Friday roundup: A week in tech

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If you’re to be jailed at any point in the future, try to get a transfer to an Icelandic prison – because things would appear to be pretty laid back there.

A man suspected of stealing 600 computers as part of a Bitcoin caper climbed out of a window at a low-security prison and then got on a plane to Sweden, which also had the Icelandic prime minister on board, naturally.

Sindri Thor Stefansson’s air ticket had someone else’s name on it, which was clearly enough to fox Iceland’s customs staff.

The PCs – worth a combined £1.45 million – were snatched over a series of raids at data centres in the volcanic country, in an spree apparently masterminded by the Beano-esque Stefansson.

The Icelandic media are calling the antic the ‘Big Bitcoin Heist’, but I can’t work out if the computers were stolen and then used to mine Bitcoins, or were already being used to mine Bitcoin when they were stolen.

Anyway, the prison Stefansson strolled out of is unfenced and guests are allowed phones and internet access. I’m not sure it’s even guarded. I mean, why bother?

An international warrant has been issued but the alleged computer thief is currently still on the run. Perhaps he’ll just make his own way back?

***

Tepid drinkery chain JD Wetherspoon has withdrawn from the universe of social media, choosing to focus instead on delivering its core business: tepid experiences.

Actually, the firm reckons its immediately dumping Facebook, Instagram and Twitter because of the ‘trolling’ of MPs, with chairman Tim Martin adding that society would be a nicer place if people stopped using social media.

However, some sniggering cynics have suggested the move is more likely driven by criticism the pub chain often receives online, plus Chairman Martin’s enthusiasm for Brexit, which has led to a backlash on the ol’ internet. Oh, and the fact that the company only has 44,000 Twitter followers and around 100,000 Facebook fans – pretty small beer, really.

Whatever the reason, will the move see other firms following suit? Chairman Martin certainly hopes not, claiming that ‘we’ve got a massive commercial advantage because everyone else is wasting hours of their time’ – which sounds a little goading, almost trolling, to me, but we’ll see, won’t we.

***

Google, Facebook and Amazon should be broken up, a man has said. Which man? Vince Cable. Who’s he? The leader of the Liberal Democrats. Who are they? (This joke can go on and on.)

Seriously, speaking somewhere in London yesterday, the MP said that scandals such as the Cambridge Analytica debacle meant that tech firms had ‘progressed from heroes to villains very quickly’.

The one-time business secretary under yesteryear’s coalition government added that internet things like YouTube are being used as a ‘conduit for content which society regards as unacceptable’.

He went on: ‘There is a case for splitting Amazon into three separate businesses – one offering cloud computing, one acting as a general retailer and one offering a third-party marketplace. Other examples would be Facebook being forced to divest itself of Instagram and WhatsApp as a condition for operating in the EU, creating two new social media networks. Divesting Google of YouTube would be another.’

He doesn’t want much, does he? Smart as his ideas are, there is about as much chance of, for instance, Google being forced to part with YouTube as there is of a UK student believing anything a Liberal Democrat says ever again.

Friday roundup: A week in tech

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