By Cho Ji-hyun
The government has approved a plan to relax the regulations on cellphone location-based services amid rising public calls for better state privacy protection measures.
The Cabinet endorsed Tuesday a revised regulation on protection and use of location information, which aims to give more room and flexibility for location-based service operators.
According to the bill, service providers could progress projects without getting permission from the government if the collected information does not relate to private information.
It also enabled the service operators to pass the obtained information to a third party without having to report to or seek authorization from state authorities. They currently have to get the green light from government every time they make that information transfer.
The bill now needs to be passed by the National Assembly before taking effect.
“The bill is not designed to go against one’s private data protection rights, but devised to use the location logs for services like good restaurant searches and finding bus routes,” said an official at KCC. “However, we don’t know what will happen to it when it’s reviewed by the parliament.”
What is at the center of controversy is that the bill was passed by top government authorities when the possible leak of location information is gaining increased attention locally and globally.
Only a day before the bill was passed, the state media regulator Korea Communications Commission launched an investigation against Apple for collecting information of its smartphone users through the Android-powered smartphones.
Asking the company to clarify on several issues, the KCC questioned the purpose of storing the location information on mobile phones and why the information was unencrypted when stored in the case of computer backup.
It was not the first time the KCC launched a data probe against a global firm. Last year, the KCC declared it would investigate whether Google collected sensitive private information from the country’s wireless networks while preparing its Street View program here.
Police also raided Google’s Korean branch office a few months later to look into information stored in seized computer hard disks in a bid to find out what kind of personal information was gathered.
“Google acknowledged it accidentally collected the information. It was informed by the authorities and they asked for cooperation and we expressed full intent to do so. When we became aware of the process, we stopped the entire fleet and suspended the operation,” said Keith Enright, senior privacy counsel at Google at the Privacy Global Edge forum, organized by the Korea Chief Privacy Officers’ Forum on Wednesday.
“Google has apologized and continues to comply with Korean authorities.”