Civil servants told not to discuss confidential work near smart speakers

Seen and heard: Altada issues, Element valuation, Clearco talks, Staycity deal and Brian Cowen’s cannabis and crypto return

Civil servants have been warned not to discuss their work near smart speakers such as Amazon Echo or Google Home over concerns the devices could record what they say, reports the Business Post.

The IT policy issued to staff at the Oireachtas has told civil servants to “avoid having confidential work conversations near digital home assistants or smart speakers” as they may record what they say and share it with their parent company.

The document, first circulated last December, sets out guidance for staff who are working from home and also includes instructions to avoid keeping official files on personal laptops and phones and ensuring that family members do not have access to work devices.

Altada sued in US

Altada, a Cork-based artificial intelligence start-up, is being sued in the United States by a company that claims it accessed its trade secrets, reports the Sunday Independent.


In a complaint filed in a Texas court last month, US firm OpticsML claims the Irish company accessed its technical expertise through its relationship with investor Rocktop Partners. A subsidiary of Rocktop had previously worked with OpticsML.

Altada’s co-founder Niamh Parker told the newspaper it had not been served with any proceedings and rejected the claims made. The Business Post also reports on financial issues at Altada, which recently furloughed staff and is working to secure bridging finance to bring them back.

Element valued at €109m

Element Pictures, the production company behind the drama series Normal People and Oscar-nominated films including The Favourite, was valued at €109 million in the deal that saw European media giant RTL Group take a majority stake in May, the Sunday Times reports.

RTL subsidiary Fremantle paid €55 million for a 51 per cent stake in Element, consisting of an upfront cash payment of €45 million and €10 million in contingent consideration. Details of the transaction were outlined in an earnings release from RTL Group this month.

The Irish company is owned by Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe.

Clearco holds staff talks

Clearco’s future in Ireland could be at risk after the Canadian ecommerce funding company began consultations with Irish staff regarding its operations here, according to the Sunday Independent.

The newspaper understands Clearco informed staff at its Dublin office that the consultation would conclude at the end of August. Sources claimed the future of the Irish operation could be at risk, with about 50 permanent staff potentially affected.

Clearco has entered into a 30-day consultation period with its Irish staff while the company considers “strategic alternatives” for its international business.

Cowen rejoins cannabis board

Former taoiseach Brian Cowen has rejoined the advisory board of a Canadian cannabis and cryptocurrency company that aims to eliminate cash from legal cannabis purchases, according to the Business Post.

GetTangi Corporation is developing a new cryptocurrency, which it calls Tangi, and an associated payment platform that will allow customers to buy cannabis from about 7,500 legal cannabis dispensaries in the US.

Mr Cowen’s involvement with GetTangi dates back to 2019 but ill-health prompted a pause in his broader work activities until recently.

Staycity goes to Song

US private-equity fund Bain Capital has sold a 340-unit Staycity aparthotel in Dublin city centre to Song Capital Partners, a British and European investment firm, for €100 million, reports the Sunday Times.

The deal is one of the largest stand-alone real-estate sales in the hospitality sector since the onset of the pandemic.

The aparthotel on Little Mary Street is due to start trading on September 5th and will be operated on a 25-year lease by Staycity. The acquisition is London-based Song Capital’s first purchase in the Irish market.

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics