The Korea Herald


Regulator launches Apple data probe

By Cho Ji-hyun

Published : April 25, 2011 - 19:09

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KCC sends inquiries to Apple over data of smartphone users

The state media regulator said Monday it launched an investigation against Apple Inc. over collection of information of its smartphone users in Korea.

The Korea Communications Commission said it requested Apple to promptly answer a questionnaire and return it by “the earliest date.”

State authorities asked the company to clarify the duration and regularity of the location information storing on the iPhone and whether people could choose not to store the information or delete it, said Kim Kwang-su, director of the privacy protection and ethics division at the KCC.

The regulator also questioned why the location information was stored on the mobiles and why the information was unencrypted when stored in case of computer backup.

Apple was also asked if it told users about the data beforehand and got acceptance about the collection of accumulated location information.

“Although e-mails were sent and talks were initiated when the news broke last Thursday, we made the official request (to Apple) today to find out whether it has violated the privacy protection law,” said Kim.

“It will be completely considered illegal if Apple is found to be collecting information which could track who the users are and if they offered customized advertising for the users,” he said, adding that Apple must get permission from state authorities to make that happen.

If Apple is found guilty, the KCC will be able to order a ban on operations against Apple Korea or impose a fine for privacy violation, Kim added.

The event comes after Apple and Google were both slammed by news reports last week that the two firms keep records of their smartphone owners’ locations, with Wall Street claiming that they transmit the information regularly to the respective firms.

Storing information regarding a person’s whereabouts on his or her own smartphone does not go against the law here, according to Kim. However, it could become an issue where the mobile phone is hacked or lost.

Of the accusation against Google, the state regulator said it would go ahead with a query whenever it is deemed necessary.

The KCC, on the other hand, plans to set up and run a research group that focuses on strengthening information security for smartphones and their protection rights. The research group will also work together with other existing groups like the mobile security forum and the coalition of private and public sector on smartphone information security.

By Cho Ji-hyun (