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Google Pony Express: Part of the big, digital cash grab

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Cash

Analysis

What is it with all these companies suddenly wanting to be in business? And by “business” I mean finance. Whether it’s on my phone, in my watch or on the desktop, big name tech and social media companies are angling to get between your wallet and everyone else holding their hands out.

Google Pony Express, the project ReCode stumbled on this week, is another perfect example. According to the site and a raft of secret documents they perused and then published, Google is working on an entire Gmail-driven bill payment system. So instead of you visiting two dozen sites to pay your e-bills, you just check your Gmail.

There’s more to it than that, obviously, all sorts of authentication between you and the banks and you and the companies you’re paying, but the idea, which may or may not happen later this year, makes a lot of sense.

Gmail could organize all your bill payments and receipts of payments received into folders (or labels) so you can stop organizing then into folders on your computer. One would hope that Google would go the extra mile and tie Pony Express to Google Docs Spreadsheet so you can see an itemized history of payments, but they may not go that far out of the gate.

I’m intrigued by the idea, and I realize now that managing your money and payments is a hot new frontier for all these Silicon Valley companies. But why?

Mobile gets it started

This interest in your personal finances has been led by a flurry of activity in Mobile Payments. Google tried to start the fire years ago, but was largely ignored. Then Apple came along with some of the very same ideas, but with a better blend of easy-to-use security and NFC-enabled mobile payments, and the land rush was on again.

Now everyone from Samsung to Facebook is looking at how they can help part you with your money wherever and whenever you want. Even smaller players are trying to help consumers and businesses move money. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Twitter is launching some sort of Direct Message payment system (they are not, at least not yet).

I’ve always understood the mobile payment craze. Buying stuff on the go is a universal activity, which means it’s a multi-trillion dollar market — a big enough pie for everyone to get a piece. Plus, it’s an obvious fit for the companies making mobile devices: Apple, Samsung, Google.

Managing everyday bills, though, is something different. Many people still put checks in the mail or visit the bank directly to enact payments. They already distrust systems reading their mail. Would they actually trust Google to take that a step further and make payments on their behalf? For companies like Google, though, the even bigger and even more universal market of bill payments is too big too ignore. Google will do everything it can to make Pony Express attractive to everyone and will work overtime to gain trust so they can access your bank accounts, creditors and the companies providing you with goods and services — even if only as a middle man.

Trust me, some people will trust Google and give Pony Express, if it ever launches, a shot.

I might.

I appreciate Gmail scanning my email to identify junk and weeding it out before I have to see it. Other mail systems like Outlook mail do this as well. I’m certain that bill payment would be handled even more securely.

There will be many who will dismiss the idea out of hand — “No snooping Google in my finances!” — But that won’t stop Google from rolling out Pony Express. Digital natives will be early adopters and slowly, but surely, other people will give in and give it a try.

Face it, there’s no getting away from these tech giants getting into your business. Let’s just hope they they do it in a responsible way — and get all my bills paid on time.

source:http://mashable.com/2015/03/25/google-pony-express/

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INSTAGRAM IS USING AI TO DETECT BULLYING IN PHOTOS AND CAPTIONS

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Last year, Instagram introduced an enhanced comment filter that uses machine learning to spot offensive words and phrases in challenging contexts. Now, the company is expanding similar coverage to photos and captions. Today, it announced that it will use AI to “proactively detect bullying” before sending content to human moderators for review.

The new feature will roll out to users in the coming weeks, launching in time for October’s National Bullying Prevention Month in the US and just before Anti-Bullying Week in the UK. The same technology is also being added to live videos to filter comments there as well.

This is the first product announcement under new Instagram chief Adam Mosseri who took over following the hasty departure of co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger last month. The split was reportedly due to simmering tensions between the pair and parent company Facebook, which has frequently meddled with Instagram’s product.

With public trust in Facebook continuing to fall, Instagram remains the bright spot in the company’s product lineup. It’s popular, profitable, and it has yet to be tainted by the scandals that have undermined Facebook. In this context, using AI to help weed out offensive content and keep Instagram a home for good vibes is extremely important.

A story published in Wired last year explained some of the details of Instagram’s machine learning comment filters, but it’s well-established that this sort of technology is no silver bulletfor content moderation. AI is cheap to deploy at scale, yes, but it still has trouble dealing with human context and nuance. That’s why it’s good that these new bullying filters also send content to human moderators to perform the final check. Automation without oversight is a recipe for disaster.

Interestingly, Instagram says it’s not just analyzing photos captions to identify bullying, but also the photo itself. Speaking to The Verge, a spokesperson gave the example of the AI looking for split-screen images as an example of potential bullying, as one person might be negatively compared to another. What other factors the AI will look for though isn’t clear. That might be a good idea considering that when Facebook announced it would scan memes using AI, people immediately started thinking of ways to get around such filters.

Along with the new filters, Instagram is also launching a “kindness camera effect,” which sounds like it’s a way to spread a positive message as a method to boost user engagement. While using the rear camera, the effects fill the screen with an overlay of “kind comments in many languages.” Switch to your front-facing camera, and you get a shimmer of hearts and a polite encouragement to “tag a friend you want to support.”

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FACEBOOK IS TESTING ITS VERY OWN DATING APP

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Yes, Facebook Dating is a real thing. And we may have just received a sneak peek.

Jane Manchun Wong — an app researcher who’s spotted Facebook features in the past, like Talent Show — posted photos from what she claims is an internal test of Facebook Dating.

 

The company wouldn’t say whether these pics are the real deal, although it did confirm it’s testing Facebook Dating internally.

Two months ago, at its F8 developer conference, Facebook shared that it was developing a dating app. Aspiring yenta Mark Zuckerberg explained it was “going to be for building real, long-term relationships, not hookups.”

Later, on its blog, Facebook dished out a few more details: “People will be able to create a dating profile that is separate from their Facebook profile — and potential matches will be recommended based on dating preferences, things in common, and mutual friends. They’ll have the option to discover others with similar interests through their Groups or Events.”

From Wong’s photos, it looks like the app will let you prevent your current Facebook friends from seeing your dating profile, thus avoiding potential embarrassment. It’ll also offer a variety of gender options, including trans man, trans woman, and non-binary.

No word on when, exactly, Facebook Dating will become available to the public. Guess you’ll just have to make do with Tinder, Bumble, OKCupid, Happn, Grindr, Hinge, and the thousands of other dating apps out there in the meantime.

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WHATSAPP MESSAGES AND SENDERS CAN BE ALTERED AFTER YOU RECEIVED THEM, SAY RESEARCHERS

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Security researchers have discovered that it’s possible for hackers to change both the content and the sender of a WhatsApp message after you’ve received it …

This includes the ability to change quoted messages, to make it appear you said something you didn’t.

CNET reports that the possibility was discovered by Check Point Software Technologies.

The firm] found that hackers can create a hacked version of the app and alter a quoted message (a past one that someone is replying directly one) to change the content or sender.

The hacker would, however, need to be part of the chat, so the vulnerability mostly applies to group chats.

WhatsApp told the NYT that it was not aware of the technique being used in the wild, and a cure would be worse than the problem.

One solution would be to create transcripts of every message exchange to verify the accuracy of every quote. Creating such a transcript is a significant privacy risk because those accounts of what people wrote to each other must be stored somewhere, the company said.

All WhatsApp messages are protected by end-to-end encryption, which means that only those within a chat would be able to exploit the loophole. Storing a transcript would effectively mean removing that end-to-end encryption.

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