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Bank of England

When you're the central bank in charge of determining interest rates for millions of UK inhabitants, being able to predict economic trends is of paramount importance. To do this, the Bank of England has numerous tools at its disposal, but research often depends on assessing trends from the past. In an attempt to become a little more timely, the Bank has set up a special taskforce that will begin scraping internet searches and social networks like Facebook and Twitter for clues about the state of Britain's economy at any given time.

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Touch ID fingerprint reading on an iPhone 5s

Forget having to lift smudges from a touchscreen to copy someone's fingerprints. According to a Chaos Computer Club presentation, you only need a camera... well, that and a little luck. The hacking association's Jan Krissler recently demonstrated that you can reproduce someone's fingerprint by getting a few good photos of their hand and processing it through off-the-shelf authentication software like VeriFinger. In Kessler's case, he got the German Defense Minister's thumbprint through photos from a press conference.

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Many China-based Gmail users are discovering that they are unable to access emails over the weekend. According to, a China-based freedom of speech group, many Gmail web addresses were blocked in China on Friday -- continuing three days later into today. Even Google's Transparency Report, showing real-time traffic to services like Gmail, shows activity plummeted last Friday. According to Reuters, a Singapore-based spokesman for Google said that there was "nothing wrong on our end." Also talking to Reuters, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said she did not know anything about Gmail being blocked, adding that the government remained committed to aiding overseas business:

""China has consistently had a welcoming and supportive attitude towards foreign investors doing legitimate business here. We will, as always, provide an open, transparent and good environment for foreign companies in China."

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Proton rocket launch

The US government has been willing to loosen its grip on satellite data, but what about the info from other countries? Don't worry, that's opening up as well. Russia has declared that the Earth-sensing data it collects from civilian satellites is now available to the public, not just the government -- if you want to track St. Petersburg's urban sprawl, you probably can. Officials are keen to tout the advantages for Russian businesses that rely on maps, but the move should also help anyone who wants a more complete picture of how the world works.

[Image credit: AP Photo]


Your humble narrator doesn't review too many gadgets, so it's always a treat when one hits the How Would You Change timetable. In my mind, the BlackBerry Q5 was the company's most important new device simply because it would show if BlackBerry could recapture its low-end dominance. After all, the Q10 and Z10 were aimed at business types with broken Bolds, the Q5 was for teenagers and budget-conscious users in Asia. Did it succeed? Not really. Low-end specs with a mid-tier price would have been bad enough, but the hobbled keyboard did nothing to tempt back people who had since learned to type with fingers on glass. Oh, but the battery life was great. Still, if you disagree, why not leap into our forum and tell me how much you love this phone?


Twitter for Android shows a login error

Did your Twitter app suddenly give you the boot or otherwise behave strangely? It's not just you. The social network has confirmed a sign-in problem that's kicking out hordes of users (so far, mostly on Android) and preventing them from logging back in. Also, TweetDeck on the desktop is listing every new tweet as a year old. We've reached out to the company for more details, but it's possible that there's a date-related flaw at work -- a coder who intercepted the Android app's login traffic, Ninji, has noticed that the company's servers believe it's already 2015. Twitter has engineers tackling the issue, so sit tight if you want to tweet through your favorite apps.

Update: And we're back.

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Anti-surveillance protest

It's tempting to imagine that few online safeguards will stop NSA surveillance in its tracks, but that's not true. A new leak from Edward Snowden's files reveals that there's a surprising number of ways to thwart these snoops, at least as of 2012. While you may already know that the NSA sees Tor's anonymity network as a problem, it hates the heavy encryption on chat protocols like CSpace or Off-the-Record, internet calling systems like ZRTP or highly secure email systems like Zoho. Use two or more of these services in tandem and you may as well disappear completely -- the NSA considers the combination a "near-total loss."

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The Interview

There was a ton of hoopla about Sony releasing The Interview through internet services before it even hit theaters, but how much did this not-entirely-intentional experiment in online distribution pan out? Quite well, if you ask Sony. It just revealed that the movie racked up $15 million in digital rentals and sales (spread across 2 million customers) between its Wednesday release and Saturday, making the North Korea-themed comedy the studio's "#1 online film of all time" within a matter of days. The company isn't breaking down numbers by service, but Recode's sources claim that the "vast majority" of business came from Google Play and YouTube. Sorry, Xbox Video.

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An internet cafe in Tehran

Iran's current approach to internet censorship typically isn't subtle -- either you get unfettered access, or (more often) you don't see a site at all. However, the country's government is about to take a more measured approach to blocking online content it doesn't like. It's deploying "intelligent filtering" that tries to restrict only the material deemed "criminal or unethical," rather than cutting off an entire service. The smarter filter is only active on one social network (most likely Instagram) as part of a test phase, but it's expanding to more sites within the next six months. Ultimately, the nation wants to use this technology on "all networks."

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PlayStation 4's DualShock 4 controller

Three days after Lizard Squad's latest denial of service attack knocked the PlayStation Network offline (and Xbox Live, we'd add), the internet gaming service is gradually getting back on its feet. Sony now says that PSN should be up and running for all of its consoles. While the company warns that there might be some "intermittency" as it gets back into the swing of things, you theoretically won't face major interruptions during that big Destiny raid. It's not clear if Sony's infrastructure will be any better at weathering future digital assaults on this scale; given that the attack was supposedly three times larger than the previous record-setter, this probably isn't a permanent fix. However, it's good to know that you can squeak in at least some online gaming on that shiny new PS4 before the holidays are over.


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