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Vodafone gets less flexible on flexible working Ts&Cs for own staff

Exclusive An April Fool's Day joke has come early for Vodafone teleworkers, who are facing a clampdown on their own flexible working conditions from the start of next month. The telco sells the Better Way of Working (BWOW) “solution” to customers - a mix of tabs, remote access and device management systems. This is supposed to make …
Paul Kunert, 10 Mar 2017
BT Tower photo via Shutterstock

BT agrees to legal separation of Openreach

Former UK state monopoly BT has finally agreed to regulator Ofcom's plans for a legal separation of its broadband division Openreach. Under the agreement 32,000 staff will be transferred from BT to work directly for Openreach, with all BT brands to be removed from the network provider. The decision follows a year-long dispute …
Kat Hall, 10 Mar 2017
Curl of butter

User lubed PC with butter, because pressing a button didn't work

On-Call Welcome again to On-Call, The Register's Friday foray into a mailbag stuffed full of readers' recollections of being asked to fix things that should never have broken. This week, meet “Bill” who can't forget the time, about a decade ago, when someone from the marketing department “couldn't figure out how to eject a floppy disk …
Simon Sharwood, 10 Mar 2017
Privacy

State surveillance boom sparked by fear-mongering political populists, says UN

The United Nations' Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy has heavily criticised new surveillance laws in France, Germany, the UK and the USA, saying they are “predicated on the … disproportionate though understandable fear that electorates may have in the face of the threat of terrorism” but are informed by “little or no …
Simon Sharwood, 10 Mar 2017

Microsoft to close its social network on a week's notice – and SIX people complain

Microsoft will close So.cl, its very low-key social network, on March 15. Microsoft soft-launched So.cl to students only in May 2012 and billed it as an “experiment in social search” because posts always started with a Bing search. The service was made available to anyone in December 2012 and then … crickets. The service has …
Simon Sharwood, 10 Mar 2017

Road accident nuisance callers fined £270,000 for being absolute sh*tbags

A Hampshire company behind millions of nuisance calls regarding road traffic accidents has been fined £270,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office. The ICO's investigation into the business traced more than 22 million automated nuisance calls to Basingstoke-based business Road Accident Consult, trading as Media Tactics. …
Vintage BBC experimental colour transmission testcard section

Anti-TV Licensing petition gets May date for Parliament debate

The BBC TV Licensing fee is set to be debated in Parliament in early May after a public petition passed the 100,000 signature mark. The petition calls for TV Licensing revenues to be deducted from "service providers" instead of being collected directly from households in the UK. At the time of writing it stands at 107,779 …
Two eggs hugging couple arranged in carton

HPE unscrambles its services eggs, calls the results 'Pointnext'

With Enterprise Services about to become a past problem for HPE, the business has rebranded the remaining consultancy unit, killing off the Technology Services tag in favour of Pointnext. HPE last year decided to “spin” ES into CSC. From April, that combined entity will be called “DXC Technologies” and will get to do things …
police

Uber blackballs 'Greyball' tool it used to deny rides to regulators

Caught out over showing fake cars to anyone it suspected of being a cop or a regulator, Uber has announced it will end the practice. The company was accused of treating regulators and police with a disdain its staff might recognise when encountering harassment, or worse, at work. If the systems figured the app was on a …

Department of Human Services says citizens, not systems, to blame

Australia's Department of Human Services (DHS) has doubled down, telling a Senate Committee yesterday its troubled robo-debt system will continue, and if there's something wrong, it's all your fault. After the Australian Tax Office threw the DHS under a bus yesterday over the system's design, DHS Secretary Kathryn Campbell's …

Euro nations push for vote to axe Europe's patent office president

European governments have finally had enough of the head of the European Patent Office, Benoit Battistelli, and are pushing for a vote that could turn him into a lame duck president. The EPO's Administrative Council is due to meet in Munich next week and on the agenda is a discussion over the appointment of a new president of …

Come 'ere, you big SAP: Google buddies up to boost its business cloud

Google Next '17 Google Cloud is in a full-on push to build an ecosystem for itself with a fresh line of partnerships. The Mountain View ad giant's hosted compute business is teaming up with the likes of SAP, Pivotal, and Rackspace to help them offer additional services to lure businesses into the Google Cloud service. For SAP, the …
Shaun Nichols, 8 Mar 2017
Trump

President Trump-themed escort services may soon open in China

China may soon be home to Donald Trump-themed escort services. Preliminary approval has been granted for 38 trademarks for Trump-branded escort services, massage parlors, and bars in China, according to public documents. Approval comes as the US President and his family prepare to develop a range of branded businesses in the …
Clodagh Doyle, 8 Mar 2017

Kodi-pocalypse Now? Actually, it's not quite here yet

With some in the media industries predicting an imminent "Kodipocalypse", a survey of more than 2,000 UK internet users suggests that simply being nice to those users who download illegal content – on Kodi or otherwise – isn't effective. The poll found that 22 per cent thought the threat of disconnection or court action would …
Philip Hammond photo by Inna Sokolovska via Shutterstock

Self-employed bear the brunt of Spring Budget with additional National Insurance contributions

Self-employed folk in the UK are to be slapped with additional National Insurance contributions, Chancellor Phillip Hammond announced today. In his first – and last – Spring budget, Hammond said the move is expected to raise £145m per year. However, it also raises concerns for workers in the so-called "gig economy" employed …
Kat Hall, 8 Mar 2017

Softbank tears off chunk of ARM, feeds it to hungry Saudis

Softbank is selling a stake in ARM to a Saudi investment group less than a year after buying the Brit chipmaker, according to reports. The £6.5bn ($8bn) stake – 25 cent of ARM's total value, according to the BBC – will go to Saudi Arabia's new Vision Fund. The $100bn fund is already due to receive a $25m investment from …
Echo

Amazon relinquishes data from Echo that could have dropped eaves on a killing

We'll have to wait a little longer for a test case on the use of data collected by Amazon's eavesdropper Echo in criminal investigations. Authorities in Arkansas served a search warrant on Amazon to obtain the data from an Amazon Echo device in a murder that took place in the state in November 2015. Police believe the murder …
Toilet roll printed with fake US $100 bills

Fancy that – the sharing economy lobby doesn't speak for the sharers

Comment Perhaps it's time to retire the term "sharing economy" once and for all. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) this week swallowed up the "gig economy" trade group Sharing Economy UK. "Sharing economy" was initially used to describe individuals trading under-utilised private assets or labour informally, on a peer-to-peer …
Prison

Smut-scamming copyright chaser 'fesses up, will do hard time

One of the architects of the notorious Prenda Law copyright-porn scam, John Steele, has admitted that he and Paul Hansmeier made US$6 million out of the operation. Steele's and Hansmeier's approach to wealth creation was ingenious, if nasty: they arranged for smutty films to be seeded onto pirate sites, then pursued …
Parliament House Canberra

Centrelink 'big data' system built without consulting taxman

When Australia's Department of Human services decided to create its now-notorious “robo-debt” system, it did so without consulting one of its major data sources, the Australian Tax Office. The Office's deputy commissioner in charge of its “Smarter Data” program, Greg Williams, told a Senate Committee looking into the disaster …

Rap for chat app chaps: Snap's shares are a joke – and a crap one at that

First, we'll look at some quick facts at Snap – the Los Angeles-based developer of Snapchat that debuted on the stock market on Thursday, March 2. Snap's IPO price was set at $17 a share but hit the market at $24.47. Snap's shares were highly unusual in that they didn't give the holders a voting right. Regardless, the first …
Kids in preschool class

Help wanted: Uber boss Travis seeks babysitter for him and his execs

Following a string of damaging revelations about its atrocious corporate culture, Uber is seeking fresh help to clean up its act. Uber boss Travis Kalanick announced on Tuesday he will try to hire a chief operating officer to help him run the San Francisco-based toxic upstart. Good luck, Trav, given that putting Uber on your …
Shaun Nichols, 7 Mar 2017
NBN

Sure, we could replace FTNN, says nbn™, if you let the unwired wait even longer for broadband

nbn™, the organisation that builds and operates Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN), appear to be escalating its efforts to rebut those who call for it to abandon its fibre to the network build. Last week the company's CEO Bill Morrow used a Senate Estimates appearance to make the point that that matters beyond nbn™'s …

FireEye close to settling lawsuit

FireEye is close to paying $10.3m to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging that the security firm misled investors about the effectiveness of its security technology. Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Peter Kirwan said he was minded to approve the negotiated settlement once details such as proposed attorneys' fees and …
John Leyden, 7 Mar 2017
Salford quays photo via Shutterstock

Salford and Liverpool City Councils plan IT trading venture

Two northern councils have teamed up to sell technology and services commercially. Salford – home of MediaCityUK and the BBC's Northern HQ – and Liverpool City Councils plan to establish a trading entity within the next 12-18 months to both compete against and collaborate with firms in the private sector. It's hoped a third, …
Gavin Clarke, 7 Mar 2017
Taj Mahal with WiFi logo

Internet declared a citizen's right for 34 million Indians

The Indian State of Kerala, home to 34 million people, has declared its citizens have a right to internet access. The State's budget speech (PDF), delivered last week by finance minister Dr. T.M. Thomas lsaac, included provisions for “free internet connections … provided to 20 lakh [two million - Ed] poor families. For others …

Come in King Battistelli, your time at the Euro Patent Office is up

Time is running out for European Patent Office president Benoit Battistelli. After years of turmoil at the international organization thanks to his heavy-handed reform efforts, it seems that patience at the political level is finally giving out. In the past week, two documents have been posted online indicating that the Dutch …
Photo by Northfoto / Shutterstock

RadioShack bankruptcy savior to file for, you guessed it, bankruptcy

The company that arose from RadioShack's 2015 bankruptcy saga could soon itself be filing for bankruptcy. General Wireless is reportedly on the brink of seeking protection from creditors and entering the liquidation process. The biz could not be reached for comment. The formal paperwork for the bankruptcy could be posted …
Shaun Nichols, 6 Mar 2017

Sprint sprints off with $140m from Time Warner after VoIP patent battle

Sprint has been awarded $139.8m in damages after a jury found that Time Warner Cable infringed on five of its patents related to voice-over-IP calling systems. The jury in Sprint's home town of Kansas City found that TWC, now part of Charter, violated the five patents on technology related to the operation of TWC's VoIP …
Shaun Nichols, 6 Mar 2017

Sir Tim Berners-Lee refuses to be King Canute, approves DRM as Web standard

Sir Tim Berners-Lee has controversially decided to back the introduction of digital rights management – aka anti-piracy and anti-copying mechanisms – as a Web standard. Writing in a blog post last week, the director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) argued that to stand in the way of the new Encrypted Media Extensions ( …

It's time for our annual checkup on the circus that is the Internet Governance Forum

Analysis It's March again so it must be time for an annual checkup on the Internet Governance Forum – the United Nations body that is tasked with working through the complex social, technological and economic issues associated with a global communications network, and runs an annual conference to that end. Around this time every year, …
Gangnam calling for punishment of president Park Geun-hye and Samsung chief Lee Jae-yong

South Korea prosecutor: President colluded to take Samsung bribes

The president of South Korea, Park Geun-hye, colluded with confidante Choi Soon-sil to take bribes from Samsung Group, the country's special prosecutor said today. Park Geun-hye was suspended from Parliament in December and could now face prosecution if she is formally removed from office. Last month Samsung's vice chair Lee …
Kat Hall, 6 Mar 2017
sir_humphrey_screengrab_648

UK Home Office spy powers unit pretended it was a private citizen in Ofcom consultation

Exclusive The UK Home Office's Investigatory Powers Unit (HOIPU) anonymously responded to an Ofcom consultation urging the regulator to maintain a "security"-related ban on GSM devices that help people get cheap calls abroad. The HOIPU sent its anonymous response, written as if it came from a private citizen and not a government …
Redundancy

Q: How many IBMers need to volunteer for corporate guillotine?

IBM UK is looking to chop the Technical Services Support team within the Global Technology Services division by up to 10 per cent, according to company insiders. An Employee Consultation Committee, comprised of management and employees elected by their peers to act as workforce reps, was formed last month as the latest expense …
Paul Kunert, 6 Mar 2017
London, United Kingdom - June 23, 2016: British Referendum. A voting station in inner London is the grand entrance to St Matthew's Church. UK is voting to stay or leave the EU. pHOTO Ms Jane Campbell/SHUTTERSTOCK - EDITORIAL USE ONLY

UK watchdog to probe political campaigns trading personal info

The Information Commissioner's Office is investigating how voters' personal information is being utilised for political campaigns. As the UK regulator for privacy laws, the ICO is "conducting a wide assessment of the data-protection risks arising from the use of data analytics, including for political purposes, and will be …
Files in manager's desk drawers: manila folder marked "Redundancies". Image via shutterstock

MP brands 1,600 CSC layoffs as the 'worst excesses of capitalism'

The British government must wake up to service delivery implications of the latest mega-layoff scheming at CSC given the number of sensitive public sector contracts held, and work with the business and others to "root out the worst excesses of capitalism". Or so Toby Perkins, Labour MP for Chesterfield, argued during a House …
Paul Kunert, 6 Mar 2017

America halts fast processing of H-1B skilled worker visas

The United States has suspended “premium” processing of H-1B visas, the skilled worker visa often used by technology companies to bring workers to the nation. The H-1B is very useful for tech companies, because the first 20,000 applications each year by those with the equivalent of a US Masters degree are exempt from the 65, …
Amazon Video

Did you know? Amazon does film production – and it treats those workers like dirt, too*

Amazon, the target of multiple lawsuits alleging labor law violations and the subject of criticism over cutthroat work culture, appears to be pilot testing its tough-love approach to worker management in its burgeoning media production business. Marvelous Solano-Rodriguez – who may or may not live up to his name – on Thursday …
police

COP BLOCKED: Uber app thwarted arrests of its drivers by fooling police with 'ghost cars'

Not content with cultivating a toxic, sexist and hostile corporate culture, Uber is on a collision course with cops worldwide. The ride-sharing app maker produced – and, for years now, used – a software tool called Greyball that thwarts attempts by police to arrest or fine Uber drivers wherever the car-hailing service is …
Shaun Nichols, 3 Mar 2017

Euro Patent Office puts itself on Interpol's level, demands access to staff phones and laptops

The European Patent Office (EPO) is seeking new powers that it would allow it to search the bags and electronic devices of its staff and office visitors. Under proposed rule changes put forward by the organization's administration, security staff would be entitled to seize and search bags, phones and laptops at any of the EPO' …
Grinning man in suit points at a calculator meaningfully. Pic via Shutterstock

HMRC emits IR35 tax calculator onto the web for UK contractors

UK's taxmen HMRC has unveiled its tax calculator for contractors to determine whether they should cough up more cash in its freelancer tax clampdown next month. A public beta of HMRC's Employment Status Service Tool was released yesterday to determine the IR35 status of public sector contractors. The changes have long been …
Kat Hall, 3 Mar 2017
Uber self-driving car on a transport truck

Uber loses court fight over London drivers' English language tests

Taxi app Uber has lost its legal challenge to Transport for London’s requirement that its drivers must pass English language tests, according to reports. The Financial Times, whose reporter was at the Administrative Court for the oral judgement delivered by Mr Justice John Mitting this morning, reported that drivers “must do …

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