Facebook Teams With Top Publishers to Offer Music Videos

In a direct challenge to Google’s YouTube, Facebook introduced licensed music videos to its platform earlier this month. The videos are accessible by genre, artist and mood from a new section in Facebook Watch and are also available via Facebook artist pages. The social network is partnering with publishers including Sony Music Group, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, BMG, Kobalt, Merlin and others with licensing deals similar to those already established with YouTube. Meanwhile, YouTube Music is expanding its features as Google gets ready to shut down its Play Music app. Continue reading Facebook Teams With Top Publishers to Offer Music Videos

Google Presents Three Phones: Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a 5G, Pixel 5

Google recently unveiled three new Pixel phones — the $349 Pixel 4a, available for preorder and shipping on August 20; the 5G-enabled Pixel 5, shipping in the fall; and the Pixel 4a with 5G, priced at $499 and also shipping in the fall. According to Google, issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the Pixel 4a from debuting significantly earlier. The Pixel 4a, $50 less than last year’s Pixel 3a and the iPhone SE, stands apart from several competitors with its camera and “clean version” of Android. Continue reading Google Presents Three Phones: Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a 5G, Pixel 5

ETC and Partners to Pilot Test Virtual Production Capabilities

The Entertainment Technology Center at USC has selected filmmakers Hannah Bang, Margo Sawaya and Sabina Vajrača to receive the 2020 Innovative Technology Award for their virtual production-based project, “The Ripple Effect.” The trio developed the futuristic live-action project with the aim of testing the limits of virtual production. “With Unreal Engine, we can minimize on set crew and provide better controls for talent and staff,” explained executive producer Erik Weaver. “We want to get people back to work while keeping cast and crews safe.” Continue reading ETC and Partners to Pilot Test Virtual Production Capabilities

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 Companies Are Thriving Despite the Current Climate

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the wares and services of Big Tech companies such as Amazon, Apple and Facebook have become more indispensable than ever. As such, they are thriving. Amazon, for example, reported $88.9 billion in sales, with profits doubling to a record $5.2 billion in the quarter ending June, even though it spent $4 billion on its supply chain and worker safety in that time frame. Apple marked an 11 percent increase in quarterly sales, and Facebook sales rose 11 percent to $18.7 billion. Continue reading Big Tech Companies Are Thriving Despite the Current Climate

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

Amazon, Google, Qualcomm Support Global Antitrust Institute

Last year, the Global Antitrust Institute, part of the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, organized and paid for a weeklong conference in California for antitrust regulators from 30 foreign countries, including Australia, Brazil, China and Japan. At the conference, these officials attended classes that were described as continuing education to learn more about the economic foundation of competition regulations. According to attendees and critics, however, the message of the conference also benefited Big Tech companies. Continue reading Amazon, Google, Qualcomm Support Global Antitrust Institute

Google Ramps Up Online Shopping, Faces Scrutiny in Europe

Google has tried to compete with Amazon in online shopping four times since 2013. But, with shoppers stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, the company now sees another opportunity. To lure sellers, Google said it would waive sales commissions, which range from 5 percent to 15 percent, and let retailers use third-party payment and order management services like Shopify. In the European Union, meanwhile, Google is facing the demand that it “make major concessions” related to its $2.1 billion purchase of Fitbit, including how it uses customer data for search and advertising. Continue reading Google Ramps Up Online Shopping, Faces Scrutiny in Europe

Security Regulation Causes Tech Firms to Rethink Hong Kong

Since China imposed its new national security law in Hong Kong, numerous technology companies — especially startups — are making plans to leave the city, just as it was developing into a significant regional fintech hub. One reason is that clients and suppliers are concerned that their data and Internet services will be under the surveillance of Chinese authorities. While the startups are already packing up, the bigger technology companies, including Facebook, Google and Twitter, are mulling over their next move. Continue reading Security Regulation Causes Tech Firms to Rethink Hong Kong

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

Google’s Area 120 Debuts Shoploop Video Shopping Platform

Google’s Shoploop, developed in its R&D unit Area 120, is a video shopping platform for consumers to discover, evaluate and purchase products within the app. Shoploop general manager Lax Poojary explained that the experience is “more interactive than just scrolling through images, titles and descriptions on a traditional e-commerce site.” The Shoploop videos, which are under 90 seconds, currently focus on beauty products. Consumers can save products or follow product creators for additional videos. Continue reading Google’s Area 120 Debuts Shoploop Video Shopping Platform

EU’s Antitrust Probe Expands to Include the Internet of Things

The European Union’s antitrust unit has broadened its focus of Big Tech companies to include voice assistants such as Siri and Alexa and the growing number of connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices. The EU’s competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager noted the threat of a big company pushing the market until “competition turns into monopoly.” With regard to IoT, she pinpointed voice assistants as the “center of it all,” but included any digital device that records consumer data from Apple Watch to an Internet-connected refrigerator. Continue reading EU’s Antitrust Probe Expands to Include the Internet of Things

European Union Court Overturns 2016 Decision Against Apple

The European Union overturned a 2016 decision that ordered Apple to make good on $14.9 billion in unpaid taxes to Ireland. Apple selecting Ireland as its European base to avoid taxation was the genesis that eventually led to the decision. The European Commission’s top antitrust regulator Margrethe Vestager accused the arrangement of being an illegal subsidy not available to Apple’s rivals and demanded that Ireland recover 10 years of back taxes. Amazon and Google have pending court appeals to overturn similar EU decisions. Continue reading European Union Court Overturns 2016 Decision Against Apple

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