Amazon’s ‘Ring’ Security System Severely Criticised, Flipkart and Amazon under Investigation by CCI, Facebook Restructures its Privacy Features and more
Amazon’s ‘Ring’ Security System Severely Criticised; Flipkart and Amazon under CCI Investigation; Genentech Settles Trade Secret Lawsuit; FTC and DOJ Invite Public Comments for Draft 2020 VMG; Privacy Scandals Compel Facebook to Rework its Security Features and more.
Amazon’s ‘Ring’ Security System Severely Criticised
‘Ring’, the home security company Amazon bought in 2018, has been criticised by more than 30 civil rights organisations for arranging secretive deals with hundreds of police departments across the country.
Amazon’s top hardware executive believe that the partnerships with over 400 police and fire departments around the US is good for the neighbourhoods and gives law enforcement officials access to a portal where they can ask camera owners to provide footage that may be relevant to criminal investigations in their neighbourhood. Officials can also interact with residents on Ring’s community app named “Neighbors”. The police do not need a warrant to send a request, and at the same time the “Ring” users are not under any legal obligation to hand over their recordings in the program.
Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos, revealed that the company was drafting its own set of laws around facial recognition technology which it might introduce in the future and that it planned to share the same with lawmakers.
Flipkart and Amazon under CCI Investigation
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) ordered an investigation into alleged competition law violations by Amazon and Walmart’s Flipkart, which is the latest setback for the US-based eCommerce companies operating in the country.
The antitrust body stated that it was ordering a wider probe following a review of allegations that Amazon and Flipkart were promoting some preferred sellers and in turn hitting business of other smaller sellers. The antitrust body also wants the investigation arm to examine the eCommerce companies’ discounting practices and the relationship with the sellers.
The complaint was filed by Delhi Vyapar Mahasangh, a group representing small and medium-sized businesses which alleged that several of Amazon and Flipkart’s preferred sellers were affiliated with or controlled by the companies themselves, either directly or indirectly. Both the companies have denied allegations.
Genentech Settles Trade Secret Lawsuit
La Roche AG, the Swiss healthcare company’s Genentech unit, is running a full-court press in pursuit of justice after three of its former employees allegedly stole trade secrets for its oncology blockbusters. Four of Roche’s employees have been charged with stealing and sharing trade secrets with JHL Biotech, a Taiwanese biopharmaceutical company. The stolen trade secrets comprised information on the Genentech’s cancer drugs.
In its suit, Genentech stated that after gaining access to the company’s password-protected network, one of the employees downloaded hundreds of confidential files, which contained manufacturing protocols and procedures. The defendants pleaded not guilty, following which, last September, Genentech agreed to settle with JHL. According to the terms of settlement, JHL was directed “to abandon development of and destroy” all cell materials related to the cancer drug brands involved and stop using or sharing them in any way.” Further, in order to ensure JHL’s compliance with the terms of the agreement, Genentech stated that it has the right to unannounced checkups.
FTC and DOJ Invite Public Comments for Draft 2020 VMG
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Antitrust Division, have invited comments from the public on the draft 2020 Vertical Merger Guidelines (VMG). The draft guidelines, which will be open for comment for a period of 30 days, describe the manner in which the federal antitrust agencies review vertical mergers to evaluate whether the mergers violate antitrust law. The agencies will review and consider the public comments before issuing final Vertical Merger Guidelines.
The vertical mergers combine two or more companies that operate at different levels in the same supply chain. The draft guidelines outline the agencies’ principal analytical techniques, practices, and enforcement policy for vertical mergers. The revised draft guidelines are based on new economic understandings and are intended to assist the business community and antitrust practitioners by providing transparency about the agencies’ antitrust enforcement policy with respect to vertical mergers.
The draft guidelines are available here.
Privacy Scandals Compel Facebook to Rework its Security Features
Facebook Pages give public figures, businesses, and other entities a presence on Facebook that isn’t tied to an individual profile. The accounts behind these pages are anonymous unless a page owner opts to make the admins public. It was recently revealed that a bug resulting from a code update, allowed anyone to easily reveal the identity of the accounts that posted to the Facebook page including celebrities and politicians. This bug was live for several hours, before Facebook fixed it However, prior to the bug being fixed, there were screenshots already circulating “on 4chan, Imgur, and social media appearing to show the accounts behind the official Facebook Pages of the pseudonymous artist Banksy, Russian president Vladimir Putin, former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, and others.”
The bug was easy to exploit, since the identity of the person posting on the Facebook page, could be revealed by opening a target page and checking the edit history of a post. Despite the claims made by Facebook, that no information beyond a name and public profile link was available, it mistakenly displayed the account or accounts that made edits to each post, rather than just the edits themselves.
Facebook seems to be learning from this incident along with several other privacy scandals that it has faced in the recent years, as it looks to revamp its security features in time for the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The social media platform has stated that its primary focus is on improving the privacy features, for its users. In a bid to regain its user’s trust, Facebook has overhauled its Privacy Check-up tool, which allows users to quickly tweak a range of data-sharing settings at once.
Authored and compiled by Neharika Vhatkar (Associate, BananaIP Counsels) and Sruthi Sundharesan (Legal Intern)
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