By Associated Press | Updated: 10 November 2020
Federal regulators are requiring Zoom to strengthen its security in a proposed settlement of allegations that the video conferencing service misled users about its level of security for meetings.
The settlement, approved by the Federal Trade Commission in a 3-2 vote, was announced Monday. A complaint filed by the agency accused Zoom of deceiving users over security since at least 2016. It said the company held on to cryptographic keys that allowed it to access content from its customers’ meetings, and secured meetings with a lower level of privacy encryption than it promised customers.
Zoom has become a staple during the coronavirus pandemic because it allows people to meet online rather than in person. The company claims some 300 million users, boosted by the tens of millions of workers around the world who were suddenly ordered to work from home in the spring as the virus outbreak shut down wide swaths of the economy.
The FTC alleged that Zoom “engaged in a series of deceptive and unfair practices that undermined the security of its users.”
The company’s misleading claims gave users a false sense of security, the regulators said, especially for those who used the videoconferencing platform to discuss sensitive topics such as health and financial information. They noted that in blog posts, Zoom promoted its level of encryption as a reason for consumers, whether families, schools, social groups or businesses, to use the services.
The proposed settlement doesn’t include any financial penalties for the company or restitution for affected users.
Zoom, based in San Jose, California, would be required under the settlement to take specific measures, such as establishing a programme for resolving privacy vulnerability. Company personnel would be required to review any software updates for security flaws.
Zoom said it has already addressed the problems cited by the FTC. The settlement “is in keeping with our commitment to innovating and enhancing our product as we deliver a secure video communications experience,” the company said in a statement Monday.
“The security of our users is a top priority for Zoom,” it said. “We take seriously the trust our users place in us every day, particularly as they rely on us to keep them connected through this unprecedented global crisis, and we continuously improve our security and privacy programs.”
The vote was 3-2 to propose the agreement, with the FTC’s two Democratic commissioners, Rohit Chopra and Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, dissenting because it doesn’t require refunds or other redress for affected customers. The proposal will be opened to public comment for 30 days, after which the agency will decide whether to make it final.
“Zoom has ‘cashed in’ on the pandemic,” Chopra said in his dissent. “Zoom stands ready to emerge as a tech titan. But we should all be questioning whether Zoom and other tech titans expanded their empires through deception. Zoom could have taken the time to ensure that its security was up to the right standards.”
Flipkart Announces Partial Spin-Off of PhonePe to Help Fuel Long-Term Growth Plans
By ANI | Updated: 3 December 2020
Flipkart on Thursday announced a partial spin-off of PhonePe in a move that will help the digital payments platform to access dedicated, long-term capital to fund its growth ambitions.
PhonePe has crossed the 250 million registered user milestone in just four years with over 100 million monthly active users, generating nearly one billion digital payment transactions in October.
Flipkart said its board of directors determined that this was the right time to partially spin-off PhonePe so it can access dedicated capital to fund its long-term ambitions over the next three to four years.
The partial spin-off also provides PhonePe an opportunity to constitute a new board of directors focused on supporting its development, and to create a tailor-made equity incentive or employee stock option (ESOP) programme for its employees.
In this financing round, PhonePe is raising $700 million (roughly Rs. 5,200 crores) in primary capital at a post-money valuation of $5.5 billion (roughly Rs. 40,600 crores) from existing Flipkart investors led by Walmart.
Flipkart will remain PhonePe’s majority shareholder, and the two businesses will retain their close collaboration.
Google Chrome 87 Getting Chrome Actions Feature, to Allow Users to Type Commands in Address Bar
By ANI | Updated: 27 November 2020
Tech giant Google is gradually rolling out a new feature to Google Chrome 87 that allows the user to type commands in the address bar that perform specific browser actions.
According to Mashable, this new feature is called Chrome Actions and allows the user to type in a command, causing an action to be displayed in the address bar search results. When the user selects that action, it will be executed in the browser.
The new option can help user directly search in Google or the engine of choice and even present calculations and unit conversions even before pressing ”Enter”. Its next trick might appeal to a certain class of users who are more used to entering commands in a terminal or envision themselves giving orders to the browser through typed commands.
As reported by Mashable, the new feature called ‘Chrome Actions, will let the user type in some keywords and phrases, which can take the form of commands, to initiate some actions. Like other non-search results, these actions are presented in the suggestion list that user has to either click or if it is currently selected already, hit Enter to take effect.
Techdows lists some of those actions that are already known including: delete history, update browser, launch incognito mode, update credit card info, edit passwords, translate this.
Depending on one’s typing skills, these commands might be faster than digging through menus or click on things. They are not also enabled by default and the user will at least have to dig through chrome://flags to turn them on.
As the site points out, this is not a Google innovation and other browsers have had a similar feature even before Chrome Actions arrived.
China App Ban: Chinese Foreign Ministry Criticises India’s Move to Ban More Apps
By Press Trust of India | Updated: 25 November 2020
China on Wednesday said it was firmly opposed to India’s decision to block 43 more Chinese apps on national security grounds, claiming the move violated WTO rules.
India on Tuesday blocked 43 more Chinese mobile apps, including Alibaba’s e-commerce app AliExpress, in a fresh wave of web sanctions amid its border standoff with China.
The banned applications were a threat to the “sovereignty and integrity of India”, an official statement said in New Delhi.
The Ministry of Electronics and IT issued the order for blocking the access of these apps by users in India based on the comprehensive reports received from Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Center, Ministry of Home Affairs, the release said.
Earlier on June 29 this year, the government had blocked access to 59 mobile apps and on September 2, another 118 apps were banned under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act.
The ban had come in the backdrop of border tensions with China in eastern Ladakh since May.
Asked for his reaction to the latest ban on Chinese apps by India, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing in Beijing that China expresses serious concern over India’s move.
“Since June this year four times India has imposed restrictions on smart phone apps that have Chinese backgrounds under the pretext of national security,” he said.
“This behaviour violates market principles and World Trade Organisation rules, severely undermines the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies. China firmly rejects it,” the spokesman said.
Zhao said Chinese government always asks its companies to abide by international rules and local laws and regulations when doing business overseas.
“Following the market principles, the Indian government has the responsibility to protect their lawful rights and interests of international investors, including Chinese companies”, he said.
He said the nature of China India economic and trade cooperation is mutually beneficial.
“We urge the Indian side to immediately correct its discriminatory behaviour and avoid further damage to bilateral cooperation,” he said.
Google Messages to Get End-to-End Encryption for Android Users
By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 20 November 2020
Google said Thursday it will be rolling out end-to-end encryption for Android users, making it harder for anyone, including law enforcement, to read the content of messages.
“End-to-end encryption ensures that no one, including Google and third parties, can read the content of your messages as they travel between your phone and the phone of the person you’re messaging,” said Google product lead Drew Rowny in announcing the rollout.
Google’s move is part of an upgrade from SMS to the Rich Communication Services (RCS) standard with additional features for images and videos.
It will be available for people communicating using Android-powered devices.
The move brings additional privacy and security to Google’s messaging application, but comes amid rising complaints from law enforcement agencies around the world that strong encryption may enable criminals to hide their tracks.
Digital rights activists have long supported strong encryption to allow users to avoid snooping by governments and cybercriminals. But some governments have warned the technology could hinder criminal investigations.
End-to-end encryption is already available on some services such as Facebook-owned WhatsApp, but the company has been facing resistance over its plan to bring full encryption to its Messenger app.
Last year, US Attorney General William Barr joined with British and Australian counterparts in urging Facebook to abandon its encryption, claiming the plan court hurt investigations into child exploitation.
Civil liberties groups countered that a lack of encryption or privileged access for law enforcement could hurt privacy and security for all Internet users, creating holes that could be exploited by bad actors.
Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer Makes Comeback With Sunshine Contacts App
By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 19 November 2020
Former Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer began her comeback to the tech scene Wednesday with the launch of a new mobile app aimed at helping people organise their contacts.
The startup created by Mayer after her departure from Yahoo in 2017 unveiled its app called Sunshine Contacts, which “automatically creates a comprehensive set of your personal and professional contacts from disparate places like your phone, online address books, and email,” according to the company.
“The essential technologies that help us stay connected to those who matter most are antiquated,” said Mayer, co-founder and CEO of Sunshine, which was previously known as Lumi Labs.
“At Sunshine, we believe there’s an immense opportunity to make the mundane magical. It’s been an extremely challenging and rewarding problem to tackle and we’re just getting started.”
Sunshine, based in Silicon Valley, has raised $20 million (roughly Rs. 150 crores) in capital and plans to launch a series of other applications.
The Sunshine Contacts app, which is free and available for the Apple iOS operating system, aims to help users create more organisation of their personal and professional contacts.
“If you are like most people, the contact cards on your phone are messy: they haven’t been updated in years, there are tons of duplicates, many are incomplete, some have out of date information,” according to the Sunshine website.
With the app, “your previously, static messy contact cards are then magically organised and updated with the latest info.”
Mayer left Yahoo in 2017 after failing to engineer a turnaround of the once-dominant Internet company, and finally negotiating a sale to telecom giant Verizon.
Yahoo was sold for less than $5 billion (roughly Rs. 37,100 crores), capping a long decline from when it had a peak market value of some $125 billion (roughly Rs. 9,27,700 crores) in 2000.
She was named CEO at Yahoo in 2012 after more than a decade at Google, becoming one of the few women to head a major Silicon Valley tech firm.
Mayer’s Sunshine co-founder is Enrique Munoz Torres, a former head of search and advertising at Yahoo and a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Twitter Apologises to Parliament Panel for Geo-Tagging Ladakh in China
By Reuters | Updated: 19 November 2020
Social media giant Twitter has apologised to a parliamentary panel for showing a northern Himalayan region as part of China, promising to make corrections by month-end, the panel’s chief said on Wednesday.
Twitter’s chief privacy officer Damien Kieran sent an apology letter to the Joint Committee on the Personal Data Protection Bill after the company geo-tagged India’s northern territory of Ladakh in neighbouring China, the panel’s head Meenakashi Lekhi told Reuters.
“They have apologised in writing for hurting feelings of Indians,” said Lekhi, also a lawmaker from the country’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“We are committed to protecting assets of India – both physically and digitally”.
Twitter has assured the panel that the matter will be resolved by November 30, she added.
Twitter executives last month appeared before the panel to explain the error, with Lekhi accusing the company of disrespecting India’s sovereignty.
The mistake came to light after some Twitter users tagged their posts as being in Ladakh but the geo-tag showed their location in China.
Twitter at the time said the mistake had been quickly fixed.
Nuclear-armed India and China fought a brief but bloody border war in 1962, and are currently locked in a months-long military stand-off along their contested Himalayan border that includes the region of Ladakh.
The territory is claimed in full by arch-rivals India and Pakistan, while China claims a portion in the east known as the Aksai Chin.
The country’s lawmakers and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government have been at odds with US tech giants.
Lekhi last month criticised Amazon, threatening coercive action against the e-commerce giant after it failed to appear before her panel, while Facebook has been questioned by another parliament panel over its content regulation practices.
© Thomson Reuters 2020
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