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Today in Tech News Digest, the NSA spies on gamers, Google+ ads are incoming, Socl lands on smartphones, Microsoft’s plans for Windows Threshold are (possibly) revealed, hundreds of National Geographic maps are now available online, an anti-spying social network is launched, and BlackBerry is revealed to have rejected Justin Bieber.
The NSA Plays Games
How much more bizarre do the NSA stories have to become for proper outrage to happen? Monitoring porn habits, infiltrating games. Sick.
— DHH (@dhh) December 9, 2013
Another day, another NSA spying revelation. This time involving the mass surveillance of gamers, a group accused of many things but not usually terrorism. According to documents leaked by Edward Snowden, both the NSA and its UK equivalent GCHQ spied on users of Xbox Live, World of Warcraft, and Second Life.
The NSA seemed to believe (and likely still do) that these online games and gaming communities harbored intelligence targets who could “hide in plain sight.” These networks could, and should, therefore be used to build profiles of people thanks to “buddylists and interaction,” amongst other things.
Unfortunately for the NSA the documents don’t reveal any terrorist plots being foiled by this particular surveillance effort. In fact, little evidence was ever discovered to back up the suspicions that terrorists were using these online games, communities and networks to “communicate secretly and to transfer funds,” as was suspected.
Could it be that persons of interest were just fans of video games? And that NSA operatives were also gamers just looking for an excuse to play WoW at work? I guess we’ll never know.
Google+ Post+ Ads
You’ll soon be seeing ads that look like Google+ posts; not on Google+ itself, but on other sites around the Web. This isn’t because no one uses Google+, but because Google is keeping its social network ad-free. Thus brands who want to advertise using the Google+ posting format can do so on external websites with a new advertising module called Post+.
The benefit for brands seems to be the interactivity of these types of adverts, as users can engage with them in various ways as they would if they were ordinary Google+ posts. Still, it remains to be seen whether these will catch on… Google+ certainly hasn’t so far.
Socl Comes To Smartphones
Microsoft’s quasi social network Socl has been launched on Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. Socl was created by Microsoft Research and launched in beta in 2011, before being opened to all users in 2012. Now it has come to mobile by way of apps for the aforementioned operating systems, with Microsoft clearly hoping more people will take a look at its fledgling social networking effort. Because another social network is exactly what the world needs right now.
Windows Threshold Update
Microsoft’s future plans for Windows, with a string of updates codenamed Threshold, were recently revealed by Mary Jo Foley. Now, thanks to her contacts, she has learned more about Microsoft’s plans for Spring 2015.
Foley suggests there will be three SKUs (stock-keeping units) all based around a single Windows core. There will be one SKU aimed at enterprise customers, and two aimed at consumers; one focused on WinRT apps, one focused on a traditional desktop setup. Paul Thurrott of Windows SuperSite has also weighed in with what he has heard from insiders.
National Geographic Maps Now Online
National Geographic has put 500 of its 800 maps online thanks to a partnership with Google. The maps vary in nature, with some featuring historic data, others being for travelers and adventurers. All are available on Google’s Maps Engine platform and can be found through the directory.
Anti-Spying Social Network Launches
A Canadian-based social network called Syme, designed to be private for its users, has been launched. Syme offers an encrypted group environment that should mean you can socialize with others within a secure forum hidden even from the admins. Syme, currently available as a Chrome extension, is a promising alternative to those burned by recent NSA revelations.
Justin Bieber: BlackBerry Ambassador
I love how some ppl think that BlackBerry hiring Bieber would've been the magical turnaround point the company needed http://t.co/hr6U88UlUu
— Brad Molen (@phonewisdom) December 8, 2013
And finally, BlackBerry turned down the chance to employ Canadian pop princess Justin Bieber as its brand ambassador. The reason? RiM execs suggested, “This kid is a fad. He’s not going to last.” So much so that his offer to work for $200,000 and 20 devices was, according to Vincent Washington, senior development manager at RIM between 2001 and 2011, met with laughter.
Since that fateful meeting of Canadian minds, Bieber has become one of the biggest pop stars on the planet while BlackBerry has all but disappeared up its own RiM. Neither of which is particularly deserved, but then life rarely is fair.
Tech News Digest… Breaking News Into Bite-Sized Chunks
Image Credit: Landin Hollis