Chinese Man Heads to US Prison for Microchip Smuggling Attempt
Today in international tech news: A Chinese man is sentenced to three years in prison for trying to smuggle military-ready microchips from California to China. Also: The UK's porn filters are working a bit too well; China cracks down on Bitcoin exchanges; the UN adopts a new privacy measure; and Italy mulls a "Google tax."
12/19/13 8:34 AM PT
A Chinese citizen was sentenced to three years in U.S. prison Wednesday for trying to smuggle American-made microchips from California to China.
The man, Philip Chaohui He, was targeted in a 2011 sting at a Los Angeles-area port. He was nabbed while approaching a Chinese freighter, toting with him 200 radiation-hardened microchips tucked inside a tub of baby formula.
U.S. officials say the Chinese government is increasingly trying to get its hands on American-made microchips, which are vital components for satellites, ballistic missiles and military hardware.
He, who pleaded guilty to smuggling and conspiracy to violate the Arm Export Control Act, said Wednesday that he loves the U.S. and is "sorry beyond words."
UK Porn Filters Working a Bit Too Well
Filters designed to weed out pornography in the UK are blocking websites offering legitimate information on sex -- sex education, advice on sexual health and how to curb porn consumption.
For example, Internet service provider TalkTalk has blocked -- presumably unwittingly -- BishUK.com, a British sex ed site that receives more than 1 million visits per month. TalkTalk has also walled off the website for the Edinburgh Women's Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre, as well as other sex-related but non-vulgar addresses.
It's not just TalkTalk: ISP Sky has blocked a handful of porn-addiction addresses, while BT has barred sites that help victims of abuse.
Prime Minister David Cameron has long lauded the idea of forcing people to "opt in" to have access to pornographic content.
The last time we heard of overzealous Web filters in the UK, said filters were blocking Hamlet at a local library.
China Cracks Down on Bitcoin Exchanges
Less than two weeks after barring its banks and financial institutions from handling Bitcoins, China said that the country's Bitcoin exchanges can no longer accept new inflows of cash.
Bobby Lee, a former Yahoo developer and now the head of BTC China, the world's largest Bitcoin exchange in terms of trading volume, told The Financial Times that he was informed his site could no longer accept Chinese renminbi from people hoping to turn the Chinese currency into Bitcoins.
Earlier this month, Lee had expressed hope that Beijing would come around on Bitcoins. Alas.
The value of Bitcoins subsequently tanked.
UN Adopts Privacy Measure
The United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution Wednesday designed to protect privacy rights and stop unlawful surveillance.
The resolution was introduced by Germany and Brazil, which have been two of the most outspoken critics of U.S. surveillance practices. Which figures, given that the U.S. reportedly spied directly on both German Chancellor Angel Merkel and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
[Source: The Associated Press]
Italy Mulls 'Google Tax'
Italian lawmakers are considering legislation that would require companies that advertise online in Italy to do so solely with entities that have a tax presence in the country.
However, passage of the legislation, unofficially called the "Google tax," is far from certain.
The measure would not tax companies like Google and Amazon directly, but instead would force them to use Italian companies to sell ads. The thinking is that this would remove third parties -- often located in tax-friendly countries like Ireland, Luxemburg or outside the EU -- from the equation.