Forget Dropbox, here’s Drobo-box: Small-biz array meets Barracuda cloud

Security appliance maker Barracuda Networks has agreed to marry its online file-sharing service to storage biz Drobo’s box of hard drives called 5N.

People can upload and download files to and from Barracuda’s Copy cloud, and share their data between desktop computers, iPhones, iPads, iPods, Android devices and Microsoft’s Surface slabs. The accompanying app and basic service offers 5GB of space for free. There are also group sharing functions.

Now Drobo, as part of today’s announced partnership, will plug its 5N desktop filer into Copy’s systems: each box will be able to extend its local storage and document sharing into the Barracuda cloud and back up its data to the remote service. An app for the 5N that can access Copy will ship in March — via

Amazon fires alleged neo-nazi German security firm

Online shopping giant Amazon fired a German security firm Monday, after a television documentary accused the company of mistreating foreign workers.

Amazon had been facing mounting criticism over the firm’s alleged mistreatment of temporary workers over the holiday season.

A spokeswoman for Amazon in Germany said they had terminated their association with Hensel European Security Services with immediate effect, according to the Associated Press — via

New Zealand to act on tobacco packaging

New Zealand says it will put all tobacco products into plain packaging, following the landmark move by Australia last year.

A review had shown it would help reduce the appeal of smoking and better publicise health risks, Associate Minister of Health Tariana Turia said.

The government acknowledged possible challenges from tobacco companies.

It will introduce laws later this year but wait for the outcome of legal cases in Australia before enforcing them.

As in Australia, packaging would carry large, graphic health warnings and be stripped of branding.

Currently the packaging does everything it can to attract consumers and increase the perceived appeal and acceptability of smoking, Ms Turia said in a statement — via

Amazon used neo-Nazi guards to keep immigrant workforce under control in Germany

Amazon is at the centre of a deepening scandal in Germany as the online shopping giant faced claims that it employed security guards with neo-Nazi connections to intimidate its foreign workers.

Germany’s ARD television channel made the allegations in a documentary about Amazon’s treatment of more than 5,000 temporary staff from across Europe to work at its German packing and distribution centres.

The film showed omnipresent guards from a company named HESS Security wearing black uniforms, boots and with military haircuts. They were employed to keep order at hostels and budget hotels where foreign workers stayed. Many of the workers are afraid, the programme-makers said.

The documentary provided photographic evidence showing that guards regularly searched the bedrooms and kitchens of foreign staff. They tell us they are the police here, a Spanish woman complained. Workers were allegedly frisked to check they had not walked away with breakfast rolls — via

AOL Is the Weirdest Successful Tech Company in America

It’s a historic day for one of America’s most confounding companies.

AOL ended an eight-year money-losing slump in 2012, the company announced this morning, as all of its divisions ended the year quasi-profitable for the first time under Tim Armstrong’s reign as CEO.

AOL was dubbed by some the hottest tech stock of 2012. You might question the use of the word hottest in that label, but it’s kind of true. Tim Armstrong is doing something right …

… but what is that, exactly? — via

A $24.4 Billion Bet on Dell’s Future

Michael Dell is taking the company that bears his name private. As rumored, Dell has signed a leveraged buyout agreement worth $24.4 billion.

Dell, the company’s founder, chairman and CEO, in partnership with global technology investment firm Silver Lake Partners and backed in part with Microsoft’s money, will acquire Dell. Dell stockholders will receive $13.65 in cash for each share of Dell common stock they hold.

The price represents a 25 percent premium over Dell’s closing share price of $10.88 on Jan. 11, 2013. The Dell board unanimously approved a merger agreement, which will ultimately see Dell and Silver Lake take the company private.

It’s not a done deal yet. The merger agreement provides for a so-called go-shop period, during which the Special Committee — with the assistance of Evercore Partners — will actively solicit, receive, evaluate and potentially enter into negotiations with parties that offer alternative proposals. The initial go-shop period is 45 days. The agreement also must be approved by a vote of unaffiliated shareholders — via

Axed HMVers hijack official Twitter stream

Axed HMV workers hijacked the music retailer’s Twitter stream to tell the world of a mass execution taking place at HQ.

A fortnight ago HMV — an abbreviation of His Master’s Voice — called in the administrators when bosses realised they were likely to miss banking covenants at the end of January.

Deloitte was brought on board to seek a way forward for the ailing biz but confirmed yesterday it was slashing 190 jobs from HMV’s head office and the distribution network.

But amusingly a running commentary on developments at corp HQ was provided by staffers who had seized control of HMV’s official Twitter feed.

There are over 60 of us being fired at once! Mass execution, of loyal employees who love the brand. #hmvXFactorFiring, the staffer said.

We’re tweeting live from HR where we’re all being fired, it added — via

Private health contractor’s staff told to cut 999 calls to meet targets

Call handlers staffing an out-of-hours GP service run by the private contractor Serco have been told to make new checks before calling 999 when they receive what appear to be emergency cases in order to cut down the number of referrals they make to the ambulance service.

The Guardian has also seen a management email to staff describing how they should manipulate their computer system in order to meet targets set down in the company’s contract on 999 responses.

Serco introduced a new cost-saving NHS IT system to the out-of-hours service it runs in Cornwall last summer as required by the local commissioners, enabling it to replace skilled clinicians with call-handlers without medical training who follow a computer-generated script to assess patients. The move triggered a fourfold increase in ambulance call-outs.

An email from Serco managers to staff this month, leaked by a whistle-blower to the Guardian, instructed call-handlers to “stop the clock” if the IT system reaches a screen telling the operator to make a 999 call while they check it. Staff have expressed concern that this might delay an ambulance in a real emergency and that the new system is not sophisticated enough to distinguish between urgent and less serious cases — via

PayPal: Aggressive changes coming to frozen funds policy

PayPal’s overzealous fraud filters have frustrated customers for years, with an inscrutable verification process that leaves some battling for months to get access to their money.

The eBay-owned payments processor, like other financial companies, has policies in place to ensure that fraudsters aren’t using its system to transfer ill-gotten gains. But PayPal also traps legitimate businesses and charities in its filters, and proving you’re no scam involves a ton of paperwork and time.

PayPal says it’s finally ready to deal with the problem. It’s promising to roll out a massive overhaul of its system within the next several months — but details are scant for now — via

Why The Atlantic’s Scientology Advertorial Was Bad

The Atlantic has apologised for the way they handled a sponsored article about Scientology on their website last night. That’s good, and necessary. (It belongs on their actual website, rather than in an email campaign, but whatever.)

The magazine would doubtless like for this to be the end of the discussion, and it probably will be. Most readers will forget it happened, except the ones who already hated the magazine. But the thing that happened last night is interesting for a couple of reasons, and I think it’s worth actually laying them out before we all agree to drop it and hope it never happens again. Specifically, there are two kinds of <>bad to talk about, here, and it’s very hard to talk about them at the same time, so I won’t — via

Guardian News & Media to launch digital Australia edition

The Guardian is to launch a digital edition in Australia, backed by internet entrepreneur and philanthropist Graeme Wood.

Katharine Viner, the Guardian’s deputy editor, will be relocating to Sydney to head up and launch the venture later this year, which follows publisher Guardian News & Media’s move to establish a US digital operation in 2011.

Paul Chadwick, the outgoing director of editorial policy at Australian public service broadcaster ABC, will become a non-executive director of Guardian Australia.

This is such an exciting time to be launching the Guardian in Australia, said Viner. We already have a large number of Australian readers, who tell us they want more of our on-the-ground reporting, lively commentary and groundbreaking open journalism — via

Photographer sues over stolen photo

You could call it the quintessential Newcastle summer snapshot: a lone surfer walking across the rocks near Merewether beach in search of a wave.

In fact, it was such a good shot that the photographer, Gateshead’s Naomi Frost, believes someone stole the image, printed it on thousands of T-shirts and sold them through menswear giant Lowes — via

Corruption runs deep in Turkish universities, hacker group shows

Turkish hacker group RedHack has leaked over 60,000 documents in its latest attack on the Council of Higher Education of Turkey (YÖK) website, unravelling hundreds of corruption investigations and documented incidents.

In a counter-move taken after last month’s clashes between students and police at the Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ), RedHack took over the YÖK website, defacing a sub-domain and leaking tens of thousands of cables.

A number of the documents were confidential, according to a RedHack statement released on Jan.9.

The documents consist of bank account information, parliamentary complaints, correspondence between YÖK and universities, as well as end reports of corruption investigations.

Financial schemes, mishandled student information and private agreements with banks in exchange for financial and material rewards can all be seen in the series of documents released by the anti-government hacker group — via

Australian Do Not Call Register operator breaches Register

The company to which Australia outsources operations of its Do Not Call Register has been fined for making telemarketing calls to numbers listed on the Register (not The Register, which we italicise).

Australia implemented a Do Not Call Register in 2007, after consumer anger about telemarketing moved the federal government to act. If consumers choose to be listed on the Register, telemarketers must not call 30 days after the date of enrolment. The Register was well-received by consumers and the direct marketing industry, with the latter accepting it as an inevitability.

A contract to operate the service was awarded to Service Stream Solutions, a listed company the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) says still operates the service today.

ACMA also says a 10 week campaign arranging installations for energy-saving products conducted by Service Stream used numbers listed on the Register, because the list wasn’t re-checked against the Register.

That’s a silly thing to do, because ACMA suggests calling lists should be checked every 30 days — via

$1m claim for defects at World Square site

The building developer Meriton stands to lose a caretaker contract at World Square worth more than $2 million a year after a dramatic falling out with tenants.

The owners’ corporation of the World Tower residential apartments at World Square has accused the builder of breach of contract over building defects and maintenance issues worth more than $1 million.

A Fairfax Media investigation has discovered the owners’ corporation has served Meriton, its building caretaker, with at least 15 official breach notices and formal complaints in the past two years.

Some of the breaches include fire safety defects and Meriton’s failure to provide security swipe card details amid concerns over overcrowding in the building.

Meriton awarded itself the building management contract for World Tower after it completed the development in 2004 — via

Italy suspends Vatican bank card payments

The Italian central bank has suspended all bank card payments in the Vatican, citing its failure to implement fully anti-money laundering legislation, Italian media report.

The Holy See was required to meet European Union safeguards on finances by the start of 2013.

Its failure means tourists will have to pay cash at its museums and shops.

A Vatican spokesman said contacts were under way and the suspension of bank card payments should be short-lived.

Pope Benedict has promised greater transparency in Vatican finances and the operations of its bank, the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), which has in the past been implicated in major money-laundering scandals — via

Football site investigated over use of 30 unpaid interns a week

UK tax inspectors are investigating, which bills itself as the world’s largest football website, over its widespread use of unpaid interns, the Guardian can reveal.

The site has confirmed it uses a roster of 30 unpaid interns across seven days a week to file match reports and write other content for its UK edition.

Its parent company, Perform, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange, says attracts an average 24 million unique users a month and last year generated £4m in advertising and sponsorship revenue. Perform, which bought for £18m in February last year, posted total revenues of £103m for 2011.

A copy of a staff schedule seen by the Guardian appears to show between five and seven interns a day being used between 7am and midnight to file news and match reports. Perform told the Guardian it had 22 full-time staff, plus paid freelancers — via

The Tip of the Spear

In the mid-1980s, journalist Joel Sappell and a colleague began a five-year examination of the Church of Scientology that would ultimately produce a 24-article series. It would also change Sappell’s life in ways both mystifying? and unnerving. Decades later the one-time investigative reporter investigates what happened to him — via

Customs officers charged in airport drug ring probe

Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare has announced a root and branch overhaul of Customs after eight people were charged in connection to an alleged drug ring working out of Sydney airport.

A joint investigation by ABC’s 7.30 and Fairfax has revealed that a cell of suspected corrupt Customs officers has allegedly helped smuggle drugs through Australia’s biggest airport.

This morning Mr Clare announced that eight people, including two Customs employees and a quarantine officer, had been arrested and charged over the importation of drugs following a secret two-year investigation into corruption — via

German privacy regulator orders Facebook to end its real name policy

A German privacy regulator ordered Facebook to stop enforcing its real name policy because it violates a German law that gives users the right to use nicknames online.

Facebook refused to permit the use of pseudonyms on its platform as required by the German Telemedia Act, Thilo Weichert, privacy commissioner and head of the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ULD) Schleswig-Holstein said on Monday. The ULD issued a decree forcing Facebook to start allowing pseudonyms immediately, he said.

This decree is binding, said Weichert, who added that it is unacceptable that a US portal like Facebook keeps violating German data protection law. To ensure users’ rights and comply with data protection law in general, the real name obligation must be immediately abandoned by Facebook, the ULD said.

The orders were issued on Friday against Facebook USA and Facebook Ireland, which is responsible for all Facebook’s activities outside of the US and Canada — via

Guardian to make its move Down Under

Watch out, Rupert Murdoch. The Guardian, which has led the way exposing the phone-hacking scandal in the Murdoch empire, is expanding in his own backyard, with a Guardian Australia news operation.

Glamorous deputy editor Katherine Viner, seen as a frontrunner to succeed editor Alan Rusbridger, is set to go to Oz to lead the team — via

How Wal-Mart Used Payoffs to Get Its Way in Mexico

Wal-Mart longed to build in Elda Pineda’s alfalfa field. It was an ideal location, just off this town’s bustling main entrance and barely a mile from its ancient pyramids, which draw tourists from around the world. With its usual precision, Wal-Mart calculated it would attract 250 customers an hour if only it could put a store in Mrs Pineda’s field.

One major obstacle stood in Wal-Mart’s way.

After years of study, the town’s elected leaders had just approved a new zoning map. The leaders wanted to limit growth near the pyramids, and they considered the town’s main entrance too congested already. As a result, the 2003 zoning map prohibited commercial development on Mrs Pineda’s field, seemingly dooming Wal-Mart’s hopes.

But 30 miles away in Mexico City, at the headquarters of Wal-Mart de Mexico, executives were not about to be thwarted by an unfavourable zoning decision. Instead, records and interviews show, they decided to undo the damage with one well-placed $52,000 bribe.

The plan was simple. The zoning map would not become law until it was published in a government newspaper. So Wal-Mart de Mexico arranged to bribe an official to change the map before it was sent to the newspaper, records and interviews show. Sure enough, when the map was published, the zoning for Mrs Pineda’s field was redrawn to allow Wal-Mart’s store.

Problem solved — via

The Copyright Monopoly Is A Market Distortion, Not A Birthright

When you start questioning the copyright monopoly, many middlemen and other has-beens start acting offended — as if you have somehow questioned a natural birthright. Nothing is farther from the truth.

The copyright monopoly is not a natural right. It is a government-sanctioned private monopoly, granted under the assumption that no culture would get created if there’s not a profit motive behind it, and that this profit motive can only be realised in a monopolised setting.

Yet, when you question this assumption and this monopoly, some people react with unmitigated angry and fury — as though you have questioned their very right to life. This is puzzling, and it indicates a lack of understanding of what the monopoly is and why it exists.

(People who like liberal capitalism should baulk at government-sanctioned monopoly. People who lean towards labour values should baulk at private monopoly. Still, it’s factually true) — via

Top telco stalls war on film piracy

A scheme to help Hollywood movie studios catch online copyright infringers is on the verge of collapse after iiNet, the nation’s third-largest telco, abandoned plans to trial the new system.

The trial — which had been devised in consultation with Australia’s three largest telcos, Telstra, Optus and iiNet, and representatives from Hollywood’s major movie studios — would have seen internet service providers pass on notices of alleged online copyright infringement to their customers.

But Hollywood’s hopes that the proposed notice system would be up and running in the new year have now been dashed, after iiNet withdrew from the trial following its landmark defence of a High Court legal battle with 34 of Hollywood’s biggest movie and television studios earlier this year.

iiNet has informed the Communications Alliance, the government and the other ISPs involved in the discussions that it does not intend to participate in an industry-led trial, as currently envisaged, designed to test methods to deter online copyright infringement, Communications Alliance chief executive John Stanton told The Australian — via

How Corruption Is Strangling US Innovation

The corruption to which I am referring is the phenomenon of money in politics.

Lawrence Lessig’s Republic, Lost, details many of the distortions that occur as a result of all the money sloshing around in the political system: how elected representatives are being forced to spend an ever-increasing amount of their time chasing donors for funds, for example, as opposed to chasing citizens for votes. Former congressman and CIA director Leon Panetta described it as legalised bribery,/q>; something which has just become part of the culture of how this place operates.

But of all the negative impacts this phenomenon has had, it’s the devastating impact it has on US competitiveness that should be most concerning.

One of the prime drivers of economic growth inside America over the past century has been disruptive innovation; yet the phenomenon that Lessig describes is increasingly being used by large incumbent firms as a mechanism to stave off the process. Given how hard it can be to survive a disruptive challenge, and how effective lobbying has proven in stopping it, it’s no wonder that incumbent firms take this route so often — via

Foxtel wants UK-style block on piracy websites

Australia’s largest pay TV provider, Foxtel, has told the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) that Australia should follow the UK and block sites that offer copyright infringing content, such as The Pirate Bay.

Foxtel, the pay TV network that is owned by Telstra and News Limited, said in its submission (PDF) to the ALRC’s review of copyright law that the film studios should be able to go to court and force internet service providers (ISPs) to block specific websites that host infringing content.

We submit that parliament should provide the courts with the power to order ISPs to block specific sites. This power would be exercised after application by a rights holder and result in the issuing of an injunction that applies to all ISPs, Foxtel said. This legislation would be similar to that used in the UK to block piracy sites, such as The Pirate Bay — via

Google buys parcel storage service for Christmas

Google has acquired Canadian startup Bufferbox for an undisclosed sum.

The self-serve parcel pick-up station outfit, which started life at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, announced it had been scooped up by the advertising giant on Friday.

As online shopping becomes a bigger part of how you buy products, we look forward to playing a part in bringing that experience to the next level. We are happy to share that it will be business as usual for our users and we are looking forward to continuing to build out the service, Bufferbox said in a blog post on its website.

It claims to make rage-inspiring missed deliveries a thing of the past — via

iiNet: copyright law hampering ISPs

Australia’s copyright law and the alleged draft text from the Intellectual Property chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement limit the ability of internet service providers (ISPs) to cache content locally, according to iiNet.

iiNet’s comments came in a submission (PDF) to the Australian Law Reform Commission’s (ALRC) review of the Copyright Act.

The company estimated that 70 percent of the traffic it delivers to its customers comes from overseas, and, as such, in order to reduce the cost of transmission from the US and other countries to Australia, caching content locally is a vital necessity. iiNet estimated that caching can reduce transmission overheads to 1 percent of what they would otherwise be.

Despite its necessity, iiNet said that caching is not currently allowed under Australian law — via

A thankful Bemidji grocer shares his success with his employees

Joe Lueken spent 46 years becoming a successful grocer and community benefactor here. Finally, at 70, he’s ready to sell the business, travel the world with his wife, Janice, and reap some of what they’ve sown.

So when he strides into his south Bemidji supermarket and 2 1/2-year employee Maria Svare smiles broadly and asks him, How do you like my store today? it might sound like a joke.

But it’s not. And that’s part of why hundreds of Bemidji residents are thankful this holiday season for Joe Lueken.

On 1 January, Lueken’s Village Foods, with two supermarkets in Bemidji and another in Wahpeton, North Dakota, will begin transferring ownership to its approximately 400 employees through an Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP) — via

Gemfields takes over Fabergé

Fabergé, the luxury jeweller famed for its encrusted eggs, is being taken over by London-listed miner Gemfields in a deal that values it at $142m (£89m).

Ian Harebottle, chief executive of Gemfields, said: This is a deal which will turn us into the leading coloured gemstones company in the world. By putting together our output of the highest-quality ethical gemstones with the Fabergé heritage and design skills, we can carve out a much larger and grander market space — via

IBM drops Lotus brand from next version of Notes

Lotus Notes is no more and will henceforth be known as … drumroll please … IBM Notes.

Big Blue quietly let it be known the Lotus brand will disappear in the forthcoming version 9.0 of Notes and Domino, products that back in 1995 were so desirable it wrote a cheque for $US.3.52bn to acquire them.

That acquisition was literally a hold the front page event, as a price tag of $US.3.52bn was all-but-unheard-of in those far-off days, when Notes was the clear leader in a product category known as groupware — via

Papa John’s sued for pizza-related text spam

A US district judge has approved a request for class action in a lawsuit against pizza maker Papa John’s International for allegedly sending hundreds of thousands of text spam messages.

Seattle law firm Heyrich Kalish McGuigan, representing three Papa John’s customers, alleged that the pizza delivery service has sent 500,000 unwanted text messages to customers. If the court finds that Papa John’s violated the US Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the pizza maker could have to pay damages of $500 per text message, or US$250 million, one of the largest damage awards under the 1991 law, the law firm said.

Many customers complained to Papa John’s that they wanted the text messages to stop, and yet thousands of spam text messages were sent week after week, Donald Heyrich, attorney for the plaintiffs said in a statement. This should be a wake-up call to advertisers. Consumers do not want spam on their cell phones — via

Irn Bru firm AG Barr and Britvic agree merger

Soft drink rivals AG Barr and Britvic have agreed the terms of a merger which creates one of Europe’s largest soft drinks companies.

Irn Bru maker AG Barr and Tango producer Britvic opened discussions about a merger in September.

The new combined company will be called Barr Britvic Soft Drinks plc and will have annual sales of more than £1.5bn.

The merger is likely to see about 500 jobs cut from combined headcount of just over 4,000 people — via

Staff emails are not owned by firms, rules judge

A high court judge has ruled that companies do not have a general claim of ownership of the content contained in staff emails.

The decision creates a potential legal minefield for the terms of staff contracts and an administrative nightmare for IT teams running email servers, back up and storage.

The judge ruled businesses do not have an enforceable proprietary claim to staff email content unless that content can be considered to be confidential information belonging to a business, unless business copyright applies to the content, or unless the business has a contractual right of ownership over the content — via

First commercial vertical farm opens in Singapore

Singapore now has its first commercial vertical farm, which means more local options for vegetables.

The technique uses aluminium towers that are as tall as nine metres, and vegetables are grown in troughs at multiple levels.

The technique utilises space better — an advantage for land-scarce Singapore.

Sky Greens farm first started working on the prototype in 2009, and has opened a 3.65-hectare farm in Lim Chu Kang.

It produces three types of vegetables which are currently available only at FairPrice Finest supermarkets.

They cost 10 to 20 cents more than vegetables from other sources.

Despite the higher prices, the greens have been flying off supermarket shelves — via

Cybercrime: rarer and less costly than we’re told

Despite self-interested claims from companies and governments, identity theft is extremely rare and the costs of cybercrime are significantly lower than claimed, new polling by Essential Research shows.

Crikey has previously examined overhyped reports from computer security companies aimed at generating additional sales for their products, hyping the Australian government has happily joined in. According to Attorney-General Nicola Roxon, identity fraud is one of Australia’s fastest growing crimes and one in four Australians had been a victim or had known someone who had been a victim of identity theft.

The key to overhyping cybercrime is to conflate a variety of different crimes under one broad description. But now Essential has disentangled commonly-conflated crimes and asked people to estimate how much they actually cost. And the evidence comprehensively debunks the claims made about cybercrime.

According to Essential, just 1% of Australians report ever being the victim of identity theft. If identity theft is Australia’s fastest growing crime as Nicola Roxon, the AFP and many media reports insists, then it must have been coming off a positively microscopic base.

Moreover, 43% of identity theft victims said they suffered no financial loss from the incident. Just over a third? — ?36% — ?said their loss was between $100 and $500; another 14% said it was between $500-1000. In fact, identity theft was the least expensive crime, averaging a cost of $230, well below the overall average cost of $330.

So, identity theft that actually costs people money has happened to 0.57% of Australians — via

Disney to make new Star Wars movies, buy Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion from George Lucas

A decade after George Lucas said Star Wars was finished on the big screen, a new trilogy is destined for theatres as The Walt Disney Co announced Tuesday that it was buying Lucasfilm Ltd. for $4.05 billion.

The seventh movie, with a working title of Episode 7, is set for release in 2015. Episodes 8 and 9 will follow. The new trilogy will carry the story of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia beyond Return of the Jedi, the third film released and the sixth in the saga. After that, Disney plans a new Star Wars movie every two or three years. Lucas will serve as creative consultant in the new movies — via

At Nestle, interacting with the online enemy

It looks like mission control: in a Swiss market town, an array of screens in Nestle’s headquarters tracks online sentiment. Executives watch intently as California wakes up, smells the coffee — and says whether it likes it.

This is the nerve centre of the company’s Digital Acceleration Team. By monitoring conversation about its products on social media — right down to realtime recipe tweets across the United States — they aim to win over a sometimes hostile world.

Other companies, such as PepsiCo, Danone and Unilever, have exploited the opportunities to promote themselves online. But Nestle is also concentrating on using social media for damage limitation — via

Tiger Airways fined for spamming customers

Tiger Airways has been found guilty of spamming its customers by Australia’s communications watchdog.

The Singapore Airlines-backed carrier has been fined $110,000 by the Australian Communications and Media Authority for failing to unsubscribe customers from marketing emails.

The news comes in the same month that restrictions imposed on the airline were lifted more than a year after its entire fleet was grounded over safety concerns — via

Amazon accused of remotely wiping punter’s Kindle

It’s bad enough that when you buy an e-book, you’re really only renting it, but now we hear that at least one e-book seller will, it has been alleged, wipe your device if it sees fit.

Norwegian writer Martin Bekkelund tells the story of a chum, called Linn, who claims to have had her Kindle remotely wiped by Amazon UK.

Linn not unreasonably asked Amazon what was up and was told via email by one Michael Murphy, Executive Customer Relations at, that we have found your account is directly related to another which has been previously closed for abuse of our policies. As such, your account has been closed and any open orders have been cancelled.

As for the remote wipe, Amazons T&Cs say, according to Mr Murphy, that and its affiliates reserve the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, remove or edit content, or cancel orders at their sole discretion. [our italics]

Bekkelund’s pal maintains she had no account. Instead she says she used But the British offshoot refused to accept this point — or provide her with any further details that might provide her with a way back to the content she claims she acquired legitimately — via

eBay pays £1.2m in UK tax on sales of £800m

US auction site eBay has paid only £1.2m in tax in the UK, according to an investigation by the Sunday Times.

The newspaper said that its tax bill in 2010 comes despite eBay’s UK subsidiaries generating sales of £800m.

The auction site — which also owns PayPal — responded that it complies fully with all applicable tax laws.

The report comes after coffee giant Starbucks was also accused of paying just £8.6m in corporation tax in the UK over 14 years.

According to the Sunday Times, eBay had sales of £789m during 2010 in the UK at its four British subsidiaries. Using its worldwide profit margin of 23%, it would have made a profit in the UK of £181m, leading to corporation tax owed of £51m.

Instead, it paid £1.2m, the report said — via

Rogue Pharma, Fake AV Vendors Feel Credit Card Crunch

New research suggests that companies behind some of America’s best known consumer brands may be far more effective at fighting cybercrime than any efforts to enact more stringent computer security and anti-piracy laws.

Recent legislative proposals in the United States — such as the Stop Online Piracy Act — have sought to combat online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods by granting Internet service providers and authorities broader powers to prosecute offenders, and by imposing stronger criminal penalties for such activity. But recent data collected by academic researchers suggests that brand holders already have the tools to quash much of this activity.

Over the past two years, a team of academic researchers made hundreds of “test buys” at Web sites from 40 different shady businesses peddling knock-off prescription drugs, counterfeit software and fake anti-virus products. The researchers, from George Mason University, the International Computer Science Institute, and the University of California, San Diego, posed as buyers for these products, which tend to be promoted primarily via hacked Web sites, junk email and computer viruses.

The test buys were intended to reveal relationships between the shadowy merchants and the banks that process credit and debit card transactions for these businesses. Following the money trail showed that a majority of the purchases were processed by just 12 banks in a handful of countries, including Azerbaijan, China, Georgia, Latvia, and Mauritius.

The researchers said they submitted the test buy results to a database run by the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition, (IACC), a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization devoted to combating product counterfeiting and piracy. Several pharmacy and software vendors and IACC members whose trademarks were infringed in those transactions (the researchers said non-disclosure agreements prohibit them from naming the brands) used the data to lodge complaints with Visa (only Visa-branded debit cards were used to make the test buys) — via

Financial Ombudsman Service

The Financial Ombudsman Service fairly and independently resolves disputes between consumers — including some small businesses — and member financial services providers. Membership of the Financial Ombudsman Service is open to any financial services provider carrying on business in Australia.

Our independent dispute resolution processes cover financial services disputes including banking, credit, loans, general insurance, life insurance, financial planning, investments, stock broking, managed funds and pooled superannuation trusts. We also cover estate planning, estate management and trustee services

Swiss clock licensee surprised that Apple can use clock design

Earlier this week, Apple secured a license from the Swiss Railway to use its iconic Swiss Clock on the iPad. This agreement was lauded by the SBB, but it wasn’t so favorably received by Swiss watch maker Mondaine, according to a report in MacWorld UK. The watchmaker has held an exclusive license to use the design since 1986 and said it was surprised by the SBB’s agreement with Apple.

Mondaine holds a long-term exclusive licensee according to a contract with SBB to produce, distribute and market watches and clocks based on the SBB design since 1986 and got surprised to hear about a license agreement between SBB and Apple. — via

HP prosecuted by Australian consumer regulator

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the nation’s guardian of consumer rights and regulator of competition and consumer law, has commenced legal action against HP over its warranty and repair practices.

The ACCC is upset with HP for five reasons, namely:

  • The remedies available for a faulty HP product were limited to remedies available from HP at its sole discretion;
  • Consumers must have had a faulty HP product repaired multiple times by HP before they were entitled to receive a replacement;
  • The warranty period for HP products was limited to a specified express warranty period;
  • Following the expiration of an express warranty period, HP would repair faulty HP products on the condition that consumers pay for such repairs;
  • Consumers could not return or exchange HP products purchased from the HP Online Store, unless otherwise agreed by HP at its sole discretion.

— via

Johnson & Johnson facing massive class action

Medical giant Johnson & Johnson is facing its third class action in Australia in as many years, with a case filed in the Federal Court yesterday which relates to a product called transvaginal mesh.

It has helped many women who have suffered prolapsed organs by assisting their muscles with support, but for a significant number it has caused life-changing harm.

Lawyers believe it could be the largest product class action in Australian legal history.

It has also cast fresh light on the system of approvals because the mesh was introduced without any pre-market testing — via

Tuna worker accidentally cooked to death

A worker at a Bumble Bee Foods factory in Santa Fe Springs, California, died in industrial oven accident this week, NBC News reported.

Safety officials said Jose Melena, 62, was accidentally cooked in a steamer machine at the seafood canning company’s plant, NBC News reported. Police pronounced him dead at the scene at 7.00am Thursday.

California Division of Occupational Safety and Health spokeswoman Erika Monterroza said it was unclear how Melena ended up inside the oven, the Contra Costa Times reported. Cal-OSHA has launched an investigation into the accident which it plans to complete in six months, she added.

If it turns out that the factory did violate state health and safety regulations, Bumble Bee Foods will face civil penalties, Monterroza said, according to the Contra Costa Times. In addition, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office could decide to indict the company on criminal charges — via