Breakfast Briefing: Cameron's running UK via iPad, Kinect spying and Office for iOS

8 Nov 2012
Breakfast Briefing

How the web stays alive in a crisis - just like it was supposed to

Today's technology stories include a Kinect app that could invite copyright holders into your living room, details on how ministers plan to use app to help run the country and rumours of Office for iOS and Android solidify.

Microsoft Kinect turns Big Brother

Microsoft has raised the ire of privacy watchdogs with a patent filing that would turn Kinect devices into living room snooping tools for copyright holders. That's the extreme end of the scale, but as Wired points out, the technology that would count the number of people watching TV in a room to generate more accurate viewing figures could also have more sinister uses.

“The system would use the Kinect camera to check the number of viewers in any room and then prompt the consumer to purchase the appropriate license based on that number. This would mean that you would pay more, for example, for a family of six than if you were watching a piece of content on your own,” Wired notes. “The terrifying thing about this patent is that it would grant copyright holders virtual access to private dwellings.”

Cameron using Twitter to inform decisions

More news is emerging on Prime Minster David Cameron's plans for more apps in government, with the BBC reporting how Cameron is using a specially designed app to monitor Twitter and Facebook to inform decisions and policy. The web app gives a feed of various live data on jobs and housing as well as polling social media for public opinion.

According to the Cabinet Office, the web app is ”a data visualisation dashboard to provide ministers and civil servants with information on key public services as well as other indicators. The dashboard is in working form and is now undergoing further development".

How the web stays alive during crises

When Sandy stormed into New York it knocked out huge communications centres, but apart from local sites being knocked offline, the impact to the wider web was minimal. According to network watchers at Renesys, that's because the internet did what it was supposed to do, and rerouted traffic to compensate for lost nodes - which as Cold War-era legend goes was what its original designers had in mind. With a series of traffic graphics the company shows how “from locations around the globe as varied as Chile, Sweden and India, some internet traffic was forced onto alternate paths to avoid failures at critical transit points in the NYC area”.

Office for iPad rumours strengthened

Rumours of versions of Office for iOS and Android devices have been circulating since a few details emerged from the Czech Republic last month. According to The Verge, the rumours are true and the company is likely to announce Office for iOS in February next year, with an Android version scheduled for May.

Despite the rumours, Microsoft had kept steadfastly schtum on the variant versions, but multiple sources claim that the releases are due for early 2013.

“Microsoft will allow iOS users to purchase an Office 365 subscription within the app, or let organisations distribute codes to enable Office Mobile editing for users,” The Verge reports. “The apps will allow for basic editing, but we're told this won't go very far in attempting to replace regular full use of a desktop Office version."

Google hacker lays into Sophos

Security expert and researcher Tavis Ormandy earlier this week published a highly critical attack on Sophos antivirus tools, claiming they pose a “significant risk to global networks.” The Google employee published his findings independently, highlighting multiple memory corruption and design flaws.

"Sophos claims its products are deployed throughout healthcare, government, finance and even the military. The chaos a motivated attacker could cause to these systems is a realistic global threat,” Ormandy wrote in his disclosure.

Sophos has countered by detailing how it had plugged many of the vulnerabilities highlighted, and thanked the hacker for highlighting the issue.

“The work of Tavis Ormandy, and others like him in the research community, who choose to work alongside security companies, can significantly strengthen software products," the company said in a statement.

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