Tag: watchdog

Salesforce wants watchdogs to split up Microsoft and LinkedIn

dog-on-bed-with-people-no-text-590x388Salesforce has called on EU regulators to investigate antitrust issues related to Microsoft’s $26 billion bid for social network LinkedIn.

Vole is expected to seek EU antitrust approval in the coming weeks for its largest ever deal and Salesforce, which missed out on the sale is complaining.

It has asked competition authorities to go beyond a simple review, saying the deal threatens innovation and competition.

Burke Norton, Salesforce’s chief legal officer, said in a statement said that by gaining ownership of LinkedIn’s unique dataset of over 450 million professionals in more than 200 countries, Microsoft will be able to deny competitors access to that data, and in doing so obtain an unfair competitive advantage.

“Salesforce believes this raises significant antitrust and data privacy issues that need to be fully scrutinized by competition and data privacy authorities in the United States and in the European Union,” he said.

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, said in a statement: “Salesforce may not be aware, but the deal has already been cleared to close in the United States, Canada, and Brazil. We’re committed to continuing to work to bring price competition to a CRM market in which Salesforce is the dominant participant charging customers higher prices today.”

The European Commission’s preliminary review of merger deals lasts 25 working days, which can be extended by about four months if it has serious concerns.

Health insurer tells watchdogs where to go

bad-dogIn the wake of a serious hacking, a US health insurer has resolved a problem with government watchdogs snuffling around a huge data leak by banning them from its networks.

Anthem Healthcare lost more than 80 million patient records raising a slight question about what it does about security.

However when the federal auditor asked to scan the company’s systems, it took the bold step of telling the watchdog to sling its hook.

The  Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) Office of Inspector General, issued a statement saying that Anthem refused to allow the agency to perform “standard vulnerability scans and configuration compliance tests” this summer, as requested by the OIG. Worse: Anthem refused a similar request in 2013. In each case, Anthem cited “internal policies” that forbid outside access to its network as the reason for refusing to allow the vulnerability scans.

In other words, no you can’t look at our security because that would be a breach of security.

In its dealings with other insurers, the watchdog would have a problem, but OPM has the authority to conduct the audits on Anthem because that health insurer provides health plans to federal employees under the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP).

What Anthem appears to be worried about is that the watchdog might find out that its security problems go much deeper than a one off hacking.

An earlier OPM report filed in September 2013 and based on only limited access to Anthem’s network identified a number of concerns, from porous vulnerability scans that failed to include desktop systems to a loose configuration management program. In each case, Anthem (then Wellpoint) responded by arguing that its current processes were adequate.

EU watchdogs suspect that Amazon deal broke law

watchdogEuropean antitrust watchdogs have serious doubts about Amazon’s cosy arrangement with Luxemburg to dodge its taxes.

According to a report released today, the European Commission believes the Amazon deal constituted state aid and doubted that such aid was lawful.

The European Commission, which rules on competition and subsidies in the European Union, announced in October that it had opened an investigation into a tax ruling struck in 2003. It published details of its case on Friday.

The 23-page document, which was penned in October 7, concluded that Luxemburg gave Amazon an unfair advantage over European competition.

“The Commission’s preliminary view is that the tax ruling of 5 November 2003 by Luxemburg in favour of Amazon constitutes state aid… and the Commission has doubts at this stage as to that ruling’s compatibility with the internal market.”

Watchdog gives TripAdvisor poor review

The AnubiItalian antitrust watchdogs have been snuffling the rump of the travel advice site Trip Advisor and are unhappy with what they smelled.

The regulator complained that people reading TripAdvisor Italy were unable to distinguish between genuine and fake reviews posted on the site. It said both were presented by TripAdvisor as “authentic and genuine in nature”.

The site has been slapped with a $611,000 fine for unfair trade activity and “misleading consumers” The ICA also accused the travel company of failing to provide proper checks to weed out bogus postings TripAdvisor Italy had broken three articles of the Italian consumer code, “making it likely to mislead a wide audience of consumers”.

TripAdvisor has hit back, accusing the Italian Competition Authority (ICA) of being out of touch.

“We think the ruling is unreasonable, strongly disagree with its findings and will file an appeal,” it said in a statement.

“We firmly believe that TripAdvisor is a force for good — both for consumers and the hospitality industry.”

It claimed it took aggressive action to fight fraud and had adequate systems in place to prevent it but it seemed that the Italian watchdog’s “zero tolerance” rules meant it would be liable to the same punishment even if just one review out of millions was deemed questionable.

It said that the ICA’s recommendations are unwarranted and out of touch with commercial realities, not just of a user-generated content business, but of any company in any sector.

“The bottom line is, if people didn’t find the reviews helpful, they wouldn’t keep coming back to our site.”


Dutch prepare to take on Google

boyne2_1Search engine outfit Google could face fines of up to $18.6 million if it does not stop violating the privacy of internet users in the Netherlands, the Dutch data protection agency warned.

The DPA said that Google is breaching the country’s data protection act by using people’s private information such as browsing history and location data to target them with customised ads.

Google has until the end of February to change how it handles the data it collects from individual web users or will have to start writing cheques.

The company’s handling of user data under its new privacy guidelines, introduced in 2012, has also been under investigation in five other European countries – France, Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain.

Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the Dutch DPA appears to have had a gutsful of Google prevaricating.

“This has been ongoing since 2012 and we hope our patience will no longer be tested,” said.

Google needs to adequately inform users in advance and ask for permission before it uses data in this way, the DPA said.

It ordered the company to stop the violations or face incremental fines up to a maximum of 15 million euros. It said Google must start informing users of its actions and seeking their consent.

Google should be careful, the Dutch managed to humiliate the British Empire on more than one occasion and a tech Empire should be a doddle.


Apple faces antitrust investigation by Canada

watchdogCanadian antitrust watchdogs are about to sink their teeth into the ample rump of the fruity cargo cult Apple.

Canada’s Competition Bureau is investigating allegations that Apple Canadian unit used anti-competitive clauses in contracts with domestic wireless carriers.

The CCB has insisted that it has found no wrongdoing by Apple’s Canadian arm so far, and is not naming the person who laid a complaint. The Tame Apple Press is claiming that the watchdog has no evidence that Apple has contravened any rules and that it has not filed any application with the Competition Tribunal or any other court to seek remedies for any alleged anti-competitive conduct.

However, it is early days yet. The bureau sought a court order to compel Apple to turn over records relating to the ongoing investigation.

Canada’s antitrust watchdog has also been carrying out a similar probe into the country’s top grocer, Loblaw, ordering some of the chain’s major suppliers to hand over records relating to their dealings with the company.

“Should evidence indicate that the Competition Act has been contravened, the Commissioner will take appropriate action,” said Greg Scott, a spokesman for the bureau, in an email.

The bureau did not state whether it has also approached Canada’s largest telecom players for records related to its probe.

Apple has been doing badly out of anti-trust investigations. This year it lost a case where it ran a cartel with several book publishers with the aim of killing off Amazon.


German watchdog barks at Google

AnubiA German data protection watchdog has snarled at the search engine Google for the way it creates data profiles from its various services.

The data protection commissioner for the German city state of Hamburg has ordered Google to take the necessary technical and organizational measures to guarantee that their users can decide on their own if and to what extend their data is used for profiling.

Commissioner Johannes Caspar growled that Google had refused to grant users more control over how it aggregates data across its services including Gmail, Android and the web search engine.

The Hamburg watchdog said it represented Germany as part of a European task force evaluating Google’s privacy policy.

Processing data that reveals financial wealth, sexual orientation and relationship status, among other aspects of private life, is unlawful in Germany unless users give their explicit consent, it added.

Google is not saying anything about the comments, although the Financial Times earlier quoted a company spokesman as saying Google was studying the order to determine its next steps.

European data privacy regulators last week handed Google a list of guidelines to help it bring the way it collects and stores user data in line with EU law.

Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Britain and the Netherlands, have opened investigations into Google after it consolidated its 60 privacy policies into one and started combining data collected on individual users across its services, including YouTube, Gmail and Google Maps.

EU watchdog investigation approves Micros takeover

watchdogEU watchdogs, which have been snuffling around the hindquarters of Oracle’s $5.3m takeover of Micros have barked that the deal has come up smelling of roses.

Oracle’s $5.3m takeover of retail and hospitality technology firm Micros Systems still has to get shareholder approval.

However, the EC said the planned purchase of the Columbia, Maryland-based company, announced in late June, raises no competitive issues as far as the EU was concerned and can go ahead.

The commission thought that the combined market share of Micros and Oracle was limited and many strong competitors would remain after the acquisition.

Micros sells mobile and cloud services, consulting, hardware, and point-of-sale software for restaurants, hotels and retail. Its own board unanimously approved the transaction.

It had been suggested that Larry Ellison only wrote a cheque for Micros to divert attention away from a series of disappointing quarterly results from Oracle, a cloud strategy that is still forming, and concerns about application growth.

It was the biggest deal that Oracle had done for a long time. In fact, it was the largest since Oracle bought Sun Microsystems in 2010 for $7.4billion. In 2008, it paid $8.5bn to take over BEA Systems but its most expensive purchase remains PeopleSoft, bought for $10.3bn in 2005.

Oracle president and CFO Safra Catz said that the sale would make Oracle a lot of dosh straight away and help the company to expand over time.

Micros management and employees will form a dedicated business within Oracle.

Ministry of Justice fined for privacy leak

Not a good idea: prisoners in uniform from the 1920 film From Now On.The Ministry of Justice has been fined £180,000 by the data watchdog for failing to safeguard sensitive and confidential information about prisoners.

According to the data watchdog, the information commissioner’s office the Ministry of Justice allowed data to go missing twice and failed to encrypt personal data.

It all started when an unencrypted hard drive containing data on 2,935 prisoners went missing at HMP Erlestoke in Wiltshire last May. The information included details of links to organised crime, health information, history of drug misuse and material about victims and visitors.

This followed a similar case in October 2011, when the information commissioner’s office (ICO) was alerted to the loss of another unencrypted hard drive containing the details of 16,000 prisoners at HMP High Down in Surrey.

After the first mistake, the prison service was given new hard drives in May 2012 for all of the 75 prisons across England and Wales. The devices could encrypt the information stored on them, but for some reason the prison service did not realise the encryption option needed to be turned on.

Sensitive information was insecurely handled by prisons across England and Wales for over a year, leading to the latest data loss at HMP Erlestoke. If the hard drives in both of these cases had been encrypted, the information would have remained secure despite their loss, the ICO noted.

Stephen Eckersley, ICO head of enforcement said that a government department with security oversight for prisons can supply equipment to 75 prisons throughout England and Wales without properly understanding, let alone telling them, how to use it beggars belief.

“The result was that highly sensitive information about prisoners and vulnerable members of the public, including victims, was insecurely handled for over a year. This failure to provide clear oversight was only addressed when a further serious breach occurred and the devices were finally set up correctly.

“This is simply not good enough and we expect government departments to be an example of best practice when it comes to looking after people’s information. We hope this penalty sends a clear message that organisations must not only have the right equipment available to keep people’s information secure, but must understand how to use it,” he said.


Qualcomm is a monopoly – report

monoplyMobile chipmaker Qualcomm has been accused of running a monopoly by China’s antitrust watchdog.

The state-run Securities Times newspaper reported on Thursday that Qualcomm’s chief executive Steven Mollenkopf  held talks in China to see what could be done about the problem.

Watchdog, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), snarled that the US chipmaker was suspected of overcharging and abusing its market position In wireless communication standards, allegations which could see it hit with record fines of more than $1 billion.

However the NDRC, did not say whether the regulator had determined that Qualcomm had abused its monopoly, just that it had confirmed it had one.

Qualcomm was charging lower royalties for patents to undercut competitors who have similar technology and maintain market share. The report also said that Qualcomm, as the only provider of chips for high-end phones, can dictate those licensing fees.

The Securities Times report said the NDRC was probing Qualcomm’s local sales data and that Qualcomm President Derek Aberle has been communicating with the NDRC over issues relating to the anti-monopoly investigation.

Under China’s anti-monopoly law, the NDRC can impose fines of between one and 10 percent of a company’s revenues for the previous year. Qualcomm earned $12.3 billion in China for its fiscal year ended September 29, or nearly half of its global sales.

TalkTalk faces “doublespeak” wrath of ASA

PhoneTalkTalk has faced the simpering wrath of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The telecoms company has been told off after it promised customers a “free” YouView box alongside a TV and phone package on a TV ad.

A direct mailing advert also had the same promise.

The complainant challenged whether the claims that the YouView box was “free” in the ads because there was a £50 installation fee.

TalkTalk said its offer of a YouView set top box was a conditional purchase offer in accordance with the CAP Guidance on the use of “free”. It explained that the price of itsPlus telecoms package was established in the marketplace prior to the addition of the free set top box.

At the time the YouView box was introduced, it said it did not increase the price of the paid-for items, for example the Plus telecoms package.

TalkTalk also tried to cover its tracks explaining that that installation of the YouView box had to be undertaken by an engineer so as to ensure proper activation of the TV service. It said The engineer installation charge had not been inflated to recover the cost of the free YouView box and pointed out that both ads made clear that there was a £50 installation charge with the free YouView box.

The ASA said it understood that the £50 engineer installation fee was payable by all consumers who opted to take the YouView box and that the YouView box and the £50 fee were inextricably linked.

However, it pointed out that when a consumer unbundled the YouView box from the telecoms subscription, they effectively paid £50 less, which was the cost of the installation fee.

Because the fee was payable to TalkTalk and not a third party, all consumers who took up the claimed “free” offer were charged £50 more than those who did not.

The watchdog said it therefore considered that because the YouView box and the £50 fee were inextricably linked, the claims that the box was “free” were misleading.

It ordered that the claims should not appear again in their current form and told TalkTalk to take care in future when describing an item as “free”, in the future.