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Why a Big Tech Breakup Looks Better to Washington

SAN FRANCISCO — A decade ago, when the greed and carelessness of the financial industry came close to destroying the American economy, the overwhelming response by politicians and the public was: Meh. Almost instantly, all was forgiven and forgotten.Now the tech industry — which, among other impressive innovations, provides the world’s knowledge on demand, lets people freely broadcast their diverse opinions and has made shopping as easy as pushing a button — has made some mistakes of its own. It has abused privacy, squeezed the competition and casually spread hate. And that’s just the beginning of the list.Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple might not get away as…

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Bits: The Week in Tech: How Much Regulation Is Too Much?

Every Friday, we review the week’s tech news, offering analysis and maybe a joke or two about the most important developments in the tech industry. Want this newsletter in your inbox? Sign up here.Hi. I’m Jamie Condliffe. Greetings from London. Here’s a look at the week’s tech news.You say antitrust. I say: How much?There is little as fashionable in 2019 as the desire to curb Big Tech’s power. But knowing how far regulators should go in putting limits on Silicon Valley’s largest companies isn’t straightforward.At one extreme, there are calls to break up Big Tech. Senator Elizabeth Warren grabbed headlines during the week when she called for…

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Spotify Accuses Apple of Anticompetitive Practices in Europe

LONDON — Apple’s powerful role as gatekeeper of the App Store has long frustrated the makers of apps who must abide by its rules or risk losing access to hundreds of millions of customers who own Apple devices.Now one of Apple’s biggest rivals, the music streaming service Spotify, says Apple is abusing its position and violating European antitrust laws.In an aggressive attempt to undercut Apple’s power, Spotify said on Wednesday that it had filed a complaint with European regulators, accusing Apple of using its App Store to squash companies that compete with its services, including Apple Music.Spotify’s complaint comes at perilous moment for the world’s biggest tech…

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The Man Deciding Facebook’s Fate

WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission has no shortage of critics who say it cannot protect Americans from the prying eyes of Big Tech. Instead of forceful action against the likes of Facebook and Google, they say, the F.T.C. leans on a rules that make it hard to impose penalties bigger than rounding errors for the companies.Those critics have an unusual champion: Joseph J. Simons, the man running the agency.“We have this over 100-year-old statute that is our main authority,” Mr. Simons said in his first sit-down interview since becoming chairman 10 months ago. “And clearly legislators who approved that were not thinking about data security and…

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Bits: The Week in Tech: Facebook’s Privacy Pivot (Business Model Not Included)

Each week, technology reporters and columnists from The New York Times review the week’s news, offering analysis and maybe a joke or two about the most important developments in the tech industry. Want this newsletter in your inbox? Sign up here.Hi. I’m Jamie Condliffe; greetings from London. Here’s a look at the week’s tech news.Can Facebook profit from privacy?You can’t have missed it: Facebook plans to shift people toward private messaging and away from the public broadcasting on which its business was built. Think encrypted communications among smaller groups of people, and ephemeral messages that can be deleted. In theory, that change could help the company overcome…

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U.S. Loses Appeal Seeking to Block AT&T-Time Warner Merger

The federal government on Tuesday lost its second court challenge to AT&T’s $85.4 billion merger with Time Warner, a blockbuster deal that has already begun to reshape much of the media industry.A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected the government’s claim that a lower court had applied antitrust laws incorrectly in allowing the merger to proceed. Justice Department lawyers have argued that the combination of the two companies would reduce competition and hurt consumers.“The government’s objections that the district court misunderstood and misapplied economic principles and clearly erred in rejecting the quantitative model are unpersuasive,” Judge Judith W.…

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Bits: The Week in Tech: Business Is Booming Despite Backlash

Each week, technology reporters and columnists from The New York Times review the week’s news, offering analysis and maybe a joke or two about the most important developments in the tech industry. Want this newsletter in your inbox? Sign up here.Hello, friends. I’m Kate Conger, a tech reporter in The Times’s San Francisco bureau. It has been another earnings news week, which means we’re learning exactly how much money the local tech companies earned in 2018.The news might not surprise you: Everyone in Silicon Valley is still raking in cash. Apple is the country’s most valuable public company again, after briefly losing the title to Amazon. Facebook…

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Germany Restricts Facebook’s Data Gathering

Germany’s competition authority has ruled that Facebook cannot gather and combine personal data across platforms and websites unless users give permission, a decision that could have wide-ranging implications on the company’s ability to target advertising.“In future, Facebook will no longer be allowed to force its users to agree to the practically unrestricted collection and assigning of non-Facebook data to their Facebook user accounts,” Andreas Mundt, president of the Federal Cartel Office, said in a statement on Thursday.“The combination of data sources,” the cartel authority said, “substantially contributed to the fact that Facebook was able to build a unique database for each individual user and thus to gain…

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Bits: The Week in Tech: Amazon’s Burning Problems

Each week, technology reporters and columnists from The New York Times review the week’s news, offering analysis and maybe a joke or two about the most important developments in the tech industry. Want this newsletter in your inbox? Sign up here.Hi, I’m David Streitfeld, reporting from a very quiet week in Silicon Valley. The venture capitalists were at their vacation homes or exotic resorts, dreaming of riches to come. Entrepreneurs also must have taken time off, because I made it to San Jose in less than two hours, a personal record. There wasn’t even a new data privacy scandal to occupy the pundits.Amazon, however, never lets up.…

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Facebook Data Scandals Stoke Criticism That a Privacy Watchdog Too Rarely Bites

Last spring, soon after Facebook acknowledged that the data of tens of millions of its users had improperly been obtained by the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, a top enforcement official at the Federal Trade Commission drafted a memo about the prospect of disciplining the social network.Lawmakers, consumer advocates and even former commission officials were clamoring for tough action against Facebook, arguing that it had violated an earlier F.T.C. consent decree barring it from misleading users about how their information was shared.But the enforcement official, James A. Kohm, took a different view. In a previously undisclosed memo in March, Mr. Kohm — echoing Facebook’s own argument —…

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