OVERNIGHT TECH: EU gives Google deadline in antitrust probe

ADVERTISEMENT
Almunia made the statement after meeting with Google Chairman Eric Schmidt in Brussels on Tuesday.

The most significant issue in the antitrust investigations is whether Google is manipulating its search results to ensure that its own services appear above its rivals'.

The FTC is expected to announce its decision in the Google investigation soon, but observers doubt that the FTC will take action over the search bias complaints.

Almunia said he is still focusing on whether Google is using its search engine to give itself an unfair advantage over its competitors.

The European Commission is also investigating Google's use of other companies' content, its exclusive search agreements with other websites and restrictions on its advertising services.

The FairSearch Coalition, which is made up of Google's competitors, applauded Almunia for "seeking to extract a binding set of commitments from Google to end biased search results and other potential legal violations he has identified, and to submit that proposal for market testing before determining if it resolves Google’s abuse of dominance in Europe, where the company controls 93 percent of search."

According to Bloomberg, the FTC might delay a decision in the case until next year.

Penguin settles e-book case: The Justice Department announced on Tuesday that it had settled charges with Penguin Group for allegedly fixing the price of e-books.

Apple and Macmillan will continue to fight the government's charges in court. The trial is scheduled to begin in June 2013.

According to DOJ, Apple and the five publishers were unhappy that Amazon was driving down the price of e-books. Amazon had set the price of all of its e-books at $9.99.

According to the government, the companies conspired to set up a new business model, called the agency model, which raised the price of many e-books by about $2 to $3.

“Since the department’s settlement with Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, consumers are already paying lower prices for the e-book versions of many of those publishers’ new releases and best-sellers,” Jamillia Ferris, chief of staff at DOJ's Antitrust Division, said. “If approved by the court, the proposed settlement with Penguin will be an important step toward undoing the harm caused by the publishers’ anticompetitive conduct and restoring retail price competition so consumers can pay lower prices for Penguin’s e-books.” 

FTC to unveil new online privacy rules: The FTC will unveil its update to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) during an event on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, will join with FTC Chairman John Leibowitz to announce the new regulations. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) will also attend the press conference, which will he held at noon in the Russell Senate Office Building.

FTC investigates data brokers: The FTC opened an investigation on Tuesday into the business and privacy practices of data brokers, companies that compile and sell consumers' personal information.

The FTC ordered nine data brokers to explain how they collect and use personal data. The agency also asked whether consumers are able to access or correct the information collected about them.

The investigation won praise from lawmakers.

“I applaud the FTC’s decision to join me in taking a hard look at the data broker industry," Rockefeller said in a statement. "I am examining the data broker industry because American consumers deserve to know who is collecting information about them, what that information is and how it is being used."

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) commended the FTC for "working to shine a light on an industry that impacts millions of Americans." 

"It’s critical to bring data brokers out from the shadows and shed light on this omnipresent industry in order to develop a system of oversight and rules that fosters consumers’ control over their personal information," Markey said.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) said consumers should have control over their own personal information.

"It is appalling that these companies can still freely use personal information such as a user’s full name, home address, Social Security number, telephone number and even birth date at their discretion," Barton said. "It is time that Congress carefully considers this industry and the potential dangers that [exist]."

Markey introduces drone privacy bill: Markey on Tuesday introduced a bill that would establish a set of privacy safeguards that drone operators must follow and put limits on the surveillance they can conduct.

The measure proposes to amend the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act "to provide guidance and limitations" on the expansion of non-military drone use in the United States, according to the bill. It would ensure that the FAA cannot issue a license to a drone operator unless they describe what kind of data the drone will collect, how that data will be used and how long it will be stored, among other information, in their license application. 

House approves video privacy bill: The House approved a bill Tuesday that would make it easier for people to share their favorite movie and television show rentals online.

The bill is similar to legislation the House approved last year, H.R. 2471, but it includes two changes suggested by the Senate. First, it requires video rental companies to give consumers a "clear and conspicuous" option to withdraw their consent to share their rental choices at all times.

Secondly, it requires that a consumer's consent to share information expires after 24 months, unless the consumer again chooses to "opt in."

NRA reappears on Facebook, Twitter: The National Rifle Association is back on social media Tuesday, after falling silent since last Friday's school shooting.

The pro-gun organization's official Facebook page disappeared for at least one full day and the official NRA Twitter account, @NRA, also stopped tweeting, apparently as part of a larger strategy to observe social media silence in the wake of the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., last Friday. 

Senate delays vote on FTC, FCC picks: The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has delayed a vote on President Obama's nominees to the FTC and the Federal Communications Commission until Wednesday.

Obama nominated Mignon Clyburn for a second term at the FCC and Joshua Wright for a first term at the FTC.

More in Overnight Technology

OVERNIGHT TECH: Tech giants help Microsoft in DOJ fight

Read more »