Court Decision Allows California to Enforce Net Neutrality Law

In 2018, former California governor Jerry Brown signed a bill making the state the first to enact a net neutrality law. The Trump administration sued to block it, and the Biden administration dropped that suit, but the telecom industry had filed a separate suit. Now, U.S. District Court judge John A. Mendez denied the telecom suit, allowing the state to enforce the 2018 law. State senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) called the decision “a huge victory for open access to the Internet, our democracy and our economy,” while some industry groups suggest federal legislation would be a preferred approach to a state-by-state model. Continue reading Court Decision Allows California to Enforce Net Neutrality Law

Treasury Department May Put an End to Location Data Sales

The U.S. military, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are reportedly among the agencies that have been buying citizens’ location data from commercial services. Now, a Treasury Department inspector general report has indicated that this practice is illegal without first obtaining a warrant. The agencies in question say they are buying commercially available data from those who have consented to having their data collected. Continue reading Treasury Department May Put an End to Location Data Sales

YouTube to Launch Restricted Version for Tweens and Teens

Google’s YouTube is rolling out a version of its video service that will allow parents to supervise the viewing of tweens and teens that have outgrown YouTube Kids but aren’t quite ready for the unrestricted video platform. Currently, children under the age of 13 in the U.S. are legally barred from regular YouTube. The new option lets parents set up a managed account for children and teens that will prevent them from uploading videos or commenting. Parents will also have different content filters to restrict video viewing. Continue reading YouTube to Launch Restricted Version for Tweens and Teens

Cuomo Greenlights March 5 Opening for NYC Movie Theaters

New York governor Andrew Cuomo gave the okay for movie theaters to open beginning March 5 for a maximum of 50 people per screening, a capacity of 25 percent. This marks the first time that movie theaters there have opened in almost a year. Theaters must use advanced air filtration systems, while attendees are required to wear masks and sit in their assigned seats. State theaters outside New York City have reopened over the last few months based on lower COVID-19 infection numbers. In reaction to the news, AMC Entertainment stock rose 16 percent. Continue reading Cuomo Greenlights March 5 Opening for NYC Movie Theaters

France Establishes Repairability Index for Electronic Devices

France has pioneered a new “repairability index” for all electronic devices sold in that country. The criteria for the final score include how easy it is to take the device apart, availability of spare parts and technical documentation. The index will be implemented, with fines for non-compliance, beginning next year. This move is part of France’s stated goal to fight planned obsolescence, as manufacturers intentionally create products that need to be replaced frequently. Fighting such obsolescence reduces waste and France’s effort may serve as a model for other countries. Continue reading France Establishes Repairability Index for Electronic Devices

Spotify to Introduce Hi-Fi Option, Paid Podcast Subscriptions

Spotify will debut a Hi-Fi option later this year, the company announced during its recent “Stream On” presentation. Chief executive and co-founder Daniel Ek also revealed that the company paid $5 billion in royalties during 2020, and chief content officer Dawn Ostroff added that, over the last four years, 800+ recording artists have made more than $1 million a year in recording and publishing, up over 82 percent. About 7,500 artists made more than $100,000 a year, up 79 percent. Spotify also announced that it will launch paid podcast subscriptions. Continue reading Spotify to Introduce Hi-Fi Option, Paid Podcast Subscriptions

Europe Echoes Australia’s Call for Big Tech to Pay Publishers

As the Australian law requiring Google and Facebook to pay publishers for content nears passage, news publishers in the European Union are urging legislators to copy that law. The European Publishers Council supports the Digital Markets Act (DMA) to be included in legislation, forcing binding arbitration if the two parties can’t agree on payments. In the U.S., Congress members intend to introduce legislation to make it easier for smaller news organizations to negotiate with Facebook, Google and other Big Tech platforms. Continue reading Europe Echoes Australia’s Call for Big Tech to Pay Publishers

Apple Reveals Platform Security Guide with Info on M1 Chip

Apple unveiled its annual Platform Security Guide, now 200 pages, which provides the first-ever detailed documentation of its new M1 chips. The company is known for being reticent to release much in-depth technical information as part of its “security through obscurity” strategy to fend off hackers. However, this latest edition of the guide offers “significantly expanded information,” including details about the secure enclave and other software features and is designed to enable customers use the technology’s defense attributes. Continue reading Apple Reveals Platform Security Guide with Info on M1 Chip

Amazon Debuts Program for Users to Vote on New Products

Amazon is launching Build It, a new Kickstarter-like program that will allow consumers to vote on potential new Amazon products. The program is intended to gauge customer interest in new products. Those that get enough support within 30 days will be built and interested customers will only be charged if the product actually ships. Among the current Build It concepts are a “smart cuckoo clock” with Alexa, a smart scale that provides nutritional information on food that’s being weighed and a thermal sticky note printer. Continue reading Amazon Debuts Program for Users to Vote on New Products

Amazon Will Debut New UI for Fire TV Stick 4K, Fire TV Cube

Next month, Amazon is slated to launch a new Fire TV interface for its Fire TV Stick 4K and Fire TV Cube streaming devices. In 2016, Amazon pioneered the “content-first user experience,” which listed rows of movies and TV shows from various streaming apps on the home TV. This idea was picked up by many others in the industry, including Google, Vizio and LG. But, as the number of streaming services has expanded, this model has become unwieldy and chaotic — and Amazon is about to rein it in via a simplified navigation bar. Continue reading Amazon Will Debut New UI for Fire TV Stick 4K, Fire TV Cube

Roku Purchases Quibi Shows, May Produce Original Content

Roku is apparently planning to expand its VOD offerings by producing its own original content, having placed a LinkedIn ad in January looking for a “lead production attorney … [with] substantial experience in television and film production either at a studio, network, streaming service or entertainment law firm [for its] expanding slate of original content.” The ad also asked for someone with “experience working with Hollywood guilds and unions.” Roku recently purchased original content from the startup Quibi. During the holiday quarter, Roku experienced a 58 percent jump in revenue. Continue reading Roku Purchases Quibi Shows, May Produce Original Content

States Propose Their Own Privacy and Data Protection Laws

Rather than wait for federal Internet privacy laws, a growing number of states are pursuing their own proposals. Virginia, Washington, New York, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Florida are moving ahead with data protection legislation, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to drive more users online for work, education and other daily activities. California passed its Consumer Privacy Act in 2018. But Internet privacy experts warn that companies will find it difficult to do business across state lines should this state-by-state model take hold. Continue reading States Propose Their Own Privacy and Data Protection Laws

Facebook and Google Respond Differently to Australian Law

Against strong pushback from Facebook and Google, Australia is on the cusp of passing a law proposed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission that would force both companies to pay publishers for the content on their sites. The two companies have taken significantly different paths in response to the looming law. Google debuted a three-year global agreement with News Corp to pay for content, and Facebook stated it would restrict users and publishers from viewing and sharing news links, effective immediately. Continue reading Facebook and Google Respond Differently to Australian Law

YouTube to Offer a 4K Option and Shorts That Mimic TikTok

YouTube in unveiling a suite of new features, including the launch of its YouTube Shorts, which will enable users to create short-form vertical videos similar to those featured on video-sharing platform TikTok. The company will also introduce an option for its pay-TV service YouTube TV that will enable subscribers to watch in 4K, stream programs to an unlimited number of devices and download content for offline viewing. YouTube also plans to expand its new e-commerce feature so viewers can buy products from creators’ channels. Continue reading YouTube to Offer a 4K Option and Shorts That Mimic TikTok

More First-Time Entrepreneurs Launching Online Businesses

More Americans are opening small online businesses, and many of them are subscribing to Shopify for tools to build their websites, accept online payments and ship and track orders. This boom is fueling Shopify’s growth, but analysts say two factors could slow it down: fewer e-commerce businesses as the pandemic dies down and the failure of many of the nascent small businesses that are subscribers. Meanwhile, Amazon has acquired Shopify rival Selz, an Australia-based company that supports small- and medium-sized e-commerce businesses. Continue reading More First-Time Entrepreneurs Launching Online Businesses

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