Apps

US looking to ban Chinese apps like TikTok

TikTok is in grave danger

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the country is “certainly looking at” banning Chinese apps like TikTok. In an interview with Fox News, the senior official said that he doesn’t want to get in front of President Donald Trump, but they’re evaluating the option.

Last week, India announced a list of 59 apps and games that are made by Chinese developers. These apps remain banned in the country citing user privacy issues. TikTok was the worst hit, followed by games like Mobile Legends.

The current geopolitical scenario isn’t in favor of China amid a bloody border skirmish with India. The two countries have decided to de-escalate the situation for the time being. However, the app ban has put the spotlight on shady data collection practices of these developers.

US lawmakers have previously voiced their concern regarding large-scale data collection by apps like TikTok. And, recent reports have confirmed their doubts. TikTok was caught by Apple collecting users’ clipboard data and independent researchers have called the social media app a massive data collection service.

Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, anti-China sentiment has been rising globally. Furthermore, companies like Huawei are already under the scanner and the US has already deemed it to be a national security threat.

While the future of TikTok remains uncertain, companies around the world are trying to make safer options that can bridge its gap. Instagram is actively testing a new feature called Reels and it’ll let you take short 15-second videos. The Indian government has also announced an app challenge that aims to encourage local developers to make Chinese alternatives.

Apps

BPI Foundation’s Breakthrough app teaches personal finance through a digital board game

Your financial choices can either save you or break you!

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BPI Foundation, the social responsibility arm of the Bank of the Philippine Islands, launched its first interactive mobile game. Called Breakthrough: The Financial Choices We Make, the game aims to educate more Filipinos about personal finance in an entertaining manner. For brevity, we’ll be calling the game Breakthrough from hereon.

You can sharpen your financial awareness, understanding, and judgment — from basic to complex financial concepts. Saving, budgeting, insurance, debt management, investments, and retirement planning; your financial choices can either save you or break you.

Walkthrough

Breakthrough utilizes a board game set up like Monopoly, but instead of humans, you’re going against AI opponents. Players roll the dice which travels around the digital board landing on a corresponding tile.

Each tile presents common life events where a player’s decision can affect their score. There’s an opportunity to save, go on vacation, invest in stocks, or purchase insurance. You can even experience mishaps beyond your control like getting scammed, phished, or having emergencies such as car breakdown and home damage.

Overall, you can either amass or lose wealth depending on the path you decide to take. Whoever has the most assets, investments, coins, and highest net worth wins the game.

App development

The development of the app is the Foundation’s response to the World Bank’s study recommending the use of edutainment as a form of teaching financial concepts to the public, as stated by BPI Foundation Executive Director Owen Cammayo.

Apart from the board game, the app included a Financial Wellness journal, quizzes, and tips for players. Moving forward, the BPI Foundations plans to use the app in future runs of financial education webinars and other Foundation activities.

Moreover, the game is planning to scale up, further improving and expanding the gameplay. The Foundation, together with its partner Taktyl Studios, is working on allowing multi-player options, too. Breakthrough is now available on the App Store and Google’s Play Store.

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Apps

Facebook to pay $650 million in facial recognition lawsuit

The company that never learns

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A federal judge has approved a settlement in which Facebook will pay US$ 650 million to a class-action lawsuit over its tagging feature. The lawsuit alleged that facial recognition technology, used to tag photos, infringed on users’ privacy.

Facebook users who submitted claims will get at least US$ 345 from the company, the AP reported. The lawsuit had claimed that the adoption of facial recognition technology was being done without seeking permission from users. The social network also failed to inform the users how long their data was being stored.

While many of us view the tagging option as a feature, the platform collects sensitive facial recognition data, whose handling procedures remain opaque. Facebook ended photo-tagging suggestions in 2019 and instead opted for a model to allow users to control what data the platform has over their face.

“Overall, the settlement is a major win for consumers in the hotly contested area of digital privacy,” wrote Judge Donato. “The standing issue makes this settlement all the more valuable because Facebook and other big tech companies continue to fight the proposition that a statutory privacy violation is a genuine harm.”

The class-action case was first filed in Illinois in 2015, suggesting a violation of the Biometric Information Privacy Act. Facebook initially agreed to pay US$ 550 million last year, but another $100 million was added to the judge’s insistence.

 

Attorney Jay Edelson, who originally filed the suit in Illinois in April 2015, told the Chicago Tribune that the settlement was a “big deal.” He also tweeted that the settlement, “was the largest cash privacy class action settlement in history.”

Facebook has an abysmal track record of managing users’ data. In 2019, The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) imposed a US$ 5 billion penalty on Facebook for misrepresenting users’ ability to control their facial recognition data, as well as other sensitive account metadata.

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Apps

Facebook unveils BARS, a TikTok-like app for rappers

Builiding a community dedicated for rappers

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Facebook has launched a new platform called BARS and it’s specially made for rappers. What’s its unique selling point? Unlike TikTok, BARS does not focus on transitions and lip-syncing to make content.

The app will allow budding rappers to focus on the lyrics rather than investing their time on expensive equipment and studios. You can choose from a wide array of premade beats, which can be leveraged by the rapper with their own lyrics and effects.

It also has a Challenge mode, wherein users can perform freestyle rap while incorporating auto-suggested lyrics. Aspiring rappers can just focus on the lyrics and record themselves to these beats. In addition, the app helps rappers finetune their craft as well with the help of auto-suggested rhymes while the user is writing.

BARS will let you select your rap experience level upon sign-up: Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced. The Beginner selection will provide a handy auto-rhyme dictionary to help kickstart your experience. Advanced rappers get the Freestyle mode with several words to create an instantaneous rap.

Once users finish recording their videos in the app, they can share them across various social media outlets. The app has a TikTok-like feed where the discoverability is maximum. The app also promises “studio quality vocal effects,” including actual AutoTune.

After creating the videos, you can save them to your camera roll and share them on other social media platforms. For now, only a small number of iOS users can download the app in the US. Interested users can also sign up for the waitlist in the app.

BARS Community Manager DJ Iyer revealed in a blogpost that the Coronavirus pandemic has been one of the major reasons behind the creation of the app. “I know access to high-priced recording studios and production equipment can be limited for aspiring rappers. On top of that, the global pandemic shut down live performances where we often create and share our work,” he Iyer added.

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