Weekly Tech Round-Up | #15

Here is all the tech news from the past week, sign up for our newsletter to receive this in your inbox every week. We also do a South West tech news update.

Google, Facebook and Amazon face new UK regulator

The Digital Markets Unit (DMU) are looking to create new codes of conduct for companies such as Facebook and Google and their relationship with content providers and advertisers. The business secretary said the regime will be ‘unashamedly pro-competition.

The DMU’s first job will be to think about codes of conduct, to govern the relationships between the tech firms and their users, whether that is small businesses wanting to advertise, or new organizations looking to distribute their journalism. Between them, Facebook, Google and Amazon control the lion’s share of digital advertising revenue. Before taking action, the new regulator will have to wait for such codes to be put into law.

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Is Big Tech going off work from home?

Google’s Fiona Cicconi wrote the company employees, announcing that she was bringing forwards its timetable of moving people back into the office. From the 1st of September, employees wishing to work from home for more than 14 days would have to apply to do so. The employees are also expected to live within commuting distance of offices. This announcement seems to fly in the face of what we heard from Silicon Valley executives last year when they championed the virtues of remote working.

For example, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey made headlines across the world last May, when he said “Twitter employees can now work from home forever”. While it was speculated that after Covid, the ‘new normal’ for Silicon Valley might be remote working, it looks like that is not going to happen.

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Tim Cook hinted that Apple was working on an autonomous electric car

Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted in an interview that the tech giant was working on an electric vehicle project. However, he said that many Apple ideas “never see the light of day”. Known as “Project Titan”, the autonomous vehicle project has been a closely guarded secret, but reports suggest it has spoken with automakers including Nissan and Hyundai about partnering on a vehicle. When asked by the journalist Kara Swisher in a Monday episode of the New York Times podcast “Sway” whether Apple was working on an autonomous vehicle, Cook said: “In terms of the work that we’re doing there, obviously, I’m going to be a little coy on that.

“The autonomy itself is a core technology, in my view,” he said. “If you sort of step back, the car, in a lot of ways, is a robot. An autonomous car is a robot. And so there are lots of things you can do with autonomy. And we’ll see what Apple does.” But Cook added that even if Apple was considering an autonomous car, the vehicle wouldn’t necessarily make it to market.

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Biden administration threatens tariffs on UK goods in ‘tech tax’ row

The US has warned it could put tariffs of up to 25% on a host of UK exports in retaliation for a UK tax on tech firms. According to a list published by the Biden administration, ceramics, make-up, overcoats, games consoles, and furniture could all be hit. The duties are designed to raise $325m, the amount the US believes the UK will raise from US tech firms. A UK government spokesperson said it wanted to ‘make sure tech firms pay their fair share of tax’. They added “Should the US proceed to implement these measures, we would consider all options to defend UK interests and industry.” Washington is pressing ahead with the action, initiated under President Donald Trump, and has scheduled hearings on the list.

It argues the recently introduced digital services tax – which taxes tech firms on their revenues – has “unreasonable, discriminatory, and burdensome attributes”.

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