Armanino recognised for excellence in Technology Consulting

Armanino LLP, one of the 25 largest accounting and business consulting firms in the United States, today announced it has been named a finalist for the 2019 Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations Partner of the Year Award and to Bob Scott’s Top 100 VARs for 2019. The firm was selected by Microsoft as one of only 164 companies to be recognised in its Partner of the Year Awards from a field of nearly 3,000 nominees across 115 countries. Bob Scott’s Top 100 VARs are chosen from organisations specialising in the sale and implementation of enterprise resource planning and accounting software based on annual revenue.

“These recognitions tell a larger story about the level of detail and client service we put into every engagement. At each level, we strive to be the most innovative and entrepreneurial firm so we can make a positive impact on our clients,” said Matt Armanino, CEO at Armanino LLP. “We are excited to be named a finalist for the 2019 Microsoft Partner of the Year honour and to Bob Scott’s Top 100 VARs, because it means that impact is being felt with results and success for clients.”

Armanino was recognised for providing outstanding solutions and services in Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations. As a Gold Certified Microsoft Dynamics partner, Armanino serves on the Worldwide Partner Advisory Committee and has been named a Microsoft Dynamics Inner Circle member six times since 2012. In March 2019, Armanino opened its Seattle office, providing direct access to the Microsoft ecosystem. The firm serves clients by defining digital transformation with cloud technologies and supports business process reengineering with a selection of solutions including AI, IOT and BI/Analytics created through Microsoft Business Applications.

The Microsoft Partner of the Year Awards recognise Microsoft partners that have developed and delivered exceptional Microsoft-based solutions during the past year. In addition to Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, Armanino offers a host of software solutions including Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement, Dynamics GP, Salesforce, Sage Intacct, Adaptive Insights, Microsoft Power BI, Workiva, BlackLine and more.

About Armanino LLP

Armanino LLP is one of the 25 largest independent accounting and business consulting firms in the nation. Armanino provides an integrated set of audit, tax, business management, consulting and technology solutions to companies in the United States and globally. The firm helps clients adapt and change in every stage of business, from startup through rapid growth to the sale of a company. Armanino emphasises smart technology, leading a cloud revolution of financial, operational, sales and compliance tools that are transforming the way companies do business. The firm extends its global services to more than 100 countries through its membership in Moore Stephens International Limited, one of the world’s major accounting and consulting membership organisations. In addition to its core consulting and accounting practices, Armanino operates its division, AMF Media Group, a media and communications services agency. Its affiliate, Intersect Capital, is an independent financial planning, wealth and lifestyle management firm.

If you would like to find out more information, please visit https://www.armaninollp.com/

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High Court blocks iPhone data breach class action against Google

The High Court has blocked a mass legal action against Google over claims that it collected sensitive personal data from more than four million iPhone users.

Mr Justice Warby, sitting in London, announced his decision on Monday.

The litigation was brought by campaign group Google You Owe Us, led by former Which? director Richard Lloyd.

The tech giant faced claims that it bypassed privacy settings on Apple iPhone handsets between August 2011 and February 2012 and used data to divide people into categories for advertisers.

The campaign group hoped to win at least £1 billion in compensation for an estimated 4.4 million users of the device in the UK.

At the first hearing of the case in London in May, lawyers for Mr Lloyd told the court that information collected by Google included racial or ethnic origin, physical and mental health, political affiliations or opinions, sexuality and sexual interests and social class.

They said information about an individual’s financial situation, shopping habits and their geographical location were also obtained.

Hugh Tomlinson QC, representing Mr Lloyd, said information was then “aggregated” and users were put into groups such as “football lovers” or “current affairs enthusiasts”.

These were then offered to subscribing advertisers to choose from when deciding who to direct their marketing to.

Mr Tomlinson said the data was gathered through “clandestine tracking and collation” of information relating to internet usage on iPhone users’ Safari browser – known as the “Safari Workaround”.

He told Mr Justice Warby the activity was exposed by a PhD researcher in 2012 and Google has already paid 39.5 million US dollars to settle claims in the United States.

Google argued that the type of “representative action” being brought against it by Mr Lloyd is unsuitable and should not go ahead.

Lawyers for the California-based company said there is no suggestion that the Safari Workaround resulted in any information being disclosed to third parties.

They also said it is not possible to identify those who may have been affected and the claim has no prospect of success.

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Clifford Chance to hire ‘tech trainees’

Magic circle firm Clifford Chance has set-up an alternative training contract for would-be solicitors with a specialised focus on technology. The firm claims the IGNITE contract will offer applicants with an ’aptitude for tech’ a route to qualify as solicitors. It is designed for people that have an interest in areas including fintech, coding and artificial intelligence, and an interest in how law tech and digitisation are changing the legal working environment. It will run separately to the firm’s usual trainee programme, which takes place twice a year.

Trainees will be given time away from fee-earning to gain the necessary training, support and expertise the firm said. They will be paid £46,600 in their first year, £52,500 in their second and up to £91,000 as a newly-qualified solicitor, including bonus.

Michael Bates, regional managing partner, said: ‘Law tech is changing the face of our industry and we want to be at the forefront of that change. We’re committed to driving a culture that embraces digital thinking across each of our practice areas and we hope that these trainees will go to make significant change in their practice areas upon qualifying.’

The firm said it hopes to hire five individuals to join the firm in 2021.

Meanwhile international firm Withersworldwide said today it had acquired tech law firm JAG Shaw Baker to create Withers tech, a dedicated team advising on tech.

JAG Shaw Baker was established in 2013 to advise UK and US entrepreneurs, companies and investors across high-growth technology sectors including life sciences and digital technology. Withersworldwide said the new legal offering would fully meet the needs of entrepreneurs, investors and technology companies.

Should mind reading technology be used in court?

A man is charged with stealing a very distinctive blue diamond. The man claims never to have seen the diamond before. An expert is called to testify whether the brain responses exhibited by this man indicate he has seen the diamond before. The question is – should this information be used in court?

Courts are reluctant to admit evidence where there is considerable debate over the interpretation of scientific findings. But a recent study from researchers in the US has noted that the accuracy of such “mind reading” technology is improving.

There are various methods of detecting false statements or concealed knowledge, which vary greatly. For example, traditional “lie detection” relies on measuring physiological reactions such as heart rate, blood pressure, pupil dilation and skin sweat response to direct questions, such as “did you kill your wife?” Alternatively, a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) approach uses brain scans to identify a brain signature for lying.

However, the technology considered by the US researchers, known as “brain fingerprinting”, “guilty knowledge tests” or “concealed information tests”, differs from standard lie detection because it claims to reveal the fingerprint of knowledge stored in the brain. For example, in the case of the hypothetical blue diamond, knowledge of what type of diamond was stolen, where it was stolen, and what type of tools were used to effect the theft.

This technique gathers electrical signals within the brain through the scalp by electroencephalography (EEG), signals which indicate brain responses. Known as the P300 signal, those responses to questions or visual stimuli are assessed for signs that the individual recognises certain pieces of information. The process includes some questions that are neutral in content and used as controls, while others probe for knowledge of facts related to the offence.

The P300 response typically occurs some 300 to 800 milliseconds after the stimulus, and it is said that those tested will react to the stimulus before they are able to conceal their response. If the probes sufficiently narrow the focus to knowledge that only the perpetrator of the crime could possess, then the test is said to be “accurate” in revealing this concealed knowledge. Proponents of the use of this technology argue that this gives much stronger evidence than is possible to get through human assessment.

Assuming this technology might be capable of showing that someone has hidden knowledge of events relevant to a crime, should we be concerned about its use?

Potential for prejudice

Evidence of this sort has not yet been accepted by the English courts, and possibly never will be. But similar evidence has been admitted in other jurisdictions, including India.

In the Indian case of Aditi Sharma, the court heard evidence that her brain responses implicated her in her former fiancé’s murder. After investigators read statements related and unrelated to the offence, they claimed her responses indicated experiential knowledge of planning to poison him with arsenic, and of buying arsenic with which to carry out the murder. The case generated much discussion, and while she was initially convicted, this was later overturned.

However, the Indian Supreme Court has not ruled out the possibility of such evidence being used if the person being tested freely consents. We should not forget that people may knowingly conceal knowledge of facts relevant to a crime for all sorts of reasons, such as protecting other people or hiding illicit relationships. These reasons for hiding knowledge may have nothing to do with the crime. You could have knowledge relevant to a crime but be totally innocent of that crime. The test is for knowledge, not for guilt.

Context is key

The US researchers looked at whether brain-based evidence might unduly influence juries and prejudice the fair outcome of trials. They found the concerns that neuroscientific evidence may adversely influence trials could be overstated. In their experiment, mock jurors were influenced by the existence of brain based evidence, whether it indicated guilty knowledge or the absence of it. But the strength of other evidence, such as motive or opportunity, weighed more heavily in the hypothetical jurors’ minds.

This is not surprising, as our case-based research demonstrates the importance of the context in which neuroscientific evidence is introduced in court. It could help support a case, but the success is dependent on the strength of all the evidence combined. In no case was the use of neuroscientific evidence alone determinative of the outcome, though in several it was highly significant.

Memory detection technologies are improving, but even if they are “accurate” (however we choose to define that term) it does not automatically mean they will or should be allowed in court. Society, legislators and the courts are going to have to decide whether our memories should be allowed to remain private or whether the needs of justice trump privacy considerations. Our innermost thoughts have always been viewed as private; are we ready to surrender them to law enforcement agencies?

China dominates top supercomputers list

China has overtaken the US to have the most supercomputers in the list of the world’s fastest 500 systems.

The communist nation accounted for 202 of the globe’s highest performance machines, according to the latest Top500 survey.

By contrast, the US had 143. That marks its lowest level since the bi-annual study began, 25 years ago, but still secured it second place.

Japan placed third with 35 systems, and Germany fourth with 20.

In the previous survey, published in June, the US still had a lead of 169 supercomputers to China’s 160.

The reversal of fortunes reflects China’s increased investment in research and development – according to a recent study, the country now accounts for about 20% of the world’s total R&D expenditure.

Supercomputers are typically large, expensive systems featuring tens of thousands of processors designed to carry out specialised calculation-intensive tasks.

Examples Include:

– Climate change studies
– Nuclear weapons simulations
– Oil prospecting
– Weather forecasting
– DNA sequencing
– Modelling biomolecules

Performance is measured in petaflops (one thousand trillion floating point operations per second).

A flop can be thought of as a step in a calculation.

China’s fastest computer – the Sunway TaihuLight – maintained its lead as the world’s speediest, performing at 93 petaflops.

By contrast, the US’s fastest – Titan – ranks fifth in the world, with a maximum performance of 17.6 petaflops.

The list’s authors said the latest figures also indicated China had overtaken the United States in terms of aggregate performance, accounting for 35.4% of the list’s total processing power versus the US’s 29.6%.

Erich Strohmaier – one of the survey’s co-founders – told the BBC that many of the Chinese systems had been created to earn money, with the owners renting out their processing power to local and international firms.

“At the very high end – the systems in the top 10 – those are there for two reasons,” he added.

“One is simply the prestige attached with [being in the lead] in a market that used to be a prime example of US technology dominance.

“The other is to do with scientific exploration and national security – a lot of these systems are used for calculations related to weapons systems.”

Twitter halts ‘broken’ verified-profile system

Twitter has suspended its verified-profile scheme and described it as “broken”, following complaints over the type of accounts being verified.

Typically, prominent people, including musicians, journalists and company executives, get a blue icon on their profile after proving their identity.

However, some far-right and white-supremacist accounts have now also been verified.

Twitter founder Jack Dorsey said the scheme would now be “reconsidered”.

In a statement, the company said: “Verification was meant to authenticate identity and voice, but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance.

“We recognise that we have created this confusion and need to resolve it.”

The company said no further “general” accounts would be verified, while it worked on a fix.

Twitter has been making a series of changes to address abuse and harassment on the social network.

Last week, it published a rewritten version of its rules, which it said would make them easier to understand.