Google has pulled an app from its Google Play store that helped users identify and remove apps of Chinese origin. The Mountain View, California-based company told Gadgets 360 that the “Remove China Apps” application violated Google Play policy. Before getting removed from Google Play, the app – developed by Jaipur-based OneTouch AppLabs – clocked over 50 lakh downloads in just over two weeks of its launch. It is the second viral app from India to be pulled from Google Play in a matter of days. Google has earlier removed Mitron, a TikTok clone.
Here are the top 10 points you need to know about this big story:
- Google told Gadgets 360 that “Remove China Apps” application was violating its Deceptive Behaviour policy. The policy highlights various things that apps listed on Google Play can’t do but one specific point is relevant in the case of “Remove China Apps” story. Google says it doesn’t allow “apps that mislead users into removing or disabling third-party apps or modifying device settings or features.”
- While the app from OneTouch AppLabs claimed to be developed for “educational purposes,” it was capitalising on the anti-China sentiment prevalent across the country right now. The anti-China sentiment in the country has been sparked by the novel coronavirus pandemic, India-China border dispute, and more. A survey recently indicated that 67 percent of Indians hold China responsible for the spread of COVID-19.
- Remove China Apps made its debut on the Google Play store on May 17 and was downloaded over 50 lakh times before getting pulled, as per data from Google Play. It was not available on Apple App Store for iPhone users. Android is the prevalent mobile operating system in the country and as per StatCounter, it is used by 95 percent of mobile phone users in the country.
- The app also led the top free apps chart on Google Play and remained there for at least two days. After the removal of the app, Zoom is back on top of free apps list on Google Play, followed by government’s contact-tracing app Aarogya Setu.
- Remove China Apps allowed users to identify and remove apps that were of Chinese origin on their smartphones. While it was able to identify popular apps, including the likes of TikTok, ShareIt, UC Browser, and CamScanner, from Chinese developers, it didn’t detect apps that come pre-installed on phones from Chinese manufacturers. Remove China Apps was free and fairly easy to use, and didn’t include any advertisements.
- To use the app, the Android users simply had to install it from Google Play store and give the necessary permissions. Following which, the users just had to tap on Scan Now to scan their phone and the app would list all the Chinese-origin apps installed on the phone. The app would also give a delete icon next to every app which when tapped would uninstall the app from user’s smartphone. The app claimed to use market research data to identify which apps were of Chinese-origin.
- OneTouch AppLabs has remained tightlipped about the app and hasn’t responded to media requests. It used Twitter and its website to announce the removal of “Remove China Apps” from Google Play late-Tuesday and simply wrote – “Google has suspended our #RemoveChinaApps from google play store. Thank you all for your support in past 2 weeks.”
- Apart from India, the Remove China Apps application was also gaining momentum in Australia, where according to data from App Annie, the app had topped the Tools section in Google Play store. Still, the majority of the app’s users resided in India. Even though the app has been removed from Google Play store, it will continue to function on phones that already have it installed.
- Remove China Apps’ removal comes soon after Google had pulled the Mitron app from Google Play store. Mitron was a clone of TikTok that also benefitted from anti-China sentiments and also saw lakhs of downloads. Despite issues the app still managed to find traction among users and went viral.
- TikTok, a popular short-video app, was also in news recently, in part because of the anti-China sentiment. TikTok is developed by ByteDance, a company that is headquartered in Beijing. Scores of smartphone users in the country took to Google Play and Apple App Store to downrank the app. Notably, apart from anti-China sentiments, the other key reasons for the 1-star rating flood were the ongoing YouTube vs TikTok debate on social media as well as a video glorifying acid attacks from a TikTok user.
© Gadgets 360
Facebook Repairs Bug That Prompted Brief iOS App Outages
By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 11 July 2020
Popular smartphone apps including Spotify and Pinterest suffered outages Friday for a few hours due to a bug in Facebook’s systems.
Facebook has resolved the problem, a spokesperson said.
“Earlier today, a code change triggered crashes for some iOS apps using the Facebook SDK,” or software development kit, the spokesperson said.
“We identified the issue quickly and resolved it. We apologise for any inconvenience.”
App users began reporting on Twitter early Friday that they were unable to open Spotify and other sites.
Downdetector, which monitors for internet problems in real time, showed a rise in problems for a number of applications, including Spotify, Pinterest, Waze, and The New York Times.
It reported a major spike in problems around 10:30am GMT (4pm IST), and a decline in user issues at around 1pm GMT (6:30pm IST).
Amazon Bans, Then Un-Bans TikTok From Employee Mobile Devices
By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 11 July 2020
Amazon on Friday said it mistakenly sent workers an email telling them to dump the TikTok mobile application from their cell phones because of security concerns.
The internal message told workers they could still access the popular video-snippet sharing platform using laptop web browsers, but would lose access to company email on smartphones that have TikTok.
“This morning’s email to some of our employees was sent in error,” an Amazon spokesperson said in reply to an AFP inquiry without going into detail.
“There is no change to our policies right now with regard to TikTok.”
The concern expressed in the internal message appeared to be that the TikTok mobile app could access Amazon company email, according to a copy posted online.
“User security is of the utmost importance to TikTok -– we are fully committed to respecting the privacy of our users,” a spokeswoman for the company said in reply to an AFP inquiry.
She added that TikTok welcomed “a dialogue so we can address any issues they may have.”
The Democratic National Committee is advising campaign staff to avoid using TikTok on personal devices and, if they do, to keep the app on a smartphone separate from that used for work, given the amount of data it can track, a DNC official told AFP.
TikTok this week withdrew from Hong Kong in an exit seen partly as an effort to shake off the “label of it being a company that is controlled by China and shares data with the Chinese government,” Zhu Zhiqun, a political science professor at Bucknell University in the United States, told AFP.
TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is based in China.
The app’s feeds of 15- to 60-second video clips are often fun and humorous, featuring everything from make-up tutorials to dance routines.
However, with its rising popularity in the United States, TikTok has also come under increasing scrutiny from the government here.
US President Donald Trump said this week he was considering banning it as a way to punish China over the coronavirus pandemic.
Top US lawmakers have raised concerns over the potential for TikTok to leak user data to the Chinese government.
India — where TikTok is also wildly popular — recently blocked the platform on national security grounds following a deadly border clash between its soldiers and Chinese forces.
TikTok staunchly denies snooping allegations.
“We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked,” a spokesman said on Wednesday.
TikTok Says Removed Over 49 Million Videos in Second Half of 2019
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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