Your WIRED.co.uk daily briefing. Today, Apple's latest transparency report shows that it's complied with 55 per cent of UK law enforcement requests for data, the government has confirmed that state-funded university researchers won't be gagged by a forthcoming 'anti-lobbying' law, Intel has announced that it's to cut 12,000 jobs and more.
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1. Apple complies with 55 per cent of UK government requests for data
Apple's latest transparency report has revealed that, in the second half of 2015, Apple complied with 55 per cent of UK law enforcement requests for data from a device, compared to 80 per cent of US requests that the company acted on (BBC). UK law enforcement made 1,969 requests for data from a total 3,830 devices. By comparison, US agencies made 4,000 requests, Germany made 11,989 requests (52% upheld) and the Netherlands made 39 requests (41% upheld). Although the UK's percentage of granted requests is a little higher than the EMEA average of 52%, it's below the global average of almost 60%. Security expert Prof Alan Woodward told the BBC that this is "a deeply frustrating situation for law enforcement agencies," although it appears that some requests are refused because the company has no data on record, rather than through any desire to resist demands from law enforcement.
2. Government: British university researchers won't be gagged by 'anti-lobbying' cause
The government has confirmed that a new 'anti-lobbying' rule coming into effect on 1 May will not prevent UK scientists who receive public funds from speaking or advising the government on the political implications of their research (Nature). The clause, to be inserted into grant agreements, is intended to prevent taxpayers' money from being used to fund pressure groups that lobby government for specific causes, but ambiguous wording meant that it appeared to bar publicly-funded scientists from responding to government consultations or giving evidence to inquiries held by Parliament. Science minister Jo Johnson said that he was "happy to confirm that it is not our intention for the research councils, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) or the National Academies to be covered by the clause," but further details on how the exemptions will work are still forthcoming.
3. Intel to cut 12,000 jobs in response to weak PC market
Intel has announced plans to cut 11 per cent of its workforce – 12,000 jobs – between now and mid-2017 in order to "speed its transition to a company that powers the cloud and billions of smart, connected computing devices" (MarketWatch). The staff cut is among the most dramatic in the chip-maker's history, which includes 5,000 redundancies when the 2001 dot-com bubble burst. The decision appears to be linked to weak global PCs sales in many sectors. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said that the company will still be a major play in PCs, but plans to become more focussed on "areas of the client space that are growing": hybrid laptops, high-end gaming systems and set-top boxes, as well as the Internet of Things.
Rupert Murdoch's News Corp has reportedly filed another antitrust complaint with the European Commission, with an insider quoted by News Corp's own Wall Street Journal saying that the company was "concerned Google reinforces its dominance in general search by 'scraping' or copying content from publishers to display the results of news article" (Ars Technica). The crux of the complaint appears to be that Google's ranking system appears to remove or give less value to sites whose content, like that of many of News Corp's paywalled publications, can't be copied by browsers or read by search engine indexing spiders. A Google spokesperson told Ars Technica that "Google News and Search send billions of clicks for free to the websites of news publishers. We also work with European publishers to support journalism online and a more sustainable eco-system for news." There are also indications of another impending EU anti-trust case against Google related to the dominance of the Android mobile operating system.
5. The Great Barrier Reef has suffered 93 per cent coral bleaching
Australian scientists have completed a detailed aerial survey of the Great Barrier Reef and have revealed that only 7 per cent of reef system has escaped potentially fatal coral bleaching (Science). Coral bleaching is caused when over-warm water, such as the currents produced by the ongoing and unusually long El Niño climate system, causes corals to expel their colourful symbiotic zooxanthellae algae, which normally provide nutrients to the coral. If the waters cool, the algae can return, but ongoing warmth keeps them away and results in the death of the coral. Terry Hughes, director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Townsville, said that the current damage "dwarfs previous bleaching events by a long mark" and that the hardest-hit northern part of the reef "won't get back to what it was, certainly not in my lifetime."
6. March was the warmest on record
Continuing an ongoing trend of record global temperatures, the USA's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced that March 2016 was the hottest on record (Phys.org). March's average global temperature was 12.7 degrees – 2.2 degrees hotter than 20th century average for the month. The first three months of 2016 have been over 1.15 degrees warmer than normal and 0.28 degrees warmer than 2015, contributed to by El Niño.
Yahoo has revealed its most recent quarterly revenue report, which came in at $1.087 billion reported, just over analysts' expectations (TechCrunch). However, its adjusted earnings of 8 cents per share are a significant drop from last year's 15 cents per share. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said that "I'm pleased that we delivered Q1 results in line with our expectations. Our 2016 plan is off to a solid start as we continue to focus on driving efficiency, lowering costs, and improving long-term growth." Yahoo is currently up for sale, with bidders including Verizon, the Daily Mail, AT&T and a number of private equity firms.
8. Microsoft rumoured to be testing new Xbox One models
Increasingly widespread rumours and evidence from FCC filings indicate the Microsoft is currently developing two new Xbox One models in a move that looks similar to Sony's apparent plans for an upgraded PS4 NEO, said to be due for release later this year (VG24/7). The Verge quotes sources close to Microsoft as saying that the prototypes include "upgraded components" similar to those which improve the "performance of a PC gaming rig". It's thought that the company is most likely to announce any new hardware during its E3 presentation, scheduled for 13 June.
9. Universal to release over 100 4K Blu-rays in 2016
Universal Pictures has announced that it will be releasing over a hundred of its films as 4K UltraHD Blu-rays this year, with the first tranche of releases set to include the forthcoming Jason Bourne and Warcraft movies (The Verge). Other titles planned for the company's initial release are Everest, Lucy and Lone Survivor. Universal has yet to reveal its suggested pricing for the massively high resolution films.
A short documentary by Wendover Productions covers the history of clocks and timekeeping in a remarkable overview of our relationship with time (Sploid). Stretching from the inaccurate town clocks of the 15th century to Galileo's research into pendulums that led to the development of the pendulum clock, and all the way through to modern quartz clocks, vital to computer technology, atomic clocks, and timekeeping's ongoing role in navigation.
Rumoured Sony PS4K could have faster CPU and more RAM
The much-rumoured upgraded PlayStation 4, nicknamed PS4.5 or PS4K, has inched closer to reality, with details emerging of the revised console's specifications. Although Sony itself has still not officially confirmed the hardware's existence, it is also claimed that the machine is codenamed 'NEO' internally. A release before the end of 2016, possibly to coincide with the launch of PlayStation VR, is still being targeted. Initial reports of the NEO specs surfaced at Giant Bomb and appear to have been corroborated by Eurogamer's Digital Foundry. The new version is likely to benefit from boosted CPU and GPU performance, and faster memory.
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