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Contents contributed and discussions participated by Paul Merrell

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'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

Google to Stop Selling Ads Based on Your Specific Web Browsing - WSJ - 2 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

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

Judge "Disturbed" To Learn Google Tracks 'Incognito' Users, Demands Answers | ZeroHedge - 1 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

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 to invest $1bn in news business after Australia dispute | Media News | Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • Facebook Inc on Wednesday pledged to invest at least $1bn in the news industry over the next three years, days after a high-profile standoff with the Australian government over paying news outlets for content. The social network’s commitment to the news industry follows Google’s $1bn investment last year, as technology giants come under scrutiny over their business models as well as the proliferation of misinformation on their platforms.
  • Facebook on Tuesday restored Australian news pages, ending an unprecedented weeklong blackout after the company wrung concessions from the government over a proposed law that will require tech giants to pay traditional media companies for their content. The brief blackout shocked the global news industry, which has already seen its business model upended by the tech giants.
  • Facebook said on Wednesday that it has already invested $600m in the news industry since 2018. The social media company added it was in active negotiations with news publishers in Germany and France for a deal to pay for content for its news product, where users can find headlines and stories next to a personalised news feed.
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

Several U.S. tech firms launch coalition to promote key internet law | Reuters - 0 views

  • everal technology companies including Snap Inc, Pinterest, Dropbox and eBay announced a coalition on Tuesday that would advocate the benefits of Section 230, a decades-old law protecting internet firms.Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects tech companies from liability over content posted by users, and has been under attack from U.S. President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers. They have criticized internet platforms’ content moderation decisions and accused them of stifling conservative voices.
  • Trump said earlier this month that he would veto the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act unless it includes a measure eliminating the law.
  • The coalition, Internet Works, said on Tuesday it aims to ensure that policymakers understand “the potential unintended consequences of blunt changes to the law”, including limiting effective content moderation efforts."This coalition brings new voices and diverse perspectives to Washington's current Section 230 debate, which too often focuses on the largest internet platforms," it said here.
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  • The coalition also includes GoDaddy Inc, Tripadvisor and the Wikimedia Foundation.
Paul Merrell

EU unveils landmark law curbing power of tech giants | News | DW | 15.12.2020 - 0 views

  • The European Union unveiled landmark legislation on Tuesday that lays out strict rules for tech giants to do business in the bloc. The draft legislation, dubbed the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA), outlines specific regulations that seek to limit the power of global internet firms on the European market. Companies including Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook and others could face hefty penalties for violating the rules. EU antitrust czar Margrethe Vestager and EU digital chief Thierry Breton presented the draft on Tuesday, after the content of the new rules was leaked to the media on Monday.
  • What's in the draft laws? The dual legislation sets out a list of do's, don'ts and penalties for internet giants: Companies with over 45 million EU users would be designated as digital "gatekeepers" — making them subject to stricter regulations. Firms could be fined up to 10% of their annual turnover for violating competition rules. The could also be required to sell one of their businesses or parts of it (including rights or brands). Platforms that refuse to comply and "endanger people's life and safety" could have their service temporarily suspended "as a last resort." Companies would need to inform the EU ahead of any planned mergers or acquisitions. Certain kinds of data must be shared with regulators and rivals. Companies favoring their own services could be outlawed. Platforms would be more responsible for illegal, disturbing or misleading content.
  • Following the announcement on Tuesday, US internet giant Google criticized the draft legislation, saying it appeared to target specific firms.  "We will carefully study the proposals made by the European Commission over the next few days. However, we are concerned that they seem to specifically target a handful of companies," said Karan Bhatia, the vice president of government affairs and public affairs at Google. Facebook appeared to offer a more conciliatory tone, saying the legislation was "on the right track."
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  • The draft still faces a long ratification process, including feedback from the EU's 27 member states and the European Parliament. Company lobbyists and trade associations will also influence the final law. The process is expected to take several months or even a year.
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

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

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.
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