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Worthless USA Freedom Act, Facebook Privacy Defaults, Twitter Quest Attack [Tech News Digest]

Dave Parrack 23-05-2014

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

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 NSA Tracking, Pony Passwords, Reversible USB, Santa Trackers [Tech News Digest] NSA is tracking us all, Pony Botnet snags 2 million passwords, next-gen USB to be reversible, Beats Music launch date, Valve joins Linux Foundation, PopUp Archive launched, and two Santa trackers go into battle. Read More 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 Sick of the NSA Tracking You? Burn Them with a Burner Phone Sick of the NSA tracking you using your phone's positioning coordinates? Prepaid phones known colloquially as "burners" can provide you with partial privacy. Read More 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the House has passed the bill by a margin of 303 to 121, but the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and others have withdrawn their support for it.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 Make Sure You're Secure With Facebook's New Privacy Settings: A Complete Guide Facebook also means two other things: frequent changes and privacy concerns. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Facebook, is that they’re not really concerned about what we like or our privacy. Nor should they... Read More 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

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 5 Web Resources for New Chromebook Owners The Chromebook is a form factor that splits opinion, as we previously discovered when we asked you what you thought of the netbook-like devices from Google. However, the Chromebook isn't going away anytime soon, with... Read More (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

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 5 PS4 Exclusive Titles To Make Xbox One Owners Jealous Having already proposed five reasons you should be buying a PlayStation 4, it's time to focus in on the games that will be released for the system within its first year on sale. What follows... Read More 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 5 Xbox One Exclusive Titles To Make PS4 Owners Jealous Read More ?

The HP 7 Plus Launches In U.S. For Just $99

Hewlett-Packard has launched the HP 7 Plus, a cheap Android tablet Why I Chose To Buy A Cheap Android Tablet [Opinion] After doing a little more research than was healthy, I took the plunge and chose a tablet. One which I now own and use every day. It wasn't an iPad, or even a name-brand Android... Read More 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

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 Helium Publishing Closing Doors: Back Up Your Data Now The Helium Network organization will be closing down the Helium Publishing 360 sites, effective December 15th, 2014. Read More 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

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 7 Fun Uses for Twitter You Haven't Figured Out Yet It isn't difficult to get addicted to Twitter. After all, it hardly takes an effort to type in 140 characters. In those itsy-bitsy lines lies a great power, to either change the world with a... Read More .

Tech News Digest… Breaking News Into Bite-Sized Chunks.

Image Credit: Vince Alongi via Flickr

Related topics: Facebook, Online Privacy, PlayStation, Twitter.

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  1. geral
    June 8, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    The killing gene activated by one's conduct. Viz: police,fbi,cia,dod,nsa.

  2. Neil Oldman
    May 29, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    My, my, hey, hey.
    Down with the NSA.
    You're only free if
    You can afford to pay.
    My, my, hey, hey.

    Hey, hey, my, my.
    Down with the FBI.
    There's more to a JPEG
    Than meets the Google eye.
    Hey, hey, my, my.

    (With apologies to the real-deal Neil.)

  3. Tom W
    May 23, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    Quest Attack seems a lot like MS Paint Adventures (, which I no longer follow due to the extreme number of updates. It was amazing to follow it though.

  4. dragonmouth
    May 23, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    Let's be realistic. USA Freedom Act, even if it did away with the NSA, is not worth the hot air used to debate it in Congress. It is, and will always be, only a piece of placebo legislation passed to placate the unwashed masses. Even if it had any teeth, it would never be invoked. There is no way that the US Government would waste the available technology and not record all electronic traffic. If it isn't the NSA, then it would be the FBI, CIA, DOD, or any/all of the other alphabet soup agencies. Or, most likely, some black agency only a few individuals have heard of.

    All you non-Americans that are snickering, tsk-tsk'ing and feeling morally superior at this point about US Government surveillance of its own people, get off your high horse because YOUR government is doing exactly the same to you, except they are little less clumsy about it. In their minds, they cannot afford not to. KGB, Stasi, Gestapo, etc may be gone but their place has been taken by a Ministry of the Internal Affairs, Department of Public Safety, Bureau of Public Welfare and dozens of other entities with innocuous names, all tasked with keeping dibs on its population.

    • Neil Oldman
      May 29, 2014 at 6:53 pm

      I'm copying this for potential framing. That was good.