In a closely watched battle over online reviews, Virginia's highest state court said today that Yelp doesn't have to disclose the identities of people who criticized a small rug-cleaning business based in Alexandria. But the ruling, which rested on procedural grounds, didn't resolve questions about when business owners are entitled to learn who criticized them online.
European regulators today brought antitrust charges against Google for allegedly promoting its own comparison shopping service, Google Shopping, at the expense of rivals. Google "prominently displays its comparison shopping service in its general search results pages, irrespective of its merits," EU officials alleged. Google says it disagrees with the EU, and that there is currently "a ton of competition" in online shopping sites.
Three trade associations sued on Tuesday to overturn the new net neutrality rules. The organizations say they are not opposed to neutrality principles, but believe that reclassifying broadband as a utility service will discourage carriers from investing in networks while also creating uncertainty in the market. Meanwhile, current FCC chief Tom Wheeler is attempting to debunk claims that the rules will prevent investment.
Hoping to block the new net neutrality rules, the trade group US Telecom -- which represents AT&T, Verizon and other broadband providers -- sued the Federal Communications Commission on Monday. USTelecom says it doesn't disagree with rules against blocking or paid fast lanes, but says the FCC made an "unjustifiable shift backward" by reclassifying broadband as a common-carrier service.
Spokeo is telling the Supreme Court there's an "urgent need" for it to decide whether the company must face a lawsuit stemming from allegedly inaccurate information in its database. The company says it shouldn't have to defend itself at trial in a lawsuit by Thomas Robins, a Virginia resident who says incorrect data in his Spokeo report might have hindered his job search.
For the first time in its 20-year history, Amazon has sued operators of Web sites that allegedly create and sell phony reviews. "A very small minority of sellers and manufacturers attempts to gain unfair competitive advantages by creating false, misleading, and inauthentic customer reviews for their products on Amazon.com," the ecommerce company alleges in a lawsuit filed on Wednesday in King County Superior Court in Washington. "While small in number, these reviews threaten to undermine the trust that customers, and the vast majority of sellers and manufacturers, place in Amazon, thereby tarnishing Amazon's brand."
Now that the Federal Communications Commission has reclassified broadband as a utility, the agency is expected to issue regulations governing broadband users' privacy. It's not yet clear whether the FCC is inclined to regulate how carriers draw on information about people's browsing history for behavioral targeting programs. But it's worth noting that just this week, Canada's top privacy official found fault with an ad-targeting program operated by Bell Canada.
Google's YouTube Kids app hasn't been live for two months yet, and it has already sparked a request for a privacy investigation. A coalition of watchdogs today asked the Federal Trade Commission to probe whether the new app violates children's privacy laws. Specifically, the organizations are questioning whether the Google is complying with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, which requires app developers to obtain parental permission before tracking children younger than 13.
Last year, it seemed as if Google won a privacy lawsuit, when a federal judge dismissed a complaint alleging that the company violated app purchasers' privacy by sharing their names with developers. But that apparent victory turned out to be short-lived. U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman in San Jose, Calif. recently reversed course, ruling that Illinois resident Alice Svenson could proceed with amended allegations against Google.
Changing course, Microsoft said today that it will no longer activate do-not-track signals by default in its browser. The move marks a significant shift from 2012, when Microsoft stunned online ad companies by announcing it would turn on the signals automatically. "As industry standards evolve, how we implement those standards evolve as well," Microsoft's chief privacy officer Brendon Lynch says today in a blog post announcing the move.