As the internet becomes more widespread in Cuba, online start-ups are emerging. But the problems many of the companies hope to address are also a reminder of how far the island has to go.
Bernardo Romero Gonzalez, a 33-year-old software engineer from Cuba, launched his new business this month: a website where people can order island-made products such as soap, bouquets of flowers and cakes for home delivery.
“It’s like Amazon for Cuba, but with a difference,” he told an audience of New York techies at a conference this month.
The summary was a classic start-up pitch, but it also underscored the obstacles when it comes to starting an online business in the Caribbean country.
Mr Gonzalez is counting on buyers from the Cuban diaspora, which already plays a role in the economy, sending money and other products to the island.
But the infrastructure doesn’t exist for domestic buyers to sustain the market.
Internet access among Cuba’s 11.2 million people is growing.
Between 2013 and 2015, the share of the Cuban population using the internet jumped from about a quarter to more than 35%, according to estimates from the International Telecommunications Union.
The growing market has helped draw the attention of internet giants, such as Airbnb, Netflix and Google, which installed servers on the island and started hosting data there last month.
The rise is also fuelling activity among local entrepreneurs, who are launching domestic versions of sites such as the crowd-review business directory Yelp.
But there’s a long way to go.
‘Third world conditions’
Less than 6% of Cuban households had internet access at home in 2015, one of the lowest rates in the western hemisphere, according to the ITU. (In the UK, that figure tops 91%.)
Wi-fi hotspots in parks and other public places operated by the state-run telecom company remain the primary way to log on.
Service at the hotspots is often slow, expensive and selective, with the government restricting access to the full range of internet sites.
The constraints are shaping the emerging Cuban start-ups.
At this month’s TechCrunch conference in New York, Mr Gonzalez shared a stage with Kewelta, a firm focusing on advertising within decentralised online and offline networks, and Knales, which provides updates on weather, news and other events via text messages and phone calls.
Knales co-founder Diana Elianne Benitez Perera told the audience that “Cubans are disrupters by definition. We always find the way to have first world conditions with third world conditions.”
‘Change in the air’
The government in recent years has taken some steps to boost internet access, increasing wi-fi hotspots in parks and other places, lowering prices and experimenting with home installations.
The measures come amid broader economic changes in Cuba, after the Castro regime loosened rules for private enterprise and the Obama administration eased the US embargo, unleashing large numbers of US travellers.
The Cuba Emprende Foundation started working with the Catholic Church in Cuba about five years ago as the reforms started, funding four-week courses in entrepreneurship from which more than 3,000 people have graduated.
The Foundation helped organise the 10x10KCuba start-up competition in which both Diana and Bernardo participated last year, that led to the invitation to the Tech Crunch conference in New York in May.
“There’s change in the air,” says Anna Maria Alejo, one of the people who helped organise the TechCrunch panel and helped raise about $10,000 (£7,700) to pay for eight entrepreneurs to attend the conference.
“We’re not exactly sure where things will go, but there’s a lot of optimism among these young people,” she says.
Cuba has a relatively high number of well-trained software engineers, especially for a country with its size and degree of internet access, said Kirk Laughlin, managing director of NearShore Americas.
The media advisory company published a report in 2015 that highlighted the island’s potential as a hub for cheap IT labour.
But Mr Laughlin says he’s been disappointed by how slowly the Cuban government has moved to improve the broadband network, especially given interest from international companies and numbers of educated Cubans opting to leave and take their chances elsewhere.
“There is such an opportunity to leapfrog ahead and really light up the island with really robust broadband. That is just not happening,” he says.
“When it comes to online start-ups, there’s a lot of workarounds”.
“That’s great that people have the ingenuity and creativity and in some ways we should applaud that,” he says.
“But it’s still a long way to go to get into the league that Cuba has great qualifications to participate in.”
‘The companies are waiting’
Some say the changes could accelerate after Raul Castro retires next year.
In speeches, Mr Castro’s presumed successor, vice president Miguel Diaz-Canel, has indicated a more open attitude, said Larry Press, a professor emeritus at California State University Dominguez Hills, who has researched the internet in the developing world and writes a blog on Cuba.
“This is the right way to go,” said Mr Pai ahead of the vote on Thursday.
In a statement, the FCC said it expected its proposed changes to “substantially benefit consumers and the marketplace”. It added that, before the rules were changed in 2015, they helped to preserve a “flourishing free and open internet for almost 20 years”.
The vote by the FCC commissioners is the first stage in the process of dismantling the net neutrality regulations.
The agency is now inviting public comment on whether it should indeed dismantle the rules. Americans have until mid-August to share their views with the FCC.
This call for comments is likely to attract a huge number of responses. Prior to the vote, more than 1 million statements supporting net neutrality were filed on the FCC site.
Many people responded to a call from comedian and commentator John Oliver to make their feelings known.
Separately, some protestors also used software bots to repeatedly file statements on the site.
Many fear that once the equal access rules go, ISPs will start blocking and throttling some data while letting other packets travel on “fast lanes” because firms have paid more to reach customers quicker.
US ISPs such as Comcast, Charter Communications and Altice NV have pledged in public statements to keep data flowing freely.
Despite this public pledge Comcast, along with Verizon and AT&T, opposed the original 2015 rule change saying it dented their enthusiasm for improving US broadband.
Facebook, and Google’s parent company Alphabet as well as many other net firms have backed the open net rules saying equal access was important for all.
Mobile phone users will be able to switch operators by sending a text to the provider they want to leave, under plans drawn up by the regulator.
Ofcom said customers could avoid an awkward and long call to their operator and instead send a text. In turn, they will be sent switching codes.
The proposal means Ofcom’s previously preferred option – a more simple one-stage process – is being dropped.
That system was more expensive and could have raised bills, it said.
The change of preferred plan marks a victory for mobile operators who would have faced higher costs under the alternative system. Ofcom said its research suggested customers would also prefer the new planned system.
At present, anyone who wishes to switch to a different mobile provider must contact their current supplier to tell them they are leaving.
Ofcom research suggests that, of those who have switched, some 38% have been hit by one major problem during the process. One in five of them temporarily lost their service, while one in 10 had difficulties contacting their current supplier or keeping their phone number.
Under previous plans, Ofcom wanted responsibility for the switch being placed entirely in the hands of the new provider. That would mean one call to a new provider by the customer.
The regulator has now concluded that such a system would be twice as expensive as its newly-preferred option of texting to switch.
They would text, then receive a text back, which includes a unique code to pass on to their new provider who could arrange the switch within one working day. Customers would be able to follow this process whether they were taking their mobile number with them or not.
Under the proposed rules, mobile providers would be banned from charging for notice periods running after the switch date. That would mean customers would no longer have to pay for their old and new service at the same time after they have switched.
A final decision will be made in the autumn.
Latest figures published last year showed that there were an estimated 47 million mobile phone contracts in the UK, and approximately 5.9 million people had never switched provider at all, nor considered switching in the previous year.
Online companies could face fines or prosecution if they fail to remove illegal content, under Conservative plans for stricter internet regulation.
The party has also proposed an industry-wide levy, dubbed a “Twitter tax”, to fund “preventative activity to counter internet harms”.
Labour said it had “pressed for tough new codes” in the past but the government had “categorically refused”.
The Liberal Democrats said more needed to be done “to find a real solution”.
The Conservatives said the levy, proposed in their election manifesto, would use the same model as that used in the gambling industry, where companies voluntarily contribute to the charity GambleAware to help pay for education, research, and treating gambling addiction.
All social media and communications service providers would be given a set period to come up with plans to fund and promote efforts “to counter internet harms”.
If they failed to do so, the government would have the power to impose an industry-wide toll.
The Conservatives say the exact details, including how long the industry will be given to comply and the size of the levy, will be consulted upon.
A Labour spokesman said: “If the Tories are planning to levy a new tax on social media companies, they need to set out how it will work, who it will affect and what it will raise.
“Labour has pushed for a code of practice about the responsibilities of social media companies to protect children and young people from abuse and bullying.”
The Conservatives have also pledged to introduce “a sanctions regime” that would give regulators “the ability to fine or prosecute those companies that fail in their legal duties, and to order the removal of content where it clearly breaches UK law”.
Social media platforms and internet service providers would have clearer responsibilities regarding the reporting and removal of harmful material, including bullying, inappropriate or illegal content, and would have to take down material.
“It is certainly bold of the Conservatives to boast that they can protect people on the internet,” Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said.
“Government and technology companies must do more to find a real solution to problematic content online.”
And Labour’s digital economy spokeswoman Louise Haigh said: “The Home Office were crystal clear they did not want to legislate and that they believed the voluntary framework was sufficient.
“The fact is that in government the Tories have been too afraid to stand up to the social media giants and keep the public safe from illegal and extremist content.”
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has posted a video showing the moment he found out he got into Harvard, as filmed by his dad, Edward, about 15 years ago.
Zuckerberg actually dropped out to found what is now the biggest social network on the planet – but he’s due to pick up an honorary degree at Harvard next week.
He also wrote on his profile: “Before I went to college, my mom bet me I’d drop out and my younger sister bet me she’d finish college before me. I bet them I’d get a degree. Now I suppose the cycle is complete.”
Electronic signature service provider DocuSign has admitted customer emails were accessed in a data breach.
The addresses were then targeted in a series of phishing emails from “a malicious third party”.
The messages invited recipients to click on a link to a Microsoft Word document containing malware.
DocuSign says that no other information was accessed in the incident, and the e-signature service remained secure.
“No names, physical addresses, passwords, social security numbers, credit card data or other information was accessed,” the company said in a statement.
“DocuSign’s core e-signature service, envelopes and customer documents and data remain secure.”
The company has advised people to delete any suspicious messages immediately.
The breach came to light when the company noticed an increase in phishing emails sent to some of their account holders last week.
According to a statement published on DocuSign’s website, “a malicious third party gained temporary access to a separate, non-core system that allows us to communicate service-related announcements to users via email”.
The emails included the DocuSign branding and appeared to come from addresses ending “docus.com”, a lookalike domain.
The subject line referred to either a wire transfer or an accounting invoice, saying: “Document Ready for Signature”.
A full copy of the email has been published on the TechHelpList website, which reported that the malware contained in the attachment could be used to steal passwords and banking credentials.
“Phishing is almost the default way of tricking people into giving away that information,” Keith Martin, professor of information security at Royal Holloway, University of London, told the BBC.
“Where it’s targeting a bank, for example, the senders are going to use headers and language that’ll make customers believe it’s their bank.
“With a generic phishing trawl, the message will go out and the more people who click the better – it’s literally like fishing, hoping to get some bites, chucking a message out there speculatively.
“With most, you don’t need a very high success rate to make money.”
A prototype computer with 160TB of memory has been unveiled by Hewlett Packard Enterprises.
Designed to work on big data, it could analyse the equivalent of 160 million books at the same time, HPE said.
The device, called The Machine, had a Linux-based operating system and prioritised memory rather than processing power, the company said.
HPE said its Memory Driven Computing research project could eventually lead to a “near-limitless” memory pool.
“The secrets to the next great scientific breakthrough, industry-changing innovation or life-altering technology hide in plain sight behind the mountains of data we create every day,” said HPE boss Meg Whitman.
“To realise this promise, we can’t rely on the technologies of the past, we need a computer built for the big data era.”
Prof Les Carr, of the University of Southampton, told the BBC The Machine would be fast but big data faced other challenges.
“The ultimate way to speed things up is to make sure you have all the data present in your computer as close to the processing as possible so this is a different way of trying to speed things up,” he said.
“However, we need to make our processing… not just faster but more insightful and business relevant.”
“There are many areas in life where quicker is not necessarily better.”
The latest health and fitness trend involves taking a DNA test to find out more about how our bodies respond to different types of food and exercise. But how accurate and effective are these kits?
Fitness fanatic Mandy Mayer, 56, exercised several times a week but felt like she’d hit a plateau.
Her personal trainer suggested she try a DNAFit test, which tests the body’s genetic response to key foods and exercise.
“I jumped at the chance,” she says. “I thought I’d love to have that kind of knowledge.”
After sending off a swab of her saliva, she received a report on her fitness and diet in January. She was impressed.
“I was like ‘wow’. They told me I don’t tolerate caffeine and refined foods very well, and I respond better to endurance training than anything else.”
Three months later and she has dropped from a size 12 to a size 10 and lost several kilos. She attributes her leaner figure to understanding more about her genetic code.
“Without a shadow of a doubt it was down to the test,” says Mandy, who lives in Market Harborough, Leicestershire.
“It’s made me follow the right training and make little changes to my diet.”
A growing number of start-ups, such as 23andMe, FitnessGenes, UBiome, DNAFit, Orig3n and Habit, are moving into this space, promising that mail-order genetic tests can change your life for the better.
Some researchers believe the global market for such kits could be worth more than $10bn (£7.7bn) by 2022.
But how do they work and how reliable are they?
Avi Lasarow, chief executive of DNAFit, explains that everything about who we are is the unique combination of what we are born with – our genetics – and how we live – our environment.
“The biggest ‘environment’ factor that we can control in our day-to-day lives is our diet,” he says, “so by understanding more about the static part, the genetics, we can better tweak the bit in our control.”
He gives the example of the CYP1A2 gene, which controls around 95% of caffeine metabolism.
“Some people are fast metabolisers, some are slow, depending on their variants of this gene. Once you know this, however, you can make a better informed decision on your caffeine intake than you could without your genetic data.”
Robin Smith, chief executive of Orig3n, which offers a range of health and wellness DNA tests costing from $29 to $149, says the results can help people make educated choices about what works for their bodies.
“If a person’s DNA suggests that she is more likely to be deficient in B vitamins, she can pay attention to that in her daily life.
“Knowing what your DNA says about your body’s food sensitivities, food breakdown, hunger, weight, vitamins, allows you to become a more informed consumer.
“You can become smarter about what you choose to eat, and smarter about what supplements you choose to buy, saving you time, energy, and money while getting the results you want faster.”
So much for the sales pitch, but some genetic experts are concerned that the efficacy of such kits may be overhyped.
“I’m not against people being able to access genetic information about themselves if they wish to do so, provided the test results and limitations are clearly explained,” says Dr Jess Buxton, a geneticist at University College London.
“However, I do think that the amount of useful information that personalised health tests can offer is very limited at present because we still know very little about the effect of most SNPs [genetic variations called single nucleotide polymorphisms] and other types of genetic variation on a person’s health.”
While there are a few conditions, such as lactose intolerance, for which the genetic variations are very clear and well understood, the same cannot be said for most other conditions, she says.
“These [genetic variations] interact with each other and with non-genetic factors in ways that we don’t fully understand, so it’s impossible to make accurate predictions based on information about just a few of the gene variants involved, as many of these tests do.”
That said, some studies do suggest that this kind of analysis might work. For example, the University of Trieste and the IRCCS Burlo Garofolo Institute for Maternal and Child Health in Italy found that those following diet based on genetic analysis lost 33% more weight than a controlled group.
Some start-ups are not just relying on a person’s genetic make-up to make their diet and exercise recommendations.
San Francisco-based Habit’s home kit includes a series of DNA samples, blood tests and a shake to drink so that the company can measure how your body metabolises fats, carbohydrates and proteins.
“Unlike other at-home tests that measure DNA alone, Habit looks at how the entire body works together,” explains founder and chief executive Neil Grimmer.
Habit, he says, measures more than 60 nutrition-related blood and genetic biomarkers, biometrics and lifestyle choices, to make personalised nutrition recommendations for each individual.
“Personalised recommendations should be based on your entire biology, not just your DNA,” says Mr Grimmer.
One early adopter is Thierry Attias, president of Momentum Sports Group, a firm managing the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team.
“Even though I cycle a few times a week, I carry an extra couple of pounds and I was curious to learn more about myself,” says Mr Attias, who lives in Oakland, California.
He discovered that he’s caffeine sensitive, his diet needs to include more plant-based food, and his body is slow at processing fats.
While Habit was still in testing phase, he opted to receive personalised ready-to-eat meals from the company for three days.
“An interesting thing happened,” he enthuses. “I lost four pounds in a few days. I learnt portion size and how much more veg I needed in a serving.”
In two months he has lost about 11 pounds (5kg), he says.
But do we really need a testing kit to tell as to eat more vegetables and fewer fats as part of a healthy balanced diet – advice that has been around for decades?
Cyber-attacks that have hit 150 countries since Friday should be treated by governments around the world as a “wake-up call”, Microsoft says.
The computing giant said software vulnerabilities hoarded by governments have caused “widespread damage”.
The latest virus exploits a flaw in Microsoft Windows first identified by US intelligence.
There are fears of further “ransomware” attacks as people return to work on Monday.
Many firms have had experts work over the weekend to prevent new infections. The virus took control of users’ files, demanding payments to restore access.
The spread of the virus slowed over the weekend but the respite might only be brief, experts have warned. More than 200,000 computers have been affected so far.
A statement released by Microsoft on Sunday criticised the way governments store up information about security flaws in computer systems.
“We have seen vulnerabilities stored by the CIA show up on WikiLeaks, and now this vulnerability stolen from the NSA has affected customers around the world.
“An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the US military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen.”
It added: “The governments of the world should treat this attack as a wake-up call.”
Microsoft said it had released a Windows security update in March to tackle the problem involved in the latest attack, but many users were yet to run it.
“As cybercriminals become more sophisticated, there is simply no way for customers to protect themselves against threats unless they update their systems,” the company said.
Meanwhile Europol’s chief told the BBC that that the ransomware was designed to allow “infection of one computer to quickly spread across the networks”, adding: “That’s why we’re seeing these numbers increasing all the time.”
Although a temporary fix earlier slowed the infection rate, the attackers had now released a new version of the virus, he said.
A UK security researcher known as “MalwareTech”, who helped to limit the ransomware attack, predicted “another one coming… quite likely on Monday”.
MalwareTech, who wants to remain anonymous, was hailed as an “accidental hero” after registering a domain name to track the spread of the virus, which actually ended up halting it.
Becky Pinkard, from Digital Shadows, a UK-based cyber-security firm, told AFP news agency that it would be easy for the initial attackers or “copy-cat authors” to change the virus code so it is difficult to guard against.
“Even if a fresh attack does not materialise on Monday, we should expect it soon afterwards,” she said.
In England, 48 National Health Service (NHS) trusts reported problems at hospitals, doctor surgeries or pharmacies, and 13 NHS organisations in Scotland were also affected.
Other organisations targeted worldwide included Germany’s rail network Deutsche Bahn, Spanish telecommunications operator Telefonica, French carmaker Renault, US logistics giant FedEx and Russia’s Interior Ministry.
Hospitals and doctors’ surgeries were forced to turn away patients and cancel appointments One NHS worker told the BBC that patients would “almost certainly suffer and die” as a result.
Some reports said Russia had seen more infections than any other single country. Russia’s interior ministry said it had “localised the virus” following an “attack on personal computers using Windows operating system”.
A number of Spanish firms – including telecoms giant Telefonica, power firm Iberdrola and utility provider Gas Natural – suffered from the outbreak. There were reports that staff at the firms were told to turn off their computers.
Portugal Telecom, delivery company FedEx, a Swedish local authority and Megafon, the second largest mobile phone network in Russia, also said they had been affected.
Who is behind the attack?
Some experts say the attack may be have been built to exploit a weakness in Microsoft systems that was identified by the NSA and given the name EternalBlue.
The NSA tools were then stolen by a group of hackers known as The Shadow Brokers, who then attempted to sell the encrypted cache in an online auction.
The hackers said they had published the password as a “protest” about US President Donald Trump.
At the time, some cyber-security experts said some of the malware was real, but old.
A patch for the vulnerability was released by Microsoft in March, but many systems may not have had the update installed.
Microsoft said on Friday its engineers had added detection and protection against WannaCrypt. The company was providing assistance to customers, it added.
How does the malware work?
Some security researchers have pointed out that the infections seem to be deployed via a worm – a program that spreads by itself between computers.
Unlike many other malicious programs, this one has the ability to move around a network by itself. Most others rely on humans to spread by tricking them into clicking on an attachment harbouring the attack code.
By contrast, once WannaCry is inside an organisation it will hunt down vulnerable machines and infect them too. This perhaps explains why its impact is so public – because large numbers of machines at each victim organisation are being compromised.
What was the US Air Force’s X-37B doing during its almost two years in orbit?
The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-4), an unmanned, reusable space plane operated by the US Air Force, has landed at Nasa’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida after two years in orbit.
US Air Force officials confirmed the craft’s landing and said they were “excited about the data gathered”.
According to a press release, the programme is designed to experiment on and develop reusable space vehicles.
But what the OTV-4 has been doing for the last 24 months isn’t clear.
“The hard work of the X-37B OTV team and the 45th Space Wing successfully demonstrated the flexibility and resolve necessary to continue the nation’s advancement in space,” said Randy Walden, the director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office.
“The ability to land, refurbish, and launch from the same location further enhances the OTV’s ability to rapidly integrate and qualify new space technologies.”
Because the X-37B started life as a Nasa programme, the Air Force is in a position to talk openly about the craft’s design but its precise purpose remains classified.
Back in 2010, when the vehicle was first launched, Gary Payton, the Air Force’s deputy undersecretary for space programmes, tried to calm worries about the potential weaponisation of space.
“I don’t know how this could be called weaponisation of space. It’s just an updated version of the space shuttle type of activities in space,” he said.
“We, the Air Force, have a suite of military missions in space and this new vehicle could potentially help us do those missions better.”
Given that its landing on Sunday caused a sonic boom, waking residents in central Florida, it would be hard for US Air Force officials to deny something had happened.
“Today marks an incredibly exciting day for the 45th Space Wing as we continue to break barriers,” said Brig Gen Wayne Monteith, the 45th SW commander.
“Our team has been preparing for this event for several years, and I am extremely proud to see our hard work and dedication culminate in today’s safe and successful landing of the X-37B.”
Donkey Kong and Pokemon Red and Green have been inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame.
Halo: Combat Evolved and Street Fighter II were also honoured with places in the permanent exhibition at The Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, New York.
They join titles such as Sonic the Hedgehog, The Sims, Doom, Pong and World of Warcraft.
Tomb Raider, Resident Evil and Microsoft’s Solitaire were nominated but failed to make the final list.
The hall of fame was established in 2015, covering games played in an arcade, on a console, computer, handheld device or mobile phone.
The games are chosen for their popularity, longevity and their influence on gaming, popular culture and society.
Anyone can nominate a game, but the final selection is made on the advice of a panel of journalists, academics and gaming experts.
This year’s winners were chosen from a list of 12 finalists which also included Final Fantasy VII and Wii Sports.
Following its release in 1981, an estimated 132,000 Donkey Kong arcade game cabinets were sold around the world – introducing us to an Italian plumber called Mario.
“Without Donkey Kong there would be no Super Mario Bros,” said Jon-Paul Dyson, director of The Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games (ICHEG).
The original Pokemon game, released for the Nintendo Game Boy in 1996, was nominated in 2016 but failed to make that year’s final selection.
Since then, however, the franchise has received a boost in popularity and gained a new generation of fans with the launch of Pokemon Go.
“Two decades after its inception and with the introduction of Pokemon Go, ‘Poke-mania’ shows little sign of fading,” explained The Strong’s associate curator, Shannon Symonds.
Capcom’s Street Fighter II allowed players to battle human opponents, “instantly attracting spectators and generating fierce tournament play”, said Jeremy Saucier, assistant director of ICHIEG.
He added that the “communal style of game play reinvigorated the arcade industry in the 1990s”.
When Microsoft launched the Xbox in 2001, more than half of the consoles sold came with Halo: Combat Evolved.
The first-person multi-player game sold more than six million copies and has been followed up with sequels and spin-offs including novels and comics.
Ms Symonds said the game was key in showing that consoles could be “just as effective, if not better, than a PC” for high-precision games, as well as “one of the strongest multiplayer experiences of its time”.
With the addition of this year’s four winners, the World Video Games Hall of Fame now has 16 permanent exhibits.
Its first entrants were Doom, Pong, Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros, Tetris and World of Warcraft.
In 2016, another six games – Space Invaders, Sonic the Hedgehog, The Legend of Zelda, The Oregon Trail, Grand Theft Auto III and The Sims – were honoured.
Retailer Debenhams has said that up to 26,000 customers of its Flowers website have had their personal data compromised following a cyber-attack.
Payment details, names and addresses were potentially taken during the incident, which targeted Ecomnova, a third party e-commerce company.
Debenhams said it has contacted customers whose data was accessed.
Customers of Debenhams.com, a separate website, have not been affected, the company added.
The attack took place between 24 February and 11 April and the Debenhams Flowers website is currently offline.
“Our communication to affected customers includes detailing steps that we have taken and steps that those customers should take,” Debenhams said in a statement.
A spokeswoman told the BBC that emails have been sent to just under 26,000 customers and that this will be followed up with a letter in the post.
“As soon as we were informed that there had been a cyber-attack, we suspended the Debenhams Flowers website and commenced a full investigation,” said Debenhams chief executive Sergio Bucher in a statement.
“We are very sorry that customers have been affected by this incident and we are doing everything we can to provide advice to affected customers and reduce their risk.”
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has been informed of the incident.
A bionic hand that “sees” objects and instantly decides what kind of grip to adopt has been developed by scientists.
A computer uses a camera to assess an object’s shape and size to then trigger the correct movement to pick it up.
The technology was developed at Newcastle University and has been trialled by a small number of amputees.
Dr Kianoush Nazarpour, a senior lecturer in biomedical engineering at the university, said the bionic hand can “respond automatically”.
The device could spark a new generation of prosthetic limbs giving the wearer the ability to grip objects without the use of their brain, researchers say.
Dr Nazarpour said: “Prosthetic limbs have changed very little in the past 100 years.
“Responsiveness has been one of the main barriers to artificial limbs.
“For many amputees the reference point is their healthy arm or leg so prosthetics seem slow and cumbersome in comparison.
“Now, for the first time in a century, we have developed an ‘intuitive’ hand that can react without thinking.”
The team, whose work is reported in the Journal of Neural Engineering, programmed the hand to react within milliseconds and perform four different “grasps” suitable for picking up a cup, holding a TV controller, and gripping objects with a thumb and two fingers or a pinched thumb and first finger.
Twitter is working with media firm Bloomberg to create a 24-hour rolling news channel for the messaging service.
The live video stream will be made up of original programming as well as feeds from Bloomberg bureaus.
The deal builds on the live-streaming deals Twitter has done with others that spreads content via the social network.
The deal could also help Twitter compete more with giants such as Google and Facebook, which already make a lot of money from video ads.
Bloomberg’s chief executive Justin Smith said the video stream would be “broader in focus” than its existing output.
He said it would build on the habits of many Twitter users who send tweets as they watch live events.
“Viewers have already embraced a multi-stream experience with live events and marrying those experiences seemed like a very powerful thing to offer to consumers,” he told the Wall Street Journal.
Twitter’s chief operating officer Anthony Noto said the stream would be designed for mobile audiences so people can focus on it when they see something interesting to them.
The deal builds on other efforts Twitter has made to beef up the live video streaming available via its service. In the first three months of 2017, Twitter broadcast about 800 hours of live video. Many of those streams were connected to specific events.
Neither Twitter nor Bloomberg would be drawn on the terms of the deal. The ad-supported, 24-hour service is due to be working by the autumn.
The Nomx personal email server costs from $199 – $399 (£155 – £310) and its publicity material claims it is designed to handle email communications for consumers.
It says that using a dedicated personal server, users can help to stop messages being copied and hacked as they travel to their destination across the net.
BBC Click asked security researcher Scott Helme and computer security expert Prof Alan Woodward, from the University of Surrey, to scrutinise Nomx. They were asked to assess whether it did let people send messages in a way that was secure against hacking and interception.
The investigation started by taking the device apart to find that it was built around a £30 Raspberry Pi computer. As the operating system for the Pi sits on a removable memory card, Mr Helme was able to download the device’s core code so he could examine it closely.
This allowed Mr Helme to run it as if he were the administrator for the device. He discovered that the software packages it used to handle mail were not proprietary and many were very old versions, five years old in one case, harbouring unpatched security bugs. Default passwords found in the code included “password” and “death”.
Mr Helme also found many problems with the web interface Nomx uses to administer the secure email service. This was vulnerable to several widely known and easy to execute attacks that, if exploited, would give attackers control over a target’s Nomx system.
He also found a way to create a hidden administrator’s account on the Nomx box that would allow any attacker to fully compromise the gadget.
In addition, Mr Helme found more than 10 other issues with the Nomx box that left him “horrified” by its approach to security.
The analysis was reviewed by Paul Moore – an experienced tester of secure hardware.
Mr Moore said the Nomx was an “overpriced and outdated mail server” and used one of the “most insecure PHP applications” he had ever encountered.
In an emailed response to Click, Mr Donaldson thanked Mr Helme and Prof Woodward for finding and sharing information about Nomx’s vulnerabilities.
Addressing the issue of old software, he said Nomx planned to let users choose which updates should be applied to their device.
“We will selectively allow users to pick and choose when that becomes available but today we’re not forcing any types of updates,” he said, adding that updates can introduce vulnerabilities.
“Updates actually cause a cascading effect and now you’re patching patches and that is not a good place to be in,” he told Click.
The default names and passwords found by Mr Helme were used to make it easy for customers to set up their device and they were encouraged to change it afterwards, he said.
Mr Helme said the set-up process for the Nomx was far from easy and at no point was he told to pick a new password.
Late on 27 April, Nomx published a strong defence of its product and disputed the way in which Mr Helme tested the device. Mr Donaldson said Mr Helme’s tests were unrealistic, as they involved actions no typical user would undertake.
Nomx said the threat posed by the attack detailed by Mr Helme was “non-existent for our users”.
Following weeks of correspondence with Mr Helme and the BBC Click Team, he said the firm no longer shipped versions that used the Raspberry Pi.
Instead, he said, future devices would be built around different chips that would also be able to encrypt messages as they travelled.
“The large cloud providers and email providers, like AOL, Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail – they’ve already been proven that they are under attack millions of times daily,” he said. “Why we invented Nomx was for the security of keeping your data off those large cloud providers.
“To date, no Nomx accounts have been compromised.”
Hanley supplied data for hacking to another man and gave Allsopp the personal and financial details of a TalkTalk customer for the use in fraud.
Allsopp admitted supplying a customer’s details for fraud and as well as files for hacking.
Hanley, of Devonshire Drive, denied other charges of hacking into Nasa, the National Climatic Data Centre and another 23 websites including Spotify, Telstra, the RAC and The Eton Collection which were ordered to lie on file.
Allsopp, of Coronation Street, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.
Judge Michael Topolski QC ordered reports for both defendants and adjourned sentencing until 31 May.
A Thai man filmed himself killing his baby daughter on Facebook Live, before taking his own life, Thai police say.
The 21-year-old hanged his daughter, and then himself, at a deserted hotel in Phuket on Monday, reportedly after an argument with his wife.
Facebook sent condolences to the family for the “appalling” incident and said that the content had now been removed.
The company pledged a review of its processes after footage of a US killing stayed online for hours this month.
The footage of the Thai killing had also been available on video sharing website YouTube, but the company took it down after the BBC alerted it to its presence.
Social media anger
Relatives of the Thai man, Wuttisan Wongtalay, saw the distressing footage and alerted the police – but the authorities arrived too late to save him and his daughter.
In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said: “This is an appalling incident and our hearts go out to the family of the victim. There is absolutely no place for content of this kind on Facebook and it has now been removed.”
Reuters said two videos were posted, at 16:50 (09:50 GMT) and 16:57 on Monday, and were taken down at about 17:00 on Tuesday, roughly 24 hours later. Facebook has yet to confirm the times to the BBC.
Thailand’s ministry of digital economy said it had contacted Facebook on Tuesday afternoon about removing the videos.
Ministry spokesman Somsak Khaosuwan told Reuters: “We will not be able to press charges against Facebook, because Facebook is the service provider and they acted according to their protocol when we sent our request. They co-operated very well.”
YouTube said it had taken down the video within 15 minutes of being told of its presence by the BBC.
Its statement read: “YouTube has clear policies that outline what’s acceptable to post and we quickly remove videos that break our rules when they’re flagged.”
Shortly before the BBC alerted YouTube, the video was showing 2,351 views.
Thai social media users reacted with anger to the footage, while offering condolences to the family of the girl, BBC Thai editor Nopporn Wong-Anan says.
Devastated relatives of the child, including the mother, picked up the body of the girl and her father from hospital on Tuesday.
Following the US killing, Facebook said it was “constantly exploring ways that new technologies can help us make sure Facebook is a safe environment”.
This latest atrocity comes less than a fortnight after a US man bragged on Facebook Live about his murder of a 74-year-old man in Cleveland, having also posted a video of the killing to the social network.
The platform’s chief, Mark Zuckerberg, subsequently acknowledged he had “a lot of work” to do after it emerged the murder clip had remained online for more than two hours despite Facebook having received complaints in the meantime.
YouTube has modified its content filter after complaints it had blocked political and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) videos.
Restricted mode is an optional filter designed to hide content that may be judged unsuitable for children.
But many prominent LGBT video-makers said their videos had been targeted.
YouTube said it had fixed an error and made more than 12 million “unintentionally filtered” videos available again.
The platform was criticised in March after several video-makers noticed a drop in advertising revenue and realised their content was being blocked in restricted mode.
The wide-reaching filters appeared to block videos referring to sexuality and gender identity, even if the content was not explicit.
“YouTube’s restricted mode has blocked a poem I wrote for a gay friend,” tweeted musician Bry O’Reilly.
Author Tyler Oakley added: “One of my recent videos ‘Eight Black LGBTQ+ Trailblazers Who Inspire Me’ is blocked because of this, I’m perplexed.”
YouTube said it had identified that its systems “were not working as intended”.
“We want to clarify that restricted mode should not filter out content belonging to individuals or groups based on certain attributes like gender, gender identity, political viewpoints, race, religion or sexual orientation,” it said in a blog post.
The company also said it would let people report videos they believed had been unfairly restricted and said it would offer more transparency about the types of content that would be filtered.
It said it would continue to restrict:
Discussion of alcohol or drugs, or videos showing alcohol consumption
Detailed conversations about sex
Music videos with adult themes including sex and drugs
Graphic depictions of violence, even in news videos
“Mature subjects” such as terrorism, war, crime, and political conflicts
“Though Restricted Mode will never be perfect, we hope to build on our progress so far to continue making our systems more accurate and the overall Restricted Mode experience better over time,” it said.
The Brain Tumour Charity has said there is insufficient scientific evidence linking mobile phone use with brain tumours, following a court ruling.
The Italian court, in Ivrea, agreed that a man’s brain tumour was linked to his mobile phone use.
It awarded Robert Romero 500 euros (£418/$535) a month in compensation.
He had claimed that using his business mobile phone for three or four hours a day, over a period of 15 years, led to the growth of the benign tumour.
The money will be paid by a body established to compensate people for work-based injuries.
There could yet be an appeal against the ruling, and the legal reasoning behind the judge’s decision is not due to be released for at least a few days.
“We know that many people are concerned about a possible connection between mobile phone use and the development of brain tumours,” said Dr David Jenkinson, chief scientific officer for the Brain Tumour Charity.
“However, the global research projects that have been conducted so far, involving hundreds of thousands of people, have found insufficient evidence that using a mobile phone increases the risk of developing a brain tumour.”
The decision of the court did not change the evidence, he added.
“Of course, it is right that researchers continue to explore whether any such link exists,” said Dr Jenkinson.
Mr Romero, whose profession was not reported, said he wanted people to be more aware about mobile phone use but did not want to “demonise” the devices.
His lawyer, Stefano Bertone from the law firm Ambrosio and Commodo, told the BBC his client currently has no plans to sue any of the handset manufacturers or the mobile phone industry itself.
He added that the firm has other cases in other parts of Italy.
“We have also been approached by an interesting number of people in the last 24 hours saying they have experienced the same kind of thing. And they can show they have accumulative use of mobile phones that’s exceeding 1,000 hours,” he said.
“No-one can pretend with definitive certainty to assess a legal case. Most opponents say there is no scientific certainty so therefore it is not true. That is not the case.”
Preliminary findings released in 2016 suggested a “low incidence” of brain and heart tumours in male rats exposed to doses of radiofrequency radiation totalling up to nine hours a day over a two-year period.
However, as it is not finished, the study has not yet been scrutinised by other scientists, a process known as peer reviewing, which is generally considered an essential stage of evaluating research.
Engineer Harry Huskey, who helped build many of the first ever computers, has died aged 101.
Dr Huskey was a key member of the team that built the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (Eniac) which first ran in February 1946.
Eniac is widely considered to be one of the first electronic, general purpose, programmable computers.
Dr Huskey also helped complete work on the Ace – the Automatic Computing Engine – designed by Alan Turing.
The Eniac was built at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1940s and, once complete, was more than 100ft (30m) long, weighed 30 tonnes, used 18,000 valves and 1,500 relays. Programming the massive machine to do different computational tasks involved rewiring its various units. Eniac was built to calculate the trajectory of shells for the US army.
Dr Huskey became involved with the development effort to create Eniac soon after joining Pennsylvania to teach mathematics to Naval recruits. His task was to make the punched card reader for the machine work and to write technical manuals describing how to operate it.
After the war, Dr Huskey travelled to the UK to help Alan Turing refine and complete the Ace. This was built at the National Physical Laboratory and in 1950, when it ran its first program, it was the fastest computer in the world.
He also helped design and build two other machines – the Swac (Standards Western Automatic Computer) and the G-15 which, despite weighing almost a tonne. was known as a personal computer because it could be operated by one person.
Dr Huskey spent his entire academic career involved with computing teaching at the University of California, Berkeley and was one of the founders of the computer science faculty at UC Santa Cruz.
“Harry basically lived through and participated in the entire span of the history of electronic computing,” Dag Spicer, a curator at the Computer History Museum, told the New York Times.
Mr Taylor studied psychology at university, but worked as an engineer at several aircraft companies and Nasa before joining the US Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Project Agency (Arpa) in 1965.
At the time, Arpa funded most of the country’s computer systems research.
In his role as the director of the organisation’s Information Processing Techniques Office, Mr Taylor wanted to address the fact different institutions were duplicating research on the limited number of computer mainframes available.
In particular, he wanted to make “timesharing” more efficient – the simultaneous use of each computer by multiple scientists using different terminals, who could share files and send messages to each other.
Mr Taylor was frustrated that the Pentagon could only communicate with three research institutions, whose timeshared computers it helped fund, by using three incompatible systems.
So, he proposed a scheme to connect all of Arpa’s sponsored bases together via a single network.
“I just decided that we were going to build a network that would connect these interactive communities into a larger community in such a way that a user of one community could connect to a distant community as though that user were on his local system,” he later recalled in an interview with the Charles Babbage Institute.
“Most of the people I talked to were not initially enamoured with the idea. I think some of the people saw it initially as an opportunity for someone else to come in and use their [computing cycles].”
Nevertheless, he was given $1m (£796,000) to pursue the project.
And in 1968, a year before Arpanet was established, he co-authored a prescient paper with a colleague.
“In a few years, men will be able to communicate more effectively through a machine than face to face,” it predicted.
“The programmed digital computer… can change the nature and value of communication even more profoundly than did the printing press and the picture tube, for, as we shall show, a well-programmed computer can provide direct access both to informational resources and to the processes for making use of the resources.”
Mr Taylor’s time at Arpa was also spent trying to see whether his country could make use of computer technology to solve logistics problems during the Vietnam war.
The White House had complained that it was getting conflicting reports about the number of enemies killed, bullets available and other details.
“The Army had one reporting system; the Navy had another; the Marine Corp had another,” Mr Taylor later recalled.
“It was clear that not all of these reports could be true.
“I think one specific example was that if the amount of sugar reported captured were true we would have cornered two-thirds of the world’s sugar supply, or something like that. It was ridiculous.”
His efforts led to a uniform method of data collection and the use of a computer centre at an air force base to collate it.
“After that the White House got a single report rather than several,” Mr Taylor said.
“That pleased them; whether the data was any more correct or not, I don’t know, but at least it was more consistent.”
Apple and Microsoft
Once Arpanet was up and running in 1969, Mr Taylor left the Pentagon and the following year he founded the Computer Science Laboratory of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (Xerox Parc).
There his team built Alto – a personal computer that claims several firsts. It was networked, controlled by a ball-driven mouse and used a graphical user interface (Gui).
Steve Jobs and others from Apple were given an early look, and it went on to inspire them to create the Apple Lisa and later the Apple Mac.
Its software included Bravo – a what-you-see-is-what-you-get word processor. Its primary developer, Charles Simonyi, later joined Microsoft where he created Word.
Despite their achievements, Mr Taylor became frustrated with Xerox’s failure to capitalise on his team’s work and quit in 1983.
Google has promised to allow rivals’ search engines and apps to be pre-installed on phones running its versions of Android in Russia.
The concession follows an out-of-court deal with the country’s competition watchdog.
In addition, Google has promised to develop a tool to make it easy for users to change their device’s default search engine.
Shares in Google’s local Russian rival, Yandex, rose more than 7% on the news.
It brings to an end a long-running battle between the US firm and Russia’s competition regulator, the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS).
Google had argued the regulator had no case because manufacturers could develop their own versions of Android or pre-install other apps of their choice.
But the FAS had argued that, despite its denials, Google was indeed “prohibiting” rival software to its own YouTube, Maps and Photos apps to be pre-installed alongside its own dominant version of Android.
The agency became involved after Yandex filed a complaint in February 2015.
Despite the nature of the settlement, Google will still have to pay a 438m rouble ($7.8; £6.2m) fine imposed after it failed to appeal the case last August.
“We are happy to have reached a commercial agreement with Yandex and a settlement with Russia’s competition regulator, the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS), resolving the competition case over the distribution of Google apps on Android,” a spokeswoman for Google told the BBC.
Yandex’s chief executive Arkady Volozh declared the settlement “an important day for Russian consumers”.
“I am thankful to the Federal Antimonopoly Service for applying the law in a manner that effectively and efficiently restores competition to the market for the benefit of Russian users, as competition always breeds innovation,” he added.
The EU continues to pursue similar claims against Google, saying the firm is “requiring and incentivising” Android hardware manufacturers to exclusively use its services.
In the US, the firm added a third fewer new members than the same period a year ago, while overseas members fell 22%.
Netflix blamed the drop partly on shifting some of its popular shows to the second quarter of the year.
The firm said its House of Cards series, which last year debuted in the first quarter but for this year has been pushed into the second quarter, was the main reason for the lower-than-expected subscriber growth.
Netflix said it still expected to add 8.15 million new members in total for the first half of the year, just below the 8.42 it added in the first half of last year.
By this weekend, the firm said it expected to reach 100 million subscribers globally.
“It’s a good start,” said chief executive Reed Hastings.
He said that the growth of the global internet meant the opportunity for the firm was still “gigantic”, and said the firm planned to continue investing in films and shows aimed at increasing its membership.
“We have come to see these quarterly variances as mostly noise in the long-term growth trend and adoption of internet TV,” he added.
Analysis by Dave Lee, BBC North America technology reporter, San Francisco
As ever, Wall Street is obsessed with user growth above almost any other metric a technology company can offer.
Netflix didn’t add as many new users in the last quarter as investors had been expecting, both in the US and internationally.
Aggressive marketing is still a huge part of Netflix’s expenditure – $1bn expected this year – so it shows those new subscribers really aren’t coming easy.
But I think things will probably improve this year with the roll-out of the new seasons of House of Cards and Stranger Things, both blockbuster shows that represent the very best of their “Originals” brand.
The firm increased revenues by over a third to $2.64bn for the quarter compared to the first three months of last year, while net income rose to $178m from $28m.
Its shares fell in after-hours trading, dropping 3% with investors disappointed by the slower-than-expected growth.
Netflix said it would continue to focus on original programming, aiming to “please diverse tastes with a wide breadth of content”.
The company started making its own shows in 2013, with House of Cards one of its first big hits and Stranger Things more recently. Netflix plans to spend more on original content this year and reduce outlays on licensed material such as movies.
Christophe Deschamps was watching a basketball game with his wife and three children when he received an alert on his smartphone.
The home security system told him something was wrong, so he quickly accessed the video feed on his phone.
“I could see smoke,” he says. Their home, in the Wallonia region of southern Belgium, was on fire.
The family’s thoughts immediately turned to their two Bernese Mountain dogs – Lisbonne and Hawaii – locked in the garage. A terrible family tragedy was threatening to unfold.
The video images now showed the smoke getting thicker and brightness coming from flames off-camera.
The fire alarm had already alerted the firefighters, so the Deschamps family rushed home as quickly as they could.
“It was more important for us to save the dogs than the house,” says Christophe. “My wife was crying and panicking, thinking the dogs could die.”
Fortunately, Lisbonne and Hawaii were saved with just 20cm of air left to breathe above the floor of the smoke-filled garage. But the fire damage to the house took six months to repair.
The dogs’ lucky escape was due to the indoor security camera Christophe had installed.
The smart camera, made by Netatmo, sends alerts when it hears an alarm – whether smoke, carbon monoxide or security – and automatically starts recording.
It is also one of the first smart home cameras featuring face recognition technology capable of distinguishing between people it knows and strangers.
Parents working late can receive alerts when their kids arrive home, for example, and will receive an “unknown face seen” alert if someone breaks in.
The French company says evidence collected by its smart cameras has led to the successful prosecution of burglars.
The connected home security market is expanding fast, with companies such as Withings, Nest, D-Link, Netgear, Philips, Panasonic – not to mention the tech behemoths Apple, Amazon and Samsung – all offering an expanding array of internet-connected smart gadgets, from thermostats to motion-sensitive cameras with infrared and audio capability.
“We put the connected home security market at 95.4 million unit sales in 2016,” says Francesco Radicati, a technology specialist at consultancy Ovum.
“Service providers, such as Qivicon, AT&T Digital Life, and Vivint Smart Home, are selling device multi-packs including multiple sensors, and these are proving very popular.
“We estimate the market will grow to 744 million devices sold in 2021.”
Innovations are coming on to the market thick and fast.
For example, connected light bulb firm LIFX has produced a version that can beam infrared light outdoors, enabling a compatible security camera, such as the Nest Cam Outdoor, to see better in the dark.
The key innovation, however, has been the integration of the smartphone into such connected networks, giving users remote control wherever they have an internet connection.
But aren’t all these security cameras intrusive and even a little voyeuristic?
Netatmo has addressed this issue by making its Welcome camera programmable, so you can disable recording for individuals you specify. And most camera systems can be disabled remotely.
It isn’t just our homes that technology is helping keep safe.
Cars are also a common target for thieves. This is why Matej Persolja, 33, founded CarLock, a company based in Nova Gorica, Slovenia, and San Francisco in the US.
CarLock’s system plugs into a vehicle’s onboard diagnostics port and sends an alarm to your phone if your vehicle is moved, the engine starts, it detects unusual vibration, or if the gadget is disconnected.
Mr Persolja started the business after thinking his car had been stolen. It turned out his car had only been moved to make way for construction work taking place in the area.
“Before I learned that, I was almost certain my car had been stolen and I still remember that awful feeling,” he says.
The CarLock system enables owners to track the location of their car if it has been stolen and also acts like a telematics box recording driving behaviour and the general health of the engine.
And there are a growing number of remote control apps for cars on the market.
Viper’s SmartStart app – currently only available in the US and Canada – enables you to start your car, lock and unlock it, and track its movements remotely using your smartphone.
Remote starting is useful for de-icing your car in the mornings while you get ready for work and have breakfast. Even if someone sees the car running and a thief smashes a window to steal it, the physical key is still needed to drive the car off.
You can also keep an eye on your kids’ driving habits and receive an alert if they take the car beyond a geographical point that you specify.
Ford is even integrating Amazon’s Alexa voice-activated software into its cars, enabling drivers to remotely start their cars with a voice command and personal identification number.
For more than two thousand years people have believed that joint pain could be triggered by bad weather, but the link has never been proven.
But now, by harnessing the power of thousands of volunteers, doctors hope to unravel the mystery. And the new technique could offer countless solutions to a whole host of ailments.
“I’m always in pain, 24/7,” says Becky Mason, sitting at home on her sofa in Alsager near Manchester.
Like millions of people around the world she suffers from pains in her muscles and stiffness in her joints.
“I know, if it’s going to be a very damp cold day, it’s likely that my pain is going to be worse.”
She has discussed it with her GP and has always wondered if there really is a link between her pain and the weather.
Becky isn’t alone. The link between joint pain and bad weather has long been suspected by patients and medical professionals alike and the theory dates back at least to Roman times and possible earlier.
“Is it an old wives tale? Am I imagining it?” she asks.
It’s a question she finally hopes to answer, not by visiting a hospital or undergoing tests, but simply by using her smartphone.
Each day she enters information about how she feels into an app on her phone, the phone’s GPS pinpoints her location, pulls the latest weather information from the internet, and fires a package of data to a team of researchers.
On its own Becky’s data is of limited interest, but she isn’t acting alone. More than 13,000 volunteers have signed up for the same study, sending vast quantities of information into a database – more than four million data points so far.
The app, called “Cloudy with a Chance of Pain” is part of a research project being run by Will Dixon. He is a consultant rheumatologist at Salford Royal Hospital and has spent years researching joint pain.
“At almost every clinic I run, one or more patients will tell me that their joint pains are better or worse because of the weather” he says, but until now he has never had the means of collecting enough data to find a conclusive answer.
Which is perhaps a good point to explain Will Dixon’s other job title – Professor of Digital Epidemiology.
Traditional epidemiologists study health and disease in particular populations. Usually it means collecting data in person – asking patients to visit you, or heading out into the field. ‘Shoe leather epidemiology’, it is sometimes called.
But digital epidemiology allows patients to send detailed information over the internet – which means they can do it more regularly, and of course you can get many more people to take part, thousands more; numbers that would be unthinkable using the old methods.
By combing through that data, Professor Dixon hopes it will be possible to find correlations and clues that would have been hidden to doctors just a decade ago. His team will analyse the data over the coming year, and hope to find a definitive answer to the question.
World Hacks is a new BBC team looking at global problems.
The technique isn’t just limited to arthritis research.
Another study underway in the US has recruited more than 20,000 participants using an app that asks them to say “ahhhhhhh” into their phone.
Named mPower, and built using technology developed by British academic Max Little, the project hopes to find out more about the onset and progression of Parkinson’s disease. If the “ahhhhhhh” sound is smooth and unbroken, it has likely come from a healthy patient. But if it breaks and wavers, it could suggest that the patient may have Parkinson’s.
By monitoring the precise pattern and pitch of the noise, it may even be possible to determine how advanced the disease has become, or how strongly its symptoms are being felt at a given moment. Using that information, it could allow patients to take much more specific doses of a drug to help manage the disease. The software is even being used in a clinical trial for a new drug.
And again, it is the accumulation of vast amounts of data, volunteered by thousands of participants, that is making the study possible.
Another app, soon to be launched, will allow users to photograph their plate of food, and use artificial intelligence to work out what’s on the plate. The technology could help people determine the nutritional content of their meal, and allow public health bodies to track how well any particular population is eating.
It is being developed by Marcel Salathe, also a Professor of Digital Epidemiology and founder of what is likely the world’s first lab dedicated to the field of study.
He thinks the discipline could have particular benefits in parts of the world where basic medical infrastructure is lacking, but lots of people have smart-phones. Digital epidemiology could become the reporting network through which sickness outbreaks are initially detected, he says.
But vast amounts of data don’t come without their own unique set of difficulties, he warns.
“The data can be extremely noisy,” he explains. “Dealing with very large data sets and finding a needle in the haystack is very challenging from a technical perspective.”
Perhaps the most interesting part of this new technique is the motivation of the people donating their data.
‘Cloudy with a Chance of Pain’ may never reap rewards for Becky herself, yet she seems quite happy to spend her time putting her data into a smartphone app and then sending this off to a remote location.
“When you’re in pain all the time, it’s easy to get low,” she says “I’m at home and I can’t work which makes me feel useless. But [with this app] I can still be helpful, and that’s so powerful in my tiny little world, it helps me in a massive way.”
Listen to BBC World Hacks on the World Service or listen back on the iPlayer.
Police have asked residents of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania to be on the alert, saying suspect could be anywhere.
Cleveland police department have issued a photo of Mr Stephens, 37, on its website, describing him as a black male, 6ft 1in (1.86m) and 244lb (110kg).
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams told reporters on Monday that Mr Stephens, who has a licence to carry a concealed firearm, is armed “without a doubt”.
Cleveland officials have also offered a $50,000 (£39,805) reward for information that leads to his location.
His mobile phone signal was last tracked on Sunday afternoon in Erie, Pennsylvania.
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said in a press conference on Monday morning: “Steve is still out there some place… we’re still asking Steve to turn himself in, but if he doesn’t we’ll find him.”
FBI Special Agent Stephen Anthony said: “Quite frankly, he could be in a lot of places.”
US Marshall Peter Elliot said law enforcement agencies across the US were helping create a dragnet to “make this individual’s world very, very, very small”.
Investigators said Mr Stephens’ boast about other killings was still not verified.
Police say the victim in Sunday’s graphic video appeared to have been selected at random.
The suspect approaches Mr Godwin and asks him to say the name of a woman believed to be the gunman’s former girlfriend, before shooting him in the head.
“Can you do me a favour?” asks the gunman. “Can you say Joy Lane?”
The victim says: “Joy Lane.”
Mr Stephen says: “Yeah, she’s the reason why all this about to happen to you. How old are you?”
The grandfather and father of nine appears to try to shield himself by holding up a plastic bag.
The woman, Joy Lane, confirmed to CBS News that she and Mr Stephen had been in a “relationship for several years”.
“I am sorry that all of this has happened. My heart & prayers goes out to the family members of the victim(s). Steve really is a nice guy… he is generous with everyone he knows.
“He was kind and loving to me and my children,” she wrote in a text message.
Maggie Green, the suspect’s mother, told CNN that he was “mad with his girlfriend. That’s why he is shooting people and he won’t stop until his mother or girlfriend tell him to stop.”
Mr Stephens is employed by Beech Brook, a children’s behavioural health agency, according to a company spokesman.
Scotland’s remote St Kilda archipelago has been digitally recreated in video game Minecraft.
Games company ImmersiveMinds spent more than 125 hours and used more than three million virtual bricks on the 1:1 scale map of the islands.
St Kilda lies about 40 miles (64km) west of North Uist, the nearest inhabited place to the archipelago.
The last islanders left the main island of Hirta in 1930 after life there became unsustainable.
People only now live on Hirta on a temporary basis to work at the military site, or on wildlife conservation projects.
The Minecraft version of St Kilda has been made to help mark Tuesday’s World Heritage Day.
The map is available for public download to allow gamers all over the world to explore the archipelago’s history, heritage, stories, people and landscapes.
Nick Smith, heritage manager at Western Isles’ local authority Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said: “This is a really exciting way to use technology so that people can discover a remote and difficult to access place.”
The team from ImmersiveMinds worked closely with Jonathan Wordsworth, the St Kilda archaeologist with The National Trust for Scotland, to ensure that this digital world is as accurate as possible.
The virtual build features abandoned blackhouses, boats and underground structures called souterrains.
Robotic vacuums specialist iRobot is suing Hoover and Black & Decker among others over claims they used its technologies without permission.
The Massachusetts-based company cites a variety of patents in its legal filings, including misuse of its obstacle-detection system, brush designs and navigation controls.
It is seeking financial compensation and the right to block further use of its tech.
Most of the firms have yet to respond.
iRobot began selling robot vacuums under the Roomba brand in 2002 and says it has sold more than 15 million units to date.
“The filing of this litigation signals our commitment to protecting our investments,” a spokesman said.
“iRobot will not stand by while others offer products that infringe on our intellectual property.”
Hoover launched its first robo-vacuum – the Quest 1000 – last year, while Black & Decker only unveiled its Smartech robot range at the CES trade show in January, and has yet to put them on sale.
Others being sued include:
Shenzhen Silver Star Intelligent Technology – a Chinese firm that manufactures the robot vacuums sold by Hoover and Black & Decker
Bobsweep – a Canadian robot vacuum-maker
Bissell Homecare – a US vacuum cleaner and carpet products firm
Suzhou Real power – a Chinese company that makes replacement parts for Hoover
“We find it interesting that in face of falling behind technologically, and losing market share year over year, the last strategy [iRobot] resorted to was steering the competition away from branding, tech innovation, and customer satisfaction, and directing it towards courts, intimidation and litigation,” said Bobsweep in a statement.
“Not only will we defend Bobi and win, but we will continue to take the lead from those who try to compensate for their stagnation with a legal spree.”
This is not the first time iRobot has gone to the courts over an intellectual property dispute.
The operators of proposed satellite mega-constellations can greatly mitigate the risk of future collisions by rapidly de-orbiting their spacecraft at the end of service.
On the other hand, doing only the bare minimum required by international “clean space” guidelines could significantly endanger the environment.
This is the take-home from a new study led from Southampton University, UK.
It urges operators to dispose of old satellites within five years.
At the moment, best practice just calls for redundant hardware to come out of the sky within 25 years.
There is increasing concern about the growth in space debris, or junk.
Sixty years of orbital activity have littered the sky with millions of objects, ranging in size from flecks of paint to old rocket stages. These now pose a threat to current and future missions, particularly as the skies are set to get even busier.
‘Better than best’
A number of companies, including OneWeb, Boeing, SpaceX and Samsung, are developing projects to launch thousands of satellites to deliver broadband and other telecoms services across the entire globe.
New high-volume spacecraft manufacturing techniques and lower rocket prices are set to transform this business sector.
Operators are expected to start deploying their constellations from next year, to altitudes just above 1,000km.
In their modelling study, Southampton’s Dr Hugh Lewis and colleagues put a “synthetic”, or representative, 1,000-satellite constellation into the current orbital climate, and then simulated the possible outcomes over the next 200 years.
The study showed that even with high compliance to current “rules”, the number of catastrophic collisions over the period could increase by about 50% if old practices are maintained.
Dr Lewis told BBC News: “What we found was that when you put the constellation satellites on to a disposal orbit, they intersect with objects below them. And if they take 25 years to pass through those lower altitudes, there is a good chance that they will have collisions with objects in the background population on the way down. But by reducing the 25 years to five years, you greatly minimise the chances of those interactions taking place.”
The likes of OneWeb has promised robust end-of-life clean-up of its spacecraft, adhering to the five-year suggestion, and aiming for no more than two years.
OneWeb goes further by wanting to incorporate more fuel in its satellites for manoeuvring, and a grapple fixture on all platforms to enable forced removal by a servicing vehicle if normal de-orbiting were to fail for some reason.
Airbus Defence and Space, which is making the spacecraft for the OneWeb constellation, was part of the Southampton-led study.
Dr Lewis pointed to additional factors that would benefit the environment.
These included making spacecraft smaller and lighter so that if they are involved in an impact, it will be a lower energy event that produces fewer fragments.
Another key factor would be to ensure high reliability in the spacecraft by designing in multiple redundant systems.
The best outcome calls for at least 95% of satellites to execute their disposal successfully. This will not happen if the satellites are prone to fail in orbit.
“If we have a 95% success rate in post-mission disposal, and the lifetimes of these disposal orbits are very short, then we end up with about 40-45 catastrophic collisions (over 200 years in the general satellite population),” he explained.
“In the ‘reference population’ (ie without a mega constellation), we get 37-38 catastrophic collisions. So, you can see how we can bring things back in terms of the impacts on the environment. But even at 85% compliance with post-mission disposal, we almost double the number of catastrophic collisions, we double the number of objects we see in the environment.”
Dr Holger Krag, who heads the Space Debris Office at Esa, said the mega-constellation proposals now coming from satellite operators had to improve on the industry’s past performance.
“Spacefarers of today already fail to implement mitigation measures to a sufficient level,” he told the conference. “My office regularly monitors space surveillance data in order to form statistics on how well we behave globally. One example is for post-mission disposal to remove spacecraft (from low-Earth orbit) in order to avoid long-term presence in space after the mission. Forty percent of all missions fail to implement this today.”
In 1978, Dr Don Kessler, then a US space agency (Nasa) scientist, postulated a scenario in which collisions could eventually lead to a cascade of debris that made certain orbits inoperable.
At the Darmstadt conference, he reported on new research that revealed more than 10% of satellites in a sizeable sample had experienced sudden, unexpected momentum changes.
These, Dr Kessler said, were likely caused by the impacts of small particles – of the kind that hit the solar array of Europe’s Sentinel-1A radar satellite last year.
Facebook’s chief has paid his respects to the family of a man whose killing was filmed and posted onto its site.
“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Robert Godwin Sr,” said Mark Zuckerberg near the start of Facebook’s annual F8 developers conference.
His social network had been criticised over the amount of time it had taken to take the clip offline.
About an hour before the event got underway, police had revealed that the murder suspect had killed himself.
Steve Stephens had been the subject of a national manhunt.
He was believed to have uploaded a video to Facebook showing his killing of 74-year-old Mr Godwin in Cleveland on Sunday and then boasting on subsequent Facebook Live streams that he had killed others.
Facebook subsequently acknowledged it had taken it more than two hours to remove the clips after the first video was posted, despite it having received complaints in the interim.
“We have a lot of work and we will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening,” added Mr Zuckerberg.
What was reported when
11:09AM PDT (19:09 GMT) – first video, of intent to murder, uploaded. Not reported to Facebook.
11:11AM PDT – second video, of shooting, uploaded.
11:22AM PDT – suspect confesses to murder while using Live, is live for 5 minutes.
11:27AM PDT – Live ends, and Live video is first reported shortly after.
12:59PM PDT – video of shooting is first reported.
1:22PM PDT – suspect’s account disabled; all videos no longer visible to public.
Cleveland’s police chief had referred to Facebook’s role in a separate press conference.
“I think the people on social media kind of know the power and I think they know the harm it can do,” said Calvin Williams.
“We’ve talked before about people not living their lives on social media and being truthful on social media and not harming people via social media.
“And this is a prime example, this is something that should not have been shared around the world. Period.”
One analyst attending F8 said it was no surprise Mr Zuckerberg had felt compelled to discuss the matter.
“Obviously this is something they have to get on top of with some urgency, but it’s an extraordinarily difficult problem,” commented Geoff Blaber from the CCS Insight tech consultancy.
“What Facebook has at its disposal is a enormous amount of talent and a very big emphasis on artificial intelligence, and I think that will be how it deals with this in the long-term.
“AI holds the key to shortening the time required to flag and remove offensive and inappropriate material amidst the endless growth of user content.”
Augmented reality future
Mr Zuckerberg went on to introduce new plans to include augmented reality experiences in Facebook apps, such as Messenger.
He suggested that, in the near future, it would be far more common to place digital objects in video and live streams viewed on mobile phones.
Animated artworks could be made visible at a particular physical location, for example, via the camera view of an app.
“Augmented reality is going to help us mix the digital and physical in all new ways,” he said.
“That’s going to help us make our physical reality better.”
Chinese internet giant Baidu has said it will share much of the technology it has created for its self-driving cars.
The firm predicted that the move would help drive the development of autonomous vehicles.
Called Apollo, the project will make a range of software, hardware and data services available to others, especially carmakers.
Other firms in the sector, such as Tesla and Google, have tended to keep key developments secret.
Baidu, often described as China’s Google, has been developing self-drive vehicles since 2015.
Making the announcement ahead of the Shanghai Auto Show, it said technologies for use in restricted test environments would be available as soon July.
There will then be a gradual roll-out of other technology, with an aim to offer its full range of developments to support self-driving for highways and city roads by 2020.
In a statement, Baidu’s group president Qi Lu said it wanted to create a “collaborative ecosystem” using its strengths in artificial intelligence (AI) to “encourage greater innovation and opportunities, making better use of our technology to drive the evolution of the entire industry”.
What’s in it for Baidu?
This move could be likened to Google’s decision to release Android, the free operating system for smartphones, says James Chao of IHS Markit.
Even though it was free to use, it became a success for Google because it drives users to the company’s various mobile apps and services.
By becoming the supplier of the “brains” for more cars than just the ones it makes itself, there are clear benefits. One is potential revenue from carmakers in the long term.
And what is also crucial to the development of self-driving vehicles is data. The more cars using its technology, the more data it should be able to harvest.
“It really sounds like they want to treat this like a smartphone platform,” Mr Chao said. “The holy grail for software in cars is to become the Android or iOS that everyone is using, and this is their strategy to do that.”
Who is likely to want to use this tech?
Baidu’s statement alludes to opportunities in the US, but also in its home market.
“China is the world’s largest market for automotive sales and production. It has many car brands and an open environment that is ripe for collaboration,” group president Qi Lu said.
Analyst Mr Chao agrees. “I can think of at least 20 Chinese carmakers who would be perfect candidates,” he told the BBC.
“They don’t have huge research budgets or the resources to figure out how to make self-driving vehicles themselves.
“These are firms that tend to rely on suppliers so they can build a car and so this fits in perfectly for them.”
He said this could mean that Baidu’s technology will be used in millions of cars on China’s roads by 2020.
However, bigger international carmakers who are already working on autonomous vehicles are unlikely to follow suit.
How advanced is Baidu’s driverless car technology?
Motivated by the widespread pollution problems, Beijing has pushed for more electric vehicles and Chinese carmakers have responded significantly.
And in the race for driverless car technology, Chinese companies are taking big strides. Along with Changan and Geely, Baidu is one of the big players, with AI research being done in both China and Silicon Valley.
But it is not clear how the software and hardware Baidu has developed compares with that of its rivals. Some analysts say it has done less testing, and therefore has less data to work with, than Google and Tesla.
Malaysia Airlines has become the first carrier to sign up to a new satellite flight tracking system for its fleet.
It comes three years after its MH370 flight bound for Beijing disappeared with 239 people on board.
Using a soon-to-be-launched satellite network, the airline will be able to monitor its planes in areas where there is currently no surveillance.
They include polar regions and remote areas of oceans not covered by existing systems.
The airline reached a deal for the service provided by US-based Aireon, FlightAware and SITAONAIR.
The new system can also provide more regular updates on a plane’s location, especially when travelling over oceans and other remote areas, said SITAONAIR’s portfolio director Paul Gibson.
Aircrafts deviating from a flight path could be identified more quickly as a result, he said.
“With access to up-to-the-minute reporting, Malaysia Airlines will know the location, heading, speed and altitude of all aircraft in its fleet, at all times, and be alerted to any exceptions.”
But it is unclear if the additional tracking ability would have had any impact on the MH370 disappearance.
All tracking systems monitor a plane’s location using its on-board transmitter. When the Kuala Lumpur-Beijing flight vanished in March 2014, the transmitter signal was lost, with some suspicions it was done deliberately.
Most flights currently transmit their position using signals tracked from both the ground and space.
The new service, available in 2018, will add to that coverage, using the Iridium NEXT satellite constellation which was launched earlier this year.
The fate of MH370 remains one of the world’s greatest aviation mystery. More than 120,000 sq km (46,300 miles) of the Indian Ocean has been searched with no sign of the aircraft.
Some pieces of debris have been found on African islands including Madagascar.
The deep-water search for the flight was called off earlier this year.
Malaysian Airlines has been trying to win back customers’ confidence, by offering travel discounts and flight promotions.
The carrier’s chief operating officer, Izham Ismail, said the firm was “proud” to be the first airline to sign up for the system.
Nearly half (46%) of British businesses discovered at least one cybersecurity breach or attack in the past year, a government survey has indicated.
That proportion rose to two-thirds among medium and large companies.
Most often, these breaches involved fraudulent emails being sent to staff or security issues relating to viruses, spyware or malware.
The survey was completed by 1,500 UK businesses and included 30 in-depth interviews.
The government said a “sizeable proportion” of the businesses still did not have “basic protections” in place.
While many had enacted rudimentary technical controls, only one-third had a formal policy covering cybersecurity risks.
Less than a third (29%) had assigned a specific board member to be responsible for cybersecurity.
Businesses’ susceptibility to cyber-attacks was a known issue, noted Prof Andrew Martin at the University of Oxford.
“A lot of businesses have responded to the problem with a box-ticking exercise or by paying an expensive consultant to make them feel better – it’s far from clear that what people are doing is protecting them very well,” he told the BBC.
He added it remained difficult for most people to distinguish malicious emails or websites from safe ones.
“It’s all very well to say don’t open emails from an unknown source – but most of us couldn’t do business if [we] didn’t do that,” he added.
The government’s survey indicates, however, that fewer businesses in 2017 consider cybersecurity to be of “very low priority”. It said 74% now agreed it was a high priority issue for senior management.
The report also highlighted some unusual cybersecurity cases.
It said a large materials supplier for the construction industry faced “significant and ongoing” attacks, despite not having any e-commerce activities of its own.
“This included over 3,000 phishing emails a month and various ransomware attacks,” the report noted.
Phishing is a form of cyber-attack in which emails with malicious links or attachments are disguised as genuine.
The most damaging case of ransomware at the firm in question caused its IT team to lose “around two weeks” of productivity.
Since then, the business has reviewed its cybersecurity policies.
Unwired Planet had sought $33m (£25.7m) and a cut of iPhone and iPad sales, which it said made use of its tech.
The terms of the settlement have not been made public.
Apple had previously described the case – involving voice recognition and data transmission inventions – as being “frivolous”.
Nevada-based Unwired used to develop mobile software, when it was known as Openwave Systems, but no longer makes products of its own.
It acquired the rights to the inventions involved in the case from Ericsson in a controversial deal. Rather than purchase the technologies outright, Unwired instead agreed to share future revenues generated from the patents with the Swedish telecoms equipment-maker.
“Our ambition is to bring efficiency and fairness to patent licensing and create a marketplace where product manufacturers and innovators feel confident that high quality technology is available at a fair and reasonable price,” a spokeswoman for PanOptis Patent Management, which recently bought Unwired’s licensing business, told the BBC.
“Over the past nine months since we acquired the Unwired Planet patent portfolio, we have actively resolved a majority of the existing litigation that had been initiated by Unwired Planet, including suits involving Samsung, LG and Apple.”
Earlier this month, the firm scored a court victory over Huawei in London.
The Chinese company was ordered to pay a global fee for use of Unwired’s 4G patents or face a UK sales ban.
TalkTalk and BT have received the worst customer satisfaction scores in a survey of 12 broadband providers.
They scored 38% and 45% respectively with their customers, while Sky (48%) and EE (49%) came close behind them in the Which? survey of 1,800 people.
Frequent price rises, connections that drop, unreliable speeds and “woeful” customer service all contributed to the scores, the consumer group said.
The four account for almost three-quarters of the UK broadband market.
BT alone accounts for almost a third of the country’s broadband connections.
Zen Internet had the highest customer rating at 86% in the survey, followed by Utility Warehouse (81%), John Lewis Broadband (68%), SSE (66%) and Plusnet (65%)
Virgin Media (52%), Vodafone (50%) and the Post Office (48%) were also included.
Which? surveyed people about their broadband in November and December. The customer score is based on satisfaction levels with their provider and whether they would recommend it to others.
Those surveyed were also asked to evaluate aspects of the service, with five stars being the highest rating in seven categories, including speed, reliability and customer service.
BT scored just two stars in all seven categories, while TalkTalk also scored two stars in each except value for money, for which it got three stars.
Just four of the 12 providers scored more than three stars for speed: Zen Internet, Utility Warehouse, Virgin Media and Vodafone.
‘Long way to go’
Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home services, said: “The big players still have a long way to go to satisfy their customers, so if you’re unhappy with your broadband, complain and look to switch if your service doesn’t improve.”
A BT spokesperson said it was disappointed with the survey result and apologised to any customers who had been let down.
“Generally, our broadband performs extremely well for customers and offers very reliable speeds at peak times, according to the latest Ofcom broadband speeds report.”
A TalkTalk spokesperson said: “Our extensive improvement programme has already led to fewer faults, faster average speeds, shorter times to resolve issues and customers reporting higher satisfaction levels.”
Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, said last month that broadband customers who suffered poor service may get automatic refunds under new plans.
Its own survey suggested that 51% of broadband customers were “very satisfied” with their provider, with 36% fairly satisfied.
That meant a “significant” minority – 13% – experienced poor service, mostly due to slow speeds or loss of service, it said.
BT had the lowest score for “very satisfied” of the four providers in the Ofcom survey at 45%, followed by TalkTalk on 49%, Sky on 52% and Virgin Media on 55%.
Last month BT agreed to Ofcom demands to legally separate Openreach, which runs the UK’s broadband network, in a bid to give better service to both consumers and broadband providers.
Digital minister Matt Hancock said: “Too many people are suffering from poor customer service when things go wrong with their broadband.
“Getting a better deal for consumers is at the heart of our Digital Economy Bill, which strengthens Ofcom’s power to make sure providers pay automatic compensation when service falls short.”
The Federal Trade Commission targeted a sample of posts that either referenced a brand or directly endorsed products.
Its rules say that anyone endorsing a brand must “clearly and conspicuously” declare connections to it, for example if products have been given free, if a payment has been made for the endorsement or if there is a business or family relationship.
The rules apply to marketing agencies involved in such deals as well as the endorsers themselves.
The intervention was part-prompted by the advocacy group Public Citizen which carried out its own investigation last year, naming celebrities including Rihanna and Kim Kardashian among 113 influencers who it said endorsed a product without disclosure.
“Instagram has become a Wild West of disguised advertising, targeting young people and especially young women,” the group said.
“It is often unclear whether an Instagram user is paid to post a product endorsement or if they genuinely use it. That’s exactly why brands are using influencer marketing as a primary way to reach young consumers. But without clear disclosure, brands are deceiving consumers and reaping the monetary benefits.”
Points made by the regulator in the letters include:
Some disclosures which had been made were not clear enough. It said that “#sp,” (an abbreviation for sponsored), “Thanks [Brand],” or “#partner” in an Instagram post did not make it obvious to many people that a post was paid for.
Instagram users on smartphones typically see just the first three lines of text on a post, unless they expand it. Therefore disclosures should be made high up in the post.
When multiple tags, hashtags, or links are used, readers may just skip over them – meaning a disclosure may not be conspicuous.
The regulator did not give specific wording which should be used to make a disclosure but said that phrases such as “paid for” “Sponsored” and “Promotion” may help get that message across, as well as “#ad”.
In guidelines it also says “A simple disclosure like ‘Company X gave me this product to try…’ will usually be effective.”
Social media has become an increasingly important part of marketing campaigns for many brands around the world, especially those aimed at younger consumers.
Celebrities and others who have garnered huge followings on Instagram and other services are often part of advertising campaigns.
The FTC has previously taken action when its rules have been violated. Last year it reached a settlement with Warner Bros over claims the firm had not disclosed it had paid high profile YouTubers to give one of its video games positive reviews.
Instagram’s non-celebrity ‘influencers’
Aside from celebrities, there are countless “digital influencers” on social media, people who have risen to a celebrity-like status with millions of followers. On Instagram they include:
Fashion blogger Chiara Ferragni – 8.9 million followers
Fashion blogger Aimee Song – 4.5 million followers
Style blogger Julie Sarinana – 4.5 million followers
Photographer Brian DiFeo – 3 million followers
Photographer Liz Eswein – 1.3 million followers
The exact net worth or rate per post is hard to pin down, but be prepared to fork out several thousand dollars, or even tens of thousands, if you want your product featured in one of their Instagram posts.
A payment card featuring a fingerprint sensor has been unveiled by credit card provider Mastercard.
The rollout follows two successful trials in South Africa.
The technology works in the same way as it does with mobile phone payments: users must have their finger over the sensor when making a purchase.
Security experts have said that while using fingerprints is not foolproof, it is a “sensible” use of biometric technology.
Mastercard’s chief of safety and security, Ajay Bhalla, said that the fingerprint technology would help “to deliver additional convenience and security. It is not something that can be taken or replicated.”
Headphone maker Bose is being sued by a customer who claims the firm has gathered data about his listening habits without his permission.
Chicago resident Kyle Zak claims Bose’s app scoops up data which is then sold to firms use it to target adverts.
Mr Zak wants the court to grant an injunction that stops Bose grabbing data about audio preferences and is seeking $5m (£3.9m) in damages.
Bose has not yet responded to requests for comment about the legal action.
“People put headphones on their head because they think it’s private, but they can be giving out information they don’t want to share,” Christopher Dore, a lawyer representing Mr Zak, told the Reuters news agency.
Mr Dore works for law firm Edelson PC which specialises in cases revolving around data privacy.
Legal papers filed by Edelson said Mr Zak downloaded the Bose Connect app soon after buying a pair of QuietComfort 35 headphones. He provided basic information to sign up for the app that lets users control what they listen to via their smartphone.
Soon after, alleges the lawsuit, he noticed that it was logging far more data about his audio choices than he expected.
The suit claims that similar data is taken from users of other Bose gadgets including the SoundSport Wireless, Sound Sport Pulse Wireless, QuietControl 30, SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II, and SoundLink Color II.
Mr Dore said the sign-up process for the app gave no hint about how much data Bose gathered nor what it planned to do with it.
What people listened to gave an “incredible amount of insight” into someone’s personal life, religious and political views, he added.
Antigua and Barbuda
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Central African Republic
Congo, Democratic Republic of the
Congo, Republic of the
East Timor (see Timor-Leste)
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Sao Tome and Principe
Trinidad and Tobago
United Arab Emirates