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Up, Up and Away: Google Balloons to Beam Internet Access

Up, Up and Away: Google Balloons to Beam Internet Access

Today in international tech news: In an effort aptly titled "Project Loon," Google sends a bunch of Internet-beaming balloons into the stratosphere. Also: People in Hong Kong -- some, not a lot -- march to support Edward Snowden; a hacker publishes the phone numbers of the Philippines president; and British ISPs will start blocking porn by default.

By David Vranicar
06/17/13 8:55 AM PT

Regardless of how this turns out, at least they nailed the name.

Google is launching about 30 superpressure balloons that will beam Internet access back to the ground.

With equal parts brevity and self-deprecation, the effort has been dubbed "Project Loon."

Taking flight from New Zealand, the balloons will sail around the world on a controlled path. Meanwhile, they will offer 3G-ish Internet access to 50 testers located in New Zealand. Access will for now be intermittent, but Google reportedly hopes to build a fleet of such balloons, offering reliable connections to people in remote areas.

Controlled by computer servers and monitored by a small team of engineers, the balloons will traverse the stratosphere 12 miles above the ground -- about double the altitude of commercial aircraft. Each balloon will be aloft for roughly 100 days and offer connectivity to an area about 25 miles in diameter.

The balloons have a diameter of about 50 feet. Dangling below is a battery of electronic equipment, including a flight computer, radio antennas and a solar panel to power everything.

[Source: BBC]

Pro-Snowden March in Hong Kong

A few hundred people marched in Hong Kong on Saturday to support Edward Snowden, the American who recently leaked secrets about U.S. surveillance.

Snowden is believed to be in Hong Kong, which he says has a strong history of protecting free speech. In addition to blowing the top off extensive surveillance of U.S. citizens, Snowden has claimed that the United States has also hacked China and Hong Kong.

While the protest was mild in numbers -- for comparison, a recent vigil marking the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre drew tens of thousands -- it nonetheless featured chants ("Arrest Obama, Free Snowden") and banners ("Obama is checking your email"). The gathering ultimately migrated to the government headquarters in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying said Saturday that the government would adhere to the "established procedures of Hong Kong," whatever that means. Hong Kong has a history of cooperating with U.S. extradition requests, but the current situation appears to be without precedent.

China has yet to officially comment on the situation, but that hasn't stopped U.S. lawmakers from floating the idea that Snowden is in cahoots with Beijing.

[Source: Reuters]

Hacker Publishes Phone Numbers for Philippine President

A hacker apparently linked with the hacker collective Anonymous published three mobile phone numbers purportedly belonging to the Philippine president, Benigno Aquino III.

The numbers, published on the hacker's Facebook page, were disabled within hours. It is not entirely clear if the numbers did indeed belong to Aquino; a spokeperson for the president said she didn't want to dignify the incident with a comment.

Anonymous defaced several Philippine government sites last year.

[Source: Tech In Asia]

UK to Introduce Default Pornography Filters

British Internet service providers will be expected to provide anti-pornography filters for all homes in the UK by the end of this year.

Announced by Claire Perry, prime minister David Cameron's "special advisor on preventing the sexualization and commercialization of childhood" -- that's an actual position -- ISPs will provide the technology to both new and existing customers.

Should they not want the filter, which will be installed by default, Internet users will have to opt out.

[Source: Wired]


David Vranicar is a freelance journalist and author of The Lost Graduation: Stepping off campus and into a crisis. You can check out his ECT News archive here, and you can email him at david[dot]vranicar[at]newsroom[dot]ectnews[dot]com.


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