After introducing new tariff rules for television channel earlier this year, the Telecom Regulatory authority of India (Trai) has now shifted its focus to OTT apps that stream TV channels to bring them under the ambit of regulatory framework.
Carriage of TV programming by apps such as Hotstar, Airtel TV, Sony Liv is currently unregulated. This puts registered broadcasters in a disadvantageous position who are allowed to give content to cable operators and satellite players only under a licensing framework.
When apps show the same channels without paying the carriage charges and licencing fees, it creates disparity, a Trai official was quoted as saying in an ET report.
The broadcasters operate under a licence which is valid for 10 years. Under the cable TV (regulation) Act, the licensee has to comply with the programming and advertising code and must adhere to guidelines set by I&B ministry. Whereas apps come under IT Act, but do not have to seek licence.
Trai is expected to issue a consultation paper on the matter by July-August.
Adding to the complication are broadcasters such as Star India, Sony, Zee and Times Network which have their own streaming apps. For them, OTT platforms are only another medium for viewers to watch TV channels. They view any additional licensing framework an unnecessary hassle.
Broadcasters such as Star India have opposed the move saying that Trai does not have the authority to regulate apps under the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997 as the entire internet ecosystem is regulated by the Information Technology Act, 2000.
However, DTH companies and cable operators’ associations content that a non-level playing field has been created with the same show playing on TV and an app at the same time. They have demanded OTT players be also regulated under the principle of ‘same-service, same-rules’.
With the rising popularity of OTT apps, Trai is wary of being caught off-guard if a legal redressal is sought for the level playing field in the space.
It is of relevance here that Supreme Court has issued a notice to Centre to regulate the content featured on OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar. The petition was filed by an NGO alleging that the online media streaming platforms show “uncertified, sexually explicit and vulgar” content.
iOS: If you’re having trouble finding a good parental control app in the iOS App Store, there’s a reason for that: MDM, or Mobile Device management. According to Apple, apps using MDM “incorrectly” pose serious security risk, and so the company is cracking down—but what does this actually mean?
What is Mobile Device Management?
Mobile Device Management (MDM) is a general term for any technology that allows one device to be controlled and/or monitored by another remotely. Parental control apps on iOS often rely on MDM as a means for controlling screen time, applying content filters, and collecting usage reports, because it’s the only way to obtain device permissions for these kinds of activities. Otherwise, your everyday app on the App Store can’t control your device to this great a degree.
This isn’t some newly implemented technology. MDM has been present on iPhone for years now, with Apple overseeing MDM certification for its devices and even controlling all MDM-based actions on iOS apps.
So why is Apple now so worried about apps using this feature in a way it wasn’t intended? The company now claims that apps with MDM can leave your personal data vulnerable and open to exploitation by hackers, hence the purging of parental control apps from the App Store.
On paper, the move makes sense. If an unwilling person is tricked into installing a certificate from a less-than-stellar app, they’ve just given over the keys to their digital kingdom—a privacy breach Apple would very much like to prevent.
“MDM does have legitimate uses. Businesses will sometimes install MDM on enterprise devices to keep better control over proprietary data and hardware. But it is incredibly risky—and a clear violation of App Store policies—for a private, consumer-focused app business to install MDM control over a customer’s device. Beyond the control that the app itself can exert over the user’s device, research has shown that MDM profiles could be used by hackers to gain access for malicious purposes,” reads a statement Apple published last last month.
Developers (try to) fight back
Several developers with parental control apps now affected by the new MDM policy have responded to Apple’s claims, and their arguments highlight some inconsistencies with Apple’s reasoning.
One app, OurPact, uses MDM to allow parents to set screen time limits on their child’s devices. OurPact’s developers released a statement using Apple’s own MDM documentation to refute the alleged security risks. You can read the full statement here, but the gist of the argument is that since Apple controls the entire MDM review process for iOS apps, properly vetted apps should not pose any of the risks Apple is warning against. As well, OurPact has been open about what it does and how it does it:
“OurPact’s core functionality would not be possible without the use of MDM; it is the only API available for the Apple platform that enables the remote management of applications and functions on children’s devices. We have also been transparent about our use of this technology since the outset, and have documented its use in our submissions to the App Store,” the company’s statement reads.
Some have suggested Apple’s actual reason for removing these MDM-enabled parental control apps is to curb potential competition with iOS 12’s screen time feature. However, other reports point out that many of the apps were purged for various other violations unrelated to MDM, like the prohibition on creating “an App that appears confusing similar to an existing Apple Product, interface, app, or advertising theme.”
If you ask us, the whole this is a net loss for Apple’s customers, even though it is the security-minded approach to take.
What Apple’s purge means for you
Policy disputes between Apple and app developers are one thing, but the biggest concern for iOS users—especially for parents—is that parental controls/screen time apps are being removed from App Store.
This would be less of an issue if Apple provided developers with its own API for controlling screen time, but it does not. More importantly, many of the removed apps like OurPact, Kidslox, and Qustodio included features that iOS parental controls do not—such as filtering web content on non-Safari browsers and cross-compatibility with Android. Their absence leaves parents with fewer options for monitoring their child’s screen time (though there’s debate over just how effective screen time limits can be).
Hopefully, the outcry from developers and the feedback from users will force Apple to at least open up a discussion about the future of parental control on the App Store. For now, however, you might as well settle for using the parental control features built into iOS 12. They’re not as robust when compared to the rival apps, but it’s probably your safest bet for locking down your kids’ activities right now. It might soon be your only one.
It’s a sad fact of our late capitalist world that data is one of the hottest currencies. Every move you make online–and sometimes off, too!–is likely being tracked in some way and then sold to the highest bidder. New research shows that even health apps, which often store users’ most personal information, are also sharing the data they collect. To make matters worse, for many of these programs, it’s simply impossible to opt out.
The study was performed by a team of researchers in Australia, Canada, and the U.S., reports Gizmodo. They decided to download 24 of the most popular health-related apps on Android. For each app, the team made four fake profiles and each used the programs 14 times. On the 15th time, they slightly changed the information they provided to the apps and tracked if the network traffic changed. This way, the researchers were able to see if the apps shared the data change, as well as where they shared it.
The findings were depressing. Writes Gizmodo:
Overall, they found 79 percent of apps, including [popular apps Medscape, Ada, and Drugs.com], shared at least some user data outside of the app itself. While some of the unique entities that had access to the data used it to improve the app’s functions, like maintaining the cloud where data could be uploaded by users or handling error reports, others were likely using it to create tailored advertisements for other companies. When looking at these third parties, the researchers also found that many marketed their ability to bundle together user data and share it with fourth-party companies even further removed from the health industry, such as credit reporting agencies. And while this data is said to be made completely anonymous and de-identified, the authors found that certain companies were given enough data to easily piece together the identity of users if they wanted to.
Essentially, most of the apps were sharing the data users’ input in some capacity, and often that information was shared once again with another entity. Sometimes the data would be used for advertising, other times for something related to credit reporting. (According to the study, only one credit reporting agency had an agreement with a third party: Equifax. Of course, it’s not terribly comforting that the company had one of the largest hacks in recent memory.)
The sad part is that these findings aren’t terribly surprising, nor are they illegal. Most apps broker user data in some capacity. Usually they use it for marketing and advertising, yet, as the credit report agency example shows, the data could be shared with truly anyone for myriad purposes. While third parties claim to anonymize the data, it’s been repeatedly proven that it can easily be re-identified.
The two real lessons from studies like these are that users of digital health programs need to be vigilant with the programs they use. It’s possible to protect your data, but it takes a lot of homework. But most of all, there needs to be a heightened call to protect consumers from these predatory practices.
Today, we dig deeper into your health privacy as part of our series The Privacy Divide, and find that what you don’t know about your health data could make you sick.
Liven up your smartphone like never before with a digital assistant, video ringtones, stripped back music and more.
Vyng is a video ringtone app for Android handsets which lets users play a new video with every incoming call. This app from a Los Angeles-based startup aims to transform how you start mobile conversations by introducing emotions to the lock screen from its library of more than 60,00,000 music videos.
Just A Line
What started as an experiment by Google is now a standalone app — Just a Line. It is an augmented reality doodling tool that lets you make AR drawings in 3D space around you. You can then share your creation with a short video. It lets you doodle in the air and draw with friends in the same space by pairing your phones. The app works on any Android phone that supports ARCore and the latest iOS devices.
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Drupe – Caller ID App
It’s a popular cross-platform dialer app from which you can voice and video call, message, schedule, tweet, email, set remind ers and do more from one place. Drupe lets you dial or WhatsApp someone who is not on your contacts list and comes with a call blocker feature. The app also has a record feature for incoming or outgoing calls.
Sonar Ruler [iPhone Only]
Sonar Ruler from Laan Labs is an innovative app that uses echoes to measure distances with your iPhone. The app makes your iPhone send a short pulse from the speaker and measures how long that pulse takes to bounce off something and return to the phone. It then estimates how far away you are. Sonar Ruler offers a distance measurement range up to 60 feet.
The smart assistant is now also adept at recommending what movies or TV shows to play through your Chromecast and controls multiple devices straight from your smartphone. The app can now show all your devices in one view and organises them by room. It also lets you manage devices like a smart thermostat as well as smart lights without having to go into their respective apps.
Loffee – Lo-Fi Music
If you are a fan of low-frequency beats and stripped back music, Loffee is a must-have app on your handset. While the playlist ranges from music for focusing to music for setting the vibe on a lazy Saturday afternoon, the platform also recognises talents from around the globe. The best thing about the app is that it works offline — perfect for flights or a long journey.