Google

Why Google Should Be Afraid of a Missouri Republican's Google Probe (arstechnica.com) 231

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Republican attorney general of Missouri has launched an investigation into Google's business practices. Josh Hawley wants to know how Google handles user data. And he plans to look into whether Google is using its dominance in the search business to harm companies in other markets where Google competes. It's another sign of growing pressure Google is facing from the political right. Grassroots conservatives increasingly see Google as falling on the wrong side of the culture wars. So far that hasn't had a big impact in Washington policymaking. But with Hawley planning to run for the U.S. Senate next year, we could see more Republican hostility toward Google -- and perhaps other big technology companies -- in the coming years. The Hawley investigation will dig into whether Google violated Missouri's consumer-protection and antitrust laws. Specifically, Hawley will investigate: "Google's collection, use, and disclosure of information about Google users and their online activities," "Google's alleged misappropriation of online content from the websites of its competitors," and "Google's alleged manipulation of search results to preference websites owned by Google and to demote websites that compete with Google." States like Missouri have their own antitrust laws and the power to investigate company business conduct independently of the feds. So Hawley seems to be taking yet another look at those same issues to see if Google's conduct runs afoul of Missouri law.

We don't know if Hawley will get the Republican nomination or win his challenge to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) next year, but people like him will surely be elected to the Senate in the coming decade. Hawley's decision to go after Google suggests that he sees some upside in being seen as an antagonist to a company that conservatives increasingly view with suspicion. More than that, it suggests that Hawley believes it's worth the risk of alienating the GOP's pro-business wing, which takes a dim view of strict antitrust enforcement even if it targets a company with close ties to Democrats.

Businesses

Munich Council: To Hell With Linux, We're Going Full Windows in 2020 (theregister.co.uk) 544

The German city of Munich, which received much popularity back in the day when it first ditched Microsoft's services in favor of open-source software, has now agreed to stop using Linux and switch back to Windows. If the decision is ratified by the full council in two weeks, Windows 10 will start rolling out across the city in 2020. From a report: A coalition of Social Democrats and Conservatives on the committee voted for the Windows migration last week, Social Democrat councillor Anne Hubner told The Register. Munich rose to fame in the open-source world for deciding to use Linux and LibreOffice to make the city independent from the claws of Microsoft. But the plan was never fully realised -- mail servers, for instance, eventually wound up migrating to Microsoft Exchange -- and in February the city council formally voted to end Linux migration and go back to Microsoft. Hubner said the city has struggled with LiMux adoption. "Users were unhappy and software essential for the public sector is mostly only available for Windows," she said. She estimated about half of the 800 or so total programs needed don't run on Linux and "many others need a lot of effort and workarounds." Hubner added, "in the past 15 years, much of our efforts were put into becoming independent from Microsoft," including spending "a lot of money looking for workarounds" but "those efforts eventually failed." A full council vote on Windows 10 2020 migration is set for November 23, Hubner said. However, the Social Democrats and Conservatives have a majority in the council, and the outcome is expected to be the same as in committee.
Television

FCC To Loosen TV, Newspaper Ownership Rules (reuters.com) 86

The FCC is planning to vote on rolling back landmark media ownership regulations that prohibit owning a television station and newspaper in the same market and making it easier to acquire additional TV or radio stations. Reuters reports: If approved at the FCC's November meeting, the move would be a win for newspapers and broadcasters that have pushed for the change for decades, but was criticized by Democrats who said it could usher in a new era of media consolidation. The FCC in 1975 banned cross-ownership of a newspaper and broadcast station in the same market, unless it granted a waiver, to ensure a diversity of opinions. The rule was made before the explosion of internet and cable news and Republican President Donald Trump and Pai have vowed to reduce government regulation.

"We must stop the federal government from intervening in the news business," Pai told a congressional panel, noting that many newspapers have closed and many radio and TV stations are struggling. Pai moved earlier this year to make it easier for some companies to own a larger number of local stations. Pai said the marketplace no longer justifies the rules, citing Facebook and Alphabet's dominance of internet advertising. "Online competition for the collection and distribution of news is greater than ever. And just two internet companies claim 100 percent of recent online advertising growth; indeed, their digital ad revenue this year alone will be greater than the market cap of the entire broadcasting industry," Pai said.

Television

FCC Ends Decades-Old Rule Designed To Keep TV, Radio Under Local Control (variety.com) 223

The FCC on Tuesday voted to eliminate a rule that required broadcast station groups to maintain a physical presence in the community of their primary local coverage area, a move that critics say will help media companies further consolidate their operations and even be a boost to the ambitions of Sinclair Broadcast Group. Variety reports: But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the elimination of the rule has been a long time coming and will produce cost savings for stations. He said the "overwhelming majority" of public input favored the elimination of the rule, citing the support for such an action even from National Public Radio. "Continuing to require a main studio would detract from, rather than promote, a broadcaster's ability and incentive to keep people informed and serve the public interest," Pai said. The National Association of Broadcasters supports the rule's elimination, and has argued that it will free up funds for stations to spend on staff and programming. Commissioner Michael O'Rielly said the elimination reflects how the public currently interacts with local businesses -- not by visiting their facilities, but through telecommunications and social media. The rule dates to 1940. The two Democrats on the commission opposed the change. "There are many broadcasters who do an extraordinary job serving communities during disaster," said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. "But let's be honest -- they can only do so when they have a real presence in their area of license. That's not a retrograde notion -- it's a fact."
Businesses

Equifax Board Forms Panel To Review Executives' Stock Sales After Data Breach (bloomberg.com) 57

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Equifax's board of directors has formed a special committee to review the stock sales that top executives made days after the company found out it was hacked. Directors at Equifax have retained counsel and are conducting a "thorough review" of the trades, according to a Sept. 28 letter the company's outside lawyers submitted to the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The examination adds to investigations already being conducted by federal law-enforcement agencies. "Equifax takes these matters seriously," the company said in its response to questions posed by Democrats on the panel, led by Frank Pallone, from New Jersey. "The board of directors has formed a special committee," according to the letter, addressed to Pallone and obtained by Bloomberg News.

The trades, which were first reported by Bloomberg, involve Equifax CFO John Gamble, President of U.S. Information Solutions Joseph Loughran and President of Workforce Solutions Rodolfo Ploder. They unloaded shares worth almost $1.8 million just days after the company says it discovered the breach on July 29. Equifax has repeatedly said the managers didn't know of the intrusion when they sold stock.

Advertising

Democrats Ask FEC To Create New Rules To Keep Foreign Influence Off Social Media Ads (thehill.com) 195

Cristina Marcos reports via The Hill: Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday asked the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to establish new guidelines for online advertising platforms that would prevent foreign spending to influence U.S. elections. The move comes after Facebook provided information to Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the FBI's investigation into Russia's election interference, about Russian ad purchases during the 2016 campaign.

"The recent revelations that foreign nationals with suspected ties to the Russian government sought to influence the 2016 election through social media advertisements are deeply concerning and demand a response," 20 House and Senate Democrats wrote in the letter. "We are fast approaching the 2018 election cycle. As such, it is imperative the Federal Election Commission begin this effort in earnest," they wrote. CNN, which first reported on the Democrats' letter, cited Facebook sources saying they expect Congress may try to require disclaimers on online political ads in the future, similar to political television ads. The Democratic lawmakers suggested that any FEC guidance address how foreign actors can use corporate or nonprofit designations to avoid disclosing political spending; what advertisement platforms can do to prevent foreign campaign activity; and possible changes to disclosure standards for political advertisements.

Businesses

Silicon Valley Bosses Are Globalists, Not Libertarians (economist.com) 308

From a report via The Economist: In a recently published survey of 600 entrepreneurs and executives in Silicon Valley, conducted by David Broockman and Neil Malhotra of Stanford University and Gregory Ferenstein, a journalist, three-quarters of respondents said they supported Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election. But although technology-firm leaders hold views that in general hew much closer to Democratic positions than Republican ones, they are far from reliable partisan ideologues. As you might expect from captains of industry, Silicon Valley executives are much more likely to support free trade and to oppose government regulation of businesses than your average Democrat is. For example, just 30% of tech bosses believe that ride-hailing companies need to be regulated like the taxi industry, compared with 60% of Democrats.

Given their combination of socially liberal attitudes and a preference for free markets, you might call Silicon Valley executives libertarians. However, libertarians generally advocate shrinking the state as a share of the economy, which technology bosses resolutely do not. When asked if they "would like to live in a society where government does nothing except provide national defense and police protection, so that people could be left alone to earn whatever they could," just 24% agreed. In contrast, 68% of Republican donors concurred with that statement. Moreover, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are just as likely to favor redistributive economic policies, such as universal health care and higher taxes on the rich, as an average Democrat is. The outlook of our new robot-building overlords is far more communitarian than, say, the doctrines of Ayn Rand.

United States

Wisconsin Lawmakers Vote To Pay Foxconn $3 Billion To Get New Factory (arstechnica.com) 245

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Wisconsin Assembly voted 59-30 on Thursday to approve a bill to give incentives worth $3 billion to Taiwan-based Foxconn so that the company would open its first U.S. plant in the state. Foxconn, best known for supplying parts of Apple's iPhones, will open the $10 billion liquid-crystal display plant in 2020, according to Reuters. The bill still has to be approved by a joint finance committee and the state Senate. Both houses of Wisconsin's legislature are controlled by Republicans, and the deal is supported by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican who negotiated the deal. The vote was largely, but not entirely, along party lines. Three Democrats joined 56 Republicans in supporting the deal. Two Republicans and 28 Democrats voted against it. Opponents said the deal wasn't a good use of taxpayer funds. The $3 billion incentives package includes about $2.85 billion in cash payments from taxpayers and tax breaks valued at about $150 million. The state is also waiving certain environmental rules.
United States

Net Neutrality Rollback Faces New Criticism From US Congress -- And 16 Million Comments (techcrunch.com) 147

An anonymous reader quotes TechCrunch's newest update on the FCC's attempt to gut net neutrality protections: 10 Representatives who helped craft the law governing the FCC itself have submitted an official comment on the proposal ruthlessly dismantling it... The FCC is well within its rights to interpret the law, and it doesn't have to listen to contrary comments from the likes of you and me. It does, however, have to listen to Congress -- "congressional intent" is a huge factor in determining whether an interpretation of the law is reasonable. And in the comment they've just filed, Representatives Pallon, Doyle et al. make it very clear that their intent was and remains very different from how the FCC has chosen to represent it.

"The law directs the FCC to look at ISP services as distinct from those services that ride over the networks. The FCC's proposal contravenes our intent... While some may argue that this distinction should be abandoned because of changes in today's market, that choice is not the FCC's to make. The decision remains squarely with those of us in Congress -- and we have repeatedly chosen to leave the law as it is."

In another letter Thursday, 15 Congressmen asked FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to extend the time period for comments. They note the proposed changes have received more than 16 million comments, more than four times the number of comments on any previous FCC item. The Hill reports that the previous record was 4 million comments -- during the FCC's last net neutrality proceeding in 2014 -- and "the lawmakers also noted that the comment period for approving net neutrality in 2014 was 60 days. Pai has only allowed a 30-day comment period for his plan to rollback the rules."
Communications

The FCC Is Full Again, With Three Republicans and Two Democrats (arstechnica.com) 81

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The U.S. Senate today confirmed the nominations of Republican Brendan Carr and Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel to fill the two empty seats on the Federal Communications Commission. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai congratulated the commissioners in a statement. "As I know from working with each of them for years, they have distinguished records of public service and will be valuable assets to the FCC in the years to come," Pai said. "Their experience at the FCC makes them particularly well-suited to hit the ground running. I'm pleased that the FCC will once again be at full strength and look forward to collaborating to close the digital divide, promote innovation, protect consumers, and improve the agency's operations."

Carr served as Pai's Wireless, Public Safety and International Legal Advisor for three years. After President Trump elevated Pai to the chairmanship in January, Pai appointed Carr to become the FCC's general counsel. Rosenworcel had to leave the commission at the end of last year when the Republican-led US Senate refused to re-confirm her for a second five-year term. But Democrats pushed Trump to re-nominate Rosenworcel to fill the empty Democratic spot and he obliged. FCC commissioners are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. esides Pai, Carr, and Rosenworcel, the five-member commission includes Republican Michael O'Rielly and Democrat Mignon Clyburn.

United States

EPA Reverses Course on Ozone Rule (nytimes.com) 53

The Trump administration said late Wednesday that it would not delay an Obama-era regulation on smog-forming pollutants from smokestacks and tailpipes (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source), a move that environmental groups hailed as a victory. From a report: The Environmental Protection Agency decision came a day after 16 state attorneys general, all Democrats, filed a lawsuit challenging the delay with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. It reversed a decision that Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. administrator, made in June to put off an Oct. 1 deadline for designating which areas of the country met new ozone standards. In announcing the ozone policy change, the agency appeared to leave the door open to extending the deadline again. But, officials said, the agency will work with states to help them deliver the needed information.
Government

US Senators To Introduce Bill To Secure 'Internet of Things' (reuters.com) 138

Dustin Volz, reporting for Reuters: A bipartisan group of U.S. senators on Tuesday plans to introduce legislation seeking to address vulnerabilities in computing devices embedded in everyday objects -- known in the tech industry as the "internet of things" -- which experts have long warned poses a threat to global cyber security. The new bill would require vendors that provide internet-connected equipment to the U.S. government to ensure their products are patchable and conform to industry security standards. It would also prohibit vendors from supplying devices that have unchangeable passwords or possess known security vulnerabilities. Republicans Cory Gardner and Steve Daines and Democrats Mark Warner and Ron Wyden are sponsoring the legislation, which was drafted with input from technology experts at the Atlantic Council and Harvard University. A Senate aide who helped write the bill said that companion legislation in the House was expected soon.
Government

FCC Says Its Specific Plan To Stop DDoS Attacks Must Remain Secret (arstechnica.com) 88

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Democratic lawmakers have been exchanging letters about a May 8 incident in which the public comments website was disrupted while many people were trying to file comments on Pai's plan to dismantle net neutrality rules. The FCC says it was hit by DDoS attacks. The commission hasn't revealed much about what it's doing to prevent future attacks, but it said in a letter last month that it was researching "additional solutions" to protect the comment system. Democratic Leaders of the House Commerce and Oversight committees then asked Pai what those additional solutions are, but they didn't get much detail in return.

"Given the ongoing nature of the threats to disrupt the Commission's electronic comment ling system, it would undermine our system's security to provide a specific roadmap of the additional solutions to which we have referred," the FCC chief information officer wrote. "However, we can state that the FCC's IT staff has worked with commercial cloud providers to implement Internetbased solutions to limit the amount of disruptive bot-related activity if another bot-driven event occurs." The CIO's answers to lawmakers' questions were sent along with a letter from Pai to Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Mike Doyle (D-Penn.), DeGette (D-Colo.), Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), and Gerald Connolly (D-Va.). The letter is dated July 21, and it was posted to the FCC's website on July 28.

Democrats

Democrats Propose New Competition Laws That Would 'Break Up Big Companies If They're Hurting Consumers' (arstechnica.com) 332

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Senate and House Democratic leaders today proposed new antitrust laws that could prevent many of the biggest mergers and break up monopolies in broadband and other industries. "Right now our antitrust laws are designed to allow huge corporations to merge, padding the pockets of investors but sending costs skyrocketing for everything from cable bills and airline tickets to food and health care," US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote in a New York Times opinion piece. "We are going to fight to allow regulators to break up big companies if they're hurting consumers and to make it harder for companies to merge if it reduces competition." The "Better Deal" unveiled by Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was described in several documents that can be found in an Axios story. The plan for "cracking down on corporate monopolies" lists five industries that Democrats say are in particular need of change, specifically airlines, cable and telecom, the beer industry, food, and eyeglasses. The Democrats' plan for lowering the cost of prescription drugs is detailed in a separate document. The Democrats didn't single out any internet providers that they want broken up, but they did say they want to stop AT&T's proposed $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner: "Consolidation in the telecommunications is not just between cable or phone providers; increasingly, large firms are trying to buy up content providers. Currently, AT&T is trying to buy Time Warner. If AT&T succeeds in this deal, it will have more power to restrict the content access of its 135 million wireless and 25.5 million pay-TV subscribers. This will only enable the resulting behemoths to promote their own programming, unfairly discriminate against other distributors and their ability to offer highly desired content, and further restrict small businesses from successfully competing in the market."
Transportation

Oregon Passes First Statewide Bicycle Tax In Nation (washingtontimes.com) 708

turkeydance writes: In Oregon, a state known for its avid bicycling culture, the state legislature's approval of the first bike tax in the nation has fallen flat with riders. Democratic Gov. Kate Brown is expected to sign the sweeping $5.3 billion transportation package, which includes a $15 excise tax on the sale of bicycles costing more than $200 with a wheel diameter of at least 26 inches. Even though the funding has been earmarked for improvements that will benefit cyclists, the tax has managed to irk both anti-tax Republicans and environmentally conscious bikers. The bike tax is aimed at raising $1.2 million per year in order to improve and expand paths and trails for bicyclists and pedestrians. Supporters point out that Oregon has no sales tax, which means buyers won't be dinged twice for their new wheels.
Education

In America, Most Republicans Think Colleges Are Bad for the Country (chronicle.com) 996

An anonymous reader quotes the Chronicle of Higher Education: A majority of Republicans and right-leaning independents think higher education has a negative effect on the country, according to a new study released by the Pew Research Center on Monday. The same study has found a consistent increase in distrust of colleges and universities since 2010, when negative perceptions among Republicans was measured at 32 percent. That number now stands at 58 percent. By comparison, 72 percent of Democrats or left-leaning Independents in the study said colleges and universities have a positive impact on the United States... In the Pew Research Center's study, distrust of colleges was strongest in the highest income bracket and the oldest age group, with approval levels of just 31 percent among respondents whose family income exceeds $75,000 a year and 27 percent among those older than 65.
Government

Congress Seeks To Outlaw Cyber Intel Sharing With Russia (onthewire.io) 179

Trailrunner7 shares a report from On the Wire: A group of House Democrats has introduced a bill that would formalize a policy of the United States not sharing cyber intelligence with Russia. The proposed law is a direct response to comments President Donald Trump made earlier this week after he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. After the meeting, Trump said on Twitter that he and Putin had discussed forming an "impenetrable Cyber Security unit" to prevent future attacks, including election hacking. The idea was roundly criticized by security and foreign policy experts and within a few hours Trump walked it back, saying it was just an idea and couldn't actually happen. But some legislators are not taking the idea of information sharing with Russia as a hypothetical. On Wednesday, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), and Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) introduced the No Cyber Cooperation With Russia Act to ensure that the U.S. doesn't hand over any cybersecurity intelligence on attacks or vulnerabilities to Moscow. Recent attacks such as the NotPetya malware outbreak have been linked to Russia, as have the various attacks surrounding the 2016 presidential election. "When the Russians get their hands on cyber intelligence, they exploit it -- as they did last month with the NotPetya malware attack targeting Ukraine and the West. It is a sad state of affairs when Congress needs to prohibit this type of information sharing with an adversary, but since we apparently do, I am proud to introduce the No Cyber Cooperation with Russia Act with my friends Brendan Boyle and Ruben Gallego. I urge my colleagues across the aisle to join us in sending a clear message that Congress will not stand for this proposal to undermine U.S. national security," Lieu said in a statement.
Businesses

Amazon Is Getting Too Big and the Government Is Talking About It (marketwatch.com) 205

An anonymous reader quotes a report from MarketWatch: Fresh off its biggest Prime Day yet, the Whole Foods Market bid, and a slew of announcements including Amazon Wardrobe, Amazon.com Inc. was the subject of two investor calls Thursday that raised concerns that it is getting too big. In one case, hedge-fund manager Douglas Kass said government intervention could be imminent. "I am shorting Amazon today because I have learned that there are currently early discussions and due diligence being considered in the legislative chambers in Washington DC with regard to possible antitrust opposition to Amazon's business practices, pricing strategy and expansion announcements already made (as well as being aimed at expansion strategies being considered in the future," wrote Kass, head of Seabreeze Partners Management. "My understanding is that certain Democrats in the Senate have instituted the very recent and preliminary investigation of Amazon's possible adverse impact on competition," he said. "But, in the Trump administration we also have a foe against Jeff Bezos, who not only runs Amazon but happens to own an editorially unfriendly (to President Trump) newspaper, The Washington Post."

Kass said he thinks the government "discussions may have just begun and may never result in any serious effort to limit Amazon's growth plans." But he has been writing a series of columns about whether we've reached "peak Amazon," and said in an earlier column that the Whole Foods deal puts "Amazon's vast power under the microscope." "Is Amazon a productive change agent and force for the good of the consumer by virtue of a reduction in product prices? Or is Amazon's disruption of the general retail business a destroyer of jobs, moving previously productively employed workers into the unemployment line?" he asked.

AT&T

Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T Want Congress To Make a Net Neutrality Law Because They Will Write It (theverge.com) 170

From a report on The Verge: Companies and organizations that rely on an open internet rallied on Wednesday for a "day of action" on net neutrality, and America's biggest internet service providers have responded with arrogance and contempt for their customers. Comcast's David Cohen called arguments in favor of FCC regulation "scare tactics" and "hysteria." Beyond the dismissive rhetoric, ISPs are coincidentally united today in calling for Congress to act -- and that's because they've paid handsomely to control what Congress does. There's one thing Republicans and Democrats can agree on, and that's taking money from ISPs. The telecommunications industry was the most powerful lobbying force of the 20th century, and that power endures. It's no secret that lobbyists in Washington write many of the laws, and the telecom industry spends a lot of money to make sure lawmakers use them. We've already seen net neutrality legislation written by the ISPs, and it's filled with loopholes. It's not just in Congress -- companies like AT&T have deep influence over local and state broadband laws, and write those policies, too. Some pro-net neutrality advocates are also arguing today that Congress should act, and there are some good reasons for that. Laws can be stickier than the judgements of regulatory agencies, and if you want to make net neutrality the law of the land that's a job for Congress. But there's a reason the ISPs are all saying the same thing, and it's because they're very confident they will defeat the interests of consumers and constituents. They've already done it this year under the Republican-controlled government. Further reading: 10M+ web users saw yesterday's net neutrality protest -- but rules are still getting scrapped.
Government

eBay Urges Customers To Oppose Washington Internet Tax (knkx.org) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from KNKX: If you live in Washington state, you might have gotten the email from eBay. It begins: "The Washington State Legislature is threatening to impose new Internet sales tax burdens on you." It goes on to urge the recipient to send a form letter to Washington lawmakers opposing "harmful tax laws." So what's this about? EBay's Brian Bieron said the company is alerting its customers to a proposal to require out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax from Washington residents. "It's the right of all of our users to know when new tax policies would impact their ability to sell online or shop online, we think that they want to know and they want to get involved," Bieron said. The fact eBay is emailing its customer base now indicates the company is concerned the internet tax bill will be part of a final budget deal in Olympia. Washington House Democrats and Senate Republicans are currently trying to hash out a compromise budget that fully fund schools. That agreement will likely include some additional sources of tax revenue. Of all the choices on the table, capturing sales tax from more online sales might prove the most palatable to tax-averse Republicans. House Democrats estimate the proposal could bring in an estimated $341 million over the next two years.

Slashdot Top Deals