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Aarogya Setu mandatory for train passengers: Ministry of Railways

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The Indian Railways had advised all passengers availing special train services that started operating from Tuesday to install Aarogya Setu. However, now, downloading the app has been made mandatory.

Railways officials have said though that exceptions will be made on a “case-to-case basis” and have not ruled out “disallowing” passengers who do not have Aarogya Setu installed on their phones.

The initial guidelines issued by the railways ministry for the 15 special trains that will ply between Delhi and other major cities did not mention anything about the Covid-19 contact tracing app being mandatory. However, early today morning, the ministry made it

“Indian Railways is going to start few passenger train services. It is mandatory for passengers to download Aarogya Setu app in their mobile phones, before commencing their journey,” the ministry tweeted from their official handle.

Railways spokesperson RD Bajpai has confirmed that Aarogya Setu is now mandatory for travel. And since a mobile number is also compulsory to book tickets online, all passengers must carry their mobile phones with them.

“Passengers should come to the station after installing the Aarogya Setu app and it is mandatory for travel. The railways has made it compulsory and the passengers should install it for their own safety. Since all passengers carry mobile phones, this should not be an issue. Also, we will provide the passengers with all the help needed to use the app,” he said.

If passengers do not have mobile phones, officials have said that they will decide on a case-to-case basis. However, they have pointed out that for someone travelling on “a Rajdhani train” it is “unlikely” that they will not have a phone.

“We did not make this app compulsory on the special trains for migrants,” Bajpai said.

Sources said installing the app was made mandatory after a Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) missive, following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with chief ministers on Monday.

Passengers, who do not have the app installed on their mobile phones, might be asked to do so after their arrival at the station, they added.

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TikTok Says Removed Over 49 Million Videos in Second Half of 2019

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By Reuters | Updated: 10 July 2020

Social media app TikTok said on Thursday it removed more than 49 million videos from its platform in the second half of last year for violating its guidelines.

These videos accounted for less than 1 percent of the total posted on the platform and fell under categories such as “violent and graphic content, hate speech and adult nudity”, it said in a report released on its website.

About one-third of the videos were from India, followed by the United States, and Pakistan, it added.

The transparency report comes days after the company owned by China’s ByteDance was banned from India, one of its biggest markets, after a Sino-India border clash. The short-form video making app also decided to exit the Hong Kong market following China’s establishment of a sweeping new national security law for the semi-autonomous city.

TikTok launched a new platform to court small business advertisers on Wednesday. The platform, however, was fraught with challenges, especially after the Trump administration’s threat this week to impose a ban on China-based social media apps.


© Thomson Reuters 2020

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Apple Rolls Out Free Online Coding Course for Teachers

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By Reuters | Updated: 10 July 2020

Apple said on Thursday it was rolling out a free online coding course for teachers, while beefing up its existing school coding programs with new material.

The Cupertino, California-based company, which offers coding courses under the “Develop in Swift” and “Everyone Can Code” banners, said the new course is designed to supplement the need for computer science educators in the United States.

The new course will help instructors build foundational knowledge to enable them to teach app development with Apple’s open source programming language Swift.

“Everyone Can Code” courses are aimed at beginners, while its “Develop in Swift” programs focus on advanced coders.

Apple said it is also redesigning and adding resources to these existing programs.

The “Develop in Swift” series will include four new books that will be available in the fall at no cost in Apple Books.

The iPhone maker will also add a new set of books in its “Everyone Can Code” course that uses puzzles and games to teach Swift through its Swift Playgrounds App.

Online learning has emerged as the new norm with US schools and colleges shutting down since mid-March to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The trend may continue for the upcoming fall semester for colleges and universities with Harvard announcing that the 2020-2021 academic year will be online.


© Thomson Reuters 2020

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US Said to Probe Allegations TikTok Violated Children’s Privacy

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By Reuters | Updated: 8 July 2020

The Federal Trade Commission and the US Justice Department are looking into allegations that popular app TikTok failed to live up to a 2019 agreement aimed at protecting children’s privacy, according to two people interviewed by the agencies.

The development is the latest bump in the road for the short video company, which is popular with teens. TikTok has seen scrutiny, including from the national security-focused Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, rise sharply because of its Chinese parent corporation.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that the United States is “certainly looking at” banning TikTok, suggesting it shared information with the Chinese government, a charge it denied.

A staffer in a Massachusetts tech policy group and another source said they took part in separate conference calls with the FTC and Justice Department officials to discuss accusations the China-based short video sharing app had failed to live up to an agreement announced in February 2019.

The Center for Digital Democracy, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and others in May asked the FTC look into their allegations TikTok failed to delete videos and personal information about users age 13 and younger as it had agreed to do, among other violations.

A TikTok spokesman said they take “safety seriously for all our users,” adding that in the United States they “accommodate users under 13 in a limited app experience that introduces additional safety and privacy protections designed specifically for a younger audience.”

Officials from both the FTC, which reached the original consent agreement with TikTok, and Justice Department, which often files court documents for the FTC, met via video with representatives of the groups to discuss the matter, said David Monahan, a campaign manager with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

“I got the sense from our conversation that they are looking into the assertions that we raised in our complaint,” Monahan said.

A second person, speaking privately, confirmed that advocates had met with officials from the two agencies to discuss concerns TikTok violated the consent decree.

The FTC declined to comment. The Justice Department had no immediate comment.

TikTok has grown increasing popular among U.S. teenagers and allows users to create short videos. About 60 percent of TikTok’s 26.5 million monthly active users in the United States are aged 16 to 24, the company said last year.

US lawmakers have also raised national security concerns over TikTok’s handling of user data, saying they were worried about Chinese laws requiring domestic companies support and cooperate with the Chinese Communist Party.

TikTok, owned by parent company ByteDance, is one of several China-based firms that have had to navigate heightened U.S.-China tensions over trade, technology and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under intense US regulatory scrutiny, it has poached Disney’s Kevin Mayer to be its chief executive and is trying to project a more global image, with offices in California, Singapore and elsewhere.


© Thomson Reuters 2020

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