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Google will pay €1.1 million for misleading users with hotel ratings in France
by João Carrasqueira
Google is being fined by the French government due to its use of a proprietary hotel rating system in search results and Google Maps. The fine adds up to €1.1 million, roughly $1.33 million.
In 2019, the French consumer and competition agency, the DGCCRF launched an investigation into the company's star rating system for hotels following a series of complaints from hoteliers. In France, the star rating is standardized by the local tourism organization, Atout France, which Google had replaced with its own system.
Google was using a scale of one to five stars, like most other hotel classification systems, but its score was using its proprietary algorithm to determine the score for each hotel. Naturally, this led to differences between the official rating for each hotel and what users would see when looking for hotels on Google Search or Maps, where the search giant was using its own algorithm. The unofficial rating was applied to over 7,500 hotels.
Following the launch of the investigation, Google changed the way it presents its star ratings to align with the country's official standard, but that didn't save it from being fined. While €1.1 million may sound like a lot, it's far from the largest amount the search giant has had to pay for its malpractices. In 2018, it had to pay a whopping €4.34 billion fine for abusing its market dominance with Android to promote its other services.
Source: DGCCRF via TechCrunch
By Rich Woods
Microsoft's Surface Duo is coming to the UK, France, Germany, and Canada next week
by Rich Woods
Back in December, Microsoft announced that after four months on the U.S. market, it was finally going to bring its Surface Duo handset to other markets in early 2021. Now, pricing and availability is here, and the dual-screen device is coming to the UK, France, Germany, and Canada on February 18. To be clear, those were the four markets that were announced in December, so if you're in another region in Europe, it's unclear when you'll be able to get your hands on this.
In France and Germany, the price of the 128GB model is €1,549, while it's going to be £1,349 in the UK. For comparison, the Surface Duo starts at $1,399 here in the United States, although it's currently on sale for as low as $949. The 256GB model costs $100 more, and that's it's a similar model for other countries; for example, it's €1,649 in France and Germany.
The Surface Duo was originally announced back in October 2019, heralding Microsoft's return to the smartphone business. The company doesn't often actually call it a phone, but it was introduced to the world in a promo video where the device was revealed by it ringing from inside of a bag, and yes, the user answering a phone call. It wasn't supposed to arrive until holiday season 2020, and it was going to arrive alongside the Surface Neo.
But things changed. The Surface Neo was delayed, as was the Windows 10X operating system, and Surface Duo shipped early.
It comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, which was the company's flagship chipset two generations ago now, and as has been widely criticized, it's a 4G phone. It also comes with an 11MP f/2.0 camera and 6GB of RAM. As for the two displays, which is really the selling point, it has dual 5.6-inch 1800x1350 screens, which are 4:3. They combine for an 8.1-inch 2700x1800 display, and of course, the device has Surface Pen support.
You can check out the Surface Duo on the UK Microsoft Store here, for France here, Germany here, and Canada here.
By Ather Fawaz
Arianespace Vega rocket fails shortly after launch, Spanish and French satellites lost
by Ather Fawaz
Image via ESA/CNES/Arianespace/Optique Arianespace, a European satellite launch company, lost its Vega rocket shortly after launch. The four-stage Vega rocket, jointly developed by France and Italy, lifted off from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana at 8:52 PM EST (01:52 GMT, November 17), with two satellites onboard—one French and the other Spanish. Things appeared to go well in the initial stages of the flight but as the rocket neared the eight-minute mark, things started to go downhill as the rocket showed signs of going off-course. Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace, later delivered the official statement, confirming that the mission is lost.
The problem, which is yet to identified, occurred shortly after the Vega rocket ignited its upper stage, and veered off course, indicating that the speed was not nominal anymore, apprised Israël. The rocket did not make its next expected contact with ground stations either.
The Vega 9 launch system had two satellites on board that it was expected to deploy. The first one was the Spanish Earth-watching satellite called SEOSAT-Ingenio, which came under the envelope of the European Space Agency's (ESA) plan to study our planet in greater detail. The second one was the French TARANIS satellite for the country's space Agency CNES. It was tasked to study visible-light flashes, including gamma-ray flashes, sprites, blue jets, and elves over the next four years.
"I want to present my deepest apologies to my customers for this mission," Israël continued. "Arianespace is presenting its apologies and we have now to analyze and to understand." This failed launch is Arianespace's second in the span of two years. The last one came last year in July in which another Vega rocket failed during the launch due to a faulty motor on the booster.
Whether this will be the case this time around as well, remains to be seen. Extrapolating from the loss of nominal speed, it seems that the upper stage did not produce the thrust required to keep the Vega on-course. But of course, we cannot say anything until the formal investigation committee passes a verdict on the incident and reveals its findings.
For the complete coverage of the event, you may check out this webcast from Arianespace.
Source: Arianespace (Livestream) via Space.com
Facebook to bring News tab to more countries soon
by Paul Hill
Facebook has announced that it’s accelerating its plans to expand its News tab to more countries in the next six months to a year. The new areas which Facebook News could serve include the U.K., Germany, France, India, and Brazil but it is still considering its options. The company said that it will pay news publishers to include their content in the News tab.
According to the social media giant, Facebook News takes time to enter new markets because consumer habits and news inventories differ in different areas. In the aforementioned countries, Facebook is going to work closely with publishers in a way that honours their business models and delivers a valuable experience for users.
While Facebook is now looking to bring its product to other countries, it still plans to develop Facebook News in the United States where it has already launched. The firm said:
With a lot of people getting their information from social media and these new tools allowing for the quick spread of information, it’s important for social media firms to have a tool akin to Facebook News so that people can get legitimate information.
EU wants the U.S. to come back to the table on digital taxes
by Paul Hill
The European Union has asked the United States to come back to the negotiation table to discuss the issue of digital taxation. The EU said that it wanted the talks to take place at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) but that if those talks fell through, would be willing to make a new proposal at the EU level.
If an agreement is found on the OECD level, several states from around the world would also benefit from new tax revenues from tech firms. The EU has been pushing for the adoption of new taxes for a while now but things seemed to have slowed down which has caused France to take unilateral action. France’s efforts have caused a bad response from the Trump administration which has threatened to put high duties on French imports.
Commenting on the matter, an EU spokesperson said:
The spokesperson relayed the EU’s message that fair taxation of the digital economy was a top priority for the bloc. The U.S., however, believes that such taxes unfairly go after U.S. tech firms. If the current administration continues to refuse to move on the issue, it may remain unresolved until the country sees new leadership which could be six months to four-and-a-half years away.