Germany opens antitrust probe against Apple

Tech giants including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple face antitrust investigations in Germany, France and the US. (File/AFP)
Tech giants including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple face antitrust investigations in Germany, France and the US. (File/AFP)
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Updated 21 June 2021

Germany opens antitrust probe against Apple

Tech giants including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple face antitrust investigations in Germany, France and the US. (File/AFP)
  • Germany launches investigation against Apple over anti-competition practices, shortly after similar probes against Amazon, Google and Facebook.
  • Germany and France have joined calls from the US to impose a global minimum corporate tax of at least 15 percent on companies like Amazon and Facebook.

BERLIN: Germany on Monday opened an investigation against Apple over anti-competition practices, making the iPhone maker the fourth US tech giant to be hit by such probes.
The antitrust authority had in recent weeks opened similar investigations against Amazon, Google and Facebook under a new law that took effect in January giving regulators more powers to rein in big tech companies.
The watchdog said it has initiated the first stage of the probe to determine if Apple has “cross-market significance.”
“An ecosystem extending across different markets can be one indication of such a position held by a company,” said the authority. “Such positions of power can make it very hard for other companies to counter it.”
Andreas Mundt, who heads the Federal Cartel Office, said his service will look at whether Apple has established such a digital ecosystem across several markets around the iPhone with its proprietary operating system iOS.
“A key focus of the investigation will be the operation of the App Store, because in many cases, it empowers Apple to have an influence on the business activities of third parties,” he added.
An Apple spokesperson underlined the company’s contribution to the employment market in Germany, saying its iOS app economy supported 250,000 jobs.
“We look forward to discussing our approach with the FCO and having an open dialogue about any of their concerns,” said the spokesperson in a statement.

Following the first stage of the probe, the cartel office said it might then look at other specific issues after it received complaints from “several companies against potential anticompetitive practices.”
This included a complaint against the company’s alleged tracking restrictions of users in connection with the introduction of the iOS 14.5 operating system.
It added that complaints had also been filed by app developers disputing the usage of Apple’s system for in-app purchases.
Germany’s tougher stance against the digital giants came after new EU draft legislation unveiled in December aimed at curbing the power of the Internet behemoths that could shake up the way Silicon Valley can operate in the 27-nation bloc.
The push to tighten legislation comes as big tech companies are facing increasing pressure around the globe, including in the United States, where Google and Facebook are facing antitrust suits.
Besides looking at the reach of the companies, scrutiny often extends to privacy issues.
In its investigation targeting Google, for instance, the German cartel office said it was examining if consumers who wish to use the search engine giant’s services “have sufficient choice as to how Google will use their data.”
The multinationals are also facing a crackdown from Western governments seeking to claw back taxes which they fear had been channeled unfairly into tax havens.
Germany and France have joined calls from the United States to impose a global minimum corporate tax of at least 15 percent, a move which targets multinationals like Amazon and Google.
Critics have repeatedly warned that many of the world’s biggest companies use tax havens or exploit loopholes to pay far less in taxes than some individuals.


Like Digital & Partners appoints new director of technology

Shukla has managed several technology teams for clients including Abu Dhabi Digital Authority, Majid Al Futtaim, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, and Mall of Emirates. (Supplied)
Shukla has managed several technology teams for clients including Abu Dhabi Digital Authority, Majid Al Futtaim, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, and Mall of Emirates. (Supplied)
Updated 05 August 2021

Like Digital & Partners appoints new director of technology

Shukla has managed several technology teams for clients including Abu Dhabi Digital Authority, Majid Al Futtaim, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, and Mall of Emirates. (Supplied)
  • Pradeep Shukla to lead all enterprise technology practices at the agency

DUBAI: Digital agency Like Digital & Partners has appointed Pradeep Shukla as director of technology.

Shukla will oversee all the agency’s “enterprise technology practices,” which include Sitecore and Shopify.

“We are very excited to have Pradeep onboard. We have noticed his work for a while now and understand the knowledge and expertise he brings. We look forward to the transformation and know-how he brings to the agency,” Karl Escritt, the agency’s co-founder, said in a press release.

Shukla has over 15 years of experience in the business at agencies including Wunderman Thomson, Hexagon and Mirum, and at organizations including TATA Consultancy Services and General Mills. Recognized twice with the Sitecore MVP award in the Technology and Ambassador category, Shukla has worked on various accounts across sectors including oil and gas, retail, telecom, tourism, and government.

He has also managed several technology teams for clients including Abu Dhabi Digital Authority, Majid Al Futtaim, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, and Mall of Emirates.

“Joining a new team is always a learning curve. I have learned so much in my previous positions and I am so excited to bring my expertise to these new projects at Like Digital & Partners,” Shukla said in the press release.


General Entertainment Authority, MBC Academy launch nationwide talent search

Creative Journey Around the Kingdom Awards Ceremony in Abha. (Twitter)
Creative Journey Around the Kingdom Awards Ceremony in Abha. (Twitter)
Updated 05 August 2021

General Entertainment Authority, MBC Academy launch nationwide talent search

Creative Journey Around the Kingdom Awards Ceremony in Abha. (Twitter)
  • The Saudi General Entertainment Authority launches its “Creative Journey Around the Kingdom” initiative in partnership with MBC Academy

LONDON: The Saudi General Entertainment Authority has launched its “Creative Journey Around the Kingdom” initiative in partnership with MBC Academy.

The aim is to discover talented individuals from across the Kingdom in order to boost the country’s media and entertainment industry, in line with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030.

So far, from 1,687 applicants, 77 people have been chosen by MBC Academy and the General Entertainment Authority to take part in the scheme. Twenty of those participants hail from Tabuk, 18 each from Jazan and AlUla, and seven from Jeddah.

The search will continue in Taif from August 16 to 18, before moving on to Qassim, Al-Khobar, and finally Riyadh.


Facebook suspends accounts of group over ad transparency dispute

The tool in question is a browser extension called Ad Observer, which can be downloaded voluntarily by Facebook users. (File/AFP)
The tool in question is a browser extension called Ad Observer, which can be downloaded voluntarily by Facebook users. (File/AFP)
Updated 05 August 2021

Facebook suspends accounts of group over ad transparency dispute

The tool in question is a browser extension called Ad Observer, which can be downloaded voluntarily by Facebook users. (File/AFP)
  • Facebook suspends the personal accounts of a group of researchers for publishing academic studies about the platform at “the expense of people’s privacy.” 

LONDON: Facebook suspended the personal accounts of a group of researchers on Tuesday for publishing academic studies about the platform at “the expense of people’s privacy.” 

The suspended accounts belong to members of the Cybersecurity for Democracy project at New York University (NYU) who criticized the platform’s political advertizing transparency tools, revealing a number of flaws.

“We repeatedly explained our privacy concerns to NYU, but their researchers ultimately chose not to address them and instead resumed scraping people’s data and ads from our platform,” a Facebook spokesperson told Arab News. 

“We have provided the researchers the opportunity to use our transparency tools in ways that don’t violate our terms and that are privacy-protective,” the spokesperson added. “We were left with no choice but to disable the researchers’ developer access, accounts and apps. We welcome academic study of our platform — just not at the expense of people’s privacy.”

The tool in question is a browser extension called Ad Observer, which can be downloaded voluntarily by Facebook users. 

The users give the extension access to their personal Facebook pages in order to collect anonymized data about the adverts they see. That information then goes into a public database, where journalists and researchers can observe how and where politicians are focusing their spending.

Facebook has previously warned the researchers several times that Ad Observer was a breach of users’ privacy and issued them with a warning before the tool was even launched. 

A researcher in NYU, Laura Edelson, tweeted on Tuesday that Facebook had suspended her account alongside other members of the group. 

 “This evening, Facebook suspended my Facebook account and the accounts of several people associated with Cybersecurity for Democracy, our team at NYU. This has the effect of cutting off our access to Facebook’s Ad Library data, as well as CrowdTangle,” she said.

“Outside analysis of Facebook content from essential organizations like the Ad Observatory are increasingly exposing Facebook as a breeding ground for extremism and right wing trash,” a spokesperson for the Real Facebook Oversight Board, an activist group established to counter the company’s own Oversight Board, stated.

“Now like the authoritarian governments they court, Facebook is cracking down on its critics.”


UK media urge govt to give Afghan colleagues refuge

UK media urge govt to give Afghan colleagues refuge
Updated 05 August 2021

UK media urge govt to give Afghan colleagues refuge

UK media urge govt to give Afghan colleagues refuge
  • A number of Afghan journalists and media workers have been killed or wounded in attacks over recent months

LONDON: Britain’s leading newspapers and broadcasters on Thursday urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to give sanctuary to media workers in Afghanistan under threat from the resurgent Taliban.

In an open letter, every major newspaper plus broadcasters Sky News and ITN said media workers risk “persecution, physical harm, incarceration, torture or death.”

The “peril is acute and intensifying” as the Islamist insurgents take control of vast swathes of the countryside and key border towns, they added.

“President Biden’s decision to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan without conditions is a risk to western security, but more urgently still to Afghanistan’s people, the letter said.

“None are more exposed than Afghan civilians who have served western military forces during their 20-year mission to thwart terrorism and Islamist extremism in the country, and in particular those who have helped western media organizations to report it,” it continued.

“We and other media organizations implore and plead with Boris Johnson and (Foreign Secretary) Dominic Raab to put in place a special visa program for journalists and other media workers who are at risk in their home country. Honour and duty require it.”

The letter was organized by the Times and The Guardian, who fear the return of the Taliban following the NATO pull-out spells danger for those who helped western entities during the two-decade war, or who reported critically on the group.

They pointed to the murder of Mohammad Ilyas Dayee, a reporter with Radio Free Europe, who was killed in November last year by an explosive device attached to his car.

“Time is running out. Should Afghan journalists be left to the Taliban’s mercies, the costs to Britain’s reputation will be immense,” they wrote.

A number of Afghan journalists and media workers have been killed or wounded in attacks over recent months.

Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer backed the campaign, saying “the UK must not abandon them.”


STARZPLAY partners with YouNeedCharacter to expand kids’ content portfolio

STARZPLAY partners with YouNeedCharacter to expand kids’ content portfolio
Updated 04 August 2021

STARZPLAY partners with YouNeedCharacter to expand kids’ content portfolio

STARZPLAY partners with YouNeedCharacter to expand kids’ content portfolio
  • Partnership adds ‘CricketPang’ animation series endorsed by Ajinkya Rahane, vice captain of Indian cricket team

DUBAI: STARZPLAY has expanded its portfolio of kids’ content on the streaming platform with the addition of “CricketPang,” an animated TV series based on cricket and endorsed by the talented Ajinkya Rahane, vice captain of the Indian cricket team.

“We are thrilled to stream ‘CricketPang’ for our youngest viewers who can now enjoy a fun animation show while also honing their creative skills. We look forward to our partnership with YouNeedCharacter and are confident that this all-new edition will be loved by our MENA subscribers,” said Nadim Dada, vice president of content acquisition at STARZPLAY.

The series is produced by global character creation and animation production company YouNeedCharacter, which recently signed Indian cricketer Ajinkya Rahane as the brand ambassador for the show. With Rahane onboard, the company aims to launch activities to support cricket by securing scholarships for promising young cricketers.

“‘CricketPang’ offers a simple and interesting way for kids to learn while being entertained, and we hope that animation fans in the region enjoy the series as much as we enjoyed creating it,” said Minsu Song, CEO of YouNeedCharacter.

Each episode of “CricketPang” has been designed to contain stories of friendship, conflict resolutions, cooperation and creativity in ways that children can understand and learn from. The fun and light-hearted stories aim to help children with problem-solving, cooperation and communication skills.

“We have been working continuously to increase awareness for ‘CricketPang’,” Song said, adding that the partnership with STARZPLAY would further strengthen the brand.

The first season of the series is currently streaming on STARZPLAY.