Free ATMs could be cut back in cash machine shake-up

People using ATMs

Plans to shake-up the UK's ATM network may lead to a "vast reduction" in the number of free-access cash machines.

Link, the UK's largest ATM network with 70,000 machines, is proposing to overhaul the operation.

Under the change, Link would reduce the amount it charges card issuers to allow customers to use the machines.

But the move will leave "ATM deserts" where communities have no access to cash, warned the ATM Industry Association.

On Wednesday, Link published a range of proposals, including a cut in the fees it charges card companies from around 25p to 20p per withdrawal.

It said the changes - which would come into effect next April - would help protect the network, which currently includes 55,000 free-to-use machines.

Link said it was committed to maintaining an extensive network of free-to-use machines

But the ATM Industry Association criticised the plans.

The trade body warned that unprofitable machines would be shut down, leaving "ATM deserts" where communities have no access to cash and other financial services.

"A unwarranted shake-up of Link will hit the most hard-up the heaviest - particularly the millions of people who rely on cash for day-to-day budgeting," said Ron Delnevo, of the association.

But Link chief executive John Howells said: "Free access to cash is vital for UK consumers and Link intends to maintain this for many years to come."

He said Link's financial inclusion programme will help maintain "extensive free access to cash for all in the UK".

Russia v anonymity

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Media captionEXPLAINED: What is a VPN service?

A Russian law regulating the use of technologies enabling users to search the internet anonymously came into force on 1 November.

Many are worried the law will make it harder for Russians to bypass internet censorship.

Signed by President Vladimir Putin in July, the law imposes restrictions on proxy avoidance tools.

These tools include virtual private networks (VPNs) and anonymous proxy servers (anonymisers).

VPN providers will be obliged to closely cooperate with Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor and comply with its requests.

What's a VPN?

A VPN is a private network created over a public network.

Despite popular belief, VPNs cannot make online connections completely anonymous, because some VPN providers can keep users' logs.

However, they can still increase a user's privacy and security by hiding their IP address.

In a corporate work setting, VPNs allow employees to securely access an intranet from outside the office.

Both VPNs and anonymisers allow a user to appear as if they were connecting to the internet from another location.

What exactly is banned?

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Under the new law, VPNs can be used only to access websites not banned by Russia

Despite widespread speculation, the law does not directly ban the operation of VPNs and anonymisers. However, it does restrict access to banned websites with the help of these tools.

VPN providers will get access to Roskomnadzor's blacklist of banned websites and will be entitled to provide the use of their servers "within the legal framework", the banki.ru banking portal reports.

Leonid Levin, the head of the Russian State Duma's information policy committee, has previously said the law is meant to block access only to "unlawful content" and is not intended to impose restrictions on law-abiding citizens, according to business daily RBC.

Will it work?

Roskomnadzor has been developing measures to identify suspect websites, as well as ways to block them.

However, in practice this is very difficult, and it may have unwanted consequences. For instance, the watchdog has a single register of banned domain names.

In June, one of Google.ru's web pages contained a redirect to a blocked online gambling domain, so due to the ban, the search engine was blocked for several hours.

Image copyright Tor Project
Image caption The Tor Project is free software and an accompanying network that lets people visit websites anonymously

According to IT experts, the law provides exemption for corporate VPNs. However, it remains unclear how exactly Roskomnadzor will distinguish between corporate and public VPNs.

At present, it is impossible to differentiate them, says Leonid Yevdokimov, an expert at the Tor Project - a US-based team that creates software to let people visit websites anonymously and access otherwise hidden parts of the net.

What will happen?

Some Russian social-media users have been agonising over whether the watchdog will now be able to restrict internet access from home if they search for a banned website. IT experts are unanimous that it will not.

It is up to search engine operators such as Google and Yandex to "shield" users from such banned websites, and if they fail to do so, they can be held responsible, banki.ru says.

Most lay internet users would not notice any changes once the law came into force, the communications director at media holding Rambler&Co, Matvei Alexeyev, told the BBC.

He sees it as a step towards greater transparency of VPN servers.

Google investigates mysterious vanishing files

Google Docs websiteImage copyright Google
Image caption Google Docs appears to be locking users out of files by flagging documents as violating its terms of services

Numerous Google Docs users have reported being mysteriously locked out of certain files in their accounts.

The error had caused files to be flagged as violating Google's terms of service.

Users had received a message saying: "This item has been flagged as inappropriate and can no longer be shared."

Google told the BBC that a code update had caused the error, but that the problem had now been resolved.

Users had taken to Twitter to complain about the issue, saying that while they were working on documents the screen suddenly froze, and then a message came up telling them they could no longer access a file.

Some people have also reported that another error prevented them from sending Google appeal requests to unlock their files.

Other strange behaviour has been noticed on the service - one user, Iain Mackenzie, said the words "game is over" had flashed up in a Google Docs document he had been editing and then disappeared.

Mr Mackenzie said that no other user had been in the file at the time, and that the Google Docs revisions log showed only he had been editing the document for the past few hours.

"This morning, we made a code push that incorrectly flagged a small percentage of Google Docs as abusive, which caused those documents to be automatically blocked," a Google spokeswoman told the BBC.

"A fix is in place and all users should have full access to their docs. Protecting users from viruses, malware, and other abusive content is central to user safety.

"We apologise for the disruption and will put processes in place to prevent this from happening again."

Hunt challenges social media giants on cyber-bullying

Girl using her mobile phoneImage copyright Getty Images

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is meeting social media giants, including Facebook and Twitter, to challenge them on cyber-bullying.

In tweets ahead of the discussions, he says some responsibility for rising rates of youth self-harm lies with social platforms.

He says the industry must be "part of the solution" regarding young people's mental health.

Social media companies have said they do prioritise user safety.

Mr Hunt will be meeting representatives from the biggest providers of social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft.

Mr Hunt said: "Social media has become a fundamental part of our children's lives and while the internet provides amazing opportunities we cannot ignore the negative effect disturbing images and bullying are having on their mental health.

"Now is the time to turn the tide on this abuse. I will be working closely with the top social media companies to ensure they can become the solution and not the problem."

Mr Hunt will ask the social media companies:

  • If they can share statistics on how often cyber-bullying happens on their platforms, and what form it takes.
  • If they have information on the number of underage users, and what can be done to prevent them accessing services.
  • Whether it is possible to identify unhealthy online behaviour among teenagers.
  • And take action to try to provide advice and support.

A Facebook spokesperson said: "We want to make sure that everyone, including anyone affected by a mental health issue, has a good experience on Facebook and Instagram.

"We look forward to working with ministers and others to make sure we do everything we can to protect people's wellbeing.

"We have already introduced online tools such as Instagram's automated offensive comment filter and last month launched a new partnership between Facebook, Childnet International and The Diana Award, which is offering every UK secondary school the chance to have a young digital safety ambassador who can support their peers' safety and well-being."

Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, has previously been rated as the worst social media platform when it comes to impact on young people's mental health, in a poll of people aged 14-24.

Instagram responded by saying it provided tools and information on how to cope with bullying and warned users before they viewed certain content.

'Take responsibility'

Dr Marc Bush, chief policy adviser at charity YoungMinds, said social media companies had an important role to play in tackling online bullying, but education was also crucial.

"This means ensuring that young people learn about the positives and negatives of social media from a young age and that they know what to do if they're being harassed or come across upsetting content.

"It also means encouraging young people to take responsibility for their own behaviour and to understand what the impact might be on other people of what they post."

Drone delivers food to Japan town hit by nuclear disaster

A picture of a house in Odaka in 2013 after it was devastated by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disasterImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption The town of Odaka in Fukushima was devastated by a 2011 earthquake and tsunami

Drones are delivering food to residents of a Japanese town devastated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster where access to shops is limited.

Residents were allowed to return to the Minamisoma area last year but obtaining supplies can be difficult.

Operators of the drone food delivery service said it was the first of its kind in Japan.

A 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima triggered the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

Convenience store chain Lawson has worked with e-commerce firm Rakuten and this week launched a drone service in the Odaka district of the city of Minamisoma, which has a large population of older people.

The district is roughly within a 20km radius of the Fukushima Daiichi Power Station, the site of the nuclear disaster triggered by an earthquake and tsunami six years ago. People were forced to leave their homes because of radiation concerns.

The Japanese government lifted an evacuation order for Minamisoma in October 2016 and allowed residents move back to the area following decontamination efforts.

"The town is starting to regain its former liveliness as its residents continue to return home," Lawson spokesperson Ken Mochimaru told the BBC.

"However, improving the shopping environment for daily necessities, food, and other products represents a high-priority challenge," he said.

The drone service is designed to help. Shoppers can order hot food like fried chicken and household items, which are sent from a nearby Lawson store to a mobile food van that operates at a community centre in the area. The companies are trialling the service for the next six months.

Image copyright Lawson
Image caption Operators said the drone food delivery service was the first of its kind in Japan

The drone can carry up to 2kg of goods.

As well as its shops, Lawson operates mobile vans across Japan, particularly in rural and mountainous regions where access is difficult, as well as serving ageing populations in urban areas.

More than a quarter of Japan's population is aged over 65, and set to increase over the next two decades, as the total number of people in the country shrinks.

How algorithms helped design a concert hall

The Elbphilharmonie concert hall in Hamburg, Germany, has been designed with the help of algorithms.

Each of the 10,000 acoustic panels in the hall is unique and designed to give the best listening experience.

BBC Click finds out more.

See more at Click's website and @BBCClick.

Simon’s Cat game app showed adult bite advert

Simon's Cat - Crunch TimeImage copyright Strawdog Publishing
Image caption The Simon's Cat game requires players to connect matching coloured treats

The UK's advertising watchdog has intervened after an adult advert was shown within a video game app popular with children.

The pop-up ad featured a "temporary tattoo" that looked like a deep bite mark, placed on a woman's shoulder.

The imagery appeared in the match-puzzle title Simon's Cat Crunch Time in July.

Wish.com, the retailer responsible for creating the ad, failed to respond to the complaint.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said it was concerned by the San Francisco-based company's lack of response and ordered the business to ensure its adverts were properly targeted in the future.

Although the body does not have the power to impose fines itself, it can refer repeat offenders to Trading Standards, which can take further action.

The game's publisher has also banned Wish.com from serving ads to its products in the future.

'Red and bloody'

The Simon's Cat game has a Pegi 3 rating - meaning it has been judged to be suitable for anyone above the age of three - and has been installed more than one million times on Android and iOS devices.

As with many titles, adverts are automatically placed within the software by algorithms, which are supposed to screen out adult content.

Image copyright Wish
Image caption This Wish.com ad was spotted within the game app on 24 July

The publisher, Strawdog Studios, told the ASA that it also had the power to remove ads manually.

But it added that it relied on customer reports to flag unsuitable content, and had not been alerted to the tattoo image before the watchdog had become involved.

"We considered the app was likely to have strong appeal to children and therefore children were likely to have seen the ad," said the ASA in its ruling.

"We noted that it was not clear from the ad that the product shown was a fake tattoo and we considered that the image... which was red and bloody, might cause distress."

The authority added that Wish.com was obliged to ensure the ad was not promoted again in an untargeted manner.

The company - which describes itself as the world's sixth biggest e-commerce business - sent an automated response to the BBC when asked for comment but has yet to address the problem.

"The ASA has a growing problem with non-UK online businesses, who will sometimes take the view that a self-regulatory body can be ignored," said Andy Milmore, a partner at the law firm Harbottle & Lewis.

"This is especially so where the complaints relate to 'inappropriate' marketing, where the ultimate backstop of enforcement action under criminal statute is unlikely to apply."