Plaid must pay $58 million to users of Venmo, Robinhood and other apps

Even if you've never heard of a company called Plaid, they may owe you part of a multi-million dollar lawsuit settlement, Fast Company has reported. Plaid, which connects consumer bank accounts to services like Venmo, Robinhood, Coinbase and other apps, was accused of collecting excessive financial data from consumers. While denying any wrongdoing, it agreed to pay $58 million to all consumers with a linked bank account to any of its approximately 5,000 client apps.

The lawsuit accused Plaid of collecting "more financial data than was needed from users." It also claimed that the company obtained users' bank login information via its own "Plaid Link" interface, "which had the look and feel of the user’s own bank account login screen," according to the settlement website. On top of the $58 million payout, the company was forced to change some of its business practices. 

Millions of people use apps linked to Plaid, so any payout might be pretty slim. Still, if you're a US resident who had a bank account connected to the app between January 1st, 2013 and November 19th, 2021, you may qualify to receive a claim. For more, see the settlement site's FAQ

You may have already received an email about the lawsuit, or you can check the settlement's search section to see if you've used an app that qualifies. In any case, you have until April 28th, 2022 to submit your claim.

Robinhood opens cryptocurrency wallet to beta testers

Back in September, Robinhood announced plans to test a cryptocurrency wallet within its app. At the time, the company said it would open the beta to a small number of people before expanding availability ahead of a full-scale release. If you joined the waiting list Robinhood create, you can now test the wallet for yourself – provided you were one of the first 1,000 people to sign up for the beta.

In a blog post the company published today, Robinhood said it would invite 10,000 individuals to the beta by March, with more to follow later. In addition to storing cryptocurrencies, the company’s wallet allows you to move them off the app to other external wallets. During the testing period, the company will limit daily withdrawals to a total of $2,999. It will also limit users to 10 transactions per day, and, to take part in the beta, you’ll need to enable two-factor authentication. With today's rollout, the wallet supports Bitcoin, Ethereum and Dogecoin. 

As it works to polish the wallet, Robinhood says it will add “delightful” QR scanning experiences and an improved transaction history interface, among other features. When Robinhood first announced the wallet beta, it told The Verge it planned to make the feature available to everyone sometime in 2022.

Leak offers a glimpse at Microsoft’s canceled Andromeda OS for dual-screen devices

Before Microsoft announced the Surface Duo in 2019, the company spent several years working on an operating system codenamed Andromeda. It was envisioned as a reboot of Windows Phone with an emphasis on inking. The company worked on the software until it eventually decided to instead include Android on the Surface Duo. Until now, we’ve only seen glimpses of Andromeda in things like patent filing. But Windows Central recently obtained an internal build of the operating system and installed it on a Lumia 950.

Outside of a rare look at an unfinished project, what’s interesting about seeing Andromeda after all these years is how many of the ideas Microsoft was working on then either made their way to the Surface Duo or apps the company has released since. On the lock screen, for instance, you can see an early version of the Surface Duo’s peek functionality. Meanwhile, a lot of the features you see on the “Journal” home screen eventually made their way to the company’s Whiteboard app, and that’s something you can download from the Microsoft Store.

At the same time, it’s an interesting look at what could have been. Even in the software’s unfinished state, there’s a lot we see in the video that’s genuinely different from anything Android and iOS offer, even to this day. The fact Andromeda allowed you to jot down notes directly on the lock screen, and that they would still be there the next time you unlocked the phone, is something that looks genuinely useful.

Of course, there are probably many good reasons Microsoft ultimately decided not to pursue Andromeda. Launching a device that does something different, let alone a completely new operating system, is no easy task in a mature marketplace. Unless a device does nearly everything right, it’s difficult to overcome the fact most people tend to stick with products they know and are comfortable with.

Instagram will now reduce the visibility of ‘potentially harmful’ content

Instagram is taking new steps to make “potentially harmful” content less visible in its app. The company says that the algorithm powering the way posts are ordered in users’ feeds and in Stories will now de-prioritize content that “may contain bullying, hate speech or may incite violence.”

While Instagram’s rules already prohibit much of this type of content, the change could affect borderline posts, or content that hasn’t yet reached the app’s moderators. “To understand if something may break our rules, we'll look at things like if a caption is similar to a caption that previously broke our rules,” the company explains in an update.

Up until now, Instagram has tried to hide potentially objectionable content from public-facing parts of the app, like Explore, but hasn’t changed how it appears to users who follow the accounts posting this type of content. The latest change means that posts deemed “similar” to those that have been previously removed will be much less visible even to followers. A spokesperson for Meta confirmed that “potentially harmful” posts could still be eventually removed if the post breaks its community guidelines.

The update follows a similar change in 2020, when Instagram began down-ranking accounts that shared misinformation that was debunked by fact checkers. Unlike that change, however, Instagram says that the latest policy will only affect individual posts and “not accounts overall.”

Additionally, Instagram says it will now factor in each individual user’s reporting history into how it orders their feeds. “If our systems predict you’re likely to report a post based on your history of reporting content, we will show the post lower in your Feed,” Instagram says.

Twitter Communities hits Android four months after its debut

Twitter Communities, a topic-based groups feature that landed on iOS and the web last year, has arrived on Android. In the latest version of Twitter's Android app, you'll be able to find groups related to your interests and chat with like-minded people.

There are communities for interests as varied as plants, skincare, space, design, fashion, Xbox and R&B. There's even one where you can share your Wordle scores if you want to be part of that conversation without annoying your followers.

Although users can't set up their own community as easily as they might with say, a Facebook Group or subreddit, they can suggest a new one that they'd like to create and moderate. Twitter says it will keep them in mind as it adds more communities.

Twitter has laid out some of its other plans for Communities in 2022. For one thing, it's looking into a third type of membership beyond invite-only and open-to-all formats, in which users could request to join. Admins and mods would be able to let them in or deny the request. Also in the pipeline are a ranked timeline (though the chronological timeline will still be available), Q&As and ways for mods to highlight some of a community's best content.

Twitter Communities hits Android four months after its debut

Twitter Communities, a topic-based groups feature that landed on iOS and the web last year, has arrived on Android. In the latest version of Twitter's Android app, you'll be able to find groups related to your interests and chat with like-minded people.

There are communities for interests as varied as plants, skincare, space, design, fashion, Xbox and R&B. There's even one where you can share your Wordle scores if you want to be part of that conversation without annoying your followers.

Although users can't set up their own community as easily as they might with say, a Facebook Group or subreddit, they can suggest a new one that they'd like to create and moderate. Twitter says it will keep them in mind as it adds more communities.

Twitter has laid out some of its other plans for Communities in 2022. For one thing, it's looking into a third type of membership beyond invite-only and open-to-all formats, in which users could request to join. Admins and mods would be able to let them in or deny the request. Also in the pipeline are a ranked timeline (though the chronological timeline will still be available), Q&As and ways for mods to highlight some of a community's best content.

Google is discontinuing its legacy free G Suite tier on July 1st

Over the years, Google’s productivity suite has had many names. What started as Google Apps became G Suite and is now known as Workspace. Over that same timeframe, the company has offered just as many ways to access that software, announcing new subscription plans while doing away with older ones. It now plans to sunset a tier that had survived the suite’s most recent rebranding.

In an email spotted by 9to5Google, the company told Workspace administrators it won’t offer G Suite legacy free edition as of July 1st, 2022. The company plans to transition those users to paid accounts starting on May 1st. Google says it will automatically select a subscription plan for users who don’t pick one on their own by the start of May, noting it will look at their current usage when making the decision. Any individual or organization the company migrates to a paid subscription plan automatically won’t be billed for at least two months. However, the company says it will suspend the accounts of individuals and organizations that don’t input their billing information by July 1st.

Business and enterprise Workspace accounts start at a monthly cost of $6 per user. The company will offer "deep" discounts to those affected by the decision. To be clear, if you're using Gmail, Docs, Sheets and other apps through a free Google account, you won't be affected by the move. What's more, Google will continue to offer free Workspace plans to nonprofits and schools that qualify for its Fundamentals tier. That’s not changing with today’s announcement, nor do organizations with legacy G Suite Basic, Business, Education or Nonprofit subscriptions have to worry about a potential surprise bill.

Google is discontinuing its legacy free G Suite tier on July 1st

Over the years, Google’s productivity suite has had many names. What started as Google Apps became G Suite and is now known as Workspace. Over that same timeframe, the company has offered just as many ways to access that software, announcing new subscription plans while doing away with older ones. It now plans to sunset a tier that had survived the suite’s most recent rebranding.

In an email spotted by 9to5Google, the company told Workspace administrators it won’t offer G Suite legacy free edition as of July 1st, 2022. The company plans to transition those users to paid accounts starting on May 1st. Google says it will automatically select a subscription plan for users who don’t pick one on their own by the start of May, noting it will look at their current usage when making the decision. Any individual or organization the company migrates to a paid subscription plan automatically won’t be billed for at least two months. However, the company says it will suspend the accounts of individuals and organizations that don’t input their billing information by July 1st.

Business and enterprise Workspace accounts start at a monthly cost of $6 per user. The company will offer "deep" discounts to those affected by the decision. To be clear, if you're using Gmail, Docs, Sheets and other apps through a free Google account, you won't be affected by the move. What's more, Google will continue to offer free Workspace plans to nonprofits and schools that qualify for its Fundamentals tier. That’s not changing with today’s announcement, nor do organizations with legacy G Suite Basic, Business, Education or Nonprofit subscriptions have to worry about a potential surprise bill.

Opera launches a dedicated crypto browser

Opera has launched its Web3 "Crypto Browser" into beta with features like a built-in crypto wallet, easy access to cryptocurrency/NFT exchanges, support for decentralized apps (dApps) and more. The aim is to "simplify the Web3 user experience that is often bewildering for mainstream users," Opera EVP Jorgen Arnensen said in statement. 

A key feature is the built-in non-custodial wallet that will support blockchains including Ethereum, Bitcoin, Celo and Nervos from the get-go. It also announced partnerships with Polygon and others. The idea is to let you access your crypto without the need for any extensions, with the option of using third-party wallets as well. You can purchase cryptocurrencies via a fiat to crypto on-ramp, swap crypto directly in-wallet, send and receive it and check your wallet balance. It even has a secure clipboard that ensures other apps can't data when you copy/paste.

The other primary function is support for Web3, aka blockchain-based decentralized internet, aka the buzzy new thing among crypto enthusiasts (and skeptics). On top of providing extra security via blockchain encryption, it allows users to access things like GameFi "where you can earn as you play your way through all sorts of metaverses," Opera notes. It also offers a "Crypto Corner" with the latest blockchain news that also "lets you grow your Web3 skills," according to Opera. 

Opera's rival Mozilla recently announced it would accept cryptocurrency donations, but was hit by a backlash from users including co-founder Jamie Zawinski over the environmental impact of blockchain. Perhaps anticipating a similar reaction, Opera said it was working toward implementing the more energy-efficient Etherium Layer 2 standard "as quickly as possible."

Other companies like Ubisoft jumping on the blockchain train with NFTs and other offerings have been hit by similar criticism. However, Opera at least gives its users a choice with multiple browser options, as it also offers its regular Opera browser and one that's dedicated to gamers. The Crypto Browser is now available for Android, Windows and Mac, with an iOS version coming soon. 

Apple and Google oppose Senate antitrust efforts, claiming they’d hurt consumer security

With the Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled to discuss the American Innovation and Choice Online Act and the Open App Markets Act this week, Apple and Google are stepping up their opposition to both bills. According to CNBC, Apple recently told lawmakers the legislation would make iPhone users less safe.

“The bills put consumers in harm’s way because of the real risk of privacy and security breaches,” Apple said in a letter seen by CNBC. The company specifically targets app sideloading as a potential threat. One of the provisions of the Open App Markets Act would force platform holders to allow consumers to sideload software and install third-party app stores. “But, if Apple is forced to enable sideloading, millions of Americans will likely suffer malware attacks on their phones that would otherwise have been stopped,” the company states in the letter.

On Tuesday, Google, in a post attributed to Kent Walker, the company’s president of global affairs and chief legal officer, advanced a similar argument. “Google is able to protect billions of people around the world from cyberattacks because we bake security and privacy protections into our services,” he said.

Walker warns the bills could hurt the company’s ability to integrate automated security features in its services. He also claims the bills could hurt the company’s ability and that of its US counterparts to compete with foreign firms by forcing them to obtain approval from “government bureaucrats” whenever they plan to release new features or address existing issues.

Apple and Google may not like the proposed bills, but they have support from others in the tech ecosystem. Specifically, the Coalition for App Fairness, an organization Epic and Spotify co-founded to pressure the two companies to change their app store policies, has come out in support of the legislation. “Moving this important legislation forward sends a clear and unambiguous message that monopoly control of the app ecosystem is no longer acceptable,” the group said on Monday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will discuss both bills on Thursday, at which point they could advance to the floor of the Senate. At that point, the Senate would need to make time to vote on the legislation. That’s something that could take time with all the other issues it needs to consider in the coming weeks.