The Stack Archive

Science Ministry apps collecting private user data in South Korea

Tue 27 Sep 2016

Korea smartphones

Korea’s Ministry of Science is facing possible legal action for privacy infringement, after collecting private user data through its apps.

According to Kim Seong-soo, a politician from Minjoo Party of Korea (MPK) – the main opposition party in the country – the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning gathered private data through as many of 20 of its 41 apps, collecting location information, photos, and contact details.

‘The ministry runs the risk of abusing users’ private information, as it demanded access to personal data,’ said Kim. ‘The government should tighten restrictions on protecting private information and come up with effective sanctions over the matter,’ he added.

The representative urged that the government take a strict position on attempts made by both public and private sector organisations to collect personal user information and abuse privacy across mobile platforms.

The Korean government has made recent moves to introduce frameworks for smartphone apps and limit access to private user information. In August last year, the Korean Communications Commission (KCC) partnered with the Korea Internet and Security Agency (KISA) to establish guidelines to protect user information in mobile apps. The initial scheme was not legally-binding, with the group only enacting a related law this March.

This August, the KCC brought an enforcement action against 11 smartphone app providers for violating data security, retention and sharing laws. These violations included the absence of or insufficient encryption, and failure to destroy, or separately store, users’ personal data who were no longer using the service for more than a year.

The KCC commented: ‘The KCC position, in this case, was very strict. It would be proper to say that this enforcement action is a part of a regular check-up by the KCC to alert the industry to follow the rules on personal data protection.’

South Korea’s mobile market is one of the largest and most developed in the world, with over 28 million users of mobile services and the highest smartphone penetration rate (88%) globally.


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