Amazon is facing an investigation by the European Commission regarding its potential breach of EU antitrust laws. In its investigation, the Commission has stated that it will be focusing on two primary issues. First, it will investigate Amazon’s alleged reliance on hidden data connected to independent, third-party sellers on its platform to improve its own competitiveness against those sellers. Second, it will also investigate Amazon’s potential prioritization of sellers that use its own logistics and delivery services over others that do not.
President-elect Joe Biden has made promises to hold “Big Tech” accountable, with some experts believing that he will be tough on the tech sector and push for more public engagement, oversight, and regulation. There are several issues that the Biden administration will tackle beginning January. First, the Biden administration will likely continue, in some form, an antitrust lawsuit filed by President Trump’s Justice Department against Google. Second, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is likely to be overhauled. This section has acted as a “legal liability shield” of sorts for the tech sector, giving companies immunity from lawsuits stemming from what users post on their online platforms. Doing away with or seriously overhauling this section would have large ramifications for online speech. Third, President-elect Biden will have to deal with China’s growing involvement with personal technology. Experts predict that Biden will likely take a tougher stance towards China in the tech sector, similarly to President Trump, though the President-elect would be warier of an all-out trade war. Fourth, the Biden administration will have to tackle growing concerns about data privacy domestically, spurred heavily by the increasing usage of online platforms by Americans for work, school, and social functions due to the pandemic. Fifth, the incoming administration will likely have to deal with growing frustrations over the status of workers in the “gig economy” (e.g., ride-hailing services like Uber or Lyft, food-delivery services like DoorDash and GrubHub). The primary issues here would be concerned with the workers often being independent contractors, thus with them not being able to receive the full protections and benefits of being full-time employees. Sixth, President-elect Biden is likely to walk back President Trump’s H1-B visa limitations, though his plans to overhaul the visa system remain unclear.
One of the most significant barriers in developing AI technologies is the immense quantity of data that is required to do so. Obtaining this data often requires firms to share their data with others. However, the sharing of data itself poses many legal and ethical barriers, and personal customer data is often under strict regulation and oversight. A potential solution to this barrier is the creation of a data trust, an independent organization set up to act as a fiduciary for data providers. The data trust would institute legal and governance structures to ensure the proper, legal, transparent, and ethical use of data, but would also make it easier, safer, and less costly for firms to share data amongst each other.
The Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2020, passed by the House of Representatives on September 14th, highlights the risks associated with the growing usage of internet-connected devices (i.e., any object capable of being connected to the Internet and collecting, sending, or receiving data) and establishes a hierarchy of responsibility for protecting federal agencies against cyberattacks through IoT devices. Moving forward, the Act would require federal agencies and suppliers to only use IoT devices that meet established security standards. IoT devices could pose a substantial risk to national privacy and security if left unregulated. For example, in 2017, the federal government found that Chinese-made IoT security cameras were using previously undetected backdoor communications to “call home” to their manufacturers. This created a risk of sensitive government information being visible to geopolitical rivals. If passed, the IoT Cybersecurity Improvement Act would help remedy vulnerabilities in national cybersecurity and also set an example for private industry to follow when creating its own policies concerning IoT devices.
Personalized Media Communications LLC (PMC) filed a patent infringement suit against Google LLC in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, asserting that Google had infringed seven of its patent claims on adaptive video streaming. Specifically, the seven claims came from four patents for improving the quality of video broadcast over the internet. Google argued that it was cleared of liability for direct or induced infringement, as many of the method steps contained in the patent claims would have to be performed by YouTube’s end users, not Google itself. The jury voted that no infringement had occurred, delivering Google a successful defense against the patent infringement suit.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., a Treasury Department panel that monitors cross-borders mergers and acquisitions, granted TikTok a 15-day extension to its divestiture deadline with the new deadline set to November 27th. This extension comes amidst an ongoing legal battle between TikTok and the Trump administration that is likely to continue for weeks. TikTok has filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in an attempt to invalidate the divesture order. The initial pleadings are set to be filed in December, and potentially beyond, setting the stage for drawn-out litigation.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Zoom Video Communications Inc. (Zoom) reached a settlement in a case brought by the FTC alleging that Zoom had not provided users a level of data encryption that they had been promised. The settlement will require Zoom to review its product for any security concerns and receive a third-party assessment every other year of its progress in improving its encryption levels. The FTC’s order will stand for 20 years, and any violation of it could lead to a penalty of $40,000 or more.