Facebook guilty, Huawei continues to claim innocence

(Bangkok Post file photo)

I've been thinking about the new foldable phones. For many years, I have been hoping for a foldable e-book that has, to date, not materialised in a form I'd want to buy. There is something about the traditional book format that is familiar and comfortable. The first releases of foldable phones are aimed at those with lots of spare cash and who want to dip their fingers into the technology. These buyers form a baseline for the manufacturers to build on. I see this as testing the waters and I expect to see Apple jump into the market in the near future, as they have a bucket load of patents for similar technologies.

Maps fold out, books fold out, many other things we use regularly fold out. The irony here is that the act of unfolding is a throwback approach compared to the fixed square screens we have been using for the past few years. The flip and slide-out phones have been out of fashion for a while now. Some upcoming phone designs even hark back to the ancient days of scrolls where a foil is dragged out of the main device. We are some time away from seeing the foldable as the standard format, and designers still need to work out what the best approach will be. The big question is, of course, just how expensive will Apple's device be when it hits the streets?

The news of the week is Facebook being caught out doing what Zuckerberg says they haven't been doing. Researchers found that nearly a fifth of users caught up in the banned tracking app were teenagers. The organisation also bypassed Apple's App Store privacy rules. An undercover organisation, through a whistle-blower, revealed that Facebook has indeed been deboosting users based on an algorithm that targets those on the conservative side of politics, contrary to Zuckerberg's Senate testimony. YouTube has also come under criticism for closing off comments on perfectly innocent family events posted for other family members, just in case some paedophiles decide to post comments. At the same time both organisations claim that they are not in any way publishers. Stay tuned for some kickback from the powers that be in the near future because you can't claim to be an open platform while applying stringent censorship at the same time.

How many cameras do you need in your mobile phone? Based on the new Nokia 9 PureView, the answer is five, with Zeiss optics of course. That is, five 12MP F1.8 cameras. Three of them are black and white and the aim is to provide sharp pictures even in low light conditions. A 20MP front-facing camera, an in-screen fingerprint reader, 6-inch screen, smallish 3,320mAh battery and the usual other features round out this mid-range phone with a MSRP of only 22,750 baht, well under the current crop of top end phones. It will be interesting to see how well it does in the marketplace.

Chinese hardware maker Huawei is still protesting its innocence to charges of conspiracy to steal trade secrets and other charges levelled against it by the US. The Americans have claimed that Huawei poses a security threat, as it can be forced by the Chinese government to put backdoors into its products. To date, Japan, Australian and New Zealand have come out in support of the US. Others, such as the UK and Germany, have rejected the US argument. It would be interesting to see Huawei try anything in Germany, where they have uncovered all kinds of spying on users, including by the US company Microsoft. There is a lot of potential money tied up in Huawei's ability to install products like 5G in multiple nations. This is another interesting case to watch.

In what I'm sure is unrelated news, current FBI director Christopher Wray has warned that China remains the biggest cyber threat to the US and other nations. The Russians may take the headlines but China's activities dwarf any other nation state when it comes to hacking. The prime targets remain corporate networks, blueprints, intellectual property and anything with a security rating. At the recent RCA conference in San Francisco the director said he was surprised by the "breadth and depth and scale of the Chinese counterintelligence threat".

According to a new report by VC investor MMC Ventures, a good 40% of the 3,000 Artificial Intelligence start-ups researched have no AI technology in their portfolio, demonstrating once again that using popular marketing terms of the day can fool a large number of people. Sadly, too many of them are CIO's or other members of senior management.

Back in 2004, Bill Gates predicted the death of passwords. We still have them. Enter Web Authentication specification, or WebAuthn, supported by Android, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Apple Safari (preview), Mozilla Firefox and Windows 10. This will allow users to sign in to the internet with their preferred device using cryptographic keys derived from biometrics, mobile hardware and/or FIDO2-compliant security keys. What could possibly go wrong?

James Hein is an IT professional of over 30 years' standing. You can contact him at jclhein@gmail.com


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