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10 tech things we didn't know a week ago

Behind on the news and hungry for more? Here's what we learned this week — including who was behind Obama's latest selfie, and which automotive giant's cars can be hacked?
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By Zack Whittaker on
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1 of 10 Central Intelligence Agency

1. NSA is actually listening to your calls, and reading your emails

Despite U.S. President Obama's claims that, "Nobody is listening to your telephone calls," the highest intelligence officer in the country this week stated otherwise. The NSA used a "backdoor" in surveillance laws to conduct warrantless searches on American call and email data, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper admitted in a letter to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) this week. These searches were conducted through the controversial PRISM and Upstream programs.

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2 of 10 CNET/CBS Interactive

2. Facebook CEO Zuckerberg's base salary is just $1

Mark Zuckerberg remains one of the richest people in Silicon Valley (and the world), so he can afford to take a pay cut. According to U.S. regulatory filings, he was paid just $1 salary in 2013, down from $503,205 in 2012. That echoes similar symbolic salaries including Google's co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and Apple's Steve Jobs, according to Bloomberg.

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3 of 10 Nvidia/CNET

3. Tesla cars can be hacked and tracked

They may be all the talk of the town, but they're also high up the hacker's target list. According to one researcher, hacking into a Tesla car can be just one password away. Break that, through fake apps and social engineering, and an attacker can access the car itself — allowing them to unlock it, honk the horn, flash the lights, and other features of the car.

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4 of 10 CNET/CBS Interactive

4. Average U.S. consumer spends close to 3 hours per day on mobile devices

The average U.S. consumer spends 2 hours and 38 minutes per day in March 2013 on their devices, with about 86 percent of that time on apps, and the remaining 14 percent on the web, latest research suggests. That's up from an 80 percent and 20 percent split on apps and the mobile web respectively on the previous year.

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5 of 10 CNET/CBS Interactive

5. Carriers don't want smartphone "kill switches"

Lose your phone? Was it stolen? Most modern phones today can be remotely locked, tracked down, and wiped of all data. But consumers and companies alike want devices to be "brickable," so that they can't be used again. But carriers are against the idea, because although consumers could save up to $2.6 billion a year on replacement devices and insurance costs, carriers would as a result lose out on valuable income — particularly during a time when profits are falling year-over-year.

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6 of 10 Wikimedia Commons

6. The next-generation USB cable will be reversible

How often have you tried to plug in a USB cable only to find it takes at least until the third go before it fits? All too often, many find. The next-generation USB 3.0 cable will be reversible in an effort to save time and general frustration. It will also be able to support speeds of up to 625 MB/s.

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7 of 10 David Ortiz/Twitter

7. See Obama latest selfie? Samsung was behind it

The seemingly impromptu selfie of Boston Red Sox David Ortiz and U.S. President Barack Obama this week wasn't as we thought, as it turns out Samsung is said to have provided Ortiz with the selfie-taking smartphone. The baseball giant has an endorsement deal with the company, which led the phone maker to tweet out and promote the image. The White House was reportedly not happy, saying it "certainly object[s]" in this case.

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8 of 10 Wikimedia Commons

8. U.S. government secretly created “Cuban Twitter” to stir unrest

In a bid to continue its political blockage against the small Communist island, the U.S. government invested taxpayer's money in creating a "Cuban Twitter," according to the Associated Press. It was hoped that the free-speech enabling service would help cause dissent in the country. The U.S. continues its embargo against the nation, but the country — since the retirement of its former leader, Fidel Castro — has eased up in recent years.

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9 of 10 CNET/CBS Interactive

9. Microsoft launched more products for Apple, than Apple has this year

Thanks to the launch of three brand new Microsoft Office-branded apps for the iPad, 9to5Mac's Mark Gurman pointed out on Twitter that the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant has now released more apps for Apple products than Apple has for its own products this year.

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10 of 10 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

10. Facebook paid more than $1.5M in bug bounty awards in 2013

Finally, Facebook continues to shell out thousands of dollars at a time in its bug bounty program as it aims to make its social network safe and secure for its 1 billion-plus user base. According to the social giant, Facebook received 14,763 bug reports during the year — an increase of almost 2 percent on the year before — which led to $1.5 million being doled out during the year. The minimum reward is $500, but Facebook has no maximum reward for major exploits. 

Image via CNET/CBS Interactive

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