In today’s top stories from Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Israeli blockchain builder StarkWare sees its value rise to $8 billion after a $100 million funding round.
Also, the EU’s data protection chief calls for people to gain more control over their digital information, and Centbee unveils a blockchain-based tool that makes it easier for consumers in the U.K. to send money to West Africa.
Israeli-based blockchain technology builder StarkWare Industries raised $100 million in a Series D round that raised the startup’s valuation to $8 billion.
The financing round was led by Greenoaks Capital and Coatue, with participation by Tiger Global along with current and new investors. It follows Starkware’s $50 million Series C six months ago that valued the company at $2 billion.
European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) head Wojciech Wiewiorowski says people should have greater choices and opportunities when it comes to their information, and the level of privacy shouldn’t be decided far away.
Speaking at the Computers, Privacy and Data Protection Conference, his remarks were a clear reference to the decisions made by tech companies outside Europe and focused on how companies and regulators should center people in the debate.
“Sometimes we lose sight of what we are fundamentally protecting at the end of the day: the rights of people,” Wiewiorowski said.
FinTech Centbee has launched a new service that makes it easier for U.K. residents to send digital cash to people in West Africa through the blockchain.
Centbee’s new service will allow users to send money to countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger and Benin, Co-CEO Lorien Gamaroff said.
“Immigrants living in the U.K. can now send money home to their loved one’s mobile money wallets or bank accounts using their Centbee wallets,” said Gamaroff in a company press release. “By using the BSV blockchain to enable cross-border payments, we’re able to significantly reduce the costs of sending money, making it more affordable — under $2.50 per send — for people to send money home.”
Airfreight digital booking portal WebCargo is now able to directly process real-time rates and payments for forwarders and airlines, which lets forwarders pay for bookings on the platform instead of using a separate tool.
The company is testing this new payment method with roughly 30 freight forwarders in the U.S., Europe and the U.K., with plans to launch in parts of Asia soon and with the airlines IAG Cargo and Qatar Cargo. Additional airlines are soon expected to join the pilot.
The U.K.’s data-privacy watchdog’s recent $10 million fine on facial recognition company Clearview AI Inc. could spur innovation in the space, including advancements in payments technology, as it “sets clearer ground rules for balancing software innovation with people’s right to privacy,” according to a report in The Wall Street Journal Wednesday (May 25).
The Information Commissioner’s Office alleged in its ruling that Clearview collected images of people without their consent, but experts say that fine won’t be enough to scare off innovators from using facial recognition. In fact, it could encourage them to push the boundaries of what’s possible.
“Clearview AI was operating well outside the bounds of what many AI practitioners are comfortable doing,” Jeremy Howard, co-founder of Fast.ai, an online service that provides resources for AI developers and researchers, told WSJ. “Knowing that such a use of personal imagery is being penalized is encouraging to those of us that want to build useful tools in an ethical way.”
Digital banking tech platform DreamStart Labs and free smartphone organization KEIPhone will work together to offer digital banking via free FinTech-enabled smartphones to unbanked women in Africa.
The partnership means every phone distributed by KEIPhone will come with the DreamSave app from DreamStart Labs. Women who get the phones will view ads targeting their financial needs, including mobile money services to help female entrepreneurs improve their small businesses, agricultural innovations to help farming communities increase profits, and pay-as-you-go solar products to improve access to affordable clean energy.