Afternoon Coffee: New unemployment claims soar; Payments firm Stripe ends deal with Trump campaign; Google addresses data privacy as it finalizes Fitbit acquisition

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The number of people filing for first-time unemployment claims soared last week to 965,000, the most since late August and evidence that the recent surge in coronavirus cases has led to a spike in layoffs, according to the Associated Press.

The Labor Department’s numbers released today remain at levels never seen before the pandemic struck. Before the crisis, weekly applications numbered around 225,000. In the spring, after nationwide shutdowns took effect, applications for jobless benefits spiked to nearly 7 million — 10 times the previous record high, the article said.

The high number of layoffs coincides with an economy that has faltered greatly while consumers avoid traveling, shopping and eating out as caseloads soar. In addition to the first-time applications for unemployment, the government also said that 5.3 million Americans are continuing to receive state jobless benefits, the AP reported.

Stripe won’t process payments for the Trump campaign anymore

Stripe Inc., a payments firm, will no longer process payments for President Trump’s campaign website following last week’s Capitol riots, according to the Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the move.

The Trump campaign website and fundraising apparatus used Stripe to handle card payments, as do million of other online businesses and e-commerce platforms. Sources familiar with the matter said Stripe wants to cut off the president's campaign account for policies related to encouraging violence, the article said.

Stripe’s agreements ask users to avoid payments for “high risk” activities, including for any business or organization that “engages in, encourages, promotes or celebrates unlawful violence or physical harm to persons or property,” the website said.

The company has previously disabled accounts in the wake of violent acts. Stripe is one of a number of companies that have cut ties with Trump since the riots, which left five people dead, the WSJ reported.

Google finalizes acquisition of Fitbit

Google announced today that it completed its acquisition of Fitbit, according to CNBC.

The deal was involved in a months-long probe into whether it could continue the push of Google’s market position in the online advertising business if it uses Fitbit data to help personalize ads, the article said. Google doesn’t have its own smartwatches or fitness trackers line, but it provides software that’s used by other companies to build smartwatches. The company said it will still allow Fitbit users to choose to connect to third-party services.

“This deal has always been about devices, not data, and we’ve been clear since the beginning that we will protect Fitbit users’ privacy,” Rick Osterloh, Google’s Senior Vice President of devices and services, said in a statement, CNBC reported.

“We worked with global regulators on an approach which safeguards consumers’ privacy expectations, including a series of binding commitments that confirm Fitbit users’ health and wellness data won’t be used for Google ads and this data will be separated from other Google ads data.”

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