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Digital Digest – 20 January

In this week’s digital digest we look at the UK government announcing a crackdown on crypto advertising and measures to strengthen UK businesses’ resilience from cyber attacks.

We then take a look at big tech as Microsoft is set to buy Activision Blizzard for $68.7bn, and Amazon u-turns on its decision to ban UK customers from paying with Visa cards. 

Closer To Home

UK government announces crackdown on crypto advertising

The Treasury has announced plans to empower the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in relation to crypto, amid concerns that misleading advertising is putting the public at risk. According to the government there are 2.3 million people in the UK that are thought to own crypto but not all of them understand fully what they have invested in. The government says it is giving the FCA the tools to regulate the market more effectively, bringing crypto advertising under its scope with secondary regulation. The FCA warned last year that people were chasing high returns and new investors were being put at a level of increasing risk. The move marks success for the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) who have been running a campaign against crypto advertising, labelling it a red-alert priority. The ASA is expected to publish its own guidance on crypto advertising within the next 6 months.

Strengthening the UK’s resilience from cyber attacks

The British Government is consulting on new measures to boost British businesses’ cyber security after recent high profile attacks. Included in the proposals put forward is a recognition of the need for improved incident reporting and better standards within the cyber security industry as a whole.  The increase in cyber attacks, such as the attacks on SolarWinds and Microsoft Exchange Servers, demonstrated the vulnerabilities of products and services used by UK businesses and the devastating ways in which these weaknesses can, and have, been exploited.  This comes as the government committed to spending £22bn on R&D and prioritising technology in national security plans, as part of the new National Cyber Strategy. However, the work does not stop here, the UK must continue to beef up basic cyber security across industries and businesses through regulation and funding if it wants to keep up with the pace of change and proliferation of cyber crime. 

Big Tech

Microsoft to buy video game maker Activision Blizzard in $68.7bn deal

The purchase of Activision, known for their trademark ‘Call of Duty’ video game series, represents the biggest gamble by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella since he took over in 2014. Microsoft now sits as the world’s third biggest gaming company in terms of revenues, China’s Tencent and Japanese competitor Sony sit above them. Microsoft has taken clear advantage of Activision’s weakened shares after a year defined by scandal. Allegations of sexual harrassment and gender pay issues came to light when a lawsuit was filed in July 2021. Activision Chief Executive Bobby Kotick will remain despite his self-admitted poor handling of the initial response to the scandal revelations and prior controversy regarding his $155 million pay packet in 2020. Activision shares rose 37% in response to the news. The deal represents the latest in a string of gaming industry acquisitions with Microsoft having bought Bethesda studios last year in a $7.5 billion deal. The studio is looking to bolster its roster of exclusive titles as it tries to compete with Sony.

Amazon issues last-minute reprieve for Visa credit cards

Amazon has reversed its decision to ban its UK customers from using Visa credit cards. The ban came about as a result of a dispute between the two companies over payment fees. Customers were emailed at the last minute, informing them that the ban, due to come into force on 19th January, was not going ahead.  The ban, initially announced in November, likely came as a result of higher ‘interchange fees’ introduced by Visa in 2020, costing retailers an extra £150 million in total a year on cross border transactions between the UK and the EU. These higher fees will have resulted in higher prices for customers. Visa accused the tech giant of restricting consumer choice.  Amazon is thought to have blinked first in the stand-off between the two companies as no deal had been struck to alleviate the tension, however, some customers may have changed their payment method in advance, and a future ban, should Visa not compromise, has not been ruled out. 

Also In The News

  1. The introduction of a new 5G service could cause major disruption to US commerce, grounding a significant number of aircraft and stranding tens of thousands of Americans overseas, it has been warned. See here.

  2. Austria’s data regulator has found that the use of Google Analytics is a breach of GDPR. This could be just the beginning for the tech giant as other EU countries are set to follow Austria’s lead. See here

  3. Hacking attack on Red Cross’s global headquarters exposes data of 515,000 vulnerable people, some of whom had fled and been separated by conflict. See here

  4. Amazon has set its eyes on the department store of the future where an algorithm recommends consumers items of clothing to try on. See here.

  5. Papers leaked by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen revealed users in India were inundated with fake news as more whistleblowers allege Facebook is stalling their human rights impact report in the region. See here

Worth A Read

  1. FT: Facebook patents reveal how it intends to cash in on metaverse

  2. The Drum: With the licence fee threatened, what would happen if the BBC started running ads?

  3. Wired: Simulation tech can help predict the biggest threats

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