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Paul Merrell

Facebook's Marketplace Faces Antitrust Probes in EU, U.K. - WSJ - 0 views

  • The European Union and the U.K. opened formal antitrust investigations into Facebook Inc.’s FB -0.86% classified-ads service Marketplace, ramping up regulatory scrutiny for the company in Europe. Both the European Commission—the EU’s top antitrust enforcer—and the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority said Friday they are investigating whether Facebook repurposes data it gathers from advertisers who buy ads in order to give illegal advantages to its own services, including its Marketplace online flea market. The U.K. added that it is also investigating whether Facebook uses advertiser data to give similar advantages to its online-dating service. The two competition watchdogs said they would coordinate their investigations.
  • Separately on Friday, Germany’s competition regulator announced that it is opening an investigation into Google’s News Showcase, in which the tech company pays to license certain content from news publishers. That probe, which is based on new powers Germany had granted the regulator, will look among other things at whether Google is imposing unfair conditions on publishers and how it selects participants, the Federal Cartel Office said.
  • The three newly opened cases are part of a new wave of antitrust enforcement in Europe. The European Commission filed formal charges last month against Apple Inc. for allegedly abusing its control over the distribution of music-streaming apps, including Spotify Technology SA . In November, it filed formal charges against Amazon.com Inc. for allegedly using nonpublic data it gathers from third-party sellers to unfairly compete against them. Both companies denied wrongdoing. At the same time, the U.K.’s CMA has opened investigations into Google’s announcement that it will retire third-party cookies, a technology advertisers use to track web users, and whether Apple imposes anticompetitive conditions on some app developers, including the use of Apple’s in-app payment system, which is also the subject of a lawsuit in the U.S. In the EU, the European Commission has been investigating Facebook for more than a year on multiple fronts. Facebook and the Commission have squabbled over access to internal documents as part of those investigations.
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  • New York State Attorney General Letitia James outlined in December a sweeping antitrust suit against Facebook by the Federal Trade Commission and a bipartisan group of 46 state attorneys general, targeting the company’s tactics against competitors. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images (Video from 12/9/20)
Paul Merrell

How Silicon Valley, in a Show of Monopolistic Force, Destroyed Parler - Glenn Greenwald - 1 views

  • As Silicon Valley censorship radically escalated over the past several months — banning pre-election reporting by The New York Post about the Biden family, denouncing and deleting multiple posts from the U.S. President and then terminating his access altogether, mass-removal of right-wing accounts — so many people migrated to Parler that it was catapulted to the number one spot on the list of most-downloaded apps on the Apple Play Store, the sole and exclusive means which iPhone users have to download apps. “Overall, the app was the 10th most downloaded social media app in 2020 with 8.1 million new installs,” reported TechCrunch.It looked as if Parler had proven critics of Silicon Valley monopolistic power wrong. Their success showed that it was possible after all to create a new social media platform to compete with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And they did so by doing exactly what Silicon Valley defenders long insisted should be done: if you don’t like the rules imposed by tech giants, go create your own platform with different rules.
  • But today, if you want to download, sign up for, or use Parler, you will be unable to do so. That is because three Silicon Valley monopolies — Amazon, Google and Apple — abruptly united to remove Parler from the internet, exactly at the moment when it became the most-downloaded app in the country. If one were looking for evidence to demonstrate that these tech behemoths are, in fact, monopolies that engage in anti-competitive behavior in violation of antitrust laws, and will obliterate any attempt to compete with them in the marketplace, it would be difficult to imagine anything more compelling than how they just used their unconstrained power to utterly destroy a rising competitor.
Paul Merrell

House Lawmakers Condemn Big Tech's 'Monopoly Power' and Urge Their Breakups - The New Y... - 0 views

  • House lawmakers who spent the last 16 months investigating the practices of the world’s largest technology companies said on Tuesday that Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google had exercised and abused their monopoly power and called for the most sweeping changes to antitrust laws in half a century.In a 449-page report that was presented by the House Judiciary Committee’s Democratic leadership, lawmakers said the four companies had turned from “scrappy” start-ups into “the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons.” The lawmakers said the companies had abused their dominant positions, setting and often dictating prices and rules for commerce, search, advertising, social networking and publishing.The House ReportRead the full report here »
  • To amend the inequities, the lawmakers recommended restoring competition by effectively breaking up the companies, emboldening the agencies that police market concentration and throwing up hurdles for the companies to acquire start-ups. They also proposed reforming antitrust laws, in the biggest potential shift since the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act of 1976 created stronger reviews of big mergers.
Paul Merrell

Apple Being Investigated By "Majority" Of States Over Claims Of Deliberately Slowing Ol... - 0 views

  • Right around the time that Apple stock was surging to new highs thanks to a better than expected earnings report and stock split, another story was surfacing: Arizona is leading a multi-state investigation into whether or not Apple is deliberately slowing its old iPhones, and whether such practices would violate deceptive trade laws.  A probe has been ongoing "since 2018" and investigators are focusing on data that shows "unexpected shutdowns" of old Apple iPhones and the company's potential slowing down of devices using power management software, according to Reuters.  Documents obtained last week from a Texas watchdog group showed that the Texas AG was also involved in the investigation. Sources told Reuters that a "majority of U.S. states", with AGs spanning both parties, are involved and are "teaming up" together in the probe. 
  • Apple agreed to pay up to $500 million to settle a related class action lawsuit earlier this year. 
Paul Merrell

4 Key Takeaways From Washington's Big Tech Hearing On 'Monopoly Power' : NPR - 0 views

  • Here are some key takeaways from the hearing:
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    Hearing was held by video-conference. Not much of substance came out of it. Still, the subcommittee has employed some high-power investigators who have spent hundreds of hours pawing through these companies' documents. I look for more substantive disclosures later.
Paul Merrell

Google's web app plans collide with Apple's iPhone, Safari rules - CNET - 0 views

  • Google and Apple, which already battle over mobile operating systems, are opening a new front in their fight. How that plays out may determine the future of the web. Google was born on the web, and its business reflects its origin. The company depends on the web for search and advertising revenue. So it isn't a surprise that Google sees the web as key to the future of software. Front and center are web apps, interactive websites with the same power as conventional apps that run natively on operating systems like Windows, Android, MacOS and iOS.  Apple has a different vision of the future, one that plays to its strengths. The company revolutionized mobile computing with its iPhone line. Its profits depend on those products and the millions of apps that run on them. Apple, unsurprisingly, appears less excited about developments, like web apps, that could cut into its earnings.
Paul Merrell

Press corner | European Commission - 0 views

  • The European Commission has opened formal antitrust investigations to assess whether Apple's rules for app developers on the distribution of apps via the App Store violate EU competition rules. The investigations concern in particular the mandatory use of Apple's own proprietary in-app purchase system and restrictions on the ability of developers to inform iPhone and iPad users of alternative cheaper purchasing possibilities outside of apps. The investigations concern the application of these rules to all apps, which compete with Apple's own apps and services in the European Economic Area (EEA). The investigations follow-up on separate complaints by Spotify and by an e-book/audiobook distributor on the impact of the App Store rules on competition in music streaming and e-books/audiobooks.
  • iPhone and iPad users can only download native (non web-based) apps via the App Store. The Commission will investigate in particular two restrictions imposed by Apple in its agreements with companies that wish to distribute apps to users of Apple devices: (i)   The mandatory use of Apple's own proprietary in-app purchase system “IAP” for the distribution of paid digital content. Apple charges app developers a 30% commission on all subscription fees through IAP. (ii)  Restrictions on the ability of developers to inform users of alternative purchasing possibilities outside of apps. While Apple allows users to consume content such as music, e-books and audiobooks purchased elsewhere (e.g. on the website of the app developer) also in the app, its rules prevent developers from informing users about such purchasing possibilities, which are usually cheaper.
Paul Merrell

Apple iPhone 5G Launch Could Be Delayed Due To Coronavirus | Zero Hedge - 4 views

  • The much anticipated iPhone 5G - and the next obvious cash cow for smartphone technology company Apple in its long line of smartphone cash cows - may be put on hold due to spillover effects from the coronavirus. Bank of America put out a note on Friday morning, citing a conversation with an expert on the company's supply chain, that said the product launch may wind up being pushed back.  The expert said that  “the iPhone 5G launch in the fall could see a month of delay.” He also warned that the launch of the iPhone SE2 would be delayed by "a few months" due to supply issues and weaker demand as a result of coronavirus. 
Paul Merrell

Facebook probe by U.S. states expands to 47 attorneys general - Reuters - 0 views

  • A New York-led probe into allegations that Facebook Inc put consumer data at risk and pushed up advertising rates has expanded to include attorneys general from 47 U.S. states and territories, New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement on Tuesday.
  • The investigation of Facebook announced in September had included Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and the District of Columbia. It now includes most U.S. states as well as the U.S. territory of Guam.
  • Some states, particularly New York and Nebraska, have raised concerns that Facebook and other big tech companies engage in anti-competitive practices, expose consumer data to potential data theft and push up advertising prices.
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  • The Facebook investigations are part of a larger landscape of probes of big tech firms. Reuters and others reported in June that the Justice Department and FTC had divided responsibility for the companies being investigated, with the Justice Department taking on Alphabet Inc’s Google and Apple Inc while the FTC looked into Facebook and Amazon.com Inc. The Justice Department later said it was opening a probe of online platforms, which would include Facebook.
Paul Merrell

U.S., allies urge Facebook for backdoor to encryption as they fight child abuse - Reuters - 1 views

  • The United States, the United Kingdom and Australia have called on Facebook Inc to not go ahead with end-to-end encryption across its messaging services unless law enforcement officials have backdoor access, saying encryption hindered the fight against child abuse and terrorism.
  • The United States and United Kingdom also signed a special data agreement that would fast track requests from law enforcement to technology companies for information about the communications of terrorists and child predators. Law enforcement could get information in weeks or even days instead of the current wait of six months to two years. The latest tug-of-war between governments and tech companies over user data could also impact Apple Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Microsoft Corp, as well as smaller encrypted chat apps like Signal.
Paul Merrell

Patriotism Erupts Across China As Consumers Ditch Apple For Huawei | Zero Hedge - 1 views

  • The escalating trade war is starting to damage Apple's brand in China, according to a new survey of Chinese consumer trends.  The brand consultancy Prophet surveyed 13,500 Chinese consumers and discovered that a wave of nationalism is sweeping across the country, deterring many from using US brands.  Apple plunged in the company's latest brand-relevance index, published Wednesday, which asked respondents which brands they liked the most. Apple crashed to No.24 in the index, falling from No. 11 last year. Before the trade war began, Apple was No. 5. Rivals like Huawei soared in the index to the No. 2 spot, just behind Chinese payment service Alipay.
Paul Merrell

States to launch antitrust investigation into big tech companies, reports say | TechCrunch - 2 views

  • The state attorneys in more than a dozen states are preparing to begin an antitrust investigation of the tech giants, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported Monday, putting the spotlight on an industry that is already facing federal scrutiny.The bipartisan group of attorneys from as many as 20 states is expected to formally launch a probe as soon as next month to assess whether tech companies are using their dominant market position to hurt competition, the WSJ reported.If true, the move follows the Department of Justice, which last month announced its own antitrust review of how online platforms scaled to their gigantic sizes and whether they are using their power to curb competition and stifle innovation. Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission formed a task force to monitor competition among tech platforms.
Paul Merrell

IHS Markit: Global Smartphone Shipments Plunge, Huawei Displaces Apple | Zero... - 0 views

  • Hong said Apple dropped to fourth place in global smartphone sales, shipping 35.3 million iPhones in 2Q19 compared to the 36.2 million units shipped by Oppo, 58.7 million units by Huawei, and 75.1 million units by Samsung. "Apple continues to face challenges in terms of unit shipments -- a trend that is unlikely to be fixed soon," Hong said. While Apple has been marketing overpriced iPhones, Samsung, Huawei, and Oppo have been quickly building market share, taking some of it away from Apple, by offering reasonably priced smartphones.
Paul Merrell

Explainer: What Google, Facebook could face in U.S. antitrust probe - Reuters - 0 views

  • The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating whether big technology companies are engaged in anticompetitive behavior, addressing a rising tide of criticism they have become too powerful to the detriment of consumers.
  • The Justice Department has said it will investigate “whether and how” online platforms in “search, social media, and some retail services online” are engaging in behavior that stifles competition and harms consumers. While the Justice Department did not name any targets in announcing the probe on Tuesday, sources have indicated Alphabet Inc’s Google, social media giant Facebook Inc, online retailer Amazon.com Inc and possibly Apple Inc will likely be reviewed. Here’s what regulators could focus on at the big technology companies:
Paul Merrell

Chaos erupts inside Facebook after Apple blocks internal apps: Report - Business Insider - 1 views

  • Facebook's thousands of employees are reportedly unable to use the company's internal iOS apps after it was caught running a data-gathering research app that violated Apple's developer policies. Apple said on Wednesday that it had revoked Facebook's certificates giving it access to a special enterprise program that companies can use to distribute internal apps and tools outside the public App Store. The move has caused internal Facebook apps to stop working, creating a chaotic situation that the company has deemed a critical problem, The Verge reported. Facebook employees reportedly can't open company apps for transportation and the lunch menu, along with beta versions of Facebook apps like Messenger and Instagram.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Spotify, Apple, Tidal Paying $1.6 Million a DAY In Major Label Guarantees... - 0 views

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    "If Spotify crashed tomorrow and couldn't deliver a single song, they'd still own more than $1 million in guaranteed payments to three major recording labels, according to financial data just published. Welcome to the murky - and extremely expensive - world of major label advances."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Apple Stole My Music. No, Seriously. | vellumatlanta - 1 views

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    "May 4, 2016 / jamespinkstone "The software is functioning as intended," said Amber. "Wait," I asked, "so it's supposed to delete my personal files from my internal hard drive without asking my permission?" "Yes," she replied."
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    "May 4, 2016 / jamespinkstone "The software is functioning as intended," said Amber. "Wait," I asked, "so it's supposed to delete my personal files from my internal hard drive without asking my permission?" "Yes," she replied."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

US gov't: Someone gave us the passcode to locked iPhone, so we don't need Apple | Ars T... - 1 views

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    "In February, judge warned of "virtually limitless expansion" of US gov't authority. by Cyrus Farivar (US) - Apr 23, 2016 5:54pm CEST"
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    "In February, judge warned of "virtually limitless expansion" of US gov't authority. by Cyrus Farivar (US) - Apr 23, 2016 5:54pm CEST"
Paul Merrell

FBI's secret method of unlocking iPhone may never reach Apple | Reuters - 0 views

  • The FBI may be allowed to withhold information about how it broke into an iPhone belonging to a gunman in the December San Bernardino shootings, despite a U.S. government policy of disclosing technology security flaws discovered by federal agencies. Under the U.S. vulnerabilities equities process, the government is supposed to err in favor of disclosing security issues so companies can devise fixes to protect data. The policy has exceptions for law enforcement, and there are no hard rules about when and how it must be applied.Apple Inc has said it would like the government to share how it cracked the iPhone security protections. But the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has been frustrated by its inability to access data on encrypted phones belonging to criminal suspects, might prefer to keep secret the technique it used to gain access to gunman Syed Farook's phone. The referee is likely to be a White House group formed during the Obama administration to review computer security flaws discovered by federal agencies and decide whether they should be disclosed.
  • Stewart Baker, former general counsel of the NSA and now a lawyer with Steptoe & Johnson, said the review process could be complicated if the cracking method is considered proprietary by the third party that assisted the FBI.Several security researchers have pointed to the Israel-based mobile forensics firm Cellebrite as the likely third party that helped the FBI. That company has repeatedly declined comment.
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    The article is wide of the mark, based on analysis of Executive Branch policy rather than the governing law such as the Freedom of Information Act. And I still find it somewhat ludicrous that a third party with knowledge of the defect could succeed in convincing a court that knowledge of a defect in a company's product is trade-secret proprietary information. "Your honor, my client has discovered a way to break into Mr. Tim Cook's house without a key to his house. That is a valuable trade secret that this Court must keep Mr. Cook from learning." Pow! The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act makes it a crime to access a computer that can connect to the Internet by exploiting a software bug. 
Paul Merrell

Apple could use Brooklyn case to pursue details about FBI iPhone hack: source | Reuters - 0 views

  • If the U.S. Department of Justice asks a New York court to force Apple Inc to unlock an iPhone, the technology company could push the government to reveal how it accessed the phone which belonged to a shooter in San Bernardino, a source familiar with the situation said.The Justice Department will disclose over the next two weeks whether it will continue with its bid to compel Apple to help access an iPhone in a Brooklyn drug case, according to a court filing on Tuesday.The Justice Department this week withdrew a similar request in California, saying it had succeeded in unlocking an iPhone used by one of the shooters involved in a rampage in San Bernardino in December without Apple's help.The legal dispute between the U.S. government and Apple has been a high-profile test of whether law enforcement should have access to encrypted phone data.
  • Apple, supported by most of the technology industry, says anything that helps authorities bypass security features will undermine security for all users. Government officials say that all kinds of criminal investigations will be crippled without access to phone data.Prosecutors have not said whether the San Bernardino technique would work for other seized iPhones, including the one at issue in Brooklyn. Should the Brooklyn case continue, Apple could pursue legal discovery that would potentially force the FBI to reveal what technique it used on the San Bernardino phone, the source said. A Justice Department representative did not have immediate comment.
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