Self before service | The Online Citizen

Wonder if this Richard Seah is the former journalist. Whatever, he’s completely right that the purpose of cashless transactions is to screw the consumer.

Self before service | The Online Citizen.

Many years ago, my sister ran a hawker stall and I once accompanied her to renew her hawker licence. As you know, most government departments have long stopped handling cash. And it so happened that day that the NETS payment system was down. But can any government department exercise flexibility? Sorry. No cash. Wait.

Fortunately, the system was up and running again after about half an hour, so it wasn’t too bad. While waiting, I asked the officer what if the system was down for a long time. “Pay by cheque,” he replied matter-of-factly, as if the average hawker carries a cheque book.

Cashless payments remind me of the National Library. Ah! Finally they got the system sorted out and users can now pay their overdue fines using a choice of cards: NETS, Cashcard, Transit Link, etc. But boy did they take a long time. I remember for a good many years, it used to be Cashcard or nothing. I remember once walking a great distance to buy a Cashcard, for $10 or whatever sum, I forgot, just to pay a few cents worth of fines. (I had the option of paying later, but heck, I wanted to get it done with.) And then, as a step improvement, some library branches accepted more types of cards than others. If I am not wrong, it took more than 10 years from the introduction of cashless payment to reach today’s standard of convenience and service.

It may seem that I am harping on the distant past. But I bring this up to show how deeply rooted this attitude is. The government’s insistence on cashless transactions long ago set the precedence of putting the service provider’s convenience ahead of the user’s.

Squirming out – The Standard

The importance of whistleblowers.

Squirming out – The Standard.
Thursday, August 05, 2010
Dennis Chong

Octopus Cards chief executive Prudence Chan Pik-wah stepped down yesterday to quell the uproar over the sale of private data, but the company’s board was accused of allowing her a dignified exit.

She will stay with the company for another six months to help respond to issues raised by the sale of private data.

Despite a promise to turn over data sales revenue exceeding HK$44 million to the Community Chest and a personal “sorry” from its CEO, a legislator worries that Chan could influence the probe that has been launched into the fiasco.

The Octopus board said last night it has accepted Chan’s resignation.

A senior executive from major shareholder Mass Transit Railway Corp, David Tang Chi-fai, will serve as interim chief executive before Chan officially departs in February “to ensure a smooth transition.”

But critics branded the resignation as a show, saying Chan will still have the power to intervene in the company’s review of data protection policies.

Legislator Wong Kwok-hing described Chan’s exit as a “dignified departure,” which gives him the impression the company is trying to sidetrack criticism.

“Chan is to stay for another six months and could affect the handling to the issue,” Wong said. “The company has not said how it will reform. I have strong reservations about the arrangement.”

He said: “More than one person is responsible,” adding he will continue his push in the Legislative Council for greater scrutiny.

Chan issued a statement last night, saying she is sorry. “I have given tremendous thought to the events over the past few weeks. I believe the current issue could have been better handled.”

Last night, media confront Chan as she was getting into her car. She smiled and thanked the public for their concern but refused to say whether she resigned under pressure. Before getting back into the car, she urged the public to continue using Octopus Cards.

Following a five-hour board meeting, Octopus Holdings chairman Lincoln Leung Kwok-kuen said the company will ensure data sold to merchants is deleted. The company will also re-focus on its electronic payment business to restore goodwill.

Leung admitted the company does not have an exact figure on how much was made from data-selling business, which began in 2002.

He said an auditor will be called in to figure out the amount, which will include the HK$44 million it previously reported to have generated between 2006 and 2010.

Leung stressed Chan’s six-month notice period is stipulated in her contract.

She will be assisting in responding to queries arising from the issue and in reviewing data protection practices.

Asked whether he should step down as chairman, Leung said the company will be in a better position if he stays.

Chan was accused of making contradictory statements on whether Octopus was selling the personal data of cardholders. On July 7, Chan said the firm would not sell customer data to any third party. But a week later, a former insurance agent said CIGNA had bought the data of 2.4 million cardholders for marketing purposes. On July 20 Chan admitted Octopus sold personal data to two merchants.

In a Privacy Commission meeting on July 26, Chan further admitted the company earned HK$44 million over four and a half years by sharing personal data with six merchants.

Your Privacy Online – What They Know –

Your Privacy Online – What They Know –

Notwithstanding the WSJ’s rabid right-wing leanings elsewhere in its editorial pages, this is a good series on the growth of user tracking across the web. The only criticism I have is that it only covers the activities of commercial advertisers.

This article helpfully provides links to pages that large internet companies provide to reveal what they know (or think they know and are willing to admit that they know) about you.

As always, if this is what the companies most open to public scrutiny do, one wonders about organisations not subject to public scrutiny.