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It's not 'what' but 'who' you connect with in metadata retention

2:30AM | Tuesday, 24 February

The purpose and implementation of the Australian government’s proposed metadata retention scheme is making less sense as political pressure mounts to get the legislation passed. So what’s going on?   The bill, as written, suggests it can be easy for criminals to “opt out” of data collection, while the remainder of Australians still have their personal communications spied on, retained for two years and kept in commercial data centres at taxpayers' expense.   The Australian Greens senator Scott Ludlam recently raised a number of such concerns about the bill which has already met opposition from privacy advocates.   But the bill’s worth as a tool to specifically fight terrorism, or any other serious crime, seems dubious if potential terrorists and criminals in Australia can easily “opt out” of having their data retained simply by choosing any internet messaging service where the persons operating the service do not own or operate “in Australia, infrastructure that enables” that service.   So what does that mean for the apps commonly used on smartphones today?   Whatsapp, the popular mobile messaging app with 700 million users, around 10% of which come from the Middle East, or Viber, a similar app with 20 million users in Pakistan alone, would both be excluded from data retention. These are some of the apps that the UK’s prime minister David Cameron recently mused about baning in the UK.   According to answers given by Australian Attorney General’s (AG) department staff during the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Reference Committee, the “in Australia” provision also means that even Google’s web-based Gmail service is excluded from data retention. So what does the bill call for? With all the reports of what the bill leaves out and doesn’t do, no one seems to acknowledge what is actually in the draft bill, and how that language might affect policing, government and privacy. So what is at play?   One possible explanation is that Australia is carrying out its obligations as part of the “five eyes” network of English speaking intelligence partners. The logic here is that it makes economic and political sense to have Australian internet service providers (ISPs) such as Telstra and iiNet retain what originates in their infrastructure rather than have the US’s National Security Agency (NSA) collect it.   A more plausible explanation is that, contrary to the PM’s politiking, the data to be retained is not valued by the Australian government for its national security or anti-child abuse value.   Instead, Australians are to be spied on for data that will become valuable for other state functions including the expanded reach of civil litigation. The expanded value considers normal policing, civil subpoenas and even copyright disputes. A look inside the bill The Australian government is not explicitly interested in the internet protocol (IP) addresses that you visit. The bill in its current form states in section 187A that the government:   […] does not require a service provider to keep, or cause to be kept […] [information that] states an address to which a communication was sent on the internet, from a telecommunications device.   In more detail, the helpful “explanatory memorandum” codifies that:   Under proposed paragraph 187A(4)(b), the retention obligation is explicitly expressed to exclude the retention of destination web address identifiers, such as destination internet Protocol (IP) addresses or uniform resource locators (URLs).   So what are we talking about then? It’s all about the destination What the government does seem to be after is “destination” data that basically amounts to an assortment of dummy variables that help identify you, and who you are communicating with.   Instead of IP address or web pages, it is interested in retaining email accounts, Skype handles and phone numbers, etc. for the connections you have made.   The government’s “destination” is in many ways more invasive than IP addresses or web URLs alone. For instance, think about how each person in Australia connects to the IP address 69.63.176.13. That’s the IP for Facebook.com, and is physically located in the US.   Retaining the metadata of time spent at that address would not produce much actionable intelligence on you or the other 8 million Australians who browse Facebook each day. Nor would it be all that invasive to privacy.   “Destination” data is different. “Destination” data seeks to capture who, specifically, you’re spending time with online; who is the destination that you are messaging through email, Skype or possibly even Facebook’s real-time apps and services?   Think of it this way: two “destinations” pass data through the same communications service at a series of very specific times, again, again and again. No other two “destinations” share this unique pattern of time and connection.   The government’s definition of “destination” is multiple click here, search for “destination”), but we can isolate a key phrase:   This information can then assist with determining the subscribers who sent or received relevant communications.   That is to say, who you’re talking to online, not where you went.   Analysing how these “destinations” link together with other metadata (geo-location, device type/operating system, etc.) allows the government – or anyone else who snoops in on the retained data – to predict, for instance, that these communications were yours, and whether you targeted them to, let’s say, your spouse, or an “old friend” across town. And whether you meet up with that person from time to time. And where. And for how long.   Geolocation data alone is incredibly powerful when we all carry smartphone and other devices that connect to the internet in our pockets. People are just starting to learn how powerful this type of metadata is.   Retaining all of that metadata provides an incredible amount of information for civil litagants that can ask for it through a subpoena. As an former iiNet lawyer wrote:   The Data Retention Bill does not impose any limitation on access to the retained data by other legal avenues. This means there’s nothing stopping your ex-husband, your employer, the tax office or a bank using a subpoena to get access to that data if it is relevant to a court case.   All this data also creates a very valuable target for hackers, including “adversarial intelligence agencies” trying to infiltrate your identity, ransom you for your secrets, or run some form of economic espionage.   Can we trust Australian service providers can keep all the data safe once they’ve accumulated two years worth of intimate connections for each Australian who uses any sort of telecommunications device?   Sadly, recent security breaches at companies as diverse as Apple, Target, and the latest heist from “100 banks and other financial institutions in 30 nations” suggest otherwise.   The flawed explanations of what good the bill does, what privacy risks it creates and the reality of how our retained data will be used, offers many red flags on why this legislation should be reconsidered.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Hackett-backed UltraServe cloud e-commerce platform checks social media to see when servers need to scale

2:32AM | Friday, 13 February

UltraServe, an e-commerce platform backed by entrepreneurial investor and Internode founder Simon Hackett, has added a new feature that tracks social media activity in order to pre-emptively scale its infrastructure before demand starts growing.   The latest deal comes after Hackett purchased a 40% stake in the company in April of last year, with former Internode and iiNet chief technology officer John Lindsay taking a seat on its board of directors.   UltraServe chief executive Samuel Yeats told StartupSmart the investment has helped the company grow internationally.   “We took investment in May last year, and that was to help us take our offer international and further our reach here in Australia… We have customers now in the UK, US, Asia, New Zealand and Australia, so it’s been a really good six months for business,” Yates says.   “It’s been a really good six months for our business. There’s been a lot of changes, but it’s also helped us to focus. We used to be a hosting company that looked at any kind of application, with a broad target market. The past six months, we’ve dropped everything except online retail, and have built some really great partnerships.”   The company offers cloud-based managed services for e-commerce companies, counting big names such as Catch of the Day, Deals Direct, Appliances Online and General Pants among its customers.   The latest feature for the company’s cloud-based SmartStack platform, which it demonstrated at the recent hybris summit in Munich, allows it to automatically respond to social media events indicating a surge in traffic is on the way.   “SmartStack is a platform for hybris e-commerce, which is an SAP business. We’re the only endorsed public cloud provider globally for hybris. The aim with Smart Stack is to cut down provisioning time to minutes.   “What social scaling does is take that one step further. Sometimes, we might not be able to anticipate when a wave of traffic is coming. So we poll social media in real time and look for key words and indicators that could indicate a spike in traffic, and then pre-scale and pre-warn our environment. It means our customers always have a responsive website for their users.   Yeats says he is unaware of any other company using the technique, which he says allows businesses to have “an extra ear to the ground listening out for a successful, vital campaign”.   “For example, we have a customer in the UK, and from time to time, Kate Middleton will buy their shoes. As soon as those shoes hit the tabloids, people talk about them on social media and then hit the website. Now that’s a perfect example of where this comes in handy.   “hybris has recently been named by Gartner as the number one platform for omni-channel, so it’s neat an Australian business can compete on a global scale.”

Perth’s Spacecubed raises over $50,000 in crowdfunding for new Level 9 coworking space

10:51AM | Friday, 24 October

Perth coworking space Spacecubed has successfully raised over $50,000 in a crowdfunding campaign to open up a new space on level nine of its main St Georges Terrace venue.   Founder and chief executive Brodie McCulloch told Private Media the additional space, aimed at larger teams, comes as Perth’s startup scene continues to boom.   “We’ve been pretty blown away by the interest. And it’s been interesting, because we’ve had a couple of bigger sponsors, for example PwC have sponsored an idea wall and Optus has sponsored a phone booth,” McCulloch says.   “But it’s otherwise mostly been entrepreneurs and individuals who like what Spacecubed is doing and have contributed small pledges of $100 to $200.”   Spacecubed first launched in September 2012 as the first coworking space in Perth, with the aim of creating a central hub for the city’s startup community. In August of last year, it expanded by opening a second coworking space down the road from its first, at 131 St Georges Terrace.   “Spacecubed has been growing steadily for about two-and-a-half years now. In that time, we got a lot feedback saying they wanted a space for larger teams of five to 10 people,” he says.   “The other consideration was that we wanted it to be in the same building. So we’ll have 140 entrepreneurs and innovators working from our building, at 45 St Georges Terrace. We now have 500 members from a range of social, environmental, technology and creative industries.   “[Level 9 is] another 500 square metres of space with two meeting rooms, four board rooms, another kitchen and good views of the river and spaces for small teams with some coworking space. There will also be enough space for 70 teams.”   Spacecubed is increasingly being used by corporates, not-for-profits and government agencies, such as iiNet, Landgate and AngliCare WA. According to McCulloch, increasing corporate interest in innovation is providing a key boost to Western Australia’s startup scene.   “Bigger companies in Perth – the Rio Tintos and RACs – are looking at innovation, and how to facilitate and collaborate in innovation with the startup communities.   “Recently, Wesfarmers’ chief executive was asked with their biggest competitor is, and he said it’s Amazon. So they’re starting to see the need to understand how the market is changing.”   McCulloch cites the recent RAC SeedSpark program, a joint program between the Royal Automobile Club and Spacecubed, as an example of how corporate interest is helping to boost the WA startup community.   “RAC SeedSpark looked at how to engage people through mobile apps. And rather than build their own, they put out a challenge around five categories, They had 200 interested people submit 50 ideas submitted, and nine finalists presented their idea to a panel of experts.”   “The idea that was selected was Today We Learned. It’s an app that allows teachers to talk to 50 parents in just 60 seconds. It’s not an idea that the RAC would have come up with on its own, and yet it fits in with learning and education, which is one of the RAC’s central missions.”   While some entrepreneurs have already begun using the new space, the official launch event for Spacecubed Level 9 is coming up on November 5.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Airbnb appoints country manager for Australia and New Zealand

8:01PM | Monday, 25 August

Airbnb has announced the appointment of Sam McDonagh as country manager for Australia and New Zealand, in a move to boost local awareness of the accommodation company.   A native from Perth, McDonagh has over 20 years’ experience in senior management roles at companies including eBay and iiNet. He also co-founded Quickflix in 2003.   McDonagh will also be a tasked with ensuring Airbnb is providing Australian customers with unique travel experiences within Australia and around the world.   “Australia and New Zealand are incredibly important markets for Airbnb both in terms of domestic and international travel,” says Varsha Rao, head of global operations at Airbnb.   "Sam has a deep passion for travel and a great track record growing companies that are focused on strong customer communities, which will make him a great asset to Airbnb.”   According to Airbnb, it is experiencing rapid growth in the region with the number of Australian listings on the platform more than doubling in the last year alone.   Inbound travellers to Australia and New Zealand are also increasingly using the service to secure unique accommodation experiences, with the number of guests booking through Airbnb more than tripling year on year.   McDonagh will be based in Sydney and will be focused on supporting the local team in strategic initiatives and partnerships to further develop and grow Airbnb in the market.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Internode rolls out free Wi-Fi hotspots in Adelaide CBD

6:58PM | Wednesday, 25 June

South Australians will no longer have to search for a hot spot or a café with Wi-Fi in the Adelaide CBD, as the city today switches on free wireless network access throughout central Adelaide.   While Telstra is rolling out its Wi-Fi hotspots across Australia, national broadband provider Internode, a subsidiary of iiNet, has got a jump on the South Australian Wi-Fi game with the creation of its AdelaideFree wireless network.   Launched today in partnership with the South Australian government and Adelaide City Council, Internode says AdelaideFree’s 300 wireless access points across the city will saturate almost the entire CBD, offering free Wi-Fi to more than 30,000 people.   Internode says the network will provide blanket coverage between North Terrace and Wakefield Street/Grote Street and broad access areas in the south city, North Adelaide and the most heavily frequented parts of the Adelaide parklands.   “Already people in Adelaide are embracing this new Wi-Fi capacity. Internode has recorded about 50 per cent increase in use of the Wi-Fi network since announcing AdelaideFree’s deployment last year,” said Internode chief business officer Greg Bader.   AdelaideFree is installed at external locations throughout the CBD including the Festival Centre, the SA Museum, the State Library, the National Wine Centre and the corporate function centre located in the historic Adelaide Stock Exchange building.   The telco says the network is one of the largest CBD-wide outdoor wireless networks in the world and was well tested during Adelaide’s “Mad March” festival season.

THE NEWS WRAP: iiNet founder Michael Malone resigns

3:16AM | Friday, 21 March

The founder of iiNet, Michael Malone, has stood aside from the internet and telecommunications company he launched 20 years ago.   According to a report in SmartCompany, iiNet's acting chief executive and chief financial officer, David Buckingham, has taken over Malone’s role, with the move potentially being announced as early as today.   The move would potentially pave the way for a merger between iiNet and low-cost rival TPG.   Myer chief says no need for merger despite half-year profit slide   Myer has reported an 8.1% half-year slide in net profits to $81 million, with aggressive discounting before Christmas eating into the department store chain’s bottom line.   Despite the result, Myer chief Bernie Brookes says the company doesn’t necessarily need a $3.2 billion merger with rival David Jones to achieve growth.   “If it [the merger] doesn't go ahead, if nothing happens in the next six months, ideally we have two new stores opening, an extension to Myer Melbourne, we've got three refurbishments finished and an exceptional opportunity to really drive the department store business and we have got a robust and growing online business.   “I think our top-line growth is certainly on track for 2015 to harvest a lot of the benefits of the money that we have spent.”   Federal Treasury job cuts on the cards   Outgoing Treasury Secretary Martin Parkinson has said the department would need to slash its workforce by one-third in order to meet budget cuts, despite having already cut staff numbers from a 2011 peak of over 1000.   “Clearly, since we don't control the responsibilities given to us by government, change of this magnitude means delivering similar outcomes in a very different manner.   “In the past, our response to increased demands was to increase our efforts: by working harder and longer.   “Needless to say, this is not sustainable, and it also crowds out any attempts to think differently – and smarter – about prioritising our resources.”   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up to 16331.0. The Aussie dollar is up to US90.43 cents.

How Freelancer.com’s $US400 million takeover offer compares with other recent tech deals

9:27PM | Wednesday, 11 September

Freelancer.com’s $US400 million takeover offer from Japanese recruitment company Recruit Co has attracted plenty of attention.   It’s a hefty chunk of money for a company that grew out of chief executive Matt Barrie’s garage.   If the $US400 million offer for the global online outsourcing platform is accepted, it’s likely to be one of the biggest technology company deals done in Australia this year.   Here are some of the top technology deals in Australia in the past 12 months whose dollar value has been reported, from data compiled by Charles Lindop of KTM Capital:   1. M2 Telecommunications and Dodo Australia, Eftel   In March this year M2 Telecommunications bought phone and internet provider Dodo Australia and telecommunications infrastructure company Eftel for $248 million. M2 said in a statement at the time Dodo and Eftel were highly complementary to its “sizeable” consumer division. “The acquisitions are an excellent complement to our consumer division and combined, our business possesses an excellent capability to grow our share of both the consumer and small to medium business market,” M2 chief executive Geoff Horth said.   2. Corporation Service Company and Melbourne IT   Melbourne IT sold its Digital Brand Services division to US-based Corporation Service Company for $152.5 million in March. DBS provides online brand protection and consultancy services to global organisations. “While this was not a business that we had specifically earmarked for sale, given the value creation provided by the transaction, this was an opportunity which could not be ignored,” Melbourne IT chief executive Theo Hnarakis said in a statement.   3. William Hill and tomwaterhouse.com   UK betting giant William Hill took a punt on bookmaker Tom Waterhouse’s online business last month in a deal that could be worth up to $104 million. Under the deal, William Hill paid $34 million up front, and a potential further $70 million if certain earnings targets are met. “International expansion is a key part of William Hill’s growth strategy and making Australia our second home is our priority,” William Hill chief executive Ralph Topping said in a statement.   4. iiNet and Adam Internet   Internet provider iiNet offered to buy South Australia-based Adam Internet for $60 million in August. Telstra had tried to buy Adam but was thwarted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. “We believe that this transaction provides real benefit to Adam Internet’s customers and staff as it aligns them with iiNet, Australia’s leading ISP in customer service,” Adam’s chief executive Greg Hicks said.   5. Webjet and Zuji   Travel booking website Webjet snapped up fellow online travel agency Zuji for $25 million in December last year. Webjet managing director John Guscic told SmartCompany the deal represented a unique opportunity to substantially expand Webjet's marketing footprint, particularly in Asia. “We've known Zuji since its inception and we know they’ve built out a very attractive business in Asia and we have a desire to expand into the Asian markets and Zuji has given us the platform to achieve that,” he said.   6. SMS Management & Technology and Indicium   In July SMS Management & Technology bought IT infrastructure and managed services company Indicium for $22 million. SMS CEO Tom Stianos said in a statement at the time: “The acquisition of Indicium supports our growing Managed Services and Infrastructure Consulting capability, and meets our strategic imperative to increase our annuity revenue. This is a high growth segment of the market and Indicium will accelerate SMS’ offer of managed services in the cloud market.”   7. Woolworths and Quantium   The supermarket giant took a 50% stake in Quantium, Australia’s leading data consultancy, for a reported $20 million in May. Quantium said in a statement it would provide a “wide range of data, analytical, media and software services to Woolworths as well as help deliver customer insights to Woolworths’ suppliers”.   And where would the Freelancer.com deal rank among deals in the world? Pretty highly according to data compiled by Australian investment firm Right Click Capital.   While it’s nowhere near the $US130 billion deal Verizon Communications has made to buy Vodafone’s 45% of Verizon Wireless this month, or Microsoft’s $US7.2 billion takeover of Nokia, it’s not far off the €360 million ($US477 million) paid by French payment solutions provider Ingenico for online payment provider Ogone in January.

THE NEWS WRAP: Kevin Rudd appeals to business after winning leadership spill

6:51PM | Wednesday, 26 June

Kevin Rudd has reclaimed the prime ministership after winning a leadership spill of the Australian Labor Party last night, defeating incumbent Julia Gillard 57-45, with Anthony Albanese replacing Wayne Swan as the deputy leader.   In his speech following the ballot, Rudd emphasised the business community and young Australians will be key priorities for his government.   "Let me say this to Australian business: I want to work closely with you. I’ve worked with you closely in the past, particularly during the GFC and there were some white knuckle moments there, as some of the heads of the major banks will remember," Rudd said.   "But we came through because we worked together and I’m saying it loud and clear to businesses large and small across the country, that in partnership we can do great things for the country’s future."   Julia Gillard announced she would not recontest her seat at the next election, also saying that while “[gender] doesn't explain everything, it doesn't explain nothing; it explains some things” in terms of the challenges she faced as leader.   Carriers demand more backhaul access   Competition watchdog the ACCC will begin an enquiry into Telstra’s charges to other carriers for use of its backhaul networks, following complaints from a group of carriers including iiNet, Vodafone and Macquarie Telecom.   Backhaul fibre optic networks are used to send calls and data to and from mobile phone base stations and exchanges, with Telstra owning the only cables to some parts of the country.   "We need the NBN to change some of its priorities to be able to help us bring competition to Australians," says Vodafone Australia chief executive Bill Morrow.   “This is a huge impediment, and you're now going to get customers faster and faster internet access and taxing them if they use it. It ends up being a disproportionate tax as well because for companies like iiNet and Internode, our customers have much higher usage than Telstra customers or Optus customers,” says iiNet chief executive Michael Malone.   ATO warning on profit shifting   Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan has issued a warning to Australian companies hoping to emulate the tax minimisation strategies of tech giants such as Google and Apple, telling the federal government it needs to do more to stamp out the practice.   "They can see what is happening as a result of these international companies taking profit out of the country. They are thinking: 'What functions can we move offshore, what functions can we disconnect and have third-party providers fulfil to put the profit in a low-tax jurisdiction and receive an exempt dividend coming back into the system?'" Jordan says.   “That might be their assertion, but we are going to test every single aspect of those structures. We will want to know whether what purports to happen actually happens on the ground… It is one thing to put in place a fancy structure, but it is another to have it tested five years later, because by their nature these schemes are quite, sort of, artificial.   “We will be taking a leadership role internationally in addressing the problem, but we need to also look at how changes can be made here. The corporate tax base is under threat. What's happening is unacceptable to the community, the government, and to regulators.”   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 1.02% to 14910.14. The Aussie dollar is up to US92.81 cents.

iiNet wins landmark copyright case against AFACT in High Court

4:50AM | Saturday, 21 April

The High Court ruled in iiNet's favour this morning after years of court battles between the ISP and media corporations, saying it was not responsible for the actions of its users who downloaded copyrighted material illegally.

iiNet founder Michael Malone named Entrepreneur of the Year

11:12AM | Friday, 18 November

iiNet founder and chief executive Michael Malone has told Australian start-ups “it’s all about the product”, after being named 2011 Australian Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

BRW executive rich list dominated by mining

3:46PM | Thursday, 24 March

Mining magnate Andrew Forrest has bumped media mogul Rupert Murdoch off the top spot in this year’s BRW Executive Rich List, with mining companies dominating the list of Australia’s 200 wealthiest executives.

Moving on up – and out

4:37AM | Friday, 27 April

Operating a home-based business is no longer reserved for stay-at-home mums and retirees. Technology has made it incredibly easy for almost any business venture to begin at home.

Top 10 New Year’s resolutions for start-ups

4:05AM | Friday, 27 April

If you’ve recently started up a business, your New Year’s resolutions shouldn’t revolve entirely around losing a few chocolate-fuelled kilos or keeping cigarettes away from your yellowing fingers.

Get serious about training

12:10AM | Tuesday, 14 December

It’s not often the Taskmaster has to turn to another entrepreneur for advice, but I couldn’t help but pick up on this tip from Michael Malone, the chief executive of iiNet, who appeared in a great interview on StartupSmart yesterday.

The iiNet evangelist

2:17AM | Wednesday, 9 February

You don’t get many firebrand preachers operating out of their mother’s garage. But then Michael Malone was never the standard entrepreneur.

Small broadband players leave giants in their wake

12:25AM | Monday, 6 December

Giants Telstra and Optus have lagged behind more entrepreneurial players in a survey of the leading broadband internet providers, with Internode topping customer satisfaction rankings.

How do you communicate online?

12:01AM | Friday, 3 December

Email is now the default for online communication, but are you exploring other methods of communicating with your employees and partners on the job?

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