Complex IT systems arise for many reasons, adding new systems to old ones, expansion through mergers or takeovers, or simply demand for more sophisticated solutions.
We already knew that the dragnet style of data collection employed by the NSA resulted in a huge level of collateral damage. As revealed by whistle-blower Edward Snowden the agency had been intercepting huge amounts of web traffic -- often with the assistance of web firms -- on an almost unbelievable scale. The NSA has tried to improve its public image by playing the national security card, as well as releasing a "transparency report" but there's no getting away from the fact that countless innocent web users got caught up in the net. But an investigation by the Washington Post reveals the true extent of the impact on the average internet users -- and it's far worse than many thought.
A four-month investigation by the newspaper found that the number of average internet users who had their data intercepted far outweighs the data of targeted individuals. And not just by a bit -- by a factor of nine. Data provided to the Washington Post by Edward Snowden shows that an astonishing 900 percent more innocent users than intended targets fell victim to the NSA's surveillance. (For the purposes of accuracy the exact figures are closer to an 11 to 89 percent split). These are staggering revelations. There has already been very vocal opposition to the NSA's activities but these were essentially "blind" complaints. Without knowing the scale of operations, it was difficult to know just how upset to be. Nine out of ten people who had their data collected were nothing more than collateral damage caught in the extremely wide net cast by the agency.
The revelations about Facebook's emotional experiment with users' newsfeeds back in 2012 has seen the social network fighting off a torrent of criticism. Users were upset to learn that the content of their newsfeed may have been manipulated as researchers tried to determine the effects exposure to positive and negative newsfeed content had on users' subsequent output. Now an official complaint has been lodged against the social network by thee Electronic Privacy Information Center. Epic filed a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission, alleging that "the company purposefully messed with people’s minds".
There are several lines of attack in the complaint, but the main thrust is that Facebook neither obtained permission from the 700,000 affected users, nor informed them about what was happening. Epic also complains that Facebook failed to warn users that their data would be shared with researchers at Cornell University and the University of California. The complaint points out that "at the time of the experiment, Facebook was subject to a consent order with the Federal Trade Commission which required the company to obtain users' affirmative express consent prior to sharing user information with third parties".
Fifth in a series. Two years ago today, I stepped away from Apple, following a boycott later abandoned. My problems were philosophical, regarding the company's aggressive patent litigation that thwarts innovation. This July Fourth I seek freedom from Google, and not for the first time. I don't oppose the search and information giant, nor like fanboy rally for it. I declare independence as a practical exercise; an experiment. Can you -- OK, I -- do without Big G's expansive portfolio of products and services? I want to know.
In many regards, Google is the Internet gatekeeper U.S. trustbusters asserted Microsoft would be, in their late-1990s court case. Big G is unquestionably a monopoly that integrates features and products for competitive gain. In the United States, Google's search share is about 67 percent (3.5 times greater than second-ranked Microsoft), according to ComScore, and as much as 90 percent in some countries. Android's worldwide smartphone share is about 80 percent, according to IDC.
Today's workplace plays host to employees using a variety of cloud services side-by-side with corporate-sanctioned IT. This often results in incongruent information sourcing and storage, typically known as cloud sprawl. Whilst software as a service (SaaS) can boost smarter working and innovation in businesses, information disparity issues need to be addressed to sustain efficient working environments.
As businesses adoption and management of cloud services matures, some are still suffering organizational inefficiencies due to cloud sprawl. At the moment, different software is being selected for different solutions by different departments or even individual members of staff; there is a knowledge gap where businesses aren't fully informed about how cloud technology can respond to business challenges in a different way to on-premise solutions, and so the potential for better information management is not being realized.
A new report from research specialist Gartner says that the physical location of data is becoming increasingly irrelevant and that by 2020 a combination of legal, political and logical location will be more important.
Gartner research vice president Carsten Casper says that the number of data residency and data sovereignty discussions has soared in the past 12 months, and that this has stalled technology innovation in many organizations. Originally triggered by the dominance of US providers on the Internet and the Patriot Act, the perceived conflict has since been fueled by revelations of surveillance by the NSA made public by Edward Snowden.
Worldwide IT spending is on track to reach $3.7 trillion, an increase of 2.1 percent in 2014, according to new figures released by research specialists Gartner. However, this is down on earlier projections which put this year's growth at 3.2 percent.
The slower growth outlook is down due to a reduction in growth expectations for devices, data center systems and to some extent IT services. The value of the devices market -- which includes PCs, mobile phones, tablets and printers -- is predicted to grow by 1.2 percent over last year. This is partly due to lower prices. As tablet adoption reaches 50 percent in US households, Gartner forecasts sales of high-end tablets dropping as new buyers are attracted by lower priced units.
The idea of connected devices means far more than wireless webcams and televisions that are connected to the internet. The Internet of Things is a buzzword, but it’s also a real, tangible thing. Consumers and businesses alike are looking to the ways in which connected devices can help to make life easier, more efficient, and more profitable. In many ways, this is Internet 2.0 -- we've had Web 2.0, now the Internet is being taken to the next level -- as the benefits of getting ever more devices not only online, but also communicating with each other, are realized. But just as with the web, the IoT needs protocols to ensure compatibility between devices, and this is what HyperCat hopes to bring about.
A collaboration between dozens of UK technology firms, HyperCat is… well… let's allow it to introduce itself. "HyperCat is a media type for the web allowing servers to list catalogs of resources. It is designed to make discovery of IoT services and assets easier". It's a protocol, a specification, a standard. It's an attempt to define the semantics of the Internet of Things, helping to level the playing field and start everyone off on an even footing. As we saw with the VHS and Betamax battle, and the Blu-ray vs HD-DVD format wars, there are just no winners when there are two or more competing formats. It makes perfect sense to pin down how the IoT should work as early as possible, and this is precisely what HyperCat aims to do.
NSA, Snowden, spying, yadda, yadda, yadda. This story is old, I know, but it goes on. The activities of the NSA and other government agencies have forced the online world to look very closely at how its data is being used, and how the companies handling it operate. Just about every online company worth its salt has gone out of its way to bemoan the NSA, their need to comply with data requests from the agency, and their inability to reveal everything they want to about what the NSA is asking about.
We have seen "transparency reports" from Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn and numerous other companies. But as suggested by my use of quotes, and as alluded to in the opening paragraph, there have been (severe) limits to the levels of transparency we have seen. "Quite opaque" might be a better description. Still, with the world and its dog falling over one another to release the most details, most comprehensive, and most self-congratulatory report, we probably should have predicted that pressure on the NSA would reach a point at which it felt forced to show its own hand. That time has come. The microscope has been turned around, and the security agency is now laying bare its own facts and figures.
Last year around seven percent of all data was stored in the cloud, but by 2016 it's estimated that 36 percent of data will be in cloud storage, generating a potential revenue of over $4 billion. Of current storage users, 38 percent say they already use the cloud with 34 percent planning to do so.
Salesforce and Google Drive linking specialist Cirrus Files has been looking at the three main public cloud providers, Dropbox, Box and Google Drive to see how their services compare in this fast-growing sector.
Google I/O 2014 started yesterday and, thanks to a lengthy first-day keynote, the search giant has already made plenty of headlines one after another. And for good reason, as it unveiled new software, new hardware (albeit none of it was Nexus-branded) and a number of sweeping changes to its portfolio. Say what you will, but Google sure had plenty of interesting things to show without even announcing a new Nexus tablet (as we were used to in the past two years).
The amount of information from the conference is overwhelming, so here is the tl;dr version.
At I/O 2014 Google announced that more cloud storage will be made available to space hungry users. Google Drive for Work has a price tag of $10 per month and includes not just more cloud storage, but unlimited cloud storage. Well, there is one limitation; individual files cannot exceed 5TB, but this is, for all intents and purposes, a deal that is unlimited by most people's understanding of the word. As the name suggests, this is a product that is aimed at businesses, but at this price it is hard to imagine that there won’t be swathes of home users looking to take advantage of the package.
A few months back, Google slashed the cost of its cloud storage packages, but today's news is something quite different. Worries about security may be allayed by the news that Drive, Gmail and Calendar data will be encrypted at data centers. IT admins will also be able to audit and control options, that means internal security policies can be implemented as required.
Storage is often at the heart of many of the problems companies encounter when running their data centers in the cloud.
Analytics specialist CloudPhysics is looking to help admins pinpoint and resolve storage-related issues with a new Storage Analytics product. This uses big data analysis techniques to predict problems and issue Smart Alerts so that issues can be fixed before they become critical.
In many regards, it is rather surprising that it didn’t happen sooner -- today Google announces it is testing a new domain registration service aimed at businesses. Google Domains is currently an invite-only service, and it has taken the search-giant a very long time to get in on the website game. Once fully up and running, "businesses will be able to search, find, purchase and transfer the best domain for their business -- whether it's .com, .biz, .org, or any of the wide range of new domains that are being released to the web".
At the moment, the service is concerned only with domain registration. However, partnerships with the likes of Shopify, Squarespace, Weebly, and Wix.com suggest that storage and web building options will also be in the cards. Few details have been released about just what we can expect from Google Domains, but the About page does give something of an insight. Standard features such as domain forwarding and domain management tools are complemented by customizable sub-domains and email accounts that can be forwarded to existing Gmail addresses.
Just three months ago we saw the start of the cloud storage price wars when Google slashed its prices. Today Microsoft has retaliated by offering a massive increase in the amount of free cloud storage available to OneDrive and Office 365 customers. The company's recently renamed storage service jumps from 7GB of free space to 15GB -- although those with reasonable memories will recall that it is not all that since SkyDrive customers were given 25GB free of charge. But it doesn’t end there. Every version of Office 365 will now come with 1TB of free space as standard.
The figure for OneDrive has not just been plucked out of the air. "Our data tells us that 3 out of 4 people have less than 15 GB of files stored on their PC. Factoring in what they may also have stored on other devices, we believe providing 15 GB for free right out of the gate – with no hoops to jump through – will make it much easier for people to have their documents, videos, and photos available in one place."