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Privacy restrictions on location outdated: Panel

Dec 28,2017
Restrictions in the privacy laws on location information have to be loosened now that so many apps use such information, a presidential committee said Wednesday.

According to a committee looking into Korea’s readiness for the so-called fourth industrial revolution, app developers or service providers may simply notify users in advance that their private location information will be used, particularly if location information is a crucial part of the service offered.

That idea came from a marathon meeting of representatives of companies and government ministries last Thursday and Friday in Wonju, Gangwon.

Representatives of Naver, Kakao, consumer groups sensitive to privacy issues and law firm Yulchon participated in discussions on Korea’s privacy act. New medical businesses talked about high-tech medical devices while financial start-ups met to discuss fintech.

“Technology has greatly reshaped the business environment and now, of a million apps in app stores, about 250,000 require location information,” said Moon Yong-sik, a member of the committee who led the discussion on privacy protection and location information.

“While attaining informed consent is the basic principle in using location information, the representatives agreed to thoroughly notifying users when it is obvious the service requires private location information, like navigation apps or a taxi-hailing app.”

Moon, however, made clear that companies misusing or leaking information will face tougher penalties.

The participants also suggested revising Korea’s privacy act by adjusting the definition of “location information” to be less restrictive.

The change of definition, according to the committee, would make it easier for companies to enter businesses that track locations of things like cars and drones. They would no longer have to report to the government to be able to use such information.

Any final decision is subject to review and approval by the National Assembly. The group that discussed high-tech medical devices agreed to implement a fast-track government approval system for new devices as it is crucial for medical devices to win market share at an early stage. According to Jang Seok-young, head of the committee’s secretariat, it currently takes roughly four years to attain approval from the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, which should be shorter.

The group discussing fintech agreed that individuals’ financial information should be shared not only between banks but also between new financial companies and start-ups if users want that. But it failed to reach a conclusion on who should be responsible if any private information is leaked.

Ride-sharing business was a major topic to be discussed during the meeting, but representatives of the taxi industry requested a delay, Jang said. Ride-sharing operators, such as carpool app Poolus, wanted to have an open talk as soon as possible, according to industry sources.

BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]