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News Roundup: Slave-Drivers, War & Peace, and Hackers on Weed

Slave-Drivers

‘Tech sector still loves its slaves’ ran The Reg headline. While it might be a bit OTT, Baptist World Aid’s new report into supply chains shows an alarming amount of companies have no interest in the supply chains and wages of their workers. Of 39 companies, only Nokia could prove it was paying a living wage in countries like China, while barely a fifth were sure where all their raw materials were sourced from. Ignorance may be bliss, but not so much when there’s conflict minerals, child labour and other such nasties involved. Sort it out guys.

Valuable, Forgetful, and Slightly Painful

Millward Brown’s annual BrandZ study was recently released, and Google will be pleased. The search giant overtook Apple to become the most valuable brand in the world. Tech companies took a one-two-three-four with IBM and Microsoft rounding up the top four. Chinese brands Tencent and Baidu appeared in the top 25, while Facebook also jumped up 10 places from last year. The usual big names such as Oracle and HP all made the list, while LinkedIn and Twitter both made their first appearance.

As valuable as they may be, Google have been ordered to become forgetful. The EU court backed the "right to be forgotten", meaning anyone can ask for search results about them to be deleted. Following the ruling politicians, paedophiles and doctors have been asking for things to be removed, plus students with a fair few drunken pictures no doubt. How it’ll affect Google’s business is yet to be seen.

Elsewhere, the Google Glass bandwagon continues to fall apart. Yet another analyst firm has looked at the parts and estimates that Glass would cost $152.47 per headset, just over a tenth of the $1,500 pricetag. That’s a figure only "Very foolish people" would pay, according to one analyst. Masochists may be up for it too, after the optometrist brought on board for consulting admitted that it causes pain in your eyes due to the way the device is set up. The company later said the device was “designed for micro-interactions, not for staring into the screen, watching Friday night movie marathons or reading ‘War and Peace.”

#Voting, #Selfie, #Creepy

So London is the selfie capital of the world. It’s believable, I’ve seen more than a few lonely people posing with phones in front of Big Ben. It’s annoying, but the world we live in. That governments have to tell people not to take pics as they vote is just sad. What’s next, funeral selfies? Oh…

Facebook did its bit to help political participation this week with the announcement that it plans to roll out the 'I'm a voter' feature worldwide after success in the recent Indian elections. Sadly any kudos for that went out the window after they added a button to let you enquire about the relationship status of your friends. Because that’s not creepy.

Some good news, however is that Millennials aren’t completely gullible. A study by Michigan State University found them “somewhat wary of information that comes from Twitter.” While not a glowing endorsement, it shows at least a few people don’t always believe those random photos with dubious facts that float around social networks.

NSA

The usual dose of NSA/privacy related headlines…

The Electronic Frontier Foundation released its annual "Who Has Your Back" report card, looking at the privacy policies of tech companies. Winners this year included Apple, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter, while losers included Snapchat, Adobe, and Amazon.

-          The NSA like the Bahamas so much they record all its phone calls. Probably to listen to descriptions of lovely beaches and sunshine.

-          The NSA have been fiddling with US-exported routers, including Cisco’s. Cisco CEO is not happy, tells Obama to stop it.

-          The EFF think it makes stuff easier to hack once it’s been fiddled with, and China are now vetting incoming tech.

-          One cryptographer says we don’t need ‘NSA-proof’ tech. Also CERN have created NSA-proof email encryption.

-          Germany may ban any NSA-compliant companies from working with its government.

-          Ed Snowden plays computer games and used to throw cryptography parties. Will soon be a comic book hero.

-          The NSA’s current Director promises greater transparency, while ex-NSA chief is to launch his own cybersecurity firm and possibly doesn’t understand irony.

In other news, the Beeb ran the headline ‘FBI could hire hackers on cannabis to fight cybercrime,’ but meant it may hire anyone who has used the drug in the last few years, and doesn’t actually in fact plan to ply hackers with weed to get them through the day.

Iran & Russia’s Rocky Relationship With the Web

Recently Russia’s government has been accused of getting a bit too involved with the tech companies in its country. The founder of social network VK recently left the company and country after accusing the government of nebbing in, while Putin has called the internet a "CIA project". A state-sponsored search engine named Sputnik that no right-minded person would use just launched, and a Russian official publicly threatened to block Twitter in the country. Are Putin & Co. trying to create its own Russian corner of the web? Possibly. More worryingly, a lot of Russian entrepreneurs seem fairly down with the idea.

Iran meanwhile, already has its own Iranian corner of the web. Strict blocks are in place to stop anyone accessing anything they shouldn’t, and not long ago accused Mark Zuckerberg being an American Zionist and banned Whatsapp. Despite this, however, President Hassan Rouhani says the country should embrace the internet. "We ought to see (the internet) as an opportunity. We must recognize our citizens' right to connect to the World Wide Web," the IRNA news agency reported his as saying - words which could spell the start of some real progress.

In other news, China have decided they can’t be bothered with this Windows End-of-Life stuff and so have banned Windows 8 from government PCs. What they’ll use instead isn’t known, but I’m guessing any rumoured Windows 9 announcements won’t be of too much interest.

More M&A Shopping

IDG Connect recently published a nice little graphic on the facts & figures on last year’s acquisitions. Check it out here.

Are tech companies overvalued? Possibly, according to some investors, or anyone with a basic grasp of maths. Would an AI investor do any better? We’ll soon find out, after a Hong Kong venture-capital firm appointed an artificial intelligence program to its board of directors.

The list of recent acquisitions is huge, so here we go: Yahoo! have bought Blink, while Yahoo! Japan have pulled out of its deal to buy eAccess, Dyn have bought Renesys, Dropbox now own Bubbli, Cisco own ThreatGRID, SAP are buying SeeWhy, Hortonworks have bought XA Secure, IBM have bought Cognea, GE are acquiring Wurldtech, Redhat are going for Inktank, and Google have got their hands on Quest Visual.

In other news, Rackspace may be putting itself up for sale, Youtube may take on game streaming site Twitch, and Twitter were going to buy Soundcloud, but then decided not to. True story. 

Bitcoin – Bigger Than Facebook?

The Winklevoss twins don’t half love Bitcoin. They love it so much in fact, that they’ve been saying it could be more ‘impactful’ than Facebook. Nothing to do with how much they own in the cryptocurrency, or their past issues with Mr. Zuckerberg. No sir.

Brixton Tech City

Silicon Roundabout? No chance. Croydon Tech City? Never. Lewisham? Pah. Apparently Brixton is London’s new up and coming hipster tech scene. 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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