Bipartisan Group of Attorneys General to Investigate Google

A bipartisan group of attorneys general representing 48 U.S. states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, led by Ken Paxton (R-Texas), announced an investigation of Google, initially focusing on the tech behemoth’s practices in online advertising. “But the facts will lead where the facts lead,” said Paxton, who made the announcement from the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court. “We don’t know all the answers,” he added. The states just subpoenaed Google for information on its advertising business practices. Continue reading Bipartisan Group of Attorneys General to Investigate Google

Technology Chief Executives Lobby for Federal Privacy Law

Congress just received an open letter on behalf of the Business Roundtable, an association comprised of the chief executives of the U.S.’s biggest companies. Signed by 51 tech company executives, the letter asks legislators to create a federal law on data privacy, thus avoiding the patchwork-quilt of state laws now being passed. Amazon, AT&T, Dell, IBM, Qualcomm, SAP, Salesforce, Visa, Mastercard, JPMorgan Chase, State Farm and Walmart are just some of the companies whose chief executives signed the letter. Continue reading Technology Chief Executives Lobby for Federal Privacy Law

Companies Call on U.S. Government to Up Its AI Investment

The U.S. federal government has come up with $973.5 million for multiple agencies that have requested funding for non-defense-related artificial intelligence pursuits. (Spending on AI for national defense is classified.) This is the first time the government has done so, but numerous industry executives are already saying that it’s not enough to “maintain a competitive edge.” The Trump administration stated that the figures they are putting forward are more transparent than those from China, which aims to dominate AI by 2030. Continue reading Companies Call on U.S. Government to Up Its AI Investment

Companies Prep for Brunt of California Consumer Privacy Act

Beginning January 2020, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) will allow that state’s residents to find out exactly what personal data companies hold about them — and ask them to delete such information. Consumers will also have the option of opting out of allowing their personal information to be sold. The legislation — which was designed to make Amazon, Facebook, Google and others more transparent — will impact a wide range of companies, large and small, including airlines, banks, retailers and restaurants. Continue reading Companies Prep for Brunt of California Consumer Privacy Act

Facebook’s Dilemma: Achieving Data Portability and Privacy

Facebook is trying to make good on two key promises: to protect users’ privacy and to allow them to move their data elsewhere. But the two goals may not be compatible, and Facebook is looking outside the company to get ideas on how to deliver both. The European Union and California passed laws that require Facebook to make users’ social media profiles easy to move to a competing platform. At the same time, Facebook agreed to enforce data protections as part of a $5 billion settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. Continue reading Facebook’s Dilemma: Achieving Data Portability and Privacy

Facebook Toughens Ad Rules in Lead-Up to 2020 Election

As the 2020 U.S. presidential election approaches, Facebook said it is strengthening how it verifies who is paying for political advertising, in an attempt to curtail the spread of disinformation on the site. Last year, Facebook began to require political advertisers to reveal the names — and prove the identities — of the organizations behind ads. At the same time, as numerous Democratic hopefuls vie for the presidential nomination, the cost for advertising on Facebook is skyrocketing. Continue reading Facebook Toughens Ad Rules in Lead-Up to 2020 Election

U.S. and France Ink Agreement on Digital Tax of Net Giants

The U.S. and France agreed to a 3 percent French tax to be applied to services from large Internet companies. The agreement specifies that France will repay these companies the difference between its digital tax and the taxes currently under development at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). French President Emmanuel Macron, at a joint press conference with President Donald Trump, said they had reached a “good agreement,” but that he prefers international taxes on digital services. Continue reading U.S. and France Ink Agreement on Digital Tax of Net Giants

Google Shutters Mobile Data Service For Wireless Carriers

Google shut down its free Mobile Network Insights service, which provided Android phone data to wireless carriers, to avert regulatory scrutiny. The service, launched in March 2017 and shuttered this April, mapped carrier signal strengths and connection speeds area-by-area, helping carriers to determine where their coverage needed to be increased or strengthened. The anonymous data was retrieved from devices using Google’s Android operating system, which accounts for about 75 percent of the world’s smartphones. Continue reading Google Shutters Mobile Data Service For Wireless Carriers

Facebook Moves to Defend Itself Against Regulatory Threats

Under pressure from legislators and others, Facebook has taken steps to protect itself. According to sources, the company ceased talks to buy video-focused social network Houseparty to forestall increased antitrust concerns. In response to calls to break up Facebook, the company took internal measures to make that more difficult to do by reorganizing its departments and rebranding Instagram and WhatsApp. Elsewhere, the European Union is expected to issue decisions by the end of the year related to privacy issues involving Facebook. Continue reading Facebook Moves to Defend Itself Against Regulatory Threats

Google Stops Human Review of Assistant Voice Clips in EU

Google is pausing Google Assistant voice transcriptions in the European Union for at least three months. In mid-July, it admitted that about 1,000 private communications were made available to human contractors evaluating Assistant’s speech recognition accuracy, revealing personal and private information. A Google spokesperson reported that the company ceased voice transcription involving human moderators after learning of additional leaks in the Netherlands. Amazon will allow Alexa users to opt out of the human review of recordings and Apple has halted its program allowing human contractors to listen in on Siri recordings. Continue reading Google Stops Human Review of Assistant Voice Clips in EU

Apple Ends Practice of Humans Monitoring Siri Recordings

Apple will no longer allow human contractors to listen in on users’ Siri recordings to “grade” them, and will not resume the program until it has completed a “thorough review.” The company also stated that, as part of a future update, users will be able to opt out of the quality assurance program. Apple told users that Siri data might be used to improve their experience, but not that humans would be listening to it. Most of the compromised confidential information was recorded via an accidental trigger of Siri. Continue reading Apple Ends Practice of Humans Monitoring Siri Recordings

European Union Hits Qualcomm With Another Antitrust Fine

For the second time in 18 months, the European Union levied a fine on Qualcomm, this time for €242 million ($272 million). European commissioner for competition Margrethe Vestager stated that Qualcomm drove a competing supplier of baseband chips out of business, an antitrust violation. The EU started its formal investigation into Qualcomm in 2015, when U.K. chip manufacturer Icera accused it of “predatory pricing” between 2009 and 2011, to drive it out of business. Nvidia subsequently purchased Icera. Continue reading European Union Hits Qualcomm With Another Antitrust Fine

Amazon Accelerator Program Draws Mixed Vendor Interest

Amazon’s Accelerator program for independent merchants, launched in spring 2018, provides marketing support, product reviews and visibility in exchange for the right to purchase the brand with 60 days notice, for a fixed price, “often $10,000.” It’s part of the tech behemoth’s strategy to build its portfolio of exclusive brands. According to third-party sellers, this is also the first selling program that gives Amazon direct control over independent brands. One source reported that Amazon has not yet purchased any brands. Continue reading Amazon Accelerator Program Draws Mixed Vendor Interest

The European Union to Investigate Amazon’s Data Practices

European Union competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager has just opened an inquiry into whether Amazon unfairly uses data gleaned from third-party sellers. The investigation has no deadline and could go on for years. At issue is whether Amazon has an unfair advantage by selling its own goods on the site, in competition with its third-party sellers. Amazon stated it will “cooperate fully” with the investigation as well as “continue working hard to support businesses of all sizes and help them grow.” Continue reading The European Union to Investigate Amazon’s Data Practices

Facebook in Global Crosshairs for Privacy, Antitrust Issues

The Federal Trade Commission fined Facebook about $5 billion for privacy violations, but the sum is considered a slap on the wrist since it neither hurt the company’s bottom line nor limited its ability to collect data. But, since 2016, 43+ countries have passed or introduced laws regulating social media and the spread of fake news, and U.S., European and Canadian regulators have initiated investigations and proposed regulations that will likely be much more draconian. Congress is considering a federal privacy law. Continue reading Facebook in Global Crosshairs for Privacy, Antitrust Issues

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