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Fintech Revolut to launch in the U.S. by year-end with Mastercard deal

LONDON, (Reuters) – Digital banking app Revolut is set to begin issuing its cards in the United States by the end of this year via a partnership with payments company Mastercard Inc MA.N, the two companies said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Mastercard Inc. credit cards are displayed in this picture illustration taken December 8, 2017. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/Illustration

The announcement follows a similar deal last month where Mastercard rival Visa Inc V.N partnered with Revolut as part of its global expansion plans.

Revolut, one of the world’s fastest-growing bank account providers, aims to undercut established players such as Bank of America BAC.N and JPMorgan Chase JPM.N on everything from foreign exchange to current accounts and remittances.

“We’re going to ensure our product is better value for customers, most U.S. banks charge $10 a month for an account and $10-$15 for local transfers and we’ll be offering both for free,” Revolut chief executive and founder Nikolay Storonsky told Reuters.

“Today’s announcement confirms the two businesses will partner on a minimum of 50 percent of all existing and future cards Revolut issue in Europe,” the two companies said.

Revolut’s deal with Mastercard will allow it to plug into its networks so that Revolut cards will be accepted by merchants in the 210 countries where Mastercard operates.

The British-based banking app aims to hire around 3,500 staff in the next year as it moves into North America and Asia, bringing its total employees to around 5,000.

Fintech firms such as Revolut, Monzo, and Starling have grown rapidly in Britain by undercutting traditional banks’ prices while offering generally slicker service, but they face a challenge to build sustainable profits.

Most make their money from charging a subset of users for premium features, rather than lending money out as traditional banks do.

Revolut may also face a greater challenge in the U.S. market, where customers’ wallets already bulge with multiple cards and local fintech firms such as Robinhood have a head start in offering fee-free stockbroking, one of Revolut’s selling points.

Revolut differs from mainstream banks in that customers’ deposits are not directly protected by government guarantees, but held in segregated accounts at traditional lenders.

While customers have therefore been slow to entrust their savings to Revolut since its launch in 2015, some 8 million customers have signed up for an account, attracted by its slick app and rock-bottom forex rates.

Reporting by Lawrence White. Editing by Jane Merriman

Source: Reuters: Technology News
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Electric cars could get green number plates

Drivers of zero-emission vehicles could be given green number plates to make it easier for them to benefit from schemes designed to promote cleaner cars.

The green plates would make them easier to spot so they could use bus lanes without being fined, or pay reduced parking fees.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has launched a consultation on the scheme as part of the government’s £1.5bn strategy to cut road pollution.

In June the then Prime Minister Theresa May pledged that the UK would produce net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. A key part of that promise will be to drastically reduce or eliminate vehicle exhaust fumes.

And it would have the added benefit of reducing the amount of particulates in the air – small particles that can severely affect lung and heart function.

Options include a green flash rather than making the whole number plate green
Image:
Options include a green flash rather than making the whole number plate green

Potential green number plate designs include:

  • A fully green number plate with black lettering
  • The addition of a green flash on the plate
  • The addition of a green dot or symbol

Special number plates have been trialled in Ontario, Canada, with drivers of electric vehicles given free access to toll lanes and high occupancy vehicle lanes. The city subsequently saw an increase in electric vehicle registrations.

More from Science & Tech

In Ontario the introduction of green plates saw an increase in electric car registrations Pic: mto.gov.on.ca
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In Ontario the introduction of green plates saw an increase in electric car registrations Pic: mto.gov.on.ca

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The UK is in the driving seat of global efforts to tackle vehicle emissions and climate change and improve air quality, but we want to accelerate our progress.

“Green number plates are a really positive and exciting way to help everyone recognise the increasing number of electric vehicles on our roads.

“By increasing awareness of these vehicles and the benefits they bring to their drivers and our environment, we will turbo-charge the zero-emission revolution.”

The DfT hopes more people will consider buying cleaner cars when they see the plates.

Elisabeth Costa, senior director at the Behavioural Insights Team, which is part-owned by the Cabinet Office, employees and innovation charity Nesta, said: “The number of clean vehicles on our roads is increasing but we don’t notice as
it’s difficult to tell clean vehicles apart from more polluting ones.

“Green number plates make these vehicles, and our decision to drive in a more environmentally-friendly way, more visible on roads.

“We think making the changing social norm noticeable will help encourage more of us to swap our cars for cleaner options.”

Data published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders shows 25,097 purely electric new cars were registered during the first nine months of the year, more than double the figure during the same period in 2018.

The government recently announced a doubling of funding for electric vehicle charging points on residential streets.

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Source: Tech News – Latest Technology and Gadget News | Sky News
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Minnesota chip maker gets up to $170 million from U.S. Defense Department

(Reuters) – Semiconductor maker SkyWater Technology said on Monday it will receive up to $170 million from the U.S. Department of Defense to make chips that can work in outer space, and create smaller, faster ones with new materials.

The Bloomington, Minnesota-based company was spun off from Cypress Semiconductor Corp (CY.O) in 2017 to a group of U.S.-based investors. That year, SkyWater became part of a Defense Department program to ensure U.S. military access to the domestic chip supply chain.

SkyWater executives said the Defense Department investment will allow it to develop a new chip making process. To support the new process, SkyWater will pay to add about 60,000 square feet of production space for both defense and commercial customers and add 30-50 mostly high-end engineers to its staff of 500.

The $80 million first phase of the project will help SkyWater make chips that work when exposed to high levels of radiation in spacecraft and medical devices. The U.S. military also uses such chips to ensure electronics will remain functional in a nuclear conflict.

SkyWater said the funds also will enable it to use copper instead of aluminum to connect circuits on its chips, a change that eventually would lead to smaller chips than even its current 90-nanometer manufacturing technology allows.

Smaller, faster chips will help SkyWater become more competitive in commercial markets such as battery monitoring systems and wireless chargers for consumer gadgets, SkyWater President Thomas Sonderman said in an interview.

“The goal of the government really is to stand up capabilities that can be used commercially,” Sonderman said. “They want to have commercially viable entities that ultimately can provide the technologies they use for their applications.”

(This story has been refiled to correct paragraph 3 to show SkyWater will pay for expansion of facilities and headcount)

Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Richard Chang

Source: Reuters: Technology News
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Drugstore drones: UPS will fly CVS prescriptions to U.S. customers

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – United Parcel Service Inc’s new Flight Forward drone unit will soon start home prescription delivery from CVS Health Corp.

FILE PHOTO: A UPS drone makes a Flight Forward medical delivery on WakeMed Health & Hospitals’ main campus in Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S. in an undated photo. UPS/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

The service, which will debut in one or two U.S. cities in the coming weeks, shows how the parcel delivery company plans to expand its upstart drone business beyond hospital campuses.

“Flight Forward will work with new customers in other industries to design additional solutions for a wide array of last-mile and urgent delivery challenges,” UPS Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer Scott Price said.

The Atlanta-based company this month won the U.S. government’s first approval to operate a drone airline, leapfrogging rivals like Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Wing and clearing the way for the expansion of Flight Forward.

UPS, which owns 251 jet aircraft and charters nearly 300 more, is building its Flight Forward business at a time when U.S. drone delivery is in its infancy. Regulations for operating those unmanned vehicles in U.S. airspace are not expected until 2021.

On Monday, Flight Forward and partner Matternet also announced a deal to deliver biological samples and other cargo on University of Utah Health hospital campuses. That will be similar to the service at North Carolina’s WakeMed Hospital, where Flight Forward operates about 10 flights per day, said Bala Ganesh, vice president of the advanced technology group at UPS.

Flight Forward has also signed a hospital campus deal with healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente, UPS said.

In addition, the company said pharmaceutical distributor AmerisourceBergen Corp will use Flight Forward drones to move pharmaceuticals, supplies and records to select U.S. medical campuses it serves.

UPS rival FedEx Corp last week delivered a residential package to a home in Christiansburg, Virginia, as part of a trial service with Alphabet’s Wing Aviation.

Dan Gagnon, vice president of global healthcare strategy at UPS, said Flight Forward “is not a one and done business model. We’re looking for scale and repetition.”

Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by David Gregorio and Matthew Lewis

Source: Reuters: Technology News
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Facebook suspends Russian Instagram accounts targeting U.S. voters

LONDON/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Facebook Inc said on Monday it has suspended a network of Instagram accounts operated from Russia that targeted Americans with divisive political messages ahead of next year’s U.S. presidential election, with operators posing as people within the United States.

FILE PHOTO: Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Instagram logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Facebook said it also had suspended three separate networks operated from Iran. The Russian network “showed some links” to Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA), Facebook said, an organization Washington has said was used by Moscow to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election.

“We see this operation targeting largely U.S. public debate and engaging in the sort of political issues that are challenging and sometimes divisive in the U.S. right now,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy.

“Whenever you do that, a piece of what you engage on are topics that are going to matter for the election. But I can’t say exactly what their goal was.”

Facebook also announced new steps to fight foreign interference and misinformation ahead of the November 2020 election, including labeling state-controlled media outlets and adding greater protections for elected officials and candidates who may be vulnerable targets for hacking.

U.S. security officials have warned that Russia, Iran and other countries could attempt to sway the result of next year’s presidential vote. Officials say they are on high alert for signs of foreign influence campaigns on social media.

Moscow and Tehran have repeatedly denied the allegations.

Gleicher said the IRA-linked network used 50 Instagram accounts and one Facebook account to gather 246,000 followers, about 60% of which were in the United States.

The earliest accounts dated to January this year and the operation appeared to be “fairly immature in its development,” he said.

“They were pretty focused on audience-building, which is the thing you do first as you’re sort of trying to set up an operation.”

Ben Nimmo, a researcher with social media analysis company Graphika who Facebook commissioned, said the flagged accounts shared material that could appeal to Republican and Democratic voters alike. 

Most of the messages plagiarized material authored by leading conservative and progressive pundits. This included recycling comments initially shared on Twitter that criticized U.S. congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and current President Donald Trump. 

“What’s interesting in this set is so much of what they were doing is copying and pasting genuine material from actual Americans,” Nimmo told Reuters. “This may be indicative of an effort to hide linguistic deficiencies, which have made them easier to detect in the past.”

Attorneys for Concord Management and Consulting LLC have denied any wrongdoing. U.S. prosecutors say the firm is controlled by Russian catering tycoon Evgeny Prigozhin and helped orchestrate the IRA’s operations.

Gleicher said the separate Iranian network his team identified used more than 100 fake and hacked accounts on Facebook and Instagram to target U.S. users and some French-speaking parts of North Africa. Some accounts also repurposed Iranian state media stories to target users in Latin American countries including Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Mexico. 

The activity was connected to an Iranian campaign first identified in August last year, which Reuters showed aimed to direct internet users to a sprawling web of pseudo-news websites which repackaged propaganda from Iranian state media. (Link: here )

The accounts “typically posted about local political news and geopolitics including topics like public figures in the U.S., politics in the U.S. and Israel, support of Palestine and conflict in Yemen,” Facebook said.

Reporting by Jack Stubbs; Additional reporting by Elizabeth Culliford in San Francisco; Editing by Chris Reese, Tom Brown and David Gregorio

Source: Reuters: Technology News
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Facebook reveals preparations for UK election

Facebook has set out extra measures for fighting the spread of disinformation at the next UK election.

These include extending its partnership with fact checker Full Fact and improving the ad library in which political ads are archived.

In addition, it announced separate plans for the 2020 US Presidential vote, including a way to track how much each candidate spends on Facebook ads.

It also confirmed it continues to be a target for foreign influence campaigns.

The company’s cyber-security chief said his team had just removed four distinct networks of accounts, pages and groups from Facebook and Instagram earlier in the day.

“Three of them originated in Iran, and one in Russia – they targeted a number of different regions including the United States, North Africa and Latin America,” said Nathaniel Gleicher.

“The Russian operation showed some links to the [St Petersburg-based] Internet Research Agency and had the hallmarks of a well resourced operation.

“They took consistent operational security steps to conceal their identity and location, and it appears that this operation was still in the early stages, and was focused on trying to build its audience when we took it down.”

‘Transparent and trackable’

Richard Allan, Facebook’s vice president of policy solutions, detailed its plans for an expected UK election in an article for the Daily Telegraph.

He said it would also set up “a dedicated operations centre” for the UK if an election is declared.

The centre’s job would be to quickly remove content which breaks Facebook rules, said

However, he reiterated that it would not be Facebook’s job to “fact check or judge the veracity of what politicians say”.

All political ads, including ads in the UK on social issues such as immigration, health and the environment, will be subject to verification of the identification of the poster, and stored in the firm’s political archive, searchable by anyone, whether or not they are a member of Facebook.

The library, designed to make political ads more transparent and trackable, has faced criticism for being difficult to use because of bugs and crashes.

In July 2019 the New York Times covered the case of a researcher from Mozilla who reported a bug which crashed the library after 59 pages of results.

Facebook replied that the issue was “unfortunately a won’t fix for now” although it later said it had resolved the problem

Mr Allan also pledged to offer all political candidates a dedicated channel for reporting harassment.

Full Fact

Full Fact was co-founded by Conservative party donor Michael Samuel in 2010, and it operates as a charity.

In September it identified that a Conservative party advert had featured a BBC article with an altered headline.

Facebook later removed the ad. Full Fact said that various versions of the headline would have received up to 510,000 impressions, although that could have included multiple viewings by one person.

“Images, videos and articles on Facebook which [Fact Check] assess to be untrue will now be more clearly labelled as false, and we’ll continue pointing people to reports which debunk the myth,” said Mr Allan.

“Our algorithm also heavily demotes this content so it’s seen by fewer people and far less likely to go viral.”

Mr Allan stopped short of saying that the extra measures would be sufficient to prevent election interference in the next UK election.

“While we can never say for sure that there won’t be issues in future elections, we are confident that we’re better prepared than ever,” he said.

Source: BBC News – Technology
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Russian accounts target U.S. voters on Instagram ahead of 2020 election: Facebook

LONDON/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A network of Instagram accounts operated from Russia has targeted Americans with divisive political messages ahead of next year’s U.S. presidential election, with operators posing as people within the United States, Facebook said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Instagram logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Facebook said it had suspended the accounts Monday, as well as three separate networks operated from Iran. The Russian network “showed some links” to Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA), Facebook said, an organization Washington has said was used by Moscow to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election.

“We see this operation targeting largely U.S. public debate and engaging in the sort of political issues that are challenging and sometimes divisive in the U.S. right now,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy.

“Whenever you do that, a piece of what you engage on are topics that are going to matter for the election. But I can’t say exactly what their goal was.”

U.S. security officials have warned that Russia, Iran and other countries could attempt to sway the result of next year’s presidential vote and say they are on high alert for signs of foreign influence campaigns on social media.

Moscow and Tehran have repeatedly denied the allegations.

Gleicher said the IRA-linked network used 50 Instagram accounts and one Facebook account to gather 246,000 followers, about 60% of which were in the United States.

The earliest accounts dated back to January this year and the operation appeared to be “fairly immature in its development,” he said.

“They were pretty focused on audience-building, which is the thing you do first as you’re sort of trying to set up an operation.”

Ben Nimmo, a researcher with social media analysis company Graphika, who was commissioned by Facebook to study the latest IRA-linked activity, said the flagged accounts shared material that could appeal to Republican and Democratic voters alike. 

Most of the messages plagiarized material authored by high profile conservative and progressive voices. This included recycling comments initially shared on Twitter that criticized U.S. congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and current President Donald Trump. 

“What’s interesting in this set is so much of what they were doing is copying and pasting genuine material from actual Americans,” Nimmo told Reuters. “This may be indicative of an effort to hide linguistic deficiencies, which have made them easier to detect in the past.”

Attorneys for Concord Management and Consulting LLC, a firm U.S. prosecutors say is controlled by Russian catering tycoon Evgeny Prigozhin and helped orchestrate the IRA’s operations, have denied any wrongdoing.

Gleicher said the separate Iranian network his team had identified used more than 100 fake and hacked accounts on Facebook and Instagram to target users in the United States as well as some French-speaking parts of North Africa. 

A subset of these accounts also repurposed Iranian state media stories to target users in Latin American countries including Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Mexico. 

The activity was connected to an Iranian campaign first identified in August last year, which Reuters showed aimed to direct internet users to a sprawling web of pseudo-news websites which repackaged propaganda from Iranian state media. (Link: here )

The accounts “typically posted about local political news and geopolitics including topics like public figures in the U.S., politics in the U.S. and Israel, support of Palestine and conflict in Yemen,” Facebook said.

Reporting by Jack Stubbs; Editing by Chris Reese and Tom Brown

Source: Reuters: Technology News
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Colorado abandons legal effort to stop Sprint, T-Mobile merger

FILE PHOTO: A smartphones with Sprint logo are seen in front of a screen projection of T-mobile logo, in this picture illustration taken April 30, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Colorado became on Monday the second state to drop out of an effort by state attorneys general to stop T-Mobile US Inc’s (TMUS.O) $26 billion merger with Sprint Corp (S.N).

Colorado struck a deal with T-Mobile and Dish Network Corp (DISH.O), which is buying assets divested from the merger. In the deal, Dish pledged to bring 2,000 jobs to the state and T-Mobile pledged to deploy the next generation of wireless 5G across much of Colorado, the state attorney general’s office said in a statement.

Colorado is the second state to defect from the New York-led lawsuit to stop the merger. Mississippi said on Oct. 9 that it would withdraw from the legal challenge.

Under the Justice Department deal to win antitrust approval for the merger, the companies agreed to divest Sprint’s prepaid businesses, including Boost Mobile, to Dish, and provide it with access to 20,000 cell sites and hundreds of retail locations. That deal is worth about $5 billion.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere tweeted that it was “great news” that Colorado was dropping off the lawsuit. “CO knows that New T-Mobile will create jobs and deliver 5G to rural areas of the state-and beyond!” he tweeted.

The lawsuit against Sprint and its parent company Softbank Group Corp (9984.T) and T-Mobile and its parent Deutsche Telekom AG (DTEGn.DE) argues the deal will lead to higher prices for consumers. A trial date has been set for Dec. 9.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Lisa Shumaker

Source: Reuters: Technology News
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Apple starts selling locally assembled iPhone XR in India

FILE PHOTO: The Apple Inc. logo is seen hanging at the entrance to the Apple store on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, New York, U.S., October 16, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar

(Reuters) – Apple Inc (AAPL.O) has started selling its popular iPhone XR phones assembled in India, as it looks to expand its share in the world’s second-largest smartphone market where it has struggled against cheaper products from rivals.

The phones are being assembled at Chinese contract manufacturer Foxconn’s India factory, helping the Cupertino, California-based company avoid high levies on the import of fully-built devices as well as meet local sourcing norms for opening its own retail stores in India.

IPhone XR boxes with an “Assembled in India” tag were seen on Monday in many of the country’s electronic product retailers, including Croma, with a price tag of 49,900 Indian rupees ($704) for the 64 GB version.

The company has slashed iPhone XR prices in India to counter a prolonged sales slowdown amid fierce competition from premium smartphones from Samsung and OnePlus.

Earlier this year Reuters had reported that the company would assemble its top-end iPhones in India.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has tried to position South Asia’s third-biggest economy as a hub for smartphone manufacturing.

Companies such as Apple are also looking to use India as an export hub to soften the impact of an ongoing trade war between the United States and China.

Reporting by Amal S and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty

Source: Reuters: Technology News
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Colorado drops out of states’ fight to stop Sprint, T-Mobile merger

FILE PHOTO: A smartphones with Sprint logo are seen in front of a screen projection of T-mobile logo, in this picture illustration taken April 30, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Colorado has decided to drop out of an effort by state attorneys general to T-Mobile US’s (TMUS.O) merger with Sprint (S.N) in exchange for 2,000 jobs, the Colorado attorney general’s office said in a statement.

The lawsuit led by New York against the firms and their parent companies Softbank Group Corp (9984.T) and Deutsche Telekom AG (DTEGn.DE), argues the deal will hike consumer prices. A trial date has been set for Dec. 9.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

Source: Reuters: Technology News
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