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Google faces ‘very large’ investigation into ad business, E.U. competition commissioner says

Google faces 'very large' E.U. probe

European Union Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said Google faces a “very large investigation” into its advertising business, adding a new front to a decade-long antitrust battle.

Technology “is really a high priority for us because what has happened over these last 12 months has changed a lot of habits,” Vestager told an online event Friday.

Vestager’s investigation into the “Google ads ecosystem” is one of the tech probes she cited, including investigations into Apple’s app store and payment system as well as Facebook’s marketplace and data. Her most advanced investigation into Amazon focuses on how its control of seller data may be “dramatically reducing the risks of Amazon retail compared to the risk” run by traders on the platform. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos also owns The Washington Post.)

Regulators gathered information in January on Google’s practices in the “advertising technology value chain” according to questionnaires sent to publishers and ad firms. The E.U. has been examining Google’s data practices since 2019 and has widened the scope to look at Google’s plans to phase out third-party cookies, which the British antitrust authority is investigating amid complaints from publishers.

“We will use every tool that we have to the fullest” with antitrust action necessary “to make sure that the marketplace is fair,” Vestager said in the event organized by European retailers’ association EuroCommerce.

Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Vestager’s remarks.

— Bloomberg News

AT&T predicts strong HBO Max growth

AT&T said on Friday that it expects up to 150 million global subscribers for its video services, HBO Max and HBO, and $15 billion in revenue for the businesses by the end of 2025, as more people turn to cheaper streaming services for entertainment.

The U.S. wireless carrier has invested heavily to break into the streaming video market dominated by Netflix and Disney Plus.

WarnerMedia chief executive Jason Kilar said during a virtual investor presentation on Friday that he believes HBO Max is already the No. 2 revenue-generating stand-alone video service in the United States.

The company said it expects $14 in average revenue per user for HBO Max in the United States by 2025, up from $12 this year. Netflix, the world’s largest streaming service, booked $6.64 billion in revenue in its fourth quarter.

HBO Max, which launched in May, includes 10,000 hours of content from brands and libraries such as Warner Bros., New Line Cinema and Cartoon Network. New movies this year, such as the upcoming “Godzilla vs. Kong,” will be released on HBO Max at the same time they debut in movie theaters, whose business has been slammed by the pandemic.

HBO Max will also expand internationally to 60 markets including in Latin America and Europe, the company said.

— Reuters

Microsoft has detected and blocked a "new family of ransomware" that was being used against servers that still hadn't patched vulnerabilities after last week's major security breach. The updates it released on Friday are a temporary measure to defend against attacks, which were already occurring in many places, the company said. The company discovered suspected Chinese state-sponsored hackers were exploiting previously unknown vulnerabilities in Microsoft's widely used Exchange business email software this month. Even as it issued a patch for those systems, hackers rushed to find companies that had yet to install Microsoft's fix.

A U.S. judge dismissed large parts of a lawsuit accusing Zoom Video Communications of violating users' privacy rights by sharing personal information with Facebook, Google and LinkedIn, and letting malevolent intruders join Zoom meetings in a practice called Zoombombing. U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose dismissed several claims in the proposed class action including invasion of privacy, negligence and violations of the state's consumer and anti-hacking laws. She allowed some contract-based claims to proceed.

— From news services