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'Inevitable' Google and Facebook will pay for Australian news, treasurer says

Technology | The Guardian

Josh Frydenberg says tech companies’ threats to pull services out of Australia did them a ‘big disservice’

Josh Frydenberg has warned the internet giants it is “inevitable” they will pay for news content and their threats to shut down core functions in Australia do them a “big disservice”.

At a doorstop on Sunday, the treasurer said the Morrison’s government intended to become a “world leader” in regulating social media and search companies, who he accused of shifting the goalposts in their opposition to the proposed bargaining code of conduct.

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January 23rd 2021, 9:43 pm

Google threatens to leave Australia – but its poker face is slipping

Technology | The Guardian

Analysis: tech firm’s refusal to pay news publishers comes as it agrees to do exactly that in France

The biggest companies in technology love an ultimatum but rarely do they spell out their threats. This week, however, Google has done exactly that, telling an Australian parliamentary hearing that a proposed law forcing the company to pay news publishers for the right to link to their content “would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia”.

The threat, from the company’s Australian managing director, Mel Silva, is the latest escalation in a war of words over the proposal, which seeks to undo some of the damage online business models have dealt to the country’s publishing industry.

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January 22nd 2021, 12:11 pm

Google's threat to withdraw its search engine from Australia is chilling to anyone who cares about d

Technology | The Guardian

The tech giant’s Senate testimony shows how far it is prepared to go to resist real regulation

Google’s testimony to an Australian Senate committee on Friday threatening to withdraw its search services from Australia is chilling to anyone who cares about democracy.

It marks the latest escalation in the globally significant effort to regulate the way the big tech platforms use news content to drive their advertising businesses and the catastrophic impact on the news media across the world.

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January 22nd 2021, 3:39 am

Google threatens to shut down search in Australia over digital news code – video

Technology | The Guardian

Google Australia's managing director Mel Silva has told a Senate committee the tech giant could remove its search engine from Australia if a code forcing the companies to negotiate payments to news media companies goes ahead. The threat comes as Google and Facebook are fighting against legislation currently before the parliament that would force the digital platforms to enter into negotiations with news media companies for payment for content. Prime minister Scott Morrison says his government will not respond to threats. 'Australia makes our rules for things you can do in Australia,' he says. 'And that’s how things work here in Australia and people who want to work with that, in Australia, you're very welcome'

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January 22nd 2021, 2:39 am

US lawmakers ask FBI to investigate Parler app's role in Capitol attack

Technology | The Guardian

House oversight chair seeks inquiry into platform’s potential use to facilitate planning and ties to Russia

American lawmakers have asked the FBI to investigate the role of Parler, the social media website and app popular with the American far right, in the violence at the US Capitol on 6 January.

Carolyn Maloney, chair of the House oversight and reform Committee, asked the FBI to review Parler’s role “as a potential facilitator of planning and incitement related to the violence, as a repository of key evidence posted by users on its site, and as a potential conduit for foreign governments who may be financing civil unrest in the United States”.

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January 21st 2021, 3:20 pm

New Zealand reserve bank governor apologises over 'serious' cyberattack

Technology | The Guardian

Breach at reserve bank had ‘significant data implication’, Adrian Orr says, but that system is open for business again

The head of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) has apologised after a recent cyberattack led to a serious data breach at the central bank, and brought in an independent investigator to review the incident.

The breach was first announced on Sunday and later in the week the RBNZ said a file sharing service provided by California-based Accellion had been illegally accessed.

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January 21st 2021, 11:19 am

When hackers can take your nether regions hostage, something has gone very wrong | Arwa Mahdawi

Technology | The Guardian

What on earth did users of the chastity cage Cellmate think might happen when they allowed their bits to be locked up in an internet-connected smart device?

There are times when technology can be a pain in the neck. And then there are times when technology can be a pain in rather more delicate regions – as some users of Cellmate, a line of internet-connected male chastity cages, reportedly discovered. It gives me no pleasure whatsoever to report that malicious hackers have been taking penises hostage and demanding bitcoin for their release.

Don’t worry, we’ll gently unpack this together. Without getting too graphic, Cellmate is a “smart” sex toy that allows someone, usually a trusted partner, to lock up the user’s genitals via an app. (What could possibly go wrong, eh?) The device made headlines last October when researchers said that the product had a security flaw that meant hackers could take control of the products. Which, according to a recent report by Vice’s Motherboard, is exactly what happened. The report was largely based on screenshots of conversations between the hacker and their victims that were obtained by a security researcher who goes by the name Smelly.

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January 21st 2021, 11:19 am

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review: the new king of Android phones

Technology | The Guardian

Great screen, performance and battery plus new camera with dual 3x and 10x lenses for super zooming

The Galaxy S21 Ultra is Samsung’s new superphone for 2021 – and comes out firmly as the best of its type, with a price to match.

Equipped with a new more powerful camera system – with not one but two optical zoom lenses on the back for a huge 10x optical zoom – it costs from £1,149 and leads Samsung’s 2021 mobile line, which also includes the smaller and cheaper £769 S21 and £819 S21+.

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January 21st 2021, 11:19 am

Facebook admits encryption will harm efforts to prevent child exploitation

Technology | The Guardian

British MP asks firm why it is introducing end-to-end encryption that will ‘put more children at risk’

Facebook’s plans to implement end-to-end encryption on all its messaging products will lead to continued exploitation for some of the 3,000 British children it normally helps safeguard every year, the company admitted to a House of Commons committee.

The social network operates a number of programmes to find and prevent child exploitation on its platforms, from scanning private messages to acting on referrals from law enforcement and other social media sites. Between them, according to evidence submitted to the home affairs committee, those programmes report around 3,000 at-risk children to the British National Crime Agency every year.

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January 21st 2021, 11:19 am

Amazon wins 49% of new TV streaming customers in run-up to Christmas

Technology | The Guardian

Live sport major draw for Prime Video, while Netflix second with 17% share in fourth quarter

Amazon proved more popular than Netflix in the run-up to Christmas as live Premier League and international rugby helped it attract half of all new UK subscribers to streaming services in the final quarter last year.

There were almost 1.3m new subscriptions to services such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime, which includes access to Prime Video as well as perks such as free delivery on purchases, as bored Britain turned to streaming in record numbers to stay entertained during the pandemic.

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January 21st 2021, 1:06 am

Facebook asks Australia to let it make content deals with news outlets before being hit with media c

Technology | The Guardian

Social media giant wants a six-month grace period for proposed code it describes as ‘complex, unpredictable and unworkable’

Facebook has asked the Australian government to consider giving digital platforms a six-month grace period to make deals with news outlets to pay for content before hitting companies with the “big stick” of the news media bargaining code.

Ahead of Facebook’s appearance on Friday before a Senate committee examining the federal government’s news media and digital platforms mandatory bargaining code bill, the social media giant told the committee the code remained “complex, unpredictable and unworkable”.

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January 20th 2021, 10:25 pm

Facebook under pressure to resume scanning messages for child abuse in EU

Technology | The Guardian

Half of referrals for child sexual abuse material could be falling under the radar after changes to EU ePrivacy Directive

The children’s charity NSPCC has called on Facebook to resume a programme that scan private messages for indications of child abuse, with new data suggesting that almost half of referrals for child sexual abuse material are now falling below the radar.

Recent changes to the European commission’s ePrivacy Directive, which are being finalised, require messaging services to follow strict new restrictions on the privacy of message data. Facebook blamed that directive for shutting down the child protection operation, but the children’s charity says Facebook has gone too far in reading the law as banning it entirely.

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January 20th 2021, 11:05 am

Far-right extremists take over UK land sales Facebook page

Technology | The Guardian

A Facebook page with 40,000 members created for people buying plots of land has been taken over by rightwing conspiracy theorists

On 14 January, the 40,000 Britons who had joined the Facebook group Land for Sale UK awoke to find their newsfeed transformed.

Until then, the group had been a moderately sized message board for people looking to buy or sell small parcels of land. “We’d love a patch of land in the Falmouth and Penryn area to let the kids roam, grow fruit trees,” read one typical post.

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January 20th 2021, 2:15 am

One Nation MPs lost more followers than other Australian politicians in Twitter purge of QAnon accou

Technology | The Guardian

Social media company’s action makes a dent in follower count of a number of rightwing Australian politicians

One Nation politicians including Pauline Hanson have suffered the biggest drop in followers of all Australian politicians as Twitter purged accounts associated with the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Following the insurrection at the US Capitol on 6 January, Twitter announced it had suspended 70,000 accounts promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory, after many of those involved in rioting at the capitol espoused the fraudulent theory as their motivation.

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January 19th 2021, 9:28 pm

Parler website partially returns with support from Russian-owned technology firm

Technology | The Guardian

Platform popular with Trump supporters is back online, but only carries a message from its CEO, using IP address owned by DDOS-Guard

Parler, the social network popular with Donald Trump supporters, has partially returned online with the help of a Russian-owned technology company.

The network vanished from the internet after it was dropped by Amazon’s hosting arm and other partners over a lack of moderation after its users called for violence and posted videos glorifying the attack on the US Capitol on 6 January.

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January 19th 2021, 3:51 am

Galaxy Buds Pro review: Samsung's AirPods Pro-beating earbuds

Technology | The Guardian

Great sound, solid noise-cancelling, decent battery, comfortable fit and small case are potent combination

Samsung’s latest Galaxy Buds Pro earbuds add noise-cancelling, virtual surround and improved sound, making them a challenger to Apple’s AirPods Pro.

At £219, they are the new top-of-the-range earbuds from Samsung, sitting above the £179 Galaxy Buds Live and £159 Galaxy Buds+.

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January 19th 2021, 2:05 am

Electric car batteries with five-minute charging times produced

Technology | The Guardian

Exclusive: first factory production means recharging could soon be as fast as filling up petrol or diesel vehicles

Batteries capable of fully charging in five minutes have been produced in a factory for the first time, marking a significant step towards electric cars becoming as fast to charge as filling up petrol or diesel vehicles.

Electric vehicles are a vital part of action to tackle the climate crisis but running out of charge during a journey is a worry for drivers. The new lithium-ion batteries were developed by the Israeli company StoreDot and manufactured by Eve Energy in China on standard production lines.

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January 19th 2021, 2:05 am

Is bitcoin a scam? – podcast

Technology | The Guardian

In 2013 James Howells threw out a computer hard drive containing bitcoin. Last week he again asked his local council for permission to dig for it at his local dump as he believes it is now worth about £200m. The Guardian’s UK technology editor, Alex Hern, looks at the rise of bitcoin and whether it should be banned

The Guardian’s UK technology editor, Alex Hern, talks to Rachel Humphreys about the cryptocurrency bitcoin, which allows people to bypass banks and traditional payment methods. It uses a blockchain – a shared public record of transactions – to create and track a new type of digital token, one that can only be made and shared according to the agreed-upon rules of the network. At its heart bitcoin is a big database of who owns what, and what transactions were made between those owners. But unlike a conventional bank, there is no central authority running that database.

Bitcoin’s value has recently soared and the City regulator the FSA is concerned that crypto investment firms could be overstating potential payouts or understating the risks from investing in bitcoin and products related to the digital currency. As a newer and relatively lightly regulated market, consumers are unlikely to have access to state-backed compensation if something goes wrong. There has also been a boom in bitcoin scams.

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January 18th 2021, 10:17 pm

Facebook asks to appeal court ruling that it conducts business in Australia

Technology | The Guardian

Social media company aims to avoid liability over Cambridge Analytica scandal by arguing it does not collect or hold data in Australia

Facebook is claiming it does not conduct business in Australia and does not collect and hold data in the country in its effort to avoid liability over the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Last year, the privacy commissioner took Facebook to court over an alleged mass privacy breach involving the use of Australians’ Facebook data in a vote-influencing operation involving Cambridge Analytica, a company that assisted the Trump campaign and was then headed by Trump’s key adviser Steve Bannon.

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January 18th 2021, 8:59 pm

US attacks Australia's 'extraordinary' plan to make Google and Facebook pay for news

Technology | The Guardian

The US in a submission to a Senate inquiry favours a voluntary code rather than government regulation

The United States has urged the Australian government to ditch draft media laws that would force tech giants Google and Facebook to pay news organisations for sharing their content.

The US, in a submission to an Australian parliamentary inquiry, has said that the proposed legislation is unreasonable, impractical, “fundamentally imbalanced” and could run counter to the US-Australia free trade agreement.

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January 18th 2021, 11:57 am

GitHub apologizes for firing employee who warned of Capitol attack Nazi link

Technology | The Guardian

GitHub, a technology firm owned by Microsoft, apologized on Sunday for what its COO, Erica Brescia, called “significant errors in judgment” following outrage that it had fired an employee, who is Jewish, for warning that “Nazis” were among the pro-Donald Trump mob who attacked the US Capitol on 6 January.

Related: How US police failed to stop the rise of the far right and the Capitol attack

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January 18th 2021, 11:57 am

Revealed: Tory MPs and commentators who joined banned app Parler

Technology | The Guardian

Nadine Dorries, James Cleverly and Michael Gove joined the platform favoured by Trump supporters

At least 14 Conservative MPs, including several ministers, cabinet minister Michael Gove and a number of prominent Tory commentators joined Parler, the social media platform favoured by the far right that was forced offline last week for hosting threats of violence and racist slurs.

Parler was taken offline after Amazon Web Services pulled the plug last Sunday, saying violent posts and racist threats connected to the recent attack on the US Capitol violated its terms.

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January 18th 2021, 3:35 am

Trump social media ban sparks calls for action against other populist leaders

Technology | The Guardian

After US president’s ban, some wonder if action will be taken against populists accused of using social media to stir chaos

“I do not celebrate or feel pride,” the Twitter boss Jack Dorsey said this week after banishing Donald Trump.

But for many around the world the decision brought hope: might similar action soon be taken against other populist provocateurs they accuse of using social media to stir chaos?

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January 18th 2021, 3:35 am

The silencing of Trump has highlighted the authoritarian power of tech giants | John Naughton

Technology | The Guardian

The US president’s ban has sparked a furious debate about online opinion, but it’s part of a bigger conversation

It was eerily quiet on social media last week. That’s because Trump and his cultists had been “deplatformed”. By banning him, Twitter effectively took away the megaphone he’s been masterfully deploying since he ran for president. The shock of the 6 January assault on the Capitol was seismic enough to convince even Mark Zuckerberg that the plug finally had to be pulled. And so it was, even to the point of Amazon Web Services terminating the hosting of Parler, a Twitter alternative for alt-right extremists.

The deafening silence that followed these measures was, however, offset by an explosion of commentary about their implications for freedom, democracy and the future of civilisation as we know it. Wading knee-deep through such a torrent of opinion about the first amendment, free speech, censorship, tech power and “accountability” (whatever that might mean), it was sometimes hard to keep one’s bearings. But what came to mind continually was H L Mencken’s astute insight that “for every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong”. The air was filled with people touting such answers.

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January 18th 2021, 3:35 am

Twitter suspends Marjorie Taylor Green, QAnon-backing Republican

Technology | The Guardian

Georgia congresswoman is banned for 12 hours after berating her state’s election officials and making baseless election fraud claims

Twitter has temporarily suspended the account of the Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Green, who has gained a large following on social media, in part by posting incendiary videos and comments.

Greene, a Republican businesswoman, is the first candidate who expressed support for the baseless, far-right QAnon conspiracy theory to win a US House seat. Greene in November won the race for Georgia’s 14th congressional district after her Democratic opponent had dropped out.

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January 17th 2021, 10:49 pm

How Trump supporters are radicalised by the far right

Technology | The Guardian

A move by extremists to the encrypted Telegram app from Parler makes it harder to track where the next attack could come from

Far right “playbooks” teaching white nationalists how to recruit and radicalise Trump supporters have surfaced on the encrypted messaging app Telegram ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration.

The documents, seen by the Observer, detail how to convert mainstream conservatives who have just joined Telegram into violent white supremacists. They were found last week by Tech Against Terrorism, an initiative launched by the UN counter terrorism executive directorate.

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January 17th 2021, 5:56 am

TikTok photoshoot of car on UK level crossing – 'sheer stupidity'

Technology | The Guardian

British Transport Police investigate ‘reckless’ video posted of car on working level crossing near Bolton

Police are investigating after a video showing a car parked over a live railway track for a photoshoot was posted on TikTok.

The clip shows a tripod and car set up by a level crossing north of Bolton with the caption: “Would you take the risk to get the shot no one else would?”

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January 16th 2021, 6:26 am

GPS art: the hybrid activity mixing creativity and fitness – video

Technology | The Guardian

GPS art or GPX is a combination of both fitness and artistic activity. Your movements, traced by GPS signals, become the paint on a city-sized canvas. You can run, ride or walk your artwork through popular fitness tracking apps such as Strava and the path of your choosing. Tackling the streets and cycleways of Sydney, Guardian Australia find out first hand the physical challenges and creative triumphs of the activity.

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January 15th 2021, 5:06 pm

Far-right website 8kun again loses internet service protection following Capitol attack

Technology | The Guardian

Shell company owned by two Russians cut ties with internet host of 8kun, which has been linked to other acts of violence

A far-right website that was among the platforms used to organize the deadly violence at the US Capitol has again been forced to find new internet service protection after a shell company owned by two Russians and registered in Scotland cut ties with the platform’s internet host.

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January 15th 2021, 3:35 pm

Should you keep using WhatsApp? Plus five tips to start the year with your digital privacy intact

Technology | The Guardian

We spoke to convicted hacker turned security consultant Kevin Mitnick to find out how to maintain your security online

If you use the popular messaging service WhatsApp you may have noticed a pop-up message in recent days asking you to accept the service’s new terms and conditions by 8 February in order to continue using it.

The update has prompted calls for users to leave the popular messaging service in favour of alternatives such as Signal and Telegram. And on Friday a legal challenge on privacy grounds was filed against WhatsApp in India, the service’s biggest market. Telegram CEO Pavel Durov has reported an influx of 25 million global users to the rival service since the announcement was made.

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January 15th 2021, 2:17 pm

'Human etch-a sketch': GPS art, burbing and my attempt to recreate the Guardian masthead

Technology | The Guardian

GPS art, or GPX, is a fitness and artistic activity where your movements, traced by GPS signals, become the paint on a city-sized canvas

Henry David Thoreau once wrote: “This world is but a canvas to our imagination.” More than 150 years later, a new generation of artists tracing their movements via GPS to create sketches are proving Thoreau’s words remarkably prescient.

That’s what Strava art is at its core. Named after the fitness tracking app that has previously helped reveal secret US military bases – and also referred to as GPS art or GPX – your movements are the paint and a city block your brush stroke. Think of them as 21st century digital geoglyphs.

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January 15th 2021, 2:17 pm

Wikipedia at 20: last gasp of an internet vision, or a beacon to a better future?

Technology | The Guardian

The naysayers said the user-written encyclopedia would never work. Now it boasts 55m articles and 1.7bn visitors a month

Twenty years ago today, a tech startup called Nupedia launched a side project. The company had been hard at work producing a free online encyclopaedia, but it was slow going: its strict editing process, comprehensive peer-review and focus on expert authors meant it finished only 21 articles in its first year.

The side project would do away with all of that. Instead, anyone would be able to write and edit articles. Nupedia’s founders were split over whether the trade-off – more content with a lower barrier to entry – was worth it, but by the end of its first year, the side project had amassed articles on more than 18,000 topics. Nupedia, by the time it shut in 2003, had finished just 25.

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January 15th 2021, 8:32 am

One, two, tree: how AI helped find millions of trees in the Sahara

Technology | The Guardian

Efforts to map the Earth’s trees are growing – and could change our understanding of the planet’s health

When a team of international scientists set out to count every tree in a large swathe of west Africa using AI, satellite images and one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, their expectations were modest. Previously, the area had registered as having little or no tree cover.

The biggest surprise, says Martin Brandt, assistant professor of geography at the University of Copenhagen, is that the part of the Sahara that the study covered, roughly 10%, “where no one would expect to find many trees”, actually had “quite a few hundred million”.

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January 15th 2021, 6:14 am

Samsung Galaxy S21 launch: 10x superzoom camera phone unveiled

Technology | The Guardian

S21 Ultra with 3x and 10x dual optical zoom camera announced plus cheaper models and Galaxy Buds Pro earbuds

Samsung is attempting to fully replace high-end cameras and out-zoom its smartphone competition with the new Galaxy S21 Ultra, the firm’s first to feature a large 10x optical zoom.

Announced as part of the company’s Unpacked live-streamed event, the new £1,149 Android superphone has two different optical zoom lenses for switching between 3x and 10x magnification. It leads Samsung’s Galaxy S21 line for 2021 which also includes two smaller and cheaper models.

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January 14th 2021, 10:14 am

One third of Australian users have not updated Covidsafe app

Technology | The Guardian

New data reveals that more than two million users are using an outdated version of the contact tracing app

Nearly one third of the seven million Australians who downloaded the Covidsafe app have not updated to the most recent version, as new figures show the government spend on the contact tracing app has risen to $14m.

The Covidsafe contact tracing app relies on as many people as possible running it, but new data reveals that more than two million users do not have the most up-to-date version.

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January 14th 2021, 1:12 am

Twitter chief says Trump ban was right decision but sets 'dangerous precedent'

Technology | The Guardian

Jack Dorsey, the chief executive of Twitter, has said that banning Donald Trump from the platform was the “right decision” but that it sets a dangerous precedent.

Related: Donald Trump becomes the first US president to be impeached for a second time – live

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January 13th 2021, 9:38 pm

TikTok to tackle grooming with curbs for young users

Technology | The Guardian

NSPCC welcomes changes as it says abusers are taking advantage of pandemic to target children online

Children on TikTok will face “groundbreaking” new restrictions in an attempt to prevent grooming on the platform, the video-sharing company has announced, with particularly strict new rules for users under 16.

On the platform, which has a lower age limit of 13 years old, those under 16 will no longer be able to receive comments from strangers, have their videos used for “duets”, or mark their posts as available to be downloaded.

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January 13th 2021, 6:32 am

Google admits to running 'experiments' which remove some media sites from its search results

Technology | The Guardian

The tech giant says it is ‘running a few experiments that will each reach about 1% of Google Search users in Australia’

Google has been hiding some Australian news sites from search results, in a move media outlets say is a show of “extraordinary power” as the tech company bargains with the Australian government over financial payment for content.

The Australian government is attempting to impose a new code on Google and Facebook that would force them to negotiate a fair price for displaying local news content.

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January 13th 2021, 5:20 am

Australian man arrested in Germany over 'world's largest' darknet marketplace

Technology | The Guardian

Police arrest 34-year-old suspected of operating site selling drugs, credit card data and malware

A German-led police sting has taken down the “world’s largest” darknet marketplace, whose Australian alleged operator used it to facilitate the sale of drugs, stolen credit card data and malware, prosecutors said Tuesday.

At the time of its closure, DarkMarket had nearly 500,000 users and more than 2,400 vendors worldwide, as the coronavirus pandemic leads much of the street trade in narcotics to go online.

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January 12th 2021, 4:46 pm

In bits: the programmer locked out of his £130m bitcoin account

Technology | The Guardian

Stefan Thomas is not the first person to forget a password, but memory lapses are rarely so potentially costly

Stefan Thomas has just two chances left to get his hands on his $175m (£130m) fortune.

Thomas is a San Francisco-based computer programmer, and a decade ago he was given 7,002 bitcoins as a reward for making a video explaining how the cryptocurrency works.

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January 12th 2021, 1:59 pm

Facebook has no plans to lift Trump ban, says Sheryl Sandberg – video

Technology | The Guardian

Facebook is cracking down on content using the 'stop the steal' phrase behind false election claims as firm's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, says she’s ‘glad’ president was blocked.

Content supporting the movement will be removed from the platform, while posts containing the phrase to either condemn it or discuss the topic neutrally will be allowed to remain.

The policy change is the latest effort to target misinformation and the incitement of violence on Facebook, after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building on Wednesday

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January 12th 2021, 4:35 am

Twitter suspends 70,000 accounts sharing QAnon content

Technology | The Guardian

The network said it acted after ‘violent events in Washington’ when a pro-Trump mob stormed the US Capitol

Twitter has said it has suspended more than 70,000 accounts since Friday that were primarily dedicated to sharing QAnon content as the social media site contined to crack down on content after supporters of Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol.

“Given the violent events in Washington, DC, and increased risk of harm, we began permanently suspending thousands of accounts that were primarily dedicated to sharing QAnon content on Friday afternoon”, Twitter said in a blog late on Monday.

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January 11th 2021, 11:02 pm

Facebook targets 'stop the steal' content and says Trump ban may be permanent

Technology | The Guardian

Company places limits on phrase behind false election claims as Sheryl Sandberg says she’s ‘glad’ president was blocked

Facebook is cracking down on content using the phrase “stop the steal”, the rallying cry of Donald Trump supporters who claim without evidence that there was voter fraud in the 2020 elections.

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January 11th 2021, 9:59 pm

What is bitcoin and why are so many people looking to buy it? | Richard Partington

Technology | The Guardian

Cryptocurrency is attracting attention from investors and financial regulators alike

Bitcoin is a type of digital currency that emerged after the 2008 financial crisis. It allows people to bypass banks and traditional payment methods. It has become the most prominent among thousands of so-called cryptocurrencies.

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January 11th 2021, 10:59 am

Bitcoin: be prepared to lose all your money, FCA warns consumers

Technology | The Guardian

Regulator cautions public over risk of products promising high returns from cryptoassets

Consumers should be prepared to “lose all their money” if they invest in products that promise high returns from cryptoassets such as bitcoin, the City watchdog has warned.

The Financial Conduct Authority urged consumers to understand what they were investing in and the financial risks involved, given they were unlikely to be protected by UK schemes that help investors reclaim cash when companies go bust.

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January 11th 2021, 9:42 am

Parler goes offline after Amazon drops it due to 'violent content'

Technology | The Guardian

Amazon stops hosting social network, used as communication hub by US Capitol rioters

The “free speech” social network Parler, popular with Donald Trump supporters, has been forced off the internet after Amazon pulled its hosting services.

The Twitter clone, which gained notoriety as a communication hub for the rioters who stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday, had already suffered a major hit to its reach over the weekend, as first Google and then Apple suspended its app from their stores.

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January 11th 2021, 9:42 am

'Hang Mike Pence': Twitter stops phrase trending after Capitol riot

Technology | The Guardian

Chant was heard in the US Capitol on Wednesday as pro-Trump mob, incited by the president, stormed the building

Twitter stopped the phrase “Hang Mike Pence” trending on Saturday, but not before it trended on the social media platform in the aftermath of the company’s decision to suspend Donald Trump’s account.

Related: Police arrest more Capitol rioters as details of violence and brutality emerge

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January 11th 2021, 9:42 am

Global cyber-espionage campaign linked to Russian spying tools

Technology | The Guardian

Kaspersky investigators uncover evidence that may support US claims Moscow was behind attack

A Moscow-based cybersecurity company has reported that some of the malicious code employed against the US government in a cyber-attack last month overlaps with code previously used by suspected Russian hackers.

The findings by Kaspersky investigators may provide the first public evidence to support accusations from Washington that Moscow was behind the biggest cyber-raid against the government in years, affecting 18,000 users of software produced by SolarWinds, including US government agencies.

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January 11th 2021, 9:42 am

Art meets tech to mark first 100 years of the robot

Technology | The Guardian

The Czech playwright Karel Čapek coined the expression for artificial men in 1921. Now they are far more than science fiction

“Listen Josef,” said the Czech playwright Karel Čapek to his brother. “I have an idea for a play.”

Josef, an artist of some renown, was painting furiously and unimpressed by his brother’s intrusion. “What kind of play?” he asked, sharply. Karel set out the plot. In the future, humans have created synthetic, humanoid creatures to increase productivity in the factories and fight wars on the battlefield. Built as slave workers, they will eventually rise up and wipe out the human race.

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January 10th 2021, 7:34 am

Bitcoin boom threatens to turn it into pure gold

Technology | The Guardian

Big investors are eyeing the once volatile cryptocurrency as a hedge against inflation

Bitcoin is back, along with the debate over its value. The price of the digital currency is soaring and last week it hit more than $40,000 for the first time, having doubled in less than a month.

Its price has jumped by more than 700% since the pandemic was first declared in March last year, rising from about $5,000.

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January 9th 2021, 11:32 am

How FarmVille and Facebook helped to cultivate a new audience for gaming | John Naughton

Technology | The Guardian

The Flash-based title, now put to rest alongside Adobe’s animation tool, was much derided, but broadened the appeal of computer games

Two deaths you may have missed last week – for the simple reason that you have better things to do with your time than monitoring the tech industry. One was the end of FarmVille, a simplistic, time-wasting online game that consumed the attention of millions of Facebook users over the years; the other was the much-delayed execution of Flash, the animation tool that powered countless games and assorted website tricks for two decades, but which will no longer be supported by most web browsers or by its maker, Adobe.

As it happens, both deaths are related, because one application used the other, but both were ubiquitous for different reasons. The FarmVille story is about human nature and the dynamics of addiction, social media and surveillance capitalism, whereas Flash is really just about tech and the evolution of the web.

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January 9th 2021, 11:32 am

Bill Gates joins Blackstone in bid to buy British private jet firm

Technology | The Guardian

Gates’ Cascade Investment fund teams up with US private equity firm on offer for Signature Aviation

Bill Gates has joined a £3bn bidding war to buy the world’s largest private jet operator just as he prepares to publish his new book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster.

Cascade Investment, the fund that manages much of Gates’s $134bn personal fortune, announced on Friday it had teamed up with US private equity firm Blackstone in a bid for British private jet operator Signature Aviation.

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January 9th 2021, 5:46 am

'Four years of propaganda': Trump social media bans come too late, experts say

Technology | The Guardian

Platforms have long let his dangerous posts stand – and researchers say the Capitol attack is ‘exactly what we expected’

In the 24 hours since the US Capitol in Washington was seized by a Trump-supporting mob disputing the results of the 2020 election, American social media companies have barred the president from their platforms for spreading falsehoods and inciting the crowd.

Facebook, Snapchat and Twitch suspended Donald Trump indefinitely. Twitter locked his account temporarily. Multiple platforms removed his messages.

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January 9th 2021, 5:46 am

UK will miss 2025 target for full-fibre broadband rollout, MPs warn

Technology | The Guardian

Government failures will leave thousands of rural homes with slow broadband, spending watchdog says

Boris Johnson’s promise to deliver nationwide “turbocharged” broadband by 2025 will be missed because of a catalogue of government failures, parliament’s spending watchdog has concluded.

In a timely report released on Friday as many children struggle to gain access to remote learning during lockdown, the public accounts committee has criticised the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) for failing to make any “meaningful progress” in delivering policies or legal changes to achieve a rapid rollout of gigabit broadband.

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January 7th 2021, 7:38 pm

Bitcoin tops $40,000 as investors seek hedge against inflation

Technology | The Guardian

Cryptocurrency doubles value in less than a month as supporters say asset is starting to supplant gold

Bitcoin has surged above the $40,000 (£29,500) mark for the first time in its history after doubling its value in less than a month.

The record comes just days after the cryptocurrency hit an all-time high of more than $34,800 on Sunday, which was also the 12th anniversary of the bitcoin network being created. Bitcoin first breached the $20,000 mark in mid-December.

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January 7th 2021, 3:23 pm

Elon Musk: from bullied schoolboy to world's richest man

Technology | The Guardian

How the Tesla and SpaceX chief rose to the top in the business world, in 10 steps

Elon Musk’s journey from South African schoolboy to the world’s richest man, pushing the boundaries of space travel, has been one of the more extraordinary tales in the modern business world. Here’s how he got there.

Musk was born in 1971 in Pretoria, South Africa, to parents who divorced before he was 10. His mother was a model, his father an electromechanical engineer and property developer. Musk had an early interest in computing and taught himself computer programming. He was badly bullied at school and was even admitted to hospital for two weeks after a gang of boys threw him down some stairs. He became obsessed by moving to the US, which he saw as a land of opportunity.

He collected degrees from a host of universities, including the University of Pennsylvania, while holding down internships in Silicon Valley. Eventually he was accepted for the PhD programme at California’s prestigious Stanford University. He dropped out after two days in favour of the booming world of internet startups.

The first of his business ventures began in Palo Alto, California, famed for hosting tech companies such as Apple. His first venture, a software firm called Zip2 founded with his brother Kimbal, took time to succeed. They started it in 1995 and Musk has spoken of sleeping in the office because he couldn’t afford an apartment. He received $22m for his stake when the company was sold to the computing firm Compaq in 1999.

It was PayPal that really launched Musk’s career into the stratosphere. He had founded a digital financial services business called X.com in 1999, which merged with the company that owned the fledgling payments processing business. Despite disagreements over his role and strategic vision, the company became a world leader and eBay paid $1.5bn in stock for it in 2002, a deal that was worth $165m to Musk.

A fascination with space led Musk to invest about $100m of his rapidly-expanding wealth in exploring the cosmos. He founded SpaceX in 2002 and has ambitions to build a colony on Mars within a few decades. In the meantime, he has focused on developing cheap and reusable spacecraft, enjoying considerable success. In 2020, SpaceX became the first private company to put a person into orbit. He has also explored subterranean travel, investing in the same “Hyperloop” concept that Sir Richard Branson is developing.

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January 7th 2021, 3:23 pm

Donald Trump suspended from Facebook indefinitely, says Mark Zuckerberg

Technology | The Guardian

Mark Zuckerberg accuses president of intending to undermine peaceful transition of power

Donald Trump will be suspended from Facebook and Instagram indefinitely and at least until the end of his time in office, Mark Zuckerberg has said, as a consequence of his support for the rioters who stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday.

The US president was initially suspended from the social network for just 24 hours, as a result of two posts shared to the platform in which he appeared to praise the actions of the rioters.

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January 7th 2021, 11:36 am

Misinformation 'superspreaders': Covid vaccine falsehoods still thriving on Facebook and Instagram

Technology | The Guardian

Researchers say big Facebook accounts still condemn vaccines while anti-vaxxers banned from Facebook have fled to Instagram

Conspiracy theories and misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine are still spreading on Facebook and Instagram, more than a month after Facebook pledged it would take them down.

Under pressure to contain an avalanche of falsehoods, Facebook announced on 3 December that it would ban debunked claims about the safety and efficacy of vaccines now being distributed worldwide. The company said it removed more than 12m pieces of content from Facebook and Instagram between March and October, and that it worked with factcheckers to place labels on 167 million more pieces of content over the same period.

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January 7th 2021, 10:19 am

Twitter and Facebook lock Donald Trump’s accounts after video address

Technology | The Guardian

Unprecedented actions by social media giants were aimed at addressing the president’s spread of misinformation and the incitement of violence

Twitter and Facebook took unprecedented actions to address the spread of misinformation and the incitement of violence by Donald Trump on their platforms on Wednesday, after supporters of the president stormed the US Capitol.

Both companies locked Trump’s accounts and removed several posts from the president that cast doubt on the election results and praised his supporters, who forcibly took to the government building as lawmakers attempted to tally votes for the election.

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January 7th 2021, 10:19 am

DoJ confirms email accounts breached by SolarWinds hackers

Technology | The Guardian

Department declines to say how many mailboxes targeted but says hackers ‘likely Russian in origin’

The US Department of Justice confirmed Wednesday that its email systems had been accessed by the hackers who broke into software company SolarWinds, another indication of the gravity of the breach that has shaken Washington.

Related: Russians are 'likely' perpetrators of US government hack, official report says

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January 6th 2021, 4:08 pm

Facebook restarts political ad ban in Georgia following runoff votes

Technology | The Guardian

Site had temporarily exempted state from nationwide post-election ban ahead of Tuesday’s Senate votes

Facebook has announced it will again ban political advertising targeting users in the state of Georgia, following the election there on Tuesday.

The social media company said that starting on Wednesday, Georgia users would again be subject to the US-wide political ad ban instated following the 3 November presidential vote. Facebook had temporarily lifted the ban in Georgia ahead of the runoff elections to allow political messaging to reach more voters.

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January 5th 2021, 8:56 pm

Russians are 'likely' perpetrators of US government hack, official report says

Technology | The Guardian

Multi-agency report is the Trump administration’s first statement of attribution for the breaching of at least 10 federal agencies

Russia was “likely” to have been behind a string of hacks of US federal agencies identified last month, according the office of the US director of national intelligence which said the hackers breached fewer than 10 federal agencies.

The office and the FBI, the National Security Agency, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency inside the Department of Homeland Security, in a joint statement, said the hackers’ goal appeared to be collecting intelligence, rather than any destructive acts.

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January 5th 2021, 5:09 pm

YouTube bans TalkRadio for allegedly breaching content policy

Technology | The Guardian

Station with hosts including James Whale and Julia Hartley-Brewer insists it has ‘robust editorial controls’

YouTube has banned the digital station TalkRadio from its platform over repeated breaches of the platform’s content policy, leaving the broadcaster scrambling to find other sites on which it can host excerpts of its debate and discussion shows.

The station, part of the TalkSport network, said it had not been told by the platform what the most recent breach was. A spokesperson said: “We urgently await a detailed response from Google/YouTube about the nature of the breach that has led to our channel being removed from its platform.

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January 5th 2021, 12:22 pm

'He's a risk-taker': Germans divided over Elon Musk's new GigaFactory

Technology | The Guardian

The Tesla project will put Grünheide on the map, but some say it is doing ‘irreversible’ harm to the environment

For the past 10 months, Silas Heineken has been flying a drone over one of Germany’s biggest building sites and posting the images on YouTube.

The 14-year-old self-named “Tesla Kid” has built a significant following, as tens of thousands tune in each week to see the latest developments in Elon Musk’s GigaFactory as it emerges at speed from the sandy ground of Brandenburg, south-east of Berlin.

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January 5th 2021, 1:14 am

Slack messaging service suffers global outage

Technology | The Guardian

Outage disrupts service in the US, Germany, India, the UK, Japan and elsewhere

Slack, the messaging service used by millions of people for work and school, has suffered a global outage on Monday, the first day back for most people returning from the New Year’s holiday.

It was the latest tech glitch to show how disruptive technical difficulties can be when millions of people are depending on just a few services to work and go to school from home during the pandemic.

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January 4th 2021, 1:45 pm

More than 200 US Google employees form a workers’ union

Technology | The Guardian

Employees signed cards to join the ‘Alphabet Workers Union’, to ensure employees work at a fair wage and without fear of abuse

More than 200 Google employees in the United States have formed a workers’ union, the elected leaders of the union wrote in a New York Times opinion piece on Monday.

The “Alphabet Workers Union” aims to ensure that employees work at a fair wage, without fear of abuse, retaliation or discrimination, the union heads wrote.

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January 4th 2021, 10:58 am

Bitcoin hits record high on 12th anniversary of its creation

Technology | The Guardian

Cryptocurrency breaches $30,000 as financial institutions express growing interest

Bitcoin has surged to a fresh record high amid rising interest from investors and claims that the volatile cryptocurrency is on the way to becoming a mainstream payment method.

Having quadrupled in value during 2020, bitcoin began 2021 strongly by breaking through the $30,000 (£22,000) mark for the first time, less than three weeks after first trading above $20,000.

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January 3rd 2021, 12:40 pm

Mike Bennett obituary

Technology | The Guardian

My father, Mike Bennett, who has died aged 91, was a civil engineer who built dams, power stations and roads all over the world and was involved in the construction of the Thames Barrier.

He was born in Burnage, Manchester, to Edna (nee Gilpin), a homemaker and keen golfer, and Brian Bennett, a banker. The family moved to London when Mike was a baby, where his father joined the Midland Bank, and then to Yorkshire to escape the Blitz.

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January 3rd 2021, 11:12 am

Tesla almost hits 500,000-car delivery target for 2020 despite pandemic

Technology | The Guardian

The manufacturer delivered 499,550 cars in 2020, thanks to an end-of-year sales bump

Tesla reported record deliveries of its electric cars in the last three months of 2020, coming within a whisker of achieving the half-million target for the year set by its chief executive, Elon Musk.

The California-based manufacturer’s annual sales rose by 36% after a final quarter that exceeded analysts’ expectations, delivering a total of 499,550 cars in 2020.

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January 3rd 2021, 9:12 am

'Peak hype': why the driverless car revolution has stalled

Technology | The Guardian

As Uber parks its plans for robotaxis, experts admit the autonomous vehicle challenge is bigger than anticipated

By 2021, according to various Silicon Valley luminaries, bandwagoning politicians and leading cab firms in recent years, self-driving cars would have long been crossing the US, started filing along Britain’s motorways and be all set to provide robotaxis in London.

1 January has not, however, brought a driverless revolution. Indeed in the last weeks of 2020 Uber, one of the biggest players and supposed beneficiaries, decided to park its plans for self-driving taxis, selling off its autonomous division to Aurora in a deal worth about $4bn (£3bn) – roughly half what it was valued at in 2019.

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January 3rd 2021, 8:41 am

All I want for 2021 is to see Mark Zuckerberg up in court | John Naughton

Technology | The Guardian

The tech giants’ law-free bonanza is coming to an end on both sides of the Atlantic, but let’s speed up the process

It’s always risky making predictions about the tech industry, but this year looks like being different, at least in the sense that there are two safe bets. One is that the attempts to regulate the tech giants that began last year will intensify; the second that we will be increasingly deluged by sanctimonious cant from Facebook & co as they seek to avoid democratic curbing of their unaccountable power.

On the regulation front, last year in the US, Alphabet, Google’s corporate owner, found itself facing major antitrust suits from 38 states as well as from the Department of Justice. On this side of the pond, there are preparations for a Digital Markets Unit with statutory powers that will be able to neatly sidestep the tricky definitional questions of what constitutes a monopoly in a digital age. Instead, the unit will decide on a case-by-case basis whether a particular tech company has “strategic market status” if it possesses “substantial, entrenched market power in at least one digital activity” or if it acts as an online “gateway” for other businesses. And if a company is judged to have this status, then penalties and regulations will be imposed on it.

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January 2nd 2021, 11:16 am

'Energy needed a digital revolution – and we are it'

Technology | The Guardian

Greg Jackson, boss of Octopus Energy, says the sector was ripe for an Amazon or Uber-style disruptor, but that his version will also boost the UK’s green revolution

Greg Jackson, chief executive of Octopus Energy, wears the unassuming combination of jeans and trainers one might expect from the founder of a wildly successful startup. There’s also a vast open-plan central London office, easy camaraderie with staff, lots of plants. He has the enthusiasm and world-changing idealism too. With all these markers of a tech unicorn – a deal last month with Tokyo Gas valued it at $2bn (£1.5bn) – it’s easy to forget that Octopus is an energy company. Jackson, 49, says the distinction is increasingly irrelevant.

Octopus is a new breed of energy supplier, built on cutting-edge technology and unencumbered by the creaking billing systems and fossil-fuel plants that plague the UK’s “big six”. Set up just five years ago, it has been free to view the energy market as a tech startup would: ripe for disruption. This has made Octopus Britain’s fastest-growing energy supplier, and helped it agree that Japanese deal – under which it will supply energy to homes in Japan, while Tokyo Gas takes a near-10% stake in Octopus.

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January 2nd 2021, 11:16 am

Facts won't fix this: experts on how to fight America's disinformation crisis

Technology | The Guardian

Trump’s false claims about the election and coronavirus are taking a dangerous toll. Can the divide be healed?

At the beginning of 2021, millions of Americans appear to disagree about one of the most basic facts of their democracy: that Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election.

The consequences of Donald Trump’s repeated, baseless claims of voter fraud will come in several waves, researchers who study disinformation say, even if Trump ultimately hands over power and leaves the White House. And there is no quick or easy way to fix this crisis, they warn. Because when it comes to dealing with disinformation, simply repeating the facts doesn’t do much to change anyone’s mind.

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January 1st 2021, 1:11 am

Apple pulls Vybe Together party app from app store

Technology | The Guardian

Party app was designed to promote ‘small gatherings’ rather than ‘large parties’, creators said

Apple has pulled an iOS app that encouraged users to meet at secret underground gatherings during the pandemic.

The app, called Vybe Together, promoted private parties during the Covid-19 pandemic and has been removed from the Apple App Store, had its account on TikTok banned, and scrubbed most of its online presence, with the app’s creators telling The Verge that Apple banned the application from its store.

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December 30th 2020, 9:24 am

Obsolete software from 1990s features in Brexit deal text

Technology | The Guardian

Descriptions of Netscape Communicator and Mozilla Mail as ‘modern’ leads to questions over whether text was copied and pasted

The EU-UK Brexit deal refers to defunct decades-old computer software such as Netscape Communicator as “modern”, raising suspicions that some of the text may have been copied and pasted in.

Online commenters gleefully shared the observation that page 921 of the painfully birthed trade agreement refers to Netscape Communicator – released in June 1997 – and Mozilla Mail as being “modern e-mail software packages”.

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December 30th 2020, 9:24 am

Bitcoin surges to record $28,500, quadrupling in value this year

Technology | The Guardian

Institutional investors help cryptocurrency to 47% gain this month as interest in US dollar declines

Bitcoin has continued its end-of-year Santa Claus rally, surging to a new high of more than $28,500.

The cryptocurrency gained more than 5% to hit $28,572 on Wednesday. It is up 47% since the start of December and is on track for its biggest monthly gain since May 2019.

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December 30th 2020, 6:06 am

UK chipmaker Graphcore valued at $2.8bn after it raises $222m

Technology | The Guardian

British firm challenges rivals including Nvidia with chips used in artificial intelligence

Graphcore, the UK maker of chips designed for use in artificial intelligence, has raised $222m (£164m) from investors, valuing the company at $2.8bn.

The Bristol-based company’s latest round of funding was led by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan as well as investors including Fidelity International and Schroders. Existing Graphcore investors, including Baillie Gifford and Draper Esprit, also joined the round.

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December 30th 2020, 4:20 am

Uber Eats avoids landmark ruling on workers' status by settling case with delivery rider

Technology | The Guardian

Settlement by Australian arm of company comes before federal court could rule whether sacked delivery rider Amita Gupta was an employee or a contractor

Uber has settled a high-profile case with one of its food delivery riders, avoiding a landmark ruling on whether gig economy workers are employees or contractors, experts say.

The Australian arm of the multinational company settled with former Uber Eats delivery rider Amita Gupta before the full bench of the federal court could rule on whether she was an employee or a contractor.

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December 29th 2020, 11:33 pm

UK tech firms attract record $15bn in venture capital funding

Technology | The Guardian

Investments in 2020 are higher than in rest of Europe combined and help to create seven ‘unicorns’

UK technology companies attracted a record $15bn (£11.2bn) in venture capital funding in 2020, including the creation of seven “unicorn” firms valued at more than $1bn.

The firms raised more money from VC investors than the rest of Europe combined, according to research by the data provider Dealroom. The $15bn total compares with the previous record of $14.8bn in 2019.

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December 29th 2020, 4:35 am

How we are changing the way we rate sustainability of consumer electronics

Technology | The Guardian

Under the new criteria, products will lose marks if they do not meet a certain threshold for progress

When we first started looking at the sustainability of consumer electronics at the beginning of 2019, we soon discovered that reliable information was very hard to find. It was difficult to establish which smartphones, tablets, headphones and other items were even capable of being repaired, let alone how long they might last or whether they contained recycled materials.

The status quo was very much “don’t ask, don’t tell”. Upon asking, very few manufacturers even had records of the relevant information. Fewer still made it available for public consumption.

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December 29th 2020, 2:20 am

Dai Edwards obituary

Technology | The Guardian

My colleague Dai Edwards, who has died aged 92, was one of a small group of engineers who designed the world’s first commercially available computer. He went on to help design other high-performance computers, each the product of fruitful collaboration between academia and industry.

David Beverley George Edwards, known to colleagues as Dai, was born in Tonteg, South Wales. He was the only child of Cecilia (nee George) and William Edwards, who were both teachers. Dai went to Pontypridd boys’ intermediate school, leaving in 1945 with a state scholarship to study physics at Manchester University. Upon graduation, he joined Professor FC (Freddie) Williams’ electrical engineering group in September 1948.

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December 28th 2020, 6:03 pm

Tech platforms vowed to address racial equity: how have they fared?

Technology | The Guardian

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google and Amazon issued statements in response to Black Lives Matter this year but did they follow through?

Following the death of George Floyd and nationwide protests against police brutality and racial inequality, some of the largest technology corporations waded into the anti-racism movement with slickly worded corporate declarations that “Black Lives Matter”.

Those tech platforms are now facing increased pressure to back those promises with action – both on and off their platforms.

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December 28th 2020, 6:12 am

Facebook to close controversial Irish holding companies

Technology | The Guardian

Main subsidiary in Ireland paid just $101m in tax while recording profits of more than $15bn in 2018

Facebook is winding up controversial Irish holding companies it has used to shift hundreds of billions of profits through to avoid paying taxes in the US, the UK and hundreds of other countries around the world.

The company’s main Irish subsidiary paid just $101m (£75m) in tax while recording profits of more than $15bn in 2018, the last year for which records are available. Facebook companies around the world paid the Irish holding company for use of Facebook’s intellectual property.

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December 27th 2020, 10:44 am

Control shift: why newspaper hacks are switching to Substack | John Naughton

Technology | The Guardian

An online platform where journalists sell content directly to subscribers is luring eminent voices away from traditional media

Way back in March, at the beginning of the first lockdown, I fell to wondering what a columnist, academic and blogger under house arrest might usefully do for the duration of his imprisonment. My eye fell on my blog, Memex 1.1, which has been a harmless presence on the web since the mid-1990s and a source of puzzlement to journalistic and academic colleagues alike. The hacks unanimously shared Dr Johnson’s view that “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money”, while my academic colleagues thought it peculiar to waste one’s energy writing anything that would not figure in scholarly citation indices. The idea that one might maintain a blog simply because one enjoyed doing it never crossed their minds.

So there it was, with a modest readership, which occasionally spiked as it caught some brief wave of attention. Given that many people were going to be locked down like me, I wondered if the regularity of receiving the blog as an email every morning might be welcome. The thought came from observing how Dave Winer’s wonderful blog, Scripting News, drew an even wider readership after he offered it as a daily email to subscribers. So I began looking for an easy way of doing something similar.

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December 27th 2020, 10:16 am

Dozens sue Amazon's Ring after camera hack leads to threats and racial slurs

Technology | The Guardian

Class action claims weak security allowed hackers to take over the smart cameras used on doorbells and in homes

Dozens of people who say they were subjected to death threats, racial slurs, and blackmail after their in-home Ring smart cameras were hacked are suing the company over “horrific” invasions of privacy.

A new class action lawsuit alleges that lax security measures at Ring, which is owned by Amazon, allowed hackers to take over their devices. Ring provides home security in the form of smart cameras that are often installed on doorbells or inside people’s comes.

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December 23rd 2020, 5:03 pm

Google told scientists to use 'a positive tone' in AI research, documents show

Technology | The Guardian

The company requested authors refrain from casting its technology in a negative light in at least three cases

Google this year moved to tighten control over its scientists’ papers by launching a “sensitive topics” review, and in at least three cases requested authors refrain from casting its technology in a negative light, according to internal communications and interviews with researchers involved in the work.

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December 23rd 2020, 2:32 pm

Data breach hits 30,000 signed up to workplace pensions provider

Technology | The Guardian

Fraud worries as UK company Now:Pensions says ‘third-party contractor’ posted personal details of clients to online public forum

About 30,000 customers of Now:Pensions face an anxious Christmas after a serious data breach at the pensions provider led to their sensitive personal details being posted on the internet.

In an email sent to affected customers, the workplace pensions firm warned that names, postal and email addresses, birth dates and National Insurance numbers all appeared in a public forum online.

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December 23rd 2020, 2:19 pm

The US has suffered a massive cyberbreach. It's hard to overstate how bad it is | Bruce Schneier

Technology | The Guardian

This is a security failure of enormous proportions – and a wakeup call. The US must rethink its cybersecurity protocols

Recent news articles have all been talking about the massive Russian cyber-attack against the United States, but that’s wrong on two accounts. It wasn’t a cyber-attack in international relations terms, it was espionage. And the victim wasn’t just the US, it was the entire world. But it was massive, and it is dangerous.

Espionage is internationally allowed in peacetime. The problem is that both espionage and cyber-attacks require the same computer and network intrusions, and the difference is only a few keystrokes. And since this Russian operation isn’t at all targeted, the entire world is at risk – and not just from Russia. Many countries carry out these sorts of operations, none more extensively than the US. The solution is to prioritize security and defense over espionage and attack.

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December 23rd 2020, 7:15 am

Elon Musk: I tried to sell Tesla to Apple

Technology | The Guardian

Musk says Tim Cook ‘refused to take the meeting’ when a struggling Tesla could have been bought for a song

Elon Musk has said he contacted Apple Inc’s Tim Cook “during the darkest days of the Model 3 program” to discuss the possibility of Apple buying the Tesla electric car company for “1/10th of our current value … He [Cook] refused to take the meeting”.

Musk’s comment followed reports that Apple is working on producing an electric car with advanced battery technology. In Twitter threads, Musk and others questioned the nature the technology, including what was referred to in reports as a “monocell” battery with lithium iron phosphate chemistry:

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December 22nd 2020, 9:37 pm

Joe Biden won't inherit Trump's millions of Twitter followers

Technology | The Guardian

Move marks a departure from past practice as in 2017 Twitter transferred followers of Obama administration accounts to Trump

Joe Biden will not inherit Donald Trump’s millions of followers on the official president of the United States and White House Twitter accounts when he assumes the presidency, marking a departure from past social media practice, the Democratic president-elect’s team said on Tuesday.

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December 22nd 2020, 6:22 pm

'Everyone and their mum is on it': OnlyFans boomed in popularity during the pandemic

Technology | The Guardian

The site is best known for charging fees for nude content, but making money off it is hard work

This time last year Jah Bella* was doing it tough. She had fled an abusive relationship, was looking after her newborn daughter and was struggling to find work in far north Queensland.

“Every single regular job that I had, I was getting sexually harassed in some way,” she says. “I would either get fired or I’d have to leave once I reported it.”

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December 22nd 2020, 11:48 am

NSO Group spyware 'dangerous', say tech firms in legal filing

Technology | The Guardian

Israeli company should be held liable to American anti-hacking laws, Google, Microsoft and others argue

Spyware made by NSO Group is “powerful and dangerous” and the Israeli company should be held liable to US anti-hacking laws, Google, Microsoft, Cisco and other leading technology companies have said in a rare joint legal filing.

An amicus brief filed by the companies in support of WhatsApp, which has sued NSO Group in the US, appears to mark a major turning point in the popular messaging app’s legal fight against the Israeli spyware firm, and has sent a strong signal that the world’s biggest technology companies are rallying against the proliferation of hacking tools made by private companies.

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December 22nd 2020, 11:48 am

Revealed: how abusive texts led to discovery of hacking of Al Jazeera

Technology | The Guardian

Threatening messages led to monitoring of phone that unearthed evidence of cyber-attack against Qatar-based network

A series of abusive text messages sent to an Al Jazeera investigative programme were the first crumbs that eventually led to the discovery of an unprecedented hacking operation against dozens of staff from the Qatar-based media network, according to one of the journalists who was targeted.

Canadian researchers on Sunday claimed the UAE and Saudi Arabia used spyware sold by an Israeli private intelligence company to access the phones of at least 36 journalists, producers and executives from Al Jazeera, as well as that of a London-based reporter with the Al Araby network.

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December 22nd 2020, 8:19 am

Telecoms sector has 'no belief' UK will meet broadband targets, MPs find

Technology | The Guardian

Select committee says strategy at risk from lack of inadequate planning and investment

The telecoms sector has “no genuine belief” the government will be able to meet its broadband targets, a parliamentary inquiry has found, despite those targets having been cut just weeks ago.

In its national infrastructure strategy, published in late November, the government announced plans to connect 85% of the country with ultrafast gigabit broadband, which usually requires a fibre-to-the-home connection, by 2025.

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December 22nd 2020, 1:14 am

US government hack compromised dozens of treasury email accounts, senator says

Technology | The Guardian

Breach blamed on Russia saw hackers gain access to systems used by top department officials, says Ron Wyden

Dozens of email accounts at the treasury department were compromised in a massive breach of US government agencies being blamed on Russia, with hackers breaking into systems used by the department’s highest-ranking officials, a senator said Monday after being briefed on the matter.

Senator Ron Wyden, of Oregon, provided new details of the hack following a briefing to the Senate finance committee by the IRS and treasury department.

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December 21st 2020, 10:11 pm

Apple plans self-driving car 'in 2024 with next-level battery technology'

Technology | The Guardian

It has been a bumpy ride for Apple’s Project Titan, but sources suggest a passenger vehicle may not be far off

Apple is moving forward with self-driving car technology and is targeting 2024 to produce a passenger vehicle that could include its own battery technology, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The iPhone maker’s automotive efforts, known as Project Titan, have proceeded unevenly since 2014 when it first started to design its own vehicle from scratch. At one point, Apple scaled back the effort to focus on software and reassessed its goals. Doug Field, an Apple veteran who had worked at Tesla, returned to oversee the project in 2018 and laid off 190 people from the team in 2019.

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December 21st 2020, 8:56 pm

Tesla joins Wall Street's S&P 500 share index

Technology | The Guardian

Elon Musk’s car firm becomes stock market’s sixth-largest member on joining

Tesla joined Wall Street’s prestigious S&P 500 share index as its sixth-largest member on Monday, immediately rubbing shoulders with the likes of Amazon, Apple and Facebook.

Shares in the electric carmaker fell by more than 5% on its debut day, amid widespread investor concern about the potential impact on global trade of the mutant coronavirus strain identified in the UK.

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December 21st 2020, 12:07 pm

Dozens of Al Jazeera journalists allegedly hacked using Israeli firm's spyware

Technology | The Guardian

Citizen Lab researchers say cyber-attack using NSO Group software likely ordered by Saudia Arabia and UAE

Spyware sold by an Israeli private intelligence firm was allegedly used to hack the phones of dozens of Al Jazeera journalists in an unprecedented cyber-attack that is likely to have been ordered by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to leading researchers.

In a stunning new report, researchers at Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto said they discovered what appears to be a major espionage campaign against one of the world’s leading media organisations, which is based in Qatar and has long been a thorn in the side of many of the region’s autocratic regimes.

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December 21st 2020, 4:04 am

Menstruation apps store excessive information, privacy charity says

Technology | The Guardian

Exclusive: Privacy International finds apps collect information on birth control habits or how hard it is for women to reach orgasm

Menstruation apps are unnecessarily storing personal data such as what medication women are on, their birth control habits and how hard women find it to reach orgasm, privacy campaigners have said.

A study of five leading apps by Privacy International, a UK-based charity, found that companies held intimate information on users including answers to questions about when they have yeast infections and how often they have sex or see a gynaecologist.

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December 21st 2020, 4:04 am

Apple AirPods Max review: stunning sound, painful price

Technology | The Guardian

Top luxury noise-cancelling Bluetooth headphones – but at a price that demands perfection

Apple’s first own-brand noise-cancelling headphones are heavy on the luxury and sound – but also on price.

The AirPods Max cost £549 and are the most expensive of Apple’s headphones line that includes the £159 AirPods, £249 AirPods Pro and sets from the Beats brand such as the £270 Solo Pro and £300 Studio 3 Wireless.

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December 21st 2020, 2:17 am
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