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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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France, Not Waiting for European Union, to Tax U.S. Tech Firms as ’19 Starts

PARIS — With the so-called Yellow Vest movement forcing concessions that have widened the country’s budget shortfall, the French government is accelerating a plan to place hefty taxes on American technology giants that have long maneuvered to keep their bills low while reaping huge sums of money.France has been working with other countries on a European Union-wide digital tax on companies including Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, but some members of the bloc have balked at the proposal.Bruno Le Maire, the French finance minister, said last week that France would move ahead on its own if the union did not approve such a tax by March.On Monday,…

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Google Hearing to Preview Democrats’ Strategy on Big Tech

WASHINGTON — Democrats and Google executives worked arm in arm for years, particularly during the Obama administration. But when Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, testifies before Congress on Tuesday, some of the toughest questioning is likely to come from Democrats.The hearing will provide an early glimpse of how Democrats plan to approach Silicon Valley giants in the coming year as they assume control of the House of Representatives. And the testimony from Mr. Pichai, who is appearing before lawmakers after initially resisting, may provide clues about how he and the company will approach them.Democratic lawmakers, angry about Russian misinformation online during the 2016 campaign and concerned about…

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Google to Charge Phone Makers for Android Apps in Europe

LONDON — Google has always made its Android mobile operating system available free as a way of getting its search engine, web browser and other applications on as many devices as possible to collect data about users and to sell advertising.But on Tuesday, in response to a European antitrust ruling this year, the company said it would for the first time begin charging handset manufacturers to install Gmail, Google Maps and other popular applications for Android in the European Union.The new arrangement is the latest sign that global technology companies are adjusting their business practices in Europe to account for stiffer regulations there.Online privacy regulations adopted in…

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It’s Google’s Turn in Washington’s Glare

WASHINGTON — Google executives, after months of mostly avoiding the harsh spotlight put on their internet peers, are being grilled in Washington this week by lawmakers questioning if the Silicon Valley giant is living up to its promise to be a neutral arbiter of online information.On Friday, Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, will meet with Representative Kevin McCarthy, of California, the Republican House majority leader and a vocal critic of Google, and more than two dozen Republicans to discuss complaints the company is trying to silence conservative voices.“Google has a lot of questions to answer about reports of bias in its search results, violations of user privacy,…

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Europe to Investigate Amazon’s Dual Role of Merchant and Platform

For many independent merchants who sell their goods on Amazon, there has long been deep concern that if the e-commerce giant saw a particular product selling well, the company would duplicate it, but at a lower price.The European Union’s antitrust chief said on Wednesday that there may be reason for worry.Margrethe Vestager, the bloc’s competition commissioner, announced the start of an investigation into whether Amazon is unfairly using data collected about third-party sellers to make its own decisions about products to sell — information that would give it a potentially anticompetitive edge.The announcement keeps Europe at the center of a debate about how to regulate global technology…

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F.T.C. Hearings Add to Efforts That Threaten Tech Industry

WASHINGTON — For years, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple have fought regulators in Europe on privacy, antitrust and taxes. In the United States, the tech titans were on friendly terrain.But on Thursday, the Federal Trade Commission kicked off a series of hearings to discuss whether the agency’s competition and consumer protection policies should change to better reflect new technologies and companies.Joseph J. Simons, the agency’s chairman, expressed openness to a new approach.“The broad antitrust consensus that has existed within the antitrust community, in relatively stable form for the last 25 years, is being challenged,” Mr. Simons said. “I approach all these issues with a very open mind,…

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Amazon’s Antitrust Antagonist Has a Breakthrough Idea

Ms. Khan disagreed. Over 93 heavily footnoted pages, she presented the case that the company should not get a pass on anticompetitive behavior just because it makes customers happy. Once-robust monopoly laws have been marginalized, Ms. Khan wrote, and consequently Amazon is amassing structural power that lets it exert increasing control over many parts of the economy.Amazon has so much data on so many customers, it is so willing to forgo profits, it is so aggressive and has so many advantages from its shipping and warehouse infrastructure that it exerts an influence much broader than its market share. It resembles the all-powerful railroads of the Progressive Era,…

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Judge in AT&T Case Ignored ‘Economics and Common Sense,’ Government Says

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Monday laid out its case against a federal court’s approval of the AT&T and Time Warner merger, criticizing a judge for “erroneously ignoring fundamental principles of economics and common sense.”The argument, made to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, is the start of the government’s second attempt to stop the $85.4 billion deal. The Justice Department lost its case in June, and AT&T and Time Warner, the owner of CNN and HBO, have since hurried to stich their operations together.Legal experts say the government faces high hurdles to win its appeal. If it does, the companies…

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