Twitter Announces Support for Audio Creators, Bitcoin, NFTs

Twitter is buoying its creators, rolling out a global program to let fans tip content producers and preparing to launch its own creators fund. The Tips feature will initially be made available on iOS and then on Android in the weeks ahead. The news is part of a product slate Twitter says is aimed at improving community and conversations and will include NFT support. The creators fund supports audio on Twitter Spaces. Unlike TikTok, Facebook and YouTube, Twitter’s fund won’t pay top performers but will focus on educating audio creators on topics like monetization, marketing and technical skills. Continue reading Twitter Announces Support for Audio Creators, Bitcoin, NFTs

University of Chicago Debuts First U.S. Quantum Accelerator

The University of Chicago and partners launched the first U.S. program to support quantum-tech startups. University of Chicago physicist and molecular engineer professor David Awschalom, who helped create the Duality accelerator, said, “we are at the birth of a new field of technology … at the point where the transistor is being invented.” Chicago is home to three of the eight federally funded quantum research centers founded in 2020. The University of Toronto has also unveiled a program to support quantum-tech startups. Continue reading University of Chicago Debuts First U.S. Quantum Accelerator

PayPal, Visa Enable Streamlined Cryptocurrency Transactions

PayPal announced the launch of Checkout with Crypto, which allows customers to purchase certain items online via cryptocurrencies. The new feature is part of the company’s new unit focused on blockchain and crypto/digital currencies and adds to its current capability for customers to buy, sell and hold cryptocurrency. Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum and Bitcoin Cash are the cryptocurrencies accepted, which are processed with clear conversion rates and no additional fees but only one type of cryptocurrency is accepted for each purchase. Continue reading PayPal, Visa Enable Streamlined Cryptocurrency Transactions

Twitter to Launch Chat Alternative to Clubhouse Next Month

Twitter will debut Spaces, a rival to audio-chat app Clubhouse, in April according to a tweet in a public Twitter Space audio room by host Alex (@akkhosh). Twitter will also soon allow anyone to host a Twitter Spaces room. Twitter Spaces was released in beta on the Android platform late in 2020. The product will roll out for Android and iOS; Twitter is also considering support for using music and allowing tweeting in Spaces. In addition, Twitter is working on a Spaces “Tip Jar” to let users donate to content creators with donations. Continue reading Twitter to Launch Chat Alternative to Clubhouse Next Month

CES: Industry Experts Discuss the Cryptocurrency Landscape

Cryptocurrency entrepreneurs convened in early December to record The Cryptocurrency Landscape session that CES 2021 released today. Panelists discussed how Wyoming has established legal and regulatory protocols for Bitcoin to make cryptocurrency activities compatible with existing banking regulations. They also discussed how institutions and businesses are getting more comfortable with cryptocurrency investments, how online payment services such as PayPal and Venmo have added Bitcoin to their transaction options, and how cryptocurrency’s provable scarcity makes it more attractive to investors and the general public as countries issue more currency to prop up their economies during the COVID shutdown. Continue reading CES: Industry Experts Discuss the Cryptocurrency Landscape

Google Launches New Google Pay, Readies Banking Service

Google is relaunching its Google Pay digital wallet and online payment system for Android and iOS with a raft of new features including the ability to connect to the user’s bank account for a searchable overview of finances. The company also plans to partner with banks in 2021 to offer its Plex, an online checking and savings account within the app. This more fully-featured Google Pay can now serve as a direct competitor to Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, PayPal, Venmo and other apps and services, as well as an online bank such as Ally. Continue reading Google Launches New Google Pay, Readies Banking Service

ACLU Files Privacy Lawsuit Against Facial Recognition Startup

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a suit in Illinois against facial recognition startup Clearview AI over privacy and safety violations. It accused the company of breaking “the 2008 Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, that bans companies from using a resident’s fingerprints or face scans without consent” and allows a resident to sue such companies for $5,000 per violation. The New Jersey and Vermont state attorneys general ordered Clearview to cease collecting their residents’ photos, and people in New York and Vermont also filed suits. Continue reading ACLU Files Privacy Lawsuit Against Facial Recognition Startup

Snap’s Bitmoji TV Features Users’ Avatars in Short Videos

In Snapchat’s animated series Bitmoji TV, which launches February 1, the user’s avatar stars — and the last person he Snapchatted co-stars — in various TV scenarios, including sitcoms, soap operas and reality competitions. This first season will debut 10 three-to-four-minute episodes, unveiled on Saturday mornings. As Bitmoji founder/chief executive Ba Blackstock puts it, “we’re bringing back Saturday morning cartoons.” The series takes off from Bitmoji Stories, which stars the user’s avatar in funny situations. Continue reading Snap’s Bitmoji TV Features Users’ Avatars in Short Videos

Twitter Warns Clearview to Stop Scraping its Users’ Photos

Clearview AI has scraped over three billion photos from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Venmo and hundreds of other websites to create a facial recognition database now used by the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and over 600 law enforcement agencies. Twitter just sent a cease-and-decease letter to the startup demanding that it stop taking photos and other data from its site and to delete any data it has already collected. Twitter accused Clearview AI of violating its policies. Continue reading Twitter Warns Clearview to Stop Scraping its Users’ Photos

FBI and Law Enforcement Use New Facial Recognition Tool

A small startup named Clearview AI, led by Hoan Ton-That, created a facial recognition app that may exceed the scope of anything built by the U.S. government or Big Tech companies. Now in the hands of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and hundreds of other law enforcement agencies, the app allows the user to take a photo of a person, upload it and search a database of more than three billion images to find public photos of that person with links to where they appeared. Images have been scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and “millions of other websites.” Continue reading FBI and Law Enforcement Use New Facial Recognition Tool

Big Tech Firms Pursue Financial Services Despite Setbacks

When Walmart started a bank in the early 2000s, states passed laws to ban branches and Congress drafted a law to ban retailers from opening banks. Almost ten years later, Walmart threw in the towel, with its president for financial services Jane Thompson vowing the company would never try it again. That hasn’t stopped Google from announcing it will begin to offer checking accounts next year. Uber wants to open Uber Money, a bank for its drivers (and perhaps riders) and Facebook debuted Facebook Pay. Continue reading Big Tech Firms Pursue Financial Services Despite Setbacks

PayPal Monetizing Venmo, Which Now Has 40 Million Users

PayPal Holdings’ Q1 earnings report revealed that 40 million people used its digital money transfer service Venmo in the last year, making it one of the most popular financial apps in the United States. Venmo is also growing dramatically in overall volume with the total number of payments made on its platform skyrocketing 73 percent to $21.3 billion in Q1 2019. Most Venmo transactions are between two people, with the company swallowing the processing fee. But PayPal prizes the app since a younger, more active cohort favors it. Continue reading PayPal Monetizing Venmo, Which Now Has 40 Million Users

Cryptocurrencies to Launch Soon From Messaging Services

Facebook, Telegram and Signal plan to utilize their messaging services as platforms to launch new cryptocurrencies over the next year. Their virtual currencies will allow users to send money to contacts around the world via the messaging services. According to inside sources, Facebook has been secretly working on a coin for WhatsApp that users could “instantly” send to friends or family. Facebook’s WhatsApp project is developed to the point that the company is already in discussions with cryptocurrency exchanges. Continue reading Cryptocurrencies to Launch Soon From Messaging Services

Google Plans Undersea Cables to Ramp Up its Cloud Business

Google has revealed plans to build three underwater fiber-optic cables for ocean areas from the Pacific to the North Sea, in order to speed the transfer of data and catch up with Amazon and Microsoft. The new undersea cables are slated for completion by 2019 and will also allow Google to reroute data to servers around the globe to avoid an overloaded or failed region. Although the cables will cost a significant amount — “hundreds of millions of dollars” — Google believes the move is its only option to compete in cloud computing. Continue reading Google Plans Undersea Cables to Ramp Up its Cloud Business

WWDC: Apple Unveils Product Updates and New HomePod

Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference kicked off yesterday in San Jose, California. During his keynote, CEO Tim Cook noted that 5,300 developers from 75 countries were attending this year’s conference. Among the more noteworthy announcements, Apple shared information regarding its High Sierra macOS update; iOS 11 with improved Siri (including language translation), iMessage features, and Core ML to make machine learning easier; a new 10.5-inch iPad Pro (starting at $649, available next week); a beefed-up iMac Pro; a completely redesigned App Store; and an Echo-like smart speaker called HomePod (shipping in December for $349). Continue reading WWDC: Apple Unveils Product Updates and New HomePod