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Jane Wakefield | 14:00 UK time, Tuesday, 21 September 2010


Today on Tech Brief: Google watches government censorship for us, Facebook urges us to think about friendship and volcano research hots up.

• Friendship on Facebook can be cruel. As well as having to look at loads of pictures of your real friends having much more fun than you, you risk the ultimate shame of being rejected outright.

Ostensibly to offset repeated friendship requests, Facebook has replaced the 'ignore' button for friendship requests with a new 'Not Now' button.

While that may soften the blow of complete rejection it does give the 'friends-in-waiting' access to users' public profiles while their potential new friend mulls whether they want them in their inner circle.

MG Siegler at TechCrunch muses whether this is an attempt by Facebook to further impose its belief that all life on the web should be social by default.

"It's almost as if they're saying 'as long as you don't want to block this person, why not let them follow you?'"

• Components made of a new heat-resistant material could pave the way for a much better understanding of volcanos and even predictions about when eruptions will occur.

Researchers at Newcastle University are developing silicon carbide-based components for a device that they say will be able to withstand 900°C temperatures.

Newcastle University's Dr. Alton Horsfall told Engadget this could make a huge impact.

At the moment we have no way of accurately monitoring the situation inside a volcano. With an estimated 500 million people living in the shadow of a volcano this is clearly not ideal."

• An interesting, potentially wave-making feature from Google this week may well go some way to putting it back in the the good books of the privacy advocates and firmly in the bad books of government.

Google's transparancy report is an interactive map showing what requests are being made by governments to censor or take down Google content.

It shows that in the period from January 2010 to June 2010, the United States government asked Google about user info on 4287 occasions, and asked it to remove content on 128 occasions. Brazil, France, India and the UK all issued over 1,000 requests in the same time.

It also drills down to reveal what specific services were targeted, for example the US made seven court orders to remove YouTube conten in 2009.

Stan Schroeder at Mashable wonders whether governments may attempt to close down the service.

"With it, Google is essentially saying that yes, it will take down or censor content if a government requests it, but it will also inform the users every time it happens.
"The tool will definitely help activists and human rights groups create studies about the obstruction of the flow of information and censorship, and it may even make governments reign in their requests for censorship and user info.

• You know you are getting old when a museum dedicated to digital media opens online.

The virtual doors will open officially on 6 October with an exhibition exploring peoples' relationship with the web.

The collaboration between Adobe, UK digital production company unit9; Filippio Innocenti, professor of Architecture Technology at Politecnico di Milano University; and San Francisco based advertising agency Goodby, Silverstein and Partners.

The museum's website sets out what it hopes to achieve.

"Our mission is to showcase and preserve groundbreaking digital work and expert commentary to illustrate how digital media shapes and impacts today's society."

Shows over the coming months will feature work by video artist Tony Oursler and Japanese artist Mariko Mari. Presumably it will also seek to preserve Adobe's Flash technlogy, despite Apple's attempts to archive it.

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