Big Tech Firms Face More EU Scrutiny, Facebook Loses Case

The European Union increased its efforts to regulate major U.S. technology companies, including Amazon, Apple and Google, with a new tool that allows it to investigate any potential antitrust issue and force changes without proving illegality. EU antitrust head Margrethe Vestager warned that the tech behemoths potentially risk being broken up as a “last resort” if they don’t adhere to the rules. Meanwhile, a German high court ruled against Facebook finding it abused its social media dominance to illegally harvest user data. Continue reading Big Tech Firms Face More EU Scrutiny, Facebook Loses Case

Google Plans Changes to How Long It Holds on to User Data

Google disclosed that it had changed its policy regarding how long it will hang on to users’ search data. Last year, the company introduced an option that allowed users to automatically delete data related to Internet searches, requests made to Google Assistant and location history after three months or 18 months. Beginning now, Google’s default policy is to automatically delete location history, voice recordings and web/app activity on new accounts after 18 months. The settings on existing accounts will remain the same. Continue reading Google Plans Changes to How Long It Holds on to User Data

Neeva: A New Search Engine With No Ads or Data Collection

Former Google executive in charge of advertising Sridhar Ramaswamy has launched Neeva, a search engine that will not show ads or collect information about users. At Google, Ramaswamy became disillusioned by how the need for constant growth disadvantaged consumers. He decided to leave shortly after questionable videos featured ads — automatically served by Google’s algorithms — for Deutsche Bank, Amazon, eBay and Adidas. His epiphany was that “an ad-supported model had limitations.”   Continue reading Neeva: A New Search Engine With No Ads or Data Collection

Apple is Next Target of European Commission Investigations

European Commission executive vice president in charge of competition Margrethe Vestager is ramping up her scrutiny of U.S. tech giants, including Apple and Amazon. She’s currently targeting Apple’s “gatekeeper” position with third-party apps and Apple Pay. She is also looking more closely at Amazon’s position in online retail. Bloomberg Intelligence antitrust analyst Aitor Ortiz, however, noted that the $9 billion fine she levied against Google didn’t stop the tech giant from continuing to dominate search. The fines “don’t really have a deterrent effect,” he concluded. Continue reading Apple is Next Target of European Commission Investigations

OpenAI Tests Commercial Version of Its AI Language System

Artificial intelligence research institute OpenAI, after collecting trillions of words, debuted its first commercial product, the API. Its goal is to create the “most flexible general-purpose AI language system” in existence. Currently, the API’s skills include translating between languages, writing news stories, and answering everyday questions. The API is engaged in limited testing and, said chief executive Sam Altman, will be released broadly for use in a range of tasks, such as customer support, education and games. Continue reading OpenAI Tests Commercial Version of Its AI Language System

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

Pinterest Adds Today Tab for Topics, Shop Tab for Products

Pinterest, the website and mobile app that describes itself as a “visual discovery engine,” showcased “Today,” a tab on the user’s Pinterest home page that features topics and ideas curated by Pinterest staff and trending pins selected by algorithms. “Today” is a response to changing customer behavior during the coronavirus pandemic. The platform’s global monthly active users reached 367+ million, up from about 300 million last September. During the last few months, searches and boards have both leapt up 60 percent compared to last year. Continue reading Pinterest Adds Today Tab for Topics, Shop Tab for Products

In Grim Ad Market, Even Facebook and Google See Declines

Facebook and Google’s ad businesses appeared to be unstoppable, tripling over the last five years and accounting for more than half of online advertising expenditure. That long run appears to be over with the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the global economy. Wall Street is now projecting that annual revenues for the two companies will decline for the first time in their histories, due in part to record low prices for advertising. Even so, prospects are even more dire for the overall digital advertising industry. Continue reading In Grim Ad Market, Even Facebook and Google See Declines

Google Appeals EU Fine, Argues Legality of Self-Preferencing

Google is trying to overturn three European Union antitrust rulings, claiming that it had no legal grounds for imposing $9+ billion in fines. The EU found that Google had abused its dominance over smaller competitors. Google attorney Thomas Graf told the five General Court judges that, “competition law does not require Google to hold back innovation or compromise its quality to accommodate rivals.” Although a verdict is expected early next year, its rulings can still be appealed at the European Court of Justice. Continue reading Google Appeals EU Fine, Argues Legality of Self-Preferencing

DOJ’s Probe Into Google Focuses on Third-Party Ad Tools

The Justice Department is advancing its antitrust probe of Google with a more specific focus on how its third-party advertising business works with advertisers and publishers. The DOJ is also posing more detailed questions to executives inside the company, its rivals, advertising agencies, ad technology companies and publishers among others. Those questions center around Google’s integration of its ad server with its ad exchange, and Google’s requirement for advertisers to use its tools to buy ad space on YouTube. Continue reading DOJ’s Probe Into Google Focuses on Third-Party Ad Tools

Google Adjusts New Design Updates Following Complaints

Google controls approximately 90 percent of Internet search, and regulators, politicians, advertisers and users are sensitive to the tech giant’s efforts to wring more dollars out of that dominance. Twenty years ago, Google introduced text ads above search results and, over time, the company has made those ads less conspicuous. A recent design change prompted users to accuse the company of trickery to get them to click on ads, and marketers to complain the practice is a “shakedown” to push them to pay for ads. Continue reading Google Adjusts New Design Updates Following Complaints

Google Founders Step Down: New Era for Tech Giant Begins

Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have stepped down from their executive roles, with Google chief executive Sundar Pichai now heading up both Google and Alphabet. For the past 20 years, Page and Brin personified the company and many of their ideas on how to run an Internet company became standard for other Silicon Valley firms. The two first dialed back their involvement in 2015 when they created Alphabet as a holding company and turned their attention to “other bets,” including life-extending technologies. Continue reading Google Founders Step Down: New Era for Tech Giant Begins

Google Culls Patient Data to Build Healthcare Search Tools

Google and Ascension, the second-largest health system in the U.S., have been collecting the personal health data of tens of millions of people in 21 states. Project Nightingale, the tech giant’s effort to enter healthcare, has culled lab results, diagnoses and hospitalization records, which include patient names and dates of birth. No doctor or patient has been notified, which has sparked a federal inquiry, but some experts say the initiative is permissible since Google is developing software to improve the healthcare system. Google explained that its partnership with Ascension is not a secret and was first announced in July during a Q2 earnings call. Continue reading Google Culls Patient Data to Build Healthcare Search Tools

Twitter Users Can Follow 300+ Subjects via Topics Feature

On November 13, Twitter is launching Topics, a feature aimed at new or intermittent users that allows them to follow more than 300 subjects. By following a topic, the user will see tweets from experts in that arena. Twitter began testing the feature on Android in August. Topics team lead Rob Bishop noted, “the main reason that people come to Twitter is to keep up on the things that they’re interested in … [but] the challenge is it’s really quite difficult to do that on Twitter day to day.” Continue reading Twitter Users Can Follow 300+ Subjects via Topics Feature

Senate Bill Calls For Search Engines to Divulge Algorithms

For search engines such as Alphabet’s Google, their algorithms are the secret sauce that they claim gives the best results. Not all consumers agree with that, arguing that these algorithms filter their searches in a way that is tantamount to censorship. Now, a bipartisan group of legislators proposed the Filter Bubble Transparency Act, a law that would require search engines and platforms to provide an optional unfiltered search and force them to disclose the algorithms they use to rank searches. Continue reading Senate Bill Calls For Search Engines to Divulge Algorithms

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