Warrants for Daum Kakao user info quadrupled

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Warrants for Daum Kakao user info quadrupled

Daum Kakao, Korea’s largest messenger app operator, said Friday that the number of search warrants issued by courts for information on its customers more than quadrupled over the past two years, which is sure to stoke public anxiety that the tech giant is giving their private conversations to authorities.

According to the company’s first transparency report, court-issued search warrants for Kakao Talk, the company’s flagship service, rose from 704 in 2012 to 2,999 last year.

The number of requests from investigating authorities - the police and prosecutors - to courts for search warrants on the company went from 811 in 2012 to 3,864 in 2014. Courts accepted 88 percent of the requests in 2012 and 78 percent last year.

The number of search warrants asking for users’ chat records rose from 41 in 2012 to 81 in 2014. The number of search warrants asking for a user’s subscriber number, login time or IP address rose from 534 to 1,827.

Search warrants against Daum Kakao steadily rose from the first-half of 2012 to the first half 2014, but dropped by some 400 cases late last year, after users started abandoning the service after it was revealed that the company had been providing prosecutors with their chat records.

Friday’s transparency report was an attempt to win back public trust.

“By unveiling all statistics relevant to concerns about privacy violations, Daum Kakao will overcome the mistrust of our users,” a company official who asked not to be identified said. “We will win back public trust by showing that our company prioritizes the protection of personal data.”

Kakao Corp., the original operator of Kakao Talk, merged with Daum Communications Corporation, Korea’s second-largest portal company after Naver Corporation, in early October last year.

Investigating authorities’ requests for search warrants on the portal website Daum sharply increased as well, according to the transparency report. From 2012 to last year, the number of request grew more than 3.5 times, from 1,363 to 4,772, most of which the court issued.

The number of Daum users whose personal information was given to authorities was 124,957 in 2012 and 351,877 last year.

It did not reveal the total number of Kakao Talk users whose information was given to authorities.

“The primary rule is to keep a balance between serving the public interest and guarding [people’s] privacy,” said Choi Seong-jin, secretary general of the Korea Internet Corporations Association.

Daum Kakao co-CEO Lee Sirgoo said last year the company would establish an information protection consultation committee.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [selee@joongang.co.kr]

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