Saving privacy under pressure

Daum KakaoTalk, one of Korea’s most popular messenger services, has been in active damage control mode in light of presidential demands and government requests.


In an effort to quell presidential rumors and insults, South Korean President Geun-Hye Park had called for increased monitoring of the popular messenger service. In response, as many as 600,000 KakaoTalk users have reportedly flocked to Telegram, an alternative messaging service based in Berlin, Germany.

Like Kakao, Telegraph offers a multi-platform messenger that lets users chat and send files to each other. However, Telegraph boasts an increased emphasis on privacy and encryption without being as vulnerable to government warrants (at least from South Korea).

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Daum Kakao CEO Sir-Goo Lee testified on October 16th that although Kakao had complied with government requests for Kakao chat logs, Daum Kakao will not obey orders for any real-time monitoring or wiretapping requests of its users. Lee mentioned that Kakao’s current infrastructure cannot support real-time monitoring so they’d be unable to meet such demands from a technical standpoint, adding that the nature of such warrants were also illegal.

Over in the United States, Apple and Google have been criticized by FBI director James Comey over both companies’ refusal to weaken their encryption standards for the new iPhone and Android operating systems. Both companies have acted on their promise to make unlocking devices with iOS 8 and Android Lollipop’s encryption settings near impossible even at the request of law enforcement.

Though South Korea and the United States may have different laws and regulations on the extent of the government’s permission for user data, both countries have witnessed an increased awareness of privacy amongst its users. In order to succeed and move forward, tech companies will now have to delicately decide when to obey uncomfortable government demands… and when to stand up to them.

Eddie Cho

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