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The Switchboard: What you need to know about Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba Group

File: Jack Ma, chairman of China's largest e-commerce firm Alibaba Group. (REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

The military thinks Bitcoin could pose a threat to national security. "According to a Defense Department solicitation, virtual currencies represent an emerging technology that could help terrorists and criminals evade law enforcement and launch attacks against the United States," reports the Switch's Brian Fung. "To prepare, the Pentagon's Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office asked companies in January to help study virtual currencies' potential role in 'threat finance.'"

Meet Alibaba’s Jack Ma. Over at the Post's On Leadership blog, Jena McGregor has the scoop on what you need to know about Alibaba founder Jack Ma as his company heads for a potentially huge initial public offering.

Whoops: UPS delivered parts of a NOAA drone to a random reddit user. "One reddit user got a big surprise Monday when UPS mistakenly delivered him parts of a drone belonging to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration," the Switch reports. NOAA shipped eight boxes containing parts of a drone model called a Puma, which the agency is using to study avian migration. UPS delivered seven of the boxes to the appropriate Massachusetts marine sanctuary, but one ended up with a reddit user in New York State. UPS is still investigating exactly how that happened.

NSA e-mails purport to show a ‘close’ relationship with Google. Maybe, maybe not. E-mails between top Google execs and the then head of the NSA show collaboration on Android security in 2012 -- but that doesn't necessarily mean they were thick as thieves. "It's difficult to conclude from the e-mails that Google and the NSA shared a 'close' relationship, as Al Jazeera suggests — just that there was some contact between the agency and the company's executives before the Snowden leaks."

The robot car of tomorrow may just be programmed to hit you. In an opinion piece for Wired, Patrick Lin, the director of the Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group at California Polytechnic State University, ponders how self-driving cars will handle having to make value calls when crashes are inevitable: "Suppose that an autonomous car is faced with a terrible decision to crash into one of two objects. It could swerve to the left and hit a Volvo sport utility vehicle (SUV), or it could swerve to the right and hit a Mini Cooper. If you were programming the car to minimize harm to others–a sensible goal–which way would you instruct it go in this scenario?"


Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.



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Andrea Peterson · May 6, 2014

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