Friday roundup: A week in tech

gavel

Sinister online enterprise Facebook has been brought to book for some of its creepy activities, yet again.

This week, a Belgian court ruled that the firm must delete every scintilla of data it’s collected on people WHO DO NOT EVEN USE FACEBOOK – on the extremely reasonable grounds that it’s against the law.

According to Belgium’s privacy watchdog, the firm trampled all over the country’s privacy laws by lacing third-party sites with cookies.

Facebook, which intends to appeal and has said that it is ‘disappointed’ with the ruling, faces fines of £221,000 a day if fails to adhere (which is pretty small beer, really).

According to the court, Facebook must desist from ‘following and recording internet use by people surfing in Belgium,’ which really does sound very creepy indeed.

Surely, the myriad, complex ways in which Facebook harvests and stores personal data is going to become extremely pressing when the GDPR kicks in in May? Watch this space.

***

Some nice people have built a game designed to help people discern real news from so-called ‘fake news’, the young tearaway nuisance currently besieging the internet with its insidious mischief.

Created by the University of Cambridge’s Social Decision-Making Laboratory, which sounds like an interesting place to work, ‘Bad News’ encourages players to foster a social media following by posting controversial stories and images, just like in real, tepid, horrible life.

Disappointingly for a project led by Cambridge types, the game’s website reads ‘In this game you take on the role of fake news-monger [sic]’ (unless, of course, ‘fake news-monger’ is the name of the character you’re playing? Should be ‘Fake News-Monger’, then, but I digress).

Anyway, the spiel goes on: ‘Drop all pretense of ethics and choose the path that builds your persona as an unscrupulous media magnate [insert R. Murdoch, P. Dacre, etc. joke here]. Your task it to get as many followers as you can while slowly building up fake credibility as a news site [insert more R. Murdoch, P. Dacre, etc. jokes here].’

According to director Dr Sander van der Linden, the team are trying to ‘demystify and illuminate what these techniques are, how to spot them, how to recognise them, and not be influenced by them’.

And it’s hard not to wish them the very best: within approximately three seconds of last week’s Florida school massacre the internet was aflame with exceptionally tender-headed conspiracy accounts of the murders, which have apparently been eagerly swallowed by people for whom thinking is a tiresome, loathsome activity.

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And now for something completely different. A 10,000-year clock is being built, for some vague reason.

If all goes according to plan, inventor Danny Hillis’ timepiece will tick once a year, while its century hand will move once, you’ve got it, a century. Apparently, the Long Now Foundation’s scheme is aimed at making ‘long-term thinking more common’. A cuckoo will pop out every 1,000 years, which is a nice touch, even if I’m unlikely to ever see it.

The slothful chronometer is being constructed on land belonging to Amazon’s Jeff Bezo. Naturally, the thing is going under a mountain he owns in the Texas desert.

Brian Eno has also got involved – unsurprisingly, as this kind of project has got his name all over it – and has made a ‘mechanical melody generator’ that’ll emit a unique chime every day for the next 10,000 years. Marvellous.

Anyway, according to a tweet from Mr Bezo, it’s ‘500ft tall, powered by day/night thermal cycles, synchronized at solar noon,’ – though he could be winding us up (sorry).

Strange times.

Friday roundup: A week in tech

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