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News Roundup: Jamaica's Bitcoin Bobsled, Tech Lobbying and Facebook - The Social Disease

Money money money

So Dropbox is now valued at $10 Billion after raising another $250 million. So it’s no surprise that last year Venture capitalists invested more cash in internet companies than they have since 2001. Is the bubble growing in size? Possibly. But as money keeps pouring in it’s all gravy, right?

An interesting piece on Tech Crunch looks at why funding seems to stay one side of the Atlantic or the other, while the NextWeb have two pieces looking at the salaries of Startup founders and found less is more. Which is useful to know, as some new figures show most fold 20 months after their last funding round. So the message is, avoid money at all costs! Unless your Chris Poole's startup DrawQuest, that is.

But it’s a message many companies seem to be ignoring. Lenovo have just spent an eye-watering $2.3 billion acquiring IBM’s x86 server business unit, making it China’s biggest ever tech deal and the company now a server company equal to Dell in size. Other recent acquisitions include CipherCloud buying CloudUp Networks, Yahoo! getting its hands on Sparq, and VMWare acquiring AirWatch.

Lobbying

Tech and politics have probably never been as closely intertwined as they are now. So it’s no wonder ten tech firms managed to spend $61.15 million on lobbying last year.  Google was the biggest spender, splashing out $14.1 million in 2013. Microsoft was the second in attempts to woo lawmakers and regulators, forking out $10.5 million. Other big spenders include Facebook [$6.4 million], IBM [$7 million] and Oracle [$6 million], while Telecoms companies also spent heavily. I’ve written about tech lobbying before, and you can expect plenty of money to change hands in this year’s Congressional Elections.

Facebook – A Social Disease?

It’s the new that’s spread like a, er, disease throughout the tech media; Social media is like a plague that spreads and then dies. Scientists at Princeton conducted a study on the rise and fall of social networks using infection models. They did the tests on MySpace and found the model fit quite nicely, and so have tried the same thing on Facebook. It doesn’t look pretty; they predict the site will lose 80% of its users by 2017. Sadly there’s no cure.

A New Cold (Cyber) War

Security is the IT equivalent of being told to put the toilet seat up; people always go on about it, but nothing ever really changes. But we’ve managed to find some actually interesting security news to tell you about! A recent poll by DefenseNews found that U.S. leaders see cyberwarfare as the most serious threat facing the US. But they can all rest easy thanks to a new mathematical model. No really, this is interesting; cyberwarfare is for Gen Y what the Cold War was for people born in the 60s and 70s. Scientists have worked out how to create (and defend against) perfectly timed cyberattacks, so we can all be at a tense standoff.

Some other geniuses have launched a Startup that constantly changes websites' code in order to stop hackers, creating a moving target made up of HTML, JavaScript and CSS languages. Shape Security has been backed by Symantec, Google and an early investor in Amazon & Facebook.

A list of the year’s passwords was released; obviously people still don’t know how to create passwords, but they’re trying harder. ‘Password’ was relegated to number 2 in the list, while ‘123456’ has been bumped up to number 1. Top marks for efforts though. Meanwhile some more surveys about people’s poor security habits show that everyone is really bad at staying safe.

Best of all, some hackers have turned a smartfridge into a spambot! Proofpoint found a global attack of 750,000 spam emails had been coming from ‘everyday consumer gadgets such as home-networking routers, connected multi-media centers, televisions and at least one refrigerator.’ But, as the Reg points out, one fridge doesn’t mean the Internet of Things is ruined already. It’s those internet-connected toasters we should worry about. 

An app for that – And a Bootcamp for that app

I always thought “There’s an app for that” was an over exaggerated joke. Maybe it’s because I only ever see people using Whatsapp or whatever game is currently warping people’s brains. But I admit I was wrong. There’s apps that will literally think and write for you, leaving the idea of ‘the person’ basically redundant.

There’s an app for measuring narcissistic and psychopathic traits in leaders of Fortune 100 companies, as if we need telling that world business leaders aren’t psychos, there are apps that leave your job, write a cover letter for a new one, break up with your love, help you find a new one, sext them up, and even write them a song, all from pressing a few buttons. Luckily there’s an app to make you sound clever, which is good because your brain will have turned to mush.

In the wearables zone, someone has made Sex With Glass, a ‘sexy’ app that lets you see what your lover sees, and film it from your well-positioned phone at the same time. It can suggest new positions, and when you’re done, simply say, “OK Glass, pull out.” For other awesome wearable tech ideas, head over to What The F*ck Is My Wearable Strategy for idea generation at the click of a button– including a Pair Of Shoes That Sends You An Email When The Dog Needs Letting Out and an Umbrella That Posts To Facebook When There's 10% Off At Asos.

Apparently new studies have shown smartphones make us more social in person. I beg to differ, as I’m sure most would. The only way that is true is if all these self-destructing social apps [Stupid .ly Startup doing that this week; Frankly] left all those phones completely empty and therefore forced the test subjects to actually interact face-face. You know, with eye contact and stuff. Maybe this Chinese Bootcamp for internet-addicted teenagers will spread across the world, and replace the namby pamby Digital Detox camps we have over here.

NSA – All Talk No Trousers

Obama finally spoke at length about all the spying. He said a lot of things, but all in all didn’t promise much. The main one was a pledge to ‘end hoarding of phone data’ and stop spying on allied leaders. Telecoms companies weren’t happy, tech companies weren’t happy, no one thinks it’ll help the trust issues. Microsoft even want “international legal framework” to sort it all out.

Actual revelations have been quite quiet, just that the NSA provided daily tips to FBI, and Verizon published a transparency report saying it had 321,000 data orders last year – including 6,000 real-time metadata orders. There’s going to be a two-year inquiry into the future of the internet, and a privacy watchdog has concluded all the spying was illegal.

Meanwhile Mr. Snowden has kept busy. He’s in the running to become Glasgow University rector, promised he hasn’t been helping the Russians, requesting police protection after death threats published on Buzzfeed, and spoke online in a public Q&A.  Other people talking about all of this includes Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who accused Snowden of “unprecedented treachery”, Google's Eric Schmidt who has "complained at great length" to the US government, and Estonian IT security chief Jaan Priisalu, who doesn’t want to use American encryption anymore. Also VICE talked to the guy Snowden leaked everything to. Possibly on acid, obviously.

As a results of all this, Microsoft are to offer non-U.S. data storage for overseas users. While it probably wouldn’t make the data completely secure, it’d add a layer of security and an extra legal barrier to keeping people’s stuff safe. And finally some new research found that 28% of the online population are now using anonymity tools and over half of people feel internet is eroding their personal privacy, so maybe all this news is finally sinking in.

Jamaica, we have a (Bitcoin) bobsled team

There’s been a lot of upset over the Winter Olympics in Sochi. More than expected over two toilets, but lots of human rights-type stuff too. So in some news that warms the heart, Jamaica once again have a Bobsleigh team. In a story that’s sure-fire to inspire a Cool Runnings sequel, the two man team needed money to actually make the trip to the winter games after a 12-year absence, and so nostalgia-inspired donations poured in, and the team managed to raise $30,000 in Dogecoin. Reason enough to actually watch the Olympics even though it’s not in London.

In other news, someone sent $100 via Bitcoin from North Korea, both Canada and Finland have decided Bitcoin is not a currency, but it doesn’t seem to have upset the market like the banning in China. Google has no plans regarding the cryptocurrency, The University of Cumbria has followed Cyprus’ lead and now take BTC payments, and a South Korean BTC startup has raised  $400,000 from Silicon Valley types. Someone on Reddit is also planning to replace the internet with Bitcloud, a service aiming to "replace YouTube, Dropbox, Facebook, Spotify, ISPs, and more with decentralised apps" and based on the Bitcoin protocol. Ambitious much?

Also, Bob Geldof isn’t a fan.

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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