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Too Many Servers Could Mean No New Homes In Parts of the UK

Data centers have caused skyrocketing power demand in parts of London. Now, new housing construction could be banned for more than a decade in some neighborhoods of the UK’s biggest city because the electricity grid is reaching capacity, as first reported on by the Financial Times. The reason: too many data centers are taking up too much electricity and hogging available fiber optic cables. The Financial Times obtained multiple letters sent from the city’s government, the Greater London Authority (GLA), to developers. “Major new applicants to the distribution network… including housing developments, commercial premises and industrial activities will have to wait several years to receive new electricity connections,” said one note, according to the news outlet.

The GLA also confirmed the grid issue to Gizmodo in an email, and sent along text from one of the letters, which noted that for some areas utilities are saying “electricity connections will not be available for their sites until 2027 to 2030.” Though the Financial Times reported that at least one letter indicated making the necessary electric grid updates in London could take up until 2035. […] “Data centres use large quantities of electricity, the equivalent of towns or small cities, to power servers and ensure resilience in service,” one of the GLA letters seen by the Financial Times reportedly said. […] Developers are “still getting their heads round this, but our basic understanding is that developments of 25 units or more will be affected. Our understanding is that you just can’t build them,” said David O’Leary, policy director at the Home Builders Federation, a trade body. Combined, those sections of London contain about 5,000 homes and make up about 11% of the city’s housing supply, according the Financial Times.

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Bloomberg’s Spy Chip Story Reveals the Murky World of National Security Reporting

Chinese spies reportedly infiltrated the supply chain and installed tiny chips the size of a pencil tip on the motherboards built by Supermicro, which are used in data center servers across the U.S. tech industry — from Apple to Amazon. That chip can compromise data on the server, allowing China to spy on some of the world’s most wealthy and powerful companies. Apple, Amazon and Supermicro — and the Chinese government — strenuously denied the allegations. Apple also released its own standalone statement later in the day, as did Supermicro.

Welcome to the murky world of national security reporting.

I’ve covered cybersecurity and national security for about five years, most recently at CBS, where I reported exclusively on several stories — including the U.S. government’s covert efforts to force tech companies to hand over their source code in an effort to find vulnerabilities and conduct surveillance. And last year I revealed that the National Security Agency had its fifth data breach in as many years, and classified documents showed that a government data collection program was far wider than first thought and was collecting data on U.S. citizens.

Even with this story, my gut is mixed.

In the aftermath of the disclosure of PRISM, the NSA’s data pulling program that implicated several tech companies — including Apple, but not Amazon — the companies came out fighting, vehemently denying any involvement or connection. Was it a failure of reporting? Partially, yes. But the companies also had plausible deniability by cherry picking what they rebuffed. Despite a claim by the government that PRISM had “direct access” to tech companies’ servers, the companies responded that this wasn’t true. They didn’t, however, refute indirect access — which the companies wouldn’t be allowed to say in any case.

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