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  1. France introduces 'eco-tax' on airline tickets © Getty Images France introduced an "eco-tax" on airline tickets departing from the country starting next year, the Associated Press reported. Transport minister Élisabeth Borne announced the fee, saying it will be between 1.50 euros, $1.70, and 18 euros, $20 for outbound flights. The tax is expected to raise over $200 million to be invested into environmentally friendly transportation infrastructure, like rail. Domestic flights and flights to French territories will be exempted from the tax. Flights arriving in France will not incur a fee either. The tax comes a year after the French government had to retreat from fuel tax rises following mass protests from the "yellow vests." According to the European Commission, transportation emissions account for almost a quarter of all greenhouse gas emitted by the continent. Aviation accounts for just 12 percent of transportation-related emissions, but is expected to be a growing source. The commission says that without any action, CO2 emissions from aviation will grow by up to 300 percent by 2050. Source: France introduces 'eco-tax' on airline tickets
  2. Protesters target Amazon in France calling for action on climate change PARIS (Reuters) - Several hundred environmental activists protested outside Amazon’s headquarters in Paris and at two of its regional distribution centers in France on Tuesday as part of stepped-up climate change demonstrations. FILE PHOTO: The logo of Amazon is seen at the company logistics centre in Boves, France, May 13, 2019. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo The protest drew support from groups including Friends of the Earth and the “Gilets Jaunes”, who have mounted months of demonstrations against President Emmanuel Macron. Some 240 people blocked access to Amazon’s main office in Paris, organizers said. Around 70 people blockaded a distribution center in the southern city of Toulouse and another 80 were gathered at a center near the city of Lille, with workers forced to go home and operations at both warehouses halted, organizers said. Amazon representatives did not respond to a request for immediate comment. The retailer earlier announced the creation of 1,800 new jobs in France as it looks to raise its number of permanent staff to 9,300 by the end of the year. Those taking part in the demonstrations said they were angered by a report issued last week that showed France was falling behind on its commitments to reduce CO2 emissions and combat climate change. “We have to be radical with our demands,” said Alma Dufour, a campaigner with Friends of the Earth. “There are no little steps left to take when it comes to climate change. We want a transformation of the system.” Organizers said the aim was not to have Amazon shut down in France but to cancel its plans for expansion in 2020. The U.S. online retail giant has expanded rapidly in the French market, prompting domestic rivals to up their game. But environmental activists say Amazon needs to do more to limit its environmental impact, including changing a policy of destroying unsold non-food items such as clothes, cosmetics and luxury goods. French Prime Minister Edouard Phillipe called for a ban on the destruction of non-food items last month, saying he hoped it could be brought into effect within four years. Protests against climate change have expanded across northern and western Europe in recent months, with Swedish teenaged activist Greta Thunberg leading a high-profile campaign in which students have walked out of school on Fridays. Last Friday, French police used pepper spray to forcibly remove scores of members of the Extinction Rebellion group who were occupying a bridge over the River Seine. The French government on Monday ordered an inquiry into tactics used against a peaceful protest. Source: Protesters target Amazon in France calling for action on climate change
  3. PARIS (Reuters) - U.S. online retail giant Amazon said on Tuesday it will create 1,800 permanent contract positions this year in France, its largest European market after Britain and Germany, although furniture retailer Conforama went the other way in cutting jobs. The increase will bring Amazon’s total number of permanent staff to 9,300 by end 2019 and reflects the group’s commitment to the French market where it has invested over 2 billion euros ($2.26 billion) since 2010, the statement said. Amazon’s plan comes as Conforama, the French unit of South African retailer Steinhoff (SNHJ.J) which is in the midst of a financial restructuring, plans to cut 1,900 jobs in France. Deputy finance minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher told Sud Radio that “traditional retail faces a very deep transformation. It is true that the coincidence of these two figures - 1,800 hires at Amazon and 1,900 job cuts at Conforama - reflects this transformation.” She said the French government will be “extremely vigilant” regarding Conforama and would look to limit its impact. Amazon has been expanding steadily in France where it has 20 sites, including six logistics centers, the most recent slated to open over summer in Bretigny-Sur-Orge near Paris. Amazon is the e-commerce leader in France with a market share of 17.3 percent, but its grocery market share stands at just 2 percent, according to Kantar data. The U.S. group, which has run its Amazon Prime express delivery service in Paris since 2016, has made no secret of its desire to launch a grocery delivery service in France as part of its ambitions to expand in food retail. In April, it expanded its partnership with French food retailer Casino with Amazon installing pick-up lockers in Casino stores and making more of the French company’s products available on Amazon. Source
  4. DETROIT/PARIS (Reuters) - French automaker Renault SA, its Japanese partner Nissan Motor Co and tech giant Alphabet Inc’s Waymo are exploring a partnership to develop and use self-driving vehicles to transport people and goods in France and Japan, the companies said on Thursday. The proposed venture could also be expanded to other markets, the companies said. If the partnership is realized, it will have ramifications for other alliances and other self-driving projects, most of which have yet to hit the road. Automakers across the world are re-thinking independent autonomous vehicle efforts, and instead looking for partners to share rising investment costs and regulatory risks. In Japan, a potential competitor to a Renault-Nissan-Waymo venture would be Monet Technologies, a self-driving project involving Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co and backed by SoftBank Group Corp. SoftBank and Honda also have invested in General Motors Co’s Cruise self-driving car unit. The initial agreement among Waymo, Renault and Nissan aims to “develop a framework for deployment of mobility services at scale,” according to Hadi Zablit, Renault-Nissan Alliance business development chief. Physical testing of vehicles and deployment of services would come in later phases. The two automakers will set up 50-50 joint ventures in France and Japan to develop the driverless transportation services. Zablit said a later Waymo investment is “one of the options” under consideration. With Waymo, they will also research commercial, legal and regulatory issues related to building automated transportation-as-a-service businesses in the two countries. The agreement is time-limited and exclusive in both countries, barring either side from working with competitors. Its duration was not disclosed. It is not clear how involving Waymo might affect the existing alliance between Renault and Nissan, which has been strained since the departure earlier this year of longtime chief executive Carlos Ghosn, or a proposed merger between Renault and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. FCA and Renault reached a preliminary agreement in late May to pursue a $35 billion merger. But FCA Chairman John Elkann abruptly withdrew the offer on June 6 after the French government, Renault’s biggest shareholder, blocked a board vote and demanded more time to win backing from Nissan. Waymo late last year began offering a self-driving service in Arizona called Waymo One, but with a human monitor on board. Waymo also has an existing partnership with FCA under which the automaker is supplying Chrysler Pacifica minivans for Waymo’s fledgling self-driving fleet in the United States and eventually may buy self-driving systems from Waymo for its own vehicles. FCA also agreed in early June to partner with Aurora, the Silicon Valley startup co-founded by former Waymo chief Chris Urmson and funded in part by South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Co. The alliance took an earlier step towards working with Alphabet last year, when it agreed to adopt the Google Android operating system in its future vehicles. Source
  5. Hundreds of flights were delayed at airports from Britain to Morocco and beyond. A computer breakdown briefly disrupted all air traffic in France and caused a cascade of delayed flights in multiple countries Sunday, the last day of European summer holidays. Hundreds of flights were delayed at airports from Britain to Morocco and beyond. Hours after the problem with a French automatic flight plan system was fixed, schedules still lagged elsewhere. A spokesman for French civil aviation authority DGAC said the cause of the morning breakdown was being investigated. The problem had "no impact on flight security" and was fixed before midday, allowing traffic to resume, the spokesman said. He wasn't authorized to be publicly named under the authority's rules.. But DGAC temporarily halted all air traffic under French control, which included planes flying over France. The directive covered planes going in and out of Paris from Charles de Gaulle, one of Europe's busiest airports. Passengers travelling from neighbouring countries such as Britain were particularly hard-hit as air traffic authorities struggled to re-direct flights through Europe's crowded air space. British Airways said in a statement: "We do expect disruption to some of our flights to France and Spain, as well as services flying over those countries." It offered free ticket exchanges to anyone travelling to France, Spain, Italy or Portugal. As he waited to take off for Paris from the Moroccan city of Casablanca, a Royal Air Maroc pilot described the breakdown as "exceptional." After a confusing delay, his flight was then rerouted to Milan. Source
  6. It's been a long road to get Google to pay its taxes. After a four-year investigation, Google has agreed to pay almost €1 billion ($1.10 billion) to French authorities because it did not fully declare its tax activities in the country, as reported by Reuters. The payment covers a €500 million fine and additional taxes of €465 million. Google's tax status in the European Union has always been contentious. It pays very little tax in most European countries despite doing business on the continent, because a loophole allows it to avoid taxes by essentially running a shell company in Ireland. This well-known loophole is called the Double Irish arrangement and has been described as the largest tax avoidance tool in history. "We have now settled tax and related disputes in France that have persisted for many years. The settlements comprise a €500 million payment that was ordered today by a French court, as well as €465 million in additional taxes that we had agreed to pay, and that have been substantially reflected in our prior financial results," Google said in a statement. "We continue to believe that the best way to provide a clear framework for companies that operate around the world is co-ordinated reform of the international tax system." French officials had originally hoped to claim €1.6 billion ($1.76 billion) from the search giant; far more than the £130 million (about $185 million) accepted by the UK for similar tax issues there. The French authorities raided Google's Paris headquarters in 2016 as part of their investigation, but eventually a French court found in Google's favor and said the company didn't have to pay the fine. That wasn't the end of the issue though. Together with Germany, France pushed for stricter tax regulations over major tech companies including Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. With the latest settlement achieved with Google, other tech companies may face similar action in France too. Google has had other legal troubles in France as well. Earlier this year it was fined €50 million (about $57 million) by the French National Commission on Informatics and Liberty (CNIL) for not complying with the EU's General Data Protection Regulation rules about data consent. Source
  7. French Firms Rocked by Kasbah Hacker? A large number of French critical infrastructure firms were hacked as part of an extended malware campaign that appears to have been orchestrated by at least one attacker based in Morocco, KrebsOnSecurity has learned. An individual thought to be involved has earned accolades from the likes of Apple, Dell, and Microsoft for helping to find and fix security vulnerabilities in their products. In 2018, security intelligence firm HYAS discovered a malware network communicating with systems inside of a French national power company. The malware was identified as a version of the remote access trojan (RAT) known as njRAT, which has been used against millions of targets globally with a focus on victims in the Middle East. Further investigation revealed the electricity provider was just one of many French critical infrastructure firms that had systems beaconing home to the malware network’s control center. Other victims included one of France’s largest hospital systems; a French automobile manufacturer; a major French bank; companies that work with or manage networks for French postal and transportation systems; a domestic firm that operates a number of airports in France; a state-owned railway company; and multiple nuclear research facilities. HYAS said it quickly notified the French national computer emergency team and the FBI about its findings, which pointed to a dynamic domain name system (DNS) provider on which the purveyors of this attack campaign relied for their various malware servers. When it didn’t hear from French authorities after almost a week, HYAS asked the dynamic DNS provider to “sinkhole” the malware network’s control servers. Sinkholing is a practice by which researchers assume control over a malware network’s domains, redirecting any traffic flowing to those systems to a server the researchers control. While sinkholing doesn’t clean up infected systems, it can prevent the attackers from continuing to harvest data from infected PCs or sending them new commands and malware updates. HYAS found that despite its notifications to the French authorities, some of the apparently infected systems were still attempting to contact the sinkholed control networks up until late 2019. “Due to our remote visibility it is impossible for us to determine if the malware infections have been contained within the [affected] organizations,” HYAS wrote in a report summarizing their findings. “It is possible that an infected computer is beaconing, but is unable to egress to the command and control due to outbound firewall restrictions.” About the only French critical infrastructure vertical not touched by the Kasbah hackers was the water management sector. HYAS said given the entities compromised — and that only a handful of known compromises occurred outside of France — there’s a strong possibility this was the result of an orchestrated phishing campaign targeting French infrastructure firms. It also concluded the domains associated with this campaign were very likely controlled by a group of adversaries based in Morocco. “What caught our attention was the nature of the victims and the fact that there were no other observed compromises outside of France,” said Sasha Angus, vice president of intelligence for HYAS. “With the exception of water management, when looking at the organizations involved, each fell within one of the verticals in France’s critical infrastructure strategic plan. While we couldn’t rule out financial crime as the actor’s potential motive, it didn’t appear that the actor leveraged any normal financial crime tools.” ‘FATAL’ ERROR HYAS said the dynamic DNS provider shared information showing that one of the email addresses used to register a key DNS server for the malware network was tied to a domain for a legitimate business based in Morocco. According to historic records maintained by Domaintools.com [an advertiser on this site], that email address — [email protected] — was used in 2016 to register the Web site talainine.com, a now-defunct business that offered recreational vehicle-based camping excursions just outside of a city in southern Morocco called Guelmim. Archived copies of talainine.com indicate the business was managed by two individuals, including someone named Yassine Algangaf. A Google search for that name reveals a similarly named individual has been credited by a number of major software companies — including Apple, Dell and Microsoft — with reporting security vulnerabilities in their products. A search on this name at Facebook turned up a page for another now-defunct business called Yamosoft.com that lists Algangaf as an owner. A cached copy of Yamosoft.com at archive.org says it was a Moroccan computer security service that specialized in security audits, computer hacking investigations, penetration testing and source code review. A search on the [email protected] address at 4iq.com — a service that indexes account details like usernames and passwords exposed in Web site data breaches — shows this email address was used to register an account at the computer hacking forum cracked[.]to for a user named “fatal.001.” A LinkedIn profile for a Yassine Algangaf says he’s a penetration tester from the Guelmim province of Morocco. Yet another LinkedIn profile under the same name and location says he is a freelance programmer and penetration tester. Both profiles include the phrase “attack prevention mechanisms researcher security tools proof of concepts developer” in the description of the user’s job experience. Searching for this phrase in Google turns up another Facebook page, this time for a “Yassine Majidi,” under the profile name “FatalW01.” A review of Majidi’s Facebook profile shows that phrase as his tag line, and that he has signed several of his posts over the years as “Fatal.001.” There are also two different Skype accounts registered to the ing.equipepro.com email address, one for Yassine Majidi and another for Yassine Algangaf. There is a third Skype account nicknamed “Fatal.001” that is tied to the same phone number included on talainine.com as a contact number for Yassine Algangaf (+212611604438). A video on Majidi’s Facebook page shows him logged in to the “Fatal.001” Skype account. On his Facebook profile, Majidi includes screen shots of several emails from software companies thanking him for reporting vulnerabilities in their products. Fatal.001 was an active member on dev-point[.]com, an Arabic-language computer hacking forum. Throughout multiple posts, Fatal.001 discusses his work in developing spam tools and RAT malware. In this two-hour Arabic language YouTube tutorial from 2014, Fatal.001 explains how to use a RAT he developed called “Little Boy” to steal credit card numbers and passwords from victims. The main control screen for the Little Boy botnet interface includes a map of Morocco. Reached via LinkedIn, Algangaf confirmed he used the pseudonyms Majidi and Fatal.001 for his security research and bug hunting. But he denied ever participating in illegal hacking activities. He acknowledged that [email protected] is his email address, but claims the email account was hacked at some point in 2017. “It has already been hacked and recovered after a certain period,” Algangaf said. “Since I am a security researcher, I publish from time to time a set of blogs aimed at raising awareness of potential security risks.” As for the notion that he has somehow been developing hacking programs for years, Algangaf says this, also, is untrue. He said he never sold any copies of the Little Boy botnet, and that this was one of several tools he created for raising awareness. “In 2013, I developed a platform for security research through which penetration test can be done for phones and computers,” Algangaf said. “It contained concepts that could benefit from a controlled domain. As for the fact that unlawful attacks were carried out on others, it is impossible because I simply have no interest in blackhat [activities].” Source: French Firms Rocked by Kasbah Hacker? (KrebsOnSecurity - Brian Krebs)
  8. French regulator says Google must pay news sites to send them traffic Officials rejected Google's plan to stop using snippets in news search results. Enlarge Sarah-Jane Joel / Getty Images 156 with 95 posters participating, including story author France's competition authority says that Google must go back to the bargaining table to negotiate a rate that the search giant will pay to link to articles on French news sites. So far, Google has flatly refused to pay fees to link to news articles, despite a new EU copyright directive designed to force Google to do so. France was the first country to transpose the EU's order into national law. Google read the French law as allowing unlicensed use of the headline of a story, but not more than that. So in September, Google removed the "snippet" that often appears below headlines from its French news search results, as well as thumbnail images. "We don't accept payment from anyone to be included in search results," Google wrote in a September blog post. "We sell ads, not search results, and every ad on Google is clearly marked. That's also why we don't pay publishers when people click on their links in a search result." French news publishers cried foul. The goal of the French law, after all, was to get Google to give them money, not to make their articles less conspicuous in search results. So they complained to the French Competition Authority. In a preliminary order Thursday, the agency said that Google's new strategy represented a "likely" abuse of its market power. "Since the European Copyright law came into force in France last year, we have been engaging with publishers to increase our support and investment in news," Google executive Richard Gingras said in an emailed statement. "We will comply with the FCA's order while we review it and continue those negotiations." The French government wants Google to pay up Under the ruling, Google must conduct "good faith negotiations" with French news organizations to arrive at a non-zero price for Google to pay to link to their content. Google must begin negotiations with news organizations within three months and send the competition agency monthly reports on its progress. During negotiations, Google must reinstate snippets in news article search results. Google will be required to retroactively pay news organizations for linking to them, going back to October 2019, at whatever rate is determined in the negotiations. The regulator is also ordering Google not to alter the indexing, classification, or presentation of "protected content"—e.g. French news articles—in its search results. Thursday's ruling was a preliminary decision designed to protect French newspapers from Google's allegedly abusive practices while the competition authority works on its ultimate ruling on the legal merits. Google controls more than 90 percent of the French search market, and the agency says that makes it likely to hold a dominant position. Thursday's decision held that Google's recent actions were "difficult to reconcile" with the new French copyright law, which was designed to generate payments from technology platforms to news organizations. French authorities are trying to avoid the outcome of a similar law passed in Spain back in 2014. That law tried to force Google to pay Spanish news organizations for linking to them, but Google responded by shutting down the Spanish version of Google news. Traffic to Spanish news sites fell as a result, with smaller news publications taking the biggest hit. The French fight could be a preview of battles in other EU nations, all of which are supposed to pass their own versions of the EU copyright directive, including the controversial provision on linking to news sites. Source: French regulator says Google must pay news sites to send them traffic (Ars Technica)
  9. BERLIN/PARIS (Reuters) - France and Germany threw their weight on Thursday behind plans to create a cloud computing ecosystem that seeks to reduce Europe’s dependence on Silicon Valley giants Amazon, Microsoft and Google. The project, dubbed Gaia-X, will establish common standards for storing and processing data on servers that are sited locally and comply with the European Union’s strict laws on data privacy. German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, speaking in Berlin, described Gaia-X as a “moonshot” that would help reassert Europe’s technological sovereignty, and invited other countries and companies to join. “We are not China, we are not the United States, we are European countries with our own values and with our own economic interest that we want to defend,” his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire said in Paris in a joint video news conference. The initiative comes as France and Germany step up economic cooperation to offset the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Both have backed an EU-wide recovery plan while Berlin has just announced a major fiscal stimulus. In an initial step, 22 French and German companies will set up a non-profit foundation to run Gaia-X, which is not conceived as a direct rival to the “hyperscale” U.S. cloud providers but would instead referee a common set of European rules. “Building a European-based alternative is possible only if we play collectively,” said Michel Paulin, CEO of independent French cloud service provider OVHcloud. One important concept underpinning Gaia-X is “reversibility”, a principle that would allow users to easily switch providers. First services are due to be offered in 2021. That is already far too late, according to analysts at Gartner, who forecast that the global market for public cloud services will grow by 17% to $228 billion this year. “The leading cloud providers have already moved quickly to build up this market,” said Gartner analyst Rene Buest. Source
  10. French terminal flashes sous-vêtements at Paris patty punters Bork!Bork!Bork! Welcome to another instalment in our occasional series of software being poorly where it really shouldn't. Today it is Five Guys, where the burgers are fresh, but the software less so… Seeking to muscle in on McDonald's greasy grip on borkage comes upstart burger chain (in the UK at least) Five Guys and a very unhappy terminal in Paris La Défense. While the outfit might trumpet its "Handcrafted Burgers & Fries since 1986," the sad little Windows flag puts things very much in the 21st century. Snapped in January by an eagle-eyed Register reader, the NCR terminal looks to be showing Windows 7 wallpaper. This is no guarantee that Windows 7 is actually running on the thing – it might be the work of a Linux admin with a particularly evil sense of humour or possibly a bitmap left lingering like a bad smell following an upgrade. Then there is the whole Windows 10 in France thing. After all, back in 2016, regulators got a little stroppy over Windows 10's supposed slurping habits that left the Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL) thwacking the software behemoth with the stale baguette of privacy. We're sure everyone is best buddies now, of course. Right? Or maybe it is simply that like all too many computers out there, it continues to run the end-of-life Operating System in the face of Microsoft's increasingly shrill pleas to please, please stop. Naturally, we would not suggest that the premium patty flinger's wares were as time-expired as Windows 7. We also asked the burger flippers what might have befallen the customer-facing device, but have yet to receive a response. As ever, if the architects of the borkage feel the urge to explain themselves, we will update accordingly. In the meantime, we were delighted to note the terminal's frame asking customers to ask staff about allergies. How about Windows 7? The thought of that being served up with some appetisingly steaming comestibles (and fries) could cause this hack to break out in hives. Source
  11. Apple has been fined 25 million euros by a French consumer fraud group for intentionally slowing down some iPhone models with a software update. The Directorate General for Competition, Consumption and the Suppression of Fraud (DGCCRF), which is part of the country's economy ministry, concluded that Apple had failed to inform users that iOS updates to older iPhones could slow down their devices. The DGCCRF revealed its findings in a Friday press release: "Following an investigation by the Directorate General for Competition, Consumption and the Suppression of Fraud (DGCCRF) and after the agreement of the Public Prosecutor of Paris, the Apple group agreed to pay a fine of 25 M € in the context of a criminal transaction. "Seized on January 5, 2018 by the Paris Prosecutor's Office to investigate the complaint of an association against Apple, the DGCCRF has shown that ‌iPhone‌ owners were not informed that the updates of the iOS operating system (10.2.1 and 11.2) they installed were likely to slow down the operation of their device. "These updates, released during 2017, included a dynamic power management device which, under certain conditions and especially when the batteries were old, could slow down the functioning of the ‌iPhone‌ 6, SE models. and 7." The investigation followed Apple's admission in 2017 that it slows down some older iPhones with degraded batteries during times of peak power usage in order to prevent unexpected shutdowns. When the ‌iPhone‌ slowdown controversy was at its height, Apple apologized for its lack of communication and offered affected customers cut-price iPhone battery replacements. The company has always maintained that the features are designed to preserve the life of the ‌iPhone‌ for as long as possible, and were not implemented to force upgrades. That being said, Apple has accepted an agreement with France's public prosecutor to pay the fine of 25 million euros and to publish a press release on its website for one month. Source
  12. PARIS (Reuters) - France’s competition authority fined Google (GOOGL.O) 150 million euros ($167 million) for anti-competitive behavior and for having unclear advertising on the Google Ads page. The fine comes as France and other European countries maintain high levels of scrutiny on major U.S. tech companies such as Google, Facebook (FB.O), Apple (AAPL.O) and Amazon (AMZN.O), which are often criticized for having relatively low tax payments. In September, Google agreed to pay close to 1 billion euros to French authorities to settle a fiscal fraud probe that began four years ago. Google, which is the world’s biggest internet search engine, has also faced growing regulatory scrutiny about the content it promotes in search results and ads. Isabelle de Silva, head of the French competition authority, told news conference that Google’s dominance in the online advertising business was “extraordinary”, with the U.S company having a market share of around 90% in that field. Google said it would appeal the fine. In January, France’s data protection watchdog had fined Google 50 million euros for breaching European Union online privacy rules. The French watchdog stated in that January ruling that Google lacked transparency and clarity in the way it informed users about its handling of personal data, and had failed to properly obtain their consent for personalized ads. ($1 = 0.8997 euros) Source
  13. PARIS (Reuters) - The French government said on Tuesday it had launched a procedure for assigning 5G frequency licenses after it approved specifications proposed by the communications regulator and the financial conditions for the licenses. The government said in a statement it had fixed the price of a bloc of 50 MHz at 350 million euros ($386 million), and the price of an additional bloc of 10 MHz at 70 million euros. Junior Economy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said in the statement that the government and French telecoms regulator Arcep had designed a mechanism that makes it possible to sell 50 MHz basic blocs at a fixed price to telecom operators. In return, operators have strong obligations to deploy their network across the French territory, she said. “These 5G coverage commitments are much more ambitious than in other European countries and will in future constitute a strong element of our country’s competitiveness,” she said. The minister said last month that the 5G spectrum would be sold at a floor price of 2.17 billion euros. Arcep said in a separate statement that it would use frequencies in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band and the total allocation would be for 310 MHz of spectrum. It said it would include four blocs of 50 MHz at a price of 350 million euros, and the rest would be blocs of 10 MHz at 70 million euros each. Arcep added that payments for the 50 MHz blocs could be staggered over 15 years, and payments for the 10 MHz over four years. Disagreements between France’s finance ministry and the telecoms authority over the spectrum to be auctioned and the minimum price for the blocs had caused concerns that the process could be delayed. Source
  14. Google will pay €1.1 million for misleading users with hotel ratings in France Google is being fined by the French government due to its use of a proprietary hotel rating system in search results and Google Maps. The fine adds up to €1.1 million, roughly $1.33 million. In 2019, the French consumer and competition agency, the DGCCRF launched an investigation into the company's star rating system for hotels following a series of complaints from hoteliers. In France, the star rating is standardized by the local tourism organization, Atout France, which Google had replaced with its own system. Google was using a scale of one to five stars, like most other hotel classification systems, but its score was using its proprietary algorithm to determine the score for each hotel. Naturally, this led to differences between the official rating for each hotel and what users would see when looking for hotels on Google Search or Maps, where the search giant was using its own algorithm. The unofficial rating was applied to over 7,500 hotels. Following the launch of the investigation, Google changed the way it presents its star ratings to align with the country's official standard, but that didn't save it from being fined. While €1.1 million may sound like a lot, it's far from the largest amount the search giant has had to pay for its malpractices. In 2018, it had to pay a whopping €4.34 billion fine for abusing its market dominance with Android to promote its other services. Source: DGCCRF via TechCrunch Google will pay €1.1 million for misleading users with hotel ratings in France
  15. Netflix has chosen France to test its first channel offering. Named Direct, the linear channel — which is only available to subscribers — will air French, international and U.S. feature films and TV series that are available on the streaming service. However, the channel will only be accessible via the service’s web browser, unlike its streaming service, which is found on set-top boxes thanks to distribution deals with French telco groups such as Orange, Canal Plus and SFR. The initiative marks Netflix’s first foray into real-time, scheduled programming. The service previously tested the option Shuffle Play, which wasn’t in real time but featured recommended programming to a sample of international users, explained a source at Netflix. The difference this time around is that the test is being localized in one country, rather than a sample of users. On its website, Netflix said it chose France to test its first linear channel due to the “consumption of traditional TV [in France].” It added that “many viewers like the idea of programming that doesn’t require them to choose what they are going to watch.” The first time, you could let yourself be guided for the first time without having to choose a particular title and let yourself be surprised by the diversity of Netflix’s library,” said the streaming giant. During lockdown, Netflix subscriptions skyrocketed around the world. The service may be testing the channel to see if it allows it to retain subscribers who may feel fatigued after having binge-watched the titles that were recommended to them through the algorithm. This new linear feature may also appeal to older demographics that make up a significant portion of households in France. The test channel had a soft launch on Nov. 5 and will be more broadly available in France early December, said Netflix. A key European market for the streaming giant, the SVOD is believed to have around 9 million subscribers in France. The streaming company opened an office in France in January and vowed to increase its investment in French content. Some of its highest-rated French originals include “Family Business” and “Plan Coeur” (The Hook Up Plan). The company’s original film roster also includes Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s next movie, “Big Bug,” which started shooting last month. Source
  16. PARIS/BERLIN (Reuters) - France and the Netherlands on Thursday called for a European Union authority to regulate large tech companies such as Google GOOGL.O and Facebook FB.O, whose dominance gives them effective internet gatekeeper status. The move increases pressure on Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is preparing a new Digital Services Act, to set tough rules for data-sharing and ensure that marketplaces are fair and open. The Franco-Dutch proposal, which calls for pre-emptive action to prevent power grabs by Big Tech, overshadowed a gathering of EU ministers that discussed artificial intelligence and cloud computing. In a joint statement, French junior minister Cédric O and his Dutch counterpart Mona Keijzer said such an authority should be able to prevent tech company platforms from blocking access to their services “unless they have an objective justification.” “These platforms can hinder the entry of new companies and limit the freedom of choice for consumers and entrepreneurs,” said Keijzer, the Dutch state secretary for economic affairs and climate policy. “Our common ambition is to design a framework ... to address the economic footprint of such actors on the European economy and to be able to ‘break them open’,” said O, the top digital policy official in the French government. In response, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, said: “What we are talking about is upholding our European values and the functioning of our single market.” The European Commission is taking a tough line against U.S. tech giants, driven in part by antitrust cases resulting in decisions that subsequently failed to boost competition because these investigations often take several years. Gatekeepers, such as companies with bottleneck power or strategic market status, will not be allowed to use data collected on their platforms to target users unless this data is shared with rivals, according to the draft regulation seen by Reuters last month. The power of digital gatekeepers was one issue discussed on Thursday at an online meeting of EU digital and telecoms ministers hosted by Germany, the current EU president. Twenty-five of the 27 EU members signed a declaration on creating a European cloud federation - a framework for the storage, use and sharing of data within the EU, Altmaier told reporters after the meeting. This would enable the development of Gaia-X, a cloud computing initiative pioneered by Germany and France. The two countries that did not sign - Cyprus and Denmark - are expected to do so soon. “This declaration is promising and shows the depth of the change that we witness,” said Commissioner Thierry Breton. “There is a common understanding that it is vital that any data can be stored and processed in Europe, according to European rules and standards.” Source
  17. New research into the effects of the French anti-piracy law Hadopi shows that its introduction failed to significantly increase box-office revenue. It did, however, cause a shift in people's movie preferences. The interest of moviegoers in U.S. films increased, at the expense of other content, including French productions. France has been fighting on the anti-piracy enforcement frontline for more than a decade now. The country was the first to introduce a graduated response system, Hadopi, where Internet subscribers risked losing their Internet connections if they were caught sharing torrents repeatedly. This elaborate anti-piracy scheme provided a great opportunity for researchers to study the effects on legal consumption. Over the years, many papers have been published, documenting both positive and negative effects. Recently, a new study was added to the mix that looks at the effect of the three-strikes law on movie theater visits. The researchers specifically examine the effects of Hadopi’s early period. That’s years ago now, but the academic papermill moves slowly. The paper, published in the peer-reviewed journal Information Systems Research, shows that the anti-piracy law didn’t increase box office revenue overall. However, it did have an effect on the type of movies people were picking. Hadopi Boosted Market Share of US Films “We show that, following the introduction of the Hadopi law, the market share for US films increased by 9% at the expense of other movies,” says Christophe Bellégo, Assistant Professor in Economics at ENSAE and lead author of the paper. This market share increase comes at the expense of other films, including French ones, as the overall expenditure on box office tickets remains relatively stable. The researchers expect that this increase in U.S. movies can be explained by the belief that these are riskier to pirate. “Without an anti-piracy law, some people illegally consume American movies online and legally watch domestic movies in theaters because illegal copies of American movies are easily available on the Internet during their theatrical exhibition. This is much less the case for other movies,” Bellégo tells us. While one might think that overall movie theater visits would increase, that’s not the case. According to the researchers, this can be explained by the fact that people have limited time and money. No Overall Revenue Increase The findings are not very uplifting for the French movie industry. Instead of boosting revenue, attendance of French films dropped. However, the researchers don’t want to conclude that the three-strikes measures failed. They simply changed consumption habits. “[The effects are] clearly not in line with the French cultural policy aimed at supporting the production of domestic films and cultural diversity. However, depending on what the ultimate goal of the government is, supporting fair competition or supporting domestic cultural production, the policy is more or less efficient.” Put differently, Hadopi corrected legal consumption patterns in favor of the US movie industry, which more accurately reflects people’s true demand. At least, when it comes to movie theater visits. Limitations There are some limitations to the study of course. The research period is limited to the period between 2008 and 2011 when Hadopi was getting started. It’s likely that these effects wore off over time. Similarly, the researchers only looked at the theatrical market. Other revenue streams, such as DVDs and Blu-ray sales, were not considered. That said, it’s clear that anti-piracy measures affect various types of content in different ways. For some it’s positive, and for others, it clearly isn’t. “As in many other areas, the effects of policies are complex. They often lead to redistributive effects where there are winners and losers. It’s a bit like sitting on a waterbed. Your weight displaces some water elsewhere, but the total volume is the same,” Bellégo tells us. “Understanding the asymmetric effects has important implications for firms whose profits may be affected by legislation fighting piracy as well as for governments for the design of their policy,” he adds. — The paper by Christophe Bellégo and Romain De Nijs, titled “The Unintended Consequences of Antipiracy Laws on Markets with Asymmetric Piracy: The Case of the French Movie Industry,” is available here (paywall). A free pre-print can be found on SSRN. Source: TorrentFreak
  18. The country expects to raise 400 million euros, or about $476 million, this year from the tax. France plans to begin collecting its new digital tax from big tech companies in December, and the country's Finance Ministry has sent out notices to the affected companies to tell them so, Reuters reported Wednesday. The 3% tax, applies to companies with annual revenue of more than 25 million euros ($28 million) in France and 750 million euros ($832 million) worldwide. The new taxation regime was introduced last year, but France delayed collecting the money from tech companies after it attracted the ire of US President Donald Trump. Trump interpreted it as a direct attack on the success of US tech giants. He threatened to retaliate by imposing tariffs on French goods, including champagne and handbags, imported to the US. Earlier this year, France agreed a temporary truce with Trump over the tax to avoid a tariff war. It was thought that France's tax rules might be superseded by the rewrite of international tax rules by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. But these new tax laws have been now delayed until next year, and France isn't willing to put off collecting tax from big tech indefinitely. France was always planning to start collecting the tax in December, and the country's 2021 budget bill reveals that country expects the tax to raise 400 million euros this year. The Finance Ministry still plans to withdraw its tax once a new international tax framework is put in place. Source
  19. Starting early next year, iOS 14 will require apps to get opt-in permission from users to collect their random advertising identifier, which advertisers use to deliver personalized ads and track how effective their campaigns were. Ahead of this change, The Wall Street Journal reports that advertising companies and publishers have filed a complaint against Apple with France's competition authority, arguing that the enhanced privacy measures would be anticompetitive. According to the report, the complaint alleges that the wording of Apple's permission prompt will lead most users to decline tracking of their device's advertising identifier, which could result in lost revenue. In August, Facebook warned advertisers that the prompt could lead to a more than 50 percent drop in Audience Network publisher revenue. In a statement, Apple reiterated its belief that "privacy is a fundamental right," adding that "a user's data belongs to them and they should get to decide whether to share their data and with whom." Apple said that its own data collection doesn't count as tracking because it doesn't share the data with other companies. Apple already delayed the introduction of the prompt until early 2021 to provide developers with more time to make the necessary changes. In a statement in September, Apple said the prompt will be displayed on an app-by-app basis: We believe technology should protect users' fundamental right to privacy, and that means giving users tools to understand which apps and websites may be sharing their data with other companies for advertising or advertising measurement purposes, as well as the tools to revoke permission for this tracking. When enabled, a system prompt will give users the ability to allow or reject that tracking on an app-by-app basis. We want to give developers the time they need to make the necessary changes, and as a result, the requirement to use this tracking permission will go into effect early next year. In the meantime, users who do not want apps to be able to access their device's advertising identifier can go to Settings > Privacy > Tracking and toggle off Allow Apps to Request to Track. Apple's developer website offers more information about the upcoming prompt. Source
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