AOL, the parent company of online publications including Huffington Post, TechCrunch and Engadget, is to be sold to US telco giant Verizon for $US4.4 billion ($A5.5 billion). The deal will see AOL purchased for $US50 per share, funded through cash on hand and commercial paper. In a statement, Verizon cites creating a mobile-first online advertising platform connected to its IoT (Internet of Things) products as being the key motivation behind the deal. Upon completion of the deal, which is subject to regulatory approval, AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong will continue to oversee operations at the digital media and advertising company, which will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Verizon. Armstrong raised eyebrows in 2013 by firing an employee in front of 1000 colleagues. The takeover is far from the first mega-deal involving AOL, which merged with Time Warner in January 2001 in a deal that saw AOL shareholders own 55% of the combined company. However, following declines in AOL’s dial-up internet business over the years that followed, the merger was unwound in May 2009. Following the spin-off AOL, which originally launched in 1983 as a Commodore 64 BBS (bulletin board service), then transformed itself into an online media company by purchasing TechCrunch in 2010 and Huffington Post for $US315 million in 2011. Meanwhile, in September 2013, Verizon purchased Vodafone’s stake in mobile phone joint venture Verizon Wireless for $US130 billion, with the mega deal the third-largest in history at the time it was announced. This article was originally published at SmartCompany.
Fears Abbott's metadata laws could force small ISPs out of business, as calls for more consultation grow2:39AM | Friday, 6 February
There are growing concerns the federal government’s proposed data retention laws could force smaller internet service providers and telcos out of business, with frustration mounting over inadequate consultation over the issue. Metadata generally describes data about calls, emails, website visits and other electronic messages, such as the time they took place and where they originated, but does not include the content of these messages themselves. Under legislation proposed by the federal government last year, ISPs would be required to store this data for a period of up to two years, with law enforcement agencies given the ability to access this information without a warrant. Director of Smart50 finalist Broadband Solutions, Sam Bashiry, told SmartCompany if the legislation is adopted, the impact on smaller ISPs will be much larger than on telecommunications giants such as Optus, Telstra, Vodafone or iiNet. “The likes of Optus and Telstra have a massive budget for that sort of thing – we don’t,” Bashiry says. “And the last thing we want to see in this country is some of the smaller ISPs going out of business.” Bashiry says the lack of information and consultation with smaller ISPs is his biggest concern with the legislation. “There should be one law for all and there should be more consultation with smaller ISPs, because not all of the information is out there. It’s like the NBN – there are so many changes constantly being made,” Bashiry says. “And how it will affect smaller ISPs will depend on how deep it goes. If it’s just browser history, that’s not really an issue. But if emails also need to be stored, there are costs involved with that. “I read in the paper that under the laws, there is to be no need to keep records for Gmail accounts, but if a customer uses their ISP’s email account, then you’ll need to keep records. Now, that’s a huge loophole and there needs to be one rule for all.” Bashiry’s concerns echo those made by industry lobby group the Communications Alliance in comments to News Corp, as well as by the peak body for Tasmania’s Information Communication Technology sector, TasICT. TasICT executive director Dean Winter told SmartCompany small ISPs are anxious about what the new laws will mean for them. “TasICT is very concerned that these proposed laws have been poorly communicated and not well understood,” Winter says. “Any new requirement for data retention will have a proportionally higher impact on small ISPs. They would be likely to spend considerably more time and resources in attempting to understand the regulation and then implement and maintain the systems required to comply.” “The process needs to be delayed so that government and industry can clarify which organisations will actually be covered by the scheme.” SmartCompany contacted the Department of Communications and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull this morning but did not receive a response prior to publication. However, in a speech to Parliament late last year, Minister Turnbull defended the proposed legislation, pointing out that historically phone companies held records detailing the time, duration, and A and B parties of phone calls. “Access to metadata plays a central role in almost every counter-terrorism, counterespionage, cybersecurity and organised crime investigation,” Turnbull said. “It is also used in almost all serious criminal investigations, including investigations into murder, serious sexual assaults, drug trafficking and kidnapping. The use of this kind of metadata, therefore, is not new. However, as the business models of service providers are changing with technology, they are keeping fewer records.” “In June 2013, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security concluded that this diminution in the retention of metadata is harming law enforcement and national security capabilities, and that these changes are accelerating.” Image credit: Flickr/gabitogol This article orignally appeared on SmartCompany. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
An Australian startup leading the way in contactless communications has opened an office in New York as part of its expansion into the US market. Tapit, founded in 2011, has been finding new ways for consumers to access information instantly on their phones – all off the back of an aggressive international expansion. Earlier this year the startup collaborated with the likes of Google and HBO to allow people to access film and television-related content on their smartphones by scanning event posters. In September, Tapit entered the Chinese market via a partnership with mobile commerce giant 99 Wuxian. Co-founder and chief executive Jamie Conyngham told StartupSmart the company opened an office in New York because it wanted to position itself where its clients were. “There’s a concentration of media in New York and a lot of iconic brands have their global headquarters there, so it made more sense for us to relocate there rather than San Francisco,” he says. Conyngham says the startup has been using Australia as a “launchpad” for global deals, which has worked well because it can bring those case studies to the US. “If you do a deal with Google or Microsoft in Australia you have that case study and you can then go to their global teams,” he says. “You can’t do that unless you do those deals in the US – Skype only takes you so far.” The company has been helped by the fact that Australia is ahead with contactless communication in comparison to other countries, according to Conyngham. “You’ve seen the massive take-up of tap and pay with credit cards and that has put us ahead in the contactless ecosystem. So we’ve been lucky to have headquarters here in that regard because the US is a bit behind – even in the UK.” Tapit also has offices in Tokyo, Shanghai and Dubai. The fast-growing startup has pioneered contactless communications for brands such as Telstra, Vodafone, Coca-Cola, Samsung and Sony. There are around 635 million smartphones fitted with near-field communications technology around the world, and Tapit expects that number to grow to one billion by 2015. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
A year on from Edward Snowden’s revelations around state sponsored mass surveillance programs, some of the major players in the online and technological world (including Google, Mozilla, Twitter and Reddit) have launched the Reset the Net campaign. The program aims to increase people’s awareness and uptake of privacy and security tools so they can better resist surveillance, particularly that conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA). While the campaign is laudable in its efforts to raise the issue of surveillance, there are some glaring oversights present. A step in the right direction Reset the Net seeks to challenge mass surveillance and help people to take back their privacy while online by encouraging patterns of behaviour that resist surveillance. For individual users they suggest the use of apps with encrypted communications protocols (such as TOR or Chat Secure), and safer password choices. More structural suggestions are provided for developers and administrators, such as the use of encryption as a part of a website or application, and the use of end-to-end encryption. Encryption makes any collected data more difficult (but not impossible) for authorities to interpret and act upon. These kinds of strategies do a great job at “target hardening” users and digital services against the collection of personal data, and they improve the general security of users online. Vodafone announced this month that some governments allow their security agencies to connect directly into its network to conduct surveillance, so these kind of user based forms of resistance are a good starting point to counteracting some surveillance measures. While these are positive achievements, they merely address some of the more visible consequences and implications of surveillance, and fail to address what are perhaps the most worrying aspects of contemporary surveillance. Where the problems lie The Reset the Net project acts to reinforce the idea that surveillance is primarily conducted by state authorities, with the NSA as the primary antagonist for this story. But the reality is that the NSA is only one actor in the surveillance drama. As others have noted one of Reset’s biggest backers, Google, is also one of the biggest instigators of corporate surveillance. Google collects enormous amounts of personal data every day, harvesting personal data from user’s browsing habits and email, while simultaneously calling for email to be encrypted against outside sources. Google also uses its large range of products (such as Gmail and Google Docs) to data-mine every conceivable audience, including up until recently children. Story continues on page 2. Please click below. You are being monitored by many Google is just one of many private companies conducting surveillance today, with supermarkets, insurance companies and many Fortune 1000 companies all monitoring customers on a daily basis. This leads to the next issue with Reset the Net, and most counter-surveillance activities today: they don’t address the incredible amounts of data already circulating in surveillance databases. Surveillance today is not just about seeing into the lives of the present – it’s about cataloguing and using the past (and present) to understand the future. Australia is no exception to this trend, as the government once again pushes for mandatory data retention. As a part of the (so-called) development of big data, which allegedly can assist to generate new statistical insights from ultra-large data sets, the data collected from ubiquitous surveillance are increasingly being used as a part of predictive analytics. Through these techniques a user’s future behaviours, actions and dispositions can be extrapolated from past data. While there are some possible positives here (such as better management of goods and services for business), the negative potentials are enormous. Shaping the future The use of algorithms and automated profiles can open the door to forms of control (and discrimination) that occur without any human input. Through the power of code, corporate or government powerbrokers can reshape individual lives, automatically analysing and predicting possible outcomes for citizens and then determining their treatment, from seemingly random pieces of personal information. As US sociologist Gary Marx has pointed out, no-one is innocent under such regimes of “new” surveillance, with all citizens viewed as a risk - what he calls categorical suspicion. The focus on internet surveillance ignores that surveillance is not just on the internet, but everywhere. As recently pointed out, we live in a Sensor Society, with many aspects of daily life recorded through various sensor technologies. From smartphones to drones, there are many possibilities for invasive surveillance today. The German newspaper Der Speigel has also pointed out that the NSA and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are at the forefront of developing new means of sensing individuals. Once again Google is a part of these trends, recently purchasing a drone company and is reported to be bidding for the world’s largest home surveillance company. The drama is just beginning Internet surveillance is only one aspect of contemporary surveillance. The Reset the Net project paradoxically represents a small positive step in resisting and counteracting warrantless and illegal surveillance, while ignoring the bigger picture. There is a growing and ongoing disparity between the rights and powers of the watched (or sensed), and the watchers (or sensors). As both spectators and actors in this surveillance (or sensor) society, there is a need to be mindful of this bigger picture as we play our roles and choose our props, and recite (or improvise) our lines. These are only the opening scenes of a much longer and difficult play. With no sign that the social or technological scope of surveillance will fade, we must play our parts wisely and critically, if we are to have any hope of a happy ending. Peta Cook is a Senior Lecturer of Sociology at the University of Tasmania. Ashlin Lee is a PhD candidate at the University of Tasmania. This story was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.
The premiers of Victoria and South Australia, Denis Napthine and Jay Weatherill, are set to hold talks with Prime Minister Tony Abbott following the announcement by Holden it will end production in Australia by 2017. The decision by Holden’s parent company, General Motors, to end production in Australia will directly impact 2900 jobs over the next four years across Victoria and South Australia, with more than 30,000 jobs at risk nationally. “It's about the whole industrialisation of our economy, and what now needs to be put in place to replace what is a very significant element of the South Australian economy, indeed of the national economy,” Weatherill says. “I'll seize that opportunity to talk to Mr Abbott about the future of Toyota and how the federal government can work with the state government and Toyota and the entire automotive supply chain industry to secure the future of Toyota,” Napthine says. “I spoke to Mr Yasuda of Toyota last night. Obviously the government will be talking to Toyota… We want Toyota to continue. They are in a slightly different position to Holden – much more of their local production has been for export,” Abbott says. Bill Morrow to be named new NBN boss Vodafone chief executive Bill Morrow is set to be named as the new chief executive of the NBN Co., according to reports. The announcement is set to be made as Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull prepares to deliver a strategic review into the rollout, which identifies cost issues and flaws in Labor’s rollout of the project. Vodafone plays hardball on rents Mobile communications giant Vodafone is threatening to abandon stores as part of its hardball negotiating tactics with retail landlords, as the struggling telco attempts to renegotiate leases on its stores. “[They] verbally are refusing to pay the rent. For an enterprise of the calibre of Vodafone, this is cowboy behaviour, considering all the bad press Vodafone have had. They are playing hardball,” one landlord told Fairfax. “This request [to cut rents] is on the back of numerous store closures that have been performed in the last two years due to the significant losses that have been incurred from the impact of customers leaving. In conjunction with the above customer base loss there have been considerable revenue losses,” a leaked letter from the company to landlords reportedly states. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down to 5109.5. The Aussie dollar is down to US90.63 cents.
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.
US hedge funds Centerbridge Partners and Oaktree Capital have accused Billabong of ignoring their rival debt-for-equity bid for the troubled surfwear giant, which they claim would have seen existing shareholders emerge with less debt and more equity. "Centerbridge and Oaktree are very credible, interested parties, and to not even have a discussion with them when they've flown in from the US was astonishing,” a source for the consortium told The Australian. Billabong chairman Ian Pollard rejects the accusation. “We gave [Centerbridge and Oaktree] ample opportunity to provide some indication, at the very least, of what their terms might be, but they indicated they couldn't put up a proposal until they had done due diligence. So we executed the only executable transaction we had,” Pollard says. Telstra threatens to sue Vodafone over 4G speed claims Telstra is threatening to sue Vodafone over claims its 4G network is the fastest in Australia and that its coverage now reaches 96% of the Australian population, claims the incumbent telecommunications giant alleges are untrue. "Telstra is confident of the claims that we make about our network. This type of action is not uncommon," a Telstra spokesperson says. "Vodafone customers in 4G areas with compatible devices will have access to speeds that are among the fastest not only in the country but in many parts of the world," Vodafone chief executive Bill Morrow said last month. Queensland government considering second Brisbane casino Queensland Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney has stated the question of a second Brisbane casino is an essential one for the state government, but it has not finalised a decision on whether or not Brisbane should be a one or two casino town. The news comes as both James Packer-led gaming giant Crown and Sydney casino operator Echo intensify their campaigns over a second Brisbane casino. “The casino operators have no need to be taking shots at each other in the public, in the media as we have seen,” Seeney says. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 0.12% to 15470.52. The Aussie dollar is up to US92.42 cents.
Treasurer Chris Bowen has announced Australia will move to a floating carbon price from July next year, with many businesses currently paying a fixed $24.15 per tonne of carbon set to move to a market-based price of between $6 and $10 per tonne. However, the Minerals Council of Australia and the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association say the move does not go far enough to alleviate the concerns of the resource and energy sectors. “While the move to a floating price may represent a short-term lowering of the price facing liable entities, Australia is still imposing a cost on its gas export industry that will not be borne by any of its LNG competitors,” APPEA spokesman Michael Bradley says. Vodafone unveils controversial new ad campaign Vodafone chief marketing officer Kim Clarke has unveiled a new advertising campaign aimed at restoring consumer confidence in the troubled telco, after losses of around $1.2 billion and a million customers abandoning the carrier in 2011 and 2012. The controversial ad campaign, aimed at presenting a company “more confident” with its network, shows a heartbroken teenager waiting for a call from a love interest who never calls, with the tagline, “If you don't get that call, it's probably not our network.” “We've pretty much had our heads down and bums up for the first half of this year, focusing on the network and the experience we're providing our customers. What you're seeing now for the first time is an outward expression of that confidence. And the only reason we're able to do this is because we can see what our customers are experiencing,” Clarke says. New concerns about Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner after yet another fire New safety questions have emerged following a fire aboard an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner at London’s Heathrow Airport over the weekend, following a technical fault aboard a TUI Travel-owned Thomson Airways plane. “We want to reassure our customers that we have every confidence in this aircraft and would never operate it if we weren't 100% sure of its safety," a TUI Travel spokesperson says. A number of airlines set to take orders of the troubled jumbo jets, including Virgin Atlantic, remain committed to their orders of the troubled jets as Boeing reassures airlines, investors and shareholders of its safety. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 0.02% to 15464.3. The Aussie dollar is up to US90.81 cents.
Margaret Thatcher died peacefully last night, aged 87, with Britain’s first female prime minister set to receive a ceremonial funeral with full military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Thatcher is considered to be a hero by many conservatives, who credit her with rebuilding the British economy through key policies, which included the privatisation of government assets and her role in ending the UK coal miners’ strike, which in turn drew controversy from those on the political left. “It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Lady Thatcher. We have lost a great leader, a great prime minister and a great Briton,” says British Prime Minister David Cameron. “The Labour party disagreed with much of what she did and she will always remain a controversial figure. But we can disagree and also greatly respect her political achievements and her personal strength,” says British Labour leader Ed Miliband. Holden told to "go better" after cutting 500 jobs General Motors Holden has announced plans to cut nearly a quarter of its workforce, with 400 jobs set to go in South Australia and a further 100 job losses in Victoria, prompting renewed criticism about government subsidies for the auto giant. “After the loss of these 400 to 500 staff [the cost per job] then rises to more than $50,000 of subsidy per employee. It's quite a large sum of money,” said Simon Cowan from the Centre of Independent Studies. “I think we deserve better. There are a range of important undertakings in that agreement that I want to ensure are delivered to South Australians and now we need to have some serious discussions with the company," said South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill. Vodafone announces 4G network rollout Vodafone has announced the rollout of 4G services, following significant falls in the company’s subscriber base in recent years. “At least for a period of time, we will have the fastest 4G network in Australia. We will have a bit of a differentiation point that no one else has,” said Vodafone chief executive Bill Morrow. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 0.33 per cent, at 14,613.40. The Aussie dollar is up to US104.10 cents.
Long after many in the tech industry believed contactless payments in phones would be the norm, a new partnership between technology giant Samsung and payment group Visa may lead to more widespread adoption of using phones as wallets.
Newspaper and radio conglomerate APN News & Media has been rocked by the resignation of its director and chief executive, along with three other directors, in the wake of a major clash with investors.
Insurance giant QBE is set to cut around 700 jobs as part of a push to save $200 million a year in operating costs.
Telco giant Vodafone is continuing to consolidate its retail base, announcing the end of the Crazy John's brand after acquiring the chain just over four years ago, with the intention of moving stores under its own name.
Troubled surfwear giant Billabong could be broken up if a joint $527 million bid for the company by US clothing giant VF Corporation and investment fund Altamont Capital Partners is successful.
Sydney-based tech start-up Tapit Media plans to take its near field communications technology (NFC) to the global stage, after completing a $2.3 million Series A round led by MPC Ventures.
Government regulations need to change if Australia is to create a 'Silicon Beach' that will compete with the world's leading digital economies, a gathering of tech giants and start-ups has told Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Venture capital firms are too focused on funding “network users” such as mobile apps rather than the networks themselves, according to a new report.
Developers should treat hackathons as an opportunity to hone their skills, an expert says, after the Vodafone Foundation announced it will host a hackathon on behalf of charities next month.
An advertising company is trying to make mobile phone users listen to commercials – when they call someone else.
Raging at the incompetency of a large, faceless corporation via their outsourced call centre is an experience that most of us have had to endure.