By Press Trust of India | Updated: 2 August 2022
The government is taking action against dubious digital loan apps, including those originating from outside the country, and also Indians who helped in setting them up, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman informed Rajya Sabha on Tuesday. Most of the dubious apps are originating from one particular country and as a result a lot of borrowers are harassed and money is being extorted by these apps, she said during the Question Hour while replying to a supplementary question.
The minister was asked about reports of dubious digital loan apps backed by Chinese entities which do not follow RBI guidelines in giving loans.
Sitharaman said the Ministry of Finance, Corporate Affairs, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, and a few other departments, inclusive of Home, are all constantly discussing and working to ensure action is taken in these cases.
“Only a couple of months ago particularly in the state of Telangana a lot of people have been put to harassment and action has been initiated. That’s not to say we are not taking action elsewhere,” she said.
She also said the government is consciously taking action against Indian citizens who have also helped in establishing these companies and also what may be broadly defined as shell companies through which they are operating.
So, actions in all these angles are being taken, she added.
Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Shaktikanta Das had recently said the central bank will soon come out with regulatory architecture for digital lending platforms.
Most of the digital lending apps are not registered with the central bank and operate by themselves. There have been increasing cases of alleged suicides of borrowers due to harassment by a few of the operators of digital lending apps.
Spotify Acquires Content Moderation Firm Kinzen to Detect Harmful Content on the Platform
By Reuters | Updated: 5 October 2022
Audio-streaming service Spotify Technology on Wednesday said it had acquired Kinzen, a firm that has helped it identify harmful content on the platform.
The acquisition is part of Spotify’s efforts to deal with harmful content on its service after a backlash earlier this year over “The Joe Rogan Experience”, in which the podcaster was accused of spreading misinformation about COVID-19.
The Dublin-based firm has been working with Spotify since 2020, initially focusing on the integrity of election-related content around the world. Since then, Kinzen’s remit has expanded to include targeting misinformation, disinformaton and hate speech.
“Kinzen offers a combination of tools and expertise to help us better understand the content on our platform and emerging abuse trends,” said Sarah Hoyle, Spotify’s head of trust and safety.
Deal terms were not disclosed.
Earlier this year, Spotify said it would be more transparent in how it determines what is acceptable and unacceptable content. It published its platform rules for the first time in January. In June, it formed a Safety Advisory Council to provide input on harmful content.
Kinzen will provide early warnings about problems in different markets, helping Spotify more effectively moderate content in more languages.
In other news, Spotify recently announced the launch of a new audiobooks service in the US. Under the new initiative, the streaming service will offer over 3,00,000 titles. Users in the US will now be able to find audiobooks as a separate section on Spotify alongside music and podcasts in their library, in search, and in their curated recommendations on the Spotify home page.
The Sweden-based company announced in a blog post that users can discover audiobooks in the Spotify app, and will be redirected to purchase them on the company’s website. Once purchased, the audiobook will remain accessible from the user’s library.
© Thomson Reuters 2022
Apple Removes Russian Social Networking App VKontakte from App Store to Comply With Sanctions on Russia
By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 29 September 2022
Apple on Wednesday confirmed that it removed popular Russian social network VKontakte from its App Store globally due to sanctions imposed by Britain.
The British government on Monday sanctioned 92 Russian individuals and entities after President Vladimir Putin’s regime held referendums in Moscow-controlled areas of Ukraine – denounced by Kyiv and its allies as a “sham” – and stepped up threats against the West.
“Sham referendums held at the barrel of a gun cannot be free or fair and we will never recognize their results,” British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in a statement.
The sanctions target “those behind these sham votes, as well as the individuals that continue to prop up the Russian regime’s war of aggression,” he said.
San Petersburg-based tech firm VK said in a blog post that some of its applications were no longer available from the App Store, which serves as the lone gateway for content onto Apple mobile devices.
VK apps are used for messaging, digital payments, and grocery shopping as well as social networking.
The VK apps removed from the App Store were being distributed by developers controlled or majority-owned by parties sanctioned by the UK government, and Apple is complying with the law, according to the Silicon Valley tech giant.
Apple said that it terminated developer accounts associated with the apps, which were not available from the App Store regardless of users’ locations.
People who have already installed the apps on devices can still use them, but updates will no longer be provided through the App Store, according to Apple and VK.
“Their core functionality will be familiar and stable,” VKontakte-parent VK said of the apps.
“There may be difficulties with the work of notifications and payments.”
TikTok May Face GBP 27 Million Fine Over Potential Breach of UK Law, Failure to Protect Children’s Privacy
By Associated Press | Updated: 27 September 2022
TikTok could face a GBP 27 million (roughly Rs. 236 crore) fine in the UK over a possible breach of UK data protection law by failing to protect children’s privacy when they are using the video-sharing platform.
The UK Information Commissioner’s Office said Monday that it has issued the social media company a legal document that precedes a potential fine. It said TikTok may have processed the data of children under 13 without appropriate parental consent, and processed “special category data” without legal grounds to do so.
The commissioner said “special category data” included ethnic and racial origin, political opinions, religious beliefs and sexual orientation.
It also said TikTok may have failed to provide transparent, easily understood information to its users. The legal document covered the period from May 2018 to July 2020.
Information Commissioner John Edwards said the body’s provisional view was that TikTok “fell short” of providing proper data privacy protections. The body said its findings are not final and that it will consider any representations from TikTok before making a final decision.
“While we respect the ICO’s role in safeguarding privacy in the UK, we disagree with the preliminary views expressed and intend to formally respond to the ICO,” said a statement released by TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance.
Britain’s government is pushing through its online safety bill, which requires technology companies to protect children from harmful content.
The Information Commissioner’s Office said it has six other ongoing investigations into companies that do not appear to have taken their responsibilities around child safety seriously enough.
Government Launches Mobile App Sign Learn for Indian Sign Languages
By Press Trust of India | Updated: 23 September 2022
The Centre on Friday launched an Indian Sign Language (ISL) dictionary mobile application called Sign Learn containing 10,000 words.
The app was launched by Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Pratima Bhoumik. Sign Learn is based on the Indian sign language dictionary of the Indian Sign Language Research And Training Centre (ISLRTC) which contains 10,000 words. The app is available in Android as well as iOS versions, and all the words in the ISL dictionary can be searched through Hindi or English medium, officials said. The sign videos of the app can also be shared on social media.
“The app has been developed to make the ISL dictionary easily available and to make it more accessible for the public at large,” a senior official said to PTI.
Notably, ISLRTC had recently signed an MoU with the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) on October 6, 2020, for converting NCERT textbooks from classes 1 to 12 into the Indian Sign Language (digital format) to make the textbooks accessible to children with hearing disabilities. This year, ISL e-content of NCERT textbooks of class 6 was launched, the official added.
Under Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, the Centre had launched ISL versions of selected books of National Book Trust’s Veergatha series.
With the joint effort of ISLRTC and NCERT, 500 academic words in Indian Sign Language were launched. These academic words are used at the secondary level which are often used in history, science, political science and mathematics, the official added.
Swiggy, Zomato Amongst Top 10 Global Food Delivery Platforms, Research Firm Says
By Press Trust of India | Updated: 22 September 2022
Indian food aggregator platforms Swiggy and Zomato have featured in world’s ‘Top 10’ e-commerce-based food delivery companies. Both companies are part of over 100 Indian unicorns. Unicorns are companies with a total value of over $1 billion (roughly Rs. 8,000 crore).
A report published by Canada-headquartered global research firm ETC Group titled ‘Food Barons 2022 – Crisis Profiteering, Digitalization and Shifting Power’ placed Swiggy and Zomato in the 9th and 10th spot, respectively.
According to the research firm, the food delivery sector refers to digital, on-demand platforms for ordering and paying for prepared food, groceries and other retail items. Restaurants/retailers fill the orders and couriers deliver them to customers within a prescribed timeframe.
China’s publicly listed food platform Meituan was at the top of the list, followed by the UK’s Deliveroo, and the US’ Uber Eats.
Further, Ele.me, DoorDash, Just Eat Takeaway/Grubhub, Delivery Hero, and iFood found themselves in the 4th to 8th spot.
“The food delivery sector is rapidly consolidating, but ownership is a moving target. As companies jostle for regional hegemony, they are buying, selling and swapping stakes in competitors,” the report said.
“Venture capital and Big Tech investment has fueled the sector, but companies have yet to deliver profits, even in the sector-friendly circumstances of the global pandemic when delivery became more necessity than convenience,” it added.
Against that backdrop, it said that tweaking the business model to move towards profitability — most prominently by adding grocery and pharmacy delivery — is currently underway.
The report also focused on issues faced by workers in the gig economy.
Delivery workers, it said, have been considered independent contractors instead of employees in most parts of the world. They are therefore ineligible for social security, injury compensation or other benefits.
“There are indications that some governments may be ready to enact labour reforms to try to end the platforms’ free ride. In the USA, New York City became the first city to pass legislation to regulate the food delivery sector, establishing minimum pay and other worker protections,” the research report added.
A major problem facing the sector, the report said, is the significant increase in trash from the takeaway single-use packaging.
Meta Ordered to Pay Voxer $174.5 Million Over Violation of Live Streaming Patents: All Details
By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 22 September 2022
A US jury on Wednesday ordered Meta to pay $174.5 million (roughly Rs. 1405 crore) for violating live-streaming patents developed by a US Army veteran seeking to fix shortcomings in battlefield communications.
A trial in Texas federal court ended with jurors deciding that “live” features at Facebook and Instagram used technology patented by Voxer, a company co-founded by Tom Katis, legal documents showed.
“We believe the evidence at trial demonstrated that Meta did not infringe Voxer’s patents,” a company spokesperson said in response to an AFP inquiry.
“We intend to seek further relief, including filing an appeal.”
Katis had reenlisted in the army after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States and served as a Special Forces communications sergeant in Afghanistan, court filings said.
When his combat unit was ambushed in Kunar province, he felt that the systems for coordinating reinforcements, medical evacuations and more “were ill-suited for time-sensitive communications with multiple groups in a highly disruptive environment,” the complaint said.
“Mr. Katis and his team began developing communications solutions in 2006 to remedy these shortcomings,” his lawyers said.
“The new technologies enabled transmission of voice and video communications with the immediacy of live communication and the reliability and convenience of messaging.”
Facebook approached San Francisco-based Voxer about potential collaboration after it launched a Walkie Talkie app in 2011, but no agreement was reached, according to legal documents.
Instead, the lawsuit argued, Facebook went on to launch Facebook Live and Instagram Live, incorporating Voxer technology into the features.
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