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KCC reviews Apple, Google response
Published : May 15, 2011 - 18:51
Updated : May 15, 2011 - 18:51
IT powerhouses await government measures on privacy breach accusations


Privacy breach accusations against Google and Apple are expected to take a new turn this week following their recent responses to questionnaires sent by state authorities earlier last month.

The Korea Communications Commission said it formed a 16-member committee, which includes representatives from academic, engineering and legislative circles as well as two government officials, to review the 50-page responses it received from both companies last week.

The questionnaire asked companies to clarify the duration and regularity of the location data stored on the iPhone and the Android-powered smartphones. It also demanded to know why the location data was stored on the mobiles and why the data was unencrypted when stored.

They were also asked whether they got consent from their customers ahead of data collection.

The questionnaires were sent to the companies to determine whether the two U.S.-based firms violated the country’s privacy protection law.

The government said it will either impose operation bans or fines if they are found guilty.

“We will release the committee’s decision after taking a look at related laws, technologies and administrative procedures and reporting it to the KCC chairman Choi See-joong,” said a KCC official.

The actions were taken after it was discovered that Internet search engine giant Google and Apple, the manufacturer of the popular iPhone and iPad, may have exploited location information for marketing purposes. They are also accused of collecting data without getting proper consent from their customers.

Apple allegedly gathered location data and stored it for up to a year, even when the location software was switched off, and Google is accused of tracking the locations of its consumers through its Android mobile platform.

Although they stated that the data was collected due to a “bug” or that it was an opt-in service, critics say the data collection was possibly aimed at getting a head start in the blossoming location-based services market.

According to ABI Research, the market for location-based services is projected to rise to $4.7 billion by 2015, from $1.6 billion in 2010.

Advertisers could benefit from location data by developing consumer profiles and targeting specific consumer groups.

The case has also caused controversy in the U.S. with lawmakers criticizing Google and Apple for not doing enough to secure the location data of users at a hearing of a subcommittee on privacy, technology and the law last week.

The KCC said it found differences in what was recently submitted compared to Apple’s initial position when it applied for the location-based service operator but that the government agency needs more time to review the case.

By Cho Ji-hyun (sharon@heraldcorp.com)
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