Things we are reading today - August 28th, 2023

The U.S. Treasury Department has proposed new rules to make cryptocurrency investors comply with tax law by requiring exchanges like Coinbase to report customer crypto sales to the IRS, similar to stock brokers. This would help prevent situations where the IRS views all sales as profit due to a lack of cost basis details. While the rules aim to simplify taxes, crypto traders still face challenges tracking transactions across platforms to determine actual capital gains. The long implementation timeline may see some tax revenue forgone in 2023-2024 as exchanges prepare reporting systems. Notably, the rules could also apply to decentralized finance platforms, though representatives expressed concern about regulating where intermediaries don’t exist.

Companies are increasingly asking customers to review and rate their products and services through online feedback forms. However, the requests have become excessive, as illustrated by the author receiving many requests in just a couple of weeks. The requests are also poorly timed, such as asking to rate an experience from days ago. Customers find the constant demands annoying and feel companies value their data more than their feedback. One person finally left a negative review just to stop the harassment. Others report being asked to review products they barely remember purchasing. Overall, online ratings have become less about quality improvement and more about collecting customer data.

Many prominent figures in the cryptocurrency industry got their start at Fidelity Investments, which became an early backer of Bitcoin in 2014. Fidelity encouraged blockchain experimentation and helped build a talent pipeline for the sector. However, some early employees eventually left for crypto startups as Fidelity grew cautious amid regulatory uncertainty. Figures like Alex Thorn and Juri Bulovic went on to establish influential companies like Galaxy Digital and Foundry after gaining experience with digital assets at Fidelity. While Fidelity could have become more like Coinbase, its traditional business model also prevented riskier moves. Still, Fidelity remains committed to cryptocurrency as a long-term strategic opportunity.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi sat down with WIRED to discuss Uber’s journey toward profitability after years of subsidized growth. While prices have risen significantly, Khosrowshahi believes the platform approach combining rides and delivery will set Uber apart. He acknowledged past safety issues but argued major improvements have been made, including introducing controversial new features like Uber for Teens. Khosrowshahi also discussed Uber’s climate goals, relationship with drivers as independent contractors versus employees, and vision to expand into all forms of transportation globally over time. Notably, he revealed taking an Uber driving shift himself in order to better understand drivers’ experiences on the platform.

Criminals have found a way to access sensitive personal data on most Americans through credit bureaus and data brokers, who sell “credit header” information. This includes names, addresses, relatives, and even Social Security numbers. For as little as $15, hackers are advertising this private data for sale on messaging apps to other criminals involved in violent activities like robbery and assault. The data originates from credit bureaus who share it widely, and it is nearly impossible for individuals to remove themselves from these databases or stop the flow of their personal information. Privacy advocates argue this practice should be regulated or banned by the CFPB. However, proposed new rules may not curb the criminal abuse uncovered, and full removal of personal data from the system remains exceedingly difficult.

Fast fashion has grown rapidly since the 1980s due to brands like Zara and H&M offering affordable styles, fueling a throwaway culture. This surge has come at huge environmental and social costs as clothes are used only briefly before being incinerated or dumped. The EU aims to reform the industry through legislation by 2030 to promote longer-lasting, recyclable clothing partly made of recycled materials. However, critics argue the proposals lack concrete measures and infrastructure is still lacking for widespread recycling. Methods to measure sustainability are also imperfect as supply chains are complex. Changing consumer behavior and mandatory targets for brands are seen as necessary to truly transform the fast fashion model and address its massive negative environmental footprint. The 2013 Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh underscored the dire conditions many garment workers face. If the EU is serious about cleaning up fast fashion, stricter laws requiring science-based targets may be needed.

Relations between India and China have become tense in recent years due to border clashes. While this has made trade difficult, India remains reliant on imports from China, especially of components and technologies needed for emerging industries. Over 87% of bilateral trade flows from China to India. However, India exports raw materials and agricultural goods to China. As a result, the trade balance is increasingly lopsided in China’s favor. Facing economic and strategic challenges, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is testing various policies to reduce India’s dependence on China and strengthen its domestic industries. If successful, this could help India extricate parts of its economy from its reliance on China over time.

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