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  1. 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/
  2. 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
  3. Wistron's new plant in India plans to begin assembling printed circuit boards (PCBs) for iPhones, a first for the Taiwanese contract manufacturer that will save Apple having to pay import taxes on the vital smartphone component. Reuters reports that the PCB assembly will take place in Wistron's new iPhone plant, which is about 40 miles outside of Bengaluru, when it becomes operational by April. Wistron's other plant, located in central Bengaluru, has been pumping out ‌iPhone‌ SE, ‌iPhone‌ 6S and ‌iPhone‌ 7 models since 2017. A PCB serves as a bed for key ‌iPhone‌ components like processors, storage, and memory, and usually accounts for about half the cost of a smartphone. That makes PCB assembly in the country a major boon for Apple, as it avoids taxes levied by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government to boost local manufacturing and create new jobs. On Saturday, India's federal budget revealed that the country will begin taxing imports of populated PCBs at 20 percent from April, up from the previous rate of 10 percent. Wistron's larger rival, Foxconn, which began making iPhone XR models in India last year, already assembles PCBs locally. India is still largely dependent on China for supplies of other smartphone parts like display panels and camera modules. The positive move by Wistron comes as Apple starts ramping up efforts to bring online and in-store sales to customers in India for the first time. Up until recently, Apple device sales in India had to be done through third-party retailers, as Apple didn't have permission to sell devices in the country due to foreign investment rules and regulations. However, in August 2019, India eased its rules and Apple now plans to open an online Apple Store in India to start official online sales of iPhones, iPads, Macs, and more in the country starting in the third quarter of 2020. Source
  4. Spike in mobile banking malware, WhatsApp too vulnerable: Check Point Malware attacks on mobile phones have definitely increased. Last year, we saw an increase of 50 per cent in mobile banking malware, like, Banker. It is as easy to send malware on WhatsApp as it is via other mediums as well. “It is as easy to send malware on WhatsApp as it is via other mediums,” Venugopal N, Director of Security Engineering at Check Point Software Technologies told indianexpress.com in an interaction, adding that in the case of Jeff Bezos, it was a zero vulnerability. He also revealed that there has been an increase of 50 per cent in banking mobile malware attacks overall, including in India, that can potentially steal a user’s financial data and even funds from their bank accounts. Venugopal shared more insights on what exactly happened in the Bezos case, the rise of banking malware and potential threats as well as what users can do to stay safe. Excerpts from the interaction: Has there been an increase in mobile malware? In India, which ones are the most common? Malware attacks on mobile phones have definitely increased. Last year, we saw an increase of 50 per cent in mobile banking malware, like, Banker. According to our threat intelligence sources, more than 35 per cent of organisations in India have been impacted by a mobile attack in 2019. In India, a lot of malware that we see tend to steal photographs, contact info on the mobile phone. And there’s adware that’s the most common type sitting on your phone and generating ads to make money for someone else. There is also malware that are able to launch surveillance on your phone, look at your GPS location and steal your personal data as well but that’s not as prevalent in India. What can banking mobile malware potentially do? Banking malware is widespread and what we have also seen is that its sophistication is increasing. It can potentially steal your financial data if you are using your mobile phone to make payments, steal your credentials and even funds from bank accounts. We are also talking credential theft and surveillance operations which means that somebody can really monitor your GPS location or take control of your microphone on your phone without the user actually knowing something like this is actually happening. Then, of course, we have contact information on our phones that can also be rummaged through this attack. How vulnerable is WhatsApp? What happened in the Jeff Bezos case? It is as easy to send malware on WhatsApp as it is via other mediums as well. But WhatsApp has actively patched a lot of vulnerabilities in the recent past and they are doing it on a regular basis. If you look at WhatsApp, there are about 65 billion messages that are sent on the app every day. Encryption to a large extent helps as it is designed in such a way that only the person to whom you are communicating can read the message and nobody in between. But what we’ve seen in the recent past is the fact that there are often new vulnerabilities that are exploited. That’s what happened in the Jeff Bezos case as well. It was a zero vulnerability. In this particular case, while the message was sent on WhatsApp, it was a video file that was sent and while opening the video file, the malware that was on the file was transmitted on the phone. What are the best security practices that mobile users can adopt? The most important thing is, give the same amount of importance to your mobile phone that you give to your laptop. Have a security solution in place. Do not download apps from third-party app stores. While even the App Store and Play Store also tend to have malware, we know we are cutting down on 50 per cent of the problems if you do not connect to the Internet and download apps. Do not open each and every file, links if you do not know who the sender is. It could be a file on your messaging apps or emails. Finally, you also need to keep in mind what kind of Wi-Fi networks you connect to as man-in-the-middle attacks can be launched via Wi-Fi networks. Avoid connecting to public, free Wi-Fi networks. How common is phishing through emails? People also tend to use their emails on mobiles. So it’s not just browsing websites or downloading apps or getting malware over messaging apps. Phishing attacks through emails would be that somebody could launch a malware to the mailbox and that malware is active via the mailbox to the mobile as well. One aspect is that you tend to open a link that comes in a mail and then you are taken to a particular website and asked to update your information. People are using that data to steal information about you. The most important thing is, try not to open all the mails if you know that some are spam mails. It is more about being educated to do something like this. Source
  5. New Delhi is inching closer to recommending regulations that would require social media companies and instant messaging app providers to help law enforcement agencies identify users who have posted content — or sent messages — it deems questionable, two people familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. India will submit the suggested change to the local intermediary liability rules to the nation’s apex court later this month. The suggested change, the conditions of which may be altered before it is finalized, currently says that law enforcement agencies will have to produce a court order before exercising such requests, sources who have been briefed on the matter said. But regardless, asking companies to comply with such a requirement would be “devastating” for international social media companies, a New Delhi-based policy advocate told TechCrunch on the condition of anonymity. WhatsApp executives have insisted in the past that they would have to compromise end-to-end encryption of every user to meet such a demand — a move they are willing to fight over. The government did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday evening. A WhatsApp spokesperson declined to comment. Sources spoke under the condition of anonymity as they are not authorized to speak to media. Scores of companies and security experts have urged New Delhi in recent months to be transparent about the changes it planned to make to the local intermediary liability guidelines. The Indian government proposed (PDF) a series of changes to its intermediary liability rules in late December 2018 that, if enforced, would require to make significant changes millions of services operated by anyone, from small and medium businesses to large corporate giants such as Facebook and Google. Among the proposed rules, the government said that intermediaries — which it defines as those services or functions that facilitate communication between two or more users and have five million or more users in India — will have to, among other things, be able to trace the originator of questionable content to avoid assuming full liability for their users’ actions. At the heart of the changes lies the “safe harbor” laws that technology companies have so far enjoyed in many nations. The laws, currently applicable in the U.S. under the Communications Decency Act and India under its 2000 Information Technology Act, say that tech platforms won’t be held liable for the things their users share on the platform. Many stakeholders have said in recent months that the Indian government was keeping them in the dark by not sharing the changes it was making to the intermediary liability guidelines. Nobody outside of a small government circle has seen the proposed changes since January of last year, said Shashi Tharoor, one of India’s most influential opposition politicians, in a recent interview with TechCrunch. Software Freedom and Law Centre, a New Delhi-based digital advocacy organization, recommended last week that the government should consider removing the traceability requirement from the proposed changes to the law as it was “technically impossible to satisfy for many online intermediaries.” “No country is demanding such a broad level of traceability as envisaged by the Draft Intermediaries Guidelines,” it added. TechCrunch could not ascertain other changes the government is recommending. Source
  6. In December 2018, the Indian government proposed changes to its Intermediaries Guidelines that govern how websites in India with more than 5 million users will operate and host content in India. According to the proposed amendments, such intermediaries are required to: Set up a permanent registered office in India with a physical address Appoint a nodal person of contact for coordination with law enforcement agencies Amanda Keton, general counsel of Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit group that operates Wikipedia, has written an open letter to the minister of Electronics and Information Technology, Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, expressing her concerns. She writes that Wikipedia operates on an open editing model, and the required provisions could lead to a “significant financial burden” on nonprofit technology organizations. It could also limit free expression rights for internet users in the country. The proposed changes in the Intermediaries Guidelines intend to make the internet safer for Indian citizens by formulating rules for it. The rules also require intermediaries to automatically filter out unlawful information and content by deploying automated tools. Other nonprofit organizations, including Mozilla and Github, also wrote a joint letter saying that the upcoming rules “would significantly expand surveillance requirements on internet services.” Last month, Wikipedia received 771 million page views from India, which is its fifth-largest market in the world. In her open letter, Keton has asked the Ministry to release a new draft of rules which take into consideration all the expressed concerns. Source
  7. Apps from Chinese developers have been gaining popularity on Indian app stores for sometime. Last year, as many as 44 of the top 100 Android apps in India were developed by Chinese firms. But things have changed this year as local developers put on a fight. According to app analytics and marketing firm AppsFlyer, Indian apps as a whole have recaptured their original standing. 41% of top 200 apps in Indian editions of Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store in Q2 and Q3 this year were developed by Indian developers and local firms, up from 38% last year, the report said. Data from App Annie, another research firm, corroborates the claim. “This uptick happened chiefly at the expense of Chinese apps, which fell from their lead position to 38% from 43% in 2018. Altogether, Chinese and Indian apps make up almost four-fifths (79%) of the list,” the report said. The shift comes as scores of Indian firms have launched payments, gaming, news, and entertainment apps in the last year and a half, said AppsFlyer, which analyzed 6.5 billion installs in the second and third quarters of this year. But Chinese developers are not giving up and continue to maintain an “impressive” fight in each category, the report said. India — which is home to more than 450 million smartphone users and maintains relatively lax laws to support an open market — has naturally emerged as an attractive battleground for developers worldwide. Many Chinese firms including Xiaomi and ByteDance count India as one of their largest markets. TikTok app has amassed over 200 million users in India, for instance. Xiaomi, which leads the Indian smartphone market, is quickly building a portfolio of services for users in India. It launched a lending app in the country earlier this month. Gaining traction among first time internet users, most of whom have lower financial capacity, can prove challenging. Those developing travel apps had to spend about 170 Indian rupees ($2.4) for each install, for instance. Food and drink app makers spent 138 Indian rupees ($1.9) per install during the aforementioned period, while games cost 13.5 Indian rupees. Despite the marketing spends, retention rate for these apps was 23.4% on day 1, a figure that plummeted to 2.6% by the end of the month. (This is still an improvement over retention rates of 22.8% on day 1, and 2.3% on day 30 last year.) Source
  8. China’s TikTok today launched an education program in India as the popular short-video app looks to expand its offering and assuage local authority in one of its biggest markets. This is the first time TikTok has launched a program of this kind in any market, a spokesperson told TechCrunch. TkTok, owned by the world’s most valued startup Bytedance, said it’s working with a number of content creators and firms in India to populate the platform with educational videos. These bite-sized clips cover a range of topics, from school-level science and math concepts to learning new languages. The social app is also featuring videos that offer tips on health and mental awareness, and motivational talks. The social platform, which is used by more than 200 million users in India every month, said its education program is aimed at “democratizing learning for the Indian digital community on the platform.” (TikTok had 120 million monthly active users in April this year.) It has partnered with edtech startups Vedantu, Toppr, Made Easy and Gradeup that will produce educational content for TikTok. It is also collaborating with social enterprises Josh Talks and the Nudge Foundation to mentor 5,000 people across India. (Some of the partnerships were disclosed a few months ago.) An executive with Josh Talks said the firm has been able to reach more than 35 million users in less than two months on TikTok, far more users than it has attracted on other platforms. Sachin Sharma, director of Sales and Partnerships at TikTok, said the social app’s foray into education is a response to the demand it has seen from users. Educational videos are some of the most popular and engaging videos on the platform globally, he said at a press conference in New Delhi. In recent months, more than 10 million educational videos have been created and shared on TikTok, where they have garnered more than 48 billion views, Sharma claimed. He did not reveal the financial structure of TikTok’s deal with its creator partners. As consumption of mobile video booms in India, thanks in part to the availability of cheap data and proliferation of low-cost Android handsets, a growing number of edtech startups have emerged in the nation to deliver their catalog online. Eight-year-old startup Byju’s, which offers a learning app, has seen its customer base balloon in recent years. The startup, valued at over $5.75 billion, had about 35 million users as of three months ago. Educational content is also more attractive to advertisers, which could help TikTok explore better monetization options in the future, analysts said. Expansion to e-learning would also help the startup improve its brand image with local authority. The app has already run into issues in India a couple of times. Earlier this year, an Indian court banned TikTok, alleging that it was hosting and promoting pornographic and other illicit content. The ban was later lifted. Source
  9. India has proposed groundbreaking new rules that would require companies to garner consent from citizens in the country before collecting and processing their personal data. But at the same time, the new rules also state that companies would have to hand over “non-personal” data of their users to the government, and New Delhi would also hold the power to collect any data of its citizens without consent, thereby bypassing the laws applicable to everyone else, to serve sovereignty and larger public interest. The new rules, proposed in “Personal Data Protection Bill 2019,” a copy of which leaked on Tuesday, would permit New Delhi to “exempt any agency of government from application of Act in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order.” If the bill passes — and it is expected to be discussed in the parliament in the coming weeks — select controversial laws drafted more than a decade ago would remain unchanged. Another proposed rule would grant New Delhi the power to ask any “data fiduciary or data processor” to hand over “anonymized” “non-personal data” for the purpose of better governance, among others. New Delhi’s new bill — which was passed by the Union Cabinet last week, but has yet to be formally shared with the public — could create new challenges for Google, Facebook, Twitter, ByteDance’s TikTok and other companies that are already facing some regulatory heat in the nation. India conceptualized this bill two years ago and in the years since, it has undergone significant changes. An earlier draft of the bill that was formally made public last year had stated that the Indian government must not have the ability to collect or process personal data of its citizens, unless a lawful procedure was followed. Ambiguity over who the Indian government considers an “intermediary” or a “social media” platform, or a “social media intermediary” are yet to be fully resolved, however. In the latest version, the bill appears to not include payment services, internet service providers, search engines, online encyclopedias, email services and online storage services as “social media intermediaries.” One of the proposed rules, that is directly aimed at Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media company that enables “interaction between two or more users,” requires them to give their users an option to verify their identity and then publicly have such status displayed on their profile — similar to the blue tick that Facebook and Twitter reserve for celebrities and other accounts of public interest. Last week news outlet Reuters reported portions of the bill, citing unnamed sources. The report claimed that India was proposing the voluntary identity-verification requirement to curb the spread of false information. As social media companies grapple with the spread of false information, that have resulted in at least 30 deaths in India, the Narendra Modi-led government, which itself is a big consumer of social media platforms, has sought to take measures to address several issues. Over the last two years, the Indian government has asked WhatsApp, which has amassed more than 400 million users in India, to “bring traceability” to its platform in a move that would allow the authority to identify the people who are spreading the information. WhatsApp has insisted that any such move would require breaking encryption, which would compromise the privacy and security of more than a billion people globally. The bill has not specifically cited government’s desires to contain false information for this proposal, however. Instead the bill insists that this would bring more “transparency and accountability.” Some critics have expressed concerns over the proposed rules. Udbhav Tiwari, a public policy advisor at Mozilla, said New Delhi’s bill would “represent new, significant threats to Indians’ privacy. If Indians are to be truly protected, it is urgent that parliament reviews and addresses these dangerous provisions before they become law.” Indian news site MediaNama has outlined several more changes in this Twitter thread. Source
  10. The Indian government said on Tuesday that it is “empowered” to intercept, monitor, or decrypt any digital communication “generated, transmitted, received, or stored” on a citizen’s device in the country in the interest of national security or to maintain friendly relations with foreign states. Citing section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, and section 5 of the Telegraph Act, 1885, Minister of State for Home Affairs G. Kishan Reddy said local law empowers federal and state government to “intercept, monitor or decrypt or cause to be intercepted or monitored or decrypted any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource in the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above or for investigation of any offence.” Reddy’s remarks were in response to the parliament, where a lawmaker had asked if the government had snooped on citizens’ WhatsApp, Messenger, Viber, and Google calls and messages. The lawmaker’s question was prompted after 19 activists, journalists, politicians, and privacy advocates in India revealed earlier this month that their WhatsApp communications may have been compromised. WhatsApp has said that Israeli spyware manufacturer NSO’s tools have been used to send malware to 1,400 users. The Facebook-owned company has in recent weeks alerted users whose accounts had been compromised. The social juggernaut earlier this month sued NSO alleging that its tools were being used to hack WhatsApp users. NSO has maintained that it only sells its tools to government and intelligence agencies, an assertion that stoked fear among some that the state could be behind targeting the aforementioned 19 people — and perhaps more — in the country. Reddy did not directly address the questions, but in a blanket written statement said that “authorized agencies as per due process of law, and subject to safeguards as provided in the rules” can intercept or monitor or decrypt “any information from any computer resource” in the country. He added that each case of such interception has to be approved by the Union Home Secretary (in case of federal government) and by the Home Secretary of the State (in case of state government.) Last month, the Indian government said it was moving ahead with its plan to revise existing rules to regulate intermediaries — social media apps and others that rely on users to create their content — as they are causing “unimaginable disruption” to democracy. It told the country’s apex court that it would formulate the rules by January 15 of next year. A report published today by New Delhi-based Software Law and Freedom Centre (SFLC) found that more than 100,000 telephone interception are issued by the federal government alone every year. “On adding the surveillance orders issued by the state governments to this, it becomes clear that India routinely surveils her citizens’ communications on a truly staggering scale,” the report said. The non-profit organization added that the way current laws that enable law enforcement agencies to conduct surveillance on citizens’ private communications are “opaque” as they are run “solely by the executive arm of the government, and make no provisions for independent oversight of the surveillance process.” Source
  11. Flipkart says first Nokia-branded smart TV will offer superior audio experience as it will come with ‘Sound by JBL’. Nokia-branded smart TVs are coming to India soon. Flipkart has partnered with Nokia to launch ‘Made in India’ smart TV on the e-commerce platform. The company hasn’t revealed the launch date for Nokia smart TV. Flipkart said that Nokia smart TV in India will come with ‘Sound by JBL’ – marking JBL’s foray into the TV space. “The Nokia branded Smart TVs will feature superior audio quality powered by JBL’s sound program, an initiative by HARMAN to expand the uses of its audio expertise further,” said Flipkart in a release. “We are delighted that Flipkart, the leading e-commerce company in the country, will bring the first-ever Nokia branded Smart TVs to India. Today marks the start of an exciting new chapter for the Nokia brand in a new category. And where better to start than in India, where our brand has been trusted for quality, design and reliability. Flipkart’s understanding of the needs and behaviors of Indian consumers, and the power of its reach, will help it make Nokia branded Smart TVs accessible and affordable to many,” said Vipul Mehrotra, Vice President, Nokia Brand Partnerships in a release. “Working with Nokia allows us to further expand the choice of high-quality, technologically advanced products for Indian consumers. Nokia is a globally popular technology brand and enjoys immense brand recall, so we’re excited to start this journey with them to extend the brand into a fast-growing product segment. We are committed, as always, to bringing best of brands and technology together as we work towards welcoming the next 200 million consumers on our platform,” said Adarsh Menon, Senior Vice President and Head - Private Brands, Electronics and Furniture at Flipkart. The announcement comes weeks after Flipkart entered into a similar partnership with Motorola to launch locally manufactured smart TVs in India. Dubbed as ‘Motorola TV’, the smart TV series is available online via Flipkart for a starting price of Rs 13,999. The smart TV series also features 3-inch, 50-inch and 55-inch UHD models and a premium 65-inch Motorola TV with UHD panel. The top-end model costs Rs 64,999. Some of the key features of Motorola TVs include MEMC technology and HDR support for better visual experience. Source: Nokia smart TV with JBL audio coming to India soon, courtesy Flipkart (via Hindustan Times)
  12. Google will not be selling the Pixel 4 and 4 XL in India Google unveiled the Pixel 4 and 4 XL flagships smartphones at an event yesterday. The devices see the addition of a secondary rear camera for improved abilities in the camera department, a 90Hz refresh rate for the display, improved Google Assistant features and more. However, a standout feature of the devices is the addition of a radar sensor called ‘Project Soli’ which the firm now officially terms ‘Motion Sense’. This sensor allows for the ability to use air gestures to control the phone and aids in faster face unlock. That very feature might be why these flagships offerings will not be making it for sale in the Indian sub-continent. In response to a user question on Twitter, the Made by Google account confirmed that the company has decided “not to make Pixel 4 available in India”. While the tweet does not pinpoint the exact reason, it is likely due to regulatory restrictions in India that prevent the usage of 60GHz bands for commercial use. The ‘Project Soli’ chip in these devices leverages the 60GHz band to sense precise movement around the device. With premium smartphone sales seeing an increase in the country, the inability for Google to offer its latest smartphones might hurt the company. Samsung recently claimed that it holds 72% of the premium device market share in India (in the ₹40,000 (~$560) and above segment). With the omission of the latest Pixel devices in the market, users of older Pixel phones waiting to upgrade their devices have the Pixel 3a as an option or might have to go the way of Samsung or other OEMs. While the tweet from the company suggests that it looks forward to “bringing future Pixel and other hardware products to India”, it isn’t clear if it points at the possibility of a Pixel 4a in the future sans the Project Soli radar chip or if there are other plans. It is too early to read too far into what the company plans for its future devices. Source: Google will not be selling the Pixel 4 and 4 XL in India (Neowin) If you like this post, then this post.
  13. The streaming major is offering access to the first episode of Bard Of Blood to non-members in India for a limited time. Netflix is making available the first episode of its latest India original series 'Bard Of Blood' to non-members in the country for a limited time, in a bid to attract potential subscribers amid growing competition in the country. The episode is currently accessible through Netflix homepage and the Bard of Blood show listing on the platform and can be viewed across all web browsers on desktop and Android devices. Support for iOS devices seems missing, although those users will be able to generate a link by entering their email address and watch it on supported devices. The idea here seems to be enabling users to watch the premiere episode and charge customers to access the rest of the episodes, hoping that the users are hooked onto the story and end up buying the subscription. While Netflix does offer a 30-day trial to all users, this approach is more story-driven and also aims to tap into the mainstream popularity of the big movie stars in the country. The move is reminscient of the strategy by ALTBalaji, the video streaming service from Reliance-backed Balaji Telefilms, which has been using a similar approach since its inception. It initially allowed users to watch the first three episodes of any show for free and then charged them to access the rest of the episodes, although the limit now seems to have been reduced to a single episode per show. Times Internet*-owned MX Player also offers all its original shows on a free ad-supported model. This development also comes at a time when Netflix is hunting for its next big hit after Sacred Games from India, that could grow its subscriber base in the country and across the world. It is hoping that Bard of Blood, the first original series from actor Shah Rukh Khan’s production house Red Chillies Entertainment for the platform, could be one of them. India, where Netflix is aggressively ramping up its content spend, is one of the markets where it is witnessing increased user engagement and is emerging as a priority market for the company. In July, the service debuted a low-cost mobile-only plan for the India market at Rs 199 per month, its cheapest subscription plan globally. It is however still one of the costliest video streaming service in the country. "At Netflix, we try different ways to bring people closer to great stories. We believe many people will find the thrilling story of spy Kabir Anand very appealing and are excited to make the first episode of the series available to everyone for a limited time. In the future, we will consider if we will do this for other films and series,” the company said in a statement. While this is the first time Netflix is experimenting such an initiative in India, it has previously conducted a similar test with the Spanish original series 'Elite' in Mexico and Colombia earlier this month. India’s video streaming market is set to touch $5 billion by 2023 from $500 million last year, according to a report by Boston Consulting Group. The paying subscriber base is expected to rise to 40-50 million users by 2023, as per its estimates. Source
  14. India this week moved to ban e-cigarettes in a move that will see illegal use of the products punishable by up to three years in prison for repeat offenses. Separately, a mysterious halt on Juul sales in China comes just days after the devices were introduced to the market. All the while, lawmakers in the U.S. are ramping up the crackdown on vaping. The prohibition on the products comes as a measure to prevent the use of e-cigarettes among kids, the government said in a statement, citing research that “suggests that these products may act as gateway products to induce non-smokers, especially youth and adolescents.” Under the ban, first-time offenders can receive up to a year imprisonment, a fine of 100,000 rupees (roughly $1,400 as of Wednesday morning), or both. Repeat offenders, however, can receive up to three-sentences, a fine of 500,000 rupees (about $7,000), or both. “These novel products come with attractive appearances and multiple flavours and their use has increased exponentially and has acquired epidemic proportions in developed countries, especially among youth and children,” the government statement said. The ban, which was approved Wednesday, will include components such as pods and cartridges, according to India’s Ministry of Health. Storage of e-cigarettes and “like products” will be punishable by up to 6 months imprisonment, a fine of 50,000 rupees (roughly $700), or both. Reuters reported that the order still required formal approval from the president, but added that “this is typically a formality.” According to Reuters, Juul had recently hired “several” people to fill senior executive roles as it prepared to expand to the market in India. A Juul spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment about the measure. But the news comes as Juul faces tumult in its Chinese market as well. CNBC first reported Wednesday that the sale of Juul products has mysteriously been halted after being introduced through online retailers Tmall.com and JD.com between September 9 and September 13. Citing a source familiar with the matter, Bloomberg reported that Juul was not provided with any reasoning for the sales suspension. A Juul spokesperson told Gizmodo in a statement by email that although product sales have stalled, the company will “look forward to continued dialogue with stakeholders so that we can make our products available again.” “We remain steadfast in our commitment to providing the more than 300 million adult smokers in China with a viable alternative to combustible cigarettes,” the spokesperson added. In addition to regulation overseas, Juul has faced increased pressure from U.S. regulatory bodies in recent months as officials grapple with how best to address the rise in the use of e-cigarettes among teens and children. Last week, President Donald Trump announced that regulators will issue guidance in the next “couple of weeks” regarding the sale of flavored e-cigarette products. Source
  15. In India, you don’t need a Google phone to have a Google Assistant A new toll-free Google Assistant service in India can be accessed from any phone. Enlarge / Google Assistant isn't just for smartphones anymore—at least, not in India. McKay Savage / Flickr India is an enormous developing market for international companies like Google—who list Hindi as the second most-used Google Assistant language, after English—but many of those potential Indian customers don't have smartphones and may frequently be in areas with little or no data coverage. Today, Google announced a partnership with telco carrier Vodafone Idea that brings the Google Assistant to those users by way of a simple, toll-free dial-in service. Indian users can now call 000-800-9191-000 and interact with the Google Assistant entirely by voice in either English or Hindi, with other language support planned over time. Most of the standard "Hey Google" functionality is available—you might ask what actress played a particular movie role, who sings a popular song, or where to find a nearby store. This version of the Assistant isn't tied to any individual user's Google account, so it can't do things that require personal data access, such as creating a calendar event or calling a friend. Whether this is a bug or a feature is left as a thought exercise for the reader—Incognito Mode Google Assistant, anyone? This new service follows on the heels of the Google Assistant for KaiOS, launched earlier this year, which brought access to the Google Assistant to Indians who had very low-end feature phones. Google believes that access to its Assistant is particularly important to users in emerging markets, who frequently have less screen real estate to navigate complex control systems and less experience with them as well. For many of these users, a voice-activated assistant could be a more natural and feature-full way to interact, rather than an unfamiliar and limiting metaphor. More traditional, smartphone-based versions of the Assistant in India are capable of wider language support and can converse with their users in nine Indian languages. Google has made it possible for these users to configure their phone and their Assistant to use different languages—many users prefer the on-screen configuration language to be English while conversing with the Assistant in their native tongue. The Assistant can handle this decoupling directly, with users able to ask "Hey Google, speak to me in Punjabi" rather than digging around in on-screen configs. Google is also adding a new Interpreter mode to the Assistant, which will allow two people speaking different languages to converse in real time. The feature currently supports English and Hindi, with more languages to come, and should start rolling out over the next few months. Source: In India, you don’t need a Google phone to have a Google Assistant (Ars Technica)
  16. NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Technology firms must protect user privacy and prevent abuse of their platforms, India’s IT minister said on Thursday, speaking as the government draws up a data privacy law and seeks to push companies to store more data locally. Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad addresses a Google India event in New Delhi. Federal Information and Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said he wanted Indians to have access to more technology platforms but said this should not undermine user privacy. “I have only one caveat - it must be safe and secure, it must safeguard the privacy rights of the individual and you must make extra efforts that people don’t abuse the system,” Prasad told industry executives at a gathering organized by Alphabet Inc’s Google in New Delhi. India’s 1.3 billion people and their massive consumption of mobile data has turned it into a key growth market for U.S. technology giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon. India has already forced foreign payment firms such as Mastercard Inc and Visa Inc to store data locally. Technology firms have been concerned that the government’s drive to step up measures to boost local data storage will increase investment costs. Google said at the event that it had launched a new job-search feature on its Google Pay platform, which is used by 67 million people in a month and competes with SoftBank-backed Paytm and Walmart Inc’s PhonePe. Google also expanded its artificial intelligence-based voice assistant service to feature phones by partnering with one of India’s top telecom carriers in a country where more than 300 million use 2G devices. Source
  17. India Loses Contact with Vikram Lander During Historic Moon Landing Attempt India lost contact with its Vikram lunar lander Friday (Sept. 6) during a daring attempt to make history as the first country to land near the south pole. The landing anomaly may have dashed Indian dreams of becoming just the fourth country to successfully soft-land a spacecraft on the moon. Long, tense minutes stretched out inside the mission control center for the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), which designed the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had arrived onsite at the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India, about half an hour before touchdown of the landed component, dubbed Vikram, was scheduled to take place. That announcement came at 4:48 p.m. EDT (2048 GMT) from K. Sivan, the director of ISRO. "Vikram lander descent was as planned and normal performance was observed up to an altitude of 2.1 kilometers [1.3 miles]," Sivan said in an announcement at mission control. "Subsequently the communications from the lander to the ground station was lost. The data is being analyzed." Data comparing the planned trajectory of the Vikram lander with telemetry from the spacecraft. (Image credit: ISRO) Modi spoke after Sivan's announcement, appearing to bolster downcast spirits in mission control as they investigated the issue. "Be courageous," he said. "What we achieved is not small," Modi added. "Wish you all the best." Sivan did not specify when ISRO would be able to provide updates about the fate of the Vikram lander. According to data shown during the descent maneuver, the lowest altitude reported back to Earth was 0.2 miles (0.33 kilometers) above the lunar surface. A plot comparing live data received to the mission's trajectory suggested that Vikram was about 0.6 miles (1 km) horizontally off-track from the targeted landing site when communications stopped. "India is proud of our scientists!" Modi wrote in a Twitter update shortly after learning of the anomaly. "They've given their best and have always made India proud. These are moments to be courageous, and courageous we will be!" "We remain hopeful and will continue working hard on our space programme," he added. Chandrayaan-2 consisted of three components — an orbiter, a lander named Vikram and a rover named Pragyan — which together launched to the moon on July 22 atop a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk III) rocket. It took nearly 7 weeks to arrive at its destination; Chandrayaan-2 arrived in lunar orbit on Aug. 20, and the lander separated from the orbiter on Sept. 2 to begin its descent to the lunar surface. The lander and the rover were designed to spend one lunar day — about 14 Earth days — investigating the lunar surface with a variety of scientific instruments. Both were expected to shutdown come nightfall at the moon's south pole, because they weren't built to withstand to frigid temperatures of the lunar night. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with ISRO director K. Sivan after the agency lost communications with the Vikram lander. (Image credit: ISRO) Despite the demise of the Pragyan lunar rover and Vikram lander, the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter will continue studying the moon from afar for about a year. From its vantage point at an altitude of about 62 miles (100 kilometers) above the moon's surface, the orbiter uses eight scientific instruments and cameras to study Earth's natural satellite from afar. The following are among the payloads: An X-ray spectrometer to measure the abundance of different elements on the moon. A solar X-ray Monitor, which studies high-energy radiation from the sun. A dual-frequency synthetic aperture radar to map the lunar surface. The Chandrayaan-2 Atmospheric Compositional Explorer 2 (CHACE 2), which studies the composition of the moon's exosphere, or ultrathin atmosphere. A radio science experiment that will study electrons in the moon's ionosphere. Today's possible failure may mark the second time ISRO has crash-landed a spacecraft on the moon. The country's first lunar mission, Chandrayaan-1, launched in 2008 and consisted of only an orbiter, which successfully conducted vital research at the moon, and an impactor. Chadrayaan-1 operated for about 10 months. Chandrayaan-2 bears some similarities to Chandrayaan-1, but it carried new and improved technologies that ISRO is testing for future planetary missions — like its next mission to Mars. India had announced tentative plans to launch a third moon mission called Chandrayaan-3 in 2024. Like Chandrayaan-2, that mission would include a lunar rover. India was striving to become the fourth country to soft-land on the lunar surface, after the United States, Russia and China. The fatal crash of the Vikram lander comes just months after Israel's first moon mission, Beresheet, met a similar fate. But unlike Beresheet, Chandrayaan-2's mission lives on in the orbiter that will circle the moon, alone two weeks before its time. Source: India Loses Contact with Vikram Lander During Historic Moon Landing Attempt
  18. After establishing a strong base with its ecommerce and streaming content business in India, Amazon is reportedly set to unveil its food delivery service in the country next month. According to a report by Mint, the company will start the service under its Prime Now banner first in Bengaluru, and then in Mumbai and New Delhi. The report notes that Amazon will charge only fourth of the commission from the restaurant as compared to other food delivery competitors such as Zomato and Swiggy. The ecommerce giant is already signing up restaurants at a rate of five to six percent commission, as compared to 20 percent from the rivals. People familiar with the matter also told Mint Amazon is looking to acquire Foodpanda from Indian can service Ola. The ecommerce company reportedly supply restaurants predictions of incoming orders to restaurant partners and help them by providing a delivery fleet as well. We’ve asked the company for a comment, and we’ll update the story if we hear back. This is an opportune time for Amazon to launch a delivery service with a low commission as many restaurants are agitated by Zomato and Swiggy’s practice of encouraging establishments to offer heavy discounts.. A report from Mint published last month suggested that food delivery platforms charge restaurants anywhere between 10 to 30 percent per order, which can seriously hurt their bottom line. Source
  19. India to Attempt Moon Landing at the Lunar South Pole Today. How to Watch Live The moon landing is set for between 4 and 5 p.m. EDT (2000-2100 GMT). Update for 5:28 pm ET: ISRO officials lost contact with the Vikram lander during its descent to the lunar surface. Read our full story. India is about to land where no one has before on the moon, and you can watch it all online. The Chandrayaan-2 lunar lander Vikram, built by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), is scheduled to land amid the craters of the moon's south pole today (Sept. 6). Touchdown is scheduled for sometime between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. EDT (2000-2100 GMT, 1:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Sept. 7 IST). ISRO will live stream the landing in a webcast beginning at 3:40 p.m. EDT (1940 GMT, 1:10 a.m. IST). You can watch the Indian moon landing webcast here and on Space.com's homepage, as well as directly from the ISRO webcast here. The target landing site for India's Chandrayaan-2 mission to explore the lunar south pole. (Image credit: Indian Space Research Organisation) Chandrayaan-2 is the second to the moon by India, following on the heels of the Chandrayaan-1 mission, but this latest project is tackling lunar exploration in more extensive fashion.Whereas Chandrayaan-1, which explored the moon from 2008 to 2009, was just an orbiter, Chandrayaan-2 has an orbiter, lander and the small rover Pragyan. The purpose of Chandrayaan-2 is to study the mysterious moon from top to bottom, including its topography, mineralogy, exosphere, elemental abundance and even possible seismic activity. With seven instruments aboard the orbiter, three aboard the lander and a further two attached to the rover, there will be no stone left unturned. India launched the Chandrayaan-2 mission on July 22 atop a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. The mission entered orbit just under a month later, with the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter placed into orbit 62 (100 meters) above the lunar surface. Once settled, the orbiter’s cameras, spectrometers and radars will get to work in finding the elusive lunar water ice and hydroxyl (molecules containing the oxygen and hydrogen bond) signatures. The Vikram lander, which also contains the Pragyan rover, disengaged from the orbiter on Monday (Sept. 2) to prepare for today's landing. The Vikram lander has a unique science payload. It contains a thermophysical experiment to measure the surface’s thermal properties, an instrument designed to study the surface’s ionosphere and atmosphere, and lastly a seismic activity instrument, which will allow scientists to delve deeper into the moon than any other instrument before. About four hours after Vikram's (hopefully) successful landing, the Pragyan rover will be deployed from the lander, releasing the mini-tank of scientific adventure onto the lunar surface. India's Vikram lander and Pragyan rover are designed to last one lunar day (14 Earth days), though Chandrayaan-2 is expected to spend a full year studying the moon from above. The Chandrayaan-2 mission has a full cost of about 10 billion rupees (about $145 million), ISRO officials have said.' Visit Space.com today for complete coverage of India's Chandrayaan-2 Vikram landing on the moon. Source: India to Attempt Moon Landing at the Lunar South Pole Today. How to Watch Live
  20. India's Chandrayaan-2 Moon Orbiter Releases Vikram Lunar Lander On Sept. 2, the Indian Space Research Organisation's Chandrayaan-2 moon orbiter successfully released its Vikram lander in lunar orbit as seen in this illustrated depiction. (Image: © India Space Research Organisation) The two halves of India's moon mission have parted ways in preparation for the tensest moment of the entire endeavor. Today (Sept. 2), the Chandrayaan-2 mission split into two separate spacecraft: an orbiter that will circle the moon's poles for about a year and a lander that will, later this week, attempt India's first touchdown on the moon. "All the systems of Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter and Lander are healthy," Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) officials said in a statement. The separation occurred around 3:45 a.m. EDT (745 GMT). So far, both spacecraft are faring well in their separate orbits, ISRO officials added. The Chandrayaan-2 mission launched in July, taking the slow road to the moon, where it arrived in orbit on Aug. 20. Since then, mission control staff at ISRO conducted a series of orbital adjustments to put the spacecraft on track for the south-pole-oriented mission. The orbiter component of the mission builds directly on the legacy of India's first moon mission, Chandrayaan-1, which carried the instrument that identified water ice buried in dark craters near the lunar south pole. The spacecraft carries eight different science instruments onboard, including two cameras, devices to identify different elements in the moon's regolith and to calculate the amount of water ice with it, and an instrument that will measure X-rays emitted by the sun. The Vikram lander of the Chandrayaan-2 mission, with the rover Pragyan on its ramp, as seen before the spacecraft's July 2019 launch. (Image credit: ISRO) Now, the lander component is on its own, with several days on its schedule to orbit the moon, endure a series of health checks and fine-tune its position for landing. That dramatic moment will come on Sept. 6 at about 4:25 p.m. EDT (2025 GMT) at the end of a 15-minute powered-descent phase, according to Spaceflight Now. The mission's landing zone is on a plateau between two craters and is farther south than any moon landing site to date — a key requirement for the landed component to follow up on Chandrayaan-1's icy discovery. The landing will occur early in the lunar day in order to maximize the data that can be gathered before the harsh lunar night freezes the spacecraft out of operation. The lander, called Vikram, carries three experiments: one to study the moon's ionosphere, one to study temperature within the top 4 inches (10 centimeters) of the lunar surface and one to study moonquakes. The lander also carries a laser retroreflector that scientists will use to precisely measure the distance from Earth to this patch of the moon, even long after the lander runs out of energy. Vikram also carries a rover, dubbed Pragyan, that weighs about 60 lbs. (27 kilograms). The rover is scheduled to leave its berth on the lander about 4 hours after arrival on the lunar surface. Pragyan carries two instruments that will help the rover identify elements near the mission's landing site. If the landing is successful, the maneuver will mark India's first soft landing on the moon, making it the fourth country to accomplish that feat, after the Soviet Union, the U.S. and China. Source: India's Chandrayaan-2 Moon Orbiter Releases Vikram Lunar Lander
  21. India's Chandrayaan-2 Spacecraft Scouts the Moon in New Lunar Photos A view of the north polar region of the moon as seen by Chandrayaan-2 on Aug. 23, 2019. (Image credit: ISRO) India's Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft is settling into orbit around the moon and has an incredible view as it waits to try to make history. The spacecraft arrived in lunar orbit on Aug. 19 (Aug. 20 local time at the Indian Space Research Organisation's mission control) and is currently conducting a series of maneuvers to tweak that orbit in preparation for a landing attempt in less than two weeks. As it does so, the spacecraft is capturing stunning images of the moon's pitted surface, including a set taken on Aug. 23 by the vehicle's Terrain Mapping Camera 2. Those images include one showing the lunar north pole, including Plaskett, Rozhdestvenskiy, Hermite, Sommerfeld and Kirkwood craters. A second image shows a region of the far side's northern hemisphere, including the Jackson, Mach, Mitra and Korolev craters. Chandrayaan-2 is settling into an orbit sweeping between the poles of the moon. In about a week, the orbiter will separate from the rest of the mission and continue on this path for the next year or so. The probe is modeled on India's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, which carried the instrument that confirmed the presence of water ice in craters near the moon's poles. A view of the far side of the moon captured by the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft on Aug. 23, 2019. (Image credit: ISRO) The lander portion of the spacecraft, with a rover tucked on board, will head toward the surface near the moon's south pole, attempting India's first soft lunar landing. If the maneuver is successful, the country will become just the fourth to have accomplished such a feat, after the Soviet Union, the U.S. and China. Landing is scheduled for Sept. 6 (Sept. 7 at mission control). Source: India's Chandrayaan-2 Spacecraft Scouts the Moon in New Lunar Photos
  22. India’s Reliance Jio, which has disrupted the local telecom and features phone markets in less than three years of existence, is ready to foray into many more businesses. In a series of announcements Monday, which included a long-term partnership with global giant Microsoft, Reliance Jio said it will commercially roll out its broadband service next month; an IoT platform with ambitions to power more than a billion devices on January 1 next year; and “one of the world’s biggest blockchain networks” in the next 12 months — all while also scaling its retail and commerce businesses. The broadband service, called Jio Fiber, is aimed at individual customers, small and medium-sized businesses as well as enterprises, Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries and Asia’s richest man, said at a shareholders’ meeting today. The service, which is being initially targeted at 20 million homes and 15 million businesses in 1,600 towns, will start rolling out commercially starting September 5. Ambani said more than half a million customers have already been testing the broadband service, which was first unveiled last year. The broadband service will come bundled with access to hundreds of TV channels and free calls across India and at discounted rates to the U.S. and Canada, Ambani said. The service, the cheapest tier of which will offer internet speeds of 100Mbps, will be priced at Rs 700 (~$10) a month. The company said it will offer various plans to meet a variety of needs, including those of customers who want access to gigabit internet speeds. Continuing its tradition to woo users with significant “free stuff,” Jio, which is a subsidiary of India’s largest industrial house (Reliance Industries) said customers who opt for the yearly plan of its fiber broadband will be provided with the set-top box and an HD or 4K TV at no extra charge. Specific details weren’t immediately available. A premium tier, which will be available starting next year, will allow customers to watch many movies on the day of their public release. The broadband service will bundle games from many popular studios, including Microsoft Game Studios, Riot Games, Tencent Games and Gameloft, Jio said. Partnership with Microsoft The company also announced a 10-year partnership with Microsoft to launch new cloud data centers in India to ensure “more of Jio’s customers can access the tools and platforms they need to build their own digital capability,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a video appearance Monday. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella talks about the company’s partnership with Reliance Jio “At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Core to this mission is deep partnerships, like the one we are announcing today with Reliance Jio. Our ambition is to help millions of organizations across India thrive and grow in the era of rapid technological change.” “Together, we will offer a comprehensive technology solution, from compute to storage, to connectivity and productivity for small and medium-sized businesses everywhere in the country,” he added. As part of the partnership, Nadella said, Jio and Microsoft will jointly offer Azure, Microsoft 365 and Microsoft AI platforms to more organizations in India, and also bring Azure Cognitive Services to more devices and in 13 Indian languages to businesses in the country. The solutions will be “accessible” to reach as many people and organizations in India as possible, he added. The cloud services will be offered to businesses for as little as Rs 1,500 ($21) per month. The first two data centers will be set up in Gujarat and Maharashtra by next year. Jio will migrate all of its non-networking apps to the Microsoft Azure platform and promote its adoption among its ecosystem of startups, the two said in a joint statement. The foray into broadband business and push to court small enterprises come as Reliance Industries, which dominates the telecom and retail spaces in India, attempts to diversify from its marquee oil and gas business. Reliance Jio, the nation’s top telecom operator, has amassed more than 340 million subscribers in less than three years of its commercial operations. At the meeting, Ambani also unveiled that Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil producer Aramco was buying a 20% stake in $75 billion worth Reliance Industries’ oil-to-chemicals business. Like other Silicon Valley companies, Microsoft sees massive potential in India, where tens of millions of users and businesses have come online for the first time in recent years. Cloud services in India are estimated to generate a revenue of $2.4 billion this year, up about 25% from last year, according to research firm Gartner. Microsoft has won several major clients in India in recent years, including insurance giant ICICI Lombard. Today’s partnership could significantly boost Microsoft’s footprint in India, posing a bigger headache for Amazon and Google. Ambani also said Reliance Retail, the nation’s largest retailer, is working on a “digital stack” to create a new commerce partnership platform in India to reach tens of millions of merchants, consumers and producers. Ambani said Reliance Industries plans to list both Reliance Retail and Jio publicly in the next years. “We have received strong interests from strategic and financial investors in our consumer businesses — Jio and Reliance Retail. We will induct leading global partners in these businesses in the next few quarters and move towards listing of both these companies within the next five years,” he said. The announcement comes weeks after Reliance Industries acquired for $42.3 million a majority stake in Fynd, a Mumbai-based startup that connects brick and mortar retailers with online stores and consumers. Reliance Industries has previously stated plans to launch a new e-commerce firm in the country. Without revealing specific details, Ambani also said that Jio is building an IoT platform to control at least one billion of the two billion IoT devices in India by next year. He said he sees IoT as a $2.8 billion revenue opportunity for Jio. Similarly, the company also plans to expand its blockchain network across India, he said. “Using blockchain, we can deliver unprecedented security, trust, automation and efficiency to almost any type of transaction. And using blockchain, we also have an opportunity to invent a brand-new model for data privacy where Indian data, especially customer data is owned and controlled through technology by the Indian people an d not by corporate, especially global corporations,” he added. Source
  23. WhatsApp is “a space for private conversations online.” An Indian court could make it public. WhatsApp, the encrypted messaging service that has built a 400 million strong user base in India, is squaring off in a Tamil Nadu courthouse in a case that could force the company to weaken its privacy protections. The Madras high court recently began hearing a case filed by two petitioners asking the country to force people to link their WhatsApp accounts to their Aadhaar, India’s controversial biometric ID number for nearly all of the country’s 1.4 billion residents. The two petitioners, Antony Clement Rubin and Janani Krishnamurthy, are private citizens. In copies of their legal filings reviewed by BuzzFeed News, they describe themselves as animal welfare activists, and say that they'd like the court to mandate users to link "any email or user account" to their Aadhaar numbers or any other form of identification, "owing to the rising instances of humiliation, disgrace and defamation [through] cyber bullying and other intolerable activities on social media." Rubin, who filed the petition after being bullied on Facebook in 2018, told BuzzFeed News that he only did so to help law enforcement agencies track down people who indulged in abusive behavior online. "To be honest, my only concern when I filed the petition was that the platforms should be a safe environment for everyone," he said. "That said, I do acknowledge that in a case like this, there's a double-edge sword when it comes to people's privacy." Rubin also denied having links to the government and said he had filed the petition in his personal capacity. Krishnamurthy did not respond to requests for comment. The case — the first in the country to consider traceability in social media — could set legal precedent for all tech companies operating in India. Privacy experts fear the case is a convenient opportunity for India’s nationalist government to force platforms to become surveillance tools. “If the court directs a product change like breaking or weakening WhatsApp’s encryption, it won’t be limited to just WhatsApp but will extend to pretty much every single product and service that uses encryption in India,” Apar Gupta, director of the digital advocacy organization Internet Freedom Foundation, told BuzzFeed News. The IFF is an intervener — a third party that can join a case without the permission of the original litigants — in Rubin and Krishnamurthy’s petition. “Once you can trace a message, you can use it for methods of social control,” said Gupta. “That’s the primary objective of this.” A WhatsApp spokesperson declined to comment on the ongoing case, but pointed BuzzFeed News to a statement issued in February that described WhatsApp as “a space for private conversations online.” “Imagine if every message that you sent was kept with a record of the fact that you sent it and with a record of your phone number,” it said. “That would not be a place for private communications.” After lynch mobs fueled by misinformation about child abductors spread on untraceable WhatsApp messages killed more than 45 people across India in 2018, the government has been cracking down on the Facebook-owned app. Since then, the Indian government has repeatedly asked the company to develop a way to identify senders of messages. WhatsApp has turned down the request each time. As it rebuffs those demands, WhatsApp has fought the spread of rumors in other ways, such as limiting the number of people or groups users can forward messages to and clearly labeling forwards. It ran advertising campaigns on television, newspapers, and radio warning against the dangers of misinformation. And the company is hiring a national law enforcement liaison — one of the government’s key demands. Nevertheless, the government remains focused on personal traceability. In October, it demanded the locations and phone numbers of people using WhatsApp for real-world violence, and in December, it proposed changes to the country’s IT law that would force platforms including WhatsApp to break their user encryption. Last month, it asked the company to digitally fingerprint every message to track the sender. “Traceability shall be [WhatsApp’s] job,” said Ravi Shankar Prasad, India’s IT minister, last week. WhatsApp is taking these developments seriously, flying out its top legal counsel, Brian Hennessy, to the hearing from its California headquarters. The company hired Arvind Datar and India’s former law minister Kapil Sibal, two of India’s highest-profile (and most expensive) lawyers to make its case before the judges. Their arguments against traceability in the high court were blunt. “Requiring WhatsApp to trace originator information is disproportionate to the laudable aim of preventing and detecting crimes, particularly since users can easily migrate to encrypted platforms that do not have such an obligation,” WhatsApp stated in a 27-page submission to the court reviewed by BuzzFeed News. The company also stated that WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption promoted citizens’ fundamental rights and enabled journalists, civil society organizations, members of ethnic and religious groups, activists, and artists to exercise their right to freedom of speech and expression “without fear of surveillance or retaliation.” “Imposing a traceability requirement would undermine all of these benefits,” WhatsApp said in the submission. “Journalists could be at risk of retaliation for investigating issues that may be unpopular, civil or political activists could be at risk of retaliation for discussing certain right and criticizing or advocating for politicians or political, and personal information like sexual orientation, health, religious affiliation, Aadhaar, and financial information could be at risk of becoming publicly exposed.” Representatives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter, each of which have millions of users in India, also attended the hearing. Facebook did not respond to BuzzFeed News’ request for comment. A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment. A Google spokesperson said that the company could not comment on the case as it was still in court. “The outcome of this litigation could lead to a change in the product design of major social media platforms because law enforcement agencies want the [court] to direct these companies to devise a mechanism to trace the originator of a message,” the IFF wrote on its website. In July, V. Kamakoti, a professor at the Indian Indian of Technology Madras and a member of the country’s National Security Advisory Board, a body that advises the prime minister on national security matters demanded that WhatsApp attach the original sender's phone number to every forwarded message. Kamakoti’s proposal, which is part of the Indian government’s report submitted to the court, said that WhatsApp could attach the original sender’s phone number to every message, which wouldn’t require it to break encryption but would allow law enforcement agencies to track down the sender if they wished to. Kamakoti did not respond to multiple interview requests from BuzzFeed News. According to sources familiar with the matter, members of WhatsApp’s legal and policy teams from its California headquarters met Kamakoti along with law enforcement agencies in Tamil Nadu in May. The purpose was to discuss how all tech platforms — not just WhatsApp — work with law enforcement in the state of Tamil Nadu. There was no resolution at the end of this meeting, a source said. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Aug. 21. Countries around the world are calling for tech platforms to break their encryption or build backdoors into their products — ostensibly in service of law enforcement. On the same day that WhatsApp was making its case in the Madras high court, United States Attorney General William Barr demanded that tech firms put backdoors into their encrypted products because encryption “seriously degrades” law enforcement’s ability to “detect and prevent a crime before it occurs,” and makes prosecution more difficult. Earlier this week, intelligence agencies from the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand demanded special access to messages flowing through WhatsApp and other encrypted services. But a judicial requirement to let law enforcement agencies access encrypted WhatsApp messages would hit Indians particularly hard, critics say, especially with the rise of Modi, whose five-year reign has polarized the country along religious lines. “Free expression itself is regularly undermined in the political space in India at present especially for people who use social media,” said Gupta of the IFF. “A lot of people’s conversations on the internet are about politics and criticizing politicians. Tracking down their identities would result in a great chilling effect. There will be fear in their minds.” Source
  24. India has labeled hyperloop a public infrastructure project — here’s why that matters Hyperloop, the futuristic and still theoretical transportation system that could someday propel people and packages at speeds of more than 600 miles per hour, has been designated a “public infrastructure project” by India lawmakers in the state of Maharashtra. Wrapped in that government jargon is a valuable and notable outcome. The upshot: hyperloop is being treated like any other public infrastructure project such as bridges, roads and railways. In other words, hyperloop has been plucked out of niche, futuristic obscurity and given a government stamp of approval. That’s remarkable, considering that the idea for hyperloop was first proposed by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in a nearly 60-page public white paper just five years ago. It also kicks off a process that could bring hyperloop to a 93-mile stretch of India between the cities of Mumbai and Pune. The Pune Metropolitan Regional Development Authority will begin the procurement process in mid-August when it starts accepting proposals from companies hoping to land the hyperloop contract. The frontrunner is likely Virgin Hyperloop One -DP World, a consortium between the hyperloop company and its biggest backer that pitched the original project to India. The MahaIDEA Committee earlier approved Virgin Hyperloop One-DP World Consortium as the Original Project Proponent. Under the VHO-DPW proposal, a hyperloop capable of transporting 200 million people every year would be built between Pune and Mumbai. That stretch of road now takes more than three hours by car; VHO says its hyperloop would reduce it to a 35-minute trip. “This is history in the making. The race is on to host the first hyperloop transportation system in the world, and today’s announcement puts India firmly in the lead. This is a significant milestone and the first of many important steps toward bringing hyperloop to the masses,” Virgin Hyperloop One CEO Jay Walder said in a statement Wednesday. The hope is that India’s government will award the contract by the end of 2019, a VHO executive told TechCrunch. If that occurs, Phase 1 of the project — an 11.8 kilometer (or 7.3 mile) section — would begin in 2020. The cost of building Phase 1 will be covered by DP World, which has committed $500 million to this section. The government is covering the cost and logistics of acquiring the land for the hyperloop. Phase 1 will initially act as a certification track, which will be used to certify the hyperloop technology for passenger operations. VHO wants this certification track built and operating by 2024. If this section meets safety standards it will become part of the larger hyperloop line between Pune and Mumbai. There is a lot of work to do, and technical milestones to meet, before hyperloop is whisking people in pods through a tunnel. But if it works and is built, the region’s economy could be transformed, supporters insist. Once commercialized, the hyperloop will transform the Pune-Mumbai corridor into a mega-economic region, according to Harj Dhaliwal, managing director of India and Middle East at Virgin Hyperloop One. Today, some 75 million people travel between Pune and Mumbai each year, and forecasts suggest that number could rise to 130 million annually by 2026. The VHO-DPW consortium says its hyperloop will have the capacity to handle 16,000 passengers day, or about 200 million people annually. Image Credits: Virgin Hyperloop Source: India has labeled hyperloop a public infrastructure project — here’s why that matters
  25. New Delhi: After the International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) completed the acquisition of Red Hat for $34 billion earlier this month, a top executive from the iconic software company with an open source development model has said that it was a "match made in heaven" that will help it accelerate growth globally, including in India. In India, Red Hat, which specialises in Linux operating systems, has engineering facilities in Pune and Bengaluru. "We do think that there is an opportunity to accelerate growth (after the acquisition) -- not just in the India market, but also in the broader market. But it does exist for sure in India. I think we have an opportunity to scale much more quickly," John Allessio, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Global Services, Red Hat Inc, told IANS in a freewheeling chat here. The acquisition by Big Blue won't change Red Hat's "mission", nor will it curtail its contribution to the open source community, Allessio stressed. Raleigh, North Carolina-headquartered Red Hat reported $3.4 billion in revenue in the 2019 financial year -- up 15 per cent year-on-year. "Red Hat has experienced 69 quarters of continuous growth which means every quarter you are hiring people across the word and that is going to continue for sure," Allessio said. "After the acquisition, we are still an independent software company. What changed is that instead of having an external shareholder, we now have an internal shareholder," he explained. Founded in 1993, Red Hat is credited for bringing open source -- including technologies like Linux, Kubernetes, Ansible, Java and Ceph, among others -- into the mainstream for the enterprises. Today, Red Hat products and services are widely used by government agencies as well as emerging companies in technology, finance, healthcare, civil aviation and other industries. Armonk, New York-headquartered IBM particularly hopes that Red Hat's open hybrid Cloud technologies would help it position itself as a leading hybrid Cloud provider. "At the core of what we do is turning projects in the open source communities into products because at the end of the day, our customer is an enterprise software customer," Allessio said. IBM also participates in open source communities, but it does not "productise" the open source projects. Instead, it develops its own proprietary products. "I think it is an opportunity for IBM to learn this DNA of Red Hat -- how do we do it -- and decide -- they have not yet decided -- if this applies to the IBM software development process. IBM has already stated that they are very much interested in our services division," Allessio added. What has fundamentally changed after the acquisition is that IBM is no longer just a business partner for Red Hat, it is now a strategic business partner. "From a go to market to operations, development and support, IBM does not help Red Hat. They help us by being a new strategic business partner," he said, adding that Red Hat will continue to operate with its other business partners. Source
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