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ProtonMail CEO urges Congress to focus on tech giants’ default apps

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Below: Gun control groups push Facebook over its gun sales policy, and a House panel advances landmark privacy legislation. First:

ProtonMail CEO urges Congress to focus on tech giants’ default apps

Andy YenCEO of encrypted messaging service ProtonMail, says small app developers have faced the same hurdle when looking to grow their business: default settings in major digital services like Google’s Chrome browser, which can crowd out their competitors.

Now Yen is pushing back, taking to Capitol Hill for the first time this week to urge lawmakers to give consumers more control over the apps they choose as they move forward in their sweeping antitrust campaign.

Yen’s idea imports a concept from Europe: to create “choice screens” allowing consumers to choose their favorite apps immediately after installing things like Google Chrome. This could be a blow to large companies that bundle their services and pre-install apps in different products.

“It’s about giving control back to the user because today they don’t know if they have a choice,” Yen said in an interview in Washington on Thursday.

The awareness comes as lawmakers race to pass a set of blockbuster antitrust proposals that could have a huge impact on the state of competition in the tech industry.

The centerpiece of the push is a bill led by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) seeking to prohibit big tech companies from giving their products preferential treatment over those of their competitors, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act.

Under the bill, companies couldn’t stop users from uninstalling default apps on their products, or prevent them from changing settings that could lead consumers to their own services. But the proposal does not explicitly prohibit companies from defining their own default products.

Yen, whose company has endorsed the proposal, said he urges lawmakers to consider creating a mechanism for having more choice screens.

“It’s a fundamentally important question and it’s one that we strongly encourage lawmakers to consider because it’s in my opinion the most impactful thing that could change the market,” Yen said in an interview with Washington Thursday.

The concept is not new, but it has been a point of contention for the industry overseas.

In 2018, the European Union fined Google $5 billion for limiting consumer product choices in its Android operating system. In response, Google introduced choice screens prompting users to choose from multiple search engines when setting up a new smartphone. Google appealed the fine and called on European courts to reduce or remove it.

With or without change, Yen said the Klobuchar-Grassley bill and another targeting app store practices from Google and Apple would be a major win for companies like his. And he felt compelled to travel to Washington to try to help him cross the finish line.

“If there’s a time to be in DC discussing this issue, it’s now,” said Yen, whose company is based in Geneva. “This is the opportunity.”

As the scrutiny of tech giants like Facebook, Apple and Amazon has grown, Yen said smaller tech companies like his have felt encouraged to speak up and voice their support for legislation aimed at curb their practices.

“It just opened up voices in DC,” he said. “It was [for] so long dominated by big tech companies…that if you’re willing to stand up to that, you’re already kind of a hot commodity and therefore maybe you can get your point across [across].”

Gun control groups call on Facebook to change gun sales policy – or face federal investigation

The Giffords and Accountable Tech organizations asked Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to replace a policy that allows users to violate its arms sales ban 10 times before they are banned. Instead, they want there to be a “more decisive two-strike policy,” according to a letter obtained exclusively by The Technology 202.

“If Facebook refuses to change this policy, we call on the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to immediately investigate the company for its role in facilitating the exchange illegal firearms,” the groups wrote in the letter, which was shared with the ATF.

The Post first reported on the policy two weeks ago, along with my colleagues Elizabeth Dwoskin and Naomi Nix writing that “the company discloses little information about how it enforces its gun sales ban, leaving its ‘strikes’ system, which gives users who violate any of the company’s rules a specific number of passes and a tiered system of penalties before they are kicked off duty, shrouded in secrecy.

Facebook referred to the statement it provided for this story. At the time, Facebook’s spokesperson Peter Andy told The Post that the company is quickly removing posts that violate its ban on the sale of firearms and adding increasingly harsh penalties for people who break its rules, including permanent suspension of their accounts. “If we identify serious violations that could cause real-world harm, we don’t hesitate to contact law enforcement,” Stone said for this story, noting that most people who receive a strike in received less than two.

House panel advances bipartisan privacy legislation

A panel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee easily advanced the proposal, forwarding it to the full committee, Reuters said. Diane Bartz reports. This is a major development for landmark legislation, which would allow users to opt out of targeted advertising online. It would also allow users to sue certain companies that sell data inappropriately and would override most national privacy laws.

“Today’s markup is another important step towards our ultimate goal of passing meaningful national privacy legislation,” said the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce committee. Frank Pallone Jr. said, per Reuters.

Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee Maria Canwell (D-Wash.) expressed serious reservations about the bill on Wednesday, casting its future in doubt. His committee controls the fate of the bill in the Senate.

New bipartisan bill aims to prevent high-risk countries from acquiring sensitive US data

The bill would significantly limit when sensitive US data can be hosted in countries deemed by the US government to be high risk, report Alexandra Alper and David Shepardson of Reuters. China appears to be a primary target of the legislation, they report.

The bill would require the Commerce Department to identify personal data that could harm US national security if exported. “If approved, the bill would also direct the Commerce Department to require licenses for bulk exports of identified categories of personal data to other countries and to deny exports to high-risk countries” , write Alper and Shepardson. “Data exports to low-risk countries would be unlimited, according to a summary of the bill.”

The bill is co-sponsored by the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Ron Wyden (Golden.); Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee; and Sense. Cynthia M. Lummis (R-Wyo.), Sheldon White House (DR.I.) and Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.).

Meta supports tool used to control misinformation (Bloomberg)

TikTok turns on the slot machine (Bloomberg)

The DNC has a new secret weapon to find voters (Protocol)

Broadcom’s $69 billion VMware deal slated for lengthy EU antitrust probe (Financial Times)

Talk therapy apps face new questions from senators over data collection (The Verge)

Intel warns Ohio factory could be delayed because Congress drags its feet on funding (CNBC)

Netflix begins second round of layoffs, 300 positions cut (Variety)

Yelp Shuts Down Some Offices Dubbing Remote; The CEO calls the hybrid “hell” (Danielle Abril)

Khaby Lame is now the most followed TikToker in the world (The Verge)

  • CEO and President of Midco Pat McAdaragh was elected Chairman of the Board of NCTA – the Internet & Television Association, which announced the elections for its Board of Directors.
  • Marguerite Durkin joined TechNet as Group Executive Director for Pennsylvania and Mid-Atlantic Region.
  • The Center for Strategic and International Studies is hosting an event on Artificial Intelligence and National Security on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
  • CSIS Hosts Antitrust Law Event Thursday at 10 a.m.

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