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  1. Xiaomi India today announced two new Windows laptops with premium features and affordable price tag. Mi Notebook Pro and Mi Notebook Ultra are the two laptops. You can read about them in detail below. Mi Notebook Ultra: Mi TrueLife+ 15.6-inch Display: 3200×2000 resolution 16:10 aspect ratio 242 PPI 89.1%Screen to Body Ratio 100% sRGB Wide Colour Gamut 90 Hz refresh rate TUV Rheinland Low Blue Light protection Design: Made from 6-series aerospace grade aluminium alloy. Thin: 17.9mm, Light: 1.7kg Robust Hinge: Tested for up to 30000 operations 170 Grit Sandblasted Texture 2 in 1 Fingerprint Reader + Power Button Keyboard and Trackpad: Full Size Keyboard and Larger Trackpad 3 Level Backlight Off?Bright?Brighter 5,000,000 times each key is rated to last 5M strikes 1.5 mm Deep key travel Performance: Intel 11th-Generation Tigerlake H35 Intel Iris Xe Graphics Thick 6mm Diameter Heat Pipe and Large Diameter Fan for sustained performance. Up to 16GB high speed 3200MHz dual channel memory 512GB NVMe SSD Connectivity: WiFi 6 Bluetooth 5.1 Thunderbolt 4 and Type C USB 12 Hr+ All Day Battery, 65W USB C charger Price: 59,999 INR ($810 USD) Mi Notebook Pro: Mi TrueLife+ 14-inch Display: 2.5k resolution with 215 PPI 16:10 aspect ratio 89.1%Screen to Body Ratio 100% sRGB Wide Colour Gamut TUV Rheinland Low Blue Light protection Design: Made from 6-series aerospace grade aluminium alloy. Thin: 17.3mm, Light: 1.46kg Robust Hinge: Tested for up to 30000 operations 170 Grit Sandblasted Texture 2 in 1 Fingerprint Reader + Power Button Keyboard and Trackpad: Full Size Keyboard and Larger Trackpad 3 Level Backlight Off?Bright?Brighter 5,000,000 times each key is rated to last 5M strikes 1.3 mm Deep key travel Performance: Intel 11th-Generation Tigerlake H35 Intel Iris Xe Graphics Thick 6mm Diameter Heat Pipe and Large Diameter Fan for sustained performance. Up to 16GB high speed 3200MHz dual channel memory 512GB NVMe SSD Connectivity: WiFi 6 Bluetooth 5.1 Thunderbolt 4 and Type C USB 11 Hr+ All Day Battery, 65W USB C charger Price: 56,999 INR ($770 USD) Source: Xiaomi Xiaomi India announces Mi NoteBook Pro and Ultra with premium features and affordable price tag
  2. Indications seem to suggest that HBO Max currently does not have a direct-to-consumer presence in India. But it seems like the company has set into motion to make an entrance in India. WarnerMedia announced recently that it has appointed veteran Disney executive Amit Malhotra as the managing director for HBO Max in Southeast Asia and India. Malhotra is set to now responsible for a “potential future launch” in India according to WarnerMedia's announcement. Malhotra is currently responsible for HBO Go that is currently available in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. WarnerMedia communicates that the HBO Go service will be upgraded to HBO Max in these territories. (Image credit: rafapress / Shutterstock.com) Malhotra Malhotra has been associated with Disney for 17 years prior to this and most recently, he was the regional lead for Disney+ in Southeast Asia and was involved in the launch of streaming services Disney+, Disney+ Hotstar, and Hotstar. And with him onboard, Disney's rival company, Warner Media, is "exploring possible opportunities" and a "potential future launch in India". Malhotra spoke on the occasion and said, “I am delighted to be part of the incredible team at WarnerMedia in Asia as we look at bringing HBO Max to this region. Warner Media’s brands including DC Universe, HBO, and Cartoon Network are extremely popular with passionate fans and audiences across this region. With a focus on consumers, our goal will be to bring all of these brands and content together in an exciting new world-class streaming experience as we move into the future with HBO Max." Johannes Larcher, Head of HBO Max International, commented, "With our upcoming launch across Latin America on June 29 and our plans for Europe on the horizon, we turn our sights toward Asia, where we have an incredible opportunity to bring HBO Max to millions of new fans who are just as excited about streaming as our audiences in the U.S. Amit’s experience launching streaming services in both mature and emerging markets across Southeast Asia and the surrounding region make him the ideal leader to plan and oversee the rollout of HBO Max and its expanded content offering and platform experience." HBO Max was launched in the US last year in the month of May and has since garnered 40.6 million paid subscribers. WarnerMedia has been expanding the service which started with 39 territories in Latin America and the Caribbean. This year the company upgraded its European streaming services to HBO Max. HBO Max may be on its way to India
  3. The Edge 20 Pro may come at a later date Lenovo-owned Motorola is gearing up for the launch of a couple of smartphones from its premium lineup in India. These phones are Motorola Edge 20, Edge 20 Fusion. The Edge 20 Fusion could be rebranded as Edge 20 Lite which along with Edge 20 was recently unveiled in Europe. While the company is yet to reveal the actual launch date, TechRadar India had exclusively reported that the Chinese smartphone maker could launch the phone sometime in August. Now, the company has started teasing the launch via a series of social media posts. Apart from these posts teasing about the launch on all the major social media handles, the company is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that everyone knows what is coming. It has also updated the banners on its Facebook and Twitter account showing both the phones. In one such post, Motorola hints at phones that come with an amalgamation of stunning design and cutting-edge technology offering a flagship experience to the users. Interestingly, the company isn’t using the moniker “flagship” phone and just says flagship experience. Probably, it wants to bring the Edge 20 Pro at a later date based on the response it gets after the launch of these two phones. Only time will tell. Motorola Edge 20 series – Specs and price in India (expected) As mentioned above, the Motorola Edge 20 series consists of three different devices - Edge 20, Edge 20 Fusion/Lite, and Edge 20 Pro. In terms of specifications, none of these three devices is a true flagship product hence can be expected to be priced aggressively. The Motorola Edge 20 Fusion or Lite sports a 6.7-inches OLED panel with FullHD+ resolution boasting a 90Hz refresh rate and is powered by the Snapdragon 720G SoC. The phone comes with an octa-core MediaTek Dimensity 720 SoC coupled with 8GB of RAM and up to 128GB of internal storage. The phone draws power from a 5,000 mAh battery pack. The phone comes with a 108-megapixel sensor with a wide-angle lens, an 8-megapixel with an ultrawide lens and a 2-megapixel sensor with depth-sensing capabilities. On the other hand, the Motorola Edge 20 is powered by a Snapdragon 778G chipset coupled with 8GB RAM and up to 256 GB of internal storage. It housed a 6.7-inches OLED panel with FullHD+ resolution and 144Hz refresh rate. The phone comes with a 4,000 mAh battery pack and comes with a 108-megapixel sensor with a wide-angle lens, an 8-megapixel with an ultrawide lens and a 2-megapixel sensor with depth-sensing capabilities. It has a 32-megapixel selfie camera sensor. Both the phones run on Motorola’s MyUI which is extremely close to vanilla Android and support 30W charging. In terms of pricing, the Edge 20 Fusion could be launched at an approximate price of Rs. 30,000 taking on the likes of Mi 11X and OnePlus Nord 2 while the Motorola Edge 20 could be priced slightly higher closer to Rs. 43,000. Motorola Edge 20, Edge 20 Fusion to launch in India soon
  4. Google Pixel Buds A-Series launch in India confirmed Will be sold on Flipkart, later this year Last week, Google unveiled the Pixel Buds A-Series officially as its latest true wireless earbuds. It will be available starting June 17 in the US, and UK. The Google Pixel Buds A-Series will launch in India as now we have confirmation. Answering multiple queries after the launch, Made by Google’s official Twitter handle revealed that the Pixel Buds A-Series will indeed come to India. The tweet also confirmed the availability on Flipkart. “In India, it will be available through Flipkart but we have no estimated timeline. Stay tuned for updates!” the tweet reads. (Image credit: Future) The Google Pixel Buds A-Series is Google’s second pair of TWS and is a watered-down version of the last yeast’s Google Pixel Buds. Its price tag is far more affordable than the original Pixel Buds, but it does lose out on some features. Ahead of the official launch, Mukul Sharma has also spotted the same on BIS certification which means the launch is not too far away in India. Google Pixel Buds A-Series features and specs (Image credit: Google ) As said earlier, the Google Pixel Buds A-Series is a Lite version of the original Google Pixel Buds from 2020. The new Pixel Buds A-Series look very similar to their predecessor. It comes in a flat circular design and an egg-shaped carry case which also doubles up as a charging case. It is available in two colourways - Clearly White and Dark Olive. It is also IPX4 rated for protection against sweat and water. On the inside, the Google Pixel Buds A-Series harnesses Bluetooth 5.0 and a custom made 12mm dynamic driver. You can further access the Bass Boost feature from the companion Pixel Buds app. The adaptive feature adjusts the volume based on the outside environment. However, there is no active noise cancellation. The Pixel Buds A-Series does retain the hands-free Google Assistant from the Pixel Buds. You can use this feature to ask for directions, get real-time translations and read notifications to you. It also comes with a microphone on both buds. As for the controls, the Buds A-Series offers capacitive touch control to control music, calls, and Google Assistant as well. As far as the battery life is concerned, these buds are rated to last up to 5 hours of listening time or up to 2.5 hours of talk time with the case offering up to 24 hours of listening time or up to 12 hours of talk time. A quick 15-minute charge is rated to deliver up to 3 hours of listening time or up to 1.5 hours of talk time. It comes with a USB Type-C port for charging and does not offer wireless charging luxury. Other features include in-ear detection, motion detection, case close detection, and find my device. Google Pixel Buds A-Series price in India The Google Pixel Buds A-Series is priced at $99 in the US which is around Rs 7,200. In India, we can expect the Pixel Buds A-Series to be priced under Rs 10,000 and compete against the likes of Oppo Enco X in the sub Rs 10,000 TWS segment. Google Pixel Buds A-Series launch in India confirmed
  5. India asks social media firms to remove reference to 'Indian variant' of coronavirus India's information technology (IT) ministry has written to all social media companies asking them to take down any content that refers to an "Indian variant" of the coronavirus, according to a letter issued on Friday which was seen by Reuters. The World Health Organization said on May 11 that the coronavirus variant B.1.617, first identified in India last year, was being classified as a variant of global concern. The Indian government a day later issued a statement saying media reports using the term "Indian Variant" were without any basis, saying the WHO had classified the variant as just B.1.617. In a letter to social media companies on Friday, the IT ministry asked the companies to "remove all the content" that names or implies "Indian variant" of the coronavirus. "This is completely FALSE. There is no such variant of Covid-19 scientifically cited as such by the World Health Organisation (WHO). WHO has not associated the term 'Indian Variant' with the B.1.617 variant of the coronavirus in any of its reports," stated the letter, which is not public. A senior Indian government source told Reuters the notice was issued to send a message "loud and clear" that such mentions of "Indian variant" spread miscommunication and hurt the country's image. The IT ministry could not be reached for comment. Around the world, coronvirus variants have generically been referred to by doctors and health experts on the basis of where the are identified. This includes South Africa and Brazil variants. A social media executive said it would be difficult to take down all content using the word as there would be hundreds of thousands of such posts, adding that "such a move would lead to keyword based censorship going forward." The Indian government is facing increased criticism over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with Prime Minister Modi and state authorities being blamed for not adequately planning for the ongoing second wave of coronavirus infections. India has the second-highest tally of COVID-19 cases in the world and has been reporting around 250,000 infections and 4,000 deaths daily. Source: India asks social media firms to remove reference to 'Indian variant' of coronavirus
  6. Amazon launches free video streaming service miniTV in India Image Credits: TechCrunch Amazon has long maintained that its video streaming service, Prime Video, helps it drive more sales on the shopping app. Now the e-commerce giant is testing what happens when it brings the video streaming service to the shopping app itself. The e-commerce giant on Saturday launched miniTV, an ad-supported video streaming service that is available within the Amazon shopping app and is “completely free.” miniTV is currently available only in India, Amazon said. miniTV features web-series, comedy shows, and content around tech news, food, beauty, fashion “to begin with,” Amazon said. Some of the titles currently available have been produced by leading studios such as TVF and Pocket Aces — two of the largest web studios in India — and comedians such as Ashish Chanchlani, Amit Bhadana, Round2Hell, Harsh Beniwal, Shruti Arjun Anand, Elvish Yadav, Prajakta Koli, Swagger Sharma, Aakash Gupta and Nishant Tanwar. “Viewers will be informed on latest products and trends by tech expert Trakin Tech, fashion and beauty experts such as Sejal Kumar, Malvika Sitlani, Jovita George, Prerna Chhabra and ShivShakti. Food lovers can enjoy content from Kabita’s Kitchen, Cook with Nisha, and Gobble. In the coming months, miniTV will add many more new and exclusive videos,” the company added, without sharing its future roadmap plans. (Amazon began integrating reviews and other web clippings — from media houses — on its shopping service in India for more than two years ago.) miniTV is currently available on Amazon’s Android app, and will arrive on the iOS counterpart and mobile web over the coming months, Amazon said. Amazon’s move follows a similar step by Walmart’s Flipkart, the company’s marquee rival in India, which rolled out video streaming service within its app in 2019. In recent years, scores of firms in India including Zomato have explored adding a video streaming offering to their own apps. The video streaming landscape in “N2B” countries — the nations with the potential to help firms find their next two billion users. (UBS) Amazon has also aggressively pushed to expand its Prime Video offerings in India in recent quarters. The company — which partnered with Indian telecom network Airtel earlier this year to launch a new monthly mobile-only, single-user, standard definition (SD) tier (for $1.22) — has secured rights to stream some cricket matches in the country. Amazon also offers Prime Video as part of its Amazon Prime subscription in India. The service is priced at 999 Indian rupees ($13.6) for a year and also includes access to Amazon Music and faster-delivery. Prime Video had over 60 million monthly active users in India in April, ahead of Netflix’s 40 million users, according to mobile insight firm App Annie (data of which an industry executive shared with TechCrunch). Netflix, which spent about $420 million on locally produced Indian content in 2019 and 2020, said in March that it will invest “significantly more this year” in India. But in the company’s recent earnings call, founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings said investment in India was more “speculative” than those in other markets. Times Internet’s MX Player had over 180 million users during the same period, and DIsney+ Hotstar had about 120 million. Their biggest competition in India remains YouTube, which has amassed over 450 million monthly active users. But other than competition, video streaming services face another challenge in India. In late March, Amazon issued a rare apology to users in India for an original political drama series over allegations that a few scenes in the nine-part mini series hurt religious sentiments of some people in the key overseas market. Amazon’s apology came days after New Delhi announced new rules for on-demand video streaming services and social media firms. Source: Amazon launches free video streaming service miniTV in India
  7. The world’s largest vaccine manufacturer is facing a Covid-19 vaccine shortage at home Come again another day. With never-before surges in Covid-19 infection every day, a vaccine shortage in India couldn’t have come at a worse time. Yesterday (April 8), India saw 131,968 new infections of the novel coronavirus, the highest single-day spike yet. Meanwhile, several states have reported extreme shortages in Covid-19 vaccines. Mumbai, India’s financial capital, is experiencing its worst-ever wave of Covid-19 yet, and the most acute vaccine shortage in the country. Nearly half of the city’s 120 vaccination centres will be shut today (April 9) due to insufficient available doses. The state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, has sent repeated requests to the central government to send over fresh stocks. States like Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana have all reported a shortage of shots. The eastern state of Odisha had to shut down 700 vaccine centres because of low supply, the state’s chief minister Naveen Patnaik wrote in a letter to central health minister Harsh Vardhan yesterday (April 8). The shortage at Serum Institute of India Currently, all vaccines are disbursed to the states by the central government. Covishield, the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in India by the Serum Institute of India (SII), forms a majority of the immunisation programme. SII has been under fire for not delivering vaccines on time, especially to countries with whom AstraZeneca has binding contracts. The British-Swedish drugmaker has sent a legal notice to SII to fulfil the vaccine shipments on time. Covax, the global vaccine-sharing alliance, had notified its partner countries on March 25 that there would be delays in shipments coming from India in March and April. Adar Poonawalla, CEO of SII, has said that he is “very stressed” about the current situation, and would need Rs3,000 crore in aid from the government to speed up production. This shortage also coincides with the momentum India has gained in vaccinating its population, with over 3 million doses administered on April 8. In the 83 days since it began the vaccination drive, India has administered 94 million doses. The country is still far from its August target of inoculating 300 million Indians, which would mean 600 million shots of the two-dose Covishield or India’s homegrown Covaxin. The shortage has also renewed the criticism against India’s vaccine diplomacy. India’s vaccine friendship The Modi government has shipped over 64 million doses of either Covaxin or Covishield, either as part of the Covax agreements, as friendly grants, or under commercial contracts. The foreign ministry’s vaccine initiative, “Vaccine Maitri” (vaccine friendship) has been under fire from critics in the country, who argue that India should focus on vaccinating its population before eyeing geopolitical gains. The shortage in vaccine supplies also seems to have hit this vaccine friendship initiative now. In the month of April, India dispatched only two shipments of the vaccines to Bangladesh and the Oceanic country of Nauru. What could potentially help the dire vaccine situation in India is if the drugs regulator were to grant emergency approvals to other vaccine candidates in the queue. Other vaccines like Sputnik V India’s subject expert committee (SEC) on Covid-19 vaccines has been mercurial about granting emergency use authorisations. The committee granted Covaxin a restricted approval even without phase 3 trial data, and allowed Covishield to be used despite a lack of India-specific trial data. But the same leeway has not been granted to Sputnik V, the Russian coronavirus vaccine. The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Russia’s sovereign wealth fund that has partnered with Indian pharmaceutical company Dr Reddy’s for trials in India, has also received interest from several Indian drugmakers to produce its Sputnik V vaccine. Nearly five companies in India have tied up with RDIF, the latest being Panacea Biotech for 100 million doses. Dr Reddy’s and RDIF have also lined up 250 million doses for India’s population over the next 12 months if the vaccine were to be approved. India could also review its hesitance over allowing Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine from being approved in the country. The company was among the first to apply for an emergency authorisation in December 2020 but eventually withdrew its application because of demands for data that it could not fulfil at the time. Source: The world’s largest vaccine manufacturer is facing a Covid-19 vaccine shortage at home
  8. India's second wave hits the whole world through vaccine export curbs Facing a brutal new wave of coronavirus cases, India on Thursday made anyone over 45 eligible for vaccination. But the scramble to vaccinate as many people as possible has also meant sharply curtailing exports. Why it matters: The hopes of vaccinating the world have largely fallen on the shoulders of India, a vaccine manufacturing powerhouse and home to the world’s largest producer, the Serum Institute. Until recently, India was exporting most of the doses it was producing — a mix of donations to neighbors and other friendly nations, sales to countries like Saudi Arabia and the U.K., and contributions to the global COVAX initiative. Indian-made vaccines have gone to 82 countries. Then, after a long lull, cases began to surge. They are now at their highest point since mid-October and are continuing to climb precipitously. Vaccine exports, which had been ramping up, suddenly fell sharply. Rather than supplying the world, the Serum Institute appears to have redirected nearly its entire supply to the homefront. Driving the news: India has not imposed an export ban and will continue to supply doses, including to COVAX, a government source tells Axios. But given "domestic requirements," the source added, "there is some recalibration of the supply schedules.” Another official, speaking to Reuters, put it more bluntly: “Right now we are dealing with an emergency situation. Whatever we have, we will use it,” the official said. The government aims to vaccinate a minimum of 400 million people, up from 56 million at present (just 4% of the population), the official told Reuters. By the numbers: India has exported 6 million doses over the last three weeks, with less than 2 million of those going to the COVAX initiative. That’s down from 31 million in the three prior weeks, of which 16 million went to COVAX That’s a crippling setback for COVAX, which is a critical source of vaccines for low-income countries, particularly in Africa. COVAX had expected 71% of its first wave of distribution to consist of AstraZeneca doses produced at the Serum Institute, according to a preliminary forecast. A spokesman for Gavi, the vaccine alliance, said shipments expected in March and April had been delayed, and COVAX is now “in talks with the government of India in the hope of ensuring some supplies are completed during April.” What to watch: If this is anything more than a temporary delay, “that would be catastrophic,” African CDC director John Nkengasong told reporters Thursday. He said Africa would likely fall short of its vaccination targets this year. The big picture: The world currently has four major sources of vaccines. The U.S. is the second-largest producer, just ahead of India, but isn't exporting at all. China is currently the top producer and top exporter, according to Airfinity, focusing less on the domestic rollout in part because the virus remains under control in the country. The EU, meanwhile, has exported around 40% of its supply to date, but it's in the midst of a vigorous debate about whether and how to curb exports. Source: India's second wave hits the whole world through vaccine export curbs
  9. It has been a rough few days for India when it comes to global surveys and associated criticism. Over the last week, the world's largest democracy lost it's ranking as a 'free' country on the 2021 Freedom in the World index, and led the world leaderboard for internet shutdowns. India led the world last year in internet shutdowns that affected hundreds of millions of people, as governments cracked down on political rivals and tried to suppress protests. At least 155 internet shutdowns in 2020 disrupted access for people in 29 countries, according to a report on Wednesday from digital rights group Access Now. That included 28 full internet blackouts that plunged people and in some cases entire cities, into “digital darkness," the report said. Most recorded incidents took place in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. "Like it did in previous years, India once again topped the list of internet shutdowns with at least 109 in 2020, followed by Yemen with at least six shutdowns, Ethiopia with four, and Jordan three. India, Yemen, and Ethiopia had been among the worst disruptors of the internet in 2019," the report explains. India witnessed the highest number of Internet shutdowns in the year 2020. Most of the incidents took place in India, some of the Middle Eastern countries, and some parts of Africa. A total of 155 internet shutdowns were imposed globally out of which India had 109 shutdowns. Read More: https://www.freepressjournal.in https://www.livemint.com https://www.indiatoday.in https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com https://thewire.in
  10. India’s finance minister reconsiders a ban on cryptocurrencies The Indian government might not completely ban cryptocurrencies. In an interview on March 5, country’s finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that she wants to foster innovation in crypto. “We want to make sure that there is a window available for all kinds of experiments which will have to take place in the crypto world,” she said during an interview on CNBC TV18, a business and financial news television channel in India. “We are not closing our minds.” The comments from Sitharaman counter a proposed bill from the Indian government in January of this year that would ban all private cryptocurrencies. The proposed law would also include a system for the creation and regulation of an official cryptocurrency issued by the country’s central bank and the promotion of blockchain, the technology underlying digital currencies. The Reserve Bank of India’s “digital rupee” is aimed at being similar to China’s “digital yuan“. Local business and lobbying groups like the Association for Blockchain, Crypto and Digital Asset Entrepreneurs and the Blockchain and Crypto Committee formed in response to the news of the potential ban in an effort to lobby the government and enhance its understanding of cryptocurrencies. In mid-February, Balaji Srinivasan, the former chief technology officer of the crypto trading platform Coinbase, compared the proposed law to “banning the internet”. ”It would be a trillion-dollar mistake for India, without exaggeration,” he said during an interview with The CapTable, an online business-news publication in India. While Sitharaman said the country’s central bank would take the lead on overseeing “unofficial cryptos”, her comments indicated a possible outcome of regulating cryptocurrencies instead of an outright ban. “There will be a very calibrated position taken,” she said. Source: India’s finance minister reconsiders a ban on cryptocurrencies
  11. India Is Using More Solar Energy—but It Carries a Lead Risk In rural areas, solar power is stored in lead batteries. If they aren't properly recycled, contamination can cause health problems. Photograph: Getty Images This story originally appeared in Undark and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration. At the 2018 United Nations climate meeting in Poland, the European Union and the Indian-led International Solar Alliance (ISA) signed a joint declaration that climate change activists say could help India meet its renewable energy target by 2022. The country is one of several—including China, Brazil, and Bangladesh—that have announced ambitious initiatives to expand their use of solar power. A year later, at the next U.N. climate summit in Madrid, India’s environment minister, Prakash Javadekar, urged more countries to join the ISA “to speed up this alliance to trap solar energy in a big way.” More than 60 have signed and ratified the agreement. For advocates of renewable energy and climate change activists, these initiatives seemed like good news. Fast-growing nations like India, after all, are expected to rapidly increase use of planet-warming fossil fuels in coming decades, and adoption of renewable alternatives could help to dampen the environmental and climate impacts as their economies expand. But some public health researchers are concerned that the rapid and aggressive push for solar power in some developing countries can have a frequently overlooked side-effect: Localized spikes in lead poisoning. The problem, they say, is that a portion of solar panel installations in these countries will not be connected to the national electricity network—as they typically are in the U.S., U.K., and Denmark. Indeed, while grid connectivity is reliable and rooftop solar installations don’t need lead batteries for on-site storage in many bigger Indian cities like Mumbai and New Delhi, in smaller towns, and remote rural areas—where off-grid solar activity is underway—the quality of connection to the national electricity grid is poor. Many villages get electricity for only two or five hours a day, and the power supply from the grid is erratic and unpredictable, meaning that many solar projects in these areas continue to be heavily reliant on lead-acid batteries for storing unused solar power. The situation is similar across the developing world. In sub-Saharan Africa, some 600 million people still lack access to electricity. In areas where grid connectivity is infeasible, microgrids that rely on solar or other types of renewable energy may offer solutions. According to a report by the United States Agency for International Development and the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “the vast majority of batteries in micro-grid applications worldwide have been lead-acid” to date. In Kenya, where the government is aiming to provide electricity to all residents by 2022, off-grid systems play an important role. And according to a draft report prepared for the country’s Energy Regulatory Commission, lead-acid batteries are the main form of energy storage available on the market. Meanwhile in India, tens of millions of households remain without power. Where grid connections prove impossible, lead-acid batteries will almost certainly be used. As in most developing countries, recycling of lead-acid batteries in India is also not adequately regulated to protect public health. This results in lead being released back into the environment. “This is the, kind of, dirty side of renewable energy,” said Pamli Deka, associate director of the energy program at the World Resources Institute in India. While solar energy is considered clean, she said, not many organizations and energy enterprises are talking about the downsides, “for various reasons just like the oil and gas industry would not talk about the bad things of oil and gas.” While the impacts of prolonged lead exposure are extremely well known, those working in or living near recycling plants aren’t always aware of the dangers, which include higher risks of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. The heavy metal can also cause damage to the kidneys, reproductive system, and the central nervous system. And while for adults, lead poisoning is one of the most significant hazards to occupational health, for children’s health, the risks are even higher. “When a battery becomes old, the lead comes out in the form of lead sulfate and corrodes,” said Amod Pokhrel, a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health. If particles from those corroding batteries end up on the floors of nearby houses, Pokhrel says, young children could get exposed to them. Childhood behavioral problems such as reduced attention span and anti-social tendencies have been linked to early lead exposures. And studies have long connected prolonged lead exposure to developmental delays, poor performance in school, lower IQ scores, loss of appetite, weight loss, and irritability. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington found that in 2015, lead exposure was responsible for 12.4 percent of the global burden of developmental intellectual disability. Awareness of the potential connection between increased lead contamination and off-grid solar energy projects is attributable to a handful of studies conducted over the last decade. Perry Gottesfeld, executive director of Occupational Knowledge International, a research organization that identifies and monitors exposures to hazardous materials, said solar programs often fail to take account of where batteries are being made and where they’re getting recycled. In a 2011 study published in the journal Energy Policy, Gottesfeld and his co-author, Christopher Cherry at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, noted that in countries with advanced infrastructure, about 5 percent of the mass of lead used to produce lead-acid batteries gets released into the environment. In China and India, that figure rises to 34 and 22 percent, respectively “There is a failure on the part of those who are promoting these panels,” Gottesfeld said, “including the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, even U.N. agencies that are advocating and providing financing for these systems.” To his knowledge, Gottesfeld said, none of these programs “require that the lead batteries be collected back by the supplier or the manufacturer of these systems. And that’s a huge problem in most of the world.” Officials from the World Bank and the Rockefeller Foundation (which has been funding various solar energy projects in India) did not respond to repeated requests for comment. According to a 2013 study of nearly 95,000 children in China, 24 percent had blood lead levels of 10 micrograms per deciliter, 16 percent higher than the global average. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s blood lead level of concern is 5 micrograms per deciliter. Lead gets stored in the teeth and bones, where it remains for decades. During pregnancy, that lead is released in the blood and affects the developing fetus. These escalating problems are not limited to Asia. In a 2018 study published in the journal Environmental Research, for example, Gottesfeld and co-authors analyzed soil samples from 15 lead battery recycling plants and one manufacturing site across Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Mozambique, Tunisia, Tanzania, and Cameroon. Forty-two percent of samples taken from outside these facilities had lead levels in excess of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standard for residential soil. Experts are concerned that the informal sector uses crude methods for lead recovery that could potentially result in millions of tons of lead being released into the environment globally—particularly with the rapid expansion of solar installations in small, developing locales. “When you’re talking about a solar panel and a lead-acid battery, of course, there’s probably 1,000 or 10,000 times more lead in the battery than in the solar panel,” said Dustin Mulvaney, an associate professor of environmental studies at San José State University. When lead-acid batteries reach the end of their life cycle after two to five years, adequate recycling plans are required to prevent lead pollution. “In the case where a project has a sponsor that has an end-of-life management plan, I probably would have less concern. But we’re talking about some very rural places that are very far from those kinds of institutions, so it’s not as likely,” Mulvaney added. Currently, India has 550 authorized lead battery recycling plants. According to a 2011 study by the Indian Bureau of Mines, only 40 percent of these registered recyclers were operating. To make matters worse, they were operating only at half of their capacity. In comparison, Gottesfeld said, the U.S. has only 11 or 12 such plants, even though the country’s lead-acid batteries market is much larger than India’s. “Consolidation is key because you can’t afford to do this with the pollution-control equipment on a small scale,” Gottesfeld said. “It only is economically feasible on a large scale.” In order to consolidate the industry, Gottesfeld added, there need to be laws in place that require the takeback of used lead batteries. And where there is already contamination, “you need to test the children and abate the soil and the contamination in these communities.” In February, the Modi administration proposed new rules that will make it mandatory for manufacturers and sellers to collect used batteries and have them sent to registered recyclers. The rules are currently open for public comment. Last September, Modi announced a more ambitious renewable energy target than his country set at the Paris Climate Agreement, pledging to increase capacity from 175 gigawatts by 2022 to 450 gigawatts by 2030. As of December, India had installed just over 85 gigawatts of renewable energy, 44 percent of which came from solar and all of which—according to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy—is connected to the grid. But in remote rural and semi-urban areas of India, the distance between the transmission line from a solar energy project’s location to the electricity point of any utility company can pose a challenge, noted Rohit Kumar, the head of the Indian subcontinent at REC Solar, a Norwegian solar panel manufacturing company. And even when connections are possible, power stations aren’t always able to accept the additional electricity. That leaves lead-acid battery storage as the more likely option in many areas. (According to Kumar, REC Solar only manufactures solar panels that are meant to be connected to India’s national electricity grid network.) Compounding the problem, lead batteries used in local solar installations join those already in use in India and elsewhere for vehicles, telecom towers, and computer servers. India’s Ministry of Environment and Forest implemented a rule as far back as 2001 to deal with the growing lead contamination issue, mandating that manufacturers of lead batteries should collect at least 90 percent of used batteries sold, and that used batteries only be sold to registered recyclers. Many manufacturers have previously failed to follow that rule due to a weak collection and enforcement system. Whether the Modi administration’s proposed update to the rule will result in any improvements is far from clear. “In India, Bangladesh, and all of Africa,” said Gottesfeld, “it is well known that a considerable proportion of the batteries get diverted to the informal sector, instead of being recycled at large facilities with pollution-control equipment.” A 2015 study published in the Journal of Health and Pollution noted that because of these factors, the amount of battery scrap that registered recyclers receive is very limited. In small and rural recycling plants, the used lead batteries from vehicles, power generators, and even solar installations are often broken open outdoors and the lead paste is immediately discarded because of a lack of awareness about its environmental impacts. In an email, B Vinod Babu, nodal officer of the waste management division of India’s Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), admitted that there have been issues with regard to compliance by dealers, manufacturers, assemblers, and importers of lead-acid batteries. CPCB, he wrote, has been following up with the State Pollution Control Boards for more effective implementation of the rules. Meanwhile, the biggest manufacturer of lead batteries in India, Exide, which supplies batteries to off-the-grid solar installations in hospitals, gas stations, and households in rural and semi-urban places across the country, says it is following the rules. Satyabrata Pattanayak, head of solar sales at Exide Industries Limited, insisted that Exide collects nearly all of its used lead batteries. “In my mind, 90 to 95 percent of batteries are recycled by Exide.” Whether or not that’s accurate, public health researchers say they are concerned that the rise of solar usage in remote, developing areas—and the often unsafe practices undertaken in battery recycling—will inevitably come with increased childhood lead exposures. One study of children in two rural villages in Thailand who lived in houses with lead batteries that were connected to solar panels suggested significant evidence of elevated blood lead levels, for example. The government had supplied the solar panels because those two villages did not have any electricity supply. Some of the villagers had installed the solar panels right outside their bamboo or wooden houses but kept the lead batteries inside their households for storing excess solar energy. The researchers observed that 50 percent of children who lived in houses with lead batteries—a common practice in many developing regions—had elevated blood lead levels compared to 23 percent of children who lived in a house without lead batteries. More recently, in a 2018 study published in the journal Environment International, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of the blood lead levels in Indian children living across the country from data published in various journals between 2010 to 2018. They estimated that lead exposure had resulted in 4.9 million years of disability-adjusted life years, which is a measure of the number of years lost due to ill-health or disabilities. Children who suffer from lead poisoning also experience symptoms like stomach aches, constipation, fatigue, vomiting, seizures, and hearing loss. “India’s certainly one of the worst countries in the world with regard to informal use of lead-acid battery processing, said Bret Ericson, the lead author of the study and now a consultant with the U.N. Environment Program. “It’s one of the countries where the problem is most severe, particularly in the northeastern part.” According to Ericson, half of the world’s lead gets recycled in the informal sector. “These are just people trying to make a living,” he said. “They just don’t know they are poisoning people.” India Is Using More Solar Energy—but It Carries a Lead Risk
  12. Apple will launch its online store in India on September 23rd It will be Apple’s first direct retail channel in India Image: Apple Apple will launch its online store in India on September 23rd, giving customers in India a way to buy Apple products directly from the company for the first time. “We’re proud to be expanding in India and want to do all we can to support our customers and their communities,” said Apple’s senior vice president of retail and people Deirdre O’Brien said in a statement. “We know our users are relying on technology to stay connected, engage in learning, and tap into their creativity, and by bringing the Apple Store online to India, we are offering our customers the very best of Apple at this important time.” Apple says the Indian online store will offer “Apple’s full range of products and support,” and that will include the new products announced this week, O’Brien said in an interview with The Indian Express. On Tuesday, Apple announced the Apple Watch Series 6, a new iPad Air, and more. India is becoming an increasingly important market for Apple. In recent years, Apple has started manufacturing some of its devices in the country — Foxconn started building the iPhone 11 near Chennai in India earlier this year, and the company has made other iPhone models in India since as early as 2017. Apple will launch its online store in India on September 23rd
  13. The COVID-19 outreach is turning out to be not only health, social, and economic hazard but also a cybersecurity crisis. The pandemic has presented new challenges for businesses in the areas of remote collaboration and business continuity. With increased remote working for better business continuity, employees are using numerous Internet tools. As businesses and people have started relying more on technology and are busy fighting with the pandemic, the attackers now have plenty of options to target them more than ever. According to PWC's April report, the number of security threats to the Indian company doubled in March 2020—especially what's more worrying is a 100% rise between March 17 and 20—from Jan 2020. Sanjay Dhotre, the Union Minister of State for Electronics & Information Technology (MeITY), said that India has seen over 350,000 cyberattacks in the second quarter, triple the number of recorded events in the first quarter of 2020. He also highlighted that there were 700,000 cybersecurity incidents until August 2020. Key Cybersecurity Crises in Numbers According to ACRONIS Cyber Readiness Report 2020, 31% of companies worldwide are faced with at least one cybersecurity incident per day. However, India reported twice as many cyberattacks per day, where most of the cyberattacks comprise phishing, DDoS, video conferencing, exploiting weak services, and malware. Image source: Acronis The phishing campaign is the most worrying attack as they attained the peak during this pandemic. Though malware hit fewer numbers, it remains a more critical issue in India – reports almost 2x times Malware issues than the global average. Image source: Acronis Further, 39% of all organizations surveyed experienced video conferencing attack. Among them, India, Canada, Switzerland, and the UK are the most affected countries. Coronavirus themed phishing emails and malicious websites claiming useful information on COVID-19 have emerged as the top threats to the companies. Also, 400,000 new ransomware assaults are recognized from April – June 2020 as per the report of Seqrite. Most of these cyber-attacks were succeeded by obtaining access to a remote system by exploiting vulnerable services. Why is India So Vulnerable to Cyberattacks? Increased use of the Internet and Mobile technology — The NITI Aayog report states that India positions 3rd rank in the list of the highest number of internet users worldwide after the USA & China. With the exponential rise on the Internet and mobile phone users, there is a significant rise in the number of cyberattack incidents in India and globally. Ignoring Internal Security Threats — Enterprises are more focused on guaranteeing business continuity with seamless operations than bridging the gaps in their remote infrastructure. If sensitive data flows between various departments without a proper monitoring and logging process, then it becomes tricky to identify the loopholes in case any attack happens. Confronting External Threats — With the ever-increasing external threats, an organization can't be 100 % prepared. Only a few Indian companies maintain security measures in place like Web Application Firewalls to monitor external threats and stop cyberattack incidents as and when they happen. Detectable Weak Points During Remote Work — The main weak points, which get exposed during the sudden shift to remote work include Weak Authentication Techniques, Insufficient Monitoring, and Exposed Servers (DNS, VPN, RDP, etc.) Moreover, many employees usually ignore personal online security hygiene. With this 'work from anywhere culture,' employees begin to access their personal emails as well as social media sites on their official machine. Overall, with the merging of the personal and work-life online, cyber-attacks can easily occur through unsecured personal accounts. Missing Expertise in Cloud Technology — To ensure ease of accessing the data from any device and anywhere, many companies have adopted cloud technology. However, they don't have adequate in-house resources to manage and protect APIs, SaaS, or containers. The increasing number of poorly configured cloud architectures will inevitably open doors for the attackers. The Pandemic Landscape Demands Modern Protection Here are the golden tips to keep you away from these recent cybersecurity incidents: Train your employees in security principles Be cautious with attachments, links, or text received via emails, especially with a subject line related to COVID-19 Frame robust remote work policy Use only trusted sources like legitimate websites for up-to-date information Don't disclose your financial or personal information in an email or phone calls from unknown persons Encourage the use of office devices only for official purpose Don't reuse passwords between different accounts and applications Take data backups and store it separately Use multi-factor authentication Modernize your stack with Cloud-based WAF, such as AppTrana, a next-generation cybersecurity protection suite that includes vulnerability assessments, virtual patching, zero false positives, DDoS attack prevention, and many more features. The Closure In the cybersecurity space, attackers lead the learning curve, with security professionals following the lead to boost preventive measures. However, with advanced technologies, this scenario begins to change. The next-gen threat monitoring tools and predictive analytics go beyond the rule-based system and detect cyber risks, thereby flags potential threats in a secure and faster way. With adequate nationwide cybersecurity awareness and robust policies in place, companies should be capable of battling cyber threats effectively in the future. Source
  14. Plex has failed in its initial legal action to prevent new streaming service Zee Plex from using the word 'Plex' in its branding. The High Court in Bombay found that low domestic sales for Plex, a fundamental difference in services offered by the parties, plus no evidence of "passing off" or anticipated injuries all went against Plex. Early September, Indian media company Zee Entertainment Enterprises revealed it would soon launch a brand new streaming service with the aim of premiering blockbuster movies directly to people’s homes, partly to combat piracy. Initially reported as the ‘Zee Plex’ service, the product was set for launch last Friday, October 2, 2020. However, the news didn’t sit well with US-based Plex, Inc., the operator of the famous Plex media server software. According to Plex, Inc., Zee Plex operator Zee Entertainment Enterprises’ choice of name meant that its new service would be illegally trading off the hard-earned goodwill of the Plex trademark. Describing Zee Plex as a “competing service”, Plex Inc. took legal action to urgently obtain an injunction to prevent the service launching with the infringing mark. Ad-Interim Application for Injunction Zee Plex launched as planned October 2, 2020, but not before the matter was heard by the High Court in Bombay via video conferencing just a day earlier. The Court heard that Zee Entertainment is a large multi-media conglomerate providing entertainment across a broad range of platforms including the Internet, OTT, satellite and cable. It was acknowledged that Plex Inc. had adopted the Plex trademark in May 2008 in the United States for a software/hardware service that allows a user to take content “wherever he goes”. Plex told the Court that it signed up its first Indian user back in July 2008 and now has 550,000 users and “very high sales” in the country. The Court questioned that, noting that evidence pointed to sales of between US$24,000 to US$30,000. This is important because the volume of domestic business can be used as a factor when considering the value of existing goodwill and reputation. Court Failed to See Similarities Between Plex and Zee Plex In the decision handed down on October 1, 2020, the Court found that on first view, the Plex media server and Zee Plex were “fundamentally different”. Noting that Zee Plex is a “cinema-to-home pay-per-view movie service” and that Plex carries some of its own “curated content”, the Zee Plex service does not have any of the “take your own content with you” services offered by Plex. At this point it’s worth highlighting that Zee says that its service is actually called ZEEPLEX, i.e one word instead of two. According to the Court, this doesn’t amount to much since Plex objects to the word ‘Plex’ being used in any way but from here things didn’t get any better for Plex. No Prima Facie Case of ‘Passing Off’ The Court notes that Plex’s case is based on allegations of deceit by Zee Entertainment, in that it used the Plex name to dupe or mislead consumers into thinking it had somehow tied up with Plex in business. To show such a case, Plex must demonstrate strong reputation and brand recognition in India among consumers but the Court found that, on the surface, the balance tips away from the US-based company. “I do not yet see sufficient material from Plex to be able to establish its reputation at least within India, whatever may be its reputation, registrations and sales in other jurisdictions. In contract, there is the much greater reputation and standing of Zee amongst subscribers across the length and the breadth of the country with a large number of channels in various languages,” the judge’s order reads. Equally, arguments by Plex that it should receive the same kinds of protection enjoyed by companies such as Sony, Disney or Hotstar, were also dismissed by the Court. “Merely pointing to other established and reputed players in the field is not enough, and it is hardly a credible argument to say that ‘if Sony provides content and has a reputation, since I, too, provide content, I must be presumed to have an equivalent reputation. So if Sony could maintain such an action and get an order, so must I.’ “There is no one-size-fits-all approach in these matters. Every claimant in a passing off action stands or falls on his own merits and case,” the order adds. Issues With Plex Trademark in India The Court notes that while Plex has registered trademarks in several jurisdictions, those locations do not include India. The Court adds that when the ZEEPLEX service was announced in September, Plex had applied for but not obtained a trademark registration. However, after the announcement, Plex reportedly went to the registry to make an amendment that indicated that it was proposed to be used back in 2008. “In other words, until it moved the amendment application, its own case in the registry was that at least in India, its mark was not in use, but only had a proposed or anticipated user,” the order notes. Judge Apparently Irritated By Last Minute Injunction Demands While the Court heard the matter in advance of the ZEEPLEX service’s launch, the judge appears to be irritated by companies in intellectual property disputes expecting courts to deal with their cases quickly and at the expense of other matters. “[I] have said this before — that parties in IPR matters cannot expect Courts to push aside all other cases. This happens repeatedly, whether it is movie releases or otherwise. It must stop,” the judge writes in his order. “It is unfair to courts and it is unfair to other litigants waiting their turn. Where a plaintiff has had enough notice and yet chooses to move at the eleventh hour — and makes no allowance at all for any adjustment that may be required — the plaintiff must be prepared to face the consequences.” Plex Injunction Application Fails At This Stage In considering whether to grant an early injunction, the Court weighed several factors but ultimately sided with Zee Entertainment. According to the judge, Plex has no prima facie case, cannot show anticipated injury, and its userbase in India is too small to show that Zee tried to pass off its new channel as being in association with Plex. “The grant of the injunction Plex seeks would, on the other, cause immense and immediate financial loss and harm to Zee. Consequently, I find no reason to grant an ad interim injunction in this passing off action,” the order concludes. While Plex didn’t immediately get the result it had hoped for, the matter isn’t completely over yet. Plex has been granted leave to amend and will be hoping for a different result. The order handed down by the High Court of Bombay can be found here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  15. Minister says more supers will advance society. So why wait to develop silicon, networks, storage and more? India’s “Atmanirbhar Bharat” program – a national drive for self sufficiency in just about everything – has added building a supercomputing hardware stack to its to-do list. Minister of state for education, communications and electronics & information technology, Shri Sanjay Dhotre yesterday kicked off the drive by signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with India’s Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) and National Supercomputing Mission. Dhotre called for India to develop “Critical Supercomputing components like the Server Board, Interconnect, Rack power controllers and Hydraulic controllers, Direct Liquid Cooled Datacenter”. C-DAC director general Dr. Hemant Darbari said his organisation’s mission is to: “Establish dependable and secure exa-scale eco-system with innovative designs, disruptive technologies and Expert Human resource. Our goal is to develop our own indigenous hardware encompassing exascale chip design, design and manufacture of exascale server boards, exascale interconnects and storage including silicon-photonics at C-DAC”. Minister Dhotre Tweeted that the effort will “contribute to the socio-economic development of India” and “bring changes in the lives of common citizens.” Supercomputers can certainly do that. However The Register wonders if India might not be able to achieve those benefits rather sooner by using off-the-shelf kit rather than waiting to develop its own stack. India currently has two supers on the Top 500 list, both from HPE/Cray and running Xeon E5-2695v4 CPUs. India’s "Shakti" CPU development team lists an “H-Class” design intended for HPC applications and an S-Class for enterprise servers, so the nation has some building blocks in place. Both use the royalty-free RISC-V architecture, which India has picked for a national microprocessor development challenge. Just how long that effort and other Indian research would take to match the Xeons it already runs is hard to state. Yesterday’s announcement did not include firm targets for delivery of Indian-designed silicon, never mind the rest of the stack minister Dhotre described. Source
  16. This article has been updated with a comment from Facebook. The governments of seven countries are calling on Facebook and other tech firms to do the technically impossible - to weaken encryption by giving law enforcement access to messages, whilst not reducing user safety. The governments of the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India and Japan have issued the joint statement which pleads with Facebook specifically, as well as other tech firms, to drop “end-to-end encryption policies which erode the public’s safety online”. The governments once again raise the issue of child abusers and terrorists using encrypted services such as WhatsApp to send messages without fear of content being intercepted. “We owe it to all of our citizens, especially our children, to ensure their safety by continuing to unmask sexual predators and terrorists operating online,” the U.K.’s home secretary, Priti Patel, said in a statement. “It is essential that tech companies do not turn a blind eye to this problem and hamper their, as well as law enforcement’s, ability to tackle these sickening criminal acts. Our countries urge all tech companies to work with us to find a solution that puts the public’s safety first.” Encryption muddle Once again, the politicians seem unable to grasp one of the fundamental concepts of end-to-end encryption - that putting back doors into the encryption algorithms that allow security services to intercept messages effectively breaks the encryption. According to the U.K. government’s statement, the “seven signatories of the international statement have made it clear that when end-to-end encryption is applied with no access to content, it severely undermines the ability of companies to take action against illegal activity on their own platforms”. Yet, end-to-encryption with the ability for third parties to intercept content is not end-to-end encryption in any meaningful sense. Worse, by introducing back doors to allow security services to access content, it would compromise the entire encryption system. Nevertheless, the “international intervention calls on tech companies to ensure there is no reduction in user safety when designing their encrypted services; to enable law enforcement access to content where it is necessary and proportionate; and work with governments to facilitate this.” As has been pointed out to the governments many times before, what they are asking for is technically impossible. An open letter sent to several of the signatory countries by a coalition of international civil rights groups in 2019 made this very point. “Proponents of exceptional access have argued that it is possible to build backdoors into encrypted consumer products that somehow let ‘good actors’ gain surreptitious access to encrypted communications, while simultaneously stopping ‘bad actors’ from intercepting those same communications,” the letter stated. “This technology does not exist. “To the contrary, technology companies could not give governments backdoor access to encrypted communications without also weakening the security of critical infrastructure, and the devices and services upon which the national security and intelligence communities themselves rely.” “Critical infrastructure runs on consumer products and services, and is protected by the same encryption that is used in the consumer products that proponents of backdoor access seek to undermine,” the letter adds. In response to the statement from the seven nations, a Facebook spokesperson said: “We've long argued that end-to-end encryption is necessary to protect people's most private information. In all of these countries, people prefer end-to-end encrypted messaging on various apps because it keeps their messages safe from hackers, criminals, and foreign interference. Facebook has led the industry in developing new ways to prevent, detect, and respond to abuse while maintaining high security and we will continue to do so. Source
  17. NEW DELHI: The government has banned 59 Chinese applications including top social media platforms such as TikTok, Helo and WeChat in order to counter the privacy security posed by these applications. The move came amid tension with China following the June 15 clashes at Ladakh in which 20 Indian soldiers died in action and more than 70 were injured. ShareIT, UC browser and shopping app Clubfactory are among the other prominent apps which have been banned. The government has argued that the applications are engaged in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order. The government has banned these invoking its power under section 69A of the Information Technology Act read with the relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009, it said in a statement. A top official said that the government has considered all the aspects before taking the decision. “These apps have been there for a long time, and there are some privacy and security issues with them including risks of data going out of the country,” said the person who did not wish to be identified. The statement from the ministry of electronics and IT (MEITY) said that it has received many complaints from various sources including several reports about misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India. “The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defence of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures,” it said “There have been raging concerns on aspects relating to data security and safeguarding the privacy of 130 crore Indians. It has been noted recently that such concerns also pose a threat to sovereignty and security of our country,” the statement added. Experts suggested that the ban on apps is a major blow to China's Digital Silk Route ambitions, eroding millions of dollars from valuation of its companies. This could also lead to more countries following India's path in acting against these Apps. "The Modi government shows its tremendous resolve and dexterity of engaging China on multiple fronts and hitting China where it hurts the most," said a party source. "This is India's first salvo to China after the border clashes, showing that India has a diverse range of retaliatory options," he added. Here is the full list of apps that have been banned: Read More: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/software/india-bans-59-chinese-apps-including-tiktok-helo-wechat/articleshow/76694814.cms https://www.ndtv.com/video/news/news/tiktok-stop-59-chinese-apps-banned-by-india-553123 https://indianexpress.com/article/india/china-apps-banned-in-india-6482079/
  18. Another antitrust headache for Alphabet. What you need to know Google is being investigated bu the Competition Commission of India over antitrust allegations. The company is being accused of unfairly privileging its Google Pay payment system in the Play Store over competitors. Google rejects this characterization, arguing that it neither has a monopoly on phones nor does is the Play Store the exclusive distribution area for smartphone apps in India. The CCI rejects Google's claims regarding being a monopoly and has opened an investigation into whether Google does favor its Google Pay app over competitors to the detriment of consumers. An anonymous complaint has been lodged with the Competiton Commission of India(via Tech Crunch), accusing Google of antitrust violations in its handling of Android, the Play Store, and Google Pay (formerly known as Tez in India). From the CCI's press release, the complaint has three main points [Google has been] unfairly privileging Google Pay by prominent placement on the Play Store, Android OS and Android-based smartphones by skewing the search results on the Play Store in favour of Google Pay; by rigging its featured app lists to include Google Pay in categories, such as "Editors' Choice Apps", "User Choice App of 2018" and "#Top Free app" demonstrating clear bias in favour of its own app; by manipulating the search advertisements algorithm on the Play Store in favour of Google Pay; and by pre-installing and prominently placing Google Pay on Android smartphones at the time of initial set-up resulting in a "status-quo bias" to the detriment of other apps facilitating payments through UPI as well as other methods of payment, such as mobile wallets, net banking, etc. b.) mandating apps to use Play Store's payment system and Google Play In-App Billing for charging their users for purchase of apps on Play Store and In-App purchases (which privileges Google Pay over other apps facilitating payment through UPI and mobile wallets), if they want to be listed on the Play Store; and c.) imposing unfair terms on users by requiring them to use Google Pay which is not in compliance with the data localisation directive issued by Reserve Bank of India and the guidelines issued by NPCI. Google counters these arguments, noting that it doesn't even qualify as a monopoly. It argued that it heavy competition from feature phones in India. It also notes that even when Android is invoiced, OEMs in India often pre-load rival app stores. Even when they don't, Google notes that 40% of app downloads in India don't happen on the Play Store. Google also noted that it doesn't grant unmerited prominence or favor in rankings to its own Gooogle apps, noting that it was in its own best interest to ensure that users had the best experience. The Commission didn't agree with some of Google's statements, deeming it a dominant force as far as market share for licensable smartphone operating systems and app stores go. When it comes to Google Pay and Google Play, the Commission will be opening an investigation into whether Google is actually skewing the search results or not, as well as if the Google Play Store billing system unfairly disadvantages rival apps. In a statement to TechCrunch, Google reiterated many of the counter-arguments it made to the watchdog, saying: We are pleased that the CCI has rejected several claims made by the anonymous complainant. On the remaining concerns, first, we are confident that the CCI will find that GPay operates in an extremely competitive environment, and owes its success to its ability to offer consumers a simple and secure payments experience." Secondly, numerous distribution channels exist for apps on the Android platform; Play is not the only app distribution option for Android. Users choose Google Play because we ensure a safe, secure, and seamless experience. Play's billing system is a fundamental part of meeting this user expectation and helps ensure our continued investment in the many important things needed to make developers successful. Source
  19. Varanasi in India is installing 3,000 CCTV cameras with automated facial recognition tech at the city’s crossings. From mandatory face masks and temperature checks, to socially distant holiday seasons, 2020 has upended our lives in the most haunting way. It’s also meant that governments across the world could introduce intrusive surveillance technology into our daily lives in the name of public health. In China, the government has been tracking its citizens by monitoring their smartphones. Meanwhile, countries like Singapore and India have been using a contact tracing app to monitor those infected by the virus, while Israel is using a counter terrorism agency to keep track of its citizens’ movements. However, these initiatives have been met with backlash from privacy experts and activists, who are concerned about mass surveillance emerging as another side-effect of the pandemic. Now, Varanasi, a city in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, is installing a new network of CCTV cameras that will include automated facial recognition cameras (AFRS). Authorities say the sole purpose of these cameras is to advance security measures and track suspected criminals. The project, which began earlier this year in July with an investment of Rs 125 crore, is expected to be completed by April 2021. An Austrian company is in charge of its execution, which will be done through the company’s Indian subsidiary. The project will connect all the police stations in the city to this CCTV network, with 500 kilometres of optical fibre being laid at 700 points in the city. This advanced technology is meant to help identify people by matching their digital images, photos and video feed with the existing database. The new CCTV camera network is part of a government-sponsored “Smart City” project. Gaurang Rathi, the chief executive officer of Smart City project and municipal commissioner said in a statement, “The network will have 3,000 close circuit television cameras in 14 categories, including AFRS at 22 vital points.” He further added that they will use technologies from the U.S. and Europe. He also added that these cameras will operate under the norms of the National Crime Record Bureau, and create a database of suspects or wanted individuals to easily identify or verify them. These AFRS will be installed at the city crossings. They will be connected to web-based applications hosted at the NCRB data centre in Delhi. Authorities claim the arrival of this “advanced surveillance” will improve contact tracing and the time it requires by reducing the amount of manpower required. The announcement comes a month after the Indian government was pulled up for giving “evasive answers” about the creation of its mandatory COVID-19 tracking app, Aarogya Setu. The app, which elicited concerns from privacy experts when it was first announced in April, came under scrutiny after the government failed to answer a query on the app’s creators in response to a Right to Information (RTI) appeal. This is not the first time a city is using crime control as an excuse to monitor its citizens closely. The South Wales police in the U.K. has been pioneering the use of facial recognition technology, deploying it on around 50 occasions from May of 2017 to April of 2019 at public events, as part of a Home Office. Recently though, a judge ruled its use by a police force as unlawful. The Philippines too announced in March that over a hundred CCTVs capable of facial recognition were being installed in public spaces, in a bid to fight crime. These new cameras are capable of night-vision, so faces and plate numbers will be seen “even in the darkest portion of the city” Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno had claimed. In 2019, San Francisco had banned the use of facial recognition technology by police and government agencies—becoming the first city in the U.S. to do so. Source
  20. Microsoft launches Surface Laptop Go in India Microsoft has finally announced the Surface Laptop Go in India. Buyers in India will now be able to buy “ultra-light” Surface Laptop from authorized retail and online partners, including Reliance Digital, Amazon. The Surface Laptop Go starts at INR 63,499 and goes up to INR 110,999 for the top model. You can also pay in parts — Microsoft is giving you the opportunity to buy it in No-cost EMI options from authorized retail and online partners start at INR 8,000 per month. You’ll be able to buy it from tomorrow, January 22. SURFACE LAPTOP GO PRICING IN INDIA Model MRP (commercial SKUs) MRP (consumer SKUs) Surface Laptop Go i5/4/64GB Surface Laptop Go i5/8/128GB Surface Laptop Go i5/8/256GB Surface Laptop Go i5/16/256GB INR 63,499 INR 76,199 INR 92,999 INR 110,999 — INR 71,999 INR 91,999 — A couple of months back, Microsoft India announced the Surface Book 3 and Surface Go 2, and this left many buyers wondering whether the company will bring the Laptop Go to India. And now with the announcement, Microsoft just made it clear that users in India can also get the taste of the lightest and most affordable Surface Laptop. The Laptop Go is powered by Intel’s 10th generation i5 Quad Core processor with up to 16GB RAM and 256GB storage. The base model comes with just 4GB RAM and 64GB eMMC drive. Also, the 16GB RAM is limited for commercial SKUs. Microsoft promises up to 13 hours of battery life with support for Fast Charging on this new laptop. The laptop features a 12.4-inch 1536 x 1024 (148 PPI) PixelSense touchscreen display, which offers a decent visual experience. The large precision trackpad and a full-size keyboard with 1.3mm key travel deliver an accurate and comfortable input experience. When it comes to ports, the new Laptop Go comes with an USB-C port, an USB-A port, a 3.5 mm headphone jack and a Surface Connect port. You can enjoy great video calls with built-in Studio Mics, Omnisonic Speakers and Dolby Audio and 720p HD camera. You can know more about the laptop here. If you’re based in India., are you planning to buy the Surface Laptop Go? Let’s know down in the comments. Source: Microsoft launches Surface Laptop Go in India
  21. Bloomberg) -- India entered an unprecedented recession with the economy contracting in the three months through September due to the lingering effects of lockdowns to contain the Covid-19 outbreak. Gross domestic product declined 7.5% last quarter from a year ago, the Statistics Ministry said Friday. That was milder than an 8.2% drop forecast by economists in a Bloomberg survey, and and a marked improvement from a record 24% contraction the previous quarter. Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed one of the world’s strictest lockdowns in March, sapping demand for non-essential goods and services. Despite the measures to stem the pandemic, the country is now home to the second-highest Covid-19 infections after the U.S. at 9.3 million cases. The second straight quarterly decline in GDP, pushes Asia’s third-largest economy into its first technical recession in records going back to 1996. Financial and real estate services -- among the biggest component of India’s dominant services sector -- shrank 8.1% last quarter from a year ago, while trade, hotels, transport and communication declined 15.6%. Manufacturing gained 0.6%, electricity and gas expanded 4.4% and agriculture grew 3.4%. “The GDP is more or less in the expected direction, though better than expected,” said Madan Sabnavis, chief economist at Care Ratings Ltd. “The fact that we are in the negative zone and will be so in the next quarter too is indicative of the tough times ahead.” Sovereign bonds declined Friday ahead of the data, with the yield on benchmark 10-year bonds rising 4 basis points to 5.9%, while the rupee declined 0.2% to 74.04 a dollar. Krishnamurthy Subramanian, the government’s chief economic adviser, told reporters the numbers were “quite encouraging” given the pandemic and compared with the previous quarter’s performance. The government and the central bank have each worked to support the economy, with total stimulus reaching around 30 trillion rupees ($405 billion), or 15% of GDP. The Reserve Bank of India, which has cut interest rates by 115 basis points this year, is due to review monetary policy next week, with the stance expected to remain accommodative for the near future. Looking Up For now, the stimulus, along with festival season demand, has helped spur activity in the economy, helping slowly replace concern about the depth of India’s recession with optimism that a recovery is taking hold. A slew of indicators from car sales to services sector activity notched higher in October, while alternative data signal robust demand in an economy that’s primarily driven by domestic consumption. “Today’s GDP print increases our confidence that recovery is gaining pace,” said Garima Kapoor, an economist at Elara Securities India Pvt. “While during initial period of unlocking, rural economy’s buoyancy was supportive, urban demand too has begun to normalize in pre-festive period.” Source
  22. A legal campaign by academic and scientific publishers to prevent Internet users from accessing Sci-Hub and Libgen has expanded to India. In a complaint filed at the High Court in Delhi, Elsevier, Wiley, and American Chemical Society, are demanding that local ISPs should block the sites to prevent copyright infringement. More than thirteen years after the first pirate site was blocked following a court order in Denmark, movie, music and sports companies in dozens of countries have sought similar action. More recently, publishing giants including Elsevier have also sought to protect their rights by targeting Sci-Hub (‘The Pirate Bay of Science’) and Libgen (Library Genesis), platforms that help to distribute scientific and academic papers to the masses, but without charging readers a penny. New Complaint Filed at High Court in Delhi In a new complaint dated December 21, 2020, Elsevier, Wiley, and American Chemical Society, aim to compel Indian ISPs to block both Sci-Hub and Libgen. Naming Sci-Hub founder Alexandra Elbakyan personally and the sites themselves, the complaint alleges that all “substantially indulge in online piracy by making available for viewing and download, providing access to, and communicating to the public, Plaintiffs’ literary works” via the Internet. The companies acknowledge that Elbakyan has never hidden her connection to Sci-Hub but note that the sites themselves, accessible via multiple domains, have their WHOIS details hidden behind privacy services in many cases. “Therefore, it is virtually impossible to bring the owners of the websites before this Honorable Court in order to ensure that the Orders of this Court are complied with,” the complaint reads. To solve this accountability hurdle, the publishers have included Internet service providers as defendants in the complaint. Also named are the Department of Communications and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, to ensure they play their part in having the pirate platforms blocked in India. Complaint is Voluminous But Relies on Tested Theories At 2,169 pages long, the publishers’ complaint is huge by any standards. However, it appears to tread little new ground and instead bases itself on previously tried and tested procedures. In particular, it leans heavily on complaints previously filed by Twentieth Century Fox and local Disney-owned media giant UTV Software Communications, which resulted in some of the largest torrent and streaming sites on the Internet being permanently blocked in India. In the current complaint against Sci-Hub and Libgen, which is similar to the UTV case, the aim is to categorize the platforms as “rogue sites” worthy of the special actions available under a so-called “dynamic injunction”. In practical terms, this means that the plaintiffs’ won’t have to keep returning to court for additional injunctions when Sci-Hub and Libgen predictably launch new domains and mirror sites to avoid blocking. According to Sci-Hub, the case was to be heard Thursday in the High Court of Delhi. In the same tweet, the platform also shared a full copy of the complaint, available here. Source: TorrentFreak
  23. Google India boots out 'rogue' loan apps from Play Store They were digital Shylocks (Image credit: Shutterstock) Google India has removed several personal loan apps from its Play Store that are in violation of its safety policies and Reserve Bank of India's (RBI's) guidelines. India's banking regulator had earlier conveyed its misgivings over the proliferation of unregulated fintech apps on Google Play Store and advised them to take the errant applications down. "We have reviewed hundreds of personal loan apps in India, based on flags submitted by users and government agencies. The apps that were found to violate our user safety policies were immediately removed from the Store, and we have asked the developers of the remaining identified apps to demonstrate that they comply with applicable local laws and regulations," Google India said in a blogpost. Google did not specify the number of lending apps that have been kicked out, but sources in the industry say that around 30 apps may have got the chop. Modus operandi of online loan sharks Quite typically, many of these apps are from fly-by-night operators, and target vulnerable borrowers by offering loans at usurious interest rates and then using extreme measures for recovery of money. Many of these apps levy exorbitant processing fees, as high as 2,000 rupees on loans of less than 10,000 rupees with tenures of 30 days or under. In the event, borrowers end up paying interest rates as high as 60% per week. Banks in India, on the contrary, offer personal loans with annual interest rates of 10-20%, and they usually do not have to be repaid in full for at least a year. Chinese threat here, too The Google Play Developer Policy now requires financial services apps that offer personal loans to disclose key information such as the minimum and maximum periods of repayment, the maximum annual percentage rate, and a representative example of the total loan cost. The RBI, for its part, has constituted a working group to suggest regulatory measures to promote orderly growth of digital lending amid rising incidents of harassments relating to online lending. Three apps, 10MinuteLoan, Ex-Money and Extra Mudra, were removed from the Play Store a few days back. Among the aps taken down in the fresh drive are LazyPay, Cashguru, Rupeeclick and Finance Buddha. Many of these apps, as it happens, have Chinese connection. And that is another angle of fight for the Indian authorities. Police in various Indian States have increased their drive against these online loan sharks. A few Chinese have also been taken into custody. Via: Google India Google India boots out 'rogue' loan apps from Play Store
  24. Amazon launches mobile-only, more affordable Prime Video plan in India Image Credits: Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg / Getty Images Amazon is doubling down on one of the biggest strengths of Prime Video streaming service: Aggressive pricing. The e-commerce giant on Wednesday launched Prime Video Mobile Edition, an even more affordable tier of the on-demand video streaming service — now also bundling some mobile data. Prime Video Mobile Edition, for which Amazon has partnered with Indian telecom network Airtel, will feature 28-day mobile-only, single-user, standard definition (SD) access to customers in India for Rs 89 ($1.22). This tier will include 6GB of mobile data that customers can consume during the subscription period. There’s also a slightly expensive plan for Prime Video Mobile Edition that will charge customers Rs 299 but will offer 1.5GB mobile data for each day of the subscription. To anyone who subscribes to Prime Video Mobile Edition, Amazon says it will pick the tab for the first month. Amazon Prime subscription costs $1.7 a month in India and includes access to Prime Video and Prime Music. The new Prime Video plan is currently only available in India. Its launch comes two years after Netflix unveiled a similar plan in India. Affordable pricing is key for on-demand steaming services that are looking to make inroads in India, the world’s second largest internet market. Even as more than 600 million users are online in the country today, only a fraction of them currently pay to access digital subscriptions. In a recent report to clients, analysts at Goldman Sachs estimated that gaming, and video streaming market in India could clock as much as $5 billion in gross value transactions by March 2025. “India is one of our fastest growing territories in the world with very high engagement rates. Buoyed by this response, we want to double-down by offering our much-loved entertainment content to an even larger base of Indian customers. Given high mobile broadband penetration in the country, the mobile phone has become one of the most widely used streaming devices,” said Jay Marine, Vice President, Amazon Prime Video Worldwide, in a statement. Airtel, the second largest telecom operator in India, is the first roll-out partner for Prime Video Mobile Edition, said Sameer Batra, Director, Mobile Business Development at Amazon, suggesting that the company may ink similar deals with other telecom operators in the country as it looks to expand the “reach of our service to the entire pre-paid customer base in India.” Nearly every on-demand video streaming service in India, including Netflix and Disney+ Hotstar, maintain various partnerships with local telecom operators and satellite TV providers to reach more users in the country. Amazon did not explicitly say when or if it plans to extend Prime Video Mobile Edition outside of India. Source: Amazon launches mobile-only, more affordable Prime Video plan in India
  25. Apple registers record iPhone sales in India - It may be the new start it was expecting 5G demand may push it further up (Image credit: TechRadar) A report from analytics firms Counterpoint Research and CyberMedia Research (CMR) suggest that Apple may have doubled its year-on-year iPhone sales in India in the company's fourth quarter of 2020. Apple shipped more than 1.5 million iPhone units in India in the quarter that ended in December, up 100% on its year-on-year performance. Apple best ever quarter in India comes on the back of strong sales of older models like iPhone 11, iPhone XR and iPhone SE coupled with high interest in the new iPhone 12. Overall, the tech giant had 4% of the market in quarter four, while cumulative 2020 sales soared 60% at more than 3.2 million units. The Apple iPad category saw 25% growth (performance-wise) in Q4 and for the full year 2020, it logged 17% growth. For the calendar year 2020, Apple's total India smartphone share was about 2.4%, which is a significant rise. Apple changing its India strategy The news agency IANS has quoted Prabhu Ram, Head-Industry Intelligence Group (IIG), CMR, as saying: "Apple continues its stellar run in the India smartphone market, gaining strength on the back of increased local manufacturing and strong marketing initiatives during the festive season." The relatively lesser market share of Apple in India is understandable as it has pegged itself in the premium segment and also due to the fact that the company kind of treated the Indian market with a disinterest that puzzled analysts, both here and elsewhere. But Apple may be looking to change its ways. Already, last year, Apple launched its online store in the country and offered customers a bouquet of financing and upgrade options, AppleCare+, and freebies like AirPods with the purchase of iPhone 11. As Prabhu Ram said, "Apple is on track to grow further and gain strength in the year ahead, as it unveils its new India initiatives on the back of its new online store, and upcoming flagship retail stores." Apple phone manufacturing in India itself is also moving into a higher gear. Despite the problems in one of its assembling units, Wistron, Apple is looking to increase its production in India through Foxconn and Pegatron, two other contract manufacturers of the tech giant. 5G demand to help Apple in India Further, the expected spike in demand for 5G phones in India is also expected to help Apple. Counterpoint Research predicts that India's 5G smartphone shipments could grow more than nine-fold in 2021 to 38 million units, up from an estimated 4 million last year. Apple can tap into this massive jump by aggressively plugging its iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini. The latter's price is not all that too distant from the competing brand products in the segment. Rumours have it that Apple may put 5G connectivity into its entry-level iPhone SE this year. It is also said that iPhone SE could rock the same A14 Bionic processor that powers the iPhone 12, and it could be launched in the second half of the year. This can make Apple even more competitive in India in the years to come. Apple registers record iPhone sales in India - It may be the new start it was expecting
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