Snapchat is making changes to the information it collects about under-16s in Europe as it works to comply with an update to the EU’s data protection rules. The changes could see its location tracking Snap Map being disabled for younger teen users in the region.
The messaging app, which is most popular with teens, has faced criticism in Europe for how it processes and exposes the location of children on the Snap Map feature which launched last summer.
The FT reports that the messaging app will stop gathering the location data of younger European teens. A spokesperson for the company told the newspaper it will generally no longer process any data that might require parental consent. Although the company also said Snapchat does not intent to put an outright bar on 13-year-olds signing up to its service.
The latter decision stands in contrast to a move by Facebook-owned WhatsApp, which earlier this week revealed it’s raising its minimum user age to 16 for European users, also as a GDPR compliance step — although WhatsApp did not detail any plans to actively enforce this new limit, i.e. beyond asking users to state they are over 16.
GDPR includes a new provision on children’s personal data, setting a 16-year-old age limit on kids’ ability to consent to their data being processed. Although Member States can choose to derogate from this (and some have) by writing a lower age limit into their laws.
The hard cap is set at 13-years-old — making that the defacto standard for children to be able to sign up to digital services.
The new privacy framework will apply in just over a month’s time.
In an FAQ on its website related to GDPR compliance and obtaining parental consent for users under the age of 16, Snap writes: “To the extent Snap relies on consent to process personal data of users between 13 and 16, we will make the reasonable efforts required to confirm that consent has been given by someone who holds parental responsibility while respecting the need to minimize further data collection.”
We’ve reached out to Snap to ask whether it will be entirely disabling Snap Map for under-16s in the region. It’s possible the company might try to come up with a compromise that obfuscates under-16s’ location on the map, although any such move would undermine the utility of the feature — and may not entirely assuage privacy concerns related to it either.
The level of detail on Snap Map has been flagged as a major privacy concern, because it can show the precise location of users (the location only updates when the app is open). It can even detail activities — such as showing a person is in a car or at an airport. Even Snapchat users colloquially refer to the feature as a tool to “stalk” their friends.
And while users do need to opt in to share their location, the Snap Map feature was actively pushed out as a new feature notification when it launched — meaning the company actively solicited opt-ins from users.
Once Snap Map has been enabled, there are controls which enable users to switch on a so-called ‘ghost mode’ — which removes their location-pinpointed avatar from the map. However some users have reported that subsequent updates to the app can disable this setting — rendering them visible again, and meaning they would need to notice that and revisit the setting to switch invisibility back on.
Users can also choose to share their location with a certain sub-set of friends, rather than with all their friends. However there is also a public version of Snap Map where Stories that users have shared publicly at a particular location can be viewed by anyone using the Internet, even if they’re not themselves a Snapchat user.
The social map feature was inspired by a similar offering made by French startup, Zenly . Snap later acquired the startup for between $250M and $350M — although Zenly’s own social map was left to run independently.
We’ve also reached out to the team with questions. The current minimum age for usage of its app is 13.
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Revolut, the London-based fintech that offers a digital banking account and sprawling set of other financial services, is disclosing that it has raised a whopping $250 million in Series C funding, less than three years since launching.
The new round, which gives the company a $1.7 billion post-money valuation — a five-fold increase in under a year, we’re told — was led by Hong Kong based DST Global, along with a group of new and existing investors that includes Index Ventures, and Ribbit Capital. In case you aren’t keeping up, it brings the total amount raised by Revolut to $340 million in less than 36 months.
To put this into context, TransferWise — London’s undisputed fintech darling and on some features a direct competitor to Revolut — recently announced $280 million in Series D investment, giving the company a reported post-money valuation of $1.6 billion. The difference? It took TransferWise seven years compared to Revolut’s three.
That’s testament to how much value investors are now placing on bank-disrupting fintech or perhaps signs of a fintech bubble. Or both. It is also worth remembering that these are private valuations with neither company yet to float on the public markets, even if TranserWise looks increasingly a candidate to do so.
Meanwhile, Revolut says the new round of funding and surge in valuation follows “incredible growth figures to date,” with the fintech now processing $1.8 billion through the platform each month and signing up between 6,000 and 8,000 new customers every day.
It claims nearly 2 million customers in total, of which 250,000 are daily active users, roughly 400,000 are weekly active users and 900,000 are monthly active users. The company says the target is 100 million customers in the next five years.
For a little more context, TransferWise has 3 million customers. I’m also told U.K. challenger bank Monzo now has 630,000 current account customers, of which 200,000 are daily active users, 360,000 are weekly active users and 500,000 are monthly active users. (In both Revolut and Monzo’s case, active users are defined as making at least one financial transaction.)
With the aim of persuading both consumers and businesses to ditch their traditional bank, Revolut offers most of the features you’d expect of a current account, including physical and virtual debit cards, direct debits and money transfer. Its “attack vector” (to borrow Monzo’s Tom Blomfield’s phrase) was originally low exchange fees when spending in a foreign currency, which undoubtedly fuelled much of the startup’s early growth and mindshare, but new features and products are being added at an increasingly fast pace.
Many of these are through partnerships with other fintech companies, and include travel insurance, phone insurance, credit, savings, and cryptocurrency. The latter looks like riding the hype cycle almost perfectly. Revolut is also applying for a European banking license, which would enable it to begin balance sheet lending, too.
To that end, Revolut says the Series C funding will be used to go beyond Europe and expand worldwide, starting with the U.S., Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australia this year. The company also expects to increase its workforce from 350 to around 800 employees in 2018.
High-profile U.S. startup accelerator Y Combinator is making a push to bring more China-based startups into its program after it announced its first official event in the country.
YC has made a push to include startups from outside of North America in recent years. That has seen it bring in companies from the likes of India, Southeast Asia and Africa, but China remains underrepresented. According to YC’s own data, fewer than 10 Chinese companies have passed through its corridors. YC counts over 1,400 graduates.
“Startup School Beijing” is scheduled for May 19 in the Chinese capital at Tsinghua University. The event will be free to attend — though attendees might apply for a ticket — with the goal of showing the benefits of participation in its U.S. program.
The event will include sessions with graduates, YC partners and “live on-stage office hours.” That’ll see three companies picked from the audience to get advice and tips from the attending partners, as happens in the program. Sessions will be in both English and Chinese with live translations available.
YC partner Eric Migicovsky, who founded Pebble, is leading the event, which will include the following speakers:
- Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator
- Nate Blecharczyk, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb
- John Collison, co-founder and president of Stripe
- Holly Liu, visiting partner at Y Combinator and co-founder of Kabam — which sold to Korea’s Netmarbles for $800 million
- David Chen, founder of Strikingly
- Jesse Lu, founder of Raven Tech — which was acquired by Chinese tech giant Baidu
In addition to helping U.S. hardware founders, Migicovsky was brought on specifically to make inroads into China and he is optimistic that there is strong demand.
“We’re hosting Startup School in Beijing to meet local entrepreneurs and start a dialogue about how YC can help,” he told TechCrunch. “The event and the founders we meet will help to inform our strategy going forward. Naturally, we hope to find Chinese startups to apply to our core Y Combinator program in Silicon Valley.”
Migicovsky added that he sees particular value for China-based startups that seek access to global markets for customers, partners, hiring and more.
YC officially announced the event today but the organization’s brand is so strong that word already got out in local media once it began sending out invitations, as our Chinese partner Technode reported.
You can find full details on the Beijing event at conference.startupschool.org.