Thursday, December 9, 2010

South Korea Might Ban Facebook?

This probably will not happen.  However, members of Korea's Communications Commission have finally managed to notice the world's fourth largest website and they are not pleased about its privacy sharing policies.

Facebook doesn't comply with South Korean privacy laws because it doesn't ask for users' consent before getting their personal data, a South Korean regulator said Wednesday.
"Facebook violates the regulations on protection of privacy in information networks," says Choi Seong Jin, a spokesman for the Korea Communications Commission.
Article 22 of South Korea's "Act on Promotion of Information and Communication Network Utilization and Information Protection" states that an information and communication service provider must obtain user consent if it intends to gather users' personal data.
Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, which all Facebook users must agree with to use the service, as well as Facebook's Privacy Policy, cover this topic in detail:
"For content that is covered by intellectual property rights (...) you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook."
Many users, however, don't read the fine print; it's possible that the KCC wants Facebook to explain this to users more clearly and explicitly before they sign up for the service.
Facebook has had its share of privacy-related troubles in the past; most recently, it caught some heat over the launch of its Open Graph.
The company has 30 days to respond to the complaint.
Facebook has 30 days to respond to the complaint or else what?  Legal action?  The only thing Korea can do is ban users and block access to IP addresses in Korea.  Another source gives us more information:
The complaints come as Facebook is gaining popularity in South Korea. It has about 2.3 million members in the country, which accounts for roughly 5 percent of the population, according to figures from the KCC.
Just under two thirds of Koreans use social-networking services, the KCC said. Among citizens in their 20s that number rises to almost nine out of ten people.
South Korea is one of the most wired countries in the world and most homes enjoy fast, cheap, fiber-optic broadband connections.
This is not the first time that the KCC has taken on an American internet giant.  The Korean "Real Name Verification Law" was passed in early 2009 and requires "real-name verification" for Internet services with more than 100,000 different daily users. Under this law, people in Korea must identify themselves with a name and their Korean Identification Number before they can upload video or post comments on any website.

Last year the KCC wrote a note to Google over their subsidiary website, YouTube.  The KCC wanted YouTube to setup a system in which people using Korean IP addresses had to use their Korean ID numbers to create accounts before uploading videos and posting comments.  Korea claims they are trying to reduce internet bullying (which has led to many suicides) and they think they can accomplish this by reducing the number of people posting online anonymously.

YouTube had no way of creating a system to comply with this law.  It was not worth their time to create a system in cooperation with the South Korean government to verify that people creating YouTube accounts are who they say they are with authentic identification numbers.  This is how they responded:
Because of Real Name Verification Law in Korea, we have voluntarily disabled comments and video uploads when using YouTube in Korea with the Korea country setting, so you will not be required to verify your identity. 
You will still be able to enjoy watching and sharing videos on YouTube. You may still upload videos and comments without proving your identity by choosing a non-Korean country setting the top of any YouTube page. 
We understand that this may affect your experience on YouTube. Thank you in advance for your understanding. We hope that you continue to enjoy and participate in the YouTube community. 
Doesn't this law also apply to facebook?  As of right now, Koreans can log onto facebook and create accounts anonymously without providing their Korean ID number.  They can then post videos and comments and do whatever they want anonymously on the site.  Why would the KCC go after YouTube for this, but not Facebook?  Are they really concerned about privacy laws or is this what they really want Facebook to change.

We will find out in a month what the deal is.  Facebook has over 500 millions users worldwide and Koreans account for less than 1% of their business.  They might just decide themselves that doing business here and trying to comply with all of Korea's strict internet laws might not be worth their time.  They always could pull out voluntarily.  Without facebook people might actually get stuff accomplished while at work...


aprilantipodal said...

If the public school system blocked facebook the way they block, say, (from my schools anyway), I would have to just roll my eyes and keep on going; it is a workplace, after all, and the fact that we keep in touch with other teachers and use Facebook groups to share lesson plans and so on is probably not important to them.
I have to say, if I couldn't access Facebook anywhere in Korea, I would feel a lot more lonely than I do. Right now it's easy to see how friends and family back home are doing without having to arrange Skype dates - they feel closer, in a way. And it would be a lot harder to arrange events for foreigners like the bake sale or the running group or whatnot. It's not *quite* as pointless a time-waster when you have a community that has a constantly shifting membership that is scattered across the city.
But unlike Youtube, which still works even if they don't know your location because it's not an intrinsic part of viewing videos, Facebook would have a hard time cutting out the identity-specific part of its site, so if Korea really wanted to get serious about this, Facebook would have to rework itself and get even deeper into privacy issues, or they'd just have to cut off Facebook to those of us in Korea. I'm guessing the latter is what would happen and that would suck.

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