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Does Buying a Chinese Smartphone Pose a Privacy Risk?

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Chinese smartphones have garnered a pretty bad privacy reputation in the last few years, which stems from several issues, such as lack of consumers’ trust and the fact that global political events have not really been in China’s favor. Somewhere around the mid-2010s though, China’s global image changed a lot for the better, especially with their appearance in the smartphone industry and when it comes to advances in 4G and 5G technology.

The smartphone industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the global technology industry. Particularly in the last decade, which gave us the smartphone revolution, global device sales have skyrocketed from just 100 million in 2007, to over 1.5 billion today. Smartphones are also the most popular way through which people access the internet, which makes this sector critical for tech companies.

14 years ago now, we experienced the launch of the first Apple iPhone in 2007, which would undoubtedly mark the beginning of a new Information Age. As the years went by, we have seen big players such as Samsung entering the market, as well as most recently Chinese companies like Huawei and Xiaomi eating up global market share with their very affordable smartphones. It isn’t just Huawei and Xiaomi, though, let’s not forget Oppo and Vivo too, who have held small but stable market share, even gaining popularity in the United States.

Apple never really took off in China like it did in the rest of the world, as the nation favoured national production and local brand loyalty, but Apple has always been in demand there. Outside of China though, Apple had absolutely dominated the smartphone market for a long time with the entire world anxiously awaiting their next press conference, and what their new iPhone would be like. The market dominance then switched hands between Apple and Samsung for a few years, with Samsung being dominant most of the time.

Now, however, the global smartphone market has changed. With so much competition on the horizon (Samsung, Xiaomi, Huawei), as well as Apple charging very lofty prices for their latest offerings (and having lost some of their charm along the way with radical design changes), Chinese players have adapted and grasped a firm hold on the market for the foreseeable future. Offering familiar minimalist design approaches that Apple is known for, as well as having totally revamped their marketing, Chinese smartphone brands are now a true contender to the established giants. Ultimately, the most important target market for Chinese smartphones is the US and EU markets.

There is a big problem there though, it looks like there are serious privacy issues that plague Chinese smartphones and their reputation. Let’s look into this below.

What Is The Problem With Chinese Smartphone Brands?

With news of Huawei being banned (Xiaomi is also blacklisted) from Western countries, their reputation is not in a good place. Today, there are many Chinese smartphone brands available, with Huawei and Xiaomi being the most recognizable internationally -the ones that have sold the most outside of China. Some of the other ‘budget’ brands are Honor and Realme, for example, which may not be known to most people. There are many more Chinese smartphone brands, but way too many to list.

With so much political tension between the US and China, what does this mean if you are planning to buy/already own a Chinese smartphone? Unfortunately, it is a fact that Chinese smartphones have experienced many privacy and security related issues with their devices, which fall into the categories;

  • Pre-installed spyware
  • Malware vulnerabilities
  • Data theft
  • Hardware ‘Backdoors
  • Weak encryption

Beyond pre-installed malicious software in Chinese smartphones, there are additional risks from installing very popular Chinese-made social media apps, such as;

  • TikTok
  • WeChat

Takeaways For Your General Smartphone Security

Having covered why there is so much negative buzz around Chinese smartphones and their privacy risks, let’s remember that a lot of it comes from the political tension between China and the US. There have been countless allegations of spying, hacking and data risks. Beyond this, there is a more important fact for the regular user. It is that Chinese phones are Android-based, which has a much larger user base and is as such more susceptible to attacks.

Let’s emphasize one thing; yes, that doesn’t mean that these devices are safe, but what is safe nowadays? Should this deter you, a regular citizen, from buying a Chinese smartphone? It is difficult to say what is considered ‘safe’ nowadays, and depends a lot on who you are and whether your data is so sensitive that governments will try to access your phone (for most people, this is not an issue).

However, for the privacy conscious individuals out there, there are some things you must implement for your safety and peace of mind, no matter what kind of device you use, or which country it comes from;

  • Always use a trustworthy Virtual Private Network, or VPN
  • Consider that iOS may be safer than Android overall
  • Make sure that you have a strong password on your phone
  • Ensure that you have multi-factor authentication at every juncture
  • Do not share sensitive information online if possible
  • Always keep your smartphone software up-to-date
  • Never download unverified software, or access third-party app stores

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Deloitte Introduces ReadyAI™ Artificial Intelligence-as-a-Service Solution

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Deloitte introduced ReadyAI, a full portfolio of capabilities and services to help organizations accelerate and scale their artificial intelligence (AI) projects. ReadyAI brings together skilled AI specialists and managed services in a flexible AI-as-a-service model designed to help clients scale AI throughout their organizations.

The AI market is expected to exceed $191 billion by 2024, growing at 37% compound annual growth rate. As organizations accelerate their adoption of AI, many struggle with challenges such as limited access to specialized talent, slow development cycles, and the resources to continuously maintain AI models. Creating and sustaining AI models at scale typically requires people with capabilities across data science, IT operations and user experience (UX) who work seamlessly towards a common goal. With Deloitte’s ReadyAI, organizations now have access to the services, technology and expertise they need to accelerate their AI journey.

ReadyAI offers comprehensive service capabilities including:

Data preparation: Provide data extraction, wrangling and standardization services. Also supports advanced analytical model development through feature engineering.

Insights and visualization: Design and generate reports and visual dashboards utilizing data output from automations to improve business outcomes and automation performance.

Advanced analytics: Data analysis for both structured and unstructured data. Creation of rule-based bots and insights-as-a-service.

Machine learning and deep learning: ML and deep learning model development. Video and text analytics to assist conversational AI.

Machine learning deployment: Create deployment architecture and pipelines for upstream and downstream integration of ML models.

Model management and MLOps: Management of model performance, migration and maintenance. Automation of model monitoring process and overall DevOps for machine learning.

Deloitte’s recent “State of AI in the Enterprise” third edition study of enterprise AI adopters found that less than half of adopters believe they have a high level of skill around integrating AI technology into their existing IT environment. With a talent pool of more than 3,100 AI professionals, Deloitte can assemble teams that have the right combination of industry, domain and AI technology skills to best suit clients’ needs. These experts include cloud engineers, data scientists, data architects, technology and application engineers, business and domain specialists, and visualization and design specialists. By leveraging the right combination of skills, organizations can quickly accelerate their AI journey.

ReadyAI teams operate as an extension of clients’ teams often for engagements of six months or more. Services are available as a flexible, subscription model, allowing clients to scale resources and capabilities up or down based on business needs and priorities. Learn more about ReadyAI.

Gartner, the world’s leading information technology and advisory company, named Deloitte a Leader for the seventh time in a row in its February 2021 report titled, “Magic Quadrant for Data and Analytics Service Providers.”

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Positive Tech Solutions Will Forge The Recovery

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Global leaders back the need for more technology governance to tackle the most pressing global problems at the World Economic Forum’s inaugural Global Technology Governance Summit, which closed on Wednesday.

The summit, hosted by Japan, was opened by Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide with a welcome address in which he emphasized the timeliness of discussions among leaders on the implementation of digital technologies in the post-COVD era. Suga also reaffirmed his commitment to accelerating reforms to create the world’s most advanced digital society.

More than 2,000 leaders gathered virtually to address the adoption of technology to improve lives and respond to global challenges. The World Economic Forum Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR) Network will develop this work throughout 2021 and beyond.

An interactive experience was designed for the participants, embedding technology into the summit. Registered participants were invited to learn about non-fungible tokens (NFTs) by collecting fragments – called “shards” – of “Voice Gems” designed by artist Harry Yeff (Reeps 100). Over 250 shards were minted on the first day.

Among the summits outcomes and commitments include:

Two new regional networks of cities were launched in Latin America and South Asia as part of the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance. The city networks, modelled after the C4IR Japan’s successful Japan Smart City Alliance, aim to bolster small and medium-sized cities’ capacity to realize the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s benefits and safeguard against governance challenges.

The C4IR Network will support Agile Nations, a global initiative to enable government, business, and civil society to share evidence and insights into innovative governance. The Network re-committed its support for the Agile50 initiative at the summit, recognizing the role of experts and business leaders in driving agility in governments worldwide.

To address pressing challenges and opportunities relating to the rise of new digital currency, central bank digital currency, and so-called “stablecoins,” the Digital Currency Governance Consortium (DCGC) is convening more than 80 organizations representing numerous sectors and geographies.

The Forum established the Future of the Connected World initiative with five priority areas for collective action in 2021-2022. Building on the pilot project’s success for Accelerating the Impact of Industrial IoT for SMEs in São Paolo, Brazil, the C4IR Network will expand projects in Colombia, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Turkey.

Executive leaders from the public and private sector, representing more than 12 countries on five continents, released a new roadmap for building a connected future that benefits all. The roadmap and global action plan seek to rally and mobilize the international community on a set of five actions and 37 initiatives to advance the governance of the internet of things and related technologies.

The Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) will adopt the framework and pilot it as part of its World Challenge for Self-Driving Transport, trialling autonomous delivery vehicles and using the framework to test a series of performance-based regulations. The impact of this is a framework developed by a Forum project sponsored by the Global Autonomous Vehicle Council (GAVC), which is being used as an incremental part of Dubai’s roadmap to make 25% of its travel driverless by 2030.

The following reports and white papers were published:

The Rebuilding Trust and Governance: Towards Data Free Flow with Trust (DFFT) white paper gives a bird’s-eye view of global data governance issues, including privacy, fair competition, cybersecurity and transparency to strengthen trust-governance mechanisms.

The Medicine from the Sky: Opportunities and Lessons from Drones in Africa report provides a framework for evaluating where these technologies can be best applied to improve healthcare.

A new resource, Global Governance Toolkit for Digital Mental Health, provides help for governments, regulators and independent assurance bodies to address growing ethical concerns over the use of technology in mental and behavioural health.

The Technology Futures report outlines new ways for leaders to predict future trends. It provides a framework for leaders to assign probability to trends and forecast risks and uses speculative fiction to bring these to life.

A new white paper, Co-designing Digital Interventions and Technology Projects with Civil Society outlines how policy-makers and business leaders can collaborate with civil society to address power imbalances. It explores how each sector can co-design tech and bring equitable access.

Transforming Rural Mobility with MaaS explores mobility as a service (MaaS), which will be at the forefront of a new generation of mobility services. It focuses on examples from Japan and examines the common challenges and success factors for MaaS to support local government and related enterprises to transform mobility.

The C4IR Network Affiliate Centres made the following commitments:

C4IR Brazil will launch a data governance prototype for noncommunicable disease (NCD) patients to facilitate remote monitoring and public-private sharing of patients’ data in the health system.

C4IR Colombia will publish a regulatory framework for data exchange with the Data for Common Purpose Initiative.

C4IR India initiated the Artificial intelligence for Agriculture Innovation (AI4AI) project to explore the use of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies throughout the food chain, from seed to fork. The project, supported by more than 60 industry, government and start-up partners, is currently piloted in Telangana, India. C4IR India has also launched Fourth Industrial Revolution for Sustainable Transformation of Health (FIRST Health). Theproject explores the role of the Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies in 18 areas of health, including preventive, curative and governance.

C4IR Israel is committed to enabling the future of mobility by taking the existing pilot programmes and creating a scalable commercial business model that is safe, sustainable and ethical.

C4IR Japan has developed an approach called Authorized Public Purpose Access (APPA), which seeks to use data for the public good while balancing all stakeholders’ rights and interests.

The Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Ocean will lead the Action Coalition on Ocean Data together with Microsoft. The coalition strives to deliver open, transparent and easily accessible universal data to comprehensively understand “life below water” for better policies and decision-making. The coalition will be open and inclusive to all actors seeking to liberate ocean data; the Ocean Data Platform will be at the heart of solutions to unlock this data.

C4IR Rwanda’s most recent work on pending data protection legislation will serve as a foundation in helping to achieve Rwanda’s ambitions of becoming a proof-of-concept hub for technology innovation and regulation.

C4IR Saudi Arabia will hold its official launch event, along with projects designed to advance multistakeholder collaboration on agile governance frameworks and AI, IoT and blockchain. The centre will develop frameworks that usher in advanced autonomous mobility through heavy-lift drones and accelerate the advent of autonomous trucks and vessels, thereby expanding mobility opportunities for air, land, and sea.

C4IR South Africa will address the needs of small, medium and micro-enterprises (SMMEs) by launching a series of projects to develop policy protocols for accelerating the adoption of emerging technologies by SMMEs and mitigating associated risks.

C4IR Turkey will address the need for human-centric technology using governance models designed by the collective rationality that has emerged from the rapid spread of IoT, AI, and other Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies.

C4IR UAE is launching a report focused on developing a precision medicine programme locally, highlighting the critical process areas, including the infrastructure and regulatory environment. It aims to further the growth of the healthcare industry in the UAE and exchange healthcare data globally. C4IR UAE will also lead multiple tokenization pilots to test blockchain technology to modernize the financial system and improve access to capital and liquidity to further economic diversification and digital growth in the UAE.

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New Resource for Protecting Personal Data for Mental Health Apps

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The COVID-19 crisis has exposed an enduring silent epidemic and greatly accelerated the need for a properly funded and functioning global mental health ecosystem. New ethical questions about safety, efficacy, equity and sustainability are being raised by groups worldwide. Over 10,000 mental health apps are currently on the market, but regulations are not robust enough to protect against the sharing of sensitive consumer data or measure the quality of disruptive technologies such as AI-based chatbots, therapy in virtual reality, or digital phenotyping.

The Global Governance Toolkit for Digital Mental Health: Building Trust in Disruptive Technology for Mental Health, launched today by the World Economic Forum and Deloitte, aims to provide governments, regulators and independent assurance bodies with the tools to protect personal data, ensure high quality of service, endorse effective outcomes and address safety concerns.

These tools include a framework of governance principles, standards and processes, along with a code of ethics and a methodology for adapting these to different jurisdictions’ cultural, legal, medical and clinical situations.

Arnaud Bernaert, Head of Shaping the Future of Health and Healthcare, World Economic Forum, said: “People are turning to technology solutions to a growing number of challenges. It is important that services are trusted and people are asking the right questions about the services they are using. This toolkit will hopefully be a resource for governments, businesses and consumers to ensure a safer and more trustworthy future.”

Stephanie Allen, Global Health Care Sector Leader, Deloitte, said: “This initiative is about protecting consumers, enabling them to more easily assess quality mental healthcare, helping them make more informed choices about their own mental health, and encouraging the strategic growth of safe, ethical and effective digital mental health services.”

The toolkit has been piloted in partnership with the New Zealand Ministry of Health. It can be used by governments and regulators to create principles and standards that encourage the safe, ethical and strategic implementation of digital mental health services, by healthcare and insurance organizations to integrate high-quality digital mental health services, and by digital mental health innovators and consumers to create and use trusted services.

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