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Gmail's search is getting a significant update that will allow users to more easily narrow results to help them find a specific email. Before today, users could type in search filters by hand (e.g. With the upgraded version of Gmail search, new filters -- which Google calls "search chips" -- will appear directly below the search box for simple, one-click access.
Alphabet Inc-owned Google's $2.1 billion bid for fitness trackers company Fitbit could pose privacy risks, the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) warned on Thursday, adding its voice to other critics of the deal. Google announced the deal in November last year, as it seeks to compete with Apple and Samsung in the crowded market for fitness trackers and smart watches. Fitbit, whose fitness trackers and other devices monitor users' daily steps, calories burned and distance travelled, would give the U.S. tech giant access to a trove of health data gathered from Fitbit devices.
(Bloomberg) -- Google should move to limit any privacy and data protection risks before it seeks European Union approval to take over health tracker Fitbit Inc., European privacy authorities warned Thursday.“The possible further combination and accumulation of sensitive personal data regarding people in Europe by a major tech company could entail a high level of risk to privacy and data protection,” the regulators, known as the European Data Protection Board, said in an emailed statement. The companies should “mitigate possible risks to the rights to privacy and data protection before notifying the merger to the European Commission.”Data regulators are “ready to contribute” advice to the EU’s merger authority, according to the statement. National data agencies can fine companies for breaches and privacy violations but don’t have a role in approving deals. The European Commission, which will look at the transaction, usually focuses on the economic effect of combining firms and has never probed how a company’s acquisition of more data might affect privacy rights.Google said it plans “to work constructively with regulators to answer their questions” about the deal and won’t sell personal information to anyone.“Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads. And we will give Fitbit users the choice to review, move, or delete their data,” the company said in an emailed statement.There’s heightened concern in Europe over big tech takeovers that allow already powerful firms move into new areas. Google’s $2.1 billion acquisition of the maker of smartwatches and fitness trackers, announced in November, would add wearable devices to the internet giant’s hardware business. It also advances the ambitions of Google parent Alphabet Inc. to expand in the health-care sector by adding data from Fitbit’s more than 28 million users.Regulators have been criticized for being too permissive in allowing tech deals such as Facebook Inc.’s $19 billion takeover of messaging service WhatsApp in 2014 and its $1 billion purchase of photo-sharing service Instagram in 2012.To contact the reporter on this story: Aoife White in Brussels at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at email@example.com, Christopher Elser, Jonathan BrowningFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. is considering giving rival apps more prominence on iPhones and iPads and opening its HomePod speaker to third-party music services after criticism the company provides an unfair advantage to its in-house products.The technology giant is discussing whether to let users choose third-party web browser and mail applications as their default options on Apple’s mobile devices, replacing the company’s Safari browser and Mail app, according to people familiar with the matter. Since launching the App Store in 2008, Apple hasn’t allowed users to replace pre-installed apps such as these with third-party services. That has made it difficult for some developers to compete, and has raised concerns from lawmakers probing potential antitrust violations in the technology industry.The web browser and mail are two of the most-used apps on the iPhone and iPad. To date, rival browsers like Google Chrome and Firefox and mail apps like Gmail and Microsoft Outlook have lacked the status of Apple’s products. For instance, if a user clicks a web link sent to them on an iPhone, it will automatically open in Safari. Similarly, if a user taps an email address -- say, from a text message or a website -- they’ll be sent to the Apple Mail app with no option to switch to another email program.The Cupertino, California-based company also is considering loosening restrictions on third-party music apps, including its top streaming rival Spotify Technology SA, on HomePods, said the people, who asked not to be named discussing internal company deliberations.Read more: Apple’s Default iPhone Apps Give It Growing Edge Over App Store RivalsApple’s closed system to prohibit users from setting third-party apps as defaults was questioned last year during a hearing of a U.S. House of Representatives antitrust panel. Lawmakers pressed the issue of whether iPhone users can make non-Apple apps their defaults in categories including web browsers, maps, email and music.Being a default app on the world’s best-selling smartphone is valuable because consumers are subtly coaxed and prodded into using this more-established software rather than alternatives. Keeping users tethered to Apple’s services is important to the company as the growth of smartphone demand slows and sales of music, video, cloud storage and other subscriptions make up a greater share of the iPhone maker’s total revenue.An Apple spokesman declined to comment.The company currently pre-installs 38 default apps on iPhones and iPads, Bloomberg News has reported, including the Safari web browser, Maps, Messages and Mail.Last year, Stockholm-based Spotify submitted an antitrust complaint to the European Union, saying Apple squeezes rival services by imposing a 30% cut for subscriptions made via the App Store. Apple responded that Spotify wants the benefits of the App Store without paying for them. As part of its complaint, Spotify singled out the inability to run on the HomePod and become the default music player in Siri, Apple’s voice-activated digital assistant.Now, Apple is working to allow third-party music services to run directly on the HomePod, said the people. Spotify and other third-party music apps can stream from an iPhone or iPad to the HomePod via Apple’s AirPlay technology. That’s a much more cumbersome experience than streaming directly from the speaker.Opening the HomePod to additional music service may be a boon for the product. The speaker has lagged behind rivals like the Amazon Echo in functionality since being introduced in 2018 and owns less than 5% of the smart-speaker market, according to an estimate last week from Strategy Analytics.Also under discussion at Apple is whether to let users set competing music services as the default with Siri on iPhones and iPads, the people said. Currently, Apple Music is the default music app. If the company changes the arrangement, a user would be able to play music from Spotify or Pandora automatically when asking Siri for a song.The potential changes to third-party apps on Apple’s devices and the HomePod are still under discussion or early development, and final decisions haven’t been made, the people said. If Apple chooses to go forward with the moves, they could appear as soon as later this year via the upcoming iOS 14 software update and a corresponding HomePod software update, the people said.Apple typically announces major new iPhone and iPad software versions in June, and releases them in September around the launch of new iPhone models. For this year’s update, Apple is also planning to focus on performance and quality because the current version, iOS 13, has been riddled with bugs that upset some users.To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Gurman in Los Angeles at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tom Giles at email@example.com, Andrew Pollack, Robin AjelloFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- As global streaming giants Netflix Inc. and Walt Disney Co. spend millions of dollars to grab viewers in India, a country that could become their biggest overseas market, a homegrown rival is preparing to defend its turf.Zee5, the top domestic streaming platform set up by India’s biggest television broadcaster, is betting on local content to fend off big-spending rivals, Chief Executive Officer Tarun Katial said in an interview. The over-the-top, or OTT, service is playing to its advantage by adding more local-language shows and lower-price options to gain market share, he said.“International OTTs have neither legacy nor library with depth,” Katial said at his office in Mumbai, adding that Zee5 has produced more than 100 original shows in local languages, at least 10 times more than any rival.“We can win this content battle.”Zee5, which started in 2018, is among dozens of streaming platforms including Amazon.com Inc. locked in a race for Indian users, a market that Boston Consulting Group estimates will reach about $5 billion in 2023. With China closed to foreign streaming services, India has become a battleground for global streaming brands, with an emphasis on delivering films and TV shows to smartphone users expected to number 850 million in two years.After amassing 61 million active monthly users in its first 15 months in India, Katial says Zee5 has little choice but to keep producing new shows at even faster rates. The platform aims to add between 70 and 80 original shows over the coming year, while making 15 direct-to-digital movies for release in 2021.Representatives for Netflix and Disney’s Hotstar platform in India declined to comment.There are 22 official languages in India, creating a broad battlefield for niche audiences.“It’s a strategy to move away from fighting in the fiercely competitive segment of Hindi or English,” Bhupendra Tiwary, an analyst at ICICIdirect, said of Zee5’s local-content push. “Zee is creating its own space in this war zone where it sees more opportunity.”Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd., part of the Subhash Chandra-led Essel Group, is increasing its investment in streaming, even though the broadcaster has seen its market value plunge on concern the group’s debt had grown too large. Chandra, who opened India’s first amusement park and brought satellite television to the country, has had to sell his stake in Zee, while staying on as a board member.“We are completely insulated from the financial concern which our parent group went through last year,” Katial said. He declined to say how much the company was planning to spend on growth.Zee Entertainment shares gained 2% as of 2:36 p.m. in Mumbai trading Thursday. Zee5, the streaming platform, is planning its local-language expansion just as some of its global rivals are pushing further into India.Disney PushDisney earlier this month said it will introduce its Disney+ streaming service in India through its Hotstar platform on March 29, at the beginning of the Indian Premier League cricket season. Hotstar, which has said it has 300 million active monthly users, has relied on India’s most popular sport to draw users after spending big to secure the rights.Disney is also re-branding the Hotstar VIP and Premium subscription tiers to Disney+ Hotstar to underline its global brand.Netflix, the world’s largest streaming platform by paid subscribers, has said it intends to sign on 100 million subscribers in India, almost 25 times the customer base it had in the country as of this year. Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings said during a visit to the country in December that Netflix intends to spend 30 billion rupees ($419 million) over 2019 and 2020 to produce more local content.Netflix’s “Sacred Games” series, a local original, has drawn Indian viewers globally, the company has said. “Lust Stories,” a Hindi-language anthology of short films, released in June 2018, also drew attention.Zee5 has said its original “Rangbaaz Phirse” and “The Final Call” series are hits, along with “Auto Shankar,” a Tamil-language show.Price WarAt the same time, competitors are paring fees to draw subscribers in a country used to free services including Google’s YouTube, while paying little for bandwidth via mobile phone plans.Last year, Netflix slashed prices by as much as half in India for subscribers that commit to at least three months. Most of the country’s streaming services, including Apple TV+, Amazon Prime and Disney’s Hotstar have also offered discount deals this year and subscriptions at prices well below those in other markets.Zee5 has begun offering some region-specific packages at 49 rupees a month or 499 rupees a year to attract more viewers, said Katial. That compares with the standard packages at 99 rupees a month or 999 rupees a year.At the same time, Zee5 is planning to add 90-second videos to its platform to meet demand and compete with the likes of Beijing-based ByteDance Inc.’s TikTok, a platform that is growing fast globally among younger users. That effort will start “soon,” Katial said.(Updates with Zee shares in 11th paragraph)\--With assistance from Ragini Saxena.To contact the reporter on this story: P R Sanjai in Mumbai at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Sam Nagarajan at email@example.com, Dave McCombsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration urged the U.S. Supreme Court to reject an appeal by Alphabet Inc.’s Google, boosting Oracle Corp.’s bid to collect more than $8 billion in royalties for Google’s use of copyrighted programming code in the Android operating system.The administration weighed in on the high-stakes case on the same day that President Donald Trump attended a re-election campaign fundraiser in California hosted by Oracle’s co-founder, billionaire Larry Ellison.Ellison hosted a golf outing and photos with Trump. The event cost a minimum of $100,000 per couple to attend, with a higher ticket price of $250,000 for those who wanted to participate in a policy roundtable with the president, the Palm Springs Desert Sun reported.Google is challenging an appeals court ruling that it violated Oracle copyrights when it included some Oracle-owned Java programming code in Android. The dispute has split Silicon Valley, pitting developers of software code against companies that use the code to create programs.Google’s “verbatim copying” of Oracle’s code into a competing product wasn’t necessary to foster innovation, the U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco said Wednesday in a filing with the court.Francisco had asked the high court in September, on behalf of the administration, not to hear Google’s appeal. The Supreme Court usually, though not always, takes the solicitor general’s advice about pending appeals. In this case, the justices agreed to take the case and are scheduled to hold oral arguments on March 24.”The Obama Solicitor General Don Verrilli supported Oracle’s position in Oracle v. Google, a position maintained by Trump Solicitor General Noel Francisco,” Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger said in an email.Google contends the appeals court ruling, if not reversed, will make it harder to develop new applications.“A remarkable range of consumers, developers, computer scientists, and businesses agree that open software interfaces promote innovation and that no single company should be able to monopolize creativity by blocking software tools from working together,” the company said in a statement. “Openness and interoperability have helped developers create a variety of new products that consumers use to communicate, work, and play across different platforms.”Francisco asked the justices to give the government 10 minutes to argue its position in the case. The U.S. has “substantial interest” in issues regarding copyright law and the re-use of computer code at the heart of the dispute, he said in a filing.(Updates with fundraiser details in third paragraph. An earlier version of this story corrected spelling on former solicitor general’s name.)\--With assistance from Mark Bergen and Nico Grant.To contact the reporter on this story: Malathi Nayak in San Francisco at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at email@example.com, Peter Blumberg, Joe SchneiderFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Google is planning to move its British users' accounts out of the control of European Union privacy regulators, placing them under U.S. jurisdiction instead, the company confirmed late on Wednesday. The shift, prompted by Britain's exit from the EU, will leave the sensitive personal information of tens of millions with less protection and within easier reach of British law enforcement. Alphabet Inc's Google intends to require its British users to acknowledge new terms of service including the new jurisdiction, according to people familiar with the plans.
Facebook's content moderation plan, its IRS lawsuit, Amazon's defense in JEDI, Google Cloud deploying AMD Epyc and other stories are covered here.
Google is planning to move its British users' accounts out of the control of European Union privacy regulators, placing them under U.S. jurisdiction instead, sources said. The shift, prompted by Britain's exit from the EU, will leave the sensitive personal information of tens of millions with less protection and within easier reach of British law enforcement. Google intends to require its British users to acknowledge new terms of service including the new jurisdiction.
(Bloomberg) -- Attorney General William Barr is taking aim at a legal shield enjoyed by companies such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc. as the provision comes under increasing fire from both liberals and conservatives.Barr has accused social media companies of hiding behind a clause that gives them immunity from lawsuits while their platforms carry material that promotes illicit and immoral conduct and suppresses conservative opinions.The attorney general convened a workshop Wednesday, featuring many of the tech companies’ critics, to explore potential changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which was passed in 1996 and has been credited with allowing the then-fledgling internet to flourish.“The Justice Department is concerned about the expansive reach of Section 230, but we’re not here to advocate for a position,” Barr said in his opening remarks. “Rather, we are here to convene a discussion to help us examine 230 and its impact in greater detail.”Barr said 230 liability is relevant to the Justice Department’s ability to “combat lawless spaces online.” He could instruct his Justice Department to explore ways to limit the provision, which protects internet companies from liability for user-generated content.The technology platforms warn that any changes in their legal shield could fundamentally alter their business models and force them to review every post, making it impossible for all but the biggest companies to operate.Barr and lawmakers from both political parties have blamed Section 230’s sweeping legal protections for allowing what they see as irresponsible behavior by the big technology companies.“We are concerned that internet services, under the guise of Section 230, can not only block access to law enforcement -- even when officials have secured a court-authorized warrant -- but also prevent victims from civil recovery,” Barr said. “Giving broad immunity to platforms that purposefully blind themselves -- and law enforcers -- to illegal conduct on their services does not create incentives to make the online world safer for children.”FBI Director Christopher Wray also addressed the workshop, along with a range of lawyers, academics, child advocates, tech critics, and trade groups. Some of the speakers, such as a representative from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, have expressed concerns about how the law is currently written, or called for changes.Others argue that the law should be left alone, including the Computer & Communications Industry Association, a tech trade group that counts Google and Facebook as members. The Justice Department also plans to host private listening sessions.Representatives from Google and Facebook didn’t respond to questions about whether they’d received invitations. A spokeswoman for Twitter Inc. declined to comment.Liberal groups say internet platforms don’t do enough to stop the spread of hate speech or police political disinformation from foreign and domestic operatives. Conservatives say the tech companies censor right-wing viewpoints.Both groups seek changes to the shield that would increase companies’ liability as a solution. Lawmakers and tech policy experts from both sides of the aisle worry about children’s safety online as well as drug sales, harassment and stalking, among other issues.“A lot of people are angry for different reasons at the large platforms,” said Jeff Kosseff, a professor at the U.S. Naval Academy who has written a history of the law and is also scheduled to address the workshop. “Section 230 is a pretty attractive proxy for that anger.”While the Justice Department can make recommendations, only Congress can change the law. Some legal experts say they are perplexed by the department’s role in the Section 230 debate, which doesn’t tie the government’s hands in prosecuting violations of criminal law.“DOJ is in a weird position to be convening a roundtable on a topic that isn’t in their wheelhouse,” said Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law and longtime defender of Section 230, who is also set to speak.Lawmakers are exploring an array of possible changes to the law, looking to use it to make companies police content in a politically “neutral” manner, rein in use of the shield by short-term home-rental companies or protect voters from misinformation. Democratic presidential hopefuls including former Vice President Joe Biden have weighed in with calls to repeal or change the law.When it comes to cases where online material exploits children, a draft bill from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a top Trump ally, would only allow the companies to keep the liability shield if they follow a set of best practices. For example, they would be required to report and delete the material, but also preserve it for law enforcement. Critics worry that the measure would also undermine encrypted communications because encoded platforms can’t see what material the law would prompt them to report.In 2018, in the first successful effort to chip away at the shield, Congress eliminated the liability protection for companies that knowingly facilitate online sex trafficking.The critics propose a range of changes -- from raising the bar on which companies can have the shield, to carving out other laws, to repealing Section 230 entirely. Uniting them, however, is the belief that the provision enables an online environment rife with political misinformation, drug dealing, child abuse and other ills.Technology companies counter that Section 230 allows social media startups to flourish because they don’t have to monitor postings and protects free speech. It also fosters their efforts to remove offensive content because the law allows them to take down material without facing penalties.“Section 230 encourages services to fight misconduct and protect users from online harms by removing disincentives to moderate abusive behavior,” Matt Schruers, the president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, said in an excerpt from his prepared remarks.David Chavern, president of the News Media Alliance, a trade group representing publishers, doesn’t favor repealing the law but proposes “limiting the exemption for just the very largest companies, who both derive the most benefits from Section 230 and have the greatest capacities to take legal responsibility,” according to a copy of his remarks obtained by Bloomberg.Chavern’s group blames the advertising practices of Google and Facebook for the decline of journalism and advocates for policies to rebalance the relationship.(Updates with comments from Barr from eighth paragraph)\--With assistance from Naomi Nix.To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Brody in Washington, D.C. at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Sara Forden at email@example.com, Paula Dwyer, John HarneyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Google is profiting from the illegal online trade of weapons including stun guns and pepper sprays, which are being advertised and delivered to offenders in the UK. Paid-for listings on its shopping service as well as ads on Google Search are promoting sellers on eBay and other sites who are offering to illegally sell and ship weapons to British consumers. Electroshock weapons advertised by Google include a stun gun advertised as 950,000 volts - almost 20 times more powerful than Tasers used by police.
Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) is witnessing rapid adoption of its EPYC processors among cloud computing and data center providers. Should Intel, NVIDIA take note?
(Bloomberg) -- U.S. and Chinese firms hoping to deploy artificial intelligence and other technology in Europe will have to submit to a slew of new rules and tests, under a set of plans unveiled by the European Union to boost the bloc’s digital economy.The legislative plans, outlined on Wednesday by the European Commission, the bloc’s executive body, are designed to help Europe compete with the U.S. and China’s technological power while still championing EU rights. The move is the latest attempt by the bloc to leverage the power of its vast, developed market to set global standards that companies around the world are forced to follow.Big U.S. companies, like Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, won’t get any reprieve from the Commission, which in its Digital Services Act plans to overhaul rules around legal liability for tech firms, and is also exploring legislation for ‘gate-keeping’ platforms that control their ecosystems.“It’s not us that need to adapt to today’s platforms. It’s the platforms that need to adapt to Europe,” European Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton said at a press conference in Brussels. If they can’t find a way adapt to the bloc’s standards, “then we will have to regulate and we are ready to do this in the Digital Services Act at the end of this year.”On artificial intelligence, users and developers of AI systems used in high-risk fields, such as health, policing or transportation, would face legal requirements, including tests by authorities, which could also certify the data used by algorithms, the Commission said. High-risk AI could also face sanctions, while lower-risk applications should abide by a voluntary labeling program, the body said.Facial RecognitionFacial recognition, which falls under the high-risk category, generally can’t be used for remotely identifying people under current EU rules – with some exceptions. The bloc is planning to start a debate on the topic to determine where European citizens would accept those exceptions.The EU also said it would propose plans to encourage data sharing among businesses and with governments, with the aim of pooling large sets of high-quality industrial data. The AI plans will be open for public consultation until late May and will aim to propose legislation based on the feedback as soon as the end of year.U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios encouraged the EU to “pursue an innovation friendly” approach that doesn’t overly burden companies, in a statement reacting to the EU’s announcement. “The best way to counter authoritarian uses of AI is to ensure the U.S. and its allies remain leaders in innovation,” he said.Tech PlatformsAs part of its Digital Services Act, the EU said it was considering rules for large powerful platforms that act as gate-keepers to ensure their markets remain fair and contestable. The possible legislation is seen as a way to complement antitrust law, which some have criticized for being to slow to restore balance in markets harmed by dominant firms’ behavior.“Some platforms have acquired significant scale,” the commission said in its document. “We must ensure that the systemic role of certain online platforms and the market power they acquire will not put in danger the fairness and openness of our markets.”In a statement, Edima, the platform association that represents platforms like Facebook and Google, said it “is committed to working with the European Commission to clarify roles and responsibilities within the online ecosystem.”Read more: Barr Takes Aim at Legal Shield Enjoyed by Google, FacebookThe EU’s package will also take aim at platforms’ liability as a global debate continues to simmer around who’s legally responsible for content on social media sites, amid the spread of disinformation, hate speech, and violent content.Under current EU rules, tech companies aren’t responsible for what users post on their sites unless illegal content has been flagged to them. The rules were drafted almost 20 years ago in an effort to encourage tech firms to grow and innovate, and companies worry that axing the provision could potentially force them to censor posts.Content Liability“We ask the commission to tread carefully as they look at how to tackle issues that will ultimately determine the future of tech,” said Raegan MacDonald, head of EU public policy at Mozilla Corp. “Instead of seeing tech as all the same - which it is not - the EU needs to be clear which companies and what practices and processes should be the focus of intervention.”Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg met with EU officials in Brussels on Monday as he called on governments to devise a different liability system for platforms -- somewhere between newspaper publishers, who can be sued for what journalists write in their pages, and telecommunications companies, who aren’t liable for customer conversations.Commissioner Breton dismissed Zuckerberg’s framing, saying his comparison to telecom companies was “not relevant.” The comment suggests the EU could lean toward much more onerous requirements on liability for platforms.(Updates with throughout with details of the plan, starting in third paragraph)\--With assistance from Aoife White.To contact the reporter on this story: Natalia Drozdiak in Brussels at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Giles Turner at email@example.com, Amy Thomson, Nikos ChrysolorasFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Here are five top-ranked technology stocks to add to your portfolio that are well poised to gain from advanced machine learning capabilities.
(Bloomberg) -- Last month, a strategist for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps proposed an alarming tactic to revive the ailing economy: Take an American hostage every week and ransom them back for $1 billion each.“That’s the way to do it,” Hassan Abbasi told a public meeting in Nowshahr, a port city on the Caspian Sea.Abbasi’s bombast, widely viewed on YouTube, has been disowned by the IRGC’s leadership and isn’t policy. Yet it raises a vital question: What would hard liners do differently if they secured control over all branches of power in Iran? That’s important because it’s probably about to happen for the first time since 2013, when President Hassan Rouhani swept to office promising an end to Iran’s long-running nuclear standoff with the West and a new era of economic prosperity.So-called “principlists” – conservatives wedded to the theocratic ideals of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution and often connected to the IRGC -- are set to win elections to Iran’s parliament on Friday. And although the legislature has only limited powers, the vote will set the foundations for presidential elections due next year and the eight-year political cycle to follow.The return of conservative control to all branches of government for the first time since the end of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency in mid-2013 has significant potential consequences for the Iranian economy and the wider Middle East – including any hopes Iran will renegotiate its landmark nuclear settlement with the U.S.About 90 current MPs have been barred from running again, tipping the field heavily in favor of principlists who have argued that Iran should not yield to the economic privations imposed by tightening U.S. sanctions.That piles additional pressure on Rouhani and his less ideologically-driven government, which has already lost much credibility in the eyes of voters since the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal he championed.Rouhani signed that agreement expecting the accompanying sanctions relief to trigger foreign investment and plug the nation of 84 million into the global economy after decades of isolation. Never fully realized, those hopes disappeared after the U.S. reimposed sanctions in 2018.“What is especially important for people is to see this severe pressure lifted from their lives in line with the values of the Islamic revolution,” Alaeddin Boroujerdi, prominent conservative legislator and former head of parliament’s committee on foreign policy and national security, said in a phone interview on Monday. “As the Supreme Leader has said, we are in an imposed economic war.”Officials from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei down are urging a shift to “economic resistance” -- an idea floated in the midst of nuclear negotiations as a fall back option should the West abrogate its commitments. That would see Iran abandon Rouhani’s push to open up to Western investment and trade, and focus, instead, on boosting self-reliance. It calls for looser fiscal policies to support the poor, less dependence on oil exports, and more investment in domestic industries.Conservatives say Iran should turn instead to China, already the nation’s biggest trade partner, though that’s probably not enough to ensure growth. Chinese energy technologies have disappointed Iranian partners in the past and, already embroiled in a trade war with the U.S., China has proved reluctant to invite American penalties by buying much more Iranian oil.The re-imposition of sanctions has hammered the economy – the International Monetary Fund estimates it shrank by 9.5% last year – but Iran’s growth, inflation and, to an extent, its currency have begun to stabilize, even if recovery remains elusive. Oil exports, down 80%, show no sign of recovering. Yet the construction sector is doing well, as are steel production and exports for cash to Iran’s immediate neighbors – a trade more difficult for the U.S. to interdict than oil.A crisis budget issued in December gives an idea of the emerging approach. Unusually, it received approval from the National Economic Security Council before presentation to parliament, signalling cross-system support. It boosts handouts for the poor as well as defense spending, though in both cases by less than inflation and relying on some heroic growth and oil export assumptions to make the sums add up.Iran appears confident it has sufficient reserves to plug those fiscal holes, at least for a year or so. Critically, that would take the country beyond November elections in the U.S., which might bring a change of attitude in Washington – even if President Donald Trump secures a second term.“The Trump administration has framed its policy as giving Iran a choice: Capitulate to U.S. demands, or see the economy collapse,” said Henry Rome, an Iran specialist at Eurasia Group, a New York-based risk consultancy. “But the Iranians have made it clear they are forging their own third option – to muddle through until circumstances shift in their favor.”IRGC to Power?In a recent research note to clients, Tehran business consultancy Ara Enterprise predicted a landslide conservative victory in parliamentary polls, leading to deeper political and economic isolation. Yet they could also surprise.“Many believe that the IRGC in power is not such a bad scenario, as no one could sabotage their mandate,” the note said, whereas reformist President Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005), like Rouhani, faced a conservative assault. IRGC control, it added, could even lead to a Nixon-to-China-style settlement with the U.S., something conservatives would never allow with Rouhani as president.The IRGC, the only national military force listed by the U.S. as a terrorist organization, has become richer and more powerful than it was even under Ahmadinejad. Across sectors, it has taken contracts that either belonged to or were intended for foreign investors driven away by sanctions. That process is likely to continue.The risk for conservatives is that some voters will stay home, reducing turnout and, potentially legitimacy. One poll taken after fuel-price protests in November found only 21% of respondents in Tehran planned to vote, though confrontation with the U.S. has energized Khamenei’s conservative base.“It’s not a matter of reformists versus conservatives anymore,” said Mohsen, a 33-year-old who attended last week’s celebration of the revolution. “It’s about revolutionaries against non-revolutionaries, supporters of the Islamic revolution against infiltrators and deviants.”\--With assistance from Golnar Motevalli.To contact the reporters on this story: Marc Champion in London at firstname.lastname@example.org;Arsalan Shahla in Tehran at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at firstname.lastname@example.org, Lin NoueihedFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
The European Commission plans to create a single European market for data, hoping that pooling the region's deep industrial expertise will help build technology powerhouses to catch up with Silicon Valley and state-backed Chinese heavyweights. Having lagged the first wave of digital innovation, particularly in consumer markets such as social media, online shopping and smartphones, the EU is keen to make up lost ground and avoid its firms relying on data from U.S and Asian rivals. It is hoping that tapping into the trove of industrial data held by companies such as Germany's Siemens and France's Alstom could push Europe to the forefront of the next wave of innovation as machines and industrial processes are connected up via the so-called "internet of things".