Smartphone Privacy in Asia
Each week, Weber Shandwick’s APAC Intelligence Bulletin shares the key developments shaping business sectors and markets throughout the Asia Pacific region.
- Across Asia Pacific, national communities are negotiating the needs and costs of privacy with increasing urgency
- The growing prevalence of company data breaches and cybercrime in Asia is placing greater scrutiny on the data management practices of governments, brands, and consumers
- In response, multiple governments are drafting new legislation and smartphone brands are aggressively prioritising pro-privacy initiatives
- The challenge facing markets is that of successfully balancing privacy with both security and convenience – with multiple stakeholders already facing criticism for overprioritising one quality over the others
In the last three months, one of the world’s largest tech companies has been fined nearly half a billion US dollars by the governments of India and Australia. The government of Ireland recently fined one of the world’s largest social media companies approximately US$400 million.
Privacy’s new currency
The majority of fines issued were related to brands disregarding data privacy laws. The government of China has recently warned that similar measures will soon be deployed against privacy-violating smartphone finance apps. The growing regulatory scrutiny is representative of a post-pandemic wave of data privacy concerns felt by brands, governments, and consumers in Asia Pacific.
Compared to other global markets, Asia Pacific stakeholders are regarding data privacy with greater urgency. With more smartphone users than any other global region and some of the world’s most advanced ecommerce markets, global increases in data breaches and cybercrime has already seen significant fallout in the Asia Pacific region. A recent survey found six million Australian adults reported having their data stolen in 2022.
A leading cybersecurity company has reported finding 11.5 million malware packages in Asia Pacific in 2022; more than three times the number found in 2021. The world’s leading social media network recently warned users against 400 smartphone apps containing malware designed to steal login information. In the Philippines, smartphone users are facing a wave of phishing scams, with many scams using confidential data.
In response, stakeholders are adopting a variety of approaches. The Malaysian government has passed a law making SIM card registration compulsory; the government of the Philippines is currently debating a similar law. In the wake of significant data breaches in the private sector, the Australian government has proposed legislation that would see brands fined AU$50 million for poor data security practices.
Smartphone brands have responded with new privacy messaging and security features. In 2022, the world’s largest technology company has introduced multiple measures to allow users to sidestep data-gathering from smartphone apps and email accounts. The company responsible for the world’s most popular smartphone operating system has recently launched new features to allow users to limit targeted advertising.
The complexity facing stakeholders in Asia is that of balancing privacy, security, and convenience concerns. Recent data security legislation developments in India, Malaysia, and the Philippines, for example, have also faced criticism from privacy experts for potentially violating civil rights. Similarly, global technology features designed to limit data-gathering have been criticised for impeding targeted advertising.
This briefing was prepared by Weber Shandwick’s Insight & Intelligence team in Singapore.
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