Bitcoins: A New Way to Send Money Home?

Blogal Prosperity by the Center for Global Prosperity


In order to send $200 from the United States to Kenya it costs around $15. To send to the Philippines $10.  To send to the Dominican Republic $13.  On average, sending remittances costs around 8.58% of the amount sent.  Due to the high cost of sending money overseas, it is no wonder that migrants want to find the cheapest way possible to send their money back home.  With the emerging popularity of Bitcoin, migrants may have found a way to send money overseas while avoiding the high fees of companies like Western Union and MoneyGram.

Bitcoin, a form of virtual currency, offers a way to transfer money anywhere in the world for an extremely low fee.  It was established in 2009 and has since gained a reputation for its prices being highly volatile.  Bitcoin is earned through data-mining, a process which, in the simplest of definitions, involves a…

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Snapchat hacked, 4.6 million usernames and linked phone numbers published

Snapchat hacked

Snapchat hacked

Details of 4.6 million users of the popular mobile photo-sharing service Snapchat have been leaked, if a new website called SnapchatDB! is to be believed.

A new website called SnapchatDB! is now live with tagline, “Bringing 4.6 million users’ information to your fingertips…” The site is said to be made by a team of hackers who have posted downloadable 4.6 million usernames and phone numbers of Snapchat users. As of now, the leaked database on the SnapchatDB! site has listed downloadable phone numbers with the last two digits obfuscated.

However, the site by the anonymous hackers clearly said that, “For now, we have censored the last two digits of the phone numbers in order to minimize spam and abuse. Feel free to contact us to ask for the uncensored database. Under certain circumstances, we may agree to release it.”

While there’s no word on the authenticity of the database, especially with no statement forthcoming from Snapchat itself, TechCrunch believes it’s real as at least one member of its editorial team has been affected.

The hackers behind SnapchatDB! say, “This database contains username and phone number pairs of a vast majority of the Snapchat users. This information was acquired through the recently patched Snapchat exploit and is being shared with the public to raise awareness on the issue. The company was too reluctant at patching the exploit until they knew it was too late and companies that we trust with our information should be more careful when dealing with it.”

Snapchat is a photo messaging app which can be used for taking photos, recording videos, adding text and drawings, and sending them privately. The app is different from most messaging apps in that users can set a time limit for how long recipients can view their ‘snaps’, after which they will be hidden from the recipient’s device and deleted from Snapchat’s servers, making it an ideal ‘sexting’ app.

Snapchat was one of the top smartphone apps of 2013. The app was launched in 2011 and it grew rapidly to 13 million in October, 2013, as per Nielsen data.

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Growth of mobile banking in India has been below expectations: RBI

The Reserve Bank has expressed its disappointment over the lower-than-expected spread of mobile banking in the country, saying the awareness levels of this tool has been wanting.

“Though mobile banking channel has the potential to be one of the key tools for achieving financial inclusion, the growth and acceptance of mobile banking as a channel of accessing banking service has been below expectations,” the central bank said in its half-yearly financial stability report released earlier this week.

The report listed a slew of reasons for the poor show, such as low levels of awareness and acceptance, inability of banks to seed the mobile number with the account number, incompatible handsets, absence of collaboration and revenue sharing models between banks and mobile operators, and absence of USSD channels for mobile banking among others.

The RBI allows only a bank-led model for mobile banking, with only banks having a physical presence in the country permitted to offer the service.

As on date, as many as 78 banks, including a few regional rural banks, urban cooperative banks, offer mobile banking services in the country.

However, on the payment and settlement system infrastructure, the report said it performed without any major disruptions.

The regulator said it did not notice any noteworthy exceptions during the business continuity plan/disaster recovery drills carried out in July 2013, which covered live operations of payment and settlement systems applications– real time gross settlement system (RTGS) and core banking solution drill.

The report said no significant downtime was experienced in the major payment and settlement systems over the last six months, as observed from the drills and vulnerability assessment and penetration testing conducted by 47 public and private sector banks for the first two quarters of the year.

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Twitter co-founder unveils social answers app, Jelly for Android and iOS

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone on Tuesday took the wraps off a smartphone application that invites people to tap into their online social networks for answers about things they see.

Jelly, available free for Apple gadgets or mobile devices powered by Google-backed Android software, let people reach out virtually to friends, or friends of friends, when interested in finding out more about where one is or what is happening around them at a given moment.

“Say you’re walking along and you spot something unusual,” said a blog post at the Jelly website.

“You want to know what it is so you launch Jelly, take a picture, circle it with your finger, and type ‘What’s this?’ ”

Jelly queries are submitted to friends who also have the application, and notifications pop-up when answers are provided.

Jelly meshes with people’s existing social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook last year modified its search features to allow members to tap into the social network’s public data for answers to general questions such as “What kinds of films do Republicans like?” but Jelly promises to provide insights to what is around a person at any time.

Online forums at services such as Quora and Reddit let people delve into broad issues and topics, with Jelly again distinguishing itself by dealing with queries relevant to real-time moments in life.

Jelly also saw it as an advantage to let people ask questions with pictures.

“In a world where 140 characters is considered a maximum length, a picture really is worth a thousand words,” Jelly said in its launch blog post.

“No matter how sophisticated our algorithms become, they are still no match for the experience, inventiveness, and creativity of the human mind.”

San Francisco-based Jelly was co-founded by Stone, one of the creators behind globally popular one-to-many text messaging service Twitter, which made a blockbuster stock market debut last year.

Stone fired off word of the Jelly launch at his @biz Twitter account.

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Bangalore-based Little Eye Labs is Facebook’s first Indian acquisition

Bangalore-based Little Eye Labs

Bangalore-based Little Eye Labs

Facebook’s acquisition of Little Eye Labs, a Bangalore-based start-up has been rumoured for a while. The startup, which builds mobile app analysis tools for app developers and testers, announced on Wednesday that the acquisition had been completed.

According to the post titled ‘transition’ on the website of Little Eye Labs, after the acquisition, the Little Eye Labs team will work closely with Facebook to improve their mobile development and take it to a new level. The startup also jubilantly declared: “This is Facebook’s first acquisition of an Indian company, and we are happy to become part of such an incredible team.”

Interestingly, the entire Little Eye Labs team will move to Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, from where they can “leverage Facebook’s world-class infrastructure.” Little Eye Labs released the first official version of the Little Eye analysis tool for Android in April 2013.

The company also reassured its current customers, saying they will receive further information on plans to offer a free version of Little Eye until June 30, 2014.

Little Eye Labs, was founded in May 2012 by Giridhar Murthy, Kumar Rangarajan (also the CEO of the company), Satyam Kandula, and Lakshman Kakkirala. Murthy has worked at Apple; Rangarajan at IBM and HP, Kandula is an IIT Kharagpur alumni and Kakkirala has earlier worked with IBM and Yahoo.

In addition Kumar Rangarajan, who is the current CEO of Little Eye Labs, said that they are excited to work alongside the team at Facebook. “We’ll continue on our mission of building analysis tools to aid the development of mobile apps,” he added.

As far as the funding for Little Eye Labs is concerned, it received the seed capital from both GSF Superangels and also from Venture East Fund. According to the report that was published earlier by Business Standard, they had received an investment between $100,000 – $200,000 from GSF.

While the terms of the deal were not disclosed, TechCrunch reports Facebook paid between $10 and $15 million to acquire the Indian startup.

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Vodafone India opens its billing and messaging APIs to third-party developers

Vodafone India opens its billing and messaging APIs

Vodafone India opens its billing and messaging APIs

Vodafone India has launched the Vodafone Developer Platform that will allow third-party developers to tap its billing and message APIs, amongst other resources. Opening up of the billing API means that developers will be able to offer in-app purchases that can be billed to a Vodafone India customer’s monthly bill or account balance for postpaid and prepaid customers respectively.

Speaking about the initiative, Vivek Mathur, Chief Operating Officer, Vodafone India said, “With the growth of smartphones and mobile internet, people are increasingly showing more interest in mobile apps and content services. To strengthen the ecosystem for app developers & content service providers and partner with them, we have launched the Vodafone Developer Platform. We expect the developer community to leverage this initiative of Vodafone to create locally relevant applications / content services and to monetise their ideas across Vodafone’s customer base. The Developer Platform will help in streamlining the partner on-boarding and transparent commercial settlements. This will also enable our customers use their Vodafone accounts to purchase any app or content offered by local as well international developers & content providers.””

Apart from opening up Vodafone network resources such as subscriber profile, billing, location, messaging etc., the mobile operator will also provide developers a facility to test their apps and services in a simulated environment. According to Vodafone, a “minimal, standard set of terms and conditions govern the commercial and others aspects of the developers relationship with Vodafone India, while providing them potential access and exposure to millions of quality customers.”

NDTV Gadgets wrote to Vodafone to get more details about the developer terms, and questions that customers might have, like unauthorised use of the billing API and what information is exposed via the subscriber profile API, but we did not receive any response until the time of filing this report.

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Google Play Services updated, adds turn-based multiplayer, new Drive API, more

Google has updated its Play Services to version 4.1, bringing new features and updates like turn-based multiplayer support for games, a new Google Drive API, improved battery life for users with Google Location Reporting enabled, improved location-based ads and Google+ enhancements. Users can download the update from the Google Play store.

Google announced the update via its Android Developers blog and said, “Once the rollout has completed, users will be able to download the SDK using the Android SDK manager and get started with the new APIs.”

The new turn-based multiplayer allows developers to build asynchronous games to play with friends and auto-matched players. Further, the turn-based multiplayer feature supports up to 8 players per game.

The blog post notes, “When players take turns, their turn data is uploaded to Play Services and shared with other players automatically.” In addition, Google also revealed a new ‘Connecting to Play Games’ transition during games sign-in before the permission dialog appears.

The new Play Services version 4.1 update also includes a developer preview of the new Google Drive API for Android. With this new feature, developers can read and write files in Google Drive available across devices and on the Web.

With Google Play services 4.1, the Google Mobile Ads SDK (software development kit) now supports DoubleClick for publishers, DoubleClick Ad Exchange, and search ads for mobile apps. With the new improved location-based ads, the Next Web notes that developers can utilize the publisher-provided location API to provide Google with the location when requesting ads, which Google claims can improve app monetization.

Earlier on Friday, a report suggested that Google’s new Google+ enhancements broadens the list of contacts available to Gmail users so it includes both the email addresses of their existing contacts, as well as the names of people on the Google+ social network. As a result, a person can send an email directly to friends, and strangers, who are part of their Google+.

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