Author: Taylor Hatmaker

Coinstar machines will start selling Bitcoin at the grocery store

TECHCRUNCH You know those machines at the grocery store that transform your gallon jugs worth of change into more usable currency? They’re about to start selling Bitcoin. To make this impulse shopping dream come true, Coinstar, the company behind those ubiquitous change-counting kiosks, has partnered with Coinme, a startup that operates a small network of cryptocurrency-dispensing ATMs around the country. “Coinstar is always looking for new ways to offer value to our consumers when they visit our kiosks, and Coinme’s innovative delivery mechanism along with Coinstar’s flexible platform makes it possible for consumers to easily purchase Bitcoin with cash,” Coinstar CEO Jim Gaherity said in the announcement, first reported by GeekWire. With 20,000 machines around the world, Coinstar operates a pretty huge network that could be enabled to dispense digital currency. As the company’s announcement states, there are “thousands in the U.S. market that can be enabled to accept Bitcoin transactions” though we’d guess it won’t hit those numbers for a while. Coinme has digital currency ATMs in 11 states, including multiple locations in Texas, Washington and California, among others. While it’s not initially clear exactly how many machines will become Bitcoin-ready, Coinme’s site also states that the partnership will result in “thousands of places to buy Bitcoin.” The Coinstar Bitcoin locator tool wouldn’t point us to any local kiosks when we tried, but if you can track one down,...

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Tesla will end its buyer referral program for ‘adding too much cost’

TECHCRUNCH At the end of the month, Tesla will end a long-running referral program that offered incentives for existing Tesla owners to help drive sales. In its recent iterations, the referral system gifted new buyers who found their way to a Tesla through a friend with six months of free charging at Supercharger stations. Most recently, the referring friend would become eligible for a set of characteristically outlandish prizes, from launching a chosen photo into deep space orbit to a VIP invite to one of the company’s flashy unveiling events, depending on how many qualifying referrals were made. Tesla’s...

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US will reportedly seek criminal case against Huawei for stealing tech secrets

TECHCRUNCH According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, U.S. federal prosecutors are preparing a criminal indictment against Huawei for stealing trade secrets. The report, which cites sources with knowledge of the indictment, specifically mentions Huawei’s actions surrounding a T-Mobile smartphone testing tool known as “Tappy.” The report notes that the current investigation is far enough along that an indictment may come soon. This isn’t the first we’ve heard of Tappy. In 2014, T-Mobile sued Huawei for allegedly gaining access to a company lab outside of Seattle and photographing and attempting to steal parts of the robotic smartphone...

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New FAA proposal would let drones fly over people and at night without a waiver

TECHCRUNCH Companies impatient to make drone deliveries a viable reality should have a win to celebrate soon. On Monday, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao announced in a “sneak preview” that her department would move forward with plans to remove waiver requirements for two key drone operation circumstances: flying after dark and flying over populated areas. “First, at long last, the Department is ready to issue for comment a proposed new rule that would allow drones to fly overnight and over people without waivers, if certain conditions are met,” Chao said. Those conditions include the stipulation that the drone operator has received special night flying testing and training and that the drone be outfitted with lighting designed to prevent collisions visible for “at least 3 statute miles.” According to the FAA report that accompanied the remarks (embedded below), requests to operate at night are “by far” the FAA’s most common waiver request. The agency notes that “to date, the FAA has not received any reports of small UAS accidents operating under a night waiver.” The second major change would allow drones to fly over people without a waiver if certain conditions are met. Those conditions are designed to minimize risk to anyone on the ground, including restrictions limiting device weight to .55 pounds. Drones over .55 pounds would be similarly allowed to operate over people if they meet a set of...

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Democratic texting platform Hustle lays off a big chunk of its staff

TECHCRUNCH The company behind a texting platform that powered more than 1,300 Democratic campaigns has slashed its staff in the lull following the 2018 midterms. Hustle co-founder and CEO Roddy Lindsay, a former Facebook engineer, disclosed the layoffs in a recent Medium post, apologizing for the choices that led up to the decision to “right-size” Hustle’s team. “… While we have an exciting set of initial commercial customers using Hustle successfully, it was premature to aggressively expand our team — we need the time to do the research with our customers and build the right product to support industries beyond politics...

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That GoFundMe to build a border wall is issuing $20 million in refunds

TECHCRUNCH A Trump-inspired GoFundMe campaign that raised $20 million to ostensibly to build a wall on the southern U.S. border will refund every cent. Run by Brian Kolfage, a veteran with a track record of questionable business practices, the project defied all logistical considerations with its proposal for a “simple and straightforward” plan to build the wall. That didn’t stop the fund from attracting the attention of 337,559 donors at the time of writing. Surprising perhaps no one beyond its donors, the campaign collided with reality, with Kolfage coming to the realization that “the federal government won’t be able to accept our donations anytime soon” given that there is no actual mechanism through which it could do so. On the campaign page, Kolfage newly disclosed his plans to form a nonprofit, “We Build The Wall, Inc.” that would hold onto the donations until the federal government is able to accept them or until all of the donors eventually forget the project altogether. Initially, donors were told that their money would be refunded if the goal for the project was not met. On December 22, the project’s language changed, removing any mention of refunds if the goal was not met. With that, the project appears to have run afoul of GoFundMe’s policies. Also, as the campaign 💥, Kolfage’s been changing the language about refunding $ 12/18 “If for ANY reason...

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Reports raise video privacy concerns for Amazon-owned Ring

TECHCRUNCH Amazon-owned smart doorbell maker Ring is facing claims that might give some smart home enthusiasts pause. Recent reports from The Intercept and The Information have accused the company of mishandling videos collected by its line of smart home devices, failing to inform users that their videos would be reviewed by humans and failing to protect the sensitive video footage itself with encryption. In 2016, Ring moved some of its R&D operations to Ukraine as a cost saving move. According to the Intercept’s sources, that team had “unfettered access to a folder on Amazon’s S3 cloud storage service that...

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Research finds heavy Facebook users make impaired decisions like drug addicts

TECHCRUNCH Researchers at Michigan State University are exploring the idea that there’s more to “social media addiction” than casual joking about being too online might suggest. Their paper, titled “Excessive social media users demonstrate impaired decision making in the Iowa Gambling Task” (Meshi, Elizarova, Bender, & Verdejo-Garcia) and published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, indicates that people who use social media sites heavily actually display some of the behavioral hallmarks of someone addicted to cocaine or heroin. The study asked 71 participants to first rate their own Facebook usage with a measure known as the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale. The...

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