Apple and Google Remove ToTok Messaging App Following Spying Report

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Apple and Google Remove ToTok Messaging App Following Spying Report
Number 1028
Broadcast Date DECEMBER 23, 2019
Episode Length 5:34
Hosts Rich Stroffolino

The New York Times reports that the messaging app ToTok is a spying tool, ByteDance is reportedly looking at a global headquarters outside of China, and San Francisco amends its facial ID ban.


The New York Times reports that the chat app ToTok is being used by the government of the United Arab Emirates to track conversations, movement, relationships, and appointments, as well as sound and images from smartphones. Primarily used in the UAE, where other messaging apps like WhatsApp and Skype are banned, ToTok has been downloaded millions of times from the Apple App Store and Google Play from users across the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. After being contacted by the New York Times, both app stores subsequently removed ToTok pending investigation. According to a forensic analysis by former NSA security researcher Patrick Wardle, ToTok appears to be a copy of the Chinese messaging app YeeCall, customized to Arabic and English speaking audiences.
The Wall Street Journal reports that, according to sources, ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, is looking to establish a global headquarters outside of China. Most of ByteDance's senior executives are based in Shanghai, and the move is an effort to distance the company from its Chinese image. Cities under consideration include Singapore, Dublin, and London.
The US Navy announced a ban on the app TikTok on government issued mobile devices, citing the app as a "cybersecurity threat." Any devices with the app installed will be banned from accessing the Navy Marine Corps Intranet.
Uber announced it signed a multi-year commercial contract with the electric aviation startup Joby Aviation to “launch a fast, reliable, clean and affordable urban air taxi service in select markets.” This marks the first announced partnership committing to Uber's plan to launch flying taxi service by 2023. Under the terms of the deal, Joby will supply and operate electric air taxis, while Uber will provide air traffic control help, landing pad construction and connections to ground transportation. Joby was founded in 2009, revealed in 2018 it had raised $100 million in venture funding, and demoed a plane-drone hybrid aircraft to Bloomberg reports last year that was described as twice as fast as a helicopter, and as loud as a "swarm of superbees". Uber has previously named six other aerospace companies working on electric vertical take-off and landing prototypes for the service.
In May, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to ban the use facial recognition technology by city agencies. Last week the Supervisors voted to amend the law to allow municipal agencies to buy product with facial recognition features in cases where the product has other features deemed critically necessary and with no viable alternative. The use of those facial technology features would still be banned. For example the amendment would allow for the purchase of modern iPhones, but city employees could not use Face ID.
CNBC reported new details about how NBC plans to differentiate its Peacock streaming service. The Information previously reported that NBC was considering three tiers, a free ad-supported tier with a limited content library, a $5 a month tier with limited ads, and a $10 a month ad-free option. Sources now tell CNBC that Peacock will reportedly provide streaming content directly to users when opening the app, similar to turning on a TV. This could be live content from NBC's free streaming news service NBC News Now, or an on demand show. Peacock will include 15,000 hours of content (including the Office, Cheers, and Friday Night Lights), with new original content planned, but reportedly will not include NBC broadcast content or 2020 Olympics coverage. Peacock is still in beta-testing and not expected to launch until April.
Facebook announced it will no longer use phone numbers provided for two-factor authentication to feed friend recommendations, after it stopped using the numbers for advertising purposes in June. The change started rolling out to Ecuador, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Libya and Cambodia late last week, and globally in early 2020.
The Wall Street Journal report that Walmart is looking into transforming its retail store to include "edge computing centers," as well as using its warehouses to process and ship items from third-parties. The plans reportedly come from a Walmart executive meeting detailing how the company plans to compete with Amazon. The edge computing centers would see Walmart renting out compute capacity to local customers, autonomous vehicles and even drones.
California’s Department of Motor Vehicles will begin approving permits for autonomous delivery vehicles in the state on January 17th. These permits will allow for testing and commercial use. Testing with a safety driver requires the vehicles have been testing in controlled conditions, and companies must use human drivers with a clean driving record that can take over at any time. Driverless testing requires vehicles that are certified with Level 4 or 5 autonomous capability, have a remote operator, and have a "law enforcement interaction" plan.
Motorola announced it will delay the preorder and launch of its Razr foldable phone. No new dates have been announced for either, but Motorola says it doesn't "anticipate a significant shift" from its original timetable.


Preceded by:
"Week in Review for the Week of 12/16/19"
Apple and Google Remove ToTok Messaging App Following Spying Report
Followed by:
"Twitter Bans Animated PNGs"