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The Switchboard: Brazil admits to spying on U.S.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff (Eraldo Peres/AP)

Published every weekday, The Switchboard highlights five tech stories you need to read.

Brazil admits to spying on U.S. diplomats after blasting NSA surveillance. Well, this is awkward: Brazilian officials have confirmed a Sao Paulo newspaper's report that the country's intelligence service monitored two rooms rented out by the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia during the George W. Bush administration. It's a reminder that yes, everyone spies on everybody else. But, as the Verge reports, it puts Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff — a vocal critic of the National Security Agency — in a strange position.

How we know the NSA had access to internal Google and Yahoo cloud data. We've pulled together some secret slides that uncover more information about the NSA's attempts to break into tech companies' internal server traffic. Among the clues are code names, such as Google's "Gaia," which do not appear on the public Internet. While NSA officials have denied that the agency has access to corporate data centers, that's different from denying it has access to the links between them.

The three reasons Twitter didn't sell to Facebook. Nick Bilton's book on the early days of Twitter, "Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal," is out, and buried in it is a tidbit about Mark Zuckerberg's attempt to buy up the fledgling company, according to Techcrunch. Turns out the Facebook founder courted Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey "for months" on a sale that never happened. "An email at one point to Jack had given a point-by-point reasoning on why Facebook+Twitter made sense. Among those reasons was the customary threat that Facebook could choose to ‘build products that moved further in [Twitter's] direction’, a tactic that we’ve personally heard many accounts of Zuckerberg employing. The implicit threat: sell to us or we’ll clone your product."

Apple to build new manufacturing facility in Arizona with solar-power, will create more than 2,000 jobs. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) has announced that Apple will be building a manufacturing plant in her state, a project that will lead to 700 permanent manufacturing jobs and hundreds of jobs for construction workers. 9to5Mac suggests that this may have something to do with Apple's "assembled in the USA" strategy. "Neither the State government nor Apple have announced the purpose of the facility, but it will likely have to do with expanding the technology’s company’s new initiative to bring manufacturing back to the United States."

Helpouts from Google connects people with experts over live video. Google has launched a new product called Helpouts — a service that leverages its Hangouts video chatting tool to provide users with guidance on everything from yoga to language training. The New York Times reports it could lead to a whole new sector in e-commerce. "If Helpouts succeeds, Google hopes it will provide experts with a source of income, so retired doctors or guitar players could teach people online. ... Helpouts is an obvious venue for marketers, and Bridget Dolan, Sephora’s vice president for digital marketing, said she could imagine eventually selling products from a Helpouts session."

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on telecommunications and the Internet. Before joining the Post, he was the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic.



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Neil Irwin · November 4, 2013

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