Facebook Freezes 69,000 Apps for Collecting Personal Data

Last Friday, Facebook suspended 69,000 apps, stating that they had harvested users’ personal data. The investigation began in March 2018, after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, leading to the suspensions of those apps, associated with 400 developers. The Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey investigated and found that 10,000 of the 69,000 apps were found to have “potentially misappropriated” personal data, often as a way to add new users. The Justice Department and the FBI are still investigating Cambridge Analytica. Continue reading Facebook Freezes 69,000 Apps for Collecting Personal Data

FTC Begins Amazon Probe by Talking to Third-Party Vendors

The Federal Trade Commission has begun its investigation of Amazon by trying to determine if small businesses do in fact have alternative marketplaces. Several attorneys and “at least one economist” have been conducting 90-minute interviews with some of Amazon’s third-party vendors, to see if they do earn revenue from eBay, Walmart or other shopping sites. According to former FTC staffer Michael Kades, the length of the interviews and number of staff dedicated to the task indicates the agency is doing a “serious job.” Continue reading FTC Begins Amazon Probe by Talking to Third-Party Vendors

Government Makes Bipartisan Push to Investigate Big Tech

Democrats and Republicans have come together to examine big tech companies. Last Friday, a bipartisan group of attorneys general in eight states and the District of Columbia began an antitrust probe of Facebook, and, on Monday, another such group announced its intention to investigate Google. Sources said attorney general Ken Paxton (R-Texas) is leading the Google investigation. The Federal Trade Commission, Justice Department, and House and Senate committees are also scrutinizing the tech companies. Continue reading Government Makes Bipartisan Push to Investigate Big Tech

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

State Attorneys General Team Up to Investigate Tech Firms

After several states began pursuing an antitrust probe of the big technology companies, sources reported that representatives of several state attorneys general met with top Justice Department officials to air their concerns about the lack of competition in the technology sector. Now, according to sources, a bipartisan group of states plans to initiate a joint antitrust investigation, to be launched as soon as next month. Sources say the investigation will focus on whether dominant platforms stifle competition. Continue reading State Attorneys General Team Up to Investigate Tech Firms

FTC Chair Open to Option of Breaking Up Major Tech Firms

Federal Trade Commission chair Joe Simons stated that, in the face of anti-competitive and antitrust behavior, he would be willing to break up the big tech companies, although, “it’s not ideal because it’s messy.” He’s head of a task force to examine these behemoths, including a close look at whether Facebook acquired startups, such as Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014, to stifle competition. The FTC approved both purchases. The FTC is working in parallel with the Justice Department’s antitrust unit. Continue reading FTC Chair Open to Option of Breaking Up Major Tech Firms

Draft Executive Order Gives FCC, FTC Sway Over Internet

According to sources, the White House drafted an executive order that would give the Federal Communications Commission the power to determine how Facebook, Twitter and other large tech companies curate their websites. The FCC would be tasked with developing regulations on how (and when) the law protects social media platforms when they remove or suppress content, and also charges the Federal Trade Commission with taking the new regulations into account when investigating or suing these companies. Continue reading Draft Executive Order Gives FCC, FTC Sway Over Internet

Some Execs Oppose Rebranding of Popular Facebook Apps

Facebook is adding its name to Instagram and WhatsApp as part of a decision to unify its apps by branding them with the parent company’s name. The Facebook moniker will be visible on marketing and within the apps. Some Facebook employees purportedly oppose the move. The rebranding will bring the two popular apps in line with the naming conventions of Oculus, Portal and Workplace. The move to rebrand the two apps was first discovered in March, but at the time Facebook said it was just “testing the change” on a handful of users. Continue reading Some Execs Oppose Rebranding of Popular Facebook Apps

FTC Looks into Facebook Purchases of Promising Startups

The Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether Facebook and its chief executive Mark Zuckerberg purchased startups to forestall the competition they might pose. Sources said that the FTC is already reaching out to the founders of some of these startups. S&P Global estimates that Facebook has purchased about 90 companies over the past 15 years. Facebook isn’t alone in this behavior. A U.K. antitrust panel reported that the top five tech companies have acquired more than 400 companies over the last decade. Continue reading FTC Looks into Facebook Purchases of Promising Startups

Facebook Agrees to Record FTC Fine, Extensive Oversight

In addition to fining Facebook $5 billion for violating a 2011 privacy settlement, the Federal Trade Commission ordered Facebook to create an independent privacy committee on its board and appoint compliance officers and an outside assessor to oversee how data is handled. Further, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives must submit to regular privacy audits. The FTC commissioners approved the measures in a 3-2 vote; the fine is the largest ever levied by the federal government against a tech company. Continue reading Facebook Agrees to Record FTC Fine, Extensive Oversight

SEC Fines Facebook $100 Million Over Misuse of User Data

The Securities and Exchange Commission fined Facebook $100 million to settle a case related to Cambridge Analytica, which in 2014-2015 collected Facebook data — including names, genders, locations, birthdays and “page likes” — of about 30 million Americans to create “personality scores” and ultimately use it for Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign. When Facebook discovered this misuse of data in 2015, it didn’t reveal what had happened for two years, during which time it presented the issue of data misuse as hypothetical. Continue reading SEC Fines Facebook $100 Million Over Misuse of User Data

2017 Data Breach Likely to Cost Equifax Up to $700 Million

In September 2017, hackers broke into credit agency Equifax, compromising almost 150 million Social Security numbers and other personal information. Now, according to sources, under the terms of an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and most state attorneys general, Equifax will pay about $700 million to settle with these agencies as well as a nationwide consumer class-action lawsuit. The exact amount of the settlement depends on the number of consumer claims ultimately filed. Continue reading 2017 Data Breach Likely to Cost Equifax Up to $700 Million

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

Lawmakers Grill Major Tech Companies in Antitrust Hearing

Republican and Democratic lawmakers excoriated tech giants Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google this week on Capitol Hill. Chief among the critics were Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who oversees the Constitution subcommittee, and Representative David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) who leads an antitrust subcommittee. Although the companies acknowledged the upheaval their technology has created in many industries, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) responded that, “every time Americans trust you, they seem to get burned.” Continue reading Lawmakers Grill Major Tech Companies in Antitrust Hearing

Proposed Law Would Make Media Platforms Liable for Posts

Senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) introduced legislation to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) to hold big tech companies such as Facebook and YouTube liable for content published on their platforms. Tech companies now have protection under Section 230 from being found liable for what users post. Known as the Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act, the proposed legislation has sparked backlash from both sides of the aisle. According to Hawley’s office, his bill is aimed to limit political bias. Continue reading Proposed Law Would Make Media Platforms Liable for Posts

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