Many big American tech companies have long viewed India as their next Eldorado, enchanted by the country’s massive population and steady modernization.
Amazon is investing billions of dollars there, challenging domestic e-commerce giants. Apple is slowly but surely gaining a foothold in the Indian smartphone market while aiming to expand production within its borders. Hundreds of millions of Indians are already using Alphabet-owned YouTube and Meta-owned Facebook and WhatsApp, with each platform still having room to grow.
But just as they have been doing in autocratic China for decades, the giants of Silicon Valley could soon face some sticky ethical gates when it comes to operating in India.
A new proposal unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government on Wednesday would give the Indian government sweeping powers to regulate digital communications services and access vast amounts of user data.
Most worryingly, the proposed legislation would give Indian authorities the ability to seize control of communications services and intercept user messages “in the event of a public emergency or in the interest of public safety,” a nebulous provision ripe for abuse. The bill will also force licensed digital communications platforms to “uniquely identify the individual for whom they provide services,” making online anonymity impossible. To top it off, the Indian government essentially cannot be sued for abusing provisions of the law.
The plan builds on new rules and proposed guidelines in India on the government’s role in overseeing big tech companies. While some of the debate has revolved around defending user privacy, protecting native tech companies, and updating colonial-era laws, the practical implications of the regulations usually involve government officials expanding their surveillance powers.
The latest proposal fits this trend perfectly. Indian officials said the legislation, known as the Indian Telecommunications Bill of 2022, is a much-needed overhaul of laws that in some cases date back nearly 140 years. They also argued that the reforms address the “importance of cybersecurity, national security and public safety while ensuring constitutional and procedural guarantees.”
At the same time, the draft law serves as a Trojan horse for the development of India’s growing surveillance state. The Internet Freedom Foundation, a leading voice in India for democratic digital rights, tweeted on Wednesday that the proposal “extends government powers for vague reasons” and contains no “meaningful reform”.
India’s Telecoms Act 2022 is still in its infancy, with amendments or complete scrapping still possible. But its mere introduction provides another example of the Indian government showing illiberal tendencies that go against the stated principles of Western tech companies.
In 2019, Indian officials introduced a bill that would give the government “broad powers to store, use and control the large amounts of data it has collected on its citizens, including fingerprints and iris scans.” New York Times reported. Indian lawmakers tabled the bill in August amid backlash from privacy advocates and tech giants, although government leaders said a new proposal is imminent.
Last year, the Indian government ordered Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to censor about 100 posts, including some by high-profile Indian figures who merely criticized Modi’s government and political party. The three platforms met the demand, although some of the posts outside of India remained.
And on Sunday, a new regulation comes into effect that requires operators of virtual private networks, or VPNs, to collect personal information about users and make it available to the government upon request. In response, several companies offering VPN services have ceased operations in India, and Swiss company Proton announced on Thursday that it will be joining the list.
“It will have a deterrent effect. It’s really sad that the world’s largest democracy is going this route,” said Proton CEO Andy Yen Wall Street Journal.
If Modi’s government continues down this path, more tech companies will have to decide whether a moral tradeoff is worth entering India’s path to wealth.
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No more metamates? Meta is aim for a 10% reduction in company-wide costs over the coming months, a reaction to this year’s slowdown in revenue growth, which is mainly driven by increasing competition from TikTok Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. The Facebook and Instagram parent company doesn’t plan to announce layoffs immediately, but the company’s executives are pushing out employees by restructuring departments and forcing employees to apply for new roles. Meta is also expected to cut consultant and overhead expenses to meet its goal.
head in the clouds. those of the United Kingdom The Communications Supervisor is investigating if Amazon, Microsoftand Google violate competition laws through their dominance in the cloud computing market financial times reported Thursday. Regulator Ofcom said it would “study the strength of competition in cloud services in general” and the around 80% market share in the UK owned by the three companies. Among other things, Ofcom officials could take enforcement action or recommend rule changes if they find breaches of competition rules.
A dark day in Iran. The Iranian government has restricted access to Instagram and WhatsApp amid a wave of anti-government protests over the killing of a 22-year-old woman in police custody. The decision to block access to the two websites coincided with a broader internet shutdown across Iran, where protesters across the country have clashed with police. Meta-own Instagram and WhatsApp are the only two global social media platforms still available in Iran.
A crypto successor. octopus chairman Jess Powell plans resign from his post in the near future, ending an 11-year career at the company he co-founded and helped build one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges. Powell has served as a high-profile advocate for cryptocurrency adoption, though his libertarian views on workplace culture and political issues have angered some employees. Powell, who plans to remain Kraken’s chairman, will step down from his role once a replacement is found for the company’s new chief executive, the current COO David Ripley.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
He has an ear for that. Apple chairman Tim cook needs some heartache for failing to deliver revolutionary technology on par with the original iPhone, but a Bloomberg BusinessWeek The feature published Thursday argues that such criticism overlooks the AirPods’ understated brilliance. While Apple doesn’t disclose sales figures for the wireless headphones, industry estimates put the company sold a staggering 120 million pairs of AirPods last year. If true, that would mean AirPods account for about half of sales in Apple’s wearables, home and accessories division, the company’s fastest-growing category. (Also: Props for work week Illustrator for the cover of the magazine showing a Parka-clad Cook making snow angels in AirPods.)
Of the article:
AirPods are fragile, have just about decent bass, and look like the result of a horrific Q-Tip accident. They clog easily with earwax, get lost in subway grates or sofa cushions, and — in at least a handful of cases — are swallowed during the wearer’s sleep.
But even if you don’t take them, your AirPods will need to be replaced every few years because their lithium-ion batteries can’t be removed once they’ve run their course. While Apple said newer versions use more recycled materials, AirPods remain costly for both the environment and our wallets, especially when compared to the wired EarPods that have come free with the company’s products for the past two decades. And yet, as anyone who has been in the public eye lately can attest, people love her.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
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Web3 development is isolated. QuickNode wants to change thatby Leo Schwartz
Tesla is recalling nearly 1.1 million vehicles that fail to detect finger pinching in automatic windowsfrom Associated Press
The flying car company backed by Google co-founder Larry Page is shutting downby Mark Bergen, Julie Johnsson and Bloomberg
Microsoft: “Using technology to spy on people at work is not the solution”by Jared Spataro
BEFORE YOU GO
rolls in the grave. The world never knew LG‘s expandable smartphone, but at least now we know what we were missing. Engadget reported Wednesday that a South Korean tech reviewer got his hands open LG’s ill-fated Rollable, a phone-shaped device that expands into a small tablet, and posted a video of the shelved product on YouTube. LG had high hopes for the rollable, teasing its arrival in January 2021, but the South Korean conglomerate went out of business just three months later after failing to gain a significant foothold. While the rollable had its issues, including a screen with some flaws, an 11-minute hands-on video by BullsLab shows how cool it could have been.