Weekend news round-up: Spying fears could wreck web; Netflix plans UltraHD

4 Nov 2013

In our round-up of the weekend’s tech news, the fallout of the Edward Snowden affair is sowing the seeds of distrust among nations and could lead to separate national internets; and Netflix has begun adding 4K movies to its catalogue.

Netflix plans UltraHD

Netflix quietly began adding 4K movies to its catalogue during the past week and the moves are in preparation for UltraHD offerings to be launched next year, according to GigaOM.

“It looks like Netflix added a total of seven videos to its catalogue earlier this week. One is titled El Fuente: 24 MP, and its description promises ‘an example of 4K at 24 frames per second’. The footage itself includes people riding on bicycles, scenes of a wholesale produce market and kids playing in a fountain — test footage to examine the quality of 4K streaming under different conditions.

“But soon, Netflix could offer a lot more compelling 4K fare: CEO Reed Hastings said during the company’s most recent earnings call that Netflix wants to be ‘one of the big suppliers of 4K next year.’ It’s expected that Netflix will kick off 4K, or Ultra HD, as some prefer to call it, with its own original content, but it might also get some movies and TV show content from its licensing partners in ultra high-definition.”

NSA fears could lead to breakup of the internet

The Guardian reported that in the fallout of disclosures by former CIA contractor Edward Snowden about the US National Security Agency (NSA) spying on the internet and nations, countries like Brazil, Germany and India could move to create their own versions of the internet in order to block spy attempts.

“The vast scale of online surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden is leading to the breakup of the internet as countries scramble to protect private or commercially sensitive emails and phone records from UK and US security services, according to experts and academics.

“They say moves by countries, such as Brazil and Germany, to encourage regional online traffic to be routed locally rather than through the US are likely to be the first steps in a fundamental shift in the way the internet works. The change could potentially hinder economic growth.”

With friends like these …

In a related article, The New York Times likened the zealous efforts of the NSA to a hungry omnivore chewing on every morsel of information, with neither friend nor foe free from its scrutiny.

“From thousands of classified documents, the National Security Agency emerges as an electronic omnivore of staggering capabilities, eavesdropping and hacking its way around the world to strip governments and other targets of their secrets, all the while enforcing the utmost secrecy about its own operations.

“It spies routinely on friends as well as foes, as has become obvious in recent weeks; the agency’s official mission list includes using its surveillance powers to achieve ‘diplomatic advantage’ over such allies as France and Germany and ‘economic advantage’ over Japan and Brazil, among other countries.”

Old fox smacks down young pup over ‘internet will save the world’ claims

Microsoft co-founder and chairman Bill Gates downplayed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s efforts to harness the internet to alleviate the world’s poverty problems, arguing more brass tack issues need to be tackled first, he said in an exclusive interview with The Financial Times.

He said: “I certainly love the IT thing. But when we want to improve lives, you’ve got to deal with more basic things like child survival, child nutrition.”

“PCs are not, in the hierarchy of human needs, in the first five rungs,” Gates added.

Is Twitter sacrificing vision at the altar of data?

In its rush towards becoming a public company, is Twitter is in danger of sacrificing focus on the altar of growth, asked Matthew Panzarino in TechCrunch.

“Overall, Twitter’s product strategy is beginning to feel scattered and disjointed, and it lacks a real sense of coherent design oversight.

“Multiple sources inside and outside the company have expressed to us that Twitter’s engineering and feature teams are frustrated by this approach. Twitter’s over-reliance on user testing in making decisions and a strong focus on ‘optimising for growth’ over any other consideration is causing friction.”

Cyber-spy image via Shutterstock

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