Germans May Torture Amazon Into Lifting Lowest-Price Rule
Today in international tech news: A German watchdog group says that Amazon is ruining competition with its third-party merchant rules. Also: The Guardian wins some awards for its NSA reporting; a cybersecurity experts cries foul over Huawei's claim to innocence; News Corp. has some security holes; and a website in China is for whatever reason offering information about people who have used Chinese hotels.
Germany's antitrust watchdog said Amazon is undermining competition with its rules for third-party merchants and threatened to impose reforms if Amazon doesn't change its ways.
The watchdog complains that Amazon's Marketplace obstructs competition, a term that in Germany and Europe refers less to which company wins -- Amazon is obviously winning -- and more to how many companies get to play. In particular, the watchdog is irked that third-party merchants must offer their cheapest price when peddling products over Amazon's Marketplace.
Without a change in those rules, the group said it would use the "instruments of torture" at its disposal.
Germany is Amazon's second-biggest market, but the company has been facing headwinds there this year. Workers there have staged multiple strikes, including one over the summer and then another last month. More recently, workers threatened to stage a pre-Christmas strike.
France, too, has been on a bit of a crusade against Amazon. There, authorities proposed a bill that would prevent Amazon from offering both a 5 percent discount and free shipping. That bill garnered unanimous parliamentary support earlier this month.
Guardian Wins Journalism Awards for Snowden Leaks
Britain's newspaper The Guardian won a pair of Online Journalism Awards, handed out by the Gannett Foundation, for its groundbreaking reporting on the National Security Agency.
The two honors were the Award for Investigative Journalism and the Watchdog Journalism Award.
The Online Journalism Awards are doled out by the Online News Association, which is the world's largest association of digital journalists.
[Source: The Guardian]
Expert: Huawei's Don't-Look-at-Us Act is Malarkey
Huawei's claim that it has never been asked to divulge information about individuals is hogwash, according to cybersecurity analyst Jeffrey Carr.
Last week, media outlets including this one discussed a report from Huawei in which the company claimed to have never been asked by any government to turn over information about people. The implication, of course, was that it is U.S. companies, not innocent Huawei, that people should be worried about.
Not exactly, says Carr.
China's State Security Law indeed requires companies and individuals to fork over any information that is requested, Carr points out. If Chinese authorities haven't asked Huawei to provide access to information, Carr writes, "it's because Huawei has already built that access in so that China Telecom can do its job of lawful intercept."
News Corp. Hole Offers Glimpse Into Personal Data
An IT security expert unearthed a vulnerability in all of News Corp.'s major metropolitan websites in Australia, giving him access to all newsletter subscribers' personal information.
The exposed data included household income, mobile phone number and a bunch of other things that people might not want a random IT security guy to see. Credit card information, however, was reportedly not available (even if details about the number of children subscribers had were).
The vulnerability exposed anyone who had ever signed up for a News Corp. metropolitan newspaper newsletter.
News Corp. is a notoriously conservative media corporation based in New York and owned by Rupert Murdoch, who himself hails from Australia.
News Corp. said it found no evidence of anyone doing anything malicious with the information.
[Source: The Age]
Hotel Guest Info Lands on Web in China
A website has sprung up claiming to contain personal information about thousands of guests who have stayed at major Chinese hotel chains over the past several years.
Reporters at Chinese media outlets said the site allows people to enter a person's name, and up pops a list of potential matches: full name, phone number, ID number -- you name it.
Someone took to Taobao, China's eminent e-commerce site, and offered to sell what he claimed was a complete list of the offending website's data. The going rate to download the data is about US$330.