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Ministry commits to series of online privacy measures

  PLAY AUDIO

Sept 27,2005
Internet site operators and telecommunications firms will soon need government approval to pass on members’ personal data, and a new online personal identification method will also be adopted in a bid to curtail violations of privacy. Officials from the Ministry of Information and Communication told a gathering of academics, experts and businessmen at a hotel in central Seoul yesterday that the government plans to severely restrict the telecom service providers’ practice of selling their members’ personal information, such as phone numbers, addresses and resident registration numbers, to third parties. Although consultations had been under way for some time, yesterday marked the first time the government had firmly committed itself to legislation. The new plan, which will be adopted by the beginning of 2008, will require Web site operators to receive permission from the government before disclosing members’ personal information. Also, Web site operators will in future have to make clear exactly why they are requesting members’ personal information. Should they then wish to sell the information, the operators will have to identify the buyer. Today, most Internet portal sites in Korea allow users to sign up for services only after typing in their resident registration numbers, the rough equivalent of social security numbers in the United States. But Internet users are becoming increasingly unhappy with this situation, following a series of cases in which registration numbers were stolen and used fraudulently. As another measure to strengthen privacy protection, the ministry will finalize next month an alternative method of identifying individuals over the Internet. Under the new format, credit-rating agencies or information certificate authorities will assign individual identification numbers after verifying applicants’ identities. People will then use the new identification number each time they sign up with Web sites and will be able to change the number whenever they wish. The service will begin early next year following a trial run. The ministry also announced measures to help those obsessed with the Internet, including boosting the number of Internet addiction counseling centers to 100 from the current 40 by 2010, and recruiting hundreds of counselors. by Seo Ji-eun, Lee Hee-sung


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