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Apple, Google, Amazon block nonofficial coronavirus apps from app stores

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James Martin/CNET
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

Earlier this month, Apple started cracking down on apps related to the coronavirus outbreak. It reportedly rejected apps from at least four developers whose apps would’ve displayed stats about which countries had confirmed cases of the disease, which has since been labeled a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Now Apple’s making that ban official.

In a statement posted to its developer website Saturday, Apple said it would accept coronavirus-related apps only from “recognized entities such as government organizations, health-focused NGOs, companies deeply credentialed in health issues, and medical or educational institutions.” The company said it wants to ensure “data sources are reputable.”

 

To help get approved apps out quickly, the company said any developers that meet its criteria can mark their submissions as part of a “Time-Sensitive Event.” That will expedite their review.

“Communities around the world are depending on apps to be credible news sources — helping users understand the latest health innovations, find out where they can get help if needed or provide assistance to their neighbors,” Apple said in its statement. “Now more than ever that commitment takes on special significance as the world fights the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Amazon’s approach has been similar to Apple’s, blocking all coronavirus apps from unofficial sources. Google’s taken a similar tack, blocking results for searches related to the coronavirus or COVID-19, and instead only pointing people toward the WHO’s website and “trusted apps.”

The three companies’ moves follow pleas from the White House earlier this week for tech companies to help stop misinformation and disinformation about the coronavirus from spreading online. Already, fake accounts online have spread incorrect rumors about where the virus originated, celebrities who may have contracted it and potential cures (of which the Centers for Disease Control says there currently are none).

Apple, Google and Amazon’s efforts are likely to significantly cut down on the number of coronavirus-related apps available for iPhones, iPads and Google Android-powered devices, as many people typically download apps only through the pre-installed app store on their devices.

Microsoft, which also runs an app store for its Windows computers, didn’t have immediate comment about whether it’ll make similar moves.

Apple noted it doesn’t usually charge nonprofits, government entities and accredited educational institutions for access to its developer tools if they plan to distribute their apps for free. Otherwise, a membership to its developer program, which is needed to distribute apps on the App Store, costs at least $99 a year.

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League of Legends Trailer Teases New Champion – ComicBook.com

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Riot Games released a new League of Legends trailer on Wednesday giving us a stylish preview of a new champion coming to the game. The trailer shows a slain swordsman who “must decide if he will make peace with his past—or be consumed by it” as he struggles with his new place in the afterlife and the events that brought him there. This character shown is connected to the Spirit Blossom event and is the second of the two champions teased earlier in the year. July 22nd was mentioned in the trailer, so we can look forward to that date to see more about the champion and the event.

The Ionian swordsman in the trailer finds himself in the afterlife where he instinctively reaches for his blade only to find it’s not with him. After traveling for a while with a companion serving as his guide, he diverts to a more sinister location where he confronts his past.

If you’ve been keeping up with League of Legends leaks and rumors recently and have some understanding of different champions’ backstories, you likely already have an idea of who this character is. This champion is thought to be Yone, Yasuo’s half-brother. Yasuo’s lore said the two were close, but when Yasuo was framed for the death of a revered elder who Yasuo apprenticed under, Yone was honor-bound to challenge him. Yasuo won the duel and killed Yone.

Yone confronts this memory after deviating from the main path in the trailer when he finds his own body slain on the ground. After a fight with a demon, Yone is seemingly returned to the living world, though not exactly as he was before. Part of the afterlife – including the demon – seems to have come back with him, thus giving us the masked assassin who’s been teased numerous times in the past.

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As for Yone’s abilities, we can only tell so much from the cinematic, but a blend of swordplay and otherworldly powers is expected. We know he’s indeed an assassin just like Yasuo is and that he’s not a Darkin despite what his appearance and weapon might indicate. There certainly looks like there’s an internal struggle still raging within him based on the trailer and past teasers that showed him with one red eye and one blue, but it’s unknown now how his two sides will manifest themselves on Summoner’s Rift.

League of Legends still has to release Lillia before we get to Yone, so look forward to that champ’s release first while we wait to learn more about the assassin.

Disclosure: ComicBook is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.

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Google Promises the EU It Won’t Use Fitbit Health Data to Target Ads – Barron's

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Courtesy of Fitbit

Potentially softening the ground for its pending acquisition of Fitbit, Alphabet pledged late Monday not to use health data from the fitness tracking company to target ads.

Fitbit
stock (ticker: FIT) rose 3.2% to $6.84 Tuesday, trading below the $7.35 a share offer in the November acquisition bid from Google, which has come under pressure from regulators in Australia, Europe, and the U.S. amid antitrust concerns. Coupled with antitrust worries, regulators have outlined privacy concerns with combining the cache of Fitbit health data with Google’s much larger data set of its users.

Alphabet (GOOGL) said in a statement that it would work “with the European Commission on an approach that safeguards consumers’ expectations that Fitbit device data won’t be used for advertising.”

The European Commission extended its deadline for a decision about the acquisition to Aug. 4 from July 20 as a result of Google’s offer. Class A shares of
Alphabet,
which runs Google, rose 0.6% to $1,520.86 Tuesday.

Barron’s last discussed Fitbit June 19, saying then that the stock looked cheap. Alphabet has agreed to pay $7.35 a share but in June the stock was trading at a steep 13% discount to its acquisition price—lower still when an Australian regulator began to make noise about the deal, too.

Since Barron’s published the story, shares have climbed about 6%, outperforming the indexes, though if the deal closes at $7.35, there is 8.6% of upside remaining. The
S&P 500 index
advanced 1.9% in the same period, as the
Nasdaq Composite index
has gained 4.9%.

Roy Behren of Westchester Capital Management told Barron’s Tuesday in a phone interview that the recent Fitbit stock move means the market is now implying there is roughly an 80% the deal will close, an increase from the 70% to 75% chance in June. “I think the market has become a little bit more comfortable with the regulatory review,” he said. “This increases the chances it will be cleared in a phase one review.”

Fitbit has captured roughly 3% of the wearables market, compared with
Apple
(AAPL), which has about 29% market share, according to IDC data.

The deal values Fitbit at $2.1 billion and the companies have until Nov. 1 to seal the deal—with a maximum extension date of May 1, 2021, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

Write to Max A. Cherney at max.cherney@barrons.com

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Ghost Of Tsushima And Paper Mario Will Be $10 Off On Release Day – GameSpot

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Later this week, exciting new exclusives for Nintendo Switch and PS4 arrive. Paper Mario: The Origami King and Ghost of Tsushima both release on July 17, which means it could be an expensive day for video games if you own both platforms. If you’re looking to snag one or both, Walmart is once again offering a $10 discount at launch, so you can pick up Paper Mario: The Origami King and Ghost of Tsushima for $49.94 each.

While these are stellar deals, Walmart is only offering the discounted price for either game when shopping in store. You can enter your zip code on BrickSeek to make sure that your local Walmart is offering the discounts. If you look on Walmart’s website, you’ll see that both games are listed at $60 for online orders. Sometimes Amazon matches Walmart’s launch discounts, but that typically only happens when Walmart is also offering the discount on its site.

For those who don’t live near a Walmart store or don’t feel like heading out to pick up a video game, make sure to check out our pre-order guides for Paper Mario: The Origami King and Ghost of Tsushima for more details on where you can order these games. For instance, GameStop has an exclusive pin set for Paper Mario, and the PlayStation Store has a Digital Deluxe edition of Ghost of Tsushima that comes with a bunch of additional goodies.

Also, if you want to order online and get Paper Mario: The Origami King and/or Ghost of Tsushima on release day, Best Buy or Walmart is the way to go at this point. While other retailers are showing delivery dates that stretch into next week, you can still get free release date delivery for both titles at Walmart and Best Buy.

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