Today in Tech News Digest, the watered-down USA Freedom Act, Facebook privacy defaults, a Chrome OS update, PlayStation 4 profits, the $99 HP 7 Plus, the death of Helium Publishing, and Quest Attack on Twitter.
The USA Freedom Act Rendered Worthless
BREAKING: USA FREEDOM Act passes the House. It’s a weak attempt at NSA reform. We’re working for a stronger version in the Senate.
— EFF (@EFF) May 22, 2014
The good news: the USA Freedom Act has passed the House of Representatives. The bad news: swinging amendments have watered it down to the point that it’s not worth the paper it’s written on. That isn’t our opinion, but the opinion of privacy advocates who formerly supported the bill.
The USA Freedom Act was/is meant to put a stop to the shameful collecting of phone records in bulk by the National Security Agency (NSA). This is the first step on the road to reforming the NSA after the sheer scale of its surveilling efforts on citizens was outed by Edward Snowden.
Unfortunately, despite already being a compromise designed to appease both sides, the USA Freedom Act underwent major revisions which many are suggesting renders it worthless. The language has been sprinkled with some vague fairy dust meaning definitions of who can be spied on are open to interpretation.
So, the House has passed the bill by a margin of 303 to 121, but the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and others have withdrawn their support for it. All hope now lies with the Senate, which can push for further privacy protections for U.S. citizens.
Facebook Fixes Broken Privacy Defaults
Facebook has reversed its shameful policy of defaulting users’ privacy settings to ‘Public’. This meant that new users would share everything they post to the social network with everyone until they delved deep into the privacy settings and manually changed them.
This default was put into place as long ago as 2009, but Facebook has finally seen the error of its ways and started defaulting new users to ‘Friends’ instead. Existing users, all 1.2 billion of them, can also make use of a new Privacy Checkup to ensure they’re not oversharing.
‘OK Google’ Comes To Chrome OS
— Matthew J. Dye (@mjdye) May 23, 2014
Chrome OS has just received a minor update which adds one major new feature. Alongside support for folders and the return of the ‘Minimize’ button is the addition of OK Google (AKA Google Voice Search Hotwording). All devices running Chrome OS (apart from the ASUS Chromebox and the Samsung Series 3 Chromebox) will receive the update. My Chromebook loves it.
The PlayStation 4 Is Already Profitable
Due to high import taxes, A PS4 in Brazil costs roughly $1850.
— Fact UP (@FactUP) May 21, 2014
New video game consoles are rarely profitable, with the Nintendo Wii being an exception. However, if Sony President Kaz Hirai is to be believed, then the PlayStation 4 is already turning a profit for the Japanese tech giant.
Hirai is reported to have made the PlayStation 4 pronouncement at a corporate strategy meeting, saying, “PS4 is also already contributing profit on a hardware unit basis, establishing a very different business framework from that of previous platform businesses.”
We wonder if Microsoft can say the same for the struggling Xbox One?
The HP 7 Plus Launches In U.S. For Just $99
I will say this. In a universe where the iPad didn’t exist. I’d be much more interested in a Surface than an Android tablet.
— Darby Lines (@Angry_Drunk) May 20, 2014
Hewlett-Packard has launched the HP 7 Plus, a cheap Android tablet priced at just $99. You get what you would expect for that price, which is an entry-level tablet, but the compromises may be too big for some to make. If we’re being honest, the Apple iPad mini is probably a better option for those who can afford it.
Helium Publishing Is Shutting Up Shop
just got email that Helium Publishing, whatever that is, is closing. 0 F’s given.
— Jordan S. Terry (@The_Analyst) May 14, 2014
Helium Publishing, which for many years offered budding writers an opportunity to get paid for their scribblings, is closing down. All Helium sites will be shut down come December, and have already (as of May 21) become read-only. Contributors are being advised to download or remove their content from Helium Publishing ASAP.
From Adventure Time To Quest Attack
You wake up in a dungeon cell. What do you do:
— Quest Attack (@buenothebear) May 20, 2014
And finally, Pendleton Ward, the creator of Adventure Time, has embarked on a new adventure on Twitter. He is using the social network to crowdsource the plot of Quest Attack, which was started with the tweet embedded above.
Ward is using the tweet responses to plot the story, drawing the next panel according to people’s wishes. The whole thing is being collated on Storify, and it definitely counts as another example of fun ways to use Twitter.
Tech News Digest… Breaking News Into Bite-Sized Chunks.
Image Credit: Vince Alongi via Flickr