Monthly Archives: March 2008

200 million mobile spams

Chinese authorities are investigating commercial text messages that were sent to more than 200 million mobile phone users (40% of all subscribers) through the networks of China Mobile and China Unicom.

The spamming has angered Chinese consumers. Already dubbed “Text-Message Gate”, the incident has even drawn public apologies from one major advertiser and China Mobile. It has also gotten the attention of the Ministry of Information Industry. Both the government and mobile operators are now working together to clarify regulations on identification and blocking of spam messages – the latter have launched hotlines of their own for users to report spam messages.

Will it be enough? Not as long there is no legal base in China for arbitrary trading of personal information!

WAPI is back…

What a pity… WAPI seems to be back. A proposal to make mandatory the expansion of WAPI (Wireless Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure), China’s domestically-developed WLAN standard, was submitted to the National People’s Congress this week. 

For sure, China’s domestic market is largely dominated by foreign-developed WLAN products. But the argument that reliance on them is harmful to state security is completely flawed – encryption software being one solution. The second argument, that without government intervention it will be impossible for WAPI to become the national standard, doesn’t either justify such a measure – in the end standards have to make economic sense.

The signs seem to be clear: Previous attempts to impose WAPI already caused severe trade frictions between China and the USA. ISO rejected China’s WAPI as an international WLAN standard in 2006, edaling a blow to China’s techno-nationalism. Even Chinese operators are starting WiFi projects across the country based on 802.11.

Beijing may have to realise that not all standards should be Chinese. Imposing standards will not only hurt the Chinese economy but also damage its image abroad.

Mobile democracy in China?

Consumer price index (CPI), housing, and health care are some of the themes that attracted most public attention in China’s latest experiment of mobile democracy.  Chinese mobile users have been able to communicate with some political representatives during the annual parliament session using a program called Fetion - a low-price mobile phone interactive service introduced by China Mobile.

Even better! “Ask the Premier” – a joint-project between Xinhuanet.com (the official Chinese news agency) and China Mobile made available to more than 100 million mobile phone users – has collected over 250,000 short messages. In the words of the project’s initiators “Chinese mobile users are thus encouraged to orderly participate in politics”. In the meantime, NGOs all over the world are jumping on the “Olympic opportunity” to portray China as a repressive State where freedom of speech is scorned and democracy a distant dream. In fact, a recent survey by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences shows that today’s China doesn’t suffer a lack of opinions or ideas, but the channels for the people to express them.

Maybe the historical inclusion of “safeguarding the people’s right to expression” in the report to the Party Congress is a sign of changing times!

China's Internet intellectual property game plan

Earlier this year China’s National Copyright Administration (NCA) – yes there is such an agency – launched the first phase of the construction of a monitoring platform for the violation of intellectual property rights (IPR) on the Chinese Internet.

The platform is expected to have an automatic search system for music and film products that are being broadcasted online without permission. Once it has detected such products, it will send a notice to the relevant websites and ask them to delete them.

This is theoretically good news to holders of IPRs. China is famous for repeated infringments of IP in the “real world” (pirate DVDs, softwares and even iphones) so one could reasonably assume that it could spread to the web – the difference is that when it comes to the Internet, the Chinese government has been running a very tight operation. Problem is that the Chinese courts have been giving mixed signals about music infringments on the Internet with domestic ISPs and portals getting off lightly compared to foreign ones. Let’s hope that this time the dots are aligned.