50 States’ Attorneys General Initiate Sweeping Anti-Trust Probe Against Google
Update: During the post-conference Q&A, Paxton revealed that, though their investigation is still in its early days, the AGs have already issued subpoenas related to Google’s digital advertising business.
“If advertising costs are higher…who ends up paying that?” Paxton said.
Asked about coordination with the federal government, Paxton and AG Sean Reyes of Utah, intimated that they had reached out to the FTC but that their response was unsatisfactory.
Washington DC’s AG Karl Racine insisted that their probe wasn’t intended to send a message to Congress, but that the AG’s investigation is an independent action. Later, Paxton said the investigation would be a “very open process” with the states, with each state and the federal government allowed to offer input.
“We’re open to using talent from every office in this country.”
And with that, the AGs ended what was a rather brief Q&A that lasted roughly ten minutes.
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In the latest legal push that could ultimately result in the break-up of one of the world’s largest tech firms, a bipartisan group of more than 40 state attorneys general, led by Texas’s Ken Paxton, will unveil a sweeping anti-trust investigation against Google parent Alphabet Inc.
The anti-trust investigation, which was previewed late last week in a leak to the Wall Street Journal, aims to hold Alphabet accountable for the extreme concentration in the US technology industry. Specifically, the AG’s case will focus on Google’s influence in search and the digital advertising market, and whether the Silicon Valley giant’s overweening influence harms rivals and consumers.
California Passes Law to Monitor Super-Harmful Chemicals in Drinking Water But Has No Plan to Remove Those Chemicals
The city will soon be sending notices to all residents about high levels of perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, more commonly referred to as PFOA and PFOS.
Dubbed “forever chemicals,” the two are “readily absorbed, but not readily eliminated from the human body,” according to the state’s Water Resources Control Board. Long-term exposure can damage an individual’s immune system, thyroid and liver. It can also cause cancer and harm developing fetuses and infants alike.
A certain level of PFOA and PFOS is acceptable in drinking water, according to the board, but any level of exposure to the chemicals can harm you.
“PFAS (Perfluoroalkyl Substances) is the climate change of toxic chemicals,” said Andria Ventura, toxics program manager for the advocacy group Clean Water Action. “They never go away. Virtually all Americans have them in their blood. Babies are born with them. … They’re some of the scariest things I’ve worked on.”
The Center for Disease Control has found PFAS in the blood of 98% of people 12 and older who were tested for the chemicals.
A spokeswoman for the State Water Quality Control Board said consumer-grade water filters are typically capable of filtering out both of the harmful chemicals.
Under the current legislation, local water districts are required to report to the state board if PFOA levels are above 14 parts per trillion. With PFOS, agencies only have to report if it’s above 13 parts per trillion.
But that doesn’t mean consumers would necessarily find out; local water suppliers are required only to inform consumers about the chemicals if combined they reach a threshold of 70 parts per trillion. That’s also when they’re required to turn off the water supply, provided it doesn’t disrupt customers’ service.
In updated guidelines from the State Water Resources Control Board, passed Aug. 23, the agency substantially lowered the threshold to notify both customers and the state.
Beginning Jan. 1, when the new law comes into effect, the acceptable threshold will only be 5.1 parts per trillion for PFOA, and 6.5 parts per trillion for PFOS. Additionally, when agencies notify the state’s governing board about the chemicals, each agency must also notify consumers.
The Pico Rivera Water Department, which the city owns and manages, supplies water to a little more than half its local residents. The state ordered the city to test nine out of its 10 active wells — and all nine had levels exceeding both the new and old thresholds.
On average, its PFOA levels were 15 parts per trillion; its PFOS levels were 36 parts per trillion.
The Pico Water District, which supplies about 45% of all drinking water to the city, also found contaminants in three out of four of its wells, according district Director Mark Grajeda.
PFOA levels ranged from 12 to 15 parts per trillion, although the chemical wasn’t detected at all in the third well.
PFOS levels for the same wells ranged from 16 to 25 parts per trillion; all of the wells had this chemical present.
A very small portion of the city has its water supplied by the San Gabriel Valley Water Company, which was ordered to test five of its wells, but neither chemical was detected.
The Central Basin Municipal Water District wholesales water to many retail districts across southeast Los Angeles County, including Pico Rivera. It was ordered to test two of its wells and both were found to be contaminated with 6.5 parts per trillion of PFOA and 28 parts per trillion of PFOS.
While the state has lowered the threshold for notification, officials haven’t changed yet the standards that determine when an agency must be ordered to stop using a contaminated well as a water source.
Feds Demand Apple And Google Hand Over Names Of 10,000+ Users Of A Gun-Scope App
Own a rifle? Got a scope to go with it? The U.S. government might soon know who you are, where you live and how to reach you.
That’s because the government wants Apple and Google to hand over names, phone numbers and other identifying data of at least 10,000 users of a single gun scope app, Forbes has discovered. It’s an unprecedented move: Never before has a case been disclosed in which American investigators demanded personal data of users of a single app from Apple and Google. And never has an order been made public where the feds have asked the Silicon Valley giants for info on so many thousands of people in one go.
According to an application for a court order filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on September 5, investigators want information on users of Obsidian 4, a tool used to control rifle scopes made by night-vision specialist American Technologies Network Corp. The app allows gun owners to get a live stream, take video and calibrate their gun scope from an Android or iPhone device. According to the Google Play page for Obsidian 4, it has more than 10,000 downloads. Apple doesn’t provide download numbers, so it’s unclear how many iPhone owners could be swept up in this latest government data grab.
If the court approves the demand, and Apple and Google decide to hand over the information, it could include data on thousands of people who have nothing to do with the crimes being investigated, privacy activists warned. Edin Omanovic, lead on Privacy International’s State Surveillance program, said it would set a dangerous precedent and scoop up “huge amounts of innocent people’s personal data.”
“Such orders need to be based on suspicion and be particularized—this is neither,” Omanovic added.
Neither Apple nor Google had responded to a request for comment at the time of publication. ATN, the scope maker, also hadn’t responded.
Why the data grab?
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) department is seeking information as part of a broad investigation into possible breaches of weapons export regulations. It’s looking into illegal exports of ATN’s scope, though the company itself isn’t under investigation, according to the order. As part of that, investigators are looking for a quick way to find out where the app is in use, as that will likely indicate where the hardware has been shipped. ICE has repeatedly intercepted illegal shipments of the scope, which is controlled under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), according to the government court filing. They included shipments to Canada, the Netherlands and Hong Kong where the necessary licenses hadn’t been obtained.
“This pattern of unlawful, attempted exports of this rifle scope in combination with the manner in which the ATN Obsidian 4 application is paired with this scope manufactured by Company A supports the conclusion that the information requested herein will assist the government in identifying networks engaged in the unlawful export of this rifle scope through identifying end users located in countries to which export of this item is restricted,” the government order reads. (The order was supposed to have been sealed, but Forbes obtained it before the document was hidden from public view.) There’s no clear stipulation on the government’s side to limit this to countries outside of America, though that limitation could be put in place.
It’s unclear just whom ICE is investigating. No public charges have been filed related to the company or resellers of its weapons tools. Reports online have claimed ATN scopes were being used by the Taliban.
If the court signs off on the order, Apple and Google will be told to hand over not just the names of anyone who downloaded the scope app from August 1, 2017 to the current date, but their telephone numbers and IP addresses too, which could be used to determine the location of the user. The government also wants to know when users were operating the app.
The request is undeniably broad and would likely include all users of the app within America, not just users abroad who might indicate illegal shipments of the gun appendage. Tor Ekeland, a privacy-focused lawyer, said it amounted to a “fishing expedition.” (The DOJ hadn’t responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.)
Australian University Ordered to Pay $1.2 Million for Firing Professor Who Says Climate Change Is Not Killing the Great Barrier Reef
James Cook University has been ordered to pay marine physicist Peter Ridd more than $1.2 million in compensation after he was wrongly sacked, a court has ruled.
Dr Ridd was dismissed by James Cook University (JCU) in 2018 after being issued with a number of warnings for comments he made about a coral researcher and for telling Sky TV that organisations like the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) could “no longer be trusted”.
Court documents at the time said Dr Ridd described his colleague in an email as “not having any clue about the weather”, and that he “will give the normal doom science about the Great Barrier Reef”.
Dr Ridd said in another email that JCU, along with other universities, were “Orwellian in nature”.