EBay Inc. (EBAY)’s PayPal service will start accepting bitcoins, opening up the world’s second-biggest Internet payment network to virtual currency transactions.
“We’re announcing PayPal’s first foray into bitcoin,” Bill Ready, the chief of EBay’s Braintree unit, said at Techcrunch’s Disrupt SF conference yesterday. “Over the coming months we’ll allow our merchants to accept bitcoin. On the consumer side it will be a sleek experience.”
EBay, as the world’s biggest Web marketplace and operator of a global payments service, is the most significant business to date that’s embraced bitcoin. The move could potentially enable PayPal’s 152 million registered accounts to transact using the virtual currency, spurring wider use and acceptance of bitcoin, according to Gil Luria, an analyst at Wedbush Securities Inc.
“PayPal integrating bitcoin into Braintree is a very substantial development,” Luria said. “Not only will it make it possible for some of the fastest-growing apps to integrate bitcoin seamlessly, it opens the door for PayPal to integrate bitcoin into its main wallet functionality. If that happens millions of retailers will de facto be accepting bitcoin overnight.”
Braintree provides payment capabilities on websites and in mobile apps such as mobile car-booking service Uber Technologies Inc. and Airbnb Inc., the short-term home rental service for travelers. EBay acquired Braintree for $800 million in cash last year to expand its mobile-transactions business. PayPal and Braintree will work with bitcoin payment-service provider Coinbase Inc. to enable payments in the virtual currency, Ready said.
Ready said that tens of thousands of PayPal merchants using Braintree will be able to accept bitcoins if they choose to do so.
“We’re at the right time for this, and to see how to propel it forward,” Ready said. He said he expects to announce which merchants will accept Bitcoin in the coming months.
EBay would join other companies in accepting bitcoin, a digital currency that started to enter the mainstream in 2013. Dell Inc. began accepting bitcoins for for good such as computers in July.
Dish Networks Corp., Overstock.com Inc. and Expedia Inc. also accept the virtual currency. In total, about 63,000 businesses handle bitcoins, and users have set up more than 5 million digital wallets to keep their holdings at the end of June, according to CoinDesk, a website tracking the digital money’s use.
Bitcoins emerged from a 2008 paper written by a programmer or group of programmers under the name Satoshi Nakamoto, becoming the most popular virtual currency. It relies on a public ledger and cryptography to record transactions and protect ownership.
A Bloomberg Global Poll of financial professionals in July indicated that there’s still skepticism of the virtual currency even as technology entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and hedge funds plow money and effort into building it into a global payment system. Bitcoin prices have swung between more than $900 to as low as $341 this year as enthusiasts try to address the digital currency’s weaknesses, persuade consumers to embrace it and overcome governments’ concerns that it could be misused by criminals.
Fifty-five percent of those surveyed said the virtual currency trades at unsustainable, bubble-like prices, according to the quarterly poll of 562 investors, analysts and traders who are Bloomberg subscribers. Another 14 percent said it’s on the verge of a bubble.
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Microsoft Admits Windows 10 Automatic Spying Cannot Be Stopped
Last week changes to the Windows 10 upgrade path mean it is going to become increasingly difficult for any non-techy users to avoid being pushed to Microsoft MSFT +0.00%’s new operating system. But given Windows 10 is better than Windows 7 and Windows 8, why would that be a problem? Because of policies like this…
Speaking to PC World, Microsoft Corporate Vice President Joe Belfiore explained that Windows 10 is constantly tracking how it operates and how you are using it and sending that information back to Microsoft by default. More importantly he also confirmed that, despite offering some options to turn elements of tracking off, core data collection simply cannot be stopped:
“In the cases where we’ve not provided options, we feel that those things have to do with the health of the system,” he said. “In the case of knowing that our system that we’ve created is crashing, or is having serious performance problems, we view that as so helpful to the ecosystem and so not an issue of personal privacy, that today we collect that data so that we make that experience better for everyone.”
This backs up detailed data that some had chosen to dismiss as conspiracy theories.
Windows 10 has great potential, but aggressive update and user tracking policies. Image credit: Microsoft
Still, whether or not you agree with Belfiore’s standpoint that this doesn’t invade user privacy, it does seem strange that it has taken Microsoft so long to come clean and admit core Windows 10 background data collection processes cannot be stopped. Instead it gave the impression that turning off all user accessible spying options in Windows 10 settings would provide owners with full privacy – that’s tantamount to spying.
To his credit, Belfiore does recognise the controversial nature of this decision and stresses that:
“We’re going to continue to listen to what the broad public says about these decisions, and ultimately our goal is to balance the right thing happening for the most people – really, for everyone – with complexity that comes with putting in a whole lot of control.”
Interestingly Belfiore himself won’t be around to oversee this as he is about to take a year long sabbatical. When he comes back, however, I suspect this issue will still be raging as Windows and Devices Group head Terry Myerson recently confirmed Windows 10 Enterprise users will be able to disable every single aspect of Microsoft data collection.
This comes in combination with Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise users’ ability to permanently disable automatic updates which are forced upon consumers and shows the growing divide between how Microsoft is treating consumers versus corporations.
So how concerned should users be about Windows 10’s default data collection policies? I would say very.
By default Windows 10 Home is allowed to control your bandwidth usage, install any software it wants whenever it wants (without providing detailed information on what these updates do), display ads in the Start Menu (currently it has been limited to app advertisements), send your hardware details and any changes you make to Microsoft and even log your browser history and keystrokes which the Windows End User Licence Agreement (EULA) states you allow Microsoft to use for analysis.
The good news: even if Belfiore states you cannot switch off everything, editing your privacy settings will disable the worst of these. To find them open the Start menu > Settings > Privacy.
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