Naver and SK join Daum Kakao in privacy protest

October 15, 2014
Naver followed suit after Daum Kakao announced an active protest against government requests to view its message database.

Naver followed suit after Daum Kakao announced an active protest against government requests to view its message database.

By Yoon Sung-won

Naver, Daum Kakao and SK Communications are acting collectively to press for protection of customers’ information.

“The three leading companies agree Daum Kakao is not the only victim and this will affect everyone,” said Choi Sung-jin, an executive at the industry lobby K-internet, Wednesday, adding that ways will be sought to protect privacy without clashing with the law.

“We need to start an open discussion about changing regulations to harmonize the law with the protection of users’ privacy,” Choi said.

Naver, Daum Kakao and SK Communications will announce their positions next week, he said.

The companies’ collective action follows the ongoing brouhaha after Daum Kakao CEO Lee Sirgoo declared Monday he would protect users’ information even if he was held legally responsible.

The messenger service firm was hit by a flight of users after it was revealed it handed over customers’ information to prosecutors.

“I think Internet companies will first put their heads together to accurately interpret the law and find ways of minimizing the damage to their users’ privacy,” said Kim Seung-joo, a professor at the Korea University Graduate School of Information Security. “Then they will share the know-how with smaller companies in the industry, which do not have a team of talented legal advisors.”

“Even Google and Facebook did not defy a warrant or try to do so after the Snowden affair last year,” Kim said. “What they did instead was introduce much more powerful encryption technology, making it fundamentally impossible for them to provide their users’ private information to the investigative authorities. I think the Korean companies will follow suit.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Jung Chung-rae of the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy claimed Monday that Band, a social networking service provided by Camp Mobile, had been subject to cyber inspection by the police. Camp Mobile is a subsidiary of Naver, the nation’s largest Internet firm.

He said, “The police might have easily looked into personal information of numerous acquaintances of the targeted suspect.”

Naver immediately denied Jung’s claim.

“We have never provided personal information and private conversations of those who are not legitimately targeted by the law,” an official at Naver said. “Even when we were requested through a warrant to hand over such information of those who joined the same group as the suspect, we could not as we do not store conversation records on our servers.”

Daum Kakao remained cautious about what will be discussed as its CEO is scheduled to attend a National Assembly audit today to talk about the ongoing prosecution monitoring issue.

“The main agenda will be about how to best protect our users’ privacy,” a Daum Kakao spokeswoman said. “We have been talking to K-internet and plan to proceed to the next step of discussions after the audit is over.”