Friday roundup: A week in tech

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It’s a sad week for Cambridge Analytica enthusiasts: the morally whiffy company has announced it’s shutting down – dissolving phantom-like into the mists of time and hazy legality, if you will.

The firm – which has become a byword for unscrupulous internet mischief following revelations that it reaped the personal data of millions of people with the aim of influencing various elections – has reasoned that it cannot go on, as a consequence of the hated mainstream media and its depraved obsession with printing factual accounts of wrongdoing.

According to this Guardian story from which I’ve harvested many of the details, CA is starting insolvency proceedings, and in a statement said: ‘Despite Cambridge Analytica’s unwavering confidence that its employees have acted ethically and lawfully, the siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the company’s customers and suppliers.’ Ha, right!

But dry those tears, gigantic dodgy data operation fans, for, according to this other story I’ve been harvesting, CA’s sodden phoenix is set to rise from its ignominious heap of binary ashes as new outfit Emerdata.

And we surely have little reason to doubt that the fresh enterprise will take an entirely different approach, employing irreproachably ethical standards and a Windolene-polished transparency in all of its dealings.

According to former CA employee turned grass Christopher Wylie, the data taken from Facebook was used to influence Donald Trump’s election as US president and the outcome of the UK’s European referendum. Hurray for democracy! What a time to be alive!

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Twitter have advised their 336 million users to shut their accounts and go out into the world and try to enjoy their short lives instead of getting into fiery, pointless arguments with hot-headed strangers on the network.

No, they haven’t. What they’ve actually done is urged everyone to change their passwords, in the wake of a security cockup.

Due to a bug, users’ passwords were stored ‘unmasked in an internal log’ – though, the firm has said, there is no evidence of any breaches.

In a surely unintentionally laughable statement, Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s CTO, said: ‘We are very sorry this happened. We recognise and appreciate the trust you place in us, and are committed to earning that trust every day [my italics].’

By now, you should be able to insert your own jokes here – unless you’re a Russian bot, of course; in which case, just retweet ‘Hillary practices #witchcraft, vote Trump. EU evil, back #Brexit’ and so on.

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Broadband providers will soon have to take more care in how they advertise their products, after new rules come in later this month.

Using a practice called ‘lying’, ISPs regularly make bold, fabricated claims about the broadband speeds they are able to provide.

However, from 23 May, the Advertising Standards Authority will insist that providers publish the median speed of the connection they are able to provide between 8-10pm, the time of day when most people are using the internet to watch TV, check bank accounts, find love, write complaining emails to their hopeless ISP, etc.

Furthermore, the frankly ridiculous and mendacity-saturated ‘speeds of up to’ line will be forbidden – a solid staple in the deceptive world of broadband advertising.

Should anyone produce an advert containing misleading codswallop, the ASA will now ban it.

Speaking to the BBC, an ASA spokesman said: ‘If a broadband provider is making speed claims in its ads post-23 May, then it will have to hold the evidence to prove the basis on which that claim is made. Numerical speed claims in broadband ads should be based on the download speed available to at least 50% of customers at peak time and described in ads as “average”.’

Friday roundup: A week in tech

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