Week In Tech: Scammers, Specs and SpaceX

It’s been an astronomical week across the world of tech, but, undoubtedly, it’s one which will go down in the history books as the week that saw everyone’s favourite tech mogul, Elon Musk, send the world’s most powerful rocket off to Mars (well, sort of). As such, the unwanted bi-product of all of this has been a week filled with journalists systematically working their way through every space-related pun under the sun (now I’m at it). And, whilst you wouldn’t know it from looking at the papers, there have actually been other goings-on in the tech world this week. So, fasten your seatbelts, and prepare for lift-off, because we’re ready to launch you into this week in tech (sorry).

SpaceX oddity: how Elon Musk sent a car towards Mars

Okay, fine, we’ll start with the rocket stuff. On Tuesday of this week, Elon Musk, of PayPal and Tesla fame, propelled himself into the social media-stratosphere with his ground-breaking SpaceX rocket launch. Since its formation in 2002, SpaceX has been dedicated to its pursuit of reducing space transportation costs and enabling the colonisation of Mars. This week saw the company take a big step in the right direction, as the Falcon Heavy entered space with an unusual cargo – a Tesla Roadster, serenaded by the music of David Bowie. You could even stream it live if you so desired. The rocket was launched at 20:45 GMT, and successfully set-off on its voyage towards Mars, shredding its two side-boosters with diver-like synchronisation – 10’s all round, right? Well, not exactly. The rocket itself missed the targeted Mars orbit and carried straight on towards an asteroid belt instead (D’oh!). Still, an exciting week for planet colonisation – Musk even plans to send people to the Moon and back later this year…voluntarily, of course.  Just think of the air miles.

Chinese police using facial recognition glasses to identify suspects

I know what you’re thinking: ‘pull the other one, this sounds like something out of James Bond or whatever that Charlie Brooker series is that everyone’s so keen on, haven’t caught it myself’ – but it’s true, honest! Chinese police have started to use dark sunglasses equipped with facial recognition technology to spot criminal suspects. Pretty cool, right? So, how does it work? Well, the glasses are being used by police officers at busy train stations ahead of the Chinese New Year travel rush. The glasses themselves are linked to a central database which contains details of criminal records. And, when wearing said glasses, the police have immediate access to individual’s personal details; including name, ethnicity, gender and address. The database even provides information on whether the suspect is on the run from the police, as well as their recent internet history. It works, too! Police at Zhengzhou East Railway Station have arrested seven people who were suspected of being involved in kidnapping and hit-and-run cases already.

Ex-Facebook and Google employees form group to protect people from ‘harmful and addictive’ tech products

In a rather eye-opening, and somewhat alarming, turn of events this week, a group of former Facebook, Google and Apple employees have launched a campaign to protect people from addictive technologies. The purpose of the group is to pressure tech companies into making their products ‘less intrusive and less addictive’. The group is also keen to raise awareness of the dangers of these technologies, and to work with engineers to help create less-damaging products. The ‘Truth About Tech’ campaign is hoping to educate consumers on the methods these companies employ to get people hooked and provide practical tips on how to fight back, based on their inside knowledge. The campaign described the tech space as an ‘arms race to capture and retain human attention’ – ultimately concluding that we’re merely lab rats in one giant experiment.

Google Chrome scam tries to scare users into paying for tech support by freezing browser

News broke this week that tech support scammers are attempting to scare Google Chrome users into paying for their services. It would appear that these scammers have somehow found a way to ‘freeze’ the web browser, preventing it from closing. This is then swiftly followed by a popup message, encouraging people to call a number for engineers to talk them through the removal process. The ultimate aim of the scammers is to fool victims into paying for tech support that they don’t actually need, which can then lead to credit card information being stolen. The technique deployed by the scammers is based around bombarding the browser with downloads – ad-blocker is seen as the best course of action in terms of prevention.