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Spotify Files First Public EU Antitrust Complaint Against Apple

Spotify’s CEO announced in a recent blog post, that the company has filed a complaint against Apple in the European Union. The company claims that Apple has abused its control over apps in its App Store, stifled innovation, and limited consumer choice for their own benefit. They also launched a website to highlight what they […]

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  • Spotify’s CEO announced in a recent blog post, that the company has filed a complaint against Apple in the European Union.
  • The company claims that Apple has abused its control over apps in its App Store, stifled innovation, and limited consumer choice for their own benefit.
  • They also launched a website to highlight what they call Apple’s “anti-competitive behavior.”

Spotify CEO Speaks Out

Spotify filed an antitrust complaint against Apple on Monday with the European Union, alleging that Apple is hurting innovation and consumer choice with its Apple “tax” and restrictive rules in its App Store.

In a blog post shared Wednesday morning, Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek said that Apple imposes rules that “purposely limit choice and stifle innovation at the expense of the user experience—essentially acting as both a player and referee to deliberately disadvantage other app developers.”

Ek said his company takes issue with the 30 percent cut that Apple takes from subscriptions made through the Apple Store. He argues that this “tax” is designed to hurt services that compete with Apple’s own music service, Apple Music.

To pay this fee, Spotify says it has to inflate their premium membership prices “well above the price of Apple music.”  However, if Spotify refuses to pay the fee, then Apple “applies a series of technical and experience-limiting restrictions” that make Spotify a worse experience. For example, Ek says that Apple limits their communication with customers and in some cases has restricted them from even sending emails to customers who use Apple.

“Apple also routinely blocks our experience-enhancing upgrades. Over time, this has included locking Spotify and other competitors out of Apple services such as Siri, HomePod, and Apple Watch,” Ek continued in the post.

According to Spotify general counsel Horacio Gutierrez, this is not something the company faces in Alpahbet Inc’s Google Play Store, where Spotify is not required to use Google’s payment system.

Time to Play Fair

The European Commission complaint is confidential, so to bring attention to the issue, Spotify has also launched a website called “Time to Play Fair.”

The site is dedicated to explaining Apples “anti-competitive behavior,” and even features a video that breaks down the issue at hand.

Not Just Spotify

Spotify has complained informally to the EU several times about similar issues in recent years. However, this filing is the first official complaint publically registered in the EU against Apple’s App Store.

Concerns over this type of behavior aren’t only expressed by Spotify. Last week, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said that if elected president in 2020, she would work to break up big tech companies.

Warren criticized firms like Google, Amazon, and Facebook for operating marketplaces where they also compete against other companies. She argued that this allows them to set the rules in a way that gives them benefits at the expense of others

What’s Next?

A spokesperson for the European Commission told The Wall Street Journal that it had received Spotify’s complaint and was “assessing [it] under our standard procedures.”

At this time, it’s unclear what this complaint will mean for the tech giant. However, EU regulators have become increasingly concerned with how technology platforms control the online ecosystem and how they can use their control to their own advantage.

For instance, in 2017 and 2018 the EU hit Google with record fines totaling $7.7 billion for alleged anticompetitive behavior. Then in September of last year, the EU said it was opening an investigation into Amazon to see if the company used data on rival sellers to unfairly compete against them by selling similar Amazon-brand products.

The current European Commission will reach the end of its term later this year, following parliament elections in May. That means they’ll be leaving little time to make any major progress on a new investigation.

Despite that, the complaint is already getting support from other companies. Deezer, another music streaming firm that filed an informal complaint with Spotify in 2017, said Wednesday that they supported Spotify in their antitrust challenge. Deezer added that it looked forward to the commission’s response.

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (Bloomberg) (Tech Crunch)

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Instagram Testing New Tools To Verify Users Are Over 18

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The new tools include AI software that analyzes video footage of a person’s face to verify their age.


Instagram Cracks Down on Underage Users

Instagram is testing new features in the United States to verify the age of users who claim to be over 18 years old. 

According to a statement from Instagram’s parent company, Meta, the tools will only apply to users who seek to change their age from under 18 to over 18. The platform previously asked for users to upload their ID for verification in this process, but on Thursday, it announced there will be two new methods for confirming age. 

One of the strategies was referred to as “social vouching.” Using this option, people can request that three mutual Instagram followers over the age of 18 confirm their age on the platform.

The other method allows users to upload a video selfie of themselves to be analyzed by Yoti, third-party age verification software. Yoti then estimates a person’s age based on their facial features, sends that estimate to Meta, and both companies delete the recording. 

According to Meta, Yoti cannot recognize or identify a face based on the recording and only looks at the pixels to determine an age. Meta said that Yoti “is the leading age verification provider for several industries around the world,” as it has been used and promoted by social media companies and governmental organizations. 

Still, some question how effective it will be for this specific use. According to The Verge, while the software does have a high accuracy rate among certain age groups and demographics, data also shows it is less precise for female faces and faces with darker skin tones. 

Issues With Kids on Instagram

Meta argues that it is important for Instagram to be able to discern who is and is not 18, as it impacts what version of the app users have access to.

“We’re testing this so we can make sure teens and adults are in the right experience for their age group,” the company’s statement said. 

“When we know if someone is a teen (13-17), we provide them with age-appropriate experiences like defaulting them into private accounts, preventing unwanted contact from adults they don’t know and limiting the options advertisers have to reach them with ads,” it continued. 

These changes come as Instagram has been facing increased pressure to address the way its app impacts younger users. 

Only children 13 and older are allowed to have Instagram accounts, but the service has faced criticism for not doing enough to enforce this. A 2021 survey of high school students found that nearly half of the respondents had created a social media account of some kind before they were 13.

The company also recently came under fire after The Wall Street Journal published internal Meta documents revealing that the company knew that it harmed teens, including by worsening body image issues for young girls and women.

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (The Wall Street Journal) (Axios)

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Elon Musk Threatens to Fire Employees Unless They Work in Person Full-Time

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The world’s richest man in the world previously suggested that the popularity of remote work has “tricked people into thinking that you don’t actually need to work hard.”


“If You Don’t Show up, We Will Assume You Have Resigned”

On Wednesday, Electrek published two leaked emails apparently sent from Elon Musk to Tesla’s executive staff threatening to fire them if they don’t return to work in person.

“Anyone who wishes to do remote work must be in the office for a minimum (and I mean *minimum*) of 40 hours per week or depart Tesla,” he wrote. “This is less than we ask of factory workers.”

“If there are particularly exceptional contributors for whom this is impossible, I will review and approve those exceptions directly,” he continued.

Musk then clarified that the “office” must be a main office, not a “remote branch office unrelated to the job duties.”

“There are of course companies that don’t require this, but when was the last time they shipped a great new product? It’s been a while,” he wrote in the second email.

Later on Wednesday, a Twitter user asked Musk to comment on the idea that coming into work is an antiquated concept.

He replied, “They should pretend to work somewhere else.”

The Billionaire Pushes People to Work Harder

Musk has a history of pressuring his employees and criticizing them for not working hard enough.

“All the Covid stay-at-home stuff has tricked people into thinking that you don’t actually need to work hard. Rude awakening inbound,” he tweeted last month.

Three economists told Insider that remote work during the pandemic did not damage productivity.

“Most of the evidence shows that productivity has increased while people stayed at home,” Natacha Postel-Vinay, an economic and financial historian at the London School of Economics, told the outlet.

Musk is notorious for criticizing lockdown mandates and went so far as to call them “fascist” during a Tesla earnings call in April 2020.

Not long before that, Tesla announced that it would keep its Fremont, California plant open in defiance of shelter-in-place orders across the state.

In an interview with The Financial Times last month, Musk blasted American workers for trying to stay home, comparing them to their Chinese counterparts whom he said work harder.

“They won’t just be burning the midnight oil. They will be burning the 3 a.m. oil,” he said. “They won’t even leave the factory type of thing, whereas in America people are trying to avoid going to work at all.”

That same day, Fortune published an article detailing how Tesla workers in Shanghai work 12-hour shifts, six days out of the week, sometimes sleeping on the factory floor.

See what others are saying: (CNBC) (Electrek) (Business Insider)

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Apple Raises Worker Pay as Unions Gain Ground

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The company’s vice president of people and retail was caught trying to dissuade employees from unionizing in a leaked video.


Labor Squeezes Apple into Submission

Apple announced Wednesday that its U.S. corporate and retail employees will see a pay increase later this year, with starting wages bumped from $20 per hour to $22, though stores in certain regions may get more depending on market conditions.

Starting salaries are also expected to increase.

“Supporting and retaining the best team members in the world enables us to deliver the best, most innovative, products and services for our customers,” an Apple spokesman said in a statement. “This year as part of our annual performance review process, we’re increasing our overall compensation budget.”

Some workers were told their annual reviews would be moved up three months and that their pay increases would take effect in early July, according to a memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Furthermore, they were told the increased compensation budget would be in addition to pay increases and special awards already received within the past year.

Feeling squeezed by low unemployment and high inflation, tech companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have changed their compensation structures in recent weeks to pay workers more, and Apple is the latest to bend to market pressure.

Unions Gaining Traction

On Wednesday, The Verge received a leaked video of Apple’s vice president of people and retail, Deirdre O’Brien, explicitly dissuading employees from unionizing.

“I worry about what it would mean to put another organization in the middle of our relationship,” she said. “An organization that does not have a deep understanding of Apple or our business. And most importantly one that I do not believe shares our commitment to you.”

She vocalized more anti-union talking points, like the idea that the company will not be able to make important decisions as quickly with a collective bargaining agreement.

O’Brien has been personally visiting retail stores over the past few weeks in an apparent bid to combat budding union activity.

Apple stores in three locations — New York, Georgia, and Maryland — are currently pushing to unionize, with the latter two set to vote in elections on June 2 and 15, respectively. In response to these efforts, Apple has hired anti-union lawyers, given managers anti-union scripts, and held anti-union captive audience meetings.

In the United States, unionized workers make about 13.2% more than non-unionized workers in the same sector, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

As of Wednesday, Apple’s shares had fallen 21% since the start of the year, but sales grew 34% last year to almost $300 billion.

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (CNBC) (The Verge)

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