JIN-515 -- BoJ to Japan's rescue & Facebook gets even bigger

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J@pan Inc Newsletter
The 'JIN' J@pan Inc Newsletter
A weekly opinion piece on social, economic and political trends in Japan.
Issue No. 515 Wednesday, December 2, 2009, Tokyo

The aftermath of an emergency meeting at the Bank of Japan this week has yielded a new round of quantitative easing to the tune of 10 trillion yen (about $115 billion). The BoJ has now pledged to offer loans to banks at a fixed interest rate of 0.1 percent against collateral. BoJ's Masaaki Shirakawa told the press, "Since late last week, there have been several moves in international finance: the yen has risen and stock prices have dropped. Those moves [risked] affecting business sentiment negatively and therefore the economy."
The move is seen by some as a bid to possibly calm the worries of Prime Minister Hatoyama, who has been publicly critical of the BoJ in the face of a flagging economy. Another hoped for side effect of the initiative, on the part of the BoJ, would be a weakening of the yen against the dollar, which is currently experiencing a 14-year low against the yen. The news also sent the Nikkei 225 stock average up by 36.74 points, or 0.4 percent, but various comments from the business community in Japan following the announcement indicate a nagging skepticism regarding the BoJ boost.

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This week the somewhat media shy Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg took a moment to address the Internet directly by trumpeting a new milestone in the development of his website: reaching the 350 million user mark. This amazing stat means the social networking site has more users worldwide than the entire population of the United States, a mind-boggling fact when you consider the potential the site has for data mining the purchasing habits and attention targets of its users.

Compare the Facebook numbers with Japan's largest social network, Mixi at around 15 million (compared with a Japanese population of around 128 million), and you begin to understand that Facebook is no longer a mere website, it is the most robust publicly accessible human database we've ever had. As if to answer the concerns such a powerful role automatically engenders, Zuckerberg also used his statement to announce new privacy control measures, as well as the end of regional networks on the site.

Zuckerberg said, "We're adding something that many of you have asked for — the ability to control who sees each individual piece of content you create or upload. In addition, we'll also be fulfilling a request made by many of you to make the privacy settings page simpler by combining some settings..."

Of course this sounds all well and good to the common Internet user, but to a seasoned Web veteran what instantly stands out from this statement is that Facebook, in making its privacy settings more granular, in one fell swoop has insured that your personal profile will be even more exacting when it comes describing who you are to anyone with access to their servers. The only question remaining at this juncture is: Do you trust Facebook servers to mediate the unedited perception of who you might be, with the reality of who you really are?

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