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Overprotection is hurting Korea

Feb 19,2019
Without taking advantage of big data, companies these days can hardly know what their clients want and where they are. It’s been a long time since cutting-edge IT companies opened their eyes to the amazing potential of big data. Big data has been the driving force behind the spectacular growth of FANG — Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google — which are taking the lead in the digital economy of the 21st century. The four companies are dominating global stock markets thanks to their tremendous market value.

The beneficiary of big data is not the United States alone. After years of copying products from developed countries, China has emerged as a powerhouse utilizing big data. It is not a secret anymore that Alibaba and Tencent could grow into global IT heavyweights in just 20 years thanks to their skillful use of big data. The market capitalization of the two Chinese companies has already surpassed that of Samsung Electronics.

But South Korea is still stuck in thick layers of regulation as a result of the government’s efforts to protect privacy. That critically hampers the development of our industries across the board because our companies cannot use big data desperately needed to advance their businesses in the artificial intelligence (AI), IoT, smart factory and 5G telecommunication sectors due to suffocating regulations. Under such circumstances, they can hardly catch up with their global competitors.

It is time to tackle the problem through public debate. The solution is simple: if the cause of the problem is our overprotection of privacy, you can simply get rid of it. Due to the law, Korean IT companies demand too much personal information from their potential customers. While FANG and Chinese IT companies require customers to simply type in their basic personal information to use their services, their Korean counterparts collect all of the information they can, including resident registration numbers. That information has also been repeatedly leaked en masse, which raises the risk of sensitive information being circulated in cyberspace even without the knowledge of victims.

We must minimize the amount of personal information needed to use IT services. That will surely help a number of our companies, including medical and pharmaceutical, in need of big data to develop their new products. The government, National Assembly, financial community and experts must join hands to build a consensus — albeit belatedly — to meet the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 19, Page 30