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Continuing European Legal Moves against Big Tech, and Zoom Faces Problems in California

Amazon was hit with an $886.6m fine for breaking European Union data protection laws on 16 July. The fine was issued by Luxembourg’s National Commission for Data Protection (CNPD), which claims the tech giant’s processing of personal data did not comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Amazon said it believed the fine to be “without merit”, adding that it would defend itself “vigorously”. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which require companies to seek people’s informed consent before using their personal data or face steep fines. This follows an investigation launched by the European Commission in November last year which alleged that Amazon has been abusing its dominant position in online retail to gain an unfair advantage over its competitors. The investigation, which has not yet been completed, aims to show that Amazon had used data on third-party sellers present on its marketplace to boost sales of its own-label goods. The EU Commission also launched a fresh probe into the possible preferential treatment of sellers that use the tech giant’s logistics services.

The French Competition Authority has fined Google € 500m for non-compliance with several injunctions in relation to press publishers’ neighbouring rights. The Authority stressed that Google’s practices are exceptionally grave, and that Google’s behaviour is part of a deliberate, elaborate and systematic strategy of non-compliance to the EU Copyright Directive. The Authority considered Google practices to be part of a global strategy, aimed at avoiding or limiting as much as possible the remuneration of publishers; using its News Showcase product to resolve the fundamental debate on the recognition of specific publishers rights for the reproduction of press content; using the negotiations to obtain new premium content from the publishers via Showcase and becoming the subscription intermediary via the Subscribe with Google service, which allows Google to collect additional revenues.

The French CompCom also noted that Google provided publishers with information that was partial, late, and insufficient to allow them to establish a link between Google’s use of protected content, the revenues it earns from it and its remuneration proposals; Google violated the obligation of neutrality with respect to indexing and ranking and other economic relationships, in that it linked discussions about possible compensation for current use of copyright-protected content to discussions about its new Showcase product that could have an impact on the display and indexing of the content of publishers. In Spain, for example, Google News terminated its services at the end of 2014 following the adoption of the copyright law, which requires news aggregators such as Google to pay for a license to use news content.

Meanwhile, fresh off the press, Zoom is facing prosecution in California for passing data it collects on users to some of the BigTechs, including Google and Facebook. Zoom is HQ-ed in California, which is one of the US’s states with the most active data privacy laws (closely modelled on the EU’s GDPR). We expect the EU will soon follow California in investigating Zoom. In California the case (which has been brought by an individual privacy lawyer) must go through the courts. In the EU one of the data protection authorities will slap a fine on Zoom on behalf of the EU, as Luxembourg has done in the Amazon case, referred to above. Zoom would then have to appeal the fine at the national and/or EU Courts.

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Alastair Tempest

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