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Google Maps flooded with over 11 million fake listings

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With thousands of new fake accounts being added every month, Google Maps is flooded by about 11 million false listings and phone numbers that re-route to competing businesses.

The majority of businesses that are not at their listed locations and the ones most prone to these scams include contractors, repairman and car towing services, The Verge reported citing a study by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

They’re internally referred to as ‘duress verticals’ at Google, as they are companies people turn to in emergencies and typically without much time to verify the business’ credibility.

Though Google claims in a self-funded 2017 academic study that only 0.5% of local searches are false listings, a separate investigation by the WSJ suggested otherwise. The study found 13 of the top 20 Google search results listed false addresses and only two were real businesses that actually adhered to Google guidelines.

Though Google typically verifies if a business is legitimate by mailing a postcard, calling or emailing a numerical code to enter into a Google website, the system is easy enough for scammers to bypass with fake addresses and phone numbers, affecting real businesses as well as customers, the report added.

The report comes a day after the search engine giant announced that it is giving businesses more options to customize their company profiles on search and Maps through its My Business feature.

The company says it is working on new ways to report suspicious business profiles and directed people to report fraudulent activity on its Business Redressal Complaint Form.

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Facebook’s latest hire triggers speculation of new TikTok rival

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With Facebook roping in former Google employee Jason Toff for a key portfolio, speculation is rife about the social networking giant preparing the launch of a serious competitor to the short video-sharing app TikTok.

Toff, who earlier served as the General Manager for Twitter’s short-video sharing service Vine, has joined as Facebook’s Product Management Director to lead the company’s recently formed New Product Experimentation (NPE) team.

“I suppose it’s a good time to share what I’m up to next! In two weeks, I’ll be joining Facebook as a PM Director starting up a new initiative under the recently formed NPE team,” Toff announced on Twitter on Monday.

Announced last week, Facebook’s NPE team is aimed at developing experimental apps for consumers who are still slightly removed from the core Facebook brand.

In Google, Toff worked on Virtual Reality (VR) projects as well as on Google’s in-house Area 120 incubator — which is similar in concept to Facebook’s NPE team, The Verge reported.

While Toff said he could not reveal details of what he is working on, his Twitter post mentioned he is looking to hire a team of UX designers and engineers to work on the project.

The world’s largest social media platform last week announced that it will begin to launch new consumer-focused apps under the developer name “NPE Team, from Facebook.”

“NPE Team apps will be aligned with Facebook’s mission of giving people the power to build community but will focus on shipping entirely new experiences. We decided to use this separate brand name to help set the appropriate expectations with users that NPE Team apps will change very rapidly and will be shut down if we learn that they’re not useful to people,” Facebook said.

Owned by Beijing-based start-up ByteDance, TikTok saw its first-time installs grow about 28 per cent year-over-year for the first half of 2019 to nearly 344 million worldwide despite a two-week ban in India during Q2, revealed an estimate by mobile app intelligence firm Sensor Tower.

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Now, you can get discounts at restaurants through Google Maps

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Google Maps on Thursday introduced three new features for Indian users to help them discover local experiences and get recommendations that are personalised for better dining experience, including an “Offers” section to help users find deals and claim them at restaurants in 11 cities.

Users will be able to find deals and claim them at restaurants across Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune, Chennai, Kolkata, Goa, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Chandigarh and Hyderabad, Google said.

The “Offer” feature is being launched in partnership with Eazy Diner, where users can now find offers from over 4,000 restaurants, with more categories and partners coming soon, Google said.

To use this feature, users can simply tap the “Offers” shortcut in the “Explore” tab or filter for restaurants with offers.

Starting from Thursday, Google Maps users will get exclusive access to Eazy Diner Prime offers for 15 days, across over 1,500 restaurants, with a guaranteed discount of at least 25% on all of them, Google said.

The other two new features introduced by Google Maps include a redesigned, India-inspired “Explore” tab and a new “For You” experience.

“We’ve heard that Indian Maps users prefer a more assistive and visual browsing experience that is easy to access. To reflect this, we have a redesigned, India-focused Explore tab, the For You feature, and dining Offers,” said Krish Vitaldevara, Director, Google Maps.

“This will help Google Maps users discover a new side to their city, whether looking for things to do around town, getting offers on dining out, or getting recommendations that are personalized to their unique tastes,” Vitaldevara added.

The “Explore” tab has been a one-tap route to getting suggestions on dining, events, and things to do in the area being viewed in Google Maps.

Now, based on top queries and the way people interact with Google Maps in India, seven new shortcuts have been added to the Explore tab: restaurants, petrol pumps, ATMs, offers, shopping, hotels, and chemists. Using Machine Learning, Google Maps automatically identifies the top suggestions across these categories in every city.

Users can now explore popular neighbourhoods in their city by simply tapping the arrow beside “Explore Nearby” and making a selection. Apart from exploring their own city, users can also look up other Indian cities by searching the city name.

The ‘For You’ tab serves users information on new restaurants, trending places, and personalised recommendations tailored to their interests.

This feature also uses the ‘Your Match’ score, which uses Machine Learning to combine what Google Maps know about millions of places with the information a user has added like restaurants rated, cuisines liked, and places visited.

The first time a user launches this feature they can select areas/localities they are interested in, and get more personalized and relevant recommendations over time.

Users can now also follow a business and get relevant updates, news on events and stay on top of offers they post to the For You tab.

The “For You” tab offers a simple, assistive experience to help discover the city with a single tap — and it will continue to improve over time, Google said.

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Netflix whitelists OnePlus 7 series, Huawei P30 phones for HDR video support

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Netflix has quietly updated the list of smartphones which are compatible with HDR and HD videos on its platform. As expected, the HDR list includes the latest OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro phones. The list of phones with HD support is even longer and covers some of the recent mid-range phones and old generation phones.

Netflix’s list of HD compatible phones includes Samsung Galaxy A10, A20, A30, A40 and A50. It also features Google’s Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3a, Pixel 3a XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL. HDR is coming to Razer Phone 2, Huawei P30, Huawei P30 Pro, OnePlus 7, OnePlus 7 Pro and Honor Play.

To watch HD and above content, check your Netflix subscription plan. According to Netflix, users need internet connection speed of 25 megabits per second or higher and streaming quality set to high to stream in HD.

Netflix’s HDR support is now becoming a new feature in modern phones. Just earlier this month, OnePlus extensively marketed its partnership with Netflix and HDR10+ support on the OnePlus 7 Pro. Not just OnePlus, Xiaomi fans have long demanded HDR support on phones such as Poco F1.

The high definition support on a phone comes via Widevine license, a standard used by the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video to identify compatible phones.

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