February 28, 2021

Tech Industry

Google is in the spotlight again. | Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

Google has ruled the online ad marketplace for years. Now it faces 10 state attorneys general over its dominance.

A group of 10 state attorneys general filed suit against Google on Wednesday, alleging anti-competitive practices related to its ad technology. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, led the investigation into Google and announced the lawsuit in a video posted to Twitter a few hours before the lawsuit was filed.

“Google repeatedly used its monopolistic power to control pricing, engage in market collusions to rig auctions in a tremendous violation of justice,” Paxton said in the video.

The lawsuit, which is one of several antitrust cases Google now faces, alleges that Google engaged in a wide variety of anti-competitive behavior to create and maintain its monopoly power in digital ad markets and keep out competitors. It also … Read the rest


MacKenzie Bezos with then-husband Jeff Bezos in Berlin in April 2018. | Jörg Carstensen/picture alliance via Getty Images

What is so unusual about how Jeff Bezos’s ex-wife gives away her money? Her speed.

One of the wealthiest people in the world, MacKenzie Scott, has spent the end of 2020 giving away about $1 billion a month, a staggering amount that sets a high mark for tech billionaires in terms of speed.

Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, disclosed on Tuesday that she had donated $4 billion over the past four months to just under 400 nonprofit groups. Over the past year, Scott has emerged as one of the most publicly generous philanthropists, parting with $6 billion and raising her profile after her record-setting divorce from Bezos, the world’s richest person.

Scott shared earlier this summer that she had changed her surname and already donated $1.7 billion of her Read the rest


The Treasury Department is reportedly one of the victims of a potentially massive hack of government systems. | Ting Shen/Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images

Here’s what we know so far.

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Hackers reportedly linked to the Russian government managed to hack into multiple US government agencies in what could be the largest hack of government systems since the Obama administration — or perhaps ever.

Malware inserted into third-party software may have given hackers access to various government systems for months. Security agencies are currently assessing exactly which departments were breached and what information was accessed. So far, the Commerce Department has confirmed it was hacked, and the Treasury Department is another reported victim.

We don’t have a lot of other details yet, but here’s what we do know.

According to anonymous officials, the hackers are reportedly a Russian group called Cozy Bear, also known as APT29. It was also behind … Read the rest


Millions of smart speakers like this Amazon Echo Show will be placed in homes this holiday season. | Neil Godwin/Future Publishing via Getty Images

What you can do to minimize what Amazon and Google hear.

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Smart speakers — Amazon’s Echo, Google’s Nest, Apple’s HomePod, and the like — are in approximately one-third of American homes, a number that’s sure to increase once all the cyber Monday deals have been shipped and Christmas presents have been unwrapped. But the people receiving (or giving) these digital personal assistants may not realize all the potential privacy pitfalls that come with them — or know what they can do to protect themselves from always-on listening and data collection devices.

Smart speakers and their virtual assistants are nice to have, but they collect a ton of data about their users by design. They listen for your commands, record your requests, and those recordings may … Read the rest


Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mike and Sully of Monsters, Inc., and Sam Wilson (a.k.a. The Falcon) are among the many characters coming to Disney+. | Walt Disney Pictures

What to expect from Disney’s streaming service in 2021 and beyond.

The Disney+ streaming service has only been around for a little more than a year, if you can believe it. Since it debuted to heavy fanfare in November 2019, its subscriber base has grown exponentially; more than 86 million people have signed up, according to the studio. That’s an astounding number, one that has only been bolstered by a year when movie theaters shuttered and tentpole releases were delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Disney owes much of its growth to buzz-worthy shows like The Mandalorian, which earned more Emmy nominations than any other TV series in 2020; the film adaptation of Hamilton, first slated for an October 2021 theatrical debut … Read the rest


Marvel Studios

Even after the pandemic upended the movie business, Disney is sticking to the status quo.

Last week WarnerMedia announced it was trying to blow up the movie business, with a plan to stream big movies to your home on the same day they appear in theaters.

Disney has a very different message: The company will stream big movies to your home, too. But it will bring its biggest movies — like Black Widow, its latest Marvel installment — to movie theaters first.

In other words: Status quo, for now.

Disney unveiled its non-change at a marathon, shock-and-awe presentation for investors on Thursday. The stay-the-course message wasn’t its main message — what Disney really wanted to communicate is that it has an enormous amount of movies and TV shows coming over the next year, many of which will appear on its Disney+ streaming service.

Disney’s strategy also … Read the rest


On Wednesday, 48 attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against Facebook, arguing that the company is a monopoly and that it should be forced to sell off Instagram and WhatsApp. | Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Experts told Recode it’s possible that Facebook will be forced to sell both apps, but not anytime soon.

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On Wednesday, the US Federal Trade Commission and 48 US state attorneys general filed major lawsuits against Facebook that argue the social media giant is a monopoly whose anti-competitive practices harm Americans.

The two lawsuits, which follow more than a year of investigations, are the biggest antitrust challenge Facebook has faced. They both essentially call for Facebook to be broken up by forcing it to undo its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, which together have billions of users.

The lawsuits allege that such action may be necessary because Facebook … Read the rest


Efi Chalikopoulou for Vox

As many seniors face down the winter holidays alone, it may be tempting to give them a companion robot as a gift.

Mabel LeRuzic, age 90, lives alone — but not really.

“He’s my baby,” she tells me over Zoom, holding up a puppy to the camera. “Huh, Lucky? Yes! Say hello!”

Lucky barks at me.

I laugh and say, “Who’s a good robot?”

Lucky barks again, and the sound is convincing, as if it’s coming from a real dog. He’s got a tail that wags, eyes that open and close, and a head that turns to face you when you talk. Under his synthetic golden fur, he has sensors that respond to your touch and a heartbeat you can feel.

LeRuzic, who lives in a rural area outside Albany, is fully aware that her pet is a robot. But ever since she got him in … Read the rest


In preparation for a Covid-19 vaccine, the glass company Corning is increasing production of its pharmaceutical vials. | Corning

The US needs everything from freezers to specialty glass to distribute a vaccine.

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The first shipments of Covid-19 vaccines could be just days away, as the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna shots await regulatory approval. Within 24 hours of the Food and Drug Administration’s go-ahead, either of these vaccines could begin shipping throughout the US in weeks, if not days.

The vaccines’ successful journey from the pharmaceutical companies’ manufacturers to Americans’ immune systems will require more than just the vaccine itself. The inoculation of more than 300 million people in the United States will require everything from glass vials to syringes to sophisticated cooling systems. But since this summer, there has been fear that the production of these supplies won’t have ramped up enough by the time a viable vaccine is ready for … Read the rest


The fates of the American middle class and American department stores have always been intertwined.

Department stores, once a symbol of the American middle class, have been declining for years, along with the shopping malls they anchor in communities across the US. Just last year, both the high-end Barneys and the country’s oldest department store, Lord & Taylor, went bankrupt and announced plans to close all their locations.

Then came the coronavirus pandemic, which shocked the economy, hitting lower- and middle-income Americans the hardest by forcing them out of work and deeper into debt, with little or no relief in sight. The crisis also temporarily shuttered most nonessential physical retail stores and kept people at home for months, giving them more reasons than ever before to shop online at e-commerce giants like Amazon or from the smaller direct-to-consumer brands whose ads follow us all around the internet.

As … Read the rest