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French President Emmanuel Macron has planned to implement an increase in taxes on internet giants such as Google and Facebook.
After failing to convince his European counterparts to introduce it as an EU-wide tax, he decided to implement it in his own country. Many EU officials were against the idea such as Ireland which is well-known for its low-tax jurisdictions.
The matter will be discussed by cabinet ministers and then submitted to Parliament. The proposal put forward regarding the new tax mechanism suggests that lare companies operating within France are subject to a tax of three per cent on their digital sales made within the territory.
This weekend, French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire told Le Parisien, “The amount obtained from this three per cent tax on digital gross sales in France from January1, 2019 should soon reach 500 million Euros.”
This new tax is called “GAFA tax” which stands for Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.
Indeed, the European Commission found that Apple paid just 0.005 per cent of corporate tax on its European profits in 2014 which equates to approximately 50 Euros per million. As a result, in 2016 Apple was ordered by the European Commission to make a payment of 13 billion Euros in taxes to Ireland.
Under EU law, internet giants are expected to report their income which has prompted them to opt for low-tax nations for business such as Ireland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
Under the legislation which will be presented by French politician Bruno Le Maire on Wednesday, digital companies with sales of more than 750 million euros per year globally and more than 25 million n France will be taxed.
Le Maire stated, “If these two critera are not met, the taxes will not be imposed.”
He also said that around 30 companies in China, Germany, the US, Spain and the UK will be affected by this tax.
According to Le Maire, taxing such companies “is a question of fiscal justice” because “digital giants pay 14 per cent less tax than small- and medium-sized European companies.”
Ireland, Sweden and Denmark have refused the EU’s efforts to implement a new tax due to fear of decreased investment. Germany had a somewhat neutral stance on the matter as it feared an adverse response from the S against its car industry.
While the prospect of enforcing this tax within Europe has failed, France is hoping for a global agreement by 2020.
France is trying to pursue “common ground” on the issue with members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which is comprised of representatives from the most advanced economies in the world.
Britain, Italy and Spain have also been working on a new digital tax while Singapore, Japan and India are in the process of planning their own schemes.
Recently, aggressive legal action by tax authorities has been taken against these companies.
Just last month, Apple reached an agreement to pay 10 years’ worth of backtracked taxes which amounted to nearly 500 million Euros.
However in 2017, France tax collection drive experienced a setback when their court action against Google resulted in the internet giant not being liable to pay 101 billion Euros in taxes from revenues which were reportedly transferred from France to Ireland.
French tax is “symbolic and does not solve the problem of massive fiscal evastion,” said Raphael Pradeau from the anti-globalisation lobby group Attac. “It’s as if we accept that such firms can practice tax evasion in return for a few crumbs.”
Internet behemoth Google deemed the overhaul of the bloc’s online copyright law to be damaging for Europe for “decades to come” as it urged the European parliament to resist its approval.
European lawmakers have until next week to vote on the landmark legislation. This legislation that is aimed at modernizing copyright for the digital age has caused a lobbying war in Brussels.
This reform has been debated for the past few years by EU member states, tech giants and artistic creators. Google has tried to approach MEPs to discourage the law from being passed this month.
The biggest issue as of yet is the request for illegal content to be deleted off YouTube (owned by Google) and various other platforms using automatic filters otherwise, there would be liable.
According to Google’s senior Vice President of Global Affairs, Kent Walker, the reform “creates vague, untested requirements” that would mean that many websites would end up “over-blocking content”.
“This would be bad for creators and users who will see online services wrongly block content simple because they need to err on the side of caution and reduce legal risks,” he said.
The “unintended consequences” could potentially “hurt Europe’s creative economy for decades to come” he added.
Another issue is the provision to devise “neighboring rights” for media publishers.
News organizations are in favor of this legislation to be passed because they feel that tech giants such as Facebook have made billions from advertising that is very often tied to news stories, while the publishing industry suffers.
In reference to the implications of this planned reform on the publishing industry, Walker said that it “hurts small and emerging publishers, and limits consumer access to a diversity of news sources.”
He warned: “Under the directive, showing anything beyond mere facts, hyperlinks and ‘individual words and very short extracts’ would be restricted.”
Due to the controversy around the issue, the outcome of the vote remains uncertain.
US technology behemoth Google has announced that it will spend $13bn in expanding its US data centre network.
US technology behemoth Google is at the centre of an investigation by Indian competition officials after it was alleged that Google may have engaged in anti-competitive practices.
Google stands accused of abusing the market dominance of its Android platform. The European Union conducted a 3-year investigation that only concluded last year.
The European Commission determined that the deemed requirements for Android device makers to use Google apps were illegal. The US tech leader was subsequently fined €4.3bn.
Reports emerging from India claim that the Competition Commission of India (CCI) began probing potential abuse of Android’s position six months ago, following a complaint filed by a group of individuals.
In addition to this, it has been further disclosed that Google executives met with Indian officials to discuss the matter in greater detail. The CCI must now make their deliberations before deciding whether the case merits a further investigation, or if it should be dismissed.
A source told Reuters, “It is on the lines of the EU case, but at a preliminary stage. The EC’s action would make it difficult for the CCI to reject further investigation without demonstrating the problem has been addressed.”
Following the decision handed down by the EC, Google announced its intentions to stop bundling preinstalled apps with its Android platform and instead charge manufacturers a fee to licence its apps, as part of a bid to avoid additional fines.
Google has been in trouble in India before.
In February 2018, the CCI imposed an INR1.36 billion ($19.3 million) fine on the company for abusing its dominance in online web search and search advertising markets.
Google appealed against the fine, stating it could cause irreparable harm and reputational loss.
A new industrial revolution is underway in the heart of the Irish capital as clusters of warehouses housing vast quantities of data continue to emerge.
Dublin has really embraced technology in an effort to boost its flagging and shrinking economy following the global crash in 2008. Internet behemoths such as Facebook, Apple and Google all have their European HQ’s in Dublin and the city has become the continent’s No.1 data hub.
A familiar term within the ICT ecosystem is that ‘data is the new oil’ and will fuel the global economy. Those sentiments were echoed by Brian Roe, Commercial Director of Serve-Centric, which is a data center company.
Roe said, “Data is the new oil, definitely. These powerhouse developments provide 24/7/365 access to the massive data, processing power and storage that digital services around Europe require. People are saying, ‘Well everything is going to come from the cloud’. Well where's the cloud? The cloud is data centers."
Ireland’s industry lobby group Host has said the new phenomenon has become the unlikely engine room for everything from video streaming to phone apps and social media.
In addition to this, progressive government incentives, a highly-skilled workforce and high connectivity to Europe and America are helping attract data center construction investment which is expected to reach nine billion euros ($10 billion) by 2021.
The sector employs 5,700 people in full-time equivalent roles including 1,800 as data center operators, according to a report produced for Ireland's investment agency. Many of Ireland’s brightest young talent were forced to emigrate after the recession, but many are no returning to avail of the exciting new opportunities presented by Dublin’s transformation into a tech hub.
Data has become a hot topic in Europe following the introduction of GDPR. Enterprises have been forced to examine their data harvesting and storage practices in a more forensic manner. Consumers have also now been awakened to the dangers of providing their data online following the high-profile Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal which emerged last year.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) -- which provides cloud services for hire -- is a particular concern for Paul O' Neill, a researcher based at Dublin City University. "The ethical implications of hosting AWS data centers in Ireland are potentially vast," he said.
AWS, which has announced plans to expand its Dublin operations, sells controversial facial recognition technology to US police.
"These corporations are or have been involved in many of the dominant controversies and debates of our contemporary networked era including privacy, data breaches and surveillance.”
France's data watchdog (CNIL) announced a fine of 50 million euros ($57 million) for US search giant Google, using the EU's strict General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for the first time.
Google was handed the record fine from the CNIL regulator for failing to provide transparent and easily accessible information on its data consent policies, a statement said. The CNIL said Google made it too difficult for users to understand and manage preferences on how their personal information is used, in particular with regards to targeted advertising.
“People expect high standards of transparency and control from us. We're deeply committed to meeting those expectations and the consent requirements of the GDPR,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. “We're studying the decision to determine our next steps.”
The ruling follows complaints lodged by two advocacy groups last May, shortly after the landmark GDPR directive came into effect. One was filed on behalf of some 10,000 signatories by France's Quadrature du Net group, while the other was by None Of Your Business, created by the Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems.
Schrems had accused Google of securing “forced consent” through the use of pop-up boxes online or on its apps which imply that its services will not be available unless people accept its conditions of use.
“Also, the information provided is not sufficiently clear for the user to understand the legal basis for targeted advertising is consent, and not Google's legitimate business interests,” the CNIL said.
Head of Google, Sundar Pichai, has expressed feelings of “deep responsibility” as a leader in the development of artificial intelligence (AI).
In an interview with The Washington Post, he encouraged his tech competitors such as Apple and Amazon to ‘self regulate’ their technology when designing AI that has the potential to harm.
Pichai said it was important to factor in ethics during early stages of production, rather than afterwards; accepting concerns surrounding AI’s potential to hurt people as “very legitimate”.
"I think tech has to realize it just can't build it, and then fix it," Pichai said. "I think that doesn't work."
In June of this year, Google published a set of internal AI principles, that software created would first and foremost be ‘socially beneficial’. It vowed the technology would never be designed or deployed to violate human rights, to be used in surveillance outside international norms or ever be used in weapons.
Pichai’s comments follow the controversy surrounding Amazon’s Rekognition app, which has faced scrutiny regarding its accuracy and has raised ethical concerns. CEO Jeff Bezos met with Border Control Officials to sell the facial recognition software, which could track human beings and take them back to potentially dangerous situations overseas.
"This is why we've tried hard to articulate a set of AI principles. We may not have gotten everything right, but we thought it was important to start a conversation," Pichai says.
The company noted that it would continue to work with the military or governments in areas such as cybersecurity, training, recruitment, healthcare, and search-and-rescue.
"As a leader in AI, we feel a deep responsibility to get this right."
Alphabet Inc. has announced it will invest more than $1 billion to build a new campus in New York.
The parent company of Google plans to make the Hudson Square site its primary global business hub; with new office space in Lower Manhattan, and new property at 550 Washington Street.
The 1.7 million square-foot campus is set to double its staff numbers within a decade.
Earlier this year, the tech giant spent $2.4 billion buying New York City’s historic Chelsea Market, with plans to add a community space, winter garden and a public water taxi landing. It closely resides to their 111 Eighth Avenue headquarters, which they purchased in 2010.
“New York City continues to be a great source of diverse, world-class talent—that’s what brought Google to the city in 2000 and that’s what keeps us here,” Says Ruth Porat, SVP and CFO of Google and Alphabet, on a blog post.
"It's now home to more than 7,000 employees, speaking 50 languages, working on a broad range of teams including Search, Ads, Maps, YouTube, Cloud, Technical Infrastructure, Sales, Partnerships and Research."
Fellow tech titan Amazon Inc. is also set to invest $5 billion in real estate across two new headquarters for their HQ2 project. It hopes its Long Island City site will create a further 25,000 new jobs in New York and North Virginia.
Google has plans to roll out a controversial new app in which AI will make phone calls on behalf of users to arrange appointments, book tables and order food. Duplex will run through Google Assistant, and is described as “a new technology for conducting natural conversations to carry out ‘real world’ tasks over the phone.”
At a conference in May, CEO Sundar Pichai played two recordings of Google Assistant running Duplex, arranging a hairdressing appointment and booking a table. The assistant understood the context and responded appropriately, even when the conversation didn’t go as expected.
In both phone calls, the receiver did not suspect they were talking to a robot; the bot speaks with realistic sounding human inflections and pauses. The next-generation voice assistant has raised some ethical questions as to whether humans should be told they are speaking to a robot and be clear that the conversation is recorded.
“It’s important to us that users and businesses have a good experience with this service, and transparency is a key part of that,” Says Yaniv Leviathan, Principal Engineer at Google.
“We want to be clear about the intent of the call so businesses understand the context. We’ll be experimenting with the right approach over the coming months.”
Currently, only Pixel owners in selected US cities can run the app, and are, for now, limited to making restaurant reservations.
“We hope that these technology advances will ultimately contribute to a meaningful improvement in people’s experience in day-to-day interactions with computers.”
Google is set to expand its virtual telecommunication service “Google Fi” to a wider range of devices, including Samsung and iPhones. The service had been previously limited to select Android-powered smartphones, and to newer Pixel handsets made by Google.
"Our plan now works with the majority of Android devices and iPhones," Fi director Simon Arscott said in a blog post, who promises a simple pricing scheme that makes the Fi wireless experience “fast, easy and fair”.
Fi - previously known as Project Fi - works by hopping between carriers; shifting smartphone service between Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular, and Wi-Fi hotspots to provide optimal signals, says Google. Launched in 2015, Fi offers its US users unlimited domestic call and texts, plus texting internationally, for $20.
The service will let users pay based on how much data they use and allow for international roaming in up to 170 countries and territories.