The NSA Can Spy On Almost Everybody, Google Buys Songza, And More… [Tech News Digest]
Also, online book sales have overtaken retail book sales, the UK is investigating the Facebook experiment, IFTTT makes Yo useful, an Oculus Rift experiment lets you see the world from a third-person perspective, and Google tests our general knowledge with Smarty Pins.
The NSA Can Spy On Most Countries
Under pressure from environmental activists, NSA agrees from now on to only print lists of countries it’s NOT authorized to spy on
— Julian Sanchez (@normative) July 1, 2014
The National Security Agency (NSA) is authorized to spy on almost every country in the world. We know this thanks to a classified legal certification issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 2010 which has now been leaked by Edward Snowden.
According to the Washington Post, the document lists 193 countries that are “of valid interest for U.S. intelligence.” Just four countries — the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand — are given byes thanks to “broad no-spying arrangements.”
This doesn’t mean the NSA is spying on all of the countries mentioned, rather that it has been granted the authority to do so. This means that if an individual or organization in one of these countries is deemed to be a threat to national security, intelligence can be gathered quietly and efficiently. Which isn’t scary. At all. Just in case the NSA is reading.
Google Buys Songza For Music Streaming
Google has bought music streaming service Songza, which generates playlists for specific activities. Google maintains the service will not be changing for the foreseeable future, but its expertise in curating playlists will be incorporated into other products including YouTube and Google Play Music .
Details of the deal have not been disclosed, but the New York Times suggests Google “paid more than $39 million for Songza.” According to TechCrunch, Songza currently boasts 5.5 million active users, though most are thought to use the service for free and supported by ads.
Paying $39 million for Songza may seem like a lot of money but it’s nowhere near the $3.2 billion Apple paid to buy Beats . But then Beats has always been overpriced.
Online Book Sales Beat Retail Book Sales
“I stepped into the bookshop and breathed in that perfume of paper and magic that strangely no one had ever thought of bottling.”
— Hahn Solo (@BeachBumHahn) July 2, 2014
According to estimates by BookStats, the money made from books sold online has now overtaken the money made from books sold through bricks-and-mortar stores. In the U.S., online sales for 2013 totalled $7.54 billion, while retail sales for 2013 totalled $7.12 billion.
It’s important to note that these are merely estimates, and that the online figures include both printed books and eBooks. Still, it suggests a serious transition is occurring; one which could lead to the disappearance of bricks-and-mortar bookshops.
This would be a tragedy for those of us who love nothing more than picking books off shelves, and virtual shelves just aren’t the same.
UK Investigates Facebook Experiment
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in the UK is investigating the details surrounding Facebook’s social experiment on users . The experiment saw the social network try to alter people’s moods by displaying mostly positive or negative status updates in their news feeds.
According to BBC News, the ICO plans to question Facebook over the experiment, to which a Facebook spokesperson said, “We are happy to answer any questions regulators may have.” Meanwhile, users are still expressing displeasure at being used as guinea pigs in this way. And rightly so.
IFTTT Actually Makes Yo Useful
We’re about six months away from Yo gaining sentience and rounding us up into camps http://t.co/Ubi3oJo3MW
— Casey Newton (@CaseyNewton) July 1, 2014
Yo, the pointless app that we’ve been a little obsessed with of late, has actually been made rather useful thanks to scripting service IFTTT (If This Then That). The IFTTT Yo channel contains recipes that can turn your lights off, call your phone, or text your significant other. From utterly pointless to incredibly useful just like that. Thanks, IFTTT .
Oculus Rift Adds Third-Person Perspective
A team of tinkerers calling themselves Mepi have put together a hardware hack for Oculus Rift that lets you see the world around you from a third-person perspective. The rig uses a mount, two GoPro cameras , a joystick wired up to an Arduino, and the aforementioned Oculus Rift VR headset . The result, as seen in the video above, is seeing your surroundings as if you were playing a video game. Which is all kinds of awesome.
Google Tests Knowledge With Smarty Pins
And finally, Google has released a new game called Smarty Pins, which uses Google Maps as the basis for a general knowledge quiz. To succeed you not only need to know the answers to the questions being asked but also where the locations mentioned are on the map. Which is a lot trickier than it sounds.
Your Views On Today’s Tech News
Does the revelation that the NSA can spy on almost every country surprise you? Are you upset that Google has bought Songza? How did you do at Smarty Pins? Post your score below to brag to the rest of the MakeUseOf readership.
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Image Credit: Frederic Jacobs via Flickr