News Roundup: Fiorina for President, Intern Pay and Loon-acy

A roundup of the week’s tech news including Google vs. the EU, Russian Wiki and Siri Raps

Interns’ Incomes

When I was an intern, I was given travel expenses. At Google, you get $7000 a month plus a housing stipend. And that’s middle of the road compared to some tech companies. When 19-year-old Jessica Shu compiled a list of what Silicon Valley companies are paying the techie interns, she found that none offered less than $6000 a month and most were in the $7-8000 range. Bitterness aside, it’s good to see tech’s an industry that treats interns fairly, and not just as free labour with interchangeable faces.

Glassdoor recently published a report looking at the gender pay gap, and it’s fairly good news. Where the average pay difference in the US is somewhere around 20%, in many tech companies the difference is only a few percentage points or actually skewed in womens’ favour.

HP’s Fiorina for President?

Could there be a Techie in the White House come the next election? Carly Fiorina hopes so.  She’s already said she would consider running in an election and now, according to the Washington Post, the former HP CEO – whose only previous attempt at politics was a failed bid for California’s Senate seat in 2010 – is “actively exploring a 2016 presidential run” and is already “talking with potential donors, recruiting campaign staffers and courting grass-roots activists.”

The news comes with mixed feelings.  “If she is the only woman in the race, I think that is going to give her some advantage, some strength there,” Will Rogers, chairman of the Polk County Iowa GOP, told the Washington Times. “I think people also are going to look to her as a business leader, and there is a number of people in the Republican base that like that.” However the WP notes she still  owes nearly $500,000 from her previous attempt at office and some Republicans are critical; “Carly has a fan club of one,” according to one GOP strategist.


The usual dose of NSA headlines

Analysts have uncovered a new form of super malware they’re calling Regin. According to the Intercept, the program – likely created by the NSA and GCHQ - was used to spy on the European Union and Belgacom.

-          Some NSA analysts were warning against mass data collection back in 2009, and how bad things would be if the story got out.

-          Utah legislators may try to turn off the water supply to the NSA data centers – in 2021.

-          The German government has discovered an alleged NSA backdoor in Windows 8.

-          You can see a list of all the submarine cables tapped by the NSA.

-          The NSA has released an Open Source version of its Niagarafiles data flow program.

-          You can get tips on how to avoid government malware from someone who develops government malware.

-          A former GCHQ boss says biometrics need better security in place.

-          You can read a Tumblr Q&A with the NSA if you want. But it’s rubbish.

-          People are concerned about spying and privacy, according to a new poll.

-          The Five Eyes don’t like UN resolutions over data collection.

-          UK MPs want social networks to be clearer about their privacy policy.

Facebook and ISPs have come under fire from the UK government over Lee Rigby's murder this week. The social network failed to notify authorities about conversations the Fusilier's killers had about their plans. Prime Minister David Cameron claimed, “networks are being used to plot murder and mayhem. It is their social responsibility to act on this.” Deputy PM Nick Clegg said Facebook wasn’t to blame, while the ISP association warned against legislation that gives powers to “the wrong sort of people who think it’s a great idea, but don’t understand what they’re doing with it”.

Verbatim – False Hope, Splitting up and Drones

Two Google engineers who worked on RE < C – a failed project to make renewable energy generate electricity cheaper than coal – claim that current renewable energies are nothing but a “false hope.”  In a piece for IEEESpectrum, the pair call for “something truly disruptive to reverse climate change,” because “Incremental improvements to existing technologies aren’t enough.”

HP CEO Meg Whitman doesn’t regret the decision to break up the company. Speaking during the company’s latest financial announcement, she said the break up is “totally the right thing to do for this company” and will “make more progress as separate companies than as two companies together.”

London Mayor Boris Johnson wants drones to solve traffic problems. Speaking in Singapore, he claimed, “We have a problem, folks – all this internet shopping is leading to a massive increase in white van traffic dropping this stuff off.” His solution? “I want to be controlling an app that enables my shopping not only to be click and collect … I want my own personal drone to come and drop it wherever I choose.”


Pew has quizzed people on their “Web IQ”: how much they know about tech-based stuff. Some stuff – such as where are Hashtags are commonly used and is MB bigger than KB – the majority of people knew. Some – such as whether the internet and World Wide Web the same and Moore’s Law – the majority didn’t have a Scooby doo about.


Apple officially became the first company to ever be worth $700 billion this week. But as Quartz pointed out, when you adjust for inflation, Microsoft 90’s heyday still towers over Apple.

Google is acquiring app developer startup Relative Wave, Yahoo! is buying Photo app-maker Cooliris, 3D Systems has got its hands on CAD/CAM firm Cimatron, Rakuten-owned Slice now owns Unroll.Me, Samsung is selling off its defense-tech arms to Hanwha affiliates, Hong Kong-based Bitcoin exchange ANX has purchased Norwegian exchange Justcoin and Ve is snapping up French data science company qunb.

In the rumours department, Google may be eyeing up camera-makers GoPro sometime in the New Year. Twitter looks to be interested in the Justin Beiber-backed selfie app, Shots, after the social networks CFO accidently Tweeted plans.

Meanwhile Google has had a double dose of bad news this week. Various reports have surfaced suggesting Apple will ditch Google in favour of Microsoft’s Bing as default search provider on its devices or may even strike out with its own-brand search service.

Potentially more damaging, however, is the European Parliament voting to split the company. While the EU vote - passed by 458 to 173 with 23 abstentions - has no official power to “unbundle search engines from commercial services,” such a vocal protest can only mean trouble further down the line.

More Loon-acy

Google’s internet-providing hot air balloons have been in the news again. Aside from bringing Project Loon to Australia and launching 20 balloons per day, they’re also really good at scaring sheep. A farmer in Karoo, South Africa, stumbled upon a crashed Loon balloon and at first thought it was a weather balloon until he noticed the Google X markings.


Efforts to create a Russian internet continue. After first creating a state-backed alternative to Google, the Russian Presidential library is planning ‘an alternative of Wikipedia,’ because the original version doesn’t “have enough detailed and reliable information about Russian regions and the life of the country.”

Spinal Tap

Your mum always said staring at that screen all day would wreck your eyes, but she never said anything about your spine. According to a new study in the journal Surgical Technology International, looking down at your phone adds around sixty pounds of force on your head and neck. Ouch. Maybe Google Glass doesn’t look so bad after all.


Someone made a rap song with vocals courtesy of Siri. Check it out. It’s nowhere near as bad as you think.


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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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