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Tech Team

Servus and hello dear TechAways readers,

I’m Elisabeth Thomas, proud member of Cambre’s media team and a German national from the beautiful city of Munich. I basically grew up with Angela Merkel as our chancellor – and after she steps down in September after 16 years in office, I will be interested to see what her successor has planned for Germany’s tech agenda.

After the financial and refugee crises, COVID-19 is the last of many critical situations that Chancellor Merkel has weathered during her mandate. As the election date draws closer, Europe is struggling to ramp up its vaccination efforts amidst f what seems to be a third coronavirus wave. The latest insights on the European Commission’s plans for pan-EU COVID-19 passports have sparked hopes for a partial return to normality. However, critics point to the risk of discrimination as well as privacy and data protection concerns about the technology behind such a passport system.

For someone who follows privacy and data protection developments closely, these COVID-19 passports will be one of many hot topics to watch out for in the coming months. The EU Data Act is expected in Q3 and, after the annulment of the EU-US Privacy Shield last year, there is still the need to coordinate on a new mechanism to enable transatlantic data flows. It’s a busy agenda – as usual – but that’s the beauty of living the EU bubble life, isn’t it?

Holograms against zoom fatigue  [FT]

Feeling zoomed out after endless days of video calls? You are not alone. A new Stanford study found that zoom fatigue is real (not that many of us needed the confirmation). While there are solutions,  zoom fatigue could one day be a thing of the past thanks to holograms. Instead of being stuck all day talking to a screen you could soon speak to an avatar or a lifelike image sitting on your sofa through virtual reality headsets or AR glasses. And according to many in Silicon Valley AR glasses could be as ubiquitous as smartphones are today in only a decade! In the meantime, you can download Zoom Escaper which lets you fake technical difficulties to get out of a call.

Power to the Tweeple [The Verge]

Twitter is currently in the process of reviewing their policy towards world leaders, and they want input from normal people like us. Some call this radical idea of the public sharing their opinions on political leaders ‘democracy’ but we won’t get into the weeds with that. The survey asks if leaders should face more, less, or equal scrutiny and if it’s okay to ban elected officials. Average Joes aren’t going to be the only ones sharing their opinions though. Twitter will also consult human rights experts, civil society and academics from across the globe. Eventually, the survey will be available in 14 languages, but if you’re an English-speaker, you can take it here.

Is the future of energy here?  [Wired]

Solar panels and canals – a match made in heaven? Scientists have conducted a study on using solar panels to shade California’s numerous waterways while simultaneously producing solar energy. The study suggests covering canals with solar panels would reduce electricity consumption while producing renewable energy that could contribute to the increasing use of electric cars, providing farmers with new water pumping methods, and relieving the worsening Californian droughts. Having the solar panels located on water will also increase their performance life. While there are aspects, such as the effect on birds that need to be considered, this new use of solar panels could change the renewables game in a great way.

Online harassment doesn’t stop at the top [POLITICO]

Finland made headlines in 2019 for its all-female governing coalition, but the good mood ended quickly. The NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence reported that each of the ministers received “shockingly high levels of abusive messaging”. The issue isn’t unique to high level officials, Finnish Green politician Iiris Suomela notes that young women and minorities are particularly reluctant to run in local elections, and online harassment is a big reason why. A 2019 Finnish study found that 28% of municipal officials were less willing to participate in decision-making due to online hate speech. While the politicians interviewed don’t think this online abuse has affected their decision-making – they did raise the alarm about its “severe impact on democracy”.

About this week’s editor, Elisabeth Thomas:

I joined Cambre in late 2019, just in time to still experience the in-person office vibe that we all miss so dearly. After working in a big German tech corporation in the field of internal communication, I decided to complete a master’s degree and moved to the Netherlands before I finally ended up in Brussels. As part of Cambre’s media team, I help clients to navigate the journalism jungle of the EU bubble. Growing up in the south of Germany, it took me a while to get used to the comparatively strong Belgian beers. Although they do have their charm, I must say: nothing beats a cold Augustiner beer 🍻 with a pretzel 🥨 and Obazda! If you feel like discussing beer – or media – related questions or need insider tips for the Oktoberfest feel free to drop me a line!

 In case you haven’t had enough…

The Pastry A.I. That Learned to Fight Cancer [The New Yorker]

Nasa to fly Ingenuity Mars helicopter in early April [BBC]

Why it will be years before robot butlers take over your household chores [Washington Post]

The Next Trick: Pulling Coronavirus Out of Thin Air [New York Times]

To dampen background noise, hearing aid makers tap AI to amplify the right sounds [STAT]

‘The future of housing’: California desert to get America’s first 3D-printed neighborhood [The Guardian]

They laughed, they cried, they killed monsters: How friendships thrived in video games during the pandemic [Washington Post]

You Probably Don’t Remember the Internet [The Atlantic]

The debate about cryptocurrency and energy consumption [TechCrunch]

Good vibrations: bladeless turbines could bring wind power to your home [The Guardian]