How old trees are preserved in Japan

These days I was in Kyushu Japan. As the place did not bear the brunt of typhoon Jebi, I could tour around a bit.

I was in Dazaifu where I came across this more than 1,500 years old tree. It was a stunning scene to spot. And if we think about the tree in terms of human life, it was awe-inspiring. If a man has an average life of 80 years, this tree then has been living almost 20 lives. If 30 years is a generation (when people give birth to their children), this tree has witnessed 50 generations of human evolution.

PHOTO-2018-09-10-08-21-19

But what amazed me most was not having a tree this old, but how it was conserved. If you looked carefully at the branches at the top, you could see they were all mounted with some sort of protection. I was uplifted by the efforts the Japanese government made in conserving old trees. By protecting valuable trees, natural, historic and cultural treasures can be conserved. Cities with oldest trees should aspire for better preservation.


日本的古樹保育

最近去了日本九州,該地並未受到颱風飛燕強烈影響,讓我可遊玩一番。

我在太宰府時遇到這棵逾一千五百年歷史的古樹,實在蔚為奇觀。假設一個人能活到八十歲,這棵古樹已活了差不多二十個人的一生了,若三十年是一代的話(假設人們大概在這年紀生下下一代),這棵古樹已見證了五十代人的進步了,想想實在讓人嘖嘖稱奇。

但最讓我留下深刻印象的,並非一棵樹木能活上這個年紀,而是它的保育工作。如果你仔細看,會發現古樹頂部的樹枝護着保護物料,日本政府的樹木保育工作實在值得學習。透過保育珍貴的樹木,我們同時保護了大自然、歷史和文化瑰寶。需要進行古樹保育工作的城市應當仿效。

From the gas price in Chicago to real estate investment

This week I was in Chicago. It had been 24 years since the last time I visited the city in 1994. How time passed by! While the city may have gone through some changes, what drew my attention was the gas price.

The current gas price in Chicago was $3.37 per gallon. If compared to Hong Kong, it was not that bad. However when compared to my last visit here in 1994, it was high. In 1994, the gas price was about $1.11 per gallon. So it was like a 3 times increase! And I talked to a driver of Lyft, who was an immigrant from Brazil.  She said the current minimum wage in Chicago was $12 per hour. And the minimum wage in 1994 was $4.25. So it was almost a 3 times increase as well. Talk about inflation!

And I started thinking whether investing in real estate was a good hedge against inflation. According to the United States Census Bureau, the median and average sales prices of new homes sold in the United States in July this year are $328,700 and $394,300 respectively. During the same period in 1994, the median and average sales prices were $124,400 and $144,400. The increases are 2.64 times for the median sales price and 2.73 times for the average one. It seems like the housing has been catching up with inflation. Maybe investing in real estate is a safe choice to safeguard one against inflation.

References:

  1. Chicago gas price 1994:
  2. Chicago minimum wage: 1994 and 2018
  3. Median and Average Sales Prices of New Homes Sold in United States (historical data)

從芝加哥的汽油價格到房地產投資

時光飛逝,上一次到芝加哥已是一九九四年,時隔二十四年再訪,城市亦經歷了一些變遷,但讓我特別留意的卻是這裏的汽油價格。

芝加哥現時的汽油價格是每加侖3.37美元,如果和香港相比並不算昂貴,但相較一九九四年的1.11美元則上升三倍。我和一個來福車(Lyft)司機傾天,她是來自巴西的新移民,她告訴我現時芝加哥的最低工資是每小時12美元,而一九九四年的最低工資是4.25美元,同樣是接近三倍的升幅,通脹實在驚人。

這讓我想到投資房地產的抗通脹作用。根據美國人口普查局的統計,今年七月美國的新房銷售中位數價格和平均銷售價格分別為328,700美元和394,300美元,而一九九四年同時段的新房銷售中位數價格和平均銷售價格則為124,400美元和144,400美元,分別上漲2.64倍和2.73倍,近貼通脹數字。看來投資房地產可以是抗通脹的一個不錯的選擇。

 

Life in face of unpredictable climate events

Merely two months ago in July a catastrophic rainstorm broke out in Western Japan, causing many casualties, and I reflected on a city’s resilience against such extreme climate events. Last week Japan was again struck by two devastating hazards, the supertyphoon Jebi and the deadly earthquake in Hokkaido.

Jebi has been the worst typhoon striking Japan in 25 years, leaving so far 11 dead and causing imponderable economic damage, particularly to tourism. Osaka and neighbouring cities bore the brunt of the storm and the Kansai airport was closed indefinitely because of the flood. Just the same week Hokkaido experienced a 6.7-magnitude earthquake, which killed 44 and cut energy access to 5.3 million residents on the island.

The typhoon and earthquake struck Japan unpredictably, leaving residents suffering and tourists stranded in Osaka. Despite the innovative technologies we have at hand, we cannot predict all climate events and natural hazards. And when one breaks out, we are caught off guard, just like this time. And life is just as unpredictable. We never know what life has in store for us. So we should live in the moment, and enjoy.


天災難料 生命無常

今年七月,日本西部暴雨肆虐,造成大量傷亡,使我反思到城市建設在抵禦極端天氣上的重要性,不足兩個月,颱風「飛燕」襲日,北海道亦發生強烈地震,天災接二連三,帶來災難性傷亡。

「飛燕」是日本近二十五來最強勁的颱風,共造成十一人死亡。其中大阪和鄰近城市為重災區,關西機場亦因水浸不知何時重開,為日本經濟特別是旅遊業帶來難以估算的損失。同一星期,北海道經歷6.7級地震,共四十四人罹難,地震同時導致停電,受影響人數達五百三十萬。

颱風和地震毫無預警來襲,不僅使居民受苦,旅客亦滯留機場,受影響人不計其數。即使我們擁有多麼先進的科研和技術,亦不能準確預測自然災害,一旦災難性氣候事件爆發,我們又會像這次般被殺個措手不及,但後果可能更不堪想象。天災難料,生命無常,我們難以預計生命為我們準備了甚麼,因此此刻更應活在當下,享受生命。

What does GDPR mean to financial technologists?

Innovative technologies have developed rapidly. Many companies utilise advanced innovations to tap user data to understand users’ needs, upgrade operations, and discover business opportunities. However this has raised data privacy issues. The outbreak of Facebook data leak scandal has caused a wider user data privacy concern. To safeguard user data privacy, the European Union (EU) implemented the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) this year on May 25.

How GDPR affects Hong Kong companies?

Dubbed the strictest data protection law, the GDPR puts citizens in EU in control of their data. The GDPR applies to any business involving processing activities of personal data of the EU citizens, be it in or outside EU jurisdictions. In other words, the regulation applies to Hong Kong companies that run businesses that consist of processing operations related to EU citizens which require regular and systematic monitoring of data subjects on a large scale, or involve core activities consisting of processing a large scale of sensitive personal data and data relating to criminal convictions and offences.

The GDPR highlights an accountability principle and requires companies to implement measures to ensure compliance. Hong Kong companies that involve processing of EU citizens’ data are required to appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO) to monitor and advise on GDPR compliance; conduct Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) before engaging in any data processing that may put individuals’ rights at risk; undertake Privacy by Design and by Default in determining the means of processing and to integrate the necessary safeguards to realise the data protection principles; keep records of processing activities; and formulate data processing policies for compliance and accountability purposes. In case of a data breach, a company is required to issue a mandatory breach notification no later than 72 hours after noticing the breach.

How should financial technologists cope with the GDPR?

The financial sector, among the industries that deal with considerable sensitive personal user data, may expect more attention from the regulatory authority and the public. That is why financial technologists need to be on the lookout for the compliance risk of GDPR by complying with the principles of processing personal data stipulated in the GDPR.

The overriding principle of the GDPR is to safeguard data privacy of EU citizens, so financial technologists are obliged to protect the rights and privacy of data subjects in formulating and implementing their technical and organisational policies. In processing or overseeing the processing of user data, financial technologists should ensure the concerned service only collects and processes personal data stipulated in documented instructions, processes data confidentially, ensures safety of the data processed, answers the requests of deleting or returning the data after the processing activity.

The GDPR underlies data subjects’ control over their own data, that is why consent of the data subject is the prerequisite for legal processing of personal data. It is essential for financial technologists to ensure a clear and intelligible request on their service platforms for data consent from data subjects, which should also inform data subjects the option of withdrawing their consent anytime. Data consent from minors should as well be obtained, by the authorisation by their guardians.

Companies do not simply need to obtain from data subjects their consent of data usage, but also need to respect how and to what extent data subjects want their data to be used, by allowing the options of data rectification, objection, restriction, erasure, right to be forgotten and right to data portability. Financial technologists need to review their practices in alignment with the above enhanced rights for data subjects. Especially with the rapid advancement and increasing adoption of financial technologies to predict business trends and analyse customers’ needs, user data is inevitably collected and analysed in the financial sector. Such practices may go against the GDPR as the GDPR allows data subjects to object to data processing or profiling that is for direct marketing purposes, interests pursued by the concerned company or third party, statistical purposes, etc. Financial technologists need to ensure options to be provided to allow data subjects to object to or delete a data processing.

A more secured approach to handling user data can contribute to building customers’ trust on the company and improving customer services. Financial technologists should take this chance to review their technical practices against the GDPR to safeguard the public’s right to their personal data, while securing the company’s services to achieve a win-win situation.


《通用數據保障條例》對金融科技從業員的影響

創新科技發展一日千里,許多公司利用創新科技開拓用家數據和資料,提取有用資訊,讓企業更明白用戶的需要,藉以提升營運,發掘商機。然而,使用用戶數據和資料難免帶來侵犯個人資料和私隱的隱憂,近期Facebook洩露用戶資訊的一連串事件便引起社會廣泛關注。為了保障用戶資料安全,歐盟於今年五月二十五日起實施《通用數據保障條例》(General Data Protection Regulation,縮寫GDPR),GDPR被部分人認為是史上最嚴的個人資料保護條例。

GDPR如何影響香港企業?

GDPR把個人資料的控制權交回用戶本身,賦予歐盟居民更大權力決定個人資料的使用。GDPR適用於所有涉及處理歐盟居民資料的企業,包括在歐盟以外的企業。換言之,任何香港公司如業務涉及歐盟居民資料處理,包括定期和有系統地監控大量個人資料,或其核心業務涉及處理大量敏感的個人資料,或與刑事定罪和犯罪有關的資料時,均須遵行GDPR。

GDPR強調問責原則,要求公司採取措施確保合規。根據GDPR,香港任何公司若業務涉及處理歐盟居民資料,必須遵行以下規定︰

  • 委任保障資料主任(Data Protection Officer),負責監督、建議該公司的GDPR合規事宜;

  • 在進行任何可能使個人權利面臨風險的數據處理活動前,須進行資料保障影響評估(Data Protection Impact Assessment);

  • 採取貫徹私隱的設計及預設設定(Privacy by Design and by Default ),即在決定資料處理方法時結合必要的保障措施,貫踐資料保護原則;

  • 保留資料處理活動的紀錄;

  • 為合規和問責的目標訂立政策和措施;

  • 如果發生資料外洩事故,公司須於發現違規行為後72小時內發出通告。

金融科技從業員應如何應對GDPR?

金融業每天處理大量敏感個人資料,容易受到監管機構和公眾的格外關注,金融科技從業員因而須特別留意GDPR的合規風險,確保公司奉行GDPR的條例。

GDPR的首要原則是保護歐盟居民的個人資料和私隱,因此金融科技從業員在訂立和實施技術和企業措施時須以保障用戶的權利和私隱為目標。在資料處理或監察資料處理工作時,金融科技從業員須

  • 確保有關服務僅按照控制者書面指示處理個人資料;

  • 保密處理數據;

  • 確保處理資料安全;

  • 回應用戶要求在完成資料處理後刪除或交還其個人資料。

GDPR強調用戶對個人資料的控制,因而用戶的同意和授權是資料處理活動合法進行的必要前提,金融科技從業員因此須在公司網站或服務平台以清晰易明的字句徵詢用戶的同意,並須知會用戶有權在任何時候撤回同意。用戶若未成年,企業仍須獲得其父母或合法監護人的授權。

除了須獲得用戶同意處理個人資料外,企業亦須尊重用戶有權希望如何使用其資料和使用的程度,包括滿足用戶對資料修改、反對、限制、刪除、被遺忘及資料可攜權等要求。金融科技從業員有必要審視其行業實踐是否切合以上的用戶權利。隨着金融科技的急速發展和廣泛行業應用,金融業愈趨收集和分析用戶資料,以預測行業趨勢和了解客戶需要,這和GDPR若干規例原則相違背,例如GDPR讓用戶有權反對任何資料處理和個人概況彙編活動,只要活動用作直接捉銷、涉及有關企業或第三方利益、以統計為目的等,為此金融科技從業員須為用戶提供反對和刪除資料處理的選擇。

金融科技從業員應把握機會根據GDPR檢視其業務實踐,以更可靠、安全的方法處理用戶數據,不但能夠建立客戶對企業的信任,並提高客戶服務水平,在保障大眾個人資料使用權的同時,加強企業服務,達致雙贏。