This week in Tech 2: No sequel joke

Welcome again to tech roundup/highlights/whatever you would like to call it. We might make this a weekly thing, but we’re not sure if we can top week 1. Or if we want to top week 1.

Disclaimer: If there’s something interesting in technology happening outside Bangladesh and we haven’t covered it yet, we might do so in this segment. We left off last week on the note of decommissions. The Government sanctioned decommissioning of almost 3 million SIMs. The first storm of the season took it upon itself to decommission telecommunication and internet services in many areas. How thoughtful.

Oh and also people fought over Facebook reacts. That last one doesn’t have the same ring to it after the first mention. This week is much more sober and cheerful in comparison. Let’s take a look.

Rajshahi E-commerce Fair attracts youngsters

The daylong E-commerce and post fair took place on April 6th at Lakshmipur general post office auditorium in Rajshahi. The central discussion was about the convenience of using the E-commerce platform to launch startups with minimum capital. Many investors, entrepreneurs and visitors attended the fair. The 4th industrial revolution and the concept of businesses shifting to online platforms were also topics of discussion.

The most eye-catching aspect of the fair was the majority of the attendees being young people. This signals the growing situational awareness in Bangladeshi youngsters regarding startups and moneymaking strategies.

The most eye-catching aspect of the fair was the majority of the attendees being young people. This signals the growing situational awareness in Bangladeshi youngsters regarding startups and moneymaking strategies.


Repto is going to Silicon Valley

Education platform Repto has won the “eGeneration Presents Startup World Cup 2019, Bangladesh” competition. They will now be proceeding to the final round in Silicon Valley. The event was arranged by Fenox Venture Capital and eGeneration Ltd in Bangladesh for the first time. The competition awards the best regional tech-based startup the opportunity to present at the final round. The ten finalists presented their startup ideas at RTV Bengal Studios, where Repto won the opportunity to take their case all the way to Silicon Valley and win a million dollars.

From the initial 86 applicants, 10 were selected, all of whom Repto outlasted to win. 39 regional champions along with Repto will present in the final round. It will take place on 17th May.


“Say no to Fortnite”- Prince Harry

Well Hallelujah.

The Duke of Sussex has a problem with the popular battle royal game. In his speech at West London Young Men’s Christian Association, Prince Harry likened Fortnite addiction to alcohol and drug addiction. He stated that the game is designed to inspire addiction in players, and that parents should strive to familiarize their children to the world outside the internet.

Relevant information in this regard is similar battle royal game PUBG being banned for children under 13 years of age in China. Recently India has also banned PUBG for primary school students.

Bottom line is important people have an opinion of such games that isn’t favorable. It might have something to do with the problem known as “Kids these days” syndrome. But there is a very real aspect to the complaints.

Don’t look at us, we hate the game because it’s bad. If you want to play it go knock yourself out.

Oh wait, someone else already did.

That’s all for this week. Goodbye. 

Marvel, Netflix and the future of streaming

If you subscribe to a video streaming service, it’s quite possible that you don’t have much to complain about regarding things to watch. Online video streaming services have firmly and quite rightfully put the nail in the coffin of cable TV service for a long time now. Having a lot of movies and TV shows on demand is quite appealing, it turns out. The cable model was too inefficient and expensive compared to streaming, and thus a mass exodus occurred which saw a millions of viewers switching to streaming services, completely disrupting the cable market. And now the streaming market is about to be disrupted as well. The irony is it’s doing it to itself.

Shutting down beloved shows

Marvel, Netflix and the future of streaming 1

It wasn’t too long ago that Luke Cage and Iron fist, both parts of Marvel’s extended TV universe, were pulled from Netflix. These cancellations could have been attributed to the shows’ quality, which didn’t exactly agree with everyone. But the shock came with the most recent cancellation of Marvel’s Daredevil, the oldest and inarguably the most popular of Marvel’s TV shows on Netflix. And that it occurred after a critically acclaimed third season added to the surprise. “Why is this happening?” is the question that haunts the viewer.

Well, a statistic from Jumpshot suggests despite the great quality of Daredevil’s third season, viewership for the show had gone down by almost a third compared to the earlier seasons. But thing is that viewership was still nothing to ignore. It would only get more popular because of how good it was. The real reason lies in a much larger issue. Disney, Marvel’s parent company, plans to launch its own streaming service, Disney+.

Disney pulling out

A direct competitor to Netflix?

Disney’s plans to launch their own streaming service constitute a multitude of problems. First of all, Disney+ will be a direct competitor to Netflix. This makes having one of Disney’s shows on their platform basically serves as an advertisement for a rival company. Moreover, Disney is adopting an aggressive approach to this service. They are gobbling up all the IPs it can get its hands on. It is unlikely that we’ll get to see these shows on their streaming service. Disney has made it quite clear that Disney+ will be a PG-13 rated family friendly product. No R-Rated movies or shows on it, those will be released by Hulu of which Disney currently owns 30%.

Too many services

Disney’s decision gives light to a bigger issue, the influx of streaming services. Netflix has always had solid competitors in Amazon Prime or Hulu, but now it’s about to have a lot more. Disney has already announced its plans. Then there’s NewTV by DreamWorks which plans to provide original 10-minute shows, DC Universe, the heavily rumored Apple TV. These along with existing services like Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Amazon and HBO are about to flood the streaming service cyberspace and seriously confuse your wallet.  

The struggle for consumers

Statistics from PCMag.com

Now all this competition should sound like a win for the consumers. Yet, there are multiple reasons why this might be actually very bad. For a person with varied taste, this is actually the worst kind of news. The most recent struggle between Disney and Netflix indicates that the streaming service industry is becoming a zero-sum game. Relationships between distributors are already evidently getting worse and it will probably morph into a battle for distribution rights. Disney’s acquisition policy is just the tip of the iceberg of how studios are looking to acquire rights to distribute movies and TV shows exclusively. Every studio seems like it has tied down some product and it’s only available legally if you are subscribed to their streaming service. If you are a fan of both Star Wars and Narcos, you need to have both Disney+ and Netflix subscriptions to watch both.

Loss of variety

Netflix has attempted to produce originals for their subscribers that one couldn’t watch anywhere else. They’ve spent around $13 Billion in 2018 only on original content. And for a while, each competitor was producing original content that was great. But as the industry grew, virtually every premium channel has its own paid subscription app.

As competitors increase, the world of entertainment is becoming more partitioned.

There is no all-in-one solution anymore, not even a most-in-one solution. Of course, there are a lot more choices now, but each choice is becoming more decentralized.

This will only worsen in the future. Each competitor will attempt to launch its own unique variety of shows and movies. No entertainment entity will have a wide choice of entertainment in one place. There has already been an increase in piracy which can be partially attributed to this cause. There might be many more adverse effects we will observe as the golden age of streaming comes to an end.

Not good news for users

More competitors may sound like lower prices, but there’s a bare minimum. Below this amount companies aren’t willing to produce, so costs won’t be lowered too much; at least if Disney+ and the rumored Apple TV models are any indication. The future is still uncertain. For now, all we can do is give a nervous welcome to the Punisher and Jessica Jones series continuations as they reach their second and third seasons respectively; and bid a confused farewell to Daredevil, where the journey began and apparently has started to end.


This week in Tech: What’s happening in Dhaka

You might have noticed, we here at hifi public are quite keen on technology. We try to report the most prominent occurrences in tech on a regular basis. Focusing on some things inevitably leads to not focusing on others, given a person’s limited attention span. Therefore, here we shall try to bring some neat pieces of tech news that deserve your attention.

Disclaimer, not putting Google Stadia here because we’ve already talked about that. Also, that topic requires a larger amount of focus. Without further ado, here’s a list of tech things you should know.
Over 2.6 million SIM cards to be disabled

Over 2.6 million SIM cards to be disabled

You might be losing  your SIM card on April 26th, as over 2.6 million SIMs are to be disabled by the government. This step is being taken as a response to violations of the maximum limit of SIMs that can be registered against a single national ID. While the maximum is 15 SIMs for a single national ID, at least one hundred thousand National IDs are in violation of this rule.

According to reports, the government is going to provide mobile operators with information regarding the SIMs in violation. The operators will in turn reduce registered SIMs to 15 each ID. If you want to find out the number of SIMs registered by your ID, dial *16001# and push the last four digits of your national ID. But chances are it won’t do much good now.

2. Clash over “Haha” reacts on Facebook

Just….yeah.

Two groups of students engaged in chases and hurling stones, among other uber-masculine activities in a clash that had supposedly began over a Facebook react. This took place in Chittagong University, between two Facebook groups based on the university’s  Shuttle train bogeys. The clash began from a woman’s Facebook post receiving a “Haha” react from a student of another group. Reports suggest numerous people were wounded in the clash that began at noon and resumed on a start-stop basis every now and then. The University’s police claim that the situation is now relaxed, while student leaders who were involved blame the occurrence on a misunderstanding.

The world’s probably going to end because of an Instagram post.

3. First storm of the season disrupts Telecommunications and Internet

We had this year’s first big Kalbaisakhi storm last night. While it was soothing for most given the hot weather preceding it, the storm laid countrywide waste to telecommunication services. Network towers were damaged resulting in mobile services being unavailable in many places. In addition, the storm has detached electricity to many operator sites, leading to internet services being down as well. In fact, both broadband and mobile internet services are still down in parts of the country.

According to reports, about 2800 sites of Grameenphone are down as of the morning of 1st April. Robi has lost about 2000 sites, while Banglalink has lost close to 1500. While the services were briefly resumed by way of generators, said generators quickly ran out of fuel. However, operators say that refuelling is taking place.

Pretty impressive for a storm that lasted about a couple of minutes.

That was a brief list of the few things happening in the local tech scenario that deserve your attention. And your reactions. Perhaps not reactions that include laughter.

We’re gonna go fight some people laughing outside the office.

A year in review: 5 things that marked the local tech scenario in 2018

2018 has been an eventful year for Bangladesh. And the biggest milestones are from local tech scenario. Both Government and private projects have achieved outstanding feats this year and have made their marks. As we head into 2019, let us take a look at 5 things that have made the news in 2018.

1. Pathao goes global

In early September, Pathao became the first Bangladeshi ride sharing company to go global by launching services in Nepal. Expansion in Nepal was Pathao’s first step in their plan to expand business further.

2. bKash’s app redefines mobile banking

bKash launched its super simple app in 2018. And mobile banking in Bangladesh has never been easier. With its simple and sleek design and user friendly operation, bkash quickly became the go to name for cashless transactions.

3. Bangladesh goes to space

2018 will forever be remembered as the year Bangladesh went to space. The Government launched its first geostationary satellite, Bangabandhu-1. With the launch of its first ever satellite, Bangladesh became a member of the club of the elite nations who have their mark in space.

4. The year of Pathao’s controversial data stealing

Pathao made the news once again in 2018 after it was revealed that they have been breaching user data. Pathao later issued an explanation and went through some major updates to its app but the controversy was never fully cleared.

5. Shohoz raised $15M investment

A year in review: 5 things that marked the local tech scenario in 2018

Another ride sharing app, Shohoz raised a massive $15M investment this year. With this investment Shohoz plans to become a major competitor in the ride sharing market of the country

Explaining piracy in third world countries

The land of piracy! As cool as it sounds, believe us it’s not. This is not One Piece. This is the real world. One should not feel proud to call their country a land of piracy. For starters this is illegal and WRONG. Secondly, it is disrespectful to those who make awesome TV shows, Anime, Music, Comic books, books and video games for us. Yet sadly, for those of us who reside in these third world countries have no other option but to use piracy if we want to consume any popular media from countries other than our own.

It’s not just popular entertainment that piracy prevails in. Piracy is intertwined with our businesses too. Just how many companies and homes in these third world countries do you think run genuine windows operating system and Microsoft office software? Not many, that’s for sure.

BUT WHY?

Before answering that, here is a more important question. DOES IT MATTER?

So what if we pirate all our games? So what if our operating systems are all downloaded from pirate bay? What if all our favorite albums and songs are downloaded from random suspicious looking websites for free? What if all our software and movies are downloaded from TorrentBD? Why does it matter? Why is it wrong or illegal? It’s not like we are stealing money or committing some kind of crime.

Now, imagine for a second that you are one of the writers of your favorite TV show. Put yourself in the shoes of these people for a minute. You have spent months passionately writing a story, writing these characters for this one show. You have poured your heart into every dialogue, every word. Your audience has noticed, and given your show and characters their love and attention. The critics have given you their seal of approval. The pay is great too.

There is just one tiny problem.

Your show isn’t getting any ratings on the TV. So, a few seasons in, your show gets cancelled for something different. All your passion and hard work gone just like that. You are out of job too. It’s time to look for a new job.

How did this happen?

Turns out everyone has been downloading your show from torrent sites.

This might sound like some crazy extreme fictional scenario. But consider this, producer of Hannibal TV series blamed piracy for cancellation of the show. Consider that the band LCD Sound system from United Kingdom begged their fans to not leak their upcoming album. Their plea went unheard. Consider that piracy is the reason that EA implemented very restrictive DRM systems in their games.

Developing, creating anything requires talent, hard work, and time. This is why artists, writers, video game developers, film-makers get paid.

The money we pay to consume art allow the creators to create more for us.

So, what happens when we take money out of the equation and download everything for free? The people who make the things that we enjoy can no longer support themselves and have to stop what they do.

Piracy is pretty much stealing. Every time someone is downloading something for free that has a price tag added, he is depriving the creator of his well-deserved compensation and livelihood.

Why does piracy happen?

So, piracy is morally wrong and its consequences ultimately impact us directly, and negatively. This brings us to our first question again. Why then, do we pirate everything that we can?

The short answer to that question is that, it’s easy. The long answer is a bit more complicated.

Internet hasn’t been around for that long. The world is still adjusting to the huge wave and splash that the Internet has brought along with it. In between all the chaos, innovations, and great leaps forward, the world has lost track of how information can be shared and spread. Now we can easily download a song by Eminem as soon as it comes out without needing to buy it. This would be impossible in a pre-internet world. But, in a post-internet world, where everything is connected, it is expected that pirates will give others access to freely download anything.

Piracy in third world countries 1
Sure, Netflix sounds great! But its costly too.

Another thing is that these products are simply not available in a lot of third world countries. Even if they are, they are available in very obscure places that most people don’t even know about and they cost a very high amount of money to get. A good example of this would be Japanese anime TV shows and manga in Bangladesh. It’s not like we can not at all find CDs, DVDs of anime shows, and volumes of manga in this country. We can find them if we look and search hard enough. The issues are that it’s not easy to find and the cost is too high. There is also the fact that even if we find what we are looking for, there’s no guarantee that we will be able to find everything of a series and in good enough quality.

Add to all this some basic and normal human psychology. Who in their right mind would go through all that hassle to pay for something when they can find the same thing for free very easily with no issues online? No one.

Ahoy, matey!

“They are necessary for countries like us where you can’t get crunchyroll or Netflix even if you wanted to, since international payments are even an issue.”


-Munazil Rahman, Organiser at Unmad-JCC Comic Con.

This is how we have reached the situation that we are right now. We are all just pirates drifting through the endless sea of the World Wide Web. And we are not even the cool, awesome kind from One Piece or the dangerous, adventurous kind like Blackbeard. We are more of a very large group of bandits riding a worn down boat, unaware of what we are really doing. Some of us are also doing this because we have no other option.

Things to do instead of feeding your Facebook addiction

Let’s face it, most of us have a very real phone addiction problem these days. More specifically, we are addicted to Facebook. You start reading a new book, or you’re in the middle (middle!) of a riveting chapter, but you find yourself glancing over to read notifications. As that familiar sense of boredom (is that even the word for it?) settles in, so does the next  60ish minutes of endless scrolling. A ‘harmless’ distraction that turns into watching a hedgehog sneeze. 100 memes later.

Scroll, scroll, scroll…the first step is acceptance. We might have a problem, and now we need to take back control of our lives. It’s not that social media is inherently evil—it’s how we choose to indulge in it and what we choose to expose ourselves to.

When and why do we need to curb our addictions?

The first real sign is its effect on your behavior— do you use your phone as a crutch for antisocial tendencies and to mask your anxiety? Sure it’s an easy way out. But imagine if you took a drug that did the same as the smartphone does—makes you stare at your hand for hours and obstructs real human interaction—wouldn’t you avoid it? Higher rates of suicidal tendencies, depression, and anxiety have been linked to constant exposure to the highlights of other people’s lives via social media by many studies. Know your own symptoms. Recognize that you feel worse after seeing facades of Instagram perfect lives.

How can it be healthy to watch video after video of happy people, girls setting unreal standards on how to look so pretty in makeup tutorials, boys getting gains fast and debonair clothing. The promise sold to us is, when you do your makeup and muscles like them, you will feel happier. This is how you unconsciously fall into the trap of fixating on “what you don’t have”. The solution to happiness is a click away. A link away from being beautiful. Or to shop. Or to constantly travel in dream destinations looking picture-perfect.

The Likes and Followers Trap

Facebook exposed photos

Have you ever posted a picture of Instagram, and refreshed the page every couple of minutes to see if it’s got more likes? If so, you are not alone. The day-to-day obsessions and concern around the ‘success’ of each of our social media statuses have become the norm. The photos we post are only the ones we think are best, that too according to social media’s standards. We project the ones where we look the fairest, the thinnest, our thighs are apart, our muscles look the most pronounced and we look the most popular.

We feel like we need to prove our lives to other people and that’s how we can validate ourselves. When you base your self-worth on the number of likes and followers, you are trapped in a vicious cycle? The actual pursuit of happiness is replaced by this sort of endless and addictive rut of low self-esteem and disarray.

What are ‘influencers’ influencing?

These emotions are compounded by the constant exposure to celebrity lives. If we follow the beautiful, designer clothing-clad, edited photos and videos of celebrities’ insta-handles we start feeling like they’re fabulous and successful because of their high materialism in their life. In comparison (and oh you will compare!)  our own little lives feel mundane. The habit of “I’m lacking” accentuates.

Think about it, why do they need so much designer clothes and edited pictures if they are as happy as they seem? Is the reason for fitness and a healthy lifestyle for butt-cheek exposed photo streams, or are they meant to be their own rewards—to be healthy and to feel good from better fitness? Is it about attaining a certain physique?  At the end of the day you do not get to feel lasting happiness.

You are probably already in a healthy place and didn’t need to try that grapefruit juice diet. And if are not, then there’s always that endless supply of memes that can drown your inner emptiness (yikes). Something to think about.

Its time to wean out of these habits.

How do we break the habit?

By getting help! No, I don’t mean going to a therapist, but making the small but significant changes each day that cuts a normalized obsessive habit. You can utilize free and paid resources in app stores that help you to build your will-power work. You can try:

  • Time your own indulgences: Use free apps like In Moment, Freedom and App Detox to track how much you spend time on your phone. This awareness and hard facts can spur you into reducing screen time. Some apps reduce access to productivity-killing apps for when you lack will-power. Try them.
  • Switch to productive alternatives: You need to make marginal adjustments to your daily routines. Instead of just quitting social media and then relapsing into the habit after a while, try a new activity. Say, you download Duo Lingo, a great user-friendly app to help learn a new language. Use the 15 minutes during your lunch break to learn a few skills instead of scrolling. In a couple of months, you can build a whole set of vocabulary with just 15 minutes a day! Or start a free course on Udemy on Coursera. Low on computer skills? Check out Code Academy for fun, there are some really easy free courses for non-techies. The key is to slowly but surely change habits.
  • Here’s a crazy idea, do nothing? Just pause and watch the world go by. Let the moment sink into your being. Notice that your breathing. Reflect. Notice your surroundings. Or if that initially scares you, go for a walk.

ShopHobe – a new approach to local e-commerce

A team of developers tap away at their workstations. Seated in a brightly colored but cluttered room are a group of entrepreneurs. Creatives who are trying to put their mark on Bangladesh’s e-commerce industry. The clutter in the room mirrors the challenges facing the sector. The local e-commerce industry started booming a proper ecosystem around 2012. However, more than a decade later, the industry faces foreign competition, difficulties with logistics and generally on a rocky road to innovation. The name on the bright yellow wall behind the developers—ShopHobe.

Office aesthetics aside, ShopHobe promises a clutter-free online shopping experience. The current online experience is filled with insufferable ads. Social media algorithms track that one time you searched for “beard oil” and will bombard you with posts featuring fuzzy hipsters for all eternity—till you give in and buy the damn thing. The lack of clutter a big deal.  Other e-commerce sites like Bikroy.com tend to give in to the temptation of ad money.  Filling up search results with sponsored ads. The degrees of intrusiveness depends on how much the sponsors paid. For lack of a better revenue model. ShopHobe tries to do things a little differently.

The idea

“The idea formulated from a rooftop hangout session between friends. One friend, Shafayet, pointed out the huge number of ‘Facebook entrepreneurs’—people selling all kinds of things through social media—and how they don’t have a concrete platform to operate out of. None of us liked the experience of shopping on social media either, and we thought we could make things better for both the buyer and the seller,” says Naseef Fatemi, founder, and CEO of ShopHobe.

Lanky, long-haired and easy-going, Naseef’s persona and appearance easily fit the stereotype of an engineer trying to field a viable tech startup from a corner of Banani. E-commerce is risky territory—Naseef and his band of developers and marketers know that. However, having faith in an idea can make all the difference in the success of a business; faith is something they have quite a lot of at ShopHobe.

How it works

On a surface level, the model seems fairly simple. However, if you go deeper, you start to see the organizational balance that makes the model work. ShopHobe first pitches to prospective sellers—giving them an overview of the front-end layout, the back-end stock management system, the delivery services and the weekly payment system to the sellers. ShopHobe then builds and customizes the online shop for the vendor, which is handed over to the seller upon completion. There are two pricing plans (for now)—base and promotion. The base plan sets the price for ShopHobe’s services according to the weight of each product sold through the “shop”, while promotion adds a commission on each product. Sellers who opt for the promotion plan get their products featured on the landing page of the site and app.  The sellers also great social media visibility for the shop and its products.

Customer-centric decisions

“We have made it a point to understand what the sellers and the customers want from an e-commerce platform and worked towards building a product that reflects that. Our operations started in November 2017, and since then we’ve spent a significant portion of our efforts on R&D. We’re not a traditional e-commerce site and we don’t want to be—our aim was always to be a WordPress equivalent of the e-commerce industry and help entrepreneurs build their brand and their website. As a result, our branding presence on our clients’ websites are low—we don’t want to take anything away from the brands that we’re working with,” continues Naseef.

ShopHobe currently hosts over 250 retailers on the platform, with more coming on board. True to the tagline “E-commerce Made Easy”, ShopHobe is actively focusing on streamlining their shopping, delivery and payment services, often in unison with their partnered businesses and start-ups.

While the Bangladeshi e-commerce industry has been set back by a lack of innovative ideas, newer outfits like ShopHobe and Shopify are trying to make it work by targeting more intricate revenue models. Whether it works or not is still up for debate.

Huawei: Enemy of the US?

Huawei has had a hell of a year. From toppling the smartphone giants Apple’s iPhone in terms of sales to the several US government-related controversies, it’s certainly not been a dull period for the Chinese tech giants. It should come as no surprise that much of Huawei’s history is marred in many such controversies. However, you may be surprised how many of the controversies throughout the years remained unchanged. Here, we look at a few controversies the company has gone through in just this calendar year. The list will be listing these controversies from the oldest of the year to the newest. In fact, the last entry on this post only happened yesterday!

January – Defending US Government Communications Act

A French newspaper linked Huawei to the hack of the African Union Headquarters in Ethiopia. The Chinese government, of course, denied the acquisitions. Right after this, the US government would propose the Defending US Government Communications Act, call for FCC to investigate the company, and even got AT&T to pull out of an agreement with Huawei. Verizon, on the other hand, would stop carrying Huawei products in the future. This was only the start, and Huawei would have a rough year ahead of them.

February – Intelligence heads think Huawei is spyware

Huawei: Enemy of the US?

On February 14, 2018, heads of six U.S. intelligence agencies testified to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence against the use of Chinese telecom products by U.S. citizens. Like those of Huawei and ZTE. Christopher A. Wray, director of the FBI, stated that they were “deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks”. Huawei responded to the allegations, arguing that its products “[pose] no greater cybersecurity risk than any ICT vendor, sharing as we do common global supply chains and production capabilities,” and that it was “aware of a range of U.S. government activities seemingly aimed at inhibiting Huawei’s business in the U.S. market”

March – Best Buy stops selling Huawei

Best buy, one of the largest retailers of consumer technology in the US, stops selling Huawei products. Huawei takes another hit to their bottom line, and the pseudo war against the Americans start taking its toll.

April – US Government forbids self from using Huawei tech

On April 17, 2018, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) held a preliminary, 5-0 vote. It was on rules forbidding the use of government subsidies to purchase telecom equipment from companies deemed to be a risk to national security. A draft of the policy specifically even named Huawei and ZTE as examples. This would further restrict Huawei, as anyone who wants to work intimately with a massive employer like the US would have to make certain to not have Huawei phones.

May – The Pentagon bans Huawei phones from retail stores on military bases

In an unsurprising move, the Pentagon went ahead and banned Huawei from all military base retail shops. Huawei in a statement basically didn’t even address it. Instead, they said, “We remain committed to openness and transparency in everything we do and want to be clear that no government has ever asked us to compromise the security or integrity of any of our networks or devices.”

June – Revelations of Facebook and Huawei’s secret data-sharing pact

This was during that time of the year when everyone on Facebook started to get worried about how Zuckerberg may be misappropriating our data. Naturally, if it’s controversial, Huawei would have to be mentioned somewhere. This was simply one such case. A series of reports this week revealed that, for the past 10 years, Facebook’s broad sharing of data extended not only to app developers but to phone companies as well. Of course, one of the phone makers on top of that list would be Huawei.

July – Huawei overtakes Apple

In possibly the only positive news for Huawei during the whole year, they managed to outsell iPhones for the second quarter of this year. Huawei shipped over 54 million handsets in the second quarter compared to the 41.3 million iPhones that Apple sold. This would make them the second biggest phone sellers of the globe.

August – Huawei caught faking camera shots in ads

The shot in question

And we’re back to Huawei being completely morally bankrupt. To play the devils advocate, they never explicitly stated that it wasn’t a DSLR shot. They just heavily implied it with the wrist position.

Taking of the shot

September – Huawei caught cheating benchmark test for P20

Huawei gets caught with their pants down, as the list gets sillier. Again. Shocking. Literally just weeks removed from the last fiasco, in September, AnandTech discovered that Huawei’s P20 had been programmed to maximize performance specifically when running 3DMark, a popular benchmarking app. Huawei admitted to this in a statement to Android Authority.

October – The only non-controversial month

Huawei announced a few new phones like the 5G foldable they are working on. They announced the new Mate 20. They asked Trump to change his device to Huawei as reports of iPhone tapping became known. All in all, a real month of R&R for the execs of Huawei.

November – Americans discourage allies from using Huawei devices:

R&R would end soon, however. In November, the US would ask many of it’s allies to stop using the tech giants products. Allegedly. Sources claim that US government officials have met with counterparts in Germany, Japan, and Italy, and are reportedly considering offering financial incentives to countries who opt not to use equipment from the Chinese manufacturer.

December – Canadian authorities arrest The CFO:

Huwaei: Enemy of the US?
Huwaei’s global CFO Wanzhou Meng

However, the latest chapter of the story was told only yesterday. Huawei Vice-chairperson and CFO Meng Wanzhou, daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested in Canada at the request of U.S. authorities. She faces extradition to the United States on charges of violating sanctions against Iran. 

As anyone can see, at this point the company has become an absolute magnet for controversy. They’ve clashed so hard with the US government this year you might mistake them to be Iran or something. Huawei is backing off of US markets. Barring random marketing campaigns they do to generate buzz, the company’s future there seems uncertain. Yet, with a dominating share in Chinese markets, they remain safe globally.

Check out our first impression on the Huawei Nova 3i here.

Samsung wins best brand award

Samsung Mobile has been recognized as Bangladesh’s No. 1 Handset Brand by Bangladesh Brand Forum. The South Korean electronics giant was also announced 3rd best brand in refrigerator category. Top officials of Samsung Bangladesh received the awards on behalf of Samsung Mobile and Samsung Consumer electronics during the award ceremony on December 8, 2018, at Le Méridien Dhaka.

The objective of the Best Brand Award is to exhibit and celebrate the success of the brands, achieved through excellence in meeting the needs of the Bangladeshi consumers. Bangladesh Brand Forum partnered with Nielsen Bangladesh to identify the top brands of Bangladesh, with the aim to acknowledge the brands that have established themselves to a meaningful height in terms of business value and contribution to consumer life.

On this occasion, Md. Muyeedur Rahman, Head of Mobile, Samsung Mobile Bangladesh said, “We are extremely proud to have received this award. It is an indicator of our customers support towards our products and services. As we continue to thrive as a brand, Samsung remains dedicated to creating innovative possibilities and experiences for our consumers through our products and services. Our heartfelt gratitude and thanks to all our customers, partners and stakeholders without whom this was not possible.”

This Bangladesh Brand Forum is a platform for recognizing the success of the business community of Bangladesh and portraying their achievements in brand building. The program was launched to find the most loved brands of Bangladesh based on the nationwide survey conducted by Nielsen Bangladesh and giving away a prominent publication consisting of winning brand stories to all the attendees as the Bangladesh Brand Forum tradition.

Pathao, Uber and the need for greater scrutiny about data gathering activities

In November, Pathao was embroiled in controversy after allegations were made against the ride-sharing company for illegal data gathering activities. One month later, the situation remains unclear.

Ashik Ishtiaque Emon, a security researcher, uploaded a viral video explaining how Pathao was misusing user data. According to the video, Pathao forwards sensitive user information to a third-party server in California and this data is updated every time you open the app. Contacts and SMS information are also collected in addition to location data.

Pathao’s response

Pathao later issued a press release clarifying that its data gathering practices were in line with international best practices of similar technology companies. They stated that they did not violate any laws to do so, nor did they plan to. However, in the press release, Pathao also insinuated that the controversy was stirred up by parties jealous of Pathao’s recent success.

Such statements are in poor taste. Even if this is actually the case, such claims are not expected during an official press release of a globally recognized company.

Pathao is correct in saying that companies abroad engage in similar practices. However, this does not excuse the lack of transparency in dealing with consumer data. Security concerns remain since most users do not check user conditions and terms of agreements.

Misuse of user data: An Industry Norm?

Pathao, Uber and the Need for Greater Scrutiny about Data Gathering Activitie

Ride-sharing apps have a history of questionable data gathering practices. In 2017, Uber was investigated by the FBI for using a program to track their rival, Lyft’s activity. According to an expose by the Information, Uber used the program between 2014 and 2016. They tracked how many Lyft drivers were available for new rides and the location. Uber created fake Lyft accounts and used it to trick Lyft into thinking that customers were seeking new rides in various locations around a city. This allowed Uber to see which drivers were nearby and what prices they were offering to customers, further, allowing Uber to undercut them.

The effort was part of a larger international strategy to monitor rivals like Ola in India and Didi Chuxing in China. Such practices were not essentially illegal, as the data was purportedly publicly available. Uber also monitored customers’ location data for up to five minutes after ending their trips. This was rollbacked after another controversy and media attention. Admittedly, laws protecting users do not exist yet and there is a lack of regulation.  However, the callousness with user privacy is not going unnoticed.

While Pathao, of course, is a different company, the fact remains that ridesharing is a very competitive industry. Firms may be tempted to leverage the large data they have access to, to gain an edge over its rivals. Data-brokering is a very lucrative and growing industry.

Vigilance is necessary

According to the BRTA, none of the ridesharing companies currently operating in Bangladesh has successfully complied with the guidelines introduced earlier this year. These include providing SOS services, updated driver data, call center and data center locations to the government.

Modern services such as Facebook and Pathao are here to stay. However, in light of data issues and scrutiny on social media apps, we need to be more vigilant about what kind of data we are sharing with these services, and how this data is being used. Perhaps, measures similar to GDPR may be required in the future for markets like Bangladesh as well.

See our video on how to change your app permissions to protect your data.