June 2020

Competition Commission of India approves Facebook Jio deal

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has approved Facebook’s purchase of a 9.9% stake in Jio Platforms for Rs 43 574 crore (*a crore denotes ten million). This deal is expected to strengthen Facebook’s presence in India and reduce the debt of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL).

IoT Alliance Australia and the Industrial Internet Consortium publish white paper on IoT and the SDGs

Internet of Things (IoT) Alliance Australia and the Industrial Internet Consortium have published a white paper entitled, ‘How Digital Transformation and IoT Can Contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’. The paper argues that the UN’s SDGs should be factored into IoT projects and other digital transformation initiatives (business-related changes that are triggered by digital technologies).

The paper outlines five pillars necessary for the successful digital transformation of an organisation: architecture and standards; security and privacy; shared value creation; organisational development; and ecosystem governance. These pillars are therefore essential for achieving the UN’s SDGs. The paper also provides examples of how the SDGs were unintentionally achieved by organisations that utilised digital technologies. For example, using health data in mining operations can help preserve the well-being of miners (SDG 3 – Good health and well-being); using sensor data and AI to minimise fuel consumption (SDG 13 – Climate action); and using smart farming to solve decreasing workforce (SDA 9 – Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure).

New Zealand privacy commissioner announces key changes in the Privacy Bill

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of New Zealand (OPCNZ) has announced, new amendments to the Privacy Bill. The new changes include: Notifiable privacy breaches; Compliance notices; Enforceable access directions; Disclosing information overseas; Extraterritorial effect; New criminal offences; and, Further changes. The updated Act will allow the Human Rights Review Tribunal to award up to AU$350 000 to each member of a class action.

The Privacy Bill has been passed by the Committee of the Whole House stage in Parliament on 3 June and will now undergo a third reading in Parliament before becoming the Privacy Act 2020, expected to come into effect on 1 December 2020.

China rejects EU accusations over COVID-19 fake news

In a report entitled, ‘Getting the Facts Right’, Brussels accused China and Russia of engaging in targeted disinformation campaigns around COVID-19. Last week, Hua Chunying, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry rejected the accusations by saying that China is a victim of disinformation campaigns, not a fabricator. In turn, Vera Jourova, vice-president of the European Commission in charge of values and transparency, claimed, ‘We are clearly mentioning Russia and China and we have sufficient evidence to make such a declaration. It's very evidence-based.’

Thai government approves draft bill on digital tax

Thailand has approved a draft legislation that would impose 7% Value Added Tax (VAT) on foreign digital companies. All non-resident digital companies or platforms that earn more than 1.8 million Baht (US$57 434.59) per year on digital services in the country will have to pay a 7% VAT on sales. To become enforceable, the draft bill will have to be approved by the Thai parliament.

Last month, Indonesia passed a law requiring big Internet companies to pay VAT on the sales of digital products and services from July, and in the Philippines, a similar bill to tax digital services was introduced in parliament.

Honda hit by cyber-attack

Japanese car maker Honda has confirmed that the company was hit by a cyber-attack which affected and disrupted their business in several countries. However, they stated that there was no breach of data and that the attack only caused ‘minimal business impact’.

Singapore plans to develop wearable contact tracing device to replace TraceTogther app

Singapore’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group, Vivian Balakrishnan, announced the government’s to plan to develop a portable and wearable contact tracing device to help deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the announcement, the device will replace the TraceTogether app, will be more inclusive, and will not require a smartphone. The minister explained that since the app does not work equally well across different smartphone operating systems, the government has decided not to make the download of the app mandatory, and to find other technological alternatives.

Court rules Internet shutdowns in Papua and West Papua unlawful

The Jakarta State Administrative Court (PTUN) ruled that the decision of the Indonesian government to block Internet services in Papua and West Papua during protests in 2019 was ‘unlawful’. Between August and September 2019, the Indonesian government had on several occasions slowed down and shut down Internet access, and established Internet restrictions in West Papua and Papua in an effort to contain civil unrest.

The court said that any decision limiting people’s right to information needs to be made in accordance with the law and not merely at the government’s discretion. The court has ordered the Indonesian government to issue an apology to the public.

May 2020

Highest online sexual abuse of children in Philippines

The International Justice Mission aid group's seven-year study reports that the Philippines is the largest known source of online sexual abuse of children. In a society where poverty is rampant, the report points that in most cases, parents and relatives were responsible for facilitating the abuse. In many cases, the victims had been abused for years, and among the reported cases, the youngest was less than a year old.

Fluency in English along with high speed connectivity are opined as reasons as to why the Philippines become a ‘global hot-spot’ for child pornography.

Based on the data collected from law enforcement, the report indicates that the proportion of Philippine Internet addresses used to host child pornography had tripled in the three years leading to 2017.

UNICEF had reported that the Philippines is one of the top global sources of child sex abuse materials, with 600 000 ‘sexualised’ photos of Filipino children bartered and traded in 2018 alone.

Australian parliament adopts stronger privacy protection for COVID-19 tracing app

According to the New Daily, the Australian parliament has adopted legislation strengthening the privacy protection of the government’s COVID-19 tracing app. The Attorney-General, Christian Porter, hopes that these new protections will encourage citizens to join the 5.63 million who have downloaded and registered for the contact tracing scheme. According to ZDNet, the legislation ‘introduces serious offenses relating to the COVIDSafe app data, covering the non-permitted collection, use, or disclosure of the data; the uploading of app data without consent; retaining or disclosing uploaded data outside Australia; decrypting the encrypted app data; and requiring COVIDSafe participation’.

Pakistan introduces draft data protection bill

According to the law firm Hunton Andrews Kurth, Pakistan’s Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication has recently introduced a new draft Personal Data Protection Bill. The ministry had also launched a public consultation, which ended on May 15, 2020. The legislation applies to ‘any person who processes’ or ‘has control over or authorizes the processing of’ any personal data, if the data subject, the controller, or processor are located in Pakistan, and would establish new requirements related to the processing of personal data, as well as penalties for violating the law.

Indonesia to charge VAT from online companies from July

Starting from July 2020, online companies in Indonesia will have to pay a value added tax (VAT) to the government. Aimed at boosting revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government plans to impose a tax of 10% on all digital products sold by non-resident Internet companies that include: streaming services, online games, and applications with a significant presence in the Indonesian market.

Child abuse predators create 'handbook' listing ways to target children during COVID-19 

Australia's e-safety commissioner, Julie Inman Grant has said that child abusers have created and shared an online grooming manual describing ways to manipulate and exploit children online during the COVID-19 pandemic. With more children spending time online, investigators are seeing a significant increase in the searches by predators on the dark web on how to abuse children. Grant shared ‘The handbook advises predators to get their kicks online rather than trying to meet children face-to-face because of restrictions and heightened vigilance of law enforcement on the streets.’ 

According to the commission’s reports, Australia has witnessed a significant rise in child sexual abuse material reports by 27% in March and 37% in April 2020. The Australian federal police, which runs the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation, has seen an increase of 123% in cases of children being targeted through social networking, image or video-sharing apps, and instant messaging between October 2019 and March 2020, when compared with the same period the previous year.

China launches two satellites for its space-based IoT project

China launches two communication satellites for its space-based Internet of Things (IoT) project. The two satellites, Xingyun-2 01 and 02, are the Xingyun Engineering project’s first satellites, conducted by the China Aerospace Science & Industry Corporation Limited (CASIC). The project aims to build a low-orbit narrow-band satellite communications system, and to set-up a communications network for IoT devices and networks.

China announces mobile IoT network policy

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of China announced their mobile Internet of Things (IoT) network policy. The objectives of the policy are: to speed up the construction of the mobile IoT network; to strengthen research on mobile IoT standards and technologies; improve the breadth and depth of mobile IoT applications; and to establish and improve the mobile IoT security system.

Citizen jury to deliberate on gene editing regulation in Australia

In a project funded by the Australian Federal Government's Genomics Health Futures Mission, the University of Tasmania will set up a citizen jury of 24 individuals to deliberate on gene editing regulation and ethics. The two-year study, entitled, 'Genome Editing: Formulating an Australian Community Response' will examine how to gather community opinion on the use of innovative gene editing. The jury will hear from experts and advocates about gene editing technologies and will deliberate on how public policies and regulations should govern such technologies. The deliberations will then be analysed, reported to the government, and publicised.

Australian shipping giant Toll hit by ransomware for the second time

Australian shipping giant Toll was hit by a ransomware attack. This attack is the second incident the company has faced this year. Investigations revealed that the infection was attributed to the Nefilim ransomware. While Nefilim authors have claimed that the stolen data will be put on sale if not paid, Toll has announced that it does not plan to pay the ransomware claim as none of the data has been exfiltrated.

Boeing presents unmanned aircraft in Australia

A Boeing-led Australian industry team has presented a pilotless aircraft to the Royal Australian Air Force. The 'Loyal Wingman' uses artificial intelligence (AI) to extend the capabilities of piloted and unpiloted platforms, and was engineered using a digital twin to model its structures, systems, capabilities, and requirements. The prototype will enter a ground testing phase and is expected to have its first flight later in 2020. According to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, 'the Loyal Wingman will be pivotal to exploring the critical capabilities our Air Force needs to protect our nation and its allies into the future'.

DCW issues notice to police and Instagram over a group of minors sharing objectionable pictures and discussing rape

The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) in India has sent notices to the Delhi Police and Instagram over a group on the social media platform called 'Bois Locker Room'. The group was allegedly discussing rape and sharing objectionable pictures of minors. DCW Chairperson, Swati Maliwal, described the incident as ‘very serious’, as an open media platform was used for illegal activities. The conversations were exposed after one of the members of the group took screenshots and shared it with someone else. The Instagram thread was then posted on social media by one of the girls who was targeted. Investigators have found that the group had 22 members, out of which two were adults. 

The administrator of the Bois Locker Room has been arrested and the police have asked Instagram for more information.

Data breach in Australia exposes personal data of 700 000 migrants

The home affairs department in Australia experienced a data breach which resulted in exposing the personal information of 774 000 migrants and individuals aspiring to migrate to Australia. The information includes the outcome of applications, along with the applicants’ names, country of origin, age, qualifications, and marital status. Expressions of interest from candidate migrants are stored for two years and were displayed on a publicly available app, advertised on a governmental website.

DCW issues notice to police and Instagram over a group of minors sharing objectionable pictures and discussing rape

April 2020

Facebook buys 9.9% of Reliance Jio stakes

Facebook has bought  9.9% of Indian telecommunications company Reliance Jio’s stakes for US$5.7 billion, allowing Facebook a firm foothold in India's fast-growing telecom market while helping Reliance reduce its debt burden. Reliance Jio is the biggest telecom operator in the country with more than 370 million subscribers.

The deal is reportedly the largest foreign direct investment (FDI) in the technology sector in India. Apart from this investment, Jio Platforms, Reliance Retail, and Facebook's WhatsApp have also entered a commercial agreement to further accelerate Jio's e-commerce business with Whatsapp in Reliance's JioMart platform.

The deal will need to be cleared by the country’s antitrust body, Competition Commission of India (CCI), which will assess if the partnership will adversely impact the national telecom and retail market.


Google and Facebook may have to pay news companies in Australia

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has announced draft rules for online platforms such as Facebook and Google to pay fair compensation to news outlets for news content. The decision to mandate compensation for news articles featured on online platforms comes at a time when the Coronavirus pandemic has negatively affected the advertising revenue of news companies; the draft rules are planned to come into effect in July 2020. According to Joshua Anthony Frydenberg, Treasurer, Australian government,  earlier attempts to negotiate a voluntary code where global platforms would pay traditional media for their content failed since parties could not agree on ‘this key issue of payment for content’.

A Facebook spokesperson expressed disappointment at the government’s announcement and a Google spokesperson stated that the company would work constructively with the industry under the new rules.


India announces new FDI rules to avoid hostile takeovers during COVID-19 pandemic

The Indian government announced changes in the foreign direct investment (FDI) rules to curb ‘opportunistic takeovers/acquisitions’ from any entity that shares a land border with India during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although China is not mentioned by name, it is widely seen as a move to prevent takeovers by Chinese firms. Under the new rule, such entities would be required to obtain government approval for any investment or transfer of ownership of Indian companies via FDI investments.

ESCAP releases Digital and Sustainable Regional Integration Index

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has released the Digital and Sustainable Regional Integration Index and Indicator Framework (DigiSII1.0), that seeks to develop a global indicator framework for digital and sustainable regional integration. The study provides an overview of seven dimensions: (a) trade and investment, (b) free movement of people, (c) infrastructure, (d) regulatory co-operation, (e) digital economy integration that facilitate the evaluation of regional integration in the Asia-Pacific. It also addresses drivers of regional integration and tackles issues such as conventional versus sustainable regional integration. 

The report was released as part of the UN Development Account Project on ‘Measuring, monitoring and improving performance in regional integration within ECA, ESCWA and ESCAP regions’. 


115 million mobile users data in Pakistan put on sale on dark web

According to the Business Recorder, a cybersecurity company has discovered a data dump of 115 million Pakistani mobile users data, up for sale on the dark web for US$2.1 million. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is now investigating the reported data breach, which includes full name, address, mobile number, NIC, and tax numbers of Pakistani citizens.

ESCAP publishes policy brief on COVID-19 to tackle digital divide

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) published a policy brief ‘The Impact and Policy Responses for COVID-19 in Asia and the Pacific’, highlighting the need to step up efforts to ‘reduce the digital divide’ which have come into greater focus with the introduction of social distancing measures. The document specifies that ICTs can help fight the pandemic through better provision of services, access to vital information, and virtual connectivity that help overcome psychological and social isolation. 

WhatsApp group admins can be liable for messages by group members in India

Maharashtra Cyber’s Office of Special Inspector General of Police in India issued an advisory notice alerting admins of WhatsApp groups could, along with users, be held liable for posting illegal, fake or objectionable content on WhatsApp groups. The advisory notice cited the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code to alert that admins can be liable for fake news, hate speech, and misinformation in groups. Moreover, it requires admins to ensure that: every group member is reliable and responsible enough to only share verified information; to inform all group members about the rules of posting in the group; and to inform the police if any members resort to mischief and share objectionable content.

March 2020

India issues Telemedicine Guidelines

To ensure medical services are available during the 21 day lockdown in India; the Ministry of Health and Family Affairs in collaboration with NITI Aayog and the Board of Governors Medical Council of India (MCI) has issued a set of guidelines for telemedicine. This will allow patients to consult certified medical practitioners and get prescriptions based on telephonic, textual, online or video conversations.

APNIC and WIDE Project launch Internet development trust

The Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) along with the Widely Integrated Distributed Environment (WIDE Project) announced the launch of the Asia Pacific Internet Development Trust (APIDT) which aims to support the work of the APNIC Foundation. APIDT will specially focus on building technical skills and capacity, improving critical Internet infrastructure, supporting research and development, and improving community capability to build an open, global, stable and secure Internet. APNIC held a Q&A session to discuss the creation of the trust with relevant parties on 27 March.

Singapore launches coronavirus tracing mobile app

Singapore’s Government Technology Agency (GovTech) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health has launched a mobile app for tracing the spread of coronavirus. The app is called TraceTogether and it can only be downloaded with a Singapore mobile phone number. Once installed, the user is requested to consent to enable push notifications and location tracking. The app works by sending short distance Bluetooth signals between users who are about two meters apart. In case of an outbreak, one can access their movement data to find out if they were in close proximity to coronavirus patients. Tracing through the app is on a voluntary basis and the location data will be stored on the user’s phone. Google Play statistics show that the app had over 50 0000 50,000 installations by 20 March.

India issues advisory for social media platforms to prevent misinformation

In a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus on social media, the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) has issued an advisory for social media companies to initiate awareness campaigns on their platform against such misinformation, take immediate action and prioritise removing such content, and provide authentic information on coronavirus.

Australia’s OAIC releases guidelines on privacy in the workplace in context of COVID-19 pandemic

According to ZDNet, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has advised employers in Australia to comply with their obligations under the Privacy Act 1988 when handling personal information related to the coronavirus outbreak. The OAIC advises organisations to limit the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information to what is necessary to prevent and manage COVID-19. Only the minimum amount of personal information reasonably necessary to prevent or manage COVID-19 should be collected, used or disclosed. Also, employers should ensure reasonable steps are in place to keep personal information secure, including where employees are working remotely.

Australia to provide telehealth services to people under coronavirus isolation

The Australian Federal Government announced that it will allow doctors, nurses, and mental health practitioners to provide telehealth services such as video conferencing during the coronavirus pandemic. The services enable people who undergo self-isolation or quarantine to access health services from their homes. The eligible population to benefit from telehealth services includes people aged over 70, Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people aged over 50, people with chronic health conditions or who are immunocompromised, parents with newborns, and pregnant women.

Japan introduces free online health consultation for coronavirus

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) announced the launch of  free online health consultation services, through which doctors can provide advice with patients according to their health conditions and symptoms. The METI designated two companies, Mediplat and LINE health care, to develop platforms to provide online health consultation. Mediplat provides services on the website called First Call, whereas people can also access the services on LINE, an online messaging application.

Australian Information Commissioner files privacy case against Facebook

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has filed a  case against Facebook over non-compliance to the Australian Privacy Act 1988. In the case registered, the OAIC  claims that Facebook disclosed personal information of Australian Facebook users to third-party application This Is Your Digital Life. This  is in breach of Australian Privacy Principle 6, as most data was collected from Facebook users who did not use the app themselves, but only were friends with the app’s users. The office also states that Facebook did not take reasonable steps during this period to protect the personal information of the users  from unauthorised disclosure, which is in breach of Australian Privacy Principle 11.

Singapore launches cybersecurity labeling scheme for IoTs

The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore announced the launch of their Cybersecurity Labelling Scheme (CLS). According to the scheme, cybersecurity labels will be issued to Internet of things (IoT) devices and will indicate their security provisions. The classification of products will be based on a series of tests on whether the products meet basic security standards such as: (a) ensuring unique default passwords; (b) adherence to the principles of security-by-design; (c) absence of software vulnerabilities; (d) resistance to basic penetration testing. In this way, consumers will be able to choose products not only based on functionality and cost, but also on their security ratings. The CLS will be launched as a voluntary scheme to enable developers to understand how the scheme benefits them, and the agency will monitor the response to the scheme.

Beijing introduces coloured QR code system to track coronavirus 

According to a report, China’s capital city Beijing joined more than 100 Chinese cities that assigned their residents with coloured QR codes in an attempt to track and contain the spread of coronavirus. The QR code system developed by Ant Financial’s Alipay has been launched amid concerns related to accuracy and privacy. Users of Alipay and WeChat can access their codes by inputting their name, national identity number, and registering with facial recognition. Only those with a green code are allowed to travel in the city freely while those with yellow and red codes are required to quarantine themselves at home or subject to supervised quarantine. According to Pan Feng, deputy chief of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Economy and Information Technology, the system will allow users to check the QR codes of others by entering their ID numbers.