KCC eyes Google over charges it shared data

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KCC eyes Google over charges it shared data

The Korea Communications Commission (KCC) said Monday it is keeping a close eye on Google over allegations that the U.S.-based IT giant turned over the private information of Korean users to a U.S. spy agency.

The remark is a step back from multiple local media reports that the regulator is considering an actual investigation into Google Korea.

Still, it signals that the KCC is taking a tougher stance when it comes to privacy concerns, particularly as huge global tech companies like Google have been accused of being uncooperative in lawsuits with local civic groups on the issue.

“We are closely tracking the situation because it’s important,” said a spokesperson of the KCC. “But currently, we are not considering an independent investigation since the lawsuit between civic groups and Google is underway.”

The spokesperson added that the regulator typically doesn’t usually launch a probe when a lawsuit is ongoing.

Six activists from four civic groups filed a suit in 2014 to verify whether Google’s U.S. headquarters and its Korean office tapped into their Google accounts when the company allegedly handed over some of its users’ data to the National Security Agency (NSA).

The lawsuit came after the revelation that companies including Google and Yahoo turned over user data from residents of the United States, as well as those of foreign countries, to the NSA as part of the agency’s PRISM surveillance program.

The Seoul Central District Court ruled partially in favor of the civic groups including the Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice and Amnesty International’s Korean chapter, demanding that the company accept the groups’ request to verify whether their private information was given to a third party.

The court didn’t accept the plaintiffs’ requests for damages stemming from Google’s refusal to release the information.

Despite the ruling, Google didn’t take any action to address the issue, according to the Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice.

The activists appealed last year.

The KCC said that it is reviewing the first ruling and will closely watch the appeal.

Legal representatives of the Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice have criticized Google Korea and Google headquarters for not being fully cooperative.

In a statement Monday, Google Korea said it had done its best to be compliant.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [park.eunjee@joongang.co.kr]

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