Is our private data really private?

In the middle of last month, I received a phone call from a so-called “Institut Minda Selangor”, which was doing a poll to gauge support for Selangor’s Pakatan Rakyat/Harapan state government.

Now, one would think there would be no problem with just answering a few questions and submitting to a poll, but this is different.

Some details – the phone number I have is a prepaid SIM card purchased from Maxis by my younger brother as a birthday present ages ago. In fact, it could have been close to seven or eight years ago.

And thus, he registered it under his name. It works just fine, other than the fact that the whole “birthday treat” comes in August and confuses me once a year – it’s a good reminder though.

Thus, when the pollster calls up and mentions my brother’s name instead of my own, we do have a problem. You see, only three people would know that this phone number of mine is registered under my brother’s name – myself, my brother, and the telco itself.

So, where would the pollster have gotten the information?

I decided to take this case to Facebook, and as such, the telco provider has given feedback that their system is secure without a breach. However, they couldn’t provide an answer as to how the pollster could have gotten the details known only to three parties, two of which are pretty much secure and would never reveal that information.

Thus, at this point, I’m pretty much resigned to the fact that someone is leaking phone numbers, private information, to pollsters. As to who is doing it, perhaps it can be found out by finding the pollsters since telcos are all convincing that their data handling – from initial registration of buying a SIM card from a kedai runcit or even 7-Eleven, is secure and without a leak.

To those who got the same phone call, perhaps it is time to take note that your data has been sold off to would be pollsters, promoters, and maybe even fraudsters, and perhaps it is time to think about where they got it from.

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On the Big Gay Iftar

Seems the brickbats are out for the hosting of the Big Gay Iftar by the Campaign for Equality and Human Rights Initiative (Pelangi) which took place last week.

Before I say more, let me just point out a few things – I am gay. I have been officially out since 2008 (you can find that piece in The Star) and even came out again in 2010. Thus, I do have a bias when it comes to attending events such as this one.

The idea for a Big Gay Iftar, in itself, is not original. In the UK, it is hosted annually in London, and for 2017 will be on June 17. It is when the Islamic community in London have an iftar event for the LGBTQ+ community, and this year it apparently takes place in a churchtakes place in a church.

Continue reading “On the Big Gay Iftar”

On “gender confusion” and homosexuality

On “gender confusion” and homosexuality

By Hafidz Baharom

I honestly didn’t want to write on this topic, but it seems that Malaysia is backtracking on whatever progress it has made towards understanding the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community thus far.

It started with the fact that a non-government individual shared a picture of a Jakim roadshow planning to head to each and every public university to espouse the evil that is the so-called LGBT agenda a while back.

The fellow also shared a slideshow by one imam who said that LGBTs were caused psychologically and environmentally – something that even a UK Liberal Democrat candidate has said was due to hormones in tap water.  Continue reading “On “gender confusion” and homosexuality”

Hannah Yeoh and Christianity

This column was published Sunday May 21, 2017, on The Malaysian Insight

I’M actually surprised Hannah Yeoh is getting into trouble for talking about her devout Christianity. I remember watching her Facebook video where she talks of referring to the Bible to settle family arguments, during the 2013 campaign or earlier.

But the flak she is getting over her book is this; if anyone who reads her book is a Muslim, it is a constitutional breach because some consider it propagation. Yet at the same time, if those who read her book are non-Muslim, it’s fine. Continue reading “Hannah Yeoh and Christianity”

Thoughts on green energy

When we talk about renewable energies and a green future, what pops up in your mind? Is it the wind energy farms that cluster the countryside?

Or maybe we are talking about solar panels on multiple buildings and public facilities, perhaps even the rooftop of KL Sentral station, similar to what one would see on Blackfriars station in London?

Do we see people sorting their trash according to what can be recycled? Maybe even looking towards product packaging which is easily recycled?

Do we see people sorting their waste in restaurants, at a local Starbucks, where plastic cups are emptied of liquids similar to what you will find in a Pret A Manger?

What about food, for that matter? Do we see a boycotting of restaurants that waste too much, a fine for those who waste too much, even during the upcoming Ramadhan buffets?

Do we see ourselves becoming like the Swiss, where each garbage bag of trash requires a sticker that will be attached to a cost paid to local councils? Continue reading “Thoughts on green energy”

On Thaqif, and why kids will still suffer

I heard what happened to young Thaqif, and quite honestly I was totally indifferent. It may seem cold hearted, but in retrospect I believe that this wasn’t something new.
I am well aware that my sexual orientation would mean me never having a biological child of my own, or even the laws of this land not allowing me to adopt. I will never know the tiresome act of parenting while trying to earn enough to get by on a day-to day-basis.  Continue reading “On Thaqif, and why kids will still suffer”

How will the “hudud bill” play out?

For those not in the know, there is a private members bill called RUU 355 currently brought up by the Islamic conservative party (PAS) in Malaysia’s parliament.

It raises the stature of the Sharia Court to be on the same level as the Malaysian civil courts with regards to the level of punishment it is able to dole out. 100 lashes, RM500,000 fine, and also 30 years in jail.

This bill, raised by PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, has now been deferred from being debated to the next parliamentary session in March 2017.

The bill has faced brickbats from both government and opposition lawmakers – in particular, the non-Muslim lawmakers whereas Muslim lawmakers have hedged themselves into being non-committal on direct answer to the point that Schrödinger would be proud.

Continue reading “How will the “hudud bill” play out?”

The Heat Malaysia column – Malaysia’s shrinking media scene 

A news piece in a local portal caught my eye, detailing the plight of the media sector, particularly journalists.
If you have yet to notice, there has definitely been a shrinking media industry in Malaysia. In fact, this trend will not be turning around anytime soon, and it did not start with The Malaysian Insider.
In fact, I believe this trend started in 2014, with The NutGraph shutting down.
The now defunct portal launched in 2008 went through the donation path, collecting RM41,503.83 by January 2010 to keep it running an entire year, after losing its investors. And then it was basically running on fumes for four years till it shut down.
We also saw the shutting down of The Heat (later The Heat Online), The Rakyat Post (and return), and also Malaysiakini’s business news portal, KiniBiz. The Heat Online was relaunched as The Heat Malaysia. What lies ahead?
On top of that, news channels for television also shrunk – which includes ABN News and also Bloomberg Malaysia.
At the same time, it seems that even the pro-government media are facing the same problem.
Case in point – Utusan Malaysia has gone on the record through the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) asking for its owners to let it go if payments are delayed.
There have also been rumours that even the official government media channels – Bernama, Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) and even listed Media Prima Bhd are having trouble retaining, let alone recruiting staff.
September 2016 saw even the English daily New Straits Times rumoured to be going fully digital.
Unfortunately, with the growing ability to cut out media as the middle guy in advertising through social media which is less (much less) of a cost centre, money is hard to come by.
There are models that work. I’m sure Astro is in fact keeping its Awani News in check. Other than that, only ones still keeping in the black thus far are The Star and Malaysiakini.
The latter due to its subscription based pay wall, the former due to being able to be funded largely through advertising.
But this is honestly a worldwide trend that even affects the US and even the UK.
In the US, paywalls are being erected in an effort to get people to pay for sustainable news organisations. The Boston Globe – made famous through Oscar winning movie Spotlight – has a five free stories a day limit before asking people to subscribe.
At the same time, you have the New York Times also moving towards subscriptions, while papers such as the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) have kept themselves exclusively by subscription only.
Meanwhile in the UK, The Independent decided to go fully digital as well and have stopped publishing paper. As much as it is a way for news agencies to “go green”, I doubt that this was the case.
So, how do other countries maintain a thriving media industry? Shall we look at Denmark for a bit?
According to their Ministry of Culture website, there is in fact a “main and supplementary scheme as well as a three-year transition fund for media that obtain less in total aid from the production aid scheme than under the previous distribution of aid scheme”.
How much is this, in total?
Oh, €52 million over a period of three years, but not amounting to more than 35 per cent of the editorial cost.
See, other parts of the world see media as an industry worth supporting in its infancy – which is why I don’t blame Malaysiakini getting funds from the Open Society Foundations (OSF).
Journalism and news aren’t cheap, but it ensures an informed public. An informed public makes informed decisions. Thus, it is branded the Fourth Estate – for its ability to influence the general public.
It should in fact be part of our culture to have a thriving media industry, but with no assistance from the government (in fact, our government is a hindrance), the media industry will continue languishing and remaining dependent on others for income – case in point, political parties in some cases.
And that makes it a culture of one-sided information that will eventually lead to disinformation and in the end – total bias and bad decisions.
The Danes rightfully point out: “Media policy is thus regarded as an integral part of Danish cultural policy.”
Malaysians need to ask themselves – what is our culture when it comes to media?

On superheroes, power and boundaries

The column below was rejected by The Heat Malaysia on the grounds that it is too sensitive for public consumption. Oh well.

Anyone who has read or watched the Spider-Man comics and movies would know the whole “with great power comes great responsibility” spiel by heart. But what most forget is the conflict of superheroes to set their own boundaries when wielding absolute or near absolute power – and how it relates in real life.

Those reading the comics would see this scenario in a few examples – Superman and the DC Universe in the Injustice series, Marvel’s Civil War arc, and even the situation with Marvel’s World War Hulk. These series do have some lessons imparted in real life.

Should government play a role in limiting the powers of superheroes, or leave them to self-regulation? In all these examples put forward, possibilities are highlighted, challenged and even show, in intimate detail, how it affects the rest of humanity and the citizenry of a nation. Continue reading “On superheroes, power and boundaries”

Budget 2017 Part 1: The good

ds-najib-bajet-2017-cover
Image courtesy of Perak Today and RTM

Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak has already unveiled the nation’s budget for the next year. And hopefully this time, there won’t be supplementaries and even sudden amendments to it in the middle of the year.

And as expected for a government wanting to maintain power, there are a lot of dishing out in the budget. Similarly, there is a cut in tax deductions – or more or rather, a grouping that will benefit some above others.

So let’s start with the good points first. Continue reading “Budget 2017 Part 1: The good”