6 things that happened in tech this week

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Image: Facebook

It’s 2015 and the thought on everyone’s minds (at least those dominating the tech world) is what the year will bring us. 2014 saw the release of the long anticipated iPhone 6, security breaches from celebrities to Sony and what is now known as the infamous “Instapurge.” From wearable tech to cars that drive themselves, we’re ready for 2015.

Here’s five things that happened in tech this week:

60 Canadian business leaders oppose Bill C-51

Image: Magnify glass on tablet via Shutterstock

Image: Magnify glass on tablet via Shutterstock

60 Canadian business leaders have come together to voice their concerns over the Harper government’s proposed Bill C-51. The open letter to the Harper administration addresses the potentially harmful business impact the bill will have on international business relations, specifically in the Canadian tech sector. At the top of the list of those who oppose Bill C-51 are Vancouver’s Ryan Holmes, CEO and founder of Hootsuite, and Stewart Butterfield, President and Co-founder of Slack.

The letter raises a very real concern around censorship arguing that Bill C-51 provides too much leeway for the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) to take action against Canadian businesses, including the takedown of websites. Without safeguards, the letter states, businesses will have no defences for legitimate expression of political or religious thought.

The business leaders also voiced their second concern; “New CSE digital disruption activities can include measures such as the false attribution of disreputable content to individuals, and even planting of malware on individual computing devices.” There has already been much concern of the negative impact CSIS and CSE has had on Canada’s reputation, with reports of spying on international trade partners. The U.S. has already lost billions of revenue from tech companies moving their business and operations overseas where their data isn’t subject to the Patriot Act. Not wanting to follow suit, Holmes and Butterfield amongst other Canadian leaders, are calling Canadians to action to stop Bill C-51.

Facebook adds “Hello” for Android

https://vimeo.com/125628290

Facebook’s newest app is allowing users to say goodbye to calls from unknown numbers. Hello instantly matches phone numbers of incoming and outgoing calls to Facebook profiles to show users information about who they’re talking to, the ability to block calls from commonly blocked numbers, and search for businesses to call.

Hello’s Caller ID feature will give users the heads up if they want to take the phone call or not. The privacy features from Facebook will not change – Hello users will only have access to information Facebook users share publicly like their city, employer, website and more. Facebook is now testing the app publicly in the U.S., Brazil and Nigeria. Hello is currently Android-only, since iOS doesn’t let apps interact with phone calls.

Google launches own wireless service, Project Fi

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfFHnBQ6nQg

Google is launching its own wireless service partnering with two major U.S. mobile carriers, Sprint and T-Mobile. Project Fi will intelligently connect users to the fastest and strongest connection, switching between Wi-Fi hotspots and 4G LTE networks. Project Fi will work to keep communication and connectivity as easy as possible and accessible to everyone. With intelligent connections, Project Fi aims to keep costs down for users who run up their data. Whenever users are connected to Wi-Fi – at home, at a favourite coffee shop or at work – they can talk and text as they normally do. Once they leave the area, conversations will automatically transition from Wi-Fi to cell networks, never skipping a beat.

Here’s what we know so far:

  • It’s invite only right now (you can sign up for an invite)
  • Subscribers pay $20 for unlimited talk/text, and then pay $10 per gig of data
  • You only pay for what you use, but in sort of a strange way: if you pay for 3GB of data per month ($30) but only use 1.5GB, you’ll get $15 back at the end of the month
  • It’s for Nexus 6 owners only, at first
  • No contracts
  • It’s all tied into Google Hangouts, which will allow you to place calls from your number on any Hangouts-enabled tablet or laptop in addition to your phone
  • Currently, Project Fi is launching in the U.S. and will hopefully make its way up to Canada shortly

Zomato buys Nextable to rival OpenTable and Yelp

Zomato has acquired U.S.-based restaurant reservations and table-management platform Nextable. Now valued at $1 billion, the India-based startup company’s most recent acquisition puts Zomato in a position to rival competitors OpenTable and Yelp. Zomato recently bought its way into the Canadian market with the acquisition of Urbanspoon.

The service will be renamed “Zomato Book” and consumers will be able to search for a place to eat, check out recommendations and reviews from others, as well as book a table at the restaurant of their choice. In addition, NexTable has developed technology that lets restaurateurs update their data on the platform from smartphones and tablets. This includes updating their menus, deals and discounts on a real-time basis with Zomato adding very real benefits for restaurant owners.

This is the ninth acquisition Zomato has made in countries, including the U.S. and Canada. The company now has roots in Australia, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, Poland, Slovakia, Turkey and Italy, with its home base in India. Zomato is currently live in 22 countries.

WhatsApp voice calling for iPhone

Image: WhatsApp

WhatsApp users will soon be able to make free calls within the latest iOS version for the iPhone. The service is already a powerhouse, providing a free messaging system for users to communicate around the world and avoid costly SMS charges. And now, adding free voice calling will only enhance the app’s services. WhatsApp’s calling feature will rely on wi-fi connection or data.

The latest version of the app with new updates was released earlier this week, however, the calling feature is set to roll out slowly in the near future. The updates include making it easier to send videos and pictures over the messaging service. Chats also have a “quick camera” option to take photos and shoot videos within the app. In addition, Whatsapp now comes with new sharing extensions where users can share content directly within other apps to WhatsApp. Users can enable this feature through the share menu on internet apps, photos, and more.

U.S. approves controversial cybersecurity bill

Image: Cyber security via Shutterstock

Image: Cyber security via Shutterstock

In lieu of major cybersecurity threats and a number of successful attacks, the House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation on Wednesday designed to help companies and the federal government better defend against the growing threat of cyberattacks. The bill was met with opposition from privacy advocates. who argued the bill would grant the government over access to US citizens information.

A hack at Home Depot last year exposed 56 million credit card numbers, while another at Target yielded credit card data of 40 million Target customers and the personal information for an additional 70 million customers. In January, insurance provider Anthem revealed that hackers had accessed the personal data of as many 80 million people, including their Social Security numbers.

The increase in cyberattacks against US businesses and organizations has forced the Obama administration to figure out the best way to deal with massive data leaks and thefts. Obama has earmarked $14 billion in the 2016 budget proposal to beef up US efforts against such attacks, resulting in a new government agency: the Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Centre. The bill requires companies to remove personal information before data is shared with the government. US citizens are left to decide what’s worse: Having cyber hackers steal your information or the government having unwarranted access to it.

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Kirsten Armour Kirsten is a Vancouver local born and raised. A sharp wit, keen interest in tech, and a passion for writing is the driving force behind the content she produces. She is an avid outdoors person constantly exploring and seeking out adventure whether it be on the beautiful BC coast or somewhere far away in the world. In her downtime, find her curled up with a good book and glass of wine.
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