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Alphabet to provide cellular connectivity in Puerto Rico via 30 balloons

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San Francisco, Oct 7: A week after a tweet from engineers of Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc indicating their plan to bring emergency connectivity to hurricane-battered Puerto Rico via internet-by-balloon “Project Loon”, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has given the company the green signal.

The FCC has given Alphabet permission to fly 30 balloons over Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands for up to six months, Wired.com reported late on Friday.

Alphabet’s balloons will help replace the thousands of cell phone towers knocked down by hurricane-strength winds and provide voice and data service through local carriers to users’ phones.

The FCC has provided consent to Alphabet’s application, which included letters and emails from eight wireless carriers in Puerto Rico, for “Loon” to use their frequencies for disaster relief and to restore limited communications.

30 “Loon” balloons will float 20 kms above the earth in the stratosphere, relaying communications between Alphabet’s own ground stations connected to the surviving wireless networks and users’ handsets.

Each balloon can serve up to 5,000 square kms, so the fleet is expected to provide service over all of Puerto Rico and potentially parts of the US Virgin Islands.

“‘Loon’ needs to be integrated with a telco partner’s network, the balloons can not do it alone,” an Alphabet spokesperson was quoted as saying.

Alphabet has previously deployed “Loon” to provide emergency phone service in Peru following flooding there earlier this year.

IANS

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Mobile numbers of WhatsApp on Web users found on Google Search

According to Rajaharia, the latest leak of personal mobile numbers via WhatsApp on Web has not been addressed so far by the either Facebook-owned platform or Google.

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New Delhi, Jan 16 : As WhatsApp faces intense scrutiny over its upcoming data and privacy policy in India and elsewhere, another user data violation has been reported, this time on the WhatsApp on Desktop (Web) application, allegedly exposing personal mobile numbers via indexing on Google Search.

Although WhatsApp is primarily a mobile app, currently being used by over 400 million users in India, some working professionals also use the instant chat app on their desktops and PCs via the Web version.

Independent cybersecurity researcher Rajshekhar Rajaharia on Friday shared some screenshots with IANS showing indexing of personal mobile numbers of WhatsApp users via Web version on Google Search.

“The leak is happening via WhatsApp on Web. If someone is using WhatsApp on laptop or on an office PC, the mobile numbers are being indexed on Google Search. These are mobile numbers of individual users not business numbers,” Rajaharia told IANS.

Earlier this week, concerned at private group chat links being available on Google Search, WhatsApp said that it had asked Google not to index such chats and advised users not to share group chat links on publicly accessible websites.

Google had indexed invite links to private WhatsApp group chats, meaning anyone can join various private chat groups with a simple search. The indexed WhatsApp group chat links have now been removed from Google.

“Despite WhatsApp advising users and telling Google to remove the earlier exposed group chat links, the mobile numbers via WhatsApp Web application are now being indexed on Google Search,” Rajaharia noted.

A WhatsApp spokesperson said in an earlier statement that since March 2020, WhatsApp has included the “noindex” tag on all deep link pages which, according to Google, will exclude them from indexing.

“We have given our feedback to Google to not index these chats. Links that users wish to share privately with people they know and trust should not be posted on a publicly accessible website,” the company spokesperson said.

The issue was first cropped up in February last year when app reverse-engineer Jane Wong found that Google has around 470,000 results for a simple search of “chat.whatsapp.com”, part of the URL that makes up invites to WhatsApp groups.

According to Rajaharia, the latest leak of personal mobile numbers via WhatsApp on Web has not been addressed so far by the either Facebook-owned platform or Google.

The revelation comes at a time when WhatsApp is changing its privacy policy and users will have to “agree and accept” if they plan to keep using the app post-February 8.

On Friday, a single judge bench of the Delhi High Court recused from hearing a petition against the WhatsApp’s upcoming data and privacy policy, on the grounds that it violates the right to privacy of citizens of India.

The plea will now be listed before another bench and would come up for hearing on January 18.

–IANS

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Twitter CEO says banning Trump was right decision but sets dangerous precedent

Dorsey has said he believes those measures can promote more fruitful, or “healthy,” conversations online and lessen the impact of bad behavior.

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Twitter Inc Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said on Wednesday that banning President Donald Trump from its social media platform after last week’s violence at the U.S. Capitol was the “right decision,” but said it sets a dangerous precedent.

San Francisco-based Twitter last week removed Trump’s account, which had 88 million followers, citing the risk of further violence following the storming of the Capitol by supporters of the president.

“Having to take these actions fragment the public conversation,” Dorsey said on Twitter.

“They divide us. They limit the potential for clarification, redemption, and learning. And sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation.”

The ban drew criticism from some Republicans who said it quelled the president’s right to free speech. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also warned through a spokesman that legislators, not private companies, should decide on potential curbs to free expression.

In his Twitter thread, Dorsey said that while he took no pride in the ban, “Offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all.”

Even so, he added, “While there are clear and obvious exceptions, I feel a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation.”

Twitter has introduced a series of measures over the last year like labels, warnings and distribution restrictions to reduce the need for decisions about removing content entirely from the service.

Dorsey has said he believes those measures can promote more fruitful, or “healthy,” conversations online and lessen the impact of bad behavior.

The Twitter CEO added that bans by social media companies on Trump after last week’s violence were emboldened by each other’s actions even though they were not coordinated. But in the long term, the precedent set “will be destructive to the noble purpose and ideals of the open internet,” he said.

Supporters of Trump who has repeatedly made baseless claims challenging Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the November election, stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, trying to halt the certification by Congress of Biden’s Electoral College win.

On Wednesday, Trump became the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice.

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Apple sells 18 mn iPhone 12 units in China in Q4 2020: Report

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New Delhi: Apple has sold nearly 18 million iPhone 12 units in the China market in Q4 2020, gaining over 20 per cent market share and exceeding market expectations.

According to a report in DigiTimes citing local data, sales of the iPhone 12 series in China were higher than expected in the fourth quarter of 2020.

“The staggering fourth-quarter iPhone 12 shipments helped push Apple’s share in China’s handset segment to over 20 per cent in fourth-quarter 2020 and reduced the combined share of Chinese brands to about 78 per cent, said the sources, citing market data,” the report mentioned.

The momentum is expected to continue through the Lunar New Year holiday, bringing shipment volumes for Q1 2021 at par with units shipped in the previous quarter.

Citing the trajectory of iPhone 12 sales, Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives this month raised his Apple price target from $150 to $160 and sets a Street-high bull case of $200.

“We have not seen a launch uptrend such as this in a number of years for Apple and the only iPhone trajectory similar would be the iPhone 6 in 2014 based on our analysis,” Ives said.

“Based on lead times on the Apple website as well as our checks, we believe pre-orders tracked more than 2x its predecessor iPhone 11 thus far and is a robust start out of the gates for Cupertino on this flagship supercycle product”.

According to Seeking Alpha, the analyst said that while Wall Street is forecasting 215 million iPhone units for the financial year 2021, he sees the potential to sell over 240 million units.

A Counterpoint Research report late last month said that Apple is likely to break previous sales records during its fiscal first quarter (October-December period) as the iPhone 12 is set to bolster global quarterly shipment growth for all iPhones to 21 per cent year-over-year (YoY).

JP Morgan analyst Samik Chatterjee also said that iPhone 12 series lead times have “moderated significantly” since the holidays with most models available for consumers within a week.

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