Jessica Goodfellow
Dec 16, 2019

Tech Bites: Week of December 16, 2019

Facebook, Google, Reuters, Huawei, Oppo, Twitter, India's GDPR equivalent, Hooq and more, in our weekly collection of tech and media news.

Tech Bites: Week of December 16, 2019

Another day, another Facebook data breach

Facebook is investigating a report that a database containing the names, IDs and phone numbers of more than 267 million users was exposed online.

According to a report by Comparitech and security researcher Bob Diachenko, the database was exposed on the internet for nearly two weeks and was also available to download on an online hacker forum. It has since been removed.

"We are looking into this issue, but believe this is likely information obtained before changes we made in the past few years to better protect people's information," a Facebook spokesperson told press.

It joins a long list of Facebook data breaches, including a significant one in September in which databases with 419 million records tied to Facebook accounts were exposed online.

Google pays its taxes in Australia

Google has agreed to pay AU$481.5 million (US$331 million) to the Australian Tax Office on top of its previous tax payments, settling a dispute over a decade’s worth of tax between 2008 and 2018.

According to the taxation office, the payment from Google brings the "increased collections made against taxpayers in the ecommerce industry" to around AU$1.25 billion. The country's multinational anti-avoidance law has already seen $7 billion in taxable sales being returned to the country.

Google joins the likes of Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook "who have all publicly stated that they have settled their tax affairs with the ATO and we welcome their transparency," the ATO said.

JCDecaux opens "immersive walkway" format in Changi

JCDecaux Singapore has developed a new "immersive walkway" advertising site at Changi Airport, the first to display video projection. 

The 35 metre-long walkway is positioned in the arrivals route at Terminal 1, leading towards the baggage claim area and Jewel Changi Airport. The site projects images on one side of the passage, and accommodates full length 4K high-resolution videos and static visuals.

InterContinental Hotels Group is the first advertiser to use the new format to promote its luxury and lifestyle brand collection among global travellers. 

Reuters and Facebook to train newsrooms on how to spot deepfakes

Reuters has launched an e-learning course to help newsrooms around the world spot deepfakes and manipulated media, produced in partnership with the Facebook Journalism Project.

The course, ‘Identifying and Tackling Manipulated Media,’ aims to help newsrooms fully equip themselves to identify and reject manipulated video, pictures and audio to help fight the spread of misinformation. 

It will teach journalists how to spot various types of altered media, including staged events, recycled video, deceptive editing, tampering and the recent rise of AI-driven ‘deepfakes’ videos. This type of misinformation has not only become a major challenge for journalists, governments and institutions, but also individuals. A recent Reuters Institute study found more than half (55%) of people around the world are concerned about their ability to separate what is real and fake on the internet.

It is now available in English, French, Spanish and Arabic, with more languages to launch in 2020.

Huawei launches awards for films shot on its phones

Huawei is launching a film awards in the Asia Pacific region to encourage professional filmmakers and content creators to showcase their creativity through stories filmed using Huawei smartphones.

The Huawei Film Awards is now open and calling for entries from all budding smartphone-filmmakers and content creators from now till 25 February 2020 to submit their completed short film entries. The winner of the APAC Best Film at the HFA will walk away with a grand prize of USD$20,000, and an all-expenses paid trip to Bangkok, Thailand for the awards ceremony. Submissions must be filmed entirely on a Huawei mobile phone with running time within 10 minutes, following the theme ‘Empowering Your Possibilities’.

Oppo commits $7 billion to R&D, including 5G masterplan

Oppo made a slew of announcements at the official opening of its APAC Hub Center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia—including its 5G business strategy and its commitment to R&D.

A total of 15 new carriers from the APAC market are now on board with Oppo’s “5G Landing Project”, its blueprint for the commercial rollout of 5G. The brand has applied for 5G communication standard patents in more than 20 countries worldwide with more than 2,500 families of global patent applications completed. 

Jimmy Yi, president of Oppo Asia Pacific

Meanwhile, the smartphone manufacturer revealed it wants to evolve into an "R&D-centric technology company" and has committed to invest more than US$7 billion in R&D initiatives over the next three years, including technologies such as 5G, 6G, AI, AR and big data, while also building core technologies for underlying hardware and software.

Twitter to develop decentralised framework for social media

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced last week that the company is funding a small team of researchers to develop an "open and decentralized standard for social media". It is a significant announcement as moving to a decentralised system would allow Twitter to address some of the biggest issues dogging social media—such as privacy and the spread of false or harmful content. But it is also a significant technical and business challenge, with Dorsey acknowledging the process could take "many years" to develop.

The cofounder announced the project, called Bluesky, in a string of tweets. He said he wanted to hire of team of five to "either find an existing decentralized standard they can help move forward, or failing that, create one from scratch". The ambition is that one day Twitter will become a “client” of the network.

He explained that operating on an open-source, decentralised standard will allow Twitter to "access and contribute to a much larger corpus of public conversation, focus our efforts on building open recommendation algorithms which promote healthy conversation, and will force us to be far more innovative than in the past".

There are already social media platforms that operate on a decentralised framework, including an open-source social network called Mastadon. However, none have been able to reach the scale of existing social networks. Mastadan has 2 million users compared to Twitter's 330 million MAUs.

India proposes GDPR-like data consent rules

India's first major data protection law, dubbed “Personal Data Protection Bill 2019,” was leaked last week and includes a GDPR-like proposal for technology companies to gain consent from citizens before collecting and processing their personal data, in what could be a major win for consumers, but a major blow for tech businesses in the region.

Also proposed in the bill is a rule that would require companies to hand over “non-personal” data of their users to the government. However, the rules would exempt any agency of government, meaning New Delhi would be permitted to collect any data of its citizens "in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order", the bill states.

The new bill was passed by the Union Cabinet last week but has yet to be officially made public. It is expected to be discussed in the Parliament in the coming weeks.

Hooq announces slew of new partnerships

Southeast Asian on-demand service Hooq struck a series of partnerships at Singapore's Asia TV Forum earlier this month, including four content deals with Outdoor Channel, Mediacorp, TechStorm and One Championship.

The partnership with US pay-TV channel Outdoor Channel which will include 150 hours of content, One Championship will bring highlights and complete videos of upcoming fights and matches in 2020, Stormbytes will add short form content from TechStorm and Mediacorp will see the addition of Chinese content for AVoD. These partnerships will span four markets; Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

As part of Hooq’s collaboration with Starvision, season 2 of sitcom Cek Toko Sebelah releases this month

Additionally, Hooq is partnering with JKN Dhamx, M Channel, New18, Channel 3 Catch-up and Thairath TV in Thailand to bring more content and originals to viewers in the market.

Overall, Hooq is currently partnered with more than 20 content companies across Asia including IMDA and all3media international, AIS, Globe Telecom, Grab, Singtel, Telkom and Telkomsel and payment services OVO, Line Pay.

Hooq also announced new or renewed originals during the TV market, including an Indonesian weekly talk show called IMHO (“In My Humble Opinion”) in co-production with Vice Media.

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