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Tech News

'Data is a fingerprint': why you aren't as anonymous as you think online
Posted on Friday July 13, 2018

So-called ‘anonymous’ data can be easily used to identify everything from our medical records to purchase histories

In August 2016, the Australian government released an “anonymised” data set comprising the medical billing records, including every prescription and surgery, of 2.9 million people.

Names and other identifying features were removed from the records in an effort to protect individuals’ privacy, but a research team from the University of Melbourne soon discovered that it was simple to re-identify people, and learn about their entire medical history without their consent, by comparing the dataset to other publicly available information, such as reports of celebrities having babies or athletes having surgeries.

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Social media platforms must police their sites better, says Ofcom
Posted on Friday July 13, 2018

Chief executive joins those arguing that social media are under-regulated

Social media platforms need to be “more accountable” in how they curate and police content on their platforms, or face regulation, the head of Ofcom has said.

The threat comes as Facebook stares down a barrage of criticism in the US for its refusal to bar the US conspiracy theorist website InfoWars from its platform, even as it mounts an international ad campaign claiming that “fake news is not our friend”.

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Has cyber changed geopolitics forever? Chips with Everything podcast
Posted on Friday July 13, 2018

David E Sanger, national security correspondent for the New York Times, speaks about his new book: The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage and Fear in the Cyber Age

Subscribe and review: Acast, Apple, Spotify, SoundCloud, AudioBoom, Mixcloud. Join the discussion on Facebook, Twitter or email us at chipspodcast@theguardian.com.

Throughout history, the weapon of choice for warring nations has evolved. Soon after the invention of the aeroplane at the start of the 20th century, countries involved in the various conflicts that battered the globe started to use them to drop bombs from the sky.

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Apple releases new, faster MacBook Pro laptops
Posted on Thursday July 12, 2018

Updated machines have hands-free Siri, the latest processors, True Tone displays and a quieter keyboard

Apple has updated its MacBook Pro laptops with new processors, keyboards and display technology, and hands-free Siri.

The update is slightly more than an expected specifications improvement for Apple’s popular “Pro” laptops. Both the 13-inch and 15in MacBook Pros with Touch Bar will now come equipped with the latest eighth-generation Intel Core i5, i7 and i9 processors, bringing them into line with competition from Windows PC manufacturers such as Huawei, Dell and others.

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I tracked my iPhone usage for a week and this is what I learned
Posted on Thursday July 12, 2018

From picking up the phone every seven minutes to realising that Safari is my main time sink, Apple’s Screen Time tools revealed more than I expected

How many times do you pick up and interact with your phone in a week? More than 500 times? How about the sheer number of notifications you get? It might number in the thousands.

With all the talk of smartphone addiction, I was curious to find out just how often I actually use my phone and why, so I took Apple’s new Screen Time phone-tracking tools for a spin, installing the latest iOS 12 beta. What I discovered is that I pick up my phone every seven minutes during the day – far more than I imagined, and not just at the prompt of a notification.

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Can I add an iPhone and Chromebook to my all-Microsoft system?
Posted on Thursday July 12, 2018

If Paul adds an iPhone and Chromebook to his Microsoft devices, will it lead to a mess of email addresses and accounts?

Over the past few years I have been using all Microsoft-oriented products: a Windows 10 laptop and desktop, a Windows phone (Lumia 950) and a Surface 2 (Windows RT) tablet. One advantage is that they all log on to a single Windows account with an Outlook email address. I use Outlook (from Office 365) to manage my email, contacts and calendar.

Because of the poor app support for the phone and Surface 2, I’m wondering about getting an iPhone and a Chromebook to replace the tablet and laptop. My laptop needs are likely to diminish once I have finished my PhD, and will be mainly email, word processing and presentations.

When this column started, in a previous century, most users only had one PC. Home users did not have broadband, so email was collected via a dial-up modem. Some people had handheld “organisers” from Palm, Psion and other suppliers, but they synced with PCs. Life was simple.

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Elon Musk calls British diver in Thai cave rescue a 'pedo' in baseless attack
Posted on Sunday July 15, 2018

Accusation directed on Twitter at Vern Unsworth, who called Tesla CEO’s offer of ‘mini-sub’ to help rescuers a ‘PR stunt’

Elon Musk came under fire on Sunday after launching an extraordinary attack on a British diver who helped rescue the boys trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand, baselessly calling him a “pedo” on Twitter and then doubling down.

Related: 'We don't know how it worked': the inside story of the Thai cave rescue

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Instagram users mistakenly believe new question feature is anonymous
Posted on Sunday July 15, 2018

People thought they could make unkind comments with recourse before discovering users could see who was asking what

Instagram’s constant kamikaze launch of new features, in which they desperately try to hold on to their sizeable but fickle user-base by throwing new story modes and face filters at them, installed an interesting new question and answer function this week.

The feature is similar to sites like Ask.fm and the now-defunct Formspring, where users could ask anonymous questions of each other, with the answers made public. Some people used these sites to secretly tell someone they had a crush on them, or ask something they’d be too frightened to say in public, but they also became hotbeds of high school bullying and were blamed for a spate of suicides.

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Airbnb lets may be unsafe, MPs warn
Posted on Saturday July 14, 2018

Boom in unregulated short-term rentals is fuelled in part by unscrupulous businesses posing as private owners

Growing numbers of professional holiday letting firms are hiding from regulation by using Airbnb and other sites, putting holidaymakers at risk, MPs will warn this week.

While hotels and b&bs are subject to fire safety regulations and other checks, homeowners do not have to prove their properties are safe before letting them out via holiday rental sites such as Airbnb.

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Microsoft calls for facial recognition technology rules given 'potential for abuse'
Posted on Saturday July 14, 2018

President Brad Smith warns authorities might track, investigate or arrest people based on flawed evidence

Microsoft has called for facial recognition technology to be regulated by government, with for laws governing its acceptable uses.

In a blog post on the company’s website on Friday, Microsoft president Brad Smith called for a congressional bipartisan “expert commission” to look into regulating the technology in the US.

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Hoverboards: why they haven't got off to a McFlying start
Posted on Tuesday July 03, 2018

The gadgets inspired by Back to the Future Part II’s floating skateboards have failed to deliver

We could start by saying “they” didn’t promise us hoverboards. People want hoverboards because they saw one in the disappointing sequel Back to the Future Part II . But that doesn’t mean people haven’t tried to make them. Like other colourful retrofuturist fantasies, hoverboards were a lustmotif that spoke to a whole generation in the way that flying cars and jetpacks did to baby boomers.

Problem No 1: how would this thing hover? We have four choices: some type of thrust, a cushion of air, maglev or magic.

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What should I do about all the GDPR pop-ups on websites?
Posted on Thursday July 05, 2018

Barbara is constantly being interrupted by pop-ups about the new GDPR. Is there anything she can do?

Because of GDPR, it feels as though my internet access – my access to information – is now more restricted. I am constantly being interrupted by pop-ups that want me to agree to the website’s privacy policy, use of my data and so on, in order to “personalise my experience”. After recent revelations about unauthorised use of personal data, I’m wary of agreeing without checking what their proposals are, but I often just close the page because there are too many options and it’s too much of a bother. Am I being too paranoid? Barbara

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) only came into force on 25 May and it will take a while for some websites to adapt. Breaking the rules can result in fines of up to €20m, so at this point, information providers are probably more paranoid than you are.

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Can my employer read emails in my Gmail account?
Posted on Thursday June 28, 2018

Martin works for a large company that uses G Suite where the tech team can accesses employees’ emails. Can he prevent this?

I work for a large company and use the Gmail set up for my account. As a senior manager, I have many confidential conversations internally and externally via email.

I have found out that one of the tech guys accesses employee’s emails when requested to carry out checks by the CEO. Do they have the right to do this? I think it creates a feeling of mistrust and insecurity. Can I lock my account so only I can access it? Martin

Historically, the assumption has always been that companies own and can access mail used for company business. When I was a manager, I dictated letters to a secretary who typed them and filed copies. I never reached a level where these filing cabinets were locked and inaccessible, but they contained nothing of personal interest.

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What is the best laptop drive for students?
Posted on Thursday June 21, 2018

James wants to know whether he should opt for an SSD or HDD to save his files on

I am hoping to go to university this year and am looking for a laptop. What’s the difference between an SSD and an HDD, and which would be better for a student? From what I’ve seen, you can get roughly four times as much storage on an HDD as you can on an SSD for the same price, so it seems an HDD would be the better option. James

The laptop market is moving from traditional “spinning rust” hard disk drives (HDDs) to chip-based, solid-state drives (SSDs) for several reasons. SSDs are more responsive; they consume less battery power; they are less likely to break when dropped and they take up a lot less space.

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Are there any laptops with decent keyboards?
Posted on Thursday June 14, 2018

Julia would buy a MacBook Pro Retina but she doesn’t like the latest version’s keyboard. What are the alternatives?

I recently upgraded to a used early-2015 MacBook Pro Retina because of Apple’s recent redesign of the MacBook Pro, which sliced off a little bit of thickness at the cost of various ports and the very reliable keyboard with scissor mechanism. Apple is facing class-action lawsuits over the new butterfly keyboards’ untimely breakage, and as my computer’s main job is to be a writing tool, I didn’t want to risk ending up with non-functional keys. Also, I have tried the new keyboard and I did not like the feel of it: travel seems too short and rather “flat” for my taste.

However, I find laptop keyboards across all platforms are becoming flatter and slimmer, and the only ones that appear to offer mechanical keyboards are flashy gaming laptops. There aren’t any for writers.

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The truth about gaming disorder, from Fortnite to World of Warcraft
Posted on Friday June 22, 2018

As the number of young gamers has risen sharply, so have addiction narratives

Gaming disorder may be a newly recognised condition, but disordered gaming is anything but new. In 2010, a Korean couple was arrested for fatal child neglect spurred by an obsession with Prius Online. Five years earlier, another Korean man collapsed and died after a 50-hour session playing StarCraft in an internet cafe.

In the west, World of Warcraft, released in 2004, was one of the first games to trigger addiction narratives in the mainstream press, with the game blamed for causing college students to drop out of university and others losing careers and families.

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Fears mount over WhatsApp's role in spreading fake news
Posted on Sunday June 17, 2018

App blamed for circulating false information in India, Brazil, Kenya and now the UK

Abijeet Nath and Nilotpal Das were driving back from a visit to a waterfall in the Indian province of Assam earlier this month when they stopped in a village to ask for directions. The two men were pulled out of their car and beaten to death by a mob who accused them of stealing children.

“The villagers got suspicious of the strangers as for the last three or four days messages were going around on WhatsApp, as well as through word of mouth, about child lifters roaming the area,” Mukesh Agrawal, a local police officer said.

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Whatever happened to that $35,000 Tesla Model 3 you still can’t buy?
Posted on Friday May 25, 2018

As tax credits threaten to run out and more powerful and expensive versions launch, buyers are still waiting

This week saw Tesla’s enigmatic chief executive Elon Musk take to Twitter to announce two more powerful, and more expensive, versions of the auto firm’s Model 3 – the much lauded “mass market” vehicle that appears, for now, to be veering further and further away from its $35,000 price tag.

The new dual-motor Model 3 and its souped-up range-topping “performance” version, which costs $78,000 and, as Musk claims, will be 15% quicker than German rival BMW’s $66,500 (£59,905 in the UK) M3, are not unexpected. Tesla did a similar thing with its Model S, launching dual-motor and performance versions with ever more dizzying price tags.

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Five things we learned from Mark Zuckerberg's European parliament appearance
Posted on Tuesday May 22, 2018

The format didn’t let MEPs question the Facebook boss too deeply – but there were worries over its monopoly

1. The European Parliament’s chosen format was a terrible way to elicit answers from one of the most powerful people in the world.

Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance in front of the European parliament’s conference of presidents was a long-awaited opportunity to press the founder of the world’s biggest social network – which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp – on his company’s global influence and use of personal data following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

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The inconvenient truth about cancer and mobile phones
Posted on Saturday July 14, 2018

We dismiss claims about mobiles being bad for our health – but is that because studies showing a link to cancer have been cast into doubt by the industry?

On 28 March this year, the scientific peer review of a landmark United States government study concluded that there is “clear evidence” that radiation from mobile phones causes cancer, specifically, a heart tissue cancer in rats that is too rare to be explained as random occurrence.

Eleven independent scientists spent three days at Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, discussing the study, which was done by the National Toxicology Program of the US Department of Health and Human Services and ranks among the largest conducted of the health effects of mobile phone radiation. NTP scientists had exposed thousands of rats and mice (whose biological similarities to humans make them useful indicators of human health risks) to doses of radiation equivalent to an average mobile user’s lifetime exposure.

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Rolls Royce develops propulsion system for flying taxi
Posted on Sunday July 15, 2018

The engine maker is working on a flying vehicle which it says could take off by the early 2020s.

Facebook will not remove fake news - but will 'demote' it
Posted on Friday July 13, 2018

It says fake news is not against its "community standards".

Twelve Russians charged with US 2016 election hack
Posted on Friday July 13, 2018

The dozen allegedly used spear phishing emails and malware and hacked voter data on a state website.

Fake Twitter users: Celebrities lose followers amid crackdown
Posted on Thursday July 12, 2018

Some users, such as Katy Perry and Barak Obama, lost more than two million followers.

Stolen sensitive drone files sold on dark web
Posted on Thursday July 12, 2018

Tank tactics and drone details were up for sale by hackers who got them from military networks.

YouTube blackout in middle of England match
Posted on Thursday July 12, 2018

Google's YouTube TV goes down at a crucial moment in England's World Cup semi-final.

Cambridge Analytica staff set up new firm
Posted on Thursday July 12, 2018

Auspex will be an ethical consultancy, its founder say, using similar data analysis techniques.

NHS still reliant on 'archaic' fax machines
Posted on Friday July 13, 2018

The outdated technology was last widely used in the 1990s.

Facebook ruling: German court grants parents rights to dead daughter's account
Posted on Thursday July 12, 2018

In a key ruling, a German court says the parents have rights to the account under inheritance law.

Emma's Diary faces fine for selling new mums' data to Labour
Posted on Wednesday July 11, 2018

UK's data watchdog plans to fine the owner of the Emma's Diary baby advice and gift service £140,000.

 


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