Prosecution again tries to alleviate privacy fears

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Prosecution again tries to alleviate privacy fears

In efforts to quell growing anxiety over a breach of online privacy by state monitoring, the prosecution reiterated its stance yesterday that defamatory remarks are not subject to investigation and that it will not conduct real-time monitoring of posts on portal sites.

“I want to point out again that prosecutors are not doing cyber surveillance [on portal and social network sites], nor do we have the legal basis or technological capabilities to do so,” Choi Yun-su, an official from the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, said yesterday in a meeting with the press.

The prosecutor said the investigative body will try to use a minimum level of personal information when dealing with serious crimes, adding that it would immediately discard private information unrelated to those crimes. The prosecution’s remarks yesterday followed a meeting with officials from relevant government bodies, including the Korea Communications Commission, in which they discussed ways to assuage public concern.

The prosecutors’ position yesterday was a reiteration of Chief Prosecutor Kim Jin-tae’s statement a day before that defamatory remarks on messenger programs were not subject to investigation and that there was no legal basis to monitor private chats in real time.

However, it did not call in private company officials to yesterday’s gathering, mindful of the public backlash after a meeting on Sept. 18 that was attended by top managers from Korea’s tech giants, including Naver.

According to an internal document that was made public, during the Sept. 18 meeting, prosecutors and tech experts discussed how to monitor posts deemed false and defamatory so that they could request that site managers delete such content. The conversation fueled public anxiety over what was viewed as an aggressive move to monitor what is verbalized online.

Shaken by an exodus of users to other message platforms that claim to offer more privacy, a shaken Daum Kakao declared on Monday that it will in no way cooperate with prosecutors in handing over users’ private information - a defiant move that raised the ire of authorities. Jittered by swelling speculation about state monitoring, 1.8 million subscribers have reportedly left KakaoTalk since the controversy began, though the company has neither confirmed nor denied that figure.

Fears over state monitoring ignited following the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office announcement on Sept. 18 that it had established a new cyber investigation team to prevent cyber defamation and misinformation. The move came two days after President Park Geun-hye publicly expressed displeasure over criticisms targeting her.


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