New rule could let you cancel subscriptions with a single click


New rule could let you cancel subscriptions with a single click
The FTC wants to free consumers trapped in subscriptions.
Photo: Cult of Mac

The Federal Trade Commission wants to make cancelling subscriptions as simple as starting them. The US government agency proposed a “click to cancel” rule that would make it easy for consumers to escape recurring subscriptions and memberships.

Apple users can easily leave subscriptions they signed up for thorough the App Store. That’s not necessarily true for ones started elsewhere.

FTC wants to put a stop to Nvidia’s $40 billion acquisition of Arm


FTC moves to block Nvidia's acquisition of Arm
The move would "distort Arm's incentives," the FTC said.
Image: Arm/Nvidia/Cult of Mac

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has filed a lawsuit to block Nvidia from acquiring Arm. It believes the move would “distort Arm’s incentives in chip markets” and allow the combined firm to “unfairly undermine Nvidia’s rivals.”

Nvidia is already one of the largest chip companies in the world, while Arm’s technology is licensed to some of the biggest and most powerful brands, including Apple, Samsung, and Qualcomm.

FTC wants to know if any of Apple’s smaller acquisitions could be anticompetitive


Elizabeth Warren chimes in on allegedly discriminatory Apple Card algorithm
Presidential nominee Elizabeth Warren has said that tech giants like Apple have too much power.
Photo: elizabethwarren.com

The Federal Trade Commission wants tech giants, including Apple, to give more information about previous mergers and acquisitions considered too small to report to antitrust regulators.

The move comes as Justice Department, FTC, state attorneys general and the House Judiciary Committee ramp up investigations into big tech. Politicians have accused tech giants of using their size and power to illegally defend market share or move into new areas.

Breaking up tech giants could get ‘messy,’ warns FTC boss


Anti-robocall bill is one step closer to being passed into law
But that's not to say it won't happen!
Photo: Pexels

The chairman of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission isn’t opposed to the breakup of America’s tech giants. However, he acknowledges it would be very, very challenging.

“If you have to, you do it,” Joe Simons told Bloomberg. “It’s not ideal because it’s very messy. But if you have to you have to.”

FTC hits Facebook with record $5 billion fine


Facebook owns 4 of the top 10 apps of the past decade
This is the largest fine in FTC history.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

The Federal Trade Commission hit Facebook with a massive $5 billion fine Wednesday due to the social network’s lax privacy policies.

This stands as the largest fine ever dished out to a tech company by the FTC. The massive penalty eats up approximately 9% of Facebook’s total 2018 revenue.

FTC wins its antitrust case against Qualcomm


Qualcomm patents
Case could make 5G landscape more competitive.
Photo: Qualcomm

Qualcomm emerged victorious from its recent battle with Apple. But things look a whole lot less rosy for the company in its antitrust case with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Judge Lucy Koh this week filed her ruling in the FTC’s first round of litigation against Qualcomm. She concluded that Qualcomm has been engaging in anticompetitive business practices.

Apple runs afoul of Japanese government again


Apple Japan required carriers to subsidize iPhone
Apple Japan allegedly used strong-arm tactics to get Yahoo's Game Plus online service shut down.
Photo: Apple

For the second time this year, Apple is being investigated by the Japanese Fair Trade Commission. This time, it may have forced Yahoo to scale back a web-only gaming platform that competes with the App Store.

Apple Japan seems to play hardball. This summer, the FTC made it stop forcing Japanese carriers to put subsidies on iOS handsets.

FTC: Third-party repairs don’t invalidate your iPhone warranty


Illegal warranty seal
The FTC said warranty seals like this are illegal. Companies can't forbid third-party repair work.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The Federal Trade Commission warned companies today not to tell customers that using independent repair facilities invalidates the warranties on their phones, video game consoles, or cars. Doing so is a violation of U.S. law.

It’s not clear if Apple was singled out by the watchdog agency. But it could have been.

Google breaks promise to not collect student data


Google breaks its privacy promise. Photo: Google
Google breaks its privacy promise. Photo: Google

Google has been accused of breaking its student privacy pledge by collecting data and browsing habits from Chromebooks used in schools and Google Apps for Education.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has called upon the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate Google’s conduct, and to prevent it from using the data it has collected so far.

FTC could pave the way for direct-to-consumer iCars


We'd like to buy this directly from Apple, OK?
We'd like to buy this directly from Apple, OK?
Photo: Josh Baré/DeviantArt CC

In a strongly worded blog post Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission derided legislative attempts to prevent consumers from buying cars directly from manufacturers. While this certainly applies to Tesla Motors’ plans to cut out the middleman on auto sales, the government position would cover any company that wishes to sell cars directly to consumers — like, say, Apple.

Can you imagine a day when we can roll into an Apple retail store, flash an Apple Watch and purchase an iCar with Apple Pay?

Radio Shack’s bankruptcy sale could include your private data


Now on sale - your personal info. Photo: Dig My Data
Now on sale - your personal info. Photo: Dig My Data

It looks like that cheap cassette adaptor I bought for my first iPhone and that universal remote for all my TV gadgets at RadioShack in the last ten years may come back to haunt me.

If you’re like me and you’ve shopped at RadioShack within the last several years, your personal information may be included in the sale of all of the failed electronics retailer’s assets in an auction that concluded Monday of this week.

The sale also includes Radio Shack trademarks, patents, leases, and the court presiding over the matter will likely decide whether Radio Shack can continue its retail operations at a smaller scale.

The reported winner of the bid, Standard General, is also RadioShack’s largest shareholder, making this an odd one. The winning bid still needs to be approved by a bankruptcy judge, who will have to consider the pending legal challenges to this sale.

Like, for example, whether a retailer that bragged, “We pride ourselves on not selling our private mailing list,” can sell them once bankrupt.

FTC goes after TracFone for ‘unlimited’ data throttling


This sort of promotion is what got TracFone in trouble. Photo: StraightTalk
This sort of promotion is what got TracFone in trouble. Photo: StraightTalk

Although unlimited data was a promise carriers like AT&T once used to lure potential customers to their network, it doesn’t really exist anymore. Even if you have an unlimited data contract, carriers will throttle your connection once you push a certain data allowance every month.

Yet it’s starting to look like the Federal Trade Commission might be moving against carriers that throttle so-called “unlimited” connections. The FTC just smashed TracFone with a $40 million fine for throttling customers of its unlimited data service.

FTC presses Apple on protections for HealthKit data


Apple's reputation as a mobile health company is growing. Photo: Apple
FTC wants to know who sees your Health data Photo: Apple

Apple’s HealthKit app for iOS 8 is great at capturing and storing personal health data from tons of sources, but according to a Reuters report, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission wants to know what it plans to do with all of it.

The FTC has reportedly met with from, seeking assurances that sensitive health data scooped up by the Apple Watch and other apps won’t be used without users’ permissions.

FTC finally sues AT&T for throttling unlimited data plans


AT&T might finally get its comeuppance for throttling data. Photo: Apple.
AT&T might finally get its comeuppance for throttling data. Photo: Apple.

The Federal Trade Commission is finally going after AT&T for throttling customer’s data speeds, by filing an official complaint that the company has lowered speeds on LTE up to 95% on unlimited data plans.

FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez expounded on the lawsuit today stating, “the issue is simple: Unlimited means unlimited.” The FTC also alleges that AT&T engaged in unfair or deceptive acts and practices that affected commerce. And they’ve got the numbers to back up their lawsuit, with claims that AT&T illegally capped users’ data speeds at 128 Kbps.

Here’s AT&T’s response to the lawsuit:

Apple rats out Google to FTC over in-app purchases


If Apple has to pay the FTC, Bruce Sewell, wants Google to pay up for in-app purchases too.

The FTC came down hard on Apple earlier this year for its lack of parental controls for in-app purchases on iOS, so Apple did what anyone caught red handed would do — they ratted out the competition too.

A week after news of the FTC’s investigation broke, Apple’s SVP of legal, Bruce Sewell sent an email to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez and Commissioner Julie Brill, linking to a scathing Consumer Affairs report that claimed Google Play kids could spend money like drunken sailors.

Apple Reaches Settlement With FTC Regarding In-App Purchases



After negotiating with the Federal Trade Commission for months regarding the use of in-app purchases in the App Store, Apple has reached a consent agreement with the agency, according to a company-wide email Tim Cook just sent employees.

Apple’s in-app purchases practices have frustrated regulators since debuting in the App Store back in 2009. In his letter to employees, which was obtained by Re/code, Cook says a host of complaints from customers led Apple to investigate its practices. Last year Apple emailed 28 million App Store customers regarding their in-app purchases and subsequently refunded more than 37,000 in-app purchases that parents claim were unauthorized. The FTC announced that Apple will refund $32.5 million to customers as part of the settlement.

The settlement also requires Apple to change its billing practices by March 31 to ensure customers give their informed consent before billing them for in-app purchases. Apple also has to add an option for customers to remove that consent at any time.

Cook says “it doesn’t feel right for the FTC to sue over a case that had already been settled. To us, it smacked of double jeopardy,” but the FTC’s deal isn’t going to require Apple to do anything extra, so they decided to sign it and move on.

Here’s the full letter:

SpongeBob Game Pulled From The App Store For Violating Children’s Privacy Rights



A free SpongeBob Squarepants game from Nickelodeon has had to be pulled from the App Store following complaints that it violates children’s online privacy rights. SpongeBob Diner Dash asked children for their names and email addresses without parental permission — so that it could fill their inboxes with spam, no doubt — causing an advocacy group to report the app to the Federal Trade Commission.

Google Agrees To Pay Largest FTC Fine Ever For Bypassing Safari Security Settings



The Federal Trade Commission released information this morning that because of their misrepresentation to users of Apple’s Safari Internet browser, Google has agreed to pay a record $22.5 million civil penalty to settle charges from the FTC.

The $22.5 million fine is the largest in FTC history. Earlier this year an investigation found that Google had placed advertising cookies on the computers of Safari users who visited sites on Google’s DoubleClick ad network. Users were told by Google that they would automatically be opted out of the tracking, but Google kept tracking them anyway.

Google To Pay $22.5 Million For Bypassing Privacy Settings In Safari On iOS [Report]


Screen Shot 2012-07-10 at 2.11.52 PM

Back in February it was discovered that Google was bypassing Apple’s privacy settings in Mobile Safari on iOS. The search giant was making ad revenue from Safari users’ web activity by ‘tricking’ the default iOS browser to allow multiple tracking cookies.

6 months later, and Google is about to pay the “largest penalty ever levied on a single company” by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Google will pay $22.5 million to settle the charges issued by the FTC, and the code in question has already been disabled by Google in Safari on iOS.

FTC Challenges Facebook’s Instagram Buyout, Deal Won’t Be Finalized For Months [Report]


Despite the headlines, everyone's favorite photography app hasn't been gobbled up by Facebook quite yet.

Reports surfaced earlier this month that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had begun a probe into Facebook’s proposed $1 billion acquisition of Instagram. No specific reasons were given for the FTC’s probe, but the acquisition was reportedly stalled due to antitrust concerns. It will likely take regulators up to a year to determine if the deal violates U.S. antitrust law.

Facebook will pay Instagram $200 million if the deal falls through. If the FTC approves the acquisition, Instagram’s two co-founders will net $500 million combined.

Google Could Be Fined By FTC For Working Around Millions Of Safari Users’ Privacy Settings


Wall Street Journal's illustration of how Google's tracking worked on Safari.
Wall Street Journal's illustration of how Google's tracking worked on Safari.

A couple of months ago, The Wall Street Journal raised a huge stink when they reported that Google was tracking millions of iOS & Mac Safari users against their wishes using a loophole in the way that Safari’s cookie handling algorithm.

Google on its parts always said it had done nothing wrong, and used known functionality in Safari to make sure their advertising cookies were always stored locally on users’ machines, even if their cookie settings were set to private. Looks like that might not have been enough for the FTC, though, who are now looking to start doling out fines to Google over the issue.