The UK competition regulator will examine online advertising as a “first step” to reframing competition policy in the tech sector, the UK chancellor Philip Hammond has said.
He fired the starting gun on a possible overhaul of antitrust policy for the tech industry on Wednesday as part of a broader statement setting out the UK’s economic policy.
The announcement was made the same day that a panel of experts led by Jason Furman, an adviser to former US president Barack Obama, said big tech companies had used their dominance to stifle competition in the UK and unfairly boost profits.
The Furman review suggested that big tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft should be forced to share the data of their users so that rival companies could develop their own platforms and applications.
Tech companies have come under the spotlight over competition issues, with regulators including the UK Competition and Markets Authority increasingly turning their attention to the dominance of big platforms.
Europe’s competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, well known for taking action against US tech giants, has put together a task force of academics to produce a report by the end of the month.
The digital advertising market, which is made up of adtech groups, data analytics firms, credit reference agencies and data brokers, is also facing investigations from data protection regulators amid accusations that they build up extensive profiles of individuals.
The Furman review recommended a new competition regulator for the tech sector. The UK government is also preparing to announce its plan for regulating the industry and it is not clear how supervision of digital markets will eventually be allocated.
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Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Amazon have ramped up their efforts to recruit top academics to help them develop artificial intelligence for everything from self-driving cars to smart speakers and language translation. But this has reshaped the university landscape, which is facing a “brain drain”. (FT)
Free speech and hate
First there was Gab. Now, explains FT Alphaville editor Izabella Kaminska, there is Dissenter, a web application that allows users to override commenting restrictions on any URL. There is much horror on Dissenter, she writes. But better for a range of voices from across the political spectrum to join it, in the style of missionaries, to ensure greater balance. (FT Alphaville)
Spotify has formally asked Brussels to crack down on Apple’s App Store, alleging the iPhone maker is “tilting the playing field to disadvantage competitors”. The music-streaming service filed an EU antitrust complaint on Monday night, alleging that Apple had behaved unlawfully and abused its App Store dominance to favour the company’s own Apple Music service. (FT)
Tesla’s Model Y
Elon Musk is back to pitching another all-electric vehicle that needs to be a hit to turn the upstart automaker into a mass-market car company. Days after cutting the price of Tesla’s Model 3 sedan to reach mainstream buyers, the billionaire entrepreneur is expected on Thursday night to unveil the Model Y compact sport-utility vehicle in front of fans and customers near Los Angeles. (WSJ)
Wall Street has been waiting for Airbnb’s initial public offering. When longtime Amazon vice-president Dave Stephenson joined Airbnb in November 2018, the market’s highest hopes were confirmed. The share sale was expected to hit the market by June 2019, TechCrunch reported last year. However, the wait may be longer than expected. (Business Insider)
Bill McGlashan college admissions allegations
One of Silicon Valley’s most prominent private equity investors — and one of the tech sector’s leading proponents of how to invest ethically and for social impact — has been charged in an explosive college admissions scandal that was revealed this week. Prosecutors charged Bill McGlashan, a founder and managing partner at TPG Growth — which has made landmark investments in companies like Uber and Airbnb — on fraud allegations for trying to engineer the admission of his son to the University of Southern California.
Tech tools you can use — DuckDuckGo
Google has quietly expanded the lists of default search engines it offers in each market. Most notably, it now includes pro-privacy rivals in more than 60 markets, including DuckDuckGo. The changes come at a time when Google is facing rising privacy and antitrust scrutiny as well as accusations of market-distorting behaviour.