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Technology Stock Roundup: Regulatory Matters Galore

Technology has become so ubiquitous that there are new issues requiring regulation every day. Some of these issues are covered below-

Lawmakers around the world are seriously considering delaying/blocking Libra until suitable anti-money laundering and terrorist financing controls, and proper rules for management and safekeeping of the assets underpinning Libra are available. Being a new concept, or new genre of asset, it has become very difficult to regulate it. Lawmakers have to first decide which body should be responsible for regulating it and whether a technology company can at all become involved with banking activity (this is being opposed in some quarters of the government) while remaining free from banking regulation.

There are also a lot of questions about whether Facebook FB can pull it off. There are a 50 stablecoins of the kind envisaged by Facebook, but the concern is Facebook’s platform that can give it leverage. This will allow Facebook to collect even more data on us, which just doesn’t feel too comfortable.

Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has served an initial enforcement order (IEO) on Amazon AMZN and Britain’s leading food delivery startup Deliveroo after Amazon led a $575 million funding round in the company. The funds are expected to help the company expand its international business and grow its kitchens business for renting to restaurants. It would also allow Deliveroo to make use of Amazon’s logistics capabilities as it seeks to reach customers all over Britain by year-end. In May, Deliveroo’s holding company appointed Douglas Gurr, the head of operations for Amazon UK, as a director.

The CMA said that there was reason to believe that the two companies were no longer distinct entities. IEOs are generally issued to prevent the companies from transferring key staff or commercially sensitive information. The CMA will evaluate the situation to determine if legal intervention is necessary, especially given the growing prowess of big technology companies.

Says Nicole Kar, head of the London Competition Practice at law firm Linklaters, “You might not think there is much competition between Deliveroo and Amazon right at present given Deliveroo is very focused on food delivery but that’s too simplistic. Amazon wants to get any product to the customer fast and to ‘own’ the customer for everything they possibly want to buy in their life and every way they want it delivered.”

Deliveroo’s partnerships with grocers like the Co-Op might also enable Amazon to build food delivery services beyond the core Deliveroo model. So there are a number of things the authorities are looking into.

The U.S. is investigating France’s bid to levy a 3% tax on revenue of large Internet companies, to generate $500 million euros for the government. France is targeting mostly American but also Chinese, German, Spanish and British companies. One French company and several French companies that were earlier acquired by foreign companies are also on the list. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will have up to a year to investigate the matter, which could be followed by retaliatory tariffs by the U.S., Bloomberg Tax reports. Alphabet’s GOOGL Google, Apple AAPL, Facebook and Amazon will likely be affected.

France is also following Germany to crack down on hate speech on social networking platforms. So social networks will now have to take down "clearly illicit" content related to race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or disability within 24 hours of its being flagged. If the social network fails to react within the time limit and/or doesn’t offer the necessary means to report such content, they could face fines up to 4% of their global revenues. The bill will now move between the two houses until the exact language of the law is fixed. The lower house has the final say. Free speech advocates say that since illicit content is not clearly defined, it could lead to state censorship of content.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) will give its opinion on Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems’ case against Facebook on Dec 12. The hearing, completed last week, was on the question of privacy of European citizens when companies use standard clauses to take their data outside Europe. The decision would affect hundreds of companies, but mainly those offering technology and banking services. The decision of the ECJ Advocate General is not legally binding, but its importance lies in the fact that it is usually adopted by the court's judges at a later date.

Tesla TSLA wants Apple’s help in its case against Guangzhi Cao, who it says has taken company secrets related to its self-driving technology to, the U.S. research arm of Guangzhou-based Xpeng. Tesla wants to see the engineer’s emails and have a forensic analysis conducted on his electronic devices, which is probably why it has subpoenaed Apple. Backed by Alibaba and Foxconn, Xpeng is focused on developing renewable energy cars.

You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

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