Weekly Digital News Roundup: July 30 – Aug 3
Facebook patents technology to help lenders discriminate against borrowers based on social connections
- According to the Venture Beat, Facebook has been granted an updated patent from the U.S. Patent office on a technology that can help lenders discriminate against certain borrowers based on the borrower’s social network connections.
- The patent describes a technology that tracks the way users are connected in a network. The main use case is for preventing members of a network from sending spam to other members with who they’re not directly or legitimately connected. Other use cases involve preventing network members from receiving emails from, or showing up in the search results of, people with whom they have no direct or legitimate connection.
- But the technology can also aid in other types of discrimination. Here’s the last use case Facebook describes in the patent: In a fourth embodiment of the invention, the service provider is a lender. When an individual applies for a loan, the lender examines the credit ratings of members of the individual’s social network who are connected to the individual through authorized nodes. If the average credit rating of these members is at least a minimum credit score, the lender continues to process the loan application. Otherwise, the loan application is rejected.
Hackers turn Square hardware into device to steal credit card information
- According to the Mashable, three recent Boston University graduates are preparing to publicly present research that demonstrates how to hack Square’s mobile payments hardware. The research is set to be shown off at the The Black Hat Security conference in Las Vegas this week.
- The team said it discovered a way to steal credit card information using a modified Square magnetic stripe reader. By tampering with the magstripe reader, the team was able to turn Square’s hardware into a credit card skimmer, a device that can be used to steal credit card information. The modified reader doesn’t work with the proprietary Square app, but it could be used to steal credit card information using a custom-recording app, according to the team behind the hardware hack. The team also claims that the modification of Square’s hardware only takes 10 minutes and can be done with household tools.
- “In 2015, it should not surprise us that a system using essentially the same technology as cassette tapes is vulnerable,” says the Square spokesperson. “That is why major credit card companies, lenders, and businesses are now embracing new, more secure, authenticated payment technologies.” The U.S. will finally join Europe in a system that will read credit cards via an embedded microchip, rather than via magnetic strip. This will provide a much more secure system for payments than the current method, rendering card skimmers useless. Square will distribute free chip and PIN readers to businesses that pre-order the device.
Yelp adds hospital and health care data to help plan your treatment
- According to PC World, Yelp wants finding a good hospital to be as painless as tracking down a decent burrito. As such, it’s partnering with the nonprofit news organization ProPublica to more data to its business listings for hospitals, nursing homes, and dialysis clinics. Where a restaurant listing might show operating hours and price ranges, hospital listings will show ER wait times, the quality of doctor communication, and the quietness of guest rooms.
- For nursing homes, users can look up the number of beds, any serious deficiencies, fines paid due to those deficiencies, and payment suspensions related to poor performance. Meanwhile, listings for dialysis will show death rates and the frequency of hospital readmissions.
- The data is all available now on Yelp’s website, covering 4,600 hospitals, 15,000 nursing homes, and 6,300 dialysis clinics. If there’s one complaint about the revamped listings, it’s that they only link to the home pages of Hospital Compare and Nursing Home Inspect, instead of the actual provider pages where much more information is often available. The new information doesn’t interfere at all with Yelp’s existing user reviews, so readers can still help themselves to the horror stories and effusive praise of actual patients.