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WhatsApp Privacy Policy Not Withdrawn, Probe Must Continue, CCI Tells Delhi HC

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 26 July 2022

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) Monday told the Delhi High Court that WhatsApp’s updated privacy policy of 2021 has not been withdrawn and its probe concerning the policy should be allowed to proceed. The CCI also said the scope of its inquiry has no overlap with the issue of an alleged infringement of user privacy pending before the Supreme Court. The submissions were made by CCI before a bench headed by Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma on appeals by WhatsApp LLC and Facebook Inc against a single-judge order dismissing their challenge to the probe ordered by the CCI into the instant messaging platform’s updated privacy policy.

The bench, also comprising Justice Subramonium Prasad, reserved an order on the appeals after hearing the concerned parties.

In January last year, CCI on its own had decided to look into WhatsApp’s updated privacy policy based on news reports regarding the same.

WhatsApp and Facebook had subsequently challenged before the single judge CCI’s March 2021 order directing a probe against them, saying that the issue concerning its new policy was already pending consideration before the high court and the Supreme Court.

The single judge on April 22 last year had, however, refused to interdict the investigation directed by the CCI.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) N Venkataraman, appearing for CCI, argued that the CCI probe into the privacy policy– which is “still in place and functional” — should not be deferred any further to await the decision of the Supreme Court, especially in the absence of any stay on the single judge order, and asserted that the messaging platform was still issuing a “pop up” seeking the consent of users who are yet to accept the updated policy.

“Judicial process cannot be used to thwart investigation …. (Pendency of privacy issue before Supreme Court) cannot automatically obviate competition law concerns. There is no overlap in facts. We should be allowed to investigate. There is no overlap in law,” he argued The ASG said that the infraction on the competition law front may still be happening as there are users who have opted for the policy update and “for non-withdrawal period”, the policy has to be “examined.” ASG Balbir Singh, also appearing for CCI, defended the initiation of a probe against Facebook as well in connection with WhatsApp’s privacy policy, saying that the former is the holding company of the messaging platform and it can “potentially exploit the data being shared”.

ASG Venkataraman contended that the outcome of the Supreme Court proceedings would have no bearing on the proceedings under competition law which concerns the abuse of dominant position by a market player.

He also said that unless there is a lack of jurisdiction or malafides or arbitrariness, the CCI probe cannot be stalled.

Counsel Tejas Karia, appearing for WhatsApp, said that the “status quo” was being maintained for users who have not opted for the policy update and the CCI probe should be deferred in view of the validity of the privacy policy being tested before the Supreme Court and the high court.

Last week, senior advocate Harish Salve, representing WhatsApp, submitted that it was challenging CCI’s jurisdiction to probe a policy that has now been kept in abeyance and as the government was in the process to bring the Data Protection Bill.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Facebook Inc –now Meta Platforms — had argued that there was not even prima facie material in the case and CCI cannot investigate it in a “creeping fashion”.

While dismissing the petitions against the CCI probe, the single judge had opined that although it would have been “prudent” for the CCI to await the outcome of petitions in the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court against WhatsApp’s new privacy policy, not doing so would not make the regulator’s order “perverse” or “wanting of jurisdiction”.

CCI had argued before the single judge that the new privacy policy of WhatsApp would lead to excessive data collection and “stalking” of consumers for targeted advertising to bring in more users and is, therefore, alleged abuse of dominant position.

On January 3, while dealing with the appeals against the single judge order, a bench headed by then Chief Justice DN Patel extended the time for filing replies by Facebook and WhatsApp to two CCI notices of June 2021 asking them to furnish certain information for the purpose of inquiry conducted by it.

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Government Launches Mobile App Sign Learn for Indian Sign Languages

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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.

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Swiggy, Zomato Amongst Top 10 Global Food Delivery Platforms, Research Firm Says

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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.

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Meta Ordered to Pay Voxer $174.5 Million Over Violation of Live Streaming Patents: All Details

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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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TikTok to Require Verification for Political Accounts, Bans Campaign Fundraising Ahead of US Midterm Elections

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By Reuters | Updated: 21 September 2022

TikTok will begin requiring accounts belonging to US government departments, politicians and political parties to be verified and will ban videos aimed at campaign fundraising, the short-form video app said on Wednesday.

The move comes as TikTok, owned by China’s ByteDance, and other social media platforms are working to clamp down on political misinformation ahead of the US midterm elections in November, after years of being criticised for allowing such content to flourish on their services.

Political accounts can submit a request for verification, TikTok said, and the company will also work to confirm the authenticity of profiles it believes belong to politicians or political parties.

A verified account, indicated by a blue check mark on TikTok and other platforms like Twitter, means the platform has confirmed the ownership of the account.

TikTok has long faced scrutiny from US lawmakers, who have questioned the Chinese-owned app’s safeguards of user data. The app has also sought to preserve its image as a place for dance videos and comedy skits, and has banned political advertising since 2019.

To help enforce the ban, accounts belonging to politicians and parties will automatically be prevented from accessing advertising features, TikTok said in a blog post.

TikTok said it will update its policies to prohibit campaign fundraising. Content that will be banned under the new policy includes videos from politicians soliciting donations or political parties directing users to make a donation on their website.

The accounts will also be prohibited from using money-making features available to influencers on the app, like digital payments and gifting.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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India’s Matrimony.com launches app catering to LGBTQIA+ community

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By: Reuters, September 6, 2022

BENGALURU, Sept 6 (Reuters) – Indian matchmaking site Matrimony.com Ltd has launched a new app catering to the members of the LGBTQIA+ community, the company said on Tuesday, as it expands to cover a bigger section of the society.

The company is looking at an addressable market of about 11 million to 13 million for the app, Rainbowluv, it said in a statement, although there is no official data on the LGBT+ population in India.

“When it comes to serious matchmaking, the LGBTQIA+ community has been largely underserved and we wanted to provide a safe and trusted platform for them,” Chief Marketing Officer Arjun Bhatia said in a statement.

The app includes more than 45 gender identities, 122 orientation tags and 48 pronouns, and would require members to register with government issued identity cards to ensure safety, the company said in a statement.

India’s top court lifted a colonial-era ban on gay sex on Sept. 6, 2018, to improve the rights for the LGBTQIA+ community in the country, but same-sex marriage does not have legal sanction.

With the launch of Rainbowluv, Matrimony.com, which competes with Shaadi.com, will also take on apps such as Grindr and As You Are.

Matrimony, which owns and operates around 300 marriage-related services, earlier this year launched Jodii, an app that covers nine regional languages to reach a broader swath of the country.

Its array of services helped the company post a 14% growth in paid subscribers for the first quarter of FY23, Matrimony.com said last month.

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Mumbai Traffic Police Said to Be Investigating WhatsApp Message Threatening 26/11-Type Terror Attack

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By ANI | Updated: 20 August 2022

Mumbai Police is investigating a WhatsApp message warning of a “26/11-like” terror attack in the city received on the WhatsApp number of the Mumbai Police Traffic Control from a Pakistan-based number police sources said on Saturday. The message said that six people will execute the attack in India. The Mumbai Police has initiated a probe on an immediate basis, sources said, adding that security agencies have put on alert.

The WhatsApp message talked of reviving memories of the attacks on November 26, 2008 in which Pakistan terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba carried out strikes across Mumbai.

Meanwhile, Nationalist Congress Party’s Leader of Opposition Ajit Pawar today said that the state government should take the threat seriously and probe the issue.

This development comes after a security scare on Thursday when a boat carrying AK 47, rifles, guns and ammunition was found on the Harihareshwar beach in the Raigad district of the state. Following the boat’s recovery, Maharshtra Police has been asked to stay vigilant.

According to Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, the boat belongs to an Australian citizen. “Boat’s engine broke out in the sea, people were rescued by a Korean boat. It has now reached Harihareshwar beach. Keeping in mind the coming festive season, police and the administration have been instructed to be prepared,” he said.

On November 26, 2008, 10 Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists from Pakistan arrived by sea route and opened fire, killing hundreds of people, including 18 security personnel, and injuring several others in Mumbai.

Nine terrorists were later killed by the security forces, including the NSG, the country’s elite commando force. Ajmal Kasab was the only terrorist who was captured alive. He was hanged four years later on November 21, 2012.

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