News Roundup: Pirate party, AI encryption, and AR army helmets
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News Roundup: Pirate party, AI encryption, and AR army helmets

A roundup of the week’s news including Greenpeace vs Samsung, Internet for all, and wearable spy cameras.

Iceland’s Pirates

Iceland went to the polls last week. Congratulations are in order for the Pirate Party, who came third and garnered 14.5% of the vote, equating to 10 seats in the country’s 63-seat parliament. The party looks unlikely to be part of a ruling coalition, however, as the centre-right Independence Party – which managed to get 29% of the vote – is likely to choose its partners.

While the Party can be pleased about more than doubling it’s 2013 result, the Pirates were at one-point polling at almost 30%, and were predicted to win almost 25% as late as last week. Another poor result for the pollsters.

Self-making code

I maintain we don’t have to worry about AI until it starts writing its own code. Once HAL-9000 can rewrite its own programs to suit its own needs, then anything can happen and we probably will have to end up welcoming our new robot overlords.

So now might be a good time to panic after Google trained an AI to create its own encryption methods to protect its systems. I wonder what odds the bookies would give for Google unleashing a real-life Skynet upon the world? And, more importantly, would they pay out amid a robot apocalypse?

Won’t somebody think of the Note 7s?

You’ve probably heard that some company called Samsung had to recall a load of devices after they started exploding. Around 4.3 million of them to be more precise. According to Samsung, all the Note 7s will be “disposed of”, without saying where or how. That lack of transparency has riled Greenpeace, who this week called out Samsung for its lack of transparency and the potential harm dumping that many phones could do the environment.

“Samsung now has an opportunity to set an example to the industry: will it recover and reuse the precious metals and other valuable materials in these 4.3 million devices and avoid an environmental disaster, or will it simply dump them?” said Jude Lee, Senior IT Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia.

In reply, Samsung provided a statement to Reuters: "We recognize the concerns around the discontinuation of the Galaxy Note 7 and are currently reviewing possible options that can minimize the environmental impact of the recall in full compliance with relevant local environmental regulations.”

Internet.org continues to spread Facebook access for all Facebook

Facebook’s Q3 earnings call took place this week. CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed that his internet-for-all Internet.org project has now helped 40 million people get online. In May the project said it had helped 25 million get online, so there’s been some fairly rapid growth in recent months, despite the lack of a presence in India.

Zuck even admitted his free internet plan had bumped Facebook’s monthly growth a whole 1% more than it otherwise would have been. At least he’s now basically admitting it’s all about getting more people on FB.

M&A

IBM has acquired Expert Personal Shopper from Fluid, Intel has made a double swoop for drone startup MAVinci and VR startup Voke, CenturyLink has bought Level3, Accenture has done a one-two for 2nd Road and Realworld OO Systems, Broadcom has snapped up Brocade, Sophos now owns security analytics company Barricade, ams has got its hands on optical sensing company Heptagon, VR headset maker Starbreeze has purchased VR content maker Nozon, and Gfycat has snaffled GIF Brewery.

Facebook once made a move to buy Chinese Snapchat clone Snow, according to Techcrunch.

The sale of Dell’s software unit is finished and SonicWall is becoming an independent security company again.

Comma cars

Comma.ai, the self-driving car company from renowned hacker George Hotz has hit a major snag. It’s Comma One device – designed to give regular cars self-driving capabilities has been cancelled after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) demanded the company provide proof the systems were safe or have sales of the device blocked. The device was due to go on sale at the end of the year, but Hotz has said he would focus on other products and markets.

Meanwhile, Uber has also been hit by regulators after a UK court ruled its drivers should be treated as employees of the company and not self-employed workers. This would mean Uber would be required to pay them a minimum hourly wage (and probably pay a severance fee when they replace them with autonomous vehicles.)

Meanwhile Volvo has announced it will be testing driverless cars incognito the UK. Probably as a result of the study that suggested the public will try and ‘bully’ driverless cars they see on the road -  on account of the cautious nature of such vehicles – the Swedish auto manufacturers autonomous vehicles will look exactly like the regular road models. Never been more proud to be British…

Admiral insurance vs social media privacy

In the UK, insurance company Admiral announced a new way of pricing premiums using social media that was quickly shut down. The company’s firstcarquote idea involved scanning a customer’s Facebook, and determining the cost of their insurance based on how they write (and how reckless they might be).

The idea contradicts Facebook’s rules about using customer data in this way, so could face an uphill battle to actually roll out the idea (which was meant to launch this week).

NSA

-          Angela Merkel wants search engines to be more transparent about how they bring up results.

-          You can now hack your own devices for security research, something which was previously illegal.

-          Ethiopia’s internet shutdown is costing hundreds of thousands of dollars a day.

-          Transparency groups want Facebook to be more open about its censorship policies.

-          Canada is using cellphone tower data to see who was in the area of an unsolved murder.

Social Power

As it’s the 21st century, Presidents have more to worry about than simply fixing the economy and shaping policy. Yep, they’ve got tweets to worry about. The White House this week outlined its plan for passing on the POTUS social media legacy. The Twitter and FB accounts will be wiped, with all of Obama’s posts migrated to new accounts and also being archived. The new President will retain all the accrued followers, but have clean slate to use as an online platform. This will also apply to the VP, FLOTUS, and other government-associated accounts.

Scientists generally agree having an active social life is good for you. And in a somewhat depressing study, people who get a lot of friend requests and generally look like they actually go out and enjoy life and then post it online may live longer. Simply sending more friend requests, however, doesn’t seem to help you defy the Grim Reaper much.

Darkweb: not ALL drugs, porn and guns

The dark web gets a bum rap in the lot of the press. If you believe all you read, it’s essentially a black market peddling nothing but crack, guns, and child porn. According to research, however, that’s just a significant minority of what the dark web is about. According to a new study from Terbium Labs, a massive 54.5% of the dark web is “totally legal and mundane.”  So next time a mainstream press outlet makes disparaging remarks about the nefarious dark web, feel free to correct them.

Bitcoin vs Zcash

Bitcoin, the infamous cryptocurrency used by those nefarious dark web types, is having one of its occasional rallies. BTC is currently hovering around $700, its highest point since June. Reasons behind this rise are, as ever, a bit of a mystery: it could be Brexit, it could be the collapse of the Bolivar in Venezuela, it could just be because of Halloween.

Although apparently there’s a new cryptocurrency in town. Zcash is reportedly more secure than Bitcoin and offers greater privacy. The early hype has driven the cost of a single ZEC to around twice that of Bitcoin.

Augmented helmets

Last week we looked at driverless army trucks. This week it’s AR army helmets! Ukrainian company Limpid Armor has developed a new helmet dubbed the Circular Review System which is simply a Microsoft HoloLens built into a regular army helmet. It looks pretty swish, and provides tank drivers a better field of view.

Emoji domain search

It seems the days of .ly, .co, or .io are over. It’s all about emoji-based web addresses now. GoDaddy has created a domain search engine allowing you to see if your preferred emoji of choice has been claimed. Of course, typing in the [

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Dan Swinhoe

Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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