Portal privacy

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Portal privacy

On Jan. 19. the Internet portal Daum started an enhanced map service for locating places around Korea.

If a user types the name of a destination, the program shows the building’s name and photos of nearby streets. As the photos are high-definition, you can even make out car registration plates.

The problem is that photos of people can be uploaded and shown without their permission, which is an infringement of their privacy.

Daum maintains that since people’s faces are blurred, it isn’t compromising privacy rights.

But you only have to use the service once to realize that this is not the case.

Even though you can’t identify a person in a photo straightaway, it’s fairly easy to see clothing, belongings as well as front and back images because of the clarity of the shots.

There have even been cases of some people using some of the shots for a game: identify the people in view.

The number of users visiting Daum since it started this service has surged, and other Internet portals are now preparing similar services, trying to offer higher-definition photos and more provocative functions.

So, now people are worried that their photos might be used for games on the Internet.

It is good to develop new services using new technologies because they can often make people’s lives easier. However, there is always a flip side, which in this case is a clear case of invading other people’s private lives and raising the specter of security breaches.

What is needed now is a period of evaluation to protect people’s basic rights and national security.

Experts have called for such a measure for new services on the Internet for reasons outlined above.

But the Korea Communications Commission and other concerned authorities have not accepted this request, saying that such measures might hinder the development of new technologies. They say that if a person’s privacy is infringed, he can appeal to the court as an individual rather than resort to market regulation.

However, Internet portals are growing in influence and cases can’t be handled individually. A portal with 30 million visitors a day can’t realistically protect people’s privacy, so it’s not too far fetched to say that most of the users are potential victims.

The Korea Communications Commission must devise standards that permit new services on portals and evaluate services before they are made available to the public in order to protect the majority.

The primary responsibility for the protection of people’s privacy lies with the portal. Daum must ensure that photos are not misused, even if the portal has to temporarily suspend the service.

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