Police on Tuesday raided the headquarters of Google Korea in southern Seoul over allegations that the multinational Internet giant’s subsidiary collected location data of smartphone users without consent.
Investigators from the cyber crime unit of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency searched the office of Google Korea in Yeoksam-dong in the morning and confiscated hard discs and other computer files as evidence, officials said.
They have been trying to verify whether Google violated the Korean law on the protection of private location data since allegations came out that AdMob, Google’s mobile advertising subsidiary, has gathered location data by using its smartphone application.
“There seem to be charges that for advertisement purposes, AdMob collected personal location data via its smartphone application,” a police official said, declining to be named. “We should first analyze what we have confiscated to find out how and how much they have collected data.”
After they finish analyzing the confiscated items, the police plan to summon some of Google officials for questioning, sources said.
Later in the day, the police also raided the office of Daum Communication Corp., Korea’s popular portal, in central Seoul over allegations that the company’s mobile advertisement platform “Ad@m” collected location data of smartphone users.
The raid came as police were cracking down on those who illegally collect personal information of Korean smartphone users, whose number has topped the 10-million mark.
Last month, police booked three heads of local advertisement firms on charges of gathering location data of some 800,000 smartphone users without their consent.
It is not the first police raid on Google in Korea. Last August, the police unit stormed the office of Google Korea to secure evidence for the charges that the conglomerate’s “Street View” mapping service gathered unsolicited private information from unencrypted wireless networks in violation of local communication laws.
Google staff crisscrossed about 50,000 kilometers throughout the country, driving company cars equipped with special video-recording devices, to compile data for Google mapping service. The company was suspected of not only taping streets and landscapes but also gathering private information through unprotected Wi-Fi networks.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)