News Roundup: The Covfefe Act, and tech industry music tastes

A roundup of the week’s tech news including autonomous driverless grocery stores, digital assistant bears and cyber-legislation.

The Covfefe Act

While President Trump’s ‘Covfefe’ debacle inevitably got blown out of proportion, it does highlight both the power of social media and the role it plays in how he communicates with the world. White House press secretary Sean Spicer has said that Trump considers his tweets as “official statements.”

As a result, a new bill has been put forth which would require the National Archives to store presidential tweets and other social media interactions. The Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement Act – aka The COVFEFE Act – was introduced by US Representative of Illinois Mike Quigley and would amend the Presidential Records Act to include the term “social media” as a documentary material, thus ensuring they are preserved.

“If the president is going to take to social media to make sudden public policy proclamations, we must ensure that these statements are documented and preserved for future reference,” said Quigley in a statement. “Tweets are powerful, and the president must be held accountable for every post.”

Hacking on Thursday

Thursdays are cybercriminals’ favourite days to send out malicious emails. According to Proofpoint’s new Human Factor Report, ransomware was the only category of malware sent on weekends, while Keyloggers and backdoors peak on Mondays.

The WannaCry fallout has largely dried up, but the finger-pointing continues. Chinese security companies Qihoo 360 and Antiy Labs both came out against a Flashpoint report which suggests China was the source for the attack. Other companies and the NSA point the finger towards North Korea’s Lazarus Group.

A new strain of malware specifically targeting critical infrastructure such as power grids has been found. Industroyer was likely used to attack Ukraine’s power grid last year, according to ESET. The security firm said the malware is capable of directly controlling electricity substation switches and circuit breakers used in power supply infrastructure worldwide.

A new strain of malware that turns Raspberry Pis into Bitcoin miners has also been found. But sadly it doesn’t have a cool name.


The UN’s expert on Privacy has joined the likes of Microsoft in calling for an international treaty on digital privacy and cyber-surveillance. Joe Cannataci told the UN Human Right’s Council what the world needs “is not more state-sponsored shenanigans on the Internet but rational, civilized agreement about appropriate state behaviour in cyberspace”.

In the US, a new proposed law would require Defense Department officials to notify Congress of any cyber operations within 48 hours of them being launched.

Germany is planning on strengthening surveillance laws and giving authorities access to private messages and fingerprint children as young as six-years-old.

BAE is coming under fire for reportedly selling surveillance technology to Middle Eastern countries accused of human rights violations.

Open Source tools

Google this week released a bunch of fun things to the Open Source community. First, there’s Spinnaker; a multi-cloud continuous delivery platform (plus a tool called halyard that makes it easy to deploy Spinnaker). There’s Blockly; a library for creating block-based coding experiences. And the company released MobileNets; pre-trained image recognition models for mobile devices.

Yahoo!’s new owners Oath meanwhile, has released that Yahoo’s Bullet real-time query engine will be Open Sourced.

The little car that could

Waymo – Alpha-Google’s driverless car unit – will be retiring its funky-looking driverless pods. The company is dropping its ‘Firefly’ pods to instead focus on mass-produced vehicles such as the Pacifica minivan.


Amazon has acquired Whole Foods, Digital Realty has snapped up DuPont Fabros, Telstra has bought Company85, Samsung has snaffled CR studio VRB, and Postmates has acqui-hired the team behind Bold including former Secret CEO David Byttow.

Amazon may be looking to buy Slack, according to Bloomberg. Israeli hacking company NSO Group has put itself up for sale.

Microsoft has announced the end of Docs.com since it now owns LinkedIn’s Slideshare service, plus OneDrive.

Brexit and immigrants

Much of the arguments around Brexit in the UK were around immigration, but mostly about reducing numbers than replacing people coming from Europe with people from elsewhere. According to figures from the Home Office acquired by JD Accountancy, 36,015 non-EU IT workers came to the UK last year, compared with 23,960 in 2012. If and when the UK leaves the European Union you can expect that number to soar: one head of a startup workspace recently suggested up to 40% of London’s tech scene is made up of EU nationals, a figure backed up by a TechUK report.

Digital Assistant bears

One of my favourite digital assistant designs was the Bearbot, which sadly never made it to market. Japanese messaging giant Line, however, has created the next best thing; a tube-shaped smart speaker with a bear’s face and ears on top. Line showed off bear and chick designs based off the company’s mascots at its annual conference, as well as a more conventional speaker and one with a screen, all powered by its Clova AI. Look how cute they are.


In other news, Amazon has announced a strange new device called the Dash Wand. The Alexa-enable barcode scanner seemingly works just like an Echo speaker would, but is centred around asking for recipes and ordering food goods.

I see your Amazon Fresh & Ocado, and raise you a driverless shop

Amazon wants to do away with staff and checkouts in grocery stores. The likes of Ocado want to bring your pre-ordered shopping straight to your door. But what if the store came to your door and you could just pick what you wanted, with no staff or checking out?

The Moby-Mart concept from Wheely’s Cafe aims to do just that. Billed as “an autonomous, staffless, mobile store, turning every parking space in the world into a potential new 24-hour store,” the Moby is currently being Beta Tested in Shanghai and was developed in conjunction with Hefei University and Himalafy. The Moby would be solar-powered and include drone delivery as an option.


Verizon’s acquisition of Yahoo! was completed this week, and Marissa Mayer is looking on the bright side. “I'm looking forward to going back to Gmail,” she told a crowd at the accelerateHER forum in London this week. “I’m always faster when using a tool I designed myself”.

President Trump held a meeting with tech types and VCs this week to talk about emerging trends.  But former Twitter CEO didn’t seem too pleased to be one of the people present at the meeting.  “If you don't get invited to this meeting and want to know what it was like, just drink a bottle of gin and then waterboard yourself,” Costolo tweeted this week.

Virgin CEO Richard Branson says Uber’s Travis Kalanick should have backed away from the company far sooner than he actually did. "An entrepreneur is not a good manager of people, and Travis Kalanick is definitely not a good manager of people. He should have realised that long ago, and done what he was good at."

‘Skilled in machine learning’ will become the new ‘proficient in Excel’ as a standard bullet point on your resume before long, according to Placester COO Frederick Townes.

Tech industry has terrible taste in music

A new survey of professional software engineers by Qualtrics found that most like to listen to music while they work. No surprise there. But the tech industry seemingly has terrible taste in music. The top five artists IT types like to listen to are: Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, the Beatles, Linkin Park, Katy Perry, and U2.

Remember that time Metallica played a Salesforce conference? That was good. Marc Benioff has good taste.

Alexa, I’m in the mood

Digital assistants are pretty useful. But by and large, they’re not very sexy, even if some people are lude. But now Alexa can help you get in the mood for love. SKYN Condoms has released a skill for Amazon Alexa called ‘Set the Mood’, which basically just plays one of five playlists curated by ‘cutting edge’ DJs to facilitate the fun. Sadly there’s nothing about it automatically dimming the lights or rolling out a rug by the raging fire. One reviewer called the skill “A simple way to play sexy jams”, which seems odd since a Barry White playlist is only ever a couple of clicks away.


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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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