The Upload: Your tech news briefing for Thursday, February 12

Governments tighten grip on net ... Facebook supersizes open networking switch ... Apple gets bonded labor out of supply chain ... and more

Restrictive governments getting better at censoring the Internet

Authoritarian government are censoring the Internet more aggressively and using more sophisticated technology, according to the annual World Press Freedom Index being released Thursday by Reporters Without Borders. China is judged "a pioneer" in the field, after blocking access to all Google services during the last year and stamping out domestic coverage of protests in Hong Kong and the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Iran is also high on the list, as it works on a national intranet that will keep citizens off the global Internet.

Facebook supersizes its open networking switch

Facebook is open-sourcing more technology that it has developed for its own data centers: this time with a 16-port "Wedge" switch design, the basis of a new modular platform that can link racks of servers. Facebook hopes the work it is putting into open networking hardware will help to create a broad ecosystem of suppliers and developers, similar to what's grown up around Linux.

Apple shaking indentured servitude out of its supply chain

There's progress on Apple CEO Tim Cook's commitment that the expensive electronics his company sells don't come at the cost of exploiting those who make them. The company's latest report on labor practices says that it has ended a system that put contract workers in debt to recruiters before they even began their jobs. Apple is forcing its suppliers to repay any workers who were charged recruitment fees; last year US$4 million was reimbursed to over 4,500 people.

Critical vulnerability put Windows systems at risk

Microsoft has finally put out a fix for a problem it learned of more than a year ago: a fundamental design flaw in the feature that organizations use to centrally manage Windows systems, applications, and user settings -- one that put computers at risk of full compromise. The flaw remained undiscovered for at least a decade and to fix it, Microsoft had to re-engineer core components of the operating system and add several new features. The extent of the repair also means that no patch will be made available for the millions of businesses still running Windows Server 2003, which is due to reach the end of extended support in July.

Intel Core M processors may help thin out Windows tablets

New Intel chips based on its Skylake design are set to arrive this year, and should allow for thinner Windows tablets that may stack up better against Apple's latest iPad Air. The new Core M chips are due in the second half of the year and will also extend battery life in tablets, hybrids and laptop PCs, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet conference Tuesday. We may find out more about Core M at Taipei's Computex in June.

Senators eye privacy, security laws for Internet of Things

At a Senate hearing on Wednesday, several Democrats said they are exploring legislation that would enforce privacy and security standards for connected devices. Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts plans to introduce a bill that will focus on security standards and the data collected by connected automobiles. It would mandate that collected data be encrypted, and that drivers could opt out of data collection without disabling navigation. It would also require that the car manufacturer or a security vendor be able to detect and respond to hacking attempts in real time, among other requirements.

Microsoft picks up Sunrise calendaring app

Microsoft is buying Sunrise, a company that makes a calendaring app for iOS and Android mobile devices, the corporate VP for Outlook and Office 365 said in a blog post Wednesday. Rajesh Jha said the app will remain on the market and free after the acquisition, and will continue to support a range of third-party apps and calendar services.

Free 'search engine on steroids' tracks criminals online

A powerful data-mining and search tool developed with U.S. military funding is being used by investigators to reveal the links in online criminal networks. The Wall Street Journal reveals how Memex is being used to identify and locate sex traffickers.

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