Connect with us

Uncategorized

Google’s display advertising business is under antitrust probe in Italy

Published

on

Italy’s competition authority has opened an antitrust investigation into Google’s display ad business — adding another allegation of abuse of a dominant position to the tech giant’s regulatory woes.

In a press release announcing the action the AGCM said it “questions the discriminatory use of the huge amount of data collected through its various applications, preventing rivals from competing effectively as well as adversely affecting consumers”.

The probe follows a complaint by local ad lobby group the IAB Italy, per Reuters, which says the investigation must be concluded by November 2021.

Specifically, the AGCM said it suspects Google of what it refers to as “internal/external discriminatory conduct” — by refusing to provide competitors with Google ID decryption keys and excluding third-party tracking pixels.

“At the same time, Google has allegedly used tracking elements enabling its advertising intermediation services to achieve a targeting capability that some equally efficient competitors are unable to replicate,” it adds.

We’ve reached out to Google for comment on the allegations.

The move comes as Google is being sued on home turf by the US Department of Justice (DoJ), which filed an antitrust case earlier this month — following a 16 month investigation — alleging Google is “unlawfully maintaining monopolies in the markets for general search services, search advertising, and general search text advertising in the United States.”

The Italian case also looks interesting as Google has been seeking to reframe the debate around online ad targeting vs privacy — announcing an initiative called Privacy Sandbox last year.

Its aim is to evolve open web standards towards a middle ground between Internet users’ privacy and content providers’ hunger for information to target visitors with ads (as well as, of course, its own people-profiling monetization model as an adtech giant) — proposing a technique called federated learning of cohorts (FloC) which it bills as a “privacy-preserving” mechanism to enable ad targeting without individual tracking.

But as part of that standards push, this January Google announced it was dialling up a plan to phase out support for third party tracking cookies — saying it now wanted to do so within the next two years. So it’s not so much an ‘evolution’ as Google cranking its market power lever.

While others in the browser space have also been clamping down on trackers, Google’s dominance of the online ad market means there are clear competition risks to it unilaterally shutting the door on third party trackers while maintaining its own lucrative access to Internet users’ data. And that seems to be the crux of the Italian competition authority’s concern.

Google has previously been found to be dominant in search by the European Commission — putting requirements on it to avoid abusing its market power to advance in other verticals.

The AGCM suggests that the conduct it’s investigating could have a significant impact on competition across the digital advertising space, as well as flagging the potential for “wide repercussions on competitors and consumers”.

“The absence of competition in the intermediation of digital advertising, in fact, might reduce the resources allocated to website producers and publishers, thus impoverishing the quality of content directed to end customers,” it writes, also suggesting that a lack of “effective competition based on merits” could discourage the development of innovative new adtech and ad techniques that are less intrusive for consumers. 

So, in other words, Google’s dominance of the digital ad space could be damaging both publishers and Internet users, and holding back the development of genuinely privacy-preserving adtech.

Plenty of such concerns have been raised elsewhere about the market distorting power of the adtech duopoly.

In a final report into the online ad market this summer, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) concluded that the market power of Google and Facebook is now so great that a new regulatory approach — and a dedicated regulator — is needed to address what it described as “wide ranging and self reinforcing” concerns. 

“Weak competition in search and social media leads to reduced innovation and choice and to consumers giving up more data than they would like. Weak competition in digital advertising increases the prices of goods and services across the economy and undermines the ability of newspapers and others to produce valuable content, to the detriment of broader society,” the CMA warned.

“Our concern is that such platforms have an incentive to interpret data protection regulation in a way that entrenches their own competitive advantage, including by denying third parties access to data that is necessary for targeting, attribution, verification and fee or price assessment while preserving their right to use this data within their walled gardens,” it added.

The report concluded that there is a “compelling case for the development of a pro-competition ex ante regulatory regime, to oversee the activities of online platforms funded by digital advertising” — something Google has been lobbying the European Commission not to do as regional lawmakers shape new pan-EU rules for gatekeeper platforms.

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

Continue Reading
Comments

Uncategorized

Pinterest tests online events with dedicated ‘class communities’

Published

on

Pinterest is getting into online events. The company has been spotted testing a new feature that allows users to sign up for Zoom classes through Pinterest, while creators use Pinterest’s class boards to organize class materials, notes and other resources, or even connect with attendees through a group chat option. The company confirmed the test of online classes is an experiment now in development, but wouldn’t offer further details about its plans.

The feature itself was discovered on Tuesday by reverse engineer Jane Manchun Wong, who found details about the online classes by looking into the app’s code.

Currently, you can visit some of these “demo” profiles directly — like “@pinsmeditation” or “@pinzoom123,” for example — and view their listed Class Communities. However, these communities are empty when you click through. That’s because the feature is still unreleased, Wong says.

When and if the feature is later launched to the public, the communities would include dedicated sections where creators will be able to organize their class materials — like lists of what to bring to class, notes, photos and more. They could also use these communities to offer a class overview and description, connect users to a related shop, group chat feature and more.

Creators are also able to use the communities — which are basically enhanced Pinterest boards — to respond to questions from attendees, share photos from the class and otherwise interact with the participants.

When a user wants to join a class, they can click a “book” button to sign up, and are then emailed a confirmation with the meeting details. Other buttons direct attendees to download Zoom or copy the link to join the class.

It’s not surprising that Pinterest would expand into the online events space, given its platform has become a popular tool for organizing remote learning resources during the coronavirus pandemic. Teachers have turned to Pinterest to keep track of lesson plans, get inspiration, share educational activities and more. In the early days of the pandemic, Pinterest reported record usage when the company saw more searches and saves globally in a single March weekend than ever before in its history, as a result of its usefulness as a online organizational tool.

This growth has continued throughout the year. In October, Pinterest’s stock jumped on strong earnings after the company beat on revenue and user growth metrics. The company brought in $443 million in revenue, versus $383.5 million expected, and grew its monthly active users to 442 million, versus the 436.4 million expected. Outside of the coronavirus impacts, much of this growth was due to strong international adoption, increased ad spend from advertisers boycotting Facebook and a surge of interest from users looking for iOS 14 home screen personalization ideas.

Given that the U.S. has failed to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control, many classes, events and other activities will remain virtual even as we head into 2021. The online events market may continue to grow in the years that follow, too, thanks to the kickstart the pandemic provided the industry as a whole.

“We are experimenting with ways to help creators interact more closely with their audience,” a Pinterest spokesperson said, when asked for more information.

Pinterest wouldn’t confirm additional details about its plans for online events, but did say the feature was in development and the test would help to inform the product’s direction.

Pinterest often tries out new features before launching them to a wider audience. Earlier this summer, TechCrunch reported on a Story Pins feature the company had in the works. Pinterest then launched the feature in September. If the same time frame holds up for online events, we could potentially see the feature become more widely available sometime early next year.

Continue Reading

Uncategorized

SpaceX targeting next week for Starship’s first high-altitude test flight

Published

on

SpaceX looks ready to proceed to the next crucial phase of its Starship spacecraft development program: A 15km (50,000 feet) test flight. This would far exceed the max height that any prior Starship prototype has achieved so far, since the current record-setting hop test maxed out at around 500 feet. Elon Musk says that SpaceX will look to make its first high-altitude attempt sometime next week.

This tentative date (these are always subject to change) follows a successful static test fire of the current SN8 generation prototype — essentially just firing the test spacecraft’s Raptor engines while it remains stationary on the pad. That’s a crucial step that paves the way for any actual flight, since it proves that the spacecraft can essentially hold together and withstand the pressures of active engines before it leaves the ground.

SpaceX’s SN8 prototype is different from prior versions in a number of ways, most obviously because it has an actual nosecone, along with nose fins. The prototypes that did the short test hops, including SN6, had what’s known as a mass simulator up top, which weighs as much as an actual Starship nose section but looks very different.

Musk added that the chances of an SN8 high-altitude flight going to plan aren’t great, estimating that there’s “maybe a 1/3 chance” given how many things have to work correctly. He then noted that that’s the reason SpaceX has SN9 and SN10 ready to follow fast, which is a theme of Starship’s development program to date: building successive generations of prototypes rapidly in parallel in order to test and iterate quickly.

We’ll likely get a better idea of when the launch will take place due to alerts filed with local regulators, so watch this space next week as we await this major leap forward in SpaceX’s Starship program.

Continue Reading

Uncategorized

Police case filed against Netflix executives in India over ‘A Suitable Boy’ kissing scene

Published

on

Netflix, which has invested more than $500 million to gain a foothold in India in recent years, is slowly finding out just about what all could upset some people in the world’s second-largest internet market: Apparently everything.

A police case has been filed this week against two top executives of the American streaming service in India after a leader of the governing party objected to some scenes in a TV series.

The show, “A Suitable Boy,” is an adaptation of the award-winning novel by Indian author Vikram Seth that follows the life of a young girl. It has a scene in which the protagonist is seeing kissing a Muslim boy at a Hindu temple.

Narottam Mishra, the interior minister of the central state of Madhya Pradesh, said a First Information Report (an official police complaint) had been filed against Monika Shergill, VP of Content at Netflix and Ambika Khurana, Director of Public Policies for the firm, over objectionable scenes in the show that hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus.

“I had asked officials to examine the series ‘A Suitable Boy’ being streamed on Netflix to check if kissing scenes in it were filmed in a temple and if it hurt religious sentiments. The examination prima facie found that these scenes are hurting the sentiments of a particular religion,” he said.

Gaurav Tiwari, a BJP youth leader who filed the complaint, demanded an apology from Netflix and makers of the series (directed by award-winning filmmaker Mira Nair), and said the film promoted “love jihad,” an Islamophobic conspiracy theory that alleges that Muslim men entice Hindi women into converting their religion under the pretext of marriage.

Netflix declined to comment.

In recent days, a number of people have expressed on social media their anger at Netflix over these “objectionable” scenes. Though it is unclear if all of them — if any — are a Netflix subscriber.

The incident comes weeks after an ad from the luxury jewelry brand Tanishq — part of the 152-year-old salt-to-steel conglomerate — which celebrated interfaith marriage received intense backlash in the country.

For Netflix, the timing of this backlash isn’t great. The new incident comes days after the Indian government announced new rules for digital media, under which the nation’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will be regulating online streaming services. Prior to this new rule, India’s IT ministry oversaw streaming services, and according to a top streaming service executive, online services enjoyed a great degree of freedom.

Continue Reading

Trending