Missing flight MH370 anniversary, plane hijacked by conspiracy theories!


A year on, lack of hard facts, initial confusion and overnight ‘experts’ add to fog of uncertainty

KUALA LUMPUR: It’s been exactly a year since Malaysia Airlines’ Flight MH370 disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and despite the most extensive search in aviation history, the fate of the Boeing 777 aircraft and the 239 people on board remains a mystery.

While the search led by Australia in the depths of the Indian Ocean continues, how and why a sophisticated aircraft carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew vanished without a trace has piqued the curiosity of many.

The authorities and aviation experts remain baffled. They believe only the plane’s cockpit voice and flight data recorders can shed light on why the plane was diverted from its original path and headed south across the vast Indian Ocean.

The lack of hard facts and the initial confusion when the plane was declared missing gave rise to a flood of anecdotal “evidence” and a crop of overnight aviation “experts” basking in their two minutes of fame.

Numerous conspiracy theories over the fate of flight MH370 have been appearing ever since, with none providing a credible clue on what could have really transpired.

In the run up to the first anniversary of MH370′s disappearance, conspiracy theorists went into overdrive.

The latest was Jeff Wise, a science journalist and author, who claimed that the plane was hijacked on the behest of Russian President Vladimir Putin and flown to a remote landing strip in Kazakhstan.

But why would Putin want to hijack a Malaysian plane in the first place?

On March 3, a senior Boeing 777 pilot claimed that flight MH370 was taken on an emotional last farewell ride over the pilot’s home island of Penang, before the pilot ditched the plane into the ocean.

Captain Simon Hardy who came up with this theory, published in Flight International magazine, is based on the initial suspicion that the MH370′s Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah could have turned rogue and deliberately flown the plane off course.

But there is nothing to substantiate this claim.

In December 2014, a former French airline boss Marc Dugain in a six page article in Paris Match claimed that the US might have shot down flight MH370 as it approached the US military base on the Diego Garcia atoll in the western Indian Ocean, fearing a 9/11 style attack on the base.

The US military is said to have covered up the incident.

Immediately, the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur stated that there was no indication that flight MH370 had flown near the US military facility in the first place.

Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamed, too, had his own idea: just two months after the plane disappeared, he wrote in his blog that “someone” must have remotely seized control of the aircraft from the pilots.

He based his argument on a supposed patent received by Boeing in 2006 for an “anti-terrorism auto-land system” that, once activated, removed all control from the pilots to return a commercial airliner to a pre-determined landing location. But Dr Mahathir failed to mention who that “someone” could be behind the plot. So back to square one.

Everything on board the plane, including its cargo and passengers, came under suspicion right from the onset.

Conspiracy theorists claimed that the plane was carrying dangerous cargo that caused a fire on board or crippled the plane’s operating systems.

Among the items in the cargo manifest were highly flammable lithium ion batteries. Did the batteries have anything to do with the plane’s fate like the fire in South African Airways’ Flight 295 in 1987?

Other conspiracy theorists focussed on the 20 employees of Freestyle, a Texas based semiconductor manufacturing company; the equipment they were carrying had radar-blocking capabilities developed by the company, thus crippling the plane’s systems, these theorists claimed.

Fingers were also pointed at two Iranians on the passenger list who boarded the plane with forged travel documents. Could they have been terrorists who hijacked the plane to an unknown destination or sabotaged the plane?

But Interpol revealed that the pair had no links with any terrorist groups and were on their way to seek asylum in Europe.

And of course there were the out-of-this-world conspiracy theories. The plane was hijacked by aliens. A Malaysian bomoh claimed the plane was hijacked by elves and was permanently suspended in the air.

Two months after the plane disappeared, Indian film director Rupesh Paul put up a trailer for a film about MH370 at the Cannes Film Festival, to be called “The Vanishing Act: The Untold Story of the Missing Malaysian Plane”.

CNN, which had given the MH370 story its full wall-to-wall treatment, described it tellingly: “If the Cannes Film Festival had an award for most squirm-inducing production, it would surely go to the producers of a new thriller telling the “real” story of the still-missing Malaysian Airlines jet.”

National Geographic turned out a documentary that was more cautious in its approach visualising all possibilities including a catastrophic failure of aircraft systems or structure. But there are not definitive answers.

The confusion in the first days of the aircraft’s disappearance led to parallels with conspiracy theories about the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy, mainly that the government had covered up crucial information in the aftermath of the incident.

LOOKING BACK: THE FINAL MOMENTS OF MH370

* Malaysia Airlines’ Flight MH370 departs from Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang at 12.41 am to Beijing with 227 passengers and 12 crew. It was a code sharing flight with China Southern Airlines.

At the helm of the Boeing 777-200 ER was veteran pilot Capt Zaharie Ahmad Shah.

The passengers include 153 Chinese nationals, 38 Malaysians, 12 Indonesians, six Australians, three French, four Americans, two from Ukraine, New Zealand and Canada respectively and one each from Russia, Taiwan, Italy, the Netherlands and Austria.

Less than one hour into the flight, as the plane approached the Igari Waypoint, in South China Sea, where it was to be handed over to the Ho Chi Minh City air traffic control, it disappeared from the radar screen.

“Good night Malaysian three seven zero” were the last words spoken from the cockpit. No distress signal received.

Subesequently the plane was tracked by Malaysian military radar as it deviated from its planned flight path and crossed the Malay Peninsula and headed towards the Andaman Sea.

Communications pings between the aircraft and Inmarsat’s satellite network concluded that the flight continued until 8:19 am towards southern Indian Ocean. However, the precise location could not be determined.

A major multinational search was mounted without success. Australia leads the second phase of the search with the cost mounting.

– BERNAMA/FMT

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Smartphone handset: build it yourselves


Build-your-own Google handset reconstructs smartphone

Barcelona (AFP) – With a smartphone that slots together piece by piece like Lego, US Internet giant Google is trying to reinvent the mobile as most phone makers are honing sleeker handsets.

The company aims to challenge its rival Apple’s thin iPhones with the Google Ara project, giving smartphone aficionados the option to build their phone themselves.

Analysts say tech boffins will love it but remain cautious about how popular it may be compared to polished conventional smartphones that sit snugly in the palm.

Google says the Ara phone is part of its bid to widen Internet access to users in developing countries and could create a new industry for assembly-ready handset parts.

Google’s associate, US firm Yezz, presented a prototype of the build-your-own device this week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the world’s biggest wireless telecom trade fair.

The phone consists of a base structure on which various square, magnetic modular parts can be attached: screen, battery, camera, speakers and more. Google plans to release it in three sizes.

Build-your-own Google handset reconstructs smartphone

Ara would allow users to replace individual components rather than throwing the whole thing away and buying a new handset. It says the base unit will last at least five or six years.

“That is good for the environment,” said Annette Zimmermann, a telecom specialist at German consultancy Gartner.

– Emerging markets –

Ara “could reshape the mobile landscape,” said Paul Eremenko, director of the Ara Project, in a presentation to experts in January.

He said it aimed to gain six billion potential clients — the current billion people who currently use smartphones “and five billion future users”, most of them in emerging markets.

Google says a mid-range Ara phone could cost between $50 and $100 to produce, but has not given details of the likely sales price, leaving questions marks over how sustainable such a product would be.

“Google is not looking to make money directly with Ara,” said Jerome Colin, a telecom expert at French consultancy group Roland Berger.

“It is basically looking to spread smartphones in countries with low purchasing power, and to unify the telecom world around its Android system.”

– ‘Paradox of choice’ –

Tech fans and bloggers queued up to see the prototype presented in Barcelona, but analysts were sceptical.

“The trend in mobile phones is to have small, thin, really integrated products. If you make a product modular it immediately means that you’re going to have to make compromises on that,” said Ben Wood, head researcher at consultancy CCS Insight.

“The other question mark I have is: beyond geeks, who really knows” about components? he added.

“If I said to you, which processor do you want in your smartphone, I think you could stop people in the street and they’d just look at you like you’d landed from Mars.”

Eremenko acknowledged that consumers risked being overwhelmed by too many technical options when it comes to choosing components.

“We need to resolve the paradox of choice,” he said in January.

Google plans a test launch of the device in Puerto Rico by the end of this year.

“We will have to see if the public takes to it,” said Zimmerman.

Google dominates the world of Internet searches and its Android operating system can be used on 80 percent of the world’s smartphones. It also holds a large market share in wireless tablet devices.

Its senior vice-president Sundar Pichai said in Barcelona on Monday that it was in talks with telecom companies about possibly using their networks to operate its own mobile phone services in the United States.

AFP

The life force to Koreans: hiking the fabulous Koreas’ mountains


Korea's mountainsMore spell-binding Korean landscapes are found beyond Seoul in the Seoraksan mountain range.

Mountain culture and customs are hot-wired into the lives of each Korean. What better way to get under their skin than to hike together with them?SOUTH Korea lies along a peninsula that is hugely mountainous, with a spinal ridge running for 735 km from the DMZ boundary in the north to the East China Sea down south.

This mountain range has monumental relevance to the people of Korea as it is believed to provide the life force to the nation: its arterial rivers drain seawards, bearing sustenance for the inhabitants living in the lowlands. Many historical events that occurred on these mountains have been documented whilst just as many myths and folklore have been re-told over generations.

For the tourist, hiking the mountains of the Korean peninsula would seem like a natural activity, to immerse in the culture of this dynamic country.

The terrain is not high, the tallest peak being Cheonhwangbong at 1,915m, in Jirisan National Park, at the southern tip of the range. The next highest peak is Daecheongbong, 1,708m in altitude, squatting on Seoraksan National Park diametrically to the north.

The ranges are inter-linked through a series of hiking trails, following the ridge line closely and crisscrossing valleys and rivers. Temples, villages, farms and shelters dot the hills.

Soothing: The scenic mountain ranges of Korea are rich in bio-diversity. The N Seoul Tower is a popular tourist attraction. Go early to avoid the long queues for the cable car.

Such an eco-system has made mountain hiking a national pastime that is likely to overtake taekwando in popularity as a sport. There’s also a whole line of Korean celebrity fashion wear for hikers. Unfortunately, for the tourist, not much promotional information on hiking is available from official tourism literature.

It would take a lifetime to explore the legendary mountains of Korea and we had limited time to spare before our wedding anniversary celebration back in Seoul.

Day trip to Seoraksan

We took a 3-hour bus ride to Sokcho, a tourist town on the north-eastern coast of the Korean peninsula and an entry point into Seoraksan National Park.

The park showcases the Seorak mountain range, and is loved by the locals for its natural beauty and bio-diversity. Hikers come to marvel at the uncanny ruggedness of the “Dinosaur Ridge” and soak up the fables of the mountains’ origins.

There are many trails up picturesque Seoraksan, numerous short ones requiring half-day’s effort and several longer routes that are more than 10km in distance.

A good option for tourists is to hop on the cable car, not far from the Visitor Information Office, and catch a ride up to Gwongeumseong Fortress at a height of about 900 m. This was the option we selected together with a long queue of like-minded tourists. We reached the counter at 10.30am but all tickets were sold out.

Without wasting any more time, we opened the map, picked out what looked like an easy route and headed out to Biseondae Cliff.

It was only 2.3km one-way and took us through a forested area, tracing a path beside a gushing stream. The fresh air and fine drizzle made the pace invigorating.

 Many eateries are found along the trails of the park.

We skirted a pool of crystalline water at the bottom of a huge rock face, which I took to be Biseondae Cliff, and crossed a short bridge whereupon the trail ended abruptly at a locked gate. Beyond laid wilderness that could be experienced only with a permit from the ranger’s office. We clambered up a rocky slope and joined some hikers on a break.

“Where are you from?” queried the ajeossi (middle-aged man). I told him we were from Malaysia, as I shared a chocolate bar with his 10-year old son. I remarked that the scenery here had a mystical and mysterious air.

He nodded, “Ah, as mysterious as the disappearance of your airplane”. I guess he was referring to MH370. We both nodded and sighed. They wished us a good trip and moved on. We stayed a while to admire the view of the distant peaks framed in by the hillside trees. On our way down we stopped by a tea house. Bibimbap downed with a hot bowl of miso soup tasted a lot better here than in the lowlands.

We dozed on the bus back to Seoul. That chilly night in Seoul, we captured our last “high” at the N Seoul Tower, atop Namsan. Standing 236m tall, the tower accords a night scene of the city.

We were feeling pretty tired, but fulfilled. So, I suggested we take the cable car up instead of climbing the stairs. I didn’t hear any objections.

Hiking near Seoul

THE view from Bugaksan might have been more panoramic if not for the faint haze hanging over the “ancient quarters” of Seoul that April morning.

To the south-west, we could just make out the hillock of Inwangsan and the colourful string of hikers inching up its summit trail, while afar north, the rocky peaks of Bukhansan glared in the sun.

Seoul, the 600-year old capital city of South Korea, is encircled by a fortress wall that links four surrounding hills, Bugaksan, Ingwangsan, Namsan and Naksan. Of these, Bugaksan is the tallest at 342m and is located in the neighbourhood of Samcheong-dong, majestically overlooking Cheongwadae (Blue House), the President’s official residence and office.

We had taken the northern route of the fortress wall, entering through Hyehwamun Gate, muddling through a residential area up a steep incline, and, with some orienteering instinct, located the path that followed the ancient stone wall, leading us up a hill of cherry trees.

Due to its proximity with the Blue House, this section of the trail requires foreigners (who are called “aliens” in official documents here) to sign in at Malbawi Station with their passports (or “Alien Registration Card”) and sign-out at Changuimun Station.

Guards are posted at intervals within eye-shot of hikers. One young cadet approached me to view my camera photos and requested some to be deleted. The pictures were mainly landscape shots, mostly bird’s eye views of the city, which didn’t look pretty anyway, back-lit by the morning sun.

It was a quarter past eleven when we arrived at the top of Bugaksan. The guard, more militia than forest ranger, had been monitoring the growing crowd at the plot, and sternly ushered any lingerers to move on. No picnic here, literally, just pictures.

The Koreans are actually a helpful and friendly lot. On the way up we had approached more than a few ajumma (“aunty”) for directions and they were profuse with their assistance; expressive hand gestures and finger pointing, and a continuous barrage of verbal directions, delivered in Korean.

We nodded our gamsa-hamnida (“thank you”) and they gleefully let us off. Still clueless, we were comforted to know that at least we were in hospitable country.

The descent to Changuimun was unexpectedly steep, and the high steps slowed the pace somewhat. Overall, the hike was enjoyable, requiring just three hours, which left us plenty of time to slip back downtown for another helping of sumptuous Korean spicy soup.

By Lee Meng Lai The Star/Asia News Network

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More South Koreans opt for tech startups instead of ‘chaebols’ and beyond Samsung


Korean Startup incubatorIncubator: The Yongsan startup incubator centre in Seoul. The government has poured billions into startups, in line with the president’s push to foster a ‘creative economy’ that would move beyond the traditional manufacturing base. — AFP

SEOUL: As an engineering major at Seoul’s Yonsei University, Yoon Ja-young was perfectly poised to follow the secure, lucrative and socially prized career path long-favoured by South Korea’s elite graduates.

But the idea of corporate life in an industrial giant like Samsung, however well-remunerated, simply didn’t appeal so instead Yoon joined the swelling ranks of young Koreans looking to make their mark in the volatile world of tech startups.

In her final year at college, Yoon, now 26, created a Pinterest-style image-sharing app, StyleShare, for fashion-conscious young women.

“I was always into fashion, and there were so many moments that I wanted to grab someone on the street and ask what is that pretty dress or pair of shoes she’s wearing,” Yoon said.

“All the fashion magazines only talked about expensive brand clothes, which didn’t help ordinary people like me,” she said.

The app became a hit and now has more than one million users.

Yoon said her parents initially panicked when it became clear the app was more than a fun hobby and she wasn’t going to get a “real” job. “But they soon became strong supporters,” she said.

Her father, a loyal LG employee for two decades, even offered some of his retirement savings to help kick-start the business.

For her parents’ generation nothing matched the stability and prestige that came with a job in one of the family-run conglomerates, or “chaebols”, that dominate the national economy.

The likes of Samsung, LG and Hyundai remain magnets for many of the country’s brightest graduates. But with the global economy in low gear and the smartphone era opening new doors, an increasing number like Yoon are forsaking a rigid career structure to try tech entrepreneurship.

The number of new “venture firms” – high-risk, largely tech-related enterprises – stood at 30,053 last month, according to the state-run industry tracker Venturein.

That figure was almost double the 15,401 registered in 2009 – a milestone year when the first iPhone went on sale in South Korea and brought the app-making industry with it.

Under President Park Geun-hye, the South Korean government has poured billions of dollars into startups, in line with her push to foster a “creative economy” that would move beyond the country’s traditional manufacturing base.

“There is an astounding amount of money, from both the private and state sectors, flowing around in the market right now,” said Jang Sun-hyang, investment director at Mashup Angels, a Seoul-based startup incubator.

“The word ‘startup’ didn’t even register in the public consciousness in, say, 2011. Now it’s one of the hottest buzzwords among college kids,” Jang said.

According to government data, the pool of private and public investment available to tech startups stood at 2.5 trillion won (RM8.4bil) in 2014, up 62% from a year ago.

South Korea’s hyper-wired populace also offers a fertile ground for tech businesses – most households have broadband access and 80% of people own smartphones.

More than 60% of smartphone users – the highest ratio in the world – use ultra-fast 4G service that allows users to download a feature-length film in a few minutes.

Google is set to open “Campus Seoul” this year to help train budding startup firms and facilitate their expansion, while Samsung and LG are also boosting investment in startups.

As the number of other incubator centres popping up offering office space, business advice and potential investment opportunities rise, the capital is drawing comparisons with US tech haven Palo Alto in Silicon Valley.

But challenges remain. The relatively small domestic market means successful start-ups have to look overseas if they want to keep growing.

Crossing language and cultural barriers can be daunting, even for established firms like Kakao Talk, the South’s top mobile chat app with 48 million global users which has struggled to expand into Southeast Asia.

And the consequences of failure are high in a society where experience counts for little if there is no successful outcome. — AFP

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“Super China” Boom in South Korea


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Super China_S KoreaA screen capture of South Korean documentary Super China. [Photo/Agencies]

The seven-episode documentary, Super China, won hearts and ratings over 10 percent in South Korea and is praised as the “encyclopedia” for South Koreans to know China.

The special series, which aired from Jan 15 to 24, introduces China as a whole, covering demographics, economics, resources, geography, military diplomacy and cultural soft power. The ratings surpassed 10% for Super China, while average ratings for a South Korean documentary stand at around 5%, according to Xinhua.

“The high ratings show how much South Korean audiences are interested in China, and that we aired the series at the right time,” producer Park Jin-hwan said.

Park, who worked as a journalist in China for many years, is among the three producers of Super China. The initial aim of production was to provide a “framework for deeper understanding on China,” Park said.

“There were many publications and programs that introduced China, but none of them was comprehensive enough, so we wanted to do a more complete documentary to help South Korean audiences learn about China’s past and presence,” Park said in fluent Chinese.

“China’s influence on the world is increasing as we speak. We have visited more than 20 countries, including the US, Argentina, Sri Lanka and Kenya, to give different perspectives on China from around the world,” said Park.

Multi-national politics and international relations are major highlights of the program. The program also includes experts who talk about their take on the future of Sino-South Korean relations. Among them aree Professor Joseph Nye of Harvard University, who introduced the concept of “Soft Power”, and political researcher John J.Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago. Views of politicians, businessmen and the public also are included.

The pubic response

According to Xinhua, many South Korean audiences think a documentary on this scale that reflects the real China is rare and regard Super China as a “encyclopedia” on understanding China.

Others believe that with China’s strengthening national power and a tighter Sino-South Korean relationship, this documentary can help South Koreans think about the future between the two nations. Some felt a sense of “crisis” after viewing, while others criticized the program as a documentary that praised China.

Across the border, Chinese audiences believe Super China is progressive, as it does not carry a tone of prejudice or contain many misunderstandings, while others think they have raised the bar too high for China. Chinese netizens believe this documentary may stir worry in South Korea.

Super China’s production team did not expect the strong feedback from Chinese audiences, as the show was aimed at South Korean viewers. Park said he is considering filming a new series to focus on the influence of China’s economics on South Korea, including the challenges and opportunities brought by China’s manufacturing and telecom industries.

( Chinaculture.org )

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Malaysia tops Job Asia Index, job ads on the rise


Robert WaltersNew job postings in Malaysia soared in Q4 2014, on the back of Putrajaya’s success in drawing in more multinational firms, according to recruitment consultancy Robert Walters. http://www.robertwalters.com.my/

Out of the six Asian markets that were surveyed in the agency’s job index for Q4 2014, Malaysia witnessed the biggest jump in the number of new jobs advertised, or an increase by 48 percent over the same period in 2013.

Titled “Asia at a glance,” the index ranked Japan second as it grew 42 percent due to improved business confidence, while China and Singapore grew at 19 percent and 23 percent respectively, owing to growth in online retail and increased regulatory requirements.

Overall, Asia witnessed an increase of 18 percent in job advertisement figures.

Sally Raj, managing director of Robert Walters Malaysia, attributed Malaysia’s status as one of Southeast Asia’s fastest growing markets to Putrajaya’s success in attracting more multinational firms.

“The government’s initiatives to strengthen infrastructure and increase business operational efficiency continues to attract increasing numbers of multinationals to the country. This explains the encouraging increases in job advertising volumes we have seen across 2014,” she said.

She said firms in Malaysia have expressed concerns over the goods and services tax that will roll out this April, making 2015 an “interesting year.”

Robert Walters noted that there was a shortage of technically skilled job applicants in Malaysia, with advertising of job openings for IT candidates climbing by 75 percent, while recruitment for those in accounting and finance as well as marketing rose by 63 percent and 55 percent respectively.

Meanwhile, the 33 percent rise in job advertisements for logistics was driven by the country’s emerging status as a key regional hub for logistics and manufacturing, while the 31 percent hike in retail job postings is due to the opening up of new malls and new international brands.

With offices in 24 countries and regions, Robert Walters revealed that it compiled the Asia Job Index by monitoring advertising volumes for recruitment in leading job boards and national newspapers in the six regions.

By Farah Wahida, Editor of PropertyGuru, wrote this story. To contact her about this or other stories email farahwahida@propertyguru.com.my

Malaysian Job ads on the rise

PETALING JAYA: Job advertisements in Malaysia grew by 48% overall in the fourth quarter of last year, with experts saying this proves that Government initiatives and the stress on business operational efficiency is bearing fruit.

Recruitment consultancy Robert Walters in its Asia Job Index for Q4 2014 report said Malaysia was one of the fastest progressing markets, out of the six countries surveyed in Southeast Asia.

“The Government’s initiatives to strengthen infrastructure and increase business operational efficiency continue to attract increasing numbers of multinationals to the country.

“This explains the encouraging increase in job advertising volumes we have seen across last year,” said Robert Walters Malaysia managing director Sally Raj in the report.

She said companies were continuously trying to reach out to top talents in the market.

“In order to ensure further growth, hiring managers are producing very strong retention strategies to keep their best performers.

“This year will be an interesting year ahead as businesses have already expressed concerns around the Goods and Services Tax (GST) which will be implemented in April,” she added.

Japan came second at 42% due to improved business confidence while Singapore grew at 23% due to their Fair Consideration Framework.

The framework, which came in effect last August, obliges hiring managers to consider Singaporeans first for all vacancies. China grew 19% due to the growth in online retail.

Hong Kong trailed behind at 15% as companies seek to upskill their teams by hiring professionals with stronger skill sets and replacing underperformers.

South Korea meanwhile recorded a 3% growth due to positive policy changes by the government.

The report also revealed that IT candidates remained in demand, with the shortage of technically skilled job applicants being a key factor in the 75% rise in job advertising.

This is followed by those in accounting and finance (63%), and marketing (55%).

“Malaysia’s emerging status as a key manufacturing and logistics hub in Southeast Asia drove job advertising in logistics up 33% from 2013,” the firm noted.

Apart from that, the emergence of new shopping malls and the entrance of more international brands in Malaysia created a strong 31% increase in 2013 for retail job advertising especially within the luxury and mass label markets.

By Hemananthani Sivanandam The Star/Asia News Network

6 ways your tech is spying on you


Tech spying Valentines DayEmbedded data: Foreign tourists taking a selfie with red roses on display for Valentines Day outside a shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand. Exif data in your pictures can contain a lot of information about where you have been. — EPA

Compared with what’s already happening, Samsung’s warning not to discuss sensitive issues in front of its TVs seems pretty tame. But you can fight back.

SO, your TV might be spying on you. It probably just wanted to join in with the rest of the technology in your life because, let’s face it: if you live in the 21st century you’re probably monitored by half a dozen companies from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep. (And if you wear a sleep tracker, it doesn’t even stop then.)

Compared with some of the technology that keeps a beady eye fixed on you, the news that Samsung’s privacy policy warns customers not to discuss sensitive information in front of their smart TVs is actually fairly tame. The warning relates to a voice-recognition feature that has to be explicitly invoked, and which only begins transmitting data when you say the activation phrase “hi, TV.”

But other tech that spies on you might not be so genteel. The uncomfortable fact is that your personal data is just another way to pay for products and services these days.

The adage “if you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold” was coined in 2010, a lifetime ago in web terms, but it’s as true today as it always has been.

What’s changed now, though, is the number of ways companies are discovering to make sharing our data with them not something we grudgingly accept, but enthusiastically embrace.

Sure, they tell us, you can turn it off. But do you really want to?

1. Facebook’s “like” button

Even if you don’t use Facebook, you will have seen the company’s “like” button springing up in more and more places around the Internet, like a nasty case of chicken pox. If you click on it, you can like the page of a company, person or brand, all without leaving the website you’re on.

The uncomfortable fact is that your personal data is just another way to pay for products and services.

And then there’s Facebook share buttons and Facebook comments, both of which hook in to the company’s servers to provide their own features.

But it’s a two-way relationship: the price you pay for being able to interact with Facebook even without going to their website is that they can see the other websites you’re on, following you around the Internet and using that information to better target ads and content to you back on the mothership.

How to stop it: if you log out of Facebook when you’re done, the site’s ability to track your browsing is severely hampered. Of course, equally hampered is your ability to like things and comment on posts. Are you happy making that trade-off?

2. Smartphone location services

If you have an iPhone, try this: click on settings, then privacy, then location ­services, system services and frequent locations. You’ll notice a list of all the cities you’re in regularly.

Click on any specific city, and you’ll find that your phone knows all the locations you frequently visit. For me, that includes my home, local tube station and office, and also the pub I play Netrunner in, the house of one of my best friends and the comics shop I frequent.

Don’t feel smug if you use Android instead: Google keeps just as copious notes on your location and, unlike Apple, it is stored in the Cloud, where it can theoretically be subpoenaed by law enforcement or accessed by a suspicious partner who happens to know your password.

How to turn it off: both companies let you turn off location histories from the same pages you can look at yours. But if you do that, they’ll get a lot worse at giving you accurate and useful location suggestions. There’s that pesky trade-off again.

3. Uber

Perhaps it’s no surprise that a company that sells you cheap cabs through a slick app keeps data on your journeys. And that data is well-used by Uber to reassure customers that their journey is safe: the company will show you your ride history as well as information about your driver which can be crucial for solving disputes or, if the worst happens, ensuring justice.

But Uber hasn’t got the best history of using that data well. The company has had to apologise before for accessing a jour­nalist’s journey details in order to make rhetorical points, as well as remove a piece of “data journalism” looking at ride histories in aggregate to find out how many of their customers were using the service for one-night stands. They titled the post “rides of glory”.

How to turn it off: the best way would be not to use Uber. But there’s that trade-off again: old-school taxis, whether hailed from the street or called from a dispatch office, are going to end up charging you a lot more for your newly anonymous journey.

4. Mobile phone networks

Your mobile phone works by sending encrypted communications to and from masts, known as “cells”. Of course, especially in a built-up area, there’s likely to be more than one cell in range of your phone at any given time, and things would get confusing if they were all trying to run the call at the same time.

So your phone pairs with one particular cell, and “hands off” to a new one when you move around (the annoying clicks you get if you leave a phone next to an unshielded speaker is your phone checking in with a cell, to confirm it’s still alive).

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll realise what this means: your mobile phone network has a record of where you’ve been, accurate to at least the range of the closest phone tower.

In practice, it’s probably quite a bit more accurate than that, as they can triangulate in using information from other towers in your area.

How to turn it off: stop using a mobile phone. Seriously, this one isn’t going away. If you’ve got a removable battery, you can try taking that out when you don’t want to be tracked, but whenever you turn your phone back on, your mobile phone network is going to know where you are.

5. Exif data in your pictures

Did you know that digital photographs contain information about the picture? Known as Exif data, the standard was ­created to hold stuff that photographers might find useful to know alongside the image, such as the focal length and aperture they used while taking it.

It’s used by professionals to embed contact information and copyright details, as well.

Of course, as with most standards, there’s been a bit of feature-­creep, and these days, Exif data can contain a whole lot more information.

In fact, if you’ve taken a picture with a smartphone, or even a modern digital ­camera, there’s a good chance that the picture records where it was taken using the built-in GPS.

That’s great for building maps of your holidays, but not so good if you’re trading snaps with strangers.

How to turn it off: most ­cameras let you disable embedding location data in the files, but the good news is that social networks are one step ahead of you – and this time, they’re on your side. Facebook and Twitter both strip the metadata from ­images uploaded to the site, causing a headache for users who need the extra information but protecting those who don’t know that they’re uploading potentially sensitive data.

6. Facial recognition

Have you ever used Facebook’s tag suggest feature? The social network can scan through your uploaded pictures to find ones with friends who haven’t been tagged, and offer you suggestions for who to add.

It’s a wonderful time-saver over doing it the manual way, even if careless use can lead to some social faux pas (try to avoid tagging someone you don’t like just because they’re in the background of another picture).

But Facebook, and Google – which offers a similar feature – can only do that because it’s been running facial-recognition software on photos uploaded to the site for years.

In September 2012, Facebook was even forced to disable the feature after the Irish data protection commissioner scolded it for doing so without permission.

How to turn it off: try to avoid being in photos or having friends. Easy! — ©Guardian News & Media Ltd, 2015

By Alex Hern Sunday Star

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