Weekend news round-up: Facebook’s Photo Sync data grab; battle for the future of the web

3 Dec 2012

In our trawl through some of the tech stories from the weekend, we look at coverage of Facebook’s roll out of its new Photo Synch feature that puts every pic you take onto its network; a pivotal meeting this weekend in Dubai will decide the fate of the internet; and PC OEMs are refusing to take the blame for slow sales of Windows 8.

Facebook’s huge data grab photo opp

News that Facebook has begun rolling out a new Photo Sync feature that puts every photo you take on your smartphone directly into a private album on the social network will either be met with cheer by ardent snappers or revulsion by privacy cheerleaders.

According to TechCrunch, the rollout started over the weekend and every photo you take, even the embarrassing ones you never want anyone to see, will end up on the social network without any work on the user’s part if they opt into the new feature. But don’t worry, only the photos you ‘select’ to go public will go public.

“You’ll see the full force of Photo Sync if Facebook combines it with its facial recognition feature. Rather than tagging friends manually, Facebook will analyse your Photo Synced album for the mugs of friends, apply tags automatically, and all you’ll have to do is approve them.

“In the meantime, Facebook is probably going to suck in some terms of service violations and other very private photos. Even if people know that no one else can see them, some might panic when they see photos of them drunk, sloppy, nude, or in otherwise compromising positions within the Facebook Chrome. Right now Facebook doesn’t do a great job of explaining how the feature works so it could cause some to be caught by surprise, freak out, and turn it off.”

Battle for the future of the web

A battle for the future of the internet has already begun. Treaty talks in Dubai begin today between governments and telecoms officials to reform 25-year-old guidelines, according to The Verge.

“The future of the web will be decided in a dark room by UN politicians and authoritarian governments – at least according to Google and some other opponents of the International Telecommunication Union’s plan to reform its 25-year-old guidelines. Leaked documents have shown that ITU members are interested in adding more internet regulations to the ITU’s mostly telecommunications-focused rules, something critics worry will let countries justify repressive filtering of the internet or upset the current balance of power by pushing more regulation. Supporters, meanwhile, hope it will help internationalise the internet, counterbalancing the more US-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which currently manages domains and controls the internet’s backbone.”

The mysterious Mr McAfee

John McAfee, the billionaire founder of the IT security powerhouse that still bears his name, is on the run from authorities in Belize who want to question him about the killing of his neighbour.

Three people have been detained by investigators but the enigmatic McAfee is still on the run.

Cameramen from CNN have, nevertheless, managed to track McAfee down and interviewed him on a tropical island.

“It hasn’t been a lot of fun. I miss my prior life. Much of it has been deprivation. No baths, poor food,” McAfee told CNN.

The story has to be one of the most bizarre to ever emerge about a tech founder, even one as eccentric as McAfee, who maintains his innocence.

The irresistible rise of Samsung’s unstoppable chairman

While people rave about Samsung smartphones and other tech innovations, less is known about the company’s chairman, Lee Kun-hee, who is about to mark 25 years at the helm after taking over from his late father. The Verge reports that his time at the top of Samsung has seen a whirlwind acceleration in Samsung’s fortunes.

“Under Lee’s guidance, the company has been transformed from a Korean budget name into a major international force and arguably the most prominent Asian brands worldwide – Samsung’s revenues are now 39 times what they were in 1987, it generates around 20pc of South Korea’s GDP, and Lee is the country’s richest man.”

PC makers refuse to take the blame for slow sales of Windows 8

Even with 40m licences sold, Microsoft is understood to be unhappy with the rate of Windows 8 sales since its launch more than a month ago. But OEM partners of the software giant refuse to be scapegoated.

The general consensus among companies Wired spoke to is Windows 8 device sales are meeting, or almost meeting, projected sales. “That’s not to say Windows 8 is selling superbly. On the contrary, one OEM said it had lower expectations for Windows 8 than previous launches simply because the field is so much more crowded. There are many more services and platforms, an underdeveloped supply chain for touch components and slow consumer education stemming to scattered branding and PR.”

One OEM said: “In the past, Windows was the only game in town, when it was Windows 7 or Vista it was the big event of the year. These days it’s a different environment.”

A chill descends on VC investment in the Valley

While to outsiders Silicon Valley is the best place in the world to secure venture capital investment, it’s not actually as easy as it appears and if anything, a chill has descended on the market for follow-on investment, much like elsewhere in the world.

TechCrunch reported: “As Dow Jones reported last week, VC consumer investment spend is down 42pc in the first three-quarters of this year versus last year. And while much of that 2011 capital was put into outlying behemoths like Groupon, Twitter and Facebook, we’re hearing whispers that some top VC firms are indeed slowing down on their number of investments in the past three to four months. This is happening across all tiers, with emphasis on A and late-stage, and even sectors, with consumer web obviously taking the biggest hit.

“More notably, valuations are also down among deals that can get the meeting, and in those meetings investors are increasingly asking ‘What’s the business model?’”

Data grab image via Shutterstock

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years