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Can’t leave 160 million WhatsApp users ‘trapped in a corridor of Charity’ : Supreme Court

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Whatsapp, Pixabay

New Delhi, May 16, 2017: Online messaging service WhatsApp on Tuesday sought to assure the Supreme Court that it has never shared the contents of the messages between its users with third parties even as the top court said that it could not leave 160 million users “trapped in a corridor of charity”.

The five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra indicated that it would examine the 2016 privacy policy of the online messaging app on the reopening of the court after its summer vacations.

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Besides Justice Misra, the bench includes Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice Amitava Roy, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar.

The court said that it would examine the new privacy policy, which WhatsApp had brought in 2016, after it was acquired by the social networking site Facebook, on the grounds whether it was contrary to public policy and whether it was required to be put to constitutional controls.

However, this would happen only if the court comes to conclusion it required judicial interference, said the bench in course of the hearing of a plea by petitioners Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi who have challenged the Delhi High Court’s September 23, 2016 order allowing WhatsApp to roll out its new privacy policy but stopping it from sharing the data of its users collected up to September 25, 2016, with Facebook or any other related company.

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Tuesday was the second day of the hearing and further hearing would take place after top court reopens after summer vacations. On Monday, the court had asked WhatsApp why it changed its policy of non-sharing of data of users after its acquisition by Facebook ito permit sharing of the attributes of its users.

Resuming his arguments on the maintainability of the petitions challenging the Delhi High court verdict, senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for Facebook, said: “We can file an affidavit stating that not a single piece of information has been shared with anybody. Even I cannot access the information if I want to. There is no element of human intervention in the process. Machines take care of this.”

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He said that any fundamental right – be it of communication or choice of communication – could only be invoked against the state and not against a private entity like WhatsApp, which was not discharging public functions. He argued that petitioners challenging its 2016 new privacy policy will have to first approach the regulatory authorities – TRAI.

He said that regulations framed under the Information Technology Act in 2009 and 2011 covered WhatsApp – a position contested by the petitioners who are contending that these regulations have been outpaced by the technological advancements.

Reiterating that it was in no position to go into the contends of the messages exchanged between its users as they were in encrypted form, senior counsel Siddharth Luthra, appearing for WhatsApp, told the bench that it was not generating meta data and all that was being shared was contact details, profile photo and status of the users of the App.

Lawyer Madhvi Divan, appearing for the petitioners, said that WhatsApp was using public resource like spectrum and was performing public functions.

Comparing it with telephone services, Divan said while one was paying for availing telephone services, WhatsApp was free but describing its operation as “economic espionage in the name of free service”, urged the bench to look at their business model. (IANS)

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Was the Ban on Sale of Firecrackers in Delhi Successful? Data on Pollution Levels in Delhi Say Otherwise

Despite the much talked about cracker-ban, pollution monitoring stations placed the capital in the ‘red zone’, indicating ‘very poor’ air quality.

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While the ban on crackers imposed by the Supreme Court aimed to reduce pollution levels in Delhi, figures from pollution monitoring system paint an unhealthy picture with amplified levels of air pollution. (Representative image) Pixabay

New Delhi, October 20, 2017: The Supreme Court had on October 9 banned the sale of firecrackers in Delhi during Diwali in order to counter the pollution, deteriorating air quality and smog-like conditions that have come to be associated with the festival in recent times.

While a radical change was not expected following the ban on firecrackers, a humble and promising beginning could be witnessed on Diwali with majority areas in Delhi reporting much lesser noise and smoke till 6 PM, compared to previous years.

However, as the festive spirit picked up from 7 PM onwards, the hopes for a pollution-free Diwali got lost behind the growing echo of the crackers.

Pollution Levels on Diwali

Despite the much talked about the ban on firecrackers, pollution monitoring stations placed the capital in the ‘red zone’, indicating ‘very poor’ air quality. According to the stats available, on Diwali day around 7 pm, online indicators showed a rising trend in the volume of cancer-causing ultra-fine particulates PM2.5 and PM10 that are capable of entering the respiratory system and reach the bloodstream.

PM2.5 and PM10 are the extremely fine particulate matter with the digits representing their diameter in micrometers. They are a major component of air pollutants that threaten both, our health and the environment at large.

ALSO READ 10 Quick Facts About Delhi Pollution Problem

However, data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) suggested that the air quality in Delhi on Diwali was better than last year.

On Thursday, the Air Quality Index (AQI) value was 319 which placed the city in the ‘very poor’ category. However, the AQI value on Diwali last year was 431 and the city was placed in the ‘severe’ category.

According to data from SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research), the 24-hour rolling average at around 11 PM was revealed as 154 and 256 micrograms per cubic meter for PM2.5 and PM10 respectively.

According to SAFAR data, pollution levels were expected to soar between 11 PM and 3 AM.

Pollution Levels in the Morning after Diwali

As the night progressed, PM2.5 levels recorded a sharp rise in multiple areas in and around Delhi, with 15 times increase in areas like India Gate

As per data from Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), PM2.5 levels at 6 AM in,

India Gate – 911 microns (Normal level – 60 microns)

RK Puram – 776 microns (13 times more than usual)

Ashoka Vihar – 820 microns (14 times more than normal)

Anand Vihar – 617 microns (10 times more than normal)

A sharp rise was observed in the PM10 levels in the early hours of the morning after Diwali which suggest hazardous pollution levels in Delhi.

As per data from Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), PM10 levels at 6 AM in,

India Gate – 985 microns

RK Puram – 1083 (11 times more than usual)

Anand Vihar – 2402 microns (24 times more than normal. Normal level is considered around 100 microns)

While the ban on firecrackers imposed by the Supreme Court aimed to reduce pollution levels in Delhi, figures from pollution monitoring system paint an unhealthy picture with amplified levels of air pollution.

Official figures from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) are yet to be announced today. However, judging from the data available, it won’t be wrong to say that pollution levels in Delhi have increased post-Diwali.

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Facebook Acquires the Anonymous Teenage Polling App ‘tbh’

An official statement from Facebook said: "tbh and Facebook share a common goal -- of building community and enabling people to share in ways that bring us closer together"

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Facebook brings the developers of 'tbh' app to share and expand a common goal of making stronger communities. Pixabay

San Francisco, October 17, 2017 : Facebook has acquired ‘tbh’, an anonymous polling app for teenagers which has over 5 million downloads and 2.5 million daily active users in the US.

The app lets teenagers anonymously answer kind-hearted, multiple-choice questions about friends, who then receive the poll results as compliments, TechCrunch reported on Tuesday.

“When we set out to build tbh, we wanted to create a community that made us feel happier and more confident about ourselves. We felt that people craved genuine and positive interactions in their online experiences,” ‘tbh’ said in a statement.

“Over the last few weeks, over 5 million people have downloaded tbh and sent over a billion messages. More importantly, we’ve been inspired by the countless stories where tbh helped people recover from depression and form better relationships with friends,” it read.

ALSO READ How Facebook is Helping Its Users Fight Identity Theft

Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed but according to TechCrunch, it is likely to be somewhere around less than $100 million and will not require regulatory approval.

“As part of the deal, tbh’s four co-creators — Bier, Erik Hazzard, Kyle Zaragoza and Nicolas Ducdodon — will join Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters while continuing to grow their app,” the report added.

“When we met with Facebook, we realised that we shared many of the same core values about connecting people through positive interactions. Most of all, we were compelled by the ways they could help us realise tbh’s vision and bring it to more people,” ‘tbh’ said.

In a statement to TechCrunch, Facebook said: “tbh and Facebook share a common goal — of building community and enabling people to share in ways that bring us closer together”. (IANS)

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Facebook doesn’t Hire Journalists, says Sheryl Sandberg

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Facebook
Sheryl Sandberg quoted that Facebook doesn't hire Journalists. ians

San Francisco, Oct 14: As people debate Facebook’s role in influencing people during the US presidential elections by Russian ads and fake news on the platform, the company’s COO Sheryl Sandberg has stressed that the social media giant is not a media organization, and therefore does not hire journalists.

Sandberg said that Facebook is run by technical workers and engineers and according to her, the company does not produce news content, therefore it can’t be a media company.

In an interview with US-based news website Axios on Thursday, she said, “At our heart we are a tech company. We hire engineers. We don’t hire reporters. No one is a journalist.”

“We don’t cover the news. But when we say that, we’re not saying we don’t have a responsibility. In fact we’re a new kind of platform… as our size grows, we think we have more responsibility,” the executive was quoted as saying.

Business Insider said a firm that is a major source of news and information for people, generates billions in ad revenue and is producing its own original television shows is classified as a media company and Facebook does all of that.

Contrary to her claim, it hired former NBC anchor Campbell Brown in January to head up the company’s news division and work with other journalists to maximise their use of Facebook’s platform.

Reportedly, Facebook does not want to harm its $500 billion valuations by admitting it is a media company. If the company accepts that it is a media firm, it would open the platform up to regulatory rules in the US and other countries which Facebook would rather avoid.

Facebook
Facebook Ads were considered during US Presidential Elections. Pixabay

Business Insider said Britain was already considering regulations that would treat it more like a media company.

Meanwhile, on the Russian ad issue, Sandberg said the election meddling on the platform “shouldn’t have happened” and she wouldn’t discuss Russia or Trump.

“We know we have a responsibility to prevent everything we can from this happening on our platforms… and so we told Congress and the Intelligence committees that when they are ready to release the ads, we are ready to help them,” she said.

Sandberg said that if the Russian-linked ads were posted by “real people” and not fake accounts, Facebook would have let their content remain on the site. “When you allow free expression, you allow free expression.”

“Facebook owes the American people an apology. Not just an apology, but determination for our role in enabling Russian interference during the election,” she said. (IANS)