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Comment Re:Tax avoidance vs. Tax evasion (Score 2) 579

Not really. In the US, if you had a private letter ruling like this where the IRS blessed your tax avoidance scheme and a court later disagreed, you still owe the taxes and internet. You would probably be spared the penalties since you followed IRS guidance in good faith. The law firm you hired to work with the IRS, might owe you some kind of refund or indemnity from their insurer.

Comment Re:False says Irish Finance Minister (Score 2) 579

I believe the way this happens is similar to what in the US is called a "Private Letter Ruling"

Basically a business or individual wants to know if a particular tax or other business strategy, basically a loophole, is legal. So they hire a specialty law firm and pay them to document the plan and then send it to the IRS or another regulator. What they get back is an opinion by that regulator that what they are doing is legal or not. Its not binding in court though but it might protect you from penalties or criminal charges for tax evasion if a court later disagrees with the private letter ruling since you followed the best legal advice and regulator interpretations in good faith.

So what seems to have happened here is Apple had this complex tax avoidance scheme and was able to convince Irish tax officials to sign off that their interpretation is that this is legal. However what was really happening is that Apple was telling all the other EU tax authorities that revenue was being earned in Ireland and would be taxed there. Then they were being allowed to tell Irish tax authorities that most of it was being earned and taxed elsewhere simultaneously.

Fundamentally this is a dishonest deal and the EU is right to require that a corporation when filing its taxes is not allowed to create two alternate stories to document its revenue and profits whereby a large portion of it, $100B+ of profits in this case is not being taxed anywhere.

Comment Re:What happened to personal choice? (Score 1) 104

A contract doesn't override the law. The government decides what contract terms are enforceable in court. Also most of the drivers started driving before the arbitration clause was added. You may have noticed about a year ago that virtually every company you do business with as a consumer sent out a notice with an arbitration clause because they found a wording that the Supreme Court agreed with even though the Federal Arbitration Act was never intended to cover consumer and employee disputes, but only business-to-business disputes. The expansion of FAA was basically a conservative project begun decades ago, long before some of the authors ended up on SCOTUS.

Comment The use cases are narrow but legitimate (Score 1) 212

The bad part about lack of anonymity in our transactions is that Big Data actually gets us some reasonable legal use cases for privacy like why should my credit card company and everyone they share data with know what kind of porn I buy or what books I read or whether I go out to lunch often and who knows what kind of automated algorithms farther down the chain might do with that info like deny me employment surreptitiously.

I think unfortunately the cat is out of the bag in terms of protecting that kind of data from widespread sharing and mining. The only thing that we can really do now is legislate transparency in how its used (like credit reports) and prohibit discriminatory practices based on it.

Unfortunately financial privacy's primary use case is tax evasion, criminal purchases, and money laundering. I think it is better that we reform laws against consensual crimes like recreational drug use and respect freedom of speech/belief/press as a basic human right and not just count on bad laws being difficult to enforce.

Comment Get a warrant and I'll give you my pw (Score 3, Insightful) 367

I promise I'll give up my password when I get a warrant and verify it with my lawyer.

The only reasons for backdoors are to violate the 4th amendment with mass surveillance or for ephemeral keys that get destroyed like an encrypted chat or phone call but they should not have been recorded without a warrant in the first place.


The allegations about murder-for-hire were never proven in the court or even charged iirc. He was basically convicted for being in a criminal enterprise by running the marketplace. There are plenty of violent criminals who got far lighter sentences than Ulbricht for basically acting as an online middleman for illegal transactions.
IMHO, you could probably imprison the CEO of Ebay for being the biggest fence of stolen goods under the same theory.

Comment Re:The law is as broad as possible (Score 2) 76

The other issue concerns employee use of employer owned systems. There have been cases where employees have been prosecuted for violating a purely civil agreement between them and their employer about the systems they have access to.

In general the law should not criminalize a civil contract violation or in the case of EULA's and Acceptable Use policies, it is questionable whether they are even valid contracts. This is especially true when the law in question is very one sided in favor of big companies using the threat of prosecution against researchers and employees and customers. I can't get the FBI to prosecute Comcast for turning on their public Wifi network on my router, even though it does potentially violate the CFAA.

Comment Re:The law is as broad as possible (Score 3, Informative) 76

If you make factual data public, you don't generally "own" it as in you don't have exclusive rights to it. You can't copyright a database of factual information. Basically the CFAA lets a firm make data public but then if someone uses a script to aggregate it, they can claim it was a felon. Just as an example, the CFAA could even apply to things like price comparison websites if a particular merchant doesn't want their public pricing information compared to their competitors.

Comment Cult of personality? (Score 4, Insightful) 97

After reading TFA, it seems like the company runs like a cult of personality of Ms. Holmes. Their answer for every objection is to impugn the integrity or intelligence of the person who raised the issue. Their remembrance of the facts diverges wildly from the first hand accounts of their critics. Whenever they mention Ms Holmes odd behavior, they basically make the No True Scotsman defense, that Ms Holmes would never do that. That is classic cult-like behavior.

I can't get my head around how they raised so much money with nothing but the most basic outline of an idea and not even an original one. Score one for political connections.

I smell something funny, but I don't think they have a test for that at Theranos.

Comment MT already is a favorite place for the wealthy too (Score 1) 164

The Big Sky area of Montana is already full of vacation homes and ranches of wealthy VC types so its not a big stretch that they might choose to plop a Data Center there. Still I think it is far more likely that you will see more data centers copping up in SLC because of the NSA. All the big government contractors will be putting boots on the ground in SLC and they can't co-locate at the NSA facility.

SF, NYC, and DC are just so expensive.

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