Google TV will gain fitness tracker support, wireless audio features – Protocol

A closer integration with fitness trackers is part of the company’s goal to make TVs a key pillar of the Android ecosystem.
Making TVs more capable comes with increasing hardware and software requirements, leading Google to advise its partners to build more-capable devices.
Google wants TV viewers to get off the couch: The company is working on plans to closely integrate its Android TV platform with fitness trackers, which will allow developers to build interactive workout services for the living room.
Google representatives shared those plans at a closed-door partner event last month, where they painted them as part of the company’s “Better Together” efforts to build an ecosystem of closely integrated Android devices. As part of those efforts, Google is also looking to improve the way Android TV and Google TV devices work with third-party audio hardware. (Google launched Android TV as an Android-based smart TV platform in 2014; in 2020, it introduced Google TV as a more content-centric smart TV experience based on Android TV.)
Google declined to comment.
Television-makers have for some time looked at ways to extend the functionality of TV screens beyond video viewing, and the pandemic has only intensified consumer interest in at-home workouts, video chats and more. However, making TVs more capable also comes with increasing hardware and software requirements, leading Google to advise its partners to build more-capable devices.

Google’s fitness integration will eventually enable interactive video workouts, complete with the ability to directly watch one’s heart rate, burned calories and other real-time data from a Fitbit or Wear OS device on the TV screen. The company plans to roll out such capabilities in 2023 at the earliest, according to slides from the event a source shared with Protocol.

At that time, and throughout 2024, Google also plans to more closely integrate its Android TV platform with its smart home efforts, and for instance allow people to more easily access smart home controls and security cameras on their TV without interrupting their movie-viewing experience.
Other efforts will lead to more immediate results. Google is currently working on turning Nest speakers into wireless speakers for Google TV and Android TV devices, and the company also wants to bring support for this feature to third-party audio hardware.
Google is also actively working on bringing Fast Pair functionality to its own Pixel Buds, which will allow people to quickly pair wireless earbuds with their TV. These audio features could launch on Google TV devices later this year or early next year.
To make all of this work, Google is requiring device-makers to support Bluetooth 5.0 for Android TV or Google TV devices running Android 13. The company is also strongly encouraging its hardware partners to ship smart TVs and streaming devices that run Android 13 with 16 GB of memory to have more storage space for apps and system updates. The company’s own Chromecast with Google TV streaming adapter currently only comes with 8 GB of memory.
Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety’s first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.
Don’t know what to do this weekend? We’ve got you covered.
Spend the weekend in.
Nick Statt is Protocol’s video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at [email protected]
Fantasy fans can feast this weekend on the two biggest prequels in prestige TV: The third episode of HBO’s “House of the Dragon” airs Sunday, while Amazon’s two-episode premiere of LOTR prequel “Rings of Power” landed for U.S. Prime subscribers Thursday evening. After that, consider diving back into Naughty Dog’s PS5 remake of The Last of Us.
While HBO is riding high on the success of “House of the Dragon,” Amazon is trying its hand at the arguably even trickier task of reviving the high fantasy world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” in a new mass media format. The Warner Bros. film trilogy is one of the most beloved adaptations of all time, and the expectations for the “Rings of Power” TV series, which is set thousands of years before the films, are mixed, with many fans wondering if it might flop without strong enough threads tying it back to Frodo Baggins and crew. But early reviews are positive, and Amazon spent a staggering $715 million on the series’ licensing rights and first-season budget. Let’s hope it was money well spent.
Despite what the internet may tell you about the lasting legacy of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” the worldbuilding of author George R.R. Martin remains unrivaled, and the engrossing political drama on “House of the Dragon” is yet more proof. The prequel series, adapted from Martin’s “Fire & Blood” and focused on the Targaryen war of succession, premiered to a record 10 million viewers in its first episode last month, while last week’s follow-up actually increased the show’s viewership to 10.2 million. A second season has already been ordered, and it’s clear why: The world of Westeros is rich in lore, and “House of the Dragon” is so far doing a great job of teasing it out in new and unique ways.
The success of the free-to-play business model has become a central narrative in the trajectory of the game industry and in particular the explosive growth of mobile gaming. But it’s not all meteoric rises and massive revenue gains. A new report at The Verge examines the unfortunate aftermath of free-to-play hits shutting down in the wake of Nintendo’s planned shuttering of Dragalia Lost. With single-player titles, you can always revisit them, but when free-to-play games get shut down, they’re gone for good — taking players’ hard-earned progress and paid-for cosmetics with them.
The video game industry’s tried-and-true practice of repackaging old products and marketing them with nostalgia is out in full force with Friday’s release of The Last of Us Part I. It’s a remake of a 9-year-old game, which already has its own remastered version, with a retail price of $70. The title, released as a kind of swan song to the PS3 back in 2013, is heralded as one of the best single-player narrative games of all time. But it’s also an open question of whether it justifies its own cost.
The new remake, which builds on the 2014 remaster of the game with a major visual overhaul for the PS5 and other small tweaks and changes, is certainly aimed at diehard fans. That makes it hard to recommend, especially without the multiplayer component of the original. That is unless you never played the original. If this would be your first time taking the reins of Joel and Ellie in their post-apocalyptic zombie adventure, it’s definitely worth the steep price tag. For everyone else, perhaps it’s best waiting until the game hits PlayStation Plus at some point in the future.
A version of this story also appeared in today’s Entertainment newsletter; subscribe here.
Nick Statt is Protocol’s video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at [email protected]
If you thought the rise of remote work, independent contractors and contingent workers rose sharply during the pandemic, just wait until the next few months when you see a higher uptick in the on-demand talent economy.
Rising workload and pace, the stress of commuting and a taste of the flexible work-from-anywhere lifestyle have all contributed to what many are calling the Great Resignation, which is only just the beginning of the headwinds organizations are facing, says Tim Sanders, vice president of client strategy at Upwork, a marketplace that connects businesses with independent professionals and agencies around the globe.
“It began with front-line workers, but it’s not going to end there,” Sanders notes, “Recent data suggests that the biggest industries for quits are now software and professional services and on top of that, I predict that we’ll see more leaders and managers continuing to quit their jobs.”
As the economy leans toward a recession, and layoffs across dozens of tech firms make headlines, Sanders predicts companies will increasingly turn to on-demand talent. “These highly skilled independent contractors and professionals offer the speed, flexibility and agility companies are seeking right now. Leaders are becoming more empowered to fully embrace a hybrid workforce and shift away from rigid models.”

Leaning into headwinds: Driving growth amid uncertainty
A recent report from Upwork, The Adaptive Enterprise, underscores the importance of flexible on-demand talent during uncertain times. Sanders notes: “A growing number of organizations, including Upwork and customers like Microsoft, Airbnb and Nasdaq understand that on-demand talent enables companies to reduce risk, drive cost savings, and at the same time, protect their people from burnout. Flexible workforce models also allow businesses to respond to and recover faster from crises than more traditional models.”
Some crises come in the form of economic slowdowns, while others can take the shape of geopolitical conflicts that disrupt life and work as we know it. Mitigating risk — such as a pandemic wave striking a certain region housing the majority of a company’s staff — is one reason businesses turn to on-demand talent, but it’s certainly not the only one.
CEOs surveyed by Deloitte in 2022 see talent shortages as the biggest threat to their growth plans. The survey goes on to report that CEOs believe that talent is the top disruptor to their supply chain and there is more to be gained within their workforce by providing greater flexibility (83% in agreement) as opposed to merely offering more financial-related incentives. What is top of mind for many business leaders is needing to fill talent and skills gaps, so they can deliver new products and enhanced services. In other words, companies are struggling to find the specific skill sets needed to advance their business objectives and innovation agendas.
The biggest benefit of leveraging on-demand talent is often tapping into the talent and skills that businesses can’t find elsewhere. Upwork’s recent report highlights that 53% of on-demand talent provide skills that are in short supply for many companies, including IT, marketing, computer programming and business consulting.

By harnessing a global talent pool from digital marketplaces like Upwork, businesses have wider access to skilled talent who can accelerate what those companies offer to customers at a fraction of the cost. “Skillsourcing” on-demand talent helps companies maintain a more compact population of full-time employees to concentrate on work that only they can do as well as maximize their strengths while bringing in independent professionals to handle the rest.
Behind the growth: Speed, flexibility and agility
Speed, flexibility and agility are three critical benefits offered by on-demand talent to businesses seeking competitive advantages in their sector. While on-demand talent solutions give companies speed-to-market advantages, Sanders sees that they also give organizations a strategic form of flexibility.
“An agile organization is able to make bold and quick moves without breaking everything,” Sanders says, “and look at a number of our Fortune 100 customers that have a workforce made up of almost half on-demand talent, and how they can pivot on a dime. It’s a case of structure enabling strategy.”
As for speed and efficiency doing the actual work, Sanders says clients report that when hiring managers have been given access to on-demand talent, they engage the needed talent within days instead of months, and when they bring them onto projects, the work is completed up to 50% faster than through traditional avenues.
Sanders says, “Businesses have realized that remote work experiences are best led and judged by outcomes, not just time in the office, and more leaders are comfortable and confident opting for a hybrid workforce that can deliver based on those outcomes.”
Upwork’s Labor Market Trends and Insights page shows that organizations are indeed ramping up their hybrid workforces: 60% of businesses surveyed said they plan to use more on-demand talent in the next two years.
“The old way of acquiring talent isn’t efficient,” Sanders says. “Staffing firms aren’t the silver-bullet solution they once were, and more businesses need to rethink and redesign their workforce with on-demand talent as the economy and work rapidly evolve. The conversation is no longer about the future of work, but the future of winning.”

Two bills passed in California would protect data related to gender-affirming care for out-of-state minors and those who access abortion care in the state. And they could be the first of many.
States like California are passing laws that would make them data sanctuaries.
Kwasi (kway-see) is a fellow at Protocol with an interest in tech policy and climate. Previously, he covered global religion news at the Associated Press in New York. Before that, he was a freelance journalist based out of Accra, Ghana, covering social justice, health, and environment stories. His reporting has been published in The New York Times, Quartz, CNN, The Guardian, and Public Radio International. He can be reached at [email protected]
As states across the country introduce bills that would restrict gender-affirming care for trans youths and limit access to abortion services, lawmakers in California and other Democratic states are moving to turn their regions into what some are referring to as “data sanctuaries,” which protect the private information of people traveling out of state for care.
This week, California’s legislature passed SB 107, a bill that would prohibit health care providers, law enforcement and courts in California from aiding in another state’s investigation related to a minor receiving gender-affirming care in California. That bill is now headed to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk. A separate bill introduced by assemblymember Mia Bonta, which was also passed by the legislature, would shield people who traveled to California for abortion services from having their medical records shared with states and third parties looking to enforce out-of-state abortion bans.
Through these bills, California lawmakers are hoping to do for trans and reproductive rights what other sanctuary city and state policies have done for immigrant rights. The legislation could help cut off at least some of the digital trails that civil liberties and privacy advocates fear could be used against trans youths and people seeking abortions.

“What is happening now is there are a series of red states — Texas, Alabama, others — that are trying to criminalize parents for allowing their trans children to receive gender-affirming care,” state Sen. Scott Wiener, who co-sponsored SB 107, told Protocol. “This bill is a response to those vile laws.”
Recent laws in states such as Arkansas have attempted to ban gender-affirming health care for minors, and in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has issued an order calling on the public to report parents who allow their children to receive gender-affirming care. The Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade has also unleashed a flood of restrictive abortion laws across the country.
Residents in those states now have to look to nearby states where abortion and trans rights are protected to gain access to care. But without protections, the data they leave behind could be used to prosecute them when they return home.
“We know that parents are crossing borders with their kids. It is, I think, only a matter of time until the anti-trans investigators are looking into the movement of kids over state lines and turning to data that is in the pro-trans states,” said Adam Schwartz, a senior lawyer at Electronic Frontier Foundation, who recently wrote in support of more states becoming data sanctuaries for trans kids.
According to a March 2022 report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, “more than 58,000 transgender youth and young adults across 15 states are in jeopardy of losing access to gender-affirming care.”
SB 107 would make it a lot harder for other states to investigate instances of minors receiving gender-affirming care in California. It would prohibit compliance with out-of-state subpoenas that seek data to enforce state laws banning gender-affirming care of minors. It would also prohibit law enforcement from cooperating with the enforcement of out-of-state laws that prohibit this kind of care.

Since the bill was introduced, 19 other states have proposed similar so-called “trans refuge state” bills, according to Wiener’s office.
While federal laws such as HIPAA do protect the handling and disclosure of sensitive health information, not all local officials are covered under that regulation, and some aspects of a person’s information — such as the license plates of the car they drove to a clinic — are not protected and could be obtained with a subpoena or warrant.
The California bills are intended to have a similar effect as those enacted by Democrat-led cities and states to protect undocumented immigrants in the past. According to a 2020 study, those sanctuary policies have been effective at “reducing deportations of people with no criminal convictions by half — without affecting deportations of people with violent convictions.”
Of course, there are other ways that anti-trans states could go about getting the data they are seeking without implicating the California law enforcement agencies, courts or health care providers targeted in the bill. Data brokers sell sensitive data readily. Meanwhile, platforms such as Facebook could always share data voluntarily when asked, though Facebook’s stated policies generally suggest it would only do so in response to a law enforcement request or in emergency situations.
Still, supporters of the bill including Wiener concede this is something of a loophole, and are willing to see amendments. “If Apple or Facebook or anyone else thinks that we need to make any tweaks to it to make it more expansive, we are happy to have that conversation,” Wiener said.
Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, reproductive rights groups have also called on tech companies to do more to protect the data of people seeking abortions. Recently, authorities in Nebraska have used private Facebook messages to prosecute a mother and daughter in connection with an abortion. (Facebook said the law enforcement request for the data made no mention of abortion.)
For Schwartz, shielding information held by social media companies would be a crucial next step toward greater data protection. “There is a lot of hard work to be done to figure out how to be a data sanctuary,” Schwartz said. “There are a million cracks in the dike, and people are just beginning to figure out how to fill them.”

Kwasi (kway-see) is a fellow at Protocol with an interest in tech policy and climate. Previously, he covered global religion news at the Associated Press in New York. Before that, he was a freelance journalist based out of Accra, Ghana, covering social justice, health, and environment stories. His reporting has been published in The New York Times, Quartz, CNN, The Guardian, and Public Radio International. He can be reached at [email protected]
The CMA says it is “concerned” that the acquisition could “substantially lessen competition” in gaming consoles, subscription services and cloud gaming.
The U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority is pressing Microsoft on the Activision deal, all but ensuring a more in-depth regulatory review will be required.
Nick Statt is Protocol’s video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at [email protected]
Microsoft is now contending with increased pressure from U.K. regulators over its proposed acquisition of game publisher Activision Blizzard. On Thursday, the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority said it had “concerns” over the deal and would proceed with a second and extended period of regulatory review if Microsoft did not address the issues within five business days.
The tight time window all but ensures the so-called Phase 2 review will likely commence, which may involve deeper negotiations with the CMA over a period of many months that could prevent the deal from closing until well into 2023. Microsoft originally set a final deadline of June 2023 for the deal to pass, and the company is still working with both the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the European Union’s European Commission, the other two major regulatory bodies that could reasonably hold up or even doom the deal entirely.
“The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is concerned that Microsoft’s anticipated purchase of Activision Blizzard could substantially lessen competition in gaming consoles, multi-game subscription services, and cloud gaming services (game streaming),” the CMA wrote in a statement. The agency went on to say that it’s concerned that if “Microsoft buys Activision Blizzard it could harm rivals, including recent and future entrants into gaming, by refusing them access to Activision Blizzard games or providing access on much worse terms.”

Sorcha O’Carroll, the CMA’s senior director of mergers, said in a statement, “We are concerned that Microsoft could use its control over popular games like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft post-merger to harm rivals, including recent and future rivals in multi-game subscription services and cloud gaming.”
Microsoft has already released a blog post in response that outlines its position on the deal and tries to assuage concerns around Call of Duty and other thorny parts of the proposed acquisition. The post, penned by Microsoft Gaming CEO and Xbox chief Phil Spencer, echoes familiar statements company executives have made over the past nine months, including a commitment to keep Activision’s Call of Duty franchise available to PlayStation players.
“We’ve heard that this deal might take franchises like Call of Duty away from the places where people currently play them. That’s why, as we’ve said before, we are committed to making the same version of Call of Duty available on PlayStation on the same day the game launches elsewhere,” Spencer said. “We will continue to enable people to play with each other across platforms and across devices. We know players benefit from this approach because we’ve done it with Minecraft, which continues to be available on multiple platforms and has expanded to even more since Mojang joined Microsoft in 2014.”
Spencer’s post also goes to great lengths to outline exactly why Microsoft sees the Activision acquisition as a vital way to grow its consumer base beyond the console audience. “While we love consoles, we recognize that they are not the only way that people play games. Today, the largest and fastest growing segment of gaming is mobile platforms. To reach the billions of players where they are and no matter what device they play on, we need to embrace choice,” Spencer wrote. “We are expanding choice in two ways: through the creation of Game Pass, which gives players a subscription option; and by bringing more games to mobile platforms, including through our cloud game streaming technology.”

Spencer said the Activision deal includes not only big console and PC franchises like Diablo and Overwatch in addition to Call of Duty, but also mobile expertise in the form of Candy Crush maker King. Combined, the deal would allow Microsoft to grow its cloud gaming initiative to bring console games to smartphones and other screens while also developing more mobile-first titles to compete in the mobile gaming market. (Sony on Monday announced it had acquired its first mobile gaming studio to develop new PlayStation titles for smartphones.)
“This promises to open up mobile gaming, creating new distribution opportunities for game developers outside of mobile app stores while delivering compelling and immersive experiences for players by using the power of the cloud,” Spencer said. “And we can extend the joy of playing to devices that people already own, including Smart TVs and laptops.”
Nick Statt is Protocol’s video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at [email protected]
Three months after most of its AI ethics board resigned, the Taser maker is continuing talks with educators and launching a new ethics and equity council.
“Even though it’s a controversial idea, we find that people become more supportive the more they learn about it, the more they think about it,” CEO Rick Smith told Protocol.
Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol’s chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol’s fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University’s Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.
Rick Smith admits there’s plenty he could have done differently back in June, when, in the days after the Uvalde massacre, he announced that his company, Axon, would begin developing Taser-equipped drones for schools — an announcement that prompted nine members of Axon’s AI ethics board to loudly resign in protest.
Smith could have consulted more with Axon’s in-house community impact team, the staffers whose very job is to think through how the company’s products might adversely affect marginalized groups. He could have taken the idea to Axon’s community advisory coalition, the group of outside activists Axon enlisted in 2021 to think about how its technology impacts racial justice and equity. He could have done a lot more research on the education system, which would be an entirely new market for Axon, before announcing such a radical intervention.
“In hindsight, it would have been better,” Smith said during an interview with Protocol. “But of course, part of the reason why hindsight is pretty good is because I now have the benefit of seeing what happened.”

Within a week of his initial announcement, Smith said Axon was “pausing” the project, citing “public concerns.” But while the rollout may have crashed and burned, Axon’s ambitions for Taser drones are still very much alive.
Active development on the project remains on hold, but over the last three months, Axon has been measuring public support for Taser drones and other school safety concepts and has fielded interest about the idea from law enforcement agencies, lawmakers at the state and federal level and even architectural firms that work with schools. This week, Smith said he’s holding his first roundtable with school principals and teachers to further explore the concept of Taser drones and other technologies.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work on public acceptance,” Smith said. “Even though it’s a controversial idea, we find that people become more supportive the more they learn about it, the more they think about it.”
That did not appear to be the case, of course, with members of Axon’s AI ethics board. Before Smith’s announcement in June, the 13-member board, which consisted of leading academics in the field of privacy and policing, had spent about a year vetting a proposal by Axon to launch a Taser drone pilot program with law enforcement. Ultimately the board voted against that proposal, only to be blindsided by Smith’s announcement weeks later suggesting that these drones were being developed for schools.
“Even though it’s a controversial idea, we find that people become more supportive the more they learn about it, the more they think about it.”
“We were told and given two days to react to something very different than something that we had reacted to. And we already said no to it,” Danielle Citron, a law professor at the University of Virginia who later resigned from the ethics board, told Protocol in June. “It scares the living daylights out of a lot of us.”
Smith’s goal had been to propose a less lethal alternative to arming teachers or placing armed guards in schools, an idea being floated and even implemented in schools across the country. He believed Axon had a limited window to be part of the national conversation. “I had to make a decision at that time: Do we hold off and go do all of our homework and potentially see public entities and state legislatures making decisions without the benefit of our idea at least being out there in the public conversation?” Smith said. “I made the decision to put the idea out there without having first done the homework.”

The decision backfired. The drone idea and subsequent board resignations sparked a public outcry, about not just the increased weaponization of schools but also the overall efficacy of corporate ethics boards in general.
Smith said the resignations were his “greatest disappointment,” but not because he regrets acting against the board’s advice. “We talked with the board about the fact that they were not a voting board that was going to vote to approve policy,” Smith said. “I was perhaps naively proud of the fact that we were going to have a public disagreement with the members of our ethics board, which to me was really showing this isn’t just theater or a rubber stamp.”
But Axon wound up sending the opposite message: that the company had made a big show of gathering some of the country’s foremost experts on AI ethics, then ignored their warnings when it mattered most. As one Redditor put it in a lengthy AMA session Smith held during the height of the fallout, “What is the point of an ethics board when you feel you are better equipped to decide what is and what isn’t good for society, and thus view their guidance as mere suggestion?”
It wasn’t just the ethics board that felt sidelined by Smith’s announcement. A year earlier, Axon launched its community advisory coalition, which was supposed to represent the communities most impacted by law enforcement and the justice system. “Our immediate response was, ‘Where is the community perspective?’” said Wilneida Negrón, co-founder of the nonprofit Startups and Society Initiative and a member of the coalition. “We have community leaders that work in schools and have other community expertise that could have weighed in on the implications of using drones to stop school shootings.”

Axon CEO Rick Smith and Regina Holloway, Axonu2019s vice president of community impact and relations “What we’re trying to do is build a muscle of racial equity in our products,” said Regina Holloway, Axon’s vice president of community impact and relations, who is managing the relationship between the council and the company. Photos: Axon
If he has any regrets, Smith said failing to tap into that expertise is one, and he plans to ensure it doesn’t happen again. The company is now announcing a new advisory body called the Ethics and Equity Advisory Council, an 11-member group that will replace the old ethics and community boards and includes a cross section of academics as well as community organizers and activists. Members of this committee, most of whom served on the previous community coalition, will work directly with Axon developers early in the design process, holding quarterly trainings on what it means to build products with equity in mind. They’ll also have joint sessions with Axon’s corporate board to discuss concerns about the company’s product pipeline and will have a designated liaison on the product team.
“What we’re trying to do is build a muscle of racial equity in our products,” said Regina Holloway, Axon’s vice president of community impact and relations, who is managing the relationship between the council and the company. Holloway, a former senior program manager at NYU’s Policing Project, joined Axon in 2020 to focus on the unintended consequences of Axon’s work.
Despite Holloway’s job description, Smith said he didn’t consult much with her team about the Taser drone project prior to the announcement. Still, Holloway said, walking away from the company in the aftermath of the drone announcement wasn’t an option for her. “It could be seen as a question of privilege that you could end the dialogue,” Holloway said. “I can’t quit this work, because I have four Black children and two Black sons.”
Holloway said she’s confident now that the company will do more to bring community feedback into the decision making process earlier “not because of what publicly went on, but because of the relationship that we’re cultivating.”

Members of the new advisory group also said the last few months had strengthened their position within Axon. “This was a chance for us to get still, to further refine our role in the organization and to work collectively and honestly to advocate, challenge and advance new ideas that keep communities safe,” said Desmond Patton, a professor at the Columbia School of Social Work.
“I can’t quit this work, because I have four Black children and two Black sons.”
For now, Smith said the Taser drone work is still in a research phase. “We’re going to talk to school administrators and see what the real reactions and concerns will be, what safeguards there would need to be,” he said.
Still, there’s no guarantee those consultations with educators or community members will allay fears about the use of Taser drones and other surveillance technology in schools or the disproportionate impact that technology could have on Black and brown kids. And Smith still isn’t making any promises that the new advisory council will have final say on that or any other product Axon pursues. “The commitment I’ve made and am making to the board is that we will discuss these concepts with them early, make sure that we understand their feedback and that we’ll have those discussions well before there’s any public announcements,” Smith said. “But I can’t guarantee that we’re all going to agree all the time.”
Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol’s chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol’s fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University’s Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.
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