[THE KOREA TIMES_송심근 변호사] Can phone app developers insist on access to all your personal data?

c3cabe9a05da3b4d3841061f6a68f492By Song Sim-geun

Last week I downloaded a healthcare app to my cell phone so I could check the status of my health. I launched the app and became frustrated.

This particular app required permission to access a wide range of functions and personal data that seem irrelevant to the app’s use.

I was asked to allow the app to make phone calls, to take pictures and record videos, to access photos, media, and files and to access location data ― all without explaining the why.

I thought that asking permission for unrelated personal information to the app service seemed unjust ― some personal information in my cell phone is too private to let an unknown app developer have access.

I, like anybody else today, use my cell phone to book a train ticket, transfer money and record my personal thoughts, etc. I decided not to give permission, so I could not use the app.

Annoyed at not being able to use the app for an unfair reason, I looked up Korean laws relating to this issue. I found Korean legislators had realized the problem and done their job.

They drew up a law that prohibits providers of information and communication services (smart phone app developers being an example) from rejecting users who refuse to allow access, unless that access is specifically required to provide that service.

Any provider who violates this law shall be punished by an administrative fine of up to 30 million won (although there are some exceptions).

Now I am thinking about informing the healthcare app provider about this law, because the law by itself cannot change the reality. It takes a person’s action.

I believe any cell phone user who is concerned about the security of their personal information, and who suffers from the same frustrating experience (you can find many apps in the app store that boldly ask users’ permission without giving a proper reason and refuse service if users deny their request).

If this describes your situation, I recommend writing a negative review on the relevant page in the app store to inform the app developer about the law.

Song Sim-geun is an expert on business disputes. He worked as a law clerk in the Korea’s largest court, took care of many hard business related cases.

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