South Korean Police Continue to Investigate How Google Gathered Data

By Ed Silverstein January 06, 2011

Google is in trouble again for gathering private data, this time in South Korea.

South Korean authorities claim Google gathered e-mails and other private data from wireless networks in South Korea that were not secured while it made photographs for its Street View feature, the AP reported.

Google in May admitted that by accident it had gathered personal data from networks – that were not secured – in more than 30 nations.

South Korea, the United States and other countries launched inquires into Google’s activities.

For example, TechZone360 reported in August that police officers in South Korea inspected Google’s offices in that country to find evidence whether it improperly gathered personal data from wireless networks.

It is possible that Google’s collection of private data violate national telecommunications laws in South Korea, according to news reports.

Like Google did elsewhere, it apologized for the collection of private data, and claims to be cooperating with investigators in South Korean, the AP reports.

The AP further reported that Google Korea spokeswoman Kate Park issued a statement that says, “As soon as we realized what had happened, we stopped collecting all WiFi data from our Street View cars and immediately informed the authorities."

"Our ultimate objective remains to delete the data consistent with our legal obligations and in consultation with the appropriate authorities," the statement from Parks adds.

In an editorial today in the Korea Times, the newspaper reports that “Google is suspected of having illegally collected e-mails and text messages of Internet users from unencrypted WiFi networks. According to the police, the world’s largest online search engine has harvested and stored such personal data in making Street View, a much-touted Google map service, between October 2009 and May 2010.”

Google could face two charges: illegal eavesdropping and a failure to protect personal information, according to the newspaper.

“The company has fallen short of taking a moral or legal responsibility for its mistake,” the Korean Times commented. “Aside from legal battles, Google should act more responsibly and proactively to prevent a repeat of this and better protect personal data.”

Google has been the subject of investigations in the United States as well.

TechZone360 reported that on Dec. 10, then Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, now a U.S. senator, issued a form of a subpoena to “verify what confidential information the company surreptitiously and wrongfully collected and stored,” Blumenthal said in a statement.

The actions by Google have led to many nations to reconsider their laws and regulations about online privacy.

For instance, the Korea Times commented, “Now it’s time to make all-out efforts to better protect individual privacy and security in cyberspace.”

“Stepped up international cooperation is pivotal to establishing global standards and regulations to make sure that ‘netizens’ can safely use the Internet without any fears of being spied on,” the newspaper added in its editorial. “It is a daunting task, but we should not neglect preventing Big Brother from foraying into the Internet, an integral part of our daily lives.”


Ed Silverstein is a TechZone360 contributor. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

TechZone360 Contributor

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