Weekly Tech Round-Up #24

Here is all the tech news you need to know 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.

G7 plan will slash UK tax revenue from US tech firms, say experts

Experts are warning that US tech companies, including Google, Amazon and Facebook, could pay less tax in the UK and several other big economies under global reforms agreed at the weekend by the G7. In a key stumbling block emerging days after the landmark deal, research from the TaxWatch campaign group indicates that the UK Treasury stands to lose about £230m from the taxes paid each year by four of the big US tech firms. The study estimates that Facebook, Google, Ebay, and Amazon, contribute around £330m between them to the UK’s digital services tax- a levy on internet search providers, online marketplaces and social media firms. The tax was launched last year as a stopgap measure until a global deal could be reached.

TaxWatch said the UK tax bills paid by these firms would fall to just over £100m under the G7 plan. The campaign group calculated the sum by analysing the UK accounts of each company for 2019, the most recent year when data was available.

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US Senate passes sweeping bill to counter China tech reach

The proposed measures come in the face of growing international competition, particularly from China. Republicans and Democrats came together to pass the bill despite being deeply divided over a number of other issues. This bill must pass the House of Representatives before it is signed into law. Supporters say the package is one of the largest industrial bills in the US history and the biggest investment in scientific research that the country has seen in decades. “I believe that this legislation will enable the United States to out-innovate, out-produce, and out-compete the world in the industries of the future,” Senate majority leader and co-sponsor of the bill Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor.

It authorises roughly $250bn (£176bn) in funding for technology research, semiconductor development and manufacturing as well as subsidies for robot makers and chipmakers amid a shortage of computer chips worldwide.

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Investors call for ethical approach to facial recognition technology

A group of 50 investors managing more than $4.5 trillion in assets is calling on companies involved in the development and use of facial recognition technology, such as Amazon and Facebook, to do so in an ethical way. The investor group, which is led by asset manager Candriam, a European division of U.S financial services company New York Life, said in a statement the technology could infringe on an individual’s privacy rights, given the lack of consent of those being identified, and that there is often no official oversight.

The initiative shows how fund managers are increasingly taking up policy issues that were once considered fringe subjects or shareholders as retail investors pour billions of dollars into funds on ethical and sustainability criteria.

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Carbon Capture Can Help Enable Net Zero – If We Support It

Despite the economy-crushing pandemic, last year was a very good year for renewable energy:  Global capacity increased 45%, the largest jump for renewables in more than two decades. Yet even as wind and solar power become more pervasive, renewables alone aren’t enough to achieve net zero by 2050. A breadth of solutions is needed to remove carbon emissions, such as hydrogen, sustainable bioenergy and various approaches to reducing and reusing the energy consumed in our homes, offices and factories.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) will play a significant role as well. After all, CCS technologies available today can absorb more than 90% of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated by power stations and industrial plants that rely on fossil fuels.

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