- 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
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)
Tinder Plans to Roll Out Panic Button and Other Safety Features
- The popular dating app Tinder plans to unveil new in-app safety features for users who feel threatened during face-to-face meetups.
- Match Group, Tinder’s parent company, is investing in a safety platform called Noonlight, which tracks users’ locations and alerts local authorities if any issues arise.
- The safety tools are free to use and will be introduced to U.S. Tinder users at the end of the month.
- Match Group’s other dating apps will see the new features later this year.
Tinder’s New Features
Tinder is planning to add free in-app safety features for users whose dates go awry, including a panic button that can be pressed if something goes wrong, security check-ins, and an option to call authorities if needed.
Match Group, Tinder’s parent company who also owns Hinge and OkCupid, is making these features possible by investing in the safety platform Noonlight. Noonlight tracks users’ locations and alerts local authorities if any concerns arise.
“I think a lot about safety, especially on our platforms, and what we can do to curtail bad behavior,” Match Group CEO Mandy Ginsberg told The Wall Street Journal, who first reported the story. “There are a lot of things we tell users to do. But if we can provide tools on top of that, we should do that as well.”
Prior to in-person dates, Tinder users will have the option to manually enter information into a tool linked to Noonlight, such as details about the other party and times.
If at any point a user feels unsafe, they can press the alert button. Noonlight will then send a code for the user to enter. If the code isn’t entered, Noonlight will send a text. If the text goes unanswered, Noonlight will call the user. If the call is not answered or if the user confirms that they need assistance, Noonlight will alert local authorities and share the information previously entered with them, as well as the user’s location.
Once the Noonlight tool is instated, Tinder users will also be able to add an emblem to their profiles to indicate the additional protection they have opted to take.
The new security measures will be introduced to U.S. Tinder users at the end of January, while other Match Group dating apps will see the features in the next few months.
Tinder is also currently testing a feature aimed to eliminate “catfishing” in which users will be required to take photos in certain poses to prove that they look like the images they upload. Profiles that pass the test will have a blue checkmark to indicate they were verified.
New Wave of Safety for Tech Platforms
While Tinder has previously monitored abusive language and images via in-app conversation, this is the first move it has taken to play a hand in regulating in-person interactions once users decide to meet up.
This step comes after multiple cases of sexual assault and other crimes that users have traced back to relations made through the app.
The dating app is following the lead of other platforms like Uber and Lyft, who have both rolled out additional security features in the wake of criticism for not doing enough to protect users from safety threats.
See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (The Verge)
Facial Recognition Technology on College Campuses
Facial Recognition Technology, better known by its acronym, FRT, has been a hot topic for nearly a decade. Most fields have some form of FRT from Taylor Swift using it to identify stalkers at her concerts to police making quicker arrests by matching faces of suspects to a database of mugshots. All forms of FRT have one way or another been contested, but some of the most controversial places that it’s being used are college campuses.
Recently, an anti-FRT group named Fight for the Future launched the largest nation-wide student campaign to demand that universities never use FRT on their campuses. There are multiple reasons why people love and despise FRT and in this video, we’re going to show you both sides of the argument and why it’s so controversial to use on college campuses.
Angled Toilet Designed to Shorten Employees’ Bathroom Breaks Met With Criticism
- A British company, StandardToilet, has filed a patent for a toilet fixture designed with a downward-sloping seat.
- The product is meant to be uncomfortable to sit on for more than five minutes, in an effort to reduce bathroom breaks and increase employee productivity.
- StandardToilet also says their product will reduce bathroom lines in public spaces and serve better for people’s health.
- The company’s idea has been supported by some, but largely slammed by others who claim it promotes an unhealthy expectation of workplace productivity and is inconsiderate to a range of users with differing needs.
A New Type of Toilet
A British startup has developed a toilet designed to be uncomfortable to sit on for longer than five minutes in an effort to increase workplace productivity.
StandardToilet has filed a patent for a toilet fixture with a seating surface sloped forward between 11-13 degrees. The company claims that this design will decrease the time that employees spend taking bathroom breaks, thus allowing them to devote more minutes to work.
“In modern times, the workplace toilet has become private texting and social media usage space,” StandardToilet says on their website.
The company estimates that about £16 billion ($20.8 billion) are lost annually to the time that people are spending using the bathroom at work in the U.K. They claim that reducing time spent sitting on the toilet will save about £4 billion of that sum.
Mahabir Gill, the founder of StandardToilet, told Wired that sitting on the angled fixture for more than five minutes will cause strain on the legs, but “not enough to cause health issues.”
“Anything higher than that would cause wider problems,” Gill said. “Thirteen degrees is not too inconvenient, but you’d soon want to get off the seat quite quickly.”
StandardToilet says that in addition to increasing employee productivity, their design will shorten bathroom lines in public places such as shopping malls and train stations.
They also claim studies have suggested that flat-surfaced toilets used now can cause medical issues, like swollen haemorrhoids and weakening of pelvic muscles. The company says its product can reduce musculoskeletal disorder “through promoting the engagement of upper leg muscles.”
Response to StandardToilet
While news of the proposed time-saving toilet has been supported by some, like the British Toilet Association (BTA), an organization that campaigns for better toilet facilities, it was also largely met with criticism. Jennifer Kaufmann-Buhler, an assistant professor of design history at Purdue University in Indiana, expressed that the idea is a bit controlling.
“In an office, the one space you have where you can find privacy is often the toilet,” Kaufmann-Buhler told Wired. “So, god forbid that we want to make the one place where workers should have at least some autonomy – the toilet – another place where people impose the very capitalist idea that people should always be working.”
Kaufmann-Buhler’s sentiment was echoed across Twitter, where people were upset by StandardToilet’s motive.
Pls explain to me how this isn’t abuse of employees. I’m actually a manager and I don’t see how taking a 7 or 8 minute dump is a problem. Also what if your sick? Or on a break?— don capone (@ucantcme13) December 18, 2019
Hey gotta squeeze every second of productivity out of your worker bees. God forbid they should have a few moments to themselves.— second nature (@second_nature) December 19, 2019
Others pointed out the discomfort StandardToilet’s design would bring to those with physical disabilities.
The company told HuffPost in an email that the product isn’t designed to take the place of toilets for people with disabilities. StandardToilet’s website also notes that another benefit of the slanted toilet is “reduction in overspill usage of disabled facilities.”
Nadine Vogel is the CEO of Springboard Consulting, a company that works with other businesses on how to serve workers with disabilities. She noted to HuffPost that there are other kinds of hindrances that might justify more time in the bathroom.
Vogel brought up examples of diabetic people testing their glucose levels or others simply needing a break for their mental health.
“The fact that the concern is extended employee breaks ― well, what about people that have some kind of mental health situation that actually need that kind of longer break?” Vogel said.