Saturday, December 11, 2010

Facebook versus The Korea Communications Commission

The Korea Communications Commission (KCC) is in the news again, throughout the tech blogs and even in the mainstream press around the globe.  The KCC, formed in 2008 by the incoming Lee Myung Bak administration, is South Korea's top communications policy and regulatory agency.  This time it is in the news for issuing what The Register called a "stern warning" to Facebook about its privacy policies.
As reported by IDG, the KCC sent a letter to Facebook indicating that it is in breach of South Korean data privacy laws and needs to do a better job of getting consent from users when getting their personal information.  The KCC said the U.S.-based company has 30 days to respond to the complaint, so this may be a developing story.
Much of the blog and mainstream press coverage of this development, while interesting, fails to convey adequately the following obvious points.

  • Traditional conceptions of privacy in Korea, and in Korean language web content and services, are not at all the same as ideas about privacy in the West and other parts of the world.
  • Social networking in Korea, epitomized by Cyworld, and social networking in the U.S., led by Facebook, have significant differences.  As noted in earlier posts, even though Cyworld swept through the Korean internet experience almost half a decade before Facebook appeared, it cannot simply be treated as the Korean equivalent of Facebook (as noted in earlier posts on social networking.)
  • Notably, Facebook did not have much of a presence at all in Korea until the arrival of Apple's iPhone about one year ago.
  • Finally, it seems to me that the KCC complaint to Facebook represents another excellent illustration of the global scope of the internet.  While the activities of Facebook impinge upon Korean society and Korea's laws, the question of what impact the KCC complaint will ultimately have on Facebook's behavior is an interesting one.   Some months earlier, when the Korean government sought to regulate how users could log  in to Google's Korean Youtube site, that company reacted by closing the site.  Subsequently Korean users of Youtube flocked to sites hosted in other countries to make use of the service.

No comments:

Post a Comment