Cities Security & Privacy

Techonomic Top 5: Web Fightback, #BangkokShutdown, Sochi Tech, and More

Every week we spotlight techonomic happenings on the Web and beyond, picking people, companies, and trends that exemplify tech’s ever-growing role in business and society. Here’s what’s got our attention.

1. Companies and People Rally Against Internet-Snooping

The_Day_We_Fight_Back_-_bannerThe Day We Fight Back, Tuesday’s anti-spying Web protest, rallied more than 6,000 websites against government surveillance—among them, Internet heavyweights Google, Mozilla, Reddit, and Tumblr. Protest participants hosted a banner on their sites, linking visitors to legislators to encourage them to take action. “Dear internet, we’re sick of complaining about the NSA,” the banner read. “We want new laws that curtail online surveillance.” Such regulations could come, in part, from a new bill called the USA Freedom Act (currently sitting in a House subcommittee), which seeks to reform the NSA’s database by ending bulk collections of communications records. By the end of Feb. 11, the Web protest had amassed about 140,000 emails, 70,000 phone calls, 30,000 petition signatures, and 84,000 tweets. The numbers sound good, but compared to 2012′s SOPA/PIPA blackout (that resulted in 4 million emails, 8 million phone calls, 10 million signatures, and 3 million tweets), the fightback was feeble.

2. Scenes of #BangkokShutdown on Twitter

Social media looked on as the long-looming Bangkok Shutdown finally struck the Thai capital last month, with #BangkokShutdown bearing witness to an unsettling scene: the streets of the most visited city in the world going virtually empty. At the one-month mark of the shutdown, protestors and onlookers continue to wield #BangkokShutdown as a means of sharing their views of a country on the brink.

(Photo: École Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) / YouTube)

(Photo: École Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) / YouTube)

3. Prosthetic Bionics Restore Power of Touch

Amputees are a step closer to regaining a sense of touch, with last week’s announcement of a groundbreaking bionic prosthetic that connects to surgically implanted electrodes. While the technology is still in the clinical trial stage, researchers expect bionic prosthetics to be available to the public within the next 10 years.

4. Tech Streamlines Sochi Games

Sochi is struggling—or so says the catchy hashtag #SochiProblems, trending now on Twitter. But Sochi also has its share of successes, and is showcasing tech’s role for a safer, faster, and even fairer Games. The world’s fastest speedskating suit, developed by Under Armour and Lockheed Martin, debuts there. The process of salting, which chemically hardens the snow’s surface, ensures Sochi’s courses are as equitable at the end of the day as they are at the beginning. And qualified but underprivileged athletes are living out their Olympic dreams at Sochi, thanks to the financial support of crowdfunding and cryptocurrency donations.

(Image via Shutterstock)

(Image via Shutterstock)

5. Spotting the Swiftest Sperm

We all know that when playing the odds at getting pregnant, we want the best swimmers to be in the game. Now it’s possible to make sure they are, at least for those hoping to conceive through in vitro fertilization. Developed by researchers in Italy and Belgium, the new technology combines microscopy and holography to render 3D video of moving sperm. By spotting sperm with anomalies (like malformed heads or tails) and eliminating them, researchers believe the technology will improve the odds of fertilization.

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  • Will Greene

    Bangkok-based tweeters like myself tried to get organized around the much more concise #BKKShutdown, but the more unwieldy and tweet-limiting #BangkokShutdown seemed to gain traction first. That said, they’re both in use at the moment.

    Either way, Twitter became pretty much the go-to source of up-to-the-minute reporting and information dissemination as the situation grew more tense. One of my favorite Asia tech journalists, Jon Russell (@jonrussell) wrote a wonderful paean to the service on his personal blog, which I’ll share:

    http://insidethenoodlebowl.com/Twitter-as-a-breaking-news-service-Bangkok-protests-2014-edition