App Developers – Watch Out for Privacy!
Jan20

App Developers – Watch Out for Privacy!

Towards the end of last year The Straits Times reported that 90 per cent of mobile apps in Singapore (including those from banks, telcos, real estate agents and financial advisers) do not adequately comply with data protection laws in Singapore. The concern continues this year in another article in the Straits Times. This topic is important. In today’s online world, it is worrying to hear about such a high level of non-compliance.  In this post we look at the issues of non-compliance and provide our top tips to help app developers in 2016. Why are apps still not in compliance? There are two key areas where apps are not in compliance: Lack of transparency: Apps are not providing app users with clear information about what data is collected and are not obtaining informed consent from app users. Data maximisation: Apps are collecting more data than they really need. It doesn’t take much of a leap to understand that if apps collect more data than they need, then there is more risk of apps misusing the data that they don’t need. Why else would you collect it? The level of non-compliance quoted is surprising.  Apps are ubiquitous, all of us use apps and we all put our data onto apps on a daily basis.  It is even more surprising because the data protection laws in Singapore have been on the books since 2012 and have been in force since mid-2014.  In addition, the regulator (the PDPC) has published plenty of helpful guidance here. So what if apps are non-compliant? The PDPC has the ability to fine non-compliance (and in extreme cases there can be imprisonment). As yet the PDPC has not fined a non-compliant app.  However, the PDPC has actively fined and investigated others for non-compliance e.g. Xiaomi, Tuition Agency, M1.   It can only take a few complaints to grab a regulator’s attention. But it’s not just about the legal risk.  Our view is that the data protection laws in Singapore represent good business and common sense.  It is not hard to comply with the requirements and organisations that do so are more likely to win the trust of their customers. Our top tips for app developers The good news is that compliance is not difficult.  So, to get 2016 off on the right path, app developers must (as a minimum) follow the following top tips: Write out a clear and easy-to-read privacy policy on what user information is collected and how it will be used; Make the privacy policy easily accessible from the app store/ the app download page and in (or from) the app itself; Obtain consent at the outset through acceptance of...

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Singapore criminalises online gambling – who is affected?
Jan29

Singapore criminalises online gambling – who is affected?

From Monday, 2 February 2015, the full force of Singapore’s extensive new Remote Gambling Act will be felt, both inside and outside of Singapore. The Act will criminalise the entire spectrum of remote gambling activities. The restrictions are extremely broad and will be felt by operators, agents, brokers, service providers, broadcasters, advertising networks, payment processors, financial institutions, ISPs – and, of course players, with potential sanctions including site blocking, payment blocking, fines and prison terms. As with any new law, particularly one that is so broad in scope, there are a number of grey areas, so we look here at some of the implications for different categories of individual and organisation within the remote gaming ecosystem. What does the Remote Gambling Act mean for…? Gambling operators based outside of Singapore Operators based outside of Singapore will need to take operational measures to comply, otherwise they risk falling foul of the extra-territorial measures of the Act that apply to services with a “Singapore customer link”. The long arm of the new law actually requires operators based overseas to make operational changes in order to comply. These include informing prospective customers that Singapore law prohibits the provision of the service to Singapore-based users, updating terms and conditions and taking “such other measures as far as reasonably practicable to ensure that the service did not, or could not reasonably have, a Singapore-customer link”. It remains unclear at this time whether geoblocking will be a minimum expected requirement. With extra-territorial laws, enforcement is always the challenge, which is why the Government is introducing payment blocking (via local financial institutions) and site blocking (via local ISPs) as part of the Act, with these measures to kick in immediately from Monday, 2 February. The MHA is reportedly preparing a list of online gambling sites to target. The Government has also indicated that it could seek the extradition to Singapore of individuals involved in the operation of offshore remote gambling services that target Singapore, although one would expect that to be reserved for very serious cases. Gambling operators based in Singapore From 2 February, it will be illegal to run a “Singapore-based remote gambling service”. Put simply, if the service is based in Singapore then the rules apply, wherever the customers are based. It does not matter whether the service targets Singapore customers or foreign customers, so geoblocking Singapore will not be a workaround. A service will be viewed as a “Singapore-based remote gambling service” if: (a)    The service is provided in the course of carrying on a business in Singapore; (b)   The central management and control of the service is in Singapore; or (c)    Where the...

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China lifts ban on games consoles – but with what conditions?
Jan11

China lifts ban on games consoles – but with what conditions?

It looks like China is finally ready to lift its 14-year ban on games consoles made by the likes of Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, opening up a potentially lucrative and relatively untapped market. But (and it might be a very big “but”) – there will be conditions attached. The ban The Chinese Government banned gaming consoles back in June 2000. The driving force behind the ban was the perceived “corrupting influence” of gaming consoles on the minds of young people. However, the ban has not stopped Chinese users from playing video games. Far from it. PC gaming is dominant and is understood to constitute around two-thirds of a market that is already valued in the region of $10-13 billion. Online gaming via connected devices (having exploded in the years following the 2000 ban) is also widespread. Finally – despite the ban – there exists a grey market for foreign console devices. Shanghai: a new frontier Back in September 2013, things began to change with the opening of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone – widely viewed as the Government’s “test-bed” for economic and policy reforms and one of its most ambitious economic experiments for decades. At the time of launching the zone the Government announced plans to open up the games console market and that was confirmed by the State Council earlier this week. So far so good for the games console industry. But what about those conditions?  1. Consoles have to be made in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. The first big condition is that the consoles have to be made in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. Import of the devices will still be banned. So for interested parties factory capacity will need to be developed within the zone. 2. Look out for the censorship rules. Devices and games will be subject to review and, of course, censorship. Government announcements couldn’t have been clearer on this point: “We want to open the window a crack to get some fresh air, but we still need a screen to block the flies and mosquitoes”. The specific rules will be written by China’s Ministry of Culture, a body responsible for monitoring media content. Although there is no fixed timeframe for the publication of these rules, one can make a pretty good educated guess about their focus. Indeed, comments at a press release on 10 January 2014 led by Cai Wu, head of the Ministry, probably tell us all we need to know: “Things that are hostile to China, or not in conformity with the outlook of China’s government, won’t be allowed”. 3. This might all be temporary. This is an experimental project and, it seems, may only be temporary. This reflects...

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The week in Connected Asia
Dec11

The week in Connected Asia

Here is a quick round-up of stories from a busy week in Connected Asia. 1. China has the highest number of fast-growing tech companies. With 128 companies ranked in Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 Asia-Pacific, China has emerged as the country with the highest number of fast-growing tech companies. China Communications Media Group, which is one of the largest mobile software platforms in China, was the fastest growing of them all. It has grown revenues by a staggering 266 times over the last three years. Taiwan, Australia and India were the other “stand-out” performers, although the tech sector across the region appears to be in fairly good health, despite the slowdown in China and sluggish economic growth in other parts of the world. 2. Amazon is said to be testing a cash-on-delivery business model in India. The Amazon drones made the headlines but the reported move by Amazon to test a “cash-on-delivery” model is one to watch in the e-commerce space in Asia. Consumers in India, particularly in more rural areas, are notoriously reluctant to make up-front payments via e-commerce platforms and this is a major challenge. Cash-on-delivery is far from a perfect solution though, for logistical, financial and legal reasons. First, it raises logistical issues (not least in collecting cash and dealing with rejected goods) that will need to be addressed by Amazon’s local delivery partner, India Post. Second, cash-on-delivery locks up working capital and exposes merchants to the obvious risk of “time-wasting” purchases that are ultimately rejected (although that risk does still exist to some extent with “cooling-off” periods in an up-front payment model). The shortcomings of the cash-on-delivery model are acknowledged but the hope is that it will build trust in e-commerce and that eventually consumers will move towards up-front payments. The fact that ever-innovative Amazon seems to be looking at the model suggests that it could be a long time before up-front replaces on-delivery in India. 3. Singapore’s “Do Not Call” register opens for business. The Asian data shake-up continues apace. On Sunday, Singapore’s new data regulator, the Personal Data Protection Commission, announced the opening of the “Do Not Call” registry. The “Do Not Call” rules under Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Act, which come into effect in January 2014, require businesses to verify with the registry that numbers are not listed there before engaging in direct marketing activities (voice calls, text or fax messages). Around 67,000 unique telephone numbers had been listed on the registry within 24 hours. From January, “Do Not Call” will be a new compliance burden for organisations to address. The remaining rules of Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Act (which impose obligations when it comes to the collection and...

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Vietnam steps up its control of the internet
Nov29

Vietnam steps up its control of the internet

The Vietnamese Government is taking further steps to control internet activity in the country. On the horizon and scheduled to come into effect on 14 January is “Decree 174”. According to the translations circulating online, the new Decree will have two key areas of focus: social media and online gaming. The aspect making most of the headlines is that users of social media who post comments that criticise the Government will be subject to fines (reportedly in the region of US$5,000). Other posts that would be subject to fines are those that undermine national unity, that distort historical facts or that “hurt the nation” of Vietnam. Many of these restrictions appear to be very broadly drafted. The other activity that the new law is interested in is gaming. Reportedly, there will be fines for teenagers who play games “after curfew”. Other fines (ranging from around US$2,500 to US$5,000) will apply to the use of “too much” virtual currency, setting up unlicensed gaming centres or providing or advertising games without having a licence in place. There are also restrictions relating to the content of the games themselves. All of these fines are surprisingly specific – for example, one wonders why playing games beyond curfew is subject to a fine of US$2,500 to US$5,000 whereas publishing games with certain restricted content (e.g. that promote drinking or smoking) is in the US$1,000 to US$1,500 bracket. It suggests that perhaps the Government is looking to bring enforcement of web violations more in line with something like parking violations. The challenge, of course, will be in the enforcement. Nonetheless, the threat of fines may, in many cases, be enough to disincentivise (or at least make people think twice) about engaging in some of these activities. And this will certainly not help Vietnam’s reputation as an “enemy of the internet” – it currently ranks 172nd out of 179 countries on the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Rankings....

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Singapore Government to Regulate Online Gambling
Nov28

Singapore Government to Regulate Online Gambling

It looks like Singapore is going to regulate online gambling. Today, the government announced plans to make online gambling services illegal, unless there are specific exemptions. The majority of the government announcement focused on how new laws would give enforcement agencies the powers necessary to act against the operators of online gambling services, and how website, payment and advertisement-blocking technologies will restrict the use of these services. This is in line with previous government announcements on the subject, which have tended to be about protecting the vulnerable from the risk of addiction. However, it is the “unless there are specific exemptions” part of the announcement that the gambling industry will be focusing on. It suggests that the government is considering a limited licensing model, such that a limited number of operators, subject to strict licensing conditions, may be permitted to operate online gambling services. In other words, industry will see at least a potential opportunity to operate legitimate services in Singapore. The legal position as it stands today is somewhat unclear. There are no specific laws to regulate online gambling in Singapore and there is considerable scope for uncertainty because the relevant laws were drafted pre-internet. The general consensus is that the operation of online gambling services targeted at Singapore citizens is likely to fall foul of the existing laws but there is no express law to that effect. The laws are unlikely to apply to (or at least be enforced against) offshore operators not based in Singapore. The potential prize for operators of these services is significant. It is estimated that the size of the remote gambling market in Singapore could already be US $300 million, and it is expected to grow at a rate of around 6-7 per cent annually (although the position will of course depend to a large extent on the approach to regulation). Surveys carried out by the Home Affairs Ministry suggest that almost one in three internet users had gambled online in the last year. It now seems that the government has recognized the need to regulate to bring certainty to the legal and regulatory position. From here, there will be a public consultation exercise, with various stakeholders consulted (likely, one assumes, to include online and land-based operators, ISPs and payment services providers) before any new law is put in place. However, things could move quickly and it seems certain that Singapore has now taken its first big step towards regulating online gambling.   Featured Image: Singapore by Luca...

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