Vestager urges European legislators to push through rules to regulate Big Tech – Financial Times

  1. Vestager urges European legislators to push through rules to regulate Big Tech  Financial Times
  2. Who will enforce Europes crackdown on Big Tech?  POLITICO.eu
  3. EU lawmakers agree on rules to target big tech- FT  Reuters
  4. Regulating 'big tech': Council agrees on enhancing competition in the digital sphere  EU News
  5. EU ministers back bloc's Big Tech clampdown  Tech Xplore
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News

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Vestager urges European legislators to push through rules to regulate Big Tech - Financial Times

Big Tech Is Fighting Over Who Gets to Build a Cloud for the Pentagon – Tech.co

Big Tech companies Google, Amazon, and Microsoft as well as cloud infrastructure platform Oracle are going to battle it out for a multi-billion-dollar government contract and there's a chance they all might win.

The Department of Defense (DoD) said on Friday that it had issued formal solicitations to Microsoft which has just announced plans to build its own metaverse and three other companies regarding the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability contract.

The news comes after years of legal battles, scrapped programs, and disagreements between tech companies desperate to get their names stamped on the lucrative government program.

In 2017, the Pentagon began to formulate plans for a Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract, with the goal to commission a company to build a centralized cloud infrastructure system that could be used to view, manage, and transfer confidential information safely across all security clearance levels, for all employees from the Pentagon to the edge of the battlefield.

The contract ended up being awarded to Microsoft not once, but twice, with the process marred by various lawsuits brought against the Department of Defense and the US government by companies like Amazon, who raised issues with how the contract was awarded.

In July, the Pentagon announced that it was scrapping the $10 billion, decade-long JEDI contract that had previously been awarded to Microsoft, on the grounds it was now obsolete due to long delays.

With the shifting technology environment, it has become clear that the Jedi Cloud contract, which has long been delayed, no longer meets the requirements to fill the DoD's capability gaps. US Department of Defense (DoD).

However, many believe it was then-president Donald Trumps animus towards Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos who owns the liberal-leaning paper The Washington Post that played a decisive role in Amazon initially missing out on JEDI and the subsequent decision to scrap it.

The decision left the door open for Microsoft and Amazon to bid for a new contract the JWCC along with other technology companies. However, only Amazon and Microsoft were initially contacted with pre-solicitation bids as they appeared to be the only two companies capable of delivering what the DoD need.

The JWCC is an IDIQ contract which means whoever is awarded it will have to provide an indefinite number of services over a specified time period.

The Pentagon has stiff criteria for what it expects to be developed, including tactical edge devices, pieces of technology used in battle scenarios or crisis environments that can function away from data centers and work for employees at all levels of government.

Whilst the JEDI contract took a winner-takes-all approach and Microsoft and Amazon are still very much favorites in the Pentagons eyes its a possibility that all of the companies in contention may end up with responsibility for at least some part of the project.

The Government anticipates awarding two IDIQ contracts one to Amazon Web Services, Inc. (AWS) and one to Microsoft Corporation (Microsoft) but intends to award to all Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) that demonstrate the capability to meet DoDs requirements. the US General Services Administration (GSA).

Google has, since July, instituted the security provisions needed to be in the running for a cloud service, but didnt previously bid for JEDI because it was thought the contract would conflict with its AI principles. IBM is also rumored to be interested in playing some part.

The disconnect between the wealthy executives populating Big Techs boardrooms and the staff that make their companies cogs turn has peppered the news over the past few years.

With workers rights and user safety already bones of contention that have been borne out in the public domain, the development of a war cloud may be the frontier upon which disagreement manifests.

Amazon Web Services, for instance, told CNBC that its commitment to supporting our nations military and ensuring that our warfighters and defense partners have access to the best technology for the best value is stronger than ever, illustrating that the company is staunchly in favor of working closely with the military.

And theres plenty of evidence that employees moral compasses tend to point in a different direction. Just recently, for instance, staff at Amazon as well as Google decried the involvement of their employers in Project Nimbus, a cloud service contract with the Israeli government that staff argue will be used to ramp up surveillance on Palestinian civilians.

What's more, dissent on these issues is often widespread the letter referenced above regarding Project Nimbus, which was published anonymously, claims to have over 300 Amazon and 90 Google employee signatures.

Google employees also protested the companys involvement in a drone program that utilized AI to improve accuracy, and a year later, Microsoft employees expressed their concern after their company was awarded a $480 million contract to develop augmented reality headsets for troops in combat zones.

It remains to be seen how the staff-exec relationships at these companies will fare under the strain of new, ethical quandaries like company involvement with military programs, but one thing's for sure: it'll take a lot more than an appeal to the better nature of Big Tech's profit-chasing chiefs to force them to turn down multi-billion-dollar contracts.

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Big Tech Is Fighting Over Who Gets to Build a Cloud for the Pentagon - Tech.co

Digital regulation must empower people to make the internet better – TechCrunch

Christian HumborgContributor

As COVID-19 spread rapidly across the world in 2020, people everywhere were hungry for reliable information. A global network of volunteers rose to the challenge, consolidating information from scientists, journalists and medical professionals, and making it accessible for everyday people.

Two of them live almost 3,200 kilometers away from one another: Dr. Alaa Najjar is a Wikipedia volunteer and medical doctor who spends breaks during his emergency room shift addressing COVID-19 misinformation on the Arabic version of the site. Sweden-based Dr. Netha Hussain, a clinical neuroscientist and doctor, spent her downtime editing COVID-19 articles in English and Malayalam (a language of southwestern India), later focusing her efforts on improving Wikipedia articles about COVID-19 vaccines.

Thanks to Najjar, Hussain and more than 280,000 volunteers, Wikipedia emerged as one of the most trusted sources for up-to-date, comprehensive knowledge about COVID-19, spanning nearly 7,000 articles in 188 languages. Wikipedias reach and ability to support knowledge-sharing on a global scale from informing the public about a major disease to helping students study for tests is only made possible by laws that enable its collaborative, volunteer-led model to thrive.

As the European Parliament considers new regulations aimed at holding Big Tech platforms accountable for illegal content amplified on their websites and apps through packages like the Digital Services Act (DSA), it must protect citizens ability to collaborate in service of the public interest.

Lawmakers are right to try to stem the spread of content that causes physical or psychological harm, including content that is illegal in many jurisdictions. As they consider a range of provisions for the comprehensive DSA, we welcome some of the proposed elements, including requirements for greater transparency about how platforms content moderation works.

But the current draft also includes prescriptive requirements for how terms of service should be enforced. At first glance, these measures may seem necessary to curb the rising power of social media, prevent the spread of illegal content and ensure the safety of online spaces. But what happens to projects like Wikipedia? Some of the proposed requirements could shift power further away from people to platform providers, stifling digital platforms that operate differently from the large commercial platforms.

Big Tech platforms work in fundamentally different ways than nonprofit, collaborative websites like Wikipedia. All of the articles created by Wikipedia volunteers are available for free, without ads and without tracking our readers browsing habits. The commercial platforms incentive structures maximize profits and time on site, using algorithms that leverage detailed user profiles to target people with content that is most likely to influence them. They deploy more algorithms to moderate content automatically, which results in errors of over- and under-enforcement. For example, computer programs often confuse artwork and satire with illegal content, while failing to understand human nuance and context necessary to enforce platforms actual rules.

The Wikimedia Foundation and affiliates based in specific countries, like Wikimedia Deutschland, support Wikipedia volunteers and their autonomy in making decisions about what information should exist on Wikipedia and what shouldnt. The online encyclopedias open editing model is grounded in the belief that people should decide what information stays on Wikipedia, leveraging established volunteer-developed rules for neutrality and reliable sources.

This model ensures that for any given Wikipedia article on any subject, people who know and care about a topic enforce the rules about what content is allowed on its page. Whats more, our content moderation is transparent and accountable: All conversations between editors on the platform are publicly accessible. It is not a perfect system, but it has largely worked to make Wikipedia a global source of neutral and verified information.

Forcing Wikipedia to operate more like a commercial platform with a top-down power structure, lacking accountability to our readers and editors, would arguably subvert the DSAs actual public interest intentions by leaving our communities out of important decisions about content.

The internet is at an inflection point. Democracy and civic space are under attack in Europe and around the world. Now, more than ever, all of us need to think carefully about how new rules will foster, not hinder, an online environment that allows for new forms of culture, science, participation and knowledge.

Lawmakers can engage with public interest communities such as ours to develop standards and principles that are more inclusive, more enforceable and more effective. But they should not impose rules that are aimed solely at the most powerful commercial internet platforms.

We all deserve a better, safer internet. We call on lawmakers to work with collaborators across sectors, including Wikimedia, to design regulations that empower citizens to improve it, together.

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Digital regulation must empower people to make the internet better - TechCrunch

The Metaverse, Crypto and EVs Are Among 2021s Big Tech Winners – Yahoo Finance

(Bloomberg) -- When Americans gather around the Thanksgiving table this week, the blistering rally in technology, electric vehicles and crypto-related stocks is likely to be a part of their conversations.

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Theres a reason it will dominate the small talk: The tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 is now worth almost half as much as the benchmark S&P 500 -- the highest ever -- and the megacap tech stocks alone represent a third of the S&P 500. Nvidia Corp. and Roblox Corp.s sprint stood out in a year when the rest of the big tech names jogged to new highs, defying several calls to sell the sector around last years thanksgiving due to soaring valuations.

Here some of the hottest stocks and themes since last Thanksgiving:

Hot Chips

Chipmaker Nvidia has soared 148% as booming chip demand and a foray into the metaverse made it the best performer on the Nasdaq 100. Applied Materials Inc. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. were other winners, each rising about 80% and outperforming many of the megacap tech stocks.

Surging EV Makers

Tesla Inc. soared to a $1 trillion market value as the electric-carmakers shares doubled in value, driven by a sustained pickup in sales, even as part shortages were crippling the broader auto industry. EV fever was even more evident with Rivian Automotive Inc., which doubled in value in less than two weeks after going public. Lucid Group Inc. was the sectors other hot name.

Metaverse Mania

Robloxs tripling of value from its March listing to Facebooks name change to Meta Platforms Inc. showed the metaverse was the next big thing in tech. The rush to the space was evident with the Roundhill Ball Metaverse ETF, an exchange traded fund focused on the theme, surpassing $500 million in assets under management on Nov. 17, having doubled in just two weeks.

Story continues

Cryptocurrency Craze

From the digital world to digital money: Bitcoin briefly reclaiming $60,000 and a rally in smaller cryptocurrencies boosted a host of related stocks such as Marathon Digital Holdings Inc., Riot Blockchain Inc. and MicroStrategy Inc. Marathon Digital was among the top winners, with its stock jumping ten-fold.

Dont Forget FAANGs

Retail investors who stuck with big names havent done badly either. The likes of Microsoft Corp., Alphabet Inc. and Tesla Inc., have alone added a whopping $3.5 trillion in 2021, while the NYSE FANG+ Index is up about 39% since last Thanksgiving.

While those numbers are impressive, some say valuations do seem stretched. Tech stocks havent been this expensive since the Internet bubble of the late 1990s and many investors remain cautious.

Lets all be thankful for the tremendous returns weve seen in tech stocks and numerous other areas of the market this year, but not forget that a slice of humble pie may be what were eating next year if were too certain of our predictions to come, said Matt Carvalho, chief investment officer of Cardinal Point Wealth.

Tech Chart of the Day

Top Tech Stories

Indias Paytm plummeted for a second day after its IPO, marking one of the worst debuts ever by a major technology company

Prosus said analysts have valued its global portfolio of e-commerce assets at about $50 billion, excluding the stake in Tencent

JD.com Inc. and NetEase Inc.s tracking by MSCI via their Hong Kong shares rather than American Depositary Receipts might reinforce a gradual shift in liquidity away from the U.S. for Chinese stocks

Contemporary Amperex, a Tesla battery supplier, hit a fresh record to become Chinas second-largest company listed onshore

Activision Blizzards CEO said hed consider leaving if hes unable to quickly fix culture problems, Dow Jones reported

Ericsson is to buy Vonage Holdings for $5.3 billion as it strives to build market presence in cloud communications services

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2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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The Metaverse, Crypto and EVs Are Among 2021s Big Tech Winners - Yahoo Finance

Beijing issues fines for 43 Big Tech M&A deals all the way back to 2012 – The Register

China's State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) has fined tech giants 43 times with Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent told to pay up for failing to declare deals deemed to violate anti-monopoly legislation.

According to SAMR, more rigorous anti-monopoly law enforcement has seen businesses file more paperwork, sometimes about past transactions. SAMR's own probes have spotted acquisitions that weren't reported at the time.

Those efforts turned up 43 transactions, conducted between 2012 and 2021, that violated China's 2008 Anti-Monopoly Law. Each count received a fine of 500,000 ($78,300). The regulatory body said that all were "assessed as having no effect of excluding or restricting competition".

The market regulator posted about the fines on its WeChat account and Weibo page on Saturday.

State-sponsored media Global Times reported that Alibaba and Tencent each racked up more than ten cases.

SAMR explained that by penalising companies for past violations, it would "continuously optimize the fair, transparent and predictable competitive environment, and effectively urge enterprises to enhance their compliance awareness and ability to promote the sustained and healthy development of enterprises and industries".

China's national anti-monopoly bureau was inaugurated on Thursday and guidelines for antitrust compliance of enterprises abroad were issued the same day.

The government in Beijing, and SAMR in particular, has been busy. Earlier this month the organization drafted new rules for internet platforms considered "super large" that hold them to higher standards than smaller, less influential ones in an attempt to stamp out anticompetitive behavior.

In September, the org ordered Alibaba, Tencent and more to stop blocking links to rivals. And it has been known to step in and outright ban mergers it deems imprudent.

Those new initiatives follow many others that appear to give China the power to rein in its big tech companies often in ways that would prevent them from acquiring the kind of power that Western tech companies accumulated. Perhaps ironically, the USA is currently considering legislative restrictions on new acquisitions by its tech giants, on grounds that they use such transactions to curtail competition early. By fining its own tech giants for transactions nearly a decade in the past, China appears to be applying similar logic.

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Beijing issues fines for 43 Big Tech M&A deals all the way back to 2012 - The Register

The Irish DPC Slapped With Corruption Allegations; South Korea Place Big Tech Under the Microscope – ExchangeWire

In todays ExchangeWire news digest: The Irish DPC are slapped with a corruption complaint filed by noyb; Apple and Google could face fines of 2% under new Korea laws; and Niantic receive a hefty USD$300m (224.5m) investment from Coatue.

The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) has come under fire, having been accused of corruption and even bribery in a complaint filed by the non-profit organisation noyb. The organisation are alleging that the Irish commission have presented them with an ultimatum in the form of a letter: sign an illegal NDA within one working day or be removed from the Facebook procedure. noyb have declared this quid pro quo as procedural blackmail.

Vienna-based noyb filed the complaint to the Austrian Office for the Prosecution of Corruption. Subsequent to the filing, noyb published the letters they received, describing the request as unlawful: only if we shut up, the DPC would 'grant' us our legal right to be heard. The writing also shows the DPC demanding the not-for-profit to take down existing documents relating to the draft decision, once again without a legal basis.

It has been reported that Facebook (now Meta) would significantly benefit from a signed NDA, as new documents could compel EU regulators to find their GDPR bypass illegal. This would result in major implications for the tech giant if regulators were to declare their use of personal data since 2018 unlawful.

Max Schrems, chairperson of noyb.eu, comments, "the DPC acknowledges that it has a legal duty to hear us, but it now engaged in a form of 'procedural coercion'. The right to be heard was made conditional on us signing an agreement to the benefit of the DPC and Facebook. It is nothing but an authority demanding to give up the freedom of speech in exchange for procedural rights."

App store operators, such as Apple and Google, could face fines of up 2% of sales for forcing their own in-app payment methods, under the amended Telecommunications Business Act. The Korean Communications Commission (KCC) drafted the amendments on Wednesday (17 November), in order to protect app developers and provide further clarity when determining illegality of new prohibited acts. App store owners could also see an additional fine of 1% of their revenue for delays in reviewing apps.

Within the document, the KCC describe the forcing of certain payment methods as a serious illegal act which will result in penalty surcharges. The move has come to allow a fairer mobile ecosystem for developers, in an attempt to limit app store operators power within the industry. Obstructions against in-app billing policies were first introduced in August when South Korea made amendments to the Telecommunications Business Act. The challenge caught media attention when Epic filed a lawsuit against them for monopolistic behaviours back in 2020. South Korea were the first country to introduce restrictions on payment policies.

KCC Chairman Han Sang-hyuk commented, considering that this issue is receiving attention both at home and abroad, we will proceed swiftly with follow-up measures so that the law is enacted smoothly in order to create a fair and sound app market ecosystem.

Augmented reality (AR) platform, Niantic, have received a hefty investment of USD$300m (224.5m) from Coatue, valuing the company at USD$9bn (6.7bn). The software development company have announced that they will use the fund to build their vision for the real-world metaverse.

John Hanke, Niantics Founder and CEO, commented in a blog post announcing the news, were building a future where the real world is overlaid with digital creations, entertainment and information, making it more magical, fun and informative. He adds, this will take a significant investment of talent, technology and imagination, and were thrilled that Coatue is on this journey with us.

Niantic recently launched a platform enabling developers to understand and enhance their ideas for AR and the metaverse. The Lightship Platform is the core for the San Francisco-based companys own products, such as Pokmon GO.

In further metaverse-related news, Vietnamese startup VerseHub closes a silent fundraise of USD$1m (748,383) from an angel investor. The metaverse platform will use the funds, raised without going through the formal process, to enhance their ongoing projects. Co-founder and CTO of VerseHub, Canh Ho, explains, the team incubated the project 6 months ago and rejected many investment invitations, for cooperating with other Vietnamese partners in the industry, with the desire to contribute to the development of blockchain technology in our home country.

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The Irish DPC Slapped With Corruption Allegations; South Korea Place Big Tech Under the Microscope - ExchangeWire

Tide turns against big tech but it’s going to be a long, long haul – Crikey

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Dismantling or reassembling the tech giants' hold on the way we live now will be a truly massive undertaking.

The genius of Mark Zuckerberg's recent announcement of Meta, the alleged new Facebook, was that it managed to be both disappointing and sinister at the same time. Backed by a series of lame effects, the Zuck announced a virtual world that sounded as gimmicky and unsatisfying as Second Life had been, but authored by an organisation which had the power to enforce it everywhere.

The utterly uninspiring vision of Meta, like all such tech, draws on the utopian impulses which lurk in culture, in art, and in the very structure of human imagining and projection: that we can project worlds that are radically other to everyday life and yet are still recognisable and meaningful and able to be controlled and commodified.

The disappointment that has been widely expressed at this concept is due to what might be called the accumulated insufficiency of dreams.

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Guy Rundle is correspondent-at-large for Crikey. He's a former editor of Arena Magazine and contributes to a variety of publications in Australia and the United Kingdom.


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Tide turns against big tech but it's going to be a long, long haul - Crikey

‘More money than God:’ Chinese titan lavished Hunter Biden with 3-carat gem, offer of $30 million – New York Post

The Biden family offered their services to a huge, Chinese-government-linked energy consortium to expand its business around the world. How do we know? Because of hundreds of emails documenting the deal found on Hunter Bidens laptop, left in a Delaware repair shop in April 2019. In her new book, Laptop from Hell, New York Post columnist Miranda Devine tells the tale:

James Gilliar, a wiry, 56-year-old British ex-SAS officer, got to know Ye Jianming, the 40-year-old chairman of CEFC, when they were both working in the Czech Republic.

CEFC was a Chinese conglomerate, one of the largest energy companies in the world.

Yes task at was to spend $1.5 billion as quickly as possible to ensure the Czech Republic would become Chinas Gateway to the European Union, a priority of President Xi.

To that end, Ye bought everything from a football team and a brewery to an airline, before being named special economic advisor to Czech President Milos Zeman.

Now he was looking for an influential partner to help with acquisitions in other locations around the world that had strategic significance for the Chinese state.

Gilliar had an idea who could help: The Biden family.

Gilliar connected with Hunter Biden through trusted Biden family friend Rob Walker, a former Clinton administration official whose wife, Betsy Massey Walker, had been Jill Bidens assistant when she was Second Lady.

Gilliar emailed Walker in February 2015 to praise Hunters appearance in Beijing at a board meeting of the fledgling investment fund Hunter had founded with John Kerrys son, called BHR.

Hunter was great, Gilliar wrote to Walker. True sheikh of Washington.

He emailed Hunter a few weeks later: It has been made clear to me that CEFC wish to engage in further business relations with our group.

Gilliar knew CEFC was the capitalist arm of President Xis Belt and Road Initiative to spread Chinas influence and debt traps across the world. No Chinese company executed its goals more ardently than CEFC and its young chairman, who was dubbed the Belt and Road billionaire in the press.

Chairman Ye had built his provincial energy company into a Fortune 500 colossus virtually overnight, an achievement described by Chinese news agency Caixin as another great enigma in the miraculous world of Chinese business. He enjoyed the support of President Xi and was former deputy secretary general of the governments propaganda arm, the China Association for International Friendly Contacts.

In a rare interview with Caixin at CEFCs palatial marble headquarters in Shanghais upscale French Concession District, Ye is portrayed as a hermit king sitting on a golden chair in a room that resembles a miniature Great Hall of the People.

Uniformed staff members wearing earpieces glide by. Most of them were young women wearing smart clothes and bright faces.

Yes face was as expressionless as a stone statue. Amidst the gilded surroundings, his canvas shoes had an eye-catching plainness. . . .

In his public activities as a private entrepreneur, Ye Jianming is al- ways walking alongside important foreign political figures. He has been photographed with world leaders such as Israeli President Peres, Turkish President Erdogan, Chadian President Dby, and European Commission President Juncker. He has met with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and the Prime Minister of Bulgaria held a feast to welcome him.

In the winter of 2015, Chairman Ye and CEFC Executive Director Jianjun Zang, a.k.a. Director Zang, flew to Washington, DC. A meeting with Ye was scheduled in Hunters diary for December 7, 2015, in a week that was a swirl of back-to-back Christmas parties hosted by Joe and Jill at the vice presidents residence at the Naval Observatory.

One of his former associates, who spoke on condition of anonymity, believes that Hunter brought Chairman Ye to meet Joe at one of those parties. There is no indication of any such meeting on the laptop, but Hunter had a pattern of introducing business associates to Joe when they came to DC.

After a frustrating experience in another Chinese deal as a minority partner in private equity firm BHR, in which the payday would not come until the end of the funds life, Hunter and his uncle Jim Biden wanted more control of the CEFC partnership and a regular income stream.

Enter Tony Bobulinski. The naval officer turned wealthy institutional investor came highly recommended by Gilliar to build what they planned would be a world-class investment firm, called SinoHawk, named after Hunters late brother Beaus favorite animal, the hawk.

In December 2015, Gilliar tells Bobulinski he needs help structuring a Chinese joint venture for one of the most prominent families in the United States.

The plan is to build an investment firm like Goldman Sachs, he writes in a WhatsApp message, transcripts of which were obtained separate from the laptop.

The family is the Biden family, Gilliar will soon disclose. Joe, who has announced that he will not run for president in 2016, will be actively involved once he leaves office, and the Bidens expect billions of dollars of projects to flow through the company, Gilliar says.

He lets Bobulinski in on the last piece of the puzzle in March 2016: the Bidens Chinese partner is CEFC, which has more money than God, he writes. This is the capital arm of one belt one road.

At about this time, Bobulinski is introduced to Rob Walker, who tells him he is a proxy for Hunter Biden, Jim Biden and the Bidens around the world.

Finally, in February 2017, Gilliar sends Bobulinski a WhatsApp message saying he wants to introduce him to his partner.

Who is your partner? asks Bobulinski.

Hunter Biden, replies Gilliar.

Bobulinski is leery. I understand you want me to . . . help drive things in the US, but Hunter is [already] here.

Gilliar: Money there, intent there . . . skill sets missing . . . We need to create the best deal platform in history, and they havent got a clue. Bobulinski doesnt like the fact Hunter was kicked out of US Navy for cocaine use.

But hes super smart, says Gilliar. Just a lot of under achievers around them using their name. Has a few demons but u are used to those, right?

Bobulinski asks: Is he the decision maker or the Chinese?

Gilliar: New platform. Best discuss face to face but Im the driver.

Later, Bobulinski asks: Ok who is putting up the $10MM [million]?

Gilliar: Joint vehicle half us and then equally split money is already in. Discuss more face to face.

Three weeks after his father left office, in 2017, Hunter flew to Miami with Gilliar and Walker to meet Chairman Ye, who was there for the Miami International Boat Show.

They booked into the $700 a night beachfront Nobu Hotel on Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, and scheduled lunch with the Chinese for Thursday in a private room set for 10 at the Bourbon Steak restaurant in the ritzy JW Marriott Turnberry Resort & Spa, where Ye was staying with his entourage.

But Hunter flew home the day before the lunch. He already had met with Ye, over a private dinner on the Tuesday night, at which the CEFC chairman made him an offer too good to refuse: $10 million a year, for a minimum of three years, for introductions alone, as Hunter would later assert in an imperious email to CEFC executives.

Ye sealed the new alliance with a rich gift a 3.16 carat diamond worth $80,000. Photographs of the stunning stone appear on Hunters laptop along with a grading report that lists it as a round brilliant of Grade F with prime VS2 clarity and excellent cut.

The gift could not have come at a better time. Hunter was in the middle of an ugly divorce from Kathleen, and his office manager, Joan Peugh, had just sent him the latest in a series of overdue bills, a tax collection notice from the District of Columbia for $47,226.78.

Hunter would tell the New Yorkers Adam Entous that he had flown to Miami to meet Chairman Ye purely for charitable purposes, hoping to secure a donation to World Food Program USA, the nonprofit on whose board he served and which he had used before as a cover for his foreign business activities.

Hunter said it was just chance that the altruistic encounter turned to business opportunities and claimed to be surprised when Ye gave him the diamond. He didnt mention the happy coincidence that his business partners Gilliar and Walker were with him in Miami to clinch a business deal with CEFC.

But the diamond was just an appetizer.

Nine days after Hunters meeting in Miami with Ye, $3 million is wired into an account for Rob Walkers company, Robinson Walker LLC, from State Energy HK Limited, a Shanghai-based company linked to CEFC, according to the Chuck Grassley-Ron Johnson inquiry.

On March 1, another $3 million is wired to Robinson Walker by the same company. Both transactions are flagged by the Department of Treasurys Financial Crimes Enforcement network in a suspicious activity report, filed with the Senate committees as Confidential Document 16.

Using the document as a source, the Grassley-Johnson report of Nov. 18, 2020, says: At the time of the transfers, State Energy HK Limited was affiliated with CEFC China Energy, which was under the leadership of Ye Jianming. In the past, State Energy HK Limited transferred funds to at least one company associated with Hunter Bidens business associate, Gongwen Dong . . .

These transactions are a direct link between Walker and the communist Chinese government and, because of his close association with Hunter Biden, yet another tie between Hunter Bidens financial arrange- ments and the communist Chinese government.

The Senate report concludes it is unclear what the true purpose is behind these transactions [$6 million from CEFC] and who the ultimate beneficiary is.

We know from the laptop that Hunter received regular payments from Robinson Walker. One document lists $56,603.74 from Robinson Walker as income for Rosemont Seneca Advisors, between June and December 2017.

Rob Walker paid at least $511,000 to Hunters firm Owasco in 2017, according to an email from Hunters tax accountant, Bill Morgan.

Walker tells Bobulinski his role in CEFC is being a surrogate for H [Hunter] or Jim when gauging opportunities, i.e. digging around in Texas on high speed rail with some of my republican friends . . . or hitting new countries and contacts abroad where things are lukewarm, but not hot enough for H to close or too odd for H to be present . . .

On March 5, 2017, Page Six breaks the news that Hunter and his brothers widow Hallie are an item.

When Hunter doesnt show up for a scheduled meeting three days later in New York, Gilliar tells Bobulinski it doesnt matter: In brand hes imperative but right now hes not essential for adding input to business.

It is at this point that Gilliar explains to Bobulinski that the Chinese involved in CEFC are intelligence so they understand the value added of the Biden name.

Bobulinski remains troubled by Hunters scandals, and Gilliar, who is in Australia with Director Zang looking for acquisitions, is worried he might pull out. So, he arranges for him to meet Hunter the following month at the Chateau Marmont, in Bobulinskis hometown of L.A.

They meet by the hotel pool in April and speak for two hours while Hunter chain-smokes. Bobulinski finds him respectful and polite. Hunter boasts that he has his fathers ear and can bypass his advisers.

Hunter tells Bobulinski how the joint venture vehicle should be structured and expresses caution about US laws, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which prohibits businesses paying bribes to foreign officials. He appears to conflate that law with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a 1938 antispying law that requires anyone acting as a lobbyist for a foreign power to register with the US government as a foreign agent.

No matter what, it will need to be a US company at some level in order for us to make bids on federal and state funded projects, Hunter writes later.

Also, we dont want to have to register as foreign agents under the FCPA which is much more expansive than people who should know choose not to know.

Regardless we should have a . . . company called CEFC America, and ownership should be 50 me 50 them. We then cut up our 50 [percent] in a separate entity between the 4 of us.

Hunter seems focused, but Bobulinski is puzzled about Uncle Jims frequent meddling in CEFC business.

For instance, in April 2017, Jim pulls strings at New Yorks elite Horace Mann School to get Director Zangs daughter Rouqi fast-tracked for entry, although she ends up enrolling in another school.

Jim also writes a letter on behalf of CEFC to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo requesting a meeting. We intend to discuss potential projects and investments in New York. He lists the other attendees as Hunter, Chairman Ye, Director Zang, and an unnamed Member of the Royal Family of Luxembourg.

What is the deal w Jim Biden as he wasnt part of the discussion but now seems a focal point? Bobulinski asks Gilliar. What role does Jim see himself playing?

Consultant is what hes offered as [far as] I know, Gilliar replies. He [Hunter] brought in Jim simply to leverage getting more equity for himself and family in the final hour, that is evident.

In another WhatsApp message, Gilliar tells Bobulinski: With H [Hunters] demons, could be good to have a backup, he [Jim] strengthens our USP [unique selling point] to Chinese as it looks like a truly family business, and I like the dude.

With the deal progressing, Hunter tells Bobulinski its time for the next step.

I want Dad to meet you, he says.

Excerpted with permission from Laptop from Hell: Hunter Biden, Big Tech, and the Dirty Secrets the President Tried to Hide (Post Hill Press), out Tuesday.

To order Miranda Devines new book, click here.


'More money than God:' Chinese titan lavished Hunter Biden with 3-carat gem, offer of $30 million - New York Post

Inside the ‘big wave’ of misinformation targeted at Latinos – Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) Before last years presidential election, Facebook ads targeting Latino voters described Joe Biden as a communist. During his inauguration, another conspiracy theory spread online and on Spanish-language radio warning that a brooch worn by Lady Gaga signaled Biden was working with shadowy, leftist figures abroad.

And in the final stretch of Virginias election for governor, stories written in Spanish accused Biden of ordering the arrest of a man during a school board meeting.

None of that was true. But such misinformation represents a growing threat to Democrats, who are anxious about their standing with Latino voters after surprise losses last year in places like South Florida and the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.

Heading into a midterm election in which control of Congress is at stake, lawmakers, researchers and activists are preparing for another onslaught of falsehoods targeted at Spanish-speaking voters. And they say social media platforms that often host those mistruths arent prepared.

For a lot of people, theres a lot of concern that 2022 will be another big wave, said Guy Mentel, executive director of Global Americans, a think tank that provides analysis of key issues throughout the Americas.

This months elections may be a preview of whats to come.

After Democratic incumbent Phil Murphy won New Jerseys close governors race, Spanish-language videos falsely claimed the vote was rigged, despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud a fact the Republican candidate acknowledged, calling the results legal and fair.

In Virginia, where Republican Glenn Youngkin campaigned successfully on promises to defend parental rights in classrooms, false headlines around a controversial school board meeting emerged.

Biden orden arrestar a padre de una joven violada por un trans, read one of several misleading articles, translating to Biden ordered the arrest of a father whose daughter was raped by a trans.

The mistruth was spun from an altercation during a chaotic school board meeting months earlier in Loudoun County that resulted in the arrest of a father whose daughter was sexually assaulted in a bathroom by another student. The father claimed the suspect was gender fluid, which sparked outcry over the schools policy allowing transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity.

In reality, the White House wasnt involved with the meeting. The man was arrested by the local sheriffs department. Its also unclear how the suspect identifies.

Loudoun County was already the epicenter of a heated political debate over how the history of racism is taught in schools another issue that became fodder for misinformation and political attacks on Spanish-language websites this summer, said Maria Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of Voto Latino, a nonprofit that mobilizes Hispanics to become politically engaged.

It has everything to do with trust in institutions. Trust in government, said Kumar, whose group works to combat the misinformation. Eroding that trust will transfer not just to voting in the midterms, but just overall disengagement from your government.

Stretched truths accusing some Democrats of being socialists or communists could also dominate the online narrative, said Diego Groisman, a research analyst at New York Universitys Cybersecurity for Democracy project.

During the 2020 election, Groisman flagged Facebook ads targeting Latino voters in Texas and Florida that described Biden as a communist. The ads in Florida where a majority of the countrys Venezuelan population is concentrated compared Biden to that countrys socialist President Nicols Maduro.

There were clearly specific Spanish-speaking communities that were being targeted, said Laura Edelson, the lead researcher for NYUs program.

Evelyn Prez-Verda, a Florida Democratic strategist who watches Spanish misinformation patterns, says many online narratives intentionally stoke fear in the Spanish-speaking communities.

One conspiracy theory mentioned on talk radio grew out of Lady Gagas golden bird brooch at Bidens inauguration. Some spreading the claim noted a similar brooch once worn by Claudia Lpez Hernandez, the first openly gay mayor of Bogota, Colombia, signaled the new president was working with foreign leftists.

Theyre not going to stop. Theyre going to double down on it, Prez-Verda said of the misinformation.

Critics argue that social media companies like Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, have placed outsize attention on removing or fact-checking misinformation in English over other languages like Spanish.

Facebooks own documents, leaked by ex-Facebook employee turned whistleblower Frances Haugen earlier this year, echo those concerns. Haugen said the company spends 87% of its misinformation budget on U.S. content a figure that Meta spokesperson Kevin McAllister said is out of context.

An internal Facebook memo, written in March, revealed the companys ability to detect anti-vaccine rhetoric and misinformation was basically non-existent in non-English comments.

Last year, for example, Instagram and Facebook banned #plandemic, a hashtag associated with a video full of COVID-19 conspiracy theories. Yet users were spreading misinformation on the platforms using #plandemia, the Spanish version of the hashtag, until just last month.

An analysis last year by Avaaz, a left-leaning advocacy group that tracks online misinformation, also found Facebook failed to flag 70% of Spanish-language misinformation surrounding COVID-19 compared to just 29% of such information in English.

McAllister said the company removes false Spanish-language claims about voter fraud, COVID-19 and vaccines. Four news outlets, including The Associated Press, also fact-check Spanish-language falsehoods circulating around U.S. content on Instagram and Facebook.

Meanwhile, researchers at the nonpartisan Global Disinformation Index estimated that Google will make $12 million this year off ads on websites that peddled COVID-19 disinformation in Spanish. Google has stopped serving ads on a majority of the pages shared in the report, company spokesperson Michael Aciman said in an email.

Spanish-language misinformation campaigns are absolutely exploding on social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, etc., New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the partys top progressive voices, tweeted after the Nov. 2 election.

That explosion is fueled in part by a U.S.-Latin America feedback loop that allows falsehoods to fester.

Misinformation that starts on U.S. websites is sometimes translated by social media pages in Latin American countries like Colombia and Venezuela. The inaccuracies are shared back through YouTube videos or messaging apps with Spanish speakers in expatriate communities like those in Miami and Houston.

Those falsehoods are more likely to reach U.S. Latinos because they tend to spend more time on sites such as YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram and Telegram, according to an October Nielsen report.

We see YouTube accounts or radio stations churning out mis- or disinformation regarding a whole range of things that they pick up from fringe U.S. outlets, Mentel said.

Some are working to fill the void of reliable information in those communities.

The Oakland, California, news service El Timpano delivers a text message of local news in Spanish to roughly 2,000 subscribers every week. Subscribers can text back with questions that staffers work to answer, said Madeleine Blair, who launched El Timpano.

The news service has fielded more than 1,500 questions over the past year, including ones about hoax COVID-19 cures.

We really ramped up because it was clear that the communities we were serving were most in need of basic public health information, Blair said, and that information wasnt reaching them.

Others have urged the government to take on a watchdog role. Federal Trade Commission commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, a Democrat, said the regulator may look at disparities in how Big Tech monitors English-language disinformation compared to other languages.

The first thing I think we need to do is investigate, Slaughter said during a November panel with lawmakers.


Associated Press writers Marcos Martnez Chacn in Monterrey, Mexico, Abril Mulato in Mexico City and Marcy Gordon in Washington contributed to this report.

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Inside the 'big wave' of misinformation targeted at Latinos - Associated Press

DBS Bank strategits sees Big Tech as big beneficiaries of the Metaverse – CoinJournal

We have seen several cryptocurrencies linked to the increasingly interesting Metaverse space make huge gains in recent weeks. Projects such as The Sandbox (SAND), Decentraland (MANA), and Enjin Coin (ENJ) have witnessed an upside driven by investor interest in the concept of a Metaverse.

Crypto and blockchain projects could be among those to benefit massively from the idea, but according to DBS senior investment strategist Daryl Ho, investors could do well to look at two key sectors likely to play a big role as the initiative takes shape.

In aninterview with CNBCs Squawk Box, Ho said that companies and platforms that are already deep in the digitisation space could have the front seat when it comes to defining the Metaverse and thus benefitting the most.

If you dont already realize it, we are already moving somewhat towards a digital world, so the Metaverse is simply the next step, the next frontier, Ho explained.

Recently, Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook), took a giant step in announcing plans for developing the Metaverse, and major companies around the world are looking to follow suit as the reality of a virtual world grows.

Its with this perspective that the investment strategist says two particular sectors could take the lead and be highly profitable to investors.

He believes the computer gaming industry has the upper hand here, given the sector is already immersed in the virtual world. Notably, it's in the Metaverse would see people live, work and collaborate and gaming platforms have represented this in many ways in their gaming projects.

I think these are the companies [investors] should look out for, he said, adding that the sector is likely to be the one that shape[s] the metaverse as we know it.

Ho also believes that big technology companies have all it takes to maintain a leading role in the Metaverse and will be big beneficiaries.

Apart from Meta, other Big Tech companies towatch out for are Google, Apple, Microsoft and game company Valve.

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DBS Bank strategits sees Big Tech as big beneficiaries of the Metaverse - CoinJournal

UK antitrust chief relies on EU in global drive to regulate big tech – City A.M.

Friday 26 November 2021 2:32 pm

The head of Britains antitrust watchdog said he plans to pick his battles with tech companies carefully relying on EU counterparts to take the lead where necessary.

Andrea Coscelli, chief executive officer of the UKs Competition and Markets Authority, told Bloomberg he might let other agencies lead the way on tech regulation because some merger probes are better suited to certain courts and jurisdictions than others.

You cannot expect when there is a problem, every single agency to go after it, because we all have to make choices, Coscelli said.

Theres quite a lot of good stuff on tech thats happening in Brussels that will have a direct positive benefit for UK consumers, he added, noting that the EUs case on Amazons marketplace should have wider benefits despite the CMA not pursuing a similar case.

It comes after the EUs General Court fined Google 2bn in an anti-trust case hours after the UKs supreme court voted down a privacy case which would have seen 4.4m Brits receive payouts totalling 3bn.

Europes campaign to regulate big tech is spearheaded by MargretheVestager, the EUs competition policy lead, with the Commissions efforts casting a shadow over Britains approach to regulation. Vestager is in the process of taking on Amazon Marketplace over concerns the site gives its own products preferential treatment over other retailers.

Meanwhile, the UKs CMA today announced plans to go after Google over proposals to remove third party cookies from peoples browsers. The competition authority wants to ensure that Google does not restrict external companies from accessing user data in a way that harms competition in digital advertising markets.

In pursuit of a more joined up approach to tech regulation Coscelli will next week meet with the worlds top antitrust enforcers in London in order to discuss digital markets regulation. G-7 regulators are expected to discuss a cross-border framework for enforcing competition rules.

Read more: EU agree common position to curb US tech giants

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UK antitrust chief relies on EU in global drive to regulate big tech - City A.M.

Inside the fight to reclaim AI from Big Techs control – MIT Technology Review

Among the worlds richest and most powerful companies, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple have made AI core parts of their business. Advances over the last decade, particularly in an AI technique called deep learning, have allowed them to monitor users behavior; recommend news, information, and products to them; and most of all, target them with ads. Last year Googles advertising apparatus generated over $140 billion in revenue. Facebooks generated $84 billion.

The companies have invested heavily in the technology that has brought them such vast wealth. Googles parent company, Alphabet, acquired the London-based AI lab DeepMind for $600 million in 2014 and spends hundreds of millions a year to support its research. Microsoft signed a $1 billion deal with OpenAI in 2019 for commercialization rights to its algorithms.

At the same time, tech giants have become large investors in university-based AI research, heavily influencing its scientific priorities. Over the years, more and more ambitious scientists have transitioned to working for tech giants full time or adopted a dual affiliation. From 2018 to 2019, 58% of the most cited papers at the top two AI conferences had at least one author affiliated with a tech giant, compared with only 11% a decade earlier, according to a study by researchers in the Radical AI Network, a group that seeks to challenge power dynamics in AI.

The problem is that the corporate agenda for AI has focused on techniques with commercial potential, largely ignoring research that could help address challenges like economic inequality and climate change. In fact, it has made these challenges worse. The drive to automate tasks has cost jobs and led to the rise of tedious labor like data cleaning and content moderation. The push to create ever larger models has caused AIs energy consumption to explode. Deep learning has also created a culture in which our data is constantly scraped, often without consent, to train products like facial recognition systems. And recommendation algorithms have exacerbated political polarization, while large language models have failed to clean up misinformation.

Its this situation that Gebru and a growing movement of like-minded scholars want to change. Over the last five years, theyve sought to shift the fields priorities away from simply enriching tech companies, by expanding who gets to participate in developing the technology. Their goal is not only to mitigate the harms caused by existing systems but to create a new, more equitable and democratic AI.

In December 2015, Gebru sat down to pen an open letter. Halfway through her PhD at Stanford, shed attended the Neural Information Processing Systems conference, the largest annual AI research gathering. Of the more than 3,700 researchers there, Gebru counted only a handful who were Black.

Once a small meeting about a niche academic subject, NeurIPS (as its now known) was quickly becoming the biggest annual AI job bonanza. The worlds wealthiest companies were coming to show off demos, throw extravagant parties, and write hefty checks for the rarest people in Silicon Valley: skillful AI researchers.

That year Elon Musk arrived to announce the nonprofit venture OpenAI. He, Y Combinators then president Sam Altman, and PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel had put up $1 billion to solve what they believed to be an existential problem: the prospect that a superintelligence could one day take over the world. Their solution: build an even better superintelligence. Of the 14 advisors or technical team members he anointed, 11 were white men.


While Musk was being lionized, Gebru was dealing with humiliation and harassment. At a conference party, a group of drunk guys in Google Research T-shirts circled her and subjected her to unwanted hugs, a kiss on the cheek, and a photo.

Gebru typed out a scathing critique of what she had observed: the spectacle, the cult-like worship of AI celebrities, and most of all, the overwhelming homogeneity. This boys club culture, she wrote, had already pushed talented women out of the field. It was also leading the entire community toward a dangerously narrow conception of artificial intelligence and its impact on the world.

Google had already deployed a computer-vision algorithm that classified Black people as gorillas, she noted. And the increasing sophistication of unmanned drones was putting the US military on a path toward lethal autonomous weapons. But there was no mention of these issues in Musks grand plan to stop AI from taking over the world in some theoretical future scenario. We dont have to project into the future to see AIs potential adverse effects, Gebru wrote. It is already happening.

Gebru never published her reflection. But she realized that something needed to change. On January 28, 2016, she sent an email with the subject line Hello from Timnit to five other Black AI researchers. Ive always been sad by the lack of color in AI, she wrote. But now I have seen 5 of you 🙂 and thought that it would be cool if we started a black in AI group or at least know of each other.

The email prompted a discussion. What was it about being Black that informed their research? For Gebru, her work was very much a product of her identity; for others, it was not. But after meeting they agreed: If AI was going to play a bigger role in society, they needed more Black researchers. Otherwise, the field would produce weaker scienceand its adverse consequences could get far worse.

As Black in AI was just beginning to coalesce, AI was hitting its commercial stride. That year, 2016, tech giants spent an estimated $20 to $30 billion on developing the technology, according to the McKinsey Global Institute.

Heated by corporate investment, the field warped. Thousands more researchers began studying AI, but they mostly wanted to work on deep-learning algorithms, such as the ones behind large language models. As a young PhD student who wants to get a job at a tech company, you realize that tech companies are all about deep learning, says Suresh Venkatasubramanian, a computer science professor who now serves at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. So you shift all your research to deep learning. Then the next PhD student coming in looks around and says, Everyones doing deep learning. I should probably do it too.

But deep learning isnt the only technique in the field. Before its boom, there was a different AI approach known as symbolic reasoning. Whereas deep learning uses massive amounts of data to teach algorithms about meaningful relationships in information, symbolic reasoning focuses on explicitly encoding knowledge and logic based on human expertise.

Some researchers now believe those techniques should be combined. The hybrid approach would make AI more efficient in its use of data and energy, and give it the knowledge and reasoning abilities of an expert as well as the capacity to update itself with new information. But companies have little incentive to explore alternative approaches when the surest way to maximize their profits is to build ever bigger models.

Continued here:

Inside the fight to reclaim AI from Big Techs control - MIT Technology Review

Fed up with Big Tech? Find out how to get your privacy back, explore alternatives to Google – USA TODAY

Not all voice assistants can handle the same requests. We put Siri, Alexa and Google to the test. USA TODAY

Years ago, we searched the web, bought new gadgets, and typed in our email addresses without much thought. As far as accounts went, "Hey if it's free, sign me up," we thought.

Fast forward to now, and you can't go online or turn on the news without hearing about the control Big Tech has on our lives and the growing resentment around it.

Were not the only ones noticing. Probably due to government initiatives, tech companies are making changes to address these concerns. You can now password protect the page that reveals all your Google searches and other activity.

Heres how to set it up:

If you own an iPhone, its easier than ever to see what info the apps you use are collecting and block that data from being shared. Tap or click for five iPhone security settings everyone should know about.

Americans may be finally waking up to the fact that when a product is free, they are in fact, the product.

Nearly 60% of poll respondents fear their smartphones are spying on them and say theyve experienced the phenomenon when theyre having a conversation about something and then saw an ad online for that exact product.(Photo: Ponomariova_Maria/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

I hear from callers to my national radio show and readers from my website and newsletters all the time who say theyre tired of Big Tech companies, their power, and their control. It got me wondering, how widespread is this feeling? I put together a poll and sent it out to subscribers of my free newsletters, and 6,351 people responded.

Heres a telling stat for you: 86% say they no longer trust Big Tech companies. As a country, we realize how much power and influence they have on our everyday lives.

Whens the last time you got through a day without picking up your iPhone or Android smartphone? What about your Apple or Microsoft computer? Shopping on Amazon or scrolling through posts on Facebook?

The survey found that 76% of those who responded use Google daily, followed by Microsoft (60%), Apple (49%), and Facebook (45%). Over 40% shop on Amazon or use Amazon owned-products like the Echo daily; 89% are active shoppers on Amazon.com.

Only a mere 1.34%, or 85 of those polled say they dont interact with at least one of those companies every day.

If you have a smart speaker at home, I bet you have wondered, Is it listening to me all the time? Its one of the reasons I unplugged my Amazon Echo and stuck it in the garage.

I asked those polled if they think smart speakers listen to what you say all of the time instead of only when you use the wake words. A whopping 82.73% said all the time.

Amazon, Apple and Google will tell you their artificial intelligence assistants only listen for the wake words, like Alexa, Siri and Hey, Google. One issue, though, is how often smart speakers are accidentally triggered.

A 2020 study from Ruhr University Bochum in Germany showed a combined 1,000 phrases could trigger Alexa (election, a letter), Google Home (OK, cool, Ok, you know), Siri (hey Jerry, hey, seriously) and Microsofts Cortana (Montana, frittata).

Worried your smart assistant hears too much?Tap or click to stop all your smart devices from listening to you and recording what you say. A good rule of thumb is to keep smart speakers out of bedrooms and bathrooms.

Nearly 60% of poll respondents fear their smartphones are spying on them and say theyve experienced the phenomenon when theyre having a conversation about something and then saw an ad online for that exact product.

Before you jump to thinking your phones microphone is recording what you say, there could be other reasons for the coincidence. Maybe you searched for something similar before, or someone in your house did. Your homes IP address is used to target you with ads, after all.

To see the rest of the surveys findings, check out the full results on my website.

Heres one of the most conclusive answers from my survey: 92% of respondents think Google knows too much information about their personal lives.

Think about it. Many of us use Google for our email, video meetings, document storage, web browser and much more. Tap or click here to see everything Google knows about you with one quick search.

You have great alternatives you want to step outside the Google sphere.


Unlike Google, DuckDuckGos entire gimmick is itslackof user tracking, as well as a company policy of no targeted ads or relevant results based on your search history.

On the one hand, this means your results will be less tailored to your specific needs and interests. On the other hand, these organic results may help you find things that the Google algorithm might otherwise bury.


StartPage calls itself the worlds most private search engine. The Netherlands-based company recognizes that when it comes to search, its hard to beat Google. Thats why they use the power of Google without passing along user tracking.

StartPage pays Google for the use of its search algorithm but strips out the tracking and advertising that usually comes along with it. You get a Google-like experience, along with the promise that your data will never be stored, tracked, or sold.


If you have little ones at home, consider Kiddle. Its not affiliated with Google, but Google Safe Search powers it.

Is Google Chrome tracking you? Well, it's complicated. Elizabeth Keatinge explains.

The default options for Macs and PCs, Safari and Edge, are solid choices and use up much less of your computers resources than Chrome. If youre looking for different features, Firefox and Tor are solid contenders.

Mozilla Firefox

Firefox predates Chrome but this browser is no dinosaur. Firefoxs active developer community frequently releases new updates and add-ons. Firefoxautomatically blocks third-party cookiesby default andautomatically notifies youif you visit a website thats been hit by a data breach.

Youll also find many of the same add-ons that make Chrome so robust. Firefox uses less CPU than Chrome typically does and is capable of loading some websites faster to boot.

Tor browser

Designed as an encrypted browser, Tor uses special coding to keep your browsing habits secret from prying eyes and advertisers. Its so reliable, in fact, that people living in authoritarian states have used it to break through censorship by installing the browser on USB drives.

Tor routes your internet traffic through anonymous servers in different parts of the world, making it difficult for ad trackers, search engines and even governments to know you are and what youre up to. Just dont expect every website out there to play nice with your browser.

Gmail keeps track of things like buying habits, which can make switching to a new mail service seem worthwhile. These alternatives are easy to pick up and master and lack many of the privacy drawbacks found in Googles mail client.

Email getting you down?Tap or click for five inbox hacks, including ways to banish tracking and junk mail.


Mailfence is an encrypted email servicewith a variety of unique security features. Users have the ability to add digital signatures to their messages, which guarantees that your emails are from you to your recipients.

Mailfence also offers a suite of document tools like G Suites Docs and Sheets, along with a calendar and access to third-party mail services so you can create email addresses using your own domain. Its a great option for small business owners and ordinary users alike.


Protonmailis a popular option for users seeking absolute privacy. The company is based in Switzerland, a nation famous for its privacy standards.

Unlike most email services, Protonmail doesnt require any personal info to set up your account. If anyone were hypothetically able to compromise your info, they wouldnt be able to glean any personal information other than what youre sending in messages.

Theres a limited free version and a more robust paid version, and you can use the service for your websites domain.


Signalis an independent non-profit that aims to create a totally secure, encrypted cross-platform messaging app. Its got state-of-the-art end-to-end encryption. Signal promises no ads and no trackers, ever.

Add that on top of its price, free, and you can start to see why Signal is the go-to messaging app for the privacy-minded. You can get Signal on everything from Windows to macOS to Linux as well asiOSandAndroid.

YouTube is another tool Google uses to build a digital ad profile for its users. As good as it would be to move to an alternative, none of the most popular options really match the quality of what YouTube has to offer.

Thats why these alternatives either work hand-in-hand with YouTube itself or have features that provide something YouTube does not.


Designed for faster load times and less impact on your browser, you can useHooktubeto search and browse videos just like you would on YouTube itself without ever visiting the Google-owned site.

You can watch YouTube links that other people send you by simply changing youtube.com in the URL to hooktube.com.

Wed recommend visiting the site this way most of the time. Hooktubes Avoid the Trending videos section it can sometimes promote questionable content like conspiracy theories and fake news because content selection is based on shares rather than curation.


Vimeois a longtime competitor to YouTube, and despite never surpassing it, it still holds its own. It boasts 280 million viewers per month, along with a much lighter server load that makes uploading videos easier. If you have long-form videos or self-made movies you want to share, its a perfect place to host them.

Vimeo allows for higher-quality videos than YouTube does, too. Independent filmmakers even use the platform to host movies for online distribution.

Google Mapsis so big that many third-party mapping apps actually pull map data from it. That said, if youre using an alternative that doesnt share your data with Google, they arent going to see your movement and activity.

What you use instead depends on which operating system you use.

Apple Maps

When Apple and Google Maps split up, it was a major controversy.Apple Mapscomes standard on every iOS device and it now has more robust features than ever.

Apple Maps emphasizes user privacy by not tracking your searches beyond your device.DuckDuckGo actually utilizes Apple Maps for its own mapping program. Youll have access to Apple Maps by default if youre using an iPhone or Mac, but Android and PC users can access Apple Maps via DuckDuckGo.


A lightweight and powerful mapping client,HERE WeGousers give it high marks for its commitment to privacy and speed.

This application offers versions for nearly every platform, including iOS, Android, PC and Mac. HERE WeGo loads directions and maps a bit quicker than Googles option but wont run quite as fast as Apple Maps on Mac systems.

Google may dominate the web, but its far from your only option. You can switch to some of these alternatives and rest easy, knowing all your internet and privacy needs are covered.

Need a hand with a pesky printer, slow internet or online business? Post your tech questions for concrete answers you can trust from me and other tech pros. Visit my Q&A Forum and get tech help now.

Learn about all the latest technology on theKim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website atKomando.com.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/columnist/komando/2021/06/11/online-privacy-stop-big-tech-getting-too-much-information-google-alternatives/7609442002/

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Fed up with Big Tech? Find out how to get your privacy back, explore alternatives to Google - USA TODAY

Top senator fears Big Tech at home as Alexa, Nest dominate – Reuters

WASHINGTON, June 15 (Reuters) - The U.S. Congress takes up the issue on Tuesday of yet another area where big tech firms -- in this case, Amazon.com (AMZN.O) and Alphabets (GOOGL.O) Google -- dominate, this time in smart home devices where they battle smaller companies like speaker maker Sonos Inc (SONO.O).

The hearing takes place at a time of extraordinary interest in tougher antitrust enforcement, much of it focused on the biggest U.S. technology companies. One result has been a series of investigations and several federal and state lawsuits filed against Google and Facebook as well as a long list of antitrust bills.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, who chairs the antitrust subcommittee, is hoping to act before the existing tech giants, in this case Amazon and Google, establish themselves as unassailable.

In the smart speaker market, she cited data that showed that Amazon was at 53 percent market share while Google was at 31 percent.

"This is an area where we can look forward and see around the corner and not just respond years later," she said, noting that people are buying everything from smart speakers to smart door locks and more. "We know that this is a growing market."

Smart home technology can be smart speakers like Amazon's Echo or Google's Nest, security systems or televisions.

Witnesses will include Ryan McCrate, Amazon's associate general counsel, and Google Senior Public Policy Director Wilson White, along with Sonos Chief Legal Officer Eddie Lazarus.

Last year, Sonos CEO Patrick Spence told a congressional committee that Google and Amazon used their dominance of search and online retail, respectively, to subsidize the smart speaker market and, potentially, dominate the market for other smart home devices.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Nick Zieminski

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


Top senator fears Big Tech at home as Alexa, Nest dominate - Reuters

What Data About You Can the Government Get From Big Tech? – The New York Times

Law enforcement authorities can also use warrants in other ways. Police have issued warrants to Google for any devices that were near where a crime was committed.

The companies say they sometimes work with law enforcement officials to narrow their requests so the companies turn over only information that is relevant to a case.

Apple said that in the first half of 2020, the latest period available, it received more than 5,850 requests from U.S. authorities for data related to 18,600 accounts. It turned over basic data in 43 percent of those requests and actual content data, such as emails or photos, in 44 percent of requests.

Microsoft said that it received 5,500 requests from U.S. law enforcement over the same period, covering 17,700 accounts, and that it turned over basic data to 54 percent of requests and content to 15 percent of requests.

Google said that it received 39,500 requests in the United States over that period, covering nearly 84,700 accounts, and that it turned over some data in 83 percent of the cases. Google did not break down the percentage of requests in which it turned over basic data versus content, but it said that 39 percent of the requests were subpoenas while half were search warrants.

Facebook said that it received 61,500 requests in the United States over the period, covering 106,100 accounts, and that it turned over some data to 88 percent of the requests. The company said it received 38,850 warrants and complied with 89 percent of them over the period, and 10,250 subpoenas and complied with 85 percent.

In these cases, U.S. authorities include any federal, state or local law enforcement office.

Yes. The companies say they sometimes push back on subpoenas, court orders and warrants if they believe the officials lack appropriate legal authority or if the requests are too broad.

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What Data About You Can the Government Get From Big Tech? - The New York Times

Experts Disagree Over Effectiveness of Amy Klobuchar’s Antitrust Bill – BroadbandBreakfast.com

June 15, 2021 Legal experts and policy makers were split in opinion over an expansive antitrust bill introduced in February by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, at an online seminar hosted by the Federal Communications Bar Association.

Klobuchars proposed bill would modify the laws regulating mergers and acquisitions to block certain anticompetitive conduct by larger firms, shift the burden of proof from investigators to the businesses themselves to prove anticompetitive practices have not been undertaken, and authorizes an increase in funding for federal antitrust enforcement.

Some of the panelists called Klobuchars bill an all out mistake. Others endorsed it, while also arguing that antitrust legislation would not be the only tool necessary to check Big Techs power.

Charlotte Slaiman, the competition policy director at Public Knowledge, believes that the danger of Big Tech is not just in the power they can accumulate through unregulated business practices, but in the power tech firms hold by virtue of the industrys ability. She endorses Klobuchars bill, but believes that antitrust legislation is not the only tool that should be employed to reign in Big Techs power.

Bilal Sayyed, director of the Office of Policy Planning at the Federal Trade Commission under the Trump Administration, says that Klobuchars bill targets specific companies, and primarily takes issue merely at the companies size, without focusing on the harmful practices they may or may not be employing.

Slaiman says consumers usually help keep business practices in check because businesses are dependent on keeping their consumers happy in order to attract their business. She says that technology firms are similar in this way at their genesis, but this changes as the firms become more powerful. Eventually, the customers need you [the tech firm] more than you need the customers, she says. The calculus completely changes.

She said she believes the unique relationship of firms to customers in the big technology industry allows firms to employ practices that harm consumers, but in ways that antitrust laws wont necessarily address.

In an interview with Harvard Kennedy School, Jason Furman, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under the Obama administration, said pro-competition regulation is not, however, the way to solve all of the social problems of Big Tech, of which the biggest is the contribution many believe they are making to spreading fake news and reinforcing politization. Additional approaches are needed to address those issues.

Slaiman said, Were really concerned about the power itself. These companies should not be this powerful. And so its not just about relying on antitrust to address our problem. We need additional laws and rules on top of antitrust for Bit Tech.

Adam Kovacevich, founder and CEO of the Chamber of Progress, notes that while many take issue with the size of Big Tech, a companys size is not enough to file antitrust complaints against them. He says that there can also be virtues associated with Big Techs size.

Theres also an argument that their bigness allows them to do things that are pro-social, that are beneficial to consumers, he says. What you see is that everyone can agreeI have anxiety about their bignessbut I think theres not as much agreement as to whether theyre using their bigness to disadvantage people.

Kovacevich says that while many people are concerned with the size of Amazon, many people relied on it as a lifeline for their groceries and other essential living utilities during the pandemic.

Kovacevich counters the argument that the massive quantity of data Big Tech has collected makes them a monopoly power by saying that innovation on the side of smaller firms would lead a collection of higher quality data, which would allow them to compete with Big Tech in new ways.

On Friday, a package of five new bills were introduced in Congress that aim to limit the power of Big Tech. The bills come as a response to the completion of a 16-month long investigation by the Antitrust Subcommittee completed last year, which scrutinized the business practices of Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook, which led to a report that accused the tech giants of harming consumer welfare and employing anti-competitive practices.

In October, the Department of Justice sued Google over anticompetitive practices used to preserve their alleged monopoly power, and in December, the Federal Trade Commission sued Facebook for similar reasons.

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Experts Disagree Over Effectiveness of Amy Klobuchar's Antitrust Bill - BroadbandBreakfast.com

Some Big Tech companies may ‘do better if they’re not connected at the hip,’ says $9.5 billion fund manager – MarketWatch

Change can be hard to embrace, particularly when it means breaking with traditions formed over decades.

But technologies adopted by corporations, governments and households out of necessity during the pandemic likely wont be tossed on the scrap heap when the threat of COVID-19 fades.

So says Jonathan Curtis, portfolio manager at Franklin Equity Group, who thinks spending on technologies that help corporations boost productivity and businesses reach more customers have more room to rise.

The world remains in the early days of tech infusing itself in every industry, much deeper, said Curtis, who co-manages the roughly $9.5 billion Franklin Technology Fund, in an interview with MarketWatch. Experimentation during the crisis is going to stick, because it drives massive productivity gains.

High-flying technology stocks soared to dizzying heights last year as investors and regular people all clearly realized the growing role of technology in our lives, Curtis said. But a look under the covers also shows several categories of tech that struggled from an downturn in spending.

He pointed to a pullback in back-office software spending as companies looked to cut costs and in the cyclical semiconductor sector, but also initially across payment networks as fewer people ventured out to swipe their cards at restaurants, shops and on entertainment in the early months of the pandemic.

Global payments revenues fell an estimated 22% in the first six months of last year compared with the same stretch in 2019, according to a McKinsey report.

And after combing through a year of pandemic corporate results, Curtis sees evidence of ramped-up spending in areas that lagged at first, but can help companies better digitally engage with staff, clients and customers.

Spending also needs to increase on cybersecurity and backup data services to help businesses manage the attack-of-the-day problem, he said, which currently centers around ransomware attacks. That really highlights, with this digitalization, there is clearly a flip side.

Read: Ransomware boom comes from gangs that operate like cloud-software unicorns a truly incredible business model

Some Wall Street analysts worry that antitrust intervention may pose the biggest risk to the S&P 500s five largest stocks, namely Apple Inc. AAPL, -0.64%, Facebook Inc. FB, -0.01%, Amazon.com Inc. AMZN, -0.02%, Microsoft Corp. MSFT, -0.59% and Google parent Alphabet Inc. GOOGL, -0.84% GOOG, -0.25%.

Curtis isnt convinced, even though the U.S. has gone from being more light-touch in its initial regulatory approach than China and Europe to being more concerned about how best to manage far-reaching technology giants, he said.

House lawmakers were expected to soon propose legislation that could require Amazon.com and other tech giants to effectively split into two companies or shed their private-label products, the Wall Street Journalreported Friday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Shares of big tech companies were mixed Friday. The S&P 500 index SPX, -0.20% was flat, but the information technology component was up 0.3%, while the Dow DJIA, -0.27% was modestly lower and the Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, -0.71% was slightly higher.

If Big Techs wings get clipped he said, the worst case might be a company like Amazon getting broken up into two companies. But then, Curtis said he would end up owning a cloud-computing giant and an e-commerce behemoth.

In some cases, there may be companies that do better if theyre not connected at the hip, he said.

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Some Big Tech companies may 'do better if they're not connected at the hip,' says $9.5 billion fund manager - MarketWatch

The S&P 500 now is top-heavy in 5 big tech stocks but that alone won’t end this bull market – MarketWatch

A top-heavy market may not be a warning sign, after all. Im referring to the outsized share of the U.S. market reflected in a handful of megacap stocks. The combined market valuation of just five stocks Apple AAPL, -0.64%, Microsoft MSFT, -0.59%, Amazon.com AMZN, -0.02%, Alphabet (Google) GOOGL, -0.84% and Facebook FB, -0.01% currently represent more than 20% of the total of all companies in the S&P 500 index SPX, -0.20%.

Many believe that such a lopsided market isnt healthy. They point out that, prior to the past couple of years, the peak of internet bubble held the record for when the five largest companies commanded the greatest share of the S&P 500s market cap. That was when their share hit 17%, according to data from Morgan Stanley Research.

Any parallel to the top of the internet bubble is certainly alarming. But what is overlooked when drawing this parallel is that the world has changed in fundamental ways over the past two decades. What previously was a danger sign may now be the new normal.

Thats because the markets are evolving along with whats known as a winner take all economy. Im referring to a prediction made in 2005 in the Journal of Economics & Management Strategy by Thomas Noe of Oxford University and Geoffrey Parker of Dartmouth College. The researchers predicted that, because of so-called network effects in an internet-based economy, industries will become increasingly dominated by their largest companies.

Their prediction has been remarkably prescient. As I pointed out in a late April column, the percentage of total corporate profits coming from the 100 biggest earners has skyrocketed over the past three decades. In 1975, the profit share of the top 100 was 48.5%, and in 1995 was 52.8%. But by 2015 it had jumped to 84.2%. (These percentages come from research conducted by Kathleen Kahle of the University of Arizona and Rene Stulz of Ohio State University.)

With the recent earnings season now behind us, I decided to see what the comparable percentage was in 2020. It was higher still, at 91.8% as you can see from the chart below. One third of the S&P 1500 companies lost money. The rest more or less were competing for the crumbs falling off the table from the profit feast of the top 100 companies.

In light of this, the lopsided U.S. market appears to be far less concrning. In fact, given how much the biggest companies are earning relative to the rest of the market, they deserve to have outsized market caps. According to FactSet data, for example, the five largest U.S. stocks as of June 7 represented 21.5% of the total market cap of the S&P 500, and their latest fiscal years net income represents 22.6% of the total net income of all 500 companies in that index.

Relative to earnings, in other words, the top five companies are slightly cheaper than the other 400 companies in the S&P 500. This is far different than the situation that prevailed at the top of the internet bubble, when some of the stocks with the biggest market caps were producing paltry earnings.

Dartmouths Parker said in an interview that its not particularly surprising that profits and market caps are currently correlated. It would be more surprising if they were not, as was the case at the top of the internet bubble. Absent such a disconnect, he said, the concentration of market cap in the largest companies is not a signal of a top-heavy market.

This doesnt mean that the stock market isnt vulnerable to a big decline, Parker added. The point instead is that, if indeed the market does decline, it will be for other reasons than the concentration of market cap among the largest companies.

Mark Hulbert is a regular contributor to MarketWatch. His Hulbert Ratings tracks investment newsletters that pay a flat fee to be audited. He can be reached at mark@hulbertratings.com

More: Dont get too optimistic about a stock market rally theyve been fizzling out

Also read: Never short a dull market? What stock traders need to know about a popular adage

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The S&P 500 now is top-heavy in 5 big tech stocks but that alone won't end this bull market - MarketWatch

Opinion | Meet Big Techs Tormenter in Chief – The New York Times


When you walk in a room, do you have sway?

Im Kara Swisher and youre listening to Sway. Theres one name that gets all the tech bros shaking in their Allbirds no, not Kara Swisher, but thanks for thinking of me. Im talking about Margrethe Vestager, the European Unions top antitrust enforcer. Shes a regulator with a knack for hitting tech giants where it hurts, their profits. In 2019, she slapped Apple

The European Commission ruled today that Ireland must collect $14 and 1/2 billion in back taxes from Apple.

And then, a year later

Facebook has been fined 110 million euros by European regulators.

And in the last few years, shes gone after Amazon.

The company faces a possible fine of up to 10% of its annual worldwide revenue.

And her work is far from over. Her office is proposing new legislation that could force big tech to change the way it operates, legislation that could come into force next year. So where is Silicon Valleys, quote, tormentor in chief going next? Margrethe Vestager, welcome to Sway.

How are you doing?

Great, really good.


Youve had a lot of big political wins over your many years as commissioner. And you and I have talked about them for a long time, and the fines against Apple and Google got a lot of attention. But lets start with a recent loss. The European Commission ordered Amazon to pay $303 million in back taxes to Luxembourg, but Amazon won the appeal last month. Did the court get it wrong, or is there some issue with the way you charged them?

Well, as we speak, its actually difficult to say. We think it may be some of the same reasons as to why we lost the Apple case. So right now, were analyzing it to see if we have good grounds to appeal. So far, it seems that some of the same issues as in the Apple judgment that we appealed to the general court of justice.

All right, let me explain. The European Union court sided with Apple last year in a fight over a $15 billion Irish tax bill. These are different cases. Why do you think the courts are ruling against you in these cases? Has it made you reevaluate your approach, particularly on the issue of taxes?

Well, two things. First thing is that it was always obvious that for real tax justice you need a change of legislation. You need not only European but also different global approach. And fingers crossed, it may actually come now, almost literally as we speak. And the second thing is that in every case, both the cases that we have won with Engie and Fiat, and the cases we have lost, Apple and Amazon, the court says you are fine to use your instruments. You are absolutely welcome to say, well, no state aid also come in the form of a tax credit. And also, member states, while theyre in their good right to design their own tax legislation, they must at the same time fulfill European laws. So as a matter of principle, the court has said you go ahead. But in these specific cases, you have laws, we disagree with you on some of the issues. And this is why we have been appealing.

Now, you said this you just said this may change right now. I think youre referring to the big news of the win scored on the idea of a global corporate tax. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, she scored a big win by getting the G7 nations to agree to a 15% global tax rate minimum, but the deal is nonbinding right now. Is this just political theater? Do you really think its going to have an impact on companies trying to relocate to tax havens?

Well, first and foremost, progress are way too slow for sort of my line of temper. But it is progress, and the fact that G7 agrees may pave the way for G20 to agree, may pave the way for an OECD agreement. But everything is in the implementation. If tax authorities are given the right resources and member states actually changing their legislation, then wed see real change on ground, because part of the work that we have been doing is realizing that complexity is part of what helps some businesses not to pay taxes as any other business. Because the first thing you feel once you open such a tax case is let me just close it again, because its crazy complex. And tax authorities, they need to have the resources to go into this in full, because otherwise it will not be possible to get the right taxation.

Do you think you were too aggressive in attacking Apple, because this was seen as a huge win, and then it didnt hold up. Do you think thats been damaging to authorities like yours that are trying to call attention to this, for one, and the second thing, to try to actually get companies not to do sweetheart tax deals, which is essentially what this is?

Of course, Ive been wondering that myself quite a lot. I think you have to do that when you lose a case in court. But I think the case in itself have given attention to the issue at hand. It has also given attention to the fact that you need to change legislation in order to get better results. And last but not least, we dont know what the European Court of Justice will say once they rule over our appeal.

Did you think about re-figuring your strategy, because taxes were an important part of, and its one of your main tools that youve been using here.

Well, its one of many tools. And the question of taxes is a very specific question, because there are so many other things that you should not do in the marketplace either to make it difficult for your competitors to compete against you. And I think its important to use every tool in the toolbox to make sure that we have fair competition, because if we do not have fair competition, we lose the most important drivers for innovation, for renewal in the marketplace, and obviously for affordable products for customers.

Yeah. Do you feel like when youre pushing on these deals, if you lose this a ability to attack them on taxes, that youll lose an important tool?

No, we will continue to do the casework that we do. State aid can come in many forms, but it can also come in the form of a tax benefit. So we can continue using our tools. I would, of course, prefer that it was not the case, and that I would on behalf of the huge majority of businesses who pay their taxes. Because I think that is one thing that should not be forgotten in the discussion about corporate taxation the majority of companies, they work very hard to make a profit. From that profit, they pay their taxes.

And how do you characterize these companies doing this? What do you say to them when they take advantage of laws that are just written to help them?

Well, I would not do the soul searching of the motives. I think there are lines where things may develop from tax planning into aggressive tax planning into tax avoidance. In a busy life, I dont think it makes much sense to try to search other peoples souls. I think my own is complicated enough.

OK, all right, low tax countries like Ireland arent happy about this. What are the chances of a global tax system actually succeeding?

I think the chances of success is probably better now than what they have been for a very, very long time, because of the fact that the Biden administration had a completely different approach to this compared to the previous administration. That was a key to unlock the situation. And the European members, they have been pretty much together in the discussions before. And that position, of course, is maintained. So the fact that the U.S. is changing you saw at the G7 how that changed the approach. So if it can happen, I think its more or less now. The momentum is there.

The momentum is there to do that. Will global taxation make global regulation easier?

Well, the tricky thing is, of course, that we do not have a global taxman. We have all these many, many jurisdictions. And same goes for competition law enforcement. We have global companies, but we do not have a global jurisdiction. And only now is there an alignment of minds, and that may allow us to see the same sorts of legislation passed in multiple jurisdictions, so that you get a regulation that has the same direction, even though you dont have a global authority.

Would you like there to be a global authority on regulation on issues like this, given that these are global companies?

From a pragmatic point of view, it would take so long for that to be effective. And you need competition law enforcement now, because it is as we speak that businesses are being closed out of the marketplace because of the behavior of other businesses.

Right, absolutely. So when this happened, you were saying you dont soul search other people. Did you soul search yourself and say, oh, its like pushing a rock up a hill and then down it goes again.

Yes. And unfortunately, I think the soul search is deeper when you lose than when you win, because on the same day as we lost the Amazon case, we won the Engie case. And I havent had a single question about that. But one of the things that Im still really motivated by is the fact that fair competition is one of the most important drivers also out of this crisis that were in right now, because it drives you to be innovative. It drives you to treat your consumers better. And taxes, they are part of this. And businesses, they should contribute to the society where they do their business.

Well, that would be nice. All right, but taxation is one way youre getting them to pay. I want to talk to you about how youre regulating. Lets start with antitrust. We can start with your latest antitrust case. Just last week, the European Commission announced a formal antitrust inquiry into Facebook, taking aim at its Facebook Marketplace service, which is sort of like an eBay. Explain why this case matters.

The Facebook case, we do that actually in a very close coordination with the U.K. competition authorities. It is a specific case on part of the Facebook advertising, but its a data case, so its about the use of data for these advertising purposes. Why it matters is that if we as consumers do not get competition in advertising, eventually the ads we get, they will be poor in quality. And we may not get the offers that we really want to see. And the advertising market used to be a market with quite a lot of competition, where you could place your ads with different ad providers, and if all of a sudden its not possible for those who place ads actually to do this because of the use of data on the platform, well then, eventually, we as customers, we would be losing out.

So I want to also know whats going on with the Spotify case. Youve accused Apples App Store of antitrust violations, basically alleging the App Store gives preferential treatment to Apples music streaming service. If Apple loses, it could face a fine of up to 10% of its annual turnover. Fines make good headlines, but are fines the right remedy when its really needed is to change bad behaviors? Talk a little bit about this case.

Yeah, the Apple music streaming case is about the way Apple treats competitors to their own products. Here, you have Apple Music. Then you have Spotify, Deezer, SoundCloud those will be familiar European names, at least. And here, if you want to subscribe, you will have to pay a 30% commission fee. And also, if for instance, youre then Spotify, you cannot tell your subscribers that you can get it without the commission fee if you sign up via the Spotify website. And that lack of communication that is simply forbidden of course makes it really difficult, because if you sign up for Apple music, youre not paying the commission fee. So even though you could avoid the commission fee signing up via the website, youre not being told that this is possible. And that squeezes, of course, the margins for the other music streaming providers, and it makes the competition unfair. For most things, if you subscribe to it, and you stop subscribing, they would come back and, say, why were you not happy, is there something we can do for you. Not even that can you do. And that, of course, makes it very difficult.

What are your chances of succeeding here?

Well, I think its really important, because what we see is also that in Europe, Apple would hold like 30% of the marketplace. But the thing is that once you have an iPhone, they hold a de facto monopoly of you getting apps on your phone. And of course, its really important, because its a case about what should be the acceptable de facto monopoly behavior in these markets. And the second thing is that, hopefully, it can also pave the way for a proposal we have tabled that if you are in such a position as Apple are, they should allow for another app store on their phone. If Im not happy in the supermarket with the prices or the choices, I just go to the next one. This, we have accepted not to be the case in app stores for a really, really long time.

What do you make of their argument that theyre providing safety, security, theyre vetting apps and things like that.

Of course, thats a really important argument, because we want things to be safe. We want them to be tested. But we dont want safety and testing to be something that you can use to make life difficult for your competitors. And in the Apple Music streaming case, well, you see very different conditions depending on what kind of apps youre dealing with. So I think its an important argument, but neither safety and security nor privacy should be used as a dike against competitors.

So what do you think of the current Apple Epic case here in the US? Thats another case that goes after Apple on antitrust concerning the App Store. Are you talking with their lawyers? Or do you just hope that theres all kinds of lines of attack on the same issue?

No, we follow, for instance, the hearings on the Epics case very close, because there are a lot of similarities. And I think part of the Epics complaint could be solved by allowing a second App Store, because then they are looking for some specificities in how they engage with their customers.

So when youre looking at cases like this, when youre saying a second App Store, Apple could say, look, why should we let another company take advantage of our platform that we built and let them run wild on it? That would be their argument. We believe in privacy. How do we know theyre going to be private? How do we know theyre going to be safe? We paid all this money to create this thing and are taking economic advantage from that

But its its fair enough. But on the App Store, as you see it by now, well, here you see the different treatment of different apps. Some apps you dont pay for, theres no commission fee. Other apps you pay for, theres a very high commission fee that Apple do not pay themselves for where they compete against. And I think every one of us, we would expect if we were to place another app store on our phone, that the people responsible for that app store, well, they would, of course, deliver us a safe place to do our business. But there is a thing when you are in a dominant position, as you are when you provide an operating system, and you put your own products in that rein of that operating system. And that, of course, is what is at stake here, because if we do not have a marketplace that gives room for that kind of innovation, well, then were kind of stuck in the situation that were in right now.

Is there any other solution besides the second app store? Could you regulate them, or regulate the commission fees? Or is there any other way to deal with this and not have a second app store or you think thats the only way?

Now, I think a second app store, that is in the future. That will take time, because its in a legislative proposal that we have tabled in front of the European Parliament. But I would hope that we could conclude this case in good time. And then wed see how to remedy this. Depends, of course, very much on the Apple answer to our concerns. Some of the music streaming services, the smaller ones, theyre not doing too good. And no one can judge what would actually be the market performance of those who are still doing quite well. We have seen in other cases how damaging it can be if things takes a lot of time then the market moves on. So obviously, we never compromise on the quality of our case work and on due process, but we need speed, because a digital marketplace and a digital world is a world where things are moving fast.

One of the themes youve had here is how long it takes and how much power and really teeth you have to actually enforce these laws. Tech moves fast, regulators and courts move slowly. The European Commission slapped Intel with a $1.45 billion fine back in 2009. Intel appealed and then lost. Then in 2017, the European Court of Justice ordered a new trial. They still havent paid the fine. In the meantime, tech companies can keep up with their behaviors. How do you get it to work faster? Because it feels like a giant game of whack-a-mole with what youre doing.

Yeah, this is exactly why we call in the cavalry. This is why we table proposed regulation. And one of the things that takes quite a lot of time in our work is to prove that a company is dominant. Only if youre dominant, you have these responsibilities. And what we have tabled now as proposed legislation is to say, well, if you buy these objective criteria, qualitative and quantitative, will be designated as a gatekeeper, then from the very first day these are the things that you cannot do. These are the things that you have to do. Have to do could be make room for a second app store. Have to do could be share data. Cannot do could be that you cannot lean into a neighboring market in order to promote yourself if you cannot compete on the merits.

All right, so you have a reputation of being tough, but not everybody agrees. The finance and economic ministers from Germany, France, and the Netherlands recently said the EU isnt doing enough to crack down on a flurry of mergers and acquisitions. Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Apple acquired over 800 companies in the last 30 years. Are you doing enough to crack down on mergers, which also gives them a huge advantage given they can come in and scoop up these companies, not just control the platforms, but control innovation going forward.

We just intensified our work with the national competition authorities of the European Union in order to see are you actually buying your future competitor. Because we have seen that in a very innovative start up scene in Europe, we have a lot of acquisitions from big tech. And that, of course, is of our interests to see why this is happening.

So have you made enough aggressive moves here to crack down on them?

Well, I dont think just as well as panic is never a good response to anything, I dont think aggression is the point here either. But I think to be really targeted in the work we do, both regulation wise to pass regulation that regulate what you can do and what you cannot do if you are a gatekeeper and at the same time vigilantly enforcing our competition rules so that we make sure that you cannot just destroy future competition, that you cannot lean on a neighboring market to your own benefit. And we do need both.

But just as with taxes, they dont have to do it. Theyre not going to do it. This is part of their imperative to be bigger businesses. Its your imperative to slow them down, but its not their imperative to be smaller.

No, our point is not to say that they should be smaller. Our point is to say that when in the marketplace, they should take the responsibility that comes with the kind of power you have when you are this size.

So the big argument tech is making is that regulation stifles their ability to innovate. They point out how few multibillion dollar and trillion companies are coming out of Europe in recent decades versus the US, where regulations are lighter. How do you respond to that argument?

Well, the only thing that regulation and competition law enforcement stifles is innovative attempts to break that regulation and antitrust law enforcement, because I think that, indeed, its about time that democracy catches up and get a bit ahead of technology, because its not by our publicly elected representatives that our society is being shaped. It is by corporate business. But it is 100% legitimate for our elected representatives to say, this is the framework within which youll have to go compete. And yes, that puts a brake on something, but then its democratically decided. And I think that is perfectly fine. [MUSIC PLAYING]

Well be back in a minute. If you like this interview and want to hear others, follow us on your favorite podcast app. Youll be able to catch up on Sway episodes you may have missed, like my conversation with Senator Amy Klobuchar. And youll get new ones delivered directly to you. More with Margrethe Vestager after the break. [MUSIC PLAYING]

So lets move on to privacy. Back in 2018, the commission got a lot of praise for enacting the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. It was aimed at stopping companies from exploiting EU citizens personal data. Three years later, one of the only big tech companies that got fined was Google, which was fined about 50 million, which is like pocket change to them. How are you thinking about GDPR three years hence.

Im a bit disappointed in the marketplace, that it has taken so long to have a market response let these new services help you enforce your rights when it comes to privacy. That has been really slow. And obviously, authorities in member states, theyre still working together to find the right level of enforcement when it comes to privacy, because privacy regulation and the citizens rights here, they are not just for bigger companies. Theyre for all companies. So we still have work to do in order to get the enforcement right and for people to feel that they have the power of their data.

So the European Commission is proposing whats coming up next, the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act. Explain to me whats in these acts and why the commission wants to update the rule books to reign in. Explain exactly whats in them.

Well, the regulation Ive been talking about is the Digital Markets Act. Its the one that will harness what we call gatekeepers. Second, Digital Services Act, will basically make sure that what you get offline is also what you get online, for instance, that products are safe, and that platforms, they know the merchants doing business via that platform so well that they knew that these merchants will actually live up to that kind of responsibility. For instance, as an importer, that you can complain about your products, that the products are safe. And the second thing is about the services. If your post, if your profile is taken down, that there is somewhere where you can go complain about it in order to sort of maintain freedom of expression while at the same time being much stricter on the obligations to take down what is considered illegal in a member state. That could be incitement to violence, child abuse, bomb recipes, that sort of things.

So the Digital Service Act is more about content moderation. The Europeans have a different view on that than the Americans. How far should governments go to spelling exactly what amounts to acceptable and unacceptable speech? In the United States, its impossible because of the First Amendment. Facebook has a First Amendment right, for example. How do you balance free expression with the open internet?

So also here is a balancing act, because obviously freedom of expression is of the essence. But its really needed that we get more aggressive on all the illegal content out there. Our proposal does not say anything about what you say. It says something about how should you process that what is illegal is taken down, but what may be hurting or harmful or somewhat damaging, but which is not illegal, can actually stay up. And that, of course, is a really tricky thing to do. And this is why we are suggesting a more, I think for the platform, cumbersome procedure, that if something is taken down and people complain about it, that they have somewhere to go complain about it and they have a fair chance of getting their post back up again if what they have said is actually not illegal, even though it may be harmful to someone or hurting to someone, but not illegal.

Well, should that be the government doing that, or should it be the private companies.

It should be an independent body to assess this, so that things can be aligned.

All right, so thats a very difficult process, given the amount of data that comes across these companies all the time. Now, should private companies be held liable for actions like January 6th, for example?

Well, were very careful when it comes to liability. And to a very large degree, we sort of maintain the basics here, that you are a platform, and as such, youre not liable as to what happens there if it is obvious who is the sender. If people would make the obvious mistake that its actually you, a platform, who is responsible for this, then you may fall into a different category, but were still working on the question of liability. And we will come back to that later this year.

Do you think they should that companies like Facebook and others should be liable for January 6?

I think this is really tricky. What we think is that you should lift your responsibility away before it gets to that, because that kind of incitement to violence would be illegal, I think, in every EU member state.

So Facebook just announced last week its banning Trump for two years and it had to do with January 6. What do you make of the decision?

Well, I kind of understand the decision and why they felt the need to do something. What we would want is that that is not just a decision that they unilaterally take, but that you have a system so that you can actually discuss that and you also have some rights. That, of course, should be held up against the terms and conditions that you have signed up to.

But they tried to do that. They tried to give it over to their oversight board. What did you make of the board that theyve created that is allegedly independent, and this is what its supposed to do it shoved the decision back to Facebook, saying youve got to make laws about someone like Trump.

Well, I think its important that these processes, they are bound in legislation, so that people know what are their rights. If its a body set up by a private company within sort of the rein of that private company, of course, its a different thing then something that is guarded in legislation.

And do you imagine that would be workable in any sense?

Well, youre completely right to say that this is troublesome. And it will take a lot of resources. But the problem is that the alternative can be really undermining freedom of expression. But youre right to say that, obviously, this is so much more troublesome than just sort of a blanket, say, you take down what you think is illegal and well leave it at that.

Do you agree with their decision to remove President Trump from the platform?

That I have not thought about.

Come on. Really?

No, because Im not myself an active Facebook user. And I dont know what would be the ups and downs. I dont know what they have been considering. I dont know what are the details.

How do you look at his behavior online?

Well, I myself was surprised that one could express oneself as the former president did without any consequences until the very last minutes, so to speak, when you look at the terms and conditions that everyone signs up for.

I see. I think thats a yes. By the way, Donald Trump called you Europes tax lady. He also accused you of hating America. Trump told Fox Business, She hates the United States, perhaps worse than any person Ive ever met. Do you recall that?

Yes, I recall it. And it was really strange, because Ive never met President Trump.

Yeah. Well, anyway, President Biden is traveling to Brussels this month. How much of digital and tech is going to be on the agenda if you meet with him? And what would you like from the Biden administration?

First and foremost, I think its really, really good what the Biden administration is doing on taxation. The fact that there is now a G7 agreement may pave the way for a real global agreement when it comes to taxation. So obviously, I would encourage continuation of this line. But also, it will be really interesting were trying to create what we call a trade and technology council in order to have such a high level format to discuss everything from AI to standard setting. And hopefully, from that starting point, creating maybe a larger coalition of democracies to deal with some of these issues, because your take on technology also becomes your take on democracy.

I have to ask about your political future. You were once going to try to be the President of the European Commission. Are you still eyeing that post?

I have three and a half years left of this mandate, so I have not considered that for a second. When I didnt make it the last time, I spent between 15 and 20 seconds considering if I should be bitter and contesting for the next five years. And I figured out that that would be pretty harmful for me, but the rest of the world probably wouldnt care. So I took the choice to engage fully in my job and I really enjoy it. And I admire and respect the president that we have.

If the global tax authority or global regulatory authority emerges, would you want that job, to be the global tax cop?

Well, yes, if I can make it to 150, because I think thats the kind of age it would take to get to a global tax authority.

Just so you know, Jeff Bezos just announced hes going to space, so maybe global tax policy wont work for him if hes not literally on the globe. But perhaps you can extend it to Mars.

Well, first things first, now were working on space traffic management. I think its a good thing to get started. And that should be global as well.

OK, all right. I think thats perfect. [MUSIC PLAYING]

Sway is a production of New York Times Opinion. Its produced by Nayeema Raza, Blakeney Schick, Heba Elorbany, Matt Kwong, and Daphne Chen. Edited by Nayeema Raza and Paula Szuchman, with original music by Isaac Jones, mixing by Eric Gomez, and fact checking by Kate Sinclair. Special thanks to Shannon Busta, Kristen Lin, and Liriel Higa. If youre on a podcast app already, you know how to get your podcasts, so follow this one. If youre listening on The Times website and want to get each new episode of Sway delivered to you by a tax lady who loves Americans, download any podcast app and search for Sway and follow the show. We release every Monday and Thursday. Thanks for listening.

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Opinion | Meet Big Techs Tormenter in Chief - The New York Times

Marc Lore, Gary Vee, early in some big tech winners, share a new investment – CNBC

Marc Lore, left, and Gary Vaynerchuk

Scott Mlyn | CNBC; Prince Williams | Getty Images

The pandemic forced more companies to migrate sales online and data analysis to the cloud, where they can tap computing resources without having to worry about managing infrastructure in their own data centers. The accelerated adoption of cloud services has attracted interest from investors who want to get in early on tech trends they expect will continue to grow in significance in a post-pandemic, increasingly digital, world.

Marc Lore and Gary Vaynerchuk are among the investors in a $10 million round of seed funding for data processing platform Tracer, which focuses on optimizing advertising and marketing spend for corporations, and was incubated and used as an in-house product for Vaynerchuk's media company VaynerMedia.

Vaynerchuk is known for his early bets on companies likeTwitter,Uber,Snap and Coinbase. Equally significant is the backing of serial entrepreneur Lore, who sold his online delivery start-up Jet.com to Walmart in 2016 for $3.3 billion. Lore had previously sold another start-up that he founded, Quidsi, the parent of Diapers.com, to Amazon for about $550 million.

Lore, who joined Walmart for several years after the big-box retailer acquired Jet.com, was seen by experts as a key part of the deal: a way for Walmart to bring the digitally savvy entrepreneur and his team in-house as it tried to turbocharge its online retail business to catch up to rivalAmazon.

"Iinvested in Tracer becauseI know firsthand the power of data to drive business results," Lore told CNBC via email. "As more companies are challenged with how to manage datacomingfrom multiple platforms having a single source of truth to make better decisions will matter especially coming out of Covid."

Throughout the pandemic, competition has ramped up in the cloud database and analytics market, as well as adtech more broadly. Tracer is among those competitors, a marketing data aggregation and reporting platform that has integrations with some of the biggest cloud service vendorsincluding Amazon,MicrosoftandGoogle, as well as social networks likeFacebookandSnap.

Tracer works by pulling in and making sense of all types of data everything from customer IDs to revenue figures visualizing a company's media spend across campaigns and platforms.

The software integrates with data visualization services like Salesforce-owned Tableau.

Co-founder Jeff Nicholson developed the technology in 2015 while managing budgets for VaynerMedia. Low on bandwidth and resources to crunch client data, he and Vaynerchuk, founder and CEO of VaynerMedia, built their own platform to help scale the company into the global advertising giant it's become over the last decade amid the rise of dominant digital ad platforms like Facebook and Google.

The company says its early funding will be used to expand and improve the technology and grow their engineering team. In addition to VaynerMedia, Tracer's current roster of clients includes Sanofi and Cond Nast.

"We created Tracer to solve a problem that we faced time and time again," said Tracer CEO Nicholson in a release announcing the deal. He also serves on advisory boards for Roku, Pinterest and Nextdoor. "We're excited that others have found such value in our platform and are eager to continue our growth with the help of Gary, Marc, Kevin and others."

NBA star Kevin Durant also is an investor in the deal.

Vaynerchuk has worked with Nicholson and co-founder Leighton Welch over the last six years while developing the product inside VaynerMedia's media department. "I invest in talented entrepreneurs and Jeff and Leighton are the epitome of this," said Vaynerchuk in the funding announcement. "I've also had the huge advantage of working so closely with them for so long."

Loreleft his Walmart role in Januaryand will serve as a strategic advisor through September. At the time, he told CNBC in an interview that he planned to return to his start-up roots, investing in new companies, and starting others.

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Marc Lore, Gary Vee, early in some big tech winners, share a new investment - CNBC