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Paul Merrell

Amazon will pay $62 million over deceptive delivery tips claims - Protocol - The people... - 0 views

  • Amazon will pay almost $62 million to settle allegations by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission that it avoided handing over the full pay and tips it promised to delivery drivers, according to the agency.The company is giving back the amount it kept, according to a complaint released earlier this year by the agency, after it told Amazon Flex drivers and customers in 2015 it would pay $18 to $25 hourly plus tips. Instead, beginning the following year, it used tips to supplement lower base pay rates, and tried to hide the changes, according to the FTC."For a period of over two and a half years, without consumers' permission, Amazon secretly used nearly a third of customer tips to subsidize its own pay to drivers," the FTC had found.Under the 20-year settlement, Amazon will also need consent from drivers to change their pay scheme. All commissioners voted unanimously to approve the settlement.
Paul Merrell

Facebook agrees to $650M settlement to end Illinois privacy lawsuit | AppleInsider - 0 views

  • A judge has approved a settlement valued at $650 million from Facebook to end a privacy lawsuit, one which alleged the social network used facial recognition technology on user photos stored on its iPhone app without permission. The lawsuit, which started in April 2015, alleged Facebook did not gain consent from users to use its facial tagging features on their photographs. Originally filed by Chicago attorney Jay Edelson on behalf of plaintiff Carlo Licata, the complaint claimed the consent-less tagging was not allowed under privacy laws in Illinois. The case originated in Cook County Circuit Court before moving to Chicago federal court then California, reports the Chicago Tribune. On reaching California, the lawsuit attained class-action status. The class in question constitutes approximately 6.9 million Facebook users in Illinois that Facebook created and stored a face template for after June 7, 2011. Close to 1.6 million claim forms were filed ahead of the November 23 deadline for joining, making up roughly 22% of potential class members. Facebook went against the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, the complaint alleged, which is among the toughest privacy laws in the United States. Part of the act requires companies to gain permission from users before being able to start using biometric systems with their data, which includes facial recognition systems.
Paul Merrell

KBR v. SFO: the United Kingdom's Microsoft Ireland? - 0 views

  • On Feb. 5, 2021, the United Kingdom (U.K.) Supreme Court issued its judgment in R (on the application of KBR, Inc) v. Director of the Serious Fraud Office, holding that the U.K. Serious Fraud Office (SFO) lacked statutory authority to compel a U.S. company to disclose overseas data under threat of criminal sanction.  This judgment has obvious similarities with the so-called Microsoft Ireland decision of the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that using U.S. Stored Communication Act (SCA) warrants to reach overseas data was an impermissible extraterritorial application of that legislation.  Microsoft Ireland was viewed by many as hugely controversial, hindering U.S. law enforcement’s access to overseas data, leading to a Supreme Court appeal and, ultimately, legislative amendments.  This new U.K. judgment promises to have an equally significant impact across the Atlantic on equivalent U.K. law enforcement powers.
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

Keller Lenkner & Quinn Emanuel File Antitrust Class-Action Lawsuit Against Facebook - 1 views

  • National plaintiffs’ law firm Keller Lenkner LLC and global business litigation firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP filed a class-action lawsuit against Facebook, Inc. alleging violations of federal antitrust laws and California law on behalf of Facebook users.ADVERTISEMENTFiled in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the complaint alleges that Facebook obtained and maintained a social network and social media monopoly by consistently deceiving consumers about the data-privacy protections it provided to users, and by exploiting the data it extracted from users to target smaller startup companies for destruction or acquisition.The lawsuit seeks to put an end to Facebook’s misrepresentations about its privacy practices and its anticompetitive acquisition conduct; to require Facebook to engage in third-party auditing of its conduct; and to require Facebook to divest assets, such as Instagram and WhatsApp, that entrench its market power.
  • According to the complaint, which was filed on behalf of named plaintiffs Sarah Grabert and Maximilian Klein, Facebook did not achieve its Big Tech monopoly through innovation or vigorous competition. Despite its public pledge to protect user privacy, Facebook lied to users and violated their trust in a scheme to build a technology empire. Facebook also acquired technology from smaller firms that it used to track consumer activity across the internet so that it could identify and target competitors.ADVERTISEMENTThe complaint further alleges that in a strategic, intentional ploy for market domination, Facebook engaged in its scheme to destroy all competition without a care for the ultimate harm it would inflict on consumers. By the time Facebook’s deception about its lackluster privacy protections became public knowledge, Facebook had already achieved dominance, making it difficult for any firm to challenge its social media and social network monopoly.
  • The complaint notes that Facebook derives enormous economic value from the data it harvests from consumers on its platform. In fact, Facebook itself has described how it generates massive earnings per user from the data it collects. The complaint details how Facebook’s destruction of competition has caused consumers substantial economic injury. Consumers who sign up for Facebook agree to give up their valuable data and attention in exchange for using Facebook’s platform. That information and attention is then sold in measurable units to advertisers in exchange for money. The complaint alleges that consumers were harmed by Facebook’s anticompetitive conduct, as they did not receive the benefit of their bargain with Facebook.The lawsuit includes claims for violations of federal antitrust laws and California common law. It also seeks an order enjoining Facebook from continuing to engage in the alleged wrongful acts, requiring Facebook to engage third-party auditors to evaluate and correct problems with Facebook’s conduct, and requiring Facebook to divest assets like Instagram and WhatsApp. The lawsuit also seeks monetary damages, restitution and/or disgorgement of Facebook’s wrongful gains, attorneys’ fees, and costs.
Paul Merrell

Federal Trade Commission calls for breakup of Facebook - 0 views

  • The Federal Trade Commission sued to break up Facebook on Wednesday, asking a federal court to force the sell-off of assets such as Instagram and WhatsApp as independent businesses.“Facebook has maintained its monopoly position by buying up companies that present competitive threats and by imposing restrictive policies that unjustifiably hinder actual or potential rivals that Facebook does not or cannot acquire,” the commission said in the lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington, D.C.The lawsuit asks the court to order the “divestiture of assets, divestiture or reconstruction of businesses (including, but not limited to, Instagram and/or WhatsApp),” as well as other possible relief the court might want to add.
  • Attorneys general from 48 states and territories said they were filing their own lawsuit against Facebook, reflecting the broad and bipartisan concern about how much power Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, have accumulated on the internet.
Paul Merrell

Press corner | European Commission - 0 views

  • The European Commission has informed Amazon of its preliminary view that it has breached EU antitrust rules by distorting competition in online retail markets. The Commission takes issue with Amazon systematically relying on non-public business data of independent sellers who sell on its marketplace, to the benefit of Amazon's own retail business, which directly competes with those third party sellers. The Commission also opened a second formal antitrust investigation into the possible preferential treatment of Amazon's own retail offers and those of marketplace sellers that use Amazon's logistics and delivery services. Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “We must ensure that dual role platforms with market power, such as Amazon, do not distort competition.  Data on the activity of third party sellers should not be used to the benefit of Amazon when it acts as a competitor to these sellers. The conditions of competition on the Amazon platform must also be fair.  Its rules should not artificially favour Amazon's own retail offers or advantage the offers of retailers using Amazon's logistics and delivery services. With e-commerce booming, and Amazon being the leading e-commerce platform, a fair and undistorted access to consumers online is important for all sellers.”
  • Amazon has a dual role as a platform: (i) it provides a marketplace where independent sellers can sell products directly to consumers; and (ii) it sells products as a retailer on the same marketplace, in competition with those sellers. As a marketplace service provider, Amazon has access to non-public business data of third party sellers such as the number of ordered and shipped units of products, the sellers' revenues on the marketplace, the number of visits to sellers' offers, data relating to shipping, to sellers' past performance, and other consumer claims on products, including the activated guarantees. The Commission's preliminary findings show that very large quantities of non-public seller data are available to employees of Amazon's retail business and flow directly into the automated systems of that business, which aggregate these data and use them to calibrate Amazon's retail offers and strategic business decisions to the detriment of the other marketplace sellers. For example, it allows Amazon to focus its offers in the best-selling products across product categories and to adjust its offers in view of non-public data of competing sellers. The Commission's preliminary view, outlined in its Statement of Objections, is that the use of non-public marketplace seller data allows Amazon to avoid the normal risks of retail competition and to leverage its dominance in the market for the provision of marketplace services in France and Germany- the biggest markets for Amazon in the EU. If confirmed, this would infringe Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) that prohibits the abuse of a dominant market position.
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    "In addition, the Commission opened a second antitrust investigation into Amazon's business practices that might artificially favour its own retail offers and offers of marketplace sellers that use Amazon's logistics and delivery services (the so-called "fulfilment by Amazon or FBA sellers"). In particular, the Commission will investigate whether the criteria that Amazon sets to select the winner of the "Buy Box" and to enable sellers to offer products to Prime users, under Amazon's Prime loyalty programme, lead to preferential treatment of Amazon's retail business or of the sellers that use Amazon's logistics and delivery services. The "Buy Box" is displayed prominently on Amazon's websites and allows customers to add items from a specific retailer directly into their shopping carts. Winning the "Buy Box" (i.e. being chosen as the offer that features in this box) is crucial to marketplace sellers as the Buy Box prominently shows the offer of one single seller for a chosen product on Amazon's marketplaces, and generates the vast majority of all sales. The other aspect of the investigation focusses on the possibility for marketplace sellers to effectively reach Prime users. Reaching these consumers is important to sellers because the number of Prime users is continuously growing and because they tend to generate more sales on Amazon's marketplaces than non-Prime users. If proven, the practice under investigation may breach Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) that prohibits the abuse of a dominant market position. The Commission will now carry out its in-depth investigation as a matter of priority"
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    On the filed charges, the violation seems to be fairly clear-cut and straightforward to prove. (DG Competition has really outstanding lawyers.) I suspect the real fight here will be over the remedy.
Paul Merrell

EU files antitrust charges against Amazon over use of data | The Seattle Times - 0 views

  • European Union regulators filed antitrust charges Tuesday against Amazon, accusing the e-commerce giant of using its access to data from companies that sell products on its platform to gain an unfair advantage over them.The charges, filed two years after the bloc’s antitrust enforcer began looking into the company, are the latest effort by European regulators to curb the power of big technology companies. Margrethe Vestager, the EU commissioner in charge of competition issues, has slapped Google with antitrust fines totaling nearly $10 billion and opened twin antitrust investigations this summer into Apple. The EU’s executive Commission also opened a second investigation Tuesday into whether Amazon favors product offers and merchants that use its own logistics and delivery system.
  • The EU investigation found that Amazon is accessing and analyzing real-time data from other vendors that sell goods on its platform to help it decide which new products of its own to launch and how to price and market them. That “appears to distort genuine competition,” Vestager said.Investigators focused on that practice in France and Germany, the company’s two biggest markets in the EU, but Vestager didn’t give specific examples of merchants affected by Amazon’s behavior.The stakes have risen for retailers as many European countries have shut nonessential shops temporarily to try to contain the coronavirus pandemic, pushing more shopping online, where Amazon is a major presence. Advertising Skip AdSkip AdSkip Ad Amazon faces a possible fine of up to 10% of its annual worldwide revenue. That could amount to as much as $28 billion, based on its 2019 earnings. The Seattle-based company rejected the accusations.
Paul Merrell

Canadians sue Facebook over use of personal info | Toronto.com - 1 views

  • Two Facebook users are seeking damages on behalf of hundreds of thousands of Canadians whose personal data may have been improperly used for political purposes. The proposed class-action lawsuit filed by Calgary residents Saul Benary and Karma Holoboff asks the Federal Court to order the social-media giant to bolster its security practices to better protect sensitive information and comply with federal privacy law. It also seeks $1,000 for each of the approximately 622,000 Canadians whose information was shared with others through a digital app.
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

US Court Vindicates Snowden Leaks - Rules NSA Mass Surveillance "Illegal" & O... - 3 views

  • Though we doubt the broader public needed convincing, this is a significant milestone nonetheless, also after last month Trump shocked reporters by suggesting he could take a look at pardoning Edward Snowden:  Seven years after former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the mass surveillance of Americans’ telephone records, an appeals court has found the program was unlawful - and that the U.S. intelligence leaders who publicly defended it were not telling the truth.
  • And the ACLU said “Today’s ruling is a victory for our privacy rights,” adding that it “makes plain that the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records violated the Constitution.” Crucially, the three judge panel on the 9th Circuit specifically credited Edward Snowden for exposing it, as Politico notes: Judge Marsha Berzon's opinion, which contains a half-dozen references to the role of former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden in disclosing the NSA metadata program, concludes that the "bulk collection" of such data violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
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.
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

Facebook to Pay $550 Million to Settle Facial Recognition Suit - The New York Times - 2 views

  • Facebook said on Wednesday that it had agreed to pay $550 million to settle a class-action lawsuit over its use of facial recognition technology in Illinois, giving privacy groups a major victory that again raised questions about the social network’s data-mining practices.The case stemmed from Facebook’s photo-labeling service, Tag Suggestions, which uses face-matching software to suggest the names of people in users’ photos. The suit said the Silicon Valley company violated an Illinois biometric privacy law by harvesting facial data for Tag Suggestions from the photos of millions of users in the state without their permission and without telling them how long the data would be kept. Facebook has said the allegations have no merit.Under the agreement, Facebook will pay $550 million to eligible Illinois users and for the plaintiffs’ legal fees. The sum dwarfs the $380.5 million that the Equifax credit reporting agency agreed this month to pay to settle a class-action case over a 2017 consumer data breach.
Paul Merrell

Federal Court Rules Suspicionless Searches of Travelers' Phones and Laptops Unconstitut... - 1 views

  • n a major victory for privacy rights at the border, a federal court in Boston ruled today that suspicionless searches of travelers’ electronic devices by federal agents at airports and other U.S. ports of entry are unconstitutional. The ruling came in a lawsuit, Alasaad v. McAleenan, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and ACLU of Massachusetts, on behalf of 11 travelers whose smartphones and laptops were searched without individualized suspicion at U.S. ports of entry.“This ruling significantly advances Fourth Amendment protections for millions of international travelers who enter the United States every year,” said Esha Bhandari, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. “By putting an end to the government’s ability to conduct suspicionless fishing expeditions, the court reaffirms that the border is not a lawless place and that we don’t lose our privacy rights when we travel.”
  • The district court order puts an end to Customs and Border Control (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) asserted authority to search and seize travelers’ devices for purposes far afield from the enforcement of immigration and customs laws. Border officers must now demonstrate individualized suspicion of illegal contraband before they can search a traveler’s device. The number of electronic device searches at U.S. ports of entry has increased significantly. Last year, CBP conducted more than 33,000 searches, almost four times the number from just three years prior. International travelers returning to the United States have reported numerous cases of abusive searches in recent months. While searching through the phone of Zainab Merchant, a plaintiff in the Alasaad case, a border agent knowingly rifled through privileged attorney-client communications. An immigration officer at Boston Logan Airport reportedly searched an incoming Harvard freshman’s cell phone and laptop, reprimanded the student for friends’ social media postings expressing views critical of the U.S. government, and denied the student entry into the country following the search.For the order:https://www.eff.org/document/alasaad-v-nielsen-summary-judgment-order For more on this case:https://www.eff.org/cases/alasaad-v-duke
Paul Merrell

California's Attorney General joins the long list of people who have had it with Facebo... - 0 views

  • California’s attorney general has gone to court to force Facebook to hand over documents as part of an investigation into the company. Xavier Becerra filed a “petition to enforce investigative subpoena” with the Superior Court of California in San Francisco on Wednesday morning, arguing that Facebook’s response to his subpoenas has been “patently inadequate.” Citing a “lack of cooperation” not just with his office but also the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Xavier Becerra points out [PDF] that it took Facebook a year to respond to his initial inquiry to produce documents relating to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where Facebook allowed a third party to access vast amounts of personal information through its systems.
  • Not only that but Facebook flat out refused to “search communications involving senior executives,” meaning that it refused to search for relevant information in the emails and other communications of CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, among others. “Facebook is not just continuing to drag its feet, it is failing to comply with lawfully issued subpoenas and interrogatories,” the filing states.
  • The filing comes the same day that 7,000 pages of internal Facebook files were published online. Those documents were obtained and leaked amid a lawsuit between Facebook and a third-party app developer and were labelled as “highly confidential” by the antisocial network. The main upshot of those files is that they show Facebook used the data it gathered on millions of its users as a business weapon: it provided people's profile information to companies that, for instance, agreed to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on adverts within Facebook, and it cut off developers that posed a competitive threat to its ever-growing stable of companies and services (or developers that wouldn't pay up, or were just too sketchy for the internet giant.) This confirms earlier reporting. CEO Zuckerberg also continues to avoid visiting London, or anywhere in the UK, out of fear he will be arrested for repeatedly failing to comply with a request by Parliament to answer questions about Facebook’s actions, as revealed in the tranche of documents.
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

U.S. vs. Facebook: A Playbook for SEC, DOJ and EDNY - 0 views

  • Six4Three recently published a playbook for the FTC to get to the bottom of Facebook’s secretive deals selling user data without privacy controls. In light of The New York Times article reporting multiple criminal investigations into Facebook surrounding these secretive deals, we’re publishing the playbook for criminal investigators.Perhaps the most important recognition at the outset is that the secretive deals that have been reported, whether those with a handful of device manufacturers or with 150 large technology companies, are just the tip of the iceberg. Those secretive deals handing over user data in exchange for gobs of cash were merely part and parcel of a much broader illegal scheme that begins with Facebook’s transition to mobile in 2012 and continues to this very day. We believe this illegal scheme amounts to a clear RICO violation. The United Kingdom Parliament agrees. Here’s how criminal investigators can overcome Facebook’s incredibly effective concealment campaign and bring a viable RICO case.Facebook’s pattern of racketeering activity is a play in three acts from at least 2012 to present. The first act is all about the desperation resulting from the collapse of Facebook’s desktop advertising business right around its IPO and the various securities violations that resulted. The second act is about covering up those securities violations by illegally building its mobile advertising business via extortion and wire fraud in order to close the gap in Facebook’s revenue projections before the world took notice, which likely resulted in additional securities violations. The third act is about covering up the extortion and wire fraud by lying to government officials investigating Facebook while continuing to effectuate the scheme. We are still in the third act.For almost a decade now Facebook has been covering up one illegal act with another in order to hide how it managed to ramp up its mobile advertising business faster than any other business in the history of capitalism. The abuses of Facebook’s data, from Russian interference in the 2016 election to Cambridge Analytica and Brexit, all stem in substantial part from the decisions Facebook knowingly, willfully and maliciously made to facilitate this criminal conspiracy. Put simply, Facebook’s transition to mobile destabilized the world.
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    This is so reminiscent of Microsoft tactics at the point that antitrust regulators stepped in.
Paul Merrell

Lessons (So Far) From WhatsApp v. NSO - Lawfare - 0 views

  • NSO Group, an Israeli vendor of “lawful” hacking tools designed to infect a target’s phone with spyware, is regarded by many as a bad actor. The group claims to be shocked when its products are misused, as they have been in Mexico, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. One incident might be excusable, but the group’s continued enabling of misbehavior has resulted in well-earned enmity. Recently, Facebook struck back. NSO Group deployed a weaponized exploit for Facebook’s WhatsApp messenger, integrated it into its Pegasus malcode system, and offered it to its customers (a mix of legitimate government agencies and nefarious government actors) interested in hacking WhatsApp users beginning in April. This was a particularly powerful exploit because it required no user interaction and the only sign of the exploit a user might discover would be a series of “missed calls” received on the user’s phone. Facebook patched the vulnerability on May 13, blocking the NSO campaign. Facebook wasn’t satisfied with simply closing the vulnerability. In cooperation with CitizenLab, Facebook identified more than 100 incidents in which NSO Group’s WhatsApp exploit appeared to target human rights activists and journalists. In total, Facebook and CitizenLab identified 1,400 targets (which apparently also included government officials in U.S. allied governments). They then filed a federal lawsuit against NSO Group, closed NSO Group member accounts, and, most damaging of all to NSO’s customers, sent a notice to all identified victims alerting them of the attack. This meant that all targets, both dissidents and drug lords alike, were notified of this surveillance. The lawsuit will be a case to watch. Facebook has already revealed a large amount of detail concerning NSO Group’s internal workings, including the hands-on nature of its business model: NSO Group actively assists countries in hacking targets. For example, we now know that while an NSO Group employee may not press the “Enter” key for a target, NSO employees do act to advise and consult on targeting; and NSO Group is largely responsible for running the infrastructure used to exploit targets and manage implants. Expect more revelations like this as the case proceeds.
Paul Merrell

WhatsApp sues Israel's NSO for allegedly helping spies hack phones around the world - R... - 0 views

  • WhatsApp sued Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group on Tuesday, accusing it of helping government spies break into the phones of roughly 1,400 users across four continents in a hacking spree whose targets included diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and senior government officials.
  • In a lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco, messaging service WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook Inc (FB.O), accused NSO of facilitating government hacking sprees in 20 countries. Mexico, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were the only countries identified. WhatsApp said in a statement that 100 civil society members had been targeted, and called it “an unmistakable pattern of abuse.” NSO denied the allegations.
  • Citizen Lab, a cybersecurity research laboratory based at the University of Toronto that worked with WhatsApp to investigate the phone hacking, told Reuters that the targets included well-known television personalities, prominent women who had been subjected to online hate campaigns and people who had faced “assassination attempts and threats of violence.”
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  • NSO came under particularly harsh scrutiny over the allegation that its spyware played a role in the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul a little over a year ago. Khashoggi’s friend Omar Abdulaziz is one of seven activists and journalists who have taken the spyware firm to court in Israel and Cyprus over allegations that their phones were compromised using NSO technology. Amnesty has also filed a lawsuit, demanding that the Israeli Ministry of Defense revoke NSO’s export license to “stop it profiting from state-sponsored repression.”
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