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Google links phone numbers to Chinese search engine prototype

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Beijing, Sep 15: Google has developed a prototype of the censored search engine for China codenamed “Dragonfly” that links users’ search history to their personal phone numbers, the media reported.

This means if security agencies were to obtain the search records from Google, individual people could easily be tracked and users seeking out information banned by the government could potentially be at risk of interrogation or detention, The Intercept reported on Saturday.

The search-engine giant is reportedly developing the “Dragonfly” browser especially for China, that would remove content deemed sensitive by the country’s ruling Communist Party regime, including information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights and peaceful protest.

According to sources familiar with the project, “Dragonfly” would be operated as part of a “joint venture” partnership with a company based in mainland China and people working for this venture would have the capability to update the blacklists of the search-terms, the report added.

However, citing lack of corporate transparency on the project, seven Google employees, including former Google Senior Scientist Jack Poulson have resigned so far.

“I view our intent to capitulate to censorship and surveillance demands in exchange for access to the Chinese market as a forfeiture of our values and governmental negotiating position across the globe,” the report quoted Poulson as saying in his resignation letter.

Nearly 1,000 employees also signed an open letter asking the company to be transparent about the project and to create an ethical review process for it that includes rank-and-file employees, not just high-level executives.

Last week, 16 US lawmakers addressed Google CEO Sundar Pichai expressing “serious concerns” about “Dragonfly” demanding information about the company’s China plans, the report noted.

“Dragonfly” has also come under heavy criticism from a former Asia-Pacific head of the tech giant, who called it a “stupid move”.

Google had launched a search engine in China in 2006 but pulled the service out of the country in 2010, citing Chinese government efforts to limit free speech and block websites.

The company has so far declined to publicly address concerns about this project.

IANS

Business

Vodafone Wins Arbitration Against India In Rs 20K Cr Retrospective Tax Dispute Case

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New Delhi: Vodafone has won the case against India over a retrospective tax demand of more than Rs 20,000 crore.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague has ruled that the conduct of India’s tax department is in breach of “fair and equitable” treatment.

Voafone had moved the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2016 due to a lack of consensus between the parties’ arbitrators in finalising a judge for the tax dispute.

Following this, a tribunal was constituted in June 2016 after Vodafone challenged India’s use of a 2012 legislation that gave it powers to retrospectively tax deals like Vodafone’s $11 billion acquisition of a 67 per cent stake in Hutchison Whampoa in 2007. The retrospective tax law had been enacted after the Supreme Court judgement went in Vodafone’s favour.

Vodafone had challenged the tax department’s demand of Rs 7,990 crore as capital gains taxes (Rs 22,100 crore after including interest and penalty) under the Netherlands-India Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT).

Buoyed by the arbitration award, Vodafone Idea stock closed 12 per cent higher at Rs 10.20.

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Cities

Will Urge Neighbouring States To Use Indigenous Technology To Manage Stubble, Says Kejriwal

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will meet Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar to address the issue of stubble burning.

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Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday said he would meet Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar and request him to direct neighbouring states to implement a low-cost technology developed by Indian Agricultural Research Institute to manage crop residue.

The technology, called Pusa Decomposer, involves a liquid formulation prepared using Pusa decomposer capsules, fermenting it over 8-10 days and then spraying the mixture on crop residue to ensure speedy bio-decomposition of the stubble. Capsules worth Rs. 20 can effectively deal with 4-5 tonnes of raw straw per acre.

“I will meet the Union environment minister in a day or two and request him to direct neighbouring states to implement this technology,” he told reporters during a visit to the institute.

Farmers in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh set their fields on fire to quickly clear off the crop residue before cultivating wheat and potato every paddy harvesting season between October 15 and November 15. This practice is attributed to the alarming spike in pollution levels in Delhi-NCR during winters.

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SC directs no coercive action be taken against Facebook VP till October 15

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Supreme Court issued notice on Facebook India’s VP and MD, Ajit Mohan and directed that no coercive action will be taken against him till 15 October, when it will take up the matter for further hearing in the case.

The Apex court was hearing the petition filed by Mohan against the notice issued by Delhi Legislative Assembly for deposing before it.

A 3-judge bench was headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul.

Moreover, the top court issued notice to Delhi Assembly, Centre on plea by Facebook VP on summons asking him to depose on Delhi riots. SC recorded that Delhi Assembly’s Peace and Harmony Committee will not hold a meeting, till further orders.

Earlier, Mohan moved Supreme Court against the summons of the Delhi Assembly Committee, a notice issued by Delhi Assembly’s Peace and Harmony Committee to appear before it for its alleged role in the Delhi violence in February.

Facebook, Mohan, and others had filed the plea in the top court against the Delhi Assembly panel. Since Facebook had refused to come on first summon, the assembly panel had to sent second summon.

The petitioners had moved the apex court challenging the two summons issued by the respondent, Legislative Assembly, NCT of Delhi and others, against them — on September 10 and 18 — on the grounds that they violated the fundamental rights of the petitioner under Article 19(1)(a) and Article 21, guaranteed under part III of the Indian Constitution, the petition claimed.

The petitioners had approached the top court to quash these two summons issued by the Legislative Assembly, NCT of Delhi and others, against them.

The petitioners said that the first summon and second summon issued by the Peace and Harmony Committee of Legislative Assembly, NCT of Delhi and others directed one of the petitioners, the Vice President and Managing Director to appear before the Committee on September 23, 2020.

Facebook provides a safe place for expression. Notably, the petitioners also provide easy-to-use tools that allow users to report objectionable content. The petitioners provide users with options to report content that violates its publicly available community standards, the petitioners claimed.

The Committee’s insistence on compelling Ajit Mohan, to speak, and its categorical threat to his non-appearance as a “breach of privilege of the Committee and [to take] necessary action as deemed fit”, gives rise to a clear and present danger to the fundamental rights and liberties of petitioners in the ultra vires proceedings before the Committee, they claimed.

Accordingly, the petitioners are compelled to approach this court to avoid imminent irreparable harm to themselves, they added.

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