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News Roundup: eWaste, AWS profits and waxworks

A roundup of the week’s tech news including lobbying spend, Internet.org and rage.

eWaste & conflict minerals

The UN has just released a new report looking at global eWaste. The amount of discarded electrical and electronic equipment reached a record 41.8 million tonnes in 2014, with IT devices – including phones, personal computers, and printers — accounting for 7% of that figure. This discarded material contained “some 16,500 kilotons of iron, 1,900 kilotons of copper, and 300 tonnes of gold as well as significant amounts of silver, aluminium, palladium, and other potentially reusable resources, with a combined estimated value of $52 billion.”

Meanwhile, a new report from Amnesty International looking into conflict minerals reporting found that nearly 80% of companies in the US are “failing to adequately check and disclose whether their products contain conflict minerals from Central Africa.” Of the hundred companies the report looked at, 79 failed the meet the minimum standard of the 2010 Dodd Frank Act, and only 16 attempted to go beyond their direct suppliers. Even if there was a risk within the supply chain, more than half of the companies did not report this to senior management.

This week also saw Apple release its 2015 environmental sustainability report. The Cupertino company – which under Tim Cook’s stewardship has made a lot of effort to become a greener company – announces in the report that it doesn’t just “want to debate climate change. We want to stop it.” The company now uses renewable power at all of its US operations, and is working on reducing its paper usage.

Money, money, money

Not long ago The Chronicle of Philanthropy released its list of the US’s 50 biggest charitable donors. This week saw the release of this year’s Hurun Philanthropy List, outlining the most generous men and women in China. Alibaba founder Jack Ma topped the list, donating a massive 14.65 billion yuan ($2.36 billion) between March 2014-15 – which is actually more than Bill and Melinda Gates donated.

Meanwhile, Wealth-X has just released its list of tech’s wealthiest women. HP CEO Meg Whitman came in top with a fortune of $1.3 billion, followed by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg ($1.22 billion), Alibaba co-founder Lucy Peng ($1.2 billion) and Yahoo!’s Marissa Mayer ($410 million) [the list doesn’t include Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ wife, Laurene Powell, whose fortune stands at an estimated $19.5 billion]. While those are numbers not to be sniffed at, they’re small fry compared to the likes of Bill Gates, Larry Ellison or Mark Zuckerberg.

Lobbying

Also released this week were the US lobbying figures. Last year saw the world’s biggest tech companies spend upwards of $80 million trying to whisper in the ears of Capitol Hill’s lawmakers, and this year looks set to be a big spender too. Google spent $5.5 million in the first three months of 2015 – a company record for a single quarter. Facebook – whose spending shot up 1/3 between 2013-14 – spent nearly $2.5 million, while other big spenders included Qualcomm ($2 million), Microsoft & Amazon (both $1.9 million), Oracle & HP (both $1.3 million) and Apple ($1.2 million).

Internet.org woes

If Facebook were a country, it would now have more citizens than China. That hasn’t stopped the relentless march of Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet.org project with announcements the service is now live in Indonesia and will be coming to Nigeria next month. 

However, the backlash over whether Zuckerberg’s free service actually undermines Net Neutrality continues. This week saw the Chief Digital Services Officer of XL Axiata – the Indonesian phone carrier Internet.org tested its service on last year – speak out against the project because of its controversial nature and questionable business model.

Other members of India’s tech scene have also weighed in on the debate, with Mahesh Murthy, a partner VC-firm Seed Fund saying Zuckerberg’s argument that Net Neutrality and Internet.org can co-exist is the “moral equivalent of saying freedom and slavery can co-exist.”

Amazon makes a profit – sort of

For years, Amazon has done two things: 1) Hide the financials of its Cloud Services and 2) make a loss despite massive revenues. This week saw Jeff Bezos’ company mix things up a bit and finally reveal the figures behind AWS. The Cloud wing made an impressive $1.57 billion in Q1 this year and saw a profit of $265 million. Despite this, the company as a whole still made a loss of $57 million on revenues of $22.7 billion, so business as usual on that front.

Amazon has been beating to the punch when it comes to drone delivery in Europe. SwissPost, Switzerland’s national postal service, announced this week it’s testing drone-based delivery in partnership with Matternet. The tests will begin in the summer, couriering parcels weighing up to 1 kilogram over a distance of up to 20 kilometers.

Not to be outdone, Amazon is launching a scheme to deliver packages straight to the boot of your car. The scheme, which will be tested in Munich, will allow Audi drivers grant delivery workers keyless access to their boots during a certain time window. 

Nokia returns!

Could Nokia be getting back into the smartphone business? Apparently so! Nokia Technologies - the bit of the former Finnish giant which handles all the company’s patents – is reportedly aiming to re-join the smartphone market sometime next year, and is also planning a Virtual Reality project. Since Microsoft took over Nokia’s phone business, the Technologies unit has released the Nokia N1 tablet and the NLauncher alternative Android skin.

No Tweet for you

There are certain rules when you run a tech company: don’t get caught using your rivals products, and big up your own services wherever possible. It seems some of the execs never got that memo or got tired of dog-fooding pretty quickly. A study of the social network’s top brass found seven of the company’s 11 top executives Tweet less than once a day. Katie Jacobs Stanton, VP of Global Media, tweets around nine times a day, while CEO Dick Costolo averages about three. Brian Schipper, VP of Human Resources, has Tweeted just four times since he joined in January last year.

NSA

The usual dose of NSA-related headlines.

-          New Zealand planned to team up with the NSA to spy on Chinese diplomats

-          Tech companies are worried about France’s incoming surveillance laws

-          There may be as many as seven US info leakers

-          The chief of the NSA says the Rules of War should apply to cyber warfare too

-          The UK’s counter-terrorism police chief says some tech firms are being “friendly to terrorists

-          US Presidential candidate Rand Paul thinks the US Founding Fathers “would be mortified” by NSA’s spying

-          The NSA’s Earth Day mascot is terrifying

 

IBM is one of the few companies working closely with China.

M&A

As always, plenty of M&A action going on this week. Defence firm Raytheon has acquired security firm Websense, BlackBerry continues its attempt at a renaissance with the acquisition of security startup WatchDox, Netsuite has bought Bronto Software, EMC has purchased CloudLink, Google has acquired two Virtual Reality startups in the shape of Thrive Audio and Tilt Brush, District Photo is taking Snapfish off of HP’s hands, and Microsoft is bringing it’s Open Technologies subsidiary back in-house.

Elsewhere, EFactor has bought crowdfunding Platform RocketHub, Infosys has snapped up Kallidus, Canon now owns Lifecake, South African electronics firms Striata has snaffled up US marketing startup Mass Transit, Arris has purchased Pace, Atlassian has acquired Open Source video conferencing Company BlueJimp, IPsoft has bought ab1 Group AB, Synopsys has got its hands on  security firm Codenomicon, CenturyLink has taken on Orchestrate and Engine Yard has splashed out for OpDemand.

Meanwhile, it’s just come to light that Amazon acquired NoSQL Database Migration Startup Amiato last year and Google nearly bought Tesla back in 2013.  Sungard is reportedly up for sale, and the sale of Nokia’s HERE maps division is drawing attention from a host of companies including Apple, Alibaba, Amazon and more.

Madame Tussauds

Do you work in tech? Do you want to be immortalised in wax? It’s your lucky day. San Francisco’s Madame Tussauds is looking for a new tech innovator to add to its collection! Go the suggestions page, name your Bay Area innovator and explain how they have “influenced, changed or revolutionized his/her industry.“ 

Vengeance against the machine

Ever gotten angry at your technology? Of course you have. Sometimes it’s slow, sometimes it crashes, and sometimes you just want to throw it of the window (or in the bath). Most of us restrain ourselves. But one resident of Colorado Springs finally snapped and decided to fill his Dell PC with eight bullets. The man, Lucas Hinch, found the blue screen of death too much to bear and unloaded his 9mm pistol on the computer. He was later charged for discharging his gun within city limits, but had no regrets. “It was glorious,” he said. “Angels sung on high.”

Startup class

There’s plenty of people who want the tech community to separate itself from the rest of the world. But what if there was an airline just for startup hipsters? It’s something Turkish Airlines addressed in a joke video this week. Check it out:

Passive aggressive maps

Passive aggressive pot-shots have just been taken to a new level by one Google Maps employee. Hidden near the outskirts of Rawalpindi, Pakistan, is a picture of the Android bot taking a whizz on the Apple logo. It’s hard to say how long the image has been there, or who is behind it, but Business Insider reports that Google “is aware of the issue and working on getting it fixed.”

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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