In the wake of last week's Google scandal around third-party apps accessing user information, top Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters to both Alphabet and Apple. The top Republican leaders asked Alphabet CEO Larry Page about the third-party access to user email, while checking in with Apple CEO Tim Cook about access third-party developers might have via the iTunes App Store. The leaders also inquired about the ability of smartphones to listen in on users, something both Mark Zuckerberg has denied and researchers haven't found any evidence of. The thrust of the letter addressed to Tim Cook focuses on the company's assertion that it is committed to user privacy. "However, users have consistently had access to apps through the App Store that you have highlighted as contradictory to Apple's values," the lawmakers wrote, "including Google and Facebook apps.
An Associated Press investigation finds that Russian cyber spies exploiting a national vulnerability in cybersecurity are trying to break into the emails of scores of people working on military drone technology. An accused Russian hacker blamed for attacking LinkedIn, Dropbox and Formspring is finally facing American prosecutors after a lengthy extradition fight in the Czech Republic. Yevgeniy Aleksandrovich Nikulin is due to appear in U.S. federal court in California on Thursday for a detention hearing. It's unclear whether Nikulin has any connection to the Russian troll farm the Internet Research Agency, which is widely blamed by American authorities for interfering in the 2016 presidential election. But only two days after Nikulin's arrest, American officials for the first time publicly warned that the Russian government was directing efforts to influence the election by hacking and releasing private information.
Computer scientist Henry Kautz likens Twitter to a kind of distributed sensor network. Hundreds of millions of tweets are posted to the platform each day, with each user observing and reporting on some aspect of the world. "Each report is very noisy," says the Robin and Tim Wentworth Director of the Goergen Institute for Data Science at the University of Rochester. "But the aggregate results can be reliable." Those results can provide information to meet all kinds of challenges–from public concerns regarding health, safety, and the environment, to private ones regarding client and customer satisfaction and changing consumer tastes.
Evolution inevitably involves the creation of new problems, and the big tech stories of the year show that this goes for IT just like anything else. While the internet has brought the world closer together, it also paved the way for fake news and new forms of espionage. The rise of AI has humans worried about being replaced. Chip makers are consolidating and scrambling to retool to meet the demands of virtual reality and the internet of things. And while Apple removed legacy ports on its new devices, a lot of users are grumbling about needing adapters for their favorite headphones and other peripherals.
Nasa has launched a new program that could one day eliminate traffic at the world's busiest airports. The agency plans to create a more efficient method of information sharing, moving away from two-way radio communication toward a computer-based system that connects everybody involved in arrivals and departures. This effort aims to more precisely coordinate an airplane's movements, and over the next five years, Nasa and the Federal Aviation Administration will conduct research and field tests to facilitate the transition. Nasa's Next Generation Air Transportation System plans to use computers to streamline information between air traffic controllers, managers, and flight crews. This would connect everybody involved in arrivals and departures, allowing for more precise coordination of the plane's movement.