Businesses

Why Amazon's UK Tax Bill Has Dropped 50% (bbc.com) 139

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: Amazon has seen a 50% fall in the amount of UK corporation tax it paid last year, while recording a 54% increase in turnover for the same period. This snippet of news raised eyebrows this morning when it was revealed. So what's going on? Taxes are paid on profit not turnover. It paid lower taxes because it made lower profits. Last year it made 48 million British Pounds (BP) or ~$62 million U.S. dollars (USD) in profit -- this year it made only 24 million BP or ~$31 million USD so it paid 7 million BP (~$9 million USD) tax compared to 15 million BP (~$19 million USD). What is more interesting is WHY its profits were lower. Part of the reason is the way it pays its staff. Amazon UK Services is the division which runs the fulfillment centers which process, package and post deliveries to UK customers. It employs about 16,000 of the 24,000 people Amazon have in the UK. Each full-time employee gets given at least 1,000 BP (~$1,297 USD) worth of shares every year. They can't cash them in immediately -- they have to hold them for a period of between one and three years.

If Amazon's share price goes up in that time, those shares are worth more. Amazon's share price has indeed gone up over the past couple of years -- a lot. In fact, in the past two years the share price has nearly doubled, so 1,000 BP (~$1,297 USD) in shares granted in August 2015 are now worth nearly 2,000 BP (~$2,595 USD). Staff compensation goes up, compensation is an expense, expenses can be deducted from revenue -- so profits are lower and so are the taxes on those profits.

United States

Wisconsin Won't Break Even On Foxconn Plant Deal For Over Two Decades (theverge.com) 309

Last month, Foxconn announced plans to build a $10 billion factory in southeastern Wisconsin in exchange for $3 billion in tax breaks. While the factory was heralded as a big win for President Trump and Governor Scott Walker, a report issued last week says the plan is looking less and less like a good deal for the state. In the report, Wisconsin's Legislative Fiscal Bureau said that the state wouldn't break even on its investment until 2043 -- and that's in an absolute best-case scenario. The Verge reports: How many workers Foxconn actually hires, and where Foxconn hires them from, would have a significant impact on when the state's investment pays off, the report says. The current analysis assumes that "all of the construction-period and ongoing jobs associated with the project would be filled by Wisconsin residents." But the report says it's likely that some positions would go to Illinois residents, because the factory would be located so close to the border. That would lower tax revenue and delay when the state breaks even. And that's still assuming that Foxconn actually creates the 13,000 jobs it claimed it might create, at the average wage -- just shy of $54,000 -- it promised to create them at. In fact, the plant is only expected to start with 3,000 jobs; the 13,000 figure is the maximum potential positions it could eventually offer. If the factory offers closer to 3,000 positions, the report notes, "the breakeven point would be well past 2044-45."
Security

Password Power Rankings: a Look At the Practices of 40+ Popular Websites (helpnetsecurity.com) 127

Orome1 shares a report from Help Net Security: Nothing should be more important for these sites and apps than the security of the users who keep them in business. Unfortunately, Dashlane found that that 46% of consumer sites, including Dropbox, Netflix, and Pandora, and 36% of enterprise sites, including DocuSign and Amazon Web Services, failed to implement the most basic password security requirements. The most popular sites provide the least guidance when it comes to secure password policies. Of the 17 consumer sites that failed Dashlane's tests, eight are entertainment/social media sites, and five are e-commerce. Most troubling? Researchers created passwords using nothing but the lowercase letter "a" on Amazon, Google, Instagram, LinkedIn, Venmo, and Dropbox, among others. GoDaddy emerged as the only consumer website with a perfect score, while enterprise sites Stripe and QuickBooks also garnered a perfect score of 5/5. Here's a screenshot of how each consumer/enterprise website performed.
Google

Google Cancels Town Hall To Discuss Diversity In Its Ranks (nbcnews.com) 786

NBC News originally reported: Google employees will gather for a town hall meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss the tensions ignited by a memo circulated inside the company that claimed to explain why more women are not engineers. Town hall meetings are nothing new at Google, but this one will likely be different after the so-called "Google Manifesto" went viral over the weekend, adding fresh fuel to the debate around gender bias in Silicon Valley. Google CEO Sundar Pichai told employees in an email earlier this week that he would cut his family vacation short in order to facilitate the forum. "The past few days have been very difficult for many at the company, and we need to find a way to debate issues on which we might disagree -- while doing so in line with our Code of Conduct," he wrote. "I'd encourage each of you to make an effort over the coming days to reach out to those who might have different perspectives from your own. I will be doing the same." The town hall comes amid a report from The Guardian that as many as 60 women are considering filing a class action lawsuit against Google, alleging sexism and wage disparity.
UPDATE: NBC News now reports the event has been cancelled, with Google CEO Sundar Pichai saying "Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and worried they may be 'outed' publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall... we need to step back and create a better set of conditions for us to have the discussion." Instead of the company-wide format, Google will now hold several smaller forums "to gather and engage with Googlers, where people can feel comfortable to speak freely," Pichai wrote.

Businesses

Watch Out Ticketmaster: Amazon In Talks To Offer Event Ticketing In US (reuters.com) 67

According to Reuters, Amazon is seeking to partner with U.S. venue owners to sell event tickets -- a move that could loosen Ticketmaster's powerful grip on the lucrative ticketing business. From the report: The Seattle-based company sees the U.S. ticketing market as ripe for attack. Consumers dislike ticket fees, and venue owners, sports leagues and teams want more distributors for their tickets as they seek to boost sales. Access to tickets could be another means to lure members to the Amazon Prime shopping club. For music acts and sports teams, selling tickets through Amazon could help sell their merchandise. Currently Ticketmaster, owned by Live Nation Entertainment, is the exclusive seller of primary tickets for many top venues in the United States. Would-be challengers have struggled to compete in the face of Ticketmaster's strong relationships with the operators of major U.S. sports stadiums, arenas, concert halls and other venues. Amazon has had success with ticketing in Britain, where it has been selling seats to West End shows since 2015, even outselling Ticketmaster for some events, according to one of the sources, who owns venues in that country. It is less common for venues in Britain to have an exclusive ticket provider.
China

China's VPN Developers Face Crackdown (bbc.com) 55

China recently launched a crackdown on the use of software which allows users to get around its heavy internet censorship. Now as the BBC reports, developers are facing growing pressure. From the report: The three plain-clothes policemen tracked him down using a web address. They came to his house and demanded to see his computer. They told him to take down the app he was selling on Apple's App Store, and filmed it as it was happening. His crime was to develop and sell a piece of software that allows people to get round the tough restrictions that limit access to the internet in China. A virtual private network (VPN) uses servers abroad to provide a secure link to the internet. It's essential in China if you want to access parts of the outside world like Facebook, Gmail or YouTube, all of which are blocked on the mainland. "They insisted they needed to see my computer," the software developer, who didn't want us to use his name, told us during a phone interview. "I said this is my private stuff. How can you search as you please?" No warrant was produced and when he asked them what law he had violated they didn't say. Initially he refused to co-operate but, fearing detention, he relented. Then they told him what they wanted: "If you take the app off the shelf from Apple's App Store then this will be all over." 'Sorry, I can't help you with that'. Up until a few months ago his was a legal business. Then the government changed the regulations. VPN sellers need a licence now.
Communications

A New Way to Tell Your Airline You Hate It (bloomberg.com) 50

An anonymous reader shares a report: Airlines -- an industry not known for stellar customer interactions -- are joining the party, and not just to break the bad news about your flight. They're inviting you to ask questions, and maybe even complain. Two airlines have dipped their wings into the waters of two-way texting. Hawaiian Holdings's Hawaiian Airlines is adding the feature while JetBlue Airways took a stake in a software startup that will allow its call center staff to start texting customers in the coming months. Texting, technically called SMS (which stands for short message service), is arguably the world's most favored form of communication, but much of corporate America has been slow to adapt. The few that have -- including Verizon Wireless retailers, British telecom company Sky UK, and Nestle SA's frozen foods division -- are dwarfed by an array of local commerce, from insurance agents, veterinarians, air conditioning techs, and auto dealers who have already jumped in to conduct their business.
Privacy

Prison Time For Manager Who Hacked Ex-Employer's FTP Server, Email Account (bleepingcomputer.com) 37

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: Jason Needham, 45, of Arlington, Tennessee was sentenced last week to 18 months in prison and two years of supervised release for hacking his former company's FTP server and the email account of one of his former colleagues. Needham did all the hacking after he left his former employer, Allen & Hoshall (A&H), a design and engineering firm for which he worked until 2013. Needham left to create his own company named HNA Engineering together with a business partner. HNA is also a design and engineering firm. According to court documents obtained by Bleeping Computer, between May 2014 and March 2016, Needham hacked into the email account of one of his former co-workers. From this account, the FBI says Needham took sensitive business information, company fee structures, marketing plans, project proposals, and lists of credentials for A&H's FTP server. A&H rotated its FTP credentials every six months, but Needham acquired new logins from his former colleague's email account.
Communications

Disney To Pull Its Movies From Netflix and Start Its Own Streaming Service (theverge.com) 268

Disney announced today that it will end its distribution deal with Netflix and launch its own streaming service in 2019. "The move is a real blow to Netflix, which secured a valuable streaming deal with Disney back in 2012 -- before streaming had really taken off," reports The Verge. "The deal only kicked into effect last year, so Netflix is barely seeing any benefit here." From the report: Netflix won't lose its Disney movies right away. Disney says it plans to cut Netflix off starting with the studio's 2019 films, and Netflix says it'll be able to keep all the Disney movies it gets through the end of that year. That means Netflix should be able to stream the next two Star Wars movies, but it'll miss out on the new trilogy's final installment. "We continue to do business with the Walt Disney Company on many fronts, including our ongoing deal with Marvel TV," said a spokesperson for Netflix. Disney's streaming service will be built off technology from BAMTech, the MLB-founded video streaming platform. Disney was already a major investor in BAMTech, and today it's making an even bigger investment -- of $1.58 billion -- giving it a 75 percent stake in the company. The acquisition still requires regulatory approval. The Disney-branded streaming service will be the "exclusive home in the U.S. for subscription-video-on-demand viewing," and will kick off with films including Toy Story 4 and the sequel to Frozen. "Original movies, TV shows, [and] short-form content" will be added to the service, and it'll be filled out with older movies from Disney and Pixar's catalog and shows from Disney's TV channels. The report also notes Disney plans to launch a streaming service exclusively for ESPN, targeted for launch early next year. "Disney is promising about '10,000 live regional, national, and international games and events a year,' with individual sports packages available as well," reports The Verge.
Google

Google Fires Author of Divisive Memo On Gender Differences (bloomberg.com) 1415

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Alphabet Inc.'s Google has fired an employee who wrote an internal memo blasting the web company's diversity policies, creating a firestorm across Silicon Valley. James Damore, the Google engineer who wrote the note, confirmed his dismissal in an email, saying that he had been fired for "perpetuating gender stereotypes." Earlier on Monday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent a note to employees that said portions of the memo "violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace." But he didn't say if the company was taking action against the employee. A Google representative, asked about the dismissal, referred to Pichai's memo. Damore's 10-page memorandum accused Google of silencing conservative political opinions and argued that biological differences play a role in the shortage of women in tech and leadership positions. It circulated widely inside the company and became public over the weekend, causing a furor that amplified the pressure on Google executives to take a more definitive stand. After the controversy swelled, Danielle Brown, Google's new vice president for diversity, integrity and governance, sent a statement to staff condemning Damore's views and reaffirmed the company's stance on diversity. In internal discussion boards, multiple employees said they supported firing the author, and some said they would not choose to work with him, according to postings viewed by Bloomberg News.
Businesses

Can Elon Musk Be Weaned Off Government Support? (thehill.com) 270

mi shares an opinion piece written by Jenny Beth Martin via The Hill: A study published in 2015 by The Los Angeles Times revealed that just three of Musk's ventures -- SolarCity Corp. (which manufactured and installed solar energy systems before its 2016 merger with Tesla Motors Inc.), Tesla Motors Inc. (which manufactures electric vehicles), and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX (which builds rocket ships) -- had received $4.9 billion in government subsidies to that point in time. By now, Musk's various ventures have sucked well over $5 billion from government coffers. Worse: in order to induce car buyers to spend their money on electric vehicles, the federal government offers a $7,500 rebate on the purchase price. Some states enhance that rebate with rebates of their own. In California, for instance, purchasers of electric vehicles get a state-funded rebate of $2,500 more.

Slashdot reader mi asks: "Why are you and I subsidizing Elon Musk's products and when will his businesses be able to compete on their own?"

Facebook

Inside the World of Silicon Valley's 'Coasters' -- the Millionaire Engineers Who Get Paid Gobs of Money and Barely Work (businessinsider.com) 226

Business Insider has explored what it calls the "least-secret secret" in the Valley -- "resters and vesters," or "coasters" referring to engineers who get paid big bucks without doing too much work, waiting for their stock to vest. From the report: Engineers can wind up in "rest and vest" jobs in a variety of ways. Manny Medina, the CEO of fast-growing Seattle startup Outreach, has been on all sides of it. He briefly was a coaster himself, and says he saw how Microsoft used it to great effect when he worked for the software giant. He has also tried to lure some "rest and vest" engineers to come work for him at his startup. Medina said he experienced the high-pay, no-work situation early in his career when he was a software engineer in grad school. He finished his project months early, and warned his company he would be leaving after graduation. They kept him on for the remaining months to train others on his software but didn't want him to start a new coding project. His job during those months involved hanging out at the office writing a little documentation and being available to answer questions, he recalls. "My days began at that point at 11 and I took long lunches," he laughs. "They didn't want you to build anything else, because anything you built would be maintained by someone else. But you have to stand by while they bring people up to speed." Years later, he landed at Microsoft and says he saw how Microsoft used high-paying jobs strategically, both within its engineering ranks and with its R&D unit, Microsoft Research. [...] "You keep engineering talent but also you prevent a competitor from having it and that's very valuable," he said. "It's a defensive measure." Another person confirmed the tactic, telling us, "That's Microsoft Research's whole model." At other companies it's less about defense and more about becoming indispensable. For instance, Facebook has a fairly hush bonus program called "discretionary equity" or "DE," said a former Facebook engineer who received it. "DE" is when the company hands an engineer a massive, extra chunk of restricted stock units, worth tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. It's a thank you for a job well done. It also helps keep the person from jumping ship because DE vests over time. These are bonus grants that are signed by top execs, sometimes even CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself. "At Facebook the 'OGs' [Original Gangsters] we know got DE," this former Facebook engineer said. OGs refer to engineers who worked at the company before the IPO. "Their Facebook stock quadruples and they don't leave. They are really good engineers, really indispensable. And then they start to pull 9-5 days," this person said.
Space

SpaceX Releases Animation of Planned Falcon Heavy Launch (gizmodo.com.au) 108

intellitech writes: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently shared a new (and, really freaking cool) animation demonstrating how the company plans to launch the maiden flight of their Falcon Heavy system later this year, which will be the most powerful rocket since the Saturn V used for the moon landings during the Apollo-era. According to Elon Musk's Instragram post, "FH is twice the thrust of the next largest rocket currently flying and ~2/3 thrust of the Saturn V moon rocket." He also reiterates that there's a "lot that can go wrong in the November launch."

Direct link to the YouTube video.

Microsoft

High School Students Compete In 'Microsoft Office Championship' (latimes.com) 103

An anonymous reader writes: This week the L.A. Times described a 17-year-old from Virginia who'd spent several hours a day perfecting his technique in Microsoft Excel, "one of 150 students from 50 countries competing in the Microsoft Office Specialist World Championship" at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim. "At stake: cash, prizes and the clout that comes with being the best in the world at Excel, PowerPoint or Word. 'I'm going to do my best to bring it home for the United States,' John said as he prepared for the competition."

Microsoft's VP of Worldwide Education said the event helps students "to become more employable to companies that build their businesses around the Microsoft suite." For example, the article points out, "Past winners have gone on to attend Ivy League colleges and even work at, yes, Microsoft... Delaware resident Anirudh Narayanan, 17, prepared all summer to compete in the Excel 2013 category, 'looking up obscure facts just in case I might need to know it during the test.' He's hoping the skills he honed will help him at Carnegie Mellon University, where he will begin studying economics in the fall. 'I make sure I do a minimum of five hours a week in Excel,' Anirudh said. 'Then for a while I'll be on YouTube watching videos about Excel.'"

John eventually won the first-place prize in the Excel category -- which was $7,000 and an Xbox.
Google

Google Engineer's Leaked 'Gender Diversity' Essay Draws Massive Response (medium.com) 1122

An anonymous reader writes: An engineer at Google's Mountain View headquarters circulated a 3,400-word essay internally that argued a "moral bias" exists at Google that's "shaming dissenters" and silencing their voices against "encroaching extremist and authoritarian policies." It attributes the gender gap in technology to biology-based differences in abilities (such as "speaking up" and "leading") and different personality traits (including "neuroticism"). Its suggested remedies include "Stop alienating conservatives" (calling it "non-inclusive" and "bad business because conservatives tend to be higher in conscientiousness"), and it also suggests as a solution to "de-emphasize empathy" (which "causes us to focus on anecdotes, favor individuals similar to us, and harbor other irrational and dangerous biases").

As the essay leaked over the weekend, former Google engineer Yonatan Zunger identified its anonymous author as "not someone senior," saying the author didn't seem to understand gender -- or engineering -- or what's going to happen next. "Essentially, engineering is all about cooperation, collaboration, and empathy for both your colleagues and your customers. If someone told you that engineering was a field where you could get away with not dealing with people or feelings, then I'm very sorry to tell you that you have been lied to... It's true that women are socialized to be better at paying attention to people's emotional needs and so on -- this is something that makes them better engineers, not worse ones... You need to learn the difference between 'I think we should adopt Go as our primary language' and 'I think one-third of my colleagues are either biologically unsuited to do their jobs, or if not are exceptions and should be suspected of such until they can prove otherwise to each and every person's satisfaction.'"

The leaked internal essay is now being discussed in literally dozens of news outlets. Click through for some official responses, including leaked reactions from Google's VP of Engineering, from Google's new VP of Diversity, Integrity & Governance -- and from Slashdot's readers.
Red Hat Software

Red Hat Acquires Data-Cleaning Company Permabit (fortune.com) 85

An anonymous reader quotes Fortune: Business software company Red Hat said on Monday that it is acquiring the technology assets of Permabit, a small company that specializes in cleaning up corporate data to make storage more efficient and data access faster. Terms of the deal were not disclosed but a Red Hat spokesman said 16 people from Permabit will be joining that company...

While the conventional wisdom is that data storage is cheap, it is not free. And with companies turning to more expensive flash storage, it saves money to remove redundant data, said Richard Fichera, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research... Red Hat, which sells a version of the Linux operating system used by many Fortune 500 companies, also offers its own storage software. And, it wants to become a more formidable challenger in data storage, a goal that can be furthered by buying Permabit's technology, Fichera said.

Slashdot reader See Attached points out that this week Red Hat also released RHEL 7.4, which introduces support for Network Bound Disk Encryption (NBDE) and system protection against intrusive USB devices.
Businesses

Wells Fargo Sued Again For Misbilling Car Owners And Veterans (reuters.com) 75

UnknowingFool writes: A new class action lawsuit from a former Wells Fargo customer claimed the bank charged loan customers for auto insurance they did not need. With auto loans, the bank often requires that full coverage auto insurance be bought when the loan is made. However, lead plaintiff Paul Hancock says that Wells Fargo charged him for auto insurance even though he informed them he already had an insurance policy with another company. Wells Fargo also charged him a late fee when he disputed the charge. Wells Fargo does not dispute that it did this to customers and has offered to refund $80 million to 570,000 customers who were charged for insurance. The lawsuit however is to recoup late fees, delinquency charges, and other fees that the refund would not cover.
NPR describes Wells Fargo actually repossessing the car of a man who was "marked as delinquent for not paying this insurance -- which he didn't want or need or even know about." Friday the bank also revealed the number of "potentially unauthorized accounts" from its earlier fake accounts scandal could be much higher than previous estimates -- and that they're now expecting their legal costs to exceed the $3.3 billion they'd already set aside.

And Reuters reports that the bank will also be paying $108 million "to settle a whistleblower lawsuit claiming it charged military veterans hidden fees to refinance their mortgages, and concealed the fees when applying for federal loan guarantees."
Open Source

Linux Kernel Hardeners Grsecurity Sue Open Source's Bruce Perens (theregister.co.uk) 306

An anonymous reader shares a report from The Register: In late June, noted open-source programmer Bruce Perens [a longtime Slashdot reader] warned that using Grsecurity's Linux kernel security could invite legal trouble. "As a customer, it's my opinion that you would be subject to both contributory infringement and breach of contract by employing this product in conjunction with the Linux kernel under the no-redistribution policy currently employed by Grsecurity," Perens wrote on his blog. The following month, Perens was invited to court. Grsecurity sued the open-source doyen, his web host, and as-yet-unidentified defendants who may have helped him draft that post, for defamation and business interference. Grsecurity offers Linux kernel security patches on a paid-for subscription basis. The software hardens kernel defenses through checks for common errors like memory overflows. Perens, meanwhile, is known for using the Debian Free Software Guidelines to draft the Open Source Definition, with the help of others.

Grsecurity used to allow others to redistribute its patches, but the biz ended that practice for stable releases two years ago and for test patches in April this year. It offers its GPLv2 licensed software through a subscription agreement. The agreement says that customers who redistribute the code -- a right under the GPLv2 license -- will no longer be customers and will lose the right to distribute subsequent versions of the software. According to Perens, "GPL version 2 section 6 explicitly prohibits the addition of terms such as this redistribution prohibition." A legal complaint (PDF) filed on behalf of Grsecurity in San Francisco, California, insists the company's software complies with the GPLv2. Grsecurity's agreement, the lawsuit states, only applies to future patches, which have yet to be developed. Perens isn't arguing that the GPLv2 applies to unreleased software. Rather, he asserts the GPLv2, under section 6, specifically forbids the addition of contractual terms.

Republicans

Silicon Valley Says Trump Plan To Reduce Immigration Will Hurt Economy (cbslocal.com) 273

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBS Local: President Donald Trump's push to cut legal immigration to the United States in half is being met by opposition from Silicon Valley leaders, economists, and even some Republicans senators, who all say legal immigration is key to economic prosperity. The Trump administration Wednesday endorsed the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act or RAISE Act, a Senate bill introduced by two Republican senators earlier this year, that aims to cut all U.S. immigration in half. Business leaders, especially those in California's tech industry, say the bill will stymie their ability to fill jobs and grow the U.S. economy. California's economy is the sixth largest in the world and many attribute that success, in part, to immigration. The Information Technology Industry Council, which represents companies including Amazon, Apple, Adobe, Dell, Facebook, Hewlett-Packard, Google, Visa, Nokia, and Microsoft railed against the bill.

Dean Garfield, President and CEO of the council said, "This is not the right proposal to fix our immigration system because it does not address the challenges tech companies face, injects more bureaucratic dysfunction, and removes employers as the best judge of the employee merits they need to succeed and grow the U.S. economy." Garfield argues that the tech industry cannot find enough STEM-skilled Americans to fill open positions and that U.S. immigration policy "stops us from keeping the best and brightest innovators here in the U.S. and instead we lose out to our overseas competitors."

Google

Google in Talks To Transform Its Instant News Articles Into a Snapchat Rival (cnbc.com) 15

Google is talking to several publishers about a technology that's similar to Snapchat, according to a Friday report in The Wall Street Journal. From the report: The technology, dubbed "Stamp," could be revealed as soon as next week and contain content from Vox Media, CNN, Mic, the Washington Post and Time, the Journal reported. Stamp is a word play on Google's faster-loading "AMP" articles (the news stories that appear at the top of the page after a Google search), and the "st" in "stories." Snapchat's disappearing publisher content is in a section of the app called "Discover." The ephemeral feature of Snapchat is something Facebook has also mimicked with a feature called "Stories." The report comes on the heels of another report on Business Insider earlier this week which claimed that Google has been trying to acquire Snapchat for sometime. The company, according to a report, offered Snapchat $30 billion.

Slashdot Top Deals