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UK class action lodged against Meta seeks $3.1B for breach of competition law

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UK class action lodged against Meta seeks $3.1B for breach of competition law

A competition legal expert, backed by a powerful litigation fund, is set to mount a multibillion-dollar class action suit against Facebook/Meta for breach of competition law on the basis that it abused its dominance of social networking in the U.K. for several years. If successful, the action would see Facebook having to pay $3.1 billion (£2.3 billion) in damages to Facebook U.K. users.

The class action lawsuit was lodged against Meta, Facebook’s parent company, yesterday with the U.K.’s Competition Appeal Tribunal in London.

The unusual approach claims Facebook should pay its 44 million U.K. users compensation for the exploitation of their data between 2015 and 2019. Effectively, it’s saying Facebook took all the personal and private data of its users — who, due to Facebook’s dominance, had no other viable social platform — and in return all its users got, in effect, was the ability to post pictures of babies and kittens to their friends and families.

The action is being mounted by international competition law expert Dr Liza Lovdahl Gormsen (pictured above) who has made submissions before the U.K.’s Parliament regarding Facebook’s market dominance, as well as written academic legal papers about it.

Dr Lovdahl Gormsen’s case rests on the idea that Facebook (recently renamed Meta) set an “unfair price” for U.K. Facebook users.

The “price” set for granting access to the social network was the surrender of U.K. users’ highly valuable personal data, who in return simply got “free” access to Facebook’s social networking platform, no financial compensation, all while Facebook generated billions in revenues.

Key to the case’s argument is that Facebook “surrounded” its U.K. users not just by locking them and their data into its platform, but also by tracking them via the Facebook pixel, on other websites, thus generating deep “social graph” data about its users.

Germain to Dr Lovdahl Gormsen’s argument is that user profiles resurfaced time and again in controversies, such as during the Cambridge Analytica scandal, further illustrating their market exploitation.

Dr Lovdahl Gormsen’s lawyers, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, have written to Meta to notify them of the claim. Dr Lovdahl Gormsen will represent the class of people affected — that is, all people domiciled in the U.K. who used Facebook at least once during 1 October 2015 – 31 December 2019.

The “opt-out” class action is the first of its kind against Meta in England and Wales. As an opt-out case, Facebook’s 4 million U.K. users will not need to actively join the case to seek damages, but will be part of the claim unless they decide to opt-out from it.

Financial backing for the case is coming from Innsworth, one of the largest litigation funders in the world. Quinn Emanuel and Innsworth have previous history in bringing consumer class action claims of this kind.

The wider context to this is that Meta is also facing a consumer class action in the U.S., regulatory action around the world and an antitrust suit from the FTC in the U.S. that could break it up from the Instagram and WhatsApp platforms.

In a statement, Dr Lovdahl Gormsen said: “In the 17 years since it was created, Facebook became the sole social network in the UK where you could be sure to connect with friends and family in one place. Yet, there was a dark side to Facebook; it abused its market dominance to impose unfair terms and conditions on ordinary Britons giving it the power to exploit their personal data. I’m launching this case to secure billions of pounds of damages for the 44 million Britons who had their data exploited by Facebook.”

Speaking to me over a call, I asked Dr Lovdahl Gormsen if Facebook could argue that there were other social networks available, such as Twitter or Myspace?

“I don’t think people can connect to their family and friends in the same way on Twitter, and Snapchat and all these other places. Facebook is quite unique in the way they’re doing it,” she said.

The action is also based on the ubiquity of the Facebook pixel on other websites. What is the significance of that to the case, I asked?

“Imagine yourself as a Facebook user,” said Dr Lovdahl Gormsen. “You may be aware that your data will be used by Facebook.com. But what the pixels are doing is when you use a third-party website, that of course has nothing to do with Facebook. That means Facebook has created many, many, many more data points on you that you actually knew you’d signed up to.”

She argues that although it’s possible for a user to remove themselves from Facebook’s platform, deep down in the Settings, in practice the vast majority of users have no idea how to do this or even know it’s possible.

Dr Lovdahl Gormsen is a Senior Research Fellow at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL), the director of the Competition Law Forum, a Non-Governmental Advisor to the International Competition Network and sits on the advisory board of the Journal of Antitrust Enforcement (OUP).

TechCrunch reached out to Facebook asking for comment but had received no reply at the time of publication.

Source: Tech

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Baidu’s electric car brand Jidu closes $400M Series A round

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Once an industry with long development cycles, the automotive space is being upended by China’s tech giants. One can hardly keep up with all the new electric vehicle brands that come out of the country nowadays. Jidu, an electric carmaking company founded by Baidu and its Chinese auto partner Geely only a year ago, said Wednesday it has banked nearly $400 million in a Series A funding round.

The new injection, bankrolled by Baidu and Geely, which owns Volvo, is a boost to the $300 million initiation capital that Jidu closed last March. The proceeds will speed up Jidu’s R&D and mass production process and allow it to showcase its first concept “robocar” — which it classifies as an automotive robot rather than a car — at the Beijing auto show in April. The mass-produced version of the robocar will launch in 2023.

Jidu’s chief executive Xia Yiping previously headed the connected car unit of Fiat Chrysler in the APAC region and co-founded Mobike, the Chinese bike-sharing pioneer acquired by Meituan in 2018.

The rate at which Jidu has moved forward is remarkable but could easily attract skeptics who question its tech’s viability. The speedy cycle, the carmaker explained, is thanks to its strategy of using a simulated prototype car to develop its smart cockpit and autonomous driving systems, rather than testing individual hardware parts in a mass-produced vehicle.

The carmaker said in as short as nine months, it has “tested and proven” the safety and reliability of its Level 4 (autonomous driving without human interaction in most circumstances) capabilities for urban and highway roads.

The EV startup is also putting a big emphasis on branding and fan community, something its competitor Nio is known for. In December, it started recruiting car lovers to join its “Jidu Union” to geek out about cars at online and offline events.

Moving forward, Jidu will be hiring and training talent specializing in autonomous driving, smart cockpits, smart manufacturing and other related technologies.

Source: Tech

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Resilience raises $45 million for its cancer care startup

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French startup Resilience announced yesterday that it has raised a $45 million (€40 million) Series A round led by Cathay Innovation. The startup wants to improve the treatment journey when you’re diagnosed with cancer so that you live a healthier and longer life.

In addition to Cathay Innovation, existing investor Singular is also participating. Other funds are joining the round, such as Exor Seeds, Picus Capital and Seaya Ventures. Finally some healthcare investors are rounding up the round — Fondation Santé Service, MACSF, Ramsay Santé and Vivalto Ventures.

I already profiled Resilience in March 2021 so I encourage you to read my previous article to learn more about the company. Co-founded by two serial entrepreneurs, Céline Lazorthes and Jonathan Benhamou, the company wants to help both patients and caregivers when it comes to cancer care.

On the patient side, Resilience helps you measure, understand and deal with the effects and side effects of cancer and cancer treatments. Users can track various data points in the app and find content and information about their illness.

But Resilience isn’t just an app that you use at home. It is also a software-as-a-service solution for hospitals so that they can better personalize their treatments. Resilience has been founded in partnership with Gustave Roussy, one of the leading cancer research institutes in the world.

Practitioners will be able to take advantage of all the data that patients have gathered from the app. This way, cancer treatment facilities understand the patient better and can adapt their care more quickly. Resilience has acquired Betterise to gain a head start when it comes to data-driven cancer care.

The long-term vision is even more ambitious than that. If you talk with a caregiver working for a cancer treatment facility, they’ll tell you they never have enough time.

And it’s even more difficult to keep track of new treatments that are becoming more and more specialized. Resilience doesn’t want to replace doctors. But it wants to help them overcome blindspots.

The result should be better care for patients, as well as more support through the Resilience app. Cancer care is a long and painful process, so anything that can improve this process is a good thing.

Source: Tech

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PQShield raises $20M for its quantum-ready, future-proof cryptographic security solutions

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Quantum computing promises to unlock a new wave of processing power for the most complex calculations, but that could prove to be just as harmful as it is helpful: security specialists warn that malicious hackers will be able to use quantum machines to break through today’s standards in cryptography and encryption. Today, a startup called PQShield that is working on “future-proof” cryptographic products — software and hardware solutions that not only keep data secure today, but also secure in anticipation of a computationally more sophisticated tomorrow — is announcing some funding as it finds some significant traction for its approach.

The startup, spun out of the research labs at Oxford, has raised $20 million, a Series A that it will be using to continue its research and, in conjunction with partners and customers, product development. The startup is already staffed with an impressive number of PhDs and other researchers across the UK (its base remains in Oxford), the U.S., France and the Netherlands, but it will also be using the funds to recruit more talent to the team.

Addition, the investment firm founded by Lee Fixel, is leading this round with Oxford Science Enterprises (formerly known as OSI) and Crane also participating. The latter two are previous backers from PQShield’s $7 million seed round in 2020.

If machine learning is shaping up to be one of the more popular (and perhaps most obvious) applications for quantum computing, security is perhaps that theme’s most ominous leitmotif.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology in the U.S. identified the risks of using quantum computing for malicious security intent some eight years ago and has been receiving research submissions globally in search of coming up with some standards to counteract that threat. (PQShield is one of the contributors.) Based on signals from other government bodies like the Department of Homeland Security — coupled with a memo from the White House just earlier this month mandating that the government’s intelligence and defense services make the switch to “quantum-resistant” algorithms in 180 days — it looks like the standards process will be completed this year, getting the wheels in motion for companies that are building solutions to address all this.

“One memo can change everything,” PQShield’s CEO and founder Ali El Kaafarani said in an interview.

PQShield (the PQ stands for “post-quantum”) has been working with governments, OEMs and others that are part of the customer base for this technology — adopting it to secure their systems, or building components that will be going into products that will secure their data, or in some cases, both. Its customers includes both private and public organizations impacted by the threat. Bosch is one OEM name that it has disclosed, and El Kaafarani said more will be revealed when PQShield announces its first commercially available solutions. (Other sectors it’s working with include automotive OEM, industrial IoT, and technology consulting, it says.)

PQShield’s solutions, meanwhile, are currently coming in three formats. There is a system on a chip that is designed to sit on hardware like smartcards or processors. It also is making software by way of a cryptographic SDK that can be integrated into mobile and server apps and technologies used to process data or run security operations. And thirdly, in a new addition since it raised its seed round, it’s making a toolkit aimed at communications companies designed specifically to secure messaging services. This latter is perhaps the one that might most immediately touch the consumer market, which has been fertile ground for malicious hackers, and has increasingly become a focus for regulators and ordinary people concerned about how and where their data gets used.

All of these, El Kaafarani said, are designed to work together, or separately as needed by a would-be customer, with the key being that what it is building now can be used today, as well as in a quantum computing future.

The idea of a “quantum threat” might sound remote to most people, considering that we’re still some years away from quantum computing becoming a commercial, scalable industry, but the reality is that malicious hackers have been collecting data that will help them “solve” current cryptographic keys using those machines for years at this point. Some of this data has been publicly shown off, and much has not. All of this has been leading, El Kaafarani noted, to an “inflection point where people are now ready to think about the next phase of public key infrastructure,” which he summed up in layman’s terms as the difference between “math that is still easy to solve, and math that will still be very difficult to solve, even on a quantum computer,” due to particular combinations of math problems and aspects of complexity theory.

Quantum computing, even at its still largely nascent stage, has been fueling a lot of startup and big-tech activity. Atom Computing (which designs quantum computing systems) and Terra Quantum (building quantum-computing-as-a-service, given the likely high cost of these machines) each raised $60 million earlier this month. Intel, IBM and Amazon are among those that have making significant investments in quantum servers and processors for years now. There are others also working specifically on quantum security.

In that context, PQShield groundbreaking role in helping develop standards, and its existing network of customers and partners, spells a clear opportunity and promise for investors:

“Thanks to an industry-leading team, decades of combined experience and a best-in-class product offering, PQShield has quickly emerged as a front runner and true authority in post-quantum cryptography for hardware and software, a field with enormous market potential,” said Fixel in a statement. “PQShield is already helping to define the future of information security, and we are excited to support their ongoing growth.”

Source: Tech

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