What’s new in tech
Saving the world’s code
A cave in the Arctic holds the world’s most important software codes, said Ashlee Vance in Bloomberg Businessweek. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway, “the last stop for civilization before the North Pole,” is known as the Doomsday Vault because it stores seeds for the world’s most important crops in case of an apocalyptic famine or war. But nearby, Nat Friedman, the CEO of GitHub, is on a mission to preserve several terabytes of code, including source code for the Linux and Android operating systems. It’s kept on “what look like old-school movie reels” and can last “2,000 years in a cold, dry, low-oxygen cave.” The reels are stored in the Arctic World Archive, a repository of some of the world’s irreplaceable records, including Vatican archives, masterpieces of Italian cinema, and “the recipe for a certain burger chain’s special sauce.”
Apple asks for research volunteers
Apple wants its iPhone and Watch users to opt in to a new research app that allows them to join in medical studies, said Patrick McGee and Hannah Kuchler in the Financial Times. Three research projects launched last week partner with Harvard’s School of Public Health, the University of Michigan, and other institutions to “study women’s health, heart and movement, and hearing.” Users can control “whether they want to participate and which studies they join, and can stay informed about the results.” The projects use data gathered from the electrocardiogram sensor, decibel meter, and menstrual cycle–tracking functions on Apple devices. Though tech companies have “come under increasing scrutiny for their use of health information,” Apple is hoping for “1 million sign-ups over 10 years.”
Growing distrust of data collection
“Americans in 2019 feel adrift and powerless about living under the glare of digital surveillance,” said Farhad Manjoo in The New York Times. More than 4 in 5 respondents to a Pew Research Center survey said that there is more risk than benefit in data collection by companies. But few people think there’s anything they can do about it. An overwhelming majority of us—86 percent—feel “we have little or no control over our search and purchase and browsing histories” and “that our texts and social media wandering are easily monitored.” Tech companies have taken to claiming that “users, not the companies, are in charge” of their data. But it’s clear Americans don’t believe them.