Google violating privacy like Facebook


This 30 January 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Would you give Facebook access to your phone and online activity for $20 a month? Those who installed Facebook’s research app had their information shared with the company — and now, Apple is blocking the controversial app for violating its policies. CNN’s Samuel Burke has more.

Another 30 January 2019 video used to say about itself:

Apple Busts Facebook for Distributing App That Tracked Teen User Data

Apple says Facebook can no longer distribute an app that paid users, including teenagers, to extensively track their phone and web use. In doing so, Apple closed off Facebook‘s efforts to sidestep Apple’s App Store and its tighter rules on privacy. The tech blog TechCrunch reported late Tuesday that Facebook paid people about $20 a month to install and use the Facebook Research app. While Facebook says this was done with permission, the company has a history of defining “permission” loosely and obscuring what data it collects.

From TechCrunch in the USA, 30 January 2019:

Zack Whittaker, Josh Constine, Ingrid Lunden

It looks like Facebook was not the only one abusing Apple’s system for distributing employee-only apps to sidestep the App Store and collect extensive data on users.

Google has been running an app called Screenwise Meter, which bears a strong resemblance to the app distributed by Facebook Research that has now been barred by Apple, TechCrunch has learned.

In its app, Google invites users aged 18 and up (or 13 if part of a family group) to download the app by way of a special code and registration process using an Enterprise Certificate. That’s the same type of policy violation that led Apple to shut down Facebook’s similar Research VPN iOS app, which had the knock-on effect of also disabling usage of Facebook’s legitimate employee-only apps — which run on the same Facebook Enterprise Certificate — and making Facebook look very iffy in the process.

After we asked Google whether its app violated Apple policy, Google announced it will remove Screenwise Meter from Apple’s Enterprise Certificate program and disable it on iOS devices. …

Originally, Screenwise was open to users as young as 13, just like Facebook’s Research app that’s now been shut down on iOS but remains on Android. Now, according to the site’s Panelist Eligibility rules, Google requires the primary users of its Opinion Rewards to be 18 or older, but still allows secondary panelists as young as 13 in the same household to join the program and have their devices tracked …

Putting the not-insignificant issues of privacy aside — in short, many people lured by financial rewards may not fully take in what it means to have a company fully monitoring all your screen-based activity — and the implications of what extent tech businesses are willing to go to to amass more data about users to get an edge on competitors, Google Screenwise Meter for iOS appears to violate Apple’s policy.

FACEBOOK POSTS RECORD PROFIT DESPITE SCANDALS Facebook posted a record $6.9 billion profit for the final three months of 2018 — despite ongoing scandals over privacy. [CNN]

Google violates privacy in the Netherlands: here.

Apple corporation, biggest tax dodgers


This video from the USA says about itself:

Apple: The Biggest Tax Cheaters in History Repatriate Profits Under Trump’s Tax Bill

22 January 2018

What Apple did was outright illegal according to the European Union, but instead of taking legal action against Apple for tax evasion, the Trump tax bill will reward them, says white-collar criminologist Bill Black.

APPLE HITS $1 TRILLION Apple’s market value has hit $1 trillion. For perspective, the gross domestic product of the entire U.S. is just over $18.5 trillion. [HuffPost]

Apple, awash in profits extracted from workers all over the world, has become the first corporation to officially reach the $1 trillion milestone: here.

Apple tax dodging, Irish government crisis?


This video from Ireland says about itself:

Apple Tax protest at Fine Gael HQ

1 September 2016

Sinn Féin Republican Youth protest outside offices of Fine Gael party over decision by government to appeal European ruling that it is owed €13billion in back taxes to the state.

By Robert Stevens:

Irish government crisis over Apple’s €13 billion tax dodge

1 September 2016

The European Union’s decision to fine US tech giant Apple up to €13 billion (US$14.5 billion) for failing to pay taxes at its European corporate headquarters in Ireland, has prompted a major crisis in Irish ruling circles that could lead to the collapse of the government.

The total amount due to the Irish government is around £19 billion, when interest is taken into account.

Shortly after Tuesday’s announcement directing the Irish government to collect legally due taxes from Apple, the right-wing Fine Gael party, which is in a coalition with the Independent Alliance, announced it would appeal the decision. In doing so, it fell into line with Apple, which immediately announced it was appealing. However, Independent Alliance ministers, fearful of mounting public anger, are delaying backing an appeal and are seeking the recall of parliament to discuss the issue.

In a statement summing up the role of governments as servants of big business, Fine Gael Finance Minister Michael Noonan said an appeal would be made “to defend the integrity of our tax system; to provide tax certainty to business; and to challenge the encroachment of EU state aid rules into the sovereign member state competence of taxation.” He added that to collect the taxes owed by Apple would be “destroying the future for short-term advantage.”

Noonan’s comments were a refined version of the apoplectic response from Irish business leaders. Ryanair CEO, Michael O’Leary, declared the ruling “bizarre,” adding, “Frankly the Irish government should turn around—they shouldn’t even appeal the decision—they should just write a letter to Europe and tell them politely to f**k off.”

Following a three-year investigation, the European Commission (EC)—the EU’s executive arm—concluded that Apple had effectively paid a maximum of just 1 percent tax on its European profits in 2003, which had diminished to about 0.005 percent by 2014. Over that entire period, Apple paid just €50 million in tax.

Due to lucrative tax deals granted to it by successive Irish governments, Apple was able to avoid tax on almost all the profit generated from its multi-billion euro sales of iPhones and other products across the EU’s single market.

The EC investigated the activity of two of Apple Inc.’s subsidiaries—Apple Operations Europe (AOE) and Apple Sales International (ASI), both of which were incorporated in Ireland and therefore permitted to record profits in the country. Both subsidiaries had a “Head Office” and an Irish branch, which were known as “Double Irish” schemes. In 2011, ASI made a profit of €16 billion, yet only €50 million of this was allocated to the Irish branch—equivalent to a tax rate of just 0.05 per cent.

“To put that in perspective,” European Commissioner for Violation of EU Treaties, Margrethe Vestager, declared, “it means that for every million euros in profit, it paid just €500 in tax.”

According to Vestager, the vast remaining amount of profit was allocated to what was in reality a fictitious Head Office with “no employees, no premises and no real activities” where it remained untaxed. If the profit had been taxed under Ireland’s corporate rate, the figure of € 13 billion plus interest would have been payable.

Apple first set up operations in Ireland in 1980 after the then government offered the company a deal allowing it to operate virtually tax-free in exchange for locating its European headquarters in the country. Some £7 million was invested and 700 jobs created.

Even though Ireland’s membership of the European Economic Community, (the EU’s predecessor) meant it had to levy taxes on companies operating on its territory, Apple continued to be offered preferential treatment.

The EC’s ruling points out that the selective treatment given to Apple by Ireland through two tax rulings in 1991 and 2007 were illegal under EU guidelines.

The first of these “sweetheart deals” in 1991 resulted in Apple only being taxed on a certain bracket of its earnings. In 2007, the year that Apple first launched the iPhone, the previous deal was renewed giving the corporation access to further tax loopholes.

The courting of Apple was part and parcel of the whole system of subsidies and tax breaks handed out by Irish governments to attract transnational entities and global investment that made Ireland into the so-called “Celtic Tiger.” The country functioned as an offshore financial centre and tax haven. At the same time, Ireland’s membership of the EEC in 1973 was utilized by firms globally to access to the Single European Market and a base from which to avoid and evade taxation.

As of 2016, Ireland hosted over half of the world’s top 50 banks and half of the top 20 insurance companies. In 2013 it hosted nearly 14,000 funds (6,000 of these were Irish-domiciled) administering an estimated €3.7 trillion—up from $840 billion a decade earlier. Today, corporate tax rates are 12.5 percent, compared to 50 percent in 1988 and the top rate of income tax is just 40 percent, compared to 65 percent.

The “Double Irish” strategy and other deals have enabled Apple to dodge US taxes on an estimated $181 billion in profits, contributing to the company amassing a cash hoard of over $230 billion. The €13 billion owed in Ireland equates to just 27 percent of the profit Apple made just in 2015.

The world’s major conglomerates and super-rich are up to their necks in similar financial swindles. Another “Double Irish” scheme saw an Irish subsidiary of Facebook shift profits of €1.75 billion in 2012 to another subsidiary in the Cayman Islands and post a pre-tax loss of €626,000 instead. Google dodged $2 billion a year in taxes using a “Double Irish” scheme via the Netherlands and Bermuda.

The cost to the Irish working class and society is staggering. It is estimated that the €13 billion tax withheld from the public purse by the Apple deal equates to €2,500 for every man, woman and child. It would cover the cost of Ireland’s annual healthcare budget, used by 4.5 million people, two-thirds of the social welfare budget or 20 new hospitals.

This pillaging of vast public resources must be understood in the context of the even larger bailout of the banks and super-rich that took place in Ireland following the 2008 global financial crash.

The EU, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank arranged an €85 billion bailout in 2010 for the Irish financial elite to avoid the collapse of the major banks. The borrowing undertaken as part of the bailout has already cost the Irish state almost €9 billion to service.

The Irish population was made to pay for this, plunging millions into poverty. … Eight austerity budgets were passed between 2008 and 2014 involving €18.5 billion in public-spending cuts. Nearly 40,000 public sector jobs were lost and health spending cut by 27 percent. On top of this €17 billion of Ireland’s national pension reserve was seized to pay off the bailout.

Sinn Féin Seanad Leader Rose Conway-Walsh has submitted a formal request for a recall of the Seanad to discuss the EU Commission ruling on Apple’s Irish tax arrangements: here.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Apple’s slap on the wrist

Thursday 1st Septermber 2016

THE European Commission’s ruling that Apple must pay €13 billion in back taxes to the Republic of Ireland should mislead no-one into believing that the EU is now the defender of working people against rapacious transnational corporations.

Far from it. The first of the “four pillars” of the EU single market guarantees the “free movement of goods, persons, services and capital between member states” — ie corporations and banks can move money around anywhere they like, to maximise their profits.

The “race to the bottom” by EU member states over corporation tax rates causes no problem for the European Commission.

Nor is it concerned that Ireland has, with Cyprus, the second-lowest such rate — 12.5 per cent, behind Bulgaria’s 10 per cent.

What really annoys the Commission is that Apple seems to have had some sort of preferential treatment, which amounted to a form of state aid — a violation of the “third pillar” of the single market.

Ireland’s arrangements with Apple between 1991 and 2015 had allowed the US company to split profits from sales in Europe, India, Africa and the Middle East between an Irish branch company and a so-called international headquarters, which existed only on paper.

The Irish branch was subject to the 12.5 per cent corporation tax, while the headquarters paid nothing.

By 2014, Apple was paying only €50 on each €1 million of profit, a rate of 0.005 per cent.

Apple is not the only transnational corporation in the EU to avoid taxes by such “sweetheart deals.”

The Commission has ruled that Fiat was involved in a wheeze with Luxembourg, and Starbucks with the Netherlands, while Amazon is under investigation too.

However, Apple’s arrangement has been the most lucrative by far, so the Commission had to be seen to be acting, if only to prevent the anarchy of other EU member states adopting the same approach as Ireland.

Of course, so far this is only a ruling and both Apple and the Irish government intend to appeal — ironically in the latter case, given the enormous price in austerity measures that the Irish people had to pay to bail out their banks after the 2007-9 crisis.

It was Ireland’s accession to the euro which fuelled property speculation, as European Central Bank interest rates were lower than domestic rates would have been; and it was the free movement of capital under EU rules which allowed the Irish banks to borrow so heavily abroad to sustain that property bubble.

Apple can easily afford to pay, as it is sitting on assets in cash and securities equivalent to more than €200bn.

But by imposing this €13bn tax payment, the Commission is allowing Apple to avoid the higher corporation tax rates where it makes the sales — ie it is a slap on the wrist, warning the company that it risks upsetting the whole (apple) cart if it doesn’t play by the rules.

Meanwhile, rumours circulating about Theresa May’s “brainstorm” session on Brexit at Chequers yesterday suggest that the Tories are set to cut Britain’s corporation tax from the current level of 20 per cent, and indeed this could start as early as Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement.

The lesson for Britain’s labour movement is that there has to be a different way forward.

Staying in the EU means austerity, privatisation and a ban on state aid for industry, but freedom for transnational corporations — providing they stick within the rules.

Brexit on the Tories’ terms will mean much the same. We should not be dependent on the largesse of trans­national corporations seeking a cheap place to invest.

We need EU exit on working-class terms, including democratic control of our economy, so that it can be run in the interests of people, not private profit.

Irish government to appeal European Commission ruling on Apple’s tax bill: here.

Irish government defends tax dodging by Apple: here.

ALLEGATIONS AROUND APPLE’S SEXIST WORK ENVIRONMENT Mic investigates the struggles women, who make up only a third of Apple’s workforce, face at the premier tech company. [Mic]

Edward Snowden ‘is a hero’, Apple founder says


This video says about itself:

Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden live on Stage at #CGC15

18 March 2015

Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden live on Stage at the CeBIT Global Conferences 2015.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak describes NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as a ‘total hero’

Said that Snowden ‘gave up his own life’ to expose scale of NSA surveillance

Rose Troup Buchanan

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak has called NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden a “total hero”.

Wozniak said Snowden’s relative youth when he informed the Guardian and The New York Times of the data leak – thus effectively ending the possibility of a normal life in the US – made him even more remarkable.

Snowden, who was 28 when he leaked thousands of highly classified documents he acquired while working for the US National Security Agency (NSA), has been both vilified and praised for his actions.

Total hero to me; total hero,” Wozniak told ITP.net. “Not necessarily [for] what he exposed, but the fact that he internally came from his own heart, his own belief in the United States Constitution, what democracy and freedom was about.”

The American inventor and electronics engineer, who set up Apple with Steve Jobs before leaving the company in the eighties, has defended Snowden before.

“So he’s a hero to me, because he gave up his own life to do it,” Wozniak told the technology paper.

“And he was a young person, to give up his life. But he did it for reasons of trying to help the rest of us and not just mess up a company he didn’t like,” he added.

Almost two years on from Snowden’s leak, opinion still rages over the acceptable limits of government supervision and access to private individuals’ lives – a topic touched on by Wozniak.

He told the newspaper he was concerned that his technological creations may have allowed authorities’ far greater access than any could have anticipated.

The US Senate convenes May 31 in a rare Sunday afternoon session called by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to forestall the expiration of Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. This section of the vast police-state law passed in 2001 has been used as the basis for the National Security Agency’s collection of telephone metadata on every phone call made in the United States, as well as authorizing other forms of domestic spying: here.

Occupy Wall Street, Steve Jobs dies, and the media


This video from the USA is called Occupy Wall Street.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

We choose our own heroes

Thursday 06 October 2011

It’s a most peculiar aspect of the human condition, this penchant for seeking heroes at any opportunity.

And it’s only encouraged by substandard, cut-rate journalism in the mainstream media, which delights in personalising everything in terms of celebrity, rather than treating news in terms of how it affects the broad mass of people.

We’ve been treated to a good slice of that over the last week.

Thousands of US citizens have been marching and demonstrating in Wall Street and in cities all across the United States this week under banners declaiming that there “must be a better way than capitalism.”

Trade unions have been backing them and thousands of union members have joined the marches.

Service Employees International Union vice-president Victor Rivera said that the union was there “to support this movement against Wall Street’s greed.”

This confluence of anti-capitalist and trade union forces in the heartland of capitalism itself could be hugely significant, but you wouldn’t think so from the relatively minor coverage that it gained in Britain’s press.

By contrast, the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs yesterday swamped the media.

In death, he seems to have been elevated to the status of some kind of folk-hero, with hours of TV coverage eulogising him and his “legacy.”

But just what was this man and what is this so-called “legacy?”

Well, let’s look at it.

Apple is a company that produces a tiny proportion of the computers available in the market although, by dint of ferocious protection of its patents, a fixation on the trendy appearance of its machinery and intensive and hugely expensive marketing of its overpriced products, has managed to become one of the most valuable companies in the world.

But it wasn’t always so successful, in fact it damn nearly went bankrupt in the late 1990s and was only bailed out by a $150 million investment by, believe it or not, its major competitor Microsoft.

It is widely believed that this investment was driven not by normal commercial motivations, but by Microsoft‘s desperate need to have a smaller competitor in the market and thus avoid anti-monopoly actions under US anti-trust laws which might have led to the enforced break-up of the computer giant.

So it might fairly be said that, if such is the case, Apple merely exists to act as protective colouration for its big brother Microsoft.

And it’s not just protectionism and overpricing that drove Apple’s success.

The company has faced a continuous barrage of attacks over employment practises by its suppliers.

Manufacturers of its iPod and iPad ranges have been accused of operating under sweatshop conditions and, although Apple has stated that it would not tolerate such behaviour from its suppliers, it is apparently still associated with them.

Ex-employees, black organisations and minority rights groups in the US have also campaigned against the company’s employment policies in the past and a succession of suicides at Apple suppliers drew heavy criticism as late as last year.

Well, that’s your folk-hero’s firm.

So the Morning Star has decided that we want our own US folk-heroes and the late Mr Jobs doesn’t qualify.

We nominate every last one of those courageous individuals who are taking on capitalism in the belly of the beast on the streets of New York and across the US.

They’ll do us for an image which lifts the US from predator to a country in which at least some of its working class aren’t being fooled by cardboard cutout silicon superheroes.

Did the Media Stumble With Steve Jobs Coverage? Here.

The Price of Apple. James Kwak, The Baseline Scenario: “Most of us already realized, on an intellectual level, that the stuff we buy is made by people overseas who, in general, have much less than we do and work harder than we do, under tougher working conditions. It’s harder to ignore, however, listening to Daisey talk about the long shifts (up to thirty-four hours, apparently), the crippling injuries due to repetitive stress or hazardous chemicals, the crammed dormitories, and the authoritarian rules”: here.

Apple Store Workers Long on Loyalty But Short on Pay: here.

Why Did Steve Job’s Death Affect People Who Never Knew Him? Here.

Steve Jobs’ ex-girlfriend pens memoir on life with ‘vicious’ Apple founder. Chrisann Brennan, the mother of Jobs’ eldest child, writes in The Bite in the Apple how success turned Jobs into a ‘demon’: here.

USA: Why Do Some Democratic Senators Want To Protect Tax Loophole For Hedge Fund Managers? Here.

Smartphones’ privacy problems


This video says about itself:

Researchers claim travelling around using an Apple iPhone secretly tracks and records your every move. They argue that software on your phone has been tailing you for nearly a year and that’s raising big questions about personal privacy.

From daily News Line in England:

Saturday, 23 April 2011

THE POLICE SPY IN YOUR POCKET

THE millions of people throughout the world who rushed out last June to buy the latest must-have piece of technology from the Apple company got a shock this week when researchers revealed that what they had bought was a permanent surveillance device, capable of tracking and recording their every move.

The Apple iPhone contains a nasty bit of software that does not appear in any brochure and which can’t be switched off by the owner.

This records exactly where the owner goes and this information is then recorded along with the exact time.

The thing, of course, about this unsolicited aspect of the commodity’s use value is that its principal user is the state, and its police forces.

The information recorded on the iPhone is also copied onto any computer to which the phone has been attached.

Any information that is copied can be made available to anyone with access to either the iPhone or the computer and all without the owner’s knowledge.

Apple is not alone in producing this type of commodity with this use value. The most popular smartphones on the market are the so-called Android phones which have virtually the same capability but appear to retain the information for a shorter period of time.

This use of technology to track and monitor the behaviour of individuals is, of course, nothing new, since every advance in technology is seized upon by the capitalist state to enable its maximum use for spying, security or military purposes.

Mobile phones have always had the capability of pinpointing a person’s location, what is new is that whereas in the past this information was held by the mobile phone companies for a legally specified period of time and accessible to the police only by means of a court order, today anyone getting hold of your phone or access to your computer – by hacking it – can get even more accurate information.

Technology has long been used by the capitalist state to police the activities of workers, unions and anyone considered a danger to it.

In 2001 the European Parliament issued a report that stated that every e-mail, telephone call or fax message sent within Europe was routinely intercepted and recorded by the security services.

The recent revelations about the illegal activities of undercover police provocateurs in the environmental movement gave a glimpse of the lengths the state is prepared to go to protect the interests of the capitalist class.

In addition, the police in Britain are now acquiring the use of high-tech, unmanned drones to use for surveillance in urban areas.

This massive increase in surveillance by the capitalist state is cloaked in platitudes about it being solely used for crime prevention – but the fact of life today is that capitalism in its death agony sees every worker fighting for their job, every community fighting against hospital closures and every union fighting against the destruction of the welfare state as engaging in a ‘criminal action’ that must be dealt with in order that the bankers can survive and capitalism be kept going.

The ruling class throughout the world has declared civil war on its own working class and imperialist war on the workers and masses of the ex-colonial countries in its increasingly desperate struggle to survive. Behind all the words about the ‘freedom of the individual’ is the crudest possible suppression of freedom, using both the cruise missile and modern methods of communication.

Technology is being used not to liberate humankind but to subjugate it, control it, and murder it in the name of private profit.

See also here. And here.

Juan Cole, Truthdig: “President Barack Obama is actually siding with police who want to use GPS devices to track you without a warrant. It always disturbed me when on ‘Star Trek’ the captain asked the ship’s computer where a crew member was and was told the person’s exact location… Is America heading toward being one big star ship, where government officials can casually inquire at will into our whereabouts and private doings? Among the many elements of the Obama administration that have disappointed civil libertarians is its interest in spying on Americans”: here.

Your iPhone will track you–even after you say stop: here.

France probes iPhone privacy: here.

99% of Android Phones Leak Personal Data: here.

Computer security firm viaForensics recently found that top apps for Android and iPhone devices may leave customer data exposed to hackers: here.

Britain: Schools are snooping on social networking sites and Googling potential candidates before appointing new staff, teachers were warned today: here.

USA: The Department of Homeland Security has requested that Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox browser, remove an add-on that allows web surfers to access websites whose domain names were seized by the government for copyright infringement, Mozilla’s lawyer said Thursday: here.

Factories making sought-after Apple iPads and iPhones in China are forcing staff to sign pledges not to commit suicide, an investigation has revealed. At least 14 workers at Foxconn factories in China have killed themselves in the last 16 months as a result of horrendous working conditions: here.

Foxconn Factory’s Violations: iPad Factory Workers’ Grievances Detailed In Report: here.

US Internet service providers join big media in copyright crackdown: here.

Twenty-seven thousand South Koreans filed a civil suit against electronics giant Apple today, suing for almost 28 billion won (£15.3 million) in damages for alleged privacy violations: here.

Computer revolution reaches North Korea: here.

Chinese environmentalists issued a report on Wednesday accusing US-based transnational Apple of breaching its own corporate responsibility standards by using suppliers that violate the law and endanger public health by discharging heavy metals and other toxins: here.

Apple, iTunes, and music fans


This video from the USA says about itself:

Apple Keynote Bloopers

Some funny clips of Steve Jobs and his gang over at Apple messing up on their very important keynotes.

By Mike Ingram:

Behind Apple’s decision to drop anti-copying measures in iTunes

19 January 2009

Apple’s decision to drop the anti-copying protection known as Digital Rights Management (DRM) has received a mixed response from consumers and music fans across the world.

The removal of DRM, which limits the devices authorized to play songs purchased on iTunes, is a welcome move and may well attract new customers to iTunes who previously shied away because of these limitations. But for existing iTunes users, things don’t look so good.

Apple is offering customers the possibility to upgrade their music collection to the new 256k DRM-free downloads at a cost of 30 cents per audio track, or 60 cents per video track. The upgrade is offered only as an all or nothing plan. It is not possible to upgrade individual tracks, only your entire library. The full cost of an upgrade will not be apparent until the entire iTunes library has been converted over to the new format. Apple says that about 8 million of its 10 million songs are now converted.

WHAT’S IN YOUR IPHONE: “Benzene and n-hexane are chemicals thought to cause cancer and nerve damage, and they both have been used in the final assembly of Apple’s iPhones, iPads, iPods, and Mac computers — until now. The tech giant announced Wednesday that it is banning the use of benzene and n-hexane in the final assembly of all of its devices, according to The Associated Press. The prohibition is said to be part of Apple’s effort to protect factory workers who build its gadgets.” [CNET]