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“C.D.” claimed he suffered anxiety, nightmares and panic attacks after his name appeared on a list of alleged aggressors that circulated on Facebook pages “Dis son nom” (say his name) and “Victims voices,” as well as on Facebook-owned Instagram. The man, who said he has a common Quebec name and that there was no indication he was the target of the allegations, nonetheless said his friends and wife asked him about it. Though the list was eventually removed from the sites, it was still readily accessible. “Social media, notably those owned by Facebook, are not appropriate forums for [sexual misconduct] victims to obtain justice, given the inability to verify and validate the veracity of the anonymous allegations,” reads the class-action request, which was filed in the Superior Court of Quebec. (La Presse)

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Talking point: Similar allegations have hit Quebec’s cultural and political milieux over the last several weeks—with some of the alleged perpetrators also pushing back. Notably, Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet said he hasn’t ruled out legal action against a Facebook group that published allegations that he attempted to exchange cocaine for sex in the bathroom of a Montreal bar in 1999.

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The suit, which has yet to be certified, claims that some 2,500 third-party couriers are Amazon employees and owed millions in unpaid wages from the e-commerce giant. (Toronto Star)

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Talking point: The proposed class action coincides with an ongoing case before the Ontario Labour Relations Board alleging Amazon blocked subcontracted delivery drivers in the Toronto area from unionizing. In both cases, drivers’ representatives argue that, while couriers are technically employed by independent delivery companies, they rely on Amazon for the bulk of their work and are required to follow the tech giant’s policies and processes. The class action also includes drivers using Amazon’s Flex app, an on-demand delivery service that works something like Uber. Amazon considers these couriers independent, though the suit claims they are misclassified; that they should have employee status including benefits, minimum wage and paid sick leave.

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The legislation, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson could reportedly announce within weeks, would make it mandatory for U.K. firms to report attempted takeovers that could pose risks. (The Times)

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Talking point: The U.K. has made a number of moves in recent months to distance itself from China, including signalling it’ll reduce Huawei’s role in building 5G and offering to accept millions of Hong Kong refugees. This new law is part of a global wave of new protectionist measures. France, Australia, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden, India and Canada have all recently introduced measures restricting foreign investment. Canada announced it would keep a particular eye on foreign investment from state-controlled companies, as well as any transactions involving public health or critical goods. Many other nations are introducing new mechanisms from France’s fund that will invest in tech firms to prevent foreign bids to the U.K., threatening directors that fail to report takeovers with jail time.

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A proposed class-action lawsuit filed in California claims Google tracked and collected data on users’ internet use, even when browsing in private mode. The suit alleges the company collects information like IP addresses and browsing history without users’ consent any time they visit a website or use an app linked to Google services like Google Analytics and Google Ad Manager. “We strongly dispute these claims, and we will defend ourselves vigorously against them,” said Google spokesman Jose Castaneda. (Bloomberg)

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Talking point: This isn’t the first time Google is facing claims of unlawfully collecting user data. Arizona’s attorney general sued the firm last month, claiming it violated users’ privacy by collecting location information even when they turned off tracking settings. In December 2019, a California federal judge threw out a suit based on similar claims. This is the first case to invoke the Federal Wiretap Act, however, which gives someone the right to sue if their private communications are intentionally intercepted. The class action still has to be certified before a case is heard, which may not necessarily happen. Those pursuing the suit are seeking US$5 billion in damages, or at least US$5,000 per affected user.

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The Microsoft-backed law lets government agencies use facial recognition technology as long as it isn’t used for broad surveillance or tracking innocent people. (The Wall Street Journal)

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Talking point: The law is more permissive than those in other states, at least seven of which have fully banned the technology’s use by governments, citing concerns around privacy and bias. However, many states still don’t have laws around facial recognition, and Washington’s could be used as a model for them. The regulations are a win for Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft, which had lobbied in favour of them, and other tech companies that see facial recognition as a major business opportunity. The technology has garnered mass criticism in recent months, particularly after news that New York-based firm Clearview AI was selling its facial recognition tools to a broad clientele around the world. In the U.S., Amazon has called for national standards for facial recognition regulations; the technology and its use is unregulated in Canada.

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Facebook told advertisers it could reach more 18- to 34-year-olds in every U.S. state than who actually lived in those states, according to the class-action suit. Facebook said the allegations were “without merit,” and that it intends to defend itself. (Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal)

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Talking point: COO Sheryl Sandberg and CFO David Wehner are named in new documents released as part of the case, although their specific involvement has been redacted for reasons of commercial sensitivity. Other internal Facebook communications that have been disclosed highlight concerns that the numbers would be a problem: “This is a lawsuit waiting to happen,” one employee wrote to colleagues in October 2018. Another likened what Facebook was doing to a 2016 incident where the company revealed it had inflated viewing times for video advertisements. In that case, advertisers sued, and Facebook reached a proposed settlement in October 2019.

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The annual Economic Report of the President states there’s “no need to hastily rewrite the federal government’s antitrust rules,” dismissing research showing large companies’ market dominance, particularly in tech and telecommunications, hurts competition and consumers. “Successful firms tend to grow, and it is important that antitrust enforcement and competition policy not be used to punish firms for their competitive success,” the report reads. (The New York Times)

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Talking point: It’s a stark contrast to Democratic presidential candidates and lawmakers who have called for companies like Facebook, Amazon and Google to be broken up in order to spur innovation and competition, as well as choice for consumers. While it might win Trump favour with tech and telecom CEOs in the upcoming election, new research notes that market concentration disproportionately hurts blue-collar workers and should therefore be a concern for populist leaders like Trump, who claim to appeal to those populations. The belief that market concentration is good for the economy is also at odds with forthcoming policy proposals in the EU, where lawmakers plan to introduce laws to thwart large firms’ market dominance and help prop up smaller European rivals.

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The watchdog filed a notice of application on Thursday, which also asks the bench to order the company to change the way it informs users about and gets their consent for data-sharing with app developers, advertisers and other third parties. In a statement, Facebook spokesperson Erin Taylor said the firm had attempted to cooperate with the regulator and offered “measures that would go above and beyond what other companies do.” (The Logic)

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Talking point: Thursday’s move is the latest step in the privacy commissioner’s almost two-year-long process of investigating Cambridge Analytica’s acquisition of Facebook user data through a third-party app. The watchdog threatened legal action in April 2019, because it said Facebook would not accept its findings or implement its recommendations. The federal court can impose binding orders on the firm, but the privacy commissioner can’t just submit the results of its investigation to get a judgment—it will have to restate its case that the firm violated privacy laws. Taylor said there’s “no evidence that Canadian user data was shared with Cambridge Analytica.” But in April 2018, Facebook said 622,161 Canadians may have been affected.

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The government agency is arguing that the suit filed by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is premature, since negotiations are ongoing. CCLA said the development would breach constitutionally protected privacy rights. A hearing is scheduled for March 25. (The Globe and Mail)

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Talking point: This is a procedural move by Waterfront Toronto, but it could have significant consequences. If the court determines it is premature to consider whether privacy rights would be violated, that would “rip the guts out of the lawsuit,” per CCLA executive director Michael Bryant. In April 2019, when CCLA filed its lawsuit, Waterfront Toronto asked the group to enter negotiations, instead, and said it couldn’t assess the claims because it didn’t yet have Sidewalk Labs’ final plan. If this attempt is unsuccessful, Waterfront Toronto will have the opportunity to respond to the substance of CCLA’s allegations—namely, that the proposed development would include non-consensual mass surveillance. But even if the case is thrown out, there may soon be an opportunity to refile: Waterfront Toronto is voting on May 20 on whether to approve the development.

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The firm’s stock dropped over six per cent in late-afternoon trading after it reported a yearly revenue growth decline of about 10 percentage points in 2019—and disclosed the class-action lawsuit. (The Logic)

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Talking point: Facebook is facing particular struggles in advanced economies. In the U.S. and Canada, for example, its sales grew by 22 per cent year-over-year, the slowest increase ever; average revenue per user grew 19 per cent, compared to 30 per cent in the same quarter of the previous year. The company is hoping to make up for its slowing growth by increasing revenue in emerging economies and with new product lines. To emphasize its growing reliance on the latter, Facebook disclosed for the first time average revenue per user for Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp. On an earnings call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg highlighted his plan to allow direct purchases on Instagram. That business is a direct challenge to Ottawa’s Shopify, but it’s also something Zuckerberg talked about on a call a year ago, and is still in a pilot phase. The firm’s legal troubles may also be a major challenge going forward. It currently faces six active investigations around the world, and its US$5-billion privacy settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is being challenged in court by advocacy groups for not being heavy enough.