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Paul Merrell

EurActiv.com - EU to oblige Microsoft to offer competitors' browsers | EU - European Information on InfoSociety - 0 views

  • "If the Commission's preliminary conclusions as outlined in the recent statement of objections were confirmed, the Commission would intend to impose remedies that enabled users and manufacturers to make an unbiased choice between Internet Explorer and competing third party web browsers," Jonathan Todd, spokesperson for EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, told EurActiv.
  • This line stems from the mistakes the Commission recognised it had made by imposing remedies on Microsoft in the Media Player case (see background). Indeed, although Microsoft is now obliged to offer a version of Windows without Media Player, for the most part, users are opting for the readily available bundled offer, which provides extra software at the same price. "That remedy was rubbish," acknowledged an official in the Commission's competition department. 
Paul Merrell

MICROSOFT CORP (Form: 10-Q, Received: 01/22/2009 09:02:43) - 0 views

  • In January 2008 the Commission opened a competition law investigation related to the inclusion of various capabilities in our Windows operating system software, including Web browsing software. The investigation was precipitated by a complaint filed with the Commission by Opera Software ASA, a firm that offers Web browsing software. On January 15, 2009, the European Commission issued a statement of objections expressing the Commission’s preliminary view that the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows since 1996 has violated European competition law. According to the statement of objections, other browsers are foreclosed from competing because Windows includes Internet Explorer. We will have an opportunity to respond in writing to the statement of objections within about two months. We may also request a hearing, which would take place after the submission of this response. Under European Union procedure, the European Commission will not make a final determination until after it receives and assesses our response and conducts the hearing, should we request one. The statement of objections seeks to impose a remedy that is different than the remedy imposed in the earlier proceeding concerning Windows Media Player.
  • While computer users and OEMs are already free to run any Web browsing software on Windows, the Commission is considering ordering Microsoft and OEMs to obligate users to choose a particular browser when setting up a new PC. Such a remedy might include a requirement that OEMs distribute multiple browsers on new Windows-based PCs. We may also be required to disable certain unspecified Internet Explorer software code if a user chooses a competing browser. The statement of objections also seeks to impose a significant fine based on sales of Windows operating systems in the European Union. In January 2008, the Commission opened an additional competition law investigation that relates primarily to interoperability with respect to our Microsoft Office family of products. This investigation resulted from complaints filed with the Commission by a trade association of Microsoft’s competitors.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Stallman: How Much Surveillance Can Democracy Withstand? | Wired Opinion | Wired.com - 1 views

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    "Editor's Note: Given Richard Stallman's longtime role in promoting software that respects user freedom (including GNU, which just turned 30), his suggested "remedies" for all the ways technology can be re-designed to provide benefits while avoiding surveillance - like the smart meters example he shares below - seem particularly relevant."
Paul Merrell

Microsoft Ordered to Delete Browser - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union said Friday that Microsoft’s practice of selling the Internet Explorer browser together with its Windows operating system violated the union’s antitrust rules. It ordered the software giant to untie the browser from its operating system in the 27-nation union, enabling makers of rival browsers to compete fairly.
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    The Times goes farther than the DG Competition announcement, saying that Microsoft has been ordered to untie MSIE from Windows throughout the E.U. No source is attributed for the statement. The DG Competition announcement does not state what remedy it proposes to order. So take this report with a grain of salt. The Times is well capable of error.
Gary Edwards

EU Might Force OEMs to Offer Choice of Browsers During Setup > Comments - 0 views

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    Maybe the EU can right the marketplace and restore competition by identifying all proprietary formats, protocols and interfaces used by Microsoft in an anti-competitive way; then issue a directive to either replace these locks with open standard alternatives, or pay a monthly anti-competitive reimbursement penalty until such time as the end user effectively replaces these systems. This approach is similar to the "WiNE solution" put forward to Judge Jackson as part of the USA anti-trust remedy. Judge Jackson favored a break up of Microsoft into two divisions; Operating systems and other businesses. Few believed this was enforceable, with many citing the infamous "Chinese Wall" claims made by Chairman Bill
Gary Edwards

What the EU might force Microsoft to do : comment by gary.edwards - 0 views

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    I've pretty much stayed out of the EU action against Microsoft primarily because it misses the mark by so much. The browser is not the means by which Microsoft seeks to create a Web based monopoly. MSIE is a useful tool used to frustrate Web developers and systems providers, but we are way beyond the point where removing/replacing MSIE becomes an effective remedy to Microsoft monopolist abuses. Way beyond! There is however no doubt in my mind that the browser is going to be the portable WebOS of the future. The problem is that browser runtimes are also host for proprietary runtime plug-ins. Like MS Silverlight! Read on freind. My comments are three part, and posted down the line, somewhere around 183. Heavy on the WebKit stuff as usual! Look for "gary.edwards".
Maluvia Haseltine

The Ugly Truth About Broadband: Upload Speeds - 0 views

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    The harsh realities about trying to actually use Cloud Computing services when your upstream bandwidth is being throttled. A serious problem that needs to be addressed and remedied industry-wide.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Threat filtering: Strategizing serious threat detection | ZDNet - 0 views

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    - Violet Blue "Analyze the threat. Identify the target. What's the payload? Analyze your systems. Can the threat impact your enterprise? Does this impact a critical function, or a critical part of your infrastructure? Take immediate action on the serious threats, prioritize and monitor the rest. (Mitigation; remediation.)"
Paul Merrell

European Human Rights Court Deals a Heavy Blow to the Lawfulness of Bulk Surveillance | Just Security - 0 views

  • In a seminal decision updating and consolidating its previous jurisprudence on surveillance, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights took a sideways swing at mass surveillance programs last week, reiterating the centrality of “reasonable suspicion” to the authorization process and the need to ensure interception warrants are targeted to an individual or premises. The decision in Zakharov v. Russia — coming on the heels of the European Court of Justice’s strongly-worded condemnation in Schrems of interception systems that provide States with “generalised access” to the content of communications — is another blow to governments across Europe and the United States that continue to argue for the legitimacy and lawfulness of bulk collection programs. It also provoked the ire of the Russian government, prompting an immediate legislative move to give the Russian constitution precedence over Strasbourg judgments. The Grand Chamber’s judgment in Zakharov is especially notable because its subject matter — the Russian SORM system of interception, which includes the installation of equipment on telecommunications networks that subsequently enables the State direct access to the communications transiting through those networks — is similar in many ways to the interception systems currently enjoying public and judicial scrutiny in the United States, France, and the United Kingdom. Zakharov also provides a timely opportunity to compare the differences between UK and Russian law: Namely, Russian law requires prior independent authorization of interception measures, whereas neither the proposed UK law nor the existing legislative framework do.
  • The decision is lengthy and comprises a useful restatement and harmonization of the Court’s approach to standing (which it calls “victim status”) in surveillance cases, which is markedly different from that taken by the US Supreme Court. (Indeed, Judge Dedov’s separate but concurring opinion notes the contrast with Clapper v. Amnesty International.) It also addresses at length issues of supervision and oversight, as well as the role played by notification in ensuring the effectiveness of remedies. (Marko Milanovic discusses many of these issues here.) For the purpose of the ongoing debate around the legitimacy of bulk surveillance regimes under international human rights law, however, three particular conclusions of the Court are critical.
  • The Court took issue with legislation permitting the interception of communications for broad national, military, or economic security purposes (as well as for “ecological security” in the Russian case), absent any indication of the particular circumstances under which an individual’s communications may be intercepted. It said that such broadly worded statutes confer an “almost unlimited degree of discretion in determining which events or acts constitute such a threat and whether that threat is serious enough to justify secret surveillance” (para. 248). Such discretion cannot be unbounded. It can be limited through the requirement for prior judicial authorization of interception measures (para. 249). Non-judicial authorities may also be competent to authorize interception, provided they are sufficiently independent from the executive (para. 258). What is important, the Court said, is that the entity authorizing interception must be “capable of verifying the existence of a reasonable suspicion against the person concerned, in particular, whether there are factual indications for suspecting that person of planning, committing or having committed criminal acts or other acts that may give rise to secret surveillance measures, such as, for example, acts endangering national security” (para. 260). This finding clearly constitutes a significant threshold which a number of existing and pending European surveillance laws would not meet. For example, the existence of individualized reasonable suspicion runs contrary to the premise of signals intelligence programs where communications are intercepted in bulk; by definition, those programs collect information without any consideration of individualized suspicion. Yet the Court was clearly articulating the principle with national security-driven surveillance in mind, and with the knowledge that interception of communications in Russia is conducted by Russian intelligence on behalf of law enforcement agencies.
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  • This element of the Grand Chamber’s decision distinguishes it from prior jurisprudence of the Court, namely the decisions of the Third Section in Weber and Saravia v. Germany (2006) and of the Fourth Section in Liberty and Ors v. United Kingdom (2008). In both cases, the Court considered legislative frameworks which enable bulk interception of communications. (In the German case, the Court used the term “strategic monitoring,” while it referred to “more general programmes of surveillance” in Liberty.) In the latter case, the Fourth Section sought to depart from earlier European Commission of Human Rights — the court of first instance until 1998 — decisions which developed the requirements of the law in the context of surveillance measures targeted at specific individuals or addresses. It took note of the Weber decision which “was itself concerned with generalized ‘strategic monitoring’, rather than the monitoring of individuals” and concluded that there was no “ground to apply different principles concerning the accessibility and clarity of the rules governing the interception of individual communications, on the one hand, and more general programmes of surveillance, on the other” (para. 63). The Court in Liberty made no mention of any need for any prior or reasonable suspicion at all.
  • In Weber, reasonable suspicion was addressed only at the post-interception stage; that is, under the German system, bulk intercepted data could be transmitted from the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) to law enforcement authorities without any prior suspicion. The Court found that the transmission of personal data without any specific prior suspicion, “in order to allow the institution of criminal proceedings against those being monitored” constituted a fairly serious interference with individuals’ privacy rights that could only be remedied by safeguards and protections limiting the extent to which such data could be used (para. 125). (In the context of that case, the Court found that Germany’s protections and restrictions were sufficient.) When you compare the language from these three cases, it would appear that the Grand Chamber in Zakharov is reasserting the requirement for individualized reasonable suspicion, including in national security cases, with full knowledge of the nature of surveillance considered by the Court in its two recent bulk interception cases.
  • The requirement of reasonable suspicion is bolstered by the Grand Chamber’s subsequent finding in Zakharov that the interception authorization (e.g., the court order or warrant) “must clearly identify a specific person to be placed under surveillance or a single set of premises as the premises in respect of which the authorisation is ordered. Such identification may be made by names, addresses, telephone numbers or other relevant information” (para. 264). In making this finding, it references paragraphs from Liberty describing the broad nature of the bulk interception warrants under British law. In that case, it was this description that led the Court to find the British legislation possessed insufficient clarity on the scope or manner of exercise of the State’s discretion to intercept communications. In one sense, therefore, the Grand Chamber seems to be retroactively annotating the Fourth Section’s Liberty decision so that it might become consistent with its decision in Zakharov. Without this revision, the Court would otherwise appear to depart to some extent — arguably, purposefully — from both Liberty and Weber.
  • Finally, the Grand Chamber took issue with the direct nature of the access enjoyed by Russian intelligence under the SORM system. The Court noted that this contributed to rendering oversight ineffective, despite the existence of a requirement for prior judicial authorization. Absent an obligation to demonstrate such prior authorization to the communications service provider, the likelihood that the system would be abused through “improper action by a dishonest, negligent or overly zealous official” was quite high (para. 270). Accordingly, “the requirement to show an interception authorisation to the communications service provider before obtaining access to a person’s communications is one of the important safeguards against abuse by the law-enforcement authorities” (para. 269). Again, this requirement arguably creates an unconquerable barrier for a number of modern bulk interception systems, which rely on the use of broad warrants to authorize the installation of, for example, fiber optic cable taps that facilitate the interception of all communications that cross those cables. In the United Kingdom, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation David Anderson revealed in his essential inquiry into British surveillance in 2015, there are only 20 such warrants in existence at any time. Even if these 20 warrants are served on the relevant communications service providers upon the installation of cable taps, the nature of bulk interception deprives this of any genuine meaning, making the safeguard an empty one. Once a tap is installed for the purposes of bulk interception, the provider is cut out of the equation and can no longer play the role the Court found so crucial in Zakharov.
  • The Zakharov case not only levels a serious blow at bulk, untargeted surveillance regimes, it suggests the Grand Chamber’s intention to actively craft European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence in a manner that curtails such regimes. Any suggestion that the Grand Chamber’s decision was issued in ignorance of the technical capabilities or intentions of States and the continued preference for bulk interception systems should be dispelled; the oral argument in the case took place in September 2014, at a time when the Court had already indicated its intention to accord priority to cases arising out of the Snowden revelations. Indeed, the Court referenced such forthcoming cases in the fact sheet it issued after the Zakharov judgment was released. Any remaining doubt is eradicated through an inspection of the multiple references to the Snowden revelations in the judgment itself. In the main judgment, the Court excerpted text from the Director of the European Union Agency for Human Rights discussing Snowden, and in the separate opinion issued by Judge Dedov, he goes so far as to quote Edward Snowden: “With each court victory, with every change in the law, we demonstrate facts are more convincing than fear. As a society, we rediscover that the value of the right is not in what it hides, but in what it protects.”
  • The full implications of the Zakharov decision remain to be seen. However, it is likely we will not have to wait long to know whether the Grand Chamber intends to see the demise of bulk collection schemes; the three UK cases (Big Brother Watch & Ors v. United Kingdom, Bureau of Investigative Journalism & Alice Ross v. United Kingdom, and 10 Human Rights Organisations v. United Kingdom) pending before the Court have been fast-tracked, indicating the Court’s willingness to continue to confront the compliance of bulk collection schemes with human rights law. It is my hope that the approach in Zakharov hints at the Court’s conviction that bulk collection schemes lie beyond the bounds of permissible State surveillance.
Paul Merrell

Trump Declares War On Silicon Valley: DoJ Launches Google Anti-Monopoly Probe | Zero Hedge - 0 views

  • Just before midnight on Friday, at the close of what was a hectic month for markets, WSJ dropped a bombshell of a story: The paper reported that the DoJ has opened an anti-trust investigation of Alphabet Inc., which could "present a major new layer of regulatory scrutiny for the search giant, according to people familiar with the matter." The report was sourced to "people familiar with the matter," but was swiftly corroborated by the New York Times, Bloomberg and others. For months now, the FTC has appeared to be gearing up for a showdown with big tech. The agency - which shares anti-trust authority with the DoJ - has created a new commission that could help undo big-tech tie-ups like Facebook's acquisition of Instagram, and hired lawyers who have advanced new anti-monopoly theories that would help justify the breakup of companies like Amazon. But as it turns out, the Trump administration's first salvo against big tech didn't come from the FTC; instead, this responsibility has been delegated to the DoJ, which has reportedly been tasked with supervising the investigation into Google. That's not super surprising, since the FTC already had its chance to nail Google with an anti-monopoly probe back in 2013. But the agency came up short. From what we can tell, it appears the administration will divvy up responsibility for any future anti-trust investigations between the two agencies, which means the FTC - which is already reportedly preparing to levy a massive fine against Facebook - could end up taking the lead in those cases.
  • Though WSJ didn't specify which aspects of Google's business might come under the microscope, a string of multi-billion-euro fines recently levied by the EU might offer some guidance. The bloc's anti-trust authority, which has been far more eager to take on American tech giants than its American counterpart (for reasons that should be obvious to all), has fined Google over its practice of bundling software with its standard Android license, the way its search engine rankings favor its own product listings, and ways it has harmed competition in the digital advertising market. During the height of the controversy over big tech's abuses of sensitive user data last year, the Verge published a story speculating about how the monopolistic tendencies of each of the dominant Silicon Valley tech giants could be remedied. For Google, the Verge argued, the best remedy would be a ban on acquisitions - a strategy that has been bandied about in Congress.
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

Obama administration opts not to force firms to decrypt data - for now - The Washington Post - 1 views

  • After months of deliberation, the Obama administration has made a long-awaited decision on the thorny issue of how to deal with encrypted communications: It will not — for now — call for legislation requiring companies to decode messages for law enforcement. Rather, the administration will continue trying to persuade companies that have moved to encrypt their customers’ data to create a way for the government to still peer into people’s data when needed for criminal or terrorism investigations. “The administration has decided not to seek a legislative remedy now, but it makes sense to continue the conversations with industry,” FBI Director James B. Comey said at a Senate hearing Thursday of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
  • The decision, which essentially maintains the status quo, underscores the bind the administration is in — balancing competing pressures to help law enforcement and protect consumer privacy. The FBI says it is facing an increasing challenge posed by the encryption of communications of criminals, terrorists and spies. A growing number of companies have begun to offer encryption in which the only people who can read a message, for instance, are the person who sent it and the person who received it. Or, in the case of a device, only the device owner has access to the data. In such cases, the companies themselves lack “backdoors” or keys to decrypt the data for government investigators, even when served with search warrants or intercept orders.
  • The decision was made at a Cabinet meeting Oct. 1. “As the president has said, the United States will work to ensure that malicious actors can be held to account — without weakening our commitment to strong encryption,” National Security Council spokesman Mark Stroh said. “As part of those efforts, we are actively engaged with private companies to ensure they understand the public safety and national security risks that result from malicious actors’ use of their encrypted products and services.” But privacy advocates are concerned that the administration’s definition of strong encryption also could include a system in which a company holds a decryption key or can retrieve unencrypted communications from its servers for law enforcement. “The government should not erode the security of our devices or applications, pressure companies to keep and allow government access to our data, mandate implementation of vulnerabilities or backdoors into products, or have disproportionate access to the keys to private data,” said Savecrypto.org, a coalition of industry and privacy groups that has launched a campaign to petition the Obama administration.
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  • To Amie Stepanovich, the U.S. policy manager for Access, one of the groups signing the petition, the status quo isn’t good enough. “It’s really crucial that even if the government is not pursuing legislation, it’s also not pursuing policies that will weaken security through other methods,” she said. The FBI and Justice Department have been talking with tech companies for months. On Thursday, Comey said the conversations have been “increasingly productive.” He added: “People have stripped out a lot of the venom.” He said the tech executives “are all people who care about the safety of America and also care about privacy and civil liberties.” Comey said the issue afflicts not just federal law enforcement but also state and local agencies investigating child kidnappings and car crashes — “cops and sheriffs . . . [who are] increasingly encountering devices they can’t open with a search warrant.”
  • One senior administration official said the administration thinks it’s making enough progress with companies that seeking legislation now is unnecessary. “We feel optimistic,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions. “We don’t think it’s a lost cause at this point.” Legislation, said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), is not a realistic option given the current political climate. He said he made a recent trip to Silicon Valley to talk to Twitter, Facebook and Google. “They quite uniformly are opposed to any mandate or pressure — and more than that, they don’t want to be asked to come up with a solution,” Schiff said. Law enforcement officials know that legislation is a tough sell now. But, one senior official stressed, “it’s still going to be in the mix.” On the other side of the debate, technology, diplomatic and commerce agencies were pressing for an outright statement by Obama to disavow a legislative mandate on companies. But their position did not prevail.
  • Daniel Castro, vice president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, said absent any new laws, either in the United States or abroad, “companies are in the driver’s seat.” He said that if another country tried to require companies to retain an ability to decrypt communications, “I suspect many tech companies would try to pull out.”
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    # ! upcoming Elections...
Paul Merrell

Microsoft Statement on European Commission Statement of Objections: Statement of Objections expresses Commission's preliminary view on the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows. - 0 views

  • REDMOND – Jan. 16, 2009 – “Yesterday Microsoft received a Statement of Objections from the Directorate General for Competition of the European Commission. The Statement of Objections expresses the Commission’s preliminary view that the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows since 1996 has violated European competition law. According to the Statement of Objections, other browsers are foreclosed from competing because Windows includes Internet Explorer.
  • The Statement of Objections states that the remedies put in place by the U.S. courts in 2002 following antitrust proceedings in Washington, D.C. do not make the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows lawful under European Union law.
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    Microsoft's version of events, notable for the statement that DG Competition included a specific ruling that it is not bound by the U.S. v. Microsoft decision in the U.S. That only states the obvious, but is perhaps intended to forestall somewhat Microsoft arguments that the legality of its bundling was conclusively determined in the U.S. case. If so, it may have worked; Microsoft makes no such claim in this press release.
Paul Merrell

Rapid - Press Releases - EUROPA - 0 views

  • MEMO/09/15 Brussels, 17th January 2009
  • The European Commission can confirm that it has sent a Statement of Objections (SO) to Microsoft on 15th January 2009. The SO outlines the Commission’s preliminary view that Microsoft’s tying of its web browser Internet Explorer to its dominant client PC operating system Windows infringes the EC Treaty rules on abuse of a dominant position (Article 82).
  • In the SO, the Commission sets out evidence and outlines its preliminary conclusion that Microsoft’s tying of Internet Explorer to the Windows operating system harms competition between web browsers, undermines product innovation and ultimately reduces consumer choice. The SO is based on the legal and economic principles established in the judgment of the Court of First Instance of 17 September 2007 (case T-201/04), in which the Court of First Instance upheld the Commission's decision of March 2004 (see IP/04/382), finding that Microsoft had abused its dominant position in the PC operating system market by tying Windows Media Player to its Windows PC operating system (see MEMO/07/359).
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  • The evidence gathered during the investigation leads the Commission to believe that the tying of Internet Explorer with Windows, which makes Internet Explorer available on 90% of the world's PCs, distorts competition on the merits between competing web browsers insofar as it provides Internet Explorer with an artificial distribution advantage which other web browsers are unable to match. The Commission is concerned that through the tying, Microsoft shields Internet Explorer from head to head competition with other browsers which is detrimental to the pace of product innovation and to the quality of products which consumers ultimately obtain. In addition, the Commission is concerned that the ubiquity of Internet Explorer creates artificial incentives for content providers and software developers to design websites or software primarily for Internet Explorer which ultimately risks undermining competition and innovation in the provision of services to consumers.
  • Microsoft has 8 weeks to reply the SO, and will then have the right to be heard in an Oral Hearing should it wish to do so. If the preliminary views expressed in the SO are confirmed, the Commission may impose a fine on Microsoft, require Microsoft to cease the abuse and impose a remedy that would restore genuine consumer choice and enable competition on the merits.
  • A Statement of Objections is a formal step in Commission antitrust investigations in which the Commission informs the parties concerned in writing of the objections raised against them. The addressee of a Statement of Objections can reply in writing to the Statement of Objections, setting out all facts known to it which are relevant to its defence against the objections raised by the Commission. The party may also request an oral hearing to present its comments on the case. The Commission may then take a decision on whether conduct addressed in the Statement of Objections is compatible or not with the EC Treaty’s antitrust rules. Sending a Statement of Objections does not prejudge the final outcome of the procedure. In the March 2004 Decision the Commission ordered Microsoft to offer to PC manufacturers a version of its Windows client PC operating system without Windows Media Player. Microsoft, however, retained the right to also offer a version with Windows Media Player (see IP/04/382).
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    It's official, hot off the presses (wasn't there a few minutes ago). We're now into a process where DG Competition will revisit its previous order requiring Microsoft to market two versions of Windows, one with Media Player and one without. DG Competition staff were considerably outraged that Microsoft took advantage of a bit of under-specification in the previous order and sold the two versions at the same price. That detail will not be neglected this time around. Moreover, given the ineffectiveness of the previous order in restoring competition among media players, don't be surprised if this results in an outright ban on bundling MSIE with Windows.
Paul Merrell

Section 215 and "Fruitless" (?!?) Constitutional Adjudication | Just Security - 0 views

  • This morning, the Second Circuit issued a follow-on ruling to its May decision in ACLU v. Clapper (which had held that the NSA’s bulk telephone records program was unlawful insofar as it had not properly been authorized by Congress). In a nutshell, today’s ruling rejects the ACLU’s request for an injunction against the continued operation of the program for the duration of the 180-day transitional period (which ends on November 29) from the old program to the quite different collection regime authorized by the USA Freedom Act. As the Second Circuit (in my view, quite correctly) concluded, “Regardless of whether the bulk telephone metadata program was illegal prior to May, as we have held, and whether it would be illegal after November 29, as Congress has now explicitly provided, it is clear that Congress intended to authorize it during the transitionary period.” So far, so good. But remember that the ACLU’s challenge to bulk collection was mounted on both statutory and constitutional grounds, the latter of which the Second Circuit was able to avoid in its earlier ruling because of its conclusion that, prior to the enactment of the USA Freedom Act, bulk collection was unauthorized by Congress. Now that it has held that it is authorized during the transitional period, that therefore tees up, quite unavoidably, whether bulk collection violates the Fourth Amendment. But rather than decide that (momentous) question, the Second Circuit ducked:
  • We agree with the government that we ought not meddle with Congress’s considered decision regarding the transition away from bulk telephone metadata collection, and also find that addressing these issues at this time would not be a prudent use of judicial authority. We need not, and should not, decide such momentous constitutional issues based on a request for such narrow and temporary relief. To do so would take more time than the brief transition period remaining for the telephone metadata program, at which point, any ruling on the constitutionality of the demised program would be fruitless. In other words, because any constitutional violation is short-lived, and because it results from the “considered decision” of Congress, it would be fruitless to actually resolve the constitutionality of bulk collection during the transitional period.
  • Hopefully, it won’t take a lot of convincing for folks to understand just how wrong-headed this is. For starters, if the plaintiffs are correct, they are currently being subjected to unconstitutional government surveillance for which they are entitled to a remedy. The fact that this surveillance has a limited shelf-life (and/or that Congress was complicit in it) doesn’t in any way ameliorate the constitutional violation — which is exactly why the Supreme Court has, for generations, recognized an exception to mootness doctrine for constitutional violations that, owing to their short duration, are “capable of repetition, yet evading review.” Indeed, in this very same opinion, the Second Circuit first held that the ACLU’s challenge isn’t moot, only to then invokes mootness-like principles to justify not resolving the constitutional claim. It can’t be both; either the constitutional challenge is moot, or it isn’t. But more generally, the notion that constitutional adjudication of a claim with a short shelf-life is “fruitless” utterly misses the significance of the establishment of forward-looking judicial precedent, especially in a day and age in which courts are allowed to (and routinely do) avoid resolving the merits of constitutional claims in cases in which the relevant precedent is not “clearly established.” Maybe, if this were the kind of constitutional question that was unlikely to recur, there’d be more to the Second Circuit’s avoidance of the issue in this case. But whether and to what extent the Fourth Amendment applies to information we voluntarily provide to third parties is hardly that kind of question, and the Second Circuit’s unconvincing refusal to answer that question in a context in which it is quite squarely presented is nothing short of feckless.
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.
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