The Week In Tech And Telco: The Future of Facial Recognition

Hello there, and happy Friday! Your weekly roundup of tech and telco is back after a break last week. To those of you who are already kicking back thanks to the long Fourth of July weekend, what better way to spend Friday morning than getting your fix of brain juice?

You may have noticed some bugs with the internet this week, with Cloudflare going down. Blame for the outages was originally put on a potential DDoS attack but it was later revealed that there was a firewall bug, which the company has now taken full responsibility for.

Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp also encountered some issues this week. Not a good time for big tech, eh?

Unreliable connectivity thus makes this roundup even more important; have you missed something because of the problems?

Well, read on.

A new subsea cable for Google

Google has announced Equiano, its third private subsea cable system.

Equiano will start in western Europe and run along the West Coast of Africa, between Portugal and South Africa, with branching units along the way to extend connectivity to African countries.

The first branch is expected to land in Nigeria. This new cable is fully funded by Google, making it the company’s third private international cable after Dunant and Curie.

Once completed, Equiano will be the first subsea cable to incorporate optical switching at the fiber-pair level, rather than the traditional approach of wavelength-level switching.

Amazon keeps your Alexa data indefinitely – and shares it

In a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in May, a US senator demanded answers on Alexa and how long it keeps voice recordings and transcripts, as well as what the data gets used for.

The letter follows reports that Amazon keeps transcripts of interactions with Alexa even after users delete their voice recordings.

Amazon's vice president of public policy, Brian Huseman, wrote back: Amazon keeps transcripts and voice recordings indefinitely, and only removes them if they're manually deleted by users.

Hi Alexa (Part I)
Amazon keeps transcripts and voice recordings indefinitely.

Security as a Service demand spikes

New research from Canalys’ Cybersecurity Analysis shows the market for cybersecurity solutions for public cloud and ‘as a service’ collectively grew 46% in the first quarter of this year.

These deployment models accounted for 17.6% of the total cybersecurity market, up from 13.8% from the same quarter the year before.

Virtual security appliances and agent solutions also grew, up 18.2% on an annual basis. Although established hardware and software deployments account for nearly 75% of the market, their growth rate is just 8%.

Canalys says this underlines the transition many organizations are making for cybersecurity as they seek to safeguard data assets and workloads hosted in the public cloud.

Security as a Service is on the rise. Photographer: Nathaniel Dahan

Visa deploys B2B blockchain-backed payments

Visa is shaking up its offering with a new global B2B payment system built upon blockchain.

The participant-based network enables organizations to make payments directly to the bank of the company they are paying, and is being built using Hyperledger Fabric framework from the Linux Foundation.

The software making up the system, known as Visa B2B Connect, gives organizations a unique digital identity on a network through tokenization.

Traditional B2B payments made by cheque, automated clearing house, and wire transfer require multiple exchanges of data between the origin bank, the beneficiary bank and non-partnering intermediary banks spread across the globe. However, due to the distributed nature of blockchain technology means payments can go directly to the recipient.

Visa is offering blockchain-backed transactions to B2B customers. Photographer: Web Hosting

London’s facial recognition tech is wrong 80% of the time

The first independent report into the Metropolitan Police’s use of face recognition warned it is “highly possible" the system would be ruled unlawful if challenged in court, due to the technology wrongly identifying suspects 81% of the time.

The University of Essex, who was commissioned to independently assess the scheme, found that of 42 matches, only eight were confirmed to be correct.

However, the Met police maintain its technology only makes a mistake in one in 1,000 cases - but it uses a different measurement to arrive at this conclusion.

The report raises "significant concerns" about Scotland Yard's use of the technology, and calls for the facial recognition program to be halted.

Met Police's facial recognition tech has '81% error rate'

Do you still have time?

  • Liquid solutions containing sugars, amino acids, and other small molecules could replace hard drives. Molecular storage could make it possible to store large amounts of data offline, rather than in the cloud, providing protection from hacking. (New Scientist)
  • California became the first state in the US to try to reduce the power of bots. They must now reveal their “artificial identity” when they are used to sell a product or influence a voter. Violators could face fines related to unfair competition. (New Yorker)
  • Turning on its network at London’s Sky Garden, Vodafone’s 5G network is now live in seven UK cities including London, Birmingham, and Manchester. The telecom company also announced unlimited data plans for customers at the same price as current 4G data plans, which it hopes to establish as an industry standard for 5G. (Computer World)
  • Email is still a big cybersecurity risk, with 94% of organizations surveyed admitting that it is still the top security vulnerability. Email threats are expected to increase in the coming year, according to 87% of the 280 decision-makers in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. (Computer Weekly)
  • Bitcoin consumes more energy than Switzerland, according to a new estimate by researchers at the University of Cambridge. That’s as much energy as all the tea kettles in the UK uses over 11 years. (The Verge)
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