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News Roundup: PRISM Problems, iRevamp And Tech For Beans

NSA & PRISM

The Guardian have called it the ‘Spy story of our age’, it’s caused sales of George Orwell’s 1984 to soar, and 2013’s ‘Deepthroat’ has a stripper girlfriend. In case you missed it, this is the news that the US government have a massive surveillance program, named PRISM, apparently allowing them almost complete access to all the data held by the biggest names in Silicon Valley, including Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and Apple. The fallout has been going on all week.

The companies involved stringently deny the reports, the whistle-blower Edward Snowden has gone into hiding - but not before claiming the US has hacked China on a regular basis - and William Hague remains as vague as ever about how the UK is involved.

While privacy nuts and conspiracy theorists have obviously had a fit at the news, the public seem less bothered. It seems as long as it’s being used against terrorists then people are fairly ok with the idea. The whole news is more harmful for Obama however, as Snowden actually has a higher approval rating than Congress.

The story has been fascinating to read, whatever your thoughts about ‘Big Brother’.  All at once it’s the biggest spy story, the biggest Big Data story, the biggest privacy row, with plenty of side stories about the people and companies involved. The story is likely to run for a while yet, and Wikileaks’ Julian Assange saying programs like this exist all over the world, there could be a few more major revelations yet.

iRevamp

Even without the PRISM story, this has been a good week for tech news. Along with E3, there was Apple’s WWDC, and that was full of new treats. A new, anti-Skeuomorphic iOS7, OS X Mavericks, Mac Pro and iRadio were all introduced to the world.

For many, the new iOS will be the biggest thing. But the new, almost Dyson-esque Mac Pro is by far the prettiest thing on show. It’s also a radical new way to design desktops, and promises to be a hell of a lot more powerful than the previous.

The iWatch and iTV were still absent, but the rumour mill for the next batch of announcements is already turning at breakneck speed. Aside from wearable tech, a phablet and a budget mini-phone may be on the cards before the year is out. Whatever happens, there’s still plenty of change happening at Apple HQ, and Phil Schiller’s “Can’t innovate any more, my ass,” comments show the company still has plenty of fight left in it.

Yahoo! buying anyone this week? Yep!

There was a scary minute where it looked like Yahoo! wouldn’t make any acquisitions this week. Luckily Marissa Mayer’s spending spree continues, with two being announced. First was Ghostbird, a photo-editing app creator bound for Flickr, and then conference calling startup Rondee.

It’s also announced resetting ID accounts dormant for more than a year in a bid to simplify the email addresses and user names that are over-bloated. Finally a partnership with Sky News has been arranged, where the site will broadcast the Sky News morning show across its network. Yahoo!’s mission to buy itself back to relevance continues with aplomb.

Not wanting to be outdone though, Google has just splashed out a reported $1.1 to $1.3 billion for the Israeli social-mapping data company Waze. The company managed to fight off Facebook and Apple to secure the company, and plan to upgrade Google Maps with real-time social traffic information.

Cloud: It’s a trap!

From John McAfee and Kim Dotcom to Jon “maddog” Hall, tech is full of interesting people, often critical of the way things are being done by the powers that be. This week it’s the turn of heavily-bearded GNU-creator Richard Stallman to throw his hat into the ring over Cloud computing. The Free Software Foundation founder said using web-based programs like Google's Gmail is a trap; “it’s worse than stupidity: it's a marketing hype campaign."

"One reason you should not use web applications to do your computing is that you lose control," he said. "It's just as bad as using a proprietary program. Do your own computing on your own computer with your copy of a freedom-respecting program. If you use a proprietary program or somebody else's web server, you're defenceless. You're putty in the hands of whoever developed that software." He’s not the first to highlight the potential problems of Cloud computing, could there be a growing revolution against it?

Social Media Dinosaurs #Evolving

In the nicest possible way, Myspace is like a cockroach. It just refuses to die. The once dominant social media has been passed around and relaunched more than most, each time prompting calls of ‘Myspace is still going?’ and people checking it isn’t still 2005. But now, under the new ownership of Specific Media (and the ever-smiling Justin Timberlake), Myspace is back again! And this time it’s a social music site and GIF creator. In all honesty though, who really cares? Between the social elements of music services, and music services of the popular social sites, what’s actually left?

Meanwhile Myspace killer Facebook is trying to play catchup to its own usurper, Twitter, and introducing clickable hashtags. It’s amazing it’s taken them this long in all honesty. People having been using services that post to both networks for ages, and even Google+ beat them to it.

SmartBRICS

More fuel for the notion that emerging markets are where it’s at from IDC, with the news that by next year smart devices shipped will pass $200 billion. The analysts predict that tablets and smartphones are going to be the major selling hotcakes. We here at IDG Connect love emerging markets, so much so we did a report on them. Read it here.

Beancoin

Following last week’s news that an electronics dealer in China is accepting sheep as payment, Latin America is going one further by accepting soybeans as payment. This isn’t some local dealer however, according to Gartner this is major software companies trying to avoid government rules on moving money. Unbeanlievable.

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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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