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Asia Pacific Dashboard Digest | Notes from the Asia-Pacific region, 15 March 2019 Related reading: IAPP releases interactive 'GDPR Genius' tool

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Dear privacy pros,

Even if one has been faithfully tracking the slew of bad news regarding data breaches over the course of the past year, it would be difficult to appreciate the scale of the impact that such incidents have had collectively.

An interesting study by identity intelligence company 4iQ attempts to shed some light in this area. According to the study, there were 12,499 new breaches in 2018, an increase of more than 400 percent from the preceding year. A total of 14.9 billion records have been compromised in these breaches (an increase of more than 70 percent), of which 3.6 billion were exposed for the first time. As anticipated, government agencies were one of the fastest-growing targets.

Another trend that we have been discussing in these notes is the increasing amount of scrutiny big tech companies are receiving from an antitrust or competition perspective. Elizabeth Warren, a respected U.S. senator from Massachusetts and Democratic presidential hopeful, recently mooted the idea of breaking up some of these companies and even rolling back some of the acquisitions that they have entered into as part of her platform to get into the White House. This has prompted some response from across the pond. While the EU’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, has spoken out against the idea of breaking up big tech companies, she has also proven that she is not above using antitrust actions to regulate access to data streams as an alternative means of curtailing market power and abuse of dominance.

A final topic that has been cropping up with increasing frequency is the use of data ethics to prevent improper use of data, particularly with regards to the regulation of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence or the internet of things, where traditional concepts of notice and consent often fall short.

Besides the article on the U.K.’s Data Ethics Framework by Jonathan Alboum of Veritas Technologies in this week’s dashboard, it is also apposite to note that the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore has launched the NTU Institute of Science and Technology for Humanity to study technology’s impact on society and to guide technological development so as to maximize societal benefits while limiting its downsides, including its potential impact on privacy. The institute will focus on the following three areas initially: ethical implications of technological innovations; the governance of technology use and issues around leadership; and how technology is transforming the urban landscape in Asia.

In explaining the motivation for setting up the institute, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam noted that “Too much of the focus on ethics in technology today is a focus that happens after the event, after a problem has arisen.” The institute thus aims to “be the voice of the common person, the person who's afraid to lose their job or privacy” and to ensure that everyone can reap the benefits of technological innovation equally.

Lofty ideals, indeed. I, for one, cannot wait to see what the institute delivers. In the meantime, please enjoy the updates in this week’s dashboard, and have a great weekend ahead!

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