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Facebook employees allowed to work from home until July 2021

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Facebook has joined Google in saying it will allow employees to work from home until the middle of next year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Based on guidance from health and government experts, as well as decisions drawn from our internal discussions about these matters, we are allowing employees to continue voluntarily working from home until July 2021,” a spokeswoman told the Reuters news agency.

Facebook also said it will provide employees with an additional $1,000 to spend on “home office needs.”

Late last month Google also extended its coronavirus remote work provision, saying staff would be able to continue working from home until the end of June 2021.

Both tech giants have major office presences in a number of cities around the world. And despite the pandemic forcing them into offering more flexible working arrangements than they usually do, the pair have continued to build out their physical office footprints, signaling a commitment to operating their own workplaces.

Earlier this month, Facebook secured the main office lease on an iconic building in New York, for example — adding 730,000 square feet to its existing 2.2 million square feet of office space. Google has continued to push ahead with a flagship development in the U.K. capital’s King’s Cross area, with work resuming last month on the site for its planned London “landscraper” HQ.

In late July, Apple said staff won’t return to offices until at least early 2021 — cautioning that any return to physical offices would depend on whether an effective vaccine and/or successful therapeutics are available. So the iPhone maker looks prepared for a home-working coronavirus long haul.

As questions swirl over the future of the physical office now that human contact is itself a public health risk, the deepest pocketed tech giants are paradoxically showing they’re not willing to abandon the traditional workplace altogether and go all in on modern technologies that allow office work to be done remotely.

Twitter is an exception. During the first wave of the pandemic the social network firmly and fully embraced remote work, telling staff back in May that they can work from home forever if they wish.

Whether remote work played any role in the company’s recent account breach is one open question. It has said phone spear phishing was used to trick staff to gain network access credentials.

Certainly, security concerns have been generally raised about the risk of more staff working remotely during the pandemic — where they may be outside a corporate firewall and more vulnerable to attackers.

A Facebook spokeswoman did not respond when we asked whether the company will offer its own staff the option to work remotely permanently. But the company does not appear prepared to go so far — not least judging by signing new leases on massive office spaces.

Facebook has been retooling its approach to physical offices in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, announcing in May it would be setting up new company hubs in Denver, Dallas and Atlanta.

It also said it would focus on finding new hires in areas near its existing offices — including in cities such as San Diego, Portland, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said then that over the course of the next decade half of the company could be working fully remotely. Though he said certain kinds of roles would not be eligible for all-remote work — such as those doing work in divisions like hardware development, data centers, recruiting, policy and partnerships.

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Paytm has been removed from the Google Play Store

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Paytm is back hours after it was banned from Google Play for violating the platform’s rules for content. Paytm is now again listed on Google Play, the company tweeted. However, the Paytm First Games app has not been restored at the time of writing.

Earlier today, Paytm was removed from Google Play. The app was removed because of the addition of the fantasy cricket tournament that the company recently included, which violates Google Play policies, the search giant confirmed. The Paytm app for iOS is still available for download through Apple App Store. In addition to the Paytm app, Google Play has pulled the Paytm First Games app that also included the same fantasy cricket features with real money betting.

The Google Play listing of the Paytm app is showing an error that reads, “We’re sorry, the requested URL was not found on this server.” Users on Android devices are also not able to download the app from the preloaded Google Play. However, existing users who have the app already installed on their devices can continue to use the mobile wallet and other services provided by the company.

At the time Paytm posted a tweet to confirm that the app will be restored very shortly, and reassured users that their money is safe.

Alongside the Paytm app, Paytm First Games is also no longer available for download through Google Play.

Earlier on Friday, Google posted a blog post that highlighted its gambling policy that doesn’t allow app developers to facilitate sports betting. This was a feature that was provided by Paytm through the recently announced fantasy cricket tournament.

“We don’t allow online casinos or support any unregulated gambling apps that facilitate sports betting. This includes if an app leads consumers to an external website that allows them to participate in paid tournaments to win real money or cash prizes, it is a violation of our policies,” Google said in its blog post. It confirmed that this was the reason for removing the Paytm app.

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U.S. Bans TikTok, WeChat from App Stores Amid China Concerns

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Washington — The Trump administration said Friday it would bar the Chinese-owned mobile apps WeChat and TikTok from U.S. app stores as of midnight Sunday, a significant escalation in America’s tech fight with China that takes aim at two popular services used by more than 100 million people in the United States.

In a series of moves designed to render WeChat essentially useless within the United States, the government will also ban American companies from processing transactions for WeChat or hosting its internet traffic.

Similar restrictions will also go into effect for TikTok on Nov. 12 unless the company can assuage the administration’s concerns that the popular social media app poses a threat to U.S. national security. TikTok, which is owned by China’s ByteDance, is currently in talks with Oracle about a deal that could transfer some control to the American software maker. The Commerce Department said the prohibitions could be lifted if TikTok resolves the administration’s national security concerns by the November deadline.

The actions follow an Aug. 6 executive order in which President Trump argued that TikTok and WeChat collect data from American users that could be retrieved by the Chinese government. The administration has threatened fines of up to $1 million and up to 20 years in prison for violations of the order.

TikTok, which does not directly operate in China, has become a wildly popular platform for sharing viral videos in the United States. WeChat is at the center of digital life in China, functioning as a chat app, a payment platform and a news source. It is a vital source of connection for the global Chinese diaspora, but also a conduit for Chinese propaganda and surveillance.

Friday’s move is the latest tangible sign that the global internet, which once promised to break down political borders and connect the planet’s citizens, is fracturing, driven by nationalism and security fears.

People in China, the world’s most populous nation, can’t use the world’s most popular products, including Google, Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp. Soon, Americans won’t be able to use WeChat. And even TikTok, perhaps China’s most successful digital export, is now under threat in the United States and has already been banned in India.

TikTok spokesman Josh Gartner said in a statement that the company was disappointed in the Commerce Department’s decision.

“We will continue to challenge the unjust executive order, which was enacted without due process and threatens to deprive the American people and small businesses across the U.S. of a significant platform for both a voice and livelihoods,” he said.

Tencent Holdings, which owns WeChat, called the rules “unfortunate” and said it would “continue to discuss with the government and other stakeholders in the U.S. ways to achieve a long-term solution.”

Oracle did not respond to a request for comment.

While the government is ordering a ban on the apps, it will largely be up to Apple and Google — which make the software that backs nearly all the world’s smartphones — to remove the apps from their stores. The two companies could face civil or criminal penalties for failing to comply with the new rules.

Apple and Google did not respond to requests for comment. Both have said in the past that they comply with the local laws in each country they serve.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, in an interview on Fox Business Network on Friday morning, said that the ban would initially have a much greater impact on WeChat.

“For all practical purposes it will be shut down in the U.S., but only in the U.S., as of midnight Monday,” Mr. Ross said.

TikTok would also face some changes, but would still be allowed to function until Nov. 12, Mr. Ross said, at which point it would face a ban if there was no deal that satisfied the administration’s concerns.

“As to TikTok, the only real change as of Sunday night will be users won’t have access to improved updated apps, upgraded apps or maintenance,” he said.

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