The Queen sends her first tweet

Rory Cellan-Jones, Technology correspondent

Rory Cellan-Jones

Technology correspondent

The Queen sending a tweetThe Queen, with a glove removed, sending her first tweet on Friday

“It is a pleasure to open the Information Age exhibition today at the @ScienceMuseum and I hope people will enjoy visiting. Elizabeth R.”

That was the Queen’s first tweet – sent through the @BritishMonarchy account – heralding the launch of a major new exhibition at London’s Science Museum.

Three years in the planning, the exhibition is one of the most ambitious projects the museum has undertaken.

Alongside historic objects, visitors can enjoy interactive experiences.

The Information Age gallery, opened by the Queen this morning, takes visitors on a journey through the history of modern communications from the telegraph to the smartphone.

There is the first transatlantic telegraph cable which connected Europe and North America, the broadcast equipment behind the BBC’s first radio programme in 1922, and Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s NeXT computer, which hosted the first website.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee's NeXT computer, which hosted the first website.

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The exhibition includes the NeXT computer Sir Tim Berners-Lee used to host the first website

You can construct a 1980s mobile phone network, making sure your cell towers are efficiently positioned. You can go into the web story box to find out exactly what happens when you click on a link. And you can plug headphones into a 1950s telephone exchange, and listen to the operators describing what their work involved.

The gallery’s chief curator Tilly Blyth hopes that visitors who may be somewhat blase about the digital revolution will come away with a longer view.

“We really want them to see that our predecessors lived through similar periods of change. Ours isn’t the only revolution – just the latest. in a series of transformations since the electric telegraph in the 1830s.”

Baroness Martha Lane Fox, who has campaigned for better access to and understanding of the internet, welcomes the new gallery: “It’s an amazing opportunity for people young and old to come and see the extraordinary developments in technology over the last hundred years or so. It really reminds me of the scale of ambition that people have had to change things.”

She hopes too that visitors will learn of the great contribution made by Britain to the development of communications – from Ada Lovelace, the woman who conceived the idea of computer programming in the 1830s, through to the 1950s when Lyons Corner Houses introduced the first business computer Leo, and on to Sir Tim Berners-Lee: “I hope that people who visit will have their ambition and excitement lit so we can continue to be world leaders in this field because it’s so important.”

The gallery certainly does show off the role Britain has played, and a number of British companies including BT and the chip designer ARM Holdings have sponsored the Information Age and supplied exhibits. But, as they wander past early computers like the ACE, designed by Alan Turing, visitors may begin to ask themselves a question.

In a communications world now dominated by the likes of Google, Apple and Facebook, where are the British technology giants that will shape the communications of the future?

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Job centres to get digital makeover

electronic signature and old formThe electronic signature pads will replace traditional forms

The government is investing in a digital revamp of the UK’s job centres.

Electronic pads that recognise job seekers’ signatures using biometric software will be installed at centres around the UK, along with PC workstations and free wi-fi.

The computers operate on the government’s network and share the same level of security against hacking and viruses.

The equipment has been tested at London Bridge Jobcentre.

“We’ve moved away from customers coming in and standing in a queue waiting to be directed,” said Baljeet Mahal, the branch’s customer services manager.

“We don’t have podiums, we don’t have public-access phones.

“If you look back to Job Centre Plus from years ago, we had boards with paper cards with vacancies on them – we don’t have those anymore.”

The Department for Work and Pensions, which runs the job centres, estimates that installing the computers will save £2m per year.

While their use will not be not monitored formally, Ms Mahal said the screens were visible and staff would “have a chat” if they saw people using them for purposes other than job hunting.

Business analyst John Oldroyd told the BBC that cyber-security was crucial for all new equipment.

job seekerJob seekers can search for jobs, calculate benefits and update their CVs at the in-house computers.

“I think every organisation is a target for hackers,” he said.

“Security is a high priority for every system we introduced.

“It’s all protected by the Department for Work and Pensions network, there are several firewalls in place.”

He added that the signature pads had been designed to store data securely.

“The signature pad is used in banks in central Europe,” he said.

“It uses biometric software, which measures how somebody writes their signature.

“It’s not concerned so much with the image, but the way you write it – it’s very consistent and individual to you like a fingerprint.”

The overall signature also has to correspond at least 80% with six sample signatures, which each individual job seeker has to provide the first time they use the device.

“In terms of the signature data we store, we don’t store images, we store data which builds up a signature profile,” added Mr Oldroyd.

“If anyone did hack in there’s no way that could be turned back into a visible signature.”

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Google offers new email app, Inbox

A view of Inbox on a mobile phoneInbox categorises emails into groups as well as allowing users to set their own reminders

Google is revamping its email service with a new mobile app it is simply calling Inbox.

It is an attempt to reorganise overcrowded inboxes and ensure important emails are not overlooked.

Currently the tech giant has invited a select group of Gmail users to try out the new service. Some experts believe it will eventually replace Gmail.

“Our biggest rethink of email since Gmail, really excited about Inbox,” wrote one Google executive on Google+.

Among the main changes, Inbox will:

  • highlight key information from important messages, such as flight itineraries, event information and photographs
  • let users add their own reminders – to pick up dry-cleaning or give parents a call, for example
  • categorise messages – clustering together receipts or bank statements for instance

“We get more email now than ever, important information is buried inside messages, and our most important tasks can slip through the cracks – especially when we’re working on our phones,” wrote Sundar Pichai, senior vice-president of Android, Chrome and apps.

“For many of us, dealing with email has become a daily chore that distracts from what we really need to do – rather than helping us get those things done,” he added.

Reaction from the technology press appeared to be mixed.

The Verge described it as the future of email. “It’s perfectly happy to have you use your email as a to-do list,” it said.

But Mashable pointed out that other apps such as Mailbox and Box do similar things, and Engadget questioned whether it would really signal the end of Gmail.

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Microsoft to phase out Nokia name

Nokia LumiaThe Nokia Lumia name will soon become Microsoft Lumia

Microsoft is ditching the Nokia brand name from new devices, less than a year after acquiring the Finnish mobile firm.

New Nokia Lumia smartphones will instead by known as Microsoft Lumia, the company said.

Nokia’s non-mobile division, which is not owned by Microsoft, will continue to use the name.

The mobile operation was bought by Microsoft in April in a deal worth $7.2bn (£4.6bn).

Since then, Microsoft has quietly shifted away from the Nokia brand.

A post on Nokia France’s Facebook page confirmed the branding shift. The renaming will roll out globally in due course, Microsoft has said.

The announcement comes despite Microsoft agreeing to a 10-year deal to use the Nokia name on mobile products.

Microsoft is currently having a big shake-up. In July, chief executive Satya Nadella announced the cutting of 18,000 jobs.

The bulk of the cuts, around 12,500, will be from staff taken on after the Nokia acquisition.

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Concern raised over UK use of drones

Undated handout photo issued by Greater Manchester Police of a drone, which was flown over a packed football stadium This drone was flown over a match at the Etihad Stadium, leading to an arrest

The use of drones in the UK will rise over the next 20 years, raising “significant safety, security, and privacy concerns”, a report has said.

The University of Birmingham Policy Commission Report raised the prospect that the aircraft could be used by terror groups to attack public events.

However, it also acknowledged greater use could bring “significant benefits” to the UK’s security and economy.

It called for “urgent” measures to safeguard British airspace and privacy.

The research into Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) was led by Sir David Omand, a former head of the UK’s intelligence centre, GCHQ.

‘Malign purposes’

It stated: “The security threat posed by individuals misusing RPA is a serious one, whether for criminal or terrorist purposes… more thought needs to be given to their employment for malign purposes in the domestic environment.”

It went on: “Vulnerable targets might be hardened to withstand attack from outside, but it is entirely possible that in a public space like a shopping centre or sporting stadium, an attack could be launched from within.

“Crowds at sporting events or rallies could be vulnerable in a similar way if a future terrorist group were to look for means of dispersing chemical or biological agents.

“While such a scenario has so far not posed a real danger to UK citizens… it is a threat that the UK authorities took seriously during the 2012 Olympics.”

Drones are also “ideal lookouts for burglars, train robbers and poachers”, the Security Impact of Drones report said.

And it said lightweight, commercial RPAs could become the “weapon of choice” for paparazzi in search of photographs of celebrities.

Police in Merseyside, Staffordshire, Essex, Wiltshire and the West Midlands have acquired or used drones for surveillance, and guidelines must be looked at governing how and when they can be used, it said.

The commission called for “urgent” measures to safeguard British airspace and the privacy of citizens to cope with civil and commercial use, which it expected to be more widespread by 2035.

Currently, drones of under 20kg can be used within line of sight of the operator and with permission of the Civil Aviation Authority.

Enforcing breaches is likely to become a major policy issue, the report said, adding some drones were often being flown in breach of rules.

‘Innovative technology’

On Monday, a 41-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of breaching an air navigation order when a drone was flown over Manchester City’s home game with Tottenham Hotspur.

Greater Manchester Police said the drone could have posed a threat to crowd safety and could potentially have caused alarm to fans.

Elsewhere, the Ministry of Defence recently confirmed the UK would fly unmanned drones over Syria to gather intelligence on Islamic State militants.

Rivet Joint spy planes will also be authorised for surveillance missions in the region, the MoD said.

Commission chairman Sir David said the decision was welcome provided the technology was used “in accordance with international law”.

“This commission has highlighted the need for more work on the policies for such applications, and we hope that our findings will help clarify the issues that will need more attention, as well as providing a vision for how the UK can exploit this innovative technology,” he said.

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Audi claims self-drive speed record

Audi RS7

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WATCH: The RS7 took a little over two minutes to complete a lap (video filmed by Audi and edited by BBC)

Audi has claimed a speed record for a self-driving car.

The German car giant says its RS7 vehicle topped 149mph (240km/h) while driving uncrewed round the Hockenheim racing circuit, south of Frankfurt.

The car took just over two minutes to complete a lap of the Grand Prix track.

Sunday’s stunt was organised to highlight the firm’s efforts to bring “piloted driving” to road vehicles. But one expert cautioned that several hurdles still needed to be overcome.

Audi – a division of Volkswagen – also put a human behind the wheel of the vehicle for a comparison lap. He took five seconds longer to complete the circuit.

A member of the car company’s research team explained that it believed the innovation could ultimately be used by the public.

“I know accident-free driving will remain a vision. But at least we can reduce the number of accidents in the future,” said Dr Horst Glaser.

“Piloted driving defuses situations like, for example, being in a traffic jam. Whenever the driver is distracted and inattentive the car could take over.

“Additionally the driver has a chance to relax. That means they are on full alert as soon as their attention is required again.”

Audi RS7Computer equipment in the rear of the car used data gathered from an array of sensors

The RS7 used a combination of cameras, laser scanners, GPS location data, radio transmissions and radar sensors to guide itself around the track, with the data processed by computing equipment that filled its boot.

The experiment marked a high point after 15 years of research by the firm in the US and Europe.

However, one industry-watcher noted that a speed test on an otherwise empty racetrack was very different to the day-to-day driving conditions such vehicles would one day experience.

“I think we will see driverless cars on our roads within a decade, but there’s clearly still a lot of work to do,” said Prof David Bailey from Aston Business School.

“You need to make sure they interact with other driverless cars as well as those piloted by humans – you’ve got to make sure the software absolutely works.”

He added that the insurance industry also needed to grapple with the concept.

“One of the big issues is what happens if there is an accident,” he explained.

“Who is responsible? Is it the driver even if they are not driving? Is it the car company? Is it the software company? There are a whole load of legal issues to sort out.

MercedesMercedes is developing a computer-driven version of its S-class car

“But there could be big savings for the economy in terms of far fewer accidents and more efficient travel.”

Audi is far from alone in this field research.

Another German manufacturer, Mercedes, showed off a rival computer-controlled version of its S-class car recently.

Other car companies including Daimler, Volvo, Toyota, Tesla and BMW are also experimenting with artificial intelligence-directed vehicles, as are other tech firms including Google, Panasonic and Autolive.

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Man guilty of fake-girl webcam sex

close up of images of fake teen 'Sweetie' with 'terre des hommes' logo

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The charity said men from 71 countries had tried to solicit Sweetie

A man in Australia is believed to be the first to have been convicted as the result of an undercover sting in which charity workers posed online as a 10-year-old Filipina.

Details of 1,000 men who contacted the fake child, nicknamed Sweetie, were sent to police around the world

The men had requested Sweetie perform sex acts in front of a webcam for cash.

The names of 110 British men thought to be among those involved were sent to the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA).

It says it is actively pursuing the investigation, although no arrests have been made.

Scott Robert Hansen, who is a registered sex offender, pleaded guilty to three charges in Brisbane District Court.

He admitted sending obscene pictures of himself to Sweetie, having images of child sexual abuse on his computer and failing to comply with a sex offenders order.

He was sentenced to two years in prison, but is not expected to go to jail because of the eight months he has already been in detention.

Computer-generated girlTerre des Hommes has offered to share the technology it used to create Sweetie with police forces

He will be subject to a 12-month correction order and was ordered to undertake a sex offender treatment programme.

Chat logs

BBC News has obtained the chat logs of Hansen’s conversations.

Hansen started by asking: “hi u really 9yo”

The operator replied: “Yes,” to which he wrote: “wanna chat or cam with older?”

He went on: “I like asian chicks, are you… for action”

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

Some of the men we interacted with literally give me nightmares”

End Quote
Operator, Terre des Hommes

His comments became more explicit: “i’m naked, ever seen a guy naked?”

He then turned on his webcam and performed a sex act in front of what he believed was a nine-year-old girl.

Judge Ryrie, in sentencing said Hansen had “a protracted interest in targeting children in various ways”.

The fact the girl was not real was irrelevant, she said. “If you believe that’s a nine-year-old girl, then that’s the law, that’s good enough.”

Internet patrols

This is thought to be the first conviction related to the Sweetie operation. It was created by a Dutch charity called Terre des Hommes.

Head of the programme Hans Guyt said he and his colleagues had always hoped the information would be used by police forces to mount their own operations.

“Law enforcement now know that the information we supplied can be very useful,” he said.


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Undercover operator ‘Some of the men give me nightmares’

He added that police had to be more proactive. “The only way to try and find these people is to patrol the internet,” he said.

A team of four researchers worked on the project for 10 weeks in 2013. They posed in chat rooms as Philippine girls.

Sometimes they even used a computerised avatar, which they would show men via web cam.


BBC News has spoken exclusively to one operator, who asked to remain anonymous.

“Some of the men we interacted with literally give me nightmares,” he said.

Regarding Scott Hansen, he commented: “He was very direct, at one point he asked us to get our fictional eight-year-old sister involved. It was very difficult to go to sleep at night after interacting with someone like Hansen.”

The operator is proud of playing a part in Hansen’s conviction, but wishes there had been more. “He was probably not the most serious, not even amongst the most serious,” he said.

Over the period of the project tens of thousands of men contacted the team. The names of 1,000 were given to Interpol, which distributed the identities to 71 countries around the world.

This is the first reported conviction related to the project.

National Crime Agency

The NCA said a substantial amount of work needed to be done to identify the 110 men it had been notified about.

It said it was “actively pursuing” the investigation but could not offer further detail.

Child on computerTerre des Hommes has said that webcam sex tourism requires new policing techniques

BBC News has seen the British files – much of the information would not be admissible in court.

Some of the men are untraceable. Others, though, would be easy to find, and their behaviour is very disturbing.

The NCA has confirmed it has not yet passed the information to individual forces.

This may prove controversial following the NCA’s previous admission that it had failed to pass on information from Canadian police in 2012.

The details of more than 2,000 British men who had been buying child abuse images from an online video store in Canada was passed to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (Ceop) centre in July 2012.

Ceop judged the men low risk and did not inform local forces until November 2013, when it became part of the National Crime Agency.

Several of those men, including Cambridge paediatric cancer specialist Dr Myles Bradbury, have since been convicted of child abuse offences.

The head of the NCA, Keith Bristow, has apologised for the delay in passing on information

He has also referred the handling of the information to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Today the NCA said it received “1,600 referrals relating to potential child abuse every month”, adding that it gave “top priority to those cases where an immediate or high risk to a child is identified”.

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Google changes ‘to fight piracy’

Ed SheeranMusic industry executives are frustrated by illegal sites appearing in Google search results

Google has announced changes to its search engine in an attempt to curb online piracy.

The company has long been criticised for enabling people to find sites to download entertainment illegally.

The entertainment industry has argued that illegal sites should be “demoted” in search results.

The new measures, mostly welcomed by music trade group the BPI, will instead point users towards legal alternatives such as Spotify and Google Play.

Google will now list these legal services in a box at the top of the search results, as well as in a box on the right-hand side of the page.

Crucially, however, these will be adverts – meaning if legal sites want to appear there, they will need to pay Google for the placement.

The BPI said that while it was “broadly” pleased with Google’s changes, it did not think sites should have to pay.

“There should be no cost when it comes to serving consumers with results for legal services,” a spokesman told the BBC.

In numbers: Piracy battle

Taylor Swift

  • The BPI made 43.3 million requests for Google to remove search results in 2013 (the US equivalent group, the RIAA, made 31.6 million)
  • Google removed 222 million results from search because of copyright infringement
  • Google’s Content ID system, which detects copyrighted material, scans 400 years-worth of video every day
  • 300 million videos have been “claimed” by rights holders, meaning they can place advertising on them

Source: Google report into piracy


“Instead we have urged Google to use the machine-readable data on the Music Matters website, which lists all services licensed in the UK, and to promote these legal services above illegal sites and results in their search, using appropriate weighting applied fairly and equally across services.”

‘Legitimate sources’

Google has also added extra measures to doctor its search results so that links pointing to illegal content fall lower in results, with legal sites floating to the top.

The company has been doing this for several years, but now says it has “refined the signal” for detecting these links.

To coincide with the announcement, Google published a report into the measures it has put in place across its various websites.

Google results for legal sitesThe legal options will appear at the top of the page

On YouTube, for instance, its Content ID system is able to detect the use of copyrighted material in videos – offering music labels the choice of having the content removed, or monetising it by placing advertising.

But the report stressed the long-held view from Google that the solution to piracy lay in putting effort into creating better legal services, rather than chasing off illegal ones.

“Piracy often arises when consumer demand goes unmet by legitimate supply,” the report said.

“As services ranging from Netflix to Spotify to iTunes have demonstrated, the best way to combat piracy is with better and more convenient legitimate services.”

Ongoing row

The BPI and Google have been at logger-heads over downgrading results for several years.

The music industry has been angered by the way in which a search on Google for “listen to Katy Perry”, or any artist, would sometimes produce results pointing to places to download content illegally.

Often, the illegal sites would rank higher than official outlets such as iTunes.

Google, reluctant to tamper with its “organic” results, but leant on by the government, has gradually backed down and implemented some measures, although their effectiveness is often disputed.

Other combative measures pushed by the BPI include the blocking of websites such as the Pirate Bay so that UK internet users cannot visit unless they are using specialist software.

“We will monitor the results carefully,” said Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the BPI.

“But we are encouraged that Google has recognised the need to take further action and will continue to work with the search engines and government to build a stronger digital music sector.

“The BPI, together with colleagues from the film industry, will continue to meet with the search engines and government to ensure these measures make a real difference and to persuade Bing and Yahoo to take similar action.”

Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC

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Facebook warning to US drugs officers

Fake Facebook

One of the images it’s claimed was used in the fake account (The BBC has blurred part of the image)

It doesn’t matter who you are, Facebook’s rules must be obeyed, according to Facebook.

That’s why the social network has written to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) telling them to stop setting up fake accounts.

Chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, instructed the DEA that their terms and conditions ban anyone from lying about who they are

The DEA is part of the US Justice Department.

It is responsible for cracking down on the production, distribution and sale of illegal drugs.

The issue of fake profiles has been raised by a lawsuit brought by a women from New York, Sondra Arquiett.

In it she accuses a federal agent of creating a fake profile using her name and pictures from her mobile phone.

It’s believed the photographs were taken after she was arrested on drug charges in 2010 and her phone was seized.

Ms Arquiett has claimed her identity was then used as a front to interact with “dangerous individuals”.

Fake Facebook

A screenshot taken by AP indicates that the fake page had 11 “friends” before it was removed (images blurred by BBC)

She is suing for £155,000.

Facebook wants the DEA to now confirm they are no longer using fake accounts as part of their investigations.

In the court papers, the Justice Department defended its actions.

It said Sondra Arquiett “implicitly consented” to it using her photos and name “by granting access to the information stored in her cellphone and by consenting to the use of that information to aid it in ongoing criminal investigations”.

Follow @BBCNewsbeat on Twitter and Radio1Newsbeat on YouTube

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UK builds child abuse image database

Hard driveRaids on abusers and sites often produce millions of images that need to be classified

The UK is creating a national database of images of child sexual abuse seized during police raids on paedophiles and sites that trade in the content.

The Child Abuse Image Database (CAID) will help UK police forces co-ordinate investigations into abuse.

Huge growth in the number of abuse images circulating online means forces need help analysing what they seize.

The database is part of a massive international effort to classify images and track down victims.

The need for CAID has arisen because such action against abusers and websites often leaves police forces needing to categorise hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions of images.

Many of these images will have been seen before as the trade in abuse content has led to them being duplicated many times. This can make it difficult for investigators to pick out novel images that could lead them to victims that have not been seen before.

Project Vic

In a statement, policing minister Mike Penning said CAID was “a watershed moment in this government’s drive to stamp out the despicable crime of online child sexual exploitation”.

“The outcomes will be life-changing, and in some cases life-saving,” he said. “That is how important this database is.”

The CAID database is also part of a larger international effort called Project Vic that seeks to classify images held by forces around the world.

Richard Brown from the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, which is helping co-ordinate Project Vic, said the two initiatives were using the same protocols to ensure images could be swapped back and forth easily.

Seven other countries were already helping with Project Vic and more were expected to sign up soon, he said.

“It is groundbreaking for law enforcement, tool providers, non-profits and industry to all stand together and agree on the need to standardize the approach to such egregious crimes,” Mr Brown told the BBC.

CAID is being built by tech firms NetClean, Hubstream and L-3 ASA and is set to be working by the end of 2014.

As well as improving collaboration among police forces, it is hoped that the database will save forces more than £7.5m by cutting the time it takes to conduct investigations.

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