Italy launches investigations over tech company content concerns, following a slew of E.U. cases.
Italy has launched an investigation into the cloud storage capabilities of Apple, Google and Dropbox. It is specifically looking for instances in which the companies failed to reveal how users’ data would be stored and used for commercial purposes. The country is also investigating whether Dropbox informed its customers of ways they could potentially break contracts if needed to pursue legal action. Italy announced its competition and market authority opened a total of six cases against the tech giants, and the move follows the European Union’s efforts to ensure users better understand how their information is shared.
In 2019, Facebook changed what the E.U. had called “misleading terms of service,” agreeing spell out for users how the company generates funding by using their personal information to sell targeted advertising. It also agreed to “clarify that it can be held liable for misuse of such data when it has not acted with due professional diligence,” according to the European Commission, the E.U.’s enforcement arm.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work this year to better explain how Facebook works, what data we collect and how we use it. As part of these ongoing efforts, we’ll be updating our terms of service to be more clear about how Facebook makes money,” said Thomas Myrup Kristensen, Facebook’s managing director of E.U. affairs.
Following the crackdown on Facebook’s operations, the U.K. proposed widespread efforts to hold other social media companies responsible for policing the content their users post. The E.U. also issued fines for alleged anticompetitive measures taken by Alphabet Inc.’s Google and ordered its countries to collect unpaid taxes from both Apple and Amazon. Meanwhile, Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner launched ten investigations into social media companies in February 2019 and the E.U. opened an investigation into Google’s plan to acquire Fitbit in this past August over “competition concerns,” stalling the deal until at least December 2020.
Commission EVP Margrethe Vestager said, “The use of wearable devices by European consumers is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. This will go hand in hand with an exponential growth of data generated through these devices. This data provides key insights about the life and the health situation of the users of these devices. Our investigation aims to ensure that control by Google over data collected through wearable devices as a result of the transaction does not distort competition.”
EU competition regulators noted further, “The Commission is concerned that the proposed transaction would further entrench Google’s market position in the online advertising markets by increasing the already vast amount of data that Google could use for personalization of the ads it serves and displays…The data collected via wrist-worn wearable devices appears, at this stage of the Commission’s review of the transaction, to be an important advantage in the online advertising markets. By increasing the data advantage of Google in the personalization of the ads it serves via its search engine and displays on other internet pages, it would be more difficult for rivals to match Google’s online advertising services. Thus, the transaction would raise barriers to entry and expansion for Google’s competitors for these services, to the ultimate detriment of advertisers and publishers that would face higher prices and have less choice.”