Tag: Italy

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.

Apple coughs up Italian money

Apple blossom, Mike MageeCupertino  company Apple will  pay the Italian authorities $348 million in back tax.

That’s according to a report from Reuters, which quoted a source close to the matter.

Apple will not only pay $348 million to thee tax office but will be forced to sign a deal which commits it to pay tax from 2015.

While the tax office has confirmed a deal is in the offing, it didn’t say how much Apple would have to pay out.

Apple has a complicated way of accounting that means revenues are booked by an Irish subsidiary.

Other companies, including Amazon and Google, are under investigation for not paying enough taxes in European countries.

Italians waste money in anti-terror PS4 campaign

115926079-ac4de3c4-ef93-4f7b-aae9-061e6c008206Idioti in the Italian government are wasting 150 million euro the country has not got on a monitoring Playstation 4 games.

Someone has told Italian Minister of Justice Andrea Orlando that the Islamic State used the Playstation 4 chat to set up the recent attacks on Paris and he believed them.

He wants the cash spent on new equipment and techniques to monitor encrypted communications so they can watch gamers play games and look for hidden messages.

Orlando is also looking at ‘new instruments’ of electronic surveillance which if his PS4 plan is anything to go by might involve a banjo and a set of tarot cards.

Talking to Il Messaggero he said that he wants to set up ‘cultural mediators’ in prisons, “to prevent these forms of radicalisation that have developed in other countries.” So basically this person would asking prisoners “have you been radicalised yet?” Yeah that should stop them in their tracks.

Orlando is capitalising on Paris to publicise his cunning plan in much the same way that David Cameron did when he announced the addition of 1,900 staff to GCHQ in the wake of Paris.

Where Orlando differs is that Cameron has the money and the 150 million euro a year Orlando has to spend on reinforcing IT systems is next to nothing.

Orlando said: “The net offers numerous opportunities for communication.

“Antiterrorism investigations have highlighted the use of the PlayStation. Because of this every method of communication will be monitored with new instruments.”

However someone might have to actually tell the Minister that the Playstation was not used by the Paris terrorists and the idea appears to be the creation of a journalist’s overactive imagination.

The comments were based on the fact that three days prior to the attacks Belgium’s deputy prime minister Jan Jambon had said in a debate that the thought of ISIS and “hate preachers” passing messages via the PS network “keeps me awake at night.”

However it never happened, and the Italians would not be wasting the money if Jambon had decided to have a nice warm milk before going to bed.

Brits lead way on watching less TV

old-school-tvA survey from IHS looked at major European TV viewing habits and found that Brits watch less conventional TV than ever before.

IHS surveyed people in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. The Europeans watch far less TV than the USA, with Americans averaging nearly six hours every day. The data is based in viewing habits in 2014, contrasted with 2013.

In contrast, British people watch less than three hours a day, but have shifted to catch up and recorded programmes.

The French spend 216 minutes watching broadcast TV a day but the speed of online growth is slower than in the UK.

In Germany, traditional broadcasting remains strong, while in Italy people watch more broadcast than before. The Spanish watched an average of 242 minutes of TV every day, but online video viewing has grown by 24 percent.

American people watch 531 minutes of TV a day and IHS believes that while Europeans turn on the radio for background noise, US citizens would rather switch on the telly.

Italians say goodbye to open source

barilla-mushroom-and-garlic-product-detail-pageThe local council in Pesaro, Italy has dumped the open saucy OpenOffice and gone back to the loving arms of Microsoft.

Between 2011 and 2014, Pesaro trained up its 500 employees to use OpenOffice. However, last year the organisation decided to switch back to Microsoft and use its cloud “productivity” suite, Office 365.

According to a recently published report from the Netics Observatory – commissioned by the municipality and Microsoft itself – the city administration saved up to 80 percent of the software’s total cost of ownership (which includes deployment, IT support, subscription plans cost, and other elements) using Office 365, compared to its previous setup.

The municipality’s head of the statistics and information systems department, Stefano Bruscoli said that the savings were due to the significant and unexpected deployment costs that the administration faced when it decided to rollout OpenOffice and abandon the on-premise version of Microsoft Office that it had used up until 2011.

“We encountered several hurdles and dysfunctions around the use of specific features. What’s more, due to the impossibility of replacing Access and partly Excel (various macros used on tens of files), we decided we had to keep a hybrid solution, using the two systems at the same time. This mix has been devastating,” he told the Italian press.

The Italians had to repaginate and tweak a number of documents due to a lack of compatibility between the proprietary and the open source systems translated into a considerable waste of time and productivity.

Pesaro estimates that every day roughly 300 employees had to spend up to 15 minutes each sorting out such issues.

With time and experience, these problems could be countered; still, they significantly affected the efficiency of Pesaro’s offices during the early phase of the rollout.

OpenOffice was slow when used to ‘call’ specific applications Pesaro used to manage its various departments. The IT support that had to be provided to employees further added to the migration bill.

Netics researchers estimated a yearly cost per user of €530.38 over a five-year period for the open source software, 93 percent of which came from deployment costs.

By contrast, for Office 365, the cost was €197.49 a year. According to the researchers, the lower figure is due to workers’ greater familiarity with a Microsoft working environment, and better compatibility with different file formats offered by the proprietary product.

The amount could be lower still if the savings from using Office 365’s communication and collaboration functionalities were included in the figure, the researchers say.

Using Skype for Business and Yammer, unnecessary spending on calls and business trips could be cut and the total cost per user per year could drop to €111.98.

IBM carries on clouding

ItaliaThe push by IBM to be the predominant company in the cloud space has taken yet another turn.

It said today it has opened its first cloud data centre in Italy, based near Milan.

IBM said the cloud centre uses a SoftLayer infrastructure and is aimed at providing Italian businesses to store data and run workloads.

The cloud computing market saw a 31 percent growth in 2014 and is worth over $1.33 billion, Big Blue said, quoting figures from the Polytechnic University of Milan.

IBM now has cloud data centres in London, Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam. The company claims that connections to SoftLayer services within Europe are now less than 30 milliseconds which is fast enough for real time bidding, and big data and analytic applications.

The cloud centre has room for up to 11,000 servers, a power rating of 2.8 megawatts and enough room for a mass of storage.

IBM Cloud centres now number over 40 worldwide.

Power company offers to bail out Italian Broadband

marconiItaly’s cash strapped telecos have been thrown a lifeline by the Italian power company Enel but they are under pressure from the Italian status quo to say no.

For years Italy’s broadband has fallen behind the rest of the EU because none of the telcos wanted to invest money in expensive infrastructure and the Italian government is too busy trying to work out how it can hold onto power long enough its MPs to collect a life long pension.

Enel has written to the Italian communications regulator offering to help with building a nationwide ultrafast broadband telecoms network.

Enel, which is controlled by the Italian government, wrote a letter to the regulator on April 14 saying its domestic network could be used to help install fibre optic cables more cheaply.

“Enel believes it can help develop a key infrastructure for the future of the country,” Enel’s head of Italy Carlo Tamburi said in the letter to AGCOM.

Enel said its contribution would be done “in a synergistic way with what the telecom operators have done and planned”, bringing clear benefits to less populated and industrial areas.

However the move will set the power company against established interests within Italy. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi $13.35 billion project aimed at getting 85 percent of the population connected up to a fibre optic network within six years, using Metroweb, a company partly owned by state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP).

That plan is already in trouble because Telecom Italia has been moaning that it is unfair. It owns a lot of the gear and it wants to buy into Metroweb to make sure its archaic monopoly, er interests were protected. However for some reason the government was not particularly interested.

La Repubblica newspaper said in a front-page article that Rome wanted to use Enel to bring the new fibre optic network under public control.

Enel, which is focusing much of its domestic strategy on developing its power distribution grid and smart digital technology, has about 1.2 million km of power lines and 450,000 power distribution cabinets across Italy.

This is not the first time that Enel has become involved in the Telecoms market. It set up Wind, the third biggest of Italy’s four mobile network operators, which is now owned by Vimpelcom.`

Italy retreats from Google tax

The new Italian government of Matteo Renzi’s first job was to abandon a tax that would force firms that advertise and sell in Italy to pay up.

The move was supposed to make sure that Google and Apple who make a fortune in Italy did not get to send all their dosh to off-shore bank accounts in Ireland.

However cynics claimed that it was just another shot fired against Google by Silvio Berlusconi to protect his media empire against the Internet, Google and YouTube.

The only problem was that the law, created by Enrico Letta was poorly worded. Not only was it easy for Google and Apple to get around, the EU warned that it was illegal.

Graziano Delrio, Renzi’s chief of staff, told a press conference that the law had been cancelled and that was the end of it.

Renzi took to Twitter to brag about cancelling the law, something which should really annoy ordinary Italians. The only victors of his efforts are big corporates who have refused to pay tax in Italy. The law was a silly idea, but Renzi had promised to sort out the cronyism and nepotism which goes on between big business and government. It is a little annoying that his first act should be bailing out big business.

Renzi still has to get the law voted out, which is expected to happen this week. 


Daft Italians create illegal Google tax

Demonstrating that they are completely out of touch with the mood of the country, and that they continue to see government as a cash cow to be milked, the Italian senate has moved to protect Silvio Berlusconi’s media empire from internet competition.

Italy’s Parliament today passed a new measure on web advertising, the so-called “Google tax,” which will require Italian companies to buy their internet ads from locally registered companies, instead of from units based in havens such as Ireland, Luxembourg and Bermuda.

While in many ways this is seen as a way of curbing the tax avoiding antics of Google and Apple, which like to claim they are based in Ireland and Luxembourg, it is more about protecting Berlusconi’s media empire from internet intrusion.

While many countries have seen the internet as an important tool for business, Italy has refused to invest in it and the only backbone provider Telecom Italia is years behind the rest of the EU. Berlusconi has sued Google in the past for daring to run his piss-poor telly shows on YouTube. The weakened internet has meant that the television industry has not had to think about changing its formats for years and is still running 1970s style comedy variety performances filmed in barns.

Needless to say the tax has stirred controversy. The law violates European Union laws regarding non-discrimination over commercial activity. Google could have it spiked the moment it can lodge an appeal in Brussels. One of the good points about the EU is that you cannot discriminate, in law, among people based in different EU countries.

But what makes matters worse is that the law does not do what the Berlusconi’s people claims it does – stop tax evasion.

It says that Italian advertisers must buy their internet advertising from a company with an Italian VAT registration. It does not mean that Google’s profits would be taxable in Italy – the local law says that selling through an agent does not create a permanent establishment. In addition, without a permanent office in Italy them Google’s profits derived from trading in Italy are not taxable in Italy. All Google will have to do is appoint an agent, an agent with an Italian VAT number, and the law is met and still none of Google’s profits from Italy are taxable in Italy.

All this will do is annoy Google for the five minutes it takes to appoint an Italian agent. Even then it is likely to be destroyed by the EU.

Once again, it is an example of the Italians trying to do something that looks good to solve their crisis, but lacking the bottle to do anything significant to tackle a real problem. If anything all this will do is delay the march of the internet for a few minutes in time for Telecom Italia to crash in a screaming heap. 

Facebook faces criminal charges

Northern Italian courts are considering criminal charges against the social notworking site Facebook.

A prosecutor has opened an investigation into how Facebook allowed the publication of insults and bullying posts aimed at a teenager who killed herself.

Carolina Picchio, 14, from Novara in northern Italy, died in January after a gang of boys circulated a video on Facebook of her appearing worse for wear in a bathroom at a party.

The group, aged between 15 and 17, were said to be friends of Carolina’s former boyfriend. She dumped him and he had insulted her on Facebook.

Carolina wrote to her ex before she killed herself that he had done enough to her already. She felt he had made her pay too many times. The unnamed boy claimed he had apologised to her for the insults, but she leapt to her death from her third floor bedroom window.

She wrote on Facebook that she was not strong and could not take the abuse any more.

The case has angered the Italian Parents Association which made a criminal complaint against Facebook.

It claimed that Facebook had a role in the instigation of Carolina’s suicide.

Antonio Affinita, IPA director said that Italian law forbids minors under 18 signing contracts, yet Facebook entered into a contract with minors regarding their privacy, without their parents knowing.’

Francesco Saluzzo, the Novara prosecutor, said he did not rule out investigating Facebook staff. He was investigating how the video had stayed online ”for days” before it was taken down.

He could theoretically investigate employees of Facebook who failed to respond to these requests to take down the video.

A tide has been moving against Facebook in Italy. The outfit is already in hot water for allowing Mafia goons to have fan pages, but a 15-year-old schoolboy in Rome killed himself in 2012, having been taunted as gay on Facebook.

Facebook offers a button to ”report” offensive links, but it is a moot point if anyone notices.