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TikTok cannot be considered a private company, says Australian report

ALSO: Japan ends chip supply crimp on South Korea, APAC infosec spending surges; Philippines SIM registration stalls

Asia In Brief ByteDance, the Chinese developer of TikTok, "can no longer be accurately described as a private enterprise" and is instead intertwined with China's government, according to a report [PDF] submitted to Australia's Select Committee on Foreign Interference through Social Media.

The report, by a quartet of researchers, was hailed as "the most comprehensive exploration yet of the CCP's ties to TikTok" by Brendan Carr, commissioner of the United States' Federal Communications Commission. India's IT minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar retweeted Carr's remarks.

The report alleges that China's government noticed as Douyin – the Chinese version of TikTok – boomed. Beijing then commenced a campaign employing its "legal and extra-legal mechanisms for influencing, coercing and controlling China's nominally privately-owned technology companies."

ByteDance has since become a publisher of state propaganda and built surveillance and analytics capabilities that make both Douyin and TikTok a tool China could use to profile individuals. In the words of the report's authors, this leaves ByteDance as "a 'hybrid' state-private entity."

The report also suggests Oracle's hosting of TikTok outside China does not reduce China's capacity to exercise control over TikTok. The short video app is renting bare metal servers and controls all aspects of their operation.

Japan lifts tech trade restrictions on South Korea

Japan has lifted trade restrictions it imposed 2018 after South Korean courts required Japanese businesses to make reparations for their use of forced labor during World War II.

While those decisions were not binding, Japan was sufficiently offended by them to remove South Korea from its list of preferential trading partners – a decision that slowed the flow of chemicals needed to manufacture semiconductors.

South Korea's government recently announced it would establish a reparations fund of its own.

That's gone down very badly at home, but Japan welcomed the move. It led to a hastily-convened summit meeting between South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol and Japan's prime minster Fumio Kishida. One outcome from the summit was returning South Korea to Japan's list of priority trading partners. That will make South Korea's giant chipmakers Samsung and SK hynix happy at the very least.

The US also hailed the rapprochement, as it will mean its two main allies in Asia enjoy closer ties as all consider a more belligerent China.

APAC security spend to surge

Spending on infosec hardware, software, and services is set to jump 16.7 percent year-on-year in 2023, according to analyst firm IDC.

"With looming economic uncertainty and geopolitical instability, it would be natural for Asia/Pacific organizations to turtle-up on their security spending. Yet, IDC still sees increased security budgets and growth over the next few years to address the more prevalent sophisticated attacks and constantly metamorphosizing threat landscape. Security and business leaders must work together to continuously justify their security spending," said Christian Fam, research manager, Security Services, IDC Asia/Pacific.

IDC predicted regional security spend of $36 billion in 2023 and predicted "investments will remain resilient in 2023 and the forecasted years despite the economic slowdown and uncertainty risks."

The analyst outfit added its view that spending on security-related products and services will grow at a five-year CAGR of 15.4 percent from 2021 to 2026 and reach $55 billion by 2026.

"Key drivers behind this growth are rise in cyber attacks, digital transformation initiatives, and continued hybrid workforce trends."

Philippine SIM registration drive stutters

The Philippines' drive to register all SIM cards in the country is not producing the desired result of a decline in SMS spams and scam.

The nation set a deadline of April 26 for the 165 million-plus SIMs to be registered by their users. But local media on Sunday reported an extension may be needed as only 25 percent had been registered and scams remain rampant.

Vietnam's cyber security sector surges

Vietnamese media report sharp growth in revenue for the nation's cyber security sector.

"The sector posted revenue of 252.8 billion VND ($10.6 million) during the period – an increase of 33.5 percent year-on-year, resulting in a growth of 33.1 percent to 20.22 billion VND," according to Vietnam+.

Vietnam is trying to grow its tech services sector, to nourish local businesses and to create export income.

In other news

Our regional coverage last week included plenty of news from China, where Baidu launched its ERNIE chatbot, a strange electric truck hit the road, and authorities were cracking down on social media. Again.

We also looked at the fugitive Chinese billionaire arrested in the US over a cryptocurrency scam.

Japan's post office edged closer to delivering letters by drone.

Samsung revealed plans to spend $230 billion on five new fabs.

India floated the idea of a tribunal dedicated to online offences.

Micronesia is not a nation we cover often, but when its outgoing president accused China of trying to tap its submarine cables and of widespread spying, we couldn't resist! ®

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