Fujifilm Instax Mini 11 Launch May Happen Soon as Company Files for Registration

Fujifilm has seemingly filed to register their upcoming instant camera, dubbed the Fujifilm Instax Mini 11. The update has come via the generally super-reliable camera watcher Nokishita, who spotted Fujifilm’s registration filing for the Instax Mini 11 instant camera. With registration applications typically coming right before the launch of a product, expectations around the internet is that Fujifilm is quite close to launching the upgrade to its instant camera lineup, which has been headed by the Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 since 2017.

There is no further information on the Fujifilm Instax Mini 11, so we don’t quite know what to expect from it. However, given the change in times, some additional digital controls may be on the cards for what is practically one of the best (and last remaining) Polaroid and instant photography cameras in the market. The Mini 9 did not offer many drastically different features over its predecessors, one of which was the Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic that I had once used quite extensively. Fujifilm’s Instax cameras are a sheer delight to use for the novelty they represent, and make for a great casual camera to own, or even to gift.

Fujifilm has also done well to price its Instax range cleverly, thereby appealing to kids, and parents of kids who wish to either inculcate a hobby, or simply engage their kids with a funky new toy that does not induce digital addiction. The Instax Mini 9, for instance, presently sells in India for just Rs 3,799, and given how the market isn’t exactly clamouring for instant print cameras today, we can safely expect the Instax Mini 11 to be priced near that range — maybe at a slight premium, at best.

Fujifilm continues to put its focus on the mirrorless camera segment, with an ever growing lineup of APS-C sensor mirrorless cameras that was joined by the entry level Fujifilm X-A7 in India. While cameras in the entirety are facing the heat from the smartphone industry, the market is still there for dedicated cameras. In fact, many have claimed that smartphones have helped grow the interest in photography, and going forward, it remains to be seen whether Fujifilm manages to grow its business in markets like India, where the likes of Sony, Canon and Nikon hold fort.


Facebook's Nudity Policy Draws Criticism of Censorship from Artists

When is a photograph of nude bodies artistic or titillating? A woman’s exposed nipple a political statement or erotica? A video of childbirth might show genitalia. Should what someone considers a celebration of life be censored? In 1964, US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart declined to define what constitutes obscenity but famously added, “I know it when I see it.” In the 21st century, does Facebook?

The social media behemoth is in a well-publicized struggle to address hate speech, extremism, abuse and misinformation on its services — which together serve nearly 3 billion people worldwide. At the same time, it’s been retooling its policies on nudity. It’s tweaking its original heavy-handed policies to account for modern nuances around gender identity, political speech and self-expression, employing thousands of people and quickly evolving artificial intelligence for the task.

But some of its users — including activists, sex therapists, abuse survivors, artists and sex educators — say policies at Facebook and its Instagram service are still too vague and unevenly enforced. They say their work is being unfairly censored, condemning them to “Facebook jail” with no warning and little, if any recourse.

And it’s no small matter for them. Artists can be suddenly left without their audience, businesses without access to their customers and vulnerable people without a support network. And it means that a company in Silicon Valley, whose online platforms have become not only our town squares but diaries, magazines, art galleries and protest platforms, gets the final say on matters of free speech and self-expression. It’s deciding what “community standards” should be for billions of people around the world.

“Instagram really is the magazine of the world right now. And if artists are being censored on Instagram it’s really dangerous for freedom of speech and openness when it comes to the body and art,” said Spencer Tunick, a photographer known internationally for his shoots assembling masses of nude people.

Tunick says that more recently he’s found his work “shadow-banned” by Instagram, which has become a crucial tool for artists to showcase their work. His posts weren’t removed but aren’t readily visible to users. Of course, there’s near-universal agreement that child exploitation and nonconsensual images don’t belong on social networks. Pornography probably doesn’t either.

Facebook’s monitoring systems do a better job with nudity than with hate speech, extremism and misinformation. After all, a butt is a butt and a nipple is a nipple. But deciding when a nipple is art, porn or protest gets murky even when humans are doing the deciding. Teaching AI software about human sexual desire is a whole other ballgame.

From its start as a college photo directory and social network, Facebook banned nudity. Over the years, as Facebook’s audience grew bigger and more diverse, the ban loosened. The company instituted exceptions for breastfeeding women, for images of post-mastectomy scars. Birthing videos are now allowed, as are photos of post-gender reassignment surgery.

“We had this policy that said no genitals on the platform,” said Kim Malfacini, the Facebook product policy manager who oversees how the company’s community standards are developed. “Until two years ago there were no exceptions to that.”

But the reviewers began seeing photos and videos women shared about their childbirth, she said. Based on the letter of the policy, those had to be removed. Malfacini said she joined Facebook around this time and began speaking with midwives, doulas, birthing photographers and others to carve out an exception for images of childbirth even though they show genitalia. Now, the images come with a warning screen; users can click through to see them.

Most of the photos of unclothed children on Facebook are posted innocently by parents sharing vacation photos on the beach or kids in a bath. Sometimes these parents get a warning. Malfacini sometimes speaks to them.

“They have no idea that those photos could be abused,” she said. With child nudity, Facebook is more conservative. Over the age of 3, girls can’t be topless. Boys can. It may be that the way some bars ask anyone who looks under 40 for ID, Facebook is being extra conservative in setting the line so there won’t be any grey areas. For parents of girls, though, this can feel sexist. Should Facebook ban all photos, then, of children without a shirt? Until what age? How will it verify when the kids turn 18?

“It’s a challenge,” Malfacini said. Even with carefully thought-out policies, enforcement can feel arbitrary and the consequences lasting.

Dawn Robertson started her women-empowerment campaign, “Grab Them by the Ballot,” before the 2018 US midterm elections. She wanted to inspire women to vote, especially in light of the MeToo movement and growing restrictions on abortion. She organized women to pose nude, covered only by strategically placed ballots, props and hashtags.

The photos catch the eye, not just because the women are naked but because we are still unaccustomed to seeing images of flawed, unretouched bodies. These are women with wrinkles and fat and tattoos and unretouched skin, a wheelchair here, pregnant belly there — photos not meant to attract our gaze or sell a product but to defy.

Then, she posted them on Facebook and Instagram. Suddenly, the campaign took off, though much of the attention was from right-wing publications such as Breitbart, Robertson said.

“All of a sudden, it was just insane, the negative feedback we got,” she said. “Facebook banned my personal account.”

Robertson said she’s been banned on and off since starting her campaign. When that happens, she couldn’t delete racist and sexist comments that were posted on her group’s page. She got no warning, or reason why she was banned, though she figured it was for nudity. That is even though Facebook allows nudity in some cases, including for political activism.

Other services are dealing with the issue in their own way — Twitter is generally more freewheeling and Tumblr only recently banned adult content — but none have the heft and size of Facebook’s family of services.

Lori Handler, who works as a “sex and happiness coach,” first found herself in Facebook jail two years ago, when she posted a photo of someone doing naked yoga on her page. She couldn’t comment on anything or send private messages.

“I have four business pages and a personal page,” she said. “And when something goes down and I can’t post, I am out of business for a month.”

Artists have staged protests and pleaded with Facebook. Some have found other platforms to show their work, but they say the company’s sheer dominance in online communications makes it difficult to have the same reach.

“What we are trying to do is open the gate somewhat,” said Svetlana Mintcheva, director of programs at the National Coalition Against Censorship, which has asked Facebook to reconsider its ban on photographic nudity. “The human body is not this horrible, scary, traumatizing thing. It’s a beautiful thing.”

But beauty has been historically a tricky thing to define. Which means Facebook’s stance on nudity will likely continue to shift.

“No policy is set in stone,” Malfacini said. “On any given policy, we are in some process of revisiting some part of it.”


Tokyo Olympics, 2022 Winter Games Set to Gain from Alibaba's Technological Might

Alibaba’s promise to the Olympic family is to bring its technological might to help organizers, broadcasters and fans. The Chinese tech giant’s Olympic sponsorship deal is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and runs for 12 years, starting in 2017 and continuing through the upcoming Tokyo Games and the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing and into the 2024 Paris Olympics and the 2028 Los Angeles Games. “We are not just putting the rings alongside our logo,” Alibaba chief marketing officer Chris Tung told The Associated Press in an interview at the Winter Youth Olympics in Lausanne, the IOC’s home city. “We also like to leverage our technology to help transform and upgrade the games. That is always what we have in mind by being a sponsor”.

At this year’s Tokyo Olympics, broadcasters will gain the most from Alibaba’s cloud computing work. Fans will see the biggest changes at the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing as ticketing and merchandise operations become more digital. Then it should be the turn of organizers as they reap more rewards from Alibaba’s expertise at the 2024 and 2028 Games. “We expect Paris and LA will be a total explosion of what has been tested and what has been discussed with the previous games,” Tung said.

Now clearly established in a top tier of global partners working with both the International Olympic Committee and FIFA, Alibaba is looking to improve sports events on top of helping finance them. With Olympic sports and anti-doping bodies now regularly targeted by hackers, including from Russia, cybersecurity is cited as “an absolute must,” by Tung.

Asked about integrity issues confronting Chinese tech giant Huawei, Tung pointed to Alibaba enjoying the trust of 200,000 brands using its e-commerce platforms Tmall and Aliexpress.

The two-week Winter Youth Olympics will test Alibaba’s work with the IOC subsidiary Olympic Broadcasting Services to create a better service for rights-holding national networks in Tokyo. Routing thousands of hours of action and interviews through Alibaba’s cloud servers should be faster, more efficient, with lesser staff and equipment on-site, and create more content for social media.

What works in 2020 should be improved in 2022 when Beijing becomes the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Games. “Fans and athletes will experience a totally different Olympic Games with a lot of support from cloud technology,” Tung said, predicting long lines at souvenir stands replaced by immediate delivery to hotels from ordering on Alibaba’s online platforms.

After a decision by FIFA in October, China and Alibaba will get an extra forum to test hosting ideas seven months before the Winter Olympics. In June 2021, a revamped 24-team Club World Cup will kick off in China bringing tens of thousands of soccer fans worldwide to see games in several cities. Alibaba Cloud is already the title sponsor of the existing annual, but low-key, club tournament.

“We are excited about the opportunity,” Tung said, adding Alibaba awaited details from FIFA about new Club World Cup plans. “It’s very strategic for us to increase the reach and influence of (soccer) as a sponsor”. Many observers see a logical next step in Alibaba joining Olympic sponsors like Coca-Cola and Visa on FIFA’s World Cup slate — especially as China is widely expected to host in 2030 or 2034. “We,” Tung said, “are open to the possibility.”


Angela Merkel Seeks to End Huawei Dispute in Own Party

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s are divided whether they should ban China’s Huawei from the country’s 5G network rollout or not.

Updated:January 16, 2020, 5:43 PM IST
Angela Merkel Seeks to End Huawei Dispute in Own Party
File Photo of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet senior conservative lawmakers on Thursday to resolve a dispute in her own party over whether to bar China’s Huawei from the country’s 5G network rollout, party sources said. Merkel’s conservatives are divided on whether to support a proposal by their Social Democrat junior coalition partners that, if approved, would effectively shut out the Chinese technology giant from the network.

Handelsblatt business daily was first to report on Wednesday the planned meeting between Merkel and senior conservative lawmakers. Merkel’s right-left government, under pressure from the United States to bar Huawei, wants to toughen up technical certification and scrutiny of telecoms equipment suppliers, without excluding any specific country or vendor.

Social Democrat (SPD) lawmakers last year backed an internal proposal that stipulates that vendors from countries without “constitutional supervision” must be excluded. The SPD maintains it wants to reach a common position with Merkel’s CDU/CSU conservative group, which is divided on the issue. Conservative hawks opposed to rules favoured by the chancellor that would keep the door open to Huawei are eager to go ahead with the SPD’s strict standards.

Moderates eager to avoid a showdown with Merkel suggested that the stringent security criteria should apply to the core network only. For an interactive graphic on 5G and security risks. German operators are all customers of Huawei and have warned that banning the Chinese vendor would add years of delays and billions of dollars in costs of launching 5G networks.

The United States says gear provided by Huawei, the leading telecoms equipment vendor with a global market share of 28 per cent, contains “back doors” that would enable China to spy on other countries. Shenzhen-based Huawei has denied allegations by the Trump administration, which imposed export controls on Huawei in May, hobbling its smartphone business and raising questions over whether the Chinese company can maintain its market lead.

The US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday that issues related to Huawei were not part of the economic dialogue with China and that those issues will be negotiated separately.


Sony Xperia 5 Plus to Make Debut at MWC 2020

Sony’s new Xperia 5 Plus could come with the new Snapdragon 765 chipset.

Sony Xperia 5 Plus to Make Debut at MWC 2020
Sony Xperia 5 Plus Render courtesy @OnLeaks
Sony will most likely launch its new phone, the Sony Xperia 5 Plus, in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress on February 24, 2020.

As per a report published on GSMArena, the new Xperia 5 Plus will come with a notch-less display, which basically means there will be no holes or notches on the phone’s 6.6-inch display.

The mid-range phone is expected to be powered by the Snapdragon 765 SoC. If rumours are to be believed with this Sony will re-introduce the headphone jack and dual front-firing stereo speakers. The upcoming phone houses an OLED panel sandwiched between two front-firing stereo speakers and has a 3.5 mm headphone jack on top of the phone.

A separate report suggests that the right side of the Sony Xperia 5 will house the volume buttons and a side-facing fingerprint reader, while the rear of the phone will have a vertically arranged triple camera setup at the top-left corner with a Time-of-Flight sensor. The selfie camera is likely to have an 8-megapixel sensor and the handset is said to measure 168.2 x 71.6 x 8.1 mm in size and 9.3mm in thickness including the rear camera bump.

Last year, the company had released the Xperia 1, Xperia 10, and Xperia 10 Plus. Out of all these phones only, Sony Xperia 1 came with 6.5-inch 4K HDR OLED panel having a price tag of $1000. Sadly none of these phones are going to come to India as the company has shut shop in the country.


PUBG Announces New 'Karakin' Map, Coming to Season 6

Karakin, a new map will be the newest addition to PUBG available on PC and consoles with the upcoming season 6.

PUBG Announces New 'Karakin' Map, Coming to Season 6
Karakin, a new map will be the newest addition to PUBG available on PC and consoles with the upcoming season 6.
PUBG Corp. officially announced the next season of PUBG for PC and console which is coming later this month. The biggest addition is going to be a brand new map called Karakin which is a small 2×2 km island off the Northern coast of Africa. It will be limited to 64 players and will feature a new “Black Zone.” Similar to the red zone, it will incur much more damage changing the entire terrain and damage buildings to force players out of hiding. So much for camping!

The new season will also introduce a new C4 sticky bomb. Players can strategically plant this bomb at certain breach points to catch the enemy by surprise. Also, a two-man glider will also be added which was earlier released in a beta update. The motor glider will become the first flying vehicle in PUBG. Both of these additions are going to be limited to the new Karakin map itself.

A new pass will also be added with the next season called ‘Survivor Pass.’ It will be free a battle pass progression system that will focus on community set of challenges and allow players to unlock in-game rewards and history of Kakarin.

Season 6 of PUBG along with the above-mentioned updates, will be available on PC starting 22 January and consoles from 30 January. The new content is available for early access on the test server for players on PC. For the entire list of features, you can get all the info on PUBG’s official website.


Huawei Surpassed Samsung by Selling 6.9 Million 5G Smartphones in 2019

Samsung sold 6.7 million 5G smartphones globally in 2019 while Huawei sold its smartphones primarily in its domestic market, China.

Representative image. (Photo: Reuters)
Representative image.

It is yet again a tough battle between Samsung and Huawei for the top spot, this time in the 5G market. Samsung, earlier this month revealed that it shipped a total of 6.7 million phones with 5G connectivity, while the Chinese company Huawei recently announced that they have surpassed South Korean phone making giant’s milestone after shipping 6.9 million 5G phones in the year 2019.

As of now, Huawei sells 6 models that support 5G connectivity, these phones are the Mate 20 X 5G, Mate 30 5G, Mate 30 Pro 5G, Mate 30 RS Porsche Design, nova 6 5G, and the foldable Mate X. Furthermore, there are two more phones, which they sell with the same connectivity under their subsidiary brand Honor, the V30 and the V30 Pro.

In a post on Chinese social media site Weibo, the company claimed the latter two managed to win the title for Best Selling Phone on and Tmall in its price category. Samsung managed to achieve the target by selling phones across the globe while the Chinese phone maker primarily sold its device in its domestic market, where there was a negligible presence of Samsung.


Oppo F15 With MediaTek P70 SoC, 48-Megapixel Quad Camera Launched in India

The handset comes with a large AMOLED display as well as the company’s own VOOC Flash Charge 3.0 fast-charging.

Oppo F15 With MediaTek P70 SoC, 48-Megapixel Quad Camera Launched in India
The handset comes with a large AMOLED display as well as the company’s own VOOC Flash Charge 3.0 fast-charging.

Refreshing its F series, Chinese handset maker OPPO on Thursday launched the F15 for Rs 19,990 in India for a configuration of 8GB RAM and 128GB ROM. Powered by the MediaTek P70 processor, the OPPO F15 is equipped with the company’s own VOOC Flash Charge 3.0 fast-charging.

The OPPO F15 will be available in Unicorn White and Lightning Black colours starting January 24 on Amazon India and Flipkart, as well as on offline retail stores. “OPPO believes in pushing the boundaries to provide consumers with best in class consumer experience. Our latest edition to the F series, the OPPO F15 will introduce not only a new level of fun, creativity, speed but also an unparalleled stylish design,” Sumit Walia, Vice President-Product and Marketing, OPPO India, said in a statement.

Powered by a 4,000 mAh battery, the smartphone will offer users more hours of hassle-free work and play on their smartphone, according to the handset maker. The OPPO F15 has a minimalist design with a thickness of 7.9mm and only 172g in weight.

The smartphone also sports a 48MP Ultra Wide-Angle Macro Quadcam. Using its four-in-one-pixel combination technology, its 48MP rear camera sensors are designed to capture sharper images with greater detail. The OPPO F15 features a 16MP selfie camera with a f/2.0 aperture. The smartphone’s screen-to-body ratio of 90.7 per cent along with the FHD+ AMOLED screen’s 2400 x 1080 resolution allows the user to immerse fully in an ultra-crisp gaming experience.


FASTag Becomes Mandatory on all National Highways: Here's Everything You Need to Know

The government extended the deadline to make FASTag payment tags mandatory on all national highways from December 15 to January 15, 2020. There was a recent report that said to facilitate the smooth flow of traffic, FASTag norms for 65 toll plazas with high cash transactions have been relaxed to allow them to convert up to 25 percent of “FASTag lane of Fee Plaza” into hybrid lanes for 30 days. A road ministry statement said that the move is temporary for 30 days and has been done on the request of National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) so that the citizens are not put to any inconvenience.

But what exactly is a FASTag? A FASTag is a sticker that is attached to the windshield of your car, from the inside. This is Radio-frequency Identification (RFID) enabled via the barcode and is linked with the registration details of your vehicle. That information is stored in the barcode itself. As you drive though any toll plaza on any national highway in India, there will be dedicated lanes that have FASTag readers installed overhead—and as your vehicle passes beneath them, the RFID code is detected for your vehicle, processed and the necessary toll amount is deducted from the prepaid balance. All this without you having to stop, interact with a human being at a toll plaza and having to pay cash.

According to the National Highways Fee (Determination of Rates and Collection) Rules 2008, there are lanes at toll plazas reserved exclusively for FASTag users. You drive into that lane, the FASTag is detected by the readers installed overhead, the payment is made seamlessly, and you are on your way. The process is so quick, you don’t need to stop. The government push towards automated digital payments at toll plazas across India is multi-pronged. One advantage is reduced cash handling by the concessionaire as well as the authorities running toll plazas to allow for better transparency in the system. It is also expected to reduce the rush and waiting times at toll plazas, which is often because of cash collections, people trying to find the exact change or sometimes even arguments about the exact toll amount. And finally, the lesser time you spend at a toll plaza, you waste less fuel just sitting there in a queue and that also reduces pollution.

It was in October that the Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari announced that FASTags will become mandatory for all vehicles from December this year. However, there have been extensions of this deadline since. The December 1 deadline was shifted to December 15, and now it is January 15, 2020. The idea is to have all private and commercial vehicles equipped with this contactless payment system for paying the necessary road usage charge at toll plazas on national highways (NH) across India. There could be many reasons for this extention. Reports of increased queue times at many toll plazas, issues with FASTags being read incorrectly by the readers installed at toll plazas, or not be detected at all and incorrect amount of toll being deducted, are some of the issues users have complained about on social media. But we could say these are teething problems?

“We need FASTags to avoid delays due to traffic and toll lines, FASTag has been implemented across 524 toll plazas across the country. FASTags seek to establish the largest, scalable and interoperable electronic toll collection system in the world,” says Ravi Mathur, CEO, GS1 India. It is the encoding with a GS1 identification standard (Global Individual Asset Identifier – GIAI) that allows unique identification of vehicles and that means a single tag on a vehicle can be used to make the payment at any toll plaza on the national highways across India. FASTags are part of the National Electronic Toll Collection (NETC) program developed by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI). And we are seeing increased adoption of Fastags ahead of the mandatory implementation. According to the NPCI numbers shared with the media, as many as 9.67 lakh transactions were processed daily through FASTags across all toll plazas on national highways in India in the month of September, which is a total of 34% of all transactions done by vehicles commuting on the national highways.

Each tag and car pairing works with the GS1 unique identification numbers, which are encoded in the FASTags. That way, each vehicle is identified in a standardized and common manner that is understood by the digital payments systems deployed by state and central governments, the Traffic Police, insurance companies and toll collection authorities. If the same method is also activated for payment for parking as well as for paying for fuel fill-ups, the same standards will be followed by the municipalities and private operators as well. “FASTags would also enable toll payments across State and district highways and even for parking in cities in the near future. This would help commuters in seamless movement across city parking to State to national highways. Through use of GS1 standards (the Electronic Product code), information exchange can be facilitated about vehicle movement, road accidents, traffic predictions, etc across stakeholders by police, traffic management authorities, insurance, toll collection authorities, and municipal bodies. It also reduces fuel consumption levels, pollution and travel time,” adds Mathur.

If you need to buy a FASTag for your car, you can either physically buy one at certain toll plazas across India, by carrying your identification as well as the vehicle registration documents with you. This is a mandatory KYC process. Or, and this could perhaps be simpler as well—you could buy one on or approach certain banks for these FASTags. The banks that currently offer FASTags include HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, State Bank of India, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Axis Bank as well as the Airtel Payments Bank and Paytm Payments Bank. The advantage of buying the FASTag from the bank where you have your savings or salary account is that they can pre-link it with your bank account for easy recharge later. If it is a mobile wallet for instance, then you can simply keep enough balance in that account for this to work.

Interesting enough, there seem to be offers on the purchase of a new FASTag depending on which vendor you choose to buy from. And these keep changing, depending on offers and schemes applicable at the time. If you buy it from Paytm for example, the FASTag will cost you Rs 500. This includes Rs 100 for the tag, Rs 250 as refundable security deposit and Rs 150 as the first recharge for your FASTag. The minimum balance threshold amount for the Paytm issued tag is also Rs 150. Airtel, for example, is offering a cashback of Rs 150 for prepaid and postpaid users if you buy a FASTag from them. If you decide to buy from HDFC Bank, the tag costs you Rs 400—this includes Rs 100 for the tag, Rs 100 as reissuance fee and Rs 200 as security deposit. Incidentally, HDFC Bank has Rs 100 as the minimum threshold for your account to remain active. And these are just some examples.

That is not all. There are cash backs as well every time you use this. For instance, you can avail a cashback of 2.5% on all National Toll payments using FASTag in FY 2019-20. Irrespective of whether you buy the FASTag from HDFC or Paytm, you will get 2.5% Cashback on all National Highway Toll payments for FY 2019-20. FASTag issuers may have more offers from time to time.

Then there is the question of recharging the balance on the FASTag. You can log in to the payment system of the bank which has issued the FASTag and make the recharge from your bank account. Or if you bought it from Paytm, you recharge your linked Paytm account and the balance shall be deducted from that every time you pass through a toll plaza on a national highway. You can also download the My FASTag app (free for Android on the Google Play Store) and recharge your FASTag via the unified payments interface (UPI) there. “The online NHAI FASTag has been conceived in a DIY (Do-It-Yourself) concept wherein a customer can self-activate it by entering customer and vehicle details in My FASTag mobile app. Thereafter, the customer will have to link the tag to an existing bank account of his/her choice,” the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways said in an official statement released in May when the FASTag was made available on Amazon India.


Don’t Attend North Korean Cryptocurrency Conference, UN Sanctions Experts Warn People

United Nations sanctions experts are warning people not to attend a cryptocurrency conference in North Korea in February, flagging it as a likely sanctions violation, according to a confidential report due to be submitted to the U.N. Security Council later this month. The warning comes after the independent U.N. experts told the council in August that North Korea generated an estimated $2 billion for its weapons of mass destruction programs using “widespread and increasingly sophisticated” cyberattacks to steal from banks and cryptocurrency exchanges.

North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions since 2006 over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The 15-member Security Council has unanimously strengthened those measures over the years, prompting Pyongyang to look for alternative ways to make money. In April last year, North Korea held its first blockchain and cryptocurrency conference and an organizer told Reuters more than 80 organizations took part. An American who attended has been charged with violating U.S. sanctions.

The next conference is due to be held from Feb. 22-29, according to its website. An excerpt from the upcoming annual report by the U.N. sanctions experts, seen by Reuters, warns that presentations at the conference “have included explicit discussions of cryptocurrency for sanctions evasion and money laundering.” It then spells out that U.N. sanctions require countries to prevent the provision of “financial transactions, technical training, advice, services or assistance” if they believe it could be contributing to North Korea’s nuclear or ballistic missile programs or to the evasion of sanctions.

The full report is due to be submitted to the U.N. Security Council North Korea sanctions committee later this month. North Korea’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

No evidence of entry

A British government spokesman and a Security Council diplomat from another country, speaking on condition of anonymity, both said North Korea’s cyber program was used to collect information, evade sanctions and generate revenue. “Supporting the DPRK’s use of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, risks violating the Security Council’s resolutions because it would unavoidably increase the DPRK’s ability to subvert sanctions and generate revenue for its weapons programs,” the British spokesman said, citing North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

The United States formally charged American digital currency expert Virgil Griffith last week after he attended the North Korean cryptocurrency conference last year. Prosecutors accuse him of providing services to North Korea without U.S. approval and evading U.S. laws. When Griffith – who has a doctorate from the California Institute of Technology – was arrested in November, prosecutors said he and other conference attendees had discussed how cryptocurrency technology could be used by Pyongyang to launder money and evade sanctions.

“Although the press was not allowed to attend the conference and its proceedings were not published openly, the recent indictment of an American for sanctions violations sheds light on the intended purpose of the conference,” the U.N. sanctions experts wrote in the excerpt from the upcoming report. U.S. prosecutors said Griffith had been encouraging other U.S. citizens to attend next month’s conference in North Korea. The conference website specifically notes that Americans are welcome to apply to attend and that their passports would not be stamped “so there will be no evidence of your entry to the country.”

Cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin and ether, are created through a computer process called mining, which requires powerful hardware. Once generated, they can be exchanged on anonymous online platforms for fiat currencies such as the U.S. dollar, which in turn can help illicit activities like evading sanctions or laundering money. Blockchain technology is a digital ledger that forms the backbone of many cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.