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Google Removes Apps From Play Store for Secretly Harvesting Personal Data: Report

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Google has reportedly removed several apps from its Play store after the company found that these apps were gathering users’ personal data including location, phone numbers, and email addresses. Google said that it regularly “takes appropriate action” against apps that do not comply with its policies. Recently, Google removed six apps infected with the Sharkbot bank stealer malware from Google Play. The apps, posing as antivirus solutions, were downloaded 15,000 times before they were ejected from the store.

As per a report by BBC, the latest batch of over a dozen apps ousted from the Google Play store included a QR code scanner, a weather app, and a Muslim prayer app. These apps allegedly contained malicious code which harvested people’s data, the report said, adding that some of the apps had been downloaded more than 10 million times. “All apps on Google Play must comply with our policies, regardless of developer. When we determine an app violates these policies, we take appropriate action,” BBC cited a Google spokesperson as saying.

As per Google’s Developer Content Policy, apps that are deceptive, malicious, or intended to abuse or misuse any network, device, or personal data are strictly prohibited from the Google Play store. App developers have also been warned that they needed to be clear with users about the information they share.

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The news follows a development where Google removed six apps from the Play store. These apps were designed to be posed as antivirus solutions for Android smartphones. The apps were infected with the Sharkbot bank stealer malware, and were downloaded 15,000 times. The apps targeted the phones used a geofencing feature to steal the login credentials of users in Italy and the United Kingdom.

Earlier this year, a security firm discovered an app which was stealing financial information of users on Android smartphones. The app was posing as an open-source application that offers the same functionality. It was infected with a nefarious banking trojan, and was downloaded over 10,000 times before it was removed from the Google Play store.


Can OnePlus 10 Pro beat iPhone 13 Pro and Galaxy S22 Ultra? We discuss this on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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Uber Starts Showing Upfront Destination Info to Drivers to Reduce Cancellations, But There's a Catch

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Uber in India has started showing trip destinations to drivers to let them decide whether they want to accept the ride. The new move is aimed to address rider concerns over cancellation by drivers after knowing their trip destination. The cab aggregator has also introduced earnings for long-distance pick-ups to allow drivers to accept ride requests even when the rider is not at a nearby location. Additionally, Uber has promised to start paying drivers on a daily basis — between Monday to Thursday. Driver associations are, however, not yet pleased by the new announcements.

To address concerns over cancellations by drivers after knowing the trip destination, Uber has announced that it has started showing trip destinations to drivers to let them make an informed choice. The feature is already live across 20 cities and is set to be expanded to all the remaining ones in the future. However, there is a catch. It is not live for all drivers.

Uber said that the upfront destination feature is available for drivers who “meet a predefined trip acceptance threshold.”

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Shaik Salauddin, Founder State President (Telangana) of Telangana Gig and Platform Workers Union (TGPWU) and National General Secretary of Indian Federation of App Based Transport Workers (IFAT), said that the feature kicks in only when a driver completes five trips.

“The stipulation for completion of rides for accessing information on the upcoming ride should be removed,” he said while responding to Uber’s updates in a press statement.

The union leader also mentioned that if drivers did not accept the incoming ride, their ratings would be affected negatively.

“With back-to-back rides being pushed on the drivers to accept even before the current ride ends has been creating a nightmare situation for the drivers,” Salauddin said.

Uber, in its announcement, did mention that it would continue to monitor feedback from drivers and riders and iterate on the threshold over the coming weeks.

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In addition to the upfront destination information, Uber said that it introduced additional earnings for drivers in case they have to travel a long distance to pick up riders.

“Drivers will be able to see the earnings for long pick-ups, separately displayed on the fare receipt,” the company said.

The feature is essentially aimed to help riders get cabs even when the demand is high and the availability of cabs is low in a particular area.

Salauddin said that despite making a public announcement, drivers are not yet being paid for their “dry runs” — either to pick up the rider or if they are stuck outside the city after completing their rider. He added by saying that the payments for the long distances travelled had not yet been compensated by the company.

In addition to long-distance payments claim, Uber said that it has started showing drivers the mode of payment — whether it is cash or online — before the beginning of their trip. This would, again, help riders to receive a reduced number of cancellations as drivers sometimes cancel rides if it’s not a cash trip.

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Cash-only trips are favourable to most drivers as aggregators including Uber and Ola take time to credit their payments. Uber is claiming to address this issue — in addition to showing the mode of payment — by bringing a daily pay process for drivers.

“This will ensure that trip earnings from Monday to Thursday, are credited to drivers the next day, while earnings from Friday to Sunday, are credited on Monday,” the company said.

Uber also noted that it repeated complaints from riders on service quality essentials including cancellations and ensuring AC rides could lead to penalties and even restricted app access for drivers. The company, however, also said that it would remain committed to listening to riders and drivers and delivering the “Uber magical experience again.”

Countering Uber’s announcement, Salauddin said that as the company claimed to bring a magical experience back to its rides, it should have at least made it so for its drivers also.

“The drivers’ demands are for fare rates in proportion to the fuel rates in their city, access to information on the trip sans the mandatory regulations, compensation for dry runs and roll back on back-to-back trips being dumped on them continuously,” he said.

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Uber recently hiked trip fares in certain cities by 12 percent including Delhi-NCR, claiming to help reduce the impact of fuel price hikes on drivers. However, drivers are not yet convinced by the move.

Salauddin said the increase should not be in percentage but equal to the hike in fuel prices in the rupee value.

In March, Uber introduced a Driver Advisory Council (DAC) to start getting feedback from drivers on its platform. That council is, however, called a “well-practised ploy” by existing driver associations including TGPWU and IFAT.

Salauddin alleged that the decisions taken in consultation with the DAC “are a sham.”

“When there is already a strong driver organisation with three years of public history doing immense work, why would a company set up an alternate institution unless they have malicious intent?” he questioned.


Should you pick Vivo over Galaxy S22 and OnePlus 10 Pro? We discuss this on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.
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WhatsApp Users Can Now Access DigiLocker Using MyGov Helpdesk Chatbot

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WhatsApp users in India can now access DigiLocker using the government’s MyGov Helpdesk chatbot. This will enable users to create and authenticate their DigiLocker account as well as download documents such as PAN card, driving licence, and insurance policy documents, among others, by directly using the instant messaging app. DigiLocker is claimed to have over 100 million registered users who have issued over five billion documents to date. The new development will allow users to get their official documents on their mobile devices, without requiring them to download the dedicated DigiLocker app or accessing its website.

Citizen engagement platform MyGov on Monday announced the update of the MyGov Helpdesk on WhatsApp to bring access to the DigiLocker service.

Using the update, WhatsApp users in India will now be able to access DigiLocker by sending a message saying “DigiLocker” at +91-9013151515 on the messaging app. It will bring options to let users create and authenticate their DigiLocker account as well as download documents, namely PAN card, driving licence, CBSE Class 10 passing certificate, Class 10 marksheet, Class 12 marksheet, vehicle registration certificate (RC), two-wheeler insurance policy of two-wheeler, and life and non-life insurance policy.

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Similar to the DigiLocker app and website, users accessing the service through WhatsApp will be required to provide their Aadhaar number for authentication. Once the Aadhaar number is given, the chatbot will validate it with a one-time password (OTP) to let you download documents from the messaging app.

“Offering DigiLocker services on the MyGov Helpdesk is a natural progression and a step towards providing citizens with simplified access to essential services via WhatsApp’s easy and accessible platform,” said Abhishek Singh, MyGov CEO, President and CEO NeGD, MD and CEO Digital India Corporation (DIC) of the government, in a prepared statement.

Launched in March 2020, MyGov Helpdesk, which is named MyGov Coronavirus Helpdesk, on WhatsApp, crossed 1.7 crore users in 10 days of its debut. It was initially introduced to create awareness and help people during the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. However, the government gradually made it for providing e-governance services. The chatbot was developed by Jio Platforms subsidiary Haptik.

The MyGov Helpdesk is claimed to be accessed by over 80 million people. It has been used to download over 33 million vaccine certificates and for booking millions of vaccination appointments, the government platform said.

“Equipping the MyGov Helpdesk with DigiLocker services that can be accessed directly via WhatsApp, we want to unlock technology’s potential to extend the benefits of essential services to citizens at scale, and this is a significant step towards scaling up the Digital India vision and a digitally empowered country,” said Shivnath Thukral, Director – Public Policy, WhatsApp.


How is Alexa faring in India? We discuss this on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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Google Chat Gets Warning Banners to Protect Users From Phishing Attacks

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Google announced on Thursday that it will now display warning banners against potential phishing and malware attacks coming from personal accounts. In order to prevent phishing, Google has introduced this tweak for Google Chat in its latest expansion. During its 2022 I/O developer conference, Google discussed several security measures it has implemented to enhance user safety, including warnings against potential security issues and recommendations to fix them.

Google also laid out other plans for security measures, like expanded two-step verification, ad customization, and more data security, as per Google.

Google’s new warning banner first appeared in Gmail’s workspace account to show attempts to seduce someone with links that could be used for malware, phishing, or ransomware. In late April, Google expanded the banner of Google Docs to inform users that malicious files were suspected in some Google Workspace apps (documents, sheets, slides, drawings) regardless of where the link was opened.

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The new feature is being rolled out over the next couple of weeks, and will be available for both personal Google accounts and for Google Workspace customers.

Late last month, Google expanded the warning banners for potentially malicious Google Drive files. While previously it displayed the banners when users were attempting to open such a file within a Google Drive account, or from within a Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, or Drawings file, Google has now brought the feature to the file-level — which means that if a user tries to open such a potentially malicious or dangerous Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides file on the Web, they will be served a warning of the dangers ahead.


Should you pick Vivo over Galaxy S22 and OnePlus 10 Pro? We discuss this on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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