China Calls Kerry's Internet Comments 'Na´ve'
Today in international tech news: Secretary of State Kerry's views on Internet freedom are, in the words of a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, "na´ve." Also: South Korea doles out punishment for last month's financial data breach; German Chancellor Angela Merkel pushes for more EU-based data; China introduces a mandatory e-commerce return policy; and Microsoft sets out mapping Brazilian favelas.
Maybe they aren't fighting words, but they sure aren't friendly.
China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying, said that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's remarks about Chinese Internet freedom were, shall we say, a bit base.
Kerry had a half-hour-plus chat with bloggers Saturday in Beijing, during which time he expressed support for more online freedom in China.
This prompted Hua to retort that China's affairs should be decided by Chinese people.
"Using methods like this to push China in a direction of change they want -- isn't that rather naive?" she added.
Hua went on to say that Kerry's talk with bloggers could have touched on other topics -- like, say, Edward Snowden.
She might have a point there, but Kerry certainly has ammo for his stance as well. Last fall, Beijing passed new laws to intensify already-intense efforts to cleanse the internet of dissenting opinions.
South Korea Punishes Trio of Credit Cards Companies
Regulators in South Korea have punished three credit card companies at the middle of a data breach last month.
The three companies -- KB Kookmin Bank, Lotte Card and NH Nonghyup Card -- each were hit with a 6 million won fine (about US$5,640), and will be prohibited from issuing new credit cards for three months.
Some 20 million people -- more than 40 percent of South Korea's population -- were victimized in the January data theft, which was the largest financial data theft in the nation's history.
That prompted the South Korean Financial Supervisory Commission to opine recently that the three firms had "neglected their legal duties of preventing any leakage of customer information."
Merkel Pushes for EU-Based Data
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pushing for proposals that would create European data networks, thereby preventing -- or at least complicating -- American surveillance.
Merkel herself was targeted in U.S. snooping efforts. That, coupled with the fact that Germany kind of runs the show in Europe right now, gives extra weight to her push for a data overhaul.
Merkel, who will discuss EU-based data networks with French President Franšois Hollande this week, doesn't want European citizens to "have to go across the Atlantic with emails and other things," and hopes the EU "can build up communications networks also within Europe."
German companies have already floated the idea of creating new networks to avoid the National Security Agency's omniscient gaze. However, Merkel had never before publicly embraced the strategy.
Last week, Germany's new coordinator for trans-Atlantic relations said that he was dubious about the chances of a U.S.-Germany no-spy agreement.
[Source: The New York Times]
China to Enforce E-Commerce Return Policy
Starting on March 15, all e-commerce sites operating in China will be compelled to provide seven-day product returns for customers, thanks to a new regulation passed by China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce.
E-commerce customers will not have to give a reason for returning the item, but will have to pay the return mail fee.
Microsoft Mapping Brazilian Favelas
Microsoft has begun mapping Brazil's shantytowns, known there as favelas, in an effort to help local economies.
Saying it wants to "reduce the digital divide across the world," Microsoft hopes that the mapping infrastructure will enable local economies to better partake in online opportunities -- what Microsoft calls "the digital town square."