Weekly Bytes | Instagram’s plan for recycled Reels, PhonePe and Google Pay top UPI apps’ list, and more

Here’s our curated list of important tech news from this week in byte size.

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Instagram’s algorithm to downplay recycled content on Reels

Instagram’s recommendation software will start downplaying Reels that are recycled from other apps like TikTok with visible logos or watermarks, The Verge reported. The Facebook-owned company is getting better at using ranking signals that help in predicting whether people will find a reel entertaining and whether the platform should recommend it, the report noted. A recent Instagram post on its creators’ account highlighted new best practices for users when posting Reels. It suggested users not post a Reel that is blurry, visibly recycled, uploaded with a border, or covered mostly by text. “These types of reels won’t be recommended as often to people who don’t yet follow you in places like Reels tab,” the post said. In another update, Instagram has rolled out a ‘recently deleted’ feature, allowing users to review and restore deleted posts.

PhonePe and Google Pay top the list of UPI apps

Payment wallets PhonePe and Google Pay topped the list of UPI apps with the highest volume of transactions in January, according to data by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI). Paytm secured the third position with more than 330 million transactions. WhatsApp Pay slipped to the 21st position with half a million transactions last month. Facebook-owned WhatsApp’s payments service secured the 19th position with about 0.8 million transactions in December last year. WhatsApp introduced the payments service in November last year, following approval by the NPCI after a wait that extended for more than two years. It had started testing its UPI-based payments system in 2018. In another development, digital lending platforms in India have come under greater scrutiny recently for their methods, including the collection and alleged misuse of borrowers’ data.

NASA pilots the use of Fitbit to help prevent spread of COVID-19

NASA astronauts and employees will be using Fitbit devices as part of a pilot programme that aims to use Fitbit in-app daily check-in and symptom logging to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 while also supporting the overall health and well-being of the employees, a Fitbit release noted. The Google-owned company said there is evidence that resting heart rate data and other key health indicators from wearables have the potential to identify flu-like illness such as COVID-19 before symptoms emerge. As part of the pilot program, 1,000 NASA employees performing mission-critical work at six locations across the U.S. will receive Fitbit Charge 4 devices and access to Fitbit’s Ready for Work Daily Check-In experience, it added. Last month, Google had completed its $2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit, a deal that could help the internet company grow even stronger.

Adobe Reader’s critical flaw exploited to target Windows users

A critical vulnerability in Adobe Reader has been exploited in the wild in limited attacks targeting users on Windows, according to an Adobe security bulletin post. Adobe said it has released security updates to address critical and important vulnerabilities for Adobe Acrobat and Reader for Windows and macOS. “Successful exploitation could lead to arbitrary code execution in the context of the current user,” it added. Adobe Acrobat and Reader DC, 2020, and 2017 have been affected, as per the post. The software company has categorised the updates with priority 1 rating, and recommends Windows and macOS users to update their software to the latest version as soon as possible. In another development, hackers are using Morse code to launch phishing attack.

Microsoft and ECB’s partnership

Microsoft and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have announced a partnership to drive transformational change across the cricketing community, powered by technology, the software giant noted in a blog post. It will initially focus on three areas: high performance, cricket communities and cultural transformation. The Redmond-based company said the partnership will also explore how innovative use of technologies like AI, real-time data and analytics can improve the performance of England teams, and how ball-tracking technology can help to unearth the next generation of elite cricketers. Also, at cricket’s grassroots, digital skills training will be delivered to people across local cricketing communities as part of Microsoft’s “Get On 2021” campaign, it added. In another update, according to a Microsoft survey, Indians had better online experiences in 2020 with teenagers driving the positive change.

SpaceX’s Starlink plans to offer phone, emergency services

SpaceX’s Starlink service plans to offer phone and emergency services, and has filed a petition to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier, according to an FCC document. Starlink Services will provide voice telephony services, including voice-grade access to the public switched telephone network or its functional equivalent; minutes of use for local service provided at no additional charge to end-users; access to emergency services; and toll limitation services to qualifying low-income consumers, the document noted. The aerospace company has launched over 1000 Starlink satellites till date, and had started its public beta program in October, which according to SpaceX, now has over 10,000 users globally. This week, ISRO and MapmyIndia announced an initiative to partner together to take on Google Maps and Earth.

(With inputs from Sowmya Ramasubramanian)

You can read more at thehindu.com/technology

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