Tech Week That Was: National Security, Privacy And Ballmer

Aug 23, 2013
Originally published on August 23, 2013 3:27 pm

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 at other organizations.


A new University of Michigan study shows that using Facebook makes us both sadder moment to moment and less satisfied over time. It was our most popular post of the week, and in response, you shared some really thoughtful comments about what social comparison does to our psyches. NPR's Larry Abramson demonstrated the power of metadata analysis when he let a team at MIT Media Lab look into his Gmail account to piece together his life and contacts. Laura Sydell talked with Vine's co-founder about what makes six-second videos so appealing. And our weekly innovation this week was the eco-conscious Uji shower head, with a light that changes from green to red to encourage you to get out of the shower faster.

On the air, Laura reported a fascinating feature on the Digital Public Library of America, where the digital collections of libraries are getting combined on one site, for free access. Steve Henn profiled Mike Convertino, who built a career making cyberweapons for the U.S. Air Force. This week's All Tech chat on All Things Considered featured the end of buttons and the move toward gesture control.

The Big Conversations

The tangled web of national security and technology kept reporters busy this week, with the release of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court's decision that parts of the NSA email surveillance program were unconstitutional, the sentencing of Bradley Manning and news of the U.K. police's meddling with Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who broke the details of sweeping U.S. surveillance programs leaked by Edward Snowden. On Monday, the U.K. police detained and questioned David Miranda, Greenwald's partner, at Heathrow Airport. The incident led The Guardian to reveal a previously unknown incident in which the U.K. government destroyed hard drives with those NSA leaks that Greenwald obtained.

Friday, the conversation shifted to Microsoft and a big personnel change at the top. Company CEO Steve Ballmer plans to retire within the year. Who will succeed him is likely to dominate conversations into the weekend. In the meantime, Steve Henn has some tips for the next Microsoft chief.

What's Catching Our Eye

Quartz: Think Google Glass invades your privacy? Here's a wristband that records audio 24 hours a day

Well, I suppose this could be helpful for NPR reporters ...

The New York Times: Facial Scanning Is Making Gains In Surveillance

Getting closer to a Minority Report-like society: "The plan, according to a 'privacy impact assessment,' was to use 30 volunteers whose facial data would be mingled in a database among 1,000 mug shots to see whether the system could reliably recognize when any of the volunteers were present," reports The Times.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit