Bytes: What’s new in tech
Banks unveil their Venmo killer
“The mobile-payment landscape just got a little more crowded,” said Laura Sanicola in CNN.com. Zelle, a new Venmo-like payment app backed by more than 30 U.S. banks, is now available on Android and Apple devices. “What makes Zelle different? For one thing, convenience.” The free app is designed to work automatically with checking accounts at participating banks, including Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo, so you don’t have to sign up for the service or enter your account information. To transfer funds from your checking account to another person’s, all you need is his email address or phone number. “Zelle will automatically send that person a text or email with a link saying that he has a payment waiting.”
Google switches off auto-play
Google is about to make browsing the internet a little less “irritating,” said Mark Walton in ArsTechnica.com. A new version of its Chrome web browser, slated for release in January 2018, will block auto-play videos that aren’t muted. The only exception will be if the “user has indicated an interest in the media,” by adding the site to the home screen on his or her mobile device, for example, or by frequently playing videos on the site. The updated version of Chrome will also include an ad blocker, which will stop advertisements like pop-ups and “countdown ads” that make users wait before viewing the page. “Aside from removing the annoyance of auto-playing videos,” the new blocking tools will also help users consume less data and power on their mobile devices.
Facebook’s anti-Semitic ad problem
Facebook is scrambling to update its advertising platform after it was revealed that advertisers could use it to market directly to anti-Semites, said Sarah Frier in Bloomberg.com. The social network temporarily disabled the ability to target users by their self-reported education, employer, or field of study last week after investigative news site ProPublica found that some users “were filling in those fields with offensive content.” As a result, marketers could target their ads to Facebook users who expressed interest in categories like “Jew haters.” Facebook automatically creates ad categories based on what users post about themselves, often relying on users to report abuses. It’s the latest black eye for Facebook’s self-service ad platform, which was recently revealed to have sold $100,000 worth of political ads to a Russia- linked “troll farm” during the election. ■