Wyden's "Mind Your Own Business Act" would force online services to respect Do Not Track

Do Not Track was a standardized way for browsers to tell services that their owners did not consent to having their activities and usage logged; however, it was subverted by Big Tech and big media companies and turned into a useless tick-box that had virtually no impact on your privacy. Read the rest

What it's like to have Apple rip off your successful Mac app

Companies that make successful Mac apps live in constant fear of being sherlocked -- having Apple release a feature-for-feature clone to compete with your product, bundling it in with Macos. Read the rest

Google continues to funnel vast sums to notorious climate deniers

Google and the other big tech companies are some of the most lavish funders of climate denial "think tanks" and lobbying groups, something they've been at continuously for more than six years, without interruption. Read the rest

Identity theft's newest target: your face

A lot of companies struggle with bias in the workplace, but for many big tech companies, the problem is a bit more extreme. Why, because it's not just the human beings that are racist, a lot of their algorithms are biased too. This is the problem that Google reportedly was trying to solve when they got themselves into their latest privacy scandal, tricking black and brown “volunteers” to submit to 3D face scans. Read the rest

After the passage of the EU Copyright Directive, Google nukes Google News France

The passage of the EU's Copyright Directive last March marked the most controversial rulemaking process in EU history, with lawmakers squeaking a narrow victory that relied on confused MEPs pushing the wrong button. Read the rest

Bill Gates: if we break up Big Tech, we'll just have more bad companies

In an interview with Bloomberg, Bill Gates dismissed the idea of breakups as a remedy for Big Tech's monopolistic market concentration; Gates said that breaking up an abusive company will just produce more abusive companies. Instead, Gates believes that specific monopolistic activities should be banned. Read the rest

The EU's top trustbuster gets a surprise re-appointment

Margrethe Vestager (previously) is the EU competition commissioner who handed out a bouquet of multibillion-dollar fines to US-based Big Tech companies; she had resigned herself to being ousted after her previous term but in a last-minute surprise she has been granted another turn in office, with a new mandate to create a "Europe fit for the digital age." Vestager's heart is definitely in the right place, even if she has effectively taken forced breakups off the table, judging that the ensuing legal wrangle will do more harm than good, even if it might put Big Tech's execs on notice that bad behaviour has real consequences. Read the rest

10 bipartisan Attorneys General launch antitrust investigation against Facebook

Attorneys General from Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, and the District of Columbia, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, have initiated an antitrust investigation into Facebook, seeking to determine whether the company "endangered consumer data, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices, or increased the price of advertising." Read the rest

A cycle of renewal, broken: How Big Tech and Big Media abuse copyright law to slay competition

As long we've had electronic mass media, audiences and creators have benefited from periods of technological upheaval that force old gatekeepers to compete with brash newcomers with new ideas about what constitutes acceptable culture and art. Those newcomers eventually became gatekeepers themselves, who then faced their own crop of revolutionaries. But today, the cycle is broken: as media, telecoms, and tech have all grown concentrated, the markets have become winner-take-all clashes among titans who seek to dominate our culture, our discourse and our communications. Read the rest

Tiktok is valued at $75b, is spending $3m/day on US advertising, and in China, it has been turned into a state propaganda vehicle

It's been a year since Chinese social media giant Bytedance relaunched its super-popular app Musica.ly as Tiktok; the company is now valued at $75b, and in the USA it has become a serious challenge to US-based social media companies, courting a young audience (so young that it's getting into legal hot water over it). Read the rest

Share prices slide as DOJ announces sweeping antitrust investigations of Big Tech

Without naming any companies, the DOJ has announced that it will investigate Big Tech platforms that dominate "search, social media and retail services." Read the rest

Eminent psychologists condemn "emotion detection" systems as being grounded in junk science

One of the more extravagant claims made by tech companies is that they can detect emotions by analyzing photos of our faces with machine learning systems. The premise is sometimes dressed up in claims about "micro-expressions" that are below the threshold of human detection, though some vendors have made billions getting security agencies to let them train officers in "behavior detection" grounded in this premise. Read the rest

Facebook's $5B FTC fine was so laughable its stock price went UP after the announcement

In 2011, the US Federal Trade Commission put Facebook under consent decree after the company "deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly [allowed] it to be shared and made public." Read the rest

Interoperability: Fix the internet, not the tech companies

Everyone in the tech world claims to love interoperability—the technical ability to plug one product or service into another product or service—but interoperability covers a lot of territory, and depending on what's meant by interoperability, it can do a lot, a little, or nothing at all to protect users, innovation and fairness.

Let's start with a taxonomy of interoperability: Read the rest

French politicians want to add an ag-gag rule to the country's sweeping online hate speech proposal

One of the arguments against hate-speech laws is that once the state starts dividing expression into "allowed" and "prohibited," the "prohibited" category tends to grow, in three ways: first, because company lawyers and other veto-wielders err on the side of caution by excising anything that might be in the "prohibited" bucket; second, because courts respond to these shifts in the discourse by finding more and more edge-cases to be in violation of the law; and finally, because lawmakers are tempted to shovel any speech they or their campaign donors don't like into the "prohibited" bucket. Read the rest

Podcast: Steering with the Windshield Wipers

In my latest podcast (MP3), I read my May Locus column: Steering with the Windshield Wipers. It makes the argument that much of the dysfunction of tech regulation -- from botched anti-sex-trafficking laws to the EU's plan to impose mass surveillance and censorship to root out copyright infringement -- are the result of trying to jury-rig tools to fix the problems of monopolies, without using anti-monopoly laws, because they have been systematically gutted for 40 years.

A lack of competition rewards bullies, and bullies have insatiable appetites. If your kid is starving because they keep getting beaten up for their lunch money, you can’t solve the problem by giving them more lunch money – the bullies will take that money too. Likewise: in the wildly unequal Borkean inferno we all inhabit, giving artists more copyright will just enrich the companies that control the markets we sell our works into – the media companies, who will demand that we sign over those rights as a condition of their patronage. Of course, these companies will be subsequently menaced and expropriated by the internet distribution companies. And while the media companies are reluctant to share their bounties with us artists, they reliably expect us to share their pain – a bad quarter often means canceled projects, late payments, and lower advances.

And yet, when a lack of competition creates inequities, we do not, by and large, reach for pro-competitive answers. We are the fallen descendants of a lost civilization, destroyed by Robert Bork in the 1970s, and we have forgotten that once we had a mighty tool for correcting our problems in the form of pro-competitive, antitrust enforcement: the power to block mergers, to break up conglomerates, to regulate anticompetitive conduct in the marketplace.

Read the rest

Robert Reich backs Elizabeth Warren's plan to break up Big Tech

Robert Reich (previously) served in the presidential administrations of Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton, was Clinton's labor czar, and sat on Obama's economic transition advisory board; though he is generally on the Democratic Party's left flank, his own history shows that he has credibility with the establishment wing of the party as well. Read the rest

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