Bytes: What’s new in tech
Banks launch a Venmo killer
The banking industry is taking on Venmo, said Ben Steverman in Bloomberg.com. “For years, banks have watched as their youngest customers split restaurant checks, shared utility bills, and pitched in for parties using third-party payment apps.” Now 19 banks, including Bank of America, Citigroup, and JPMorgan Chase, are launching their own person-to-person payment app: Zelle. The app lets users send and request money just like Venmo, but without the emoji-laden newsfeed of your friends’ purchases. Zelle’s “not-so-secret weapon” is its connection with those big banks. It can take days to transfer money from Venmo to a checking account, but Zelle users should be able to do that in minutes. The app should launch this summer.
The doll that heard too much
German parents have been ordered to destroy an internet-connected doll over spying fears, said Amanda Erickson in The Washington Post. My Friend Cayla is a blond-haired, blueeyed doll with a Bluetooth connection that lets her chat “Siri-style” with kids. But German officials say she’s also “a prime target for hackers,” because Cayla transmits everything she hears to a voice recognition firm in the U.S.
The threat is serious enough that regulators have asked parents “to immediately toss the doll and destroy its internal microphone.” Memories of East Germany’s repressive surveillance state have led the country to implement some of the world’s toughest data-protection laws, including a ban on wireless devices with hidden cameras or microphones. U.S. consumer watchdogs have also complained about Cayla to the Federal Trade Commission.
Google accuses Uber of theft
The race to build a self-driving car has turned into “a case of full-blown corporate intrigue,” said Alex Davies in Wired.com. Google’s autonomous vehicle startup, Waymo, is suing Uber for allegedly stealing data on its LIDAR technology, which uses lasers to “build a detailed map of the world around the car.” The lawsuit, filed in federal court in California last week, accuses a former Google employee now at Uber of secretly downloading 14,000 files from Waymo’s hardware systems. The engineer, Anthony Levandowski, resigned from Google a month later to start a self-driving truck company called Otto, which was acquired by Uber last August. Levandowski was subsequently put in charge of Uber’s self-driving car efforts. Uber denies the allegations. ■