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

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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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Facebook paid users to track smartphone use

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Facebook paid users, including teens, to track their smartphone activity as part of an effort to glean more data that could help the social network’s competition efforts, according to a new report that may raise fresh privacy concerns.

An investigation by the online news site TechCrunch said the effort, which had been known as the Onavo Project and later rebaptized as Facebook Research, was used to gather data on usage habits.

The news could be a further embarrassment for Facebook, which has been under heightened scrutiny over failing to crack down on manipulation of its platform and for sharing private data with its business partners.

According to TechCrunch, Facebook said it shut down the application on Apple’s iOS on Wednesday after the article was published, but apparently kept it active for Android users.

The report said the initial Onavo app was shuttered for violating Apple’s privacy policy and that the newer version may also contravene Apple’s terms.

The program paid users ages 13 to 35 up to $20 a month for “root” access to their devices to track their location, app usage, spending habits and other activity.

According to a statement to TechCrunch, Facebook claimed there was nothing secret about the effort and that it obtained parental consent for teens where required.

Facebook did not immediately respond to further requests for comment.

The project may have allowed Facebook to scoop up more data about younger users as it fends off a challenge from rival services like Snapchat, which has become more popular than Facebook among US teens.

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Instagram is down for some users (FB)

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It’s not clear exactly how many people are affected, or what’s causing the outage. Business Insider has reached out to the Facebook-owned photo sharing app for more information.

The app’s news feed is refusing to refresh for some users, while the homepage on desktop won’t load.

Down Detector, a website that tracks outages of popular websites, reported a spike in users saying Instagram was down on Monday, with particular hotspots on both coasts of the United States and the UK.

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INSTAGRAM READY TO GIVE INFLUENCERS AND CELEBS SPECIALIZED TOOLS VIA CREATOR ACCOUNTS

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Instagram plans to offer high-profile influencers special tools that will provide them with a deeper insight into various data regarding their followers. These tools will be delivered in the form of Creator Accounts, which will only be available to select Instagram users (i.e. influencers, celebs).

An Instagram official recently told The Hollywood Reporter that the company wishes to make sure that “Instagram is the best place, and easiest place, to build fan communities and also build creators. personal brands.”

These creator accounts are meant to function like business-focused profiles and will offer growth insights, including information about follows and unfollows. Influencers will also be able to see weekly and daily data about their followers count changes so that they can better understand what might have caused a decline in their fan base or a spike in new followers.

Also, direct messaging tools that will enable Instagram users to filter notes from brand partners and friends will be available as well. Furthermore, influencers will be allowed to choose how they want to be contacted via flexible labels.

According to Instagram. these new features are being tested with a small beta group at the moment, but they are expected to be rolled out to everyone sometime in 2019.

 

 

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