Tag Archives: Korea

Google charts a careful course through Asia’s maps

Here’s a piece I wrote to coincide with Google’s launch of Street View in Thailand: Google charts a careful course through Asia’s maps

Google rushed out its panoramic Street View maps in Thailand on Friday as part of the country’s efforts to show tourist hot spots have recovered from last year’s floods.
But it also marked something of a change of fortunes for Google itself, which has weathered several storms in Asia over its mapping products.
Google rolled out 360-degree images of the streets of Bangkok, the resort island of Phuket and the northern city of Chiang Mai. Street View allows users to click through a seamless view of streets via the company’s Google Maps website.
Google plans to use a tricycle-mounted camera to photograph places that can’t be reached by car, such as parks and monuments. The Tourism Authority of Thailand will launch a poll to choose which sites to photograph first.
“We really want to show that Thailand isn’t still underwater,” said David Marx, Google’s Tokyo-based communications manager. “People should see Thailand for what it is.”
Pongrit Abhijatapong, marketing information technology officer at the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said it was less about showing that Thailand was back to normal.
“Rather, we hope tourists can see with their own eyes what Thailand is like. Street View will help their decision-making process in a positive way in regards to visiting Thailand.”
Google has not always been able to count on such enthusiasm elsewhere in Asia, illustrating the challenges the company has faced besides high-profile spats with China over privacy and India over removing offensive content.

Read the rest at Reuters.com.

Here are some links and bits and pieces I didn’t have room for:

Measures (Guidance) for Google, Inc. concerning Protection of “Secrecy of Communications”) – Japan’s Nov 11 2011 instructions to Google over privacy

Stefan Geens has done a great job charting the various sandbanks and undersea obstructions Google has encountered, particularly in Asia. His blog is well worth a read: Ogle Earth | Notes on the political and scientific impact of digital maps and geospatial imagery

I didn’t have enough space to go into detail about OpenStreetMap‘s challenge to Google, particularly in Asia. But in those parts of the region I know, it’s at least a match for Google, in places like Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Afghanistan. Their annual conference, State of the Map, will be held for the first time in Asia this year, in Tokyo on September 6.

My thanks to Daniel Kastl for explaining OSM and Japan to me. I understand that Yahoo Japan and OSM are about to announce some sort of cooperation in the next few days.

One thing I didn’t point out in the story is that Google doesn’t always get there first when it comes to street-level panoramic mapping. In Singapore, for example, gothere.sg was ahead of them, both in mapping and 360-degree views, and remains in some ways better than Google Maps. Hong Kong-based MapJack has offered street-level maps of Thailand’s Phuket. Chiangmai and several other resorts, though not Bangkok, since 2008.

The Gmail Phish: Why Publicize, and Why Now?

This Google Gmail phishing case has gotten quite a bit of attention, so I thought I’d throw in my two cents’ worth. (These are notes I collated for a segment I did for Al Jazeera earlier today. I didn’t do a particularly good job of getting these points across, and some of the stuff came in after it was done. )

Google says the attack appears to originate from Jinan, but doesn’t offer evidence to support that. I think it would be good if they did. Jinan is the capital of Shandong Province, but it’s also a military region and one of at least six where the PLA has one of its technical reconnaissance bureaus. These are responsible for, among other things, exploitation of foreign networks, which might include this kind of thing. The city is also where the Lanxiang Vocational School is based, which was linked to the December 2009 attacks on Google’s back end systems. That also targeted human rights activists. Lanxiang has denied any involvement the 2009 attacks.

I’d be very surprised if this kind of thing wasn’t going on all the time. And I’m very surprised that senior government officials from the U.S., Korea and elsewhere are supposedly using something like Gmail. There are more secure ways to communicate out there. I think it’s worth pointing out that this particular attack was first identified by Mila Parkour, a researcher, back in February. Screenshots on her blog suggest that at least three U.S. government entities were targeted.

I asked her what she thought of the release of the news now, four months later. Does this mean, I asked, that it took Google a while to figure it out?

As for any other vendor, investigations take time especially if they do not wish to alert the actors and make sure they shut down all the suspicious accounts.

And why, I asked, are they making it public now?

I think it is great they took time to unravel and find more victims and try to trace it. Looks like they exhausted all the leads and found out as much as they could to address it before going public . It has been three months and considering that hundreds of victims [are] involved, it is not too long.

This is not the first time that Google and other email accounts have been hacked in this way, and it’s probably not the last. It’s part of a much bigger battle going on. Well, two: one pits China–who are almost certainly behind it, or at least the ultimate beneficiaries of any data stolen, against regional and other rivals–and the other is Google making these things public. For Google it’s a chance to point out the kind of pressures it and other companies are under in China. Google in January 2010 said it and other companies had been under attack using tricks that exploited vulnerabilities in Google’s network to gain unauthorized access.

Google says it went public because it wants to keep its users safe. This from Myriam Boublil, Head of Communications & Public Affairs at Google Southeast Asia:

“We think users should be aware of the disturbing campaign we’ve uncovered to collect user passwords and monitor user email.  Our focus now is on protecting our users and making sure everyone knows how to stay safe online”

This  attack is not particularly sophisticated, but it involves what is called spear phishing, which does involve quite extensive social engineering techniques and reveals the object of the attacker’s interest is not random, but very, very specific. If you judge a perpetrator of a crime by their victim, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out who is the ultimate recipient of any intelligence gathered.

Skype Cuts Some Rates

Skype has lowered rates of its SkypeOut service to some destinations as part of its first anniversary celebrations. Here are the details:

Six major new countries have been added to the SkypeOut Global Rate, a fixed, low-cost rate of 1.7 Euro cents per minute to popular calling destinations. China, Greece, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Poland and Switzerland have joined more than 20 additional destinations in the Global Rate. Skype has also significantly lowered SkypeOut rates for calling numbers in Armenia, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bulgaria, the Cook Islands, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Korea, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland (mobile), Portugal, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka and Turkey.

I’m not quite clear from the press release, but it sounds as if this is an average reduction of 15%.

It’s not all good news: Prices for SkypeOut calls to Saudi Arabia, Papua New Guinea, Oman, Lichtenstein and Haiti numbers will increase slightly.

Skype Comes To Asia

Skype has teamed up with Korea’s Daum Communications to offer a co-branded Korean version of the pseudo-VOIP free telephony service.

Korea has the highest penetration of broadband in the world, and Daum claims 37 million members, so this could be quite a hit there. There’s no mention of whether the service offers Skype Out services, where Skype users can call reach non-Skype users via normal PSTN lines, but I imagine it will at some point. (A problem outside the big countries is getting Skype credits, something Skype says it’s looking into.)

Daum also plans to offer other services over the network: “Additionally, Daum-Skype will develop unique community building applications to expand the value proposition for Korean users. Programs promoting common-interest study and discussion will be rolled out later this year.”

Tracking People With A Cellphone

Can services which allow you to track another person’s whereabouts be abused to monitor the movements of loved ones, employees etc without their knowledge?

David Brake of Blog.org cites an article on Korea’s OhmyNews.com site that says yes. As he points out, there are plenty of services that offer this service with built-in safeguards to ensure the person being tracked has given his/her permission. In the UK there’s Verilocation and Where RU, for example.

But the OhmyNews article would seem to confirm that such safeguards are easily bypassed. The article, written by Jennifer Park, an OhmyNews intern about to begin her freshman year at Carnegie Mellon University, points to two cases in Korea she says illustrate the relative ease with which folk can monitor people without their knowledge.

One involves a woman subscribing to a location-based service without his knowledge, finding and entering the correct PIN code to register for the ‘search friend’ service. She was then able to “trace her boyfriend block by block” to an accuracy of 10 metres. That, Jennifer says, was enough to be to tell the woman’s boyfriend was at a specific bar.

Jennifer Park also points to a recent case at Samsung, the Korean conglomerate, where civic groups allege that nine employees of Samsung SDI who were trying to set up a labor union were placed under surveillance by their managers by hacking into their cell phones. According to their attorney, Jennifer writes, the hacking was done by finding the cell phone’s identification number and using it to duplicate it. Then the hacker was able to subscribe to the service.

According to the Korean daily Chosun Ilbo, prosecutors began investigations in July into the case. Korea also prosecuted a group earlier this year which had “illegally copied the phones of the female employees of an entertainment establishment and put them under surveillance after secretly installing location-tracking systems”, the newspaper said.

Bluetooth Away From The Cellphone

Is Bluetooth finally moving out of the world of mobile phones?

The Gadgeteer feels so, highlighting some new toys including two pairs of Bluetooth headphones and a Bluetooth mouse. Here is their review of Bluetake’s i-PHONO BT420EX stereo headphones and BT500 Bluetooth Mouse, and here is Sonorix’s Bluetooth audio player

What’s interesting, too, is that some of these are from Korea (only Bluetake is not, being Taiwanese). Korea and Japan have been slow to adopt Bluetooth, partly, I guess, because few of their companies are part of the Bluetooth consortium, partly because of different usage patterns.

I met a few Korean companies at CommunicAsia trying to change that, in particular SeeCode, which is selling a range of Bluetooth gadgets, not all of them phone-oriented.  None of them appear to be available on their website yet, but (according to their brochure I picked up, which relies on a charming version of English I’m not too familiar with) they include Viasync, which seems to be a sort of Bluetooth conference call device cum VoIP phone cum car handsfree, and the Viodio, which seems to be an MP3 player with a Bluetooth wireless headset (although, somewhat confusingly, the picture shows someone using very wireless-less earphones.)

The Real And Lucrative Art Of Mobile Blogging

Here’s a new version of mobile blogging — using maps.

WaveMarket have just announced a new “location-based blogging system” that enables users to send and view information that is time and location specific. Korea’s SK Telecom will be the first to use the technology, called WaveIQ, which they hope to launch soon.

It works like this (the website does not do a good job of explaining how it all fits together, so I may get this wrong): You use your phone as a sort of mobile blogging tool, posting information and/or pictures — say a restaurant review — to a central blog, organised by space and time. Others can then see that posting (stored, I guess, either by date, location or type) by either reading the blog as text, or seeing postings by location on a map viewable on their handphone.

Another feature is WaveSpotter, which allows you to wander around and by seeing where you are on a map, look for content near you — restaurant reviews, or whatever, or more personal stuff you or people you know have recorded, such as where you first dated your spouse (you mean you forgot already?)

One other feature is WaveAlert, which ‘enables wireless operators ”to notify you when you are near something important to you, like a speed trap before its too late, or a good friend who happens to be in your area”.

Here’s WaveMarket’s vision: “We enable a single screen archive to catalog an anywhere, any time visual history. Suppose 20 years from now, you want to see what happened here today, where the future of technology is being shaped. WaveMarket will have your photos and postings of what happened in this room at this time. WaveMarket can maintain a daily history of what happens anywhere — from this time forward. Events — big and small — state primaries, Middle Eastern conflicts, neighborhood improvement projects, family reunions or baby’s birthday can all be captured, broadcast, shared and archived. In short, WaveMarket enables you to see a visual history of the world, from today forward, written by the people of the world as it occurs.”

Um. OK, that sounds pretty radical. Thinking more short term, I can see this may be a neat service, and one that could really catch on, especially with those night-time folk who seem to spend more time communicating via SMS or voice with friends they’re not with than the ones they are with. But it may also have more practical benefits for cellphone users, such as figuring out the nearest hospital, the nearest bookshop, or how far from home your son is.

Of course, behind all this are some serious marketing opportunities. The last bit, in particular, sounds like a serious opportunity for firing off location-based ads via SMS/MMS. And of course there’s the privacy aspects: The whole service depends on being able to monitor your location in real time, something you may not be too excited about. Another downside: If one company has a daily history of your movements, your postings, your interests and whatnot, that’s valuable commercial data and you may want to think twice before having that stored somewhere. Not to speak of the interest law enforcement agencies may have in it. You may have done nothing wrong, but how about someone stole your phone and committed a crime with it in their pocket? Who ya gonna believe?

That all said, WaveMarket (the name, by the way, is telling) is the future. Handphones so far have not made full use of the fact that they are, among other things, very effective homing devices. Put that data on maps and hook it up with other time and spatial data and you have some powerful services — and marketing opportunities. And these guys clearly have overcome the huge data processing requirements of this kind of service. Must head off to Seoul and see how they use it.

Beware The Granny Spammer

Here’s a different take on the spam wars: the granny spammer. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution tells the story of Flo Fox, a graying grandmother in a “What Would Jesus Do?” T-shirt who uses a couple of shopworn computers to out millions of junk e-mails for merchandise ranging from land in Belize to blessed coins.

What I found interesting about the story, apart from the granny bit, is that the spammers interviewed say they have established Internet accounts in countries where spam isn’t controlled, though they won’t say where. “You’re not going to stop it,” one of the spammers is quoted as saying. “Most of us go offshore now. You have to hide where you are.” This is where Asia comes in, big: Korea, China, India, Pakistan and possibly Malaysia top my list of suspects.

(More discussion about the people in question, by people who apparently go to church with them, on Slashdot, the place where everybody knows your name.)

News: Camera phone manufacturers ban camera phones

The limits to camera phones
 
 CNET Asia reports that some Korean manufacturers like Samsung and LG Electronics “may be fiercely promoting camera-equipped phones to consumers, but are wary about allowing their use on their own company grounds.” Both companies have barred employees from using the gadgets in some of their factories to prevent “industrial espionage and intellectual property theft”, the report says, quoting Korean daily Chosun Ilbo (here’s the original report).
 
This is another chapter in the fast moving saga of camera phones. They’ve been banned in some public areas — changing rooms and the like — and CNET says bookstore owners in Japan “are also mulling measures to stop female shoppers from snapping pictures of magazines with their camera-phones”. Korea, CNET says, is considering a law which makes it mandatory for phone makers to install a “noise emitter” in their camera-equipped handsets.
 
Hmm. It’s not all bad, though: I’ve read other stories about folk snapping shoplifters, hold-ups and other criminal activities. The debate is bound to go on, probably until it’s overtaken by miniature cameras that no one can see, built into ties, sun-glasses, or whatever. And of course, with wristwatches and PDAs sporting cameras, where exactly do you draw the line?