News Roundup: Gulliver Internets, Quitting Facebook and Bitcoin Rock

A roundup of the week’s tech news including Will.i.Am’s 3D printer, the CEO of America (again) and THEY TOOK OUR JOB!

A roundup of the week’s tech news including Will.i.Am’s 3D printer, the CEO of America (again) and THEY TOOK OUR JOB!

Gulliver Internets

Russia & China want ‘Internet Sovereignty’ away from the long arm of US tech companies. Could the EU be going a similar way? This week French politician Arnaud Montebourg – who has already said he doesn’t want France to become a digital colony of the USA - tried to rally local Lilliputian operators against the “Gulliver Internet” of Google.

Quitting Facebook

So the Facebook Study Story hasn’t carried on into this week like I thought it would. Mark Zuckerberg has an op-ed in the WSJ this week, but it goes on about internet availability for everyone and was probably (ghost) written a while ago – Mr. Facebook is yet to comment on the emotion study.

Former Facebook data scientist Andrew Ledvina has written a blog that basically says there’s no oversight into how the social network does these kinds of studies, while Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has just published another study based on Facebook data.  A new plug-in based on the same software Facebook used for the study allows you to control your own feed. Want to feel happy? Just set the slider up a notch. A new organization is asking people to quit Facebook for 99 days and see if that makes them happier.

Turns out the Military is also getting in on Social Media studies. DARPA’s Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) program is looking to use social media for a variety of purposes based around identifying and beating enemy targets earlier. The Guardian is suggesting this program might be part of a scheme to use social media for propaganda and deception.


The usual dose of NSA headlines

-          The UK Government has passed a cheeky law allowing police and spies to get at all your data. Not cool guys.

-          The NSA has been spying on basically everyone – whether they’re a target or not. NSA says this is ok and has led to over 100 arrests. Totally worth it.

-          The FBI & NSA targeted at least five Muslim-Americans, privacy groups are very unhappy.

-          Two of the targets have spoken to the media, neither sound very surprised.

-          You’re more likely to be tracked by the NSA if you use TOR.

-          The NSA does have more Snowden emails, but won’t release them.

-          US Senators are not really on the ball with all the details.

-          There may be a second leaker of NSA info, and a previous whistle-blower says the NSA lies a lot.

-          A new study says people are changing their online habits slightly as a result of all the spying.

-          Pew says your politics doesn’t really change how upset you are about the spying.

-          Verizon has released a transparency report – and received nearly 150,000 requests in 2014.

-          Another ‘NSA proof’ email service has launched.

-          Ed Snowden is applying to stay in Russia longer.

-          You can check out how unique your browser signature is right here.

Apple vs. Nepal. And Blind People.

Apple has just released its latest Environmental Responsibility Report, and it’s good news, sort of. The company’s Carbon Footprint has dropped by 31% between 2011 and 2013, and is fuelled almost entirely by renewable energy. However the company still generated 33,800,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2013 - about the same as Uganda or Nepal. Which is still quite a lot when you think about it.

As kind to the environment as Apple may be, it’s still not doing enough for deaf and blind people. "It's time for Apple to step up or we will take the next step," Michael Hingson, board member for the National Association of the Blind's California chapter, told Reuters. He apparently described litigation as ‘the “only resort" if Apple did not bring accessibility requirements to the app store.’


Steve Wozniak has been reminiscing about Apple co-founder Steve Jobs this week. “Some of my very best friends in Apple, the most creative people in Apple who worked on the Macintosh, almost all of them said they would never, ever work for Steve Jobs again,” he told the Milwaukee Business Journal. “It was that bad.” But it’s ok because he was just testing people.

Someone else who isn’t a fan of Steve Jobs is Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb. "We had two pillars we stood on: one was the IT industry, the other one was the paper industry," he said this week. “Steve Jobs took our jobs, but this is beginning to change. Our IT industry is moving towards gaming, it’s not just about hardware like the Nokia mobiles.”

Justine Tunney, the woman who wanted Google's Eric Schmidt to be CEO of America, still wants that thing. “He’s not the leader America wants; He’s the leader America needs,” she Tweeted. She also made posters. Also Larry Page and Sergey Brin are terminators, according to one bit of Google Code.

The terminators themselves actually had a joint interview this week. We learned that the company was nearly sold to ancient search company Excite back in the early days, they like to spread their bets with various projects, they’re big fans of their self-driving cars and robot works, and they don’t like health regulations.

Billions and Billions Of Dollars – Still No Bubble

So money is still flowing into tech – not since 2001 have we seen so many billions of dollars being invested. Whether this constitutes a bona fide Dot-Ly bubble is still to be agreed on. But avoid the Belize startup with one employee that’s now suddenly worth $6 billion overnight just to be safe yeah?

M&A action has been fairly quiet this week. Facebook’s VR wing Oculus has acquired RakNet, EMC now own Cloud storage company TwinStrata, Atmel has bought chip designer Newport Media, GoDaddy has acqui-hired calendar app Canary and Thoratec Corporation has bought med-tech startup Apica Cardiovascular.

In other news, Microsoft definitely still isn’t selling Xbox, and BlackBerry is continuing their rebirth. The company’s stock price is starting to look healthy again, according to TechCrunch, and starting to peddle its super square Passport mobile. US-based mobile wallet provider Isis is planning on a name change to avoid any associations with the current troubles in Iraq.


Ever get the impression all Bitcoin needed to really take off was a catchy song? No, me neither, but at least the option is there. Check out Vice’s guide to songs about Bitcoin, where there’s raps about Bitcoin Barons, mining metaphors and jaunty tunes about 10,000 Bitcoins aplenty.

Elsewhere the European Union's banking watchdog has warned financial institutions against getting involved with Bitcoin until the EU comes up with some proper regulations. "The EBA recommends that national supervisory authorities discourage credit institutions, payment institutions, and e-money institutions from buying, holding or selling VCs [Virtual Currencies], thereby 'shielding' regulated financial services from VCs," the paper said.

But who needs the EU, there’s now a BTC ATM in Kyrgyzstan! Poland and New Zealand are looking to be more Bitcoin friendly in the future too. Apparently ISIS militants are also using the cryptocurrency to finance their actions.

Will.i.Print is a man who likes his tech. We’ve already seen a smartwatch he’s looking to release, and now it looks like he’s getting into 3D printing. The Ekocycle Cube printer, made by 3D Systems (where Will is the Chief Creative Officer) and Coca Cola - its filaments are partly made from recycled plastic Coke bottles.

A new bit of tech that I’m surprised Will.i.Am didn’t come up with is a mind-reader for Google Glass. When you combine the MindRDR app with the Neurosky MindWave, you end up with a drooling cyborg of a person blankly into the upper left of the room.