Situational awareness: Apple released a new 16-inch MacBook Pro with, among other upgrades, a more reliable keyboard, according to the Verge.
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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Regulators on both sides of the Atlantic are beginning to probe whether the biggest tech companies' handling of consumer data represents an unfair form of competition, Axios' Margaret Harding McGill reports.
Why it matters: Consumer data is the fuel of the digital economy and the key to tech giants' market leverage. It is also challenging antitrust regulators’ ability to investigate competition issues, because today’s antitrust laws don’t specifically address data dynamics.
Driving the news: Justice Department antitrust chief Makan Delrahim, in a speech Friday at an antitrust conference in Cambridge, Mass., said that the way tech firms amass data could raise concerns about competition.
Context: The amount of data Google will collect in its $2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit is already drawing the attention of privacy advocates and competition enforcers.
Yes, but: Fitbit is not the dominant player in the wearables health device market — that honor goes to the Apple Watch.
More broadly, experts question whether antitrust laws are the right tool to remedy concerns about growing data collection.
"The only thing you can say in the antitrust realm in regard to companies' increasing possession of data is 'big is bad,' and 'big is bad' is a disreputable antitrust principle and has been for decades."— Joel Mitnick, an antitrust lawyer with Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft
Meanwhile, Congress is looking at new data portability legislation as a way to boost competition in the tech industry by allowing users to take information like friends lists from one platform to another.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Facebook on Tuesday announced Facebook Pay, an online payment system that will allow users across its services to send payments to one another. The new product, separate from its Libra cryptocurrency effort, puts the social network giant in competition with Venmo and others.
Why it matters: Once again, Facebook will be asking users to hand over more sensitive information when it is under fire for how it manages the information and access it already has.
Between the lines: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at F8 last year that the company wasn't going to slow down on developing new products even as it works to restore trust.
Details: Facebook said it will roll out Facebook Pay on Facebook and Messenger this week in the U.S. for "fundraisers, in-game purchases, event tickets, person-to-person payments on Messenger" as well as some businesses on Facebook Marketplace. The service will later expand to WhatsApp and Instagram, the company said.
What they're saying:
History lesson: This isn't Facebook's first try at this space. Back in 2015, it launched a free, peer-to-peer payments system within Facebook Messenger.
Our thought bubble: Facebook's move into payments comes shortly after Venmo owner PayPal backed out of the consortium backing Libra.
Google's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
The Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services told the Wall Street Journal Tuesday it is investigating the data-sharing relationship between Google and not-for-profit hospital system Ascension.
Why it matters: Per Axios health care business reporter Bob Herman, exchanging patients’ health information is legal under federal privacy law, and this data sharing is common, even when patients aren’t aware. The government is making sure Google is contracted as a "business associate" with Ascension.
What they're saying: Civil Rights Office director Roger Severino said in a statement to the WSJ the federal regulator "will seek to learn more information about this mass collection of individuals' medical records to ensure that HIPAA protections were fully implemented."
The other side: Following the announcement, Google updated its blog post on its partnership with Ascension with the additional FAQ, "Do Google employees have access to Protected Health Information (PHI)? If so, why?"
Go deeper: What your hospital knows about you
A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that U.S. border authorities don't have unlimited power to search phones and other electronic devices of those entering the country.
Why it matters: While not going as far as some privacy and civil rights groups had hoped, the court did find that authorities need a reasonable suspicion before performing certain device searches.
What they're saying:
What's next: The EFF filed suit on Tuesday over another controversial technique being used at the border, the DNA testing of migrants.
The annual performance of "Thriller" at a senior home is a thing of beauty.