Laws and Legalities

Facebook faces $1 billion lawsuit for providing support to terrorist organisation

Facebook faces $1 billion lawsuit for providing support to terrorist organisation

Facebook accused in $1 billion lawsuit for providing ‘material support’ to Hamas

Facebook is once again in the midst of fighting lawsuits. Only this time it is a $1 billion lawsuit for aiding and abetting Hamas, a known Palestinian organization. Facebook is being sued by the families of five Americans who were killed or hurt by Palestinian attacks carried out in Israel. The lawsuit  alleges that the social media network “knowingly provided material support and resources to Hamas.” Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by United States, European Union and Israel.

The lawsuit was filed on July 10th in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, Facebook is accused of being a medium for Hamas. The complainants also argue that Facebook should be held liable for the attacks because “Hamas has used and relied on Facebook’s online social network platform and communications services as among its most important tools to facilitate and carry out its terrorist activity.”

The plaintiffs in the case include the families of Taylor Force, an American student who was killed in an attack in March; Naftali Fraenkel, who was kidnapped and killed in the West Bank in 2014; and Chaya Zissel Braun, a three-month-old who was killed in October 2014 attack in Jerusalem.

Facebook is being sued under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which bars businesses operating from the United States from providing support to designated terrorist organizations. However, Facebook will rely on the Communications Decency Act to fight the lawsuit. The CDA legally protects websites and other online platforms from content posted by third-party users.

Facebook did not directly comment on the case filed this week, but in a statement provided to Bloomberg, it said it wants “people to feel safe when using Facebook. There is no place for content encouraging violence, direct threats, terrorism or hate speech on Facebook. We have a set of Community Standards to help people understand what is allowed on Facebook, and we urge people to use our reporting tools if they find content that they believe violates our standards so we can investigate and take swift action.”

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Oracle asks judge to find Google guilty of stealing Java

Oracle asks judge to find Google guilty of stealing Java

Oracle’s $9 billion fight with Google continues, looks like software giant’s mantra is ‘not to give up’

Oracle for the last six years has been involved in a legal battle with Google over intellectual property theft of the Java programming language by the search giant. It has been asking the court system to fine Google over $9 billion in damages for the theft. However, a federal jury in May considered Google had properly used the Java code under the “fair use” provision in U.S. copyright law and closed the case.

However, it looks like the software company is not ready to hang its boots yet. On July 6, Oracle filed a motion in San Francisco U.S. District Court again asking the same judge that threw the decision out back in May, to chuck the verdict. The company referred to the case law suggesting use is not legal if the user “exclusively acquires conspicuous financial rewards” from its use of the copyrighted material. Google, said Oracle, has earned more than $42 billion from Android. Therefore, Oracle is insisting that this isn’t actually fair use and is instead infringement.

Oracle wants the judge to stick to the narrower and more traditional applications of fair use, “for example, when it is ‘criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching … scholarship, or research.'”

On the other hand, Google has constantly argued that the Java code was free and open to all and that its use of the code was transformative.

During the recent case, Google argued that Sun Microsystems, which created Java in the 1990s long before it was bought by Oracle, had no issues with Google using the code without a license.

“We didn’t pay for the free and open things,” Larry Page, CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet, testified during the trial.

Looking at the way things are shaping in this copyright infringement case, it appears like Oracle will probably be trying to pursue this case for at least another six years.

Source: Silicon Valley

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Facebook, Netflix & HBO Go Password Sharing Is Now a Federal Crime

Facebook, Netflix & HBO Go Password Sharing Is Now a Federal Crime

Sharing passwords on Netflix, HBO Go & Facebook would now be counted as a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling this week that officially considers sharing passwords counts as a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). Both Netflix and HBO Go passwords fall into this category. Also, if you are not careful, getting caught sharing these passwords could result in jail time.

This new law was set up as a catch-all for hacking has been widely used to prosecute behaviour that bears no resemblance to hacking. This ruling specifically references the case of David Nosal, a former employee of the International research firm Korn/Ferry, who used a co-worker’s password to access a computer after his access was revoked.

The decision is a nightmare scenario for civil liberties groups, who claim that such a broad interpretation of the CFAA means millions of Americans are violating the federal law every time they share account information in regards to sites such as Facebook, Spotify and the many other popular streaming services, which also include Amazon Prime and Hulu. Judge Stephen Reinhardt, who presided over this latest ruling noted the following.

“[This ruling] threatens to criminalize all sorts of innocuous conduct engaged in daily by ordinary citizens.”

Judge Margaret McKeown, who was in the majority vote, had this to say about the unprecedented ruling.

“Nosal and various amici spin hypotheticals about the dire consequences of criminalizing password sharing. But these warnings miss the mark in this case. This appeal is not about password sharing.”

McKeown’s viewpoint is that the issue is not about password sharing per se, but that it’s about the one employee who had no authority from the firm to give her password to any former employees, which plays into the CFAA’s language that states it’s illegal to access a computer system “without authorization.” McKeown fully believes that phrasing is concrete and without wiggle room, according to Motherboard.

McKeown goes onto state the following.

“Without authorization [is] an unambiguous, non-technical term that, given its plain and ordinary meaning, means accessing a protected computer without permission.”

The big question this raises is, ‘Who gives the authorization?’ While Nosal wasn’t granted authorization by Korn/Ferry to use the password, he was authorized the use of the password by the friend in charge of maintaining the password for security purposes. What the ruling declares in the long run is that we are no longer authorized to give a friend or loved one our Netflix or Facebook password. Only Netflix or Facebook as a company can specifically authorize who gets to use the password beyond the person who is assigned to the account. Once you share that password without getting an ok from the source company, you are in direct violation of breaking federal law.

However, Judge Stephen Reinhardt disagreed, who appears to be an authority on hacking. Reinhardt expressed concern that decision by the majority criminalizes all password-sharing, including giving out your parent’s Netflix password to your friends. In a dissenting opinion, he writes:

“This case is about password sharing. People frequently share their passwords, notwithstanding the fact that websites and employers have policies prohibiting it. In my view, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”) does not make the millions of people who engage in this ubiquitous, useful, and generally harmless conduct into unwitting federal criminals.

“In the everyday situation that should concern us all, a friend or colleague accessing an account with a shared password would most certainly believe-and with good reason-that his access had been ‘authorized’ by the account holder who shared his password with him. The majority does not provide, nor do I see, a workable line which separates the consensual password sharing in this case from the consensual password sharing of millions of legitimate account holders, which may also be contrary to the policies of system owners. There simply is no limiting principle in the majority’s world of lawful and unlawful password sharing.”

He accused his colleagues’ decision “loses sight of the anti-hacking purpose of the CFAA, and despite our warning, threatens to criminalize all sorts of innocuous conduct engaged in daily by ordinary citizens.” After all, in their terms of service, Netflix and especially HBO Go say only subscribers should be streaming their content. It was also noted that each of the 50 states have their own, more narrow rules and laws when it comes to computer trespassing. It is Reinhardt’s belief that this particular case would have been better suited for civil, not criminal, proceedings.

This ruling in the long run is unlikely to affect anyone who is currently sharing their social media or streaming passwords, unless HBO and Netflix unexpectedly decide that they want to indict millions of their customers. At this point, neither company has made a move to do so. But an example has been set, and should get anyone thinking about sharing their password with a third party pause.

Source: Motherboard

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UK Digital Economy Bill: 10 Year Prison Sentence For Online Pirates

Online Pirates To Now Get 10 Year Prison Sentence According To UK Bill

Online Pirates To Now Get 10 Year Prison Sentence According To UK Bill

Recently, the UK Government has introduced a Digital Economy Bill in the Parliament, which is set to refurbish current copyright legislation. However, the increased maximum sentence for online copyright infringement has become one of the most debatable changes. The maximum prison term was increased by the five times, from two to ten years in spite of public protest.

The UK Government announced a plan last year to increase the maximum prison sentence for online copyright infringement to ten years.

The lawmakers were of the opinion that the current maximum of two years is not enough to dissuade infringers.

A few months earlier, the plan followed a recommendation put forward in a study commissioned by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO).

This study determined that criminal sanctions for online copyright infringement could be increased to make them fall in line with offenses related to the same nature, such as counterfeiting.

The Government launched a public consultation, asking for comments and advice from the public before applying the changes. However, although majority of the replies advised the authorities not to increase the prison term, lawmakers decided otherwise.

Therefore, a new draft of the Digital Economy bill published this week increases the current prison term from two to ten years. The applicable part amends the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, and simply replaces the word two with ten.

The new bill passed its first reading in the Parliament on July 5 where it was uncovered. This allows courts to give tougher sentences if accepted in its current form.

For a long time, the copyright holders have been pushing for this update. According to them, stricter penalties are required to discourage people from carrying out huge-scale copyright infringement, a point that the Government is not in disagreement with.

“The Government believes that a maximum sentence of 10 years allows the courts to apply an appropriate sentence to reflect the scale of the offending,” the Government clarified in the past, adding that the maximum sentence will only be applied in exceptional cases.

This implies that casual file-sharers are unlikely to serve the jail term of 10 years. However, organized groups that methodically provide pirated files, such as Scene or P2P release groups, are likely to be punished more severely.

To bring the sentence in line with counterfeiting was one of the incentives to increase the sentence for online piracy. However, what is interesting that both were already equal when they were first accepted.

Both counterfeiting and piracy carried a maximum sentence of two years when the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act was first introduced. The counterfeiting sentences were increased in 2002 following industry calls, and now the piracy side is too trailing on the same path.

Source: TorrentFreak

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Man who repeatedly attacked Google Headquarters facing criminal charges

Man facing criminal charges after trying to set Google HQ on fire

Oakland man charged with arson after trying to set Google Headquarters on fire

An Oakland resident who said Google was “watching him” has been charged with one count of arson after being allegedly linked to three late-night attacks at Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters in Mountain View, California. In the attacks that took place in May and June, while one of the Internet search giant’s self-driving cars was destroyed by fire, but no one was hurt in the attacks.

Raul Murillo Diaz, 30, of Oakland, California was arrested by the Mountain View Police Department on June 30, after his vehicle was spotted at Google HQ (also known as the “Googleplex”) around midnight. His car, a 2004 grey Volkswagen Touareg, was previously caught on security tape involving three other criminal incidents at the campus.

According to a federal complaint, Diaz began the first attack shortly before midnight May 19 at the company’s huge campus in Mountain View, California. After seeing a man throw a beer bottle at a Google mapping car, an employee called police and then watched the area blow up into flames. The fire bombs landed at the rear of the vehicle, which sustained minimal damage.

Police say they recovered fragments from two bottles of Blue Moon beer. Charges in two later attacks are pending. The federal authorities said that the second incident took place on June 4 at about 11:30 p.m. Two witnesses reported hearing gunshots about half a mile away from where the fire broke out, and police arrived to find five bullet holes in Google office windows. It happened to be the same SUV that was captured on the surveillance video on May 19. Authorities believe a .22 caliber handgun was used during the attack.

Police were called a third time on June 10 at about 2 a.m. after a Google self-driving car was found engulfed in flames. Video footage showed a man nearby holding a makeshift water-pistol, believed by police to contain flammable liquid used to start the fire. The same SUV was also recorded on the surveillance video.

Shortly after midnight, on June 30, Mountain View police pulled over a 2004 Volkswagen Touareg they said Diaz was driving on the Google campus. The arresting officer said he could see a gun case and a cylinder with wires coming out of it, according to the affidavit. Though Diaz said the object was used for target practice, the bomb squad that was later called in said it was an unfinished explosive device.

Johnny Luu, a Google spokesman, said a self-driving car was not involved in any of the incidents and said he had no other information about what happened.

According to an affidavit filed last week in US District Court for the Northern District of California, Diaz told investigators he was responsible for all three attacks and was planning another before he was stopped and arrested. Diaz said he carried out these attacks because he felt that “Google was watching him and that made him upset.” He also kept journals of all the times he suspected the company was watching him.

The San Francisco Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are helping in the investigation.

Diaz made a brief appearance in a San Jose federal court Friday, but didn’t enter a plea. He remains jailed and is represented by federal public defender Varrel Fuller. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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China’s media watchdog sues Apple over showing of war film from the 1990s

China’s media watchdog sues Apple over showing of war film from the 1990s

Apple Sued Over Obscure War Film By China’s Media Regulator

It appears that the legal headaches have a soft corner for Apple. The tech giant is facing another legal lawsuit in one of its crucial overseas markets, China over rights to an obscure patriotic film, a Beijing court said last Thursday.

China’s media watchdog, The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT), has filed a lawsuit against Apple, claiming that the tech giant has infringed its exclusive online rights to broadcast a film that depicts Chinese fighting against Japanese soldiers in northern China in the early 1930s.

The Chinese government agency claims it has incurred “huge economic losses” because Apple allowed Youku Tudou — the Chinese equivalent of YouTube — to broadcast the film “Xuebo Dixiao” to Apple TV users. According to a statement from a court in Beijing’s Haidian district, a grand total of $7,510 (50,000 yuan) in damages has been requested by the agency.

Currently, Youku Tudou is one of the largest video sharing services in China. The video was posted on Youku Tudou, so with the app published in Apple’s store, users could watch it without paying.

The case was “currently under further investigation”, the agency added.

The movie in question, “Xuebo Dixiao,” is a pro-China film that was filmed in 1994 and tells the story of a Chinese doctor who wants to open a hospital in the country but has to deal with Japanese forces. The title translates to “Bloody Fight With Our Brave Enemies.” However, what is interesting is that while the movie is already available for free online, the agency claims that Apple has violated its rights.

SAPPRFT has filed suit against both Apple and the Chinese video streaming platform Youku Tudou, according to a statement posted on the official website of the Beijing Haidian District People’s Court, where the case has been received.

It appears that an app called Youku Tudou is available for download in Apple’s app store. Currently, Youku Tudou is one of the largest video sharing services in China and is often considered to be the local version of YouTube. The video was posted on Youku, so with the app published in Apple’s store, users could watch it without paying.

This isn’t the first time SAPPRFT has given Apple grief. Thanks to the agency, the company had to shut down the iBookstore and iTunes Movies earlier this year.

It’s unbelievable that instead of the agency going after the streaming service directly, it is holding Apple responsible for videos posted on Youku Tudou. At this point, it appears like China is just throwing lawsuits at Apple for the heck of it. Just last month, Apple suffered another setback when a court ruled that a Chinese company is allowed to use the iPhone trademark on bags, wallets and other leather goods.

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U.S. Court Rules FBI Can Hack Computers Without Warrant

U.S. Court Rules FBI Can Hack Computers Without Warrant

FBI doesnt need a warrant to hack computers, rules U.S. Court

The Federal Bureau Investigations (FBI) may no longer need the proposed amendment to the Rule 41 as a U.S. court has ruled that it doesnt need warrants to hack into computers.

As of now FBI needed a warrant from a court to hack into any computer in United States or around the world. A proposed amendment to Rule 41 would have allowed FBI to hack into computers behind Tor or VPN without warrant and based on suspicion that the user indulged in illegal activities.

A U.S. court has ruled that the FBI can hack into a computer without a warrant. The US court delivered this landmark judgement in the case involving FBI’s hacking of child pornography site, Playpen, that had been accessible through Tor, a browser designed for anonymous web surfing.

If you have been following Playpen story, you would know that FBI had hacked into Playpen in 2014 and instead of taking it offline, FBI had converted Playpen into a honeypot to trap even more pedophiles.

The FBI used Playpen to track down and arrest its members by hacking their computers by  secretly collect their IP addresses. On of the alleged members of Playpen had filed a case against FBI in a US court arguing that FBI had seized evidence against him unlawfully.

Earlier the US court had declared the FBI hacking as illegal but the latest judgement by a  U.S. court in Virginia has ruled in favor of the FBI, according to court documents unsealed on Thursday.

The judge, Henry Morgan, ruled that even though the FBI obtained a warrant to hack into the suspect’s computer, none was needed.

The suspect may have used Tor to keep his browsing anonymous, but his IP address still isn’t private information, the judge wrote in his ruling. This is because the IP address is given out to third parties in order to access the Internet and even the Tor network.

Privacy advocacy group, Electronic Frontier Foundation, is opposed to this part of the ruling.

“The implications for the decision, if upheld, are staggering,” wrote Mark Rumold, an attorney with the group in a blog post. Law enforcement could seize information from a person’s computer without a warrant, probable cause or any suspicion at all, he said.

The arrested Playpen user has a option of going to the higher court to challenge the Virginia court’s decision but until then FBI will have unfettered powers to hack your computers.


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Why are VPN providers and Tor devs fighting against “Rule 41”

Why are VPN providers and Tor devs fighting against "Rule 41"

Know all about Rule 41 and why VPN providers, Tor, privacy and security experts are against it

What is Rule 41? In plain English, under this rule, FBI and U.S. agencies could hack into computers after obtaining a warrant. However, U.S. is proposing to make changes to Rule 41 to allow FBI and other to hack Tor and VPN users without a warrant. In further plainspeak, if you are a Tor user or use a VPN service to surf the Internet anywhere in the world, FBI can hack you no questions asked.

As of today changes to Rule 41 is a proposed legislation but the tech industry, VPN providers, Tor developers, privacy activists and security experts are worried about the implications as and when Rule 41 is enacted. The proposed legislative changes will give FBI unseeming powers to into computers and encroach upon the privacy of users.

The tech industry is fighting hard to oppose Rule 41. A grand coalition under the aegis of EFF is fighting against its with Google,Demand Progress and FightForTheFuture. They are are joined by TOR, Private Internet Access and other VPN services seeking to block changes to Rule 41.

The amended Rule 41 will become permanent in December 2016 and hence the grand coalition is pushing for a complete block. It has already written a letter to leaders of the US House of Representatives and Senate urging them to block the rule change before it becomes permanent in December.

Rule 41 explained

Back in April, the U.S. Supreme Court approved a rule change that will allow FBI and other U.S. law enforcement to obtain a warrant to hack into computers and even phones anywhere in the world. The U.S. government is now proposing changes to Rule 41 to incorporate this judgement. The changes affect Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure which determines how the government investigates criminal complaints.

The changes will allow a judge to grant permission to law enforcement agencies enabling them to hack computers anywhere, provided the location of the target computer has been hidden by technical means. That means that users of TOR, VPNs, and proxies etc could all become vulnerable, regardless of why they are using such tools. But it doesn’t stop there.

“It might also extend to people who deny access to location data for smartphone apps because they don’t feel like sharing their location with ad networks,” the EFF previously warned.

To protest against the proposed amendment to Rule 41, a grand coalition of 50 organizations including Google, PayPal, the TOR Project, Data Foundry, the rather unfortunately named Hide My Ass VPN, the ACLU and the EFF have written a letter as stated above.

“The rule changes attempt to sidestep the legislative process by using a process designed for procedural rules to expand investigatory powers,” the open letter by the grand coalition says.

“The changes to Rule 41 will disproportionately undermine the privacy of those who have done the most to protect it. Specifically, the proposal would allow warrants for remote hacking in cases where privacy protective technologies obscure the location of a computer.”

Funnily the U.S. Department of Justice got supreme court to approve the proposed changes to Rule 41 before Congress could vote on it. Now all eyes will be on the Congress, which has until December 1 to pass legislation that would amend, or block, the rule change.

If it is not blocked by the U.S.Congress, Rule 41 will become a permanent law from December, 2016.

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FBI To Start Tracking And Sorting People By Their Tattoos

FBI To Start Tracking And Sorting People By Their Tattoos

New art of surveillance :  FBI is developing a tattoo-reading software to keep track on criminals

It has been just revealed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is working with government researchers to develop advanced tattoo recognition technology, according to an investigation by Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a civil rights advocacy group. This would allow law enforcement to class and identify people based on their tattoos to find out their “affiliation to gangs, subcultures, religious or ritualistic beliefs, or political ideology.”

Computer scientists at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will soon begin the second round of an independent study into which biometric matching algorithms work best for pairing tattoos with criminal suspects, unidentified victims, and alleged gang members.

However, such a program has raised grave questions about the privacy safeguards in place and research ethics. According to the EFF report, the American law enforcement wants the new technology to decode the tattoos that “contain intelligence, messages, meaning and motivation.” The project is part of a broader movement from American law enforcement to use advanced algorithms and big datasets to carry out their work. These projects could be faulty and prejudiced dread the civil liberties advocates.

The FBI Is Developing Software to Track and Sort People by Their Tattoos
Why Tattoos?

The project began in 2014 at the US National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) that used a database of prisoner’s tattoos. The technology developed by the NIST would “map connections between people with similarly themed tattoos or make inferences about people from their tattoos,” the EFF reports. The EFF investigation also claims that the researchers overlooked basic ethical government research standards, particularly the ones related to prisoners.

The methodology of the NIST research program also raises ethical questions. It is unlikely that the researchers were granted permission from the inmates, and there was no documentation in any of the materials the EFF reviewed, publicly or through freedom of information requests. “They really are treating prisoners like they’re an exploitable database,” Dave Maass, a researcher with the EFF said.

The 15,000 images of tattoos came from prisoners and arrestees never gave their consent. The researchers only sought permission from supervisors only after they had carried out their initial research. They also didn’t reveal they data they were using came from pictures of prisoners and arrestees.

In addition to programs like tattoo identification and analysis, local police are also increasingly using facial recognition technology to pursue and identify criminals.

NIST and the FBI will enter a new phase of the project that will test the current tattoo recognition systems at a much broader scale over the course of the summer. They hope to start a new phase of the project with 100,000 tattoo images collected from the Tennessee Department of Corrections, Michigan State Police, and Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office in Florida.

A never seen before level of power has been given to law enforcement by these systems. Imagine a database that let’s police or investigators to search for people based on the last time their face was identified by a camera or by the tattoos they and their peers have.

However, if used in actual investigations, it could lead to profiling and false positives. Just because someone has a tattoo that is similar to ones worn by certain gang members doesn’t mean they’ve committed any crime, or that they’re also a gang member. In California, tattoos are one factor that has already led people to be incorrectly added to a database of gang members.

Tattoos have also been a factor in immigration decisions. Many of the Mexican immigrants to the U.S. have said their applications for visas were refused, as they had what the State Department believed were gang-related tattoos.

A database that classifies citizens based on tattoos that may or may not echo their religious or political beliefs, social connections, or interests feels not only disturbing but also awfully invasive, argues the EFF argues.

Due to the disregard for distinctive government research practices, the EFF is calling for the research to be suspended.

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Google faces a massive $3 billion fine from European Union anti-trust authorities

Google faces a massive $3 billion fine from European Union anti-trust authorities

Google faces €3bn fine over monopoly in shopping service search

Google seems to have fallen foul with the European Union authorities over the way it displays results search. According to The Telegraph, Google may soon be hit with a record $3 billion fine by the European Commission for the same. The Telegraph reported that the European Union anti-trust commission is currently planning to issue a 3 billion euro fine (about $3.39 billion USD) after finding that Google abused its search monopoly. To put things in perspective, Google’s highest fine to date is 1.1 billion euros, in 2009.

EU anti-trust body says that Google illegally promoted its own shopping results over those of competitors. Google has denied doing anything wrong and the matter is sure to land in a court. The Telegraph also noted that EU may impose the penalty within weeks and has fined the maximum it can on Google. According to rules, EU is allowed to fine Google up to a tenth of its annual sales, allowing for a maximum fine of 3.3 billion euros.

In addition to the fine, Google would have to change its search practices to be in line with European law. The report also says that Google will be banned from favoring its own services over those of competitors — this would seemingly impact all product categories, not just shopping.

This sure is bound to land in a court!

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