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”]

Laptop Ban Lifted in Egypt, Morocco

Laptop Ban Lifted in Egypt, Morocco

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Egypt and Morocco’s airlines say electronics ban has been lifted
  • The original ban affected airports in Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, and more
  • The ban remains in place for Riyadh and Jeddah

Egypt and Morocco’s airlines have said a ban against carry-on laptops on US-bound flights has been lifted, leaving only two Saudi airports under the restrictions put in place in March.

Morocco’s Royal Air Maroc said in a statement Wednesday that the ban, imposed amid fears the Islamic State group was developing a bomb concealed in electronics, would be lifted as of Thursday.

EgyptAir said late Tuesday that the United States had also lifted the ban for the carrier’s flights to New York from Wednesday.

The ban remains in place for Saudi Arabia’s two main international airports in Riyadh and Jeddah.

The original ban affected airports in Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Turkey.

ALSO SEELaptop Ban: Royal Jordanian, Kuwait Airways Say Now Exempt

But last month, the US Department of Homeland Security issued directives to 180 carriers around the world flying into the United States to improve security procedures, especially in screening baggage and electronics.

The directives included pressure to install explosive-detecting scanners within weeks, as well as adding more bomb-sniffing dogs.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

WhatsApp Two-Step Verification, HTC Bolt, Rs. 500, 1000 Ban Fallout, and More: Your 360 Daily

HIGHLIGHTS

  • WhatsApp beta for Android, Windows 10 Mobile get a new security feature
  • Alibaba sold goods worth $1 billion in 5 minutes on Single’s Day
  • OnePlus 3 to get Android 7.0 Nougat ‘community’ build in November

Friday saw the launch of HTC Bolt, a 2016 smartphone with a 2015 processor; WhatsApp adding two-step verification to its beta apps; record Singles’ Day sales in China; and a whole lot more. Here’s your 360 Daily with the top tech stories of the day.

WhatsApp beta version gets two-step verification
The beta versions of WhatsApp for Android and Windows 10 Mobile now have two-step verification, an important security tool to authenticate user identity. Users who choose to activate two-step verification on WhatsApp will have to provide a 6-digit passcode to authenticate their phone number if they switch phones. An email address, provided at the time of setting up two-step verification, will be used to disable this security feature, if needed.

HTC Bolt With Android 7.0 Nougat, no headphone jack launched
HTC has launched the Bolt smartphone, running Android 7.0 Nougat out-of-the-box but lacking the 3.5mm audio jack. The new HTC Bolt is exclusive to Sprint in the US for now, and it comes with a 5.5-inch screen (1440×2560 pixels), water- and dust-resistant metal body, Snapdragon 810 processor, 3GB of RAM, 32GB internal storage, up to 2TB microSD card support, 16-megapixel rear camera, 8-megapixel front camera, and 3200mAh battery with fast-charging.PM Narendra Modi lost 3 lakh Twitter followers the day after Rs. 500, Rs. 1000 ban
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s follower-count on Twitter saw a dip of more than 3 lakh the day after he announced the demonetisation of the Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 currency notes. However, his net increase in Twitter followers the next day was 4.3 lakh, much higher than the 20,000-25,000 he gains on an average day.

Alibaba rakes in $1 billion in first 5 minutes of Singles’ Day in China
Alibaba sold goods worth $1 billion in the first five minutes and $5 billion in the first hour of its annual Singles’ Day online shopping extravaganza. The company offers heavy discounts on products via its Tmall and Taobao websites, and according to some estimates it clocked sales worth over $15 billion by 8pm. Alibaba said 84 percent of the total sales in the first two hours were from mobile devices.

Videocon d2h to merge with Dish TV
Videocon Group and Essel Group are merging their DTH divisions – Videocon d2h and Dish TV, respectively – to create a single entity called Dish TV Videocon, which will be positioned as the leading operator in India. Essel Group will have 55.4 percent ownership of the entity, while Videocon will own a 44.6 percent stake.

Cash on Delivery back on track on Amazon India
Two days after suspending Cash on Delivery on its platform, Amazon India has brought back the option, much to the delight of customers. The step was taken after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes. The company is also letting customers pay via credit and debit cards at the time of delivery.

OnePlus 3 to get Android 7.0 Nougat beta build in November
OnePlus will reportedly release the Android 7.0 Nougat ‘community’ build, a beta version of the software, for the OnePlus 3 smartphone in November. The company plans to roll out the final version of the new build as a public release by the end of the year. OnePlus’s software chief Brian Yoon has also said that OnePlus 2 will also get the software, but did not mention a timeline.

Google Chrome installs cross 2 billion
The Chrome browser has become the first Google product to have 2 billion installs worldwide. The app is available both for desktops and mobile devices. However, being installed on 2 billion devices does not mean that it is actively used by as many users on a regular basis.

Reliance Communications launches its first Android-based 4G LTE HomePhone
Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Communications has launched the Android 5.1 Lollipop-powered 4G LTE HomePhone, which comes with an in-built SIM and supports 4G and VoLTE. It has a 3.5-inch display and allows up to eight Wi-Fi devices to connect via hotspot to use its Internet connection.

BlackBerry to launch one last smartphone with physical keyboard
BlackBerry CEO John Chen has confirmed that the company will launch one last smartphone featuring the physical keyboard, which once made it an iconic brand. However, he did not furnish any details on the device, including other key hardware features, software, pricing, or launch timeline.

Tags: Narendra Modi, Twitter, Alibaba, Single’s Day, Videocon d2h, Dish TV, Amazon India, Cash on Delivery, OnePlus 3, Android 7.0 Nougat, WhatsApp, Google Chrome, HTC Bolt, Reliance Communications, BlackBerry, John Chen
[“Source-Gadgets”]

Court Deals Blow to Berlin’s Airbnb Ban

Court Deals Blow to Berlin's Airbnb Ban
An attempt by Berlin to clamp down on properties being rented out as holiday homes on Internet platforms like Airbnb suffered a setback on Tuesday as a court ruled in landlords’ favour.

The administrative court backed the claims of three homeowners, who had sued for the right to rent out their second homes in the German capital to tourists when they weren’t themselves staying there.

The same court had in June quashed a legal challenge to the law, which outlaws property owners and tenants from renting out whole apartments or houses for short-term holiday lets.

The ban still effectively prohibits primary residences from being advertised on Airbnb.

Tuesday’s decision had been keenly awaited as a further indication of how judges would view the new regulation.

Some landlords even received letters, seen by AFP, indicating that the city was waiting for a legal steer before proceeding against them.

In the case of the three landlords – who live in Rostock in northern Germany, Denmark, and Italy when not in Berlin – “private interest outweighs the public interest” in keeping the properties vacant, the judges said.
Berlin’s “wrongful use law”, in force since May 1, provides for fines of up to EUR 100,000 ($111,000) for people advertising their homes for Airbnb-style rentals without official authorisation.

Supporters of the law say increasing use of online rental platforms in Berlin – a tourism and party hotspot that draws visitors from all over Europe and beyond – is driving up property prices by taking large numbers of homes off the residential market.

Citizens can even report those they suspect of using an apartment for holiday rentals anonymously via the city government website.

In June 2015, the city also introduced a cap on rent price hikes in a bid to keep residential apartments affordable.

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Tags: Airbnb, Internet

[“Source-Gadgets”]