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  1. Paramount+ has finally launched in the United Kingdom and Ireland meaning people in those countries finally have a legal way to watch Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. It was the case that Star Trek: Discovery streamed on Netflix but was pulled when Paramount decided to launch its service. Aside from Star Trek and a plethora of other TV shows, there’s a large collection of new and iconic movies. There is also a range of shows aimed at kids. Similar to other streaming services, it’s available across lots of platforms including Sky, Samsung, Apple TV, Roku, Android TV, Android, iOS, iPadOS, Chromecast, FireTV, and Amazon Prime Video. Some of the content on Paramount+ includes The First Lady, Super Pumped, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, The Man Who Fell to Earth, 1883, Mayor of Kingstown, Scream, Transformers, Grease, Mission Impossible: Fallout, and more. Commenting on the new service, Tom Ryan, President and CEO of Streaming at Paramount, said: “From over 100 years of storytelling experience with our Hollywood studio and production hubs worldwide, we know how to make great, global content. Paramount+ is a mountain of entertainment for the entire family. We're the only service where you'll see Sylvester Stallone, SpongeBob SquarePants, Star Trek, and South Park all in one place, and all of this makes Paramount+ what a streaming service is meant to be.” If you’re in the UK you can get Paramount+ for £6.99 per month / £69.90 per annum and €7.99 per month / €79.90 per annum in Ireland. People in both countries will also benefit from a 7-day free trial. Paramount+ launches in the UK and Ireland with shows like Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
  2. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is planning to launch an investigation into Apple’s and Google’s mobile browser practices on their respective platform. As a result, Apple could be forced to allow fully-fledged alternatives to Safari. Currently, Apple allows other browsers on iOS and iPadOS but they have to use Apple’s browser engine. The decision to consult on an investigation comes after a year-long study found that Apple and Google have an “effective duopoly” on mobile ecosystems. With this power, the CMA said they have total control over operating systems, app stores, and web browsers on devices. While forcing Apple and Google to be more liberal on their platforms will certainly be appealing to some, it’s important to remember why so many people like iPhones; they just work. By loosening Apple’s grip on its ecosystem, it potentially opens users up to less pleasant experiences such as browsers crashing or running more slowly. There’s also a chance that some websites won’t work properly with third-party browsers. Commenting on its plans, Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA, said: “When it comes to how people use mobile phones, Apple and Google hold all the cards. As good as many of their services and products are, their strong grip on mobile ecosystems allows them to shut out competitors, holding back the British tech sector and limiting choice.” In addition to the browser situation, the CMA is not happy that Apple has been blocking cloud gaming services from the App Store. The CMA acknowledged that gaming apps are a big part of Apple’s revenue and that cloud gaming poses a threat. Nevertheless, the regulator seems keen that the firm allows cloud gaming services into the App Store so that mobile users don’t miss out on the benefits of cloud gaming. UK competition regulator wants to break Apple's and Google's mobile browser dominance
  3. The UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has bought a quantum computer, according to BBC News. This makes the MoD the first government department to buy a quantum computer but as they become more practical, other departments are likely to buy them too. The MoD will now work with Orca Computing to figure out ways to use quantum computing as part of its work. Specifically, the MoD will be working with Orca’s PT-1 quantum computer. The machine is one of the first quantum computers able to operate at room temperature – previous quantum computers needed the room to be below freezing to keep the qubits cool. The MoD said the PT-1 will help it more quickly understand quantum computers. The CEO of Orca Computing, Richard Murray, said: “Our partnership with MoD gives us the type of hands-on close interaction, working with real hardware which will help us to jointly discover new applications of this revolutionary new technology.” The fact that the UK government is only just buying into this technology shows that quantum computing is still quite early in its development. With that said, the fact that Orca has built a machine that doesn’t need to be kept frozen shows some important advancements are being made in the field. UK's Ministry of Defence acquires the government's first quantum computer
  4. Due to the recent hike in energy prices and cost of living, UK households are reportedly cancelling streaming subscriptions. Citing a report from market research firm Kantar, the BBC states that 1.51 million subscriptions were cancelled in the UK in the first three months of 2022 alone. Roughly 500,000 people stated that they cut these services to save money for the higher cost of living in the region. Although there was a spike in subscriptions during the height of the pandemic, the people who are planning to can subscriptions in order to save money jumped to 38% in the first quarter of 2022, compared to 29% in the same period last year. This was also the slowest quarter ever in terms of new subscribers. The firm also noted that Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are the services which are least likely to be cancelled in UK households, whereas others like Disney+, Now TV, Discovery+, and BritBox experience a high churn rate. Overall, 58% of UK households are subscribed to at least one streaming service. According to Kantar, Amazon's Reacher was the most watched show in the UK during the first quarter of 2022, followed closely by Netflix' Inventing Anna and Ozark. Interestingly, the market research company also noted that UK households are now more open to the idea of ads in streaming services, if it brings down the cost of the subscription: [...] Netflix chief financial officer Spencer Neumann added fuel to the fire by saying in March "it's not like we have religion against advertising". Data across Great Britain shows Netflix subscribers' attitudes to advertising are softening, with 44% now stating they don't mind seeing on streaming services if it makes them cheaper, a significant rise from 38% at the same point in 2021. It remains to be seen if this trend will continue, but given the increasing costs all over the globe, streaming giants may have to figure out some ways to retain subscribers and attract new ones. Source: BBC UK households are cancelling streaming subscriptions to save money
  5. Netflix has announced the latest price hike coming to their streaming platform in the UK and Ireland, adding an extra £1 to £2 to prices across the board. Netflix is getting more expensive in the United Kingdom once again
  6. Fraud epidemic 'is now national security threat' Fraud has reached epidemic levels in the UK and should be seen as a national security issue, says think tank the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). The scale of credit card, identity and cyber-fraud makes it the most prevalent crime, costing up to £190bn a year. UK intelligence agencies should play a greater role in responding, the RUSI argues in a report. Policing should be better resourced, working more closely with the private sector, it adds. The report argues that the scale of fraud against the private sector has an impact on the reputation of the UK as a place to do business, Meanwhile, the amount lost by the government in fraudulent claims represents a "heist" on the public purse, undermining faith and trust, it says. Disrupting society It is the crime UK citizens are most likely to fall victim to, but the failures in responding risk undermining public confidence in the rule of law. The Crime Survey for England and Wales found 3.7 million reported incidents in 2019-20 of members of the public being targeted by credit card, identity and cyber-fraud. The private sector takes the biggest financial losses. One estimate from 2017 put the cost of fraud to businesses at £140bn. Brazen fraudsters offer crime subscription service UK cyber-centre targets payment card fraud Fraud against the public sector, including benefit, tax credit and student loan fraud, is estimated to cost £31-48bn a year, the upper figure larger than the UK's annual defence budget. The losses go beyond the financial, the authors say. "Fraud has the potential to disrupt society in multiple ways, by psychologically impacting individuals, undermining the viability of businesses, putting pressure on public services, fuelling organised crime and funding terrorism," they add. 'No-one's priority' The report cites evidence that terrorist groups and lone actors turn to fraud in order to finance their activities, In one case, eight supporters of the Islamic State group were convicted of defrauding UK pensioners out of more than £1m, which was alleged to be used in part to fund travel from the UK to Syria. The men carried out a type of courier fraud in which they pretended to be police officers, telling victims that their bank accounts had been compromised and needed to be transferred. But despite the growing scale of the problem, there is no national strategy for tackling the issue, while the police response is underfunded and lacking focus. This makes fraud "everyone's problem but no-one's priority", according to the report, written by RUSI experts Helena Wood, Tom Keatinge, Keith Ditcham and Ardi Janjev. The digitisation of everyday life - accelerated by Covid - has only increased the risks, with organised crime groups showing increased sophistication in their tactics. 'Responsibility vacuum' "The UK has become a target destination for global fraudsters," the RUSI argues. But the extent to which international criminals focus on the UK is hard to gauge, because intelligence agencies have not traditionally focused on the issue. One senior fraud professional interviewed by the researchers said that despite 30 years of investigating fraud, they still had no idea what proportion of the threat emanated from overseas. Classifying fraud as a national security issue would help ensure the right level of resourcing and prioritisation, the authors argue. They also recommend more focused intelligence direction from the National Security Council, including greater tasking for GCHQ as well as the National Crime Agency to understand the issue. They call for better information-sharing and use of data analytics, as well as more money and attention from police forces to address what they call a "responsibility vacuum". Source: Fraud epidemic 'is now national security threat'
  7. UK vaccine roll-out speeds up but doctors want quicker second dose LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s COVID-19 vaccination push gathered pace on Saturday, with 5.9 million people now having had a first dose, but doctors challenged the government over its policy of delaying a second shot of the Pfizer vaccine for up to 12 weeks. FILE PHOTO: A medical worker holds a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine inside a former nightclub that has been turned into a NHS vaccination centre, at Batchwood Hall in St Albans, Britain, January 8, 2021. REUTERS/Paul Childs/File Photo The British government is stretching out the gap between first and second shots as it seeks to ensure as many people as possible can be given some protection from an initial vaccine dose. Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on Friday that the new UK variant of COVID-19 may be associated with a higher level of mortality as the country’s death tally from COVID-19 nears the 100,000 mark - hitting 97,329 on Saturday. But in a letter to Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for England Chris Whitty, the British Medical Association said leaving the 12-week interval for the Pfizer vaccine went against World Health Organization guidance. They urged the government to reduce the gap between Pfizer doses to a maximum of six weeks. The makers of the vaccine, Pfizer and BioNTech, have warned that they have no evidence their vaccine would continue to be protective if the second dose is given more than three weeks after the first. Leaving a 12-week gap is allowing Britain’s vaccine programme to proceed quickly. Government data published on Saturday showed 5.86 million people have now received a first dose of the vaccine, after a record 478,248 people had the jab in the last 24 hours. Whitty said on Friday that the longer wait between doses was a “public health decision” aimed at vaccinating many more people and based on the fact that the great majority of protection comes from the first jab. The Department of Health and Social Care said the decision on the 12-week gap was made after “a thorough review of the data” and was in line with the recommendations of the UK’s four chief medical officers. Britain is using the Pfizer vaccine and another from AstraZeneca. AstraZeneca has supported the gap between its jabs, saying data showed an 8- to 12-week gap was a “sweet spot” for efficacy. Following Johnson’s warnings about the more deadly nature of the new variant, some scientists said on Saturday it was too soon to be clear about what the evidence was showing. “The question about whether it’s more dangerous in terms of mortality I think is still open,” Graham Medley, professor of infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told the BBC. Source: UK vaccine roll-out speeds up but doctors want quicker second dose
  8. Facebook’s News tab comes to UK in first launch outside of the US With payments for some publishers to include their content Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge Facebook’s News tab will go live in the UK on January 26th in its first launch outside the US. The company says the section will offer a mix of curated and personalized news stories, but for select publishers the bigger news is that it will see Facebook paying them to license their content. Although Facebook declined to give information on the amount it expects to pay publishers, a spokesperson said the company plans to invest “substantial” amounts over a number of years. These payments are expected to mainly go to publishers whose content isn’t already on Facebook — for instance, like content that’s normally paywalled. The Guardian previously reported that some publishers expect these payments to be worth millions of pounds a year. Alongside the news of the section’s launch, Facebook is announcing a number of new publishing partners whose stories it’ll include. These include the Financial Times, Sky News, Channel 4 News, Telegraph Media Group, DC Thomson, and the Daily Mail group. These join existing publishers announced by Facebook in December, including The Guardian, The Economist, The Independent, Wired, Vogue, and local news sites from publishers like Reach. The tab features a mix of curated and personalized stories. Image: Facebook There are also controls to allow you to hide articles or publications from your feed. Image: Facebook Facebook News will include a combination of curated stories chosen by “a team of journalists” and articles that are shown based on what users read, share, and follow, similar to how the section works in the US. The company promises that it’ll provide controls to let you hide topics or publishers from your feed if you don’t want to see them. New digests will also be produced to cover major news stories (such as stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic), which Facebook says will highlight “original and authoritative reporting.” While Facebook News offers a dedicated section in the app for browsing news stories, the company emphasizes that users will still be able to share articles from their profiles and pages, and will be able to read them via the News Feed. As well as launching in the UK on Tuesday, Facebook says it’s currently in “active negotiations” with partners to launch the feature in France and Germany. In August last year, following the launch of the News tab in the US, the company listed Brazil and India as two additional countries to which it was considering bringing the section. Facebook’s News tab comes to UK in first launch outside of the US
  9. Beware of active UK NHS COVID-19 vaccination phishing campaign A very active phishing campaign is underway pretending to be from the UK's National Health Service (NHS), alerting recipients that they are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Today, numerous Twitter users began reporting that they received this phishing email, with some being in the right age group to be eligible and thus falling for the scam. There are multiple variants of the phishing emails, but they all claim to be from the NHS at [email protected] (the real NHS domain is nhs.uk) and use mail subject similar to "IMPORTANT - Public Health Message| Decide whether if you want to be vaccinated." The phishing email, shown below, asks the recipient if they want to accept or decline the invitation to schedule their COVID-19 vaccination. UK NHS COVID-19 vaccination phishing email Source: Twitter Regardless of the button selected, the recipient will be brought to a fake NHS site stating that they were chosen for the vaccination based on their medical history and genetics. "The NHS is performing selections for coronavirus vaccination on the basis of family genetics and medical history. You have been selected to receive a coronavirus vaccination," the phishing landing page reads. Phishing scam landing page The recipient will again be asked to accept or reject the invitation, but regardless of the button entered, they are pushed through a series of pages asking for personal information. This information includes the person's name, mother's maiden name, address, mobile number, credit card information, and banking information. Phishing page collecting information from the victim Once this information is submitted, the phishing page will state that the application is confirmed and that the NHS will contact the person to schedule the appointment. After a few seconds, the page will redirect the browser to the real NHS site at https://www.nhs.uk/. NHS will never require this info for a vaccine To help people spot NHS COVID-19 phishing scams, the NHS tweeted today that the vaccine is free of charge and that they will never ask for bank account info or copies of personal identification documents. The NHS has created a webpage explaining how people will be contacted to receive the COVID-19 vaccination and spot a scam. It is also important to remember that the NHS' website is at www.nhs.uk and not in the format of nhs.gov.uk or nhs.org.uk, like other UK government websites. If you mistakenly submitted your information as part of this phishing scam, you should assume that your information will be used by the threat actors for identity theft or other malicious purposes. To be safe, the UK Information Commissioner's Office (ico.) recommends that people perform the following steps: Report all lost or stolen documents, such as passports, driving licences, credit cards and cheque books to the organisation that issued them. Inform your bank, building society and credit card company of any unusual transactions on your statement. Request a copy of your credit file to check for any suspicious credit applications. Report the theft of personal documents and suspicious credit applications to the police and ask for a crime reference number. Contact CIFAS (the UK’s Fraud Prevention Service) to apply for protective registration. Once you have registered you should be aware that CIFAS members will carry out extra checks to see when anyone, including you, applies for a financial service, such as a loan, using your address. CIFAS – The UK’s Fraud Prevention Service 6th Floor Lynton House 7 - 12 Tavistock Square London WC1H 9LT BleepingComputer also suggests that victims be on the lookout for targeted phishing scams that utilize this information to try and gain access to your online accounts or other information. Source: Beware of active UK NHS COVID-19 vaccination phishing campaign
  10. What you need to know about the UK’s new hotel quarantine rules for visitors Almost 10 months to the day after the UK first imposed a national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus, British prime minister Boris Johnson is tightening the rules governing who is allowed in and out of the country, and where they must quarantine while there. Already, a traveler coming into the UK must show proof of a negative test for Covid-19, fill out a form on arrival that allows authorities to contact them, and self-isolate in one place for 10 days. Until Jan. 18, many jobs qualified for full or partial exemptions from these rules, including journalists and businesspeople “bringing jobs and investment to the UK.” That list has since been reduced and will now be revised again. Direct flights from 30 countries considered high-risk—the “red list“—remain banned, though British or Irish nationals, and people with UK residency, can still come into the UK from these countries as long as they connect through a country not on the red list. The new restrictions will require these travelers to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days (and pay for it themselves), while those who leave the UK will have to justify why they are leaving. The UK has been less strict than many of its European neighbors in controlling travel throughout the pandemic. In a statement to Parliament today (Jan. 27), home secretary Priti Patel said the new rules are necessary because “there are still too many people coming in and out of our country each day.” The tightened restrictions will also require police to conduct more in-person checks on those meant to be self-isolating, and to patrol ports of entry to send people who are violating restrictions home. Coronavirus deaths in the UK recently crossed a grim milestone of 100,000, the highest in Europe, and there’s some evidence that too many people in the country are flouting rules around self-isolation, social distancing, and quarantining. A pre-print of a study conducted by a post-doctoral researcher at King’s College London, which the government reviewed as part of its public health efforts, found that “self-reported adherence to test, trace, and isolate behaviors was low.” The government hopes these new measures will also help tackle that problem. In Parliament today, Johnson said the Department of Health and Social Care will set up quarantine facilities “as quickly as possible.” The government is likely to rely on hotels that are close to airports and train stations, and to charge travelers a fee of around £1,000 ($1,368) for a 10-day stay. Despite the new restrictions, airlines may be breathing easier: They faced the prospect of a blanket hotel quarantine mandate for all arrivals to the UK, a move industry executives cautioned would be dramatic for them and their workers. In December 2020, more than 1.1 million passengers (and 107,180 metric tonnes of cargo) flew through London’s Heathrow Airport. That’s nowhere near the normal levels of 6 million-plus passengers, but it’s not nothing either. Source: What you need to know about the UK’s new hotel quarantine rules for visitors
  11. Covid: More than 5m people fully vaccinated in UK Two doses have now been given to 9.9% of adults, government figures show The latest figures show an additional 246,631 second doses, bringing the total to 5.2 million. It means 9.9% of over-18s have received both injections. First doses have been given to 31.4 million people. As the vaccination programme takes effect, daily reported deaths fell to 10, their lowest number since 14 September. However, reporting lags may mean lower than usual figures for deaths because of the bank holiday. The UK also reported another 3,423 confirmed coronavirus cases. In a post on Twitter, Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed the "milestone" in the vaccination programme, adding: "I urge everyone to take up their second dose as soon as they are offered it." Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it meant that 50% of over-80s have now had their second jab. It comes as the UK begins to relax some coronavirus restrictions. England has allowed gatherings outside of up to six people or as two households since Monday, while the reopening of outdoor hospitality and all shops is planned from 12 April. Rules on visits to care homes in England will also be relaxed from 12 April to allow two regular visitors indoors, the government has announced. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have also begun to allow outdoor socialising. But Mr Johnson has warned people against mixing with other households indoors over the Easter weekend, even if they have been vaccinated. Source: Covid: More than 5m people fully vaccinated in UK
  12. Netflix adds age ratings to all content available in the UK The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has announced that Netflix has become the first streaming service in the UK to add BBFC-approved age ratings to all its movie and TV content. Netflix also took this opportunity to give parents additional control features that leverage BBFC data. Commenting on the news, Chief Executive of the BBFC David Austin said: “With people spending increasing amounts of time online, it’s more important than ever for families to have clear, consistent advice on content so they can choose well. This innovative partnership with one of the biggest services in the UK has allowed us to do just that - and we’re delighted that Netflix’s entire UK catalogue now carries BBFC age ratings, which people know and trust. No matter what families choose to watch, they can watch with confidence.” BBFC ratings are fairly similar to those you’d find in other countries, they include U – Suitable for all, PG – Parental Guidance, 12 – Suitable for 12 years and over, 15 – Suitable only for 15 years and over, and 18 – Suitable for adults only. According to research carried out by BBFC, 88% of parents find BBFC age ratings useful when trying to figure out what’s suitable for their child. Netflix has also added new parental controls, these include: pin protecting individual profiles to stop kids accessing them, tailoring content to filter age-inappropriate content, individual series and films can be removed by title, parents can see what their kids have been watching on their profile, and auto-play can be turned off in children’s profiles. BBFC’s David Austin has now called on other streaming platforms in the country to follow Netflix’s lead and introduce age ratings on all their content to help parents decipher which content is suitable. Netflix adds age ratings to all content available in the UK
  13. Nothing from Chinese bogeyman allowed in core network by early 2023 The UK's Ministry of Fun* has published its roadmap for the removal of so-called high-risk vendors from UK telecoms networks as part of the second parliamentary reading of the Telecoms Security Bill. The roadmap adds detail to the previous edicts, which banned wireless carriers from acquiring new Huawei-made equipment by the end of the year, and forces them to fully remove existing Huawei kit by the conclusion of 2027. By the end of March 2021, networks will be prohibited from using Huawei's managed services, save for specialist maintenance services pertaining to kit installed prior to that date. Additionally, the rules prevent carriers from installing new Huawei infrastructure by the end of September, even if it was bought before the legal cut-off date. The roadmap also shed much-needed light on the rip-and-replace mandate. Carriers are prohibited from using Huawei equipment in the core network after 28 January 2023. By that date, they must also remove any infrastructure from the Chinese telco kit maker located at "sites significant to national security" and limit the presence of Huawei in 5G, FTTP, and other gigabit-capable networks to 35 per cent. In a statement, Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: "Today I am setting out a clear path for the complete removal of high risk vendors from our 5G networks. This will be done through new and unprecedented powers to identify and ban telecoms equipment which poses a threat to our national security. "We are also publishing a new strategy to make sure we are never again dependent on a handful of telecoms vendors for the smooth and secure running of our networks. Our plans will spark a wave of innovation in the design of our future mobile networks." The decision to ban Huawei, first announced in July of this year, was justified by the sanctions levelled against the company by the Trump administration which have affected Huawei's ability to source new components for its telecoms and mobile products. This, Dowden said at the time, had a "significant, material" affect on its ability to supply the UK market. Huawei has repeatedly protested this decision, pointing at its two-decade tenure in the UK market, and partnerships with major fixed-line and wireless carriers like BT, Three, and EE. It regards the US sanctions as politically motivated rather than based on a substantive and proven national security risk. To fill the Huawei-shaped hole in the UK telecoms supplier market, the ministry is examining new diversification measures, bolstered by an initial funding of £250m. Part of these funds will be used to commence a trial of OpenRAN technology in partnership with NEC. The RAN (radio access network) is the element in a wireless network that connects devices. OpenRAN is an attempt to build these components using a set of common, interoperable standards, allowing carriers to mix-and-match suppliers. The NEC NeutrORAN project will aim to have 5G OpenRAN used within the UK by next year, with the first trials planned to take place in Wales. This will coincide with LTE OpenRAN deployments planned by Vodafone, which will see the firm's Huawei estate in the southeast of England and Wales replaced with new vendor-neutral infrastructure over the course of the next three years. Separately, the ministry has announced funding for new testing and R&D efforts. One facility, SmartRAN Open Network Innovation Centre (SONIC, because it's not just Americans who like tenuous acronyms), will provide a testing playground for new OpenRAN kit, and will be operated in partnership with UK comms regulator Ofcom and Digital Catapult. Meanwhile, the National Telecoms Lab will allow operators, suppliers, and academia to look at ways to improve security and interoperability by creating and testing "representative networks." In a statement, Lord Livingston, chair of the UK's telecoms Diversification Task Force, said: "Diversification of the UK Telecoms Supply Chain is very important to ensure that our future networks are secure and resilient and that we can maximise the economic and social potential that 5G brings. "As Chair of the Telecoms Diversification Taskforce, I fully support the ambition of the strategy and its objectives. In order to position ourselves at the forefront of the next generation of technology, it is vital that we invest in Research & Development, help shape global standards and work closely with our international partners." * Commonly known as the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Source
  14. LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Britain’s new Digital Markets Unit has a distinctively Silicon Valley vibe. A sweeping mandate and the ability to act with tech-like speed raises the risk it will emulate Facebook’s old “move fast and break things” mantra. Still, it’s an upgrade on the ponderous, court-based approaches usually followed by Europe and the United States. The DMU, unveiled on Friday and due to begin work in April 2021, will police dominant technology groups like Facebook and Google’s parent, Alphabet. The theory is that a nimble, dedicated regulator can fix any abuses of market power quickly, rather than waiting years for an antitrust review. By that time, nascent competitors may already have died. The mandate looks disconcertingly broad, from the perspective of Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and his opposite number at Google, Sundar Pichai. The government wants the DMU to ensure consumers and small businesses “aren’t disadvantaged” by the business practices of the duo, which together sucked up 80% of UK digital advertising in 2019. A worthwhile use of its powers would be to make it easier for users to move their data, such as Facebook photos or friend lists, over to rival websites. Yet overzealous intervention in areas where the pair are simply better, like targeted advertising, could backfire by deterring them from developing potentially useful new services. A report by the Competition and Markets Authority, the antitrust body within which the DMU will sit, provides plenty of food for thought by pointing to the massive profitability of Facebook and Google’s search business. A 40%-50% return on capital employed, way above their probable single-digit cost of capital, may indeed stem from monopolistic pricing of advertising services, necessitating regulatory action. On the other hand, it could simply be that digital marketers love their products. Yet for all the danger of overreach, the new regime is preferable to more cumbersome alternatives. European competition tsar Margrethe Vestager, for example, takes years to bring cases against Google, Amazon.com and others. Factor in lengthy appeals, and the tech giants’ may have increased their dominance before the process ends. The same could apply to the U.S. Justice Department’s recently launched case against Google. Britain’s decision to mimic Big Tech’s agility offers the best hope of reducing its clout. Source
  15. The government's Test and Trace app has given a women the results of a Covid test she said she had not taken. But Elaine Watson had not taken a test Elaine Watson, from Middlesbrough, was told by the app to self-isolate for seven days and then, on day six, that her test had come back negative. "I'm thinking, what do you mean a test? I haven't had a test," she said. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the app was constantly being improved in response to feedback but most users had "no issues" with it. Ms Watson, a member of BBC staff, said she was not contacted by Test and Trace and had not taken a coronavirus test because she had no symptoms. "Was that message meant for somebody else? Did I really need to isolate?" she asked. Other people have said they were sent results for tests they had not taken and some have taken a test but received no result. Alex Weedon, from Colchester, was emailed by Test and Trace to say he had coronavirus, despite not having taken a test. Trying to track down who the intended recipient had been was "baffling", he said. Test and Trace has failed to contact about 19% of people whose cases have been passed to it after testing positive. Between 28 May, when it launched, and 18 November nearly 17% (160,569) were not contacted. For 20,091 of these, "communication details not provided" was given as the reason. The DHSC said everyone who tested positive was informed, but it was not clear on how a person's contact details could become "not provided" between them being informed and their case being passed to contact tracers. Delays in developing symptoms, getting results and sharing them with the app can eat into the remaining isolation time. British Medical Association North East chairman Dr George Rae asked why contact tracers could not call the person on the number used to text them their results. "That doesn't make any sense at all, does it?" he said. One contact tracer from Teesside, who wished to remain anonymous, said he was not able to reach about 60% of the people he tried to contact. "It is probably even higher than 60% that aren't reached, but I try to be at least a little optimistic," he said. Another contact tracer said there was "no clear guideline" on how many attempts should be made before giving up. If a person could not be reached there was no way of knowing whether the tracer had the correct number, he said. Source
  16. Police say they are preparing to send warning notices to more than 7,000 UK residents who are believed to have purchased pirate IPTV subscriptions. The warnings follow the arrest of a then 28-year-old man in the North-West of England during the summer and the seizure of luxury cars, expensive jewelry, and a pirate IPTV customer database. As pirate IPTV providers and resellers continue to provide access to low-cost premium TV services, law enforcement agencies around the world are stepping up efforts to disrupt their activities. Pirate IPTV platforms remain popular in the UK, where they are the preferred choice to access matches from the Premier League and other mainstream content at affordable prices. As a result, many individuals are taking advantage of the market and attracting thousands of subscribers but action in the UK last summer shows that’s not without risk. Police Swoop On The Home Of Alleged Operator of IPTV Service On Thursday, June 25, Lancashire Police executed a search warrant at a house on Buckley Grove in the seaside resort of Lytham St Annes. Carried out under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, a 28-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of being involved in the supply of pirate IPTV services and illegal TV streaming devices. What was particularly notable about the case was the seizure of high-value assets, including a Range Rover Sport SVR V8 and an Audi A5 convertible. At the time, police confirmed they had also seized designer clothing, designer bags, and jewelry. TorrentFreak sources close to the investigation confirmed that a pair of Rolex watches, designer clothes, and exclusive trainers were among the items taken. We also understand that around £17,000 in bitcoin formed part of the seizure but none of these additional details have been officially reported or confirmed by the authorities. Police Are Now Targeting Subscribers In a new announcement this morning, police reference the arrest and seizures in the summer, noting that the man in question was released under investigation. Then, as now, police are still not naming the service in question but TorrentFreak can confirm it operated under the name North West IPTV. At the time, reports in anti-piracy circles suggested that the service could have had as many as 32,000 subscribers but our information, supplied by a source familiar with the matter, previously downplayed that claim. Nevertheless, a substantial number of presumed customers of North West IPTV are now about to receive correspondence from the police. 7,000 Alleged Subscribers Will Receive Warnings “More than 7000 residents, believed to have been using an illegal TV streaming service, are set to receive warning notices this week from Lancashire Police,” police said in a statement this morning. “Our cyber-crime unit is issuing the warnings to subscribers of a service called IPTV which allows users to illegally stream premium channels at a reduced rate. Subscribers will receive the Cease and Desist Notices this week, via email, asking them to stop using the service immediately.” The warnings, as yet unseen in public, will warn those who reportedly subscribed to the service that they are committing a crime that carries a maximum sentence of up to five years imprisonment and/or a fine. Given the current sentencing standards in the UK it seems highly unlikely that a regular subscriber of such a service would receive a custodial sentence of any kind but given the involvement of the police, a criminal record is certainly possible. This, the police and copyright holders hope, will prove to be a sufficient deterrent for those considering a similar subscription in the future. Evidence of Infringement At the moment, Lancashire Police are not claiming to have any evidence of actual infringement or crimes carried out by any of those who allegedly purchased a subscription from North West IPTV or its resellers. Instead, they appear to be relying upon contact information secured from the IPTV supplier’s customer database seized during the raid in the summer, which necessarily holds email addresses for correspondence purposes. Indeed, police also acknowledge that some customers may not even be aware that their purchase was illegal. “People who subscribe to these services might not realize that they are illegal, but the simple fact is that they are,” says Olivia Dodding from Lancashire Police Cyber Crime Unit. “What may cost you a relatively small fee, actually results in television producers and sports broadcasters losing millions of pounds which affects their ability to make and show sports events and entertainments series, which many of us enjoy watching. “Anyone who subscribes to IPTV or any other steaming service [sic] should stop now to avoid facing prosecutions themselves.” Similarities With Action Against GE Hosting In late June, subscribers to pirate IPTV service Global / Global Entertainment were given an unwelcome surprise. Rather than seeing the normal array of content on their screens, they were instead greeted by a notice from a police force in the UK. “This illegal stream has been seized By Norfolk and Sussex Police,” it began. “Watching illegal broadcasts is a crime. Your IP address has been recorded. You are instructed to cease and desist immediately from all illegal media streaming.” At the time a 24-year-old man was arrested under section 44 of the Serious Crime Act and Section 11 of the Fraud Act under suspicion of obtaining services dishonestly and concealing/converting criminal property, i.e money laundering. Progress in that investigation is unknown but in September it became clear that police were also interested in the service’s customers. In emailed letters sent to alleged subscribers, police warned that viewers were committing an offense contrary to s.11 of the Fraud Act, which carries a maximum sentence of up to five years imprisonment, and/or a fine. This seems to be in line with the warning issued by Lancashire Police this morning. Also, in common with the case handled by Norfolk and Sussex Police, Lancashire Police are warning that customers of North West (and potentially its resellers) will have their behaviors “monitored” by the authorities, to ensure they are complying with the emailed cease-and-desist. Again, there is no indication of what that monitoring might entail but having the same email address or payment method turn up at another provider at some point in the future might be enough to trigger some kind of investigation. Given the resources available to police in general it seems very unlikely that a wave of prosecutions will follow but given the aim is to disrupt and deter, it cannot be ruled out that a handful of individuals could face prosecution in the future, if they keep sticking their heads far enough above the parapet, in defiance of the warnings. Finally, even in the face of a decision by the Crown Prosecution Service not to pursue a case against a small-time subscriber, the possibility that an entity such as the Premier League could pursue a private prosecution at their own cost is always real and a threat not to be discounted. Source: TorrentFreak
  17. Google services have gone down across the UK, including Gmail, Google Drive and YouTube. Reports flooded the outage service DownDetector as users frantically tried to access their email accounts, Google documents and videos on YouTube. Google Drive and Google Hangouts are also down. The tech company says it is currently investigating the issue. ‘We’re aware of a problem with Gmail affecting a majority of users,’ the company stated. ‘The affected users are unable to access Gmail. We will provide an update by 12/14/20, 12:12 PM detailing when we expect to resolve the problem’ Meanwhile, Google’s users were quick to vent their frustration. ‘I can’t access anything from Google says error or does not recognise my account. Can’t access youtube, gmail, etc… Not good Google,’ wrote one users on DownDetector. Another commented: ‘Looks like servers are down just like when YouTube was down previously and now its affecting every google apps’ London appears to be the worst-affected area but users in Manchester and over in Dublin are also reporting problems. Read more: https://metro.co.uk/2020/12/14/youtube-and-google-services-down-for-millions-of-users-13749402/?ito=cbshare Twitter: https://twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/ Users trying to access YouTube on laptops or phones are also unable to see the website or app. Instead, they’re greeted with a holding page and the caption ‘something went wrong’. Read more: https://metro.co.uk/2020/12/14/youtube-and-google-services-down-for-millions-of-users-13749402/?ito=cbshare Twitter: https://twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/ Many irritated users took to Twitter to try and find out why they’ve lost access to their Google accounts. ‘I’ve been logged out of my Google account on my phone and I can’t log back in- it says problem with my account and now I am locked out of all my Google Apps :(,’ wrote one user on Twitter. ‘What can I do to get back in- all my details are correct?’ Read more: https://metro.co.uk/2020/12/14/youtube-and-google-services-down-for-millions-of-users-13749402/?ito=cbshare Twitter: https://twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/ It’s not yet clear how widely the problem has spread, but other areas of Europe also appear to have been affected. ‘We work on isolating and fixing every product issue that we’re aware of,’ Google explains on its Workspace admin page. ‘Some issues might not be listed here. We characterize known Issues as follows: We can consistently reproduce an unexpected behavior. Engineers are actively working towards a fix to correct the behavior. The issue is observed globally and has generated a large number of support cases.’ Metro.co.uk has contacted Google for a comment on the outage. Read more: https://metro.co.uk/2020/12/14/youtube-and-google-services-down-for-millions-of-users-13749402/?ito=cbshare Twitter: https://twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/ Source: https://metro.co.uk/2020/12/14/youtube-and-google-services-down-for-millions-of-users-13749402/ (As of 26 Minutes Ago)
  18. Creaky old law holds back global competitiveness, says group A majority of British infosec professionals worry about accidentally breaking the UK's antiquated Computer Misuse Act, according to an industry campaign group that hopes to reform the law. The Cyberup campaign, which includes NCC Group, Orpheus Cyber, Context Information Security, Nettitude, F Secure and others, first wrote to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in July 2019 urging him to update the regulations. In its latest study, the group reckoned that 80 per cent of security professionals were worried about breaking the law, based on responses submitted on behalf of major infosec firms. Ruth Edwards, the Conservative MP for Rushcliffe in Nottingham, said in a new report issued today: "I know from my time in this industry that there are now real concerns among the cyber security community that this law is impeding professionals' ability to protect the nation from the ever-evolving range of cyber threats we face, and preventing the sector from establishing its leadership position on the international stage." The campaign hopes to update the Computer Misuse Act 1990 (CMA) for the modern era on the grounds that the law was drafted long before either modern IT architectures or modern infosec threats had been thought of. F-Secure veep Ed Parsons told The Register he supported the Cyberup campaign, saying that today's report was also "an opportunity to remind security professionals of what this legislation is and how it applies to the activity they're undertaking in their day-to-day jobs." Previous criticism of the CMA included assertions that threat intelligence providers operating from the UK were unable to probe adversaries' infrastructure to the same depth as their overseas counterparts lest they break section 1 of the act, which bans "unauthorised" acts on other people's computers – even when those machines are operated by criminals using them to attack individual or business targets. "Unauthorised" can mean as little as using a username and password from the public domain to log into an account, a point lost on many infosec researchers and even journalists. "To give you a different perspective on this, my company F-Secure, we're not a threat intelligence provider," said Parsons. "The professionals who work for me aren't threat intelligence providers, they're security research and incident responders among other disciplines. They find their roles somewhat bounded by the CMA in its current form. I think that's particularly relevant in the field of security research." Parsons said that given how modern enterprise IT infrastructure is growing and evolving, the CMA makes it "increasingly complex and difficult to draw a circle around what is in scope of any of the work that we do", saying: "Modern organisations are typically an ecosystem of third-party providers and, increasingly, cloud-based services as well. When we're doing research on behalf of a client, what is and isn't in scope? Therefore what's authorised and what's unauthorised is actually getting harder to figure out." Can someone operating an S3 bucket give authorisation, within the CMA definition, to a pentesting firm looking to probe that? What if Amazon detects that activity and decides it is hostile? The answers to such questions are well known to a few – but those few might not include your local police force's cyber crime team, or the prosecutor who acts on their behalf urging to bring a criminal case. While this is mostly a hypothetical fear – Parsons conceded "we've not seen this legislation being used in anger a lot" against infosec researchers – it can also be cited as evidence that the CMA is not fit for purpose. A number of crimes committed using computers as the attack vector are charged by prosecutors as non-CMA offences, primarily fraud. While the number of CMA prosecutions remains relatively low, as covered ad nauseam previously on El Reg, the number of prosecutions for computer-related crime is likely to be orders of magnitude higher than the CMA stats themselves show in isolation. Source
  19. Whether or not ethical restrictions allow that is another matter. It’s no secret that numerous militaries are relying more on drones and other robotic vehicles, but the UK’s leadership has a particularly bold vision. As the Guardian reports, armed forces head General Sir Nick Carter told Sky News in an interview that he believed a quarter of the British Army could be robots by the 2030s. He was careful to stress that he wasn’t setting firm targets, but these automatons could serve at and near the front lines of a given conflict. This wasn’t idle speculation. More money for robotic warfare was expected to play a key role in a five-year defense review that has been postponed. Carter asked the government to move forward with the review during his Sky appearance. It wouldn’t be surprising if the UK shifted more toward robots, at least. Its army has had trouble meeting recruitment targets, with just 73,870 trained soldiers when it expected 82,050. Robots could fill those holes or even expand the military while reducing the dependency on human soldiers. Just what roles those robots would fill isn’t certain. There has been staunch opposition to autonomous “killer robots” that wouldn’t require human intervention. Drones, meanwhile, require operators to either directly control them or make judgment calls on attacks. They could require more humans in the long run. If there are any truly automated robotics in the British army, they may be limited to cargo trucks, scouts and other unarmed machines. That could still help by allowing humans to focus on combat, but visions of robot-versus-robot battles might not pan out any time soon. Source
  20. A new security bill enshrines the Huawei ban into UK law, and lays out sanctions for those who fail to follow the rules. Stricter security rules will be enforced around the deployment of future mobile networks in the UK, and telecoms companies could face hefty fines if they fail to adhere to higher standards, according to a new law on the security of 5G and fiber networks. A new draft telecommunications security presented to Parliament aims to strengthen the security of next-generation networks, and to provide the government with "unprecedented" powers to force telecoms giants to stick to the new rules. Part of the law includes managing high-risk vendors, which means that the government will be able to impose controls on providers' use of equipment supplied by companies that are deemed unsafe. Last July, following advice from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the UK government ruled that Huawei's equipment should be entirely removed from the country's 5G networks by 2027. The telecommunications security bill now enshrines that ruling into law, and creates the powers that will allow the government to enforce the decision. The new bill will also set out various other security standards, which are still to be defined in secondary legislation. Those requirements are likely to include safer designs and maintenance of sensitive equipment, regular security controls and audits, and protection of customer data. New codes of practice will also be designed to clarify how providers should comply with their new legal obligations. Telecoms watchdog Ofcom will be in charge of monitoring providers' compliance through technical testing, interviewing staff, and entering operators' premises to view equipment and documents. Companies that fail to meet the new requirements could face fines of up to 10% of turnover or, in the case of a continuing contravention, £100,000 ($133,600) per day. The new bill will be a welcome piece of legislation for telecoms companies, which brings clarification in the complex field of security standards – one that was punctuated, in the Huawei decision-making process, by various confusing U-turns. "This provides clarity and underlines the ever-growing importance of security in the roll-out of next-generation networks," Paolo Pescatore, analyst at PP Foresight, told ZDNet. "Stripping Huawei entirely from networks represents a major headache for telcos in terms of cost, time, and holding back further innovation. Telcos need to press on and ensure a seamless process with minimal disruption to users." The UK's leading telecommunications provider BT has already started breaking ties with Huawei ahead of the 2027 deadline. Earlier this year, the company signed deals with Nokia and Ericsson, which together will manage BT's 5G traffic once the deployment is completed. Network providers have already kick-started the groundwork on new security standards, therefore, but the new telecommunications bill will provide much-needed extra detail on the ways that the requirements will work in practice. A spokesperson for BT said: "The security of our networks is paramount. We therefore welcome the UK government's establishment of clear security standards for the UK telecoms industry. We'll continue to work closely with the NCSC and other Government bodies to develop these standards further and provide a framework that sets a world-leading standard for the security of the UK's networks." Huawei, for its part, has been pushing hard over the last few months to demonstrate that the UK benefits from relying on the Chinese giant's mobile network equipment. A recent study by Oxford Economics, which was sponsored by the company, found that Huawei contributed to £3.3 billion ($4.40 billion) to UK GDP last year, while supporting 51,000 jobs through its economic activity. Huawei's vice president Victor Zhang condemned the telecommunications security bill as "politically-motivated" and based on an unfair evaluation of the risks. Warning that the new law will move Britain into the digital slow lane, Zhang said: "It's disappointing that the government is looking to exclude Huawei from the 5G roll out." The new security bill comes off the back of a telecoms supply chain review that was conducted last year, and found that although telecommunications providers are responsible for setting their own standards, the companies have little incentive to adopt strong security practices. Commercial priorities, found the report, often take over risk assessments, and cyber security is not seen as enough of a priority. At the same time, cyber-attacks are on the rise, with hostile activity driven by state actors and criminals, especially in Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, said the report. The UK government has pitched the new bill as a means to stop espionage attacks, as well as to prevent networks from being remotely disabled because of insecure connections to other networks. This is particularly relevant for next-generation networks, which also require next-generation security protocols. 5G connectivity will be enabled by software running on commodity hardware, rather than proprietary hardware, with many core functions moving closer to the edge of the network. "With each new generation of network, there is an ever-increasing reliance on software," said Pescatore. "Security is paramount in a world where networks are becoming software-driven and prone to attacks. The arrival of gigabit connectivity paves the way for endless possibilities, which needs to be underpinned by stringent security guidelines." The government will now consult with industrial players before drawing secondary legislation to be laid in Parliament. A public consultation will also be launched to gather views on who the bill should affect and how quickly work should be carried out. Source
  21. LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s competition regulator said on Monday it was assessing whether a complaint about Google related to digital advertising warranted a formal competition law investigation. The complaint from Marketers for an Open Web (MOW), a coalition of technology and publishing companies, said it wanted the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to delay the launch of Google’s Privacy Sandbox technology. MOW said the technology would remove features such as login and advertising from the open web and put them under Google’s control. “We take the matters raised in the complaint very seriously, and will assess them carefully with a view to deciding whether to open a formal investigation under the Competition Act,” the CMA said. “If the urgency of the concerns requires us to intervene swiftly, we will also assess whether to impose interim measures to order the suspension of any suspected anti-competitive conduct pending the outcome of a full investigation.” MOW said Google’s Chrome browser and Chromium developer tools were being modified to give it greater control over how publishers and advertisers can operate. These changes are scheduled for full implementation in early 2021, MOW said. “If Google releases this technology they will effectively own the means by which media companies, advertisers and technology businesses reach their consumers and that change will be irreversible,” MOW director James Rosewell said. Google said the technology will allow people to receive relevant ads - helping to sustain the current advertising model - without tracking users on an individual level. Advertisers would be able to target groups of people without allowing individual identifying data to leave the browser. “The ad-supported web is at risk if digital advertising practices don’t evolve to reflect people’s changing expectations around how data is collected and used,” Google said. “That’s why Google introduced the Privacy Sandbox, an open initiative built in collaboration with the industry, to provide strong privacy for users while also supporting publishers.” EXISTING TOOLS The CMA has already spent a year looking into digital advertising. The watchdog has said that Google and Facebook have developed unassailable market positions, with the two accounting for nearly 80% of UK’s digital advertising spending of 14 billion pounds ($17 billion) in 2019. However, its investigation, which concluded in July, recommended regulatory changes rather than a market investigation. CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli said in a speech in October that existing tools were “clearly not sufficient to address” potential harms, although they would continue to be deployed. “Our key recommendation was that a new regulatory regime is required in the UK to ensure these markets continue to deliver benefits to consumers, businesses and the economy as a whole.” Rosewell said regulators globally were looking at Google’s dominance in search, online advertising and browsers. “However, their efforts to mitigate this monopoly power will be in vain if Google manages to consolidate its dominance through the introduction of Privacy Sandbox prior to the regulators’ recommended changes to the law being implemented,” he said. Source
  22. That's 10 years earlier than first planned. The UK might soon move up its ban on sales of combustion engine cars — yes, again. The Financial Times and the BBC both claim Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce a ban on fossil fuel car sales by 2030, five years ahead of the most recent target, and a full decade sooner than initially planned. Hybrid sales would continue until 2035, but pure gas (petrol) and diesel vehicles would quickly vanish from dealerships. The accelerated timeline is reportedly meant to spur the market for electric cars and help get the UK closer to its climate targets.To help, the government is reportedly poised to spend £500 million (about $660 million) on building EV charging infrastructure in the country. An announcement could come as soon as next week. There is a chance that Johnson could announce a more accommodating 2032 cutoff, but he’s believed to be “leaning” in favor of 2030. Automakers might not be happy. Honda and Toyota have balked at earlier discussions of moving to an all-EV future. Honda argued that banning even hybrids would be too limiting, while Toyota warned it might rethink its investments in the UK if there’s a hybrid ban. A slightly delayed hybrid ban might ease the transition, but companies wouldn’t have much breathing room. Source
  23. Global retailers should help collect, recycle and repair tech products, say MPs Global giants such as Amazon and Apple should be made responsible for helping to collect, recycle and repair their products to cut the 155,000 tonnes of electronic waste being thrown away each year in the UK, MPs say. An investigation by the environmental audit committee found the UK is lagging behind other countries and failing to create a circular economy in electronic waste. The UK creates the second highest levels of electronic waste in the world, after Norway. But MPs said the UK was not collecting and treating much of this waste properly. “A lot of it goes to landfill, incineration or is dumped overseas. Under current laws producers and retailers of electronics are responsible for this waste, yet they are clearly not fulfilling that responsibility,” the MPs wrote. About 40% of the UK’s e-waste is sent abroad, according to estimates – something the MPs point out is often done illegally. The tsunami of electronic waste was throwing away valuable resources vital to a sustainable future, the report published on Thursday said. Globally, thrown-away computers, smartphones, tablets and other electronic waste have a potential value of $62.5bn each year from the precious metals they contain, including gold, silver, copper, platinum and other critical raw materials such as tungsten and indium. MPs accused online retailers including Amazon and eBay of freeriding as they are not considered retailers or producers, and are therefore not legally liable to contribute to the collection and recycling of e-waste. “For all their protestations of claimed sustainability, major online retailers and marketplaces such as Amazon have so far avoided playing their part in the circular economy by not collecting or recycling electronics in the way other organisations have to,” MPs said. “Given the astronomical growth in sales by online vendors, particularly this year during the coronavirus pandemic, the EAC calls for online marketplaces to collect products and pay for their recycling to create a level playing field with physical retailers and producers that are not selling on their platforms.” The report by MPs condemns the “built-in obsolescence” in many electronic products – which includes the practice of intentionally shortening the lifespan of products. The inquiry by MPs heard that tech companies such as Apple had been found to glue and solder together internal components, making any repair nearly impossible. MPs said consumers did not have control over the products they owned, they could not take components out to repair themselves and there were no access manuals on how issues could be fixed. “Instead, the charges proposed for repair by Apple in particular can be so expensive it is more economical to replace the item completely,” the report said. “Tech companies should now take the lead in creating sustainable and environmentally friendly business models that do not rely on the over exploitation of nature and natural resources.” The report calls for: The right to repair to be enshrined in law. A reduction in VAT on the repair of electrical and electronic products, as takes place in other countries. All producers to be forced to collect products and pay for their recycling. Ambitious long-term targets for collection, reuse and recycling of e-waste to focus on reducing consumption and capturing and retaining vital raw materials. Apple said: “We were surprised and disappointed with the Environmental Audit Committee’s report, which does not reflect any of Apple’s efforts to conserve resources and protect the planet we all share. There are more options for customers to trade in, recycle and get safe, quality repairs than ever before, and our latest Apple Watch, iPad, and iPhone lineup all use recycled material across key components. We will continue to work with parliament and the government to document Apple’s industry-leading commitments and to support our common effort to leave a clean economy and a healthy planet for the next generation.” Libby Peake, the head of resource policy at the Green Alliance thinktank, said the report was impeccably timed. “Just before the Christmas shopping season gets going, the environmental audit committee has reminded us that many of the products we buy in the UK are destined not to last – which is a scandal for consumers as much as for the environment. “More importantly, it has identified what we need to do to change this and make sure people can buy long-lasting products as well as have the right to repair them.” An Amazon spokesperson said: “Amazon is committed to minimising waste and helping our customers to reuse, repair, and recycle their products, and we provide a range of options that anyone can easily access through the Amazon Second Chance website. “We have supported the recycling of more than 10,000 tonnes of electronic waste in the UK over the last decade.” Source
  24. Potential UK Console Scalping Ban Gathers Momentum [Updated] Update: Bill is unlikely to pass, but could help pressure the government into new legislation. Update 02/09/2021: Douglas Chapman MP has now formally brought forward a Bill to ban gaming hardware scalping in the UK. Titled the Gaming Hardware (Automated Purchase and Resale) Bill 2019-21, (as reported by Sky News), it aims to apply similar restrictions on console reselling to those insituted for ticket touting in the UK. Speaking to Sky News about the Bill's similarity to the previous ticket touting law, Chapman said, "We've proposed that a similar legislative process be brought forward to ensure that consumers can purchase gaming consoles and computer components at no more than the manufacturers' recommended price, and that resale of goods purchased by automated bots be made illegal." Chapman acknowledged that the Bill is unlikely to pass – MPs outside the ruling government party rarely see their Bills become law – but was using it as an action to force the government to "take responsibility" for the ongoing issue. Private Members' Bills such as this have previously affected legislation indirectly, which will be Chapman's hope. Politicians are stepping up plans to ask the UK government to consider a console scalping ban (or introducing other protective legislation) to prevent the high levels of reselling seen for PS5 and Xbox Series X/S. In late 2020, a group of UK MPs tabled an Early Day Motion to discuss the banning of scalping, and the use of automated bots for "gaming consoles and computer components". The motion, led by Douglas Chapman MP, has now garnered 32 signatures from MPs across multiple parties. In a statement to IGN, Chapman indicated that he now intends to take the issue further: "Given that experts in the cyber industry now predict the issue of scalping to grow across other important goods and services this year, we are looking at presenting a Bill in Parliament so that we can further explore legislative options to protect consumers from this unfair practice." Early Day Motions are regularly used to highlight current issues, but rarely reach a true House of Commons debate. Presenting a Bill, as Chapman is now considering, would be considered an escalation of the process, and an attempt to put pressure on the government to consider formal legislation. Asked why Chapman began this process, he explained that the impetus to begin the debate in parliament came directly from his constituents in Dunfermline and West Fife: “The issue of scalping first came up with constituents contacting me to explain their frustration about being unable to get hold of certain games consoles or computer components pre-Christmas. On investigation we uncovered more details of the unscrupulous practice of ‘scalping’ by automated bots to bulk buy these goods and sell them on at inflated prices." The issue of scalping has reached new levels of recognition after the release of PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and S, as well as new graphics cards from Nvidia and AMD. In the US, at least 10% of PS5s are estimated to have been resold, averaging around double the recommended retailer price on eBay. Part-and-parcel of that phenomenon has been the use of bots to secure units before regular consumers can do so, a tactic popularised by sneaker culture. The UK has seen huge demand for new-gen consoles, and scalping has become a recurring story amid that demand. Scalping chains have been claiming large numbers of consoles, even using loopholes to buy stock before it's officially available. Alongside supply shortages, it's a trend that's led to repeated disappointment for normal consumers, and even potentially spurred criminal activity. Source: Potential UK Console Scalping Ban Gathers Momentum [Updated]
  25. 10 new Disney Plus UK shows worth watching when Star lands this month Shows and movies made for adults are coming on February 23 (Image credit: Disney) Star on Disney Plus lands in UK homes later this month. What this means for those signed up to the existing Disney Plus service is a tonne of extra content – double, in fact – with a small price increase as a result. This is Disney's effort to upgrade its streaming service from simply being a hub for family-friendly films and TV shows to a service that can compete with Netflix in the broader entertainment streaming space. The company hopes to achieve this through delivering a mix of old and new shows. Star on Disney Plus will feature its own originals, primarily from its US-owned production companies such as FX, ABC and 20th Century Fox, with four available on the day of launch. This means that the type of content you may previously have seen land on Sky or BBC iPlayer in the UK will now have a home on Disney Plus instead, which is potentially game-changing. You can see the full list of Star shows and movies coming to Disney Plus at launch here, but below we've picked 10 shows that we believe are worth a watch once new content becomes available on February 23. 1. Solar Opposites Rick and Morty's Justin Roiland has co-created a new animated series about a group of aliens trying to blend in to suburban American life. When the show rolled out on Hulu in the US last year, we were a little annoyed that no UK broadcaster had picked it up; now we know why. It's a Disney Plus Star original over here. The show has already proved popular enough to earn both second and third seasons, and if you're a fan of Rick and Morty, then you'll be pleased to learn that it really isn't a million miles away in terms of its type of humour. 2. American Dad (Image credit: Hulu) Several Seth MacFarlane-created shows are landing on Disney Plus UK on February 23, including the long-running Family Guy. But American Dad is by far the best. What starts as a Bush-era homeland security comedy develops into a far more complex, weird sci-fi-tinged series in the same vein as Rick and Morty. Essentially, it's an animated sitcom about a family similar to The Simpsons. Here, patriarch and CIA agent Stan Smith takes Bush-era stances on subjects such as terrorists potentially moving into the neighborhood. All the other family members have their own storylines, too. The Smith family also has a drunk talking alien called Roger living in the attic. Roger is the show's secret weapon – a disguise-obsessed figure who leads the series into ever stranger situations as the seasons go on. Like any long-running animated sitcom, American Dad isn't particularly consistent from episode-to-episode, but after a slightly rougher season 1, it makes absolutely perfect background entertainment . 3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Image credit: 20th Century Fox) Buffy the Vampire Slayer – with equally excellent spin-off Angel – is heading to Disney Plus for the Star launch on February 23. Does this make Buffy a Disney Princess? Let the tedious discourse begin! As with all shows that are more than 20 years old, some parts of Buffy hold up less well than others. Nevertheless, the show remains a phenomenal supernatural teen drama, which is really at its best in the opening three seasons set in high school. Although the remaining four seasons still have noteworthy moments to offer, they become increasingly overwrought with adult drama, and less fun as a result. Still, perfect for a binge-watch. 4. Firefly (Image credit: 20th Century Fox) Another show from creator – and future Avengers director – Joss Whedon, who's become a complicated figure to discuss these days. Running for only 14 episodes, this sci-fi western follows the ragtag crew of the spaceship Serenity, who try to make a living in a galaxy controlled by a totalitarian government. The series takes inspiration from Cowboy Bebop, and is great fun to watch, even if it ends well before reaching its full potential. You suspect that had it been made for a different channel, or for streaming services years later, it may well have run for five fantastic seasons. The sequel movie, Serenity (not on Disney Plus, because it was made by Universal), is a worthy-if-depressing capper to the show. 5. Alias (Image credit: ABC) JJ Abrams' spy series is classic '00s TV – well, for its first two seasons at least; thereafter it begins to lose momentum. Starring Jennifer Garner, the show is about a secret agent who believes she's working for the US government, but who is in fact operating on behalf of an Illuminati-like terrorist organisation called SD-6. Gradually weaving in Da Vinci-infused conspiracies and big sci-fi ideas, Alias definitely loses its way at a certain point. However, despite appearing somewhat dated, and the fact that its many apparent 'international' settings are clearly just Los Angeles in disguise, it's extremely entertaining. 6. Feud: Bette and Joan (Image credit: FX) The best thing about Star is that it could end up offering a permanent home to many of the great TV shows coming out of FX in the US. Indeed, the likes of Snowfall, Sons of Anarchy, Atlanta and The Strain are confirmed for launch. Feud is one of its lesser-discussed mini-series, and is fantastic. A star-studded show about the fraught making of 1962 movie What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, the series explores the rivalry between co-stars Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) and Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon). It's an empathetic and well-drawn drama from Ryan Murphy, creator of American Horror Story and Nip/Tuck. Feud was supposed to be an anthology show, but sadly, no further series have been produced. 7. Lost (Image credit: ABC/Disney Plus) Ever tried rewatching Lost since it came to end in 2010? It's a fascinating experience. This mystery drama about the survivors of a plane crash landing on a mysterious island still looks incredible in HD years later, thanks to its on-location filming in Hawaii. It's also a really easy watch, with the 40-minute episodes a blessed relief in an age of hour-long chapters on streaming services. By crashing and burning several times during its run, Lost learned lessons aplenty about serialised storytelling so that other shows didn't have to – with none of its event series imitators able to capture the same magic. Lost had too many characters, too many mysteries, and entire stretches of episodes that had no forward momentum – but, at its best, it made for smart and extremely compelling sci-fi TV. 8. The X-Files (Image credit: Disney Plus/Star) Is there ever a bad time to watch The X-Files? It's been a staple of Amazon Prime Video in the UK for a while now, but Disney Plus will soon be Mulder and Scully's new home. Those who have watched the show, will know the deal: it's mostly great when it's about monster-of-the-week stories; but mostly bad when the mythology elements come into the foreground. Still, if you've never seen it before, then this is the perfect time to get involved. 9. Prison Break (Image credit: Disney/20th Century Fox) Is Prison Break actually good? That's a tough question to answer. Arriving in the wake of densely serialised dramas such as Lost, it follows Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) as he attempts to break his brother, Linc (Dominic Purcell), who's on death row, out of jail before he's executed. The twist? Scofield has the prison's entire map tattooed on his body. Each week, that plot device is used to get the duo one step closer to freedom. At least, that's the plot of the first season; then it changes up quite a lot. Here's the thing: when you call a show 'Prison Break', you have to keep putting the characters back in prison once they escape, which is a problem this show doesn't deal with all that well. Still, the first two seasons are incredibly entertaining – but is it good? Fifteen years after we first watched it, we're still not sure. 10. Terriers (Image credit: FX) Another series cancelled before its time, Terriers is about a couple of washed-up, unlicensed private detectives who quietly take on jobs in a San Diego town. This offbeat, funny show had won critical acclaim and a passionate fanbase; but it never quite found an audience, and was scrapped after a single season. We suspect Terriers may well have done better in the age of streaming services, where people could discover and celebrate the show long after it went off the air. Still, you'll at least get the opportunity to enjoy the episodes that were made on February 23. 10 new Disney Plus UK shows worth watching when Star lands this month
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