Heard about the giant Facebook data leak?

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As a result, we call all expect online scam attempts. Via Daniel Markuson, digital privacy expert at NordVPN:

How to spot a phishing email or smishing SMS, according to Markuson: 

1. Check the sender’s address or telephone number. Don’t just trust the display name – pay attention to the email address, telephone number, and other sender credentials.

2. Look for spelling and grammar mistakes, design issues. Serious companies and institutions don’t usually send out emails with bad grammar; email design is usually lean and precise.

3. Don’t click on links or download attachments. If that’s an email – hover your mouse over the link to see the destination link. Check if it looks legitimate and, especially, if it contains the “https” part to indicate a secure connection. If that’s and SMS – it’s better to search for the website yourself.

4. Consider context. Were you expecting such an email or SMS? If not, it is probably suspicious, especially if the offer is too good to be true.  

5. When in doubt, contact the company or institution over the phone or alternative email address and ask to confirm if the email is legitimate.

6. If you notice something unusual – report the incident to the authorities. Raising the alarm can help not only you, but others affected by the leak as well.

SCOTUS rules to allow more media consolidation

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Just what we needed, right?

“WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday allowed the Federal Communication Commission to loosen local media ownership restrictions, handing a victory to broadcasters in a ruling that could facilitate industry consolidation as consumers increasingly move online.

“In a 9-0 ruling authored by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the justices overturned a lower court decision that had blocked the FCC’s repeal of some media ownership regulations in 2017 for failing to consider the effects on ownership by racial minorities and women. Critics of the industry have said further consolidation could limit media choices for consumers.

“The justices acted in appeals by the FCC, companies including News Corp, Fox Corp and Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc and the National Association of Broadcasters.

“The associations for other broadcast networks’ local affiliates, including ABC, NBC and CBS, backed the appeals, arguing that consolidation would help ensure the economic survival of local television amid heavy competition from internet companies that provide video content. Broadcast television stations have said they are increasingly losing advertising dollars to digital platforms.”

Biden nominates tech antitrust pioneer Lina Khan for FTC commissioner

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I can’t begin to tell you what good news this is, and what a progressive voice Lina Khan will be against tech monopolies. Via The Verge:

“The pick signals that the Biden administration is preparing to take on some of the tech industry’s most powerful and influential companies. In 2017, Khan authored an article for the Yale Law Journal titled “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” which exploded in popularity in progressive economic policy circles. Khan has also served as an aide to the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on antitrust throughout its yearslong investigation into anticompetitive behavior in the tech industry.

“Khan’s nomination follows the appointment of Tim Wu, a Columbia Law professor, to work on technology and competition policy at the National Economic Council. Wu coined the term “net neutrality” and has been a prominent voice on the subject of antitrust regulation against Big Tech companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

“Biden’s choice of Khan to serve at the FTC comes as regulators, lawmakers, and the courts are facing immense pressure to take on Big Tech. The House Judiciary kicked off the second leg of its antitrust investigation last month and it’s poised to introduce competition legislation to rein in tech this spring.”

SCOTUS Makes It Easier to Sue Over Defective and Dangerous Products

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Via the Law & Crime blog:

“The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday released a unanimous 8-0 ruling in a civil procedure case sure to result in a collective series of groans from first-year law students while keeping law school textbook manufacturers relevant and in furs for the foreseeable future.

“Justice Elena Kagan delivered the opinion of an engaged but ultimately undivided court. Justice Samuel Alito wrote an opinion concurring in the judgment—as did Justice Neil Gorsuch. Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not take part in the case because she was still unconfirmed during oral argument.

“The basic thrust of the controversies here — and the high court’s ultimate determination of them — is actually fairly simple and is lucidly explained in the very first paragraph of Kagan’s opinion. But to be clear, the decision in the case stylized as Ford Motor Co. v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court, is actually two cases rolled into one due to their substantially similar issues of fact and the law at stake.

“In each of these two cases, a state court held that it had jurisdiction over Ford Motor Company in a products liability suit stemming from a car accident,” Kagan notes. “The accident happened in the state where suit was brought. The victim was one of the state’s residents. And Ford did substantial business in the state — among other things, advertising, selling, and servicing the model of vehicle the suit claims is defective. Still, Ford contends that jurisdiction is improper because the particular car involved in the crash was not first sold in the [state where Ford was sued], nor was it designed or manufactured there.”

“We reject that argument,” the opinion continues. “When a company like Ford serves a market for a product in a State and that product causes injury in the state to one of its residents, the state’s courts may entertain the resulting suit.”

Want to borrow that e-book from the library? Sorry, Amazon won’t let you.

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When citizens can’t borrow e-books from the local library because Amazon has excelusive rights, it’s time for an anti-trust investigation. Via the Washington Post:

“You probably think of Amazon as the largest online bookstore. Amazon helped make e-books popular with the Kindle, now the dominant e-reader. Less well known is that since 2009, Amazon has published books and audiobooks under its own brands including Lake UnionThomas & Mercer and Audible. Amazon is a beast with many tentacles: It’s got the store, the reading devices and, increasingly, the words that go on them.

“Librarians have been no match for the beast. When authors sign up with a publisher, it decides how to distribute their work. With other big publishers, selling e-books and audiobooks to libraries is part of the mix — that’s why you’re able to digitally check out bestsellers like Barack Obama’s “A Promised Land.” Amazon is the only big publisher that flat-out blocks library digital collections. Search your local library’s website, and you won’t find recent e-books by Amazon authors Kaling, Dean Koontz or Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Nor will you find downloadable audiobooks for Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime,” Andy Weir’s “The Martian” and Michael Pollan’s “Caffeine.”

“Amazon does generally sell libraries physical books and audiobook CDs — though even print versions of Kaling’s latest aren’t available to libraries because Amazon made it an online exclusive.

“It’s hard to measure the hole Amazon is leaving in American libraries. Among e-books, Amazon published very few New York Times bestsellers in 2020; its Audible division produces audiobooks for more big authors and shows up on bestseller lists more frequently. You can get a sense of Amazon’s influence among its own customers from the Kindle bestseller list: In 2020, six of Amazon’s top 10 e-books were published by Amazon. And it’s not just about bestsellers: Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, the self-publishing business that’s open to anyone, produces many books about local history, personalities and communities that libraries have historically sought out.”

U.S. Supreme Court rules against pharmacy benefit managers

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This seems like a good ruling. I’ll post more as I see it:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled 8-0 that states have broad powers to regulate powerful pharmacy middlemen without being preempted by federal law.

The case was brought by the $400-billion-a-year industry, known as “pharmacy benefit managers,” against the state of Arkansas over a 2015 law that set a minimum, market-based rate the middlemen had to reimburse pharmacists for the drugs they dispensed.

More than 70% of the industry is controlled by three corporations: CVS Caremark, Express Scripts and OptumRx. 

Its critics say those companies are often in direct competition with retail pharmacies and they use obscure, anti-competitive reimbursement practices to underpay them. This has resulted in driving many community pharmacists out of business and depriving many small communities of pharmacy access, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge argued.

The U.S. Solicitor General and 46 other state attorneys general signed up to help defend Rutledge in the case brought against her by the PBM industry group, the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association.

It’s only okay if you’re a Republican

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Remember what they kept saying whenever Trump nominated some random unqualified person? “The new president should get to pick the team he wants!” The same rules don’t apply to Democrats:

<blockquote>Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Brendan Carr admitted in an interview this week that he wants the agency to be deadlocked to “forestall” Democrats pursuing their agenda.

While President-elect Joe Biden will be able to choose the chairperson of the agency, the announcement by Chairman Ajit Pai that he will step down on Inauguration Day and Senate Republicans pushing through a controversial FCC pick by President Donald Trump has created a scenario where the FCC could be locked in a 2-2 partisan tie to begin Biden’s tenure in the White House.

Earlier this week, the Senate Commerce Committee voted 14-12 to move the nomination of Nathan Simington to a full vote in the Senate. Simington has been a controversial choice to be appointed to the FCC because of his connections to Trump’s social media executive order that targets Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

If the Senate votes to confirm Simington, it would leave the FCC with two Republicans and two Democrats. The FCC is supposed to have five members, with three from the president’s party and two from the opposing party.

However, if Republicans keep control of the Senate after Georgia’s runoff elections, they could stall a vote for Biden’s pick to fill out the agency. A partisan deadlock would mean any party-line votes—such as restoring net neutrality rules—would be highly unlikely from happening.</blockquote>