S. Korea urges Google to improve privacy

Feb 28, 2012
The lobby of the Google Korea office in Seoul. South Korean regulators Tuesday voiced concerns over Google's controversial plan to merge user data from YouTube, Gmail, Google+ and other services in individual comprehensive profiles.

South Korean regulators Tuesday voiced concerns over Google's controversial plan to merge user data from YouTube, Gmail, Google+ and other services in individual comprehensive profiles.

The Korea and Communications Commission said it did not believe the major change of privacy policy -- due to take effect around the world on Thursday -- could meet with domestic guidelines on the protection of private information.

announced the change to its terms of service in January, explaining that it will essentially "treat you as a single user across all our products" when it comes to use patterns tracked for targeting services, content or ads.

But the has faced pressure from critics who say the change in policy invades by automatically sharing personal information input into different Google products, which users may wish to keep separate.

"Our recommendations have been sent to Google to give it time to adhere to South Korea's communication rules," the Korea Communications Commission, which has the power to order Google Korea to change its policy, said.

The commission called on Google to provide contacts for users to lodge complaints and give details on how long it will hold user information.

Google Korea said it would maintain "constructive dialogue" with South Korean government agencies.

"We can say confidently that our revised policy... is in line with with South Korean laws," it said.

Google Korea defended its policy change, saying combining information on users was aimed at offering individually-tailored services.

It said users could choose not to use services if they did not agree with the policy or, for example, use without logging in to their account.

The Korea Council on Protection of Personal Information, a consumer group, said Google's new policy would "seriously hurt the interests of all ".

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