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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 23rd Aug 2016

Consultation documents reveal plans to fully digitalise the UK's tax system

HMRC web page

HMRC wants an end to paper tax dealings

HMRC has issued a series of consultation documents outlining how the department plans to transform the UK's tax system under the Making Tax Digital initiative.

The reforms are intended to make HMRC one of the most digitally advanced tax administrations in the world by 2020.

"We are committed to a transparent and accessible tax system fit for the digital age, and Making Tax Digital is at the heart of these plans," said financial secretary to the Treasury Jane Ellison.

"This new system will make the UK's tax administration more efficient and straightforward, and will offer businesses greater clarity when it comes to paying their tax bills.

"By replacing the annual tax return with simple, digital updates, businesses will be able to concentrate on putting people and profit, not paperwork, first."

HMRC has released six documents covering different areas of the tax system:

  • Making Tax Digital: Bringing Business Tax Into the Digital Age. This consultation will examine how computerised record keeping and regular updates should operate.
  • Business Income Tax: Simplifying Tax for Unincorporated Businesses. This will focus on changing how the self-employed map their accounting periods onto the tax year, extending cash basis accounting, reducing reporting requirements and cutting the need to distinguish between capital and revenue for businesses using cash basis accounting.
  • Business Income Tax: Simplified Cash Basis for Unincorporated Property Businesses. This consultation will consider the extension of cash basis accounting to landlords.
  • Making Tax Digital: Voluntary Pay As You Go. This will look at the options for business customers covered by the requirement for digital record-keeping to make and manage their voluntary payments and consider how voluntary payments will be allocated across a customer's different taxes.
  • Making Tax Digital: Tax Administration. This will examine the administration frameworks that need to change to support Making Tax Digital. It will also set out proposals to align aspects of the tax administration framework across taxes, including the simplification of late filing and late-payment fines.
  • Making Tax Digital: Transforming the Tax System Through the Better Use of Information. This will focuses on how HMRC can make better use of the information received from third parties to reduce "end of year underpayments and overpayments". It will also explore the possibility of extending the use of third-party information from 2018 onwards "which will enable us to deliver the end of the tax return by 2020".

The last document, bringing the possibility of the abolition of the tax return and its replacement by a pay-as-you-go system, would represent a fundamental revolution in the way tax is levied and paid.

"Making Tax Digital represents very significant change. It will bring the tax system into the 21st century and help make HMRC one of the most digitally-advanced tax administrations in the world," said Edward Troup, executive chairman at HMRC.

"Going digital will abolish the annual tax return as we know it by 2020, replacing it with a personalised digital service through which taxpayers will be able to send and receive information to HMRC at the click of a button.

"There is still a lot to design and develop, and it's important that we do this hand-in-hand with our customers and their representatives. These consultations are the next step in this process."

It is unclear, however, how this current initiative will dovetail with HMRC's recent decision to extend its mega-outsourcing contracts with Accenture and Capgemini.

The HMRC Making Tax Digital consultation will run until 7 November.

Source: v3.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 23rd Aug 2016

children kids school bags rucksacks primary highAndreas Rentz/Getty Images

A child protection charity is worried that new European data laws pose a threat to its work.

Childline, run by the NSPCC, is a helpline and online service that offers free anonymous advice and counselling to children.

It wants to let children access its online service for free, without it counting towards their data bills — but this practice may be banned under new European Union rules.

(Childline's concerns were previously reported by The Financial Times.)

Why? This practice of offering access to certain services and apps for free is known as "zero rating" — and it arguably violates net neutrality, the principle that all data should be treated equally.

 

 

This, net neutrality's supporters say, ensures a fairer playing field, because it means telecoms companies can't charge startups exorbitant amounts to get their data to customers quickly — and big incumbents can't pay to have their services "zero-rated," which would make them more appealing than new entrants who couldn't afford to this.

But the flipside of this is that anti-"zero rating" rules may prevent organisations — like the NSPCC — from offering free-to-access services with a real social benefit.

"It is a huge priority for the NSPCC to ensure that every child or young person, including those who are most vulnerable to data poverty, can access help, support and advice from our trained counsellors whenever they need to. We have had a strong positive response from the largest communication providers in exploring the possibility of zero-rating Childline, however, we fully understand their hesitancy to carry this out under uncertainty as to whether it would breach EU guidelines," NSPCC CEO Peter Wanless wrote in a letter to Berec, the European regulator.

"Whilst we are certain that Net Neutrality legislation and subsequent guidance would not seek to prohibit zero-rating of applications whose primary function is to provide a public service for the most vulnerable individuals in society, and where the main function of the application is to provide confidential counselling services for those in need of help and support, we would like to confirm that this is the case."

Childline began as a telephone service, back in 1986 — but it is now mainly online. It says that 71% of the 300,000 counselling sessions it provided last year were conducted over the internet.

Being able to "zero rate" its service would make it more accessible to children, many of whom will have limited data allowances, or none at all.

NSPCC wrote to Berec ahead of the EU finalising new telecoms rules later this month. Telecoms company O2 already "zero-rates" Childline's website, and the charity is in talks withVodafone, EE, BT, TalkTalk, Three, Sky, and Virgin.

Berec did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Here's a "slightly edited" version of the letter sent by Childline to the chair of Berec, provided by the NSPCC:

Dr Wilhelm Eschweiler

BEREC Chair

16 August 2016

Dear Dr Wilhelm Eschweiler,

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) is the UK’s leading child protection charity and fights to ensure that all children are protected from abuse and free to enjoy their childhoods. As well as campaigning for changes to policy, practice and behaviour which will benefit children’s safety, we also work directly with children and families across the UK through our network of service centres and our national 24-hour helplines and websites.

Childline is our dedicated service for children and young people under the age of 19 in the UK. For 30 years, Childline has provided an essential charitable service for children and young people who have nowhere else to turn and it has become an established, much loved and much valued part of the national child protection system. We have recently launched a new Childline brand with a strapline ‘online, on the phone, anytime.’ The new identity reflects the way in which the service is available to children and young people wherever and whenever they need it; including a new, mobile-optimised website –https://www.childline.org.uk/– created to make it easier for children to access self-help content and interact with counsellors online.

The need for ChildLine has never been greater with last year the website receiving 3.2 million visits and nationwide call-centres providing close to 300,000 counselling sessions, 71% of which were conducted online. Children inflicting self-harm and feeling suicidal were the reason behind a high number of these contacts, while reports of sexual abuse and online grooming continued to rise year-on-year.

To reflect the changing way in which our advice is being delivered and to continue our commitment to provide free and private contact for young people in need, we started to explore with the communications industry the possibility of ‘zero rating’ the new Childline website. We felt that this would send out a strong message to young people across the UK that in 2016 they still have a dedicated and confidential service ready to help them, which is accessible 24/7 and absolutely free of charge whenever they needed it, be it online or over the phone.

It was during this discussion process (see Annex A for a list of providers in attendance) that it became clear that there were implications to zero-rating Childline for the communications industry within existing draft EU guidelines.

Zero rating is discussed in several places in the draft BEREC guidelines, including a statement to the effect of: “A zero-rating offer where all applications are blocked (or slowed down) once the data cap is reached except for the zero-rated application(s) would infringe Article 3(3) first (and third) subparagraph (see paragraph 52).” In addition, the draft BEREC guidelines note that different forms of zero rating may have different consequences, and in determining the acceptability of a given form of zero rating, National Regulatory Authorities should take a case-by-case approach based on criteria developed from the terms of the Regulation and set down in the Guidelines. The NSPCC is therefore keen to clarify whether zero-rating Childline would fall under an acceptable form of zero-rating under the Guidelines.

It is a huge priority for the NSPCC to ensure that every child or young person, including those who are most vulnerable to data poverty, can access help, support and advice from our trained counsellors whenever they need to. We have had a strong positive response from the largest communication providers in exploring the possibility of zero-rating Childline, however, we fully understand their hesitancy to carry this out under uncertainty as to whether it would breach EU guidelines. Whilst we are certain that Net Neutrality legislation and subsequent guidance would not seek to prohibit zero-rating of applications whose primary function is to provide a public service for the most vulnerable individuals in society, and where the main function of the application is to provide confidential counselling services for those in need of help and support, we would like to confirm that this is the case.

Yours Sincerely,

Peter Wanless

Chief Executive

NSPCC

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 23rd Aug 2016

The love of the selfie is powering cosmetic salesImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Some call it extreme narcissism, for others, it is just a bit of fun. For Estee Lauder, the selfie is a trend that has helped drive a rise in make-up sales.

Cosmetics was the fastest growing division for the company for the full-year to 30 June, with turnover up 9%.

The owner of brands such as Clinique, MAC and Bobbi Brown, said there has been a "shift in consumer preferences".

The upshot is that the snap-happy want to be camera ready at all times.

That impulse helped Estee Lauder's sales to rise by 4% to a total of $11.2bn for the year.

Spurt

The company said that there has been strong demand for lipsticks and foundation, with a particular growth spurt in Britain. MAC, Bobbi Brown and Smashbox, which it acquired in 2010, all reported double digit sales growth.

Amber Rose, model and face of Flirt Cosmetics, has a huge Instagram followingImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

A spokeswoman for Estee Lauder, told the BBC: "Everyone is taking photos now and make-up can allow you to transform yourself according to the mood."

This shift, however, may not be good news for the traditional department store make-up lady.

Women and men are now more likely to go online to get make-up tips from how-to beauty "vlogs" made by self-made YouTube stars who boast millions and millions of subscribers. Estee Lauder itself tapped up Lilly Singh to be the face of Smashbox. She brings with her nine million subscribers.

Estee Lauder's spokeswoman said: "In the past, beauty advisors in department stores were the sole means of getting educated on products and benefits.

"Consumers now have many more choices in terms of how they interact and learn."

Drag queens

The company said sales of products such as make-up palettes have increased because they are a favourite of the internet beauty vloggers.

A big Instagram following is also advantageous. Estee Lauder is about to launch a new make-up range with designer Victoria Beckham who has 12.1 million followers, as does US model Amber Rose, who is the face of Flirt Cosmetics, which Estee Lauder is launching online.

It is also advantageous that Rose has a strong following in the drag queen community - she was a judge on the Emmy-nominated RuPaul's Drag Race - with cosmetics increasingly crossing the gender-divide.

Estee Lauder said, for example, men in Korea will buy cosmetics and are particularly keen to have good brows, nice skin and a "glow".

Kendall Jenner is the face of Estee LauderImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

It will also continue to invest in other companies though it keeps shtum on whether it would be interested in Kylie Cosmetics, the phenomenally successful brand launched by reality TV and internet darling Kylie Jenner, who is the sister of Estee Lauder's "face" Kendall Jenner.

Its spokeswoman said: "We never talk about specific acquisitions but we are always looking at the market."

The company's name is synonymous with perfume, and it has an impressive range of high-end scents.

For the future, the company will continue to grow its niche perfumes range after buying "prestige" brands By Kilian, Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle and Le Labo.

With the global cosmetics market set to grow to $675bn by 2020, according to Research and Markets, there will be no shortage of potential new brands for Estee Lauder to target.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 23rd Aug 2016

Juicero CEO Doug Evans defends his internet-connected juicer on the latest Too Embarrassed to Ask.

After the public unveiling of Juicero, a high-tech fruit and vegetable juice-making machine, critics didn’t hold back. Eyebrows shot up at the more than $100 million raised by its maker from Silicon Valley venture capitalists, as well as the Campbell Soup Company; The Verge’s Jacob Kastrenakes called it a "ludicrous product."

On the latest Too Embarrassed to Ask, Juicero CEO Doug Evans defended the Wi-Fi connected juicer and its $700 price point, seemingly undeterred by the skeptics.

"I said, ‘I’m going to do what Steve [Jobs] did,’" he said, recalling how Juicero started. "‘I’m going to take the mainframe computer and create a personal computer. I’m going to take a mainframe juice press and create a personal juice press.’"

Juicero CEO Doug Evans

Courtesy Juicero

For Evans, increasing the popularity of organic juice is personal. After his parents died and his brother had a stroke, he went "cold cucumber," fearing he would be next. That meant no more processed food, refined food, meat, dairy or animal products.

"Fruit’s easy to eat. Vegetables are difficult," Evans told Recode’s Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode. "So I discovered juicing as a means of getting more vegetables in my diet."

Juicero is different from existing home juicers because it "cold-presses" packets of produce that the company sells for $5 to $7 apiece. It’s also unique in that it is connected to the internet, using a QR code sensor to check the packets’ expiration date.

"I’m not a tech guy. I didn’t know about IoT [Internet of Things] when I designed this," Evans said. "If you’re putting a pack in, we want to make sure that, I know where my produce is coming from ... I want to know when it was packed, and I also want to make sure I know when it’s expiring. It won’t press an expired pack."

Later in the show, Evans answered questions from our readers and listeners about Juicero, plus more from Kara, Lauren and special guest Peter Kafka, host of Recode Media.

You can listen to the full podcast in the audio player above, or wherever you subscribe and listen to podcasts. If you like this, be sure to subscribe to Too Embarrassed to Ask on iTunesGoogle Play MusicTuneIn or Stitcher.

Thank you to everyone who sent in their questions about Juicero. Still have questions we didn’t get to? Or have another tech topic on your mind? You can tweet any questions, comments and complaints to @Recode with the hashtag #TooEmbarrassed. You can also email your questions to TooEmbarrassed@recode.net, in case Twitter isn’t your thing.

Be sure to follow @LaurenGoode@KaraSwisher and @Recode to be alerted when we're looking for questions about a specific topic.

If you like this show, you should also check out our other podcasts:

  • Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with the movers and shakers in tech and media every Monday. You can subscribe on iTunesGoogle Play MusicTuneIn and Stitcher.
  • Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on iTunesGoogle Play MusicTuneIn and Stitcher.
  • And finally, Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events such as the Code Conference,Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on iTunesGoogle Play Music,TuneIn and Stitcher.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on iTunes — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Karaand Lauren. Tune in next Friday for another episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask!

Source: recode.net
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 23rd Aug 2016

Google is pretty much everywhere. It’s in your smartphonecar, and maybe even your watch— but there’s still nothing like searching Google on a desktop computer. To this day, about 64 percent of US web surfers use Google as their primary search engine.

If you still haven’t asked anyone but Google to answer your search queries—it’s time to rethink your approach to web browsing. Here are five reasons to start using search engines other than Google for your queries.


1) Stop Google from tracking you

Google would say its tracking of your every move makes services like Google Now better and makes the advertisements you see more relevant. Others might argue that your online activities should be kept private to just you.

If you’re looking to evade Google’s sophisticated tracking technology, you can search Google in a private browser tab, turn off search tracking, or switch to something like DuckDuckGo, which prides itself on the fact that it does not collect personal information from its users.


2) Run more technical queries

As clever as Google’s search engine is, it doesn’t quite have the breadth of the mighty Wolfram Alpha, which can give you everything from Scrabble scores for words to the current position of the International Space Station.

Google can do a bit of math itself of course, but Wolfram Alpha covers fractions, probabilities, and other advanced calculations in much more depth. It can even tell you the most popular words in famous works of literature.


3) Search the deep web

If you’re clicking links on the deep web, then privacy and security should be of the utmost importance to you. To ensure that companies like Google aren’t tracking your whereabouts, you can use a plethora of better search engines including the aforementioned DuckDuckGo or Grams.

Most of the deep (or dark) web is beyond the reach of Google and indeed your regular web browser, which is why you need some specialist tools for the job. Our previous guide to the deep web should be enough to get you started.


4) Get better video results

It’s pretty common knowledge that Bing beats Google for video, at least in interface if not in the quality of its results. Matching videos are laid out thumbnail-style, and you can hover over them to see instant previews.

You get filters that are more easily accessible too, without having to go straight to YouTube. Video length, date, resolution, and source can all be specified from the drop-down menus at the top of the page.


5) Make more money

Speaking of Bing, if you’re in the US, you can make use of Microsoft Rewards(formerly known as Bing Rewards), which gives you voucher credits for searching the web, trying out new features,and following up on selected special offers.

The credit you earn can be cashed in at retailers (Amazon, GameStop and so on) as well as through online services and apps (Xbox, Skype, Hulu and more). Not bad for running a few online searches every day.

Source: fieldguide.gizmodo.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 17th Aug 2016

 

Mask on digital graphicImage copyrightTHINKSTOCK

Image captionAs the volume of personal data in the cloud increases, so does the level of ID fraud

Technology of Business

When Max Schrems, an Austrian privacy activist, requested to see his personal data that Facebook stored on its servers, he was mailed a CD-ROM containing a 1,222-page document.

That file, which would stretch nearly a quarter of a mile if printed and laid end-to-end, offered a glimpse into Facebook's appetite for the private details of its 1.65 billion users.

The information included phone numbers and email addresses of Mr Schrems' friends and family; a history of all the devices he used to log in to the service; all the events he had been invited to; everyone he had "friended" (and subsequently de-friended); and an archive of his private messages.

It even included transcripts of messages he'd deleted.

But Mr Schrems, who says he only used Facebook occasionally over a three-year period, believes a sizeable chunk of information was withheld from him.

Max SchremsImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionMax Schrems has so far filed two lawsuits against Facebook’s privacy policies

He received data records for about 50 categories, but believes there are more than 100, he tells the BBC.

"They withheld my facial recognition data, which is a technology that can identify me through my pictures. They don't disclose tracking information either, which is the even creepier stuff they do - things like whether you've read a webpage about a sports car and how long you read it for."

Facebook can even track non-members' internet usage through the use of cookies place on their machines, as a recent legal decision in Belgium confirmed.

Facebook image

Image captionFacebook can even track non-members' internet usage

Mr Schrems' experience vividly illustrates the challenges we face in a digital age full of messaging apps, social networks, tailored search engines, email clients, and banking apps, all collecting personal data about us and storing it, somewhere, in the cloud.

But where is all this data exactly, how is it being used, and how secure is it?

The Big Four

More than half of the world's rentable cloud storage is controlled by four major corporations. Amazon is by far the biggest, with about a third of the market share and more than 35 data centres throughout the world.

The next three biggest providers are Microsoft, IBM and Google, and each of them adopts a similar global pattern of server farms.

Dan SvantessonImage copyrightD SVANTESSON

Image captionProf Dan Svantesson says having data stored in multiple jurisdictions can cause legal issues

Several of these major public cloud providers habitually duplicate user data across their networks. It means that information uploaded to the cloud in, say, the UK or the US, is likely to be transferred at some point to servers in major cities around the world, from Sydney to Shanghai.

The problem with this, says Prof Dan Svantesson, an internet law specialist at Bond University, Australia, is that "there is always a risk that the country your data goes to doesn't have the same level of protection [as your own].

"If your data ends up in another country, it can be unclear who has access to it, be it network providers or law enforcement," he says.

Benjamin Caudill, a cybersecurity consultant at Rhino Security Labs in Seattle, also has concerns about how this data is distributed.

Benjamin Caudill

Image captionBenjamin Caudill believes major cloud providers don’t always know where all your data is stored

"No-one really quite knows how the sausage is made," says Mr Caudill, whose work includes testing firms' defences though "ethical hacking".

"It's very difficult to understand where your data is stored. A lot of times the companies themselves aren't sure where all the data could reside."

He says a client of his, who was using Microsoft's Azure cloud service, fell victim to a hack - all data and back-ups were deleted.

Google data centre pipesImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionGoogle's data centre in Taiwan is not all computer servers - a lot of cooling is needed too

But after some digging, it emerged that a portion of the lost data had been stored elsewhere on Azure's servers. While that was a relief to Mr Caudill's client, the apparent random nature of data placement across Microsoft's servers didn't fill him with confidence.

"No-one really knows how secure the cloud services are from the major providers," says Mr Caudill, who suspects that "both Amazon and Azure have had major security compromises at some point."

Security breach?

For their part, all the big public cloud providers say security is a priority.

At Google's server facility in South Carolina, for example, guards patrol the doors and employ biometric iris scanners at the entrances to the inner sanctum. Underfloor laser beams detect intruders.

But none would say they've never had security breaches.

Google data centre FinlandImage copyrightGOOGLE

Image captionGoogle's data centre in Finland underlines the sheer scale of such facilities

A Microsoft spokesperson told the BBC: "Microsoft has a customer commitment to help safeguard customer data and empower them to make decisions about that data. We recommend customers visit the Microsoft Trust Center to learn more about how their data is managed and kept secure."

Amazon emphasises that customers "retain ownership and control of their content. They choose which location to store their data and it doesn't move unless the customer decides to move it."

This ability to choose which region your data is stored in is proving increasingly popular with firms, particularly in the European Union where the new stringent General Data Protection Regulation is due to come into force in 2018.

Post at your peril

But we consumers often don't have this luxury.

"The data of your Gmail account is absolutely on more than one server. It's absolutely in more than one country," says Prof Svantesson.

But why should we care?

Woman standing in front of data network graphicImage copyrightTHINKSTOCK

Image captionIs duplication of data across multiple sites make hacking more or less likely?

The more of our data that's out there scattered throughout the world, the more vulnerable it is to hackers, argues Mr Caudill - a supposition borne out by the fact that identity fraud is on the rise.

As people continue to upload their digital information online, into a marsh of territorial legal complexities and undisclosed national security protocols, Prof Svantesson offers some practical advice - which many people still do not follow.

"I would suggest never putting anything sensitive on the cloud, such as credit card information, or personal images that you don't want others to see.

"Some things you should just leave to yourself," he advises.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 17th Aug 2016

Firm claims move will make life easier for admins

TechEd 2014 Microsoft logo

Microsoft has announced that Windows 7 and 8.1 will receive cumulative updates once a month instead of individual ones from October 2016.

You may recall that this was a trick already used by Microsoft to bury a version of its GWX nagware last year, secreted as it was inside an important security update.

The company explained in a Microsoft TechNet blog post that this is an extension of the 'Convenience Rollup' that was first introduced for non-security updates earlier in the year.

"By moving to a rollup model, we bring a more consistent and simplified servicing experience to Windows 7 SP1 and 8.1, so that all supported versions of Windows follow a similar update servicing model," the post stated.

"The new rollup model gives you fewer updates to manage, greater predictability and higher quality updates. The outcome increases Windows operating system reliability by eliminating update fragmentation and providing more proactive patches for known issues. Getting and staying current will also be easier with only one rollup update required."

The changes will also include security releases as part of the Patch Tuesday cycle.

"Also from October 2016 onwards, Windows will release a single security-only update. This update collects all of the security patches for that month into a single update. Unlike the Monthly Rollup, the security-only update will only include new security patches that are released for that month," the post said.

"Individual patches will no longer be available. The security-only update will be available to download and deploy from WSUS, SCCM and the Microsoft Update Catalogue.

"Windows Update will publish only the Monthly Rollup – the security-only update will not be published to Windows Update. The security-only update will allow enterprises to download as small an update as possible while still maintaining more secure devices."

The downside is that it will reduce the ability for administrators to control which updates are installed and which are not.

This could be seen as Microsoft's attempt to make it more appealing for users to move to Windows 10, growth of which appears to have stalled since the free download deadline passed.

Source: v3.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 16th Aug 2016

Social media has meant that businesses no longer have set opening and closing times, with brand pages on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accessible 24 hours a day.

By listening to their customers on social media, a brand can establish a few things about their business

Image: Shutterstock

Brands have recognised the importance of social media as a communication tool, steering away from using it strictly as a promotional tool and more of a way of engaging with their consumers, in a less corporate and more approachable way.

Old methods of customer service include filling in a contact form, making a phone call or dealing with someone in person but each of these methods has its disadvantages, for example the time it takes to complete customer contact forms. Firstly, filling out a lengthy form isn’t always easy and is particularly tedious on a smartphone; then you have to wait around for a response – if someone even gets back to you at all.

Social media is more accessible to most people, offering quick, personal responses that require little effort and with more people turning to social media to voice complaints, or ask questions, it is vital that companies start using it as a customer service gateway.

Ability to listen

As social media moves away from being a promotional broadcasting tool, brands are realising that talking is no longer as important as listening when it comes to customer engagement. Unlike other means of customer service, such as emails and phone calls, brands are able to “listen in” to what consumers think of their brands in real-time.

By listening to their customers on social media, a brand can establish a few things about their business that will go towards improving it – for example, sentiment. Sentiment is the tone of conversation about a brand, either negative or positive. This can be monitored by tracking brand mentions, including those without the @ symbol and those that are spelt incorrectly.

Discover the logic behind the negative conversations and identify areas in the business which need to be developed and/or improved. This proactive approach will keep brands ahead of the curve and reduce any negative direct contact from consumer.

Instagram has half a billion users, but what does this mean for businesses?

Immediate response

Customers don’t like to be kept waiting, particularly when they are angry or in need of answers urgently. Traditional methods of customer service often come with unavoidable waiting times, holding times on phone calls, or the period one has to wait for an email response. The longer it takes to respond to consumers, the more irate they will become.

Social media provides the opportunity for brands to give an immediate response. It is unrealistic to expect smaller companies to monitor their social media accounts 24/7 but the response time of social accounts is generally faster than emails to generic customer service email addresses.

Customers can post on the brand’s page wall, tag the account in, or even send direct messages – although the latter is private the other two methods are not. Thus it is also in the best interest of the brand to be responding speedily to this type of communication compared to traditional methods. The longer a negative comment is left unanswered, the more people it will reach and possibly influence, which risks tarnishing the brand’s reputation.

Source: realbusiness.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 15th Aug 2016

 

Password graphicImage copyrightREUTERS

A data breach at large UK software company Sage may have compromised personal information for employees at 280 UK businesses, it is understood.

Police are investigating the breach and Sage is probing the "unauthorised access" of data by someone using an "internal" company computer login.

The information was accessed at some point over the past few weeks.

It is unclear whether it was stolen from the FTSE-listed firm, or merely viewed.

'First priority'

The company, which provides business software for accounting and payroll services to firms across 23 countries, says it is taking the breach extremely seriously.

The police are investigating and the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), responsible for the enforcement of the Data Protection Act 1998, has been informed.

Sage has notified those businesses whose data may have been accessed and has advised them to look out for any unusual activity.

A Sage spokesperson said: "We are investigating unauthorised access to customer information using an internal login.

"We cannot comment further whilst we work with the authorities to investigate - but our customers remain our first priority and we are speaking directly with those affected."

Sage was founded in 1981 and now has more than 13,000 employees around the world.

The group has an annual turnover of £1.3bn, and is the only remaining technology stock on the FTSE 100.

If the ICO decides that Sage has been negligent there are a number of actions it could take, including criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement, or undertaking an audit at the firm.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 15th Aug 2016

GoogleTrends

1h

GoogleTrends ‏@GoogleTrends

"How many more medals can Team GB get?" Top trending questions on @TeamGB today #Rio2016

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Source: mobile.twitter.com
 
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