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

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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 uses data analytics to track a user’s pattern based on their searches and activity, then recommends content and product for you, which is 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.

Smartphones

What we want to see on the Samsung Galaxy Fold 2

It can only get better

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By now you’ve all probably heard or read everything that people have to say about the Samsung Galaxy Fold. It certainly made several headlines in 2019 for various reasons.

While we do think it is a step in the right direction, we also believe it needed a bit more time in the oven. After spending roughly two weeks with the Galaxy Fold, here are a few things I wish would happen with the inevitable Galaxy Fold 2.

A form factor that makes more sense 

As it is now, when folded, the Galaxy Fold’s screen feels like it’s half a phone, and when unfolded it feels like it’s three-fourths of a tablet. This current form factor just isn’t it.

That’s really bad screen-to-body ratio

We’ve already seen reports of a Galaxy Fold that’s more of a phone and then folds into something smaller. Something reminiscent of the Motorola razr.

I don’t think that’s the only thing Samsung is doing. Best believe the direction is still to have something that’s a fully functioning smartphone when folded, and a full-sized tablet when unfolded.

Better app support

If they can figure out how to do this properly, that might solve many of the Fold’s shortcomings. For instance, as of writing, the Galaxy Fold doesn’t support the latest version of Netflix.

No Netlfix and chillin’ on this one :(

I was so excited to binge on this thing only to find out that, unfortunately, I can’t.

Because of the form-factor, some games also just do not look right. The controls on NBA 2K20 take up nearly half the screen. It’s nearly impossible to see what’s going on, making the whole experience just unenjoyable.

Controls completely blocking off a huge part of the screen

I guess it doesn’t make sense to have regular app updates for a device that only a handful of people own. That’s one of the major hurdles of foldables.

Take away that ugly notch

Whatever you’re watching, whatever you’re playing, it’s impossible to not notice the eyesore that is the front-facing camera. I also dread the punch-hole solution but that would have been way better than what we got.

Not a pretty sight

Make it thinner and lighter

The Galaxy Fold is just unwieldy. Sure, you can grip it with one hand when it’s folded but it’s a little too thick than what I’d like.

Hard to tell here because I have fat hands 😂

The tablet form is pretty much what you’d expect from other tablets when it comes to weight and thickness. Which might be an indication that the Galaxy Fold was first a tablet before a phone.

Here’s the folded Galaxy Fold next to a PS4 game’s Blu-ray case

Whatever the case is, a thinner and lighter version will be more than welcome.

Race to be the best

Everything I mentioned here are pretty much expected growing pains from a first-generation device. We don’t always get it right the first time and that’s okay.

Samsung can now claim they are the first to market this new device category. But will they also be the first one to perfect it? If they are the innovators they claim to be, then I wouldn’t be surprised if they completely re-imagine their approach to foldable devices.

For more thoughts on the Galaxy Fold read our hands-on. For some laughs, check this one out.

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Editors' Choice

Foldable phones arrived in 2019 but do we really need them?

Or is it just a gimmick?

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2019 has definitely been an exciting year thanks to the numerous advances we’ve made in mobile technology. We’re one step closer to the 5G revolution, the number of camera lenses on a phone has drastically increased, and affordable phones offer more features than ever.

However, this year witnessed a major milestone. Samsung has been working on foldable displays for years. Their AMOLED display technology is unchallenged and the brand wanted to leverage it for other futuristic projects like a bendable phone.

The Samsung Galaxy Fold was unveiled and was supposed to go on sale soon. But, the initial units were found to be extremely delicate and journalists ended up with broken display within no time. Samsung was quick to acknowledge the fault and delayed the commercial launch by a few months. In the end, the Fold was available commercially and despite its hefty price tag, the response has been positive.

Though, everyone who bought the phone knew what they’re getting — first-generation technology. This means the product still has a lot of room for improvement due to future advancements and this is just the stepping stone. Samsung has been confident that it’ll be able to carve out a new market for foldable phones and recent reports have also suggested a low-cost foldable phone could be in the works.

But why do we need a foldable phone?

Ideally, a foldable phone has a lot of use case scenarios. A phone can be easily converted into a tablet for a bigger display (Fold’s implementation) or we could just fold a phone and make it smaller (Motorola razr’s setup). The technology offers more room for designers to play around with.

Following the footsteps of Samsung, Huawei too unveiled the Mate X this year, but there’s no word on its commercial launch due to the ongoing US ban. Ultimately, every phone maker is keen on getting on board this trend because everyone is talking about it.

Why foldable phones are still a niche?

Practically though, it’s a risky bet to actually replace your conventional phone with a foldable one. Firstly, the body of the phone is often considered sensitive and cannot handle drops like a usual phone. A single crack on the screen could render it useless and fixing a bendable screen isn’t going to be a pocket-friendly affair.

Secondly, the industry is yet to accept foldable phones as a mainstream offering. A decade back, the developer industry was scrambling to make their apps work on a 16:9 screen of a smartphone. Similarly, foldable phones have a unique set of challenges in the user interface that need to be addressed individually. Samsung has implemented a pretty smooth UI, but not all apps are actually scaling or transitioning smoothly.

Adding to this, foldable phones lack a standardized size. The modern standard for a mobile’s screen is anywhere between 16:9 and 20:9. The Fold has an aspect ratio of 21:9, while the smaller display is extremely tall. On the other hand, the Motorola razr gets a different size, increasing the complexity.

Obviously, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen sensitive phones or weird display sizes. The Mi MIX series looks stunning with an edge-to-edge screen but is also extremely delicate. BlackBerry has launched a few phones that have a square display and a physical keyboard.

But these phones don’t cost as much as a foldable phone. And that’s exactly why a customer would think twice before getting one. Is the folding property enough to convince a potential customer?

Foldables vs 5G

While we’re discussing foldable phones, another technology is maturing fast and ready to take over the world. Qualcomm recently held its 5G Summit and announced two new chipsets — Snapdragon 765 and 865.

Both of them support 5G network and the flagship 865 chipset only supports 5G. There’s no extension available to support 4G. In the coming year, the two most trending keywords shall be “foldable” and “5G”. What will you prioritize?

There’s no doubt that foldable phones are the future. But with so many brands trying to make a mark in a short span of time, it just feels a little early to join the party. Especially because a lot of brands lack long-term goal and are simply trying to milk the current trend.

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Lifestyle

I was in Facebook jail for 24 Hours

Banned unjustly without any chance to appeal

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It was a lazy Friday morning when I woke up to a 9GAG article. Chuckling on its narrative, I saved the article in hopes of reading it later again so I can decide if I will share it with a close friend of mine. However, saving the article meant posting and sharing it, according to Facebook. I was given a warning for violating their community guidelines.

Shocked and confused, I unsaved the link. To find out if it’s the real culprit, I saved the link once again and then boom! I was banned from posting, liking, and engaging in any posts on Facebook.

At first, I thought the ban would only affect my profile. Little did I know, the ban would extend to the pages I handle. I couldn’t post, not even the scheduled posts I prepared for the day were posted. It affected my job as a social media manager.

Locked up and grounded

Que horror, the only word I uttered after realizing I screwed up. I asked someone to cover for my work while I channel my frustrations on Twitter and Reddit. Mindlessly, I scrolled through Instagram and I repeatedly had the urge to switch apps and browse on Facebook so I can share memes, just like what I would do on a normal day.

“They know everything, they can see what’s happening, but they just can’t tell the world the situation they’re in.”

However, I couldn’t handle it anymore. Not being able to share or at least react, I felt disconnected from everyone. To free myself from the negative feelings circulating inside, I uninstalled Facebook and did the rest of my work for the day.

For 24 hours, I was impatiently waiting to get my ban lifted. Being in Facebook jail didn’t feel like being cut-off from the world, but it was more like being grounded. It’s like my parents decided to stop me from seeing and contacting my friends just because I sneaked out of the house past 10pm.

But more importantly, being in Facebook jail made me reminisce the prison life in the TV series I used to watch. How people — both criminals and victims of injustice alike — band together in a different, locked-up space, watching the world outside prison quietly. They know everything, they can see what’s happening, but they just couldn’t tell the world the situation they’re in.

Why me?

To make it through the day, I casually searched for people who experienced the same situation — unjustly banned for using a feature that isn’t directly hurting anyone. If I would have said something explicit or any form of hate speech, I would understand. But I didn’t.

“Facebook is just an authoritarian organization doomed for failure.”

If the article I wanted to save and read for later was violating the platform’s nudity policy, then why was 9GAG not reprimanded for posting it at all? Why did it have to be me? Up until today, I still can’t fathom the reason. Not even on Facebook’s useless Help center. It was reading stories that shared the same fate as I did that made me feel better. They made me feel that I’m not alone. “I’ll get through this,” was what I told myself.

It’s funny how being connected through the world’s largest social media platform made it both a good and a bad thing for everyone. It’s good in a way that Facebook helped us maintain the connection and relationships despite the distance. It’s bad in a way that we depend on Facebook to get updates from people through the posts they share and the stuff that goes viral; that we need to stay online and check on everyone through our news feed just so we don’t miss anything that might be discussed in real life.

What I learned

The ban was lifted after what felt like forever and I learned my lesson. It’s like being given a second lease on life. But what I learned, first and foremost, is to never use Facebook’s save feature. Without any strict, proper guidelines on what constitutes a ban according to their policies, Facebook is just an authoritarian organization doomed for failure — a dictator deciding what to censor without any justifications or proper explanations.

Of course, it’s their platform. They can do whatever they want with it, but Facebook is more than a platform. It’s a whole new way of connecting with everyone around the world. A lot of realizations dawned on me through this incident, and there is one more lesson to learn here: Life without Facebook can be a good one, too. One where we rely on real, physical, and intimate connections. One where we only catch up with the people that truly matter.

Now I know what people feel like when they claim they have found freedom after deleting their Facebook accounts. I’m still far from deleting my account, but slowly, I’ll figure it out. Maybe, for now, what I can do is step away and disconnect, and live a day or two without social media.

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