10 tech things we didn't know a week ago
1. YouTube has an elite group of content killers
YouTube has been on a comment-pruning mission in recent months to make the site a little more family friendly — if it'll ever get that far — by removing harmful comments and tying Google+ accounts to comment threads to remove the air of anonymity. Going one step further, YouTube is now enlisting "trusted flaggers" to help police the site, The Wall Street Journal reported this week. These some-200 individual super-flaggers will help remove content that fall foul of Google's guidelines, the report said.
2. Algorithms can write breaking news
Move over, assignment editor — you're not needed for this one — particularly in the case of the California earthquake this week, reported by the Los Angeles Times, which published just three minutes after the quake hit. How? Because an algorithm wrote it, according to Slate. But, anyone who was on the east coast during the quake will know that no matter how fast your journalists (or robots) are, they will never be faster than those Twitter users jolted awake in the early hours by an semi-regular seismic shift.
3. Microsoft gets as much as $200 from the FBI for user data requests
Microsoft was reimbursed by more than a millions dollars over the course of 2013 for U.S. data requests by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), reports The Daily Dot, which leaked documents that were hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army earlier this year. A single request for data costs the U.S. taxpayer as much as $200, but the figure varies, the documents show. It's not unique to Microsoft, either. Many other tech companies, including Yahoo and Google, are paid a certain amount for (legal) access to its systems, based on earlier leaks.
4. Failing to disclose encryption keys is legal in Australia, but not for long
Like its British counterparts, Australia wants to force suspected criminals to hand over encryption keys — by threat of prison, TechDirt wrote on Monday. It comes at a time when encryption is increasingly being used in the wake of the U.S. government surveillance leaks. Under U.K. law, it is a criminal offense, punishable by up to two years in prison, for failing to disclose passwords or encryption keys to material that may ultimately land them in further trouble. That's because the U.K. (and Australia) don't have a Fifth Amendment right to protection against self-incriminations.
5. The NSA system can record an entire country's phone calls
New documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden confirm what many thought would be nigh on impossible: the U.S. National Security Agency can vacuum up an entire country's phone calls and replay individual conversations on the fly over a 30-day period. Dubbed by the agency MYSTIC, the documents did not disclose which country has its entire telecoms network monitored. And if you thought the Snowden leaks might dry up any time soon, Snowden's "robot" told a TED gathering that, "Some of the most important reporting to be done is yet to come."
Image via The Washington Post
6. Bulletproof glass doesn't make an iPhone bulletproof
Just because a case is made with bulletproof glass doesn't make it bulletproof, as Ars Technica found this week. In testing the new "Holy Grail" of screen protectors, the publication's Lee Hutchinson set out to bash, smash, drill, and nail his iPhone with the tempered glass protector. It cracked within seconds of testing it out — and they hadn't even broken out the firearm by this point. When he finally took it to the range, "No," he said definitively, the screen cannot protect against a bullet. Well, that's that then.
7. The U.S., U.K. are now "enemies of the Internet"
It's little surprise that Russia, China, and many Middle Eastern countries, which restrict the free flow of information within its borders are on a list of "enemies of the Internet." But thanks to the Edward Snowden revelations, the U.S. and U.K. are now part of that list.
Reporters Without Borders came down particularly hard on the U.K., saying: "The U.S. edition of The Guardian is still able to publish information from Edward Snowden, while the British edition is not, but the country of the First Amendment has undermined confidence in the Internet and its own standards of security."
8. Apple's App Store isn't as secure as many first thought
Apple prides itself on a safe and secure app store, where users can download apps that have been security-scrutiny tested by the iPhone and iPad maker — compared to Google Play and Microsoft's Windows Store, which are littered with malware-ridden apps, and fake knock-offs. But this week Apple was under the spotlight for letting one "anonymity" app through the gates of its walled garden that was "full of adware and spyware," according to complaining users. Apple remained mum on the matter and did not respond for comment when pressed on the matter.
9. Microsoft, Google, Apple can search your inbox if it suspects you're a leaker
According to The Guardian, Yahoo, Google, and Apple all reserve the right to read user emails if it is deemed "necessary."
10. Twitter usage can actually go up if a country blocks it
Twitter condemned the ban on its service imposed by the Turkish prime minister this week, but despite the blocks it didn't stop users in the country from using the service. Somewhat surprisingly, it went up by as much as 138 percent, according to analytics firms.
Internet tunnelling services are on the up, and alternative DNS addresses have been tagged on walls in the country's capital to help users bypass the block on the service, which has been blamed by the embattled prime minister for spreading allegations of corruption in the country. Even Turkey's president, an avid user of the microblogging service, called the Twitter ban "unacceptable," showing the high-level of diplomatic conflict in the country.