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Alphabet to shut Google+ social site after user data exposed
Google+ launched in 2011 as the advertising giant grew more concerned about competition from Facebook. — Reuters pic SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 9 ― Alphabet Inc's Google will shut down the consumer version of its failed social network Google+ and tighten its data sharing policies after announcing yesterday that private profile data of at least 500,000 users may have been exposed to hundreds of external developers.The issue was discovered and patched in March as part of a review of how Google shares data with other applications, Google said in a blog post. No developer exploited the vulnerability or misused data, the review found.Shares of its parent company Alphabet closed down 1 per cent at US$1155.92 (RM4,809.24) following the latest in a run of privacy issues to hit big US tech companies.The Wall Street Journal reported  earlier that Google opted not to disclose the security issue due to fears of regulatory scrutiny, citing unnamed sources and a memo prepared by Google's legal and policy staff for senior executives.Google feared disclosure would invite comparison to Facebook Inc's leak of user information to data firm Cambridge Analytica, the Journal reported, adding that Chief Executive Sundar Pichai had been briefed on the issue. Google declined to comment beyond its blog post.Google said yesterday none of the thresholds it requires to disclose a breach were met after reviewing the type of data involved, whether it could identify the users to inform, establish any evidence of misuse, and whether there were any actions a developer or user could take to protect themselves.Security and privacy experts and financial analysts questioned the decision.“Users have the right to be notified if their information could have been compromised,” said Jacob Lehmann, managing director at legal firm Friedman CyZen. “This is a direct result of the scrutiny that Facebook dealt with regarding the Cambridge Analytica scandal.”Facebook challengerGoogle+ launched in 2011 as the advertising giant grew more concerned about competition from Facebook, which could pinpoint ads to users based on data they had shared about their friends, likes and online activity.Google+ copied Facebook with status updates and news feeds and let people organise their groups of friends into what it calls “circles.”But Google+ and the company's other experiments with social media struggled to win over users because of complicated features and privacy mishaps.Facebook introduced a feature that allowed users to connect their accounts with their profiles on dating, music and other apps.Google followed suit, letting outside developers access some Google+ data with users' permission. The bug disclosed yesterday, introduced in a software update, exposed private data including name, email address, occupation, gender and age, Google said. It could not definitely say how many users were affected because it said it keeps only two weeks of such records.Google+ will remain an internal networking option for organizations that buy Google's G Suite, a bundle of apps for creating documents, spreadsheets and presentations.Google's plan to withdraw the free version of Google+, scheduled for August, could help strengthen its case to US policymakers and regulators that it is different from Facebook, which has faced political heat over allegations that data belonging to 87 million of its users was improperly shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.Google refused to send Pichai to a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on September 5, where Facebook's chief operating officer and Twitter Inc's chief executive testified. An empty chair was left for Google after the committee rejected Google’s top lawyer as a witness.Several policies Google introduced on Monday are designed to curb the data accessible to developers offering mobile apps on the Google Play store or add-on apps for sending and organizing Gmail messages.Play Store apps will no longer be allowed to access text message and call logs unless they are the default calling or texting app on a user's device or have an exception from Google.Gmail add-ons available to consumers starting next year will be barred from selling user data and be subject to a third-party security assessment that will cost them about US$15,000 to US$75,000, Google said.Such moves could strengthen Google by making it harder for competing services to grow off its data, said Chris Messina, a designer who worked on Google+ before leaving in 2013. “In 2011, you wanted casual, scrappy developers creating apps, and now it is going to require a professional class that is serious. The walls are going up.” ― Reuters [...]
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Instagram ramps up battle against bullying
Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Instagram logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. — Reuters pic SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 10 — Instagram yesterday added more weapons to battle cyber bullying, using artificial intelligence to scan photos for abusive content at the Facebook-owned service.The move comes after Facebook also increased anti-harassment measures, following a survey which said young victims of online abuse feel social media firms aren’t doing enough to fight the problem.Instagram chief Adam Mosseri said artificial intelligence is being used to detect signs of bullying and then automatically flag content for review by staff from the image-oriented social network.“This change will help us identify and remove significantly more bullying,” Mosseri said in a blog post.“It’s a crucial next step since many people who experience or observe bullying don’t report it.”Rolling the technology out across the entire social network is expected to take a few weeks.In another move, a filter that enables Instagram users to detect and hide bullying remarks from Instagram feeds or profiles was extended to comments on live videos, according to Mosseri.In the spirit of inspiring people to be nice to one another, Instagram also added a camera effect which can be used to adorn images with hearts or the word “kindness” in a variety of languages.“Online bullying is complex, and we know we have more work to do to further limit bullying and spread kindness on Instagram,” Mosseri said.Last week Facebook said its users will be able to hide or delete groups of comments, including responses, instead of having to remove them one at a time.The network also began letting people report bullying or harassment on behalf of friends reluctant to complain to the social network themselves.A majority of US teenagers say they have been victims of online harassment or bullying, most commonly name-calling, a Pew Research Centre survey found in September.It said that 59 per cent of US teens reported online abuse, and 63 per cent said it was a major problem for people their age.The survey found that most young harassment victims feel that teachers, social media firms and politicians are doing a poor or fair job in addressing the problem of cyber bullying — an issue which has drawn the attention of US First Lady Melania Trump and Britain’s Prince William. — AFP [...]
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‘Pokemon Go’ players will choose locations starting in South Korea, Brazil
Experienced ‘Pokemon Go’ users will be able to nominate new locations to be used in their game and ‘Ingress’. — Picture courtesy of Niantic Labs TOKYO, Sept 14 — Breakout mobile game Pokémon Go is inviting its playing community to choose where some of its new real-world focal points will be.Players will be able to propose new PokéStop locations as part of a nomination system coming to Pokémon Go.At its introduction, the PokéStop Nomination Beta will be limited to Level 40 players in Brazil and South Korea, Pokémon Go developer Niantic Labs specified in a September 12 announcement.Users with child accounts are excluded from the program, while Niantic is encouraging players to look for public and safely accessible places that have historical, educational, architecturally or artistic value, as well as transportation hubs, parks, places of worship and libraries.An earlier location-based game from Niantic, Ingress, was developed during the studio’s time as an internal startup at Google. Qualifying players have been able to submit their own Ingress portals since 2016.Ingress players are also encouraged to rate proposed portal locations submitted in this way, making the sourcing and review process a community-managed affair, incentivised and overseen by the game studio.Similarly, new Pokémon Go PokéStop locations will also be funneled into the Operation Portal Recon ratings queue, Niantic said. — AFP-Relaxnews [...]
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Facebook says it was ‘too slow’ to fight hate speech in Myanmar
More than 1,000 examples of hate speech about the Rohingya and other Muslims were still online as of last week, including posts comparing them to dogs and maggots. ― Reuters pic YANGON, Aug 16 — Facebook has been “too slow” to address hate speech in Myanmar and is acting to remedy the problem by hiring more Burmese speakers and investing in technology to identify problematic content, the company said in a statement today.The acknowledgement came a day after a Reuters investigation showed why the company has failed to stem a wave of vitriolic posts about the minority Rohingya.Some 700,000 Rohingya fled their homes last year after an army crackdown that the United States denounced as ethnic cleansing. The Rohingya now live in teeming refugee camps in Bangladesh.“The ethnic violence in Myanmar is horrific and we have been too slow to prevent misinformation and hate speech on Facebook,” Facebook said.The Reuters story revealed the social media giant for years dedicated scant resources to combating hate speech in Myanmar, which is a market it dominates and where there have been repeated eruptions of ethnic violence.In early 2015, for instance, there were only two people at Facebook who could speak Burmese monitoring problematic posts.In today’s statement, posted online, Facebook said it was using tools to automatically detect hate speech and hiring more Burmese-language speakers to review posts, following up on a pledge made by founder Mark Zuckerberg to US senators in April.The company said that it had over 60 “Myanmar language experts” in June and plans to have at least 100 by the end of the year.Reuters found more than 1,000 examples of posts, comments, images and videos denigrating and attacking the Rohingya and other Muslims that were on the social media platform as of last week.Some of the material, which included pornographic anti-Muslim images, has been up on Facebook for as long as six years.There are numerous posts that call the Rohingya and other Muslims dogs and rapists, and urge they be exterminated.Facebook currently doesn’t have a single employee in Myanmar, relying instead on an outsourced, secretive operation in Kuala Lumpur — called Project Honey Badger — to monitor hate speech and other problematic posts, the Reuters investigation showed.Because Facebook’s systems struggle to interpret Burmese script, the company is heavily dependent on users reporting hate speech in Myanmar.Researchers and human rights activists say they have been warning Facebook for years about how its platform was being used to spread hatred against the Rohingya and other Muslims in Myanmar.In its statement today, Facebook said it had banned a number of Myanmar hate figures and organisations from the platform. — Reuters [...]
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Twitter puts curbs on far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones
Picture showing a computer screen displaying the Twitter account of Far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones taken on August 15, 2018 in Washington DC. — AFP pic MICHIGAN, Aug 16 — Twitter said yesterday it was putting curbs on the account of far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones after he called on his supporters to take up “battle rifles” to fight internet censorship.The social network’s move affected the personal account of Jones, who operates the Infowars website, which has disputed the veracity of the September 11 attacks, the Sandy Hook school massacre and other events.Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey told NBC News that “we put him in a timeout,” which resulted in “removing his ability to tweet for a time period.”Dorsey, who had previously rejected calls to ban Jones and Infowars, said the move was “consistent” with Twitter’s policies and that a suspension “makes someone think about their actions.”According to a Twitter email to AFP, Jones’s account is not suspended but “has limited functionality,” as part of an enforcement effort that requires tweets violating Twitter rules to be deleted.Media reports said Jones’s account was in read-only mode for seven days, allowing him to browse but not to tweet or retweet.Dorsey told the Washington Post in a separate interview that Twitter was looking at a broader review of how it handles misinformation and abusive conduct on the platform, possibly including the labeling of automated accounts or “bots.”“The most important thing that we can do is we look at the incentives that we’re building into our product,” Dorsey told the newspaper.“Because they do express a point of view of what we want people to do — and I don’t think they are correct anymore.”Jones claims ‘censorship’ Jones said in a video message late Tuesday that Twitter was “suspending, and may shut down completely” his account.Jones claimed that the move came “because I violated rules in a video that I shot last night saying that Trump should do something about the censorship of the internet.”In a video on Monday on Twitter-owned Periscope, Jones told his supporters “it’s time to act on the enemy before they do a false flag... So, people need to have their battle rifles and everything ready at their bedsides and you got to be ready because the media is so disciplined in their deception.”His Infowars account on Twitter was not affected, and was actively tweeting about the move yesterday.Infowars tweeted that the suspension “comes after an intense and obsessive campaign by a CNN reporter who appears to be spending every waking hour trying to get Jones banned.”Apple, Facebook, Spotify and YouTube have all banned Jones on the grounds that he engages in hate speech.Dorsey drew criticism last week for continuing to allow Jones to use the platform, arguing that he had not broken Twitter’s rules.Among the conspiracy theories Jones has peddled are charges that the US government was behind numerous terrorist attacks, including the September 11, 2001 strikes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.Several days ago, Facebook removed four videos Jones posted that the group said violated its policy on hate speech.Jones responded by posting more content on other pages, prompting the social media giant to suspend his four main pages.Facebook stressed that it was the violent language used by Jones, rather than his conspiracy theories, that prompted the move. — AFP [...]
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Apple says it is monitoring Infowars app for content violations
Alex Jones from Infowars.com speaks during a rally in support of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump near the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio July 18, 2016. — Reuters pic LOS ANGELES, Aug 9 — Apple Inc said yesterday that an app belonging to popular conspiracy theorist Alex Jones remains in the company’s mobile App Store because it has not been found to be in violation of any content policies.The Infowars Official app has become the App Store’s third most-downloaded news app this week after Apple removed access on Sunday to some of Jones’ podcasts from its digital store. Apple had said the podcasts violated the company’s rules against hate speech.The company had not explained why the app remained available until issuing a statement yesterday.“We strongly support all points of view being represented on the App Store, as long as the apps are respectful to users with differing opinions, and follow our clear guidelines, ensuring the App Store is a safe marketplace for all,” Apple told Reuters in a statement.Jones’ podcasts differed from the Infowars app in a key way. The podcast app allowed access to an extensive list of previous episodes, subjecting all of those past episodes to Apple’s content rules.The Infowars app contains only rebroadcasts of the current day’s episodes, subjecting a much smaller set of content to the rules. Apple said it regularly monitors all apps for content violations.“We continue to monitor apps for violations of our guidelines and if we find content that violates our guidelines and is harmful to users we will remove those apps from the store as we have done previously,” Apple said.Google parent Alphabet Inc, Facebook Inc and Spotify Technology SA also removed some content this week that had been produced by Jones. Google has not said why the Infowars app, which offers live streams and articles, was not removed in its app store as part of the actions.Twitter has drawn public outcry for not removing Jones’ account. The company is responding by expediting a review of its content policies, according to an internal email that Chief Executive Jack Dorsey shared on Twitter yesterday.The message noted that Twitter would have taken action against Jones had he posted the same content on its service as he had on Facebook and YouTube. — Reuters [...]
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India panel wants localisation of cloud storage data in possible blow to big tech firms
The logo of Infosys is pictured inside the company’s headquarters in Bengaluru April 13, 2017. — Reuters pic NEW DELHI, Aug 4 — A panel working on the Indian government’s cloud computing policy wants data generated in India to be stored within the country, according to its draft report seen by Reuters, a proposal that could deal a blow to global technology giants such as Amazon and Microsoft who offer such services.It could not only raise their costs because they will need to ramp up the number and size of data storage centres in India, where power costs remain high, but at least some of those increases are likely to be passed onto customers who include everyone from small start-ups to large Indian corporations.The policy will be the latest in a series of proposals that seek to spur data localisation in India, as the government finalizes an overarching data protection law. Local data storage requirements for digital payments and e-commerce sectors are also being planned.The authorities want the information stored locally so that they can more easily get access to it when conducting investigations.India’s push for localisation comes at a time of heightened global scrutiny of how companies store user data. In July, India said its federal police had begun probing Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of Facebook user data, which New Delhi suspects included information on Indian users.Report to be Submitted SoonThe draft report of the cloud policy panel, which is headed by the co-founder of Indian tech giant Infosys, Kris Gopalakrishnan, said a “forward looking” data protection regime was needed as India’s IT laws framework was “not sufficient” for cloud computing.“We recommend localisation of cloud data and any data that is stored about Indian entities or data generated in India,” it said, adding this data “must be available for investigative agencies and national security agencies.”Gopalakrishnan declined to comment on the draft report, but said he hopes to submit it to the information technology ministry before month-end, or at least by September 15. A spokesman for the IT ministry said the department would review the report once it’s submitted but won’t comment before that.Cloud computing refers to the provision of software, storage and other services to customers from remote data centres. It allows companies to use programs at lower operational costs as programs and data are not stored at the customer’s own data centres, or on their desktops.Industry executives said many Indian businesses store their data on cloud servers located outside the country and a localisation mandate could force them to migrate data to India.“Data localisation will increase costs for public cloud companies as they might need to expand data centre capacity to fit customer data currently hosted outside India,” said Santanu Patro, a research director with research and advisory firm Gartner in India. He said they could pass on the increase to customers.The panel’s draft recommendations said that India must consider the importance of securing “data sovereignty, especially in the context of cross-border data flows”.“Indian legal and policy frameworks must focus on ensuring that data generated from India can be utilised for the benefit of Indian citizens, governments and private players,” it said.An executive at a global technology company offering cloud services in India described the policy’s recommendations as “protectionist”.“It seems we’ve turned the clock back on globalisation,” the executive said.Infrastructure ChallengesThe Indian public cloud services market is set to more than double to $7 billion by 2022, the draft report said. Enterprise spending on data centre infrastructure software will rise 10 per cent to US$3.6 billion (RM14.7 billion) in 2018, research firm Gartner estimates.The government panel’s draft listed Amazon, IBM and Microsoft among key companies already registered under a government initiative on cloud computing. It also listed Alphabet Inc’s Google, Oracle and Salesforce.com Inc as those with “significant presence”.Amazon, for example, says “tens of thousands of customers” in India use its AWS cloud service platform.“Due to increasing requirements of data hosting, India would need rapid establishment of data centres,” the report said.The report, however, highlighted infrastructure and connectivity challenges faced by cloud service providers in India - such as high power costs and the need to get various permits — which raise the cost of running data centres.More than 80 per cent of India’s data centre supply was concentrated in five cities, the panel said. It recommended conducting a study to identify 20 locations conducive for such infrastructure, while also looking at incentives and relaxed tax structure for the industry’s growth.The panel also plans to recommend development of a “national cloud strategy” that could bring cloud service providers under a single regulatory and policy framework.The Indian government’s data localisation push has already unnerved U.S. companies who fear it will drive up costs and unsettle businesses. A government panel last week floated a bill that proposes all critical personal data should be processed within India.Lobby group US-India Business Council said the bill had raised some concerns and it would seek to work with the Indian government to improve it before its passage. — Reuters [...]
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Wealthy Singapore a prime target for global hackers
While Singapore ranked number one on the International Telecommunication Union’s 2017 Global Cybersecurity Index, the SingHealth cyberattack reinforced the need for heightened and effective security, an expert said. — Reuters pic SINGAPORE, Aug 3 — Singapore’s status as a hyperconnected financial hub makes it a prime target for hackers, and recently reported attacks have intensified the focus on cybersecurity as it pushes to become one of the world’s leading technology hubs.In what local media have been calling the largest data breach in the country’s history uncovered last month, hackers stole information on 1.5 million patients including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during an attack on Singapore’s biggest public health-care group, SingHealth. Within days, the Securities Investors Association (Singapore) also reported that hackers stole the personal data of 70,000 members in 2013.“Singapore certainly has attractive assets that would be of significant interest to cyber threat adversaries from across the motivation spectrum, including financial crime and state-sponsored espionage,” said Tim Wellsmore, director of Asia Pacific government security programs for cybersecurity firm FireEye. “It certainly is raising the attention of the right officials within the Singapore government,” he said by phone.Singapore, ranked the world’s seventh wealthiest country by Allianz in a recent report and home to 127 foreign and local banks with total commercial bank deposits of more than S$613 billion (RM1.83 trillion), promptly launched a police investigation into the attack and convened a Committee of Inquiry to conduct an independent external review.The government also paused all projects related to the country’s Smart Nation initiative that have yet to be rolled out, while the 2023 deadline for people to be able to complete up to 95 percent of all government transactions online could be pushed back.The Monetary Authority of Singapore, the country’s central bank, also issued a notice to all financial institutions, directing them to tighten their customer verification processes and not to rely only on full name, national identification number, address, gender, race and date of birth for customer verification.Singapore in 2016 announced plans to stop most of its public servants from being able to access the internet from their work computers in the face of growing hacker threats, affecting around 100,000 public servants’ computers. The government also introduced new laws to ensure that the sensitive data collected by mobile app developers and other companies was safe from hackers.“Attackers are likely to feel that they will have rich pickings if they’re able to breach public or private systems,” Reuben Sinclair, a cybersecurity representative from the UK’s Department of International Trade who is based in Singapore, said by phone.Espionage capabilitiesCybersecurity specialists believe only a few countries such as China, Russia and the US could have been capable of such a sophisticated attack as the one on SingHealth. North Korean hackers have also been linked to several recent high-profile cyberattacks.“With any discussion of hacking, China does leap to mind,” Tom Uren, a visiting fellow at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said in an email. “But Singapore is regionally important so there could be a number of Asian countries that would possibly have some motivation.”In the past, China appeared to have hacked large volumes of personal information with the intention of creating a database to strengthen its espionage and counter intelligence capabilities, he said. “This hack does match their modus operandi,” Uren said.China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to a faxed request for comment.“Geopolitical relations are impacted by incidents like this, particularly in light of global tensions, including over trade,” said Gino Bello, a senior director at business advisory firm FTI Consulting.Strong responseWhile Singapore ranked number one on the International Telecommunication Union’s 2017 Global Cybersecurity Index, the SingHealth cyberattack reinforced the need for heightened and effective security, said Bello.“In comparison to less connected nations, the repercussions of an attack are potentially more significant,” Bello said. “More information can be accessed by hackers if successful. But the consequences to bad threat actors when uncovered, are arguably graver.”Still, when a breach such as this is uncovered, FireEye’s Wellsmore said, it could help many other organisations around the world take steps to prevent similar attacks from succeeding.Singapore’s quick response to the SingHealth attack also helped to contain the fallout, Wellsmore added. This included temporarily imposing internet surfing separation across SingHealth’s IT systems, placing additional controls on workstations and servers, and the resetting of user and systems accounts.“This one could have been much worse if they hadn’t responded so quickly,” Wellsmore said. — Bloomberg [...]
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State of the Game: Steam releases year-to-date 2018 charts
Steam divided its list of best-selling titles into four tiers: Bronze, Silver, GOld and Platinum. — AFP pic NEW YORK, July 7 — Released as Steam’s Summer sale closed out, a dozen titles, old and new, made the top tier of its half-year bestseller’s review, from Dota 2 through to this year’s Jurassic World Evolution.Battle Royale blockbuster Fortnite isn’t on Steam, but PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is and, according to Steam’s official and mildly obfuscated mid-year rankings, the latter is one of the PC gaming platform’s bestsellers and one of its most played games.Rather than give out precise sales figures, Steam divided its list of best-selling titles into four tiers: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum.Half of the 12 games in the Platinum section also achieved simultaneous player counts of over 100,000, according to a separate mid-year rundown.Thanks to independent API-monitoring services like SteamCharts and SteamDB we know that March 2017’s PUBG crowned them all with a 3.2m headcount on January 13, 2018, though it has been trending downward ever since.Joining PUBG in the Platinum sales category were two titles developed by Steam owner Valve, Dota 2, which was first released in 2012, and had 850k simultaneous players after the crowdfunding campaign for its 2018 world championships went live in May, as well as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, another 2012 launch, and one which attracted 700k concurrent players in January, around the time of a Major Championship event in Boston.Also making the Platinum grade were Rainbow Six Siege (released in 2015, 170k to 180k players in March when its first batch of Year 3 content went live), Grand Theft Auto V (released on PC in 2015, 168k players in the first week of January), and Warframe (a radically improved 2013 launch with a 129k peak on June 15 when a big expansion arrived).Of those, Dota 2 and Warframe are both free-to-play, making their money through various optional additional purchases.Steam’s six other best-sellers for the first six months of the year were Civilization VI, released in 2016, Rocket League, released in 2015, and a quartet of 2018 debuts in Warhammer: Vermintide 2, Far Cry 5, Kingdom Come: Deliverance, and Jurassic World Evolution, all with player counts between 50k and 100k.Another chart also presented a collection of each month’s bestsellers, while a fourth looked at top VR titles. — AFP-Relaxnews [...]
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Microsoft to release more powerful Surface Book 2
Microsoft is launching a new, more powerful version of its Surface Book detachable laptop – upping the ante against Apple's popular MacBook Pro. [...]
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Gear Fit 2 Pro: Gear up to get fit
Samsung upgrades its fitness band with even more features and makes it water resistant so you can take it for a swim. [...]
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Nova 2i: Four better than two
The Nova 2i has dual cameras on the front and back for better selfies and photos. [...]
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