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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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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 21st Jun 2016

Technology improvements on Earth suggest others could have made the world we think is real

Tech visionary Elon Musk thinks that there is a 'one in billions' chance that humanity is not living in a simulation created by aliens, given how many technological advances we have achieved in just 40 years.

Musk was responding to a question posed at the Recode conference in the US.

“Forty years ago we had Pong - two rectangles and a dot. That's what games were. Now 40 years later we have photo-realistic 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously, and it's getting better every year,” he said.

Musk pointed out that the speed and scale of this improvement mean that we will eventually reach a point where games are "indistinguishable" from real life, even if it takes 10,000 years.

“Soon we'll have virtual reality and augmented reality [and] if you assume any rate of improvement at all the games will become indistinguishable from reality, just indistinguishable.”

This makes it highly possible that another race has already been through this process of creating games that are indistinguishable from real life and has actually created the world in which we live, according to Musk.

“It would seem to follow that the odds that we're in 'base reality' is one in billions,” he said.

This may be unnerving to some, but Musk said that it has a positive angle because our improvement suggests that the world that’s controlling us is healthy and functioning.

“If civilisation stops advancing that may be due to some calamitous event that erases civilisation. So maybe we should be hopeful that this is a simulation.”

Musk, who oversees Space X and Tesla, is perhaps well placed to offer such outlandish theories as he seeks to push into new areas of technological understanding.

He has previously raised concerns with the development of artificial intelligence systems, warning that they could become the weapons of the future in an open letter also signed by Stephen Hawking and Apple co-founder Steve Wosniak.

Source: v3.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 21st Jun 2016

Company bringing smart technology development to Europe

Google is building a machine learning technology centre in Zurich to bring the firm's machine intelligence research work to Europe.

The Google Research, Europe centre is effectively an extension of the Google Research division in the US, which focuses on machine learning and solving problems in Computer Science and related areas.

Emmanuel Mogenet, head of Google Research, Europe, explained that the new centre will enhance collaboration between Google’s researchers across the world, and aid the development of new tools and products based on machine learning technology and algorithms.

“Google Research, Europe will foster an environment where software engineers and researchers specialising in machine learning will have the opportunity to develop products and conduct research in Europe as part of the wider efforts at Google,” he wrote on the Google blog.

Zurich was chosen because it is the location for Google’s largest engineering office outside the firm's Mountain View headquarters in California.

The company's Zurich-based engineers created the engine that powers Knowledge Graph, Google’s framework that enhances how its search engine serves information to queries, along with the conversation engine that powers the Google Assistant in the Allo chat app.

Google Research, Europe will concentrate on developing machine intelligence, natural language processing and understanding, and machine perception technologies.

“In pursuit of these areas, the team will actively research ways to improve machine learning infrastructure, broadly facilitating research for the community, and enabling it to be put to practical use,” Mogenet said.

“Furthermore, researchers in the Zurich office will be uniquely able to work closely with team linguists, advancing natural language understanding in collaboration with Google Research groups across the world, all while enjoying 'mountain views' of a different kind.”

The move to set up a research centre in Europe highlights Google’s ambitions to push the scope of machine learning research and its integration into apps, software and devices used in everyday life.

However, the machine learning sector is getting crowded. Apple is pushing a smarter version of Siri into its products and services, and Facebook is exploring the use of machine learning technology that can ape how humans learn.

Source: v3.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 20th Jun 2016

Apple has told Republican leaders it will not provide funding or other support for the party’s 2016 presidential convention, as it's done in the past, citing Donald Trump’s controversial comments about women, immigrants and minorities.

Unlike Facebook, Google and Microsoft, which have all said they will provide some support to the GOP event in Cleveland next month, Apple decided against donating technology or cash to the effort, according to two sources familiar with the iPhone maker’s plans.

Apple’s political stand against Trump, communicated privately to Republicans, is a sign of the widening schism between Silicon Valley and the GOP’s bombastic presumptive nominee. Trump has trained his rhetorical fire on the entire tech industry, but he's singled out Apple for particular criticism -- calling for a boycott of the company's products, and slamming CEO Tim Cook, over Apple's stance on encryption.

Asked about Apple's absence, a spokeswoman for the GOP's convention effort replied: "We are working with a variety of major tech partners who are focused on being part of the American political process."

Apple declined to comment for this story. It's unclear how the company plans to handle the Democratic convention in Philadelphia this summer. A spokeswoman for the Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
While Apple isn’t the most active political player in the nation’s capital, the tech giant previously has backed both parties’ conventions. It provided about $140,000 each in MacBooks and other tech tools to the Democratic and Republican events in 2008, according to campaign finance records. Apple did not write checks to either party four years later, but it did lend products to both conventions in 2012.

Typically, the tech industry tries to court Democrats and Republicans in equal measure. Despite the liberal leanings of Silicon Valley's top executives, companies like Google and Facebook long have split their election-year donations among both parties’ officeholders. While Apple does not have a political action committee, Cook on his own has tried to forge personal relationships with Democratic and GOP lawmakers. He even dined in D.C. last year, for example, with a quartet of top House Republicans.
Trump’s ascendance, however, has upended the tech industry’s usual political calculations.

Major tech companies including Apple support efforts to attract more high-skilled foreign workers to the U.S. – a position shared by many Republicans. But Trump has taken a vastly different course, threatening to expel millions of undocumented immigrants while building a wall on the Mexican border.

Trump's inflammatory comments on Muslims, women and minority groups also rankle progressive tech executives. And on some of the most pressing issues in tech policy, the presumptive Republican nominee's views conflict with the prevailing opinion in Silicon Valley. Earlier this year, for example, Trump slammed Apple for resisting the FBI, as the government sought to force the company to unlock a password-protected iPhone tied to the San Bernardino terrorist attack. Many tech executives, however, rushed to Apple's defense.

Despite Trump's rhetoric, many of the tech industry's biggest players still plan to back the Republican convention in Cleveland. Google said in April it would set up shop on the GOP convention floor, despite a protest by liberal groups and civil rights activists at its headquarters this spring.

That same week, Microsoft revealed it planned to donate computers and software to the GOP convention, though the company said it would not provide funds to Republicans, as it has in the past. And Facebook has pledged “financial and other support” for the event, the company confirmed in June, even though CEO Mark Zuckerberg has taken verbal swipes at Trump over immigration.

By declining to provide support, Apple joins a short list of tech companies taking a stand directly against Trump. Under pressure from activists at ColorofChange.org, HP Inc., a major donor to the GOP convention in 2012, announced in June it would not help fund the convention in Cleveland.

“We want them to divest from hate. We want them to pull all their money and support,” said Mary Alice Crim, field director for Free Press Action Fund, which is part of the anti-Trump campaign. Tech companies backing the convention, she said, need to be “thinking hard about where they put their brand, and whether they want to align their brand with racism, hatred and misogyny.”

Source: politico.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 14th Jun 2016

Data is the lifeblood of most modern day businesses, but it presents a challenge in that it is portable, easily manipulated and relatively effortless to duplicate, so here are the abnormal places that digital fraud attacks may lurk.

Countless businesses are susceptible to data vulnerability, be it from a “planted” mole, or a disgruntled employee or someone trying to get a foot-up in their new position.

When it comes to responding to a situation, which includes seeking appropriate legal advice, the most important task at-hand is to secure any or all evidence in a forensically sound manner to enable a full investigation and to prevent data loss.

Normally investigations focus on: a) what activities individuals have undertaken on a computer and; b) whether any data had been transferred from the computer in an unauthorised manner.

However, businesses should be aware that vital data can also lurk outside of these “normal” places. Below are three examples of investigations that have gone beyond the norm and have been instrumental to legal cases.

(1) Skype and WhatsApp

On one occasion, three key people from different countries within our client’s business resigned at similar times to join a rival, which subsequently made a sustained effort to penetrate a new market.

The suspects were probably conscious that emails would be monitored and therefore turned to Skype’s chat functions. We were able to rebuild their conversations, and found that the dialogue was unguarded and open.

In addition, one of the suspects had synchronised his iPhone with his work computer, creating a backup that allowed his WhatsApp messaging conversations to be recovered and analysed. When this was combined with the Skype data and other nuggets of information, the case unraveled and significant damages were recovered.

2) Cloud

In a similar case, a key employee within our client’s business handed in his notice and announced he was setting up his own business. Despite making assurances to the contrary, it turned out that he was entering into direct competition armed with our client’s proprietary information.

One of the first telling signs of fraudulent activity came to light through the analysis of the network logs, which seemed to indicate that there was unusual amount of traffic occurring during the nights proceeding his announcement. Subsequently, the legal team obtained a court order that allowed us to forensically image data from the suspect’s home and his new business address.

During this process, not only did we discover the ‘storage device,’ but we also found evidence of how the information had been amalgamated into the new business. As a result, our client was able to secure a favorable legal settlement.

(3) The back door left wide open

Thirdly, when one of the lead coders left our client’s employment to engage in a new venture, everything at first seemed to be amicable. However, two chance conversations suggested to our client that all was not what it seemed. The coder had joined a new company that appeared to be competing with our client and it seemed to have developed a similar solution in a fraction of the time it had taken our client.

A closer examination of all the systems and the evidence contained upon them highlighted that not only had the coder connected devices from his home to the client’s systems, but data transfers to his home had continued long after he had left, allowing him to continue to monitor his old employer’s development activities.

During subsequent legal proceedings, the coder’s new company had to hand over versions of their source code for analysis. On first glance, the code appeared very different from our client’s code, however, as our analysis progressed, we noticed that their code had originated from our client’s proprietary intelligence. In the end, the coder’s new company had to withdraw its product from the market and pay substantial damages.

What to do if you suspect digital fraud

Data leaves its digital fingerprints in many different places. These fingerprints can allow an investigator to unearth vital evidence and intelligence to get to the facts.

However, it is vital that businesses suspecting foul play avoid interfering with the evidence and thereby damaging a potential case. Instead, they should take the following steps:

Do not turn on the device – no matter how tempting it is to “have a look”
If a computer is on, turn it off directly at the power switch; do not use the shutdown command; if a server is on, power it down
Freeze the scene and ensure that the computer/device and any digital media is securely stored
Try and identify the user and other potential media
Call an expert as soon as possible

Source: realbusiness.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 13th Jun 2016

IDC forecasts PC shipments will decline by 7.3 per cent year on year

Windows 10 free upgrades continue to contribute to a decline in forecasted PC sales in 2016 as users gain access to a new operating system without needing to buy a new machine.

Analyst firm IDC predicts that PC shipments will fall by 7.3 per cent year on year, and that growth in the market will be two per cent below earlier predictions for 2016.

IDC lays the blame for this decline on challenging markets and the free rollout of Windows 10 from earlier versions of the operating system. This clearly goes against HP’s claim last year that Windows 10 will ‘inspire’ users to buy a new PC.

“Although growth rates for devices such as phones and tablets continue to fall, potentially reducing the competitive pressure on PCs, we have not seen this translate into stronger PC shipments,” said IDC.

“The financial pressure on consumers across regions, and the availability of alternatives such as delaying a PC replacement by using a free Windows 10 upgrade, or relying more on other devices, continues to pressure consumer PC shipments.

"Similarly, while a large share of enterprises are evaluating Windows 10, the pace of new PC purchases has not yet stabilised commercial PC shipments.”

IDC also noted that hybrid laptop-tablet devices are posing a challenge to the PC markets, as falling prices and laptop-like functionality make them an attractive alternative to more expensive dedicated laptops.

Jay Chou, research manager of the Worldwide PC Tracker at IDC, explained that market pressures are predominately on the consumer side.

"The economic and competitive pressures are particularly affecting the consumer segment, which is projected to see another year of double-digit declines in 2016, and decline throughout the forecast,” he said.

"In contrast, commercial shipments are projected to decline just 4.4 per cent in 2016 and see slightly positive growth for the next few years."

Source: v3.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 13th Jun 2016

Passwords saved in browsers and fished out by malware could be to blame for hundreds of millions of password leaks

Insecurities in the way major web browsers store passwords and other information, combined with malware on people's PCs, could be behind a string of credentials leaks, security specialists have warned.

Furthermore, the malware may also be able to access personal information used by browsers to pre-populate web forms. Twitter has suspended millions of accounts in response.

This is the view of specialists at security software company Rapid7 following an analysis of recent password leaks.

"While the credentials themselves appear to be real, the details provided by LeakedSource indicate that the usernames and passwords are sourced from end users rather than from Twitter itself," said Tod Beardsley, security research manager at Rapid7.

"Specifically, it appears that the credentials were harvested from individual browsers' password stores.

"It's just too easy for malware to pick up credentials stored in the default browser password stores as these databases usually lack appropriate access controls."

An early analysis points to a specialised form of malware exploiting this browser security weakness.

"It's not clear from the analysis posted so far what the vector was, but it's certainly some flavour of malware - a malicious application targeting browser-based password storage," Beardsley told V3.

"Browser password storage tends to be in a very findable and predictable path, so either the malware accessed the store directly, or it simply scraped passwords from the log-in screens by navigating to Twitter's log-in page.

"Browser password storage favours ease of use over anything, and doesn't prompt the user for an unlock password after the first use, if at all. Firefox does prompt a user per session, while Chrome's password autofill is completely automated once signed into Google.

"Malware installed on a computer has at least the same rights as the affected user, so no password manager is truly bulletproof against a purpose-built password stealer.

"But an external password manager will typically require authentication for every use, and two-factor authentication does go a long way toward mitigation in the event of a password compromise."

Source: v3.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 13th Jun 2016

It may be the case that you chose your Internet browser because you liked the way it looked, or thought it was faster than the rest.

Your choice, however, could reveal much more.

According to a new book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, those who use Firefox or Chrome are more likely to remain in their jobs than Safari or Explorer users.

Professor Adam Grant used research conducted by Michael Housman, which involved 30,000 customer service agents. It found that employees who used Firefox or Chrome remained at their posts 15% longer than those who used Safari or Explorer.

A second test found that Firefox and Chrome users were 19 per cent less likely to miss work, and had higher sales and shorter call times.

Firefox has blocked all versions of Flash player

Their customers were also happier. Ninety days from the start of their job, the Firefox and Chrome users had higher customer satisfaction than Safari and Explorer users had after 120 days.

Professor Grant suggests that making the effort to download Firefox or Chrome, which are not pre-installed on PCs or Macs, shows resourcefulness and initiative.

Mr Housman told Freakonomics Radio that ‘the fact that you took the time to install Firefox on your computer shows us something about you.’

Source: metro.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 13th Jun 2016

Everything we know about Apple’s Amazon Echo competitor

For almost a decade now—since the first iPhone popularized the smartphone and basically saved the computer industry from stagnation—people have been wondering what the next major device would be that would offer the same paradigm shift in computing.

Some thought it would be tablets, but those turned out to be evolutionary products instead of revolutionary: they fulfilled many of the tasks our smartphones and laptops already could. Next up was wearable technology. Wearable tech launched into the limelight with the now-failed Google Glass line of eyewear and it hasn’t fared much better now that the smartwatch has taken up the mantra.

Apple Watch Sales have been lackluster—and by all reports the Apple Watch is the most popular smartwatch. Next up was VR tech, which legitimately looks to be more of a bigger hitter as far as new device technology goes than wearables. But VR tech still requires bulky headsets, which limits their usefulness and practicalities to the areas of industry, medicine, and gaming (that last of which is an area they will be truly revolutionary).

So if none of those things will be the next big device that changes the way people compute and will be as prolific as the laptops on our desks and the smartphones in our pockets, what will? It will most likely be smart speakers with a digital artificially intelligent assistant living inside them. These devices have all the qualities necessary to radically alter the way we interact with the computer and the Internet at home. And that’s exactly why Amazon has been working on its Echo for years and Google is launching its Home smart speaker later this year.

Smart speakers like Echo and Home allow users to perform tasks they would usually need to tap away at their computer for by simply using their voice. The AI’s that power smart speakers—especially the one shown off in Google’s Home—have gotten so advanced it can follow multiple queries along the length of a conversation; it’s no longer limited to answering one plainly-spoken question at a time.

Siri is about to get A LOT better as well. According to Tech Insider, Apple has acquired VocalIQ, a UK based company, who’s technology makes Google Now and Cortana’s voice recognition look practically remedial. VocalIQ’s technology can not only better understand what you’re saying, but it can also understand and remember context like, for example, if you’re a vegetarian.

It can also handle multi-layered queries: “For example, imagine asking a computer to ‘Find a nearby Chinese restaurant with open parking and WiFi that’s kid-friendly.’ That’d trip up most assistants, but VocalIQ could handle it. The result? VocalIQ’s success rate was over 90%, while Google Now, Siri, and Cortana were only successful about 20% of the time,” said the report.

It added: “VocalIQ remembers context forever, just like a human can. That’s a massive breakthrough. Let’s go back to the Chinese restaurant example. What if you change your mind an hour later? Simply saying something like ‘Find me a Mexican restaurant instead,’ will bring you new results, while still taking into account the other parameters like parking and WiFi you mentioned before. Hound, Siri, and any other assistant would make you start the search session over again. But Vocal IQ remembers. That’s more human-like than anything available today.”

Think of the Scarlett Johansson-voiced “Samantha” AI assistant from the 2013 film Her or JARVIS from the Iron Man movies. Assistants like those who can carry out complicated or time consuming tasks that you can command with just your voice—and speak to them as you would another human being, using natural language—will indeed represent a paradigm shift in computing.

So the question is: where is Apple in all of this? Well, it turns out, if the latest rumors are to be believed, Apple has been preparing for this paradigm shift for years and the Siri we have in our iPhone right now is nothing compared to the Siri they have been working on behind the scenes that will power their Amazon Echo competitor. Here’s everything we know about it so far…

It will be open to third party developers
According to the Information, which broke news of the unannounced device, Apple isn’t going to mess up the product by keeping it off limits from developers.

“Apple is upping its game in the field of intelligent assistants. After years of internal debate and discussion about how to do so, the company is preparing to open up Siri to apps made by others. And it is working on an Amazon Echo-like device with a speaker and microphone that people can use to turn on music, get news headlines or set a timer.

Opening up its Siri voice assistant to outside app developers is the more immediate step. Apple is preparing to release a software developer kit, or SDK, for app developers who want their apps to be accessible through Siri, according to a person with direct knowledge of the effort.”

The Information reports that this SDK could be announced as in few as two weeks, which is when WWDC begins.

Apple’s Siri Speaker might have facial recognition tech
A report from CNET says Apple’s Siri Speaker could have a camera or cameras in addition to a microphone to detect users in a room. “The device would be ‘self aware’ and detect who is in the room using facial recognition technology. That would let the device automatically pull up a person's preferences, such as the music and lighting they like, the sources said.”

CNET goes on to say the hardware could be released by year's end, but a 2017 launch is more likely. The site’s sources cautioned, however, that Apple could kill the device before it ever launches.

The new Siri AI could be powered by tech from a company Apple bought in 2015
Last year Apple acquired a UK-based company called VocalIQ. The company was reportedly working on a digital assistant app that was so good it put not just Siri to shame, but Google Now, Microsoft Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa too. Matter of fact it was so good Apple bought the company before they ever released the product. Now TechInsider is saying that VocalIQ’s tech will be the backbone of the new Siri AI—and it’s perfect for a device with no screen:

“Because VocalIQ understands context so well, it essentially eliminates the need to look at a screen for confirmation that it’s doing what you want it to do. That’s useful on the phone, but could be even better for other ambitious projects like the car or smart speaker system Apple is reportedly building. (VocalIQ was being pitched as a voice-controlled AI platform for cars before Apple bought the company.) In fact, VocalIQ only considers itself a success when the user is able to complete a task without looking at a screen. Siri, Google Now, and Cortana often ask you to confirm tasks by tapping on the screen.”

Source: knowyourmobile.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 13th Jun 2016

Urgent action is needed to deal with the UK's digital skills crisis, warn MPs, or it risks damaging the country's productivity and competitiveness.

It is thought 12.6 million adults lack basic digital skills, while 5.8 million have never used the internet at all.
"Stubborn digital exclusion and systemic problems" with education and training need to be urgently addressed, the report said.
It urged the government's digital strategy to be published without delay.

The report found that:

22% of IT equipment in schools is ineffective

Just 35% of computer science teachers had a relevant qualification

Only 70% of the required number of computer science teachers have been recruited

The UK needs another 745,000 workers with digital skills by 2017

90% of jobs require digital skills to some degree

Skills gap costs economy around £63bn a year in lost income

"Digital exclusion has no place in 21st Century Britain," the Commons Science and Technology Committee said."While the government is to be commended for the actions taken so far... stubborn digital exclusion and systemic problems withdigital education and training need to be addressed as a matter of urgency in the government's forthcoming digital strategy," it continued.

The report calls for businesses to invest more and better training at all levels of education.

"The UK leads Europe on tech, but we need to take concerted action to avoid falling behind. We need to make sure tomorrow's workforce is leaving school or university with the digital skills that employers need," said the committee's chairwoman, Nicole Blackwood.

In response a government spokesperson said: "This government recognises the crucial role digital skills play in our society and economy. Our Digital Strategy, to be published shortly, will set out how we will help employers and individuals access the tools they need to power our digital economy.

"This will make sure we are well placed to remain a tech leader in Europe. We will consider the Select Committee's report and respond in due course," they added.

What is a digital skill?

The Science and Technology Committee says there is no single definition but is generally understood to be the ability to use computers and digital devices to access the internet, the ability to code or create software and the ability to critically evaluate media, and "to navigate knowingly through the negative and positive elements of online activity and make informed choices about the content and services they use".

Source: bbc.co.uk
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