A censorious seven days in IT

Everyone seems to want to hide or ban something this week. Read on for three examples from the news in our weekly roundup of the most interesting stories in IT.

Facebook has been hotly denying that it imposes an anti-conservative bias in its news stories after a U.S. Senate Committee launched an inquiry on the matter. News outlet Gawker quoted a former Facebook employee who said the social media giant’s workers frequently quashed right-wing news in its trending topics section, topping them up with other stories.

Maybe it isn’t the only Facebook practice up for discussion, given the amount of tinkering the Guardian says goes on across the Facebook news feed. These are important issues, given the power that Facebook has as a news aggregation channel these days. Four in 10 U.S. adults get their news from the site. In April, it promised not to use its power to influence the U.S. election.

Google wants to ban payday loan ads

Then there’s Google, which has announced that it will be banning payday loan ads this summer. The ads entice low-income borrowers with instant cash, but then capture them in a web of indenture caused by high-interest fees. Google wants to ban loans with due dates of two months or less and annual percentage rates of 36 per cent and up. Yes, 36 per cent. You read that correctly. It isn’t a typo.

The ads won’t run on Google’s pages but the payday lenders’ sites will stay in the online giant’s search results, meaning that if you really want to bind yourself in ongoing debt, you’ll still be able to find them. Thought banning ads isn’t new for Google, this unprecedented move shows it’s taking an aggressive approach toward consumer protection.

The French want to ban email

Are you fed up dealing with countless emails outside work hours? If so, move to France. The Socialist Party wants to vote through a ‘right to disconnect’ measure that will force companies to set out hours when staff aren’t supposed to send or answer emails. The idea is to promote work/life balance and give people their lives back. Hurrah for Europe.

The French seem to have a long-standing aversion to email. Perhaps they’re fed up with it because they got it before almost everyone else. They first rolled out the Minitel pre-web Internet system experimentally in 1978, which gave people email and online chat. French IT consulting giant Atos led the charge a few years ago when it introduced a zero-email policy across the whole company.

Sadly, there isn’t yet a law to stop Colin in sales from CC:ing everyone in the company when he sends out his latest hilarious lolcat videos. We can only hope.

Best of expertIP

The IT world is moving to a software-defined model. Everything from networks to storage is being redefined in software and decoupled from the hardware. Now, security could be on the verge of redefinition too. Software-defined security (SDSec) takes security measures traditionally bound to dedicated hardware, such as firewall and intrusion detection, and instead turns them into software functions that can be deployed on commodity hardware and applied across the whole organization, explained Stefan Dubowski in his blog this week.

Just like other kinds of software-defined infrastructure, SDSec carries some benefits, such as ease of control and configuration. Anyone who has grappled with configuring lots of different firewalls from different vendors across their organisation — and then updating the configuration as the network changes — will understand the benefits that brings.

On the other hand, it complicates the underlying architecture, said Dubowski, meaning that security practitioners might want to start with some specific security functions such as access control before moving the concept into the rest of their security architecture.

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

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