We start the week by looking at the most important and interesting tech news headlines from the past week. We talk about the US government proposing new tight regulations for bigtech, AI that reduces marine pollution, massive data breach in McDonald’s, El Salvador’s bitcoin experiment, $100 million blockchain fund launched by Arrington VC, Fetch.ai partnering with an IoT startup, Australian cybersecurity startup disrupting the crypto scene, Amazon trying to deepen their DeFi sphere, and more.
On Friday, McDonald’s announced they have been hit by a data breach in South Korea and Taiwan. The breach exposed information about some employees and customers of the chain and continued the chain of large organizations being attacked by cybercriminals.
Both phone numbers, addresses, and phone numbers have been accessed, however, the cybercriminals did not manage to access customer payment information.
The breach became apparent following an investigation by consultants that have spotted some unauthorized activity on the McDonald’s network. Now, the chain says they will make sure to notify regulators and all the consumers whose data was accessed.
“While we were able to close off access quickly after identification, our investigation has determined that a small number of files were accessed, some of which contained personal data,” McDonald’s said in a statement.
McDonald’s also said that in contrast to many other companies that were recently targeted by cybercriminals, no ransom was involved and day-to-day operations were not disrupted.
As El Salvador’s “millennial president” decided to make bitcoin legal tender, more and more experts are closely following what they refer to as an “interesting experiment”. However, many officials have doubts about the plan by the president.
On Wednesday, El Salvador became the first country that adopted bitcoin as its official currency, in order to help Salvadorans living abroad with sending remittances home.
“El Salvador, that is an interesting experiment indeed,” said Benoit Coeure, head of the innovation hub at the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). “We have been clear at the BIS that we don’t see bitcoin as having passed the test of being a means of payments. Bitcoin is a speculative asset and should be regulated at such,” Coeure said at the launch of a regulatory research hub at the Bank of England (BoE).
The same type of comments can be seen from the International Monetary Fund that has raised concerns of both economic and legal nature. However, the president of El Salvador claimed that the country needs to be “at the cutting of technology” and “work with the private sector”.
The man behind China’s Blockchain-based Service Network (BSN) has just raised a staggering $30 million in the Series A round. The huge number was partly raised thanks to the Hong Kong-based crypto company Kenetic that led the round.
Other notable investors included financial services giant Pictet Group and Bangkok Bank one of Thailand’s largest banks. The company plans to use the funding to expand its team and the global market for its platform.
“There is a rebalancing of global technology infrastructure happening that gives greater access to underdeveloped and underrepresented countries,” Jehan Chu, managing partner at Kenetic told CoinDesk. “BSN International, supported by Saudi Aramco and Red Date will use blockchain to help drive financial and technology inclusion for the next 50 years.”
BSN is a government-sanctioned framework for blockchain developers in China.
The latest job ads by Amazon show that the giant is looking for decentralized finance (DeFi) experts, with the latest one looking for the Blockchain Head Of Products.
“The candidate will have a track record delivering outstanding products at scale in emerging spaces, and is passionate about blockchain, distributed systems, and cloud-scale software,” the ad stated. “Ideally you will have experience delivering products or innovations in the blockchain space, and in particular DeFi or Traditional Financial Services.”
This sparks the speculations that the company is looking for staff to build a digital payment token. The blockchain product lead is part of Amazon Managed Blockchain, which recently added support for Ethereum, the public blockchain that is the original home of DeFi.
Arrington Capital Management, the crypto venture capital owned by Michael Arrington, has just announced it is launching a brand new $100 million fund for bets on projects building on the Algorand blockchain.
Arrington Algo Growth Fund (AAGF) will invest in both tokens and equity.
“Our LPs (limited partners) include several parties who align with the Algorand vision and want to support the expanding ecosystem with new offerings,” Arrington said. “We may also bring on additional investors. Additionally, I am personally investing in the fund.”
Arrington Capital is best known for its XRP fund that was launched back in 2017 with the same capital amount.
“We are extremely loyal to Ripple and to XRP and we believe in that ecosystem,” Arrington said, “but it’s a multichain world.”
The US lawmakers have introduced give new bills that target the Big Tech, following a 16-month investigation of big tech companies. The investigation focused on data, mergers, competitive effect and the bills followed.
“Bills that target specific companies, instead of focusing on business practices, are simply bad policy… and could be ruled unconstitutional,” Neil Bradley from the US Chamber of Commerce said in a statement. Before the bills will be sent to the House floor, it will be referred to the House Judiciary Committee. Then, they will have to pass by both the House of Representatives, the Senate, and be signed by President Joe Biden.
The bills, that received backing from Democrats and Republicans, are:
The American Choice and Innovation Online Act – this bill prevents companies from manipulating marketplaces to promote their own products
The Platform Competition and Opportunity Act of 2021 – this bill makes it harder for companies to buy and kill off competitors
The Ending Platform Monopolies Act – this bill prohibits Big Tech monopolies from selling products in marketplaces they control
The Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act of 2021 – this bill makes it easier to leave a social media platform and take your data to a competitor
The Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act of 2021 – this bill allows the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission the resources they need to police monopoly power, at no cost to taxpayers
“Big Tech’s unchecked growth and dominance have led to incredible abuses of power that have hurt consumers, workers, small businesses and innovation,” said Robert Weisman, president of the advocacy group Public Citizen.
“That unchecked power ends now,” he added.
Fetch.ai startup just announced they will start a collaboration with IOTA, an open-sourced distributed ledger focusing on the Internet of Things. Botch Fetch and IOTA have been catching the attention of investors and experts in the AI and IoT sector for some time now.
Fetch distinguishes itself with its machine learning network of “agents” that can perform real-world tasks. IOTA on the other hand was one of the big hits during the 2017 blockchain and crypto frenzy. Lately, the company has been involved with several projects with companies such as Dell or Jaguar Land Rover.
We can only speculate what the partnership between Fetch.ai and IOTA will bring in the long term. However, what we know now is the aim to deliver a controlled data sharing environment for IoT devices and infrastructures.
“The fundamental goal of this collaboration is to enable granular control over data and to reduce the reliance on centralized systems that take advantage of data,” Humayun Sheikh, CEO of Fetch.ai, said. While there are numerous partnerships focusing on data privacy, this one adds the layer of economic benefit for stakeholders via autonomous economic agents without compromising data privacy. Enabling these agents to perform “useful economic work” on behalf of individuals, businesses, companies, and other entities or organizations will speed up the adoption of Fetch.ai autonomous economic agents and IOTA Streams thereby allowing them to communicate with sophistication across industries like mobility, supply chain, IoT and more.”
Holger Koether, Director of Partner Management at IOTA Foundation, added:
“The main feature of this partnership is offering a serious AI application for the devices that make up the machine economy on the IOTA and Fetch networks. We are enabling data producers to take control over who can access the data they produce whether from a mobile device, environment IoT sensor, connected vehicle, Industrial IoT solution, and a host of IoT-focused use cases. With this partnership, we hope both the Fetch and IOTA communities expand the functionally of what devices can do autonomously on distributed networks.”
Just this month, McDonald’s announced the deployment of their AI chatbots in order to handle drive-thru orders. Now, it appears that the fast-food chain might have broken privacy law.
The chatbots were deployed in ten restaurants in Chicago. The product was designed by the McD Tech Labs that used to go by the name Apprente before it was acquired by McDonald’s in 2019.
However, the state of Illinois has one of the most strict data privacy laws in the US. To illustrate, the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) states, “No private entity may collect, capture, purchase, receive through trade, or otherwise obtain a person’s or a customer’s biometric identifier or biometric information.”
Now, one resident sued the company on behalf of himself and the residents claiming the fast-food has broken BIPA by processing voice data without receiving writing consent.
“Plaintiff, like the other class members, to this day does not know the whereabouts of his voiceprint biometrics which defendant obtained,” the lawsuit states.
Razer has recently partnered with the marine waste fighting startup ClearBot to leverage AI and robotics and reduce ocean pollution. The partnership was announced on World Oceans Day.
Patricia Liu, Chief of Staff at Razer, said:“We are extremely happy to have the opportunity to work with a startup focused on saving the environment. ClearBot’s unique AI and advanced machine learning technology will enable and empower governments and organizations around the world to broaden their sustainability effort. We urge other innovative startups to reach out to Razer for collaboration opportunities as we strive to make the world a safer place for future generations.”
ClearBot team designs robots that use computer vision to identify maine waste and retrieve it.
Sidhant Gupta, Chief Executive Officer at ClearBot, commented: “The Razer team’s action-oriented approach to solving marine waste issues was extremely eye-opening. We are grateful to the team who volunteered their time for this project. With the new model, we’re confident in extending our reach globally to protect marine waters, starting with partners which include marine harbor operators in Asia and NGOs who have already expressed interest. Together with Razer, we look forward to effecting positive change for the world.”
Congruent Labs, an Australian cybersecurity and identity management company is disrupting the outdated practices in the cybersecurity sector. The company is leveraging decentralized application technology.
“We’re building the future of cybersecurity, identity, and privacy, all bundled into one,” said Timothy Quinn, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Congruent Labs. “Back in 2017, our team was tired of seeing the high costs and complexities in the cybersecurity industry, which made it almost impossible for any person or business to easily secure themselves. We wanted to make online security affordable and accessible – so we did.”
At the beginning of the year, Congruent Labs launched a crypto project aiming at wrestling back control of personal data seized by big techs.
“This cutting-edge technology in the world of security will ensure we can provide a zero-trust payment, authentication, and authorization so online platforms can reduce the cost of compliance and payments management,” said Quinn. “These systems will operate using common standards through a series of smart contracts and public off-chain systems.”