Tech News

The NSA Can Spy On Almost Everybody, Google Buys Songza, And More… [Tech News Digest]

Dave Parrack 02-07-2014

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

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 Who Is Fighting On Your Behalf Against The NSA And For Privacy? There are several Internet activism groups who are fighting on your behalf for privacy. They are doing their best to educate netizens as well. Here are just a few of them that are incredibly active. Read More 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 The Best Music Player on Android: Google Play Music Reviewed Google Play Music is a music streaming service, a local music player, and a podcast player all mashed into one. And it's great. Read More .

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 Apple Finally Buys Beats, Microsoft Teases Skype Translator, Hidden Cash on Twitter [Tech News Digest] Apple gets Beats; a promise of real time translations from Microsoft; Chrome turns into a walled garden; Billboard ranks songs on Twitter; Uber gears up for the future; Avast hacked; and a Twitter cash grab. Read More . But then Beats has always been overpriced.

Online Book Sales Beat Retail Book Sales

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 What Are The Best Book Review Sites? I'm an avid reader, getting through at least one book a week. I often have several on the go at once - usually a novel, a reference book, and an autobiography - which are consumed... Read More 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 Facebook Experiments On Users, Having Sex With Your iPad, And More... [Tech News Digest] Also, The Internet's Own Boy is worth watching, BlackBerry invites us to check our facts, Photoshop Express lands on Windows Phone, binge-watching is bad, and Apple paints the iPhone as an extra parent. Read More . 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

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 The Ultimate IFTTT Guide: Use the Web's Most Powerful Tool Like a Pro If This Then That, also known as IFTTT is a free web-based service to get your apps and devices working together. Not sure how to build your applet? Follow along with this guide. Read More .

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 Extreme Sports Revealed With Amazing GoPro Videos GoPro cameras are designed to be worn or held while doing adventurous activities. They're tough and waterproof, meaning they can survive along with you (hopefully) whether you're jumping out of a plane, diving in the... Read More , a joystick wired up to an Arduino, and the aforementioned Oculus Rift VR headset Oculus Rift Development Kit Review and Giveaway The Oculus Rift has finally arrived, and is making heads turn (literally) all over the gaming community. No longer are we confined to to peering through a flat window into the gaming worlds we love... Read More . 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.

Let us know your thoughts on the tech news of the day by posting to the comments section below. Alternatively, let us know of any technology news stories we may have missed.


Image Credit: Frederic Jacobs via Flickr

Related topics: Facebook, Google, IFTTT.

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  1. Koshy G
    July 2, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    The NSA spying on almost every country does not surprise me even though some politicians may try to look surprised, I don't think it surprises anyone. The NSA not spying on every country it possibly can is unthinkable. If the NSA is non spying on countries like India, Pakistan Afghanistan, Iraq and other volatile countries there is somthing wrong with the NSA and the United States government. Countries spy on other countries this is just a reality we have to live with. This is somthing countries have to do, I don't like it but it is a necessity and a reality.