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News Roundup: Free Basics, self-driving insurance, and flexible tech

A roundup of the week’s tech news including Nest not for sale, Lenovo tech and Magic Leap leaks.

Free Basics, sans Facebook

Facebook’s Internet.org “Free Basics” service has received a hefty amount of headlines in its time. From its rollout across 37 countries to the drawn out retreat from India, over 25 million people have joined the initiative. This week the government of Guyana is announcing its own version, sans involvement from Mark Zuckerberg and co. Through a partnership with GTT also called Free Basics, people will be able to access 24 sites – including Google, Wikipedia, various news sites, and the World Health Organization - through 4G for free, without any data plan. Free Facebook and WhatsApp access will be included.

“The free websites offered by GTT helps Guyanese who are not yet connected to the internet to discover the value of connectivity and expand their access to knowledge and growth,” said Permanent Secretary of the Telecommunications Ministry, Derrick Cummings.  “This is part of our commitment to bridging the digital divide and the reason why the Government of Guyana supports it wholeheartedly.”

Facebook’s brand of free isn’t currently available in Guyana, and they are yet to comment about their idea being stolen.

M&A

Snapchat has reportedly acquired computer vision startup Seene, probably so your face-swap selfies can be even better. Fortinet has snapped up AccelOps, Nokia Networks has bought Gainspeed, and Shandong Luyitong Intelligent Electric PLC has purchased fellow Chinese company (Bitcoin-mining chipmaker) Canaan Creative.

Nest isn’t going to be put up for sale, despite CEO Tony Fadell leaving the company last week. The Verge is reporting (via unnamed sources) that the smart home unit is ”categorically not for sale” while also publishing an internal memo from new CEO Marwan Fawaz also states “Nest is not for sale”.

A VP slot, any VP slot would do

Tech entrepreneur  Mark Cuban has previously hinted he wouldn’t mind being Vice President, but has never really nailed his colours to the mast when it came to which side he supports. This week he reaffirmed his on-the-fence mentality. “The goal isn't to say, ‘Hey, I’m a Republican’ or ‘I’m a Democrat,’” Cuban said this week. ”The goal is, how are we going to help this country? Maybe it’s time to have an independent vice president who can cross the aisle, communicate and not be driven by dogma.”

NSA

-          Even though it’s been approved by MPs, most people are unaware of the Snooper’s Charter.

-          Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson would give Ed Snowden a pardon.

-          Facebook says no, it is not listening to your phone’s microphone.

-          Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle says the web is now “the world’s largest surveillance network,” while Tim Berners Lee thinks we have a social problem due to “the dominance of one search engine, one big social network, one Twitter for microblogging.”

-          Lord William Hague thinks there is no such thing as an absolute right to privacy.

-          Singapore is taking 100,000 government computers off the internet because of security reasons.

Self-driving insurance

A UK insurance firm is to start offering driverless car insurance. Adrian Flux Insurance Services will provide policies that cover fully autonomous cars and vehicles with ADAS from software glitches, hardware failures and even hacking by third parties. With the prospect of driverless cars becoming increasingly common, if not the de facto standard on roads over the next 20 years, expect more companies to follow suit in the near future.

The future of mobile

Lenovo this week revealed two new phones. The Chinese phone manufacture announced the  Phab2Pro, the first commercially available phone with Google’s Project Tango VR technology built in, and the Moto Z, which comes with modular upgrade capabilities within the case.

The company also revealed it concept designs for a flexible phone that can snap onto your wrist and a bendable tablet. Samsung is rumoured to be launching similar devices in 2017. Take that Apple. Impress us with WWDC. We dare you.

Magic Leap leaks, kind of

The mysterious Magic Leap might be one of the most well-funded mixed-reality startups in the world but it’s also very secretive. Aside from a view teaser videos, very few people have seen it in action, and almost no-one knows how the actual device looks. A patent from the company that recently surfaced on the web may hold a clue: like a wizard’s skull cap. However, a PR from the company has said the image is simply a “part of [Magic Leap's] R&D and experience validation” and “it's not at all what our product will look like.”

The cost of all-American phones

Trump has said he’d force Apple to bring all manufacturing back home, Sanders said he would prefer it. But how much would an all-American iPhone cost? According to some number-crunching by the MIT Technology Review, the cost would be anything from $50 to $100 more per phone, depending on whether just the phone was assembled in the US or all the components had to made locally as well. Reckon people would pay for that just to keep Donald Trump happy?

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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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