Saudi Lifts Ban on WhatsApp, Skype Calls but Will Monitor and Censor Them

Saudi Lifts Ban on WhatsApp, Skype Calls but Will Monitor and Censor Them

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Saudi government is lifting a ban on calls made through online apps
  • Apps like WhatsApp, Skype, Messenger, and Viber will become accessible
  • Saudi government will keep a check on these VoIP services

The Saudi government is lifting a ban on calls made through online apps such as Skype and WhatsAppon Thursday as part of its economic reforms, but a spokesman said it will monitor and censor such calls.

All online voice and video call services – such as Microsoft’s Skype, Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger, and Rakuten’s Viber – that satisfy the kingdom’s regulatory requirements, were set to become accessible.

Lifting the ban is part of the Saudi government’s broader reforms of the economy to help boost businesses and diversify the economy in response to low oil prices.

Adel Abu Hameed, a spokesman for telecoms regulator CITC, said on Arabiya TV on Wednesday that new regulations aimed to protect users’ personal information and block content that violated the kingdom’s laws.

Asked if the apps could be monitored by the authorities or companies, he said: “Under no circumstances can the user use an application for video or voice calling without monitoring and censorship by the Communications and Information Technology Commission, whether the application is global or local.”

It was unclear how the authorities can monitor apps such as WhatsApp, which says its messages are supported by end-to-end encryption, meaning the company cannot read customers’ messages even if approached by law enforcement agencies.

Internet communications have become widespread but Saudi Arabia began blocking them from 2013, wary that such services could be used by activists.

The “Arab Spring” mass protests in 2011 were often organised over the Internet, though Gulf Arab states, except the island kingdom of Bahrain, mostly escaped the uprisings.

The decision to lift the blocks could negatively impact Saudi Arabia’s three main telecoms operators – Saudi Telecom Co (STC), Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) and Zain Saudi – which earn the bulk of their revenue from international phone calls made by the millions of expatriates living in the kingdom.

Zain Saudi’s CEO, Peter Kaliaropoulos, told Reuters some lost income could be recouped through expansion of its own data services.

“The Saudi market has a strong appetite for faster data throughput and higher data use packages,” he said in an email. “The opportunity to monetize the extra data usage will partially offset voice revenue losses”.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

Amit Shah calls for linking education with India’s ‘cultural ethos’, says distortions will soon be removed

New Delhi: BJP president Amit Shah pitched for linking the country’s education system with its cultural ethos to remove “distortions” as he termed dynasty politics, casteism and minority appeasement as “cankers” affecting the country.

File image of Amit Shah. AFP

File image of Amit Shah. AFP

“All distortions in our education system will be removed and the entire system of learning will further improve if we connect it with our core values, with our cultural ethos,” he said while speaking at the launch of the book on the speeches of the party’s ideologue Syama Prasad Mookerjee.

While elucidating Mookerjee’s initiatives on education, Shah described him as a “visionary leader” who laid emphasis on the education system which is connected with the basic fundamentals of our society and promotes natural talent. “Mookerjee emphasised on these two points specifically so that education can become a mass movement in the early years of independence as the literacy rate was very low then,” the BJP president said.

Mookerjee founded the right wing nationalist party Bharatiya Jana Sangh which later evolved as the BJP.

Shah said the seed sown then by Mookerjee has become a “huge tree” today. “Mookerjee started the party with 10 members which now has a huge base of about 11 crore members,” he said.

He said the BJP is following Mookerjee’s principles to work on the path of nation building unlike other political outfits which have promoted casteism, minority appeasement and dynasty politics in the country. “These three are cankers which are affecting our
country,” he said.

Lauding the BJP ideologue’s role in nation building, Shah rued that “historians have not done justice with him”. Mookerjee saved Bengal by pushing for partition of the united Bengal before Independence, otherwise the entire state would had become east Pakistan and later Bangladesh, he said.

Not only this, in the case of Kashmir, he also led a mass movement to end the permit system for entering the northern state, Shah added.

[“Source-firstpost”]

Vodafone-SaveLIFE Road Safe App Launched, Disables Calls and Notifications While Driving

Vodafone-SaveLIFE Road Safe App Launched, Disables Calls and Notifications While Driving

Telelcom operator Vodafone has partnered with SaveLIFE Foundation to launch the Road Safe mobile application for Android users in INdia. The app brings a lot of features focused on safety and help during driving and related emergencies. The launch comes soon after Samsung unveiled a similar app, called In-Traffic Reply.

The Vodafone-SaveLIFE Road Safe app has features like ‘Distraction Free Driving’ that will automatically disable calls, SMSes, and push notifications when vehicle speed is above 10 kmph. The Road Safe app also has Road Safety tips and information on traffic fines and offences. Another feature called ‘Automatic Crash Detector’ uses the phone’s accelerometer to detect sudden drop in vehicle speed, and provides automatic voice enabled emergency response assistance. A sudden drop in vehicle speed is usually a major sign of an accident. There’s also a one-touch dial for emergency services, and a feature that will call and SMS to saved emergency contacts.

The app is available for free to download on Google Play, and the interface is really simple to use. Once you complete the Vodafone-SaveLIFE Road Safe app registration, the Home Page has all the features mentioned. The traffic offences and fines section gives you a detailed list of fines depending on state and offence. There’s also an option to report harassment from any officer or individual as well. The Settings menu allows you to change language to Hindi; however the default language is English.

The telco has also released a study alongside reasoning why the app makes sense in today’s smartphone world. It claims that when it asked several passengers, around 96 percent of them feel unsafe when a driver uses a mobile phone while driving. 34 percent of the respondents in the study tend to apply sudden brakes when talking on the phone while driving, and 20 percent of respondents admit to having a near-miss situation or a crash due to the same. The Vodafone-SaveLIFE Road Safe app is essentially a first step of sorts to prevent distracted driving.

 

 
[“source-ndtv”]

Syria civil war: UN calls emergency talks after ‘gas attack’

Destruction at a hospital room in Khan Sheikhoun. April 4, 2017The UN Security Council is to hold emergency talks after an alleged chemical attack in Syria left dozens of civilians dead and wounded.

The release of chemicals in a rebel-held town in Idlib province brought furious international reaction.

Officials in Damascus deny opposition and Western claims that they used chemical weapons.

Russia’s defence ministry said a Syrian air strike had hit a rebel ammunition store that included chemical weapons.

In particular, “a workshop for the production of land mines filled with poisonous substances” had been hit, it said.

It seemed to support accounts by Syrian military sources a day earlier who reported an explosion at what they called a rebel chemical weapons factory in Khan Sheikhoun.

Earlier, the US and other powers had blamed the Syrian government.

Footage from the scene showed civilians, many of them children, choking and foaming at the mouth.

Witnesses said clinics treating the injured were then targeted by air strikes.

UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 72, including 20 children.

It was unable to say which chemical had been involved but pro-opposition groups said it was believed to have been the nerve agent Sarin.

‘War crime’

The attack will overshadow a conference in Brussels at which 70 donor nations will discuss aid efforts in Syria. Delegates want to step up humanitarian access for thousands of civilians trapped by fighting.

Syria’s civil war has raged for more than six years, with no political solution in sight.

Nearly five million Syrians have fled the country and more than six million are internally displaced, the UN says. More than 250,000 people have been killed.

Media captionVictims were treated for injuries, including asphyxiation

Wednesday’s emergency meeting of the UN Security Council was called by France and the UK as international outrage mounted over the attack.

Britain’s ambassador to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, said the incident was “very bad news for peace in Syria”.

“This is clearly a war crime and I call on the Security Council members who have previously used their vetoes to defend the indefensible to change their course,” he told reporters in New York.

  • The spectre of nerve agents in Syria – again
  • US blames Assad over ‘chemical attack’
  • Aftermath of attack in pictures (Warning graphic images)
  • Why is there a war in Syria?

In a statement, US President Donald Trump condemned what he called “these heinous actions” by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson accused the Syrian government of “brutal, unabashed barbarism”.

UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said it was a “horrific” attack and that there should be a “clear identification of responsibilities and accountability” for it.


Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionWitnesses said clinics treating the wounded were subject to air strikes

The BBC’s Lyse Doucet in Brussels says the attack could prove a stumbling block at Wednesday’s international conference.

The EU hopes to use the prospect of funds for reconstruction as a bargaining chip in the faltering peace talks, our correspondent says, but the latest developments will deepen the opposition of those who say now is not the time to discuss financial support for areas controlled by the Syrian government.

[“Source-bbc”]