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For the first time, Apple has published the number of requests it’s received from governments to take down apps from its app store.

In its latest transparency report published Tuesday, the tech giant said it received 80 requests from 11 countries to remove 634 apps from its localized app stores during July 1 and December 31, 2018.

Apple didn’t list the apps that were removed but noted in most cases why the apps were pulled. China made up the bulk of the requests, seeking to remove 517 apps claiming they violated its gambling and pornography laws. Vietnam and Austria also requested the takedown of several apps which violated its gambling laws, while Kuwait asked Apple to pull some apps that fell foul of its privacy laws.

Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Lebanon were among the countries that requested the removal of some apps, along with The Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland.

The move comes more than a year after the company promised to publish the figures starting with this latest transparency report.

Apple said it will in a future transparency report — slated for mid-2020 — will report on appeals received in response to government demands to remove apps from the company’s localized app stores.

The tech giant also for the first time posted several national security letters it received permission to publish.

National security letters (NSLs) are controversial subpoenas issued by the FBI with no judicial oversight and often with a gag order preventing the company from disclosing their existence. Since the introduction of the Freedom Act in 2015, the FBI was required to periodically review the gag orders and lift them when they were no longer deemed necessary.

Apple first revealed it received an NSL in 2017 but never published the document. In its latest transparency report, the company finally published the letter — along with four others from 2018 which had the gag order lifted in April and May 2019.

As for the rest of the report, most of the government demands went down during the six-month period compared to the previous reporting period.

Apple said it received 29,183 demands from governments — down almost 10 percent on the last reporting period — to access 213,737 devices in the second half of last year.

Germany issued the most legal demands for the six-month period ending December 2018 with 12,343 requests for 19,380 devices. Apple said the large number of requests were primarily due to police investigating stolen devices.

The U.S. was in a distant second place with 4,680 demands for 19,318 devices.

Apple also received 4,875 requests for account data, such as information stored in iCloud — up by 16 percent on the previous reporting period — affecting 22,503 accounts.

The tech giant also saw a rise in the number of government requests to preserve data for up to three months. Apple said it received 1,823 requests, up by 15 percent, affecting 5,553 accounts, during which law enforcement sought to obtain the appropriate orders to access the data.


TechCrunch

Oh, Bixby. Samsung made big promises and some key acquisitions ahead of its launch. But the company’s smart assistant got off to a rocky start and has had trouble making a name for itself in amongst a sea of competitors ever since. 

Third-party integration has long been one of the categories in which Samsung has promised to truly distinguish Bixby. Back in November, the company announced that it would finally be opening the assistant up to third-party developers with the release of Bixby Developer Studio. Those developers finally began to deliver on the promises of the company’s Viv Labs acquisition.

Bixby Marketplace main2

The launch of Bixby Marketplace is the next step in the process. Now vendors can make their Bixby integrated services (or “capsules”) available to users. The store opens today in the U.S. and Spain, launching with a handful of key apps, including Google Maps, Spotify, iHeartRadio, NPR and Yelp.

That’s a good start, but attracting a critical mass of developers is always the hard part of getting these things off the ground. On the upside, Bixby’s already available on a LOT of devices, when you factor in all of Samsung’s flagships from the last few years. And that number is slowly but surely growing as the company integrates it into additional appliances, TVs and the like. Though the company hasn’t done itself any favors with the still MIA Galaxy Home speakers.


TechCrunch

Good news: Apple now allows you to download bigger apps over a cellular connection than it used to.

Bad news: there’s still a cap, and you still can’t bypass it.

As noticed by 9to5Mac, the iOS App Store now lets you download apps up to 200 MB in size while on a cell network; anything bigger than that, and you’ll need to connect to WiFi. Before this change, the cap was 150 MB.

And if you’ve got an unlimited (be it actually unlimited or cough-cough-‘unlimited’) plan, or if you know you’ve got enough monthly data left to cover a big download, or you just really, really need a certain big app and WiFi just isn’t available? You’re still out of luck. That 200 MB cap hits everyone. People have found tricky, fleeting workarounds to bypass the cap over the years, but there’s no official “Yeah, yeah, the app is huge, I know.” button to click or power user setting to toggle.

The App Store being cautious about file size isn’t inherently a bad thing; with many users only getting an allotment of a couple gigs a month, a few accidental downloads over the cell networks can eat up that data quick. But it really does suck to open up an app you need and find it’s requiring some update that exceeds the cap, only to realize you’re nowhere near a friendly WiFi network. At least give us the choice, you know?

On the upside, most developers seem to be pretty aware of the cap; they’ll hack and slash their app install package until it squeaks under the limit, even if it means downloading more stuff through the app itself post-install. Now, at least, they’ve got 50 more megabytes of wiggle room to start with.


TechCrunch


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