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WhatsApp Privacy Policy Not Withdrawn, Probe Must Continue, CCI Tells Delhi HC




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Commission of India (CCI) Monday told the Delhi High Court that WhatsApp’s updated privacy policy of 2021 has not been withdrawn and its probe concerning the policy should be allowed to proceed.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.


Microsoft Said to Plan ‘Super App’ to Loosen Grip of Google, Apple on Mobile Search Space




Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella reportedly pushed for the firm's Bing search engine to work better with Teams and Outlook.
By Reuters | Updated: 7 December 2022

Microsoft recently considered building a “super app” that could include shopping, messaging, news and web search services among others, The Information reported on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The Windows-maker mulled building the app to loosen the hold of Alphabet’s Google and Apple on the mobile search space, according to the report.

Microsoft executives wanted the app to also boost the company’s multibillion-dollar advertising business and Bing search, as well as draw more users to Teams messaging and other mobile services, The Information reported.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The report added that it isn’t clear whether the company would launch such an app, but Chief Executive Satya Nadella has pushed for the Bing search service to perform better with the Teams and Outlook.

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk, who also owns Twitter, has shown interest in building a super app named “X” that would combine a multitude of services.

A super app, made popular in Asia by Tencent Holdings’ WeChat and South East Asia’s Grab Holdings, has been described as the Swiss army knife of mobile apps, offering a suite of services for users such as messaging, social networking, peer-to-peer payments and e-commerce shopping.

These mega apps are widely used in Asia because mobile is the main form of access to the internet for many people in the region, wrote Scott Galloway, a New York University professor of marketing and co-host of tech podcast “Pivot,” last year.

Chinese super app WeChat has more than 1 billion monthly users, according to one estimate, and is a ubiquitous part of daily life in China. Users can hail a car or taxi, send money to friends and family or make payments at stores.

In 2018, some Chinese cities began testing WeChat for an electronic identification system that would be tied to users’ accounts, according to the South China Morning Post.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Apple Music Sing Karaoke Mode With Real-Time Lyrics, Duet View Announced: All Details




Apple Music Sing will offer users over 50 dedicated "companion playlists" featuring karaoke-ready songs.

By ANI | Updated: 7 December 2022

Apple Music Sing was announced by the Cupertino company on Tuesday, as a new karaoke experience that will be built right into the company’s Apple Music app. Users will be able to sing along with Apple Music’s real-time lyrics and adjust the volume of the vocals so that their voice is more audible. The karaoke mode will offer users over 50 dedicated “companion playlists” featuring karaoke-ready songs to pick from, along with animated lyrics that are designed to move along with the vocals, according to Apple.

The company has also announced a few more features that make it simpler to sing with others. The service will allow background voices to be animated separately from the lead vocals, allowing users to follow lines that are sung at the same time as the main vocals. Meanwhile, a duet view will be available if a user wishes to sing along with a companion.

Apple says it will offer users over 50 dedicated companion playlists featuring karaoke-ready songs that users can pick from. The feature will also support animated real-time lyrics that are animated and move to the rhythm of the vocals, according to the company.

“Apple Music’s lyrics experience is consistently one of the most popular features on our service,” Oliver Schusser, Apple’s vice president of Apple Music and Beats, said in a press release.

We already know our users all over the world love to follow along to their favourite songs, so we wanted to evolve this offering even further to enable even more engagement around music through singing. It’s really a lot of fun, our customers are going to love it,” he added.

Apple Music Sing will be available to users later this month, according to the company. It will function on “all compatible” iPhone and iPad models. If users want to try the feature on Apple TV, they will need to use the recently launched Apple TV 4K, according to Apple.

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WhatsApp Bans Over 23 Lakh Accounts in India in October, ‘Proactively’ Barred 8.1 Lakh Users




By ANI | Updated: 1 December 2022

Instant messaging and voice-over-IP service WhatsApp on Wednesday said the firm banned over 23 lakh accounts in the month of October, according to a spokesperson of WhatsApp. In another statement, it said as many as 811,000 of these 23 lakh accounts were proactively banned, before any reports from users.

A WhatsApp spokesperson in a statement said, “WhatsApp is an industry leader in preventing abuse, among end-to-end encrypted messaging services. Over the years, we have consistently invested in Artificial Intelligence and other state-of-the-art technology, data scientists and experts, and in processes, in order to keep our users safe on our platform.”

The spokesperson said, “In accordance with the IT Rules 2021, we’ve published our report for the month of October 2022. This user-safety report contains details of the user complaints received and the corresponding action taken by WhatsApp, as well as WhatsApp’s own preventive actions to combat abuse on our platform.”

As captured in the latest monthly report, WhatsApp banned over 23 lakh million accounts in the month of October, according to the spokesperson.

In a statement released by the firm, 26,85,000 WhatsApp accounts were banned from the instant messaging service between September 1 and 30 this year. As many as 872,000 of these accounts were proactively banned, before any reports from users.

According to the firm’s statement, in addition to responding to and taking action on user complaints through the grievance channel, WhatsApp also deployed tools and resources to prevent harmful behaviour on the platform. It said, “We are particularly focused on prevention because we believe it is much better to stop harmful activity from happening in the first place than to detect it after harm has occurred.”

It said the abuse detection operates at three stages of an account’s lifestyle: At registration, during messaging, and in response to negative feedback, which we receive in the form of user reports and blocks.

The statement from WhatsApp said a team of analysts augments these systems to evaluate edge cases and help improve our effectiveness over time.

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Paytm to Resubmit Application for Authorisation of Payment Aggregator Services




By ANI | Updated: 26 November 2022

Digital payments and financial services company Paytm has shared an update with the exchanges about its 100 percent subsidiary, Paytm Payments Services.

The fintech company said that it has received a letter from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in response to an application from its subsidiary for the authorisation to provide payment aggregator services for online merchants.

The company can now resubmit the application within 120 calendar days for the payment aggregator services. Ahead of that, the company will seek necessary approval for past downward investment from Paytm into its subsidiary, to comply with foreign direct investment guidelines.

During this process, the company will not onboard new online merchants.

“We can continue to onboard new offline merchants and offer them payment services including All-in-One QR, Soundbox, Card Machines, etc. Similarly, PPSL can continue to do business with existing online merchants, for whom the services will remain unaffected,” said the company in its exchange filing on Saturday.

This essentially means that Paytm’s strong business momentum is likely to continue, with no impact on its profitability target as the company can continue to work with its existing online merchants.

Additionally, Paytm’s growing device deployments base and increasing offline payments base will also not be impacted with this development, as it can continue to onboard new merchants.

The company specifically outlined in its filing that this has no material impact on its business and revenues since the communication from RBI is applicable only to the onboarding of new online merchants.

“We are hopeful of receiving the necessary approvals in a timely manner and resubmitting the application,” said the company in the filing.

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Zoom Annual Revenue Forecast Lowered Amid Decline in Online Business, Rising Inflation




By Reuters | Updated: 22 November 2022

Zoom Video Communications on Monday lowered its annual revenue forecast, as the video-conferencing platform expects a hit from declining online business. The company’s chief financial officer Kelly Steckelberg said during a post-earnings call that Zoom’s online business would decline nearly 8 percent during the year.

After recording blistering growth during the pandemic, Zoom, which competes with WeChat Work, Microsoft Teams, Cisco WebEx, and Slack, is facing a slowdown as red-hot inflation is dampening the spending power of customers.

The easing of pandemic-related restrictions across the world is also weighing on its business as people started spending less time online.

Shares of the San Jose, California-based company, which fell nearly 56 percent this year, were down 5 percent in trading after the bell.

Zoom now expects annual revenue to be between $4.37 billion (roughly Rs. 35,696 crore) and $4.38 billion (roughly Rs. 35,777 crore), compared with an earlier outlook of $4.39 billion (roughly Rs. 35,850 crore) and $4.40 (roughly Rs. 35,932 crore) billion.

“Guidance suggests further weakness in both enterprise and online. It is tough to disaggregate how much of this is macro (especially given slowing down in hiring or layoffs in tech) and how much is competition,” said RBC analyst Rishi Jaluria.

“The focus for Zoom remains on its ability to expand to become a larger platform,” he added.

The company, however, raised its annual adjusted profit per share to between $3.91 (roughly Rs. 320) and $3.94 (roughly Rs. 322), compared with the $3.66 (roughly Rs. 299) to $3.69 (roughly Rs. 301) forecast earlier.

Revenue for the third quarter that ended on October 31 rose 5 percent to $1.1 billion (roughly Rs. 9,000 crore), on the back of a 20 percent increase from high-paying enterprise customers, the company said.

On an adjusted basis, the pandemic winner earned $1.07 (roughly Rs. 87) per share during the quarter, compared with estimates of 84 cents (roughly Rs. 69), according to Refinitiv data.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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WhatsApp Business Chat to Drive Sales Sooner Than the Metaverse, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg Says




By Reuters | Updated: 18 November 2022

Meta Platforms Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg told employees on Thursday that WhatsApp and Messenger would drive the company’s next wave of sales growth, as he sought to assuage concerns about Meta’s finances after its first mass layoffs.

Zuckerberg, addressing pointed questions at a company-wide meeting a week after Meta said it would lay off 11,000 workers, described the pair of messaging apps as being “very early in monetizing” compared to its advertising juggernauts Facebook and Instagram, according to remarks heard by Reuters.

“We talk a lot about the very long-term opportunities like the metaverse, but the reality is that business messaging is probably going to be the next major pillar of our business as we work to monetize WhatsApp and Messenger more,” he said.

Meta enables some consumers to speak and transact with merchants through the chat apps, including a new feature announced Thursday in Brazil.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday’s internal forum.

Zuckerberg’s comments there reflect a shift in tone and emphasis after focusing heavily on extended reality hardware and software investments since announcing a long-term ambition to build out an immersive metaverse last year.

Investors have questioned the wisdom of that decision as Meta’s core advertising business has struggled this year, more than halving its stock price.

In his remarks to employees, Zuckerberg played down how much the company was spending in Reality Labs, the unit responsible for its metaverse investments.

People were Meta’s biggest expense, followed by capital expenditure, the vast majority of which went to infrastructure to support its suite of social media apps, he said. About 20 percent of Meta’s budget was going to Reality Labs.

Within Reality Labs, the unit was spending over half of its budget on augmented reality (AR), with smart glasses products continuing to emerge “over the next few years” and some “truly great” AR glasses later in the decade, Zuckerberg said.

“This is in some ways is the most challenging work … but I also think it’s the most valuable potential part of the work over time,” he said.

About 40 percent of Reality Labs’ budget went toward virtual reality, while about 10 percent was spent on futuristic social platforms such as the virtual world it calls Horizon.

Chief Technology Officer Andrew Bosworth, who runs Reality Labs, said AR glasses need to be more useful than mobile phones to appeal to potential customers and meet a higher bar for attractiveness.

Bosworth said he was wary of developing “industrial applications” for the devices, describing that as “niche,” and wanted to stay focused on building for a broad audience.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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