Meta Logo Mimic?

May 16, 2022

Suing the Big Tech company Meta is like tilting windmills. Most of these lawsuits are dismissed, but sometimes the little guy has a decent chance at beating the giant. Fast Company details one of Meta’s latest fiascos: “Meta Faces Lawsuit Over Logo.” The Swiss blockchain nonprofit organization Dfinity filed a trademark infringement against Meta in a Northern California court. Dfinity’s lawsuit alleges that Meta’s new logo, shaped like an M infinity sign, bears a striking resemblance to their infinity logo.

Dfinity claims that Meta’s logo puts their reputation at stake, because Meta has a horrible record of violating people’s privacy and the association would prevent them from attracting users. The infinity symbol is in the public domain. Only original variations on it, such as the Meta and Dfinity logo, can be trademarked. Dfinity probably does not have a leg to stand on or curve to rest on with their lawsuit, but they might win. The infinity symbol is not unique to Dfinity, so if Meta had purloined the “Dfinity” name there would be a better case.

While Dfinity’s case could be dismissed, it could mean something worse:

“But even if Dfinity fails to prove its case, the lawsuit could jeopardize Meta’s attempts to earn trademark protection for its logo. That’s because it could highlight how unremarkable the logo really is. (Meta filed for trademark protection in March.) Says Lee: ‘The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office might find that [Meta’s logo] is not inherently distinctive on its own and require more evidence that consumers associate the symbol with a single company.’”

Lately, Meta is not getting a decent press. The little guy will not likely win, especially if Meta has a good legal team. Meta could ultimately lose control of their logo and it could be a fiasco as bad as Disney losing the copyright on Mickey Mouse.

Whitney Grace, May 16, 2022

NSO Group Knock On: Live from Madrid

May 10, 2022

The NSO Group fan Paz Esteban has been gored (metaphorically speaking, of course). “Spain’s Spy Chief Sacked after Pegasus Spyware Revelations” reports that “Paz Esteban reportedly loses job after Catalan independence figures were said to have been targeted.” How about those hedging Latinate structures. The write up alleges:

Paz Esteban reportedly confirmed last week that 18 members of the Catalan independence movement were spied on with judicial approval by Spain’s National Intelligence Centre.

I suppose spying on the Barcelona football team makes sense if one roots for Real Madrid. It is a stretch that 18 individuals who want to do a 180 degree turn away from Madrid’s approach to maintaining law, order, health, peace, prosperity, etc. etc.

The write up notes:

Esteban reportedly confirmed last week to a congressional committee that 18 members of the Catalan independence movement were spied on with judicial approval by Spain’s National Intelligence Centre (CNI), leaving the Catalan regional government demanding answers.

Yep, the action was approved. Life would have been more like a late dinner than a burger from a fantastic American fast food restaurant. That’s the problem. The gobbling of the fries was approved by lawyers.

That’s a crisis. Making the spry 64 year old Ms. Esteban López the beard is unfortunate. My hunch is that some youthful whiz kids found the NSO Group’s Pegasus a fun digital horse to ride. The idea floated upwards for approval and ended up in front of the “judiciary.” That mysterious entity thought letting the kids ride the Pegasus was a perfectly okay idea.

Now a crisis is brewing. The gored Ms. Esteban López may only be one of the first in the intelligence, law enforcement, and judiciary to feel the prick of the digital bull’s horns and the knock from the beastie’s hooves.

Several observations:

  1. Who else will be implicated in this interesting matter? Who will be tossed aloft only to crash to the albero del ruedo?
  2. Will a parliamentary inquiry move forward? What will that become? A romp with Don Quixote and Sancho?
  3. Is a new Spanish inquisition about to begin?

Excitement in the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas perhaps?

Stephen E Arnold, May 10, 2022

Some Real News People Are Never Happy

May 10, 2022

The European Publishers Council has joined the fight against Googley ad practices. Reuters reveals, “Google’s Advertising Tech Targeted in European Publishers’ Complaint.” Reporter Foo Yun Chee suggests the move could strengthen the current EU antitrust investigation into the company, but we have seen how Google tends to shrug off European efforts to constrain it. We are not sure this is the straw to break the behemoth’s back. Nevertheless, the write-up tells us:

“The European Commission opened an investigation in June into whether Google favors its own online display advertising technology services to the detriment of rivals, advertisers and online publishers. read more The publishers’ trade body, whose members include Axel Springer (SPRGn.S), News UK, Conde Nast, Bonnier News and Editorial Prensa Iberica, took its grievance to the European Commission, alleging Google has an adtech stranglehold over press publishers. ‘It is high time for the European Commission to impose measures on Google that actually change, not just challenge, its behavior,’ EPC Chairman Christian Van Thillo said in a statement. ‘Google has achieved end-to-end control of the ad tech value chain, boasting market shares as high as 90-100% in segments of the ad tech chain,’ he said.”

Indeed, which is why it is difficult to imagine consequences strong enough to make the company change its rapacious practices. Naturally Google denies any wrongdoing, gesturing at the billions of dollars it pays out to publishers each year. We appreciate the effort at redirection, but the real issue is whether publishers and other advertisers would be making more if Google played fair.

Cynthia Murrell, May 10, 2022

Facebook and Litigation: A Magnet for Legal Eagles

May 6, 2022

Facebook now called Meta is doing everything it can to maintain relevance with kids and attract advertisers. A large portion of Facebook’s net profits comes from advertising fees. Meta has not been entirely clear with its customers, because CNN Business explains in the story: “Facebook Advertisers Can Pursue Class Action Over Ad Rates” that the company lied about the ability of its “potential reach” tool.

San Francisco US District Judge James Donato ruled that millions of people and businesses that paid for Facebook ads and Instagram, a subsidiary, can sue as a group. Facebook’s fiasco started in pre-pandemic days:

“The lawsuit began in 2018, as DZ Reserve and other advertisers accused Facebook of inflating its advertising reach, by increasing the number of potential viewers by as much as 400%, and charging artificially high premiums for ad placements. They also said senior Facebook executives knew for years that the company’s “potential reach” metric was inflated by duplicate and fake accounts, yet did nothing about it and took steps to cover it up.”

Knowingly deceiving customers is a common business tactic among executives. They do not want to disappoint their investors, or lose face, or money. It is such a standard business tactic that many bigwigs do get away with it, but some are caught with hands so red that ghee would make a bull angry (along with their customers). Facebook argued that a class action lawsuit was not possible, because the litigants were too diverse. The litigants are large corporations and individuals with home businesses. Facebook claimed they would not know how to calculate images.

Judge Donato said it made more sense for Facebook’s irate customers to sue as a group, because “ ‘no reasonable person’ would sue Meta individually to recover at most a $32 price premium.”

Ticketmaster faced a similar scandal when they charged buyers absurd fees for tickets. The fees went directly into the pockets of the executives. Ticketmaster’s class-action lawsuit resulted in all plaintiffs reaching $3-4 Ticketmaster gift certificates for every ticket they bought. The gift certificates could not be combined and had expiration dates.

Big businesses should be held accountable for their actions, but the payoff is not always that great for the individual.

Whitney Grace, May 6, 2022

Google: The Dog Ate My Homework and I Want a Free Pass to the Circus

May 3, 2022

I read “Google Urges Court To Scrap $1.6 Billion EU Antitrust Fine.” I interpreted the headline to mean that Google wants the court to forget the actions, legal decision, and fine. When I was in graduate school, I taught a class (I know it is hard to believe) and students came up with some wild and crazy explanations for missing group meetings, turning in papers late, and screwing up an examination question. Yep, the “dog ate my homework” was offered to me. I also liked the reasoning of a student to qualify for a free pass to the circus. Yes, that happened.

The write up reports as actual factual:

Alphabet unit Google on Monday urged Europe’s second-highest court to dismiss a 1.49-billion-euro ($1.6 billion) fine imposed by EU antitrust regulators three years ago for hindering rivals in online search advertising.

Imagine. Hindering rivals.

Stephen E Arnold, May 3, 2022

NCC April Vendor Contracts: How to Be Slick and Lose Customer Trust

April 28, 2022

I read “Build Vs. Buy: Vendor Contract Shenanigans.” The write up is an excellent reminder of the character traits of MBAs and lawyers; that is, you lose if we provide you with a contract you sign without understanding. The article contains a number of examples of legal behavior which might strike some people as fraud. Oh, well, that is a signed contract, and your firm must comply. I love it when the lawyer tells a contracting officer, “Hey, we are sorry. These are standard terms.” Yep, standard for whom?

Let me highlight three of the methods used to inflict maximum gain for the vendor and delivering discomfort to the customer. Please, consult the original write up for the fourth item on the list.

First, the vendor (in this case, the Google) specifies that when the guaranteed level of service fails, the customer must get everyone in the chain to notify one another that the Googley service did not deliver. A failure to complete this notification within 30 days means you forfeit a “service credit.” (I don’t know what a service credit means, but I don’t think it means cash money.)

Second, the vendor collects the money before service begins. If you don’t use what you bought, there is no refund.

Third, sign our deal and our company will use your logo forever.

The MBAs and lawyers involved in deals with these types of clauses have an ideal rationalization: We are just doing our jobs.

Yes, these individuals are. Just following orders. Where have I heard that before?

Stephen E Arnold, April 28, 2022

Equality: Man Versus Company (A Big Company)

April 26, 2022

I read “DC Attorney General Says Fighting Big Tech Is Like David Versus Goliath.” I learned:

“In a real way, when you take on tech, it’s David versus Goliath,” Racine said in a recent interview with CNBC in his office. “Which means you’ve got to be thorough, studied and precise. And willing to go the distance.”

This statement allegedly comes from District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine.

The article added:

He said he’s not surprised that the tech companies would hire the most experienced lawyers to back them up and engage in a process that “grinds down smaller players and plaintiffs.” And, he said, he has faith that the courts, with a little bit of extra explanation on the particulars of their cases, will come around. “We are willing to take on that David role,” Racine said. “And after all, I think, David won.”

David, as I understand it, used a sling and maybe some help from a higher power. Today’s battle is digital, legal, and informational.

The interesting question is, “Which is more equal in the US men (who in theory enjoy certain rights) or companies (which I believe are persons under current rules and regulations)?”

My hunch is that money decides equality because cash can intervene in the digital, legal, and informational world. Very few are clued into this ability to put the finger on the scales of justice. She’s blind, isn’t she or is it them? (Sorry, I cannot get my pronouns straight.)

Stephen E Arnold, April 26, 2022

Has the Softie Been Winged by EU Antitrust Regulators?

April 25, 2022

I read “ Microsoft on EU Antitrust Regulators’ Radar after Cloud Practices Complaints by Rivals.” The big outfit in Redmond has been keeping a low profile, allowing Amazon, Apple, Facebook / Zuckbook, and Google take the glow in the dark paint ball pellets. Now the Softie has been splatted in acid green polyethylene glycol. Lookin’ good in spring colors I suppose.

The write up states:

Microsoft’s rivals and customers have been served a questionnaire with various queries by EU antitrust regulators seeking information about the company’s business and licensing deals. The latest action hints at a possible formal investigation into Microsoft’s cloud business that might take place down the line.

Paint balls can sting, but direct hits are fairly safe, just messy. Take two or three in one eye, and the target might stumble around looking for a safe haven.

What competitors are not happy with Microsoft’s approach to the cloud market? The write up names NextCloud and OVHcloud, and others may have shared their thoughts.

The next volley of shots may not be from paint ball guns. More lethal weapons might be flown over the customer centric folks in Redmond. Microsoft has coughed up money in the past, and it may have to bleed some cash to make the possible legal drones stop dropping grenades from the clouds.

Stephen E Arnold, April xx, 2022

Google: Visits to Paris Likely to Increase

April 22, 2022

In the unlikely publication for me, Adweek published an interesting story: “French Sites Ordered to Stop Using Google Analytics Is Just the Beginning.” That title seems ominous. The election excitement is building, but the actions of Commission  Nationale de l’informatique et des Libertés is likely to grind forward regardless of who wins what. The Adweek write up states:

…the French data watchdog—Commission Nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (CNIL)—ordered three French websites to stop using audience analytics site Google Analytics, deeming the site to be illegal under the General Data Protection Regulation.

The article adds:

This means that companies based in Europe using Google Analytics—which reads cookies that are dropped on peoples’ browsers when they visit a site to gauge whether they are a new or returning user—were shipping people’s personal information to the U.S.

Are Google Analytics a problem for CNIL? Probably not for the agency, but the CNIL seems poised to become a bit of a sticky wicket for Googzilla. After years of casual hand slapping, an era of RBF (really big fines) may be beginning. Google executives might find that CNIL can make a call to a fancy Parisian hotel and suggest that the Googlers be given rooms with a less salubrious location, tired decorations, and questionable plumbing. Mais oui! C’est domage.

On a positive note, Google is taking action itself. Privacy, security, fraud — well, sort of. “Google Sues Scammer for Puppy Fraud” reports:

The complaint … accuses Nche Noel of Cameroon of using a network of fake websites, Google Voice phone numbers, and Gmail accounts to pretend to sell purebred basset hound puppies to people online.

And the conduit for these alleged untoward actions? Google. Now how did Google’s smart software overlook fake websites, issue Google Voice numbers, and permit Gmail accounts used for the alleged bad puppy things? Nope. AARP connected with Googzilla. Yeah, smart software? Nope.

Stephen E Arnold, April 22, 2022

The Value of the NSO Group? Probably More Than Zero

April 19, 2022

The Financial Times published “NSO Group Deemed Valueless to Private Equity Backers.” The orange newspaper stated that a consulting firm studied the intelware outfit and provided information with this startling number. There’s a legal dust up underway, and my hunch is that legal eagles will flock to this situation: Alleged misuse of the Pegasus system, financial investments, and the people involved in assorted agreements. The story points out that NSO Group is “not a party” to this particular lawsuit. The folks funding the legal eagles are a consulting outfit called Berkeley Research Group. An outfit called Novalpina Capital convinced some to put money into the cyber gold mine. Then the PR spotlight illuminated NSO Group and a torrent flowed downhill knocking down some once impregnable structures. Plus the FT’s article references to an outfit called Integrity Partners who, according to the Financial Times, are willing to buy NSO Group for several hundred million dollars. Is this a good deal? In my opinion, something is better than zilch.

An unnamed NSO Group spokesperson indicated that the NSO Group’s system was of interest to many customers. If this is true, wasn’t the most recent license deal inked in mid 2021 for the platform? My thought is that the company’s proprietary technology would be of interest to other intelware firms interested in obtaining the licensee base and the platform which might benefit from newer, more sophisticated geo-spatial functionality which I will describe in my OSINT lecture at the US National Cyber Crime Conference on April 26, 2022. Sorry, the info is not for a free blog, gentle reader.

In my opinion, the referenced write up presents a fairly chaotic snapshot of the players, the valuation, and the legal trajectory for this matter. We need to bear in mind that NSO Group is hitting up the US Supreme Court and dealing with its Tim Apple issues.

One thing is crystal clear to me: The NSO Group’s misstep is now sending out concentric pulses which are extremely disruptive to entities rarely in the public spotlight. This is unfortunate and underscores why the Silicon Valley Tel Aviv style is not appreciated in some upscale social circles.

Stephen E Arnold, April 19, 2022

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