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Taking control of online data

GDPR ushers in a new era of data protection right after the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal shows us why it’s needed.

Celebrating 20 years of Silicon Republic, 2001-2021

On 20 August 2018, a 15-year-old girl in Sweden decided not to go to school. Instead, she protested outside the Swedish parliament building, demanding the country take action on the climate crisis.

Greta Thunberg was right to be concerned. Her school strike, which eventually evolved into the FridaysForFuture movement, began less than two months before a UN report warned that drastic action would be required to keep global heating below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Maynooth University climatologist Prof Peter Thorne was among the report’s 91 authors who, along with 133 contributors, compiled a comprehensive assessment for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). As if on cue, scientists released audio of Antarctic ice ‘singing’ a haunting song shortly after the IPCC report.

While Ireland made some effort on climate action by divesting from fossil fuels in 2018, overall data showed the country to be a ‘laggard’ on the issue and, according to the Climate Change Advisory Council, “completely off course” on emissions targets.

Missing these goals would have immediate as well as long-term consequences with the country expecting to be fined as much as €500m. Micheál Martin, TD, then leader of the opposition, described it as an “extraordinary story of failure”.

Before the year’s end, Ireland pledged €4.5m to six climate initiatives at COP24 and almost 200 nations agreed rules on implementing the Paris Agreement. It sounded like more empty promises, though, as environmental groups criticised the lack of progress on the issue to date. “People expected action, and that is what governments did not deliver. This is morally unacceptable,” said Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International.

Facebook under fire

Mark Zuckerberg’s 2018 New Year’s resolution was to fix Facebook. What followed was possibly the platform’s most hellish year.

On St Patrick’s Day, joint reports in The New York Times and The Observer revealed a huge scandal involving the harvesting of the Facebook data of about 87m people for the purpose of mass manipulation through misinformation and targeted advertising.

Having been caught on camera boasting about his company’s powers of political interference, Andrew Nix, CEO of UK consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, was suspended. Facebook’s stocks took a tumble and there was a user exodus.

Zuckerberg later admitted Facebook made mistakes and new privacy features were introduced to give users’ control of their data. But he still had to face US Senate judiciary and commerce committees and EU MEPs. Later, the company would appeal a £500,000 fine in the UK.

In Ireland, Facebook’s content moderation policies were the subject of scrutiny by an Oireachtas Committee and politicians called for an end to self-regulation.

And Facebook’s woes didn’t end there. In September, the platform suffered the biggest data breach in its 14-year history, with 30m accounts affected by an access token-harvesting attack – though it was initially thought to have affected as many as 50m accounts.

There’s a new sheriff in town (it’s GDPR)

This is the world into which the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) arrived. As the deadline for compliance with the massive 261-page piece of EU legislation approached, inboxes were stuffed with countless privacy update requests.

On 25 May, the very day that GDPR became law, data privacy activist Max Schrems wasted no time, launching legal broadsides at tech giants worth €7bn. Some US websites were so panicked by the risk of fines that they blocked access in the EU.

Even with years of advance notice, only 20pc of organisations surveyed believed they were GDPR-compliant two months after it came into effect.

Then came the investigations. In October, the Irish Data Protection Commission began investigating a Facebook data breach. Shortly after, it was Twitter’s turn for alleged user tracking.

As well as transforming data retention practices, GDPR ushered in a noticeable decline in third-party cookies. It also set an example for the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), due to bring similar rules to Silicon Valley in 2020. Apple CEO Tim Cook believed the whole US should adopt GDPR-like rules to deal with the growing “data industrial complex”.

Deepfake dangers

The expression ‘deepfake’ was first used in print in 2018, referring to the face-mapping technology used by internet hobbyists to rework existing videos.

Lots of early deepfakes were made in jest, but as this fabricated video footage became easier to make and spotting them became harder, the implications for misinformation became apparent.

To demonstrate the case, comedian Jordan Peele made a deepfake of former US president Barack Obama. Obama may never have really called then president Donald Trump “a total and complete dipshit”, but Peele made it look scarily convincing.

People were also using deepfake technology to make pornographic videos. Gfycat deleted them and Reddit banned them, but a heinous genie was out of the bottle. Social media players became concerned over the negative impacts of deepfakes on their platforms and, in September, Sheryl Sandberg and Jack Dorsey faced a grilling at US congress over their plans to tackle deepfakes and bots.

5G foundations are laid

Fifth-generation wireless technology, better known as 5G, promised speeds up to 100 times faster than its 4G predecessor and networks were getting ready for the leap forward.

Early February saw the first live demo of pre-standard 5G in Ireland by Vodafone and Ericsson. Later, Three, Imagine and Eir laid out their 5G plans.

The standalone international 5G standard was passed in June and companies such as Nokia, Qualcomm and Ericsson were set for a windfall as they owned standard patents integral to its deployment. Nokia, for example, estimated that it would make €3 for every 5G smartphone sold.

Intel and Ericsson made a breakthrough when they achieved the first end-to-end 5G data call in July. In November, Vodafone went live with the first 5G trial site in Dublin’s Docklands. And by December, Qualcomm was ready with a new generation of chips for the first wave of 5G-enabled devices.

National Broadband Plan in jeopardy

And while 5G was taking shape, Ireland’s National Broadband Plan (NBP) was falling apart.

The €1bn State-backed plan to bring connectivity to about 540,000 people was off to a rocky start when Eir sensationally walked away from the procurement process in January. Added to the departure of Vodafone-ESB joint venture Siro the previous year, this left just one bidder: a consortium led by US telecoms mogul David McCourt involving Enet and SSE.

Then February delivered another shock when Enet CEO Conal Henry stepped down. Five months later, SSE exited the consortium.

By September, now called National Broadband Ireland, the consortium submitted its final bid for the tender. The group, led by McCourt’s investment firm, Granahan McCourt, included Enet, Nokia, Kelly Group, KN Group and Actavo, Denis O’Brien’s engineering services firm.

But the drama wasn’t over. In October, communications minister Denis Naughten, TD, resigned amid growing controversy over his contacts with McCourt.

In November, an audit of the procurement process concluded that there was no evidence the process was tainted by these meetings or that any sensitive or beneficial information was shared with final NBP bidder.

Chipocalypse now

2018 sent the tech world into meltdown as the spectre of a CPU vulnerability affected millions of devices.

Known as Meltdown and Spectre, the bugs affected nearly all chip-enabled devices and could potentially give hackers access to parts of the computer’s memory. Initially thought to stem from a flaw exclusive to Intel chips, the bugs turned out to have affected other major chipmakers, including AMD and ARM, impacting Microsoft and Apple devices alike.

Patches issued by Intel slowed down computers, especially the ones using older processors such as Broadwell and Haswell. but CEO Brian Krzanich promised that new chips with built-in protections were in the pipeline.

A new variant called Spectre 4, discovered by Microsoft and Google later in the year, could leave any chip on any 21st-century computer open to attack. Months later, scientists uncovered a whole new vulnerability dubbed Foreshadow which they had, ironically, not expected.

By the end of the year, however, no malware related to the flaws was reported on the prowl even though new variants of the original bugs continued to crop up.

In other news

13 January: The second Payment Services Directive (PSD2) becomes law across Europe, potentially unleashing a new world of open banking.

20 February: Carolan Lennon is named as the next CEO of Eir.

20 February: Security researchers report that Tesla’s Amazon Web Services environment was hacked in order to mine cryptocurrency.

28 February: GitHub is hit by the most powerful DDoS attack on record.

18 March: The death of Elaine Herzberg in Arizona is the first recorded case of a pedestrian fatality involving an experimental autonomous car.

14 April: Mark Pollock and Simone George close TED2018 with “the most powerful, moving talk” ever seen at the conference.

27 April: Prof Stephen Hawking’s last theory is published following his death in March.

30 April: WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum leaves Facebook in a clash over privacy.

16 May: The Irish Government is narrowly defeated in its effort to keep the age of digital consent at 13, as Dáil Éireann votes to raise it to 16.

4 June: Microsoft acquires GitHub for $7.5bn.

5 June: Microsoft sinks a small data centre off the coast of the Orkney archipelago in Scotland.

14 June: AT&T completes its $85.4bn takeover of Time Warner.

12 July: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle meet Silicon Republic CEO Ann O’Dea and other leaders in diversity and inclusion, along with a number of young coders from the CoderDojo movement, at a round table in Dublin’s Dogpatch Labs.

12 July: Trinity reveals plans to build a €1bn campus known as the Grand Canal Innovation District.

18 July: The European Commission hits Google with a €4.34bn fine, finding that it abused its market dominance with Android.

2 August: Apple becomes the first public company to reach $1trn in value.

4 September: Amazon joins Apple in the $1trn club.

6 September: Prof Jocelyn Bell Burnell is awarded a $3m Breakthrough Prize for her discovery of pulsars, for which her PhD supervisor was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1974.

10 September: Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma announces his plans to step down.

24 September: Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger leave Facebook to explore their “curiosity and creativity”.

10 October: Microsoft joins the Open Invention Network, an open-source patent consortium that provides a licence platform for Linux.

15 October: Science Foundation Ireland launches VistaMilk to research the entire dairy production chain.

28 October: IBM announces plans for a $34bn acquisition of Red Hat, its biggest ever.

1 November: Google employees stage a walk-out to protest the handling of sexual harassment cases at the company.

26 November: NASA’s InSight lander touches down on the surface of Mars, capturing snaps of its new home.

13 December: Revolut is granted a European banking licence.

17 December: Google is reported to have shuttered Project Dragonfly, an effort to bring a censored search engine to China which had drawn employee protests.

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How Automated Moveable Medians Redefining Traffic Flow And Revolutionizing Road Safety

AI Revolutionizing Road Safety

The Voice Of EU | In today’s fast-paced world, where traffic congestion and road safety concerns continue to plague urban landscapes, the integration of advanced technology is becoming a beacon of hope for a safer, and more efficient transportation system. One such groundbreaking innovation that’s redefining traffic flow and ensuring safety on the roads is the implementation of Automated Moveable Medians (AMMs).

The Genesis of Automated Moveable Medians

The traditional median strip, often a static feature on roadways, primarily serves as a visual barrier between opposing lanes, minimizing head-on collisions and contributing to general road safety. However, these static medians often fall short in adapting to dynamic traffic patterns and fail to respond to changing conditions, leading to potential hazards during peak traffic hours or emergencies.

The concept of Automated Moveable Medians (AMMs) marks a paradigm shift in road safety and traffic management. These medians are equipped with cutting-edge AI, Machine Learning, and Robotics technologies, enabling them to autonomously adjust their positions based on real-time traffic conditions, thereby optimizing traffic flow and enhancing safety.

How Automated Moveable Medians Function

Utilizing a network of sensors, cameras, and AI algorithms, AMMs continuously monitor traffic density, speed, and patterns. When traffic begins to congest in one direction, the AMMs autonomously shift their positions, reallocating lanes to accommodate the higher traffic volume. By dynamically altering the median’s position, these systems effectively create additional lanes or expand existing ones, mitigating congestion and reducing the likelihood of accidents.

Statistical Insights Driving Adoption

According to recent studies conducted by transportation authorities in major urban centers:

– AMMs have shown a remarkable reduction of up to 30% in the number of accidents caused by lane misallocation or static medians’ inability to adapt to dynamic traffic.

– Improved traffic flow has led to a significant decrease in commute times by an average of 15%-25% during peak hours.

– Real-time adjustments by AMMs have demonstrated a 25% decrease in overall congestion levels on highly trafficked roads.

– Reduced congestion and smoother traffic flow have translated into a notable decline of up to 30% in carbon emissions in these areas.

The Future Prospects and Challenges

While the advent of AMMs presents a promising solution to traffic-related issues, there are challenges to address. Ensuring the seamless integration of these systems into existing infrastructures, addressing potential cybersecurity threats, and navigating regulatory frameworks are essential considerations for wider implementation.

Moreover, while AMMs offer a viable solution for major roads and highways, their application in densely populated urban areas and narrower streets requires meticulous planning to avoid hindering pedestrian movement and emergency services’ access.

Collaborative Efforts for Implementation

The successful implementation and scalability of AMMs hinge upon collaborative efforts among transportation authorities, urban planners, AI developers, and governmental bodies. The synergy of expertise from these diverse sectors can facilitate the deployment of AMMs in high-priority areas, improving road safety and traffic management.

The emergence of Automated Moveable Medians heralds a new era in transportation innovation. By leveraging advanced technologies, these dynamic systems are not only enhancing traffic flow but also contributing significantly to road safety, making our streets safer and more efficient for all commuters.

We Can’t Thank You Enough For Your Support!

By John Elf, Contributor “The Voice Of EU

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Global Affairs

Open Source Software (OSS) Supply Chain, Security Risks And Countermeasures

OSS Security Risks And Countermeasures

The software development landscape increasingly hinges on open source components, significantly aiding continuous integration, DevOps practices, and daily updates. Last year, Synopsys discovered that 97% of codebases in 2022 incorporated open source, with specific sectors like computer hardware, cybersecurity, energy, and the Internet of Things (IoT) reaching 100% OSS integration.

While leveraging open source enhances efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and developer productivity, it inadvertently paves a path for threat actors seeking to exploit the software supply chain. Enterprises often lack visibility into their software contents due to complex involvement from multiple sources, raising concerns highlighted in VMware’s report last year. Issues include reliance on communities to patch vulnerabilities and associated security risks.

Raza Qadri, founder of Vibertron Technologies, emphasizes OSS’s pivotal role in critical infrastructure but underscores the shock experienced by developers and executives regarding their applications’ OSS contribution. Notably, Qadri cites that 95% of vulnerabilities surface in “transitive main dependencies,” indirectly added open source packages.

Qadri also acknowledges developers’ long-standing use of open source. However, recent years have witnessed heightened awareness, not just among developers but also among attackers. Malware attacks targeting the software supply chain have surged, as demonstrated in significant breaches like SolarWinds, Kaseya, and the Log4j exploit.

Log4j’s widespread use exemplifies the consolidation of risk linked to extensively employed components. This popular Java-based logging tool’s vulnerabilities showcase the systemic dependency on widely used software components, posing significant threats if exploited by attackers.

Moreover, injection of malware into repositories like GitHub, PyPI, and NPM has emerged as a growing threat. Cybercriminals generate malicious versions of popular code to deceive developers, exploiting vulnerabilities when components are downloaded, often without the developers’ knowledge.

Despite OSS’s security risks, its transparency and visibility compared to commercial software offer certain advantages. Qadri points out the swift response to Log4j vulnerabilities as an example, highlighting OSS’s collaborative nature.

Efforts to fortify software supply chain security are underway, buoyed by multi-vendor frameworks, vulnerability tracking tools, and cybersecurity products. However, additional steps, such as enforcing recalls for defective OSS components and implementing component-level firewalls akin to packet-level firewalls, are necessary to fortify defenses and mitigate malicious attacks.

Qadri underscores the need for a holistic approach involving software bills of materials (SBOMs) coupled with firewall-like capabilities to ensure a comprehensive understanding of software contents and preemptive measures against malicious threats.

As the software supply chain faces ongoing vulnerabilities and attacks, concerted efforts are imperative to bolster security measures, safeguard against threats, and fortify the foundational aspects of open source components.

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By John Elf | Science, Technology & Business contributor Digital

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Choco: Revolutionizing The FoodTech Industry With Innovation & Sustainability | EU20

By Clint Bailey

— In the rapidly evolving world of food technology, European startup Choco has emerged as a pioneering force. With its website,, this Berlin-based company is transforming the way food industry professionals operate by leveraging innovative digital solutions. By linking restaurants, distributors, suppliers, and producers on a single platform, Choco is streamlining the supply chain process while promoting sustainability.

Let’s explore the journey of and its impact on the overall foodtech industry.

  1. Company: Choco Technologies GmbH
  2. Website:
  3. Head Office: Berlin, Germany
  4. Year Established: 2018
  5. Founders: Choco was co-founded by Daniel Khachab, Julian Hammer, and Rogerio da Silva.
  6. Industry: Choco operates in the foodtech industry, specifically focusing on digitizing the supply chain for the food industry.
  7. Funding: Choco has secured significant funding rounds from investors, including Bessemer Venture Partners & Coatue Management.
  8. Market Presence: Choco has a strong presence in several European cities, including Berlin, Paris, London & Barcelona.
  9. Mission: Choco aims to revolutionize the food industry by leveraging technology to simplify supply chain management, promote sustainability, and reduce food waste.

Simplifying Supply Chain Management

One of the core focuses of Choco is to simplify supply chain management for food businesses. Traditionally, the procurement process in the food industry has been cumbersome and inefficient, with numerous intermediaries and manual processes. Choco’s digital platform replaces the traditional paper-based ordering system, allowing restaurants and suppliers to communicate and collaborate seamlessly.

Choco’s platform enables restaurants to place orders directly with suppliers, eliminating the need for phone calls, faxes, or emails. This not only saves time but also reduces the likelihood of errors and miscommunications.

By digitizing the ordering process, Choco improves transparency, making it easier for restaurants to compare prices, track deliveries, and manage inventory efficiently.

Streamlining Operations For Suppliers & Producers

Choco’s impact extends beyond restaurants. The platform also provides suppliers and producers with valuable tools to streamline their operations. By digitizing their product catalogs and integrating them into the Choco platform, suppliers can showcase their offerings to a wide network of potential buyers.

Suppliers benefit from increased visibility, enabling them to reach new customers and expand their market presence. Moreover, Choco’s platform helps suppliers manage their inventory, track orders, and plan deliveries effectively. These features enhance operational efficiency, reduce waste, and ultimately contribute to a more sustainable food system.
YouTube Channel

Promoting Sustainability & Reducing Food Waste

Choco recognizes the critical importance of sustainability in the food industry. According to the United Nations, approximately one-third of the world’s food production goes to waste each year. By digitizing the supply chain and enabling more efficient ordering and inventory management, Choco actively works to combat this issue.

Air France – Deals & Destinations

Choco’s platform facilitates data-driven decision-making for restaurants, suppliers, and producers. By analyzing purchasing patterns & demand, Choco helps businesses optimize their inventory levels, reducing overstocking and minimizing food waste. Additionally, Choco supports local sourcing, enabling businesses to connect with nearby suppliers & promote sustainable, community-based practices.

Expanding Reach & Impact

Since its founding in 2018, Choco has experienced rapid growth and expansion. The startup has successfully secured significant funding rounds, allowing it to scale its operations and establish a strong presence across Europe and other global markets. Today, Choco’s platform is used by thousands of restaurants and suppliers, revolutionizing the way they operate.

Choco’s impact extends beyond operational efficiency or sustainability. By connecting restaurants, suppliers & producers on a single platform, Choco fosters collaboration & encourages the exchange of ideas. This collaborative approach strengthens the overall foodtech ecosystem and creates a supportive community of like-minded aiming to drive positive change within the industry.

Future Of FoodTech

Choco’s rise to prominence in the foodtech industry exemplifies the reach of sustainability, innovation, and community. Through its user-friendly platform, Choco simplifies supply chain management, streamlines operations for restaurants & suppliers, and actively promotes sustainable practices. By harnessing the potential of digital, Choco is disrupting the future of the food industry, making it more efficient and transparent.

As Choco continues to expand its impact and reach, its transformative influence on the foodtech sector is set to inspiring, grow other startups, and established players to embrace technology for a better and more sustainable food system.

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— Compiled by Clint Bailey | Team ‘Voice of EU’
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