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Home » Daily Briefing » Daily briefing - 26 May 2017

Daily briefing - 26 May 2017

Uber and Airbnb, move aside please. Cryptocurrencies are having a big year, with regulatory support from Switzerland, Japan and the Philippines underpinning growing acceptance of cryptocurrencies. Last time we touched on bitcoin a few weeks back, its price was hovering around $1,000 as observers waited on the SEC to make a declaration about approval of bitcoin exchange-traded funds. The answer was negative, but, after a brief drop, bitcoin just kept on going and a single bitcoin is now trading at over $2,000. Coinmarketcap says the value of all cryptocurrencies — think litecoin, Ripple, Etherium, bytecoin and so on — has now surpassed $77 billion, which outranks Uber and Airbnb. "While Japan's adoption is an obvious influence, there are other factors in play," says Internationalfintech.com. "For example, Ripple's team recently announced the lock up of a massive amount of coins for a number of years, effectively instilling confidence in traders. Litecoin has successfully activated SegWit, gaining the confidence of many traders supporting this software. Ethereum has secured some huge clients such as Toyota, Deloitte, and much more which caused the price to explode and touch nearly $200 per coin."

Just as you've figured out how to take a selfie, the mobile-first world is almost over, according to Alphabet (formerly Google), which says we're now moving to an AI-first world. "We are excited about designing better machine learning models. What better way to do this than getting neural nets to design better neural nets?" says Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai. "Whenever I spend time with a team and think about neural nets building neural nets, it reminds me of one of my favorite movies, Inception. I tell them, we must go deeper — across a wide range of disciplines." Lafferty News has seen Inception three times (and still can't understand what's going on) but finds the concept of neural nets building neural nets to be unsettling. Incidentally, Pichai's remarks suggest that 'search' is yesterday's business, and mobile search will go out the window as AI figures it all out for you and tells you what you're looking for around the same time the thought enters your head. Read Lisa Calhoun's observations at Inc.com.

Not that Google and Alphabet have move entirely from basic search. As you might expect, Google's browser users eventually give in and allow the search engine to save credit and debit card details in order to auto-fill forms the next time they need to pay for something online. Everyone wants convenience, right? Our regular correspondent, Sriram Natarajan, predicts that Google is headed for a lawsuit from Visa and Mastercard as it seeks to square the circle between digital and physical consumption. If you use a smartphone, it's likely that you use Google Maps, YouTube, Gmail and the Google Play store; on top of this, Google can put together an accurate picture of your physical movements from location tracking. Put that together with analysis of billions of card records, and Google will be able to connect together online activity (such as looking at particular ads) with the end result, which is walking into a store for which you've perhaps noticed advertising. This allows Google to prove that its online advertising is working. "Google, which saw $79 billion in revenue last year, said it would not handle the records directly but that its undisclosed partner companies had access to 70 percent of transactions for credit and debit cards in the United States," according to the Washington Post. Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told the paper that as big tech companies became "increasingly intrusive in terms of their data collection, they also become more secretive". But how does Google entice users to give up all of this data — and what are the card schemes going to do about it?

US debit card fees will not increase, according to legislators. Indeed, it seems that Republican lawmakers will sacrifice changes to the Durbin Amendment so as not to hold up other wide-ranging changes to the Dodd-Frank Act. "Debit-card fees are set by Visa and Mastercard, but most of the money goes to banks," notes Bloomberg. "The provision that mandated the fee cap, which is named after Democratic Illinois Senator Richard Durbin, has cost lenders an estimated $9 billion, according to analysts at Goldman Sachs." This will be seen as a victory for retailers, who have claimed that increases in debit card fees would only benefit banks and hurt consumers.

Ghana aims for interoperability by November 2017
Customers are sitting on billions of loyalty points
BNP Paribas to pay $350 million to settle New York currency-rigging probe
Basel III reforms closer to being finalised [FT paywall]
Plum bets on Facebook Messenger as the place to manage your finances

Quotes of the Week

A selection of quotes that have caught our eye of late at Lafferty News.

  • "Steeped in tradition the bank of england [sic] may be, but...they also have antiquated security to match."
    Comment after the fact from Mark Carney's email hoaxer, Ibid.
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