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By Jay Bonggolto
New York officials launch probe on Apple's FaceTime privacy issue
by Jay Bonggolto
Image via Microsiervos (Flickr) New York's Attorney General Letitia James and Governor Andrew M. Cuomo have opened an investigation into a privacy bug involving the Cupertino tech giant's FaceTime service.
The officials are seeking to know why Apple took a long time to alert affected users about the bug. The probe is also centered around the company's failure to take immediate steps to mitigate the problem.
Governor Cuomo said in a statement:
The bug was discovered earlier this week when users were able to hear the person they were calling even before the call was picked up. Apple was quick to temporarily disable the service. However, it was reported that the company was warned about the issue over a week before the bug became public. Michele Thompson from Arizona claimed that she had tried to call Apple's attention to it after her 14-year-old son discovered the bug by chance while playing Fortnite with friends.
The New York State Department's consumer protection division has started accepting complaints from the public in relation to the bug. Affected users may call the division's helpline 1-800-697-1220 from Monday to Friday during regular business hours.
By Hamza Jawad
Microsoft teams up with Native Network to bring broadband to more rural communities
by Hamza Jawad
Last year, Microsoft proposed a $10 billion program that is aimed towards provision of high-speed internet to people living in rural communities across the United States. The 'Rural Airband Initiative' is supposed to serve two million such U.S. citizens in the aforementioned manner by 2022. In July, the tech giant formed a partnership with RADWIN in order to advance this goal, while agreements with Agile Networks and Network Business Systems were held in the following months as well, with the same purpose in mind.
Today, Microsoft has announced that it is teaming up with Native Network in a new partnership. As part of this agreement, 73,500 people living in rural communities in the U.S. states of Washington and Montana will be provided broadband internet.
Currently, 10% of the people living in rural Washington and 40% of the people living in rural Montana do not have access to high-speed internet, according to a report by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This report also mentions that 35% of Americans living in tribal areas face similar concerns. Native Network will, therefore, also be deploying wireless internet access service networks in various tribal lands across the aforementioned states, including the Flathead Reservation in Montana. Furthermore, the Lummi Nation and Swinomish Tribe in Washington will be catered for as well.
Microsoft President Brad Smith commented on the partnership, noting:
Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, and Native Network CEO Jenny Rickel also expressed delight at the potential benefits in terms of wireless connectivity this agreement brings for people living in both states.
Different technologies will be used in the provision of broadband access, including TV white spaces. Microsoft has a history of working with the aforementioned technology, even outside of the United States. With the first TV white space network being launched in Africa by the firm in 2015, projects employing use of the same technology were announced in partnership with the Indian government later that year as well.
With the new agreement, Microsoft will be hoping that it has made another significant stride towards its goal of providing broadband access to two million people across rural America within the next four years.
By Ruel Revales
EU opens investigation into how Amazon uses data from merchants
by Ruel Revales
The European Union (EU) has launched an initial investigation into Amazon’s way of managing data it collects from the merchants that use its service. The goal of the probe is to find out whether or not the American online retail giant has violated antitrust regulations in the region.
Margrethe Vestager, the EU's competition commissioner, said during a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday that while the investigation is in its initial stage, that does not constitute a formal probe.
Vestager said during the conference:
This is not the first time, though, that the EU has pursued Amazon over its business practices. In 2015, the online retail giant was subject of an EU probe over its e-book deals and how it partners with publishers.
Concerning the new investigation, Vestager said the question is whether Amazon uses the data it gets from third-party vendors to do its "own calculations" and determine what consumers want to buy and what pushes them to make such purchases. The EU has the authority to fine companies as much as 10% of their annual worldwide turnover for breaching the region's antitrust regulations.
Source: European Commission via Business Insider | Image via Shutterstock
By Ruel Revales
Amazon probes employees in China reportedly leaking internal data in exchange for cash
by Ruel Revales
Amazon has long been combating phony reviews and other forms of fraud in its marketplace, having sued three of its sellers in 2016 over fake product reviews. Now, the online retail giant is investigating its own employees in China who are allegedly selling internal data that independent vendors could use to their advantage.
The company has confirmed that it is conducting a probe on employees who may have potentially violated the company’s policies for engaging in bribery. Reports suggest that several merchants are paying some Amazon employees from $80 to more than $2,000 in exchange for access to sales information and email addresses of reviewers. In some cases, those sellers can also request to have negative reviews deleted and banned accounts restored.
An Amazon spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal:
It is also found that the Amazon employees involved in the bribery are working with brokers who facilitate the exchange of confidential data and money between them and the merchants. In China, these brokers are supposedly using the Chinese messaging app WeChat to find Amazon employees who may be willing to sell internal data or such services.
While it’s nice to see Amazon taking action to eradicate this shady practice, the e-commerce giant may be facing a tough fight given the scale of its marketplace.
Source: The Wall Street Journal
By Hamza Jawad
Google slapped with record €4.34 billion fine for breaching EU antitrust rules
by Hamza Jawad
Google has been under investigation of the European Commission (EC) regarding breach of European Union (EU) antitrust rules for several years now. These laws are in place to ensure that fair competition is maintained among business corporations for the benefit of consumers. Over a year ago, the tech giant was fined €2.42 billion ($2.7 billion at the time) for 'abusing market dominance as a search engine', despite its dismissal of any wrongdoings. About a week later, the EC formed a panel of experts, with the issuance of another huge fine under consideration.
Today, the commission has imposed a fine of €4.34 billion ($5.04 billion) on Google, regarding three types of restrictions imposed by the company on Android device manufacturers and network operators as illegal under EU antitrust rules.
Margrethe Vestager, European Commissioner for Competition, commented on the case, noting:
She further went on to state how these restrictions have denied consumers the opportunity to benefit from a healthy competition between the tech giant and its rival, deeming any such practices illegal.
The EC explained that although market dominance is not illegal, dominant companies are not allowed to abuse their powerful position by restricting competition. The three types of practices that served to advance Google's influential position in the internet search sphere have been identified as such:
The commission has concluded that through these contractual restrictions, the tech giant has been able to cement its dominance "in the market for general internet search services, licensable smart mobile operating systems and app stores for the Android mobile operating system". Furthermore, it has been clarified that this decision is not supposed to show Android or the open-source model in bad light.
In light of the negative effects these practices have caused to innovation through competition in the mobile space in general, a fine of €4,342,865,000 has been imposed, with Google's revenue from search advertising services on Android devices in the EEA being taken into account. In addition, the company is required to effectively end the aforementioned restrictions within 90 days, otherwise it will be required to pay non-compliance penalties of up to 5% of the average daily worldwide turnover of its parent company, Alphabet.
Earlier this year, Google was fined ₹1.36bn by the Competition Commission of India for search bias as well. With yet another hefty fine being imposed on the firm, it will be interesting to see how this could potentially affect Android devices in the future. Presumably, the tech giant could find itself obligated to not force manufacturers into pre-installing Google services on their devices, resulting in long term revenue losses, aside from the immediate payment required by law of course.
Source: European Commission via CNET