Digital Trends Live: Facebook scandals, the future of crypto, and axolotls

On episode 56 of Digital Trends Live, DT’s live morning show, hosts Greg Nibler and Adrien Warner surveyed the tech news of the day, picking out the juiciest stories to discuss. First up, Facebook is involved in yet another controversy. According to a report by TechCrunch, Facebook “has been secretly paying people to install a “Facebook Research” VPN that lets the company suck in all of a user’s phone and web activity.” The company has been targeting 18 to 35 year olds, paying them $20 a month to use the Research app.

According to the report, Facebook was using Apple’s Enterprise system, which is intended for circulating apps among a company’s employees. As it turns out, this violates Apple’s Enterprise development policies, so Apple has apparently banned Facebook’s research app. For a company that has already had a number of privacy-related PR crises lately, this is just another day at the office.

In less invasive news, Samsung is rolling out a new smartphone chip with a whopping 1TB of storage. That’s big news, given how phone cameras are getting better, taking higher quality photos and videos that use up more space. Samsung hasn’t given an indication of how much phones using this new chip will cost, although the price will likely be steep.

The humble axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) isn’t just an adorably weird-looking amphibian; it may also hold the key to eternal life (or at least a better knowledge of the healing process). This Mexican salamander has a remarkable ability to heal, regenerating even lost limbs. A team of scientists at Vienna’s Research Institute of Molecular Pathology have apparently sequenced the axolotl’s entire genome, which could lead to a better understanding of its superb healing abilities, and maybe even help researchers apply that ability to humans in the future.

Finally, Greg talked to Travis Wright, who is, among other things, one of the hosts of the Bad Crypto podcast. Although cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have been frighteningly volatile, particularly in the last year, the adoption rate is still growing and merchants are more interested than ever, according to Wright.

“In 2014, it was about 15 million dollars a day being traded in crypto …” Wright explained. “Then the next year it [tripled] to 45 million, then the next year it [quintupled] to 200 million, and then it [increased] to 2 billion in 2017, and then last year it was, on average, about $15 billion a day. And now, who knows how much it’s going to be per day in 2019, but it’s looking, still, around $15-20 billion a day is being traded in crypto.”

“Now, how much of that is fraudulent volume on some of these exchanges? That’s unknown,” Wright continued. “But just the amount of wallets that have been acquired by various different people over time? That number is at an all time high. It just keeps growing.”

Of course, cryptocurrencies are only part of the story. Blockchain, the technology on which cryptocurrencies are built, is a subject of great fascination in a variety of fields — we’ve covered a few promising applications in our series Blockchain beyond bitcoin.

Digital Trends Live airs Monday through Friday at 9 a.m. PT, with highlights available on demand after the stream ends. For more information, check out the DT Live homepage, and be sure to watch live for the chance to win occasional prizes.

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