Big Brother paranoia

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Big Brother paranoia

A civilian petition against the government’s steps to interfere with and block illicit websites drew 230,000 signatures on the Blue House homepage as of the weekend. The opposition does not stem from the rights to adult viewership. The real worry is a new type of legitimate state spying and censorship. The petition argued the move could be the beginning of internet censorship. “Anyone can be critical of state policies under current piracy rules. But if the state authority has the power to block domain names, it can also abuse it to keep tabs on the people critical of the government or whom it is displeased with for their internet activities.”

The concerns may actually be warranted. Wireless carriers handed over 3.5 million files of telecommunication exchanges and records to the authorities — such as the prosecution, police and National Intelligence Service — in the first half of last year alone. The files contained the resident numbers, time and other records of communications through mobile phones. Under the Park Geun-hye administration, as many as 1.5 million people shifted their text messaging platform to Telegram amid fears about KakaoTalk being tapped.

Politicians and judiciary officials these days are said to prefer to use voice talk — the voice service over the free mobile chat platform Kakao — instead of the conventional mobile phone. Voice talk cannot be recorded and does not leave any trace on servers because it automatically gets erased after a certain period.

The government’s incessant crackdown on the so-called past ills has created the paranoia. The first thing authorities did to hunt down those who leak inside information was to seize their mobile phones.

Fears that Big Brother is looking over people’s shoulders has spread to the citizens. The petition against blocking illegal sites drew more than 200,000 signatures in just a week, underscoring the public’s fears about the government’s access to personal information and wireless records. Authorities must ensure they do not abuse telecommunications. We cannot have the ghost of spying rule over our lives.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 18, Page 30

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