UK's competition watchdog preps to shoulder post-Brexit workload from European Commission

Apparently Eastenders' Phil Mitchell is in charge these days - it sounds fighty

The head of the UK's competition regulator said the body planned to "come down like a ton of bricks" on anyone attempting to stifle the country's economic recovery.

Jonathan Scott, chair of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), said the nation was now ready to "step up and fulfil the regulatory role previously held by the European Commission."

Addressing the Law Society last week, Scott said: "Now we are out of the Transition Period, we are carrying responsibility for the biggest and most complex competition and merger investigations which previously would have been the exclusive preserve of the European Commission.

"And post-COVID, we will carry responsibility for coming down like a ton of bricks on anyone attempting to stifle the economic recovery and damage consumer confidence through anti-competitive or unfair activity."

When it comes to holding businesses to account, he touched on the difficulties faced by "big parties with deep pockets and no shortage of very talented advisers who know only too well how to hold us up."

He lamented the fact that compared to other regulators, the CMA lacked sufficient oomph and called, instead, for "penalties for non-compliance with the CMA's investigatory requirements [to] be bolstered."

He went on: "It is important to be able to adequately incentivise compliance and deter failures to comply. For example, in our Amazon/Deliveroo merger, when Amazon delayed proceedings by failing to provide complete information, we fined them circa £60,000. When Facebook did similar to the European Commission, it fined them circa €110m."

His comments come as the CMA has stepped up the number of investigations it is handling, especially in the digital space.

In the last month, the CMA said it had:

Whether this activity is a sign that the CMA is ramping up its position to protect consumers – or merely taking on board the extra workload following Brexit – remains to be seen. But with some of the world's biggest firms facing greater scrutiny, things should get interesting. ®

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Sovereignty? We've heard of it. UK government gives contract to store MI5, MI6 and GCHQ's data to AWS

Hands up who wants to do that info migration

The UK's intelligence services are to store their secret files in the AWS cloud in a deal inked earlier this year, according to reports.

The GCHQ organisation (electrical/radio communications eavesdropping), MI5 (domestic UK intelligence matters), MI6 (external UK intel) and also the Ministry of Defence (MoD) will access their data in the cloud, albeit in UK-located AWS data centres.

The news was first reported in the Financial Times newspaper (paywall), which said GCHQ drove the deal that was signed earlier this year, and the data will be stored in a high-security way. It is claimed by unknown sources that AWS itself will not have access to the data. 

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Ever wondered where the 'cloud' was in Adobe Creative Cloud? Here it is in beta form

In-browser editing previewed for Photoshop and Illustrator

Adobe has introduced a beta of Creative Cloud Web at its virtual Max event, which kicked off today.

When Creative Cloud was introduced in 2011, it was something of a misnomer. There was a cloud storage element, but the core applications like Photoshop, Illustrator, and Premier Pro remained desktop applications for Windows and Mac.

It was more Creative Subscription than Creative Cloud since it marked the move to subscription pricing.

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UK schools slap a hold on facial scanning of children amid fierce criticism

'Consent cannot be truly freely given' says privacy campaigner

The use of facial recognition technology deployed in a number of school canteens across the UK has been put on hold for the time being after the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) intervened to ask some questions.

Some nine schools in North Ayrshire, which is a Scottish authority that includes the Isle of Arran, were scheduled to start processing payments for school meals via facial scanning technology.

This was intended to speed up the delivery of lunches from an average of 25 seconds to five, and potentially reduce COVID-19 infections compared to card payments and fingerprint scanners.

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EU digital rules must consider anti-competitive licensing terms, say cloud sellers

*cough* Microsoft and Oracle *cough*

Cloud Infrastructure Service Providers in Europe (CISPE) has published a report on how the licensing antics of legacy software firms could distort the cloud marketplace.

The industry group is keen that protection from some of the chicanery turn up in the upcoming EU Digital Markets Act (DMA) and said: "It is imperative that the bad practices and unfair, anti-competitive behaviours of those that wield power to set licence terms are considered as part of the DMA."

The DMA was proposed in December 2020 in order to tackle "large, systemic online platforms" that legislators believe act as "gatekeepers" to new market entrants. The act will be implemented in 2023, at the earliest.

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Microsoft's UWP = Unwanted Windows Platform?

Company recommends migration for those unhappy with current functionality

Microsoft has further clarified its plans for the Universal Windows Platform, a desktop application framework which at the launch of Windows 10 was said to be the future but now looks headed for oblivion.

Principal program manager lead Thomas Fennel has posted on GitHub about the choices facing developers invested in UWP applications.

He explained that the new Windows App SDK – formerly known as Project Reunion – is "using the existing desktop project types as the foundation of the Windows App SDK, due to the vast amount of existing desktop APIs and compatibility that desktop project types provide."

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Matrix for the masses platform Element One goes live: $5 a month with WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram bridges

New package aimed at consumers

Element, which makes Matrix-based communications and collaboration tools, has launched a consumer-oriented version of its messaging platform, complete with bridges for WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram.

The firm's Matrix Services (EMS) has been the acceptable corporate face of the Matrix network for some time now, charging customers reluctant to roll their own open source a fee for its wares. Over the months it has introduced supported bridging tech to allow enterprise users to message users on other platforms such as Slack, Teams and WhatsApp.

The company's new product – Element One – effectively bundles three of the bridges that EMS reckons will appeal most to consumers – WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram – into a $5-a-month package.

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31-year-old piece of hardware not working very well: Hubble telescope back in safe mode over 'synchronization issues'

James Webb Space Telescope in line for a December flight

The veteran Hubble Space Telescope (HST) tripped back into safe mode yesterday, leaving science operations suspended while the latest technical woe is investigated.

The problem this time is "synchronization issues with internal spacecraft communications," according to the observatory's social media orifice, normally awash with stunning imagery snapped by the telescope.

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DDoSers take weekend off only to resume campaign against UK's Voipfone on Monday

Firm fingers 'overseas criminals' for sending internet phone business TITSUP*

It never rains but it pours. Internet telephone service provider Voipfone, currently battling a "major outage" across all voice services, has admitted to being hit by an "extortion-based DDoS attack from overseas criminals" that knocked it offline last week.

A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack took down the company's platform for nearly four hours on the evening of Friday 22 October. Issues were reported on Voipfone's status page at 16:15 BST shortly followed by an apology and a suggestion to customers that "you might wish to set your phones to automatically failover to the PSTN or mobile networks."

The company said: "We're sorry for the disruption to our services, we are defending an extortion-based DDoS attack from overseas criminals," but remained tight-lipped over what was actually going on.

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Doing better with less in the UK public sector

IT-as-a-Service can resolve many issues, says HPE

Paid Feature The UK's public procurement practices are beginning to look rather outdated. Indeed, in a green paper on transforming public procurement, published to provoke debate in December last year, Cabinet Office minister Lord Agnew commented that “for too long, modern and innovative approaches to public procurement have been bogged down in bureaucratic, process-driven procedures”.

During the pandemic, standard public procurement procedures were sidestepped in order to respond to the immediate need. Contentious issues such as possible corruption and lack of transparency aside, if nothing else Covid highlighted the need for greater flexibility in the procurement framework. The public sector needs to be able to fast-track services on demand and scale them as appropriate.

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Google deliberately throttled ad load times to promote AMP, claims new court document

'Nice comparative boost' for AMP claimed to be achieved by actively slowing other formats

More detail has emerged from a 173-page complaint filed last week in the lawsuit brought against Google by a number of US states, including allegations that Google deliberately throttled advertisements not served to its AMP (Accelerated Mobile) pages.

The lawsuit – as we explained at the end of last week – was originally filed in December 2020 and concerns alleged anti-competitive practice in digital advertising. The latest document, filed on Friday, makes fresh claims alleging ad-throttling around AMP.

Google introduced AMP in 2015, with the stated purpose of accelerating mobile web pages. An AMP page is a second version of a web page using AMP components and restricted JavaScript, and is usually served via Google's content delivery network. Until 2018, the AMP project, although open source, had as part of its governance a BDFL (Benevolent Dictator for Life), this being Google's Malte Ubl, the technical lead for AMP.

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Samsung boss Lee Jae-Yong convicted and fined for drug abuse

Took Propofol, aka ‘the milk of amnesia’ or 'the drug that killed Michael Jackson'

Samsung boss Lee Jae-Yong has been convicted of drug abuse and fined 70 million won (US$60K).

Lee is the CEO of Samsung Electronics – the largest member of the Samsung group – and is expected to become company chair in the future. He was accused of taking Propofol, an anaesthetic, at a plastic surgery clinic. Lee was alleged to have visited the clinic 41 times between between 2015 and 2020 – rather more visits than needed for touch-ups.

Propofol is a legitimate anaesthetic but is sometimes abused in pursuit of certain erotic experiences, or as a sedative for those who struggle to sleep.

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