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Big Tech Compliance Tracker: French Finance Minister Embraces US Shift On Big Tech Tax; USC, Amazon To Develop Machine Learning Research Facility

Here’s the latest news from the technology industry, which is coming under increasing global scrutiny from governments around the world.

French Finance Minister Embraces American Shift On Big Tech Taxes 

Bruno Le Maire, the finance minister of France, embraced the support of the Biden administration on a potential international tax on Big Tech, CNBC reported.

“I think it is very good news that the new Secretary for the Treasury Janet Yellen just explained that she was open about the idea of thinking about a new international taxation with the two pillars: first of all, digital taxation and, of course, also a minimum taxation on corporate tax,” Le Maire said at the Davos Agenda summit through video conference, per CNBC.

The news comes as Yellen expressed her backing of pleas for technology firms to pay a greater share of their sales in the nations where they work. Former President Donald Trump was against the potential tax plans, contending that they discriminated against U.S. companies.

USC, Amazon To Make Machine Learning Research Facility

Amazon is working to help make a machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) center at a California university, GeekWire reported. The Center for Secure and Trusted Machine Learning, part of the Viterbi School of Engineering at the University of Southern California (USC), will back research that examines methods to secure and safeguard privacy in ML.

Salman Avestimehr, a USC professor, will head up the center and will also supervise connected fellowships. The center will take eligible Ph.D. candidates from the university into its Amazon Machine Learning Fellows Program. Avestimehr said a number of firms beyond Amazon could reap the rewards from the center’s findings.

“Amazon is interested in this, and many others. [Machine learning] is a hot topic, and it’s on everybody’s mind,” he noted, per GeekWire. “Privacy, security and trust resonate with everybody.”

Facebook Pans Apple’s App Tracking Transparency Mandate

Apple said in an announcement for Data Privacy Day that App Tracking Transparency will soon mandate that apps receive users’ consent prior to tracking their information across other firms’ apps or websites. The tech company said the mandate will launch widely in early spring with the release of tvOS 14, iPadOS 14 and iOS 14. According to Apple, users will be able to see which apps have asked for consent under “Settings” and can make modifications there.

However, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg panned the move in a recent earnings conference call with analysts.

“Apple has every incentive to use their dominant platform position to interfere with how our apps and other apps work, which they regularly do to preference their own. And this impacts the growth of millions of businesses around the world, including with the upcoming iOS 14 changes — many small businesses will no longer be able to reach their customers with targeted ads,” Zuckerberg said on the call.

Facebook, Inc. had reported on Wednesday (Jan. 27) as part of its Q4 and full-year 2020 earnings that total revenue jumped by 33 percent year over year for the three months ending Dec. 31, 2020. The firm registered $27.19 billion in ad revenue for the quarter, marking a 31 percent year-over-year surge. 

EU Lawmakers Amenable To Delaying Big Tech Hearing 

European Union lawmakers have notified Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Alphabet that they are amenable to postponing a possible hearing past its initially scheduled date of Feb. 1. The European Parliament had invited leaders of the companies to a hearing in Europe to help them develop an opinion on the strict new rules the European Commission had put forward. Parliament’s economic affairs committee had given the invitations. It was “willing to consider rescheduling and looking into alternative dates later than the originally planned date of Feb. 1,” according to a letter viewed by Reuters.

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