Friday roundup: A week in tech, 3 September | News

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The Innovation and Technology Network

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Friday roundup: A week in tech, 3 September

The all-powerful Chinese Communist Party is becoming concerned that young people have little interest in its materialist divinity – so has turned on videogames, celebrities, and tech in general, naturally.

Henceforth, under-18s in China will be forbidden from playing videogames online during weekdays, while Friday through Sunday will see the imposition of a three-hour limit.

According to the country’s government-run media, online games are a “spiritual opium”, which doesn’t sound that bad.

Games companies have been told to make sure kids aren’t breaking the rules, while a regulatory body will drop in online to make inspections (and maybe even have a quick session on Super Karl Marx Bros., why not?).

But hang on: aren’t lots of children savvy enough to pretend they’re over 18 online? The government’s thought of that: gaming giant and compliant regime toady Tencent is joyfully rolling out facial recognition login systems to make sure errant kids don’t break the rules.

Also for the chop are online celebrity fan clubs. The Party believes celebrity culture and idolisation is silly and pointless (and it’s hard not to agree). Officials would much rather the country’s youngsters idolised them.

According to state news agency Xinhua, “teenagers are the future of our motherland. Protecting the physical and mental health of minors is related to the people’s vital interests, and relates to the cultivation of the younger generation in the era of national rejuvenation.” 

In a rather wonderful twist, the strategy may spell bad news for the US’s utterly out of control tech giants.

The likes of Facebook have long argued that tighter regulation of their sordid activities would open the door for their rivals in China – but with the Chinese government actively curtailing their own firms, America’s tech cowboys may have to adapt their specious arguments. 

With the hell of celebrity nonsense ringing in its ears, the Party has published a draft copy of new rules that will constrain and control the algorithms tech outfits use to rank the oceans of painfully dismal rubbish that clutters the world’s social media feeds.

How communist! However, the EU has also been trying to create a law that will compel the likes of YouTube to come clean about their algorithms, how they work, and what on earth is going on, etc. – so it seems, regardless of your guiding ideology, everyone’s wary of tech firms.

And there you go. Probably a bit too long this story but maybe we all learned something?

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GDPR fans, this one’s for you. The second largest fine ever under the EU data protection law has been issued to…WhatsApp!

The Facebook-owned communications thing breached privacy regulations, which caught the eye of the Irish Data Protection Commission, who then fined it £193m.

WhatsApp, understandably, would prefer not to pay the fine and has announced plans to appeal.

Back in 2018, the Irish regulator began an investigation into WhatsApp’s transparency and if it was clear enough with users about how their data was processed.

A WhatsApp spokesperson mouthed: "WhatsApp is committed to providing a secure and private service.

"We have worked to ensure the information we provide is transparent and comprehensive and will continue to do so. We disagree with the decision today regarding the transparency we provided to people in 2018 and the penalties are entirely disproportionate."

Under GDPR, companies can be fined up to 4% of their global turnover if they foul up. Under Brexit, the UK government is planning to do away with the legislation and create its own GDPR – which maybe, just maybe, will be written in such a way as to appeal to large tech firms that might want to set up their headquarters in Britain because of certain cynical advantages conferred to them by our eager leaders.

Anyway, interestingly, WhatsApp owner Facebook’s European headquarters are based in Ireland – which may or may not shed some light on this bit: earlier in the year, the European Data Protection Board told the Irish regulator that its original proposed fine of £26-43m was too small, and that it should work on its conclusion "by setting out a higher fine amount".

So, that’s probably worth some consideration.

But who has the biggest GDPR fine? That would be Amazon, slapped with a €746m bill in July by Luxembourg's regulator for non-compliance with data-processing laws. Interestingly, Amazon’s European headquarters are based in Luxembourg, a country that’s as famous for its light-touch tax approach as it is for absolutely nothing else.

Well, you can’t build a tax-free omelette without breaking a few regs. Amazon is appealing the fine.

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A Cardiff-based doctor has decided to have a crack at battling the myths around Covid, vaccines, and all the rest of the lunatic crap being circulated on the internet. Dr Bnar Talabani – who is merely a kidney and transplant medicine specialist and therefore unlikely to be as informed as, say, Steve from Kidderminster – has started talking to young people on social media and reckons "the key is to focus on the science and the evidence, ignore opinion, nobody's opinion matters”. Watch the sensible woman explain things / infuriate the terminally idiotic here.

Twitter has made YET ANOTHER attempt to deal with the abuse that makes up a vast percentage of the network’s content. ‘Safety Mode’ will flag accounts linked with despicable activity and block them for a week. Will it work? Probably not. More here

Need something new and horrible to worry about? Fret no longer, and instead get worrying about ‘Zoom dysmorphia’, which dermatologist Dr Shadi Kourosh reckons is driving people to get cosmetic surgeries as they stare at their own face all day in tedious internet meetings. Read more here.