Weekend news roundup

21 Nov 2011

The weekend’s top tech reads – how Christmas 2011 will be a mobile shopper’s paradise, LinkedIn’s tax plans for Ireland, Google’s Sergey Brin comes to Wikipedia’s rescue and why the internet industry needs to tackle the subject of online pornography.

Facebook hacking is food for thought

Last week’s hacking of Facebook that saw violent and sexual imagery flood people’s profiles is a wake-up call, The Sunday Independent reported. Columnist Colum Kenny wrote: “Challenging porn on the internet is not just about the protection of children. It is also about the protection of some of those adults who appear in it. Adult relationships are depicted in ways that may influence young minds and trigger oppressive or harmful behaviour, either in public places or within the privacy of a bedroom.

“The commercial internet industry can sound righteous in its assertions that it has things under control and that it is a champion of free expression. But its massive intrusion into daily life in general, and into domestic spaces that were formerly private in particular, raises questions about how it should be monitored and regulated.

“While internet companies may object to being regulated, some are not slow to spy on ordinary users of their sites. Profiles are automatically created that allow companies to exploit or sell information about you to others, so that you may be targeted with content tailored especially to your individual tastes when you go online in the future.”

Sergey Brin donates to Wikipedia

The San Jose Mercury News reported on Google’s Sergey Brin’s generous donation to support Wikipedia. Wikipedia’s annual fundraising campaign kicked off with a bang this week – Google co-founder Brin’s charitable organisation has awarded a $500,000 grant to the foundation that runs the free online encyclopedia.

The Brin Wojcicki Foundation – started by Brin and Anne Wojcicki, co-founder of personal-genetics company 23andMe – awarded the half-million dollars to the Wikimedia Foundation as it started its eighth annual fundraising campaign, Wikimedia announced Friday.

“This is how Wikipedia works: people use it, they like it, and so they help pay for it, to keep it freely available for themselves and for everyone around the world. I am very grateful to Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki for supporting what we do,” said Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation.

The Wikimedia Foundation is a charity that operates San Francisco-based Wikipedia, a popular encyclopedia website that relies on volunteers to write and update articles on millions of subjects. The foundation also operates other free websites, such as Wiktionary and Wikibooks.

Merry mobile Christmas

USA Today reported on how Christmas 2011 will be a smartphone shopping paradise. As shoppers hunt down bargains and gift ideas for the holidays, it will be hard for some to remember a time when they couldn’t pull out their smartphone and hunt down a store location, compare a product’s price, or scan customer reviews.

It has only been a short while since smartphones and tablets, such as Apple’s iPad, arrived on the scene in a meaningful way, but already these devices are having a profound effect on how shoppers behave and how retailers communicate with them.

Mobile shopping only makes up a tiny fraction of retail sales, but it is accelerating at a brisk pace. Last year, about 3.8pc of all e-commerce sales were made on mobile devices, according to John Squire, chief strategy officer at IBM Coremetrics.

At the moment, mobile has grown to a 9pc share of all online sales, but that number could rise to about 15-16pc of all e-commerce sales over the holiday season, Squire said. The growth is even more impressive when you think that online sales are also accelerating.

According to a Deloitte study, almost half of all consumers say they will shop for holiday gifts online – a double-digit increase from last year. This makes the internet the No 1 shopping destination, now tied with discount stores, for the first time since Deloitte added the channel to the annual study.

LinkedIn’s tax plans for Ireland

The Irish Independent reported at the weekend that top business social networking site LinkedIn plans to reduce its tax bill in Ireland through a complex use of Irish tax law, it was revealed yesterday.

The social networking site for professionals, which went public earlier this year, said it would utilise a widely-used tax measure to cut the amount that it pays here.

In a prospectus to potential shareholders, the firm said it would use deferred tax assets to reduce its tax exposure in the US and Ireland, where the company has its international headquarters.

In the prospectus, the company states: “Due to the history of losses, the company has generated in the past, (LinkedIn) believes that it is more likely than not that all of the state and Ireland deferred tax assets can be realised as of 31 December 2010. Accordingly, the company has recorded a full valuation allowance on its state and Ireland deferred tax assets.

“The valuation allowance increased by $1,608,000 (€1.19m) during 2009 and decreased by $6,207,000 during 2010.”

Deferred tax assets are used by companies to reduce their future tax bill. The method is usually used by companies that have been loss-making in the past but are now profitable.”

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years