Tech Digest daily roundup: WhatsApp to let you leave group chats silently


Meta has announced new privacy features for WhatsApp users. Users will be able to leave group chats silently, control who can see their online status and block screenshots on View Once messages. Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said this would help keep WhatsApp messaging “as private and secure as face-to-face conversations”. It will begin rolling out the features this month, highlighting them in a global campaign, starting in the UK. The popular messaging app currently alerts all members of a group chat to someone leaving or being removed by default. And while there are ways to disable this for individual group chats, the option to leave silently is not presented to users when they choose to “exit group”. BBC  

Snapchat is launching a new feature which will give parents some access into their children’s activities on the platform. It requires the child’s account to agree to link up with an account belonging to someone over 25, but the Family Centre tool will show parents their child’s friends list and when they last spoke to each friend within the last week. The tool will not reveal the actual conversations, explained Snapchat‘s head of global platform safety Jacqueline Beauchere, who told Sky News the point is “insight” rather than “oversight”. Sky News 

A prototype flying taxi designed in Bristol is to take to the skies for testing this summer. Vertical Aerospace has built a functioning prototype of its four-engined VX4 aircraft, which is designed to carry four passengers and a pilot at speeds of up to 200mph for trips of up to 100 miles, and is about to start a months-long programme of flight tests. The company, which is based in Bristol and was set up by the founder of green energy company Ovo, Stephen Fitzpatrick, said it has received more than 1,400 orders for the VX4. The craft takes off vertically like a helicopter before tilting its engines forward to act more like a regular plane. Vertical Aerospace’s customers include American Airlines, Virgin, and Japan Airlines. Telegraph

The mercenary spyware industry represents “one of the greatest contemporary threats to civil society, human rights and democracy”, a leading cybersecurity expert warns, as countries grapple with the unregulated spread of powerful and invasive surveillance tools. Ron Deibert, a political science professor at the university of Toronto and head of Citizen Lab, will testify in front of a Canadian parliamentary committee on Tuesday afternoon about the growing threat he and others believe the technology poses to citizens and democracies. The Guardian 

President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed a $280 billion bipartisan bill to boost domestic high-tech manufacturing, part of his administration’s push to boost U.S. competitiveness over China. Flanked by scores of lawmakers, union officials, local politicians and business leaders, Biden feted the legislation, a core part of his economic agenda that will incentivize investments in the American semiconductor industry in an effort to ease U.S. reliance on overseas supply chains for critical, cutting-edge goods. “The future of the chip industry is going to be made in America,” Biden said in a sweltering Rose Garden ceremony Tuesday.  AP News 

What makes a robot unhuman must be its uncannily perfect behaviour. In an effort to make robots more humanlike, an Italian research team implemented human characteristics in a robot, such as variable lengths of time to respond, in a bid to see if they could successfully convince participants in their study they were interacting with a human. A researcher behind the study, Agnieszka Wykowska, was inspired by the Turing test – a method of determining if a machine can be described as intelligent – and designed a similar experiment. Euronews

Chris Price
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