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Daily News Roundup: Google Bans Touchpal App Dev from the Play Store

Google has banned CooTek, the developer behind the Touchpal keyboard and hundreds of other apps, from its ad network and the Play store. CooTek had a history of disruptive ads in its apps, that displayed even after users closed the app.

It was only a month ago that security firm Lookout discovered CooTek’s terrible app practices. CooTek loaded disruptive apps in hundreds of apps that could pop up even when users close the app. The ads were so prevalent they could render the phone unusable.

CookTek developers injected the ads with a BeiTaAd plugin and made an effort to hide what they were doing, even pausing the ads for a day or two after the app was first installed. By holding off on the ads, you might blame a newer installed app instead.

After Lookout reported its findings to Google, the offending apps were removed from the Play Store. CooTek apologized, promised to stop the practice, and uploaded “clean copies” of the apps, with the ad code removed.

While it’s true the company removed the BeiTaAd plugin, Lookout discovered the apps still could display equally disruptive ads. And again, CooTek made an effort to disguise what it was doing. Lookout reported its new findings to Google, who investigated and confirmed the presence of new code to load disruptive ads.

Because of those discoveries, Google banned CooTek from both its ad platform and from publishing apps in the Play Store. In a statement to Buzzfeed, a Google spokesperson said: “Our Google Play developer policies strictly prohibit malicious and deceptive behavior, as well as disruptive ads. When violations are found, we take action.”  [The Verge]

In Other News:

  • Microsoft will auto-update older Windows 10 machines to the May 2019 Update: Last month, Microsoft said it planned automatically upgrade machines running older versions of Windows 10 to the May 2019 Update. Now the company is moving forward with that plan, starting with a slow rollout of the upgrade process. [Microsoft]
  • Apple may fund original podcasts: Spotify and other podcasting companies have been busy funding original (and therefore exclusive) podcats. Now Apple may be jumping into the fray. Bloomberg cites “sources” who claimed Apple reached out to express interest in buying exclusive rights to podcasts. Apple does have a podcast app, so exclusives to drive usage is a sensible move. [Bloomberg]
  • Google Maps now shows bike-sharing stations worldwide: About a year ago, Google Maps began showing bike-sharing station locations in New York City. Now the company is expanding that service in 23 cities across the world, from Barcelona to Zurich. Users can find the closest station, whether to pick up a bike or drop one off. [VentureBeat]
  • Tesla raises Full-Self Driving option by $1000: Tesla offers a Full-Self Driving option add-on you can purchase with its already expensive car. The option doesn’t do anything, as Full-Self driving (or Level 5 Self-Drive) is a dream of the future. Starting in August, that promise of a dream will increase by $1000, to a total cost of $7000. [Ars Technica]
  • Nintendo upgrades the processor in the Switch for longer battery life: When Nintendo announced the Switch Light, it included a better processor than the original Switch used. Now Nintendo is bringing that processor to an upgraded version of the original Switch. Pricing remains the same, but the better processor adds 2 hours of battery life to the handheld — extra time for the tiny buttons to kill your thumbs. [ReviewGeek]
  • Apple is automatically patching latest Zoom vulnerability: In an update to the ongoing Zoom saga, Apple is patching the vulnerabilities in the RingCentral and Zhumu apps. The apps use Zoom’s software and are vulnerable to the same webcam hijacks Apple previously addressed. Apple’s updates are automatic and silent, so you don’t have to do anything to get the patch. [MacRumors]

When he’s not building cars, launching rockets, or drilling holes in the ground, Elon Musk is apparently researching brain implant technology.

His latest venture, Neuralink, came out of stealth mode last night to show off a new thread-like brain implant tech and a robot that sews it into your head. Scientists have been experimenting with brain-computer interfaces for some time, but the current technology is very invasive. The hope has been to solve brain disorders and better understand the human mind.

Neuralink wants to solve the invasive part and is working on thread-like chips that are between 4 and 6 μm thick, about a third the diameter of a human hair.

Eventually, the company would like to use a robot to implant the threads using lasers and to bury the threads deep into brain tissue. With such a small technology buried so deep, Neuralink thinks the threads will be capable of performing read and write operations at extremely high data volume.

Neuralink also wants to offer the technology to healthy people as well, to “achieve a sort of symbiosis with artificial intelligence.” No. Thank. You. [TechCrunch]