WhatsApp delays privacy changes in the wake of user backlash

Agencies
January 16, 2021

WhatsApp to delay launch of new business features after privacy backlash |  Technology

San Fransisco, Jan 16: WhatsApp said Friday that it would delay a planned privacy update, as the Facebook-owned messaging service tries to stem backlash by users worried about the changes.

WhatsApp said it would push back the changes, to May 15 from Feb. 8, to give users more time to review what it planned to do.

This month, WhatsApp notified its users that it would give them new options to message businesses using the service and was updating its privacy terms. WhatsApp’s notification said users would have to accept the new terms by February or no longer have access to their accounts. Although little was actually changing, the company still needed user approval.

Many users and some media outlets interpreted the notification as a marked shift in WhatsApp’s data-sharing practices, mistakenly believing that the company could now read people’s conversations and other personal data. Misinformation spread through the service to users around the world.

People flocked to other messaging services, including apps like Signal — which offers so-called end-to-end encryption like WhatsApp — and Telegram, which offers some encryption options. This week, Signal became the No. 1 app in India, one of WhatsApp’s biggest markets, on Apple and Android phones.

Now, WhatsApp executives are assuring users that its changes are minor, that it cannot read users’ messages and that its services are more secure than those of some competitors.

“WhatsApp helped bring end-to-end encryption to people across the world, and we are committed to defending this security technology now and in the future,” WhatsApp said in a company blog post. “With these updates, none of that is changing.”

Some limited information from WhatsApp is shared with Facebook, WhatsApp’s parent company. But the changes to WhatsApp’s terms of service to enable that occurred in 2016, and the terms have not been substantially updated since.

The fallout reflects a rare misstep for the messaging giant, which Facebook bought in 2014 for $16 billion. For years, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, let WhatsApp operate largely as an independent entity, supported by Facebook’s infrastructure and resources. Over that period, WhatsApp grew to serve more than 1 billion users — most of them outside the United States.

That approach has changed in recent years. Jan Koum and Brian Acton, the founders of WhatsApp, left the company in 2018 after a falling out with Zuckerberg. Since then, Zuckerberg’s touch has grown heavier. He wants to stitch together the messaging services between Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, which will require years of engineering work.

While Zuckerberg has positioned Facebook as doubling down on user privacy, some former employees fear the integration could make apps like WhatsApp even less secure over time. WhatsApp is not yet connected to Messenger or Instagram.

The furore over WhatsApp’s privacy changes is bitterly ironic, given the company’s struggles with misinformation on its service. WhatsApp has been used to distribute misinformation around elections in Brazil and other countries, which has been difficult to combat because of the closed, private nature of the service.

WhatsApp has begun sharing graphics in multiple languages detailing exactly what the privacy policy update will mean.

“There’s been a lot of misinformation causing concern, and we want to help everyone understand our principles and the facts,” the company said.

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Agencies
February 26,2021

New Delhi, Feb 26: Everyone on election duty for the upcoming polls for five assemblies will be vaccinated against Covid-19 before polling day, the Election Commission said on Friday.

Voting will take place for 126 seats in Assam, 234 in Tamil Nadu, 294 in West Bengal, 140 in Kerala and 30 in Puducherry.

Nearly 18.68 crore electors will be eligible to vote at 2.7 lakh polling stations for 824 seats in five assembly elections, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said at a press conference here.

Arrangements will be put in place for candidates to file their nominations online for the five assembly polls. Voting will be allowed for an additional hour, keeping in mind COVID-19 safety guidelines, he said.

Also, webcasting arrangements will be in place at polling stations in critical and vulnerable areas, while adequate CAPF (Central Armed Police Forces) deployment will be ensured for the assembly polls, Arora said. All critical and vulnerable areas have been identified and advance teams have been already deployed across all four states and one union territory Puducherry going to the polls, he added.

He said door-to-door campaigning will be restricted to five persons, including the candidate, while roadshows will be allowed with a maximum of five vehicles.

Arora said the nationwide vaccination drive has made the situation more conducive for conducting elections and the Health Ministry has declared everyone on poll duty as frontline workers for the vaccine purpose.

All poll officials will be vaccinated before the elections, Arora said.

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Agencies
February 20,2021

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Imphal, Feb 20: A 48-year-old Anganwadi worker in Manipur has died a week after receiving her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, officials said on Saturday.

W Sundari Devi of Kumbi Terakha area in Bishunpur district had received her first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine on February 12 at Kumbhi primary health centre (PHC), they said.

She was taken to the Moirang community health centre (CHC) on February 18 as she had breathing problems and died at the CHC on Friday.

Health Department officials said that a special team will conduct the post-mortem of the deceased to ascertain the true cause of the death.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister N Biren Singh met the family members of Sundari and heard their grievances.

He expressed deep condolences and assured the family members of suitable compensation duly considering the post-mortem report.

"Heard the grievances of family of Anganwandi Worker W Sundari of Kumbi Terakha, Bishnupur District and expressed my deep condolences.

Assured suitable compensation duly considering post mortem reports and instructed for taking strong action against defaulting officials," the chief minister tweeted.

The Deputy Commissioner of Bishnupur, Neeta Arambam said that the family members of the deceased claimed that at the time of vaccination, Sundari had told the "vaccination team that she has allergy problem. However, the vaccination went ahead".

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News Network
February 25,2021

Absolute majority in kitty after phase 6, will cross 300-seat mark: Amit  Shah | Hindustan Times

Guwahati, Feb 25: Union home minister Amit Shah on Thursday asked people of Assam to vote for BJP again and promised to make the state flood free in the next five years. 

"We want to make Assam flood free...Modiji wants to make Assam flood free. People of Assam has to face the wrath of flood every year. The work in this regard has started. Satellite mapping is underway to identify places where water can be diverted to create big big lakes for irrigation and to make them into tourism centres. So vote BJP to power again, we will bring relief from flood in the next five years," Shah said while addressing the gathering at Batadrava, the birth place of Srimanta Sankardeb, the neo-Vaishnavite saint of 15th century, in central Assam's Nagaon district. 

Shah's promise about solving flood problem comes after Congress-led "grand alliance" of six opposition parties asked on Monday why Prime Minister Modi was silent on solving Assam's long flood problem. Modi on Monday had addressed a gathering at Silapathar in Dhemaji, a flood-affected district in North Assam but did not say anything about flood. 

Claiming that BJP and its ally Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) can only solve the infiltration problem in Assam, Shah asked, "Can Congress stop infiltration when they are sitting with Badruddin Ajmal? They are sitting with Ajmal and talking about stoping infiltration. Can they stop killing of the rhinos in Assam?"

Shah's jibe at Congress comes at a time when the "grand alliance" has made CAA its biggest poll plank against BJP. They have been alleging that BJP would destroy identity of the Assam's ethnic communities by offering citizenship to large number of post-1971 Hindu migrants from Bangladesh, through the CAA.

Alleging that Congress did nothing to solve Assam's problems, Shah said what BJP-led government did for Assam in the past five years, Congress could not do in 70 years.

Talking about the two new parties, which came into being out of the anti-CAA agitation (Assam Jatiya Parishad and Raijor Dal), Shah said, "Their purpose is to cut votes of BJP and help Congress win. Congress government had opened fire on those who were fighting against the foreigners during the Assam Agitation (1979-1985), and now unfortunately they are helping Congress. People of Assam are not fools. They knows only BJP and AGP can stop infiltration and bring development. The process of real development in the entire Northeast has started during Modiji's tenure," Shah said.

"We will make Assam number 1 state in the country (in terms of development) in five years," Shah further promised.

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