Tech Digest daily roundup: Campaigners challenge government use of WhatsApp


Boris Johnson gets details of vital government business sent to him via WhatsApp, court papers have revealed. The material, from the PM’s ministerial “red box”, is sent to his phone for “administrative ease”, officials say, and does not break the rules. But campaigners challenging “government by WhatsApp” in the High Court say it is a security risk. They claim the use of insecure apps and message deletion by ministers and officials is “rampant”. Campaigning law groups the Good Law Project and Foxglove are challenging the government’s use of such services in the High Court, saying that it breaks the law on keeping public records. BBC 

Google is finally releasing a “delete history” feature, which will wipe out the last 15 minutes of search queries, for the Android Google Search app. “Delete history” was announced at Google I/O 2021 in May and made it to the iOS app two months later, but for some reason, it took almost a year to come to Android. It’s finally rolling out now, though, according to a statement Google gave to The Verge over the weekend. If you want to wipe out the last few minutes of your search history, open the Google Search app via the app icon (other entry points, like the search bar widget, won’t bring up the right UI), tap on your profile picture in the top right and you should see a new “delete last 15 minutes” option at the top of the pop-up menu. Ars Technica 

Google Photos is getting a pretty significant layout change that should make it easier to find the photos and albums you’re looking for in the library and sharing tabs. The update transforms the current library tab layout from a mishmash of albums, favorites, and on-device folders to a grid or list view that you can sort through by category. Meanwhile, the Photos sharing tab will now have sections specifically for partner sharing, shared albums, and conversations. Google says the changes to the sharing tab are arriving on Android this week but are “coming soon” to iOS. The Verge 

Eight years after David Cameron said the public was “fed up” with onshore wind farms and pushed for a ban on subsidies for such projects, the UK government is now set to ease planning for new onshore wind, according to reports. Ahead of the chancellor’s spring statement on Wednesday, and the government’s forthcoming energy security strategy expected next week, business and energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng has indicated the government was reconsidering its position on onshore windfarms. According to the newspaper, he cited the energy crisis and the war in Ukraine as factors which have swayed public opinion in support of expanding the UK’s wind power capabilities. Independent

US businesses have been told to increase security, with fears that the Russian government could be planning cyber attacks. In a statement late on Monday, US President Joe Biden said businesses have a “patriotic obligation” to protect themselves, adding that they should “harden (their) cyber defences immediately”. Mr Biden said that the warning was based on ‘evolving intelligence Russia may be planning a cyber-attack against us’. “The magnitude of Russia’s cyber capability is fairly consequential and it’s coming,” he said, adding that everyone needed to “do their part to meet one of the defining threats of our time”. Sky News 

Start-ups born out of British university research have secured record levels of funding after years of complaints that investors are failing to help turn academic breakthroughs into commercial success. “Spin-outs” earned £2.5bn in equity investment in 2021, up 69pc from the £1.5bn in the previous year and a five-fold increase on investment in 2012, according to a report from investor Parkwalk Advisors. A record 102 new companies received funding, with scale-ups attracting one in every ten pounds invested in private companies. However, the improved figures were accompanied by warnings that spin-out companies remain “hugely underfunded”.  Telegraph 

Chris Price
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