FTC Launches Inquiry Into Big Tech Antitrust Acquisitions

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FTC Launches Inquiry Into Big Tech Antitrust Acquisitions
Number 1046
Broadcast Date FEBRUARY 11, 2020
Episode Length 4:46
Hosts Sarah Lane

Snap reportedly launching new mental health content searches, Sprint and T-Mobile get judge approval to merge, Apple joins FIDO Alliance.


The Director of Engineering at Google’s Everyday Robots, Max Braun unveiled a prototype e-ink newspaper display called Paper. The bezelless 31.2” black and white display downloads a newspaper's front page overnight and displays it on the screen. Paper includes no buttons or other ways to interact with the device.
A U.S. District judge has ruled in favor of Sprint’s $26 billion deal to merge with T-Mobile, which now only needs the California Public Utilities Commission's approval to go forward. Attorneys General from a dozen states sought to block the deal, arguing that combining the No. 3 and No. 4 U.S. carriers would stifle competition and create higher prices for consumers. The companies said the merger would help them compete against AT&T and Verizon, and build a nationwide 5G network more quickly.
A new Nielsen study shows that in the last three months of 2019, Netflix accounted for 31% of streaming to TVs. YouTube was second with 21%, Hulu came in third with 12%, and Amazon took 8%. Other free and ad-supported options including new offerings from Apple and Disney took a 28% chunk of viewership. Nielsen also reported that of overall US video viewing on TVs, streaming now makes up 19%.
Axios' sources say Snapchat is launching new tools and custom content around mental health and wellness, including a search function that surfaces health and wellness resources on subjects like depression, suicide and anxiety. An example would be if a user typed the word "anxiety" into the search, the Snap series "Chill Pill" would surface, along with episodes of other shows that show anxiety-relieving videos. Snap is also said to be developing more original programming covering mental health issues in a constructive way.
The group behind the BigML machine learning platform used some Deep Neural Networks trained on factors that were considered best predictors of an Oscar winner. They used things like film synopsis, other award show nominations, film festival prizes and more. Of the eight categories it made predictions for, it got 5 right. It went against oddsmakers choice 1917 and predicted Once Upon a Time in Hollywood would win Best Picture. Neither were right. Parasite won. The algorithm also predicted the Irishman would win Best Adapted Screenplay while the oddsmakers favored JoJo Rabbit. The oddsmakers won that one. The algorithm also got Best Director wrong.
Apple has joined the Fast Identity Online (FIDO) Alliance, which seeks to develop and promote stronger authentication standards than passwords. Other members include Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and Samsung, with support for The Alliance's Universal 2nd Factor open standard. Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Opera browsers natively support U2F, and in iOS 13.3, Safari also supports FIDO2-compliant physical security keys like YubiKey.
The Washington Post and German public broadcaster ZDF obtained CIA documents that say Swiss encryption firm Crypto AG was secretly owned by the CIA in a classified partnership with West German intelligence, and sold rigged devices to foreign governments to spy on messages that users thought were encrypted. Crypto clients included Iran, India, Pakistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the Vatican. SwissInfo reports the Swiss government has officially opened an investigation into Crypto, and the general export license for Crypto devices has been suspended "until open questions have been clarified."
Microsoft announced that based on feedback, it's reversing its plan to auto-install a Microsoft Search extension for Office 365 ProPlus customers using Chrome, which would have changed users' default search engine to Bing. Microsoft originally said this would help customers to use Microsoft's Search in Bing Intranet search capability, which requires Bing to be the default.
The US Federal Trade Commission has requested information from Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft about mergers that were too small to report to antitrust agencies. The companies are asked to provide terms, scope, structure and purpose for each transaction made between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2019. They will also be asked to provide details on post-acquisition integration, product development and pricing as well as how data was treated. The FTC said the request was part of a study of the issue of companies buying potential competitors to reduce competition. The results of the study are intended to inform future policy.


Preceded by:
"US Senator Josh Hawley Proposes FTC Overhaul"
FTC Launches Inquiry Into Big Tech Antitrust Acquisitions
Followed by:
"Samsung's Galaxy of New Phones"