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Google Assistant is coming to more countries this year

Includes India, Philippines, and Singapore

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Google I/O came and went with an absurd flurry of new phones, apps, and everything in between. However, even if you watched the presentations, you might have missed this key announcement from the event:

Google Assistant is coming to more countries! Previously limited to select countries and devices, Google’s own voice assistant will operate in 80 countries by the end of the year. Particularly, the long list includes key markets in Southeast Asia.

At the event, Google Assistant’s VP of Engineering Scott Huffman showed off a massive map of countries that will have the software this year. While he doesn’t list them down one by one, the markers are noticeable.

Image source: Google

For example, by the end of 2018, the Southeast Asian region will enjoy Google Assistant support in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Huffman states that the global expansion draws from the incredibly positive response they got from an initial expansion to India. “Daily usage there has tripled since the beginning of the year,” he says.

Sadly, Google has not released a digital render of the map or a complete list of countries yet. Without a list, the video confirms only the countries that are big enough to see.

Additionally, Google will expand the Assistant’s available languages to 30. However, they have not listed any languages yet.

With the expansion, Google can replace the dated Google Now across the globe. Google Assistant depicts a friendlier and more efficient approach to Google’s voice control, in line with Siri and Alexa.

As of now, Google has not released a timetable of when the software will roll out. If you’re in one of the countries pictured, you can at least expect it by the end of 2018.

SEE ALSO: 6 awesome things that happened at Google I/O 2018

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French privacy watchdog is now probing TikTok

As if the US and India weren’t enough

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A silver lining for TikTok still isn’t clearly visible. Backed by Chinese giant ByteDance, the short-video sharing app is now being investigated by French watchdog CNIL. The app is already under scrutiny in multiple countries, including the US and India.

A spokesperson from CNIL confirmed to Bloomberg that it had received a complaint in May. However, they’ve refrained from divulging any further information. However, they did say that the agency is particularly vigilant regarding this complaint.

TikTok hasn’t responded yet. Other European countries like the Netherlands have also opened an investigation to ensure TikTok’s practices are safe for children. The British watchdog has also started a similar case study to ensure the Chinese app isn’t breaching any data protection norms.

India is the only country to have completely banned the app following an Indo-China border skirmish. However, the country has taken an even more radical stance against Chinese developers and banned more than a hundred apps. This includes TikTok, TikTok Lite, Camscanner, UC Browser, and many more.

President Trump has threatened to ban TikTok in the US and negotiations are underway that could see a potential sale of TikTok’s services to Microsoft. TikTok has rejected claims that it’s controlled by the Chinese government or that user data is at risk.

However, independent analysis has suggested mixed results. A study says the app is a mass surveillance tool, but another report states that the app follows all usual protocols and there isn’t anything to worry about.

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US wants to secure itself from Chinese companies, apps via a Clean Network

An American internet firewall?

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ByteDance-owned TikTok is the hottest topic in the news right now due to its Chinese roots. The US wants to distance itself from these Chinese companies and apps to ensure there are no data backdoors or infiltrations. It intends to do so with a new concept dubbed Clean Network.

The US wants to establish a clear line that ensures data of American citizens doesn’t land in Chinese hands. President Trump has already threatened to ban TikTok and ByteDance is scrambling to find a taker for its US, New Zealand, Canada, and Australian services.

“With parent companies based in China, apps like TikTok, WeChat, and others are significant threats to personal data of American citizens, not to mention tools for the Chinese Communist Party content censorship,” Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo said. He added that apps from China threaten privacy and spread malware, propaganda, and disinformation.

The Clean Network will ensure there are no Chinese components or devices in the telecom network. Similarly, the US will try to prevent China from accessing raw data from submarine cables that power the internet. For cloud setups, it’ll ensure that data of American citizens are saved on local infrastructure, avoiding Chinese players like Alibaba Cloud.

Telecom giant Huawei has been under the scanner since last year and the recent developments are definitely not in its favor. The Chinese phone maker is barred from using Google Mobile Services on Android, derailing its dominance on the global stage. With the ongoing hostility, other countries like India have also taken a hard stance against Chinese companies.

The US is also lobbying its strategic allies to ditch Chinese equipment citing security and privacy concerns. Practically, Huawei is the most hit in terms of revenue lost, followed by other companies like ZTE. While ByteDance can save some of its investment in TikTok thanks to a possible takeover by Microsoft, Huawei has no such cushion available.

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Google adds Safe Folder to Files app

For more privacy and security

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Have you ever had to lend your phone to a friend or family member for a quick minute, only to realize that — intentionally or not — they have started browsing on your phone. Smartphones are personal devices, and thus, might contain files that you don’t exactly want other people seeing. This is the situation that Google is trying to address with the Safe Folder.

Safe Folder is a secure 4-digit PIN-encrypted folder. It helps users store important documents, images, videos and audio files securely. This helps in keeping their personal files safe from being accessed by someone else.

The folder won’t allow users to take screenshots or screen recordings of its contents. It’s also locked as soon as users switch away from the app.  This means no content is accessible in the background and the PIN is required upon re-entry to the Files app.

Google didn’t just come up with this out of the blue. They conducted research and found that in certain countries — especially those with limited smartphone access — device sharing is a common occurrence.

Asked if this is a feature that can be extended to apps installed on the phone too, the Google representatives discussing the Safe Folder feature said they understand the need but can’t speak to any implementation or development of such.

That said, this is still a welcome addition for anyone who has ever encountered this scenario.

SEE ALSO: Nearby Share which is ‘Google’s AirDrop’ now rolling out

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