U.S. and Five European Nations Strike Deal on Digital Taxes

An international move to eliminate digital-service taxes has gained momentum on news of an agreement between the U.S. and five European countries with whom it was polarized in its fight to retire the digital tax. Such taxes affect Big Tech companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. In all, 136 countries agreed to retool international corporate taxation at last week’s Fourth G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting in Washington, D.C. The deal immediately bans adding any new digital taxes, although the timing to implement reversal of existing taxes remains unclear. Continue reading U.S. and Five European Nations Strike Deal on Digital Taxes

PayPal Launches Super App for Consumer Financial Services

PayPal has begun rolling out its new app, designed as a one-stop financial services tool capable of handling everything from direct deposit and automatic payments to peer-to-peer transactions, shopping and crypto capabilities. In addition, the company has announced PayPal Savings, offering high-yield accounts in partnership with Synchrony Bank. Shifting paychecks to PayPal is seen as a big step that can centralize consumer financial chores through the service, making it competitive with neobanks like Chime and Varo. PayPal now links to 17,000 billers including utilities and credit card firms. Continue reading PayPal Launches Super App for Consumer Financial Services

El Salvador First Country to Make Bitcoin a National Currency

Amidst political turmoil and economic struggle, El Salvador has announced it is adopting Bitcoin as its national currency, becoming the first country in the world to do so. But things got off to a rough start this week as the Bitcoin e-wallet went offline for several hours as consumer download demand overwhelmed government servers. El Salvador President Nayib Bukele said the country will spend more than $225 million to launch Bitcoin. Global Bitcoin enthusiasts supported the initiative by buying $30 of Bitcoin, but that didn’t prevent the currency from declining 9.9 percent Tuesday evening. Continue reading El Salvador First Country to Make Bitcoin a National Currency

Money Management Firms Surpass VCs in Funding Startups

In Q2 of this year, large money-management companies including hedge funds, mutual funds, pensions and sovereign-wealth groups became bigger players in Silicon Valley than venture capitalists with regard to startups. According to PitchBook Data, these nontraditional funders took part in 42 percent of startup financing deals, forming more than 75 percent of the invested capital. PitchBook added that, in the first half of 2021, investment in U.S. startups reached $150 billion, more than funding in every year prior to 2020. Continue reading Money Management Firms Surpass VCs in Funding Startups

Square Will Purchase Afterpay Credit Company for $29 Billion

Square announced it will acquire Australia-based financial tech company Afterpay in an all-stock deal worth about $29 billion, with Square chief executive Jack Dorsey stating that the two companies “have a shared purpose.” Afterpay appeals to a younger demographic that mistrusts traditional credit companies; its technology lets a consumer pay for goods in four interest-free installments and receive the goods immediately. Customers only pay a fee if they miss an automated payment, which also locks their account until the balance is repaid. Continue reading Square Will Purchase Afterpay Credit Company for $29 Billion

U.S. Brokers Global Minimum Tax with Support of 130 Nations

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen revealed that 130 nations have agreed to a global minimum tax (GMT) on corporations as part of a larger agreement to update international tax rules. The Biden administration has urged that the rate be at least 15 percent, but Yellen has yet to announce an agreed-upon rate. The agreement — intended to end the practice of global corporations moving their headquarters to low-tax international jurisdictions — is a “key element” of Biden’s domestic plans for revenue and spending. Continue reading U.S. Brokers Global Minimum Tax with Support of 130 Nations

Warrant Deals Can Result in Amazon Buying Stock in Vendors

According to corporate filings and information from sources, Amazon has inked “at least a dozen deals” in which publicly traded companies win Amazon as a client for their goods in exchange for so-called warrants, which allows the Big Tech company to buy stock at potentially below-market prices. Over the last 10 years, Amazon has struck 75+ such deals with privately held companies, said one source. Amazon’s stakes in these deals equal “billions of dollars,” in businesses that range from call centers to natural gas providers. Continue reading Warrant Deals Can Result in Amazon Buying Stock in Vendors

European Union Plans Framework for Secure Digital Identities

The European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, announced a proposal yesterday to create a European Digital Identity system that would “be available to all EU citizens, residents and businesses in the EU.” The goal is to enable citizens who are interested “to prove their identity and share electronic documents from their European Digital Identity wallets with the click of a button on their phone.” In addition, these citizens would “be able to access online services with their national digital identification,” that would be recognized throughout European Union’s Member States. Continue reading European Union Plans Framework for Secure Digital Identities

EU Releases Its Draft Policy to Regulate Artificial Intelligence

The European Union issued a 108-page policy that establishes rules to govern the use of artificial intelligence, setting limits on its use in everything from bank lending and school enrollment to self-driving cars and hiring decisions. Use of artificial intelligence by law enforcement and court systems, considered “high risk” because of the potential to threaten safety and fundamental rights, is also regulated. Live facial recognition in public spaces would be banned except in cases of national security “and other purposes.” Continue reading EU Releases Its Draft Policy to Regulate Artificial Intelligence

Coinbase Becomes First Cryptocurrency Startup to Go Public

Startup Coinbase, a secure exchange platform that helps people purchase, sell and store cryptocurrencies, has become the first such startup to go public. Shares traded at $381 each, up 52 percent from a reference price of $250, and eventually closed at $328.28, for a company valuation of $85.7 billion, ten times higher than its last private valuation. The San Francisco-based company’s IPO is a landmark for long-time crypto advocates. In its wake, Bitcoin’s value soared to $64,829 and Ether traded at a record-high of $2,487 (which also followed news about upgrades to the Ethereum network). Continue reading Coinbase Becomes First Cryptocurrency Startup to Go Public

Nasdaq, Intel Team on Homomorphic Encryption in the Cloud

Nasdaq and Intel have partnered to advance homomorphic encryption (HE), which allows AI and machine learning computations on data without having to decrypt it. Nasdaq will adopt HE to be used with Intel’s latest processors. Intel is also exploring the encryption technology with the Defense Department’s DARPA. Nasdaq’s exploration of HE in a business setting is aimed to lead to tools that can focus on preventing fraud and money laundering. Healthcare is another field that is expected to benefit from HE. Continue reading Nasdaq, Intel Team on Homomorphic Encryption in the Cloud

IBM Debuts Advanced Encryption Service After Years of R&D

As data moves to the cloud, security has become increasingly important. Fully homomorphic encryption (FHE) has been developed in labs and is nearly ready to emerge to enable artificial intelligence and machine learning use cases for that data. Microsoft and Intel have been proponents of homomorphic encryption, which follows the data across systems. In December, IBM released its first FHE services, which include educational materials, prototyping environments for companies that want to experiment and support. Continue reading IBM Debuts Advanced Encryption Service After Years of R&D

Fidelity Reveals It Will Launch Bitcoin Exchange-Traded Fund

Fidelity Investments plans to launch the Wise Origin Bitcoin Trust, an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that tracks the price of Bitcoin via the Fidelity Bitcoin Index. Fidelity Digital Assets will store Wise Origin’s holdings. The Securities and Exchange Commission, which blocked nine applications for Bitcoin ETFs in 2018, must approve the plan. Fidelity Investments chief executive Abigail Johnson has long advocated the market potential of cryptocurrencies, and Fidelity was one of the first big financial firms to embrace them as an asset class. Continue reading Fidelity Reveals It Will Launch Bitcoin Exchange-Traded Fund

Square Acquires Majority Stake in Jay-Z’s Tidal Music Service

Digital payment firm Square is spending $297 million in cash and stock for a majority share of the subscription-based Tidal streaming music service. Tidal owner Jay-Z, born Shawn Carter, will join Square’s board. Now, musicians on Tidal will be able to use Square’s Cash App payment service to digitally store and transfer money. Square hardware lead Jesse Dorogusker, who will temporarily lead Tidal, said, “we’re interested in a 360-degree view of artists as small-business owners,” noting live performances, merchandise and collaborations. Continue reading Square Acquires Majority Stake in Jay-Z’s Tidal Music Service

GPT-3: New Applications Developed for OpenAI’s NLP Model

OpenAI’s natural language processing (NLP) model GPT-3 offers 175 billion parameters, compared with its predecessor, GPT-2’s mere 1.5 billion parameters. The result of GPT-3’s immense size has enabled it to generate human-like text based on only a few examples of a task. Now, many users have gained access to the API, and the result has been some interesting use cases and applications. But the ecosystem is still nascent and how it matures — or whether it’s superseded by another NLP model — remains to be seen. Continue reading GPT-3: New Applications Developed for OpenAI’s NLP Model