Lawsuits Against Facebook Likely Following Antitrust Probes

Sources said that state and federal investigators plan to bring antitrust charges against Facebook, with a focus on whether its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp created an anticompetitive environment. Investigators examined how Instagram and WhatsApp changed after they were acquired and whether customers had fewer privacy protections. When Facebook purchased WhatsApp in 2014, it vowed to customers and regulators to preserve its strong privacy protections, but later tried to integrate user data into its other services. Continue reading Lawsuits Against Facebook Likely Following Antitrust Probes

Government Report Urges Breakup of Big Tech Monopolies

After a 16-month investigation, the House Judiciary Committee presented a 449-page report stating that Big Tech companies Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google abused their monopoly positions and calling for reform of the antitrust laws. Lawmakers stated the companies had evolved from startups to “the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons” and stated their breakup would restore competition. This marks the biggest antitrust effort since the government sued Microsoft in the 1990s. Continue reading Government Report Urges Breakup of Big Tech Monopolies

Facebook Argues Breakup Would Be Costly, Weaken Security

Facebook’s lawyers, relying on research by the law firm Sidley Austin LLP, prepared a 14-page document that lays out its defenses against government threats to force a break from its messaging service WhatsApp and photo- and video-sharing platform Instagram. Congress and other federal antitrust regulators continue to investigate Facebook, as well as Google, Amazon and Apple, and the House Antitrust Subcommittee is expected to release its findings this month. Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014 were vetted by the Federal Trade Commission. Continue reading Facebook Argues Breakup Would Be Costly, Weaken Security

FTC Interviews Mark Zuckerberg as Part of Its Antitrust Probe

The Federal Trade Commission often interviews witnesses under oath as part of investigations that lead to lawsuits. It’s telling, then, that, according to sources, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg testified remotely and under oath over a two-day FTC “investigative hearing.” Those sources also pointed out that Zuckerberg’s testimony doesn’t guarantee the case is headed toward an antitrust lawsuit but could be used by the FTC and state attorneys to build their case. State officials also participated in the hearing. Continue reading FTC Interviews Mark Zuckerberg as Part of Its Antitrust Probe

Some DOJ Lawyers Warn of a ‘Rush’ to Bring Google Lawsuit

The Justice Department and Attorney General William Barr plan to bring an antitrust lawsuit against Google as soon as this summer, but not all of the DOJ staffers are happy with what they say is an “aggressive timeline.” Critics believe that the case isn’t ready for trial and that they need more time to determine if the “millions of pages of documents” contain enough evidence to win the case. But Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen stated that the case is “a major priority” and the DOJ is “going full-tilt.”

Continue reading Some DOJ Lawyers Warn of a ‘Rush’ to Bring Google Lawsuit

Qualcomm Faces Bright 5G Future After Appeals Court Ruling

Qualcomm reached the end of a trying five-year period, battered by antitrust allegations, U.S.-China trade tensions, an activist shareholder and Broadcom’s hostile takeover attempt among other obstacles. This week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit vacated a 2019 ruling by a federal judge that Qualcomm had overcharged phone makers for its patents and abused its monopoly position. Qualcomm chief executive Steve Mollenkopf is now predicting sales of between 175 million and 225 million 5G devices this year. Continue reading Qualcomm Faces Bright 5G Future After Appeals Court Ruling

TikTok Used Privacy Loophole to Track Android Users’ Data

Google limits how Android apps track users, and it appears that TikTok violated this policy by collecting unique identifiers — called MAC addresses — from millions of mobile devices. In fact, TikTok seemed to have concealed this action via an added layer of encryption. TikTok, which has publicly declared it doesn’t share data with the Chinese government, ended the collection of MAC addresses in November. An AppCensus 2018 analysis found that about 1 percent of Android apps collect MAC addresses. Continue reading TikTok Used Privacy Loophole to Track Android Users’ Data

FTC to Fine Twitter for Using Consumer Data for Targeted Ads

Twitter revealed that the Federal Trade Commission may hit it with a fine up to $250 million for using consumers’ email addresses and phone numbers — collected for “safety and security” purposes — to target ads, something it said it did “inadvertently” between 2013 and 2019. This is a violation of its 2011 agreement with the FTC, in which Twitter agreed that it would no longer mislead consumers by not disclosing other potential uses. Twitter has already received a draft complaint from the FTC. Continue reading FTC to Fine Twitter for Using Consumer Data for Targeted Ads

FTC Probe of Facebook Unlikely to Conclude by Election Time

About a year ago, the Federal Trade Commission chair Joseph Simons predicted that the antitrust probe of Facebook would be done before the presidential election, a goal that now seems unlikely. If it runs into next year, a new president could change the FTC’s priorities. For now, the Facebook investigation continues, with staff members prepping depositions of Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and examining its purchase of Giphy, a search database for short videos. Continue reading FTC Probe of Facebook Unlikely to Conclude by Election Time

PACT Act Intends to Update Section 230, Protect Consumers

Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and John Thune (R-South Dakota) introduced the Platform Accountability and Consumer Transparency (PACT) Act, which would hold Internet platforms such as Facebook and Google responsible for hosting illegal content and require them to reveal their moderation practices. The Act would change parts of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 that shield such platforms from liability for the content their users post, and is intended to require platforms to quickly remove offending content. Continue reading PACT Act Intends to Update Section 230, Protect Consumers

Amazon Saves Premium Search Results for Its Own Products

According to a review by ProPublica, tech giant Amazon has begun to reserve the best placement in search results for its own products. Brands have been able to bid on search terms in order to gain visible listings at the top of the Amazon product search results. They can still bid on such placements, which also earns them a “sponsored” tag. But ProPublica and consultants found that, during the coronavirus pandemic, the company made the top left position on the first page unavailable to anything other than its own private-label products. Continue reading Amazon Saves Premium Search Results for Its Own Products

Facebook’s Purchase of Giphy to Provide Valuable User Data

Facebook has acquired the GIF platform Giphy for $400 million. Giphy’s 100+ million active daily users send over 1 billion GIFs a day. Facebook stated that Giphy’s content database will be integrated into its apps including Instagram, although it didn’t state a timeframe. Since every social app offers at least some GIF integration, including many that rely on a GIF keyboard and Giphy’s database, Facebook’s purchase is both a competitive edge and another way to harvest the kind of data that attracts advertisers. Continue reading Facebook’s Purchase of Giphy to Provide Valuable User Data

Facebook Ad Sales Pick Up, Resulting in Strong Q1 Revenue

With the coronavirus pandemic, advertising plummeted on many online sites, including social media giant Facebook. The company’s chief financial officer David Wehner declared that factor “largely attributable” to the 16 percent decline in average price of ads purchased in March. But gaming and e-Commerce companies picked up the slack by spending more, taking advantage of less competition in the company’s ad auctions. As a result, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg told analysts the company would “remain in growth mode.” Continue reading Facebook Ad Sales Pick Up, Resulting in Strong Q1 Revenue

Judge Greenlights Facebook’s $5B Agreement With the FTC

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia judge Timothy Kelly approved a deal reached last summer whereby Facebook will pay a $5 billion fine to settle with the Federal Trade Commission over privacy violations related to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook will also be restricted in some of its business decisions and will be subject to ongoing oversight. Facebook chief privacy officer for product Michel Protti noted that the agreement “has already brought fundamental changes to our company.” Continue reading Judge Greenlights Facebook’s $5B Agreement With the FTC

French Competition Authority Fines Apple & Two Wholesalers

The French Competition Authority fined Apple 1.1 billion euros ($1.23 billion) after determining that the company unfairly divided products and customers between two wholesalers, Tech Data and Ingram Micro, and forced them to charge the same prices as those offered in its own retail stores. The Authority president Isabelle de Silva stated that doing so had the effect of “sterilizing the wholesale market for Apple products.” Tech Data and Ingram Micro were fined 76.1 million euros and 62.9 million euros, respectively. Continue reading French Competition Authority Fines Apple & Two Wholesalers

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