News Roundup: Hey Google, are you rigging the news against the right-wing press?
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News Roundup: Hey Google, are you rigging the news against the right-wing press?

A roundup of the week’s technology news including driverless cars, Huawei’s court action, and exploding credit cards.

Trump Google’s himself

IDG Connect is a safe space. A place where industry leaders, tech aficionados and journalists alike can gather to enjoy reading about what’s happening across the technology landscape. It’s because I consider you all my friends that I’m just going to come out and say it: I don’t understand how SEO works.

Neither, apparently, does Donald Trump. Or the Republican media. This week, the Commander in Chief from across the pond launched a somewhat ill-fated Twitter rant (what’s new) complaining that Google has deliberately been championing anti-Republican bias.

Making full use of the Caps Lock key, Trump claimed that Google’s search results were ‘RIGGED’ against both himself and those with right-wing political views because when you Google ‘Trump News’, 96% of the results come from the “National Left-Wing Media.”

Critics were quick to point out that the statistics cited by Trump probably weren’t the most accurate – a fact noted by the original publisher of the story. However, that didn’t stop Mr. President from doubling down on his claim later in the week, posting a (possibly doctored) video that appears to show Google failing to promote the live feed for Trump’s key speeches on their home page, like it did for Obama.

As those of us working in media know, no one truly knows how Google’s SEO algorithm works. Even some of the most long-suffering audience engagement gurus were left scratching their heads on August the 1st when the search engine giant launched an update that saw many publications lose their hard-fought rankings overnight.

Google published a rebuke to Trump’s tweets, stating that “Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology.”

Cries of anti-Republican bias existing on social media platforms are nothing new, with Facebook and YouTube coming under fire from right-leaning voices last month when they suspended Infowars founder Alex Jones for peddling hate speech.

In a move that should definitely not be concerning to anyone that favours free press, the President signed off his rant by saying “This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!” Later on, his top economic advisor told reporters they were going to “take a look” at the possibility of regulating Google.

In the meantime, I can only advise all the right-wing publications out there take a look at Google’s published guidelines on SEO rankings or hire an in-house expert to help improve your rankings through guesstimation like the rest of us.

Security roundup

Otherwise known as ‘Who’s been breached this week?’

  • Today’s winner is Air Canada, which announced on Tuesday that the personal data from 20,000 users of the airline’s mobile app had been stolen. While payment information is reportedly safe, hackers are thought to have got their hands on names, email addresses, telephone numbers, genders, birthdates, nationalities, passport numbers, passport expiration date, passport country of issuance and country of residence. Ouch.
  • The German government has this week announced plans to create a new DARPA-inspired  cybersecurity agency that would allow for investment in innovative technologies for defence purposes. The agency is expected to partner with other EU countries on projects and while there’s a consensus around the need for improved digital security, opposition politicians in Germany are sceptical if this is the right way to go about it.
  • Despite the ever-present cyber threat that lurks round every digital corner, there were only 47 prosecutions under the UK’s Computer Misuse Act last year; a fall of 18% from the year before. There were 1.9 million computer misuse crimes reported during the same period, to put the figures into perspective. RPC, the law firm who released the findings, claim there are two things contributing to these paltry convictions rates. First, it’s the lack of resources at the disposal of the police force to deal with this widespread type of crime, secondly most of the hackers targeting the UK come from China or Russia, making prosecutions much more challenging.
  • Remember back in 2016 where Samsung Note 7’s kept spontaneously combusting? Well, according to some highly-sophisticated phishers, your Barclays debit card might start doing the same. According to the letter (remember those?) sent out by the scammers, the EMV chips used in the cards are prone to explosion and customers must immediately post their debit card and PIN to an address in Bangalore for “verification porpuses” [sic]. Sounds legit, right guys?


Driverless cars

A driverless taxi trial in Japan has seen a minivan equipped with sensors transport passengers 5.3km through the busy streets of Tokyo. The test expects the car to make four round trips a day, making a total of 96 planned journeys between the Otemachi and Roppongi districts.

The trials have been seen as further proof that Japan is hoping to have driverless taxis in place for the 2020 Olympic Games and they have created a lot of excitement amongst the locals. 1,500 people have reportedly applied to be passengers in one of these trips where they unlock the door to the car and pay the ¥1,500 ($13) fare via a smartphone app. Both a driver and assistant have been on board for each journey but so far, neither have had to step in to stop the car becoming involved in an incident.

Unfortunately for the Western Hemisphere, locals are not as welcoming of driverless vehicles on their roads. More than a dozen residents living near the offices of Waymo in Chandler, Arizona have complained about the inability of the cars to correctly navigate a T-intersection. One autonomous vehicle reportedly stopped in the midway through making a right turn, nearly causing a collision. Waymo have no plans to stop testing their self-driving cars along this route but will continue to employ safety drivers that can take back manual control to prevent any incidents.

Over in Russia, Yandex are hoping they won’t run into the same problems as the autonomous cars in Arizona. The Russian search engine cum technology conglomerate have just launched their driverless car program in the university city of Innopolis. The company plans to have two staffed vehicles in operation which will provide free lifts to specific locations around the city.


M&A

As there was no News Roundup last Friday, today’s mergers and acquisitions span the last two weeks.

Apple has acquired Akonia Holographics, VMware has snapped up CloudHealth, WeWork’s Flatiron School now owns design school Designation, SmartBear has bought Zephyr, Pure Storage has snaffled StorReduce in what is the company’s first acquisition, and WeTransfer has purchased the apps Paper and Paste.

Semi-conductor foundry, Global Foundries are killing its 7nm deployment and spinning off its ASIC business as a wholly-owned subsidiary, allowing it to operate independently of the foundry business.


Huawei and ZTE

Another day, another ban for the Chinese telecom giants. Last week it was the Australian government’s turn to ban the companies from providing 5G technology to the country.

However, it seems that China is no longer willing to put up with these sanctions against the two companies and this week saw a Chinese state tabloid publishing a statement calling the government “self-centered” and claiming that “those who wilfully hurt Chinese companies with an excuse of national security will meet their nemesis”.

Over in the US, Huawei have taken matters into their own hands by requesting a hearing with the Federal Trade Commission to restore their ability to operate in US markets. In the 65-page filing, the Chinese company claim it’s been unfairly targeted by the U.S. government over national security concerns which instead “appears in many respects to be economic”.

It’s unlikely the FTC will reverse any decisions relating to companies that have already been deemed a ‘national threat’ but, in this day and age, anything can happen.

Meanwhile, after paying $1.4 billion to the US in penalties, the new executives at ZTE have announced this week that production is back to normal and the company are on track to reach their expected growth targets in 2019.


Some things just get better with age

If you like reinforced stereotypes about the tech industry, this last one is for you. According to Uptime Institute’s recent report on data center efficiency, data center staff are now, on average, older than the equipment they are employed to oversee.

Furthermore, like most teams that exist within the world of tech, this particular aging workforce are overwhelming male, with neither young people or women showing much interest in pursuing a career within data centers.

The skills gap is not a new problem and educational initiatives and returner programs are increasingly being championed to help reduce the pressure. However, it looks like a ‘Make Data Centers Great Again’ campaign needs to be launched sooner, rather than later.

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Charlotte Trueman

Charlotte is Staff Writer at IDG Connect

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