Asia often leads in tech trends, from how we came to depend on our mobile phones, to messaging super apps and the adoption of ever more intrusive technology.
Our team in Seoul reports today on the disturbing wave of digital sex crimes in South Korea, targeting young women and girls. According to victims, researchers and advocacy groups, South Korea is the global centre for illegal filming and sharing of explicit images and videos. High-speed streaming and encrypted chat rooms have provided new vehicles for propagating the material.
“South Korea, unfortunately, has been ahead of the curve on the prevalence, variety and seriousness of digital sex crimes,” said Heather Barr, co-director of women’s rights at Human Rights Watch. The country boasts the world’s highest rate of adult smartphone ownership and among its fastest internet speeds.
A new HRW report based on interviews with victims and their families highlights that the crimes commonly involve intimate images captured and disseminated both by strangers and women’s acquaintances. In one case, a woman discovered a clock given as a gift by an employer had been streaming footage from inside her bedroom for weeks.
Our Nikkei Asia colleagues have the story of another kind of invasive snooping, taking place in China. Andy Wang, who had been an IT engineer at a Shanghai-based gaming company, tells of how he spent most of his hours on a piece of surveillance software called DiSanZhiYan, or “Third Eye”.
The system was installed on the laptop of every worker at his company to track their screens in real time, recording their chats, their browsing activity and every document edit they made. The software would also automatically flag “suspicious behaviour” such as visiting job-search sites or video streaming platforms.
“Efficiency” reports would be generated weekly, summarising employees’ time spent by website and application. “Bosses would check the reports regularly,” Wang said. Farther down the line, that data could skew workers’ prospects for promotions and pay rises. It could also be used as evidence when the company looked to fire certain people.
Such productivity-checking tools can only put more pressure on tech workers. In case you missed it, Yuan Yang wrote a powerful piece for FT Magazine last week on working conditions in China, where software developers have launched a campaign to raise international awareness about“996 ICU”. The name refers to a colloquial saying among tech workers that if you work 9am to 9pm, six days a week, as some managers demand, you’ll end up in intensive care.
1. Sony pushes into podcastsSony Music Entertainment has acquired Somethin’ Else, the biggest independent producer of audio programmes in the UK, as the record label accelerates its push into the fast-growing global podcast market. Meanwhile, the power of podcasts is illustrated by Harry Stebbings, who as a teenager started a popular podcast about tech investing and has just raised $140m in new funds to back start-ups.
2. Krafton plans public battlegroundKrafton, the developer behind the global hit game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, plans to raise up to Won5.6tn ($5bn) in an initial public offering that is expected to be South Korea’s largest ever. The July listing is likely to top that of Coupang, the leading South Korean ecommerce company that raised $4.6bn in New York in March.
3. Made.com’s first-day flopShares in Made.com fell 8 per cent despite the company pricing them at the bottom of their range in its UK IPO on Wednesday, giving the Wayfair and Ikea rival a market capitalisation of £775m. Bryce Elder comments the self-assembly furniture retailer somehow contrived to lose £1.8m in the first three months of 2021, during a pandemic-fuelled home improvement boom.
4. Waymo raises another $2.5bnWaymo has raised an additional $2.5bn, as an array of existing investors continued to back its driverless car project, stoking concerns about the rate of cash burn at the Alphabet-owned company. Alphabet led the funding round and Tiger Global participated for the first time.
5. Toshiba’s scandalous treatment of investorsFew Japanese companies have as storied — or, recently, as sorry — a history as Toshiba, writes Brooke Masters. A sprawling 145-year-old conglomerate best known for technology, it is now becoming better known for its massive betrayal of shareholders, who should vote down the entire board, she says.
Spotify’s push into podcasts has meant branching out into the live audio chats popularised by Clubhouse became an inevitable move, especially after it acquired the sports-focused Locker Room audio app in March. Today it announced the rollout of the Greenroom app — Locker Room renamed, with new programming spanning music, culture, and entertainment topics added to the platform, in addition to the existing sports content. Techcrunch says the plan is for Greenroom to leverage Spotify’s personalisation technology to connect users to content they would want to hear.