The Circuit: Google faces display ad investigation
Google faces display ad probe: The Federal Trade Commission has begun looking into whether Google is using its prominent position in the digital ad market to undermine competition, The Washington Post reported.
When the FTC approved Google’s purchase of the display ad firm DoubleClick in 2007, the agency said it would “closely watch” whether Google would use the purchase for anticompetitive conduct.
The inquiry is in its preliminary stages, the report said.
Apple e-book trial: U.S. District Court Judge Denise Cote said during a pretrial hearing that she believes the U.S. government will be able to show that Apple worked with publishers to fix e-book prices, Reuters reported, though she stressed that her view was not final.
In a statement to Reuters, Apple lawyer Orin Snyder said Apple “strongly” disagreed with those preliminary statements about the case.
Apple and five publishers were charged with working together to set e-book prices — Apple is the only defendant remaining, as the publishers have settled with the Department of Justice.
Lawmakers urge closer look at Sprint-Softbank deal: Rep. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) have sent letters to federal regulators expressing concern that the Japanese carrier Softbank’s proposed acquisition of Sprint may raise national security issues.
As The Hill reported, lawmakers said they’re concerned that approving the deal could leave the United States open to cyberattacks from China.
Dish Network, which has made a competing bid for Sprint, has recently launched a major ad campaign aimed at highlighting similar concerns in the D.C. area.
Google loses bid to block Xbox: The International Trade Commission Thursday denied a bid from Google’s Motorola Mobility division to block the Microsoft’s Xbox based on claims that it violated Motorola patents.
The ITC had previously upheld a ruling in Microsoft’s favor, and on Thursday, declined to overturn that finding.Hayley.Tsukayama@washpost.com
The Circuit: Dish claims security an issue in Sprint-Softbank deal
Dish Network claims national security concerns with Sprint-Softbank deal: Dish Network has undertaken a major media campaign — including taking out a full page ad in The Washington Post — to suggest that the acquisition deal between Softbank and Sprint will cause national security problems.
Dish’s own $25.5 billion offer for Sprint rivals a $20.1 billion bid from Softbank, a Japanese wireless carrier. Because Softbank is a foreign-based firm, the deal has to go through review at the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) as well as the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission.
The ad compares the deal to the “Dubai ports” controversy in 2006, when Dubai Ports World purchased contracts to manage operations at six major U.S. ports.
The ad reads, “in an ever advancing world, ‘ports’ may change, but keeping them in American hands never should. Don’t outsource our national security.”
Twitter adds two-step verification: Twitter has added a second layer of security to its accounts, prompting users to share their phone numbers with the service to have a second code texted to their devices.
The move follows what rivals Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft have already done with their service in an attempt to fend of criminals who steal usernames and passwords to take over control of social media accounts.
Users have been clamoring for Twitter to add the feature particularly after the high-profile hijacking of Twitter accounts of organizations such as the Associated Press.
Apple cites Samsung Galaxy S4 in complaint: Apple has filed a motion against Samsung in a California court claiming that the Korean company’s Galaxy S 4 phone and Google’s Google Now service infringe on Apple patents, FOSS Patents reported, Samsung announced Thursday that the Samsung Galaxy S 4 has sold 10 million units in under a month.
In a motion filed Wednesday, Apple names five patents it believes the S4 violates and two it claims are violated by the search app.
As FOSS Patents blogger Florian Mueller noted, Apple had previously informed the court that it would file the motion to include Samsung’s newest phone for a second patent case expected to take place in the spring of 2014.
Last year, a jury ordered Samsung to pay Apple around $1 billion in damages for infringing on the company’s products.
STEM visa bill: Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) Thursday unveiled a new bill that would make it easier for foreign-born students studying for advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to stay in the country by opening 55,000 green cards to qualifying students, increasing the number of highly skilled H1-B visas available to non-students and includes a special type of visa for entrepreneurs.
The act, called the Supplying Knowledge Based Immigrants and Lifting Levels of STEM Visas (or SKILLS) Act, has the support of several technology industry groups including the Consumer Electronics Association, Compete America, inSPIRE STEM USA, the Internet Association and the Information Technology Industry Council.Hayley.Tsukayama@washpost.com
The Circuit: Facebook joins human rights group
Facebook joins the Global Network Initiative: Facebook announced Wednesday that it is joining the Global Network Initiative, which asks companies to commit to certain standards when it comes to protecting the freedom of expression and Internet privacy rights.
In a release, Facebook vice president of communications Elliot Schrage said, “Advancing human rights, including freedom of expression and the right to communicate freely, is core to our mission of making the world more open and connected.”
Adding Facebook and its large user base to the initiative, GNI executive director Susan Morgan said, “puts GNI in an even better place to press governments to fulfill their obligations to protect rights online.”
Facebook, teens and privacy : The Pew Center for Internet and American Life has found that Facebook’s appeal among young people is dropping, with the report noting that some teen users dislike that “drama” on the site but maintain their profiles to keep in touch with the teenage social scene.
The study also found that while teens are sharing more information about themselves then they have in the past, they’re also taking more steps to protect their online privacy. Sixty percent of teen Facebook users told researchers that they keep their profiles private and feel comfortable that they understand how the settings work.
Apple CEO defends tax strategy: Apple chief executive Tim Cook was defiant in his defense of the firm’s tax strategies before a Senate subcommittee, The Washington Post reported. While Cook said he believes that the U.S. corporate tax code could be reformed, he also was firm in stating that Apple pays the taxes it owes and does not use gimmicks to shift profits to lower-tax territories overseas.
Cook’s appearance on the Hill marked a departure from Apple’s traditionally hands-off approach to Washington, the report noted, something that Cook recognized in his testimony.
“While we have never had a large presence in Washington, we are deeply committed to our country’s welfare,” Cook told members of the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
Microsoft rivalries, old and new, come with new Xbox:With the new Xbox One, Microsoft is taking on not only Sony and Nintendo for the gaming sphere, but also Amazon, Netflix, Google and Apple in the race for who will dominate the living-room TV.
As the company unveiled its new console Tuesday, it focused heavily on the multimedia features, such as the ability to stream live television (though the company was light on details about how) or to make calls over Microsoft’s Skype service. The new focus shows that it’s looking to take on set-top box and smart television makers as well as its fellow gaming consoles.
Apple CEO Tim Cook says U.S. should lower corporate tax rate
Apple chief executive Tim Cook told a Senate panel Tuesday that the U.S. tax code needs a dramatic overhaul with the overall corporate tax rate, currently at 35 percent, falling to about 20 percent.
Testifying before the before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Cook said the high tax rate has prevented companies from repatriating their massive cash holdings overseas. So, he proposed a tax rate of below 10 percent on those offshore funds.
“The rate on bringing back foreign earnings, to incent huge number of companies, would have to be a single-digit number,” Cook said. But he said that wouldn’t mean Apple would get any special treatment. “By doing that, we would wind up in a revenue-neutral area. Some companies would pay more; we would be one of them.”
Cook and two other top Apple officials came to Capitol Hill to face questions about the tech giant’s overseas tax practices. Some lawmakers believe Apple and other multinational corporations’ use of legal loopholes in the tax code may be giving them an unfair advantage over smaller, domestic companies.
Sen. Carl Levin, the chairman of the subcommittee, one of Apple’s toughest critics, challenged Cook and the other executives by asking whether Apple would bring back the cash reserves it holds overseas if the United States lowered the tax rate on repatriation. Apple executives have said the company has no current plans to repatriate the reserves under the current rate.
Levin also said that Apple should not “kid us" about the impact that its decision to set up subsidiaries in Ireland has on U.S. tax revenue, closing by saying that what Apple is doing is “not right.”
Lawmakers grill Apple’s Tim Cook, other executives on taxes
Lawmakers had pointed questions for Apple chief executive Tim Cook and two other top company executives Tuesday at a Senate subcommittee hearing examining the Apple’s tax practices.
As The Washington Post reported, Apple is the latest technology firm to come under fire from Congress over its offshore accounting practices. Apple’s status as a legend in the tech industry — it was the most valuable company in the world as of Monday — makes it one of the highest-profile corporate firms to come under scrutiny for its use of legal loopholes in the tax code, which some lawmakers say is a ruse to avoid paying U.S. taxes.
Cook opened by defending his company against accusations that it uses tax loopholes to shift profits outside the United States and avoid U.S. taxes.
“We pay all the taxes we owe, every single dollar,” Cook told the committee.
But senators on the panel, particularly committee chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), repeatedly asked for more details about the company’s operations in Ireland. The senators were aiming to illustrate how Apple’s use of foreign subsidiaries could give it an advantage over domestic companies
Cook disagreed with that characterization, saying that the company pays taxes on income it makes in a variety of countries.
“I don’t see it as being unfair,” Cook said, adding that he would not preside over a company that engaged in unfair practices.
Questioned by Levin, Phillip Bullock, the head of the company’s tax operations, confirmed that Apple Operations International has not paid U.S. corporate taxes in five years. Apple Sales International and Apple Operations Europe have paid the Irish earned income tax rate in full, he said. Bullock reiterated that Apple Inc. has paid U.S. taxes.
In his opening remarks, Cook also recommended tax reforms that are revenue neutral, such as eliminating all corporate tax expenditures, lowering tax rates and setting what he called a reasonable tax on foreign earnings.
“We make this recommendation with our eyes wide open, fully recognizing that this would likely result in an increase in Apple’s U.S. taxes,” Cook said, adding that he believes the changes would help the Unites States compete on a global level.