While, yes, your messaging apps are indeed spying on you, to argue that they were developed specifically for that purpose might seem like a stretch. But life is stranger than fiction in the year of our lord 2019, and now you can thank ToTok for making your worst dystopian surveillance state nightmares come true.
What millions of users thought was a free chat app is believed to be a surveillance tool that leaks data to government officials in the United Arab Emirates, U.S. intelligence officials told the New York Times Sunday. Apple and Google have since removed ToTok from their respective stores, but it’ll continue to keep spying away if you already have it on your phone. So TLDR: Delete ToTok.
Per the report, the UAE government used ToTok to learn location data (which was required to access information on the weather), voice and text conversations, and online social connections of its users. Most of the app’s userbase live in the UAE though it’d been gaining popularity worldwide and recently cracked the charts in America. Just in November, it racked up more than half a million downloads.
One particularly strong selling points it touted among UAE users was, unlike more ubiquitous chat apps like Skype and Whatsapp, ToTok didn’t require a VPN and could circumvent restrictions put in place by the Emirati government. Thus allowing (seemingly) no-strings-attached video chatting and messaging with anyone anywhere in the world so long as they also had an internet connection.
And ToTok’s developer, Breej Holding, is apparently similarly shady. They’re a proverbial ghost on the internet, per the Times report, and likely a front for the cyber intelligence agency DarkMatter. The company has a history of contracting with the Emirati government and employing ex-intelligence agents and has already attracted scrutiny from U.S. intelligence officials for purported hacking crimes. The software itself—basically a copy and paste job of the Chinese app YeeCall—is also linked to a data-mining company with ties to Dark Matter that shared a building with the UAE’s intelligence agency for a bit.
Britain in talks with 6 firms about building gigafactories for EV batteries
Britain is in talks with six companies about building gigafactories to produce batteries for electric vehicles (EV), the Financial Times reported on Wednesday, citing people briefed on the discussions.
Car makers Ford Motor Co and Nissan Motor Co Ltd, conglomerates LG Corp and Samsung, and start-ups Britishvolt and InoBat Auto are in talks with the British government or local authorities about locations for potential factories and financial support, the report added .
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Himani Sarkar)
EBay to sell South Korean unit for about $3.6 billion to Shinsegae, Naver
EBay Korea is the country’s third-largest e-commerce firm with market share of about 12.8% in 2020, according to Euromonitor. It operates the platforms Gmarket, Auction and G9.
Shinsegae, Naver and eBay Korea declined to comment.
Lotte Shopping had also been in the running, the Korea Economic Daily and other newspapers said, citing unnamed investment banking sources.
South Korea represents the world’s fourth largest e-commerce market. Driven by the coronavirus pandemic, e-commerce has soared to account for 35.8% of the retail market in 2020 compared with 28.6% in 2019, according to Euromonitor data.
Shinsegae and Naver formed a retail and e-commerce partnership in March by taking stakes worth 250 billion won in each other’s affiliates.
($1 = 1,117.7000 won)
(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)
Canada launches long-awaited auction of 5G spectrum
The 3,500 MHz is a spectrum companies need to provide 5G, which requires more bandwidth to expand internet capabilities.The auction, initially scheduled for June 2020, is expected to take several weeks with Canadian government selling off 1,504 licenses in 172 service areas.
Smaller operators are going into the auction complaining that recent regulatory rulings have further tilted the scales in the favour of the country’s three biggest telecoms companies – BCE, Telus and Rogers Communications Inc – which together control around 90% of the market as a share of revenue.
Canadian mobile and internet consumers, meanwhile, have complained for years that their bills are among the world’s steepest. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has threatened to take action if the providers did not cut bills by 25%.
The last auction of the 600 MHz spectrum raised C$3.5 billion ($2.87 billion) for the government.
The companies have defended themselves, saying the prices they charge are falling.
Some 23 bidders including regional players such as Cogeco and Quebec’s Videotron are participating in the process. Shaw Communications did not apply to participate due to a $16 billion takeover bid from Rogers. Lawmakers and analysts have warned that market concentration will intensify if that acquisition proceeds.
In May, after Canada‘s telecoms regulator issued a ruling largely in favour of the big three on pricing for smaller companies’ access to broadband networks, internet service provider TekSavvy Inc withdrew from the auction, citing the decision.
Some experts say the government has been trying to level the playing field with its decision to set aside a proportion of spectrum in certain areas for smaller companies.
Gregory Taylor, a spectrum expert and associate professor at the University of Calgary, said he was pleased the government was auctioning off smaller geographic areas of coverage.
In previous auctions where the license covered whole provinces, “small providers could not participate because they could not hope to cover the range that was required in the license,” Taylor said.
Smaller geographic areas mean they have a better chance of fulfilling the requirements for the license, such as providing service to 90% of the population within five years of the issuance date.
The auction has no scheduled end date, although the federal ministry in charge of the spectrum auction has said winners would be announced within five days of bidding completion.
($1 = 1.2181 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by David Gregorio)