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theEweekly Wrap

Google tackles piracy – Cambridge cracks PINs – Twitter asks wrong John Lewis

Google removes record number of piracy links

Google has taken down 200 million links from search listings in 2013, according to transparency reports released by TorrentFreak.

This figure has quadrupled since last year, and it is predicted that the amount will hit a quarter of a million by the end of the year. Google suggests this equates to eight removed links per second.

Seventy-four million removal requests have come from the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), while Polish hosting site FilesTube has found itself the subject of more requests than any other site, seeing 7.6 million links disappear.

Nearly 30,000 copyright holders have submitted these requests to Google this year, with just over 295,000 domains affected.

However, the entertainment industry is still not satisfied. In September, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced it was "unimpressed" with Google's anti-piracy efforts.

More recently, Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) chairman Chris Dodd said: "As the internet's gatekeepers, search engines share a responsibility to play a constructive role in not directing audiences to illegitimate content."

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Cambridge researchers reveal smartphone PIN loophole

A research team from the University of Cambridge has expressed its "surprise" at how easily they could figure out the PIN of a smartphone using its camera and microphone to monitor the owner.

They used a programme called PIN skimmer to watch Google Nexus-S and Galaxy S3 test subjects via their camera and listen to clicks with the microphone.

Once a click is detected, the camera will estimate which area of the phone was tapped in order to predict what has been typed. The team reported a 50 per cent accuracy rate on four-digit PINs after five attempts.

The researchers warned that this posed a serious security risk, as not only could a user's screen lock code be deciphered, they could also give away login data while online banking or making purchases.

Potential solutions include using a longer PIN, randomising keypad number position or using face and fingerprint recognition. However, the report also found flaws in each of these approaches.

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US Twitter user John Lewis fields shoppers' queries

When retailer John Lewis released their much anticipated Christmas advert, many viewers took to Twitter to give their views on the matter. Inspired to begin their festive shopping, they also posted questions about possible purchases.

Unfortunately, the Twitter handle not unreasonably guessed at by many, @johnlewis, in fact belongs to a computer science professor in the US state of Virginia.

It transpired that Mr Lewis had in fact been handling customer questions and complaints for many months, with "you may be referring to the retail store" becoming something of a catchphrase on his timeline.

As news of his patient and friendly manner spread across social media, John Lewis (the retail store, which posts under @johnlewisretail) got in touch with their impromptu customer service adviser and are now planning to send him a thank you gift for his efforts.

Of course, this is not the first case of mistaken identity on Twitter. Ashley Kerekes thought nothing of it when she chose her boyfriend's affectionate nickname for her as a Twitter name in 2010, but sadly for her @theashes was soon inundated by cricket fans.

Meanwhile, in April Indian IT consultant Ravi Visvesvaraya Sharada Prasad (@RVP) became increasingly frustrated with the amount of messages he received that were intended for Manchester United footballer Robin van Persie.

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Written by James Riches

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