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Facebook to Launch Its Own Cryptocurrency Called Libra in 2020

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  • Facebook announced its plan for a new cryptocurrency called Libra on Tuesday, explaining in detail why it will be different from other cryptocurrencies.
  • The social media giant not only helped fund the technology, but also created an independent company that will act as the wallet for Libra.
  • With Facebook’s recent privacy and security issues, people are concerned about trusting the company with their financial information.  

Facebook Announces Libra

Facebook announced on Tuesday its plan to launch a new cryptocurrency called Libra, hoping to create what they call “the internet of money”, despite high public distrust in the company over privacy and security issues.  

Libra, the statement explains, is expected to launch in 2020 and will be built on three main aspects. The first being a secure and reliable blockchain, which is the system that keeps track of cryptocurrency transactions. The blockchain used for Libra “was built from the group up,” the announcement states.

The company said it did this “to prioritize scalability, security, efficiency in storage and throughput, and future adaptability.”

The second main component of Libra focuses on the cryptocurrency being backed by a reserve of assets. This is what Libra says sets it apart from other cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, which are known for their volatility. With Libra being backed by stable assets actually worth value, it would be a more stable cryptocurrency. However like other cryptocurrencies, Libra is still likely to be affected by some fluctuations when converted to currencies like dollars.

As for the final aspect, the company says it will be governed by an independent group called the Libra Association. The group’s main purpose is to essentially be the administrator of the Libra network and make sure the network is available to other companies that want to take part. The 28 Founding Members, as they’re called, come from a variety of backgrounds and companies. In addition to Facebook, the group includes businesses like Mastercard, eBay, Lyft, Spotify AB, as well as non-profits like Mercy Corps. The members helped fund the reserves that back Libra and hope to have 100 members covering a wide range of organizations as well as academic institutions.

“It’s decentralized,” Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook when announcing Libra. “Meaning it’s run by many different organizations instead of just one, making the system fairer overall. It’s available to anyone with an internet connection and has low fees and costs.”

Facebook has said once Libra is launched, the company will no longer have authority and will be considered an equal member to the other organizations in the association.

Facebook’s Role

In addition to Facebook’s help funding the technology that makes Libra possible, it also created an independent subsidiary company, Calibra. This company will function as the first wallet for Libra, allowing users to transfer Libra between each other, and eventually pay for items with it. Simply put, it is more-or-less like Venmo and Google Pay put together.

Calibra has already launched a website which is letting people sign up for early access. The website explains that users do not need a Facebook profile to access Calibra, just a government-issued ID. And while Calibra will be available as a stand-alone app, it will also be accessible on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.  

Libra Association says they will try to ensure that the Libra infrastructure will be available to companies other than Calibra so in the future there can be other payments systems that can use the Libra freely.

Concerns

Many are quick to point out if it is safe to trust Facebook. The company has had numerous issues with privacy and data, making people question if they should be trusted with financial information

According to Reuters, Neil Campling, the head of TMT Research in London, said that “given its history of managing our data, it shouldn’t take much to convince people that Facebook managing our money is probably a terrible idea.”

People on social media have voiced their concerns as well, some even commenting on Zuckerberg’s Facebook post.

On their website, Calibra addresses the privacy and security issues.  

“Calibra will not share account information or financial data with Facebook, Inc. or any third party without customer consent. For example, Calibra customers’ account information and financial data will not be used to improve ad targeting on the Facebook, Inc. family of products.”

Noting that only certain cases, such as criminal activity or preventing fraud, would data be shared.

See what others are saying: (Quartz) (Business Insider) (CNN)

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The Boeing MAX 8 Scandal & Controversy Explained!

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When Boeing first introduced the 737 MAX 8, the new plane was supposed to help usher in a new generation of commercial aircraft. Then two MAX 8’s crashed within five months of each other, killing a total of 346 people.

Since then, the controversy around Boeing has kept growing and growing as numerous investigations revealed a number of highly questionable and even negligent business and regulatory practices that ultimately led to the crashes.

Even now, more than a year after the first crash, Boeing is still in the news and under the microscope as it struggles to keep up appearances.

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Facebook to Pay $550 Million to Settle Facial Recognition Suit

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  • Facebook agreed to pay $550 million to settle a class-action lawsuit in Illinois that claimed its “Tag Suggestions” feature illegally harvested facial data from millions of users in Illinois without their permission.
  • Facebook disclosed the settlement while also announcing it made $21 billion last quarter.
  • Some championed the settlement as a victory for consumer privacy rights.
  • Others argued that no matter how much Facebook pays in lawsuits and settlements, the company has continued to grow and has not fundamentally changed its business practices.

Facebook Announces Settlement

Facebook announced Wednesday that it had agreed to pay $550 million to settle a class-action lawsuit involving facial recognition technology.

The lawsuit was filed in Illinois in 2015 and claimed that Facebook’s “Tag Suggestions” feature violated the state’s 2008 Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).

The “Tag Suggestion” tool uses facial recognition software to scan users’ faces and then suggest the names of other users who might be in the picture. 

The lawsuit alleged that Facebook used it to illegally harvest facial data from millions of users in Illinois without their permission or without telling them how the data was kept.

Illinois is one of three states that has its own biometric privacy laws, and BIPA is arguably the strongest of all three. 

Under BIPA, companies that collect biometric data, which includes data from finger, face, and iris scans, must get prior consent from consumers and detail how the data will be used and how long the company will keep it. BIPA also allows private citizens to sue.

The lawsuit accused Facebook of failing to comply with those restrictions. 

Facebook, for its part, argued that the people who it collected data from without consent could not prove that they experienced any concrete harm, like financial losses. However, the company still ultimately decided to settle.

Once the federal judge overseeing the case approves the settlement, people eligible to claim money are expected to receive a couple hundred dollars.

Other Settlements & Controversies

Many privacy experts and advocates applauded the settlement and said it was a victory for consumer privacy rights.

But others argued that the settlement does not really change anything, because it is not a big deal for Facebook. While $550 million might seem like a lot, for Facebook, its basically pocket change.

Even the way Facebook announced the settlement seemed to emphasize that point. The tech giant disclosed the settlement while announcing its financial results for 2019, reporting that revenue rose 25% to $21 billion in the last quarter alone.

Not only did that indicate how minor the Illinois settlement was for the company financially, it also showcased their incredible ability to weather scandals and controversy.

Over the last few years, Facebook has received a lot of backlash, largely over privacy concerns and the spread of misinformation on the platform.

Most recently Facebook has been under fire for its decision to essentially let politicians lie in political ads.

In July, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fined Facebook $5 billion over privacy violations— the largest fine the FTC has ever imposed on a tech company by far.

Facebook’s Continued Growth

But even in the face of massive financial costs and prominent controversies, Facebook still continues to grow.

In an article published by Axios, writer Sara Fischer described Facebook’s ability for continued growth despite those obstacles.

“Facebook closed out the second decade of the millennium stronger than ever,” she wrote. “Facebook’s continued ability to post double-digit revenue growth every year speaks to how well it has been able to innovate and adapt, even in the face of regulatory headwinds and increased competition.”

Fischer gave the example of North America and Europe where Facebook has gotten more money per user each year despite the fact that its user growth in those regions has stayed relatively stagnant.

Source: Axios

She also mentioned the Illinois case, FTC fine, and other growing concerns over privacy and advertizing Facebook has warned its investors about.

“So far these fines have proven moot in getting the tech giant to fundamentally change its business, which continues to grow substantially,” she said.

While Facebook did agree to be more transparent about how it uses facial recognition technology as part of the FTC settlement, many are skeptical that the Illinois case will bring about any substantive change.

However, in an investor call following the release of Facebook’s earnings report Wednesday, CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg said that he wanted to be more transparent about the company’s values.

“One critique of our approach for much of the last decade is that because we wanted to be liked, we didn’t want to communicate our views as clearly, because we worried about offending people,” he said.

“Our goal for the next decade isn’t to be liked, but understood. In order to be trusted, people need to know what we stand for.”

See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Verge) (The New York Times)

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New 2020 Emoji Include Transgender Flag and More Gender-Inclusive Options

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  • Over 100 new emoji were revealed on Wednesday, set to be released sometime in 2020.
  • The new additions will consist of 62 brand-new emoji as well as 55 gender and skin-tone variants. 
  • The transgender flag, a woman in a tuxedo, and a more gender-inclusive alternative to Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus will be among the new options.
  • Other emoji introduced include boba tea, a dodo bird, a smiley face with a tear, and an anatomical heart.

Fresh Faces

More than 100 new emoji will be available for mobile phone users this year, providing both fun new icons as well as more inclusive and diverse options.

The list was unveiled on Wednesday by the Unicode Consortium, an organization devoted to developing and maintaining software internalization standards and data.

There will be 62 brand-new emoji as well as 55 gender and skin-tone variants, reflecting a push toward a more inclusive collection. Among the new icons will be the transgender symbol as well as the transgender pride flag, an idea proposed by advocates and artists with the help of Google and Microsoft.  

Along this same vein, more gender-inclusive options will be seen with this new wave. Both a woman and a non-binary figure in a tuxedo will soon be available, as well as a man and a non-binary figure in a wedding veil. 

To complement the already-existing Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus options, a more gender-inclusive alternative will be included as well — under the name of Mx. Claus. 

There will also be new emoji depicting parents feeding a baby. 

Other new emoji include a smiley face with a tear, two figures hugging, boba tea, and an anatomical heart. The animal section is getting a boost too, as a beaver, a seal, a polar bear, and even a dodo bird will be introduced. 

The release date of the new emoji depends on each individual vendor, but Unicode Consortium noted that typically the new icons are rolled out in the fall.

Praise for New Emoji

After the new additions were revealed, many took to Twitter to express their joy about the more inclusive options.

“Incredible power in the new 2020 emojis,” one person wrote.

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (USA Today) (CBS)

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