Lawmakers Introduce Bills to Address Dominance of Big Tech

The House unveiled five bills aimed at curbing Big Tech companies, including the Ending Platform Monopolies Act, that requires “structural separation of Amazon” and makes it illegal for an online platform to own a business that uses said platform for “the sale or provision of products or services,” that “sells services as a condition for access to the platform” or that “owns businesses that create conflicts of interest.” Another bill would ban platforms from giving advantage its own products and services over those of a rival. Continue reading Lawmakers Introduce Bills to Address Dominance of Big Tech

Amazon Quietly Changes Terms of Service to Allow Lawsuits

After being deluged by 75,000+ individual arbitration demands filed by plaintiff’s attorneys on behalf of Echo users, Amazon changed its terms of service to allow customers to file lawsuits. It now faces at least three potential class action suits, one of them brought May 18 that alleges that its Alexa-enabled Echo devices record people without their permission. Arbitration requirements are often inserted in many consumer contracts and the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld and underlined the right to mandate arbitration. Continue reading Amazon Quietly Changes Terms of Service to Allow Lawsuits

Florida Passes Legislation to Restrict Social Media Platforms

Florida just passed a new law, signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, that makes it illegal for Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other social media platforms to permanently bar political candidates from their sites. The law, which was crafted in response to Facebook’s and Twitter’s ban of former President Donald Trump in January, will impose a $250,000 per day fine. The law also makes it illegal to prevent posts in response to stories on their platforms. The law will likely face a constitutional challenge in the courts. Continue reading Florida Passes Legislation to Restrict Social Media Platforms

Supreme Court: Google Engaged in Fair Use of Java Code

In a 6-2 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court took Google’s side in a copyright battle with Oracle over the former’s use of Java APIs in its Android operating system. Oracle, which had purchased Java in 2010 when it bought Sun Microsystems, sought billions of dollars in damages for what it claimed was copyright infringement. Google argued that free access to the Java software interfaces was important to innovation. Writing for the majority, Justice Stephen Breyer said that Google made “fair use” of the Java code. Continue reading Supreme Court: Google Engaged in Fair Use of Java Code

Justice Thomas Argues Big Tech Be Regulated Like Utilities

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas suggested that tech platforms be regulated like utilities, in a concurrence he wrote to a decision to vacate a lower court’s ruling about former President Trump’s Twitter account. “There is a fair argument that some digital platforms are sufficiently akin to common carriers or places of accommodation to be regulated in this manner,” he wrote. Regulating such platforms like utilities could force them to make changes to current moderation policies against hate speech and harassment. Continue reading Justice Thomas Argues Big Tech Be Regulated Like Utilities

Supreme Court Allows FCC to Relax Media Ownership Rules

In a 9-0 ruling authored by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the U.S. Supreme Court loosened local media ownership restrictions, which could enable more industry consolidation. It’s viewed as a victory for broadcasters that wanted to overturn the 2017 decision of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that found the FCC did not sufficiently consider the effect of changes on minority and female owners. The FCC appeal was supported by News Corp, Fox Corporation, Sinclair Broadcast Group and the National Association of Broadcasters. Continue reading Supreme Court Allows FCC to Relax Media Ownership Rules

Coalition of Privacy, Consumer Groups Attacks Targeted Ads

A coalition of 30+ privacy, consumer and anti-monopoly groups launched this week with one purpose in mind: to stop targeted and behavioral advertising, a practice the coalition describes as “surveillance advertising.” In a letter, the coalition said that, “social media giants are eroding our consensus reality and threatening public safety in service of a toxic, extractive business model.” Further, it said, Big Tech acts “to stoke discrimination, division, and delusion.” Facebook and Google are the dominant digital advertising behemoths. Continue reading Coalition of Privacy, Consumer Groups Attacks Targeted Ads

Treasury Department May Put an End to Location Data Sales

The U.S. military, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are reportedly among the agencies that have been buying citizens’ location data from commercial services. Now, a Treasury Department inspector general report has indicated that this practice is illegal without first obtaining a warrant. The agencies in question say they are buying commercially available data from those who have consented to having their data collected. Continue reading Treasury Department May Put an End to Location Data Sales

Increasing Demand for 5G Lifts Qualcomm Earnings, Revenue

A major supplier of 5G chips, Qualcomm predicted shipments of 450 million to 550 million 5G smartphones in 2021, a number at least double of what’s expected by the end of this year. Chief executive Steve Mollenkopf revealed that sales of smartphones was a significant part of the company’s latest quarterly earnings. He also noted that Qualcomm is already seeing benefits from Internet of Things devices and networking gear using 5G chips. In addition, Apple’s 5G-enabled iPhone 12 is expected to be a boon for Qualcomm’s modems. Continue reading Increasing Demand for 5G Lifts Qualcomm Earnings, Revenue

Supreme Court Weighs Future of Software in Copyright Case

The Supreme Court just heard a multi-billion-dollar case regarding Google and Oracle’s long-running battle over smartphone software that some have called “the copyright case of the decade.” Google v. Oracle America, Case No. 18-956, is scrutinizing Google’s reliance on 11,000 lines of Java code in its Android operating system. Oracle acquired Java in 2010 when it bought Sun Microsystems and accuses Google’s use without permission as tantamount to copyright infringement. Google argues it is “fair use.” Continue reading Supreme Court Weighs Future of Software in Copyright Case

Apple Under Increasing Pressure to Change App Store Fees

Apple’s 30 percent commission on digital goods and services in its App Store has raised the ire of numerous companies, including Netflix and Spotify, which have formed a coalition to promote legal and regulatory changes for app marketplaces. Apple and Epic Games are battling the issue in court, and Spotify filed an antitrust suit in Europe last year, with claims that it unfairly harms competitors. Apple is, however, giving a brief COVID-19-related reprieve on fees to some companies selling virtual experiences. Continue reading Apple Under Increasing Pressure to Change App Store Fees

Proposed Legislation Would Weaken Shields for Social Media

The Justice Department sent Congress draft legislation to weaken Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, leaving Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms vulnerable to legal action for content posted by users. The proposed changes would create liability for platforms that allow “known criminal content” to remain once they are aware of it. President Trump claims that social media companies are biased against conservatives. The platforms have not been protected against some civil suits. Continue reading Proposed Legislation Would Weaken Shields for Social Media

Clearview AI Defends Facial Recognition App as Free Speech

Clearview AI sells access to billions of photos it scraped from the Internet to law enforcement agencies and corporations. A client can upload a photo or video image and the Clearview AI app creates a “faceprint” and finds photos of the person in its database. In response, California, Illinois, New York and Virginia filed lawsuits against the company, stating that collection of peoples’ photos without their consent is a violation of privacy laws. In the U.K., law enforcement lost a challenge to facial recognition laws. Continue reading Clearview AI Defends Facial Recognition App as Free Speech

Apple Is in a Patent Infringement Dispute Over Siri in China

Shanghai Zhizhen Network Technology Company was recently granted a Chinese patent for a voice assistant similar to Apple’s Siri. It has also filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against Apple, with about 10 billion yuan ($1.43 billion) in potential damages. The suit stated that Apple products violate a virtual assistant patent with technical architecture similar to Siri’s that is owned by a Chinese artificial intelligence company. Apple responded that Siri’s features are different from those described in the Chinese patent. Continue reading Apple Is in a Patent Infringement Dispute Over Siri in China

Supreme Court Will Review Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

Many cybersecurity experts believe the current anti-hacking law, the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), is woefully out of date and applied too broadly by prosecutors and law enforcement. The Supreme Court is now taking another look at the law with a case in which a former Georgia police officer, Nathan Van Buren, was convicted in 2017 after allegedly selling information from a police database to an acquaintance for $6,000. Stanford University law professor Jeffrey L. Fisher is the lead attorney in the case. Continue reading Supreme Court Will Review Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

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