Unfiltered

Our data shouldn’t be used as currency for technology to move forward

Companies shouldn’t mine it like gold and oil

Illustrations by Marcus Jucutan

Published

on

Security and privacy have become the issues we’re concerned about in this generation. Technology has cemented itself as a commodity; a constant in our lifestyle and in everything we do.

For the past year, we’ve seen data breaches from Facebook particularly the Cambridge Analytica scandal, hackers attacking big tech companies, voice assistants listening to our conversations, and technology being used to further one’s political agenda.

Right now, we all fear for our personal data. The world isn’t safe anymore, and here we are, being more afraid of cybersecurity posing a threat to our safety.

Is data the most important thing right now?

When I was in Hong Kong, my friend and I stayed in Tuen Mun, a 20-minute drive away from Shenzhen, China. Due to proximity, my browser and location have geo-tagged China instead of Hong Kong. Websites have been translated to Mandarin, too.

My friend and I laughed, whispering to ourselves “Welcome to China.” Amidst the jokes and frantic laughing, I was fearful about my personal security. Throwing away the naivety, we all know the issue surrounding this country relating to data and privacy. For years, we’ve accused China of harvesting our information that we became cautious about visiting the country or when using a Chinese-branded smartphone like Huawei, Xiaomi, Vivo, and OPPO.

Data has become the new currency that people are trading off; the new gold and oil, where people fight to mine and own it.

Of course, I’m afraid of my data being stolen for unknown purposes. There was an added fear during my stay since I was in the midst of rallies. But what scared me isn’t the chances of me getting caught in the crossfire, it was all the stuff I have on the internet.

What if the government caught wind of my political statements in my social media accounts and private messages? What if they knew I was siding with Hong Kong and their fight for democracy? Will I be deported? Jailed? I spiraled in anxiety and fear.

Gratefully, I left Hong Kong safe and sound. On a series of flights bound for Manila and Boracay, I pondered about the fear I had: Was data the most important thing right now?

Finding the answer

It seems the stars aligned because my thoughts happened right before the annual CxO Innovation Summit. Held by VST-ECS Philippines, the conference discussed the future and importance of data in today’s technology.

“There is no doubt that in today’s digital economy, most companies — if not all — are aware of the importance of data and the value it provides,” said Jimmy Go, President/CEO of VST-ECS Philippines. Of course, this conference was meant for enterprises to tackle how they can utilize data to improve their businesses.

Technology is here to stay and we can’t hinder progress because we’re scared.

Go further explained how big companies like Netflix and Amazon use data analytics to track users’ pattern based on their searches and activity, then recommends content and product for you, which are mostly things you don’t like (or do you?).

But it wasn’t Go who only shared insights and industry trends. The summit is joined by leaders in the cybersecurity, computers and electronics, and information technology industries. Among the top players with key representatives are Cisco, Lenovo, Fortinet, Hewlett-Packard, Dell Technologies, IBM, Schneider Electric, Samsung, Huawei, Aruba, and Oracle.

Data mining is a circular economy

Throughout the sessions, most companies discussed how to harness data and utilize available technology to further an enterprise’s progress. Channeling my self-obsessed personality, I asked: “Where am I in this narrative?”

Consumers don’t realize that companies use their data for research and marketing purposes. Some use it for noble goals like improving one’s life through technology, and some do it for the sake of expanding and future-proofing their businesses.

It’s like a cycle: Your data was acquired, analyzed, shared, translated, received and find its way back. Data has become the new currency that people are trading off; the new gold and oil, where people fight to mine and own it.

We need companies we can trust

When the conference ended, I left and sipped margaritas by the beach — allowing myself to absorb all the truths I found. Come to think of it: Isn’t it scary that Facebook suggests items you’ve previously viewed on Lazada and Shopee? How about the promoted post on your news feed about a lipstick you recently talked about with your friend on Messenger? This is how our data is being used and learning a lot about this process, I was astounded.

It dawned on me: Technology is here to stay and we can’t hinder progress because we’re scared. But what we can do is to find companies we can trust.

To find better resolve, I asked Samsung and Huawei — two of the biggest players in the consumer technology industry. I first met with Patrick Low, Principal Architect for CTO Office Huawei Enterprise Business Group.

Big Data is the enemy (or not?)

In an exclusive interview with GadgetMatch, Low discussed how consumers’ data are being acquired everywhere. Contrary to myths about Huawei, the executive debunked the rumors and discussed how apps are the culprit of data mining, not smartphones.

Samsung Product Manager Anton Andres supported Low’s statement in another exclusive interview. Andres expounded how third-party apps like keyboards try to hijack personal information. Both executives warned users about the apps they download.

On the bright side, both companies believe they’re doing enough to protect their consumers’ data and security. Huawei claims they don’t touch data, while Samsung parades its security solutions found exclusively on their devices. Of course, take everything with a grain of salt. It’s okay to trust at this point, but with reservations.

Taking into consideration what both Low and Andres stated, I started to wonder if big data is the enemy here. If big data sounds martian to you, it’s a technology used to analyze and help companies understand our behavior and preferences. It’s primarily the reason why you get advertisements about an item you were browsing in an e-commerce site or getting contact suggestions from the people in the same vicinity as you.

But as one friend pointed out, big data isn’t our enemy. It’s the abusers of the technology and the perpetrators who use it for their greed and personal agenda.

How can we protect ourselves?

As the world gets more connected, it is up for us to arm ourselves against the threats looming in. Start first on your devices: Use strong passwords and make it a habit to change them regularly.

Social-media wise, check your privacy and sharing settings. When you have an inactive account, find a way to close it. Additionally, read the terms and conditions for every app you download. Consider the risks of using digital assistants like Alexa and keeping an unsecured Wi-Fi, too.

The world is getting more connected, and there’s no stopping it.

There are so many things to do. Make sure you understand what data you’re sending and how your location is being tracked. Right now, it might be easy for you to say that tech companies like Google and Facebook already have a lot of information about us, or they don’t have anything to get since we’re not rich. But cybersecurity isn’t only for the rich people to worry about, it’s for everyone who has access to a connected world.

Sure, we won’t be a hundred percent safe from the possible threats. Thieves are getting smarter, and we need to be smarter than them. Keep yourself informed, that’s the best you can do to significantly decrease the chances of your personal security being compromised. The world is getting more connected, and there’s no stopping it.

Apps

I’m missing the Olympics because I don’t have cable

And it sucks

Published

on

It’s 2021. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which was delayed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, is in full swing as of writing. However, as someone whose primary source of media entertainment all comes from streaming, there’s no easy and convenient way for me to watch the games. Major bummer.

I like to enjoy my media a certain way; I prefer to stream them on my TV. Which is why majority of the content I consume come from YouTube, Netflix, and the occasional Amazon Prime, HBO Go (Yep, not even HBO Max), and Apple TV.

I find it incredibly baffling that the stakeholders involved in bringing the games to the people failed to come to an agreement to make it easily accessible on the aforementioned platforms. It’s 2021. Why on earth am I not able to watch the greatest sporting event on the planet the way I want to?

Believe me, I hear the privilege in my words. Regardless, I still feel marginalized.

So how can you watch the Olympics right now?

I asked a friend who’s been covering the games. He watches through cable and had to pay a PhP 150 fee (around US$ 3/ SG$ 4) to avail of the Tokyo 2020 Premium from a particular cable provider.

Thing is, the whole Olympic coverage in the Philippines is locked to the MVP group of companies. You wanna follow the games, you’re gonna have to do it on one of their platforms.

Here’s an excerpt from their press release on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic coverage:

“Sports fans will have comprehensive access to the Olympic Games — from the Opening Ceremonies all the way to when the games conclude — on free to air via TV5 and One Sports. One Sports+ on Cignal TV will also dedicate a significant amount of their daily hours to broadcast the events, with Cignal also opening up two exclusive channels dedicated to broadcast the games 24/7. Cignal Play, in addition to live channels TV5, One Sports & One Sports+, will be offering exclusive channels broadcasting live updates to its subscribers, along with exclusive content not available on the TV broadcast. Cignal TV’s One News leads the group’s round-the-clock news coverage, featuring results, updates, and highlights.”

Comprehensive? Maybe. For platforms within the MVP group of companies. If you’re not subscribed to any of these, well, that’s just too bad. It’s good for business and I completely understand how the whole thing works. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.

The coverage also missed to televise or showcase Hidilyn Diaz’s historic gold medal win in the Weightlifting competition. If you’ve been following sports news, the Philippines was expected to get a medal in this event. Sadly, the moment was only known following updates from reporters on the ground.

How I wish it was handled

I’m sure there’s a lot more that goes into it in terms of TV and broadcasting rights, but we’re literally at an age where plenty of folks have decided to cut the cord and rely on streaming for content.

On YouTube, you can buy and/or rent movies and shows. The platform and structure exists for pay-to-watch content. They could have even made tiers or packages like charge a certain amount to gain access to all the games, a different and lower amount if you just want to follow a certain sport and/or a certain event.

Maybe the potential earnings to do so didn’t justify the costs to implement it. Whatever the case, it’s still incredibly frustrating.

Sure, I can go through the hoopla of setting up a VPN and look for streaming sites. But that’s more even more cumbersome. I don’t mind paying a convenience fee if it means that after a long day of work I can kick back, relax, and watch some damn sports.

Continue Reading

Smartphones

Oops! I was wrong about foldable phones

They’re here to stay in the years to come

Published

on

Illustration by Migs Buera

When the first foldable phone came out, the words I blurted out of my mouth were “Who the F needs that?” At the time, no one really needed it. It was a showcase of what the future might hold; a glimpse of where we’re headed.

For someone whose work requires him to be appreciative of technology, I wasn’t particularly receptive to change. Inherently, I believe that necessity is the mother of the invention which is why I was hesitant about the whole foldable concept — and even called it a fad. Smartphones are doing fine, why change what’s not broken, right?

Yes, my thoughts are the same about the flip phones that resemble the phones of the distant past. An ex-lover and I were jokingly discussing how impractical these phones are, despite working in the electronics and technology industry.

But the same thing cannot be said to the most recent foldable phones anymore, especially in 2021. There’s a certain allure with the Galaxy Z Fold2 that you can only experience when you use it. And the same goes with the Huawei Mate X2 when Michael Josh decided to play around with it. And I couldn’t agree more.

Using the Galaxy Z Fold2 for quite a while now made me realize how it fills the gap in the smartphone industry, and how they can help keep the technology industry from pressing forward.

Not the usual smartphone, not yet a tablet

By now, you probably know this foldable’s form factor. So I don’t need to go into the technical details and let me speak from experience.

The first time I got my hands on the Galaxy Z Fold2, I was afraid. It felt like a delicate flower that evokes grandeur and beauty. When folded, it’s nearly the size of average smartphones that you’re familiar with. It’s just thicker to hold and quite slippery that you might want to strengthen your grip to be on the safe side.

Opening it requires a gentler approach, but this is where the magic begins. The Galaxy Z Fold2 offered a bigger screen that I can hold for a longer time, which a tablet can’t even provide. It gave me the ability to work elsewhere without carrying my laptop all the damn time.

Though you can’t do heavy work in it, I was able to keep my social platforms running and I was able to hop on a meeting, check my designers’ works, and coordinate with my team — even if I was outdoors eating at an al fresco restaurant.

It’s also a head-turning accessory, seeing how foldables are unique to the average consumer’s eyes. And honestly, I liked the attention I got from it.

Okay, enough with its allure. Let’s talk about what my issues were and how it’s relevant to the future of smartphones.

Pushing the boundaries of what a smartphone should be

One of the issues most tech reviewers had with the foldable phones is the creases that, frankly, make or break an experience. I can live with it, but not a lot of people can (probably). But my issue was how most apps aren’t optimized for a foldable phone, yet.

This is why depending on how it pans out, foldable phones can turn the wheels again and make the whole industry move forward. Smartphones are getting boring and obsolete.

When every smartphone manufacturer releases a smartphone every damn three months, we get bored seeing how all of them look similar or offer a minor reiteration of the common slab devices. Remove their brand and coating, and they all look the same.

Companies have nearly perfected the design and experience of flagship smartphones. Midrange and budget phones, on the other hand, need a little bit more refining.

Other companies like LG — whose mobile division already shut down — started working on different form factors like the LG Wing. And we love it. Even ASUS made the whole Zenfone 8 an engineering solution, packing heavy features in a compact smartphone by shrinking some of its components.

Although frankly, we can all agree and settle with foldable phones as the next form factor. It’s starting to make sense, at least when you get your hands on it. With Samsung and Huawei leading the race on foldables, it’s certainly a phone war we’d love to watch from beginning to end.

The next standard of premium phones… or the future of smartphones?

If more people adopt foldable phones, smartphone manufacturers will be forced to step up their game and go where the demand is. Except, foldable phones still aren’t made for general use.

It still is a phone for those who have the money to burn, who want to be on the cutting-edge of technology, and those who need a device that fills the gap between a smartphone and a tablet to augment their lifestyle.

But whatever the future has in store for us, I’m certain that foldable phones — if done right — can be the next standard of what makes a phone premium. That, or it could be the next generation of our smartphones. Nonetheless, my mind has changed thanks to the Galaxy Z Fold2. And now, I’m excited to step into the future.

SEE ALSO: I’ve grown attached to the Galaxy Z Fold2

Continue Reading

Entertainment

Netflix’s Trese: Beacon of hope for Filipino storytellers

According to a graphic novel writer

Published

on

Illustration by Migs Buera

The wide, deep, and varied world of comics or graphic novels was something that remained unexplored until I was forced to because of work. As an introductory lesson to comics and graphic novels, Trese was a part of my reading assignment. And since they did not have all the volumes of Trese, I went on a hunt for it.

The one I got is the Trese: Book of Murders which is in English. It was a quick read but I was more curious to read the Filipino version. Either way, I finished it within the same day I purchased it. And I loved it.

Though I did not delve deep into the fandom, I was curious enough to join the Facebook group and to check on updates every now and then which was why I cheered when I saw that there was going to be an animated series based on the comics.

“Sadly, there are things that had to be sacrificed if it meant getting things done.”

On keeping the art and story

It had been around three years since I last read the entire thing and I needed a refresher. I finished it just an hour before the series was available for streaming.

I watched the entire series in one sitting. Starting from the surface, the art is gorgeous and very pleasing to the eyes, but maybe a tad too Western than what I would have wanted.

Trese

I am not saying that they should have copied the exact art style from the comics but maybe it could have been a bit more Filipino-looking. As much as I adore how Alexandra Trese looked, she looks almost American-Japanese. But, nevertheless beautiful.

Story-wise, it did not change a lot but it surely compressed it a bit. Maybe a bit too much that they had to rely on voiceovers and flashbacks in order to touch on important parts and deliver the story without leaving too many loopholes.

It was understandable but some parts felt dragging just because it was compressed. But that could also be due to other factors. And sadly, there are things that had to be sacrificed if it meant getting things done.

“I can’t think of anyone who can be the voice of Alexandra Trese other than Liza.”

The never-ending discourse about the dub

Now onto the part that everyone has been talking about even before it started to stream―the dub. There’s Filipino, English, Japanese, and Spanish the last time I checked.

I tried it all and I have mixed emotions. I originally went for the Filipino dub mainly because I wanted to get the full Filipino experience. Out of curiosity, I rewatched one episode and tried the other languages.

The Spanish one was almost natural but maybe that’s because of the familiar words that we have adapted. The Japanese one was interesting, giving that anime feel that was kind of cool and maybe had the most emotion among the dubs.

Trese

The English dub was also nice but some Filipino terms and names tend to sound kind of slang. With the Filipino one, it was the most natural one… vibe-wise.

But what I did not like about the Filipino dub was the lack of emotions in some parts and mainly from Alexandra Trese. Though it was established that Alexandra was not that emotionally expressive, she sounded so monotonous throughout the entire series.

Maybe, just maybe, Liza Soberano was focusing on her enunciation that she was not able to deliver enough emotions in her lines. But other than that, I can’t think of anyone who can be the voice of Alexandra Trese other than Liza. Just a bit more voice acting workshop, I guess, and she’s good to go.

TRESE (L to R) CARLOS ALAZRAQUI as SANTELMO and SHAY MITCHELL as ALEXANDRA TRESE in episode 101 of TRESE Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021

Setting up the stage for other storytellers

It may not be perfect and polished as others may have hoped for but I do hope that Trese can pave the way for other Filipino comics, and other local stories to make their way to a more global or international scene.

Philippine mythology is filled with deities and creatures, which are varied depending on every region of the country. The most common deity mentioned and used is Bathala, the Supreme Being in the Tagalog region, while the most common creature used is the aswang.

Even in the American fantasy TV series “Grimm”, they featured the aswang, but I personally think we have other creatures that are far more horrifying. There is the sigbin which looks like a dog but it walks backwards with its head lowered and it sucks its victim’s blood but during Holy Week, it hunts children for their hearts. That’s just one of the many.

A lot of Filipino creators have shared their vision and interpretation of our mythology and folklore such as Tabi Po by Mervin Malonzo, Mythology Class by Arnold Arre, Ella Arcangel by Julius Villanueva, Janus Silang by Edgar Samar, and more. From popular titles to independent creations that you would see at a smaller comic convention, more artists and writers are showing appreciation for what is ours.

Plenty of mythology to explore

At first, I was not aware of just how vast our own mythological world is and I only knew very little folklore. But when I started to work in Epik Studios Inc., I had to read and learn more. What made me delve deeper was during the time that I was tasked to write the modern take on Bernardo Carpio. Instead of sticking to the popular creatures for the villain, I researched creatures that are barely used. Not only did I find a fitting villain for Bernardo Carpio, but I also found inspiration for new stories that I want to write in the future.

We have a rich folklore and mythology that has yet to be fully showcased but we have a lot of storytellers who wish to show it to the world. It’s about time that we do.

Watch Trese on Netflix.


This opinion piece was written by Patch Aviado, a creative producer and a writer who worked on graphic novels such as Bernardo Carpio, Pedro Penduko: The Legend Begins, Maria Makiling, and Osyana. Together with Viva Books, she published Garden of Sunflowers. Currently, she’s working on an online novel entitled Blue Hearts, Purple Roses. When she’s not writing, she’s busy fangirling.

Continue Reading

Trending