Overnight Tech: Dems want FCC chair investigated over Sinclair merger | Google faces state antitrust probe | Qualcomm rejects Broadcom offer | Startups criticize plan to tax employees' stocks

Overnight Tech: Dems want FCC chair investigated over Sinclair merger | Google faces state antitrust probe | Qualcomm rejects Broadcom offer | Startups criticize plan to tax employees' stocks
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MISSOURI AG OPENS GOOGLE INVESTIGATION: Missouri's attorney general launched an investigation into Google's data collection and search practices, saying that the internet giant has so far received a "free pass" by federal regulators.

Josh Hawley, a Republican, announced the probe on Monday, saying that his office has issued a subpoena to Google.

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In a press conference, Hawley noted that Google and the Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement in 2013 after a similar investigation centering on whether the company was favoring its own services in search results over those of its competitors.

"But frankly, the Obama-era FTC did not take any enforcement action against Google, did not press this forward and has essentially given them a free pass," Hawley said.

The FTC declined to comment.

The investigation will focus on three areas: Google's data collection practices, allegations that it has been cribbing information from rivals' sites and whether its search results are giving more prominent placement to the company's own services.

"We have not yet received the subpoena, however, we have strong privacy protections in place for our users and continue to operate in a highly competitive and dynamic environment," Google spokesman Patrick Lenihan said in a statement.

The Kansas City Star first reported the investigation.

Hawley announced last month that he would be running to unseat Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillDemocrats turn on Al Franken Trump rips Dems a day ahead of key White House meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (D-Mo.). McCaskill is considered one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators on the ballot in 2018.

Google was hit with a record $2.8 billion fine from the European Union in June for giving prominent search result placement to its own comparison shopping service.

The FTC closed a similar investigation into the company in 2013 without a fine.

Critics are now seeking more information on that decision.

Yelp, which has been battling Google for years, has asked the agency to probe whether the search giant violated the settlement agreement.

Read more here.

 

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Join The Hill on Tuesday, November 14, for Digitalizing Infrastructure: Building a Smart Future featuring Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoSenate women: Rules on harassment must change Congress, here's a CO2-smart tax fix to protect, create jobs Women, Dems leading sexual harassment discussion in Congress: analysis MORE (R-W.Va.) and Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands). Topics of conversation will include the integration of smart technology into new and existing infrastructure, changing investment strategies, and regulatory challenges. RSVP Here

 

DEMS WANT FCC CHAIR INVESTIGATED: Top House Democrats are calling for the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to be investigated over whether he has been improperly clearing regulatory hurdles for the Sinclair Broadcast Group's pending acquisition of Tribune Media.

Reps. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsTop intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father Overnight Cybersecurity: Panel pushes agencies on dropping Kaspersky software | NC county won't pay ransom to hackers | Lawmakers sound alarm over ISIS 'cyber caliphate' Flynn told associate Russia sanctions would be ‘ripped up’ early in Trump presidency MORE (D-Md.) and Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneOvernight Energy: Watchdog probes Pruitt speech to mining group | EPA chief promises to let climate scientists present their work | Volkswagen manager gets 7 years for emissions cheating The nearly 60 Dems who voted for impeachment EPA watchdog to investigate Pruitt meeting with industry group MORE (D-N.J.) sent a letter to the FCC inspector general on Monday, asking that he probe whether Chairman Ajit Pai has been clearing the way for the $3.9 billion deal.

"We request that you examine how the FCC has conducted its business with regard to Sinclair," wrote Cummings and Pallone, the top Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee respectively.

Their letter cites a list of deregulatory moves that the FCC has taken this year that have benefitted Sinclair in its goal of expanding its massive holdings of local television stations across the country.

Read more here.

 

UBER APPROVES SOFTBANK INVESTMENT: Uber has approved Japanese technology conglomerate SoftBank's bid to purchase a multibillion-dollar stake in the ride-hailing company.

The Japanese internet and telecommunications firm's investment in Uber is set to be one of the largest-ever deals with a private startup.

The deal will allow Softbank, along with other firms, to purchase $1 billion in Uber. After this, firms will be able to purchase up to $9 billion in equity from Uber's shareholders, according to Bloomberg. The final amount will be contingent on the willingness of current shareholders to fork over their holdings to SoftBank.

Read more here.

 

QUALCOMM REJECTS BROADCOM BID: Qualcomm's board of directors on Monday unanimously rejected an offer from rival chip maker Broadcom to buy the company.

Last week, Broadcom made the unsolicited $103 billion offer that would have created the largest tech merger in history.

But as many analysts predicted, Qualcomm said the bid was too low.

"It is the Board's unanimous belief that Broadcom's proposal significantly undervalues Qualcomm relative to the Company's leadership position in mobile technology and our future growth prospects," Paul Jacobs, Qualcomm's chairman of the board, said in a statement.

Read more here.

 

BILL GATES DONATES $100 MILLION TO ALZHEIMER'S RESEARCH: Bill Gates will invest $100 million toward fighting Alzheimer's, the billionaire Microsoft co-founder announced Monday.

Half of the $100 million, from Gates's personal fund, will go toward the Dementia Discovery Fund and the rest will go toward start-up ventures working in Alzheimer's research.

"We've seen scientific innovation turn once-guaranteed killers like HIV into chronic illnesses that can be held in check with medication. I believe we can do the same (or better) with Alzheimer's," Gates said in a blog post on his website.

Read more here.

 

COURT NARROWS DOJ WARRANT FOR FACEBOOK DATA ON TRUMP PROTESTERS: A court in Washington, D.C., has moved to limit the scope of search warrants obtained by federal investigators for Facebook data in connection with an ongoing probe into criminal rioting on Inauguration Day.

As a result of the order, the Department of Justice (DOJ) will be blocked from viewing identifying information on innocent third-party Facebook users who interacted with a page used to organize protests against President Trump on Jan. 20.

The particular case involves federal warrants targeting the personal Facebook accounts of two local D.C. activists as well as the public Facebook page for DisruptJ20, which has since been rebranded as "Resist This."

Read more here.

 

TAX FIGHT: Silicon Valley investors and firms are speaking out against a provision in the Senate Republican tax-reform plan that would change how employees are taxed on stock-based compensation.

The provision in the Senate plan unveiled last week would tax employees once they acquire shares in a company, instead of just taxing the capital gains on shares after they are sold.

500 signatories, including Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and Y Combinator head Sam Altman, as well as tech firms Uber, Airbnb and Dropbox, urged the Senate to drop the measure in a letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' in 2018 Utah governor calls Bannon a 'bigot' after attacks on Romney MORE (R-Utah).

"We cannot overemphasize how essential stock-based compensation is to a startup's ability to recruit and retain talent," they wrote.

Many startup companies -- in Silicon Valley and elsewhere -- in their early stages offer equity to employees as compensation when they have less cash on hand. If the company is successful and grows, the value of those shares increases as well.

Read more here.

 

FACEBOOK WANTS 'FLEXIBILITY' IN POLITICAL AD RULES: Facebook says that it supports the government's push to further regulate election ads on digital platforms, but qualifies that it wants flexible rules.

The company explained in comments it sent to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that new regulations should give "advertisers flexibility to meet their disclaimer obligations in innovative ways that take full advantage of the technological advance."

The firm explained that by "technological advances," it means instead of firm rules requiring specific text to show up on political ads on its platform, Facebook would instead like to see provision that allow the company freedom in how it shows users who is buying ads.

"For example, allowing ads to include an icon or other obvious indicator that more information about an ad is available via quick navigation (like a single click) would give clear guidance on how to include disclaimers in new technologies as they are developed."

The proposal, if taken up by the FEC, would allow Facebook to meet transparency requirements but still control the design and appearance of how ads are displayed on its website.

Read more here.

 

ON TAP:

VSAT Congress begins at 8 a.m.

The Hill hosts "Digitalizing Infrastructure" at 8 a.m.

The House Science oversight subcommittee will hold a hearing on government cybersecurity at 10 a.m.

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat House passes concealed carry gun bill Rosenstein to testify before House Judiciary Committee next week MORE will testify before the House Judiciary Committee at 10 a.m.

The Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection holds a hearing on agricultural technology at 2:30 p.m.

 

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