Weekend news roundup: Facebook chooses Nasdaq, Ireland’s skills crisis

10 Apr 2012

In a digest of some of the weekend newspapers’ tech coverage, we note that spammers have shifted their attention from post and email to smartphones, the UK ads watchdog is considering probing Apple over 4G claims in new iPad, Ireland’s skills crisis shocks a politician and how in the UK councils are planning to snoop on citizens via social media.

Facebook chooses Nasdaq over NYSE

The Irish Independent reported at the weekend that Facebook, preparing what would be Silicon Valley’s largest IPO, has picked the Nasdaq over the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) for its listing in a major victory for the technology-laden US bourse.

One of the most coveted stock listings in recent years, Facebook’s choice of its future exchange translates into a relatively small sum in annual listing fees. But it bestows major bragging rights on the Nasdaq OMX Group, already home to the likes of Apple and Google.

A spokesman for Facebook declined to comment. Nasdaq OMX and the NYSE also declined to comment.

The world’s largest social network, with more than 800m users, is aiming to raise $5bn (€3.8bn) or more in an initial public offering expected in May, and has whipped up an investor and media frenzy.

Its listing decision deals a blow to NYSE Euronext, which has waged an aggressive battle for marquee tech names in past years.

Smartphones and social media to be used in disaster roles

The Observer reported that smartphone apps, video-game technology and Twitter feeds are to be recruited to help survivors of disasters as part of a British government scheme aimed at making increased use of social networking technology in rescue work after earthquakes, floods and famines.

The scheme will support projects with £48.5m of Department for International Development funding over three years out of existing aid funds. Technologies to be explored as part of the project will include:

  • Mobile phone and satellite technology – already used in the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake – to track survivors and help deliver aid.
  • Twitter and social media channels to reach those affected, including direct guidance on medical issues.
  • Gaming technology to train people in disaster-response scenarios.
  • Smart cards to deliver cash payments to those worst affected by disaster.
  • The use of Google Earth and e-mapping to locate people and disaster hotspots.

How Ireland walked blindly into a skills crisis

In an op-ed in the Sunday Independent, Fine Gael TD Simon Harris noted that as far back as 2006, educationalists and scientists around the globe have been calling for basic literacy measurements for children to include understanding computer processes.

“Yet a study shows that young Ireland continues to lag behind many European countries when it comes to our citizens having basic computer skills.

“A new EuroStat study shows that 54pc of young Irish people between the ages of 16 and 24 have used basic arithmetic formulas in a computer spreadsheet. This is 13pc behind the EU average of 67pc. Similarly, 82pc of Irish people aged 16 to 24 copied or moved a file compared with 89pc across the EU.

“Last week alone, we saw a headline stating that almost 1,000 jobs in IT in this country had to be filled from abroad due to a lack of suitable Irish candidates. This is shocking,” Harris said.

Spammers now targeting smartphones

Once the scourge of email providers and the postal service, spammers have infiltrated the last refuge of spam-free communication: mobile phones, the New York Times reported.

In the United States, consumers received roughly 4.5bn spam texts last year, more than double the 2.2bn received in 2009, according to Ferris Research, a market research firm that tracks spam.

Spread over 250m text message-enabled phones, the problem is not as commonplace as e-mail spam. But it is a growing menace, with the potential for significant damage.

“Unsolicited text messaging is a pervasive problem,” said Christine Todaro, a lawyer with the Federal Trade Commission, the consumer watchdog agency, which is turning to the courts for help. “It is becoming very difficult to track down who is sending the spam. We encourage consumers to file complaints, which helps us track down the spammers, but even then it is a little bit like peeling back an onion.”

UK ads watchdog to probe Apple

The Telegraph reported that the UK’s advertising watchdog plans to assess complaints alleging Apple’s new iPad 4G claims were misleading, following a series of complaints from customers.

The popular tablet device is being marketed with 4G mobile broadband connectivity even though it is only able to access the ultra-fast network in North America.

The Advertising Standards Authority has received 24 complaints about the “misleading” references to 4G on Apple’s website.

Super snoopers to go social

The Mail on Sunday reported how local authorities will be able to use the UK government’s controversial ‘snoopers’ charter’ to spy on anyone they suspect of infringing minor council rules.

Facebook, Google and other internet companies will be forced to store all emails, social messaging and website visits made in Britain under plans being drawn up by ministers.

But civil liberty groups warn that councils will try to take advantage of the law to trawl the new databases to snoop on residents and workers for trivial reasons.

Ministers say the issue has been driven by the security services and police to combat terrorism and serious crime. However, critics say that 800 councils and other public bodies will also have access to personal material.

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