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Invasion of Privacy

Privacy and Security Issues Emerge in Asia
Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

With the increasing encroachment of social networks into the workspace and the increasing popularity of cloud-computing solutions, it should come as no surprise, say commentators, that online privacy and security issues are coming to the fore in Asia.

As early as 2001, the concept of privacy and security issues afflicting individuals, companies and countries in the region was already being bandied about. For instance, the issue was considered important enough to merit an entire session all to itself at the 2001 conference in Tokyo of the Inter-Pacific Bar Association. As reported by the IPBA, the panelists, who included Bob Lewin, president and CEO EO of privacy seal provider TRUSTe, and Shunji Shinohara, head of legal affairs of Fujitsu Limited, agreed that there are very real compliance issues for companies that collect information from other parties in the Asia-Pacific region. For instance, companies that do collect key electronic data online, such as personal information and credit card numbers, potentially do have a legal compliance issue in any country where such information is obtained, as well as in countries to which information is transferred.

A few years down the road from the IPBA’s event, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation saw the need to come up with its own approach to deal with what it saw as the growing concern over the collection and unauthorized use of personal information in the Asia-Pacific region. As mentioned in an APEC Newsletter, APEC’s Electronic Commerce Steering Group released a draft privacy framework for consultation with affected parties — consumers, law associations, privacy experts, and business representatives — which aimed to build consumer confidence and trust in the security of e-commerce and boost its usage.

Fast forward to the present and it would seem that these pioneering efforts to counter online privacy and security issues have borne fruit. The massive rise in popularity of the mobile Internet and the corresponding popularity of the devices that can access it have brought about a corresponding increase in overall activity done using the mobile Internet — including e-commerce. Pioneering countries like Japan and South Korea were first out of the gate regarding e-commerce on mobile phones, but the rest of the region is fast catching up. It would appear that based on such evidence alone, consumer confidence in online privacy solutions is rising.

Even commentators such as Asian Correspondent’s Jon Russell, who do not see such problems coming to the fore, express caution, saying that despite the fact that mobile usage has increased, most Asians simply have not been exposed to social networks and other such online features long enough for privacy and security issues to have significantly come to the fore — except, however, for countries such as South Korea, where social networks have been a fixture of society for years.

And there do indeed appear to be dangers — and they may be coming up rapidly. A ZDNetAsia article in July found that the mobile banking scene today faces a far greater threat of problems such as malware and viruses attempting to attack mobile phones and devices being used to conduct online banking transactions. Sandeep Lai of consumer banking group eBusiness at Singapore’s DBS Bank said ]more and more consumers use their mobile phones to conduct such transactions, the amount of viruses and malware will increase, which is why banks today are mindful of such security threats.

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