Big Tech’s unacceptable quality control crisis

From predatory loan sharks exploiting the naivety of regular users to creating an app to “auction” Muslim women, India’s digital landscape is currently in the midst of a quality control nightmare..

Consider trying to find a new game to download from your respective smartphone ecosystem store – only to be overwhelmed with so many options and revert to an old game on your device – that’s what saturation does. There is so much content to consume that we no longer know what to consume. This overpopulation of digital application spaces is exploited by crooks.

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Digital ecosystems are massively overpopulated

Apps in reputable digital marketplaces like Google Play and the Apple App Store are installed by average users without background checks. They may not know how to verify the veracity of an app (Google, for example, assigns badges to apps it deems safe) or are just in a rush to get the job done (this could be for something menial like scan an image or document).

Either way, it’s lottery time for crooks and hackers every time you install a potentially dangerous application that may not have obvious signs of maliciousness, but in the background this app can suck your private data as if its life depends on the same. – what he sort of does!

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What “Bulli Bai” apps and loan sharks tell us

The same thing happened when a few people thought that the illegal use of images of Muslim women and the creation of a metaphorical ‘auction’ of these women using Microsoft’s GitHub was sort of. acceptable.

Clearly no! Now, the three accused (including an 18-year-old girl) are currently in the custody of the authorities. It’s unclear how GitHub checks and rates the content of everything developers create on the platform, as this has happened twice on the developer-centric platform.

Read also : Deafening silence: what “Bulli Bai” and “Sulli Deals” tell us about the big tech giants

The first time an app called “Sulli Deals” wanted to auction Muslim women digitally, and its shameful successor “Bulli Bai” intended to do the same.

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Well-deserved public outrage may have kept the ball rolling this time around, but a lack of measures to enforce quality checks on reputable platforms like GitHub (owned by the world’s second-largest company by market value) highlights evidenced by the lack of concern that technology companies present for their users, especially if they are not in North America.

GitHub claims that it “is committed to respecting developer privacy and offers a high level of privacy protection to all of our developers and customers,” but doesn’t really explain how an app created to harass a certain community. ‘was found unharmed on the platform.

Loaners apps are another new in-app hell intensified by the ongoing pandemic, especially here in India. According to a Economic times report from June 2020, at least 50 apps around that time harassed their users endlessly, many leading others to suicide, which led to Google removing 400 of those apps from its Play Store in January 2021.

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Most of the loan sharks apps look legitimate and have names like Money Loan, Loan Paisa, Loan Udhaar, Go Cash, Money In Need, etc. – emulating the characteristics of a verified lender.

Amid high interest rates and endless harassment, delinquent debtors find themselves without a safety net when deadlines are missed. In many cases, such apps will resort to public mud in the hopes of getting their money back.

Like physical loan sharks, digital money lenders operate by attacking the vulnerable and those in dire need of financial assistance. While it may seem convenient at first, experiences like this turn into nightmares pretty quickly when due dates are missed. The aftermath of this unregulated incident led the Reserve Bank of India to draft new rules for digital lenders to ensure that moneylender apps don’t bite unsuspecting victims.

Lack of supervision

Whether it’s Facebook’s data breaches in the past or various usurers on Google Play or Microsoft / Github’s passive role in the Bulli Bai apps crisis, the lack of oversight has turned these digital bright spots into hot spots. gray where everything from user privacy to basic law and order is blatantly ignored.

While it is true that the government has a responsibility to put in place mechanisms to regulate technology companies before they operate as quasi-governments, it is also the responsibility of mega-companies to put in place security measures and quality control parameters before deploying a service for anyone with an Internet connection on their smartphone.

Read also : FB whistleblower Sophie Zhang on the social giant’s uncomfortable relationship with democracies

To be fair, it’s virtually impossible for tech companies to manually verify the security of every app available on their platforms. A rough estimate for 2021 says that 3,739 apps are added to the Google Play Store every day, or about 1,364,735 apps every year! What about third-party app stores and side-loading app destinations?

Such competition can be great for ensuring diversity and the development of better technologies, but this is precisely what is exploited by crooks to extract your personal data, which can then be illegally sold to buyers on the dark web. Once disclosed, there is no way to prevent crooks from using your personal data to carry out illegal activities.

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Google, for example, claims that “Google Play Protect checks apps when you install them. It also periodically scans your device. If it finds a potentially dangerous application, it can: Send you a notification / Disable the app until you uninstall it / Remove the app automatically. “

Apple also claims that its App Store is completely safe to use – “On iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, all apps are obtained from the App Store – and all apps are sandboxed – to provide the controls. more stringent. ” According to the company, “the sandbox helps protect user data from unauthorized access by applications.”

The Indian government has also banned the apps on several occasions. For example, a coterie of apps, including PUBG and TikTok, were banned in 2020, citing a threat to national security. But the move was not aimed at protecting the privacy and security of individual users, but rather attempted to stoke geopolitical fires.

How you can protect yourself

With no rigorous quality control mechanism in place, it is each user’s responsibility to maintain their privacy and data on the Internet..

As a user, there are a few rules you can follow to ensure your safety before downloading any new software to your devices.

To check if the apps are safe to download from Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store, you need to make sure to rate its review – if they all speak well of the app using the same set. in words, these reviews could be wrong.

Read also : Explained: why you should be wary of quick loan apps installed on your phone

On Google Play, find the Google Play Protect badge on apps before clicking download. On both platforms, be sure to read the app description carefully. A company that cares about its product would never write half-hearted and misleading descriptions.

Another indicator of the potential dangers of an app is the number of downloads. Last but not the least: always see what permissions the app needs! For example, if you download an inventory calculator app to your phone, it doesn’t need to have access to your files and call / message logs. You can limit app permissions by checking your phone settings and making sure apps only get what they offer.

Social media giants promise to boost women's online safety
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If you’re still worried about going through the installation, your best bet is to check out the developer’s page. Clicking on the link will redirect you to a web page error? It is a red flag that should not be ignored.

In the absence of unified quality control measures over digital properties, always being wary of what you put on your device will protect you from threats in the long run. From thieves to data miners to perverts, precaution is your best bet against the dangers of life online.

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