Daum Kakao boss says privacy comes before the law

Korean mobile messenger giant Daum Kakao's co-CEO, in a radical statement, said that user privacy comes before the law in what will likely spark a fierce debate over privacy online in Korea.

In an emergency press conference held in Seoul, Daum Kakao co-CEO Lee Sir-goo said that going forward, the company will refuse all warrants from prosecutors for access mobile text messages saved on the firm's mobile messenger service Kakao Talk, saying that "privacy comes before the law".

"We have decided to never discuss even the possibility of giving prosecutors access to the users' data that we store with related authorities," said Lee. "It is because privacy is more important than any law.

"When there is no social consensus between law and privacy, we will in all circumstances implement a policy that puts privacy first," said the co-CEO in a stern tone.

Lee said that if his stance is considered illegal, he himself and the company will take full legal responsibility.

Kakao Talk has been at the centre of a huge privacy controversy after it was revealed that local prosecutors have requested to Daum Kakao that it make personal information on the messenger available to them as part of their "prevention of cybercrime and defamation campaign".

The government claimed that false information on its policy, including those regarding South Korean President Park Geun-hye, was being shared on social media and mobile messengers, and that some amounted to defamation and the perpetrators need to be criminally punished.

However, the public at large expressed outrage, calling the campaign outright internet censorship.

Due to the controversy, around 1.8 million Kakao Talk users have migrated to German counterpart Telegram due to concerns that their texts are being monitored by the government.

Speculations rose that the company had already given access to the government to look into texts sent between subscribers.

Daum Kakao has repeatedly stated that it doesn't provide it users' information to prosecutors to prevent users from leaving.

Lee apologised for the situation, saying the company's "complacency and poor reaction' to the controversy only added confusion, but vowed to protect user privacy at all cost.

Source: ZDNet.co.kr