Rules, Ethics and Privacy. These three words should be at the core of the Internet world.
Recently, South Korea has investigated whether Google broke its privacy laws in pushing out the localized Street View service like other countries – the U.S., Canada, Germany, France, and Australia.
* Last year, a partnership with Google Korea allowed Yahoo! Korea to provide YouTube video clips on its Street View service. Some experts has blamed this service in terms of the privacy invasion.
Google Korea claims that it has done nothing with the collected data insisting the fragments of information collected by the Street View are meaningless. Yet, some security experts suspect that personal information such as e-mails, passwords and Web browsing records may have been compromised.
Just last year, most Korean Internet users praised Google Korea as a safe zone for privacy. This was after it opted to cripple the Korean version of its YouTube service against government regulations.
*Korean government considers more ways to monitor Web behavior and impose rules on Internet users. For example, people should verify their real-name (no online anonymity) for leaving comments on major Korean websites.
Yet, now we know that Google is deeply involved with privacy issue. According to Joong-ang Daily, the confidential Google document – recently unearthed by the Wall Street Journal – states that Google has been conducting serious internal debates about ways to monetize its vast amount of users over the past few years. After this article, there are increasing calls for Google Korea to improve the way of handing personal data.
Unfortunately, the growth of social media (e.g. Facebook and Cyworld) has certainly stoked Google’s sense of urgency. Unlike the fear of a privacy backlash had prevented Google from pushing targeted advertisements based on particular Web behavior, social media websites have been using the personal information of their customers more liberally, which has allowed advertisers wider freedom in targeting ads more specifically.
The growing presence of social media services which now has more than 15 million Korean users, is threatening to Google Korea. Considering the competitiveness of the Internet business, the secret Google document seems understandable.
Yet, I just hope that these collected data will be used for the business, not for the government or any other purposes. Given the power of having personal data, there needs to be careful consideration on whether others could be violating the communications privacy law.