To Avoid Government Surveillance, South Koreans Abandon Local Software And Flock To German Chat App

from the loss-of-trust dept

South Korea seems to have a rather complicated relationship with the Internet. On the one hand, the country is well-known for having the fastest Internet connection speeds in the world; on the other, its online users are subject to high levels of surveillance and control, as the site Bandwidth Place explains:
Under the watchful eye of the Korea Communications Standards Commission (KCSC), Internet use, web page creation, and even mapping data are all regulated. As noted recently by the Malaysian Digest, children under 16 are not permitted to participate in online gaming between midnight and 6 a.m. -- accessing the Internet requires users to enter their government-issued ID numbers. In addition, South Korean map data isn't allowed to leave the country, meaning Google Maps can't provide driving directions, and last year the KCSC blocked users from accessing 63,000 web pages. While it's possible to get around these restrictions using a virtual private network (VPN), those found violating the nation’s Internet rules are subject to large fines or even jail time.
A story on the site of the Japanese broadcaster NHK shows how this is playing out in the world of social networks. Online criticism of the behavior of the President of South Korea following the sinking of the ferry MV Sewol prompted the government to set up a team to monitor online activity. That, in its turn, has led people to seek what the NHK article calls "cyber-asylum" -- online safety through the use of foreign mobile messaging services, which aren't spied on so easily by the South Korean authorities. According to the NHK article:
Many users have switched [from the hugely-popular home-grown product KakaoTalk] to a German chat app called Telegram. It had 50,000 users in early September. Now 2 million people have signed up.
That's a useful reminder that fast Internet speeds on their own are not enough to keep people happy, and that even companies holding 90% of a market, as Kakao does in South Korea, can suffer badly once they lose the trust of their users by seeming too pliable to government demands for private information about their customers.

This seems like the type of lesson that the giant US internet companies and the NSA (along with its defenders) should be learning.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

Filed Under: chat, kcsc, south korea, surveillance
Companies: kakaotalk, telegram


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  1. identicon
    Keep calm, 21 May 2015 @ 9:14am

    Re: Privacy Is A Delusion Created By Them

    Yes, it is all one giant Conspiracy. If you are not being ironic, or cannot see the ridiculous amount of manic self righteous hyperbolic and poorly formed thoughts right now, please and I mean this with kindness seek s counselor and a basic reasoning course. Life is messy. Talking about many specific problems that are not related except in our minds where they all fall under the heading of invasion of privacy, censorship and any other activity that inpinges on free thinking and free communication creates the illusion via natural grammatical convention there is a cohesive coherent "we". There are bad actors and bad policies. But becoming hysterical to the point of reasoning like a middle schooler who also has a hopless attitude. Its like really? But time and time again I see youngens or porrly educated or those prone to un useful paranoia junp
    Off the deep end with meat heads that type up the literary equivalent of "we are doomed so let just jump off the building rant".
    I love tech dirt and the srvice they provide. I love many of its forum posters but self righteous manic and poorly reasoned rants make the website a joke and the forums harder to read. Take a breath and work on your conxeptual reasoning skills and see how grammar conventions lead to certain biases like they almighty ominous "They" and then things wuickly devolve into locked in us vs them thinking. See psychology classic experiments for that error and then realize oh shit that is why pink floyd did a meditative song on it 40 years ago. This is not news. In the US there has always been levels of both freedom, free communication, and there still will be because of sites like this a a population of people who demand it. Will thing become dicier in the digital era absolutely. But Elise? Fast food was not a planned health conspiracy our knowledge of humsn bio chemistry was in it's infancy in 1950. Early in WW two antibiotics were barely around. Again I say take a breath and if you hsve not been checked for bipolar affective disorder, just to be safe look into it. Lets all stay skeptical but also calm, even, and rational and if we are real luck lets sterr away from being self righteous. Anyone on this board ever try to take part carefully honestly govern a country full of people? Its pretty effn hard and Korea is super conservative and mildly xenophobic. As a friend of mine said the tech is from 2050 the social mores from 1950. This does not make them Orwell's nightmare. That said the government trying to control their people's digital devices is bad and dangerous omen that will back fire as it did. But let us keep things in perspective ok?

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