Weekend news roundup: Google accused of avoiding UK tax, Facebook a year after IPO

20 May 2013

In our round-up of some of the top tech stories from the weekend, a former Google executive claims to have proof the internet search giant has avoided tax in the UK, Facebook focuses on mobile a year after its IPO, and a Saudi cleric says Twitter will damn your soul.

Former Google exec turns whistleblower on company’s tax avoidance machinations in UK

Google is under fire in the UK for its tax practices in the country, and a new key witness might place it in deeper hot water when he hands a reported 100,000 emails and documents over to the British Revenue & Customs (HRMC) services, TechCrunch reported. 

Barney Jones says he has material proof that Google’s London sales staff would negotiate and close sales for the UK market, despite claiming its Dublin HQ handled finalising all deals.

Jones was prompted to speak out by testimony given to the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recently by Google VP Matt Brittin, who said London-based Google staff were never closing any ad sales deals, though some selling efforts were made there.

The matter of where the deals were finalised is important because if a sale closes in London, it’s likely they’d be taxable in Britain, rather than in the low tax-rated Ireland.

Google doesn’t seem at all certain that any of the documentation will absolutely prove it has done anything strictly against UK tax law, according to a statement provided by Google Direct of External Relations Peter Barron.

Facebook, a year after IPO

After a market debut marred by technical glitches and a deep dive in the company’s stock price, Facebook has spent the past year focused on its biggest weaknesses: how to make money and keep its more than 1bn users tethered to the social network, The Washington Post reported.

The results have been mixed. The company’s stock price has recovered some of its worst losses, and Facebook has announced several moneymaking initiatives. But the circumstances surrounding the IPO are still under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and some investors remain unconvinced the social network has staying power.

To answer its sceptics, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has focused on developing Facebook’s mobile platform first and ordered mobile-friendly redesigns of just about everything.

The company made 30pc of its US$1.25bn in ad revenue in the past quarter through mobile ads. Nine months ago, those mobile products didn’t even exist.

London Olympic Park to house giant data centre and tech cluster

UK data centre provider Infinity has finalised a deal to open a giant facility in the Olympic press and broadcast centres, at the heart of London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, AllThingsD reported.

Infinity Stratford will be a 140,000 sq-foot data centre with 40MVA of diversely connected power.

The company claims the East London data centre will be one of the largest and most efficient in Europe, with low latency connections to the world’s telecommunications networks that will be achieved due to the proximity to the majority of the UK’s major internet peering points. 

The data centre will be built over the next two years and open in 2015 in a new digital hub, called iCITY.

Four Anonymous suspects arrested in Italy

Four individuals accused of being members of Anonymous and participating in ‘Operation Tango Down’ have been arrested in Italy, The Register reported.

According to AFP, the four are being accused of various attacks in Italy, including a DDoS against the Vatican and the parliamentary website.

The Postal Police – responsible for enforcement of communications law – carried out 12 raids across Italy.

The four men arrested are a 20-year-old from Bologna, a 43-year-old from near Lecce, a 28-year-old from the province of Venice, and a 25-year-old from the province of Turin.

Twitter will damn your soul, Saudi cleric says

Concern is mounting in Saudi Arabia that more and more people are using Twitter. So the head of the country’s religious police condemns its use, CNET reported.

Sheikh Abdul Latif Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh mused that anyone who uses Twitter “has lost this world and his afterlife.”

It may well be that the Sheikh’s biggest concern is that so many of his people are now enthusiastically posting uncensored thoughts on Twitter. Saudi Arabia is said to be the fastest-growing tweeting nation.

Part of the purpose of Twitter is to try to make contact with the world one has lost, Chris Matyszczyk wrote. One sends out short messages in the hope that someone will notice and reply.

Twitter is a cry in the wilderness of the world for contact, attention, and care. It is, indeed, a soul thing.

Perhaps that’s why so many Saudi Arabians are ululating down its lines. Perhaps they feel their cries in the usual channels are falling on reluctant ears.

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