, #mansfield-michael-j-1903-2001, #montana, #presidential-election-of-2020, #united-states-politics-and-government


Can Rocky Mountain Laboratories Find a Coronavirus Cure?

A rural lab has a 120-year history of fighting mysterious diseases.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #epidemics, #fauci-anthony-s, #laboratories-and-scientific-equipment, #montana, #rocky-mountain-spotted-fever, #sars-severe-acute-respiratory-syndrome, #ticks-insects, #vaccination-and-immunization


Uber Eats customers have given $3 million in direct contributions to restaurants

Uber Eats customers have given $3 million in direct contributions to restaurants using a new feature on the app designed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The milestone caps off a related campaign by Uber Eats to match up to $3 million in contributions made by customers. Uber Eats is sending its $3 million in matched funds to the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Employee Relief Fund. The company had previously donated $2 million to RERF.

The matching campaign has ended. However, the restaurant contribution feature, which was first rolled out in New York and is now in 20 countries, will continue.

The restaurant contribution feature was developed by a team of engineers in a flurry of activity over about seven days, according to Therese Lim, who leads the restaurant product management team for Uber Eats.

“There was no executive who said ‘oh we need to build this feature, you all go build this now,” Lim said, adding that this was a grassroots effort prompted by the wave of restaurants that were forced to close regular dine-in eating due to the spread of COVID-19. Lim said Uber Eats users started reaching out to employees via LinkedIn, email and other means to ask how they could help restaurants.

“We started to see restaurants get impacted severely by this,” Lim said. “This was particularly true as the various states started implementing shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders.”

The team had two primary concerns — beyond the basic backend operations — about the feature. They didn’t want it to cannibalize the amount of tips that users gave delivery workers, nor did they want it to cause customers to buy less from restaurants.

The team started to roll out the feature in a small area within New York City on April 1 to make sure tipping of delivery workers wasn’t impacted. The feature launched April 3 across the entire city and then expanded over the next week to the rest of the United States. The contribution feature is now live on the Uber Eats in 20 countries.

“We didn’t want to introduce anything that actually hurts restaurants,” Lim said. “It was important to make sure we weren’t introducing  friction into the experience that would cause a user to become impatient or displeased with the outcomes and maybe not actually finish their order.”

Those concerns didn’t bear out, according to data compiled since the app feature launched. Customers not only tipped more, they were also frequent users of Uber Eats.

Users who made restaurant contributions tipped their couriers 30% to 50% more than orders without a contribution, according to Uber. About 15% of Uber Eats customers in the U.S. who made a restaurant contribution were repeat contributors.

Data also shows that early dinner time, around 6 p.m., was the most generous time period, according to Lim. Dinner time, between 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., was the most popular for contributions, making up 60% of contribution dollars.

And certain foods, namely international cuisine, encouraged more contributions from users. French, Ethiopian, Argentinian and Thai restaurants had the highest contribution rates, according to Uber.

Some states were more generous than others. The top five most generous states, by percentage of active Uber Eats users who made at least one contribution, were Washington, Vermont, Montana, Connecticut, and South Carolina.

#automotive, #connecticut, #montana, #online-food-ordering, #restaurant, #south-carolina, #tc, #uber, #uber-eats, #united-states, #washington


FEMA’s ‘Air Bridge’ to Coronavirus Hot Spots Leaves Other Regions on Their Own

The federal government’s system of directing medical supplies for the hardest-hit regions has left areas out of the spotlight scrambling to prepare as the outbreak spreads.

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You Can’t Go Anywhere, but Ads Still Promise Retreats

Property owners are trying to lure buyers and renters in the grip of cabin fever, but experts and state and local leaders say escaping anywhere is fraught with danger.

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