There was a LOT of tech news yesterday. But somehow I managed to condense it down to 1,538 words (<6-minute read).
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
This week's series of big government moves against Big Tech platforms dropped a curtain on the era of hands-off regulatory policy that shaped the firms.
Why it matters: A generation of firms led by Google and Facebook that grew rich and powerful while the Feds stayed out of their way must now adjust to government action as a way of life.
Driving the news:
The big picture: These moves have multiplied as the result of a rare convergence of bipartisan discontent with Big Tech.
Yes, but: Inquiries and settlements are one thing, and changing behavior is quite another. Critics say the FTC deal with Facebook doesn't substantively change the way the company does business, nor is a $5 billion fine a significant deterrent, given how much Facebook profits from its practices.
While Facebook's privacy settlement with the Federal Trade Commission includes a record $5 billion fine, its most important provisions are found in new restrictions it places on the company's practices, Axios' David McCabe reports.
Why it matters: The settlement's effectiveness will lie in whether these terms end up protecting consumers — yet policymakers on both sides of the aisle are already saying they don't go far enough.
Details: The settlement takes steps the FTC's Republican majority hopes will be enough to stop another Cambridge Analytica-style privacy disaster. Requirements for Facebook include:
Yes, but: Many policymakers (and privacy advocates and the agency's 2 Democratic commissioners) said Wednesday that the agency hadn't been aggressive enough.
In order to win Justice Department approval for their deal, Sprint and T-Mobile appear poised to sell spectrum and prepaid customers to Dish Network for a reported $5 billion.
Why it matters: Regulators in the past have blocked any deal that would have eliminated 1 of the current Big 4 mobile networks. An asset sale allows them to claim, at least on paper, that there will still be 4 players. But analysts have their doubts just how big a player Dish would be.
Dish has been a potential wireless entrant for some time, having scooped up a significant amount of spectrum in recent years — spectrum it is under pressure to use soon or risk losing. Back in 2013, Dish lost out in a bidding war with SoftBank for control of Sprint.
So it's not surprising that Sprint and T-Mobile are looking in Dish's direction, nor that regulators see it as a potential way to avoid admitting the deal will reduce competition.
Be smart: Even if the DOJ signs off on the deal, several states have already sued to block the merger, so they would have to be persuaded as well.
And many experts doubt that Dish alone will be a significant rival.
The bottom line: Even if Dish does build a network, wireless consultant Chetan Sharma predicted that it won't want to be in the business for the long haul. Instead, Dish would look to run it for a few years and ideally sell it back to one of the big 3 operators.
Despite the ongoing efforts to reel in the dominance of Big Tech companies, a few major firms still manage to eat up more ad revenue than most other publishers (and publishing industries) combined, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.
Why it matters: The continued strength of these companies, particularly in the data-based advertising sector, has shifted the focus in Washington over the past 3 years from holding firms accountable for bad policies or sloppy mistakes to taking action against them as monopolies.
Driving the news: The businesses of the three biggest ad giants continue to grow, although concerns are starting to rise about future growth slowing down.
The big picture: As these companies continue to grow their advertising footprints, legacy businesses are consolidating in an effort to simply keep up.
I have a 6-year-old and cover the tech industry, so I don't have much free time. But, if you do, the Internet Archive has this amazing free collection of retro LCD games, playable via a web browser. I admit I do own several of the games in question, including a vintage Speak & Spell and the mini-arcade version of Frogger.