Government Considering Lawsuits Against Facebook, Google

According to sources, the Federal Trade Commission — after investigating concerns about Facebook’s efforts to stifle competition — may be readying an antitrust lawsuit by the end of the year. The same sources said, however, that the FTC doesn’t always bring a case after making preparations to do so and that no final decision has been made. Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of senators has put Google in the crosshairs regarding its dominance in the chain of technologies connecting digital publishers with advertisers. Continue reading Government Considering Lawsuits Against Facebook, Google

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

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

Legislators Urge FTC to Scrutinize Mobile Ad Data Collection

Members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission urging it to investigate how the mobile advertising industry tracks consumers without their knowledge via digital display ads. The covert practice, known as “bidstream” data, enables the collection of sensitive information about consumers that is then packaged and sold by data brokers. Meanwhile, Google released “Ads Transparency Spotlight,” a Chrome extension to inform consumers about how advertisers are targeting them. Continue reading Legislators Urge FTC to Scrutinize Mobile Ad Data Collection

European Union Adopts New Strategy to Contain Tech Firms

The European Union has led the movement to leverage antitrust laws in an effort to limit the power of Big Tech companies from the United States. Now, convinced that the impact of these efforts did not go far enough to change behavior, they are pursuing a different tack, this time drafting regulations that address specific business practices. But even as the chief executives of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google were grilled in a Congressional hearing last week, they reported skyrocketing revenue and billions in profit. Continue reading European Union Adopts New Strategy to Contain Tech Firms

Big Tech Executives Are Grilled During Congressional Hearing

At a congressional hearing this week, the chief executives of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google endured frustration and hostile criticism from bipartisan lawmakers. House Antitrust Subcommittee chair David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) started by saying that, “Our founders would not bow before a king. Nor should we bow before the emperors of the online economy,” referring to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Apple’s Tim Cook, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai. The companies are collectively worth almost $5 trillion. Continue reading Big Tech Executives Are Grilled During Congressional Hearing

Big Tech Firms Step Up Acquisitions Despite Antitrust Probes

Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft — the five largest U.S. tech firms — are speeding up their acquisitions, even as they are under antitrust investigation by federal officials and state attorneys general. By the end of June, the companies had disclosed 27 deals, up 29 percent from the same period last year, when they announced 21 deals. The increase in purchases could be used as proof by regulators and economists that these companies are using their wealth to dominate competitors and increase their market share. Continue reading Big Tech Firms Step Up Acquisitions Despite Antitrust Probes

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

FTC and DOJ to Probe TikTok Violation of Child Privacy Rules

Chinese app TikTok has had a tumultuous few weeks. After being banned in India due to political tensions between that country and China, TikTok ceased its activities in Hong Kong in response to its concerns about the mainland’s imposition of a natural security law. In the U.S., the Trump administration is considering limiting the app’s access to its users. Now, sources say the U.S. Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission are probing allegations that TikTok has violated a 2019 agreement on children’s privacy. Continue reading FTC and DOJ to Probe TikTok Violation of Child Privacy Rules

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 Leads Creation of Tech Industry Advocacy Group

Facebook is a founding member of American Edge, an emerging political advocacy group. Because it is registered as a non-profit, American Edge can raise money and publish ads without disclosing its donors. “We’re working with a diverse group of stakeholders to help build support for our industry, and while we’re leading an effort to start this coalition, it’s one of many we are contributing to and supporting,” said spokesperson Andy Stone. The group, however, has not yet officially launched. Continue reading Facebook Leads Creation of Tech Industry Advocacy Group

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