Tuesday, March 15, 2016

World Bank cuts Indonesia growth forecast; Google encrypts 77% of online traffic; The prospect of us all being reviewed

1 World Bank cuts Indonesia growth forecast (Straits Times) The World Bank has trimmed its 2016 growth forecast for Indonesia, saying a miss on the government's revenue target will constrain state spending. In a quarterly review of Indonesia's economy, the lender revised the growth outlook to 5.1 per cent from 5.3 per cent in December.

The International Monetary Fund also issued its annual Indonesia policy review, in which it forecast growth of 4.9 per cent this year, up from 4.7 per cent in 2015. The World Bank said its downward revision stemmed from weaker-than-expected global conditions and constraints the government faces on spending, meaning that growth will depend more on private sector spending.

According to the bank, the government "has two policy options: expand the deficit within the fiscal rule of 3 per cent of GDP and reduce non-priority spending". Assuming Jakarta takes both options, the World Bank expects 2016 expenditure disbursement to be limited to 91 per cent at 1,906 trillion rupiah, and the fiscal deficit to reach 2.8 per cent of GDP. The government's original plan was for 2.2 per cent.

President Joko Widodo initially wanted to boost revenue by relying on a tax amnesty programme that his finance minister said would bring in about 100 trillion rupiah. But the plan has sparked controversy and Parliament has delayed debate on a Bill backing the amnesty programme until at least April.

Statistics showed exports contracted for the 17th straight month, falling 7.8 per cent from a year ago to $11.3 billion. Imports, however, were slightly weaker than the poll forecast, declining 11.71 per cent from a year earlier to $10.16 billion.

2 Google encrypts 77% of online traffic (San Francisco Chronicle) Google is disclosing how much of the traffic to its search engine and other services is being protected from hackers as part of its push to encrypt all online activity. Encryption shields 77 percent of the requests sent from around the world to Google's data centers, up from 52 percent at the end of 2013, according to company statistics.

The numbers cover all Google services expect its YouTube video site, which has more than 1 billion users. Google plans to add YouTube to its encryption breakdown by the end of this year. Encryption is a security measure that scrambles transmitted information so it's unintelligible if it's intercepted by a third party.

Google began emphasizing the need to encrypt people's online activities after confidential documents leaked in 2013 by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the US government had been vacuuming up personal data transferred over the Internet. The surveillance programs exploited gaping holes in unencrypted websites.

While rolling out more encryption on its services, Google has been trying to use the clout of its influential search engine to prod other websites to strengthen their security. Google is highlighting its own progress on digital security while the FBI and Apple Inc. are locked in a court battle over access to an encrypted iPhone used by one of the two extremist killers behind the mass shootings in San Bernardino, California, in December.

Google's next most frequently encrypted services are maps (83 percent of traffic) and advertising (77 percent, up from just 9 percent at the end of 2013). Encryption frequency falls off for Google's news service (60 percent) and finance (58 percent).

3 The prospect of us all being reviewed (Arwa Mahdawi in The Guardian) You’re at a job interview and your prospective boss pulls out their phone to check your Employee Obedience score: 4.5. OK. When you get the job, your new colleagues use an app to see how previous colleagues have reviewed you. Your Overall Likability score is 3.2. They learn that you play Rihanna on repeat and hoard pens. Nevertheless, a girl in sales thinks you’re kind of hot, so uses an app to look up your Relationship score: 3.4. She reads reviews from former partners that cover everything from your table manners to your bedroom manners. It seems you always serve yourself first.

Welcome to the future in which every aspect of our personalities and behaviour is assigned a star rating, available for all to see. Think this sounds crazy? Your Suspension of Disbelief score is probably low. Bear with me. You can rate my Credibility Quotient at the end.

Rating systems are integral to the new digital world. The so-called sharing economy requires trust to function, and that trust is based on user ratings; they’re the confidence-lubricant that keep the likes of Airbnb, Uber and eBay running. User ratings also have a massive impact on our purchasing decisions – a study of Seattle restaurants found that a one-star increase on Yelp leads to a 5-9% increase in revenue.

Today, everyone is a critic. You might not be posting 2,000-word rants on TripAdvisor, but you’re probably taking part in more regular, subtler rating behaviour you barely even notice. From rating your Uber driver and the programme you just watched on Netflix, to your experience with a customer service rep, rating has become part of our daily lives.

Ratings might not seem like a big deal; they’re nothing more than a helpful way to figure out where to go for brunch, right? However, there is an insidious side to those stars. Rating culture is forging new power structures and behaviours that are paving the way to a future you might not like.

First, there’s the fact that rating systems can severely skew social power dynamics. That Employment Obedience score, for example? It basically exists in the form of Uber driver ratings. Uber passengers are essentially unpaid supervisors of the company, monitoring drivers’ behaviour so Uber can manage its workforce.

It seems likely that plenty more apps will pop up to rate ever more personal aspects of our lives. Last week, for example, was the relaunch of Peeple: an app that lets you rate people you know within three different spheres: personal, professional and dating. So you might want to think twice if you do play Rihanna on repeat and hoard the pens. Your frustrated colleagues now have a convenient way to, quite literally, settle the score. 

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