Google has been taking steps towards safeguarding the Play Store from all kinds of malware and frauds. According to the company, it prevented more than 1.9 billion malware installs from non-Google Play sources in 2019. It also kept over 790,000 policy-violating apps away from the Play Store. This is thanks to its App Defence Alliance initiative where Google is collaborating with three security companies namely, ESET, Zimperium, and Lookout, for Play Protect that is Google’s built-in malware protection for Android.
In a blog post, Google claims its 2018 policy to prevent apps from accessing call log data and SMS led to 98 percent of developers removing those permission requirements from their apps. But, this policy was considered as a double edged sword as it caused issues with several apps that required SMS access for basic functionality. Google does allow developers to fill out a form if they want to be excluded from this policy but till now, only a few apps have been able to get through, Tasker being one of them.
Google also writes that its 2019 policy to make Google Play safer for kids helped it identify thousands of apps that were either updated by the developers to meet the standards or removed from the app store.
While the data shows that Google is making strides towards making the Play Store a safe and reliable place for Android users and developers, it still has a long way to go. As of now, a lot of developers are facing issues with Google’s algorithms that randomly block or remove previously trusted apps. What makes this worse is that even though Google is keeping a strict eye on the apps that hit the Play Store, scammers are able to exploit loopholes and push their apps to the distribution platform.
What we can take away from this is that Google is actively making efforts to improve the state of the Play Store and is taking feedback from developers. It has an appeal page where developers who feel their apps have been wrongfully blocked or removed can file an application which will then be reviewed by the respective team.
Google reiterated that it wants to continue making Google Play safer for its users in 2020 and it will work on strengthening app safety policies, faster detection of bad actors, and removal of harmful apps.
Opera for Android, Desktop Browsers Get Redesigned Sync Capabilities
Opera has launched updated versions of its browsers for Android and desktop. Opera for Android version 60 and Opera for Desktop version 71 come with completely redesigned sync capabilities between them, the company says. The new feature uses a QR code scan to establish a connection between Opera on an Android device and the Opera desktop browser on Windows, macOS, or Linux. The Opera browser for Android also comes with the popular Flow feature as well as Suggested Sites feature on the homepage. In meanwhile, the Opera desktop browser now comes with the Easy Files feature.
Opera for Android 60
With Opera browser for Android, users can navigate to opera.com/connect on their PCs or tablets and scan the QR code displayed there with the QR code reader located in the search bar of the browser. As soon as this is done, the new Sync feature will start synchronising all their passwords, bookmarks, speed dials, typed browsing history and open tabs, as well as the newly-integrated Flow feature across devices.
Stefan Stjernelund, Product Manager of Opera for Android, says that people don’t sync their phones with their PCs “because they hate the hassle of having to type in their logins and lengthy passwords.” He notes that the QR code scan feature can help users to quickly sync data across devices that do not require any login credentials. “Opera was the first browser to offer sync between mobile and desktop browsers 13 years ago. Today we’re taking a big step forward by making it easier than ever,” added Stjernelund.
Apart from the new syncing feature, Opera for Android 60 also gets the Flow feature from the Opera Touch browser. This feature allows users to share files, links, YouTube videos, photos, and personal notes with themselves, between their Opera mobile and desktop browsers. So, if you’re searching something on Opera on your Android smartphones, you can quickly share it on the desktop version. According to the brand, Flow is end-to-end encrypted so anything stored will only be known to the user. In Opera for Android, Flow can be accessed from the O-menu.
Opera for Android 60 now also comes with Suggested Sites feature that allows for “speed dials” in the browser. According to the brand, the speed dial section is now smarter and more dynamic as it identifies the user’s most frequently visited websites. It displays them just below the traditional speed dial section. “Suggested Sites gives us a quicker way to engage with relevant content without the need to manually add pages to the speed dial or bookmarks,” Stjernelund noted. Users have a choice to easily disable this feature.
Additionally, Opera for Android offers a built-in free unlimited browser VPN, a QR code scanner, a crypto wallet, and a cookie dialog blocker. You can download Opera for Android 60 via Google Play.
Opera for Desktop 71
The Opera for Desktop version 71 browser comes with the Easy Files feature that offers most recently downloaded files that essentially makes attaching files in the Opera browser easy. It is also claimed to feature a high level of privacy and security. It features a built-in browser VPN, ad blocker, as well as built-in messengers, including WhatsApp, Telegram, Instagram and Facebook.
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Google Discontinues Paid Chrome Extensions After Temporary Suspension in March
Google is discontinuing paid Chrome extensions. Developers looking to monetise their extensions can no longer do so via Chrome Web Store payments. Google had temporarily suspended paid extensions earlier this year, and now announced that it would be making this change permanent. The tech giant has shared a timeline on the phasing out of paid Chrome extensions. Free trials will also be disabled later this year.
Google announced that developers using Chrome Web Store payments to charge for their extensions or in-app purchases will need to migrate to other payments platform in the near future. The tech giant said that when it launched the Chrome Web Store in 2010, it wanted to provide a way for developers to monetise their Web Store items. Now, it said, developers had access to various other payment-handling options they could use.
Developers will no longer be able to create new paid extensions or in-app items. From December 1 this year, free trials will also be disabled. Users will no longer be able to view the ‘Try Now’ button in Chrome Web Store and requests for in-app free trials will result in an error. Google said that from February 1, 2021 onwards, existing items and in-app purchases will no longer be able to charge money with Chrome Web Store payments.
Developers using the licensing API to keep track of who has made the payments will also need to implement another way of tracking user licenses. They will be able to use the Licencing API to determine if users are currently licensed, but that too will shut down at some point, announced Google, urging developers to migrate their license tracking.
For exporting users licences, Google said that there was no way to bulk export existing user licenses, so developers would have to have users’ help for this part of the migration. Google recommended handling license migration in the back-end system, using the Chrome Web Store API. Developers would need to use OAuth 2.0 with the consent of users to access these APIs.
Google had temporarily suspended publishing paid extensions in March due to resource constraints due to the coronavirus, but it was a follow up from January, when Google had noticed fraudulent transactions aiming to exploit users. In February, Google had removed over 500 malicious extensions from the Chrome Web Store over ad fraud.
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TikTok Says a Coordinated Attack Was Behind Recent Spate of Suicide Clip Uploads
TikTok says a video of a man apparently dying by suicide that circulated on its platform was spread deliberately by a group of users working together.
The company found evidence of a “coordinated attack” when it investigated why the video was suddenly appearing on the popular short-video sharing app, a TikTok executive told a British parliamentary committee Tuesday.
TikTok scrambled earlier this month to remove clips of the man dying by suicide, raising concerns about the platform’s ability to stop harmful content from reaching its users, many of whom are teens.
Theo Bertram, TikTok’s European director of public policy, said there was a huge spike in the number of clips uploaded to TikTok about a week after the original video was livestreamed on Facebook.
“There’s evidence of a coordinated attack,” Bertrand said. “Through our investigations, we learned that groups operating on the dark web made plans to raid social media platforms including TikTok, in order to spread the video across the Internet. What we saw was a group of users who were repeatedly attempting to upload the video to our platform.” The dark web is a part of the internet accessible only through anonymity-providing software.
The users were “splicing it, editing it and cutting it in different ways” and then making new accounts to help spread it, he said.
TikTok users usually look through their own feed or use hashtags to find videos. But these users were clicking on account profiles, apparently anticipating that they would be posting the suicide clip, which is an unusual way to find videos, Bertram said. He gave few other details.
The company wrote Monday to nine other tech platforms proposing that they warn each other about violent and graphic content on their own services.
Bertram’s comments came as TikTok said in its latest transparency report that it took down 104.5 million videos for violating its guidelines or terms of service during the first six months of the year. That’s less than one percent of the total number of videos uploaded for that period.
TikTok’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, is fighting pressure in some of its major markets. In the US, TikTok faces a ban later this month from smartphone app stores, followed by a broader ban in November unless ByteDance can persuade US officials it can resolve national security concerns.
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