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Spain to Trial Coronavirus Tracing App on Canary Island

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Spain will try out a new smartphone app aimed at thwarting the spread of the coronavirus by injecting hundreds of false cases into the system in a test run starting on Friday on the Canary Island of Gomera.

The simulation is part of a system intended to send an alert when one user has been in contact with another who receives a positive diagnosis, the government said.

“The idea is that approximately 3,000 people download it and we will introduce around 300 simulators, beta testers, to mimic a pandemic among 10 percent of the population,” a government spokeswoman said.

It will use Bluetooth short-range radio to log contacts.

To guard against impinging on people’s privacy, contact records will be stored on individual devices rather than a central server, using a standard developed by Apple and Google.

The trial will start on Friday and continue for two weeks, a period the government hopes will be enough to prove whether the app could be rolled out across the country.

Technology and defence company Indra has been contracted to manage the pilot at a cost of about $375,000 (roughly Rs. 2.83 crores).

Gomera is home to about 22,000 residents near the tourist hotspot of Tenerife.

More than 28,000 people have died in the coronavirus pandemic in Spain, but the situation has eased and the country is emerging from a strict lockdown.

The government is anxious to get the tourist industry, a mainstay of the economy, back on its feet and the Canary Islands are a popular destination. They had 2,398 confirmed coronavirus cases out of a national total of 245,268 as of June 18.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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Facebook Repairs Bug That Prompted Brief iOS App Outages

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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).

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Amazon Bans, Then Un-Bans TikTok From Employee Mobile Devices

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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.

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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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