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On Being Zuckered

The mere mention of Facebook invariably causes my
teeth to grind, and every glimpsed image of its founder, the robotic waif Mark
Zuckerberg, produces strange gutteral noises from somewhere at the base of my

This morning, teeth and oesophegus were grinding and
growling in discordant chorus when I read that Facebook’s British subsidiary
paid a mere £230,000 in tax on its United Kingdom operations, on
revenue estimated at £175 million.  (The
reported revenue was only £20 million, but a number of analysts quoted in the
press said this was a result of most revenue being booked through a subsidiary
in Ireland,
where corporation tax is lower.)

More remarkable than the meagre tax paid was the
revelation that the average ‘compensation package’ of Facebook’s UK employees was £270,000 – more than the
company’s total UK
tax bill.  What skills could these people
possibly have to warrant such largesse? 
Well, conniving to get the company out of paying its taxes would be one.  Coming up with ways to part subscribers from
their pocket money would be another.

In that context, the company announced earlier in the
week that it would be teaming up with various sellers of luxury goods in a
project to invite subscribers to hit a ‘want’ button that will give them access
to advertising from these companies.  Clearly,
Facebook is not about putting people in contact with people but with putting
advertisers in touch with consumers, though Facebook would never admit as much.    

It is one thing turning billions of people into
on-line zombies, quite another to start fleecing the gullible of their rapidly
shrinking disposable income.

Does Facebook exemplify the acceptable face of
twenty-first century commerce?  I suspect
so.  Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs,
and tax-paying working Brits, are being played for Zuckers.

All I can say is ugh!


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