Tag: Facebook

Google and Facebook investigated by Israeli tax man

The Israeli Tax Authority has opened an inquiry into the local antics of tech giants Google and Facebook.

The taxmen have conducted meetings with clients of Google, asking detailed questions about the methods used by Google and Facebook to conduct local operations.

Questions put to clients centered around the degree of involvement that local representatives of Google and Facebook had in designing marketing campaigns, and setting budgets and targets for clients.

Basically the Israeli’s are unsure if the Israeli teams were acting independently, or if they were referring business matters to overseas headquarters and then merely implementing corporate decisions in the local market.

Should the investigation conclude with the determination that Google and Facebook Israel teams are independently responsible for activities in the local market, the tax authority may recommend that the companies pay a rather a large tax to the Israeli government for business conducted within the country.

Facebook and Google claim that they operate in Ireland, thereby avoiding paying direct or indirect taxes to the Israeli government.

Research shows that total online advertising expenditures topped $333 million in Israel in 2015, with online taking an ever-expanding segment of budgets from traditional advertising. Of that $333 million, over half was dedicated to spending on social media and search sites, two areas dominated by Facebook and Google.

In April 2016, the Israel Tax Authority unveiled a new set of guidelines regarding tax liability for foreign corporations operating in Israel. Under these rules, an international company would owe taxes if its services were produced in Israel. To prevent double taxation with countries that have international tax agreements with Israel, the foreign corporation must have a permanent establishment within Israel.

A permanent establishment was defined as a physical space used by the business to conduct operations, or a virtual space – including a website – where agents are empowered to conduct local business and enter into contracts on behalf of the corporation.

Italians see off Facebook in court

Facebook has suspended its location-sharing feature in Italy after a Milan court ruled last year that the social networking giant had violated competition and copyright laws by effectively copying a similar app from a local startup.

Italian software developer Business Competence filed a lawsuit in 2013, accusing Facebook’s Nearby feature of having copied its Faround application, which helps users locate Facebook friends in the vicinity.

Facebook launched its Nearby feature only months after Faround was included in the social network’s app store in 2012.

The complaint alleged that the two applications were “extremely similar” in their functions and general set-up.

Facebook said it has discontinued offering what it now calls Nearby Places in Italy while it appeals against the court’s ruling.

The court ordered Facebook to suspend Nearby Places in Italy or daily pay a fine of 5,000 euros for copyright infringement and unfair competition. It said that Facebook may have to pay further damages to be determined at a later stage.

Facebook wanted the order put on hold while it awaited a ruling on the merits of the case, but its request was rejected by the court in December. It said on Monday that it is complying with the decision pending its appeal.

Facebook insists that the claims were without merit and the order was wrongly decided, but we have respectfully complied with the order in the interim.

Business Competence’s Faround app was launched in September 2012 and quickly gained popularity among Italian users.

Faround was the most downloaded new social networking app in the country but downloads plunged the month after Facebook launched its own Nearby feature on December 17 of that year.

“It was a big blow to us to see that we were losing everything we had invested (into Faround),” Business Competence Chief Executive Sara Colnago said. It had cost the outfit half a million euros to build the app.

Ireland might actually take on a big tech company

xblarneystone.jpg.pagespeed.ic.gZas-gsqnYThe nation which tends to give illegal sweeteners to big tech companies is gunning for Facebook.

Ireland’s privacy watchdog has launched a bid to refer Facebook’s data transfer mechanism to the European Union’s top court in a landmark case that could put the shifting of data across the Atlantic under renewed legal threat.

The move is the latest challenge to the various methods by which large tech firms such as Google and Apple move personal data of EU citizens back to the United States. It does not appear that Ireland is going for Google or Apple yet.

The issue of data privacy came to the fore after revelations in 2013 from former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden of mass U.S. surveillance caused political outrage in Europe and stoked mistrust of large technology companies and an overhaul in the way businesses can move personal data – from human resources information to people’s browsing histories – so as to protect Europeans’ information against US surveillance.

Ireland’s data protection commissioner, who has jurisdiction over Facebook as its European headquarters are in Dublin, wants The Court of Justice of the European Union to determine the validity of Facebook’s “model contracts” – common legal arrangements used by thousands of firms to transfer personal data outside the 28-nation bloc.

Irish Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon has formed the view that some of the complaints against the model contracts are “well founded.”
Collins said only the CJEU and not a national court or the Data Protection Commissioner has the jurisdiction to rule a European Commission decision invalid.

He said that under EU law, a transfer of data can only be made to a country outside the EU if that country ensures an adequate level of protection.

However the court agrees it could be a major headaches for companies that need to transfer personal data to the United States. Ironically Facebook is building a huge data centre in Ireland which is designed to prevent this sort of data shifting to the US.

The court has since agreed to a request to allow the United States government to join the case, potentially giving the new US administration a platform to lay out its views on surveillance laws. Since Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump has already signed an executive order which removes the safe harbour rules negotiated between the US and the EU it is unlikely that he will prove particularly helpful to Facebook.

Facebook, which is due to speak in court during the case, said in May that it was one of thousands of companies that used model clauses and said it had a number of legal ways of moving data to the United States.

Trump demands Facebook hand-over protester’s details

fishy trumpUS president Donald (Prince of Orange) has ordered his spooks to search the Facebook addresses of everyone who was arrested protesting against him on his inauguration day.

More than 230 protesters were arrested on that day and many were charged with rioting and had their phones seized by Washington, D.C., police.

One of the individuals who was arrested received an email from Facebook’s “Law Enforcement Response Team” which means that coppers were asking Facebook to reveal information about this arrestee.

It is incredibly unlikely that he is the only one and it appears that those who were charged by coppers on the day are now “persons of interest”.

Rachel Reid, a spokesperson for the DC Metropolitan Police Department, responded that “MPD does not comment on investigative tactics”. In fact, that appears to be law enforcement’s general line on the news.

According to this database, US law spooks requested information on the accounts of 38,951 users over January to June of 2016, and they received some type of data in 80 percent of cases.

Which “legal process” authorities sent to Facebook for information on the protester matters considerably in terms of how much data they can seize for investigation.

Facebook could be gutted by Trump’s visa crack-down

what-we-learned-about-facebook-ceo-mark-zucke-L-gl5gYRSocial notworking site Facebook could be the most vulnerable to US President Donald Trump’s expected crackdown on guest worker visas.

According to a Reuters analysis of US Labour Department filings more than 15 percent of Facebook’s US employees in 2016 used a temporary work visa making it a an H-1B “dependent” company.

That is much worse than Alphabet, Google, Apple, Amazon or Microsoft. This could cause major problems for Facebook if Trump or Congress decide to make the H-1B program more restrictive, as the president and some Republican lawmakers have threatened to do.

Both Trump and Attorney General nominee Senator Jeff Sessions have opposed the program in its current form. They have also indicated that they are open to reforming it to “ensure the beneficiaries of the programme are the best and the brightest,” according to a draft executive order seen by Reuters.

The Trump administration has not proposed any new rules that would target companies with the H-1B “dependent” classification. But the fact that Facebook alone among major tech companies falls into that category suggests it is the most exposed in the industry to any changes in H-1B visa policy.

Neither the White House nor Facebook are saying anything. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said on Monday that Trump would target H-1B visas as part of a larger immigration reform effort through executive orders and Congressional action, but gave no details.

Facebook listed itself as a dependent company in its applications for H-1B visas with the Labor Department last year.

Before he took office as president, Trump discussed changes to the H-1B visa program with top technology executives, including Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

 

Oculus ordered to pay up on ZeniMax tech

keep_calm_and_love_your_patent_lawyer_2_inch_round_magnet-re8c2c059dc99401ca676f1a1e58344f5_x7js9_8byvr_324A US jury in Texas ordered Oculus, and other defendants to pay a combined $500 million to ZeniMax Media, a video game publisher that claims Oculus stole its technology.

The jury thought that in 2014, Oculus used ZeniMax’s computer code to launch the Rift virtual-reality headset. ZeniMax alleges that video game designer John Carmack developed core parts of the Rift’s technology while working at a ZeniMax subsidiary. Oculus hired Carmack in 2013.

ZeniMax Chief Executive Robert Altman hailed the verdict and said in a statement the company was considering seeking an order blocking Oculus and Facebook from using its code. It is unclear what impact that would have on the Rift’s market availability.

However, the jury ruled that none of the defendants misappropriated ZeniMax’s trade secrets, but it did think that Oculus’ use of computer code directly infringed on ZeniMax’s copyright. The jurors held Carmack and different Oculus co-founders Palmer Luckey and Brendan Iribe liable for forms of infringement.

The jury also found Oculus liable for breaching a non-disclosure agreement Luckey signed with ZeniMax in 2012, when he began corresponding about virtual reality with Carmack.

Carmack worked for id Software before that company was acquired by ZeniMax. He is now the chief technology officer at Oculus.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg testified last month during the three-week trial that none of ZeniMax’s proprietary code was incorporated into the Rift.

In a statement, Oculus spokeswoman Emily Bauer noted the jury’s finding on trade secrets theft and said the company would appeal. “We’re obviously disappointed by a few other aspects of today’s verdict, but we are undeterred,” she said. “Oculus products are built with Oculus technology.”

Facebook says it will reduce fake news

funny-pictures-auto-news-france-387930Facebook said  it will update its social media platforms in Germany within weeks to reduce the dissemination of fake news.

German Justice Minister Heiko Mass has repeatedly called on Facebook to respect laws against defamation in Germany that are stricter than those in the United States.

The Germans are worried that fake news and “hate speech” on the internet could influence a parliamentary election in September in which chancellor Angela Merkel will seek a fourth term in office.

Now a Facebook note said the company would make it easier to report items suspected to be fake news and work with external fact-checking organisations.

“Last month we announced measures to tackle the challenge of fake news on Facebook,” the U.S. technology company’s German-language newsroom said.

“We will put these updates in place in Germany in the coming weeks.”

Its partners will be required to sing the U.S. Poynter International Fact-Checking Code of Principles, it said. Warning signs would be attached to reports identified as noncredible, and the reasons for the decision given.

Facebook would also make it impossible for spammers to forge the websites of reputable news agencies, it said.

 

What a load of Bologna – Facebook bans Poseidon’s penis

nepture-bologna2Facebook might have a problem when it comes to spotting fake news, but when it comes to a breast or willy its censors are out in force and apparently can stop Greek gods in their tracks.

However, it seems that its censors have a problem when it comes to real body parts and those that have been created by human hands. Or those bits which were inspired by the gods themselves.

Italian writer Elisa Barbari decided to use a picture of a local Bologna icon — the statue of Poseidon — on her Facebook page. But it seems that he powers that be thought that Poseidon in the altogether was too much for the retired army colonels, monks, nuns and other looneys who frequent the social notworking site.

Barbari said she received a message from Facebook’s censors that said, in part, her image contained “content that is explicitly sexual and which shows to an excessive degree the body, concentrating unnecessarily on body parts.”

The statue was made by a bloke called Giambologna in the 1560s. Despite being in Roman Catholic Italy it has not managed to offend anyone.

The statue merely depicts Neptune holding a trident.  He does not look particularly proud but then he has been swimming.

Barbari said Facebook was very explicit about what constitutes explicit. The company’s message to her also read: “The use of images or video of nude bodies or plunging necklines is not allowed, even if the use is for artistic or educational reasons.”

Facebook’s censors, like film censors, have serious trouble telling what should be covered up and end up becoming a little like those in Saudi Arabia. In September it killed off an image of a naked child during the Vietnam War that had appeared on a Norwegian newspaper’s Facebook page.

It took the intervention of the paper’s editor-in-chief and the country’s prime minister to get the company to see sense. What chance has a major deity who can cause earthquakes got?  Hopefully the Earth shaker will plunge his fork into Silicon Valley and remind Facebook who is boss.

Barbari’s Facebook page is using a snap of statue from behind, apparently Poseidon’s arse is not offensive.

Zuckerberg thinks he is Ironman with his own Jarvis

336D11AA00000578-3567659-Since_he_assumed_the_role_of_Tony_Stark_in_Marvel_s_Iron_Man_in_-a-187_1462060958040Mark Zuckerberg seems to be projecting an alter-ego of Iron man after showing off his home-based AI digital assistant, which he has called Jarvis.

Last January, Zuckerberg announced that he planned to build an AI system to run his home using Facebook tools, in the latest of the personal-growth challenges he gives himself each year.

Zuckerberg says he has always enjoyed sitting down and build something that does exactly what you want it to do. Over the last year, Zuckerberg has spent between 100 and 150 hours on his home project.

Though it’s named for Tony Stark’s futuristic Jarvis AI in the Iron Man movies, it’s more akin to a homemade, highly personal version of something like Amazon’s Alexa service, letting him and his wife Priscilla Chan use a custom iPhone app or a Facebook Messenger bot to turn lights on and off, play music based on personal tastes, open the front gate for friends, make toast, and even wake up their one-year-old daughter Max with Mandarin lessons.

Zuckerberg wrote that he’d set out to build a system allowing him to control everything in the house, including music, lights, and temperature, with his voice. He also wanted Jarvis to let his friends in the house just by looking at their faces when they arrive and to alert him to anything important going on in Max’s room.

He hoped to design the system to ‘visualize data in VR to help me build better services and lead my organizations [at Facebook] more efficiently.’

He claims he has done all of that other than the bit about VR. And it works. It is not perfect. It sometimes needs a little coddling. Zuckerberg began by demoing the Messenger bot he’d built as a front end for the system. Using his smartphone, he typed simple commands to turn the lights off and on, and sure enough, they went off and then on.

On the other hand, he also built the system to respond to voice commands, via a custom app he’d created, and there, the results were decidedly more inconsistent. He had to tell the system four times to turn the lights off before it got dark.”

He is a bit of a way away from strapping on the suit and saving the world. To be fair though Zuckerburg is really just proving that he still has the ability to program despite being the head of a huge business.

 

Instagram grows its user base

Leica cameraPhoto-based social notworking site Instagram’s user base rose to more than 600 million.

The Facebook owned company said that its new features had helped it gain popularity and it had added 100 million users since June, when it last announced its 500 million user milestone.

Writing in the company bog,  the company said that products like Instagram Stories, its picture and video slideshow feature, identical to the signature function of rival Snap Snapchat had done rather well.

Instagram in September updated its safety tools by allowing users to control the comments posted on their pictures and videos to combat increasing cases of online trolling.

The company, which is expected to add to Facebook’s revenue, is on track to generate $1.5 billion in advertising revenue this year, according to research firm eMarketer.