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Dereliction of duty

Nov 05,2019
Google has reportedly decided to acquire Fitbit for a whopping $2.1 billion. The San Francisco-based company has been producing wireless-enabled wearable technology devices that measure data such as the number of steps walked, heart rate, quality of sleep, and other personal metrics involved in fitness. Despite its competitive edge at the beginning, Fitbit has faced aggressive challenges from Apple, Samsung Electronics, Xiaomi and others.

Google’s decision to buy the struggling company stems from its need to take advantage of the massive bio data it has secured in the past. If Google combines its expertise in artificial intelligence with big bio data — a base for the development of new drugs and the health care industry — it can further expand its potential for new growth down the road.

Various types of heath care services based on bio data are actively being developed across the world. For instance, advanced economies like the United States, the European Union and Japan are proactively helping foster industries by allowing companies to utilize their customers’ personal medical, financial and communication records. In Korea, however, such promising industries cannot get off the ground in the face of a myriad of regulations and a lack of appropriate laws. If the current situation continues, we may never see such services by Google in this country.

Despite its superb smartphone technology, Korea has failed to develop telemedicine because IT companies have to get permission from each customer whenever they try to use their medical and health records due to layers of regulations. As a result, Korean companies, even industry leaders, cannot progress.

All of this is a dereliction of duty by the National Assembly. The so-called “three big data bills” on the protection of private information, use of telecommunication networks and personal credit information are stuck due to political battles among parties, negligence of lawmakers, and vehement opposition from civic groups. Despite President Moon Jae-in and political parties’ repeated vows to pass the three bills, they have a long way to go.

If the legislature wraps up its regular session by Dec. 10, the three bills will most likely be repealed automatically. If we delay the enactment of those bills until the current term of the National Assembly expires next April, it cannot avoid harsh public criticism that it turned its face from a prospering future after allowing partisan battles in the legislature.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 5, Page 30