Apps

TikTok is now under investigation by the European Union

For transferring data to China

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TikTok has now found its way under the microscope of the European Union. The collective is now investigating the platform for allegedly shipping off its citizens’ data to Chinese servers.

In a letter shared by FCC commissioner Brendan Carr (via Engadget), the current president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen has confirmed ongoing investigations concerning TikTok in several countries in the European Union.

For one, Ireland is currently investigating how the platform transfers data to China and how it processes the data of minors. The Netherlands is also investigating the same data transfers and TikTok’s advertising towards minors.

For a while now, the European Union has persistently investigated various tech companies to review their compliance with the continent’s General Data Protection Regulation, which presents a stricter view on data privacy. Various companies have already found themselves on the receiving end of penalties brought down by EU courts.

An investigation on TikTok has been a long time coming. For years, the United States has doggedly hounded TikTok for the same violation of shipping user data to Chinese servers. The company continues to face threats of a ban on foreign soil.

Though an investigation in Europe is just another fight the company must face, it’s nothing to shrug off. Lately, the European Union’s ruling on charging standards is forcing Apple to finally ship their devices with USB-C, instead of the proprietary Lightning cable. The Union, especially when completely united across all the included countries, can very well make an impact on the tech industry.

SEE ALSO: TikTok, Tencent linked to sexually violent ads on Facebook

Apps

Google is merging Waze with Google Maps

Apps will remain separate

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It’s not a secret. Google owns both Google Maps and Waze. Though both certainly come with their own pros and cons, using either app can boil down to a matter of preference, especially in driving cities. Starting soon, the two might even look more alike. Google is merging the teams of Google Maps and Waze together.

Since acquiring Waze in 2013, Google has kept the app’s development separate from Google Maps. Even knowing this face, it’s hard to draw comparisons between the two. They felt like separate products, and they were.

Now, as announced today (via Wall Street Journal), Google will merge Waze’s team (which consists of over 500 employees) with the larger team that oversees Maps, Earth, and Street View. While there are no plans to lay off any employees, incumbent Waze CEO Neha Parikh is expected to leave the company after the merger.

Though a merger might spell the end for Waze, Google remains committed to keeping its own services separate from each other. However, by merging the teams, the company can reduce a lot of redundant work that the two teams have in common.

From a more generalized standpoint, Google Maps and Waze are incredibly distinct apps. While the latter focuses more of directions for drivers, Google Maps offers a grander sweep of directions for all travelers including those who prefer to walk or take public transportation.

SEE ALSO: Google Maps introduces a new way to be a tourist

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Apple Music is getting a karaoke feature

Sometime this month

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Though karaoke machines are ubiquitous now, what happens if a night out lacks one? One trick is to just search for karaoke versions of your favorite songs on YouTube. However, if you have Apple Music, you’ll have another option. Apple’s music streaming service is getting a karaoke feature.

Announced officially by Apple, the service is introducing Apple Music Sing, a way to sing karaoke style straight from the app. The feature includes adjustable vocals which softens or loudens a song’s vocals depending on the user’s preference. Users can sing completely solo or accompanying the original singer.

As with every karaoke machine, the feature will display the lyrics in real time so users can follow along. Duet songs are also getting some love. Apple Music will split the screen in half for two different singers to sing along to a track.

To help users get started, the feature will introduce 50 companion playlists featuring all the different songs that’s “compelling people all around the world to sing”. That said, one can hope that the karaoke library is extensive. While 50 playlists are plenty, the service has a wide variety of songs that can easily trump any karaoke machine today.

Apple will start rolling out the new feature for Apple Music subscribers worldwide later this month — just in time for the holiday season. It will be available on iPhones, iPads, and Apple TV 4K.

SEE ALSO: Replay! Apple Music launches new year-end experience

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Google introduces encrypted group chats

Using RCS

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It’s easy to send messages from one Apple device to another through iMessage. However, for all the system’s pomp and circumstance, iMessage ignores the entire Android population, leaving an entire swath of the smartphone-using world without accessibility and end-to-end security. For months, Google has tried convincing Apple to switch messaging systems and work together. Now, in a new push to bring equality, Google has launched its own RCS group chatting system with end-to-end encryption.

Rolling out in open beta during the next few weeks, the new system will allow Android users to chat with a group of other Android users. Using RCS technology, messaging is free, secure, and easy to use.

For accessibility, users can send high-quality media, react using emojis, and see any typing in real time. It works much like other messaging services these days. One advantage, however, is that the new feature will come automatically with Google Messages, an app already baked into a lot of Android devices. Users might not need to download another app — and that also plays into security.

Speaking of security, end-to-end encryption will ensure that only the users can see what the conversation is about. Neither the user’s network nor Google itself can snoop in and gather data.

Unfortunately, the system does have a massive caveat: It won’t work between Android to Apple conversations. Because Apple uses a different system, it’s currently impossible for cross-platform conversations to have the same level of security and convenience.

In the feature’s announcement, Google even calls Apple’s texting “stuck in the 1990s,” renewing its call to get Apple to convert. The company then names several global companies who have already switched to RCS messaging, including Globe.

SEE ALSO: Google is bringing its VPN to PC and Mac

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