Apple & Android Phones Targeted by Italian Spyware; Ads for Disproven Cancer Care Rife on Meta Platforms

In this weekly segment, ExchangeWire sums up key industry updates in media, marketing, and commerce from around the globe. In this edition: Smartphones in Italy and Kazakhstan hacked by Italian spyware; Meta platforms inundate users with ads for discredited cancer treatments; developers lambast Meta over VR app charges; and Amazon restricts listing of LGBTQ+ related products in UAE.


Google reveals Apple and Android phones hacked by Italian spyware

Hacking tools from Italy’s RCS Labs were used to spy on Apple and Android smartphones, according to Google. The spyware, which was developed by the tech security firm to secretly record private messages and contacts of targeted devices, is believed to have infiltrated smartphones in Italy and Kazakhstan.

In response to the revelations, RCS Labs stated it operates in accordance with Europe’s tech rules and complies with law enforcement agencies. The Milan-based consultancy told Reuters in an email that, “RCS Lab personnel are not exposed, nor participate in any activities conducted by the relevant customers,” adding that it condemned any misuse of its software.


Facebook, Instagram serve ads for discredited cancer treatments

Adverts for unproven and discredited cancer treatments are being served to Facebook and Instagram users unchallenged, reports MIT Technology Review. The magazine, which ran its own analysis of adverts on Meta’s platforms, found that some of these ads promote treatments proven to cause physical harm, while others are for costly therapies with redundant or questionable outcomes.

One treatment provider promoted by the ads is Centro Hospitalario Internacional del Pacifico, S.A (CHIPSA). While CHIPSA’s Facebook ads describe it as being on the “cutting edge” of cancer treatment, the facility’s diet-based therapy Gerson has been discredited by the medical community for decades. According to MIT’s research, ads for CHIPSA and similarly dubious treatment providers can spend months in Meta’s ad inventory without challenge.


Meta in hot water over VR app charges

The Financial Times reports developers are frustrated that Meta has imposed fees on its VR app store, replicating the chargers on smartphone app stores. For example, The Quest Store, which hosts apps and games for Meta’s popular Oculus Quest 2 VR headset, takes a 30% cut from digital purchases and charges fees between 15% and 30% on subscriptions.

Meta, who has pledged USD$10bn ($8.174bn) a year into developing the metaverse over the next decade, however, defended its policies, claiming that they serve to “foster choice and competition in the VR ecosystem”. The company added, “our efforts have produced a material financial return for developers: as we announced earlier this year, over $1bn has been spent on games and apps in the Meta Quest Store”.


Amazon restricts LGBTQ+ related products following pressure from UAE

Ecommerce giant Amazon has restricted the search results for LGBTQ+ related products in the United Arab Emirates following threats of penalties from the country’s government. UAE is one of 69 countries around the world whose laws criminalise homosexuality.

Speaking to the BBC, an Amazon spokesperson said, “As a company, we remain committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, and we believe that the rights of LGBTQ+ people must be protected,” but added, “With Amazon stores around the world, we must also comply with the local laws and regulations of the countries in which we operate.”

The move comes as Pride month, which is celebrated every June to commemorate the Stonewall uprising and uplift the LGBTQ+ community, comes to an end.


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