Tech Digest daily round up: Facebook ‘sells Amazon rainforest illegally’


Parts of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest are being sold illegally on Facebook, the BBC has discovered. The protected areas include national forests and land reserved for indigenous peoples. Some of the plots listed via Facebook’s classified ads service are as large as 1,000 football pitches. Facebook said it was “ready to work with local authorities”, but indicated it would not take independent action of its own to halt the trade. “Our commerce policies require buyers and sellers to comply with laws and regulations,” the Californian tech firm added.

The government “has a long way to go” to achieve its aim of transforming the car market to selling only 100 per cent electric vehicles (EVs) within 15 years, and to ensure almost every car on the road is zero emissions by 2050, the UK’s public spending watchdog has warned. Assessing the government’s ambitions to decarbonise Britain’s roads, the National Audit Office (NAO) said a huge amount of work was still needed to prepare drivers and the auto market for rapid green transition and urged Ministers to draw up a detailed roadmap with clear milestones through to 2050. See full story on Business Green. 

Airbus is working on hybrid-electric propulsion among the options for reducing jetliner emissions, the European planemaker said on Friday. It disclosed the initiative in a document projecting more than a million tonnes of equivalent CO2 emissions over the life of each current-generation jet, as it became the first planemaker to report so-called “Scope 3” emissions. Until now, Airbus has mainly publicised hydrogen as the preferred energy source for future airplanes, pledging to introduce the first hydrogen-powered commercial plane in 2035. But on Friday it said it was also working on hybrid-electric alternatives. See full story on Daily Mail

China’s Huawei plans to make electric vehicles under its own brand and could launch some models this year, four sources said, as the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker – battered by U.S. sanctions – explores a strategic shift, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd is in talks with state-owned Changan Automobile and other automakers to use their car plants to make its electric vehicles (EVs). See full story on Reuters.

Smartphones could be used to scan people’s eyes for early-warning signs of glaucoma – helping to prevent severe ocular diseases and blindness, a new study reveals. Scientists at the University of Birmingham have successfully carried out experiments using soundwaves and an eye model, publishing their findings in Engineering Reports. Co-author Dr. Khamis Essa, Director of the Advanced Manufacturing Group at the University of Birmingham, commented: “We discovered a relationship between the internal pressure of an object and its acoustic reflection coefficient. With further investigation into eye geometry and how this affects the interaction with soundwaves, it is possible to use a smartphone to accurately measure IOP (intraocular pressure) from the comfort of the user’s home.” See full story here:

A 10,000-kilometre-long fibre-optic cable owned by Google that is at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean can be used to detect earthquakes.  Zhongwen Zhan at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, and his colleagues, including researchers at Google, used traffic data from one of the tech giant’s optical fibres to measure changes in pressure and strain in the cable. Using this data, they could detect earthquakes and ocean swells generated by storms.
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