This week’s tech news Big tech companies are expanding their offers to respond to the needs of the people during the pandemic. Google offers Google Meet free for everyone and Facebook has added a wave of new video-calling features to WhatsApp, Messenger, and its main app, following the increased demand for social video calling. Coronavirus contact-tracing app are the next big thing: in the UK such an app will be ready in two to three weeks, while in Australia it is already a hit among users. Yuval Noah Harari, the historian, philosopher and best-selling author of ‘Sapiens’ and ‘Homo Deus’, is warning us: Covid-19 may bring a new surveillance era. Read more in this week’s tech news summary.
Big tech companies are expanding their offers to respond to the needs of the people during the pandemic: Google made Google Meet free for everyone, with availability rolling out over the coming weeks. So, starting in early May, anyone with an email address can sign up for Meet and enjoy many of the same features available to the business and education users, such as simple scheduling and screen sharing, real-time captions, and layouts that adapt to any preference, including an expanded tiled view. Read more in the official announcement.
Facebook added a wave of new video-calling features to WhatsApp, Messenger and its main app, following an increased demand for social video calling. Thanks to the new features, Messenger Rooms will let people start group video chats that can be joined by up to 50 people and will have new security features, that will prevent unwanted guests from dropping into chats. Discover more on the subject on BBC News.
Tech news follows the subject of fighting the spread of coronavirus with contact tracing is the common goal of Apple and Google, which are teaming up to help build apps that will be able to alert users if they have come in close contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus. The Silicon Valley giants aren’t making the apps themselves, but they will provide the backbone that health organizations need to build contact tracing apps. Along with antibody testing and nasal swab testing, contact tracing is considered one of the most powerful tools to limit the spread of the virus’s deadly disease. Discover more details on CNET.
The UK’s coronavirus contact-tracing app is set to use a different model to the one proposed by Apple and Google, despite concerns raised about privacy and performance. The NHS says it has a way to make the software work “sufficiently well” on iPhones without users having to keep it active and on-screen. Matthew Gould, the NHS chief responsible, told the Science and Technology Committee that the app would be “technically ready” for deployment in “two to three weeks” – but made it clear it was only one part of the strategy to emerge from lockdown and would involve a none-too-subtle marketing campaign.
Meanwhile, over a million Australians have downloaded the COVIDSafe contact tracing app within hours of it being released by the government. The COVIDSafe smartphone app uses a Bluetooth wireless signal to exchange a “digital handshake” with another user when they come within 1.5m (4.9ft). The app then logs this contact and encrypts it and notifies users if they have had more than 15 minutes of close contact with another user who tests positive. Find out more about the app on BBC news.
Covid-19 may bring a new surveillance era – warns us Yuval Noah Harari, the historian, philosopher and best-selling author of ‘Sapiens’ and ‘Homo Deus’. According to Yuval Noah Harari, the coronavirus pandemic could prove to be a watershed event in terms of enabling greater surveillance of society. In an interview for BBC, he told Stephen Sackur: “People could look back in 100 years and identify the coronavirus epidemic as the moment when a new regime of surveillance took over, especially surveillance under the skin, which I think is maybe the most important development of the 21st Century- this ability to hack human beings”. Read more on this subject on BBC News.