Many of the 25 technology firms and other organizations in attendance, which included Comcast, Verizon, BlackBerry and Google, among others, certainly let top tech policy debates in Washington color their presentations.
Google devoted its table entirely to YouTube. A product called Content ID allows content creators, such as movie or music studios, to screen the Web site for their material and determine how to handle potential copyright infringement.
For example, an audio clip that is less than 45 seconds might be deemed OK while an entire three-minute song gets yanked from the site. The point, said Google staffer Malik Ducard, is that the content owner keeps control.
“It’s a way of really controlling engagement around [intellectual property] and how the content lives on YouTube,” said Ducard, who previously worked for Paramount Pictures. “It’s shining a bright light on how the worlds can live together.”
Control of content has been a point of contention as lawmakers consider Internet piracy legislation, a vote on which was shelved after the Jan. 18 protests. Many Web firms want to maintain the Internet’s open nature while content providers say their copyright protections are being undermined.
Privacy is also front-of-mind on Capitol Hill. Concerns about consumer protections were renewed last week after Google announced plans to track users’ online habits across many of its products without allowing them to opt out.
At last week’s reception, Facebook was guiding lawmakers and their staff members through its online privacy settings that tell the social network’s members what information the company collects, how the company plans to use it and whether they can opt out.
“They’re a good source of information to keep folks up to date on anything they might want to know,” said Andrew Noyes, Facebook’s manager of public policy communications. “Obviously people are interested in how they [can] keep control of their information.”
Wedged right in the middle of the policy battles — literally — is Popvox. The local start-up serves as a digital intermediary between members of Congress and their constituents with a Web site and iPad app where each can read proposed legislation and voice their opinion.
“Regardless of whether you are a supporter or opposer, it was interesting to see that level of constituent activism,” co-founder Rachna Choudhry said of the Internet piracy debate. But it’s not the only issue garnering attention.
“Every week there is a hot bill,” she said.
A fat wallet
HelloWallet deposited $12 million in growth capital from investors into its bank account last week as the District-based upstart prepares to bulk up its sales staff and launch its first marketing campaign.
The company built a software that allows people of average wealth to set financial goals and provides guidance on how to make them a reality. It sells the software to large employers who in turn make it available to workers as a perk.
This is the second round of funding for the year-and-a-half old company, which founder Matt Fellowes conceived as a way to bring financial services to those who typically can’t afford it. The company has sold more than 300,000 subscriptions since the middle of last year.
Chicago-based investment research firm Morningstar led the round with $6.75 million, followed by Chevy Chase-based TD Fund with $4 million. Other new and existing financiers made up the difference.
“Morningstar is going to allow us to grow at a faster rate than we ever imagined,” Fellowes said. “We really feel like we took a big step forward in realizing our dream of democratizing access to independent advice.”