Tech Beat by Namecheap – 2 December 2022
Lots of interesting things are happening in the tech world right now. Let’s move beyond the stories everyone else is focusing on to look at a couple of important issues that affect tech companies and their employees around the globe.
First, big-name tech giants have had a great deal of control over the world’s most influential industries in the last few decades, but for how much longer are these new-age aristocrats going to reign supreme? New regulations, mainly from the European Union, are aimed at bringing tech corporations in line with fairer business practices. But are they going to succeed in the battle against the most powerful global firms? Learn more in our article, Is Big Tech finally being reined in?
Second, remote work is here to stay—and along with it, bossware tools that allow companies to monitor their employees. Employers claim that it boosts productivity, while workers find it invasive and stressful. In this week’s article, learn more about this technology, how pervasive it has become post-pandemic, and what some people are doing to challenge its use.
In other news
- DOJ shut down multiple shadow library domains. The US Department of Justice and the FBI are cracking down on sites that offer pirated books and articles. According to Vice, the most recent site to go is Z-Library, a file-sharing shadow library project that allowed students to access scholarly journal articles and academic texts. Typically paywalled content, Z-Library offered over 11 million books and over 80 million articles. Many speculate that TikTok users drew attention to the site after creating swathes of content offering “life hacks” to students.
- Is seaweed the key to good vegan bacon? While there are currently several authentic-tasting beef substitutes on the market, a tasty bacon alternative has proven more difficult to produce. But a startup called Umaro Foods may have cracked it. According to Fast Company, the researchers behind the bacon found that gel components of seaweed could hold five times their weight in oil, which had the potential to crisp up like bacon. To create the final product, they combined seaweed gel with other ingredients such as chickpeas, coconut, and sunflower oil. Currently, it’s only available in a few select restaurants in the US, but the company plans to launch it in retail stores next year.
- Eyes grown in petri dishes could help understand blindness. Researchers at University College London (UCL) worked to make light-sensing rod cells arrange themselves in layers in a similar way that they are in the retina, according to New Atlas. The team was able to image the cells in detail using single-cell RNA sequencing. They are able to use a biopsy of skin and reprogram the cells into stem cells, then use the same DNA to create an artificial retina. This means they have made the same genetic conditions as their patients, allowing them to study development and disease in the eye, as well as the effects of drugs.
- Armed robocops could be a new reality. According to The Verge, a new San Francisco policy could give robots the chance to use deadly force in police cases where there is a threat to human life. There has been some disagreement over the policy, and it is still waiting for approval from the city’s Board of Supervisors. The police force currently has 17 piloted robots, but only 12 are in use. The new policy introduced will also allow the use of the robots in various scenarios, such as training and simulation, issuing warrants, and apprehending criminals.
- A new wave of cybercrime hits Africa. Police and investigators have found an increase in the activity of cybercrime gangs operating across sub-Saharan Africa, according to The Guardian. Experts believe this new trend is a combination of the increased Internet use during the pandemic and weakened police and criminal justice systems. The most common cybercrimes are credit card and banking fraud. In the last month, 70 arrests were made linked to Black Axe, a Nigerian criminal organization that operates in Africa and around the world. Cybercrime networks that target the African region are located around the world, and Interpol has ongoing investigations that are bringing members of gangs like Black Axe and Air Lords to justice.
Tip of the week: ways to maintain privacy online
Whether you work remotely for a company or not, you probably don’t want anyone watching you as you work or recording your online activities. While it’s inevitable that we all trade some privacy for convenience and access, there are some simple things you can do to make it harder for third parties to invade your privacy online.
- Delete any apps on your phone that you don’t use or need. You never know what information an app might be collecting on you—or what they may do with that data in the future. While a life without apps may not be feasible, it makes sense to only keep around the ones you actually use.
- Use a browser for online purchases rather than a dedicated store app. Browsers don’t have access to as much information on a mobile phone as an app does (such as your location data as you travel between destinations, the proximity of other people using the app, etc.).
- Use encrypted chat apps whenever possible. Signal and Whatsapp are two that offer end-to-end encryption, although with Facebook owning Whatsapp, there are some concerns that it may not be as private as it appears. For iPhone users, iMessage is encrypted, but only when texting other iPhone users.
- Turn off invasive tracking on your computer and phone. This data includes location tracking and advertiser personalization and tracking. Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Privacy Badger is a free tool to shut down tracking on your computer, while Simple Opt Out offers a list of companies with links that allow you to opt out of data collection.
- Use a VPN on all of your devices. Among other things, a VPN will add a layer of protection against digital eavesdropping on public Wi-Fi networks. Read more about how a VPN can protect you.