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News Roundup: Dating Experiments, Tech Savvy Kids and Dancing Elephants

A roundup of the week’s tech news including Monkey Selfies, Digital Quotients and Samurai Swords.

Dating Experiments

So some people were a bit miffed about Facebook’s social mood experiment, and quite rightly. To cash in on the news, OKCupid has shameless admitted it also conducts test on people! Under the blog title “We Experiment On Human Beings!” the dating site explained that people were more willing to talk to you if they couldn’t see your face, but then dropped you sharpish once they saw that ‘only a Mother could love’ smile of yours. Also your profile picture matters more than whatever guff you write about yourself and if you tell people they will like each other, they probably will agree. While toying with people’s feelings isn’t cool, maybe a couple of people found love, and the rest just carried on looking for hotties.

Transparency, Diversity and Tech Savvyness

Twitter has just released their latest transparency report; requests for information has jumped 46% with the US still asking for the lion’s share of data. The Wikimedia Foundation also released its first transparency report, showing that it made zero removals or alterations at the request of governments, but did provide some user data. It also brought to light a strange argument over the ownership of a monkey selfie.

Ecommerce giant eBay are the latest tech company to divulge its diversity figures, and they look good. The company’s workforce is 42% female, which is very respectable, and 28% in tech roles, better than the likes of Facebook, Twitter etc. Hopefully more companies will follow soon.

OfCom have made a fun new thing: They’ve made the tech version of an IQ test. Called the Digital Quotient (DQ), it’s meant to test you on your Tech-savvyness. The results of their test have shocked the tech world; kids are good with gadgets and things.

Monies – Personal Fortunes and Lobbying

Bad news for Google’s founders; Mark Zuckerberg is now richer than they are! Mr. Facebook is now worth $33.3 billion, compared to Page’s pitiful fortune of $31.6 billion and Brin’s meagre $31.3 billion. Peasants. Luckily they shouldn’t feel too bad after a new study found that making loads of cash isn’t necessary for feeling successful. Can’t hurt though right?

The latest figures for Tech lobbying spend are out, and Google once again tops the table. The search giant spent $5 million in Q2, taking its total for the year up to $9million. Facebook and Amazon also saw their lobbying spend increase. Last year was a record year for computer and internet company spending on lobbying and 2014 looks set to match and probably beat that figure.

NSA

The usual dose of NSA headlines

-          It’s now possible to spy on people through the medium of crisp packets. I’m not saying the NSA do it, but be wary what you talk about next time you’re tucking into your Hula Hoops.

-          The US’ terror watch list doubled in three years, and the NSA spoiled someone’s scoop about it.

-          The NSA and Israel don’t mind sharing data, and the CIA spied on senate computers. Naughty.

-          If you even read about privacy services online you’re probably being targeted for surveillance.

-          There might be a second whistleblower leaking stuff, and Snowden is allowed to stay in Russia for three more years.

-          The US is increasing the funds it gives to the TOR project, GCHQ are offering cyber-spy degrees.

-          Ex NSA chief with nine patents wants a million dollars a month and doesn’t think it’s a problem.

-          The NSA itself has a patent for a child seatbelt.

-          A previous NSA whistleblower isn’t a big fan of Australia’s security reforms, the ones which may be funded through an extra ‘spy tax’.

-          Yahoo! and Google are working together to make an NSA-proof email system.

-          Another report says all this spying is hurting US businesses.

-          As well as typewriters, German officials are looking at returning to BlackBerrys.

China & Russia vs. US Tech

Looks like the Chinese government has taken a real disliking to US tech of late.  Aside from the ongoing trouble Qualcomm is having there, Microsoft are now in the crosshairs. Authorities have been to several of the company’s offices in China and are now investigating the “monopoly” it has in the operating system space. Not only that, security firms Symantec and Kaspersky have been barred from the list of approved anti-virus software vendors, which is not good, even if they say it’s all fine. There are reports of Apple also being excluded from government lists, but this may be red herring

Meanwhile, Russian officials have asked SAP and Apple to hand over their products' source code so it can be tested for spyware. “It is obvious that those companies that disclose the source code of their programs, not hiding anything, but those who did not intend to cooperate with Russia on this issue may have undeclared capabilities in their products,” said Communications minister Nikolai Nikiforov in a statement.

In the Middle East, Intel was the victim of a hoax over its investments in Israel. A fake site and press release was set up that claimed the company was suspending funding of a planned multibillion dollar facility in the country over the ongoing conflict in Gaza. The company replied with its own actual statement: “An unknown individual has sent what purports to be a news release to some members of the media concerning Intel’s operations in Israel. This is a hoax.  The purported news release does not come from Intel and is false.”

M&A News

Facebook has snapped up security company PrivateCore while IBM now own CrossIdeas and Apple swooped in for the double acquisition of Booklamp and Swell. On the back of some good earnings, Twitter has got its hands on Madbits and Mitro while Oracle has got its hands on TOA Technologies. BlackBerry has actually bought a company(!); German data security company Secusmart, while Google continues to buy everything – this time the apps Emu and Directr.

Ericsson has acquired Metratech, Palantir has done a one-two with the acquisition of Propeller and Poptip, Pinterest now own Icebergs [the company, not the cold things from t’North] and Walmart Labs has bought another shopping startup in Luvocracy. Elsewhere, CA is looking to be the next Yahoo! and promises to spend big on acquisitions. Not Facebook big, but still pretty big. IBM can’t sell its chipmaking business, even for a measly $1 billion dollars. And finally Tibco may be looking to sell up to the highest bidder.

Other acquisitions of late include PTC buying Axeda, FleetCor getting Comdata Inc, TUNE snapping up MobileDevHQ, 3D Robotics buying Sifteo, Juniper selling off its mobile security business, First Data buying Gyft and Intuit acquiring PaySuite.

Verbatim: Dancing Elephants and Sugar Daddies

There was a lot written about the recent Apple-IBM alliance, but Dell and BlackBerry aren’t worried at all. Honest. "I do not think that we take the Apple-IBM tie-up terribly seriously. I think it just made a good press release," said Dell’s John Swainson, while BlackBerry Chief Executive John Chen likened the partnership to when "two elephants start dancing."

Mega/Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom is a political “sugar daddy” according to New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key, who is no doubt worried about how Dotcom’s Internet Party could impact the upcoming elections.

Elon Musk probably won’t be watching any of the Terminator films anytime soon after he tweeted that AI is “potentially more dangerous than nukes.”

John McAfee has been lamenting about data privacy and the power of companies like Google. “You have lost your privacy and you’re losing more of it every day. How did this happen to us? It happened because we did not give a shit…we allowed a technology to run away with itself and because it made our lives easier and more convenient we did not care,” he said at an event in Las Vegas.

Noah Kagan, aka employee #30 at Facebook, has released an eBook titled “How I Lost $170 Million: My Time as #30 at Facebook” about his time working at the company. It provides an interesting look at the inner workings of the network’s early days and includes some gold about Mark Zuckerberg. “He'd walk around with a samurai sword fake threatening to attack you for bad work.” Think about that – one of the richest men in the world, owner of a site almost every internet user engages with, running around an office with a rubber sword pretending to cut people and saying he’d chop your head off.

Wearables: Overpriced Tracking Devices

Aside from the fact you’ll get more enjoyment out of a goldfish, there’s a new reason not to get excited about wearables; you can be tracked really easily while wearing them. Symantec found that you can use a Raspberry Pi to pick up data broadcast by the gadgets. And if that wasn’t underwhelming enough, a new study from First Insight found that most companies are over charging for these devices. The analytics company found that companies were asking for around 41% more than what consumers are willing to pay. Yet some people are still willing to buy Google Glass?

Sleepless In Mobile Coverage

Some quick, sad stats and facts for you now. Britons spend more time using tech than sleeping, rate good mobile coverage as the most important thing people look for when buying a house and still don’t understand quite what the Cloud actually is or does. And when Facebook goes down, people call 911.  Make of that what you will.

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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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