‘Project Bernanke’ – Google’s Secret Project Revealed, Jack Ma’s Networth Rises among Anti-Trust concerns, Anti-Trust Concerns Amid Whatsapp Privacy Policy Update and more.

Data Security Laws Must Be Unified, Jack Ma’s Networth Rises among Anti-Trust concerns, China’s Draft Personal Information Protection Law, Anti-Trust Concerns amid WhatsApp Privacy Policy Update, ‘Project Bernanke’ – Google’s Secret Project Revealed, Apple and Google to appear before Senate Judiciary Committee and Convergence of Anti-Trust and Privacy issues.


Privacy breach and loss of personal information have become daily occurrences. Data collection happens in the most unexpected aspects of our lives, for example, Seattle, a city in the US, collects Wi-Fi signals of individuals at traffic intersections to manage delays and for road maintenance. Data security must therefore be the top priorities of the companies collecting data from individuals. Transparent data collection processes and providing individuals the option to opt out of data collection can go a long way in reassuring individuals of data privacy. The California Consumer Privacy Act requires companies to provide clarity to the consumers on which data is collected and be transparent in the use of such data.
States in the US have started taking electronic data security a lot more seriously by enacting legislations like the SHIELD (Stop Hacks and Improve Electronic Data Security Act) Act in New York and the Consumer Data Privacy Act in Virginia. These laws aim at providing a secure and standardized structure on how data must be handled. While these are steps in the right direction, a more uniform and central framework is required at the federal level to regulate data collection and ensure data privacy and security. The law should be structed in such a manner that is allows the states to regulate further but it sets the foundational privacy protections at the federal level.


In 2019, China published a draft of the Personal Information Protection Law which provides comprehensive rules governing data collection and security. The Law aims to regulate the power of data collection companies that have exponentially grown unrestricted. On a geopolitical front, countries with strong data laws tend to have leadership power. Across the world, expansion of technology services has warranted more comprehensive rules to protect data. A regulation that seeks to achieve this objective in the EU is the GDPR. The UK is yet to follow suit. China’s new law attempts to achieve similar objectives.
Under the new law, user consent has to be obtained before collecting data, users have the right to withdraw their consent, transfer of data of Chinese citizens outside the country is regulated by strict requirements and rules. Additionally  heavy fines have been imposed for non-compliance of the law by the tech giants. On one hand, the new law will have a balanced approach towards the relationship between users and internet platforms. On the other hand, the increased scrutiny and potential changes to the business models could impact the growth of the tech giants.


An anti-trust fine that was imposed on Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. has increased Chinese Billionaire, Jack Ma’s net worth cross USD 2 billion. This fine marked the conclusion of the anti-trust probe against Alibaba, bringing relief to investors of the company and to Ma. The fine amount is 4% of the company’s domestic sales in 2019, which would have been 10% under Chinese Law. The company has to tread carefully in the future and adjust some of its business practices.


Recently, Apple Inc. was criticized for refusing to appear before the US senate on competition issues related to the mobile app store. Apple’s Chief Compliance Officer has now agreed testify before the Senate at a hearing held by the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 21st, 2021. Google has also agreed to testify at the hearing. App makers have expressed their dissatisfaction over Apple App Store and Google Play Store’s anti-competitive behavior of mandatory revenue sharing payments and strict inclusion rules.


WhatsApp’s Terms of Service and Privacy Policy (‘2021 update’) has stirred debate and discussion all over the world since it was announced on January 4, 2021. Although WhatsApp in India takes a “take it or leave it” approach, in the EU (European Union), users can opt-out of sharing their data with Facebook companies or third parties to ensure compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Due to WhatsApp’s role as a de-facto unavoidable partner for many Indian businesses and the most commonly used instant messaging app by Indian customers, it is in a position to request such invasive information in complete disregard of users’ preference and privacy concerns. There is an urgent need to formulate similar guidelines, which mandate the companies to formulate a transparent policy on data collected, used, and shared by them with their subsidiaries and third-party companies.


According to court documents filed in a Texas antitrust case, Google conducted a hidden programme for years that used data from previous bids in the company’s digital advertisement exchange to allegedly give its own ad-buying scheme an advantage over rivals. Publishers who sold ads through Google’s ad-buying programs were not informed about the project, titled “Project Bernanke.” Google acknowledged the existence of Project Bernanke in its response and stated in the filing that “the details of Project Bernanke’s operations are not disclosed to publishers.”
Google denied in the documents that there was anything inappropriate about using the exclusive information it possessed to inform bids, calling it “comparable to data maintained by other buying tools. ” An internal 2013 presentation showing that the project was projected to produce USD 230 million in revenue that year, was confirmed as accurate by the company. In its replies, Google admitted that it had agreed to make “commercially fair attempts” to ensure that Facebook could recognize 80 percent of smartphone users and 60% of desktop users. The new information in the documents elicited no immediate response from Facebook. According to the group, it did not think it was treated differently than other Google partners.


A lawsuit has been filed against Facebook for allegedly undermining privacy security. Google is being sued for making them stronger. Google has revealed that it will implement a proposal to block third-party trackers in Chrome.
Instead of cookie-based ad targeting, Google says its Privacy Sandbox platform would introduce a new method in which the browser does the monitoring and serves ads to users based on cohorts they fit into rather than individually targeting them. When the privacy and competition dials diverge, the correct question to ask is whether an organization is cutting off access to personal data that it wants to keep using itself. However, each new accusation levelled against a tech behemoth demonstrates the gravity of the error.

Authored and compiled by  Neharika Vhatkar (Associate, BananaIP Counsels) and Sahana Simha (Legal Intern)
The IP, Privacy and Antitrust Law News Bulletin is brought to you by the Consulting/Strategy Division of BananaIP Counsels, a Top IP Firm in India. If you have any questions, or need any clarifications, please write to [email protected]  with the subject: IP, Privacy and Antitrust  Law News.
Disclaimer: Please note that the news bulletin has been put together from different sources, primary and secondary, and BananaIP’s reporters may not have verified all the news published in the bulletin. You may write to [email protected]  for corrections and take down.

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