Vice Snaps Up Refinery29; Google Faces Class Action Suit In UK Over Tracking iPhone Users

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Vice And Virtue

The consolidation of media proceeds apace. One week after Vox nabbed New York Media, Vice said it will acquire Refinery29. The price was not disclosed, but CNN business sources put the deal below $500 million. Vice CEO Nancy Dubuc called the acquisition an “expansive moment” that will enable Vice and Refinery29 to “build a scaled global and diversified media company.” In snapping up Refinery29, Vice inherits a publication with a large, mostly-female audience. Both Vice and Refinery29 are largely supported by VC cash, and both suffered through lean times following unrealistic valuations. Vice laid off 10% of its staff in February and Refinery29 laid off 10% of its staff in October. More.

The British Vs. Google 

A London appeals court will allow a lawsuit filed by millions of iPhone users against Google’s data collection practices to proceed after an earlier ruling threw out the case. The group, called Google You Owe Us, is seeking as much as $3.9 billion to cover damages for more than 4 million people who claim Google bypassed Apple’s privacy settings to unlawfully collect data related to browsing history. The case will proceed as a “representative action” suit, which is akin to a class-action lawsuit in the United States and recognizes the violated consumers as a single group. “Today’s judgment sends a very clear message to Google and other large tech companies: You are not above the law,” said Richard Lloyd, a consumer advocate leading the case. “Google can be held to account in this country for misusing peoples’ personal data, and groups of consumers can together ask the courts for redress.” Google plans to seek permission to appeal the case from the United Kingdom’s highest court, Bloomberg reports. More.

Take To The Skies

JetBlue is expanding its customer service tech to other parts of its operation. The move is part of a transition toward using more customer-focused personalization systems a la tech-centric companies like Uber and Amazon. JetBlue has worked with the tech startup Gladly to consolidate data from emails, texts and call centers to improve customer service. But now flight attendants and employees stationed at gates will also have access to the data, and the potential use cases abound. Say, for example, someone’s flight is delayed or canceled. JetBlue could proactively offer a complimentary drink, The Wall Street Journal reports. “The challenge is to keep up with the pace of change,” said Eash Sundaram, JetBlue’s chief digital and technology officer. “Every consumer expects you to be another Facebook, Google, Apple – not an airline.” More. Ad tech vet Jason Kelly is also going after the airline industry with the launch last month of Kambr, a flight booking revenue management system built on programmatic principles.

A Rising Tide …

Snapchat and Twitter experienced sustained bounce backs on the stock market this year. Although both companies saw gut-wrenching declines in 2018, each has also managed to add about $10 billion to their respective market caps this year. Facebook, for one, is eager to take advantage of its competitors’ growth as a sign that it doesn’t have a monopolistic hold on the social media market, as it’s done at past FTC hearings when referencing Chinese social video app TikTok, writes The Information. Facebook isn’t the first tech company to take this approach. Google VP Sissie Hsiao, who runs the company’s ad networks and sell-side businesses, rebuffed a report alleging anticompetitive practices in a recent blog post by pointing to the success of major cloud rivals, such as Adobe and Amazon, and to the stock market surge of ad tech pure-plays like The Trade Desk, Rubicon Project and Telaria. More.

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