Tech Brief: EU Gives Nod to AT&T Takeover of Time Warner

Washington Brief

  • The European Commission gave its approval of AT&T Inc.’s proposed $85 billion takeover of Time Warner Inc. The commission said the merger would not raise antitrust concerns because the companies’ activities do not overlap within the European Union. (Variety)
  • Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said his panel’s investigation of President Donald Trump’s wiretapping claims found “no indication” that Trump Tower was surveilled by any element of the U.S. government. Trump had accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping his old residence. (The Hill)
  • A tweet from the official McDonald’s Corp. account that insulted Trump occurred due to a hack “by an external source,” according to an internal investigation conducted by the fast food company. (ABC News)

Business Brief

  • Uber Technologies Inc. is seeking to resolve its intellectual property dispute with Google self-driving car company Waymo through compulsory arbitration decided by a three-judge panel rather than a trial by jury. Uber’s strategy suggests it wants to avoid Waymo’s demand that the court halt Uber’s work on driverless cars. (Financial Times)
  • Google tapped the 10,000 independent contractors who work as call quality raters to also begin flagging “upsetting” or “offensive” content. The goal is to steer users toward search results that are factually accurate and less inflammatory. (USA Today)
  • Toshiba Corp.’s memory chip business has attracted at least 10 potential bidders, including a possible joint offer between U.S. investors and the Development Bank of Japan. Toshiba shares rose 3.5 percent on the news. (Bloomberg News)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Open Technology Institute event on strong encryption 1:30 p.m.



Google starts flagging offensive content in search results
Jessica Guynn, USA Today

With growing criticism over misinformation in search results, Google is taking a harder look at potentially “upsetting” or “offensive” content, tapping humans to aid its computer algorithms to deliver more factually accurate and less inflammatory results. The humans are Google’s 10,000 independent contractors who work as what Google calls quality raters.

Toshiba Attracts 10 Potential Bidders for Chips Business
Pavel Alpeyev, Bloomberg News

Toshiba Corp.’s memory chips business is attracting more potential bidders ahead of an end-March deadline, including Japanese government-backed entities, people with knowledge of the matter said. The Development Bank of Japan is considering a joint offer with U.S. financial bidders, people familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified discussing a private matter.

Burgers and microchips on the menu for US fast-food chains
Lindsay Whipp, Financial Times

At Zume Pizza in Mountain View, California, Pepe squirts tomato sauce on to a pizza base before his colleague Marta spreads it; Noel has 22 seconds to correct any imperfections and add cheese and other toppings, after which Bruno takes the pizza from the line and places it in the oven. But on this production line, only Noel is human. The others — anthropomorphised by name only — are machines conducting tasks usually performed by people.

South Korea court reassigns Samsung chief’s case amid questions about judge’s connections
Se Young Lee and Joyce Lee, Reuters

A South Korean court said on Friday it has reassigned Samsung Group chief Jay Y. Lee’s bribery trial to another judge, following questions about the previous judge’s connection to a woman Lee is accused of bribing. A Seoul Central District Court spokesman said the case had been reassigned following a request from judge Lee Young-hoon, who presided over the March 9 pre-trial hearing for Jay Lee and four former and current Samsung Group executives in what has been dubbed by some as the “trial of the century”.

Emerging Stocks Shine Even as Global Rally Slows
Adam Haigh et al., Bloomberg News

Futures on the S&P 500 slipped 0.1 percent, after the benchmark gauge fell 0.2 percent Thursday.

Intellectual Property and Antitrust

Fury Road: Did Uber Steal the Driverless Future From Google?
Max Chafkin and Mark Bergen, Bloomberg News

Travis Kalanick, the chief executive officer of Uber Technologies Inc., says he needs leadership help. He recently dispatched former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate sexual harassment claims against the company.

Telecom, Wireless and TV

European Union Approves $85 Billion AT&T-Time Warner Takeover
Variety Staff, Variety

The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, has given a greenlight to AT&T’s $85 billion takeover of Time Warner, which was unveiled last year. The EC said in a statement: “The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns, because there are no overlaps between the parties’ activities in the [European Economic Area].”

Dems offer bills to boost rural broadband
Harper Neidig, The Hill

House Democrats on Thursday introduced five bills they say would help displaced workers and rural communities gain access to broadband internet service. Among the bills from the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Democrats is a measure that would require the Federal Communications Commission to collect better data on mobile coverage.

Mobile Technology and Social Media

Uber tries to head off courtroom showdown with rival Waymo
Richard Waters, Financial Times

Uber took steps on Thursday to avoid a courtroom showdown with Alphabet’s Waymo driverless car unit that could see chief executive Travis Kalanick and other executives forced to take the stand. A lawyer for the car-booking app told the judge overseeing an intellectual property dispute between the two companies that Uber would seek to have the case moved to compulsory arbitration — a process that would force it behind closed doors and leave it to a three-judge panel, rather than a jury, to decide the outcome.

Spotify considered ending Uber partnership amid mounting scandals
Casey Newton, The Verge

As criticism of Uber has mounted over the past month, one of its most prominent partners has discussed whether to continue its relationship with the company. Spotify decided not to participate in a press campaign about an upcoming update to the Uber app, The Verge has learned.

McDonald’s confirms Twitter account was ‘hacked by an external source’ after anti-Trump tweet posted
Morgan Winsor, ABC News

McDonald’s confirmed Thursday night that one of its Twitter accounts was indeed hacked, after a tweet that called Donald Trump “a disgusting excuse of a president” was posted earlier in the day to its @McDonaldsCorp account. The tweet read: “@realDonaldTrump You are actually a disgusting excuse of a President and we would love to have @BarackObama back, also you have tiny hands.”

Judge approves $27 million driver settlement in Lyft lawsuit
Heather Somerville, Reuters

A U.S. judge gave final approval on Thursday to a settlement agreement in a class-action lawsuit against Lyft Inc, ending a legal case that challenged the independent contractor status of the ride-hailing service’s drivers. U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco gave his final approval to the $27 million settlement, after granting preliminary approval in June, according to court filings.

Apple Plans Two More Chinese Research Hubs as iPhone Sales Slow
Bloomberg News

Apple Inc. has revealed plans to set up two more research centers and boost investment in China, a pivotal market in which the iPhone has been rapidly elbowed aside by local rivals. The announcement comes as Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook undertakes his latest trip to a country that ranks as Apple’s single biggest overseas market.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

Senate Intel chair: ‘No indications’ Trump Tower was wiretapped
Katie Bo Williams, The Hill

The heads of the Senate Intelligence Committee have seen no evidence that the Obama administration “wiretapped” Trump Tower, according to a brief statement issued Thursday. “Based on the information available to us, we see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016,” Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) said in a joint statement, providing no other details.

Delays and Bugs in Immigrant Vetting System Trouble Lawmakers
Joseph Marks, Nextgov

Shutdowns, delays and budget overruns in the information technology system the government’s immigration service uses could allow terrorists or criminals to mistakenly receive citizenship or green cards, lawmakers fretted Thursday. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ tech troubles date back to 2006 when the agency began a massive program to create an Electronic Immigration System, or ELIS.

How Hackers Turned Yahoo’s Own System Against Its Users
Robert McMillan and Deepa Seetharaman, The Wall Street Journal

The U.S. criminal charges over a major hack against Yahoo Inc. shed light on how, once the hackers breached the company’s servers in 2014, they used its own internal systems against its users—even employing Yahoo’s software to erase their digital footprints from Yahoo’s network. Authorities say the hackers engaged in an extraordinary spree of cyber skulduggery after they obtained access to user info for more than 500 million accounts.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

Looking for something voters can agree on? Repeal the Durbin amendment. Recent polling shows that by a 2-1 margin voters think the Durbin amendment should be repealed. It is a failed policy, with retailers pocketing an extra $42 billion at their customers’ expense. Get the facts about retailers’ broken promises from EPC.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

The Dystopian Future of Price Discrimination
Cathy O’Neil, Bloomberg View

Have you ever been to a bazaar, where a hawker offers something at a special price, “just for you?” The world of online retail is getting ready to take the practice to a whole new level — and it doesn’t take much speculation to see how things could go terribly wrong.

I’m Taking a Social Media Break for my Sanity—and So Should You
Estelle Erasmus, Quartz

Long before social media existed I had a flourishing career as a magazine editor-in-chief and widely-published journalist. Before Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, the only way I had to “build my platform” was to appear on TV and radio shows, and share my clips by emailing my friends and colleagues the PDFs.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

Across party lines, a majority of voters identify the Durbin amendment as a price control. History has taught us price controls rarely work as intended and the Durbin amendment is another example of failed policy. It’s time to end the merchant markup once and for all. Learn how to take action now.

Research Reports

Stick Shift: Autonomous Vehicles, Driving Jobs, and the Future of Work
Algernon Austin et al., Center for Global Policy Solutions

More than four million jobs will likely be lost with a rapid transition to autonomous vehicles. Driving occupations, including delivery and heavy truck drivers, bus drivers, and taxi and chauffeur drivers, would be heaviest hit.

2017 Thales Data Threat Report: Trends in Encryption and Data Security
Thales and 451 Research

Cloud, Big Data, the Internet of Things (IoT) and increasingly container technology are all being actively embraced, and collectively pack a potentially disruptive punch to the basic ground rules of venerable businesses. But at the same time, these technologies place more sensitive data in the hands of more people, in more places, and on an ever-increasing number of devices.