Stories

The IRE Resource Center is a major research library containing more than 27,000 investigative stories.

Most of our stories are not available for download but can be easily ordered by contacting the Resource Center directly at 573-882-3364 or [email protected] where a researcher can help you pinpoint what you need.

Search results for "technology" ...

  • Silicon Valley’s Hidden Figures

    Silicon Valley has a big diversity problem. But no one has been able to comprehensively quantify it until now. Some of the multibillion-dollar companies that fuel the global economy have sought to hide how few women and people of color they have in their organizations, refusing to release the data, claiming the information is a trade secret. We built the largest and most comprehensive database of diversity employment data for Silicon Valley available. Through a groundbreaking collaboration with a University of Massachusetts Amherst sociologist, we got Equal Employment Opportunity Council (EEOC) data for 177 of the largest tech companies through public records requests and a successful FOIA lawsuit. Through this data, we uncovered disparities and ranked companies based on their diversity scores. By establishing a baseline of comparative data, we were able to hold companies accountable for their diversity hiring practices for the first time. Because of our analysis, the public now knows some of the worst companies when it comes to diversity in Silicon Valley. But we also found that diversity is not an impossible goal to achieve for technology companies: some are doing much better than their peers.
  • Aggression Detectors: The Unproven, Invasive Surveillance Technology Schools Are Using to Monitor Students

    In response to mass shootings, some schools and hospitals have been installing devices equipped with machine learning algorithms that purport to identify stressed and angry voices before violence erupts. Our analysis found this technology unreliable. Our goal was to reverse-engineer the algorithm, so we could see for ourselves if it actually worked as the company advertised. (One salesperson suggested to us that the device could prevent the next school shooting.) We purchased the device and rewired its programming so we could feed it any sound clip of our choosing. We then played gigabytes of sound files for the algorithm and measured its prediction for each. After this preliminary testing, we ran several real-world experiments to test where the algorithm could be flawed. We recorded the voices of high school students in real-world situations, collected the algorithm's predictions and analyzed them.
  • WSJ: Big Tech's Hidden Costs

    Congress and federal regulators do very little to police Amazon, Facebook and other big technology platforms that dominate the global economy and modern life. The companies say it's not their responsibility to protect consumers from online hazards, due to carve-outs in federal law for digital platforms. The Wall Street Journal investigated the many ways tech companies are passing on that responsibility—and the potential risks—to unwitting consumers. The Journal's reporting stopped Facebook from collecting sensitive personal data including users' menstrual cycles and heart rates; alerted parents to the lack of vetting for prospective nannies with police records including child abuse, sexual assault and murder; and forced Amazon to remove thousands of federally banned and unsafe products including toys with dangerous levels of lead.
  • Artificial Unintelligence

    A guide to understanding the inner workings and outer limits of technology and why we should never assume that computers always get it right.
  • WRAL: Police and Google

    WRAL investigation finds that Raleigh police have been using Google to find suspects in crimes. They are not gathering information on specific individuals; they are using warrants to obtain information on every Google-equipped cell phone that was within a mile or two of a crime scene. The users have no way to know that their movements are being reviewed by police.
  • The Verge with The Investigative Fund: Palantir has Secretly Been Using New Orleans to Test Predictive Policing Technology

    For the past 6 years, the data-mining firm Palantir — co-founded by Peter Thiel — has used New Orleans as a testing ground for predictive policing, Ali Winston reported for the Verge, in partnership with The Investigative Fund. Palantir has lucrative contracts with the Pentagon, U.S. intelligence and foreign security services. The partnership with the NOPD was similar to the "heat list" in Chicago that purports to predict which people are likely drivers or victims of violence. Yet, not only did the program not go through a public procurement process, key city council members in New Orleans didn't even know it existed.
  • The Center for Public Integrity: Wireless Wars: The Fight Over 5G

    One of the largest deployments of wireless technology in decades is occurring as telecommunications companies erect a new network of small cells to support the next generation of wireless communications called 5G. The problem, however, brings these small cells into neighborhoods and business districts, unlike the larger towers seen along highways and in fields far from centers of population. And with it, resistance from citizens. The clash pits telecoms, which want to ease regulations to reduce costs, against local governments and their residents, who want to control the look and placement of the cells and defend revenue and public property rights. The Center reports on how the telecoms are relying on money and tried-and-true relationships with politicians and regulators to get their way. And they are winning.
  • PublicSource: Revelations of police technology problems spark FBI scrutiny, alleged retaliation and unfinished work

    For the first time, PublicSource reported how Pittsburgh's reform-minded police chief touched off an FBI investigation into how city employee's handled software contracts. Included were projects that were never implemented by 2018, though they were fully paid for five years earlier using federal funds. The federal investigation ended without any charges, but internal investigations in the city were ongoing. A former officer also claims he faced retaliation for reporting concerns about tech projects, specifically from one of the city's highest ranking public safety officials. He is currently suing the city over several of the same concerns first publicly reported in our stories. Our stories led directly to internal changes in city purchasing and increased scrutiny of purchasing by City Council.
  • Investigating Gun Tracing

    Investigative Units from NBC Bay Area and NBC10 Philadelphia combined forces to uncover flaws in the way federal, state and local agents trace firearms through a technology meant to connect crimes through ballistics testing. While the technology is promising the team discovered, for the first time, that political infighting and sometimes simple bureaucratic inertia prevented the technology from even being consistently used, leaving some communities vulnerable to gun violence that could otherwise have been prevented.
  • Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

    In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup "unicorn" promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood testing significantly faster and easier. Backed by investors such as Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at more than $9 billion, putting Holmes's worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: The technology didn't work. A riveting story of the biggest corporate fraud since Enron, a tale of ambition and hubris set amid the bold promises of Silicon Valley.