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Apple removes thousands of game apps from China store: research firm

SHANGHAI Apple Inc removed 29,800 apps from its Chinese app store on Saturday, including more than 26,000 games, according to data from research firm Qimai.

The takedowns come amid a crackdown on unlicensed games by Chinese authorities.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Earlier this year Apple gave game publishers an end-of-June deadline to submit a government-issued licence number enabling users to make in-app purchases.

China’s Android app stores have long complied with those regulations. It is not clear why Apple is enforcing them strictly this year.

The smartphone maker removed more than 2,500 titles from its app store over the first week of July. Games affected by the sweep included titles from Zynga and Supercell, research firm SensorTower reported at the time.

The Chinese government has long sought to enforce stricter regulations on its gaming industry to remove sensitive content.

The approval process for games looking to enable in-app purchases is long and complicated, hurting all but the largest game developers, industry insiders say.

“This affects small- and mid-sized developers’ incomes the most, but due to the difficulties of acquiring a business licence, it’s devastating to the whole iOS game industry in China,” said Todd Kuhns, marketing manager for AppInChina, a firm that helps overseas companies distribute their apps.

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(This story corrects the spelling of name in paragraph 9)

Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor


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Tech

Apple removes thousands of game apps from China store – research firm

SHANGHAI Apple Inc removed 29,800 apps from its Chinese app store on Saturday, including more than 26,000 games, according to data from research firm Qimai.

The takedowns come amid a crackdown on unlicensed games by Chinese authorities.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Earlier this year Apple gave game publishers an end-of-June deadline to submit a government-issued licence number enabling users to make in-app purchases.

China’s Android app stores have long complied with those regulations. It is not clear why Apple is enforcing them strictly this year.

The smartphone maker removed more than 2,500 titles from its app store over the first week of July. Games affected by the sweep included titles from Zynga and Supercell, research firm SensorTower reported at the time. The Chinese government has long sought to enforce stricter regulations on its gaming industry to remove sensitive content. The approval process for games looking to enable in-app purchases is long and complicated, hurting all but the largest game developers, industry insiders say.

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“This affects small- and mid-sized developers’ incomes the most, but due to the difficulties of acquiring a business licence, it’s devastating to the whole iOS game industry in China,” said Todd Kuhn, marketing manager for AppIn China, a firm that helps overseas companies distribute their apps.

Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor


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OnePlus Exposes Customer Information While Sending Mass Mailers For Research

Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus has reportedly exposed hundreds of customer email addresses while sending out a mass mailer for a research study to a select number of users. Instead of putting email IDs of customers in the “BCC” field, the company ended up copy-pasting hundreds of email addresses in the “To” field. This resulted in all recipients of the research email receiving hundreds of customer email addresses, Android Police reported on Friday.

The exact number of users affected in this goof-up is currently unknown but one among the listed told Android Police that the number is in “hundreds”. OnePlus was yet to comment on the development. In November last year, the company revealed a major data breach in which customer’s information such as name, contact number, email, and shipping address was exposed. OnePlus said hackers gained access to past customer orders. The exposed information included details like customer names, contact numbers, emails, and shipping addresses, but not passwords or financial details.

Before that, OnePlus reported its first security breach in which credit card information of nearly 40,000 customers was exposed through the company’s official website. OnePlus manufactures premium devices like 8 and 8 Pro and has entered into the mid-price segment with the ‘Nord’ brand in India and Europe.


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Tech

IIT Hyderabad Collaborates With Nvidia To Unveil a Joint AI Research Centre

Graphics giant Nvidia, here on Thursday, unveiled a technology centre at the Indian Institute of Technology that will accelerate research in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its commercial adoption. The Nvidia AI Technology Centre will help accelerate research by the 220 IIT Hyderabad faculty members. The collaboration between IIT Hyderabad and Nvidia will focus on advancing AI research in the areas of agriculture and smart cities, besides language understanding.

The projects to be taken up included increasing crop yield using AI algorithms, applying AI-based solutions to support safer transportation systems and better ways of managing traffic. “The combination of Nvidia’s leading-edge technology for AI and some of the finest minds in the country from IIT Hyderabad will bring synergy to help find solutions to uniquely Indian challenges, be it enhancing crop yield or safer cities,” said B.S. Murty, Director, IIT Hyderabad.

“This will build on the strong AI capabilities of IIT Hyderabad, including the country’s first B.Tech in AI programme,” he said. IIT Hyderabad already houses two Nvidia DGX-1TM systems and an Nvidia DGX-2TM system, dedicated to research at the institute. “Nvidia is powering the AI revolution across research facilities everywhere. Our collaboration with IIT Hyderabad will accelerate AI research and help create innovative solutions to real-world challenges,” said Vishal Dhupar, Managing Director, Nvidia South Asia.


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Huawei is Spending $1.2bn on a Communications Research Facility in UK

Representative image of Huawei's logo, in front of one of its facilities. (Photo: Reuters)

Representative image of Huawei’s logo, in front of one of its facilities. (Photo: Reuters)

The facility will employee around 400 people and focus on the production of optical devices for use in fibre-optic communication systems, Huawei said.

  • Reuters
  • Last Updated: June 25, 2020, 8:04 PM IST

China’s Huawei Technologies said on Thursday it had received planning permission to build a 1 billion pounds ($1.2 billion) research and development facility in England. The facility will employee around 400 people and focus on the production of optical devices for use in fibre-optic communication systems, the company said in a statement.

The move will anger U.S. officials and some British lawmakers who are pushing Prime Minister Boris Johnson to reconsider a January decision to grant Huawei a limited role in Britain’s 5G networks. Washington says Huawei equipment can be used by Beijing for spying; a charge the company denies. British officials now say they are reviewing the specific guidance on how Huawei equipment should be deployed in light of new U.S. sanctions on the company announced in May. A decision is expected in the coming weeks.

Huawei said the plans were part of an effort to develop a 500-acre site near Cambridge, around 70km (43 miles) north of London, and boost investment in the area. “The UK is home to a vibrant and open market, as well as some of the best talents the world has to offer,” said Huawei Vice President Victor Zhang.

Speaking ahead of the decision on Tuesday, U.S. Under Secretary of State Keith Krach accused China of using similar schemes to expand its influence. “They donate money, hire grads, and burnish their PR credentials. Then comes bullying, coercion, and expansion of the surveillance state,” he said in a tweet.


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Chinese Smartphone Makers Witness Rise in Indian Smart TV Market: Counterpoint Research

Leading smartphone brand Xiaomi grabbed 27 percent market share of the India smart TV market in the first quarter this year, followed by LG at distant 14 percent and Samsung at 10 percent, according to a new report. Sony with 9 percent and TCL with 8 percent were at fourth and fifth position in Q1 2020, according to Counterpoint Research. Chinese brands are already dominating the smartphone market in China and India.

“Smartphone makers are leveraging brand recognition that they already have in the market and they have enough technical expertise to develop a product like smart TV. So, the entry barrier in the smart TV market is really low for smartphone companies,” said Debasish Jana, Research Associate at Counterpoint.

Smartphone makers are specifically going into the smart TV business and targeting mostly the Asian market where the smart TV category is less mature than the North American and European market. Xiaomi got the early mover advantage and grabbed a 7 percent share in the smart TV market globally. After the success of Xiaomi in the Asian market, especially in China and India, other smartphone makers entered the market with a special focus on those two countries.

“Although Motorola and Nokia have launched the products only in India to exploit the opportunity in the booming India smart TV market – it is unlikely they will expand to other markets soon. In China, Huawei launched smart TVs running on its Harmony OS under both Huawei and Honor brands,” informed Jana. Most of these brands tapped into a market where consumers are buying a smart TV for the first time. They are offering a tailored and feature-rich product to the consumer at an affordable price point. By contrast, OnePlus is differentiating itself by launching a premium smart TV. However, OnePlus has announced that it will expand its Smart TV portfolio in India with the launch of two new affordable sets via an online event on July 2.

“Realme will likely intensify competition in the affordable smart TV segment with its newly launched smart TV range,” Jana noted. Realme has launched affordable Smart TVs that starts from Rs 12,999 and is now geared up to launch a 55-inch TV. While Chinese smartphone brands are aggressive in the Asian smart TV market, Indian and Japanese TV brands still have a fair chance to increase the share in Asia, especially in the Indian market. The Indian smart TV market is poised to grow as the Internet is penetrating at a faster pace and OTT consumption is growing.

Recently, VU is doing well in India with its wide range of smart TVs. Brands like Kodak and Thomson are technically licensed to Indian EMS, Super Plastronics, and are also performing quite well. Traditional TV brands, such as Samsung, LG and Sony, still have enough brand recognition around the world while new smartphone players are appealing to millennials who are familiar with these brands. “A lot will depend on the positioning for the brands. Moreover, most of the Chinese brands are playing in the affordable segment; the premium segment contains few brands,” said Jana.


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Clear Blue Skies & Swans in Canals: Studies Will Tell us The Exact Impact of COVID on Pollution

The India Gate is pictured after air pollution level dropped in New Delhi, over the past few weeks.

The India Gate is pictured after air pollution level dropped in New Delhi, over the past few weeks.

The four projects will focus on the uneven gains in urban air quality around the world, impact of the reduction of pollution on the atmosphere, air pollution and the link to the quality of water as well as the economic impact from the shift of human activity.

  • News18.com
  • Last Updated: May 14, 2020, 9:22 AM IST

There is a lot of conjecture. There is a lot of assumption. All based on visual indicators that we see in images shared on social media and elsewhere. Clear blue skies in most major cities around the world, swans returning to the canals of Venice, wildlife making its presence notes in some other cities. All that will soon have exact statistics that will tell us the exact impact that the COVID pandemic has had on the pollution levels around the world. NASA is funding four research projects that will collect and analyze data from various sources, including satellites, to give us an exact picture.

“Such widespread, rapid change in human activity is unprecedented and its effects on our planet and our lives are only just beginning to be realized. NASA’s Earth Science Division is supporting the science community as it investigates the many changes this unique situation has brought to light,” says NASA. The four projects will focus on the uneven gains in urban air quality around the world, impact of the reduction of pollution on the atmosphere, air pollution and the link to the quality of water as well as the economic impact from the shift of human activity. The funding comes as part of the Rapid Response and Novel Research in Earth Science (RRNES) initiative.

It is perhaps very important to understand the reasons why there have been uneven gains in air quality in different cities around the world. According to Susan Anenberg and Dan Goldberg of the George Washington University, initial analysis of satellite data seems to suggest that there has been a decrease in NO2 concentrations across cities globally during the lockdown periods, but it has been inconsistent. They say that cities in China and Italy have registered much quicker decline in NO2 concentrations as humans went indoors, compared with some cities in the US, for example. “Our project will link satellite remote sensing with weather, traffic counts, and other data to shed light on why we are seeing these inconsistent effects of COVID-19 lockdowns on air quality in different cities around the world,” says Goldberg.

The reduction in pollution is having an impact on the atmosphere and University at Buffalo scientist Kang Sun is developing a process which will allow scientists and researchers to not only understand how long these reductions will last but also how the chemistry of the atmosphere is changing. “Using a new data-driven framework that combines satellite and meteorological data, we will take NASA satellite assets one step further to quantify the reduction in emissions and its impact on air quality chemistry,” says Sun. The research will focus on the polluted regions of Jianghan Plain including Wuhan in China, Po Valley in Italy, and southern California.

The exact changes in the pollution levels and how that is impact the atmosphere and everything else around us, will make for rather interesting reading. There are no two ways about it




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New Super Earth Discovered: Bestowed With One-in-a-Million Honour, But it is Not For Lazy Folks

Image for Representation.

Image for Representation.

It has a smaller host star, which means years on this Super Earth are longer—one year is approximately 617 days long. Would you really want to work that long?

  • Last Updated: May 12, 2020, 9:40 AM IST

The search for another planet with similarities to the one we live on, has led us to what astronomers are calling the new Super Earth. The University of Canterbury astronomers have come across a previously undiscovered planet that is among the handful to have similar size and mass as Earth. The astronomers at the New Zealand university used the solar system as a point of reference, to compare what the Super Earth brings. It has a host star which is about 10% the mass of the Sun. The Super Earth planet has a mass somewhere between that of Earth and Neptune and would orbit at a location between Venus and Earth from the parent star. It has a smaller host star, which means years on the Super Earth are longer—one year is approximately 617 days long.

Dr Herrera Martin, the paper’s lead author, describes the planet-finding discovery as incredibly rare. “To have an idea of the rarity of the detection, the time it took to observe the magnification due to the host star was approximately five days, while the planet was detected only during a small five-hour distortion. After confirming this was indeed caused by another ‘body’ different from the star, and not an instrumental error, we proceeded to obtain the characteristics of the star-planet system,” he says.

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Alien Life May Not Need Oxygen: Scientists Say Hydrogen-Rich Planets Can Have Life Too

Lead researchers in the discovery, astronomers Dr Antonio Herrera Martin and Associate Professor Michael Albrow, both of UC’s School of Physical and Chemical Sciences in the College of Science, are part of an international team of astronomers who collaborated on the Super-Earth research.

The hunt for the next earth had earlier let us to an exoplanet called K2-18b. Researchers at the Cambridge Institute of Astronomy had said back in February that K2-18b is right in the middle of a habitable zone in its star system, which means it can possibly hold water. This Super Earth is 124 light-years away from the Earth we reside on and is 2.6 times the radius of Earth. The researchers confirmed the atmosphere to be hydrogen-rich with a significant amount of water vapour. The levels of other chemicals such as methane and ammonia were lower than expected for such an atmosphere and the planet is believed to have an inner core of rock and iron. This research indicates that the layer of hydrogen around the planet is not too thick, which would have made the temperature and the pressure of the water underneath too great to support life.




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WeChat Monitors Messages Sent by Foreign Users Like You to Strengthen Censorship in China

Chinese instant messaging app, WeChat, is using its international users to train their algorithms and implement even more robust censorship in China. WeChat is owned by Chinese tech company Tencent. This shocking revelation comes as part of the research by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab. The instant messaging app that has more than 1.15 billion users around the world.

The Citizen Lab researchers found that messages sent and received by foreign accounts are analyzed by WeChat’s algorithms to see whether they may be politically sensitive. However, these messages are not censored. However, if one such message is sent by or to a Chinese account holder, WeChat will censor that message. This includes images and documents.

The way this works is that any account registered for WeChat with a Chinese phone number, has to adhere to WeChat’s terms of service—and they have to follow the national regulations in terms of what can be shared on web platforms, and what cannot be. That is true, say the researchers, even if an account originally registered with a Chinese phone number, switches to an international number.

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Noodles & Pandas: Chinese Social Media Users Are Talking About Coronavirus in Secret Lingo

“Our results show that on each day of testing, if a sensitive document is first sent from a non-China-registered account to non-China-registered accounts, before sending it to a China-registered account, they are censored in real time when sent to a China-registered account. This finding shows that documents sent even entirely among non-China-registered accounts undergo content surveillance and that these documents are used to build-up the censorship system to which China-registered accounts are subjected,” say the researchers.

China’s cyber laws are rather broadly defined. In the new set of guidelines that went live in March, in the midst of the measures to contain the Coronavirus, or COVID-19 outbreak. Among the long list of do’s and don’ts released by the Cyberspace Administration of China in the Regulations on the Ecological Governance of Network Information Content, one guideline that truly stands out is the one that reads “spreading rumors and disturbing the economic and social order” under Article 6 which headlines Producers of online information content may not produce, copy or publish illegal information containing the following contents”.

In China, WeChat is considered a super-app, and offers multiple layers of functionality including instant messaging, social network on the lines of Facebook, mobile payments, news and access to other apps and platforms. In a way, it really cannot be ignored by Chinese citizens.

The researchers do say that any surveillance on non-China accounts on WhatsApp is undetectable to users. At no point is any message censored or altered, except that Tencent is potentially using the messages, images and documents shared by these users to understand what can be censored and training the algorithms that are then applied for users in China or registered with a Chinese phone number.

Incidentally, Tencent’s privacy policy documents for China and the rest of the world, does not indicate that non-China accounts will be under surveillance. “Overall, we found, first, that neither the China nor international public policy documents made clear to users that non-China accounts could have their content surveilled and the resulting hashes used to censor content for China-registered accounts. Second, we found it was plausible that the international policy documents could permit content surveillance of international users’ communications, but the company did not respond to these questions. Third, we found that it was unclear on what basis the hashes of international users’ communications could be shared with WeChat China, and the company did not respond to these questions,” says the research.

Citizen Lab’s results come after a series of tests done between November 2019 to January 2020, to understand how WeChat may be censoring content.

Have you also read?

WeChat is Censoring Coronavirus Keywords, Because China Doesn’t Like Bad Press?

In March, Citizen Lab had also revealed that WeChat was actively blocking any messages which had specific keywords or a combination of keywords around the Coronavirus, or COVID. These included “discussions of central leaders’ responses to the outbreak, critical and neutral references to government policies on handling the epidemic, responses to the outbreak in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau, speculative and factual information on the disease, references to Dr. Li Wenliang, and collective action.” They also discovered that references to President Xi Jinping as well as other central government and Party leaders including Premier Li Keqiang, Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, and the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China as a collective agency are high on censorship priority.

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TikTok is Looking for Fact Checking Partners by Awarding a Rs 35 Lakh Research Grant

TikTok, the viral video-based social media platform, has announced a ‘misinformation research grant’ of Rs 35 lakh. The Bytedance-backed social media platform has stated that it is now looking for credible partners to submit their applications to look into the spread of misinformation on social media in India. However, it is important to note that the grant is not solely directed at establishing a new third party or in-house fact checking unit, and is instead being undertaken as a research project — similar to how WhatsApp partnered with Proto for understanding the issue of misinformation more closely.

Announcing the initiative, TikTok’s official post reads, “The objective of this effort is to better understand the misinformation ecosystem on social media. This includes, detailed understanding for the industry as a whole, how to further improve detection of such content, how it spreads, the motivations that drive creation, and also how to design, measure and conduct effective interventions to limit the negative impact of misinformation.”

Misinformation has been a significant problem, causing the Indian government to issue a directive to all social media intermediaries to voluntarily hold themselves more accountable for the information shared on their platforms. On this note, all involved social media parties have been involved in taking steps in different forms. TikTok’s prime rivals, the Facebook Group, has set up automated helplines on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, which are designed to offer users an official information channel to get Covid-19 information.

TikTok, on that note, has already partnered with a third party fact checking service, and is rolling out a new feature to all its users in India in the coming days. The feature will offer a simple interface using which users can directly report ‘Covid-19 misinformation’ on the platform. According to a TikTok spokesperson, the feature will include both in-person curation and automated tools to identify problematic pieces of content, and take them down accordingly.