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Tech Week That Was: Syrian Hackers And Google Intrigue

A cyberattack, reportedly by a group called the Syrian Electronic Army, forced <em>The New York Times</em> offline this week.
A cyberattack, reportedly by a group called the Syrian Electronic Army, forced The New York Times offline this week.

Each Friday we round up the big conversations in tech and culture during the week that was. We also revisit the work that appeared on this blog and highlight what we're reading from our fellow technology writers and observers across theInternet.


The Syrian Electronic Army returned to the public consciousness after it was suspected of hacking the domain server of The New York Times, Huffington Post and Twitter. The Times was taken out for some users for upwards of 18 hours. We offered a primer on the group and what its motivations are (read: political). As fast-food workers protested across the country, it reminded us of automated fast-food restaurants in places like Amsterdam. Our weekly innovation pick was the cuddle mattress. The design lets your arm fall in between slats so it doesn't go numb while cuddling your partner.

On the air, Steve Henn explained the #NSAPickupLines that are all the rage in the twitterverse, Laura Sydell explored whether streaming music can make real money, and I reported on bossless offices — a move in the tech industry toward flatter hierarchies and team-based management to facilitate faster innovation. It's especially timely now, as the reports about Microsoft's unappealing workplace culture seem the complete opposite of emerging tech companies, like Medium.

The Big Conversation(s)

The week led off with news that the digital divide persists. The annual Pew Research Center study on broadband penetration reveals that 30 percent of American adults still aren't connected to high-speed broadband, either because of choice — those above age 70 are least likely to be connected — or because of socioeconomic status. But smartphones are making inroads. Ten percent of Americans say they don't have broadband at home but access the Intenet via smartphone. Midweek, news that Google co-founder Sergey Brin and his wife were splitting, reportedly because of his relationship with a Google Glass marketing officer, led to personality-based intrigue that spilled into larger business questions. That's because, as Quartz's Christopher Mims details, a top Google employee's "defection" to work for the "Apple of China" is entangled with Brin's love life.

What'sCatching Our Eye

TheColumbus Dispatch: DeWine Backs Use of Facial Recognition Software

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is having to review law enforcement's use of facial recognition software. The program matches suspects' photos with those in the Ohio driver's license photo database; civil liberties groups and some Ohioans are crying foul.

Salon: Will robots make us sexist?

Salon makes a case for how robots are confirming gender norms rather than challenging them.

CNNMoney: Facebook friends could change your credit score

Some lenders see social connections as a good indicator of a person's creditworthiness, but a credit expert says FICO scores are a better predictor of lending risk.

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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.