[News] Antitrust complaints stacking up against Facebook
In a legal action filed by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission last week, the FTC claims that Facebook is a monopoly in the social media space and protects that position by purchasing other companies and making it impossible for any other company to compete.
According to the filing, the FTC claims that Mark Zuckerberg’s philosophy is that “it is better to buy than compete.” Gizmodo quotes the FTC’s acting director of the Bureau of Competition Holly Vedova, who said, “This conduct is no less anticompetitive than if Facebook had bribed emerging app competitors not to compete.”
In a related matter, Ars Technica reports that the Competition and Markets Authority, the UK antitrust watchdog group, has been investigating Facebook’s purchase of Giphy. With the social media giant gaining control over the website that hosts thousands of animated GIFs, they are again being charged with squelching competition. Furthermore, CMA argues that in order to address these competition issues, the company should sell off Giphy. The CMA’s final report is due this October.
Complicating matters further, Bloomberg reports that before the acquisition, Giphy paid out dividends to investors, a legal move, but which then lowered the valuation of the company below $18.8 million. This in turn “reduced the size of Giphy’s assets enough so that the companies weren’t required to report the deal to antitrust officials.”
While Facebook has not yet publicly addressed the FTC filing, they did say about the CMA complaint that Giphy had no social network or “meaningful audience” of its own, and therefore the company argues their acquisition had nothing to do with preventing competition.
In other news
- Apple still in hot water. Two weeks ago we reported that Apple plans to scan user devices for Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) and report legal violations to authorities. Now a coalition of over 90 U.S. and international organizations have sent Apple CEO Tim Cook a letter asking him to stop plans to include this technology in future Apple operating systems. In the letter, the organizations express their concern that this surveillance technology could be used to silence protected speech and undermines the privacy of everyone who uses these devices. The letter’s signatories include the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, and other organizations throughout the US, UK, South America, Asia, Africa, Europe, Canada, and Australia.
Meanwhile, researchers believe the technology Apple intends to roll out could be hacked and used against innocent users. According to Gizmodo, researchers claim that the “NeuralHash” technology that scans for bad images, can be tricked to look for other content, and one person claims to have already reverse-engineered the system to do just that.
Apple argues that it has fail-safes within the software that will make it highly unlikely for hackers to accomplish these goals, and as Gizmodo explains, “Apple and its defenders argue that a scenario in which a user is accidentally flagged or “framed” for having CSAM is somewhat hard to imagine.”
- Microsoft Power Apps leaked data. Security products firm Upguard Research announced their discovery that default configurations in Microsoft Power Apps exposed 38 million sensitive records on public access portals. According to ZD Net, this data included Social Security numbers, COVID-19 vaccination statuses, social security numbers, and email addresses. Companies impacted include Microsoft itself, as well as American Airlines, J. B. Hunt, and the state governments of Indiana and Maryland as well as New York City.
- Who’s got the chips? For the second year in a row, car manufacturers as well as other electronics companies are struggling to deal with a global shortage of microchips. Some auto manufacturers already had to scale back production of 2021 models due to earlier shortages, and as the BBC indicates, this new shortage is now hitting companies like Toyota that previously had a stockpile. What does this shortage mean? In some cases, companies are having to cut their workforce due to reduced production. You also should expect it to be more difficult and expensive to purchase a new vehicle and other electronics in the near future.
- Vaporware robot from Tesla. Elon Musk ‘unveiled’ his latest invention, a humanoid robot, but there’s just one catch: it’s not a real robot. In an awkward PR stunt, he brought a prototype out on stage, but it didn’t take Gizmodo’s reporters to tell us that it was just a person walking around in a robotic fashion while wearing a skintight suit. Although Musk claimed that it is a real invention the company’s working on, critics suggest the announcement was just a distraction from investigations into the claims that their cars are dangerous. (See our news roundup from last week for more on that story.)
Either way, the video is pretty funny.
Tip of the week
Don’t let things like what happened to Microsoft Power Apps customers happen to you. Whenever you install new software on your website or company servers, set up new electronics like a router or smart device, or create a new WordPress or similar website, your first step should be to change the default settings.
Here are a couple of examples. When you create a new WordPress website, your default username will be ‘admin’. Your Wi-fi network name might be TP-Link ABG3 or MySpectrumWiFi40. Sometimes these services will even assign you a password.
When someone wants to hack into a system, they often run a script that tests common usernames and passwords against the login fields. This can be a long and difficult process if the administrator used strong passwords and unique usernames. But if the hacker knows the default settings, they’ll have access to the system in seconds.
Get in the habit of always changing the default settings. The new information will be more memorable to you (and who doesn’t want a fun Wi-fi network name for their neighbors to puzzle over?), and you will also know how to update the data if you need to. But more importantly, it will make it much more difficult for a hacker to access your systems
For more information and tips, check out our blog article on password security.