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。

 

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。

How to reduce consumption of plastic bags

Korea plans to ban plastic bags in supermarkets and malls this year to further tighten its crackdown on plastic waste. At present, Korea has in effect a plastic bag levy scheme making it compulsory for retail shops to charge extra fee for plastic bags. The new plan is about to further reduce the use of plastic bags, obliging the 11,000 supermarkets and 2,000 shopping malls to provide instead recycled paper bags, cardboard boxes or reusable bags.

The plan is a stricter enforcement against the use of plastic bags, which eliminates the use of plastic bags at one of the major consumption sources. Hong Kong imposed the first phase of an environmental levy on plastic shopping bags in 2009, which came into full force in 2015 to extend to more than 100,000 retail points. Though the levy yielded a significant decrease in the landfill disposal of plastic bags from the retail industry in the initial phase, consumption of the bags rebounded in 2016 at more than 9%. A more stringent approach may be needed to cut down on the usage.

Imposing a ban in the retail industry can be one effective measure. Hong Kong may learn from Korea in the fight against the consumption of plastic bags. Countries or regions such as Australia, China, Kenya, Chile, Karnataka in India, etc also ban the use of plastic bags. While it is vital for the government to take the lead in reducing plastic bag consumption, citizens’ environmental awareness to cut down on the usage is just as critical. Citizens can reduce plastic bag usage according to the 4R principles, namely reduce, reuse, recycle and replace.

In order to reduce the usage, we should only use plastic bags when necessary. Replacing plastic bags with reusable ones is an effective way. To make the most out of used plastic bags, we should reuse used ones. For example, we can clean the used plastic bags and save them in a tissue box to be easily dispensed for reuse. Making creative use of the plastic bags is also a good idea, such as crafting artistic decorations, recycled bags, umbrella wraps etc. We should avoid throwing plastic bags away by recycling the bags at the “brown” recyclables collection bins. By minimising the consumption of plastic bags and maximising the use, we can help build a greener city.


如何減少使用膠袋

南韓計劃今年內禁止超級市場和商場提供塑膠袋,現時韓國實行塑膠購物袋徵費,新政將進一步打擊塑膠廢物污染。韓國1.1萬間超市和2000個商場在新政下只能提供紙袋、紙箱或可重用膠袋代替膠袋。

南韓的膠袋新政嚴厲打繫塑膠袋,從消耗源頭減少使用膠袋。香港於2009年推行塑膠購物袋環保徵費計劃首階段,並在2015年全面實施,涵蓋逾100,000零售點。徵費計劃雖在首階段大量減少來自零售業的堆填區膠袋棄置量,但數字在2016年回升逾9%,若要改善情況,需更嚴厲的做法。

香港可學效南韓,禁止零售業提供膠袋。事實上許多國家或地區亦已實施無膠袋的做法,如澳洲、中國、肯雅、智利、印度的卡納塔克邦等等。雖然減少膠袋使用由政府帶頭至關重要,但市民有環保意識主動少用膠袋亦必不可少。市民可參考4R原則來減廢,即減少(Reduce)、重用(Reuse)、循環再用(Recycle)和替代(Replace)。

為了減少使用,我們應在必要時才使用,儘量以可重復使用的購物袋代替膠袋。如非必要用膠袋的話,膠袋使用後亦要物盡其用,例如,清潔後可用空紙巾盒放好方便下次使用。或創意利用膠袋,製作成藝術裝飾、環保袋或雨傘袋等,亦不失為廢物利用的好方法。如果要棄置膠袋,我們應該避免直接丟棄,而應把膠袋棄置到「啡膠樽」回收桶,讓膠袋得以循環再用。綠色城市需要市民的努力,以減少使用和物盡其用來減廢。

Hong Kong Disneyland — The Past and the Present

Every time the flight takes off from or is about to land Hong Kong, I take a look at the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge to see how the construction progress goes so far and look forward to the bridge’s opening.

In the old day long before the construction of the bridge began, I used to do the same checking out places on the plane nearing or leaving Hong Kong. But back then l was always looking at the place about to be reclaimed to build the Hong Kong Disneyland, when there was no Mickey Mouse but power plants and shipyards. It was in the Penny’s Bay. I was heavily involved in the development of Phase 1 Disneyland, so we used to take regular boat trips to the site to explore decontamination for the development. People there always finished work on time because the last boat to the city was 5pm. Perhaps out of the special feelings I had for the place, I would check out that place on plane and now, there was the Disneyland.

This Saturday I went on a site visit to the Disneyland to explore the Phase 2 development. It was such a sunny day and things seemed to be the same old same old: Disney characters, Mickey Mouse shaped windows on the Disneyland Train, themed streets and houses, etc. But I am a grownup now.

When I was kid my dream was to visit all Disneylands in the world. I already went to the ones in California, Florida, Tokyo, Paris and this one in Hong Kong. I hope to see the one in Shanghai soon.


香港迪士尼樂園今昔

每次乘搭飛機在香港機場降落或離港,我都會看向港珠澳大橋看看興建進度,期待大橋啟用的一天。

在開建港珠澳大橋以前,每次乘搭飛機挨近或離開香港我也習慣看向窗外,只是當時看向竹篙灣即將填海來建迪士尼樂園的地方,那時還未有米奇老鼠,只有船廠和發電廠。因為我們參與迪士尼樂園第一期的環境顧問工作,所以要定期搭船去考察即將填海的地方,研究填海相關的除污工作。當時人們總是準時下班,因為最後一班回市區的船五點就開。也許因為對這個地方有特殊的情感,當時總喜歡搭飛機時看向這個地方,而現在就是迪士尼樂園了。

這個星期六我去了迪士尼樂園,為第二期發展進行考察。是日陽光普照,迪士尼看來和往常一般,有迪士尼的卡通人物、米奇老鼠圖案的火車、主題大街和建築等等。以前來玩,現在卻是來工作了。

我小的時候夢想是遊覽全世界的迪士尼樂園,已經到過加州、佛羅里達州、東京、巴黎和香港的迪士尼,只欠上海的迪士尼,不知何時能到上海完成兒時的願望。