How the DOJ Antitrust Publishing Lawsuit Relates to Amazon

The nation’s largest publisher, Penguin Random House, was in federal court this week to defend itself against the Justice Department, which filed an antitrust lawsuit to block its acquisition of Simon & Schuster. The DOJ has been increasingly focused on antitrust and is hiring more trial lawyers in preparation for an action against Alphabet’s Google for its dominance in search and digital advertising. Although ostensibly on trial for threatening to shrink the number of American mass-market publishers from five to four, the Penguin suit also involves examination of the retail power of Amazon. Continue reading How the DOJ Antitrust Publishing Lawsuit Relates to Amazon

Legislators Continue Their Scrutiny of Big Tech, Social Media

Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) has introduced a new bill, the Digital Platform Commission Act, which proposes the establishment of a five-person commission to protect consumers in the Big Tech era. This, even as attorneys for groups representing Facebook and Twitter on Friday filed with the U.S. Supreme Court an emergency request to block Texas House Bill 20. The companies argue the law compels social platforms to disseminate propaganda and misinformation, including racist and pro-Nazi screeds. Calling HB 20 “an assault on the First Amendment,” the companies claim its implementation could undo billions in development. Continue reading Legislators Continue Their Scrutiny of Big Tech, Social Media

Clearview to Limit Sales After Settling Illinois Privacy Lawsuit

Facial recognition software company Clearview AI has agreed to limit U.S. sales of its identity database to businesses and other private actors as part of a lawsuit settlement. The case, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other groups, was filed in state court in Illinois, where the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) is considered the nation’s strongest data privacy law. The lawsuit alleged that Clearview routinely scraped images of state residents from the Internet without obtaining their permission or making them aware of the practice. Continue reading Clearview to Limit Sales After Settling Illinois Privacy Lawsuit

Amazon Closes $8.5B Deal for MGM, FTC Watches in Wings

Amazon completed its $8.5 billion acquisition of MGM late last week. The companies finalized the deal immediately upon expiration of the Federal Trade Commission’s mid-March deadline to object, though the agency let it be known that it can challenge a deal any time it finds cause. Amazon in May announced intent to acquire MGM, which has a library of more than 4,000 films and some 17,000 TV episodes as well as ongoing production in both areas. In August, a group of four labor unions collectively urged the FTC to quash Amazon’s bid. Continue reading Amazon Closes $8.5B Deal for MGM, FTC Watches in Wings

HBO Max, Discovery+ Will Be Combined into a Single Service

Discovery plans to merge Discovery+ and WarnerMedia’s HBO Max into one streaming service shortly after completing the acquisition of AT&T’s entertainment spinoff WarnerMedia. The news was shared by Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels, speaking Monday at Deutsche Bank’s 30th Annual Media, Internet & Telecom Conference. Wiedenfels said that the transition will likely take “several months” but “an interim solution” will be introduced “in the meantime.” “Building one very, very strong combined direct-to-consumer product and platform, that’s going to take a while,” he said. Continue reading HBO Max, Discovery+ Will Be Combined into a Single Service

Google to Spend $5.4 Billion for Cybersecurity Firm Mandiant

Alphabet has agreed to purchase cybersecurity firm Mandiant in a deal valued at nearly $5.4 billion. Mandiant — which services global enterprises, governments and law enforcement agencies — brings expertise that will fortify Alphabet’s Google Cloud with increased security at a time when businesses worldwide are focused on preventing cyberattacks. The deal, which is subject to regulatory approval, is expected to close later this year. The fact that Mandiant complements, rather than expands, Google’s sphere of influence should prove beneficial as Alphabet faces antitrust lawsuits from the Justice Department and U.S. states. Continue reading Google to Spend $5.4 Billion for Cybersecurity Firm Mandiant

Feds Mine Crypto Trail and Find $3.6 Billion in Stolen Bitcoin

Led by the IRS Criminal Investigation branch, federal agents seized more than $3.6 billion in stolen Bitcoin last week, resulting in its largest seizure ever. Tracking the 119,754 Bitcoin stolen in 2016 from Hong Kong’s Bitfinex currency exchange across several continents, thorough the dark web and many transfer schemes was an amazing feat that says as much about the skill of U.S. law enforcement as it does the breadcrumb trails left by cryptocurrency. Engineered to be traceable (some say transparent), blockchain does offer a degree of anonymity that makes it attractive to crime. Continue reading Feds Mine Crypto Trail and Find $3.6 Billion in Stolen Bitcoin

Microsoft CEO Nadella Details His Vision of Metaverse-for-All

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella thinks the metaverse will be transformative. “Just like the first wave of the Internet allowed everybody to build a website, I think the next wave of the Internet will be a more open world where people can build their own metaverse worlds, whether they’re organizations or game developers or anyone else,” Nadella told analysts on an earnings call last week. The remarks follow Nadella’s January 18 statement that Microsoft’s $69 billion bid for Activision Blizzard “will provide building blocks for the metaverse.” Microsoft expects the deal to close in fiscal 2023, which begins July 1. Continue reading Microsoft CEO Nadella Details His Vision of Metaverse-for-All

FTC Develops New Antitrust Strategies for Taking on Big Tech

The Federal Trade Commission is taking an alternative approach to antitrust protections and Big Tech, focusing not on the ultimate harms of monopolies to consumers but rather the damage perpetrated by the giants inflicted on smaller companies that are often their partners. For an agency that since the mid-80s has focused its antitrust actions on the price-gouging or shoddy goods that usually result from consolidation, the new strategy may be an effective way to rein-in companies that offer their services free of charge, like Google and Facebook, or at what appears to be market rate, like Amazon. Continue reading FTC Develops New Antitrust Strategies for Taking on Big Tech

Treasury Issues Crypto Guidance for Sanctions Compliance

The U.S. Treasury Department has issued guidelines specifying how to ensure virtual currency transactions comply with the government’s sanctions policies, a move by the Biden administration to thwart ransomware attacks, money laundering and other abuses. The new rules emphasize using geolocation tools that block IP addresses from sanctioned countries, ongoing monitoring of sanctioned entities and individuals and periodic review of transactions involving blacklisted virtual currency addresses. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has had virtual currency rules in place since at least 2011, but this update gives the directives new teeth. Continue reading Treasury Issues Crypto Guidance for Sanctions Compliance

Judge Loosens Apple Stranglehold on App Developer Profits

Apple’s notoriously strict terms of doing business in its App Store appear to be loosening. A federal judge has ordered the company to allow developers to offer customers alternative payment methods after ruling that all payments go through Apple violate California’s unfair competition laws. Apple is ordered to within 90 days begin allowing developers to include in their apps payment links to processors other than the App Store. Developers now see a path to avoid handing Apple commissions of up to 30 percent for handling sales through the $100 billion online market.  Continue reading Judge Loosens Apple Stranglehold on App Developer Profits

Apple Allows Reader Apps to Use Outside Payment Systems

After an investigation by the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC), Apple agreed to let Netflix, Spotify and some other companies use payment methods outside Apple’s App Store when users sign up for subscriptions. Analysts dub the move a “strategic retreat” from what has been a huge source of revenue for Apple. During Epic Games’ lawsuit against the tech giant, lawyers revealed that 81 percent of the App Store’s 2016 revenue came from games, 3 percent from music and 4 percent from other forms of entertainment. Continue reading Apple Allows Reader Apps to Use Outside Payment Systems

Government Reveals U.S. Agencies Using Facial Recognition

The federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed that, out of 24 U.S. government agencies surveyed, 19 of them are using facial recognition, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and numerous other smaller agencies. The GAO report added that as use of facial recognition “continues to expand … members of Congress, academics, and advocacy organizations have highlighted the importance of developing a comprehensive understanding of how it is used by federal agencies.” Continue reading Government Reveals U.S. Agencies Using Facial Recognition

U.S. Cybersecurity Agency Enlists Amazon, Google, Microsoft

The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), part of the Department of Homeland Security, debuted the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative (JCDC), which will leverage the expertise of Big Tech companies including Amazon, Google and Microsoft. According to CISA director Jen Easterly, the initiative’s aim is first to combat ransomware and cyberattacks on cloud-computing providers and ultimately to improve defense planning and information sharing between the government and private sectors. Continue reading U.S. Cybersecurity Agency Enlists Amazon, Google, Microsoft

Google Reports Its Highest Quarter Ever for Sales and Profits

In Q2 2021, Google recorded its highest quarter ever for sales and profits: revenue of $61.88 billion, up 62 percent year-over-year; profit that more than doubled to $18.53 billion; advertising sales of $50.44 billion, a 69 percent surge, and YouTube ad business reaching $7 billion, up 84 percent from a year earlier. The numbers, which exceeded Wall Street expectations, were driven by e-commerce, streaming video and other online business and entertainment activities that surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, driving online advertising. Continue reading Google Reports Its Highest Quarter Ever for Sales and Profits