State-of-the-Cloud

Hello and welcome to this August state of the cloud, where the Cloudwards.net editorial team confusingly takes a look at the major stories of July. This is our fifth installment since we started in April and, as there seems to be some demand for our input on current events in tech, we’re planning on keeping it up.

As is usual by now, July featured some more of Facebook’s shenanigans when it comes to the privacy of its users’ data (we predict this will never end), as well as some more general privacy SNAFUs from others.

However, we’re not just ranting on data security in this edition, there are also a few snippets of other stories here and there, as well. The best news this past July was that the EU has rejected a silly new copyright law that would have, among other things, outlawed memes, so silver linings abound.

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Let’s get started with privacy issues, however, as we’re not ones for foregoing beating a perfectly good dead horse.

All Your Data Are Belong To Us

Though it’s nothing like the massive scandal that surrounded the company in May and June, news came out last month that Facebook let all kinds of third parties get to their users data, in flagrant breach of its own rules (rather than those set in law by mere mortals).

While some of the companies on the list in the linked article are fairly harmless (when compared to Cambridge Analytica, fine purveyors of sensitive voting data), some others are not. While Spotify having your friends list may not be the biggest deal, Russian or Chinese companies knowing who you’re talking to very much is.

As we detailed in our July edition, companies in the Middle Kingdom (and probably in Russia, too) share their data with the authorities. This means that many Facebook users’ data may be  in the hands of the Chinese secret police.

In related news, Facebook removed the “treason” tag, though, so it’s all good now. We’re sure there are some people recovering naked and shivering from their torture session in a secret prison who are greatly encouraged by the news.

Not that Facebook has a monopoly on giving third parties access: apparently, devs for Gmail have access to your emails, providing that you gave it to them (when agreeing to T&C) and the company in question passed Google’s vetting process. Not that either of these criteria are hard to pass, so here’s hoping you didn’t send anything too crazy over email.

Thankfully We Have the Government to Protect Us

All these dark clouds have one silver lining, however, as the U.S. Congress had reps for Google, Facebook, Twitter et al. in front of a committee for a nice long chat about political meddling. Not that it was some kind of Inquisition-style tribunal: the reps were asked to explain whether or not their companies discriminate against conservatives, they answered in the negative, and that seems to be more or less it.

Not the piece of high political drama everybody was expecting, but there you go.

In an interesting political turn, however, Amazon’s new facial recognition software made a boo-boo and identified around 30 prominent U.S. politicians as wanted criminals. This hilarious test was made by the ACLU, a human rights group, to show how unreliable this type of software really is. A successful test in oour opinion, though it did give rise to some predictable jokes.

However, all the above will be moot soon as President Trump — a man with a very high IQ, as he’ll have you know — has ordered his minions to write up some new privacy legislation. It aims to strike a balance between the needs of the American people as well as businesses, so there’s no chance — no chance whatsoever — that it will become a merrily burning dumpster fire.

Thankfully, if the legislation is flawed a few court cases will bring it before the Supreme Court, where The Donald’s pick for the highest judicial body, Brett Kavanaugh, can rule on it. We’re sure that a man who came out on the side of Ajit Pai and such (of net neutrality fame) will be able to bring a fair ruling on the matter.

Don’t Be Evil (to Shareholders)

Speaking of corporations, the biggest of them all, Google, has been in the news a bit as well the past month. Though we are a bit worried about the way in which Google is going when it comes to not being evil, the company’s AI research department, DeepMind, came up with something really cool.

DeepMind has been able to program bots to play the game Quake III: Arena like humans would, meaning the age of crummy computer opponents may be over. There’s no word whether the AIs will smacktalk and teabag downed players, but at least they’ll stop running into walls.

In case you’re worried the Quake thing may carry over into real battlefields, Elon Musk and Google signed a pledge not to develop AI that can be used for lethal purposes. Though the alufoil crowd will likely still blow a fuse (why pledge if you weren’t making it in the first place? YOU CAN’T HIDE THE TRUTH!!!1!!!11), it seems the Terminator franchise will be confined to fiction, after all.

It wasn’t all high notes for Google, however. It was slapped down by the EU for forcing people to use its apps on Android smartphones. This new order will clear the way for third-party developers, meaning more choice in apps (yay), but also increasing the likelihood of bloatware (boo). In either case, revenue and shares still shot up.

What Do You Mean, Programs Can’t Blow Out Candles?

Fans of pointless anniversaries will be happy to know that July marked several birthdays of important programs and applications. First up was Hotmail, which turned a venerable 22. If it was a person it would be taking its first steps in the business world after finishing college, but like most of its peers it rather sit in its parent basement eating spam.

The best note-taking app out there, Evernote, turned 10, making it a decade of being able to jot down observations on the go. We’d say something sarcastic here as well, but we actually really like it, so image a funny pun about the company’s elephant logo here.

The big one is of course reserved for Windows 10, which turned three last month. Much like some toddlers it still regularly fouls itself, but its parents keep hoping for the best and their friends and family politely ignore the smell filling the room.

Smaller Stories

The OECD placed the blame for slowing wage growth squarely on tech firms. According to the supranational organization the salaries Google, Facebook and their kind pay are drawing from the general pool of available money, thus shorting others. No matter what you think, paying a tech intern more than an electrician does seem a little out of whack to us.

On a humorous note, apparently the word “Taiwan” would crash iOS in certain conditions thanks to a fix that the Chinese government wanted implemented. Sorrowfully enough, the issue has been fixed, but it’s nice to know multi-billion dollar corporations can feel some pain for pandering to despotic regimes.

There was a SNAFU with Amazon’s S3 buckets: apparently all kind of important people have been leaving them open, despite Amazon, one of our best IaaS providers, offering plenty of security options. Affected were the data of American voters, among others, meaning heads are most likely rolling as we speak.

During the G20, European leaders discussed levying a digital tax on internet services, a move that’s sure to affect a barely recovering global economy. The pushers in question are, however, adamant, meaning we may get all kinds of interesting surcharges on goods and services bought over the internet. It’s not just the U.S. trying to spoil the web, it seems.

Nokia and T-Mobile signed a deal to deliver 5G to the States. The deal is the first time a concrete agreement has been made to roll out high-speed mobile internet. If it works, it’ll be revolutionary.

Last but not least, it seems like Julian Assange will be evicted from his flop in London’s Ecuadorian embassy. Scuttlebut says this is the upshot of pressure on the tiny Latin American country by the big boys, we just think they were sick of him leaving the toilet seat up.

Final Thoughts

July was an eventful month, as you can see, and there was rarely a dull moment. Between privacy shenanigans and regulatory overreach, we’re in for a crazy August, no matter that half the world will be on holiday. We hope you’ll come back in a month to check out our September edition (or sign up for our newsletter below for more Cloudwards.net goodness).

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We hope you enjoyed our little recap, please let us know in the comments below if we skipped any important stories. Thank you for reading and hopefully see you next month.

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