|Bid||1,124.7000 x 0|
|Ask||1,350.0000 x 0|
|Day's Range||1,069.4000 - 1,077.8199|
|52 Week Range||1,030.0000 - 1,400.0000|
|Beta (5Y Monthly)||1.02|
|PE Ratio (TTM)||0.00|
|Forward Dividend & Yield||N/A (N/A)|
|1y Target Est||N/A|
(Bloomberg) -- TripAdvisor Inc. is cutting hundreds of jobs, according to people familiar with the situation, underscoring the company’s need to reduce costs as competition from Google intensifies.The online travel information provider is eliminating about 200 workers, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private decisions. The company had just over 3,800 staff at the end of September, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. A TripAdvisor spokesman declined to comment, but pointed to a recent earnings conference call in which the company said it was “prudently reducing and re-allocating expenses in certain parts of our business to preserve strong profitability.”Alphabet Inc.’s Google has launched new travel search tools that compete with TripAdvisor, while adding its own reviews of hotels, restaurants and other destinations. Google has also crammed the top of its mobile search results with more ads. This has forced many companies, including TripAdvisor, to buy more ads from the search giant to keep online traffic flowing.Google’s Search Ad Embrace Crushes Online Travel AgentsIn early November, TripAdvisor shares slumped more than 20% in one day after the company reported dismal third-quarter results. It said the main challenge was “Google pushing its own hotel products in search results and siphoning off quality traffic that would otherwise find TripAdvisor via free links and generate high margin revenue in our hotel click-based auction.”“Google has got more aggressive,” TripAdvisor Chief Executive Officer Stephen Kaufer said at the time. “We’re not predicting that it’s going to turn around.”To contact the reporters on this story: Mark Gurman in Los Angeles at email@example.com;Olivia Carville in New York at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tom Giles at email@example.com, Alistair Barr, Jillian WardFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Google engineers said a tool Apple Inc. developed to help users avoid web tracking is fundamentally flawed and creates more problems than it solves.The Intelligent Tracking Prevention feature on Apple’s Safari web browser, which is meant to block tracking software used by digital advertisers, can be abused to do the exact opposite, according to a paper released Wednesday by Google researchers. Google told Apple about the problem in August, and in December the iPhone maker published a blog post saying it had fixed the issues and thanking Google for its help.But Wednesday’s paper concluded that the problems go beyond the issues that Apple addressed. Instead of making a big list of cookies to block, Apple’s ITP continuously learns what websites users visit and which kinds of cookies try to hitch a ride. Over time, this creates unique cookie-blocking algorithms for each web surfer that can be used to identify and track them, according to the paper.“I can assure you that they still haven’t fixed these issues,” Justin Schuh, engineering director for Google’s Chrome browser, said on Twitter. Apple’s December blog post “didn’t disclose the vulnerabilities or appropriately credit the researchers,” he added. Apple said the bugs mentioned in the report were patched in December, but declined to comment further.This isn’t the first time the two tech giants have clashed over privacy. Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has criticized internet companies for collecting too much personal information, and last year Google researchers reported a two-year long vulnerability in the iPhone maker’s software. Google’s Chrome and Apple’s Safari are two of the most popular web browsers, with Chrome used by more people overall but Safari dominating on iPhones. Apple has been touting Safari privacy features to persuade more consumers to use it. Apple first introduced Intelligent Tracking Prevention in 2017. The tool targets cookies, bits of code that let marketers follow people around the web and send them targeted ads.Google refused to block cookies for years, arguing that targeted ads help publishers and keep the internet free. But last week, the internet giant said it would eventually phase them out, setting off a race among advertisers to adapt. Privacy advocates have lauded Apple’s approach to tracking, and criticized Google for taking so long to do the same. But the paper suggests Apple may have to go back to the drawing board to find a new way to block tracking.“This bug is quite counter-intuitive, but rather very serious,” said Lukasz Olejnik, an independent cybersecurity researcher.To contact the reporter on this story: Gerrit De Vynck in New York at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alistair Barr at email@example.com, Jillian WardFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- WeWork has sold its minority stake in the female-focused co-working startup the Wing, part of parent company We Co.’s efforts to re-focus on its main office-sharing business.The company had been exploring the sale since last year, Bloomberg previously reported, following the theatrical dissolution of its plans for an initial public offering and the ouster of its chief executive officer, Adam Neumann.“Last quarter, we articulated a long-term plan for disciplined growth and a clear path to profitability, and we continue to execute on this plan each day,” Co-CEO Artie Minson said in a statement.A group of investors purchased WeWork’s stake in the Wing. The group included GV, formerly Google Ventures, as well as existing investors Sequoia Capital and NEA. The Wing also said it had added actress Mindy Kaling as an investor, adding her to a list of backers that also includes athletes Serena Williams and Megan Rapinoe. Fortune earlier reported some details of the sale.“In three years, the Wing has grown from a single location to a global community of women,” co-founder and CEO Audrey Gelman said in a statement.In addition to divesting its stake in the Wing, WeWork said it would sell Teem, a cloud services developer, to iOFFICE, a facility management software company. It also said it was in the process of selling Meetup, a website used to create online groups for in-person events, and Managed by Q, a workplace management platform.On Wednesday, the company also said it is expecting a $1.75 billion credit line from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. that it secured in December to become available within the coming weeks.(Adds investor details in the fourth paragraph.)To contact the reporter on this story: Nikitha Sattiraju in New York at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Molly Schuetz at email@example.com, Anne VanderMey, Jillian WardFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Four of the five biggest U.S. technology giants boosted their lobbying spending last year as they battled charges of unfair competition, sought to shape privacy legislation and pursued large government contracts in an increasingly hostile Washington.Facebook Inc. led spending increases by Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., and Microsoft Corp. Search giant parent Alphabet Inc. was the lone member of the quintet with a decline.Alphabet’s Google reported a 44% decline in 2019 spending, to $11.8 million from $21.2 million. The company spent much of last year reshuffling its Washington office, including ending its relationships with more than a dozen lobbyists at six outside firms. It also replaced Susan Molinari, a former Republican House member, with Mark Isakowitz, a onetime GOP Senate aide, to head up its Washington policy shop.The tech industry has become one of the biggest spenders in Washington and is rivaling traditional lobbying powerhouses, including the pharmaceutical industry and big business lobbies.Together, the five biggest tech companies by market value shelled out $62.2 million in 2019, 3% less than what they spent the year before. That topped the biggest spender among the business groups, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent $58.2 million to lobby in 2019.It was also more than double the $28.9 million spent by the pharmaceutical industry’s lead trade group, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which typically conducts the lion’s share of the industry’s lobbying.On a company level, the five largest U.S. drug makers -- Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Pfizer Inc., Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Eli Lilly & Co. -- spent $34.7 million in lobbying last year, 44% less than the five biggest tech companies.While the amounts spent on lobbying by the tech giants pale in comparison with the billions in revenue each company receives and, in some cases now, their trillion-dollar market values -- money can buy influence in the nation’s capital.The disclosures, which are filed quarterly with Congress, include amounts spent to weigh in on legislation or other pressing matters before Congress, the White House and Executive Branch agencies. The reports were due Tuesday.Existential ThreatsWith their broad portfolios, U.S. tech companies have been worried about everything from Trump’s trade deals to stalled privacy legislation and drone regulations. But perhaps their most existential threats are the antitrust probes.The Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission are reviewing the biggest internet platforms to determine if they are harming competition. The FTC is scrutinizing Facebook and Amazon, while the Justice Department is investigating Google and is also looking at Facebook.Large coalitions of state attorneys general are likewise considering cases against Facebook and Google.For more: Justice Department Questions Publishers in Ongoing Google ProbeIn addition, the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel, led by Rhode Island Democrat David Cicilline, has a sprawling inquiry underway. Cicilline has hauled executives before his subcommittee and peppered the companies with exhaustive questions about their business practices.Facebook surged to the front of the pack among the tech behemoths. The social-media company spent $16.7 million last year, its highest-ever yearly spending and up 32% from $12.6 million in 2018. It lobbied on such issues as intellectual property, cybersecurity, privacy, cryptocurrency and election integrity, according to the annual lobbying disclosures.E-commerce giant Amazon was close behind Facebook, upping its spending to a record $16.1 million from $14.2 million. Despite the increase, its public policy shop has experienced a number of high-profile failures. In October, for example, Amazon learned that it lost a $10 billion Pentagon cloud contract to rival Microsoft.Amazon has blamed that loss on presidential meddling. Numerous parts of the “evaluation process contained clear deficiencies, errors, and unmistakable bias -- and it’s important that these matters be examined and rectified,” the company said in November.It doesn’t help that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and President Donald Trump have been feuding since before Trump was elected and that Bezos owns the Washington Post, which Trump sees as one of his fiercest critics.Apple RecordApple’s $7.4 million lobbying outlay last year was also a record. That amount was up 10% from $6.7 million in 2018. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has had a better working relationship with Trump than have many of his tech rivals. He was among several dozen global tech leaders who attended a breakfast with the president at the World Economic Forum conference in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday.But Cook is also in the hot seat for his company’s refusal to help the FBI unlock an encrypted iPhone used by the Saudi air force student who allegedly killed three people at a Florida naval base.Microsoft, which spent $10.2 million on lobbying last year, up from $9.5 million the year before, has largely avoided the political pitfalls of its peers. Winning the Pentagon’s lucrative cloud contract was a major victory, considering its underdog status. In August, Pentagon vendors also were awarded a contract worth as much as $7.6 billion to provide Microsoft software to the Defense Department.Privacy PushSome of the big checks Facebook, Google and others are writing in Washington are going to lobbying firms and trade groups pushing industry-friendly privacy bills. The industry hoped to see federal privacy legislation adopted last year, but that didn’t happen.California’s new privacy law went into effect Jan. 1, becoming the most influential U.S. privacy statute. New York, Washington State and others are considering their own privacy bills, which could create a patchwork of state privacy regulations, making compliance difficult for global tech giants.The tech companies, hoping to avoid that, are again lobbying Congress to adopt a federal privacy law before the 2020 elections.Chinese telecommunications company Huawei Technologies Co., after minimal outlays, started spending heavily on lobbying in the second half of last year as it found itself in the crosshairs of the Trump administration. In May, the Commerce Department placed the company on a blacklist designed to cut it off from U.S. suppliers.Huawei spent $1.1 million in the fourth quarter and nearly $3 million for the full year, up from $165,000 in 2018. The increase was primarily to pay lobbyist Michael Esposito, who touts his connections to Trump, though the president has said he doesn’t know him.Trade WarsIn the final months of 2019, companies and trade groups intensified their lobbying on international trade issues as the Trump administration sought to end the tariff war with China and pass a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada.Earlier this year, the U.S. and China signed what they billed as the first phase of a broader trade pact that commits China to do more to crack down on the theft of American technology and avoid currency manipulation. The Senate passed Trump’s U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement or USMCA, which replaced the North America Free Trade Agreement, following House passage late last year.The National Association of Manufacturers’ spending on federal lobbying rose to $8.4 million in the last three months of 2019, a nearly 313% jump compared with the third quarter, and $14.6 million in all of 2019. The trade group lobbied on both China and North American trade issues, according to its filings.\--With assistance from Naomi Nix.To contact the reporters on this story: Eric Newcomer in San Francisco at firstname.lastname@example.org;Ben Brody in Washington, D.C. at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Sara Forden at firstname.lastname@example.org, ;Molly Schuetz at email@example.com, Paula DwyerFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Sign up here to receive the Davos Diary, a special daily newsletter that will run from Jan. 20-24.Google’s chief executive officer has left no doubt about how important he thinks artificial intelligence will be to humanity.“AI is one of the most profound things we’re working on as humanity. It’s more profound than fire or electricity,” Alphabet Inc. CEO Sundar Pichai said in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday.Alphabet, which owns Google, has had to grapple with its role in the development of AI, including managing employee revolts against its work on the technology for the U.S. government. In 2018, a group of influential software engineers successfully delayed the development of a security feature that would’ve helped the company win military contracts.Google has issued a set of AI principles that prohibit weapons work, but doesn’t rule out selling to the military. It has also pledged not to renew its Project Maven contract, which involves using artificial intelligence to analyze drone footage.Pichai, who’s led Google since 2015, took control of Alphabet after founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin stepped down from day-to-day involvement last month.“AI is no different from the climate,” Pichai said. “You can’t get safety by having one country or a set of countries working on it. You need a global framework.”Current frameworks to regulate the technology in the U.S. and Europe are a “great start,” and countries will have to work together on international agreements, similar to the Paris climate accord, to ensure it’s developed responsibly, Pichai said.Technology such as facial recognition can be used for good, such as finding missing people, or have “negative consequences,” such as mass surveillance, he said.Keith Enright, Google’s chief privacy officer, also spoke about the potential of artificial intelligence and machine learning to continue developing new technologies and services using a minimum amount of customer data.“We’re right now really focused on doing more with less data,” Enright said at a data-protection conference in Brussels on Wednesday. “This is counter-intuitive to a lot of people, because the popular narrative is that companies like ours are trying to amass as much data as possible.”Holding on to data that isn’t delivering value for users is “a risk,” he said.Powerful new European Union rules took effect across in May, giving privacy watchdogs the power to fine companies as much as 4% of annual global sales for serious violations. Google has come under scrutiny many times in Europe, with one probe in France resulting in a 50 million euro ($55 million) fine under the new law.Pichai had also stopped by Brussels on his way to Davos, giving a rare public speech, where he called on regulators to coordinate their approaches to artificial intelligence. The European Union is set to unveil new rules AI developers in “high risk sectors,” such as health care and transportation, according to an early draft obtained by Bloomberg.(Updates with privacy officer comments from ninth paragraph.)\--With assistance from Natalia Drozdiak.To contact the reporters on this story: Amy Thomson in London at firstname.lastname@example.org;Stephanie Bodoni in Brussels at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Giles Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org, Peter ChapmanFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Terms of Trade is a daily newsletter that untangles a world embroiled in trade wars. Sign up here. Five years to the day since the European Central Bank announced massive cash injections to stave off deflation, President Christine Lagarde wants to know why price growth is still so lackluster.Economist Milton Friedman’s decades-old dictum that inflation is “always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon” -- implying that prices will rise if you create enough money -- is under strain. The ECB has failed to sustainably hit its goal, much of the rest of Europe has similarly struggled, and Japanese prices have been in the doldrums for a generation.While the U.S. Federal Reserve has fared a little better, with fiscal help, policy makers there are scratching their heads in a strategic review. Now Lagarde intends to agree on the ECB’s own wideranging review at a two-day policy meeting starting Wednesday. It’s the Governing Council’s 500th gathering and comes half a decade after former President Mario Draghi announced quantitative easing as the ultimate tool for restoring price stability.Policy makers want a convincing explanation for why it hasn’t turned out that way, and how they can respond. At least they don’t have to start from scratch. Researchers have offered multiple explanations including globalization, digitalization and the demise of trade unions.Weaker WorkersPerhaps the biggest quandary is why tight labor markets haven’t generated wage increases big enough to push up consumer prices. The U.S. and U.K. have the lowest unemployment in decades.One argument in the euro zone, where joblessness is the lowest since 2008, is that the European Union’s eastern expansion led to an influx of cheaper workers. The threat that companies might move factories also restrained pay, especially in Germany, according to a 2017 paper by Christian Odendahl of the Center for European Reform.The decline in organized wage bargaining may also have a role. The share of French workers that are members of a trade union is down to 9% from 23% in 1975. In Germany, it fell to 17% from 35%. That trend has affected “real disposable incomes, consumption growth and, ultimately, inflation,” ECB Executive Board member Benoit Coeure said in his final speech before his term ended last month.What Our Economists Say...“Those looking for the causes of low inflation in the euro area would do well to start with Germany. There, slow price gains are nothing new -- core inflation has averaged just 1.1% since 2000. In part, that reflects an agreement between employers and workers that secured jobs in exchange for pay restraint. It’s hard to see inflation picking up sustainably until that dynamic sees radical change.”\--Jamie Rush. Read more.Flat ExpectationsEven in nations where wages are picking up, the effect on inflation has been muted, casting doubt over the relationship between prices and economic slack known as the Phillips curve. ECB research has sought to prove the curve still holds, even if it’s flatter than it used to be. Perhaps key is a study in July showing inflation expectations to be the most important determinant of underlying price growth.AXA economist Gilles Moec says the implication is that “core inflation today is influenced by past episodes of very low or very high headline inflation.” For price growth to really kick in, the ECB needs plenty of patience and the willingness to let inflation to run above its target.Still, a Bundesbank paper last month suggested it’s not so simple -- perceptions about living costs also differ depending on factors such as earnings, education and job type.Connected WorldGlobalization is frequently blamed for depressing wages and inflation, as companies move production and services to cheaper locations, such as laptop assembly in China or call centers in India. Former Bank of England policy maker Kristin Forbes concluded in a paper last year that economic models need to do a better job of including global factors.Technology, such as ride-sharing app Uber, may also be a factor, aiding the rise of the gig economy with its low job security. The “Amazon effect” has intensified retail competition, forcing companies to compete globally while central banks operate within their currency area.ECB board member Yves Mersch has described how technology makes it difficult to get an accurate reading on inflation, as companies like Google offer services for free while extracting profits from advertising.Export ProblemA working paper by the Irish central bank last year found a correlation between the euro area’s current-account surpluses after 2011 and low inflation, a link acknowledged by ECB chief economist Philip Lane.That may signal European manufacturers are too reliant on foreign demand. While the services sector is growing faster than manufacturing, even that trend brings another problem. Coeure said services prices are considerably “stickier” because they have a high wage component, increasing the lag between monetary policy and price changes.Home TruthsFinally, it’s possible inflation hasn’t gone missing but is simply being overlooked. The gauge used by the ECB -- produced by the EU’s statistics office -- only gives housing costs a weight of 6.5%, well below what most people pay. About a third of the basket of goods and services tracked by the Federal Reserve is housing.Still, Greg Fuzesi, an economist at JPMorgan, has done research showing the impact on inflation from adding housing costs is overestimated.The complexity of factors affecting inflation, and the fact that some of them are outside the reach of central banks, makes finding a solution tricky. One governor, Austria’s Robert Holzmann, reckons the best strategy is acceptance -- lowflation might be here to stay.(Updates with size and scope of Governing Council meeting)To contact the reporter on this story: Piotr Skolimowski in Frankfurt at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org, Jana RandowFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- After revolutionizing software, the open-source movement is threatening to do same to the chip industry.Big technology companies have begun dabbling with RISC-V, which replaces proprietary know-how in a key part of the chip design process with a free standard that anyone can use. While it’s early days, this could create a new crop of processors that compete with Intel Corp. products and whittle away at the licensing business of Arm Holdings Plc.In December, about 2,000 people packed into a Silicon Valley conference to learn about RISC-V, a new set of instructions that control how software communicates with semiconductors. In just a few years, RISC-V has grown from a college teaching tool into an open-source standard being explored by industry giants including Google, Samsung Electronics Co., Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., Qualcomm Inc. and Nvidia Corp.“Most of the major companies are putting substantial efforts into RISC-V,” said Krste Asanovic, a computer scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, who was part of the team that developed the standard. He’s co-founder of SiFive Inc., a startup that sells chip designs based on RISC-V (pronounced “risk five”).Open source harnesses the contributions of multitudes, not just the proprietary ideas of a few companies. New code is shared, so anyone can see it, improve it and build their own contributions on top of it. After being dismissed by giants like Microsoft Corp. in the 1990s, this expanding body of work has become the foundation of the internet, smartphones and many software applications. Last year, IBM bought open-source pioneer Red Hat in the biggest software deal in history. Even Microsoft got on board, acquiring GitHub, the largest repository of open-source code.Opening up even small parts of the chipmaking process is anathema to many in the $400 billion industry. But if enough companies commit to an open-source approach, that could create a shared pool of knowledge that may be hard for Intel and Arm to keep up with.Early developments focus on instruction sets, which govern the basic functions of processors. Only two have mattered for years. One is Intel‘s X86, which dominates computer processors. Buying a chip from Intel or licensee Advanced Micro Devices Inc. is the only real way to use this instruction set. And Intel is the only company that can change it.The other instruction set is the basis of all major smartphone components. It is owned by Arm, a unit of Softbank Group Corp. This can be licensed for a fee, so other companies use it to design their own chips. But again, only Arm can alter the fundamentals.This has left the rest of the industry relying on the innovation of just two companies. That was not a problem for decades because most processors were general-purpose components that got faster and more efficient each year through production advances. Those industry axioms are unraveling, though. The steady march of chip miniaturization has bumped up against the laws of physics, while artificial intelligence and a flood of data from the internet and smartphones require new ways of processing information. A fresh set of instructions will help create better chips to power driverless cars, speech recognition and other AI tasks, RISC-V’s backers say.Google is using RISC-V in its OpenTitan project, which is developing security chips for data center servers and storage devices. “There are a range of other computational tasks, such as machine learning, that could benefit from an open computing architecture,” said Urs Holzle, who has overseen the technical infrastructure of Google’s massive data centers for years.Samsung said it will use SiFive designs in chips it’s making for mobile phone components. RISC-V has appeared in microcontrollers – a basic form of a processor – that are part of more complex chips sold by Qualcomm and Nvidia. Western Digital Corp., one of the largest makers of data-storage devices, plans to use the technology in some products and has open-sourced its designs. Alibaba has announced a chip based on RISC-V and several universities have published open-source designs.There are 200 Chinese members of the RISC-V Foundation, a non-profit group created in 2015 to promote the use of the instruction set. An Indian project developed six processors using the technology.RISC-V specifications are developed, ratified and maintained by the foundation’s technical committee, made up of engineers and other contributors from several member companies. Proposed revisions are posted on GitHub. RISC-V designs can either be free or licensed. While there’s no strict requirement to stick to the official specifications, members have an incentive to make their designs compatible. This gives chip customers multiple options for the blueprints they need to design components that communicate properly with the software, according to backers of the project.It’s still very early days, though. In terms of actual chips created, sold and used, RISC-V is nowhere. Arm’s technology is in almost all the 1.4 billion smartphones made each year. More than 200 million PCs sold annually are based on Intel’s X86 instruction set.One criticism of RISC-V is that it won’t end up saving money because there’s more work involved in using open standards. This echoes complaints raised about Linux and other open-source software when they were gaining ground decades ago.Arm said the idea that RISC-V reduces costs doesn’t make sense. “Innovation goes far beyond an instruction set,” said Tim Whitfield, a vice president of strategy at the company. “Arm’s IP is highly configurable and provides our partners with the flexibility to innovate and differentiate where they can add real value while minimizing risk and cost.”Martin Fink, Western Digital’s former chief technology officer who still advises the CEO, said it’s about spurring innovation in a crucial field that’s still locked down, rather than saving money. “It’s free as in freedom not as in free beer,” he added. “It’s about community and collaboration.”Other RISC-V backers argue that the more-collaborative process will eventually reduce the cost of creating chips, especially for data center operators and other companies that are increasingly designing their own processors, according to David Patterson, a former Berkeley professor and a distinguished engineer at Google. “Companies all over the world are collaborating to develop because it saves them money,” he said.Pressure on the incumbents to step up their game might be the biggest immediate impact of RISC-V. Last year, Arm announced a try-before-you-buy plan with a much lower fee so smaller companies and academic institutions could do exploratory work using its instruction set.Intel said it is adding new instructions that will help with AI processing and other new areas. “Intel engineers have continually advanced the X86 architecture standard, providing best-in-class performance,” the company added in a statement. Qualcomm, one of Arm’s biggest customers, sees room for multiple approaches, including RISC-V, according to Keith Kressin, a senior vice president of product management at Qualcomm.To contact the reporter on this story: Ian King in San Francisco at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Jillian Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org, Alistair Barr, Vlad SavovFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Terms of Trade is a daily newsletter that untangles a world embroiled in trade wars. Sign up here. Even as France indicated a willingness to postpone a disputed tax on technology companies, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin dangled the prospect of retaliatory tariffs on automobile imports if the issue isn’t resolved.French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire will meet with Mnuchin on Wednesday in Davos, Switzerland, in an effort to hammer out an agreement that threatens to escalate transatlantic tensions. Le Maire said in a interview with Bloomberg that he’s hopeful for a positive outcome and that he’s “in a good mood for negotiating.”Last year, France introduced a 3% levy on the digital revenue of companies that make their sales primarily in cyberspace, such as Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google. The U.S. has threatened tariffs as high as 100% on $2.4 billion of French goods, saying the measure discriminates against American businesses.“If people want to just arbitrarily put taxes on our digital companies, we will consider arbitrarily putting taxes on car companies,” Mnuchin said at a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum on Wednesday. “We think the digital tax is discriminatory in nature.”The issue, which both sides indicated was resolved on Monday, has nonetheless been a lightning rod for a border transatlantic trade debate at the alpine conference this week. U.S. and European officials are staking out positions ahead of talks President Donald Trump said he wants to start soon.In a press conference Wednesday, Trump repeated his complaint that the European Union is worse than China in its trading relationship with the U.S.Delay ImplementationInternet companies have long been the target of complaints that they don’t pay enough in taxes, and other countries in the EU are also are taking action. The U.K. government plans to go ahead with a tax on digital services in April, Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid said in Davos.France denies that the levy is discriminatory -- it’s also paid by European and Chinese firms -- but is ready to make changes to it to appease the U.S.Le Maire said he is prepared to delay collections of the tax due in April and November until the end of the year, so long as the U.S. refrains from imposing new tariffs.“We have not decided to withdraw our taxation -- we have just proposed not have the prepayment of April and November,” Le Maire said.OECD SolutionDespite the French government’s willingness to compromise, they still hope to find a solution that fits within discussions at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s work on the issue, according to a French official. France pushed ahead with its tax when talks at the OECD level stalled last year.The U.S. has said that the French tax discriminates against American technology companies, citing Section 301 of a 1974 American law that Trump has thus far reserved to justify tariffs against China. That opened the door to the U.S.’s threat to retaliate.Among the French products targeted with duties of as much as 100% were luxury items like wine, cheese and makeup. One American wine merchant called it the biggest threat to the industry since Prohibition a century ago.For its part, the French government had warned that the EU would retaliate if the U.S. imposed additional tariffs.“We are working on an agreement with Steven Mnuchin, and I hope we can get a compromise in a few hours,” Le Maire said Wednesday morning. “Entering into a trade war between Europe and the U.S. would be foolish.”Separately, Trump told the Fox Business Network that the EU planned to call an “emergency meeting” to prepare trade negotiations with the Americans.Neither the trade spokesman of the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm in Brussels, nor a spokesperson of the Croatian government, which holds the bloc’s rotating presidency, is aware of any emergency meeting on transatlantic commercial tensions.\--With assistance from Lucy Meakin, William Horobin and Alex Wayne.To contact the reporters on this story: Saleha Mohsin in Washington at email@example.com;Catherine Bosley in Zurich at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Fergal O'Brien at email@example.com, Richard Bravo, Brendan MurrayFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- How can institutions balance the existing businesses that pay the bills today with creating the new technologies that will pay the bills tomorrow? That was the challenge facing this week's guest on Master in Business, Safi Bahcall, a member of President Barack Obama’s council of science advisers, and author of the book, “Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries.”Bahcall said that soon after he was appointed he was told he should update Vannevar Bush’s guidelines to innovation in government. The problem was, he had no idea of who Vannevar Bush was. He dove into his history and discovered that it was Bush who had persuaded President Franklin Roosevelt to create the Office of Scientific Research and Development, which played a huge role in the war effort. The OSRD accelerated development of existing technologies and created new ones, including radar and the proximity fuse, which detonates munitions when they reach a predetermined distance from a target.Bahcall argues that too many institutions fail to transition to thinking about the future from operating in the present. The group that is making the money for the company today wants to stick with what is working and those projects that have a very high success rate. The group that is creating the game-changing products are taking chances on ideas with a very high failure rate. Bridging the two groups is the role of leadership, something that companies such as Apple and Pixar historically have done well.His favorite books can be seen here; a transcript of our conversation is here.You can stream/download the full conversation, including the podcast extras on Apple iTunes, Overcast, Spotify, Google, Bloomberg and Stitcher. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.Next week, we speak with Barbara Tversky, professor of psychology at Stanford and Columbia, and author of "Mind in Motion: How Action Shapes Thought." Tversky was married to the now-deceased Amos Tversky, and helped Michael Lewis research his book on Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, "The Undoing Project."To contact the author of this story: Barry Ritholtz at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Greiff at email@example.comThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Barry Ritholtz is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is chairman and chief investment officer of Ritholtz Wealth Management, and was previously chief market strategist at Maxim Group. He is the author of “Bailout Nation.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Sign up here to receive the Davos Diary, a special daily newsletter that will run from Jan. 20-24.SAP SE’s co-chief executive officer said companies will continue to face activism not only from shareholders, but increasingly from employees and consumers.“This will continue to be something that CEOs will have to understand and balance across the different stakeholders,” Jennifer Morgan said in an interview with Bloomberg News’s Stephanie Flanders on Tuesday at Davos.The Walldorf, Germany-based company attracted the interest of activists at Elliott Management Corp., which revealed a 1.2 billion-euro ($1.3 billion) stake when SAP announced a change in strategy in April.Read More: SAP’s an Old Company With New TricksActivists have been broadening their scope of engagement with companies. Protesters have been pressing BlackRock Inc. to divest from fossil fuel companies and others that contribute to climate change, while employees at Google have protested over the conduct of executives.Morgan -- who became co-CEO in October alongside Christian Klein and is the first female chief executive of a DAX-listed company said -- said user experience is set to be the new battleground.“If a company is not competing on experience its a race to the bottom”, she said. “When you’re in a consumer-led economy like the United States, for example, the disruption that we see happening for traditional industries is happening in the experience gap”.Morgan used fitness company Peloton Interactive Inc. as a good example of tapping into someone else’s experience “gap” saying they provide not just a better service but a real experience that people will pay more for.To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah Syed in London at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Giles Turner at email@example.comFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Who said Davos doesn’t make a difference? As world leaders, business executives and cheerleaders for the planet descended on the Swiss resort for the annual World Economic Forum, one diplomatic victory was being chalked up on the sidelines: A presidential truce between Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron over France’s plan to tax tech companies, which the U.S. says discriminates against its national champions.After threats of retaliatory trade tariffs on both sides, Macron took to Twitter to declare a “great” discussion with Trump that would lead to a “good agreement” on de-escalation. Trump retweeted that assessment, responding in the affirmative with “excellent!” But it’s hard to see much worth celebrating yet.What this truce amounts to isn’t exactly clear, for one thing, and it’s certainly not being trumpeted in the way that Trump’s “beautiful monster” of a phase-one deal with China was last week. Avoiding an escalation of tariffs is obviously a good thing. But Trump has already leveled so many trade threats at France and the European Union — driven by hatred of the trade surpluses they run with the U.S. — that it’s hard to feel excited at the prospect of one less gun barrel. If Trump actually ends up retracting his specific threat to hit $2.4 billion of French products with tariffs, that still doesn’t automatically guarantee protection for Airbus aircraft or German cars.It’s also not clear what Macron has gifted Trump in order to get de-escalation onto the agenda. According to the Wall Street Journal, France may have simply offered to “pause” its tech tax until a worldwide solution is agreed upon by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development — where support from the U.S. is obviously crucial. That’s not as huge a climb down as it initially seems: Paris could feasibly suspend the collection of digital tax payments due in April without scrapping the principle or the structure of its tax, as my Bloomberg News colleagues write elsewhere. But it still looks like Trump’s threats have paid off on one level.If the original sin is that today’s tech giants — Google parent Alphabet Inc., Facebook Inc., Amazon.com Inc. — aren’t paying their fair share in tax, we seem to be veering a long way from absolution. Things would be different if Europe could set aside its differences and agree on the fundamental good that a digital tax across its 28 members (soon to be 27) would bring. Brussels estimates global tech firms pay an average tax rate of 9.5%, compared with 23.2% for bricks-and-mortar peers. But the EU is divided on the need to overhaul the data economy, with low-tax jurisdictions like Ireland and the Netherlands resisting a common levy on digital firms.The Trump administration has shown itself adept at exploiting these divisions. France’s move to go it alone with a digital tax was politically popular, but fiscally weak. It is only expected to bring in 500 million euros ($555 million) a year, a digital drop in the ocean of France’s approximately 80 billion-euro deficit. Despite being fundamentally righteous, it allowed Trump to poke the soft underbelly of European unity by training his tariff weapon on Paris — and confronted the Macron administration with the prospect of pain for key exporters. The U.S. trade deficit with France was $16.2 billion in 2018.The pressure is now on to get consensus among more than 135 countries in the OECD-led push for an agreement on how to tax digital profits. It’s a solution favored by the likes of Apple Inc.’s Tim Cook, which speaks to how companies prefer the predictability of global solutions over patchy national ones. But until such a solution is actually agreed, it will be hard to celebrate this latest Franco-American “truce.” It has allowed France and Europe to save face by avoiding the reality of a new trade confrontation with Trump as he fights for re-election. It has offered tech firms a way to save money. But it hasn’t really saved the world from the threat of more trade wars. Davos can’t achieve everything.To contact the author of this story: Lionel Laurent at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Melissa Pozsgay at email@example.comThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Lionel Laurent is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Brussels. He previously worked at Reuters and Forbes.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Terms of Trade is a daily newsletter that untangles a world embroiled in trade wars. Sign up here. Presidents Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump agreed to a truce in their dispute over digital taxes that will mean neither France nor the U.S. will impose punitive tariffs this year.Macron said on Monday he had a “great discussion” with Trump on the issue, without giving details.“We will work together on a good agreement to avoid tariff escalation,” he said on Twitter.“Excellent!” Trump said in a reply to Macron’s post, without providing additional information. Trump is en route to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum.A White House readout of the call was notably more muted, saying only that the “two leaders agreed it is important to complete successful negotiations on the digital services tax” and “discussed other bilateral issues.” And neither a White House spokesman nor officials with the U.S. Trade Representative’s office would confirm that the U.S. president had called off his announced tariffs.Still, the possible respite may defuse transatlantic tensions that had been building between Washington and Brussels along another potential trade war front. Last week, Trump signed a cease-fire with China in phase one of a broader deal aimed at balancing trade between the world’s two largest economies.The European Union is an even bigger U.S. trading partner than China and supply chains between the two economies, particularly in automotive and financial services industries, are intertwined in ways that would make a tit-for-tat tariff dispute even more harmful to the world economy.Macron’s government still hopes to find a solution that fits within discussions at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s work on the issue, according to a French official who asked not to be identified in line with government rules.European finance ministers meeting in Brussels Tuesday will discuss progress of the OECD talks. While the OECD is still working on its proposal for taxing tech companies around the world, France pushed ahead with its own levy last year that hit U.S. internet giants like Google, Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.“We now have an agreement between the two presidents to avoid any tariff escalation and avoid any trade war,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told reporters in Brussels before the meeting. “It’s remains a difficult negotiation -- with digital tax, the devil is in the details and we need to resolve the details.”Paris and Washington have discussed the possibility of France suspending the collection of the digital tax payments due in April as long as the U.S. refrains from imposing new tariffs, French officials said. But that wouldn’t constitute a withdrawal of the levy, they added. For its part, the French government denies its national tax is discriminatory and warned that the EU would retaliate if the U.S. imposed additional levies.The U.S. has said that the French tax discriminates against American technology companies, citing Section 301 of a 1974 American law that Trump has thus far reserved to justify tariffs against China. That opened the door to the U.S.’s threat to hit $2.4 billion of French goods with tariffs in retaliation.Among the French products targeted with duties of as much as 100% were luxury items like wine, cheese and makeup. One American wine merchant called it the biggest threat to the industry since Prohibition a century ago.For its part, the French government had warned that the EU would retaliate if the U.S. imposed additional tariffs.The dispute was another headache for European trade officials scrambling to expand their policy arsenal as the U.S. takes aim at a rules-based system for global trade that Trump argues is outdated and tilted against America. It also coincided with a change in leadership at the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm.EU trade commissioner Phil Hogan visited Washington last week for the first time in the job, partly to plead for talks rather than tariffs in disagreements like the French digital tax. At stake, he said, was transatlantic trade in goods and services valued at more than $3 billion a day.“Sounds like a fairly healthy relationship to me,” Hogan said Thursday in the U.S. capital. “So why put tariffs on these EU products to make them more expensive for your people?”The truce follows weeks of discussions between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Le Maire, who were scheduled to meet Wednesday in Davos, Switzerland, the alpine resort town where government officials and business leaders gather during the winter to discuss whatever is ailing the global economy.The dispute has ramifications outside France as other countries try to come up with ways to generate revenue from the digital economy. Mnuchin told the Wall Street Journal that the U.K. and Italy will face American tariffs if they proceed with similar levies on foreign tech firms.U.S. and EU trade relations started to sour in 2018 when the Trump administration invoked national-security considerations to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum from Europe. As a U.S. military ally, the EU was infuriated and promptly retaliated with levies on iconic American brands such as Harley-Davidson Inc. motorcycles and Levi Strauss & Co. jeans.A subsequent U.S. threat to wreak significantly more economic damage by targeting the European auto industry with duties on the same security grounds led to a hastily agreed truce and a pledge by both sides to work toward reducing industrial tariffs across the board.Since then, the Trump administration has refused to start the tariff-cutting negotiations unless Europe includes agriculture in them. Also, it imposed levies on EU products in retaliation over government aid to Airbus SE that was deemed illegal by the World Trade Organization, and disabled the WTO’s appellate body,The EU, meanwhile, is pressing ahead with a plan for tariffs against the U.S. in a parallel WTO case over unlawful subsidies to Boeing Co.Trump, scheduled to speak Tuesday in Davos at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, on Sunday reiterated his frustration with Europe as a trading partner.“Europe has had tremendous barriers to us doing business with them. All those barriers are coming down. They have to come down,” he told a conference of farmers in Austin, Texas. “If they don’t come down, we’re going to have to do things that are very bad for them.”He added, “Europe was, in many ways, more difficult -- and is more difficult -- than China.”(Updates with possible French concession in the 11th paragraph)\--With assistance from Jonathan Stearns, Justin Sink and Chelsea Mes.To contact the reporters on this story: Ania Nussbaum in Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org;William Horobin in Paris at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at firstname.lastname@example.org, Brendan Murray, Wendy BenjaminsonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Tim Cook rarely invests his time and money in products without the Apple Inc. logo. But when he tried a prototype shower head at his local gym about five years ago, he made an exception. Philip Winter, who helped create the Nebia shower head, recalls moving to San Francisco in 2014 to get his idea off the ground. The shower head sprays in a way that uses less water, but still keeps people warm. Crafted from materials including aluminum, the system looks like something Apple might design, if it made bathroom hardware. To develop the product, Winter persuaded gyms in Silicon Valley to run pilot tests. After installing the shower head early in the morning, he’d wait outside locker rooms to get feedback. That’s when he met Cook, who happened to use an early version at the gym in Palo Alto, California, where the Apple chief executive officer worked out most mornings.Cook was drawn to the environmental aspect, according to Winter, who asked the Apple boss if he’d be willing to make an investment. Despite the first prototype being “crude,” the Apple CEO was excited about the product because there hadn’t been much recent innovation in the shower market. He also appreciated the design, Winter said. Cook backed Nebia Inc. about five years ago and contributed in later financing rounds, too. The startup has raised almost $8 million in total, according to Crunchbase. Winter wouldn’t disclose how much Cook invested, but said it was “significant.” The Nebia co-founder said Cook used his own money and stressed that the startup hasn’t received any formal help from Apple, which declined to comment. Still, Cook shared some of the knowledge he’s amassed leading the world’s largest technology company, advising Nebia on suppliers and pushing the startup to prioritize user experience, design and sustainability.“His emails are very long, well crafted and detailed,” Winter said.Cook also told Winter to look for other investors who believe in the product, rather than venture capitalists simply looking to make a quick return. Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, is also a Nebia backer, through the Schmidt Family Foundation. Nebia unveiled a new version of its shower system on Tuesday that is smaller and cheaper. It will cost $199, down from $499 for the current version. Winter asked Cook about four potential partnerships while developing the new model. Cook wasn’t keen about the first three, but supported a deal with faucet maker Moen because of its reputation, Winter said. To contact the author of this story: Mark Gurman in Los Angeles at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Alistair Barr at firstname.lastname@example.orgFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
At CES 2020, Schneider Electric and Legrand unveiled smarter electrical panels, which allow users to track and manage energy consumption through voice-enabled apps.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- “Davos is not one thing. There are many Davoses at Davos.” This haiku-like meditation on the annual Swiss junket — which is known for preaching the gospel of touchy-feely stakeholder capitalism against a backdrop of $43 hot dogs, $10,000 hotel rooms, and several hundred trips by private plane — could have come from any number of its rich, powerful and blissfully un-self-aware attendees.That it comes from a co-founder of the anti-capitalist movement Occupy Wall Street, Micah White, as part of a long explanation of why he is attending Davos this year, says a lot about why global capitalism’s biggest tent is still standing even in an age of populist anger. The Davos bubble is turning out to be quite good at swallowing those who would like to pop it — however justified their cynicism.Davos was, let’s face it, supposed to have been “canceled” by now. Last year’s event resembled one long guilt trip: Billionaires awkwardly batting away ideas like higher taxes for the rich; Sir David Attenborough telling an audience packed with private-jet users that “the Garden of Eden is no more;” and historian Rutger Bregman going viral with his description of Davos as a hypocritical talking shop. “Stop talking about philanthropy, and start talking about taxes,” he berated attendees.Well, this year, Davos is back — minus Bregman — and it’s more Davos-y than ever. The private jets are still flying in, only now they’re being asked to fill their tanks with “ Sustainable Aviation Fuel.” Davos organizer Klaus Schwab is still welcoming powerful CEOs, but has made sure to ask them to commit to a net-zero economy by 2050. The rooms will be painted with renewable sources like seaweed. The carpets will be made from end-of-life fishing nets and fluff. And lest anyone think the debates on offer have gotten more humble, there are 25 panels under the banner, “How To Save The Planet.”Davos isn’t just good at greenwashing the globalists. It’s also good at co-opting the populists. The junket has shrewdly realized that offering a stage to an anti-Davos crowd can work in its favor. Micah White, for one, is excited to dip his toe into “the most powerful gathering in the world.” He will be lecturing a money-and-politics crowd that he once wanted to smash apart on how to turn “protest into progress.” There will be other incongruities: Greta Thunberg will tread the same boards as Donald Trump; France’s Bruno Le Maire will promote a tax on tech firms in front of Google’s Sundar Pichai.It’s this veneer of exclusive neutrality that Davos clearly wants to promote as its value proposition, rather than just being a hyper-efficient version of LinkedIn. “We bring together people of influence, and we hope that they use their influence in a positive way,” Schwab told the New York Times. Or, in other words: Everyone who matters is here — even if they disagree, Davos wins in the end. Like an Alpine version of Soho House, Davos is a (not-for-profit) club that lives and dies by its guest list. White’s description of “many Davoses” includes secretive back-room meetings that don’t get filmed — a Davos within Davos, in other words.This seems intuitively strange in an era of political activism and social media, when boycotts seem to spring up out of nowhere and cause serious brand damage. Couldn’t Davos be simply replaced? Author Anand Giridharadas suggested that genuine do-gooders had no reason to be wandering into a billionaires’ tent. Instead, they could work through the United Nations to create a new global conference. “We could create a new body. We could have it rotate among certain countries,” he told Project Syndicate last year.It’s an interesting point — we could. But national versions of Davos, such as those promoted by France or Saudi Arabia, have failed at being either as neutral or as exclusive as the original. Maybe coming up with a new Davos isn’t as easy as it seems. Or maybe Davos is simply really good at protecting its brand. In 2018, the conference warned imitators that it would “use all means to protect the Davos brand against illicit appropriation.” It has preserved its image as a truly global stage, even as incidents such as a ban on Russian businessmen targeted by sanctions (later lifted) show how it’s not politics-free.White’s final warning to Davos critics is a well-aimed one: “Rejecting Davos is easy when one has not been invited to attend.” (This applies to yours truly.) Maybe the world’s most exclusive tent will only fall when it extends its membership to all-comers. Until then, expect the private jets to keep flying in — on sustainable fuel.(A division of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, runs its own event, the New Economy Forum, which has been held in Singapore and Beijing.)To contact the author of this story: Lionel Laurent at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Melissa Pozsgay at firstname.lastname@example.orgThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Lionel Laurent is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Brussels. He previously worked at Reuters and Forbes.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Alphabet Inc.’s chief executive officer urged the U.S. and European Union to coordinate regulatory approaches on artificial intelligence, calling their alignment “critical.”In a rare public speech in Brussels at an event hosted by European economic think tank Bruegel on Monday, Sundar Pichai, who is also CEO of Google, said “there is no question in my mind that artificial intelligence needs to be regulated,” but that “we don’t have to start from scratch” with entirely new rules in some cases.The comments come weeks before the EU is set to unveil its plans to legislate the technology, which could include new legally binding requirements for AI developers in “high-risk sectors,” such as healthcare and transport, according to an early draft obtained by Bloomberg. The new rules could require companies to be transparent about how they build their systems.While in Brussels, Pichai is also due to meet with Margrethe Vestager, the competition chief responsible for more than 8 billion euros ($8.9 billion) of antitrust fines levied against Google. In addition to competition, she now also oversees the bloc’s digital policies, including the plans to legislate AI.Alphabet has battled intense regulatory pressure in Europe for years. The search giant is challenging the EU’s multi-billion-dollar antitrust fines and has sought to fight off copyright and other forms of platform regulation emanating from Brussels in recent years.The Google chief cautiously welcomed plans for rules that take “a proportionate approach, balancing potential harms with social opportunities.”Facial recognition technology and so-called deep fakes-- or manipulated audio and video clips -- are two areas where AI could be used destructively, and companies have a responsibility “to get this right,” Pichai said. He said Google has released open datasets to help researchers build better tools to detect fakes and that it has chosen not to offer general-purpose facial recognition application programming interfaces.Pichai touted the company’s recent developments in AI, including a Google Health algorithm that can spot breast cancer more accurately than doctors and other research for accurately predicting the weather as well as advancements by its self-driving car unit, Waymo.The Google chief said existing rules like Europe’s privacy legislation GDPR and regulation for medical devices like AI-assisted heart monitors would serve as strong foundations for governing AI in some areas, but that for self-driving cars, governments would need to establish regulations.But Google has also come under intense criticism over how it handles users’ privacy with some of its AI projects. Google faces a U.S. federal inquiry after the Wall Street Journal in November reported how it collects the health-care data from millions of Americans to design new AI software. It’s also facing scrutiny over the methods it uses for training algorithms that run Google Assistant.To contact the reporter on this story: Natalia Drozdiak in Brussels at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Giles Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org, Amy ThomsonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Sign up here to receive the Davos Diary, a special daily newsletter that will run from Jan. 20-24.Emmanuel Macron’s pre-Davos summit for tech executives will hold some goodies for startups.In the third edition of his “Choose France” summit on Monday, timed to catch global CEOs in Paris on their way to the Swiss Alps’ World Economic Forum, the French president will detail measures in his 2020 budget that have improved stock options for startups in France.Macron will also plug a revamped visa regime that will give fast-track papers to tech workers for French or foreign companies and a new benchmark index, the French Tech 120, to promote the nation’s most promising ventures.Snap’s Evan Spiegel, who was given French nationality in 2018, EU digital Commissioner Thierry Breton, Netflix Inc.‘s Reed Hastings, Google’s You Tube CEO Susan Wojcicki, Lime’s Joe Kraus and other leaders from Mexico, Nigeria, Sweden, Turkey and the U.K. will attend the forum in Versailles.Entrepreneurs and executives at some of Europe’s most successful technology startups have been urging local governments to change laws to make employee stock options more attractive, in order to better compete with Silicon Valley. Macron, his Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, Digital Minister Cedric O and 17 ministers will present the government’s latest measures.In November 2018, about 30 chief executives of companies including iZettle AB, Funding Circle Ltd., Supercell Oy, TransferWise Ltd., Blablacar and U.S.-based Stripe Inc., signed an open letter saying a patchwork of different rules in various European countries makes it complicated and costly for employers to dole out stock options.The French 2020 budget law, voted late last year and enacted on Jan. 1, has two major measures already to make stock options of startups more attractive. First the conditions of the so-called BSPCE, an employee shareholding tool equivalent to a stock options, have been sweetened: they will get a discount compared to the price investors paid at the last fund raising.Also, employees of foreign startups with a base in France will be able to get stock options calculated on the parent company’s performance, not just the French branch, minister Cedric O unveiled in a statement late last year, as he said France seeks to attract more tech workers and companies.“What France has done is fantastic, but we really need a pan-European solution,” Martin Mignot, Partner at Index Ventures, which has stakes in BlablaCar, told Bloomberg. “Currently, startups face the same problems every time they expand into a new country. Talk to any entrepreneur and they tell you it’s madness, it is slowing them down and it is putting them at a disadvantage to large companies.”Macron has attempted to lure more investors to France ever since his years as an economy minister in 2014, via taxes, visas, benchmark indexes, bilingual schools and the French way to welcome new comers.In September he created the “Next 40,” a listing of France’s top 40 startups with the strongest growth potential. While only a few of them are currently “unicorns,” with values topping $1 billion, the government said it expect more of them to scale.Read more: Napoleon, Chateaus on Display as France Seeks Venture CapitalOne of the key measures taken by Macron was a 30% flat tax on capital revenues from securities, savings, capital gains, and other sources. That measure got him into trouble with some of his citizens protesting against inequalities in the Yellow Vests movement that started in December 2018.The statistic institute Insee said the increase in inequality in 2018 was linked to a sharp rise in investment incomes, which benefited from the introduction of a flat tax the same year.Still, Macron has also toughened his stance on issues like taxes and privacy. He brought it up with Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook in his first months as president and repeatedly to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Macron is currently in a tug of war with U.S. President Donald Trump over his tax on digital giants.Amazon.com Inc., like other tech companies, will make their first payment of France’s new tax on digital giants in a few weeks. The government enacted a 3% levy on large tech groups that is retroactively effective from Jan. 1, 2019.(Updated with comment from Index ventures)\--With assistance from Natalia Drozdiak.To contact the reporter on this story: Helene Fouquet in Paris at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Giles Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org, Vidya RootFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Amid surging health care costs and acrimonious public debate, a new study found that a public-run system would save money over time.
(Bloomberg) -- This New Year’s Day, 55,000 people signed up to lose weight with the smartphone app Noom. You’ve probably seen the ads -- it claims to have helped more than 350,000 get slimmer.Dieting, not to mention keeping weight off, is an iffy proposition, but Americans spend billions each year trying.Noom, which combines human coaches and AI, has attracted $114 million from A-list investors such as Sequoia Capital, Groupe Arnault-backed Aglaé Ventures, WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum, Serena Williams, and other prominent names that see promise in its approach and growth.The company’s founders say they’re in constant conversation with their investors who are watching the market to assess a possible IPO as soon as this year.Crowded MarketIndeed, in a competitive market, Noom has racked up impressive growth, driven in part by aggressive advertising: Noom closed 2019 with $237 million in revenue, up from $61 million and $12 million in the two previous years, respectively.“For a certain demographic, Weight Watchers is more comfortable and familiar,” said David Katz, founding director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center. “For a younger, more digitally savvy audience, Noom is a different way to get a grip.”Shares in WW International Inc., the diet company formerly known as Weight Watchers, have more than doubled from last year’s low in June. In September, WW announced the Oprah’s 2020 Vision: Your Life In Focus Tour with shareholder Oprah Winfrey. Investors will have to wait for WW’s fourth-quarter results in late February for a sense about early-year sign ups.Industry analysts note the cyclical nature of the dieting industry and that Noom’s robust start this year does not necessarily herald lasting success.“You’ve got a lot of program starts after the holidays, and that’s the nature of the business,” said Steven Halper, a senior health-care IT and managed care analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald.Pounds Off, Pounds On“You get in shape, you lose your weight, everyone wants to look good at the beach in the summer time, and lo and behold the weight comes back on,” Halper said. He covers Tivity Health Inc., which acquired WW rival Nutrisystem in March.Noom was founded over a decade ago by Artem Petakov, a former Google engineer, and Saeju Jeong, lover of heavy metal, who strayed from his family lineage of 29 medical doctors to be an entrepreneur.“Noom’s story didn’t initially work,” said Amy Sun, a partner at Sequoia Capital. Sequoia invested for the first time in the $58 million Series E round that Noom announced in May 2019.“They tried a whole bunch of different angles, including doing pure AI where it’s completely automated, and they tried 100% human coaches, and it wasn’t until they married the two that the company started to grow,” said Sun.The company now employs 1,600 remote, full-time coaches in 36 states.Not Peloton“The product they have today is not what they started with,” said Miyuki Matsumoto, head of U.S. investments at Groupe Arnault’s tech venture-capital arm Aglaé Ventures. The firm invested the second most after Sequoia in the most recent funding round.“We weren’t thinking we were going to get our money back in two years or less, even though that’s a possibility,” Matsumoto said.Sun notes that Sequoia is looking to capitalize on the trend of digital companies focused on helping people manage their health. Other investors saw that trend in Peloton Interactive Inc., which priced at $29 a share in its September IPO, but traded as low at $21 a share a month later.“Peloton is quite different because so much of their revenue is hardware,” Sun said. “It’s hardware plus subscription, versus Noom is all digital.”To contact the reporter on this story: Hailey Waller in New York at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: James Ludden at firstname.lastname@example.org, Ian FisherFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- When Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a radical overhaul of Russia’s governance system this week, he also ended the Medvedev era. Dmitry Medvedev was, at least formally, Putin’s closest sidekick, the politician with whom the strongman was most willing to share formal power. Whether or not it’s time for Medvedev’s political obit, his stint near the top of Russia’s so-called power vertical will serve as an example of how the Putin system’s inertia can suffocate the best modernizing intentions.Medvedev abruptly resigned as prime minister on Wednesday, without giving advance notice to members of his government, who also had to tender their resignations. “We as the government must give our country’s president the opportunity to make all the necessary decisions,” Medvedev said, though it wasn’t clear how his continued occupancy of the top cabinet post could get in the way of Putin’s reform. Putin expressed rather tepid gratitude for the prime minister’s service. “Not everything has worked out, but then things never work out completely,” he said. Putin has always avoided firing close, trusted associates, but as prime minister since 2012, Medvedev presided over Russia’s longest run of declining real incomes during Putin’s 20-year rule. The government’s $400 billion “national projects” spending plan, designed to rectify things, hasn’t gotten off to a great start. The new job Putin has offered Medvedev didn’t even exist before — deputy chairman of the Security Council, an advisory body that includes Russia's mighty security chiefs. It’s formally headed by Putin but run by its secretary, former secret police chief Nikolai Patrushev. The council has been described, including by Kremlin propaganda outlets, as the closest Russia has to the Soviet Union's ruling Politburo. So the newly created post, with Putin as the direct supervisor, can be enormously influential — but perhaps not when filled by Medvedev, who has never really commanded the respect of the security bosses in the way Putin does, with his KGB record and training.Medvedev’s move means he isn’t likely to be Putin’s successor as president when the latter's term ends in 2024. Nor will he return to the prime ministerial post, now handed to a supremely skillful technocrat, former tax chief Mikhail Mishustin. His career has been launched on a downward trajectory — something he probably expected. For years, he has appeared bored and morose at official functions, time and again photographed with his eyes closed and seemingly asleep. Opposition politician and anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny posted one such photo taken as Putin delivered his Wednesday address, tweeting, “Only one thing in Russia is really stable and unshakable — Dmitry Medvedev, asleep during the president’s state of the nation speech.”During a recent award ceremony, Medvedev’s New Year’s greetings included this quotation from Anton Chekhov: “The newer the year, the closer you are to death, the wider your bald spot, the twistier your wrinkles, the older your wife, the more kids you have and the less money.” Some of the incredulous listeners couldn't help but recall Medvedev's most famous quote, his answer to a woman in Russian-annexed Crimea in 2016 who complained that her pension was too low: “There's just no money now. When we find the money, we'll raise pensions. You hang on in there, stay cheerful and healthy.”Medvedev may have been fatigued and depressed lately as his government failed to deliver on Putin's promises of a tangible improvement in living standards, but money isn't something he's lacked himself. During this snowless winter, the vast land plot around his residence in Central Russia is covered with artificial snow. Medvedev has never given a substantive answer to a long video produced by Navalny's team and watched more than 33 million times on YouTube, in which he was accused of accumulating vast wealth while working for the government.Medvedev's approval rating never recovered from that video's release, languishing below 40% in recent months, while Putin's remains close to 70%. Government spending cuts that began in 2015 and lasted through 2018 didn't help, and the government’s decision in June 2018 to raise the retirement age — made by Putin, but often ascribed to Medvedev because of his perceived insensitivity — dealt his popularity an especially crippling blow.The visibly bored, defeated Medvedev at the end of his prime ministership was a far cry from the hopeful, cheerful modernizer who started a four-year presidency in 2008 and charmed U.S. President Barack Obama and his aides into trying a reset of U.S.-Russia relations. Though many Putin opponents — myself included — never believed Medvedev could pursue an independent policy, so-called system liberals, believers in changing the system from within, vested serious hopes in the younger, more polished leader. They believed he could shake off Putin's conservative influence if he ran for a second term in 2012, and that Russia would then gradually become freer both economically and politically.Medvedev tried some promising things. He set up a large innovation center at Skolkovo near Moscow, trying to lure investors and entrepreneurs into a Russian version of Silicon Valley. He started reforms in the self-serving, thoroughly rotten law-enforcement agencies, and he modernized Russia's obsolete armed forces, starting an ambitious reorganization and rearmament. He removed some of the most entrenched, hidebound regional leaders, breaking up the corrupt monopolies that had sprung up around them.But the system liberals’ hopes were probably dashed in March 2011, when Medvedev ordered the Russian representative in the United Nations Security Council to abstain on a resolution authorizing the U.S. and its allies to use force against the regime of Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. Putin publicly criticized his protege for not ordering a "no" vote, likening the Western intervention in Libya to a “medieval crusade." In his book, “From Cold War to Hot Peace," Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia and a believer in Medvedev's liberal intentions, wrote that “U.S. military intervention in Libya, which helped topple Qaddafi, also inadvertently might have helped remove Medvedev from power in Russia."In September 2011, Putin and Medvedev announced they intended to switch jobs the following year, a development that bitterly disappointed the system liberals. Protests against a rigged parliamentary election, which broke out less than three months later, only served to convince Putin that the West was trying to undermine him and empower Medvedev instead. But, perhaps out of a sense of loyalty toward his temporary successor who hadn't tried to cling to power, Putin made no attempt to replace Medvedev as prime minister.The latter never really raised his head again. He avoided making major decisions or advocating big reforms; the cabinet ministers learned they needed Putin's approval for anything remotely controversial. In a way, that helped Russia build a protective economic wall after Putin annexed Crimea and, simultaneously, the oil price crashed in 2014. Amid Western sanctions and a tightening hold of Putin's cronies and enforcers on the economy, Russia's generally competent economic managers could only cut spending to insulate the budget from external shocks — and accumulate international reserves every time the price of oil edged up. Medvedev's tenure ended with these reserves at $554 billion, near the 2008 historic high of $569 billion.Putin's patience was sorely tested. Busy with geopolitical chess and with finding ways to retain power after 2024, he clearly wanted his hands free from domestic economic management. He wanted to set goals and let someone else get to them. Time after time, he told Medvedev that he wanted "results.” They failed to materialize.Meanwhile, Medvedev's work as the formal leader of the Kremlin's loyalist party, United Russia, also proved insufficient. The party's support melted away, and its legislative majorities and governorships have had to be obtained with increasing rigging efforts and administrative pressure. In December, only 29% of Russians were willing to cast a vote for United Russia in a national election, a threat to its parliamentary majority even in an unfair system. Putin needs a stronger party behind him post-2024, and an effort to build one on the basis of his broad support network, the United People's Front — or to reform United Russia — is to be expected.Putin’s legendary personal loyalty stretched far enough not to send Medvedev, who is only 54, into retirement. But then, it was Putin himself who backpedaled in 2011 instead of letting Medvedev pursue his cautiously reformist course. It was Putin who created a system that paralyzed any kind of economic liberalization and who launched Russia on military adventures that limited its ability to develop trade. Putin, who gave Medvedev the exhilarating hope of building a more modern Russia, then quickly took it away, leaving his former successor with little except the luxurious lifestyle enjoyed by the Russian elite.It was Putin's country to give and to take back.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Tobin Harshaw at firstname.lastname@example.orgThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Leonid Bershidsky is Bloomberg Opinion's Europe columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Sonos Inc. Chief Executive Officer Patrick Spence accused Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Amazon.com Inc. of using their market power to thwart competition a week after filing a lawsuit against the world’s largest search engine.“Today’s dominant companies have so much power across such a broad array of markets and continue to leverage that power to expand into new markets that we need to rethink existing laws and policies,” said Spence Friday at a congressional antitrust hearing in Boulder, Colorado, led by Representative David Cicilline, the Rhode Island Democrat who is investigating competition in the technology sector.Sonos, a 1,500-person company, sued Google Jan. 7 for allegedly infringing five patents covering multi-room audio technology. Spence said Google’s dominance enabled it to violate the speaker company’s intellectual property. He said that Google tries to prevent customers from using its voice assistants alongside another company’s on Sonos speakers. While Amazon doesn’t go that far, he said, it has used its power to “to subsidize the conquest” of the booming smart-speaker market, particularly by under-pricing its offerings.Sonos has worked with the committee since before it decided to file the lawsuit, according to a person familiar with the discussions. It has also responded to questions that the committee sent to customers of the large technology platforms.Google has disputed Sonos’ claims and said it will defend itself. The search giant, which faces antitrust probes by 48 state attorneys general as well as the U.S. Justice Department, says it faces robust competition. Cicilline is using the hearing to air grievances by smaller companies, following a series of Washington meetings that focused on the tech giants.“It is apparent that the dominant platforms are increasingly using their gatekeeper power in abusive and coercive ways,” Cicilline said in his opening statement.The panel also heard from David Barnett, the founder of Boulder-based PopSockets, which makes phone holders and stands. He alleged that Amazon frequently engaged in “bullying,” including deliberately selling counterfeits, threatening to go to unauthorized resellers and dropping prices without consulting. “We have $10 million less to innovate this year” because of PopSockets’s decision to end its relationship with Amazon even though it’s more difficult to sell elsewhere, Barnett said.“It seems like Amazon is so dominant that there is no alternative,” said Representative Ken Buck, a Colorado Republican on the committee.Amazon said in a statement that PopSockets is a “valued retail vendor” and added: “We’ve continued to work with PopSockets to address our shared concerns about counterfeit, and continue to have a relationship with PopSockets through Merch by Amazon, which enables other sellers to create customized PopSockets for sale.”The company said it refuses to work with some resellers to ensure low prices, and rejects the notion that it’s dominant, saying it represents just 4% of U.S. retail.The panel also heard from Kirsten Daru, general counsel of Tile Inc., which makes devices that pair with phones to help people locate lost items such as keys or purses.Apple Inc. is reportedly preparing to unveil a competing service, and Daru’s 100-employee company alleges the phone maker has started putting up roadblocks to Tile’s business, such as burying permissions that allow the phone and Tile devices to communicate and prompting users to disable permissions that have been set.“You’re playing up against a team that owns the field, the ball and can change the rules at any given time,” Daru said in an interview before the hearing, adding that a majority of the company’s customers are on Apple’s operating system.Apple said that its treatment of permissions, which focused on location, were designed to protect user privacy and that it’s working with developers whose customers may want particular apps to be able to track them at all times.Daru said Apple also removed Tile devices from its retail stores, and that it bid on search terms related to the would-be rival to drive up the cost of advertising 50% each week during the fall.Cicilline has said his goal is to develop a final report with recommendations for Congress this year. He told reporters on Tuesday that he wants to wrap up his probe by the end of March and said he’s hopeful the tech giants will cooperate with requests for chief executives to give information without subpoenas, preferably in public hearings.“It’s hard to imagine that we’d conclude the investigation without hearing from some of the large technology CEOs, particularly in companies whether there’s such really centralized decision making,” he said.(Updates with comments from PopSockets CEO from eighth paragraph)\--With assistance from Mark Gurman, Rebecca Kern and David McLaughlin.To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Brody in Washington, D.C. at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Sara Forden at firstname.lastname@example.org, Paula DwyerFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
What does Shaquille O’Neal’s underwhelming ability to shoot free throws have to do with your ability to pick stocks? Everything, says Fundstrat's Tom Lee.
(Bloomberg) -- European Union privacy watchdogs are gearing up to police digital assistants after revelations that Amazon.com Inc. workers listened in on people’s conversations with their Alexa digital assistants.Bloomberg first reported in April that Amazon had a team of thousands of workers around the world listening to Alexa audio requests with the goal of improving the software.Similar issues have been raised over Google and Apple Inc.’s digital assistants, triggering privacy fears across the world, as intimate conversations in some users’ homes were laid bare to technicians fine-tuning the technology.EU regulators are now working on a common approach on how to police the technology, said Tine Larsen, head of the data protection authority in Luxembourg, where the U.S. retail giant has its European base and employs a staff of more than 2,000.“Because it’s a question of principle, the members of the EDPB should work out a common position in line with the consistency mechanism to apply data protection rules in a harmonized way for this type of treatment,” she said, referring to a panel of regulators from across the 28-nation EU.The revelations of the snooping into people’s homes came after regulators across Europe were handed beefed-up powers with its General Data Protection Regulation in May 2018, including the right to levy fines of as much as 4% of a company’s global annual sales for the most serious violations. But the move toward common guidelines for digital assistants means companies should avoid fines -- for now.Larsen’s comments echo those of Helen Dixon, head of the Irish watchdog, responsible for overseeing the likes of Apple and Google.She told Bloomberg in November that the regulator first has to “bottom out fully on whether it’s true” when companies say they need to do transcripts of people’s interactions with the assistants. That’s why a focus will be first on coming up with guidelines, instead of investigations or inquiries, she said.Amazon said in a statement that “to help improve Alexa, we manually review and annotate a small fraction of 1% of Alexa requests” and that “access to data annotation tools is only granted to a limited number of employees who require them to improve the service.”EU regulators are working on a common position on the privacy issues surrounding voice assistant systems, said Johannes Caspar, head of the watchdog in Hamburg, Germany. “We urgently need common and reliable industry standards on this to better regulate” privacy protections, he said in an email.Caspar’s office initiated a number of probes into the issue, including one into Facebook over audio transcriptions from its Messenger users, he said. The questions his office has asked of Facebook have been discussed within the EDPB, the EU body of national regulators. The plan is to use the results to have a more coordinated approach by all European regulators affected by the issue, he said.Europe Mulls New Tougher Rules for Artificial IntelligenceThe U.K., which is set to leave the EU at the end of the month, will soon publish the results of a consultation into security features for smart speakers and other connected devices, with proposals for mandatory industry requirements that could lead to potential new regulation, U.K. Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan told Bloomberg Wednesday.Siri ChangesApple, whose Siri virtual assistant is embedded in its operating phone and desktop computer operating systems, pointed to an August blog post about the issue.“We know that customers have been concerned by recent reports of people listening to audio Siri recordings as part of our Siri quality evaluation process — which we call grading,” it said. “We heard their concerns, immediately suspended human grading of Siri requests and began a thorough review of our practices and policies. We’ve decided to make some changes to Siri as a result.”Google, which offers similar technology, referred to its September announcement that it would add new security protections to the way its workers listen to audio snippets, meant to help improve the product’s quality.In a blog post in September, Google said it would tell users that their audio may be listened to if they opt in to a feature that also improves audio quality. “We believe in putting you in control of your data, and we always work to keep it safe. We’re committed to being transparent about how our settings work so you can decide what works best for you,” the company said.While Amazon is escaping penalties over Alexa, Luxembourg, which is the company’s main privacy watchdog in Europe, is probing the company for other potential breaches.This follows complaints from activists that the online retailer is illegally tracking and profiling internet users without their permission, as well as not providing full access to users’ data.Amazon ‘Cooperating’The company says it’s “cooperating” with the authority, “which is at an advanced stage of its fact finding,” according to an emailed statement. The data commission declined to comment on any probes, citing local rules.French privacy activists La Quadrature du Net, filed one of the complaints on behalf of more than 10,000 customers. They urge regulators to crack down on “behavioral analysis and targeted advertising” by Amazon and levy a fine that is “as high as possible” due to the “massive, lasting and manifestly deliberate nature” of the alleged violations without the consent of its users.None of Your Business (Noyb), a group created by Austrian activist Max Schrems, followed up with a separate complaint last January over data access concerns, accusing Amazon of violating EU law by not handing over all personal data requested by a user of its Amazon Prime service.Arthur Messaud, a lawyer with La Quadrature du Net, and Schrems said they’d had no updates from the Luxembourg regulator, which is bound by strict secrecy provisions under national law, meaning it can’t reveal details until after any fines have been levies and all avenues of appeal have been exhausted.(Updates with Google response from 15th paragraph)\--With assistance from Natalia Drozdiak.To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Bodoni in Luxembourg at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at firstname.lastname@example.org, Peter Chapman, Giles TurnerFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.