Breakfast Briefing: Google facing legal storm, Wi-Fi traffic cops, Spotify's mean royalties

Today's tech stories include the ongoing fight against the "snooper's charter" and why it's increasingly cool to be a geek

16 Nov 2012

This morning's tech stories include Google's "perfect storm", how researchers could cut Wi-Fi congestion by 700%, why musicians have the Spotify blues, and the rise of the nerd.

Google facing perfect storm of litigation

The Guardian has pulled together the mounting legal challenges facing Google to highlight the threat posed to the search and advertising giant. With regulators on both sides of the Atlantic sharpening their paperweights over complaints that Google is too dominant and pushes rivals down its search rankings, Google is trying intriguing tactic to stave off censure.

"Google is extremely concerned at the idea that an outside agency might decide how it should order its search results – so much so that it commissioned the law professor Eugene Volokh, of the University of California, to argue the case that because the results' order is determined by humans, they count as ‘free speech’," the paper reports.

Researchers look to alleviate Wi-Fi congestion

North Carolina State University scientists have developed a software tool they claim could improve Wi-Fi performance by as much as 700% in areas where users are competing for space over a single channel. Highlighting how useful the tool would be in busy hotspots such as airports, the researchers said the system works by prioritising data for the access point when it detects a backlog.

"In effect, the program acts like a traffic cop, keeping the data traffic moving smoothly in both directions," the researchers said, adding that the system could be installed as an upgrade to existing hardware.

How 13,760 Spotify streams equates to one single sold

Services such as Pandora and Spotify make music fans feel comfortable that they are making a contribution to the artists they listen to, but Pitchfork has a breakdown of some of the figures which show how little artists actually receive.

The musicians behind the article highlight examples – and they may be the extremes – such as how "Galaxie 500's Tugboat was played 7,800 times on Pandora in the first quarter of 2012, for which its three songwriters were paid a collective total of 21 cents, or seven cents each". The comparison to singles sales is also stark, with the article claiming, "we earned more from every one of those 7-inch records we sold than from the song's recent 13,760 plays on Pandora and Spotify".

Snoopers charter fight continues

Although the government seems bent on pushing through its Draft Communications Data Bill, opponents continue to beat the drum, claiming there are many alternatives to proposals to give security forces greater access to web browsing and email data records. According to Big Brother Watch, the existing powers such as RIPA are not only being poorly used, but services remain inadequately resourced and trained to make the most of them.

"A critical issue facing British national security is a lack of skills to deal with presently available data and digital evidence, something the Draft Communications Data Bill does not address and indeed diverts resources away from," Big Brother Watch said. "As the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police told the Home Affairs Committee; ‘Across the country, policing generally spends £1.2 billion on IT. My point would be that it is more green screen than it is iPad, I am afraid, and it does not seem to catch criminals’."

Why it's now chic to be geek

Obviously PC Pro has long appreciated the power of the nerd in all of us, but the BBC reports on the rise of geekism as a positive statement, highlighting how campaigners in Sweden are trying to change the term’s dictionary definition to better reflect how popular culture has redefined what it means. Gone are the negative connotations, apparently. Remember that in the playground, kids.

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