It’s hard to imagine a Facebook-backed service talk about defending privacy. The company has a nasty reputation for handling users’ data, and it’s often considered a dystopian internet giant. But Facebook-owned WhatsApp is now suing the Indian government over new rules that endanger user privacy.
In February, the Indian government introduced new guidelines to regulate content on social media and streaming platforms. The new rules give greater power to monitor online activity, including encrypted apps like Signal and Telegram.
To be more precise, the government wants apps like WhatsApp to identify the originator of a message. The content of the message can remain encrypted, but the user should be traceable. The new rules supersede the existing law — the IT Act. Hence, it becomes impossible for the government to enforce traceability without a law.
And, even if the rule is modeled within the existing law, it’ll pose a massive challenge for encrypted apps. Giving up traceability potentially compromises all its users. WhatsApp says traceability of texts would force companies to collect and store billions of messages sent each day for the sole purpose of turning them over to law enforcement.
WhatsApp’s petition asks the High Court to declare that one of the new rules is a violation of privacy under the constitution of India since it requires social media sites to identify the “first originator of information” when asked for it.
“Some governments are seeking to force technology companies to find out who sent a particular message on private messaging services. This concept is called ‘traceability’,” said WhatsApp in an online statement. “WhatsApp is committed to doing all we can to protect the privacy of people’s personal messages, which is why we join others in opposing traceability.”
Airtel starts 5G trials in India, shows off 1Gbps speed
Commercial availability still a year away, though
India is yet to roll out 5G services, but there’s finally some good news. Airtel has kicked off its 5G trial network in Gurugram, Delhi’s neighboring city, just a little over a month after the government gave its go-ahead to carry out trial runs.
Airtel is testing its 5G network at a speed of over 1Gbps, and the site where the trial is running is operating in the 3500MHz band. According to a report by ET Telecom, Airtel has been allotted the 5G trial spectrum in 3500 MHz, 28 GHz, and 700 MHz.
Rival telcos Jio and VIL (Vodafone-Idea) have been allotted spectrums in the 700 MHz, 3.5 GHz, and 26 GHz bands. State-backed telco MTNL has also received permission to start trials. The runs are being carried out in compliance with the guidelines of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
Airtel is currently working with Ericson on the equipment, while other providers include Nokia, Samsung, etc. Jio has announced will be conducting trials using its own indigenous technology. The trails shall go on for six months. Chinese companies like Huawei have long been sidelined.
5G in India
The Indian government is yet to auction the 5G spectrum; hence a commercial roll-out is at least a year away. Earlier in January this year, Airtel claimed that they had become the first telco in India to demonstrate 5G services over a commercial network in Hyderabad. However, these are internal runs.
It noted that in Hyderabad, users were able to download a full-length movie in a matter of seconds on a 5G phone, a demonstration that has underlined the company’s technology capabilities.
The plans to unveil 5G in the country took a backseat due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The industry couldn’t adopt the latest technology quickly as the market was devastated by low tariff wars, pending tax issues, and reducing capex. VIL was barely able to survive bankruptcy, but the debt continues to haunt it.
Nord CE 5G goes official with Snapdragon 750G, 64MP camera
Enough to take on Xiaomi and realme?
OnePlus has now transformed into a giant itself and aggressively expanding its Nord-branded offering. Designed for the affordable segment, the Nord CE aims to offer a premium experience while maintaining a pocket-friendly price tag.
The Nord CE follows its predecessor’s design language and the Blue Void color option screams OnePlus. It looks quite similar to the Xiaomi Mi A3 but has an elongated vertical camera array on the rear. The phone will be going up against the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max, Mi 10i 5G, and realme X7.
It sports a 6.4-inch AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate, Full HD+ resolution, and a punch-hole cut-out. The body is made of polycarbonate, and there’s an in-display fingerprint scanner for authentication. Powering the phone is a Snapdragon 750G processor with up to 8GB RAM and 256GB internal storage. Unfortunately, there’s no SD card slot for memory expansion.
On the rear is a triple camera setup consisting of a 64-megapixel primary camera, an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens, and a 2-megapixel macro sensor. For selfies, there is a 16-megapixel shooter located within the cut-out. Further, it comes preloaded with Nightscape, UltraShot HDR, Portrait, Panorama, Pro mode, and Smart Scene recognition. Backing these internals is a 4500mAh battery with 30W fast charging.
The Nord CE 5G costs INR 22,999 (US$ 315) for the 6GB + 128GB option, INR 24,999 (US$ 340) for 8GB + 128GB, and INR 27,999 (US$ 382) for 8GB + 256GB. The phone goes on sale on June 16, and color options include Blue Void, Charcoal Ink, and Silver Ray. OnePlus has also listed an offer on its website where buyers will get INR 500 off on OnePlus Buds Z and INR 500 off on the OnePlus Band. The coupons will be added to the buyer’s account after product delivery.
Indian police visits Twitter India office, finds it closed and empty
When an aging police force meets the Internet
In a bizarre turn of events, Delhi Police visited Twitter India’s office to serve a notice but had to return without finishing the important mission because the office was closed due to the pandemic. All employees are working from home, and the police visit served no purpose.
“The Delhi police team went to the Twitter office to serve a notice to Twitter, as a part of a routine process. This was necessitated as we wanted to ascertain who is the right person to serve a notice, as replies by Twitter India MD have been very ambiguous,” the Delhi Police statement read.
The police entered the picture after the social media platform tagged a tweet from Sambit Patra, who holds no elected office but is the spokesperson of Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP). The party currently has a mandate and runs the Indian government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Patra’s tweet was tagged as “manipulated media” by Twitter last week after claiming that opposition parties had conspired to pressure the government amid a second Coronavirus wave. The opposition party, Indian National Congress (INC), created a document that detailed how the party workers should respond to SOS calls from the public.
Friends look at the #CongressToolKit in extending help to the needy during the Pandemic!
More of a PR exercise with the help of “Friendly Journalists” & “Influencers” than a soulful endeavour.
Read for yourselves the agenda of the Congress:#CongressToolKitExposed pic.twitter.com/3b7c2GN0re
— Sambit Patra (@sambitswaraj) May 18, 2021
BJP claims the document listed tips on how to discredit the government. It also asked workers to prioritize help requests from “friendly” media personnel and help only those who tag the INC’s youth handle. It isn’t known whether the document is legitimate or a work of fiction.
When Patra shared a picture of the same document, it was tagged as manipulated media. It’s worth noting that none of the parties can prove the document’s authenticity or whether the image shared on Twitter is doctored.
Despite the lack of proof, Twitter proceeded to tag a tweet as manipulated media, and Delhi Police went on to serve a notice, in turn. In the end, the police became a laughing stock since it tried a very conventional approach of law enforcement in a fully digital world.
This isn’t the first time Twitter has come under fire from the government, and the two have been unable to find a resolution. The Indian government is keen on regulating social media giants but fails to find a viable process. In February, for example, the government ordered Twitter to take down many accounts when protests against the new farm laws were escalating.
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