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Tech Week That Was: Kids And Screens, NSA And Our Data

A protester appears behind Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, at a hearing of the House intelligence committee this week in Washington.
Alex Wong
Getty Images
A protester appears behind Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, at a hearing of the House intelligence committee this week in Washington.

Each week, we round up the tech and culture stories from NPR and beyond. Let's do this, folks.


Online and on air, we've started our new effort to report several stories on a single theme during the week. Our first themed week explored kids and technology, with my look at babies and screen time, Steve Henn on the science of video games, Laura Sydell on tracking the social media use of your teens, and Eric Westervelt on iPads in the classroom. The stories are aggregated on this page for you to go back and read, and on Monday, we'll put up a mashcast podcast for you to listen to the kids-and-tech journey as one enjoyable download. Also this week, April Fehling asked you how you deal with the scourge of texting-while-walking, I showed you the new airline safety videos making me smile, I continued reporting on the debacle of HealthCare.gov and we chose the Bulb Flashlight as the weekly innovation.

The Big Conversation

Another major revelation came out this week about the sheer extent of the surveillance state, when The Washington Post reported that the National Security Agency infiltrated a link between Google and Yahoo's data centers to create a back door to collect data from millions of users, without the companies' knowledge. Google and Yahoo both expressed their outrage and by Friday, Senate intelligence committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein came out against the NSA's surveillance of U.S. allies, and Secretary of State John Kerry admitted that perhaps the government had sometimes "reached too far." In Europe, Spain reacted to news that the NSA collected data on 60 million phone calls, in addition to the news about snooping on France and dozens of world leaders. Security expert Bruce Schneier wrote in The Atlantic that this represents the ongoing struggle over control of the Internet.

In tech industry news, Twitter's marching toward its stock market debut, and this week, it made a significant change in its display of users' tweets, showing pictures and Vine's short videos in user timelines by default, without a click. This will make visual ads on Twitter much more prominent, as The New York Times noted, which will help the company serve more mobile ads.

Other Curiosities

The Wall Street Journal: BlackBerry in talks with Facebook about a bid

Could this be a marriage that would benefit both parties?

Los Angeles Times: Is the mysterious barge in San Francisco Bay a secret Google data center?

Water can keep servers cool. The project could be a floating data center, something Google was granted a patent for in 2009 but never built. But CBS San Francisco reported the barge will be used as an exclusive showroom to market Google Glass and other gadgets.

Gawker: 'The Zuckerberg Files' Tracks Everything Mark Zuckerberg Says

A new site logs every public utterance of the Facebook founder and CEO.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elise Hu is a host-at-large based at NPR West in Culver City, Calif. Previously, she explored the future with her video series, Future You with Elise Hu, and served as the founding bureau chief and International Correspondent for NPR's Seoul office. She was based in Seoul for nearly four years, responsible for the network's coverage of both Koreas and Japan, and filed from a dozen countries across Asia.