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Visa buys financial technology company Plaid for $5.3B

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Visa Tech

By KEN SWEET AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Visa is purchasing the financial technology company Plaid for $5.3 billion, a major push by the payment processing giant into other types of money transfer systems outside of Visa’s traditional credit and debit card business.

Plaid allows consumers to link their bank accounts to financial services apps like Venmo, PayPal, Betterment and Transferwise. The company is an important but unknown middle man between the banks, who hold consumers’s cash, and the dozens of platforms who vie to be the platform of choice to send that cash. Bankers refer to companies like Plaid as “the plumbing” behind how these apps work.

This “plumbing” has become more important has more Americans use mobile wallets or send money to friends, families and businesses. Visa estimates that 1 in every 4 Americans who have a bank account have used the underlying technologies of Plaid to link their bank accounts with other money transfer apps.

The Monday announcement is Visa’s first big push into a product that isn’t just credit and debits cards. Visa is the world’s largest payment processing company, but it makes almost entirely all of its money from swipe fees it earns from merchants whenever its cards are accepted.

Visa expects the acquisition, which will close in three to six months pending regulatory approval, to increase the company’s revenue and profits starting next fiscal year.

The San Francisco company was already an investor in Plaid, and so is Visa’s biggest competitor, Mastercard. Both companies invested in Plaid in 2019. In a conference call with investors, Visa’s Chief Executive Executive Al Kerry said the seven-month-old investment gave Visa more than enough information to decide to buy the company outright.

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Facebook to add 1,000 UK jobs, including tech, content roles

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Facebook Jobs
LONDON (AP) — Facebook said Tuesday it plans to hire 1,000 more staff in Britain, mainly for its technology and harmful content teams. 

The U.S. tech company said Tuesday that it will add the new roles by the end of the year, bringing its U.K. workforce to more than 4,000.

More than half of the new jobs will be in technology-focused roles such as software engineering. 

There will also be a "large number" of jobs working on building tools to detect and remove harmful content from Facebook and its other platforms, which include WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram. The company did not give an exact number. 

Facebook is devoting more effort to keeping harmful content such as spam and abusive material off its sites as authorities put more pressure on the big tech companies to better police their platforms. 

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Extradition hearing begins for top Huawei exec in Canada

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Huawei exec in Canada

By JIM MORRIS and ROB GILLIES Associated Press

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — The first stage of an extradition hearing for a senior executive of Chinese tech giant Huawei started in a Vancouver courtroom Monday, a case that has infuriated Beijing, caused a diplomatic uproar between China and Canada and complicated high-stakes trade talks between China and the United States.

Canada’s arrest of chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, in late 2018 at America’s request enraged Beijing to the point it detained two Canadians in apparent retaliation.

Huawei represents China’s progress in becoming a technological power and has been a subject of U.S. security concerns for years. Beijing views Meng’s case as an attempt to contain China’s rise.

“Our government has been clear. We are a rule of law country and we honor our extradition treaty commitments,” Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said at a Cabinet retreat in Manitoba. “It is what we need to do and what we will do.”

China’s foreign ministry on Monday accused the United States and Canada of violating Meng’s rights and called for her release.

“It is completely a serious political incident,” said a ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang. He urged Canada to “correct mistakes with concrete actions, release Ms. Meng Wanzhou and let her return safely as soon as possible.”

Washington accuses Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. It says Meng, 47, committed fraud by misleading the HSBC bank about the company’s business dealings in Iran.

Meng, who is free on bail and living in one of the two Vancouver mansions she owns, sat next to her lawyers wearing a black dress with white polka dots. She earlier waved at reporters as she arrived at court.

Meng denies the U.S. allegations. Her defense team says comments by President Donald Trump suggest the case against her is politically motivated.

“We trust in Canada’s judicial system, which will prove Ms. Meng’s innocence,” Huawei said in a statement as the proceedings began.

Meng was detained in December 2018 in Vancouver as she was changing flights — on the same day that Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met for trade talks.

Prosecutors have stressed that Meng’s case is separate from the wider China-U.S. trade dispute, but Trump undercut that message weeks after her arrest when he said he would consider intervening in the case if it would help forge a trade deal with Beijing.

China and the U.S. reached a “Phase 1” trade agreement last week, but most analysts say any meaningful resolution of the main U.S. allegation — that Beijing uses predatory tactics in its drive to supplant America’s technological supremacy — could require years of contentious talks. Trump had raised the possibility of using Huawei’s fate as a bargaining chip in the trade talks, but the deal announced Wednesday didn’t mention the company.

Huawei is the biggest global supplier of network gear for cellphone and internet companies. Washington is pressuring other countries to limit use of its technology, warning they could be opening themselves up to surveillance and theft.

The initial stage of Meng’s extradition hearing this week is focusing on whether Meng’s alleged crimes are crimes both in the United States and Canada. Her lawyers filed a a motion Friday arguing that Meng’s case is really about U.S. sanctions against Iran, not a fraud case. Canada does not have similar sanctions on Iran.

Richard Peck, Meng’s lawyer, said in court that the fraud allegations are a “facade” and the charges are really about the United States attempting to enforce its sanctions on Iran. “Would we be here in the absence of U.S. sanctions law? My response is no,” Peck said.

Arguments will continue Tuesday and throughout the week.

The second phase, scheduled for June, will consider defense allegations that Canada Border Services, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the FBI violated Meng’s rights while collecting evidence before she was actually arrested.

The extradition case could take years to resolve if there are appeals. Nearly 90% of those arrested in Canada on extradition requests from the United States. were surrendered to U.S. authorities between 2008 and 2018.

In apparent retaliation for Meng’s arrest, China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor. The two men have been denied access to lawyers and family and are being held in prison cells where the lights are kept on 24-hours-a-day.

China has also placed restrictions on various Canadian exports to China, including canola oil seed and meat. Last January, China also handed a death sentence to a convicted Canadian drug smuggler in a sudden retrial.

“That’s mafia-style pressure,” Lewis, the Washington-based analyst, said.


Associated Press writer Jim Morris reported this story in Vancouver and AP writer Rob Gillies reported from Toronto.

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Google CEO calls for regulation of artificial intelligence

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Google CEO

KELVIN CHAN AP Business Writer

LONDON (AP) — Google’s chief executive called Monday for a balanced approach to regulating artificial intelligence, telling a European audience that the technology brings benefits but also “negative consequences.”

Sundar Pichai’s comments come as lawmakers and governments seriously consider putting limits on how artificial intelligence is used.

“There is no question in my mind that artificial intelligence needs to be regulated. The question is how best to approach this,” Pichai said, according to a transcript of his speech at a Brussel-based think tank.

He noted that there’s an important role for governments to play and that as the European Union and the U.S. start drawing up their own approaches to regulation, “international alignment” of any eventual rules will be critical. He did not provide specific proposals.

Pichai spoke on the same day he was scheduled to meet the EU’s powerful competition regulator, Margrethe Vestager. She’s also due to meet Microsoft President Brad Smith separately on Monday.

Vestager has in previous years hit the Silicon Valley giant with multibillion-dollar fines for allegedly abusing its market dominance to choke off competition. After being reappointed for a second term last autumn with expanded powers over digital technology policies, Vestager has now set her sights on artificial intelligence, and is drawing up rules on its ethical use.

Pichai’s comments suggest the company may be hoping to head off a broad-based crackdown by the EU on the technology. Vestager and the EU have been the among the more aggressive regulators of big tech firms, an approach U.S. authorities have picked up with investigations into the dominance of companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon.

“Sensible regulation must also take a proportionate approach, balancing potential harms with social opportunities,” he said, adding that it could incorporate existing standards like Europe’s tough General Data Protection Regulation rather than starting from scratch.

While it promises big benefits, he raised concerns about potential downsides of artificial intelligence, citing as one example its role in facial recognition technology, which can be used to find missing people but also for “nefarious reasons” which he didn’t specify.

In 2018, Google pledged not to use AI in applications related to weapons, surveillance that violates international norms, or that works in ways that go against human rights.

Pichai was also due on Monday to meet Frans Timmermans, the EU commissioner overseeing the European Green Deal, the bloc’s plan to fight climate change by making the continent carbon neutral by 2050, including through technology. He’s then scheduled to head to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week.


Follow Kelvin Chan on Twitter


For all of AP’s tech coverage, visit https://apnews.com/apf-technology

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