Hillicon Valley: EU hits Google with $1.7 billion antitrust fine | GOP steps up attack over tech bias claims | Dems ask FTC for budget wishlist | Justices punt on Google privacy settlement
Hillicon Valley: New York says goodbye to Amazon's HQ2 | AOC reacts: 'Anything is possible' | FTC pushes for record Facebook fine | Cyber threats to utilities on the rise
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Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers) and Jacqueline Thomsen (@jacq_thomsen), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e).
WE HAVE A VALENTINE'S DAY-THEMED NEWSLETTER that will make you say: "HUG ME," "ONLY YOU," "BE MINE," "TRUE LOVE," "HOT STUFF," "CUTIE PIE."
Too bad Sweethearts aren't around this year ... :(
ONE BIG VALENTINES DAY BREAKUP? AMAZON & NY: Amazon on Thursday announced that it has canceled plans to open its second headquarters, dubbed "HQ2," in New York City following aggressive pushback from some local lawmakers and activists.
"After much thought and deliberation, we've decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens," a company spokesperson said in a statement.
"While polls show that 70 percent of New Yorkers support our plans and investment, a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project we and many others envisioned in Long Island City," the statement said.
New York lawmakers, including progressive superstar Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D), for months have been drumming up resistance to Amazon's decision to bring half of its second headquarters to Queens.
The activists and politicians have raised concerns that Amazon's new headquarters would displace poor residents and raise rents. They also have criticized New York City's decision to offer $3 billion in state and city incentives to lure Amazon to the area.
"We are disappointed to have reached this conclusion," Amazon said in its statement, noting that it intends to continue growing the group of 5,000 employees already in New York City.
New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio (D) and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) had both hailed Amazon's second headquarters as an economic boon to the city, claiming it would attract significant investments and other tech companies.
"We are deeply grateful to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and their staffs, who so enthusiastically and graciously invited us to build in New York City and supported us during the process," Amazon wrote. Read more of our coverage here.
The reactions, well, have been mixed.
WE'RE DONE: NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said: "You have to be tough to make it in New York City. We gave Amazon the opportunity to be a good neighbor and do business in the greatest city in the world. Instead of working with the community, Amazon threw away that opportunity."
BYE FELICIA: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a 2020 presidential candidate, said: "Amazon - one of the wealthiest companies on the planet - just walked away from billions in taxpayer bribes, all because some elected officials in New York aren't sucking up to them enough."
NO LOVE: Dem Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez: "Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon's corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world."
AMAZON'S TAXING DAY: Amazon will not pay any federal income taxes for the second year in a row, according to a report released Wednesday.
The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found that the online retailer, which reported $11.2 billion in profits in 2018, did not pay income tax because of unnamed "tax credits" in their disclosure.
The company will reportedly receive a $129 million federal income tax rebate, effectively making their tax rate -1 percent.
A spokesperson from Amazon challenged report, saying the company did in fact specify what tax credits they used and that the report made mistakes in calculating 2016 tax expenses.
"Amazon pays all the taxes we are required to pay in the U.S. and every country where we operate, including paying $2.6 billion in corporate tax and reporting $3.4 billion in tax expense over the last three years," they said. "Corporate tax is based on profits, not revenues, and our profits remain modest given retail is a highly competitive, low-margin business and our continued heavy investment."
The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a liberal think tank, says the Trump administration's 2017 tax plan is partially responsible by failing to "broaden the tax base or close a slew of tax loopholes that allow profitable companies to routinely avoid paying federal and state income taxes on almost half of their profit."
More on Amazon's long day here.
FEELING FINE(D): The Federal Trade Commission is reportedly pushing for a record multibillion-dollar fine against Facebook over privacy violations following an investigation into the company's handling of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that the two sides had begun negotiations to settle the investigation. If Facebook rejects a proposed settlement with such a large fine, the parties could be headed towards a costly court fight.
A fine of more than a billion dollars would be unprecedented for the agency. The largest penalty it has imposed on a tech company was a $22.5 million settlement with Google in 2012.
An FTC spokesman declined to comment.
The agency opened the investigation last March after it was revealed that the political consulting group Cambridge Analytica had improperly obtained data on as many as 87 million Facebook users.
Read more here.
CALLED OUT: The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee sent a letter to Facebook and Google on Thursday expressing concern that their platforms have recommended anti-vaccination information.
"As a Member of Congress who is deeply concerned about declining vaccination rates, I am requesting additional information on the steps that you currently take to provide medically accurate information on vaccinations to your users, and to encourage you to consider additional steps you can take to address this growing problem," Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) wrote to Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai, CEOs of Facebook and Google, respectively.
"I was pleased to see YouTube's recent announcement that it will no longer recommend videos that violate its community guidelines, such as conspiracy theories or medically inaccurate videos, and encourage further action to be taken related to vaccine misinformation."
Schiff cited a recent report in The Guardian that found Facebook and Google users are nudged toward anti-vaccination websites and groups when they seek information about vaccines on the platforms.
The companies have taken some steps toward remedying the spread of that sort of misinformation. YouTube, which is run by Google, said last month that it would work to recommend fewer videos with misinformation. Facebook made a similar pledge last July.
The World Health Organization named hesitancy over vaccinations as one of the top 10 greatest threats to global health in 2019.
Washington state declared a public health emergency last month because of an outbreak of measles, likely bolstered by low vaccination rates. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that incidences of measles have increased 30 percent globally.
Read more here.
HACKERS <3 UTILITIES SYSTEMS: Cybersecurity risks to utilities' systems increased in 2018, with more intrusions into those networks and malware that infected those systems, according to a new report from a threat assessment firm released Thursday.
Dragos, which specializes in industrial cybersecurity, found that the threat for systems such as electric grids have grown over the last year, even without a substantial attack taking place.
The firm pointed to one threat actor group known as "Xenotime" as being particularly threatening to the industry systems. And the company warned that compromises of different vendors have likely happened.
The report also highlighted "Living off the Land" tactics - in which an adversary is able to access a system and move through it undetected - as a threat that will continue in the coming years.
"As anti-virus products, detection software, and other threat detection methods become more robust and capable of detecting various malicious activity, adversaries must modify their methods to evade capture by blending in with the environment and not leaving behind identifiable artifacts," the report states.
In another report released Thursday, Dragos warned that advisories issued about vulnerabilities to industrial systems sometimes don't get across the full risk of threats, or properly express how to stop them.
Those "vulnerability assessments as published are frightfully inadequate and fail to provide asset owners and operators with meaningful guidance," the report reads.
"As a community we must learn from real experiences and insights to ensure we are constantly pushing the security of our industrial infrastructure forward," Robert M. Lee, the CEO and founder of Dragos, said in a statement.
Read more here.
CUE DUA LIPA'S 'NEW RULES': Google, Amazon and other tech firms will have to tell companies how products are ranked on their platforms under new European Union rules agreed to Thursday, according to Reuters.
The policy is reportedly intended to stop unfair practices among digital platforms and is targeted at Google Play, Apple App Store, Microsoft Store, Amazon Marketplace, eBay and Fnac Marketplace. Various social media companies and search engines, such as Facebook, Instagram, Skyscanner and Google Shopping, Google Search, Seznam.cz, Yahoo!, DuckDuckGo and Bing are also covered under the rules, Reuters noted.
The regulations include prohibiting discriminatory trade practices, requiring companies to set up internal mechanisms to deal with complaints and allowing businesses to collectively sue online platforms, according to the news service.
"Our target is to outlaw some of the most unfair practices and create a benchmark for transparency, at the same time safeguarding the great advantages of online platforms both for consumers and for businesses," EU digital chief Andrus Ansip said, it added.
The EU fined Google $2.7 billion in 2017 over antitrust violations for advancing its own price-comparison shopping service. Regulators are also probing if Amazon illegally uses dealers' data to make similar items.
Read more here.
2020 SOCIAL MEDIA QUEEN: Sen. Kamala Harris's (D-Calif.) 2020 presidential campaign has taken an early lead on social media platforms when it comes to total interactions with the public, according to a study released Thursday.
An Axios/Newswhip study of social media interactions found Harris's campaign on top with 16.5 million total interactions across all platforms since November. Her nearest competitor, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), had 14.2 million total interactions.
The study, which counted interactions that reference the 2020 election in some way, finds that Harris dominated traffic on Twitter and Instagram while falling far short to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Facebook, where the senator and 2016 Democratic contender enjoys a combined audience of 22 million users.
Harris has added more than a million followers on Twitter and Instagram combined since last November and has added 123,000 to her Facebook audience in that same time.
Read more here.
SCAM OF THE DAY: LINK
A lighter click: Happy Valentines Day w/ a poem from your crush, the CIA <3!
NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:
Seven ways to spot a business email compromise in Office 365. (Expel)
Facebook uses its apps to track users it thinks could threaten employees and offices. (CNBC)
New York's ejection of Amazon is the start of a movement. (CityLab)
You still can't edit your tweets, but you may soon be able to "clarify" them. (Recode)