Britain’s competition authority has called for greater powers to punish technology giants for abusing their market power as part of clampdown on Silicon Valley firms in the UK.
The Competition and Markets Authority has issued long-awaited advice to the Government on how it believes a new Digital Markets Unit and competition regime should operate.
Its chief executive, Andrea Coscelli, said: “The UK needs new powers and a new approach. In short, we need a modern regulatory regime that can enable innovation to thrive, while taking swift action to prevent problems.”
The regulator has said new powers should include a legally binding code of conduct that should be tailored to each big tech giant, active interventions in the market to force tech giants to open up their data, and enhanced merger rules and investigations for big technology firms. The powers will be backed up by fines of up to 10pc of daily turnover.
Elsewhere today, Mark Zuckerberg privately threatened to withhold further investments in the UK if the Government did not weaken its stance on regulating social media and Uber’s dalliance with driverless cars seems to have come to a close, while Britain’s tech scene has shrugged off Brexit investment worries.
Breaking: Competition watchdog calls for sweeping new powers to tackle Big Tech
Britain’s competition watchdog, the Competition and Markets Authority, has advised the Government to implement fines of up to 10pc on tech giants with significant market power for abuses of their dominance.
In a report this morning, the watchdog said it wanted to make sure “consumers and businesses are treated fairly and help to level the playing field for smaller rival tech firms”.
The new powers will include a legally binding code of conduct, enhanced powers to intervene in the market, and strict new takeover controls, backed up by fines for breaches.
The full report is here. We will have more as we dive into the details.
Key iPhone supplier Foxconn hit by $34m ransomware attack
Foxconn, a key supplier in Apple’s iPhone supply chain, has been hit by a ransomware attack that is demanding a $34m payment to unlock its files, James Cook reports.
The attack took place around November 29 and targeted the Foxconn CTBG MX facility in Mexico, Bleeping Computer wrote. The facility is used by the company to assemble and ship electronics across North and South America. Its website has been unavailable since the reported ransomware incident.
A ransom note has been published online and the hackers behind the incident are demanding more than $34m worth of cryptocurrency in payment from Foxconn in return for unlocking its systems and deleting files the group claimed to have stolen.
We wrote earlier this year about the cottage industry of digital hostage negotiators who specialise in sending ransom payments to hackers.
Revealed: The UK secures $12.5bn in tech investment despite pandemic
The UK’s tech scene has shrugged off Brexit and the pandemic to maintain its lead as Europe’s most attractive venture capital market, my colleague James Cook writes.
Since 2016, $50bn has been invested in UK start-ups, 36pc of all start-up funding in Europe. London, meanwhile, remains the technology investing capital of Europe. Germany took the second largest share of funding, with 17pc of the European total.
However, there is still a lack of major technology company listings, although that could be about to change as Deliveroo and Darktrace gear up to go public.
Tommy Stadlen, an investor at Giant Ventures who sold his start-up Swing to Microsoft in 2017, said: “The only missing piece of the jigsaw for London tech is to have a true giant technology company go public in the UK. That’s what we’re missing. The impact of that is it creates huge numbers of tech-savvy millionaires who go on to become angel investors.”
The chart below shows how the UK has maintained its lead over other European nations in the venture capital league tables.
Mark Zuckerberg was ‘afraid of scrutiny’ after Cambridge Analytica
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has been accused of running from scrutiny after he refused to appear before MPs in 2018, but spoke in private to Matt Hancock just days later.
Damian Collins, the Conservative MP who chaired Parliament’s digital committee at the time, said:
“The notes from this meeting clearly show that Mark Zuckerberg was running scared of the DCMS committee investigation on disinformation and fake news and was actively seeking to avoid being questioned by us about what he knew and when about the Cambridge Analytica scandal.”
Collins has long been furious that Facebook sent deputies of the Mr Zuckerberg to meet with MPs in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which saw data on 50 million Facebook profiles collected for political targeting. Now, it seems, he was meeting in private with ministers while declining to appear and give evidence in public.
The MP has the full note from Matt Hancock’s meeting with Zuckerberg in 2018 here:
Encrypted messages putting millions of children at risk of abuse
Social media companies could be using encryption in a «cynical» attempt to get around duty of care laws, according to the Children’s Commissioner.
Anne Longfield said tech giant’s plans to further encrypt messaging risked more child exploitation and abuse, in a report released on Tuesday.
She said the end-to-end encryption made it impossible for platforms to read the content of messages and also risked preventing police and prosecutors from gathering the evidence they needed to prosecute child abusers.
“I worry that this could be a cynical attempt on the part of some tech firms to side-step sanctions and litigation, especially as the UK Government prepares to establish a new legal duty of care on companies towards their users,” said Ms Longfield. “If a platform is unable to read a message shared across their server, it follows that it would be hard for a Government to hold them accountable for its contents.”
The Telegraph’s Home Affairs Editor Charles Hymas has the full story here.
TikTok granted injunction against Trump order
Chinese social media sensation TikTok has been given reprieve against the Trump administration’s desire to upend its ownership in the US.
Its parent company ByteDance has been granted a preliminary injunction that should curtail the power of US commerce officials to ban transactions with the tech giant.
President Trump had signed an executive order in August, stipulating that deals between American firms and TikTok should be blocked.
In the order Mr Trump used the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, insisting that both ByteDance and WeChat’s presence in America constituted an emergency.
However, district judge Carl Nichols said in a ruling this week that the government had “likely exceeded” the limitations of the act and granted the Chinese firm an injunction, according to The Verge. The order will undoubtedly grant the Chinese firm more time to sidestep the advances of Mr Trump.
Coming up today
Rumours are swirling that a US antitrust case against Facebook will be dropping this week, potentially as soon as today.
5 things to start your day
1) Uber is giving up on driverless cars: The ride hailing company has dropped plans to build its own driverless car and has sold the division developing the technology to a US start-up, after repeated setbacks to its dreams of having a network of robot taxis.
2) Mastercard and Visa threaten to cut off payments to Pornhub over child abuse claims: The card company is reassessing their relationship with Pornhub after an investigation found numerous videos of child abuse, rape and «revenge porn» still present on the service.
3) Palantir shares rise on announcement it will work with US food and drug regulator: The three-year deal is worth $44.4m and will allow the Food and Drug Agency to use Palantir software to integrate and analyse data to help approve drugs and monitor the safety of items like hand sanitizer.
4) Britain eyes leading role in $21bn OpenRan technology: UK telecoms companies are gearing up for a major role in a new kind of radio technology in an effort to break free from Huawei.
5) Calmer, quieter and more alert: why electric cars could change the way we drive: Electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars might inspire their drivers to become more calm and conscientious on the road.