Mark Wilson

The Intercept cracks open the Snowden archive including internal NSA newsletters


There can be few people who have had such an impact on people's perception of the government as Edward Snowden. Having exposed the convert spying activities of the NSA, he opened up a worldwide debate about privacy and surveillance that is still going on today. His revelations have shaped public opinion and changed the course of history.

Just as the likes of the Guardian have already helped to educate the world about what the NSA has been doing, so The Intercept is releasing a huge cache of internal NSA documents that give an intriguing insight into the agency's operations. The documents shed light on the NSA's work relating to terrorism, Iraq, and general surveillance.

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Google launches Spaces for sharing links, YouTube videos, images and more with small groups [UPDATE: It's live!]


Google is introducing a new way to share content with a group. Spaces is a collaborative tool that Google wants people to use to share everything from articles and images to YouTube videos and messages.

So keen is Google for a huge take up of Spaces, that the service is launching in mobile and desktop web versions, as well as iOS and Android apps. It's billed as an alternative to group conversations, and Google wants to help streamline sharing by eliminating app switching -- this is achieved by integrating Google Search, YouTube, and Chrome into a single tool.

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GCHQ arrives on Twitter to give a more public face to the spy agency


The UK's GCHQ -- like its US counterpart the NSA -- is an agency traditionally shrouded in secrecy. Tasked with the job of spying on all and sundry in the name of intelligence gathering, the agency has just joined Twitter, greeting other users with an unoriginal "Hello, world".

With the concerns about privacy and security that blew up in the wake of Edward Snowden's NSA surveillance revelation, spy agencies around the world have been on a mission to boost their public image. GCHQ -- complete with the blue tick reserved for verified accounts -- will use Twitter to "provide news, updates, and opinions".

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Microsoft is working on a tool to simplify clean installations of Windows 10


While Microsoft has gone to great lengths to make it as easy as possible to upgrade from Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 to Windows 10, purists will always prefer to opt for a clean installation. For seasoned Windows users, performing a clean install of Windows 10 is easy enough, but that's not true for everyone.

Acknowledging the fact that clean installations are not a piece of cake for all, Microsoft is beavering away on a new tool to simplify the process. Windows Insiders will be able to try it out before anyone else, and give feedback to help shape the final product.

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Google to block Flash in Chrome and default to HTML5 except for these ten white-listed sites


By the end of 2016, Google aims to switch Chrome users away from Flash in favor of HTML5. The writing has been on the wall for Flash for some time now, with a seemingly endless torrent of security issues pushing increasing numbers of people toward HTML5.

Google says that by Q4 2016, it wants to make HTML5 the primary user experience. Flash support will still be built into the browser, but it will be disabled by default. Ten sites, however, will be given a year's reprieve.

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You'll still be able to hack Linksys WRT routers with open source firmware despite new FCC rules


In a little over two weeks, new rules will come into play that pose something of a threat to people who like to install open source firmware on their routers. The Federal Communications Commission is implementing guidelines designed to prevent users from modifying their routers in such a way that would make them operate outside of their licensed frequency range and interfere with other devices.

Many router manufacturers have opted for the easy way out, and decided to simply completely block (or continue to block) the installation of third party, open source firmware. Not so with Linksys. The company has been working with Marvell and the makers of OpenWrt to ensure that the Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS) setting cannot be disabled so that users can still install and use open source firmware.

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Torrent site The Pirate Bay loses and domain names

The Pirate Bay is offline following Swedish police raid

The Pirate Bay is no stranger to court cases, and the site has just lost another one in Sweden. A Swedish court has ruled that the torrent site's and domain names must be handed over to the state.

The two domains have been confiscated after a judge at the Court of Appeal decided that they were being used to (gasp!) commit crimes under the Copyright Act.

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Windows 10 Anniversary Update will bring even more deceptive app ads to the Start menu


When Microsoft first introduced the idea of 'promoted apps' to the Windows 10 Start menu, it was decried by many as little more than pushing ads at users. If you found yourself among those upset by the appearance of links to apps you may have a vague interest in, things could be about to get a whole lot worse.

Later this summer Microsoft is releasing a major update to Windows 10 in the form of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. In July the update will be released to the masses -- although Insiders have the chance to try it out in the meantime -- and Microsoft has plans for more ads; the number of spaces for 'promoted apps' in the Start menu is set to double from five to ten.

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Microsoft pulls the plug on Project Spark

project spark

Out of the blue, Microsoft has announced that Project Spark is closing down. The Xbox One experiment which made it possible for just about anyone to create and publish games is to be killed off "after much consideration".

The service will be completely offline by 12 August meaning that after this date it will no longer be possible to upload or download content. Microsoft stopped development of Project Spark last year, but users had hoped that it would just be left to its own devices; this sunset announcement means that this is no longer the case.

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Microsoft implements a blanket ban on computer support ads on Bing


Microsoft is following in Google's footsteps and cleaning up the ads that can be displayed on its network. After Google announced that AdWords could no longer be used to push payday loans, Microsoft has decided to ban ads for computer support services from Bing.

What's interesting here is that Microsoft has taken an incredibly hard line and issued a complete blanket ban on all technical support ads -- no exceptions. The aim is to weed out fake support ads and scams, but it will also impact on legitimate services.

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Belgian police warn that Facebook Reactions pose a serious privacy risk


Police in Belgium are warning people not to use Facebook Reactions because of the risk they pose to privacy. Introduced recently to supplement the iconic Like option, Reactions give Facebook users the chance to respond to content with Love, Haha, Wow, Sad, and Angry emoji.

But Belgian police have issued a 'Safe Browsing' warning advising that Facebook is using Reactions to gather information about social network users. Specifically, the police warn that in using Reactions to express emotions, users are giving Facebook the opportunity to build up a more detailed personal profile about them and use that information to deliver closely targeted advertising.

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UK ebook sales drop for the first time


It seems that our love affair with ebooks could be turning sour. For the first time since digital book sales were recorded, the number of ebooks sold in the UK dropped in 2015.

The drop could be partly explained by the fact that we seem to be reading less in recent years. While sales of printed books rose by 0.4 percent according to the Publishers Association, digital book sales declined by 1.6 percent.

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Mark Zuckerberg wants to talk to conservatives about Facebook's trending news bias

Facebook launches Platform and opens up to more developers

After a delay of a few days, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has jumped to the defence of this social network and its handling of news. Following accusations that trending stories are manipulated to bury right wing news, Facebook has scrambled to play down suggestions of political bias -- something that will be increasingly important as the Trump and Clinton battle comes to a conclusion later in the year.

Zuckerberg felt compelled to respond to the accusations in a post on Facebook, reiterating the previous statement that there are "rigorous guidelines" in place that "do not permit the prioritization of one viewpoint over another or the suppression of political perspectives". He announced that a full investigation is to be carried out to ensure the integrity of Trending Topics, and says he'll be inviting "leading conservatives" to talk about the issue.

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Leaked documents show how Facebook manipulates trending news


Facebook has faced accusations of interfering with the headlines that appear in Trending Topics, censoring conservative stories. While admitting to a left wing bias in Silicon Valley, the social network has denied supressing the appearance of right wing news.

However, leaked internal documents show that there is a very structured and controlled process in place that sees employees -- rather than algorithms -- influencing the news that Facebook users see. The documents reveal that there is an editorial team in place, with stories being ranked and promoted by hand. Perhaps just as worrying is the revelation that a very small number of news sources are used by Facebook.

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Mozilla asks the FBI for details of Tor vulnerability that could also affect Firefox


Mozilla is fighting to force the FBI to disclose details of a vulnerability in the Tor web browser. The company fears that the same vulnerability could affect Firefox, and wants to have a chance to patch it before details are made public.

The vulnerability was exploited by FBI agents to home in on a teacher who was accessing child pornography. Using a "network investigative technique", the FBI was able to identify the man from Vancouver, but Mozilla is concerned that it could also be used by bad actors.

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