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Paul Merrell

Google to Stop Selling Ads Based on Your Specific Web Browsing - WSJ - 1 views

  • Google plans to stop selling ads based on individuals’ browsing across multiple websites, a change that could hasten upheaval in the digital advertising industry. The Alphabet Inc. company said Wednesday that it plans next year to stop using or investing in tracking technologies that uniquely identify web users as they move from site to site across the internet. The decision, coming from the world’s biggest digital advertising company, could help push the industry away from the use of such individualized tracking, which has come under increasing criticism from privacy advocates and faces scrutiny from regulators. Google’s heft means the change could reshape the digital ad business, where many companies rely on tracking individuals to target their ads, measure the ads’ effectiveness and stop fraud. Google accounted for 52% of last year’s global digital ad spending of $292 billion, according to Jounce Media, a digital ad consultancy.
Paul Merrell

Judge "Disturbed" To Learn Google Tracks 'Incognito' Users, Demands Answers | ZeroHedge - 0 views

  • A US District Judge in San Jose, California says she was "disturbed" over Google's data collection practices, after learning that the company still collects and uses data from users in its Chrome browser's so-called 'incognito' mode - and has demanded an explanation "about what exactly Google does," according to Bloomberg.
  • In a class-action lawsuit that describes the company's private browsing claims as a "ruse" - and "seeks $5,000 in damages for each of the millions of people whose privacy has been compromised since June of 2016," US District Judge Lucy Koh said she finds it "unusual" that the company would make the "extra effort" to gather user data if it doesn't actually use the information for targeted advertising or to build user profiles.Koh has a long history with the Alphabet Inc. subsidiary, previously forcing the Mountain View, California-based company to disclose its scanning of emails for the purposes of targeted advertising and profile building.In this case, Google is accused of relying on pieces of its code within websites that use its analytics and advertising services to scrape users’ supposedly private browsing history and send copies of it to Google’s servers. Google makes it seem like private browsing mode gives users more control of their data, Amanda Bonn, a lawyer representing users, told Koh. In reality, “Google is saying there’s basically very little you can do to prevent us from collecting your data, and that’s what you should assume we’re doing,” Bonn said.Andrew Schapiro, a lawyer for Google, argued the company’s privacy policy “expressly discloses” its practices. “The data collection at issue is disclosed,” he said.Another lawyer for Google, Stephen Broome, said website owners who contract with the company to use its analytics or other services are well aware of the data collection described in the suit. -Bloomberg
  • Koh isn't buying it - arguing that the company is effectively tricking users under the impression that their information is not being transmitted to the company."I want a declaration from Google on what information they’re collecting on users to the court’s website, and what that’s used for," Koh demanded.The case is Brown v. Google, 20-cv-03664, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose), via Bloomberg.
Paul Merrell

Facebook, Google struck illegal advertising deal: state AGs - Business Insider - 0 views

  • A coalition of state attorneys general filed an antitrust case against Google on Wednesday. They accused Google of giving Facebook unfair advertising advantages to stop it from getting into an area of adtech called "header bidding." Google perceived a move by Facebook into this space as a threat, they said. Per Wired, if this deal is proved to be true, it could spell big trouble for Google and Facebook, as it would fall under part of the Sherman Antitrust Act that has a relatively low bar for illegality. Google denied the claims, and Facebook was not immediately available for comment.
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

Google, Facebook made secret deal to divvy up market, Texas alleges - POLITICO - 1 views

  • Google and Facebook, the No. 1 and No. 2 players in online advertising, made a secret illegal pact in 2018 to divide up the market for ads on websites and apps, according to an antitrust suit filed Wednesday against the search giant. The suit — filed by Texas and eight other states — alleges that the companies colluded to fix prices and divvy up the market for mobile advertising between them.
  • The allegation that Google teamed up with Facebook to suppress competition mirrors a major claim in a separate antitrust suit the Justice Department filed against the company in October: that Google teamed up with Apple to help ensure the continued dominance of its search engine. Such allegations provide some of the strongest ammunition yet to advocates who argue that the U.S. major tech companies have gotten too big and are using their power — sometimes in conjunction with each other — to control markets.Many of the details about the Google-Facebook agreement, including its specific language, are redacted from the complaint. But the states say it “fixes prices and allocates markets between Google and Facebook as competing bidders in the auctions for publishers’ web display and in-app advertising inventory.”
  • The complaint alleges that the agreement was prompted by Facebook’s move in 2017 to use “header bidding” — a technology popular with website publishers that helped them increase the money they made from advertising. While Facebook sells ads on its own platform, it also operates a network to let advertisers offer ads on third-party apps and mobile websites.
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  • Google was concerned about the move to header bidding, the complaint alleges, because it posed an “existential threat” to its own advertising exchange and limited the ability of the search giant to use information from its ad-buying and selling tools to its advantage. Those tools let Google cherry pick the highest value advertising spots and ads, according to the complaint.Within months of Facebook’s announcement, Google approached it to open negotiations, the complaint alleged, and the two companies eventually cut a deal: Facebook would cut back on the use of header bidding and use Google’s ad server. In exchange, the complaint alleges that Google gave Facebook advantages in its auctions.
Paul Merrell

Dept. of Justice Accuses Google of Illegally Protecting Monopoly - The New York Times - 1 views

  • The Justice Department accused Google on Tuesday of illegally protecting its monopoly over search and search advertising, the government’s most significant challenge to a tech company’s market power in a generation and one that could reshape the way consumers use the internet.In a much-anticipated lawsuit, the agency accused Google of locking up deals with giant partners like Apple and throttling competition through exclusive business contracts and agreements.Google’s deals with Apple, mobile carriers and other handset makers to make its search engine the default option for users accounted for most of its dominant market share in search, the agency said, a figure that it put at around 80 percent.“For many years,” the agency said in its 57-page complaint, “Google has used anticompetitive tactics to maintain and extend its monopolies in the markets for general search services, search advertising and general search text advertising — the cornerstones of its empire.”The lawsuit, which may stretch on for years, could set off a cascade of other antitrust lawsuits from state attorneys general. About four dozen states and jurisdictions, including New York and Texas, have conducted parallel investigations and some of them are expected to bring separate complaints against the company’s grip on technology for online advertising. Eleven state attorneys general, all Republicans, signed on to support the federal lawsuit.
  • The Justice Department did not immediately put forward remedies, such as selling off parts of the company or unwinding business contracts, in the lawsuit. Such actions are typically pursued in later stages of a case.Ryan Shores, an associate deputy attorney general, said “nothing is off the table” in terms of remedies.
  • Democratic lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee released a sprawling report on the tech giants two weeks ago, also accusing Google of controlling a monopoly over online search and the ads that come up when users enter a query.
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  • Google last faced serious scrutiny from an American antitrust regulator nearly a decade ago, when the Federal Trade Commission investigated whether it had abused its power over the search market. The agency’s staff recommended bringing charges against the company, according to a memo reported on by The Wall Street Journal. But the agency’s five commissioners voted in 2013 not to bring a case.Other governments have been more aggressive toward the big tech companies. The European Union has brought three antitrust cases against Google in recent years, focused on its search engine, advertising business and Android mobile operating system. Regulators in Britain and Australia are examining the digital advertising market, in inquiries that could ultimately implicate the company.“It’s the most newsworthy monopolization action brought by the government since the Microsoft case in the late ’90s,” said Bill Baer, a former chief of the Justice Department’s antitrust division. “It’s significant in that the government believes that a highly successful tech platform has engaged in conduct that maintains its monopoly power unlawfully, and as a result injures consumers and competition.”
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

Barr Ignores Lawyers' Calls to Go Slow on Google Antitrust Case - The New York Times - 0 views

  • The Justice Department plans to bring an antitrust case against Google as soon as this month, after Attorney General William P. Barr overruled career lawyers who said they needed more time to build a strong case against one of the world’s wealthiest, most formidable technology companies, according to five people briefed on internal department conversations.Justice Department officials told lawyers involved in the antitrust inquiry into Alphabet, the parent company of Google and YouTube, to wrap up their work by the end of September, according to three of the people. Most of the 40-odd lawyers who had been working on the investigation opposed the deadline. Some said they would not sign the complaint, and several of them left the case this summer.Some argued this summer in a memo that ran hundreds of pages that they could bring a strong case but needed more time, according to people who described the document. Disagreement persisted among the team over how broad the complaint should be and what Google could do to resolve the problems the government uncovered. The lawyers viewed the deadline as arbitrary.While there were disagreements about tactics, career lawyers also expressed concerns that Mr. Barr wanted to announce the case in September to take credit for action against a powerful tech company under the Trump administration.
tanyadurham

How Amazon using AI to shell out double money out of your pocket? - 1 views

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    Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence in Retail and E-Commerce : A Study of its Applications and Implications
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

Era Ends for Google as Founders Step Aside From a Pillar of Tech - The New York Times - 0 views

  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the Stanford graduate students who founded Google over two decades ago, are stepping down from executive roles at Google’s parent company, Alphabet, they announced on Tuesday. Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, will become the chief of both Google and Alphabet.The move is an end of an era for Google. Mr. Page and Mr. Brin have personified the company since its founding and have been two of the technology industry’s most influential figures, on a par with the founders of Apple and Microsoft, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Their early work on the Google search engine helped corral an unruly cloud of information on the World Wide Web. And their ideas about how to run an internet company — like offering generous employee perks like free shuttle buses to the office and making rank-and-file employees feel as though they have a stake in the company — became a standard for Silicon Valley.
Paul Merrell

Google Confirms Android Camera Security Threat: 'Hundreds Of Millions' Of Users Affected - 2 views

  • The security research team at Checkmarx has made something of a habit of uncovering alarming vulnerabilities, with past disclosures covering Amazon’s Alexa and Tinder. However, a  discovery of vulnerabilities affecting Google and Samsung smartphones, with the potential to impact hundreds of millions of Android users, is the biggest to date. What did the researchers discover? Oh, only a way for an attacker to take control of smartphone camera apps and remotely take photos, record video, spy on your conversations by recording them as you lift the phone to your ear, identify your location, and more. All of this performed silently, in the background, with the user none the wiser.
Paul Merrell

YouTube is planning to delete all accounts that aren't "commercially viable" starting D... - 0 views

  • Content creators everywhere are starting to panic about an upcoming policy change over at YouTube that threatens to eliminate all accounts and channels on the Google-owned video platform that are deemed to no longer be “commercially viable.” In the “Account Suspension & Termination” section of YouTube’s “Terminations by YouTube for Service Changes,” guidelines, the company explains that, as of December 10, 2019, “YouTube may terminate your access, or your Google account’s access to all or part of the Service, if YouTube believes, in its sole discretion, that provision of the Service to you is no longer commercially viable.”
Paul Merrell

Time to 'Break Facebook Up,' Sanders Says After Leaked Docs Show Social Media Giant 'Tr... - 0 views

  • After NBC News on Wednesday published a trove of leaked documents that show how Facebook "treated user data as a bargaining chip with external app developers," White House hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders declared that it is time "to break Facebook up."
  • When British investigative journalist Duncan Campbell first shared the trove of documents with a handful of media outlets including NBC News in April, journalists Olivia Solon and Cyrus Farivar reported that "Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg oversaw plans to consolidate the social network's power and control competitors by treating its users' data as a bargaining chip, while publicly proclaiming to be protecting that data." With the publication Wednesday of nearly 7,000 pages of records—which include internal Facebook emails, web chats, notes, presentations, and spreadsheets—journalists and the public can now have a closer look at exactly how the company was using the vast amount of data it collects when it came to bargaining with third parties.
  • According to Solon and Farivar of NBC: Taken together, they show how Zuckerberg, along with his board and management team, found ways to tap Facebook users' data—including information about friends, relationships, and photos—as leverage over the companies it partnered with. In some cases, Facebook would reward partners by giving them preferential access to certain types of user data while denying the same access to rival companies. For example, Facebook gave Amazon special access to user data because it was spending money on Facebook advertising. In another case the messaging app MessageMe was cut off from access to data because it had grown too popular and could compete with Facebook.
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  • The document dump comes as Facebook and Zuckerberg are facing widespread criticism over the company's political advertising policy, which allows candidates for elected office to lie in the ads they pay to circulate on the platform. It also comes as 47 state attorneys general, led by Letitia James of New York, are investigating the social media giant for antitrust violations.
  • The call from Sanders (I-Vt.) Wednesday to break up Facebook follows similar but less definitive statements from the senator. One of Sanders' rivals in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary race, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), released her plan to "Break Up Big Tech" in March. Zuckerberg is among the opponents of Warren's proposal, which also targets other major technology companies like Amazon and Google.
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

Google Engineer Leaks Nearly 1,000 Pages of Internal Documents, Alleging Bias, Censorship - 0 views

  • A former Google engineer has released nearly 1,000 pages of documents that he says prove that the company, at least in some of its products, secretly boosts or demotes content based on what it deems to be true or false, while publicly claiming to be a neutral platform. The software engineer, Zach Vorhies, first provided the documents to Project Veritas, a right-leaning investigative journalism nonprofit, as well as the Justice Department’s antitrust division, which has been investigating Google for potentially anti-competitive behavior.
  • When he returned to work, however, Google sent him a letter demanding, among other things, that he turn over his employee badge and work laptop, which he did, and “cease and desist” from disclosing “any non-public Google files.” Afraid for his safety, he posted on Twitter that if something would happen to him, all the documents he took would be released to the public.Google then did a “wellness check” on him, he said. The San Francisco police received a call that Vorhies may be mentally ill. A group of officers waited for him outside his house and put him in handcuffs. “This is a large way in which they intimidate their employees that go rogue on the company,” he said.Vorhies then decided that it would be safer for him to go public.
  • One of the goals of the effort was a “clean & regularly sanitized news corpus,” it reads.
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  • Robert Epstein, a psychologist who has spent years researching Google’s influence on its users, has published research showing that just by deciding the sequence of top search results, the company can sway undecided voters.Epstein determined that this has led to 2.6 million votes shifting in the 2016 presidential election to Trump’s opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He warned that in 2020, if companies such as Google and Facebook all support the same candidate, they will be able to shift 15 million votes—well beyond the margin most presidents have won by.
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

YouTube removed five times more content for violating hate speech rules - CNN - 0 views

  • n a blog post on Tuesday, YouTube said it had removed more than 100,000 videos and over 17,000 channels for violating its hate speech rules in April through June, which is five times more than it removed in the previous three months. It also took down over 500 million comments over hate speech. YouTube attributed the increase to its recent efforts to counter the proliferation of hate content. In June, the company updated its hate speech policy to include a ban on supremacist content and the removal of videos that deny well-documented atrocities, such as the Holocaust, and the 2012 shooting rampage at Sandy Hook elementary school.
Paul Merrell

48 States Investigating Whether Google's Dominance Hurts Competition : NPR - 1 views

  • State attorneys general of 48 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia announced a major probe Monday into Google's dominance in search and advertising for practices that harm competition as well as consumers. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is leading the bipartisan pack.
  • Google has the power to put a user on page 1 or 100. European regulators have charged Google with abusing that power and, following years-long investigations, they issued multi-billion-dollar fines. The tech giant, along with Facebook, controls nearly 60% of all digital advertising, according to eMarketer. A wide range of businesses that must publicize their services — be it a hair stylist, a hospital or a Fortune 500 company — must abide by the terms and prices set by two companies. But, as eMarketer notes, the duopoly's control is diminishing as Amazon grows.
  • The investigation includes all the states, except for California and Alabama.
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  • Last week Google disclosed that, in addition to state-level government action, the Justice Department has asked the company to hand over documents.
  • Led by New York, attorneys general from eight states and the District of Columbia announced a probe into Facebook as well.
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