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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 29th Jun 2016

A 16-year-old British boy has admitted launching cyber attacks on websites around the world.

The defendant, who cannot be named due to his age, admitted targeting Florida's SeaWorld theme park and Devon and Cornwall Police in the attacks.

The teenager, from Plymouth, pleaded guilty at the city's youth court to three offences, committed between October 2014 and January 2015.
He has denied two charges of sending bomb hoaxes to US airlines via Twitter.
The boy admitted targeting SeaWorld's website in the cyber attacks

The defendant admitted three offences under Section 3 of the Computer Misuse Act, relating to denial of service attacks.
"A large part of the websites that I had taken down were to do with dolphin hunting," the boy told the court.
"I have always been for animal rights and I am really into computers and things so I thought, in protest, and to see what I could do, I would do it.
"I joined up with other people who were doing it. I was fighting for animal rights."
Prosecuting, Ben Samples told the court American Airlines received a threat allegedly made by the boy on Twitter on 13 February 2015.
He said the tweet read: "One of those lovely Boeing airplanes has a tick, tick, ticking in it. Hurry gentlemen, the clock is ticking."

FBI notified
The tweet was also tagged to the White House Twitter account and the FBI was notified, Mr Samples said.
No action was taken by the US authorities following an assessment of the credibility of the threat and the matter was passed to the UK authorities, the court heard.
A similar tweet was also sent to Delta Air Lines on the same day, Mr Samples said.
The boy has denied two counts of sending bomb hoaxes to Delta Air Lines and American Airlines
Investigators from the Zephyr Regional Cyber Crime Unit traced the threats to the twitter account of the boy and seized his computer, the court heard.
The prosecution said the boy had changed his story about whether he sent the tweets during police interview, before finally denying the charges.

A twitter account used by the boy later tweeted the Zephyr Regional Cyber Crime Unit, saying "to be fair they caught me red handed" and "I still maintain the utmost respect for Zephyr", Mr Samples said.
The teenager was charged with the five offences in November following the investigation.
He has admitted three counts of doing an act to hinder access to a programme or data held in a computer.
Judge Diane Baker has retired to consider her verdict in the case and judgement is due next Wednesday.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 28th Jun 2016

Microsoft has agreed to pay a Californian woman $10,000 (£7,500) after an automatic Windows 10 update left her computer unusable.

Teri Goldstein said her Windows 7 computer had automatically tried to update itself to Windows 10 without her permission.
She said the update had made her machine unstable, leaving her unable to use it to run her business.
Microsoft said it had dropped its appeal to save on legal costs.
Microsoft has been aggressively pushing the latest version of its widely used operating system, which is currently available as a free download for computers running Windows 7 and 8.
However, many people have chosen not to upgrade, because they are running old hardware, have software that does not run on Windows 10, are concerned over the software's tracking features, or simply do not want it.
In February, the company bundled Windows 10 in with its security updates and made it a "recommended update", which meant it was automatically downloaded and installed unless blocked by the user.
Some people accused the company of trying to "trick" customers into installing the update.
The Seattle Times reported that Ms Goldstein's computer had "slowed to a crawl" after the update, and Microsoft customer support had not fixed the problem.
"I had never heard of Windows 10. Nobody ever asked me if I wanted to update," she told the newspaper.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 28th Jun 2016

Beware, Zuckerberg is watching you…​

You know the drill – if a service like Facebook is free, then you're the product. That means letting it know everything about you, including your age, job, friends, family members, tastes and quirks. But Facebook is taking it a step further, and keeping tabs on not only these, but all your activity too.

How? Have a read and find out. Though a word of warning: it might put you off social networking for good.


Make no mistake, Facebook is – mostly – a very sophisticated way of selling advertising. But in recent years, doubts have begun to emerge as to how effective it is at translating ads into actual sales. Now Facebook is trying to prove its worth, but in a rather creepy way.

Starting soon, the social network will use its location-based services feature to monitor which shops you visit. That way, it can show advertisers that so many people who saw their ad ended up going to one of their bricks-and-mortar shops. Bully for them. But it's all a bit Big Brother-ish for our liking.


Obviously Facebook knows a ton of information about you, like your age, where you live, where you went to school, and anything else you've put on your profile. But it also harvests data on your other web activity, like online searches and information you share with retailers.

Facebook claims it's all in order to serve users more relevant adverts. However, critics claim the social network is prioritising profits over users' privacy. Perish the thought…


It's not just your web habits or where you shop that Facebook is watching – it's keeping tabs on you wherever you go. By agreeing to its terms and conditions, you've agreed to let it track your "device locations, including specific geographic locations, such as through GPS, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi signals".

In other words, wherever you go, Facebook knows about it. Though if you only use Facebook on a desktop computer, it won't be able to follow your every move. Just one more reason to use Facebook at work, then.


If you've ever wondered how Facebook knows who's in a photo with you and suggests you tag them, the answer is rather worrying: it's been mapping all of our faces in order to pick us out of a crowd.

Facebook openly admits this in its privacy policy, which states: "We are able to suggest that your friend tag you in a picture by comparing your friend's pictures to information we've put together from your profile pictures and the other photos in which you've been tagged." Though there is a way to disable this. Head to Settings > Timeline > Tagging and turn it off. Phew.


Undoubtedly you've seen people on Facebook whose profile pictures have a rainbow filter. That's because they're some of the 26 million people who installed Facebook's Celebrate Pride app last year. Facebook knows the number was 26 million because it keeps tabs on which filters you use, as well as what other apps you install.

The social network has confirmed that it doesn't use this data to target adverts, or to extrapolate information about its users. But it is watching exactly what you're doing, down to which tweaks you make to your own profile picture. Scary.


Amazingly, Facebook even takes note of what you type on the site but never post. That means it knows about those drunk messages to your ex that you thought better of and deleted before you could post.

However, it can't actually read what you wrote, which is a godsend. That's because it can't monitor which keys were pressed. Though it can record when characters and words are typed, how many are typed, and if the typed characters were deleted or abandoned.

In the study Self-Censorship on Facebook, data scientist Adam Kramer (who works at Facebook) and student Sauvik Das analysed the html element of each page for 3.7 million Facebook users. Every time text was entered, even if it was never posted, they could track the changes in the html code. According to the study, 71% of us type something on Facebook then delete it without posting. If only more people had that kind of filter.


Last year, Facebook admitted it had tracked users who don't have a Facebook account, though it claimed this was because of a bug that has since been fixed. (Hmm, a likely story.)

It was claimed a bug mistakenly sent cookies to some people who were not Facebook users, allowing the social network to track their online activities. "This was not our intention," Facebook said in response. Maybe not, but it's worrying all the same.


A couple of weeks ago, Facebook announced it will track all internet users – whether they're on Facebook or not – in order to target adverts to them. Previously, it only showed adverts to its users when they used websites and apps in its Audience Network advertising network. Now it will tailor ads to anyone who visits a property that's within the Audience Network.

It will do this by using Like buttons and other pieces of code on web pages across the internet. Facebook claims there will be an option for all users to opt out. Just don't expect it to be easy to find.


OK, admittedly this one wasn't Facebook itself, but still, it's pretty creepy. Danish hacker Søren Louv-Jansen discovered that most of his friends checked Facebook first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Because Facebook Messenger makes public when a user was last online – even if they've opted out of chat – it's easy to create a program that automatically scrapes Facebook for this data. Which is exactly what Louv-Jansen did.

His sleep-tracking program told him when his friends logged on and off, hence letting him know when they went to sleep and when they woke up. Obviously the data wasn't 100% accurate. But as a broad picture of people's sleeping patterns, it's pretty great, especially considering it only took a couple of hours to make.

Source: digitalspy.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 28th Jun 2016

It is probably not controversial to say that the UK tech scene, and in particular London, was very much in the Remain camp in the EU referendum.

Tech entrepreneurs were worried about what Brexit would mean for access to the single market, the confidence of investors and their access to skilled staff from across Europe.

At an event at the Wayra tech incubator in London on the very day of the referendum, a secret ballot showed an overwhelming majority voting to remain.

But now some powerful voices in the tech community are trying to dispel the gloom and paint a brighter picture of the UK's post-Brexit future as a hi-tech hotspot.

Leading the charge was Rohan Silva, former Number 10 adviser and now the man behind the achingly cool Shoreditch start-up space Second Home.

Writing in the Sunday Times newspaper, he called on his fellow techies to cheer up, roll up their sleeves, and strategise for a profitable future.

Rohan Silva says machine-learning could "transform the efficiency of our immigration system"
His recipe included a big cut in taxes - in particular reducing corporation tax to 10% - and reforming the immigration system by using our expertise in machine-learning and data analytics to make it cheaper and faster.

Some sceptics questioned whether turning the UK into what they described as an offshore tax haven was really the way forward.

And the belief that machine-learning can magically produce an answer to the immigration problem will sound to many like the most naive brand of tech utopianism.

But Mr Silva's upbeat outlook - if not necessarily his tax-cutting recipe - was endorsed by Baroness Martha Lane Fox, now a director of Twitter and probably the best known person on the UK's tech scene.
"I'm an optimist - we have huge potential," she told me. "Let's use the power of the internet as a force not just for business growth but social cohesion and growth."

Her focus, however, is not so much on London tech start-ups, but addressing the concerns of those from the communities that voted to leave.

Baroness Fox thinks the internet could be a cohesive force
"It's interesting that when asked if the internet is a force for good, over 70% leavers said no," she said.
"This is something to address in rural and excluded communities - we should use the miracle of connectivity to connect ourselves together better."

Baroness Fox has faith in the power of technology to see us through the short-term turbulence.
But that isn't to say there won't be pain along the way for the tech sector.
I've spoken to an entrepreneur who has already experienced that pain.
The man, who did not want to be named, has spent the past three months on a funding round for his growing technology business.
He says there was already a "chilling effect" on venture capital in the run-up to the referendum.
"They were sitting on their hands waiting to see what happened," he said.
Then at 10:00 BST on Friday morning, he got a call from the manager of a fund that had signed up to invest in his business.
"He said they were pulling out - I asked why. He said that after today's news I shouldn't be surprised," he said.
The entrepreneur believes it will be hard to get investors to step forward until the future is clearer.
"Too many unknowns, too many risks," he said.

Techcrunch's editor-at-large Mike Butcher, who knows more about the European tech scene than just about anyone, remains optimistic about the UK's long-term prospects. But he has profound concerns about the here and now.

Techcrunch's Mike Butcher says he has been told of start-ups losing their funding
He too has been in touch with several tech start-ups that have had funding postponed or withdrawn since the referendum result. As well as access to the single market - and the digital single market which is being negotiated right now - he says it's talent that is the key issue.
"Tech start-ups don't just run on cash, they run on people," he said.
"Without access to EU talent, many early stage firms will struggle to find the talent they need."

The UK - and London in particular - remains an attractive location for anyone looking to start a technology business. But Berlin, Dublin and other European cities are already making encouraging noises to anxious companies thinking of moving.

Mind you, there is an alternative - stay in the UK but apply to Estonia for e-residency allowing you to run your business from inside the EU.

The e-Estonia organisation has been marketing this service over the weekend - and it tells me it has seen almost a tenfold increase in visits to their website from the UK in the days following the referendum.

Perhaps a virtual bridge is being built between London and Tallinn that means trade will prosper whatever the UK's relationship with the EU.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 28th Jun 2016

Crooks use connection information to craft phishing emails

UK staff are putting their companies at risk of phishing attacks because they are too willing to accept friend requests from random people on LinkedIn.

A survey of 2,000 workers by Intel Security found that around 24 per cent admitted to accepting requests from people they don’t know, opening company information to hackers.

Crooks can target phishing campaigns more effectively by using the information that connections on LinkedIn offer, as it gives a good insight into the networks and connections between high-ranking executives.

Phishing attacks targeting the CEO often take advantage of this, as Raj Samani, EMEA chief technology officer at Intel Security, explained.

"Social networking sites are a treasure trove of data used by malicious actors to research potential targets for attack, not only requesting to connect with senior executives but as many junior or mid-level employees at a company as possible," he said.

"They then target senior-level execs, using their existing connections with colleagues as proof of credibility by leveraging the principle of social validation. Once these connections are in place they can launch a targeted phishing campaign.

“For example, it could well be used as a precursor to a CEO fraud attack, a type of attack that continues to affect more victims and lead to even greater financial losses.”

A recent example of this cost the CEO of an Austrian manufacturer his job (and his company $40m) after he approved a payment that he believed to have come from another senior member of staff.

Abby Ewen, IT director at law firm BLM, told Computing recently that her organisation recently experienced a determined phishing attack using LinkedIn as the precursor.

"We had one this week, a scam email passed to me by a partner, and the person who sent [the scam mail] had connected with the partner on LinkedIn prior to sending the email. LinkedIn was used as the front door into the scam," she said.

Samani warned that companies should train staff to be aware of this tactic.

“Companies are falling for tricks by cyber criminals who get in contact using details skimmed from the internet to legitimise their own fake profile in order to better target businesses,” he said.

"When a person in a similar industry to us, or a recruiter, requests to connect on LinkedIn, it may look harmless, but hackers prey on this as a means to target senior-level professionals and ultimately the corporate network."

Source: v3.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 28th Jun 2016

Now the UK has decided to leave the European Union, technology firms have been left to wonder what the future holds.

As news of Brexit broke, tech firms including BT, TalkTalk and software firm Sage reported share price falls.
For years, the UK - and particularly London - has championed the role of tech firms in buoying the economy.
Hundreds of start-ups have benefitted from the government's Tech City initiative, for example, and both employees and customers have been plucked from EU member states.
Much was once made of British companies' potential to compete with Silicon Valley - hence the nickname of the London hub of "Silicon Roundabout".

In 2012 the Chancellor, George Osborne, visited the Google Campus start-up hub and meeting centre in East London
Earlier this year, the Tech City cluster of businesses reported that 1.56 million people were employed in digital companies in the UK, with 328,000 of those in London.

The report also noted that the digital economy grew a third faster than the UK economy as a whole.
But does this success now hang in the balance?
"I have concerns that the local market might slow down," said Drew Benvie, founder of London-based digital agency Battenhall.
"Over recent years, it's been clear to anyone in technology that London has become a major technology centre - all the major tech companies have big offices in London."

Mr Benvie, who employs 34 people, also told the BBC he was concerned because many of his staff are EU citizens or present in the UK via EU visas.

Drew Benvie employs 34 people in London - he's concerned about post-Brexit uncertainty
While he believes that trade will ultimately overcome boundaries, he said: "Uncertainty just does not help."
A survey of 1,000 European and British businesses by London law firm Pinsent Masons found that only a quarter had a "tangible plan" for dealing with the risks arising from Brexit.
"The vast majority of large technology companies have invested in a presence around the Reading and outer London area," said Theo Priestley, a Scottish tech evangelist and start-up mentor.
"The Brexit vote does call into question whether that remains as a sound decision."

Start-up mentor Theo Priestley thinks tech firms clustered in and around London may be disappointed by Brexit
In a statement, trade body TechUK, which represents British tech firms, expressed disappointment at the referendum result and said: "Without the benefits of EU membership, the UK needs to be at its very best to succeed."
Then there is the issue of EU funding - many firms, such as C-Tech Innovation in Chester, participate in collaborative research projects on future technologies that benefit from EU sources.
The EU and tech in the UK - by numbers
20% of digital businesses say that EU countries besides the UK are an important source of talent
Over half of European financial tech "unicorns", such as TransferWise and GoCardless, are based in the UK
There are 21,000 jobs across the EU in mobile gaming - the UK has the largest single share with 5,000 full-time employees
5m euros (£4.1m) in prizes available for the development of clean tech from the European Commission's Horizon 2020 programme
In total, the British private sector received £1.4 billion in funding from the EU in 2013
Some have met the news with optimism, however.
"Technology is a sector that will only increase in importance and works without borders," said Tudor Aw, head of technology at KPMG UK.

"I therefore continue to see the UK tech sector as one that will not only withstand the immediate challenges of the referendum result, but one that will continue to grow and thrive."
And David Cameron's former adviser Rohan Silva, who is credited with helping to forge Tech City in the first place, tweeted a rallying cry: "I also believe that Britain will always be open, creative and entrepreneurial."

Rohan Silva, who helped to found Tech City, tweeted an optimistic take on the referendum

How will London's position be affected, specifically?

There's always the possibility that some of the more mobile firms in the British tech sector will simply find it easier to migrate to hubs in the EU.
That's the hope of the German Startups Group, at least.
"We expect a significant decrease in new incorporations in London in favour of Berlin, as well as an influx of successful London start-ups," said chief executive Christoph Gerlinger.
And Mr Priestley thinks that in the event of a Scottish independence referendum that leads to reunification with the EU, it's possible some start-ups could move north of the border, perhaps to rekindle "Silicon Glen" - a 1980s attempt to compete in the semiconductor industry.
One London business, Techspace - which offers co-working spaces for new, fast-growing companies - has itself just announced an expansion in Berlin.
But chief executive and co-founder David Galsworthy said that, given how "interconnected" the world is, he had little doubt that London would continue to be "a central hub globally for this sector".

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 21st Jun 2016

The adult industry has a history of ushering in media revolutions.

For more than a decade, the tens of thousands of gadget nerds and tech geeks who converged upon Las Vegas every year for the Consumer Electronics Show were exposed to more than just the latest technology. Until 2012, the colossal electronics trade show coincided with the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo, which often occupied a space in the same building. The overwhelmingly male CES attendees could peruse the latest flat-screen TVs, then slip across the hall to mingle with porn stars.

It’s no coincidence that the two events coexisted for so many years. The pornography expo was born out of the adult-video section of CES in the 1990s, after its participants grew tired of being relegated to a dark basement of the convention center. In 2011, an AVN representative estimated that CES and AEE shared about 40 percent of their attendees. (The 2012 split was driven by the rising travel and lodging costs of holding two large conferences at the same time; the events are now held at separate venues one or two weeks apart.)

CES attendees who crane their necks into the pornography-filled exhibition hall next door have reasons to do so other than to ogle at scantily clad adult performers. If they’re attending CES to get a sense of the next big communications technology, they’d do well to visit the adult expo as well: Over the past few decades, the porn industry has played instrumental role in driving adoption of new technologies.

Without porn, “there’s a very good chance that the VCR might never have taken off.”
Porn’s outsize influence on technology had its first big part in the early days of the VCR, says Patchen Barss, the author of The Erotic Engine, a book that chronicles the history of pornography’s effects on mass communication. Before VCRs started making their way into living rooms, people had to sneak into shady theaters to watch adult films. The prospect of watching them in the privacy of their own homes helped create an early market for home-video equipment, Barss says. Without porn, “there’s a very good chance that the VCR might never have taken off.”

Some of the same forces that helped along the VCR also had a hand in the proliferation of cable television, Barss said. Cable TV allowed for more suggestive programming, which became one of the factors that convinced people to pay for “premium channels” despite getting broadcast channels for free.

With VCRs and cable TV, the adult industry drove a crucial wave of early adoption. “Pornography exerts a disproportionate influence over technologies at the stage when they are new and glitchy and expensive and difficult to use,” Barss said. “They create an initial market that allows them to develop to the point where they’re ready for the mainstream.”

The main consumers of adult content—young men—also tend to be more willing to take on the expense and risk of adopting early, says Jonathan Coopersmith, a professor of technology history at Texas A&M University. If they gamble on the wrong technology, their newly purchased equipment can quickly turn into expensive hunks of plastic and metal.

The pornography industry isn’t creating new communication technologies, Coopersmith said, nor is it particularly prescient about what technology is likely to take off. It’s simply taken advantage of new developments before others, and has enough of a draw that people are willing to follow it.

Its position on the leading edge of technology comes partly out of necessity. “There’s a nimbleness to being in the marginalia,” Barss says. Once technologies and platforms reach mainstream status, they may become less friendly to adult content, and the social stigma attached to porn has repeatedly drawn consumers to new, largely untested technologies that provide better privacy.

The ultimate in private access to pornography came with the internet. On the web, not even the checkout-counter guy at the video store has to know what you’re up to. But even though it was another step toward isolation, Barss says the internet also injected porn with a sense of community. Early online bulletin boards and forums allowed people to share user-generated erotica and pornography, while maintaining distance and anonymity. For once, it wasn’t a porn company luring people to a platform with promises of smut; it was people creating and sharing it themselves.

Of course, people had been able to make their own porn at home for decades. The boom of home pornography came with the spread of the camcorder in the seventies and eighties, a device that Coopersmith says “really changed the world of pornography by destroying the traditional distinction between producers, distributors, and consumers.” Once the internet made transferring data simple—whether from a home server, via BitTorrent, or by online streaming—the general public could participate in generating, sharing, and even making money from explicit content.

That social aspect is what most surprised Barss during his research. And whether the next frontier is in virtual reality, haptic feedback (“teledildonics”), or another new invention, the adult industry will likely be ahead of the game—and a new community could spring up around it, he says. “Pornography driving technology has been as much about people finding new ways to connect to other people as it has been about people finding more private ways to consume pornography.”

Source: theatlantic.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 21st Jun 2016

Google's new London office is ready to house several hundred of the company's staff.

Around 800 engineers are moving into the building at 6 Pancras Square in King's Cross on Monday, with another 2,000 staff expected to move in over the course of the year. Only five floors of the building are finished but Google expects all 11 to be complete by October.

The staff at 6 Pancras Square will work on some of Google's best-known products, including Android, the company's mobile operating system, and YouTube.

They'll be given free food, access to a 90m running track, massages, and cookery classes from a chef that used to work with Jamie Oliver.

Business Insider was given a tour of the office last week by Google real estate executive Andrew Martin and Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM) architect Steve Smith. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take photos but Google has sent over a limited selection that we can show you.

The 11-storey office has been leased by Google from BNP Paribas Real Estate, as the search giant stalls on a new £1 billion UK headquarters that it said it would build on a plot of land less than 200 metres away. Google said in 2013 that the new UK HQ would be ready by 2016 but the initial plans were scrapped for being "too boring" and the company is yet to start building.

Google has quietly snapped up several other properties in King's Cross, including the building next door (7 Pancras Square), which is home to the company's AI research lab, Google DeepMind, and a mystery property called "S2," which is yet to be built.

The roof terraces offer Googlers stunning views over London. They come with sun loungers and gardens that will no doubt make for a pleasant outdoor dining experience.
The roof terraces offer Googlers stunning views over London. They come with sun loungers and gardens that will no doubt make for a pleasant outdoor dining experience.
BNP Paribas
This is the underground passage that Google staff will take from King's Cross St Pancras to their new office.
This is the underground passage that Google staff will take from King's Cross St Pancras to their new office.
Jim Edwards

Architecture firm AHMM deliberately designed the interior with plenty of communal areas to facilitate chance encounters between engineers working on different projects. These encounters are important, Google says, as they fuel "engineering serendipity."

Lounge areas give Googlers the chance to chill out on Vitra sofas that can cost up to £17,000 or even take a nap in one of five Metronap "nap pods", which cost £5,500.

Barista stations can be found across the Google building. Free coffee will be provided but Google expects many of its staff to bring their own speciality blends anyway.

The curvy staircase is one of the centrepieces of the building.

Unlike many of Google's other offices, 6 Pancras Square doesn't make regular use of the bright, bold, colours associated with Google's logo.

One of the rooms in the new Google office block is called Platform 9 3/4 after the train platform that Hogwarts students use to board the Hogwarts Express at King's Cross.

All of the desks in Google's new office can be raised, allowing Googlers to stand and work if they want to.

Floors 7-11 are finished, while floors 1-6 — home to massage rooms and a huge gym with a 90m running track — are still being worked on. The striking staircase links some of the higher floors.

Google staff will be able to take the Eurostar from St Pancras to Brussels and Paris in around two hours. This is a key selling point for the office's location, according to Google.

The wider King's Cross area is currently undergoing a major redevelopment, meaning Googlers across the area will be able to make use of things like this outdoor swimming pool or explore a nearby nature reserve when they're not writing code.

They'll also be able to eat at popular restaurants like Dishoom, which has a large restaurant close to Google's new office.

Questions remain over when Google's UK HQ will open. 

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 21st Jun 2016

For the last three months, the music industry has been fighting -- or at least negotiating in public -- with YouTube.

Now, artists are adding their voices.

In an ad that will run Tuesday through Thursday in the Washington DC magazines Politico, The Hill, and Roll Call, 180 performers and songwriters are calling for reform of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which regulates copyright online. A range of big names from every genre signed the ad -- from Taylor Swift to Sir Paul McCartney, Vince Gill to Vince Staples, Carole King to the Kings of Leon -- as did 19 organizations and companies, including the major labels.

Music Industry A-Listers Call on Congress to Reform Copyright Act

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), enacted in 1998, gives services like YouTube “safe harbor” from copyright infringement liability for the actions of their users, as long as they respond to takedown notices from rightsholders. In practice, labels and publishers say, this gives YouTube a negotiating advantage. The big labels and publishers have long had deals with the video service, but they have often said that the DMCA gives it leverage that services like Spotify don’t have. In March, the RIAA called this the “value grab.” Manager Irving Azoff, who organized the ad, has made DMCA reform a priority, speaking about the issue in February, when he accepted The Recording Academy President's Merit Award at Clive Davis' pre-Grammy Awards gala, and two weeks ago at the National Music Publishers Association annual meeting.

Artists are usually reluctant to get involved in copyright policy debates, but several signed an April 1 petition on the same topic. Like the petition many artists signed in 2012 against the Internet Radio Fairness act, which would have lowered online radio royalties, this represents a rare case in which most of the music business agrees on something.

The major labels are now negotiating new deals with YouTube -- Universal Music Group’s contract has already expired, although the companies continue to do business on an ongoing basis. At the same time, the U.S. Copyright Office is conducting a study of the DMCA safe harbors as the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee is reviewing copyright law. This had made the DMCA an urgent issue for labels and publishers, which believe that YouTube’s free service makes it harder to convince music consumers to sign up for subscription services like Apple Music and Spotify. As performers and songwriters become more willing to speak out about copyright issues, the famously contentious music business seems to have found an issue it can unite around.

100 Percent Licensing: U.S. Copyright Office Argues New Proposal Threatens Song Owners' Rights

The DMCA, this week's ad says, “has allowed major tech companies to grow and generate huge profits by creating ease of use for consumers to carry almost every recorded song in history in their pocket via a smartphone, while songwriters’ and artists’ earnings continue to diminish.” It suggests that the DMCA wasn’t intended to protect the kind of companies that benefit from it now -- a subject that’s been debated by lawyers and policymakers as well -- and asks for “sensible reform that balances the interests of creators with the interests of the companies who exploit music for their financial enrichment.”

YouTube has said it gets no advantage from the DMCA, since its Content ID system gives labels a way to remove or monetize their music, and 99.5 percent of music claims involve it as opposed to manual DMCA requests. This implies that Content ID is very effective, but it’s hard to know for sure, since no one measures how much music the system doesn’t identify. YouTube also points out that it has paid more than $3 billion to the music business, and that much of this revenue is generated by casual music fans who might not subscribe to other services anyway.

However, some online-based artists have been speaking out on behalf of YouTube. After Azoff wrote an open letter to YouTube last month, the video creator Hank Green, who runs the YouTube channel Vlogbrothers, responded with a letter than made the case that the service is good for the music business. On June 15, Green announced that he and other creators were forming The Internet Creators Guild to advocate for professional online creators. The guild will apparently not pressure online platforms for better terms, but it will “unify the voice of online creators to create change.” One wonders whether this unified voice could be raised to oppose those of music rightsholders, since Google, which owns YouTube, has sometimes argued that copyright enforcement suppresses online creativity.

Wait, What? The Copyright Royalty Board, Webcasting Rates and Paying Artists, Explained

Two other artists have been especially critical of YouTube. Trent Reznor, no stranger to technology given his role at Apple Music, told Billboard on June 13 that YouTube was “built on the backs of free, stolen content.” Nikki Sixx’ band Sixx:A.M. also wrote a detailed open letter to YouTube, appealing to Larry Page, chief executive of Google’s parent company Alphabet, to better compensate musicians. Last week, YouTube responded, in a statement to Music Business Worldwide that said “the voices of the artists are being heard.”

Now, it seems, those voices are speaking louder.

Source: billboard.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 21st Jun 2016

34 tech leaders sign open letter warning of risks of leaving open market of 500 million people

Over 30 leaders at UK tech companies including BT and Virgin Media, as well as subsidiaries of US giants including IBM, HPE and Microsoft, have urged UK citizens to vote to remain in the European Union.

The letter was signed by 34 tech leaders and published first in The Times. It urges people to vote to stay in the EU, citing huge risks if the nation leaves.

“The UK’s tech sector is a global success. It is growing faster than the rest of the UK economy and creating new businesses and jobs across the country. EU membership has underpinned that success. A vote to leave would undermine it,” they said.

Notable signatories of the letter include:

Michel van der Bel, UK CEO, Microsoft
Victor Chavez, CEO, Thales UK
Julian David, CEO, techUK
Andy Isherwood, MD UK and Ireland, HPE
Michael Keegan, SVP, head of EMEA product business and chairman UK & Ireland, Fujitsu
Tom Mockridge, CEO, Virgin Media
Gavin Patterson, CEO, BT
Cormac Watters, MD UK, SAP
David Stokes, CEO, IBM UK
The letter goes on to explain more about why the signatories feel a remain vote is in the best interests of the country.

"Tech companies are not starry eyed about the EU, but repeated surveys of startups, SMEs, investors and corporates make it clear that the overwhelming majority would vote to stay," said the letter.

“[We] believe staying in the EU is the best choice for the UK economy. According to techUK members, most of which are small businesses, being part of the EU makes it easier for them to trade and do business across Europe.

"It makes the UK more attractive to international investment and makes Britain more globally competitive.

"A decision to exit the EU would leave tech firms and their customers facing significant and prolonged uncertainty, and leave the UK side-lined on key decisions that will shape a digital market of 500 million consumers."

The firms are just the latest in a long line of organisations to urge a remain vote in the referendum. Past surveys have found that being in the EU is seen as a major asset for tech-oriented firms.

Despite this Google data has shown more people searching for 'leave the EU' than 'remain in the EU.

Source: v3.co.uk
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