Hillicon Valley: Senators want answers about Amazon’s biometric data collection | House members release companion bill targeting app stores | Google files to dismiss Ohio lawsuit
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Senators from both sides of the aisle joined together to press Amazon for details about its palm print scanners program, which lets shoppers pay in Amazon stores without ever taking out cash or cards. The senators said the program raises questions about the e-commerce giant’s plans for using the biometric data.
Meanwhile, Google and Apple are facing further regulation aimed at curbing the dominance of their app stores. A bipartisan group of House lawmakers introduced a bill to increase competition in the app market, just days after a companion bill was proposed in the Senate.
AMAZON ONE QUESTION: A bipartisan group of senators sent a letter to Amazon Friday raising questions about its collection of biometric data.
The lawmakers are particularly interested in the expansion of the company’s palm print scanners program, Amazon One.
The scanners are used at Amazon stores to let customers pay without having to take out cards or cash if they enroll in the program.
“Recent reports indicate that Amazon is incentivizing consumers to share their biometric information with Amazon One by offering a $10 promotional credit for Amazon.com products,” Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) wrote to Amazon’s new CEO, Andy Jassy.
“Amazon’s expansion of biometric data collection through Amazon One raises serious questions about Amazon’s plans for this data and its respect for user privacy, including about how Amazon may use the data for advertising and tracking purposes,” they continued.
The lawmakers are demanding the e-commerce giant respond to a series of questions by the end of the month about the expansion of Amazon One and how data collected will be protected.
APP BILL 2: A bipartisan group of House lawmakers introduced a bill Friday aimed at increasing competition in the app market.
The Open App Markets Act would seek to limit the dominance of Apple’s and Google’s app stores by blocking them from self-preferencing their own products and allowing users to download tools from third-party stores.
It would also end requirements that app developers use payment systems run by the stores, a major source of criticism from smaller firms in the space.
The legislation was released as a companion to a bill proposed in the Senate earlier this week.
The House version of the bill was introduced by House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee ranking member Ken Buck (R-Colo.) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.). Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) are behind the upper chamber’s version.
“For far too long, companies like Google and Apple have had a stranglehold on app developers who are forced to take whatever terms these monopolists set in order to reach their customers,” Buck said in a statement.
Google’s and Apple’s positions in the app market have come under increasing scrutiny since Apple kicked Epic Games’s Fortnite off its store for setting up its own in-app payment system to avoid the Silicon Valley giant’s 30 percent commission fees.
GOOGLE’S MOVE: Google is seeking to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Ohio attorney general seeking to declare the search giant a public utility, according to a motion filed Friday.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) filed the lawsuit in June, arguing the Silicon Valley giant has used its dominance to prioritize its own products in a way that “intentionally disadvantages competitors.”
Google’s lawyers argue in the motion that the search giant does not meet the state’s requirements to be considered a common carrier.
“Ohio’s Complaint mistakenly assumes Google Search is a common carrier or public utility because Ohioans choose to use Google Search. Under Ohio law, common carriers charge a fee to deliver a standardized service, and public utilities are regulated by a set of state regulations. Google has none of those attributes, and there is no basis in the law to conclude otherwise,” the motion states.
NEW POLICY: Airbnb said Friday that it will no longer require sexual assault or sexual harassment claims by hosts or guests to go through its arbitration process, allowing alleged victims to sue the company directly.
“We believe that survivors should be able to bring claims in whatever forum is best for them. We encourage our industry peers within the travel and hospitality space to consider taking similar steps for their respective communities,” the short-term rental company said in a blog post.
The update to the terms of service is expected to take effect “in the Fall,” according to the company.
Airbnb said the change will “codify a practice” it has already had in place for a couple of years.
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NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:
Zillow, Other Tech Firms Are in an ‘Arm’s Race’ To Buy Up American Homes (Motherboard / Maxwell Strachan)
Deleting unethical data sets isn’t good enough (MIT Tech Review / Karen Hao)
The UK finally got Big Tech to boost teens’ privacy (Protocol / Ben Brody)
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