It is without doubt that Google is the most popular search engine across the globe and millions rely on it to find almost anything that they need. But the global brand has come under scrutiny by regulators based in South Korea for allegedly collecting location based data from smartphones without the knowledge of users.
The regulators called upon a representative from Google to answer as to why the data was being collected even when the android devices were disabled.
According to the head of Korea Communications Commission privacy infringement division Chun Ji-Hyun, the KCC is leading inquiries into claims regarding the collection of users’ cell ID data even when the location service remained inactive on their smartphones without any consent from them. Apparently, even official from the data protection UK are also onto Google’s trail over the same issue. A spokesman for the Information Commissioners office said that they have reported over the tracking system and have made touch with Google. According to him, transparency about what they do with personal information from consumers is a requirement for all organizations.
Quartz made reports about collection of addresses from cellular towers nearby, hence leading to the probes. These addresses made part of Cell ID codes Google received for about a year.
According to Google, the collection of the date was with intentions of improving notifications as well as message delivery and not for storing on its servers as would seem to be the case. It added that the collection will be phased out during the month as android phones no longer request for the cell ID codes. According to a spokesperson from google, they began considering using Cell ID codes for additional signal so that performance and speed of message delivery would be achieved; that was back in the beginning of the year precisely January.
The spokesman further added that Google did not incorporate the collected data into their system and instead it was discarded instantly. The network system was then updated so that the request for Cell ID was no more. But it doesn’t seem to matter to South Korea’s KCC whether the data was stored in the system servers or not because its Location Data Protection Act was still violated. This was according to an official with the privacy infringement department at KCC Hwang Sun-chul went on to add that the official investigations are yet to be launched. He said that more information would be required from US headquarters of Google.
It is important to note that android phones largely dominate global markets. In South Korea alone, these devices take up way over 80%, according to a research done by IDC. The smartphones here that use the operating system from Google include LG and Samsung devices which have also gained global reputation.
As it is now, its a matter of waiting to see what happens next and whether Google will be vindicated in case the investigation is launched. Of course facts from all parties involved will be considered before a decision is reached.