YouTube Finalizes Plans to End Targeted Ads For Children

YouTube has agreed to stop targeted ads that appear during videos that children are likely to watch, said sources. The Federal Trade Commission, which has been investigating whether YouTube violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), reached an agreement with the company but hasn’t made its terms public yet. It isn’t clear whether YouTube’s move to end targeted ads in children’s videos is in response to the settlement. The move is expected to impact ad sales, and sources said YouTube’s plans could change. Continue reading YouTube Finalizes Plans to End Targeted Ads For Children

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

Congress Calls For End to Tech Firms’ Audio Transcriptions

A bipartisan group of Congress members castigated Facebook for hiring contractors to transcribe audio clips and urged regulation to prevent it in the future. The transcriptions were made to help Facebook improve its artificial intelligence-enabled speech recognition, and are part of a move to improve the capabilities of voice assistants (Amazon, Apple and Google are among companies that have taken similar approaches). Last year, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) circulated a draft law that would impose steep fines and even prison for executives who failed to protect users’ personal data. Continue reading Congress Calls For End to Tech Firms’ Audio Transcriptions

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

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

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

Facebook, FBI Face Brewing Conflict Over Data Collection

Facebook, which has been under scrutiny for its privacy policies, just settled with the U.S. government for a record $5 billion fine. But the FBI has now complicated that picture by more aggressively monitoring potential threats on all social media platforms. Last month, the FBI asked for third party vendors to submit proposals by August 27 for examining public data to “proactively identify and reactively monitor threats to the United States and its interests” on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. Continue reading Facebook, FBI Face Brewing Conflict Over Data Collection

Game Industry Takes Steps to Address Loot Box Concerns

In a Federal Trade Commission workshop, Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony, the biggest game console manufacturers, have vowed to self-impose regulations requiring video game developers to disclose the odds for loot boxes. The FTC is looking at loot boxes, a system in which players buy “random” packages of in-game items without knowing the odds of getting items they actually want. The trade group Entertainment Software Association (ESA) plans to add warning labels and other policies related to loot boxes. Continue reading Game Industry Takes Steps to Address Loot Box Concerns

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

Led by Search Dominance, Google Posts Strong Earnings

Despite analysts’ forecast of a slowdown and the threat of regulations, Google parent Alphabet posted strong earnings, with reported revenue of $38.9 billion, up 19 percent over the same period last year, and $9.2 billion in profits. The tech company’s continued dominance in search is foundational to its robust financial health. Announcement of the strong results, after a worrisome first quarter, caused Alphabet’s stock to rise 9 percent in after-hours trading. Google is expected to profit from advertising in Maps, YouTube and other areas. Continue reading Led by Search Dominance, Google Posts Strong Earnings

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

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