Posts Tagged ‘UK’

China’s rulers will ultimately take it upon themselves to dismantle the “great firewall” that limits its people’s access to the Internet because doing so will boost China’s economy, the inventor of the World Wide Web said.

In an interview about his World Wide Web Foundation’s rankings of the way 81 countries manage the Internet, Tim Berners-Lee, a London-born computer scientist who invented the Web in 1989, also scolded the United States for undermining the Internet’s foundations with its surveillance programmes.

Revelations about the scale of that surveillance and poor rural penetration rates pushed the United States from second place into fourth in the survey, which examined Internet access, freedom and content. Sweden came out on top for the second year.

But it was China, which the survey ranked at 57 out of 81, down from a ranking of 29 out of 61 last year, where Berners-Lee saw the greatest potential for improvement.

“The Berlin Wall tumbled down, the great firewall of China – I don’t think it will tumble down, I think it will be released,” he told Reuters by telephone.

“My hope is that bit-by-bit, quietly, website-by-website, it will start to be relaxed,” he said. “The agility of a country which allows full access to the web is just greater; it will be a stronger country economically as well.”

China’s state Web-censorship system blocks Facebook, Twitter and some foreign news sites as well as content that the Communist leadership considers damaging to stability and cohesion.

“The citizens are not really in a position to smash the great firewall because the government controls the Internet, the Internet companies,” said Berners-Lee, 58.

“All that can happen is that the government realises it is not in their interests, that it is holding up the economy, holding up the development of the country.”

Berners-Lee said he was encouraged that the increased use of social media had stoked political mobilisation across the planet, but cautioned that growing surveillance and censorship threatened the future of democracy.

SPYING VS FREEDOM

Berners-Lee took particular aim at eavesdropping conducted by the United States and Britain, saying the extent of the spying laid bare by US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden showed that rights had been set back.

“The rights of the individual have been severely eroded and eroded in secret,” he said of the US and British surveillance programmes. “It is a very serious threat to the Internet.”

While he admitted the state needed the power to tackle criminals using the Internet, he called for greater oversight over spy agencies such Britain’s GCHQ and the NSA, and over any organisations collecting information about private individuals.

“It is clear in the case of the US and the UK that there just has not been that oversight and accountability to the public,” he said.

“Whatever oversight you have has to be very strong, have the ability to find things out and strong rights to be told things … It has got to be very seriously independent and accountable directly to the public rather than accountable through some secret route to part of government.”

Britain’s spy chiefs have argued that media reports about Snowden’s revelations have weakened the ability of the security services to stop those plotting deadly attacks against the West.

Britain came third in the rankings, the same as in 2012 but below Norway in second place. Russia, the world’s biggest energy producer, was at 41 in the ranking.

A map of the world produced by Berners-Lee’s foundation showed Russia, Kazakhstan, China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as countries which extensively censored political content.

So was it really worth inventing the World Wide Web, and has it been a force for good or for evil?

“Overall, it has been a staggering force for good because it has been so empowering for humanity,” he said. “Humanity is basically good, creative and collaborative.”

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Google has launched Helpouts, a marketplace of live video-based help services it has been testing for months.

The search giant has signed on more than 1,000 service providers offering tips on computer repair, yoga lessons, health care, baking and music instruction, among other services.

People can sign up to schedule a help appointment or get an instant session. Available on the Web, Helpouts is also launching on Android

“Very often you don’t know what questions to ask,” says Udi Manber, vice president of engineering at Google.

Helpouts allows people to use their Web cams or mobile phones to show service providers what they are doing and get live feedback in a video-conferencing session.

Google’s Helpouts service uses Google+ for login, Google Wallet for payments and Google Hangouts to provide the video interactions.

Helpouts allows people to sign up for services by the minute or by the job, with varying prices. Google takes 20% of the transaction and the service provider takes the rest.

People shopping for services can check out prices, ratings, reviews and qualifications for tasks. Google offers a money back guarantee on the services.Google Helpouts service providers are by invitation only. Service providers will be available from the U.S., the UK, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Canadian providers will offer services in both French and English.

A pair of headphones that can harness solar power to charge mobile devices when you are on the move has been designed in the UK.
Andrew Anderson, a Glasgow-based designer, launched the OnBeat headphones on crowdfunding site Kickstarter and hopes to have them on sale by early next year.

The headphone band is fitted with a flexible solar cell with a charge capacity of 0.55 watts.

“The headphones have an integrated flexible solar cell that covers the full headband which capture solar energy whilst out and about,” Anderson said on Kickstarter.

“The energy is stored in two light-weight Lithium Ion batteries held within the two ear cups for a balanced weight and fit on the head.

“For those rainy days we have also developed the headphones to be able to be charged via USB directly from your computer or mains socket,” he said.

Anderson hopes to raise 200,000 pounds to get the headphones into production.

“We are still working on the design and prototype. We need to improve the headphones – people want to know about noise cancellation,” he told the BBC.

He admitted that his father Frank had come up with the idea.

“It’s really simple – you would think it had already been done. You can buy solar chargers for phones but the thing is it’s like you’re carrying two phones around,” he said.