Daily Digest (8/5)

EU Probes $2.1B Google-Fitbit Takeover; Many Receiving Settlement Notices for Google Class Lawsuit; Robocall Legal Advocate Leaks Customer Data; FTC Investigating Twitter for Possible Privacy Violations. Click “Continue reading”.

EU Probes $2.1B Google-Fitbit Takeover

The European Commission said Tuesday that it would investigate Google’s $2.1 billion takeover of Fitbit — threatening to derail the purchase of the fitness-tracking company, even though Google said last month that it would not use Fitbit’s data to target ads.

“The commission is concerned that the takeover would entrench Google’s market position in online advertising by increasing the amount of data that’s used for personalization of the ads it serves and displays,” regulators told BBC News.

The watchdog agency’s investigation will be completed by Dec. 9. Google said it would cooperate with the EU.

“We appreciate the opportunity to work with the European Commission on an approach that addresses consumers’ expectations of their wearable devices,” Rick Osterloh, Google’s devices chief, said in a blog post.

Launching its first device in 2009, Fitbit helped pioneer the fitness-tracker market, ultimately acquiring 30 million active uses and selling 100 million devices to date.

With a $132 million loss in annual results alongside a four-year running sales decline, Fitbit continues to rank behind Apple, Xiaomi, Samsung and Huawei in global shipments, according data from market research firm IDC cited by the BBC.

While the European Commission has said its main concern was the “data advantage” Google would gain in the Fitbit takeover, Google had denied its motivation is to control more data.

“We believe the combination of Google and Fitbit’s hardware efforts will increase competition, making next-generation devices and more affordable,” Osterloh wrote. “This deal is about devices, not data.”

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Many Receiving Settlement Notices for Google Class Lawsuit

Google said Tuesday that its Google Plus Class-Action Settlement email sent to complainants was legitimate. 

For members of Google Plus before it shut down last year, the company said they most likely received an email saying that a class-action lawsuit had been settled, Ars Technica reports.

In 2018, Google Plus had a privacy flaw allowing third-party developers to obtain private data from users. Within months, the service was preparing to shut down and the class action was filed.

The Google Plus lawsuit was settled in January for $7.5 million, according to an email sent out by Business Insurance.

However, links to the official settlement website mentioned throughout the email were broken, raising concerns that the email was fake.

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Robocall Legal Advocate Leaks Customer Data

The Blacklist Alliance, a California company, has leaked cellphone numbers, email addresses and passwords of its customers — as well as mobile phone numbers of people who’ve hired lawyers to go after telemarketers.

The alliance provides technologies and services to marketing firms concerned about lawsuits under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), a 1991 law that bars the use of automatic telephone-dialing systems and prerecorded voice messages in telemarketing calls, the Krebs on Security blog reports.

Unless the company has “prior consent” the TCPA prohibits contact with customers.

Over the years, the TCPA has prompted multiple lawsuits, with damages of $500 to $1,500 per call, and from the telemarketer’s perspective, the TCPA presents a legal minefield when numbers belonging to someone who’d previously consented then gets reassigned to another subscriber.

To help marketers avoid TCPA legal snares, the alliance steps in to fight TCPA in what it calls “dirty tricks.”

These tricks include, according to Krebs, registering multiple prepaid cellphone numbers to receive calls intended for the person to whom a number was previously registered.

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FTC Investigating Twitter for Possible Privacy Violations

Twitter said Monday that it was under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission for potentially misusing users’ personal information to serve ads, with fines of $150 million to $250 million.

In a corporate filing, Twitter disclosed that the FTC’s investigation began last October, after linking users’ personal information with a system used by advertising partners, The New York Times reports.

This action may have violated the 2011 FTC agreement Twitter signed, which barred them from misleading people about its security and privacy measures.

Twitter said the mishap was unintentional.

Brandon Borrman, a Twitter spokesman, told the Times the agency contacted the company after it reported quarterly financial results on July 23.

He added the investigation was disclosed in accordance with “standard accounting rules,” but an FTC spokeswoman declined to comment on the probe.

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— By DPN Staff