Friday roundup: A week in tech

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By Max Salsbury

Gaffe-plagued Facebook has had to apologise YET AGAIN – this time for a ‘white supremacist’ ad, a cock-up which, these days, is as expected as it is abhorrent.

The blundering firm approved the ad campaign that promoted the notion of ‘white genocide’ – a particularly insane and gross conspiracy theory that posits that the ‘white race’ is being exterminated by mysterious forces.

The chair of the Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, MP Damian Collins, isn’t impressed, tweeting: ‘Again, this is appalling and irresponsible – Facebook allowed advertisers to target users interested in “white genocide” – even in wake of Pittsburgh massacre.’

So, what’s going on this time? Is it the fault of Facebook’s algorithms missing the obvious? Well, according to news site The Intercept, which created the ad campaign to expose the social media firm, an actual human in Facebook’s marketing team approved the devious ploy.

Bafflingly, Facebook has stressed that the incident isn’t the same as last year’s anti-Semitic advertising disaster, as that was the fault of an algorithm, not a human in the marketing team. What?

I’m confused. Confused and tired. Confused and tired and depressed.

***

The dark, strange and possibly foreign power-backed campaign group Leave.EU has been forbidden and everyone involved with it jailed.

Not really. Actually, the enterprise has been hit with a £135,000 fine for breaching data laws, which is a start I suppose.

The outfit (creator, Aaron Banks) had a dodgy data-based relationship with insurance firm Eldon (owner, Aaron Banks) – or so the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has concluded.

According to the ICO, Eldon’s customers’ data was accessed by staff at Castle Leave.EU. In 2015, a Leave.EU newsletter (‘Read all about it: Brexit will be Brilliant!’) was emailed to 319,000 addresses in Eldon’s database.

Sweet, pure Mr Banks boldly claimed that the ‘mistake’ was due to an error in the email distribution system (which doesn’t even begin to make sense when you think about it) and that he’d reported it to the ICO.

However, the ICO – which is the body doing the actual investigation, remember – said it had no record of any such report. Sheer farce.

And it seems the misuse of data cut both ways. The ICO also found that almost 50,000 Leave.EU fans were sent emails promoting GoSkippy without their consent.

Anyway, the fine will be the least of Mr Bank’s worries: he’s currently being investigated by the National Crime Agency over the ‘true source’ of the £8 million he handed to Leave.EU to help the UK ease into the Brexit paradise we all now inhabit.

What’ll happen next, I wonder? Referendum II? Prison? The plot thickens!

***

5G: salvation of western civilisation or over-hyped, costly white elephant, depending on your point of view.

The latest 5G speculation posits that it’ll be so good that it’ll replace the home broadband we currently have and love.

That’s the word from Dave Dyson, CEO of mobile network provider Three, who reckons 5G will be so reliable and speedy that people will be able to dispose of the fixed-line arrangements that currently pump Twitter, Russian propaganda and cat videos into their homes.

Said he: ‘Maybe not for the whole country, but certainly a significant majority of the country, I strongly believe 5G can offer a good enough home broadband experience for people to effectively ditch their copper connection.’

And I hope he’s right: my home broadband connection is a woefully pathetic, hateful, infuriating nightmare of a thing. I’ll take anything else that works!

4G’s successor could feasibly offer download speeds of 10GB a second, which should be enough to keep even the most seasoned of whiners happy – though the key word here is ‘feasibly’.

Three plans to launch its first 5G services next year; swifter EE, meanwhile, has already turned on nine 5G trial sites across London.

My Dyson’s vast optimism has been tempered by level-headed killjoy Andrew Ferguson, of news site Thinkbroadband, who warned: ‘Full-fibre services are going to beat 5G as you have a connection as stable as the one that will be feeding the mobile masts and thus the variables of signal strength dropping due to a bus passing the home are avoided.’

As covered in a previous round-up, this is all great news for manufacturers of expensive smartphones, as we’re all going to need to buy expensive new ones if we hope to access 5G.

It never ends.

Friday roundup: A week in tech

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