2018/09/30/: Facebook previously attracted the attention of the Indian government in 2016, when it was criticized for offering a free internet service that connected to only a limited number of websites (including Facebook). Called Free Basics, the program was shot down by the Indian government because it violated net neutrality.
Attention has since turned to WhatsApp, which Facebook purchased in 2014.
WhatsApp has introduced at least four new features over the past month that are designed to combat the mass messaging of rumors that have fueled mob violence and killings in India, the service's largest market with over 200 million users.
According to WhatsApp's website, its latest test feature "automatically performs checks to determine if a link is suspicious" and advises users to exercise caution when receiving and opening links.
WhatsApp previously started labeling messages to indicate they've been forwarded rather than composed by the sender. It's also testing limits on how many chats (individuals or groups) a message can be forwarded to simultaneously — 20 for the rest of the world, five for India.
Newspaper ads, which contain tips like "check information that seems unbelievable" and "be thoughtful about what you share," began appearing in national and regional newspapers across nine Indian states earlier this month.
Sparked by rumors of child abduction, mob killings have continued. The most recent took place two weeks ago, after some of WhatsApp's new features were rolled out.
2018/09/30: The push into Indian languages could be the key to capturing the country's hundreds of millions of new internet users over the next several years.
A study last year by Google and KPMG forecast that by 2021, around 536 million Indians will access the internet in their native languages compared to 199 million English-speaking users.
2016/03/16: In recent days, radio listeners may have heard advertisements for a company called TrustID offering “India’s 1st Aadhaar based mobile app to verify your maid, driver, electrician, tutor, tenant and everyone else instantly”. The app boasts it can do this in "less than a minute". Its punchline: “Shakal pe mat jaao, TrustID pe jaao.” Don't go by the face, use TrustID.
Think about what this means. A private company is advertising that it can use Aadhaar to collate information about citizens at a price. It says this openly, even as a case about the privacy of the information collected for the biometrics-linked government database is still pending in the Supreme Court.
This corporate ambition to exploit the business opportunities of this massive population database is now a part of the law that the government seems in a hurry to pass.
Aadhaar is a biometric identity system. Verifying an individual’s identity through it involves authentication, whereby a person’s Aadhaar number, along with another data point—either a biometric marker like a fingerprint or iris scan or a one-time password sent to their registered mobile number—is digitally queried against a central database. If the inputs match with an entry in the database, the authentication returns a “yes” response and the person is judged to be who the Aadhaar says he or she is.
When Aadhaar is used as a photo ID, however, no authentication is generally performed. This, critics argue, defeats the very purpose of introducing a biometric ID.
2018-09-18: In recent decades, China and India have presented the world with two different models for how such countries can climb the development ladder. In the China model, a nation leverages its large population and low costs to build a base of blue-collar manufacturing. It then steadily works its way up the value chain by producing better and more technology-intensive goods. In the India model, a country combines a large English-speaking population with low costs to become a hub for outsourcing of low-end, white-collar jobs in fields such as business-process outsourcing and software testing. If successful, these relatively low-skilled jobs can be slowly upgraded to more advanced white-collar industries. Both models are based on a country's cost advantages in the performance of repetitive, non-social and largely uncreative work -- whether manual labor in factories or cognitive labor in call centers. Unfortunately for emerging economies, AI thrives at performing precisely this kind of work.
Without a cost incentive to locate in the developing world, corporations will bring many of these functions back to the countries where they're based. That will leave emerging economies, unable to grasp the bottom rungs of the development ladder, in a dangerous position.
the best thing emerging economies can do is to "recognize that the traditional paths to economic development -- the China and India models -- are no longer viable." Countries with "less-educated workers" are advised to build up human-centered service industries.
HuffPost revealed the existence of a malicious patch said to disable critical security features, making it easier not only to create unauthorized Aadhaar numbers but to fool the system’s biometric recognition systems from virtually anywhere in the world.
The purpose of the patch, which is reportedly in widespread use and easily obtained for roughly Rs 2,500 (around $35), is not to grant access to information in the database; rather, it allows unauthorized users to introduce information to it -i.e., create identities, potentially with fraudulent biometric data.
Once the patch is installed, enrolment operators no longer need to provide their fingerprint to use the enrolment software, the GPS is disabled, and the sensitivity of the iris scanner is reduced. This means that a single operator can log into multiple machines at the same time, reducing the cost per enrolment, and increasing their profits.
The patch lets a user bypass critical security features such as biometric authentication of enrolment operators to generate unauthorised Aadhaar numbers.
The patch disables the enrolment software's in-built GPS security feature (used to identify the physical location of every enrolment centre), which means anyone anywhere in the world — say, Beijing, Karachi or Kabul — can use the software to enrol users.
The patch reduces the sensitivity of the enrolment software's iris-recognition system, making it easier to spoof the software with a photograph of a registered operator, rather than requiring the operator to be present in person.
The vulnerability is intrinsic to a technology choice made at the inception of the Aadhaar programme, which means that fixing it and other future threats would require altering Aadhaar's fundamental structure.
"Whomever created the patch was highly motivated to compromise Aadhaar," said Gustaf Björksten, Chief Technologist at Access Now, a global technology policy and advocacy group, and one of the experts who analysed the patch at HuffPost India's request.
"There are probably many individuals and entities, criminal, political, domestic and foreign, that would derive enough benefit from this compromise of Aadhaar to make the investment in creating the patch worthwhile," Björksten said. "To have any hope of securing Aadhaar, the system design would have to be radically changed."
The second platform for SEWA will focus on organizing the cooperatives of the SEWA Federation spread out across the state of Gujarat, and additional cooperatives all across India. Distributed democratic governance is a significant challenge for many cooperatives, and given the number and diversity of co-ops within SEWA, and their geographic distribution across the entire state, SEWA needs a new online tool to help them organize, educate, and make decisions.
While new tools like Enspiral’s Loomio saw amazing uptake, distributed democratic governance remains a big challenge for co-ops worldwide. But if trained to use technology and given smartphones, the women led by village elders could co-govern the co-op from afar.
In the U.S., many long-standing, very large and wealthy cooperatives have lost the focus on support for those who need it most.
The key to SEWA’s success has been their holistic, federated approach. SEWA places poor women workers in the informal economy at the center of an ecosystem of co-ops that seeks to address their various social needs, not just economic necessities.
air quality in India is bad and is becoming a serious public health issue with serious repercussions on the quality of life and the economy.
The database shows that air pollution is a global problem nine out of ten people breathe highly polluted air and about 80% of the people living in cities have to breathe in poor air that exceeds health standards.
Unlike China, governing air pollution has proved to be much more difficult in India with multiple layers of government and differences between the state and the central government. In India, there is a gap in air pollution policy that restricts its implementation. Moreover, outrage over deteriorating air quality has been restricted.
In July, residents of a rural Indian town saw rumors of child kidnappers on WhatsApp. Then they beat five strangers to death.
There are human consequences to Facebook’s growth-at-all-costs approach in the developing world. In Myanmar, hate speech spread on the company’s Messenger app amplified calls for the genocide of Rohingya Muslims. In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte stoked anger and fear on Facebook in service of a brutal drug war. In Brazil, anti-vaccination groups spread misinformation on WhatsApp about yellow fever vaccinations, contributing to a measured uptick of the disease. And in India, villagers — many experiencing the internet for the first time — have whipped themselves into frenzies after viewing viral, forwarded videos from unknown sources warning of child abductors.
In India, American companies dominate the internet. Facebook's WhatsApp is the most popular app on phones. Virtually every smartphone runs on Google's Android system. YouTube is the favorite video platform and Amazon is the No. 2 online retailer. For some Indian political leaders, it is as being conquered by colonial powers all over again.
"As a country, we have to all grow up and say that, you know, enough of this,"
India is currently the most important country in term of defining the future of Internet policy. It sits at the fulcrum between the United States and China. As it goes, so goes the world."
Worried by US spying revelations, India has begun drawing up a new email policy to help secure government communications.
Is it a house or a home? A temple to the new India, or a warehouse for its ghosts? Ever since Antilla arrived on Altamont Road in Mumbai, exuding mystery and quiet menace, things have not been the same. "Here we are," the friend who took me there said, "Pay your respects to our new Ruler."
This post is part of a series produced for VentureBeat by Singularity University.
The popular dating app Tinder was caught charging its users as much as three times more for the same service, depending on the ages of those users. What does this mean?
At least 31 people have been killed over the last one year in 10 different states by lynch mobs mobilised by rumours of child lifting spread over WhatsApp.
While senior government officials said the order on WhatsApp groups was a small step in the right direction, cybersecurity experts questioned the validity of the order