The Value of Data Privacy

Jackie Stewart once said, "It takes leadership to improve safety"; hence Viber spearheads its fight for superior security by hosting its first-ever Rakuten Viber Asia Summit in Singapore at the Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort and Spa.  With the summit emphasizing on the importance of data ethics and privacy, it was attended by Viber executives, industry leaders and popular creators who all shared their insights on data privacy and its effect on organizations and consumers.

Viber is a voice-over IP and instant messaging app available for Android, iOS, Microsoft Windows, macOs and Linux.  What was once a Cyprus-based messaging platform, Viber was acquired by one of the largest internet company in Japan, Rakuten, in 2014.  At present, Rakuten-Viber has more than a billion registered users worldwide. "The Philippines is a strong market for Viber", says Djamel Agaoua, the CEO at the helm of Rakuten Viber.  It has close to 35 million registered users with a strong position in big cities like Manila and Cebu.

A data breach is, first and foremost, a security incident.  It is when a cyber criminal invades or gains access to sensitive information compromising personal and internal business information.  Most often, the results are disastrous.  According to, as of July 2019, there are over 4.33 billion active internet users and in 2018, Asia had the largest number of online users.  Imagine this huge number --- all vulnerable to cyber attacks.   For the past years, major corporations have been victims of data breaches compromising millions of personal records.  A terrifying thought that is actually true.  Dr. Mari Rosich, Visa Chief Data Officer and Head of Data Science, shared, "There is a trust crisis.  The number of personal data that has been exposed over the past years has doubled."  During the summit, she stressed that the average data records stolen every day in 2018 was 18.5M!

Viber and Security

Djamel Agaoua (Viber CEO) Djamel Agaoua, Viber CEO

Sad, but true; security is a need most often realized when it is already too late -- hence, a very timely reason for Viber to emphasize the importance of security.  Viber connects people and "We make sure that what users want to say is protected", emphasized Djamel in his welcoming speech.  With so much information shared online, Viber knows how important it is to be secure.  According to Djamel, Viber remains to be the most secure messaging app.  He further stated, "The messages that circulate in our platform are fully encrypted. The keys of encryption are between two phones (devices).  In between, Viber cannot read the message.  Apart from its end-to-end encryption, Viber destroys the message after delivery; something that other messaging apps don't do. Once the message is sent and delivered, we destroy the message.  The content is deleted.  So, if somebody comes to hack Viber servers, the hacker won't find any message."

Viber's end-to-end encryption works on all messages.  So whether it is a private chat between 2 people or a group of people, messages remain in scrambled form.  Only until your friend's/correspondence's device is ready to receive the message can this scrambled message be translated to plain text. In addition, Viber's end-to-end encryption is ON by default.  Other messaging apps may boast of an end-to-end encryption; but this is just an option in the app's settings most users do not know and fail to turn on.

At present, companies are leveraging on the power of data to gain competitive edge.   According to Dr. Mari Rosich, "Digital transformation has helped businesses reach their customers in ways that were impossible before.  Now, businesses can reach the right segment at the right time with the right message."  However, while data is disrupting industries; privacy, on the other hand, is being abused.  Unlike other businesses, Viber takes privacy seriously by applying restrictions on specific types of data that they use. With Viber, people are protected anywhere.  Specifically, Djamel pointed out that, "Viber does not share data with anyone except what is required by law.  No one can use it against the will of the users.”

Dr. Meri Rosich (Visa CDO and Head of Data Science Dr. Meri Rosich, Visa CDO and Head of Data Science

As mentioned above, as of 2018, Asia had the largest number of online users.  It makes us wonder, do Asian consumers care about their privacy?  The answer to this is yes.  During the panel discussion led by Dr. Mari Rosich and joined by Saemin Ahn, Rakuten Ventures Managing Partner; Chy Sila, Sabay Digital Media CEO; and Shehan Selvanayagam, Managing Director of Loops, all agreed that Asian consumers do care about pricacy and as shared by Dr. Mari, “We need to close that gap of data literacy.  People need to understand how their data can be used if it is not secure.”

At the summit, Viber invited fitness and beauty expert Nancy Nhung Bui from Vietnam, lifestyle entrepreneur Christina Lim from Myanmar, Sir Lankan movie star Yureni Noshika and Nepalese celebrity Priyanka Karki.  They all shared how they protect themselves online and maintain a respectable digital footprint while representing other brands.

Sad to say, apart from online security vulnerabilities, another reason for data leaks and privacy breaches is human error.  It is not that people do not care about security; believe me, they do.  It is just that we easily fall prey to convenience.  We now live in a society where sharing information becomes second nature regardless of what we are sharing and who we are sharing it to.  We prefer to do what is fast, easy and convenient.  Security then becomes an afterthought.  With that, let me leave you with a quote that was shared online, “Carefulness costs you nothing; but carelessness may cost you everything.”