Tag Archives: ANTITRUST

Exclusive: iPhone app makers questioned in U.S. antitrust probe of Apple – sources

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department has reached out to app developers as part of its investigation into Apple Inc (AAPL.O), one of the four big tech companies being probed for alleged anti-competitive behavior, according one of the developers and another person familiar with the investigation.

FILE PHOTO: An Apple logo hangs above the entrance to the Apple store on 5th Avenue in the Manhattan borough of New York City, July 21, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

The chief executive of developer Mobicip, Suren Ramasubbu, told Reuters he was interviewed in November by a U.S. investigator who asked about the company’s interactions with Apple. The app, which has nearly a million users worldwide, allows parents to control what their children see on their iPhones.

Ramasubbu said the Mobicip app was temporarily removed from the iPhone app store last year for a failure to meet requirements imposed by Apple.

A source familiar with the Justice Department’s investigation said a handful of app developers had been contacted in what is the first indication of what officials are pursuing involving Apple since the investigation was revealed by Reuters in June.

U.S. President Donald Trump has criticized Apple’s Silicon Valley neighbors for other reasons, calling for closer scrutiny of social media companies and Google and accusing them of suppressing conservative voices online, without presenting any evidence.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in December that he hoped to have the Justice Department investigations into the big tech platforms – Facebook Inc (FB.O), Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google, Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and Apple – wrapped up this year.

Apple declined comment, but pointed to a statement on its website that says its app store was designed to hold apps “to a high standard for privacy, security and content.”

“Since 2016, we have removed over 1.4 million apps from the App Store because they have not been updated or don’t work on our most current operating systems,” the site says.

Apple’s ability to do just that has been a point of contention in the courtroom. The company was accused in lawsuits last year of abusing its clout in the app market. In one case, the U.S. Supreme Court gave the go-ahead last May to an antitrust lawsuit that accused Apple of forcing consumers to overpay for iPhone software applications.

SCREEN TIME CONTROL

Apple introduced its Screen Time app, which includes parental controls, in June 2018. At the start of 2019, Ramasubbu told Reuters, his company was contacted by Apple and warned that Mobicip’s app violated the iPhone-maker’s rules relating to technical elements that had previously been acceptable.

The app was removed from the app store for about six months, during which time it was updated to be compliant with Apple rules, Ramasubbu said. It was reinstated in October 2019, but he estimates his company’s business has shrunk by half.

Six executives of parental control app companies interviewed by Reuters said they had a comfortable relationship with Apple until mid-2018. That is when Apple introduced its own, similar software giving parents oversight of their children’s phone screen time and searches.

Apple has said that it had been concerned about parental control apps using technology which gave developers access to sensitive data, and that they declined to approve apps that used the technology if they did not also commit to not sharing data on children.

As the arbiter of who is allowed to sell in the app store, Apple says it has the power to ensure that only the highest quality apps are sold there.

But some developers say it also allows Apple to push out apps that compete with its own products, thus strengthening its profits at a time with its device sales have stagnated and it is seeking new sources of revenue.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Chris Sanders and Edward Tobin

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Some 2020 flagship smartphones won’t have 5G, and that's a very good factor

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A superb instance of separate modems and effectivity is the Apple iPhone 11 Professional and 11 Professional Max in comparison with the Samsung Galaxy S10 and S10+.

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U.S. states launch antitrust probe of Google, advertising in focus

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Attorneys general from 48 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico formally opened an antitrust probe on Monday into Alphabet’s Google (GOOGL.O), in a sign of growing government scrutiny of U.S. technology giants.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is leading the probe, said it will focus on Google’s “overarching control of online advertising markets and search traffic that may have led to anticompetitive behavior that harms consumers.”

California and Alabama declined to be part of the probe.

Participating states on Monday asked Google to provide documents on its advertising business, Paxton said at the announcement in Washington. Several attorneys general present described the investigation as “preliminary” and said they expected it would expand to cover other issues, including data privacy.

A separate group of eight state attorneys general, led by New York, joined by the District of Columbia, announced on Friday it was investigating Facebook Inc (FB.O). On Monday, attorneys general declined to say if they planned to expand scrutiny to other large tech firms.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge called Google’s search engine a “juggernaut” and argued that a free search sometimes came at the cost of the freedom to choose the best products from the best companies.

“When a company becomes a verb, it may seem as though the states are David taking on Goliath but I am proud to stand tall with my fellow attorneys general,” Rutledge said.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said the probe was “for the benefit of the tech ecosystem to help level the playing field.”

A spokesman for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the state was committed to fighting anticompetitive behavior but declined to comment further “to protect the integrity of potential and ongoing investigations.”

ONCE PRAISED

Tech giants that were once praised as engines of economic growth have increasingly come under fire for allegedly misusing their clout and for lapses such as privacy breaches.

U.S. President Donald Trump has also accused social media firms and Google of suppressing conservative voices online, but has not presented any evidence for his views.

Specifically, Google faces accusations that its web search leads consumers to its products to the detriment of rivals’. There have also been complaints of potentially anti-competitive behavior in how it runs the advertising side of its business.

In 2013, the Federal Trade Commission ended an investigation into Google declaring it did not manipulate its search results to hurt rivals. At the same time, the FTC said Google agreed to end the practice of “scraping”, or misappropriating competitors’ content such as user-generated reviews of restaurants.

Senator Josh Hawley, who as Missouri attorney general opened a probe into Google in 2017, lauded Monday’s announcement as “a very big day for the folks who care about antitrust enforcement.”

Amy Ray, an antitrust lawyer at Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, said that the states had a big task ahead of them.

“Any enforcer or litigant will need to navigate U.S. monopolization law as it stands, which has rarely been done successfully since the Microsoft antitrust case,” she said.

The world’s largest social media platform Facebook, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp and has more than 1.5 billion daily users, has been criticized for allowing misleading posts and “fake news” to be distributed on its service.

One criticism of Facebook is that it has been slow to clamp down on hate speech. The company recently paid a $5 billion settlement for sharing 87 million users’ data with the now-defunct British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, whose clients included Trump’s 2016 election campaign.

Will Castleberry, Facebook’s vice president for state and local policy, said last week that the company would cooperate with state attorneys general.

On the federal level, the Justice Department and FTC are also probing Facebook, Google, Apple (AAPL.O) and Amazon (AMZN.O) for potential violations of antitrust law.

Alphabet said on Friday the Department of Justice in late August requested information and documents related to prior antitrust probes of the company. It said it was cooperating with federal regulators and with the expected probe from the states.

It had no further comment on Monday, when its shares were down 0.6 percent in late trading.

Amazon, the world’s biggest online retailer, has been accused of using unfair tactics with third-party sellers, who must pay for advertising on Amazon to compete against its own first-party and private label sales.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt speaks to Reuters after a news conference to announce an antitrust probe into big tech companies that focuses on Alphabet’s Google, outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Bryan Pietsch

Apple has come under fire from app developers over practices like making only iPhone apps available through its official App Store. The music-streaming app Spotify (SPOT.N) has alleged that App Store policies make it difficult to compete against Apple Music for paid subscribers.

State attorneys general have fewer resources than federal agencies but have been known to team up to take on giant firms.

Most recently, 43 states and Puerto Rico sued Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd (TEVA.N) and 19 other drugmakers in May, accusing them of scheming to inflate prices and reduce competition for more than 100 generic drugs.

Reporting by Diane Bartz, David Shepardson and Bryan Pietsch; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Sonya Hepinstall

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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