EU Hits Apple with Music Streaming Charge in Boost for Spotify

EU regulators accused Apple on Friday of distorting competition in the music streaming market, siding with Spotify in a case that could lead to a hefty fine and changes in the iPhone maker’s lucrative business practices.
 
The preliminary findings are the first time Brussels has leveled anti-competitive charges against Apple, although the two sides have had bruising clashes in the past, most notably a multibillion-dollar tax dispute involving Ireland.
 
Apple, Spotify and other parties can now respond. If the case is pursued, the EU could demand concessions and potentially impose a fine of up to 10% of Apple’s global turnover – as much as $27 billion, although it rarely levies the maximum penalty.
 
Apple found itself in the European Commission’s crosshairs after Sweden-based Spotify complained two years ago that the U.S. tech giant unfairly restricted rivals to its own music streaming service Apple Music on iPhones.
 
The EU competition enforcer, in its so-called statement of objections setting out the charge, said the issue related to Apple’s restrictive rules for its App Store that force developers to use its own in-app payment system and prevent them from informing users of other purchasing options.
 
European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said there were clear signs Apple’s App Store rules were affecting music streaming rivals’ business development and affecting app developers more widely.
 
“They [app developers] depend on Apple App Store as a gatekeeper to access users of Apple’s iPhones and iPads. This significant market power cannot go unchecked as the conditions of access to the Apple App Store are key for the success of app developers,” she told a news conference.
 
Vestager said Apple should end restrictive practices and refrain from doing anything that would replicate them.
 
She also said other authorities were looking into the issue. “We have contact with other jurisdictions doing similar
cases, that could be the Dutch, the Australians, the Americans,”she said, adding she  also was interested in the app gaming market, although it was early days.
 
Apple rebuffed the EU charge. “Spotify has become the largest music subscription service in the world, and we’re proud of the role we played in that,” it said in a statement.
 
“They want all the benefits of the App Store but don’t think they should have to pay anything for that. The Commission’s argument on Spotify’s behalf is the opposite of fair competition,” it added.  
 Internet Gatekeepers
 
Spotify welcomed the EU move, describing it as “a critical step toward holding Apple accountable for its anticompetitive behavior, ensuring meaningful choice for all consumers and a level playing field for app developers.”
 
Reuters was first to report about the imminent EU antitrust charge in March.
 
Spotify, one of Europe’s few global success stories in consumer technology, is the market leader in music streaming with 356 million active users and 158 million paid subscribers.  
 
Apple Music, launched more recently in 2015, is estimated to have more than 70 million subscribers although the company does not give a separate figure for that part of its business.
 
Competition between the two companies has intensified in recent weeks, with both seeking to build their customer base via supremacy in the market for podcasts.
 
“Europe’s consumers expect and deserve access to a full range of music streaming services without their choices being restricted or prices being inflated unfairly by internet gatekeepers,” said European consumer organization BEUC.
 
The EU charge comes a week before Apple’s face off with Epic Games in a U.S. antitrust trial following a lawsuit by the “Fortnite” creator alleging that Apple has abused its dominance in the market for mobile apps.
 
Epic has complained to the Commission on the same issues. Last month, the UK Competition and Markets Authority opened an investigation into Apple after complaints the iPhone maker’s terms and conditions for app developers were unfair.


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YouTube Child Stars Top Charts but Raise Concerns

Videos of kids having fun are among the most popular on YouTube. They are also a fast-growing business, one that critics say comes with little regulation and oversight to protect children on either side of the screen. Michelle Quinn reports.
Producer: Michelle Quinn


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India’s Daily COVID Count Is Almost 400,000

The daily tally of COVID-19 cases in India continues to climb toward the 400,000 mark. Friday, the health ministry reported 386,693 new infections. The daily toll of new cases has been over 300,000 for nine consecutive days. Indian media are reporting that some public health experts believe that the actual tally of new infections may be at least five times higher than the official count.Aid from the U.S. and other countries arrived in India on Friday. U.S. assistance includes oxygen supplies, rapid diagnostic tests, and vaccine manufacturing materials.The second wave of the coronavirus has pushed India’s health care system to the brink of collapse, with hospitals at full capacity and an acute shortage of oxygen aggravating an already desperate situation. Many parks and parking lots have been converted into makeshift crematories that are working day and night to burn dead bodies.Indian public health experts have blamed the spread on more contagious variants of the virus, plus the easing of restrictions on large crowds when the outbreak appeared to be under control earlier this year.Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s European regional director, warned Thursday that “It is very important to realize that the situation in India can happen anywhere … when personal protection measures are being relaxed, when there are mass gatherings, when there are more contagious variants and the vaccination coverage is still low. This can basically create a perfect storm in any country.”Only the U.S. has more COVID cases than India. The U.S. has more than 32 million infections, while India has 18.3 million, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.More than a quarter of British health care workers are wary of the COVID-19 vaccine. Reasons for their reluctance included several conspiracy theories and the lack of people of color in vaccine trials.Vaccine maker Pfizer has begun exporting doses manufactured at one of its U.S. plants according to a report filed by Reuters. Reuters reports the vaccines went to Mexico.Meanwhile, the head of Australia’s drug regulatory agency said Thursday there is no evidence the AstraZeneca vaccine was responsible for the deaths of two people shortly after their inoculations.Two men in North South Wales state, including one in his 70s, died within days after receiving the vaccine.John Skerritt, the head of the government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration, told reporters the men’s deaths are being investigated, but said “the current evidence does not suggest a likely association” between the deaths and the vaccination.The AstraZeneca vaccine has had a troubled rollout across the world, with many nations suspending its use after reports first surfaced of a severe side effect that combines blood clots with low platelet counts following inoculation, including a handful of deaths.


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Kid YouTube Stars Top the Charts but Raise Concerns

Videos of kids having fun are among the most popular on YouTube. They are also a fast-growing business, one that critics say comes with little regulation and oversight to protect children on either side of the screen. Michelle Quinn reports.
Producer: Michelle Quinn


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US Government Probes VPN Hack Within Federal Agencies, Races to Find Clues

For at least the third time since the beginning of this year, the U.S. government is investigating a hack against federal agencies that began during the Trump administration but was only recently discovered, according to senior U.S. officials and private sector cyber defenders.  It is the latest supply chain cyberattack, highlighting how sophisticated, often government-backed groups are targeting vulnerable software built by third parties as a steppingstone to sensitive government and corporate computer networks.  The new government breaches involve a popular virtual private network (VPN) known as Pulse Connect Secure, which hackers were able to break into as customers used it.  More than a dozen federal agencies run Pulse Connect Secure on their networks, according to public contract records. An emergency cybersecurity directive last week demanded that agencies scan their systems for related compromises and report back.  The results, collected Friday and analyzed this week, show evidence of potential breaches in at least five federal civilian agencies, said Matt Hartman, a senior official with the U.S. Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency.  “This is a combination of traditional espionage with some element of economic theft,” said one cybersecurity consultant familiar with the matter. “We’ve already confirmed data exfiltration across numerous environments.”  The Ivanti logo and cyber binary codes are seen in this illustration taken April 20, 2021.The maker of Pulse Connect Secure, Utah-based software company Ivanti, said it expected to provide a patch to fix the problem by this coming Monday, two weeks after it was first publicized. Only a “very limited number of customer systems” had been penetrated, it added.  Over the last two months, CISA and the FBI have been working with Pulse Connect Secure’s maker and victims of the hack to kick out the intruders and uncover other evidence, said another senior U.S. official who declined to be named but is responding to the hacks. The FBI, Justice Department and National Security Agency declined to comment.  The U.S. government’s investigation into the Pulse Connect Secure activity is still in its early stages, said the senior U.S. official, who added the scope, impact and attribution remain unclear.  Security researchers at U.S. cybersecurity firm FireEye and another firm, which declined to be named, say they’ve watched multiple hacking groups, including an elite team they associate with China, exploiting the new flaw and several others like it since 2019.  FILE – Security firm FireEye’s logo is seen outside the company’s offices in Milpitas, California.In a statement last week, Chinese Embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu said China “firmly opposes and cracks down on all forms of cyberattacks,” describing FireEye’s allegations as “irresponsible and ill-intentioned.”  The use of VPNs, which create encrypted tunnels for connecting remotely to corporate networks, has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet with the growth in VPN usage so too has the associated risk.  “This is another example in a recent pattern of cyber actors targeting vulnerabilities in widely used VPN products as our nation largely remains in remote and hybrid work postures,” Hartman said.  Three cybersecurity consultants involved in responding to the hacks told Reuters that the victim list is weighted toward the United States and so far includes defense contractors, civilian government agencies, solar energy companies, telecommunications firms and financial institutions.  The consultants also said they were aware of fewer than 100 combined victims so far between them, suggesting a fairly narrow focus by the hackers.  Analysts believe the malicious operation began around 2019 and exploited older flaws in Pulse Connect Secure and separate products made by cybersecurity firm Fortinet before invoking the new vulnerabilities.  Hartman said the civilian agency hacks date to at least June 2020.  Hacking the supplyA recent report by the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank, studied 102 supply chain hacking incidents and found they surged the last three years. Thirty of the attacks came from government-backed groups, primarily in Russia and China, the report said.  The Pulse Connect Secure response comes as the government is still grappling with the fallout of three other cyberattacks.  FILE – The SolarWinds logo is seen outside its headquarters in Austin, Texas, Dec. 18, 2020.The first is known as the SolarWinds hack, in which suspected Russian government hackers commandeered the company’s network management program to burrow inside nine federal agencies.  A weakness in Microsoft’s email server software, named Exchange, exploited by a different group of Chinese hackers, also required a massive response effort, although there was ultimately no impact to federal networks, according to U.S. officials.  Then a weakness at a maker of programming tools called Codecov left thousands of customers exposed inside their coding environments, the company disclosed this month.  Some government agencies were among the customers whose credentials were taken by the Codecov hackers for further access to code repositories or other data, according to a person briefed on the investigation. Codecov, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security declined to comment on that case.  The U.S. plans to address some of these systemic issues with an upcoming executive order that will require agencies to identify their most critical software and promote a “bill of materials” that demands a certain level of digital security across products sold to the government.  “We think [this is] the most impactful way to really impose costs on these adversaries and make it that much harder,” said the senior U.S. official. 


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US Government Taking Creative Steps to Counter Cyberthreats

An FBI operation that gave law enforcement remote access to hundreds of computers to counter a massive hack of Microsoft Exchange email server software is a tool that is likely to be deployed “judiciously” in the future as the Justice Department, aware of privacy concerns, develops a framework for its use, a top national security official said Wednesday.The department this month announced that it had obtained a warrant from a federal judge in Texas to remove web shells, or malicious code that gives hackers a foothold into networks, from hundreds of vulnerable computers affected by a hack that Microsoft has blamed on a group operating from China.The FBI operation was designed to disrupt the effects of a hack that affected many thousands of servers running the Microsoft Exchange email program. Many victims took steps on their own to safeguard their systems, but for those that who did not, the Justice Department stepped in to do it for them with a judge’s approval.It was the virtual equivalent of police going around the neighborhood locking doors that criminals had opened remotely.”We have a decision to make, which is are we going to go ahead and do that action ourselves or are we just going to leave that malware there, sort of unremediated,” said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, speaking at a virtual discussion hosted by the Project for Media & National Security at George Washington University.He said the operation was one of the very first of its kind and was the subject of extensive discussion by the FBI and the Justice Department. The department is figuring out how it plans to use that capability in the future.”We don’t yet have sort of worked out what our criteria are going to be going forward,” Demers said. “Now that we’ve had this experience, that’s the kind of discussion we’re having internally now.”This is not a tool of first resort that we’re going to be using a couple times a week as different intrusions come up,” he added. “This does require working with the private sector on the right solution. It does require testing to be sure that you’re not going to otherwise disrupt someone’s computer system.”Such operations will be done judiciously in the future, he said.Demers acknowledged concerns from some privacy advocates that the government, without permission of the computer system operators, had gained remote access and removed the web shells.But he pointed out that the department did obtain a judge’s permission and said the government felt compelled to act because, after a period of several weeks, there were still unremediated web shells that continued to serve as access point for “hackers of all stripes.””And so the choice that the government had was just continue to leave those open or take the court-authorized action that we did, and ultimately we decided to move ahead,” Demers said. “But to the extent possible before then, we had been notifying every victim that we could identify of the intrusion.”


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Clashes in Jerusalem, Gaza Suggest Peace Still a Dream

It’s been a tense few days in Jerusalem and along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip. In Jerusalem, Israeli police and Palestinians have clashed repeatedly, and in Gaza, Palestinians fired dozens of rockets at southern Israel, provoking Israeli airstrikes. The heightened tensions during the holy month of Ramadan have people on both sides worried, as Linda Gradstein reports from Jerusalem.Camera: Ricki Rosen.


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Social Media Giants Comply with Turkish Demands

The decision by global media giants to comply with demands by the Turkish government to open offices in Turkey is prompting concerns about media freedoms. Press freedom advocates say because the companies will now be subject to Turkish laws, that could mean Turkey’s people will no longer have a venue to freely express their views. For VOA, Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul. 


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American Astronaut Michael Collins of Apollo 11 Fame Dies at 90

American astronaut Michael Collins, who stayed behind in the command module of Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969, while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin traveled to the lunar surface to become the first humans to walk on the moon, died on Wednesday at age 90, his family said.
A statement released by his family said Collins died of cancer.
Often described as the “forgotten” third astronaut on the historic mission, Collins remained alone for more than 21 hours until his two colleagues returned in the lunar module. He lost contact with mission control in Houston each time the spacecraft circled the dark side of the moon.
“Not since Adam has any human known such solitude as Mike Collins,” the mission log said, referring to the biblical figure.
Collins wrote an account of his experiences in his 1974 autobiography, “Carrying the Fire,” but largely shunned publicity.
“I know that I would be a liar or a fool if I said that I have the best of the three Apollo 11 seats, but I can say with truth and equanimity that I am perfectly satisfied with the one I have,” Collins said in comments released by NASA in 2009.
Collins was born in Rome on Oct. 31, 1930 – the same year as both Armstrong and Aldrin. He was the son of a U.S. Army major general and, like his father, attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, graduating in 1952.
Like many of the first generation of American astronauts, Collins started out as an Air Force test pilot.
In 1963, he was chosen by NASA for its astronaut program, still in its early days but ramping up quickly at the height of the Cold War as the United States sought to push ahead of the Soviet Union and fulfill President John F. Kennedy’s pledge of landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
Collins’ first voyage into space came in July 1966 as pilot on Gemini X, part of the missions that prepared NASA’s Apollo program. The Gemini X mission carried out a successful docking with a separate target vehicle.
His second, and final, spaceflight was the historic Apollo 11.
He avoided much of the media fanfare that greeted the astronauts on their return to Earth, and was later often critical of the cult of celebrity.
After a short stint in government, Collins became director of the National Air and Space Museum, stepping down in 1978. He was also the author of a number of space-related books.
His strongest memory from Apollo 11, he said, was looking back at the Earth, which he said seemed “fragile.”
“I really believe that if the political leaders of the world could see their planet from a distance of 100,000 miles, their outlook could be fundamentally changed. That all-important border would be invisible, that noisy argument silenced,” he said.
His family’s statement said they know “how lucky Mike felt to live the life he did.”
“Please join us in fondly and joyfully remembering his sharp wit, his quiet sense of purpose, and his wise perspective, gained both from looking back at Earth from the vantage of space and gazing across calm waters from the deck of his fishing boat.”


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Future Is Now Made of Virtual Diplomacy

America’s reengagement with various international organizations coincides with a weird new era: that of virtual diplomacy. Since the coronavirus pandemic made travel unsafe, world leaders have taken their diplomacy digital, opening up new possibilities for engagement — but also, new concerns about fairness and transparency, and the occasional awkward moment. VOA’s Anita Powell follows this story — virtually, of course — and reports from Johannesburg.Camera: Zaheer Cassim/Nike Ching (cellphone video)   
Producer: Jon Spier 


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China Christens 3 Warships to Tighten Control in Disputed Sea, Warn US: Experts

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s in-person commissioning of three major warships on Friday represents a bold step toward tightening naval control over contested Asian seas and another pushback against growing U.S. influence in the region, analysts believe.  State media in Beijing say the three vessels, described as a destroyer, a nuclear-powered strategic ballistic missile submarine and an amphibious assault ship, formally entered the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy. The “unprecedented” commissioning “represents the rapid development of the PLA Navy and Chinese shipbuilding industry amid the grave military struggle pressure China is facing,” the Beijing-based Global Times reported. Chinese officials see the ships as a new way to help deter the United States from sending its own vessels to the seas near China’s coasts, warn other Asian countries who contest Beijing’s maritime sovereignty and slowly gain military control inside the “first island chain,” say some analysts. The chain runs from the Kuril Islands of Russia through Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines. Particularly at stake is the South China Sea, a 3.5 million-square-kilometer waterway contested by China and five other, militarily weaker nations: Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. The sea stretches from Hong Kong south to Borneo. “The commissioning of those ships and the fact that Xi Jinping himself went to baptize the new naval units is a way to announce to the region and the world that the PLA Navy has evolved into a combined, multifunctional and efficient marine combat force capable of near coast defense, near seas active defense and far seas operations alike,” said Fabrizio Bozzato, senior research fellow at the Tokyo-based Sasakawa Peace Foundation’s Ocean Policy Research Institute.A Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldier wearing a protective face mask stands guard in front of the Great Hall of the People before the second plenary session of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC), in Beijing, May 25, 2020.Chinese officials cite historical usage records to back their claims to about 90% of the sea, which is prized for fisheries and undersea fossil fuel reserves. China has alarmed the other Asian claimants by developing islets in the sea for military infrastructure and sending previously deployed ships into their exclusive economic zones. China has the strongest armed forces in Asia, prompting the other maritime claimants to look toward the United States for support as China becomes bolder offshore.  Concern in Beijing that former U.S. President Donald Trump might have been planning an attack in the disputed sea or near Taiwan drove China to warn current President Joe Biden that it’s up for “any challenge,” said Yun Sun, East Asia Program senior associate at the Stimson Center in Washington. The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii confirmed with VOA that 10 U.S. warships reached the South China Sea last year following 10 in 2019. Just five were logged in each of the two years before 2019.    Beijing’s highly publicized ship deployment was aimed first at showing Chinese people their country has added strength and “material wealth” under Xi, Sun said. The rest of the world was supposed to notice for a different reason she said.     “The other message, to the outside world, is a deterrence message, that any country in the Chinese view intervening in the South China Sea issue should pay attention to China’s strengthening maritime military capability and also be prepared for the consequences of any potential transgression in the Chinese eyes,” Sun said. The three ships won’t necessarily scare Southeast Asian claimants to the disputed sea as much as any moves that suggest China might harm oil and gas equipment in the waterway’s exclusive economic zones, said Shariman Lockman, senior foreign policy and security studies analyst with the Institute of Strategic and International Studies in Malaysia. Malaysia is a particularly active explorer for undersea fuels. “For us, the oil and gas sector is all important, so if there is any indication whatsoever that indicates that they are to remove structures from waters, that sort of stuff worries people,” he said.  China eventually wants to “break through” the first island chain, said Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow with the Singapore Institute of International Affairs. He said adding naval power is one way to advance that cause, which could be a long process. As of 2012, the Chinese navy had 512 ships, according to the British think tank International Institute of Strategic Studies. It now has more than 700 ships, the database Globalfirepower.com says.  “The Chinese way of doing things is much more nuanced,” Oh said, comparing it to other powers. “I wouldn’t say subtle but certainly nuanced – ‘if I can’t get my way the hard way, then I would do it the soft way.’ Then they’d do more if they can get away with it.” 


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Heirs of Late Samsung Electronics Chairman to Pay Massive Inheritance Tax

The family of the late Lee Kun-hee, the chairman of South Korea’s Samsung Electronics, says it will pay $10.8 billion in taxes on the inheritance from his massive estate, the largest paid in South Korean history. Lee died last October leaving an estate estimated at more than $23 billion.   The family, which includes his wife and three children, says it will split payments of the hefty tax bill in six installments over five years, with the first payment coming this month.  It is believed they will use the shares they hold in the vast family-run conglomerate as a means to pay the taxes.People pass by Samsung Electronics’ shop in Seoul, South Korea, April 28, 2021.The Lee family will also donate the late patriarch’s vast collection of fine art to two state-run museums and other organizations to help ease the burden of the tax bill.  The collection includes rare Korean artifacts and works by such legendary artists as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Paul Gauguin and Claude Monet.   The family has also agreed to donate $900 million to build a new hospital devoted to treating infectious diseases, fund research on vaccines and treatment, and support a program that treats children suffering from cancer and rare diseases.   Under the elder Lee, Samsung Electronics became the crown jewel of the Samsung conglomerate, the biggest in South Korea, with holdings in such sectors as shipbuilding, insurance and trading.   Samsung Electronics is the world’s largest maker of semiconductors, smartphones and other consumer electronics.  But the family has been mired in a host of corruption scandals, with Lee’s son, Jae-yong, currently serving a two-and-a-half year prison sentence in connection with the scandal that brought down former President Park Geun-hye. 


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UK Government Green Lights ‘Self-driving’ Cars on Motorways

The UK government on Wednesday became the first country to announce it will regulate the use of self-driving vehicles at slow speeds on motorways, with the first such cars possibly appearing on public roads as soon as this year. Britain’s transport ministry said it was working on specific wording to update the country’s highway code for the safe use of self-driving vehicle systems, starting with Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) — which use sensors and software to keep cars within a lane, allowing them to accelerate and brake without driver input. The government said the use of ALKS would be restricted to motorways, at speeds under 37 miles (60 km) per hour. The UK government wants to be at the forefront of rolling out autonomous driving technology and the transport ministry forecasts by 2035 around 40% of new UK cars could have self-driving capabilities, creating up to 38,000 new skilled jobs. “The automotive industry welcomes this vital step to permit the use of automated vehicles on UK roads, which will put Britain in the vanguard of road safety and automotive technology,” Mike Hawes, CEO of car industry lobby group the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said in a statement. Limits of technologyBut insurance companies warn that Britain’s goal of being a leader in adopting self-driving cars could backfire unless automakers and regulators spell out the current limitations of the technology available today. They say calling ALKS “automated,” or using the synonymous term “self-driving,” will confuse British drivers into thinking the cars can drive themselves, causing accidents and risking a public backlash against the technology. “Aside from the lack of technical capabilities, by calling ALKS automated our concern also is that the UK Government is contributing to the confusion and frequent misuse of assisted driving systems that have unfortunately already led to many tragic deaths,” said Matthew Avery, research director at Thatcham Research, which has tested ALKS systems. The dangers of drivers apparently misunderstanding the limits of technology has been an issue in the United States, where regulators are reviewing about 20 crashes involving Tesla’s driver assistance tools, such as its “Autopilot” system. 
 


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Russia Fines Apple, Alleging Monopolistic Actions

Russia has fined Apple $12 million, alleging monopolistic activities.The Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) said Tuesday that Apple was gaining an unfair advantage over other companies through its app store.”Apple was found to have abused its dominant position in the iOS distribution market … which resulted in a competitive advantage for its own products,” the FAS said in a statement.The ruling was sparked by a complaint from Russia-based cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab, which said a version of its Safe Kids app had been rejected by Apple.”We worked with Kaspersky to get their app in compliance with rules that were put in place to protect children,” Apple said in a statement. “They now have 13 apps on the App Store and we have processed hundreds of updates for them.”Apple reportedly said it “respectfully disagreed” with the FAS decision, which it plans to appeal.Earlier this month, Russia began enforcing a law that demands devices sold in Russia come with pre-installed domestic software. The legislation was intended to boost Russian tech companies.Critics say the law is an attempt by the Russian government to control the internet.Starting in July, companies that don’t comply could face fines.Western tech firms have been facing pressure from Moscow. For example, Russia has slowed down Twitter, saying the company was not acting quickly enough to remove certain content not allowed in Russia.Facebook and Google have also come under increased scrutiny.


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Apple Rolls Out Privacy Shield to Thwart Snoopy Apps

Apple is following through on its pledge to crack down on Facebook and other snoopy apps that secretly shadow people on their iPhones in order to target more advertising at users. The new privacy feature, dubbed “App Tracking Transparency,” rolled out Monday as part of an update to the operating system powering the iPhone and iPad. The anti-tracking shield included in iOS 14.5 arrives after a seven-month delay during which Apple and Facebook attacked each other’s business models and motives for decisions that affect billions of people around the world.  “What this feud demonstrates more than anything is that Facebook and Apple have tremendous gatekeeping powers over the market,” said Elizabeth Renieris, founding director of the Technology Ethics Lab at the University of Notre Dame. But Apple says it is just looking out for the best interests of the more than 1 billion people using iPhones. “Now is a good time to bring this out, both because of the increasing amount of data they have on their devices, and their sensitivity (about the privacy risks) is increasing, too,” Erik Neuenschwander, Apple’s chief privacy engineer, told The Associated Press in an interview.  Once the software update is installed — something most iPhone users do — even existing apps already on the device will be required to ask and receive consent to track online activities. That’s a shift Facebook fiercely resisted, most prominently in a series of full-page newspaper ads blasting Apple.  Until now, Facebook and other apps have been able to automatically conduct their surveillance on iPhones unless users took the time and trouble to go into their settings to prevent it — a process that few people bother to navigate.  “This is an important step toward consumers getting the transparency and the controls they have clearly been looking for,” said Daniel Barber, CEO of DataGrail, a firm that helps companies manage personal privacy. In its attacks on Apple’s anti-tracking controls, Facebook blasted the move as an abuse of power designed to force more apps to charge for their services instead of relying on ads. Apple takes a 15% to 30% cut on most payments processed through an iPhone app. Online tracking has long helped Facebook and thousands of other apps accumulate information about their user’s interests and habits so they can show customized ads. Although Facebook executives initially acknowledged Apple’s changes would probably reduce its revenue by billions of dollars annually, the social networking company has framed most of its public criticism as a defense of small businesses that rely on online ads to stay alive. Apple, in turn, has pilloried Facebook and other apps for prying so deeply into people’s lives that it has created a societal crisis. FILE – Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif., June 4, 2018.In a speech given a few weeks after the January 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol, Apple CEO Tim Cook pointed out how personal information collected through tracking by Facebook and other social media can sometimes push people toward more misinformation and hate speech as part of the efforts to show more ads.  “What are the consequences of not just tolerating but rewarding content that undermines public trust in life-saving vaccinations?” Cook asked. “What are the consequences of seeing thousands of users join extremist groups and then perpetuating an algorithm that recommends more?”  It’s part of Apple’s attempt to use the privacy issue to its competitive advantage, Barber said, a tactic he now expects more major brands to embrace if the new anti-tracking controls prove popular among most consumers.  In a change of tone, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently suggested that Apple’s new privacy controls could help his company in the long run. His rationale: The inability to automatically track iPhone users may prod more companies to sell their products directly on Facebook and affiliated services such as Instagram if they can’t collect enough personal information to effectively target ads within their own apps.  FILE – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appears on a screen as he speaks remotely during a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill, Oct. 28, 2020.”It’s possible that we may even be in a stronger position if Apple’s changes encourage more businesses to conduct more commerce on our platforms by making it harder for them to use their data in order to find the customers that would want to use their products outside of our platforms,” Zuckerberg said last month during a discussion held on the audio chat app Clubhouse.  In the same interview, Zuckerberg also asserted most people realize that advertising is a “time-tested model” that enables them to get more services for free or at extremely low prices. “People get for the most part that if they are going to see ads, they want them to be relevant ads,” Zuckerberg said. He didn’t say whether he believes most iPhone users will consent to tracking in exchange for ads tailored to their interests. Google also depends on personal information to fuel a digital ad network even bigger than Facebook’s, but it has said it would be able to adjust to the iPhone’s new privacy controls. Unlike Facebook, Google has close business ties with Apple. Google pays Apple an estimated $9 billion to $12 billion annually to be the preferred search engine on iPhone and iPad. That arrangement is currently one element of an antitrust case filed last year by the U.S. Justice Department. Facebook is also defending itself against a federal antitrust lawsuit seeking to break the company apart. Meanwhile, Apple is being scrutinized by lawmakers and regulators around the world for the commissions it collects on purchases made through iPhone apps and its ability to shake up markets through new rules that are turning it into a de facto regulator. “Even if Apple’s business model and side in this battle is more rights protective and better for consumer privacy, there is still a question of whether we want a large corporation like Apple effectively ‘legislating’ through the app store,” Renieris said. 
 


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Cameroonian Startup’s Online Veterinary App Helps Remote Breeders

A Cameroonian company has created a veterinary counseling app designed to help farmers and ranchers who live far away from veterinarians to detect animal diseases and give them guidance online.Cameroonian rabbit breeder Thierry Bayabon lost three-quarters of his stock to disease a few months ago. Like most small-scale Cameroonian farmers, he was not familiar with diseases that affect animals. Bayabon says the deaths could have been prevented, but it took too long to find a veterinarian to visit his remote farm. He says two weeks after the cases, as the situation was getting worse, he was successful in getting a veterinarian. The vet came on-site and was able to determine the problem.To help breeders like Bayabon avoid such costly losses, a Cameroonian startup designed the free online application, Veto.The app analyzes audio questions about symptoms, gives treatment advice, and helps breeders and ranchers share information.It also allows them to send photos and videos to actual veterinarians, like Mangoua Cédrick, for analysis.”In those villages, they have no vet personnel,” Cédrick said. “And with an advent of a zoonotic disease like tuberculosis, I mean, you taking the picture for the analysis may help you save life, because zoonoses are diseases that attack humans or that are transmissible between animal to human.”The Veto app’s main challenge is that it requires an internet connection, which is expensive and hard to come by in Cameroon’s remote villages.The app’s developers say they are working on the problem so it can be useful to more people raising livestock.Franklin Djomo, chief marketing officer for Veto, says their research and development teams are actively working to develop a module that is not connected to the internet so that it can operate in rural areas. While the veterinary diagnostic app has connection limitations, its practical use is not limited to Cameroon, or even West Africa. The Veto app is currently available in Cameroon’s official languages — French and English — and also in Arabic and Swahili.  
 


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