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   Technology StocksAlphabet Inc. (Google)

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To: Kirk © who wrote (15393)10/29/2020 5:33:31 PM
From: Glenn Petersen
   of 15434
I have read at least one article that has suggested that Microsoft would have crushed Goggle in its infancy if it hadn't been consumed with its antitrust issues.

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From: The Ox11/4/2020 12:41:07 PM
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New all time high today 1771 for GOOG and one dollar less for GOOGL

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From: Glenn Petersen11/12/2020 4:48:01 PM
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Google breakup should ‘be on the table’ says Sen. Klobuchar, who is a possible Biden pick for attorney general

Lauren Feiner @LAUREN_FEINER


-- During a virtual keynote speech for the American Bar Association’s Fall Forum, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., praised the Justice Department for leaving open the option of so-called structural remedies in its recent antitrust lawsuit against Google.

-- Klobuchar’s name has been floated as a possible attorney general under President-elect Joe Biden, CNBC reported on Tuesday.

-- Even if she remains in the Senate, Klobuchar will be a force for tech companies to reckon with, especially if Democrats win the majority in the chamber.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is not shy about discussing breakups when it comes to alleged tech monopolies.

During a virtual keynote speech for the American Bar Association’s Fall Forum, Klobuchar praised the Justice Department for leaving open the option of so-called structural remedies in its recent antitrust lawsuit against Google.

“In a serious monopolization action like this one, it’s important that a breakup remedy be on the table,” she said.

Klobuchar’s name has been floated as a possible attorney general under President-elect Joe Biden, CNBC reported on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter. She was an early Biden endorser after ending her own presidential bid earlier this year. Biden has announced no specific names for most cabinet positions, but did announce Ron Klain as his chief of staff on Wednesday.

But even if she remains in the Senate, Klobuchar will continue to be a force for tech companies to reckon with. Klobuchar already serves as the top Democrat on the Senate antitrust subcommittee, where she has been critical of the tech giants and introduced legislation aiming to reinvigorate antitrust enforcement.

Klobuchar could have more power if the Democrats win control of the Senate by winning two run-off races in Georgia. That outcome would split the Senate 50-50, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris acting as the tiebreaker vote. Such a split could give Klobuchar and Democrats more power to set the agenda and push through legislation.

Klobuchar said the Google case was an “important start” but noted that state attorneys general could still join and broaden the case, which will soon fall to the incoming Biden administration.

She also made clear that Congress needs to take action to ensure robust antitrust enforcement. She said a number of Supreme Court cases have made it more difficult for the government to succeed in antitrust challenges, leaving it up to lawmakers to reset expectations in the courts.

“If anyone’s waiting on the courts to solve our monopoly problem, that’s going to take a really long time,” Klobuchar said. “We need to update our laws. We really don’t have another choice besides increasing enforcement.”

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From: Glenn Petersen11/23/2020 8:40:01 AM
1 Recommendation   of 15434
Inside YouTube’s plan to win the music-streaming wars

YouTube has always been important to the music business. Now, with YouTube Music, it's trying to build a music universe Spotify and Apple can't touch.

David Pierce
November 18, 2020

For the last eight months, musicians and bands haven't been able to tour, play festivals or go much of anywhere. So, trapped in their homes, they've improvised. Live concerts on Instagram. Epic shows in Fortnite and on Roblox. Nightly singalongs on Twitch. It's not quite live, but it's a thoroughly modern take on the music business.

When 6lack (pronounced "black") and his team started thinking about their own live show, they wanted to do something out of the ordinary. "You've got your people who would just pull up a guitar and just turn on it live," said Junia Abaidoo, a co-founder at LVRN records, 6lack's label. "Or people who would go set up what looks like a real show, at a venue, but just stream it. And you've got everything in between. And so it was really important to us to try to approach it in a way that was different and creative." They eventually came up with an idea they loved: an artist performing from a live billboard, with the audience driving in and watching from their cars. It would be half live, half livestream.

All 6lack and the LVRN crew needed was a partner. So they reached out to their rep at YouTube, with whom they've made a number of things over the years. "And I was like, well, there is an idea that we have, and it's kind of crazy," said Sean Famoso McNichol, another LVRN co-founder. YouTube was in, and helped make the idea even crazier. By the time "Live From the Ledge" premiered on YouTube in late August, 6lack was on top of one of Atlanta's tallest buildings, in front of a billboard promoting racial justice and equality, performing a 30-minute show that's been viewed more than a million times.

YouTube was the natural outlet for a show like this. With more than 2 billion users, it's the internet's largest platform for video of any stripe, and music is one of the platform's core competencies. It offers so many features Spotify can't: a powerful visual platform, a way to premiere the performance that had thousands of 6lack fans waiting for it to drop and a community-centered setup that made all those fans feel (almost) like they were at a real concert. "YouTube has been amazing, working with them," McNichol said.

Not that long ago, YouTube was at best a frenemy to the music industry. It would gleefully announce the billions it was paying in royalties, only for industry bodies to call it the single biggest threat to the music industry. Labels and artists didn't think YouTube paid them enough, or cared enough about tracking down copyright violations. Even now, labels are hoping things like Article 17 in Europe will help force YouTube to pay more attention to its platform. But after years of careful effort and attention — not to mention new royalties deals the labels like a lot better — YouTube seems to be mostly back in music's good graces.

Lyor Cohen, the head of YouTube Music and a legend in the music industry after stints at Def Jam and Warner Music Group, gets a lot of credit for changing that relationship. After Cohen showed up and a new payout deal was done, "they made it very clear that … they understood that they needed the perception of their platform to change from the industry perspective," said Tarek Al-Hamdouni, the SVP of digital marketing at RCA Records. "They've done an excellent job of executing that." Cohen was careful to say that the work's not done, but he believes "we're on the way to having a healthier relationship with the music industry."

Three of YouTube Music's leaders: Lyor Cohen (left), Vivien Lewit (center) and T. Jay Fowler (right)Photos: YouTube
With that relationship on the right track, YouTube has now set on a different path: to assert and extend its dominance in the space. YouTube doesn't want to be the place users discover new songs, only to leave and pay $10 a month to stream them on Spotify. It wants to put the entire music business onto a single platform. It has spent the last couple years building and improving the YouTube Music service, developing its very own $10-a-month premium streaming app. Now it's shutting down Google Play Music, ramping up promotion for YouTube Music and preparing to battle with the giants.

On one hand, YouTube's about a decade late to the party. YouTube said Music has more than 30 million paid subscribers (up 60% since last year), but Spotify has 144 million. Apple Music has more than 60 million. And that's not including Pandora, Deezer, Tidal and the countless other ways people already listen to music.

On the other hand, it's YouTube. It has entrenched, undeniable advantages, an audience larger than all its competitors combined and practically infinite resources. "It is arguably a better fit for Gen Z and younger millennials than Spotify is, as YouTube as a whole plays a much bigger part of their overall digital lives," said industry analyst Mark Mulligan. For the last several years, YouTube has squandered all of that, with one bad or bailed-on idea after another. But now, YouTube has a plan for how to win the music wars.

Press Play

One easy knock on music-streaming services is that they're all the same. Their libraries may differ slightly at the margins, but they all have about the same 60 million or so songs in their catalog. And Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You" sounds pretty much the same anywhere you play it.

Except on YouTube. There you can watch the original version, but also the Carpool Karaoke version, a duet Carey did with Justin Bieber, the scene from "Love Actually" that features the song, and countless live performances, covers and remixes. Want to learn a dance to the song in time for this year's holidays? Want to learn to play the song on the guitar or piano? Want to hear a smash-cut version of President Trump singing the song? Want to know how that song got to be so irritatingly ubiquitous? That's all on the first page of the YouTube search results. YouTube has a corpus of unique music content that none of its rivals can touch.
In recent years, YouTube's also built a number of products for musicians: livestreaming and premieres, certainly, but also community features that let artists engage directly with fans. Artists can sell tickets on YouTube, either to virtual concerts or (someday) real-world ones. Programs like Foundry and Artist on the Rise help musicians grow on the platform with YouTube's advice and promotion.

Most importantly, the monolithic YouTube has learned to have a personal touch. "It's been a huge focus for the last decade," said Vivien Lewit, YouTube Music's content partnerships director and a key partner to the music industry. "Not only to build the best products and deliver the best music experiences for consumers, but to partner with and collaborate with artists in the music industry." Nearly everyone in the music industry I spoke to had a YouTube contact whose name they knew, who consistently answered their calls. "You try and find a phone number for YouTube!" McNichol said.

YouTube tries to be a useful platform for all artists, but it seems particularly powerful for a younger generation of artists, many of who were on YouTube long before they were ever in "the music industry." One of those artists is Tate McRae, the 17-year-old singer and dancer who first built an audience with videos of her dance recitals. In 2017, she uploaded a video called "i wrote a song … one day // tate mcrae." That video rocketed around the web, racking up 34 million views and catching the eye of Matt Feldman, a manager at Hard 8 Working Group who now represents McRae. But he wasn't the first to find her. "She had a champion at YouTube early on," Feldman said, "before us."

In February 2020, McRae, Feldman and YouTube started talking officially about how to work together. She wasn't the most popular, or fastest-growing, artist on YouTube, but "they're kind of able to read the tea leaves and collaborate with us," Al-Hamdouni said. The side spent months figuring out what they wanted to do before YouTube named McRae one of its Artists on the Rise for 2020. In normal times, that would mean tour partnerships, lots of live opportunities and promotion all over the platform. In 2020, it meant putting together a biographical video heavy with animation and production value, working together on creating content and growing McRae's channel … and promotion all over the platform.

Al-Hamdouni said the only thing he wishes YouTube offered was a button he could push to get 100 million views shoved at any video he wanted. He's convinced YouTube could direct that kind of traffic if it wanted. But he knows it's right not to. "YouTube's protective, smartly, of their algorithms," he said. "They're not going to do anything to compromise that, and they're not going to do anything to shove content on the user's throat." It wouldn't work anyway, he said. People vote by showing up and watching, not by being forced to do so. And luckily, plenty of YouTube users keep showing up.

Shuffle Playback

It seems like a foregone conclusion that YouTube should have the most powerful music streaming service. And yet, that's hardly been the case. The problem, in part, was that YouTube in particular and Google in general never seemed able to stick to a plan for very long. Years ago, YouTube launched Music Key, a service that allowed people to listen to music in the background on their phone, download videos and skip ads. That was right around the time Google launched Play Music All Access, a cross between old-school iTunes and Spotify. As if having two services wasn't confusing enough, they were both included in one subscription price, and had absolutely nothing to do with each other. Many people who could have gotten both services for free wound up paying for Spotify or Apple Music instead.

That part only got worse over time. Even when YouTube Music launched in 2015, it was part of YouTube Red, a confusingly broad subscription play that also included a subscription to Play Music. And YouTube Music was somehow different from YouTube, even though all that music was still on YouTube. Even the URLs were a mess: and went to two different places that seemed to be — yet again — totally unaware of each other.

Part of the equation is now mercifully simpler. There is but one Google music streaming service going forward, and it is called YouTube Music. It's free with ads or $10 a month without (or free with YouTube Premium, so it's still a little confusing), and it offers the full list of what you might call "Spotify Features:" tens of millions of songs, curated playlists, offline playback, albums in order.

YouTube has recently been asking people to switch from Google Play Music to YouTube Music, because now there's only one app for that.Photo: YouTube
Getting to this point has taken a while, said T. Jay Fowler, the director of product management for YouTube Music. He's been at the company for more than five years and has spent many of them, as he described, "peeling the layers back." The YouTube Music team had to build tools to help people import their library and history over from Google Play Music, which had a small but fiercely loyal set of users. Then they had to build all those Spotify Features, because you can't get anywhere else without them. "I want to fully acknowledge that we did spend a lot of time over the last several years building features that our competitors had," Fowler said. "Not because we felt like we had to do it for the sake of doing it, because there are some baseline functionalities that most users need."

As of now, though, the team at YouTube Music feels like it's ready: Its product is on even footing with what's out there, and it's as easy to find and play and share everybody's favorite new Fleetwood Mac track as it is on Spotify or Apple Music.

I'm Feeling Lucky

Now that YouTube Music has the music part mostly nailed, it's time to figure out the YouTube part — which turns out to be a whole lot harder than it looks. Think back to "All I Want For Christmas is You." All those search results are well and good, except that most people, most of the time, want to listen to the Mariah Carey song as it was recorded and as it is played umpteen millions of times every year. If YouTube instead plays "SpongeBob sings 'All I Want for Christmas is You' by Mariah Carey," that's not YouTube mining its great library of unique content. That's a streaming service screwing up, badly.

Doug Ford is the person responsible for making sure that doesn't happen. When he joined YouTube as director of music and product programming after five years in a similar role at Spotify, he found himself answering an oddly deep question: What is music? It's a common one at YouTube, and one Fowler and others have been asking for years.

Think about it like this: 3.8 billion people have watched the music video for Psy's "Gangnam Style." Most of those people are likely not big fans of Psy, or K-pop in general, but instead found themselves checking out the video because it was one of the great cultural phenomena of 2012. Should YouTube's algorithms and curators consider it a beloved tune or a silly video nobody will ever think about again?

These kinds of questions are absolutely everywhere on YouTube. Do users want to listen to the studio version of a song or the canonical live performance? What about a cover? If someone searches for "All I Want for Christmas is You," are they trying to start a radio station of holiday music or listen to a dozen versions of the same track? Ford and his team have worked to classify songs with a thorough set of metadata concerning tempo, genre, style, instruments and much more. But how do you account for the fact that "Baby Shark" is the most popular video on YouTube? Is it the greatest song ever written?

Ford believes strongly that the solution is something that tends to be anathema to companies like Google: humans. "Programming is a pretty strong word around here," Ford said. That's clearly the case, given YouTube's complicated history of trying not to get particularly involved in the content on the platform. In spots, Ford's team gets very involved, like with the new Released playlist that complies every week's best new music (another Spotify Feature) and some of the other human- and algorithm-curated playlists on the platform. In most cases, though, Ford prefers a level of interaction somewhat less than "radio DJ" and somewhat more than "black-box algorithm." You might call it the Transparent Algorithm system. "We're not doing it manually," Ford said, "we're not gatekeeping, but we're making sure that those parameters are set up correctly across a plethora of different contexts."

Everyone on the YouTube Music team calls the big app YouTube Main. And figuring out what belongs on YouTube Music and what stays on YouTube Main is the big question left for them to answer. "Intuitively, it may make sense to take everything that's music and put it in the Music app," Fowler said. "But then you start poking at that: Do you really want guitar tabs in the music app? Do you really want karaoke versions in the music app? It's not always cut and dry." YouTube, which is mostly a lean-forward, search-and-recommendations experience, can intermingle all these things mostly successfully. YouTube Music, where people mostly just want to press play and go about their lives, can't. Fowler said he has some theories, and YouTube's tried some things that work, including relying on the third-party curators and always-on radio stations that are already so successful on the platform. But he acknowledged that there's a lot more to do.

Getting this right is more important than it may seem. YouTube Music's success is YouTube's success, and getting as many people as possible to pay $10 a month gives YouTube a crucial non-advertising revenue stream. "I'm sorry to use this cliche," Cohen said, "but it's better to board a plane that has two engines than one." Music could also be a model for YouTube building other premium services in niches like gaming and even with the platform's best-known creators. The YouTube TV team is going through exactly the same debate as Music, too, trying to mix live TV and the YouTube library in a way that makes sense.

And while YouTube tries to become like music services, other services are becoming more like YouTube: Spotify continues to invest in video, and Facebook just signed a big deal to become another official home for music videos online. YouTube still has big advantages, but time has eroded some of them. If there are better places to go, the music business will go there.

But there's one thing YouTube still has going for it: Everyone's already listening to music there. All YouTube Music has to do is keep helping billions of people discover new music and then keep them from leaving when they do.

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From: Glenn Petersen11/26/2020 2:49:58 PM
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Google’s Cash Makes Rivals Less Eager for Antitrust Crackdown

New details about deals with Apple and Mozilla show how the search giant discourages competition.

By Mark Bergen, Gerrit De Vynck, and Mark Gurman
Bloomberg Businessweek
November 24, 2020, 4:00 AM CST

After the government sued Google as a monopolist, Mozilla Corp., you’d think, might have celebrated. Mozilla makes Firefox, a web browser that Google undercut by using massive engineering resources, financial muscle, and—according to ex-Mozilla staffers—dirty tricks to promote its own Chrome. The smaller company has periodically raised alarms about Google’s business practices and once even put up a billboard in the Bay Area that read, “Big Browser Is Watching You,” with the word “browser” fashioned to resemble Google’s logo.

Yet within hours of the federal Department of Justice filing its antitrust lawsuit against Alphabet Inc.’s Google on Oct. 20, Mozilla published a blog post offering a stern warning to the government: Please don’t go too far. The Justice Department’s case centers on Google’s practice of spending billions of dollars a year to become the default search engine on browsers, smartphones, and other gadgets. Google pays Mozilla for it to be the default search engine on Firefox, and the money accounts for the vast majority of Mozilla’s revenue.

The arrangement is also good for people who use Firefox, according to Roxi Wen, Mozilla’s chief financial officer. “This deal exists because our users want Google search,” says Wen. “We’ve been emphasizing to the regulators that harming a company like Mozilla is really not the path to increase competition or benefit consumers.”

The case against Google highlights the complicated dynamics of its interactions with key competitors. Google runs the world’s leading search engine, and other companies have reason to provide easy access to it—especially when Google is willing to pay them to do so. But each time someone searches Google instead of a competitor, it gathers additional data that widens Google’s lead. Previously unreported details about these secretive deals also show how they’re structured to dissuade competitors from making it easy for users to choose other options or from developing rival search engines.

Google is effectively paying to prevent the emergence of rivals, government officials have argued in recent regulatory filings. “Particularly on mobile devices, the current scale and breadth of payments by Google harms competition between search engines,” the U.K.’s antitrust regulator concluded in an investigation published in July.

The biggest of these deals is with one of Google’s primary competitors. For at least a decade, Google has been the default search engine on Apple’s iPhones, iPads, and the Mac’s Safari browser. Google is also used for some queries in Siri, Apple’s digital assistant. Eddy Cue, Apple’s services chief, has been the lead negotiator on these agreements, which in their current form are based on the two companies sharing the revenue coming from Google searches on Apple devices. Apple also gets a slice of revenue from searches made through some of Google’s own apps, such as Chrome, installed on iPhones, iPads, and Macs, according to a person familiar with the arrangement who asked not to be named discussing private business agreements.

The cooperation between Apple and Google is crucial for both companies. Apple gets as much as $12 billion a year from its deal with Google, accounting for about 4% of its overall revenue. Almost half of Google search traffic last year came from Apple devices, according to the Justice Department.

In 2019, Apple executive Kyle Andeer told a congressional hearing that the company picked Google’s search engine as the default because it’s the best one. Consumers can switch to Microsoft Corp.’s Bing, Yahoo Search, DuckDuckGo, and will soon also be able to choose environmentally friendly search engine Ecosia. But this requires changing from the default choice in the settings, something many users probably never even consider. Some other search engines also pay Apple, but those deals are a lot less lucrative.

When asked for comment, a spokeswoman for Google pointed to the company’s public response to the government’s lawsuit, in which Google notes how easy it is for users to change settings.

If Apple does send less traffic to Google, it loses out financially, says the person familiar with the search deals. Google has crammed the top of its search results with ads in recent years, and it makes more money from each search than do its rivals. This makes it harder for a company like Microsoft to outbid it, even if it offers Apple a more generous revenue share, the person familiar with Apple’s deal says.

Before the latest Google agreement was finalized around 2017, Apple was using Microsoft’s Bing as the search engine for Siri and some other queries on iPhones and iPads. Apple had internal discussions to consider staying with Bing and even making it the default for the Safari browser, the person said. Apple has also weighed launching its own search engine or customizing a licensed version from a provider such as Microsoft. It’s instead built closer ties to Google.

Apple declined to comment.

Mozilla is bound even tighter to Google financially, and a government action that halts those payments could be devastating. In recent years the arrangement has provided as much as 80% of Mozilla’s revenue, according to regulatory disclosures and people familiar with the terms.

There are signs that Google has made the deal more beneficial to Mozilla for non-financial reasons. Despite a drop in Firefox’s popularity, Google gave Mozilla a higher revenue share in a deal struck in 2017, going from a single-digit percentage to more than 10%, according to one person familiar with the terms. The agreement was renewed this year. A spokeswoman for Mozilla declined to comment on the terms.

Navigating the alliance with Google has been tricky for Mozilla, according to former employees. “It’s difficult to work for Mozilla and not be aware of the tension with Google as both a crucial partner and a fierce competitor,” says Dan Callahan, a software engineer who left Mozilla earlier this year.

The relationship turned stranger after Chrome passed Firefox in popularity in 2012. As Chrome grew, Mozilla’s coders noticed that things that seemed to work smoothly on Chrome caused small hitches on Firefox. Certain Google sites wouldn’t load as easily; Gmail and Docs would trip up on Firefox. When informed, Google staff acknowledged the problems, describing them as bugs and promising to fix them, according to Johnathan Nightingale, a former Mozilla vice president. Soon, though, he determined that Google was “running out the clock,” he wrote on Twitter. “We lost users during every oops.”

Nightingale declined to comment beyond his tweets, but others at Mozilla confirmed his version of events. “It may not be malice, but Google’s product managers are clearly willing to ship products which only work—or only work well—on Chrome,” says Callahan. A Google spokeswoman said the company doesn’t degrade its products on FireFox.

Google wanted to beat Firefox, but it also made sense to keep it around, say people inside Mozilla. They sometimes joked that Google had to support them as an “antitrust hedge.” The latest versions of their arrangement are more generous to Mozilla in some ways. In addition to giving Mozilla a larger slice of the revenue, Google no longer requires Mozilla to sign a revenue-sharing deal spanning the globe.

But the deal, like all of Google’s search contracts, is structured to keep Mozilla from competing with Google’s core business. Google keeps Mozilla from accessing data about search queries made by Firefox users, depriving it of the data it could have used to build its own search engine. Mozilla’s spokeswoman said the company doesn’t collect information about its users’ web activities out of concern for their privacy.

Mozilla had toyed around with building its own search service, and in 2016 it invested in Cliqz, a German startup that offered a privacy-focused search product. The effort was notable because Cliqz built its own search index, a gargantuan task requiring it to essentially scan the entire internet, rather than rely on Google’s or Bing’s web crawlers. Programmers at Mozilla also worked on an entirely new browser focused on privacy, with such features as the ability to block advertising trackers. DuckDuckGo was to be the default search engine. The browser project fizzled. According to a person involved, fear of upsetting Google was a factor, though others say it failed for additional reasons.

At the end of April, Cliqz shut down. While it mostly blamed the pandemic, it also lacked the scale to sustain itself. “We can only hope that someone else picks up the ball,” Cliqz wrote in a blog post. “It’s still true: The world needs a private search engine that is not just using Bing or Google in the backend.”

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From: The Ox12/2/2020 3:39:19 PM
   of 15434
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The federal judge hearing the U.S. Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against Alphabet’s Google urged the government’s lawyers to redraft a proposed protective order to remove potential barriers that could prevent the search and advertising giant from effectively defending itself.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta objected in particular to what he said was a too-broad definition of highly confidential information that would be available only to Google’s outside counsel without special permission.

Arguing for Google, John Schmidtlein said he opposed the government’s proposals.

“My experience is that they are going to designate all or nearly all of the information that they produce as highly confidential,” he said in a pre-trial hearing by telephone. “That’s what’s going to happen.”

In a filing, the government had defined highly confidential information as “any confidential information that the parties or any third parties reasonably believe to be so competitively or commercially sensitive that it is entitled to extraordinary protections that a lesser designation cannot provide.”

Judge Mehta asked for the definition to be narrowed to something that went to the essence of the business. “Could we agree to some definition that could capture that very narrow category of information?” he asked.

Judge Mehta asked the two sides to produce a revised protective order by Dec. 14 while companies, like Apple Inc or AT&T Inc, which produced the information, would have until Dec. 15 to respond.

The Justice Department, which sued the search and advertising giant in October, put at the core of its antitrust case the billions of dollars that Google paid to be the default search engine on Apple’s iPhones. Apple noted in its filing that sensitive data was used to write the complaint.

Judge Mehta also indicated that he planned to put in the order penalties for attorneys who violate the protective order.

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From: FUBHO12/3/2020 6:52:08 AM
   of 15434

Google Illegally Fired And Spied On Workers Who Tried To Organize, Labor Agency Says
Shannon Bond Twitter

Google has been rocked by activism among employees who have grown increasingly critical of the company in recent years over issues ranging from sexual harassment to contracts with the U.S. government. Noah Berger/AP hide caption

toggle caption

Noah Berger/AP

Google has been rocked by activism among employees who have grown increasingly critical of the company in recent years over issues ranging from sexual harassment to contracts with the U.S. government.

Noah Berger/AP

Google illegally fired two employees involved in labor organizing last year, the National Labor Relations Board alleged in a complaint on Wednesday.

The tech giant also violated federal labor law, the agency said, by surveilling employees who viewed a union organizing presentation, interrogating others, unfairly enforcing some rules and maintaining policies that "discourage" workers from protected organizing activities.

The complaint said Google's actions amounted to "interfering with, restraining and coercing employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed" by the National Labor Relations Act, the 1935 law that guarantees workers the right to unionize and to band together to improve their working conditions.

Google is "confident in our decision and legal position," the company said in a statement. While the company supports workers' protected labor rights, the employees in question had taken actions that were "a serious violation of our policies and an unacceptable breach of a trusted responsibility," it said.

Google, which is owned by Alphabet Inc., has been rocked by employee activism in recent years over issues including sexual harassment, its work with the U.S. government, and the company's treatment of its large contract workforce.

The federal labor agency has been investigating Google for a year, after several employees fired in late 2019 filed charges of unfair labor practices. Wednesday's complaint accused Google of violating the rights of two of those employees, Laurence Berland and Kathryn Spiers.

Berland was one of four employees fired days before Thanksgiving 2019 for what Google described at the time as data security violations, including accessing and sharing information from other employees' work materials and calendars.

Spiers was fired soon after. After the company hired a consulting firm known for anti-union work, Spiers created a pop-up notification reminding Google employees of their right to organize. Google said Spiers was fired for abusing her access to internal tools.

"This complaint makes clear that workers have the right to speak to issues of ethical business and the composition of management," Berland said in a statement on Wednesday.

If Google does not settle the complaint, the agency's case will be brought to trial in front of an administrative judge, who could order the company to reinstate Berland and Spiers and give them back pay with interest and stock options to make them whole.

"Colleagues and strangers believe I abused my role because of lies told by Google management while they were retaliating against me," Spiers said in a statement. "The NLRB can order Google to reinstate me, but it cannot reverse the harm done to my credibility."

The agency's complaint did not include allegations about the firings of the other three employees dismissed at the same time as Berland, who had also filed charges with the NLRB. They had protested Google's work with Customs and Border Protection and the hiring of a former Trump administration official, according to Laurie Burgess, the employees' lawyer.

Burgess said in a statement those employees intend "to vigorously appeal the dismissed charges to the NLRB to ensure that the right to engage in this type of protected activity is not encroached upon."

Editor's note: Google is among NPR's financial supporters.

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From: Ron12/6/2020 5:52:10 PM
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Google may remove Interactive's browser extensions from Chrome, claims IAC engaged in deceptive

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From: FUBHO12/14/2020 2:25:11 PM
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Google applications including YouTube, Gmail and Docs suffer rare outage, with users unable to access services

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From: FUBHO12/15/2020 1:43:17 PM
   of 15434
EU announces sweeping new rules that could force breakups and hefty fines for Big Tech

Published Tue, Dec 15 202010:39 AM ESTUpdated Tue, Dec 15 202011:50 AM EST

Silvia Amaro @Silvia_Amaro

Key Points

  • One of the potential changes is putting an end to self-preferencing.
  • Companies like Apple and Google will also have to allow users to uninstall apps that have originally come with their devices.
  • Failure to comply could result in fines as high as 10% of the companies’ annual turnover worldwide.
  • The remedies could ultimately include forcing companies to disinvest if they breach the rules systematically.

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