Mark Wilson

Ahead of iPhone 7 launch, Apple faces $14.5 billion bill for 'illegal tax benefits' in Ireland

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Apple is facing a bill of €13 billion (around $14.5 billion) after the European Commission ruled that Ireland granted the company illegal tax benefits. Ireland permitted Apple to pay "substantially less tax than other businesses", and the Commission has decided that not only is this illegal, but the money must be recovered.

A three-year investigation concluded that Apple was paying corporation tax of just 1 percent in Ireland. The tax arrangement meant that Apple's tax bill was "artificially lowered" -- down to as low as 0.005 percent in 2014. Ireland is used by many technology companies for its favorable tax rates, but the European Commission's ruling could have implications not just for Apple, but for its rivals and contemporaries.

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New Google app wants to crowdsource your help... for free

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On all mobile platforms -- and, indeed, desktop ones -- there are no end of apps and websites that can be used to earn money and other rewards in return for providing feedback. Google, however, has a different idea.

The company has released a new app for Android called Crowdsource. The idea is to improve the likes of Google Maps and Google Translate with input from the likes of you and I. But rather than paying contributors -- or even offering any kind of incentive -- Google is rather cheekily looking for help completely gratis.

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Latest Surface Pro 3 update fixes battery problems

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If your Surface Pro 3 has been plagued with battery issues, Microsoft has some good news for you -- there's now a fix available. Not that there was actually a problem in the first place, you understand...

While many people were under the impression that their Surface Pro 3 had developed a physical battery problem, an issue with the firmware was preventing it from being fully charged.

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Kim Dotcom's extradition hearing will be 'live' streamed on YouTube

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Kim Dotcom has never been a man to shy away from the public eye, and his upcoming trial is not going to see that change. Facing extradition to the US where he faces numerous charges, Dotcom has won the right to have the hearing live streamed on YouTube.

It's fair to say that there will be a good deal of interest in the content and outcome of the hearing, but the judge who agreed to the live streaming has insisted that a few restrictions be put in place. Firstly there will be a 20-minute delay (so not technically a 'live' stream), and comments will be disabled as well.

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Iran starts to roll out its own 'domestic internet'

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Iran, much like China, is not a country that has the best reputation when it comes to granting citizens unfettered access to the internet. Now, a new initiative is underway, which sees the roll out of its own 'domestic internet', dubbed the National Information Network.

The country is rolling out its own national internet in a bid to provide affordable internet access to people, but there are concerns that there will be severe limits placed on online activity. Iran already blocks access to the likes of Facebook and Twitter, and a government-controlled internet, it is feared, could lead to a further erosion of privacy and individual control.

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Facebook embraces algorithms and eschews human headlines in trending topics

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Facebook's Trending Topics feature has faced a good deal of criticism in recent months, including claims that it showed a liberal bias. A little while back the company announced that it was to change how the feature works, and now there is a further change which sees human headline writers being defenestrated, and algorithms ushered in the front door.

What this means is that the Trending Topics list will no longer feature an explanation or description next to it, only the topic heading or hashtag will be displayed. Facebook will no doubt hope that this will help to eliminate future complaints of human intervention into the topics that are pushed on the social network.

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Opera sync servers hacked, usernames and passwords at risk

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Opera Software is advising all users of the sync feature of its Opera browser to change their passwords following a security breach. Details are a little scant at the moment, but the company says that servers were breached earlier in the week and user data may have been compromised.

Opera Sync is used to synchronize user data between different computers but it is apparently used by under "0.5% of the total Opera user base". However, with a user base of 350 million this means that upwards of 1.7 million people could be affected.

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Information Commissioner to investigate data sharing between WhatsApp and Facebook

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WhatsApp's plans to share user data with Facebook are to be investigated by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) in the UK. The change in privacy policy goes against a previous public commitment not to share data in this way.

The ICO has the power to regulate how companies make use of data belonging to people located in the UK, even if the companies themselves are located elsewhere. A key concern is whether there will be compliance with data protection laws.

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Serious security vulnerability that left iPhones open to hackers is patched in iOS 9.3.5

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Security researchers have unearthed three serious security flaws in iOS that made it possible to install spyware and other malware on iPhones. Software exploiting the vulnerabilities (described as "one of the most sophisticated pieces of cyberespionage software we've ever seen") can be installed with a single click, opening up victims' devices to full-scale surveillance.

The security holes have already been abused by NSO Group -- linked with selling hacking and surveillance software to governments -- but Apple has now issued a fix in the form of iOS 9.3.5. The update fixed two kernel vulnerabilities and one in WebKit, all discovered by Citizen Lab and Lookout.

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Dropbox tells some users to change their passwords following 2012 security incident

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Dropbox users around the world are being told to change their account passwords. Anyone who has been using the cloud storage service since before the middle of 2012 and has not changed their password may have had some of their account details 'obtained' in an incident in 2012.

Dropbox says that email addresses plus hashed and salted passwords were grabbed four years ago. The company stresses that there are no indications that accounts have been improperly accessed and the security measures are being taken on a preventative basis.

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WhatsApp's new privacy policy reveals it will share data with Facebook for targeted user ads

Messaging service smartphone WhatsApp

The ever-popular messaging tool WhatsApp is to start sharing more user data with its parent company Facebook. The updated privacy policy means that WhatsApp will now share users' phone numbers with Facebook to "offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads".

The updated policy also communicates the fact that end-to-end encryption has rolled out, but it is the privacy side of things that will be of greater interest to many people.

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Microsoft reveals the secrets of HoloLens' specs, including a 24-core processor

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At the Hot Chips conference this week, Microsoft has shed some light on the hitherto secretive specifications of its augmented reality HoloLens. Now that anyone with $3,000 spare is able to buy a headset, there's never been more interest in what's actually inside the case powering the AR goodness.

The holographic processing unit (HPU) at the heart of HoloLens is a seriously multi-cored beast. The Register reports that it is a "TSMC-fabricated 28nm coprocessor that has 24 Tensilica DSP cores". Of course, there's much more to the device than just this chip.

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Android 7.0 Nougat starts to roll out to Nexus devices

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There have been numerous beta versions of Android 7.0 Nougat, and now the official rollout is underway. This is not a full-scale rollout just yet -- it's limited to the Nexus 6P, 5X, 6, 9, and Nexus Player, as well as the Pixel C and General Mobile 4G.

You'll notice that the Nexus 5 is missing from the list, but the remainder of the handsets are in line for an OTA update anytime over the coming weeks starting today. If you're impatient, you can always download the factory images and flash your device manually, but whichever route you go down, what do you have to look forward to?

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Privacy-flouting, Apple-only social app Lifestage is Facebook's desperate attempt to stay relevant to teens

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Facebook has become so ubiquitous that even your mum is using it. This is just one of the many reasons the social networking giant has lost any vestiges of coolness, but the company is keen to try to claw some back.

The latest attempt to get down with the kids is a new social app called Lifestage. Aimed at 'high schoolers' the app is available for iPhone and iPad and for those with a profile it "makes it easy and fun to share a visual profile of who you are with your school network". It looks and sounds godawful, and comes across as a privacy nightmare.

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Samsung is planning an Apple-style refurbished phone program

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If you want to get your hands on cheaper Apple products, you can opt for the secondhand market on eBay, or you could go for an official refurbished device from the company itself. Not wanting to miss out on a trick, Samsung looks set to launch its own refurbished smartphone program.

Citing "a person with direct knowledge of the matter", Reuters says the program could launch as early as next year. With Samsung hardware selling for something of a premium -- particularly flagships like the Galaxy Note7 -- consumers are as keen to seek out a saving as Samsung is to ensure ongoing profit in an ever-competitive market.

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