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PayPal Blocks Argentine Peso-to-Dollar Conversions

PayPal Blocks Argentine Peso-to-Dollar Conversions

Today in international tech news: PayPal will implement safeguards in Argentina to prevent people from using the service to skirt restrictions on the U.S. dollar. Also: Baidu, China's biggest search engine, unveils a homepage "doodle" that makes no bones about the recent island dispute with Japan, and some potentially sensitive information may have leaked out of Australia's parliament because of a Windows upgrade ... or something.

By David Vranicar TechNewsWorld ECT News Network
09/18/12 9:16 AM PT

Online payment service PayPal will prevent users in Argentina from making domestic transfers, according to the BBC.

According to this PayPal statement, PayPal users in Argentina will only be able to send and receive "international payments" starting on Oct. 9.

The move is apparently linked to the Argentine government's 2011 decision to restrict the purchase of US dollars, a move implemented either to prevent tax evasion and money laundering, or to prop up the value of the peso, depending on whom you ask. This created a black market for US dollars, and because PayPal's exchange rates were more palatable than the black market's -- roughly 4.7 pesos to US$1 at PayPal versus about 6.3 pesos to $1 on the black market -- PayPal became a conduit for shady currency deals.

According to the BBC, people had taken to setting up two accounts with different email addresses. They would then transfer money between the accounts -- magically turning the pesos into U.S. dollars in the process. However, with the new PayPal regulation, people in Argentina can only have one account.

The BBC article does not discuss how PayPal will enforce its one-account policy.

Baidu Doodle Stakes Claim to Islands

With anger over the China/Japan island dispute raging on, China's top search engine, Baidu, unveiled a Google-esque doodle on its homepage that featured a Chinese flag planted in an island.

Baidu has also set up a "mini-site" that allows people to plant flags in virtual islands -- and more than 1.2 million people have joined, according to The Shanghaiist.

Chinese protesters have been attacking Japanese companies, including tech heavies like Panasonic and Canon, since Japan's purchase of the disputed islands in the East China Sea.

As The Next Web points out, the doodle coincides with the Sept. 18 anniversary of the Manchurian Incident, which was a staged explosion that Japan used to justify invading northern China in 1931.

The Next Web weighs the pros and cons of Baidu's decision, noting that while it will assuredly alienate Japanese users, it could also scores points with Chinese users. And with the search engine market in China as competitive as ever, the doodle provides a good chance for Baidu to endear itself.

Baidu made additional headlines Monday when it was ordered to pay money to a Chinese author whose books it had published and offered for download without consent.

Australian MP: Microsoft Calendar Could be Security Breach

Alby Schultz, an Australian member of parliament (MP), has suggested that Microsoft Outlook's calendar-sharing feature may have led to a security breach, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp..

Schultz said that he found a "serious security issue" last Thursday after discovering that other Outlook users could see an MP's meeting schedule after receiving an email from an MP.

According to ABC, the problem was discovered after new software was introduced, thereby granting users access to personal information found on other MPs' computers, including emails and "potentially sensitive attachments."

As ZDNet explains, Schultz questioned if this was a glitch caused by a recent upgrade to Windows 7, or if someone was hacking into the parliament's system.

ABC says that about 50 MPs and senators have been affected, and that an investigation is underway to prevent it from happening again.

Tech Trek is a blog that looks at tech news from around the world. David Vranicar is a freelance journalist. His ECT News Network archive, with links to articles and podcasts, is available here. You can email him at david.vranicar@newsroom.ectnews.com.

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