Ireland Launches COVID-19 App That Uses Apple/Google Exposure Notification API

Ireland today released "COVID Tracker Ireland," a COVID-19 contact tracing app that takes advantage of Apple and Google's Exposure Notification API.


The app, which is opt in, says that users will be alerted if they come in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. Those exposed will be able to track their symptoms, get advice on what to do, and choose to anonymously warn others they've been in contact with.

The app downloads a list of anonymous IDs every two hours from those who have contracted coronavirus, letting users in Ireland get alerts as soon as possible. Alerts will be triggered if a user has been within two meters of a person who is diagnosed with COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes, so long as both parties have the COVID app installed.

Alerts will advise people who have been exposed to coronavirus to limit their movements and get tested. The app will not inform users who they came into contact with during the exposure notification nor the place where it happened.

According to the app's release notes, Ireland is employing a three prong approach to exposure notification, which includes contact tracing for identifying those who have been in close contact with a person that has coronavirus, COVID check-in for those with coronavirus to share their symptoms and how they feel, and updates and information such as the latest facts and figures on coronavirus in Ireland.

As with all apps that use the ‌Exposure Notification‌ API, usage is opt-in and privacy is a focus. Even after opting in, choosing to share a coronavirus diagnosis is also optional. All data collected is stored on the device itself, and name, location, and movements are not tracked.

In a statement to Ireland's The Journal, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said that the app could be a "really powerful part of the toolkit" for fighting coronavirus.
"It allows every single person to play an extra part. It will allow us to get on with contact tracing in a matter of hours, it will allow people who have the app to completely control their own data, there will be no centralisation of data," Donnolly said.

"The people themselves can choose if they want to anonymously share with close contacts that they have tested positive. It's a very, very powerful tool. We'll be getting into more of the detail tomorrow and we'll be really encouraging as many people as possible to download and use it."
Along with Ireland, several other countries have released apps that use Apple and Google's ‌Exposure Notification‌ API, including Switzerland, Latvia, Italy, Germany, Poland, and Saudi Arabia, while other countries, such as the UK, have apps in the works.

The UK did not originally plan to use Apple and Google's solution, but in mid-June, the National Health Service said that it would adopt the ‌Exposure Notification‌ API after all.
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Irish Regulators ‘in Contact’ With Apple Over Siri Quality Control Program

Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) is "in contact" with Apple after a former Apple contractor asked the DPC to investigate Apple's practice of allowing employees to listen to Siri recordings, reports Reuters.


The contractor, Thomas Le Bonniec, requested the assistance of the DPC in May and called for greater protection under the EU's privacy laws.

DPC Deputy Commissioner Graham Doyle said that the DPC "engaged with Apple" when the ‌Siri‌ issue first arose last year, and Apple "made some changes," but now the DPC has additional questions.
"However, we have followed up again with Apple following the release of this public statement and await responses," he said, in reference to the letter. "In addition, it should be noted that the European Data Protection Board is working on the production of guidance in the area of voice assistant technologies."
Last July, contractors working on ‌Siri‌ quality control told The Guardian that they were listening to Siri audio recordings for Apple and regularly heard sensitive information that Apple device owners might not want shared, even with the data anonymized.

Apple came under fire for concealing the quality control practice and not making it clear to customers that some ‌Siri‌ recordings are listened to by employees for quality control purposes.

Apple in August 2019 ultimately suspended its Siri quality control program to overhaul how it works. Later in August, Apple ended all transcription and voice grading work done through contracting companies.

In October, with the release of iOS 13.2, Apple added a toggle that allows users to opt out of sharing voice recordings to improve ‌Siri‌ and Dictation, and it provided a way to delete all ‌Siri‌ and Dictation history.

Apple resumed ‌Siri‌ quality control practices in the fall with the release of the opt-out option. ‌Siri‌ quality control is no longer handled by third-party contractors and is done in-house, and Apple has made changes to minimize the amount of data that reviewers have access to.

Along with further scrutiny from Irish regulators, Apple is facing a class-action lawsuit for allowing contractors to listen to and grade the anonymized ‌Siri‌ conversations for quality control purposes.
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Tim Cook Visits Ireland, Calls for Global Corporate Tax Reform [Updated]

Tim Cook visited Ireland today to collect an award from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for Apple's 40 years of investment in the country. Apple's CEO also met with Irish musician Hozier and Dublin-based game studio WarDucks.

In 2016, the European Commission found that Apple received illegal state aid from Ireland and forced the company to repay 13 billion euros in back taxes. Apple and Ireland are both appealing the ruling. Apple has previously expressed confidence that the ruling "will be overturned" by European courts.


In that regard, Cook today called for global corporate tax reform, telling Reuters and others that Apple "desperately" wants the system to be fair. "It's very complex to know how to tax a multinational," he added.

"I think logically everybody knows it needs to be rehauled, I would certainly be the last person to say that the current system or the past system was the perfect system. I'm hopeful and optimistic that they will find something," said Cook, referring to the intergovernmental economic organization OECD.


Update: IDA Ireland has issued a press release about Apple's award that includes a statement from Cook:
Ireland has been a second home for Apple for forty years and this honour is even more special for us because it recognizes the contributions of our incredible team here who work tirelessly to serve our customers around the country, and around the world. I believe deeply that our most important work together is still ahead of us, and I'm grateful to the people of Ireland for their commitment to openness, to innovation and to the cooperation that will make possible the next generation of world-changing ideas.
Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


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Tim Cook to Receive Award From Irish Prime Minister Celebrating 40 Years of Apple Investment

Apple CEO Tim Cook is set to receive an award from the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar this month, reports Bloomberg.


Cook is scheduled to meet with the Irish Taioseach in Dublin on January 20 to receive the award, "in recognition of the iPhone maker’s 40 years of investment in Ireland," according to IDA Ireland, the country's investment agency.

Apple's business relationship with Ireland has faced significant opprobrium in recent years. In 2016, the European Commission found that the company received illegal state aid from Ireland.

Apple and Ireland both appealed the ruling, but the European Commission opened litigation against Ireland in October 2017 for its failure to procure Apple's back taxes.

Apple has already finished paying the $13 billion in back taxes it owes. If the order is eventually overturned, the money will be returned to Apple.

In 2018, Apple abandoned plans to build a $1 billion data center in Ireland after facing significant pushback from local residents concerned about its potential effects on local animals and its close proximity to a shut-down nuclear power plant.

Apple's European headquarters are located in Cork, and last year it expanded the campus with a new building that provides space for an additional 1,400 employees.

Apple's European Job Creation page reveals that it now supports 1.7 million jobs across Europe, including around 1.5 million jobs attributable to the App Store ecosystem, some 17,000 of which are based in Ireland.

Apple's website notes that it "has been based in Cork for over 35 years and now directly employs 6,000 people throughout Ireland supporting all aspects of the business." The company also says its Irish team has "doubled in size over the last five years and includes over 80 different nationalities."


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Apple Finishes Paying $15.3B in Back Taxes to Ireland, Prompting EU Regulators to Drop Lawsuit

Just over two years after the European Commission ruled that Apple was receiving illegal state aid from Ireland -- where it had reportedly paid less than 2 percent in taxes compared to the country's headline 12.5 percent corporate tax rate -- Apple has now paid back the entire 13.1 billion euros ($15.3 billion) it owed in back taxes (via Reuters).

The European Commission confirmed the payment this week, and furthermore said that EU antitrust regulators now plan to drop all legal action against Ireland. The EU had originally taken Ireland to court for failing to recover the $15.3 billion in tax due from Apple.

The confirmation of the withdrawal of litigation came from an email sent by European Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso:
“In light of the full payment by Apple of the illegal State aid it had received from Ireland, Commissioner Vestager will be proposing to the College of Commissioners the withdrawal of this court action,” Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso said in an email.
Although the EU gave its final ruling in August 2016 regarding Apple's tax loophole in Ireland, the regulatory body had first kicked off an investigation into Apple's tax arrangements back in 2014. The ruling eventually found that Apple was allowed to pay an effective corporate tax rate of 1 percent on its European profits in 2003, down to 0.005 percent in 2014. Specifically in 2014, Apple paid 0.005 percent tax on EU profits, which means that "For every million euros in profits, it (Apple) paid just €500 in taxes," said European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager at the time.

Apple and CEO Tim Cook were adamant that the ruling was based on "fundamental errors" and Cook referred to the tax avoidance accusations as "total political crap." He elaborated, stating that Apple pays all of the taxes it owes based on the laws of each country in which it operates. Likewise, the Irish government said it did not give favorable tax treatment to Apple and added that it "does not do deals with taxpayers."

Apple and Ireland eventually moved to appeal the ruling, but as things escalated the European Commission decided to open litigation against Ireland in October 2017 for its failure to procure Apple's back taxes. Eventually, Apple began paying the back taxes it owed around March 2018, and in a report from earlier in the year sources stated that payments were expected to finish around September.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


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Tim Cook Reaffirms Apple’s Commitment to Ireland After Tax Dispute and Abandoned Data Center Plans

Just weeks after Apple abandoned its plans to build a $1 billion data center in Ireland, and amid a major Irish tax dispute with the European Commission, Apple CEO Tim Cook ensures his company remains committed to the country.


In a recent interview with The Irish Times, Cook said Apple appreciated the support it received from the community who wanted the data center to be there, and reaffirmed Apple's commitment to Ireland as a whole.
"We loved the community there. Fortunately we had great support from the community who wanted us there. That's probably the biggest disappointment from our point of view; we felt we could have been in the community and made a lot of friends like we had in Cork and grown the relationship over time," Cook said. "But we understand and respect the process."
Of course, not all local residents wanted the data center there, as concerns were raised about its potential effects on local animals, flooding on a neighboring golf course, and its close proximity to a shut-down nuclear power plant.

Last October, Apple finally won approval for construction by the Irish High Court, after an appeal by two individuals against the decision was dismissed. However, the appellants decided to take their case to the country's Supreme Court, resulting in Apple abandoning its plans just before the hearing was to occur.
"Despite our best efforts, delays in the approval process have forced us to make other plans and we will not be able to move forward with the data centre," Apple said in a statement ahead of the Supreme Court heading on Thursday.

"While disappointing, this setback will not dampen our enthusiasm for future projects in Ireland as our business continues to grow," the company said, citing plans to expand its European headquarters in County Cork where it employs over 6,000 people.
Cook added that Apple "didn't come to Ireland for tax," nearly two years after the European Commission ruled that the company received illegal aid from the country, ordering it to repay 13 billion euros to the country. Apple and Ireland are both appealing the ruling, as escrow payments begin for now.
"We came to Ireland in 1980 because we saw a community we thought we could grow, and could do a number of things to support the continent. We've stayed on course on that over almost four decades. It hasn't been a straight line – life isn't a straight line, things go up and down – but it's always been in a trajectory that is increasing. I don't anticipate that changing."
Cook visited Ireland this week, where he met with the country's head of government Leo Varadkar in Dublin, before heading to Cork, where Apple's European headquarters are located. Apple recently expanded the campus with a new building that provides space for an additional 1,400 employees.


Apple's recently updated European Job Creation page reveals that it now supports 1.7 million jobs across Europe, including around 1.5 million jobs attributable to the App Store ecosystem, some 17,000 of which are based in Ireland.

Apple's website notes that it "has been based in Cork for over 35 years and now directly employs 6,000 people throughout Ireland supporting all aspects of the business." The company also says its Irish team has "doubled in size over the last five years and includes over 80 different nationalities."

All in all, this amounts to a good PR campaign for Apple, echoing much of what it said in its Message to the Apple Community in Europe a few years ago.


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Tim Cook Visits Ireland as Apple Promotes Its Support of Over 1.7 Million Jobs in Europe

Apple CEO Tim Cook has arrived in Ireland, the latest destination on his European tour, which has included stops in Italy and the Netherlands.

Apple CEO Tim Cook and Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar, the Taoiseach or Prime Minister of Ireland, tweeted that he had a "good meeting" with Cook in the capital of Dublin on Monday. It's unclear what was discussed, but it appears to have been a routine meeting.


Cook has since headed to Cork, where Apple's European headquarters are located. There, he will formally announce an expansion of its Hollyhill campus. Apple says a new building will provide space for an additional 1,400 employees. Since 2012, Apple says it has invested nearly €220 million to develop the facility.

Apple's campus in Cork

Apple, on its recently updated Job Creation page in Europe, says it is Cork's "largest private employer" and "proud" that many of its employees in the area have worked at the company for decades.

Apple's website notes that it "has been based in Cork for over 35 years and now directly employs 6,000 people throughout Ireland supporting all aspects of the business." The company also says its Irish team has "doubled in size over the last five years and includes over 80 different nationalities."

Apple says Cork is home to its "only wholly owned manufacturing facility in the world. It provides configure-to-order iMacs which are for customers across Europe, Middle East, and Africa." AppleCare support for those regions is also based in Cork.

Nicole, a Product Quality Engineer, at Apple's iMac facility in Cork

While in Cork, Cook also visited The English Market, according to photos shared on Twitter. Earlier, in Dublin, he met with developers from Hostelworld. The app, featured on Apple's website, allows travelers to search for and book thousands of hostels in more than 170 countries around the world.


All of this amounts to good PR for Apple in Ireland, just over a month after it abandoned its plans to build a $1 billion data center in the country due to "delays in the approval process," primarily due to concerns from some local residents. Apple and Ireland are also in a major tax dispute with the European Commission.

Apple's updated Job Creation page also reveals that it now supports 1.7 million jobs across Europe, including around 1.5 million jobs attributable to the App Store ecosystem, some 170,000 jobs supported by Apple's supply chain in Europe, and some 22,000 direct Apple employees in 19 countries across the continent.

Since the App Store was created, Apple says it has now paid €20 billion to European app developers. The company says the United Kingdom leads Europe in terms of jobs linked to App Store development, at 291,000.


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Apple Ditches Plans for $1 Billion Irish Data Center, Citing Approval Delays

Apple has ditched its plans to build a $1 billion data center in Ireland because of continual delays in the approval process chiefly brought about by planning appeals by local residents (via Reuters).

Apple had been trying to get its $1 billion data center in County Galway, Ireland built for over three years, but has experienced pushback from individuals and organizations highlighting environmental protection issues.


Those against Apple's plans claimed a data center could have negative effects on local animal populations, while potential flooding concerns on a neighboring golf course were also raised. The planned site's proximity to a local nuclear power plant was later used to bring up new objections to the site's construction, despite the plant having been shut down for years.

In October 2017, Apple finally won approval for construction by the Irish High Court, after an appeal by two individuals against the decision was dismissed. However, the appellants decided to take their case to the country's Supreme Court, and while that hearing was due to go ahead on Thursday, Apple appears to have already decided to give up its fight to get the go-ahead for the data center.
"Despite our best efforts, delays in the approval process have forced us to make other plans and we will not be able to move forward with the data centre," Apple said in a statement ahead of the Supreme Court heading on Thursday.

"While disappointing, this setback will not dampen our enthusiasm for future projects in Ireland as our business continues to grow," the company said, citing plans to expand its European headquarters in County Cork where it employs over 6,000 people.
Apple's decision to cancel its plans is a blow for the Irish government, which is seeking to boost the country's economy through foreign investments. According to Reuters, the state is in the process of changing its planning laws to include data centers as "strategic infrastructure", which would allow them to get through the planning process much more quickly in future.
"There is no disputing that Apple's decision is very disappointing, particularly for Athenry and the West of Ireland," Ireland's Minister for Business and Enterprise Heather Humphreys said in a statement.

"The Government did everything it could to support this investment... These delays have, if nothing else, underlined our need to make the state’s planning and legal processes more efficient."
Apple announced in July that it would spend $921 million on a second data center in Denmark run entirely on renewable energy. Apple said the new data center would begin operations in the second quarter of 2019 and would power its online services, including the likes of iMessage, Siri, Maps, and the App Store.


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Apple Now Selling Refurbished 2017 27-inch iMac Models in Europe

Apple quietly updated several of its European online stores for refurbished products over the last couple of days, and has added its latest 27-inch 5K iMac models to the discounted listings for the first time.

The iMacs were first released in June of 2017 and feature Kaby Lake processors, faster SSDs, and AMD discrete graphics. Online stores in France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, and Spain have all been updated with the new stock, although the largest range of configurations currently appears in the United Kingdom.


In the U.K., for example, an entry-level model with 8GB RAM, a 1TB Fusion Drive, a 3.4GHz i5 processor, and a Radeon Pro 570 is priced at £1,489, which is a £260 discount off the standard price.

This is the first time the machines have been available in refurbished stores around Europe since their introduction at the 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference. Apple first began selling the refurb models in the U.S. and Canada back in August.

In addition, Apple has boosted its European stock of refurbished 21.5-inch 4K iMacs, also released in June of this year. Apple has added a range of configurations, from low-end to top-of-the-line. As with all refurbished products, stock will fluctuate regularly based on the machines Apple is getting in for repair.

All of Apple's refurbished products go through a rigorous refurbishment process before being offered for sale, which includes inspection, repairs, cleaning, and repackaging. Refurbished Macs come with a one-year warranty that can be extended with an AppleCare+ purchase. For more tips on purchasing a refurbished product, make sure to check out our guide.

Related Roundup: iMac
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Apple Will Start Paying Ireland Billions Owed in Back Taxes ‘Early Next Year’

In August 2016 the European Commission ruled that Apple must repay 13 billion euros ($15.46 billion) in back taxes dating between 2003 and 2014. According to the EU, the taxes were avoided with the help of sweetheart tax deals from Ireland, and today The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple will now begin paying these back taxes "as soon as early next year."

Ireland's Finance Minister, Paschal Donohoe, reports that Apple and Ireland have agreed to terms of an escrow fund for the money, setting a pace for Apple to begin repaying the taxes in Q1 2018. Apple's payment will sit in the escrow fund while both sides continue to appeal the EU's decision in court.

In October 2017, the EU announced its intention to take Ireland to court for its failure to recover Apple's back tax sum, with Ireland citing the escrow account as the reason why negotiations and repayment were being held up. Now, Donohoe said the next steps will be to determine who operates the escrow account and who manages the fund once Apple begins the repayment process. The EU said that it will only close court proceedings against Ireland once Apple's back taxes are recovered in full.
Ireland will begin collecting €13 billion ($15.46 billion) in back taxes from Apple Inc. as soon as early next year after both sides agreed to the terms of an escrow fund for the money, Ireland’s finance chief said Monday.

In a statement, Apple said, “We have a dedicated team working diligently and expeditiously with Ireland on the process the European Commission has mandated. We remain confident the General Court of the EU will overturn the Commission’s decision once it has reviewed all the evidence.”
The center of the EU's argument is that Irish revenue commissioners gave Apple unfair advantages between 1991 and 2007 by allowing the company to move income from the European market through two "non-resident" head office subsidiaries based in Ireland.

Ireland's government has stated it "fundamentally disagrees" with the EU's analysis of the tax situation, leading to its appeal. For Apple, the company said that the EU made "fundamental errors" in the calculations related to the taxes it owes, arguing that the bulk of the profits during this period are due in the United States. Apple CEO Tim Cook put it more succinctly after the first ruling came out, calling the tax avoidance claims "total political crap."

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


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