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Big data is watching

Nov 25,2017
Google has been collecting location data from Android-powered phones even when location services are disabled, according to an investigation by the online media outlet Quartz.

The report claimed that Android phones have been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers regardless of the phone’s location settings and sending the data to Google, giving the company access to data about the location and movement of each phone user. The data is mined as long as there is an internet connection, even when location services are turned off and the phone does not have a SIM card. The “Big Brother” of George Orwell’s “1984” has become a reality.

Eight out of 10 Koreans have phones running Android software, which means most Koreans would be under Google’s watch. Under Korean law, anyone who collects location data without the user’s consent faces up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 50 million won ($46,000). The unauthorized collection of location data is strictly forbidden because it not only violates people’s privacy — it can also be abused for crimes.

But illicit data collection has been growing due to the fast pace of technological advancement. Users of Google’s Home Mini speaker have complained about the device being activated at random times to secretly record conversations without them knowing and transmitting the audio to Google’s main servers. As tech companies compete to get ahead in innovation and secure customers, privacy has become a more pressing issue. In this hyperconnected world, the economic winners will be determined by the size of their data.

Google admitted that it sent location data to its servers to enhance the speed and function of push notifications but said none of the data was stored. Still, the random collection of information without users’ consent is a violation of privacy laws. Their acts can slow the development of new technology by forcing regulators to strengthen privacy rules. To ease public anxiety, the Korea Communications Commission must thoroughly examine the case for any illegal acts.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 24, Page 34