In the news: 5 tech news stories worth another look

Debbie Thomson

Debbie Thomson monitors technology industry developments and recaps five tech news stories from June 1-15 that stood out to her.

Should Internet service providers have the power to create “fast” and “slow” lanes of web traffic?

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted down the idea in February, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia declined cable companies’ request to hear the case earlier this month. As a result, Friday, June 11 was the first day the FCC’s new “net neutrality” rules went into effect.

We shouldn’t see a difference. That’s why FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said consumers are big winners.

According to Mashable: “Essentially, it means the web can continue as we know it today and it is illegal for cable and phone companies such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon to charge a premium to content providers such as Netflix for faster service.”

Don’t expect the cable giants to go quietly.

But until then, the web is one lane.

What else made this round-up? Read on:

‘An amazing moment’ for music?

Whether Apple would enter the streaming music market has not been a matter of “if” under CEO Tim Cook, but “when.” That day is here — and it includes a partnership with Sony Music.

Apple made the announcement at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), though Sony Music CEO Doug Morris shared the news early, according to VentureBeat.

Paid subscriptions will power Apple’s service. That sets it apart from sites that rely heavily on advertising to provide listeners with free, unlimited streaming.

Will Apple’s paid subscription strategy work?

“Well, they’ve got $178 billion dollars in the bank,” Morris said. “And they have 800 million credit cards in iTunes … a rising tide will lift all boats. It’s the beginning of an amazing moment for our industry.”

Memo to Mac users

In other Apple news, there’s a bug that buries itself so deep in Mac computers it is virtually undetectable, allowing unauthorized eyes to spy indefinitely. The issue affects machines bought before 2014.

When a Mac awakes from sleep mode, the “core program that brings a machine back to life” is accessible, CNNMoney reported. Gaining access is extremely difficult. But if done, a hacker can tamper with code that veteran techs say should never be touched.

“This is scary,” SANS Institute forensic analyst Sarah Edwards told CNNMoney. “I would never see this. There could be funky stuff going on in the computer system, and I would never know why.”

The good news is average users aren’t the target. But it’s another reminder to stay alert.

Decades-long data hack

The FBI has been investigating a giant hack on the computers of the U.S. government’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Chinese hackers are suspected of stealing records on four million current and former employees, according to Reuters.

“The breach affected OPM’s IT systems and its data stored at the Department of the Interior’s data center, which is a shared service center for federal agencies …” the report said.

As if that’s not bad enough, Reuters’ follow-up report said the stolen data goes back 30 years.

“This is deep. The data goes back to 1985,” a U.S. official said. “This means that they potentially have information about retirees, and they could know what they did after leaving government.

“That could give them a huge advantage.”

Twitter’s two changes

Big changes are coming to Twitter in July. CEO Dick Costolo is out, with co-founder Jack Dorsey filling in on an interim basis. The 140-character limit on direct messages (DM) is gone, too.

Costolo faced pressure from investors, dissatisfied with the companies “struggles to deliver sustainable growth and sales,” according to CNET.

Hence the decision to lift the DM character limit: “Messaging has become the essential feature of the social web …” Wired reported.

And there’s only so much you can say privately in 140 characters.