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Alphabet Said to Be in Talks With Spanish Publishers to Bring Google News Back

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By Reuters | Updated: 23 February 2021

Alphabet’s Google is negotiating individual licensing deals with a divided Spanish news industry that could allow the US tech giant’s news service to resume in the country, three sources close to the matter told Reuters.

Google News, which links to third party content, closed in Spain in late 2014 in response to legislation which meant it had to pay a mandatory collective licensing fee to re-publish headlines or snippets of news.

Now the thorny issue is back on the table as Spain prepares to implement the 2019 European Union copyright directive by June. While that requires Google, Facebook, and others to share revenue with publishers, the government could allow the companies to negotiate individual deals with content providers.

Spain’s Culture Ministry said the government was working on a draft bill, but declined to give further details.

Google News will only be back in Spain if publishers have the right to sign individual agreements under a new law, a Google Spain spokeswoman said, adding that a paid licence should not be mandatory.

Facebook faced a backlash from publishers and politicians last week after blocking people in Australia from accessing and sharing news, escalating a dispute with the government there over a planned law that would require it to share revenue with content providers.

The EU rules, however, do not force online platforms to pay for links posted to their news site by publishers, the main grievance for Facebook in Australia, so their implementation could pave the way for a series of deals.

“Google is in talks with Spanish editors about the possibility of taking part in the Google News Showcase programme,” a source familiar with the process said, referring to the proposed new name for the service.

Two other sources said some preliminary agreements had already been reached, pending details of the new legislation.

Status quo

Google recently agreed to pay $76 million (roughly Rs. 550 crores) to a group of 121 French news publishers, infuriating many other local outlets, which deemed the deal unfair and opaque.

Some Spanish publishers represented by the AMI media association, such as El Mundo owner Unidad Editorial, are in favour of maintaining the current system which gives publishers the right to levy licensing fees through a collective management entity.

AMI general director Ramon Alonso said the model allows for a transparent and fair negotiation with Google and others, and prevents the exclusion of some publishers.

But others, including CLABE that represents 162 associates with around a thousand news outlets including leading digital brands such as El Espanol or Eldiario.es, say they can reach a better deal on their own and should be free to choose.

“We are trying to ensure that these agreements benefit as many companies in the sector as possible,” said Juan Zafra, CLABE secretary general.

The Independent Regional Press Association (AIE), a founding member of AMI, said in a letter published in all of its outlets on Monday that it had been “seriously harmed” by the existing model, which brought no income from content and made Spain “a global digital exception”.

Meanwhile, Microsoft and European media groups on Monday urged EU regulators to require online platforms to seek arbitration in disagreements over how to share revenues with news publishers.


© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Google Says Microsoft Is Unwilling to Turn Over Documents in Antitrust Fight, Failed to Comply With Subpoena

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By Reuters | Updated: 30 July 2021

Alphabet’s Google has asked a judge hearing the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against the search and advertising giant to compel Microsoft to turn over documents, saying it has failed to comply with a subpoena, according to a court filing unsealed late Thursday.

Google served a subpoena to Microsoft more than three months ago, seeking documents regarding Microsoft’s Bing search engine as well as its Internet Explorer and Edge but has not received them, the filing said.

Google says some of the documents might shed light on whether Microsoft was actually restrained from competing with Google, or whether it simply failed to compete successfully.

“In particular, there are nineteen Microsoft employees who held important positions relating to activities at the core of this case but whose files Microsoft refuses to commit to search at this time,” Google said in the filing.

Google’s search engine is the market leader by far while Bing’s share is in single digits. Google also has a browser, Chrome.

Microsoft, also in a filing late on Thursday, said that Google’s additional requests brings the total number of custodians, whose files Microsoft will have to search, to 55.

Google has failed to offer “specific reasons” for why these additional files are necessary, Microsoft added.

Google had said that the 19 of these additional custodians were “highly likely to possess relevant, non-cumulative documents.”

According to Google, these executives covered issues at the core of the case, including the development and distribution of Microsoft’s various search engines, Microsoft’s search advertising business, and Microsoft’s effort to market devices that would give it more search access points beyond the Windows desktop.

The Justice Department sued Google in October, kicking off a spate of federal and state antitrust lawsuits against both Google and Facebook. The federal case against Google and a broader state case have been consolidated for purposes of trial preparation.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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LinkedIn Allows Employees to Work Fully Remote, Removes In-Office Expectation

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By Reuters | Updated: 30 July 2021

LinkedIn will allow employees to opt for full-time remote work or a hybrid option as offices gradually reopen, Chief People Officer Teuila Hanson told Reuters.

This new policy is a shift from the initial indication last October that Microsoft’s professional social networking site would expect employees to work from an office 50 percent of the time when COVID-19 pandemic restrictions lift.

The updated policy, offering the flexibility to work remotely full-time or work at an office part-time, will apply to LinkedIn’s global workforce of more than 16,000 employees.

“We anticipate that we’ll definitely see more remote employees than what we saw prior to the pandemic,” Hanson said in a Wednesday interview ahead of the announcement, adding that some jobs would require in-office work.

Hanson said LinkedIn is not currently requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to return to the office, in contrast to tech companies such as Facebook and Google that have responded to a rise in US COVID-19 cases by requiring shots. Twitter is closing its recently reopened offices due to the surge in cases.

LinkedIn employees who move locations could see their pay adjusted based on the local market where they’re based, said Greg Snapper, director of corporate communications.

The tech industry was among the first to allow employees to work from home when COVID-19 hit the United States last year. But the extent to which tech companies are embracing permanent remote work is now diverging.

Apple will require most employees to work from the office three days per week starting in October, while Zillow Group and Reddit will allow most employees to work remotely. Alphabet’s Google expects 60 percent of its workforce to return to the office at least part-time.

LinkedIn is reopening its global offices based on COVID-19 infection rates in each location.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Google Fined RUB 3 Million for Violating Personal Data Law, Its First Fine for the Offense

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By Reuters | Updated: 29 July 2021

Russia on Thursday fined Google RUB 3 million (roughly Rs. 30 lakhs) for violating personal data legislation, Google’s first fine for that offence, Moscow’s Tagansky District Court said.

Google confirmed the fine and offered no further comment.

The penalty comes amid a wider standoff between Russia and Big Tech, with Moscow routinely fining social media giants for failing to remove banned content and seeking to compel foreign tech firms to open offices in Russia.

State communications regulator Roskomnadzor said last month that Google, a subsidiary of Alphabet, could be fined up to RUB 6 million (roughly Rs. 60 lakhs) for not storing the personal data of Russian users in databases on Russian territory.

Russia has previously fined Google for not deleting banned content. Google has also irked the Russian authorities by blocking some YouTube accounts owned by pro-Kremlin figures and media.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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After Flipkart, Amazon Said to File Appeal at India’s Supreme Court in Antitrust Probe

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By Reuters | Updated: 28 July 2021

Amazon on Wednesday filed an appeal with India’s top court against a state court’s order that allowed an antitrust probe against the U.S. firm and Walmart’s Flipkart to continue, according to source and court listings.

A court in south India last week dismissed cases filed by Amazon and Flipkart which sought to quash the Competition Commission of India’s (CCI) 2020 investigation on accusations that the companies circumvent Indian law by creating complex business structures.

The companies have denied wrongdoing, but the state court in Karnataka said “they should not feel shy in facing an inquiry.”

Details of Amazon’s plea were not immediately clear. The Supreme Court website showed the case listing of an appeal, without giving further details.

Flipkart challenged the decision in the Supreme Court on Tuesday and has requested a restraint on the CCI after the watchdog asked 32 “sensitive” questions in mid July, in what the firm called an “invasive” investigation.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Indonesia’s BRI Life Probes Reported Personal Data Leak of Over 2 Million Users

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By Reuters | Updated: 28 July 2021

BRI Life, the insurance arm of Indonesia’s Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI), said on Tuesday it was investigating claims that the personal details of over two million of its customers had been advertised for sale by unidentified hackers.

Hudson Rock, a cybercrime monitoring firm, told Reuters that it had found evidence that showed that multiple computers belonging to BRI and BRI Life employees had been compromised.

“We are checking with the team and will provide an update as soon as the investigation is done,” BRI Life CEO Iwan Pasila said in a text message.

In a later statement, BRI Life said its investigation was being conducted with an independent team specialising in cybersecurity to perform digital tracing and to take the necessary steps to improve data protection for policy holders.

Ade Nasution, BRI Life’s corporate secretary, said the company was making maximum effort to protect the data of its policy holders, adding the company had never provided personal data to any “irresponsible parties”.

In a post on the RaidForums website on Tuesday, an unnamed user said they were selling a collection of 460,000 documents compiled from the user data of over two million BRI Life clients for $7,000 (roughly Rs. 5.2 lakh).

The post was accompanied by a 30-minute video of the documents, which included bank account details, as well as copies of Indonesian identification cards and taxpayer details.

“We identified multiple compromised employee computers of BRI Life and Bank Rakyat Indonesia which may have helped the hacker obtain initial access to the company,” Hudson Rock said in a statement.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Cyberattacks May Result in US Engaging in a ‘Real Shooting War’: President Joe Biden

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By Reuters | Updated: 28 July 2021

President Joe Biden on Tuesday warned that if the United States ended up in a “real shooting war” with a “major power” it could be the result of a significant cyber attack on the country, highlighting what Washington sees as growing threats posed by Russia and China.

Cybersecurity has risen to the top of the agenda for the Biden administration after a series of high-profile attacks on entities such as network management company SolarWinds, the Colonial Pipeline company, meat processing company JBS and software firm Kaseya hurt the US far beyond just the companies hacked. Some of the attacks affected fuel and food supplies in parts of the United States.

“I think it’s more than likely we’re going to end up, if we end up in a war — a real shooting war with a major power — it’s going to be as a consequence of a cyber breach of great consequence and it’s increasing exponentially, the capabilities,” Biden said during a half-hour speech while visiting the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

During a June 16 summit in Geneva between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Biden shared a list of critical infrastructure the US considers off-limits to nation-state actors.

Since then, senior members of the Biden administration’s national security team have been in constant contact with senior members of the Kremlin over cyber attacks on the United States, the White House has said.

Biden also highlighted the threats posed by China, referring to President Xi Jinping as “deadly earnest about becoming the most powerful military force in the world, as well as the largest and most prominent economy in the world by the mid-40s, the 2040s.”

During his speech to about 120 ODNI employees and senior leadership officials, Biden also thanked members of US intelligence agencies, emphasized his confidence in the work they do and said he will not exert political pressure on them. The ODNI oversees 17 US intelligence organizations.

“I’ll never politicize the work you do. You have my word on that,” he said. “It’s too important for our country,” he said.

Biden’s comments offered a clear departure from remarks made by his predecessor Donald Trump, who had a contentious relationship with intelligence agencies over issues such as its assessment that Russia had interfered to help Trump win the 2016 election and its role in revealing that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate Biden.

Trump went through four permanent or acting directors of national intelligence during his four years in office.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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