Shock news: Apple has a secret tax hideaway

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Cheerful Apple Inc has a secret hidey-hole for its mountainous piles of money – sorry, HAD a secret hidey-hole, the formerly clandestine beans have now been spilt all over the world’s frontpages.

The mega-rich firm, which has a long and interesting relationship with tax, has been outed by the recent Paradise Papers leak – a shower of millions of documents that have revealed how the very wealthy furtively secrete their cash out of the gaze of prying eyes.

After a 2013 clampdown on its whiffy tax situation in Ireland, Apple searched for a new tax haven, the papers show, finally settling on Jersey, where it currently stashes $252 billion.

Before Jersey came to its salvation, the company had a good thing going in Ireland, using a tax loophole known as the ‘double Irish’, which, sadly, wasn’t a nice a drink but a pretty despicable example of wanton corporate greed.

Thusly, rather than paying the American corporate tax rate of 35% or the Irish one of 12.5%, canny Apple managed to pare its payments down to around 5% and below. In fact, according to the European Commission, the insatiable firm paid an astonishing 0.0005% tax for one of its Irish companies! You’ve almost got to take your hat off to that.

Anyway, after it all started going wrong in Ireland, Apple turned to offshore finance law firm, Appleby – which, as luck would have it, is the outfit that has provided a great deal of the material in the leak.

In a questionnaire to Appleby, Apple made embarrassing enquires about things like where it could ‘obtain an official assurance of tax exemption’. Emails revealed in the leak show that the firm was desperate to keep all of the shenanigans secret, understandably.

Check out this extract from an internal email at Appleby: ‘For those of you who are not aware, Apple are extremely sensitive concerning publicity. They also expect the work that is being done for them only to be discussed amongst personnel who need to know.’

After shopping about a bit, Apple plumped for Jersey and its delightful 0% corporate tax rate for foreign firms.

Comes to something, doesn’t it?

So, next time you’re in a shop somewhere or browsing online, looking at Apple’s latest £1,000 electric telephone or £1,800 laptop, spare a quick thought for the schools your children go to, the health services we all need, social care for the elderly, the fire service, the police, etc, etc, and consider if it might perhaps be prudent not to have dealings with a firm that gleefully avoids contributing back into the societies that have made it so rich.

 

Shock news: Apple has a secret tax hideaway

Robot gets citizenship

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Saudi Arabia has given a robot citizenship, as you do.

The artificial intelligence (AI) driven thing, ‘Sophia’, made an appearance at an investment conference in the country.

The robot has been built by Hong Kong firm Hanson Robotics, whose founder, David Hanson, longs to make machines that look and act like humans. But why? According to the inventor, it’s to allow robots to form meaningful relationships with humans so ‘that you care about the robots. And as we develop artificial intelligence, the robots will care about you… man and machine will create a better future for the world.’ Right.

Anyway, the Saudi government’s decision to grant a pretend human woman citizenship hasn’t gone down very well with some of the country’s real human women, who are made from boring old stuff like skin and blood rather than exciting wires and gears.

Saudi’s human women have to cover their hair and be escorted by a male when out and about. Sophia, meanwhile, isn’t constrained by such stone age regulations and come and go as it pleases without anything on its head. They’ll be giving it a driving license next.

Here’s a video of Sophia speaking to a room of important men:

 

Robot gets citizenship

Report: Utilise digital, councils

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Do you work in local government? Are you hoping to radically transform your services? Then you should probably have a look at a new report, as it’s right up your street.

Issued by Public, a firm that aims to help start-up companies transform public services, ‘The Rise of UrbanTech: How new technology is reinventing local public services’ looks at how councils can utilise emerging digital tech to their benefit.

The report, which was written by London’s new Chief Digital Officer, Theo Blackwell, and Public’s Director of Insight, Max Chambers, features case studies of over 50 companies that it claims could ‘help to radically transform council services’.

According to Public, larger ‘budgetary pressures and rising citizen demand have provided a moment of opportunity for local innovation. New digital technologies – including artificial intelligence, smart sensors, big data analytics and new methods of citizen engagement – provided by small and medium-sized firms can deliver solutions for councils to meet the challenges of the coming period.’

Also featured are showcases on the digital transformation agendas of over 20 councils. It’s not all peaches and cream, however. The report notes that problems such as insufficiently ambitious digital agendas and the dominance of large incumbent suppliers ‘who often fail to deliver real innovation’ have to be overcome.

I bet you’d like a link now, wouldn’t you? Well, I’m not going to give you it – go and find it yourself.

Only joking – click here.

Report: Utilise digital, councils

The chips are down: AI fooled and thrashed

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Those alarmed by the apparently indomitable rise of artificial intelligence (AI) might be calmed by two bits of recent news: it’s easily fooled and it’s rubbish at video games.

Japanese researchers found that altering just one pixel on an image managed to befuddle an AI-based recognition system. After the tiny change, the daft software managed to identify a pic of a taxi as a dog, and an image of a turtle as a rifle.

Researcher and AI-besmircher Su Jiawei tricked a type of system called a deep neural network with his little stunt. He said: ‘As far as we know, there is no data-set or network that is much more robust than others.’ Here’s a proper story about it.

Meanwhile, just across the water in South Korea, human gamers have been busy humiliating AI at the video game StarCraft. Song Byung-gu thrashed his AI-controlled rivals 4-0 during a tournament in Seoul.

Despite their ability to react far more quickly than any human being, the AI players over-cautiousness was their downfall, according to the victorious Mr Song, who added, magnanimously, that some of systems’ moves were ‘stunning’.

So, AI’s not ready to replace us just yet. Maybe next year.

The chips are down: AI fooled and thrashed

Friday round-up: A week in tech

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The Chinese state has dreamed up a super-sinister digital scheme, which has been sketched out in a document called ‘Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System’.

It sounds almost nice, doesn’t it? It isn’t. Basically, the idea is to monitor everything every citizen does – and then rate their trustworthiness. (And I thought firms using GPS systems to monitor staff movements were bad.)

The national trust score (which basically means, I think, how likely you are to give the Chinese government grief) will be based on things like the places you go; what sort of activities you take part in; who you associate with; whether you’ve repeatedly vowed to bring down the government, etc.

Johan Lagerkvist, a Chinese internet specialist at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, said: ‘It is very ambitious in both depth and scope, including scrutinising individual behaviour and what books people are reading. It’s Amazon’s consumer tracking with an Orwellian political twist.’

Digital isn’t all fun and games.

Here’s a long expose of the disturbing concept.

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Our brand new defence minister has been mocked for having a tedious Instagram account. So serious were the allegations that I had to borrow a colleague’s phone to look into it.

Gavin Williamson took over the role this week, after the previous minister, Michael Fallon, quit following a torrent of sleazy sexual harassment allegations.

With the sound of squalid scandal ringing in her ears, prime minister Theresa May might have opted for Williamson because, if his online activities are anything to go by, he seems like a safe pair of hands (figuratively and literally).

The MP’s Instagram features such highlights as a pic of an incinerator bin, with the following quip-caption ‘Very pleased with my new garden incinerator only £14.99 from #aldi’. Bargain.

Another gem features a pic of a motor vehicle publication: ‘You can’t beat a small treat such as @carmagazine. Much cheaper than actually buying a new car.’ Very true and astute. Perhaps he should have been made chancellor instead.

Other pics include Land Rovers, various animals and underwhelming but pleasant enough pastoral scenes.

Silly, really, but the Guardian have spun a whole article out of it if you’re interested.

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President Donald Trump’s notorious Twitter account has been shut down…for 11 minutes. It’s now functioning again. Phew!

In a moment of devilish insolence, a Twitter employee took the opportunity to deactivate the raving commander-in-chief’s account. The social media network is now investigating.

Trump often uses Twitter to denounce his enemies, intimidate opponents, humiliate and belittle rivals, lie and threaten war.

Fans visiting the US President’s Twitter page during the peaceful interlude were greeted with the message ‘Sorry, that page doesn’t exist’. After the interruption was rectified, visitors received the update ‘We’re really, really sorry, this page does exist, we feel nothing but shame’.

According to Twitter, the innocuous stunt was pulled by a ‘customer support employee who did this on the employee’s last day. We are conducting a full internal review’.

Another day, another Trump/Twitter tale. We’ve got at least another three years of this. Every day. For three more years. At least.

Friday round-up: A week in tech

Pain in the arts: Galleries hit by cybercrooks

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Is nothing sacred? It seems not as even the genteel world of expensive art-dealing is now being hit by cyber-villainy.

Galleries in America and London have had their email accounts hacked, with the thieves then sending out duplicated invoices with new bank account details.

London’s Rosenfeld Porcini gallery has been had, and is currently trying to get its bank to retrieve the money. Owner Mr Rosenfeld said: ‘Around seven or eight hours after we had sent our invoice, the buyers got another email saying that the invoice we had sent out was in the wrong currency and that they should make payment to a different account.’

According to the Art Newspaper, a gallery told them that some vendors had been swindled out of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The Society of London Art Dealers’ Director General, Christopher Battiscombe, said: ‘As all of us are compelled to do more and more of our business online, it seems to me inevitable that criminals will focus increasingly in this area and we all need to think about the risks involved and whether we are doing enough to protect ourselves against them.’

So, if you’re planning on selling or buying a £150,000,000 Picasso this weekend it might be best to eschew online transactions and meet up in a B&Q carpark, cash only.

 

Pain in the arts: Galleries hit by cybercrooks

Bully for Facebook: Profits swell handsomely

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Facebook made profits of £3.5 billion in the last quarter – isn’t that nice?

The social media network’s earnings were up 80% year-on-year for the period, with a total of $10bn brought in through ad revenue.

How much of that money came from Russian sources eager to influence US politics is, of course, for the jury to decide.

Last year, Facebook top dog Mark Zuckerberg claimed the suggestion that fake news on the network played a part in 2016’s US presidential election was ‘crazy’. However, last week the firm admitted that 150 million users may have consumed Russian propaganda through its blue and white pages of 21st century monotony. Oh dear.

Whatever the truth, what we do know is that, once again, Facebook paid very little in tax in the UK last year. Read this Guardian story for all the gory, outrageous details.

With the last quarter being such a bumper period for the company, I wonder what 2017’s tax bill will come in at? 12p?

Bully for Facebook: Profits swell handsomely