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(2nd LD) Kakao Talk safe from illegal surveillance: CEO

2014/10/01 16:17

By Kang Yoon-seung

SEOUL, Oct. 1 (Yonhap) -- Lee Sirgoo, co-CEO of Daum Kakao, said Wednesday its flagship messenger service Kakao Talk is safe from state monitoring that doesn't follow legal procedures, addressing rising worries that the government may search through private chat histories on the platform to seek out false rumors.

"We are aware of such concerns. (Kakao Talk) has top-tier security and technology, and (chat records) are saved in servers for only a short period of time," Lee said. "It cannot be leaked to someone else without being noticed."

  

Russia-based mobile messenger Telegram recently gained popularity among South Korean smartphone users who are concerned about the possibility of government censorship. (Yonhap) Russia-based mobile messenger Telegram recently gained popularity among South Korean smartphone users who are concerned about the possibility of government censorship. (Yonhap)

"However, in case of legitimate implementation of the law, we will cooperate with prosecutors, as (Daum Kakao) is subject to the law of South Korea," Lee added.

South Korea's prosecution last month said it will investigate false rumors online after President Park Geun-hye lashed out at insulting remarks about her on the Internet. She said that such conduct hurts the stature of South Korea and its people.

Prosecutors launched a new task force, vowing strong action against anyone who spreads false information that could bring about social confusion and discord.

Some users in South Korea, in a so-called "digital migration," rushed to change their key messenger applications, with Russia-based Telegram suddenly rising to become one of the most popular messenger app in the local mobile market.

"It is true (that the heightened censorship online) is a pity," Lee also said. "Although we do not expect it, we hope (such governmental moves) will not bring about negative consequences."

   The company said messages sent through the platform are stored on its servers for only around a week.

Another official from Kakao Talk said it is "systematically impossible" to look into personal records without approval. "As a company that handles personal information, security is our life," the official said.

Despite Kakao's reassurances, rumors questioning the security of Kakao Talk were still viral on the local left-leaning online communities.

Local Catholic human rights groups staged a protest Wednesday, claiming that police had snooped on an official from the minor Labor Party and his some 3,000 acquaintances.

The official was accused of staging an unauthorized demonstration June 10, where he demanded the president step down.

Police said it had obtained a warrant June 17 to look into the official's Kakao Talk message records, including the chat records on June 10. Investigators notified the party official of such probe Sept. 16.

Protestors said as the messages included sensitive information, including conversations with lawyers, the confiscation of records was a violation of human rights, and therefore an illegitimate censorship.

"We cannot believe that Kakao Talk saves chat record for only a week, as they do not prove it," an organizer of the protest said. "Not only did the police take chat records of 3,000 users from Kakao, they also looked into other sensitive personal data."

   In contrast, police said the investigation was necessary as the suspect refused to cooperate, adding it only extracted vital information from the records.

"Basically, it is against the law to provide details on investigations," said Lee Kee-yeon, a communications official from Daum Kakao. "We cannot confirm whether we provided data on a specific case.

"However, it is guaranteed that all messages are deleted within seven days, although it can take one or two days more. After that, it is impossible to recover the record," she said. "Other further inquiries should be made to the police."

   She added the Kakao Talk platform does save time records that show specific periods at which a user sent messages, which is required by law.

colin@yna.co.kr

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