Who’s got your number?

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Who’s got your number?

Responsibility for privacy in cyberspace ultimately depends on business ethics and individual users who wish to benefit from the convenience, freedom and enjoyment of cyberspace. This in turn will depend on the skills and knowledge of the users, but must be guaranteed by responsible Web site service providers and government Internet regulators.

As Korea increasingly becomes an information-oriented society, many people could no longer live without the cyber world. Through the Internet, people meet friends and keep in touch, even if they are in different countries. The cyber world is now a playground for many children. Consumers buy merchandise and pay for their goods through the Internet. When people join social networking and commercial Web sites for Internet shopping, they give personal information and other identification when they register.

How safe is our personal information in cyberspace?

Recently, the leakage of confidential information and personal details of members of an auction Web site was reported in the media. The leak was quite extensive and serious. A news report said that even with basic Internet knowledge and no special equipment, anyone could download information from at least half of the 150 Web sites investigated by a news outlet.

How will Korean society deal with this serious lack of personal information protection on the Internet?

One possibility is to make Web sites accessible only through a secure portal. New technology must be developed for authentication and protection of user names and passwords, to replace current identification systems. Web sites that accept online payments require identification, user names and passwords. Without adequate security, secret IDs that connect consumers with these sites and their banks are in great danger of being accessed and abused by Internet hackers.

It is urgent that Web site companies inform or warn their users when their data banks that contain personal information of their members or customers are easy to access. This is a question of business ethics. Without warning customers about the risks of opening an account and giving personal financial information, such Web site operators are exposing their clients to danger. Some commercial Web sites do not inform the public about the loss of their personal information. This lack of disclosure brings up the question of whether they are liable, under business and criminal laws, as accessories to a crime.

The government must step in with necessary policies and regulations to prevent potential disaster from Web-based commerce. Companies need stronger regulations, including penalties for not providing adequate information and warnings to the public about the risks of providing personal data such as financial information. Internet business associations must discuss ethical issues, and provide self regulation and guidelines for the industry.

New government policies and regulations are needed to protect the people’s personal information. Citizens need to feel their privacy is secure when they do business transactions on the Internet.

Kim Sung-Hee, a student at

Hanyang University, Ansan
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