- The Department of Justice is filing an antitrust lawsuit against Google, accusing it of illegally maintaining its monopoly by using its hefty ad revenue to engage in exclusionary contracts that block competition.
- An example of this would be Google’s arrangement with Apple to be the default browser on Safari. The Department thinks this agreement makes it impossible for competition to break through.
- Google has defended itself and says that it does make room for competition, but that consumers choose Google of their own volition.
- This is one of the largest antitrust suits against a major tech company in years and could be a long legal battle. Depending on the outcome, there could be major implications for other tech companies outside of Google.
DOJ Files Suit Against Google
The Department of Justice announced Tuesday that it is filing an antitrust suit against Google, launching one of the largest cases of its kind against a tech company in decades.
The suit will hurl multiple allegations against the tech giant, including claims that it maintains its monopoly via unlawful exclusionary and interlocking agreements and contracts that block the growth of competition. The Justice Department is claiming that the company spends billions of dollars in ad revenue to pay major phone and tech companies like Apple to make Google the default search engine on web browsers.
The lawsuit also alleges that Google has arrangements to make sure its search application is preloaded and cannot be deleted on mobile Android devices, which the department says hurts and prevents competition.
An action like this from the Justice Department has been highly anticipated for some time now. In the summer of 2019, Department officials announced a broad review of the practices of big companies, including Google. Their investigation into the company has lasted since and has included probes into several aspects of the Silicon Valley behemoth.
“An antitrust response is necessary to benefit consumers,” Jeffrey A. Rosen, deputy Attorney General said in a briefing. “If the government does not enforce the antitrust laws to enable competition, we could lose the next wave of innovation. If that happens, Americans may never get to see the next Google.”
Google’s Dominance on the Internet
The Attorneys General from eleven states will be joining the suit, and many more may decide to hop on as the legal battle continues. It could take years for this to play out and be resolved. Pending the results, it could also have major implications for other big tech companies.
Google’s dominance across the internet is prominent. According to data from Vox, when it comes to searching, the company takes up 92% of the market, with its biggest competitor, Bing, owning just a small sliver of that space. When it comes to smartphone operating systems, it takes up 85% of the market. For web browsers, it takes up 66%.
The Justice Department is not the only part of the government to recently take aim at Google. In the first week of October, a House subcommittee released a report accusing Google, as well as Facebook, Amazon and Apple, of holding and abusing monopoly power in their respective industries. That report mentioned anti-competitive contracts at Google. The House suggested that there was a “pressing need for legislative action and reform” when it comes to monopolies at major tech companies.
Google has repeatedly denied that it holds an unlawful monopoly. In a Tuesday statement, the company maintained that it allows for healthy competition and condemned the Justice Department’s choice to bring an antitrust suit forward.
“Today’s lawsuit by the Department of Justice is deeply flawed,” the statement said. “People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives.”
“This lawsuit would do nothing to help consumers. To the contrary, it would artificially prop up lower-quality search alternatives, raise phone prices, and make it harder for people to get the search services they want to use.”
When it came to specifics in the suit, Google claimed the Justice Department was relying on “dubious antitrust arguments.” The company compared the agreements it has with companies like Apple to a cereal brand paying a grocery store to stock its boxes at eye level.
When it comes to Apple specifically, Google claims that it is the default in Safari because Apple believes Google to be the best search engine. Google also said their agreement is not exclusive and that Bing and Yahoo are also featured in Safari.
“This isn’t the dial-up 1990s, when changing services was slow and difficult, and often required you to buy and install software with a CD-ROM,” Google argued. “Today, you can easily download your choice of apps or change your default settings in a matter of seconds—faster than you can walk to another aisle in the grocery store.”
“This lawsuit claims that Americans aren’t sophisticated enough to do this. But we know that’s not true.”
While it will take several years for this case to be resolved, many are analyzing what the potential outcomes may be. The Wall Street Journal said that if Google loses, there could be court-ordered changes to its practices, potentially to create openings for new rivals. However, the lawsuit will not immediately specify specific solutions. That step will come further down the road.
If Google wins this, it could throw a wrench in the government’s growing plans to go after big tech companies. Other investigations could get complicated or foiled, and it could mean that this issue might have to move into Congress’ hands.
See what others are saying: (Vox) (Wall Street Journal) (CNN)
Philadelphia Will Pay $2M to Black Woman Beaten by Officers Whose Child Was Used in a Pro-Police Social Media Post
The post from the National Fraternal Order of Police claimed officers found the toddler “lost” and “barefoot,” but the mother’s lawyers said police ripped the child from her vehicle during an unjust stop and caused him to lose his hearing aids.
$2 Million Settlement
The city of Philadelphia has agreed to pay a $2 million settlement to 29-year-old Rickia Young, a Black woman who was pulled from her car and beaten by police officers last year while trying to navigate through protests spurred by the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr.
Along with the settlement, both an officer and a sergeant have been fired in connection to their treatment of Young that night. Another 14 members of the Philadelphia Police Department are awaiting disciplinary hearings that stem from an internal investigation into the incident.
The terminations and investigations have not satisfied Kevin Mincey, one of Young’s attorneys. He’s currently calling on District Attorney Lawrence Krasner to file criminal charges against those officers, saying, “If any citizen did something like this, there would be no question they will be charged with aggravated assault as a felony.”
As of Thursday morning, Kranser has not said whether he plans to pursue such charges.
Police Beating of Rickia Young
On Oct. 27, 2020, Young said she drove into West Philly to pick up her 16-year-old nephew because he lived near the epicenter of the protests that were happening that night.
On her way back home, she reportedly came across a group of protesters blocking the street while engaging in a standoff with police. The police allegedly ordered her to turn her car around, and according to her attorneys, she complied but paused at one point to avoid hitting protesters running past her car.
From there, Young’s attorneys claimed police surrounded her vehicle. They then allegedly broke her windows with batons before pulling her and her nephew out of the vehicle. According to multiple outlets, the officers began beating her, leaving her with swelling on her face and body, as well as a swollen trachea. A video of this incident later went viral online.
For hours, Young was separated from her toddler, who was removed from the car by police and lost his hearing aids at some point during the night, according to her attorneys. Even after getting her son back, for days, she was without her car.
Ultimately, neither young nor her nephew were cited.
Pro-Police Post Involving Young’s Son
Two days after the incident, the National Fraternal Order of Police, the country’s largest police labor union, posted an image to Facebook showing an officer holding a young, Black child.
“This child was lost during the violent riots in Philadelphia, wandering around barefoot in an area that was experiencing complete lawlessness,” The caption read. “The only thing this Philadelphia Police Officer cared about in that moment was protecting this child.”
“We are not your enemy. We are the Thin Blue Line. And WE ARE the only thing standing between Order and Anarchy.”
While claiming that she had been abused by police, Young would also go on to claim the “lost” child in the photo was that of her son.
“They’re attempting to erase what happened — police brutality — and turn it instead into police saviorism,” Riley Ross, one of Young’s attorneys said. “It’s another deep wound that they cut.”
After being informed of the background behind the photo, the National Fraternal Order of Police deleted the post with Young’s child.
Still, as Philly council member Isaiah Thomas asked in February, “Who knows how many people there are who’ve seen that original image, but never actually understood that parent was not involved in some type of looting situation as it was displayed unfortunately on social media?”
See what others are saying: (Philadelphia Inquirer) (USA Today) (ABC News)
TikTok Works To Block “Devious Lick” Trend That Has Kids Stealing School Equipment
Some schools have even threatened to pursue charges against those stealing or destroying school property.
What Is a Devious Lick?
TikTok is taking action against a new trend on the platform that involves users showing off what they consider impressive thefts they’ve pulled off, often at their own schools.
Users on the app refer to these thefts as “devious licks,” and some standout examples include kids stealing school projectors, street signs, microscopes, fire alarms, and pretty much anything you can imagine.
A lot of students also seem to particularly enjoy targeting school bathrooms, stealing paper towels or soap dispensers and even entire toilets or sinks, sometimes leaving bathrooms totally unusable.
School officials across the country are obviously unhappy with this trend since it’s leaving their schools destroyed and low on equipment that is expensive to repair or replace.
In fact, many have issued warnings calling for the behavior to stop. Along with threats of suspension, some schools have said they will make families pay for the cost of the damage their child creates. Others even said they would get law enforcement involved.
For instance, Aubrey Chancellor, executive director of communications at North East Independent School District in San Antonio Texas, told Fox News, “It’s important for students to understand what they see on social media is not always a good idea in reality.”
“The students involved face disciplinary action and are expected to pay restitution as well. If possible, charges may be filed as well.”
With the trend generating widespread concerns, TikTok issued a statement Wednesday saying, “We are removing this content and redirecting hashtags and search results to our Community Guidelines to discourage such behavior.”
See what others are saying: (NBC News)(Desert News)(Gizmodo)
Walgreens Is Openly Exposing the Data of Millions Who Registered for COVID Tests, Vox Claims
Vox said the issues stem at least as far back as July 2020 but could potentially trace back to April 2020. Anyone signing up for a test with the pharmacy as of Wednesday will be similarly exposed.
Test Data Exposed
Vox’s Recode published an alarming report Monday that accuses Walgreens of exposing and failing to protect the personal data of millions who signed up for COVID-19 tests through its “sloppy” registration system.
That exposed data reportedly includes people’s name, birthday, gender identity, phone number, address, email information, and in some cases, even their test results. All of this “was left on the open web for potentially anyone to see and for the multiple ad trackers on Walgreens’ site to collect,” Recode reporter Sara Morrison said in the article, published Monday.
According to Morrison, the exposed data potentially stretches as far back as April 2020, which is when Walgreens first began offering COVID-19 tests, but it definitively traces back at least to July 2020 given Recode’s findings.
The Issue Involves Test Confirmation Links
Security experts cited by Morrison said the vulnerabilities are basic issues that Walgreens, one of the largest pharmacy chains in the country, should have known how to prevent.
Essentially, anyone with a link to an appointment confirmation can view the full confirmation. There’s no need to log in or authenticate your identity any other way.
To make the situation even easier for bad actors, the links used to confirm appointments are exactly the same minus a unique patient ID contained in what’s called a “query string.” With millions of tests confirmed, it’s not hard for a hacker or a bot to start finding active pages, though a Morrison noted, it would be “close to impossible” to find a specific person through this method.
Still, it’s not totally impossible to find a specific person. If a patient views their confirmation link on a shared computer, such as one at work or a public library, anyone with the ability to check that computer’s browser history can click on the link and reap the person’s information.
“Security by obscurity is an awful model for health records,” Sean O’Brien, founder of Yale’s Privacy Lab, told Recode.
Walgreens Has Not Fixed the Issue
Even after one tech consultant discovered the issue in March and pointed it out to Walgreens multiple times, the company seemingly did nothing, according to Morrison.
From there, Recode said it informed Walgreens of the findings again and even gave it “time to fix the vulnerabilities before publishing” its piece, but once again, the company failed to do anything.
As of right now, anyone scheduling a COVID test with Walgreens appears to be at the same level of risk as those who previously registered. Not only is that a concerning privacy issue, but it could also discourage many from getting tested.
In statements to several outlets, Walgreens has not directly addressed the security concerns. For example, it only told Fox Business that it “routinely evaluate[s] our technology solutions in order to provide safe, secure, and accessible digital services to our customers and patients.”
For those seeking COVID tests and potentially discouraged by this news, it is important to remember that Walgreens isn’t the only pharmacy chain offering free tests. Cities and counties across the country are also continuing to offer free testing sites amid a spike in cases caused by the Delta variant.