Australia’s largest financial ratbag, the Commonwealth Bank, has announced they will give its customers the luxury, the privilege, of Apple Pay in Jan 2019. That leaves just Westpac and NAB as pretty much the only banks in Australia without it. CBA’s Group Executive of Retail Banking Services, Angus Sullivan said “we recently wrote to our customers asking them what the bank could do differently and we received lots of excellent suggestions. One of the things we heard repeatedly from our customers is that they want Apple Pay”. No shit Angus, they’ve been saying this for years mate! I wonder when the other two banks will cave in, can’t be long now?
There’s been a spate of bomb threats in the US, Canada and NZ aimed at businesses, asking for a ransom in Bitcoins. The email is sent to someone at the business, claims to have their “mercenary” on-site with a bomb who is watching the “situation” at the building. If they detect any funny business like cops or evacuations, they’ll detonate the bomb. The easy way to avoid this is to send them USD$20,000 worth of Bitcoin by the end of the working day and they’ll direct the mercenary (lol) to go home. Police are saying to inform them of any emails like this, but not to panic as they’re bullshit. Assassinations, drugs, ransomware and now bomb hoaxes – I love Bitcoin.
Jerry Shen, the wanna-be Steve Jobs of Taiwan, the CEO of Asus, is resigning after 11 years at the helm. Jerry was all about turning Asus from a commodity PC component manufacturer into a consumer electronics powerhouse, selling phones, laptops and tablets in the same fashion as Apple. By all metrics, he failed. Asus laptops are okay, but nobody wants an Asus phone, they suck. (disclaimer: I’ve been paid in the past by Asus to write advertising copy, but never got paid enough to pretend they can make a decent smartphone). Asus is now going to focus on the thing it seems to be very good at, gaming hardware and gaming related paraphernalia. Prepare yourself for fewer awkward smartphone keynotes and more ROG SWIFT flashing LEDs on things they don’t belong.
Acer, Atlassian, Citrix, Dimension Data, IBM, Ingram Micro, HP, NEC, Ricoh, SAP, Sharp, Toshiba, Vodafone – these are some of the tech companies that did not pay tax in Australia in 2016/2017 according to an ATO transparency report. 751 technology companies all up didn’t pay a thing mostly because they didn’t turn a profit (on paper at least), but a few made over billion dollars, like IBM and HP, in revenue here in Australia and got away without paying a cent in tax. Atlassian made $117m in taxable income but didn’t pay anything either. Apple paid $81.4m in tax on Aussie revenue of $8b, Google paid $33m on revenue of $1.49b and Microsoft paid $53.5m in tax on revenue of $1.06b. Telstra paid by far the most tax – $1.64b in tax with a revenue of $26.95b.
Google has decided not to offer “general-purpose facial recognition APIs before working through important technology and policy questions”. They reckon that the technology can be super useful (detecting eye disease humans can’t in India, conserving native birds in NZ, etc.), but is still too easy to abuse, so for now they’re keeping it in house and deciding on a case by case basis where to apply facial recognition tech. This is in stark contrast to Amazon, who are offering it to anyone who wants it via their Rekognition service on AWS. The ACLU is happy about Google taking this step, saying it shows they’re is listening to community concern. Maybe those employee protests are influencing Google’s decision to take it easy here too?
Signal is one of the most secure messaging apps around, so it’s no surprise that people are wondering what the impact of the Assistance and Access law would be for it. They’ve put up a blog post explaining that they’d never put in a backdoor and don’t even know how such a thing would work with their protocol setup. Then there’s the fact if the binary distributed on the AU app stores was cooked by the cops in some way, people will just change their app store region, or download an APK directly off the Signal website. Basically anyone who is up to something that the cops might be watching will probably be able to easily evade the kind of surveillance the A&A law enables. It’ll probably only catch the dumb crooks that could have been nabbed without such a powerful law and without the negative side-effects it introduces.
Arstechnica finally got to talk to someone that’s been a passenger in a Waymo robocar and isn’t held hostage by an NDA. A “Phoenix-area technologist and entrepreneur named Michael Richardson” said that his rides with Waymo have been relatively uneventful. There’s a safety driver in the passenger seat, who has had to take over at least once in the handful of rides he’s taken. The routes Waymo takes are kinda crappy as it avoids freeways and left hand turns (Yanks drive on the wrong side of the road remember) as those are easier for the computer to handle. The main thing that stopped him using Waymo more often was the small coverage area and limited pick-up/drop-off points. It’s cool this tech exists and Waymo are being somewhat conservative, but it still feels a decade or more away until you could get away without a safety driver or have no restrictions on where it can operate.
That’s it, see ya Monday!