Google’s $2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit will reportedly face greater scrutiny from EU regulators. Reuters reports that the deal will face a full-scale antitrust investigation, which the European Commission will reportedly open next week. Regulators and consumer advocacy groups have shared fears about Google’s planned acquisition of Fitbit, related to the search giant gaining access to sensitive data like fitness activities, heart rates, sleep patterns, and more.
Consumer groups from across Europe, the US, Mexico, Canada, and Brazil have labeled Google’s Fitbit deal a “test case” for regulators’ abilities to prevent data monopolies. Google has been trying to appease European regulators by offering not to use Fitbit’s health data to target ads, but the Financial Times reports that this guarantee hasn’t been enough. EU officials are reportedly demanding more concessions that would guarantee Fitbit’s data would be open to third-party developers, and also seeking assurances that Google won’t use Fitbit data to improve its search engine.
The EU’s investigation will likely take an additional four months to dig into Google’s potential use of Fitbit data. Google announced its Fitbit acquisition back in November, and it could be a full year or more before the company is able to finalize it. Google also spent $40 million to acquire some smartwatch technology from Fossil last year in a greater push to build Android-integrated wearables.
A full European investigation into Google’s Fitbit deal looks like it will arrive just days after most of the big US technology companies appeared at an antitrust panel of the House Judiciary Committee. Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook CEOs appeared at the trial yesterday, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai in particular faced a number of questions around the company’s search dominance and its use of data to monitor would-be competitors.
NASA has completed its investigation into Boeing’s problematic first test flight of a Starliner crew capsule as the company and agency look toward a second test flight sometime this year.
The commercial crew vehicle, which Boeing developed for NASA to ferry astronauts to and from the space station, made its orbital uncrewed debut in December, lifting off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. But the craft failed to reach the orbiting laboratory due to a series of glitches and software issues, an independent review team found.
Earlier this year, a NASA review of the flawed test flight identified 61 “corrective actions” for Boeing to address on Starliner. On Tuesday (July 7), NASA announced that that number has swelled by another 19 corrections, for a total of 80, after a second review.
The announcement came in a teleconference update with reporters on the test flight, called Orbital Flight Test 1 (OFT-1), as Boeing prepares for a do-over mission, OFT-2, later this year.
Boeing announced in April that it will conduct a second uncrewed flight test with Starliner to demonstrate that the spacecraft is safe and reliable before any astronauts ride it to space. However, a launch date for that OFT-2 mission has not yet been set. But the flight is likely to happen “toward the latter part of this year,” Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said in Tuesday’s teleconference.
“Today, we’re sort of turning the page a bit from the investigation phase of OFT and moving into our hardware development,” Stich said. “The spacecraft is coming along very well.”
In February and March, NASA and Boeing revealed the results of separate investigations into two major anomalies that led to the partial failure of the OFT mission. First, Starliner’s onboard timer drew an incorrect time from the Atlas V rocket shortly after it launched, and consequently, the spacecraft didn’t execute the orbit insertion burn needed to reach the space station. The second major problem was a valve-mapping error with the software that controls Starliner’s thrusters, which could have led to an in-space collision.
NASA and Boeing announced this week that they have now also wrapped up a separate investigation into a third major anomaly, which led to a temporary drop in communications between Starliner and ground control crews during the mission’s launch. That brief glitch left mission control unable to manually command Starliner to do the orbit insertion burn after the onboard timer issue prevented it from happening automatically.
“As we started to look at the data from the flight and why we didn’t get a good forward communication link with a spacecraft, what we found was that the system perhaps allowed a little bit too big of a band of frequencies to come in to the transceiver itself,” Stitch said.
“What Boeing has done to fix that and mitigate that problem is actually installing a filter, which essentially only allows the receiver to listen to a very narrow band of frequencies with the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite,” he added. (NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellites, or TDRS, allow ground controllers to communicate with spacecraft.)
While investigating the first two anomalies earlier this year, the joint NASA-Boeing review team came up with the initial list of 61 corrective actions to implement before Starliner can fly again. But with the recent completion of the investigation into the communications problem, as well as what NASA calls a “high-visibility close call” investigation, that list has now grown to 80 recommendations, Kathy Lueders, NASA’s chief of human spaceflight, said in the teleconference.
NASA and Boeing have not made the complete list of recommendations public due to concerns over releasing “proprietary data,” Leuders said. But NASA did provide a list of categories and numbers of recommendations in a statement.
Thirty-five of the recommendations pertained to process and operational improvements, 21 of them deal with testing and simulations, 17 are related to software updates and requirements and seven are in a category that includes hardware modifications and other organizational changes.
The high-visibility close call investigation was meant “to specifically review the organizational factors within NASA and Boeing that could have contributed to the flight test anomalies,” NASA officials said in the statement. “The close call investigation team, established in March, was tasked with developing recommendations that could be used to prevent similar close calls from occurring in the future.”
“NASA and Boeing have completed a tremendous amount of work reviewing the issues experienced during the uncrewed flight test of Starliner,” Steve Jurczyk, NASA’s associate administrator, said in the statement. “Ultimately, everything we’ve found will help us improve as we move forward in the development and testing of Starliner, and in our future work with commercial industry as a whole.”
Email Hanneke Weitering at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us on Twitter@Spacedotcomand on Facebook.
The U.S. Navy will open a full investigation of the coronavirus outbreak aboard an aircraft carrier, acting Navy secretary James McPherson said Wednesday, days after the service’s top officer recommended the reinstatement of a captain who raised concerns about the handling of the issue.
McPherson said Wednesday that after carefully reviewing a preliminary inquiry into what happened, he has “unanswered questions” that “can only be answered by a deeper review.”
“This investigation will build on the good work of the initial inquiry to provide a more fulsome understanding of the sequence of events, actions, and decisions of the chain of command surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt,” McPherson said in a statement.
The statement did detail McPherson’s questions, and Navy officials did not offer clarification Wednesday morning. It was not immediately clear who will lead the investigation for Adm. Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations.
The outbreak on the ship in the Pacific had resulted in 940 confirmed coronavirus cases and 29 recovered cases so far among a crew of more than 4,800, the Navy said. The virus began spreading after a port visit to Vietnam in early March, although Navy officials have said the outbreak could have originated with a resupply flight to the carrier.
As the outbreak spread among the crew, Navy Capt. Brett Crozier, the commanding officer, sent an email to three admirals with a memo attached raising concerns as the ship arrived in Guam for quarantining, testing and cleaning.
“I fully realize that I bear responsibility for not demanding more decisive action the moment we pulled in, but at this point my only priority is the continued well-being of the crew and embarked staff,” Crozier wrote in the March 30 email, later obtained by The Washington Post. “I believe if there is ever a time to ask for help it is now regardless of the impact on my career.”
The memo attached to the email leaked to the media and was initially published in the San Francisco Chronicle a day later. Crozier wrote in it that “decisive action is required.”
“We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die,” Crozier wrote. “If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors.”
Acting Navy secretary Thomas Modly removed Crozier from his job April 2, saying the captain had not safeguarded his message to senior Navy officials and had shown poor judgment. Modly resigned on April 7 after traveling from Washington to Guam and delivering a speech over the Theodore Roosevelt’s loudspeaker in which he insulted Crozier and lectured the crew for supporting him.
Gilday recommended Crozier be reinstated last week, following the preliminary inquiry. But McPherson and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper sought more information before making a decision.
President Trump initially criticized Crozier for sending the memo and email to Navy officials but softened his tone when videos emerged showing the ship’s crew cheering Crozier off the ship after he was relieved of command. Trump said that he did not “want to destroy somebody for having a bad day,” and that he might intervene in the ca