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Google, Facebook and other tech companies threaten to quit Hong Kong over privacy law | Hong Kong

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An Asian industry group that includes Google, Facebook and Twitter has warned that tech companies could stop offering their services in Hong Kong if the Chinese territory proceeds with plans to change privacy laws.

The warning came in a letter sent by the Asia Internet Coalition, of which all three companies, in addition to Apple Inc, LinkedIn and others, are members.

Proposed amendments to privacy laws in Hong Kong could see individuals hit with “severe sanctions”, said the 25 June letter to the territory’s privacy commissioner for personal data, Ada Chung Lai-ling, without specifying what the sanctions would be.

“Introducing sanctions aimed at individuals is not aligned with global norms and trends,” said the letter, whose contents were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

“The only way to avoid these sanctions for technology companies would be to refrain from investing and offering their services in Hong Kong, thereby depriving Hong Kong businesses and consumers, whilst also creating new barriers to trade.“

In the six-page document, AIC managing director Jeff Paine acknowledged the proposed amendments focus on the safety and personal data privacy of individuals. “However, we wish to stress that doxing is a matter of serious concern,” he wrote.

Hong Kong saw an unprecedented wave of doxing – or publicly releasing private or identifying information about an individual or organisation – during the mass pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2019. Personal details were released by parties on both sides, with police, politicians, journalists and activists targeted, as well as their families.

The details of some officers’ home addresses and children’s schools were also exposed by anti-government protesters, some of whom threatened them and their families online.

“We … believe that any anti-doxing legislation, which can have the effect of curtailing free expression, must be built upon principles of necessity and proportionality,” the AIC said.

On Tuesday morning at a regular press briefing, Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, said the proposed law would only target “illegal” doxing, and said the privacy commissioner would be happy to meet with tech companies if they had concerns.

“There is wide support that doxing should be legislated against,” Lam said. “The amendment exercise is to address the issue of doxing. The privacy commissioner is empowered to take action and carry pout investigation – that’s it.”

She said all new legislation attracted concern, giving the national security law as an example, but claimed fears expressed about the impact that would have had been shown not to eventuate. The national security law has been widely and internationally condemned, but Hong Kong authorities maintain it has brought stability to the city.

Lam said that security law had been “slandered and defamed”. “It’s the same case for the privacy law,” she concluded.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment, while Twitter referred questions to the AIC. Google declined to comment.

A sweeping crackdown on opposition and dissent by Hong Kong authorities accelerated with the implementation of the Beijing-designed national security law last year. More than 10,000 people have been arrested in relation to the protests, and at least 128, including journalists and politicians, in relation to new national security offences. The Hong Kong government has rejected international criticism of its crackdown, and instead vowed to further strengthen laws.

– Reuters contributed to this report

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Amazon Web Services outage hits sites and apps such as IMDb and Tinder | Amazon

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Several Amazon services – including its website, Prime Video and applications that use Amazon Web Services (AWS) – went down for thousands of users on Tuesday.

Amazon said the outage was probably due to problems related to application programming interface (API), which is a set of protocols for building and integrating application software, Reuters reported.

“We are experiencing API and console issues in the US-East-1 Region,” Amazon said in a report on its service health dashboard, adding that it had identified the cause. By late late afternoon the outage appeared to be partially resolved, with the company saying that it was “working towards full recovery”.

“With the network device issues resolved, we are now working towards recovery of any impaired services,” the company said on the dashboard.

Downdetector showed more than 24,000 incidents of people reporting problems with Amazon. It tracks outages by collating status reports from a number of sources, including user-submitted errors on its platform.

The outage was also affecting delivery operations. Amazon’s warehouse operation use AWS and experienced disruptions, spokesperson Richard Rocha told the Washington Post. A Washington state Amazon driver said his facility had been “at a standstill” since Tuesday morning, CNBC reported.

Other services, including Amazon’s Ring security cameras, mobile banking app Chime and robot vacuum cleaner maker iRobot were also facing difficulties, according to their social media pages.

Ring said it was aware of the issue and working to resolve it. “A major Amazon Web Services (AWS) outage is currently impacting our iRobot Home App,” iRobot said on its website.

Other websites and apps affected include the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), language learning provider Duolingo and dating site Tinder, according to Downdetector.

The outage also affected presale tickets for Adele’s upcoming performances in Las Vegas. “Due to an Amazon Web Services (AWS) outage impacting companies globally, all Adele Verified Fan Presales scheduled for today have been moved to tomorrow to ensure a better experience,” Ticketmaster said on Twitter.

In June, websites including the Guardian, Reddit, Amazon, CNN, PayPal, Spotify, Al Jazeera Media Network and the New York Times were hit by a widespread hour-long outage linked to US-based content delivery network provider Fastly Inc, a smaller rival of AWS.

In July, Amazon experienced a disruption in its online stores service, which lasted for nearly two hours and affected more than 38,000 users.

Users have experienced 27 outages over the past 12 months on Amazon, according to the web tool reviewing website ToolTester.



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South Korea sets reliability standards for Big Tech • The Register

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South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT has offered Big Tech some advice on how to make their services suitably resilient, and added an obligation to notify users – in Korean – when they fail.

The guidelines apply to Google, Meta (parent company of Facebook), Netflix, Naver, Kakao and Wavve. All have been told to improve their response to faults by beefing up preemptive error detection and verification systems, and create back up storage systems that enable quick content recovery.

The guidelines offer methods Big Tech can use to measure user loads, then plan accordingly to ensure their services remain available. Uptime requirements are not spelled out.

Big techs is already rather good at resilience. Google literally wrote the book on site reliability engineering.

The guidelines refer to legislation colloquially known as the “Netflix law” which requires major service outages be reported to the Ministry.

That law builds on another enacted in 2020 that made online content service providers responsible for the quality of their streaming services. It was put in place after a number of outages, including one where notifications of the problem were made on the offending company’s social media site – but only in English.

The new regulations follow South Korean telcos’ recent attempts to have platforms that guzzle their bandwidth pay for the privilege. Mobile carrier SK Broadband took legal action in October of this year, demanding Netflix pitch in some cash for the amount of bandwidth that streaming shows – such as Squid Game – consume.

In response, Netflix pointed at its own free content delivery network, Open Connect, which helps carriers to reduce traffic. Netflix then accused SK Broadband of trying to double up on profits by collecting fees from consumers and content providers at the same time.

For the record, Naver and Kakao pay carriers, while Apple TV+ and Disney+ have at the very least given lip service to the idea.

Korea isn’t the only place where telcos have noticed Big Tech taking up more than its fair share of bandwidth. The European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO) published a letter from ten telco CEOs asking that larger platforms “contribute fairly to network costs”. ®

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Twitter acquires Slack competitor Quill to improve its messaging services

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As part of the acquisition, Quill will be shutting down at the end of the week as its team joins the social media company.

Twitter has acquired the messaging platform Quill, seen as a potential competitor to Slack, in order to improve its messaging tools and services.

Quill announced that it will be shutting down at the end of the week as its team joins the social media company to continue its original goal “to make online communication more thoughtful, and more effective, for everyone”.

The purchase of Quill could be linked to Twitter’s new strategy to reduce its reliance on ad revenue and attract paying subscribers.

Twitter’s general manager for core tech, Nick Caldwell, described Quill as a “fresher, more deliberate way to communicate. We’re bringing their experience and creativity to Twitter as we work to make messaging tools like DMs a more useful and expressive way people can have conversations on the service”.

Users of Quill have until 11 December to export their team message history before the servers are fully shut down at 1pm PST (9pm Irish time). The announcement has instructions for users who wish to import their chat history into Slack and states that all active teams will be issued full refunds.

The team thanked its users and said: “We can’t wait to show you what we’ll be working on next.”

Quill was launched in February with the goal to remove the overwhelming aspects of other messaging services and give users a more deliberate and focused form of online chat.

In an online post, Quill creator Ludwig Pettersson said: “We started Quill to increase the quality of human communication. Excited to keep doing just that, at Twitter.”

The company became a potential competitor for Slack, which was bought by Salesforce at the end of 2020 for $27.7bn. The goal of that acquisition was to combine Salesforce’s CRM platform with Slack’s communications tools to create a unified service tailored to digital-led teams around the world.

Last week, Salesforce announced the promotion of Bret Taylor to vice-chair and co-CEO, just days after he was appointed independent chair of Twitter after CEO Jack Dorsey stepped down.

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