The Korean Fair-Trade Commission (KFTC) imposed on Tuesday a $177 million fine on Google after discovering that the search engine titan took advantage of its market status to prevent rival operating systems from competing in the market, putting the company at its second setback in less than a month.
According to the KFTC, Alphabet Inc’s Google has been deliberately prohibiting competing South Koreas manufacturers Samsung and LG from competing in the market and modifying Android OS by forcing them to sign an anti-fragmentation agreement (AFA), according to the commission.
An AFA halts device makers’ plans from implementing modified versions of Android forks and operating systems. By doing so, Google can showcase dominance in the mobile OS market.
In this case, the tech giant’s AFA constrained other tech firms’ abilities in releasing new devices such as smart watched and TVs using Google’s Android OS, including Samsung’s smartwatch in 2013, LG Electronics’ LTE smart speaker in 2018, and even Amazon’s smart TV in 2018.
In reference to the commission, the search engine company has been forcing its anti-competitive practices on companies since 2011 by ensuring a 72 percent market share by enforcing its Android OS influence on the market.
From its part, a KFTC regulator disclosed that Google’s behavior will most likely affect innovations in future operating systems development in smartphones. South Korea’s regulators are looking into three more cases concerning Android’s billing system, Play Store market, and advertisement market.
As for the commission’s demands from the Big Tech giant, the KFTC obliged Google not to engage in such tactics and quit imposing its influence on companies to sign an AFA and demanded implementation of a plan to correct the situation.
Google’s Android compatibility program exceeded expectations when it overtook the market among Korean mobile operator owners and software developers, leading to a better Korean customer base for South Korea’s mobile manufacturers.
“The KFT’s decision released today totally ignores these benefits and will undermine the advantages enjoyed by consumers. Google intends to appeal the KFTC’s decision,” Google’s spokesman told CNBC.
In July 2016, the KFTC initiated an investigation into Google’s anti-competition behavior in the OS market after its shares reached a 97.7 percent increase in 2019 alone, going from 38 percent in 2010, according to the KFTC’s revelation.
In August, South Korea’s National Assembly endorsed a bill that will force Apple and Google to alter their app store payment systems operations in the country. The law was initiated on Tuesday and will forbid such companies from pressuring developers to use their app store purchase systems.
South Korea’s Communications Commission, “Anti-Google law” will be legislated on September 14.
Brave launches a non-tracking video call feature
Brave Software, a privacy and security-based software firm is welcoming a video conference feature under the name “Brave Talk’, emphasizing a privacy-conscious video chat option embedded into its own browser.
Through clicking on the camera icon or by visiting the page talk.brave.com, users of the Brave browser can enjoy a non-tracking video call option and even invite participants who do not have the particular browser built in their devices.
Brave, which is one of the Chromium-based browsers competing to become an alternative window to the web, is now vying to join the video conferencing space next to platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft teams. However, unlike other video calling apps, Brave is placing privacy as the number one priority.
Founded in 2016, the company prides itself with its privacy-conscious tools. The new non-tracking video call feature uses an open-source called ‘Jitsi as a Service.” Given that the source can be used directly in Brave, users won’t have to install any apps or software that can potentially compromise their devices.
This is the main differentiator between Brave and platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams or Skype, who all have the power to monitor your calls.
“Brave Talk users can enable multiple layers of encryption on calls, so an eavesdropper cannot listen in on users’ calls, and our servers don’t save metadata, so calls, images, and activities are never recorded or shared without user consent.” The company explained according to ZDNet.
The Brave Talk feature is offered free of charge for one-on-one video conferences.
The new option also includes video group watch, livestreaming directly from YouTube, and unlimited call times.
However, a paid version does exist, allowing for even more benefits such as team calls with three or more users, having the ability to record calls, mute other users and enter a passcode to join a video call.
The paid version costs $7 a month for all international users, but the Chromium browser-based Brave has plans to launch the free version of Brave Talk for all Android and iOS users.
NBCU Warns YouTube TV Subscribers Could Be Blacked Out
YouTube said it has been unable to so far reach a new carriage agreement with NBCUniversal. The current contract expires on 30 September. If no new deal is struck by then, NBCUniversal content, such as Sunday Night Football, Jimmy Fallon or Law and Order SVU, will no longer be carried by Youtube TV.
NBCUniversal is warning YouTube TV subscribers that they are in danger of losing 14 channels from their streaming lineup if Google and NBCUniversal are unable to come to an agreement on carriage agreement terms.
If you are a YouTube TV subscriber, you may lose NBC, Bravo, CNBC, E!, Golf Channel, MSNBC, Oxygen, SYFY, Telemundo, The Olympic Channel, Universal Kids, Universo, and USA Network.
Google said that if it gets equitable terms, it will renew its agreement with NBCU. Otherwise, subscribers will get a discount for the duration of a blackout, which could begin Thursday.
“If we are unable to reach a deal by Thursday, the NBCU lineup of channels will no longer be available on YouTube TV and we will decrease our monthly price by $10, from $64.99 to $54.99 (while this content remains off our platform),” Google said.
It added: “You can sign up for NBC’s own direct-to-consumer streaming service, Peacock, which they offer for $4.99/month to continue watching NBCU content, such as Sunday Night Football.”
In a statement, NBCU said it is seeking fair rates from Google for YouTube TV.
“Unfortunately, Google is refusing to make a deal at these fair rates and is willing to withhold entertainment, news and sports programming from their paying customers,” NBCU said.
“NBCUniversal feels a responsibility to inform our fans that they are at risk of losing their favorite shows if Google continues with their demands.”
Facebook responds to WSJ’s Facebook Files series
After The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published a sweeping report regarding Instagram’s harmful impact on teenage girls, Instagram’s parent company Facebook is finally speaking up nearly two weeks later.
Pratiti Raychoudhury, Vice President and Head of Research at Facebook posted on Facebook’s Newsroom statements clearing out misconceptions, describing WSJ’s portrayal of their internal research as “not accurate,” noting that WSJ journalists poorly interpreted the data.
The WSJ published on September 14 multiple exposes under the name “The Facebook Files,” based on internal Facebook documents that got leaked to the press. The series emphasized Instagram’s negative effect on teenagers, with a focus on teenage girls. The WSJ pointed the finger at Facebook for acknowledging its harm but only doing “minimal efforts to address these issues” and toning down the truth to the public.
Raychoudhury completely neglected addressing multiple issues talked about in WSJ’s series, including that Instagram is found to be addictive to most users. Instead, the VP and head of research highlighted that the internal study had just 40 participants. Given that Instagram has over 1 billion users, the participant sample is described as “insufficient.” The study was “designed to inform internal conversations about teens’ most negative perceptions of Instagram,” according Raychoudhury.
While most of WSJ’s claim went unaddressed, Raychoudhury did explain that the body image problem discussed by WSJ was just one of 12 hypothetical issues that Instagram could potentially worsen for teenage girls.
“Body image was the only area where teen girls who reported struggling with the issue said Instagram made it worse as compared to the other 11 areas,” Raychoudhury wrote.
While Facebook remained largely silent after the accusations began spreading, Facebook’s global head of safety, Antigone Davis, is expected to speak on the matter before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Thursday.
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