News Roundup: Auto aesthetics, kicking robo-dogs and Metallica

A roundup of the week’s tech news including Russian Open Source, AR everywhere and Facebook Town

A roundup of the week’s tech news including Russian Open Source, AR everywhere and Facebook Town

Russia loves open source

We’ve already written about Russia’s hostility to foreign tech companies in the past, but it looks like the Kremlin has found some tech it can get behind: Open Source. Not long after Ubuntu released its first mobile, Nikolai Nikiforov, Minister of Communications and Mass Communications, tweeted that his government would be offering grants to developers who “translate their applications from the monopolies of Google and Android across to the independent Tizen and Sailfish.” 

Whether this will spur developers to make the switch to smaller alternative platforms, or if the government will actually pay, however, are two questions that will only be answered in time.

NSA

The usual dose of NSA-related headlines…

-          The NSA & GCHQ launched joint cyberattacks on Iran, Iran then replicated those tactics in return.

-          GCHQ and Canada piggybacked on mobile analytics and added software to spy on smartphones, codenamed it BADASS.

-          A coalition of privacy groups wants to investigate the consolidation of big data analytics firms, another says the recent GCHQ rulings don’t go far enough, and another is planning to help millions of people request their GCHQ records be deleted.

-          Obama wants Germany to give the US the “benefit of the doubt” over claims Merkel’s phone was tapped.

-          UK MP David Davies wants GCHQ to be more accountable in court, while Ed Vaizey wants technology firms to “meet politicians halfway” over encryption.

Twitter’s latest Transparency report shows another increase in the number of government data requests. An overall rise of 40% saw the US make 1,622 requests in 2014, up from 833 the year before, while Turkey and Japan made 356 and 288 requests respectively.

Samsung got into trouble this week after its privacy statement explained how its voice recognition tech is always listening to you. “Please be aware,” its privacy statement read, “that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of voice recognition.” The furore over that sentence caused Samsung to release a statement denying it’s as bad as all that and changed the wording a bit. Google also do something similar FYI.

View-Master 2.0

Mattel has joined the AR/VR revolution. Joining forces with Google, the toy company revealed an updated Virtual Reality version of the classic View Master at an event in New York today. The device, which Engadget dubbed “a Fisher-Price take on the Oculus Rift,” is based on Google’s Cardboard device, and lets kids explore various locations around the world. The reels still feature, but instead of slotting them into the device, these Augmented Reality experience reels are placed in front of you and then suck you in to different environments. The device is still in development and won’t be available until autumn, but will feature Dinosaurs. So it’s a winner already.