times

Russian Square Clone 2can Raises $5M To Scale Up

Russian mobile payments startups 2can similar in operation to Square and iZettle (accepts payments from Visa and MasterCard cards through a mobile card reader connected to a smartphone) has raised a $5 million Series B round of funding led by InVenture Partners with participation by Almaz Capital Partners and ESN Group.

The cash will be used to integrate with leading Russian banks and accelerate the product.

The company claims that its revenue increased 500 times in 2013, with the number of transactions made through 2can terminals increasing 200 times over the same period – though with now actual figures these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt.

Launched in September 2012, 2can allows merchants to use iOS and Android smartphones or tablets as secure terminals for accepting card payments.

Buy.com (dba Rakuten.com Shopping)

Sergey Azatyan, co-founder and managing partner of InVenture Partners says the penetration of POS terminals accepting card payments in Russia is now 5 times lower compared to Europe and 7 times lower than in USA, so there is plenty of growth to be had per the next few years.

The Series B round brings 2can’s total funding to $7.3 million. InVenture Partners led the previous investment round.

See the article here: Russian Square Clone 2can Raises $5M To Scale Up

Latest Snowden Allegations: NSA Hacks Huawei

The National Security Administration hacked Chinese networking giant Huawei and apparently gained access to the company’s source code, according to documents seen by The New York Times and the German publication Spiegel Online.

These latest leaked documents indicate that the NSA began an operation called “Shotgiant” against Huawei, the world’s second largest supplier of networking equipment behind U.S.-based Cisco Systems.

The U.S. has long been concerned that Huawei’s products were being used as a Trojan Horse enabling the Chinese government to spy on the networking company’s customers. Now, it appears that the U.S. government simply cut out the middleman in its own efforts to monitor the goings on around Huawei.

Not only did the U.S. security agency manage to intercept emails, but it also gained access to the company’s source code of specific products, according to the Spiegel report. That’s the crown jewels of any tech company — laid bare by America’s technology espionage apparatus.

Luckily for concerned netizens and corporations a spokeswoman for the U.S. assured the Times that any spying was only done for national security purposes.

“We do not give intelligence we collect to U.S. companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line,” White House spokesperson Caitlin M. Hayden told the Times. “Many countries cannot say the same.”

Meanwhile, the unintended comedy of the situation was not lost on Huawei, whose spokesman issued the following statement to Spiegel:

“If it is true, the irony is that exactly what they are doing to us is what they have always charged that the Chinese are doing through us,” [said Bill Plummer, Huawei spokesman]. “If such espionage has been truly conducted, then it is known that the company is independent and has no unusual ties to any government and that knowledge should be relayed publicly to put an end to an era of mis- and disinformation.”

Link: Latest Snowden Allegations: NSA Hacks Huawei

An Algorithm Wrote The LA Times Story About The City’s Earthquake Aftershock Today

As reporters around the country scrambled to push out stories on early-morning earthquakes that awoke southern California, The LA Times had a machine write its piece. “This information comes from the USGS Earthquake Notification Service and this post was created by an algorithm written by the author,” explained the news story, posted 20 minutes after the USGS registered a 2.7 aftershock that hit Westwood.

“Algorithms can help you find and report the news,” LA Times reporter Ben Welsh told Journalism.co.uk about a similar earthquake piece last year. “You can write code that will ask and answer the common questions that a reporter would ask when looking at that same dataset.”

As artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated, automation is increasingly coming after jobs that require higher-order thinking. Algorithmic journalism has been relatively limited to simple plug-in-play stories, such as sports scores, financial press releases, or natural events.

“That’s not to say that computer-generated stories will remain in the margins, limited to producing more and more Little League write-ups and formulaic earnings previews,” explained a blog post on the futurist, Ray Kurzweil’s, website. Google’s Eric Schmidt also warned a crowd at SXSW last week that robots will probably replace most jobs that aren’t related to “creativity and caring” — including reporters.

Perhaps most importantly, an algorithm doesn’t stop in the middle of a news story to hide under a desk:

Read more: An Algorithm Wrote The LA Times Story About The City’s Earthquake Aftershock Today

You can help search for Flight MH370 with Tomnod’s crowdsourced satellite image platform

Satellite firm DigitalGlobe is putting its Tomnod crowdsourcing platform to work in an effort to track down the whereabouts of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Volunteers are assigned a collection of satellite images to pore through and pin any possible clues or wreckage.

MH370 went missing late last week on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Officials have been stumped by the lack of evidence about what happened to the 777, which carried over 200 passengers.

Screen Shot 2014 03 11 at 1.45.41 PM 730x401 You can help search for Flight MH370 with Tomnod’s crowdsourced satellite image platform

DigitalGlobe said it will update its imagery with new data as more information emerges and the search radius changes.

Tomnod has roughly 25,000 people signed up to help out on the platform. The influx of helpers with this latest initiative has crashed the site at times since it was announced yesterday.

DigitalGlobe analysts will check areas of interest that users identify during the campaign. The company will then inform authorities of any possible findings.

Tomnod

Image credit: Thinkstock

Continued here: You can help search for Flight MH370 with Tomnod’s crowdsourced satellite image platform

CIA Accused Of Spying On Intelligence Committee

Senator Mark Udall has written a blistering letter to President Barack Obama, claiming he knew of the “unprecedented action” of CIA spying on members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which had prepared a critical 6,000-page report of torture policies.

“As you are aware, the CIA has recently taken unprecedented action against the Committee in relation to the internal CIA review, and I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the Committee’s oversight responsibilities and for our democracy,” wrote Senator Udall. “It is essential that the Committee be able to do its oversight work — consistent with our constitutional principle of the separation of powers — without the CIA posing impediments or obstacles as it is today.”

After fallout from the New York Times exposé, more senators expressed measured outrage. Senator Patrick Leahy said he was “deeply concerned” about the reports.

According to the Times, “The action, which Mr. Udall did not describe, took place after C.I.A. officials came to suspect that congressional staff members had gained unauthorized access to agency documents during the course of the Intelligence Committee’s years-long investigation into the detention and interrogation program.”

Much of the report, and the agency’s response, is classified. The Guardian further notes that the CIA’s actions may have been illegal under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the anti-hacker law normally applied to citizens.

Read the original NYT article here and Senator Udall’s letter here.

Read more: CIA Accused Of Spying On Intelligence Committee

The Head Of Sony Computer Entertainment Steps Down

Jack Tretton has left the game. The longtime Sony executive is stepping down from his role as President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America where he was essentially in charge of the state-side PlayStation division.

The news comes from a late-day press release that doesn’t reveal any details about the departure. It simply states that “this is a result of a mutual agreement between Mr. Tretton and SCEA not to renew their contractual relationship.”

Was there a falling out at Sony? Did someone steal Jack’s leftovers from the fridge one too many times? That’s unclear right now.

Tretton was with Sony Computer Entertainment America for 19 years, with 15 dedicated to the PlayStation division and most recently oversaw the launch of the PlayStation 4. This is the man who in part has built the PlayStation brand into a global force by establishing a strong foothold in America.

Shawn Layden, current EVP and COO of Sony Network Entertainment International, will take Tretton’s chair at the head of the boardroom table.

Continued here: The Head Of Sony Computer Entertainment Steps Down

Alleged Bitcoin Creator Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto Denies Involvement

Is this man really the father of Bitcoin? After a full day of wild speculation and anger, the LA press have finally tracked down Nakamoto and he’s receiving a grilling. According to reports, Nakamoto and an AP reporter went to a sushi restaurant earlier this afternoon while the rest of the press followed along. Finally, the 64-year-old man went to the AP offices where he conducted his only interview.

As we see above, the man identified as the father of bitcoin vehemently denies any involvement in this video shot by Buzzfeed reporter Hunter Schwarz. He also denied Bitcoin ties to LA Times Reporter Andrea Chang.

Satoshi Nakamoto, who changed his name Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto in 1973, was outed this morning in a Newsweek article based largely on circumstantial evidence. Much to the chagrin of Dorian, the Bitcoin community, and other journalists, Newsweek released enough details to easily find the man that they claimed was behind Bitcoin and whose BTC horde is rumored to be worth around $400 million.

More as we get it.

See the original post here: Alleged Bitcoin Creator Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto Denies Involvement

Uber Adds Push Notifications To Let Passengers Know When Surge Pricing Ends

For the past several years, Uber has defended its use of “surge pricing” as a way to ensure supply in times when demand is high. By charging a premium for a ride, the company argues, it gets more drivers on the road, and curtails the number of requests from potential passengers, keeping inventory in check.

That said, there was no good way for passengers to know when that was over. Now, thanks to an update of Uber’s mobile apps, passengers will never have to guess when surge pricing ends, as the company has added a field to allow them to be notified when the multiplier is turned off.

According to Uber’s blog post, the update will begin rolling out to iOS users this week, enabling them to request an update and be notified if surge pricing ends within 30 minutes of their initial request. “In addition to seeing clear information about surge pricing in the app, you’ll be able to wait it out for a cheaper ride and get notified if surge ends,” the post says.

Frequent users of the on-demand transportation service — especially those in major cities — have come to expect the pricing multiplier during rush hours and storms, when demand for service begins to outstrip supply.

That’s something Uber says it’s working on. According to Uber spokesperson Andrew Noyes:

“We’re working hard to bring on more partner drivers in all of the cities we serve so that there’s more supply available at all times. As you know, surge pricing helps get more cars on the road quickly when demand outstrips supply, helping to guarantee people can get a ride when and where they want.”

See more here: Uber Adds Push Notifications To Let Passengers Know When Surge Pricing Ends

NSA leak suggests Australia had wide-scale access to Indonesia’s telecoms network

A new leak from NSA documents obtained by whisteblower Edward Snowden have cast light on Australia’s national security agency — the Australian Signals Directorate — and its access to Indonesia’s telecoms network.

The New York Times reports that the agency obtained nearly 1.8 million encrypted master keys from Indonesian operator Telkomsel. The agency was apparently able to decrypt almost all of the keys, giving it access to the private communications data that they protect.

Access was apparently used to monitor government communication, and, in particular, contact with an American legal firm that represented Indonesia in trade disputes with the US. Australia’s Prime Minister previously stated that the country did not collect information “to the detriment of other countries” — an NSA leak last year suggested Australia tapped phones belonging to Indonesia’s Prime Minister and other top politicians.

➤ Spying by N.S.A. Ally Entangled U.S. Law Firm [New York Times] | Via Sydney Morning Herald

Image via BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images

Original post: NSA leak suggests Australia had wide-scale access to Indonesia’s telecoms network

Mobile Game Developer Supercell Made $892M Last Year (Oh, And They Paid $345M In Taxes)

Here’s what a top mobile game developer can make in a single year: $892 million off two games across Android and iOS.

That’s what Finnish developer Supercell said on a call last that night that it earned last year. Although Supercell is privately held, it still has to report earnings once a year in accordance with Finnish law. The company sold slightly over half of itself to Japanese carrier Softbank and game maker Gung-Ho last year for $1.53 billion.

Their lofty valuation came from explosive earnings from two games: Clash of Clans and Hay Day. Those two titles helped the game maker go from earning $101 million in revenue in 2012 to nearly nine times as much the following year.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization worked out to be $464 million. That’s about $3.4 million in EBITDA per employee at Supercell’s headcount of 138 people. The company is planning on releasing a third title, Boom Beach, next month.

Surprisingly though, the earnings aren’t that much higher than the annualized runrate the company reported back in the first quarter of last year, when it said it earned $179 million in first-quarter revenue. (That would have worked out to slightly over $700 million per year, and that’s before Supercell launched the Android versions of its games.)

There’s one other interesting thing from the call, too. What’s the difference between an American company’s earnings call and a Finnish one?

Supercell’s Ilkka Paananen had to stress how much the company paid in taxes. (Imagine if Apple or Google did that.)

Because of the company’s huge exit last year, Supercell has had to manage domestic press relations in a sensitive way before a country that prides itself on its socioeconomic equality. Paananen said Supercell paid $345 million in taxes to the government, including corporate tax, income tax and taxes related to the sale.

On top of that, Paananen said Supercell was not using any international financial maneuvering to avoid paying taxes to the Finnish government. This is in contrast to companies like Apple, which have used subsidiaries in countries like Ireland, the Netherlands and the Caribbean to avoid billions of dollars in income taxes. In a New York Times piece in 2012, a former Treasury Department economist told the newspaper that Apple’s federal tax bill would have likely been $2.4 billion higher if it hadn’t used these accounting techniques.

“We don’t use any tax optimization,” Paananen said. “We’ve gotten so much from this community here. Helsinki is the best place to set up your company, especially if you’re a games company.”

Here is the original post: Mobile Game Developer Supercell Made $892M Last Year (Oh, And They Paid $345M In Taxes)