Google's EU Migraine Rears Up
Today in international tech news: Google's EU headache might not be going away after all; the NSA apparently has a pretty hard-core snooping setup in the Bahamas; Netflix eyes European expansion; and Lenovo's smartphone sales drive a 29 percent spike in net profit.
05/21/14 9:22 AM PT
Yeah, about that breakthrough between Google and European antitrust regulators...
The European Union's antitrust chief might pursue a tougher stance on Google than the one outlined in a February agreement, which was believed to have end -- finally -- the legal circus between the two sides.
Google had agreed to display rivals' links more prominently in its search results, a chief concern among European regulators. Joaquin Almunia, the EU's antitrust chief, hailed the EU-Google agreement as "far-reaching," opining that it "creates a level playing field across Europe."
Now, not so much: "If, because of the arguments of the complainants, we consider that the proposals that we have on the table are not enough, we will need to decide on the next steps," Almunia said.
It's not clear whether Almunia will pursue tougher concessions or is simply running a PR gambit to try to appease Google competitors, who haven't seemed all that impressed with the handling of the dispute. To that end, some competitors, including the lobby group ICOMP and German online mapping service Euro-Cities, wasted no time panning the February agreement.
[Source: The New York Times]
Bahamas, Others Get Enhanced NSA Monitoring
The National Security Agency is "secretly intercepting, recording, and archiving" audio of nearly all cellphone conversations in the Bahamas, and is monitoring telecommunications systems in a handful of additional countries, according to a report from the online publication The Intercept.
The Bahamas operation, unearthed from you-know-who's bottomless pit of documents, is part of a system code-named "SOMALGET." It was, as you might guess, implemented without the consent of the Bahamian government.
The NSA allegedly used access that it had legally obtained, via the Bahamas' cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, to tunnel into the country's cellphone network, thereby enabling it to record and store, for up to one month, all mobile calls made within, from and to the Bahamas.
SOMALGET is part of a larger NSA program called "MYSTIC," which reportedly is being used to monitor communications in the Bahamas, as well as countries such as Mexico, the Philippines and Kenya. The latter three countries are subject only to surveillance of metadata, but the Bahamas has the distinction of having the actual content of every cell call scooped up.
Netflix Announces European Expansion
Netflix announced plans to expand into a half-dozen European countries during 2014 -- Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg.
The company already has launched in the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands, but countries like Germany -- which, with the fourth-largest number of broadband users in the world, could be a huge boon -- have proved elusive.
Lenovo Profit Jumps
China's Lenovo Group experienced a 28.7 percent spike in net profit for the business year ended in March.
Lenovo traditionally had relied on PC sales to fuel profits, but it is shifting -- with at least moderate success -- to smartphones.
The company earlier this year purchased Google's Motorola Mobility smartphone unit for US$2.9 billion. Despite that acquisition -- and despite the subsequent acquisition of IBM's low-end server unit for $2.3 billion -- net profit grew to more than $815 million, with revenue rising 14.3 percent to $38.7 billion.
The company's stock has fallen 1.3 percent since the start of the year but was trading 2.5 percent higher on news of the profit growth.